WATERTOWN — The Town Council voted October 5 to reaffirm its commitment to provide the local match of up to $533,000 over three years to a State of Connecticut Transportation Alternatives Grant of $2,132,000 for construction of the Steele Brook Greenway as a paved greenway trail between Unico Field and French Street. 

The total project cost of up to $2,665,000 will provide town residents with a handicap-accessible asphalt surface.

Watertown was named one of two recipients in western Connecticut earlier this year. The application had been submitted in January of 2019, and was one of four from the local area. 

The funding is contingent on the town submitting the additional assurance and other requested information.

Public Works Director Roy Cavanaugh explained the project “has been in the works” for 15 years.

The project involves one pedestrian bridge over Steele Brook behind the fire department headquarters building, a set of rectangular rapid flashing beacons on French Street, a parking area, and acquisition of four parcels along 2,265 linear feet (0.43 miles) of new trail. 

This section will complete the linkage between of the trail from Main Street to French Street.

The council also received word that Deputy Fire Chief James DeMarest, Jr. successfully applied for and received a $130,000 grant to be used for training firefighters and for outfitting juniors. 

Interim Town Manager John Gavallos said part of the money will be used to send volunteers to complete certification courses ranging from Firefighter I to Officer I. Those courses typically cost around $1,200 per person.

Councilman Louis Razza announced the Watertown Police Department would be restarting its canine program this year, thanks to the generosity of an undisclosed donor. 

The town will be purchasing a German Shepherd from Connecticut Canine Services in Bethany. 

Officer Robert Fortier, a 12 year veteran of the police department who has served as a field training officer, was selected to be the dog’s handler. The two will undergo training at the State Police facility in Meriden in the spring.

Asst. Town Manager/ Finance Director Susan Zappone reported the town has received a favorable AA+ rating from S & P Global Ratings. 

A number of factors went into the rating, including the town’s strong tax collection rate, its ability to retore its fund balance over the past two years, and strong management practices. The rating will favorably impact the town’s borrowing rate on large projects.

The new Town Manager Mark A. Raimo, a long-time resident and former lieutenant in the Watertown Police Department, will officially begin his new position November 2. 

An official document-signing took place during the Town Council meeting on October 5 following an executive session to discuss the agreement and a vote to approve it.

Mr. Raimo’s resignation from the Planning and Zoning Commission was noted earlier in the meeting. 

He was one of three people to resign positions, with the other two being Robert Porter, from the Board of Assessment Appeals, and Ken Demirs, also from the Board of Assessment Appeals.

The council agreed to postpone the consideration of two newly revised job descriptions, for Finance Director and for Director of Public Works/Assistant Town Manager, until Mr. Raimo has had an opportunity to review them and have input.

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