Selectmen Punt on new grass pitch as infrastructure projects take priority

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First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice addresses the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on June 6, 2022 (Picture: Town of Wilton, Zoom recording)

The Monday, June 6 wilton reunion Breeders Council revealed significant progress on a number of important infrastructure projects, such as the long-awaited pedestrian bridge at Wilton Center and flood mitigation efforts in Wilton High School sports complex, among others.

But as selectors continued the daunting task of prioritizing the long and ever-growing list of other highly sought-after projects, it became clear that a new turf field would be not be among the board’s top priorities – at least for now – for the allocation of the remaining funds from the US Bailout Act (ARPA) or the Municipality Infrastructure funds.

The BOS seemed united in the desire to find a way to make a new grass pitch a reality — something the City has been unable to accomplish for many years.

Instead of immediately approving the $200,000 request of the Parks and Recreation Commission to fund the initial planning and design of a new grass pitch, First Selection Woman Lynne Vanderslice recommended that BOS fund the $175,000 requested by the Urban planning and zoning department for a Development Master Plan. Vanderslice envisions that the facilities master plan would be responsible for determining appropriate locations for a turf field within the context of other facilities in the city.

While this pushes decisions and planning for a new turf field further down the road – and ultimately into the hands of voters rather than the BOS – selectors agreed that bonding could be an option for funding a new field. of turf and would leave ARPA and the remaining infrastructure funds available for other worthwhile projects.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated with additional information to clarify the selectmen’s discussion of bonding as a potential source of funding for a new turf field as an alternative to using available ARPA/Infrastructure funds.]

Requests exceed funds

Vanderslice presented the latest numbers on what has become a familiar working list of project requests made by various city departments, including Environmental Affairs, Parks and recreationand DPW.

After reaching consensus at the May 18 BOS meeting on the most pressing spending needs (such as upgrading the city’s emergency communications system), the board agreed to continue the discussion on the best way to prioritize remaining requests – including a new turf pitch, a Meadows of Merwin the revision of the playing field and the repairs essential to the Ambler Farm “Yellow House”among many other projects.

This is where council members resumed discussion at the June 6 meeting.

The main thing is, $6.6 million in the ARPA and Infrastructure funds, $5.2 million has already been awarded or retained for the most critical projects, leaving $1.4 million in available funds. This amount represents only a fraction of the $4.2 million requested by various services.

As the selectors discussed their individual thoughts, certain themes began to emerge about how they thought projects should be prioritized – for example, which projects were needed for the safety of residents and employees (like the proposal Quarry Head Park road access) or the one addressed overdue maintenance on municipal buildings (such as repairs City hall), as well as projects that would provide return on investment (as the transfer station conversion to 100 yard dumpsters which would create operating cost savings) or benefit the greatest number.

“I will say one thing looking at this total [requests]…I looked at this list and said if there were any here that we could link to instead [of using available funds] in order to get closer to allocating all those things that have been shown as priorities? Vanderslice said.

Potentially important projects to Ambler Farm and a new grass field were cited as linking possibilities.

With regard to the new grass pitch, in particular, Vanderslice was well prepared.

She presented Board members with a 10-year history of grass field discussions and exploratory work, which validated the need for at least one or even two additional grass fields, but did not managed to advance a viable plan during this time, particularly in regards to the private fundraising required for a new estate.

Vanderslice then presented new information: the unpublished findings of a recent study commissioned by the BOS on the feasibility of a domed turf installation in Comstock Community Center.

“In 2021 [the BOS] authorized a study of a domed turf installation in Comstock. That report is still not out, but basically the conclusion is that due to the nature of the property, the costs of developing the site would be excessive,” Vanderslice said. “That wouldn’t make any sense.”

According to Vanderslice, the report concludes that the costs of a turf field in Comstock, whether domed or not, would “significantly increase” the cost compared to a flatter property.

“The important thing is that the two big questions are ‘where would it be located’ and ‘who is going to pay,'” Vanderslice said.

“[The Parks and Recreation Commission] requested design fees and partial funding, but they did not identify a location,” Vanderslice said. “Currently, there is no consensus on a location.”

Vanderslice said inquiries had recently been made into Allen’s Meadow and the portions leased to Wilton by the State.

Vanderslice then pivoted to the project Development Master Plan.

“I strongly recommend that we fund the Equipment Master Plan and require that [the Plan] answer the question of where the turf field would potentially be located,” Vanderslice said. “[The Plan] should also watch Allen’s Meadow. Is this a place where we want to have more amenities? »

Vanderslice pointed out that the Parks and Recreation Commission prioritized $705,000 for drainage and irrigation of grass fields, with the $200,000 for the design of a new grass pitch at number two on the commission’s wish list.

“Since we have no idea where that field would be, how do you design something when you don’t know where it’s going to be?” said Vanderslice. “The $200,000 is premature if you don’t know where the field will be.”

At least one elected Bas Nabulsiseemed uncomfortable with the temporal implications.

“It seems terribly optimistic and perhaps unrealistic that the amenities plan can be completed in a timeframe that would allow the city to be able to include it in the next link cycle,” Nabulsi said. “I wish there was a way [to] focus on this third ground issue in a way that would allow us to be able to make a decision in time for the next liaison cycle.

Vanderslice conceded the timing would be “tight”, even assuming planning for accommodations was underway this fall. As with any related project, voters would ultimately decide whether the project would go ahead or not.

The BOS will continue its deliberations on how to spend the remaining ARPA and infrastructure funds at its next meeting. The discussion should include additional information from the Ambler Farm Friends regarding potentially significant projects at Ambler Farm.

Other BOS activities
  • Wilton Facilities Manager Chris Burney attended the meeting to discuss the latest amendment to the City’s contract with Tecton Architects for the construction of the new police station headquarters, the bond for which was approved during the recent Annual Municipal Meeting. Council voted unanimously on a motion allowing Vanderslice to execute the contract amendment for the next phase of work leading to the start of the construction tender process. He understands $785,000 for construction documents ($442,900), procurement ($53,800) and construction administration ($288,300). According to the amendment, the project is intended to be ready for tender by October 1st. and is estimated at 18 months for construction.
  • Director of Public Works and Municipal Engineer Frank Smeriglio updated selectors on the condition of the pedestrian bridge for Wilton Center. The board voted unanimously on three motions to allow Vanderslice to perform contracts, including a construction contract with Dayton Construction Company (subject to State DOT contract award authorization); an engineering contract with Tighten and bind (also subject to DOT award authorization); and a temporary agreement with the owners of 10-20 Center Street to allow access to the site. Smeriglio noted that the RFP called for the project be completed in six months, and highlighted the importance to carry out the work before winter conditions can hinder progress.
  • Smeriglio has also sought board approval for a contract with Stantec Consulting for the design phase of the flood mitigation plan for the Wilton High School sports Complex. Under Phase I of the plan, the improvements would involve “installation of a wall/berm, riprap at the channels and an outlet structure”. Stantec will provide the design, permits and associated construction to weather a Type 2 storm.
  • Dawn Norton, Chief Financial Officer attended the meeting to request authorization to apply the funds received from FEMA to the city’s infrastructure fund (sometimes called a real estate fund). The city was reimbursed approximately $390,000 for the removal of debris and other damage costs resulting from Hurricane Isaias in 2020. Norton also presented information on a $4,435,000 bond issuance (for road improvements, bridge replacement program, aerial fire truck, Middlebrook tennis court replacement, and school district roof replacement program). “On May 26, Moody’s gave us a triple-A rating in the City for this 2022 general bond bond issue, and also affirmed and maintained our triple-A rating on the other outstanding general bond bonds of the city. Town.
  • The board deferred an agenda item that called for a discussion of potential changes to the charge for the Economic Development Commission and the Housing Committee. Vanderslice said she was not prepared for the discussion as she had expected.
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