Takes Spectrum, Dems to task about Loaves

To the Editor:

New Milford officials are not "turning their backs on the most vulnerable."

They are doing the business of government, not charity.

Town officials have to look out for the interests of everyone in the town, not just one special interest group.

Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House does provide a valuable, charitable service in town, but private charities cannot expect town governments to provide them taxpayer-funded space forever.

Looking with 20-20 hindsight, a private corporation such as Loaves & Fishes should never have been given permanent space in a town building where taxpayers are on the hook for space, heat, electricity, etc.

Their location problem should have been solved years ago. Charity is no part of government; it is the personal obligation of every one of us to help those less fortunate.

It is the job of townspeople to help find them a new home, not town government.

The lack of objectivity by The Spectrum is particularly disappointing. The paper owes the mayor and the members of the New Milford Zoning Commission an apology for its profoundly biased story in the continuing coverage of the Loaves & Fishes issue.

In a July 8 article, the Spectrum states "Although the house was to be razed to enlarge the lot, zoning officials still question the adequacy of the lot for such purposes."

The Spectrum knows for a fact that the zoning application never included razing the existing house because it reported the truth in an earlier article: "The proposed two-story building with a 2,259-square-foot footprint would have sat on an 0.44-acre parcel behind a present four-family house."

The truth is the application was for a mixed-use facility, not as zoning board member Sharon Ward stated: "the application could be approved with certain conditions."

Ms. Ward also ignores the reality there is not even parking for staff and/or councilors as The Spectrum reported "Other nonprofits would have been asked to join Loaves & Fishes in the building. It would have provided counseling space, showers, a washer and dryer, and other amenities for those in need."

The opinion pages haven't been any better: filled with vitriol like "angry rhetoric," "mean-spirited," "unfair," "unreasonable," "ugly moments," "fear mongering," "emotional claims," "hard-heartedness," and "lack of compassion" without a single mention of the legitimate concerns people who live, work or own businesses in that vicinity have about expansion of the facility and services on such a tiny piece of property.

Yes, legitimate concerns.

Those who disagree should do a little research on what the U.S. Department of Justice states in a guide for police (Problem-Oriented Guides for Police -- Problem-Specific Guides Series No. 56) for dealing with chronic issues with the homeless such as petty criminal activity, threats to business viability, and illegitimate use of public space.

Yes, the "chronic nuisance" population is only a very small percentage of those being served by Loaves & Fishes, but to pretend issues never arise that seriously affect people and businesses nearby is to ignore reality.

Zoning chairman Bill Taylor put it best: "We pride ourselves on treating everyone the same. If you meet the requirements, your application is approved. If you don't, it's not."

During the hearings, Mr. Taylor did a commendable job of keeping his head while most others in the room were losing theirs on emotional issues from both sides of the aisle that had nothing to do with the specifics of the zoning application.

In truth, this zoning application boiled down to someone offering a woefully inadequate space to build a new nonconforming building with never-ending uses far in excess of the existing Loaves & Fishes facility.

The new chairman of the New Milford Democratic Town Committee, Andy Grossman, stated Loaves & Fishes operated "without taxpayers' assistance."

Who are you trying to fool, Mr. Grossman? Exactly who is paying for the Richmond Citizen Center?

The taxpayers of New Milford provide the necessary space, water, sewer, heat and electricity.

Why does Mr. Grossman think taxpayers should fund private corporations?

Mr. Grossman has further offered "We also urge the mayor to allow Loaves & Fishes to remain at the Richmond (Citizen) Center until the group can find a new location close to downtown."

This is nothing but political grandstanding. Mr. Grossman knows full well that Loaves & Fishes was informed two years ago they couldn't remain in their present location as that space is needed to perform genuine government activity.

The town is required by statute to provide space to accommodate the new probate court home now that the probate districts have been enlarged by the state.

Why doesn't Mr. Grossman do something constructive like finding a new site for Loaves & Fishes himself instead of continuously complaining that somebody else isn't doing it?

If Andy Grossman, Walter Bayer and the rest of those quoted in these pages were really concerned about the future home of this deserving organization, they would be putting their efforts into finding one instead of limiting themselves to disparaging town officials who do not belong to their chosen political party.

Instead of putting politics over people, they should try putting people over politics.

Michael Barnes

New Milford