Wilton prioritizes spending on parks, Town Hall upgrades and athletic fields

WILTON — Renovations to the interior of Town Hall, park upgrades and the progression of the town’s turf field inventory are all on the docket after the Board of Selectmen allocated money to the projects on Monday.

The selectmen unanimously designated $582,000 of the town’s remaining funds, from both the American Rescue Plan Act allocation and the selectmen infrastructure fund, to Wilton’s most important projects for the near future. The board set three initial priorities in May for the nearly $5.43 million in ARPA funds and another two for the selectmen’s $1.2 million infrastructure budget.

First, two important upgrades will be coming to Town Hall with $60,000 for window replacements, as well as $50,000 for radiant ceiling heat for areas of the building without insulation. Numerous offices in the building are currently without insulation.

“I think you should also put heating in because, if not, you’re not going to have it for the winter,” Selectwoman Kim Healy said.

Many of the town’s parks and nature areas will be having work done as well.

The selectmen earmarked $170,000 for a new parking lot at Schenck’s Island, just south of Wilton Center. The barn at Merwin Meadows will receive siding repairs to the tune of $20,000 as well. A $44,000 plan was passed to address upgrades to trails, boardwalk stabilization and parking across the town’s parks.

While the previous three allocations address town-owned parks, the selectmen unanimously approved $57,000 to repave the access way to the state-owned, but town-run, Quarry Head Park. This appropriation comes after a request from the Conservation Commission and Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin deemed it their top priority for the town to fund. Conklin and the Conservation Commission’s second-most important project proposal — a $6,000 request to remove fallen trees in the brook at Town Forest to avoid washout on trails — was also prioritized by the selectmen.

A $175,000 amenities plan for the town was prioritized by the selectmen. Part of that plan must include determining a location for a new turf field, according to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, but the town will seek other avenues to secure funds for the eventual plans and construction of the field.

“Because there are insufficient funds to meet the remaining $4.2 million in requests, the Board of Selectmen decided to seek bonded funds for the one request that is bondable — a new turf field,” Vanderslice clarified Tuesday. “The recommended bonding will include the design and construction costs, less any monies fundraised by the Wilton Athletic and Recreational Foundation.”

What is to be bonded versus fundraised for the project has yet to be determined, Vanderslice added.

Two more projects were deemed priorities for the town, but their specific allocation totals could not be determined by the selectmen yet.

A request to replace an aged playground at Merwin Meadows came in originally at $250,000, but Vanderslice said Tuesday that “there are not sufficient funds available to fund at the level.” The selectmen have requested further information from the Parks and Recreation Department for a new bid, possibly up to $175,000.

In addition, design and installation costs for drainage and/or irrigation at the five athletic fields at Middlebrook Middle School have to be further discussed. The original request came in at $705,000. Vanderslice said that the selectmen have requested a breakdown of that total cost of design versus installation.