Sandy Hook memorial funds approved, first shovelful of dirt expected next month

Several proposed projects across the region, including a memorial that would honor the 20 first graders and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, are on the verge of becoming a reality.

The State Bond Commission on Friday approved millions of dollars in funds for three local projects, including more than $ 1 billion for various items across the state.

Newtown executives were planning a first shovelful of dirt for the Sandy Hook Memorial next month. The $ 3.7 million project price will now be 70 percent state funded after Friday’s approval. The five-acre site is designed to include a central water feature, as well as a sycamore tree in the center with the names of the victims engraved on a retaining wall.

“As the parent of a murdered child, I am deeply grateful first to the parents who devoted an extraordinary time to seeing this come to fruition and then to everyone else involved,” said Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6 year old girl her daughter, Ana, died in the shooting.

The site’s water feature was designed so that floating candles and other objects surround the tree. There are also various trails and plans for flowers and other plantings.

“The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy should never be forgotten and a memorial will serve as a reminder of how fragile life can be,” State Representative Raghhib Allie-Brennan said in a statement. Working to secure this funding brought back memories of the horror we experienced that day, and I hope the families of the victims – and the survivors of the shooting – are reassured to know that their loved ones will be remembered forever. . “

Margerie reservoir trail

The long-proposed Margerie Reservoir Trail also took a step forward on Friday.

The State Bond Commission has approved a grant of $ 484,000 to fund the creation of a multi-use trail connecting downtown New Fairfield to Peck Road in Danbury.

Although the amount is less than the $ 4 million he asked for the Margerie Reservoir Trail, State Representative Ken Gucker – a Democrat representing the 138th District of New Fairfield, Danbury and Ridgefield – said he was satisfied. of the result of Friday’s vote.

“It wasn’t all I asked for, but at least we get $ 484,000,” he said. “This is the first time that a state bond has helped this project, and half a million dollars is not a bad down payment.

Gucker submitted the $ 4 million request for the project after he introduced a bill earlier this year to authorize state bonds for the design and planning of the approximately 2.5 mile trail which, s ‘It was built, would run along the north side of the Margerie Reservoir on the Danbury- New Frontier from Fairfield.

The trail was first proposed over a decade ago, but never became more than an idea.

“The Margerie Trail has been under construction for years and I am delighted that it is finally becoming a reality,” said Gucker. “This project had several false starts, but with continued support and advocacy, the project never died. “

A report from the Western Connecticut Council of Governments following a study of over a year of the Highway 37 corridor estimated the cost of the trail project between $ 2 million and $ 3.5 million. The report also estimated that work on the trail would take around five years.

With millions more dollars still needed for the trail, Gucker said there was still work to be done.

State Senator Julie Kushner – a Democrat representing the 24th Borough of Danbury, New Fairfield, Bethel and Sherman – said the trail would be “a treasure” for New Fairfield, Danbury and neighboring towns. It would be the only walking trail between Danbury and New Fairfield, she said, and would potentially improve economic development by connecting two commercial areas.

Gucker says the trail would not only give people a place to enjoy passive outdoor recreation, but would provide a safe and walkable gateway from downtown New Fairfield to Peck Road in Danbury.

“It could almost be like a destination,” he said, noting that the Danbury dog ​​park on Peck Road could serve as a parking area for people wishing to access the trail.

As part of its Route 37 Corridor Study, WestCOG considered three design concepts for the proposed trail – a side trail adjacent to Route 37, a fully off-road trail through the woods of the reservoir property, and a hybrid design that combines side trail and off-road trail concepts.

Partly due to its minimal impacts on natural resources and responsiveness to level issues, WestCOG favored the hybrid design and found it to be the most feasible.

As Danbury owns the Margerie Reservoir property and would be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits, WestCOG noted that city acceptance of a Conceptual Alignment Design is essential for the implementation of the plan. .

Clarke Business Park

Another long-discussed project in need of funding received a sharp blow on Friday.

Clarke Business Park in Bethel has received approximately $ 600,000 to begin work on its expansion. The business park has had a variety of uses over the years and there is some demand to add four sites totaling 17 acres. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker told The News Times this week the city has commitments from two companies looking to move in.

“It should have been done decades ago – but we’re finally finishing the park [and] it will be fully developed when we are done with that part, ”Knickerbocker said. “Research and development – this is a really good place for that, because you don’t generate a lot of truck traffic where you need to access the freeway. “

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The agenda for the first meeting of the Government Bonds Committee was a look at what could be a “strong enough” year for government bonds, Governor Ned Lamont said.

The governor said it was “a unique time” to make these investments given historically low interest rates that allow the state to borrow more at lower cost to taxpayers, better bond ratings and a lower cost to taxpayers. large number of residents still unemployed.

“Now is the time to get people back to work, to get people back to work with high paying jobs, many of which are high paying construction jobs,” the governor said.

The commission approved nearly $ 1.1 billion in government loans, including $ 300 million for school construction projects and more than $ 500 million for transportation projects, including finishing of improvements to the Merritt Parkway.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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