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Welcome New Voters!

 

Dear Neighbor,

Whether you are a new resident or a current resident registering for the first time, we welcome you! Your decision to register as a Bethel Voter is vitally important to our democracy and the leadership and management of our town, state, and country.

In Bethel, we enjoy a town meeting form of government, a New England tradition. Our Town Charter requires us to elect or re-elect our Board of Selectpersons every two years.  We also elect members of Boards and Commissions for two or four-year terms.  This gives you the opportunity every two years to help select the people who will manage and guide the direction of our town.

We are fortunate to have the leadership of First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker (D) and Selectman Rich Straiton (D) for six consecutive terms (twelve years).  Under their direction and the Democratic leadership on our Board of Finance, Bethel has:

  • Grown from 14,000 to 20,000 residents
  • Earned a AAA bond rating (highest possible), which allows Bethel to fund municipal projects at extremely favorable interest rates
  • Built a new police station
  • Renovated two elementary schools
  • Implemented a renewable energy (solar) farm
  • Seen the addition of a field house to our athletic facilities
  • Reduced short-term debt and renegotiated long-term debt
  • Instituted a Covid vaccine facility
  • Become a dining “hub” in Fairfield County

Democratic majorities on our Boards and Commissions are vital to continuing our trajectory of managed growth, financial stability, educational excellence, and community safety and well-being.

Let’s keep Bethel flourishing by electing fellow citizens committed to democracy for all. The best way to ensure Bethel’s deserved reputation as one of Connecticut’s best small town is to have a tremendous turn-out of Democratic voters and unaffiliated supporters on November 2nd.  Please cast your vote for Bethel’s Democratic candidates!

Kind regards,

David Olson, Vice Chairman, Bethel Democratic Town Committee, and 2021 Campaign Chairman

Nick Vitti Jr., Chairman, Bethel Democratic Town Committee

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To Our Bethel Neighbors

Campaign Van at Municipal Center

Dear Neighbor,

Campaign season is upon us, and Bethel’s Democratic Party is excited! We have an incredible slate of new candidates and incumbents running for our boards, commissions, and elected positions. To ensure everyone’s safety, our campaign strategy will look a bit different this year.

  1. The Bethel Democrats are saying goodbye to the traditional brick & mortar headquarters this year. Instead…

 

  1. Hello, Mobile HQ! Mobile HQ — a cargo van adorned with our campaign signs — will bring our candidates all around town for outdoor conversations and door-to-door campaigning. We’ll also hand out lawn signs from the van. We will publish a schedule of times and locations where Mobile HQ will be available, or you can schedule a time to meet our candidates in person by calling 203.300.9193. Mobile HQ can even visit your home for an outdoor meet-and-greet event!

 

  1. Look for us online! You will find our messaging on our candidates page, our Facebook page, Instagram, and The Bethel, CT Forum – A Social, Economic, and Political Discussion on Facebook. Our campaign literature, including our candidate brochure, will be available on the website.  If you know of someone without internet access, please call 203.300.9193, and we will make sure they receive our literature.

 

Bethel is an incredible place to call home. We need YOU, our Democratic and Unaffiliated supporters, to keep it that way! Democratic majorities on our Boards and Commissions are vital to continuing our trajectory of managed growth, financial stability, educational excellence, and community safety and well-being. We need YOU to support the Bethel Democratic ticket on November 2.

 

Kind regards,

David Olson, Vice Chairman, Bethel Democratic Town Committee, and 2021 Campaign Chairman

Nick Vitti, Jr., Chairman, Bethel Democratic Town Committee

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Matt Knickerbocker and Richard Straiton Announce Run for Re-election in Bethel

On July 19th, 2021, Bethel’s First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker and Selectman Richard Straiton announced their intentions on to run for re-election in the upcoming municipal election on November 2nd. A successful reelection bid would win their seventh term of office since first gaining the positions in 2009.

 

In announcing their campaign, the pair pointed to their notable track record during their time in office. “Since our first day in office, we have dedicated ourselves to achieving bipartisan support for the betterment of our community,” Knickerbocker said in the announcement. “We have made it a point to leave politics at the door and work for every resident of our town.”

 

Selectman Rich Straiton concurred. “During our time in office, we have concentrated our efforts on improving our town’s finances, budget control and infrastructure. Our aggressive road construction program has just passed its tenth year and is still going strong, and our high AAA bond rating was just reaffirmed for the fifth consecutive year,” Straiton said.

 

The pair listed other notable accomplishments, include an effective response to last year’s COVID-19 crisis and operating a best-in-class public vaccine clinic, successful full scale “renovate as new” projects at Johnson and Rockwell elementary schools, completion of one of the state’s first municipal solar farms to reduce energy costs, completion of major upgrades to Bethel’s public water system and land purchases to increase “open space” holdings and preserve the town’s rural areas.

 

Knickerbocker and Straiton also spoke of upcoming plans. “We need to do more to improve sustainability,” Knickerbocker said in discussing ideas to expand renewable energy systems in town. His proposal calls for expanding the role of the town’s energy commission to include work in other areas of sustainability, such as reducing solid waste and improving recycling systems. Other projects currently under way include introducing new technologies to improve work efficiencies at town hall. Two ongoing projects include a new online permitting system for the building, land use, public works and health departments, and a complete revamp of the town’s website to provide new online services to residents.

 

“We are very excited about the future of Bethel.” Knickerbocker said. “Our community has worked together to get through this pandemic, we’ve invested wisely in our schools, and we’re ready to keep our community moving forward. It would be an honor for both of us to continue to serve our town.”

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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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