Declaring that she intends to preserve the character and quality of life of the town, Trumbull First Selectman Vicki Tesoro painted a mostly rosy picture in her first official address to its business community on March 29.
“I will do all that I can do to make this great (town) even better,” Tesoro told the crowd of about 200 at the Tashua Knolls Restaurant. Although Trumbull is nearly built out, “a lot of opportunities remain,” she said.
Noting Henkel’s $20 million investment to build a second research and development facility on Trefoil Drive, Tesoro said she regularly speaks with other town-based corporate titans like Unilever — which has moved hundreds of workers to Shelton over the past few years — and the Westfield Trumbull mall, whose parent company was acquired last December by French commercial real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco for $15.7 billion.
The impact of that deal upon the Trumbull mall remains uncertain, although rumors persist that it’s considering developing up to 10 acres of unused land on its 5065 Main St. property. Westfield executives have not responded to requests for comment.
Tesoro also touted the 2-year-old Park Avenue Medical Center at 5520 Park Ave. and “significant investments” in renovations by real estate broker William Raveis, and provided a litany of new businesses scheduled to open this year. Among those are Bianco Rosso, a Wilton-based wine bar and restaurant opening at the former O Bar & Grill site at 942 White Plains Road; Fatty Patty; educational firms Code Ninjas in Madison Village and Educational Playcare at 111 Merritt Blvd.; and Dolce Vita Medical Spa, which Tesoro said is moving from Shelton to a Monroe Turnpike address.
She also noted that “new progress” is being made at Trumbull Center on White Plains Road, which is being redeveloped as a 21,000-square-foot retail center that will include a CVS and Starbucks.
Trumbull’s grand list — the aggregate valuation of taxable property within the town — is expected to slightly decline this year, she noted, saying that the town “needs to redouble our efforts” to retain existing residents and attract new ones. The grand list also declined last year, which played a role in her instituting a 1.95 percent tax increase in the budget that was approved by Trumbull’s Board of Finance in March. Nevertheless, Tesoro said it was the “lowest tax increase in years.”
The board of finance’s version of Tesoro’s budget, which added $345,433 to her $170 million proposal, still needs to be approved by the town council, which is expected to vote on it later this month.
The first selectman said she was particularly proud of keeping taxes and spending in check “while investing in our future” — including ongoing efforts to address shortfalls in police and town pension funds — in the face of what she called Gov. Dannel Malloy’s “ill-advised proposal to reduce town aid. I hope the legislature will restore those cuts.”
Trumbull had scheduled to receive $4.3 million in state aid for fiscal year 2019; Malloy’s proposal revised that figure to $3.5 million.
Looking ahead, Tesoro said the town was undertaking a 10-year plan to renovate its elementary and middle schools, support the arts and continue to fight the scourge of opioid addiction.
As for the long-discussed new senior center — a pet project of Tesoro’s predecessor Tim Herbst, now running for governor — Tesoro said the state had not approved a traffic signal that she said was key to safety at the proposed 85 and 93 Church Hill Road site. The building committee has also yet to provide an estimate on future operating costs of such a facility — which Herbst maintained while in office could be worth $600,000 in annual tax revenue — which Tesoro said was critical before moving ahead.
The business event was sponsored by Sikorsky Credit Union, Crown Castle and Aquarion Water Co. In his introductory remarks, the latter’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Bruce Silverstone said that “The tone of the town has changed (for the better) since Vicki has taken office” — a perceived swipe at the famously bellicose Herbst.