Letter: New Milford mayor weighs in on Panda power plant
I was elected mayor of New Milford and I take that responsibility seriously.
There are residents that have the luxury to say they like it the way it is; there is no need for development; the people that want jobs can commute; if we need more revenue just raise taxes.
Theirs is a vision of rural tranquility. I respect that and have taken the initiative by working to preserve open space and farms, open up our river front for recreation, and collaborating on the restoration of historic landmarks like Boardman Bridge.
But there are other residents of our town who do not get to enjoy its character because they are struggling to work and keep a roof over their family’s heads; they are senior citizens forced to decide between paying taxes or paying for needed medication; they are commuting over an hour and sacrificing family time to support them.
They cry out for investment in our Library, sports program, and education, but face rejected budgets and limited funding.
Faced with this economic and social reality, I do not have the luxury to say that the Panda Power project and the 300 to 500 construction jobs, 30 full-time jobs, infusion of economic activity, tax revenue estimated between $6 and $10 million per year, and $2.8 million revenue from the sale of the property, is something New Milford can do without.
I have to have an open mind to such a project because the alternative is the status quo and stagnation, which is not working for us.
There has been vehement opposition to the Panda Power proposal at the Century Brass site.
Much of the opposition has been formed without an evaluation of the facts, the technical details of what is proposed, and the practical effect on our community from both a social, economic, and environmental point of view.
They recite “Sempra” like a mantra without acknowledging the differences in the projects, the advances in clean technology over the past 20 years, the difference between an “air cooled” and “water cooled” plant; and the pollutants we breathe from coal and oil fired plants that projects like this will help close.
They oppose this yet thousands of homes have fired up their oil furnaces and a similar plant has been operating next door to the Pettibone elementary school and sports fields for years.
This is not 1998 and this is not “Sempra.”
Panda will still have to meet DEEP, EPA, and Siting Council requirements, giving the town and the community the opportunity to address concerns and propose solutions, including rejecting the project.
We want to invest in our community, ease the tax burden on our residents, and preserve the rural charm of our town.
I believe this project will satisfy those conditions.
Come to the informational meetings scheduled Nov. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. at Sarah Noble Intermediate School and Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. at town hall.
Ask questions at Pandapowerquestions@gmail.com.
I am offering this issue to the town to vote at a referendum, so the people of New Milford can decide.
The issues transcend one person or one group and I hope everybody will keep an open mind when coming to a decision.
Mayor David R. Gronbach