Schlumberger support? Site work expected to cost $680,000
Voters will be asked to support at least a portion of $680,000 needed for Schlumberger Phase I site work — roads, parking lots, outdoor lighting, and landscaping — at a town meeting. But approvals from the selectmen and finance board are required first, and a town meeting has not yet been set.
With a $680,000 bid in hand last week, First Selectman Rudy Marconi expected to present the spending for the Phase I construction work to the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night, March 7 — but that meeting was cancelled due to weather.
He proposes to finance the Schlumberger work from two sources: $480,000 would come out of the state’s annual grants to the town for road work, and the remaining $200,000 would use up about half of a projected $398,000 surplus for the current 2017-18 town departments budget — which would require town meeting approval.
Marconi hoped that Wednesday night’s selectmen’s meeting would set a date for a town meeting to consider that $200,000 appropriation — after it has gone through the Board of Finance.
The selectmen could decide to send the money to voters for approval at a referendum, he said, but what’s required are approvals by the finance board and a town meeting.
Marconi emphasized that the town had already committed to develop roads and parking lots on the Schlumberger site as part of its voter-approved lease agreements with the tenants who are repairing and renting the two buildings on the property — the design firm BassamFellows in the Philip Johnson building and the ACT of Connecticut theater group in the nearby auditorium.
“The bid is $680,000 — which we’re required to do by contract with the current tenants, which are putting millions of dollars into the existing buildings — millions,” Marconi said.
(Early in their long-term leases, the two tenants are obligated to restore the buildings, both of which stood empty for years and are in considerable disrepair.)
There’s some time pressure, as the roads and parking are expected to be done for the ACT theater group’s summer season.
“Our completion date is Memorial Day, and their first performance is on June 7,” Marconi said.
Aside from the $200,000 coming out of the projected current year surplus and going to town meeting, the remainder of the money needed — $480,000 of the $680,000 — will come from what town officials call the “town aid road” (TAR) account.
That’s money from the state.
Ridgefield, like other Connecticut towns, has for years gotten an annual state grant for road work of various kinds — construction, repair, paving, plowing. Since the bulk of the work at the Schlumberger site is for road and parking lot construction, this money can be used for it, Marconi said.
He noted that “$480,000 is available in our TAR money, and such use is permitted under statute — this is grant money from the state of Connecticut — because we are building roads and parking,” he said.
While he plans to use a portion of the TAR money for the Schlumberger construction, not all will be used, and some will be set aside in case it is needed for other road uses.
“We’re using TAR money after we’ve allowed for about a $250,000 overage for this year — which should be more than enough money to cover any additional costs this year for a bad winter, but so far so good.”
The selectmen have also been approached about appropriating a separate $25,000 to take Schlumberger Phase II plans — a “cultural center” with a stage or amphitheater on the central portion of the property — through design to planning and zoning approval, with the idea that the actual construction of Phase II would be pursued through private fund raising. The proposal was to take the $25,000 from the town’s roughly $61,000 “contingency” account, which is used for unanticipated expenses, often including having engineering work done or plans drawn up. They expect to discuss that idea further on March 21.
Marconi emphasized that by using the $480,000 in state road money, and taking $200,000 gleaned from the anticipated current year surplus, the $680,000 could be covered without asking taxpayers to exceed the current year’s $37-million budget for town operations.
“None of these monies — although they’re taxpayer dollars, for sure — require an additional appropriation,” Marconi said.