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Members of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (SHPMC) met on the evening of Thursday, May 11, in the Municipal Center’s Council Chambers, to discuss how to proceed with the next phases of planning the permanent memorial.
First Selectman Pat Llodra joined the panel to answer any questions the commission members had and to offer advice and insight for the project.
The commission discussed their current access to the SAC Field property on Riverside Road, which includes the land designated for the permanent memorial, as well as a portion that is for the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company and the Newtown Underwater Search & Rescue.
During the land transfer process from the SAC Field Board of Trustees to the Town of Newtown, members have had to go through the town’s Land Use Agency to walk the site.
SHPMC Chair Kyle Lyddy said, “Once everything is signed, we will be sending a letter to those on Riverside Road just simply stating this is where we stand right now moving forward with the land.”
According to Land Use Agency Director of Planning George Benson, as of Friday, May 12, the land deed was signed and filed, bringing the project one step closer to completion.
SHPMC’s Design Subcommittee member Sarah Middeleer led the conversation about the recent developments with the design phase.
She and fellow SHPMC Design Subcommittee member Agni Pavlidou Kyprianou met with Newtown resident Jim Ryan, who owns a multidisciplinary architecture and land survey firm, and who is also on the town’s conservation commission. He was able to give them information about how to best utilize the land, without designing the memorial itself.
“He has very, very graciously provided his services to us already in the form of a site survey, which resulted in a map that we will be able to distribute to prospective designers,” said Ms Middeleer.
Mr Ryan also walked the site with environmental consultant Beth Evans to assess specific areas, like the two ponds.
“She said she thought the ponds were healthy and that there was potential for incorporating them into the setting,” Ms Middeleer said. “She did note there were a lot of invasive plants, and if they could be removed, the ponds could be quite lovely.”
Ms Middeleer explained that Ms Evans recommended leaving the trees by the pond’s banks to allow for shade and to cool the water.
Another important development that came from Mr Ryan’s walk of the property, Ms Middeleer said, was that he would “have the wetlands flagged.” She explained this meant that upon the report coming in, they would know how buildable the soils are and what can and cannot be done by the ponds.
Moving Toward The RFP
Mrs Llodra brought three templates for the request for proposal (RFP) to help the SHPMC members decide what type would work best for the permanent memorial project.
“Each of these, I think, will provide some guidance to you, as you think about the RFP process,” said Mrs Llodra.
One of the examples she mentioned was from the Brian Bill Memorial at Veterans Park in Stamford, which honors Navy SEAL Brian Bill, who died in 2011 after the helicopter he was in was shot down by enemy fire in Afghanistan.
She explained that detailing the message of what the memorial is about is important in the RFP, because it gives the designer background information and a better understanding about what they are representing.
The RFP will ultimately be the formal guidelines that all the prospective design responses go through.
“Think through that process pretty carefully; that is the vehicle for response to you,” Mrs Llodra said. “This is the biggest hurdle that you have right now.”
Ms Middeleer said the SHPMC’s Design Subcommittee has been working on a guidelines document similar to the RFP templates. She said she will formulate it to fit a RFP with hopes to share it will the commission at next month’s meeting.
Options For Fundraising
According Mr Lyddy, there is $160,000 that was “donated to the town after 12/14 specifically for a memorial and different groups who have pledged to contribute dollars to our group specifically for this project.”
That money is intended to be used at the commission’s discretion for preliminary expenses.
SHPMC member Donna Van Waalwijk has taken on the task of researching the best fundraising options for the permanent memorial.
At the meeting, Ms Van Waalwijk reported that she recently learned much valuable information that can help them during this fundraising stage after speaking with the donation director of the Salvation Army, who volunteered her time and consulting for the commission.
“What I got out of the whole hour-and-a-half that we talked is that people are waiting to be asked,” Ms Van Waalwijk said.
She also relayed to the commission that members essentially have three options moving forward: to have town pay for 100 percent of the project; to have the commission raise 100 percent of the project funds; or to have the commission partner with the town for some expenses and do fundraising for the remaining amount.
Mrs Llodra told the group that when requesting funds to be budgeted by the town any projects that exceed $1.5 million has to go to a referendum, but that any amount under $1.5 million goes to the Legislative Council for the decision to be approved.
“I think the town has a responsibility here, so I would say at the very least you might want to become a partner with the town,” Mrs Llodra said. “I think it is a very viable model, so I would offer that as a possibility.”
She also added that the group should not be afraid of a referendum vote, as they want residents to feel connected with the permanent memorial project.
Mrs Llodra explained that the intent of the site has always been to have it be a place where all types of people can go to pay tribute to the event.
The next Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 8, at 7 pm, at the Municipal Center at Fairfield Hills.