Old Town Hall to Come Down, Library Renovation To Commence

A unanimous vote elected to take down the old Town Hall and commence with the library renovations.

In a press conference held Wednesday night, First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker announced that the Old Town Hall would be demolished to make way for the required 16 parking spaces that the library needs to expand. 

 “The Board of Selectmen has studied the Old Town Hall issue for over two years, and there is simply no other way to create the additional spaces that are required to complete the library renovation,” Knickerbocker said.

Knickerbocker said that the original back up plan to put library parking along the west side of the Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center is no longer viable, due to many factors, including the placement of the emergency generator that feeds electricity to the building.

"Taking down Old Town Hall not only creates the space needed to comply with our zoning regulations,provide far more tax revenue to the town," the first selectman said.

The decision to demolish the building was based on a 3-0 vote by the Selectmen.

Information released at the press conference states, “The final phase of Bethel’s library renovation, which began over six years ago, is finally about to begin,” Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said.

 The $2.46 million that is needed to complete the project will not come from taxpayer money, Knickerbocker said.  Grants and private donations will reportedly will pave the way for the renovation to begin.  

Knickerbocker thanked all of the volunteers for their hard work and effort during the long capital fund raising campaign. “These include many past and present members of the library’s board of directors, the volunteers of the Friends of the Bethel Public Library and the many, many patrons, businesses, donors and taxpayers who have made this project possible and want to see this renovation completed.”

Construction will commence in June and is expected to be complete by early 2013.

--- June 07, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Hmmm. You had me up until you said it would be entertaining. Were I a politician, I would jump at this chance to make a show of myself, but since I detest politics, I will politely decline your kind offer. Now, however, if you wanted to have a "Constitution 101" contest, I would be all in. :) For it is a truer than true reality that politics has nothing to do with our Constitution, and far too many of our citizenry in America don't know this. Again, thank you for the kind offer, but...no.
Eric T Gray June 07, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Bob, is this the same Burke that was stalking someone? He was a public figure, and at the time 'leading' our town, and this is what he's up to... doesn't sound responsible to me... sound totaly self-serving to me. Anyway, reading your posts (one of which was apparently deleted) it occurred to me that you are exactly the type of person that I want out of local politics. You can't even state your opinion without including personal insults and/or other argumentative and negative comments. I want to be taken seriously and I'm afraid being associated with someone like you (or Burke) would have the exact opposite impact I'm looking for.
Eric T Gray June 07, 2012 at 04:52 PM
@Bill Hillman, I don't think we need to put this "keep or demo old town hall" to a vote at this point... I think we should have had something well before, for example someone commented here that there could have been an extra line item on the recent budget referendum. Sounds like a reasonable, low cost suggestion. My issue is with the way it was done, not whether we should keep it or not. I'm all about being honest, and last we heard from our Selectman was after a late March meeting he suggested we'd go to a petition... next we hear, its coming down. It just seems downright misleading and I don't like it. Yet, I don't think we should risk losing the matching funds at this point, and I think we can all agree that this just needs to be put to bed for the good of the town. @ Don, it couldn't have been better stated "There is no reason, no reason at all, that Bethel cannot have lower taxes, amazing schools, and elected officials who represent, and not resent, the masses". I wish more people felt this way... @Bill, @Don, when is the next committee meeting or town meeting that I can join in or sit in on? I really want to become more informed so I can become involved in helping make Bethel a better place!
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Mr. Borsch, If the majority will were instead of tearing down the old town, hall, if Billy Michael were to get a petition going to instead tear down the library, and he got enough signatures - after all, many in town think the library doesn't serve a purpose, its budget is too large, you can put the entire library on a hard drive and people can order books like they do iTunes, whatever - and he gets enough signatures, the town would be forced to put that out for a machine vote. We can think of all sorts of issues if we wanted to that we can get signatures to put out for a vote. Maybe we should get a referendum going to kick the library out and turn the property into a hotel. If we get enough signatures, we can put that out for a vote. In any event, you will stage a machine vote where we have to pay poll workers, print ballots, etc. for what? You think a "majority"is going to express their will? Out of 11,000 registered voters, maybe 1,800 will vote. 901 is a "majority"; meaning it would be A majority vote, but it wouldn't be THE majority of taxpayer or of the 18,000 residents, of which 7,000 are not even eligible to vote. Don't try to diminsh my point with your attempt at shaming me, as if I am some sort of lower lifeform which failed to evolve. That is what losers do when they fail to have a grasp of all the issues, and are in need of a distraction - that, and we'll throw in a salute to the flag and sing "God Bless America" for good measure.
--- June 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Mr. Improta, And all of that could have been avoided if this would have come to a town vote in the first place. Simple. I quite enjoyed your not-so-subtle disdain for the voters in Bethel, as you spoke about the lack of voters who bother to show up to vote at all. It seems that would make your job easier, yes? I mean, if Bethel is as apathetic as you say, then this gives you and yours free reign to rule as you wish with no interference or dissension. Good for you. Perhaps people don't vote as much as they should because they are tired of being treated like pawns in this power struggle of political/self-serving gain known as Bethel Politics 2012. Maybe the people of Bethel have had their spirits broken and have resigned themselves to the status quo of proper peasantry, much to your delight. You represent the old, decaying, and rotting politics of 'business as usual and how things have always been'. I slowly shake my head in silent disgust and disappointment. The people of Bethel deserve better than you, Mr. Improta. I simply don't think they have been allowed to believe this, thanks to you and your ilk.
BOB CRNIC June 07, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Same Burke, but the stalking charge was overblown. Eric, I've been involved in local politics for 20 years. I'm guilty of knowing too much about the town's affairs when things happen that I know are improper I get attacked for exposing it. I also know the people that I spar with on these blogs all too well. It's like a large disfunctional family where we know each other's flaws. If you want to be taken seriously then do your homework and learn the players and the town's history. Saying you want change is not enough. Stick with people who have a plan of action, solutions. Most of the "players" in this town are followers and sway to any organized special interest group. They derive their political courage in being part of a group dynamic, not the conviction of their own ideas. It's a social club for most of them as well. And last but not least they are not loyal which is the only currency in politics. They'll throw anyone under the bus if it threatens their status in the community. Good luck and try not to judge a person from heresay and these blogs. Most of us bloggers have a long history with each other. If there's insults being thrown back and forth, it mirrors underlying emotions.
--- June 07, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Mr. Crnic, You said: "Eric, I've been involved in local politics for 20 years." Exactly. Local politics. Not governance, but politics. 20 years is a long time, Mr. Crnic to be involved in such a farce. Saying we want change IS enough, wouldn't you agree?
Anonymous Coward June 07, 2012 at 07:05 PM
What do we vote on next? The senior center is a sacred cow, let's rile up the folks and start a petition to close that down. We elected people to manage the day to day business of the town. This "small government" bunch needs to grandstand and claim to be "protecting" the taxpayers from the big-bad government. If by chance this goes to town vote and the "people" vote to put the building for sale, then what? The building is worthless. First an investor needs to commit to making the building safe for human occupancy and then the same person needs to figure out where people would park and then the building might be able to get a C of O and then it can be taxed for some amount (i think I've seen $11K/year thrown around as the amount). Meanwhile grants of over a million dollars that will be spent to improve our downtown and benefit the whole community will expire and be lost. After 3 months, 6 months whatever length of time and the building hasn't been sold and needs to be torn down. This time at the expense of the taxpayers instead of a grant. So we lose grants that people worked hard to obtain AND we pay the couple of hundred grand to rip down the building. Doesn't this all sound similar to the high school project. The same group of hacks delayed the high school project for years costing the town millions of dollars in increased costs to complete the building. Penny-wise, dollar-foolish grandstanding local political hacks with nothing better to do.
Bob B June 07, 2012 at 07:07 PM
$8000 is not so much for the referendum. We will just need to lay off another teacher next year to pay for it.
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Borsch, there you go again with your smarmy, snide commentary as if you are above it all, while you tear others down for sticking their necks out while you sit back and lob hostilities into the crowd. The proper procedure was followed. I had no say in it. I don't serve on the BOS, and it wouldn't have matter to anyone, including Billy Michael or Bob Crnic until Phil Gallagher waxed nostalgic over its asbestos-laden timbers, but the two of them (Michael then Crnic) saw this as a vehicle to get in our faces, and they latched onto it. The question I have for Gallagher is where the hell was he when he and Bryan bundled the bond to drag the library renovation into the Stony Hill FD and Berry School project because they both knew it had little support and probably would not have stood on its own? Did he not know the library of that magnitude would need a parking lot? Now he wants to speak, with a tear in his eye, reminiscing about the Democrat Town Committee flag pole given as gift inaugurating the opening in 1961. He fails to acknowledge that it is the DTC and Democrats who are cheerleaders favoring making way for parking, which is badly needed downtown. And, if your self-image is that weak that local politcs has you feeling like a pawn, and your spirit is broken - buddy, get some help - things are not that dark! Finally, I am not a poll worker: whether three people vote or the whole town votes is of no consequence to me, except that it costs money to put on this charade.
Anonymous Coward June 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM
HAHAHAHA -- "special interest group" as used above = people who support good schools and libraries.
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Thank you. this horse has been to the glue factory so many times now, it's not worth repeating, EXCEPT: NO ONE HAS GIVEN US BILLY'S END GAME PLAN! Maybe he'll surprise us and come up with the $400,000 Gallagher says it is worth and take it off our hands. Wouldn't that be amazing? It Could be the new BAC Headquarters. We could rename the rusty flag pole after him! Even though Crnic won't pitch in a dime - he never does - he'll still want some credit also. And, don't forget the stalker-in-chief, he'll need something - maybe we can give him a golden SIM Card with the victim's phone number imbedded in it, and a miniature lobster boat for the time when he stalked his victim all the way up at the docks in Dennisport, MA at 6:30 am. (He told town hall he was "going fishing", LOL)
--- June 07, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Coward, The decision to demolish the old town hall is from Mr. Knickerbocker, not the people. It is not as if folks are attempting to rile anything up here. I'm quite sure no one is looking to begin some kind of town-wide assault and petition after petition to manipulate Bethel. It started with Mr. Knickerbocker and his decision. I do not understand your reticence against having a town vote on a town issue. Nine chances out of ten, the vote will be to demolish the old town hall. This petition is not about changing the decision, but in giving the people of Bethel a voice in the matter. I again fail to see how such a thing is so detestable and unthinkable. It is a matter of principle here. Principle.
--- June 07, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Mr. Improta, You said: "And, if your self-image is that weak that local politcs has you feeling like a pawn, and your spirit is broken - buddy, get some help - things are not that dark!" I hardly "feel" like a pawn. Quite the opposite, actually. It is your disdain for the voter turn-out of Bethel that prompted my comment regarding that. I mean, your 20 years of local politicking seems to have not exactly inspired voter turn-out, now has it? Stop being so afraid of a petition to allow us to vote like free men and women, Mr. Improta. It's making you look foolish. Good day, sir. You have succeeded in drying up my pool of patience for such tomfoolery. I can only watch you embarrass yourself for so long before I need to look away.
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Mr. Borsch, I'll tell you what; if you and Billy and the Boys will put up your personal assets to guaranty for the town until the OTH is either torn down or sold, including financing the cost of the referendum, as long as your combines assets exceed the ensuing costs the town could face as a consequence of this exercise in "democracy", the I don't have a problem with it. Just as long as we are able to liquidate the necessary value to offset the expenses the town incurs as a result of this folly, then we should be square. Put you money where your mouth is, and then what you say might carry some weight. It's easy when it's other peoples' money.
--- June 07, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Mr. Improta, Shocker here: I would tear down the old town hall. But no one asked me. This petition you so fear is designed to get people to be allowed to publicly say Yea or Nay. You continue to harp on this petition being about saving the old town hall, when that is not the intent. Mr. Michael simply wants the people to decide. This is not him clamoring to save this building. (He might vote to save it, I do not know. He and I did not discuss that last time we spoke face-to-face, as there were other issues to address.) As I said, I would vote to destroy it. I put my money where my mouth is when I pay my town taxes, Mr. Improta. Thank you very much. And if I had the funds available to privately purchase the old town hall, I would, and I would convert it into an Independent/Conservative/Libertarian/TEA Party hub, and rip the veil of political demagoguery you have in Bethel off of your naked ideology. Good day, sir.
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Mr. Borsch, whether you would tear the OTH down is not the question here. With actions come consequences. Yes, Mr. Michael wants people to have the right to vote on tearing the thing down. He isn't telling people how to vote, but to vote. I get it. But, what if they vote as Gallagher wants them to, to save the building, and the town keeps the building but no one buys it - what then? My issue is that in this case, the vote will have unintended consequences. I guess we might just find out the hard way. They can't say they hadn't been warned.
Anonymous Coward June 07, 2012 at 08:46 PM
We did vote on this and every other decision that is made for the daily operation of the town when we elected the current group of Selectmen. These rabble-rousers have cost the taxpayers millions in the past and they are willing to do it again. Let's keep this going and lose over a million dollars of investment into downtown so these three or four turkeys can prove their non-existent point. At $11K per year IF the building is ever sold and occupied it will take until our great-great-grandchildren are arguing with each other to recoup the loss. Penny-wise, dollar-foolish grandstanding local political hacks with nothing better to do.
Bill Hillman June 07, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Don, The petition (as it is online) does not call for a vote for or against the tear down. It simply is to reverse the resolutions made at the May 30th meeting. The BOS could vote again and this starts over, or the process to get past this could cause the loss of grants needed for the Library. So the issue is more practical than a presumed right to vote on something the Charter does not require a vote for. See the petition below Since the permit application is already in process, I'm not sure a vote to overrule the request to get a permit that's already in process would mean anything. Billy and friends could cause other delays and maneuvers. So do we want to throw out renovations of the top floor of the taj? Or, do we move forward and ignore the local little t-Party. Seems this petition is a futile act, it serves only to stall and does nothing to enable a vote by the people to sell or not tear the OTH down. If you were looking for that, this petition won't do it for you.
Bill Hillman June 07, 2012 at 09:00 PM
We, the undersigned taxpayers and qualified electors of the Town of Bethel, do hereby petition and request that the following resolutions of the Board of Selectmen be referred to the voters for a Special Town Referendum pulsuant to the Bethel Town Charter C6-5 applicable Connecticut State Statutes: Shall the Town of Bethel overrule the following resolutions passed at the May 30,2012 Board of Selectmen Special Meeting: I) To authorize demolition of the building known as the "old town hall" located at 5 Library Place, to make way for parking as required by the Planning & Zoning Commission to complete the renovation of the Bethel Public Library; 2) To authorize the First Selectman to apply for a demolition permit hr the "old town hall"
--- June 07, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Brian, You said: "A. Run for office (How come Billy Michaels never throws his name in the hat?)" That is a great suggestion! A definite possibility, to be sure.
Paul Improta June 07, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Agreed. This is just repeating the same stuff and getting us nowhere. We'll just have to stay tuned, and await the outcome. The thread is thread-worn. Peace Out.
--- June 09, 2012 at 02:00 AM
AN OPEN INVITATION: Okay, so...if you are tired of the same-old, same-old... the same old faces and names... the tedious talking points of the Democrats and the Republicans who seem more intent on treating the people of Bethel like the spoils of their pitiful war... and basically you just know there is something better out there and that you, as a Bethel taxpayer, deserve it... then call me at 203.297.5019. Let's chat. Let's talk. Let's share ideas. Let's bring politics down to the river and baptize it into proper governance. Let's make Bethel even more amazing than it is.
--- June 09, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Mr. Improta, You have my number, like everyone else. Feel welcomed and free to use it. You too are invited to cast aside the cliche GOP rule and look at things far and away from such drivel. And your insults only serve to flatter me. I am fully accountable for my words and deeds, Mr. Improta. Are you prepared to face that same reality? Your vitriol is indicative of your fear of true change in Bethel. Change that will propel Bethel into being the most amazing town it can be, devoid of agenda and political-bullying. Again, 203.297.5019. It's my cell, and it is normally in my front pocket, so I won't miss your call. Also, while Mr. Crnic and I disagree on myriad issues, he and I do happen to stand aligned in this petition issue. The people need to vote on public issues. Simple as that. The more you resist this, the more people shake their heads and wonder what you are doing as the GOP leader in Bethel. Fear is a cruel taskmaster, Mr. Improta. And fear has you right where it wants you.
Christine Rose (Editor) June 10, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Gentlemen. I have removed several comments. I am receiving a multitude of complaints that the comments have become a boxing ring for the three of you. Please stick to the subject at hand, do not attack each other. I am putting this story on moderation, which means that all comments will have to wait until I approve them.
SmallMinds June 11, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Why not just shut the thing down and let them get together for coffee at their convenience?
Tubeworm June 18, 2012 at 12:38 AM
I hate to see Bethel turn into a parking lot. Bethel has so much potential to become an even greater area to live in, shop at, eat at, and so on... I think we need to look towards the future more and raise our expectations! I think someone should build an even greater building with commercial areas on the first floor, but then residential on the upper floor(s). There is parking in the back... Also, can someone fill me in out the current situation/plan at 84 Greenwood Ave., where the religious building used to stand? (As of now, it's demolished and now used as a parking lot for Caraluzzi's) Is someone moving into the building at 252 Greenwood Ave. (Across from the Burger King?) Thanks!
SmallMinds June 18, 2012 at 01:04 PM
It was the Masonic Hall and had not been used for any religious purpose for years. It was on a tiny, non-comforming lot. I thought it was kind of cool looking but ultimately it was an impractical relic: not meaningful enough or useful enough to warrant the investment necessary to turn it into a viable commercial property (from what I read). It was also in a rather advanced state of decay. If it was in Greenwich or Westport some billionaire might have turned it into some kind of cool art gallery or night club but nobody in our town can afford that kind of vanity project.
Tubeworm June 18, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Thanks, SmallMinds! What is Caraluzzi's planning on doing with the property, though? I would think something would be built, but I have read that it is small. Also, is the building (252 Greenwood Ave.) across from the Burger King being moved in to? I would also like to know what other projects/companies are in place for Bethel, if you know any. Thanks again!
SmallMinds June 19, 2012 at 01:57 AM
I am sorry I can't help you more than I have. None of this is secret information. Walk up and down Grassy Plains and just ask people. Bethel is a rather friendly place (postings above notwithstanding). Ask Planning and Zoning in Town Hall. See what permits have been granted and deeds transferred. Take a Realtor to lunch. There's many sources better informed than I.


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