Dear CCM Member, We are pleased to present Innovative Ideas for Managing Local Governments: A Connecticut Town & City Compendium. It’s our 34th annual compilation of great ideas from around the state that will help municipal leaders run local governments more effectively, efficiently, and equitably. These ideas save taxpayers money, while also providing municipal services that enhance community life. The ideas are reprinted from Connecticut Town & City, the quarterly magazine of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM). Connecticut Town & City developed these stories from many sources, including visits to Connecticut local governments; suggestions from municipal officials; newspapers and magazines in Connecticut and other states; publications of the National League of Cities; and publications of other state municipal leagues. We would be happy to hear from readers about any ideas we should publish in the future. For further information on any article, please contact Managing Editor Kevin Maloney at (203) 4983025 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Reading!
© 2020 – 2021
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
Innovative ideas in... Civic Acheivement
Laura Hoydick, Mayor of Stratford
Catherine Iino, First Selectwoman of Killingworth
Housing & Infrastructure
Matthew Hoey, First Selectman of Guilford John L. Salomone, City Manager, Norwich
Matthew S. Knickerbocker, First Selectman of Bethel 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 Scott Shanley, General Manager of Manchester Erin E. Stewart, Mayor of New Britain Mark B. Walter, Town Administrator of Columbia PAST PRESIDENTS Susan S. Bransfield, First Selectwoman of Portland Michael Freda, First Selectman of North Haven Neil O’Leary, Mayor of Waterbury Herbert Rosenthal, Former First Selectman of Newtown
CCM STAFF Executive Director, Joe DeLong Deputy Director, Ron Thomas Managing Editor, Kevin Maloney Layout & Design, Matthew Ford Writer, Christopher Gilson
Connecticut Town & City © 2021 Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 3
CIVIC ACHIEVEMENT Connecticut Al Fresco
Dining outside finds fans during pandemic
estaurants took a huge blow this past year when social distancing forced them to close. But in a grand experiment to see what could be done to help restaurants stay open, outdoor dining regulations became relaxed through an executive order to great success. With H.B. 6610, towns and cities are looking to build on that success. Introduced by State Senator and Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, the bill allows municipalities to extend outdoor dining rules until March 31, 2022. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on March 31, 2021. The text of the bill explicitly says that a “zoning administrator, chairperson of a zoning commission or planning and zoning commission or chief elected official of a municipality finds that a proposal to establish or change a zone or regulation to expand or permit outdoor activities is necessary to respond to or provide economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, such [individual] may place such proposal on the public hearing agenda of the zoning commission or planning and zoning commission, as applicable, and such commission shall conduct a public hearing and act on such proposal without the need to comply with the requirements of said section of the general statutes.” In an article from the CT Examiner, Bruce Flax, executive director of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce said that this bill eliminates much of the red tape that restaurants would have to go through to set up these licenses. Flax said to the Examiner – “In Mystic, when you walk around and see people sitting outside restaurants, it’s a really good feeling and it adds charm to the area.” Now that there’s a clear extension of outdoor dining, towns and cities
4 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
some towns that they were going ahead with plans to make these changes permanent, a welcome sign to the restaurant industry. across the state are looking at ways to promote restaurants.
changes permanent, a welcome sign to the restaurant industry.
New Haven introduced a program called New Haven Eats Outdoors 2021, a continuation of the same program from 2020, which aims to have patrons feel safe and comfortable eating at restaurants throughout the pandemic.
In West Hartford, they are going to study the long-term effects surrounding the issue, but would recommend permanent changes to the Town Council by October 1, according to we-ha.com.
One of the moves made was to shut down traffic to Orange Street to provide seating in the Ninth Square business district. Neighboring West Haven is waiving the permit fee for temporary outdoor dining until November 1. Outdoor dining was so successful in some towns that they were going ahead with plans to make these
H.B. 6610 passed quickly and easily through the State Legislature, primarily because of the popularity of outdoor dining amongst so many Connecticut residents. It had the added benefit of being a huge asset to struggling restaurants. What remains to be seen is whether or not these efforts can and will continue throughout the state for the added economic benefit.
CIVIC ACHIEVEMENT Bloomfield support for Black Lives Matter Mural supports equity movement
n one of the most sustained movements in American history, the citizens of the United States have resoundingly supported the message of Black Lives Matter. Municipalities have begun showing their support by creating murals in support of racial equity. Recently, Bloomfield emblazoned an area near town hall with a colorful rendition of the slogan, the first of three planned murals throughout town. In early June, during the George Floyd protests, a display in large block yellow letters was painted on 16th Street NW. This mural gained some attention around the country and, renowned Civil Rights leader and Representative for Georgia, the late John Lewis took some of his last photos at this street mural before passing. Since then, towns and cities across the country that have chosen to paint a Black Lives Matter street mural have gotten creative with their displays. Replacing the plain yellow letters are colorful explorations created by local artists, with a different artist or team for each letter. The Hartford Courant gives the artists as LaShawn Robinson (B), Zazzarro DeCarish (L), Evangeline Monroe (A), Taris Clemons (C), Linda Robinson (K), Sacha Kelly (L), Che LaMora (I), Tony Le (V), Chris Gann (E), Ashley Innocent (S), Michael Borders (M), Trae Brooks (A), Anne Gogh (T), Aariyan Googe (T), Harmal Franceschini (E) and Driena Baldwin (R). A dedication ceremony was attended by Christian,
Muslim, and clergy, according to the same article, with poetry readings, calls to vote and fill out the census, as well as speeches by Mayor Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysewicz, State Representatives and Senators, as well as the CEO of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Jay Williams, the organization that funded the mural through a grant. Though Bloomfield is a majority Black town, with Mayor DeBeatham-Brown saying that she expects the census to show a nearly two-thirds plurality of Black residents, there were some detractors from the message. In order to prevent vandalism, a clear protective sealant was applied. Bloomfield is not the first municipality, nor the last to reveal murals in support of Black Lives Matter. Larger cities like New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Hartford have all unveiled murals or have plans for additional murals. The murals are a great way to celebrate equity and unity amongst all Connecticut residents. Through public art, we can represent the struggles of the past and today, and use them as a beacon for understanding how we make the future a better, more equal place for everyone. Placing the mural in front of Town Hall, Bloomfield sends a powerful message that through local government we have the power to change the things we can no longer accept.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 5
CIVIC ACHIEVEMENT When I Paint My Masterpiece
Weir Farms in Ridgefield/Wilton is recognized by US Mint
ince 2010, the United States Mint has been commemorating a national park or historical site from each state as part of the America the Beautiful quarter series. And though it was nearly at the end of the series, Connecticut’s quarter recognizing the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Ridgefield and Wilton has finally been released. The 50 States Quarters program instigated a change in the quarter dollar program after over 65 years of the same Washington Eagle design. With each new quarter commemorating a state in the order that they ratified the Constitution. The popularity of this program was such that going back to the previous design was a nonstarter. Recognizing Weir Farm as part of the America the Beautiful is particularly apt since the site is known not as a place of great agriculture, but for the artists that flocked to the farm to paint. Owned by J. Alden Weir, who the farm is named after, the 60 acres is home to scenes from the American Impressionism era that you’ve seen in many fine art museums. Weir, the son of an Art professor at West Point Academy who had taught James Abbott McNeill Whistler, was part of the group of American Impressionist. He
6 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
might have been the most frequent painter of the scenic area, but it was also frequented and visited by his many peers including Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent and John Twachtman. It was also there that he passed down his love of art to daughter, Dorothy Weir. His paintings hang in the most prestigious art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Wadsworth Atheneum. Recently, Representative Jim Himes introduced a bill to make Weir Farm a National Park, making it the first National Park entirely in Connecticut. (The Appalachian Trail is designated a National Scenic Trail.) He said that the “redesignation would improve recognition of the site, potentially bring in more visitors and communicate much more clearly to the public what this property is.” It’s inclusion on the America the Beautiful quarter series surely will bring recognition to the park around the country. At the turn of the century, some of the world’s greatest painters flocked to this area for its natural beauty, painting landscapes that will be cherished for centuries in some of our most prestigious museums.
CIVIC AMENTITIES Across The Pond
One Bolton gives virtual cheers to another on tercentennial
ne of our favorite stories here at CCM is towns celebrating their anniversaries. Because we live in one of the oldest parts of the country, we are fast approaching the 400th anniversaries for some of our municipalities, but that pales in comparison to our sister cities abroad. So it puts a smile on our face to hear that helping Bolton celebrate their tercentenary is none other than Bolton, their namesake town in England. While there is evidence that there were settlers in Bolton, England before the common era – in the Bronze Age, somewhere between 4500 and 2800 years ago - the name Bolton only goes back to 1307. Like our Bolton, it is smaller town just outside of Manchester, with the one in Connecticut also being named for its British counterpart. The Bolton News, a local newspaper in England wrote that the Mayor of Bolton Councillor Linda Thomas has sent over a commemorative scroll that features the Coat of Arms from both towns, as well as a series of Bolton elephants and Lancashire Roses. Councillor Thomas was also joining a virtual town council meeting to make remarks on the occasion. This isn’t the first time that the two towns have celebrated their kinship. Back in 2014, the News reports, several students from the Connecticut Bolton High School visited the English Bolton students, who were given a tour of Bolton Town Hall. That visit was arranged by Councillor Richard Silvester who was then returned the favor when he visited Connecticut later that same year, and described it as “Small town America in size compared to our own Bolton, however the people are so welcoming and friendly.” It was the first time two such elected officials had met that in the 300 years since ours was founded, but through the pandemic it became a joyful way to spread cheer across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, because of COVID, all activities that were planned had to be postponed until next year when the town intends to host the 300+1 anniversary. It’s always nice to have something to celebrate. Milestones as large as centennials are important because our country is so young. Knowing that the English counterpart has been around for up to 4500 years is a great reminder that towns and cities can survive just about anything that life throws at them - the Bubonic Plague hit Europe less than 50 years after Bolton was founded.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 7
CIVIC AMENTITIES Summers In Connecticut
A new tribute to MLK talks his time in our state
ect for the local high school students and contains first hand documents showing ephemera from the time and describing what a daily experience might have been like for a youth working the tobacco farms at the time.
On Martin Luther King Day this past month, the Simsbury Free Library unveiled a new memorial to MLKs life and time in Connecticut alongside a short documentary called “Summers of Freedom.”
As part of the CCM CARES regional panels we ended each forum with a quote from Martin Luther King, asking if we are still striving for the goals that Dr. King set out so long ago. All of the panelists agreed that we have not gotten there yet. But even though he was murdered before he reached forty years of age, he spoke volumes about how one should live.
he words and example of Dr. Martin Luther King have never been more urgent. His work as the leader of a civil rights movement half a century ago has placed him amongst American’s whose names we will never forget. His story will be told and retold, and the town of Simsbury is relating about the time that the Rev. Dr. spent in Connecticut.
These refer to the summers of 1944 and 1947, when a young King came to work tobacco fields in Simsbury. According to the historical documents, he was “selected to be the religious leader for the group of young men and led meetings at the dorms,” later describing his time as his “call to ministry,” when he “Felt an inescapable urge to serve society.” In the glass panels that make up the memorial, he speaks of the new experiences working in the desegregated North, and the bitterness of returning back to segregation in the South. The short documentary, which was created as a proj-
8 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
One panel contains the quote: “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finder world to live in.” It’s important for towns like Simsbury to engage with the works of Martin Luther King and add to the story of this historical figure. The protests and demonstrations of 2020 were a testament to the work that was unfinished in King’s time, and hearing his voice, seeing his words will make this the country that our founding fathers meant for it to be.
CIVIC AMENTITIES What Can Be Done?
Towns and cities have answers to combatting homelessness
hile Connecticut remains as a model for other states when it comes to combatting homelessness, there is still much more work to be done. CCM recently partnered with Sustainable CT and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) to launch municipal campaigns around the state in endeavors that will help identify the many issues that lead to homelessness, as well as innovative ideas and good partnerships that will help end the cycle that we see. One of the most important things that we can do in this state is get an accurate assessment of how many individuals have experienced homelessness. Each January, CCEH undertakes a Point-In-Time count, and this year CCM asked our towns and cities to get involved to make this process as smooth as possible through the coronavirus pandemic. CCEH asked many municipal employees if they have noticed any areas where those experiencing homelessness might have been spending the night. For a point-intime count, they typically choose a very cold night as many towns will have opened warming shelters, allowing for an easier count. But the partnership goes much deeper than that, and the opportunities for municipalities to help are endless. Towns can look to organizations like the Family & Children’s Agency (FCA), which has begun work with younger individuals who are experiencing homelessness. According to figures from CCEH, nearly 8,000 youths from 13 to 24 experienced some form of housing instability last year, ranging in severity, but including homelessness. IN a press release, FCA said that by strengthening relationships in the community with the schools and other organizations, they believe
“There is very little that is more important to people than having a safe and affordable place to live,” they can create a “youth-centric system of care to promote self-sufficiency and ensure that episodes of youth homelessness are rare, brief, and non-recurring.” Recently, Y2Y in New Haven broke ground on a 20-bed temporary shelter and service center for those experiencing homelessness in this age group. According to a write-up of the groundbreaking ceremony in the New Haven Independent, the facility will not just be a temporary shelter but a place where youths can transition out of homelessness and back into stable housing. Many more organizations are doing work like this, and many more
towns and cities are supporting these organizations. When CCM brought on Columbus House CEO Margaret Middleton, she said that we actually know how to solve homelessness, it’s just a matter of putting the resources and knowhow together in a workable way. “There is very little that is more important to people than having a safe and affordable place to live,” Middleton says, “it is just the bedrock and without it people can’t be healthy […] it’s much harder to be engaged successfully in recovery or engage successfully mental health care all of those things are improved when people have safe and affordable housing.” INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 9
The Show Must Go On
Guilford Performing Arts Festival ups the awards and prizes
hroughout the coronavirus shut down, some industries were more visible shaken up than others. Many people are used to going to restaurants and movie theaters, while art galleries and small performance venues often have a smaller crowd. The Guilford Performing Arts Festival wanted to make sure that some arts that lost revenue this could be made up by increasing the number of their Artists’ Awards. A biennial festival, the Guilford Performing Arts Festival was last held in 2019, and presented over 73 local and national artists in a multi-day, multi-venue festival. There are “dozens of free concerts, plays, readings, workshops, discussions and spontaneous happenings on and around the picturesque green in Guilford.” According to the Festival’s estimates, the total audience in 2019 was nearly 6,000 people, including 400 students, and it had an estimated local economic impact of $567,000 over four days. 2021 will be only the third time the festival will be held, so there is room for growth. During this off year, they spent a lot of time fundraising for their community. The total grant money they were able to raise in support of the creation of new work totaled $15,000, a majority of which was donated during the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven’s Great Give event. Two donors are sponsoring and funding an award in 10 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
their entirety. Carol Sirot of Guilford is sponsoring the festival’s dance award, which will be named the Carol Sirot Guilford Performing Arts Festival Artists’ Award in Dance. The other donor chose to remain anonymous. While applications closed in July, any professional performing artists currently living in Connecticut were eligible. The only requirement was that they use the grant of $2,500 to develop an original, new work to be premiered at next year’s festival. According to Americans for the Arts, over 60,000 people were laid off in the arts industry, 50,000 were furloughed, and 8,000 positions have remained vacant due to the coronavirus epidemic. Their survey response said that the median loss per organization was $21,000, and a total loss over $30 million so far. Self-employed workers, which described many artists, were only able to begin applying for benefits in May, and Connecticut received nearly 40,000 claims in the first week alone. The Guilford Performing Arts Festival is a reminder that making art is a job, and artists need money to survive. For everyone that had cracked open a novel, played a video game, digitally toured a museum, listened to their favorite records, or bingewatched their favorite tv shows, art is all around us. One could only imagine what social distancing would be without art.
Yoga In Our City moves into Mansfield, adds online classes
t’s not just you that has that crick in your neck. The past year has been admittedly stressful for everyone and according to one New York Times article, we’re grinding our teeth pretty bad because of it. Perhaps some relaxing yoga is the solution. Presented by ConnectiCare, Yoga In Our City —which partners with Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury during the summer months — provided online classes from February through May 2021. The program began almost ten years ago in Hartford as a project by Civic Mind Studios, which partners businesses with government and private investment to achieve real and lasting change per their website.
beyond flexibility and core strength. According to research performed by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institute of Health, Yoga has helped people improve their general wellness by relieving stress, quit smoking, lose weight, manage anxiety or depressive symptoms, and overall improve the quality of life. Of course not everyone is advanced in their yogic practice, and Yoga in our City accounts for that by providing “professional, accessible, and inclusive programming to all by emphasizing sustainable movement and a trauma-informed approach.”
With the ending of the virtual program, Yoga in Our City will be moving back outdoors in parks across the state. And they will be adding a new city into the mix – bringing Yoga to Mansfield on the UConn campus. And importantly, Yoga in our City sets out to realize yoga as an act of public health and community wellness rather than a luxury commodity — meaning that anyone could do it. And that’s important since we’re all feeling the effects of the pandemic in one way or another. Whether it’s Yoga in our towns, cities, parks, fields, living rooms, basements, wherever, self-care is always a good idea to promote.
“We encourage our members to practice self-care by making time for their physical and mental health. By sponsoring the virtual winter session of Yoga In Our City we are continuing to bring the many health benefits of yoga to all Connecticut residents free of charge,” said Kimberly Kann, Senior Director, Public Relations and Corporate Communications at ConnectiCare. “Taught by independent local instructors, the virtual classes are pre-recorded at ConnectiCare’s Manchester and Shelton centers and archived on the Yoga In Our City website for participants to access from the comfort of their own homes. Before COVID, Yoga in our City provided in-person outdoor classes in the partner cities behind the idea that through yoga they could build “stronger, more compassionate communities with a deep understanding of the natural connections between yoga philosophy and social justice.” While it is routinely accepted by professional athletes and amateur practitioners alike that there are many physical health benefits to the practice of yoga, the effects go well
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 11
EN TE AV
A MIN L R
NEW HAVEN TERMINAL, INC.
The Economic Development section of CT&C is sponsored by New Haven Terminal, Inc. Learn more at: www.newhaventerminal.com
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ORPORATE
Our Rich Cultural Heritage
Ridgefield becomes first in state with official Cultural District designation
onnecticut is one of the most culturally rich states in America, though many might not realize it. At one time, New Haven was known for being the launching ground of Broadway Plays. Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music all premiered at the Shubert, and that’s just Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals – the list goes on. And it’s not just New Haven, the Wadsworth in Hartford has Wyeths and Van Goghs, there are opera houses up and down the coast, historic homesteads going back centuries. Municipalities are finally able to begin showing that off with the creation of the official Cultural District designation. The overarching goal was to promote those cultural treasures that exist in every nook and cranny throughout the state, giving municipalities a tool “to promote the education, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the marketing of arts and culture attractions, the encouragement of artists and artistic and cultural enterprises and the promotion of tourism.” The idea to create an official Cultural District designation for municipalities stretched back almost a decade before it was carried across the finish line by former State Representation John Frey in 2019. The law became effective in October 2019 with guidelines becoming available around February 2020, which now looks like a portentous date in hindsight – over the next year, almost all plans that our towns and cities had to work on marketing and tourism would be pushed to the wayside in favor of the much more pressing public health crisis. By the end of 2020, municipalities were beginning to gear up for the eventual reopening of our state after a year in pandemic mode. Restaurants and cultural providers were devastated by the pandemic – many were forced to close, some permanently. Adding an official cultural district designation could certainly help boost tourism and the economy once people are up and out once again. Liz Shapiro, Director of Arts, Preservation and Museums with the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), she noted that the program was designed so that there’s a lot of flexibility, that this program will work best for municipalities.
12 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first town that took advantage of the Cultural District program was Ridgefield, the town that Rep. Frey represented. “This program recognizes the essential role that local arts and cultural resources play in building healthy communities over the long-term,” she said in a press release celebrating the first in the state designation. “I applaud Ridgefield for taking the initiative to establish the district and ensuring that arts and culture are at the heart of their planning efforts moving forward.” According to that release, the district encompasses downtown Ridgefield and surrounding areas that stretch from Keeler Tavern in the south portion through Ballard Park and the Ridgefield Library in the north, and a half mile to the east to the Ridgefield Theater Barn and Guild of Artists. It includes many cultural attractions, including the Pride Arts Center, Conservatory of Dance, Prospector Theater, Scott House, ACT of CT and the Ridgefield Playhouse. According to Shapiro, this is neither an overnight process, but it also shouldn’t take years either. The Cultural Districts Standards and Criteria are available on the DECD portal and lay out the requirements for municipalities to establish a Cultural District. Before applying to the state, towns and cities should assess the inventory and location of cultural assets in town. This should give a broad outline of where the Cultural District should be located. Once you confirm that you are eligible by reviewing the standards and criteria, you submit a letter of intent with your Designated Regional Service Organization (DRSO). For Ridgefield that would be the Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut. The standards and criteria say a municipality must hold a vote to approve the creation of the Cultural District, meet the required definition, be walkable, have cultural facilities and assets as well as public infrastructure and amenities. The municipality must also pass a resolution following a community input meeting and form a Cultural District Commission. The commission that oversees the Cultural District “should represent a diverse mix of organizations and
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ridgefield Playhouse’s recent virtual presentation of ‘Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad’
businesses, with a majority representing the arts/ culture community as well as working and/or living in the district. A minimum, the members should include one municipal representative, one local cultural/arts council representative, one cultural organization, at least one artist that lives and/or works in the district, for-profit creative businesses, and a local business or chamber of commerce. This mix was created by DECD to keep the program open and available to both small towns and large cities – which Shapiro says will keep the voices from the cultural community at the table in terms of decision making, planning, and strategy. Ridgefield’s Advisory Council subcommittee is comprised of representation from the Board of Selectman, the Historic District Commission, the Ridgefield Arts Council, the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center, The Ridgefield Playhouse, the Ridgefield Library, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Thrown Stone Theater Company, the Ridgefield Historical Society, the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, TownVibe Media, and the West Lane Inn. The final step in the process is a walkthrough, but because of the situation, Ridgefield actually completed theirs virtually. [https://vimeo.com/509357299]. The hope is that moving forward as more towns and cities apply for Cultural Districts, they will be able to perform these walkthroughs in-person. Much of the benefit from a Cultural District will be from the ability to market the cultural district to not just residents and tourists, but also to businesses that might like to associate themselves with a cultural center. This can help towns and cities not only drive economic growth, but perhaps expand their tax base as a community forms around the Cultural District. DECD will be providing marketing assistance to quali-
fying Cultural Districts in the form of in-kind marketing, promotion, and additional resources via the tourism websites and promotion by CT Office of the Arts and their regional DRSOs. To qualify, Cultural Districts must apply to the CT Office of the Arts, arrange a site visit, and discuss plans, assets, and goals for the district. There are additional benefits for towns that are part of SustainableCT, as the creation of the Cultural District will add action points towards their future or current certifications. Now that Ridgefield is the first in the state with a Cultural District, other towns have a model for what a Cultural District looks like. New London had concurrently approved the formation of a Cultural District and Stonington is not too far behind. Other towns and cities that are interested in a Cultural District, but don’t know where to start, Connecticut Main Street Center, DECD, and CCM are holding a workshop on July 22 about the process. For more information, visit www.CCM-CT.org. In the months and years ahead, municipalities can use the designation as a way to increase foot traffic at home or tourism abroad – to support the kind of economic growth that our towns and cities need in a post-COVID economy. Just as importantly, with so many towns with so many cultural attractions, the development of the Cultural District was a way to honor that deep and rich history. When you think about Ridgefield, you think about the Ridgefield Playhouse and the Aldrich. New London brings up connotations of one of its most famous residents – Eugene O’Neill. Around the State, there is such a wealth of art, of culture, that with the creation of the Cultural District, no one will forget what Connecticut municipalities have to offer. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 13
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT A Beautiful Partnership
Berlin and Newport Realty Group make economic development work
here’s no store that sells Economic Development – you can’t Amazon Prime business growth, Walmart doesn’t have Transit Oriented Developments in Aisle 9. Economic Development doesn’t happen overnight either- it’s often the result of years and years of work, bringing together the municipality and a developer to work in tandem to create something that will work for both parties. Steele Center in Berlin is the fruit of one such partnership. Connecticut Town & City recently sat down to speak with Chris Edge, Economic Development Director for the Town of Berlin and Anthony Valenti of Newport Realty Group to speak to what it really takes to bring a project to life. The story in Berlin begins like so many others in Connecticut – with an unused land parcel located on Farmington Avenue, just around the corner from the Berlin Train Station. The town had purchased a few lots in the mid-aughts as a possible location for a new police station in town. Two separate plans in the mid-2010s for this parcel weren’t able to move forward – one voted on by the public that was voted against for its high cost, and one voted down by the Town Council. But then Transit Oriented Development became hot in Connecticut on the back of infrastructure investment. CTfastrak, a rapid transit busing line connecting New Britain to Hartford first went into operation in 2015 after over a decade of planning and construction. Then the Hartford Line (CT Rail) in 2018 became a surprise hit with an $8 fare from New Haven to Hartford. Berlin had plans on reinvigorating this area for years, but the stars had never been more aligned. Looking at a map, the parcel that the town owned could not have been better situated – the lot is practically begging for Transit Oriented Development. Lots like this are a rarity, Valenti said sadly that “those parcels just aren’t out there.” As with so many of Connecticut’s municipalities, Berlin has a history of manufacturing that is simply less prevalent in a global economy. If the parcel was simply too good to be true, that’s because the catch was it needed Brownfield remediation before it could be fully utilized, which took coordination and partnership with the State of Connecticut before they put out the Request For Qualifications (RFQ). “It took multiple state agencies – Department of Transportation, Department of Economic Community Development, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Office of Policy and Management – so it’s really has been an all hands on deck story.” Overall, the State put in over $4 million, with another $500,000 coming from the town itself.
14 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
One of the most important aspects of this new development was figuring out how to make it not just work, but fit in Berlin. Given the location, it was easy to look at developments in places like New Britain and Hartford, both of which are seeing an investment in Transit Oriented Development. “Putting a five-story building with residents wouldn’t be a good fit,” Edge said, noting that the development should feel more like a Blue Back Square – the platonic ideal for many developers – and “It’s gotta fit in.” “Three to four years ago if you asked what my vision of Berlin could be, it was breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, people on the street, and a combination of millennials and empty nesters enjoying what Berlin has to offer.” Fortunately for Edge and the Town of Berlin, that’s where Newport Realty Group stepped in. Both Valenti and business partner Mark Lovley had years of experience, with various real estate related investments and developments around Connecticut – including the development and sales of twenty-five luxury townhomes in West Hartford where Blue Back Square is located. The fit seemed to be perfect. Meeting with the town, Newport said that they wanted to come to the table and make that vision a reality. But they also had a number they needed to hit – which in this case was 76 apartments across a total of five buildings that will be completed by the end of the project. These would be mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, along with a nice mix of two-bedroom units – precisely the kind of housing that many younger people and empty nesters are looking for. Their proposal included buildings that were a mix of brick and traditional siding – not the modern glass clad buildings that feel more appropriate in an urban setting. They’ll have first-floor retail, but they don’t particularly want to bring in a major retail chain. “A lot of the national brands are out on the Berlin Turnpike,” Valenti said, “And maybe that’s where they should be. One of the nice surprises of COVID is these mom and pop restaurants have done well, they’ve been scrappy, they know what they’re doing in terms of running a restaurant.” Edge said that’s exactly right for Berlin, “We want people and our businesses to truly be a part of the community.” And he said that Newport Realty Group was already doing that work: “They purchased what is now called Newport Center, a mixed-use commercial and residential building located across Farmington Avenue from the Berlin Train Station last February, and when
Newport purchased it, it had never had a commercial tenant since it was built. 14 months later, our second locally owned coffee shop, a hair salon, and several executive suites are now occupying the 1st floor of building.” The groundbreaking for the Steele Center development first building took place on September 16, 2020. The historic event included project partners Gov. Ned Lamont, Berlin Mayor Mark Kaczynski, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Betsey Wingfield, and Office of Policy and Management Deputy Secretary Kosta Diamantis, therefore representing the work that went on before the RFQ went out, as well as Valenti and Lovley. While the full project won’t be done overnight, neither was the work that got the town to this point: the brownfield remediation, the RFQ, the planning, finding the right partner, and deciding what was the right fit for not just any town in Connecticut, but for Berlin. Ultimately, economic development is work. Work that
needs to be put in on the town side and work that needs to be put in on the developer side. Without any of the pieces of the puzzle coming together in just the right way, then projects like Steele Center and Newport Center won’t happen. In Berlin, both parties are happy with the progress being made despite the bumps in the road because they know that they can make this project work. “We formed this partnership’” Valenti says, “And it’s easy to use that phrase but not really mean it. We mean it because what we needed to get this development launched, the town helped us with, and what the town needed from our end to get this project launched, we provided to the town.” Valenti summed up the relationship by saying, “this is the kind of blueprint for other towns to follow.” And blueprints is the kind of thing that he understands. For the town, the old saying that the reward for good work is more work can be rephrased in this case as the reward for good economic development is more economic development. But that’s something that Berlin is clearly invested in.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 15
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Eat, Drink and Stay Local Berlin helps restaraunts survive and thrive
he past twelve months have not exactly been fortuitous for economic development in towns and cities anywhere. It was a year of back to basics for many, making sure that businesses that already exist stay whole throughout the pandemic. In Berlin, they’ve come up with a novel solution to help residents help local restaurants. Located on the Economic Development webpage for the town is a PDF document called Eat, Drink and Stay Local. On this list is every restaurant and coffee shop in Berlin, along with their phone number, hours, and whether or not they offer dining in, take-out, delivery, and gift cards, along with a link to their website or menu. This helps because with the pandemic, information was changing so often that it was hard for businesses to keep up with all of
16 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
the platforms that they can be listed on. There can be one set of information on Google, another on Facebook, and others on the restaurants own website depending on how and when the information gets posted. Economic Development Director Chris Edge was quoted in an article in the Hartford Courant this past December, saying “Some people weren’t modifying their website or (operating) hours. Sometimes it wasn’t off by a lot, or sometimes it just didn’t say if they do dine-in or takeout or delivery – those small tweaks are vitally important to a customer who wants to get food quicky.” Because of this attention to detail and quick response, Berlin has seen businesses remain open or even seen businesses open. According to a second article in the Courant,
Edge said that while two restaurants had closed throughout the year, three had opened. The quick reference guide is one of those kinds of ideas that is both obvious and not obvious. The first telephone directory was published in February of 1878 in New Haven, but now the yellow pages aren’t utilized in the way that they were just 20 years ago. And with so many different places for listings, it’s hard to keep in mind everything that is open in town. Perhaps, once the pandemic is over, keeping this listing open, reaching out to businesses to be a part of it, and letting residents know where it is will be a quick and easy resource for people to support a local business. For Berlin residents, asking what’s for dinner tonight and keeping that choice local is a piece of cake.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Zoned For The Future West Haven enters Enterprise Zone program
here’s a popular phrase that says “don’t leave any money on the table.” For municipalities, this often comes in the form of money that can be had from the federal and state government through tax breaks. Recently, West Haven has established an Enterprise Zone that aims to entice businesses and real estate to town. Connecticut was ahead of the curve on enterprise zones, and was the first state in the country to establish a statewide Enterprise Zone in 1982, according to the state’s website, and businesses can receive tax incentives for developing properties in distressed areas. The site says that there are currently 43 participating communities. The town or city property must meet certain criteria in order to be considered for the Enterprise Zone program, it needs to be “a contiguous tract of land with high poverty and unemployment rates, along with a significant percentage of the population on public assistance within the boundary,” per the city of West Haven. Only one tract in West Haven met those criteria, but that doesn’t mean that the city cannot benefit from even just this one area seeing increased economic development. Mayor Nancy Rossi said in a press release from the city that businesses are already interested in the area as the initiative moves forward, generating “much-needed revenue and jobs.” There are two key incentives according to the state: a five-year, 80% abatement of local property taxes on qualifying real estate and personal property; or a 10-year 25% credit on the portion of the corporate business tax that is directly attributable to a business expansion or renovation project, as determined by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services.
State Rep. Michael DiMassa and Mayor Nancy Rossi work on the city’s enterprise zone effort.
Under the header eligibility for businesses, they list one of three criteria that businesses must meet in order to receive the incentive: renovate an existing facility by investing at least 50% of the facility’s prior assessed value in the renovation; construct a new facility or expand an existing one; or acquire a facility that has been idle for a set amount of time based on employee numbers. With development in many areas coming to a complete stand-still throughout 2020, tax incentives have shown to be one of the ways to draw interest from businesses. An Enterprise Zone is one of those programs that tries to match areas that need that development the most with businesses that are looking to get a jump start or simply grow. West Haven getting in on the program is a smart way to not leave any money on the table without betting the pot on the city’s future. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 17
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Stratford Stays Stratford Strong Long-term recovery planned in wake of COVID
ith news that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic might exceed that of the 2008 recession, many Connecticut residents have been left wondering what the future might look like. Businesses, large and small, have felt the impact of this virus, leading municipal leaders across the state to begin the process of recovery. In Stratford, Mayor Laura Hoydick formed Stratford Strong to ensure a bright future for the town. Partnering with local organizations who have great insight into the local community and business owners, they have implemented several plans that have already seen enormous success in the short time since Stratford Strong was formed. One such plan was a simple marketing plan that aimed to utilize social media and traditional media to get the word out about businesses across seven different sectors – small business, arts, wellness, services and hospitality, salons and barbers, and restaurants – a new one each week. Each video shows how that particular sector has adapted to new measures that are necessary under social distancing protocols, while showing that life can go on in a meaningful way. In the arts video, coming in just under a minute, shows a young dance troupe, a child learning how to play saxophone, others painting. All in all, the videos have been seen by the followers of the town’s social media pages, reaching an audience of over 18,000 people, with videos reaching over 7000 views. In a press release about Stratford Strong, Mayor Hoydick said that “while this is a long-term recovery program, [she] is pleased with the work that the task force has accomplished in its first month following the Town’s extraordinary and sus-
18 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Mayor Laura Hoydick
tained response since March.” She urged residents to follow up with the task force at email@example.com, which was set up specifically for this reason. They are continuing to compile information on the ongoing pandemic and the impact it is having on local businesses, and without input The recovery from the pandemic
will not be a sprint, but a marathon. There’s no telling when a vaccine will be ready to get us back to normal, and what that normal will look like. Towns like Stratford have started this race by putting their best foot forward, and with the Stratford Strong task force, they will certainly have the strength to cross the finish line when we get to it.
What’s For Dinner?
Hartford eatery changes economic paradigm
unicipalities are often left wondering what to do with the warehouses that have been left empty by a changing economic paradigm. These brick mammoths used to be integral to a productive and industrial town, but with American manufacturing becoming a thing of the past, there’s no need. In many towns and cities, the go-to answer is to convert the space into apartments, but Parkville Market in Hartford shows that other adaptive uses are possible. The Parkville Market boasts that it is the first food hall in Connecticut, but this trend is just picking up in America. An Eater blog defined them as a sprawling market that showcases a variety of mini-restaurants and retail food vendors under one roof, and back in 2017 labeled them as the next big thing in the food industry. It’s no surprise then that Connecticut Magazine said that it took three years for Carlos Mouta, the owner, to see his vision become a reality. This space used to be the home of Pope Manufacturing, Columbia Bicycle, the Underwood and Royal Typewriters, the Gray Telephone Pay Station, and more according to the Parkville Market website, but today it has become a collective of “some of the most innovative businesses in Hartford.” Food halls are meant to be a collective of unique and affordable restaurants that one can go to for a myriad of choices. According to the Eater article, restauranteurs have been warning of an impending affordable restaurant apocalypse as more and more Americans move towards fast-casual chains. This makes the Parkville Market the perfect kind of reuse to fit into a new and changing landscape, supporting not just one business but up to twenty restaurants, and anchoring a neighborhood with a restaurant haven in one building.
The vendors are selected to give you a taste of the cultural history of Hartford, and currently include Bombay Express, Brazilian Gula Grill, Chompers (small bites), Crave Leche (ice cream), Fowl Play, Hartford Poke Co., J’s Crab Shack, Jamaican Jerk Shack, Las Tortas MX, Mercado 27 (Peruvian), Mofongo, Okinawa Boba Co., Pho Go, Portly Pig, Que Chivo (Salvadorian), The Butcher & The Bean (coffee), and Twisted Italian Café. There’s no doubt that Connecticut needs more housing, especially in the cities. But as apartments move in, restaurant options that mirror the eclectic demographics of a bustling city are needed in the same measure. One might find that food halls like the Parkville Market become anchoring points, attracting more residents and more businesses, and sparking natural growth. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 19
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Surviving With Local Support
New Haven Partnership Loan Program gives loans to small businesses
here is an undeniable symbiotic relationship between municipalities and small business. A healthy town is often populated with locally owned small businesses – barbers, restaurants, and other industries impervious to outside ownership. In places like New Haven, many are minority and women owned businesses. But when relief funds for the businesses, it was these businesses that were left out. The City of New Haven in partnership with HEDCO, Inc., The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and The Amour Propre Fund have come together to offer loans to these forgotten businesses. The Partnership Loan Program for Minority- and Women-Owned Small Businesses will offer qualifying small businesses with 20 or fewer employees to apply for a four percent term loan up to $25,000. Initially starting with $1.5 million, businesses in New Haven and the Lower Naugatuck Valley can apply if they are a for-profit business, minority or women owned, are in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) and have been conducting business for a minimum of one year. The loans, which are underwritten by HEDCO, Inc, carry the four percent interest and terms in which the first 12 months are interest only. Those businesses in good standing after 12 months are eligible for forgiveness of up to 16.67% of the original loan amount, which is just over $4000 if the maximum amount is taken.
The Partnership Loan Program for Minority- and Women-Owned Small Businesses in New Haven and Lower Naugatuck Valley
HEDCO, Inc., The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the City of New Haven, and The Amour Propre Fund are collaborating to provide financial relief and recovery resources to minority-owned and women-owned small businesses (the “Program”) . Under the Program, a qualifying small business with 20 or fewer employees (1-20 employees) may apply for a four (4%) percent term loan for up to $25,000 (twenty-five thousand dollars). This $1.5 million Program will be initially allocated to minority-o wned and women-owned small businesses based in New Haven and to minority-owned and women-owned businesses located the Valley with a priority to the towns of Derby or Ansonia. The program will be administered and underwritten by HEDCO, Inc. Eligibility: To be considered for this Program, your small business must:
Be a for-profit business with no more than 20 (full or part-time) employees Be a minority-owned and/or women-owned small business (minimum 51% of minority/woman ownership required) Be located in the city of New Haven or the Lower Naugatuck Valley Be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) Have been conducting business for a minimum of one year
Terms & Conditions
Term Loan up to $25,000 (loans available from $10,000- $25,000) 4% interest rate First 12 months interest only – 13 month converts into principal and interest payments No application fee Loans to New Haven small businesses in good standing after 12 months are eligible for forgiveness for up to 16.67% of the original loan amount.
Small businesses urgently needed an influx of money to hold them over during the shutdown after being left out of the original Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $349 billion program that was part of the larger $2.2 trillion CARES Act bailout earlier this year. They were unable to navigate the application process with as much ease as larger businesses that had access to staff and legal teams to file for them. This led to companies like Shake Shack, which has locations throughout Connecticut including one in New Haven, to receive $10 million loan, which they gave back after an outcry. The New Haven program requires only a one-page 20 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
application, along with standard loan information, making it accessible to any business that needs it. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, quoted in the WTNH report, said that “What COVID has highlighted is the severe inequities which are being experienced by the Black and Brown communities.” The Partnership Loan Program seeks to make the situation equitable for the small business owners that would otherwise not have survived the extensive shutdowns due to the coronavirus. Cities like New Haven thrive on the local businesses that give it its culture, this program gives it a chance to see a day when social distancing is a thing of the past.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT New Plans in Old Lyme Economic Development Commission says bike lanes and recreation are in
conomic development is not something that just happens naturally. Municipalities must look at the lay of the land; study existing businesses, zoning, and interest; and make recommendations. The town of Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) has been working on a plan that they believe will lead to smart growth “focused on maintaining the smalltown character and charm” of Old Lyme. Through the completion of three studies: a town-wide survey, two Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) workshops, and an Economic Development study. Each aimed to look at a different side of economic development. From the town-wide survey, many agreed that the natural beauty of the beaches and open space with the New England charm was what made Old Lyme Old Lyme. So many felt that new housing development was not necessary, but the town should look into adding recreational benefits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, infrastructure was a big key for residents when considering commercial development. Bike lanes, pedestrian infrastructure, and more visually attractive roadways were popular developments. They noted a strong generational divide in town as well. Younger respondents were more likely to support more dining and entertainment options, according to the survey results, but were opposed to the development of condos and apartments. Older respondents were fine with the way things were but wanted more condo options so they could downsize in retirement. While a town-wide survey might be self-explanatory, a SWOT workshop looks at a specific cross-section of “town stakeholders.” This included businesses, resi-
dents, town leaders, nonprofit organizations, and clergy. The SWOT response noted similar findings or was able to elucidate findings from the residents. For instance, one weakness they found was that there was a lack of diversity in housing and residents, and there was an even split among demand for affordable housing, 36% for and 40% against. Adding housing will bring the “density to support additional dining, entertainment, and retail options,” which makes affordable housing an opportunity. In a letter to the CT Examiner, the EDC said they had two main goals: “first, attracting new businesses that fit the character of Old Lyme, and second, supporting existing businesses.” Facing a declining population was a big challenge that business had to overcome. They also acknowledged that the landscape had changed because of COVID-19: “We recognize the business and economic landscape will be altered which will require adjustments to our future plans. We believe we are in a better position to confront the “new normal” that will result from the impact of the virus by having the results from these projects as a baseline to work with.” Encouraging the people of Old Lyme to look over the findings in the CT Examiner letter, the Old Lyme EDC asked for continued participation from the residents. Sharing the process, the findings, and the plan with residents is an integral part of the process. No economic development plan works when it flies in the face of the people. Old Lyme took the right steps to see what the town wanted first and will then build the plans on top of that.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 21
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CT’s Small Towns Go High Tech
How Old Saybrook is using geofencing advertising to help its Main Street
hese days, there are two things probably everyone can agree on – one, the pandemic has hit small downtown businesses hard, and two, mobile technology is here to stay. So what does one have to do with the other? The answer was shared during Connecticut Main Street Center’s recent Recovery & Resiliency series webinar, Covid-19 Check-In: Do my businesses have what they need as we move into 2021?. The webinar featured speakers Sadie Colcord of AdvanceCT; Mary Dickerson, Portland Development Planner; and Susie Beckman, Old Saybrook Economic Development Director who together discussed how the pandemic has impacted local businesses. Each speaker offered practical, innovative information on how their towns and the state are supporting local merchants with online marketing and sales, implementing Covid safety protocols, and supporting local arts and entertainment venues. Yet, one novel approach being used in Old Saybrook stood out among the rest: geofencing advertising. Geofencing advertising creates a virtual boundary around a location, then targets ads to people who enter that location via their mobile device based on certain characteristics such as demographics or shopping behavior. Local marketing consultant Scierka Lang Media Solutions helped Old Saybrook set up geofencing about three years ago, and they’ve been using it since to target ads to people who visited nearby outlets and other shopping locations as they approach Main Street. While Ms. Beckman says it’s been a very effective part of the town’s marketing strategy due to its highly focused advertising, “small businesses would have a hard time doing it without a partner.” So Old Saybrook decided to offer a unique proposition to its Main Street businesses who may not otherwise
22 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
be able to invest in the new technology: for $200 local merchants can buy into the geofencing for a four-week campaign utilizing the business’s own ads. The campaigns are offered two to three times per year and usually incorporate a theme, such as holiday season shopping. Last fall, four Old Saybrook businesses signed up for the geofencing campaign, which allows for easy tracking of potential customers. The return for the four businesses was impressive: the combined ads resulted in over 416,000 impressions (the number of times the advertisement was picked up by a mobile device), 439 ad clicks (the number of times someone clicked on the ad and was sent to the corresponding business website or landing page), and 495 visits to Main Street (the number of times a mobile device was tracked to Main Street after receiving an impression). While they couldn’t necessarily determine the actual conversion rate on the ad clicks, having an additional 500 visits to Main Street during the holiday season would clearly be welcomed by any down-
town. Overall, Ms. Beckman views geofencing as a benefit for both the town and the businesses and would recommend it to other towns as part of their overall marketing strategy. She believes the geofencing has been at least as effective as print advertising, if not more so because of the ability to reach more targeted markets, and says the cost is about half the industry average per impression when compared to a small business using a vendor such as a newspaper for the service. It’s also relatively quick to set up as well as versatile – businesses can stop the campaign and switch their ads if they find they aren’t working. While it’s not a panacea, geofencing advertising harnesses technology almost every customer has in their pocket. And if that gets them to move their feet to Main Street, that’s a win for all our communities. For more information about Old Saybrook’s geofencing advertising, contact Susie Beckman, Economic Development Director, at Susan. Beckman@oldsaybrookct.gov.
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:
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 23
EDUCATION The Education section of CT&C is sponsored by
One Book, Two Book, Red Book, Blue Book Milford Library Children Center gets more child friendly
t a time when all new projects had to come to a screeching halt, those that had already begun were put on a “wait and see” plan. Now, a year into the pandemic, some of those plans are finally coming to completion like the newly renovated Children’s Department at the Milford Library. Like so many municipal projects, this one has roots going back a few years. Library Director Christine Angeli said in the small ribbon cutting ceremony that took place in March that these changes have been in the works since at least 2017. Adding the COVID pandemic only lengthened the process – one that was initially set to take only six months. The goal of the Children’s Department renovation was the enlarge the space and make it more user friendly for both the children and parents. From the city’s website for the library they say that the “renovations will include an expansion of our Children’s Department to make it more ADA accessible, added space for different age levels with appropriate technology centers, and a more comfortable layout so that families can stay, mingle and meet others so necessary to building the community relationships we cherish.” During the opening ribbon cutting ceremony, which was socially distanced, Mayor Ben Blake argued that “a community can be judged and should be judged by how it supports it’s library.” “Especially in these difficult times when people need that outlet,” he 24 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Staff giving a sneak peek at the fun stuff in the recently renovated children’s department at Milford Public Library
said, “[the library] is there to support our communities.” Adding that this project really brought everyone together in a way that few projects do anymore. Director Angeli thanked not only her staff, the city, and the state who had provided some of the funding for the renovation, but also Public Works and the city IT department for added support which allowed them to keep costs under control. “They’re not recognized enough,” she said. Unfortunately, despite the completion of the project, which also included public meeting spaces on
the second floor of the library, can’t be used to full capacity during the pandemic. The library does remain open, under Governor Lamont’s restrictions. And in many cases, attempts are being made at offering services virtually such as virtual storytime. The Milford Library Children’s Department recommended in their newsletter to follow them on social media for updates throughout the year. But Mayor Blake speaks for all who love their municipal libraries when he says I just want to sit down and read some books.
The New School
Danbury plans for city within a city at old Matrix building site
efore 2020, the idea of going to work or school where you live would have seemed like a farfetched idea for a majority of people. In Danbury, town officials and developers have created a plan for a mixed-use city-within-a-city that will feature housing, businesses, and a school for over 1000 students. At the June meeting of the 2020 Danbury Public Schools Task Force, Mayor Mark Boughton along with a team of others, proposed the idea of the Danbury Career Academy with the intent to “connect with various businesses, agencies, and non-profits in Danbury to provide a training opportunity for students, as well as academic classrooms.” Located at the former Matrix building in Danbury, which has been in disuse for years, the building will be able to have space for 1,100 students over 40 classrooms across two “pods.” The proposal describes the location as having room for a
gymnasium, media center, conference rooms, pupil services, and teacher’s lounge in addition to classroom space. Danbury Career Academy would provide extra classrooms in the City rather than replace an older school. Currently the school population is increasing, with estimates putting the growth at seven percent over the next 10 years. In some of the other pods, there will be space for apartments, a convention center, and more. This can put students in close contact with businesses that are located in the development for internships, hence the name. According to CT Insider, it’s fairly rare for schools to be set in mixeduse developments. In Hawaii there is a plan to build a public elementary school within a mixed-use development, and in New York and New Jersey there are similar developments with charter schools.
This unusual arrangement is suited for a building which has taken on a reputation as an unusual development. The current owners, Summit Development say that the “forward-thinking structure gained immediate global attention when it first opened in 1982, and today its visionaries from Summit Development are reimagining what it means to be an innovative corporate campus.” One hold up in the process is the unique way in which Danbury plans to finance the development. They are looking to purchase the space once it is completed rather than hiring an architect and construction company according to information gather by CT Insider. Because this will save money, Mayor Boughton told the papers that he would be seeking a higher reimbursement rate from the state, but that would require the state legislature to pass a bill. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 25
EDUCATION Best Kept Secret
Community Colleges Deliver Affordable, Customized Employee Training By Kristina Testa-Buzzee, Ed.D
ecognizing that it often takes additional learning for workers to fulfill the roles they’re hired to perform, community colleges throughout our region are expanding their employee training services to help employers fill the skills gap. If the term “Contract Training” is new to you, welcome to effective employee training that is affordable, customizable, and on-demand. In short, contract training is when a business, industry, nonprofit organization, municipality or government agency contracts with a community college to provide training and education to its employees. Employers work directly with community colleges to ‘upskill’ their existing employees with the practical training they need to perform effectively on the job. For the colleges, the service is a natural, as providing employee training perfectly aligns with their mission of economic and workforce development. Norwalk, Housatonic, and Gateway Community Colleges can develop and deliver customized workforce training programs and certification courses for employers throughout the state. Community colleges are professionals at advancing economic growth through skills training, and for the last five years that has included contract training to meet the unique employee development needs of Connecticut’s workforce.
26 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Convenient Full-Service Resources The benefits to employers abound. With locations in our backyard, instructors that are industry experts, and prices that smash those of traditional corporate training programs, companies and organizations large and small are turning to our region’s community colleges as their new employee training team. The colleges make training available when and where firms need it, with courses delivered either online or in-person, at their workplace location or at the colleges themselves. Whether the priority is improving people skills, leadership development or technical knowhow, employers are discovering that our region’s community colleges provide certifications and training that meet their needs. Some of the most popular training areas offered include Customer Service, Human Resources, Information Technology/Computers, Finance, Leadership and Management Development, Ethical and Legal Issues, Quickbooks/Bookkeeping, Healthcare, Safety & Security/OSHA, Manufacturing, STEM training, ESL and more. “When it comes to workforce training, our community colleges are designed to be responsive and flexible partners in preparing the regional workforce with customized, industry-specific training,” said Thomas G. Coley, Ph.D., President of the Shoreline West region which encompasses Housatonic, Norwalk, and Gateway Community Colleges. “Our ability to work closely
with multiple industries, particularly Healthcare, Manufacturing, Finance, Technology and Business, allows us to provide affordable and targeted training that keeps the current workforce updated with the latest competencies and the emerging workforce prepared to enter into jobs in high-demand fields.”
Get Results A wide variety of employers throughout Connecticut are already benefitting, including Fortune 500 corporations, small and mid-sized businesses, non-profits, state and federal agencies, unions, and workforce development agencies. The community colleges have trained hundreds of employees of every level in the aerospace, consumer goods, retail, electronics, food and beverage, government, healthcare, hospitality, industrial goods, manufacturing, technology and utility industries, to name a few.
addition, for workers that want professional enrichment and an opportunity to grow in their careers, the colleges work with employers’ tuition reimbursement programs. Our community colleges are poised to expand their service offerings and welcome the opportunity to serve Connecticut’s employers. Any firm looking to improve operations, increase efficiencies, improve recruitment and retention, or optimize performance, need look no further than community college contract training - a secret weapon in staying competitive. Contact Kristina Testa-Buzzee, Ed.D., Chief Regional Workforce Development Officer for the Shoreline West Region of Connecticut Community Colleges via email at KTesta-Buzzee@commnet.edu or call (203)332-5156 to learn more about how contract training with Norwalk, Housatonic and Gateway Community Colleges can help your organization.
“By responding quickly with high-quality, customized solutions to employers’ most pressing workforce training and education needs, Norwalk, Housatonic, and Gateway Community Colleges are becoming the go-to employee training resources among Connecticut’s business community,” said Kristina Testa-Buzzee, Ed.D., Chief Regional Workforce Development Officer for the Shoreline West Region. “Employers are benefitting from increased employee productivity, stronger teams and a better bottom line.”
Where To Begin Each discussion about contract training begins the same way–the colleges listen to business and industry. Their philosophy: getting employees the training they need to succeed is a collaborative effort between a firm and the college. They understand that every organization’s training challenge is unique, and that by learning those specific needs, they can quickly develop a targeted, successful solution. And they do it affordably. Whether a workforce is 10 or 10,000 employees, the community colleges offer special rates to help firms realize their vision of a well-trained, productive workforce. They work with budgets of every size to find the best solution to employers’ specific challenges. In INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 27
EDUCATION One Step At A Time
Step Forward Program Helps Students Adapt During COVID-19
hen transitioning to remote learning last spring, like her colleagues, Gateway Community College Step Forward Director Jaime French took a new approach to make her hands-on curriculum work for students. Yet with highly individualized instruction and young adults with mild cognitive disabilities, relying heavily on technology posed even greater challenges for the program she has overseen for 16 years. The program would need to make different use of technology to connect with students. French noted that the timing of the move to remote instruction helped tremendously in how the students could adapt. She assessed the progress of each student and felt a sense of relief. “I could say with confidence we touched on all the content,” French said. As the new learning model took shape, teachers and staff maintained contact to keep students on track, helping them to feel less isolated. Staff helped the students learn strategies to deal with the pressure they felt. Meetings with advisors took place over the phone. Students who were enrolled in credit courses at GCC in addition to the Step Forward program received added support processing what their professors were looking for in their assignments. Group email chats also helped the students stay connected. As GCC students returned to campus this fall for a limited number of classes, the Step Forward students have been among those who are regularly on campus. The schedule the students follow is very similar to the usual format, but work internships are not scheduled and more resume writing and career planning have been incorporated. If at any time it becomes necessary to move to remote learning, detailed plans are in place to move instruction to an online format.
The success of the program, which is the only community college-run program of its kind in Connecticut, is in how it empowers students to branch out and experience college life. French noted that in Step Forward, students can see themselves differently from how they were in high school, gain independence, and find acceptance from peers. She added that students frequently come into the program and reinvent themselves, making the most of their college experience. Step Forward provides an educational environment customized to the learning style of its students and they are involved in all aspects of their educational experience. In Step Forward I, the curriculum focuses on interpersonal communication, daily living skills, college readiness, and workplace readiness. Upon completion, a student’s team of professionals recommends either a repeat of Step Forward I, exit, or promotion to Step Forward II, which also offers a High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder program. Those who move into Step Forward II take courses for college credit and the expectation for students is higher. Behind the scenes, scaffolding to support students as they move toward a degree comes in many forms, from help with emails and interpreting class expectations to introducing students to GCC’s support services, such as the tutoring center. Students attend non-credit seminars to enhance their study, time management, social, and organizational skills. Step Forward is quickly filling up for Fall 2021. For information about Step Forward, please contact Jaime French for a virtual tour and/or meeting at (203) 2852505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I could say with confidence we touched on all the content,” - Jaime French, Director
28 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
EDUCATION Keeping The Libraries Open
Beardsley Library will use new funds for PPE and more
ibraries have been hit hard by the pandemic, but hit even harder are the people who utilize them. CT&C has often about innovative ideas that occur inside our municipal libraries, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and realize that the library itself is one of our greatest public goods. Finding ways to keep them open are crucial, and recently Beardsley Library in Winsted was awarded grant money to do just that. As part of the dedicated fund that Governor Ned Lamont and Interim State Librarian Maureen Sullivan set aside from the CT Coronavirus Relief Funds, per a press release from the town that $27,830 will go to the Beardsley Library with the express intent on making health and safety improvements.
resources, and librarians who are trained in helping residents access key services,” said Governor Lamont. “Most importantly, libraries provide safe and quiet spaces for people to work and study, which is critical to many people who do not have the environment to do this at home. Especially during this difficult time, libraries and the work of so many generous librarians have played a critical role in supporting K-12 and post-secondary students with remote learning.” Throughout the pandemic, libraries have found ways to keep doing
what they do so well: acting as fonts of knowledge for the thousands of residents that not only use them but need them. Some libraries began offering programs for people at home to access online, some offered curbside pickup once it became clear that that would be acceptable. No matter what way a library does it, making sure their services are accessible and safe is now of utmost importance. The library itself is the crucial municipal service educating the young and old alike. Grants received by the Beardsley Library are a simple first step.
Funds from this grant will go towards things like personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, signage, and furniture. More than ever, the outsize importance of internet access found at every library in Connecticut. CCM along with Dalio Education reported on the digital divide that has existed in our towns and cities, made more obvious by the COVID pandemic. In libraries, towns and cities have created a resource to close that gap. “Public libraries have always been places that support education and self-directed learning. They are now a critical community resource for virtual learning,” Sullivan said. This grant does not include moneys as part of the Everybody Learns initiative aimed at increasing public Wi-Fi, many of which are placed at libraries across the state according to the press release. “Libraries offer critical services for the public, including reliable Wi-Fi, access to computers and laptops, supportive learning materials and INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 29
EDUCATION Summer Reads
Middletown summer programs keeps kids engaged
eaching kids can be difficult when they are in school. Teachers go through years of education and training to make sure they are well equipped with the skills to help children learn. This unprecedented situation posed by COVID-19 has made it that much harder, and as towns headed into the summer months, the need to keep children engaged was that much more important. Towns like Middletown had a head start on issues like this with summer reading programs to help keep children on track. One such program called READsquared was held through the Russell Library, and saw families logging their reading throughout the summer to earn badges and certificates. The goal is to get children of all ages to build life-long reading habits. You simply download the app and log what books you have read. They are also participating in the state’s 2020 Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge, which provides families with access to e-books and audiobooks for free. Books range from classics like Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel to Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, aimed at the younger children, while there are many more books from recent bestseller lists aimed at the Young Adult audience. And finally, Middletown recently announced a pilot partnership with InnovateK12 for the Summer Literacy Academy Ideas Challenge. It is a hybrid e-learning for first through fourth graders who they believe will benefit from reading and literacy immersion. It ran from July 13 to August 7 for about 150 Middletown students. Middletown Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael T. Conner said that “In these unprecedented times, school districts need to apply principles of innovative design and ensure stakeholder feedback channels that drive better solutions for students and families.” These programs are imperative to building a future in which reading is still a prized skill. Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, found in a study from 2019 that 20% of children read no books the previous summer, a jump from 15% in 2016. Getting kids to read when they are young is the key to getting teens and young adults to read without an assignment from school. Through READsquared, the 2020 Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge, and the Summer Literacy Academy, Middletown is ensuring that they are doing everything they can to reach children throughout the summer, preparing them for when they return back to school, ready to read more books.
30 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Norwich Public Utilities successes make them a potential model
ne aptly-titled New Haven Register piece said “It doesn’t just seem like there are more CT tornadoes – there are!” Many might remember a tornado here and there, in the 20th century, there were about one every 1.65 years. Since 2000, there have been just over one a year. With the mess left behind and the damage to infrastructure, many have been left wondering if more towns and cities should follow the model of Norwich, in creating their own public utilities. Harkening back to the storms of 2020, when Eversource took much longer to restore power than was comfortable for Connecticut residents, people began looking to other models, often landing on Norwich Public Utilities (NPU). Created in 1904, NPU provides four utilities to the City of Norwich according to information obtained on their website – natural gas, electricity, water and wastewater collection. IT is fully municipally owned, and “governed by a five-member Board of Commissioners and Sewer Authority, who represent the best interest of the citizens they represent.” Capitol Avenue podcast had on U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal who noted that “Norwich Public Utilities restored power within a couple of days, with the same kind of damage to its lines, and their rates are 24% lower than Eversource.” But that isn’t the only benefit that the City of Norwich sees because they have control over their own public
utilities – NPU sends part of its revenue back to the city, amounting to $80 million over the last 10 years according to figures in Capitol Avenue. Some legislators are looking into whether or not NPU can expand its territory beyond the scope of Norwich, or whether or not some aspects of NPUs success can be copied to other areas, especially when it comes to restoration times. In addition to tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards still pose a serious risk to Connecticut’s terrain. Both of which are made all the more problematic due to the ongoing droughts that Connecticut has been experiencing on and off for the last 20 years, not to mention the Emerald Ash Borer and other invasive pests that have been killing our trees, leaving them susceptible to breaking during high wind conditions. While work on global warming is important and acknowledging that it is already here is an important first step in identifying problems that can be solved with forward thinking ideas and ingenuity, we must also live in the here and now. At some point in the not-so-distant future, there are going to be power outages caused by severe storm conditions and Connecticut residents will need their power back as quickly as possible. Municipalities must look to those who have seen success like Norwich has had with NPU and ask what it would take to recreate that in their town.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 31
Getting Out The Grease
Danbury’s famous waste plant has more tricks up its sleeve
n a previous issue of Connecticut Town & City, we talked about the viral fight between HBO host John Oliver and the city of Danbury that led to a Sewer Plant being named after the comedian. What we did not know is how innovative that plant was going to be. Reported in a CT Insider article, as part of the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant, there will be the first grease-to-diesel conversion facility in the nation. While the Oliver-Danbury rift got huge amounts of press all over the world, the problem of grease in our wastewater streams has not garnered nearly enough attention. The problem starts with our waste habits. For millions of people, our sewage system is a catchall for any trash that we do not want in our homes that we believe can be flushed – wet wipes and sanitary napkins are two of the biggest culprits. But combine them with fats and you get a pretty nasty result. In one small English town, there was a 210-foot-long “fatberg” that scientists analyzed and discovered was nothing more than congealed fat held together by debris. According to the New York Times, the mass was nearly 100,000 gallons. So what does this have to do with Danbury?
32 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Well, they are partnering with the University of Connecticut to convert all of this problematic grease into diesel fuel – the same kind that issue used to run diesel-powered engines. According to figures cited in the CT Insider article, they expect to harvest enough sewer grease from the waste stream “to run Danbury’s truck fleet for a year, and have 90,000 gallons left over to sell.” This includes their fire trucks and school buses. REA Resource Recovery Systems is working with the University of Connecticut in bringing this technology to life, aiming to market their products directly to municipal operations. Not only will they be eliminating grease from the wastewater stream, but the facility also can accept Fat-Oil-Grease or FOG from food-service establishments according to the press release on the REA website. While the plant might have a funny name, it will shockingly be one of the most advanced and greenest wastewater treatment stations in the state and even in the country – all with the added benefit of eliminating the costs of diesel for many of their municipal vehicles and even being a revenue producer. It’s enough to have you asking who’s laughing now?
ENERGY A Tipping Point on Shortened Timeline Global Warming is a problem that requires urgency
y 2035, General Motors is pledging that all of its cars will be zero-emissions. While that means that you might not be able to call the Hummer a “gas-guzzler” anymore, it’s a sign that all roads lead towards a carbon-free future. South Windsor joins a growing list of towns that have pledged to make their town buildings and schools carbon-free, but with a much shorter timeline of 2023. While it is not the only town in Connecticut with such a pledge, it is by far one of the quickest timelines for an entire municipality to go carbon-free. This bi-partisan effort has many of the key facets of a good idea. First it will save the town money. Figures cited in the Journal-Inquirer, the town expects to save just under $8 million over the next twenty years. And secondly, sustainability measures that offset carbon are always good for the environment. South Windsor is currently has silver certification through Sustainable CT, which now counts 117 municipalities across the state as participating communities. Lynn Stoddard, the executive director of the program, said in the Journal-Inquirer article that “It is a very laudable goal and important for the state and all the towns and businesses to be setting high goals for clean energy in light of the climate crisis.”
That is one of the critical parts of the South Windsor plan: they expect to have gone carbon neutral in just under three years with a few simple projects. Why so fast? For one, you start saving money sooner, but it also acknowledges that green projects are reaching critical mass, about to reach a tipping point. Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, the idea of the tipping point is that change will seem like it is isn’t happening, then it will happen all at once. At the tipping point of carbon-reduction, plans like South Windsor’s will be the rule and not the exception. And it’s clear that we are soon to reach that tipping point. As electric cars are being introduced at a much faster clip and infrastructure put in, it made sense for GM, one of the largest automobile makers in the world to say that they pledging zero-emissions. For towns and cities, it means that each new year, putting solar panels on a municipal building wouldn’t even be second guessed. It would just be what you do. This is important: For municipal, state, and federal goals, the road to a greener future has never been clearer as towns like South Windsor and the many others who have made similar pledges lead the way.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 33
ENERGY Positive Energy
Branford adopts plans to bring environmental change to town
f you pay attention to the science, global warming will have an impact on nearly every facet of life, with consequences that will make COVID pale in comparison. Countries around the world are focusing on this issue, though many say not nearly enough. As is often the case, change will begin on the local level. In 2020, while dealing with the pandemic, Branford was able to establish The Office of Sustainability and Compliance to address these very issues.
After tropical storm Isaias wreaked havoc on our electric grid, a self-sufficient grid will be a welcome addition. But also being a coastal town, shoreline flooding will aggressively affect quality of life standards and could make the area more susceptible to stronger hurricanes.
On the Branford town website, they say that the office will focus on “natural resources, waste and energy conservation needs, and to ensure the town is in compliance with all federal, state, and local sustainability and environmental requirements.”
This includes the HeatSmart program, which is sponsored by the Peoples’ Action for Clean Energy (PACE). First Selectman James Cosgrove writes that “we all like to save money on our heating and air condition bills and we all need to pitch in and control Carbon Dioxide emissions that contribute to Global Warming. Heat pumps serve both these objectives.”
Collaborating with Sustainable CT, as well as other departments in town, they have released the Branford Energy Plan 2020 this past summer. In preparing this energy plan, they aim to meet the lofty goal of using 100% renewable energy sources by 2040. Carrying out this plan, they say that there will be benefits in savings, health, comfort and resilience. While savings from renewable energy sources might be obvious, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels will have an immediate impact on things like air quality, they also argue that it will make the town more resilient. “Through greater reliance on local energy generation and a more modern electric grid,” the office writes, “the town can weather storms, outages and natural catastrophes longer and more safely and contribute to slowing global warming.”
The onus will not be solely on the town to reach these goals. Contained within the Branford Energy Plan 2020 are projects that will help residents improve their home energy usage.
Heat pumps work precisely like air conditioners, and often creates more heat energy than the electrical energy it uses. This is what makes them so environmentally friendly. Whether it’s the town of Branford, or a resident, the Branford Energy Plan 2020 has tools for everyone to use to reach the lofty goals of 100% renewable energy by 2040. While it may seem like they are working extra hard towards these goals, the intensity and energy Branford is putting in will achieve results that are worth it. If every resident, town and city in the state pitched in, we could start to change the world.
Branford aims to use 100% renewable energy by 2040 The path to 100% renewable energy comprises two complementary actions: ● Overall energy consumption must be decreased dramatically by a combination of conservation, energy efficiency and electrification of heating, cooling and transportation. ● Electricity consumed in town must come from clean, renewable sources. These complementary actions are visible in the declining overall consumption and increasing renewables in the chart below.
The chart below is another way of visualizing Branford’s path to 100% renewable energy. The blue bars on the left side of this graph represent the town’s current energy usage, expressed in a common unit: gigawatt‐hours. The red bars represent the potential reduction in energy usage through efficiency and electrification, resulting in a vastly reduced energy load. The green bars represent the sources of local and regional renewable energy to meet this need. Current CurrentLoad Load‐ ‐Future FutureLoad Load‐‐ Renewable Renewable Load 1,200 1,200
1,113 1,113 ‐47 ‐47
1,000 1,000 800 800
400 400 200 200
The key elements of this energy plan are: 1. Reduce our energy usage by improving the efficiency and performance of our buildings, both public and private. 2. Transition to high efficiency heating and cooling technology. 34 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 3. Promote the responsible development of renewable energy in town, including residential solar, community shared solar, commercial solar, carport and other types
Transport Local Transport Local New Load Regional New Load Regional
Energy Reduction Targets As seen in these two graphs, Branford aims to reduce energy consumption by over half in roughly twenty years. Because these reductions will be accomplished in part through “fuel switching” (e.g., from gasoline to electric vehicles), we do not set reduction targets for each fuel type. In fact, we expect electricity usage to more than double over this period. Branford’s 2040 energy target can be achieved through modest annual reductions of 2.3% per year
ENERGY The savings estimated by this project is $200,000 per year.
Call It A Bright Idea
Middletown looks to streetlights for savings
n reducing the carbon footprints of our towns and cities, municipalities have needed to look high and low for cost savings. One recent project in Middletown had town officials looking up at traffic signals. The town has recently started a project that will see them replacing nearly 5,000 streetlights from conventional lighting to the much more cost efficient LED light bulbs.
little loss when lighting each diode – essentially, LEDs use only the power they need and nothing more. And, perhaps, more importantly, they do not need to be replaced as often as traditional HPS lights. Middletown estimates that each LED streetlight will last five times as long, meaning five less replacements over the course of each new lamp.
Ever since the switch from oil lamps, municipalities have been searching for cheaper and more economic means of lighting their roadways at night, making them safe for night weary travelers, pedestrian and driver alike.
The initial investment in the project is $1.5 million dollars, and after taking an energy efficiency incentive of $500,000, the town will only be paying $1 million. The savings estimated by this project is $200,000 per year, so future savings will more than pay for the project in its entirety.
The most popular option over the last century was the High Pressure Sodium (HPS) light precisely because they were one of the most efficient ways to light a large area. Because sodium emits a yellow light, which human eyes are extremely sensitive to, they don’t have to run on as much energy as other sources.
In a press release, Mayor Ben Florsheim said that “The LED streetlight conversion project is perhaps the single most effective energy efficiency opportunity available to the City, which is why we’ve made it a priority and why I’m so excited about getting this conversion underway.”
When Light Emitting Diode technology, more commonly known as LEDs, came along, it wasn’t long before they became the most efficient means of lighting our streets.
LEDs are the clear wave of the future, and they are being looked at for traffic lights, in schools and municipal buildings, and even for traffic lights, which are a large energy drain. Now that the cost of replacing light fixtures with LEDs has come down to the point where a municipality can save more than the cost of installation in just six years, it makes sense to put them wherever you can – it’s a bright idea.
LEDs have two advantages. One, they are even more efficient with their energy usage than HPS lights because they offer directional lighting and have very
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 35
The Power Of A Thousand Suns
New solar field in East Windsor set to be largest in New England
hen discussing renewable energy in the 21st century, you are talking about one of two major solutions – either solar energy or wind energy. A new Solar field in East Windsor is set to become the largest in New England, but how much is enough? The new development, Gravel Pit Solar, which was approved by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in 2019, is set to be built over 485 acres in East Windsor at a location known as the Gravel Pit. The town will see a massive influx in taxes for the land, even after a tax stabilization plan that was approved by the Board of Selectmen this past April. Over the course of the first two decades, the agreement calls for $380,000 per year in tax payments according to the Hartford Business Journal. East Windsor will see additional benefits from the development as the Gravel Pits had become a party hotspot for some area residents. The developers have promised to fence in the solar array which First Selectman Jason Bowsza says will discourage illegal use. Despite the size, he also said that only a handful of properties will be able to see it. For scale, the former largest Solar Farm in Connecticut, Tobacco Valley Solar, was about 130 acres and produced just under 30 megawatts. With the addition of such large solar arrays across the state, the question becomes how much would it take
36 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
to completely fulfill Connecticut’s electricity usage over a year? According to the United States Department of Energy, the state of Connecticut consumes 29.5 terawatthours per year. A standard unit of measurement, kilowatthour is the expression of a sustained energy of 1 kilowatt over an hour. A generous estimate says that It takes about 3.4 acres of solar panels to equal 1gwh. Doing the math out, it would take just over 100,000 acres to satisfy the state’s yearly electricity consumption. That means that the Gravel Pit Solar Farm accounts for just one-half of one percent of our needed electricity. That’s approximate 150 square miles of Connecticut that would need to be covered in solar panels. Small arrays and home solar panels are certainly adding to the total from Tobacco Valley Solar and Gravel Pit Solar and projects like Vineyard Wind will add a significant amount (800 megawatts), there’s still a significant amount of renewable energy to be built in Connecticut before we reach 100 percent zero carbon electricity. Each new solar array is another step towards a greener tomorrow. While getting up to 150 sq miles of solar might seem like a difficult task in a densely populated hilly state like Connecticut, it is necessary. It requires thinking outside the standard map, putting together projects where they make sense.
ENERGY Connecticut Energy Tops List Again Muncipalities looking for ways to control costs locally
ne of the side effects of working from home is the increased usage of just about everything in the home. Instead of going to the water fountain at work, you’re going to your own tap. And that’s true for just about everything – from air conditioners to computers, you’re probably using more energy at home than ever before. Unfortunately, Connecticut has once again topped the list for most energy expensive state in the United States. According to WalletHub.com, Connecticut’s overall average energy costs are $372 per month, putting us $20 ahead of second place Massachusetts. Individually, Connecticut ranked third in both home heating-oil and electricity, 14th in natural gas, and a surprising 46th in motor-fuel costs. That last factor probably has a lot more to do with the short distances need to be traveled in Connecticut versus low gas prices. This issue has gotten worse for some whose delivery charges have gone up significantly in the past few months. Anecdotal evidence from radio station Kicks 105.5 FM showed that some people’s bills doubled or tripled since the start of the pandemic.
Even before this, towns and cities were looking for more cost-efficient ways of powering their municipalities. Some more obvious solutions include the solar arrays and wind farms that have dominated the energy story for the past decade. But towns like Simsbury are also looking into tools like Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). In this platform, a CCA model according to an op-ed in the CT Mirror, makes it so “ a municipality or group of municipalities forms a CCA, which takes over the power procurement function of the utility.” They then leverage their purchasing power to utilize more sustainable sources and pass that on to consumers. Many of Connecticut’s close neighbors have adopted measures on a statewide basis, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, and it has been supported by many green energy groups in state. Simsbury, along with New Haven, Mansfield, and Middletown have all passed resolutions asking that legislation be passed enabling CCAs in Connecticut.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 37
ENVIRONMENT A Sea Of Green
New London Trees uses SustainableCT Match Fund to replenish tree stock
ho doesn’t like trees? They provide shade, provide for a natural landscape, and help provide fresh air for our environments. But Connecticut’s trees have suffered from blight and pests, killing our Elms, Ash, and more. New London Trees, a new grassroots organization, is working to bring trees back to the cityscape after a successful fundraiser. The total amount raised by the organization was $7036, nearly a thousand dollars over their stretch goal according to their website information. Because this effort was part of the Sustainable CT Match Fund, they were approved to have up to $6200 matched by Sustainable CT for a grand total of $13,236. New London Trees is working with the New London Public Works Department, Connecticut College Arboretum, residents, organizations, and businesses to address the issue of the cities waning tree stock. According to inventories taken in 1993 and 2018, the amounts of trees decreased from 2935 to 1887, a loss of over 1000 trees in 25 years. According to their fundraising page, each tree costs $300, and they needed $1000 to prepare the area for tree planting. With these funds, they should expect to plant 30 or more trees in areas along Green’s Harbor Park, the parklet at L+M Hospital, and along Ashcraft Road. The benefits of tree lined streets and parks are fairly obvious. We know that trees naturally remove carbon from the air and in exchange improve the air quality around them. But most people don’t know that they can also help reduce your electricity bills. According to an article published on Science Daily, “the right amount of tree cover can lower summer daytime temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.” The absence of trees can be immediately noticeable in cities – the article goes on to say that “The effect is noticeable from neighborhood to neighborhood, even down to the scale of a single city block.” Keeping the local area cool will decrease the need for energy draining devices such as air conditioning units – and less energy consumption is good for the environment. One key feature about their plan is that each tree is chosen to be appropriate to their location dependent on sun exposure and soil conditions in the area.
38 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Trees that were selected for the Ashcraft Road portion were Black Tupelo, Chestnut Oak, Dogwood, London Plane, River Birch and Silverbell. Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” starts with the opening couplet: “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree.” New London Trees seems to understand the implicit benefit of a healthy vibrant green cityscape. Hopefully future projects will help them increase that stock even further!
Is Food Waste Trash?
Municipalities are looking to alternative solutions in waste management
f you were to pose the question “What is trash?” over 50 years ago, the response would include many items like bottles, plastic containers, and cans – things we now think of as recyclables. Now, Connecticut municipalities might be looking at food waste and asking whether or not it belongs in the trash can. As part of the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM) co-chaired by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and municipal leaders, a working group took a stab at food waste. According to a report published in the CT Mirror, “Food waste is heavy, so it adds to the costs for those who pay to dump their trash. It’s also wet and does not burn well. And there are many other useful things that can be done with extra food – feeding people in need, providing electricity through non-burn means or making it into usable compost, for example.” To put the problem of food waste into full view, cited by a PBS news report, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China. In response to this, France enacted a law five years ago that grocery stores are banned from throwing away
viable unsold food. Since then, non-governmental organizations or NGOs, have benefitted from supermarket donations in the European country, while those supermarkets earn tax breaks. The future of food that is too far gone to be eaten might be in composting. Around the state, municipalities have looked into separating their food waste from the trash stream. Many of these efforts have been aimed at larger producers of waste – but others have been looking to implement this in their residential neighborhoods. Greenwich has a program that not only removes food scraps from the waste stream, but turns it into compost that retains much of the nutrients and energy that is contained in food. Like recycling, food waste has the ability to turn something from a net negative into something that has value. One thing is for certain, tipping fees are going to continue to rise, so the easiest way to reduce costs will be to get things that are not trash out of the waste stream. Many years ago trash would have been everything that you threw into the garbage, but eventually recycling was removed from that stream. Soon, you can be looking at the food waste in the same way.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 39
Curb Your Dog
Towns emphasize crucial pet ownership rules for new pet owners
ne of the most surprising outcomes of the pandemic was the amount of families that decided this was the right time to adopt a pet. So many in fact that adoption centers and shelters around the country didn’t have any pets to give out. But with a glut of new pet owners, it might be time to remind them of their newfound responsibilities. For one, it’s familiar territory for municipalities, but most people might not know that they have to register their dogs with the Town Clerk’s office. In Tolland, residents stop by the Town Clerk’s Office to purchase tags, the cost of which are dependent on whether or not the animals are spayed or neutered. There is also a procedure to let the town know whether you are no longer are in care of a pet, so you don’t incur any fines. Failing to license a dog is a violation of Connecticut State Statute 22-338, which carries a known fine of $75.00. Last year, we wrote about leash requirements around the state, which are enacted in public areas such as the boardwalk in West Haven for the safety and comfort of all those who use the public space. It is common for there to be rules against bringing pets onto certain parks – like baseball fields where they might ruin the dirt infield or on certain playgrounds.
40 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
While signs might be posted in regularly visited areas, it’s important to remind pet owners of current laws in your municipality regarding animal care. Some municipalites will hold events for pet owners, making keeping them happy and healthy fairly easy. The Durham Animal Response Team is holding a Rabies Clinic in June for both cat and dog owners, which is open to owners beyond just Durham. For twenty dollars, the DART team will provide a rabies vaccination shot, which lasts for about three years. DART is an interesting project in that it is aimed solely at our pet friends – mobilizing and assisting animals in the case of disasters as well as other small emergencies. All of these new pet owners are learning that pets become a part of an extended family, loved and cherished, and it’s important that Connecticut residents will need access to this information, learn what is required of them, and what resources are available to them. Perhaps even some older pet owners can learn a thing or two. But most importantly, especially dog owners, it’s absolutely crucial that you pick up after your dog.
ENVIRONMENT Small City Makes Big Impact West Hartford wins national award on climate protection
onnecticut’s towns and cities are full of innovative ideas, and this magazine works to make sure that our members initiatives are heard and shared, building a better tomorrow for Connecticut. So we were glad to hear that West Hartford gained national recognition at the 2020 U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting, winning top honors in the 14th annual Climate Protection Award competition for small cities. Sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Walmart, they said in their release “The award program demonstrates how cities of all sizes are dealing with the effects of climate change and the impact mayors are having on protecting the environment for future generations.” West Hartford won the top honors for their Virtual Net Metering program, in which renewable energy – through solar panels in Thompson – is “virtually” net metered against their eight municipal buildings and schools. While the program was new, one of the reasons that West Hartford won for this project was that they pioneered in the research and implementation of this kind of program for towns and cities around the state so they do not have to start at “square one.” “In West Hartford, we strive to employ forward thinking and best practices to improve the quality of life for our residents; this includes accelerating the develop-
ment of locally-based clean, renewable energy,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. When we started, ‘Virtual Net Metering’ was a new concept to us, but we learned quickly about its many benefits and we embraced it. We are saving money, cutting carbon emissions, and hopefully providing a ‘best practice’ for others in supporting their local climate action. While Pittsburgh took the prize for large cities, Mayor Luke Bronin took home an honorable mention for the City of Hartford. “President-elect Biden has rightly pledged to make climate protection a top priority of his new Administration, and mayors stand ready to join with him to meet the climate challenges before all of us,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director. “Mayors have a record of success in taking climate action at the local level and have urged greater federal engagement and commitments on climate protection to bolster and expand upon what mayors are already doing.” Climate change is not going to be stopped in its tracks from the efforts of a single municipality, or even a single state or country. This is going to take a concerted effort by every individual, government, and business to combat. And that starts with trying out new ideas, finding what works and then sharing them with the world.
“We are saving money, cutting carbon emissions, and hopefully providing a ‘best practice’ for others in supporting their local climate action.” -West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 41
Waste Problem Leaves Us Wanting
A new initiative invites municipalities to transform waste management
key initiative in a greener future, one that’s cleaner and more efficient involves something that a lot of us would prefer not to think about that often: Waste. CCM has put an eye on recycling and forever chemicals and composting, because waste management is a perplexing puzzle to be solved. Recently, Laura Francis, First Selectman of Durham, Matt Knickerbocker, First Selectman of Bethel, and Katie Dykes of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection co-chaired the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM). According to their kickoff deck, 69 towns have signed up to ask the questions about what they can do about a situation that doesn’t have any apparent solutions. What they hope to accomplish together is finding “modern, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable materials management systems” through working groups and ideas harvested from developers, service providers and community members. Most importantly, they must achieve these goals while making “a commitment to create a more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable system.” Each member signs a following statement upon joining the coalition: “We recognize that by working together, we have the potential to achieve economies of scale and send a strong signal for private investment and sector transformation. At the same time, we respect the unique needs and policy preferences of each participating jurisdiction, and the importance of flexible approaches. We recognize that each municipality can contribute in different ways, through different measures, to achieve our shared goals.” 42 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
First Selectman Knickerbocker said in a press release that “the old ways of burying trash and forgetting about it are over. We must work together to create actionable solutions that are affordable for Connecticut families and do more to protect our fragile environment.” First Selectman Francis added to that sentiment saying, “I firmly believe that our collective need, knowledge, creativity and commitment to protecting our environment will generate innovative solutions for sustainable materials management for the State of Connecticut.” Both gave thanks to DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes who had talked about the need for substantial collaboration on an episode of CCM’s Podcast, The Municipal Voice. Also presenting at the initial meeting of the CCSMM were CJ May, the Waterbury Refuse/Recycling Coordinator and Jennifer Heaton-Jones of the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority, both were also featured guests on our Recycling episode of the Municipal Voice. Working groups are collaborating on topics such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Food Scraps/ Organic Collection & Diversion, Increase Recycling, and Unit-Based Pricing. They had a mid-point check in on November 16, with finalized reports coming out early on in the new year. Whatever the reports find, it is crucial that towns and cities find the ways to work together. Through collaboration, new innovative ideas that will ultimately lead to savings and a more environmentally friendly Connecticut are possible. CT&C will be keeping an eye out for all that this group will come up with.
ENVIRONMENT Don’t Feed The Animals!
Norwich gets the word out about harmful effects of feeding wildlife
orothy Sayers once noted “How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.” And while one of humankind’s favorite hobbies is birdwatching, feeding wild animals is a spell for nothing but trouble. That is why Norwich Public Works Director had to put out a reminder to not feed the ducks!
hopes that through outreach they won’t have to issue any tickets. Simply getting the word out there about the consequences should be deterrent enough. When something small sets off a chain reaction of events that lead to some larger issue, it’s called the butterfly effect, but in this instance,
it might be called the duck effect. Many people love to birdwatch in Connecticut’s parks, but there are a lot of good reasons to stop there. Feeding ducks simply is not beneficial to anyone, not for the ducks, the water, other wildlife, and humans. There are plenty of other uses for stale bread.
Once a fun way to spend an afternoon, hanging out at a lake with a bag of old stale bread and feeding the ducks (or whatever other bird comes around), but there are a lot of reasons why municipalities might want to remind their residents to not feed wild animals. For one, it’s bad for them. According to theSpruce.com, “ducklings require a varied diet and plenty of natural plants and insect proteins to mature properly. If ducks are regularly fed bread, ducklings will not receive adequate nutrition for proper growth and development.” But it’s also bad for the area for a couple of reasons. From the same article, animals can quickly become aggressive around a popular feeding area because of the ample supply of easy food. Some species will thrive, while others suffer leading to overcrowding and an upsetting of the natural food chain. This can lead to larger predatory animals who are also looking for a quick and easy meal. In Norwich, part of the problem is the sanitation issue. Cited in the Norwich Bulletin, Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said “bird waste can make the waters, especially at Howard T. Brown Memorial Park, more polluted.” Adding that it’s already an impaired waterway as part of DEEPs designation of the Thames River. Norwich has an ordinance against such activity, and there is a $100 fine for feeding the ducks but INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 43
ENVIRONMENT Photo By Pahazzard -
Pollinator Pathway in Branford encourages bugs, but in a good way
ne of the biggest complaints you’ll hear about the Spring and Summer months is how buggy it gets out. Ants at a picnic or mosquitos at night, insects can be outright unpleasant to deal with. As part of the food chain, bugs are more important that many people might realize. Insects are one of the primary ways the plants we eat thrive and grow through pollination, but through a plethora of factors, their numbers have decreased, threatening our food supply. That’s why the Branford Fire Department is putting in a Pollinator Pathway, to encourage the reintroduction of these necessary bugs back into our eco system. The Pollinator Pathway Project began in 2017 in Wilton with the goal to create pollinator-friendly habitats for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects and wildlife in a series of continuous corridors approximately 750 meters (about a half-mile) apart throughout the northeast. The idea is that you plan things like native trees, shrubs, and perennials for pollinators as well as clean water sources and areas for nesting bees in order to facilitate the regrowth of pollinator populations. Where the Branford Fire Department comes in is a plot of land at the fire headquarters that they will transform into a pollinator-friendly habitat. They crowdfunded $1250 and were matched by a Sustainable CT grant that they will use to buy kelp, compost, straw, mulch, 44 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
wildflower seeds, native shrubs, lawn signs and irrigation supplies for the first phase of the project. (As of writing, they were also accepting donations of plants, soil, and supplies, and asked people to contact email@example.com). According to the main Pollinator Pathway website, there are over 300 species of bees that are native to Connecticut, all of which play a role in pollinating the plants not only in our yards and parks, but on the farms and orchards that our residents love and rely on. Unfortunately, a series of factors such as the increased use of chemicals on lawns and global warming has led to the rapid decrease in population of many of these vital insects. One of the most recognizable insects to face unsustainable conditions is the monarch butterfly, which has seen a reduction of over 50% in the area occupied in the 19-20 wintering season according to the World Wildlife Fund. For years, bees have suffered a declining population. Gardens like the one planned for Branford need to pop up in many many more places if we want to see pollinators thriving again. Since 2017, there have been 85 designated pollinator pathways, but they will truly work best when all are interconnected by no more than 750 meters. So no matter if you love or hate the bugs in the summer, if you love the Autumn harvest, then we should all be planting pollinator friendly gardens.
ENVIRONMENT Food For Thought
Composting program in Greenwich could change the waste equation
he Chinese National Sword Policy has changed the way most countries handle their recyclables, and that has had trickle down effects to the municipal level. CT&C wrote about these adverse effects on tipping fees for both recyclables and mainstream garbage in early-2019, and how recycling has gone from net-positive to net-negative. Since then, towns across the state have looked at innovative ways to get tipping fees down, and this past June, Greenwich has expanded its recycling program to include food waste. As part of the Waste Free Greenwich program, The Town of Greenwich, the Greenwich Recycling Advisory Board, and Greenwich Green and Clean, the food scrap recycling program aims to teach people that food waste is not trash. According to CT Deep and cited on the Waste Free Greenwich website, food scraps are one of the largest components of waste, making up more than 22% of municipal solid waste in Connecticut. This undoubtedly adds to the expenses incurred by municipalities in tipping fees, which is done by weight. But, the problem goes further than just the weight from food scraps – they can be reclaimed into the food stream if properly composted. All of the nutrients and energy that goes into producing the food are lost
when placed into a landfill where new plants, especially food plants, cannot access them. By recycling the food scraps, you end up with less garbage and more food for plants – an ecological win-win. The system is a three-part process that is simple, voluntary, and free for all Greenwich residents. First you collect the food scraps in your kitchen: the list include fruits & vegetables, meat & poultry, fish & shellfish, dairy products, rice & grains, eggshells, chips & snacks, nuts & seeds, leftover, spoiled & expired foods, as well as coffee grounds with paper filters, tea bags without staples, napkins & paper towels that were not used with chemical cleaners, house plants and flowers, and BPI-certified compostable bags. As you fill up a smaller pail, you transfer that to a larger transportation bin for weekly storage. And then as need, you bring that transportation bin to the Food Scrap Recycling drop-off site. The Food Scrap program is just one example of where the answer to a change in the way we recycle is more recycling, not less. This plan can, over time, benefit not only the town when it comes to tipping fees, but the people who grow the food that we eat, putting the Green in Greenwich.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 45
GOVERNANCE Leaving A Blueprint
East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc laid the ground work for the future
ast Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc is up against a strong deadline to finish many of the projects that she envisions for her city since she decided not to run for re-election. Leaving the town with a “blueprint” is important to Leclerc, who joined the Municipal Voice, a co-production between the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and WNHH, to discuss her successes and what she’d like to see in East Hartford. “We have so much going on in town as far as projects,” she said, “so it’s how to use all the pockets of money that we have to the best use.” One such project is the Senior Center. Never having a proper center before, Leclerc calls the facility state of the art with all the amenities that one could want – grand pianos, pool tables, art rooms, and a gym. Her hope is that buildings like the center will spur the town to invest in modernizing the rest of their buildings, giving the town a cohesive feel.
Mayor Leclerc credits companies like Rebel Dog Coffee for making investments that show off the town’s potential
“We’ve unified all our purchasing,” she said, “all our buildings have the same paint color, the same unified tiles.” This is in addition to a new town-wide sign system. The Mayor said that the positive response surprised her, “never thinking that just changing all of the signage would really make that difference, but people are loving it.” Unification is a key word when she talks about the Capitol Region. “I think the infusion of development in Hartford really is a catalyst,” she said, “And adding a transportation component will really make a difference for the future of the area.” On the topic of the Hartford highway plans, she says that any plan that opens up development of areas can reinfuse the area. And with the possibility of opening up green space to the river would be amazing. Transportation in the area needs a bump, and while projects like the CT Fastrak have been popular, investing in more stops, more rail, will ultimately unify the area, Leclerc said. Economic development will be key in the post-COVID world. The town is set to receive $37 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, but they are still waiting on guidance on how they will be allowed to use it. The Mayor hopes to use some of that money for economic infusion in the area. In East Hartford, Mayor Leclerc remains grateful to Goodwin College and smaller companies like Rebel Dog Coffee who have made investments that really show off the town’s potential. 46 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Taking down the empty showcase cinema property, a possibility of 250 acres coming on the market from Pratt & Whitney, and whatever happens with the highway, it seems like East Hartford is poised for growth in those remaining pockets where it is available. Mayor Marcia Leclerc will be leaving then at a time when over a decade, the groundwork has been set and everything can fall in place, which is the hallmark of a job well done especially in local government. “I think that it’s important for us as a community to have a planning blueprint in place that despite who is seated in this position, they can really move the town forward.”
West Hartford finds a way to link old timers and new comers
recent study showed that the state of Connecticut could save nearly a billion dollars as a result of a “silver tsunami” of retirements. With more and more baby boomers reaching or past retirement age, this effect will take place not just in the state for municipalities as well, leading towns like West Hartford to come up with incentives to ease the transitions.
Hartford Chief Vernon Riddick in the article is what might be called institutional knowledge – or generational knowledge.
The town, which was already negotiating contracts with police, ratified a contract that included “special longevity bonuses” according to the Hartford Courant.
The goal is to give cops with over 20 years of service a “super step” annual incentive, amounting to a bonus of a few thousand dollars.
Towns and cities across the country have dealt with police shortages for years, failing to recruit enough young officers to replace retirements, but this wave can exacerbate many of the problems. One of those issues cited by West
Officers who have been on the job for years, or decades even, know things about their beat or municipality that any newcomer wouldn’t know as a matter of experience. Losing too many old-timers at once would strip a force of a great resource.
According to staff who commented in the article, these bonuses will not be permanent, but simply a measure to stem too many retirements at once. In this time, the town seeks to actively recruit officers to join the force, who will be able to bring fresh new ideas to the police force, espe-
cially at a time when many people are reimagining what it means to be a cop and a public servant. Over the coming years, towns and cities will need to look into innovative ways to not only retain some of that institutional knowledge that many long-time employees have, but to also ask where there can be improvements by engaging with a new generation of municipal employees. Of course, not every situation will involve bonuses for employees who choose to stay, and it is up to each individual department to figure what works best for them. Within the next ten years, Baby Boomers will have essentially all retired, and youngest Millennials will be in their 30s. Making sure the transfer of knowledge happens will be crucial to knowing where you’re coming from and where you’re going to.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 47
Community Resolutions Hamden starts online discussions series
etting the community involved is one of the cornerstones of a good public administration. The town of Hamden, behind Mayor Curt Balzano Leng and Police Chief John Sullivan have started a online discussion called “Crime Prevention and Community Resolutions,” which sought to address concerns and brainstorm ideas on public safety. Held via Zoom, the first discussion was so popular that the meeting capacity had to be expanded for the second event which took place late in January. In that second panel, they updated the public on “efforts being taken to address increases in crime and to facilitate healthy discussions and resolutions regarding crime prevention and public safety within the town of Hamden.” Included in the discussion will be the Mayor and Police Chief, along with several others on the police force as well as leaders from local groups like Mothers Demand Action, Hamden Residents for Change, CT VIP (Violence Intervention and Prevention Program), State Rep. Robyn Porter, and of course those in the community who choose to participate. Hamden has been utilizing the virtual space in a way that has increased community participation since even before the pandemic started. Mayor Leng was lauded for his social media efforts in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters which helped keep his constituents abreast of important information.
48 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Late in 2020, the town also held an online forum in collaboration with the Columbus House and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness that was cited as a model that many towns and cities should follow. It’s no shock though. According to an academic study by Jodie Gil and Jonathan Wharton entitled “Open Budgetary Meetings Amid a Pandemic: Assessing Connecticut’s Various Pathways to Engagement During COVID-19” found that of 95 studied municipalities only about a quarter of them saw decreased public participation. Most eye-opening for some civic leaders is that some towns and cities actually saw increased participation. Mayor Leng said in the press release: “I’m looking forward to updating our residents on some outstanding efforts our Hamden Police Department have taken to address and prevent crime in Hamden and to listen to our residents concerns, address questions and have a healthy discussion of ideas.” “Providing quality police and fire safety services is a bedrock of successful communities and I’m proud Hamden is making every effort to prevent, protect and address crime holistically and make our community safer for all our residents.” It’s been interesting to ponder whether or not the future will hold some place for online meetings, but at the very least we know that the community wants to be a part of these discussions.
GOVERNANCE To Regionalize or Not To Regionalize Derby looks to see where cost savings are in partnerships
here’s no doubt that many towns and cities are struggling with a host of problems related to education. With classroom size declining in a majority of towns, balancing mandated budgets against the necessary resources while providing students with a level of quality expected of Connecticut public education without skyrocketing the local property tax is no easy task. Leaders like Derby’s Mayor, Richard Dziekan, have been looking for new ways to make sure that happens. In a recent letter to the Valley Independent Sentinel addressing Derby’s budget, Mayor Dziekan said the town “Needs to take an extremely serious look at regionalization of city services.” Going further, he states: “We are more than two years into a study on regionalizing the school system with Ansonia and it is time to push that forward AND look at other options with surrounding towns like Shelton who has enough empty seats in classrooms to accommodate Derby High School’s student population. This may not be a popular opinion among families with High School age children, but as a city, we cannot sustain the current model and quality of education.” Just last year the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments released a report in which they said that regionalizing schools in Ansonia and Derby could be a no brainer. Students in Ansonia and Derby have statistically similar outcomes on state tests and the SAT, and have more courses and extracurriculars to choose from. While the report suggested there would be few if any negatives associated with regionalizing the schools, the savings could be upwards of $40 million dollars depending on what facilities they utilize. But Mayor Dziekan adds that in addition to looking at regionalization with Ansonia as already studied, Shelton has enough seats to accommodate all 305 Derby High Schoolers.
Mayor, Richard Dziekan
smaller towns have options to go to regional schools like Norwich Free Academy. Both options are viable, and Derby has the ability to go with one or both options, or they can stick with the status quo.
The difference here would be that this would be a voucher program rather than an attempt to regionalize. Vouchers are more common in public to private situations, giving families a scholarship in the amount that it would cost to send a child to public school.
Mayor Dziekan ends his letter saying that “Derby’s future will depend on hard-fought, honest solutions to problems that have festered for decades. I want residents to know that City Hall remains committed to both the fight and our future.”
In a public-public agreement, no official merger would be made, students would just have the opportunity to go to another town’s schools. Options like this exist in New London County, where many students from
While decisions regarding student’s education should not be made overnight, many will have to be made eventually with the town’s support behind whichever way they decide to go.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 49
Professionalism Above All
Opinion: Political affiliation should not influence decision-making by Roger Kemp
uring my city management career, I have held many different political views that could not be contained to just one party. I have been, at one point or another, affiliated as a Democrat and a Republican, even as an Unaffiliated Voter. But no matter the letter that I had next to my name, I believe to be a true professional one must not be pigeonholed into a specific mindset. While I viewed myself as an independent thinker, at differing times throughout my career an individual would guess what it is that I was going to do or say based entirely on what my affiliation was at the time. For instance, when I was a Democrat, I was accused of wanting to increase spending and ultimately raise taxes – a typical liberal. But when I was a Republican, I was accused of just the opposite, providing no services by keeping our budget low and minimizing tax increases. As a City Manager, one does not operate on this level, and I did not like anyone thinking that I was making recommendations based on my political affiliations. Because of this, I made a final change to become an Unaffiliated Voter.
50 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
I reflected this philosophy to all of the elected officials I worked for. A City’s elected officials were my bosses, and my job wasn’t to critique a person’s political affiliation, but to do what is right by the municipality that I work for. After all, they were elected by majority vote to enact the policies that they won on, my job was to figure out how to accomplish that. This was my political philosophy as a City Manager throughout my career. Whatever my beliefs outside of my job, as a working professional, I have no political party. All of my recommendations to my elected officials are just that, recommendations based on my years of experience. About the Author: Roger L. Kemp has been a career City Manager, and worked in and managed the largest City Mangement cities in California (Oakland), New Jersey (Clifton), and in Connecticut (Meriden). He has also been an Adjunct Professor, teaching city management courses in the evenings at universities during his city management career. He has also authorred and edited over 50 books dealing with subjects related to city management. His personal website is: www.rogerkemp.org, and his e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
How To Respond To Bullies
Danbury stands up to John Oliver and nets money for charities
t might be pretty hard for anyone to recover from being made fun of on national TV, but how about turning being made fun of into $55,000 in donations and a national news story? That’s what happened when John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight deigned to go after Danbury on an episode of his show over the summer. Most people will be familiar with this story by now, after appearing in local and national media. But the short version is that on August 16, after saying how the Hat City was one of the best places in America to live, Oliver said that all residents have a “standing invite to come get a thrashing from John Oliver.” Fans of the show will recognize this as typical of his humor, and part of the routine has become how his victims respond. Some ignore the jests, and some, like actor Russell
Crowe, fight back. Crowe took money that John Oliver spent on his divorce auction and named a ward in an Australian Zoo after him. Danbury took the Crowe route, with Mayor Mark Boughton retorting in a video: “Behind me you see the city of Danbury Sewer Plant, and we’re going to rename it the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant. Why? Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.” Oliver was clearly smitten with the idea; he had a sign created and offered to donate $55,000 to local charities if they actually went through with it. After some back and forth banter, it was finally voted on in October. And with an 18-1 vote, Danbury’s wastewater treatment plant is officially the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant. Recently, in coordination with the
city and Mayor Boughton, the Danbury Museum has begun offering merchandise with the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant logo on it, with 25% of all profits made from the sales to be donated to the Danbury Food Collective. Not everyone can be made fun of by John Oliver and reap the benefits of a public practical joke. But the response of Danbury and its residents is a case study in city pride and standing up for yourself. John Oliver now has a Wastewater Treatment Plant in Danbury and a Koala Chlamydia Center in Australia. But Danbury has made over $50,000 in donations to local charities, and created a marketing campaign for probably no cost at all. Playing along with a practical joker like Oliver proves that there’s no such thing as bad press.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 51
GOVERNANCE West Haven’s Future Looks Bright Mayor Nancy Rossi joins The Municipal Voice
ven in these dog days of summer, it’s easy for many to see that West Haven has a bright future. West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi joined the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ and WNHH FM’s “The Municipal Voice,” to talk about the economic development in the works, and how COVID has impacted her city including one area that’s being impacted by both – West Haven’s Beaches. “I think we’ve done good with this,” Mayor Rossi assessed, “We had to shut off our boardwalk for some time like other municipalities, but it’s since been reopened […] under the guidance of our health director and emergency management director.” One of the keys was cooperation with other towns and cities. West Haven has for the time being kept access to the beaches for city residents only, and she believes that cooperation will keep residents safe until she is able to welcome back out-of-towners. As with everything in the shut down, there was a learning curve associated with the shutdown, but its seamless now, according to Rossi. While police officers or constables haven’t been walking up to every group with a tape measurer to check the distance, but measures they have taken with limiting parking – first 50%, and increasing over the summer – have allowed residents themselves to safely distance. “I’ve been checking up on the beach,” she said, “And [the residents] have been maintaining order.” The area is “ripe for development,” Rossie says, with projects raising the road on Beach Street to eliminate some concerns over the flood
52 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
We continue the progress we made, but with economic development and thinking outside of the box instead of taxes.
zone. With funding from the State and local bonds, Phase 1 is already underway, with an additional two phases getting them down to the empty Debonair Hotel. Her hope is that once developers see that something is really happening, they’ll have some interest. Economic development plans for Allingtown around the University of New Haven had a bit of a setback because of COVID, but are getting closer to opening. And according to Rossi, The Haven, which has been in development for nearly a decade, is still going forward exactly as planned. These developments are a big part of West Haven’s future. West Haven was placed on the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) just before Rossi took office in 2017, and while the collaboration was rocky at first, “it’s gotten better.”
Among the improvements was the bond rating outlook which was improved, the fund balance that she attributes to the state’s restructuring funds, as well as grand list growth. Because of this, she hopes to have West Haven off of MARB in the near future, capitalizing on these successes. She also had to raise taxes as part of the Five Year Plan. She notes that with universities and hospitals, the state can be doing more for PILOT, the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, for these exempt properties, saying she doesn’t want to pass that burden to residents. Acknowledging that COVID might have set some plans back, Rossi still remains optimistic for the outlook of West Haven. “We continue the progress we made, but with economic development and thinking outside of the box instead of taxes.”
Remaining Hopeful Bethel talks 2021 Expectations
pending is high, funding is low and the future of the pandemic is uncertain. Despite these challenges, Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker is charting his town’s path through 2021. He shared his expectations for the year on the Municipal Voice this past year. “One of the things I’m really going to stress is that the [recent] Covid relief act does not include funding for state governments or local governments,” Knickerbocker said. “And we’re looking at starting a vaccine clinic in the next four weeks that’s going to run anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 per day, and right now that’s coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket.” The pandemic has swelled Bethel spending, from the clinic to over $1 million spent on readying schools to reopen. “In terms of the additional costs, this budget season is going to be very, very Spartan,” Knickerbocker said. “We’re going to have to put as much contingency as possible into these unknowns until we have a
better handle on what those costs are and if there’s going to be any reimbursement.” These problems can in part be solved by action by the state government. When asked about the current legislative session, Knickerbocker noted that there were legacy issues that, if resolved, would go a long way towards helping towns and cities handle other crises as they happen. “We still have issues with the state not providing the correct amount of funding for things like special education, and school construction has been limited in recent years.” He also argued that the federal government needs to go further to help restaurants, small, family and single owner retailers, and gig employees. “We’ve watched several restaurants close their doors for good,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of nice retail shops, and it’s not going to get any easier for those people. They’re doing the best that they can.”
Another solution Knickerbocker discussed was having the federal government recognize Councils of Governments as a county equivalent so that grant monies can be funneled to towns and cities. “It would not only empower the COGs to do more regional things that could save taxpayer’s money, but it would really kind of break open the potential for what the COGs could do in the future,” Knickerbocker said. Knickerbocker wants to resume town projects that were put on hold, like modernizing the town’s website and the town’s permitting system. The pandemic may continue for another eight months or more. Yet towns and cities have to prepare their budgets now. “I’m very hopeful that we will see some relief coming to state and local governments that can then be translated directly into those places that need the relief the most,” Knickerbocker said.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 53
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE The Housing & Infrastructure section of CT&C is sponsored by Connecticut Basement Systems www.connecticutbasementsystems.com
Breaking Down Barriers
Old Saybrook says deed-restrictions benefit both town and renter
s part of the CCM CARES discussions that took place this past October, our panelists discussed the destructive legacy of redlining and how that has created a situation where Connecticut is one of the most segregated states in the union. Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna says that deed-restricted housing is one of the ways we can start to break down those barriers. Affordable Housing has been a hotly debated topic, and deed-restricted housing is a type of affordable housing. According to inclusionaryhousing.org, deed-restricted housing can take one of two forms. Either for rental units where the restriction imposes maximum rents and tenant eligibility standards for a fixed period of time. Or, for homeownership where homeowners are required to resell at house at a future price that is lower-income accessible. In the former case, a developer will still be able to collect rents as usual only with a maximum rent. This allows for those who are not able to live in a more affluent town like Old Saybrook to move in, Fortuna said in an interview in the CT News Junkie. His town already has 133 deed-restricted units, which he hopes will add to the diversity, something he describes as a real success. IN the latter case of deed-restricted homeownership, there might be some concerns over one of biggest benefits of buying a home: home equity. Most people rely on the value of their home going up over time as a nest egg for retirement, 54 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
or as an inheritance for children. The case of Davidson, North Carolina suggests that homeowners can keep the value of their home, but also continue the practice of affordable housing going by setting a price at 120 % of the area median income. From inclusionaryhousing.org, they say that a family selling after 10 years would be able recoup the annual increase in value of their house, likely valued in the tens of thousands of dollars in addition to what they paid on the house already. It is keeping the home at the 120% threshold that will make purchasing that home affordable for the next family to buy it. Assuring that this practice continues, one of the restric-
tions is that the seller must notify the town before selling the property, giving them first right of refusal. We know that Connecticut ended up as one of the most segregated places in America on purpose. Taking that knowledge and reflecting upon it in an honest way, it’s clear that something must be done. Deed-restricted housing can benefit not only the renter or homebuyer, but the municipality as well. IT’s a smart way to break down barriers by building homes for Connecticut residents.
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE
Internet Is Infrastructure
Towns and cities discover ways to increase access to broadband
hile it doesn’t need repeating quite how essential internet service was during this pandemic. What will be important is what we do with the information we learned over the first 12 months of our socially distant world. From building Wi-Fi infrastructure to investments in fiber-optics, towns and cities are looking for the next big innovative ideas that will make accessing the internet better and easier for everyone. The City of New Haven has rebooted one such program that aims to bring good affordable internet to underserved communities. From the New Haven Independent, the city is looking to bond $1 million to create this municipal program, which would fill the gap in service to the nearly 20,000 households that don’t have access to high-quality connections. This would not be the first time that the city has tried to expand broadband connectivity, but as noted in the Independent, “New Haven’s making this move at a moment when the Biden administration seeks to help communities expand high-speed internet nationwide.” Towns and cities around the state are looking to take advantage of this moment with the wind at their backs, to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to either build from scratch or improve their service. From Westport to Preston to Bloomfield, towns are looking into many of these possibilities.
Bloomfield has recently partnered with “the State of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) have partnered to provide free public outdoor internet at strategic locations in Bloomfield. Public outdoor spaces at the Town Hall, Prosser Library, Human Services Facility and McMahon Wintonbury Library now have free high speed outdoor WiFi available. Users just have to connect to the CTPublicWiFi network, accept a disclaimer, and they can surf the internet for free.” According to the press release, the project was funded by Governor Lamont’s $43.5 million Everyone Learns Initiative, which is serving 40 towns and cities that need additional connectivity help. While this program will be funded with state money, there is a growing trend of municipalities around the country and world that have chosen to offer free wi-fi to residents and tourists. Back in 2017, when New Haven was first trying to make headway on upgrading the broadband availability, they had also worked on putting Wi-Fi stations on the Historic New Haven Green, which is also the name of the Wi-Fi you have to look for on your device. 100% community internet connectivity will continue to be a goal to strive for even after the pandemic subsides. There will be many options to increase access to high-quality internet, each with their own merits. It’s simply a matter of finding which one that fits your communities needs best. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 55
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE Finding Space
Greenwich parking lot solution opens up spots on main drag
fter you buy a car, you need a place to put it. For most people they will generally park their cars at home in a driveway or on the street and drive to locations with ample parking – the supermarket or an office building. But what happens if there’s a shortage of parking spaces? Downtown Greenwich has had an issue with a shortage of short-term parking spaces taken up by residents who feed a meter every two hours. This prompted the need to find longer term solutions, and a 100 spot lottery. For residents who live within the boundaries of the designated area, the proposed lottery would be for one of 100 parking permits that come out to $720 a year, which is much less than it would be to feed the meters for a full year according to the Greenwich Free Press. Previously, these residents would sometimes have to feed a meter every two hours in order to not be
56 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
ticketed. The issue is that those two-hour parking spots weren’t necessarily meant to be clogged up all day. But with changing driving patterns throughout the pandemic, and no real clarity on when the work-from-home trend will start to phase out, there is a real need to get cars out of desirable spots meant for quicker shopping or eating trips. The highlights of a program like this one is how many problems it solves for both the resident and the town. By offering what essentially amounts to a discount to residents who live within the bounds of this parking area and freeing them from the burden of having to feed the meter throughout the day, they are given a win-win situation. The town on the other hand, frees up spaces and gets a guaranteed amount of revenue whether or not those permittees are parking there or not. Quoted in the Greenwich Times, Deputy Police Chief Mark Marino
said that this program will not have a negative impact on the volume of cars in the area because the people that are being targeted by this program are already parking in the lots and spaces. The program’s limit on 100 permits does force a lottery if more than 100 people apply, and according to the Free Press, these permits are non-transferable to any additional cars owned by a family, nor will they automatically be rolled over if the program continues. Sometimes a solution is fairly simple and gets exactly what you need out of it. That’s what makes this solution so innovative. Americans still overwhelmingly rely on their cars, maybe even more so in a pandemic because of how efficient a solution they are. A car will get you from A to Z, the only thing that really matters is if you have a spot to park it at the other end.
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE Drive-Thru Town Hall
Enfield Express opens up social distancing to municipal business
t’s rare to see town halls closed in the state of Connecticut. Access to local government is a point of pride for New Englanders, who practice a form of self-governance quite unlike any other in the United States. So when coronavirus put a pause on municipal business, municipalities innovated, finding ways to keep our towns and cities running. For Enfield, keeping things running has been the name of the game. Situated near town hall, a former local bank branch will be turned into a new spot for residents to “safely conduct business, including paying taxes, acquiring dog licenses, and requesting permits,” according to the Enfield Patch. They say that the town will utilize the old drive through as a way to expedite town business in a safe manner while the pandemic continues to force us to social distance for the health and safety of all residents. Because of this, Enfield Express will be a “point of distribution” for personal protective equipment (PPE) for local businesses. Governor Lamont, Town Manager Chris Bromson and other officials opened up the Express at a ribbon cutting ceremony in late June. But the plans are not just short term for the pandemic. Town Manager Chris Bromson outlined a vision that would use this new location as part of the development of Higgins Park into a town center. Currently used as a softball field only, the area would blossom into a Town Green, with an open area for recreation, a new playscape, a new community center with an outdoor pool, a small bandshell, a dog park, and a quarter-mile walking trail with fitness stations according to reporting from the Journal Inquirer at the time of the announcement. They hope that Hartford Line train station will bring in additional visitors to amenities like Higgins Park. CT&C covered the new Windsor Locks station in the Spring Issue, and they too planned on connecting their hub to a park, Canal State Park Trail in their case. It’s pretty clear that transportation is a key to building a healthy economic development program. As of publication, Town and City Halls around the state were still focusing on limiting interactions between municipal employees and the public but finding innovative ways to make sure that business keeps running. Between Enfield Express, rebuilding Higgins Park into a more viable town center, and utilizing the Hartford Line, the Town of Enfield plans on keeping things moving because local government never stops.
Town Manager Christopher Bromson and Crew Leader Frank Lutwinas, raise the flag before the opening of the drive-thru of the new Enfield Express.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 57
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE
You Take Out What You Put In
Windham invests in main street hoping for investment in return
he oft-cited phrase from the baseball movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come,” says that if you make an investment, the investment will pay off. Perhaps, the same can be said for another kind of field: a brownfield. The Windham Town Council recently purchased an old gas station in the hopes that the investment will lead to additional investment on Willimantic’s Main Street. From the Willimantic Chronicle, a probate court recently approved the sale of the property to Windham for $1, but because of its past as a gas station, there will need to be remediation at the site including removing underground oil tanks and contaminated soil. Because the building is now in the possession of the town, it will be able to apply for blight funds, according to the Chronicle article, and increasing their chances of obtaining additional funds. Often brownfields need that initial investment in order for that further investment to occur. Remediation efforts have been in the works for at least five years on this property alone. For municipalities that are looking for grants and opportunities, CCM offers access to GrantFinder, which
58 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
enables members to access real-time grant information, enhanced search capabilities, and email alerts that are personalized to your search. Embarking on the process also requires thorough knowledge of the remediation process that is laid out at the state level through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. They have information on both the process and resources that are made available to both municipalities and prospective purchasers of brownfields. According to the Chronicle, when making the decision to buy the property, the council did not deliberate, with Mayor Thomas DeVivo quotes as saying “the probate court and the town are trying to work together to try to remediate this environmentally distressed property which sits vacant and unusable.” Anyone who knows Willimantic, knows the role that Main Street plays in the town. Getting this property out of the vicious cycle of most brownfields as soon as possible will put a viable piece of land back on the market. This is called a virtuous cycle – that investment leads to more investment which can lead to greater economic development in town. You have to build it first.
HOUSING & INFRASTRUCTURE
Channeling A Win
Jennings Beach restoration wins best in America award
hough summer is mostly over, there is always time to appreciate Connecticut’s coastline. It is one of our shining features and a reason people from all over come to visit. But the care and upkeep is no easy task. Natural causes like the tides erode the sand, and with so many visitors, debris can pile up. When something must be done, it’s u up to the municipality to do the work with few exceptions. Fairfield recently took on the task of cleaning up Jennings Beach, and won a national award for their efforts.
The muddy sand that is dredged up from the ocean floor must go somewhere, and RACE Project Manager Steve Sternberg said “there is rarely a practical means by which the dredged material can be managed other than through offshore relocation.”
American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced in late May that Fairfield, CT’s Jennings Beach was a winner of the America’s 2020 Best Restored Beaches Award. Along with four other areas – including one in nearby New Jersey – Jennings Beach was the only winner in the New England region.
Through the use of hydraulic pumps, RACE along with another company out of Pennsylvania, moved sediment upwards of 2000 feet from the ocean floor onto the adjacent beach where bulldozers leveled it out.
The ASBPA says that “while Americans joyfully celebrate beaches by visiting them, few understand what it takes to keep that beach special. ASBPA created the Best Restored Beach award as a way of highlighting the value of restored beaches. Polls show that beach erosion is the number one concern beach tourists have about beaches.” From a press release from RACE coastal engineering, the company in charge of the project, they describe the situation as becoming perilous for boaters in low water. To fix this they came up with a plan for dredging the channel, a process that runs the risk of losing the precious resource that makes up our beaches – sand.
Fortunately Jennings Beach was different: “The channel bottom characteristics and proximity to Jennings Beach allowed us to pursue something really unique and highlight the potential for beneficial reuse alternatives for dredged material in the region.”
Before any of this could happen though, the project had to be approved by both federal and state regulatory authorities as this work cannot be done in every case. Chemical analysis was done on the sand and ecological specialists were brought on board to make sure that the work being done was environmentally friendly. As “the heart of the community’s recreational, water-dependent activity,” the Jennings Beach project was of the utmost importance. Winning the 2020 Best Restored Beach award from the ASBPA shows that the attention to detail in green conservation that Fairfield, RACE, and their partners took in restoring one of Connecticut’s greatest assets. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 59
PUBLIC SAFETY The Public Safety section of CT&C is sponsored by Emergency Resource Management. Learn more at: http://ermanagement.com
Putting Safety In Our Hands
Bridgeport leads national coalition to end gun violence
un violence has plagued us long enough. In 2020, there were nearly 20,000 gun deaths in America, one of the highest amounts in history. Bridgeport, along with 600 municipal officials from around the country, is calling for additional gun safety measures. Mayor Joseph Ganim led the charge as one of seven on the leadership team for the Gun Safety Consortium as part of the United States Conference of Mayors.
There was another recent call to take up HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and HR 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act in response to the mass shootings that have taken place in Georgia, Colorado, Texas, Indiana, and South Carolina already in this year alone. In 2020, there were over 600 mass shootings according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Bridgeport was not alone in Connecticut, Hamden, Hartford, Milford, New Haven and Norwalk have also signed onto this platform.
Even more shocking, the total number of deaths involving guns was nearly 45,000 once you included those who committed suicide.
That consortium called for a Request for Proposals “seeking private entities to manufacture or create safety products that gun owners can use to secure their firearms, prevent accidents, and reduce crimes involving stolen firearms.”
In the release, Mayor Ganim is quoted saying, “This is just one step in the right direction to help keep illegal firearms off our streets so they can’t be used in the commission of a crime. These safety products also prevent accidents or gun related incidents that may take place in the home. If we can’t change legislation, we as local leaders can take action by making products to protect our community.”
A press release from Bridgeport said that “the Consortium has screened, purchased, and distributed locking devices to participating jurisdictions, and several dozen law enforcement officers are analyzing each product and using them while off duty.” These include gun locks that have been supported by pro-gun organizations like the National Rifle Association. The emphasis on gun safety products over gun safety legislation is due mostly to the lack of action on gun safety bills.
60 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Looking at the data, it’s hard to argue that we don’t have a gun violence problem – and one that has only gotten worse in the past year. It is by the power of our communities and our community leaders like Mayor Ganim, that we can stop the scourge of gun violence in America. Using their buying power to insist upon safer products and increased safety measures.
PUBLIC SAFETY Representation On The Beat
Milford joins 30X30 Pledge for more equitable police force
ne of the most demanding questions in 2020 was how to make policing outcomes better. The national conversation sparked many ideas from small tweaks to big reforms. The City of Milford has pledged to make their force more representative by signing the 30x30 initiative. Founded in just 2018, the 30x30 Initiative’s goal is to increase women in police forces around the country, up to 30% of women in police recruit classes by 2030 according to Milford’s press release on the commitment. It is a coalition of police leaders, researchers, and professional organizations, and is affiliated with the Policing Project at NYU School of Law and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives. Figures from that release say that women account for just 12% of forces and 3% of leadership roles. According to the 30x30 initiative, increasing women’s participation in police forces can actually be a way to improve the public safety outcomes. From the 30x30 website, they say that women officers use less force overall and less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate, see better outcomes for crime victims, and make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of minorities. This last fact is an important one for agencies that sign up for the 30x30 pledge: “Participating agencies must address intersectionality in all efforts to improve the representation and experiences of women in policing. Intersectionality acknowledges the ways in which people’s multiple identities
– race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and more – magnify or transform their exposure to discrimination.” Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said in the release, “This pledge means that Milford Police Department is actively working toward improving the representation and experiences of women officers in our agency. “We are honored to be among the first in the nation to make this critical commitment, and we look forward to working with and learning from agencies across the country who share our priority.” Two other forces in Connecticut have signed the pledge, Meriden and Wethersfield, along with more than 30 other agencies “from major metro departments including the New York City Police Department, to midsized rural, university and state policing agencies.” Like other programs of this nature, they hope not only to grow their ranks of police departments around the country, but that there will be some immediate results, and progress reports will be available by the end of 2021 on the efforts of these enterprising agencies. “From these reports,” the 30x30 site says, “participating agencies will share promising practices, learn from one another, and develop programs and initiatives to address barriers to women’s advancement.” As we learn and grow what a police force can be and can do, it’s clear from this initiative that women should be a larger part of this future. The City of Milford, along with Meriden, Wethersfield and the rest of the departments around the country are leading the path towards that more equitable future.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 61
PUBLIC SAFETY Seeking Solutions
Hartford explores the possibilities of civilian response teams
he conversation around policing grew increasingly complex in 2020. Alongside calls that asked how we can end police brutality which often involve racial violence, many began to ask, what role do police play in a modern society. Many looked at the increased burden on officers to be not only a police officer, but a social worker, mental health expert, among so many other hats that they must wear. Hartford is looking to assist police officers by adding a civilian response team that can respond to non-violent calls. Mayor Bronin hopes to build a team over the next four years that will help police, save the city money, and, most importantly, help connect Hartford residents to the right kinds of help. According to a report done by NBC Connecticut. Hartford is looking to Eugene, Oregon’s non-profit White Bird Clinic as a model. Their CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program “Provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield metro area.” The program’s high degree of success has earned it press from around the country and in Canada for its novel approach to what needs policing and what does not. Most recently, it was featured on a segment of the Daily Show. Their range of services include: crisis, counseling, suicide prevention, conflict resolution and mediation, grief and loss, substance abuse, housing crisis, First Aid and non-emergency medical care, resource connection and referrals, and transportation to services. Many of these duties typically now fall to police officers who often do not have the specialized mental health and social work training to handle psychological crisis. And it frees them up to handle situations where they are most needed.
62 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
CAHOOTS has saved the City of Eugene money. Compared to the local police’s annual budget of $90 million, the program costs about $2 million, but CAHOOTS responds to almost 20% of emergency calls.
Cited in the NBC article, six staff members responded to 24,000 calls in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon in 2019 (that’s about 65 calls a day), but only had to call for backup 150 times. The city has buy in from the head of the Hartford police union, according to the same article, in which Officer Anthony Rinaldi said that “Sometimes an officer’s uniform makes certain situations worse. The person that is going through the distress usually thinks they are in trouble because the police were called when it is the opposite.”
For years, police have been handed more and more hats that they have to wear throughout the course of a day’s work. Programs like CAHOOTS work because they are not aimed at replacing police work, but letting the police be police again, while assisting with the work that is best meant for social workers and mental health experts. Like community policing, the answer isn’t one right answer, but finding the many solutions that work best together, weaving a social safety net that catches the most people.
PUBLIC SAFETY Bad Guys Beware
Neighborhood Watches get organized in Shelton
ne of the hallmarks of community policing is that while it asks more from the community – to be proactive in relationships with police – most of the burden rests on the shoulders of the police force. Increased foot patrols in designated neighborhoods make officers responsible to their area and those communities, growing trust along the way. Shelton has instituted a crime prevention and neighborhood watch program in which lofty goals will bring a safer tomorrow. Police Officer John Staples writes on the Shelton Police site that “In 1978, the Shelton Police Department started its Neighborhood Watch Program. Since then, numerous Neighborhood Watch Groups have been established throughout Shelton. Neighborhood Watch is a partnership between the Shelton Police Department and the Shelton Community, where the citizens act as an extra pair of eyes and ears for the police by reporting suspicious activities. In return for their efforts, Neighborhood Watch members received information from the police department on how to deter crime to both property and person in their community.” These increased efforts have sparked from Facebook groups in which local residents were essentially creating a neighborhood watch, but without any participation from the local police, rendering them ineffective as tools. Seeing this need, Officer Staples, established a Facebook page with backing from the Shelton Police De-
partment that has buy in from all parties. Typical posts include pertinent information about a recent arrest or trend. One for instance was alerting residents that an individual had been arrested for attempting to enter vehicles, that residents did the right thing by alerting police and handing over video evidence rather than attempting anything themselves. It also included a reminder that residents should at all times have their vehicles locked, and should never leave them running and unattended. This is especially important in winter months when people go out to pre-heat their cars. Residents can decide to join a neighborhood watch program. The procedure is, according to the Shelton Police Department website, as follows: When a neighborhood decides they would like to participate in a Neighborhood Watch Program, a meeting is held with a Crime Prevention Officer. Upon meeting with the Crime Prevention Officer, Neighborhood Watch Signs are placed in the area and Block Captains are selected. The Block Captain acts as a liaison between the Crime Prevention Office and their respective neighborhood group. The crucial aspect is that the parties are working together, keeping up their respective ends of the bargain. That is the most important part of community policing; all parties are, after all, part of the same community.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 63
PUBLIC SAFETY Tracing The Virus
Local Health Departments are key element of ContaCT
onnecticut has been the model for Coronavirus response in the United States. While it initially hit the state hard, owing to factors such as population density and frequent travel to large metropolitan areas, the work our State and Local Public Health Departments have done has put us in line with more European countries than other US states. Our local health departments and districts are still collaborating on the Coronavirus response to ensure the health and safety of reopening, and contact tracing is a main focus of that. First implemented in early May, ContaCT, was the state’s effort to contain the coronavirus to as few people as possible through the process known as contact tracing. Once a person is confirmed to have the virus, they are put in contact with a professional who asks that they recall everyone with whom they have had close contact with, according to CDC standards. These professionals will then notify those individuals and have them separate themselves appropriately, to social distance, and to monitor their health by checking their temperature and being mindful of tell-tale symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath. As of the middle of June, 51 of the 65 municipal health departments have begun using the ContaCT platform, and they make up the bulk of the tracing workforce according to the CT Mirror. Because of this, the local
64 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
departments have made it possible to do contact tracing on nearly half of all cases, with the goal of reaching 90% eventually. Despite the successes, some issues have arisen that has caused setbacks in achieving that goal. For one, many people won’t answer the telephone when they assume it is a telemarketer, one health professional told the CT Mirror. This stymies the possibility of reaching everyone that the infected individual might have had contact with. The state did update their webpage saying, Survey messages from ContaCT will be sent from SVCCovid19@ct.gov; text messages will be sent from 855670-0299. Even further, there is still a language barrier in many areas. Some health departments have a person who can speak another language, but few have a person that can speak all the languages that might be spoken in a given area. It remains that Connecticut would not be where it is if it weren’t for the local health departments working around the clock on a virus that few if any saw coming. There is no way to make up for the losses felt by everyone, but there is a way to prevent more losses from happening.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Tolland County says it’s ok to call 911 for emergencies during pandemic
ne of the scariest consequences of the coronavirus epidemic is that other medical issues seemed to take a back seat while the world figured out how to properly handle COVID-19. Fortunately Connecticut was one of the first states to figure this out, but some residents still felt leery of seeking medical attention – so much so that the Tolland County Mutual Aid Fire Service (TCMA) that handles 911 services for the area had to remind people that it was ok to seek help. The Journal Inquirer reported in May that the call volume had significantly decreased while the severity of the problems had increased leading the EMS service to start the campaign “Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late To Call 911,” emphasizing that if you feel like you are having a heart attack, stroke or any other severe issue, you should call emergency medical services. On a Facebook post, they said that there was a 30% increase in cardiac arrest calls between March and April of this year, the two worst months for the coronavirus. They said they “fear that people maybe ignoring or downplaying signs and symptoms of sever cardiac events.” Reported in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, a trade magazine for the industry, statistics
showed that the complete data from April 2020 showed that patients found by MedStar crews in cardiac arrest were up by 113% from April 2019, while those pronounced dead on scene were up 164%. According to Tolland Fire Chief John Little, also County Coordinator for TCMA, people felt that hospitals were included in the lockdown and would not be accessible for general or emergency care if it wasn’t COVID related. But Hospitals were always considered essential businesses, and they were the best equipped to handle the situation even with a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Local hospitals such as Yale began monitoring their staff multiple times throughout the day and were able to minimize the spread of infection with strict procedures. As we moved further into the pandemic and our response to it has shown to be effective, the likelihood that people would fear going to the hospital will likely have diminished. But the campaign “Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late” is a reminder that sometimes emergency professionals need to remind the general public that it is better to call immediately than to wait. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 65
PUBLIC SAFETY A Drop In Crime
Connecticut saw one of the biggest drops in crime in nation
etween 2018 and 2019, Connecticut had one of the largest drops in crime according to data from the annual Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Only New Hampshire had a larger drop in reported crime. The FBI has produced this report yearly since the 1930s with the primary objective to “generate reliable information for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management.” Since then, and because the data is so complete, the UCR has become something of an index for the general direction of the country. For instance, in Connecticut the total crime rate (crime per 100,000 population) started out in the low 1000s in 1960 before reaching nearly 6000 in 1980. Since then, that number has continued to plummet. Disconcertingly, despite a decline in almost all areas, both murder and non-negligent murder rose by 20% from 2018 to 2019. Quoted in the CT Mirror, Michael Lawlor said that reforms such as raising the age to be included in the adult criminal justice system, lowering penalties for drug possession, and diversionary programs have all contributed to reducing crime. This is part of a much larger national trend, with most states seeing decreases in crime overall. So what makes this data interesting is the fact that Connecticut has been exceptionally successful in decreasing crimes throughout 2020. Connecticut saw the violent crime rate dip below 200 cases per 100,000 people a year for the first time this century, while the national rate was nearly 400 cases per 100,000. Property crime rate was nearly 1500 cases per 100,000 66 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Because of COVID-19, there’s evidence that this downward trend will continue.
while the national average was just over 2000. What’s interesting is that this data comes from 2019, meaning that all data from 2020 is not included. Because of COVID-19, there’s evidence that this downward trend will continue. Overall, the moves that Connecticut’s towns and cities have made
in public safety, many of which we have written about in Connecticut Town & City, are making a difference. Combined with the efforts over the last decade made in the legislature, Connecticut and its residents are clearly committed to making our towns and cities some of the safest places in the nation.
?! No More Landline? No Problem
Emergency Alert System gets you information in North Haven
etting good quality information to your constituents has never been more important. From COVID to storm recovery, Connecticut residents need to know what is going on in their town. But with waning landline usage, an opt-in system is quickly becoming the best answer. North Haven recently partnered with Everbridge to offer residents that option.
sirens can do more to cause panic than solve problems.
Opt-in Emergency Alert Systems like the one that has been implemented in North Haven are often called Reverse 911 (because a town informs you of an emergency instead of the other way around). And they aimed to stand a long lasting problem of getting to as many people as possible in the most efficient way.
North Haven has put out press releases and displayed the sign-up page prominently on their website, which will help it reach that critical point where enough people know about it and are signed up for alerts that they can be part of the effective outreach.
In the past, people could be updated via radio broadcasts, robocalls, or even sirens blaring. Each of these raises a problem that cannot be easily solved within their frame of reference. Not many people still listen to the radio on a daily basis, for one. Landlines are quickly becoming a thing of the past, but even if a cell phone was bought and purchased in one town, there’s no guarantee that the owner still resides in that area. And
So, by having residents opt-in, not only are you feeding information into a GIS map, meaning you can alert people in a hyperlocal way, you are avoiding many of the pitfalls with the old methods. The only drawback of this style of Emergency Alert Systems is getting people to sign up.
“To uphold our responsibility to ensure public safety, community awareness and emergency response, we need to reach our residents as quickly and reliably as possible,” stated Michael Freda. “This new alert system allows the Town of North Haven to broadcast information across all types of devices, ensuring our residents have access to real-time public information when it is most needed.”
“To uphold our responsibility to ensure public safety, community awareness and emergency response, we need to reach our residents as quickly and reliably as possible,” - Michael Freda
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 67
SOCIAL WELFARE Our Town Is Here For You
Chaplin partners with organization that provides mental health care
ccording to experts at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, the mental health toll the pandemic has taken won’t be felt for years to come. As the vaccine begins to protect our bodies, we are going to need compassion and understanding for those still struggling. The Town of Chaplin is offering free seminars through SERAC. Throughout Eastern Connecticut, SERAC, which stands for Supporting and Engaging Resources for Action & Change, provides towns and cities resources on issues related to mental health and addiction. This includes needs assessments, advocacy, trainings, and other related efforts to provide individuals and communities with a safe and healthy way to deal with issues that are often swept aside. From their website, SERAC says they envision a future where there is less substance abuse and problem gambling and a greater degree of mental well-being, there is greater recognition of the importance of prevention, and that those individuals recognize that they are a part of a community and those communities take care of those individuals. This is a crucial moment to be having these conversations, which are often difficult to speak about. According to the CDC, there has been a disturbing trend where “younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance abuse, and elevated suicidal ideation. Among the programs being offered to residents of Chaplin and other member towns are QPR Suicide Prevention and Narcan Training, which took place throughout April and May. In this training led by a SERAC expert, attendees learned how to
68 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
SERAC engages and unites the individuals and communities of eastern CT around issues related to addictions and mental well-being “recognize the signs of a suicide crisis and learn how to Question, Persuade and Refer a person in crisis” as well as how to recognize drug abuse and to administer Naloxone in the case of an emergency. Training sessions are being held under the banners of “Coping with Uncertainty” and “The Toll of Working with Trauma: Understanding Self-Care as an Ethical Imperative.” Other efforts include participating in National Drug Take Back Day. Because misuse of prescription drugs including opioids is on the
rise, getting rid of pills in a safe way is crucial. Run by the Drug Enforcement Agency, it is a “safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs.” Towns and cities, while working on economic recovery and vaccine rollout, will need to make sure that they are keeping up with the mental health toll as well. By getting the word out there, Chaplin has already let the public know that these problems are real and fortunately, there is something we can do about it.
Eliminating Language Bias
Norwalk will use more inclusive language going forward
hose who know or studied a foreign language will most likely be familiar with the concept of gendered language – some words being masculine or feminine. English, the most commonly used language in America, has no gender. But often we see it favoring the masculine despite not needing to. The Norwich City Council recently voted on using more inclusive language to eliminate language bias in local government. While this step might seem like a small increment, it is an important move to creating a more inclusive government. The United Nations says that “given the key role of language in shaping cultural and social attitudes, using gender-inclusive language is a powerful way to promote gender equality and eradicate gender bias.” They provide a number of guidelines and best practices for gender-inclusive language in English, especially when it comes to language used in governance. Their guidelines say that there is a difference between “grammatical gender,” “gender as a social construct,” and “sex” as a biological characteristic of living beings. One of the challenges is separating those into three distinct categories and recognizing the proper usage for each of them.
As far as recommendations go, in English it is fairly simple to uncouple gender from the language that we use – the United Nations uses the example of using “Humankind” rather than “Mankind” when discussing the human race, which is also a completely acceptable substitute. Norwalk itself can attest to the simplicity of de-gendering language. They’ve already adopted the term “Councilmember” to replace the outdated “Councilman.” This idea is becoming so pervasive in modern governance that the Council revised the law such that it would be brought “up to the 21st century.” Quoted on the WSHU website, Council Member Dominque Johnson said that “It was a big first step. […] To acknowledge women and trans and nonbinary folks as valued members of the community such that they are reflected in the code.” One of the drawbacks of this reform is that it will take some time before all forms and ordinances are brought up to date with the new mandated gender inclusive language as it is designated to use the neutral language going forward. While it might take some time for the full effect of this change to be realized, the sheer fact that it is happening is a sure sign that the goals of inclusivity are alive and well in Norwalk. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 69
The Necessary Work
Redding and Bethel find ways to administer essential vaccines
he pandemic is not over, nearly a year after the first cases were reported in Connecticut, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Two different vaccines became available at the end of 2020 that started the healing process for our nation. Towns and cities like Redding and Bethel across the country have been left to come up with plans for their distribution for this life-saving serum.
agement System (VAMS) or directly with the town via online forms found on their website.
Connecticut has once again been at the top of the pack in the rollout of the vaccines, both the Pfizer and Moderna, but as of January, those were limited mostly to those that have worked in hospitals or lived in group housing. As Governor Lamont opened up the amount of people who were eligible to get the vaccine, the need for greater access and amounts of people to distribute them grew.
With uncertainty surrounding any additional vaccines, the two that are currently available are being distributed as quickly as possible. The new federal administration behind President Biden has vowed to vaccinate 100 million Americans by the end of 100 days in office, but it will be up to health districts in towns and cities to get the vaccine into the arms of those that need it.
In Redding, they decided to use the Redding Community Center to begin the vaccination of Group 1B, which includes individuals that are 75 and over, individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 (which are considered a separate group), Frontline essential workers, and individuals ith an underlying medical condition. According to the state website, these groups will take through March to get even just their first vaccine shots. One of the key pieces of infrastructure was how to register eligible people, currently both Bethel and Redding are using the Vaccine Administration Man70 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Both fortunately and unfortunately, there has been a great demand for the vaccines. This is important because many, many more people will need to get vaccinated before we start getting back to normal, but the longer it takes, the greater numbers there will be of people getting infected along the way.
Further groups, everyone 65 and under, will likely have to wait until the summer or fall to get their vaccines. Even then, a certain number of people will have to get their shots before we reach herd immunity. In Connecticut, that is the light at the end of the tunnel. Though there were struggles at the beginning of the pandemic, towns and cities have shown again and again what can be done with good planning, cooperation, and solid scientific information to back it up. Redding and Bethel are two of 169 towns and cities that will lead us to the other side of this pandemic.
SOCIAL WELFARE Equity In Health Comes To Forefront Manchester hired a health equity coordinator to ensure good outcomes
t the CCM CARES forums, we noted that there is a difference between equality and equity. With equality, each gets an equal share, but with equity everyone gets what they need. In Manchester, they recently hired a health equity coordinator, with the aim that all town residents get the health care that they need. Dr. Amy Beaulieu, whose extensive background and resume includes service in the United States Navy, working for the Connecticut Department of Corrections, a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and a master’s degree in criminal justice, comes from the The Village for Children and Families in Hartford where she was the clinical manager, according to the town’s release. Her primary duties in this newly created role will include “providing leadership in the review and development of public health policy that will advance efforts to improve population health outcomes linked to underlying determinants, including unequal economic and social conditions, especially related to race/ethnicity, disability status, and/or urban or rural environments.” Amid a pandemic, it’s important to note that not everyone has equal access to health care. According to the Centers for American Progress, the United States is home to stark and persistent racial disparities in health coverage, chronic health conditions, mental health,
and mortality. They state that alleviating these disparities will “require a deliberate and sustained effort to address social determinants of health, such as poverty, segregation, environmental degradation, and racial discrimination. By taking the step to hire a health equity coordinator, Manchester is taking that active step to giving their residents that important footing that is equitable – making sure those in need receive the healthcare they deserve as residents of Connecticut. Dr. Beaulieu said, “My entire career has been focused on helping and serving vulnerable, underserved, and diverse populations. The Town of Manchester is clearly committed to ensuring every aspect of health care is equitable, available, and accessed by all community members. I am thrilled to be a part of this new initiative and look forward to building partnerships with the Town of Manchester and community stakeholders in order to ensure equitable health care services are available to the entire community.” As we continue to handle a pandemic that has exacerbated these disparities, municipalities around the state and country will need to think about how to move forward. It’s clear that crisis like COVID-19 have detrimental effects in every aspect of life, keeping residents as healthy as possible no matter the climate will make sure that we see happy healthy outcomes in the future.
“My entire career has been focused on helping and serving vulnerable, underserved, and diverse populations.” -Dr. Amy Beaulieu
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 71
SOCIAL WELFARE Around the World At Home
Cromwell Senior Center offers program to travel the world digitally
he repercussions of the coronavirus were far and wide, but some were felt far more acutely than others. Social distancing turned into social isolation for many, especially those in vulnerable communities such as the elderly. The Cromwell Senior Center recently partnered with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Airbnb for a creative take on an old theme by connecting seniors with experiences around the world. As part of a grant, the Cromwell Senior Center was able to hand out coupons for free programs that are part of Airbnb’s digital offerings. From the June newsletter, they say you can choose from “hundreds of online experiences, from learning to cook Mexican street tacos with a professional chef, to traveling back in time with a WWII pen pal in Germany, to sailing the virtual seas with an Olympic sailor. Each of the programs are conducted via Zoom, the popular streaming platform, and to be eligible, you just had to be over 60 and a Cromwell resident. The NCOA Interim President and CEO, Anna Maria Chavéz said, “NCO is working hard every day to help all older adults cope with the coronavirus and stay healthy – both physically and emotionally.” “This partnership with Airbnb is a wonderful opportunity to provide older adults with human connections and unique experiences that can combat the isolation many of them are experiencing as they shelter in place.”
The Cromwell Senior Center
Airbnb is more widely known as the short-term rental website that allows people to rent out a home or a room for short periods of times, often at costs that are much lower than hotels. While extremely popular with users, it has run into issues with locals around Connecticut who sought to limit or outright ban homeowners from listing their properties on the site. The issue of isolation and loneliness in the elderly is much more severe than it might seem at first glance. According to the Centers for Disease Control, loneliness and social isolation puts many at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions. The risk of dementia was increased about 50% in those that felt socially isolated, while heart disease saw an increase of 29% and stroke saw an increase of 32%. Coronavirus put a lot of pressure on all of us to maintain social distancing, work from home, and to limit interactions with others. Simply reaching out and saying “Hi, how are you?” can make a huge difference in someone’s day. The Cromwell Senior Center in getting this grant allowed seniors around town to experience something new and connect with someone maybe on the other side of the world. It became a mantra to say that we’re all in this together, throughout the crisis, and that’s what’s important.
Amy Saada Human Services Director Cathi Jackson Senior Center Assistant VACANT Human Services Assistant Mario Genovese FT Bus Driver 72 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
We received a grant from the Na onal Council on Aging and Airbnb to bring you FREE programs that otherwise would cost you up to $30.00! We are so excited to share this opportunity with you! You choose from hundreds of online experiences, from learning to cook Mexican street tacos with a professional chef, to traveling back in me with a WWII pen pal in Germany,
Leveling Field Of Play
Towns agree to deal on land for soccer/lacrosse fields
owns can find innumerable ways to work together – but how often does one town buy a small portion of a neighboring town? A deal between Ellington and Vernon would do just that so that latter can have a place to meet the growing demand of area students looking to play lacrosse or soccer. With the $1.93 million purchase of land that straddles the Ellington/Vernon border, the project for up to three playing fields, restrooms, a wetland preserve and improvements on the Hockanum River Corridor can finally begin. The first phase of the project is set to begin with the leveling of the first field. Vernon has been looking to expand their capacity for athletic fields for years, and plan to partner with local lacrosse and soccer clubs according to an article on the Vernon Patch. Because the parcel is on the town lines, Land-use boards in both Ellington and Vernon had to approve the purchase. But both towns will see advantages of this new playing field.
Quoted by Chris Dehnel at Patch at the land dedication ceremony, Ellington First Selectman Lori Spielman said “This is a great opportunity for Ellington to work with Vernon. Like Vernon, Ellington does not have enough fields for all of our youth sports teams. By partnering with Vernon, we have more fields we can use without purchasing land and maintaining more fields. I’m just thrilled we could do this together.” Mayor Daniel Champagne of Vernon said that things like tournaments could be held at the field complex as it grows, which would help offset some of the costs of maintaining the field. There are also plans for a concession stand, but the timing of its building was not immediately evident. Vernon used money from the General Fund for this project, no money was borrowed. No matter the cause, towns working together can achieve great results. In the case of Vernon and Ellington, the people that stand to benefit the most are the people in those towns. People in both towns will be able to make use of these fields once completed. And ultimately that’s the best possible outcome. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 73
SOCIAL WELFARE Some People’s Best Friends
West Haven enacts leash law to make everyone feel safe
ogs are great. They didn’t get the title of man’s best friend for nothing. But believe it or not, not everyone is a fan, and with a growing trend of owners being anti-leash, it’s incredibly important to make everyone feel safe. West Haven voted to limit leashes to six feet on city property, making it one of only three municipalities with a specific length in their leash laws.
need to be on a leash.
Currently, state law does not mandate that dogs remain on leashes at all time, but there are exceptions and caveats that make it confusing to apply. Per a research report from the Conecticut General Assembly website on these laws, a dog’s owner or keeper must not allow it to roam on another person’s land or on a public highway, including sidewalks, if it is not under his control. […] Additionally, the Environmental Protection Department requires that owners keep their dogs leashed in state parks.”
For West Haven, the boardwalk remains a popular destination for many people, the risk of chance encounters described by Servadio in Santa Monica, also a popular boardwalk destination.
Within the same section of statutes, they say that municipalities are allowed to create their own ordinances that mandate that dogs be on a leash, and this may be more important than ever. On the Iheartdogs.com blog, Kristina Lotz discussed with Andrea Servadio, a doggy daycare owner in Santa Monica, California, about the growing trend of “anti-leash” pet owners who feel that leashes are too restrictive or that their dog is so well-trained as to not
74 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Servadio argues that while dogs can be obedient and well-trained, owners are “misguided at best because there are a lot of things that can happen to dogs and people in this scenario.” They further argue that leash laws are important for maintaining a “safe and respectful environment for dogs and people.”
While the city council voted in favor of this ordinance, there were many who brought up the very important factor in keeping both humans and dogs safe: the human owner. Council member Barry Cohen quoted in the New Haven Register said “If the owner does not have control of their dog, a shorter leash may not provide any additional layer of protection from less-obedient dogs.” With the beach season over, West Haven’s boardwalk will see very few walkers, with dogs or not. But as the spring turns into summer, those looking to get out and stroll the beach, or anywhere for that matter, will surely have to share the sidewalks with humans and their canine friends. With their new leash laws, the West Haven will be for everyone to enjoy.
TECHNOLOGY The Technology section of CT&C is sponsored by Digital BackOffice. Learn more at: www.digitalbackoffice.com
The Best Of Both Worlds
Middletown to offer hybrid meetings going forward
ay you’re at home, you just got home from work and you haven’t eaten dinner yet. There’s no time to find a sitter, and the kids still have to do their homework. How do you prioritize the public meeting at Town Hall tonight? Middletown is trying to solve the participation problem by moving towards hybrid meetings. For years, people and organizations have been using video conferencing platforms to hold meetings that would otherwise be impossible because of distance. But COVID-19 if nothing else, showed us what our technology was really capable of. Because municipalities could not just take a pause to adequately social distance, they had to find a way to continue operations. And virtual meetings led the pack. As things begin to re-open, Middletown saw no need to discontinue virtual meetings. In fact, the city believes that this could increase participation in town governance manifold. The online website Govtech.com, which specializes in the tech that we use to run our governments wrote about Middletown’s plans this past April. “Accessibility is a key factor in Middletown’s decision to maintain virtual conferencing tools,” the article states. “[Brian] Skowera said the hybrid system allows for much greater capacity, as thousands could theoretically participate with the new platform. He recalled a public budget hearing
from a few years ago during which hundreds of people waited to voice support for the Arts and Culture Office. Skowera emphasized that not everyone has the health, time or financial ability to participate in that way.” Skowera, who was also a recent guest on the Municipal Voice, here raises one of the great benefits of the virtual meeting – a constituent can watch or catch up with town governance from the comfort of their own home. No need to get a sitter, no need to skip dinner, or to find parking. You don’t even need to have Cable TV to watch it on public access, just the right link or
phone number. The system that the City of Middletown is using will allow residents the option speak on the record by phone or videoconferencing. Getting people involved with their local government often means removing barriers to their participation. While in-person meetings might remain the gold standard, the pandemic has really shown us that technology is going to be a great tool going forward. Leaving space open for those who want to participate but might have a hard time getting to a meeting can only make town governance more inclusive. INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 75
TECHNOLOGY A Different Kind Of Virus
Norwalk IT lowers the attack surface in tech
hile you may have heard the phrase “work from home” before 2020, coronavirus brought us “government from home.” And with that came the increased need for cybersecurity from our municipalities because an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure. Henry Dachowitz, the Chief Finance Officer of Norwalk, Karen DelVecchio, the IT Director of Norwalk, and Dale Bruckhart of Digital BackOffice spoke to us about the changing face of cybersecurity. “COVID-19 changed the way we do business,” DelVecchio said, given just 72 hours to plan for hundreds of employees to work from home for the first time, her department enacted a two-week hurricane plan. She continued, “No one imagined that seven months later, most of our workforce would still be working from home.” The challenges posed by work from home are manifold. There are more ways to get into a system, what Bruckhart called “attack surfaces,” including many sophisticated techniques like the kind you might see in a movie. But surprisingly, Dachowitz said that he believes up to 90% of breaches are done through social engineering. This means that a person simply asks you for sensitive information when posing as a legitimate resource or some other means of tricking the user into giving up a way in. Because of this, many places, public and private have begun using two-factor authentication. This is one of the most cost-effective security measures according to Bruckhart, since it’s so easy to adopt. DelVecchio elegantly described the practice as something you have and something you know. If you want to use your debit card to take money
76 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
Henry Dachowitz, Karen DelVecchio and Dale Bruckhart speaking with host Matthew Ford about municipal cybersecurity on the October 14th episode of The Municipal Voice on WNHH 103.5FM.
out of a bank, she says, you have a card and you know your pin. In tech, two-factor authentication works on the same principle, you know your password, and you have an app to create a pin number (or one is texted to you on your cell phone). This has been a major factor during COVID because it’s an easy way to tell the system the person logging in is really that person. This lowers the attack surface by eliminating one possible avenue into a municipalities IT system. But there are others, and towns and cities across the country have fallen victim to ransomware attacks, where the perpetrator will encrypt important data for a ransom, usually to be paid in bitcoin. And it’s not just the financial loss that can be detrimental to a town or city. Dachowitz noted that as a municipality, you have tax records; a health department with HIPA infor-
mation, a Board of Education with information on children, and all the records from police departments including arrest records and body camera footage. Any municipality that refuses to pay a ransom no longer simply risks losing their data, but having that data made public to other bad actors who might steal that information. This lead to Bruckhart saying that the most important step was prevention – lowering the attack surface so that you don’t have to deal with the fallout later. All three said that more and more cybersecurity should be a priority, not just for municipalities, but for businesses and home users. Success is contingent on a good plan, education, and staying up to date on the newest types of attacks. “It’s about people, it’s about process, it’s about technology,” DelVecchio said, “you get one wrong, then you won’t be successful.”
Computer Boot Camp
Avon & Greenwich Libraries offer tech training
or many individuals fortunate enough to work-from-home throughout the pandemic, they are discovering pockets of time that had otherwise been used up in getting ready for work: ironing clothes, prepping lunch, and obviously the commute itself. Some have chosen to spend that time in self-improvement by learning to bake bread or some other hobby. The Avon Library has been hosting Zoom programs in partnership with the Greenwich Library and Second Innings for constructive improvements.
and rendered by industry experts, and this was set up for mid-career professionals who have some level of business understanding and want to further their skill sets for better career opportunities.
Throughout January and February, they delivered a series of programs called Winter Technology Bootcamp in which participants attend one of four six-week programs for Data Analytics 101, SQL, Cybersecurity I, or Python.
Readers who follow the Municipal Voice podcast might remember the Information Technology episode with the City of Norwalk. They urged that technology will only keep advancing, which will continue to make our lives easier, but also bringing with it some risks. Training in cybersecurity is a must for not
According to the Avon Library website, each course was designed
Second Innings is a local group of computer experts who decided to provide free courses in areas that have seen tremendous growth over the past two decades. They say that some who entered the workforce even just 10 years ago might not be able to keep up with the times because college courses are expensive and not for every skill level.
just municipal employees but will save many folks from cyber-attacks. SQL and Python are two of the most popular programming languages with the former having an emphasis on managing data, and the latter on general purpose applications. Both have grown in popularity and Python is the third most used programming language in the world. Indeed, Second Innings refers to their education as future proofing your career. While the winter classes might have come to an end, it’s worthwhile to see if classes like this will be run in the future and if they can be hosted by a library near you. As our communities decide how best to spend their time as we maintain social distancing, offering programs for your constituents to work on their careers will future-proof your community as well.
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 77
TECHNOLOGY Fast Track To The Future
Autonomous vehicles will be a part of local transportation future
hen you look back to visions of the future, you’d think we’d have flying cars by now. Unfortunately, we will have to settle for earthbound travel for most of our transportation. But, if you’re taking CTFastrak between New Britain and Hartford, your ride will be very futuristic as the state intends on implementing driverless electric buses for large tracts of the route. In June of this year, the Connecticut Department of Transportation announced that it had received nearly $40 million in grants to be used on multiple projects throughout the state, including more train service on the Hartford Line, rebuilding a railroad bridge in Norwalk, as well as the aforementioned self-driving buses and technology according to the State’s press release. The electric buses will be used on the CTfastrak rapid bus transit corridor, of which there are 15 on order. As CT&C wrote in the May issue, there are many benefits to electric buses, primary of which is the cost of fueling. But the interesting part is that the buses will be fully automated for parts of the route. CTDOT describes the program as a first in the nation for automated technology. Automated technologies demonstrated will include steering, precision docking at CTfastrak station platforms, and platooning, all of which can enhance service and improve safety for drivers and passengers.
78 | INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021
For those concerned about implementing without testing, the State plans to do extensive testing on an off-road facility first before bringing it to the streets. As an added safety guarantee, there will always be a driver on board who will take control if necessary. The driver will also manually drive on downtown Hartford mixed-traffic roadways. New Flyer, the company that created the technology for transit buses, said that they have leveraged “the internet of things (an extension of internet connectivity to physical devices and everyday objects) to build connectivity in sharing public roadways.” Back in 2018, Connecticut set guidelines for vehicle testing, and municipalities such as Stamford and New Haven had applied for testing. New Haven was planning for an autonomous shuttle between the Yale New Haven Hospital and St. Raphael campuses. If testing goes well and the technology improves, many towns and cities across Connecticut might soon develop plans for driverless transportation options around town, from the train station to down town, or around a university campus. We might not yet have flying cars, but every year we inch towards newer technologies that can make our streets safer and a little more modern.
TECHNOLOGY Ransom in the Public Sector
What can state and local government leaders do to stifle ransomware By: Dale Bruckhart ublic sector organizations continue to be popular targets for ransomware attackers. Numerous high-profile incidents have occurred in recent months, crippling civil infrastructure and disrupting services. With so much at stake, it’s an important reminder for everyone involved in public sector institutions to be vigilant for suspicious activities and prepared for increasingly sophisticated attacks.
This is an interview with field CSO MK Palmore on ransomware in the public sector, offering perspective and how to stop it from impacting our life. M.K. Palmore is the Field Chief Security Officer in the Americas for Palo Alto Networks. He has spent his career preventing and investigating cyberattacks in the public sector. Previously, he spent 22 years with the FBI, most recently as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Cyber Branch. Palmore is an international speaker focused on the topics of leadership, cybersecurity, and risk management. You can find more about this topic and others from an array of different thought leaders in the industry on the SecurityRoundtable.org blog.
What exactly is ransomware; how is it different from other cyberattacks? Ransomware comes in many different forms, but essentially it is still malicious software developed with the intention of encrypting data on a targeted system(s) and holding it for ransom. This threat has evolved and increased in complexity, with specific variants configured to target the limitations of victims.
Ransomware continues to persist in our digital world – why? Simple answer: the lack of investment and preparation. Information security professionals should be spending more time thinking like an attacker to reinforce prevention and response capabilities. The goal should be to reduce the attack surface through the use of tools explicit to the challenge. This includes the increased use of automated response solutions that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to mitigate intrusion. An organization can also prepare further by implementing a backup strategy that is resilient to ransomware and can restore affected data.
Why is the public sector a particularly vulnerable segment for ransomware? Much of my background has been in the service of public sector organizations, and I’m particularly passionate about working to stop these issues. We know from multiple studies that public sector entities are highly targeted. Reasons for this are numerous, but a few of the top reasons include, prevalence of legacy infrastructure, attack surface size as a result of third-party access, and lack of IT security personnel.
Is the burning question with ransomware still “to pay or not to pay”? During my time in the FBI, we always advised that enterprises should NOT pay the ransom. It emboldens the attacker and puts the enterprise on a target list of potential future adversaries. I understand this is ultimately a business decision for any enterprise. My advice would be to make the investment necessary to protect your enterprise.
What is at stake with ransomware on cities and infrastructure? The current situation is very serious. We have seen ransomware literally cripple major cities and municipalities. We are becoming an increasingly digital society, and our access to civil services via this conduit is critical. When these systems are interrupted or placed in danger, it challenges the nature of our society and ability to operate.
What can we do to stop it? We need increased visibility, priority, and investment into cybersecurity. I recommend these items in all my meetings. Along these lines, seek counsel from outside security strategists and install the needed solutions to give the needed controls, automated response capabilities, and threat intelligence. Additionally, seek a reputable backup solution and ensure the resiliency of your entire cybersecurity apparatus. Dale Bruckhart is the V.P. of Public Sector Marketing for Digital BackOffice. He can be reached at daleb@ digitalbackoffice.com
INNOVATIVE IDEAS 2021 | 79
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: