By Rob Glidden
The Town Council plans to begin negotiations with Southington Community Cultural Arts (SCCA) about the arts center proposal for the Gura Building, with the intent of finding a compromise amenable to both sides.
The most recent proposal from the council’s Republican majority to resolve the issue led to heated arguments at the last Town Council meeting. The SCCA felt that the plan presented by the Republicans placed impossible demands on them while Democrats were upset they had not seen the proposal before the meeting. Officials now see a need to work out details in the plan and exchange more information.
“This is not an official committee,” said Town Council Chairman John Dobbins. “This is more like a contract negotiation. There are members of the council and the SCCA and we will sit down to try and work out a compromise.”
The group will include Dobbins and fellow Councilors Chris Palmieri, Cheryl Lounsbury, Louis Martocchio and Dawn Miceli, along with Town Attorney Mark Sciota. Representatives from the SCCA include Peter Veronneau, who would lead the construction effort at the building, and Tony Sheffy, the attorney for the SCCA.
Dobbins likened the group to the Board of Education’s temporary subcommittees that deal with contract negotiations for teachers, while Sciota said it was similar to the negotiations that are done with landowners for the town’s open space purchases.
“It’s like any other real estate matter we’ve done in the past,” Sciota said.
He said that a decision had not yet been made about whether the group’s meetings would be in public or behind closed doors. Freedom of Information statutes allow officials to discuss sensitive real estate issues in executive session.
Miceli, the councilor who chaired the Gura Building Use subcommittee, expressed optimism about the effort.
“At this point, we’ve realized that we need a team like this,” she said. “There was consensus that we would move forward with the proposal but there were a lot of detailed questions about the process and we needed a chance for the two sides to discuss it. Hopefully, this will be a step towards an arts center in town. The need for one has been established.”
The council’s next official meeting is in September. If negotiations proceed quickly, it is possible a new proposal could be presented then.
“It’s a step in the right direction if we can come together and negotiate as a group,” said Mary DeCroce, chairperson of the SCCA.