WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. exercised his veto power Friday to block funding for Community Pool renovations.
“The (Community Pool) project is a project worthy of support, but it is not time sensitive,” Dickinson said in a letter to town councilors.
“We can and should renovate the pool when the overwhelming financial hardships of citizens and businesses are no longer prevalent, when unemployment is absorbed by gainful employment,” he said.
Dickinson vetoed an ordinance amendment approved by a 6 to 3 vote of the Town Council on April 28. It appropriated $7.4 million and approved bonding to renovate Community Pool into a multi-use park.
Dickinson came out against funding the project due to higher than projected costs on April 9, and then added his concerns about the current COVID-19 crisis in another letter a week before the meeting.
It would take at least seven affirmative votes to override Dickinson’s veto. If the Town Council does not muster the seven votes, the project would await further efforts to fund it.
The council has 10 days to attempt to overturn the veto. Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said Friday that he added the issue to the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
"In light of the surrounding economic environment, I'm not surprised that the mayor vetoed the bond," he said.
Councilor Chris Shortell, who has been a strong proponent of renovating Community Pool, said Friday that while Dickinson’s decision was disappointing, it was not unexpected.
“Anyone who has set foot in the existing pool knows it is unsustainable,” he said. “Hopefully we can squeeze a few more years out of it and get this project back on track.
In his letter Friday, Dickinson described the town as “caught in an economy/virus pandemic storm of an unprecedented nature.”
“High winds of business closings, drenching rainfall of unemployment numbers, and a storm tracking radar that forecasts these conditions will not change for an undetermined length of time,” he said.
He cited the unknown impact of the ongoing pandemic on “revenues for private businesses to operate and municipal government to provide services.”
“Predictions for state government are troubling with billion dollar deficits in the current and future years,” he said. “This is a new kind of economy downturn not experienced previously. The speed of recovery is very unpredictable.”
Alida Cella, chair of the Wallingford Democratic Town Committee and founder of the Save Our Pool Facebook page, said in an email that Dickinson’s response as a government leader has been to “follow the crowd and lead in fear.”
“Instead of answering this crisis by putting up an umbrella to help businesses and boost employment and give people something to come out for and help restart the economy when this is over,” she said, “he is contributing to the fear and to the economic crisis by vetoing these renovations.”
She added that Dickinson’s decision “is just a continued pattern of lack of vision and leadership.”
“This is the same mayor that couldn’t shut down the Town Hall when this crisis began because he had refused to update our technology infrastructure for so long Town Hall employees cannot work from home,” she said.