The Future: 2020 and Beyond

During my acceptance speech in July, I brought up a framed ad–pictured below–that was from the mid-1980’s. It commemorated the ground-breaking of the Dime Savings Bank headquarters (now the Edible Arrangements building) in Barnes Park. My father, who would become Dime’s CEO, was pictured with the Mayor and other dignitaries. The ad stated that “bankers don’t build banks–people do. The people of Wallingford.” I felt that was such a powerful message and so applicable to the challenges we face in the coming years.

Following are some key issues and where I stand:

Public Safety

  • Car Break-ins
    • Increase in police staffing has helped reduce car break-ins this year vs. last;
    • Problem is not going away, especially with the “catch and release” policy that can only be changed by the State;
    • Continue to promote vigilance by the community and give the police the resources they need.
  • Aging police station
    • Close to full capacity;
    • Satellite offices are not necessarily the answer, as it would require more supervisors to be hired, and increasing costs (Chief Wright has publicly stated he is not in favor of them at this time);
    • Chief Wright & the Mayor have commissioned a study to determine where updates are needed and estimated cost.

Community Pool

  • Over $600K already spent for formal design specs of a new pool and park (to be presented to the Council this fall);
  • I have been vocal about the need to improve how we run the pool, e.g. making it easier for people to get pool passes, expanded hours, etc.;
  • The extended season of the existing Pool and corresponding increase in pool passes proves that there is interest;
  • I don’t take lightly spending millions on this project. But, it’s something the town has provided its residents for half a century. Our towns’ strong financial position gives us the ability to contemplate a project like this;
  • As I’ve stated publicly many times, I don’t want to see us simply close that property and leave it gated and locked for the next thirty years. We can, and should, move forward with the pool project.

Modernizing the Town & BOE Insurance Plans

  • We need to shift Town and Board of Education employees out of expensive (to the taxpayer) health insurance plans and into plans that are more in line with what private sector workers have;
  • We have made significant progress on this front; nearly all of the bargaining units now offer the HSA as an option. However, there is still work to be done:
    • The Board of Ed HSA plan is very rich, and we should be looking to negotiate increased cost sharing;
    • On the town side, the plans have more favorable cost sharing, but lack incentives for employees to choose them. As such, while the HSAs are offered, the older, more expensive PPO plans remain more utilized.
  • The Town’s Personnel Department is moving in the right direction and understands these challenges. It’s just a matter of being vocal, as Councilors, in looking for cost savings in this area. It’s certainly achievable.

Economic Development

  • The Council has passed several tax incentive packages during the last two terms;
  • The recent sale of the Brothers property to the Town was a positive development. The new parking lot that is taking its place will serve two purposes:
    • First, in the short term, it will help businesses in the immediate vicinity, as well as potentially draw new businesses to vacant buildings. Second, over the longer term, a developer could make an offer to buy the parking lot and develop the parcel in accordance with the town’s POCD. Either way is a win and an improvement.
  • The Town should continue to look at opportunities to work with developers and encourage new mixed use businesses;
  • Economic Development does not occur in a vacuum, it is linked to nearly every other aspect of town life. Maintaining strong schools, giving law enforcement the tools and staff they need, low cost and highly reliable public utilities, and having long time amenities like Community Pool–these all make Wallingford a place where families want to live and businesses want to invest.

One High School?

  • As of this writing, the Board of Education has not formally approached the Town Council with a request to act on their facilities study;
  • For the last decade, the Board of Ed has successfully managed to its Strategic Plan that has included upgrades to existing buildings, as well as the massive school roof replacement project (just recently paid off);
  • While it’s good to explore all alternatives, the primary reason to consolidate the schools is if enrollment dips to the point where it is unsustainable to keep them separate.;
  • Spending in excess of $120M on a new high school is simply not feasible or necessary.

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