NEWINGTON â€“ Elected officials are mulling over how to improve the townâ€™s economic development potential.
The Town Council is expected to continue discussing goals for Newington Economic Development Director Andy Brecher at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22, along with the possibility of turning his contractual role into a permanent position.
The subject was brought to the last meeting by Deputy Mayor Beth DelBuono, who asked that it be discussed before Brecherâ€™s contract was renewed by Town Manager Tanya Lane. This did not happen.
â€śWeâ€™d like to consider moving away from a 19-hours-a-week position at $90,000 and closer to a full-time position,â€ť DelBuono said, adding that it would allow the town to keep better tabs on the employeeâ€™s workload and progress.
Information was presented on similar positions in Berlin, Branford, Farmington and New Milford, which have strong grand lists and happen to employ permanent directors.
â€śThese are pretty successful towns that surround us,â€ť Councilor Tim Manke said. â€śI think Newington should be on that list.â€ť
Gail Budrejko pointed out that there is very little developable land left in town, but also many opportunities within current infrastructure.
â€śAs a small town thatâ€™s built out this position is even more critical for us,â€ť she explained. â€śItâ€™s worth it to look at all the possibilities.â€ť
Councilors in the Democratic majority defended Brecher. He puts in well more than his required hours, they said, is always available to town officials and has key contacts throughout the state.
â€śThat position is all about relationships,â€ť Chris Miner pointed out.
As construction professionals, Miner and Councilor Jim Marocchini agreed that there is a benefit to keeping the position contractual.
â€śI donâ€™t believe a town employee will have the latitude to discuss confidential items with developers and anyone looking to invest a significant amount of money in our town,â€ť Marocchini said. â€śIt could end up compromising a deal.â€ť
Councilors are working on redefining the current directorâ€™s goals. They also discussed increasing the townâ€™s web presence among the development sector to attract new business and fill vacant real estate.
Budrejko presented a list of focused goals to be incorporated into Brecherâ€™s contract. It highlighted the need for retaining and assisting existing businesses, while also bringing in new taxpayers.
Areas of town with the most economic development potential include Russell Road and Cedar Mountain, along with areas of the Berlin Turnpike and the region around CTFastrakâ€™s Cedar Street Station.
Former town planner Ed Meehan served as economic development director until he retired in Jan. 2012. Brecher was hired later that year. He is currently in negotiations about parcels located within Newingtonâ€™s prime developable regions. A senior housing complex called Cedar Mountain Villas is expected to break ground this spring at the top of Route 175 and Russell Road.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.