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From the First Selectman September 2020

As I write this column, I am happy to let you know that I am at home recuperating from a total knee replacement.  I am doing well!  My expected time out of the office is unknown, but I will continue to work from home, and all of our Woodbridge town staff have been supportive to me, as we continue to make sure everyone receives their needed Town services.  I also thank everyone for their patience and for reaching out to each other, as neighbors and friends, during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.  We are a wonderful town!  Our volunteer Fire Department, Police Department, Public Works Department, Human Services staff and Animal Control Officers responded promptly and professionally to all our residents during and after Tropical Storm Isaias.  During the height of the storm our emergency responders answered close to 200 calls with reports of wires down, trees down and trees crashing through homes.  Emergency calls continued for several days.  Folks needed help, and everyone stepped up.  It took over a full week for all residents to have their power reconnected and internet/cable re-established.  I plan to send a letter to the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) with a summary of the many problems and lack of response our residents received from the utility companies.

Unfortunately, it is anticipated that there will be several more storms this hurricane season.  Please prepare!  Make sure you have bottled water and empty jugs to fill up water from the Town’s water spigots.  Purchase canned foods that do not need to be heated, like fruit, peanut butter and tuna.  If you haven’t yet, visit www.ctalert.gov to receive future emergency updates from the Town.  This statewide system reaches everyone with a landline and you can also sign up to receive notification via cell, text or by email.

If you are elderly, have a health issue, are disabled or know someone who falls into these categories, please sign up for the Human Services’ emergency call list.  During emergencies, the department calls these residents to ensure they are safe and also offers help.  To be added to the list please call 203-389-3429.

Regarding the pandemic, I have heard from parents that they are still seeing people at Pease Place Playground not wearing masks.  Per Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7NNN, anyone over the age of two should wear a mask when not able to maintain a 6-foot distance.  There are, of course, exemptions for medical conditions.  Those, adult or child, with a medical condition are required to provide documentation from a licensed medical provider or appropriate State agency.  I will ask, however, that if you cannot or are not wearing a mask, please keep your distance from others whether at the playground, on Town trails or elsewhere.  We all need to respect each other and be kind to one another!  One final reminder – our Town has an ordinance that all dogs must be on a leash.  Our Dog Park is open for those that want on “off leash” experience on town property.  Please remember that it is up to ALL of us to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and it is also very important to not let our guard down, especially as out-of-state college students are returning to Connecticut and we reopen our schools.  Let’s do all we can to keep Woodbridge safe!

As I have noted before, I was deeply moved by the Black Lives Matter Rally held on our Town Green in June.  Recently, I appointed members to an Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.  I have asked them to identify and assess issues related to diversity and inclusion, prioritize the identified issues and then determine steps that would ameliorate problems identified and enhance diversity and inclusion in our Town.  Unfortunately, horrific events continue in our country.  We cannot remain silent.  This committee will be reporting frequently to the Board of Selectmen, and I will keep everyone up to date on their recommendations.

The Board of Selectmen also appointed Lor Ferrante Fernandes to the Woodbridge Board of Education at our last meeting – she replaces Dr. Steve Fleishman who recently resigned.  Having someone with Lor’s educational background (she is a former teacher and principal/administrator and still tutors students) will be incredibly helpful, as local Boards of Education are tasked with tough choices this year that will have major impacts on families, teachers, and residents.

The Darling House Advisory Committee has met and has been working together with the Amity Woodbridge Historical Society.  The Society has also been busy working with the Town, making necessary code-compliant updates to the caretaker’s apartment and the main house, and painting several of the other small outbuildings that surround the main house.  One of the Advisory Committee’s first projects is to make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen regarding the large yellow cow barn and ice house across the street from the main house.  The barn is currently being used for storage.  Interestingly, the barn contains the deconstructed pieces of the Lucy Street one-room schoolhouse, known as “Little Lucy.”  Both the Advisory Committee and the Society are interested in removing the schoolhouse from the barn, in order to provide access, so that the planned grant-funded Survey and Planning work (including structural assessment) may be achieved.  The Society’s position is that the schoolhouse pieces must be removed from the barn, but believe that because of the value of this relic to many local residents, efforts must be made to prevent the schoolhouse from just being discarded.  They are hoping to find a new use for the old school, and will be approaching individuals and others in Town, and they also intend to advertise the availability of the building.  I do agree that we should try to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to prevent the schoolhouse from simply being discarded, but we cannot continue to just store it.  The deconstructed building is incomplete and experts have noted that the material is not in good shape.  Any resident interested in “Little Lucy” is welcome to contact me or the Amity Woodbridge Historical Society.

Lastly, our Registrars of Voters and Town Clerks are busy getting ready for the November election.  The Secretary of State will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the State later this month.  You may also request a ballot from the Town Clerk but the ones coming in the mail from the State will have barcodes on them to track their whereabouts.  Please see the article from the Registrars in this paper (and on the Town website) for details on how to register to vote.

As always, my door remains virtually open to you – I can be reached at 203-389-3400 or at bheller@woodbridgect.org.  Thank you and please stay safe…Together, we are WOODBRIDGE STRONG!

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