SOUTHINGTON — Town Council leaders say they are halting and evaluating forums for local businesses run by the town and the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce.
Dawn Miceli, council vice chairwoman and a Democrat, said funding for the forum, done in conjunction with the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce, was “low-hanging fruit” if budget cuts are needed. Topics have included marketing for small businesses, retirement planning, and branding.
“Our numbers were down. We had the same people every time,” she said. “It’s time to pause.”
Michael Riccio, a Republican councilor, said he didn’t want the programs cut without a council discussion. Democrats told him no decision had yet been made.
The forums were recommended by the economic develop strike committee, which was eliminated this year by the Democratic council majority. Chris Palmieri, council chairman and a Democrat, said he wants economic development issues discussed by the entire council, and will have regular discussions about the topic at council meetings.
Riccio has criticized the move, saying it shows the current council doesn’t have a focus on economic development.
During Monday’s meeting, Democratic Councilor John Barry said Riccio was “rehashing the election from November” with his criticisms.
“I’m glad those forums helped your business, Mike,” Barry also said. “Taxpayer money was being used to basically wine and dine people. We’re seeing if it works.”
Miceli, a member of the economic strike committee dissolved this year, said she’d advocated for the breakfast and lunch business gatherings. The cost to the town was a few thousand dollars. While that’s not a lot, Miceli said the town will have to look closely at any spending that isn’t vital.
“I think that they were worthwhile,” she said. “While this is a nice thing to do, it’s a want versus a need.”
Riccio also questioned whether Palmieri had unilaterally decided to permanently halt the business forums. He asked to be included in any discussions about the program’s future.
“It sounds like that decision was made by one person,” he said.
Palmieri said no decision had been made and that the whole council would be able to weigh in.