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Sewer extension, sidewalks in Ledyard's plan for rescue funds

Ledyard — Town officials propose spending the more than $4.3 million the town is receiving in American Rescue Plan funding on a sewer project, sidewalk, computer software and more.

The money is part of the overall $1.7 trillion federal package President Joe Biden signed in March of this year to help states and municipalities deal with public health and economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn III and Bill Saums, chairman of the Town Council's Finance Committee, unveiled a proposal to the council that totals more than $3.8 million and includes money for extensive sewer line extensions and improvements that town officials have discussed for a long time.

"This is something we've been working on for at least 15 years, and probably decades before that," said Saums. "The improvements will provide for more economic development in town, as well as increase housing density, and provide more potential customers for local businesses."

Some $1.2 million would be spent to extend sewer lines from the Bill Library to Ledyard High School. The line would be installed underneath a planned multi-modal trail. The proposal includes $612,000 to extend sewer lines from the intersection of routes 214 and 117 in Ledyard Center to where Route 117 and the Colonel Ledyard Highway meet. A third and final phase of the sewer line work would replace the current 3-inch wide pipe from the high school to Pennywise Lane and replace it with 6-inch pipe to reduce a bottleneck in the system. That would cost an estimated $950,000.

Allyn said as much as 50% of the library-high school project may be offset by grants from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

"If we get as much as $1 million dollars through DECD, that will free up a substantial amount of ARP funds for other projects," said Allyn.

The list submitted by Allyn and Saums also calls for $225,000 for new steel ribbon guardrails on Sandy Hollow Road, to prevent motor vehicles from driving into the nearby reservoir.

"In the last 10 years, we've actually had only one vehicle veer into the reservoir," said Saums. "We've talked to Groton Utilities to see if they'd cover the cost, since they own the reservoir, but they've declined."

Other suggested projects include funding for computer software that improves budget information available online on the town's website, new sidewalks that fill in a couple of gaps along Route 117 near Holdridge's Nursery, and the pouring of a new concrete floor in the pole barn on the lower town green, where the successful summertime Farmer's Market is held.

"This year's farmers market had very few complaints," said Town Council chairman Linda Davis, "But the ones we did get was regarding the unpaved floor. People with wheelchairs, strollers, and especially those with walkers found it difficult to maneuver."

The food pantry also located on the lower green would receive some upgrades, under the proposed ARP funding list. Wi-Fi coverage will be added there, as well as some new vinyl siding. The Wi-Fi would also cover the upper pavilion on the town green.

The town would set aside $100,000 to boost the Housing Rehab Grant program. It provides revolving loans to eligible low-income residents for home improvements. The money is paid back when the house is sold. There is currently a backlog of about 17 applicants for the program, according to Allyn.

Officials stressed the list of potential projects released to the Town Council is by no means final.

"These are ideas that have come from Town Hall," said Davis. "If anyone else has ideas, we'll certainly entertain them. We'll also have to have a discussion on process — how we'll have to approve these spending ideas, and how they fit in with the budget process. That's for another day."

Potential projects not on the list suggested by Saums include lead abatement for the historic Nathan Lester House, upgrades to the Highlands area water system, and work on a Regional Water System Interconnection Plan that would connect the town's water system on Route 12 to Norwich Public Utilities lines though Poquetanuck Cove in Preston.

Fellow Councilor Andra Ingalls suggested the project list include work for the Route 12 corridor in Gales Ferry, such as new sidewalks. Davis agreed.

"My initial reaction was the list was heavily weighted toward Ledyard Center, and nothing for Gales Ferry. It's something we have to consider," she said.

Ledyard has until the end of 2024 to finalize spending proposals and sign any necessary contracts with developers. All work must be completed by the end of 2026.

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