Incumbent New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy is seeking a seventh term in office. The Republican is being challenged by political newcomer, Democrat David Gronbach. He is an attorney by trade.
Murphy says as a local government, you're never done trying to make sure you are serving the public appropriately. She wants another term in office to see some upcoming projects through to completion. Murphy says she is excited about the Century Brass property becoming a tax producer for New Milford. Murphy says some bike trails, which were designed in 2007, are ready to come on line.
Gronbach and his family moved to New Milford about eight years ago. He got involved with the Democratic Town Committee when the issue of closing John Pettibone School came up. He says as a property owned by the town, it should stay in the town's control and be a benefit to town residents.
Gronbach says New Milford has a great opportunity to improve quality of life by increasing usage of the Housatonic River and Candlewood Lake. He wants to connect the town to others along the river through bike trails.
Murphy says the town and the state are still facing some challenging times so it's helpful to have seasoned leadership at the helm. She says the work is very rewarding, and that everyone on the team works well together. Headed into another winter season, Murphy says they have weathered a lot of storms together.
When it comes to taxes, Gronbach says the problem is that they keep going up. He says a lot of people don't understand where their tax dollars are going and what services they're receiving. He says part of the problem is that the town has bonded a lot of projects and the interest payments take up a chunk of the budget. He wants to reevaluate town employee positions to see where efficiencies can be found.
Murphy says she is looking forward to maintaining the town's good financial rating and pursuing a AAA bond rating. New Milford is currently rated at AA1 and financially sound. She says the redevelopment of the riverfront and the Century Brass property are projects she would like to see through to completion. She says the Century Brass Mill project is finally moving forward now that the big factory building is coming down. She touted programs in the community that help residents: Youth Agency, Senior Center, Social Services and Parks and Rec.
Gronbach says the Century Brass Mill site has been sitting empty, vacant and vandalized for too long. He doesn't see the progress that's being made there as a victory for the incumbent. Gronbach says some of these wasted parcels need to earn money for New Milford. He says the town plan to move the Public Works Department there doesn't generate revenue for New Milford. He would like to see the site used for clean manufacturing, especially because of access to the freight rail there. Gronbach says there's a great work force and infrastructure in place in New Milford, and the town needs to attract industry and manufacturing to put that to use.
Murphy says more open space is coming on line including a large donation on the other side of the river, and another farm being preserved.
Gronbach says New Milford has done a great job in preserving open space and farmland on the Route 202 side of the river. He wants to also promote farms as something more than museum-like spaces. He would encourage the farms to produce food for local residents and for high end restaurants. He says there is a strong Farm to Table program, and he sees the potential of organically grown beef, chicken and pigs as a driving force in the town's economy.
Murphy wants to continue to restore Boardman Bridge. They are working on a grant for that. Road projects are coming up. The bridge repair program, 60 bridges that the town is responsible for, is nearing completion. There is also a roof restoration project at Schaghticoke Middle School. A recent town meeting approved two artificial turf and track facility upgrades.
Gronbach says the roads have become a perpetual problem, in part because residents don't know what the process is for which roads get paved and when. He proposes a commission involving community leaders to address road maintenance. He would also put more resources to the problem. While it may cost more money up front, in the long run he says it would be less expensive to repave rather than repair.
Murphy says the town aggressively seeks to bring new businesses to New Milford, and to make infrastructure improvements. She notes that some are improvements that can't be seen. Murphy cited the communications system to make emergency responders lives safer, while also serving the public more efficiently. There is a new ambulance facility, training and equipment for police have been upgraded, and the capital budget for firefighters was increased. Murphy also touted a generator installed in the Gaylordsville firehouse, which is used for shelter in case of extreme emergency. Showers were also put in at Sarah Noble Intermediate School, which is a major shelter facility. She says training, programs and outreach in public health when it comes to drug addiction and abuse have also been implemented.
As of this week, Murphy says the Police Chief confirmed that all members of the department will go through training and be outfitted with Narcan kits next month. Murphy is working with other leaders of area towns to have the state declare this drug abuse epidemic as a health emergency. She says that will be helpful to bring attention to how prevalent it is among all communities.
When it comes to development along Route 7, Gronbach says it's a negative. He says there is no plan of development, which has led to haphazard and ad hoc building by developers and what some see as a loss of New Milford's character. He wants to put the breaks on that, and implement smart development. Gronbach also cited a number of recent pedestrian accidents on Route 7.
When it comes to development, Murphy says property owners have the right to rent to who they want. The town does have some regulations, but developers base what they do on the economy. She says the Plan of Conservation and Development was crafted with public input. Previous to zoning rules being put in place, there were businesses grandfathered in along the Route 7 corridor. As long as businesses comply with zoning regulations, they can have their project begin.