Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When You Don't Know Where You're Going

If your mind is made up, then don't let yourself get confused with facts about the proposal to bond tens of millions of dollars to construct a downtown police station. There was a meeting last night in the community room of the Otis Library which I hope was better attended than the initial session last week in City Hall when less than two dozen attendees other than those with a stake in the meeting, made it to Chief Fusaro's presentation on the police station.

There's a slight irony to last night's session being in the library's community room because the proposed police station envisions a community meeting space, sadly and sorely lacking in the present building overlooking the Thames because that building, finished in the late Seventies while lacking a disco ball, was very much a project of its time-built in the moment and for the moment with little thought given to expanding requirements and future needs.

For decades, the police like other aspects of the municipal workforce were encouraged to improvise and adapt with their present resources whenever budget hearings rolled around. Norwich never has the money for what we need but finds the money for what we want and too often, creates the need after the fact (yes, I'm speaking about the Intermodal Transportation Center among other built projects in search of purposes both in downtown and beyond).

I didn't, and don't, agree with everything Chief Fusaro offered the night I attended his City Hall presentation and I'll have to revisit his ideas, perhaps this Saturday morning at ten when he speaks at the Robert O. Fletcher Post 4 in Laurel Hill. We're talking a lot of money here and we should think about we want and what we'll get for those dollars.

What we need to get, in order for the police station to play any significant role in any possible rebirth of Chelsea and a renaissance across Norwich, is a detailed vision by our elected leaders of what they see our city looking like in a decade, in a score and in a generation. As it is, no matter whom we elect we end up with members of the City Council who plan the way horses run, one footfall in front of where they are.

If you were to ask anyone on our current City Council what they see, in terms of buildings and businesses between the proposed police station and  up the street only as far the Wauregan Hotel (a six minute walk, trust me on that), be prepared for seven different answers. And if you ask how what's to be situated in that space fits in with the 'rest of' downtown' brace yourself for silence.

When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there, which means based on the maps and plans we've made for decades, and discarded and ignored, where we are now is where we have always wanted to be. Maybe it's past time for a new routine.
-bill kenny     

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