Newtown begins 2014 next week with more momentum and resolve than any turning of the New Year we can remember. Coming off a year in which stock-taking was a daily priority and not simply saved for last days of December, the community is primed to get started.
First on the agenda is establishing the financial framework for getting things done. The Board of Finance, Legislative Council, and town administrators are already laying the groundwork for months of budget reviews and deliberations. The conversation tends to be numerical, transforming the real stuff of community — like snowplows, patrol officers, and soccer fields — into dollars and cents, return on investment calculations, and that oft-cited, never-quantified bang for the buck. That is to say, it is not the most stimulating conversation for those of us who are not budget wonks.
We should remember, though, that lines in the town’s operating budget and in the recommended capital improvement plan (CIP) for 2014-15 will ultimately converge in the years ahead in essential services and tangible bricks and mortar: for a new Hook & Ladder firehouse; for a new community center, courtesy of General Electric; and for the new Sandy Hook School, courtesy of the State of Connecticut.
These projects alone will mark this new chapter of our community life as a milestone in the town’s development. It will be a period of construction comparable to the legendary era of Mary Hawley’s late-life philanthropy in the early 1930s, when the town took a giant leap forward in its public facilities. And there are many other plans afoot in both public and private sectors that will give shape and direction to our current brimming reserves of aspiration and promise.
As with any community endeavor, however, success or failure will depend on how invested the people of Newtown are in the process of seeing each project through. And, as always, the more time and attention citizens invest in that process, the greater the returns.
We cannot think of a time when the people of Newtown have been more engaged in community life, more willing to listen to each other, or more motivated to be smart and get it right. It is a great place to start a brand-new year.