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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    State approves millions in funding for local projects such as Montville animal shelter

    Major projects in the region, including a Montville animal shelter, an expanded child care facility in Groton, and improvements to Rocky Neck State Park and Harkness Memorial State Park will receive funding after the state Bond Commission approved a host of requests on Friday.

    Montville animal shelter

    The commission approved $2 million for Montville to build a new animal control facility to replace the current one at 225 Maple Ave., which for years has failed to meet state Department of Agriculture regulations.

    When Gov. Ned Lamont signed a law last summer that will make it necessary to fix those violations, it created a sense of urgency from town officials and residents to get the project done.

    With the grant, Mayor Leonard Bunnell said the town is finally “at the end of the rainbow.”

    “We got what we need, and we’re going to get it done,” he added.

    The new shelter, which will be built in the same location, at the town’s public works department, is expected to provide safer and more humane conditions to both animals and staff, and serve residents of Montville, Bozrah, and Salem, along with the Mohegan Tribal Nation.

    Bunnell said he had discussed the project with several members of the commission. He said it’s a relief not to have to throw the project “on the backs of the town residents.”

    He said had it not been for the new regulations, the town would likely have to fix the shelter piecemeal, spending a few hundred dollars at a time to clean the shelter and make repairs.

    Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, gave a lot of credit to the Montville Animal Shelter Team for continuing to advocate for the project.

    She said she and Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and Sen. Martha Marx, D-New London, worked to get the project on the bond commission agenda.

    Cheeseman called the grant a “vital local investment for the community, ensuring that the shelter can continue its critical work in providing care and shelter for animals in need.”

    Community Investment Fund grants

    Proposals for an expanded child care facility in Groton, waterfront improvements in Norwich, and an urban art project at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London are receiving funding under the Community Investment Fund.

    “Each of these grants are focused on infrastructure improvement projects that will enhance the economic vibrancy of historically underserved neighborhoods and help these towns and cities revitalize their economic base,” Lamont said in a statement.

    The commission approved $2 million toward the Thames Valley Council for Community Action’s proposal to build an expanded and modernized child care facility in Groton.

    State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, said the $2 million will allow TVCCA to do the planning work for the proposed facility and determine the project’s cost. The cost has previously been estimated at $16 million, and TVCCA has received a $3 million federal grant for the project.

    Conley said an expanded facility will help not only Groton families, but the whole region by providing more spots for children and alleviating pressures on other facilities.

    “Prioritizing accessible childcare is essential to the well-being of our community,” state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said in a statement. “By investing in the Groton Early Childhood Education Center, we are not only providing a much-needed space for our children to thrive but also supporting working families who rely on these services.”

    Norwich received $2 million for waterfront improvements. The city had requested $11.7 million for extensive improvements and still hopes for additional funding to expand the project.

    The top priority, Norwich Community Development Corp. President Kevin Brown said, remains to replace the boat fueling system at the Marina at American Wharf, which is expected to cost $400,000 to $500,000. The fueling station will be available to marina tenants and public boaters.

    The original plan called for using the rest of the grant to upgrade electrical systems throughout the marina. But Brown said Norwich Public Utilities has agreed to work with the marina owners on that project, leaving grant money for proposed improvements to Howard T. Brown Memorial Park.

    Ideas for Brown Park include installing a splash pad and outdoor ice skating area or building a permanent stage for the popular Rock the Docks concert series and other events. Brown said. A self-cleaning restroom, which would be locked overnight and have exterior security cameras, would be part of any improvement plan, Brown said.

    Over the next few months, NCDC will seek estimates and renderings for the proposals and elicit public comment on the ideas.

    The commission approved $1.6 million in state funding for New London’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum that will help fund a 12-acre “urban art park” project.

    The work, expected to be complete by next summer, involves the creation of a pedestrian path, pollinator meadow, eco-friendly waterfall and filtration pond, along with a restored entrance lawn and new parking area.

    The $4.5 million project’s price tag will be covered with $1.3 million in private donations and $3.2 million in state monies. Other museum ground improvements, including the construction of a 250-seat open-air amphitheater, and a refurbished 9/11 memorial garden, will be tackled later.

    Military projects

    Conley said $7.76 million will benefit the Naval Submarine Base for the replacement of floating piers and boat ramp reconstruction and $5 million will benefit the military, including a project for an addition to a hangar for the Theater Aviation Support Maintenance Group in Groton.

    Conley said the state bonding money is a way to show support to military families and the submarine base.

    The commission approved $2 million requested by the Military Department to buy approximately 130 acres of undeveloped land immediately adjacent to Stones Ranch Military Reservation in Old Lyme. Connecticut National Guard spokesman Maj. Michael J. Wilcoxson said the additional land “presents a rare and unique opportunity to expand the available training area for members of the Connecticut National Guard, while also creating an effective noise, light, and dust buffer for our civilian neighbors.”

    He said the state National Guard has multiple long range development plans for the Stones Ranch site, including the construction of a readiness center. The reservation is used by the Guard as well as other branches of the military and federal, state, and municipal first responder agencies.

    State parks

    Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme will receive about $3 million for ongoing work to upgrade the site.

    DEEP spokesman Paul Copleman said the funding is part of the agency’s Restore CT State Parks initiative, which comes in at $71 million over two years. The work at the East Lyme park includes boardwalk and beach access repairs that have been completed, as well as utility upgrades and ultimately the renovation and restoration of the historic Ellie Mitchell Pavilion.

    He said the utility upgrades are currently in the design phase. The funding will cover the complete upgrade and replacement of water, electric and communication utilities throughout the park.

    The commission approved $4 million for Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford for renovations to the Carriage House and mansion and for a new or renovated maintenance and office facility.

    McCarty expressed her appreciation to the Friends of Harkness group, the DEEP and the governor’s office.

    Food center, schools

    The commission approved $1.45 million for improvements to the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut’s food center.

    LEARN said it received $380,734 for the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, and the transition of The Friendship School into the new Early Childhood Center to be built at 51 Daniels Ave. in Waterford.

    “Smart investments in school infrastructure are investments in our children's future,“ McCarty said in a statement.

    State Rep. Aundré Bumgardner, D-Groton, said in a statement that: "Key projects supporting our national defense, schools, and local food security will benefit working families and enable Southeastern Connecticut to thrive."

    Day Staff Writers Claire Bessette, Daniel Drainville, John Penney, Elizabeth Regan and Greg Smith contributed to this report.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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