Putnam residents to vote on land purchase

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Dec. 9, 2013
Putnam voters will decide whether the town should buy this $300,000 parcel of land. Photos by D. Coffey.
Putnam voters will decide whether the town should buy this $300,000 parcel of land. Photos by D. Coffey.

A special town meeting was held in Putnam on Dec. 2 to discuss a proposed resolution to purchase a 1.2-acre parcel of land for $300,000 from the B’nai Shalom Synagogue. Much discussion about the purchase centered on a proposal to build a new library on the spot. Such is the wish of the Library Exploratory Committee that has been researching potential sites as well as new construction and refurbishing plans for two years.

“The land is important, even if the residents don’t vote for a library to be built on it,” said Committee Chair George Tsanjoures. But Tsanjoures and committee members think the parcel is an excellent spot for a new library. Public comment that evening focused mainly on using it for such.

Proponents of the library claim that is it time for the town to act on recommendations made in the Plan of Conservation and Development more than 10 years ago. With accessibility issues, and lack of community meeting and computer lab space, the current library doesn’t serve the town adequately, they say. During the course of two years, the committee has looked at five parcels of land and the construction costs associated with each parcel. The riverfront parcel is the most favorable spot, in their opinion. “A library is the heart of a community,” Tsanjoures said. “This land is visible and accessible.”

Tsanjoures and Stuart Roberts of Roberts Johnson Architects gave presentations that included layouts of the proposed building and statistics about library use in town. Critics of the plan mentioned the impact such a project would have on the mil rate. The library is just one of many capital improvements planned in Putnam. The high school is getting refurbished. The water system technology park infrastructure needs upgrades.

The library would add an additional burden to residents already struggling to meet their obligations. “If you took snapshot today and asked what it would take to finance all these projects, in the absence of any changes in the grand list, in the absence of any changes in revenue from other sources, it would basically be a 3-mil increase,” said Town Administrator Doug Cutler.

Tsanjoures said that number is the high end of what is a moving target. He estimates that the worst case scenario is a .7-mil increase for the library project alone.

Scott Pempek, who served on the school building committee, is hopeful that Putnam will get a state reimbursement for the school system’s Medical Pathways and PAL program. “There is a history of other towns coming to the state legislature,” said Pempek. “Both of those programs are needy and the socio-economic make-up of Putnam supports that. Everything is there to back us up to say we need this.”

David Denome wasn’t convinced. “My issue isn’t with the library, but with the finances,” he said. “People are piling on these projects with no funding. The state is projecting a $3 billion shortfall beginning fiscal year 2015. How is that going to affect us? We are in for long economic depression. Where is the money coming from?”

Joseph Ernest was equally displeased. “All I’m hearing is ‘if,’” he said. “Our mil rate keeps going up without a guarantee of anything.”

Parking was brought up. Plans call for 75 spaces, which is more than the nationally-recognized standard of one car per 400 spaces.

A referendum will be held on Dec. 16 to vote on the purchase of the land.


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