June Referendum Projected for Town Hall Renovation
NEWINGTON - A Newington Town Hall renovation project that will move the existing recreation center to the Willard Avenue side of Mill Pond is slated to go out to referendum in June, at the latest, provided a series of public hearings and Town Hall staff presentations run on schedule, according to newly-appointed Town Hall Building Committee Chair Clarke Castelle.

       Castelle is hoping to have town department members give their presentations in February so that the committee can hold meetings to solicit public input in April and May, but for now he and other members are focusing on the design of both the soon-to-be renovated Town Hall and the new Mortenson Community Center--an $8.5 to $9.5 million piece in and of itself.

       “We’re hoping to get a lower estimate than that,” Castelle said of the recreation center cost.

       The committee asked the architectural team to reevaluate the costs--mainly pertaining to mechanical, plumbing, and electrical issues--of this portion of the project at its most recent meeting. Only $7.9 million has been budgeted for the new Mortenson Center so far, according to Castelle.

       One of the primary differences between the new recreation center and the existing one will be an additional basketball court.

       “The key to the new community center is two gyms--two basketball courts,” Castelle said. “Even [Parks and Recreation Superintendent] Bruce Till has talked to say if you don’t have two, you’re going to be in trouble,” Castelle said. “That’s by far the most important thing, but there were a lot of things you had to sacrifice.”

       One of the modifications will be the existing Mortenson Center’s elevated jogging track--the new design will run it around the perimeter of the courts instead-Castelle said.

       The courts are also expected to be utilized for volleyball and badminton.

       Another emphasis was the aesthetics of the building, due particularly to its new location on Willow Street between Garfield and Cross Street, Castelle said. The fact that it will overlook Mill Pond prompted plans to touch up its appearance, he said.

       “I want it to be worthy of the site,” Castelle said. “[The Town Hall Building Committee was] concerned with aesthetics because it will be situated in a very beautiful site.”

       The design calls for a heightened entrance way, more windows, and wider hall ways, according to Castelle.

       The existing town hall building is going to see some changes, too. Plans call for the relocation of the Council Chambers meeting room to where the gymnasium currently resides, and the Board of Education to a third floor.

       “With the old gym coming down, we can expand off the space for departments that need more office space,” Castelle said. “There will be more parking and there will be a single entrance off of Garfield Street.”

       Visitors should have easy access to department offices coming in through the new entrance, Castelle said.

       “People won’t be getting lost in the building anymore,” he said. “So it should be a huge improvement.”

       Castelle is hoping to have a final project proposal prepared to present to the Town Council by March. The Building Committee meets again Jan. 13.