SOUTHINGTON – The Town Council voted Monday to include the proposed purchase of the John Weichsel Municipal Center, using money from the town’s unassigned fund balance, on the November ballot.
Town Manager Mark Sciota said it would be less costly for the town to purchase the building, which is at the end of an eight-year lease, rather than leasing it for 10 more years. Buying the building would require using $2.9 million from the unassigned fund balance, which Sciota said is very healthy.
If the town were to pay for a 10-year lease, it would cost about $3.6 million and the town would not own the building at the end of the lease.
Another option, for the town to bond money for the purchase, was also floated Monday. That would have cost about $3.3 million, still less than the cost of a 10-year lease.
“Buying the building with our cash fund will prevent us from having to include it in next year’s budget,” said Town Council Chair Chris Palmieri.
During a public hearing, a couple of residents complained about the sale of the Municipal Center, formerly the North Center School, to Borghesi Building and Engineering Co. of Torrington for just $1 in 2011. The sale took place after three failed referendums on expansion of Town Hall. The Municipal Center was then renovated and leased to the town for $400,000 a year for eight years, ending this year, with costs split between the town and Board of Education.
Pamela DePaolo, president of DePaolo Furniture, supports the outright purchase of the building by the town. She said that while the 2011 sale might not have been ideal, the building had been deteriorating and was in disuse for a long time. Since then, it has been used for numerous town meetings and houses school district offices.
“The building is a marvelous tool for the town,” she said. “I support going forward with the purchase. This is a great space and I have no problem finding parking here, unlike Town Hall. The building will pay for itself with how much it will be used in the coming years.”
Another public hearing was held on a $900,000 appropriation for road improvements. Sciota said the improvements are part of $2.2 million in capital projects approved for this year.
“These funds were approved previously by the Board of Finance and Planning and Zoning,” said Sciota. “They are a vital part of our road improvement program.”
DePaolo also spoke during the hearing, and said that she approved of the appropriation.
“We are in sore need of these improvements,” she said. “The previous town manager, Garry Brumback, started this program and I have seen improvements as I’ve driven throughout town. This is vital for our residents and business owners and a population which is going up all the time.”
At the start of Monday’s meeting, the Town Council honored the Southington High School girls softball team for winning the CIAC’s Class LL state championship, defeating Norwich on June 8. The Blue Knights finished their season with 22 wins and three losses.
Palmieri said the team brought “great pride” to the community. In a proclamation, he declared Monday “Southington High School Girls Softball Day.” Councilors each took turns shaking hands with the players and coach and congratulating them.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.