State of the Town: Selectmen
The following is First Selectman Dave Campbell's prepared remarks for the Representative Town Meeting's annual State of the Town meeting.
Good evening RTM members, boards and commission members and follow citizens.
Some of you may remember my analogy last year of feeling like a kid with a learner’s permit. Well, I got my license despite a few car crashes. The year has been an incredible adventure.
I have enjoyed serving all the people of Darien. It is very important for the selectmen to be the arbiters to make decisions that balance the needs of all the taxpayers in Darien.
The first job of our community is to protect our citizens and educate our children. Fire, Police and Post 53 all must be maintained to the highest standards. With this in mind, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance approved a $50,000 appropriation to upgrade the 911 response system for Post 53. The Darien Fire Department is receiving a new ladder truck at the cost of $800,000 and the police department new headquarters has been released to construction.
Last year I talked about the “State of the State.” Unfortunately, my feeling of a dysfunctional state has not been changed. If anything, the more I learn in my dealings with our state government the more I understand most of the tension and controversy is a result of our state government.
Unfunded state mandates and rules cause budget problems for both the Town and our schools. Even our State Senator Bob Duff is quoted last week as saying, “ If someone says no unfunded mandates, that is foolish, that is not going to happen.” We will get less funding and more rules going forward which will affect our local property taxes.
Another area of tension in our town is the 8-30 g affordable housing mandate. We were rewarded a 4-year moratorium from the rules of 8-30g. This is a short term solution but not a long term fix. We will never reach the 10% affordable level to gain permanent relief from 8-30g. Darien would need to add over 600 units to get the 10%. There is not the space or the economic incentives to reach these levels.
We must do what is right for the taxpayers of Darien. We will aggressively fight poorly thought-out developments and support developments that make sense. In the past year the Selectmen and Planning & Zoning Commission have supported the expansion of Allen O’Neill. We have approved 106 new units of housing yet CHAFA has no money for Darien. Planning & Zoning has approved one 8-30g application by Garden Homes. The 11 affordable units are being occupied this month.
I want to commend Fred Conze and Joe Spain for the many hours they have put in dealing with 8-30g applications. The Planning & Zoning Commission, as proven with Garden Homes, is willing to move forward with responsible development.
An area that took a lot of time this year is what to do about the senior center. We are moving forward with a very cost effective, practical plan to move the seniors into a new community center here at Town Hall. Norm Guimond has been elected chairman of the building committee and is in the process of organizing interviews for architects. The building committee has a goal to move the Board of Education next December and begin work here at Town Hall.
As a town we have a lot to be proud of:
1. An excellent public school system
2. An active network of volunteers and staff who are looking out for our seniors and those in need
3. Social Services helping those under financial stress
4. Health Department established the first Prescription Medication Disposal Day in Darien and it’s doing a good job organizing flu shots, monitoring restaurants and the beach water.
5. Public Works is making sure the roads are safe and working hard to ensure the town looks good. They have worked well with the Beautification Commission on several projects this year.
6. Parks & Recreation keeping our parks and beaches in good shape, plus offering 50 recreational programs per season.
7. Planning & Zoning is working hard to balance development with the character of the town. Much time was spent on documentation for the Moratorium application and subsequent inquiries.
We are a town of compassion and when you open the paper or online news feed to bad news step back and remember all the good that people in this town accomplish every day. Our community gives back in volunteer time and money like no other. We should all be proud and thankful every day.