NEWINGTON â€“A committee to look at the townâ€™s building needs from a birdâ€™s eye perspective could be forming soon. Not necessarily an aerial view, but the bigger picture.
This commission would be charged with reviewing all town facilities and determining the necessary maintenance and timeline for completion of any suggested improvements. The Town Council mulled over the idea at its last meeting.
â€śWe donâ€™t want to be caught by surprise for any major building repair needs as we have in the past,â€ť Mayor Roy Zartarian pointed out. â€śI just want to get the ball rolling.â€ť
â€śI think this is long overdue,â€ť Democrat Chris Miner said. â€śItâ€™s a great first step. Iâ€™m glad to hear the conversation taking place.â€ť
The last time this topic was broached the proposal did not move past the initial discussion period. This was back in January 2016, when town officials considered disbanding two separate committees planning renovations to Town Hall and the library. A Republican-led plan was to form an all-purpose building committee to examine â€śthe bigger pictureâ€ť and shepherd projects on town buildings, parks and schools.
Councilor Tim Manke is quoted in a January 29, 2016 Town Crier article, comparing the townâ€™s challenge with that of a homeowner.
â€śI may need siding, a new roof and a new driveway but I canâ€™t afford to do it all at once, I need to prioritize it,â€ť he said. â€śI think there should be an oversight committee to determine what is most important to repair first.â€ť
Councilors were met with pushback from citizens and committee members at that time, who argued that too much work had already been done by the library and Town Hall building committees to disband them and start from scratch.
Three years later, the Town Hall/community center project is breaking ground. Meanwhile, the library, Anna Reynolds School, firehouses and historical buildings are still in need of various degrees of work. The school bus garage was demolished last year due to an emergency fuel leak, posing yet another building challenge.
Town Manager Tanya Lane recently proposed a Long-Range Capital Improvement Plan indicating the townâ€™s building needs through 2023 and how they could be funded. The plan implements the new CIP formula representing 5.8 percent of the townâ€™s total budget and 2.5 percent anticipated annual budget increases. With these considerations, it projects issuing $52 million in bonds over the next five years.
â€śEach day, the community, its residents, businesses and visitors use the public infrastructure - our roads, buildings and parks,â€ť Lane said in a letter to the council introducing the plan. â€śAs such, these valuable assets play a significant role in our communityâ€™s quality of life. In order to best serve the needs of the community, however, such assets must be maintained appropriately.â€ť
She assured elected officials that the town is in an excellent position to borrow money for bonding projects.
â€śOur debt ratios are extremely low because we havenâ€™t borrowed money since June 2005,â€ť Lane wrote.
She went on to ask councilors to give the plan prudent review as a financial guide.
â€śThis tool â€“ in conjunction with the annual operating budget â€“ provides a basis for fiscal stability while meeting the many current and future needs of the Town of Newington.â€ť
The councilâ€™s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 9.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.