There are details still to iron out, but the overall attitude of the staff and administrators of the C.H. Booth Library is that “It is good to be back.” With minor glitches straightened out, improved technology, and floor plans altered to a more welcoming flow of foot traffic, the C.H. Booth Library is ready to welcome back the public in grand style. Although the library reopened its doors to the public, Saturday, March 8, a Reopening Celebration is scheduled for Saturday, March 22, emphasizing the silver lining that lay behind the devastating flood that shuttered the library for two months. Patrons have been welcomed back since March 8, but by March 22, staff feels that the community can once again enter the doors completely confident that services are 100 percent functional. Behind the scenes, a badly water-damaged infrastructure had created a challenge for staff and the board, with nearly all technology disabled. Newly painted walls and woodwork, new carpet throughout the first and second floor areas, and upgraded utilities, alarms, and computers mean that patrons of C.H. Booth Library will find the library an even more welcoming space to visit. A number of events to celebrate the reopening of the library on March 22.
Richard Zang, chairman of the town’s Water & Sewer Authority (WSA), has written "A History of the Newtown Sewer System — Its Planning, Design, Construction and Operation," which offers a history of the two local municipal sanitary sewer systems. "The state grew impatient waiting for the town to address its septic problems and finally resorted to threats of heavy fines from the attorney general. It took 35 years from the town’s first appropriation for a wastewater study (in 1962), and 28 years from the first state (pollution abatement) order in 1969 for Newtown to begin treating sewage in its own plant in 1997,” Mr Zang writes as part of the introduction. Mr Zang explained that his history of the town sewage treatment systems grew out of a compilation and expansion of the annual reports he had written for WSA members. The offering, which contains a technically detailed text, photos, maps, charts, and diagrams, explains the origins of the two sewer systems. The central sewer system that started operation in 1997 was constructed to resolve longstanding groundwater pollution problems caused by failing septic systems. That system serves the Borough, Sandy Hook Center, Fairfield Hills, and Garner Correctional Institution, among other areas. It discharges wastewater to a sewage treatment plant on Commerce Road.
Enhance wildlife habitat and share the land are both part the message Bob Eckenrode he will share at an statewide seminar this weekend. The president of Newtown Forest Association will be presenting “Leading By Example: The NFA Working Across Town Borders" at the Connecticut Land Conservation Council seminars in Middletown. Leading by example is something Mr Eckenrode has been doing for a few decades.
What initially sounded like a dire incident last Friday afternoon turned out to be a scam, in which an unknown telephone caller sought to persuade the person called that one of the person’s relatives was being held hostage at gunpoint after an accident, and then demanded ransom from the person receiving the call.
Police Detective Lieutenant Richard Robinson said that police received a report on the matter from the Stop & Shop supermarket in Sand Hill Plaza on Friday, March 7. Police received a telephone call from the store reporting the situation at 2:05 pm. Five police officers responded. Police checked out the situation and determined that it was a ruse to illegally cheat or swindle a person of money, Lt Robinson said. The lieutenant did not disclose whether the caller was successful in obtaining any money from the person called.
Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members are scheduled to discuss the commercial redevelopment of 67 Church Hill Road with the proposed construction of a new gas station/convenience store there. The P&Z meeting, which will include two public hearings that bear on the project, is slated for Thursday, March 20. The one-acre parcel on the western corner of Church Hill Road and Edmond Road currently holds a decaying structure that formerly was a Shell gas station/convenience store. Town officials consider the deteriorated 2,100-square-foot structure to be an eyesore and want it demolished as part of their plans to have the “gateways” into Newtown become more attractive.
After about 90 minutes of deliberation March 13, the Board of Finance unanimously endorsed a 2014-15 townwide budget that will require no property tax or mill rate increase. Once the proposal is received by the Legislative Council March 19, Council members will be considering a spending plan that according to Town Finance Director Robert Tait provides $111,066,204 to cover town and school services, along with the annual cost for debt service on bonding which is carried in the Board of Selectmen's budget. While the finance board's endorsed budget request represents a 0.91% increase above the current year, because of updated revenue projections, the spending plan will actually require 0.02% less in taxation than the current operating budget — and will require a 2014-15 mill rate of 33.31, representing a zero increase.
The Newtown Lions Club Foundation has formally announced it has ceased directly administering benefits to providers and individuals through a fund established following the 12/14 tragedy. Peter McNulty, president of the Newtown Lions Club, said in a release, “Our original plan estimated that we would need to serve about 100 individuals for approximately 10 years. During the past 14 months we have provided benefits to over 250 individuals and expended over $350,000." The demand on the club has become overwhelming, Mr McNulty said. As a result the local Lions Club has sought other means to continue to provide support to the community. By joining forces with others, "we bring all of the organizations' strengths together to provide financial support in the most efficient way." The Lions will continue fundraising for 12/14 relief, including a golf tournament that is scheduled for late June.
It appears the Newtown Board of Finance is poised to consider adding $400,000 to the 2014-15 budget proposal to boost the town’s self-insured employee benefit fund balance, but will also consider new allocations to bump up senior tax relief and road repair programs as well. And some officials believe it can be done while preserving a flat or slightly lower spending plan for local taxpayers. First Selectman Pat Llodra told The Bee March 12 that Finance Director Robert Tait had prepared a “what if” spreadsheet that factored in new revenue, and that the document specifically referenced using that revenue to offset added underwriting for the self-insurance fund, senior tax program, and capital roads budget lines. The finance board was expected to deliberate those ideas and pass a final budget proposal to the Legislative Council March 13, after the newspaper’s print edition went to press.
If it is recommended by the Board of Finance and approved by the Legislative Council as part of an overall budget request, a $400,000 allocation to Newtown’s self-insured employee medical benefit fund would represent a substantial increase beyond the four percent bump already factored into the spending plan currently being deliberated. On March 6, the finance board heard from Mark Mattioli, chair of the local Employee Medical Benefits Board, and Joe Spurgeon, MHA, representing Milliman, which is among the world’s largest providers of actuarial and related products and services. Mr Spurgeon is a senior health benefits consultant at Milliman consulting on Newtown’s self-insured employee benefit plan. The officials explained that since the town established its own self-funded health plan there has been relatively low inflation in medical costs, but the industry is signaling that low inflation trend is about to end. Mr Mattioli said his board believes the town will be facing at least a six percent increase, which is a significant change from previous years. The board and Finance Director Robert Tait expect that by the end of the current fiscal cycle in June the self-insured fund balance will show $2.3 million in reserves.