At the Town Meeting held on November 9, New Fairfield residents voted 157 to 35 to approve a $722,268 appropriation from the town’s general fund. The meeting, held at the Senior Center, was well attended.
First Selectman Pat Del Monaco outlined the specifics of the appropriation. The projects to be funded with the appropriation are police dashboard and body cams ($110,000), vinyl siding for the Company A firehouse ($60,000), road repair ($125,000), and fire department operation surplus ($2,268.14) as well as $425,000 to purchase the properties at 13 & 15 Route 37.
In speaking about the proposed property purchase, Ms. Del Monaco noted that both the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance had unanimously voted to approve the purchase. She said that previous Boards of Selectmen had attempted to purchase the properties without success, and that the town had been presented with the right of first refusal by the owner’s estate. She stressed that there was no plan to put affordable housing on the site, noting that the land would be used to expand Memorial Field’s gathering space.
She also explained how the budget surplus, which is where the funds were coming from, came about. Ms. Del Monaco pointed to vacancies in town staff that weren’t filled immediately, lower than expected utility costs, as well as greater than expected revenue as a result of increased real estate transfers and real estate conveyance tax.
During the public comment portion of the proceedings, residents voiced support for the appropriation, particularly the portions benefiting the police and fire departments. Many, however, had issues with the purchase of the properties and said they felt that there should have been a separate proposal decided by a machine vote.
This was the view taken by Selectman-elect Lori Beninson, who said she wished the property purchase had been included as an item in the recent election.
In the end, the vote was not as close as the apparent crowd sentiment indicated, as voters approved the appropriation, including the property purchase.
By Greg Slomba