Selectmen Appoint Committee To Study Uses and Capital Needs of New Canaan’s Public Buildings

Town officials on Tuesday dissolved a volunteer committee tasked one year ago with studying New Canaan’s use of Waveny House and appointed what amounts to a successor group that will carry out the same work but more broadly, evaluating and making recommendations on a number of public buildings.

The Board of Selectmen during a regular meeting voted 3-0 to form the Town Building Evaluation and Use Committee “to evaluate over a six-month period the uses, physical condition and future capital needs” of structures such as the former Teen Center, Vine Cottage and Irwin Park main house.

The newly appointed group will “not have to start from scratch” because enough studies are “in the book to lay the groundwork,” First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

“It’s important that we look at it holistically and everything is on the table. If there is a use that isn’t fitting for a certain building, we will take input from them. They will be a definitive resource for the Town Council, Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, to make decisions on things based on what they give us.”

The new committee is composed of Amy Murphy Carroll, Ben Bilus, Neil Budnick, Bill Holmes, Christa Kenin, Martin Skrelunas and Penny Young.

New Canaan owns several town buildings that need varying degrees of capital work—some urgently and at great expense, such as Waveny House, whose roof needs replacement—and some that came to be the town’s responsibility suddenly, such as the former Outback Teen Center behind Town Hall.

Selectman Nick Williams asked during the meeting whether the committee that’s been studying the future of The Playhouse on Elm Street also will be dissolved and its work subsumed by the new group.

Mallozzi responded that no, the Playhouse Committee has done its work. (That committee also is in talks now with the Playhouse’s major tenant, Bow Tie Cinemas, about investing in the building’s restoration or possibly purchasing it from the town.)

The town’s funding bodies, navigating the municipal budget process now, are discussing several expensive public building projects—some of which have allocations plotted on New Canaan’s fluid five-year capital plan. As was the case with the now-dissolved Waveny House Committee, the purpose of studying a public building’s use is to inform town officials before they commit taxpayer funding to restoring them.

Mallozzi said the committee’s members are eager to get the work done within six months.

“They do not want this to be open-ended,” he said. “It’s too important and there are too many decisions predicated on the information that they will generate.”

During a discussion of the new committee at Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, one member of the legislative body, Cristina A. Ross, said it would behoove the group to include a construction expert.

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