NEWTOWN — The Legislative Council, meeting Wednesday, January 5, deliberated the Capital Improvement Plan for 2022-23 - 2026-27.
The council began by examining the education projects for the first year of the plan.
The Board of Education had revised and eliminated many projects to reduce spending and focus on needs rather than wants.
Projects added to the early years of the CIP were considered a high priority.
Council member Ryan Knapp asked for a review of those projects because of the significant changes and Chair Jeffrey Capeci noted that the turf field project had not previously appeared in the CIP, but was now scheduled for year one.
The boiler plant at the Head O’Meadow Elementary School, which would replace original equipment installed in 1971, was also moved up in the CIP.
The chiller replacement at Reed Intermediate School would replace original equipment and HVAC work at the high school is intended to address equipment older than 20 years.
Mr. Knapp noted that, given the town’s intended use of American Rescue Act Plan funding and the fact that roadwork had shifted from bonding to operating funding, he was surprised at the presence of these new projects in the first year of the CIP. “I’m questioning the urgency.”
Robert C. Gerbert, Jr., director of facilities for the school district, asked that the council look at the impact of the whole CIP, updated with consideration of cost estimates for each project and input from other town boards and commissions such as the Public Building and Site Commission and Town Building Inventory and Planning Work Group.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he would prefer to set aside operating funds to pay for items like the chiller and better identification of aging equipment would support that work, although that would be a long-term solution and not impact the current CIP projects.
Mr. Knapp described the council’s role as a process for determining what the town can afford and how Newtown manages debt.
The council also considered the appropriateness of including project design in the CIP, considering that estimates can expire before the project is implemented.
They discussed the cost estimates in the CIP, acknowledging that they are not firm numbers until a formal design goes through a bidding process.
Mr. Gerbert described how past history, his own experience, unit prices from state bids, and other factors inform the rough estimates.
Mr. Rosenthal noted that the members of the Public Building and Site Commission, who advise the town, are required by charter to have experience in the building trades.
The council will continue its deliberation of the CIP at its next meeting.
In his report to the council, First Selectman Rosenthal commended the town’s emergency management and Community Emergency Response Team who coordinated the distribution of the Covid-19 test kits received from the state.
The CERT members distributed the kits on Sunday, January 3.
There were only 1,500 kits available and Mr. Rosenthal commented, “I wish we had one for every household.”
He said he knows people were disappointed but he was happy that the town used a registration system for distribution because then people were not leaving their homes as well as unable to obtain a kit.
In response to a question from council member Michelle Embree Ku, the first selectman confirmed that he is in regular communication with the hospital and other health officials.