Enfield, the Gateway to Connecticut, is a community of approximately 44,000 residents located in Hartford County. A big town with small-town amenities, Enfield is a service-oriented community with a municipal government dedicated to its residents and businesses. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the new things happening in town in response to a recently published column that asserted the town was in a period of immobility.
One of the most exciting initiatives happening today is Higgins Park, located behind the Town Hall. Right at this moment, a new state-of-the-art playground is under construction to be opened in a few short weeks. The park, when fully completed in the spring, will feature a walking path, an open grassy area for recreation, new playground, and basketball court. In addition, the town will be holding a referendum in the fall to ask residents to fund the addition of fitness stations to the walking path, a bandshell, a splash pad, and a 25-meter zero entry pool. The pool will be next to the St. Adalbert’s gymnasium, which the town is in the process of renovating for community use. The 9,000-square-foot gymnasium will feature indoor basketball, volleyball, a walking track, climbing wall and a stage area which will also be used to highlight local culture and art exhibits. The Town Green, which is next to Higgins Park and the gymnasium, is home to our weekly Regional Farmers Market during the Summer. We have 100 vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and various crafts.
Higgins Park will truly be the hub of our community, and it will be within walking distance to the proposed Enfield Train Station.
We continue to work with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, our federal partners and our state representatives to bring the dream of a train station to reality. The DOT has begun work on the design of the station and construction is expected to begin in late 2022. When this station is complete, it will provide our residents with the ability to commute for business or pleasure. The station will transform our downtown and bring other projects.
In January, the Enfield Town Council approved a building consolidation plan to merge departments and streamline services. This action will also result in the demolition of the Strand Theatre and Lamagna Center. The sites will be used for housing and mixed-use development and are adjacent to the Freshwater Pond, which the town spent $500,000 to dredge last year and will be spending another $350,000 for spillways and other enhancements this upcoming year, including paddle boats and a dock area.
Enfield has not forgotten its mission to revitalize and transform our historic Thompsonville Village into a walkable, sustainable, vibrant and livable community. In 2019, Enfield adopted a Midtown Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District for the historic downtown of Thompsonville, as well as a portion of the Mall area. The TIF district has already generated almost $300,000 which will be used specifically to reinvest in this district. Last year, we worked collaboratively with the owners of the Enfield Square Mall to host the indoor winter Farmers Market. We expect to host the winter market again this year. Additionally, we are hopeful that Planning and Zoning approval of the sale and market of individual businesses at the Square will spur development.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Enfield town government quickly converted the Enfield Annex to host a regional Trinity Vaccine site which allowed the distribution of thousands of vaccines to our residents and those in surrounding towns. I would also like to highlight that Enfield is the only municipality, to our knowledge, to offer residents drive-through town services in light of COVID-19. We leased 800 Enfield Street, now known as the Enfield Express, next door to Town Hall, for the safety of our public and staff. Our Tax and Assessor’s Office is located at this location and accepts drive-through services year-round.
As of May, the Enfield Police Department has opened a police substation at the Express to house their new Community Policing Unit. In conjunction with the substation, the Town Council approved the hiring for 4 new community police officers to be based out of this station. Additionally, a fifth officer was funded as a school resource officer for John F. Kennedy Middle School when it reopens this fall, for a total of a $500,000 commitment to public safety. The purpose of the Community Policing Unit is to build relationships with the Thompsonville community, follow up on citizen complaints personally, engage the community directly with high visibility and accessibility, and conduct discussions with community organizations in the area.
We believe that Enfield has something to offer everyone. Our new splash pad opens in early August. We are home to two public libraries which host various adult and children’s programs, three new public basketball courts (Alcorn, Lafayette Park, Higgins Park), a pickleball complex, a town-operated recreation center which includes summer camps, swim lessons, adult programs, and a senior center with activities such as exercise programs, seminars, arts and crafts and day trips. We also offer town rubbish removal, including leaf pick-up, and our Department of Social Services operates the Magic Carpet Bus for our community. Finally, the town offers superb educational facilities, including the Stowe Early Learning Center and Eagle Academy Academic and Therapeutic School. Lastly, the town has recently invested $103 million to fully renovate Enfield High School and will finish an $84 million renovation of John F. Kennedy Middle School next year.
In this year’s budget, Gov. Ned Lamont included $12.8 million to build the Enfield Regional Public Safety Complex, which will service not only Enfield but also Suffield, Windsor Locks, and East Windsor, and become an example of an innovative regional approach to local government. This facility would also house Enfield EMS, which is one of the few municipal-run EMS. We provide 24/7 paramedic level care in collaboration with our police and fire departments. We have reached out to our neighbors in Suffield and are working collaboratively with the federal Build America Bureau in discussions to construct a walking and fishing pier connecting the towns of Suffield and Enfield next to the train station. Additionally, we are exploring the construction of a year-round eagle watch to view bald eagles and other birds of prey on our gem of the Connecticut River.
In light of all the programs Enfield offers its residents, Enfield has not raised its taxes in the past three fiscal years. We have maintained our tax rate while investing in projects that enhance the quality of life for our residents. Highlights of some recent investments include a new $689,000 girls softball field at Brainerd Park and $689,000 of upgrades to the men’s field at Powder Hollow Park, $689,000 investment for a new track and turf at the high school, $689,000 upgrade to the transfer station, library community room enhancements, and two electric vehicles and a charging station at Town Hall, to name just a few. In addition, for the current fiscal year, we have not raised our water pollution control sewer quarterly charge – despite recently finishing a $34 million renovation of our water pollution control facility.
Time and space do not permit me to get into detail on our first-time home buyers’ program, blight remediation and the demolition of six blighted buildings in Thompsonville alone, employing three blight inspectors, 210 community gardens throughout the town, bike paths in process, hiring an additional full-time building inspector for permit requests, 19.6 megawatt Nutmeg Solar facility, and the groundbreaking of the 500,000 square foot Agri-mark distribution center on North Maple Street. I invite readers to go to our Town Manager website to see presentations on our budget, referendum initiatives, and many other topics.