CHESHIRE — The Town Council recently approved $12.1 million for 16 projects planned for the next year.
On Tuesday night, the council also approved approximately $61.8 million for the next five years.
The projects range from HVAC and locker room improvements at the Police Station, which will cost $1.4 million; a road improvement program costing about $2 million, road reconstruction of four different roads (Industrial Avenue, Scenic Court, East Johnson Avenue, and Cornwall Avenue extension) that will cost roughly $620,000; and $310,000 for the town’s technology reserve fund.
The road reconstruction project will include milling and paving, chip seal, micro seal, crack seal, and other surface treatments.
“The cost of road reconstruction is expensive,” Public Works Director George Noewatne explained. “The milling and paving alone is about half the funding going to this process ... Industrial Avenue is failing rapidly, and work is needed on East Johnson due to the traffic.”
One project that was supposed to be on the list for this year was the development of Bartlem Park South, or the Chapman property, which could cost the town as much as $5.6 million. The property has been the topic of much discussion as officials sought input from the public about a possible development plan for the land.
The consulting firm Weston & Sampson sent a survey to Cheshire residents last October, which netted 1,200 responses. Unfortunately, soon after the initial public meetings for discussion on the property began, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Connecticut, postponing all meetings for the foreseeable future.
As a result, the council discussed whether it would be appropriate to wait until next year to put the project out to referendum
“Community engagement in what to do with this property is vital, and as of right now it is incredibly difficult to get people together for any kind of meeting,” said Town Manager Sean Kimball. “There will be a re-engagement process soon, but I am not sure there will be a solid referendum number available for November 2020.
Councilor Don Walsh suggested a meeting in July in order to re-engage the community about the project, which the council agreed would be a good idea, provided that the state continues to reopen accordingly.
“I really don’t like the idea of this going to referendum in November,” said Councilor Sylvia Nichols. “There should be a public engagement process to reach the right solution. This will be an evolving process; the dollar figure is very large for the entire project ... This will be the same for the school modernization project.”
Budget Committee Chairman David Borowy agreed that the project is “not at all ready at this time”
“I think what we are doing with this budget is the same we did with the [annual] budget,” Walsh said. “We are being fiscally prudent, although I would have loved to see some of the plans for Bartlem, we don’t want to rush into anything until we have a good plan in place.”