Hopefully you had a relaxing Thanksgiving. Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating.
The following are updates on town matters of interest:
Significant investments in existing municipal and school facilities are required over the next few years. Some investments, such as road paving and school roofs, are required to maintain state of good repair, some, such as the emergency communications system have outlived their useful life, and others, such as the police headquarters, have been discussed and deferred for twenty or more years.
Fortunately, we are better positioned to fund the required spending:
- Recognizing the need for investment, in FY2019 the Board of Selectmen (BOS) began transferring budget savings to a designated reserve for municipal infrastructure needs.
- The federal government declared Fairfield County eligible for FEMA reimbursements for expenses related to Tropical Storm Ida. Wilton should receive reimbursement of 75% of the cost to repair the track and turf fields, along with 75% of the cost of town labor and equipment required to respond to the storm and storm damage.
- Recognizing the burden a new police headquarters would place on debt service, employees worked with the BOS and permanently reduced municipal expenses by $750,000 per year, an amount equal to the annual principal repayment for the then estimated related bonding.
- In June, the Town received a $2.7 million American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grant and will receive a second grant of the same amount in June 2022. The Board of Selectmen prioritized these funds for public safety and recreational facilities. First priority is the emergency communications system. Second priority is the required investment to mitigate the impact of future storms on the track and playing fields.
The following chart documents prioritized spending and the forecasted source of funding for each.
|AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN||INFRASTRUCTURE FUND*||JAN 2022 BONDING||2023-2026 EST. BONDING|
|FUNDS AVAILABLE||$ 5,400,000||$1,000000+*||As approved||As approved|
|EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION SYSTEM||$3,000,000 to $4,000,000**|
|NEW DRAINAGE-WHS SPORTS COMPLEX||TBD|
|REPLACE PARKING LOT AT SCHENCK'S ISLAND||$ 50,000|
|POLICE HEADQUARTERS PROJECT||$15,000,000***|
|FIRE HEADQUARTERS PROJECT||$ 100,000|
|FIRE STATION 2 UPGRADES||TBD|
|REPLACE TOWN HALL COLUMNS AND STEPS||TBD|
|INSTALL INSULATION IN TOWN HALL AREAS without insulation||TBD|
|AMBLER FARM YELLOW HOUSE-LEAD ABATEMENT/INTERIOR & EXTERIOR REPAIRS||TBD|
|TRAILS AND RECREATION FACILITIES||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|REPLACE TOWN HALL ELECTRICAL SYSTEM||$1,500,000|
|REPLACE SCHOOL ROOFS||$1,500,000|
|REPLACE/REPAIR ROAD BRIDGES *****||$ 1,955,000|
|REPLACE FIRE TRUCK||$ 650,000|
|REPLACE/UPGRADE MIDDLEBROOK & CIDER MILL HVAC||$ 2,100,000|
|*BOS budget savings, designated for deferred, but required, infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Final balance on completion of FY2021 audit.|
|**$983,000 of an earmarked grant from Wilton is included in the draft federal budget. Subject to inclusion in the federal approved budget|
|*** Estimated cost. Updated cost to be received in early January 2022.|
|****Based on 127 miles of town-owned roads repaved at a rate of 10 miles per year.|
|*****Represents the Town's share. State and Federal Grants to fund 80 to 90%.|
The Board of Selectmen will determine the prioritization of the remaining ARPA funds once the amount of remaining funds is known. Previously identified recreational needs, some which contemplated a public/private partnership, include:
- Additional full size basketball court
- Additional turf field(s)
- Playground at Schenck’s and other components of the approved Schenck’s Island Merwin Meadows Plan
- Enhancements to town-owned trails and grass playing fields
During my six years in office, residents have shared their own ideas for town priorities, including an ice rink, a town pool, a skate park, a dog park and outdoor skating rink. Upon further investigation, those residents never returned with a plan. If you too have an idea, please keep the following in mind. This information isn’t intended to stifle ideas, but instead to serve as a reality check.
- Most of Schenck’s Island is a 2020 FEMA mapped floodway. This significantly restricts how the area may be disturbed and requires any structures to allow for the free flow of water underneath the structure. The Schenck’s Island Merwin Meadows (SIMM) Committee’s approved plan reflects those restrictions.
- Most of Merwin Meadows, including from the pond to the river, the area of the bathhouse and the overflow parking area, is also a 2020 FEMA mapped floodway.
- The front section of Allen’s Meadow is owned by the State and leased to the Town. The back two fields are owned by the Town and abut wetlands, which are a 2020 FEMA mapped special flood area.
- Greenwich recently estimated the cost to replace their indoor rink at $17 million. Stamford’s municipal budget funds a $250,000 shortfall in their ice rink operations plus the cost of insurance and debt service.
- Darien and New Canaan received significant donations to fund their turf fields and/or community amenities. Both communities have significant collective wealth, which is much greater than Wilton’s, as measured by the most recent IRS data. See chart below for 2018 returns with taxable income of $200,000 or greater. Based on the data, one can’t expect Wilton to have the same amenities found in the towns of Darien and New Canaan.
Returns with Taxable Income of $200,000 and above
|Town||# Returns $200,000 or above||% of returns $200,000 or above*||Total Income||Avg. Total Inc.|
|Darien||4230||57.80%||$5.4 billion||$1.3 million||$143 million||$183 million|
|New Canaan||3830||54.40%||$4.5 billion||$1.2 million||$96 million||$125 million|
|Wilton||3110||48.50%||$2.5 billion||$.8 million||$42 million||$47 million|
|*Based on returns with income of $25,000 or above to exclude students. Likely excludes a small number of non-student residents. When looking at Wilton's numbers, please note the total income for this 48.5% of residents with a reported income of $200,000 or above represents 88% of the total income reported for those at $25,000 or above.|
|**First year under the new tax law|
The BOS recently chose to study the domed sports facility for many reasons, including 1-it addressed two identified needs, another turf field and a full-size basketball court, 2-it allowed for year-round, multi-generational, day and evening use, 3-existing documented revenue sources within Wilton and 4-it would be unique among similar sized neighboring communities. Whether or not the project is found to be feasible, the point is that it was considered because it met documented needs and serviced a cross-section of taxpayers.
CT Public Health Services issued a warning about fentanyl laced marijuana identified in Connecticut. The State’s Forensic Lab confirmed the presence of fentanyl in a marijuana sample following an overdose when no other substance had been taken. The individual(s) involved survived after administration of naloxone.
DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani stated it was the first-time fentanyl was detected in marijuana in Connecticut and possibly the first time in the United States. Please spread the word. Public Health officials advise that no illegally obtained drug should be taken when alone and without naloxone able to be administered.
According to the CDC, pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Illegally produced fentanyl is involved in most fentanyl-related deaths. The New York Times recently published an important article Inside Fentanyl’s Mounting Death Toll: This is Poison.
In 2020, a 30% increase in overdose deaths resulted in the highest ever recorded number of overdose deaths in the U.S. Another record is expected this year. CT’s 1.49% share of U.S. deaths exceeds our 1.07% population share.
The Board of Selectmen authorized the lease with Verizon to allow for a monopole behind the bus barn on School Road. Over the next several months, Verizon will prepare the required information the for Certification of Need application that must be filed with PURA to receive authorization to proceed. Among is the result of “red balloon testing”. A red balloon will be raised to the height of the proposed pole and photographed from multiple locations across Wilton. Look for a future notice of the testing.
Overnight car break-ins continue in Wilton and across the state. These criminals are generally juveniles, some have been found to be armed and once discovered, they drive recklessly through our streets as they attempt to make their escape. They know as juveniles, they can’t be detained and they know if they drive at high speeds, they can’t be pursued. We can change the dynamic with a change in behavior. In late 2018/early 2019, residents collectively made an effort to lock their vehicles and take their key fob with them. As a result, there were no break-ins for six months. We can do it again. Please make the effort to lock your vehicle and take your fob with you. Please instruct your family members and visitors to do so as well.
Development activity continues to increase. If you missed my op-ed, Redevelopment in Wilton-Why, What and How,it is available here. Recent activity includes the following:
- 141 Danbury Road, a 173-unit multi-family project, and 863-875 Danbury Road, a Humane Society building, are expected to be approved at tomorrow night’s P&Z meeting.
- 77 Danbury Road: ASML application for a 20,000 sq. ft. second floor cafeteria addition. ASML continues to expand their workforce.
- 15 River Road: Kimco requested a pre-application discussion with P&Z for a proposed redevelopment of retail and office space to a 153-unit multi-family building. The discussion is expected to be held in December. The proposed density and the loss of retail space are expected to be areas of concern for the P&Z Commission.
- 19 Cannon Road: A developer submitted a request to the Architectural Review Board (ARB) for a pre-application discussion of a proposed “8-30 (g)”, 3.5 story, 70-unit multi-family building on 2+ acres across from the Cannondale train station parking lot.
8-30 (g) refers to a CT statute which ensures that municipalities, which don’t have 10% of their housing designated as affordable by the State Department of Housing, cannot deny an affordable housing proposal unless there is a specific significant health or safety concern. The burden of proof is placed on the municipality. As of 2020, Wilton had 232 designated affordable units or 3.58% of total units. Many housing options in Wilton, such as cottage or garage apartments, are excluded from the 232 units, as they don’t meet the statutory definition of affordable.
The discussion with the ARB is scheduled for December 2nd.
The developer is expected to file a sewer extension application with the Water Pollution Control Authority, a regulatory agency of which I am the chair. As such, I am not able to comment on this pre-application discussion request.
You may sign up to receive e-alert emails from the P&Z Commission and the ARB here.
Wilton’s Health Director continues to monitor the increase in COVID cases and department personnel continue to perform contract tracing. Based on the information obtained, there isn’t a concern of community spread. We will also continue to await any CDC or State guidance regarding the Omicron. The Governor released this statement today.
Please email your questions to Lynne.Vanderslice@wiltonct.org. Please don’t ask questions through Facebook, as all my correspondence is public and must be retrievable.
Lynne A Vanderslice