Christmas may be over but that hasn’t stopped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy from playing Santa, crisscrossing the state and handing out Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants to municipalities.
On Thursday morning Malloy made a stop in Tolland to announce a $394,350 grant for the town to make Americans with Disabilities Act compliant improvements to a recreational complex.
Tolland’s was one of close to 30 grants Malloy has announced over the past few weeks. More are likely on the way as the state Bond Commission allocated $20 million for STEAP grants on Sept. 23.
Malloy said he has awarded the grants based on merit and project readiness rather than on a political basis.
“I made it very clear that we were looking for projects that would move forward in a very timely fashion because if you’re going to spend $20 million, you want to see it produce jobs particularly in a down economy,” he said.
The administration selected projects that seemed poised to move forward rapidly, with a promise that they would, he said.
“In the past, many projects have been partially funded and people have to wait for another year or another year to move those along, which doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Rep. Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, said the grants should always be merit based.
“It’s something we’ve fought with the previous administrations over. Let’s look at these. Are these projects that need to be done, do they have a place in the community? Or are they a political favor,” he said.
It’s good to see the state moving away from using the grants as political favors, instead funding projects that clearly benefit the state and local communities, he said.
In a press release, Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R- Stafford, said the towns Malloy awarded grants to on Thursday, which also included Pomfret, Brooklyn, Chaplin and Columbia, have a history using state funding for practical purposes like safety and infrastructure.
“Our small Eastern Connecticut communities like many towns around the state are dealing with harsh economic times and this money will be extremely helpful,” he said.
Malloy said he was particularly interested in the Tolland project, which will include the construction of an ADA-accessible concessions stand as well as an accessible playground and compliant bathrooms on the recreation center grounds. As mayor of Stamford, the governor said he was involved with a similar project to build an ADA accessible playground about a decade ago.
“It makes such a difference. As soon as I became aware of that as part of the project I certainly wanted to make sure the state was part of it,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who lives in Tolland, said the town appreciates the funding for a project that has been in the works for over a decade “and will be a great benefit to families from Tolland and around Connecticut.”
There was one other aspect of Tolland’s Cross Farms Recreational Complex that Malloy found noteworthy— it contains an 18-hole Frisbee golf course. The governor seemed to learn of the course after concluding his ceremonial remarks and decided to say a few more words.
“I want to point something out. It’s not every day that you get to visit a park that has a disc golf course and we should all take pride in the fact that the Frisbee was invented in Connecticut, so I just wanted to remind you,” he said.