Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Overruns force Vernon to scale back park improvements

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
July 7, 2006

VERNON - Long-planned improvements to the area in and around Central Park are being scaled back - and the project rebid - after initial bids for the $750,000 project came in nearly $250,000 over budget.

Officials had hoped to begin renovations to the park, located in front of Town Hall, shortly after this week's fireworks festival.

But groundbreaking is on hold while officials wait for the state Department of Transportation to approve the scaled-back project.

Among the changes: eliminating decorative crosswalks across West Main Street and ornamental lighting on the streets surrounding the park.

Once the state signs off on the revisions, the project will be rebid, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said Thursday.

Although the town doesn't have any firm estimates as to when state approval might come, Marmer said it shouldn't take long because the revised project is less invasive to West Main Street, also known as state Route 74.

"We just have to trim the project to what is directly related to the park itself," said Marmer, who learned of the high bids within the last month.

About $250,000 has already been spent on design and materials for the project, officials said.

Among the planned improvements is a new "great lawn" to be created in the area directly in front of Town Hall. The town's war monument also will be relocated as part of the improvements.

Marmer blamed the unexpectedly high bids on a series of administrative delays that have dogged the project, which has been on the drawing boards for the last eight years.

Although $750,000 in federal and state grants were secured for the renovations in 2002, work on the park has been slow to start as local leaders waited for federal and state signoffs.

"The cost of doing this has gone up precipitously," Marmer said. "You can't click your fingers and have it all done. Every month that passes, your price increases."

While town officials would have tried to complete the original concept had the bids been slightly over budget, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said $250,000 was too much for the town to absorb.

Despite the scaled-back project, Marmer said the renovations still will be an improvement for the downtown area.

While delays in the park renovation continue to plague the town, officials were able to celebrate one milestone last fall when they dedicated a restored Cogswell Temperance Fountain, which sits near the eastern edge of the park.

©Journal Inquirer 2006