The Board of Finance almost unanimously approved paying for the installation of a natural gas line out of the infrastructure contingency account Thursday night.
Much like the debate when the Board of Selectmen recently approved the $129,703 expenditure, discussions focused on where the money should come from rather than whether or not it was a worthwhile investment.
Chairman Liz Mao told The Darien Times Thursday night that some Board of Finance members were concerned that the cost was coming from contingency rather than the budget for the project, which is part of the larger capital project known as the Shuffle.
The project includes moving the senior center to a new community center at Town Hall and moving the Board of Education from its current location at Town Hall to 35 Leroy Ave. to make room for the senior center. The project was approved last year by the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the appropriation of $6.9 million was approved by the Representative Town Meeting just before last November’s election.
Mao said she understood both sides of the argument but in the end, the board approved the payment 6-1, with only vice chairman Martha Banks voting against it. Mao said there was also talk of possibly repaying the cost of the natural gas line to the infrastructure contingency account when the project’s budget becomes clearer.
The project was put out to bid earlier this month and bids are expected back in mid-September.
The Board of Selectmen also approved the payment out of contingency earlier this month despite arguments from the Democratic minority of Selectmen David Bayne and John Lundeen that approving isolated expenses could cause “budget creep.” Both voted against the transfer.
Republican First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, and fellow GOP majority selectmen Dave Campbell, who conceived of the Shuffle in last term as first selectman, and Jerry Nielsen all said there are no actual costs until bids return on the project. Campbell also said there is only one natural gas provider, Yankee Gas. He said Yankee Gas requires a contract before it will put a project on its schedule, and installations only are scheduled through November. Campbell said waiting on the payment might cause the project to miss the window to get the natural gas installed.
Both boards were generally in agreement that the natural gas is the best economical choice.
This week, the Board of Education talked about the move, which is tentatively scheduled for this year’s February school break.
Read more on this vote in next week’s print edition of The Darien Times.