Home » Not the year for a new emergency service center, but...

Not the year for a new emergency service center, but...

FALLS VILLAGE — The biggest event in Falls Village for 2011 was actually something that didn’t happen: In a referendum on Aug. 23, voters rejected a $2.5 million plan to finance the building of a new emergency services center on Route 7 South. The 230-126 vote forced the Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department, which had lobbied extensively for the plan, back to the drawing board.After 15 years of planning and land acquisition, fundraising and applying for grants — and even some construction — the new firehouse project was still short almost three quarters of its projected cost, to the tune of about $2.5 million.The fire department volunteers held a series of public information meetings to explain the project. At the last meeting before the referendum, on Aug. 2, First Selectman Pat Mechare provided a handout with four possible bonding scenarios.The options on Mechare’s handout included borrowing from a local bank — a 20-year loan at 3.96 percent interest, for an annual payment of $181,162.44. This option would have required a mill rate increase of .97 and the total amount of the loan would have been $3,623,247. That means a homeowner with a $100,000 assessment would have faced a property tax increase of $97 a year.Also included as possibilities were loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including a 40-year option that required a special act of the state legislature. The interest rates for USDA 20-year, 30-year and 40-year loans were higher, at 4.25 percent. Mill rate increases would have been 1 mill, .79 mills and .70 mills, respectively.But the total amounts would have been significantly higher. The USDA 40-year loan would have ended up costing more than $5 million.The first phase of site work at 188 Route 7 South is complete. That includes septic tank, a driveway and the hole for the cellar.The existing firehouse is downtown, next to the Falls Village Inn. It is on two floors, and at 3,528 square feet, the fire company feels it is far too small for the needs of a modern fire department.At 7,380 square feet, the rejected plan called for more than double the space the department currently has, including space for 10 vehicles in seven bays with entry from two sides. It would be able to accommodate the ladder truck from the Canaan Fire Company when it comes to Falls Village on standby.No new plans have been presented yet. Meanwhile, the fire company volunteers were kept busy with a rather heavy-duty winter. The firefighters and other volunteers were called on to help shovel heavy, wet snow off the roof of the Lee H. Kellogg School last winter. The snow also caused the roof in the rear of the depot (home of the Canaan-Falls Village Historical Society) to collapse. Insurance was not helpful and the Historical Society had to look at some creative fundraising ideas, including this fall’s Historic Homes tour, which was a great success.A proposal for a cell tower on Cobble Hill was, at long last, rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council, which held one hearing at the Kellogg School, complete with commissioners and interested parties galore; sophisticated sound equipment playing classical music during the break (prompting one resident to mutter something about “soothing the natives”); and a strong opposition from the Inland Wetlands Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and Patty and Guy Rovezzi.Town officials struggled to keep taxes low as the economic downturn continued. The town’s Region One School District assessment was unusually high and created a shortfall of around $340,000. Budget season ended May 24, when the Board of Finance voted to raise the mill rate one mill, from 19.5 to 20.5, for the fiscal year 2011-12.Combined with $133,876 from the town’s general fund, $24,000 the finance board subtracted from the Board of Education’s spending plan prior to the town meeting vote, and $9,000 the school board found in additional savings, the mill rate increase covered the cost of increased tuition at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. The Board of Selectmen brought forward a municipal spending plan that was essentially flat at $1,537,790; the Board of Education presented a $1,737,584 plan at public hearing that was subsequently decreased by the $24,000 cut by the Board of Finance.

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