Linda Conner Lambeck
May 20, 2021
From new businesses to a budget described as sensitive to taxpayers, Cosgrove said economic development in the town remains strong. “I look with optimism to the future,” Cosgrove said.
BRANFORD — The pandemic may have been a challenge for businesses and the community but it also was a time of opportunity, First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove assured the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce.
From new businesses to a budget described as sensitive to taxpayers, Cosgrove said economic development in the town remains strong.
“I look with optimism to the future,” Cosgrove said.
More than 60 listeners tuned into the hourlong session this week as Cosgrove explained the town’s response to the pandemic and projects underway or planned.
This past year has been one of the busiest for the building department, Cosgrove said.
In the past three months alone, he said more than $17 million worth of projects, generating about $200,000 in fees, have been processed.
On the private development front, Maresca said plans are underway to bring an Aldi supermarket and Chase Bank to West Main Street. A Days Inn on East Main Street is being converted into apartments. Although a long shot, federal funds are being eyed to rebuild East Industrial Road at Exit 56 off Interstate 95.
“When people come off the exit it needs to be a little bit more welcoming,” Maresca said.
Cosgrove said the eastern portion of town around Exit 56 has a significant amount of potential in terms of both development and redevelopment.
On the town side, the new Branford Community House, completed just before the pandemic began, is ready for its post-pandemic debut. The Walsh Intermediate School renovation is nearing completion. In June, construction on the new Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter is set to begin.
Funding also is in place to reconstruct Main Street.
Cosgrove said the plan is to improve crosswalk, signal and code compliance issues.
The town is looking for what improvements can be made with federal money being pumped into the community through stimulus funds. The town is expected to receive $2.8 million, while the school district expects approximately $4 million.
Guidance on how the money can be spent is being reviewed. Cosgrove said indications are that the use parameters are broad.
“We will have a mechanism in place to decide how to deploy it,” Cosgrove said. “I do see a mix of infrastructure projects. We also need to take a look at human needs.”
Cosgrove said the approved 2021-22 municipal budget is 1.8 percent higher than this year. A tax rate will be set next week.
The budget includes three new positions on the town side: one in the engineering department, one a social worker in the counseling center who will work with the Police Department, and a third in the town recreation department.
When the pandemic hit, Cosgrove said Branford came up with ways to continue serving the public through drop boxes and shifting services online.
Programs were established to connect residents with food programs and service organizations. The recreation department set up a program to give some students a place to learn when schools went to a hybrid remote/in-person model. Efforts were made for people to socialize safely by installing tables, chairs and public Wi-Fi on the town Green — giving the public a chance to eat takeout from local restaurants without blocking off streets.
“It was very well received,” Maresca said.
Jim Rochford, on the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce board of directors, asked about the effect of the town’s AAA bond rating.
Cosgrove said in addition to giving the town a better interest rate when it sells bonds, it is a sign that Branford is a well-run town.
Asked about future developments in the center of town around the railroad station, Cosgrove said there is an effort to make the area more cohesive, with new sidewalks and developments that complement one another.
“One development is not going to be the answer,” Cosgrove said. “It’s putting all the pieces together. It’s an important approach with every application.”