New Milford mayor highlights achievements in year in review
NEW MILFORD — Getting the most out of each tax dollar and better connecting the public with the government were the focus of Mayor Pete Bass’s year in review speech last week where he detailed the accomplishments from his first year in office.
“The better we plan, the better we look at opportunities, the better we can return investments for you the taxpayer,” Bass said.
He highlighted the infrastructure investments including starting a program to fix the town’s roads, which he said was the biggest complaint he heard from residents while campaigning. Bass made the roads committee permanent, which is working with the public works department and town council to create a road plan and maintain a schedule that ensures construction can start in the spring. He said this timing makes it more likely for the projects to be completed in a season and is generally cheaper.
Bass expects the town roads to be in a good position in five to eight years. The next round of road repairs will come before Town Council for approval in the coming weeks.
The town has purchased a machine that fills potholes and allows the town to fill more potholes with only one employee. Bass said residents can soon report and track pothole repairs through an app and create a metric to measure the program.
Breaking out the building costs for each department is another way the town is working on efficiencies. The town’s vehicle fleet will be managed under one system instead of the previous method of different departments overseeing their own. The system tracks the vehicles’ locations, fuel, mileage and maintenance.
The town and schools are working together on capital projects to save money and be more efficient. Both are switching to the state health insurance plan, which is expected to save the town about $2.5 million.
Bass said the town also had financial accomplishments this year, including improving its bond rating and closing the $2.2 million cut in state funding. This was done by examining each line, not filling vacancies and laying off employees. The schools saved and cut to close the gap.
“One of the hardest things I had to do was lay off some town employees,” Bass said. “It was something we had to to right the ship and move the town forward.”
Bass did add a few positions though, including a community investment officer to attract more businesses and guide then through the town’s process quicker. He added a grant writer to try to secure state, local and private dollars.
“We’ve been able to get some funding for wonderful things,” he said.
He said the town is expanding trails and improving parks, as well as better connecting the downtown with the river. The town received a grant for the river trail, they are implementing walking loops and creating the River Fest. The sidewalk program started under the Mayor David Gronbach is also continuing.
Bass said he improved transparency by livestreaming Town Council meetings, hosting monthly coffee with the mayor sessions, updating the town website with information about the town’s departments and emergencies to Facebook. He continued, revived or created committees, including community center and facilities committees.
“The more people who can be engaged and the more people who know what we’re doing, the better,” he said.