Newly Appointed Town Building Committee Elects Officers, Sets Priorities

A committee charged with evaluating the uses, condition and future needs of town-owned buildings decided Monday to start its work by figuring out what data points it must have to conduct an analysis and make recommendations.

Ultimately, the work of the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee is expected to help officials prioritize taxpayer funding for competing capital projects—a job made more difficult without a basis for comparison, according to Amy Murphy Carroll, a committee member elected as co-chair of the group during its first meeting.

“There is a lot of information for all these buildings,” Carroll said during the meeting, held in a board room at Town Hall. “What I am seeing is that we have all these buildings—the Nature Center and whatever—but I don’t feel we have a good sense of how they are used.”

With institutional knowledge and documentation from Department of Public Works officials in hand—such as each building’s operating expenses and an estimation of future capital needs—two-person “teams” from within the seven-member committee could made field visits to the various structures and collect all the desired information, Carroll said.

“So then we have ‘This is the state of our building,’ This is what it needs,’ ‘This is how we use it’ and ‘This is how the town uses it,’ ” she said.

Appointed by the Board of Selectmen two weeks ago, the committee’s members include Penny Young (co-chair), Ben Bilus (secretary), Neil Budnick, Bill Holmes, Christa Kenin and Martin Skrelunas.

The group set a goal of finishing its work by Sept. 15, including making recommendations based on its findings.

DPW Superintendent of Buildings Bill Oestmann, a 22-year town employee and the first ever in his specific role (for the past six years), said that on starting the job he was told there were 28 town-owned buildings but that he has “discovered a whole lot more since then.”

The committee’s work will encompass some 44-plus municipally owned structures, Young said.

New Canaan Public Schools buildings are not part of the committee’s evaluation.

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who attended the meeting, urged the committee to find out for the various buildings whether a private user group—such as the Girl Scouts at Merrie Bee Cabin—is paying for its capital upkeep.

“It’s the ones that are going to cost the taxpayers, where they will bear the full burden, that probably should be elevated,” Mallozzi said.

The question of private funding will figure as one data point in a “template” that the committee said it plans to compile at its next meeting, based on input from members. With that in hand, the group decided, specific building assignments will be made for its members.

During the meeting, committee members introduced themselves and discussed what kind of public noticing would be required when fact-finding and consulting with one another or with DPW officials.

7 thoughts on “Newly Appointed Town Building Committee Elects Officers, Sets Priorities

  1. Methinks Mr. Moynihan speaks with forked tongue. I listened to his plea to establish a conservation fund with strong comments about no need to fund it, but to have just in case someone wants to give to it. He made strong mention of all the budget needs, implying a huge outlay and proceeds to suggest the town should fund $200,000 as seed money, which he calculates to cost $25 per taxpayer. I think with all the problems facing the taxpayers, they should keep that $25 in their pocket! It may be all they end up with.

    • Mr. Moynihan is not on this committee. I myself don’t recall him saying the town should seed that fund with $200,000—in fact, given that the argument in favor of creating the fund was to have a vehicle in place to facilitate land acquisition with one-off decisions to be made on a per-property basis, it would sort of surprise me. In any case, you are right that there will be money spent to preserve town-owned buildings in various stages of disrepair. This committee is charged with creating a new system whereby those projects can be prioritized—and, if warranted, whereby what are now public buildings may be offloaded somehow.

  2. I am speaking of Mr. M on the town council getting the fund passed in spite of Mrs. Youngs resistance. He has since written a column recommending the town put $200,000 up stating that comes to $25 per taxpayer. When he got it passed he very strongly stated no money had to be put into it. Hence the remark “forked tongue”.

    • I don’t believe the “forked tongue” accusation is an accurate one. I was at the February 15, 2017 Town Council meeting, in which the Town Council approved the creation of the Land Acquisition Fund. Mr. Moynihan was clear: his motion was only about CREATING the fund, not about funding it, which would require further discussions, since, as he outlined, there are many possible ways such a fund can be filled. But step one was simply to create the fund. And that’s exactly what the Town Council voted to do. The motion was approved with seven votes in favor (Corbet, Englund, Kenin, Kucharczyk, Moynihan, Paladino, and Ross). No one voted against it. Mr. Walbert and Ms.Young abstained from voting. [John Engel had previously removed himself from the discussion and vote, since he is on the board of the New Canaan Land Trust]. Now that the fund HAS been created, let’s figure out the best way to fund it, understanding that there might be many sources, such as (to name a few) direct donations, transfer fees, and yes, appropriations. But creating the fund, and thereby showing Town Council support, was the necessary first step; creating the fund didn’t obligate the Town to fund it (Mr. Moynihan’s point on 2/15), but it makes it possible to fund it.

  3. I understand Mr. Hutchins point, as I watched the entire meeting he is referring to. My point is that in an article in the Advertiser, after that acceptance of a fund, Mr. Moynihan immediately requested that the town come up with $200,000 to start up the fund, commenting that would be $ 25 per tax payer. In the accepting of creating a fund he said it was mainly so that if any generous person wanting to donate, the fund was in existence. With all that this town is going through in higher expenses I think his timing to ask the town for this amount is egregious. On the one hand he says no need to fund, just create it, on the other hand he is asking the town to fund it. Hence the “forked tongue” remark. Am I the only one that read his article??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *