Retiring Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, whose part-time job is coaching the Berlin High School football team, has helped push through $2.8 million in state funding for new synthetic school athletic fields and facilities at the town’s Scalise Field.
The Berlin agenda item is the lone school improvement listed in Friday’s State Bond Commission agenda that includes $15 million in competitive grants for school security, as well as $270 million for a variety of generic school construction projects.
Aresimowicz says that the synthetic field the Berlin Redcoats football team plays on was already paid for by the town and that the bond commission item is for the replacement of other school fields where gym classes, intramurals, soccer and youth football is played.
“Right now, that field is unplayable,” Aresimowicz said. The replacement of a scoreboard, construction of restrooms and a running track, as well as a road relocation in Sage Park is included in the item that the commission is expected to approve during Friday’s morning meeting.
“The town asked me to explore it a year and a half ago, but between COVID and other issues, it has been delayed,” said Aresimowicz, a 16-year lawmaker who is finishing his fourth year as speaker. For the last four years he has also led the football Redcoats, named for the color of the clay used by the famous local brickmakers that would stain workers’ garments.
Incoming House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said Wednesday night that it’s not surprising that Gov. Ned Lamont, who sets the commission agenda, agreed to help out Berlin in Aresimowicz’s final days in office.
“Joe has spent many years in public service,” said Candelora, who while often differing with majority Democrats, credited Aresimowicz with the bipartisan state budget compromise in 2017. Candelora said he was slightly envious, because North Branford does not have synthetic turf on its many town-owned fields.
“Globally, I’m not going to pick on this project,” Candelora said. “There is always a level of expectation, and leaders who serve, advocate for their towns. Knowing Joe, it’s not his style. It’s an important investment for any community. Communities love their sports.”
The more-important issue may be what the pandemic is doing to the state budget and its bond cap, he said. Also on the agenda is $3 million to purchase new and replacement body cameras and digital data storage for the Connecticut State Police.