The Bethany Airport hangar is a major step closer to a long hoped-for revamp, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the state of Connecticut's Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP.) The funds will go toward the years-in-the-making project to expand the hangar to offer a wide range of recreational activities -- and a handicap-accessible emergency shelter for the community during storms like Hurricane Sandy.
"We're thrilled about it," said Bethany First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski. "This is going to open doors for private foundation money, and will some leverage some additional funding … It has taken so long to accomplish what we're trying to accomplish."
With the funds, Gorski said the project can finally begin. After going through the bidding process, Gorski said she hopes to start in Spring 2013. The project had received a $200,000 STEAP grant several years ago, she said, but the funds weren't enough to kickstart the project. She credits Governor Dannel Malloy, who toured Bethany during Irene last year.
"When we drove past the hangar, I mentioned to him, 'By the way, I have a STEAP grant in,'" she said. The project, projected at a high end of $2 million, now has at least $700,000 in funding.
In a statement, Gov. Malloy said storms like Alfred, Irene and Sandy have made the need for state and municipal emergency coordination more important.
“The investments we’re announcing today will help these towns enhance their emergency response capabilities, while at same time allow them to move some really great projects forward," he said.
Statewide elected officials are enthusiastic about the plan.
“Bethany town officials and residents have shown support for this new recreational and community facility at the 120-acre site of the old airport,” said State Senator Joseph J. Crisco, Jr. (D-Woodbridge), according to a state release. “This state grant will underwrite a sizeable portion of the construction cost, allowing the town to enhance the property for residents and include an emergency operations center. I’m grateful to Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management for their favorable consideration of this project for STEAP funding.”
The grants were announced Wednesday. Bethany was one of three towns, alongside Greenwich and South Windsor, to receive funds.