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From the First Selectman 11/20/20

I am writing this recent column a day after the State Department of Public Health has designated the Town of Woodbridge as an “orange-alert” municipality, due to the number of positive COVID cases recorded in our Town.  Except for Bethany, all our surrounding towns are in the “red alert” category.  If you are interested in viewing the State of Connecticut centralized data map, please google “CT COVID-19 data tracker.”  The State has also reverted to Phase 2.1 from Phase 3, due to a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations throughout Connecticut.  I remind you that this includes limiting gatherings at private residences to ten people, whether these are indoors or outdoors.  I remain very concerned that as we head into the colder fall and winter months, our numbers of positive cases will only continue to rise.

We must all do our part and remain vigilant.  I have stated over and over again over the past nine months, it is up to us to do the three simple things that will save lives and stop the spread of COVID 19.  Number one:  WEAR A MASK! Number two:  Wash your hands!  Number three:  Maintain a safe social distance from each other!  Woodbridge residents must continue to each do our part to show that we care and respect each other by doing these three simple things.  Thank you all for your help.

All residents in orange-alert and red-alert towns are encouraged by the State of CT Department of Public Health to get tested regularly – even if you are asymptomatic.  To find a convenient testing site, please visit www.211ct.org/covidtesting, enter your zip code or town, and press the yellow search icon.  Additionally, Griffin Hospital in Derby has expanded its hours to offer weekend testing times.  If you call 203 437 6815 to make an appointment, and use the word “community” you will not need a doctor’s note for a test.

Our Town Clerks and Registrars of Voters did an outstanding job running the recent presidential election.  Turn-out in Woodbridge was just shy of 90%!  The Town Clerks have also been dealing with the significant increase in home sales here in Town, and the Building Department has reported that there are several new homes being built, and have also received inquiries about a few more that may or may not start this winter.  Despite the pandemic, we continue to do the business of the Town for our residents.  Our Town buildings remain open to residents by appointment.  I also send special thanks to our Library staff for all they have done to make our library open for residents.  So many folks have called me to let me know what a wonderful lifeline our town library has been for them during this pandemic.

Recently I visited the town-owned Darling House property and watched the deconstructed one room schoolhouse (AKA “Little Lucy”) being removed from the yellow cow barn.  It was quite an impressive sight.  The Woodbridge resident who took the pieces plans to reconstruct the barn, if possible, as a project with his children, and perhaps repurpose some of the wood as well.  I thank the members of Public Works, especially Brad Parsons and Bob Hauser, the Amity Woodbridge Historical Society (the Society), and the Thomas Darling House Advisory Committee for all their help working together to complete this project.  Special thanks go to Woodbridge resident Chris Sorensen for removing all the pieces and transporting them to their new home.

Getting this accomplished will now help with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) grant that we hope to receive soon, to survey the cow barn, the ice house, and the horse barn attached to the home.  Hopefully, this will enable the Society and the Town to apply for grant funding for improvements to all three structures.  In other Darling House news, occupancy for the home’s caretaker apartment has now been approved by the Fire Marshal and Building Official, following several safety upgrades and repairs, and the new tenants have moved in.

I am pleased to announce that the Town has been awarded a $128,205.00 STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) grant for renovations and improvements to the Senior Center.  That is certainly wonderful news.  This grant will provide much needed funding to help transform the antiquated space into a modern and welcoming location for our senior residents.  Many thanks to Human Services Director Jeanette Glicksman and Administrative Officer Tony Genovese and our Human Services and Finance Departments for submitting this grant application.  Additionally, the Town has just received notice of an award of $70,098 from the CVRF (the Corona Virus Relief Fund) and $36,519 from FEMA, confirming reimbursement through June 30th.  A special thank you to Town Employee Kelly Hammill for all her efforts getting all the data entered for this grant application.  Lastly, the CT State Library Office of the Public Records Division has awarded the Town a $5,500.00 Historic Preservation Grant.  Many thanks to our Town Clerk Stephanie Ciarleglio for submitting this application.

The Board of Selectmen voted at our Regular meeting on November 10th to fund a new part-time planner position.  I envision that a planner will create a plan to determine long-term use for the Town-owned former Country Club of Woodbridge; revitalize the Town’s business district; work on and help implement the Town’s Complete Streets plan; help us coordinate with the federal government on the terrible flooding issues in lower Woodbridge; help work on the State-required creation of an affordable housing plan; and add support to the ad hoc 2030 Task Force, among many other things.  Despite the pandemic, the forward work for our Town continues.

The Board also received and reviewed a proposal from an engineer who might provide the Town with technical advice to review the proposed Verizon application to place a cell tower in a residential neighborhood at 118 Newton Road.  At a special meeting in October, the Board voted unanimously to hire Attorney Ira Bloom to advise the Town in its opposition to location of the tower in a residential neighborhood, and I anticipate we MAY need to hire an engineer as well.  The Board is not opposed to a new cell tower being located in Woodbridge, but believe it should NOT be in a residential neighborhood.  We continue to explore alternative sites, and we are told that Verizon is in no hurry to file an application, which gives us more time to do our due diligence and find an appropriate and suitable site.

Lastly, the ad hoc Woodbridge Community Council invites all new residents to save the date for a virtual Welcome Coffee in late January.  I created the ad hoc Community Council to organize events and provide other opportunities for Woodbridge residents to interact, learn about each other’s culture, create “community,” and celebrate Woodbridge.  Due to the pandemic, homes are selling quickly to folks who want to leave the cities and work from home in a more suburban setting, and thus Woodbridge has many new residents.  If you are a new resident or know one, please keep an eye out for more details about this event.

I wish you all have a safe and healthy, happy Thanksgiving.  My family and I will be celebrating virtually this year.  If you plan on hosting or attending a celebration, please review the CDC’s guidance on how to do so safely, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen.  Again, please do your part to keep you, your family and friends safe!  We will remain TOGETHER, Woodbridge Strong!

As always, my door remains virtually open to you.  If you need to reach me please call 203-389-3401 or email me at bheller@woodbridgect.org.

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