Roger Sherman Baldwin Park Improvements
By Richard Kaufman
Initial engineering and architecture work on improvements to Roger Sherman Baldwin Park can begin, after the Board of Estimate and Taxation voted 9-3 last week to carry forward an allocation of $50,000 from fiscal year ’20 to fiscal year ’21.
The vote was held because the money, which was included in the 2019-2020 budget, wasn’t used. According to the town charter, if an appropriation isn’t committed to, it lapses. However, the BET has the authority to continue it in force for an additional year.
Parks and Recreation Director, Joe Siciliano, said at last week’s BET meeting that the project is one of First Selectman Fred Camillo’s priorities.
In March, during a speech at the Retired Men’s Association of Greenwich, Camillo said he wanted to maximize one of Greenwich’s greatest assets: the waterfront.
Former First Selectman, Peter Tesei, was also an advocate for enhancing the park and making it a true focal point for the community during his tenure as the town’s chief elected official.
Siciliano said during the BET meeting last week that the project is about the “gateway” to the park, which encompasses the park itself, the park’s building, and the entrance way to the ferry dock. He added that the town would hire a landscape designer and facilities designer all in one.
A couple of BET members, while in support of the project as a whole, said they had concerns about timing because of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that there are several capital projects delayed.
“As we begin to come out of the COVID experience next year and are looking at capital items at that point, I think we’re going to have a very large list of rather urgent items that have gone through a year of delay. I just don’t see this as being the most urgent among them,” said BET member, Jeff Ramer. “I’m reluctant to do design work on a project that in fact won’t be executed for 2-4 years perhaps. I’d rather look at the question of allocating funds for the design of something when in more or less the same breath we’re looking to do the capital project shortly thereafter, which is not where we are right now.”
BET member, David Weisbrod said he views this as a time where “we really need to tighten our belt and tighten the pipeline of projects.”
BET member, Debra Hess, supported the carry-forward request, and said money isn’t being added to the budget.
“I’m very interested to see what we might or might not do [at the park], and try to get a sense of it, then we can size that out and decide how we put it in the queue [of capital projects] and line that up versus other priorities that we have as a town,” she said.
Bill Drake, a BET member, spoke in support of the funding.
“I think we did a wise thing as a board to defer the big portion of this capital, but it also seems smart to do the engineering work so that when we finally emerge from our COVID shutdown, we’re ready to go and advance some projects for the citizens,” he said.
Once the design is sorted out and the project moves forward through the Planning and Zoning process, there will be community input. Right now, Siciliano said, the town is getting input from some of the major users of the facility. The Food and Wine Festival, Greenwich Town Party, and other large scale events are held there.
“Hopefully in future years, when we do start to put some money into park, we could start to see some partnerships out of that, so obviously we want to hear from them,” Siciliano said.
Additionally, the BET approved a carry-forward request of $850,000 for Greenwich Point causeway repairs.