Silver Sands project may take up to six months once construction starts again

It’s been almost two months since the March 19 fire that destroyed part of a $9.1 million improvement project at Silver Sands State Park, and while state officials don’t know when construction will start again, they said it will take five or six months to complete the project once it does get going.

“The site is currently being cleaned up, leading to the demolition of the buildings,” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Spokesman Lee Sawyer wrote in an email. “The five- to six-month timeframe for construction is a reasonable estimate from the point when construction begins, but first the insurance claims must be settled, design work completed, and contractors secured, which will take some time.”

At least two of the three buildings that were nearly complete on the new section of elevated boardwalk were destroyed in the blaze.

Milford Mayor Ben Blake said he was told building material at the site will be tested, and results of those tests will determine how the charred buildings that sit atop the new section of boardwalk are dismantled and disposed of. The mayor said he was also told engineers will assess the pilings that hold up the new boardwalk to determine which can be salvaged.

State officials have not yet released the cause of the fire. John McKay, a spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS), which is overseeing the construction project, said this week that he believes state investigators are still working to determine the cause. He also said certain aspects of insurance coverage still hinge on that information. The contractor, Scope Construction of New Britain, carried the insurance at the time of the fire.

Sawyer previously said the state intends to complete the project, and that evaluation of insurance coverage would determine if additional state funds are needed.

Fire investigators finished their on-scene investigation into the blaze at the end of March, and at that time Sawyer said investigators were continuing to analyze evidence and interview individuals before determining the cause.

The new amenities at Silver Sands, including a concession stand, rest rooms and an office building, had been scheduled to open Memorial Day.

Three Stratford teenagers have been charged with setting fires in four communities, including a fire in storage trailers at Silver Sands March 24.

Christopher Sakowicz and Vincent Keller, both 18, and 17-year-old Caleb Caraballo are charged in a string of fires, including the fire that destroyed the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford. A fourth teen has also been charged in connection with at least some of the fires but he is a juvenile and has not been identified publicly. Their case was continued to May 23.

The Silver Sands boardwalk fire has not been ruled arson, and the teens are not suspects in that blaze.

The day after the boardwalk fire, sources, including State Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, said she was told painting had been done in one of the buildings before the fire broke out, and that some kind of heater may have been in use.

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