This year was a very busy and very successful year for the Town of Westerly.
The Town Council approved several new and revised ordinances, including the revision of bed and breakfast zoning, preservation of historic cemeteries and exemption for elderly in the tax code, solid waste, code of ethics, airport advisory committee, various traffic control and parking revisions, and many more.
Many of our residents were recognized by the Town Council for the Armory restoration, short story competition, community award, retailer of the year, Future Business Leaders of America, high school hall of fame, shelter volunteers, Elks Mother of the Year, Town Council student representative, employee retirements, Summer Pops Day, Summer of Peace, Neighbor Day, Chamber Citizen of the Year and Key Award, and Dante Person of the Year.
The year was also bookended by the successful fight against the Saybrook to Kenyon FRA high speed rail bypass and the Bricks and Murals project downtown. Also, the town celebrated with another successful Neighbor Day, Columbus Day Parade, and current holiday events.
Many improvements were made to the town’s infrastructure, including the finishing of Cross Street, remediation of 22 and 26 Canal St., initiation of the downtown culvert replacement, initiation of a joint project with Stonington to repair and improve the Stillman Avenue bridge, sidewalk improvements on Bay Street, another successful townwide paving program, drainage improvements at the Gingerella Sports Complex, rehabilitation of the Chapman Pond Boat Launch, roof replacement at the bus garage, rooftop solar installation at the Department of Public Works facility, and more.
Several internal technological projects were completed or initiated, improving service delivery to residents and businesses. These include: new police dispatch center, e-permitting for building permits, council chamber audio improvements, internet connection to various municipal facilities, police taser and portable radio replacement, catch basin and drainage inventory in GIS, rewiring of the data network in Town Hall, digitization and document management, environment monitoring hardware for servers, electronic indexing of all clerk-filed surveys, upgraded public works fuel management system, upgraded Town Hall security cameras, deployment of new off-site backup service for town servers, implementation of several financial software services, employee time management program, email conversion, server virtualization, and implementation of planimetrics into GIS.
The Town Council prioritized the town’s finances and financial standing this year with several actions. Several new policies were adopted, including the long-term rate of return strategic policy for pension and other postemployment benefit funds, transfer of unused funds from restricted accounts, debt management, and fund balance policies. Additionally, the Town Council adopted the overall municipal and school budgets, while fully funding the town’s pension and OPEB obligations. A consultant was hired to assist in the reorganization of the Finance Department. Also, the Council approved the refunding of existing debt, saving the taxpayers more than $400,000 in long-term debt costs.
Several vital positions were filled, such as four new police officers, town engineer, tax collector, zoning solicitor, minimum housing official, purchasing agent, director of development services, town solicitor, zoning official, grants coordinator, and many public works positions. Also, familiar faces transitioned into new roles, such as Paul Corina to director of public works and Jason Parker to town planner. We have a great staff and they work very hard for the people of Westerly.
Finally, it is with understanding and a hope for happiness and success that the town extends to former Town Council President Jamie Silvestri, who resigned in June, a “thank you” for his years of service. The council appointed and is pleased to welcome Karen Cioffi as a new councilor.
With the success of 2017, we have set ourselves up for another successful year in 2018. Happy Holidays.
Kennedy is town manager of Westerly.