WALLINGFORD — The Town Council is going to consider instituting a formal process to recognize people for their service to the town after councilors got questions about their recent action to rename the senior center in honor of former councilor Iris Papale.
It wasn’t that those who contacted him were against the renaming, said Councilor Jason Zandri, who brought up the feedback at the council’s last meeting.
It was that they were taken off guard as to what was going to happen because the description listed on that meeting’s agenda did not indicate that a building was going to be renamed.
“The reason this came up was at the last meeting there was an item to dedicate the senior center in honor of Iris Papale and her longstanding work here in the town of Wallingford,” Zandri said. “It didn’t really occur to me while we were discussing the item, that the item itself didn’t really identify what we were doing, and we took action that evening.
“I received a few calls and messages after it started to become a part of the public envelope — the meeting was posted, people watched the meeting live and some watched the recording, and it ended up being in the paper and I started getting calls about it. A few of these folks had some commentary that I really couldn’t argue against.”
The people said they didn’t have an issue with honoring and recognizing someone’s service to the town, but it was more about the process used to do so, Zandri said.
“The item appeared on the agenda without really saying what we were going to do,” Zandri said. So I understood their viewpoint and wanted to put it out there for all of us to discuss. When we honor and recognize somebody, we might have just come up here and thanked them for their service if they were alive, and maybe they had passed away, a couple of minutes of reflection. What we ended up doing is making a motion and naming the building after her, which wasn’t identified clearly on the agenda.”
There were people who said they would have liked to have been there for the meeting had they known that was what was going to happen, Zandri said, while others questioned why it was the senior center chosen to honor her when she did much of her work for the town on the council.
“We named this chamber after Robert Parisi. A lot of times we use room 315 upstairs, and somebody said why wouldn’t you have named room 315 after her,” Zandri said. “This might have been feedback we would have gotten if the item was better defined at the meeting.”Two meetings?
Zandri said it might be better to make it a two-meeting process — that it be proposed at the first meeting and acted upon at the second meeting.
That would give residents the opportunity to weigh in at the second meeting should they have missed or not known about the first meeting, he said.
“I know we’ve got other things in town that we’ve got an established procedure for — it comes to mind quickly street names,” he said. “Names have to be submitted for approval before they’re added to a list of potential future street names. Developers can’t just name a street unless it’s on an approved list. I think if we had a little bit of a structure around this we wouldn’t have a situation where anybody is caught off guard.”
Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said there is a history of holding more than one meeting when renaming buildings in honor of someone, including the renaming Yalesville School for the late state Rep. Mary Fritz.
“In my time that I can remember, this was the third time that we named something for someone,” he said. “I do recall that after Rep. Mary Fritz had passed, because it was a Board of Education building that was going to be named for her, we considered the item, we referred it to the Board of Education and then it came back to us, so there is some precedent to warrant a two-meeting process.
When the Parisi Council Chambers was named for Councilor Bob Parisi, it was a different situation, Cervoni said.
“Councilman Parisi was sitting up here, and I think we wanted to surprise him,” Cervoni said. But there should be a process followed for such proposals, he said.
“I do think there is benefit to making this a two-meeting process,” he said. “Whether we want to codify it for future councils, I’d leave up to the council, but I certainly see the benefit of having a first meeting where you could discuss and deliberate exactly what it is you want to do, allow the council to deliberate on what we’d like to do, and then bring it back for a final vote.”
“There is a level of permanence to this so I see no reason to rush to this,” Councilman Craig Fishbein said.
Zandri said he would prefer to refer the item to the Ordinance Committee to establish a formal process for recognizing people.
“I would want to establish it formally so I would want to continue it to Ordinance if we support it. When I was asked what the process is, I said we don’t really have one. If we are all in agreement at the first meeting, then the second meeting is almost a formality, but it gives that element of no one can say they didn’t know, and I’d rather invite more people to the process than accidentally exclude anyone. So I’d like to see it something we establish formally.”