Town Awaits Bids on Waveny House ADA Project as Major Funding Decision Looms

Municipal officials say they’re eagerly awaiting contractors’ bids this week for a major multi-part project at Waveny House, as the town decides whether and how quickly to redress the historic structure’s noncompliance with ADA standards. Originally believed to be a project of narrow scope costing about $1 million, a multi-year project now expected to cost $2.8 million would include creation of ADA-compliant bathrooms and installation of an elevator so that disabled people could access Waveny’s second floor—where the Parks & Recreation Department is located—as well as required upgrades to a fire escape and entrances to the brick mansion from its west porch and rear balcony. 

While some municipal leaders have said they support the project, including First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, others—including some members of New Canaan’s legislative body—have voiced concerns about spending the money while much of the large structure itself still has no clearly defined long-term use or identified revenue stream beyond the roughly $100,000 to $140,000 generated annually through renting it out for events such as weddings. “We have got to make some decisions about this project, because if we have no project, we probably don’t have a Waveny House,” Moynihan said Monday during a meeting of the Selectmen’s Committee on Facilities and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. 

The Board of Finance and Town Council are expected to vote next month on whether to authorize the funds (the issuance of bonds to pay for the project, and attendant public hearings, would still need to follow). Bid packages expected to arrive Thursday could make a major difference in the town’s decision, officials say, especially given the prospect of cost-savings with contractors finding less work now amid the COVID-19 public health emergency. “The numbers will help us decide,” Moynihan said.

Citing Need for Decision on Future Use, Finance Board Puts Off $50,000 Study of Former Outback Building

Saying that the town first must decide how the building will be used, members of New Canaan’s funding bodies decided last week to put off a vote on $50,000 in studies that would be needed in order to make repairs and code-compliant upgrades to the former Outback Teen Center building. It’s too early to discuss an investment in architectural and engineering plans for what some now call the ‘Town Hall Annex’ when its future use remains unclear, Board of Finance members Todd Lavieri and George Blauvelt said at the group’s regular meeting, held Tuesday at Town Hall. Town Councilman Steve Karl voiced that thought during the legislative body’s regular meeting the following night. “This is about a building and about a hardship, basically, that the town inherited—we inherited what amounts to a dilapidated barn and we need to figure out what is a post-and-beam barn that is 17 years old with two bathrooms, how much is a couple of bathrooms and a barn worth?” Karl said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “And there is no property underneath it, because it’s the town’s property.

Letter: Supporting Rob Fryer for Town Treasurer

Editor, New Canaanite;

I am writing in support of Rob Fryer for Town Treasurer and to encourage every New Canaan resident (regardless of party) to vote for Rob this November. New Canaan needs a treasurer with Rob’s impressive professional qualifications and deep business experience (almost five decades as a CPA, more than three as a senior partner in one of the “Big 4” professional accounting firms), a man with deep roots in our community (twenty-nine years and counting!), a full time resident prepared to commit the time, energy, and hard work needed to discharge the extensive responsibilities required by the Town’s charter and the state’s statutes, and a person whose calm and thoughtful approach to the challenges and opportunities facing New Canaan will make him a valued partner with, and strong resource for, our elected and appointed officials. Rob Fryer is simply the best person for the job and we should elect him this November and let him get to work for our Town and its taxpayers. Respectfully,

George Blauvelt

‘That Is Not Sustainable’: Finance Board Member Flags Town Spending, Scope of Saxe Proposal

New Canaan cannot sustain recent spending rates and, as the town addresses major capital needs such as at Saxe Middle School, hard decisions must be made lest the town burden taxpayers unduly or completely drain its coffers, a member of the Board of Finance said Tuesday. The educational system in New Canaan “did a fabulous job of educating my daughter and could not be more supportive,” finance board member George Blauvelt said during the group’s special meeting at Town Hall, “but we are looking at a series of really tough tradeoffs.”

“If we go forward with the Saxe program as currently proposed, then what in the town don’t we do? What will other constituents in the town—who are also residents in the town and taxpayers in the town—what don’t they get if we go forward with this?”

The comments come as a Board of Education-backed proposal to build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition at Saxe while renovating the auditorium and expanding music rooms—last estimated at about $17.1 million, though an updated figure is expected—makes its way to the finance board and other town bodies for approval. Board of Finance members stopped short of rejecting the full proposal, though more than one of them echoed Blauvelt that further study and discussion is needed—such as around enrollment projections—before funds are committed beyond renovating the Saxe auditorium (widely accepted as an absolute need). First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who serves as the finance board’s chairman, framed the discussion as a way to share the group’s thinking with Board of Ed members—some of whom were in attendance, in addition to the superintendent of schools.