Mayor Erin E. Stewart gave an invigorating State of the City address Wednesday night focusing on the City’s ability to adapt and a vision coming to life.
“The first address I gave 4 years ago, is much different than the one I will give to you tonight. Our theme for this evening is simple – That New Britain is leading the way,” said Mayor Stewart. “From business development to infrastructure projects, innovation, and financial management: we are showing others how a City can adapt and be successful during uncertain times.”
She spoke about creative budgeting and finding solutions to pay for the everyday services. The Rainy Day fund is stable. For the second year in a row the rating agency Standard and Poor’s gave New Britain another A+ rating.
Stewart said department heads and employees have been efficient and professional.
“It is worth noting that every single labor union is now on a high deductible health savings plan—a move that will save taxpayers more than $9 million over the course of the contracts. This was no easy feat and took lots of compromise. But it is a team effort,” said Stewart. “We are lucky to have a staff who step up to the plate when more is being asked of them.”
A new renaissance of the city continues this year as phases 4 and 5 of the award-winning Complete Streets Master Plan takes hold, she said. When construction breaks ground, work will begin to renovate the Main Street overpass into a signature “Beehive Bridge,” while Bank Street and Columbus Boulevard will be renovated for improved transportation flow.
Some other projects include the CMHA purchase of 227 Main Street and two prominent retail spaces in the City’s center that will soon be occupied.
The storefront next to Dunkin Donuts and the storefront at the entrance of Szczesny garage have now been built out and are equipped to house small businesses.
“This past year we were fortunate enough to cut the ribbon on more than 14 new businesses, which helped to create more new jobs. Places like Grand Pizza, Dollar General, an expanded Borinquen Bakery, and in just a few weeks the city can celebrate the first brewery in over half a century when The Alvarium Beer Company opens its doors.” said Stewart. “Our industry is certainly growing. Since taking office in 2013, the city’s unemployment rate has gone from under 10 percent to 5.4 percent, a sign that our local economy is strong and our people are getting back to work.”
This is the third year of growth for the Grand List as it grew nearly 1 percent.
In January, the City unveiled its new city logo and slogan.The new marketing logo is a series of hexagons to represent a hive—or bee in flight—while the slogan “Experience the New” sends a message to the entire state and the region that New Britain is a City that is leading the way and deserving of your time.
Mayor Stewart added that, “We know our schools are in desperate need of additional funding—that’s no secret here. I think I speak for everyone when we say that if we had the ability to fund our school district at the proper amount per student, we’d do it in a heartbeat, but that’s not our reality.”
Stewart said that when she became Mayor there was an average of 108 chronically homeless households in our area, not for one night, or one week, but chronically. This year the state announced that our region had done away with chronic homelessness.
But Stewart said she is far from finished with her work.
“I am committed to seeing through the visions that I share with all of you. We have a tough road ahead. The state is in a financial firestorm and what’s happening at the Capitol will soon become our challenge to address. It’s unclear what kind of monetary support will be there for cities like New Britain. Which is why, I am focused on doing more with less and putting together a budget that is fiscally conservative and realistic.” she said. “We are a City of immense talent and potential, the results of which we are seeing every day across our City’s landscape. We’ll continue leading the way and show others how New Britain is undergoing a transformation that has no limits or bounds.”