Sunday, October 21, 2007

A matter of dollars and sense

Two interesting items from this past week's news:

The City Administration has agreed to spend yet another $78,000+ to upgrade the seldom working neon sign that sprawls across the facade of the Fire Headquarters building on Perry Street.

If you're not up to speed on this subject, here's a brief synopsis.

The sign was conceived to be a companion to the famous "Trenton Makes" sign on the lower free bridge across the Delaware River that would serve as a landmark and help attract people to the Fire Museum (which itself didn't reopen until a couple of years ago). Originally estimated to cost $75,000 to build and install on the Fire Headquarters building in 2002, the balky sign has seldom worked right for any measurable length of time.

The latest contract granted to update and upgrade the sign brings the total spent on this boondoggle has reportedly cost the city $500,000 over the last five years.

The second item was an article in Saturday's Times about the serious deterioration of physical plant at Trenton Central High School's main (Chambers Street) campus.

In the article TCHS Principal James Earle and other district employees decried the crumbling plaster, leaky roof, and overall decrepit condition of the once grand and glorious 75 year old edifice.

The story is bound to rekindle the passionate debate over saving the building or trashing it (and along with it, a significant icon on the city's once proud image. And it will highlight, yet again, the sorry state of Trenton's educational system.

We can all name socio-economic reasons why not every student is thriving in our schools. What has never been made clear as how and why we have let the school buildings deteriorate to the point that they can't hope to function for their intended purpose.

We can't find or won't allocate the funds to quite literally keep a roof over the heads of our school children, but we can fritter away a half-million dollars on a stupid neon sign that has never worked properly and can hardly be seen from anywhere except in front of the building it is on.

It just doesn't make sense.

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