NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s proposed 2014-2015 capital budget is advancing to the next step in the process with one addition: $100,000 for Fodor Farm.
The Planning Commission on Tuesday night approved a $22.46 million capital budget, sending it to the next phase, review by the Mayor Harry Rilling .
Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne made the suggestion to add $100,000 to Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s recommended capital budget to fund the last part of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae’s 5-year-old Fodor Farm project.
“I drive there a lot. It’s half finished. Windows are boarded up,” Dunne said in reference to the main house on the property, work on which has been partially funded by a matching grant from Connecticut’s Historic Restoration Fund.
Another commissioner called Fodor Farm a “gateway.”
“You come down Scribner. You stop at the light, you look at this boarded up house,” he said.
Another suggested the $100,000 was “like the interest on the Board of Ed (capital) budget for like a week.”
On Jan. 28, Mocciae explained the project — which includes renovating the main house, the barn and the caretaker’s cottage — to commission members in their first workshop on the capital budget.
It was originally thought to be undoable because the estimate was up to $1 million.
“Nobody wanted to touch it because, at that point, it was a teardown,” he said.
At this point, there has been about $390,000 to $400,000 spent, he said, announcing that the project would be done at half the predicted amount.
Some years he has gotten money from the city, some years he hasn’t, he said.
Now, “The main house exterior is almost finished except for the front porch, because we had to do all the structural work inside. The front porch will be started in spring,” he said.
The heating system inside is in, he said. The electrical work is almost finished. A plumber is working on the bathrooms.
“This $100,000 will finish up the interior finishes, as well as the caretaker’s cottage,” he said. “… This actually finishes Fodor Farm completely.”
The barn is “just about finished” and includes a full commercial kitchen. There have been fundraisers in it, he said.
The plan is to make money off the property. The caretaker’s cottage will be rented to someone who will have responsibilities to look after the place, opening gates and such, he said. The main house includes a conference room and handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and will be ready to rent in the fall.
“We haven’t been able to rent it out because we haven’t had heat,” he said. “Heat has just been hooked up in the barn. We’re finishing off some of the interior finishes. That will be ready in the spring as well for rentals.”
A ‘zero with comments’
Planning Commissioners affirmed Hamilton’s recommendation not to give the Department of Public Works $150,000 for a document management system, but with an addition: a note.
“I’m willing to go with zero because I don’t believe DPW should have their own,” Vice Chairman Frances Dimeglio said. “Every department should be striving for a document management system. It should be a common system.”
Another commissioner suggested that the $150,000 was “like the interest on the Board of Ed (capital) budget for like a week.”
It was decided that a comment about the need for a city-wide system would be put into the letter the commission would send to the mayor.
“It should be a coordinated plan,” Dimeglio said, suggesting that maybe DPW could spearhead the effort and come up with a vendor with a product that everyone could use.