Highlights Infrastructure Projects, Avoids Dwelling on Tax Hike
By Phil Hall – July 28th, 2023
Westfair Business Journal
Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick called attention a diverse spread of municipal activity in her 2023 State of the Town address, but she opted not to focus heavily on the town’s first tax hike since 2018.
Hoydick began her YouTube-based presentation by thanking “residents and business owners for your collaboration with our town government over the last year, helping us to expand and improve our departments and services as we work towards our goals for the town’s future.” She also offered her praise to the members of the town council for supporting her administration’s budget policies during her mayoralty, pointing to “a reduction in the mill rate and taxes” over past years five years” while highlighting that Stratford’s grand list has grown 2.86% over 2021 to over $143 million.
Hoydick provided no financial data in discussing this year’s municipal budget, which she defined as “a slight shift from the previous five-year trend” – perhaps a too-polite way of acknowledging the town’s first tax increase in six years, a 1.87% hike to cover the $254.27 million budget. However, she defended the move by stating it “balances the realities of what we’re faced with in the current economic climate and the challenges that come with it.” She stressed that her administration was focused on “streamlining and finding efficiencies across departments” in order to “minimize the financial impact on our hardworking residents and businesses of Stratford,” adding that a ratcheting up of grant applications has brought in more funds.
“We’ve taken the strategic approach to apply and receive more grants for infrastructure, sustainability, resiliency, flood and stormwater management, conservation and community service projects,” she said. “These projects define our priorities when we look towards the future and quality of life in Stratford, encompassing the whole wellness of the town as we move forward.”
Hoydick pointed out developmental projects that Stratford launched in the past year. This included the town’s Plan of Conservation Development (POCD), which she described as “a roadmap for the next 10 years – and it covers everything from our goals for housing, land use zoning or conservation environmental efforts, our educational development, economic growth, and our dedication to health and community services.” she said.
Hoydick said the POCD would shortly be available for residents’ review and input. She also noted a rewriting of the town’s zoning regulations was underway, which she predicted would “shape much of Stratford’s future.”
The mayor called attention to the 77-acre Stratford Army Engine Plant site, which is now the subject of a “comprehensive design” that would transform the property into a waterfront park. She admitted the transformation of the property took longer than hoped for and she expressed her “gratitude for the collective patience of residents who have been waiting for this moment for quite some time.”
Elsewhere in Stratford, Hoydick continued, were other projects including the remediation and development of the former Ross & Roberts site on West Broad Street and the former Center School on Sutton Avenue, as well as upgrades to Main Street designed to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.
The State of the Town also called attention to one of the Stratford’s most notable corporate residents, with Hoydick declaring that Sikorsky Aircraft “remains focused on growth, both at their plant and with their suppliers.” She shared that the Lockheed Martin subsidiary was confident on the continued production of its aircraft and its longstanding relationship with the U.S. Department of the Army.
Other projects in Hoydick’s spotlight included Parkway Plaza behind Ryder’s Landing – she noted the property was “being cleared to make way for development, which will include retail offices and a waterfront hotel. This will begin with Starbucks, which plans to open by Labor Day.” She also cited a variety of smaller eateries and retail businesses that have recently opened around the town. Two other long-percolating projects – the Superfund cleanup along the Ferry Boulevard and East Main Street corridors and the redevelopment of the former site of the American Shakespeare Theatre property – were briefly cited.
Hoydick also stressed that getting around town was a lot more aesthetically pleasing thanks to municipal workers.
“The pothole crew has been on the roads every day – sidewalks are being patched and curbs are being repaired, and brooks and streams are cleaned weekly,” she said. “Our garage division continues to serve as our entire vehicle fleet, which consists of DPW trucks, police, fire and EMS vehicles. Our parks division is currently in various phases on a number of playground projects, including upgrades to Johnson House and Franklin School, a playground replacement at Chapel School and a new interactive playground system for the Birdseye Complex which will be enjoyed by seniors, adults, young adults and children. Park staff is currently cleaning up massive amounts of debris that washes ashore during the year that ends up at Short Beach, the mouth of the river and Long Beach.”
In addition to offering updates on several public works and engineering projects, Hoydick offered her commendation to the Stratford Health Department and the town’s police and fire departments and EMS operations for continuing their focus on maintaining public health and safety.
“Everything that we do is in service to our hardworking Stratford residents and businesses,” she said in closing. “This town is able to run as smoothly as possible and it has been an ever-evolving operation thanks to the contributions of our various departments, our residents and our local organizations working collaboratively to find solutions and efficiencies. I am grateful for the elected volunteers who continue to serve the constituency, and to the passion, the communication and the cooperation that I see each day makes Stratford a wonderful place to live. I am confident in the state of our town right now and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Stratford’s future.”