Op-Ed: Kearns School project— a rush to judgment

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I have written a number of op-eds on this subject and spoken at BOS meetings during public sessions over the past year or so. I acknowledge the objectives of a diverse public facility as proposed by the soliciting Facility Committee for the lease of Kearns School. However, debatable information, amended budget outlines, questionable timelines, as yet unconfirmed funding and 501C3 certification, cash flow uncertainty and lack of a CPA financial consult; I, and many other business-minded Granby citizens are convinced that this is not a viable economic commitment. I believe the Letter of Intent, even non-binding, was clearly assigned too soon. 

The illogic of the BOS entertaining this current proposal by the Granby Study Committee, raises several strategic points of concern:

A CPA actuarial accounting should have been done prior to making a proposal to Granby, yet the cost for this critical step was assigned zero dollars. This is disconcerting because that is the first rule of thumb for any professional business plan, particularly a non-profit looking for so much municipal and state fiscal support.

The original Kearns School Study Committee in 2017 was tasked with determining potential purposes and status for the school as inherited from the education department. The committee’s final determination was that it could be used for various utilizations and most certainly could/should be marketed for sale. Time was of the essence to avoid ongoing maintenance, insurance costs, etc. In the two subsequent years, nothing has been done.

Since then, between $60K–$100K has been spent for preservation and I do not know the cost of insurance coverage. Nothing has been spent on marketing activities or seeking further professional expertise as to options that would realize revenue—why?

Speaking of insurance, that coverage was added into the Facility Committee’s latest budget, but was not included in the previous one — was Granby expected to cover it? Even if this is a moot point, Granby could still be open to litigation as the owners of the building and property.

Why a 10-year lease? Why not a three-year lease at fair market value with an option to buy with a portion of the annual lease applied toward the final purchase price (TBD)?

Given Governor Lamont’s “debt diet” objective, how does a $2-million bonded donation factor into the Facility Committee’s fundraising plan? Will the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving just hand over $300K (if that is the correct amount) without oversight or expected parameters of use?

Those who attended the 2.0 CT Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth Forum on 2/13 at the Granby Senior Center were appreciably educated and informed as to the State of the State’s financial fiasco, leaving little room for expanding long term debt.

If the various services being proposed do not meet revenue needs and expectations, who will continue activity and how will they obtain cash flow from contributions to meet fixed costs? Some grants are non-recurring and have restricted uses.

There is no Plan B for the facility group nor the town if the whole thing implodes. Will it simply be left on Granby’s doorstep and how would that be viewed by the State or Hartford Foundation for Public Giving should they forfeit the money?

Why can’t we initiate conversation with people in the daycare industry to determine interest since it is a growing business segment in Connecticut? They have the money and expertise to manage a project of that complexity and size? 

The wetlands can be given to McLean’s Game Refuge and the remaining 12 acres sold with the facility.

Clarification is needed on why a sale of this property would require a referendum versus no public vote on a lease of town property. Why? The taxpayers are on the hook either way. Perhaps the Charter needs to be changed—and have a referendum on it.

Once again, I refer to Bob Patricelli’s comments about Connecticut having assets that it hasn’t bothered to market: quality of life, location between Boston and N.Y., high speed ferries, Sikorsky, etc), great educational institutions— sounds like Granby— right? We are near Bradley International Airport and major interstate highways, parks and open space, great schools but we haven’t marketed it and both the state and Granby have not been particularly user friendly in the commercial department. Nor have we balanced the books on the fixed costs versus serious revenue. 

We need to know the difference between what we want and what we need. So, if we can rush to judgement on a non-binding letter of intent when we should be putting on the brakes, we need to rush to a marketing plan! We need to be Grand-by—not just Granby.

There are numerous other points that could be made. I welcome the public’s commentary pro or con, but I revert back to this rush to judgment. We sat for two years on this town asset and now suddenly we have to come to a conclusion on one unsolicited proposal in one month?

Note: See ctvalleyviews.com for video coverage of the forum presentation by Bob Patricelli, Co-Chairman of Connecticut’s Fiscal Stability Commission.

Susan Patricelli Regan is the host of CT Valley Views TV program, president of Foxfield F.A.R.M. Foundation, founder of the Sylvia Davis Fine Arts Scholarship and former VP marketing and community trade relations for DIAGEO N.A.