Marconi looks back on 2013

“It’s hard to look back sometimes because there’s so much going on that we can look forward to,” the first selectman said.
“It’s hard to look back sometimes because there’s so much going on that we can look forward to,” the first selectman said.

A children’s spray park at the Recreation Center, the sale of five acres of former Schlumberger land, and the inclusion of retail business on Route 7 top the list of accomplishments — some controversial, some not — the town achieved in 2013, reports First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

“Financially, we were able to complete the 2013 fiscal year in very good shape — better shape than previous years,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi. “This year also saw the beginning of tremendous assets being built in both athletics and the arts.”

Mr. Marconi cited the installation of a new Tiger Hollow field, the expansion of the town’s bike bath that may one day connect the village to Branchville, and the construction of the new library and Prospector Theater off Main Street.

“Ridgefield has come a long, long way balancing what we offer our residents in both athletics and the arts,” he said. “These projects exhibit that the town has taken a cross-section approach to accommodate the needs of all the people that live here.”

Mr. Marconi admitted that not all developments in 2013 were met with town-wide approval.

He said the zone change on Route 7 to allow commercial retail business was “as controversial as a decision we’ve had here recently,” despite its effort to stimulate economic development.

He added that other heated subjects — like the sale of the five acres of town-owned Schlumberger property and the possibility of a cell tower being built off Ledges Road — were all in effort to make Ridgefield a better, safer and comfortable place for residents to live.

Touching on safety, Mr. Marconi said one the biggest accomplishments of 2013 was the successful gun buy-back program that the police department hosted in August.  The town collected 103 guns thanks an anonymous donation.

“The town had an angel this year,” he said. “The $30,000 donation to support the program was absolutely incredible.

“It goes beyond description that that weaponry was being stored in our community— it really is unbelievable to me,” he added. “Some of it was used, but a lot of it was not, but what’s important is that people stepped forward and got rid of these dangerous weapons.”

Mr. Marconi believes the buy-back program could return to Ridgefield in 2014.

“We just need to get the funding,” he said. “We’d be happy to have another buy-back.”

Mother Nature was more cooperative in 2013. “Fortunately, we didn’t see any storms this year like we had in the previous two years,” he said.

However, the town has continued to improve preparedness, installing a new, 450-kilowatt diesel generator and a bigger kitchen at the Recreation Center, so it can serve as an emergency shelter.

As for transportation, Mr. Marconi talked about the launching of the SPHERE bus and the construction of sidewalks on Market Street and Danbury Road along Route 35.

He said that those types of projects would continue in 2014 with the goal of making downtown as accessible as possible.

“We want people to come into town to see all that it has to offer,” he said.

He added construction on the new library should be done by March and a grand opening would be scheduled soon after it’s completed.

“We’re going to need some time to move all the books back in,” he joked.

Following the library, the Prospector is projected to open later in the year, sometime in the late summer or early fall.

“It’s hard to look back sometimes because there’s so much going on that we can look forward to,” he said.