MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — This Election Day, Middletown voters will be asked to decide on $13.5 million in funding for a new boathouse on the riverfront. 

The questions asks, “Shall the $13,500,000 appropriation and bond authorization for the planning, design, construction, renovation, furnishing and equipping of a new boathouse and renovations to the existing John Smith Boathouse be approved?” 

The city’s boathouse building committee has been working on this project for seven years. Gerry Daley, the committee’s chairman, said it’s an investment in young people and the Connecticut River riverfront. 

“Encouraging more activity on the river benefits the entire community,” he said. “We hope this one will be just one piece of the riverfront revitalization that is currently underway, and that the community is committed to.”

He added that the budget includes contingency for if the cost of construction increases.

“This is not an extravagant or an elaborate plan,” he said. “It would meet the basic needs for the high school rowing program.” 

The Middletown High School rowing team shares the John K. Smith boathouse with the city’s recreation department rowing club, Central Connecticut Rowing. 

Scot Peaslee, the head crew coach at the high school, said the current boathouse is too small, doesn’t have heat, can’t store equipment properly and has holes in the walls. 

“A lot of our equipment that we have fundraised for and want to maintain is currently at risk in the boathouse as it exists right now,” he said. 

In the proposal, $13.5 million in funding would build a new 12,000 square foot building with new bays to store boats, a workout space that doubles as a meeting room, and updated locker rooms and bathrooms. To view the proposed plan, click here

The money would also fund renovations to the current boathouse, primarily to increase accessibility. That building will mainly be used by the Central Connecticut Rowing Club. 

Some voters said $13 million for a boathouse is too much and there are other problems the city needs to address. 

“It’s absurd, I think they should help the homeless,” Roger Munck said. “I see veterans on streets sleeping on benches, not sure when they’re going to eat, when or where they’re going to eat, usually at soup kitchens right up the street. That’s where I think the 13 million bucks should go — build a hotel for them.” 

If approved, the new boathouse would be open early 2025.