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4 term incumbent First Selectman challenged by Finance Board member in Bethel

Bethel incumbent Democratic First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker is being challenged this November by Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale as he seeks a fifth term.  McCorkindale is the former chair of the Bethel Action Committee and has been crossed endorsed by the Republicans.
She is a past Board of Education member.  McCorkindale says the town is going in a good direction, but could go in a better direction. 
Knickerbocker says he’s been able to accomplish a lot in the last few years, specifically addressing infrastructure needs.  He cited construction of the police station currently under way, a vote to renovate two schools in the district and adding a solar farm, which is coming online soon.  Knickerbocker touted town employees for bringing in projects on time or early in recent years, and on budget.  The Whittlesey Bridge replacement was completed four months early.
Knickerbocker wants the focus the next two years on finding savings in town government to make Bethel as efficient as possible.  He says that’s more important now because of the state’s fiscal woes and officials there passing down cuts to municipalities.  Knickerbocker says they’ve switched pension plans for new employees and renegotiated health care packages, resulting in significant savings.  The one outstanding union on the old pension plan has agreed to switch to the new plan when their contract is up.
McCorkindale wants to control taxes and the mill rate.   She wants to press pause, take stock in all of the projects going on and focus on cost savings.  McCorkindale says there are places where the town can save money, including looking at purchasing options and reducing overheads.  She believes the town should focus on needs, not wants.
Knickerbocker believes the state will not be very generous in the next few years at the General Assembly looks to erase year after year of deficits.  Town hall, which was constructed in 1939 as a school became the municipal center 20 years ago.  Knickerbocker says they ran out of money for the repurposing and there is a lot of space that can be used for recreation programs or as an emergency shelter.  That plan was put on hold when the state budget impasse started.  Plans to put in a turf field were also put on hold. 
McCorkindale says commercial development should drive Bethel’s efforts.  She wants to see more destination shops or boutiques downtown and larger corporations coming to Clarke Park.
Bethel is currently taking on a Transit Oriented Development study.  McCorkindale says the area around the train station should be built up, but it’s how it’s built up that matters.  She doesn’t think Bethel needs a new zone or expanded downtown. 
Knickerbocker says the Planning and Zoning Commission has control over the TOD.  He supports the plan, as does the business community.  The Commission is finalizing the necessary zone changes.  Bethel also has a grant application in to the DOT to construct a pedestrian bridge over the Metro North tracks, which will connect in the Diamond Avenue area.
McCorkindale is concern about a lack of affordable housing, noting that the Bishop Curtis homes were bought up by the same owner as the new Copper Square development in Stony Hill.  She says Stony Hill lends itself to bigger developments than the downtown area.  She would like to see more affordable options for retirees and seniors on fixed incomes. 
McCorkindale is proposing a senior tax abatement.  Another goal is to increase transparency.  She wants to implement an Open The Books process so taxpayers can see every check that’s written, every revenue coming in and every vendor hired.
Knickerbocker says the 750,000-gallon tank on Long Ridge Road was instrumental in saving the historic building that burned in July.  He says without the water pressure and volume that came from that tank, the suppression operation may have been hampered.  He notes that the new Social Service Director and Community Services Director had a gathering with the displaced families.  Gift cards were passed out, purchased with donations raised to support the families.  65 qualified applicants applied to be Bethel’s Social Service Director when the former leader of the agency resigned.  The new director is filling the role full time.

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