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The Redding League of Women Voters has held a municipal candidate debate.  Democratic incumbent First Selectman Julia Pemberton and Republican challenger John Shaban fielded questions on a number of topics.  Shaban is a former state legislator and an environmental lawyer.  Pemberton is seeking a fifth term. 

The biggest discussion of the night centered on the former Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill site. 

Shaban says not a single brick has been laid in Georgetown in 10 years and the town needs to reengage with developers.  He says they need to tackle the bond debt to restructure it, buy it out, or extinguish it.  Shaban added that a mixed-use, vital, quaint community center is still viable.  Pemberton says redevelopment was essentially a dead ball when she took office 8 years ago.  She noted that there's a quarter million dollars in revenue there now that the old developer was collecting that the town could have had all along.  Shaban says the lawsuit about the bond priority had nothing to do with what could and should be built there.  He believes the town could have taken on the sale, clean up and development of the 60 acre site 5 acres at a time.

They also addressed how to work with Eversource to better respond to storms and what needs to be done to protect the community from COVID-19.  Both agree that vaccines are important, especially to protect the youth who aren't currently eligible for vaccination. 

As for Eversource, Pemberton noted that Redding was the 2nd municipality to file a motion against the utility in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias.  But she says the state hasn't done enough. Pemberton added that she stays at the Emergency Communications Center until the last person has their power back after a storm.  Shaban says big storms in 2012 prompted the legislature to take action, and then 2016 and 2018 storms led to other changes.  Shaban says he would demand responsiveness from the utilities now so that they're proactive, not reactive.

The Selectmen candidates Democratic Selectman Peg O’Donnell and Republican Michael Thompson, both incumbents fielded a different set of questions, including about speeding, expanding Park & Rec offerings and getting the Gilbert & Bennett project restarted.

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Dave Rinelli
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