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Finance Board Approves Grants, Possible HVAC Schematic Drawings



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The Board of Finance accepted two grants during its meeting on May 25, one for the Rail Trail and the other for the Newtown Community Center’s summer programs.

The Jeniam Foundation has given the town a $6,500 grant, which will be used to build a “more official entry area” at the Newtown/Monroe border along the Housatonic Rail Trail, and will include a small extension of the Newtown entrance trail.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said the area right now is a “pile of dirt” and that the grant will make the area “more official looking.” Rosenthal said the Monroe rail trail comes to the line, and there’s a stretch in Botsford near the Batchelder clean-up site where it “just ends.”

“This will make the area identify the ending and let people know what’s coming in the future,” said Rosenthal.

At a May 15 Board of Selectmen meeting, Land Use Director Rob Sibley explained that the trail ends at the Monroe border; on the Newtown side there is about 1,200 linear feet of 10-foot wide rail trail. There was a Boy Scout project in the area approximately ten years ago but now the area is getting overgrown.

The mound of dirt used to end the trail is meant to discourage those walking the trail from entering the Batchelder property.

Sibley said the grant will be used for a pair of benches with a plaque explaining where the funding came from, and a sign stating something along the lines of, “we’re sorry we can’t invite you in further, but we are working hard to have a future trail to access into Newtown.”

A grant letter from Hugh Killin III, executive director of the Jeniam Foundation, put the following restrictions on the grant: It must be used on the design, planning, and construction of an “entry rest area,” per the proposal from the town, an interim report is due August 31, and a final report is due December 15.

“We hope this small grant helps kick off the next stage of connecting the Housatonic Rail Trail to Fairfield Hills,” stated Killin.

The town does have to work with the town of Monroe, as currently the only way to access the area with the necessary equipment is through Monroe, Sibley said, but added that Monroe officials were excited because they are also doing some work on the Monroe side of the trail.

The other grant — $50,000 — is a Summer Enrichment Grant for summer 2023 and $50,000 for summer 2024 at the Newtown Community Center, received from the Connecticut State Department of Education. The grant is “consistent with grants the town has received before,” said Rosenthal, and the town started to receive the grants during the pandemic.

The grant will be used to supplement and expand the community center’s summer programming.

Hawley HVAC Issue

In other Board of Finance news, following the rejection of the town’s application for grant assistance for the Hawley HVAC project, for what Rosenthal described as “stupid bureaucratic reasons,” the finance board approved two resolutions to prepare schematic drawings and outline specifications for HVAC projects at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School.

The resolutions will provide schematic drawings, as lack thereof was the reason for the rejection of the Hawley grant application. While there is no grant available currently, having the resolutions in place will make sure the town is properly prepared if grant money does come available.

“The thought is by making these resolutions, it doesn’t change anything but puts on the record that these authorizations are there,” said Rosenthal. “We’re just adding another thing to the file. If no money comes forward, then there’s no harm, no foul from doing this, the projects will still move forward on the taxpayer dime.”


Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Grants for Housatonic Rail Trail and Newtown Community Center's summer programs were approved recently by the Board of Finance.
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