Dziekan says Derby moving forward in his first state of the city address
DERBY-Construction of a fuel cell near the United Illuminating substation on Roosevelt Drive, completion of the Ryan sports complex with a state of the art field house and probable start of the Route 34/Main Street reconstruction project are some of the new beginnings residents should see this year.
Mayor Richard Dziekan cited those developments while giving his state of the city address Wednesday morning in City Hall before two dozen residents and city employees.
Afterwards the Republican mayor and retired Hamden police officer said he will be seeking a second term. No Democratic candidates have stepped forward but there are rumblings former two-term Mayor Anita Dugatto may seek a third battle with Dziekan. The pair split the first two contests.
During his speech Dziekan said he expects to see an increase in the city’s declining Grand List this year.
“The assessors’ office was able to find a lot of untaxed personal property,” Dziekan said. “Plus Marshall Lane Manor, which had been closed, is now back on the tax rolls.”
The former convalescent and rehabilitation facility was upgraded to the tune of $2 million last year. It was reborn as a residential facility housing some 20 students from China attending private high schools in the area. The facility is owned by APEX International Education Partners.
The mayor said Fuel Cell Energy will break ground near the United Illuminating substation this summer and produce as much as 15 megawatts of energy.
They’ll also provide “a large tax benefit of $200,000,” Dziekan said.
A one-million gallon reserve water tank is planned on property near the city’s High and Middle schools. The South Central Regional Water Authority project will be the subject of a public hearing Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. on 90 Sergeant Drive in New Haven. If built it would give the city another tax-paying property.
The mayor said the city collected $857,359 in back taxes, received another $85,738 in unclaimed funds from the state and sold 13 city-owned residential properties which are now back on the tax rolls.
Both Dziekan and Superintendent of Schools Matt Conway said the reconstruction of the Leo Ryan Sports Complex’s football, baseball, softball and track fields with the new two-story J. R. Payden field house are on schedule.
“Baseball and softball will be played there this spring,” said Conway, “ Football will return in the fall.”
He said the field house, built with at least $4 million in donations from Joan Payden, chief executive officer, president and founder of Payden & Rygel, a $110 billion asset management firm, is on schedule to open June 15.
The field house honors the memory of Joseph R. Payden, Joan’s father, who graduated as valedictorian of Derby High School in 1915, served as a World War I fighter pilot in England and became chief executive officer of Union Carbide Java in Indonesia.
Dziekan and Conway said the High School has partnered with Housatonic Community College to open the doors on a new Advanced Manufacturing Center in the next month. The center which is in the process of installing machinery already is teaching courses for high school students.
“Once its up and running we are going to open it up to adults for evening classes,” Conway said. “This will give people the real opportunity to learn and earn liveable wages.”
Dziekan said demolition permits have been pulled for the last three buildings on Main Street’s south side paving the way for reconstruction.
Sign-up sheets seeking firefighters to stand fire watch from the end of January to early February are being circulated, according to Ron Sill, a longtime Democratic alderman and volunteer firefighter.
“That’s definitely a good sign,” Sill said.
The state is hoping to bid the project this summer and begin work in the fall. The renovations on the Derby-Shelton bridge off that same road are expected to begin next year.
In the meantime, Dziekan anticipates work to begin by Derby Downtown Development, LLC on their proposed four-story buildings with 400 apartments and first floor retail and restaurants along factory street where Housatonic Lumber once stood. Site plans for the project were submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission this week.
“I’ll hold judgment on that until I see a shovel in the ground,” Sill said wary of the many starts and stops of downtown projects over the last two decades. “When they say something in Derby is on the back-burner its really on the back-burner. Hopefully this time everything will go as expected.”
Dziekan also said the police department received a $38,000 crime prevention grant. Some of that money will be used to purchase and train a new police dog.
“We’re working to bond an officer with a dog from the time its a puppy,” said Police Chief Gerald Narowski. He said four police officers are being considered for the position which should be ready to go by September..
The city’s last K-9 was retired 18 months ago.