MERIDEN – The City Council is expected to re-establish a “City Property Naming and Dedication Committee” later this summer after a recent vote to form the panel was postponed over the issue of whether the council or Board of Education should have the authority to name school buildings.
Councilors tabled a resolution last month to get a legal opinion on the school naming issue. The resolution would have given the council the authority to name all “exterior” school structures, including buildings, and made the school board responsible for naming all “interior” structures, such as a gym or auditorium.
Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn and an attorney for the Board of Education agreed “based on tradition and suggested policy from the state” that the school board should be in charge of naming school structures, City Manager Tim Coon said.
“I have reviewed additional documentation regarding this issue and agree with the conclusion that naming rights of schools and school-related facilities is indeed vested with the Board of Education,” Quinn said in an email this week.
City Councilor Cathy Battista, who first raised the naming issue, said she agrees with the legal opinion from Quinn and the school board attorney. School board president Mark Hughes couldn’t be reached for comment.
The City Council is expected to take up the matter later this summer.
In 2005, the City Council established a similar committee, but it has been inactive for a number of years. Battista, who chairs the council’s parks and recreation subcommittee, said the city has received several requests to name city properties over the years, including streets and parks, but hasn’t had a formal legislative process or criteria. In some cases, the city has learned after the fact that a city-owned property was named or dedicated by the public, according to Battista.
The Board of Education already has a process in place for naming and dedicating school properties, officials said.
It’s possible some councilors may want the city to have authority to name school buildings, Coon said,
“There’s going to be a food fight I suspect to some extent,” he said.
If the council chooses to go against the opinion of the Quinn and the school board’s attorney, it could lead to legal action.
“One always has the right to ignore one’s legal counsel, but that opens up the possibility of legal action, and it’s not entirely clear who would win,” Coon said. “The council doesn't want to go there, I can almost guarantee that.”
Southington’s Board of Education recently gave final approval to rename Plantsville Elementary School to Zaya A. Oshana School. The board had the authority to name the school, which is owned by the town.