A View From Glen Hill: Working hand in hand

Our town officials and employees have again shown their outstanding skills and effort in very challenging circumstances as our town has been struck with storms of great destructive power for the second fall season in a row. Hurricane Sandy managed to trump massively even last year’s ice and wind storms in intensity and devastation.

In addition to round-the-clock work by town officials and employees at all levels, we were provided with timely telephonic updates by First Selectman Bill Brennan and in-person visits and accessibility by both him and other selectmen, including, for example, Second Selectman Hal Clark standing outside the Village Market to answer questions and learn from residents of specific needs. We especially owe our emergency services employees and volunteers and our Department of Public Works employees many thanks for being there for us for long hours under very trying circumstances.

While a key response — namely, CL&P’s — is out of our town’s hands, our town officials have done all in their power by persuasion, pressure on regulators, and continual follow-ups to secure better CL&P performance.

We are blessed with a very well-run town government, and in crises like these, it really shines. However, we also see it in a lot of things that are not of an emergency nature but rather reflect careful and intensive long-range planning, organization and action.

One specific demonstration of that long-range thinking is found in our town’s very successful use of public-private partnerships. To cite an example, Wilton Commons now rises impressively down by the train station and right behind Trackside. We train commuters daily admire its rapid progress and very attractive appearance. Wilton is one of the first of the “wealthy” towns of Fairfield County to have an affordable senior citizens residential complex of this type, designed for independent living and enabling those who could otherwise no longer afford to stay in Wilton to continue to live here and strengthen our community by their presence.

Wilton Commons was over a decade in the making and could not have happened without a dedicated board of devoted private citizens, led by the indefatigable George Ciaccio. Nor could it have happened without our town’s far-sighted decision to provide the land on which the residence is built and the work of our local officials, including our selectmen and state senator and representatives, who went to bat for it so effectively to help secure the state and federal funding and tax-credit awards that made it possible.

The Wilton Library is another example of these outstanding public-private partnerships. During the library’s major expansion a half-dozen years ago, the library’s board carefully considered what the role of a town library should be in the 21st Century. It concluded that rather than being a rather forbidding facility of imposing books and imposed silence, it should — in addition to having those books and a skilled cadre of reference librarians helping to access both them and a wealth of online resources — be an open and welcoming center that encourages residents of all ages to gather for education and enlightenment on the one hand and community-building on the other. So, included in the new design was much space for meetings of all kinds, from youth in individual tutorials and small-group meetings to meetings of town boards and community groups and for informative programs of all sorts. It also can and does serve as a community refuge, as we saw so well in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and even as a backup command center.

Finally, our school administrators, including especially Superintendent Richards, deserve great praise for their handling of the consequences of these storms on the educational program of our top-ranked school system. On duty throughout these times of major storms, they make both those decisions requiring immediate action and longer range ones such as how to address a week or more of lost class time. Closing determinations are heavily driven by the advice of emergency services personnel on such things as wires down on streets which means that young people should not be outside waiting for school buses. All of these decisions require very close and ongoing coordination, and we are fortunate to be in a town where that kind of coordination happens as a matter of course.

So we have much to appreciate here in Wilton as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, and one of the highest on our list of thanksgivings as a community should be for the outstanding leadership of our town and its key institutions.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.