Letter: Lots of activity in Beacon Falls

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To the editor,

It seems that spring has finally taken hold after we’ve endured a winter that seemingly refused to end. Thanks to everyone for your patience in dealing with snow plowing and the related issues that go along with our public works department’s efforts to maintain our roads safely, and we hope to begin a few solutions to the issues the town has experienced with frost heaves and pot holes, etc.

One sure sign spring is here is the opening day for our youth baseball and softball leagues. We had absolutely spectacular weather back on Saturday, April 18, with a new twist this year in that we’ve joined with Prospect for our softball league this year. My thanks to our league presidents, Derek Palange and Kelly Kane, vice presidents, Jim Huk and Chris Doiron, Parks and Rec Chairman Steve Ruhl, and Steve Moffat, Mike Classey, and our public works department for the unbelievable job they did to get the fields ready to play. Going from snow covering the Pent Road complex on the first day of spring in March to what we saw was nothing short of miraculous. Time to play ball.

We’ve got some very exciting things happening here in town, but let me start with the process of putting together our municipal budget for fiscal year 2015-16. The Board of Finance chaired by Jack Levine worked collaboratively with input from the Board of Selectmen to craft what we believe to be a lean budget with an increase of only $36,000 over last year, making two years in a row that we’ve brought budgets forward with increases of less than $40,000 on a total of $6.2 million dollars. The town meeting to approve this budget is set for Thursday, April 30, at 7PM at the town’s senior center, and I hope this budget is one we can all support.

Regarding the condition of our roads, I hope everyone noticed we received a grant from the state of nearly $200,000 to repair Highland Avenue Extension. In addition, the town authorized expending up to $500,000 in excess General Fund balance for additional road repairs. Our town engineers are reviewing the conditions of our roads and are updating data from the 2011 review, and we will be looking to use these funds along with our annual Town Road Aid funding from the state to bond approximately $2 million in repairs this year. We believe that we can structure the payments of the bond to have a minimal impact on the budget for the next five years, and we plan to revisit this plan every five years to perform a continuous cycle of upgrading within a sensible set of parameters. We’ll be getting more specifics once the budget cycle and road review is completed.

We’ve also learned that the Region 16 school budget will be going to referendum on Tuesday, May 5. Voting in Beacon Falls is planned to be held at Woodland Regional High School, and our registrars, Kathy Grace and Helen Mis, have been working closely with Superintendent Mike Yamin to make the process as smooth as possible. The question of the $384,000 in surplus funds will be voted on at the district town meeting at Long River Middle School on Monday, May 4, at 7 p.m. I urge everyone to make time in your schedules to participate in these important votes.

Finally, we had an exciting presentation at a special Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, April 27, by CT Energy & Technology regarding the possibility of bringing a direct fuel cell technology electricity generating facility to town, sited at the O&G property along Lopus Road. This 63 megawatt facility is a green source of clean energy, recognized by Connecticut and 10 other states as comparable to solar and wind generation, using a non-combustion chemical process to generate power from natural gas. There will be more in-depth presentations as the project moves forward, but if it is approved it would be the largest facility of its kind in the world, with a negligible impact on noise, carbon footprint, and even visibility as the height of the units is only around 26 feet. Not only would it bring sizable commercial tax revenue to town, but it would open up the potential for residential homeowners to have access to natural gas, something the town has been trying to achieve for a very long time. There is much more to follow on this project, and please stay informed and ask good questions as it develops, but it could be a significant win for the town on a number of fronts. All of our boards and commissions will bring their expertise to make sure it is done properly, safely, and with the best interests of Beacon Falls always at the forefront.

Chris Bielik

Fist Selectman, Beacon Falls