MERIDEN — Selling commemorative bricks on busy downtown walkways may be an effective fundraiser, but deciding what to do with the bricks decades later when the sidewalks are replaced can pose a problem.
The personalized bricks lining sidewalks on West Main, Grove, Butler and other streets are being torn up to make way for new sidewalks. The bricks bearing the names of family members were part of a fundraiser in the 1990s during an earlier downtown revitalization project.
The city has asked the sidewalk contractor, Colassale Construction, to salvage the bricks. But there are challenges.
“The bricks aren’t terribly consistent in the way they were installed and in their thickness, and we have bricks in random places,” said the city’s associate engineer, Howard Weissberg. “Colossale Construction has come up with a method for removing the bricks as practically as possible.”
The bricks in front of the police station and courthouse are not being disturbed. Weissberg estimates there are between 200 and 300 personalized bricks on other downtown side-walks.
“I didn’t want to count them,” he said.
People have contacted city officials to locate their bricks. If they know the name and location of the brick and its easy to remove, the donor easily gets the brick back.
“If we see anything (we recognize) we try to put them with the rightful owner,” he said.
Some of the bricks were shattered or broken before the project started, and others cannot be separated without destroying them. In those instances, the contractor has kept the bricks in slabs and stored them in the police station. The slabs of personalized bricks and loose bricks will be used for future projects.
For now, those looking for a brick have been calling Weissman’s office.
“If it’s easy to get out, we will,” he said. “Ownership wise, I think it’s the city’s but we want to help people to the greatest extent we can.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpati has some bricks in his office that he is delivering to families he knows.
“I can understand and appreciate some concern from people about where their bricks are,” Scarpati said. “I encourage anyone who knows of a brick and is concerned to contact our office and we’ll try to get them hooked up with the right people.”