Generous Gifts Boost Town Projects

As the plan for a new firehouse nears the end of the land use permitting process, attention is shifting to the capital campaign that will help to fund its construction.

The current cost estimate for the new building and site development is $6 million.

First Selectman Matt Riiska revealed to the Board of Finance Feb. 22 that two residents—Tony Kiser and Carlene Laughlin—have each pledged $250,000 to the fund drive.

“We are unbelievably lucky to have that, Riiska said after the meeting. “It’s a big commitment on their part. The goal is to kick off the capital campaign with the $500,000 they have committed, and to get another $500,000 from additional contributions. The more money people contribute, the less we will have to borrow.” 

The town has already been assured of a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “If we can get another million dollars from the capital campaign, $3.5 million will make a big dent in the cost.”

Riiska told the Board of Finance that he is investigating other available grants.

The generosity of town residents has not stopped with the firehouse. Riiska said about $110,000 has been donated to help fund work envisioned for City Meadow, where the removal of invasives and plantings of native plants are planned.

“We’ve had some very generous contributions to City Meadow,” he said. “We have such generous people who are so dedicated to the town.”

City Meadow has been an ongoing project for the community since 2011. It was first envisioned as a stormwater collection system to prevent pollution from reaching the nearby Blackberry River. But a more inclusive vision unfolded as residents imagined the area as a passive recreation area connecting Station Place and Shepard Road. A stormwater treatment plan was developed, invasives were removed and handicap accessible boardwalks were established. More recently, Robertson Plaza was expanded with stairs leading down to City Meadow walkways.

But invasives are hard to eradicate and now further work is needed. Riiska said the contributions will be used to again remove invasives and replace them with native vegetation.

“We’re in the process signing contracts with the remediators, a Massachusetts firm called Native Habitat Restoration,” he said. The first stage of work will cost $25,000, but much more is to follow. “There will be a lot going on. The idea is to get it tidied up so we can develop a planting plan.”

He said the town did not go to bid in hiring the firm because the town’s consultant had previously worked with this firm. “We chose this person a long time ago,” Riiska said. “Not many people apply herbicides.”

The first evidence of progress will be when the Meadow is mowed to remove mature phragmites and cattails. “That way, when they start to grow back, we can see them and herbicides can be applied,” Riiska said.

Additional work will remove trees and woody invasives. 

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