School board needs to act on school

Charles Creesy, Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee
To the editor:
The hypocrisy of School Board President Tim Quinn’s justification for rejecting a citizen group’s proposal to save the older part of the Valley Road School building, as expressed at the July 22 Princeton Council meeting, was breathtaking.
   In his words, “The board arguably would have been in breach of its fiduciary responsibility to this community if it had given the property to VRS-ARC on the terms proposed.”
   One has to ask: As opposed to the board’s ongoing irresponsibility in allowing the building to fall apart for lack of maintenance? Clearly, fiduciary responsibility includes the stewardship obligation to protect the taxpayers’ prior investment in existing structures — something that has not been properly done in the case of VRS for decades.
   My first exposure to this issue occurred soon after Princeton Community Television took up residence there, following the township government’s move to its new quarters across Witherspoon Street. When the roof began leaking above the room being used as TV-30’s studio, the school’s response was not to repair the leak but to hang a tarp below the ceiling and drain the water through a hose out the window.
   Deterioration of the building has accelerated in recent years and, unless preventive measures are taken soon, the damage this winter to the now vacated and unheated portion could well be irreversible. It appears the object of the school board is to ensure that the building falls down, without an official decision actually being made. Fiduciary responsibility indeed.
   Mr. Quinn defended the board’s decision by citing “the total absence of any evidence of the group’s ability to fund its proposal.” In fact, the group has laid out its fundraising plans to the board in considerable detail over many months. The question is how, mindful of its fiduciary responsibility to potential donors, could its members go out and begin soliciting contributions while lacking any expressed control over the future of the building?
   As evidence of its bona fides, the committee has acquired 501(c)(3) tax-exempt certification from the IRS, held successful fundraising events to support its operations, and developed relations with a number of local nonprofit organizations that are strongly interested in participating (and paying rent to help maintain the building).
   What we need to see from the school board, at long last, is a responsible response. Time is running out.
Charles Creesy
Valley Road School Adaptive
Reuse Committee