On Monday, March 7, Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) continued its process of identifying potential projects for which it might spend millions of dollars in funds available to the Town from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Town’s Infrastructure Fund.

At Monday’s meeting, the BOS heard an update on the request already received by the Environmental Affairs Department — which included more fine-tuned cost estimates for $454,000 in projects at Schenck’s Island and $273,000 for various projects at Wilton trails and open spaces.

The board also received the Parks and Recreation Commission‘s request for projects that could top $1.65 million.

The Department of Public Works is also expected to submit a request for funds at the BOS March 22 meeting. Ultimately, the BOS will have to determine how to allocate the funds across the three departments vying for them and which projects will be prioritized.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Anna Marie Bilella attended the meeting to formally present board members with the commission’s request for projects to be funded.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve Pierce also participated in the pitch.

Bilella enumerated the various projects in the following priority order:

1. Improved drainage and irrigation at the Middlebrook School complex, including all five football, softball and soccer fields

Bilella said the Middlebrook fields were the top priority, with “the most critical drainage and irrigation needs.” The estimated cost is $705,000. (Note: The commission has also identified the need for drainage and irrigation work at other Town fields, which would be addressed at a later date.)

2. A new turf field with lights, which Bilella called “a highly desired and needed amenity”

The commission is requesting $700,000 — just a portion of the eventual full construction cost. The commission is requesting $200,000 for the design phase and $500,000 toward the total construction cost, estimated to be $2 million.

“Having both design and some portion of construction allocated shows good faith to the community, thus inspiring and enabling private fundraising with some certainty of completion,” according to the commission’s written request.

Vanderslice noted it would be a challenge for the Town to determine where a new turf field would go, alluding to earlier exploration of potential turf field sites. Pierce added that costs can quickly escalate when sites are complicated by slopes, ledge and other issues.

Before committing any money toward the $200,000 for study/design, Vanderslice told Bilella and Pierce she would like to see some assurance that the huge fundraising challenge is feasible.

“We have to have some sense of the fundraising. That’s a lot of money to fundraise,” Vanderslice said. “We need those people to step up.”

3. Upgrades to Merwin Meadows playground, which would be focused on the 5‐12-year-old playground area and new fencing

The estimated cost is $250,000.

“This area is heavily used year‐round and has a critical need for replacement due to significant degrading of fencing and key structures in the play area,” according to the written request.

“I don’t know how much longer this one can last, to be honest with you,” Pierce told the selectmen.

Environmental Affairs

Environmental Affairs Department Director Mike Conklin updated the request he initially made to the BOS at the Feb. 22 BOS meeting.

Since his initial request, Conklin has fine-tuned some cost estimates, some of which have come in higher than early estimates.

Conklin has requested $454,000 for improvements at Schenck’s Island. While a portion of that amount has already been committed, the total amount includes $170,000 for entrance and parking lot improvements, and $250,000 for a “nature-themed, free-play area” (up from $150,000 in his previous request).

Conklin shared some visuals during the meeting to represent conceptual ideas for the play area, with emphasis on natural materials and play features, possibly including colorful and musical elements.

Photos taken from Town of Wilton Board of Selectmen meeting materials; shown for conceptual direction, not yet proposed

Conklin is also requesting $273,000 for improvements at various Wilton trails and open spaces, including:

  • Re-paving the Quarry Head Park access road, estimated at $67,000 ($57,000 in his previous request)
  • Downed tree removal in the Town Forestestimated at $6,000
  • Various improvements on Wilton trails (boardwalks, trail stabilization, parking improvements), estimated at $50,000 (revised from $44,000)
  • Invasive species removal and restoration, estimated at $50,000

Conklin’s target amount of $273,000 would also include a new request of $100,000 for the construction of two small, gravel parking lots at Belknap Preserve (at Wampum Hill Rd.) and Spencer Rice Preserve (at Raymond Ln.).

Conklin noted the parking lot proposal would first have to be approved by the Conservation Commission, then referred to the Planning and Zoning Commission.