Thursday, December 15, 2005

Spaced out for Christmas

The give and take between public officials and their citizens is, I think, at its apex right now — at least over one local issue.

Stowe's town government, headquartered in the circa-1903 Akeley Memorial Building, is facing a wicked serious space crunch. More specifically, the town's vault is. There just ain't enough room in this relic of the past to house all the documents and assorted records of modern-day Stowe. What's worse, a fissure in the vault itself continues to steadily grow larger (it's expanded by four times in the last couple months, according to the town clerk) and the whole thing is essentially falling off the building.

Were anything disastrous to happen in the building, and the vault's contents wiped out in the process, there'd be trouble. A LOT of trouble. Property sales, for example, would come to a standstill. The town clerk, and others who work in the building, are freaked out at the possibility. Can you blame them?

But in order to fix this problem, the Stowe Select Board is proposing a renovation/reorganization of the building. Voters have rejected it twice. Now, the project is more expensive and the problem is getting worse.

Project opponents don't want to see this historic building – a memorial to war veterans – changed as is proposed. One such opponent stopped by our offices at 49 Schol Street a few weeks ago to deliver to my mailbox a photocopy, which quotes the notes taken from the 1903 dedication ceremony of the Akeley Building. The notes say the building "was intended for patriotic purposes, and will be used as such..." and the building is "dedicated to the soldiers that lost their lives on account of serving in the army of the United States." Why doesn't the town government just move its butt somewhere else and leave the Memorial Building as it is? project opponents ask.

Well, that idea sprung up at the select board meeting on Monday, but the road ahead is unknown. This situation is playing almost tragically. Public officials and citizens are clashing over legitimate and important interests. But the problem is no one side – if there are in fact "sides" – wants to budge.

Basically, everyone involved in the debate, as it swells into and beyond Christmas, is spaced out. Or frustrated. Or maybe not. But, what's clear is the main issue here – the vault – ain't going away. It's like a sliver dug in too deep, and if nothing is done soon you'll have to amputate the finger. If only someone would find a way to make it all work, to provide leadership when the town is seemingly divided, and find a compromise. Maybe Santa could step up to the plate, er, sleigh. Or maybe the select board could.

There's a Christmas wish for ya.

- Scott Monroe

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