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From the First Selectman – July 2022

On Tuesday June 14th, the Amity Regional School District 5 budget was passed at a third referendum, following two unsuccessful referenda.  I understand many in the community had different reasons for either voting to approve it or voting against it.  I think that one of the issues that some folks had concerns about, was the newly-created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position at Amity Regional High School.  Our town and our schools are becoming more diverse, and it is important that we acknowledge that.  Sometimes, change can be uncomfortable, but it can also be an opportunity.  I believe it is very important that all residents, and all students, feel respected, safe and heard.

Recently all three schools in the Amity Regional School District made a commitment to receive the No Place for Hate designation, a program of the Anti-Defamation League.  Twelve Connecticut schools achieved this honor and Amity is the only school district in which all its schools were recognized.

Students on the No Place for Hate committees for the Amity Middle Schools of Bethany and Orange came together in Fall 2021 for a training session with the ADL and then designed whole-school activities to raise awareness about issues of diversity and fairness.  The high school students included the No Place for Hate kick off as part of the Fall 2021 Day of Dialogue.  Congratulations to these students for this well-deserved achievement award.

In the summer of 2020, I created an ad hoc Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, made up of eight individuals who are interested in identifying issues related to diversity in the Town of Woodbridge.  They will work on determining steps to enhance diversity and inclusion.

The Town of Woodbridge’s DEI committee is just wrapping up an online survey – the goal of which is to ensure that Woodbridge is inviting and affirming for all current and future residents – and I am interested to find out what they have learned and how they’ll respond.  Findings will help the committee identify opportunities to better engage and serve all residents of our increasingly diverse community.  I will keep you informed on their progress.

As an update on the Town’s Affordable Housing Plan:  The Board of Selectmen, at its Special Meeting on May 25th, 2022, voted to approve and adopt the Affordable Housing Plan which was prepared by the Town’s Housing Opportunity Study Committee.  I am extremely pleased that the Committee completed its work by the state deadline of June 1, 2022.  Woodbridge is one of only about half of the municipalities in the State of Connecticut that submitted its plan prior to the deadline.  You may view the plan on the Housing Study Committee’s page on the Town website.

I have heard from a few residents who were unhappy about Town-owned properties listed as sites which MAY be considered for housing.  The mere fact that those properties were listed by the committee in no way means that they will be sites for housing.  The Housing Committee included those sites, as well as other privately-owned properties, due to their size and access to sewer and water.  Also, the filing of the plan does not limit the town’s ability to modify the plan at any time in the future – in fact we must update it every five years.

The goal of the plan is to have 10% of our housing stock affordable.  The State is in a housing crunch; more housing and more affordable housing is greatly needed.  In Woodbridge we need to diversify our housing stock.  We have a lot of large single-family homes, but not a lot of smaller homes, which are more appealing to first-time buyers and empty nesters.  More diverse housing and affordable housing will help with that.

Another plan that we are working on is the Board of Selectmen’s Strategic Plan.  It has three main goals:  ensure financial stability; maintain and invest in infrastructure and facilities; and enhance quality of life.  The Strategic Plan is available on the Town website on the Board of Selectmen’s page.  We would love, and welcome, your feedback!  The subcommittee – Selectmen Sheila McCreven and David Vogel – are now working on how to manage and implement the plan.  I also anticipate using the Strategic Plan when deciding how to spend the Town’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

Please keep your eyes open for the public information meeting the 2030 Task Force will hold in July.  The task force is charged with growing our grand list and it is focusing on the business district.  Please attend this meeting to learn about its efforts and share your ideas.  Once a date and location is finalized for the meeting, it will be on the Town website.

As a reminder to all residents – Town offices (including the Library) will be closed on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 for professional development and to allow staff to take the time to sort their offices.

Earlier this month I received a phone call from Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro with good news.  Since 2019, I have been working with her office to get an Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study seeking recommendations for remediation along the West River and Konold’s Pond.  She called to let me know that the Army Corps of Engineers has finally signed off on phase one of the study which will determine the cost of the second level study.  That second study will recommend if and/or how we should dredge the pond and river.

Over the years, flooding has become an increasing problem, as more and more silt has built up in the pond, and there is nowhere for the water to go when it rains.  Removing the Pond Lily Dam alleviated some of the problem, but it still remains that almost every time we have a storm, the houses, and the businesses in the area continue to flood.  Hopefully this is at least a beginning to solving a dreadful problem for these folks.  Unfortunately, this is moving much slower than I would have hoped, but we have some progress in the right direction.

A reminder for dog owners:  June is dog licensing month in Connecticut.  All dog license holders were mailed a new license application.  New dog owners should contact the Town Clerk’s office (203-389-3424).  Additionally, please remember that dogs must be leashed at all times when in a public area.  This town ordinance is in place for the safety of everyone in our community.

Wishing everyone a safe healthy beginning to summer.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas or questions you may have.  Thank you!

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