The town of Wallingford is set to receive half a million dollars from the state for sidewalk improvements, while Cheshire is in line for nearly $300,000 in state funding to further improve its West Main Street corridor.
The $500,000 award for Wallingford is one of $31.3 million in state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday. Also included in the announcement was the $290,000 grant to the town of Cheshire for the third phase of its West Main Streetscape improvement project.
The STEAP grant requires a $125,000 town match and will be used to improve sidewalks in the Wallingford town center and on Hall Avenue. The Cheshire grant requires a match of $72,500.
The purpose of STEAP is to provide grants to smaller communities that are ineligible for Urban Action bonds awarded to urban centers and economically distressed communities. The State Bond Commission approves the grants, which can only be used for capital projects rather than for items in the town budget.
"Wallingford's town center is the heart of our community," said Town Councilor Samuel Carmody. "Beautifying and making our streetscapes safer are some of the many ways we can create more welcoming neighborhoods for all our residents and small businesses."
The award comes at a pivotal time, Carmody said.
"Wallingford should be aggressive and proactive in applying for similar types of competitive grants for future projects that benefit our community," he said.
It also comes amid concerns over public safety related to the condition of local sidewalks.
Tim Cain, 60, was struck and killed by a minivan while using his motorized wheelchair on South Main Street in Wallingford on June 21. Family members said Cain often rode on the side of the street, rather than on the sidewalks, because he felt many of the sidewalks were too bumpy for his wheelchair.
In April, two months before Cain was killed, Wallingford Democrats posted a video on YouTube featuring Wallingford resident Tom Dacey, who also uses a motorized wheelchair. In the video, Dacey said that the poor sidewalk conditions "have always been a pet peeve of mine."
The State Bond Commission had approved the funding for the STEAP grants on March 31. Lamont announced who would get the grants and how much they would be for on Monday, and the towns will soon be getting official notification from the Office of Policy and Management, which administers the STEAP program.Cheshire
Cheshire Councilor Sylvia Nichols said she is grateful for the support the town received from the state for the West Main Street project.
”The state has been very, very helpful,” she said.
The town has received several grants to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
The Cheshire funds will be used to contribute to paving work at Ball & Socket Arts, a former West Main Street factory that is being converted into space for businesses and the arts. The funds will also be used for the Farmington Canal Trail.
The West Main Street area is becoming an important retail and entertainment spot, Nichols said.
“We realize that Ball and Socket is shaping up to be a second town center, and we are pleased that the state is supportive as we see the area continue to grow,” Nichols said.