story & photo
by Vito J. Leo
Talk to Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr., Ledyard, for a few minutes and it quickly becomes apparent that this man is successful in his goal of staying one step ahead of the bureaucrats in Hartford and Washington.
“The affordability of living here [in Ledyard] is something we have to constantly work on,” Fred told residents at a town meeting May 18 to discuss the town’s zero-increase budget for 2010 which voters approved the next day at referendum.
Like most municipal leaders blindsided by the declining state of the U.S. economy, Fred faced the dilemma of maintaining local services in the wake of declining revenues.
But unlike many of his counterparts nationwide who sought refuge by raising taxes, Fred planned for a rainy day – which turned out to be a severe thunderstorm.
“When we started this project, we didn’t realize the world would melt down around us,” said Fred, referring to his pet project which was to cut town spending during the present fiscal year and use those savings to preclude the need for a tax hike in the coming year.
His foresight paid off to some extent, no tax increase is foreseen, but a few layoffs became necessary due to the down turn in the economy.
And then came the rainbow following the financial storm, D.C.’s pot of gold – the stimulus package.
Once again, Fred was ahead of the pack, creating a committee to sift through all the red, white and blue tape in order to maximize the number of dollars headed to Ledyard.
It’s not as if each town simply got a six-figure U.S. Treasury check to cash. Fred says he was inundated with possible ways to qualify for stimulus funds, some coming directly from Washington, some funneled from Congress via state legislatures.
“I needed some friends to help me sort through all this,” said Fred. So he asked Terry Jones, Gales Ferry, a defense analyst, to volunteer to lead a Stimulus Work Group to ascertain how the town might receive as much stimulus money as possible.
“Fred’s good at recruiting people,” said Terry whose job is to match people with a stimulus project for which they are best suited.
There’s stimulus money available for so many things — energy, environment, public health, public safety — but you have to go get it, much like applying for grants, said Fred, giving Terry credit for a fresh approach to finding funds.
“Terry had a great suggestion, to determine the town’s needs and then to look for sources of funding to satisfy those needs, ” he said.
So far, no stimulus funds are deposited into the town’s bank account, but that won’t stop Fred and friends from continuing to work diligently each day to stay one step ahead of the pack.
“Everybody’s out there competing to get a piece of (the stimulus package) and we just want to get our fair share,” said Fred.