Put tax money toward Town Hall accessibility

To the Editor:

New Canaan is a pretty interesting and good place to live and that could explain why crowds turn up at public hearings when something important is in the offing. New Canaanites filled Town Hall in late November for the first Long Range Planning Committee public hearing. The follow-up meeting in January was less crowded and unfortunately Channel 79 was not there to record it.

Contrary to the scope given to the LRPC by the Board of Selectmen, Chairman Christine Wagner announced at the January meeting that ALL public buildings owned by the Town would be studied. That was a stunner, and so was the $200,000 estimated budget for "Phase II" of this project.

Here's something even more interesting! On page 111 of the Capital Expenses and Proposed Budgets found in the "Budget Book for the Town of New Canaan 2011-2012," the Long Range Planning Committee is requesting $200,000. It is hidden, according to my understanding, under Public Works Capital Expenses. The Board of Finance and Town Council are currently deep in discussion before they vote to approve the 2011-2012 budget. They need to hear from private citizens, especially on items such as this.

It seems to me that most New Canaan residents think the most important part of long range planning is to bring the Town Hall up to handicapped code and to make the fire station suitable to keep New Canaan safe. At this point, why not use $200,000 of our tax money to answer the most essential need: Improve physical access to Town Hall to make government accessible to all citizens? Why not use part of Town Hall's vacated probate court space to install a simple elevator that would accommodate three people -- a person in a wheel chair, or otherwise in need of help, accompanied by another person or two -- and take them up to the second floor or down to the basement? That to me is a sensible use of tax money.

Tanya Bickley

New Canaan

The SLOBS have

done it again

To the Editor:

New Canaan is a wonderful community in so many ways, with so many organizations that are at the ready to lend a hand, but the SLOBS [Service League of Boys] stand out again and again.

William Hoover, the liaison for the SLOBS to the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, has been so helpful over the past year. William has organized and delivered several SLOBS to work with us all day in August during our Dog Days of Summer event and they helped us with the Clean Your Mile effort in April. Then, this past December for our Holiday Stroll, they gave up their Friday afternoon and evening to come and help us set up and clean up on a chilly December night.

And again, this past Wednesday they took on a task that no one else wanted and that was to finally help us remove the garland and lights from the lampposts that had been snowed in for a month.

Thank you SLOBS, couldn't have done it without your help. New Canaan is lucky to have you.

Tucker Murphy

Executive Director

New Canaan

Chamber of Commerce

Dispelling New Canaan Library myths

To the Editor:

Since the library announced plans to improve our technology, collections, services and facilities -- our 21st C Library initiative -- we have been met with rancor and unfounded accusations by a small but vocal group of people who are misguided about many facts. Misconceptions and inaccuracies have continued to surface in public forums and in the local press, most recently related to our property, and the people of this town deserve to know the truth.

The recent assertion that the library sits on Town land is simply incorrect. The parcels that make up the current library site include property donated by a private individual in 1944 and parcels purchased by the library in 1910, 1964, 1981 and 2007. Another rumor circulating is that the library is in "secret" talks with the Town leadership as well as with private developers. These rumors are simply untrue. There are no agreements whatsoever between the library and any corporate entity, partnership or individual with respect to the potential purchase or sale of any part of the library's property. Neither has any kind of "secret" agreement been made with Town leadership related to our property or any parcel of Town land.

In fact, together with the Town and the community, we continue to work out the best solution regarding the library's facility, whether we renovate or expand on the current site or build new. What we do know is that the library's usage has increased more than 400 percent since its last addition 32 years ago and it is time for a change.

The library's staff and board of trustees have worked hard to present the 21st C Library initiative to the community. We have held facility tours and public forums and conducted research in an effort to listen to the community and ascertain the requirements for an up-to-date institution. This was made possible through the time, talent and financial support of many library lovers -- people trying to make a difference and move our wonderful library into the future.

We invite you to learn more at www.newcanaanlibrary.org or e-mail us at trustee@newcanaanlibrary.org. Get the facts and get involved -- help define your library's next chapter.

Alice Knapp, Director

New Canaan Library

Public schools

spending too much

To the Editor:

While almost all departments in New Canaan's town government have submitted their respective "austerity" budgets for the coming fiscal year, the Board of Education and New Canaan Public Schools have submitted their 2011-2012 budget of $73,359,100, representing a 3.3 percent increase of $2,342,850 over this current fiscal year.

Our public schools budget/spending far exceeds that of any other entity in New Canaan and consumes approximately 65 percent of our local tax dollars. Digging through the numbers, there is a 3.45 percent salary increase for the teaching faculty, the proposed hiring of an additional student counselor at the high school at a "fully-loaded" compensation of approximately $85,000, the proposed hiring of a kindergarten-through-eighth grade social studies curriculum coordinator at a "fully-loaded" compensation of approximately $110,000, and a total of 11 capital projects of $988,500. To offset these items, seven teaching assistants will lose their jobs, among others.

We should be proud that our students rank very high in Connecticut and PSAT/SAT test scores. Our public school teachers are paid some of the highest salaries in Fairfield County and Connecticut. In this new age of fiscal austerity, we must demand a much higher level of financial prudence and conservatism. Our town government, Board of Education and New Canaan Public Schools central administrators must take a hard look at cutting and reducing some expenses.

The latter can start by moving out of their expensive rented offices at 39 Locust Ave. which is costing us in excess of $200,000 per year and, instead, put into motion a "rent free" relocation to the building at Irwin Park where the town's Building, Health, Inland/Wetlands and Planning & Zoning departments are now situated. Some of the latter departments can move into the Town Hall building on Main Street since the New Canaan Probate Court has moved out of its space in Town Hall.

We must expect and demand much more responsible use of our local tax dollars.

Frederick Chang

New Canaan