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Selectmen reject bus parking plan

WINSTED — A plan for district school buses to use Department of Public Works property for school bus parking was shot down during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Aug. 1.The plan was endorsed by Board of Education business manager Paul Petit and Scott Worhunsky, chairman of Worhunsky Transportation, which has a contract with the school district for school bus transportation.Both men were at the meeting, along with Public Works Director Jim Rotondo, who gave a report to the selectmen explaining the benefits and the drawbacks of the plan.“We really would not gain anything from a public works perspective,” Rotondo told the selectmen. “The question is if we can do something to help out the town in order to save money, which is the spirit of why we looked at this idea.”Selectmen expressed concern that the plan would cause traffic issues in town. “I visited the public works [property] and my greatest concern is the traffic congestion,” Selectman Lisa Smith said. “I don’t see how buses and [a public works vehicle] will be able to get out in the winter with the small [driveway].”Selectman Karen Beadle agreed. “My biggest concern is traffic safety, including the issue of a safety plan or the lack thereof,” she said. “I can use this extraordinary winter as an example. Getting in and out of [the facility], even if you had two ways to go in and out, it’s an accident waiting to happen. The property was not built or meant to have that much traffic and there have been way too many variables. This plan has been rushed to us and I don’t feel comfortable [with it].”According to Petit, the plan would have the potential to save the town $24,000 annually.At a previous meeting, Petit said the plan would save money in the district’s contract with Worhunsky Transportation by eliminating the need for the company to pay for renting land to park 16 school buses.The savings would be passed along to the district.In his proposal, Petit said that any necessary improvements needed to house the school buses at the public works facility, including additional fences, grading and structure improvements, would be paid for by Worhunsky as part of annual rental expenses.Petit apologized to the selectmen for bringing the plan to the board with just weeks before the new school year began.“I know all of this was last minute, but I just came on board and started these conversations [with the transportation company],” Petit said. “We feel this [plan] would be mutually beneficial to both the Department of Public Works and the town. The improvements to the [facility] would be permanent. Many towns provide places for buses to park to save money. Whether there would be a snow storm or icing storm, we would help make sure that the buses will travel safely. Tonight we are not necessarily looking for the board to make a final decision. We are hoping for them to bump it to the next step and take it to the Planning and Zoning Commission.”Beadle said she did not agree with Petit and made a motion to reject the plan.“I just want to make sure it’s understood that I brought this forward in the spirit of saving the town money,” Petit said. “Any which way we can account for savings for the town is all that I was after.”The vote was 4-2, with Smith, Beadle, Glenn Albanesius and Ken Fracasso voting to reject the proposal.Mayor Candy Perez and Selectman George Closson voted against rejecting the proposal.Selectman Michael Renzullo recused himself from both the vote and the discussion.After the vote, Worhunksy had sharp words for the selectmen.“From what I have read in the newspaper, I see what is going on in this town and I find it unfortunate that people’s political aspirations have to be a determination in decisions like this,” Worhunsky said.He was cut off from further comments by Perez.Outside of the meeting, Worhunsky said he had an alternative plan with a private landowner for parking buses, but he would not give any details on the plan.

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