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Finance Board Hosts Officials For Update On Enrollment, Facilities Analyses

The Board of Finance was joined by members of the Boards of Selectmen and Education as well as members of the Legislative Council for the first part of a regular August 28 meeting, which provided an opportunity for officials to learn more about a townwide public facilities analysis that is in the early stages of rollout.

Many of the officials on hand also heard from School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, for the first time about plans to supplement the facilities project with details from the latest district enrollment study.

First Selectman Pat Llodra told the gathered officials that the facilities analysis, and the appointed committee which would oversee it with consultants’ support, came about because Newtown has so many building projects, needs, and concerns on the horizon, and she was becoming worried that those myriad projects would not align with strategic long-term planning.

Several members of the facilities panel also serve on the elected boards that were present, including Councilman Paul Lundquist, and finance board member James Filan, Jr. Geralyn Hoerauf of Diversified Project Management was also on hand in her capacity as lead consultant to the facilities review panel.

She explained to the officials that her role will be to act as both an administrator and facilitator for the volunteer group, which also includes former selectman William Brimmer, Fairfield Hills Authority member Walt Motyka, Borough of Newtown Senior Burgess Jay Maher, who has been closely engaged in sidewalk projects, Scott Cicciari, who is leading a fundraising effort to develop a new police station, and Michael Marinaccio, who has participated in the Fairfield Hills Master Plan advisory process.

She told officials that the facilities panel is expected to begin its initial phase of work by mid-September. Ms Hoerauf also detailed the steps required to complete what she described would be a dynamic strategic plan for all town-owned facilities.

She suggested that to complete those steps, the facilities panel might require additional consultant services to help assess both the physical condition of certain buildings, and to explore possible alternative uses for certain buildings.

Among the details each individual facility survey should provide, according to Ms Hoerauf, are staffing and storage capacities; the efficiency of each location; existing or required technology; accessibility; parking; and future growth projections.

In the end, she documented that the analysis should help inform either maintenance or replacement plans, any alternative uses, as well as budgetary needs to complete those plans, depending on how officials want to proceed once the committee’s final report is generated.

Dr Erardi agreed in concept that a facilities review would be incomplete if it did not factor the latest district information, and committed to reporting back with both enrollment study results as well as information from a district facilities committee about possible future space utilization by early December.

Mrs Llodra pointed out that with Dr Erardi’s cooperation, it would mark the first time the town has ever conducted a cooperative and comprehensive study to generate plans for all town facilities.

“It’s only together that we’ll be able to figure this out,” Mrs Llodra said.

Ms Hoerauf said the committee would begin by looking at three key facilities: the Hook & Ladder headquarters, the Sandy Hook multipurpose building, and Town Hall South, which houses the police department, emergency dispatch, social services, and some Parks & Recreation offices, as well as storage for the registrars of voters.

Mr Lundquist asked if the final report would constitute a “data dump,” or if it would include recommendations for future use based on the panel’s analyses of each facility included.

Ms Hoerauf said she is committed to providing officials with any or all alternatives for each facility, so officials could present details to the community in a logical and thorough fashion.

Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob said creating a strategic plan for all town-owned facilities needs to be done with all officials present working as a team, to help facilitate a process for utilizing or determining future facilities use.

Finance board Chair John Kortze asked if facilities committee meetings would be public, and if video or other recordings would be available for public review. Mrs Llodra responded in the affirmative, saying she plans to assign a secretary to compile minutes of facilities committee meetings.

Mr Kortze told Dr Erardi that taxpayers are anxious to see how the ebb and flow of school enrollment affects the outcome of a facilities review. The superintendent replied that he will be ready to bring the district in as a partner in the effort around December 1.

“We’ll have our space study done by then,” Dr Erardi said.

Mrs Llodra added that because of the condition of certain buildings, they might require less analyses than others, but the use and reuse potential for the three aforementioned buildings is critical.

“We’re just trying to be careful about how we scale this out,” Mrs Llodra said. “But we will come back to this group with our next steps.”

As Mr Kortze closed the facilities portion of the meeting and freed up the other elected officials, he described the meeting as a “good stepping off point” to the facilities analyses process.

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