HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– State lawmakers are getting ready to tackle the big issues during this session, but small towns are worried their concerns might be overlooked.
“I hereby call to order the 46th annual meeting of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns,” said First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker (D-Bethel) to begin the 2021 meeting of COST.
The meeting was all virtual, done over Zoom, and it was mostly about the concerns those small towns have for the state legislature. One big concern is about affordable housing. Every town has to develop an affordable housing plan in the next year, and the more rural ones, especially, have questions. The senate’s top democrat has one idea.
“To look at facilities like train stations or bus depots and set a certain radius within those that greater density development should be allowed than would normally be allowed under the zoning standards for that community,” said State Senator Martin Looney, President Pro Tempore of the State Senate.
“It’s not just looking at, ‘Oh we need a solution on housing,'” countered the Senate Minority Leader, republican Kevin Kelly. “I think we need a solution on the Connecticut economy, and for far too long, we’ve had one party rule that has led us to this point.”
Democrats point out the new administration in Washington should be coming out with more aid to help those towns
“You’re going to see numbers on Friday that are a lot better than people thought,” said the new democratic Speaker of the House, Matt Ritter. “We’re not looking to cut you at all, but the real question is going to be the federal funds.”
The pandemic has destroyed budgets at all levels. All the time at home has also revealed issues with utilities.
“I would say the cost of electricity in Connecticut is a stumbling block to economic development, but we need to address broadband,” said First Selectman Jayme Stevenson (R-Darien). “People working and learning from home need to have reliable broadband service.”
With last year’s decision to close the trash incinerator plant in Hartford, small towns are also wondering where they will have to send their garbage.
“I am not happy that we are going to be hauling our trash out to other states,” said First Selectman Barbara Henry (R-Roxbury). “I think it is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and environmentally, I think it’s shameful.”
As with all these concerns, the question is: How much is it going to cost these towns?