By LINDSAY CAREY
Town Councilors spoke about the changes in town government and on their special committees within the last year at the Chamber Legislative Committee 6th annual State of the Town dinner.
Seven of the nine town councilors spoke about recent accomplishments and concerns on projects in town.
Chairman Michael Riccio praised economic development, reasonable spending, and the council’s decision to invest more into economic development budget.
Riccio also celebrated the Economic Development office’s successful partnerships with Lake Compounce and ESPN as well as being involved in the planning process expanding Lincoln College.
He also touted projects of industrial growth and the success of small businesses in town at the Reverse Solutions and Chamber Legislative committee sponsored dinner.
“In the last year alone we have seen business and industrial expansion in the likes of which we haven’t seen in Southington since the 1970s,” said Riccio. “That expansion is taking place within our industrial parks, downtown business districts and tourism industry.”
He also discussed how a high bond rating has allowed the town to sell bonds to finance capital projects including improvements to roads, parks, and buildings, like the plans to renovate the Calendar House.
Stephanie Urillo spoke about success in public health through her work as a sub -committee member of the regionalized health district of Southington and Plainville. She complemented Director of the Southington-Plainville Regional Health District on his efficient communication to the public when a few Ebola cases began being seen in different areas of the country.
Urillo also said that throughout the health district 650 flu shots were administered.
In addition to those successes in public health, Urillo discussed Southington’s opportunity to come out a groundbreaking tattoo ordinance to inspect practices in tattoo parlors to ensure cleanliness and safety for customers. The public hearing for the tattoo ordinance will be on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Municipal Center.
Urillo also discussed progress with open space in town. As Open Space Committee Chair, she said that the committee was acknowledged for excellence in conservation organization, which was a result of the establishment of a Forest Management Plan for Crescent Lake.
“The management plan is going to ensure overall forest health by providing and giving 35 acres of mature trees room to grow,” said Urillo. “It’s also a great opportunity for the public to learn about forest management.”
She also spoke about other projects the committee has tackled since last year such as the beginning stages of a new Plan of Conservation and Development and the town acquiring Pleasant View Stables.
Town Councilor Dawn Miceli had positive updates as well regarding the town initiative she spear headed to combat vandalism especially in areas like the ice rink and the rails to trails.
Miceli worked with the Southington Police Department, STEPS, Chamber of Commerce board members, and the Youth Council to build an anti-vandalism campaign going to reduce damage to businesses in town. She also acknowledged Southington Boy Scouts for being the volunteer vandalism cleanup crew, which is free of charge to businesses affected by vandalism in Southington and serves as a quick response to show vandals the error of their ways.
In addition to the progress she has seen Miceli shared a concern of hers, which is the new new type of road paving and road maintenance practice for the being used in Southington, known as chip sealing.
“It’s new here in Southington, and to date I have not unfortunately seen the benefits and have instead seen the wear and tear on vehicles that the asphalt chips can make, the need for revamping of the roads surface after the plows come through, the marring of driveways and lawns from the chip seal and the overall ill aesthetic of our roads,” said Miceli.
Town Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury said that the Sewer Committee was “in the midst of a perfect storm” when she took it over due to loss of equipment and not being a priority in past budgets.
However, she shared this past year’s success with the Sewer Committee referendum question, which will allow much needed upgrades to the sewer system and shared that the town will see savings in the near future as a result.
“We’re saving a significant amount of electricity, which is going to allow us next year to decrease our sewer rate by five percent for residential sewer payers on the fixed part of their bill and that happened in less than a year,” said Lounsbury.
Town Councilor Chris Palmieri wasn’t as positive about the sewer rates. He shared his concern regarding the budget practices that led to the increase in sewer rates for tax payers this year.
Palmieri also spoke about the successful Apple Harvest festival, STEPS securing the drug-free communities grant, and having an open dialogue with Hartford Healthcare regarding the future of the Hospital of Central Connecticut Bradley campus. He also shared a progress report on the construction projects at the two middle school renovations calling them both “under budget and ahead of schedule.”