Waterbury meeting before the meeting steals show
Adam Caira / Staff Photo Lyn Kasvinsky of Waterbury Center speaks in support of the municipal civic complex project at the start of the Waterbury town meeting at Thatcher Brook School. Kasvinsky also expressed her concerns about the younger generation of Waterbury residents. "All everyone was talking about was the development itself and the cost," said Kasvinsky about her decision to speak during the discussion. "It has to be about more than taxes, it has to be."
WATERBURY — A presentation on options for a proposed municipal complex and a brief comment period stole the show on Town Meeting Day an hour before Waterbury’s annual meeting even officially began.
While roughly 120 people passed the town budget just after noon, about 200 or more packed the Thatcher Brook Primary School gymnasium at 9 a.m. for an hourlong public hearing.
Those who attended learned about five options for a new municipal center that could be located at the Waterbury state office complex. Several people expressed support, while some criticized the plan in part because of uncertainties about the cost of acquiring the state-owned property associated with Stanley and Wasson halls.
The proposals for the new complex as presented Tuesday include three separate cost estimates: Option A would cost $6.95 million; Option B, $6.8 million; and Options C through E were each pegged at $5.8 million. Some proposals call for renovations to Stanley and Wasson halls, including raising them about 5 feet above ground level, while other designs call for entirely new construction.
“I have an open mind at this point ... but I do have some concerns about the price,” resident Scott Mackey said. “I’m not saying I’m opposed to it. I’d like to see how much it will cost.”
According to the presentation Tuesday morning, Waterbury may need to bond for anywhere from $3 million to $5 million in the next year.
“We’re a long way from our final costs,” Select Board Chairman John Grenier said. “To tell you today what the project would cost would be unrealistic.”
Existing assets were identified that could contribute to the budget for the project. Local officials anticipate $200,000 from the potential sale of the existing village-owned municipal building at 51 S. Main St. and $300,000 if the current library were sold. Also considered a part of the mix would be $100,000 from the Waterbury Historical Society and $300,000 from a library trust fund. A capital campaign and fundraising from the library would also be necessary.
Waterbury also has $350,000 in insurance proceeds from 51 S. Main St. in the aftermath of flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, and it plans to apply for a community development block grant related to disaster recovery.
Resident Lluana Wilder said it could take five years before the municipal complex is built, and she questioned why plans were being pursued while the Stanley and Wasson property costs were unknown. Grenier said the municipal planning process takes time, that grant money is helping pay architectural fees, and officials don’t yet know if they want to buy the property.
Another resident, John Callan, a geologist, questioned the location of the project and suggested that property near the school could be better suited for the new complex.
Resident Everett Coffey said the municipal building at 51 S. Main St. should be further explored.
Grenier, the board chairman, noted that three site options were previously explored in the spring of 2012 by Wiemann Lamphere Architects of Colchester. The firm examined two possibilities at the village-owned former municipal site as well as the library building.
He also said the school site was considered. But he said that location, which has an old armory building, has a property deed restriction involving recreational use.
Another follow-up meeting on the municipal complex project will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Leo’s Hall at 109 S. Main St. Another meeting is tentatively planned for about two weeks after that.
“We don’t know what these buildings look like, and that’s really the thing we want to explore,” said Jim Drummond, of the firm Black River Design Architects, which prepared the five proposals. “These are really blank boxes.”
Waterbury voters approved a $1,958,234 budget for general expenses and $1,608,025 for the highway budget, among other expenditures and voice vote articles.
The general expenses and highway spending will mean a tax rate of not to exceed 37 cents per $100 of assessed property value, according to officials. The tax rate for 2012 was 35 cents.
During the meeting, resident Jim Atchinson read an amendment for a voice vote article in which he sought to reduce the amount owed for late taxes, rather than relying on a maximum penalty that’s currently in place.
Atchinson said in an interview that a $331 fine last year when his taxes were due prompted him to propose a prorated fee system.
A voice vote defeated the idea.
Two Keith Wallace community service awards were presented during the annual meeting.
One was given to ReBuild Waterbury for the organization’s work to help the community recover after Tropical Storm Irene. The other went to Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk for his 25 years of service to the town and village.
Shepeluk said he was surprised, noting that he gets paid for his public service, and that he was grateful.
Both ReBuild Waterbury and Shepeluk received standing ovations.
The Keith Wallace award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding service to Waterbury and is named for the former town resident, farmer and state representative, who died in 1996.
Just before 9 p.m., Waterbury announced that the Waterbury Duxbury Union No. 45 school district budget was approved 530-456. The district covers Thatcher Brook Primary School and Crossett Brook Middle School.
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