Matt Hart Gives First Report to Council as West Hartford’s New Town Manager

Matt Hart, who became West Hartford town manager on July 31, 2017, took his seat at the Town Council table for the first time on Aug. 1. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart started work on July 31, 2017, and addressed the Town Council for the first time at its Aug. 1 meeting.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s new town manager, Matt Hart, took his seat at the Town Council table Tuesday night for the first time, and provided updates on a number of issues.

Even though he has only been on the job for two days, Mayor Shari Cantor said Hart had already been in the office before his official start date, getting up to speed.

“My family and I moved into town on July 12 and it’s been a great experience,” Hart said. The neighborhood has been very welcoming, he said.

Hart also thanked Peter Privitera for serving as interim town manager since Ron Van Winkle’s retirement on June 30.

Hart began his report, which will be available on the town’s website on Wednesday, by announcing his new executive assistant, Brittany Stephenson. She will be replacing Patience Haile, who has worked for the town for more than 25 years, a tenure that has included multiple town managers and mayors.

“I want to thank Patience for her great service and wish her the best in the next chapter of her life,” Hart said.

Stephenson’s background includes experience with the Capital Region Council of Governments and Dallas County, TX. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University.

Hart and Stephenson will share a new email, he said. Both will have access to [email protected] and Hart urged Town Council members and the public to use that email address whenever possible. He said questions submitted by email would then be directed to the appropriate town staff for response. This type of plan functioned quite well in his past job, Hart said.

Emails to the corporation counsel should be sent directly with a copy to Hart.

Hart can also be reached directly at [email protected]gov.

Hart is developing a work plan for his initial areas of focus, he said, and will be submitting the plan to the Town Council for review and approval.

“Right now, in next few weeks, I really need to learn the systems and the people,” he said. He plans to meet individually with all Town Council members, directors, town staff, and key stakeholders in community, and also plans to tour worksites to meet as many staff members as possible.

Other initial priorities will include the budget, UConn property, and various “Center issues including incentive zoning, parking, and entertainment ordinance.” Hart said he is aware that the list of priorities will need to be flexible.

Because the new fiscal year has started without the General Assembly’s adoption of a budget for the state, revenue is still unclear, Hart said. “I have directed town staff to proceed very cautiously and not to approve any non-essential purchases,” Hart said. He is also working with staff to review all capital projects to identify possible reductions.

Because of the uncertainly surrounding the maximum mill rate that can be charged for automobiles, vehicle tax bills have not yet been mailed, and a determination will have to be made about when they should be issued.

“The longer we go without a state budget the more adjustments we will have to make,” Hart said.

In his report, Hart also said that he and Fire Chief Gary Allyn are also looking into billing issues surrounding the town’s billing of Medicare patients for paramedic (ALS) services. The fire department took over paramedic services as of Aug. 1, 2016.

Some bills have been delayed because it took some time for the town to receive its official provider status from Medicare, Hart said. In addition, some confusion has arisen when patients get bills for both ambulance and paramedic service.

Hart said that he and Allyn will be meeting with the billing agency to review the questions and reporting back to the Town Council’s Public Safety and Finance & Budget committees.

On Tuesday the Planning and Zoning and Engineering divisions together submitted a grant application for a Community Connectivity Grant, requesting $103,085 to install bicycle signage for on-street shared routes that have been identified in the recently-approved Bicycle Facilities Plan, Hart said.

Hart updated the Council on the progress of the Ridgewood Road improvement project on the stretch between Tunxis Road to West Point Terrace. He said that the reclamation work was completed Tuesday, and weather permitting the paving will begin on Thursday and take two days. Detours will remain in place until the paving is complete.

The contractor will return for a few days to complete the asphalt curbing and replace driveway aprons, Hart said.

He said that Ridgewood Road will now include bike lanes in each direction, and Public Works will be installing appropriate bicycle signage.

Hart also noted that Cornerstone Aquatics Center, which is now under the management of HealthFitness, Inc., will be closed temporarily for cleaning and some updates from Aug. 19-27.

Cornerstone has a new phone number (860-561-8270), a new website, and a new general manager, West Hartford resident Michael Kerrigan.

Hart urged members to check in with the office to update their membership files and establish a new billing account.

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