Beacon Falls moving forward with streetscape plan

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The Joint Board of Finance and Selectmen approved moving ahead with a $1 million streetscape project along the Naugatuck River.
BEACON FALLS — A streetscape project nine years in the making may finally be coming to fruition.

The Joint Board of Finance and Selectmen voted May 17 to fund the $1 million project. Federal grants will pay for 80 percent of the project, leaving the town to foot about $205,000.

The project would create a greenway along the Naugatuck River from the Depot Street Bridge to Route 42 as part of a 2002 plan for downtown development. The walk is part of a long-range plan to build a greenway from Torrington to Shelton. Ansonia and Shelton have pieces of the project done already. According to plans, Depot Street South would become a one-lane street with a grass area, walk path and timbered guardrail.

The joint board voted to only fund the base bid $134,070 for the project, which doesn’t include a lookout over the river. Officials hope to get an extension to find funding for the other part of the project. They currently have until June 1.

Officials plan to fund the town’s share of the project from $103,000 in a refund from CRRA to put toward land acquisition and land improvement and $37,000 in money from a grant for economic development. The money will not affect the proposed budget.

If Beacon Falls doesn’t use the grant money it received, the town would lose it and would be unlikely to receive more in the future, according to First Selectman Susan Cable.

“If we toss this money back, not only will we never get it, but they’ll never look at us in a positive way,” Cable said.

Dayton Construction Company came through with a bid for the project that was under the engineer’s estimate and was approved by the Department of Transportation.

“The project is, frankly, ready to go,” said Peter Burns of Lucks Engineering and Consulting.

Pre-construction meetings are expected to start this summer

The town had until June 1 to make a decision whether to go through with the project.

Beacon Falls has already invested about $40,000 in the project over the years for engineering and planning, Cable said.

Cable said that a lot of money the town has saved up for specific projects, like improvements to Matthies Park or the town library has been used for short-term needs instead over the years, leaving plans without means to back them up.

“We’ve always tried to put monies aside for things and every time we try to put money aside for things, public outcry comes … so we dip into it,” Cable said.

At the meeting, Cable said townspeople are well aware of the project, which the town has discussed for a long time.

“At some point, we have to decide that we really want to move the town forward,” Board of Finance Chair Chris Bielik said.

After the meeting, Selectman Michael Krenesky submitted a letter to Cable stating that townspeople he’d spoken to questioned how the town could spend money on the streetscape during the current economy.

Additionally, Krenesky questioned the value of building only part of the project.

“This is more than just grass, trees, paved walkway and pretty streetlights. The streetscape is a key element of the 2002 EDC Downtown Plan that also includes realigning the road and adding parking. If we do not do it right the first time, we may not ever complete it. … Let’s do this right and for the right reasons,” Krenesky wrote.

During the meeting, Krenesky had commented that even though he supported the project, he thought a lot of its purpose was lost by not completing the whole thing. After hearing comments from Beacon Falls residents, Krenesky changed his position, he wrote in the letter. In the letter, he recommended either funding the entire $205,000 or canceling the project.

While Cable agreed that the town should fund the entire project with the add-on lookout, she said even doing the base bid was a step in the right direction.

“The bottom line is this is going to help economic development. I still maintain that it’s very important and I do not want to give a million dollars back (to the federal government),” Cable said.

Krenesky wrote that the town could come up with the extra $65,000 it needed by using $50,000 from the recent sale of the grange and allocating $15,000 from the consulting/engineering line item in the 2011-12 budget.

Cable said she had intended to make the same recommendation. She thought part of the money from the grange sale should go towards to streetscape and part towards the community media center study for the Wolfe Avenue property.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Reading the article it directly states that “Krenesky changed his position, he wrote in the letter. In the letter, he recommended either funding the entire $205,000 or canceling the project.”

    The federal funds for the streetscape state that Beacon Falls “would have to follow the criteria that came with it. The conditions are that the design for downtown had to be reviewed by everyone (actually following the DOT’s design system which is very complicated) and all the state agencies have to review the plan 3 or 4 times starting with the preliminary design.”

    Under these circumstances Selectman Krenesky cannot unravel 9-years of work and still receive the $800,000 grant. He stated “I would have approached this project: first realign the road adding street parking, which would immediately support local businesses. I would build the greenway in a later stage. In the current proposal there is no parking being planned, so how does someone access the greenway and how does not having any parking help local businesses? ”

    Grants are targeted to specific projects with very specific criteria. Read the special BOS/BOF minutes for May 17, link below.

    The streetscape and eventually the greenway will help connect all of the pieces together. Its long range planning that creates sustainable growth. When times are bad you don’t stop investing, leaders understand and get it.

    The economy will improve; dooms day thinking and turning your nose up at almost a $1M grant is not a sign of leadership or is it fiscally responsible for the town.

    http://www.beaconfalls-ct.org/Pages/BeaconFallsCT_InterimMInutesFolder/

  2. I have to agree with the comment that the residents of Beacon Falls are not ignorant when it comes to political comments and this response is clearly just that. This need to shield the 1st Selectman from critical comments has become standard operation. A questionable decision is still questionable no matter how many people are willing to support that agenda.

    If Ms Goerig had been able to read my original email to the 1st Selectman (attached below and originally copied also was Selectman Sorrentino and the full Bd of Finance), she would have understood my position and from the comments I received, that people who approached me do not care that this is grant money.

    What concerns our residents is that this grant is just another federal earmark being used to build yet another road to nowhere. More importantly it raises their fears that it will cause an increase in taxes in the future. If this is such an important project, why is there no money in next year’s budget for maintenance of this area?

    As a matter of fact I did explain where the funds being proposed would come from and where I would find the needed additional funds. I also explained the whole downtown plan and how I would have approached this project: first realign the road adding street parking, which would immediately support local businesses. I would build the greenway in a later stage. In the current proposal there is no parking being planned, so how does someone access the greenway and how does not having any parking help local businesses? That is not vision.

    MAK

    Letter:
    I have taken the last 48 hours to poll a number of people in the Town about our joint BOS/BOF decision on going ahead with the street-scape and I find that there is much work to do regarding what perceptions there are in Town about this project. Of the nearly dozen people I have spoken with the same theme has been echoed: “Why are you building that?”.

    Their comments actually break out into two main thoughts. First, we are being questioned why we would spend money on the street-scape with our current economic challenges “regardless of where the funding comes from”. Several commented that they thought the street-scape was a complete waste of money even if times were good.

    Second, if you are going to build it, “explain the value of only building part of it?” It will become a “walk to nowhere” for years to come as there has been no discussions or plans for future downtown improvements nor are there authorized plans for the valley greenway at large.

    On Tuesday night I supported the idea of moving forward, but commented that I felt the project lost too much by not doing the complete project. It is because of these comments I believe we need to rethink what we are planning and to that end I am recommending that we call a meeting of the BOS & BOF to discuss either finding the entire $205,000 or cancel the project. There is no reason to do the latter as I believe we have the additional $65,000 and at this meeting I would plan to motion that we:

    1) Use the $50,000 from the sale of the grange
    2) Allocate $15,000 from the Consulting/Engineering line item (2011-12 fiscal year assuming this payment occurs after July 1).

    I am being upfront and public with my thoughts on this and you can accuse me of playing politics if you want, but the Town needs to hit a home run with this project. This is more than just grass, trees, paved walkway, and pretty streetlights. The street-scape is a key element of the 2002 EDC Downtown Plan that also includes realigning the road and adding parking. If we do not do it right the first time, we may not ever complete it. Most residents do not understand the history of Main Street, have never read or seen the downtown concept plan, nor do they understand the importance this street-scape project will have on the Town’s future economic development. As a former member of EDC I was there when this concept plan was created and adopted in 2002, therefore I have to either support doing the entire project or support postponement until we can fully fund it.

    The community deserves this great space. Let’s do this right and for the right reasons.

    Michael A Krenesky, Selectman

  3. A long-term project such as the streetscape project along the Naugatuck River is the first step in moving Beacon Falls in the right direction. The completed Greenway project will connect-the-dots from one end of Beacon Falls to the other; bringing the community and neighboring communities together.

    A suggestion to cancel the project if the ‘entire’ project is not complete is absurd. The town would suffer as a result if it turned away over $800,000 in federal grants. Sounds like First Selectman Cable is being prudent in these tough economic times, we can’t even pass a budget will less then a 1-mill increase, never mind adding the scenic overlook.

    I would love to see the entire project completed as well, however given the current lean budget situation perhaps being prudent by doing what the town can afford to do appears to be the smart move; versus doing nothing and turning away a large federal grant.

    It’s a shame that Selectman Krenesky didn’t educate those in the community that question the move forward with the project. Did he mention to them that over 80 percent will be funded through a federal grant? Did he mention that almost the entire balance would come from the ‘$103,000 in a refund from CRRA’ and ‘land improvement and $37,000 in money from a grant for economic development?’ And this these monies will not affect the proposed budget?

    The residents in Beacon Falls aren’t ignorant; they have seen politics at its best and at its worst. This project is a no-brainer. By not explaining the details of the funding of the project to those questioning the timing of moving forward on the streetscape is, in my opinion short-sided and political posturing at its best.

    First Selectman Susan Cable has long-range vision; by creating a scenic gateway for all of the entire community to enjoy businesses will prosper. This vision will bring new business ventures and investments to Beacon Falls, and as a result revenues will increase. Now isn’t that what the entire community wants to see, more businesses moving into Beacon Falls.