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PETER MOST: Monumental intervention

GB, take the time between now and September 2025 to consider the town that you are and the one you aspire to be.

Great Barrington, sit down, we need to talk. No, really, sit. This is an intervention.

As a young attorney, I drafted a pleading with a repackaged losing argument. The partner struck the passages, telling me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I considered the partner brilliant and his wisdom profound, only later to learn that this pearl is the foundation of the self-help industrial complex.

Well, GB, it is time for some self-care and introspection. As the joke goes, psychiatrists don’t change light bulbs; light bulbs have got to be willing to change themselves. GB, it is time for a change. While two things can be true, the following is not: GB, you cannot have a high school while refusing to pay for its renovation or replacement. It would be insane to think otherwise.

GB, continued inaction concerning Monument Mountain High School could ultimately lead to its condemnation. Continued inaction would be contemptible. Continued inaction could lead to the disbanding of Berkshire Hills Regional School District as we know it and, assuredly, the tuitioning-out of GB’s, Stockbridge’s, and West Stockbridge’s high school students to underutilized Mount Everett, Lenox, and Lee high schools. GB, the Ghost of Your High School Future wants you to know that if you continue down your current path, a reckoning awaits.

For those of you not keeping track, in November 2013, GB rejected the then-$56 million high school renovation plan. Following slicing and dicing, in November 2014, GB rejected the then-$51 million renovation plan. But for four towns scuttling best-laid plans to merge underutilized school districts in October 2023, GB would have been asked to approve an approximately $100 million renovation plan last fall. Come September 2025, GB, you will again be asked to vote for a to-be-proposed combination of renovation, addition, or new high school construction, this time in the $135 million cost range. The headline here is that certainties in life now include ever-increasing Monument Mountain renovation costs.

Unless you have a come-to-Jesus moment, GB, does any right-thinking person believe election results in 2025 will differ from those of 2013 and 2014? GB, since the 1960s, you have not seen a high school building project that you haven’t deemed worthy of rejection. Please tell me, why will this vote be different from all other votes?

Right now, our brightest minds are planning for a future iteration of Monument Mountain High School. Current plans, cost estimates, and future timelines are available here. The question is, does Monument Mountain have a future, or are these dedicated educators, planners, and engineers rearranging desk chairs for no purpose?

Of the many things I have learned and come to appreciate about you over the last six years, GB, is your deep-seated love for Monument Mountain. A Monument Mountain graduate could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and still get elected in GB. Every discussion I have ends with the fervent thought that it is inconceivable that GB will not have a shining high school upon that hill. Well, sure, that’s nice to hear, but have you seen that temple to secondary education lately?

My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that GB property owners can expect a property tax increase of approximately 16 percent to renovate/rebuild the school, which may be slightly low depending on how “green” the state requires the renovated high school to be, the availability of grants for “green” construction, and then-current interest rates, among other things. By the way, my calculation and a token will get you on the subway. There are too many known unknowns and unknown unknowables, so consider this number for discussion purposes only. You cannot take it to the bank. Your numbers will vary.

That said, assuming 16 percent is in the ballpark, GB, you need to look deep within yourself (and your pockets) to consider one last time—and don’t kid yourself, this will be the last time—whether you want a functioning high school or another blighted former high school building withering away. As you drive past Monument Mountain, consider how you will feel when it is gone, and your children and grandchildren are bussed near and far for a secondary education. Friday night lights will be extinguished (while there are high school football stadiums in Texas that cost half as much as Monument Mountain’s proposed renovation), pride of place lost, and GB’s identity diminished.

GB, take the time between now and September 2025 to consider the town that you are and the one you aspire to be. There is nothing wrong with not having a high school, but is that who you really are? Be true to your school, GB. Let your purple colors fly.

Survey Monkey Questions

Here is a link to the following Survey Monkey poll: “Do you believe today that come September 2025 you will be willing to pay approximately 16 percent more in property taxes to fund the to-be-proposed renovation/addition or new construction of Monument Mountain High School?”

Survey Monkey Results

A recent column asked the following survey question:

  1. Should the local-option real estate transfer fee be restored to the Affordable Homes Act?
  2. Should South County towns seek by Home Rule petition the ability to assess a vacancy tax?

As of publication, 61.54 percent of respondents said “yes” to restoration of the local option real estate transfer fee, and 69.23 percent said “no” to South County Home Rule petitions seeking to assess a vacancy tax.

Days Great Barrington has held Community Access Fees hostage: 125.

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