At Tuesday night’s meeting, Wilton Board of Selectmen members approved a request from the Norwalk River Valley Trail to partner on a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) grant application to the state to fund construction of the next section of the trail in Wilton.
The Friends of the NRVT (the NRVT’s managing organizational board of trustees) is seeking close to $3 million to build the section of trail that will extend between Skunk Ln. and Pimpewaug Rd. — a section critical to completing the NRVT’s 8-mile Wilton Loop.
While the Friends will be responsible for preparing the complicated grant application, the town must be the entity to actually apply to the state for the funding.
Charley Taney, the president of the Friends of the NRVT, is optimistic about Wilton’s chances of receiving this LOTCIP grant, even though the application is complicated and the fund ask is high. He says that’s because there is precedent after Ridgefield successfully applied for and was awarded a similar $3 million LOTCIP grant to build a section of the trail there.
One other reason Taney has high hopes is that while the LOTCIP award can only be applied to construction costs and not for potentially significant pre-construction costs, the Friends of the NRVT has already raised the money required to fund that first phase and has even completed 70% of the pre-construction work.
“They’re going to see that Wilton’s serious about this, because the pre-construction work that they don’t fund is already funded and is 70% complete. So I think that gives this grant application a lot of credibility and gravitas,” Taney told the BOS.
Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio said the town also has a good track record and relationship with the state on grants like this — Wilton recently applied and was awarded a LOTCIP grant to fund maintenance and repair on five bridges located in town. He encouraged the BOS to support the NRVT’s request.
“I’m a believer that when there’s money available from the state, you go after it, because if you apply for 10 things, maybe you get five. So I’m for the project,” Smeriglio said.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said the town’s partnership with the NRVT is good, and the NRVT has agreed to reimburse Wilton for any legal fees as it has in the past — something Taney seconded.
“This is a gigantic opportunity for us. This is going to be a multimillion-dollar grant to build Skunk to Pimpewaug. And that would be, you all know the NRVT, that would be a tremendous addition to the NRVT to get that entire section built. So if it meant that we had to help out with some outside support costs for the town, I think I could confidently say for the board that we’d be prepared to do that. Look, if that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do. I mean, this is a tremendous opportunity,” Taney said.
With the BOS approval, the Friends of the NRVT will complete the application and submit it first to WestCOG (Western CT Council of Governments). While WestCOG reviews the application, Wilton and the Friends will finalize their legal agreement for the town to administer the grant if the state approves it.
The last step would be for the Friends of the NRVT to prepare the final application that goes to the state.
Taney said the NRVT is applying for $2.3 million in construction costs, plus 10% construction contingency costs and an additional 10% for construction administration.
Selectman Ross Tartell commented on the value of the NRVT as a town amenity.
“It really ties to the strategic direction of the town. If you look at where we’re going and the types of amenities and the things we’re putting into place, this fits perfectly and only accelerates that move. So has my support,” he said.
Selectwoman Deb McFadden agreed that the NRVT is an important community asset and deserved the town’s support in seeking the grant.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve said in our POCD [Plan of Conservation and Development]. When the Board of Finance did the survey it’s one of the most popular things in town. We know that it gets heavy use,” she said, adding, “I think we should support it.”