At last night’s Oct. 4 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, the board took steps to advance plans for improvements at multiple Town facilities.

  • The board continued its oversight of restoration efforts following the extensive damage to the recently installed track as well as the turf at Fujitani Field at Wilton High School’s Veterans Memorial Stadium during the historic rainfall and flooding from Hurricane Ida in early September.
  • Beyond the cleanup plan that was developed immediately following the storm —with work that remains in progress — the board will undertake a more strategic analysis to identify possible interventions that might prevent such extensive damage in future storms.
  • The board is also picking up the ball again after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay of game in plans for the construction of a new Wilton Police Department headquarters as well as important renovations at the Wilton Fire Department‘s headquarters (at the Wilton Town Hall campus on Danbury Rd.) and “Station II” (707 Ridgefield Rd.).

Track & Field Update

During the BOS meeting, Wilton Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Pierce updated the board on the ongoing restoration efforts at the track and stadium turf field.

Pierce said, “Everyone was heartbroken” when the newly-installed track was forced to close due to the mud and debris that carpeted the track after the historic storm.

“We’re back to our ‘new’ track,” Pierce reported, crediting the “yeoman’s work” by track installer Cape and Islands Tennis & Track which required clearing of debris; cleaning and testing of drains; and broom-sweeping and power-washing of the track.

The turf at Fujitani Field also proved to be challenging to clean up, with silt and debris needing to be extracted from the turf itself. (Wilton DPW will actually re-use the huge pile of extracted silt for other purposes around town.)

While that extraction process is complete, there is still some in-fill of coconut husk and sand that is needed, followed by a disinfection process. Pierce hopes to see the turf field re-opened by next Wednesday, though that is dependent on dry weather for the remaining work.

The track will remain closed as the work on the turf field is finished.

Pierce expressed deep appreciation to the turf and track installation firms.

“I can’t say enough about both Shaw [Sports Turf] and Cape and Island for all the assistance they’ve given us,” said Pierce. “[The Town of Wilton] may have some capabilities, but we did not have the expertise, we did not have the equipment, and we certainly don’t have the manpower, so without these groups to do this, we would be so far behind on this. They’ve been great to work with and they’ve done a great job.”

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice echoed the praise for the two contractors, but also praised Pierce for “going above and beyond” in the difficult circumstances.

Mitigation Effort

With the cleanup nearly complete, the BOS is shifting its focus toward potential mitigation strategies, in the hopes of preventing similar situations in the future.

During the BOS meeting, the selectmen unanimously authorized Vanderslice to proceed with negotiating an agreement with Stantec Consulting Services to study the area around the stadium, toward Cider Mill and up the hillside of Catalpa Rd.

In its proposal, Stantec framed the purpose of the study as follows:

“A watercourse runs to the west side of the Tom Fujitani Field and enters a quadruple 18” culvert which carries the watercourse below the grandstand. The watercourse remains piped heading south and ultimately discharges to a pond south of the field. Overtopping of the banks had been witnessed from recent historic large storm events… which have led to significant sediment deposition on the new track surface and synthetic turf field.”

A map provided by town officials show the watercourse behind the school fields. The blue arrows show the path of the watercourse in lower Catalpa as it passes through a culvert under Catalpa Rd and private culverts and then turns down along the hill behind the WHS baseball field and re-enters town-owned property north of the WHS track and turf field.

Stantec’s analysis will assess the existing conditions and offer potential mitigation solutions to help prevent future storms from inflicting the extent of damage that was seen with Ida.

The firm recommended a two-phase process.

Phase I will gather available information (e.g., roadway and drainage plans, reports and FEMA information in the watershed area) in order to compile an existing conditions hydraulic model. Stantec would also conduct a site visit for a “thorough review of the entire brook length from Catalpa Road to the pond.”

Based on a hydraulic survey and hydrologic analysis, Phase I would provide a summary of possible solutions to reduce flooding conditions.

The fee for Phase I would be $33,000, plus up to $10,000 for the hydraulic survey.

In Phase II, Stantec will “update the model with improvements to the brook/floodplain such as: berms/short walls, sediment removal, modifications to culvert entrances/exits, channel widening, flood storage, etc. to evaluate the impact that these measures will have in reducing the flooding in the area.”

The output would include a matrix of various potential improvement options and their associated rough costs.

The fee for Phase II would be $20,000, bringing the total project cost to $53,000, plus the $10,000 allowance for the survey work.

Pierce noted there is a possibility that FEMA will reimburse the expense, but that is still to be determined.

With the BOS authorizing Vanderslice to proceed, a formal contract will be developed and reviewed by town counsel.

Police HQ 

After a 20-month, COVID-induced delay, the BOS has indicated the time has come to resume discussions about a new headquarters for the Wilton Police Department.

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The BOS reviewed a Statement of Requirements — or SOR, an itemized list of “must-have” features sought by the department — that was revised to reflect the most up-to-date priorities for a new headquarters that would be “an efficient, updated infrastructure with an expected useful life of 25 to 30 years and at a cost that is prudent, reasonable and acceptable to the taxpayers of Wilton.”

The BOS unanimously approved the revised SOR and also authorized the approval of a contract for design services, subject to review by legal counsel.

The design phase is anticipated to cost $481,750.

Vanderslice emphasized the effort that has gone into bringing the project along thus far.

“We’re excited about moving this project forward,” she said, after listening to a presentation by Jeff McElravy, principal at Tecton Architects who will be leading the project.

David Waters and Patti Temple, the co-chairs of the Police/Town Campus Building Committee, also attended the Zoom meeting.

Waters highlighted the best practices that would be employed by Tecton.

“The reason we hired Tecton was because of their experience in designing police department buildings and the expertise that is required for the specialized equipment and operations,” Waters explained. “They will in fact be able to bring us into 21st century in a way that is fully compliant with statutory requirements but also with the best practices that are available.”

“This is being viewed as a one-shot deal,” Waters said. “We don’t expect that 10 years from now we will be coming back and saying we need to revise the [building] again.”

“It’s a great moment. We should all be happy about it,” Vanderslice concluded.

The BOS is aiming to bring the project to voters at a special town meeting in January or early February of 2022, when there will likely be other items on the ballot, including the sale of cannabis and the construction of an indoor multisport facility.

Fire Dept. Facilities Will Get Improvements, Too

Wilton Fire Chief Jim Blanchfield updated the BOS on plans for a kitchen renovation and dayroom at the fire department’s headquarters, as well as some bathrooms and locker room renovations at Station II at 707 Ridgefield Rd.

Blanchfield reported that with the assistance of Chris Burney, a contractor had been identified and materials were being sourced for the renovations.

Vanderslice was pleased with the update.

“We’ve made good progress. We’re in a good place right now. We only have good news at tonight’s meeting,” Vanderslice said.

The BOS unanimously approved the total cost of roughly $150,000, with funding available in the town’s Real Estate fund.