The Board of Selectmen is planning a town meeting July 24 for consideration of $750,000 being offered by the State of Connecticut. According to a release from First Selectman Pat Llodra’s office this week, the $750,000 grant is part of a $50 million state funding package for the Sandy Hook School building project.
The authorization for the first $750,000 of the total grant would recognize a separate action of the state to provide more immediate resources so Newtown may proceed with design and engineering preparatory work, Mrs Llodra explained.
By charter, the Legislative Council calls for a town meeting to approve any appropriation in excess of $500,000, which it did in a special meeting July 16. That town meeting is set for 7 pm July 24 in the council chambers at Newtown Municipal Center to act on this issue and a second special appropriation to replace a turf field at Treadwell Park.
Mrs Llodra told The Bee that she expects the town meeting to be brief, and noted that many other town meetings authorizing significantly greater appropriations have been attended by very few residents.
“The town meeting is an artifact in our charter, which sets the trigger point at any appropriation in excess of $500,000,” Mrs Llodra said. “The turfing is exactly $500,000 but will derive its funding from user surcharges the Parks Department collects. The $750,000 is from the state, so neither of these appropriations carry any localized tax impact to residents.”
If approved, authorization to accept the balance of $50 million to complete a new Sandy Hook School will be done through a townwide referendum. Mrs Llodra hopes to set that vote “sooner than later,” because the money to complete demolition of the original structure will be drawn from the balance of the state grant.
Mrs Llodra said that if the current timeline plays out, the old school structure will be demolished in late October or early November. The first selectman said she also wants to assure the community that they have a voice in the process as things move toward demolition, site work, and new construction.
Mrs Llodra said the ultimate goal is to be sure Sandy Hook students are back in town and in the new facility for the 2016 school year. She said if the town meeting turned down the phase one grant, all planning would stop until the referendum.
“But I don’t expect there will be an issue of this failing now or at referendum,” she said.