Town leaders share updates at OPC meeting

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

At the May 23 Operations Planning Committee, town officials presented updates on the most recent news in regard to their respective Boards.
Board of Finance
The budget for Darien has been passed and sent to the RTM (Representative Town Meeting), with the exception of Highland Farms, which is on the agenda for June 10.
“The overall spending increase came in at less than 2 percent [1.94], even though the mill rate increase was a bit higher, and that was driven by the fact that our Grand List came down a bit as part of the reval process,” Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky said.
He said he is in support of the Highland Farms request. “I think that is consistent with why that property was acquired. It’s consistent with the strategy that the selectmen have laid out in terms of how that’s going to be developed.”
He added that this “was an important purchase for the town that we had to bond for. It’s important that we maximize the use of that property under the terms of the purchase agreement,” he said, adding he would encourage the RTM to pass it so that that work can get started.
In regard to the town’s fund balance, the Board of Finance “led an effort to find funds that were on the balance sheet of the town, and to the extent those funds that were not being used, to close them out and get them into fund balance,” he said. “We reviewed those and it ended up being about $415,000 that were in these funds that were simply cleaned out. Those funds have been swept out and put into fund balance.”
An architect and construction manager have been hired for Ox Ridge Elementary School. Zagrodzky said there will be “an appropriation vote at the RTM, and it’s going to be for the entire school project. We have to do that in order to qualify for state grants.”
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she wants to assure taxpayers that “just because the RTM might approve a $63 million potential expenditure on the Ox Ridge Elementary School, that is not necessarily the amount that gets bonded and wrapped into debt service paid by the taxpayers.”
Board of Education
Chairman Tara Ochman said the state has changed high school graduation requirements.
“We have voted on those,” she said. “The incoming eighth graders will be well served and prepared. Darien was on the forefront of that.”
She announced that Darien received the distinction of the best high school in Connecticut from U.S. News & World Report.
In regard to the internship program for high school seniors, Ochman said “it sets them up for both their next steps, whether it be college or work, but also in life.”
She added that there is an extremely large variety of types of internships available to students through the program.
“The program has started small and has grown,” she said.
Seth Morton, moderator of the RTM Rules Committee, said to the others that if they are on an assigned committee, not to schedule a committee meeting the same time the RTM is going to meet.
“If there are questions that come up [at the RTM meeting], you’ve got no way to answer them,” he said.
Planning & Zoning
Stephen Olvany, vice chairman, said that in regard to the Diller project, the decision to build parking spaces where the cross country running path is being built, has “got nothing to do with Planning & Zoning,” he said. “That’s really not under our purvue.”
The Diller Project involves the construction of a cross country running path around the perimeter of Darien High School.
Stevenson said that the police commission is the local traffic authority who makes the decisions on parking.
There are some restrictions that were put on this running path. This includes no dogs “on our portion of the running path at any time, and the use of it is closed during school days and when summer school is in session,” Ochman said.
The 77 Leroy building is back on the docket. They want to switch the age restriction from 62 down to 55.
There are at least three day care schools that want to open a location in Darien. These include Building Blocks and the Goddard School. Stevenson said town officials will be discussing a common message to communicate to these companies in response to their request.
Board of Selectmen
Stevenson provided legislative updates.
The vote on tolls will head to a special session this summer. They are hoping to have a budget by June 5.
Paid Family Medical Leave passed the senate. The governor has already “threatened to veto on it if things aren’t modified,” Stevenson said.
The minimum wage passed both chambers. The goal is $15. an hour over a four year period of time. Stevenson said an analysis will be conducted as to how this will impact Darien.
In regard to teacher pension sharing, “As a community, we are unilaterally opposed to that idea,” she said.
Dr. Alan Addley has been appointed as Darien’s next Superintendent of Schools. He will begin his job July 1.
“It was a national search,” Ochman said. “We had strong candidates and Dr. Addley rose to the top of that group.”
He will be relocating from Granby, where he was Granby Schools superintendent.