I write this month’s column directly following the Town Hall ribbon-cutting ceremony which also marks our public reopening following the COVID-19 shutdown. First, I want to say how wonderful it was to see so many residents and board/commission members in person! While Zoom has been a godsend, it will never replace the sense of community one feels when gathering together.
Within my speech, I highlighted the enormity of the day by pointing to a number of events along the project’s 26-year timeline beginning with First Selectman Roland Dowd initiating a discussion for a Space Needs Study in 1995. (This was also the same year DVDs were introduced!) The most demonstrative milestone came in 2020 when Town Engineer Gerry Turbet retired after 32 years of service without ever having witnessed the completed renovation. Government work at times is a slow-moving and tedious business, with progress often measured in decades rather than the preferred months or years.
In a press release, the Governor touted his recent success in improving bureaucracy on the state level. His work involved centralizing efforts, digitizing records, creating greater efficiencies via increased technology usage, and ultimately enhancing customer service while maximizing taxpayer dollars. While the Town Hall timeline speaks to a sluggish decades-long process, the actual unveiling of the completed nine-month construction project on time and $200,000 under budget showcases immediate improvements to services and provides an opportunity to celebrate advancements made over just the last few years on similar fronts to the Governor.
Town Hall Improvements
• Welcome all residents by meeting Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements
• Safeguard history through expanded Town Clerk’s vault
• Encourage active participation and citizenship through enlarged and technically advanced meeting room
• House new space for Planning & Zoning, Building and Conservation Departments facilitating greater collaboration and ease of use for visitors
• Combine Assessor & Tax Departments for convenience and shared administrative services
• Locate all Town employees within Town-owned property resulting in rental payment savings and recouped taxes
Recent Suffield Governance Improvements
• Online access to building permits, tax payments, public records, dog licensing, property maps/land records and burn permits
• Shared Information Technology Department and activities involving Human Resources, Facilities Master Planning and website platform with Suffield Public Schools
• Collaborative programming, marketing and resources among Parks & Recreation, Youth Services, Senior Center- more efficiencies in these departments coming soon.
• Automated Town employee time and attendance system rolling out on July 1 replacing labor intensive manual processes and eliminating chance of human error
Now that our doors are open again, I am anxious to resume First Selectman office hours so that I can catch up with residents and hear how we can continue to enhance our town government. Please contact KLambert@suffieldct.gov to schedule time with me.
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) recently appointed Gunnery Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” King as the Suffield Municipal Veterans Representative. Fritz looks forward to serving as a liaison to veterans in town and continuing as an active member of the Veterans Appreciation Committee. First order of business – restart the Veterans Coffee Hour along with Senior Center Director Paula Pascoe. Mark your calendars for June 5, 2021 at 8 a.m. For more info visit: www.suffieldct.gov/our-town/veterans. The BOS is also seeking members to serve on our Veterans Memorial Expansion Committee charged with expanding the honor roll in Veterans Park to include veterans from recent wars and conflicts, addressing those veterans who were not previously included, determining eligibility criteria and collecting names of veterans to be honored. Please send letters of interest to Kworthington@suffieldct.gov.
I hope everyone is experiencing joy and liberation as we emerge from these difficult times with dance cards full with graduations, weddings and all of the social fêtes that summer brings! Enjoy!