Councilman Calls for New Canaan To Make Decisions on ‘Under-Utilized’ Town-Owned Buildings

A member of New Canaan’s legislative body is calling for municipal officials to examine whether it’s time to offload town-owned structures that she described as “under-utilized.”

Town Councilman Penny Young said Monday that “it is really time to look a little more in-depth” at “some of these buildings which are under-utilized or which we should be offloading.”

“Other than the swing space for a possible need for the police, what do we do with the Irwin House?” Young said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure, held via videoconference. “Because it’s really not that great a structure. So maybe the recommendation is that after the police have use of it, it’s demolished. So I think we really need to take a good look. What is happening with Vine Cottage?

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.

Letter: Town Council Vote Also ‘Disheartening’ for Our Democracy

The Town Council’s vote is disheartening, not just for healthy start times but for our town’s democracy. 

Assuming everything in this article is correct, which I have no reason to doubt, the Town Council made a decision against the choice taxpayers have overwhelmingly expressed and against the best interests of children in our town, in the latter case by flouting clear supporting scientific evidence. And questioning whether to consider the support expressed through a letter-writing campaign? What leads you to such an outrageous comment? Letter-writing campaigns are a time-honored and constructive method of effecting change. 

Councilman Tom Butterworth’s articulate letter in this newsletter on April 2 identified all of the reasons why this vote should have passed—despite the fact that the Town Council had hoped it would not be left to them. And the message that you simply vote on the budget and not how it is spent is not only vacuous but dismisses the hard work done by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and the many others who devoted time, intelligence and pragmatism to design a sensible plan to address a real health issue. 

If the budget had been sliced substantially due to the current crisis, one could understand that.

New Committee Reviews Unused Town-Owned Buildings 

A newly appointed committee on Wednesday identified and discussed eight town-owned structures that New Canaan may no longer need in its portfolio. The town has 62 total buildings or structures that require some level of maintenance, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan. The figure does not include school district buildings. 

Some of them are “possibly expendable,” Moynihan said during the first meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure. “All of these buildings are used for some town function, so even though there are a lot of buildings—New Canaan has a lot of buildings—they all have a purpose,” he said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “And some of them are not totally utilized in terms of their capacity.