Labor Day is a great time to reflect on the hard work of those who built our City’s industrial base, from the beginnings of the clock-making industry to the ball bearings and war-related production, to Bristol’s current manufacturing sector featuring aerospace, automotive and the role of the City workforce who are on the front lines of delivering critical services every day.
City departments are communicating and working together continue to improve services, create efficiencies and save money for the taxpayers. Here are some of my favorite examples from the last four years:
Two weeks ago, the weather forecast was not cooperating for the Board of Education’s Convocation on the soggy BCHS fields – their first in-person gathering of all staff since Covid. A quick phone call to the Parks Superintendent Josh Medeiros meant that Parks Supervisor Bob Lincoln and his crews opened the gates to Muzzy, which was the perfect backdrop for the team-building event for teachers and staff who have gone through so much over the last 18 months.
Panhandling is not a good look for any community. Last spring, Police Lt. Mark Morello spotted custom “Say No to Panhandling” signs while on vacation and brought the idea back to Bristol. Our City Marketing Specialist Dawn Nielsen then went to work designing a Bristol sign, and this week the Public Works Streets Crew installed them at hot spots downtown and in shopping centers.
The Office of Corporation Counsel and the Police Records division has been working to fix the broken ticket collection system, which over the last decade, had left over $330,000 of uncollected fees on the books. Working together, Practice Manager Noelle Bates, Police Lt. Geoff Lund and his staff, Rebecca Krol and Jennifer Broderick, have now created a link to DMV to capture the late fees when registration is attempted, as well as updating software to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
The City’s Economic & Community Development department is working with various partners to enhance and strengthen these job opportunities, including the “Bristol Works” program in conjunction with Larry Covino at the Bristol Adult Education program; Tunxis Community College’s new Advanced Manufacturing program, Bristol Technical High School for apprentice job placements, and the Board of Education’s new pathways for CNY (home health aides) and manufacturing programs.
Another great collaboration involved a discussion between Water & Sewer Superintendent Rob Longo and Economic Development Director Justin Malley on adjusting sewer connection fees, which some have noted are barriers for new businesses building here. The change in policy serves as an example for other departments that have the opportunity to adjust fees and/or processes to help encourage development.
Citywide Building Facilities Director Peter Fusco has streamlined the way the City plans projects and does preventative maintenance. In addition, departments are working closer such as when Edgewood and BEHS [Bristol Eastern High School] had sewer back-ups.
In other school locations, the Public Works Department came in to fix long-standing drainage issues at three schools that were negatively impacting neighbors, as well as responded during storms to take care of downed trees in parking lots, instead of calling in outside contractors.
Bristol’s award-winning Outdoor Classrooms and Gardens at local schools is a collaboration among the Public Works, Parks and Schools. Many of the raised beds and outdoor boards were made with items salvaged from the Transfer Station to create outdoor classroom areas, while introducing students to gardening. Through these efforts from Public Works’ Lindsey Rivers, Peter English, Ryan Moriarty, Parks Sarah Larson and many principals, the City achieved Silver Certification with Sustainable CT and was featured on CPTV.
The Parks Department and Public Works Department have also collaborated on paving the new parking lots at Muzzy Field and at the Malone indoor pool, saving thousands of dollars on costs, as well as providing hands-on training for employees to perfect their paving skills.
Last spring, the Library cleared their Meeting Room schedule so the Fire Department could do training in a larger space due to Covid; the Fire Department in turn provided CPR training to Water & Sewer employees; the Housing Authority delivered a brand new fridge to Engine 2 when theirs died unexpectedly, and the list goes on.
These partnerships make a difference when all entities work together and have been a cornerstone of my Administration’s efforts to break down traditional silos and get departments working together. In doing so, the opportunity to reach more people, leverage resources, and expand impact is achieved. The City Council and I thank the many city employees who haven’t missed a beat over the last 18 months, and encourage you to take a moment on Labor Day to thank a worker as well.
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is the mayor of Bristol.