I wrote another article for the Minuteman. Trivial for non-Fairfielders, read at your own risk.
The Town of Fairfield received a $450,000 grant this week from the Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). The money will be used for the beautification and cultural enrichment of downtown Fairfield.
The money will be split between the design and renewal of the upstairs room of the publicly owned Fairfield Theater Company building and the refurbishing of a triangular piece of land marked by Unquowa Road, Sherman Green, and Sanford Street. This section of town is often considered the commercial and social hub of Fairfield by those familiar with the area.
STEAP is dedicated to providing economic assistance to local governments, keeping the concept of public betterment in mind.
Fairfield was added to the list of towns eligible for STEAP funding two years ago. "Their program only gave out a few grants this year, so we are very happy they chose us," First Selectman Ken Flatto said.
He went on to cite Trumbull as the only other local town to receive funding this year.
The use of the money is flexible, Flatto pointed out on Tuesday, saying, "We are trying to get these main projects taken care of, but as long as we use the money in some sort of a similarly focused way, we have a little freedom with it."
The main goals of the project will remain the same regardless, and achieving downtown Fairfield as a center of beauty and culture is the intention.
An abandoned little room above the Fairfield Theater Company on Sanford Street puts a smile on the face of Mr. Flatto. Estimated by the First Selectman himself to be approximately 2000 square feet, he sees potential for the space as a future center for the arts.
"We would like to get a [Certificate of Occupancy] on that room, and hopefully be able to rent it out to a non-profit arts program," he said, adding, "Right now, the room is bare bones. [It has] old concrete floors and a dated leaking roof; it's just not safe."
The original grant request, sent to STEAP in February, called for $300,000 specifically for the design and improvement of this space.
The other $150,000 is to be spent on upgrades to the popular downtown area of Fairfield.
Flatto pointed out specifically what he would like touched on. A small footbridge connecting Unquowa Road with the Fairfield Theater Company building tops the list. The bridge is in disrepair, and unsafe for public use. "Rebuilding that defunct bridge would certainly be positive for downtown foot traffic," Flatto remarked.
He also hopes to use the money to replace a chain link fence on the corner of Sanford Street and Carter Henry Drive, which has proven to be an "eyesore," according to the original grant proposal.
Other minor changes will also be possible as budget provides, including planting shrubs and trees, replacing old curbs, and constructing new public benches on the sidewalks.
"This is kind of exciting," Flatto said. He thanked the state government for fighting for approval of the grant, "The help of so many state leaders has really been helpful. People like Senator [John] McKinney have helped so much to get this grant. It has really been a team effort."
Work on the project is expected to begin after the project budget has been planned. This phase of the project is expected to take approximately six months.
The design and labor phases of the project, including construction, are expected to last a year.