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First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told fellow selectmen March 19 that he was following through on a campaign promise made last fall in requesting the board establish a new ad-hoc committee. That panel, consisting of local business leaders and other volunteers, would act as liaisons between Newtown business community members and the Board of Selectmen.
Mr Rosenthal introduced the concept of appointing a Newtown Business Advisory Committee (NBAC), and circulated a proposed framework to his colleagues ahead of the meeting.
That framework included a host of general responsibilities that the first selectman envisions committee members taking on.
The committee, first and foremost, would exist to provide recommendations and guidance to the Board of Selectmen on ways Newtown can improve its business climate, the proposal states.
Members would be asked to recommend revisions to town policies and regulations with an objective of retaining existing businesses and attracting new businesses to the community.
Mr Rosenthal told Selectmen Jeff Capeci and Maureen Crick Owen that the committee could be established pursuant to Section 2-115(e) of the Newtown Charter, and all actions related to the committee, its work, and appointees would be subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen.
Mr Rosenthal believes the NBAC should be representative of the town’s business diversity and be comprised of not more than nine members.
In addition, the formation proposal states that no business sector would be represented by more than three members, and no individual business shall be represented by more than one member.
All members would have to represent businesses located in Newtown.
Mr Rosenthal said he would welcome the participation of various non-voting members when the NBAC agenda might call for their input. Among those suggested members were: chairman or designee from Economic Development Commission; president or designee of Newtown Chamber of Commerce; and an editor or designee from The Newtown Bee.
Meetings shall be held at least quarterly, and a designee would be asked to provide periodic updates to the selectmen. The NBAC would also be permitted to appoint its own ad hoc committees to assist with special projects.
Mr Rosenthal said in a preliminary look across Connecticut by the statewide Conference of Municipalities, it appears Newtown might be the first town in the state to form such a committee.
“It’s really to give local businesses a seat at the table of local government,” Mr Rosenthal said, adding it was just another way to get more creative about retaining and building Newtown’s grand list of commercial taxpayers.
The first selectman said the chamber and EDC were both supportive of the idea, and he would plan to come forward with a list of potential appointees at a future meeting.
“I want this to be a business-driven effort,” Mr Rosenthal said. “There’s a lot of interest behind creating a public forum where business (owners) and people could come.”
Selectman Capeci added that its success would be “incumbent on the business community embracing it as well.”
New Brownfields Grant
Kimberly Chiapetta, Newtown’s Economic & Community Development & Fairfield Hills Coordinator, also presented to the selectmen on March 19.
She explained that her office under the guidance of her department leader, Crystal Preszler, the town would be seeking a $200,000 grant through the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Regional Brownfields Partnership, that would bring a significant benefit as further development occurs at Fairfield Hills.
The grant would cover the expense of having an engineering firm complete a new and up-to-date mapping of campus utility infrastructures, so that when the time comes to upgrade existing systems, a new and comprehensive plan would be available.
Ms Preszler, Newtown’s Deputy Director, Economic & Community Development, told The Newtown Bee after the meeting that if the grant is awarded, “at some point, the campus sewers — which are old and deep — will need to be replaced. So these drawings would illustrate an upgraded system for sewer, stormwater, and water.”
Ms Chiapetta told selectmen that the town would be required to pledge a ten percent match — or $20,000 — if the grant was awarded. She said the application would also include letters of support from campus users like the NYA, as well as others with interests in the improvement of Fairfield Hills.
Ms Preszler further clarified those users might include members of the local Conservation Commission or Trout Unlimited, which has an interest in the abutting Pootatuck River. Ms Preszler said their voice is important as it would speak to the environmental impact of current stormwater runoff from the campus, and how improvements illustrated in new plans would help mitigate its effects to the river — a pristine trout-breeding ground.