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Selectmen approve renovation plans for North Barn at Holcomb Farm
By Shirley Murtha
In opening the Board of Selectmen meeting on June 2, First Selectman Scott Kuhnly noted that the board listened to the numerous concerns expressed at the informational meeting on May 21 and made changes to the North Barn renovation plan. Modifications were made to both the facade and the windows, which were deemed too modern and not in keeping with the agricultural campus. Also, because of the Farm's capital campaign representatives’ strong opinions, a fireplace is now in the plans.
Community Development Officer Fran Armentano presented a slideshow of the architect's original drawings and those showing the revised modifications. (See the article on p. ___ for details.)
Despite the modifications, concerned residents still have reservations. Mark Williams said the new building still looks too modern for the agricultural nature of the campus. He suggested placing the pavilion behind the dairy (main) barn, eliminating the need for a covered walkway between the north and main barns, another feature of the renovation that is not architecturally consistent with the existing buildings. Ralph Eustis said that the renovation is changing the historic look of the Farm, and agreed with Williams that the public was not given enough information early on to be aware of the proceedings. Several other residents voiced the same complaint.
Although Peg Lareau was not against the new design, she felt that a larger porch would be beneficial, because this building was originally proposed for Farm-related family activities, not as a rental facility for weddings and the like. Lareau's husband Jack, the Farm board's treasurer, asked and was told that $100,000 of the Farm's capital campaign money would be needed to augment the Small Town Economic Assistance Program STEAP) grant funds. Both Lareaus requested that the public be given sufficient time to weigh in on the choice of parking-lot materials to be used. Town Manager Bill Smith said that state-of-the-art porous paving material is being investigated.
Peter Dinella's suggestion that some of the existing North Barn's architectural elements, such as window frames and siding, be incorporated into the interior of the new building for interest and continuity was heartily supported by the attending residents.
The bidding process used by the Capitol Region Council of Governments program controlling STEAP grant awards removes the choice of a general contractor for the job from the town. This may save the town money, and it is hoped that local contractors may be selected for the work.
Jim Lofink asked the board to give consider the orientation of the siding for the new building. The architect drawings designate vertical, which imitates the existing siding of the North Barn, but the other barns on the campus have horizontal siding. Lofink asked, "Is it more important to honor the original construction or to make the new structure match those buildings already in place? In the future, no one will know why this particular building's siding does not correspond to the others' unless some kind of plaque explained the difference." Lofink, a former Holcomb Farm executive director, also noted that he was not in favor of the message that a locked, reservation-only building presents, especially one originally intended for casual farm and community use.
When asked why there was such an effort by the BOS to get the grant approved quickly, bypassing public input until very late in the game, Smith and Armentano replied that the town wishes to apply for other project grants and that cannot be done until the Holcomb Farm one has been approved.
Following the public comments, the BOS members voted and unanimously passed the motion that the North Barn renovations proceed as planned. BOS member Sally King made a point of requesting transparency as the renovation goes along, and to especially seek public input with regard to the interior design and the parking.
At the June 16 BOS meeting, Smith reported that there is a delay in beginning demolition of the North Barn due to the inability to get CL&P to dig the trench to relocate the electrical conduit to the main barn. That is now expected to occur on July 7. The demolition is expected to take about a week. Construction of the new pavilion should be completed in three to four months following demolition. Parking alternatives on the Farm's campus are being studied.
2014 Department Activity Reports
Fran Armentano gave a brief description of the Community Development Department's ongoing work, including the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Development Commission. He also spoke at length about his department's efforts to preserve open space through the Flexible Residential Development program. At the end of the report, Smith added that Armentano's expertise in grant writing is a great asset to the town.
Police Chief Carl Rosensweig described how the department is just managing to cover town needs with 16 officers, having two or three on the street at any given time. An extra officer or two would help the department greatly. Rosensweig noted that calls for service have not increased over the past few years.
Tax Collector Lauren Stuck reported that her department is going into the busy season, readying the tax bills for the summer. During the off-season, her staff deals with delinquency, trying to arrange payment plans before having to contact collection agencies. Smith said that Stuck's willingness to take on making deposits for all the various town departments has improved efficiency over the previous method, in which each department handled its own deposits.
2014 Fiscal Year Transfer Accounts
The board voted to approve the transfer of $8,000 from election services to legal services to cover unexpected extra costs. It also approved the transfer of $30,000 from police operations and $22,000 from solid waste to cover infrastructure maintenance and payroll overtime. The approval will be forwarded to the Board of Finance.
Although the state once felt that a traffic signal was warranted for the intersection of East Street, Notch and Quarry Roads and Rtes. 10&202, the area no longer meets the qualifications. Instead, the state suggests a round about. The intersection of Floydville Road with Rtes. 10&202 qualifies for a regular traffic signal, and CT DOT expects to install it within the next two years.