As I was recently driving through the town, I was reminded of what a beautiful, peaceful town we live in. The changing leaves are magnificent. I am also reminded that we all share a love for our town and I am hopeful that everyone will continue to be involved in town issues and share opinions with each other in a respectful and constructive manner.
At the October 15, 2019 Regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the Board voted to hold a Special Town Meeting in November and a Referendum in December regarding the proposal for the former Country Club of Woodbridge. On October 21, 2019 the Board convened a special meeting to cancel these two dates, until such time as the sales agreement is finalized. We are only postponing those dates, which I hope will be rescheduled in the very near future. It is very important to me, and I believe the entire Board of Selectmen, to have a completed sales agreement prior to the referendum so residents are made aware of the terms of sale prior to voting.
Following some discussion with the Board, I have also decided to retain attorney David Groggins to represent the Town in negotiations. Attorney Groggins has experience in negotiating contracts related to sale of town-owned property for aged restricted housing. Once the contract is completed, it will be available at Town Hall for public inspection.
As I have said many times, I believe strongly that this is an important and worthy project for the Town to consider. Every year it costs our Town almost half a million dollars to repay the money we borrowed to buy the former Country Club property.
The Town purchased this property in 2009 for $6.9 million. In the past, both the golf course and the swimming pool lost money. It’s time to move on. If this project is approved, we will sell approximately 60 acres of the 155 acres for development for over 55 housing for $5.4 million. We can then use some of the sales proceeds to pay off the debt, saving $500k every year, keeping 90+/- acres as open space for everyone to enjoy. Once the project is fully completed and certificates of occupancy are issued, it is anticipated that it will generate approximately $1.5M in additional property taxes annually. This project will give us real money that could be used to reduce our mill rate and most importantly, bring relief to taxpayers.
I have always stated that it is important for us to retain the additional 90 or so acres for passive Town use, much like the Fitzgerald property.
I would like to address several issues that have come up recently:
- It was stated in a recent column in the Woodbridge Town News that the approximately $900,000 of sales proceeds left after we pay the debt will “be entirely consumed for environmental remediation.” The purchaser of the property will assume the cost of all remediation on the property they are buying. The Town already remediated one significant environmental hazard near the maintenance facility and we might choose to remediate other areas depending on decided use. We have been told by our environmental consultant there is no time limit on remediating the portion the Town retains, but it is possible that DEEP may require future remediation. Any additional remediation will cost significantly less than $900,000, according to our consultants.
- It was also stated in this column that there are plans to “bond an additional $6.4 million for the old firehouse and police station renovations.” No decision has been made regarding that expense – that decision will be made by the Boards of Selectmen and Finance and will need to be approved by taxpayers.
- Lastly, it was brought up in this column that there is some concern that our Town would have to provide “more police, more fire personnel and equipment, and more public works maintenance like plowing and paving of adjacent roads.” I telephoned the Orange First Selectman and he reports that Orange did not hire additional police or fire personnel for the Fieldstone project on Route 34 (over 55 housing of approximately 135 homes). The Homeowner’s Association fees paid by the owners of the over 55 homes will pay for private plowing, paving of the roads within the complex, and general maintenance. The Town of Woodbridge is already responsible for plowing and paving the adjacent Town roads and will continue to do so.
As you may know, I have asked Insite Design and its partner, Wernert Construction, to visit many of the Town’s major boards and commissions during October and early November to do a Q & A presentation and give our board and commission members and the public several opportunities to ask questions about the proposal.
They will be at Human Services on November 4. They have already visited the Board of Police Commissioners, the Economic Development Commission, the Board of Finance, the Conservation Commission, the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Commission on Use of Publicly Owned Properties and the Recreation Commission in October. If you were not able to attend any of these meetings, I suggest you watch the WGATV recordings either on Channel 79 or the YouTube page.
The proposal is online for inspection at woodbridgect.org on the Board of Selectmen page under the “government” tab. It is important to understand that the Town will retain approximately 90 acres as open space for everyone to enjoy.
Lastly, I was part of a moving ceremony at Town Hall earlier this month to rename part of Route 63 in memory of a local veteran. On June 14, 2011, Woodbridge resident Private First Class Eric Daniel Soufrine was killed in combat by an IED when he was just 20 years old, 16 days before he was due home from his deployment. From a very young age, Eric’s passion was to become an American soldier. He comes from a long line of veterans on both sides of his family. His mother Donna, when addressing the Board of Selectmen last year, said that Eric was so proud to be fighting for our country and the many freedoms Americans get to enjoy. Donna also told us that Eric was so very proud of himself, and our country, and was honored to be chosen to go to Afghanistan to replace one of the soldiers that had gone home to visit his family. While deployed, Eric earned the Army Achievement Medal and was also honored as the Soldier of the Month in May of 2011.
I was honored to join Eric’s parents, Donna and Michael, and the many members of Eric’s family and his friends, for this very special presentation in Eric’s memory. On behalf of the Board of Selectmen and the Town of Woodbridge, I thanked everyone for Eric’s service and sacrifice. We will never forget Eric Daniel Soufrine.
The Soufrine family is always at the Town’s Veteran’s Day Ceremony, led by veteran Dr. Barry Joseph. I would like to again invite all Woodbridge residents to take a short time out of your busy schedules to honor our veterans at this very moving ceremony. The Town’s ceremony is on Monday November 11, 2019 at 11 am in the Center Gymnasium, 4 Meetinghouse Lane. This is a small way for us to thank and remember the veterans who served our country.