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From the First Selectman – September 2021

Summer has certainly flown by.  Before long the weather will be cooler, the days will get shorter, and the leaves will turn.

Despite the pandemic, we continue to move forward with two of my major goals – to make our Town Center more active and attractive and to find a final use for the former Country Club of Woodbridge.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Delta variant has increased the spread of the virus, especially among those not vaccinated.  It has been relentless, highly contagious and unfortunately, there is now a dramatic rise in cases among children.  Given the new CDC guidelines strongly suggesting wearing masks indoors, we now require masks inside Town buildings regardless of vaccination status to protect the public and staff.

Additionally, there will be no more in-person board and commission meetings until further notice.  Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is the best way to get out of this pandemic and to keep our community safe.  The State maintains a list of COVID-19 vaccination sites at covidvaccinefinder.ct.gov and 211 maintains a list of testing sites – visit 211ct.org/covidtesting.

Last month we celebrated the State Bond Council’s $300,000 award to the Town of Woodbridge to complete the renovations of the Senior Center with a visit from Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, our State Legislators, Senators Cabrera and Maroney, and Representative Welander, and Bond Commission member State Representative Dorinda Borer.  I’m so pleased that our seniors will now have the fresh, modern, safe, welcoming air-conditioned space they deserve.  The building will finally be as nice as the programs!  I thank everyone who helped to move this forward.

The Board of Selectmen agreed to table the bonding referendum for the renovation of the Old Firehouse and new shed and refurbishment of roofs at Beecher Road School.  I proposed this pause on the project because I want to see the direction of the Covid numbers before we schedule any non-emergency special town meeting and/or referendum.  It is most important to me that we keep our residents safe.

I hope in the near future we will ask residents to vote to convert the empty (since 2006!) Old Firehouse into a community center and create a storage facility for the Fire Department’s additional equipment.  That will make our Town Center a much more active space for all to use and help us create the sense of community that so many residents desire.

At our August meeting, the Board of Selectmen heard from developers interested in purchasing the former Country Club of Woodbridge land for $9 million and building approximately 145 homes – a mixture of large single-family homes, market-rate homes, affordable homes and age-restricted, all for purchase.  They also plan to demolish the clubhouse, create a Town pool, a playground or park, walk/bike paths and rehabilitate the tennis and volleyball courts all for town use.  They also propose to deed back 50 acres of open space to the Town and protect existing trees.  You can see the power point on the Board of Selectmen page on the Town website.

In addition to this proposal, there are two other developers interested in purchasing some land at the former club.  Both have been encouraged to give us a proposal, and as soon as we have something in writing from either or both groups, I will bring them to the Board for discussion.

Please be on the lookout for two housing surveys in the near future.  All towns are required to have an Affordable Housing Plan by June 2022 and South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) is writing the plan for our region.  SCRCOG is releasing a regional housing survey and the Woodbridge Ad Hoc Housing Opportunity Study Committee also plans to do a Woodbridge-focused survey to provide more Woodbridge-specific information for the plan.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to Town of Woodbridge for our comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020!  This means we have met the program’s high standards, which include demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure.”  Congratulations to our Finance Department and our Board of Finance!

The Finance Department is currently hard at work creating a new, more user-friendly, transparent and interactive budget document.  I anticipate this document will be on our website later this month or by October.  I believe this new format will help residents more easily see how their tax dollars are used.  I encourage everyone to read the budget and the audit to learn more about the Town.  I also strongly encourage residents to get involved in the budget process.  The budget is discussed and debated at public meetings for months before it is presented to the public at the Preliminary Budget Hearing in April and the Annual Town Meeting in May.  There are many opportunities to make your voice heard and get answers to your questions.  Town department’s capital budget requests are due in November and the operating budget requests are due in January.  The Boards of Finance and Selectmen discuss them shortly after they are submitted.

As always, my door remains open to you.  If you need to reach me, please call 203-389-3401 or email me at bheller@woodbridgect.org.  Please stay safe!

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