Grants, Budget Savings, Safer Roads and More GOOD News at Latest Bd. of Selectmen Meeting

photo: Town of Wilton Zoom recording, Nov. 7, 2022

There was an abundance of good news at the Monday, Nov. 7, Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, which provided an update on a number of projects and financial developments for the Town.

Projects funded by grants were a recurring theme of the meeting. As First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice recently told residents in her October update, “Over the last four years, the Town has received an unprecedented $25,000,000 in grants for bridges, trails and the new emergency communications system. We have applied for additional grants totaling $3.7 million and are working on applications for more bridge projects.”

NRVT Extension

Plans to complete an additional section of the popular Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) are taking a major step forward, thanks to a $3,018,600 grant from the state’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP).

The grant will fund the construction of the NRVT’s North Loop, extending the trail 0.9 mile from where it currently ends near Skunk Ln. to Pimpewaug Rd. near Cannondale Station.

Source: www.nrvt-trail.com

While the Town collaborated with the NRVT to obtain the grant, the NRVT will manage the trail construction.

The BOS voted unanimously to formally accept the grant. The Board of Finance will also have a vote to accept the grant at its Tuesday, Nov. 12 meeting.

DUI and Speed Enforcement Programs

Town Administrator Matt Knickerbocker informed the selectmen that the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT-DOT) has approved a grant requested by the Wilton Police Department for $24,534 for a DUI enforcement program in Wilton.

The grant application cited important statistics behind the request for funding. Over the past five years, Wilton has averaged 11.4 motor vehicle accidents per year related to drugs or alcohol — and that figure is trending higher in the past two years:  2020 saw a high of 14 DUI accidents, with just one less in 2021.

Statewide, there was an average of 109 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per year for a ten-year period — that’s 40% of all driving fatalities.

The program will start on Nov. 17, 2022. It should be noted that this enforcement effort would be “above and beyond” regular patrol activities, and may include sobriety checkpoints where motor vehicle drivers are stopped and interviewed.

According to the grant application, all officers assigned to DUI enforcement activities would be trained in the most current Standardized Field Sobriety Test course curriculum.

Knickerbocker also sought the board’s approval to proceed with an application for a state grant to fund a speeding enforcement effort.

The ARPA Rural Roads Speed Enforcement Grant would apply to any roads in a municipality with less than 25,000 residents.

“This is an opportunity to improve public safety. This will allow our police force to put in the overtime necessary to get speeders to behave themselves a little better,” Knickerbocker said.

“The statistics are showing that speeding increased tremendously over the past couple of years,” he continued. “This [enforcement] is something that citizens in our area have been asking for.”

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice agreed, saying that she has heard numerous public calls for more enforcement of speeding on Wilton roads.

The board voted unanimously to approve the application.

Sugar Hollow Bridge

Wilton DPW Director and Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio sought the board’s approval to proceed with an application to the CT DOT’s Local Bridge Program for grant funding to replace an aging bridge on Sugar Hollow Rd.

The 28-foot bridge over the Norwalk River would be constructed in 2026. Preliminary cost estimates are $2.92 million, with federal reimbursement of $2.336 million (80%) and additional state funding of $584,000 (20%).

Smeriglio noted that the grant funding has changed since the Town repaired bridges such as on Lover’s Ln. and Honey Hill Rd. At the time, 80% of the cost was paid by federal funds, and 20% by the Town of Wilton. Under the new application, 80% would still be paid with federal funds, but the remaining 20% would be paid by the state, not the Town.

Vanderslice praised Smeriglio’s work on seeking out and securing the grants that have benefited Wilton greatly during his tenure.

Financial News

Vanderslice presented the selectmen with a favorable review of FY2022 actual operating expenses and revenues.

On the revenue side, Vanderslice reported revenues were higher than planned by $923,000, despite an investment income shortfall. Revenues were driven by higher-than-expected conveyance fees ($692,000) and building permit fees ($234,000).

Vanderslice estimated $652,000 would be available to reduce FY2023 taxes and $271,000 to reduce FY2024 taxes.

Source: Board of Selectmen meeting, Nov. 7, 2022

FY2022 was also favorable on the expense side.

Significant savings were seen in wages ($482,00) and benefits ($345,000). However, Wilton’s Transfer Station experienced a $165,000 budget deficit for the year due to higher costs — an issue expected to continue going forward.

Source: Board of Selectmen meeting, Nov. 7, 2022

The board voted unanimously to approve a Transfer Station subsidy to cover the $165,000 deficit and build the balance by $100,000 for FY2023.

The board also voted unanimously to move the net $760,000 in budget savings to the Town’s Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

The board also unanimously approved a motion to move a budgeted expense for the revaluation process (originally planned for 2022) in light of the one-year postponement of the revaluation.

More News

  • The BOS voted unanimously to authorize a revision to a 1999 mutual aid agreement with several neighboring towns for hazardous materials response. At the time the agreement was created, chiefs of participating fire departments created a group known as the Fairfield County Hazardous Incident Response Team (FCHIRT), but a legal entity for FCHIRT was never established. That has hampered efforts to apply for grants, collect donations, and enter into agreements with other entities. The revised agreement would address the problem by authorizing the incorporation of FCHIRT as a 501(c) non-stock corporation with tax-exempt status. Each of the 14 participating municipalities will be a member of FCHIRT with one seat (for its fire chief) on the Board of Directors.
  • Vanderslice updated the board on a contract with Morton Salt for the upcoming winter weather season. The company agreed to a price concession when a state bid came in lower than the contracted price.
  • Vanderslice informed the board that WestCOG was awarded a $1.5 million grant for a Regional Firing Range. Wilton’s Transfer Station has been considered as a possible location for a new facility that would support firearms training for law enforcement departments of WestCGOG member municipalities.
  • Vanderslice updated the board about Wilton’s recent silver-level certification from Sustainable CT. Wilton was recognized for efforts that included programs for buy-local initiatives, improvements in stewarded land and natural resources, expanding recycling materials accepted at the transfer station, continuing food waste reduction programs at the schools as well as air quality education, services for those experiencing economic hardships and investments in energy infrastructure. More information, including Wilton’s 2022 Sustainable CT certification report, is available on Wilton’s Sustainable CT profile page.

Interested in Serving the Town?

As many terms come to a close at the end of November, a number of Wilton boards and commissions have open positions.

Some boards and commissions (like the Housing Committee or Building Inspectors Board of Appeals) are looking for volunteers with specific skills, but many are open to individuals with diverse backgrounds.

Information on open positions and how to apply may be found on the Town website.

Key Dates and Reminders

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 is Election Day. Please vote!
  • Town Hall is closed on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2022.
  • The next Board of Selectmen meeting will be Monday, Nov. 21 (not Nov. 22 as originally scheduled)