Lots of talk, no changes: RTM OKs capital projects
Toilets, traffic patterns and oil tanks were the main focus of debate when the Representative Town Meeting on Monday considered a $1.76 million bond package for non-recurring capital projects.
Although all the projects were ultimately approved, attempts were made throughout the three-hour session to cut either all or at least a portion of funding for some of the Board of Education projects and one town-side project. However, all the motions to cut funding were resoundingly defeated by the legislative body.
When the $131,250 for completing the renovation of bathrooms at Jennings School came up for discussion, Gaylord Meyer, R-1, moved to eliminate the project altogether. The funding would continue work on the school's bathrooms that began last year, when the RTM approved only half the funding.
"It's clear to me they are functioning, they clean," Meyer said, adding the bathroom may need only to have the pipes cleaned out every once in a while.
And Carolyn Richmond, R-1, said she has been in schools all over Fairfield County, including Greenwich. "You look at all the bathrooms, they are functional ... we have to think about the cost of all of this. This is an area where we told the Board of Ed to do all the necessary repairs, but that's it. I'm sorry they misunderstood."
Some RTM members contend that when the body approved half of the funding for the Jennings bathrooms last year it was their intent that only the necessary safety repairs be made to all the bathrooms, not that half of the bathrooms be fully renovated. Others contended that was not the case at all and both sides claim the minutes from that RTM session support their stance.
One reason for the renovations, in addition to repairing plumbing problems, is to made the bathrooms ADA-compliant, but Ellen Jacobs, R-9, suggested that it wasn't necessary to make the adult bathroom ADA-compliant.
Kathy Braun, R-9, complained that this year's capital projects weren't reviewed by the Town Facilities Commission, but Chairman Jim Gallagher said that the full funding for the bathroom renovations was indeed supported by the commission last year.
David Becker, R-1, tried to cut $70,000 from the $250,000 underground tank project. The project would remove underground oil tanks at six elementary schools and both high schools, and replace them with small, above-ground tanks. The schools all have dual fuel capability and because of the lower cost of natural gas, have been burning gas rather than oil.
Selectman James Walsh said he and Sherri Steeneck, who at the time was the acting first selectman, explored the issue last year. They researched temporary moveable tanks, he said, and also considered the effects should a school lose its gas lines for more than a day during winter months. In the end, Walsh said, they decided the plan to go with smaller above-ground tanks was the best option.
Ed Bateson, R-3, moved to cut $150,000 for the traffic project at Tomlinson Middle School, which would create separate drop-off lanes for parents in an effort to improve traffic flow at the school as well as safety on Unquowa Road. Bateson contended the issue could be addressed by better traffic enforcement.
"It sounds like people are doing something they're not supposed to be doing," he said, and when the police show up at the school, the problem stops.
But Alan Marks, R-8, said he is both a commuter using the downtown train station across the street from the school and a Tomlinson parent. "Representative Bateson, this is not a law-enforcement issue, this is too much traffic in one place at the same time ... it's not enforcement, it's getting traffic in the right place."
On the town side of the project list, Becker tried to cut $234,184 for additional costs to remove underground tanks at two fire stations, projects that are already under way. He said the money should come from the town's contingency account instead of capital bonding, but First Selectman Mike Tetreau said that there really isn't enough leeway in that account for the project.
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