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NEW FAIRFIELD Taking stock of ‘lock box’ for docks

November 13, 2018

NEW FAIRFIELD — The town hopes a new “lock box” fund will not only set aside enough money to replace its deteriorating docks over the next few years, but ensure there is a mechanism in place for the next time around.

The new agreement — between the Parks and Recreation Commission, selectmen and finance officials — will use some parks and recreation money and part of the town’s surplus from last year to put aside $406,000.

It will then raise dock fees and take a portion of the revenue each year to build $837,000 by 2022, officials said.

The new fund will be in place of the parks and recreation’s “boat dock replacement fund,” which officials found had only saved $82,000. That fund hadn’t followed a specific system or used the money for other projects over the years, First Selectman Pat Del Monaco said.

“The difference is there’s going to be a specific amount of money that goes into that fund every year — before it was more of an annual budget process,” Del Monaco said. “We’re trying to make sure from this point forward that that money will accumulate so next time around there’s (funds).”

The Board of Selectmen had first brought forward a plan to begin replacing the docks, which have fallen into disrepair, when finance officials asked how they would use surplus money from last year.

Part of the $280,000 surplus would cover replacing one of the dock’s four “arms,” they said.

But both boards decided to hold off and look into a more long-term plan and how the Parks and Recreation Commission, which oversees the docks, could chip in.

“Representatives of the Board of Finance, the Parks and Recreation Commission and Parks and Recreation Department sat down and worked through what money would be available to get the fund started and cover the first year of expenses,” Del Monaco said.

The starting amount will help the town cover a $20,000 engineering study of the docks and probably replacing at least one of the arms this year.

Taking the surplus funds, though, will require a town meeting. Del Monaco said the town will wait for the study to determine more definitive costs before holding that official vote.

The “lock box” agreement also makes it so that the town will take over setting boat and jet ski fee rates, with recommendations from the parks and recreation commission. The town also agreed not take a portion of the parks and recreation revenue, as it does now, and in return the commission will cover its own capital projects in the future.

Spending the lock box money is set up so that it requires both Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance approval to ensure it continues to build up the fund, officials said.

“Board members change and we want some consistency there,” Wes Marsh said. “The reason the Board of Finance is there is in the past things have not worked out the way they were supposed to work out, so we wanted another check.”

aquinn@newstimes.com

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