Milford lawmakers want Silver Sands upgrade stopped

A boardwalk accesses the beach from the parking area at Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

A boardwalk accesses the beach from the parking area at Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

In an unusual move, a group of state lawmakers representing Milford are asking for less state money instead of more.

The Finance Revenue and Bonding Commission on March 2 heard pleas from several legislators to cancel $9.1 million in already approved money to improve Silver Sands State Park.

"Milford residents are really proud of Silver Sands and they love the idea of sharing it with Connecticut residents from around the state, "State Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, said in testimony submitted to the committee.

"The problem they have, however, is that they like the park the way it is," Ferraro told the committee.

A bill sponsored by State Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford, would cancel nearly $10 million in improvements at the park.

"We just want to protect this park," Rose said. "I have not heard one reason why the (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) needs offices there."

The work includes a new concession building, elevated deck structure near the shore to support restrooms, an office, parking lot realignment and a 4,700-square-foot maintenance garage that critics liken to a "mansion."

While opposition to the project in Milford has been consistent, the state is holding fast. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget chief told the committee the project is too far along to be canceled, noting money has already been borrowed and contracts have been signed.

"This proposed legislation comes too late in the process to stop this project," said Ben Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

"Canceling the bonds at this point would subject the state to litigation and financial penalties if we cancel the duly executed construction contract," Barnes said.

State Rep. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, said she understands the argument that the project is to far along to stop. "I have to respectfully disagree," she noted.

"In fact, excluding the addition of bathrooms — modest amenities that all agree would be nice — this project will have a negative impact on the local economy and is counter to earlier economic investments made to this area by the state," Staneski said.

She added "I ask that you revisit this project and support scaling it back to one that will not work against the prior investment the state made in the park and the adjoining Walnut Beach area."

State Rep. Joe Polletta, R-Watertown and a member of the finance committee, said if a town does not want state money the funding should be pulled.

"In this time of fiscal crisis, and the town does not want it, we should not spend the money," Polletta said.

Ferraro said the justification for the project is based on old information.

“The state is relying on a 25 year-old environmental impact study," Ferraro said. "Quite simply, the state needs to do a new study. Since the study, which was done in 1993, the land has changed significantly as a result of such storms like Hurricane Irene and Sandy."