Library Timeline Calls for P&Z Approvals Early 2021, Late-Spring Start of Construction 

The $36 million rebuilding of New Canaan Library will commence next spring and construction will continue for about two years, according to plans shared Tuesday with town officials. 

Under a Memorandum of Understanding or ‘MOU’ with the town that’s been under negotiation for months, the town will contribute $10 million toward the project while the library bears the balance of the cost through its own fundraising and a $15 million commercial construction loan from Bankwell, the documents show. A traffic engineer hired by the library has found that an original proposal to create covered parking is problematic, according to a letter from the library’s executive director, Lisa Oldham, and its Board of Trustees. 

Addressing questions that had been raised by the Board of Finance, it’s one of several documents sent to members of the Boards of Selectmen and Finance as well as the Town Council. “The library is committed to the incorporation of a Library Green which is an integral and important part of the overall project,” the letter said. “Therefore, in discussion with several officials at [the town of New Canaan], the Library has commissioned further studies from its engineers and are in full agreement with a plan to accelerate and resolve a plan for parking.”

Taken together, the documents—they include five-year operations budget projections, project schedule and a narrative reviewing new revenues and costs that will come with the rebuilt facility—present a new layer of detail on the widely anticipated project. The town’s funding bodies in preparing to vote on a bond resolution have called in recent meetings for additional information from the library, and the documents address their questions.

First Selectman Questions Whether Town Videoconferencing Tool Used ‘Appropriately’

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan on Thursday questioned whether a videoconferencing service purchased by the town to bolster communications during the COVID-19 public health emergency is being employed appropriately by one elected official behind its regular use. The town in March began reserving Zoom accounts with participant limits ranging from 100 to 500, and they’re used not only to run and broadcast public meetings but also for a daily afternoon video call moderated by Town Council Chair John Engel, Moynihan said during a press briefing attended by NewCanaanite.com and Hearst Connecticut. Engel, a Realtor, on Tuesday used the town account to host a real estate-focused panel during the regular 4 p.m. time slot—an event teased and promoted in email blasts through his Halstead account. “We aren’t clear on how he is using it,” Moynihan said in reference to the town Zoom account when asked about it during the briefing, itself held via videoconference. The daily call started out “as a community service,” Moynihan said.

New Canaan Volunteer Fire, EMS Leaders Seek Town’s Help To Bolster Recruitment, Retention 

Saying they need to improve recruitment and retention, leaders from New Canaan Fire Co. No. 1 and New Canaan Emergency Medical Services are asking the town to offer members incentives such as tax abatement, Waveny Pool membership and use of the Transfer Station. Surrounding towns already offer plusses such as property tax relief, pool passes and fuel reimbursement to volunteer emergency responders, according to New Canaan Fire Co. Assistant Chief Russ Kimes and New Canaan EMS Capt. Phil Sheibley. 

The volunteer ranks of their organizations have declined, as they have elsewhere, and now stand at record or near-record lows, Kimes and Sheibley told members of the Town Council at their March 24 meeting.

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.

Town Council To Push State Officials for ‘Passing Lane’ on New Canaan Rail Line

Creating a short passing lane along Metro-North Railroad’s New Canaan branch line would double hourly train service to and from Stamford, a key step toward boosting the town’s desirability and quality of life, a resident told members of the Town Council last week. With a relative decline in jobs in Stamford post-financial crisis, access to Manhattan “is more important than ever,” Giacomo Landi said during the legislative body’s regular meeting Wednesday. “I encourage each and every one of you to reach out to our [state] senators, representatives and governor saying that this is a vital town priority,” Landi said during the meeting, held at Town Hall. “In terms of who pays, New Canaan already pays a good multiple of our population in state income tax, but I am sure some wheeling-and-dealing will need to be done.”

A New Canaan resident since last summer, Landi added: “I am new to town, I don’t have all the background on why we are where we are. But we are here.