Letter: Private-Public Partnerships Offer Opportunities for East Lyme

in Letters

While many of us have all heard of mixed-use development for commercial and residential properties, most have not learned of private-public partnerships for mixed-use development. This could be very valuable in times of fiscal challenges which include uncertainty in state municipal funding, rising costs of facility construction, renovation and acquisition.

This concept entails initiation of collaborations or agreements between municipal governments and private enterprises which allows private property to remain on the tax rolls while providing utilization of these spaces by local governments either through lease/rental contracts or service provision. Additionally, financing and operation of municipal projects may also be applicable under these arrangements.

What Are Public-Private Partnerships?
Public-private partnerships involve collaboration between a government agency and a private-sector company that can be used to finance, build, and operate projects, such as public transportation networks, parks, and convention centers. Financing a project through a public-private partnership can allow a project to be completed sooner or make it a possibility in the first place.”

Investopedia  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/public-private-partnerships.asp

For example, our current East Lyme Public Safety Building project would be utilized as a trial balloon as we’ve failed to meet the urgency of the relocation of the police to a “healthier” facility in an expedient manner. Perhaps we could create smaller “sub-stations” through town by leasing some of the vacant building spaces. It could also serve to test the concept of a dispersed police department versus a centralized operation. The headquarters, as such, might even be envisioned to necessitate a much smaller footprint and budget resulting in reducing the burden on our mill rate. The recently acquired Honeywell building could then be a public-private partnership because our space requirements would be reduced; thereby allowing rental of space to private sector tenants which we were led to believe were interested in the property necessitating the urgency of acquisition.

Other concepts can be envisioned too! For example, our schools, which have recently undergone renovations through a bonded project could be used in the evenings, weekends, and holidays for lifelong education and enrichment. This would allow the citizenry both with and without children to receive the benefits of our school budgets and the facilities that our tax dollars support. “Faculty” could come from our community, and even child-care may be provided by our participants in the high school child development program so that young families may participate without the worry of children left at home. It would afford intergenerational interactions demonstrated to provide benefit to both young and old.

Finally, if we progress these concepts, we may enable more responsible economic development in our town (rather than Big Box Stores) such as Centers of Excellence in Alzheimer’s therapy, research/care, and technology incubator spaces 

It’s time for East Lyme to be the leader in development in southeast Connecticut, it’s time for innovative thinking and moving forward in novel concepts and procedures.

Rich Steel
East Lyme

Richard Steel is a candidate for Board of Finance in East Lyme