Residents Question Council on Town Hall Renovation
NEWINGTON - With the Newington Town Council discussing the proposed town hall renovation project, which, if it passes, will move the Mortensen Community Center to the Willard Avenue side of Mill Pond Park, residents are posing questions of their own.

       Before the project building committee voted to send the $30 million plan to the Council for review, resident Maydee Kenny submitted a lengthy list of questions in regard to the potential impact of construction near wetlands, maintenance costs of the new parks and recreation building, and how the relocation of the pool and playground fit into the larger plan for the area.

       According to Newington Director of Administrative Services Jeff Baron, a lot of it is too early in the project to tell, said Building Committee Chair and Deputy Mayor Clarke Castelle, who has seen the responses.

       Regarding environmental concerns, Castelle said the town is required to work closely with the state’s Inland Wetlands Commission to ensure that any potential impact to Mill Creek is accounted for and mitigated. While the town does not currently know of any damage that might occur, only that process will tell, Castelle said.

       “Nobody is aware of endangered species,” Castelle said. “But that does not mean they might not find something and, if we do, we really have problems.”

       It is therefore also unclear at this time what kind of parameters the new building will have to be constructed under, he said.

       “[The Inland Wetlands Commission] might impose really strict guidelines on contractors,” Castelle said. “[But] the town has a good record with making sure they abide by them.”

       Kenny also expressed concerns regarding maintenance fees of the new building, particularly whether or not these costs have already been budgeted. Baron’s responses indicated that they have not, Castelle said.

       “We’re not at the stage in the design to know what the maintenance will be,” he said. “My opinion is maintenance on a 65-year old building will be more than on a new building.”

       During the last building committee meeting, both Kenny and fellow resident Rose Lyons said that they wanted to know more about how the town hall renovation and new Mortensen Community Center would fit into the town’s “master plan” for the area. An expected component of that layout is the relocation of a playground and swimming pool, and in her questions Kenny asked the committee to address that.

       The committee’s focus right now is on town hall and the recreation center, but the town’s overall plans do include those other components, Castelle said.

       “This is not part of the committee’s job at this time, but in the CIP, there is a $250,000 item for 2017 for the play scape,” he said. “And in 2019, $2,803,059 is in the long-range CIP for Church Hill Pool Aquatics.”

       That timeline, of course, will not be set in stone, Castelle said.

       “Chances are that because of the magnitude of the current project, other projects may be delayed,” Castelle said.

       Presentations regarding the project will be made before the Council through June 10, after which a June 24 public hearing is scheduled. The project is slated to go to referendum Sept. 16.