NEWINGTON – Town officials came together for a historic, never-before-seen State of the Town event Wednesday morning.
Hosted by the Newington Chamber of Commerce and VisionPoint LLC, the meeting was broadcast live on Newington Community Television. Chamber executive director Peter Forcellina was joined by Town Manager Keith Chapman and Mayor Beth DelBuono, along with VisionPoint managing members Kevin and Zofia Lavoie.
Newington’s annual State of the Town is typically a gathering of hundreds, but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic required organizers to think outside the box.
Their dynamic presentation featured video clips, discussion and even an original music video. Members of the public were invited to watch virtually on NCTV or YouTube.
Forcellina introduced those seated around the table, all wearing face masks, and gave a brief overview before announcing recipients of the Chamber’s annual awards.
Chapman’s address focused on the town’s efforts to bolster economic development and lessen the growing tax burden. Five different districts were identified as a new focus of attention: Day St., Holmes Rd., Kelsey St., North Mountain Rd., and Pane Rd.
“I think we need to work much closer with businesses in those areas and possibly create business districts where they can work together as neighbors, property owners and lessees of buildings,” Chapman explained, adding he hopes to dedicate every Monday to ongoing economic growth efforts in Newington.
This was followed by a short video on COVID-19’s impact from Connecticut Public Television.
Chapman then presented a challenge to citizens in hopes of encouraging them to support local businesses.
“The first person to walk into the town manager’s office with 60 receipts from Newington restaurants dated today and thereafter will receive a $250 gift certificate,” he announced. “We need to do more to help the hurting businesses.”
Mayor DelBuono’s address touched on future development prospects, economic growth and pandemic response.
She discussed several vacant properties, including the former National Welding site adjacent to CTfastrak’s Cedar Street Station, where several development possibilities include a hotel or student housing.
“The state has expressed a desire to expand parking there for the busway and is planning on registering Myra Cohen Way as a state road,” DelBuono added. “We’re really excited they are partnering with us to help our efforts there.”
With the departure of Keeney Manufacturing and Best Market in the center of town, the mayor said she would like to consider potential redevelopment there.
“Both properties together could really afford us the opportunity to rethink the center of town and how we do business,” she pointed out, also praising residents for the way in which they’ve handled COVID-19 orders.
“What I’ve seen around town are countless efforts of neighbors helping neighbors, an increase in volunteer programs…It’s just amazing to me to see how people have come together in a difficult time…Please lean on each other, reach out to your neighbors and reach out to us if you need any help. We are here for you. Newington together - we will be alright and we will get through this.”
The presentation continued with a time-lapse video showing the construction of the new Newington Town Hall and Community Center building, slated for completion this July.
The finale of the 2020 State of the Town was an upbeat music video, “We’re Gonna Be Alright” – created by Chapman with the help of volunteers including radio personality and Newington native Steve Parker. Song and film clips featured town employees at work, dancing and holding signs encouraging the mantra.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.