Bridgewater is hopeful to continue down a positive and stable path financially, and otherwise, as the town progresses into the New Year.
Town officials, department heads, residents, and Bridgewater State University staff gathered Tuesday evening for the State of the Town Address, held in the University’s Conant Science Building.
Town Manager Michael Dutton listed many of the town’s accomplishments over this past year, which was also his first full year in the position. He said that one of his top goals was to build a “solid,working relationship” with the Town Council. “Without any question in my mind, I think that has been one of our greatest accomplishments this year,” he said.
Dutton also added that this past week, The Warren Group, a real estate information company, reported that sales of existing homes in town have gone up 20% within the last two years (2011-2013). Dutton expressed several explanations for this increase. “Bridgewater has become a much more politically stable place,” he said, “When you have a calm, effective town government, that draws businesses, it draws residents, and I think that’s partially a reflection of that.” Dutton said the increase is also probably a reflection of reasonable home prices and the stability of having a University in town.
Bridgewater-Raynham Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Forbes said this increase could also be due to the improvements in the school district. Forbes reported last night that the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School has been ranked at level 1, up from level 2 last year. She added that only 31% of schools in the state are considered level 1 schools.
Dutton acknowledged that the town, overall, has been regaining financial stability over the last year. He added that they have built the stabilization fund to about $600,000.
As the town moves forward, its focus will be on the budget process and implementing a new administrative code.
Town Manager Michael Dutton said the town will be “hitting the ground running” with its budget process as soon as the New Year begins.
Dutton thinks his greatest accomplishment in his first year of service to the town has been continuing the work of his predecessor and creating a budget process and a sustainable budget. “That is really the most important thing for the long-term of Bridgewater,” he said.
Dutton added that the budget should be a “bible” for town spending, not just a roadmap.
Dutton acknowledged that as long as the town can create a strong and solid financial background, they can then do a lot of the things the residents really wish they could be doing now.
Bridgewater will also be looking to implement a new administrative code. This would include restructuring the board and the committee format, and the executive or administrative function.
Town Council President Timothy Fitzgibbons said changing the administrative structure of the town is one of the most important things they will focus on moving forward.