Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Common Council Approves Money For Study of St. Sebastian Purchase
The Common Council voted to appropriate $59,800 toward the purchase of St. Sebastian School for conversion to a new Senior Center for the city. An estimated $10,000-$20,000 will be used to fund a study to determine if the old city school on Durant Street is appropriate and suitable for a Senior Center.
After another set of pointed questions from Common Council member David Bauer to city planner Bill Warner during the questions to directors, about the sale of land to the Westfield Fire Department, the Common Council approved the sale of the land, valued at $120,000 for $60,000. The Westfield Fire Department wants to build a new station on the land, but will not likely do so for another decade.
Bauer questioned the initial deal for the land which the city agreed to buy from Ted Bysiewicz to prevent the Army from purchasing the land as a site for it's Army Reserve Training Center.
Bauer questioned the price of the land purchase from Bysiewicz by the city (3 acres at $143,000 per acre), and why the city appeared to have purchased the least attractive land for development. Bauer mentioned a CL&P right of way, and power lines through the property and a covenant against development near the border with property owned by the Mazzotta family.
"Why did we purchase this lot," Bauer asked. "It is the most oddly shaped of all the lots."
In addition, Bauer questioned the propriety of selling land brought from Bysiewicz, who is represented by Attorney Mike Dowley, to the Westfield Fire Department in a deal in which Bysiewicz represented the Westfield Fire Department, who is represented by Dowley.
"Are you comfortable that they are on one side of the deal, and then on the other side of the deal?" Bauer asked.
Warner countered that the land purchased by the city is an "improved industrial development lot," which has already drawn purchase interest from two prospective buyers.
Answering Bauer about why the city bought the particular lot it did, Warner explained that the city did not have a choice.
"When you're buying a piece of industrial property for industrial development," Warner said. "You just don't say 'We want that piece.'"
Several other Council members followed Council member Ron Klattenberg in a case of collective amnesia about how proceeds from the sale of the Bysiewicz land should be used.
Klattenberg claimed that it was always intended that "some amount of compensation for the sale" would go to the city's open space fund.
"To the degree that we would compensate the city for the loss of Cucia Park," Klattenberg said.
Council members Serra, Daley, Pessina and Streeto confirmed Klattenberg's recollection.
In fact, the compensation for lost park land was originally proposed by Serra in October 2008, but it was strictly tied to the proceeds realized from the sale of Cucia Park. Further, Westfied resident, and Wesleyan biology professor Stephen Devoto (full disclosure - Devoto is a correspondent for the Middletown Eye) scolded the Council at the June 22, 2009 meeting of the Common Council for abandoning their promise, and ignoring the resolution to use proceeds from the sale of Cucia Park for purchase of open space or park lands.
In other business, the Council approved $6,500 for a study of how to maintain the city's parking arcade on Dingwall Drive over the next five years, and an expenditure of $740,000 to complete upgrades of all city-owned lots with lighting, security, paving and meters. The Council will take a second vote on the $740,000 expenditure at a meeting next week.
Parking director Tom Hartley said he expects the bonding to be repaid with revenue from improved city parking.
The Council also passed a series of ordinances to improve conservation and energy savings at Fire Station Headquarters, the Fire Station South and Russell Library.