New Milford approves library and charter referendums
NEW MILFORD — After four decades, the library will be renovated.
The $6.5 million library renovation project was overwhelmingly approved during Tuesday’s referendum, with more than 7,780 yes votes to some 3,290 no votes.
Residents also approved the charter revisions with nearly 6,380 yes votes and some 3,620 no votes. The changes mostly dealt with town finances and the finance board.
Library Director Sally Tornow said she had a good feeling about the project’s prospects going into the vote, but she had no idea it would be approved by such a large margin.
“We are so grateful to the town coming through for us,” Tornow said. “It really shows we’re needed.”
She added that because the project funding was approved with a referendum and not a town vote, it shows the majority of town residents support the project.
This is in contrast to the last two attempts to renovate the library, which voters rejected. Residents said the previous proposals we too expensive, among other concerns.
The current proposal incorporates residents’ feedback, and its design fits in more with the downtown character, supporters said. The current proposal will build on top of the existing library footprint.
Under the design, the library would expand from 15,000 to 22,000 square feet, and add much-needed meeting space, as well as expand and relocate the children and young adult sections. The plan would also make the library compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The next step is to put the project out to bid. The library is also awaiting word on a $1 million state grant it applied for to help with the overall construction cost. The town could find out about the grant by the end of the month.
Tornow said she’s optimistic because New Milford is one of only two libraries in Connecticut that hasn’t been renovated in the last 40 years.
Town Councilman Paul Szymanski, who chaired the charter revision committee, said he was proud of the committee’s work to update the document, which hadn’t been revised in 12 years.
“To see the charter revision passed by a wide margin demonstrates that the taxpayers believe in collaboration and pulling together to move the town forward,” he said.
Under the proposed changes, a failed budget would go back to the finance board and only the rejected budget would be changed. As it stands now both the schools and town budgets go back to Town Council if one of them fails and both can be altered.
The revisions add more options for voters on the budget advisory questions, and add more members to the finance board. The revisions also align the term limits for boards and commissions in town with the same start date.
Another financial change is to lower the cost of a supplemental appropriation that would require a town meeting, giving residents more control over the town’s money. The finance director would also have to get approval from the finance board on investment decisions.
This story has been updated with the correct amount of no votes for the charter.