New Milford Town Council rejects community center survey
NEW MILFORD — A survey to determine the need and makeup of a community center was rejected after months of deliberations.
The Town Council rejected $18,000 for a professional market survey Monday in a 2-7 vote, with only councilmen Walter Bayer and Peter Mullen approving it.
Finding the money for the survey and the possibility of bias were the main concerns council members brought up during the discussion.
The community center committee has been asking since the summer for $18,500 to pay Great Blue, a professional survey company, to determine the best approach for the town’s community center. The committee made the request after getting proposals from four companies.
The committee has met for months to gather information about community centers in the area, the town’s community center history and to gather residents’ input about what they want to see in a community center. Committee members have told the Town Council they can’t do anymore without the professional study.
At the last meeting though, council was split 4-4 on the study, largely due to the $250,000 special appropriation made just before for additional legal fees. Mayor Pete Bass decided to delay the vote though as he identified another funding source.
On Monday, that funding source still hadn’t been officially identified, though Mullen suggested using the undesignated fund, which he said had more than enough money.
Councilman Michael Nahom said the town is continuing to shrink and spending from the undesignated fund in the middle of a budget cycle set a bad precedent and was not a good practice in general.
“Costs are going up and incomes are going down and we have to watch our pennies,” he said.
Councilman Tom Esposito also said the work that the survey would compile can be gathered at public forums and other surveys done as part of the plan of conservation and development update happening now. He said this tends to garner a good response rate.
He added this will also look more at what people want and where.
“There are a lot of other questions asked of the general public,” he said.
Councilwoman Lisa Hida said she still supports a professional market study but said the committee should not be a part of it anymore because some members have shown confirmation bias and she worries that will skew the results and negate any work done or decision made.
She recommended the committee write its final report based on where they are now in the process and the town will figure out a different way to have a market research survey done.
During public comment, resident Michael Sennello, suggested a grant or private donations to cover the cost of the survey.
Pat Erickson, a committee member, asked that the Town Council give the committee money to do a mailer for its own survey if it didn’t want to pay for the professional survey.
“We’re getting nowhere and it’s extremely frustrating,” she said.