As 2019 has come to a close and another year of projects, developments, and new initiatives come to fruition, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of my top goals for the New Year. While there are many different projects in the works for the year, here are a few highlights of 2020 vision for New Britain:
1.A no tax increase budget. As always, my goal for taxpayers is to put forward a budget that has no tax increase, but maintains the same level of service that homeowners and business owners have come to expect. New developments, building renovations, a land sale, and other changes will help to offset any rising costs of doing business as a municipality. As costs rise, providing a budget with no tax increase gets more difficult but the goal is to do our best to keep the mill rate stable for property taxes this year at 50.50.
2.Complete Streets Phases 6, 7, and 8. Phase 6 of our award-winning Complete Streets Master Plan will soon be underway. This phase makes improvements to East Main and Myrtle streets (across from New Brite Plaza), and the job was recently awarded to a contractor. We have already begun the planning process for Phases 7 and 8, and my goal for the New Year is to move these projects along. Phase 7 will see improvements made in front of Columbus Commons and on part of Chestnut Street. Phase 8 involves changes to Washington Street, Columbus Boulevard between Main and Washington Streets, and the other half of Chestnut Street between Columbus Boulevard and Elm Street.
3.Phase 2 of Columbus Commons. Work is rapidly moving along at the new mixed-use development on the site of the old police station, where 80 housing units and commercial space will open to the public in early March. Units are still available to rent. Visit columbuscommonsapartments.com for more information. Once this phase is completed, I plan to work with the developers on the sale of the other half of the land so an additional 80 housing units can be built.
4.Move forward with the Mayor’s Opioid Taskforce. In 2019, we expanded upon 2018’s H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opioid, Prevention, and Education) initiative with the formation of the Mayor’s Opioid Taskforce. Through a consortium of community partners, we have set a goal of reducing heroin and opioid-related deaths by 50 percent by 2021. We recently received a $600,000 grant that will help us move closer to this target.
5.Explore the re-use of New Britain stadium as a concert venue. With the New Britain Bees now in the Futures League and having a shorter season this year, I’d like to explore having additional concerts held at the stadium as we did in the past with performers like Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
6.Work more closely with the newly-elected Common Council members. There are lots of new faces on the Council this year and I want to ensure that we can work together amicably and move forward with the best interests of the City in mind.
7.Work on debt payments for the City’s future. Each budget season, it’s always a challenge to strike a balance between implementing new projects and initiatives and creating flexibility to pay off existing debt from old projects and other obligations. In 2020, I intend to analyze our debt payment schedule and explore opportunities to make our payments more manageable.
8.Rebuild Chamberlain Elementary School. In 2019, the renovations at Smalley Elementary School were completed, providing an expanded and modern learning environment for students in the North-Oak area. In 2020, with approval from the state, our next school renovation project at Chamberlain will begin. I look forward to working with School Building Committee to give Chamberlain a complete renovation this year.
In closing, 2020 is poised to be another exciting year for our city. These eight items merely scratch the surface of the many great things to come.
Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.