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From the First Selectman – November 2022

I am happy to report that the Board of Selectmen met in-person for our most recent meeting on October 12th.  Prior to last week, our last in-person Board meeting was in March of 2020, as we navigated to stay safe during the horrific COVID pandemic.  Thank you to everyone for wearing masks that evening, as we endeavor to continue to respect each other, and try to keep one another healthy – especially those who are immunocompromised or recovering from an illness.  If I have learned anything during my tenure as I enter my sixth year as your First Selectman, we in Woodbridge always take care of each other…and I thank everyone for their kindness.

First, I will give an update on all our projects:

The Community & Cultural Center Building Committee met on September 21st with two architects from Silver Petrucelli to review their proposal to create design and construction drawings for the interior of the Old Firehouse and to engage ARIS Land Studio to develop a conceptual master plan for the outdoor space.  It is important for the outdoor and indoor space to work together from a design perspective.  More specific schematics will be prepared for their October meeting and review and input from the Town Department Heads is planned for November.  A presentation will be made to the Board of Selectmen at our December meeting with review and input from Town residents planned for January.  This $2 million project is funded from state grants.

The Center Renovation Building Committee has been meeting on a periodic basis.  They have revised the initial Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Architectural/Engineering services for this project in mid-September.  This revision was re-issued for bid on September 22nd.  On October 6th, a Pre-Bid meeting together with a walk-through with those A/E firms interested in the project occurred.  Any and all questions and clarifications pertaining to the RFQ were submitted to the committee no later than October 20th and they received formal Proposals including proposed fees from those firms on October 27th.  The Building Committee will then carefully evaluate these Proposals and are targeting to begin holding interviews with some of these firms by early to mid-November, with the goal to make a formal recommendation to the Board of Selectmen to retain the services of a specific firm and have this firm under Contract by mid-December.  I am committed to try to seek state and federal funding for this project.

The renovation and upgrade project at the Senior Center is well underway with Olympus Construction and Silver Petrucelli & Associates working with Town staff to adjust issues as they arise.  Regular meetings are scheduled every two weeks for discussion of the on-going construction.  The demolition as well as the initial construction have begun and are already transformative.  Silver Petrucelli submitted the project for review with United Illuminating to access available incentives for improving energy solutions.  The good news is that the project incentive grant included $8,000 for the HVAC ERV (energy recovery ventilation) units at $250/Ton and $1,864 for Lighting Design for a total of $9,864.  As the budget is very tight, these funds are a welcome addition.  This project is funded with state grant funds.  Most of the materials have been ordered and work will continue while awaiting delivery.

Our newly created ad hoc Town Building Committee for Beecher School Capital Projects had its first meeting on September 30th.  In addition to building improvements, the committee will also be reviewing Beecher Pool issues, and possible security upgrades.  The Board received a report from Kyle Elmy of the engineering firm of Weston & Sampson, giving us a detailed evaluation of, and recommendations to improve the pool’s existing conditions and bring the Beecher Road School pool into code compliance.  As you may know, the pool was built in 1972.  Also, the Woodbridge BOE has a confidential report regarding a security study that was done recently, and the Committee will also review that and make recommendations regarding necessary security school upgrades.  We will apply for grant funding once we determine costs.

We recently received the contract documents from the state regarding the recently awarded $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for the new HVAC system in the Center Gymnasium and nearby restroom upgrades.  I will provide updates once we review them, and the next steps to proceed with the project.

Lastly, we are working with Cardinal Engineering on the preliminary design and survey regarding the Town Center Sidewalk Project, funded with a state grant.  This project most likely will be done in the summer of 2023 once school is out of session and our town center is less busy with traffic.

In a recent edition of the Woodbridge Town News, there was commentary stating that I as First Selectman did not intend to support the upcoming year’s Amity Regional School District 5 budget.  I did support passage of the current year’s budget.  I take this opportunity, as I will take other opportunities, to state unequivocally that I never made such a statement regarding next year’s budget.  I cannot imagine a situation where I would decide my vote on a budget I had not yet seen, and in this case, a budget that as far as I know, has not yet been prepared.

This inaccurate statement was misinformation about the Amity Regional School District 5’s budget process.  I remain committed that the Board of Selectmen, as well as the Board of Finance, are fully briefed on the actual facts.

Our annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony will be held this year (after a two-year COVID hiatus) at 11 am on Friday, November 11th in the Center Gym.  More information will be forthcoming in our newsletter and on our Town website.  We will work toward providing adequate ventilation (doors open, etc.), so please dress accordingly.  Masks will be required.

Several months ago, I met with a clinical-stage nonprofit biotechnology company, Cure Rare Disease, letting us know they were interested in moving to Woodbridge.  We encouraged them to come.  Cure Rare Disease develops therapeutics for rare and ultra-rare neuromuscular diseases, such as two rare types of muscular dystrophy, known as Duchenne and Becker.  I am so pleased that they have announced that they have acquired their first laboratory space in Woodbridge, and will relocate their Boston headquarters to the 30,000-square-foot facility at 4 Research Drive and expand research and development operations.  The company also plans to lease 15,000 square feet to other life science and healthcare firms.  This is great news indeed.

Woodbridge has responded to a request to show support for the Bristol Police Department after Sergeant Dustin DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy were shot and killed in the line of duty.  A blue light shone outside Woodridge Town Hall through Friday, October 21st when funeral services for both police officers were held in East Hartford.  May their memory be a blessing.

Lastly, I remind everyone to remember to VOTE on Tuesday, November 8th.  In-person voting will be held in the Center Gymnasium from 6 am to 8 pm.  The ballot includes candidates for Federal Offices (United States Senate & United States House of Representatives), and other State Offices.  There will also be a ballot question to authorize a change in the State Constitution authorizing early voting in Connecticut Elections.  Absentee ballots are also available.  Please contact either the Woodbridge Town Clerk’s Office or the Registrars of Voters Office for further information.  Most information regarding events and meetings is available on our Town website at www.woodbridgect.org.  As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments.  You may reach me by email at bheller@woodbridgect.org or by phone at 203-389-3401.  I would urge everyone to take some time to enjoy the spectacular colors of fall here in Town, and please stay safe!  Thank you.

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