From prospective tenants to memorial bench locations, Fairfield Hills Authority members this month discussed a grab bag of topics.
FHA Chair Thomas Connors first noted the several parties interested in reusing the Plymouth Hall building — among them The 12/14 Foundation, The News-Times, and an advertising agency.
“There has been a significant amount of activity,” he said Monday, March 24. While the interest in reusing a campus facility “is a good thing,” he added that there is “nothing on the table” as far as a lease agreement for the space. “But, there are a lot of people looking,” he said.
Next touching on a topic raised in a past meeting, Mr Connors mentioned the idea of a statement of support, which the authority could provide to would-be tenants who would be fundraising to support their proposed development, such as a children’s museum.
“The document allows them to solicit funding [with proof of the authority’s approval],” Mr Connors said. In past instances, the authority had voted to earmark a building for several months, allowing a developer time to seek investors. Investors could then see that authority supported the project.
Regarding the idea for a statement of support, member Renata Adler expressed concerns saying, “As long as it’s very, very weak.”
“It’s so they can get funding,” member Andrew Willie stated.
“Andy’s right,” member James Bernardi said. “We are not reserving [buildings], but showing encouragement.”
Turning to Ms Adler, Mr Connors said, “There is nothing wrong that you voice opposition for the record,” and he also said there is not yet a draft of the letter. As for whether it will be called a statement of support, Mr Connors said, “The title will come from [town counsel] Dave Grogins.”
He then explained that the idea has been endorsed by First Selectman Pat Llodra.
To the authority members, he said, “We will work as a group to draft key ideas.”
Mr Connors next brought attention to the EverWonder Children’s Museum founders who have been interested in Plymouth Hall.
They had been committed to the building, but “there is now other interest,” he said. Newtown Cultural Arts Commission and 12/14 Foundation members recently walked through it, he said.
“It’s a big building, and I don’t believe one occupant can handle it. In my view it makes sense for multiple occupants,” Mr Connors said.
FHA is also considering sending out an RFP for a feasibility study on Plymouth Hall, per Mrs Llodra’s request.
Mr Bernardi had asked, “Where’s the money coming from?”
“Good question,” Mr Connors said. With a budget containing funding for one salary. Based on recent similar feasibility studies that she has seen, Director of Economic and Community Development Elizabeth Stocker believes a study for the building, to determine its viability for future use, would cost at least $20,000. The authority is paying for its expenses in the future from a special revenue fund, which would pay to conduct a study.
“Do we want to spend money for the study?” Mr Connors asked.
EverWonder representatives had spoken about doing the same type of study to support their effort to renovate the building for museum space. Why not let someone else do the study, members wondered. “Do we feel it’s our responsibility to do the study?” Mr Connors asked.
“I am hoping the town will at least pump the basement out [standing water is now in the basement of Plymouth Hall] and have our own engineers take a look, before we spend a lot of money,” said Ross Carley.
“[EverWonder] is coming [to the FHA meeting] next month, why not table this until then,” Mr Bernardi suggested.
Bringing the discussion to a vote, Mr Connors noted again the $20,000 cost.
Ms Stocker again confirmed that recent grants for such studies were discussed in a newsletter, and were all in the “$20,000 range.”
Based on the request from the first selectman, Mr Connors asked members to make a decision about using their funds.
The authority decided not to fund the study at this time.
Fairfield Hills Online Schedule Of Events
Christal Preszler, administrative assistant in the town’s Economic and Community Development office, has been coordinating an online spreadsheet of events scheduled at Fairfield Hills. The information is now available online.
Events and details for this weekend’s Sandy Hook 5K (March 29), blood drives, the annual Bunny Watch on April 18-19, an antiques show and the Rooster Run in June, and other events have already been posted.
Following up on old business, the authority is still waiting to receive a letter of intent from high school ice hockey coaches who have proposed an ice arena for Fairfield Hills. A past proposal from one resident to relocate his bakery business at Fairfield Hills “will not likely move forward,” due to a contractor’s estimates Ms Stocker said. She will work with that resident on other possibilities.
Members soon considered the location for a memorial bench, already purchased privately, and delivered to the Parks & Recreation Department.
Could the bench be located near Shelton House, or another preferred spot identified by the buyer?
Authority members soon agreed to approve the bench placement in one of two spots “based on Parks and Rec input,” Mr Connors said. The authority would not be wiling to put money toward the project, however.
Should the authority appoint a liaison to the 12/14 Memorial Commission, led by resident Kyle Lyddy?
Rather than appointing a subcommittee to touch base with the memorial members, Mr Connors said, “If we can have a representative there and report back to us, that’s how I’d prefer to handle it.”
“Should we discuss having the memorial here first?” asked Mr Willie. The questions remain unanswered about where the memorial will be located.
“I have no indication where it will be, but all roads seem to lead to Fairfield Hills,” Mr Connors said.
The 12/14 Memorial Commission consists of 12 residents charged with creating a permanent town memorial to honor those lost on 12/ 14. The commission is made up of parents of children lost in the shooting, town officials, professional designers and other community members.