NEWINGTON - A slew of pay-as-you go project proposals that is sitting before the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Committee includes a plan to reconstruct Garfield Street outside of Newington Town Hall to the tune of $825,000.
The reconstruction proposal is not new-it was the target of a $2.5 million CROG grant application that was unsuccessful last year. Town Manager John Salomone, however, is still pursuing the project with the primary objective being the realignment of 1,000 feet of Garfield toward Mill Pond Park.
The shifting of that portion of the street, which forms a curve that has been deemed a detriment to the sightline for motorists and pedestrians, has been said to be a safety enhancement measure as well as a way to clear space for additional parking at Newington Town Hall, which is in the planning stages of a referendum proposal for its own renovation.
The Town Hall Renovation Building Committee has been meeting with architects from the firm Kaestle Boos, reviewing design proposals for the interior and exterior of a restructured town hall facility, as well as a new and relocated Mortensen Community Center, which, if the referendum is successful, will be built on the Willard Avenue side of Mill Pond Park.
Amongst the tentative changes to the existing town hall building is the construction of a new main entrance off of Garfield Street and the addition of 138 parking spaces in lots surrounding the facility. Another item on the CIP project list, labeled “citizen parking,” is expected to cost $75,000.
Straightening Garfield is necessary not only to make room for the additional lots, but to give the demolition crew space to stage a wrecking ball, said Town Hall Building Committee Chair Clarke Castelle.
“It would be impossible, if you look at the proximity of the street to the building,” Castelle said.
Garfield Street and the other CIP proposals have a couple of hoops to jump through before they get the green light. If the CIP committee gives the go-ahead, the list will go before the Town Council for final approval as a part of the annual budgetary process. Even if the realignment proposal goes through, the building committee will not know the status of the town hall renovation project until it goes to referendum, slated for late spring or early summer, Castelle said.
If voters opt out of the renovation at referendum, Garfield will still be worth restructuring because a renovation, in some form, is bound to take place at some point, said Mayor Stephen Woods after last Monday’s building committee meeting.
“Something will happen,” Woods said. “We’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and redo it [if the proposal is rejected]. The plumbing and electrical in this building are shot; something has to happen.”
The first priority on the timeline of events will be the relocation of the Mortensen Community Center, followed by the Garfield Street restructuring that will make way for the Town Hall renovation, according to Castelle.
“That way none of the programs of the Parks and Recreation Department would be disturbed [during the renovation of the existing building],” he said. “Only then would we renovate the existing town hall, starting with the demolition of the gymnasium.”