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Gentile To Valley: Regionalize Before State Mandates It

by Ethan Fry | Nov 14, 2017 5:06 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia, Derby

ethan fry photo State Rep. Linda Gentile told Ansonia and Derby officials Monday to step up regionalization efforts sooner rather than later.

With the state experiencing budget crunches on a regular basis, Gentile predicted lawmakers in Hartford will eventually mandate municipalities share expenses wherever possible.

“It’s just the reality, it’s the new world that we live in,” Gentile said. “We no longer can fund 169 towns.”

Gentile was at Ansonia City Hall Monday morning to give local leaders an update on the state budget, details of which were only hashed out in October — months later than usual, resulting in many towns and cities playing guessing games as to how much cash they’d be receiving from Hartford.

That apprehension was particularly acute in places like Ansonia and Derby, economically distressed communities that rely on millions of dollars per year in state aid.

For example, Ansonia has delayed sending out motor vehicle tax bills until the state budget is finalized.


The budget — the final details of which lawmakers plan to iron out Wednesday — will include a “little bit of a haircut” for Ansonia and Derby, Gentile said, in the form of about $200,000 less in state aid in each city.

Local officials quizzed Gentile about the specifics of programs like the renters rebate for elderly and disabled people, the Education Cost Sharing grant, and state aid for local capital improvements and road paving.

Gentile’s regionalization remarks came in response to a question from Ansonia Second Ward Alderman Lorie Vaccaro, an ally of Mayor David Cassetti, who has long championed regionalization as a path to cost savings.

Could the state study the issue or prod local officials into getting the ball rolling on regionalization, Vaccaro asked?

Gentile said she’s been a longtime advocate of regionalizing things like sewage treatment — an issue being studied by Ansonia and Derby officials — and school district equipment purchasing as items towns could look to work together easily to save money.

She also pointed to the recent consolidation of the state’s councils of government — regional planning organizations — during which the local Valley Council of Governments was absorbed into the larger Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.

Gentile said the state used the “stick and carrot” method to get the councils to reconstitute themselves.

“If they didn’t do it, they would receive a reduction in funds,” Gentile said.

Though no further regionalization mandates are on the table yet, she told municipal officials to stay tuned.

“We will be looking at ways to address regionalization and what services and products and so forth we can regionalize,” Gentile said.

And she said that down the road, communities that don’t regionalize may face consequences.

“If communities don’t, if for some reason one of our communities decides ‘No, I’m not doing that,’ my belief is they’ll have maybe 18 months, a couple of years to figure it out, at the end of which we’ll just mandate it,” she said.

Monday’s meeting was attended by Rich Dziekan, Derby’s mayor-elect, who defeated two-term incumbent Anita Dugatto in last week’s elections.

Gentile congratulated Dziekan and Cassetti at the beginning of her presentation for their election wins.

Dziekan — who worked as Ansonia’s constituent services director during Cassetti’s first term — pointed to the examples Gentile cited as good initial moves to show people cost savings can be achieved.

“Taking baby steps on it, it’s not as hard for people to understand,” he said.

Could he foresee the complete consolidation of Ansonia and Derby back into one municipality, as was the case until the late 19th century, when Ansonia broke away?

“I’m not saying that,” Dziekan said. “We’re (not) going back to Birmingham.”

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