By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — Expect traffic delays and rerouting in the Town Hall area, on Avery Place and into Parker Harding Plaza this fall as the town continues to bury utility wires underground. 

The Board of Selectwomen on Wednesday approved a $493,810 contract with the John J. Brennan Construction Co. of Shelton to replace the aerial wires for electricity and television with underground cables, and to remove the wooden poles now supporting them.

John Broadbin, assistant director of public works, told the selectwomen there would be no interruption in service since the aerial wires will remain in place until the new wires are buried.

There also should be a minimum amount of interference on the roads in the project area, he said, as traffic will be directed into one lane around the construction sites.

“You’ve seen us do this on Main Street and Elm Street,” he said.

The project is expected to take several months, but should be completed before winter, and “hopefully before the leaves fall,” Broadbin said. Material shortages caused by supply-chain problems, however, could prolong the project, he added. 

Broadbin also assured the selectwomen that Brennan, the contractor with the lowest bid, is well known to town officials, reputable and had been hired previously by the town. 

The contract was approved unanimously.

Gillespie Center improvement grant

The Board of Selectwomen certified an application to be submitted for a $1 million grant by Homes with Hope, the Westport-based organization dedicated to fighting homelessness in Fairfield County. 

The grant, from the state Department of Housing/Small Cities Community Development Block Grant, is for improvements to the town-owned building that houses the Gillespie Center. The center on Jesup Road houses Homes with Hope’s 15-bed emergency shelter for single men. Hoskins Place, located in the same building, is a four-bed emergency shelter for single women.

Originally the grant application sought $500,000, but when town officials were working with the federal Department of Housing, it was decided to double the request because of added expenses, according to Elaine Daignault, director of Westport’s Human Services Department.

“The cost of labor and materials has risen. … Some structural things need to be done on the building. … We’re going to need additional funding,” she said.

Some of the planned improvements include adding a dormer to the second floor to provide more space to work with clients, upgrading the pantry area to make distributing meals more accessible to clients and safer for volunteers, and renovations to restrooms.

The selectwomen voted to approve the grant application, as well as a donation of $5,400 from the Westport-Weston Foundation to pay for 18 children to attend camp this summer, another item presented by Daignault.

PAL lease approved

The selectwomen also approved a lease with the Westport Police Athletic League for the P.J. Romano property and field house at 170 Riverside Ave., adjacent to Saugatuck Elementary School.

The 20-year lease, with two five-year extensions, for $1 per year is similar to leases the town gives other nonprofits such as Homes with Hope, Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug told the board. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission had signed off on the lease earlier in the month.

PAL plans to hold a fundraising gala in October to pay for renovations to the field house, which is in disrepair, she said.

Gretchen Webster is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.