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Sharon sets town meeting on Comcast

On the agenda for the Town Meeting on Oct. 28 will be a decision on whether to expend $800,000 from the town’s undesignated fund to support the first half of the $1.6 million cost of partnering with Comcast to expand broadband service.

SHARON — Anticipating a vote on the proposed Comcast partnership with the town, the Board of Selectmen set a date for a town meeting to be held on Friday, Oct. 28, beginning at 6 p.m., with the location yet to be determined.

The setting of a date came at the selectmen’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The town meeting could be held at Town Hall or the Sharon Center School.

On the agenda for the Town Meeting will be a decision on whether to expend $800,000 from the town’s undesignated fund to support the first half of the $1.6 million cost of partnering with Comcast to expand broadband service to the currently unserved residences and businesses throughout the town.

At the meeting, residents will also vote on whether  to authorize First Selectman Brent Colley to sign the Comcast contract.

Other items to be considered will be to approve an expenditure of $105,432 for the Town Green Rehabilitation Project, Phase 2. The town will also vote on the purchase of two trucks for a total of $310,402, with $150,000 available within the Equipment Replacement Fund, and the balance proposed to come from the undesignated fund.

In advance of the town meeting and before signing a contract with Comcast, the selectmen agreed to select one of the attorneys recommended by Town Attorney Randall DiBella with specific expertise in similar contract review. By unanimous vote the selectmen agreed to hire the services of Attorney Daniel Rosemark of Danbury who will work with Comcast attorneys in the review.

Looking ahead to the implementation of the project, selectman Dale Jones is working with the Sharon Connect committee to draft a job description for a contract performance manager who would serve as a “clerk of the works” liaison between the town and Comcast. The performance manager would also assist residents with any concerns while the project is underway, and be responsible for construction site visits, providing regular updates to town officials and the Sharon Connect committee.

Sharon Connect co-chair Jill Drew reported that she knows of two possible candidates for the performance manager position, pending approval of the drafted job description. She foresaw the manager as also functioning as a “fixer” for the project, helping with situations where permits are needed for the project to move ahead. Drew noted that the Comcast contract calls for a process that would expedite the permitting process.

Town Hall parking lot

Reporting on plans to expand the Town Hall parking lot, Colley said that the proposal encountered a snag when the Sept. 26 meeting of the town’s Historic District Commission denied the plan that would add additional parking spaces and improved drainage along with electric vehicle charging capability and lighting. The first phase of the project describes the paving and installation of under-pavement conduits to bury the electrical cables. A later phase would bring lighting design, including style and establishing timing and brightness levels, as well as landscape details, Colley said, citing issues of concern to Michael Nadeau, a member of the Sharon Energy and Environment Commission.

Nadeau has offered an alternative parking lot plan that includes incorporating a curb-free middle island of vegetation to absorb water runoff as well as a rain garden at the rear.

“We are only setting conduits for future use,” Colley explained about the first phase, noting that the lighting and landscaping are issues for a future phase. He called for accord on deciding the location of the lights and the drainage, indicating the possibility of agreement on the rear rain garden.

“We are caught in a municipal swamp,” Colley said, eager to reach a resolution on the first phase.

Following discussion, the selectmen agreed to ask WMC Engineers to amend their plan to include some of the aspects of Nadeau’s plan, particularly the rain garden. Their concerns continued, however, in regard to the curb-less center vegetative island because it would eliminate parking spaces and be difficult to protect from winter plowing and snow-melt chemicals.

Community Hall

Planning for the future of the Community Hall building west of Sharon Center School was discussed by selectman Casey Flanagan who indicated that The Sharon Housing Trust is preparing a proposal to convert the building into two units of affordable housing.

“I’m not endorsing the idea at this time,” Flanagan said, favoring opening the topic up to the wider community to gather other ideas. “I don’t know what the future use is,” he said, but added that the building is underutilized at present.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Andrulis-Mette is currently using the building for office space and storage related to that program. Additionally, there are a few organizations who use the space for occasional meetings.The selectmen envisioned moving the recreation office to an underused municipal building adjacent to Veterans’ Field, close to the recreation fields. The building experiences light use for animal rescue but could be reconfigured to accommodate a recreation office and storage.

Describing Community Hall as of stable and secure construction, the selectmen agreed to set a date of Jan. 1, 2023, to have the building emptied of its contents to allow a clear view of a future use.

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