LETTER: Greenwich Must Refresh and Renew

Letter to the editor from  Ashley Cole

There are many important items on our town’s agenda but none more important than the reinvestment in our public schools. It is time to face the facts that our public schools have fallen into terrible condition.

Here is the reality for those that don’t know. Central Middle School has been neglected for so long that the entire school has to be scrapped. The students at Western Middle School have not been able to play on safe fields for several years now. We have a high school that should be the jewel in the crown of our educational system yet is anything but. GHS has parking, traffic and safety issues, dated and crumbling infrastructure, an athletic arena with porta potties instead of proper bathrooms, no field house for the athletes, bleachers that have been condemned and is not even ADA compliant. Add to that there are not even enough fields to meet the demand and under FAR restrictions cannot expand further. On top of all this, GHS is sitting on wetlands full of toxins – PCB’s, lead and arsenic. The site that has yet to be fully remediated and hasn’t received a clean bill of health by CT DEEP. It has been over a decade since the toxins were discovered.

Needless to say, I think our students and our town deserve better. Public Schools are critical to the success of a town. Allowing our public schools to fall apart serves no purpose to anyone. We have had relatively low taxes for many years because our property values have been high. In the past several years, property values have fallen. If we continue to let our schools and infrastructure fall apart, property values will continue to drop and taxes will have to go up. The key to keeping our values high and our taxes low is smart, responsible, reinvestment in our community. A good place to start is with our public schools.

An upscale town with premiere property values doesn’t have crumbling schools with toxic fields. It isn’t rocket science.

I know what many of you are thinking – how can we afford all this? The answer is we can’t NOT afford this. To continue to let our infrastructure fall apart is to court disaster. Nothing less than the future of our town is at stake. It is akin to not maintaining your home yet expecting its value not to be impaired.

Think of Greenwich as a brand. Any MBA student or business person understands the power and value of a brand. The Greenwich brand has been one of excellence, quality and gracious living. If we continue with the status quo – we will be in jeopardy of losing that brand.

When I moved here almost 20 years ago I was a young mother with elementary school aged children. I moved here for the quality of life – the proximity to NYC, the suburban lifestyle and the strong schools. Even though I don’t have school aged children anymore, I know that great schools are the backbone of any great community.

All of us have significant investments in our homes here in Greenwich. Someday – we will need to sell them. Municipalities have to be continually adjusting to changing times and looking to the future. The only way to attract new, fresh young people to our town is to renew and maintain our town – preserve and protect our neighborhoods, revitalize our downtown – and it all starts with our schools.

It’s easy to be cynical right now in these trying times. CT has fiscal issues which will have to be solved, but that doesn’t mean we give up on our town. So instead of bemoaning our fate, we should look at this situation as a great opportunity to correct, move forward and make Greenwich an even better place to live. Because of our horizontal structure of government, we need a bipartisan effort from all. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, addressing theses challenges are critical to our success as a town. Investing in Greenwich is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.

Ashley Cole

The deadline to submit a letter to the editor regarding candidates in the Nov 5 municipal election is Tuesday Oct 29 at 5pm.