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Will Darien Restore Weed Beach Construction Funds?

DARIEN, Conn. — Construction crews began to bring in equipment at Weed Beach on Tuesday for the long-awaited $2.7 million renovation project slated to be completed by next summer.

Town officials said Tuesday the work to replace the old bathhouse and add a new warming hut and paddle-tennis operations building will get under way by Aug. 29. The beach will remain open during the project, officials said. It will include new restrooms and an upgraded concession stand adjacent to the playground, new sidewalks connecting sections of the beach, landscaping and "greener" parking areas with less asphalt.

But the Board of Selectmen must decide whether to allocate the $207,200 requested by the Weed Beach Building Committee to improve designs for the new warming hut and bathhouse – funds originally in the plans but eliminated several years ago. The selectmen will decide during its Monday meeting at 7:45 p.m. in Town Hall.

"We have asked the architect to get us information by the end of the week to justify putting the money for those upgrades back," First Selectman Dave Campbell said. "We want to know if they make sense."

But Debbie Parnon, chair of the Weed Beach Building Committee, told the Board of Selectmen last week that the design changes proposed would "greatly enhance the project and greatly reduce long-term maintenance costs."

"Even with the $207,000, we would still come in $50,000 under budget because the bids we received in June were far lower than those of a few years ago when the low bid was $4 million," Parnon said Tuesday.

Elements of the buildings' foundations, siding and roofing had to be scaled back when the project was approved in 2008 because the low bid was $4 million. But after the latest construction bids came in under budget this June, the committee decided to construct the buildings as originally envisioned.

"These changes will make such a difference, structurally to the buildings and aesthetically to the whole park," Parnon said.

Architect Neil Hauck, who designed the project, said adding a fieldstone face to the skirt of the bathhouse would protect it from floodwaters and graffiti. White cedar shingles on the side of the buildings would cut down on maintenance, as well as add a "distinct New England feel" to the buildings, he said.

Current designs call for asphalt shingles, but Hauck pushed for standing seam metal roofing. "It's a very sustainable material, it's meant to last 100 years."

Do you believe the selectmen should approve a request to restore funds for the Weed Beach project that could cut long-term maintenance costs? Let us know in a comment below.