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Teens given last-minute gift in Norwalk’s $19 million capital budget

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From left, Councilmen Jerry Petrini (R-District D) and Fred Bondi (R-At Large) study the 2013-2014 capital budget at Tuesday’s council meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s teenagers are going to get a new tech room at the Norwalk Public Library with money squeezed out of the capital budget Tuesday night by the Common Council.

The $19.6 million 2013-2014 capital budget was approved unanimously with only two minor alterations:

• $15,000 was taken out of the $100,000 slotted for Connecticut Avenue sidewalk construction to instead fund the construction of a teen tech room at the Norwalk Public Library, an amendment proposed by Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D).

• $25,000 slotted for public art was approved, but it was moved from the Planning and Zoning Department to the Norwalk Redevelopment Authority, an amendment proposed by Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E).

Although the capital budget calls for nearly $20 million in spending, just over $4 million of that is expected to be “financed through grants and other non-general fund sources,” a letter written by Mayor Richard Moccia to the council states. The city is retiring $17.6 million in debt this year, meaning the overall level of debt will reduce by $2 million, Moccia states.

The length of the bonds varies, Department of Budget and Management Director Bob Barron said. Most are 15 years but some Information Technology requests are financed over 10 years. The interest rate is unknown, but Moccia said it was 3.25 percent last year.

The impact on the city is well thought out and will not cause Norwalk to go into bankruptcy, as other municipalities seem to be doing, Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-District D) said.

“It’s protecting the city’s triple A bond rating,” he said. “I think if we are prudent in years ahead we will be able to minimize tax increases by holding the line on the debt service …We are not willy-nilly spending a lot of money and getting ourselves deeply into debt.”

McCarthy said he spoke with the Zoning Department and they decided the $25,000 public art money would be better handled by Redevelopment.

Petrini said the money for a teen tech room was “a very, very small number” out of the immense budget.

“That is one step in the right direction where the teens can go where they will have access to computers, where they otherwise would maybe not have it outside of school,” he said.

Councilman Nick Kydes (R-District C) was among those speaking in favor of shorting the sidewalk plan for the teen room.

“As we grew up we were living in a different society, a different environment, a different world,” he said. “You could go out and play and run around the neighborhoods and make our own games. You could run on the streets.”

Kids now don’t have enough positive things to do, he said, and staying out of trouble can be a challenge. He said, “It’s going to help those teens get on the right track.”

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