Best of the New Year to everyone. Let’s hope this year is a little better than the one we have just left.
The Covid-19 vaccine has arrived and shots have been given to our emergency workers and fire department staff. I personally encourage anyone who can get the vaccine to get it as soon as they can. The State of Connecticut has begun vaccinating those who are 75 and older. Tomorrow, our state government is going to review its distribution plan and may extend the approval for shots to those 65 and older starting in February. The state website is a valuable tool to find vaccination sites and instruct those who want vaccines on how to get on the list and places where they can get them. Note that our pharmacies, Walgreen’s and CVS, have been added to the list as well as a new mass vaccine site at the Armory on Main Street in Torrington. You can call the state at 211 if you do not have a computer or go to the state website for more information. If you have further questions or are having difficulty in accessing or navigating the enrollment process, please contact Theresa Graney at 860-824-9855 or email her at email@example.com
The main constraint in getting vaccines is availability. All the information we have is that the volume of doses available in the next month or two will increase dramatically from the two companies now approved, Moderna and Pfizer. We also believe, based on news accounts, that a third vaccine from Johnson and Johnson will be approved in February. This will accelerate the delivery of vaccines to our state.
Again, I know that many people are wary of getting the vaccines. However, the evidence is overwhelming, given the millions of doses injected to date, that the vaccines are safe and very effective. So please get them. The sooner we reach the goal of 70-80 percent of our population being vaccinated, the sooner we obtain ‘herd immunity’ which will allow us to return to some degree of normalcy in our daily life. Meanwhile, until told otherwise by responsible authorities, wear your mask, keep social distancing, wash your hands and do everything you can do to keep yourself and others safe.
The other big news, of which everyone is aware, is the installation of a new administration in Washington, despite the regrettable events of January 6th. It gives me a great appreciation of the way we run governments at the local level. We all disagree about certain actions taken by the leaders of our town, which is a very healthy sign of a vibrant democracy. At the same time, while we disagree, we can and do show a commitment to comity, the art of disagreeing in a respectful and thoughtful way without resorting to personal attacks on the integrity of those with opposing views or name-calling. No person has ownership of the truth or the right answer to any problem. We try to achieve consensus and failing that have to take actions with which people may disagree. In the end, you decide whether or not to re-elect those who lead you.
Budget discussions will start shortly for the fiscal year 2021-22. A piece of good news is that our portion of the Region One budget will fall dramatically this year based on preliminary information from them. The amount will be slightly less that $240,000 which is substantial for our village. Also, we believe that the sale of the waterworks of the town to Aquarion will occur in this calendar year which will be added to our general fund. The sale price will be $340,000 from which proceeds we will pay off our debt on the water tanks and current liabilites of about $206,000 and attorney fees payable accrued from the sale. We will also receive all the cash and receivables outstanding in the waterworks accounts which currently stand at about $50,000. These figures will change a bit during the next 3 months but this will give you some idea of where we stand as of today. On the negative side, we will re-institute our practice of putting money aside for capital projects which we eliminated last year because of the pressure on our budget from both the Region One increase in expenditures and uncertainty of our receipts for taxes given the pandemic. While the former of these came to pass, our collections for taxes were maintained at their normal high level.
Many people have asked us about the progress on leasing out the space at 107 Main Street. We have leased a small portion of the space for an art store and are continuing our discussions with a potential renter who would establish a café in the remaining space. We will keep you apprised of any further developments.
Our bridge committee remains active and we are meeting shortly with Cardinal Engineering about the biggest issue facing us which is the bridge over Cobble Road. This bridge will have to replaced at some time in the near future. The issue here is simple in that three residents are on the north side of the bridge. If the bridge is demolished and replaced, these residents will not have access to their properties for a period of time except over the part of the road that connects to Under Mountain Road. That section of the road is subject to flooding, especially in the spring, and would have to be improved prior to construction of the replacement bridge. It may be possible to fix one side of the bridge at a time but that would be much more costly and time-consuming so we would like to avoid this if we can. Many of the other bridges in town can be repaired by our town crew over time but the bridge over Cobble Road must be replaced in the next few years. Because this bridge is eligible for federal funding for replacement, whereby we would pay only a fraction of the cost, we want to make sure we follow the best guidance we can get to minimize the disruption to residents and keep the cost down as far as possible.
Last week, we appointed a committee to represent us for the Municipal Housing Study which we are mandated to do every 5 years. We had placed an application on our website and were pleasantly surprised at the number of applicants who wanted to be a part of this. Therefore, we doubled the number of community members on the committee from three to six, with one alternate. We apologize to those who were not chosen and appreciate that you were willing to volunteer but wanted to keep the number of the committee to a manageable size. Please note that all the meetings will be public and there will be several community forums in which residents can participate. We encourage community input.
We are planning on seeking a community grant for our town. This in the preliminary stages and more information will be forthcoming as we move through the process. At this stage, we are just notifying the state that we are planning on applying. We will need someone to write the grant and will be putting out an RFP to get this done.
On another note, we are forming a committee in our town to study and identify how our village might install a fiber-optic network for our village. Similar committees have been formed in Norfolk, Cornwall, Sharon and other towns in our Northwest Hills COG. Hopefully, the state and federal governments will start to provide funding to facilitate establishing these services in rural areas. Given the pandemic, we can see the necessity of this especially for those who need to connect to the school or other services. Coverage in our area is not adequate.
Finally, let me add that the participation of people in our meetings of our Boards and commissions has increased dramatically which we believe is due to the pandemic. In the future, we hope that we can continue the practice of letting our residents continue to log on through Zoom even after we go back to in person meetings. Maintaining citizen participation is a crucial part of our unique manner of democracy in a small village and we will do whatever we can to continue to foster it.