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First term New Milford Mayor being challenged by long time Town Councilman

New Milford Democratic incumbent Mayor David Gronbach is seeking reelection. He is being challenged by Republican Town Councilman Pete Bass.

Gronbach says there’s more that he wants to accomplish in a second term. He says the projects brought to fruition in the past two years, which were on the books for years, are the tip of what he wants to accomplish. Examples he cited include completion of the Young’s Field Riverwalk along the Housatonic, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Green and renovations to Lynne Deming Park. Native Meadows Preserve and Hidden Treasure Park are both being cleaned up and ready to open.

Bass has been a Town Council member for six terms. He believes New Milford is going in a different direction than where he thinks the town should go. One of his top goals is road safety. He thinks New Milford needs to work on getting roads repaired and restructured.

Gronbach is looking to put solar panels on a number of municipal buildings including the newly opened Pettibone Community Center. As for solar elsewhere, there is a proposal form a developer to build a solar farm on Candlewood Mountain. Gronbach says he knows there are a lot of concerns from residents. He acknowledged that there are issues with the proposal and will advocate before the Siting Council on the town’s best interests.

The Candlewood Mountain solar proposal was first given to the Town Council and Bass says there were some issues on how it was going to be retrofitted into the mountain. He says more information has come to light about the runoff of water, the light that would hit the actual solar panels and could be reflected into the air and other issues. He is concerned about the project and how it will impact the environment.

Bass says the intention of the newly opened John Pettibone Community Center is a great one, but in his opinion it wasn't done correctly. Under the previous administration, the Town Council was setting up a wide-ranging subcommittee to get input of the type of community center, how it would look and how it would be. The committee was going to get costs, plans and specifications. New numbers from the consultant hired by Gronbach is in the millions of dollars, when Bass says they were initially told it would be $100,000 - $200,000. Bass says now is the time to press pause, form a new committee and get the new costs.

New Milford was the only town of its size and population without a Town Planner. Gronbach says the man he hired is on the Farmland Preservation Committee, so is looking out for both preservation and development. He believes they’ll be able to achieve a good balance.

Bass is a proponent of conservation and development. The Town Council set up the Farmland Preservation Committee and Commission, which working on saving farmland as part of New Milford’s heritage and history. But he says that needs to be done in tandem with have Economic Development to help offset taxes paid to the town and to the state.

When it comes to the state’s fiscal problems and the impact on New Milford, Gronbach says the town does have contingencies in place. He says the town is in a good financial standing with a healthy bottom line. But he stressed that there’s a big difference between a $1 million cut and a $10 million cut. Gronbach says New Milford’s state delegation has been working on behalf of the town to say that some of the cuts of funding elimination aren’t fair.

Bass says one of the reasons he didn't vote for the municipal budget this time was that he believes that cities and towns have to be very proactive because of the state budget crisis. He called for a hiring freeze and wanted to talk to all the local department heads and look at ways to cost save. He says that’s especially important because New Milford is planning for a library expansion and says they are looking at improvements needed at the senior center. Bass also wants to look at all of the town assets and buildings and see how they can be run as economically as possible. One of the ways to do that according to Bass is to possibly do an energy retrofit.

Gronbach wants to follow through on the library expansion, plans for which are in the design phase. If reelection, he wants to be able to authorize construction or see the work started. He also wants to continue selling surplus properties.

Bass says there was some discussion under the previous administration of looking at how to mitigate flooding along the Housatonic, but he noted that the surrounding land is in the hundred year flood plain. Bass says unfortunately with climate change more frequent flooding is coming. He would make it a priority to look at, without changing the river, what opportunities there are to help with the flooding.

When it comes to traffic and safety issues along Route 7, Bass says he has a good relationship with New Milford’s state Representative and Senator. He wants to work with them to figure out ways to ease traffic on Route 7, Grove Street and through the downtown. Bass notes that one of the things that can be done easily would be to make sure the traffic lights work in tandem in the area of the bridge and that would be a quick fix for the congestion there.

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Joe Pags

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