MILFORD, CT — A day before the state Bond Commission is expected to vote on whether to approve $9.1 million for renovations at Silver Sands State Park, a bevy of Milford officials and lawmakers held a press conference to say they don’t want the money or the project.
The funding will be used to construct a bath house building, lifeguard and staff office, concession building, and a maintenance facility.
“No one wants this project and the state of Connecticut cannot afford it,” Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said.
“Milford residents have been unified and vocal in their opposition to the buildout of Silver Sands,” Slossberg added. “They have raised numerous concerns about the project, but those concerns have not been resolved, and in many cases never acknowledged.”
She suggested the money would be better spent on education or social services or a different infrastructure project.
The Malloy administration, which controls the Bond Commission agenda, disagreed with Slossberg’s assessment.
“We appreciate the perspective and feedback from elected officials in Milford, but we respectfully disagree,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said. “This project ensures important improvements are made to Silver Sands that will improve access to the park and build out basic amenities for visitors.
“It’s important to remember that this is a state park that serves tens of thousands of visitors from across Connecticut and beyond, and therefore it must be operated, maintained, and improved with all state residents in mind,” Donnelly added.
The last time an item was pulled from the state Bond Commission agenda was in June 2012. At that time Malloy pulled $300,000 to improve the People’s Center in New Haven from the agenda after veterans’ groups complained that some of the members of the organization that runs the community center were communists.
Slossberg was joined at the press conference by Milford Mayor Ben Blake, Milford area state Reps. Kim Rose, Pam Staneski, and Charlie Ferraro, and local Milford residents in opposition to the project.
“The priorities up in Hartford are not the same priorities that we have locally,” Blake said.
The Milford mayor said it is his city’s responsibility to provide police and fire personnel to monitor the beach. “We have put a lot of our resources and will continue to do it because it is a special part of our city,” Blake said.
“At the same time we do not think the priorities coming from Hartford to build out this beautiful, pristine park are right,” Blake added.
Blake noted that in the past week the city of Milford found out that it would have its municipal grant allotment for the current fiscal year cut by nearly $2 million to make up for hole in the adopted budget.
“There are real financial concerns that are going on across the state and to put $9-$10 million into something the city of Milford does not have the buy-in for just does not seem prudent at this time,” Blake said.
Rep. Rose echoed Slossberg’s and Blake’s comments.
“I along with countless residents and municipal leaders have voiced concern over this project’s potential negative effect on the environment, local community, and public’s safety,” Rose said. “With Milford expected to receive a $2-million reduction in state aid, and the fact that Connecticut is continuing to face a deficit, I believe this money could be better spent on restoring some of the town’s vital services and programs.”
Last week, Slossberg sent a letter to the Bond Commission asking that the $9 million be rejected.
In the letter she cited reasons such as the high cost, that the project is based on what she termed an “outdated” environmental impact evaluation, the negative impact the proposed concession stand would have on local businesses, and increased traffic as reasons for her opposition.