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John Reed Resigns From Fairfield Hills Authority



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John Reed Resigns From Fairfield Hills Authority

By Kendra Bobowick

Fairfield Hills Authority Chairman John Reed has resigned, effective January 19, from the leadership role he assumed from Bob Geckle in June 2010, and from the volunteer body managing the former state hospital campus.

 “I think it’s great to be on public boards,” Dr Reed said, “But, it’s time.” Dr Reed also admitted that he had “really planned to leave about a year and a half ago, but I stayed on.” He said, “People that I respect had asked me for more time.”

Explaining that “it’s an appropriate time” to leave the authority, Mr Reed said, “I don’t like to become a fixture.”

“He has certainly paid his dues to Fairfield Hills,” Mr Geckle said. “He has done a great job shepherding it forward.”

In a resignation letter addressed to First Selectman Pat Llodra, Dr Reed wrote, “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve the Town of Newtown as a volunteer.” He wrote that during his years on the authority he had “been privileged to work with other persons who have been members of the authority as well as many employees of the town who assisted us with dedication and skill.”

He concluded his letter stating, “I look forward to exploring new opportunities to be of assistance to others.” During a separate conversation, he said, “I’ll continue to look for ways to enrich the community as a volunteer.”

Reflecting on his years spent with the authority, he said, “To work with others spending time for the betterment of the town was a pleasure.”

Authority member and former vice chairman Andrew Willie said, “He was a good chairman.”

“He has served the town well,” said Mr Geckle. He admires Dr Reed’s “forthright” manner. “I always appreciated that.” Mr Geckle said, “I know it sounds funny, but I appreciated that John was always willing to challenge the process or procedures. If he didn’t agree, he was open about it and in a constructive way that was useful to the rest of the members.”

Mr Willie said, “If I was going to say anything about John, I would say he did one of the most important things — the trails. When you talk about what people are doing [at Fairfield Hills], it’s using the trails. [John] was the main force behind that and it was a great contribution to the town.”

Dr Reed noted that among other accomplishments to the site, he “feels good” about the trails that wind through the campus’s hills, wooded areas, and open meadows.

Before a town ordinance officially established the authority in 2005, a Fairfield Hills Master Plan Ad Hoc Committee and advisory group formed in the years following the town’s decision to buy the property from the state in 2001. Dr Reed said he had served on the advisory group established by then- first selectman Herb Rosenthal. That group formed into the authority about a year later.

When he first became involved with Fairfield Hills, Dr Reed said, “Certainly most of us thought it would move more aggressively.” With a master plan for reuse established and an authority in place to negotiate potential leases for the unoccupied buildings, Dr Reed and others had felt “people would be interested in limited economic opportunities.” Past years have proven that developers are not ready to renovate the smaller spaces, or proposed a project that falls outside of permitted reuses stated in the master plan. Due to both political and economic reasons, none of the viable buildings are under negotiation for reuse.

Thinking back to the master plan of 2005, Dr Reed said, “The plan was well thought out with the best interests of the town, but was not necessarily in line with things easily developed.”

Making an example of Stratford Hall, a smaller building in the center of the campus, he said, “Everybody thought it would be a nice restaurant. But who would invest in a business that is surrounded by empty buildings? That’s the challenge we face.”

In past years when a series of leasing opportunities fell through, he believes that enthusiasm also dropped. Funds from the leases would have paid for demolition of buildings marked for tear-down, he explained. Despite setbacks he remains optimistic, he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and come to grips with what to do and commit to it.”

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