Residents against using settlement for ambulance barn
The most passionate naysayer is Julie Doring, daughter of the late George Doring, the Zoning Commission chairman who enabled the town to win the $43.1-million lawsuit in 1998.
In a letter read Monday night to the Town Council, Julie Doring said she favors the new ambulance barn but believes her father would vehemently oppose using the money for this purpose.
She said she objects to Board of Finance member George McLaughlin tapping her father's memory to win support for his cause.
McLaughlin, who was regularly at political odds with George Doring, asked the Town Council to consider amending the landfill settlement ordinance so money in the fund could be used to pay for the town portion of the ambulance barn construction cost. He suggested that if this is done the barn be named in Doring's honor.
A town meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2 on the proposed ambulance barn project -- an approximately 10,000-square-foot building with room for three ambulances and training space to be built on a 3-acre corner of the town-owned former Century Brass mill site on Housatonic Avenue and Aspetuck Ridge Road.
The town meeting will be at 8 p.m. in the New Milford High School lecture hall. A referendum is scheduled for Oct. 16.
Though McLaughlin's offer appears to be a tribute to George Doring, a longtime educator as well as town leader, Julie Doring considers it a "cynical manipulation" -- a way to sway public sentiment to affect a procedural change "to which my father would have been vehemently opposed."
Doring added that McLaughlin's request to put her father's name on the ambulance barn "borders on absurd," because Doring was never a volunteer ambulance corps member.
A message left for McLaughlin on Wednesday was not returned.
The Town Council did not have time to debate the matter Monday night. It is expected to be on its agenda Oct. 9.
Merryall resident Mary Jane Peterson said the landfill settlement fund should be used as the ordinance specifies -- to buy land, or to construct recreation, education and library facilities. (Ten percent of the fund each year can be used toward tax relief.)
It was George Doring's stubborn determination related to enforcing zoning regulations that won a lawsuit that "has paid off very handsomely for our town," Peterson said. The town will receive the money over a 25-year period.
Doring wanted the fund protected so it could make a true difference to future generations, Peterson added.
"Make no mistake, had it not been for George this amazing source of income would not exist today," Peterson said.
New Milford's 2002 landfill settlement ordinance was crafted following considerable disagreement over how the money would best serve the town's interest, Peterson said.
In the end, the ordinance was a compromise. "End of story? Apparently not," Peterson said.
If McLaughlin is able to gain support to change the ordinance, "George Doring's legacy will pass out of existence," Peterson said.
"Don't disrespect George and his gift to this town," she implored.