Sunday, April 02, 2006
A day for offerings …
I allowed at the start I could not promise much, but that does not relieve me of the responsibility to try. So here goes, right from the maw that is my technical ignorance, political naïveté and simplistic worldview, among other shortcomings I assess to the appalling weaknesses of my public education. They didn’t give me the knowledge, so it must be their fault that I lack it.
Anyway, here’s the problem: The state figures we need a four-lane, high-speed, limited-access, commute-reducing highway from Hyett’s Corner to Warwick, MD. New Castle County says people living south of the C&D Canal need a regional library, a regional park and a big sewer plant plus lots of acres to filter treated waste. The Appo School District now thinks they need a third high school, a third middle school and other structures in the next 3-4 years. For the sake of whimsy, let’s assume they all are correct. Here’s the bill: Road: $500 million; Library/parks/sewers: $300 million; Schools: $200 million. Total: $1 billion.
I’d like to help, but based on the last time I looked at the old bank account, I think I’m a billion or so short, depending on whether or not you’re working debt into the sum. I’m willing to perhaps do my part, but first I’d like you to consider this suggestion: Get a room.
Why, for example, can’t the highway guys sit down with the sewer guys and mull this one over. To build your road, you will need to condemn, level and improve a swath of land that, unless I’m really dense, is gonna run right past land the sewer guys already bought for the plant they need a lot of my money to build, land that isn’t big enough to soak up all the effluent said plant will spout in 2020. Is it possible to make that ribbon of land wide enough, sculpt it creatively enough so the grassy median or buffers can serve as spray or trickle irrigation acreage for the sewer plant? Or if that won’t work, to host a pipe/pump system to take said effluent to land way out west that won’t cost an arm and a leg, or might serve an agricultural purpose somehow? Perhaps the power company, the gas company, the water company, the wind energy company might want a piece of the corridor action also, and might cough up a share of the capitalization? Probably a lot of reasons why this won’t work, even though it seems to be getting some interest down in Texas.
And while the sewer and highway guys are bonding, how about getting the school, library and park folks together? Ponder this maybe: One complex, using shared facilities to meet quite similar community needs. A high school, with a community library wing, with a community recreation wing, on shared acreage. With enough security and coordination designed in to protect the children, to mesh overlapping uses, and take advantage of scale. A core high school facility perhaps that locks down after hours, with public wings for art, shop, library, recreation, computers, music, theater, cafeteria and more that become open for community use when school is done, overseen perhaps by county, state or nonprofit groups now begging for space – or charging it off on another tax levy – for programs in these realms? Located on a bus route. Hey, you might even throw together some courses for dolts like me who still can’t figure out how to miter crown molding, or run useful formulas in Excel, create a Web page for the civic association -- and let some of the brighter kids do the showing. Or hang the best stuff from the art class in the lobby. And so on.
I’m inclined to believe we need the road, the sewers, the library, the parks, the schools. I’m equally sure we don’t need to spend $1 billion from four or five different public or quasi-public pockets to get er done. Perhaps it’s just me.