Old Town Hall Ballot May Cause Confusion, Problems

Vote yes to keep the building, vote no to tear it down.


On Tuesday, July 17, the long awaited referendum to decide the fate of Old Town Hall will finally take place.  Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said that due to the legal language that must appear on the ballot, residents are sure to face confusion when they show up to vote.  

"There is a huge danger of confusion over this ballot," Knickerbocker said. "The question to be decided is not whether or not to raze old town hall; it is whether or not to overturn the decision of the Board of Selectmen to raze old town hall."

What this means to voters is:

Vote NO if you want to maintain the Selectman's decision to demolish the building.

Vote YES if you wish to overturn the Selectmen's decision, and to keep the building. 

"We have already had many confused residents ask about this here in my office as they were attempting to fill out their absentee ballots," Knickerbocker said. 


Bill Hillman July 12, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Vote NO to demolish the Old Town Hall and then complete the library!
--- July 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
An interesting development, indeed. On Bethel Buzz, Mr. Daniel Gaita posted this information regarding the Old Town Hall and the asbestos/lead issues: "He also seems to have forgotten that the state has given us the money to take care of the lead paint and asbestos issue in the building. Library Renovation and completion can begin now. But Mr. Knickerbocker is stalling. We, as a community worked very hard for a decade to raise the needed money only to now be held hostage as our Current First Selectman risks us losing precious state grants and donations so he can use the completion of the Library as a leveraging tool to tear down the Old Town Hall." Now, my decision to tear down the OTH was based on the cost it would take to remove the asbestos/lead, and I felt it was too much to consider, so go ahead and tear it down. But, if Mr. Gaita is being truthful here, (and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his words, since Mr. Gaita is a straight-shooter), then since we DO have the money to clean-up said OTH, then let us do that and turn it into a revenue-producer. Keep the OTH. Use it for the greater good. I will be voting to keep it. The people of Bethel will decide, either way.
--- July 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Ooops, sorry! I neglected to post link to Bethel Buzz, regarding Mr. Gaita's comments. Here is linkage: http://bethelbuzznews.com/2012/07/09/letter-to-the-editor-old-town-hall-why-im-voting-yes/
Dan Gaita July 12, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Imagine, Had this issue simply been placed on the budget referendum ballot - this would have already been a done deal... Well done Mr. Knickerbocker.
Bill Hillman July 12, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Don, The grant that would have been applied for asbestos removal was part of a grant solely for construction/renovation of a teen center, that costing a lot more than the grant or just asbestos removal. The Town is "saving" the grant, and looking for additional funding for that purpose to construct an extension to the muni center. You do research, get all the facts. The Town will not reconstruct nor upgrade the OTH for anything. A yes vote will simply leave that eyesore to rot, and the Library as-is.
--- July 12, 2012 at 02:01 PM
@Bill, I appreciate the further info! I was unawares of the complete picture. I was thinking we, as the Town, had monies set aside, given to us by The State, to take care of the asbestos/lead problem in OTH. If that was the case, then I could see no reason then to demolish OTH. I failed to grasp that this money was directly tied into a grant and all that it entailed. In other words, my mistake!! Oops! Again, thank you for that clarification!
Bill Hillman July 12, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The Town does have a separate 200k grant for demolition that will be used if a NO vote prevails. That grant is the reason no Appropriations are needed from Town Funds, and that's the reason the Board of Finance did not need to be involved per the Charter.
Francesco A.A. Mastracchio July 12, 2012 at 02:41 PM
True...the old town hall could produce revenue, but how much? Does tis amount outweigh the value of expanding our library? How about selling the old police headquarters once the new one is built and use that piece of land to produce revenue. Public land becomes difficult to acquire once we run out of it. After that government must rely on eminent domain procedures which can not always go through and if they do, the town must pay market value for the land which could be a very costly proposition. So, my fellow Bethelites, I urge you to really think the consequences of your vote before you cast it.
Paul Improta July 12, 2012 at 03:05 PM
If Phil Gallagher didn't gin up the usual suspects who are compelled to grandstand due to their own self-importance that they latch themselves to any issue, this would've been a done deal. Well done, Mr. Gallagher. Remember though, it was Gallagher when he was on the BOS that voted in favor of the expansion of the library. Had it not been for his vote to bundle the bond with Berry School and the Stony Hill Fire House, we most likely wouldn't even been having this conversation. The picture of the library would've looked a whole lot different if the question for the grandiose library had been defeated way back in 2002.
Rob Stowell July 12, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Gee, Mr. Gaita... is this your way of washing your hands of the fact that this needless vote is costing the taxpayers of Bethel thousands of dollars (I don't know the exact cost but I've heard a figure of $10,000)? Isn't your statement here a little like the school bully telling his victim 'if you had given me your sandwich yesterday, I wouldn't be taking your lunch money today'?
--- July 12, 2012 at 04:08 PM
@Rob Stowell, Actually, Mr. Gaita is presenting a fantastic principle of 'do it right the first time, and you don't have to do it again', here. Mr. Gaita is not the First Selectman, and was not the First Selectman when this issue should have been handled. Mr. Knickerbocker was and is. Who works for who, in this scenario? This is not personal, (I do not believe so), but simply the gears of a free society being rotated. The upcoming vote has been legally and rightly called for according to our town charter's guidelines. Why cast dispersion upon Mr. Gaita for merely shining a light onto a mistake our First Selectman made? That would be like blaming me for President Obama's policies when I did not vote for him, or help shape them. There's no blame to cast here, other than to civilly hold Mr. Knickerbocker accountable. No biggie. It happens.
--- July 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
@Bill Hillman, Thanks for even more info, Bill! Thus far this thread has been very enlightening, thanks to you and Mr. Gaita.
Winifred Brickmeier July 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
The town hall could not produce revenue. See Alice Hutchinson's letter in Thursday's News-Times. Vote NO on the referendum!
Matthew Knickerbocker July 12, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Once again, in his zeal to find a avenue for personal criticism, Mr. Gaita has failed to inform himself of basic facts. Had he done so, he would know that nothing could have been added to this year's budget ballot for technical reasons. More importantly, the Board of Selectmen does not push issues that are within its legal responsibility and authority over to a referendum just for the heck of it. The board does the job the voters elected them to do.
Matthew Knickerbocker July 12, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Dear Mr. Mastracchio, Your advice to your fellow Bethelites to know the issues is well taken. It is a fact that old town hall CAN NOT produce revenue. I will not recap all the reasons why in long winded post. If you would like more info, please email me at firstselectman@bethel-ct.gov. I will be happy to send you more into. Those who claim the building can be sold are misleading this town horribly. The police station is another story. I see no reason why that could not be either reused by the town or sold if the town had no use for it after a new PD is built.
Dan Gaita July 12, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Mr. Knickerbocker, please educate us all on the "technical glitches" that would have made adding the question to the ballot impossible. I am very curious to learn more. Again, I must reiterate. I support both completing the Library and more parking. My issue is that we continue to be provided information that is misrepresentative of the truth and deceptive to the tax payer. I am not either for or against the town hall staying or going. I simply, civilly, and professionally request that as a tax payer and resident of Bethel I be provided facts with which to make an informed decision. What you have provided us Mr. Knickerbocker is a list of fabrications and misrepresentations....This is never good for a community. Correct me if I am wrong Mr. Knickerbocker, but didn't you, in one article even try to link our sewer capacity and capability of Downtown business expansion to the tearing down the old town hall? Even after our Town engineer said the amount we irrelevant. Please tell me I have my facts wrong there too.
Bill Hillman July 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
You are welcome, Don, I've tried to enlighten. No need to thank me and that other fellow in the same sentence.
Dan Gaita July 12, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Oh, Ms. Hutchinson said so. Must be true :) See section D of our P&Z regulations - parking can be found elsewhere. Ms. Hutchinson also believed Mr. Knickerbocker about BHS accreditation, student enrollment projections etc etc. But we now know that was all false too. Fact check. You are not getting the whole story from these people.
Matthew Knickerbocker July 12, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Note to Mr. Borsch: I have no problem with accountability, but please be aware that as a private citizen, Mr. Gaita has every right to post whatever he likes without the same accountability. And quite frankly, his long standing personal animosity towards me colors almost every post he has written. Again, that is his right, and I do not expect anything resembling fair treatment from him. Any readers who would like to discuss mistakes they believe were made are encouraged to call me or email me here at the municipal center. I will be happy to discuss any time.
Dan Gaita July 12, 2012 at 07:24 PM
The really sad part about all of this is that the Old Town Hall actually does not effect completion of the Library at all. We have raised the funds to get the job done. The parking issue can also be resolved off-site. Unfortunately, our First Selectman is using the Library completion to leverage tearing down the old town hall. If the Old town hall is torn down, we still don't know how long it will take to begin construction - could be months or more. I hate to make the stretch, but it appears we are seeing the "political set up" for our election issue for 2013 in Bethel.... Scenerio 1: The old town hall remains and the First Selectman blames the Library delay on those that voted to overturn his decision... Scenrio 2: The old town hall is torn down and the First Selectman blames the delay on those that petitioned to overturn his decision... Either way, this entire issue gives him an excuse to blame his opponent for not getting it done... Probably why the Republicans are supporting him on this so they are not blamed for the delay. Well played RTC...well played. ahh Bethel politics - always unfortunately interesting.
Bill Hillman July 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
As I understand, the standard budget referendum has 2 yes/no questions and 2 too high/too low. These are programmed into 14 chips for scanners. This year, with an extra yes no question for a bond issue, they had to scramble just to find and rent chips for a 10 position scanner chip set. Huge technical issue was solved just to hold that referendum. Complicating it more would not have worked. Tearing the OTH makes parking so that the CofO conditions for completing the library are met prior to construction start. Tearing the OTH frees it's sewer allocation the can be redirected to enable additional capacity for use of developing businesses elsewhere downtown. The allocation is small, but every bit helps. That's what I'd heard.
Dan Gaita July 12, 2012 at 07:26 PM
What is the status on our "Road Renewal Plan"? how is that going?
--- July 12, 2012 at 07:32 PM
@Bill, Oh, come on, Mr. Hillman....this thread was going along so swimmingly until you said that. So you have animosity towards Mr. Gaita? Irrelevant to the thread. Both of you have provided many of us with information we need. Both of you. :)
--- July 12, 2012 at 07:34 PM
@Mr. Knickerbocker, I appreciate your candor and openness. I do.
--- July 12, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Here is linkage to above-mentioned letter from Alice Hutchinson to the News-Times, so everyone can easily read it: http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Urges-voters-to-uphold-plan-to-raze-in-Bethel-3699955.php Let's all shoot for transparency, shall we?
Eric T Gray July 12, 2012 at 08:11 PM
The sad part about all of this is that in 10 years... the libary will be obsolete. Unless we have another once in a lifetime snow storm in October. Then we can all talk about how great the generator is. There is no need to invest further in this debacle of a situation. Let the OTH building come down, finish the poorly planned library effort, take that sign down that has been begging for money for the last 10 years... and move on. I'd also like to say to Mr Knickerbocker, that you were quoted as saying in March after a town meeting that the next step to decide the fate of OTH was most likely a referendum. Why did you bring up the idea if you had no intent to do so? And stop mentioning a new PD... my goodness, how much more money can we spend. I hope we start to act like Newtown and vote NO on all of these ridiculous spending increases. Happy Thursday everyone!
Bill Hillman July 13, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Dan, you have a unique reading of page 115 of P&Z that seems inconsistent with what members on P&Z say: http://ecode360.com/documents/BE0692/Zoning%20Regulations%20Effective%202-4-2011.pdf What, exactly do you see that others don't? Educate me, please. D. Modification of Parking Requirements 1. Change of Use Exemption .... sorry Library Use not changing 2. Permanent Shared Use Reduction sorry, no shared use 3. Permanent Site Use Reduction - ... nope, the real need for parking is increasing 4. Temporary Installation Deferral - darn, the complete library is not deemed temporary
Postmaster July 15, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Section 1725 of Title 18 of the United States Code states that Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title. The Domestic Mail Manual (which you can find on the Internet at www.usps.com) goes into more specifics. It states that no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle. Section D041 of The Domestic Mail Manual also states the penalty for violating this section is that you pay the postage that you would have paid had you actually mailed your flyer. If you use the average of a 2.5 person household, you would have about 3600 mailboxes in a town of 9000. The fine, therefore, for stuffing all of the mailboxes in your town could run into the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. My advice, therefore, is to do what thousands of politicians do around the country in the days leading up to Election Day B put the flyer in the door handle, not the mailbox.
--- July 17, 2012 at 02:40 PM
So today is the BIG day. Kind of a mini-Super Tuesday! :) See ya at the booth!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something