Public/private partnership is troubling

With Election Day coming up on March 5, we need to think carefully about Article VIII on the back of the ballot. It proposes that the Town of Shelburne partner with Healthy Living in the “soft costs” of developing and, next year, vote to purchase land for a new fire/rescue facility on Route 7. There has been little public discussion, and the Seller’s Letter of Intent for the property was just posted on Jan 29.

While this ballot item seeks only a $25,000 appropriation this year, the proposal would eventually commit Shelburne to spend millions to build a new facility for fire and rescue. Having recently recovered from a rancorous and expensive legal battle with Vermont Railway, and bonded $950,000 for the “Quint” Fire Truck, we look forward to the completion of a long-planned new library, which will re-unite our community. The proposal that Shelburne participate in a “public private partnership” committing us to incur millions more in debt is troubling.

Keeping an open mind, I would welcome a proposal from our emergency services for a new facility as part of a long-term capital plan for the town, but that this development is being driven by a private entrepreneur raises alarm bells. While the parties involved may have the best of intentions, it would set a precedent for future site development and be unfair to businesses that have funded theirs privately. I will be voting “NO” on Article VIII.

Robert Finn

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