This week kicked off the annual “walk-through” season when the chamber and town leaders join press and business owners for a tour of the two central business districts—the Village of Plantsville and downtown Southington.
On one hand, we love this gathering of business leaders, engineers, lawmakers, and town executives for this community brainstorming event. It’s a casual meeting of the minds where longterm projects can be discussed freely, obstacles can be ironed out, and problems can be discussed in context.
One of the highlights of the recent Plantsville tour was the passion from one business owner as she talked about a project to beautify the grassy area at the intersection of South Main Street and West Main Street. She talked about the changes and how they could help the safety of night drivers as they pass through an intersection that’s developing quite a reputation for erratic car accidents. Later, another business owner offered a team of volunteers that he could pull together quickly to help with the project. The commitment and teamwork between these businesses shows why these areas have so much potential—even when ongoing feuds and bickering are tearing apart a different section down the street.
One of the best parts of the tour is the showcase of business owners. Every tour is punctuated by a “drop-in” to one or more new businesses, and it’s inspiring to see the passion and excitement from each business owner as they champion their business and their location. But this also serves as a reminder that there are real problems in these downtown areas. Some of the businesses visited in previous tours are now shuttered, while the problems they pointed out remain unresolved.
It’s disheartening to see the same problems being discussed over an over again—crumbling sidewalks, poor signage, businesses unable to prosper in Plantsville. Some of the same cracks in the sidewalks are still being pointed out after years of annual walks, and missing signs that were pointed out years ago are still missing from sign posts at commuter lots. It’s hard to take town leaders seriously when they talk about how they are listening to businesses when pleas go unanswered year after year.
To be fair, some of the top leadership has recently changed. A new Town Manager pointed out an upcoming project that could add parking to the Village of Plantsville. A new chamber director actually left the tour for a few minutes to try to resolve a problem that suddenly came up. These left us skeptical but hopeful.
It’s action that really matters if these downtown areas are going to thrive. We look forward to the future walk-through that finally shows that the town has invested in these centers rather than just giving them lip service.
Readers making a difference
Congratulations to Laura Furtak for being selected as the 2018 recipient of the Step Saver/Observer scholarship. Furtak was essayist at Southington High School in 2017 and is currently studying animal science at UConn. She joins a long line of top scholars to receive the scholarship.
Rebecca (Klem) Fontaine earned the scholarship in 2013, and the former top 4 student at SHS recently graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a perfect 4.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in math.
The fund was established in 2005 as a result of the merger between the Step Saver and The Observer, so it is literally funded by readers. Thanks to Furtak and Fontaine for making us proud.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.