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From the First Selectman: 8/26/22

As the Summer of 2022 comes to a close, and the beautiful changes of fall begin, there are also many wonderful, significant changes coming to Woodbridge’s Town Center Campus in the coming months.  Three major projects will improve the way our municipal center looks, feels and operates.  The Center Building Renovation Committee is envisioning how the Center Building can be updated and modernized.  Our Community Center Building Committee is working on the conversion of the Old Firehouse into a new Community Center and the Senior Center renovations will begin very soon.  Our new Sidewalk Project is starting soon as well.

All of these initiatives are directly related to the Board of Selectmen’s Strategic Plan, a goal of which is to “Maintain and Invest in Infrastructure and Facilities.”  They also support the “Enhance Quality of Life” goal.

Creating community has always been important to me.  Making these investments in our Town Center Campus will create friendly, welcoming places for our residents to interact with each other and build stronger ties to one another and to OUR Town.  I believe that is even more important as we slowly emerge from the pandemic and find ways to engage new residents and create an even stronger community.

At our July meeting, the Board of Selectmen set the budget for the Senior Center renovation project, utilizing mostly grant money, and designated Olympus Construction Company as the winning bidder.  This project will include an HVAC system with a high-quality air filtration system for the safety of the senior population.  It also includes a new reception area, new flooring, lighting, and other finishes in the cafeteria, lounge, and lower kitchen.  The project is expected to be completed by late winter or early spring.  I am very excited that our seniors will finally have a space that is as thoughtful, welcoming and matching the excellent quality of the programming that happens inside!

The creation of a Community Center in the Old Firehouse Building and surrounding outdoor spaces has the potential to be transformational for ALL our residents.  These redesigned spaces will provide multiple venues for Town residents to gather for organized events, social gatherings, impromptu get togethers, host art and historic exhibitions, attend classes, performances, fitness programs, etc.  The newly-appointed Community Center Building Committee has met several times to discuss the scope and process for converting the old firehouse into a Community & Cultural Center.

Input into program ideas for both indoor and outdoor space was requested from the Library, Human Services, Recreation and the Community Council.  Based on the range of ideas received, the goal is to create flexible uses for all the space in the community center.  This type of design will facilitate multiple uses for the many different types of activities that will take place in this building.  The Committee will be working with the architectural firm of Silver Petrucelli, who oversaw the infrastructure updates to the Old Firehouse, and has experience as they recently completed the conversion of a firehouse in Manchester, CT into a community center.

The Committee is considering seeking the services of a physical experience designer/community place-maker to create a design for the outdoor space which encompasses the space from the Grove, around the old firehouse and extending all the way around our beautiful Town Library.  Once design plans have been created, these will be shared with Town residents for their review and comment.

The next project is more long term.  Earlier this year I created a Center Building Renovation Committee tasked with planning, designing, constructing and recommending financing (through state and perhaps federal funding) for upgrades to convert the Center Building (the old Center School) into a modern space for offices, classrooms and programs as well as a modernized police department.  They will conduct a thorough analysis and make suggestions for all building systems including electric, plumbing, HVAC, technology infrastructure, building envelope (including roofs, windows and insulation) and finishes.  The scope of the project includes all areas of the Center Building, including the Gym, Police Department, Human Services offices, and daycare rooms, but does not include the Senior Center space which is already currently under renovation.

This committee has already met several times, toured the Center Building, including the Police Department (PD), Human Services and Woodbridge Child Center areas, and have obtained desired space needs from both the PD and Human Services.  They plan to seek the services of an architect in the near future.  Once the project scope is finalized, we can begin to seek funding for the project, which may be a combination of bonding as well as grants.

One of our most recently state funded projects will be beginning very soon as well.  As mentioned in previous articles, Woodbridge has received close to $600,000 in State of Connecticut grant funding to complete the sidewalk project from the high school to the Town Center.  Once we knew we were receiving these funds, we were in communication with First Church of Christ officials regarding this project, beginning in February of 2022.  These sidewalks are necessary for the safety of the many residents who walk on Newton Road, as well as Amity High School students who regularly cross Newton Road from the high school to access the library, Center Field and other Town buildings.  Additionally, the sidewalks will help make the entire Town Center a pedestrian friendly place.  No traffic lights are contemplated at this time.  There is one crosswalk included in the project.  The Town has also been in contact with the State Historic Preservation Office regarding this project.

Finally, the Board of Selectmen is continuing to work on ways to make our business district more attractive and welcoming to residents and businesses.  The 2030 Task Force is working with a consultant to accomplish this by growing the Town’s Grand List by 2030.  This committee will be seeking resident, property-owner and business-owner feedback and ideas at a public information session, which is currently scheduled for Thursday, September 15th at 6 pm at the New England Brewing Company.

As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have either at 203-389-3401 or bheller@woodbridgect.org.  Enjoy the rest of your summer and please stay safe!

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