At the end of this month we will move into the final quarter of the fiscal year. At this time of year, the Board of Selectmen is mindful of both the current year’s budget which will end June 30th, and the next fiscal year’s spending plans as they come into focus during our budget setting process. Meanwhile, there are many projects and initiatives on our drawing boards, and we are moving forward, carefully but with all deliberate speed. Here is an update:
Former Country Club Property
Deciding the future of the former-Country Club property is a key component of our Town’s continued fiscal health. Working closely with the Board of Selectmen, I am pleased that our efforts to address this issue have resulted in two significant proposals from reputable developers for over-55 housing on an area roughly one-third of the parcel. I expect the Board of Selectmen will choose one of the proposals to send to townspeople for a Special Town Meeting and a referendum, as I believe is our responsibility to do. Again, the voters will decide.
At our February Board meeting, we received the first draft of the Constructability Review which we requested from the Town’s engineering firm. This document is available for review on the “Current Issues and Projects” page at Town website.
The Board will take time to review this document and we will schedule a discussion for our March BOS meeting to get any questions answered that we may have. I ask that residents continue to bear with us as we bring this process to a conclusion in the immediate future. I encourage everyone to attend future meetings and share their opinion during public comment. By hearing all voices in our community, I am confident townspeople will become sufficiently informed to make the decisions necessary to ensure our Town’s continued fiscal health.
Beecher Facility Enhancements
The ad hoc committee, which was appointed last year to look into facility issues at Beecher Road School (ranging from the frozen pipe incident to the high humidity and pool equipment problems over the summer and into late autumn) has concluded its work and is set to make recommendations for action to the Board of Selectmen later this month. I am looking forward to moving forward with a plan to improve comfort issues and ensure the continued energy performance of our largest Town-owned building. As we await further details from the committee I would just like to thank the volunteers who have served in this capacity, especially Andrew Esposito who, as chairman of the committee, will present its recommendations at our March 13th Board of Selectmen meeting.
Route 15 and Heroes Tunnel
The Town has also been working collaboratively with Hamden and New Haven to look at the larger impacts of the West Rock “Heroes Tunnel” project that the CT Department of Transportation is planning. Although a construction start date estimate of Spring 2023 seems like quite a way off, as we know, projects of this magnitude require a tremendous amount of advance planning. With that in mind, we have begun meeting with officials from the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) to discuss how the tunnel project will affect the adjoining municipalities. We plan to work together to navigate the environmental review and design process, which is expected to move forward this summer. Community input in this planning process will continue to be important and I will look for opportunities to make sure community voices from Woodbridge are heard. More information is available at: heroestunnelproject.com.
Town Budget Next Steps
We began the annual budget setting process by looking at all requests received from our Town Departments and our two school districts – Beecher and Amity. I worked closely with Town Finance Director Tony Genovese to identify ways to minimize the impact to taxpayers while ensuring we continue to provide necessary services to townspeople with next year’s budget. I am happy to report we have been capturing efficiencies throughout the fiscal year with shared service efforts and consolidation of staffing. The savings we have achieved will now be embedded in our budget and we will continue to explore and pursue additional cost-savings.
I will note that, especially with regard to the Woodbridge BOE request, we continue to work with Superintendent Gilbert and his team to fine tune and look for adjustments to the Beecher budget as we await updates on items such as Health Insurance costs, the timing of which will fall into the next steps of budget decision-making. The Board of Finance will meet to make additional adjustments to come up with the proposed budget that will ultimately be presented to the people of Woodbridge; first at the Public Budget Hearing on April 22nd and then at the Annual Town Meeting on May 20th.
As always, my door at Town Hall remains open. Please feel free to visit or call me with any questions or concerns you may have, or just to say “hello.”
Beth Heller is Woodbridge First Selectman. She may be reached by phone at Town Hall, 203-389-3401, or by email to email@example.com.