Revived commission up and running

Members of the Prospect Economic Development Commission, from left, Dr. Ron Laone, Peter Hughes, Eileen Cranney, Larry Rifkin and Mark Graveline. The commission has recently been revived as the town looks to attract more businesses. –RA ARCHIVE

Members of the Prospect Economic Development Commission, from left, Dr. Ron Laone, Peter Hughes, Eileen Cranney, Larry Rifkin and Mark Graveline. The commission has recently been revived as the town looks to attract more businesses. –RA ARCHIVE

PROSPECT — The town has not had a chamber of commerce for nearly six years. Its Economic Development Commission was struggling to get members to come to meetings.

But, that is all changing as a newly revived commission has been meeting every month, and a new business association is close to official incorporation.

By invitation of Mayor Robert Chatfield business owners got together in February.

“I would have been very happy if we had 25,” Chatfield said.

About 82 businesses were represented. Chatfield said he talked to the group for about 15 minutes, then left the room.

In March the group held its second meeting and chose an interim board of directors as well as a new name — the Prospect Business Association. Chatfield hopes that it will become formal soon.

Business development is important to the community of about 9,500 residents. Money to pay for the town’s nearly $29.7 million operating budget for the next fiscal year is financed locally with about 80 percent of it coming from property taxes. The overwhelming majority of the town’s grand list is made of homes.

Chatfield hopes the town is in a better position to attract business to town, to help grow the grand list.

The re-energized Economic Development Commission came before the Town Council June 3, so the members could introduce themselves and discuss the needs of the town with the council.

“The first thing I would like to see you do is promote the town,” Councilwoman Patricia Geary said.

Geary envisioned the town building sidewalks in the center, so people are able to walk to businesses.

Councilman Jeffrey Slapikas, a builder by profession, said the commission may have to come up with an inventory of available space in town, including vacancies and available land.

The town has a few things going for itself including a low tax rate of 28.98 mills for the next fiscal year. It also has available land and water lines along Route 68 and 69, the town’s two main arteries.

Chatfield said he’d like to see the commission develop a business incentive that will draw businesses into town.

The commission has $2,500 at its disposal to hire a secretary, for now. Geary said if the commission needs more money the council will be “amendable.”

Commission Chairman Peter Hughes said he hopes the commission will help the business association grow. He said he hopes to continue to expand the tax base. He is encouraged by new members Dr. Ron Laone and Eileen Cranney and the rest of the board.

“I’m encouraged by their enthusiasm,” Hughes said.

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