The Board of Selectmen has appointed seven residents to what is expected to be a slow and thoughtful analysis of all town public facilities with a focus on Town Hall South, the current Newtown Hook & Ladder headquarters, and the multipurpose building that houses the local Senior Center and a preschool.
The appointees include 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, Legislative Councilman Paul Lundquist, Board of Finance member James Filan, Jr, 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.
Following the motion to affect those appointments, First Selectman Pat Llodra said that community voices are critical to the process as officials and a project management consultant wade into the examination of town buildings and facilities.
“No ones knows better the hard questions we have to ask and be prepared to answer than these persons, who have lived in our [town] and have committed to serve this community for many years,” Mrs Llodra said.
The first selectman said she expects the first of a three-phase initiative will take “many, many, many months.”
She said since the town received the generous corporate gift from General Electric to launch a community center development, it presented an opportunity to examine the three public buildings that contain overlapping agencies, or house operations that are poised to relocate.
Since the volunteer Hook & Ladder company is in the early stages of developing its new headquarters on Church Hill Road, its current and dilapidated headquarters behind Edmond Town Hall will be among the facilities short listed for examination by the committee.
Town Hall South, which houses the police department, emergency communications center, some Parks & Rec offices, Social Services, Registrars of Voters storage, and a food pantry will see the eventual relocation of at least Parks & Recreation offices to the new community center. The Senior Center is also expected to move to the new community center, opening up space in the multipurpose facility.
“It’s a cascading kind of challenge we are facing here,” Mrs Llodra said. “Once you lift the lid, I think it’s going to be very provocative, and it’s going to lead you in directions that are very interesting, compelling, and critical for our community. We are at a crossroads, and we need a plan.”
Selectman Will Rodgers urged the committee to examine two previous facility reports generated by consultants going back nearly two decades, “not to dictate your results, but to see what was said [about some of the same facilities] going back close to 20 years.”
Selectman James Gaston agreed, noting a 1999 report was especially informative, and cautioned the committee to take its time.
“My guess is, it’s going to be a long process,” he said.
Mrs Llodra also reminded the new panel that the school district is in the early stages of its own facilities review, and that Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, has indicated he wants to merge the two efforts at some point, “to work together in the best interests of the community.”
The first selectman said she is reserving the right to add one or more members to the new committee representing the school district once their facilities review is complete, “to give the education community a voice.”