State of the Town focuses on Ridgefield moving forward after 'seesaw year'

RIDGEFIELD — As he spoke before a crowd of maskless residents, First Selectman Rudy Marconi reflected on the “seesaw year” that was 2020 during his annual State of the Town address at Lounsbury House Thursday afternoon.

Working without a script, Marconi recalled the highs and lows Ridgefield experienced amid the pandemic. And while he acknowledged that the town “made it through” an unprecedented year, he said, “We have a lot of work to do going forward.”

Some of this work could be accomplished with federal dollars, as Ridgefield is expected to receive its first tranche of American Rescue Plan monies within the next 30 days.

On Monday, members of the town’s Tri-Board met virtually to discuss how to best allocate the $7.3 million in stimulus funds, and it was decided that a sub-committee of the collective boards would be established to work on the project.

“The future is still uncharted waters, so we have to move forward cautiously,” Marconi said. “When we spend the money from ARP, we need to be sure that we spend it in a way that's going to help everyone for the future.”

The group will make determinations on where to distribute the funds based on guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department and may receive additional assistance from a Western Connecticut Council of Governments consultant, Marconi said.

At the meeting, Marconi said he wants to “ensure full transparency” during the process.

To start his address, Marconi thanked the workers and volunteers at RVNAhealth for their efforts to get shots in the arms of residents earlier this year. He also acknowledged local COVID data scientist Rick Lawrence, whose daily reports on the town’s website have provided “fresh information” during uncertain times.

Recognizing the Ridgefielders who lost their lives to the coronavirus over the past year, Marconi said the town recorded zero cases and a zero percent positivity rate as of last week.

“This is wonderful news for us,” he said.

The “bad news” regarding COVID, Marconi said, is that the town is almost $1 million over what it had budgeted in conveyance taxes for the current fiscal year. And while COVID reimbursements have remained steady, the two-person team fulfilling the paperwork has been “inundated.”

Ridgefield has maintained its Triple A Moody’s rating, however, as well as its stellar pension funding, which remains at 97 percent.

“(We have) one of the best-funded … municipal pension funds in the state of Connecticut,” Marconi said.

Considering local home sales from May alone totaled $52.8 million, Marconi predicted that Ridgefield could see a population increase of about 300 to 400 hundred people moving forward, which would thus cause an uptick in school enrollments.

“My belief is the enrollments are going to go up - there's no question,” he added.

Next spring, the town hopes to put a “shovel in the ground” to begin work on Branchville’s downtown project, which will include renovated sidewalks, decorative street lamps and designated crosswalks.

Marconi rounded up his address by unveiling considerations to establish a public safety administration building on Old Quarry Road, which would serve as headquarters for Ridgefield’s Police and Fire Departments.

His final remarks were ones of thanks in praise of the town’s volunteers, who do the work without receiving a paycheck.

“The reward is what you see for your efforts, what you're giving back makes us all feel so great,” he said, “and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com