March 18, 2019

Essex Town Meeting Approves Funding for Emergency Management Improvements, Tax Waiver for Essex Court

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $50,000 special appropriation for emergency management items and authorized¬† years of waivers for the annual payment in lieu of taxes for the Essex Court elderly housing complex.

About 15 residents turned out for the town meeting, approving eight agenda items, including for appointments to town commissions, on unanimous voice votes with little discussion.

The $50,000 appropriation for emergency management items is the third and final expenditure for improving the town’s emergency management operations to be approved by voters since Tropical Storm Irene last August. Selectmen conferred with town emergency personnel and volunteers after the storm to develop a list of items that would be needed in an emergency.

Voters last fall approved appropriations of $32,528 for various emergency management items, and $38,000 for the nearly completed relocation of the town’s emergency operations center from a ground floor room at town hall to the former judge of probate office on the building’s first floor. The $50,000 will pay for various communications equipment, signs, and new appliances for the kitchen of the ground floor of town hall. All of the special appropriations were from the town’s undesignated fund balance.

The town has been waiving the annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the Essex Court elderly housing complex for several years after tenant complaints and other issues a decade ago depleted the reserve fund for the 36-unit complex in the Centerbrook section. The PILOT waivers cover the current year, 2011-2013, and date back four years to 2007-2008. The total lost revenue for the town is $48,293.

Selectman Joel Marzi said the waivers allow the Essex Housing Authority to avoid rent increases at the complex. Bruce MacMillian, a former chairman of the housing authority board of commissioners, supported the waivers. “It’s a good use of our money and its not major money,” he said.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Francis said the waivers were for multiple years because some of the waivers since 2007-2008 were not approved by a town meeting. “We’d like to clean up the record,” he said.

Voters also authorized expenditures of $4,000 for the park and recreation commission for repairs to the tennis court at Grove Street Park, and $3,050 to the tree committee for tree planting in town this spring. Both expenditures were from capital reserve funds already included in the current town budget.

Voters confirmed the appointments of Susan Malan to the conservation commission, Barbara Zernike as an alternate on the zoning commission, Virginia Willetts as an alternate on the parks and recreation commission, and Wally Schieferdecker as one of the town’s two representatives to the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission. Schieferdecker, who had questioned the town’s continued membership on the regional commission at a meeting earlier this year, later volunteered to fill a long-standing Essex vacancy on the commission.

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