Mallozzi addresses New Canaan business community
Updated 12:22 pm, Friday, April 5, 2013
Taxes are increasing, New Canaan is planning to install a natural gas pipeline, and cell phones will work marginally better in the future, said First Selectman Robert Mallozzi in his address New Canaan business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce's annual breakfast at the Roger Sherman Inn March 26.
"Your problems are my problems," Mallozzi said to the audience of about 30, gathered in one of the inn's ornate dining rooms.
He told the attendees that he expected about a 3.5 percent increase in taxes in the coming year, due to various big-ticket expenses and contracts, including the new teachers' union contract, increased health care costs and technology budgets for the school district, that are planned in the next year.
"It's a little disappointing, but I don't think it will have a drastic effect" on business in town, he said of the moderate tax increase.
Mallozzi bemoaned New Canaan's lack of cell service, but said he was doing everything he could to improve it.
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"We're like a Third-World country in terms of cell service," Mallozzi said, comparing New Canaan's 23 percent coverage rate to Darien's rate which is higher than 70. For years, Canaan has suffered from poor cell reception. A proposal to build a tower in the northern part of town has faced stiff opposition from neighbors. Recently, the town approved plans to build a tower at the transfer station in the southern part of town.
Mallozzi highlighted his town's progress in the project to tap the Tennessee Gas Pipeline buried beneath Waveny Park, which would connect municipal buildings to natural gas.
"The fact that business owners will have this opportunity, I hope, in the next two years, is key," he said. Mallozzi hopes to have the gas provided with minimal infrastruture expense to the town, which he will work out in a lease agreement with Yankee Gas. He said the fact that the town will immediately provide the utility company with five big customers -- including the high school -- will serve as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
"In that whole meshing is a tacit understanding that they'll provide gas in that area and downtown," Mallozzi said. "I think it's going to be one more selling point for the town."
New Canaan landscape architect Keith Simpson suggested the town put in conduit for underground electricity when it buries gas lines for the project. That way, he said, the town could be prepared for underground electricity if and when CL&P decides to go down that route.
Mallozzi responded that such an action would not have much of an effect immediately because downed trees in places like Darien and Norwalk are the cause of many power outages here, since power flows from those places in the grid. Since their lines are still above ground, he argued, it makes little difference whether or not New Canaan's are, for now.
"I don't want to spend valuable tax dollars on a regional issue," Mallozzi concluded.
"When these things get started, they have their own momentum," Simpson responded.
Mallozzi did say the town will look into building its own electrical generation source powered by natural gas in an attempt to build a "microgrid" that could power key town facilities in an outage.
Mallozzi emphasized that he is a pro-business first selectman.
"I don't think any town works as closely with the Chamber of Commerce as we do with ours," the owner of Bob's Sports said. "I came from the business community and I've got a long view."
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