The town council met for the final time on Monday, Oct. 28, before the municipal election, and held a public hearing regarding a modification of the volunteer firefighter tax abatement ordinance which was passed on a majority vote.
Town attorney Carolyn Futtner explained that under the Southington town code, volunteer firefighters can qualify for a tax abatement up to $1,000, pursuant to a state statute. In Southington, there are two tiers of abatement dependent on level of service—$500 for the first tier and $1,000 for the second tier.
Recently, she explained, the state legislature increased the tax abatement to $1,500, and thus the town adjusted the draft, which would offer a $750 abatement on the lower tier, and a $1,500 abatement on the second tier.
“It is not a reduction of the assessed value of the property, it’s actually a $1,500 reduction to the liability owed by the volunteer firefighter tax payer,” said Futtner. “This tax abatement would also extend to volunteer firefighters who have served the town in the past and are now retired having served at least 25 years.”
Fire Chief Richard Butler and Fire Commissioner John Moise both spoke in favor of the ordinance, citing that support of this kind will aid in recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. Moise also said that he felt the abatement would entice volunteers to stay on longer with the department.
“We need every tool at our disposal to be able to keep the volunteer service healthy. I view this as a definite way we can do that. I really do encourage everybody to vote in favor of this,” said Butler. “It is really supporting our volunteers. A vote that way tonight would go a long way to show the volunteers we are definitely supporting them.”
During his report, town manager Mark Sciota discussed the Rails to Trails project, which he said, would hopefully “be the last of the designs and the state will take over after that.”
Public works director, Keith Hayden, explained that the town had requested that the State of Connecticut include a sidewalk from the trail down to Newell St., connecting to W Queen St., which would give the trail direct access to Route 10.
“The Department of Transportation said they would add the sidewalk to the construction phase and fund it 100% on the condition that the town provided the design of the sidewalk,” said Hayden, whose office has drafted plans for the sidewalk.
In order for the firm designing the trail alignment to incorporate the sidewalk design, it would require the town paying an additional $23,000. Hayden explained that the town applied for a Local Capital Improvement Program (LOCIP) grant, which requires the council to formally approve the construction of the project.
The sidewalk design and authorization for the LOCIP grant were unanimously approved by the council.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@PlainvilleObserver.com.