Wilton Gets $983,000 Grant for Emergency Radios AND Go-Ahead on Pedestrian Bridge

Source: Tighe & Bond, Feb. 23, 2021 (notations added by GMW)

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice had some GOOD news to share with Wilton residents on Thursday, Mar. 17: she announced that Wilton will receive a grant that will help fund the purchase of a new emergency radio system and that the town has received permission to move forward on the pedestrian bridge.

Congressional Directed Spending Grant Award

Vanderslice said she received notice from CT Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy that Wilton was approved to receive a Congressional Directed Spending Grant of $983,000. The grant was part of the federal FY2022 omnibus spending bill recently approved by Congress.

Vanderslice said the grant will be used to help fund the purchase of a new town-wide Emergency Public Safety Communications System. The total cost of the system could reach as high as $4 million; the 75% remaining cost of the system will be funded with monies from the Town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant.

“We are extremely grateful to Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Murphy for selecting Wilton’s grant for submission for this program. We also thank Congressman [Jim] Himes for his support of the funding and State Rep. Stephanie Thomas for alerting us to the grant. Thanks also goes to their staff,” Vanderslice said.

Wilton’s current communication system is at the end of a 20-year life expectancy, has frequent system failures, and often experiences limited operability. The new system will allow the town to utilize a state network known as the Connecticut Land Mobile Radio Network (CLMRN).

Upgrading to the new system will allow for improved communication within and between Wilton Police, Fire, Public Works, and Parks and Grounds Departments, the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the Wilton Public Schools. Several nearby towns, including Wilton’s “mutual aid” partners, have joined or plan on moving to the state system, which means improved emergency communication between Wilton and area municipalities.

Wilton Train Station Pedestrian Bridge Grant Award — Permission to Bid

Vanderslice also said that the town has received permission from the CT Department of Transportation (CT DOT) to solicit bids for proposals on construction for the long-awaited pedestrian bridge project. Town officials have been planning to construct an ADA compliant pedestrian bridge and Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) extension that would span the Norwalk River and connect the Wilton Metro-North Train Station to the west of the river with Wilton Center and Merwin Meadows to the river’s east.

Construction of the pedestrian bridge and the NRVT extension will be funded by a CT DOT Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program grant and remaining funds from a previously-received CT STEAP grant, which to date funded related engineering, design and multi-agency permitting costs.

“The request for proposals (RFP) will be one of the last steps to bring the more than 15-year effort to reality. Whether walking, running, biking or wheeling, the pedestrian bridge will provide residents living east of the river with safer and more direct access to the Center’s restaurants and retail businesses and the Norwalk River Valley Trail. Those living or working in the Wilton Center area will have safer and more direct access to the Wilton Train Station,” Vanderslice wrote in a press release.

Earlier this month, GOOD Morning Wilton spoke with Wilton’s Department of Public Works Director and Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio about the timetable that could happen once Wilton received the permission to go out to bid.

The best-case scenario would be if the town can receive bids and select a contractor by April, Smeriglio said “shop drawings” could be done by late spring, which would mean construction could take place this summer.

If bids to build the bridge come in higher than the cost that was originally approved by CT DOT two years ago, Smeriglio said that the state’s commitment includes contingencies for such cost increases.

Officials have advocated for the pedestrian bridge to connect Wilton Center with the train station in the belief that it will encourage more active use of Wilton Center shops, restaurants and amenities. It’s a key factor in the vision officials have for planning a more accessible and vibrant downtown as well as increasing residential options in closer proximity to a center of transportation — all goals of Wilton’s most recent Plan of Conservation and Development.

Vanderslice noted that the town is increasingly looking to utilize grant funding as a method to fund improvements of Wilton’s infrastructure and amenities. She noted that the town has recently been awarded more than $20 million in local road bridge and trails grants, and officials hope to continue pursuing other similar funding opportunities.

Vanderslice has recommended funding in the proposed FY2023 Board of Selectmen budget in order to further expand the town’s capacity for grant applications and grant administration. Doing so, she said, will allow the town to pursue additional grants that are part of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) and ARPA grants.