Although FY2024 budget planning is getting most of the attention from the Board of Selectmen (BOS) right now, the board did take action on a number of other fronts at its Monday, Feb. 6 meeting.

School Security Cameras

The board approved a plan to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay roughly $233,000 for security cameras requested by Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith.

ARPA funds will be used unless ongoing efforts to secure a grant can identify a promising source of funds in a timely way. (Vanderslice noted that state funding for school security could be a possibility but she believes it is unlikely Wilton would qualify.)

The cameras will monitor both interior and exterior areas, and feed directly to the Wilton Police Department.

Police Officers’ Sidearm Replacements

Newly promoted Police Chief Tom Conlon requested the board’s approval for a contract to replace officers’ sidearm weapons. (The request was a last-minute addition to the meeting agenda.)

“They’re over eight years old and due for a replacement,” Conlon said of the Glock 17s the department’s officers now carry. The replacement cost is roughly $45,000, which reflects the trade-in of current guns.

Wilton’s five firearm instructors recommended the choice of new firearms, which Conlon said are the Glock 45 model. Both old and new models are 9-millimeter.

The board voted unanimously to approve the request.

Pothole Patcher

DPW Director and Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio appeared at the meeting to request approval of a contract to purchase a pothole patching truck, which is equipped with a heated dump body to keep asphalt warm and useable.

The equipment was budgeted last year and more recently put out to bid. The selectmen unanimously approved a bid for $106,112. Detailed specifications can be found in the contract posted on the Town website.

Lover’s Lane Bridge

Another planned project is the reconstruction of the Lover’s Lane bridge over Comstock Brook. Wilton was awarded a grant for the project in 2020 and has been working with the state on the design, permitting process and construction bid review.

The town is now ready to proceed on the project. The board voted unanimously to approve a construction contract for approximately $3.2 million. Details of the contract may be seen on the Town website.

Like other transportation grants the Town has received, Wilton has to “front” the costs but will be reimbursed for the project with grant money.

“The One Downside” of Grants

Vanderslice took the opportunity to comment on the fact that the millions of dollars Wilton has proactively obtained in grants can create cash-flow challenges for the Town.

“[$23.5 million in grants] is phenomenal. It’s saved us a lot of money,” Vanderslice said. “But because we have to front it, that means we’re definitely going to borrow more money for the police headquarters this March than we had anticipated… because we have all these grants that we’re going to be fronting.”

“The one downside of getting all this money is the timing of the debt service is accelerated,” she said.

“Cash flow is going to be tighter than it’s ever been,” she added, posing challenges for Wilton’s CFO Dawn Norton and having implications for the mill rate set by the Board of Finance during the budget-setting process.

Another example of the dilemmas facing the Town is a new request from the non-profit Friends of Norwalk River Valley Trail to partner with Wilton to seek a $1 million state grant for further enhancing the trail system, specifically a northern extension of the WilWalk section toward Kent Rd.

Vanderslice noted the latest request from the NRVT raises questions about “our capacity to take on more grants” in terms of both staffing and legal expenses associated with the partnership.

However, she believes, residents have come to view the trail as a real amenity and expect the Town would participate in efforts to support it.

Smeriglio will bring the NRVT request to the BOS at a future date, with more details on the project specifications, the bidding process and contracting.

National Opioid Settlement Agreement

The Town has an opportunity to be part of the national opioid settlement agreement. Town Administrator Matt Knickerbocker requested the board’s approval to authorize Vanderslice to sign waivers for the Town to participate in a settlement resulting from class action lawsuits against Teva, Allergan, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.

“There’s no risk to the Town,” Knickerbocker said. “We give up our right to file a lawsuit on our own [but] at this point we don’t have anything pending or any plans to.”

Wilton would receive a share of the settlement awarded to the State of Connecticut. Knickerbocker and Vanderslice suggested that any award would be earmarked for Wilton’s Social Services Department to fight opioid addiction and other social services programs.

The board voted unanimously to authorize Vanderslice to enter the settlement agreement.

COLA for Pension Retirees

The selectmen considered various options for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to pensions for retired Town employees.

For the current fiscal year, Wilton will pay $6,262,490 in pension benefits. The selectmen agreed to an increase for all retirees, though the structure would be tiered based on retirees’ age.

Those under 65 years of age will receive a 1% increase; ages 65-74 will receive a 1.5% increase; ages 75-80 will receive a 1.75% increase; ages 80 and above will receive a 2.25% increase.

The COLA adjustments will add $94,609 to the total pension cost.