- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Funding for major improvements to Hartford’s XL Center and contentious improvements to a Milford state park were among a host of projects to receive long-awaited state capital funds on Wednesday.

It marked the first time the State Bond Commission has met in about five months due to the delayed state budget.

“Now that we finally have a biennial budget in place, we must get back to conducting the business of the state,” said Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who chairs the panel which approves allotments of borrowed state funds.

Malloy and Republican state Rep. Chris Davis, of Ellington, clashed over the $40 million for the XL Center, an aging, multi-purpose arena in downtown Hartford that hosts concerts, UConn basketball games, minor league hockey and other events. Davis questioned the expense given the state’s continuing fiscal problems, arguing the allocation sends a bad message at a time when cuts are being made to state programs, such as financial assistance to eligible seniors for Medicare expenses.

But Malloy pointed out how the $40 million is a capital investment, not an operating expense, and that a modernized XL Center is crucial to making Connecticut’s capital region more attractive, especially to younger people.

“A good part of Hartford’s economy is based around that facility,” he said.

Malloy also defended an allocation of $9.1 million for improvements to Silver Sands State Park in Milford, including a new concession building, restrooms, an office and a maintenance garage, despite some local opposition about the scope of the project. Malloy noted it’s a state asset that should be welcoming to everyone, not just Milford residents.

The commission also approved $94.5 million to help rebuild an aging railroad bridge on the New Haven Line in Norwalk, millions of dollars in grants to municipalities, improvements to state facilities, economic development assistance to businesses and body cameras for 14 police departments, including $790,421 for New Haven.

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