Editorial: Asset management

Publicly owned properties are one of the most visible assets that a community has in its possession.

This includes buildings where public business or the process of governing unfolds, where residents go to meet and hash out community affairs or cast their ballots during elections, where many of the children go to get an education or its parks and other outdoor areas where events are held, be it sporting events or some kind of activity.

These places — town offices, schools, athletic fields, etc. — are sources of community pride as much as they are places where people work, meet and play.

But as much as the buildings and land are part of a town’s image, they are also often places that residents don’t want to spend too much time thinking about or spending money on.

But buildings — regardless of their use — need periodic fixing or updating, just as playing fields or tennis courts or outdoor tracks need resurfacing.

In addition, town-owned equipment such as highway department trucks or police cruisers also need regular repairs or replacement.

All of these needs come under the fiscal umbrella of capital improvements.

We don’t think that the reaction by three of the four towns in the Frontier Regional School district to the capital improvement request was based upon any misunderstanding of the capital improvements the school district was seeking. Town officials in Sunderland, Deerfield and Whately know full well the importance of these projects.

We believe that in not even entertaining the district’s recent request of $183,250 for Fiscal Year 2014, these towns were saying that along with all the other budgetary factors, they simply cannot afford it.

It’s a smart move on the school district’s part, then, to pare back the request, as reported in Wednesday’s Recorder. The district is now seeking some 27 percent less — $133,250 — from the four towns.

Whether it will be enough, providing it’s approved, remains to be seen. It is important to remember that these requests were made for a reason, and that need isn’t going to disappear.

As Frontier School Committee member Lynn Cook said, “Most of these items won’t go away and probably will get worse. I doubt they’ll get cheaper.”

Talks between the district and the towns must continue so that a timetable can be established and capital improvements made that can take care of what’s necessary to preserve the value of these community assets.

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