City’s fiscal austerity plan affecting our everyday life
West Haven is going through austere times. Anyone who has paid the least bit of attention regarding the city’s fiscal policies over the last few years knows this. Most residents, who don’t normally pay attention to yearly fiscal matters except where it involves taxation, are aware the city is in dire straits.
How these problems are affecting day-to-day life is becoming more and more apparent. In the days since the new fiscal year began, residents have seen adjustments in three areas:
~~ In the days just after July 1, the city had to install time locks on the bathhouse at Old Grove Park so passers-by could use the facility during the weekend. The city cannot afford the overtime costs associated with keeping weekend crews on the job, so other means had to be found;
~~ Similarly, those using city parks, especially Painter Park’s Grove, have seen the closure of bathroom facilities there, but the availability of portable toilets, instead. Also, use of grills is somewhat curtailed because crews cannot be on the job on Sundays;
~~ Those attending last week’s fireworks display at Bradley Point were charged $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents to park at the city’s lots dotted along the shore. This angered some taxpayers, who weren’t charged before.
The evidence that “things are not what they once were” continued with such facilities as the Savin Rock Conference Center. The city is looking to find a long-term managing firm to turn the deficit-riddled space into a money-maker. There is hope the deal would give the building some much-needed upgrades as well.
Further the evidence with the decision made earlier this year to cancel the Savin Rock Festival because of overtime costs associated with it in the way of police protection and Public Works crews. A shore festival was picked up by the Marenna Amusements Company, the provider of the rides during the past several Savin Rock Festivals. The company came up with a deal with the city to provide a similar event, beginning later this month. It will pay the city for needed services, while providing local civic and fraternal groups ways of giving back to the city, similar to SRFs of the past.
Residents are getting the basic – some would say “minimal” services provided from the city, but are finding that there is little else that can be pointed to in the way of amenities. It is a difficult lesson to learn, and has its annoyances. No one likes to pay for things they didn’t in the past, and no one wants to see events and amenities change.
The fact is the city coasted for many years – decades, in fact – trying to kick its fiscal problems down the road. The hope was things will get better or current leaders wouldn’t have to deal with them. The road has hit a dead end, and there is nowhere to kick that can any further. Meanwhile, the hope of economic development – most recently manifested in The Haven project – remains elusive. It is hoped the construction of the up-scale shopping center will spur further development, thus allowing the city’s moribund tax base to expand. This is something that has not happened in decades.
As they year progresses, we are sure that more and more incursions into the day-to-day lives of West Haveners will bring to life the fact the city can’t afford much. As we said, the city coasted for a long time. Fiscal matters were not faced, they were papered over. We are at the juncture were we can’t ignore reality.
We all hope that the current state of affairs will be short-lived. We hope the city’s fiscal capabilities will take many steps forward. But we have to go through the Purgatory of inconvenience and frustration in order to get to a better place.
Most residents are learning this. Some knew it already, and some will never get it. This last group, so far, is a small minority.