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Selectmen Add Funds For FFH Demolition, Move CIP To BOF

Published: October 1, 2016

On the request of Selectman Herb Rosenthal, the Board of Selectmen September 19 deliberated and agreed to add a half-million more dollars in year two of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to further fortify efforts to remediate and demolish one of the largest remaining unusable buildings at Fairfield Hills.

First Selectman Pat Llodra said while on its own, not much could be done with $500,000, she is hoping to combine that added spending with up to $800,000 she expects to have left over from bonding to take down Canaan House.

That large former hospital facility adjacent to the Municipal Center is in the final stages of demolition, with the structure completely down and crews now engaged in removing remaining materials.
During a previous selectmen’s meeting, Mr Rosenthal suggested the town take advantage of continuing low borrowing rates to accomplish the most pressing projects.

He said since remediation and demolition costs are also constantly rising, earmarking funds sooner than later to rid the campus of potentially hazardous, unusable, and unsightly buildings is a practical and economical move.

In making the motion to add the $500,000 in year two of the five-year CIP, Selectman Will Rodgers referred to the Canaan surplus saying, “I see an affirmative need for flexibility in year one based on things unfolding at Fairfield Hills absent any dollar concern. [But] I think it’s a good suggestion to add $500,000 in year two with the understanding that more money will shake loose at the end of this year.”

Mrs Llodra continued to take a conservative position, saying existing debt pressure and rising town operating costs may warrant approaching major future spending at the campus more “intentionally and incrementally.”

“We’re investing $500,000 on streetscape improvements in a few weeks,” she pointed out, adding, “We’ve already invested $30 million, and I would like to see a Fairfield Hills project every year. Kent House and Shelton House should come down.”

Mr Rosenthal estimated the debt service on $2 million in borrowing would cost $275,000 (annually). “I can’t see putting things off that will cost more for borrowing and remediation,” he said.
Finance Director Robert Tait said the added funds would still keep future debt service costs at or under the town’s self-imposed nine percent borrowing cap.

The unanimously approved motion was the only change to the previously proposed CIP, which moves to the Board of Finance for review. Before casting her vote in support of the added half-million, Mrs Llodra said that in bringing the capital plan forward to finance and council officials, she would continue to voice her concerns about debt service expense on existing and previously planned projects.

Memorial Panel Update

Selectmen also heard a brief update from Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission Chairman Kyle Lyddy, who said members of his panel unanimously rejected a potential site near the intersection of Wasserman Way and Nunnawauk Road because of the potential for visitors to hear gunfire emanating from a neighboring skeet and target range at the Pootatuck Club.

Mr Lyddy expressed disappointment about the development, saying that site “checked a lot of the boxes from a destination standpoint,” but the “audible impact of gunshots was a concern during the site visit.”

He said during a site visit with club member Bruce Clark, some test shots were fired on the skeet range, and they were faintly heard.

“But the trees were still covered,” Mr Lyddy said. During the winter months, particularly around the December 14 anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the possibility that memorial visitors might be exposed to firearms noise was not appropriate.

He said the commission has already moved on to its next possible location, at SAC field just off Riverside Road in Sandy Hook.

Following a recent site visit, Mr Lyddy said the commission will have a conversation. He noted that the six-acre site had very positive attributes, but he had some concerns about the proximity to some residential neighbors.

“We’ll be doing our due diligence of listening,” he said.

Mr Lyddy told selectmen that the site also poses some potential legal concerns with trustees, as well as some security challenges. But he said the commission would continue working with officials on that front, while going door to door to speak with residents in the adjacent neighborhood, and surveying pros and cons.

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