SEYMOUR — The Board of Selectmen approved tax abatement incentives for two town businesses, heard from town and Board of Education Director of Technology Rob Dyer and reviewed a draft of the new quarterly town newsletter at its meeting Tuesday, November 19.
The board discussed and took action on tax incentive agreements with Thule and Connecticut Basement Systems.
Atty. Brian Lema of Berchem Moses PC, who drafted the agreements, was present to provide counsel.
Though previously, the board tentatively approved both companies into the tax incentive plan, approving the documents drafted by Mr. Lema would finalize the agreements.
First Selectman Kut Miller said that combined, investments total a little more than $11 million for the new projects.
The program would entail a seven-year tax abatement period for the companies, effective July 1, 2020. The town will abate 100 percent of the investment.
The town requires both companies to remain for a period of no less than 10 years, and if they choose to leave prior to that, they are required to pay the town back for all of the taxes it has abated.
Selectman Trisha Danka brought up that some residents might struggle with the tax abatement program, feeling that the town relies too heavily on its citizens for tax revenue. She asked if the abatements the town offers are on-par with neighboring municipalities.
Mr. Miller said what they’re doing is in line with other communities, and that the abatement period is only temporary. He said it brings large investors into Seymour, creates jobs and welcomes state-of-the-art buildings and equipment.
“It’s about stimulating and having business come in,” he said. “One business brings in another, brings in another, brings in another.”
Though the town is giving up short-term tax dollars, he believes the long-term implications for the town are good.
Selectman Al Bruno agreed with Mr. Miller’s points.
Selectman Stephan Behuniak said he was “not totally sold on the program” because he believes the businesses should contribute a larger percentage of the town’s tax revenue. By delaying tax payments, the town will receive a slightly reduced collection rate in future years, he said.
The board approved the fixed assessment agreements for both Thule and Connecticut Basement Systems.
In his presentation, Mr. Dyer referenced recent news about cybersecurity and breaches in towns, public schools, police departments and other municipal areas.
He informed the board of what he’s been doing to prevent breaches and maximize security in the town and the schools.
“We have a multi-pronged approach here in Seymour,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for quite a while.”
He said he replaced the firewall a while back, when the town was the subject of a case study by Palo Alto in October 2018.
The firewall is cutting-edge and fourth generation with different types of security, like examining each application instead of just allowing all traffic through.
He’s also udated endpoint security for both the town and the schools.
The endpoint client is installed on to the computers and works in conjunction with the firewall, examining what happens within the computer while examining what’s coming through the firewall.
It then sends information out to the cloud and alerts users of the threat assessment and shuts down all suspicious activity in real time.
Mr. Dyer is also focusing on user education.
He has been in two focus groups with Mr. Miller, where he learned that 80 percent of all cyber breaches happen through somebody inside the network who clicks on a bad link or opens a harmful file.
Mr. Dyer said he’s working in conjunction with the town’s cybersecurity insurance provider to bring some training sessions and modules to existing employees. The process will then be incorporated into the new hiring procedure that Human Resources Director Chris Pelosi is currently working on.
Mr. Dyer said that all these approaches are preventative. If something does come in, despite best efforts, he can implement network segmentation/micro-segmentation.
He said he will discuss this with Mr. Miller soon when the time comes to replace some of the aging server equipment.
When he does do server infrastructure upgrades, he is looking to provide one failover solution on virtual servers for the town, police department and schools, all in one central location, with multiple failover sites just in case.
If a threat comes inside and effects one particular network segment, with microsegmentation, the threat will not cross the other thresholds.
In further updates, the IT Department has upgraded the wireless at the public schools.
New switches have been installed, which increases the wireless bandwidth.
There are wireless updates needed in town buildings for which Mr. Dyer said he could get the same discounted bulk pricing as he did with the schools.
He said the cooperation between the town and the schools has been beneficial to both parties financially.
Selectman Rob VanEgghan asked how long the new technologies would last.
Mr. Dyer said each component has its own lifespan and upgrades will correspond with each one individually.
The server solution he touched on is essentially future-proof, he said, as it’s a dynamically expanding array.
Selectman Bob Findley asked if Mr. Dyer’s been using cloud-based programs.
Mr. Dyer said he likes to stay a step behind the trends to see how successful they are.
For example, all the schools have on-premises Microsoft Office, which automatically upgrades for free. Though Microsoft has end-of-lifed the desktop version of the suite, and eventually everyone will shift to the cloud version, Mr. Dyer has held off on making that jump.
Selectman Behuniak asked about data storage and if anything has been deleted or lost. Mr. Dyer said storage space is always a premium; it’s the most expensive commodity in IT. That said, there is both onsite storage and offsite hosted solutions, so the burden doesn’t fall fully on local storage.
Mr. Behuniak asked if older documents would be lost in an attempt to free up storage space. Mr. Dyer said the town would benefit from a data retention policy to dictate what documents could be deleted.
Mr. Behuniak asked if using email communication rather than collaborative cloud-based programs like Slack takes up storage. Mr. Dyer replied that he would have to pay for either cloud storage or local storage, so it’s not really in issue.
Mr. Behuniak asked Mr. Dyer if he’s been suggesting new software to departments that “might be very slow to modernize.”
Mr. Dyer said he’s actually seen the opposite, with several departments coming to him with requests for upgrades.
Director of Community Services Mary McNelis was present to discuss the new quarterly town newsletter that will be mailed out beginning in January.
The newsletter replaces the semiannual flyer that the Community Center had previously sent out.
Mr. Miller said the newsletter, which the Community Services Department has been working on for a few months, is a rough draft that is subject to changes.
Each department contributed a “write-up” with salient information about what’s going on in the next quarter.
Ms. McNelis said the department received positive feedback from residents regarding the flyer, so she wanted to maintain that within the newsletter.
The newsletter will be full-color on 80-pound gloss paper and will be sent from a mailhouse to 7,300 households.
Mr. VanEgghan asked if sponsorship offset the cost.
Mrs. McNelis said it did for the flyer, but they are offering to include in the newsletter the sponsorship businesses bought for the flyer for the first two quarters. After, they will charge for sponsorship, which will offset costs.
The newsletter will also be online on the town’s website on the Community Services Department page.
The board discussed and took action on two Local Capital Improvement Program projects.
The first project discussed was a substantial drainage issue at 16 Clifton St.
The resident paved the driveway, changing the runoff of water from the yard.
Every winter, said Mr. Miller, there is a sheet of ice that forms from December through March.
The town is currently in a legal dispute with the resident for the remediation of the issue, which will take longer than the winter, but the situation cannot be left as is.
The board approved the town’s LoCIP request for $3,000 to fix the drainage issue.
The second issue also involved drainage.
Mr. Miller said there is water runoff coming down High Street from Colonial Manor Apartments.
Since the problem is partially the town’s and partially the siteowner’s; they agreed to split the cost of repair, which would total about $30,000.
The town is asking for $30,000 from LoCIP regardless, just in case. If the town only uses half, the rest will remain in its LoCIP account with the state.
The board approved the town’s LoCIP request for $30,000 for the repairs at High Street Colonial Manor Apartments.
The board discussed and took action on the Department of Homeland Security grants, which the town does yearly to allow it to apply for grants through DHS.
The types of grants are spattering, for things like regional equipment and disaster assistance.
All board members approved the resolution to provide documents to DHS for grant applications.
The board received two letters of resignation.
One was from Virginia Dota of the Housing Authority, whose term was ending in a few weeks.
Mr. Miller said there is a representative from the young disabled community who is interested in serving on the Housing Authority, and that she will be appointed at the next selectmen’s meeting.
The other letter was from Joyce Koslowski of the Board of Library Directors. She ran for another term in the recent election while still having two years left on her current term, which nobody noticed. She resigned from her current term and will be seated in the new term that she just won.
The board will fill the vacant seat at its next meeting.
During selectmen’s public comment, board members thanked Mr. Behuniak for his service, as it was his last meeting serving on the board. They wished him well in his future endeavors.
Mr. Behuniak said, “It’s been a huge honor and very humbling, probably the biggest humbling moment and honor in my life so far, to serve Seymour in this capacity.”
Mr. Miller said it has been a pleasure watching him grow over the past four years, and thanked him for offering his viewpoints and helping shape good town policy.