By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Although the impact of the state budget remains uncertain for six Central Connecticut communities, progress in economic development and infrastructure is certain.
Last month, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce held the State of the city and Towns Breakfast at Chippanee Country Club where local leaders gave an update on the current economy of Bristol, Plainville, Farmington, Burlington, Bloomfield, and Plymouth. All of these communities have affiliate chambers within the Central Connecticut Chamber, which is the second largest chamber statewide.
For the town of Plainville, the past year has marked a time of both successes and challenges—from the loss of longtime legislator State Rep. Betty Boukus to water quality complaints to park and road improvements.
While the town is in its third year of the road paving program, a dog park is in the works as well as a “renovate as new” project at Wheeler School and site improvements at Plainville High School. Last month, the school capital improvements passed at referendum.
“During the past year, we’ve had successes, challenges and unique situations that help define us as a little town with great opportunity,” said Pugliese, who noted the town’s spirit of volunteerism through projects like the Gold Star Memorial.
After an elderly man accidentally crashed into a moving train as it crossed Broad Street last December, town staff recently met with Pan-Am and state officials to review Plainville’s seven railroad crossings. The Connecticut Department of Transportation has reported that funds are available for improvements.
“The DOT is now doing a detailed analysis of all our railroad crossings,” said Pugliese.
The town also met with public health officials and Valley Water—a private company in Plainville supplies water to most of the homes in town after receiving over 100 complaints from residents about the quality of their water. During a public information session last month, the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Plainville Southington Health District shared the results of a recent water analysis of 32 locations in town.
Although public officials deemed the water safe to drink, Valley Water will perform a long-term study to address the hardness, said Pugliese.
“Some of these solutions may be a very expensive investment, some of them may not be,” said Pugliese.
While Plainville has continued to see the budget pass by voters on the first round with an average 2 percent increase over the past six years, the town also has continued efforts in closing its gap of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Known as one of the most historic greenways in New England, the trail is an 84-mile multi-use trail that stretches from New Haven to Northampton, Mass. But a gap in Plainville that marks the last gap statewide that is currently not under design or construction—due to an active rail line.
Last year, the Capitol Region Council of Governments began a study to find possible routes that would connect the trail with Plainville, New Britain, Southington, and the CTfastrak station in New Britain through a world-class multi-use trail network.
As the result of several public meetings held last year, 14 possible route options were suggested for closing Plainville’s gap in the trail. This list was narrowed down to a list of four alternatives for closing Plainville’s gap.
“Plainville is known as the gap,” said Pugliese.
The trail project also has been active in Farmington, which is expanding the trail from the Red Oak Hill to the Plainville town line.
“The bridge over Route 6 is expected to be installed in late summer,” said Farmington Town Manager Kathy Eagen.
Meanwhile, Bloomfield and Burlington continue to see activity in business expansions and new restaurants within the past year. The city of Bristol also has seen growth in new jobs and economic development. As the Southeast Bristol Business Park continues its expansion with companies like GMN USA moving there, downtown revitalization efforts continue with Bristol Hospital’s planned medical office building at Centre Square. The 60,000-square-foot building will house sub-specialty practices of the Bristol Hospital Multi-Specialty Group and a dedicated space for laboratory, and physical and occupational therapy services.
“This project lays the groundwork needed to jump start future development in our downtown,” said Cockayne, adding that the first roadway and streetscape will be constructed on the 15-acre site.
Noting how the real estate value for dropped in his town, Plymouth Mayor David Merchant also said the state budget has been a big concern this year, especially if municipalities end up contributing one-third of the $1.2 billion annual cost of teacher pensions as proposed in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s FY 18 budget.
Merchant noted the need for regionalization, especially for small towns like Plymouth.
“Little towns need to help each other out—we need to combine services,” said Merchant, adding how the town’s mill rate increased substantially.