Site leads to spat as Gro­ton works to get sail of its name­sake sub

Some town coun­cilors are un­happy with how Bridge Street was picked

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By DEB­O­RAH STRASZHEIM Day Staff Writer

Gro­ton — The USS Gro­ton Sail Foun­da­tion has raised more than $200,000 to­ward cre­at­ing a mon­u­ment to dis­play the sail of the town’s name­sake nu­clear at­tack sub­ma­rine, and the foun­da­tion plans to build the me­mo­rial on Bridge Street.

Wil­liam Vogel, chair­man of the foun­da­tion board of di­rec­tors, told the Town Coun­cil on Tues­day that the foun­da­tion has signed a let­ter of in­tent to buy the land near the World War II Na­tional Sub­ma­rine Me­mo­rial for the USS Gro­ton Sail me­mo­rial.

Sev­eral coun­cilors said they were un­happy with how that de­ci­sion was made.

“I can’t fig­ure out for the life of me how peo­ple are go­ing to be able to go down there with cars and kids and civic groups and ev­ery­thing else,” Coun­cilor Karen Mor­ton said. “I mean, there’s no place to park. It’s very in­ac­ces­si­ble.” Mor­ton said she thought the sail was go­ing to go near Gro­ton Pub­lic Li­brary.

A site se­lec­tion com­mit­tee looked at 28 pos­si­ble sites for the sail, in­clud­ing the lawn of Gro­ton Heights, the up­per Costa prop­erty on Thames Street and land near the li­brary and Gro­ton Se­nior Cen­ter.

Town Coun­cilor Rich Mo­ravsik, who served on the site com­mit­tee, said the Bridge Street site has no bath­rooms for peo­ple who visit and is more costly than other sites.

“I’m out­raged at the way this was han­dled,” Coun­cilor Bon­nie Nault said, de­scrib­ing it as hav­ing been “hi­jacked” by for­mer Gro­ton City Mayor Mar­ian Gal­braith.

Gal­braith is a mem­ber of the sail foun­da­tion’s board of di­rec­tors and chair­man of its steer­ing com­mit­tee, which is han­dling fundrais­ing.

She did not at­tend the meet­ing, but when reached by phone later Tues­day night, Gal­braith said, “I think it’s

un­for­tu­nate that this is be­ing made into some­thing per­sonal or po­lit­i­cal, be­cause this was a (board of di­rec­tors) de­ci­sion.” She said they went on a tour of some of the pro­posed sites, saw the Bridge Street lo­ca­tion and liked it.

Vogel, who was not in­volved in the process when the site se­lec­tion com­mit­tee was ac­tive, said it was late in the re­view when the Bridge Street op­tion was found. Peo­ple liked the site be­cause it was on the wa­ter and is half­way be­tween the Naval Sub­ma­rine Base and Elec­tric Boat, he said. The foun­da­tion board of di­rec­tors voted unan­i­mously in 2016 to choose the site, Vogel said. Park­ing would be avail­able in the lot be­hind the Na­tional Sub­ma­rine Me­mo­rial, he said.

The “sail” of a sub­ma­rine is the tower-like por­tion that pro­trudes from the hull at the cen­ter of the ship.

The USS Gro­ton (SSN-694), a Los An­ge­les-class at­tack sub, was the third Navy ship named for Gro­ton. Built at Elec­tric Boat, it was launched in Oc­to­ber 1976, com­mis­sioned in July 1978, and de­com­mis­sioned in Novem­ber 1997. The ship was await­ing dis­po­si­tion in Bre­mer­ton, Wash.

The town ini­tially owned the land where the sail would be placed, but af­ter the Gold Star Me­mo­rial Bridge was built, the town turned it over to a pri­vate owner, Vogel said. The foun­da­tion is now buy­ing the land back. The foun­da­tion has spent some money but has more than $100,000 in the bank and enough to buy the land, he said. The group ul­ti­mately hopes to raise $2 mil­lion for the project and have the mon­u­ment ready for the sum­mer of 2019.

Mayor Bruce Flax said he un­der­stands why the de­ci­sion was made and he sup­ports the final plan. But he doesn’t like how it played out; the town gave the pri­vate owner the land for free and he’s now sell­ing it back to the town, Flax said. The ask­ing price was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

COUR­TESY OF USS GRO­TON SAIL FOUN­DA­TION

A ren­der­ing of the fu­ture USS Gro­ton sail mon­u­ment.

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