Activity, or lack thereof, with respect to some town services has highlighted two issues: what is the ”state of the town” since public buildings were shut down in March, and what are the plans going forward – especially when the weather no longer cooperates?
In the category of “or lack thereof,” consider the reduced hours of the town library. Browsing is out of the question. Access to the stock of books, movies, etc. is limited. What has all that accomplished? I don’t mean to be flippant, but why couldn’t the library follow the same rules as, say, a supermarket? In addition to the current on-line order and curbside pick-up, limit the number of people allowed in at one time, enforce social distancing, book (no pun intended) appointments to browse, etc. Our Director of Finance did state a cost saving figure from the reduced library hours, which brings me to my next point.
How is the town doing financially? We believe recreation has taken a huge hit both in projected income and we hope a proportional saving in expenses. We should also expect Public Works is operating at full capacity, not due to the pandemic, but the cleanup from the storm. These are all logical assumptions, but where is the actual information? One potentially major impact on Woodbridge was a state-mandated option for taxpayers to delay property tax payments until October 1. What has that done to our cash flow? I’m not suggesting we publish a list of property owners who took that option, but what percentage did and how much did it delay our expected revenue? And overall, how are we doing vis-à-vis the town budget – which I still maintain was tone-deaf to the financial situation of most Woodbridge taxpayers?
The issue here is transparency. We don’t see it. The Woodbridge News and Events is as skinny as it could be and basically publishes what the First Selectman writes in the Woodbridge Town News. If the Town is going to go to the effort to publish something, let’s have real information on how we’re doing financially. My guess is most of us have been looking closely at our finances over the last few months, I expect our Finance Director has done likewise for our town’s finances, so why not publish that information? Truth be told, it should probably be posted on the town website regularly, pandemic, tropical storm, or not.
Looking ahead, what’s the plan for activities centered around Town Hall, and why isn’t it open by now? Yes, I know, somewhere in to 70+ executive orders the Governor has issued since March includes keeping Town Halls shut down, but how about a little “intra-party push back” from our First Selectman to the Governor on the issue? Most other entities that have been traditionally open to the public have figured out how to operate in this temporary “new normal,” so why is Town Hall still in a Late-March style shut down? Paying taxes through the window next to the front door at Town Hall was fine in July. Might be tougher to do that in January. And with the Governor’s recent edict about limiting the number of people who can be in an indoor meeting to 25, doesn’t that allow for in-person attendance at Board of Selectmen and other meetings – for at least some of us? Thinking a lot about something on the horizon, why can’t the Town Clerk’s office accept hand delivered ballots as they have in the past? The “ballot box” now in front of Town Hall does take the Post Office partly out of the chain of custody, but it’s not a substitute for good old hand-to-hand transaction of that very important envelope. Life is moving forward, so should Woodbridge.