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Selectmen Move Emergency And Special Appropriations, Easements Forward

Published: July 7, 2018

At a special meeting July 2, the Legislative Council, following brief discussion, unanimously backed First Selectman Dan Rosenthal’s emergency appropriation request for $500,000 to complete local storm cleanup in the wake of powerful storms that felled thousands of trees and dozens of utility poles in town on May 15.

Mr Rosenthal said he would ask the council to draw from the town’s fund balance.

The first selectman previously told The Newtown Bee that total cleanup costs could well exceed $2 million when all is said and done. That expense will likely not include all costs to dispose of or to grind up wood and other related debris that is piling up at the Newtown Transfer Station on Ethan Allen Road.

The first selectman said while he is committed to underwriting the costs related to neighborhood cleanups from town funds, he would be waiting until the town receives official notice from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that federal reimbursements would be awarded before he commits any immediate municipal funds to the removal of storm debris from the transfer station.

Right now, Mr Rosenthal said there are more than 60,000 cubic yards of storm debris already piled high at the landfill with more to come.

On a related note, the transfer station will be returning to normal operations on Tuesday, July 10. Beginning that day, all big wood over three-inches in diameter will again be assessed a fee of $10 per cubic yard. Resident drop-off of yard brush will continue to be free. There will be an area designated for this debris that will separate it from FEMA eligible storm debris.

FEMA eligible storm debris still outstanding, either covered by an existing work order request or in the designated affected areas, will continue to be collected only by assigned town or contract crews until complete. As a reminder, all FEMA eligible storm debris must only be from the May 15 storm event and must be placed within ten feet of the edge of the road. Construction and demolition debris are not eligible.

Budget Appropriations

During the most recent selectmen’s meeting, the board also approved and moved two special appropriations tied to voter authorized measures that appeared on the April budget ballot.

According to Mr Rosenthal, while previous practice was to advertise the appropriations in pre-ballot notices placed in The Newtown Bee, this past April, Town Clerk Debbie Halstead placed a classified legal advertisement that the Town Bond Counsel said did not satisfy a five day advance requirement.

The issue involves the fact that while the newspaper is printed and available on newsstands every Thursday, it is not datelined and delivered to subscribers until Friday. The town clerk said the timing of legal notice placements will be adjusted ahead of all future balloting.

The issue, however, is causing the town to have to move the spending authorizations to a special authorization process by which the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and the Council approve the spending and bonding authorizations. The combined amounts of those authorizations can be made within the guidelines set forth in the most recent charter revision, Mr Rosenthal explained.

As a result, selectmen unanimously approved the spending of $1.5 million previously authorized by voters for local road repairs, design, and construction and spending the adjusted amount of $875,000 for the restoration or replacement of certain parts of the Middle Gate School roof.

Regarding the latter authorization, Mr Rosenthal said while voters originally authorized spending up to $1.6 million for the project, subsequent re-examination of the roof and revisions have brought the anticipated cost for the work down to $875,000.

The finance board is expected to take up and move these two authorizations during a planned regular meeting July 9, after which they will go to the council for consideration and anticipated passage on July 18.

Property Easements

Selectmen on June 26 additionally approved easements involving the Cherry Grove Farm and the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.

Mr Rosenthal said that the Cherry Grove Farm easement approval was a pro-forma exercise on the part of the Board of Selectmen so that the Planning & Zoning Commission could move forward with its role regarding funding of a development easement.

Plans to create permanent access to the Hubbard Sanctuary have been in process since the Hubbard family accepted a parcel of state land adjacent to the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard.

The easement is the first step in developing that driveway, shared access that would also serve a proposed future commercial development site between Commerce Road and the sanctuary.

The driveway would lead visitors to the Hubbard parcel and sanctuary from Commerce Road just past the Charter cable company.

Deputy Director of Planning Rob Sibley said following the meeting that the process to complete the driveway can happen as a result of the easement.

During the meeting, Director of Planning George Benson said that easement was required to cross the town-owned land.

“When the state gave [the Hubbard family] the land, there was no legal access to a road,” Mr Benson said. “The concept was always to put in a road. We’re still trying to get the approval for the driveway from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which we should get pretty soon. In order to get the driveway, we had to give them an easement across our land to get to their land.”

Mr Benson said he plans to work with the Hubbard family and a developer to complete the driveway at some point in the near future. Mr Sibley said he understands that the Hubbard family would be ready to move forward as soon as all legal measures are fulfilled.

The Hubbards do own a partial road that already exists on the former state property, Mr Benson told selectmen.

Both easements were unanimously approved.

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