Looking back and forward in NW Corner towns

With the new year comes a re-evaluation of where we are, where we have been and what might be coming. It is never simple to take on the endlessly popular new year’s resolutions, yet we all seem to try to do it. Each time we do, it means looking back at what went well or not so well in the previous year. Let’s look at some of our Northwest Corner towns and see what was significant for each of them. It could give us a clue about what to expect in 2019.

In Salisbury, what may stand out most for some residents was the ubiquitousness of the bears downtown during the warmer months this year. It came to the point where our ursine neighbors were sharing the human space in the middle of the day, rummaging through the dumpsters and bins stationed at the back (or even front)of Main Street businesses as they pleased. It took some concerted effort to change the way trash was handled to control their access to it. 

And while we’re on trash, the topic of the pending transfer station was a thorny one for both Salisbury and Sharon, and promises to remain that way for the foreseeable future. The votes of Dec. 19 and 20 in the two towns resulted in approval for additional money needed to complete the new transfer station. It may be, and it is to be hoped that, this will take the project into the implementation phase without further ado.

Sharon also had the good sense to vote to fund a town Green rehabilitation, addressing drainage issues that if left as they are would continue to erode this treasure of an expansive park in the middle of town. This green space is used for multiple outdoor activities and serves as a beautiful community gathering location, so should be prepared for longterm use for future generations. 

And Health Quest at Sharon Hospital, whose viability affects the entire region, found a way to keep its maternity unit open for the time being, yet will still need to keep on an even keel with all health services going forward. Watch for ongoing reporting on this in the coming year.

Falls Village is facing a significant increase in its Region One contribution in the coming year, but in the years past has prepared for that. First Selectman Henry Todd believes the town’s surplus will more than cover that newly increased bill for education. 

North Canaan and Falls Village (Town of Canaan) have long had both their residents and onlookers commenting on the confusion that is sometimes elicited by their common town names (especially on GPS, but elsewhere as well). Where exactly are Canaan, North Canaan, East Canaan, Falls Village? (See The Lakeville Journal’s special section from 2018, “Discover the Canaans,” and look for another in 2019.) Could this be the year a resolution to this controversy is finally found?

Kent had the challenge of a monumental ice jam, which drew in experts from across the state and country, and even the Weather Channel, to solve. But once that jam ran down the river to become just a memory, it took no time for this town’s downtown to continue to redistribute its retail spaces and find new ways to attract visitors. This is one town that makes the best of all it has to offer, reinventing itself creatively just about every year, and 2018 was no different.

Cornwall, more specifically West Cornwall, had the challenge of a complete restoration of its covered bridge, another great attraction for tourism. While producing anxiety and a slow time in the autumn for downtown West Cornwall businesses, this project was completed ahead of schedule (though the contractors did have to come back to silence some noisy boards later.) The new bridge should last a good long time bringing visitors into this charming town.

Winsted has approved the request of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, now affiliated with Hartford HealthCare, to build a 30,000 sq. ft. medical center on Main St., slated to open in April of 2020. This is a major project that will affect not only Winsted’s economy and service base, but that of the entire region.   

There are plenty of challenges facing the Northwest Corner towns. Could a measure of regionalization help them manage aging populations, tax rolls, shrinking school enrollment, lack of affordable housing and good employment? Will the smaller towns find a way to consolidate their services, including their schools but also  emergency care, fire response and other volunteer necessities of life? 

There will be much happening that will affect all our lives in the northwest hills. Keep track with our weekly coverage this year. And thank you for supporting local community journalism by reading The Lakeville Journal in 2019.

Happy New Year!