Kellogg updates cell tower, trail, Wolfe Park plans

AT&T officials — with a continued hope of constructing a cellular tower behind the Emergency Medical Services building on Jockey Hollow Road — will be working with the newly formed EMS Building Committee to guarantee their project fits in with the proposed building renovations.

First Selectman Ken Kellogg, during a series of town project updates to Town Council Monday, said he met with AT&T representatives recently to discuss the town’s proposed $3.6-million renovation plans for the site — which houses EMS and Monroe Fire Station #2. And Kellogg said AT&T staffers are willing to collaborate with the EMS Building Committee “to review options and develop potential solutions.”

Town Council began discussion of the proposal, which would call for construction of a 170-foot tower in a largely wooded area behind the current building, in November.

Since the tower proposal calls for the use of town-owned land, Town Council must first give approval to submit the plans to the Planning & Zoning Commission in the form of an 8-24 application, seeking a referral from the commission on whether to proceed.

Once the 8-24 application is filed, the Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing and has 35 days to render a decision. The failure of the commission to report within 35 days after the date of official submission of the proposal would be taken as approval of the proposal. If the commission grants the application, Town Council must approve the proposed lease agreement. AT&T would also have to submit the plans to the state Siting Council, which would then hold a public hearing in Monroe before rendering any final decision. Town Council member Kevin Reid said the town can re-examine the plans at any point during the process.

Prior to any 8-24 application, Kellogg said, AT&T has agreed to hold public information sessions regarding cellular tower construction.

If ultimately approved,  Reid said — at the November meeting — the proposed tower would greatly increase cellular service in that area, which AT&T representatives has stated is poor.

At present, cellular service that is available is minimal, by company standards, and is at that level only because of the “cell on wheels,” or COW, as referred to by local residents. The COW is simply a portable cell antenna, which sits on top of an AT&T van in front of Fawn Hollow Elementary School.

Multi-use trail project

Kellogg said a proposed multi-use trail project from Maple Drive to Wolfe Park has been put on hold because of uncertainty regarding an already approved state grant commitment.

The first selectman said the project was to be funded through a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LoTCIP) grant commitment of $1.5 million, with the town required to fund the design work, originally estimated at $150,000.

Kellogg said that $100,000 was allocated for this work in the approved capital budget, but the quotes obtained for the work came in at an estimated $211,430, well above the planned amount.

“Subsequently, the town has been advised by the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments (MetroCOG) that the state Department of Transportation has advised that state budget cuts have put the LoTCIP grants at risk,” said Kellogg. “While we have a commitment letter, it is now anticipated that only projects advertised for construction by June 30 will remain state-funded.

“That does not leave us a sufficient amount of time,” added Kellogg.

Moving past the June 30 deadline would push this project to a federally funded program, said Kellogg, which would likely result in the town being required to match funds, and it remains unclear if the design work costs would satisfy the match requirement.

Wolfe Park field plan update

Kellogg told Town Council he plans to meet with TPA Design Group representatives to discuss the construction documents agreement before seeking to move ahead with the Wolfe Park field plan project.

The project calls for a multifaceted array of improvements to the eastern side of Wolfe Park. The proposals have been submitted by the town’s Parks & Recreation Department along with TPA Design Group of New Haven, the project’s engineering consultant.

The proposals call for the construction of two new sports fields, located in clearings to the north and west of the park’s tennis courts. In addition, the plan proposes the redesign and reconstruction of the overflow parking lot on Cutler’s Farm Road, which is located at the park’s far northern boundary.

Kellogg said there is a proposal for $18,500 — funded through the current balance from previous appropriations from the Lillian Wilton fund and prior bonding. But in reviewing the agreement and meeting with staff, Kellogg said, he still has “questions regarding the current scope of services versus what was accomplished already via the prior agreement.”

Kellogg said he will be meeting with TPA staff to further discuss this issue before asking Town Council for authorization to proceed.

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