Wilton decides how to spend ARPA, infrastructure money, announces radio project price

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — Drainage upgrades at the high school complex, the emergency communications project and municipal upgrades will be the priorities for how the town spends funds from its American Rescue Plan Act allocation and its selectmen infrastructure budget.

Town officials also revealed the final bid price for the long-discussed emergency communication replacement project will be $4.08 million.

Officials recently approved a list of three projects they plan to prioritize with the nearly $5.43 million in APRA funds the town received and another two with the Board of Selectmen’s $1.2 million infrastructure fund.

The three projects that have been prioritized under ARPA are drainage upgrades to the berm at the Wilton High School complex, totaling $173,000 from ARPA, other drainage maintenance at Cider Mill Elementary School and Wilton High School worth $292,875 and the emergency communication project that totals $4.08 million with nearly $3.1 million coming from ARPA funds.

The BOS infrastructure budget will cover fixes to the Town Hall columns and steps, which could cost up to $250,000, and electrical repairs at Cider Mill and Middlebrook Middle School that are not covered by Eversourse, up to $150,000.

The emergency communication system funding will also benefit from a $983,000 congressional grant, one that First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice previously said will be repaid to the municipality after fronting the total.

The town will also hold back $240,000 as a contingency plan for the project during construction.

“It’s just a superior radio system to what we have,” said Police Capt. Thomas Conlan, who has taken point on the project.

Initial projections in late 2021 estimated the project would cost between $3.7 million to $4.2 million. Vanderslice said recently that the $983,000 congressional grant would cover between 20 and 25 percent of the cost. With the bid price finalized, the grant will cover 24.1 percent of the total cost, which also fell within the original range that Conlan presented.

“This number here is within that range, which is obviously, I think, a plus,” Conlan said, “especially with the inflation issues and the war in Ukraine and a lot of things skyrocketing in price, I’m glad to see that it actually came in within that range.”

The selectmen agreed to enter a contract with Motorola, the vendor for the project equipment, contingent on the advice of Town Counsel Douglas LoMonte.

Department of Public Works head Frank Smeriglio said the town is working with Stantec, a frequent contracting and building partner, on a proposal for the berm project. The next step is to “get started on the design” and hire a subcontractor for surveying.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable fixes the town wants to prioritize funding for, is replacing the missing column in the front of Town Hall. Burney called the eyesore a “missing tooth in the beauty queen’s smile.”

Officials estimated that the cost could range somewhere from $20,000 to $250,000 depending on a myriad of factors, including if the columns are structurally integral to the building and the scope of construction.

“I get complaints that the column isn’t replaced yet,” Vanderslice said. “I think we want to have a Town Hall that, you know, reflects our community’s value. Having a missing column doesn’t reflect our community’s value. So I think this is something that absolutely has to be prioritized.”

There are also projects that can still be added to the priority list in the coming selectmen meetings, a few of which were discussed Tuesday.

Officials discussed possibly adding $170,000 for a parking lot at Schenck’s Island that the Conservation Commision had recommended to the priority list as well as a $250,000 for a play area, also at Schenck’s Island.

Using $25,000 to light the upper parking lot of the Comstock Community Center was discussed as a possible future priority but ultimately wasn’t added though Selectman Joshua Cole considered it a “definite need.”

A contribution by the town for a regional firing range is also undetermined. The range would service numerous police departments, with Wilton’s Transfer Station listed as one of its possible locations. Vanderslice said she was uncertain if the town would have to contribute money if two of the grants it applied for in relation to the project were approved.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that the emergency communications project, Wilton High School drainage and Cider Mill drainage come from ARPA funds, while Town Hall fixes and school electrical repairs come from the BOS infrastructure fund.