An oversight as big as a bus

Last week, Windham town councilor Kaile Warren, who has earned a reputation for acting tough on government waste (especially when it comes to school buses it seems), found something else to criticize in local governance – a failure to erase “Windham School Department” off the side of a school bus that was for sale on the side of Warren Avenue in Portland.

Warren will be remembered for discovering the $5,000 bus door actuators this summer. School officials were quick to say they were sorry for spending about $1,000 apiece for bus parts they could have bought elsewhere for $300. And, likewise, school officials are quick to say they were to blame for not erasing the Windham lettering from the school bus.

Both instances of neglect do not a scandal make. As much as people love scandal, these seem to be honest mistakes. With that said, there really is no reason a school bus is put up for sale with the school’s lettering still attached.

In this day and age of sexual predators, it is not far-fetched to imagine someone buying the bus and driving around Windham with it during morning pick-up time and scooping up an unsuspecting child. Can you imagine the trauma that would cause a family who lost their child in this way, not to mention the child? The resulting lawsuit against the school system and taxpayers of Windham would be massive.

To their credit, Windham school officials immediately dispatched someone to paint over the bus lettering when notified of the problem. Everyone makes mistakes – and the school department maintains that it has erased bus lettering in the past – but an oversight like this seems quite significant. Let’s just hope there haven’t been similar oversights in the past.

Don’t put this effort in park

The Windham Town Council, in its noble zeal to protect taxpayers from further tax increases, has forgotten that a strong community isn’t just measured by what it doesn’t have (i.e. fewer taxes) but by what it has.

Central to most thriving communities throughout Maine and the country is a central outdoor entertainment space. Naples has its town green. Portland has Payson Park and Deering Oaks. Boston has The Public Garden. New York City has Central Park. Many American communities have set aside a place for a park. Why won’t the Windham Town Council allow one in Windham?

On Monday, the council rejected a plan proposed by the town’s recreation department for a park near the Windham Public Safety Building on Route 202. The project would have cost $523,000, half of that being the cost of excavation. It’s understandable the council balked at the high price, but it should have explored other park possibilities.

Windham needs a hub (other than the commercial district). It’s hard to feel a part of a community when there is no place to congregate. A great community needs a park. Community leaders – including government, social clubs, and wealthy residents – should recognize this, band together and use the town-owned property near the public safety building to build a park.

-John Balentine, editor

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