This will be a big weekend in Winsted
There’s a potpourri of issues upon which to comment this week:• Storm cleanup — Following the late October storm, tree debris was scattered across nearly every resident’s property. Unlike many other area communities, the town opted to voluntarily collect debris placed curbside by residents. It was announced from the outset of the collection effort that the collection would occur on an “as available” basis: The highway department has other priorities to handle before the onset of winter.The reason other communities have decided to let residents be responsible for debris removal is that their history shows that many residents simply continue to haul debris and brush to the curb for as long as possible, whether it was storm-related or simple and routine property maintenance. The town does not have the resources to return time and time again to streets on which the debris has already been collected.The Public Works Department will soon publish a specific schedule to complete the debris collection. Once visited according to this schedule, a street will not be re-visited. The collection will also be suspended at the discretion of the public works director in the event of snow. In the meantime, residents still have the opportunity to deliver brush and debris to the public works garage for free disposal. Thank you for your cooperation.While on the topic of the storm, let me also share a few words about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As part of a presidentially-declared disaster, such as Tropical Storm Irene and the October storm, FEMA does not provide grants. The lengthy FEMA process typically reimburses a community for eighty percent of disaster-related costs incurred. We have to spend the money first, and then get partial reimbursement. Disasters can be expensive for communities, and we have now had two significant events within the first five months of the fiscal year.The reimbursement from the January snows was only recently received by the town, and the town’s application for reimbursement related to Irene was formally submitted last week. The October storm application process is slated to begin this week. The process includes collecting, reviewing, and organizing a variety of records documenting the town’s expenses during the specific period identified by the federal government.What grants FEMA does eventually offer are competitively-based and state-wide for projects related to hazard mitigation. These are projects that can reduce or eliminate future storm effects. For Irene, the town is preparing two applications: one for Lanson Road and the other for Waterbury Turnpike: both of these roads suffered significant damage due to the storm and if properly engineered and re-built, should be able to withstand future storms. Even though it is a grant, if awarded, the Town would be required to pay twenty percent of the projects’ cost. Again, disasters are expensive.• Roads — I think that only one or two roads exist in Town from which I have not heard from residents claiming that their road is the worst in town. Most of the roads in town are in poor condition. With an annual road maintenance budget of $25,000 (for nearly one hundred miles of roads), only small “band-aid” approaches are available. In some areas, the Town is considering removing the pavement altogether and returning to gravel roads. This issue will be discussed in greater detail as we prepare next year’s budget.• Movies — Let’s consider something more fun than disasters and roads. I have been working with some vendors to provide outdoor movies next summer. In former communities, these events have been wonderful family-oriented community events. I am looking to host four such movies on various Saturdays next year. Families bring their picnic baskets and pizzas, blankets and chairs, to watch a “drive-in”-style movie. The cost of the movie season would be approximately $5,000 and I am looking for some business or private benefactors to help fund the series. In return for any amount of funding ($25, $100, or $5,000 — I had to ask), promotional slides will be shown before each movie announcing the sponsors (unless the sponsors requests anonymity). I will need to commit to the movie dates before Christmas, so I hope to raise enough funds to schedule the events. All funds raised will be specifically dedicated to this program (and returned if insufficient funds are raised). Since I have seen how popular the outdoor movies can be, I’ll offer the first $100, so I only need $4,900 more. If you wish to support this series, please contact me.• Downtown Christmas events — It will be a busy weekend downtown this weekend. Please show your support. Open Studios happen at Whiting Mills on Friday and Saturday, Christmas on Main Street is Saturday afternoon and a tree-lighting ceremony happens Saturday evening. See you this weekend! Dale L. Martin is the town manager of Winchester.