About a month ago, we began to hear rumors about a green grass movement to rename the municipal center in honor of our late town manager, John Weichsel. Some folks even assured us that this was already a done deal.
Then, during the public comment portion of the June 27 Town Council meeting, former Councilors Andy Meade (R) and Art Secondo (D) raised it to the public level. Each spoke eloquently about our first town manager and asked that the council consider renaming the municipal center.
We applaud the two gentlemen for their bipartisan approach. We agree that Weichsel is the perfect person to have his name attached to a town building, but we were concerned about how the council responded.
After all, the last time we named something after our former manager (John Weichsel Crossing), it was an unkempt, rutted, aimless, dirt path that—until recently—looked more like the town was thumbing their nose at the former manager than honoring him. To make matters worse, for almost a year all the GPS programs had Weichsel’s name spelled wrong on the maps. It was embarrassing.
That’s why we were worried when Ed Pocock III immediately made a motion to add it to the next council agenda. We were concerned when two others quickly seconded the motion, and it passed unopposed. We were surprised that our town attorney and town manager didn’t speak up.
A quick look at the town’s charter (Chapter 59) shows that renaming a building is a process, not a quick item to be added to the agenda.
First, an ad hoc committee must be set up, made up of three Town Council members. Then, they accept suggestions in writing from any interested member of the community, along with biographical material and a list of achievements before a final list is presented to the town manager, forwarded to the council, and approved by 2/3 vote. We expect our town council to be better than knee-jerk reactions.
“The individual shall be a prominent national or statewide figure whose name and reputation are widely known and accepted…The individual shall have been involved over a long period of time with the Town of Southington in general or the government in particular and shall have successfully exhibited demonstrably distinguished service deserving of special recognition…The individual under consideration shall be deceased for a period of not less than five years.”
Of course, the council can waive any provisions with 7 affirmative votes, but we wish they’d hold off. Mostly because we think it’s absurd to rename a building that the town doesn’t officially own.
Remember when the town council argued at the turn of the century that the Gura Building would have to be torn down for health issues? (We are so glad that they were wrong).
Remember when they tried to push their agenda through the referendum process three times and failed each time?
Remember when they sold the building for $1 to Borghese Building and Engineering in 2011, so that they could renovate the school and lease it back to the town for eight years before offering us the option to buy it back?
What happens if the referendum to buy it back fails?
That would be a worse slap in the face to our former town manager than naming a dirt road after him. Enough of the back door deals and forcing things through. Let’s take time to do it right. At the very least, Weichsel deserves that.