A Key Part of Bridgeport's Future was Shaped during Lengthy Meeting Held Inside Benedum Civic Center

By Jeff Toquinto on December 01, 2023 via

For years, a key part of the future of Bridgeport would be shaped in the cold weather months in one meeting by City Council. The meeting, the strategic planning session, often would last well into the evening, sometimes past midnight.
While the evenings were long, it would be hard to argue with the results as Bridgeport has prospered now for decades. Recently, however, Mayor Andy Lang has opted to go to two meetings, one of which was held Monday, Nov. 27. The next one will be Dec. 12.
The two sessions, however, appear to cut the time in half as opposed to cutting the time down. In fact, the most recent session began at 6 p.m. and ended around 9:30 p.m. at the Benedum Civic Center.
“We used to try to do it all in one night, but decided to break it up with half (Monday) and half at the next session,” said Lang. “The whole goal is to let department heads say what they want to say and let Council know what their goals are. We look at how they’ve done on goals talked about last year and how new goals will be put in place and then we determined where they rank as far as need by the city.”
On Monday, six department heads were in place for the lengthy session that helps share the 2024-25 fiscal year budget that begins July 1. Sharon Hinkle, who heads the Bridgeport Finance Department and puts together the budget document, was at the top of the lineup.
Hinkle was followed by Parks and Recreation’s Joe Shuttleworth, The Bridge’s Droo Callahan, the Public Library’s Savanna Draper, Fire Chief Phil Hart, and IT head Jesse Chaney then discussed their goals and ongoing projects. Many of the department heads had their top assistants with them, while interim City Manager Mark Rogers was also present.
“Ultimately, Council has to determine if the goals are viable and how can they be funded. If those questions can be answered, often times we try to set that goal for the upcoming (fiscal year),” said Lang. “Those that aren’t funded, are looked at for the future. The Council, and past Councils have always done a good job of looking not just to the year ahead, but many years ahead. That is part of this process.”
The Dec. 12 meeting will begin at 6 p.m. It will be held at the Benedum Civic Center and will count as one of two monthly meetings as required by the city charter. Council’s regularly scheduled meeting for Dec. 11 will begin at 6 p.m. The second regularly scheduled meeting, which would have fallen on Christmas Day, has been canceled.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mayor Andy Lang and City Clerk Lauren Rogers discussing agenda items prior to the start of Monday's meeting, while Finance Director Sharon Hinkle is shown in the second photo. Bottom photo is the group hashing out the goals and plans for the upcoming fiscal year as well as beyond.

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