Board Of Selectmen Approve Capital Improvement Plan
The Board of Selectmen approved the 2022-26 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) at its September 20 meeting, designating borrowing proposals for new fire apparatus, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial, improvements to Edmond Town Hall and the C.H. Booth Library, as well as remediation of an environmentally contaminated commercial lot near Sandy Hook Village Center.
With only a few changes other than cost figures from the plan presented a year ago, the selectmen approved the five-year plan with no changes but a number of questions.
Selectmen Maureen Crick Owen questioned changes to a number of items, from the Edmond Town Hall Library parking lot to the library requests.
Owen questioned the increase of the Edmond Town Hall parking lot costs from $450,000 to $550,000, which First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said was due to the nearby Old Firehouse, which needs to come down.
“The last thing we want is to pave the lot and then decide we have to do something about the old firehouse,” Rosenthal said.
He further noted that the cost comes from both remediation of dangerous materials and demolition.
“There’s no viable use for the building,” said Rosenthal. “The police had been using for dog training, but I’m not sure how actively they’ve been using it lately. I can’t see keeping the building just for dog training.”
Owen also questioned the inclusion of a $12 million addition for the Hawleyville Firehouse.
“I know it’s far out, in 2031, but I don’t understand how all of a sudden it’s there,” said Owen.
Rosenthal answered that the selectmen were only approving the five-year plan and the ten-year plan was meant more for long-term planning.
“I did see it, but I’ve had no chance to connect with them and talk with them about the merits,” Rosenthal said. “It’s inclusion in the plan is not an endorsement. My understanding was the Board of Fire Commissioners approved this late in their meeting. I would want to understand this better, and look at the implications for other departments and their space needs.”
Rosenthal also thought it best to have it in the plan far out, as it “gets it out into the open” and “everyone can talk about it” so there will be “fewer surprises.”
Moving back into the first five years of the plan, Owen asked about the fact that in many years the requested costs of fire apparatus has been increased by $50,000, but in one year it is reduced by $50,000.
Rosenthal explained that in 2018, the town replaced the fire department’s tanker trucks; the original plan was to do all four, but the need for custom chassis on the trucks limited them to three. The Hawleyville tanker waited but is now back in the plan; the increased cost is due to a four-man cab because “they are up on I-84 a lot” and need additional space to bring more firefighters.
Library Capital Requests
The library requests were also unpacked by the selectmen, with Owen asking if it was known what was included in the library’s renovations, replacements, and upgrades item. She was also curious why last year the library’s requests were spread over the ten years of the plan and now were moved into two years, with nothing afterward.
Rosenthal responded that a number of things had been taken out of the request, including a “media space re-envisioning” and LED lights for exterior storage areas, as well as a $1 million expansion.
“They wanted to buy the house next door for the expansion, which I’m not a fan of,” said Rosenthal. “We tried to steer them toward things that fit better.”
Finance Director Bob Tait also noted that the library did a $50,000 study on HVAC and then had a $100,000 line item in the plan a few years later.
“We said just get the HVAC done,” said Tait.
Rosenthal said that he thought the increase to the parking lot paving cost was from the Board of Finance deciding the original request was not enough. He said a lot of how the plan currently stood comes from refinement of a request put in by the library board in 2018, which included items like furniture and investments.
“We tried to unpack everything as best we can,” said Rosenthal. “We aren’t going to borrow for furniture.”
Owen asked if the $1.4 million in the plan for a bike trail was intended to be paid for only by grants, and Tait told her that was correct.
“There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to grants out there,” said Rosenthal, who noted there is a grant that can be used from the National Parks Service.
Rosenthal also said the hope is that the trail can connect into Monroe, if grants can be found to cover the costs.
Owen expressed concern about a truck washing station in the plan for 2026-27 for Public Works was moved up to 2025-26 and year five of the plan this year, as well as adding $50,000 to the cost. The washing station would be used to remove corrosive materials from the bottom of Public Works Trucks, especially an issue since the salt laid down by those trucks is corrosive.
Rosenthal said he is not sure if the washing station will actually happen, but it made sense to leave in the plan so it can be discussed in the future. Unlike things in year one, which is “basically money spent,” items in the further out years still have plenty of time for discussion.
“I need to see a more extensive model, and if we could have some neighboring towns contributing,” said Rosenthal, adding that the plan might not make sense if just Newtown’s trucks are using it. “It merits staying in there if just to do more work on it. I’m not sold on it, but not enough to remove it from the plan.”
Tait said that two neighboring towns have expressed interest in the truck washing station.
Selectman Jeff Capeci noted that year three of the plan contains no new bonded items, and asked if it made sense to take a year off or to spread the costs out more.
Tait said that by taking a year off the effect is seen in the debt service schedule more because it has a year to reset and fall.
“Spread out we don’t feel it as much,” said Tait. “We can’t tell it’s effects.”
Capeci said the CIP seems to be “working as a plan,” without a lot of changes from last year.
“Obviously year five came into focus, and everything else just marched forward,” said Capeci.
“It helps when I told the departments not to bring me anything new,” replied Rosenthal.
Fairfield Hills Demolitions
Rosenthal addressed the “elephant in the room,” that of the Fairfield Hills demolitions. He said that plans were “still in the works” and that they will “see if we get there.”
“Either way we have to proceed in some vein on taking some buildings down,” Rosenthal said, noting it could be as soon as April.
There are demolitions in the plan for multiple years at $2 million per year so the cost does not come all at once, but Rosenthal stated that the full proposed plan would go to the voters all at once instead of coming to them piecemeal.
He said things would be decided from least to most useful, so Newtown Hall would not be a candidate to start, but Plymouth or Cochrane might be. Also under consideration are Kent, Shelton, Norwalk, and Stamford. The town will continue to market properties to developers but do not want to “overpromise and underdeliver.”
The plan shows, for Year One, capital road program spending of $3 million, with $250,000 bonded; a bridge replacement program of $400,000, all bonded; the replacement of fire apparatus at $500,000, all bonded; the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial, $1.7 million, with $600,000 bonded and $1.1 million coming from the state; the cleanup of 28A Glen Road, $650,000, all bonded; town match of grants at $200,000; Fairfield Hills building remediation and demolition, $2 million, all bonded; Edmond Town Hall parking lot improvements at $550,000, all bonded; and library renovations, replacements, and upgrades of $550,000, all bonded.
The total for 2022-23 is $9.55 million in spending, with $5.25 million of that bonded.
For the year 2023-24, which would become Year Two of the new plan, the town is planning capital road program spending of $3.05 million; a bridge replacement program of $400,000, all bonded; multipurpose building electrical/mechanical/HVAC work of $413,000, all bonded; a Municipal Center roof remediation and replacement of $1 million, all bonded; the replacement of fire apparatus at $1.085 million, with $800,000 bonded; town match of grants of $200,000; library renovations, replacements, and upgrades of $831,000, all bonded; Fairfield Hills building remediation and demolition, $1.5 million, all bonded; and Lake Lillinonah park improvements of $500,000.
The total for 2023-24 is $8.979 million, with $4.944 million of that bonded.
For the year 2024-25, which would become Year Three, the town is only planning to include capital road program spending of $3.1 million; $50,000 for a truck washing station; and town match of grants of $200,000.
The total for 2024-25 is $3.35 million, with no bonding. Rosenthal said the town’s government bodies elected to take that year off from any new bonding costs.
For the year 2025-26, which is Year Four of the new plan, the town plans to include capital road program spending of $3.15 million; bridge replacement spending of $400,000, all bonded; the replacement of fire apparatus for $800,000, all bonded; Fairfield Hills building remediation and demolition, $2 million, all bonded; Truck Washing Station of $550,000, all bonded; Public Works site and salt storage improvements, $50,000; Edmond Town Hall building renovations of $550,000, all bonded; town match of grants, $200,000. Treadwell artificial turf and lighting at $800,000, with $250,000 bonded and $550,000 coming from other sources; and the rail trail project at Batchelder Park for $1.4 million, with the entire cost coming from grants.
The total for 2025-26 is $9.9 million, with $4.55 million in new bonding.
Lastly, the current year six, 2026-27, in the ten-year plan moves up to Year Five of the five-year plan, and will include capital road program spending of $3.2 million; town match of grants, $200,000; Public Works site and salt storage improvements of $600,000, all bonded; Fairfield Hills building remediation and demolition, $2 million, all bonded; transfer station improvements of $400,000, all bonded; the replacement of fire apparatus, $820,000, all bonded; the bridge replacement program, $400,000, all bonded; and Fairfield Hills water infrastructure, $750,000, all bonded.
The total for 2026-27 is $8.37 million, with $4.22 million in new bonding.
Tait noted that the bonding requests compared to last year decreased, due to possible grant money.
The board unanimously approved the plan. It went to the Board of Finance on Thursday and is expected to be considered by the Legislative Council at its October 6 meeting.
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.