Wilton Parks & Rec discuss storm mitigation strategies before meeting with consulting firm

WILTON — Plans to address how flooding — as well as dry weather — impact playing fields were the main topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

On Friday, Stantec, an international consulting firm, will meet with Steve Pierce, Parks and Recreation Department director, and Frank Smeriglio, director of Wilton’s Department of Public Works, to outline some scenarios for addressing flooding at the field complex that runs from Cider Mill School, north to Catalpa Road, including Wilton High School.

Likewise, Pierce is working on an request for proposal (RFP) to hire a firm in the next few months to draw up plans for addressing both flooding mitigation and water irrigation at various fields throughout town.

“We met with them last Friday,” Pierce said of Stantec, with the company gathering details to formulate a “matrix” of proposed plans to address different levels of flooding intensity at the high school complex.

“The town will have to make a decision as to where they feel comfortable,” he said, based on the potential costs to address different tiers of flooding.

In short, Smeriglio explained that different year designations of storms — a 10-year storm, a 25-year storm, etc. — equate to the amount of rain that falls within a 24-hour period, with the longer time period corresponding to a higher rainfall amount.

For instance, he said 5 inches of rain in 24 hours constitutes a 10-year storm, while 6.5 inches in that same period of time would constitute a 25-year storm.

Stantec will offer different project scenarios that have the capacity to meet the different rainfall amount, which will likely have different prices attached to them.

“If you want it to handle six inches of rain in 24 hours, this is what you have to do and this is what it’ll cost,” he said.

Woven into the different scenarios are exactly how the company’s plans would address the diverted runoff, with the goal being to keep it off the synthetic fields.

“With every drainage project you have to decide where the water’s going to overflow,” Smeriglio said. “You definitely want it to overflow into the grass fields” or preferably, he said, to the pond just north of School Road.

“Friday we should get our first real look at what they’re talking about,” Pierce said, though specific costs for each scenario will not be offered at that time.

He said that First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice hasn’t had time to talk about the cost details with him, but that the plan is to have a sit-down meeting at some point in the next month about it.

Commissioner John Macken raised the question of whether it would be more cost-effective to put in any additional synthetic fields now — or plan for them with these scenarios.

“Why would we not consider turfing Guy Whitten, the outfields of the baseball and softball fields?” he said, suggesting it be part of the cost package. “I just don’t want to look back in three or four years and say, ‘Shoot, when we did all that work, we should have considered doing it for a turf field.’”

Smeriglio said they could ask Stantec to incorporate the possibility into its scenarios, noting it becomes a question of “risk to reward” if the town ends up having to repair damage done to a turf field.

Pierce noted that work at Middlebrook Middle School, which had several fields in particular need of flooding mitigation, had to be incorporated into the complex work.

The Parks and Rec director said that he didn’t want to “develop the plan in a silo” in regards to Middlebrook, as the overflow there will directly impact the complex work.

Pierce said $8,000 to $12,000 per field is being estimated for the landscape architectural design of drainage and irrigation work at other locations.

“(Vanderslice) got some monies, I believe … that is going to be put aside for this project, so hopefully we’ll get to move on this very quickly and hopefully, within a month to a month and a half, we’ll have somebody on board,” he said.

Among the first priorities for the work are the Miller-Driscoll School field and three of Middlebrook’s fields, as well as its football field.