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From the First Selectman 2/12/16

It is budget season at Town Hall and we are working to craft a budget that maintains our award-winning schools and high level of services while respecting the pocketbooks of our residents by controlling our mil rate. One challenge this year is the Amity School budget which alone is increasing by close to $1M, due in large part to a shift in the proportion of Woodbridge students in the system. (The Amity budget is not within the authority of our Board of Finance. It is proposed by the Amity Board of Education and voted on by referendum in the three Amity towns.)

As our Boards of Finance and Selectmen continue the budget process, the “elephant in the room” is often the future of the Country Club of Woodbridge property (CCW). You, the voters of Woodbridge, will decide that question, but before asking you to do so, I want to do all I can to be sure you have the relevant facts, options and impacts. I also want to share my framework for evaluating our options.

As I see it, there are several goals with respect to the future of the property. First and foremost is coming up with a fiscally responsible plan. We should be cognizant of positioning ourselves to address the evolving and growing list of Town needs and priorities, both known and unanticipated. The Police Department, Recreation Department and Senior Center have all been awaiting action on a Town Center Plan for some time; long-time Town residents who wish to downsize would like an option to stay in Woodbridge. Also, of course, any plan should be consistent with the culture, look and feel of our community, including our commitment to open space.

The boards of Selectmen and Finance have been meeting jointly to recap the financial history of the Town’s purchase of the property, learn about the current finances of the golf and pool operations and the condition of the clubhouse, and evaluate various options. This information will now be presented to other Town boards and commissions for input from their members. Once we research and answer any questions that arise at these meetings, we will hold public informational forums to discuss and review the data and options and answer questions.

The presentations made to the boards are all available on the Town’s website at www.woodbridgect.org/CCWFuture and all the meetings are posted and open to the public. Key financial data you will find on our website include: the cost to purchase the property ($7M), additional net costs plus remaining interest (~$3.5M), how much remains on the Town’s debt ($5.6M), and more.

We have several options to consider at this time. They include continuing current operations (pool, tennis and golf and maintaining access to locker rooms on the first floor of the clubhouse) with the concomitant operational and infrastructure costs; shutting down all or some operations and mothballing the building for possible future uses; and consideration of housing on a portion of the property with the remainder available for Town uses such as walking and bike trails, a 9-hole golf course, other recreational facilities such as an ice skating rink or allowing the land to return to its natural state.

Again, it is the voters of Woodbridge who will – and should – decide the future uses of the CCW. I am committed to providing the information you need to be well-informed when making that decision and as always, I am interested to hear your thoughts and comments. You can reach me at escalettar@woodbridgect.org. To stay on top of this and other Town news and events, please sign up for our enewsletter at tinyurl.com/WoodbridgeEnews.

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