By ROB GLIDDEN
Town leaders gave updates on a wide variety of ongoing issues during the annual State of Plainville event at the library.
Sponsored by the Plainville Chamber of Commerce, the gathering allows officials to speak at length about important matters in town and audience members to ask questions. A common thread in the presentations was that Plainville is in decent economic shape despite the tough economy.
“I think Plainville is well-respected for how we address issues here, particularly with regard to economic development,” said Town Manager Robert Lee. “We’ve had a lot of success stories.”
Many of the questions asked by the audience had to do with the recent arrival of FEMA funds to help homeowners on Roberts Street Extension vacate the flood prone area. The town will receive $2.54 million to purchase 14 homes in the area, covering 75 percent of the expected cost while state funding is expected to make up the rest.
Concerns were expressed about the homeowners who declined to sell their homes. Lee replied that the FEMA program was completely voluntary and residents could stay in the area if they wished, but the town was unlikely to have any means in the future to prevent future flooding.
The demolition of the vacated homes is expected to take place sometime in the next year.
“I’m hoping that we won’t have to go through more than one flood season before we’re done with the demolition and the restoration,” said Technical Services Director John Bossi.
Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese referenced a topic that has been prevalent in the community since the Newtown tragedy – safety in schools. Plainville’s school district already had a number of safety measures in place before the shooting, but Pugliese said an investment by the town in this area could give more peace of mind. “It’s a fair amount of money, but far less than other towns will need to upgrade safety at their schools,” she said.
Mark DeVoe, the town’s Director of Planning and Economic Development, sought to debunk something he often hears in town – that there is nowhere left to develop in Plainville. He described a handful of potential opportunities to enhance the town’s economic possibilities and ultimately help the entire community.
“We’ve see too many foreclosures come through, even for a small town,” DeVoe said. “Hopefully, there are brighter days ahead.”
During his remarks, Lee demonstrated that the town has been able to maintain most of its services without large increases in the budget for each year. The data shown to the crowd indicated that the town budget had only increased by $1.3 million over four years.
“There were times when that was the total increase for one year,” Lee said. “The question is – can this trend be sustained going forward? For this year, we’re in pretty decent shape.”