Hope everyone is enjoying our ‘unwinter’ winter. There’s a silver lining in every cloud and we are using a lot less treatment on the roads than was anticipated. Good for budgets, bad for skiing.
There are some good things going in our village. One of the most important is the desire of several of our townspeople to create a Village Green Market in the 107 Main Street property on the first floor. This is still in its nascent period and we’ll have much more to say about this in future blog posts. This would be a co-op with diverse offerings but centering on being a place for local farmers to sell produce. A clear business plan will be produced giving us all a firm basis on which to support it. Nonetheless, I am inspired by the upswelling of work done by local citizens on their own initiative to develop something that will be a long-lasting asset to the town if successful--- and I think it will be.
Another bright development is that the owners of the gas station at the intersection of routes 63 and 7 have applied for a permit to install new tanks and for redeveloping the site. This is a huge plus for the town and will eventually alleviate the drive north, south, east or west to fill up our transport.
At our Town Meeting last week, we voted to receive the official Town Report and audit of the town. Also, we likewise approved the purchase of a new town truck to replace the 1997 Ford truck that has served the town very well for the past 23 years. Keeping this truck up and running is a credit to our public works employees but the time had come when we were throwing good money after bad. Because new trucks are so expensive and our plan is to replace trucks on a five year cycle, we plan on increasing the annual money we put aside for truck replacement to $40,000 per year from its current level of $30,000 per year. Our town is getting a grant from the Volkswagen settlement to the state of Connecticut for $37,000 which is a real plus and a credit to Tim Downs and his group for writing up the grant request.
The sale of our town water works was approved at this meeting also. I do note that there was a big turnout for this meeting and the audience was able to ask questions about this both to town officials and to representatives of Aquarion who will be the buyer of these assets. While the execution of the agreement with Aquarion will be completed very quickly, this sale has to be approved by PURA, the Public Utilities Regulatory Agency. We anticipate, based on historical precedence, that this approval will take between 6-9 months. Once we get this the sale will be finalized and we will receive $345,000 for the assets of this entity. Of this amount, about $210,000 will be used to pay off the remaining debt on the water tanks constructed ten years ago on Beebe Hill Road. Given that we will keep any cash on hand, we anticipate that the general fund will increase in the area of $145,000. That assumes that we have no major capital expenses in the interim period. Both the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen had unanimously approved this sale prior to the Town Meeting. We do not anticipate that our water bills will go down immediately but our opinion is that they will be lowered at some time in the future. This is one of the key points to be negotiated with PURA.
On other town news, we are in the midst of our annual budgeting for the town and for the Kellogg school. This is a grueling process. Not much to report on this now but we do have a much larger bill coming from the regional high school due to our percentage of students in the High School being much larger than it has been in previous years. The exact amount of this is not yet known as the high school has not finished its budgeting for 2020-21. We do aim to have these ready by late March for an initial presentation to the Board of Finance by both the town and Kellogg. After the Board of Finance make their revisions, we then will have a hearing in late April to discuss these with the town at large and then a final approval of these will be presented to a Town Meeting in May.
One of our major concerns about this year’s budgeting was taken off the table by the Governor in the past week or so. There has been no bonding of the payments we were promised in the state budget for town road aid and for the Local Capital Improvement Program, probably because it was being held hostage in the toll debate. Since tolls are off the table for the moment, and I personally hope forever, these budgeted funds will be released to the 169 towns in the state that heavily rely of this funding.
Enjoy the remaining winter. I am looking forward to Spring!