SOUTHINGTON — Town Council leaders touted their efforts to bring more business to town and grow existing establishments at the Southington Chamber of Commerce dinner Tuesday at the Manor Inn Restaurant.
The State-of-the-Town dinner included elected town officials, town government staff and business leaders.
“The current Town Council and the town management are focused on economic growth,” said Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio, a Republican.
He listed some of the measures the town was taking to promote itself as a destination for visitors and a good place to do business. The town has plans to expand sewer service, an item subject to a referendum. Riccio said he and other town leaders will visit the executives of Lincoln College of New England in Southington to talk about expanding the campus. The town is also planning symposiums to help small businesses grow.
Differences over the proposed town budget also arose Tuesday night. Councilor John Barry, a Democrat, said he had concerns about the level of spending and debt projected for future years.
“The level of debt is a serious issue. The level of spending is not sustainable,” he said.
Town Manager Garry Brumback proposed spending $4.27 million from the town’s reserves on capital projects such as roads and vehicle purchases. His budget will be considered by the Board of Finance and ultimately voted on by the Town Council.
Barry said drawing from the reserve fund could result in the town’s bond rating to be lowered or hurt the town in an emergency.
Riccio said the spending from cash reserves helped avoid borrowing expenses and were an investment in the town. The projects in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget were “long overdue,” he said.
“We’ve really tried to stretch our buildings,” Riccio said. “Things were let go for far too long.”
Riccio also said the Board of Finance members wouldn’t let the town’s reserves fall to a level that would hurt bond ratings.
Audience members were able to write anonymous questions for the councilors at the dinner. Question topics included the town budget, town benefits to businesses renovating abandoned buildings and the future of the Hospital of Central Connecticut Bradley Memorial Campus.
Councilor Victoria Triano, a Republican, said the council was talking with hospital leaders.
“I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” she said. “It may change in what it provides for us.”
Another question asked was whether the town tracks how much of its spending goes to businesses in Southington. Councilor Dawn Miceli, a Democrat, said she’s glad when bids results include a number of town businesses. Efforts are made to find local companies that can bid on town work.
“Whenever we can, we try to spread the word and keep it local,” she said.