Saying he has turned a stagnant city dotted with empty buildings into a “busy metropolis,” Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti closed a 90-minute presentation Wednesday by vowing “the best is yet to come.”
But he said his annual “State of the City” address had nothing to do with the local elections scheduled for Tuesday.
It’s Ansonia he’s promoting, not himself, the mayor said.
“What I want to try to do is publicize the city, let people know that Ansonia is alive,” Cassetti said.
Wednesday’s event took place in the gleaming new headquarters of the Farrel Corp., built after Cassetti and Aldermen committed to building a new road to the building in the Fountain Lake development eventually reimbursed by grants.
The effort kept a century-old company in Ansonia.
As about 60 attendees filed in to the facility, they were offered copies of a map of economic development projects in the city.
The presentation then began with a slickly produced video introduction featuring sit-down interviews with Cassetti and his two top aides, Corporation Counsel John Marini and Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley.
The video, which the mayor said cost about $4,500, taken out of the economic development budget, featured a slideshow of economic development projects amidst voiceovers from officials talking about their efforts to attract businesses.
“I see from one end of Main Street to the other a busy metropolis. I see a great future,” Cassetti says to end the video, which the city plans to publish online Thursday.
The mayor then took the podium to give an overview of the city’s recent accomplishments, beginning with the retention of the Farrel Corp.
He went on to talk about how property taxes have decreased since he took office — while at the same time admitting that’s happened mainly by using millions of dollars from the city’s “rainy day fund” to stabilize the mill rate.
The subject is one of the main talking points raised on the campaign trail by Tarek Raslan, the mayor’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 7 election.
“Excess tax dollars are best spent by the people, not the government,” Cassetti said as part of his speech Wednesday, adding that the city’s reserves are “still extremely strong,” as evinced by a bond rating upgrade.
He ended his speech by saying that a new tenant is on the way to 420 Main St., a property next to Target bought by a California developer last year. The mayor has been trying to spur development there for more than a year.
“Petco has been signed as the first tenant for the new development,” Cassetti said. “And hopefully you’re hungry for more, because Arby’s is lining up as the second.”
Construction on that project could begin next spring, Cassetti said.
After the mayor’s remarks, O’Malley and Marini spent about 40 minutes going over a greatest hits of recent Ansonia development projects and planned upgrades, such as:
- keeping the Farrel Corp. in the city
- the recent announcement that a rug pad manufacturer would move downtown
- the expansion of the Marshalls in the Big Y plaza and renovation of Banko’s music store on East Main Street.
- the reconstruction of Wakelee Avenue, first announced in 2015, may begin over the winter
“We are creating a competitive and supportive business environment,” O’Malley said, crediting Cassetti and the Board of Aldermen.
Other department heads also gave briefer updates.
Assessor Marsha Benno, for example, detailed gains made by the city’s grand list.
Police Chief Kevin Hale talked about the department’s efforts to recruit more officers while working with Ansonia Rescue Medical Services to combat the opioid epidemic.
And Constituent Services Director Greg Martin detailed several efforts he’s spearheaded, such as an Earth Day cleanup, graffiti removal, replacing streetlights, the “reintroduction” of the city’s flag, and an upcoming “winter playground” at Linett Park.
Cassetti wrapped up by telling residents to stay tuned.
“I believe the best is yet to come,” he said. “There is no limit what we can accomplish as we continue to embrace the spirit of innovation that has defined our city for over a century. Ansonia is recharged and I hope you are ready for more.”
Election Day is Nov. 7.
So, was Wednesday’s event just an hour and a half re-election rally?
No, the mayor said.
He said he’s ended each of his “State of the City” events with optimism for the future, election year or not.
And while Cassetti said his predecessors in the mayor’s office didn’t stage events as part of their charter-mandated annual reports on the city’s condition, he started the tradition as a way of promoting Ansonia.
“I think it’s important for that,” he said. “Things are only getting better.”
Raslan, Cassetti’s challenger in next week’s election, was not in attendance.
Reached by phone afterward, he urged voters to do their own research.
“It irks me when you have somebody saying that this is the best the city’s done in 40 years and the numbers just don’t really reflect that,” he said. “Progress is good. It’s better to have progress than no progress. It’s still not enough and it’s still not sufficient to sustain the vital services of the city.”