Monday, August 25, 2008

It's a Middletown issue

While there's no ignoring the fact that the placement of the proposed Army Reserve Training Center has elicited a NIMBY (not in my backyard) effect, drawing protest most vociferously from those adjacent to the sites, it's not only a Westfield issue, or a Maromas issue. It's a Middletown issue.

Middletown's a big city, from the standpoint of square miles (42 square miles, in fact), so a complex being built in Westfield might almost seem like a problem in another town from the perspective of someone living on Broad Street. Just as the problem of drugs being sold on Grand Street might seem like someone else's problem to someone living on Saybrook Road.

The truth is, of course, that these are all Middletown issues. School issues are important even to people with no kids in school. Development issues are important to folks living in remote cul de sacs. Open space issues are important even to those who never venture into the woods.

And so it is with the Army Reserve Training Center. Somehow (and this is a mystery no one's been able to clear up), Middletown got tagged in the BRAC legislation as the place where the center is supposed to be built, if a suitable site can be found. So the Army Corps of Engineers began to explore the options, and found the neighbors weren't thrilled.

Beyond the effect on traffic, property values and lifestyle, the proposed center is an imposition on a city which already carries more than it's share of "off the tax list" property burdens. If the Army comes to town, some large parcel of land will be stripped off the tax roll. And the federal government, unlike the state, doesn't even make the pretense of paying a "payment in lieu of taxes," otherwise known as PILOT. Of course, the state has rarely paid it's full share of the promised PILOT fees. Leaving you and me to pick up the slack in property taxes.

What it means is that the state has promised to pay a fee for the land used for Connecticut Valley Hospital, and it hasn't. So a tax burden that was supposed to be shared by all residents of the state, is imposed on those of us who live in Middletown.

If the Army Reserve Training Center gets built here, the town (that's you and me, again) will have to bear the burden for ongoing infrastructure costs, and residents of the rest of the state, and in fact the country, all of whom will share in the benefits of having a modern Army Reserve Training Center, and a well-trained Reserve, won't have to pay a nickel for ongoing costs.

So, our town property taxes will go up (and taxes are an issue that seem to go beyond NIMBYism), and continue to go up each year, and we will see no real economic benefit. The jobs? The increased business for local stores, restaurants, bars? Those are figments of the Army Corps' imagination. What's more, once the ARTC gets built, all local authority for what goes on there is deferred to the Army.

As the Army renews it's search for a suitable site in town, remember that wherever it gets built, you'll pay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another mind with a firm grip on reality. Bravo, we cannot have too many! I would go further and say that it is a State issue and that the problems associated with Federal projects for the State are analogous to the problems associated with the Feds for the Locals. This may provide a clue as to why the State is not so eager to become involved...