Nystrom lays out big plans for Norwich in State of the City address
Norwich — Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom outlined an ambitious agenda Tuesday in his first State of the City address, calling for a fall referendum to expand the economic revitalization program to Greeneville, the West Side and Thamesville, and pledging to continue the Republican City Council mantra to cut city spending and taxes.
“Tonight we begin this journey together as a new Council, and I am confident that our members will work together,” Nystrom said of the new 4-3 Republican-majority council. “While services are needed and must be provided to our citizens, we cannot lose sight that they, our taxpayers, are the ones paying the bill.”
Nystrom, who was elected Nov. 8 to a four-year term as mayor, also reminded the audience that the previous City Council passed a resolution last June to seek to raise the revenue contribution to the city by Norwich Public Utilities from the current 10 percent of gross revenues for electric, water and natural gas divisions to 12 percent in 2018.
“This will have to be negotiated with the (utilities) board and commission,” Nystrom said. “It is not a done deal.”
The city charter calls for NPU to turn over “not less than 10 percent” of the gross revenues to the city, and the figure has remained at 10 percent for decades. The council resolution last June — which was added to the meeting agenda late and with no public comment — was met with criticism from NPU officials who argued it would only lead to higher rates for city ratepayers.
Nystrom listed the potential NPU revenue increase as a possible source of new revenue, along with urging the state to enact legislation to authorize municipalities to collect daily occupancy fees from local hotels.
He pledged to continue the previous Republican-majority City Council’s efforts to slash city spending and reduce property taxes, calling for continued efforts to consolidate city departments or buildings — as was done by moving Norwich Human Services out of its previous building into City Hall and the city Recreation Department buildings.
This is Nystrom’s second term as mayor, although the two were not consecutive. He was elected in 2009 and served until 2013, when he lost to Democrat Deberey Hinchey, who did not seek re-election in November.
Nystrom on Tuesday called for expanding the city’s own investment in economic development. Without announcing a dollar figure, he proposed expanding the downtown revitalization program launched during his first term in office into Greeneville, Thamesville and the West Main Street area. He called for a detailed review of the current program in time to place a new program on the Nov. 6 ballot for a referendum. Nystrom said he wants the measure on the November 2018 ballot to take advantage of an anticipated large turnout for the gubernatorial election this year.
Voters in 2010 approved the original program in which $3.38 million was divided into grant and loan programs for building code improvements and rental rebates for qualifying downtown buildings and businesses. The program started slow, but in recent years it has helped spark developer interest in downtown buildings on Main Street and lower Broadway.
Nystrom said he would like to expand the program to North Main Street and Central Avenue in Greeneville, lower West Thames Street-Route 32, including the upper area of Shipping Street, a former industrial district in Thamesville, and West Main, Mechanic and High streets on the West Side.
“The goal of this is to build on what we have learned about a focused effort to encourage private development with well designed programs identified in the (Plan of Conservation and Development).”
As an alderman this past summer, Nystrom was critical of an effort to place a school consolidation plan on the November 2017 ballot, and the council voted against the plan. On Tuesday, Nystrom proposed that the Board of Education and City Council create a building consolidation committee that would “use the information gained from the past consolidation effort.”
He specified that the committee should include “teachers from every elementary school as we look to redesign our school system.” The lack of teacher input was one of the criticisms of last year’s consolidation effort, but Nystrom did not commit to placing a school consolidation plan on the 2018 ballot for a referendum.
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