Funding For Playground Equipment, Hawley HVAC Approved By Council

The Legislative Council approved $8 million for the planning, design, engineering and installation of a ventilation system and HVAC renovations at Hawley School, $90,000 appropriations for adaptive play equipment at Dickinson Park, as well as $500,000 for the reconstruction and construction of city roads at the meeting on Thursday, August 26. Those measures are now scheduled for voter consideration in the November 2 vote.

It also approved to start the process of listing the South City Hall at 3 Main Street for sale.

Contrary to the lively debate about providing $8 million for air ventilation and HVAC work at Hawley School at the Board of Finance, the Legislative Council has remained relatively silent on the issue.

The council said the council has already debated “extensively” the topic and vetted it thoroughly, councilor Andrew Clore said this was why no one clamored to speak on the subject when council chairman Paul Lundquist asked for comment.

“We’re not asking questions because we’ve discussed this in depth,” said Clore.

Lundquist agreed, stating that it was important to note that the council’s approval simply meant the matter went to the voters for the final decision.

Councilor Ryan Knapp said he was “always concerned about the project” and had “doubts and disagreements” about it.

“This was a point of frustration,” Knapp said. “Right now we can just send this to the voters. Sometimes people misinterpret that as a genuine endorsement, but this is just to send it to the voters to decide.”

The Hawley School credit was approved in the Capital Improvement Plan (2021-22 to 2025-26). The city will issue $8 million in bonds to borrow the amount. On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters will be asked to approve or reject the credit.

Rosenthal said cost estimates assume a level of inflation, and furthermore, while the estimated cost is $7.8 million, the city is seeking a full $8 million to accommodate any unexpected fluctuations in costs.

“If we’re under budget, we won’t spend the extra money,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal also stated that further talks would be held in September about using funding from the US bailout plan for work.

“Maybe we’ll apply some of that to this project,” Rosenthal says. “We will send the numbers to voters so they can make an informed decision about how much to tie.”

Rosenthal said the credit still needs to go to the Connecticut secretary of state to register for the election day vote.

Adaptive Playground Details

The council unanimously approved a $90,000 transfer to help the Newtown Lions Club purchase adaptive playground equipment for children with disabilities. The equipment will be installed in Dickinson Park. The transfer is pending approval by the Legislative Council and is expected to be completed by mid-September.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said: The Newtown Bee that while the city’s playgrounds currently meet American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, they are not “truly adaptive.”

“Kids with different disabilities can go to the playground and the playground, so we’re meeting the letter of the law,” said Rosenthal, noting that there isn’t much for some children with disabilities, such as those in wheelchairs, to do on the playground. He said the Lions Club is raising money for three adaptive playground equipment.

Rosenthal said he imagined everyone could relate to the fact that he was a kid and not tall enough to ride.

“Then you think of children with disabilities who may never reach that imaginary height,” Rosenthal said. “This equipment will not only make Newtown a more beautiful place, but also more inclusive.”

So far, the Lions have raised $42,750 and expect a $2,000 price break from playground equipment distributor ME O’Brien. With $90,000 from the city and the Parks & Recreation Department’s offer to do the groundwork and installation, an estimated value of $35,000, the club is coming to $167,750 from its goal of $172,310, with $4,550 still to be met. . The city withdrew its $90,000 contribution from a $915,000 budget surplus.

Most of the rest of the money from the surplus goes to the city’s funds.

“This is positive for an inclusive community,” Rosenthal said. “This creates a beautiful inclusive space that all children can enjoy. I was happy to propose [the $90,000], and I’m glad the selectmen support it. We had a good budget year, so we looked at what we could do to help. I’m glad we could do what we did. It is a worthy project.”

According to Neil Randle, representative of the Lions Club, the three playground equipment the Lions plan to purchase are the Sway Fun, a purchase price of $27,670; the We-Go Swing, $32,745; and the We-Go-Round, $31,170.

“These items best convey the feeling of fully inclusive play, as well as the ability for multiple children and parents to play on the equipment simultaneously, with easy access and transfer to and from a wheelchair,” said Randle.

The money will not be moved from the city to the Lions and back again, especially since the municipality can buy the playground equipment for less than the Lions, according to Rosenthal, according to Rosenthal. Instead, the club gives the city the money raised and the city makes the purchases.

Credit for road works

The council also unanimously approved a $500,000 credit for road bonding. Like the money for the playground equipment and Hawley School, the credit has already been approved by the Board of Selectmen and needed the approval of the Legislative Council.

Rosenthal said that when he started out as the first judge, the city completed $1.5 million in road works outside of its normal operating budget and allocated $1 million more for road works. During his tenure, the city has moved to pay for more roadworks from annual operating budgets and borrow less – at a rate of about $250,000 a year.

This year, the city will pay $2.5 million for roads from its operating budget and borrow $500,000. Next year, Rosenthal hopes to use $2.75 million of the operating budget and borrow only $250,000; and by 2023-24, the goal is to spend $3 million of the operating budget on roads and eliminate funds for roads and bridges.

After that, the city will keep $3 million in its road budget, with the only additions being inflation.

City Hall South

The council unanimously approved the listing of 3 Main Street for sale and beginning marketing of the property. The first judge said he has been confidentially approached by potential buyers for 3 Main Street, but the city is not sitting around waiting for those offers to be formalized.

When formalizing the list, Rosenthal said, his board will likely consider imposing a deed restriction on the property that limits its future use. Rosenthal hopes that a future resident or owner will use the building’s current footprint, although the building “needs a facelift”.

“Some sort of commercial reuse would be best, ideally offices, shops or a combination of those,” Rosenthal said.

If the building doesn’t sell with those deed restrictions, then “anything goes”.

Rosenthal said the sale will be a “long process” as a sign announcing the sale on the property must go through and the sale must be advertised. Even though the building has recently been appraised, it will have to be appraised again. The Spatial Planning Committee must approve the decision. Ultimately, any sale will go back to the Legislative Council for approval.

The best price will not be the only consideration, according to Rosenthal. He said the city will look for “the best combination of price and utility”.

The building is intended for business and professional purposes. The council spoke about whether the building was located in the Newtown neighborhood and whether there were any restrictions on its use because it was located in the historic district.

Although the building is in the historic district, Rosenthal preferred deed restrictions because he didn’t want something like “what almost happened to the inn property” at 3 Main Street. In late 2019, a developer planned to build 40 condominiums in three buildings in the Inn At Newtown, 19 Main Street, and met much resistance from the public. Opponents have argued, among other things, that such a project would be architecturally incompatible within the historic district where the site is located. The application was withdrawn in early 2020 and Marygold’s was eventually opened at the site.

“We don’t want to get into a situation where we blink and then ask how it happened,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal noted that the 3 Main Street building was historic and a “50s tractor dealer converted into a police station”.

Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at [email protected]

Legislative Council members Jordana Bloom, Alison Plante, Chris Smith, Phil Carroll and Ryan Knapp attend a Sept. 1 meeting in which the panel approved the former Town Hall South for sale.

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