Bethel approves last piece of funding to expand business park
BETHEL — If all goes well, town officials say the long-awaited Clarke Business Park expansion project could be completed as early as next fall.
Six months after securing state funding, Bethel’s Board of Finance voted Tuesday to approve the use of general fund money for the town’s contribution to the project — the cost of which is now estimated around $1.5 million.
“This is a project that has been about 20 or 25 years in the making,” First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said.
The town has wanted to expand the industrial park for years but has had to put it on hold.
“The park was never fully built out from its original plan for a number of reasons, one (of which) was lack of water,” Knickerbocker said.
After roughly six years of work revamping the water system, the Eureka Lake water storage tank project was completed in 2016.
Knickerbocker said the “last part of the puzzle” was obtaining funding from the state, which happened last July when the state Bond Commission approved a $635,000 grant-in-aid for the town to move forward with the Clarke Park expansion.
Local officials say expanding the park would not only allow existing businesses to grow, but could attract new ones — resulting in more job opportunities and potential grand list growth through new tax revenue.
The plan is to add four commercial lots — totaling 13.2 acres — to Trowbridge Drive, as well as a cul-desac on the southern edge of the park and infrastructure like water and sewer to the new lots.
“Because the town of Bethel is the developer, we have to put the infrastructure in place before we can sell the lots,” Knickerbocker explained.
Economic Development Commission Chair Mike Boyle said the hope is to have site work commence sometime in the late spring.
“If all goes well and we get the project completed by the late fall, we can have the lots ready and hopefully secure some sales before the year ends,” he said. “That would be the ideal situation.”
Boyle said the town got bids on the project before COVID, and the application for the state grant it later received was based on those original cost estimates.
After the original low bidder fell through, the town went out to bid again.
A request for proposals went out in August to get bids and construction estimates from contractors interested in doing the expansion work, and Bethel’s
Procurement Committee picked excavating contractor TD & Sons, which had the low bid of $1.2 million.
Due to increased labor and construction costs, the expected cost of the expansion project is more than originally estimated.
“Right now, we have a state contribution of $635,000 and we’re looking for a town contribution of $872,633 — bringing the total project cost to $1.5 million,” Boyle said.
Even though the cost has gone up, he said the town would still make a profit off the Clarke Park expansion.
The town has expected to sell the property’s four lots for a total of $1.65 million. With the increased estimated project cost, Boyle said the town could be looking at a profit of about $777,000.
Boyle said a number of companies — including a manufacturer in Danbury — have expressed interest in the proposed lots.
“There are people interested in buying, and we haven’t even published a price,” he said.
Expansion of the industrial park will not only enhance the “tremendous asset” Clarke Park already is, Boyle said, but grow Bethel’s tax base and grand list.
“This is an investment that’s been a long time coming that we’re very excited about,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a home run.”