One of my favorite leisure activities – working on puzzles – has proven an invaluable asset in this job. The many Town initiatives I am eager to see to fruition are like a puzzle; the big picture requires all the smaller pieces to fit together. After much work, I’m excited to report on how the puzzle is finally coming together…and the productive year 2019 promises.
The first big piece of the puzzle – open Kent Memorial Library. Remediation is complete and encapsulation begun; HVAC will be run and air quality tests follow. Once the library passes the air quality test, we can begin putting the building back together in advance of the big unveil tentatively on target for early April.
The second, multi-faceted piece of the puzzle – help grow Suffield’s fiscal independence. A key facet, develop the commercial tax base. One of the prime locations to do so is Ffyler Place but this requires moving the Town Highway Garage. Three options for alternate facilities are being explored: 123 Austin Street, the Wicks Lumber site and Hamlet Homes property adjacent to the WPCA. The first Public Information Session was held in late November and the topic will be revisited once all details are available. The Town Meeting will vote on the final decision. Another important facet, expand regionalization for additional cost-sharing opportunities. To date, the Town partnered with East Granby on a shared economic development consultant and animal control officers. Discussions include sharing emergency dispatch with another town. Partnerships are not limited to neighboring towns. In the last year, the Town collaborated with Suffield Public Schools to implement shared Information Technology. We look to replicate that success with potential shared facilities management.
The third crucial piece of the puzzle – make a decision regarding Town Hall and begin construction. The library move back home will free up the temporary library location at Ffyler and provide swing space for Town Hall departments. Any new Town Highway Garage anticipates housing for additional departments including Public Works and the Town Engineer. The Town Hall new build option is cost prohibitive even with a reduced footprint warranted by the additional space at the Garage. However, the work to-date, including the conceptual floor plan designed – based on the 2017 Space Needs Study, department head feedback and value-engineering – will still be utilized whether the Town elects to renovate the existing Town Hall or purchase an existing building. To guide decision-making, an RFP will be issued to obtain the guaranteed maximum price for renovation. The hope is that with less staff housed at Town Hall and forward-thinking strategies to upgrading HVAC, renovation work will fall within the scope of the 2015 bond authorization. If cost or environmental issues preclude renovation, purchase of a building will be the final option.
With these three big puzzle pieces in place, other Town initiatives will begin to come to the forefront. With the library back in full service, we can direct our energies to our newly reorganized Parks & Recreation Department; how services are delivered; evaluate resident needs; and plan for the future of Suffield Parks & Recreation accordingly. With the Highway Garage moved, we can now legitimately market Ffyler Place to prospective developers. With regionalization, we can ensure the Town weathers the State’s financial woes. With revitalized IT services, we can embrace technology best practices and efficiency by implementing a time and attendance system, automated payroll and on-line permitting. With Town Hall decided, we can concentrate on what matters most – continuing to make Suffield a wonderful town to live and raise families. I’m looking forward to completion of this complex puzzle!