There's a three way race for First Selectman in Brookfield. The candidates met for a debate late night hosted by the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. The event was livestreamed on the town's YouTube page, with no residents in attendance in person.
Democratic incumbent Steve Dunn is seeking a 4th term. Republican Tara Carr is a political newcomer who served in the Army for 25 years. The mother of four moved her family to Brookfield in 2019. Petitioning candidate Austin Monteiro owned and ran a gym in Danbury for about 10 years and currently owns a coaching and consulting business. He lives with a long term girlfriend and her two school-aged children.
The candidates were asked about development of the Four Corners area and what will the Town center District look like in five years. Monteiro says the redevelopment project should not have been done in an area where the ground is contaminated, and around something more exciting than gas stations. He called for more affordable housing, but in a better location. Dunn says no matter how persuasive, elected officials can't tell developers when and how quickly they can build, but they can leverage zoning requirements for how they can develop. He noted that it's a situation of the chicken and the egg, development will come once the streetscape project is complete. Carr says the project has been a mess and a series of missed opportunities. She opposes 8-30(g) affordable housing and thinks there shouldn't be development for the sake of development. But Carr wants to see incentivized housing for seniors and places for families to downsize.
They also addressed the ongoing pandemic. Dunn touted efforts to set up vaccination clinics. He says sometimes tough decisions will have to be made, but the safety of the community was a priority, noting that he hopes to lift the mask mandate will be lifted soon. Dunn noted that Brookfield has received 14 grants to address the pandemic, above and beyond ARPA funding. Carr says there's been one death of a Connecticut child under the age of 9 and doesn't believe masking is necessary. She says the ARPA money should be used now, not sitting in the bank. Monteiro says there's a bigger health problem in the country and not being addressed-obesity and mental health. He believes people should focus on building up their health to battle the next pandemic.
The candidates were asked how to improve library and police services. Carr says she would prioritize a new police station. She called the current facility inadequate and believes it's in a state of disrepair. Carr noted that it lacks of facilities for female officers and needs better technology. Monteiro has family ties to police in Danbury, and wants to focus on giving them more support. He called for a task force with neighboring towns on car thefts, noting that his car was stolen in late August. Dunn says the Board of Selectmen has funded new requests for police and fire over the years, including a temporary shed to house equipment. Dunn doesn't believe in defunding the police, say it's not an answer to issues in Brookfield noting that the town doesn't have the problems that cities have. He supports a new library facility and believes it was turned down because the town was also building a new school and didn't want to commit to two projects. Dunn noted that Brookfield is applying for a grant to build an addition to for an Emergency Communications Center, but noted that there's a limit to how much debt any one town can take on before jeopardizing bond ratings.
Taxes and budgeting were addressed by the candidates. Carr says the money in the budget reserve fund should go back to the taxpayers and believes tax increases are not needed. She believes taxes will have to go up for four years because of the debt bubble and says her hands will be tied. Monteiro says the First Selectman's salary is too high and he would return $30,000 to the budget reserve. Dunn says the town has been able to get low interest rates on bond because of the fiscal management.
Other infrastructure projects were discussed. Monteiro says the town needs another cell tower. Carr says she would look for efficiencies in road paving. Dunn says when he took office they were paying $350,000 cash and $1.15 million in borrowing, but now it's 1.350 million cash and borrowing $150,000.
Blight was an issue. Carr says there's 40 properties cited under a new ordinance in 6 years, but nothing has been done. Monteiro says a homeless man is living in a house with no roof by the Four Corners and that needs to be addressed. Dunn notes that the old blight rule only said health and safety issues could prompt change, but the new ordinance says if someone is lowering the value of a neighbor's property that's considered blight. He notes that two properties have been condemned and ordered condemned. One is by the bowling alley, one where a tree fell through it, the other is at 20 Station Road.
There were some areas of agreement, including about expanding the Still River Greenway and adding a skate park.
On the Greenway, Carr says it's a good recreational venue that will improve the health of residents. But she says there should be a cohesive plan, which addresses easement issues. She called the crisscrossing of Federal Road a safety issue. Monteiro says it should be a community-based decision. Dunn says he along with Danbury and New Milford have submitted a tri-town application for a grant being issued by the federal government. But he notes there are condos that sit right along side the river making it a challenge to find a path forward.
Monteiro supports the idea of a skate park in town and wants to add a Little League field in town. He added that exercise stations should be added to the Greenway. Dunn backs the skate park idea, but says it would be difficult to build on wetlands so doesn't think it should go near the Greenway. He added that Brookfield needs more recreational opportunities and a community center. He's suggested that the old Center School be used for a library and Parks & Rec. He says kids could then use the gym there. Carr suggested looking for a grant for a skate park, but would prioritize needs of the town. She was critical of the new school project meaning a field would be going away and proposed plans that would have used two fields by Town Hall for a new library.
Carr was critical of the boys locker room project stalling with currently only port-o-potties, no legitimate concession stand and bathrooms at Whisconier Middle School needing attention. Monteiro agreed that work has to be done to fix up the school.