To: Members of the Common Council
I am writing to you with great concern that the Planning & Environmental Specialist position in the Dept. of Planning, Conservation, and Development may not be funded in FY2019. I understand the revenue/expense/general fund balance situation that the City faces, but eliminating the ES position would be a serious additional setback to a PCD Department that has already been damaged and has functioned very poorly over the past few years. More important, given the services and grant receipts that come with the P&ES position, eliminating this position would be financially detrimental in the long run.
The Environmental Specialist staffs and advises the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission and the Conservation and Agriculture Commission, and provides staff for a wide variety of brownfield remediation and other grant-funded projects. The P&ES performs site plan reviews and works with property owners and developers on the way to receiving approval for projects. Also, the P&ES may assist the Zoning Enforcement Officer with environmental assessments. These projects are important not only for protection of the environment, but for the continued redevelopment of industrial and contaminated properties and for Middletown’s economic well-being. It would be very sad for progress on these fronts to stop or be further delayed. Site assessment of the Vinci Oil property at 1000 Newfield Street is just one example. The Jonah Center wrote a letter of support for this initiative in 2016.
The Environmental Specialist has played a key role in special projects for which we have advocated and provided letters of community support. These included the canoe and kayak launch at 181 Johnson Street and brownfield remediation at multiple sites, including the Remington Building (now Keating Enterprise building).
Currently, the Environmental Specialist is needed to continue work on a $103,000 state grant project for a hiking trail around the base of and to the top of the retired city landfill. The Jonah Center has been pushing for this project since 2006, to complement the boat launch. The P&ES staff person is needed to move this project to completion.
In the past the Environmental Specialist has written numerous grant applications that have brought no doubt millions of dollars to Middletown and enhanced and assisted in the redevelopment of parts of our city. I have heard that some members of the Common Council want to shift some of these duties to the Environmental Resources Specialist at the Water & Sewer Department, but I understand that there are union rules that prevent that position from assuming duties of the Planning Department’s Environmental Specialist.
I hope you will be able to find a way to continue support of the Planning & Environmental Specialist position.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
John Hall, Executive Director, the Jonah Center for Earth and Art