Town ID’s $695,000 in Planned Capital Spending This Fiscal Year That Could Be Delayed

Saying New Canaan should consider putting off some capital spending in the near term until a clearer picture of the economy emerges, town officials last week identified nearly $700,000 earmarked for the current fiscal year that could be delayed. Prepared with input from public works and district officials as well as the first selectman, the draft list of more than 75 items total $695,000 and range from small expenditures such $29 for signage and striping up to about $63,000 for a solar project at a town building, documents show. Board of Finance Chair Todd Lavieri said the main question now facing the town is whether the spending could be delayed or deferred “until we have a little more clarity.”

“You guys control this,” Lavieri told First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Public Works Director Tiger Mann and town CFO Lunda Asmani during the finance board’s April 7 meeting, held via videoconference. “We can’t tell you what to do and how to do this. But I guess it would be our recommendation, or at least our consideration, to hold onto the spending at least for another month until we got more clarity.”

The comments came during a discussion within the finance board and no formal action has been taken on the recommendation. They also came as New Canaan and the nation grapple with a hard stop to the economy that’s seen businesses forced to slow down or shutter altogether for health reasons as unemployment claims soar.

New Canaan Library on Rebuilding Plans: Keeping 1913 Building ‘Not Viable’

In the 15 years that successive New Canaan Library boards have studied the prospect of a rebuilt facility, conducting focus groups and hiring architects to come up with designs, it’s become clear that the best plan for the community requires demolition of what remains of the original structure there, officials said Tuesday. Though they carefully considered a renovation or incorporation of the 1913 building into a future library, “each board came to the same conclusion,” Alicia Wyckoff, a former president of the organization, told members of the Board of Finance during a budget hearing at Town Hall. “In order to get the types of spaces and functions of a modern, 21st Century library that our community is requesting—more programming spaces, meeting and study rooms, more places for the teaching and learning that is so important to our community today—we need to build a new library on a new footprint,” Wyckoff said, speaking on behalf of the library, its board and supporters. “These considerations led to the Midcentury Modern design that pays homage to an historically important architectural movement and one for which New Canaan is well known.”

She added, “Furthermore, as these plans came into focus, it became abundantly clear that it was not viable to retain the 1913 building for a multitude of reasons. First, it is not financially feasible for us.

Selectmen Restore Placeholder for Kiwanis Park Funding; Board of Finance Decision Looms

The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday proposed a spending plan for next fiscal year that restores funding to operate Kiwanis Park, though the future of the Old Norwalk Road facility remains uncertain. The selectmen voted 3-0 to pass along to the Board of Finance an overall operating budget of about $153.6 million, representing a year-over-year spending increase of 1.1%. The figure includes Board of Education spending. In a budget season that has seen the finance board call for an operating reduction of 2% in municipal departments, an initial draft proposed spending plan before the selectmen had essentially de-commissioned Kiwanis Park by removing funding for it. Yet Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams during the Board’s regular meeting at Town Hall pushed to have $47,000 restored to Kiwanis so that recreation officials have a chance to reinvigorate the park under a reduced-hours schedule next summer.

VIDEO: New Canaan Library Unveils Dramatic Rebuilding Plans

New Canaan Library on Tuesday unveiled plans for a rebuilt facility that makes dramatically different use of the organization’s gateway block to the downtown and features a glass-and-stone exterior, 300-seat auditorium, rooftop terrace, café, public concourse, fireplace, two large conference rooms and “town green” at the corner of Main and Cherry Streets. Appearing before the Board of Finance ahead of making a formal request for a $10 million town contribution toward the overall $30 million project, library officials described the planned new building as a state-of-the-art facility that opens possibilities in events, programming and gathering for the library and the wider community.  

Library Director Lisa Oldham noted that the real estate and business communities already have voiced support for the project, and that the rebuilt facility is expected to be an asset for New Canaan that draws homebuyers and encourages residents to stay here. She shared projections from a draft economic impact study that the library commissioned the Connecticut Economic Research Council showing “that the library will drive significant new dollars to the local economy, up to $6 million a year in new consumer spending.”

“The town’s critical capital allocation for the library should be viewed as an investment with a clear and quantifiable return in the form of real economic gains that will stimulate our local economy,” Oldham said during the Board’s regular meeting at Town Hall, attended by a standing room-only crowd. 

The library itself has already raised about $15 million toward the project and plans call for a spring 2021 groundbreaking followed by 18 to 24 months of construction. The current building would operate while the new one is built. 

The new 48,000-square-foot building would replace an aging facility with a failing, costly physical plant that hasn’t had a significant renovation in four decades, Oldham said. 

During their presentation to the Board, Oldham and the library’s director of development and marketing, Ellen Crovatto, played a short film that featured 3D renderings of the planned new library’s interior and exterior (see above—it drew loud applause from the room), reviewed the need for a new facility and efforts to solicit input from locals, spotlighted the library’s high community engagement and broke down to-date fundraising successes for the project (including 55-plus gifts of $100,000 or more). 

Board members complimented Oldham and Crovatto on their presentation and plans, which Michael Chen called “mind-blowing.”

“I really think this is a game-changer for the town of New Canaan,” Chen said.