Welcome to 2022! Let us hope that as we move into the new year the situation with the pandemic improves. From Town Hall there are a number of things we hope to move forward. Obviously some things will depend on the state of Covid 19. How we conduct meetings by our boards and commissions will also have to be flexible. There is no state guidance as yet.
The new grand list will be published in February. There are substantial increases in the value of most of our houses. There will also be increases from the construction of new houses and from payments by Aquarion. (More to come on that shortly.) Taxes are based on the assessment of property multiplied by a “mill rate.” For the same budget expenditure, if the grand list increases, the mill rate goes down.
We are just beginning the budget process, so with the town, the Board of Education and the Board of Finance working together we will keep expenditures down. All the different departments will present their budgets to the Board of Finance in March, and the budget will be finalized in April. It will then be presented at the annual town meeting and then voted on in a referendum, the first week of May. There will be lots of opportunities for public input so please stay informed.
The EMS board of trustees hopes to finalize the location for their new headquarters shortly. Once we have a location, we can set up a building committee with members from EMS and the town. There will also have to be an approval process by The Planning and Zoning Commission. We plan to use most of the money allocated from the American Rescue Plan as well as the money EMS has raised. Please consider donating to EMS at www.eastonems.com.
At the same time we have engaged a consultant, ESCI, to evaluate all of our emergency services. Major focuses of the consultation will be manpower, communications and what is called the “ISO” rating. This is the town’s ability to respond to fires and it is a major factor in the cost of homeowner’s insurance. We hope to improve that rating in a way that reduces premiums for houses in the northern part of town not on public water.
Regarding the town’s property at South Park Avenue, there will be a public hearing early next year on selling 19 acres of the land along the river to the Aspetuck Land Trust, followed by a town meeting and referendum to approve the sale. This is in compliance with our new Land Use Ordinance. The town worked with the land trust to secure a state grant to supplement the purchase price of $470,000. The grant mandates that the purchase be completed in 2022. The land trust has also expressed an interest in purchasing more of the land, with no offer at this time. The South Park Advisory Committee has submitted its final report regarding their suggestions for the land which is available on the town website. In 2021 the town leased part of the land to Easton Grows which successfully grew hemp on the property. That was a one growing season lease.
Over the next six months the state mandates that we prepare a plan to provide affordable housing in Easton. How to fulfill this required plan is a very sensitive and sometimes emotional subject. The town has hired a consultant to help prepare the report with a grant we received from the state, and established a committee to aid the consultant. There will be public hearings where you will be able to contribute your ideas to the planning process.
For the last two years Easton has recognized Pride Month with the raising of the Pride Flag. In the discussions leading up to that it has been recommended that the flag would fly more appropriately on a nautical flag pole on a separate staff. The Board of Selectman approved purchasing a nautical flag pole which will be installed next year at Town Hall.
The Parks and Recreation Department continues to provide excellent services to our children, but they also have plans to begin work on a pickle ball court for our seniors.
We are getting a new Senior Center van paid for mostly by a grant we received from the State of Connecticut. As I have discussed before, I am pleased that we have been able to provide a high level of services to our seniors, far more than any other center during the pandemic. We delivered food and engaged our seniors while the center was briefly closed and quickly reopened to provide needed services as soon as we could open. This allowed us to provide activities and social engagement to our seniors when it was so important. The isolation caused by the pandemic caused as much harm as the pandemic to many, and we are proud that we could largely avoid that isolation for our seniors. We look forward to improving the service we offer, including the new van.
We continue as a town to have issues providing internet connectivity for all in a reliable fashion. Everyone has learned how critical this will be going forward. We have pushed Optimum for better service, but we are also in talks with GoNetspeed which is considering entering the Easton market. We are also looking at options for providing public wifi in some areas.
I look forward to hearing from you about these and any other issues in town. Once the latest surge of Covid looks to be slowing down, we will look into setting up some new forums for public discussion. I encourage everyone, but especially the newcomers to town to join in. Have a Happy and a Healthy New Year.