Wednesday, June 08, 2016
UPDATE After almost three hours of often contentious debate, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) early today approved by a vote of 24 to 2 with three abstentions a $1.5 million plan to renovate Saugatuck commuter parking lot No. 1.
Controversy arose in the last week about an original plan to reduce the lot’s five exits to one as some commuters and RTM members feared this would add additional time to exit the lot.
But late Monday, as an experiment went forward to test a one-exit plan – with few delays – Police Chief Foti Koskinas announced the plan would be revised to allow for two exits from the lot.
A number of members argued that the appropriation should be delayed and returned to RTM committees in light of the revision to the plan and the fact that not many commuters were aware of its details.
RTM member Jennifer Johnson, a member of the Transit Committee, proposed the delay. That motion failed by a vote of 24 to 5.
The $1.5 million, already approved by the Board of Finance and to be funded by bond and note authorization over five years and paid by Railroad Parking fees, was not the issue.
Johnson and others who argued for postponing the vote demanded more input from commuters, saying they had been left out of the process.
They said daily commutes would be lengthened by as much as six minutes as commuters exited the lot.
Despite the controversy, only four members of the public appeared to address the appropriation.
Two of the four were close to the issue—Evan Barr, husband of Johnson, and John Hartwell, a member of the Board of Finance who said he appeared as vice chair of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council.
Barr argued for postponement and Hartwell said he favored moving ahead. The two other public speakers also split on the issue.
Originally, Koskinas and Deputy Public Works Director John Broadbin had proposed reducing the five exits to one for safety concerns, saying that vehicles were exiting haphazardly at five different curb cuts on to Park Street.
But after seeking commuter input and meeting with them on Monday, Koskinas proposed a second exit and expanded the original one next to Luciano Park from 18 to 36 feet, which includes one entrance lane and two exit ones.
Plans to restore the 321-vehicle lot on 2.8 acres include: new LED lighting; a second stairway to Lot 8; repaving and raising the lot 2 to 4 feet to keep it out of the flood zone; tree plantings; improved streetscape; and a pedestrian sidewalk around its perimeter.
In addition to Johnson, outspoken critics of the proposal were RTM members John Suggs and Kristan Peters-Hamlin. Peters-Hamlin said that the lot poses no safety issues in terms of accidents.
Jessica Bram, who serves on the RTM Transit Committee and had voted last week against the proposal—the committee deadlocked by a 3 to 3 vote—said Tuesday night that she had a change of heart.
She said she changed her opinion after hearing about the second exit and watching commuters leave the lot with no delays Monday evening.
RTM Catherine Calise agreeed that the renovation plan was a good one.
“I don’t think we need to go back to the committee,” she said. “The lot will be much safer. If we put it off and the lot fails, we’ll be in a worse position that we are now.”
Broadbin said he expected work on the lot to begin mid-July with completion set before Labor Day. Plans were already in the works to find additional spaces for commuters displaced from lot No. 1, Koskinas said.
In all, the RTM spent just under three hours on the issue, finally adjourning at 12:35 a.m.
Earlier, members spent an hour and 22 minutes debating an appropriation of $40,000 to the Capital and Non-Recurring Account for the replacement of a sand filter for the lap pool at Longshore.
Some members argued the approval should be delayed to get more than one bidder, possibly a less expensive one. But others said the bidding process followed proper procedures and changing the rules now would set a bad precedent.
The appropration was approved 24 to 6.
With numerous items still remaining on the agenda, the RTM will convene in a special session on June 21 to complete its work.
Posted 06/08/16 at 12:34 AM Permalink