First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

The month of March may have come in like a lamb weather-wise, but for Town business it’s been more like a lion! As outlined in my last two columns, there’s been a simultaneous focus on Kent Memorial Library, economic development of Ffyler Place/ the Town Garage/ Town Center Village District and Town Hall. In the background of those hulking projects, the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget and advocacy opposing tolls and for a better facility for our dog pound have filled in any holes in my schedule. Here’s a quick update:

KML: Check out our recent walk through  KML (Town Facebook); the building is progressing beautifully! The final abatement report is being submitted to Connecticut DEEP and Federal EPA. Neither one has to officially sign-off prior to a spring grand re-opening.

Eco. Dev. Town Garage/Town Center: Negotiations advance for new town garage on the Wicks Lumber property. Once agreed, next steps include approvals by Boards of Selectmen and Finance, followed by a public information session and finally Town Meeting late spring.

Town Hall: We issued a request for proposal for renovation and addition to Town Hall- responses due late March.

Budget: Since the FY2016-17 budget, we have invested much energy digging into and adjusting the Town budget, positioning us well for the current budget process. The proposed FY2019-20 budget continues to be threatened by the State, including assuming a share of the Teachers Retirement Fund, which, if passed, represents a $120,680 hit for Suffield. Estimated revenue for FY2019-20 (not including taxes) are also down by approximately $1.953M due to decreased State grants and a reduction in residential/commercial building estimates. However, we have continually sought new revenue sources to offset these pressures. I am pleased to report that savings from the virtual net metering solar contract with Lodestar have doubled in the last year to $13,017 for FY2018-19 and we anticipate this to continue into the future. We are negotiating a new contract to continue accepting ash at our Town landfill, turning this facility into a revenue-generating asset. Additionally, the State-mandated revaluation netted a 4.19% increase to the Grand List with a notable increase in personal property of 20.69%, attributable to completion of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline expansion project. Currently, the proposed Town FY19-20 budget totals $16,085,290 representing a $438,942 (2.81%) increase over last year. This escalation results primarily from payroll, health insurance costs rising 15% over last year and increased public utility assessments. 

State Legislation: The State proposes highway tolls as a means for additional revenue. There is concern how this measure would affect border towns (i.e., increased traffic) like Suffield. At the request of resident John P. Murphy, and along with other Connecticut communities, the Town of Suffield issued a “Resolution in Opposition to the Implementation of Tolls on Connecticut Highways,” available on the Town website.

Miscellaneous: The Police Department Operational Study proceeds with the following completed to-date: police officer survey; interviews with the First Selectman, Police Commission Chairman, Chief, Captain, Lieutenant, Police Union President and a majority of the Officers with the remainder to be conducted soon. The Daigle Law Group produced a detailed document production request, which the PD is fulfilling.

A 2018 grievance filed by the Police Union regarding contract language proceeded to arbitration and was ultimately decided in favor of the Town. The dispute related to an officer demand to be paid for a 3-hour minimum on overtime jobs that amounted to approximately 1.5 actual hours worked.

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