September 23, 2019
OUR VISION OF BETHEL’S VIBRANT FUTURE
Bethel has become one of the most desirable and livable towns in the State of Connecticut. With your help, Bethel has been on a winning path since Matt and Rich first took office in 2009, recently being named one of the 16 most charming towns in Connecticut.
With the support of this community, we’ve built outstanding public schools, recognized nationally and regionally for academic and programmatic excellence.
We have successfully addressed roads, buildings and other infrastructure needs.
We have brought new efficiencies to town government to improve service to our residents. We have corrected serious deficiencies from past financial practices, earning the town a highly coveted AAA bond rating, which only 29 out of 169 towns have achieved. We have improved the public water system with a bold 30-year capital improvement plan and put utility department finances back “in the black” after years of mismanagement.
But we’re not done. Not even close. Here is an outline of the top goals for our town for the next two years.
Boosting Economic Development
Clarke Business Park Expansion: Unlike other parts of our state, Bethel is financially strong and growing. Our unemployment rate is below the state and national averages, and Bethel is attracting young families.
To keep this momentum, we must continue to expand opportunities for new businesses to locate here. In 2017, we applied for, and won, a state grant to resume the development of Clarke Business Park. The grant covered design and legal costs of further expansion, and today, four new industrial lots are ready for development and under negotiations with potential buyers.
Property Tax Incentive: The Board of Selectmen worked with the town’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) for over a year to develop our first property tax incentive to help bring new businesses to Bethel. It was carefully crafted to help current businesses stay in Bethel and move to larger facilities as they grow. The Board of Selectmen recently approved the very first new development using this innovative new incentive.
Plank #1: We pledge to continue this success by working with our EDC to bring more businesses to Bethel.
Creating Government Efficiencies
We have a strong record of revitalizing delivery of public services. Bethel was one of the first towns in the state to begin combining internal town operations with our school board operations to reduce costs and improve service. We installed powerful new software budgeting packages to improve efficiency and visibility to the public.
The next step is to finalize an online permitting system which will vastly improve the permit application process for the Health, Building and Land Use departments. This will speed service and cut overtime costs. The permitting system is in the installation phase now.
Plank #2: We pledge to introduce cost-saving “eGovernment” solutions to improve government efficiencies, reduce costs and speed delivery of essential services.
Support for Renewable Energy
Bethel was one of the first towns in the state to seek and win approval to construct a solar farm. The facility became operational in 2018 and currently generates over 1 million kilowatts of power each year, saving Bethel taxpayers thousands of dollars in the annual town budget. We are currently exploring the feasibility of more renewable energy installations, such as solar car ports in other areas of town. We are also studying the potential cost savings in fuel and maintenance by converting the town hall auto fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles, where appropriate.
Plank #3: We pledge to continue to develop clean, renewable energy systems that will cut the town’s energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.
Support for Recreation
Except for two small practice fields, Bethel has not added to its recreational facilities for decades, yet the town population has grown by about 20% since 1980, putting a serious strain on our children’s opportunities to participate in sports and other recreational activities. In 2018 the Board of Selectmen began a study of our current inventory and is currently preparing a ten-year park improvement plan.
Plank #4: We pledge to present to Bethel voters a long-term, affordable parks improvement plan to increase recreational opportunities.
Support for Our Outstanding Schools
We are proud supporters of the Bethel Public Schools. Over the past decade, we have worked hand in hand with our school board to provide the resources that help our children excel. We championed the referendum to fully renovate our oldest elementary schools, Rockwell and Johnson, and we supported and worked closely with the generous donor who is constructing the multimillion-dollar track and field house on our school campus.
Plank #5: We pledge to maintain excellence in our public schools and to ensure on-time and on-budget completion of the school renovation projects.
Quality of Life
There is a reason Bethel is one of the most desirable towns in Connecticut: this is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. From our excellent schools, to great Park & Recreation programs like the free family movie nights on the Municipal Building Lawn, to the children’s room at the Bethel Public Library, to Food Truck Friday and the free Sunday concerts in the summer months, Bethel is the place to be.
Plank #6: We pledge to continue to make Bethel the best, most welcoming community it can possibly be.
These goals will be accomplished, as we have always done, with openness and bipartisan cooperation. We strongly believe that when it comes to public service, politics stops at the door. Meeting the needs of our town’s people comes first.
Matt Knickerbocker and Rich Straiton