This is a busy time of year for all towns and cities across the state as we are preparing budgets for the upcoming year.  While it sounds simple, it isn’t.  Given the fluctuations and vagaries of the state government funding, we often do this with a great deal of uncertainty.  This year is no different.  We are notified by one state agency that our education funding will be even with next year while the governor, in his proposed budget, cites a lower number.  There is seemingly agreement between the Governor and the Legislature on Town Road Aid, which is one of the highest allotments promised by the state to towns and cities.

 

One idea proposed by Malloy originally is that the towns and cities contribute to the deficit in the pension funds for educators and Ned Lamont has also proposed that we pay 25% of the shortfall on an annual basis.  In my view, this is just one way to transfer the costs of gross mismanagement of these funds by the state to individual property owners since the only way we have to offset these costs is to raise property taxes.  Given that there was a firm promise made in the campaign to lower the property tax burden on homeowners, I find this particularly upsetting.  Legislative action can prevent this. 

 

Finally, there is a move afoot to have a uniform car tax, collected by municipalities but paid to the state.  Again, that would put an additional burden on homeowners.  Supposedly, the money collected would be transferred back to the towns in the form of grants but we have a history of how that goes.  And for towns it goes badly.

 

We all know that the state needs to put its fiscal house in order.  However, I personally believe that doing so on the backs of property owners is regretful and unfair.

 

Let’s go on to happier things, like our village.  To begin, we have created an Economic Development Committee whose principal starting purpose is to create businesses in the town center.  Bunny Williams has undertaken the start of this by completely renovating the old car garage/town market building.  However, to make this community prosper, we cannot rely on one new business to do it.  We need several well-functioning businesses to draw people to our town center.  We have also hired a Director of Economic Development for Falls Village, who will be paid out of the previously budgeted Economic Development line in our town budget.  Most of this budget expenditure this year was spent on our new website which is a distinct improvement on our old one.  Also, the design gives us the ability to continue to improve and change the website over time to keep the content fresh and entertaining.

 

The Recreation Commission is looking to hire a new Director.  This has been vacant for almost a year.  You can get a description of the duties and responsibilities outlined for the job by contacting Town Hall or the Recreation Commission directly.  This is an important role in the town and we hope to get some good response to our job listing.

 

At the last Town Meeting, we approved the repeal of the ordinance that established a Water Commission, effectively therefore bringing the waterworks under direct control of the Board of Selectmen.  With the able assistance of Pat Mechare, who was the Chairman of that commission, we have put together a formal charge of the duties of the Waterworks Committee and believe that this will be a seamless change.  This was approved at our last Board of Selectmen meeting.

 

On Sunday June 23, 2019, Falls Village will host a Discover Connecticut Bicycle Tour.  Details concerning the event will be distributed at a later date but it has several different routes for novice, intermediate and advanced riders (or walkers).  We anticipate a few hundred riders will participate including one of our own Selectmen, Greg Marlowe. 

 

MIRA has informed us that there increase in fees will not be as steep as they had planned.  They will increase our fees for the last quarter of the year by $9.65 per ton and an additional $1.35 per ton for next year, for a total increase amounting to $11 per ton for fiscal year 2019-20.  While no one wants to see an increase, this is a lot better result for our town.

 

Over the next couple of months, we are going to be collecting e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers that can be used for several purposes, such as noting when new blog posts are made (least important probably), for uses in emergency notifications (most important) and for those who want to be notified of certain meetings.  As we move to a world dominated by the internet and the cell phone, we want to be able to better communicate with our residents.

 

 

As we approach budget time and start to look forward to the 2019-20 year, there are some difficulties that we can foresee.  The first results from the breakdown in the MIRA plant which receives both our recycling and our garbage.  MIRA has two separate furnaces for combusting our waste.  One of these was shut down for routine maintenance and replacement of some critical components.  During this scheduled shutdown, the other furnace had a catastrophic failure.  The result of this is that an alternate disposal site had to be found to handle the waste of the towns who are participants in the MIRA operation.  The cost of this including trucking and dumping charges leads in excess costs of over $100 per ton. 

 

While MIRA has held some money in reserve to handle issues like these, those funds have long been exhausted during the long period between the failure and the restoration of full operations.  MIRA hopes to be back to full operation sometime in mid-February.  As a consequence, MIRA has warned us of a sizable increase next year in tipping fees of 57%.  This year, we are paying $72 per ton.  Next year, they anticipate increasing this to $113 per ton. Given the fact that we generate about 450 tons per year of garbage, this will amount to an increase of our expense by approximately $18,000.  We hope this is one year problem in that reserves and cost recovery will be done in one year but we do not know that now.

 

Coupled with this is a push by the state, independent of the MIRA problem, to get towns to increase their recycling to 40% of their current levels.  We are well below that figure today.  It is important for all of us to take recycling seriously and to start to consider new initiatives to reduce our waste as a town and as a society.  Tracey Wilson is posting the statistics each quarter at the Transfer Station that detail the activity in tonnages. 

 

Under the direction of Tracey, we will be looking at some innovative ways to reduce waste in our community over time and reach our goal of recycling 40% of our municipal waste.

 

Another issue is that our costs for Region One will increase dramatically in 2019-20 due to FV’s enrollment percentage in the high school.  Because we had one of our largest recent classes graduate from 8th grade a year ago, we anticipate an additional cost of about $240,000 in our budget for Region One expenses.  There is always a one-year lag in calculating enrollment percentages.

 As we approach budget time and start to look forward to the 2019-20 year, there are some difficulties that we can foresee. The first results from the breakdown in the MIRA plant which receives both our recycling and our garbage. MIRA has two separate furnaces for combusting our waste. One of these was shut down for routine maintenance and replacement of some critical components. During this scheduled shutdown, the other furnace had a catastrophic failure. The result of this is that an alternate disposal site had to be found to handle the waste of the towns who are participants in the MIRA operation. The cost of this including trucking and dumping charges leads in excess costs of over $100 per ton.

While MIRA has held some money in reserve to handle issues like these, those funds have long been exhausted during the long period between the failure and the restoration of full operations. MIRA hopes to be back to full operation sometime in mid-February. As a consequence, MIRA has warned us of a sizable increase next year in tipping fees of 57%. This year, we are paying $72 per ton. Next year, they anticipate increasing this to $113 per ton. Given the fact that we generate about 450 tons per year of garbage, this will amount to an increase of our expense by approximately $18,000. We hope this is one year problem in that reserves and cost recovery will be done in one year but we do not know that now.

Coupled with this is a push by the state, independent of the MIRA problem, to get towns to increase their recycling to 40% of their current levels. We are well below that figure today. It is important for all of us to take recycling seriously and to start to consider new initiatives to reduce our waste as a town and as a society. Tracey Wilson is posting the statistics each quarter at the Transfer Station that detail the activity in tonnages.

Under the direction of Tracey, we will be looking at some innovative ways to reduce waste in our community over time and reach our goal of recycling 40% of our municipal waste.

Another issue is that our costs for Region One will increase dramatically in 2019-20 due to FV’s enrollment percentage in the high school. Because we had one of our largest recent classes graduate from 8th grade a year ago, we anticipate an additional cost of about $240,000 in our budget for Region One expenses. There is always a one-year lag in calculating enrollment percentages.

On the positive side, we know that our tax base has increased and will lead to higher revenues, based on our current mill rate, of about $116,000.

Our goal is to keep our expenses down this year as much as possible.

On the positive side, we know that our tax base has increased and will lead to higher revenues, based on our current mill rate, of about $116,000. 

 

Our goal is to keep our expenses down this year as much as possible. 

Last Thursday, the Town Meeting approved all the motions made, a bear feeding ordinance, a rescission of the ordinance establishing a water commission, the town annual report, the audit, a server replacement and a small change in an account that was no longer used. We had a substantial crowd attend for which we are very grateful. A Town Meeting is democracy in the purest sense of the word.

We are undertaking a couple of initiatives in the town. We are trying to create a Farmer’s Market on the town green on Sundays during the crop season. While we have several tentative participants, we are always looking for more. While these have had varying degrees of success in the area, this is way to support agriculture in our community and in our area as a whole. We will keep you informed of our progress.

With the assistance of many people in the town, we are examining means of contacting residents through e-mail, text messaging and potential phone calls to be used in times of emergency or for purposes of reminding people that a new blog post has been made, of meetings that they may have a special interest in attending, etc. Again, this too is in its infancy and we have a distance to go before we start this process formally.

One final note that we believe will good news for the village is that I have been told by the owners of the Citgo station that they will be installing new gas tanks in the early spring. Personally, I look forward to having the opportunity to buy gas in our town and hope that residents will support the station once it is up and running again.

This week is an important one for Connecticut.  Tomorrow, our new Governor is being sworn in and I am going to the inauguration but skipping the ball.  Let’s all wish that Ned Lamont and the legislature can jointly find ways to return our state to financial stability for the long-term without reducing funds allocated to local entities. When the monies we receive from the state for education, roads, Pilot, etc., etc. are reduced, it results in the necessity to raise property taxes.  Thus, it is only a tax transfer from the state to local government. 

 

So let us wish all of our representatives in the executive and legislative the best for coming to common sense solutions to our long term problems.  We as citizens of this great state should do all that we can to support these efforts.

 

On a local level, we are having a Town Meeting on Thursday night at 7 PM in Town Hall.  The principal issues to be discussed are approving the annual audit and town report for the year 2017-2018, approving the banks with which we hold funds, approving some minor account changes to simplify our accounting, approving a transfer from the technology fund for a new server and an attached Network Attached Storage device, (these need to be done every 5 years and the time is up), approving a bear feeding ordinance and approving a rescission of the ordinance establishing an independent water commission that was enacted in 1951.  This would bring the water works under direct town control since we are guarantors of their loan for the water tanks as well as being financially and legally liable ultimately for any problems that might arise.  The Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen both support this agenda item. No operational changes are anticipated except that there would have to be advance approval by the Board of Selectmen of any capital expenditures before they are undertaken.

 

Several people have come to me with the idea of having a Farmer’s Market in town.  This will be discussed at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, January 14, 2019 after the conclusion of the Board of Finance meeting.  These would be held on Sundays on the Town Green during the crop season, thus starting in late spring, going on through the summer and concluding in the fall.  Anyone who would like to be a seller should contact me at Town Hall or Daly Reville at home.  She has volunteered to be the Keeper of the List.  I, for one, am in support of any activity that draws people into our town.

 

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings you and your families health, happiness and prosperity! This is a quiet time of year here at Town Hall and a good time to reflect on my first full year as your First Selectman.

To begin, this is one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had. It is a real privilege and honor to have been chosen to be your First Selectman and I thank everyone in the town for giving me this chance to serve you. Further, I want to thank everyone that works for the town for being so diligent in their efforts to serve the residents of Falls village in an effective and friendly manner.

Most importantly, I want to thank the many people who serve on boards and committees throughout the town, not only on those activities that serve the town government, but also those that participate in community groups outside of our governmental purview such as the Children’s Theatre, the Historical Society, the David M. Hunt Library, the FVVFD, the Board of Education, etc., etc. About 20% of the adult population of Falls Village serves as a volunteer on one thing or another. This is an amazing testament to the value that this town places on the importance of community and something in which we can take great pride.

So thanks to all the citizens of Falls Village. It is you who make this such a wonderful place to live and I celebrate this, with gratitude, as one of those who benefits from your gift of time and your investment in the place where you live.

Let me wish everyone the best for the holiday season. The town center looks very festive at this time of year with the decorations on the town buildings, especially the wreaths, and the lighting on the caboose. Look for more next year since we’ll have more time for planning.

Today we signed an agreement to change the lighting in the Day Care Center, Town Hall and the Town Garage from its current fluorescent bulbs to LED’s. Eversource has given us a grant to convert these over to the more efficient lighting. After the grant money is applied to the cost of purchase of the new fixtures, the savings in electricity per year offset the remainder, which is paid off by a four-year interest free loan provided by MCAP. While this won’t be a huge cost savings on a monthly basis in the initial four-year period, it will save the town about $4,000 per year in ensuing years. The LED’s come with a five-year warranty to boot. Nothing earth-shattering here, but it is a move to greater sustainability. Plus, the lighting is greatly superior.

Like many of you in the village, I am taking off to spend Christmas with my family. I wish you safe travels and a happy gathering with friends and family wherever you may be.

First Selectman's

We had a nice meeting last night at the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen. One of the things we discussed was a change in the way we will be handling recycling at the Town Transfer Station. All of our recycling goes to MIRA, a public/private entity that turns our trash into electricity. We are a member of that organization. Mira does not separate cardboard from cans and bottles in its facility, combining both in a process called single streaming. We create two streams, one of cardboard and one of bottles, cans and plastic. Consequently, we are going to change over to single streaming as of January 1, 2019. One of our concerns is that this may increase our transportation costs over time so may we switch back to the two streams we have had in the past. We will keep you informed as we evaluate the change.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had positive and productive meetings with both Ned Lamont and Maria Horn. It is very important to our town to maintain good working relationships with our governor and our representative in the state house and I look forward to collaborating with both in the future to further our village’s interests. Let’s all wish them the best to in returning Connecticut to a place of financial stability and keeping our little corner of the world such a fine area in which to live.

On January 10th, 2019, we are planning on holding a town meeting which will take place at 7 PM in Town Hall, 108 Main Street. The meeting will cover several matters for approval such as our Annual Audit and Town Report, approving our banking relationships, rescinding a town ordinance establishing a water commission in order to bring the waterworks under direct town control while maintaining the structure we have in place to take care of day to day responsibilities, authorizing a capital expense to replace our server, which is necessary every five years, approving a bear feeding ordinance and do some minor account clean up by retiring an unused reserve account and transferring the small balance in it to another. We encourage your participation in our Town Meeting which is one of the great aspects of our democracy-the ability to directly participate in decisions that impact our village.

Though I do not wish to sound like a broken record, I again encourage everyone to volunteer for the Falls Village Volunteer Fire Department. Your participation would be a wonderful holiday gift to all of us who live here.

Selectman’s Blog

This will be the second installment of a weekly blog highlighting events, general happenings and points of interest to our residents.

We had a successful tree lighting and ceremony on the Town Green last night followed by hot chocolate, cookies and a visit from Santa. Despite the drizzle and cold, we had a good attendance.

I encourage you to visit the Main Street during December to notice the decorations that dress up many of the Town buildings. Also, thanks to all of those who have donated to the private fund that allowed this to happen.

Let me correct a typo in my original blog of last week. The correct spelling is Tracey, not Tracie. This will be the first of many mistakes that I will make over time. Mea culpa!

On a serious note, we need volunteers for the FVVFD, especially those who are willing to act as EMT’s. The dedicated crew that staff our ambulance is getting a little thin. This is a volunteer job that is critical to the maintenance of the safety of our citizenry. What could be a better thing to do in this holiday season than to join this team that saves lives and protects our town’s homes and businesses. And I have to add, this is a fun group of people.

Selectman’s Blog

Welcome to my blog as First Selectman. It is my intention to update this on a frequent basis so that residents and/or visitors to our beautiful village can get an idea of what is currently happening from me directly.

To begin, most of you have noticed that we have two new additions to our staff at the Town Transfer station. Our new Coordinator is Tracie Wilson, a long-time resident of Falls Village. She replaced Fred Palmer who had been working for the town for almost 30 years. Our new attendant is Peter Roussis in replacement of Norma Galaise. Norma is moving to Pennsylvania. They are both doing an excellent job and I encourage you to introduce yourself to them when you are next there.

Our tree lighting ceremony is Sunday, December 2 from 5-7 PM. A short, song-filled greeting to the new season followed by Santa and refreshments in the Senior Center. We hope that you will attend. While you wander around the village that night, note the decorations that have been placed on many of the town buildings. This is the kick-off of a new yearly expansion of our holiday celebration in the village, “The Festival of Wreaths”. This is a privately funded project led by Felicia Jones and Pamela Todd. It is their intention to expand this throughout the town in years to come and you’ll hear more about this long before the next holiday season.

Noreen Driscoll(Sweethaven Farm), Selectman Henry Todd, State Rep. Maria Horn

Noreen Driscoll(Sweethaven Farm), Selectman Henry Todd, State Rep. Maria Horn