Fixing the Wilton High School stadium track has been on the wish list for town officials and many residents for years. Funding the track replacement would require bonding the project–something that usually needs to be voted on by residents at a town meeting. However, such a referendum isn’t possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Board of Selectmen is moving forward on its own in a way allowed by Gov. Lamont’s pandemic-era executive orders, in order to take advantage of favorable interest rates available now to do the project as affordably as possible.
Wilton’s Parks & Recreation Commission brought the proposal for a new track to the Board of Selectmen at the last BOS meeting on Nov. 2. The proposal has three options, all of which would come near the projected $1.2 million range that town officials had estimated track replacement would cost.
In order for the BOS to authorize moving forward with the project on its own, it would need to do so under specific reasons as established by the Governor’s executive order.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice spelled out the rationale to the BOS at a special meeting Monday evening, Nov. 9.
“We would have to find that such action is necessary to permit the orderly operation of the town, and that there’s a need to act immediately during the health emergency. Then there are different reasons why we might do that: endangering public health–I don’t think we’re there yet; it prevents significant financial loss–we do think that this would cost us more money if we wait; or the action is otherwise necessary for the protection of persons and property within the municipality–and I think you could argue under that also, we do have a deteriorating track that I’ve seen increase use,” she explained.
The BOS voted unanimously that authorizing the replacement and funding it would prevent financial loss and is necessary for the protection of persons and persons and property within the municipality. In addition, they then approved authorizing a bond up to $1.225 million to pay for the project.
Following that approval, the BOS followed the same steps for bonding road paving in 2021–something they were unable to do as is usually done at the Annual Town Meeting each May.
Selectman Ross Tartell said that in addition to justifying the authorization to bond with the reason of “protection of persons and property within the municipality,” it would also benefit the town financially to do so.
“I think there was also a significant financial cost avoidance by being able to schedule and the vendors before we lost that opportunity. So that I think is part of it also,” he said. “I’d like to amend the motion to prevent significant loss and to ensure we are able to procure a vendor to stay with the schedule.”
The amount they voted to bond for paving was $2.752 million; previously bonded funds leftover from 2020 enables the town to bond less than the total cost of $3.3 million required for calendar year 2021.
Now Vanderslice will present authorizations on both the track project and paving to the Board of Finance at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 10, and the Board of Finance must now authorize the spending to move forward.