EHartford in line for possible $1.3M to renovate trails, purchase post office for library

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Jul. 24—EAST HARTFORD — The town is in line to receive some $1.3 million in federal funds to renovate local trails and help purchase more space for the library, should Congress approve a federal appropriations bill.

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, announced in a press release that funds are included in the bill drafted by the Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled for consideration by the House of Representatives next week.


WHAT: The town of East Hartford is in line to receive $1.3 million in federal funds for proposed renovations.

WHERE: The town requested $700,000 to purchase the old post office to expand the library, and $600,000 to repair the trail along the Hockanum River.

If approved intact, the town would receive $700,000 for repairs and renovations to the Hockanum River Linear Park Trail, and $600,000 to purchase the East Hartford downtown post office as added space for the Raymond Library.

Town Council Chairman Richard Kehoe said that, if approved, the $700,000 would replace the wooden decks along the trail and implement measures to reduce flooding. Wooden decks were placed along the trail when it was built decades ago to make the wetlands easier to walk through, but they've since deteriorated heavily.

"The plan is to use not wood, but a composite that doesn't rot when it gets wet," Kehoe said of the decking material, adding that another benefit lies in the increasing price of lumber.

Kehoe said the trail is important to the town because of its beauty, and renovations are necessary in order to keep it safe.

"You walk along it and you don't even know you're in East Hartford," Kehoe said.

The $600,000, meanwhile, would be used to purchase the historic post office building for use by the Raymond Library, allowing it to expand their campus. Library Director Sarah Morgan said plans are not set in stone, but the acquisition would open up many opportunities for the library.

"We are exploring potential uses of the property, and plan to meet with residents and community partners to draw up a plan that best meets the community needs," Morgan said.

The Raymond Library has undergone extensive renovations since 2013, receiving over $9 million in funding and donations from the state and private groups. Originally envisioned as a 14,000-square-foot expansion to the library, additional renovations in recent years include updates to the atrium and new facilities such as a Makerspace, a community workspace offering tools and software that residents may not own themselves.

Kehoe said nothing has been decided yet, but one proposed idea was to open up a coffee shop for library patrons, following a trend that many other libraries are doing.

Morgan said the library provides many services that could take advantage of the additional space the post office would provide, including meeting rooms, public computers, and their Makerspace program.

"A larger library campus represents a great opportunity for East Hartford residents, and an asset to Main Street," Morgan said.

The town and the city of Hartford are also in line for some $200,000 for a feasibility study on repairs to deficiencies in the flood management system along the Connecticut River. Kehoe said the town would not expect to need to take serious action on the study, as their flood management facilities are currently working as intended.

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