Facing the Challenge: New First Selectman Outlines Plans for Woodbridge
I hope this message finds you well and in good spirits. This column marks my first Woodbridge Town News column as your First Selectman. This is also the first completely digital edition of the Woodbridge Town News. While I will personally miss receiving the paper in the mail, this digital format will increase the opportunity to communicate information.
Today, I want to discuss a few key matters that require our collective attention and effort. The new Board of Selectmen has met six times in the past five weeks. Consistent with our First 100 Day plan, our focus is now on the budget as a top priority. Our town faces financial challenges that demand careful consideration and strategic planning. We understand the impact of budgetary increases on our residents. Rest assured, our team is diligently working with our department leaders to strike a balance between providing services and controlling taxes.
In addition to scrutinizing our department budgets, we are meeting with specialists to consider innovative ways to reduce costs. This includes evaluating new optimization ideas related to energy and waste. We are also pursuing state and federal resources to leverage grant and assistance opportunities for our town buildings, our business district, and our schools.
We invest two-thirds of our overall budget in the education of our children. Our schools play a vital role in our community pride and in shaping the next generation of leaders. As is often the case, wage increases will be the largest portion of any increase in this budget, particularly with a newly completed teacher contract. Our Boards of Education recognize this and were mindful of the fiscal impact on our residents as they continue to deliver a top-ranked education.
As we go forward, cost containment alone will not be sufficient. Encouraging responsible development and attracting new businesses to our business district is essential. We must also explore innovative approaches to foster growth. This week the Board begins to review the Country Club of Woodbridge property RFP responses to evaluate a course of action. The 155-acre property presents significant opportunities for Woodbridge. While it is not likely to impact on our current budget work, it will be a critical part of our future.
Another priority is updating our town's Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). Our POCD is a critical blueprint that guides our growth and development. It is essential to ensure that our vision aligns with the changing needs of our community and the state. We are in the process of selecting a partner that will help us update the POCD to reflect our shared values, address emerging challenges like housing, and create a roadmap for ongoing growth.
In other news, Our Sustainability Commission and Library are planning an Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 27th. Please save the date for this important event. Also, I met with several prominent law firms in January, and we expect to engage a new Town Counsel this week. Our new attorney will work with our current, retiring counsel, Jerry Weiner, to transition all work in February. I would like to thank Jerry again for his many years of service to our town.
There is much more happening at Town Hall and with our various commissions. Your engagement in our process is crucial and appreciated. We value your opinions, ideas, and feedback as we collectively work towards building a stronger and more resilient Woodbridge. I am committed to fostering an environment of courtesy and mutual respect. I am grateful for the instances of kindness, understanding, and support that I see daily.
I would like to end by recognizing our Woodbridge Volunteer Firefighters who responded to a report of a chimney fire at the home of one of our residents. In the words of our resident, “they were able to contain the fire, minimizing any structural damage to our home. The firemen were concerned, supportive, informative, professional, and reassuring when we were stressed and frightened.” Thank you for your professionalism.
Please stay informed about our town. You can watch meetings live on the WGATV79 YouTube channel or as a re-stream at your convenience. You can also Sign up for email updates from me and my office, or Create an account on our town website and sign up for notifications.
This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.