In troubling economic times it’s imperative that local communities value their assets and leverage them to provide the services and amenities that the community expects. Last June, over 50% of Union residents voted for options that will retain at least part of the Thompson Community Center for community purposes. Prior to that vote, some were adamant that not a single cent be spent on the center, citing inflation and COVID-19 as reasons. They wanted the building to either be sold — opening the possibility that an undesirable entity, such as a methadone clinic, could pop up in our community center — or be torn down. They claimed that spending any money on the building was a waste — other than spending an estimated $400,000 to demolish it and dispose of the rubble.

Oddly enough, these same people (the sponsors of Article 1) are now suggesting we should spend the money to conduct an engineering study and develop feasibility plans. But inflation has gotten worse and COVID-19 is still hanging around. What is their reasoning exactly when there is a four-year-old engineering study already available? Are they aware that the Select Board has yet to even present options for long-term use of the building? How can a feasibility plan be assembled when there is still no plan for the building? How is this anything other than a delaying tactic meant to undermine the vote that has already occurred?

Make no mistake, this referendum is not about “educating the taxpayers to make an informed choice,” that information has already been made widely available and they know it – they’ve cited it before. Why is it that citizens who only months ago stated that not a cent should be spent on the center, now want to pay tens of thousands of dollars to collect information that we already have? How is this an effective use of taxpayer funds?

The voters have already spoken. They want a community center in town, a space for learning, for fellowship, for recreation, for business incubation, for building community spirit. What would Dr. Thompson think, knowing the building he donated to serve as a community space in Union, was to be sold to whomever for whatever purposes, or demolished? Preservation is progress, and it is our duty as Union residents to preserve his legacy and use the building as he intended, for community purposes.

A vote of NO on article one – to veto the referendum – is the only way to stop anti-TCC, anti-community services absolutists from holding the community center hostage from the public will. Don’t fall for their claims that this is to “protect the taxpayer”, the taxpayers have already voted. We want a community center that benefits the town, affordable apartments for elders, adult education classrooms, indoor space for youth sports teams to practice and seniors to recreate, and possibly even a community health clinic. These are all opportunities and possibilities that will likely disappear if this referendum passes. The simple fact of that matter is the town has yet to decide the best use for the building. A vote “yes” on article one will make it harder to determine that optimal use and waste taxpayer money collecting information we already have. Vote NO on article one: stop taxpayer waste and stop the obstructionism that keeps us from moving forward as a community.

Paul Raudonat

Union