First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

I find it helpful every election cycle to reflect on the prior year and ask, why am I doing this job and what do I want to accomplish? The answer is always simple – to improve Suffield’s governance practices as best I can. The task, however, has not been so simple. When first elected in 2015, I quickly learned that the issues that prompted my involvement were just the tip of the iceberg. I underestimated the work to be done and how unpleasant it could be at times. I have tried to persist in improvement and never sweep issues under the rug. This past year, as a town, we faced some of these tough challenges head on. I am convinced we are strengthened by tackling them.

In hindsight, the Police Department Operational Study should have happened in my first year of office, given the department’s crises at the time. We undoubtedly improved leadership at the time, but in retrospect did not provide the tools necessary to truly effect change. I believe with the completion of the study and its many recommendations, the department now has the guideposts to create meaningful goals and the data to advocate during this year’s budget process. I am grateful that the study is behind us and look forward to working with Chief Brown and the Police Commission as we chart the course for the future. Public safety remains a top priority.

As I described in my article in the news section of the Town website, it gave me no joy as First Selectman to realize the Bridge Street School Community Center project’s shortcomings, the building’s condition, the scope of the project and the bond authorization that eventually would lead to the project’s current status. The most recent hurdle has been our insurer questioning the building’s on-going coverage, which prompted the Board of Selectmen’s difficult decision to rescind approval of the Bridge Street School Community Center (BSSCC) project, demolish the building and install athletic fields and a playscape on the site. At an upcoming Town meeting and/or referendum, residents will wrestle with this decision themselves and vote. I am anxious for the question to be answered once and for all so the Town can move forward.

The grand reopening of Kent Memorial Library was surely the highlight of the year. After many years of disappointment and extra dollars, the town persevered. If you did not attend the ribbon-cutting, you missed the positive energy and excitement emanating first and foremost from Mary Anne Zak, but brimming over in the enthusiastic crowd as well. It was a great day for Suffield! With the recent resignation of our library director, we gratefully acknowledge Jackie Hemond’s success – sustaining patronage and programming in not ideal temporary quarters. She positioned us well for the opportunity now at hand – reinvigorate the library in much the same way Parks & Recreation thrived this past year under fresh leadership.

While the future home of the highway garage has yet to be determined, we advanced the conversation surrounding the need to move out of Ffyler Place. I remain convinced that Ffyler Place is the best means to Suffield’s fiscal independence by creating density and driving economic development. Through the hard work of our town employees, in concert with our boards and commissions, and the creative use of such elements as Tax Increment Financing, Suffield is poised to leverage this asset for the betterment of the town.

As we worked through these tests and triumphs, we continued to advance plans for the renovation of Town Hall, on budget, set to break ground in early 2020. I wish healthy and happy holidays to all! 

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