WATERTOWN — The Town Council, meeting Monday, March 16, discussed parts of the town’s budget, addressed new business and held an executive session for pending litigations.

Acting Town Manager John Gavallas announced that he declared a State of Emergency for the town of Watertown.

The declaration will make it easier for the town to receive federal reimbursements for any expenditures that may occur during the coronavirus crisis and will permit him to have more authority to act immediately if the need arises.

The declaration has been put on the town website, those seeking more information may visit http://www.watertownct.org/filestorage/3928/Letter_and_Declaration_of_State_of_Emergency.pdf.

“We face difficult days ahead,” he said. “There is cause for concern, but no one should be panicking.”

He said if the public follows the guidelines from the state Department of Health, practices personal hygiene, avoids large gatherings and limits personal contact with others, it can help slow the spread of the virus.

The Senior Center has been closed, but the director and administrative aide are able to answer questions. 

The senior bus will continue for doctor’s appointments, prescription pick-ups and food services.

Town offices are currently operating at a normal schedule with a full staff. 

However, effective at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, he issued a statement that the town offices are closed for walk-in business until further notice. 

Those seeking additional information may visit the town website at http://www.watertownct.org/.

To begin the meeting, the council held an executive session for pending litigations including a stipulated tax judgment for an assessment appeal for Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC vs. the Town of Watertown, and a stipulated tax judgment for an assessment appeal for Connecticut CVS Pharmacy LLC vs. the Town of Watertown.

Under new business, the council approved a settlement agreement with Stop & Shop Supermarket Company LLC vs. the Town of Watertown for an assessed value of $5,530,000 on the 2018 grand list. No refund will be issued. A credit will be given towards the July 2020 bill.

The council approved a settlement agreement with Connecticut CVS Pharmacy LLC vs. the Town of Watertown for an assessed value of $2,240,000 on the 2018 grand list and $2,310,000 on the 2019 grand list. No refund will be issued for this either; a credit will be given towards the July 2020 bill.

Finance Subcommittee Chair Mary Ann Rosa continued the discussion of 2019-2020 budgets.

The council reviewed budget requests for the Public Works Department and the Water and Sewer Authority.

Public Works Director Roy Cavanaugh reviewed the public works budget. The department is seeking an increase of 4.4 percent from last year’s budget. There were increases in engineering, highway and solid waste.

According to Mr. Cavanaugh, the increases are mandated by the increases in the Blue-Collar Highway contract. He said state funding is flat and there have been no changes in staffing.

Superintendent Vincent Caterino reviewed the Water and Sewer Authority budget. He said the department is seeking $1,796,354 for the water operations budget and $1,876,296 for the sewer operations budget.

He said the increases in the water and sewer operations are for purchase services, employee services, supplies and materials, equipment and improvements and employee benefits.

The council next reviewed new business.

They received a presentation of the space needs and site assessments for the Watertown Police Department by Jacunski Humes, Architects, Inc., by architect Brian Humes and Acting Chief of Police Joshua Bernegger.

Mr. Bernegger said the council approved the first two phases of the project, which were the space needs and site assessment. He requested that they approve the final phases: schematic design and a professional cost estimate.

Mr. Humes reviewed the documents and discussed the reasons for a new facility which include overcrowding; increases in staff levels; current functions; parking, heating, ventilation and air conditioning; outdated jail cell units; lack of a community room and a radio system upgrade.

Mr. Humes discussed the site assessment documents which analyzed three possible sites: the current facility, the current property and a property at 0 Nova Scotia Hill Rd. 

The current facility is not feasible because the department would need to temporarily relocate, which is expensive; the current property includes too many wetlands and a sewer line. Most of the property is undevelopable. 

The next two phases of the project are for the architect to conduct a schematic design and produce a professional cost estimate. To conduct a schematic design, the town needs to specify a site.

The council discussed the proposal, asked questions regarding neighborhood impact, response time, immediacy concerns, expansion of current facility and timeline of the project.

During public participation, Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission William Donston said the proposed Nova Scotia Hill property was earmarked for the new senior citizen community center.

He said the town’s senior citizens, which he believes are the largest voting demographic, gave up their center for the Town Hall renovation. “They are not going to forget that they were asked once to step back, I do not believe they will do it a second time.” 

The council approved the following items:

A bid waiver for the furnishing and installation of chip seal for calendar year 2020 to be provided by Gorman Brothers for an amount not to exceed $107,265;

An extension of a bid waiver previously granted on May 6, 2019 and August 19, 2019 for the furnishing and installing of bituminous concrete paving in place and incidental to be performed by Cocchiola Construction for an amount not to exceed $1,350,000;

Authorization of a bid waiver for the purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment for the Heminway Renovation Project to be purchased through the Omnia Partners Public Sector Cooperative Contracts Program for an amount not to exceed $63,570.12; 

A bid waiver for the purchase of 1,000 hats from Litchfield Sportsmen’s for the Shamrock Shuffle;

An approval of an agreement with Jan Wivestad for an Independent Contractor Agreement at Crestbrook Park Golf Course;

A resolution authorizing the Interim Town Manager to enter, execute and deliver to the state of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security documents necessary and appropriate for grants;

An approval of the agreement between the Watertown Police Union Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 038 and the town for the period of April 1, 2018 to June 30, 2022;

Allocation of additional funds in the amount of $8,073.75 for the Clerk of the Works for the Heminway Renovation Project;

An appropriation in the amount of $1,500 from the general fund for vehicle maintenance;

$1,000 to be returned to the police department account and $500 to be returned to the highway department; Funds received as reimbursements for deductibles from subrogating motor vehicle claims.

A resolution authorizing the transfer of funds between line items for fiscal year 2019-2020;

and last, a resolution authorizing an appropriation in the amount of $12,951.37 for tax refunds and a resolution to authorize tax refunds.

The council added an item under New Business and approved a decision to move the date for the Charter Revision Commission to transmit their draft report to the Town Council. The date was revised to Thursday, April 30.

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