Senator Somers writes that she was doing her job in seeking state funds
As a legislator, a key part of my job is to identify, pursue and secure available resources that would strengthen the communities I serve. That means understanding the various programs and mechanisms available to support towns and cities, boost small businesses, help those in need, make critical infrastructure improvements and more.
As part of that process, I regularly submit appropriations and bonding requests for important projects and ideas, working with local businesses to help them navigate and seek economic development assistance that is available from the state.
These requests don’t always pan out. Most of the time they don’t. That just goes with the territory. But I’m proud to say that by working diligently to track programs and make these requests on behalf of our communities, I’ve been able to deliver a number of results.
I’ve worked with local leaders to secure state resources for a $1 million pilot for military and open space property in Groton, for the Thames River Water Taxi, modernization of the Nautilus submarine dock, improvements to Stonington Town Dock and breakwater, a new firetruck to service Pachaug State Forest, recovery funding for Plainfield Memorial School and more.
I have repeatedly made requests for resources through bonding, appropriations and grants to construct sidewalks in Pawcatuck, secure pilot funding for Voluntown, construct a senior center in Griswold and jump-start other projects that would benefit the citizens of my 18th District. These requests are public, fully transparent and available on the General Assembly’s website.
Two of these efforts have been severely mischaracterized by The Day’s resident malcontent and prevaricator, columnist David Collins, in a crude attempt at advancing his own agenda. That is, unless, he is given the benefit of the doubt that he is merely confused. Given Collins’ history of misleading innuendo and attacks pointed at me, I conclude confusion is not the case.
I won’t speculate whether Collins’ issue with me is my Republican status, background or profile. Instead I choose to share the facts.
My discussions with Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons prior to the beginning of the legislative session made clear Stonington had an increasing need for infrastructure improvements to combat the effects of climate change, including rising tides, coastal erosion and flooding. Making these type of infrastructure improvements in a historic colonial village is time consuming and expensive. Stonington taxpayers cannot shoulder the entire burden — so I sought state resources.
I submitted legislation in the form of a public bill containing a bonding request for Stonington for up to $10 million to address these coastal infrastructure needs. State Rep. Kate Rotella signed on as a co-sponsor, also recognizing the town’s needs.
As is common practice, the bill was specifically broad so it could apply anywhere in town and — if it advanced — to be further refined to specific high-priority projects with detailed cost estimates and supporting data.
Like the vast majority of bonding requests, the bill did not advance. It is now considered dead.
Not long after this bonding bill was filed, I was made aware of a Department of Economic and Community Development request from a local developer in Mystic related to the Smiler’s Wharf project. The developer had been working with the DECD to request funding for infrastructure to support the project. It has the potential to generate significant economic growth for Stonington, bringing jobs and added tax revenue, desperately needed in our state.
Rotella, a Democrat, and I worked together to help provide our constituents with the support and information they needed to navigate the DECD process. That process is ongoing. Neither Rotella nor I will be privy to the details of any grant until and if it is finalized by the DECD and the governor’s office.
The one certainty is, if any funds are awarded for infrastructure, they will be managed and administered by the town. There has been a false perception that a developer is handed money. That does not happen.
The decision whether the Smiler’s Wharf project advances is solely for the leaders and residents of Stonington to make. It is exactly the sort of major decision that must be made locally.
If Stonington’s residents and leaders endorse and advance the project, I will absolutely continue to identify and seek state resources to support the town, maximize the economic benefit of the project, protect historic and coastal areas, make key infrastructure improvements, and mitigate impacts on nearby residents.
State support may not be made available, but it is my job to try on behalf of Stonington residents and taxpayers, just as I have and will continue to do for all the towns of the 18th District.
Strengthening our communities will remain my top priority. Fighting for eastern Connecticut’s fair share of state resources is part of that commitment.
Heather Somers represents the 18th District, including the towns of Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown.