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Board of Ed member looks to unseat first term First Selectman in Brookfield

Brookfield incumbent Democratic First Selectman Steve Dunn is seeking election to second term. He is being challenged by Republican Harry Shaker.

Dunn notes that there were a lot of challenges in his first term in office, including a multi-million dollar accounting discrepancy. He says that’s been cleared up, there are new accounting processes in place and the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education are all now working together.

For 23 years, Harry Shaker has been involved with coaching and officiating youth in the Brookfield area and helped 3,000 youth. He’s been on the Board of Education for 14 years and served on many different subcommittees, including the negotiation subcommittee where he’s worked with all 5 bargaining units. Shaker is also a small businessman.

Dunn wants to get the ball rolling on several infrastructure improvement projects including building a new library, constructing a new police station and continuing the streetscaping in the Four Corners area. Phase I of the project is almost completed and two thirds of Phase II is being fully funded with grant money.

The needs of police departments have changed over the last 30 years since the station was built. Dunn would like to be able to have officers out of the basement, with the proper amount of space.

Shaker says there are three Capital Improvements that are being looked at, and the first he’s like to tackle is improvements to Huckleberry Elementary School. The other two being discussed are a new library and the police station. But Shaker says Brookfield needs to start to pay down debt, noting that there is $13 million in capital spending done more than two years ago that they are paying interest on. The Board of Ed has hired a firm to do a study, on all four buildings, on immediate and future needs. Shaker says he’s in favor of all three projects, it’s just a matter of when they get done.

Dunn says other improvements will make doing business in town easier. The Zoning Board is overhauling the entire code for the town and simplifying the laws. In a couple of weeks people will be able to apply for permits online. Instead of running the town on spreadsheets, Dunn says the $65 million budget is now being run with stricter controls. He added that project accounts are now closed out for the firs time when a project is completed.

When it comes to the Four Corners area, Shaker says it’s something that the town can embrace and enjoy. When builders come into Brookfield, he hopes they conform to zoning regulations. But he says the town will continue to take a firm stance against 8-30g housing. When it’s time to apply to renew the moratorium, Shaker says he’d pursue that. He wants more small businesses come in, including a breakfast place, a pharmacy and a dining/entertainment business to increase nightlife.

Another accounting change that Dunn has continued is to have the town spend more cash than bonding on road paving. Each year the amount of cash is upped by about $100,000, and will be until Brookfield is paying everything there with cash.

Dunn wants to do more to protect water quality of Candlewood Lake. The Authority overseeing operations is currently looking for a new director. He says research has to be done about combating blue green algae. Dunn commended the sterile grass carp program for cutting down on the amount of invasive Eurasian Milfoil in the lake, but he says that’s a long-term solution. Other invasive species are a concern. He would like the state to deploy the town-owned boat washing station at the Danbury launch. Brookfield issues about 80 boating permits a year, but Danbury is where a lot of the big bass boat tournaments launch from, with boats coming in from New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere. But the problem is, there are no laws that require inspections or washing before launching.

Shaker says he’s worked very closely with former selectman Jerry Murphy who is on the Candlewood Lake Authority. He supports the grass carp program to help control the milfoil problem. He says there’s so control over who is using the lake because there are so many different boat launches. He wants to continue efforts to keep zebra mussels out of the lake.

Shaker says any cuts that Brookfield would have faced from Hartford would likely be able to be faced internally through savings, rather than cutting programs from the schools or having to go to the taxpayers for more money.

Dunn says they are making some difficult decisions, putting some things off and belt-tightening in an effort to compensate for state funding cuts. Brookfield is slated to receive $1.8 million in Education Cost Sharing grants under the Governor’s executive order. But he says they’ve taken steps so the local education budget won’t suffer because of the state’s fiscal woes.

Shaker says there’s been a lack of oversight and accountability in the last few years. He wants to set a new direction and change how Brookfield does business. He says there will not be unilateral decisions made without consultation of different boards and commissions and advisors. He wants to see a more collaborative and open work environment. Shaker says he will not be making unilateral decisions if he is elected, decisions based on what he thinks is right, but rather decisions made through coordination and collaboration with different boards and offices. He gave an example of $300,000 to put electric at the Four Corners that he says was made without the collaboration of the Board of Finance or the Economic Development Committee. Eversource will reimburse part of the money. He says another example is to fire the town controller, which lowered the bond rating.

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