OOPs: Meeting Mix-up

The May 21st Stratford Crier misidentified two Stratford Town Council meetings.

The Stratford Housing Strategies Special Meeting on May 10th was assigned the incorrect minutes (Special Ordinance meeting notes).

Both articles are now corrected.

Thank you for your patience.
Your Frazzled Stratford Crier Editor!

The public hearing to discuss the results of the 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee which also included results of the Housing Partnership town wide survey conducted over several months.

Two speakers weighed in on the results of the report to the Stratford Town Council:

The first speaker, Kathleen Callahan remarks were:
My reason for calling in tonight is to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Stratford Housing Partnership for their rigorous work on the recently endorsed Housing Plan. Your efforts demand recognition. While reading the report, I was impressed by the depth of the survey, analysis, and recommended strategies. In days of deep partisan divide, this was a much-needed respite.

To the Council, mayor, and her administration, I ask you to accept the plan as endorsed and begin the hard work required by its recommended actions. As Councilwoman Shake wrote in a piece published today, there is no timeline defined for implementing solutions. I support her call – “for the sake of our seniors, our entry-level workers, and our insecure homeowners” – to act and act now.

Housing is always on the agenda of local governments but over the recent years it has become a controversial, partisan issue across the country and the state with the general assembly currently debating zoning legislation. I remain hopeful that my town of Stratford can see this as the Partnership did and begin to define implementation steps based on the needs of all residents.

I have found that when people are honest with themselves, we recognize that our sources of information for addressing a problem are usually ones that validate our initial opinions. Does inclusionary zoning improve the goal of affordable housing? I could search Google right now and find studies and data with outcomes that fit whatever I already believe, whatever any of you already believe.

I worked at our local homeless shelter for a brief time 6-7 years ago, while also working at a residential treatment center. My focus was on addiction services and what a surprise it was to learn of the Housing First model! Since Sobriety First was my view, this was a full-on paradigm shift for me… one that seems so obvious today. Housing is one of the most researched social determinants of health: there are improved personal and community health and economic outcomes related to better housing options and access.

I cannot imagine there is anything but agreement here that every Stratford resident deserves the dignity of a place to call home.

The second speaker was Barbara Heimlich, who spoke to the document’s findings:
If you are going to consider zoning changes it should be across all of the residential zones, just not in selected residential zones, e.g. any changes should apply equally to all those districts.

“You can still retain the character of the zone, even though every one of the 12 local districts build homes that did not meet our current zoning regulations on size.

We can’t build thousands of units to meet the states affordable housing goals without tear-downs, the town of Stratford does not own/have the land to do it. The state is calling for 4,000 units, that would call for something dramatic, again, we have no land.

Why isn’t the state not realizing we probably have more affordable housing per person than any town in Fairfield County.

The reason we are so affordable is because we went from being a small quaint New England community to being a “mill town” in the late 40s and 50s. Our housing was designed for working class families – capes with less than 1,700sq to meet the GI bill housing requirements, which is what most of our capes in Stratford are.

The state wants 10% of our housing to be affordable, right now we are 6.4%, if we get it up to 10% we would have a moratorium on our town meeting the standard which would not be dictated by a developer or state, we need 420 units to meet present state mandates.

We are not wealthy enough for public-private partnerships to be developed, The median income in Stratford is lower than other communities in Fairfield county and there is a need for housing options that are less expensive/more affordable.

About ½ to 2/3 of the housing survey participants indicated they were housing cost burdened (spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs), and ½ to 2/3s were concerned about their long-term ability to be able to afford to stay in Stratford.

Why are you having this special meeting, what is the time frame for us to make a decision? Where are the members of the Housing Partnership to explain the document they created and to provide information to residents and Town Council members interested in learning more about our obligations to the State of CT?

Editor’s Note: Stratford Housing Partnership consists of appointments made by Mayor Laura Hoydick. The members are:
Representative of the Zoning Commission Christopher Silhavey
Representative of Planning Commission Harold Watson
Representative of Inland Wetlands & Waterfront Commission Christopher Blake
Representative of Stratford Housing Authority Elizabeth Sulik
Representative of Economic and Community Development Commission Jennifer Sheldon
Member of the Local Business Community Desmond Ndzi
Member of a Public Interest Group Beth Daponte
Stratford Urban Planning Professional Susmitha Attota

The public hearing was then adjourned with the May 10th Town Council beginning at 8 p.m.
Note: The 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee can be found on the Town of Stratford website.

Show Me The Money

Special Town Council Ordinance Meeting May 4th

The Ordinance Committee of the Stratford Town Council conducted a public hearing on Tuesday May 4th for residents to give testimony regarding the adopting of the annual operating budget for the Town of Stratford.

The number of residents that signed up to give testimony was extremely disappointing considering that the operating budget is used as a basis to determine our mill rate – which determines our town taxes.

Eight residents spoke out at the hearing and were allotted 3 minutes each. The Stratford Library garnered all of their devoted users. Library supporters outlined what an important resource our town library is, and that cutting $500,000 from the budget would hamper their services and growth. “Programs and books are invaluable, grab and go activities kept residents productive. We are looking for the library to prosper. Budget cuts of 55K are excessive and punitive.”

Residents speaking out believe that the library is the heart and soul of Stratford, and they cited that the library is used daily by almost 700 people; that hours fit into anyone’s schedule; that many students rely on library computers and staff help.

“Stratford is a mixed demographic, and if you look at the Connecticut Mastery Scores you will see that towns with highest scores support their libraries, and have a vibrant, active library.”

Comments on the Board of Education budget by a Stratford resident noted that at the Board of Education Liaison meeting on April 21st, Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked the difficult questions. “Ms. Dancho stated the Board of Education had monies left over year after year and couldn’t spend all of their budget.” According to the audit, this is true. The Board of Education has not used all of the funds allotted to them year after year. Yet they still receive that amount yearly plus additional funding. This is evident in their own documents on their website. In 2018/19 – they had over $400,000 unused and they also encumbered $500,000 for the magnet school tuition bill. In 2019/20 – they had over $700,000 unused at year end. How much will be left over this year? Why not adjust it accordingly?”

“The magnet school bill was paid this year? How, when it wasn’t budgeted in the Board of Education budget? Where did the encumbered funds go? Year after year there were unused funds and where did they go? Where is the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) annual audit?”

“Reevaluations contributed significantly to the grand list this year. What about next year? Think of the taxpayer or homeowner. Look at adjusting accordingly and lower taxes for the homeowner.”
Releasing the BOE audit was helpful in looking at the town budget, but, the town audit still has not be published. Why?

Other resident input regarding the budget (Numbers based on 2021 adopted and 2022 proposed budget):

  • Senator Kelly complains of runaway state spending, yet Governor Lamont is gifting Stratford a onetime $4.7million “distressed municipality” grant which the town has labeled as “COVID Relief”, yet the town is allocating zero ($0.00) toward mitigating costs of COVID.
  • Town is budgeting an extra $9 million of long term debt which 1/2 is to be used to balance the budget – this is like putting your salary on a credit card and paying high interest rates so that your bottom line looks good. This practice is not acceptable business practices.
  • Budget cuts Open Space & Redevelopment funding, and puts EMS Fund in a negative balance – where is the investment in economic development? A vital proactive redevelopment committee is necessary if we are to lift Stratford out of the “distressed community” label.
  • Why is the EMS budget going from $450,000 to $350,000? A loss of $100,000? Their budget includes Pandemic response including vaccination’s, and opioid overdose response/safety, and of course emergency response – all hot topics and needed services. So why reduce their budget? Who is picking up the “slack” when they are unavailable.
  • Overhead & Debt: was $58,562,222 and increased to $61,918,922 – an increase of $335,6700. Why? “I would think with the pandemic closing Town Hall for months and new energy initiatives being brought online that there would not be a need for an increase.
  • Education and Travel (office of the mayor) in 2020 the budget was $5,819, now in 2021 and 2022 you are asking for $15,750 — and increase of $9,931 Why? . Due to the COVID-19 pandemic education and travel costs for the Human Resources department were and I quote “have been reduced at this time as educational conferences have been delayed/suspended”, how is it that the Mayor’s department increased by almost $10K?

During the Town Council Special meeting following the Ordinance Committee public hearing, Councilman Gregg Cann (D-Fifth District) stated that if Stratford had a viable economic development we would not have to rely on state money to balance our budget. “The budget reduces money in redevelopment, overstates revenue. The budget relies on state and federal agencies to bail us out, we need to own the solution, which would demonstrate local control”.

Chris Pia (Town Council Chairman) response: “let’s wait to see how much money from the feds before moving on the budget.”

The proposed budget 2.1 was sent with a Favorable.
Councilors who voted Against 2.1 were: Councilwoman Shake, Councilmen Paul Tavares and Greg Cann.
Editor’s Note: Facts and Figures
(Source: The following information was discussed by the Town Council during this special ordinance committee meeting and this information that can be found in the town’s budget book.

(1) In 2018 the Town of Stratford paid off its 1998 Pension Bond! Per the town’s budget book, this represented a $7.9million annual reduction in expense, the equivalent of a 1.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(2) In December 2020, following the election of President Biden, the Town of Stratford utilized historically low interest rates to re-finance $180million of its long-term debt. The Mayor stated our interest cost savings are $3million, annually. That is the equivalent of a 0.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(3) If you add those numbers (0.5 + 1.0 + 1.7 + 0.7 = 3.9 Mills). The value of a Mill is approximately $4.7m. For the average household, these new monies represent a potential property tax saving of $880 per year.

Question of the Day: So why has our Mill Rate only been reduced by only 0.1 over the past four years?
A. Town’s operating expenses continue to grow at 3.5% – 4.0% per year.
B. The town’s commercial/industrial Grand List has been trending at 1/3 that rate
C. Therefore, despite an extra $17million added to our coffers ($7.2million from State of CT, $9.9million from improved economic conditions,
D. the Town of Stratford cannot reduce its Mill Rate!
E. Yet, the town is collecting an extra 15% from your automobile taxes, and
F. for owners of low and moderately priced residences, the re-valuation hit you with a 20% tax increase, even while Mil Rate decreased by all of 0.1.

Stratford Housing Strategies Public Hearing May 10, 2021

The Ordinance Committee of the Stratford Town Council conducted a public hearing on Tuesday May 4th for residents to give testimony regarding the adopting of the annual operating budget for the Town of Stratford.

The number of residents that signed up to give testimony was extremely disappointing considering that the operating budget is used as a basis to determine our mill rate – which determines our town taxes.

Eight residents spoke out at the hearing and were allotted 3 minutes each. The Stratford Library garnered all of their devoted users. Library supporters outlined what an important resource our town library is, and that cutting $500,000 from the budget would hamper their services and growth. “Programs and books are invaluable, grab and go activities kept residents productive. We are looking for the library to prosper. Budget cuts of 55K are excessive and punitive.”

Residents speaking out believe that the library is the heart and soul of Stratford, and they cited that the library is used daily by almost 700 people; that hours fit into anyone’s schedule; that many students rely on library computers and staff help.

“Stratford is a mixed demographic, and if you look at the Connecticut Mastery Scores you will see that towns with highest scores support their libraries, and have a vibrant, active library.”

Comments on the Board of Education budget by a Stratford resident noted that at the Board of Education Liaison meeting on April 21st, Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked the difficult questions. “Ms. Dancho stated the Board of Education had monies left over year after year and couldn’t spend all of their budget.” According to the audit, this is true. The Board of Education has not used all of the funds allotted to them year after year. Yet they still receive that amount yearly plus additional funding. This is evident in their own documents on their website. In 2018/19 – they had over $400,000 unused and they also encumbered $500,000 for the magnet school tuition bill. In 2019/20 – they had over $700,000 unused at year end. How much will be left over this year? Why not adjust it accordingly?”

“The magnet school bill was paid this year? How, when it wasn’t budgeted in the Board of Education budget? Where did the encumbered funds go? Year after year there were unused funds and where did they go? Where is the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) annual audit?”

“Reevaluations contributed significantly to the grand list this year. What about next year? Think of the taxpayer or homeowner. Look at adjusting accordingly and lower taxes for the homeowner.”
Releasing the BOE audit was helpful in looking at the town budget, but, the town audit still has not be published. Why?

Other resident input regarding the budget (Numbers based on 2021 adopted and 2022 proposed budget):

  • Senator Kelly complains of runaway state spending, yet Governor Lamont is gifting Stratford a onetime $4.7million “distressed municipality” grant which the town has labeled as “COVID Relief”, yet the town is allocating zero ($0.00) toward mitigating costs of COVID.
  • Town is budgeting an extra $9 million of long term debt which 1/2 is to be used to balance the budget – this is like putting your salary on a credit card and paying high interest rates so that your bottom line looks good. This practice is not acceptable business practices.
  • Budget cuts Open Space & Redevelopment funding, and puts EMS Fund in a negative balance – where is the investment in economic development? A vital proactive redevelopment committee is necessary if we are to lift Stratford out of the “distressed community” label.
  • Why is the EMS budget going from $450,000 to $350,000? A loss of $100,000? Their budget includes Pandemic response including vaccination’s, and opioid overdose response/safety, and of course emergency response – all hot topics and needed services. So why reduce their budget? Who is picking up the “slack” when they are unavailable
  • Overhead & Debt: was $58,562,222 and increased to $61,918,922 – an increase of $335,6700. Why? “I would think with the pandemic closing Town Hall for months and new energy initiatives being brought online that there would not be a need for an increase.
  • Education and Travel (office of the mayor) in 2020 the budget was $5,819, now in 2021 and 2022 you are asking for $15,750 — and increase of $9,931 Why? . Due to the COVID-19 pandemic education and travel costs for the Human Resources department were and I quote “have been reduced at this time as educational conferences have been delayed/suspended”, how is it that the Mayor’s department increased by almost $10K?

During the Town Council Special meeting following the Ordinance Committee public hearing, Councilman Gregg Cann (D-Fifth District) stated that if Stratford had a viable economic development we would not have to rely on state money to balance our budget. “The budget reduces money in redevelopment, overstates revenue. The budget relies on state and federal agencies to bail us out, we need to own the solution, which would demonstrate local control”.

Chris Pia (Town Council Chairman) response: “let’s wait to see how much money from the feds before moving on the budget.”

The proposed budget 2.1 was sent with a Favorable.
Councilors who voted Against 2.1 were: Councilwoman Shake, Councilmen Paul Tavares and Greg Cann.
Editor’s Note: Facts and Figures
(Source: The following information was discussed by the Town Council during this special ordinance committee meeting and this information that can be found in the town’s budget book.

(1) In 2018 the Town of Stratford paid off its 1998 Pension Bond! Per the town’s budget book, this represented a $7.9million annual reduction in expense, the equivalent of a 1.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(2) In December 2020, following the election of President Biden, the Town of Stratford utilized historically low interest rates to re-finance $180million of its long-term debt. The Mayor stated our interest cost savings are $3million, annually. That is the equivalent of a 0.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(3) If you add those numbers (0.5 + 1.0 + 1.7 + 0.7 = 3.9 Mills). The value of a Mill is approximately $4.7m. For the average household, these new monies represent a potential property tax saving of $880 per year.

Question of the Day: So why has our Mill Rate only been reduced by only 0.1 over the past four years?
A. Town’s operating expenses continue to grow at 3.5% – 4.0% per year.
B. The town’s commercial/industrial Grand List has been trending at 1/3 that rate
C. Therefore, despite an extra $17million added to our coffers ($7.2million from State of CT, $9.9million from improved economic conditions,
D. the Town of Stratford cannot reduce its Mill Rate!
E. Yet, the town is collecting an extra 15% from your automobile taxes, and
F. for owners of low and moderately priced residences, the re-valuation hit you with a 20% tax increase, even while Mil Rate decreased by all of 0.1.

“The Players may have Changed but the Game Remains the Same”

Stratford Army Engine Plant Development

On May 12th there was a virtual public informational hearing hosted by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the United States Army to review a draft Stewardship Permit Renewal for the Stratford Army Engine Plant Property. Over 75 Stratford residents logged on to the Zoom meeting.

The Stewardship Permit’s purpose is to require the completion of investigation, remediation, and long-term stewardship requirements including monitoring of environmental conditions, engineered controls, and institutional controls, as applicable. The permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions. The Stewardship Permit, which is a 10 year permit, ensures that the statewide environmental remedy remains effective into the future.

The application for the Stewardship Permit is available for inspection at the SAEP website, https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Projects-Topics/Army-Engine-Plant-Environmental-Restoration-Project, and at the Stratford library, and at DEEP’s Record Center, by appointment when open, and the CT DEEP’s webpage listing public notices of proposed permit decisions: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Public-Notices/Public-Notices-Proposed-Actions—Opportunity-for-Comment/Proposed-Individual-Permits.

The Stewardship Permit is for what the Army refers to as the “upland area”. This is separate from the Record of Decision that was signed on March 12th that established a timeline for remediation of the “tidal area”. As a point of clarification, both the “tidal area” and upland area”, the Army Engine Plant, is owned by the United States Army, and, according to the Army, these permits which list all of the remediation that has to be completed, will not be transferred to any entity until that entity is reviewed and deemed having the financial, environmental, and engineering expertise to take over the plant.

Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked if the Town of Stratford had input as to the permit would be transferred. According to Tom Lineer (Army), “maybe to some extent” but it is the Army’s decision on who they select that they best believe would meet the financial obligations on the remaining cleanup. Note: According to Mr. Lineer the cost of the Army Engine Plant cleanup is staggering.

The draft permit identifies the applicant’s obligations to complete environmental clean-up and monitoring of the property, and any future corrective action to ensure that any release of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents have been investigated and remediated to levels protective of human health and the environment, in accordance with Section 22a-133k of the RCSA, known as the Remediation Standard Regulations.

The renewal of this permit (presently held by the US Army) continues the cleanup obligations being implemented at the property. The permit authorizes the completion of environmental investigation, remedial actions where warranted, and as needed, post-closure care, long-term maintenance and monitoring to ensure the corrective actions remain effective into the future. The proposed activity is not expected to adversely affect any natural resources or human health.

All interested persons are invited to express their views on the tentative determination concerning this draft permit. Written comments on the draft permit must be submitted no later than May 21st. Comments provided during the public meeting will also be considered. Written comments should be directed to:

Amanda Killeen, Environmental Analyst, by email at Amanda.Killeen@ct.gov or by postal mail:

Amanda Killeen, Environmental Analyst
Remediation Division
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
79 Elm Street, 2nd Floor
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-5127

The Commissioner will not make a final decision regarding this proposed permit until the public comment period has closed and all comments received verbally at the public meeting or received in writing have been evaluated and addressed.

Historical Information:

The Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP) was a U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command installation and manufacturing facility located in Stratford. In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure of the United States Department of Defense, recommended closure of the plant. On 30 September 1998, Allied Signal concluded operations in the plant and returned it to the US Army.

For the next 11 years the Army was involved with “Team Stratford” to develop the property. There has been support in the development by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who opened up pathways for development, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

In March 2008 the United States Army auctioned the 78-acre site off with a winning bid of $9,612,000 which also included the 1,720,000-square-foot facility of over 50 buildings. This bid failed to be paid off and was placed for rebid. Robert Hartmann of Hartmann Development has a $1 billion plan to develop the former plant into a destination resort, dependent on the US government selling him the entire property for one dollar.

Several Stratford administrations have been working to redevelop Stratford Army Engine Plant property (historically with announcement of development timed for municipal elections) and the issuance of a Stewardship Permit Renewal begins the process of cleanup of contamination.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) leads oversight of the site’s environmental remediation
In 2014 the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the State Senate had passed a bill to create a special tax district at the plant to levy taxes and issue bonds which was viewed as helping to finance the redevelopment project, particularly road construction, sewage systems, and environmental remediation.
According to a statement from Mayor Hoydick in her State of Stratford video/statement she acknowledged that the Record of Decision (ROD) signed in March was the first phase of remediation, the dredging of the mudflats. She stated that “the transfer of the property from the Army to the developer, Point Stratford Renewal, must happen within six months of the signing of the ROC. Note: The Army did not indicate them having received an application from Point Stratford Renewal.

Point Stratford Renewal is a collaboration of at least three separate Connecticut Companies: Loureiro Properties LLC, Development Resources LLC and Sedgwick Partners LLC. Their vision for the former Avco being mixed-use development to accommodate several million square feet of residential, senior living, retail, hotel, entertainment, beer garden, and various commercial/industrial uses.
Presenting for the Army was Tony Delano, Erika Mark, and Tom Lineer; CT DEEP was represented by Amanda Killeen.

Make Your Voice Heard

Public Invited to Comment on Stratford Army Engine Plant Stewardship Agreement

Virtual Hearing on May 12th

Permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions

There will be a virtual public informational hearing hosted by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to review a draft Stewardship Permit Renewal for the Stratford Army Engine Plant Property, held on May 12, 2021, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

The Stewardship Permit’s purpose is to require the completion of investigation, remediation, and long-term stewardship requirements including monitoring of environmental conditions, engineered controls, and institutional controls, as applicable.

The permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions. The Stewardship Permit ensures that the statewide environmental remedy remains effective into the future.

The Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP) was a U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command installation and manufacturing facility located in Stratford. In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure of the United States Department of Defense, recommended closure of the plant. On 30 September 1998, Allied Signal concluded operations in the plant and returned it to the US Army.

For the next 11 years the Army was involved with “Team Stratford” to develop the property. There has been support in the development by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who opened up pathways for development, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

In March 2008 the United States Army auctioned the 78-acre site off with a winning bid of $9,612,000 which also included the 1,720,000-square-foot facility of over 50 buildings. This bid failed to be paid off and was placed for rebid. Robert Hartmann of
Hartmann Development has a $1 billion plan to develop the former plant into a destination resort, dependent on the US government selling him the entire property for one dollar.

Several Stratford administrations have been working to redevelop Stratford Army Engine Plant property (historically with announcement of development timed for municipal elections) and the issuance of a Stewardship Permit Renewal begins the process of cleanup of contamination.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) leads oversight of the site’s environmental remediation

In 2014 the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the State Senate had passed a bill to create a special tax district at the plant to levy taxes and issue bonds which was viewed as helping to finance the redevelopment project, particularly road construction, sewage systems, and environmental remediation.

School Audit Reported

Board of Education Liaison Meeting -4/21/2021 Special Session

By Michael Suntag

Report on the results of the CLA audit (Clifton Larson Allen LLP). Note: audit was originally awarded to Bloom Shapiro, who merged with CLA this year. Jeff Sitwell principal of CLA presented the results of the audit to a special meeting of the Board of Education on April 21st , 2021:

Financial analysis – report has been circulated

Highlights – The study encompasses the years 2017-18, 2018-19,2019-20.

Binding gaps and recommendations:

Sitwell emphasized that there is a now a new leadership structure at the Board of Education (BOE) now – (The prior COO would allow accounts to run into deficit as long as overall budget was not in deficit. It is not allowed any more) – this may have occurred this way in the past and often not identified till the end of the school year ALEO (automated financial system) was configured to allow deficit spending, but this practice is not allowed now – the one exception being payroll – deficit still needs to be met for obvious reasons and then transfer funds after.

Budget transfers in excess of $7,500 needs to go to board for approval (audit found some inconsistences in prior years). Budget transfer control for anything above $7500 needs to be brought to board for approval –minutes did not confirm these transfers, and found significant inconsistencies.

Now the budget processes are paper intensive – the suggestion was to use ALEO to make it more reflective and transparent. Sitwell said that Stratford does a relatively good job of it – most expenditures are encumbered – and the recommendation is to encumber expenditures as soon as possible – out placements are always problematical for speed. And often dollars need to be found at the last moment. CLA suggestion was to encumber up front as much as possible for changeable outpatient dollars.

Purchase order process (PO) – there were instances where purchase orders are not followed to the tee. Purchases are received without the purchase order attached. All users who us PO’s – must be submitted as soon as possible. According to Sitwell, no one has a right to financially commit the district without prior approval and that happens through an approved PO. Money needs to be encumbered so that dollars can be set aside.

This is a cultural shift since it was allowed in the past. Sitwell said that the BOE needs to change the culture, including additional training of administrators’ to put in PO’s. Application security -password security is not where it should be – need to enhance security in financial and other key areas – passwords are not changed regularly and there is a standard out there to consider this higher level of security for financials. New password expirations and security are now in place,

Review of grant management procedures – nothing is formalized and documented for the protocols and controls need to follow.

Town Councilman Bill O’Brien wants another special meeting for questions rather than half an hour. “Are we processing the correct purchase order for the selection of contractors.” CLA did not evaluate whether purchases were from the proper vendor or cheaper vendor.”

The meeting was recessed and reconvene again at another special meeting

Stratford Board of Education names new Superintendent

Stratford School Move Forward

Windsor High School Principal Uyi Osunde names to post

Photo Courtesy of Journal Courier

On Thursday the Board of Education announced that Windsor High School Principal Uyi Osunde has been named the next Superintendent of Schools in Stratford. Osunde is replacing current Superintendent Janet Robinson, who is retiring in June after leading the district since 2013. His start date is July 1.

Osunde, who served as principal at Windsor High School since 2016, possesses a “wealth of school leadership experience, serving as a principal, assistant principal and counselor in Connecticut high schools,” according to a news release.

According to Mr. Uyi Osunde, “I am humbled and excited about the opportunity that Allison DelBene and the Stratford Board of Education have extended in selecting me to lead Stratford Public Schools. I look forward to establishing relationships and collaborating with faculty and staff, parents and guardians, as well as town leaders, to do this work of shepherding our students through, what is hopeful to be, the back end of the coronavirus pandemic.”

He was chosen from a pool of 22 applicants from several states. The search was facilitated by consultants from Trumbull-based Cooperative Educational Services (CES) and The Bryan Group, who guided the district’s search committee through the decision- making process by providing a leadership profile and selection criteria based on results of a survey and focus groups with the district’s various stakeholders, in addition to providing measurable performance criteria drawn from an advanced interview process with candidates.

Education Information for All

Stratford Board of Education Meeting: 1/26/2021

By Michael Suntag

The Stratford Board of Education met at its monthly meeting on the evening of 1/26/2021. Monthly meetings are the last Monday of each month and are held virtually.

During the public forum, 2 speakers presented to the Board. A representative of the Stratford Education Association urged the board to deliberate with caution about opening schools 4 days a week. He spoke to President Biden’s plan for testing and ventilation in order to get students back to school asking why this plan is going into effect now when Our schools do not have testing for all students and in some schools that do not have proper ventilation. He cited cases being higher here than in England where schools have been closed down.

The second speaker, Harold Grace, called in support of the plan to institute an increase in half day Wednesdays for k-8 so that teachers can have time to have structured collaborative time. This would be full day for teachers and half days for students. Time would be used to connect with students who have curriculum needs, to do collaborative planning necessary because of the need to develop new strategies for students caused by school changes in response to COVID-19. Brian Darcey stated that this is beneficial for students and staff – it is not a time off – they are doing more than on non-traditional days – they connect with students who have hard times to connect normally – they connect with tutors, teachers, special projects are definitely a need. Half day for students and full day for teachers.

The Board approved Wednesday half days to begin in two weeks.

Dr. Robinson provided her Superintendent’s Executive Summary Report. She spoke about the State school safety plans being submitted on time. School system is now in complete compliance. Some schools have student cases of positive tests and teacher absences. Dr. Robinson spoke about the protocols that are utilized in each school including daily check in where those with symptoms are flagged to a nurse so they can administer a rapid test. Findings are that students who have positive tests are not picking it up in schools. Teachers are not eligible for vaccinations yet as they do not fall within the 1b cycle.

The Board approved roof replacements and New Solar Arrays for Chapel, Second Hill, Wooster, Bunnell, Stratford Academy and Johnson House.

The Board also approved new curriculum including: Conversations on Race Course, African/Black/Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, College Algebra 2/MAT 120 and Chemistry 2.

Board approved 2 days as snow days. Anything over 2 days will revert to remote learning. Board member stated that there has been four times more students quarantined this week than last. Students are finding it hard to deal with the changes.

Discussion ensued on the social/emotional needs of students. Dr. Robinson spoke about all the work the schools are doing on attending to social/emotional needs of student. There was also discussion about the social/emotional needs of teachers.

Many teachers fear being in schools when there is community spread. Dr. Robinson pointed to the existing mitigations: masks, hand washing, shields, social distance. There is a process for catching those with symptoms and on contract tracing. When teachers can get vaccinated, there will be less concern.

A Board member spoke about her concern for the high school level where student groups are isolated and unsupervised.

Questions were also raised about developing additional strategies for use of virtual programs and for improving the level of academics for those on remote learning including use of a virtual academy model. Dr. Robinson replied that with the changing numbers of students in and out of school it would be hard to develop that type of program as well as with certification issues.

Questions were raised about specific responses to improving instruction virtually. The need for a specific plan or a response to pilot is critical. There needs to be a way to increase learning while children re remotely learning. Why this has not happened over the last several months is problematical according to two board members.

Graduation is set for June 15th . State has mandated that it must happen on that day.

Discussion about students who have been found to be in the wrong school districts. Three students have been identified and work continues on finding those illegally attending Stratford Schools.

Budget preparation workshop begin on Thursday 1/28/2021. The Superintendent search committee is continuing their search and met on Wednesday 1/27/2021.

Town of Stratford: Community Organizations Updates

January 2021

Stratford Community Organizations Council
Meeting Minutes January 7, 2021

Stratford Library:
The library’s popular “Books Over Coffee” series has continued online and via Zoom on monthly Wednesdays.

The Library’s “Sunday Afternoon Talks” series also continues in 2021 on Zoom and the first program will be “An Adventure Through Iceland”, a fascinating travelogue on January 24 from 2- 3 PM. Please see attached flyer for more details.

Current Library Hours: Monday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday: 10 -5, Tuesday/Wednesday: 1-8 pm

Square One Theatre Company:

The theatre is currently closed and plans on reopening in November 2021 to finally continue its 30 anniversary season. Call 203-375-8778 for more information.

Stratford Health Department:

Health Department has started their COVID-19 vaccine clinics for Phase 1a employees which includes healthcare personnel, first responders, and long-term care facility residents. We are waiting for guidance from CDC and CT DPH about Phase 1b.

Stratford Crier:

Stratford Crier is up and running. Please send organization information that you would like included in the Crier to barbara@stratfordcrier.com.

Stratford Historical Society:
The Historical Society will reopen on January 12th by appointment only.

On January 31st at 2 pm there will be a wrap-up of 2020. Talking about how the suffrage experience was different here in Stratford and how it was a unique experience compared other towns.

Visit the Historical Society website at stratfordhistoricalsociety.org to view historic pictures and puzzles.

Visit the Facebook page Stratford 400 to receive information and news on the 400th annual celebration.

Stratford Senior Center:
Baldwin continues to process their Energy Assistance applications. Operation Fuel has started for the winter season. Baldwin has received 10k and has additional funds from the CDBG grant to assist their families this season.

Baldwin will continue their virtual programs. If any one is offering programs that they think may be of interest to seniors, please let them know and they can advertise it in their newsletter.

The weekly meal drive-thru continues to be very popular. Baldwin recently offered a meal from Vazzy’s and will be doing a Mac and Cheese Drive-thru next week.

A bid for floors and paint will be presented to the Town Council next week. Hopeful that they will be able begin renovations soon.

Baldwin will be joining a consortium with surrounding towns and GBT to take seniors to their medical appointments that are out of town.

Baldwin received an additional bus that will be used to transport seniors.

Arts Alliance of Stratford:
First figure drawing class of the year was held via zoom on1/6/21. Classes are being offered and can be found on website at artsallianceofstratford.org/arts-workshops-2021/

Follow Arts Alliance of Stratford on Facebook and Instagram.

Stratford CARE:
The CARE reads program needs volunteers to help read books to Stratford students pre-k to 3rd grade. Volunteers will record themselves reading a book that will be then be distributed to the Stratford classrooms. Those who cannot go to the library for the recording are able to record at home. If you are interested, please email Tammy at tammlangston@gmail.com

The next Courageous Conversations Zoom session will be on January 21 st .

South End Community Center:
SECC will be offering free income tax assistance for those whose annual income is less then $53,000. Call South End to make an appointment to drop off your tax documents.

Stratford Continuing Education:
Located at Wooster Middle School. Offering classes through their Enrichment program and offering GED classes starting January 26 th .

Sterling House:
Sterling House will remain open on MLK Day.

Sterling House is receiving a lot of calls from teens looking for volunteer opportunities. If you know of an organization that could use volunteers, please call Pam Robertson.

Stratford Planning and Zoning:
The Stratford Housing Partnership is conducting a community survey about housing needs in Stratford and possible housing strategies for the future.

The Housing Partnership is a Town Committee established in 1990 and reinvigorated in 2020 to, among other things:

  • Examine housing needs and housing opportunities within the Town
  • Periodically advise Town Boards and Commissions with regard to housing matters, including affordable housing.
  • Develop and activate a long-range plan to satisfy housing needs in the Town (as required by State law).

As an individual served by a non-profit organization in Stratford, the Housing Partnership is particularly interested in your thoughts about local housing needs and possible housing strategies in Stratford. We would greatly appreciate your participation in this survey.

Housing survey link for staff of organizations/councils:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Stratford_Organizations

Housing survey link for individuals served by various organizations in town:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Stratford_Needs

Stratford Economic Development:
Shakespeare Market taking place 1/17 at the Shakespeare property.

Like them on Facebook for up-to-date information on the Market!

Beautification Committee:
Committee is in the process of removing holiday decorations and planning for their spring plantings.

Stratford YMCA:
You can see YMCA programs that are up and running for the new year their website: www.stratfordymca.org

Stratford Town Council Meeting

Summary of December 14, 2020 Meeting

The following town residents spoke during the Public Hearing portion of the Stratford Town Council meeting:

Mike Aloi, President of the Stratford Library Association. Mr. Aloi updated the Town Council on current library programs, as well as reported on the future of the Library. According to Mr. Aloi the current building is inadequate for town needs. Meeting spaces are cramped, the stem lab is small, teen department is next to main computer room. The state average for library meeting space is for 125 people, ours is 80. Stratford Library has .68 square feet of space, state average, 1.1 square feet, which would mean that the Stratford Library would need an additional 22,000 square feet to meet that average. Mr. Aloi is seeking Council assistance to do a study to increase the library space.

Karen Tracy and Kathleen Callahan commented on a resolution presented by Councilwoman Shake that would declare racism as a Public Health issue in town. Ms. Tracy felt that the revised resolution by the Town Council did not include any of the input from public and asked that the Town Council go back and revisit the resolution.

Ms. Callahan noted that she would like to see Stratford on leading edge of addressing racism, rather than on the sidelines.

Barbara Heimlich, had questions regarding the CARES act: requesting information on who submitted applications and who received the grants. Ms. Heimlich also inquired about the Baldwin Senior Center fresh food program, who has the contract for the program, and is the program still active? Also would like transparent information on the Stratford Grand List for the last 2 years, who came on and who left.

Upon adjournment of the Public Hearing, the Stratford Town Council held their regularly scheduled meeting.

Mayor Laura Hoydick’s “Mayor’s Report”

The Mayor’s Report included the following:

Connecticut CARES, will give grants to qualified businesses, up to $2,500. To date 28 businesses have applied.

Center School: There are currently 2 proposals, which will be presented to the Stratford Redevelopment Agency at their January meeting.

Shakespeare Property Subcommittee:
Also to be discussed during the January meeting of the Stratford Redevelopment Agency is a report on the development of the Shakespeare Theatre property. During the December 3rd meeting of the Redevelopment Agency, there was a presentation of Shakespeare Property Subcommittee research by Chairman Greg Reilly. Mr. Reilly
reviewed the previously distributed information packet re: research findings citing 15 comparable facilities as examples. The example facilities cited are located in other States as well as in Connecticut. Categories for consideration for development are Open Space/Park options, outdoor venues, multipurpose spaces – small, multipurpose spaces – large, combination venues. Each category was described and the location cited. Suggestions for immediate property improvement, community vision and funding were also discussed.

Short-term/long-term uses for the Stratford site were reviewed as well as input from the 5 community workshops and the survey. Short-term use included outdoor theater, festivals, fairs, and open space.

During the Question and Answer session of the meeting, questions and discussion went forward re: identifying sources of redevelopment revenue for the Stratford Shakespeare Property, non-profit financial support for the cited example venues, clarifying usage of waterfront property. Next steps for crafting a vision which is consistent with the deed’s call for public access, having open space and possibility for future development.

Development in phases, short and long term and combine enhancement with Complete Streets and Greenway Projects. The street below the Stratford Shakespeare property, Shore Road, was discussed. The street is not part of the property. It becomes flooded during high tides and storms. It needs to be elevated but has chemical contamination underneath. It was suggested that the staircase that previously existed from Shore Road to Shakespeare Property become restored. It is noted that such a staircase must be ADA compliant. Remediation of the existing buildings on the property is noted.

Mayor Hoydick pointed out that the costume house is not worth rehabbing. Information was put forward re: encumbrances to property, survey is complete, plans for adjoining wetlands, 1500 year flood plain, Zoning restrictions and easement to property.

Army Engine, end of year report expected.
495 Lordship Boulevard, demolition complete, the developer is in the process of getting building permit for the 260-thousand-foot building.
91 Wood Avenue is presently town property; it will be offered to neighbors before then thrown out for sale for development. Possibility of 3 building lots.
Exit 32 and Exit 33 is moving along, with an expected release of property to be negotiated with former Ross and Roberts property and Hudson paper. The Mayor also commented on the Hawley lane traffic issue which has been a source of complaints, she said it is being addressed.

The Mayor also said that the 2 year look-back on Grand List requested by Councilwoman Kaitlyn Shake will be presented at the next Town Council meeting.

Following the Mayor’s Report the Town Council presented, and approved an ordinance to create an Education Reserve Fund pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 10- 248a to provide funding resources solely for future Board of Education non-recurring expenses such as capital, technology, and/or unanticipated special education expenditure funding needs.

Contributions to Fund. Subject to audit confirmation of the Board of Education’s available year-end balance and the status of the unassigned General Fund balance, the Town Council may, except as provided below, deposit into a nonlapsing account any unexpended funds of the prior fiscal year from the budgeted appropriation for education for the town. This amount may not exceed two percent (2%) of the total budgeted appropriation for education for such prior fiscal year, or such other percentage as authorized by Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-248a.

The appropriation shall not be considered by the Town Council until the end of the third quarter of the current fiscal year. If, prior to the appropriation being made, the State of Connecticut reduces and/or withholds ECS revenue in an amount greater than provided for in the Town budget, the appropriation request of the Board of Education may be denied in part or in whole.

The Education Reserve Fund shall be part of the Town’s pooled cash account or a separate cash account in the custody of the Town Finance Director. The Town Finance Director may, from time to time, invest all or any part of the monies in said Education Reserve Fund in any securities in which public funds may lawfully be invested. All income derived from such investments shall be paid into the Town’s General Fund and become a part thereof.

The Board of Education shall also maintain a ledger of the deposits and withdrawals of the fund within their records