Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) visited Wilton on Friday, May 19 to see first-hand the Wilton High School sports complex that will benefit from $1.425 million in federal funding that he secured for the Town of Wilton. The money will be used to cover the design and construction costs of a storm mitigation sewer system for the sports complex and surrounding fields, which sustained heavy weather-related damage from Hurricane Ida. 

The earmark for Wilton was part of the $1.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed and President Biden signed into law just before the end of 2022.

Himes said that projects like the one in Wilton stand out from the many requests his office can get from his district for help in securing federal monies.

“We lean hard into capital [projects] as opposed to operating — it’s nice to be able to give a non-profit money, but that’s just for a year. So we lean into capital that, boom, the project gets done. Also municipalities and schools districts because they’re the ones dedicated to serving the students and people of the area,” he said.

Also key? The chance a project likely will be completed.

“We love projects that can actually get done and show people that their tax dollars are actually making a difference for, in this case, their kids,” Himes added. 

Success stories are important given how controversial congressional earmarks have been and considering there’s pressure to do away with them.

“Just documenting these projects and showing that it’s not a waste of money. It actually makes life better for your constituents. It’s just a huge value to keeping them,” Himes said. (He added as an aside that he’s really supposed to call such funding ‘Congressionally Directed Spending’ to stay away from the ‘earmark’ stigma.)

Stigma or not, Wilton’s town and state officials were there to explain how bad the damage had been and to thank Himes in person. Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce and Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio described the silt covering the field and the infill that had washed out of the stadium and into the fields and collection pond to the southeast.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kevin Smith recalled how distraught the football team and marching band were when the storm decimated the field just as the 2021 season got underway.

“But the opportunity of this grant to install the storm mitigation system to prevent future damage really is a real gift, not just to our athletes, but for all of the community users of this facility. … I’ll speak on behalf of the schools, we’re grateful for your vociferous advocacy and getting these funds to help us prevent future catastrophe,” Smith said. 

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04) (right) talks with (from left) Wilton’s civil engineer Tom Reese, Second Selectman Joshua Cole, and School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith. Credit: GOOD Morning Wilton

Second Selectman Joshua Cole called the stadium facility Wilton’s “crown jewel” and noted that it’s used by youth sports organizations, the high school teams, community organizations, and more.

“It’s really a centerpiece of our town and it drives a lot of people from out of town into our town to support our businesses and is a real driver for economic growth. So we appreciate your efforts in securing these funds to allow the work to upgrade the facilities here,” Cole said.

He acknowledged Smeriglio and his staff, and Community Affairs Specialist Patricia Brandt in the first selectwoman’s office who were instrumental in the time-intensive process of preparing the funding application.

Also there were were Wilton’s State Sen. Ceci Maher (D-26) and State Rep. Keith Denning (D-42).

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1 Comment

  1. Der Mr. Himes, Thank you for your representation. This is a much needed project – well done!

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