Necessity, unfortunately, wins out

Is there a more common phrase during local budget season than this:

“Seems like a nice thing to have, but not a necessity.”

Perhaps “We can’t afford it,” but they’re close.

The latest use of the “Seems like a …” phrase came from Peter Moustakis of the Amherst Ways & Means Committee speaking about a warrant article calling for $67,500 for a bicycle and pedestrian trail.

He was, of course, right on both counts: A bicycle and pedestrian trail indeed would be a nice thing to have and, no, it isn’t a necessity.

But the problem with have is this:

Such a thing will never be a necessity, and if towns make decisions based solely on what is necessary, then amenities like trails will never be approved.

Or how about a bocce court, or a disc golf course, or an ice rink or a life-guarded town beach? Amherst has invested in all of them for the pleasure and well being of its residents.

There are people who would even argue that library expansion isn’t necessary because, after all, people can buy or read books via the Internet. Who needs a real book? Just log onto your Kindle. And book stores? Hardly a necessity when you can just go to Amazon.

Right. Just spend all day in a room lit only by the light from a screen and buy things and read.

Every town in New Hampshire – indeed, in the nation – will always have things that appear to be more important, more of a necessity, than a bike/pedestrian trail and in the grand scheme of things, they will be.

But there has to be something more than just what we need and in the case of this trail the town is only going to have to put up 20 percent of the cost to match a grant of $675,000. A better deal than that might not come along again.

And as Amherst Community Development Director Gordon Leedy said, the proposed trail is only the first part of a “multi-phased program” of alternative transportation. And it would amount to 4 cents on the tax rate, or $14 on a typical house valued at $353,000.

And, yes, we know the argument: 4 cents here, 4 cents there, 4 cents 23 more times and you have a dollar on the tax rate because there is always something that will add at least another 4 cents so we have to say no now and then.

The problem still is, though, as long as “necessity” is the mother of decision-making, there will never be a bicycle/pedestrian trail in Amherst and that would will be a pity.