By SHERIDAN CYR
Town Councilors voted to approve two referendum questions to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballots for residents of Southington. Both votes were unanimous.
The first referendum question will ask for voters’ approval on $2 million appropriation for acquisition of land for open space.
The second referendum question will ask for approval on a $2.6 million appropriation for costs related to the replacement of a portion of the Southington High School roof.
The roof, when installed, had a life expectancy of 20 years. It is currently 10 years beyond that, and the roof has several leaks that risk potential damage to property inside.
If the referendum is passed by voters, work would begin in the summer of 2019.
The $2 million appropriation for open space will allow the Open Space Committee to bond for purchases of land as necessary. The money doesn’t go into an account and sit – it is just available to be accessed when potential land purchases come up, explained councilor Dawn Miceli (D) who also chairs the Open Space Committee.
When the committee has money available, it become easier to negotiate with families and property owners against developers who are seeking the land as well.
“Open space is good for our community’s health, stability, beautify and overall quality of life,” said Miceli. “It protects our community’s character, natural resources, wildlife and wetland corridors, and shapes the overall aesthetic and enhances the lives of our residents.”
There are currently more than 550 acres of open space land owned by the town of Southington, and Miceli says there are a “considerable number of acres” of potentially obtainable land left.
During the public hearing, Phil Pomopsi said he was not against open space, but thought the town had their priorities wrong. He said a library expansion and renovation was long overdue and should come first.
“The library is used by everybody in this town: seniors, students, various organizations,” Pomposi said. “Talk to anybody who uses the library on a consistent basis and they will explain to you that it’s about time we put our money where it’s most needed. I can support open space, but not before a referendum for the library.”
Before the council voted, Mike Riccio (R) agreed with Pomposi and said he was a huge proponent of the library.
“The decision of this board was to not pursue the library at this time and to pursue open space, so if the library referendum was here tonight, I would be voting for that,” he said. “But, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself if I didn’t support this [referendum for open space].”
Councilors Kelly Morrissey (D), John Barry (D) and Victoria Triano (R) shared similar thoughts.
“I fully support the library as well, and it’s always packed with a good number of people,” said Morrissey. “At this point we are in the process of looking for a new library director, and I would hate to put a new director in and have to rush into any type of decision.”
“In terms of priority,” said Triano, “If the two were presented at the same time, I would be choosing the library, hands down. I am going to vote in favor of [open space] tonight but I am still considering both sides of the issue.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.