Ewing's years of volunteer efforts for Preston agency earn high praise

Preston - Longtime Preston Redevelopment Agency member and former Chairwoman Sandra Ewing will retire from the voluntary position in June, leaving a vacancy on the agency that oversees redevelopment of the former Norwich Hospital property.

Ewing has served eight years on the PRA and the predecessor agency, the Norwich Hospital Advisory Committee. She was elected chairwoman by unanimous vote in September 2010 after three former members had resigned over a two-month, contentious period.

During her tenure as chairwoman, the agency started demolition using federal grants it had received and launched a process of seeking proposals for development of the property.

Ewing stepped down as chairwoman last summer, when current Chairman Sean Nugent was elected chairman, but she retained her agency position.

"It's been a long time," Ewing said. "The agency is doing well right now. It's really been very interesting. I've served with some wonderful people, and I feel the members of the agency now are practical people and are really looking out for the town."

First Selectman Robert Congdon said Ewing has done "an incredible job," and had stepped up when the agency was struggling.

"She built the trust among the members," Congdon said. "They work very well together. They trust one another. She built that camaraderie as chairman. She's a real big reason for their success today."

The PRA has received more than $1 million in federal Environmental Protection Agency grants and another $2 million in state grants, along with up to $4 million in state low-interest loans. The agency is awaiting word on another four EPA grant applications.

Agency officials also are in negotiations with Stamford-based developer JHM Financial LLC on an undisclosed development plan for the hospital campus.

Ewing said she plans to step down in June, and the PRA is seeking applications for her replacement now. The PRA will make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, which then will make a recommendation for an appointment that must be approved by residents at a town meeting.

Interested residents should submit a letter and résumé to the agency. Submissions must be received by April 18 and either hand delivered to the first selectman's office at Town Hall or mailed to: Preston Redevelopment Agency, 389 Route 2, Preston, CT 06365, ATTN. Jim Bell.

c.bessette@theday.com

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