Bold New Year’s resolutions for ongoing and upcoming projects are what Mayor Erin Stewart will be focusing on for the year ahead.
“It’s going to be full steam forward,” said Stewart. “There’s new energy in the air and it’s a good feeling to have a fresh start toward a new decade for New Britain.”
Several goals are on the mayor’s list that she hopes to check off soon, including a budget with no tax increases, to finish Phase 6 and start Phase 7 of the Complete Streets Master Plan, to begin Phase 2 of the Columbus Commons project, to expand the city’s opioid task force, to reuse New Britain Stadium as a potential concert venue, and to secure more funding for Chamberlain School renovations.
It is getting harder each year to continue not having any tax increases, said the mayor, who pointed out that the city is trying to lower its property tax rate of 50.5 mills.
“We’re going to try our best to lower it, which means we have to eliminate certain things to do that. It’s an unfortunate reality and we’re already in the process of having department heads put together their budgets so we can see what needs to be done.”
More progress for road repairs and infrastructure renovations are ongoing for East Main and Myrtle streets, which has an estimation to be completed in late spring or early summer. The planning process has begun for Phases 7 and 8, which include streetscape renovations around Columbus Commons and lighting on Washington Street. The mayor hopes to move forward with the 80-unit Columbus Commons apartment project that kickstarted in September and to expand the opioid task force with more members, more action, and more educational outreach. The task force recently received a $600,000 state grant that will go towards creating a new data system to better track users. Stewart hopes to reduce opioid overdose-related deaths by 50% by 2021.
To help increase entertainment options in the city, Stewart is exploring the potential of using New Britain Stadium as a concert venue. The stadium has been used as a concert venue in the past, but Stewart said it didn’t have the contacts and resources needed to succeed.
“With the New Britain Bees having a shorter season, the stadium is an asset that I would really like to explore,” she said. “This would be a great way to attract positive attention to the city, give people something exciting to do, and also bring jobs.”
Another ongoing item that the mayor wants to focus on is to get to know the newly elected Common Council members better by meeting with them individually.
“There was a demarcation between the mayor’s office and the council in the past, which is a mistake that I’m learning from,” she said. “I want to work on those relationships. We have to work across party lines and collaborate in order to make the city a better place.”
President Pro Tempore Kristian Rosado echoed the mayor’s philosophy, stating that the council needs to work together in order to provide equitable services and increase opportunities for New Britain residents.
“We have to work together in a bipartisan fashion in order to make our government more productive, transparent, accessible and inclusive,” he said. Education, economic development, and park renovations are some of the main items that Rosado would like to focus on in the upcoming year.
Nancy Sarra, superintendent for the Consolidated School District of New Britain, said the district’s goal for the new year is to continue work on staff development with regard to a renewed K-12 curriculum. The curriculum has a focus on relevant and engaging instruction for the 21st-century learner.
Another focus is the district’s ongoing attendance campaign, Every Day Matters, which is showing a positive trend of reducing chronic absenteeism. The district will also continue to focus efforts towards STEAM education and emphasize student-centered and project-based classroom learning at all grade levels.
Engaging families and community members is also another top priority. “We will strengthen our connection with families through our Family Resource Centers and new Family School Liaison team that ensures they are connected to the many resources available to them,” said Sarra, who will also continue the district’s monthly “Community Conversations” that offer families and community members opportunities to come together and share their voices.
“Above all, we will work collaboratively through CSDNB’s Core Values and Responsibilities to provide every student with an education that meets the profile of the New Britain graduate and develops the skills necessary to successfully navigate our ever-evolving world,” she said.