WALLINGFORD — The Town Council is scheduled to tour Community Pool Wednesday evening, but it won’t be noticed as a public meeting.
When a quorum of six councilors intentionally meet, they need to announce the meeting publicly to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Councilor Chris Shortell, who organized the walk-through, reached out to Tom Hennick, the Freedom of Information Commission public education officer, last month about the issue.
Hennick told Shortell via email that in his opinion, he didn’t consider a tour of the pool to be a meeting of the council, but “merely the opportunity to see the facility and ask questions if councilors have any.”
He added that councilors “should be cautioned against discussing council business or deliberating on any council issues.”
Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said Monday that he has “no issue” with Hennick's opinion.
“As long as this is an administrative tour and the council does not deliberate, there is no need to notice the meeting,” he said.
Kenny Michaels, Parks and Recreation director, and Michael Savenelli Sr., Recreation Commission member and pool committee chairman, are slated to be on the tour.
Shortell, the council liaison to the pool committee, organized the walk-through because he wanted every councilor to be able to see the pool, bathhouses and the rest of the site in its current condition, he said.
In addition to organizing the pool tour, Shortell has been working with Michaels and Savenelli to gather a list of potential costs for replacing current pool components, with the intention of renovating rather than replacing the pool, and also the potential cost of adding elements that would alter the new park design that was presented last fall.
According to a memo from Michael P. Fortuna of TLBA Architecture, it would cost $4.125 million to replace the filter system and pool piping, build a new bathhouse, resurface and repaint the pool, perform crack repair, reseal joints and mill and repave the parking lot.
The estimate inevitably will change, Fortuna said in his memo, as the project scope changes. He also cautioned that “an (á la) carte approach to a complex renovation is not an accurate or reliable way of estimating a project like this.”
Councilor Christina Tatta expressed concern about disclosing pricing estimates to potential future bidders, since the memo was emailed to councilors and emails are subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
She said that she isn’t sure that the potential costs of the proposed pool property redevelopment as presented to the council last fall should have been disclosed either, and that she wants to find out if such discussions would qualify for executive session “in order to get the Town the best pricing possible.”
Tatta said that she trusts Hennick's professional opinion on announcing the council’s intention to tour the pool facility, “but I don't see any harm in it having been noticed as a special meeting either.”
Community Pool is closed this summer, which was planned before the coronavirus pandemic because town leaders anticipated the project would be funded and they would have been able to move forward with construction this summer.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. vetoed in May a council-approved plan to appropriate $7.4 million to renovate the property into a multi-use park. The council voted 5 to 4 to uphold the veto.