2 Darien boards OK special fund to help pay for Great Island with revenue from its current renters

Great Island in Darien photographed on Tuesday, April 12. The town is in negotiations with the property owners to purchase the 63-acre island and estate.

Great Island in Darien photographed on Tuesday, April 12. The town is in negotiations with the property owners to purchase the 63-acre island and estate.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst CT Media

DARIEN — Town officials have established a special revenue fund ahead of Darien’s anticipated Great Island purchase, after the measure unanimously passed the Board of Selectmen during a Monday meeting.

The fund means that for at least the time being, the town will use income that is already generated from the island to keep up existing facilities and pay any expenses — assuming Darien will take over ownership of Great Island in August.

Both the Boards of Selectmen and Finance voted last week to purchase the island. Since then, both boards have also voted unanimously to set up the special fund, which will remain separate from the town’s general fund.

The potential purchase of the 60-acre island has raised many questions from residents about how they propose to pay for the property’s general upkeep and any new new structures officials plan to put on the island.

The special revenue fund would store income netted from tenants that occupy the nine existing buildings on the property. That income is about $800,200 annually while expenses are $370,000, giving the town around $431,000 of cash flow that will be kept in the special revenue fund, First Selectman Monica McNally told finance board members last week.

The situation may be temporary, however, given that renters will likely vacate the island once their leases are up, officials said. Half the leases are on a monthly basis, while the other half run until March 2023.

“It may go away,” town administrator Kathleen Buch said of the island’s special revenue fund. She told town officials the fund could be dissolved if it does not generate enough revenue to cover the island’s expenditures in the future.

A special revenue fund for Great Island would be similar to existing funds for Parks and Recreation or the Sewer Fund, both of which generate their own revenue from outside sources, like parking permits, and pay their own expenses without dipping into the town’s general fund, officials said.

That money will not be able to cover the island’s full developmental and rental expenses, however. McNally said last week that officials are anticipating having to pay roughly $5 million — “plus or minus a couple million” — to carry out some general maintenance on the island, such as expanding roads, running sewer lines into the land or putting in parking lots.

Officials have previously said that they anticipate some revenue could come in from future facilities like an ice rink or museum space. But how much those facilities will cost to install is still unknown, officials have said.

Darien has not secured Great Island yet, though two of three town bodies have thrown their weight behind the purchase.

The Representative Town Meeting will meet June 27 to vote on acquiring the island. It will also vote on establishing Great Island’s special revenue fund.