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SHPMC Gets Update From First Selectman, Design Firm



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Members of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (SHPMC) met via teleconference on September 10 to receive an update on the memorial project from First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and design firm SWA.

Rosenthal started off the meeting by informing the commission about overall progress the Town of Newtown has made thus far and that “...there are [design] plans in the Land Use Office if people want to take a look.”

He also explained that earlier this summer the Board of Selectmen hired Downes Construction as the project’s construction manager specifically for the pre-construction work, with the understanding if all goes well their services would be extended.

Taking the reins for the majority of the meeting to discuss specific updates to the memorial design were SWA designers Daniel Affleck and Ben Waldo.

Affleck said that he is happy with how the project is progressing and that the pricing is a critical piece that they are currently “in the thick of right now.”

While running through some of the specific changes that have been implemented in the design, he mentioned how the President Barack Obama quote the commission wanted will be incorporated, but shortened from the entire speech.

“The idea would be to create kind of a box, and in that box would be the sacred soil. On top of the box would be a little description about the memorial itself and then the Obama quote. Below that would be a built-in container for candles,” Affleck said.

He emphasized other elements the commission wanted to make sure were kept — specifically the meadow plantings, the option of different pathways to get to the center, and the two wooden decks — are still in the design.

Affleck also assured the SHPMC that the water feature around the main sacred sycamore element is heated to allow for the water to be used in December for gatherings. It will also have hydraulics to circulate the water and be able to move/collect the floating candles when used for special events.

Waldo went over the specifics pertaining to civil engineering details, lighting/electrical, and the plantings.

For the latter, SWA is working with Artemis Landscape Architects to ensure they have an “extensive variety” that includes plantings that attract pollinators as well as plantings resistant to deer.

Concluding the presentation, Waldo said, “That’s where we are today. We’re excited by how far this has come along and hope to hear your thoughts on the design...”

SHPMC member Sarah Middeleer said the design looks “really good,” and asked if they were putting an emphasis on selecting native plants, because that is what the commission would desire whenever possible.

She was told by Elisabeth Lein, operations director of Artemis, who was on the call, that “We made an effort to use native [plants] wherever possible, and we do have quite a bit of native plants for the site. There are some things for some color and to show interest that we are integrating along with the native plants… nothing invasive.”

JoAnn Bacon, SHPMC member and mother of Charlotte Bacon, a first grader who died on 12/14, inquired if the gravel walkways that are being used could be washed out.

She was assured that there is metal on the sides to contain the gravel and that the specific gravel being used is optimal for New England weather conditions for the least washout. In addition to it being low maintenance, it is also ADA accessible.

At the end of the meeting, SHPMC member and former First Selectman Pat Llodra told the designers, “I think it’s beautiful. I’m so impressed with the progress and so hopeful that we’re going to end up with a project that we love… Thank you Ben and Dan for everything you’ve done.”

For more information about upcoming Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission meetings, visit newtown-ct.gov/sandy-hook-permanent-memorial-commission.

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