The City of Bristol turns the page each July 1, beginning a new budget. Department line items are replenished. Here are some new Programs, Initiatives and Ideas that are happening now:
Despite positive advances, August sees Bristol and surrounding towns back in the state yellow category with seven Covid-19 cases/100,000 population over the past two-week period. The good news is that Bristol has a 62% city-wide vaccination rate. We are working to increase these vaccination rates, but as this new Delta variant emerges, even those who are fully vaccinated are at risk. As part of this, businesses and others may bring back mask use policies to help avoid a spike before we are subject to greater restrictions like last year.
The Bristol-Burlington Health District and Community Health Centers will be conducting free Vaccination Clinics this week, Tuesday, Aug. 3 at Bristol Central from 3-7pm, and Thursday Aug. 5 at Bristol Eastern from 3-7pm. All three vaccines will be available. This is a great opportunity for all Bristol residents, especially students, to get their vaccine and be scheduled for their second doses later this month as well.
Moving over to Public Safety, a dozen police departments across the capital region met last week to discuss forming a joint task force to address the issue of juveniles stealing cars from the suburbs and using them to drive recklessly or commit other crimes throughout the area.
According to preliminary data, there was a nearly 20% jump in car thefts in 2020 compared to the average of the past five years. Those numbers closely reflect national trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ken Barone, a project manager for the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at CCSU [Central Connecticut State University].
The plan is simple – to work with the auto theft investigators in each community to share information and identify juveniles. While Bristol has not seen a spike in car thefts and violence like other communities, Chief Brian Gould chose to participate in order to be pro-active. Gov. Ned Lamont has also set aside $5 million in federal CARES Act funding to help cities and towns address gun violence, car thefts and overdoses.
The Police Department has a variety of other new programs including the 9PM initiative encouraging residents to run through this checklist each night at 9pm: locking up doors and windows; lighting your home with exterior lighting; closing garage doors; Locking vehicle doors as well as closing vehicle windows, and not leaving vehicles unattended while running; and not leaving key/key fobs in vehicle.
Residents and businesses that utilize external video surveillance are also encouraged to join the Community Watch Team (CWT) by registering their cameras with the Bristol Police Department. Registering your cameras will help the Bristol Police to quickly identify any potential criminal activity that may have been captured on your system. Upon registering your camera, you would only be contacted by the Bristol Police Department if there is/was a criminal incident in the vicinity of your security camera. This is a voluntary registry. The Bristol Police Department will NOT proactively take control of, access or use your video surveillance system in any way. In accordance with CT Law, all personal information collected will remain confidential. Information on all of these programs may be found on the City website.
The Police Department is operating with an $18 million budget this year, and the Fire Department is around $9 million. In a joint effort, the Police and Fire Departments created a marketing campaign to attract candidates for Fire and Police jobs. To date, this new initiative has been a success – seven firefighters were offered positions just this month bringing the number to 12 over the last year, almost a dozen new police officers have also been hired, and a new Police entry level test will be conducted next week. Diversity is one goal of the Hiring Initiative, with the second being the ability to plan for retirements and fill vacancies in a timely manner.
New Parks programs continue to play a major role for summer activities including the new Pump Park that just opened, the summer camps, concerts, splash pads and the new look at Page Park Pool and Muzzy Fields. Another new idea was the creation of summer Parks Ambassadors at Rockwell to ensure all rules are followed so everyone can enjoy their time. To date, they are receiving high marks.
Speaking of diversity, the City will be sponsoring its second annual Community Conversation on Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 5-7:30pm in the Rockwell Park amphitheater. Food Trucks will help kick off the conversations at 5:00 pm and the first 160 participants will receive a FREE food voucher and Community Conversation T-shirt. Following introductions, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a round table style conversation with primary stakeholders. The community feedback and comments will provide insight to the City of Bristol Police Department, Diversity Council, and the Board of Education on the role that DEI plays in the lives of those who live, work, and enjoy the many resources in Bristol. The event is free - Bring your own chair, and join your neighbors there!
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is the mayor of Bristol.