First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

Melissa Mack

November marks my one-year anniversary as First Selectman. I truly enjoy working for the Town of Suffield, especially getting to know so many residents and business leaders. Here’s what the Town and its dedicated employees, boards and commissions accomplished since last year.

We pursued many grants and were awarded approximately $2,260,000 (outright or with other towns), with an additional $500,000 pending. These vital dollars afford the Town opportunities in excess of, or leverage, taxpayer receipts. Such opportunities include a paved multi-use path linking our schools; energy efficiency and sustainability programs; on-line public records at the Town Clerk’s office; on-line survey of Suffield’s historic structures; a capital needs study of the Windsor Locks Canal and multiple smaller grants benefitting the Senior Center, Youth Services, Emergency Management, the Police Department, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Planning and Zoning and the Library. The CT Department of Housing just awarded Suffield a Main Street Investment Fund grant of $500,000 to perform site work around the Bridge Street School including sidewalks and street-scape improvements.

We uncovered approximately $330,000 in “found money” by critically reviewing the Town’s expenditures for efficiencies. By working directly with insurance carriers and by joining a member-owned stop loss captive, we streamlined the Town’s insurance coverages. We discontinued a history of making charitable donations to social service agencies that do not deliver specific services to our residents. The Town benefitted from a few unexpected windfalls including, landfill dirt disposal fees, an equity distribution from the Town’s property and liability insurer and a check from the State for efficient project management by our Town Engineer. We transitioned to the free Everbridge emergency alert system. More opportunities for savings will result from our reconstituted Technology Committee charged with improving use of technology by Town departments. A pending virtual net metering contract for the purchase of solar energy credits estimates $1,500,000 in savings to the Town over the next 20 years.

Our efforts have not been limited to cutting expenses, but have also produced tangible results in new projects. We reopened a Suffield jewel, Babb’s Beach in West Suffield, and preserved 180 acres of Suffield’s greatest treasure, its farmland. A record 16 miles of roadway was paved this summer. The Town Center fiber optic extension project linked the entire Town network including, the Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association housing the Town’s Emergency Operation Center, Kent Memorial Library and the Senior Center. Now all of our public safety agencies communicate effectively and Town departments operate more efficiently. Initiated by the late State Rep. Elaine O’Brien, Phase 1 of the Route 75 water and sewer main expansion project was completed, positioning the Town for commercial development adjacent to Bradley International Airport. We just applied for grant funding for Phase 2, which will bring utilities closer to the Windsor Locks border. On the economic development front, we welcomed Windsor Federal Savings, Suffield Gymnastics and Bouley Graphics & Embroidery and applauded the expansion of Windsor Marketing Group, CS Landscape Design and Chic & Antique. We look forward to augmenting our commercial tax base with the anticipated arrivals of the Suffield Animal Center, Champion Container, Four Seasons Farm (a large hydroponic greenhouse operation) and Broad Brook Brewery.

One of my goals as First Selectman is to improve Suffield’s governance practices. Substantive gains were made by seeking candidates for our boards and commissions who possess the best skill sets needed to provide sound recommendations and direction for our Town, regardless of political affiliation. We restructured the Emergency Management Office, Animal Control and Minibus Departments to provide better internal controls and cost savings. Under the guidance of Superintendent Riello we revitalized the Police Department, promoted Captain Rick Brown to Deputy Police Chief and Police Sargent Ryan Burrell to Lieutenant, and hired Chris McKee as our new Police Captain. We added Karin Ziemba, an exceptional new Human Resources Director, to support and train our employees in providing quality service to our Town. For greater transparency, we empowered board secretaries with training and resources to help boards and commissions adhere to the Freedom of Information Act standards and parliamentary procedures, implemented streaming capabilities and issued more comprehensive and thorough meeting minutes. We accomplished all of this and ended the 2015/16 fiscal year on budget and move forward with a 1.46% increase for fiscal year 2016/17. However, there is still much to do, so stay tuned!

In case you hadn’t heard, it’s a presidential election year! Polls will open Tuesday, November 8 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Suffield Middle School. This election, Suffield is proud to pilot a ballot marking device which provides voting accessibility to individuals with disabilities. Please stop by the Town’s tent where I will be holding office hours and say hello. I encourage all residents to exercise their right and civic responsibility to VOTE! Enjoy this beautiful crisp fall weather and happy Thanksgiving!

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