Veteran’s Day gift: $128,000 for new Trumbull center

TRUMBULL — Local veterans marked Veterans Day and the traditional birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps this week and something else — word that plans for a new center was $128,000 closer to fruition.

The former Veterans Center at 1 Veterans Way on Kaatz Pond was condemned three years ago because of irreparable structural deficiencies.

The state has awarded the town a $128,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to demolish the existing building and prepare the site for construction of a new Trumbull Veterans and First Responder Center on the same site.

“This project has tremendous support from the Trumbull community,” said former First Selectman Raymond Baldwin, a veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam. “Our veterans and first responders are grateful for that support and for the project to get underway.”

The current 2,800-square foot building has stood on the site since 1940 and has been town-owned since 1968. In 1981, the town leased the property to the veterans organizations for 99 years at an annual cost of $1.

The building, which Baldwin described as “awful looking, but serviceable” on its best days, has been vacant since 2017 when the town condemned it because of structural damage. Baldwin said the town engineer determined that the building’s floor, which had settled several feet over the years, was unrepairable. The building’s 1940s mechanicals and plumbing were also not up to modern codes.

The new center will provide space for veteran organizations and services for veterans including space for meetings and social gatherings, job skills training, social services and access to health care services. It also is expected to include first responder training with an emphasis on police and dive team training, and a space for community and civic groups to hold events.

The public will also be able to rent the facility for private functions.

State Rep. David Rutigliano, R-123rd District, thanked Baldwin for his work and advocacy, and noted the timing of the announcement, saying the funds “couldn’t come at a better time.”

“This week, we commemorate Veterans Day, and many veterans have talked to me personally about the need for a new building,” he said. “I am glad that we can help with (that) first step.”

In addition to the $128,000 grant, the town is also contributing $200,000 toward the design costs. The total project is expected to cost between $2.4 million and $2.8 million.

State Rep. Ben McGorty, R-122nd District, a 25-year Shelton firefighter, said the new building would be an asset for Trumbull and the surrounding towns.

“This is a necessary investment for our veterans, our community and public safety that deserves to be a priority,” he said.

The new facility would help address a community need that was sorely lacking, said State Rep. Laura Devlin, R-134th District.

“This project is a much-needed upgrade both for our veterans and the community at large,” she said. “I look forward to its completion and am grateful that the state has recognized the importance of getting this project off the ground.”

Since the Veterans Center closed in 2017, the town’s veterans groups have led a nomadic existence before COVID-19 forced all groups to begin meeting remotely.

In January, Dan Sacco told the council that VFW Post 10059 meetings, which were being held at the library, are frustrating for everyone.

Sacco said the sometimes spirited nature of the veterans’ discussions and the traditional playing of Taps to end meetings seemed out of place in a library.

“We have to bring chairs into the room, and then bring them out when we leave,” he said. “And people are always coming in saying, ‘Keep it down, this is a library.’”

He also lamented not being able to leave a chair permanently empty for POWs and MIAs, “and those who never got to contribute to our society and live their lives.”