News – Be Informed

Welcome.

The New Fairfield Democratic Town Committee wants to help keep you informed of significant town events and news from our elected officials.

Our Town runs because people volunteer their time for these Boards and Commissions and we welcome your participation.

2022

This is another important year for all of us, with the budget referendum coming this spring, and a state election later this year.  We will provide you information on these and other events, as well as information on Board and Commission vacancies here.

Also stay informed by looking at important Letters to the Editor.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As scheduled to be published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, July 28, 2022, PAGE 2

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BUS LOT DECISION HAS COST IMPLICATIONS

Three weeks ago, the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) filed a notice of appeal with a local court of the decision of the Zoning Commission to deny the permit to build a small school bus parking lot on the northern end of where Consolidated School stands now.  The PBC had a choice between appealing the decision (with likely legal bills $40-$50,000 if the case goes to trial) or sticking taxpayers with well over an additional $500,000 bill to build a lot on the only other location in the area that might be feasible for school buses.  The PBC made an extensive study of a number of alternate locations and concluded the best option is the original plan.

The current temporary location the High School is not a workable long-term solution, given the disruption to traffic and parking and potential for traffic safety issues.  The other possible location at the High School will require extensive site work because of ledge and will cost in excess of $500,000 – with a significantly reduced reimbursement rate from the State.  I believe the PBC made the right decision for our children and the taxpayers of New Fairfield.

Demolishing Consolidated and putting the bus lot on a small part of that property was part of the plan submitted and approved at referendum almost three years ago.  The costs of demolition and construction of the bus lot according to the original plan are reimbursable by the State since they were part of the original project.  Changes would have to be paid for 100 percent by taxpayers.

Opponents of the current plan argue that Consolidated should be preserved and used as a Community Center.  This is not feasible, as I was reminded by Phil Ross, Director of Buildings and Grounds, last week.  Opponents forget that the reason we built a new grade school is that the State concluded that Consolidated, parts of which date to the 1940’s, would require too much work to be worthwhile.  The building has only deteriorated further in the three years since this judgment was made.  A short list of issues that would have to be addressed to make the building usable includes:  a new roof for the whole building (easily several millions of dollars), complicated and expensive work on electrical and heating systems (the electrical plant is at the south end; the heating plant is in the middle, but runs to the north end before running back to the south end); fixing the foundation, which is failing on the north end; replacing a large number of windows that date from the 60’s and 70’s; making the building accessible to the disabled; and removing hazardous materials.  New IT infrastructure would have to be installed, since the current system is being moved to CELA to save money.  The bill for this would be millions of dollars – all to be paid for by taxpayers.  Because of the new school construction, we are at the limit of what we as a town can bond for a number of years.

Furthermore, it’s not clear that Consolidated could ever be used for anything that includes a large number of visitors.  Sewage now is currently pumped up hill to a pre-treatment plant regulated by DEEP at Meetinghouse Hill School. That system cannot be easily expanded to include more usage from the Consolidated site.  It should also be remembered that mothballing a building, even for a short period of time, is costly.  The roof leaks and will cause mold and damage if not attended to.  The building will have to be heated to avoid pipe freezes.  There will have to be routine maintenance even if the building is not being used – which will require hiring additional Public Works staff.  (This does not even address the cost of staffing a new Community Center.). Many of the opponents of the current plan belong to the Party that wanted to cut the school budget by $400,000 earlier this year in order to save taxpayer money.  They appear to be advocating an approach that will cost taxpayers many times more than that – without acknowledging the practical, legal, or financial implications.

Because the matter is now in litigation, I cannot get into the issues concerning the Zoning Commission’s denial of a permit for the bus parking lot.  I will note that Connecticut law requires Zoning Commissions to base their decision on a record and to clearly state reasons for such denials that are consistent with state statutes and local ordinances.  The decision as to whether the Zoning Commission complied with that requirement is now in the hands of the court.

The PBC has done an excellent job of keeping the schools project within the required budget and schedule, including the tough decision they made on location of the bus parking lot and the need to appeal the Zoning Commission’s decision.  It is entirely possible that some group of residents, for whatever reason, will not be content to leave the decision on this matter where it now resides – in the court.  If that happens, hang onto your wallets…


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As scheduled to be published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, July 21, 2022, PAGE 2

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ARPA Update

At the Board of Selectmen meeting last week, the Selectmen voted to propose 11 projects for approval at Town meeting.  The projects include the design and permitting of a sewer limited to the business/commercial district and schools, the Ball Pond Drainage project, Company A Firehouse renovation, Police and Town building security, Beach House renovation, creation of an Emergency Housing Fund, a Community Center feasibility study, the establishment of Small Business Grants, Hazard Pay for Public Safety and Health employees, replacement of equipment for the Communications Center and a Town vehicle for the Fire Marshal’s Office.  These projects were developed and recommended by the ARPA working group, convened by the BOS when ARPA funding was announced in July of last year.  The working group comprised of Town employees and officials with expertise consistent with the goals of ARPA, including the Town Engineer (infrastructure), the Health Director (public health response), Economic Development Commission Chair (negative economic impacts and aid to small business), Social Services Director (aid to households), and the Emergency Management Director, Police Sergeant, and Fire Chief (public safety) to advise us on town needs in their respective areas consistent with the provisions of ARPA.  In addition to conducting eight Special Meetings with the ARPA working group over the past year, the BOS held three public forums to discuss the proposed projects.  Links to the Public Forums and a summary of the projects can be found on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org, by clicking on “ARPA Public Forums” under the “News” heading.

I feel that it is important to discuss the misinformation being spread through Town regarding the proposed sewer project.  The project is limited to the business/commercial district in the center of Town and the schools.  No one owning property along the route will be required to connect to the sewer, although they will be allowed to connect if they wish to do so.  Most septic systems serving our small businesses in the center of Town are close to 30 years old and some are starting to experience failures.  The business/commercial zone is located above the largest drinking water aquifer in New Fairfield, presenting a potential environmental concern should these systems fail.  Ball Pond Brook, which discharges directly to Candlewood Lake, pbasses through the business/commercial zone and is also at risk of contamination from aging septic systems.  Further, the large septic systems serving Meeting House Hill School and the High School are also aging, with replacement costs approaching $5 million.

Additionally, through discussions with commercial realtors and property owners, the lack of sewer and water infrastructure in the center of Town has been identified as the primary obstacle to filling vacancies in our business/commercial district.  Reliance on septic systems severely restricts both the types of businesses that can operate in Town and the potential growth of our existing small business.  Many residents are disappointed in the lack of variety in the types of businesses in our Town center; however septic capacity limits the water usage on commercial properties.

If you have lived in Town as long as I have, you may remember when the Grand Union left Town and the plaza where Stop and Shop is now located fell into disrepair.  For years, residents’ only option was to go to Danbury to shop for groceries.  At the same time, water analyses revealed that dry cleaning chemicals which had been disposed of in a septic system on the same site had contaminated the drinking water, making it even more difficult to attract a buyer for the property.  Charter Realty eventually purchased the property and has operated a “pump and treat” system to remediate the contaminated ground water since purchasing the property.  Fast forward to 2022, and the Stop and Shop plaza is now operating with its third septic system, which is beginning to fail.  Not only is this system located above the drinking water aquifer, it is in close proximity to Ball Pond Brook, posing the risk of bacterial contamination in both the brook and Candlewood Lake.  This key commercial property cannot sustain a septic system indefinitely due to the type of soils and the elevated water table in the area.  This is only one example of how the business/commercial district in Town will continue to deteriorate without the necessary infrastructure improvements.  For those who are concerned about our Town changing, the Town will change, one way or the other.  We can either provide a sewer in the center of Town to ensure that our businesses thrive, or we can continue down the current path and return to the blighted Town center we had in the mid- 1990s.

There is also a narrative that the sewer will attract affordable housing development under the State’s “Section 80-30 (g)” statute.  Municipalities that have not documented at least 10% of their housing stock as affordable are subject to a provision that provides for developers to have local zoning requirements waived for multifamily housing projects if at least 30% of the total units meet the affordable threshold.  “Affordable” in New Fairfield is roughly $300,000 with a $68,625 income cap for a one bedroom unit.  Two affordable housing complexes currently exist in New Fairfield.  The development of these complexes was driven by the demand for affordable housing and was not hindered by the lack of a sewer.

The proposed project will fund the design and permitting of the system necessary to make the project “shovel ready.”  Such status is required before the Town can apply for state or federal funding to complete the project.  Once the sewer design is complete and the final cost of the project is determined, a Town vote will be required to approve the construction of the sewer.  Not only will constructing the sewer ensure a vibrant Town Center and clean drinking water now and into the future, acting now allows the Town to take advantage of funding available now through ARPA and the Infrastructure Act to construct the project at the lowest impact possible to taxpayers.  Funding on this scale will not be available to us again in the near future.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As scheduled to be published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, July 14, 2022, PAGE 2

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MOTOR VEHICLE TAX

Many taxpayers have seen a surprising increase in their motor vehicle tax due to an increase in the assessed value of their vehicle.   The increase in new and used car values over the past 2 years is a nationwide trend and not unique to Connecticut.  Every year, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) recommends a schedule of motor vehicle values from the National Automobile Dealers Association.  Last year, these values reflected almost a 25% increase in used car and truck values throughout the state.  OPM’s assessments are based on 70% of the “clean retail” value per the October issue of the NADA guide.  By state statute, “these values must be used by all Connecticut Assessors in each municipality to determine the assessed value as of October 1st”.   Individual municipalities have no discretion in motor vehicle assessments.   The same assessments were used in the tabulation of the Town’s grand list for the 2022/2023 budget year, and in anticipation of increased car values, the State lowered the mill rate cap used to calculate motor vehicle taxes statewide.  If your vehicle has high mileage, you may appeal your assessment to the Board of Assessment Appeals on September 17 from 10AM – noon.  Please be advised that the Board will refer to the NADA guide for assessment values for the make, model and mileage of your  vehicle.

SUMMER FUN

Summer concerts and movies on Memorial Field are under way and will continue through July and August featuring the bands On the Road Again, The Choir Boys, The East Coast Ramblers and Split Decision.  The annual Illuminated Boat Parade will be held on July 15, and the Town beach is now open full time from 10:30 – 6:00 every day.  There are also still openings in the sports and activity camps offered by Parks and Rec.  For more information, visit https://www.newfairfield.org/home/showpublisheddocument/14982/637849433298800000

Don’t forget the Summer Reading program “Read Beyond the Beaten Path” at the New Fairfield Library.  There are programs for kids, teens and adults!  The more you read, the greater your chances to win gift cards and the grand prize, a Kindle Paperwhite.  Check it out here:  https://newfairfieldlibrary.readsquared.com/

Want to get outside?  Check out the Candlewood Valley Regional Land Trust properties in New Fairfield.  Try the trails at Komlo Preserve, Sweetcake Mountain Preserve or Finn’s Land Preserve.  For more information, visit the CVRLT website:  https://candlewoodvalleyrlt.org/properties/  .  The Senior Center also has many programs to offer this summer.  Check them out at:  http://www.newfairfieldseniorcenter.com/

Have fun!


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As scheduled to be published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, June 30, 2022, PAGE 2

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ARPA PROJECTS

This week’s column is the last in my series focusing on the details of each of the projects proposed for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  Three weeks ago, I began this series of columns with a discussion of the business/commercial sewer project, followed by renovation of Town properties.  This week, I will discuss the remaining projects under consideration, including addressing stormwater drainage in the Ball Pond area, supporting our small businesses and first responders and adding additional vault space for the Town Clerk as required by State statute.  If you wish to hear more detail on the projects, you can access recordings of the ARPA Public Forums on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org , by clicking on “Our Town,” “New Fairfield TV on the Web,” and “Selectmen and all other board meetings.”

Ball Pond Watershed Stormwater Drainage $150,000

Over several decades, stormwater drainage has caused severe erosion and flooding in the neighborhoods located between Ball Pond and Putnam Lake, impacting numerous homeowners in the area.  The Town Engineer is proposing the design of stormwater mitigation measures and purchase of property easements to control the flow of stormwater in the area.  The problem was first recognized about 15 years ago, but the Town has been unable to secure funding to correct the problem.  This project will provide a shovel ready project which will be eligible for federal and state grants.  ARPA expressly allows for investment in sewer and water, including stormwater management.

Premium Pay for Public Health and Safety Employees $265,000

The working group has discussed premium pay for public health and safety employees and volunteer firefighters in recognition of the work they have done throughout the pandemic to keep our residents safe.  These volunteers and employees responded to emergencies and were in close contact with the public prior to widespread availability of vaccinations and treatments for COVID.  ARPA expressly allows premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the pandemic.

Emergency Housing Fund $25,000

After reviewing the services currently available to New Fairfield residents and additional needs in the community, the Social Services Director has recommended the creation of an Emergency Housing Fund.  The fund would be used to assist residents who may be on the verge of homelessness.  ARPA expressly provides for emergency housing assistance.

Small Business Grants $150,000

The Economic Development Commission has proposed funding grants to local small businesses impacted by the pandemic.   Businesses would complete an application demonstrating financial loss during the pandemic and a specific use for the grant.  ARPA provides for grants to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

*Town Clerk Vault $200,000

Each Town Clerk must maintain a vault for storage of historical records. The size of the vault is based on population and stipulated by State statute.  The vault in New Fairfield has been undersized for many years, and it is no longer possible to safely add additional shelves to the existing vault to accommodate our records.  A new vault is proposed adjacent to the existing vault to accommodate future storage needs.

*Fire Marshal Vehicle $65,000

The Fire Marshal currently uses his personal vehicle when responding to emergency events.  The Fire Marshal vehicle should be clearly marked and visible for both the Marshal’s safety and to designate official business.  All Town Officials, including the Health Director, Building Inspector, Zoning Enforcement Officer, Sanitarian and Assessor are provided with Town vehicles for the same reasons.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As scheduled to be published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, June 30, 2022, PAGE 3

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ARPA FUNDING WILL HELP MAKE NEW FAIRFIELD MORE SAFE, SECURE, AND SUSTAINABLE

$4.1 million – that’s how much the federal government is making available to New Fairfield under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.  We, like municipalities across the country, have been given the opportunity to fund projects that will improve New Fairfield without having to generate and use taxes from residents.

To make sure that this money is put to good use for the benefit of the town as a whole, the Board of Selectmen has periodically been holding special BoS meetings since July of last year with its ARPA Working Group to define how best to use the funds we have.  These meetings have been open to the public.  Through this process, the Working Group and BoS have focused in on the projects, briefly described below. By the time this column is published, we will have  held two public forums to describe the projects under consideration and solicit input. Recordings of those forums are accessible on http://www.newfairfield.org.  A brief description of each project with preliminary cost estimates is below.

PUBLIC SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS – The console at the Communications Center that dispatches fire, police, and ambulances is at end of life and must be replaced this year, as parts will no longer be available after the first of next year.  Additionally, some town buildings are in need of security enhancements.  Estimate – $615,000.

BEACH HOUSE – The Beach House at Town Park has been in disrepair for a number of years and requires reconstruction, using the same footprint.  This project has been under discussion for over a decade, but lacked funding.  Estimate — $700,000.

RENOVATION OF COMPANY A FIREHOUSE – Because Company A Firehouse is now more heavily used by ambulance crews, who are staffed there 24×7, and because of changing needs to decontaminate and keep firefighters safe after fires, a significant renovation of Company A Firehouse is recommended.   Estimate – $450,000.

HAZARD PAY – Like a number of other municipalities, the Working Group is recommending a one-time stipend to first responders who went above and beyond during the pandemic to respond to emergencies.  Estimate — $265,000.

SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS – Also like a number of other municipalities, the Working Group is recommending making available small grants to New Fairfield small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic.  Estimate — $150,000.

BALL POND DRAINAGE STUDY – Runoff from increasingly frequent significant rainfall events has created major erosion problems in the area between Ball Pond down to Putnam Lake.  The erosion threatens the property of a number of New Fairfield residents.  The Working Group recommends initiating an engineering study on how to solve the problem.  This would produce a “shovel-ready” proposal that will be used to secure further expected infrastructure funding in the future.  Estimate — $150,000.

SEWER DESIGN – The Working Group is proposing to fund an engineering design to define requirements for running sewer for specifically defined areas in the center of town and up to our schools to Danbury for treatment there.  Current septic systems in the center of town and at our schools are old and are on the verge of failing.  Replacement will be difficult and very expensive.  Leakage from the existing septic systems has caused e coli contamination in drinking water supplies at one of our shopping centers and Ball Pond Brook, which runs into Candlewood Lake.  Reliance on septic systems has prevented a diversity of business from locating in New Fairfield.  This study will produce a “shovel-ready project” eligible for further infrastructure funding.  Estimate – $1,600,000.

COMMUNITY CENTER – Residents have expressed interest in having a Community Center, but it’s not clear what it would encompass.  This study would solicit input as to what residents would like to see in a Community Center and provide estimates for constructing and operating one.  Estimate — $25,000.

EMERGENCY HOUSING FUND – This revolving fund would provide assistance to residents who cannot occupy their home in New Fairfield because of storms, eviction, etc. Estimate — $25,000.

TOWN CLERK VAULT – The vault for storing historical documents has been undersized for a town our size for a number of years.  This would fund a new vault adjacent to the existing vault.  Estimate – $200,000.

FIRE MARSHALL VEHICLE – This would provide a vehicle to the Fire Marshall who now uses his own vehicle to respond to emergencies.  Estimate – $65,000.

The above proposals will be submitted for approval as a package – in line with what every other town is doing.  The package is broad-based, addresses clear needs in New Fairfield and serves the interests of all New Fairfield residents.  It has been under discussion for close to a year and is well-thought-through.   Together, these projects will increase the safety, security, and sustainability of New Fairfield.  The proposed package provides funding for many projects that taxpayers would have to pay for this year or soon thereafter and in this manner helps keep taxes low.  I encourage you to support this package.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, June 23, 2022, PAGE 2

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ARPA PROJECTS

RENOVATION OF TOWN PROPERTIES

Over the next few weeks, my columns will focus on providing detailed information on each of the projects proposed for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  Two weeks ago, I began this series of columns with a discussion of the business/commercial sewer project.  Today, I will discuss proposals to renovate aging Town buildings and to consider a town Community Center. If you wish to hear more detail on the projects, you can access recordings of the ARPA Public Forums on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org , by clicking on “Our Town,” “New Fairfield TV on the Web,” and “Selectmen and all other board meetings.”

Beach House Reconstruction $700,000

The Town, through the Parks and Recreation Commission and Permanent Building Committee, has long recognized the need to reconstruct the Beach House at the Town Park.  Many residents complain of run-down conditions in the current beach house, specifically in the restrooms and changing area.  To date, the Town has been unable to fund the project through the municipal budget or state grant funding.  Preliminary plans for the project have been prepared for a series of grant applications; therefore this project is close to “shovel ready.”  Due to the proximity of the beach house to Candlewood Lake and septic restrictions, the new building would be constructed on the footprint of the current building.

CoA Firehouse Renovations 

The New Fairfield Fire Department Company “A” Firehouse requires modifications to address building use requirements and member safety concerns.  The modifications will encompass important safety considerations, including showers for use by fire fighters returning from a fire and modern gear washers and dryers to remove potentially harmful chemicals from gear worn to fires.  The project would also provide additional accommodations for contracted paramedics and a new air compressor to fill SCBA bottles.  Existing spaces will be reconfigured to make the most efficient use of the current building.

Public Safety Improvements $615,000

The Emergency Management Director and Resident Sergeant have made recommendations on security improvements to Town buildings and Communications infrastructure.  Their recommendations include improvements to building security and replacement of the end of life dispatch console.

Community Center Feasibility Study $25,000

Many residents support the concept of a Community Center in New Fairfield.  Before moving forward, several important questions need to be answered before any decisions are made.  With that in mind, we are proposing a feasibility study to explore the possibility of a Community Center in Town.  The study that would bring together the public and other stakeholders to answer questions such as what would residents like to see in a Community Center?  If you ask five different people that question, you will get five different answers ranging from a space with meeting rooms to a facility with a gym, outdoor pool and playing fields and everything in between.  Each one of those concepts requires a different amount and type of space.  For example, how much property do we need?  How large a building and associated septic system is necessary?  Does the Town own a suitable piece of property to meet these needs?  How will the facility be staffed and maintained?  After developing a concept, a cost estimate will be developed using the input from stakeholders and then, a decision can be made on how to move forward.

Please attend the next public forum to hear detailed discussion and comment on these proposals.  It is important to for the Board to receive public input on the expenditure of ARPA funds.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, June 9, 2022, PAGE 2

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ARPA PROJECTS

BUSINESS/COMMERCIAL SEWER DESIGN STUDY

Over the next few weeks, my columns will focus on providing detailed information on each of the projects proposed for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  This week, I will start with the Sewer Study for the business/commercial area.  If you wish to hear more detail on the project from the Town Engineer, Health Director, commercial property owners and local realtors, you can access recordings of the ARPA Public Forums on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org , by clicking on “Our Town,” “New Fairfield TV on the Web,” and “Selectmen and all other board meetings.”

Most septic systems serving our small businesses in the center of Town are close to 30 years old and some are starting to experience failures.  The business/commercial zone is located above the largest drinking water aquifer in New Fairfield, presenting a potential environmental concern should these systems fail.  Ball Pond Brook, which discharges directly to Candlewood Lake, passes through the business/commercial zone and is also at risk of contamination from aging septic systems.   Further, the large septic systems serving Meeting House Hill School and the High School are also aging, and replacement of both will present significant and costly challenges.  For example, there is no remaining suitable area for a new septic system at MHHS when the system reaches end of life.

Additionally, through discussions with commercial realtors and property owners, the lack of sewer and water infrastructure in the center of Town has been identified as a primary obstacle to filling vacancies in our business/commercial district. Reliance on septic systems severely restricts both the types of businesses that can operate in Town and the potential growth of our existing small businesses.  Many residents are disappointed in the lack of variety in the types of businesses in our Town center; however septic capacity limits the water usage on commercial properties.

Many years ago, the Town declined the opportunity to connect to the Regional Waste Treatment Facility located in Danbury, and the Town Engineer has proposed seeking that connection now to support the future economic and environmental health of our Town.  Upon this recommendation, a preliminary sewer study identifying potential sewer flow to Danbury has been completed using budgeted funds. ARPA funds could be used to fund the design and permitting of the system necessary to make the project “shovel ready,” removing this item from our Town budget.  Such status is required before the Town can apply for state or federal funding to complete the project.  The study used current zoning to produce a preliminary design for a sewer collection system based the daily wastewater flow rate from the business commercial district, town buildings and schools, as well as the most efficient layout for the proposed sewer.  The proposal is limited to the current approved zoning and property use in the business/commercial district.

The proposed sewer collection system would encompass the Town Center business/commercial district surrounding the intersection of Routes 37 and 39, extend up Brush Hill Road to the Middle School/High School campus, north on Route 37 to the Senior Center, east on Route 39 to Heritage Plaza and south on 37 to the Lutheran Church.  The project can be broken down into three phases, beginning with the business commercial district in the center of Town, followed by the connection to the schools, police building and firehouse and completed by proceeding north to the senior center and the Dunham Pond condominiums and south to The Birches condominiums and the Lutheran Church.

The proposed design study would require $1.6 million to complete the design for construction, obtain necessary easements and permits required to work in the State Right-of-way, and to negotiate an inter-local agreement with Danbury.  Once this work is complete, a final estimate will be available for the entire project and for each phase of the project, should the Town wish to fund the project sequentially as described above.  The project would be funded through the CT Clean Water Revolving Fund which provides both grant funding for a percentage of the cost of the sewer and a low interest loan to the Town for the balance.  The loan is repaid primarily by revenue generated through sewer connection and user fees beginning up to a year after the completion of the project.

Once the Sewer Design Study is complete and the final cost of the project is determined, a Town vote will be required to approve the construction of the sewer.   Not only will constructing the sewer ensure a vibrant Town center and clean drinking water now and into the future, acting now allows the Town to take advantage of funding available now through ARPA and the Infrastructure Act to construct the project at the lowest impact possible to taxpayers.  Funding on this scale will not be available to us again in the near future.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, June 2, 2022, PAGE 2

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THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT

The Board of Selectmen has been working closely with the ARPA working group to prepare and present projects proposed for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  We held our first public forum to discuss and receive comments on the projects on May 23 via ZOOM and plan to hold the second forum next week in person at the Senior Center – watch the Town website and Facebook page for the date and time.  The projects discussed are outlined below.

ARPA has provided municipalities and school districts in Connecticut with $2.55 billion of funding for specific purposes as follows:

  1. to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, or to aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel or hospitality,
  2. to respond to essential workers performing essential work during the public health emergency by providing premium pay to essential workers,
  3. for the provision of government services, and
  4. to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The funds may not be used to fund pension funds, to compensate for lost tax revenue, to reduce debt or to replenish “rainy day” funds.  The intent of ARPA is to look forward and not backward – in other words, funding should be used for new projects, not to reimburse projects already funded through other sources.  Municipalities are urged to identify pre-pandemic inhibitors to growth when considering eligible projects, and to ensure that investments will result in lasting benefits.

New Fairfield will receive approximately $4.1 million in ARPA funds over two years.  When ARPA funding was announced in July of last year, the Board of Selectmen convened a working group comprised of Town employees and officials with expertise consistent with the goals of ARPA.  This group includes the Town Engineer (infrastructure), the Health Director (public health response), Economic Development Commission Chair (negative economic impacts and aid to small business) Social Services Director (aid to households), and the Emergency Management Director, Police Sergeant, and Fire Chief (public safety) to advise us on town needs in their respective areas consistent with the provisions of ARPA.  The working group reports to the BOS periodically on potential projects that may be funded with ARPA funds.  The meetings are Special Board of Selectmen meetings that are noticed and open to the public.  Meeting dates are posted on the town website, www.newfairfield.org.  To date, the working group has presented information to the BOS on the following projects:

Business/Commercial Sewer Study and Design  $1.6 million

Most septic systems serving our small businesses in the center of Town are close to 30 years old and some are starting to experience failures.  The business/commercial zone is located above the largest drinking water aquifer in New Fairfield, presenting a potential environmental concern should these systems fail.  Ball Pond Brook, which discharges directly to Candlewood Lake, passes through the business/commercial zone and is also at risk of contamination from aging septics.  Many years ago, the Town declined the opportunity to connect to the Regional Waste Treatment Facility located in Danbury, and the Town Engineer has proposed seeking that connection now to support the future economic and environmental health of our Town.  Through discussions with commercial realtors and property owners, the lack of sewer and water infrastructure in the center of Town has been identified as a primary obstacle to filling vacancies in our business/commercial district. Reliance on septic systems severely restricts both the types of businesses that can operate in Town and the potential growth of our existing small businesses.  The project could be expanded to include New Fairfield schools, also served by aging septic systems.  A sewer study identifying potential sewer flow to Danbury has been completed using budgeted funds. ARPA funds could be used to fund the design and permitting of the system necessary to make the project “shovel ready,” removing this item from our Town budget.  Such status is required before the Town can apply for state or federal funding to complete the project.  ARPA expressly allows for investment in sewer and water.

Ball Pond Watershed Stormwater Drainage $150,000

Over several decades, stormwater drainage has caused severe erosion and flooding in the neighborhoods located between Ball Pond and Putnam Lake, impacting numerous homeowners in the area.  The Town Engineer is proposing the study and design of stormwater mitigation measures to control the flow of stormwater in the area.  ARPA expressly allows for investment in sewer and water, including stormwater management.

CoA Firehouse Renovations 

The New Fairfield Fire Department Company “A” Firehouse requires modifications to address building use requirements and member safety concerns.  The modifications will include providing additional accommodations for contracted paramedics, showers for use by members after fighting fires, a modern gear washer and dryer and a new air compressor to fill SCBA bottles.

Public Safety Improvements $615,000

The Emergency Management Director and Resident Sergeant have made recommendations on security improvements to Town buildings and Communications infrastructure.  Their recommendations include improvements to building security and replacement of the end of life dispatch console.  ARPA expressly allows provisions for funding police, fire and other public safety services.

Premium Pay for Public Health and Safety Employees $265,000

The working group has discussed premium pay for public health and safety employees and volunteer firefighters.  ARPA expressly allows premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the pandemic.

Emergency Housing Fund $25,000

After reviewing the services currently available to New Fairfield residents and additional needs in the community, the Social Services Director has recommended the creation of an Emergency Housing Fund.  The fund would be used to assist residents who may be on the verge of homelessness.  ARPA expressly provides for emergency housing assistance.

Beach House Reconstruction $700,000

The Town, through the Parks and Recreation Commission and Permanent Building Committee, has long recognized the need to reconstruct the Beach House at the Town Park.  To date, the Town has been unable to fund the project through the municipal budget or state grant funding.  Preliminary plans for the project exist.  ARPA provides for funding government services, including infrastructure.

Small Business Grants $150,000

The Economic Development Commission has proposed funding grants to local small businesses impacted by the pandemic.  ARPA provides for grants to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Community Center Feasibility Study $25,000

Many residents support the concept of a Community Center in New Fairfield.  Before moving forward, several important questions need to be answered before any decisions are made.  With that in mind, we are proposing a feasibility study to explore the possibility of a Community Center in Town.  The study that would bring together the public and other stakeholders to answer questions such as what would residents like to see in a Community Center?  If you ask five different people that question, you will get five different answers ranging from a space with meeting rooms to a facility with a gym, outdoor pool and playing fields and everything in between.  Each one of those concepts requires a different amount and type of space.  For example, how much property do we need?  How large a building and associated septic system is necessary?  Does the Town own a suitable piece of property to meet these needs?  How will the facility be staffed and maintained?  After developing a concept, a cost estimate will be developed using the input from stakeholders and then, a decision can be made on how to move forward.

Please attend the public forum to hear detailed discussion and comment on these proposals.  We will hold one additional public forum before the BOS selects projects to move forward to a Town vote.  It is important to for the Board to receive public input on the expenditure of ARPA funds.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, May 26, 2022, PAGE 2

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MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day is a day of solemn remembrance of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who lost their lives in defense of our Country.  On Monday, people through the country will gather together to remember, to honor, and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country.  It is one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.  The New Fairfield Veterans will gather in Veterans Memorial Park on Monday, May 30 at 11:00 am to honor the memory of those who have fallen in defense of our country, including brave soldiers from New Fairfield who were unable to make it back to us.  This event will be held rain or shine.

This day has gone through many different evolutions in the past two centuries, but the spirit has always remained the same.  An annual “Decoration Day” emerged in the late 1860s, a dedicated day where people would visit and decorate the final resting places of soldiers fallen in the Civil War.  By the early 20th century, days of remembrance were common throughout the country, with different states in the North and South following varied traditions.  After World War I, the day began to honor those who have died in all U.S. wars.  Since 1971, the holiday has been observed on the last Monday in May, after which Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday.  On December 28, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act into law to “reclaim Memorial Day as the noble event it was intended to be, to honor those who died in service to our nation.”  At 3:00pm local time, for 1 minute duration, Americans are asked to observe a moment of remembrance and respect in their own way.

I ask you to reflect upon the rights and privileges we all enjoy as American citizens.  The freedom to express yourself, to be able to say whatever is on your mind.  Being able to participate in free and fair elections and improve our communities through open participation in our democratic process.  On Memorial Day we remember that this – all of it – came at a cost.

That cost is insurmountably high.  It is our neighbors, our children, our parents, brothers, sisters, and friends – all those who fought and died for us and for those around the world who share our dream.  They fought so we could live in a world of freedom.  For the hope of a world without fear.  At this time in history, when our country seems so divided along partisan lines, I ask you to remember these ideals that so many died for.  We are all Americans, and it is when we work together that we are able to accomplish great things.

You can actively honor the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by exercising the rights they died to preserve.  Register to vote, vote in local, state, and federal elections, and participate in our Town meeting form of government.  Never forget those who fought and died for those rights.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, May 19, 2022, PAGE 3

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Of Budgets and Potholes

Good news for New Fairfield:  the proposed budgets for our town passed with wide margins at Saturday’s referendum, with the town budget passing 1044-637 and the school budget passing 1012-669.

This was a unique and difficult budget season and I am personally happy that the vote was as clear cut as it was.  Almost 1700 people voted, the most in over a decade for a budget referendum, which have notoriously low turn outs.  The higher-than-usual turn out is attributable to the political controversy that was generated this year during deliberations in the Board of Finance over the budget.  From the very beginning of those deliberations, a significant number of New Fairfielders turned out to meetings that sometimes went past my normal bedtime to express support for raising and spending the money necessary to support our schools as they emerge from COVID and to sustain the services necessary to keep our town going.  They spoke out passionately – parents, seniors, and people in between – in favor of the budgets that several new members of the Board of Finance were inclined to cut.

There was clear bipartisan support for both budgets, with unanimous votes of support from both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education.  The Board of Education is chaired by a Republican and has a Republican majority.  Seniors and parents of both parties voiced their strong support for the budgets.  Yet, most new members of the Board of Finance decided to oppose the budgets that went to referendum and the Republican Town Committee sent out a text on the day of the referendum urging people to vote “No”.  Given the final numbers, I suspect a fair number of Republicans voted to support both budgets, recognizing that they are fair and necessary to support our residents.

For me, the takeaway is that it is very important to listen – to listen to the experts we hire and elect when they say what it is necessary to get the job done – and more importantly to listen to the people, especially when they speak persistently in such a unified fashion in support of a common objective.  I want to thank the Republican members of the Boards of Education, Finance, and Selectmen who provided their expertise, listened, stood up, and provided us with the support to move forward.  I want to thank everyone who voted for enabling us to get past this chapter.  We work best when we work together on a bipartisan basis.  With this behind us, I hope for better next year.

And so we move forward with the requested staffing and programs for our schools and with funding for services the Town provides – equipment for the fire department, dispatch and emergency response, the library, the senior center, the health department, to name a few.

Which brings us to potholes.  The condition of our streets is probably the biggest complaint I hear as a Selectman.  The new budget has over $500,000 for paving.  Paving was cut from last year’s budget to keep the tax increase low during COVID – and the decrease shows in the condition of some of our streets.  Restoring funding for paving this year is one of the main reasons for the increase in the Town’s budget this year, but it takes time to make up for what could not be done in the past because of lack of funding.

Russ Loudon, head of Public Works, is happy with the recent budget outcome.  “Now that we have the money, we’ll go for it,” he told me.  Public Works has recently leased a new piece of equipment, which is now being installed.  It will allow them to mill and overlay parts of Gillotti Road that have gotten very rough this past winter and spring, rather than just filling in the potholes that have appeared.  A full repaving of Gillotti will have to wait until school construction is finished, scheduled for the fall of 2023.  Given the volume and weight of traffic on Gillotti during construction, a full repaving now would be a waste of resources.  This milling and overlaying process, which will start soon, will provide interim relief of a higher quality than filling in potholes.

Public Works’ highest priority this year is paving Bear Mountain Road and working with Danbury on the Bear Mountain Bridge.  This work has been put off for several years but will be addressed this season, after working through schedules with Danbury.  Other roads will be addressed based on timing and amount of money left in the budget.  With inflation, the cost of paving materials is higher than it was last year.

Again, thank you to everyone who voted on Saturday.  The town is better because of your participation.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, May 12, 2022, PAGE 2

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SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

Annual Town Budget Vote

The Annual Town Budget vote will be held this Saturday, May 14 from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. All voting will be held at New Fairfield Middle School located at 56 Gillotti Road.

All registered voters in the Town of New Fairfield are eligible to vote at referendum.  You are also qualified to vote on the budget if you own property with a value of at least $1,000 on the New Fairfield Grand List as of October 2021.

Absentee Ballots are available for the budget vote for registered voters meeting one of the following criteria:

  1.  active service in the Armed Forces of the United States
  2. absence from the town during all voting hours
  3. sickness
  4. physical disability
  5. religious tenets, which forbid secular activity on the day of the referendum
  6. duties as a referendum official at a polling place other than your own during all of the hours of voting.

The absentee ballot application for referendum is available in the Town Clerk’s office or on our website at www.newfairfield.org  by clicking on the “News” article on the right side of the home page entitled “Annual Budget Referendum.”

Lock your Cars!

Unfortunately, we are experiencing an uptick in car break-ins as the weather gets warmer.  The police remind all residents to lock your car doors and remove all purses, wallets, valuables and key fobs from your vehicle.  They also ask that if you notice that multiple motion sensor activated lights are turning on in your neighborhood in a short period of time, please call 911.  We know that the individuals committing these crimes will come back to areas where they know that there are unlocked vehicles to steal.  Please lock your doors!

Sip & Stroll

Sip & Stroll is back!  The event will be held on Saturday, May 21 from 4:00 – 8:00 (rain or shine).  On-line registration is open!  There are a limited number of glasses- so purchase yours ASAP by visiting our website www.newfairfield.org , and clicking on Municipal Departments and Parks and Recreation.   You must be 21 to participate and bring ID to the check in @ Town Hall where you will receive the map of participating businesses and your sip glass.  Come see all that our small businesses have to offer and enjoy the stroll!

Water Test Day

The New Fairfield Water Pollution Control Authority will be offering drinking water testing on Saturday, May 21 from 8:00 AM to noon at Stop & Shop.  Pick up your kit, return home to collect your water sample and return the sample to the WPCA at Stop & Shop.  The water will be tested for bacteria, hardness, sodium, chloride, nitrates and pH.  Results will be mailed back to you.  A representative from AQUA Environmental Labs will be available to answer any questions you may have.  There is a $50.00 fee per test.

Housatonic Area Regional Transit (HART) SweetHART Bus 

The Board of Selectmen is currently seeking applications to fill a vacancy on the HART Board of Directors.  The Town of New Fairfield contracts with HART to provide door-to-door paratransit service (SweetHART) for Seniors age 60 or older or persons of any age with disabilities.  Representatives of each of the Towns served by the SweetHART Bus comprise the Board of Directors governing the service.  If you are interested in serving on the Board, please send a Letter of Interest to me at pdelmonaco@newfairfield.org.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, May 5, 2022, PAGE 2

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2022/2023 BUDGET

After much deliberation and public input, the Board of Finance approved the FY 2022/2023 budget on April 30.  The budget totals $55,239,449, representing a mill rate increase of 3.11% over last year.  Increases in the budget were driven by contractual salary increases, increased utility costs, a substantial increase for road paving, non-discretionary increases in Special Education costs and costs associated with pandemic recovery.  The greatest increase in the proposed budget is the increase in debt service on the new schools, which was predicted as this is the peak year of bonding for the projects.  The budget includes Town and School operating costs and capital expenditures, debt service for the new schools, non-tax revenue and medical insurance costs.  Some components of the budget contribute to an increase in the mill rate, and some lessen the impact of the increases.   Several things worked in our favor this year to keep the mill rate increase as low as possible, including an increase in the taxable grand list, slightly higher non-tax revenue projections and the application of bond premiums to reduce the debt service.

The Town’s taxable grand list increased by 2.7% last year, mostly attributed to the increased value of motor vehicles and new home construction.  When the grand list increases, there are more dollars per mill, resulting in a lower mill rate.  The Board of Finance also chose to accelerate the application of bond premiums to reduce the impact of the increase in debt service for the new schools.  Contrary to information that has been posted elsewhere, bond premiums are not borrowed funds.  Premiums are the result of coupons generated at the time of bond issuance. The Town can use those premiums to pay down the debt over time, either in equal installments over the life of the bonds, or in any other installment as they choose. Because this year is the peak year of bonding and the year with the steepest increase in debt service, the BOF chose to apply more bond premium to the debt service this year to reduce the impact on the mill rate. To prevent a budgetary hole, the BOF will continue to apply a decreasing amount of premium to the debt service line to mitigate an impact to future mill rate increases.

I would also like to point out that it is dangerous to compare mill rate increases in other towns to the mill rate increase in New Fairfield.  Each town is unique, and towns including Danbury, Ridgefield, New Milford, Bethel and Brookfield that have substantially larger taxable grand lists and more growth in residential and commercial development than New Fairfield will have lower mill rate increases for similar expenditure increases.  Further, each town employs different tools to reduce the impact of budgetary increases.  For example, Ridgefield used a contribution from their general fund this year to reduce the mill rate increase, a practice that is not allowed by our BOF.  New Milford used proceeds from a legal settlement to offset some of their expenses which lowered their mill rate increase.  As explained above, there are many components to municipal budgets, each with an impact on the final mill rate increase.

I encourage you to vote in support of the 2022/2023 budget.  Recent increases in the cost of fuel, contracted services and special education costs have already negatively impacted the budget that has been approved by the Board of Finance.  Further cuts to either budget will result in further reductions in programs and services provided by both the Town and the schools.  Please keep in mind that this is the peak year of school project bonding, and that the increases in debt service and the corresponding tax increase will decline from this point forward.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, April 28, 2022, PAGE 2

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COMMUNITY CENTER

Many residents have asked me to consider a Community Center in New Fairfield.  I am not opposed to the idea of a Community Center, but I do believe that several important questions that need to be answered before any decisions are made.  With that in mind, I have proposed setting aside $25,000 of American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds for a feasibility study to explore the possibility of a Community Center.  At the last ARPA working group meeting, I suggested a study that would bring together the public and other stakeholders to answer questions such as what would residents like to see in a Community Center?  If you ask five different people that question, you will get five different answers ranging from a space with meeting rooms to a facility with a gym, outdoor pool and playing fields and everything in between.  Each one of those concepts requires a different amount and type of space.  For example, how much property do we need?  How large a building and associated septic system is necessary?  Does the Town own a suitable piece of property to meet these needs?  How will the facility be staffed and maintained?  After developing a concept, a cost estimate will be developed using the input from stakeholders and then, a decision can be made on how to move forward.  The question will eventually come down to how to pay for such a facility and is there widespread support amongst taxpayers to foot the bill for another multi-million dollar facility on the heels of two new schools.  It is also worth noting that the school construction project provides that the existing High School gym will remain intact for public use, and the pool locker rooms will be renovated to allow for public use of the existing pool.

Many have asked why we can’t convert the existing Consolidated School to a Community Center as other Towns in the area have done with old school buildings.  The simple answer is that the existing building doesn’t have “good bones.”  The original building was constructed in 1941, and was added on to over time, with the most recent addition completed in 2000.  Prior to the decision to build new schools, Consolidated and the High School were evaluated by qualified architects and engineers from the BOE’s architectural firm, QA&M.  Their findings pertaining to the Consolidated School building included structural issues including a failing foundation on the northern end of the building, a leaking roof and windows, lack of insulation, aging and end of life HVAC systems, cracks between the additions to the building, elevated ground water levels causing intermittent flooding in the basement affecting the electrical switches, hazardous materials in the building materials including asbestos, lead and PCBs and compliance issues with the latest building, fire, ADA and life safety codes.  In the unlikely case that a part of the building was found to be salvageable for a new use, all of these issues would need to be resolved at significant cost to the taxpayers.  This includes the demolition of the unsalvageable parts of the building which would no longer be eligible for state reimbursement.  This approach is unlikely to provide a cost-effective result, or a Community Center designed for the needs of the Community.

Annual Town Meeting

The annual town meeting will be held at 6:30pm on May 3, 2022, in the Senior Center for the purpose of setting the date for a machine vote on the FY 2022/23 budget.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, April 28, 2022, PAGE 3

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So, now it’s up to you, New Fairfielders, to determine the budget for our schools and municipal services for Fiscal Year 2022-23, which starts on July 1.  A budget referendum with machine vote will be scheduled at a special Town Meeting on May 3rd, with a likely date of Saturday, May 14th.

The budget process this year was unlike any I’ve seen, with Finance Committee meetings ending with a 3-3 tie vote for several weeks in a row.  Meetings ran very long, often past 10PM, with one ending after midnight, as new Finance Board members wrangled with incumbent members on the size of the budget increase to put before voters.  Unlike the past several years, discussions were not always civil and in one instance featured references that several members of the public found objectionable.

Besides the length of the meetings, the other unusual feature of the meetings was the sizable and vocal participation of New Fairfield residents voicing their opposition to cuts to the budgets the Boards of Selectmen and Education presented to the Board of Finance in early March.  In past years, the Board of Finance has begged for public participation and guidance – and gotten very little of either.  This year, it was not unusual to have over 100 residents on the zoom meeting, with all lining up to tell the new Board of Finance members that they should send the budgets to residents for decision, rather than making what they viewed as harmful cuts to the schools and town budgets.  In a display of endurance and passion, there were still over 100 people on the zoom meeting on April 13 that went past midnight speaking against cutting the budgets.

What I heard at those meetings is overwhelming support for the critical role our schools have played in our journey to return to normal after COVID – and opposition to budget cuts that might jeopardize those programs necessary to move forward.  I heard support for Town programs to maintain funding for the fire and police departments as well as infrastructure programs.  It troubles me that most of the new Board members were willing to ignore what they were hearing from so many residents and to try to block forward movement on the budget for several weeks.

A compromise was finally found at the April 20th meeting, which kept the education and municipal budgets intact, but found a way to lower the percent increase to taxpayers by making use of more bond premiums from the school construction debt process and increasing the estimated revenue the Town will take in next fiscal year.  These are both low risk approaches that should have had the support of all Board members, in my opinion.  Two new members of the Board continued, however, to oppose a solution to move things forward.

Voters will vote on a proposed municipal budget of $14,853,330 and a proposed school budget of $48,330,447.  Included in the overall budget proposal are payments we are making on the bonds for construction of two new schools, health insurance costs for municipal and school employees, and ongoing funding for town infrastructure, such as road repair.  The proposed budget preserves the budget increases requested by the Boards of Education and Selectmen, which the overwhelming majority of those commenting supported.  The proposal does not address the net additional $285,000 of unanticipated special education costs the Board of Education asked to be considered at a special BoE April 20th meeting.  These new unanticipated costs make full funding of the originally requested Board of Education budget even more critical.

The bottom line is that, if approved, voters will see a 3.11 percent increase year-over-year in the property taxes paid to support the Town and schools.  This is slightly higher than last year’s increase (2.98 percent), but consistent with the history of budget increases in New Fairfield.  It is well under cost-of-living increase of approximately 6 percent, which impacts the Town and Schools as much as residents.  Given everything we’ve been through and the fact that this includes payments for building two new schools, this is a reasonable proposal and deserves support.  For a household with a current property tax bill of $7000, this will result in an increased annual tax bill of approximately $217.85, or $18.15 a month.  The school and municipal budget requests as submitted can be viewed at:

https://www.newfairfield.org/home/showpublisheddocument/14784/637824960606230000.

The budget approved by the Board of Finance that will go to the voters can be viewed at:

https://www.newfairfield.org/home/showpublisheddocument/15121/637868217434062482.

As they say, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  Turnout at budget referenda is often low.  This year, especially, that needs to change.  I believe the overwhelming support for the proposed budgets heard in the weekly meetings at the Board of Finance is clear.   It is crucial that those many voices – as well of the voices of all those who support our Town and Schools — are heard once again in support of the budget proposals in next month’s referendum.  As indicated above, the date for the referendum is likely to be Saturday, May 14.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, April 21, 2022, PAGE 2

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EARTH DAY IS APRIL 22

Earth Day allows us a day each year to reflect and remember the significance of the health of the planet and what we can all do to help.  In observation of Earth Day, the Town encourages residents to participate in Community Clean Up Day on Saturday, April 23 by picking up trash along the roadside in your neighborhood.  You may stop by the Selectman’s office for a coupon for disposal of one large bag of trash at the Drop Off Center at no charge.   Cleaning up our roadsides not only keeps New Fairfield beautiful, but reducing waste and plastic pollution improves habitats, and prevents harm to wildlife and humans.

In the 1960’s, Americans were becoming aware of the impact of pollution on the environment.  Rachel Carson published her well known book, Silent Spring, in 1962, and later in that decade, oil covered debris in the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing further attention to the consequences of pollution in our water, air and soil.  In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson introduced the concept of Earth Day to educate people around the world about protecting our planet.

With the help of volunteers and staff, the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. On that day, an estimated 20 million people participated in rallies across the country. Rallies were held in most major American cities, including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. The first Earth Day was effective at raising awareness about environmental issues and transforming public attitudes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Public opinion polls indicate that a permanent change in national priorities followed Earth Day 1970. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2,500 percent increase over 1969.”

Increased awareness of environmental issues led to significant legislation in the 1970s, including the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In December 1970, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency, which was tasked with protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment—air, water and land.

Since 1970, Earth Day has grown in popularity, becoming globally recognized in 1990.  According to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities, over 200 million people in 174 nations participate in Earth Day events annually. This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet” and features five primary programs: The Great Global Cleanup, Sustainable Fashion, Climate and Environmental Literacy, The Canopy Project, Food and Environment, and the Global Earth Challenge.  For more information, visit www.earthday.org

Community Clean Up Day


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 31, 2022, PAGE 3

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New Fairfield voters will have an important opportunity in May to cast their votes on the proposed budget to fund our schools and town services.

The process of determining the FY22/23 budget is moving forward in weekly meetings of the Board of Finance, which has the authority to make the final determination of what is put before taxpayers.  In the past four years, the Boards of Education, Selectmen, and Finance have worked well together to keep property taxes low while still providing the funding necessary to preserve the high quality of education, first responder support, infrastructure, and social services we want – and too often take for granted.

This year is a different story.  The politics have changed on the Board of Finance, with many new members who have never before been through this complicated process.  COVID has left its mark on our schools and increased the need for remedial services for children who fell behind in educational attainment.  Municipal needs for road paving and infrastructure repair have continued to grow.  Inflation is increasing energy prices for running our schools and town buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure.  And we are hitting the year when bonding costs for two new schools are at their peak.

The result has been long, contentious sessions of the Board of Finance, with members struggling to come to terms with the legitimate, increased funding requests required to deal with the outfall from COVID and inflation.  Finding the balance, given this year’s difficult circumstances, is tougher given the lack of experience of the new Board of Finance members and their focus on cutting taxes.

Both the Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen put together lean budgets, which were passed unanimously by their respective Boards.  It is interesting to note that the Board of Education is chaired by a Republican and has a Republican majority, with all members supporting the need for increased funding to address lingering achievement problems from COVID.  Additionally, both the BoE and the BoS are taking advantage of state and federal COVID funding to address projects and programs that qualify, thus removing costs from the normal budget process. There is no fat in either budget, in my opinion.  Cuts to the funding requests will result in staff cuts or program/service reductions.

Once the town and school requests are added together with bonding costs (minus the use of premiums), the proposed property tax increase at this stage of discussions would be about 3.68%.  This is not a final number, since more information on health insurance costs and expected revenue needs to be factored in.  And the Board of Finance may choose to override the opinion of the BoS or BoE and cut more funding.

A property tax increase of 3.68% is well within the range approved by voters over the last sixteen years, as illustrated in the table below.  It is also well below the Cost of Living increase this year of 5.9%, which seniors saw in increased Social Security payments.  Many area towns are also discussing property tax increases in this range, as they all are experiencing the same challenges we are facing:  the need for additional educational resources to address damage from COVID, increased costs of special education programs, and climbing costs due to inflation.  Since this increase includes bonding costs for two new schools (which no other area town is experiencing this year), a 3.68% increase is, in my opinion, reasonable and should be sent to the voters for their opinion.  Given the circumstances, it is a testament to the hard work done by all three Boards to hold other expenses down and find alternative means of funding necessary projects and programs.

Mill Rate Tax Rate and changes since 2005 v3

The Board of Finance appears focused on cutting the budget for the Board of Education.  I believe that significant cuts would jeopardize the path to recovery from the educational losses from COVID and call into question our ability as a town to meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.  Significant cuts to the Board of Selectmen budget could result in reductions to infrastructure repair, including road paving, an action taken by the Town to reduce costs years in a row.

The issue is now in the hands of the Board of Finance – and its newest members.  By State statute, the BoF has six members, who appear evenly split between those who want to present the budget requested by the BoS and BoE to voters with minimal adjustments and those who want to make larger cuts.  Discussion has, unfortunately, included misinformation and lack of civility — very different from past years.  I am hoping for better in the next few weeks.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 24, 2022, PAGE 2

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BUDGET UPDATE

On Saturday, March 5, the Boards of Selectmen and Education presented the FY 2022-2023 operating and capital budgets for the Town and Schools to the Board of Finance.  The proposed Town budget increased by 3.15%, or $404,907 year to year, and the proposed BOE budget increased by 3.52%, or$1,460,438, year to year.  In total, these increases represent a 3.86% increase in the municipal operating budget over last year.  Increases in both budgets were driven by contractual salary increases and increased utility costs.  The BOS budget also included a substantial increase for road paving, and the BOE budget included increases resulting from Special Education costs and costs associated with pandemic recovery.

The operating and capital budgets comprise about 80% of total budget expenditures with the remaining 20% made up by medical insurance and debt service.  Non-taxpayer revenue, adjustments to property taxes and the change in the taxable grand list also influence the annual change in the mill rate.  SOME COMPONENTS OF THE BUDGET CONTRIBUTE TO AN INCREASE IN THE MILL RATE, AND SOME LESSON THE IMPACT OF THE INCREASES.  After accounting for the increase in debt service for the two new schools, a 2.7% increase in the taxable grand list, and a 2.9% increase in non-tax revenues, the projected increase in the mill rate is 4.8%.  However, the BOF has not yet made adjustments to the proposed budget.  For example, the Board may choose to reduce the operating budgets, or to reduce the contribution to debt service by applying bond premiums in FY 22/23.   Further, final numbers for contributions to the medical fund and state revenue are not yet available.  Bottom line is – IT IS TOO EARLY IN THE PROCESS TO DETERMINE HOW ALL OF THE COMPONENTS OF THE BUDGET WILL COME TOGETHER TO AFFECT THE MILL RATE.

At last week’s BOF meeting, a member incorrectly referred to an expected 11% increase in taxes.  The calculations used to arrive at that number were inaccurate.   As mentioned above, the projected increase in the mill rate at this point is 4.8%.  The BOF meets every Wednesday evening in March at 7:30 to discuss and “mark-up” the budget.    ZOOM links for the meetings can be found on the home page of the Town website, www.newfairfield.org.   Please join the meetings, ask questions, and provide input to our Board members.  The municipal budget is YOUR budget – please participate!

HOMETOWN MILITARY HERO BANNERS

We are currently taking orders for Military Hometown Hero Banners to honor and recognize hometown Veterans and active-duty members of the United States Armed Forces. If you are interested in purchasing a Hero Banner to be displayed in the center of Town annually from Memorial Day through Veterans Day, please submit an application before April 29.  After that date, requests will be accepted on a year-round basis and banners will be printed when the required minimum quantity is reached.

Banners will display the official military photo of the service person, as well as their name and branch of the United States Armed Forces. We are asking sponsors to contribute $40 toward the cost of each banner. To qualify for the Military Banner Program, the honoree must be a Veteran or currently serving as an active-duty member of the United States Armed Forces, and he or she must currently reside in New Fairfield or have an immediate family member residing in New Fairfield (parent, spouse, sibling, son or daughter).

To order a banner, please print and complete the form found here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oA_DVthmCmJ39V4CywDkqovP9ItN-jYg/view?usp=sharing

Digital photos, if available, provide the highest quality banner.  You may e-mail your photo to:

jgreen@newfairfield.org

Please mail your completed form and a $40 check made payable to “Town of New Fairfield “ to:

Town of New Fairfield

Selectman’s Office

4 Brush Hill Road

New Fairfield, CT 06812


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – BUS LOT PROJECT

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 17, 2022, PAGE 2

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BUS LOT PROJECT

The proposed location for the school bus parking lot has been the subject of quite a bit of discussion lately.  I think it is important to summarize the steps that the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) has taken to evaluate alternative locations for the lot.  When the school construction projects were approved by voters in October 2019, the location of the bus lot was proposed in the same location as it is today, making it a part of the CELA project.  The funds available for CELA are capped at the amount approved at referendum, $29 million.  If one element of the project costs more than what was budgeted, the difference must come from another part of the project.  There are no additional funds available.

School Bus Operations

Currently, there are 24 school buses and 9 vans utilized by the district.  In 2019, a majority of the school bus fleet was replaced, completing a multi-year upgrade to all new buses. At this time, all school buses are clean burning diesel and comply with Tier 4 emissions standards. Engines are equipped with quiet exhaust manifolds and SCR/DEF technology, which also produces a low decibel exhaust tone. No maintenance or fueling occurs on the school buses at the school bus lot.  Once per year, a contractor is hired to wash the buses in the lot.  All school buses fuel at the town fueling station at the Company A Firehouse.

We are fortunate to have a PBC comprised of seasoned, licensed professionals who are experts in their respective fields.  The Committee is comprised of 5 Professional Engineers and a Senior Construction Manager who have decades of experience designing, managing, and constructing large building projects.  In light of public concern, I supported the effort of the PBC to investigate alternative sites for the bus lot.  In collaboration with the project design team, the Committee evaluated seven alternative sites, as outlined below.  Based on their professional expertise, the Committee concluded that five of the seven alternatives considered are not feasible locations for the bus lot, and authorized design and cost estimates to explore the two remaining locations.

School Bus Parking Lot Location

As part of the design process, various locations for the school bus lot were explored both within New Fairfield and outside of Town.  The sites explored that were not considered for further design or estimating are described below:

1. Drop Off Center

  Advantages:  Town owned property.

  Disadvantages:

  • Landfill restricts usable area.
  • Requires extensive improvement to access driveway.
  • Bigelow Road cannot support higher volumes of bus traffic.
  • Site is not eligible for State reimbursement.

2. MHHS Property behind CoA Firehouse

Advantages:  Town owned property, located close to current bus lot.

Disadvantages: 

  • Steep slopes would require significant earth work to reach an acceptable grade for bus traffic.
  • Increases traffic on new MHHS/CELA site.
  • Requires re-routing busses through surrounding neighborhoods to reduce congestion on Gillotti Road when busses return to lot after student drop off.
  • Added cost of approximately $500,000 in design and construction costs.

3. HS Practice Fields adjacent to West Exit:

Advantages:  Town owned property

Disadvantages:

  • Loss of practice fields for youth sports.
  • Located within wetlands upland review area.
  • Increased bus traffic in/out of HS property.

 

4. Privately Owned lot on Dunham Drive

Advantages:   Previously approved by Zoning Commission for vehicle storage.

Disadvantages:

  • The bus company rejected the site because the steep grade of entry driveway is unsafe for bus traffic.
  • The site requires further development to accommodate bus parking.
  • Additional operating cost (lease) added to Town /BOE budget.
  • Not eligible for State grant reimbursement.

5. Possible out of town location

Advantages:  Does not require construction of a bus lot.

Disadvantages:

  • Loss of $30,000 in annual property tax revenue.
  • Additional operating cost (lease) added to Town /BOE budget.
  • Bus Company does not have additional space in neighboring bus depots.

The PBC, committed to selecting an option which was in the best interest of all residents, and which did not require the reduction of educational programing or educational space, authorized $26,500 in additional design and estimating fees to fully explore the two options described below.

6. Consolidated Site, Busses located from N-S (where existing school is located)

Advantages: Current town owned property.  State reimbursement 38.22%

Disadvantages:

  • Added cost of $37,750 in design costs and $653,740 in construction costs.
  • Added costs require reduction in educational programming.

7. High School adjacent to Playground and Dog Park

Advantages:  Current Town owned property

Disadvantages:

  • Increases bus traffic in high use area of athletic activity, playground, and dog park.
  • Added cost of $54,500 in design costs and $413,165 in construction costs.
  • State grant reimbursement equal to 19.11% of eligible costs.
  • Added costs require reduction in educational programming.

Each of the locations described above presented financial, logistical, or operational challenges that led to the conclusion that the most viable location for the school bus lot is on the site of the existing Consolidated School.  The Committee concluded that the most viable location for the school bus lot is on the northwest corner of the property, where the loading dock is currently located.  The drawing below illustrates the relative location of the bus lot.  In response to concerns from the public, the PBC is considering a driveway exiting on Gillotti Road.

Bus Lot Project 220317


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 10, 2022, PAGE 2

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Selectman’s Update

MONTHLY NEWSLETTER

I am very pleased to announce the launch of a monthly e-Newsletter highlighting important news, activities and events in New Fairfield.  I am always looking for new ways to communicate information to New Fairfield residents, and I hope that you find this addition helpful.  The link to the Newsletter can be found on the Town website, www.newfairfield.org in the upper right hand corner of the homepage.  On your mobile device, click on the menu icon in the upper left hand corner of the homepage to find the “Monthly Newsletter” link.  There is an option to subscribe to the Newsletter via e-mail.  The March issue includes updates on school construction, ARPA funding, the municipal budget, introductions to new employees and highlights of some activities going on in Town during the month.

TREE TRIMING

Eversource will be trimming trees this month in the Ball Pond area and near the Sherman border on Route 37.  Trees will be trimmed along the following roads: Hardscrabble, Laurel Lane, Lost Acre Terrace, Big Trail, Amber Dr, Twin Ponds Ct, Jewel Lane, Warwick Rd., Satterlee, Hudson, Roseton, Hewlett, Hammond, Ilion, Ansonia, Fulton, Calverton, Darien, Ball Ave, Fairfield Dr, Milltown Rd, Ball Pond Rd East, Gillotti Road (to Titicus Mnt. Rd), Lake Dr, Jessie St and Frisbie St, Titicus Mtn. Rd.  You can learn more about Eversource Vegetation Management on their website, www.Eversource.com.

POOTATUCK FOREST

On a related note, Connecticut DEEP will begin cleaning up damaged and fallen trees in the Pootatck State Forest within the next few weeks.  After numerous delays due to wet ground, the logger’s schedule, and markets for wood, they are planning to salvage some of the damaged timber in the Forest in the vicinity of 78 Short Woods Road.  In addition, some standing trees will be removed to provide access for the machinery.  The salvaged logs will be used for lumber, railroad ties, pallets, and firewood.

Although the State has frontage on the town road, the access will be from the private driveway of 78 Short Woods Road, with permission from the owner.  Depending on weather, ground conditions, and the logger’s schedule, the work should start sometime in the next few weeks and last for a few months.

Link to the New Fairfield Newsletter – https://www.newfairfield.org/our-town/new-fairfield-newsletter

Link to Subscribe to the Newsletter – https://newfairfield.us14.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2eed0d4c70a3c9871c6844aef&id=e0e13f3c77 


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SELECTMAN’S UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 3, 2022, PAGE 2

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Selectman’s Update

FISH

I am very grateful to report that a group of dedicated volunteers has established a New Fairfield chapter of FISH (Friends in Service Here) to provide rides to medical and dental appointments in the New Fairfield area when family, friends or the HART bus are unavailable to help those in need.  Rides are also provided to locations within New Fairfield borders such as the Library, Senior Center, grocery stores and food bank.  The service is provided free of charge Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, weather permitting.

To schedule a ride, residents should call (203) 312-5627 and leave a message.  A FISH scheduler will then contact a volunteer driver who will return your call and work out the details of your trip.  If you have a home health aide, the aide must accompany you on the ride.  All clients must be able to get in and out of the vehicle without assistance, and FISH cannot transport individuals in wheelchairs.

If you are interested in volunteering with FISH, please call (203) 312-5627 or e-mail your name and phone number to FISHofnf@gmail.com  Volunteers must be at least 25 years old, have a valid driver’s license and complete a background check.  Volunteers can set their schedules according to their availability on a month-to-month basis with no long-term commitment.  If you are unable to volunteer but would like to offer financial support to the organization, please send your donation to FISH of NF, 6 Bayview Terrace, New Fairfield, CT  06812.

COVID PCR Testing

As a convenience to our residents, the New Fairfield Health Department has arranged for PCR testing in New Fairfield. Testing is by appointment only, Monday – Friday at Company A Firehouse (302 Ball Pond Road) at no cost to the Town or patient.  Appointments should be scheduled at Curative.com.  If you do not have access to a computer, you may contact the Selectman’s Office at 203-312-5640 for assistance making an appointment.

Board and Commission Vacancies

There are currently vacancies on the New Fairfield Prevention Council and Zoning Board of Appeals.  The NFPC Mission Statement describes the organization as follows: “The New Fairfield Prevention Council promotes positive, safe, and healthy lifestyles. We foster dialogue, raise awareness, and educate the community on substance use and mental health. We engage with youth, families, and community through creative, innovative programs to build safe and healthy neighborhoods.”  More information about the work of the NFPC can be found on the Town website www.newfairfield.org under the “Community” tab.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is chartered by state statute and consists of five regular members and three alternates. The ZBA’s primary mission is to consider and, when justified, grant relief from zoning regulations to properties burdened by a hardship. The Board also hears appeals of orders issued by the Zoning Enforcement Officer and certain decisions of the Zoning Commission.  More information about ZBA can be found on the Town website under the “Our Town” tab.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, March 3, 2022, PAGE 3

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Last week the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved two documents that set up the framework for a community conversation and decisions on housing opportunities in New Fairfield.  As outlined in more detail below, we approved a charter for establishing a Housing Opportunities Committee and also approved a draft Affordable Housing plan that will meet state requirements to submit such plan by June of this year.

Affordable housing is a controversial topic in many towns, including New Fairfield.  When I retired in 2015 and became a reporter for the Citizen News, a proposed affordable housing development off Rita Drive was one of the first town controversies I covered.  The proposal died, in part due to community opposition.  The issue re-emerged a few years ago when the Commission on Aging issued a report documenting the need and demand for affordable housing for Seniors.

And now the issue is back, front and center, with last summer’s new State law that requires all towns to submit an Affordable Housing Plan by June.  This requirement is a softer compromise from original drafts of the bill that contained stronger state mandates on affordable housing.

At the same time, it’s clear to me that the demand for more affordable housing has increased.  I personally know seniors who want to stay in New Fairfield but want to downsize – but can’t afford what’s currently available here.  I know a number of young people who have graduated and are living with their parents.  I have heard of volunteer firefighters who have moved from New Fairfield because they can’t afford to live here.

The State requirement is that 10 percent of our housing stock should be affordable.  Our stock of affordable housing is 1.29%.  We are not alone.  Many other towns similarly have a ways to go to meet State requirements.  Meeting the State requirement will take time and won’t be easy.  We have to make a good faith effort to move our stock of affordable housing higher.

There have been persistent suggestions on social media that we intend to bring high-rise public housing to New Fairfield and that we are proposing to build a sewer to support high-rise public housing.  None of that is true.  There are a number of options to increase affordable housing that have nothing to do with high-rise public housing and all discussions of the sewer have focused on current zoning restrictions.

With this in mind, the Board of Selectmen approved:

  1. A charter for establishing a Housing Opportunities Committee, composed of 5-7 residents. The Committee will be bipartisan and represent a cross-section of interests.  This mandate tells the Committee what it should do, including holding public forums on the issue, communicating information on housing, and making recommendations to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Commission, and the BoS on concrete steps we should take to increase the variety in our housing stock.  The meetings of the Committee will be public.  I anticipate the Board of Selectmen will make appointments to this Committee within the month.
  2. A draft Affordable Housing Plan to be submitted, as required by State law, to the State in June.  We are working with the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCoG), which has provided a template to all its members and pulled out valuable information on our demographics and housing.  They’ve also included commitments the Town made in our current (2014) Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) on affordable housing – none of which we’ve met.  We added language to the template to state that our Affordable Housing Plan is to establish the Housing Opportunities Committee as a starting point.

The Board of Selectmen approved these two documents for the following reasons:  First, it’s the right thing to do.  The need is there.  It’s been documented.  We need to get started on meeting that need.

Second, this approach allows us to control our destiny.  The State General Assembly came very close to passing broad state mandates for affordable housing last year.  None of us likes state mandates.  We need to find the creative solutions to this issue that fit New Fairfield.  The Committee we established is the best way to do that.  We approved this approach unanimously and with the support of Representative Pat Callahan.  I look forward to launch of the Committee and this important work.

Links for the following documents are below:


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – BUDGET PRESENTATION TO BOF SATURDAY, MARCH 5

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, February 24, 2022, PAGE 2

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Budget Presentation to BOF Saturday, March 5

On Saturday, March 5, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Board of Education will present the municipal and education budgets for the 2022-2023 fiscal year to the Board of Finance (BOF).   Throughout the month of March, the Board of Finance will hold weekly meetings to discuss, ask questions, make adjustments and ultimately approve a budget to send to the taxpayers for approval.  The BOS budget is also referred to as the “Town” budget – the budget that specifies how revenues will be expended to provide services to residents, and it accounts for approximately 25% of the total Municipal Budget.  As taxpayers, it is critical for us to understand why there is an increase in the budget, where tax revenue is being spent, and what services we want our town to provide.  Today’s column focuses on how the BOS developed the Town budget, and will touch on some of the proposed expenditures in the budget.

The BOS budget determines how the town will distribute tax dollars to fund services such as police, fire, emergency response, road repair and paving, maintenance of town buildings and parks, social services, animal control, senior center programs and the public library. The budget also provides funding for intergovernmental services such as HART Transit, household hazardous waste disposal and the Candlewood Lake Authority.  The BOS compiles the budget based upon meetings with each department head.  These knowledgeable employees develop budgets line by line based on prior years’ experience, professional knowledge and upcoming projects.  This year, the BOS held eight public budget workshops to gather this information and discuss the requests.  At the conclusion of the workshops, the department requests increased $957,519 over last year.

Recognizing the pressures on this year’s budget related to increased bonding for the new schools and inflationary increases in the cost of utilities, goods and services, the BOS took steps to make reductions in both the Town operating and capital budgets.   After careful review, the BOS was able to reduce the requested capital increase by $431,607 by funding necessary capital requests with existing funds and deferring less critical projects and purchases to future years.  The capital requests that we were able to fund include active shooter kits for the police department, repairs to the Animal Control building  and Town Hall Annex, a replacement for a 2008 truck for the Health Department and purchase of a replacement  AC unit for Ball Pond firehouse.  We also reduced operating costs by $121,012 by making adjustments in payroll and using existing funds for necessary expenditures requested by Animal Control and the Ball Pond Advisory Committee.

At the end of the process, the BOS voted unanimously to approve a municipal budget totaling $13,265,589, an increase of $404,907 or 3.15% over last year.  The majority of the increase includes:

  • $150,000 in contractual salary increases for Town union employees, and $11,000 in the Registrar of Voters salary budget attributable to state legislative redistricting,
  • $92,000 in increased utility costs, including electricity, fuel oil, gasoline and diesel,
  • $29,000 in Public Works contracted services (Many of our contractors, including plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors and landscapers have kept their contract prices flat for several years, but the increase in the cost of fuel, labor and materials has necessitated increases in their pricing.)
  • $105,000 to restore a portion of the road repair budget cut in previous years necessary to continue repair and maintenance of Town roads.

The BOS budget is just one piece of the Municipal budget.  Other components of the budget include the taxable grand list, medical insurance, debt service, non-taxpayer revenue, adjustments to property taxes and BOE operating and capital expenses.  Some components of the budget contribute to an increase in the mill rate, and some lessen the impact of the increases.

I have recently seen claims of a looming 8.11% increase in taxes on social media.  The 8.11% mentioned in last week’s Town Tribune refers to the increase in the total of BOE operating expenses and costs associated with the bonding for the new schools.  As mentioned above, other components of the budget, including an above average increase in the taxable grand list,  will mitigate this increase.  It is much too early in the process to determine how all of these components will come together to affect the mill rate. 

I have highlighted the elements of the municipal budget to emphasize the importance of your participation in the budget process.  Please plan to attend or watch the Budget presentation beginning at 9:00 AM on Saturday, March 5.  I also encourage you to attend the BOF meetings which will be held every Wednesday evening in March.  ZOOM links for the meetings can be found on the home page of the Town website, www.newfairfield.org.   Ask questions; provide input to our Board members.  The municipal budget is YOUR budget – please participate!


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SEWER STUDY

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, February 17, 2022, PAGE 2

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When Khris and I first ran for office four years ago, we pledged to work toward filling the empty storefronts in our business/commercial district.  We promised to identify the root causes of the high vacancy rate and to work with property owners and Town officials to find solutions.  Soon after taking office, we established the Economic Development Commission comprised of volunteers with diverse professional backgrounds.  The mission of the EDC is “to attract, promote, retain and engage business in the town while keeping in line with the town’s historic character, small town charm, quality of life and environment.”  The Commission has been instrumental in working with business owners, residents and property owners to better understand the business climate in New Fairfield.

One of the concerns shared by commercial property owners is the lack of adequate water supply and sewer infrastructure to attract a variety of businesses to their properties.   For example, prospective bagel shop, brewery and barber shop owners have declined to open businesses in Town due to water and septic limitations.  Roughly 30 years ago, the Town declined the opportunity to connect to the Regional Waste Treatment Facility located in Danbury.   Reliance on septic systems severely restricts both the types of businesses that can operate in Town and the potential growth of our existing small businesses.  Further, most septic systems in the center of Town are close to 30 years old, and located above the largest drinking water aquifer in New Fairfield, presenting a potential environmental concern should the systems fail.

A sewer feasibility study identifying the potential wastewater volume generated by our existing commercial properties and Town buildings and the technical requirements for a sewer system adequate for that flow has been completed using budgeted funds over the past two years. The next step would be to complete the system design, obtain necessary permits and pursue an interlocal agreement with the City of Danbury allowing a connection to the city’s waste treatment plant.  This phase of the project would cost approximately $1.6 million, proposed to be funded through American Rescue Plan funds.

I have attached a map indicating the “sewer shed” for the proposed project determined by the feasibility study.  The priority area for the project is the business commercial district extending from Consolidated School through the center of Town, north to the Senior Center, east to Heritage Plaza and south to Cottontail Road.  The system could be expanded to include the schools, police and fire buildings, the senior housing complexes at Dunham Pond and the Birches and the business/commercial area off of Sawmill Road, all currently served by ageing septic systems.  However, unless the Town can obtain funding for the entire sewer project, it is likely that the project will be completed in phases, beginning with the business/commercial district.

The project has been developed using existing zoning restrictions on properties throughout the center of Town.  I want to be very clear that the project allows only for connecting sewer to the existing affordable housing complexes located at Dunham Pond and The Birches; it has not been sized for additional affordable housing or multi-family housing of any type.  This is misinformation being spread by those opposed to additional affordable housing in the center of Town.

As the saying goes, “timing is everything.”  The American Rescue Plan Act specifically allows for funds to be used on sewer and water infrastructure projects, and I will propose using those funds for the feasibility study described above.  Construction of all phases of the project is estimated to cost approximately $18 million.  The Town would seek funding for construction through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and other state and funding opportunities that may be available to us.  As you know, Congress passed the Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which will provide States and municipalities with funding for projects such as construction of sewer and water infrastructure.  To apply for these funds, we must have a project that is “shovel ready.”  Therefore, using our ARPA funds to move forward with design and permitting is crucial to our ability to secure federal funding for construction of the sewer.

If you have any questions about this project, please check the calendar on the Town website for Special BOS meetings of the ARPA Working Group or call my office at 203-312-5600.  Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 28.


TOWN OF NEW FAIRFIELD NEEDS YOUR HELP!

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, February 10, 2022, PAGE 2

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The Town of New Fairfield depends on volunteers to actively participate in its Boards and Commissions that make important decisions that affect the lives of our residents.  We currently have openings in the following Boards or Commissions:

Zoning Commission – makes decisions on use of real property, both commercial and residential; will be involved in update to zoning regulations.  Usually meets once a month.

Parks and Recreation – makes decisions on recreation and other activities that bring residents together.  Usually meets once a month.

Permanent Building Committee – The PBC is the sole building committee for the town and acts as the agent of the town for all construction related projects upon approval by a town meeting.  Usually meets twice per month.  RA, PE or construction management experience preferred.

If you are interested in volunteering for either of these Boards, please send an email to jgreen@newfairfield.org summarizing why you are interested in the position and what skills you might bring to the Commission.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL – SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, February 10, 2022, PAGE 2

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If you have taken a ride by the schools recently, I’m sure that you have seen the progress that has been made on the new schools since my last update.  At their last meeting, the Permanent Building Committee confirmed that the new Consolidated Early Learning Academy will open on schedule at the start of the 2022/2023 school year.  The roof and exterior of the building are nearing completion, and crews have begun work on the framing, drywall and utilities inside the building.  This week, the Board of Education and the PBC will be meeting to approve furniture and technology for CELA.  The project remains on budget.  The High School project is on schedule to open in the Fall of 2023.  The steel superstructure is currently under construction and the project remains within budget.  I have included the latest renderings of the new schools provided by the Architectural firm, JCJ Architecture.

Consolidated Early Learning Academy renderings by Architect, 2022-0111.

High School renderings by Architect, 2022-0111.

How does the Town pay for the school projects?  The Town issues municipal bonds to pay for the balance of the funds authorized by the voters at referendum.  The cost of bonding is reflected in the “debt service” line in the Town budget.  Therefore, as we continue to issue bonds according to the cash flow analysis for the projects, the debt service line will increase.  Once the entire project is bonded, debt service will level off, and as the bonds mature, debt service will decrease. It is important to note that “debt service” is only one of five lines in the municipal budget.  The other components of the budget include municipal and educational operations, medical and capital/non-recurring costs.

The two school projects will require bonding of approximately $83 million issued in four separate phases. Bonding began in the spring of 2020, followed by the second phase of bonding in April of last year. The remaining phases are estimated to occur in March of this year and in the winter of 2023.  At the start of the projects, the Boards of Selectmen, Education and Finance agreed to keep the operational elements of the BOS and BOE budgets as close to flat as possible, and the Boards have successfully met that challenge in the first two years of bonding.

Debt service related to the first bond of $8 million was $586,480 ($400,000 in principal and $183,480 in interest). The effect of the bonding was a 1.16% increase in debt service in the fiscal year 20/21 budget. The remaining components of the budget decreased by a total 0.17%, therefore, the resulting increase in property taxes in 20/21 was 0.99%.  In April of 2021, the Town bonded $25 million at an interest rate of 1.64%, much lower than the 3.25% rate projected at the time of the referendum.  This resulted in a 2.82% increase in debt service ($1,020,000 in principal and $409,996 in interest).  The remaining elements of the budget increased by 0.17%, resulting in a total increase in property taxes of 2.98%.

It is anticipated that the remaining bond issuances will be $35 million this year and approximately $12 million in fiscal year 23/24.  We anticipate that the total effect of the two school projects will be at or below the 9.62% increase in property taxes publicized prior to the referendum.

Many thanks to the Permanent Building Committee for the countless hours they have spent to date managing the Schools project.  We are fortunate to have a Committee comprised of experienced professionals, including a Construction Project Manager and three Professional Engineers.  The members are all town residents who volunteer their time to ensure proper review and execution of the school projects.


A VIEW FROM TOWN HALL (The American Rescue Plan)

By Pat Del Monaco, First Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Pat 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, February 3, 2022, PAGE 2

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I’m sure that many of you have heard about the American Rescue Plan Act, or “ARPA”.  The Act has provided municipalities and school districts in Connecticut with $2.55 billion of funding for specific purposes.  In my column, I will discuss the provisions for municipalities, the work that we have been doing in New Fairfield and next steps.

ARPA funds may be used as follows:

1) to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, or to aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel or hospitality,

2) to respond to essential workers performing essential work during the public health emergency by providing premium pay to essential workers,

3) for the provision of government services, and

to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The funds may not be used to fund pension funds, to compensate for lost tax revenue, or to replenish “rainy day” funds.  The intent of ARPA is to look forward and not backward – in other words, funding should be used for new projects, not to reimburse projects already funded through other sources.  Municipalities are urged to identify pre-pandemic inhibitors to growth when considering eligible projects, and to ensure that investments will result in lasting benefits.

New Fairfield will receive approximately $4.1 million in ARPA funds over two years.  When ARPA funding was announced in July of last year, the Board of Selectmen convened a working group comprised of Town employees and officials with expertise consistent with the goals of ARPA.  This group includes the Town Engineer (infrastructure), the Health Director (public health response), Economic Development Commission Chair (negative economic impacts and aid to small business) Social Services Director (aid to households), and the Emergency Management Director, Police Sergeant, and Fire Chief (public safety) to advise us on town needs in their respective areas consistent with the provisions of ARPA.  The working group reports to the BOS periodically on potential projects that may be funded with ARPA funds.  The meetings are Special Board of Selectmen meetings that are noticed and open to the public.  Meeting dates are posted on the town website, www.newfairfield.org.  To date, the working group has presented information to the BOS on the following projects:

Business/Commercial Sewer Study and Design

Through discussions with commercial realtors and property owners and the efforts of the Economic Development Commission, the lack of sewer and water infrastructure in the center of Town has been identified as a primary obstacle to filling vacancies in our business/commercial district.  Many years ago, the Town declined the opportunity to connect to the Regional Waste Treatment Facility located in Danbury, and the Town Engineer has proposed seeking that connection now to support the future economic and environmental health of our Town.  Reliance on septic systems severely restricts both the types of businesses that can operate in Town and the potential growth of our existing small businesses.  The project could be expanded to include New Fairfield schools, also served by aging septic systems.  Further, most septic systems in the center of Town are close to 30 years old, and located above the largest drinking water aquifer in New Fairfield, presenting a potential environmental concern should the systems fail.  A sewer study identifying potential sewer flow to Danbury has been completed using budgeted funds. ARPA funds could be used to fund the design and permitting of the system necessary to make the project “shovel ready,” removing this item from our Town budget.  Such status is required before the Town can apply for state or federal funding to complete the project.  ARPA expressly allows for investment in sewer and water.

Ball Pond Watershed Stormwater Drainage

Over several decades, stormwater drainage has caused severe erosion and flooding in the neighborhoods located between Ball Pond and Putnam Lake, impacting numerous homeowners in the area.  The Town Engineer is proposing the study and design of stormwater mitigation measures to control the flow of stormwater in the area.  ARPA expressly allows for investment in sewer and water, including stormwater management.

Public Safety Improvements

The Emergency Management Director, Police Sergeant and Fire Chief have made recommendations on improvements to the Police building, Company A firehouse and Communications infrastructure.  ARPA expressly allows provisions for funding police, fire and other public safety services.

Premium Pay for Public Health and Safety Employees

The working group has discussed premium pay for public health and safety employees and volunteer firefighters.  ARPA expressly allows premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the pandemic.

Emergency Housing Fund

After reviewing the services currently available to New Fairfield residents and additional needs in the community, the Social Services Director has recommended the creation of an Emergency Housing Fund.  The fund would be used to assist residents who may be on the verge of homelessness.  ARPA expressly provides for emergency housing assistance.

Beach House Reconstruction

The Town, through the Parks and Recreation Commission and Permanent Building Committee, has long recognized the need to reconstruct the Beach House at the Town Park.  To date, the Town has been unable to fund the project through the municipal budget or state grant funding.  Preliminary plans for the project exist.  ARPA provides for funding government services, including infrastructure.


A SELECTMAN’S VIEW (The Budget Process)

By Khris Hall, Selectman, Town of New Fairfield22 Khris 3 by 4 about

As published in the Town Tribune, Section 1, January 27, 2022, PAGE 3

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The yearly budget process is underway for both the Board of Selectmen, whose municipal budget comprises roughly 20 percent of the full budget and for the Board of Education, making up the remaining 80 percent.  The Selectmen and the Board of Education will separately submit their proposed budgets for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022-23 to the Board of Finance shortly so that it can begin its detailed review with submission of the final budget proposal to voters in May.

Every budget year is difficult, but this year is especially tough, with the confluence of two factors:  (1) the coming fiscal year is going to see the biggest increase in bonding costs for the lifecycle of the two school construction projects and (2) the town and schools are both experiencing the same inflation challenges in the cost of supplies, vehicles and equipment, and programs that we are all seeing in our everyday lives.  The bonding cost by itself could add approximately 4 percent to the overall budget.

The Selectmen have met seven times in open sessions since January 11th to review budget requests from town departments (police, fire department, public works, library, senior center, etc.) and programs (CLA, HART, hazardous waste disposal, etc.).  We welcomed the attendance of several members of the Board of Finance, including three new members, at these workshops so they could hear firsthand what goes into the municipal budget and why.

Knowing that the upcoming year is going to be difficult, the town’s Finance Department asked each department and program to keep proposed budget increases as close to zero as possible.  While many departments were able to do so, some could not.  Funds for road paving, for example, that were cut from the budget the past two cycles were included; a planned replacement for a plow truck that is now 14 years old and in danger of rusting out was requested; cars for the police department to replace the 2008 Dodge Chargers that are getting more costly and difficult to keep in running order will be difficult to defer; new equipment to keep the volunteer firefighters safe must be considered; repairs to bridges and drainage must be scheduled in order not to fall behind on town infrastructure; cost of living adjustments negotiated with employee unions must be paid.

Some expenses that might have appeared in this year’s proposed municipal budget have been redirected for possible funding under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  In total, we have $4.1 million to use for projects that qualify under federal and state guidelines.  The funding can be used for projects that address economic development and preservation of the health and safety of residents.  By law, the funding cannot be used to lower tax rates, except indirectly by funding projects that may have been part of a capital project.  We have specifically moved a few such projects out of the proposed municipal budget for consideration under ARPA, helping us keep the proposed municipal budget lower. The Board of Selectmen have been considering project proposals in ARPA workshops and will continue that process through the spring.

The Selectmen will use the input from the budget workshops to weigh and balance the requests and make the painful decisions required to arrive at a proposed municipal budget to submit to the Board of Finance.  Our goal is to get below a 1 percent increase for the impact of the municipal budget on the total budget.

The Board of Finance will begin its detailed review of the separate budget proposals from the Boards of Selectmen and Education with a public workshop on Saturday morning, March 5.  Cuts will likely be suggested.  Additionally, the Board of Finance will examine other budget levers it can use to balance out proposed spending increases.  They will determine the estimated revenue available from increases to the value of properties on the Grand List, from town permitting and other activity, from tuition from Sherman students, from state grants to the town and schools, and other sources.  They will review what savings may be possible in the funding of health insurance for town employees.  There will be back and forth among the three Boards to arrive at the balance of expenditures and revenues that will produce the proposed property tax increase that will go to the voters, most likely in May.  The Board of Finance will factor in consideration of what they think the voters will approve at the May referendum in its final recommendation.  Given the unavoidable increase in bonding costs, the proposed increase will likely be higher than the average increases that have been the case over the past decade.

The process is just beginning.  I encourage readers to take advantage of the multiple open forums over the next three months to understand what your municipal tax dollars will be used for and make your views known.



FROM 2021

This is an important year for all of us, with the budget referendum happening June 5th, 2021 (as described below), an upcoming vote later in June 2021 on a proposed noise ordinance, and a local election for town officials (including the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education) later this year.  We will provide you information on these and other events, as well as information on Board and Commission vacancies.

Noise Ordinance Vote

We urge you to vote this coming Sunday, August 29th, at 2:00 PM at the New Fairfield Senior Center to approve a long-awaited Town Noise Ordinance.  The Board of Selectmen has worked long and hard to craft an ordinance that will respond to the hundreds of complaints they have received, both from residents on the lake and those not on the lake.  They sought input from residents, technical specialists, DEEP and compared to other towns nearby.

This ordinance will help protect you from loud, persistent noise while not impacting your day-to-day activities.  Let’s support the Noise Ordinance and get this done.

We anticipate loud opposition.  We not only encourage you to voice your support before the meeting, attend the meeting to vote yes, and encourage others to do the same.  This is an important issue in our town.

VOTE YES for the Noise Ordinance on Sunday, August 29th.

For more information on the noise ordinance see the Noise Ordinance Fact Sheet.


Budget Referendum 21-22

We urge you to vote this coming Saturday (June 5 – 10am to 8pm at Meetinghouse Hill School – or by absentee ballot)) to approve this year’s proposed budget for town and school expenditures.  The Boards of Selectmen, Education, and Finance worked hard to keep the property tax increase to 2.98 percent — as low as possible, given the economic hardships of the past year.

  • Of the 2.98 percent increase, 2.81 percent is the amount the debt repayment for construction of the two new schools, leaving an increase of only 0.17 percent for important school and town programs.
  • It is important to note the funding for school construction will NOT be affected if either budget is defeated. Rather, if either the proposed town or school budgets is not passed, program cuts will have to be made to school staffing and town capital — such as the gym and music teacher positions that were fought for by parents and capital funding for the fire department, the only town capital item that was not cut in this year’s budget process.

More information on the budget see the Budget Fact Sheet.


Stay tuned for more information on other New Fairfield events.

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Paid for by New Fairfield Democratic Town Committee – John McCartney, Treasurer