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As the town prepares to put to referendum the $4 million purchase of the Schlumberger property in Ridgefield, officials are coming down to the wire in getting the information to the public – and to other town officials.
In early September, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 to include the question on the November 8 ballot in what First Selectman Rudy Marconi said at the time was a move to “take control of the destiny of our town.”
If approved, a 30-acre portion of the international oilfield company’s abandoned research center would be purchased by the town of Ridgefield for $2.9 million – with about $1 million in other costs – and the remaining 15 acres would be acquired privately by local developer Steve Zemo.
The question now is whether putting the issue on the November ballot may be premature – dissenting Selectman Andy Bodner supported the eventual purchase of the property but voted in Semptember against locking it in for the ballot due to a number of unanswered questions and the “magnitude of the open items.”
One reason to push the issue along for November, though, is that the election would bring a far greater number of people to vote rather than a special election held sometime during the year.
Marconi has said the open questions will be answered in public forums in October.
“If we don’t have all the answers, we’re not going forward with this, but Schlumberger needs to see an endpoint,” Marconi said. “If the town loses the opportunity to take this, though, it could go to the highest bidder.”
Ridgefield would lose a large tax opportunity if that were to become the case, he said.
But as negotiations for the purchase are still young or ongoing and have taken place mostly in executive session over the last year, further details are minimal as of early October, even for the Board of Finance, said board chair Peter Gomez over the phone Friday afternoon.
Gomez and two members of the Board of Finance – Jill Bornstein and Marty Heiser – voted 3-0 Wednesday against the purchase, citing a lack of information.
“We don’t have sufficient details for us to render a financial decision at this time,” Gomez said Friday. “And we’re not a rubber-stamp authority.”
Gomez said it is now up to the Board of Selectman to reaffirm its vote upon advice of the Board of Finance – he said that the Board of Finance would better serve the issue with more access to the information and a more collaborative effort by all officials.
“This is a large ticket item placed under discretionary spending,” Gomez said, “and that’s the case that needs to be made to the public.”