CHESHIRE – After 47 years, the town is seeking to end its partnership with Chesprocott Regional Health District and join a newly branded organization, the South Central Health District.
The new entity is based in Southington and includes Plainville. Cheshire’s departure and new membership, which are subject to approval by the Town Council, will be considered during a pair of public hearings scheduled for Oct. 10.
Under state law, Connecticut’s health districts have responsibility for a variety of services including septic and well inspections, emergency preparedness, and health education. Chesprocott currently serves the towns of Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott, but Cheshire has the most votes on the board, and, as the largest town, contributes the most funding.
What happens next to Chesprocott remains to be determined.
The move came as a shock to Chesprocott Director of Health Maura Esposito, who said the news, which was delivered in the afternoon of Monday, leaves her “dumbfounded.”
“Today it’s about trying to understand why this decision happened,” Esposito said. “We’ve always tried to be very fiscally conservative to help the health district without burdening the municipalities.”
Cheshire officials, meanwhile, stated that this decision “was not entered into lightly.”
“We have the utmost respect for Chesprocott’s history with the town,” commented Town Manager Sean Kimball. “If you have an opportunity to improve services and convenience at a significant cost savings, then we have an obligation to at least consider that.”
One driver of the proposed change is an expected reduction in per capita expenses, which, if the move is approved, Kimball projects will save the town at least $126,000 annually.
The new health district’s plans include having staff members working at Cheshire’s Town Hall.
Chesprocott is currently located at 1247 Highland Ave.
Kimball suggests that having a “one stop” location for businesses and residents seeking permits or other services will be a benefit of the move.
He also noted that there would immediately be some familiarity between Cheshire and Southington, as the new Health District’s director, Susan Lonczak, was formerly a staffer at Chesprocott.
Esposito points out that Southington’s Health District has had the advantage of having office space in its town hall building. “They haven’t had to pay for overhead or infrastructure,” she argued. Chesprocott, on the other hand, has been seeking to buy or lease more adequate space for its staff for several years, she stated.
However, Esposito, who took her position in 2014 but first started working at Chesprocott in 1992, is insistent that her staff has provided top-notch service to the community, and points to the recent example of the COVID-19 pandemic and the work done by her and her staff during the public health crisis.
“The Governor wanted vaccinations starting on Dec. 28 (2020): we started on Jan. 2 (2021),” she recalled, mentioning 18,000 vaccinations administered over 200 clinics, including to essential medical personnel and first responders.
“The question is whether they’ll (Cheshire) get the services I’m providing and have provided,” Esposito said.
If approved, the changes won’t take effect until end of the current fiscal year, in June of 2024.
“It’s an opportunity we think is in the best interests of the town,” Kimball said.