This week’s FROM WALLINGFORD was written by Mike Brodinsky who is a former town councilor, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee and host of public access show “Citizen Mike.”
I like lists. One of my favorites is the list of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. It brings me back, way back. A list of the longest running Broadway plays is terrific reading, too. I want a list, it would be short, of the best, left-handed second basemen from Nebraska who played baseball for the Cincinnati Reds. That’s not for everyone. But here is a list I have wanted to write for you: (drum roll, please) a list of the most significant Wallingford news stories of 2011.
My rating system is not scientific. A story could make my list because of the amount of press it got. The impact of the news on Wallingford matters, too. A story could make the list because it may serve as a warning of things to come; or, it could be representative of a trend. The story could make the list only because it appeals to my quirkiness. The list will grow with each column I write. This is but my first installment.
Because of its impact on Wallingford, I pick the new commuter rail service as the top story of the year, so far. Facts about the plan are still evolving. Currently, the plan calls for 25 round trip trains instead of 6. I foresee lines of cars at eight signaled crossings, waiting for the gates to rise during rush hour when trains will be more frequent.
Emergency vehicles are in line, too, waiting. The trains could reach speeds of around 80 miles per hour in the Wallingford area. I see accidents, maybe around the two crossings without traffic lights. I see new passenger loading platforms, but I do not see a lot of passengers. I see the parking garage the State wants to build in the downtown area. I see that it doesn’t bring in taxes or create much downtown vitality.
The DOT and others predict huge benefits, and some public officials have, ahem, jumped on board, too. Together, they have heavily promoted the new train service, but their claims are theory. No one really knows what the total costs or specific benefits will be. Their speculation as to the benefits, which come at a very steep price, is an important part of this story.
The second top story is about roofs. The schools need to replace 11 of them. They are nearing the end of their useful lives and the Town Council has started a needed and costly replacement program to deal with the problem. It’s not just the school roofs that landed this topic on my list. In 2010, a Record-Journal headline warned, “Rain doesn’t wait for grants.” The story reported that leaky roofs had been a problem in the Parks and Recreation building. Money was put into the 2011 budget to fix the problem. Too little, too late? In June, another headline read, “Parks Rec roof still a mess; company has until July 5.” The headline was right. The rain didn’t wait. Almost a year later, the building had water damage. Also in June, we read that the police department roof had a leak. The Council authorized almost $100,000 to replace it. But, by then, water damage had already plagued the police department for months.
My favorite roof story, however, is about solar panels. Superintendent Dr. Sal Menzo, is investigating whether Wallingford could put solar panels on school roofs at no cost to the town. Some people will challenge this idea but the Council and Board of Education should support that investigation. This is more than a plan to save or spend a few dollars. It is about whether Wallingford has the spirit to do something bold and innovative. It’s a story about whether roofs with solar panels can be educational for students, and a message to prospective residents and businesses: Wallingford is a happening place. Join us as we move forward.