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Dunce caps all around in Killingly ... once again

Dunce caps all around once again to selected town council members in Killingly, who on the heels of overturning the high school students' good work of changing the mascot in December, have now denied the same kids a turfed field for soccer, football, field hockey and lacrosse.

So come on down Jason Anderson, Patti George, Raymond Wood, Mark LaPrade and Kevin Kertulla and get fitted for your new headgear. They are a necessary, if not fitting, accessory.

Playing politics is hardly a stunning upset anymore. But doing so at the expense of kids? Obscene. And this is a $900,000 project, that in part because of one community member's philanthropy, would have raised taxes nary a cent.

What kind of agenda mongers would deny their own kids an asset afforded to families in many other surrounding towns — this time at no expense to taxpayers? Just drive to Killingly and ask.

Per published reports and later confirmed by school personnel: An anonymous citizen donated $364,000 to the project, reducing the cost by 40 percent. Officials in other towns probably just spit out their coffee. Any town that has weighed the vagaries of a turf project would see a 40 percent gift as almost fictional.

The Board of Education allocated another $200,000 from surplus money in March, leaving the remaining $300,000 at the hands of the council. In March, that money was allocated from another surplus from 2018-19. Hence, a benefactor and two surpluses meant the money for the project has either been donated or already exists. Translation: no tax increase.

Under normal circumstances, a vote from a town meeting in April would have determined the outcome. However, procedural issues necessitated by COVID-19 allowed the council to vote earlier this week with no public input. It was defeated 5-2. Note: Councilors knew 1,500 residents had already signed a petition to move the project forward.

The five no votes — Anderson, George, Wood, LaPrade and Kertulla — are the same five councilors who overturned the nickname "Red Hawks" in December. Coincidence? I think not.

Consider that 80 percent of the students at Killingly High, some of whom researched the project thoroughly, voted to get rid of the old mascot, which most thinking members of society understand as unkind to Native Americans. Made no difference to the Fab (Fib?) Five, who didn't even have the temerity to be honest in their latest deliberations on their new crusade.

They expressed "concern" about air quality tests surrounding the idea that synthetic turf gets too hot in the summer. Note to the Fab (Fib?) Five: If you're going to urinate on the citizens' shoes, don't tell them it's rain.

The truth is this: You denied the turf project because you could. Because you had enough votes. And an agenda. And an inherent pettiness for which I pray you'll have to answer one day.

The turf gets too hot? Question: How have kids all over the region survived playing sports at East Lyme, Waterford, New London, Stonington, Montville and Norwich all these years? Must be some serious hydration going on.

The irony of all this? The kids of Killingly manage to get their school on the front page for all the right reasons. The sports teams — especially football and wrestling — are state level contenders and champions. The students also researched the mascot project and presented their findings eloquently.

Know how their elders got Killingly on the front pages in December? By calling each other "racists" and "liberal communists" in public — in front of the kids — at a town meeting embarrassing and disgracing themselves to exponential levels.

And yet it's the kids who see turf around the rest of the ECC and wonder why they're not entitled to the same support from their elected officials as kids from other towns.

I get the idea of fiscal conservatism, especially asking the necessary question, "Who's gonna pay for all this?" And I'm all for denying projects that are bigger on idealism than realism.

But this? This was 40 percent paid for already. The rest came from surplus. No tax increase. Many other towns have made turf fields work. And this: December's rain would have prohibited the CIAC from allowing Killingly from playing host to a state semifinal playoff football game. The kids would have played on Montville High's turf instead. It means turf would be a practical change in Killingly.

This project was voted down because of spite wrapped in some warped political agenda. Once again, the kids lose. Ah, but they're not the biggest losers in Killingly. Not by a long shot.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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