SEYMOUR — The Board of Finance discussed funding for three major town projects at its meeting Tuesday, August 27.
A new town community center was at the forefront, estimated to cost $15 million at most. The Board of Selectmen passed a resolution to move the plan forward at its August 20 meeting.
First Selectman Kurt Miller was present Tuesday to provide updates. Restating that the cost was calculated by Philip Clark, president of Claris Construction, who has built community centers statewide, Mr. Miller assured the board $15 million was likely an overestimate.
There are two building options for the new center. The town could either build on its own land and borrow funds or enter into a long-term, private lease purchase agreement, which would probably cost less, said Mr. Miller. As of now, he and other members of the project committee — town Director of Operations Anthony Caserta, Finance Director Douglas Thomas, Director of Facilities Tim Connors, Building Inspector Jim Baldwin and Building Committee Chairman Mike Marcinek — are looking at four sites, two town-owned and two privately owned. Mr. Miller did not specify the sites’ locations.
The committee will determine between now and mid-October which option is best. If they opt for a private lease, the town may swap the community center for the new parcel and builders would develop something at the old site similar to the apartments on Maple Street.
Mr. Miller sketched a rough diagram of the potential new center. It would include an administrative building in front with office space, programming space and meeting rooms; a Butler® building off one side with an indoor turf field; a Butler® building off the other side with with three multi-purpose basketball courts, an indoor track and a gym; a playground and a handicapped playground in the center; and an indoor swimming pool in the back.
“Based on budget, we would then scale back, so at that point we would put together a list of priorities,” said Mr. Miller. “ A lot of that will be driven by community services—they’ve already given us a wish list as to what they want to see.”
He noted the pool was the most expensive aspect, but was pertinent as the town has only one pool at the high school used primarily by the public schools and Wildcats Swim Club.
Two hours of community swim time per week is not enough, he said, and a public town pool could host open swim for seniors and community members, masters swim clubs, swimming lessons and other activities. Depending on placement, the town could run the summer camp directly out of the community center and save money spent on transportation from Bungay School to the high school pool.
“If we have it all in one place, we’re going to save money, so there are a lot of advantages,” he said.
Board member Heather McDaniel asked if there would still be room for the Boys & Girls Club, which runs out of the current community center.
Mr. Miller replied there would be room if all goes according to plan, but it may not be free. If they go with private developers, they could build a separate facility. If they opt for town land, they would find a way to accommodate within. He was uncertain about the cost or lack thereof.
He also acknowledged a need for the food bank that runs out of the community center.
Mr. Miller said plans will all depend on the whether residents vote “yes” in November; they will make all final determinations at that time. If the vote is positive, the project is slated for completion in late-2020 or early-2021.
The commission discussed new emergency communications equipment and the roads project next.
The town priced every piece of equipment, said Mr. Miller, and $1.4 million was the total cost calculated to cover a substantial amount of new equipment across the town’s entire first response channel—police, fire, EMS and public works.
At a previous Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Town Engineer Bryan Nesteriak calculated $10.4 million to cover all necessary road repairs; the town’s plan, however, is to spend only $5 million every two years. The roads in need have been identified by Mr. Nesteriak, who will choose which to focus on with the $5 million available.
Present was Bruce Chudwick of Shipman & Goodwin, the town’s bond lawyer, who drafted the resolutions. He said since they were public projects, they should all be tax exempt.
The board unanimously passed motions to accept all three of the resolutions. The projects will go to referendum in November.
Board Chairman Bill Sawicki brought up the issue of 98 Bank St., the current Board of Education administration headquarters.
“Ninety-eight Bank, everybody knows what it is. It’s part of the old school. It’s a dump,” said Mr. Sawicki. “No handicapped access, no elevators, and it’s quite possible somebody could get hurt.”
Mr. Sawicki said he would like to see administration offices move to the high school, where there is more than enough room, as it was renovated to accommodate the towns of Seymour and Oxford before Oxford built its own high school.
Mr. Miller said costs would total around $135,000 to make necessary renovations at the high school, a number estimated by the school’s superintendent and facilities director.
Renovations would include adding plumbing for extra bathrooms, installing air conditioning and establishing additional security protocols.
Mr. Sawicki requested a motion for the Board of Finance to draft a letter to the Board of Selectman and Board of Education asking them to determine “the feasibility of moving the admin offices of the board to another suitable location pending financial and engineering concerns.”
Mr. Miller asked Mr. Sawicki to not specify moving the offices to the high school in the letter, as he is currently evaluating alternative meeting spaces throughout the town and there could be other options available.
The motion passed unanimously.
Finance Director Thomas said the auditors came last week, did their report and would be back in October. He added the town will have an end-of-year surplus close to $600,000 with $500,000 going towards the replacement of a firetruck, netting a $117,000 total surplus.
One pressing matter was purchasing a new financial software package.
Mr. Thomas said he and his staff looked at one package last week and they were waiting for bids to come in Thursday, August 29.
Mr. Sawicki said he attended Insight Software’s presentation to the Board of Education the week prior and the package looked good. The software can do more than just crunch numbers, including human resources matters and record-keeping.
He added that whatever other companies bid will have the opportunity to demonstrate their packages and the Department of Finance will then decide which it likes best. He guessed the bids would be around $100,000 to $125,000.
The board is also contemplating leaving ADP and transferring payroll to in-house. Mr. Miller said since they were updating the financial software, now would be the time to look at that project
The town would no longer have to pay ADP and would have the same ability to track time off, vacations and changes in salary with the new software, most of which have payroll modules.
Mr. Sawicki brought up possibly condensing either the Board of Education’s or the town’s federal I.D. number to synchronize their finances. That way, the town would issue all W2s for both parties.
Both the town and Board of Education would fall under the same 06 number, so instead of filing eight tax returns per year, they would only have to file 4; instead of two sets of W2s, there would only be one.
“If we’re looking too upgrade software and step into the modern age, I would think that’s something we really want to push the issue on and get to see,” said Mr. Sawicki.
Mr. Miller added, “Our goal is still to have one finance department. Granted, that’s years in the future, but it’s still our goal to take steps.”
“This system is the first step towards that,” he said.