SOUTHINGTON - The Town Council on Monday backed moving forward with efforts to bring bus service to town and also selected a bidder for improvements at Memorial Park’s playscape.
The council unanimously endorsed bringing public transportation to town. From here, the state Department of Transportation will be doing research to continue to move the idea forward.
“This has been on our agenda a couple of times. I’m glad we took the step,” said Councilor Dawn Miceli. “I have received calls and emails with overwhelming public support for this bus route. Moreso than a demand for public transportation, I have heard a lot from people with disabilities that were saying we needed to have some sort of paratransit.”
Paratransit is offered in communities near an established bus route.
Council Chairman Chris Palmieri said he is also looking into “micro-transit” with the DOT,, which could be another option for providing transportation for those with disabilities. However, he has yet to hear back from the department.
Councilor Mike Riccio called on the council to stop “continuing to waste everybody’s time” on the bus issue.
“We need to decide if this council wants to move forward with buses in Southington or not,” he said.
Palmieri said that he reached out to Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu to affirm her support for a bus route between Bristol and Southington. He said Bristol is “very eager” to partner on the project.
During a Feb. 14 presentation at Bristol Public Library, George Pohorilak, of the group Southington Supports Public Transportation and the Southington Commission on Disabilities, outlined proposals for the bus route. He said Southington is the largest community in the state without a public bus route and has a higher percentage of elderly people than most towns.
Pohorilak estimated tht the bus route would see 1,500 riders per day. He also said that the town would not have to for a route; it would be state funded.
Pohorilak also said the CRCOG (Capitol Region Council of Governments) completed a study last June that recommended bringing public transportation to town. The following is an excerpt:
“Explosive growth in housing as well as commercial and industrial properties has transformed Southington into one of the larger population and employment centers in Greater Hartford,” the study read. “This has contributed to increasing congestion, as there is no transit service in Southington aside from commuter express bus. Transportation options are necessary to alleviate this.”
CRCOG presented a three-phase plan to the council last year. Phase 1 would take the route from Plainville into town through Queen Street and then back up West Street into Bristol. Phase 2 takes it down to the Park and Ride, into Plantsville, then back up West Street.
Phase 1 would reach 7.12% of the town population while phase 2 would cover 5.32%. The third phase would expand the bus route from 6 days a week to 7, adding Sunday. Two buses would run along the route from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Additionally, the council voted to approve the bid of Grasshopper Lawns Inc. of Naugatuck for work on the Memorial Park playscape. Its low bid came in at $113,919, compared to the $130,215 bid of Creative Landscape Design, LLC, of Bethlehem.
“I checked references for Grasshopper Lawns Inc.,” said Gabe Calandra, assistant superintendent of the Highways and Parks Department. “I was told they have a great deal of experience with playground installations in Connecticut, are well qualified, do good work and are a pleasure to work with.”
“The total project is $250,000, Rotary Club of Southington is spearheading it by contributing $100,000 and we’re also receiving a contribution from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain of $50,000,” said Miceli. “The park playscape was installed in the early 1970s and is in a terrible state of disrepair. I’ve received several complaints about it and I’ve seen several on social media. We have been constantly putting Band-Aid repairs on it.”
Miceli said Rotary clubs across the state were doing many playscape projects, so the timing worked out. She added that the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain had been looking to do more in Southington, so she wrote a grant proposal.
“It’s wonderful that both of these organizations have stepped up and will help us to bring this playscape into the 2000s,” said Miceli. “This will be an all-ability playscape, which will include a component where kids in wheelchairs can go up on their own onto a part that spins around.”
Miceli said that the playscape renovations should be breaking ground in August, the equipment should be going in starting in November and everything should be ready by next spring. The local Rotary will assist in each phase.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.