Recommendations by the Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee presented
NEW CANAAN — The foremost recommendation from a newly released report calls for the schools central offices to move from rented space on Locust Avenue to either Waveny House or Irwin Park.
A report by the Building Evaluation and Use Committee presented recommendations Tuesday to improve management of town-owned buildings, which they say are underutilized. Along with relocation of the Board of Education, the report suggests renovating the police station and reworking the Town Hall Annex to house an Alternative High School.
In total, the committee, co-chaired by Amy Carroll and Penny Young, laid out nine recommendations to be considered for the upcoming year. The report, totaling 91 pages and ten months of research, also included recommendations looking ahead to 2019 and policy suggestions.
“We analyzed how we are using the buildings and how we can do better with them,” Carroll said to the Board of Selectmen. “There are underutilized buildings that we can put to use.”
According to Carroll, the town pays about $330,000 for leased space on 39 Locust Ave.
Recommendations for the next 12 months:
1. Appointing a task force to evaluate the possible relocation of the Board of Education to either the second floor of Waveny House or Irwin Park.
2. Repurposing of Town Hall Annex (Outback Teen Center) as a location for special education program.
3. Provide funds for a necessary renovation of the Police Station.
4. Document storage needs and their impact on town space demands, issue a records retention policy.
5. Defer a decision on the renovatoin or divestment of Vine Cottage pending conclusion of the study of possible Board of Education relocation to a town-owned building.
6. Make a final decision to demolish or lease to a non-profit who will fund renovation and maintenance of Richmond Hill Garage at Mead Park.
7. Establish a town-wide inventory and deaccession policy to giude disposal of unnecessary equipment and prevention of unnecessary storage.
8. Clean out and reorganize the three-bay garage at Irwin Park.
9. Consider development of a consistent policy for rental of the five apartments in town-owned facilities.
The full report can be accessed under the “News and Events” tab at www.newcanaan.info
“The lease is also an escalating cost,” she said. “Depending on the task force evaluation, we could continue to rent or relocate to a town property. Not renting the space could offset for renovation costs to the second floor of Waveny House.”
Carroll noted that the now defunct Outback Teen Center could be used as a center for a special education program and save the town $150,000 a year.
“The Town Hall Annex was built for kids,” she said. “This would be a positive revenue for the town and reduce the outplacement cost of special education programs.”
Regarding the police station, Carroll said that it “needs renovation after 35 years” and that “improvements should be made all at once instead of piecemeal.”
One of the policy recommendations had to do with the gifted properties to the town. “We have accepted a lot of gifts as properties and the buildings need attention,” Young said. “We need to develop a way of accepting gifts and also establishing endowments to have lifetime support for these properties.”
The town currently owns 56 buildings with square footage over 320,000 square feet, exclusive of the schools.
All three members of the board of selectmen expressed their gratitude to the committee’s work. “I’m very impressed with your work, thank you,” Kit Devereaux said.
“This information will be very helpful,” said first selectman Kevin Moynihan. “We just got this report on Monday night and so these 91 pages will take time to digest.”
“I’m open to the idea of further analysis,” Williams said. “There is a lot of space available and I’d like to see the cost of doing these things and what they entail.”
Managing the town’s portfolio of buildings is a plan to reduce expenses, especially in a year where the state budget was approved at the end of October.
“My take away from spending a lot of time looking at our buildings is that many are well suited and well maintained for their purpose, but we do have some major buildings empty or underutilized - some of which need renovation,” Carroll said.
Now that the committee has delivered its report, town boards will take time to act upon its recommendations.
“This was a fact-finding and information-gathering committee,” Young said Tuesday evening. “We have no authority, we are just passing these on and it’s for other governing bodies to study further to do something.”