I was discouraged to read the article about the New Canaan High School fields projects. As the past chair of the Town Council’s subcommittee on the Lakeview Avenue Bridge overruns, I had hopes that our days of “surprise” cost overruns were behind us—that we had come to understand the importance of process, communication, and transparency.
The idea that the information about pending cost overruns was available in June but not made public until September is deeply disappointing. Had the town’s governing bodies known of the true costs of the projects, those projects might have been configured differently. By not making the information public, that prerogative was preempted.
I understand that there was sincere concern that the projects would not be completed in time for fall, but that financial decision should have been at the discretion of Parks & Recreation Commission, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and Town Council. As a past member of both the Town Council and the Board of Finance, I can imagine that the members of those bodies feel blindsided.
I am a great fan of the work that the New Canaan Athletic Foundation has accomplished. And as a rule, public-private partnerships are a terrific way to leverage the number and quality of the facilities that are available to our kids. I also acknowledge that everyone involved was working to improve the athletic lives of our children.
That being said, when town monies are involved, projects should be controlled by the town bodies and the Department of Public Works. I do not believe that simply adding town officials to a committee is the same as municipal control.
We need to institute new controls and processes for joint public-private projects. The stakes can obviously be high.