During the first of many public airings of the proposed capital projects the Town of Greenwich may undertake next year, school maintenance and the replacement of the Byram Park pool were at the top of the list.
The $65.4 million wish list of capital projects ranges from $200,000 for architecural and engineering work for the Byram Park pool project to an additional $3.1 million for the Music Instruction Space and Auditorium (MISA) project at Greenwich High School.
First Selectman Peter Tesei will present his final budget proposal to the Board of Estimate and Taxation on Feb. 4. The BET's budget committee will conduct a series of budget reviews and hearings throughout February and March before voting on the operating and capital budgets. The budgets are then forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting and its committees for review in April and May.
At Monday night's public hearing in Town Hall, Michael Bocchino, president of the Byram Neighborhood Association, voiced support to replace the aging, leaking pool at Byram Park and implored Tesei and his capital projects advisory committee to consider renovation and expansion of the neighborhood's New Lebanon School.
RTM District 7 Chair Valerie Stauffer spoke in favor of building a new pool but questioned whether the pool should remain in Byram. She suggested the town consider alternative locations including the Dorothy Hamill skating rink property on Sherman Avenue and the town-owned Montgomery Pinetum in Cos Cob. "Byram Park is a gem. We should put the pool somewhere else and make Byram pristine."
"I think that the pool is the gem of Byram Park and it's fully utilitized by people on the western area … it is a vital piece of the community," Bocchino said. "I think the Junior League has done incredible job," he said of the organization's continued efforts to raise money and support to build a state-of-the-art pool facility. "We need a pool, something the kids and seniors can have access to."
Of New Lebanon School, Bocchino said he wanted to convey "disappointment" from the Byram community with lack of investment of school buildings. "Our New Lebanon School is bursting at the seams…we have not had any investment in 20 years." According to the town's 15-year capital plan, "There is no substantial improvement of building or expansion until 2021…..we need to invest a little more in our elementary schools. New Leb has roughly 4 acres to be built upon to enhance the facility," Bocchino said.
Greenwich School Superintendent William McKersie, a member of the capital improvement projects committee, told Bocchino and the 50 or so residents and town officials at the Town Hall hearing, an architect will tour the school campus on Mead Avenue this week to assess what options are available. "Those four acres are heavily wooded and include a ravine," McKersie said.
Other big ticket items in the budget draft include $2.3 million for the remediation of the Cos Cob power plant into a waterfront recreational park; $2.5 million to begin replacement of the town's emergency radio communication system; $8 million for various sewer projects throughout town.
Tesei said that he plans to override a Board of Education decision to delay spending $650,000 for egress lighting and installation of a generator at Eastern Middle School in Riverside. He said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it is imperative for the town to ensure residents' safety at the school which is one of the town's two designated emergency shelters. "I believe it is essential," Tesei said.