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Prior to its closing in 2004, The Academy Street School had been a proud symbol of Madison’s educational and cultural heritage. Now it stands as a stark reminder of ineffective leadership. Three years ago, an initiative from Shoreline Arts Alliance to create a cultural arts space was squashed by Tom Banisch’s administration without citizen input. Since then, town officials have initiated several attempts to determine public sentiment for the building’s future. This process accelerated after the current administration attempted to push through development of the school and fields as residential properties. Public outcry against this strategy was further supported by a 2018 survey, which demonstrated strong public support for repurposing the building as a community center and retaining its fields.
The Board of Selectmen established the Academy Center Design Committee (ACDC) to create a design proposal and cost estimates. The final report, available on the town website, concludes that the building is suitable for conversion to a community center, providing residents with access to additional social, recreational, and educational programming.
After further review and public input, this matter should be brought to referendum in 2020. ACDC should remain in place to further refine the proposal and to serve as a resource for communicating information. With a well-defined, visionary plan, Academy can play an energizing role in the future of our downtown center. This history has clearly demonstrated that elected officials need to listen to the public and not follow their own agenda. The public has loudly and repeatedly indicated it wants an opportunity to vote on the future of this property. Citizens will need to take the time to understand the ACDC findings and voice their ideas and concerns. Ultimately, it should always be solely up to the voters to decide if a repurposed Academy School offers a good value.
Selectman Al Goldberg
Democrat Al Goldberg is seeking re-election in November.
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