Editorial: Securing a town’s center
News that Southampton’s town offices have been left unlocked as many as 20 times in the last half year must surprise residents, who count on important documents, as well as town property, to be secured. We find it alarming that a documented problem hasn’t been corrected.
It says something good about our region that nothing major appears to have been vandalized or taken from the offices, located since January 2011 in the former Larrabee School.
We’d routinely include the address for a building such as that, but given the situation, that might not be a good idea. Since March, the Southampton Police Department has kept track of the number of times it found doors unlocked at the building. It averages once a week. Chief David Silvernail told the Gazette he began to log those incidents after flagging the security issue for years.
Along with the problem of unlocked doors, the chief is urging town officials to get a grip on who holds keys. The current interim administrator, Regina Shea-Sullivan, says she doesn’t know.
In a small town, where volunteers play an important role staffing boards and commissions, there is a tendency for the number of keys in circulation to expand. As Silvernail has noted, people who use town space only occasionally are less vigilant in closing a building as they leave. It may be time to change locks and document who holds keys.
That vigilance might have enabled the town to prevent the loss of a major file on a cleanup of tires at the Sunnydell Farm on Gunn Road several years ago. A three-ring binder with years worth of information is missing. This summer, Joshua Mathieu, now a former health inspector, reported the files AWOL. The cost of that cleanup ran well into six figures. Losing those records is a considerable setback for the town. Moreover, residents who have a right to inspect that file, including an heir of the family that once owned the farm, should be able to count on it being there.
It is in part because the Southampton building has been so accessible that the police department did not — actually, could not — investigate the fate of the missing files on the tire cleanup. If the offices had been more secure, Mathieu might have reported their disappearance as a theft. Instead, records on a case that involved a $600,000 state grant are simply missing, with no signs of forced entry into a building that keeps its guard down.
Healing a highway
What can you get done in the course of 43 months? You can almost earn a bachelor’s degree. You can complete a three-year law school program. You can bear a child and watch her get old enough to ask deep questions.
And you can replace a group of bridges on Interstate Route 91 in Deerfield.
Anyway, let’s hope you can.
Work has begun on a — sitting down for this? — $36.2 million project to replace bridges that carry highway travelers over the Deerfield River. The spans are said to be structurally deficient. Having worked their way up a project list, they are now at the top. The job is supposed to wrap up in April 2016.
That’s a lot of time to be monkeying with a vital transportation route through the Valley and the potential for disruption is significant. We all witnessed regular traffic jams when work took place a little further north over a railroad line. And in Easthampton, an I-91 bridge-repair project dragged on well past time estimates.
This time, the scope of the work is even larger. We call on the state Department of Transportation to manage the Deerfield I-91 work closely, preventing delays and cost overruns.