Christine Wagner discusses TCPG goals
Published 4:59 pm, Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The first obstacle was Mike Hobbs' resignation, when he became frustrated with the community's criticism, nearly two weeks ago.
Days later, co-chairman Jim Beall also resigned, citing personal reasons.
Karp, president of Karp Associates, is looking forward to participating in the group.
"I think this is a worthwhile committee that I have the opportunity to serve," he said.
When asked why he thinks he was brought in he said, "I think my real estate background may be a factor. I tend to listen and then make decisions. A lot of people here yell when we have no plan and then a lot of them yell when we do have a plan. The key is to come up with something that works for everybody."
In the midst of all this, Wagner, who serves as TCPG's co-chairman, simply hopes to move forward.
"We are in the stage of choosing a firm to create a master plan." She said. "After the Board of Finance asked us to consider costs with the consulting firms, we interviewed many of them and will present our choice to the Selectman's office on Oct. 12."
Before the BOF asked the TCPG to consider costs of more firms, Wagner said they were focusing more on the "quality of work" those firms were capable of providing as opposed to costs.
"Which is not to say we were ignorant of costs. We are fully aware of how much a plan like this should cost," she added.
Wagner mentioned that other communities have spent around $150,000 to $200,000 on similar master plans.
It's the plan's cost that bothers some disgruntled New Canaan community members like Jack Trifero, owner of the Gramophone Video shop on Main Street.
Last week, Jack Trifero said, "I do not think we should be spending money on this plan right now." His reasons were the "18 empty storefronts" around town indicating New Canaan's economic problems.
Wagner responded to his concerns by saying, "First of all, I want to make it clear that we do not intend to see this through if it is not something the community as a whole wants. Right now this is just a plan and that is all.
"However, I will say that spending a small amount of money on a plan is a more prudent way to make sure you don't make long-term mistakes," she added.
When asked about specific costs she was fielding from the different firms, Wagner did not reveal any numbers so that the "negotiations would not be compromised".
"All of those details will be available after we discuss everything with the Selectman's office in October," she said. "After that I have a reasonable level of confidence to move forward."
Walker also reacted to economic and planning concerns in a statement on Sept. 27.
"We want to avoid crisis planning and reacting to unexpected situations," he said. He also mentioned initiatives in place to "improve our financial processes" and "control spending in the most difficult economic environment most of us have ever experienced."
"Developing a long range plan for New Canaan's municipal facilities will give us the opportunity to look collectively at what we face down the road to help us do a better job of budgeting and caring for our valuable resources," he said.
Trifero also had problems with the level of transparency involved in the whole matter. Many other residents have also found it hard to attend the weekly TCPG meetings at 1 p.m. on Mondays since it is in the middle of a business day. Wagner said she is open to adjusting meeting times.
"That time was originally chosen in part because we were attempting to accommodate for Steve Kleppin, the town planner, and his hours." She said. "We would be willing to change the time of some of the meetings if that is a concern. Every meeting may be difficult, but some of them -- yes."
Regarding public sessions and hearings, Wagner highlighted some possibilities with the prospective firm, pending approval.
"Once we have a firm in place; it would be vital to have some public sessions with the community and the firm outlining their progress," she said. "There would likely be [public sessions] in the beginning, middle and end of the planning. Again, it would only reach the end if it is something the community wants."
The public hearing originally scheduled for Sept. 21 was cancelled so that the TCPG could regroup. With member changes underway, Wagner is hoping the public hearing will take place in late October or early November.
Walker also addressed concerns about transparency and other issues in his statement. He acknowledged concerns about the library's location and how many people might feel it should stay in the same general vicinity.
"Like many other concerns and preference, we will want to hear, and perhaps confirm, those sentiments as we begin public forums next month. The purpose of those meetings is to solicit broad public opinion and suggestions, with our professional planner in attendance, to see what people in the community want."
The First Selectman has also recommended that the TCPG change its name to "Long Range Planning Team" to "better reflect what we are trying to accomplish."
There has been no word yet on whether or not the group will adopt the new name.