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Norwalk Council approves $45.4 million capital budget, bemoaning the process

Common Council members Tuesday in discussions before approving Norwalk’s capital budget.

During almost three hours of discussion, the Norwalk Common Council voted Tuesday to make just $175,000 in adjustments before approving the mayor’s proposed capital budget spending of $45.4 million. Many council members complained about a process they said failed to involved the community. 

The council voted 11-4 to approve a capital budget of $45,367,280, the same amount the Mayor Harry Rilling proposed to the Economic and Community Development Committee last week. 

While the overall number stayed the same, the council adjusted the budget by reducing funding for ADA compliance and public art,  shifting that funding to renovations for the fire department. 

However, many council members voiced frustration over  the capital budget process, and called for future reforms. 

“I’m very disappointed,” council member Johan Lopez said. “This is not the way to conduct business.” Council President Darlene Young called the process “flawed,” and said  the council has to “rethink” it.

Council member Dajuan Wiggins moved to table the budget vote, saying the council needed more time. However, that motion failed with just three members  in favor, 11 opposed, and Young abstaining. 

“I think we just wasted our time on this call,” Wiggins said. “I feel like nothing got accomplished.”

Wiggins said council members “don’t even know” how much of an impact the $175,000 that council reallocated toward the repairs to Station 4, located on Westport Avenue. Fire Chief Gino Gatto estimated that the station renovations would cost about $3 million. 

Wiggins also said he believed the community should be more involved in the process. 

“I know we represent the community. How can we do a better job of having the community have a say?” he asked. 

Young said  that “more than half a year, city staff is focusing on a budget,” and that she too believed the “process is flawed.”

“We’ve got to find a way” to fix it, she said, adding that they should be a lot better at this.

See the full capital budget breakdown

Updated, 1:24 p.m. Saturday, more information.

Comments

6 responses to “Norwalk Council approves $45.4 million capital budget, bemoaning the process”

  1. DIana Paladino

    While it is understood that difficult decisions must be made in times of financial constraint, it is disheartening to hear some members of the Common Council dismiss the urgent need to address critical issues within our city, such as the condition of the Norwalk Fire Department. It is unacceptable that our firefighters, who bravely put their lives on the line to save others, are working in facilities contaminated with mold and mildew etc. A Common Council person who spoke out described the conditions as appalling and several others echoed this. While community events hold value, they should not take precedence over ensuring the safety and well-being of those who serve and protect our community.
    As residents, we understand the importance of prioritizing needs over wants and making tough choices to balance budgets. These are indeed challenging times for Norwalk, and it is deeply disappointing to see elected officials fail to prioritize the interests of their constituents and the people who keep this city safe.
    I want to extend my sincere gratitude to those Common Council members who did speak up during last night’s meeting and advocated for the well-being of our community.

  2. Ana Tabachneck

    I don’t disagree with you that if you have to bucket things into wants and needs, most people would agree the fire department remodel is a need and parties are a want. Problem was that the fire department needed 3 million. No amount of cuts to the small scale wants in the budget, like the downtown events and artist murals was going to add up to 3 million.

    And the fire department remodel had already been removed from the capital budget ask before it got to the common council – they couldn’t put it back in. I think the removal happened when all departments were told to cut their capital requests by 40%, due to the financial constraints of the reval (or at some other earlier point in the process).

    The austerity approach to this year’s budget killed the remodel – not the parties.

    And I am not against the council moving $175k (or 500k), from things that they thought were lower priority into fire department repairs per se, it’s just not going to get the remodel to happen any sooner.

  3. DIana Paladino

    I just think when we are spending money for electric vehicles that the police department says they do not even need and $165K for parking spaces but have firefighters in a facility that is appalling to the point where they can not even breathe when in the building-it’s a big problem. Electric cars are nice but we need to be able to afford them. Not to mention the electric system needed to maintain them. There were ways to find the 3 million and it sounded like some council members really worked hard to do that. It seems broken and I am disappointed.

  4. Tysen Canevari

    I thought council woman Ayers was fantastic. She spoke from the heart and talked about real life concerns. The police department chief doesn’t even want or need the electric vehicles but the dems want them to have it to fill their green initiative. Never mind the fire department works in unhealthy conditions. The council is more concerned about backpack blowers. Really is comical!

  5. Ana Tabachneck

    Yes, they worked exceedingly hard to find 500k, and could only get 175k passed. And got told they were out of line for even trying, which was ridiculous. They were never going to get a fire station remodel at this point in the process, and with this overall attitude towards city spending.

  6. Tysen Canevari

    Some of the veterans on the council just sit there like they are insulted by the legit questions some of the others have. Nora talks so long that it is hard to get a question in. Lisa and Jim just compliment each other all the time as usually which is to be expected because after all they ran for office on the same campaign sign (they cost like $7 each!) Greg Burnett just does what ever Harry tells him to do before they meeting. I mean it is like the good ol boys and girls club at the sono boat club or something. What in the world do we need electric vehicles at the police station for right now? We just bought them 13 new chevy tahoes! Do we really need xmas trees for $75,000 Maybe you should cut some deals with corporate partners to donate money for these parties. Perhaps the same ones that donate all the money to Bob and Harry’s campaigns every year to throw up more housing in Norwalk. Doesnt that sound practical?

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