Town Council passes $125,000 for high school track
The track at New Canaan High School is slated for a face lift this fall, which would make it useable for another five years. Town Council passed, in an 8-2 vote Aug. 11, a special appropriation of $125,000 and a redesignation of $75,000 to allow the Parks and Recreation Department to repair the deteriorating track.
The repairs will include a flood and chip process to resurface the track and improvements to the drainage system at the north end.
"Last winter was a tough winter. When we did the budget back in March, there was still about 15 to 16 inches of snow on the ground," Steve Benko, director of the Recreation Department, said. "We were appalled to see what had happened to the track over the winter. There were spots where the track actually buckled inside."
Benko also said there were several spots where pieces of the track could actually be picked up. Originally, they did not anticipate needing a special appropriation, but the record snowfall forced their hand Benko said. The high school track teams would be in danger of losing their practice grounds next spring since the coaches and others feel it would not be safe to use because of how slippery it has become due to years of cracking, freezing and thawing during the winter. Benko also added that throughout the year, the track is probably used more by town residents than high school students.
"It really works as a community facility for everyone in town," he said.
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This appropriation will also allow the track to survive for another five years, when the facility is expected to be completely redone for $1.3 million.
Every member of the Town Council agreed that the track was in terrible shape and something needed to be done. However, John Emert and Paul Foley felt as though a line item transfer would be more fiscally responsible than a special appropriation, considering the economic environment in the country right now.
"I think the Board of Education should step up with a line item transfer," Emert said. He felt the Board of Education has a vested interest in the track and should be able to contribute with funds from their own budget.
"I would agree with that," Foley said. "To be taking funds out of our general fund to do this is, for me, not appropriate. I think we've gotten a budget and that it's a $121 million budget. If we can't find $125,000 in it I don't think we're being that creative. The Board of Education budget is $73 million. There has got to be some money in there somewhere, and that is where I would propose the money come from."
Council member Christine Hussey agreed to an extent but also said it was not fair to ask departments to cut their budgets down as much as they can when they may end up coming for appropriations anyway.
"I'm brought back again to history, which is, in an effort to keep our taxes down we pare down the budget and pare down the budget say to come in with this percent or that percent and when we're done it looks wonderful and aren't we happy. But are we really, because look what keeps happening?" Hussey said. "People keep having to come back to us. Could we please, when we get into budget season next year, be a little more realistic and listen to people when they tell us they have a serious need. There is nothing more expensive than deferred maintenance."
At the end of the evening, Town Council voted to approve the appropriation with Emert and Foley voting against that method of payment.