PLAINVILLE - Budgets, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and the proposed water pollution control facility were the big topics at the annual “State of the Town” forum Thursday.
Held at the Plainville Public Library, the forum was hosted by the Plainville Chamber of Commerce. It included Kathy Pugliese, Town Council chairwoman, Maureen Brummett, superintendent of schools, Robert E. Lee, town manager, John Bossi, director of technical services and Mark Devoe, director of planning and economic development.
Following each of their presentations, there was a brief question and answer segment which saw participation from state Rep. William Petit, Tim Stewart, father of New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and resident John Kisluk.
Pugliese gave a recap of challenges which the Town Council had taken on recently. These included applying for state grants for improved railroad crossing markers, the remediation of the Plainville High School track, redevelopment of the White Oak and Chung properties and the dog park proposal.
It also included the boiler replacement and LED lighting upgrades at the Middle School of Plainville, the water quality study, the Wheeler school renovations, the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail study, the mandated upgrades to the town’s water pollution control facility and the challenges of state aid cuts.
Brummett said that Plainville schools are “very fiscally responsible.” She said that the school budget had increased by an average of 1.06 percent over the past 7 years. However, the state cuts to education funding were going to prove challenging.
“The impact has been that we did not hire a teacher to replace one that retired in Wheeler school, increasing class size,” she said. “We have also put off some preventative maintenance and we are cutting the number of supplies such as books that each classroom receives. We have not yet reduced our staff, but if more cuts are coming down the line then a reduction of programs and staff are anticipated.”
Lee’s portion of the presentation focused mostly on the town budget and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail project.
He explained that the town had consistently passed balanced budgets. Lee explained that the challenge had come when the state didn’t inform the town until half-way through the fiscal year that they’d be getting $1.9 million less in state aid than was originally projected.
This ultimately resulted in town staff searching for additional cuts and passing the first supplemental tax bill in town history to try to make up for the shortfall.
“Our mill rate has increased by an average of 1.64 percent over the last five years and that includes the supplemental tax bill,” Lee said.
As for the trail, Lee said that it could allow for safety improvements to be made to Pierce and Broad Street and that it would also give residents a chance to appreciate some of the town’s natural features.
Bossi elaborated on the water pollution control facility upgrades, explaining that they were intended to kill algae in the water by removing phosphorous. He also explained that before water is discharged it is hit with ultraviolet rays that kill bacteria and viruses. If the project is approved at referendum Jan. 30, construction will begin this year.
Devoe said that as director of planning and economic development, his goal was to “create conduits for economic support.” He noted that 35 businesses have opened in town in 2017, many of which filled long-vacant properties. He also made mention of businesses that were expanding in town.
Petit gave his kudos to the town leaders.
“In Plainville, I see people working together for the greater good of the community,” he said. “In other communities there is significant partisanship and as a result, things run much less efficiently. Plainville should be really happy with the leaders that it has.”
Stewart said that Plainville was “remarkable” in the way that town leaders were able to work together to come up with long-term plans for the community.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.