Parks & Rec Updates on Major Projects Involving Fields — Indoor, Lightning Detection, Drainage & More

The Wednesday, Jan. 12 meeting of the Wilton Parks and Recreation Commission included updates on several key infrastructure projects around town. Steve Pierce, Parks & Recreation Director, ran through updates on the major projects underway at the department.

Indoor Field House Project Concept Exploration

Engineering consultant Stantec has been working on a feasibility study for adding an indoor field house at Comstock Community Center. Approved by the Board of Selectmen in May, the study will include evaluation of existing conditions, a geotechnical investigation, concept plan, code review, and estimated capital and life cycle costs. The scope of the study does not include design.

Pierce reminded the Commission that Stantec anticipates having a draft ready for review on Friday, Jan. 21. However, he noted that First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice will likely be tied up with the budget process and next steps may not happen immediately.

“I’m not sure we can meet directly after,” he said. “But once we meet, we can get back to Stantec and also report back to you.”

At that point Commission Chair Anna Marie Bilella spoke to the current moment. Referencing the resignation of Wilton Chief Financial Officer Anne Kelly-Lenz, whose last day was Jan. 14, she said the news, “puts the town and its leadership in a bit of a pickle from a time perspective.”

“We’re literally in the meat of the budget process. Lynne is going to be completely consumed in making sure we move forward and our budget is squared off. I think it’s unfortunate that the bus is going to slow down a bit but it’s a reality. And we do need to make the next fiscal year budget a priority, we don’t have a choice. I just set that out there so you all understand the pinch it puts us all in,” Bilella said. “It is what it is.”

Field Mitigation Plan

Stantec is also currently developing a proposal for mitigation efforts at Fujitani Field at Wilton High School’s Veterans Memorial Stadium. This 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 Hurricane Ida, when the fields at WHS were closed for weeks for restoration.

Pierce shared that the preliminary draft from Stantec was expected to arrive on Friday, Jan. 14, at which point Vanderslice, Bilella, and a group of other stakeholders would review the plans with Stantec.

Lightning Detection System

Pierce delivered a major update on the lightning detection system for Wilton playing fields. This safety measure would make a loud sound alerting users of Wilton fields and anyone in an 8-mile radius of the presence of lightning in the area. The system also includes a “clear to go” signal when the threat of lightning has passed and a mobile device alert system that residents can opt into.

“It is sitting in our hallway right now,” he said. “On Friday, [Jan. 14] they will start the install and by next Friday, [Jan. 21] we will have a lightening detection system installed.”

Drainage and Irrigation

The exploration of drainage and irrigation solutions for Wilton playing fields is also moving forward. Pierce updated the Commission on the effort so far. Three firms have been solicited to provide approximate numbers for implementing a system across town, in either a phased or unified process. Once those numbers are in, a proposed capital budget will be presented for inclusion in the next fiscal year.

Asked about the process for prioritizing fields with the most urgent need, Pierce noted that they will be prioritized based on drainage more than irrigation.

“We look at fields that are the wettest, where we can have the most immediate impact,” he said. “Irrigation will help certainly but the drainage system and the grading is going to benefit the town by allowing more play on a field.”

Looking Ahead

The next meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled for February 9, 2022.