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Three way race for Bethel First Selectman

A former Bethel Selectman is looking to challenge the incumbent whole a 3rd party candidate is hoping to beat both of them.


Republican William Duff is a former Selectman and Board of Assessment Appeals member.  He currently sits on the Board of Education.  Duff was a sheriff and retired several years ago from a career in information technologies. 


Al Vargas, who's never run for office before, petitioned his way on to the ballot as a Green Party candidate.


Democratic incumbent Matt Knickerbocker says he'd like to continue the road recovery project.  He says there are 31 miles of roads in bad shape, the town is 15 miles through, but that's a vital part of the town's infrastructure.  He says there are also new projects he'd like to work on including a new police station.  He says that will likely be ready for a referendum in about a year.  Knickerbocker says the project sat on a shelf for nearly a decade and police officers need to be able to work in a 21st century environment.


Duff said even though the Walnut Hill Bridge was in disrepair before Knickerbocker took office, his opponent hasn't gotten on the phone with the state to get on the ball about the bridge.  Duff says the First Selectman is supposed to be doing something.


Knickerbocker wants to automate the building permit process, health department permits and planing and zoning process.  He says town hall has to be as business friendly as the best run company.


Knickerbocker says the voters spoke very clearly about the potential sale of the Water Department.  He says they are dealing with a 10 year old debt load that keeps getting bigger and poor infrastructure.


Duff says an outside company would need Bethel's infrastructure.  He says the 300-plus acres would never be returned to Bethel.  He says a budget that includes the cost to maintain and operate the system should be sent to the Public Utilities Commission.  He says the rate increase that the town gives would be far less than what Aquarion would hand down.  Duff says there should be a long-range water plan with a segment of rotted pipe dug up every year and replaced.  He says it all doesn't have be done tomorrow and there doesn't have to be a $40-million budget put out all at once.  Duff says he would seek federal and state grant money for the projects and work with the utilities on the cost of the digs.


Duff says Bethel has a number of different aquifers and in the future water will be more valuable .  He says it doesn't make sense to give one company an open ended lease, never to be renegotiated, just because the current town government no doesn't want to maintain the infrastructure.


Knickerbocker says an engineering form has been hired to develop a plan for new wells, replacement pipes and water storage problems.  He notes that some of the pipe are over 100 years old and there are new regulations in place.


Knickerbocker says the only good news for taxpayers is that the infrastructure improvements are covered by ratepayers, but the goals will be accomplished as cost effectively as possible.


Duff says while his opponent has hired a Director of Economic Development, that person has done nothing for the town.  He called Bethel "uniquely situated for business" being between two major highways, a train line running through town, and an accessible corporate park. 


Duff says economic development is not just an idea, it's an activity.


If elected and if he were to keep the position of Economic Development Director, Duff says that person would be out knocking on doors attracting new businesses.  He adds that the director would have to got to Hartford and work with legislators about incentives for companies or spend just some time in Town Hall coordinating with various entities to improve infrastructure to propel economic development.


Knickerbocker says Bethel has a well thought out plan of conservation and development.


Knickerbocker says one new school resource officer started at the beginning of the year and hardening efforts were put in place.  He says the Board of Education has taken on the task to make enhancements and improvements.  Knickerbocker also touted the work done to complete the Library renovations.


Two former Brookfield Board of Finance members are is looking to step up to the town's top spot.  Click here for a look at the open race in New FairfieldTwo people are vying to become First Selectman in ReddingDanbury's Mayor is being challenged in November.  To see sample ballots from across the region, click here.

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Rich Valdes

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