SOUTHINGTON — A project that will widen sidewalks, narrow roads and make other aesthetic upgrades in downtown Plantsville took a step forward with the hiring of a design firm.
The Town Council awarded a $150,000 contract to Weston & Sampson, of Rocky Hill, to review and update preliminary designs from 2010. The town received a $2.5 million grant from the Capital Region Council of Governments and the state Department of Transportation for the work.
“This was the first step,” Town Manager Mark Sciota said of last week’s contract award.
The town’s Public Works Committee will work with the design architects on benches, lighting, curbing and pavers.
A road safety portion of the grant will be used to widen sidewalks, narrow the road and eliminate on-street parking.
Public Works Director Keith Hayden said a narrower road is a signal to motorists to slow down.
“We’re going to have more off-street parking, which will be safer for everybody,” Hayden said. “The driver’s perception will be that it’s a slower road and that’ll slow people down.”
On-street parking in Plantsville is currently illegal in many areas but still common for business patrons.
Business owner James Potrepka said parking at other locations in Plantsville isn’t suitable.
“I need a couple parking places out here. I have handicapped people,” he said. “They can’t walk over from (municipal parking) ... That’s too far.”
Town Councilor Michael Riccio said the elimination of on-street parking would hurt businesses.
“I’d rather see vibrant stores and owners making money and healthy, thriving businesses than pretty, empty stores,” he said at a council meeting last month. “Maybe we turn the money back.”
At that meeting, Sciota said the town would work closely with property owners. Nearby parking lots are underutilized, he said, and the grant was worth pursuing.
“There’s a lot that can be done with the $2.5 million,” Sciota said.
Hayden said the town will explore options for municipal parking close to West Main Street businesses.
Town Council Vice Chairwoman Dawn Miceli is going to meet with downtown businesses to hear their thoughts and concerns. Hayden said there will also be public sessions for residents.
“We’re going to receive a lot of public input on the project,” he said.
Each stage of the design needs state approval. Work could begin in the summer of 2019.