Johnson glimpses future of Glastonbury
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Apr. 29, 2011
Town Manager Richard Johnson gave a glimpse of Glastonbury's future, as the lecture series “G'bury Gems” wrapped up at the Glastonbury Senior Center on April 27.
Johnson outlined several things that have been going on in town that will be continuing, including the town's AAA bond rating, which will enable the town to pay lower interest on loans, as it has in the past.
“From a financial management standpoint,” he said, “I think Glastonbury rates right at the top of the heap. It translates directly into cost savings.”
Over the past few years, the town has already saved $1.75 million in debt service through refinancing debts, partially due to that rating.
While the town is always looking to find grants and other funding for community projects, Johnson said he was surprised at the dollar figure that came up in his research.
“Over the past two or three years, Glastonbury has received about $21 million in state and federal grants. Those are dollars able to fund town projects, that don't go directly to the Glastonbury taxpayer,” he said.
The town has also saved money by becoming its own health insurance provider, negotiating with town employees, and other steps, while maintaining a highly successful land preservation program, balanced with economic development.
Compared to other towns, Glastonbury has also led the way in energy-saving and eco-friendly efforts.
“We have put ourselves on the map in terms of these innovations,” Johnson said.
As for the future, Johnson said, the Glastonbury East Hartford Elementary Magnet School, slated to open in the fall of 2012, will benefit the town in many ways.
Besides providing the town with another facility including a gymnasium, planetarium, and athletic fields, many of the surrounding homes and businesses have submitted proposals to upgrade their facilities.
“I think, from an economic development standpoint, that school is going to have a very positive effect on the area,” Johnson said.
The next phase of the Riverfront Park project, including access to the river and a boat launch, is exciting, Johnson said.
“We have over $2.25 million in grants and contributions pledged from the community, so far,” he said. “It's amazing when you look at the old photos and see where this property came from. It's been quite a transformation.”
Johnson said the future will be much of the same opportunistic growth, and managing costs.
“We are always going to look at how we can reduce our costs, and reduce or eliminate changes in the tax rate,” he said. “It never ends.”
A continued focus will be on the Gateway area for economic development, “to grow our medical practice buildings, to sell the land, to look for other commercial development,” Johnson said.
The town center will be another focus.
“We want to continue to grow and support the economic viability of our town center,” Johnson said. “It's certainly important to the health of the community to support those businesses, provide opportunities for new businesses, new structures, and create something that is pedestrian-friendly in a new town center.”
Johnson said the capital program will continue to pro-actively fund infrastructure, such as bridges and roads, before they become too costly, in keeping with the fiscal responsibility.
“Sound financial management will always be a priority for the community,” he said. “Whlie we're not a business, we try to very much operate, when it's appropriate, like a business, by keeping our costs down, managing those items that are cost factors for us, and we work very hard to be proactive. We don't like to be reactionary. We like to see things coming - we like to be able to plan for them.”