With not a bang, Woodstock enters the final resolution of one of its Great Questions, how to improve working conditions for police, dispatch personnel and the town court, long mired in cramped, unsuitable quarters in Town Hall. As we have followed along, the contracts were awarded this week for bids on renovating the structure to take advantage of the space that was vacated when Fire Co. No. 1 moved to its new headquarters in recent years.
Thus completes a debate that has gone on for decades, literally. I can remember it already having had legs as an issue back in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. In recent years, we know the history of the efforts, the successful referendum to borrow the money for the renovations, the bids coming in too high for the amount approved; the once again search for a better solution, discussing new quarters to be built on the lower Comeau, or Mountainview Parking Lot; or to use the old bowling alley, or some other existing building, until finally coming around to refurbishing what we already have.
We’ve wrestled with these Great Questions before. In researching our 40th anniversary, we’ve gone back and looked at the old newspapers, and for the first two decades of Woodstock Times’ existence, starting with Volume 1, Number 1, in February, 1972 (lead headline: Woodstock must have a sewer system) through August 1, 1991 (Town to sewer: Drop dead) deciding what to build, building it and paying for the wastewater treatment facilities was the Great Question. Another was the relocating of the highway garage…should it be on the Comeau (an issue from the purchase of the property in 1979)? Or at the landfill? Maybe at the Wastewater Treatment Plant? Decades of debate and referenda went by, and finally it was rebuilt at its exact location, maybe not the best compromise, as it sits on the banks of the Sawkill, but the most do-able one, and one that certainly improved the property. The television tower on the mountain? The building of KTD’s new structure? The RUPCO project, first glimmers of using that back of Bradley Meadows property for affordable housing coming in the late 1980s? The 1989 zoning law that took a decade to write, rewrite and pass and still creates controversy; the Comeau property and how to use it…all qualify, it says here, as Great Questions. (Good newspaper stories, too, we acknowledge.)
What does it say about our methods? We’ll talk about an issue until no one has anything more to say about it before we decide. It’s not too efficient, makes for difficult feelings, tough expressions of disagreement, often hard realities for citizens to face when the measuring is done and the cutting arrives. But it approaches what we believe to be the ideal of democracy. That’s what it is. Everyone gets his or her say.
We still have Great Questions facing us, the practical kind — sure we’re concerned with peace on earth, but we have to deal with how to provide cell service for the western end of town. That is a good decade old now, with no real fix in sight. How about the buried oil tanks, maybe five decades old, located in homes near the town wells? Through persistent, though gentle, persuasion, it’s down to a very few left.
So we cheer the final settling of one of our Great Questions, a happy ending more or less, with nothing left to say.++