The mayoral field is expected to rise to five, tonight, as the former chairman of the Republican Town Committee will add her name to the list in an announcement. Michele Gregorio has invited the press and members of the town committee to the announcement, which will make her the second member of the city’s minority party to declare for the candidacy. At press time, no pre-information was given on her announcement statement.
Last month, Planning and Zoning Commission member Steve Mullins announced his run for the nomination. The Gregorio announcement could set off the first primary in the party in several years, and give the GOP some much needed exposure in a highly Democratic community.
The list of announced candidates grew to four last week as City Clerk Deborah Collins made official what had been the subject of speculation for weeks. She announced her bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Nancy Rossi for the nomination.
Meanwhile, former Mayor Edward O’Brien had announced in March that he was seeking a return to City Hall, this time as an independent, thus avoiding the expense of a three-way primary. O’Brien, who has lost the support of those who stood by him in his two terms as mayor, is hoping a three-way race in November will split the vote in his favor.
Both the Democratic and Republican town committees have their caucuses planned for July to vote on their endorsed slates. Once that is done, the losing candidates will have to go through the petition process in order to force a primary in September.
Collins, who announced an exploratory committee back in March as well, said she has spent those weeks talking to people, and those talks gave her the impetus to move onto a run for the mayoralty.
“I have spent countless hours speaking with residents to better understand what the most important issues are facing the city today. You all have confirmed what I already know: That we need a change,” she said.
Collins listed the fact the residents want a city where they feel safe, have good schools, “But most importantly, we want a city we can afford to live in. That brings us to our finances. Let’s be honest, we are in bad financial shape. It is real and it is undeniable.”
She said she was not standing before her supporters to point fingers or lay blame. The only way the city can get out of its financial doldrums was growth of the grand list.
“The time is now to create ideas and opportunities so that developers want to come to the table. We must roll up our sleeves and do the hard work necessary to attract the type that will actually happen,” he said. “The potential for development in West Haven is enormous. Beach Street, the Boston Post Road, our downtown and train station areas are all ripe for development yet remain untouched and abandoned for too long with no realistic plan in sight.”
Collins then moved to a development much in the minds of the last three administrations.
“And that brings me to the elephant in the room, the Haven. With another 18 months of boarded up homes and lack of communication gone by, I believe it is about time we strengthen our approach to this development and demand a timeline. We will not be fooled by props like empty bulldozers that show up around election time,” she said. “We must develop a collaborative relationship with public and private businesses, non-profits, our educational institutions and state and federal government in order to move West Haven forward and achieve the growth it needs to thrive once again.”
She ended her announcement saying, “We need a team that will help us achieve smart growth that will adopt a “do more with less” philosophy and will be 100% transparent about changes throughout your city.”
As if to catalogue the achievements and goals set out by her administration, Mayor Rossi issued a statement earlier this week, defending her administration.
In the last few weeks, the mayor has taken criticism from some quarters regarding the Beach Street renovation project and the utilization of funds already allocated (see letters, p. 18). She pointed out the project is going on as expected.
“The Beach Street project, which excludes the former Debonair Motel, is a complex construction project consisting of three phases. It is and has always been a top priority of my administration,” she said. “We received funding for phase one, the design and construction aspect, which is scheduled to begin this fall. The design for phase two is underway. Once phase one is complete, phases two and three can move forward. If the project proceeds as planned, our city engineer estimates the completion of phase one by July 2020.”
Rossi said the Savin Rock Conference Center and the Arts Center at the former Masonic Temple on Center Street remain goals to be worked on by the administration.
“After years of deferred maintenance, the building needs a new roof and other upgrades. Removing the interior walls to make one large banquet facility and adding a kitchen will make the facility more marketable. The SRCC can bring people and business to West Haven if it is renovated and managed properly. The SRCC will also bring a reliable, long-term revenue stream to the city, which given our financial condition is an important part of necessary structural change,” she said. “The future Center for the Arts continues to sit vacant in the center of West Haven.I believe that converting the 107-year-old building into a performing arts center will further our goal of revitalizing our downtown. Downtown West Haven would benefit from the addition of commercial attractions supported by foot traffic, and I believe the arts center will be an important component of downtown revitalization as well as structural change.”
The lack of movement on the sale of properties on Beach Street has been a focal point of criticism, including from this newspaper. Rossi said all that can be done is being done to facilitate progress.
“While I understand the frustration created by vacant properties on Beach Street, our economic development commissioner has been in close contact with those property owners,” she said. “It is important to remember that these properties are privately owned. That said, we will continue to push for the properties’ proper maintenance, aggressive marketing and eventual development. We encourage the owners to find buyers who will invest in these commercial spaces and grow our grand list. All these efforts will benefit residents and visitors to our beautiful shorefront.”
As far as the Haven, Rossi said she remains optimistic.
“We sold Bayview Park, have worked with the developer to secure local approvals, and are now awaiting a certificate from the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Office of the State Traffic Administration to install turn lanes and widen Elm Street. It is taking longer than I would have liked, but once The Haven demolition begins, it will spur development along Beach Street and throughout our city,” she said.