[Editor's Note: The following is an open letter to fellow residents of New Milford from Terry Pellegrini, a longtime New Milford and former town attorney.]
This week, I thought I would talk about the downtown, the business community and some ideas for improving our local economy.
The reason that Kent, Great Barrington and Manchester, Vt. are vibrant communities is that U.S. Route 7 runs through these towns.
New Milford needs to drive traffic off Route 7 and into the downtown.
The only thing New Milford has to drive traffic off of 7 is a sign a previous mayoral administration put up on the wrong side of the road that can't be read at 10 miles per hour, let alone 30 or 40 miles per hour.
A new sign that just went up on the old Southworth property is not the solution.
My suggestion is the town and/or the business community put up a sign at the Brookfield line, on the east side of Route 7, that says " Welcome to New Milford, Gateway to Litchfield County " and add " Welcome center just ahead."
Locate a welcome center next to Larson's stand. Maybe just a tent manned on weekends with maps of the downtown and brochures on the various businesses and attractions.
In the fall, have hay bales, cider, apples, etc.
Next, get permission from the state to locate a sign on Route 7 just before Bridge Street that stopped or slowed traffic can observe and have it say, " Historic Village Center, Shops and Restaurants, Turn Right."
To this end, I would again encourage the town and private sector to come up with a viable plan to close Bank Street off to vehicular traffic at least one day a weekend, if not two.
Encourage the restaurants to have outdoor dining, even in the street, as is done in Europe. Provide entertainment and activities for kids such as face painting.
The town also needs to decide if it is "motorcycle friendly." Anyone concerned about this should visit downtown Kent on a Saturday.
Today's bikers are CEOs , executives and other professionals who enjoy riding.
The downtown has made great strides in the last five years due in large part to Gary Goldring, who has renovated the Bank Street Theater, which attracted 85,000 people to Bank Street last year, and who has acquired several other buildings on the street Street including the old Slone Pharmacy, which bodes well for Bank Street.
Also, a tip of the hat to the other restaurateurs and merchants who have invested in the downtown.
Let's keep up the momentum
Some of you may remember my " Manifesto " of several years ago.
It evoked some spirited discussion but, now several years later, not much has happened. The politicians on both sides seem to have gone back to business as usual and the old kick the can down the road method of governing.
So, I thought I might revisit some things and see where we are at:
First, let's talk about the town's pension plan. As I understand, it is a "defined benefit plan". This is a plan where the town must pay a fixed amount to a retiree irrespective of what happens in the marketplace or whether to town's income goes down.
These " Cadillac plans" the private sector did away with in the '80s. Why do we still have it ? It is these plans that have bankrupted Stockton, Calif., and several other cities in Rhode Island and Alabama.
Do we have a unfunded pension liability?
What are the actuarial assumptions and are they valid?
Why should a police officer retire and make more than what he was making while working ?
You the citizens of the town of New Milford should be asking your representative to answer these questions publicly. Also, since the mayor is on the plan, she should obviously recuse herself.
I think the Town Council should appoint an independent committee to review the plan and make recommendations for freezing it and go to a 401K type plan.
That's my two cents. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Pellegrini is a resident of New Milford.