Collaboration was the recurring theme of Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick’s March 27 state of the town address at the Oronoque Country Club — not only in her frequent acknowledgments of various local government personnel in attendance, but also when it came to what she called Stratford’s “vital, diverse community that is moving in a positive direction.”
“When the town council and I were elected, we promised to work civilly and professionally to move Stratford forward, and I’m happy to report we are doing just that,” said Hoydick, now in her second year as mayor after representing District 120 in the state House of Representatives for 2010-2018.
Hoydick did not take the opportunity to tout her 2019-20 budget, submitted to the Stratford Town Council on March 11. That $228.2 million budget promises no tax increases while spending 3.29 percent more than the prior year. The town’s taxable property grew by $63.8 million, or 1.4 percent, in the past year, maintaining its mill rate at 39.90.
The mayor cited a number of economic and community development projects, including that she had “just received word” that construction on the exit 33 interchange on I-95 had finally been approved by the state Department of Transportation, with work set to begin in September or October. “Within the foreseeable future there will be a northbound entrance ramp and a southbound exit ramp near one of the most up-and-coming economic centers in Stratford,” she said.
Also, the long-neglected Sidney Street neighborhood will be home to a Chipotle restaurant, Starbucks and self-storage facility as Urstadt Biddle embarks upon redeveloping the area.
Hoydick also noted that, with the first phase of the $126 million renovation of Stratford High School completed last year, the second phase — which includes modifying the original 1920 structure and adding a skywalk to connect both buildings for a total of 233,250 square feet — is now underway. “It will have a state-of-the-art auditorium and 21st century construction,” she declared.
The town’s Center Elementary School has been razed with the three-acre site going out for transit-oriented design bids later this spring. Hoydick noted that the site is near downtown and is “right next to the train station — there’s a lot of potential.”
Hoydick also noted that the Bunnell High School and Stratford High School graduation rates are 100 percent and 98 percent, respectively.
Progress is also being made on the town’s “Complete Streets” project, intended to enhance access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. With $200,000 in state funding, the technical design of complete streets improvements along a portion of Main Street from Barnum Avenue, south to Harvey Place, includes work to begin next year.
Hoydick further noted that Stratford was granted one opportunity zone last year, which it hopes will attract developers, and that a number of remediation projects are underway or about to be so around the town.
A major blow to the town took place in January, when its iconic American Shakespeare Theatre, which opened in 1955, burned to the ground. “With the state fire marshal investigation concluding soon, the town is moving forward with listening and community sessions about what to do” with the 13-acre property, the mayor said. Those sessions will begin this month.
The town added 16 new businesses last year, Hoydick said, noting that building permits and values have grown from 69 permits worth nearly $18.5 million in 2017 to 75 permits worth $28.2 million last year.