Connecticut Town & City - August 2021

Page 1

August 2021

In the Weeds with a

New Law


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EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OFFICERS President Luke A. Bronin, Mayor of Hartford 1st Vice President Jayme J. Stevenson, First Selectman of Darien 2nd Vice President Thomas Dunn, Mayor of Wolcott DIRECTORS Elinor Carbone, Mayor of Torrington Justin Elicker, Mayor of New Haven John A. Elsesser, Town Manager of Coventry Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., First Selectman of Old Saybrook Laura Francis, First Selectman of Durham Joseph P. Ganim, Mayor of Bridgeport Barbara M. Henry, First Selectman of Roxbury Matthew Hoey, First Selectman of Guilford John L. Salomone, City Manager, Norwich Laura Hoydick, Mayor of Stratford Catherine Iino, First Selectwoman of Killingworth Matthew S. Knickerbocker, First Selectman of Bethel

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Marcia A. Leclerc, Mayor of East Hartford Curt Leng, Mayor of Hamden Rudolph P. Marconi, First Selectman of Ridgefield W. Kurt Miller, Chief Fiscal Officer, Ansonia Edmond V. Mone, First Selectman of Thomaston Michael Passero, Mayor of New London Brandon Robertson, Town Manager of Avon Erin E. Stewart, Mayor of New Britain Mark B. Walter, Town Administrator of Columbia PAST PRESIDENTS Susan S. Bransfield, First Selectwoman of Portland Mark D. Boughton, Mayor of Danbury Michael Freda, First Selectman of North Haven Neil O’Leary, Mayor of Waterbury Herbert Rosenthal, Former First Selectman of Newtown

CCM Annual Convention Returns

4

American Rescue Plan Toolkit

6

NLC REAL Initiative

8

Online Gambling

9

Infrastructure Investment

10

Marijuana Legislation

12

Population Decline in CT

15

CIRMA News

18

Town News

20

CCM STAFF Executive Director, Joe DeLong Deputy Director, Ron Thomas

OUTCOMES MATTER. TRUST IS EARNED.

Managing Editor, Kevin Maloney Layout & Design, Matthew Ford Writer, Christopher Gilson

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Connecticut Town & City © 2021 Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

Visit the CT&C Archives at: https://issuu.com/ccm_ct

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AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 3


TOGETHER AGAIN NEW LOCATION, NEW DAY

Back Together Again!

2021 CCM Convention agenda is being set

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s promised, the 2021 CCM Convention, to be held on November 30 and December 1 at the Mohegan Sun Earth Expo Center, will bring us back together again! The exhibit hall is filling up, our popular workshops are nearly set, and the schedule is being completed. The only thing left is for you to register to be part of this exciting opportunity to network with your peers and learn from experts in the municipal field. At the heart of the event will be the same great Convention that you’ve come to expect from CCM. There are going to be over a dozen workshops including a panel of state commissioners, nearly 150 exhibitors, the awards dinner and more. Key workshops include Risk Management for Municipal Officials; CCM’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) Advisory Service Committee; PFAS – The Hidden Expense; CT Trail Finder: Engaging Trails & Greenspaces for Economic Development & Public Health; Risks of Not Promoting Fair & Equitable Workplace; Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendent’s Blueprint to Transform Connecticut’s Public Schools; Social Services: Everything you wanted to know; Update on Affordable Housing & Land Use Legislation; Making Our Communities Great Places To Live For All: Examples & Stories From CT Municipal Leaders; State Commissioners’ Panel; Successfully Managing Short-Term Grants and Funds; Cybersecurity: Preventing Costly Attacks to Your Municipality; Municipal Collective Bargaining After COVID-19; and Connecticut’s Financial Outlook – Beyond the Headlines. 4 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

For the second day, we have invited Connecticut’s federal congressional delegation to participate in a panel discussion. Already confirmed to be at the exhibit hall as of August 11 are CIRMA, ACV Enviro, Beirne Wealth Consulting Services, LLC, BELFOR Property Restoration, BL Companies*, Cardinal Engineering Associates, Colliers Project Leaders, Competitive Energy Services, Con Edison Solutions, ConnectiCare*, Connection Public Sector Solutions, Construction Solutions Group, Crown Castle, Distinctive TreeCare, Downes Construction Company*, Eagle Environmental, Inc., The ECG Group*, Edmunds GovTech, Environmental Partners*, Full Circle Technologies, Inc., Indus, Loureiro Engineering Associates, Inc.*, M.E. O’Brien & Sons, Inc., The Mercury Group, Nationwide Security Corporation, NIC Connecticut, OneDigital*, OpenGov*, Pality*, PFM Asset Management, LLC, Post University*, Savy & Sons, Sertex Broadband Solutions*, Specialized Data Systems, Inc.*, Stirling Benefits a 90 Degree Benefits Company, Superior Spring & Mfg. Co. Inc., Tighe & Bond*, Titan Energy New England*, Tyler Technologies, Unique Paving Materials Corp., United Concrete Products, Weston & Sampson, and Woodard & Curran*. *CCM Municipal Business Associate members Thanks to this year’s sponsors — CIRMA, Post University, Halloran Sage, Connecticare, Bank of America, and Sacred Heart University! Here’s what else we have planned on the agenda:


Municipal Excellence Awards

Sustainable CT

The 2021 Municipal Excellence Awards will be once again awarded in four categories, two for cities and two for individuals.

Municipalities who have achieved certification in the Sustainable CT program will receive recognition and their plaques during the Convention.

• Three General Entry Awards by Population Size • A Topical Award (To Be Determined) • The Joel Cogen Lifetime Achievement Award • The Richard C. Lee Innovators Award The award recipients will be honored at the Convention, as well as featured in a future issue of CT&C.

Connecticut Certified Municipal Officials

#LoCoolGov Contest A $500 scholarship will be handed out in two age groups to a Connecticut student in a public middle school or high school. Participants must create their own original work themselves, but may get help from teachers, parents, or friends in the form of ideas. They may also collaborate on projects of no more than three people. For more information on these two awards, visit https://www.ccm-ct.org/Resources/Municipal-Excellence-Awards and https://www.ccm-ct.org/Resources/ LoCoolGov-Youth-Scholarship

We will once again be lauding our municipal officials who have completed enough credits to become certified municipal officials.

Game On! At the end of the evening on November 30, we will have a lively reception at GameOn, where you can continue networking, drink, relax, and bowl or play arcade games. To be a part of this fun and informative experience, you can go to www.ccm-ct.org and follow the links to the 2021 CCM Convention Registration Page, or take a snap of this QR code with your phone and you’ll be brought right to the page. We can’t wait to welcome you to this year’s Convention and to be back with you in person!

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 5


Toolkit For ARP Funds Released

ARP Advisory Committee lays path for municipal best practices

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ver the next several years, towns and cities across the country are being handed a unique opportunity. The American Rescue Plan is an unprecedented amount of federal funds aimed at helping municipalities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as look towards the future. CCM has convened an advisory committee of experts to help create a toolkit to help navigate the best-practices in administering these funds. The American Rescue Plan, or ARP, has allocated $65.1 billion to municipalities, with Connecticut set to receive $2.55 billion - $1.56 billion to general government and an additional $995 million to Boards of Education. ARP requires that the funds be accounted for and used in explicitly approved purposes: • Responding to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits as well as aid to affected industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; • Providing government services previously cut due to pandemic-related revenue shortfalls, and; • Making needed investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. It was for this reason that the Advisory Committee was convened. The group consists of: • Courtney Hendricson, Vice President of Partnerships, AdvanceCT • Brig Smith, City of Middletown, General Counsel and President, CAMA • Eric Gjede, VP, Government Affairs, CBIA • Chris Dipentima, President & CEO, CBIA • Gian-Carl Casa, President & CEO, CT Community Nonprofit Alliance • Gene Goddard, Chief Business Investment Officer, METRO Hartford Alliance • Fred Carstensen, Professor of Finance and Economics - Director, Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis -School of Business, University of Connecticut • John Glascock PhD, Professor of Real Estate and Finance Director, Center for Real Estate and Urban Studies, University of Connecticut • Dale Graver, Regional Director, VC3 • Mike LeBlanc, President, GFOA • Norm Needleman, First Selectman, Essex • Carl Fortuna, First Selectman, Old Saybrook • Dave Demchak, President & CEO, CIRMA • Lynn Stoddard , Director, Sustainable CT • Jay Williams, President, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving • Sam Gold, Executive Director, Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments • Pam Keyes, Vice President of Risk Management, CIRMA 6 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

• Erin Stewart, Mayor, City of New Britain • Steve Mednick, Attorney, Law Office of Steven G. Mednick • Kari Olson, Partner, Murtha Cullina LLC • Tim Weber, Director, Security Services, ADNET Technologies • Jody Barr, Executive Director, Council 4 AFSCME • Julie McGrath, Grants Coordinator, Office of Congressman Joe Courtney • Betsy Gara, Executive Director, COST • Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, Interim CEO, CT Main Street Center Through many meetings, they developed the ARP Advisory Committee Toolkit. It is intended to be a resource and supplement formal information provided by federal and stage government agencies. Used in concert with the formal guidance from the Department of Treasury, local leaders can begin understanding the uses and full impact of the ARP funds, the do’s and don’ts, suggestions for consideration, as well as a robust FAQ section that will answer many of the most common questions. As we move forward, it is important that our local leaders understand the ins and outs of ARP funding. This is an opportunity that CCM believes will allow local leaders to engage partners in their town and region to jumpstart a long and large economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Read the full toolkit at our website, www.ccm-ct.org, or more information contact Michael Muszynski at mmuszynski@ccm-ct.org or Ron Thomas at rthomas@ ccm-ct.org.


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Keeping Equity In Focus

CCM continues its commitment to equity in our towns and cities

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t is fast approaching a year since the first CCM CARES town halls were announced to begin the crucial conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion in our towns and cities. CCM is committed to continuing those conversations and the work that follows with key partnerships and workshops. One exciting partnership that we are happy to continue is with the National League of Cities (NLC) Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) Initiative. Many will remember the key role they played in our national CCM CARES panel this past December. In June, CCM along with the other northeastern state municipal leagues, invited NLC to give their REAL 101 training to hundreds of staff in the region called “Normalizing Racial Equity in Local Government.” The goals and objectives of this training were to “understand the foundations for normalizing racial equity in governing,” as well as “explore opportunities to take action to advance racial equity.” Building on that knowledge, in a condensed version of their 201 and 301 level course, NLC REAL discussed the very real action items that local leaders can be taking now. In their framework, this is moving from normalizing to organizing to operationalizing, with the goal of promoting real progress on racial equity in communities across Connecticut. After this, attendees from the first two webinars were invited to a smaller, more focused town hall discussion where local leaders talked about local challenges and their solutions. For those that could not make these workshops, CCM’s Board Inclusion Committee has authorized a “guided process” over the next six months to help municipalities implement seven action items from the CCM Racial Equity Toolkit that was distributed earlier this year. This will be a well-rounded process

that includes training sessions, peer roundtables, individual technical assistance, resource lists and recognition of progress/achievements. Municipalities will be guided through these action items: • Issuing a proclamation or resolution outlining a statement of racial equity goals and strategies • Building organizational capacity to guide municipal racial equity efforts • Employing a simple set of questions to view budget, policy, and service delivery decisions through a racial equity lens • Developing formal community partnerships with under-represented residents • Presenting annual reports to the Municipal Governing Body on Racial Equity, including composition of boards and commissions, composition of municipal work-

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force, and other key metrics or indicators of progress. • Establishing policies and practices related to procurement and contracting that provide more access and opportunity to minority contractors. • Adopting a municipal racial equity policy and plan/strategy to address a specific racial equity goal for your community with clear actions, timelines and responsibilities. The most important thing is to keep addressing the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion in our state. From REAL workshops last year, we learned that race is still the number one predictor of success in America. Until it is not, we are committed to working together to make sure that every resident can access the benefits and opportunities to enable them to make a good life for themselves and their families.


A Mitigated Risk

Online gambling is more over than under for state, municipalities, and tribes

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vershadowed by the recent marijuana legislation, the legalization of online gambling was certainly a controversial topic in its own right. But with the passage and arrival of online gambling, the State and the Tribal Nations are seeing more pros than cons. Like so many other areas of industry, gambling or gaming is no longer tethered to the craps table, but accessible to individuals through their computers and mobile devices. What was lacking, was a way to regulate this industry in a way that would benefit everyone. Governor Lamont, Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman James Gessner Jr., Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler and the legislative leaders worked on an agreement that would equitably share the benefits of this new industry, as well as allowing the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to partner in these efforts. The details of the plan per the Governor’s press release include: • An 18 percent tax rate for the first five years on new online commercial casino gaming (or “iGaming”) offerings, followed by a 20 percent tax rate for at least the next five years • A 13.75 percent tax rate on sports wagering • Connecticut Lottery shall have the right to operate 15 retail sports betting locations, as well as operate an online sports betting skin • Connecticut Lottery shall have the right to sublicense locations to the state-licensed parimutuel operator • Connecticut Lottery will undertake new retail sports betting venues in Hartford and Bridgeport • License agreement to be for ten years with a five-year extension option • Expansion of iLottery and Keno through the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, including the sale of draw tickets online

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler

• Both tribes agree to halt development of an East Windsor casino through the duration of this agreement While one of the main fears is that this would lead to increased gambling addiction, both tribes as well the Connecticut Lottery have agreed to allocate $2 million towards gambling addiction services in Connecticut. According to the Mayo Clinic, gambling triggers the brain “much like drugs or alcohol can.” There is no proven treatment, but educational programs seem to be helpful. While there is risk in any behavior becoming addictive, there is hope that the pros will far, far outweigh the cons.

Chairman Butler said “Gaming is more than a business to our tribe, it is the way we fund our government, pay for our children’s education, care for our elders, and provider healthcare to our members. The agreement not only ushers in a new modern era of gaming, but it solidifies our tribal/state partnership for years to come.” This is of course true for the rest of the state, as Chairman Gessner notes: “This will allow Connecticut to generate tax revenues from sports and online gaming that are competitive with other states, to the benefit of both state and local municipal budgets, as well as our tribe’s members.”

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 9


Infrastructure Needs Heating Up

Climate change makes investment in future infrastructure essential

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hile temperatures continually hit new records around the world, historic droughts in some areas of the world are matched by historic rains in others, and the sea water level rises on every coast, every community will have to deal with the side effects of climate change. One of the most discussed consequences is infrastructure that will need to be invented or reimagined in the face of our climate crisis. With record or near-record amounts of rain falling in Connecticut, flooding has been an issue for towns and cities across the state. For the coastal towns, the near future will force them to ask if sea level rise will force the issue on sea walls. In Miami, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a wall 20-feet high for six miles in Biscayne Bay to deal with the same set of problems. There, they are receiving pushback as arguments pour in over the effects on the quality of life if access to the ocean becomes blocked by a wall. Back in Connecticut, the flooding did cut off the ocean for many. Beaches along the coast were closed temporarily as bacteria and sewage infected the waters. Inland, roads and bridges crumble not only from lack of funding, but the increasing heat and the increasing usage that diminishes the lifespan of our infrastructure. We wrote in the May issue of CT&C that our Infrastructure report card gave us a C – for the year of 2018. With little to no support given for the kind of funding needed to bring it back up to serviceable, many of the 2100 miles of highway and 248 bridges in need of repair then are still in that state today. On many fronts, there is movement to change this. The impetus of the May article was the American Jobs Plan, a grand project of President Biden that needs broad bipartisan support to pass. It is modeled on the Depression-era Works Progress Administration in its largess. Despite this, Senator Chris Murphy said on our Municipal Voice podcast that this might not be even enough for the kind of investments we need across the country. In addition to projects to make our streets and roads

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safe, our new infrastructure must take into account climate change. For his part, Governor Lamont has been incentivizing electric vehicles. In June, he announced improved incentives to the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) program. Despite not needing gas, EVs still need an investment in infrastructure. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has recently approved a program to support the installation of charging ports for EVs, partnering with Eversource and United Illuminating. The program incentivizes home charging stations, as well as fast charging stations and workplace charging stations. The rebates are up to $500 for homeowners and $40,000 for apartment complexes or businesses. Perhaps more effective than electric vehicles reserved for personal use, is investing in a robust public transportation system. Connecticut is home to the most widely used commuter rails in the United States, but it pales in comparison to commuter lines around the world. The daily ridership is 385,000 across the entire MTA line, where commuter lines in Europe and Asia can reach into the millions. Faster and more reliable service on all of Connecticut’s rail lines could translate to hundreds to thousands of cars off the road, which could lead to even the unintended side effect of lessening commute times for those that still do need to drive. Harkening back to the WPA and post-Great Depression America, we can understand the need for investments in infrastructure and a reimagining of what that means for our towns and cities. Across Connecticut, post offices, schools, roads and bridges built during that time still exist. Roads were created with a new technology in mind – the automobile was just still in its infancy at that time. In the same way, we must look at the possibility of new infrastructure spending and ask what will the world look like in a decade or even a century ahead given what we know about climate change now.


Innovative Ideas Needed!

CCM’s annual compendium shows the breadth of ideas throughout CT

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fter making it through a tumultuous year that almost seemed like it would never end, 2021 has nearly flown by. But much of the uncertainty that we face now is related to reopening, ARP funds, and returning to what everyone calls the “New Normal.” We are pleased to present our 34th edition of the Innovative Ideas for Managing Local Governments compendium. Reprinted from the previous year’s issue of Connecticut Town & City, the quarterly magazine of CCM. We developed these stories from many sources, including visits to Connecticut local governments; suggestions from municipal officials; newspapers and magazines in Connecticut and abroad; publications of the National League of Cities; and publications of other state municipal leagues. There are nearly 80 pages of stories on topics across Civic Achievement, Economic Development, Education, Energy, Environment, Governance, Housing and Infrastructure, Public Safety, Social Welfare, and Technology.

compendium, we hope to give each of our 169 members a glimpse at what other municipalities are doing and to see if you use or adapt the innovative ideas that are coming out of our towns on a daily basis.

They are presented, as always, not as a strict blueprint that your town needs to follow. These are great ideas that can and should spur ideas in your town or city, to have conversations about what can be accomplished.

Be sure to check out the issue at: issuu.com/ccm_ct

As we move forward, Connecticut’s towns and cities will continue to need innovative ideas. Through our

If your town or city has an innovative idea that you think would be perfect for a future issue of Connecticut Town & City, send over a news article, press release, or social media post to Christopher Gilson, cgilson@ccm-ct.org.

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In The Weeds With A New Law

CCM looks at the municipal impact of marijuana legislation

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n 2019, CCM hosted municipal representatives from Colorado and Massachusetts at our Annual Convention to share their perspectives regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana, such was the likelihood that it was going to come to Connecticut. As we all know, legislation has passed and recreational usage is legal with a regulated market following close behind. CCM has prepared information on the passage and impact of this legislation that will help guide municipalities through this new law. At a glance, Public Act 21-1 (Special Session) legalizes the use of cannabis for individuals over the age of 21, limiting possession to 1.5 ounces and 5 ounces in a locked container in the person’s residence or vehicle. But it also creates a process for the erasure of previous marijuana related convictions, allows for the home-grow of the plant beginning in 2023, and establishes a marketplace for the legal sale of marijuana.

Local referendum (Sections 83-84) Effective July 1, 2021, if at least 10% of a municipalities electors petition for a vote to allow certain marijuana sales, it must be done at least 60 days before a regular election. If met, the municipality must hold a referendum to determine whether to allow (1) the recreational sale of marijuana in the municipality or (2) the sale of marijuana in one or more of the cannabis establishment license types. The law does specify what specific language needs to be used in a referendum question.

Zoning Authority and Restrictions (Sections 83-84, 148)

The law allows municipalities to amend their zoning regulations or local ordinances to take the following actions regarding cannabis establishments: a) prohibit them from opening; b) reasonably restrict their hours and signage; or c) restrict their proximity to religious institutions, schools, charitable institutions, hospitals, veterans’ homes, or certain military establishments. If a municipality imposes additional or modified regulations or ordinances regarding the above, they shall not apply to existing cannabis establishments for a period of five years after the restrictions are originally adopted unless the cannabis establishment converts its license to a different license type. If municipalities take no action through zoning regulations or ordinances, these establishments must be zoned as similar uses would be. The law prohibits municipalities from regulating the delivery of cannabis of any form. In addition, the law prohibits municipalities from negotiating or entering into local host agreements. Until June 30, 2024, the bill prohibits municipalities from granting zoning approval for more retailers or micro-cultivators than a number that would allow for one retailer and one micro-cultivator for every 25,000 12 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

municipal residents, as determined by the most recent decennial census. The law also allows municipalities, for the first 30 days after cannabis retailers or hybrid retailers open, to charge them up to $50,000 for any necessary and reasonable municipal costs for public safety services related to the opening (such as for directing traffic).

Regulating Cannabis Usage (sections 83-84)

Effective October 1, 2021, existing law allows municipalities to regulate activities deemed harmful to public health, including smoking, on municipally-owned property. The law broadens this to include property that a municipality controls but does not own. It specifies that this regulatory authority applies to (1) smoking


tobacco or cannabis, including cannabis ecigarette use (i.e., electronic delivery systems and vapor products) and (2) other types of cannabis use or consumption. It allows municipalities to ban cannabis smoking (including ecigarette use) at outdoor sections of restaurants. Through regulations, municipalities may set fines for violations, up to (1) $50 for individuals or (2) $1,000 for businesses. For municipalities with more than 50,000 people, if the town or city decides to regulate the public use of cannabis, the local regulations must designate a location in the municipality where public consumption of cannabis is allowed.

Municipal Cannabis Tax (Sections 126—127)

The law imposes a 3% municipal sales tax (in addition to the state cannabis tax established at 6.35%) on the gross receipts from the sale of cannabis by a cannabis or hybrid retailer or micro-cultivator. Under the law, “gross receipts” means the total amount received from cannabis sales by the retailer or micro-cultivator. The tax must be collected from consumers at the time of sale and be held in trust until remitted to the municipality. The law exempts from the municipal sales tax: a) cannabis for palliative use; b) sales of cannabis by a delivery service to a consumer; and c) the transfer of cannabis to a transporter for transport to any cultivator, micro-cultivator, food and beverage manufacturer, product manufacturer, product packager, dispensary facility, cannabis retailer, hybrid retailer, or producer. Any municipality in which a cannabis or hybrid retailer

or micro-cultivator is located will need to submit to the DRS commissioner, at least annually, the name and contact information of the individual designated by the municipality to receive notifications regarding the local cannabis tax. The DRS Commissioner will then notify (and establish policies and procedures) the municipally designated individuals of the tax amount reported due from each cannabis and hybrid retailer and micro-cultivator located in their respective municipalities. Within 60 days after receiving such a notice from DRS, each municipality must invoice each applicable cannabis retailer, hybrid retailer, and micro-cultivator in accordance with the law for DRS notices. This will need to be done through an invoice by first-class mail to the address of the facility on file. The retailer or micro-cultivator must remit payment to the municipality within 30 days after the invoice was sent. Under the law, the amounts remitted become a part of the municipality’s general revenue and must be used for the following purposes: a) streetscape improvements and other neighborhood developments in communities where cannabis or hybrid retailers or micro-cultivators are located; b) education programs or youth employment and training programs in the municipality; c) services for individuals living in the municipality who were released from DOC custody, probation, or parole; d) mental health or addiction services; e) youth service bureaus and municipal juvenile. It takes time with the passage of any new law for it to be handed down from written legislation to legal interpretation to municipal implementation, but the legislation that legalized recreational marijuana is especially complex. CCM will be there to help pass along important information regarding this and all laws. For more information on this issue, please contact Mike Muszynski at mmuszynski@ccm-ct.org. And if you are interested in revisiting the 2019 Panel Discussion on the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, you can follow this link: http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=16938

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 13


A Partnership That Works

CCM Municipal Business Associate Program helps towns and cities

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e’re all about partnerships at CCM. With 169 towns and cities, we want all of our towns coming together to work for the greater good. And just like our public partnerships, private industry can play a role to help improve the everyday life of every resident – and that’s where the Municipal Business Associate (MBA) program comes in. Aimed specifically at businesses that want to do work with our members, this program provides valuable ways for engaged businesses to stay connected with Connecticut’s municipal markets. More than ever, with Connecticut in a position to grow, these partnerships will be crucial in getting the municipal projects completed that will put our towns and cities on the road to success.

Members who are looking to start a project can turn to our Business Member Directory (https:// www.ccm-ct.org/Resources/Business-Member-Directory) to look through the MBAs that might be right for them. If you know or represent a business that wants to join our members as we build a better tomorrow, you can: • Provide your business with an edge in Connecticut’s competitive municipal marketplace, which spends more than $3 billion a year on products and services • Raise your profile with elected and appointed municipal officials, in person, in print and online; Members receive free or discounted advertising in our magazine, Connecticut Town & City, and are all included in our annual Directory of Business Products &

MB

MUNICIPAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATE

Services. • Enjoy special pricing and discounts on select services, such as mailing lists, advertising in Connecticut Town & City magazine, and a booth at the CCM Annual Convention. • Choose from four levels of membership: platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. You can participate at the level that best suits your objectives. Visit https://www.ccm-ct.org/ Services/Municipal-Business-Associates or contact Beth Scanlon at 203-946-3782 or bscanlon@ccmct.org for more information.

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Will Connecticut Sustain?

Population declines the world over pose problems at the local level The population of Connecticut today nearly exceeds the entire population of the United States at the time of the first decennial census. For twoand-a-quarter centuries, our state and the nation could count on overall population growth. But due to factors such as the 2009 recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, and economic inequality, populations around the world are seeing unprecedented lags in birth rates. If this trend persists, there will be far reaching implications for municipal government around the state. While this trend is worldwide, in the just released 2020 Census figures, America saw its lowest population growth since the Great Depression. In fact, population growth has been steadily declining since the 1850s. If this trend persists, the country would reach a peak population of about 361 million in 2050. This information hits so close to home because Connecticut currently has one of the lowest fertility rates in the nation alongside many of our neighboring states in New England. According to National Vital Statistics Reports, Connecticut has seen its Total Fertility Rate (TFR) drop from 1.8 to 1.54 in the past decade. For a population to sustain itself, that number has to be 2.1. One could easily see the ramifications in the most recent Census data. Just five towns saw an increase in total children, with some towns seeing the total children population decrease by just over a third. This all in spite of the fact that the total population of Connecticut grew by 1%. In many towns, this information will come as no shock. Schools have had their school enrollment numbers drop for years. According to figures published in the CT Examiner, for the last decade schools around the state have “reported annual declines of about 0.5 to 1 percent.” The effects of population decline will necessitate a reimagining of municipal forecasting. Whether it’s a 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) — which already deals with population density — or infrastructure to handle the repercussions of global warming, towns and cities are already planning into the future. If populations were to continue to decline, economic growth, population density, and more would likely fall in lock step. What remains true is that areas with a depressed TFR will not only see a population in decline, but those areas are expected to grow older. The life expectancy in Connecticut is one of the highest in the country, almost two years longer than the average American, which a 2016 CT Mirror article says will lead to a “graying” of the economy. This could lead to an increased need for affordable housing, health care facilities and more.

At least one town in Italy referenced in a recent New York Times article on this subject was able to come up with a clever solution to two of these problems: “In Capracotta, a small town in southern Italy, a sign in red letters on an 18th-century stone building looking on to the Apennine Mountains reads “Home of School Kindergarten” — but today, the building is a nursing home.” Globally, these changes are going to be dramatic – from that same Times article, they write that China will see its population halve from 1.41 billion to 700,000 million by 2100. That’s like losing the entire population of America, twice. The effects in Connecticut towns and cities will not be so drastic, but the evidence is there that populations will contract over the coming decades. Residents from other states will not be a reliable salve if those states are experiencing similar trends. What remains is the fact that towns and cities will have to incorporate this thinking into their long term goals. Alongside global warming, population decline requires a complete rethinking about where we see the future of our municipalities, the state, and the world.

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CCMs Homepage Gets A New Look!

With ease of use in mind, the webpage and portal get a fresh update

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ne of the most common threads through the past year is that people sitting at home realized just how outdated some of their rooms were – kitchen cabinets need new hardware, the living room needs a coat of paint, new shower curtains in the bathroom. CCM was right there with you – as our homepage got a brand-new update for 2021! The most obvious change will be when you first land on our homepage – www.CCM-CT.org. The layout is cleaner and easier to read than our old website. The drop-down menus are larger and easier to navigate. The main page is less cluttered, making it easier to find that section that you’re looking for. And if you don’t find it – hey! the search bar is fully functional and easy to find right at the top of the page. But to achieve full functionality of the website, you need to activate your account. Members with existing accounts should receive an email from CCM staff with their new login information. If you did not receive an email, please contact us at memberservices@ccm-ct.org. If you do not have an existing account, you can create one be visiting the website and clicking “Register” at the top of the page. Many of you have already done this, and have enjoyed the new, quick and easy functionality of signing up for a workshop.

Once you log in, you’ll be asked to change your password. And after that, you are all set. Just make sure that you only create the one account. From there you will be able to see any members-only sections or information on our new site. You can also click on your name at the top of the home screen to access your new Member Dashboard. Here you can make sure we have the right information for you on file you are now able to register for upcoming events and trainings and check your progress toward earning your certification if you enrolled in our CCMO program. You can also update your interests and communications preferences. We want you to get the most out of our new website. If you have any issues logging in, changing your password, or using your new Member Dashboard, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at memberservices@ ccm-ct.org. This is an exciting time at CCM. We built this new website and member portal with our municipal members in mind. So be sure to take a look around. You’ll find information on CCM’s programs and services, as well as a host of information and features available only to CCM members.

Our new website’s layout is cleaner and easier to read.

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CIRMA CIRMA Returns Nearly $5M To Connecticut Communities Nearly $37 million delivered to members over the last eleven years

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he Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, CIRMA, returned approximately $5M to Connecticut cities, towns, public schools and local public agencies last month. Over the past eleven years, CIRMA put nearly $37 million in equity back in the hands of its members. “CIRMA’s Members’ Equity Distribution program continues to affirm the organization’s deliberate and disciplined approach to creating member value and substantiates its long-term financial strength. Over the past year, CIRMA further distinguished its many competitive advantages, dispelling a common assumption that one insurer is as good as another,” said Matthew Knickerbocker, Chairman, CIRMA Board of Directors.

With 362 members across the Constitution State, CIRMA provides Workers’ Compensation, Liability, Auto, and Property insurance coverages to Connecticut public entities. CIRMA is also the only insurance provider that returns equity to its members—not shareholders. “The strength of our balance sheet is undeniable, and despite unprecedented market conditions, CIRMA continues to see consistent, top-tier financial results across the board. Our overall financial strength routinely exceeds expectations as we continue to strike a perfect balance between risk and reward. These results directly affect our ability to distribute equity back to our members,” lauded David Demchak, CIRMA President, and CEO.

CIRMA Helps Give Kids A Chance

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oday 12 employees will lose their lives while working on the job. Catastrophic workplace injuries are often life-altering for affected families, causing devastating emotional and financial strain on loved ones. And with over 4 million employees suffering severe workrelated injuries or illnesses throughout the U.S. each year, the poignant question lingers: who’s looking out for their children? The answer? Kids’ Chance of America. Prominently known as Kids’ Chance, this national non-profit organization provides critical scholarships to children with parents who have been affected by a catastrophic workplace injury, including loss of life. Since its inception in 1988, Kids’ Chance has expanded its geographic spread with present-day representation spanning all 50 states. The Constitution State’s local community chapter, Kids’ Chance of Connecticut, was established in 2018. The nonprofit has gifted approximately $42,000 in scholarship funds to ten deserving recipients in 2021 alone. After identifying marked congruencies between the two organization’s community-centric missions, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA) Board of Directors recently approved a $10,000 contribution to Kids’ Chance of Connecticut.

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CIRMA is a leading provider of property and casualty insurance products and services, including Workers’ Compensation coverage and claim services, for Connecticut’s public sector. Cumulatively, CIRMA is responsible for protecting the lives of over 71,000 employees and volunteers across the state. “CIRMA has a rich history serving Connecticut’s communities, and we view the thousands of injured employees we support as extensions of the CIRMA family. So it’s only natural we embrace the opportunity to support their children—especially those who are so deeply affected by these situations. And we’re thrilled to support them locally through an organization like Kids’ Chance of Connecticut,” said David Demchak, CIRMA’s President, and CEO. Strategic partnerships with businesses and community organizations help support Kids’ Chance of Connecticut’s work, making the dream of higher education a reality for deserving students. Visit their website, kidschance ofct.org to learn more about how you or your organization can help support their mission.


CIRMA CIRMA Welcomes New Staff Central to CIRMA’s success is its employees We’re excited to welcome this impressive group of professionals to CIRMA. It’s our staff who help create our innovative solutions and deliver on the promises we make our members, every day. The CIRMA team makes a difference,” said David Demchak, President and Chief Executive Officer of CIRMA. Linwood Lang is joined CIRMA’s Finance team as their newest Statutory Accountant. Linwood, a resident of Hamden, received his bachelor degree in Accounting from the University of New Haven and is a certified CPA. Prior to joining CCM/CIRMA Linwood held the position of Senior Accountant for HealthyCT located in Wallingford.

Jessica Marinuzzi joined CIRMA’s Underwriting team and will be working in the position of Underwriting Technical Assistant. Jessica a resident of North Haven, recently graduated from Albertus Magnus College earning a bachelor degree in Accounting and Finance. Prior to joining CCM/CIRMA Jessica held the position of Member Service Representative for Connex Credit Union located in North Haven. Vignesh Rajaram recently joined CIRMA’s Business Intelligence team as a Senior Software Engineer.

Linwood Lang Brian LaJoie joined CIRMA as their newest Liability-Auto-Property Claims Specialist.

Vignesh, a resident of Simsbury, joins CIRMA with almost 15 years of experience in application design and lead developer on implementing insurance web applications.

Brian, a resident of Putnam, has over 24 years of insurance claims experience with a focus on managing complex claims and litigation matters.

Vignesh Rajaram

Brian LaJoie Jonathan Kania joined CIRMA’s Workers’ Compensation Claims team as a Senior Claims Representative. John, a resident of Plantsville, received his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami, School of Law. John joins CIRMA with over ten years of Workers’ Compensation claims experience. Prior to joining CIRMA, John was a Senior Workers’ Compensation Claims Representative for ESIS located in Simsbury.

Jessica Marinuzzi

Ashtyn Totora is CIRMA’s newest Workers’ Compensation Claims Assistant. Ashtyn, a resident of Guilford, received an associate degree in Liberal Arts from Gateway Community College. Prior to joining our team, Ashtyn was a Workers’ Compensation Claims Assistant for Chubb Insurance.

Ashtyn Totora

Jonathan Kania

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 19


CIVIC ACHIEVEMENT

The Wicked Cricket Pitch New sportsfield is a home-run for towns

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aseball may be America’s pastime, but the sport of Cricket has seen a growing fan base in Connecticut. But despite similarities, the sport needs its own field. In Manchester, they renovated an old softball field so that the burgeoning sport has a place to grow in the city.

Thanks to work done in-house from the town engineering and public works departments, the project came in under budget, as quoted in the Courant article.

To say that Cricket is growing in popularity undersells the phenomenon. Second only to Football – Soccer to us Americans – Cricket holds a worldwide audience of 2.5 billion fans according to the World Atlas, mostly centered in former British Colonies like India and Australia.

This is exemplary of the growing popularity of the sport throughout Connecticut.

Compare that to Baseball’s 500 million fans worldwide. The rules of which are very similar to cricket as both are considered “bat-and-ball” games, where one team is batting and the other team is playing defense. With that kind of popularity around the world, it was bound to make its way to America. According to figures from the Hartford Courant, the Asian Pacific American population grew 65 percent in the last census period, which they argue led to the increasing popularity. Support came from Manchester Mayor Jay Moran and General Manager Scott Shanley who allocated $350,000 for the project in 2019 – to be reimbursed through the state’s Local Capital Improvement Program. The project, like so many others, was delayed due to the pandemic. 20 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

The Connecticut Cricket League boasts 16 teams from around the state, including teams from the Hartford area, Southern Massachusetts, and Southern Connecticut.

Earlier this year, the New Milford Town Council voted to approve the construction of a cricket field in town. The field would support the New Milford Cricket Club (NMCC), which has been active since 2006, who provided fundraising for the project, with additional funds coming from the Waste Management Fund according to the Danbury News Times. NMCC recently hosted what they called a “historic” cricket match between a local youth team and a youth team from Norwalk. (The match is available to watch on the NMCC YouTube page). As the sport grows in popularity around the state and around the country, the infrastructure is going to need to grow. Thanks to its similarities to Baseball, converting a field from one to another might prove a simple option. Thanks to efforts in Manchester and New Milford, the sport has room to grow, welcome fans new and old alike.


CIVIC AMENTITIES Culture In The Northwest Spring Hill Arts Gathering brings vibes, culture to Washington

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ith Cultural Districts now available for all Connecticut municipalities to pursue, one of the key jumping points is looking at those cultural touchstones. In Washington, one of the newest cultural programs is the Spring Hill Arts Gathering held on seven days across two weekends this past summer. The Spring Hill Arts Gathering festival is being put on Spring Hill Vineyards, which was founded in 2006. Since then, they have put together entertainment and arts centers on their property, which is where most of the festivities were to be held. The goal of this festival is to connect artists with nature and encourage diverse perspectives with creative collaborations and discussions. Some of the highlights of the festival include music by KT Tunstall and Sophie B. Hawkins, a conversation with Graydon Carter, dance

programs, food vendors and a makers market. Tickets to the event were $45 for individual days, except the last day, which was free. One day is a cross promotion between SHAG and Pride in the Hills (PITH), an organization whose mission it is to “support, inspire, and celebrate LGBTQ+ people in the Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills” areas. In addition to their day at SHAG, PITH has sponsored 160 young people to attend the True Colors Convention in Storrs, awarded grants and other financial support to LGBTQ+ groups, contributed to libraries in conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, and much more. The last day of the gathering was specifically produced as a Washington Town Party, featuring tributes to local town heroes, as well as local town artisans. This day was

free for all to attend. When discussing the possibility of cultural districts at a local webinar hosted by CCM in partnership with the Connecticut Main Street Center, they advised towns not to overlook important cultural happenings in town rather than singling out the usual museums and theatres as important cornerstones to the culture of a town. Festivals like the Spring Hill Arts Gathering festival are important in bringing the kinds of diverse crowds and new people from the area to a town like Washington. Especially with the focus on diversity with the partnership with Pride in the Hills and the reflection on the local with the Town Party, towns and cities across the state should reflect on those places where they see cultural value. That way, years down the line, they won’t be saying “Suddenly I see!”

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The Economic Development section of CT&C is sponsored by New Haven Terminal, Inc. Learn more at: www.newhaventerminal.com

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You Mean Like The Mall?

Municipalities take the initiative to repurpose vacant retail properties

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onnecticut’s malls and retail centers have been hit especially hard in the wake of the pandemic. However, these same struggling and often vacant properties present unique opportunities for repurposing and adaptive reuse. “The best use and most appropriate plan of implementation will vary by property and municipality,” says Pullman & Comley attorney Gary B. O’Connor, co-chair of Pullman & Comley’s Real Estate, Energy, Environmental and Land Use Department. “But there is consensus that time is running out. Municipalities must be proactive and take steps to ensure that these properties can be adapted to meet evolving market demands and community preferences, before decisions are made by out-of-state lenders or discount purchasers that don’t necessarily take into consideration the best interests of the communities in which these properties are located.” Some New England municipalities have already begun to work with owners to adapt retail centers to new or expanded uses. The CitySquare project in Worcester transformed a vacant mall into over 2 million square feet of desirable commercial, medical, retail, entertainment, and residential space. This mixed use project included public-private financing: $25 million state financing, $70 million from the City of Worcester; $470 million in private development funds. Redevelopment of multiple big box stores are currently under consideration in New Hampshire. As mall properties tend to be centrally located and well-connected to transit, with large numbers of parking spaces, they also represent attractive spaces for potential housing developments, including affordable housing projects. In Trumbull, the city’s planning and zoning commission gave its approval last October on the plan to build 260 apartments at the Trumbull Mall, after having voted in favor of regulations in 2018 that paved the way for the project. Centennial Real Estate, the owner of the Connecticut Post Mall, has not enjoyed similar results. In October 2020, Milford P&Z rejected a proposal which would have allowed a 300-unit apartment building at the mall.

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Home Sweet Home?

Current planning and zoning regulations in many Connecticut municipalities are relatively restrictive, offering little flexibility with respect to the types of uses allowed in a particular zone. This poses a time-consuming and expensive challenge to owners of malls and large retail centers who are attempting to avoid financial ruin. “It is incumbent upon municipalities, particularly their land use agencies and boards, to be more cognizant of the dramatic changes that are presently occurring in the retail industry,” says Pullman & Comley attorney Amanda G. Gurren. “They need to create workable standards and expedited approval processes that will allow for the necessary repurposing, rehabilitation, and/or construction of these properties.” Likewise, in some instances, the investment of state and local funds may be necessary to incentivize a property owner to repurpose a mall property in line with the community vision. Large retail centers have been important contributors to the communities in which they are located. Historically, they have represented a source of millions of dollars of annual tax revenue, employed hundreds of area residents over the years, and drawn consumer spending from beyond their immediate geographical areas. If these properties are to remain community assets, local governments must take the initiative.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Are You A Tourist? CT Towns and Cities look to summer vacation boost

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ave you booked your summer vacation yet? If not, you might want to as a mixture of pent up demand and caution might have Connecticut booming with tourists this summer for a quick weekend getaway.

That is the slogan of CT Tourism’s newest campaign, which Castonguay says was born out of research and observing the trends of what’s going on.

Your next adventure awaits!

From Hartford: • Take CTrail Hartford Line from Hartford Union Station to New Haven Union Station • Transfer to CTrail Shore Line East to continue to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station

The new ParkConneCT program expands transit service and connections to some of Connecticut’s most popular state parks. Start your journey with the information below.

“We had almost 60% say ‘yes, once I am vaccinated, I am going to be out enjoying tourism activities,’” she said, “But the interesting thing to note is people also were indicating that they wanted to stay within 100 miles of home.” In a reversal of the old adage that Connecticut is uniquely situated between New York City and Boston, the state’s location might be the selling point – “it provides ample opportunity for everybody to travel less and enjoy more.” Tourism is no small industry in Connecticut. According to her figures, the tourism industry brings in $15.5 billion to Connecticut, supporting 123,000 jobs.

From New Haven: • Take CTrail Shore Line East from New Haven Union Station to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station

HARTFORD LINE

Christine Castonguay, the Interim Director of CT Tourism came on the Municipal Voice, the podcast of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and WNHH FM, to discuss why more people might be saying “Yes to Connecticut.”

Hammonasset Beach State Park

New Haven Union Station

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From New London: • Take CTrail Shore Line East from New London Station to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station

Madison Station

SHORE LINE EAST

Additional Information

From Stamford: • Take New Haven Line (Metro- North) from Stamford to New Haven Union Station • Transfer to CTrail Shore Line East to continue to Madison Station • Connect to 9-Town Transit 641 at Madison Station

• The 645, Madison Shuttle, and Clinton Trolley will stop at the Middle Beach traffic circle within the park • 641, Old Saybrook/Madison: From the Route 1 & Hammonasset bus stop, follow the paved recreation path through the campground and to the beach (0.7 miles to the beach) • Madison Train Station will also connect to the 645 on weekdays and Madison Shuttle 7 days/week • Park admission is free when arriving by bus • Madison Shuttle and Clinton Trolley are fare-free 7 days/week; all connecting bus routes are fare-free on weekends through Labor Day

Operator Information

drink when they show they are vaccinated. CTrail New Haven Line (Metro-North) 9-Town Transit While it took a hit in 2020, Castonguay praised the HartfordLine.com | ShoreLineEast.com New.MTA.info EstuaryTransit.org 877-287-4337 877-690-5114 860-510-0429 Vaccination clinics themselves are going to be a feaindustry leaders for being creative and innovative in ture at local institutions – the Stafford Motor Speedthe way that they were able to provide services and way and Hartford Yard Goats offered vaccination leisure opportunities. Measures like outdoor dining and clinics for guests. online art galleries allowed businesses and institutions the ability to stay connected to the public while they “We’re starting to see some of those Fairs return, we’re weathered the pandemic. starting to see outdoor music festivals, and also some “I think communicating the cleaning protocols that were in place, the social distancing, the mask wearing, the sanitation, but also a lot of the automated options, checking into your lodging facility via mobile phone or purchasing tickets online, cutting down on those touch points is what brought us here,” Castonguay said. Some of the measures that were taken during this time might be here to stay: some social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers will all be part of the social landscape in the coming months, and maybe years. In the near-term, there are programs like “Connecticut Drinks On Us,” that were coordinated between the Office of Tourism, the Governor’s Office, and the Connecticut Restaurant Association to give folks a free

indoor theater coming back online,” she said, “And that really feels so good as a Connecticut resident.” For those that want to head outdoors, Castonguay mentioned the ParkConneCT program which offers fare free shuttle service to state parks, and Weekend Wheels which is free bus service on Saturdays and Sundays. Both programs run through Labor Day. “We need to support our local restaurants, to go to Pomfret or small towns and walk the Main Street and the Town Green, shop at the local boutiques, go to the local coffee shop, go to those local attractions and really continue to support the economic recovery here in Connecticut,” she said. “That is really, at the end of the day, what we’re all trying to do.” AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 23


EDUCATION The Education section of CT&C is sponsored by

www.housatonic.edu

www.gatewayct.edu

Asking The Right Questions

ER9 BOE DEI Survey to create a baseline to work off of

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n many other areas of our daily life diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, often initialized as DEI, have been front and center. But in our schools, the day-today difficulties of learning during a pandemic were on the forefront. The Easton-Redding-Region 9 Boards of Education sought to change that by asking how students and staff felt in a series of surveys on the topic. The survey was created by the ER9 Joint Boards of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, which itself is a new addition to the Boards of Education. Adopted in July of 2020, they were charged with advising in “respect to the operation and financing of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives” in areas relating to hiring, discipline, enrollment, programming, curriculum and more. They are made up of two members from each board, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, as well as non-voting members from the student population, two each from the community, and a certified staff member. Working on the survey, they sought to improve the DEI work at the Helen Keller Middle School, John Read Middle School, and Joel Barlow Middle School. But even before the work can be done, the DEI Task Force said that this survey was necessary to understand where the Boards of Education stood. Redding Board of Education Chairperson Christopher Parkin was quoted in an Easton Courier article on the importance of the survey:

enced bullying. Parents/Guardians and Staff are asked if they’ve seen or heard of children experiencing these issues.

“How can we be serious in our efforts to ensure that we reach every student or respect one another … unless we can establish a basic baseline? Who is being left out of our caring community? Who doesn’t feel supported? Who is scared to ask for help? These are not radical questions.”

Back in March, Superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison wrote in an Op-Ed to the Courier, “Focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion is not a political act, and it does not have to be controversial. Educational equity is ensuring that each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential and taking the necessary steps to identifying and eliminating barriers that would hinder their progress.”

There are four surveys being sent out, one to high school students, one to middle school students, as well as parent/guardian and staff surveys. Parents must opt-in to receive the survey for their children to fill out. The focus here is on the experiences of the children. Example questions ask if students feel safe, respected, and included at school, and whether they’ve experi24 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

With this survey, the ER9 DEI task force is setting that “baseline” of just where they are in regard to their student’s well-being, what areas might need improvement, and where they are succeeding. It might be self-evident, but you can’t know if you don’t ask.


EDUCATION

A Summer Reset

ARP funds help bridge the gap in New Haven

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ith the American Rescue Plan funds came a great responsibility. Adhering to the strict guidelines and having it be useful to your community narrowed down the qualified uses of these funds, but New Haven has come up with a solution that really makes sense: A Summer Reset for children. It’s clear that distance learning saved the 2020-2021 school year to some extent, but the figures on school attendance, gaps in learning, and the loss of quality of experience has left something to be desired. In the State as a whole, absenteeism increased from 12% to 20% over the past year, and factors like the digital divide meant that some school children did not have the quality of education that they otherwise could have. Let alone the fact that school is often where you see your friends and mentors – socializing is an important part of growing up.

And while many recognized the importance of getting back to in-person schooling, thrusting children back into this situation isn’t necessarily the best idea either.

going to improvements to parks where they are most needed. Including resurfacing and repairing playgrounds, adding murals and removing graffiti.

For New Haven’s part, that is where the Summer Reset comes in. It is a suite of programs intended to enhance summer activities for children with a goal of bridging the gap from remote learning to in-person learning.

Quoted in a New Haven Independent article, Mayor Justin Elicker said “It’s critical that our young people have opportunities for their social and emotional development. That interaction with their peers can help develop their social skills, but most importantly, help them have fun this summer.”

The Summer Reset was a fourpronged approach across Youth Engagement, Clean and Safe Program, Arts and Culture, and Safe Summer. Each of these headings had key areas for development or investment, with $6.3 million allocated for the entire package. The city planned to use some of those funds to extend summer camps for an additional two weeks, increasing classes for outdoor adventures, youth summer concerts and more.

While the American Rescue Plan funds are temporary, some of the thinking behind these plans might remain. There is reason to believe that if children benefit from longer camps, outdoor classes, and entertainment this year, that might also be true every year. For now, it is a worthwhile project to think about just what can help our children bridge the gap that was created by COVID.

Of course, some of the funds are AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 25


ENERGY HeatSmart Guilford

The energy is in the soil, so keep your heat pumps in the ground

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ur partners in SustainableCT have been moving force behind so many great initiatives in the state of Connecticut. Recently, the Town of Guilford announced a new program called HeatSmart Guilford aimed at building upon their already stellar Silver Certification as part of SustainableCT. From the town, Heatsmart Guilford is a volunteer education and outreach program designed to help residents take advantage of heat pump technology. Using geothermal, air-source, and mini-split heat pumps, residents can both heat and cool their homes at lower costs and with greater environmental benefits than conventional fossil-fuel based methods. The two major kinds of heat pumps according to Heat Smart are the Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) more commonly known as Geothermal heat. The former obtains the heating and cooling from outside air by a complex exchange of heat (either adding or subtracting). Geothermal works in a similar manner, but through tubes buried in the soil or in wells. This latter method is more expensive, but is effective in larger temperature spectrums. Heatsmart connects homeowners with pre-selected Home Energy Solutions (HES) contractors and specialists that are working directly with the town – although the option remains open for residents to seek outside input. The team at HeatSmart came out to the Guilford PD National Night Out, held on July 27 of this year on the Guilford Town Green to speak directly to consumers about the products and the extensive State incentives, some of which could be a bear to navigate. A program similar to this saw over

400 Branford households take advantage of this cost-effective green energy solution.

website, they are the largest all-volunteer organization in the state engaged with these issues.

This program is being offered through a partnership with People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) as well as the Guilford Board of Selectman and the Sustainable Guilford Task Force, which is in charge of their SustainableCT efforts.

In the town’s press release, First Selectman Matt Hoey said “This program is highly beneficial, since clean energy technologies can deliver real savings to individuals, and as important, deliver environmental benefits to us all. This program also enables Guilford residents to continue their leadership in Connecticut sustainability. I hope many of our citizens will take advantage of all the program has to offer.”

PACE is an environmental organization that has for 40 years aimed to wean houses off of wasteful resources and onto 100% renewable energy sources like electric and heat pumps. According to their

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ENERGY ELECTRICITY | SOLAR PV | NATURAL GAS | STREETLIGHTING

Energy Purchasing Program

Since 2004, CCM’s Energy Purchasing program has saved participating CCM-member municipalities, school districts and local public agencies tens of millions of tax dollars on the purchase of electricity, natural gas, and ELECTRICITY | SOLAR PV | NATURAL GAS | STREETLIGHTING renewable energy.

ENERGY

ESPC: Owner’s Representation Service Following a competitive bid process completed by its member towns and cities, CCM has launched a new Owner’s Representation Service for Energy Saving Performance Contracting (ESPC).

Energy Data Management

CCM is pleased to announce a new service for CCM members offered through Titan Energy New England — Titan Energy Intelligence — for Energy Data Management. With this service, municipalities, school districts and local public agencies can easily visualize and manage their energy use and confirm energy savings from efficiency, solar and other energy projects.

Contact Andy Merola: 203.804.2588, or amerola@ccm-ct.org for additional information.

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 27


CIVIC AMENITIES A Greener, Cleaner Hamden

Microgrids make up a large part of energy use in future

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limate Change has forced governments and people around the world to learn about new technologies, better systems, and more efficient tools to help lower the burden we are placing on the earth. Hamden’s Energy Use and Climate Change Commission (EUCC) has come up with a guide that includes a little bit of everything. It’s clear that municipal governments in Connecticut are already doing their part to create a greener, cleaner future, but there’s always more to do. For their part, Hamden is looking to decrease energy use in their town owned buildings by 50% in the next twenty years, achieving complete renewable energy by 2050.

One of the benefits of such an arrangement is that microgrids are capable of staying online during power outages that affect the greater grid. In the initial thinking, linking solar arrays, batteries, fuel cells, and backup generators, the town can provide full operating power for the high school, ice rink, retail shopping centers, restaurants, gas stations, banks, emergency care facilities, and much more. The plan will offer the town greater resiliency, and even some economic benefits if they sell back energy to the larger energy providers.

Strategies in the proposal include adopting guidelines for municipal buildings and schools, upgrading existing high-pressure sodium streetlights with LED Lamps and heads, and encouraging people-powered transportation such as bikes and walkways. One of the more unique portions of their program is the building of microgrids over the next decade. “Hamden, like all other communities throughout CT must rely on the electric grid to provide electricity to homes, businesses, and town facilities. Our current grid performs exceptionally well, but was built and designed before the advent of solar panels, allowing individual houses and businesses to generate their own electricity, and batteries, allowing them to store it.” “A key building block of our future grid will be microgrids, consisting of smaller subsets of power sources, users, wires, and controls.” 28 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

Much of the plan was inspired by the pathway laid out by Sustainable CT, and according to their document, especially the “three-legged stool” approach to sustainability: Focus on people, nature, and economy. In order to be innovative, forward-thinking, to have the kind of success that you need to reach lofty goals like 100% clean energy in 30 years, you need to have a sturdy base to work off of, but also the buy-in of all parties. The Hamden EUCC has come up with a plan that doesn’t work just for the environment, but the town, its people and business, increasing the odds of success in achieving their goals.


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http://ccm-ct.org AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 29


ENVIRONMENT Toss & Save

The latest in food composting comes to Middletown

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erhaps it’s a sign of the times that in each issue of Connecticut Town & City there’s a new article about an innovative idea related to green initiatives. In Middletown, they’re going green by hooking up with Blue Earth Compost for a first in CT project.

the way that people think about ‘waste’.”

Piggy-backing off the fact that throwing away trash has never been more expensive and costly for towns and cities, local leaders have been looking for ways to lessen the tonnage. One such way to accomplish that is by removing waste from the stream.

The process of composting preserves some of those nutrients and brings the equation closer to net-zero.

As part of Middletown’s Feed the Earth campaign, the town has partnered with Blue Earth Compost to do just that.

According to their site, American’s throw away approximately 40% of the food that they grow. Not only does that food get wasted, but the resources that went into growing that food as well.

According to figures in the Middletown Press, they are paying $88 a ton to dispose of waste, but $84.85 to compost. So not only would they

Like many composting programs that required a citizen or business to sign up for the service, users take their food scraps that would otherwise end up in the waste stream and brings them to a location where they would be turned into compost. The difference here is that the program is part of a municipal contract that allows the businesses to participate in this new green service. In a press release on Feed the Earth, Mayor Ben Florsheim says the program will “also educate consumers and businesses about the usefulness and ease of composting.” “This new campaign is just the latest in a larger effort to increase the role composting can play in everyday lives. As composting takes hold in hearts and minds across Connecticut, it has grown from person-by-person residential collections to municipal contracts like this new partnership.” Blue Earth Compost is a local Hartford area company. Founded in 2013, their mission is “to change 30 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021

be saving money on all the scraps that does successfully go into the composting program, they’ll be saving the earth as well. In addition to the businesses that are piloting the way on this new initiative, Mayor Florsheim said that he’d like to see this program go citywide. “The City of Middletown hopes to be only the first of many municipalities in our region to explore municipal composting in the years ahead,” Mayor Florsheim said, “This could be the start of a new era in food cycle management.”

Mayor Ben Florsheim held a press conference to announce the program on July 13, 2021


ENVIRONMENT Trash collecting in the brook, leading to Housatonic River

A Resource For Sustainability New Milford plans long term rehab of Great Brook

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ne of the best resources for towns and cities is SustainableCT. And one of the best resources in SustainableCT is the Community Match Fund. Recently, New Milford’s Sustainable Committee utilized this resource to help them restore Great Brook, a small tributary river located in their town. A large majority of towns and cities in Connecticut are already registered for SustainableCT, 123 out of 169, in fact, and just over half of them are certified Bronze or Silver. But only 53 towns so far have taken advantage of the Community Match Fund. Any currently participating municipality can create a project on the Patronicity platform, and SustainableCT will match it dollar-for-dollar. In New Milford, the goal was to “remove years of accumulated rubbish and invasives that crowd out native species, while strengthening the banks of Great Brook, a Housatonic River Tributary.” From their Patronicity page, they said that the banks of the brook are beginning to collapse where invasive plant species have overtaken native plants. As part of the ecosystem, these species can cause downstream – literally – effects where native birds and animals are locked out of their normal territories. The campaign started in the middle of November 2020, and was officially fully funded on January 1, 2021. This gave the Sustainable New Milford team

$15,000 for a “robust and comprehensive master restoration plan for the entire four-mile stream.” According to the project budget, around $4000 was to be spent on field assessment, $5000 towards a community-chosen long-term permitted-engineered project, with other expenses going toward short term projects and plans. Some of which included volunteer clean-ups in April, June and September. The April and June cleanups already happened with “masked volunteer residents on distanced and staggered shifts with technical expertise,” according to a letter to the editor to the New Milford Spectrum. While this will be an ongoing project to help the environment surrounding Great Brook, it’s important to salute the work and effort of the town, volunteers, and supporters through the fundraising campaign. It shows that the will to do these green projects is there, and that the community is often willing to put their green – i.e. money – to saving the environment. For more information on SustainableCT’s Community Match Fund, you can contact Abe Hilding-Salorio, the Community Outreach Manager at (860) 465-0256, or at hildingsalorioa@easternct.edu. For more information about all of SustainableCT’s efforts, visit them at SustainableCT.org AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 31


GOVERNANCE A Down Payment On The Future West Hartford Pension Plan is 100% funded

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he old saying is that there are only two things you can be sure of in life – death and taxes. For many municipalities, you can add pension liabilities to that list. West Hartford just completed a historic sale of bonds to deal with just that issue. West Hartford, as in so many other municipalities, saw unfunded pension liabilities become the largest driver of budget increases. For years, pensions had not been adequately funded for, which for a myriad of reasons, saw their expenses explode all over the state. Cited in the West Hartford News, Town Manager Matt Hart said that the unfunded portion of the pension was around $315 million and about 41% funded. The bond sale covered about $365 million dollars worth of bonds that had funded the pension plan to 100%. The remaining funds raised by the bond sale were used to establish a Pension Bond Reserve Fund, which will be used to help in ties when there was a “significantly adverse market performance of pension assets.” According to a Patch article on the successful sale of bonds, the town sold “$324.3 million in pension bonds at a 2.539 percent ‘all-in true interest cost,’ which is 46 basis points less than the anticipated target rate of 3 percent. “The town’s consulting actuary projects a savings of more than $140 million in future pension costs on a pres-

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ent value basis, officials said.” This figure, as astounding as it is, is based on a presumption of performance from future investments and could change based on the actual performance of markets. Hart said in the News article that oftentimes the pension obligation bonds are sold by distressed communities that cannot make payments, but using the low interest rates available right now was an innovative way to get the town to a fully-funded pension plan. Of course, this does not mean that the town is free from pension payments, but that those payments would be significantly less than if they had not done the sale – with figures of $7 to $12 million annually cited in the News article. While there was some risk to this kind of plan, the argument was that it was better to have a healthy pension plan than it was to not. This idea is growing in popularity as a revolutionary way to fully fund pension obligations, with Norwich presenting a similar plan around the same time that West Hartford was completing its sale. In a world where pension liabilities are as sure as death and taxes, it makes sense to take advantage of ways to lower that obligation in a sensible, low-risk way.

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GOVERNANCE

A Very Young Century

Connecticut’s Youngest City Is Officially Old

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onnecticut is getting old! Our oldest town was incorporated over 150 years before the United States became a thing. So it’s a milestone that our state’s youngest incorporated city – West Haven – is just celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021. Being located next to New Haven, the area that is known as West Haven has been home to settlers going back to the original colony, as well as being the ancestral home to many Native American tribes much longer than that. And in a way, the city has taken a tortuous path to incorporation. It was part of New Haven, then part of Orange, before officially incorporating as a town in 1921 and as a city in 1961. On June 24, Westies as they are colloquially known, young and old, joined together at the Old Grove

Park to commemorate the event. This event was not only the blowing out of the “figurative candles” for its 100th birthday, but the first event in six-month series of celebrations. In July, the city brought back the Savin Rock Festival, a two-day affair that includes fireworks, local party rock bands, games & rides, as well as a slew of local eateries. Future events include a suite of fireworks billed as “They Will Be Heard on the 3rd,” taking place in September. A $10 lawn sign is being sold at the Savin Rock Festival as part of a raffle to push the “start button” on the fireworks. IN addition to the lawn sign, they are selling shirts, sweatshirts, tumblers, wine glasses, sunglasses, tote bags and much more. Portions of the vendors’ merchandise proceeds are going to support the centennial events according to

the city’s press release. Throughout the rest of the summer and into fall, there will be all sorts of concerts, bocce tournaments, a sandcastle contest, and a Salute to Veterans of the Last 100 Years at the West Haven Veterans Museum. One of the most interesting plans that they are working on is a reenactment of a spirited town meeting discussing West Haven’s separation from Orange in 1921 and starring leaders from both communities, according to the website. Not that there hasn’t been any changes to Connecticut’s landscape in the last 100 years, it’s interesting to think of our state as settled – we are the Land of Steady Habits after all. Happy 100th to West Haven, and we look forward to seeing what the next 100 hold for them and the rest of our wonderful towns and cities.

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 33


HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE The Housing & Infrastructure section of CT&C is sponsored by Connecticut Basement Systems www.connecticutbasementsystems.com

Settling Down Near Home

Affordable Housing Initiative Gets Regional Boost

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ne of the most inescapable facets of Connecticut living is just how expensive the state is. While there might be a dozen opinions on how it got to be that way, we know that housing is a large part of that additional cost. Many municipalities have already produced Affordable Housing Plans to deal with this issue, but thirteen municipalities have begun working on a Regional Housing Plan as part of their Council of Governments. Under Public Act 17-170 of the Connecticut General Statutes, municipalities are charged with preparing and adopting an affordable housing plan every five years, or amending it if one already exists. The outline of the plan should be to “specify how the municipality intends to increase the number of affordable housing developments in the municipality.” The Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments is developing a regional plan that fulfills all the requirements of this section, which must be adopted by June 30, 2022. All 17 member towns are expected have to have plans, that “will address locally important issues while also aligning with larger regional goals,” according to the COG website. They go on to define Affordable Housing as housing that costs 30% or less of household income making less than 80% of the state or Area Median Income (AMI), whichever is lower. For a family of four, the upper limit is around $80,000 a year. There has been a lot of misconception about affordable housing

throughout the many conversations that took place around legislature in the past year. While public housing developments or mixed-income apartments could be an obvious example for affordable housing, the COG suggests that many examples of Single-Family homes would fall under the affordable banner if they have subsidized mortgages through the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. These kinds of homes make it possible for younger first-time homebuyers to take part in home-ownership, and many would argue, the American Dream. While mandated for each municipality to have such a plan, asking what affordable housing might look like as part of a regional conversation.

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In areas that are already built-out with single-family homes, it could make more sense to allow for things like Accessory Dwelling Units, popularly called In-Law apartments. Or incentives could be provided to owners of the traditional New England Triple-Decker Houses. No matter what it looks like, understanding that Connecticut is an expensive place to live is a jumping off point for conversations about how to grow the state. By making a plan to grow the regional affordable housing stock, the towns in the Lower Connecticut River Valley COG are looking for solutions that make sense, and could lead to residents seeing themselves settling down in the house around the corner, not the one in another state.


HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE Meriden Innovates With Parking Lot Tech Get out of your car, and into their lot, and pay with your phone

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or years, companies had been working on wireless infrastructure. With COVID-19, many people realized quite how useful those technologies are. In the City of Meriden, they’ve begun to apply that technology to parking by having people pay with their phones. The two lots that they’ve piloted this program on is the city’s parking lots at Butler Street and Church Street, according to an article from the Record Journal, using technology from the company AirGarage. Used in many private industries, and especially popular in the hotel business, the AirGarage platform promises higher revenue to lot and garage owners. The idea behind this app is that parking should be easy and accessible for both the commuter and the owner, and they allow for a system that validates employees parking and prevents violators slipping through the cracks. According to the article, the cloud-based system that “utilizes surveillance cameras to photograph license plates, whereby the commuters can pay via credit card on their phones. This will lead to the city saving money on the infrastructure and salaries of maintaining the parking lot, plus whatever earnings the lot makes on top of that. Previously, the lots were cash-only. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco who releases payment studies, said that cash accounted for only

19% of all payments. This raises the question of how many people was the city missing because people just didn’t have cash on them. Because the AirGarage system only requires a cell phone – rather than a smart phone like the iPhone or Galaxy – nearly anyone can use the lots. Per the latest figures from Pew Research, 97% of Americans own a cell phone, with 85% having a smartphone. With the emphasis on cheaper and easier parking, companies like AirGarage are trying to maximize the potential of real estate in towns and cities everywhere. They estimate that there are on average 8 parking spaces for every car at any given time. By optimizing the amount of spaces needed for parking within an area, there’s the possibility for changing the unused spaces into literally anything else. The first step is getting everyone to use the technology that is available to them. With the pandemic proving that whether it’s Zoom or QR codes, people can adapt to pretty much anything if they need to use it. With the end of the pandemic and reopening of public spaces, more and more people might be looking for places to park their car. There are at least two places in the City of Meriden that will make it easier for them to come and go.

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 35


PUBLIC SAFETY The Public Safety section of CT&C is sponsored by Emergency Resource Management. Learn more at: http://ermanagement.com

Carnival With A Soul

Orange Firemen’s Carnival Came Back Better

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t’s hard to put into words just how incredible the response has been to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Connecticut. Over 80% of Connecticut residents over 18 had their first shot by the end of July. But we haven’t reached herd immunity quite yet, so municipalities around the state have to meet people where they are to get them vaccinated. One example of this thinking comes in the form of a carnival. The Orange Firemen’s Carnival is a yearly benefit to the town’s volunteer fire department, with roots for both the carnival and department going back nearly a century. Due to COVID, the Carnival had to be cancelled in 2020, the first time since World War II according to the organizers of the event. Although the raffles – which included prizes like a $10,000 gift card – were still held, the lack of a carnival left a budget shortfall for the department. In a statement on last year’s cancellation, Fire Chief Vaughn Dumas said that while in the past the Carnival could cover most of the budget, but with everything being more expensive it would be hard to keep up. Fortunately, despite an uptick related to the Delta variant, Connecticut has been extremely successful in mitigating outbreaks. From mask mandates to vaccine outreach, cases have been low enough to hold our beloved summer events. This is where the vaccine comes in. It was arranged by Annemarie Sliby,

executive director of the Orange Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) according to the New Haven Register. The idea is simple – match a popular event that attracts thousands of people, and try to get some of the vaccine hesitant or those that just haven’t gotten it yet, by offering them free rides at the carnival. The partnership with the OEDC, Fire Department, and Griffin Hospital, administered either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to those eligible to receive it (essentially all people 12 years and older

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who have not already received the vaccine). Reaching those final people who have so far not received the vaccine is the only surefire way to make sure that our state and the country successfully reopens. It has been said in the pages of CT&C before, but the work that our municipalities, our state leadership, and most importantly, the residents of Connecticut have done is a model for the rest of the country. With innovative ideas like this one from the town of Orange, we’ll be able to enjoy our carnivals and fairs.


PUBLIC SAFETY A New Community Policing Willimantic PD teams up with ECSU Students for one of a kind internship

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ne of the biggest questions that arose in 2020 was: Just what should policing look like in the future? And it turns out that many people had a lot of thoughts about bringing those new ideas into departments around the country. In Willimantic, a new pilot program is pairing students from Eastern Connecticut State University with the local Police Department. Cited as a direct response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Police Accountability bill that was signed into law last year, departments were asked to look into using social workers in response to some calls, particularly non-violent ones. Students from the ECSU Social Work Program followed police over 400 hours “in an on-ground internship that engaged them with the community on nonviolent police calls and follow-ups pertaining to mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, and other social issues.” Social workers, or students on the path to receiving their degrees, are trained in the kind of issues that police officers might face but are not adept at handling. In the same way that an EMT can provide life-saving medical attention on the way to the hospital, they probably aren’t equipped to perform a heart transplant – police cannot be experts in all facets that people call them for. Willimantic Police Chief Paul Hussey told ECSU that “Many of the department’s calls are by ‘gravely disabled’ individuals – a classification for people who are presently unable to provide for their basic needs due to mental health or substance abuse.” Students in the pilot program spoke of situations where in a traditional case they would not have been “needed,” but their presence clearly helped. “[Emily] Constantino recalls responding with an office to a report of a drug overdose: ‘Upon arriving, I met a woman who had just witnessed her close friend overdose in her apartment. This woman was clearly traumatized and was incredibly emotional while watching EMTs try to save her friend’s life. “During this situation, I was able to speak with this woman and calm her down while the police officers and EMTs helped her friend. I feel grateful that I was there to provide support for this woman during this call; I can only imagine how terrifying it is to witness something like that.” The first year was a success for both school and police, and the Willimantic Police Department said they’d like to hire full-time social workers in the future. It would mean, not an end to cops, but a reframing of what situation requires which response, leading perhaps to a safer tomorrow.

ECSU’s Clock Tower

AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 37


SOCIAL WELFARE This House Is Not A Motel Danbury plans revolutionary housing project

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evolutionary is often used to describe products now – a revolutionary new phone or knife. But a plan to turn a motel into a permanent shelter in Danbury is being seen as a revolution in the way we support unhoused individuals. Like many plans in 2021, the kernel of the idea came out of a necessity. The Super 8 Motel in Danbury was used as a way to help keep shelters socially distanced enough during the pandemic. All across the state, shelters worked with their host municipalities to find suitable arrangements for those in need. In Danbury, that was Pacific House, which serves Western Connecticut. The organization itself was born out of necessity as a “makeshift shelter in the basement of the First Congregational Church in Stamford.” They are hopeful that with a shelter like the motel, the city of Danbury could potentially eliminate homelessness. That includes anyone in need. While many of the current tenants in the ad-hoc shelter did not hail from Danbury, there is a duty and obligation for them to help anyone in need. Quoted in a Danbury News-Times article about the purchase, Mayor Joe Cavo said “if you’re homeless, then you don’t have a home. So I don’t feel there is any regional or regionalization to homelessness.” Housing-first policies, in which those experiencing homelessness are given places to live – however temporarily – are actually more cost efficient than alternatives. In one example cited in a 2019 Vox article on similar policies, it was found that in some areas of Florida, more was being spent policing non-violent rule-breaking than it would have otherwise cost to give

Pacific House’s ribbon cutting at their newly renovated home, located in Norwalk, which will house 12 formerly homeless individuals.

each homeless individual a house and a caseworker. It is from these more permanent situations that individuals could work with organizations like Pacific House to find jobs or medical help that will help them out of the cycle of homelessness. In that New-Times article, the Mayor noted that the permanent housing is necessary primarily because of the high bar of entry right now for housing – home prices are skyrocketing, taking rents with them – and a nationwide shortage of affordable housing. According to figures cited,

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there is a “five-year waiting list for affordable housing in Danbury” and some surrounding municipalities. With this hopeful project, Connecticut could build on its promise to lead the way on ending homelessness in our state. While it may be difficult and face roadblocks, it is a worthy cause. Pacific House, like so many other organizations, are helping to create a better Connecticut for everyone. The partnership with Danbury on this new endeavor, should it succeed, should go down as nothing less than revolutionary.


SOCIAL WELFARE

Can You Hear Me Now?

Stonington opens up the lines of communication with residents

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he issue of how to reach people in 2021 is complicated: you have more outlets than ever, but it’s dividing up your audience into smaller and smaller segments. That’s why it’s important for towns to take stock of their communication channels. Throughout this summer, Stonington did just that. In November of 2020, the Board of Selectmen formed the Stonington Public Communication Ad Hoc Committee to work on “ways to enhance municipal communication.” The Committee, with the First Selectman and representatives from the various boards, commissions, and staff, produced the first official Communications Strategy for the town of Stonington as well as a new Stonington Communication Inventory. In a press release, they call them “living documents,” and have produced a survey for direct feedback from the community. Like all modern outlets, the town has diversified their output to include their website, social media accounts, and a quarterly magazine that is mailed to all residents. They have a baker’s dozen of social media accounts, including multiple facebook accounts across departments as well as town instagrams and youtube pages. Each account performs its own function. For instance, the Emergency Operations Facebook page lets residents know about Emergency and Disaster Information, while the Stonington Beautification Committee

showcases that committees latest efforts. Traditional media outlets are still represented, as press releases and the aforementioned magazine still come out in physical media, and there’s even still some space for radio. Across these platforms, the communications plan is formed around a core mission, which they laid out in their Communications Strategy document: “To offer transparency in local government, by providing a diverse range of communication channels for the Stonington community. Striving to effectively communicate the work of Town departments, Boards and Commissions, and relevant community information.” And to prevent this strategy from becoming siloed, they make sure that all of the departments, board members and departments keep open lines of communication to ensure a collaborative effort. Keeping up with all the ways that people are consuming information could be a dizzying task. Who reads the newspaper? Who has an Instagram? Who watches cable tv live while it’s happening and who watches it while it is streaming? These are important questions for municipalities to understand. Here Stonington has made sure that they have a robust and diversified outreach so that each segmented audience still receives some form of communication and connectivity with the town that they are in. AUGUST 2021 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | 39


TECHNOLOGY The Technology section of CT&C is sponsored by Digital BackOffice. Learn more at: www.digitalbackoffice.com

No More Telephone Lines

Plainville’s Fiber Optic network will be almost as fast as light

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nybody who remembers Dial-Up Internet remembers two things – that awful tone and the incredibly slow speeds. In the 30 years since, speeds have improved thanks to upgrades like Fiber Optic Cables, which the town of Plainville is installing throughout their municipal network. Unlike dial-up or cable networks that use metal wires to transmit electric signals, Fiber Optic cables are made up of very fragile glass filaments that transfer light signals – yes, there is a difference – reaching up to 70% of the speed of light. These cables are so fast that when maxing out networks, they can reach into the Terabytes per second download speed – with extremetech.com saying that the fastest ever network was able to reach speeds where a 1gb movie took .03 milliseconds to download. While these speeds were reached in an experimental setting, the speeds for the average fiber optic network are more than enough for your average end-user. The first step to acquiring a Fiber Optic Network is installation of the wires, which was handled by Sertex Broadband Solutions for Plainville. According to their press release, they put in “12.5 miles of aerial cabling and three underground spans running beneath major highways.” This newly constructed system will connect: all waste-water treatment facilities, allowing remote system monitoring and control; all schools; all public safety services; the

library; and all town departments within and outside of the Municipal Center. Plainville will own the fiber optic infrastructure rather than leasing it, saving approximately $40k per year in costs according to Town Manager Robert Lee. The lifespan of these cables is 25 to 30 years. Furthermore, because the town will own the system, it will have the option to open up that infrastructure beyond the municipal network. “A town-owned broadband network would mean that residents would pay a much lower fee for much better internet service combined with phone services,” Lee said in the release. “Our residents

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and businesses would save money and actually have control over their network. High-speed internet access has so many advantages. It could reduce costs and improve quality of life for current residents, increase property values, and help us compete as a community for new businesses and residents.” Just a few years ago, having normal speed internet was fine for most people. Now, and especially after COVID, people need better, higher-quality networks for internet service. So for now, town employees and departments can throw away their old modulator-demodulators (or modems in layman’s terms) and work at (nearly) the speed of light.


TECHNOLOGY Cyber Security With A SOC By: Dale Bruckhart, V.P. Public Sector Marketing, Digital BackOffice

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yber Security Operations Centers (SOC) and the employees that staff these centers are often integrated with law enforcement departments, multinational companies and federal agencies. Municipalities employ emergency management personnel and prepare emergency operations centers for weather related and natural disasters but not cyber-security. Public sector agencies and K-12 schools rarely designate a Chief Information Security Officer or staff a full-time cyber security operations center, but they should! School board and town/city council officials need to acknowledge that cybersecurity requires a top down approach and should not be delegated to the technology director/ department without guidance, policy guidelines, accountability and adequate funding. School superintendents, First Selectman and Mayors don’t want their names or their schools or towns in a headline story about the latest cyber breach or ransomware attack. Taxpayers, insurance underwriters and auditors will increasingly demand greater accountability for securing assets, protecting personally identifiable information and guaranteeing the service levels of public digital infrastructure.

Why you need a SOC! The cyber threat crisis is real, but despite the warning signs, many schools and government agencies have no cybersecurity strategy in place. It took mass public shootings to prompt board level policy reviews and investment in securing physical access to our school buildings and public facilities. Designating a Chief Information Security Officer and a security operations team is a long overdue response to the reality of digital pedagogy, web-based delivery of public services and cyber threats.

A physical or virtual SOC may be integrated with current technology, facilities, operations, curriculum or other current personnel. SOC’s may also be shared between schools and municipalities with representation from the first responder community; SOC’s should be automated and/or outsourced for faster response. While current business and technology personnel are the logical candidates for CISO, key SOC personnel must be equal members of the school or town leadership team.

Silos of Data Competing firewall, antivirus, intrusion detection, internet filtering, SIEM, 2FA and other security products create silos of complex, uncorrelated data. Detecting potential threats in this hodgepodge of data is the proverbial “needle in a haystack” often resulting in a sea of false alarms or false positives. By some estimates there are more than 3,000 security product companies, and many “are a feature not a firm. They solve one narrow problem and really should be part of a platform offering a mutually supporting mesh of integrated security products.” See Note 1

Migrate Now to a Next Generation Security Platform Todays’ attackers don’t just target email accounts or endpoint devices, they use stealth techniques and sophisticated tools to move laterally across networks and organizational units in order to exfiltrate valuable data or compromise network operations. New defensive and automated security platforms are increasingly available incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). Unlike legacy firewall, antivirus or intrusion detection systems which rely on port blocking or blacklisting known

malware, Next Generation security systems using AI/ML, ask “is it really you” and is the user trying to do something they have never been done before. In other words, is the user behavior normal or does it warrant investigation.

A Skills Gap One of the key challenges facing our K-12 schools and municipalities is a shortage of trained security analysts and a growing IT skills gap, especially, cyber security skills. According to a recent Global Information Security Workforce Study, the cybersecurity workforce gap is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2020, with 66% of the respondents across all industry categories, report not having enough workers to address current and future cyber threats.

Consider Managed Security Services The leadership team in your school or town may choose to staff and manage a SOC locally or contract with a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) for a fixed monthly fee. Managed security service providers provide continuity with experienced employees, audited process controls, 24 x7 network operation facilities, software tools and the ability to monitor and manage the logical network infrastructure remotely as well as on-site. The MSSP can reduce the time, cost and complexity of event triage, incident investigation, response and minimizing false positives.

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Because experience & integrity count…

MUNICIPAL CONSULTING SERVICE & Executive Search

Recognizing that hiring the best people requires both a significant investment of time and effort as well as a trusted partner, CCM has added executive recruiting to our Municipal Consulting Service

MCS assists CCM members, their school districts and local public agencies with a full complement of essential services, including:

Grant writing and researching • RFP drafting • Project management Operational reviews • Change implementation • Organizational studies Strategic planning • Finance and budgeting • Purchasing Facilities management • Temporary staffing Contact Andy Merola: 203 498-3056, or amerola@ccm-ct.org for additional information.

With miles of responsibility... only the testing should be random

Complete, Cost Effective, and Convenient! The Drug & Alcohol Testing Consortium, a program of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, offers many benefits to your municipality.

Comprehensive Coverage This program covers all testing associated with DOT regulations, plus the services of a medical review officer, substance abuse professional, training, record keeping, and more.

Predictable Cost Just one annual fee of $100 per covered driver or worker is the only cost for compliance. With no additional costs, our program makes budgeting easier. For more information contact Beth Scanlon, (203)946-3782 | bscanlon@ccm-ct.org.

42 | CONNECTICUT TOWN & CITY | AUGUST 2021


LEAD WITH INTEGRITY

MASTER OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION TRACKS AVAILABLE IN: — Nonprofit Management — Public Healthcare Management — State & Local Government

fairfield.edu/MPA


SAVE THE DATES 11.30-12.01.21

TOGETHER AGAIN NEW LOCATION, NEW DAY

2021 CCM Convention Returns in person this fall with attendees, including local government leaders from across the state and companies providing the best in products and services to towns and cities, gather together for two days of informative workshops, interactive discussions, and networking opportunities.

See you this Fall at: