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Three cheers for Litchfield's Town Clerk, Lisa Losee. She cast the lone dissenting vote against renovating the old courthouse on the Green in Litchfield to serve as a new Town Hall for our community. She was right to contrast the renovation project against the construction of a purpose built structure. The existing courthouse was built as a courthouse. It lacks all the amenities of a modern, properly sized, Town Hall that could be built for essentially the same cost behind the existing Town Hall. A renovation of the courthouse will doubtlessly find the taxpayers strapped to a high maintenance structure for the next fifty years; whereas, a new purpose build structure would be energy efficient and ergonomically better suited to meet the needs of the community for the next fifty years.
A renovation of the courthouse will yield an imperfect space finding some employees becoming "cellar dwellers" and other offices crammed into former judge's chambers. In the end, for essentially the same money, we could have a modern purpose built structure and leave the renovation of the courthouse to Mr. Barton who has done a marvelous job renovating the old jail. Additionally, Town Hall related traffic on West Street would further diminish the number of available parking spaces, dimming the prospects for our delicate merchant ecosystem.
You may ask, "Do we need a new, bigger, Town Hall?" The answer is yes. The cost of maintaining the Bantam Annex is too great. Getting our Land Use offices under the same roof as our Town Hall offices is essential and will provide a better measure of one stop service to our taxpayers. Right now this is not possible in the context of the existing office building. You may ask, "Can we afford a new purpose built building?" The answer is yes. continued
To the Editor of Litchfield.bz:
A few years ago, the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust-GLPT for short, pronounced GLIPT-tried to get Litchfield's selectmen to move the town offices to the abandoned jailhouse, which the state, by statute, would have given us absolutely free. GLPT even sprung for a conversion study.
But the selectmen wisely rejected spending at least six million dollars to adapt a building much better suited-in spirit, even without alteration-for lawyers' offices or Chabad Lubavitch headquarters.
So GLPT's latest stratagem to exert purely altruistic control over Litchfield involves the abandoned courthouse, which it bought from the private owners for a nominal sum and wants to give to the town for use as the town offices. The gift would come with conditions, of course, which make the gift a non-gift.
While the courthouse town hall is a better concept than the jailhouse town hall, the six-to-seven-million-dollar plan recently pushed by GLPT and referred by the Town Hall Review Committee to the selectmen just plain sucks. It also stinks. It does little more than bring the crotchety old building up to quasi-modern specs and possible building-code compliance without considering functionality.
An employee eating area in an entrance lobby, tiny rooms, and low ceilings are just a few of the ridiculous, even ludicrous compromises intended to keep the cost down so that the plan would pass a referendum. Yeah, right. In reality, all the corner-cutting does is give voters yet another reason not to accept the el-cheapo plan. continued
To the Editor:
The citizens of Litchfield have been offered a gift from the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust— the historic 1890 Litchfield Courthouse. This is a once in a life time opportunity. If the people reject this offer and our historic building has to be sold to an individual or business, the citizens will lose control of this landmark building forever.
The courthouse is located in the center of town providing convenient access for all residents and is just a short distance from the post office, library, banks, gas stations, restaurants and shopping. There is a large parking lot behind the building, the plan calls for an elevator and complete interior renovation — it will be energy efficient and beautiful if the plan is approved by the voters.
The courthouse was originally built by the town and was shared by the county court and the Litchfield town hall until 1960. The current town hall no longer serves its purpose; renovation and enlargement would cost $9-10 million. The courthouse conversion is priced at $6.4 million, but the Town Hall Review Committee has wisely increased the price to include any unforeseen expenses. Voters will be asked to approve a cost of “not to exceed” $7.6 million.
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation stated that the granite courthouse was “built for the ages."
Please attend one of the following presentations, listen to the plan and express your support for the courthouse during the public comment section of the evening.
1. Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Litchfield Intermediate School Auditorium
2. Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Bantam Borough Hall
3. Thursday, November 1, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Northfield Firehouse
The courthouse is a building that I would be proud to call our town hall.
To the Editor:
I am writing in support of Alex Larsson, who is running for State Legislature to represent the 66th district. He is bright and well informed, and he cares about the state’s environmental issues. The League of Conservation Voters has endorsed him, while the League gave his opponent a score of only 40%.
Not only do our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands provide homes for wildlife and recreational opportunities for us; they are also a source of economic prosperity to a variety of businesses that serve the people who travel to the region to enjoy our unspoiled landscapes and waterways. If we fail to protect them, the prosperity of the whole region suffers. Remember the algae bloom that caused Bantam Lake to become unswimmable several years ago?
Alex has been going door to door, visiting over 3000 constituents to hear their concerns and ask for their support. I appreciate Alex’s passion and energy, his willingness to listen and learn, and his clear focus on representing the needs of our region in Hartford. Please join me in voting for Alex Larsson on November 6.
To the Editor:
Many years ago the Litchfield BOS voted to discontinue the municipal use of the Bantam Annex in the soon-to-be coming years. It may be time to review that decision as much has changed in the intervening years between then and now.
The State government in Hartford has cut financial contributions to municipalities, the population in the entire state is declining and our taxes are on the rise. We are losing teachers due to lower student enrollment in our schools, and educational programs are being cut in the name of cost savings. This year, local taxpayers may have experienced little to no tax increase, but what will it cost us in the long run if we continue to cut services as we present taxpayers with an unrealistic budget?
The costs associated with building a new Town Hall will raise our taxes for years to come and if a decision is made to replace the popular Park and Recreation Departments Gymnasium (which is a large part of the Annex), that will also need to be funded by our tax dollars. It comes down to, where do our priorities lie? Are we more interested in having a costly new building in the center of town, or would we rather invest our tax dollars into the great buildings that we already own?
Renovation of both the Litchfield Town Hall and the Litchfield Town Hall Annex would cost a fraction of what the BOS are otherwise thinking of presenting to the taxpayers at referendum. Instead of new perhaps we should consider continuing their current use while expanding the offerings of community-based programs in the newly vacated space. The property in Bantam has 10.5 acres and a 29,000 sq. ft building, enough capacity to provide growth for many years to come while meeting the needs of our current municipal workers. continued