Kindergarten Wing is Closed, Budget Discussions, New Appointments and Updates at the Selectmen’s Meeting

Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – Last week at the monthly Board of Selectmen (BoS) Meeting there were some important New Business items added to the agenda along with new appointments and several recurring business and town project updates announced.

New Business

Sherman School Kindergarten Wing

In summation, there were reports of a mysterious musty, basement-like odor in the Kindergarten Wing of the building and this is not a new issue. Over the past few decades, this problem resurfaces from time-to-time. The Board of Education (BoE), the School Administration, the BoS, and some concerned parents want to definitively find out what is causing this problem so they can permanently resolve whatever it is and get answers.

Acting Chairman of the Board of Education (BoE), Rowland Hanley, detailed why the children in the Kindergarten Wing at the Sherman School are now in other areas within the school, what is being done in this closed off area, and proposed ways the BoE, the School Administration, and the BoS can work together.

In essence, The Town’s Risk Management professional spoke with Mr. Hanley and First Selectman Cope. Health Director, Tim Simpkins, wanted to see the children moved out of the Kindergarten Wing. The BoE Majority then voted to move the affected children out of the Kindergarten Wing on February 12 as a precautionary measure.

Mr. Hanley said that “both CIHs [Certified Industrial Hygienists] and everyone else that weighed-in on this agreed that the HVAC system that was installed in 2011 is the principle focus of our current issue.” He continued to say “there was no observable, or measurable, threat found in the classrooms but it was confirmed that the HVAC system was inadvertently pulling air from unintended places including those parts of the building that had been the focus of remediation in the past.” He then described in more detail allergen examples like mold, pollen, and dust.

Mr. Hanley stressed how there needs to be accountability and a special taskforce. He said “this issue became much bigger than any one person or one committee could handle.” He also requested that the BoE and the School Administration need the BoS to support them and work together as one team. They also need to bring in the experts. First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky agreed to support the BoE and the School Administration in this capacity.

In the meantime, a CIH and a Mechanical Engineer will be onsite this week at the Sherman School for more air quality / ventilation testing. The Preschool and Kindergarten students will remain in their new locations within the school until further notice.

Resident State Trooper Budget Discussion

First Selectman Cope brought to light the financial impact it will have on the Town if Governor Malloy’s proposal goes through that will cut 100% of the subsidized funding to the Resident State Trooper Program throughout the State of Connecticut. In other words, it could cost the Town up to $50,000 more to pay for Sherman’s Resident State Trooper because the State helps to pay for part of his salary. First Selectman Cope said “as a placeholder, I will put down what we are paying now” at the Budget Meeting. First Selectman Cope also filled out a questionnaire, along with other small Connecticut towns that participate in the program, and they collectively feel this “cut” would be a hardship if it passes.

Selectmen’s Proposed Budget Discussion

The Budget Workshops are now in full force and have begun as of February 28. The hearing on the proposed budget will be on March 31. At the BoS meeting on April 23, the BoS will move the proposed budget to Annual Meeting on Friday, April 24. Then, on May 2, the Town Budget will go to referendum.

New Appointments

For the Board of Assessment Appeals, Elizabeth Beatty is filling a vacancy and will serve for the March and September 2015 meetings. As for the Commission on Aging, both Dr. Juan Garcia and Jeanne McRoberts will serve three-year terms. First Selectman Clay Cope and Selectman Bob Ostrosky appointed them.

Old Business Updates

Sherman School Boiler Replacement: Mr. Hanley thinks the engineering-only phase of this project can come out of the school operating budget. He also stressed how important it is to have longer term goals and to look at the project holistically; meaning, the entire heating system in the school. He believes there needs to be project oversight and accountability and wants both the Town and the BoE to make the process seamless.

Chairman of the Maintenance Committee for the Board of Education, Joseph Keneally, said they received five qualified bids and “we chose BL Companies out of Meriden, Connecticut. They are a nationwide outfit and are an employee-owned firm. We went through their references… the proposal was clean… and they were responsive to our needs.” Mr. Keneally was also impressed with how they broke down all of the steps in their Engineering Services RFP. The fixed fee cost for this 16 week project is $16,080 and it includes four monthly site visits. BL Companies wants to start on March 2 with their work. The actual project will run from June through September.

Proposed Ordinance and Septic Tank Visual Inspection / Walk-over Program: First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky discussed the results from the two public forums. They both agreed to meet with Health Director Tim Simpkins to regroup and go over all of the options. They want to include Selectman O’Connor in this meeting to discuss it as a full BoS. She did not attend this meeting.

Related to this was a written correspondence that came from Jim McAlister, a New Fairfield resident, who supports this ordinance. He is part of the Candlewood Watershed Initiative.

Happy Acres Farm Committee: First Selectman Cope reported that he and committee member Sue Moga, who is also a resident and Director of Muscoot Farm, met with Full Circle Farming (FCF) last Sunday. FCF is impressed with Ms. Moga and her enthusiasm she has for the farm. They will also meet soon with committee member Ralph Goreman, who is also a resident and Owner of White Silo Barn and Winery.

Happy Acres Farm: First Selectman Cope read a progress report email from Adam Mantzaris of Full Circle Farming. “The calf count now stands at seven, and two of which we assisted with,” he wrote. They also received the first 50 laying chicks. In this same correspondence, Mr. Mantzaris provided First Selectman Cope with a Five Year Capital Plan for Happy Acres Farm. First Selectman Cope discussed this in more detail with Treasurer Eric Holub at the meeting. First Selectman Cope reiterated how there is $5,740.10 in pending farm expenses the Town needs to pay, which accrued prior to the new tenants moving in.

Related to this is the Special Town Meeting that will take place on March 4 at 6:30 p.m. The agenda is to appropriate the sum of $10,000 (adjusted from $15,000) to pay for miscellaneous operating, maintenance, and legal expenses associated with Happy Acres Farm assets. Only revenue from the cell tower and the Happy Acres Farm lease would pay for these expenses. Previously, at the January 22 meeting, the BoS unanimously agreed to propose setting up a separate operating fund.

Happy Acres Farm / Tony Hapanowich Trust: There is new correspondence from the Town attorney who addressed Treasurer Holub’s main inquiry about how to go about legally authorizing the Town to reinvest the gift of $1,852,510 that is sitting in a money market account. Treasurer Holub proposed that the BoS “should look into getting an outside party to do it [reinvest this gift],” and “there needs to be a risk tolerance discussion [with the BoS].”

Monthly Financial Summary:

First Selectman Cope reported on the finances of the Town. He said, “Public Works is over budget and it’s due to two things… Spring Lake Road and Briarwood Bridge and it’s not due to our town’s Public Works Road Maintenance line.” All other expenditures are tracking accordingly.

Parks and Recreation (P&R) Audit: Selectman Ostrosky said “I looked at the 2013 / 2014 tax statements at Webster Bank. In summary, there was limited disbursement activity… and nothing out of the ordinary.” After going through their existing process, he will make some recommendations to P&R at the Budget Meeting to discuss this in more detail with them then.

Wash Station Open Bid Announcement: First Selectman Cope announced the Public Works Wash Station bid documents will soon be available for the engineering phase of this project. The Town is modifying the document so the wording is “geared towards a Construction Manager instead of a General Contractor.” First Selectman Cope used the success of the library expansion as an example to model after. The Town is using the STEAP Grant of $275,000 to fund this project.

HVMPO (formerly HVCEO) / SWPRA / WCCOG: First Selectman Cope said that “the WCCOG Executive Director, Mr. Francis Pickering, wants the Town to be aware of a Regional GIS Service funded by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. These maps are generated through that service and they are going to be even more high-definition, more hi-tech.”

First Selectman Cope said he wants to see a disclaimer on every map due to potential privacy concerns since the maps are better than Google Maps and are much higher resolution. First Selectman Cope now has authorization to sign the necessary agreement in order to have the region mapped, including Sherman, by this service. There is no cost to the Town for these expensive maps.

Communications Update

Emergency Radio Communications: The budget for $33,000 for Phase 1 is going to be a discussion point at the Budget Meeting. First Selectman Cope is hoping the Town will receive the STEAP Grant of $500,000 so this lower cost solution will not be necessary.

Completed Town Projects

Briarwood Road Bridge Replacement: First Selectman Cope shared the great news how the Department of Transportation Inspector, Dan Stanchen, has determined that the repairs done by the Department of Public Works were sufficient and that the bridge does not require replacement. “We dodged a $375,000 bullet on that one!” declared First Selectman Cope.

Playhouse Bathrooms: First Selectman Cope reported that the carpets are the last step, along with a few minor add-ons. This project will be finished early this week.

Recurring Town Projects Update

Spring Lake Road: First Selectman Cope expressed continued frustration with how much this project, which began before his term, has cost the Town to-date. “Just for the record, and for the public, this project now stands at $818,210 for a two-mile stretch of road.” The latest email update: Joe Wren, the engineer of the road, thinks the final payment should be $2,500 less because Public Works did some of the work in-house. Final payment is in the works.

Emergency Services Facility: First Selectman Cope said the new air drops for the fire department are in and they need to install them now.

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department: First Selectman Cope said that Chief Chris Pitcher is writing the PO for $7,300 for the tires from Belardinelli Tire Company.

Miscellaneous

DOT Master Municipal Agreement for Rights of Way Projects, Authorization: First Selectman Cope put this on the agenda and said that it’s just a housekeeping item to authorize him to sign-off on approving construction projects. Selectman Ostrosky agreed to this formality.

Public Comments

Terri Hahn, resident and President of the Timber Trails Property Owners Association, voiced her continued concerns about having no cellphone service coverage in Southern Sherman. She shared with the BoS recent vehicle traffic statistics obtained from the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding the north / south corridor of Route 37. She said “approximately 2,600 people are at risk each day due to the lack of any cellular service being available on major portions of the roads.” This is because they cannot call 911. She wants the BoS to take action.

Regarding the recent non-illumination of the cross at Happy Acres Farm, Gary Albert provided the BoS with contact information regarding a Walpole, Massachusetts ordinance that allows for temporary displays of religious and holiday symbols on public property. First Selectman Cope said he would follow-up and call the Selectman there.

Public Correspondence

First Selectman Cope read two public announcements. The first was from the Candlewood Lake Authority. They are hosting their second annual informational event at the Candlewood Lake Club in Brookfield on March 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Online registration is required.

The second public announcement was from the Julia’s Wings Foundation. Tie a red bow to your mailbox this week to show your support for raising awareness of Aplastic Anemia.

Written by Alicia Sakal for the March 4th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

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