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From the First Selectman 2/12/21

February 2021 will be interesting and challenging for all of us, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day differently this year.  I wish everyone in Woodbridge a very Happy (and safe) Valentine’s Day!  There are several ways during this month that should you choose, you might show how much you care about our community…especially as we continue to work together to fight the pandemic.

The Town is hosting our last scheduled free COVID testing event on Valentines’ Day – Sunday February 14th from 1:30-4:30 pm at the Center Building Gym (4 Meetinghouse Lane).  This is a free PCR test, and no appointments are needed.  Results are usually ready in about 48 hours.  I encourage you to take advantage of this program.  These free tests help identify people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.  Getting tested is important to help stop the spread and keep those you love safe.  If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or think you have symptoms, please call your doctor.  And, of course, please continue to wash your hands, wear your mask, and practice social distancing.

The Town’s Human Services Department has done a wonderful job to help get residents age 75 and over vaccinated.  The Department reached out to more than 700 residents over the age of 75, to offer help getting a vaccination.  Partnering with the Quinnipiack Valley Health District, Human Services held a vaccination clinic for 70 Woodbridge seniors, many of whom are our Town’s most vulnerable citizens.  They have been able to get other seniors to QVHD’s regular testing site in North Haven and also helped residents secure vaccine appointments at other locations.  The dedication helping our residents navigate this stressful, complicated, and frequently changing system has just been nothing short of amazing!  I thank them all.

The Economic Development Commission (EDC) is asking residents to “show some love” for our local businesses.  Every Monday in February, the EDC will post a request on the Town’s Facebook and Instagram pages for people to share a Woodbridge business that you love and why.  Everyone who responds on these pages by Friday at 9 am will be entered in a drawing for $25 in Woodbridge Bucks which may then be redeemed at participating Town businesses.  Please visit the Town website at www.woodbridgect.org for program details and a list of businesses where you are able to redeem Woodbridge Bucks.  Please LOVE your local businesses, and Shop, Dine, and Try Woodbridge!

Last fall, the Town offered compost bins at discounted prices.  The program was so successful we had to develop a waiting list!  Now, we have joined our regional partner, South Central Regional Council of Governments, to offer a slightly different program for discounted compost bins and rain barrels.  Composting is an easy way to divert heavy food waste, such as vegetable scraps and coffee grounds, from the waste stream (saving the Town money!) while creating rich healthy soil for gardening.  Program information is on the Town website, including where you might purchase the bins – they will be available for pick up at the Town’s Earth Day event on the morning of Saturday April 24.  This event will follow COVID-19 guidance – masks and social distancing are required.  Please save the date – details will come soon.

There is certainly wonderful news in Town, despite the pandemic – many new residents are choosing to move to Woodbridge!  To welcome them, the Ad Hoc Community Council held a virtual coffee hour last month.  I loved being part of this fabulous event, and I do hope there are more opportunities for new residents to feel less isolated during the pandemic, find friendly faces, meet new neighbors, make new friends, and ask questions.  New residents at the event came from as far away as California and as close as New Haven.  Many had young families and others were retired.  Pets even joined in on the virtual meeting.  If you have a new neighbor on your block please welcome them (safely!) and encourage them to call Town Hall (203-389-3400) with any questions they might have, and encourage them to review the “Welcome Guide” on the Town’s website under the Community section.

Our Boards of Selectmen and Finance are working diligently on the budget for the coming fiscal year.  We have directed departments and commissions to be extra mindful of taxpayer dollars this year due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.  Creating the Town’s budget is a long and deliberative process and would not be possible without input from volunteer board members and commissioners, and Town staff.  Over the past few weeks, the Board of Selectmen and Finance heard from all departments and commissions with their budget requests.  The Board of Selectmen will meet later this month to make their recommendations to the Board of Finance.  The Board of Finance will then make appropriate adjustments to the budget, and finally, hold a virtual Preliminary Budget Hearing in April, at which residents may ask questions or make comments.  Following that, the budget will be finalized and voted on in May at the Annual Town Meeting.

Every time we go through the budget process it becomes clearer to me that we need to grow and diversify our Grand List.  We have consolidated staff positions and cut programs.  There are very few ways we can make additional meaningful cuts to the budget without cutting services, so we need to focus on growing revenue.  The 2030 Task Force is examining how to do that with a goal of having a healthier Grand List by 2030.  I look forward to hearing their recommendations.

As you probably know, the Town Plan & Zoning Commission is continuing hearings to consider an application to amend the Zoning Regulations and the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development to permit multi-family housing in most of the Town’s residential districts, with affordable, cluster-type housing.  You may view the application, other documents, and videos of the Public Hearings on the Town Plan & Zoning Commission page on the Town’s website, woodbridgect.org.

A committee of town residents and land use experts will be appointed to study these important issues and make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.  Additionally, the Board has hired a town planning consultant to work with the TP&Z Commission to study the Town’s regulations.  All the hearings are streamed live on local access cable Channel 79, on the WGATV YouTube channel, and on Webex.  The meeting agenda on the Town website includes the link to view as well as participate in the meetings.  I am confident that the Zoning Commission will review the application in a fair, thorough, and thoughtful way, and provide an opportunity for all sides to be heard.  I am equally confident that Woodbridge will remain the wonderful community that we have all come to love.

As always, my door remains virtually open to you.  Together we will get through this – we are Woodbridge Strong!  If you need to reach me, call 203-389-3401 or email me at bheller@woodbridgect.org.  Please keep safe!

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