To the Valley News:
We’re all comfortable with what we know. It’s change that we fear. But change is happening all around us, every minute of every day. We can’t stop change and we can’t hide from it. But we can plan for it.
In the year 2000, Elizabethtown had 1,315 people. By the 2010 census, we had lost 152 people and dropped to 1,163, a decrease of 12 percent. It was the largest population decline in Essex County. Fewer people mean fewer customers, and failing businesses. In the past several months our town lost a used furniture store and Wilson’s Appliance/Radio Shack on Water Street. Apartments remain vacant and houses go unsold.
In August the Town Board starts planning for 2014. We’re almost half way through the second decade, and by 2020, just six years from now, our town will have changed even more. If we loose another 12 percent of our people, we’ll be at 1,023. Fewer people mean loss of retail stores, restaurants and services. Empty buildings and vacant lots don’t pay taxes. Unused properties turn ugly when they’re not cared for. This is the kind of change we should all fear, the kind of change that drives people and businesses away.
What we need to do is to attract people to Elizabethtown, welcome people who will support our businesses by shopping here, eating here, and buying homes. We need young families with children to keep our school alive (school population dropped 25 percent in 10 years). People with kids like playgrounds, parks and child friendly sports. Families spend money in our stores and restaurants, and buy homes with plenty of room to play. These families hire plumbers and carpenters, and they’ll buy paint and tools at the hardware store. More people will mean more businesses opening, and fewer shops closing.