Wilton church adding generator to act as emergency center

WILTON — With the planned addition of a new diesel generator and a 203-gallon diesel fuel tank underground, the Wilton Congregational Church is aiming to become a community emergency center for heating, cooling, food and power during outages and other incidents.

Town Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin has been working alongside Gifford Broderick, the church’s chairperson of the building and grounds commission, to plan for this new addition. Though the proposal passed unanimously during last week’s Wilton Inland Wetlands Commission meeting, it came with some safety concerns.

The safety of the Comstock Brook, which sits just 80 feet from the proposed location, was one of both Conklin and Broderick’s main concerns.

“Due to the proximity of the Comstock Brook and the amount of gallons of fuel oil that will be stored in conjunction with this, I figured it should come before the commission for review,” Conklin offered to the Wilton Inland Wetlands Commission last week during a meeting.

Nick Lee, chairman of the commission, stated he had visited the proposed project site recently. Commissioners Claudia Avallone and Scott Fisher had been to the site as well.

“Does the (fuel tank) have secondary containment?” Fisher asked Broderick, noting a possible concern that underground leakage could affect the nearby body of water.

Broderick assured Fisher and the commission that the proposed diesel fuel tank was double-walled, as to ensure that the tank will have secondary containment measures.

The reason the project had to come before the Inland Wetlands Commission was because the proposal came within a regulated area.

“We tried at length to get this out of the 100-foot regulated area. We couldn’t come to a spot that would work,” Conklin said, adding that the project could not be built in the front yard of the church and that the ideal location would be close to the green transformer on the premises.

The Wilton Congregational Church sits in a historic district of town, which disallowed any projects to be built in the front or side yards due to regulations.

Conklin asked Broderick and the church if they could go with a propane generator as an option, instead of diesel fuel.

“The propane storage tank was a problem. We would have had to put two 1,000-gallon tanks behind the church,” Broderick said, citing that both of the large tanks would have been forced to fit behind the church. “The tanks would have taken up six parking spots. We have an elderly congregation that doesn’t like to walk, so it kind of eliminated the option for propane.”

WCC’s Pam Brown said adding two propane tanks would have impeded churchgoers’ ability to access the rear handicap ramp as well.

The chairman of the commission fully supported the project, stating it seemed “pretty straightforward.”

The goal of the proposal is to be able to accommodate community members as an emergency center for heat during the winter, air conditioning during the summer, a charging station for electronics and, according to Brown, a haven for food with the use of its on-site kitchen during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Members of the community would also be able to access the church and its supply of food during a routine power outage, if needed.