Weed Beach project
The project at Weed Beach is shovel-ready.
In April 2008, the RTM approved $3.6 million toward the project; 56 members of the 100-member legislative body voted in favor of the project, while eight opposed and two abstained. In that vote, the RTM decided that $2 million of the funding would come from bonding and $1.6 would come from the town's general fund.
But Republican First Selectman David Campbell announced this week that Board of Finance members "do not want to use money from the general fund, as was proposed before the recession." This takes the funding of the previously approved project down to $2 million.
Originally, the plan was to construct a new bathhouse and warming hut, and improve nature paths while also renovating the sailing facility and other portions of the public beach. A $250,000 playground was opened at the beach in June 2009, by the non-profit group Playground By The Sound.
According to a July 18 e-mail from Campbell to Town officials, the $2 million "would allow for the new bathhouse."
The 44 percent cut in funding will certainly affect the project if it is enacted, Swiatek said, but she is not yet certain how.
"We're going to have to look at the whole of our plan and prioritize," she said Wednesday.
"A good deal of the project will likely not take place. It's unfortunate in my mind, because by cutting the funding, you've in essence determined the scope of the project, which should be a function of those in charge of the facility and the park," Swiatek said.
"The bathhouse is the No. 1 priority and that's the bulk of the cost. What we can do from there really remains to be seen. It depends on when they release the funds, because that will determine the cost of the building," she said.
Democratic Selectman David Bayne, who serves as the Board's liaison to the Weed Beach Building Committee said he doesn't think it's fair to limit the already-approved project's scope to just the bathhouse.
"With the rest of the project, it's landscaping ... and a lot of things that would really make the beach even more of a showcase than it is now," he said Tuesday. "Our realtors take prospective residents to [Weed Beach]. It would be nice to make that more of a jewel, and I think it would enhance all our property values in the long run.
"If we end up just spending $2 million to do the bathhouse and whatever might be necessary we're most likely writing off doing the rest of the project," Bayne said.
Swiatek said she would like to see the bathhouse replaced as soon as possible.
"As a result of the freeze, the bathhouse is tired, just like the senior center. It needs attention, needs improvements, needs replacement. We were going to demolish it and build a new one," she said.
"It's deteriorating more as time goes on," Swiatek said. "People are using the facility. They're using the bathhouse, and they [say], `This is terrible.' We should be proud of our facilities. We should maintain them in a fashion that allows us to showcase who we are and what we are. And I don't think we have been doing that with our building. I think we've paid great attention to our schools, but we haven't done the same for the rest of our public assets."
The Town purchased Weed Beach in several different parcels, between 1953 and 1976. In total, it spans 22 acres.
The bathhouse was built in 1956, and renovated in 1991, according to Swiatek.
"They put on a new roof, but they put the new roof over the old roof. It wasn't a full-blown gutting by any means," she said.
"They used the existing shell and put in a handicap-accessible bathroom and reconfigured some of the area, but mostly it was cosmetic. The block building and foundation remained," Swiatek said of the 1991 renovation.
"We are suggesting a full demolition and new construction now," she said. "And it's about time."