You’re Invited! Join Us at the Bethel DTC Picnic: Sunday, July 25th

Please join us on July 25th from 12:00-4:00 for our Annual Picnic at Bennett Memorial Park! We will have a fun outdoor afternoon for all family members.

    • Great Picnic Menu
    • Children’s Activities
    • Door Prizes
    • Raffles
    • Meet Our Local and State Officials
    • Join the Fun!   

Would you or your business like to place an ad in the program book?

Here is the link to the AD FORM.

Here is the link to the Certification Form that must accompany the ad form.

See you there!

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Love Bethel and Want to Help? We Need You!

Are you interested in volunteering for the benefit of Bethel? Consider running for office this year!

The Bethel Democrats are interested in hearing from and meeting folks who might wish to serve on one of the following boards or commissions:

  • Planning & Zoning
  • Zoning Board of Appeals
  • Inland Wetlands
  • Board of Assessment Appeals

 

If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about, please contact Jon Menti at jmenti30@frontier.com. We will gladly be in touch with more about what’s involved, what’s expected of candidates, etc.

If you’re a registered Democrat, we’d love to hear from you!

 

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YOU Have a Say in Bethel’s Future

Every Bethel resident can help shape Bethel’s future by participating in the budget process!

 

You may not realize it, but Bethel’s budget is shaped through community input and voted on by Bethel residents. This is sometimes referred to as a “Town Meeting” form of government, which is unique to the New England states. Do you want to have a say in the future of our town? Get involved! Here are the three important dates where you can have a say. Participation in all three events is critical:

  • Monday, March 22nd, 7:00pm: Public Hearing on the budget. This is where the public can comment on the budget as initially proposed by the Board of Finance (“BOF”). Due to CoVID restrictions, the Public Hearing will be via Zoom (the Zoom Meeting link and related materials can be found on the Town by clicking here). After the Public Hearing, the BOF will consider comments made by members of the public and will decide what budget should be presented at the Annual Town Meeting.
  • Monday, April 5th: Annual Town Meeting. This is a meeting where those Bethel taxpayers who are present can vote on both whether to reduce the BOF proposed budget (the proposal cannot be increased) and whether to send the BOF proposed budget to Town Referendum. As residents come into the venue, members of the Town Registrars’ team will check identification to confirm eligibility to vote at the Annual Town Meeting. If the majority of Bethel taxpayers present agree, the Budget moves on to a vote in a Town Referendum. If not, it goes back to the BOF to make changes.
  • Tuesday, April 20th: Town Referendum. This is where the town votes on a budget. Residents will vote in their regular polling places. If the budget passes, it goes into effect when the new fiscal year begins (i.e., July 1, 2021). If not, it goes back to the Board of Finance to make changes. For more information on voting districts and polling places in Bethel, visit our “Voter Info” page.

 

You can view the proposed 2021-2022 budget here.

 

As you think about how you will vote on the budget, here are some items to consider:

  • You will have the opportunity to vote both on the town budget AND the school budget. Often both budgets pass, but sometimes one passes and the other doesn’t, in which case the BOF will make changes to the budget that failed. That budget will again go through the Annual Town Meeting and Town Referendum process.
  • It’s important to know that parts of the town budget actually go to support our schools. If part of what motivates you to get involved in the budget process is wanting to support our schools, know that both parts of the budget are important for the functioning of our school system. For example, the cost of utilities, insurance and School Resource Officers are all included in the Town Budget.
  • Every vote matters! Turnout matters a lot in town referendums, so taking time to vote will make a big difference.

 

Finally, Bethel’s Board of Finance Chair, Bob Manfreda, explains why your participation is so important:

“There is a saying that ‘democracy is not easy.’ This is especially so when we have a Town Meeting form of government, where participation in each of the three events that comprise the Town of Bethel’s Budget process (the Public Hearing, the Annual Town Meeting and the Town Referendum) is critical.

I recall an exchange I had during one of my first budget seasons while on the Board of Finance. A resident stopped me in the Town Hall. He was confused, and more than a little upset, that there was not going to be a Turf Field in Bethel. He was adamant. He was at the meeting where the Turf Field was approved and he wanted to know why the BOF was ignoring the wishes of the Public! As it turned out, this individual had attended the Annual Town Meeting, where the Budget, including the Capital Plan with the Turf Field, was approved to go to Town Referendum. He confided that he did not vote during the Town Referendum, where the Capital Plan, including the Turf Field, was voted down.

So, please, participate in all 3 events!”

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Matt Knickerbocker: What Is a “Shovel-Ready” Project Policy?

“Shovel ready” is a nickname for a policy governing how major construction projects are funded and managed. The policy is designed to prevent unexpected price changes from causing construction projects to run over budget.

Although this concept is a centerpiece of my opponent’s campaign this election, voters should know it was adopted unanimously over a year ago by the Board of Selectmen.

What is it, why is it needed, and how will it help?

Major projects are usually funded through the use of construction estimates. Typically, an architect is hired to create a design concept and cost estimate. A referendum is then held based on the concept and estimates.

If the project is approved, only then does the work begin to turn the architectural concepts into actual blueprints and publish bid invitations to obtain real costs. This process can sometimes take more than a year following the referendum.

Recently, we have seen a great deal of volatility in construction pricing. Labor and material costs have risen sharply, pushing project costs higher than the amount approval. Unfortunately, this has affected nearly all of our projects in recent years.

When this happens, there are only two possible solutions. The first is to reduce the scope of the project, a process called “value engineering.” The building might be reduced in size, or cheaper materials chosen, or certain features removed completely. Voters end up getting less than they thought they were getting, sometimes much less.

On occasion not even aggressive value engineering is enough to overcome severe pricing changes, and then the only option is to seek additional funding. This occurred with the police station project as well as the Bethel library, whose entire upper floor was left vacant and unused for seven years before funding was available to complete it.

How can this problem be prevented?

The obvious answer is to stop using estimates in referendums, and instead use actual bid costs. The shovel-ready plan asks voters to approve the project in two votes instead of one. The first vote is to provide money to create a complete shovel-ready project, including all blueprints, engineering specifications and bids; a second vote would then be held based not on estimates, but on actual bid documents. This eliminates the danger of using estimates that may be stale in a few months.

Taxpayers’ interests are protected using this method. Prices cannot change, because they are based on formal, bonded bids, rather than estimates. Taxpayers are also guaranteed to get exactly the building they approved, instead of one shrunken with compromises and reductions due to unexpected cost changes.

While this method is a bit more complicated, I believe this is the best way to avoid unexpected cost changes that threaten the integrity of our construction projects.

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“MOVING BETHEL AHEAD”

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.

Sincerely,

Matt Knickerbocker and Rich Straiton

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Matt Knickerbocker and Rich Straiton Appeal to Voters for Another Term

Dear Friends,

Rich Straiton and I are running for reelection to the positions of Selectman and First Selectman in the upcoming November election. We sincerely thank you for the trust you have placed in us, and we wish to continue working on your behalf.

A lot has been accomplished over the past few years. We have resurfaced more than half of all town roads. We have made significant improvements to our public water department. A system that once suffered from neglect and was losing money is today one of the best public water suppliers in the state.

We have strongly supported our nationally recognized educational system and helped launch the long overdue renovations of our two oldest schools, Rockwell and Johnson. We supported the wonderful donation to construct the new track and field training center at Bethel High School and walked it through the legal process to make it a reality. We completed the expansion of our beautiful public library, at no additional cost to taxpayers. We secured grants to add new sidewalks for safe walking routes to schools and downtown shopping areas. We built one of the first municipal solar farms in the state to cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A very significant improvement was bringing a higher level of fiscal discipline to town government. When Rich and I first took office, we discovered a “hand to mouth” budgeting system that held no regard for future planning. Our General Fund balance was dangerously low, our town’s pension plans were underfunded, and our bond rating had been downgraded to “negative watch” due to the town’s weak financial health.

We quickly introduced a ten-year forward planning cycle and update it annually. Our bond rating is now AAA, the highest possible, a level only a handful of Connecticut towns have achieved. When Bethel sells a bond, the best investment firms in the nation line up to bid. Because of Bethel’s strong financial position, we consistently earn the lowest possible interest rates. Our General Fund balance and pension funds have been restored to health.

Perhaps most important is the fact that these goals were achieved through bipartisan cooperation. Rich and I truly believe that public service means working with all parties for the betterment of our town.

This is work that requires substantial public management experience, creativity and leadership. Experience matters. It cannot be learned in a few months. It requires in-depth knowledge of municipal management, knowledge that can only be gained through training and experience.

Rich and I have that expertise. We also have a vision for our future, and these goals are at the top of our list:

  • Increase development of Clarke Business Park to bring new jobs and accelerate growth of the Grand List to hold down taxes.
  • Seek new opportunities to add clean, renewable energy systems to lower costs.
  • Complete the original road reconstruction schedule, now in its tenth year and nearly finished.
  • Seek another round of grant funding for further improvements of Reynolds Ridge, our senior housing complex.
  • Ensure successful completion of our Johnson and Rockwell school renovation projects, on time and within budget.
  • Finalize a new ten-year improvement plan for our town parks and recreational facilities, within budget parameters set by voters.
  • Modernize our recycling center to provide more cost-saving waste disposal and recycling options for our residents.
  • Continue to pay down old debt to protect our excellent financial position and ensure sustainable budgets in the future.

 

Rich and I are ready to continue our work for you and everyone in our town. We humbly ask for your vote this November, and we pledge to continue to work hard for you.

 

Matt Knickerbocker                                           Rich Straiton

First Selectman                                                   Selectman

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First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker’s Letter to Bethel Voters

Dear Friends,

Rich and I are honored to accept the nomination for Selectman and First Selectman in the November municipal election. We thank you sincerely for the continued confidence you have placed in us.

A lot has been accomplished over the past few years, with your help and with the support of our voters. We have rebuilt or resurfaced more than half of our roads. We have upgraded our public water system using grants and low-interest public health loans. A system that was once almost $2 million in debt, losing tens of thousands of dollars per year and failing to meet state standards, is today one of the best public water systems in the state.

We have supported our nationally recognized public schools and helped launch the long-overdue renovations of our two oldest elementary schools. We secured grants that allowed us to complete the renovation and expansion of our beautiful public library, at no additional cost to taxpayers. We secured grants to add new sidewalks for safe walking routes to our schools and to our downtown shopping areas. We built one of the first municipal solar farms in the State of Connecticut to cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But perhaps the most important accomplishment was bringing a new level of fiscal discipline to town government. When Rich and I first took office, we discovered a “hand to mouth” budgeting system that held no regard for future planning. Our General Fund balance was dangerously low, our town’s pension plans were underfunded, and our bond rating was downgraded to “negative watch” due to the town’s weak financial health.

Today we use a 10-year forward planning cycle, updated annually. Our bond rating is AAA, the best possible, an achievement that previous Bethel administrations believed impossible. When Bethel sells a bond, the best investment firms in the nation line up to bid. Because of Bethel’s strong financial position, we consistently earn the lowest possible interest rates. Our General Fund balance and pension funds have been restored to health.

Some people seem to think Selectmen should be changed for the sake of change, like a pair of socks. They could not be more wrong. That belief simply reveals how little they understand about the reality of running a complex, multifaceted municipality of nearly 20,000 residents.

The position of First Selectman, especially, requires substantial public management experience, creativity and leadership. It cannot be learned in a few months, or even a few years. It requires in-depth knowledge of public finance practices, public health regulations, engineering, labor law, and effective negotiation techniques – knowledge that can only be gained through experience.

Rich and I have that expertise. We also have a vision for our future, with many challenging goals for the upcoming term:

  • Complete the original road reconstruction schedule, now in its tenth year and nearly finished.
  • Ensure successful completion of our school renovation projects, on time and within budget.
  • Finalize a new, 10-year improvement plan for our town parks and recreational facilities, within budget parameters set by voters.
  • Modernize our recycling center to provide more cost-saving waste disposal and recycling options for our residents.
  • Continue to pay down old debt to protect our excellent financial position and ensure sustainable budgets in the future.

 

Rich and I are ready and eager to continue our work for you and everyone in our town. We humbly ask for your vote this November, and we pledge to continue to work hard for you.

Thank you for reading.

 

Matt Knickerbocker

     First Selectman

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BDTC Annual Picnic on July 28!

The Bethel Democratic Town Committee invites you to its Annual Picnic on Sunday, July 28th, 2019, from noon-4pm.

Bennett Memorial Park, 14 Shelter Rock Road, Bethel

Great Picnic Menu ~ Children’s Activities ~ Raffles from Local Businesses!

First-Time Attendee Discount!

Join the Fun! Meet Our Local and State Officials.

Sign up now! Purchase tickets HERE.

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Matt & Rich Announce Re-election Bid

Matt Knickerbocker (second from left) and Rich Straiton toast with their wives, Adrienne Thompson (far left) and Sharon Straiton, after announcing their campaign.

Saturday, April 6 – BETHEL, CT

 

On Saturday evening, at the conclusion of the annual Bethel Democrats fundraiser banquet, Matt Knickerbocker and Richard Straiton took to the podium to announce to the 130+ supporters in attendance that they were officially beginning the campaign for their sixth terms as First Selectman and Selectman, respectively. “We love what we do, and there is no greater honor than serving the wonderful people of Bethel, as we have done for the past decade,” Knickerbocker said.

 

The crowd applauded the announcement, as they raised their glasses to toast the two Democratic town leaders. “We’re at a crucial point not just nationally or at the state level, but locally, too. Experience matters. Voters want to know that their country, their state, and their community is in capable hands during uncertain times,” Knickerbocker added.

 

Nick Vitti, chairman of the Bethel Democratic Town Committee, added, “The quality of life in Bethel, and the improvements that we all enjoy, are directly attributable to the leadership of Matt and Rich, their willingness and abilities to work across party lines, and their commitment to always putting the interests of the people of Bethel ahead of all else. We’re ecstatic they’re committed to running. The party is behind them 100%.”

 

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and excited to continue our work for another two years,” Straiton said.

 

The municipal election will be in November. While that is several months away, please remember to vote on Thursday April 11 on the 2019-2020 Bethel Budget. Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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