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Plan for new Fairfield Woods Branch Library shelved in favor of roof repair

Updated 8:18 am, Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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  • Fairfield Board of Finance members, from left, Chairman Thomas Flynn, Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. and James Brown discuss proposed bonding for more than $1 million in capital projects at Tuesday's meeting.  FAIRFIELD CITIZEN, CT 2/5/13 Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    Fairfield Board of Finance members, from left, Chairman Thomas Flynn, Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. and James Brown discuss proposed bonding for more than $1 million in capital projects at Tuesday's meeting. FAIRFIELD CITIZEN, CT 2/5/13 Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Action by the Board of Finance would shelve plans for a new branch library -- for the foreseeable future, at least.

The finance board on Tuesday approved $1.037 million for non-recurring capital projects, including $200,000 for a new roof at the Fairfield Woods Branch Library.

But some board members questioned whether spending money on a new roof for the Fairfield Woods branch -- one of the busiest branch libraries in the state -- would simply be a waste of money since the Fairfield Library Board of Trustees has indicated an interest in tearing down the existing building and erecting a new one.

Finance member James Walsh said if he supports the expenditure for a new roof, it needs to be understood that for at least the next five years, nothing could be done to the building "where the roof comes down ... I think the board of library trustees needs to know that."

Walsh referred to a presentation made last May to the Board of Selectmen at which the trustees said they favor demolishing the existing building for a new $12 million library.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau, however, said that presentation on building a new library went nowhere. "There is no expansion before us," Tetreau said, adding that neither the finance board nor the Representative Town Meeting had any interest in considering the library board's presentation.

Walsh agreed, however, that the roof needs to be replaced. "It's a disgrace," he said. "It should've been replaced years ago, but Mr. Flatto put it off."

The roof leaks regularly, Tetreau said, and told the finance board the band-aid approach to roof repairs no longer works.

"Having heard the presentation, the condition of this roof and the damage that's occurring in the building," said finance board member Catherine Albin, "it reminds me of McKinley School. I wouldn't want the building to become so damaged we lose the building." McKinley School suffered a severe mold infestation from roof leaks and had to be torn down in 2000.

And while the new roof made the cut for the bonding package, $125,000 for new, energy-efficient lights at the town tennis courts on Old Dam Road failed to win the financiers' favor and the project was cut from the bond request.

Chairman Thomas Flynn said he would need to see the business plans for the tennis court before he could vote on spending money on new lighting. During renovations to the tennis building and teen center by the Fairfield Tennis Center, which runs the courts during the winter months, a sixth tennis court will be added.

Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Lombardo said if the project doesn't go forward, the sixth court would not be usable at night because it would not be illuminated. Town officials are also applying to United Illuminating for either a grant or no-interest loan to help defray a portion of the cost.

Albin, like Flynn, said she wants to see a cost-benefit analysis before she could vote on the request.

Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. tried to cut another $105,000 from the bonding package to pay for an emergency generator at old Town Hall. His motion, however, was unsuccessful, supported only by himself and Chris DeWitt.

While DeWitt argued that like the tennis court lights, a town disaster plan should be in place before any money is spent, others said that any plan would likely include acquiring a generator for the building.

"I think we need to protect the infrastructure," said finance board member James Brown, as well as consider the productivity of municipal employees and convenience to the taxpayers. Following Superstorm Sandy's disruption of electric service, old Town Hall was closed for several days -- a time when tax payments were due and just days before a national election.