Council discusses woman's plan to save hatchery

NEW LONDON -- The New London City Council didn't have any new answers Wednesday for a woman who wants to save the old fish hatchery building downtown.

NEW LONDON -- The New London City Council didn't have any new answers Wednesday for a woman who wants to save the old fish hatchery building downtown.

The council and Renee Jenniges, a Spicer woman who would like to purchase and fix up the state Department of Natural Resources building, discussed whether she could ever have true ownership of the building. The DNR wants to retain at least the bottom portion of the building because it's believed to be an integral part of the dam on the Mill Pond.

The DNR is planning to tear down the top portion of the building, fill in the hole and level off the ground there sometime before the year ends.

Jenniges said she is willing to spend the money to repair the deteriorating parts of the building. She doesn't know yet for what she would use the building but has considered moving either the massage therapy studio or the spa she and her sister own in New London to the building.

The building requires several repairs to the roof and facade, and it does not have water or sewer service. City Clerk Trudie Guptill said she wasn't sure if there was still lead paint or asbestos in the building.


"I just see it being very expensive," Mayor John Mack said of refurbishing the building.

The DNR has said the building might need to be demolished eventually if the Mill Pond dam is replaced.

Councilman Dave Schneider said all the improvements Jenniges would make would be lost if the DNR decided the building needed to be removed.

Councilman John Bergman told her she wouldn't want to invest money in a building she cannot truly take possession of.

Jenniges agreed with him.

"I don't want to fix a building that isn't ours," she said.

The council told her it has tried for years to get the DNR to find some sort of solution for the building, which has deteriorated. Now, the DNR has given the city a timeline for the building's demolition, Mack said.

"Here's a solution we don't like, but at least it's a decision," he said.


Mack asked Jenniges to talk to the DNR again about whether she can own the building.

The building's demolition is scheduled to go out for bids in October.

The fish hatchery was built in 1941 by the Works Progress Administration. It is no longer used for any purpose.

Also at the meeting, the council approved two street construction projects that will start this spring.

The council held two public hearings Wednesday before unanimously calling for plans and specifications for each project.

One project will put a new surface on portions of several streets throughout town as well as re-line some sewer lines on parts of those streets. The project is expected to cost $302,100. The project will be assessed to abutting property owners on a linear foot basis.

The other project will make water, sewer and storm sewer improvements to and reconstruct portions of First Avenue Southeast, Central Avenue East and Ash Street South.

The project is estimated to cost $642,800. The city will pay for half of the project and the rest will be assessed to abutting property owners.


All affected property owners were notified of the proposed assessments, and some questioned the accuracy of the assessment figures Wednesday night. The engineering firm the city contracts with will confirm the accuracy of each assessment before a public hearing on the final assessment amounts next fall.

The council also reviewed its 2006 preliminary budget. The council had asked Guptill to figure out how much the levy would increase if the tax rate remained the same as this year.

The city could levy $133,350 for the general fund next year and maintain its tax rate. That's a 44.9 percent increase over the $92,000 the council levied this year.

Councilman Kevin Dittbenner asked Guptill to come up with a budget where they would levy $112,000 instead. That way the council can compare "best-case" and "worst-case" scenarios.

Fuel costs, a new fire department truck and costs related to the 2006 street improvement project are some of the major expenses planned in the 2006 budget.

The council will give final approval to the budget and levy in December.

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