Concerns regarding the proposed municipal lot at Derynoski Elementary School on Eden Avenue were raised by both councilors and Southington residents at the Oct. 16 Town Council meeting.
The reaction came after the proposal was presented at the Sept. 25 council meeting. Town Attorney Mark Sciota reported that the Strike Committee, a subcommittee of the council, had been working with the Board of Education to put a municipal parking lot in the lower lot of Derynoski School.
The lot would have 42 spots, plus two handicapped spots, for a price of $5,000. Some repairs would need to be done, such as fixing the catch basin and filling some cracks, as well as the addition of a fence on the perimeter of the lot.
At the September meeting, Southington’s economic development director Lou Perillo explained that the idea for the lot came from a few local residents saying there was limited parking on the street, yet the northern portion of the Derynoski lot is unutilized. Perillo and Sciota both said the lot would be a low-cost initiative and would bring attention and activity to the area, which is lacking, but has potential.
Councilor John Barry said he was disappointed in the lack of communications between the boards involved in this process: the council, the BOE, and Planning and Zoning Committee. Barry noted that Sciota said, on the record at the last council meeting, that the Strike Committee had been working with the BOE for eight months on the issue, and that Perillo stated it was vetted with the BOE.
“Those statements led me to believe that the BOE approved this issue,” said Barry. “I have always been under the impression that the elected boards set policy, not staff, so they were referring to staff, and not the BOE. It comes to my attention that many members of the BOE were not aware that this was happening.”
Town Manager Garry Brumback spoke to Barry’s report to clear the confusion. “We have a communication saying it was vetted with the BOE and approved by them. We would not have come forward if that had not been done.”
Brumback continued that the board members in the district administration had worked on this, not the elected BOE members.
Barry suggested that perhaps the miscommunication lies on the BOE, since a member of that board had told him directly that they were not aware of the issue. “I raised the question tonight so we can be clear on why it was here [with the council].”
A municipal lot is already in close proximity to the front of the school. A commuter lot and the public library parking lot are directly across the street from the school entrance. Both are used for school activities.
Residents, particularly parents of school children at Derynoski, spoke about their fears for children’s safety if this lot at the rear of the school goes forward.
Megan Hurley, a mother of a Derynoski student, spoke during public communications, saying that any governing body that would approve plans to convert the northern portion of the parking lot to a municipal lot would be “failing responsibility to protect the safety and security of our children, our most vulnerable citizens.”
“Any action that would allow unvetted adults in proximity of students, especially during the school day, is a safety and security risk not worth taking at any cost or financial gain,” said Hurley. “The notion that any person could park their car and have access to view the activities of innocent unaware children at recess, physical education or any other outdoor activities is horrifying.”
Chair Mike Riccio said, in response to confusion on the board as well as concerns from the community, along with detailed discussions over the weekend with the Derynoski principal, he decided to remove the agenda item from the meeting.
In other business at the Oct. 16 meeting, sitting councilors acknowledged the departure of Cheryl Lounsbury and Edward Pocock III from the council since this is the final meeting before Election Day and neither is seeking reelection.
“I would like to thank everyone who supported me,” said Lounsbury. “I learned a lot from this position, and it’s been a real honor to serve you all.”
Pocock was on the same page. “I can assure you that I’m always going to stay active and be doing something in the town,” he said. “The reality of the matter is the Town Council is really where the rubber meets the road. This group is here for the people, regardless of party.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.