My Vision for Bethel

by Matt Knickerbocker, October 20 2015

Since taking office in 2009, Rich Straiton and I have focused primarily on putting things back in order. We launched an aggressive plan to completely rebuild over a third of Bethel’s roadways. We secured millions in state grants to fund major portions of road and sidewalk renovation. We reinvented the Bethel utility department, stopping the financial losses, repaying a debt of more than one million and launched a multi-year capital improvement plan that will increase capacity and improve water quality. We established new fiscal policies that moved our town’s bond rating from AAA “negative watch” to a solid AAA rating, the highest possible, a benefit that will save Bethel taxpayers millions in future interest costs. We completed the library renovation, which had been stalled since 2005, without the need for additional tax funds, as well as completed the remaining renovations of Bethel High School.


Perhaps most importantly, we have remained committed to keeping town government small. The improvements listed above were accomplished with no new staff. In fact, town hall today has fewer full-time staff positions than it did in 2009. We’ve also tackled the upward spiral of health insurance and retirement costs. This summer, most of our unionized employees agreed to new high deductible health insurance plans, which will provide significant cost relief to taxpayers. They also agreed to 401(k)-type retirement plans for new employees, which will eliminate future costs associated with traditional pensions.


But no matter what we’ve accomplished, elections are about the future, not the past. We are looking ahead and setting goals for how we can make Bethel an even better place to live and raise a family. Here are the priorities that we envision for our town:


Neighborhood safety. It is time to launch a multi-year plan dedicated to connecting Bethel’s neighborhoods and make them safe for walkers, moms with baby strollers and kids on bikes. Most of the grant money we have obtained to date has been applied to road construction. As our road plan 2 reaches completion and settles back into a normal maintenance schedule, it’s time to shift our priorities toward making more of our neighborhoods safe for walking. Our town has grown a lot in the past 30 years, but most of our streets still lack safe places to walk. It’s nearly impossible for most kids to safely walk to school. Many of our neighborhoods are isolated by dangerous roads. This can be fixed, and it’s time to start making it happen.


Economic development. Unlike many neighboring towns, Bethel does not have an incentive to attract new businesses. I will work with our Economic Development Commission to develop a workable incentive plan to address that issue. New development increases our Grand List and holds down taxes.


Update our downtown Streetscape. Our original Streetscape project was completed about 15 years ago, and it’s showing its age. The light poles are being repainted and benches are being replaced this fall, but the decorative sidewalk paving blocks need to be refreshed. Grant funding was recently obtained to expand the scope of Streetscape. We must seek additional funding to help refurbish our Streetscape, including burying the overhead utilities. Improvements to our charming village center is an important for the “walkability” needed to attract new retail businesses.


Replace our cramped, aging police facility. It is essential that we provide a modern, secure facility for the men and women who ensure our safety. Our officers are crammed into a 1960’s era cement block station that now sits in the middle of a flood plain and subjects the staff to sewage backups with heavy rains. It is incapable of supporting the heightened homeland security requirements of today. We support building a facility that is done right the first time, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past.


Rich Straiton and I are a highly qualified team with a proven record of accomplishments. Rich is a professional tradesman with decades of experience in construction, maintenance and utility operations, and his expertise has been invaluable in solving many of our toughest challenges. I bring over 30 years of business experience in both private business and public administration. We have loved every minute of serving you, and we sincerely hope you will allow us to continue for another two years.




Matt Knickerbocker Q&A

On September 13, First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker participated in a YouTube Q&A session with host Christopher J. Brown. Questions were submitted by town residents online and the resulting 51 minute interview shed light on residents’ many concerns. Click on the video above to watch.


Public Site & Building: Update on the Bethel Police Station Project

The Police Commission held a brief Informational Session at the end of July to outline nearly 900,000 dollars worth of cuts, efforts to move this project toward a second referendum remain ongoing. The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have yet to settle on a budgetary number after having been presented three specific and distinct options by the Public Site & Building Commission, per the directive of the Board of Selectmen.

Once it is discussed, and the two boards agree to a specific maximum number, the next steps include another informational meeting or public hearing, a town meeting to request a referendum date, and then, finally, the referendum itself. It remains to be seen if there is enough time to put the vote up this November, but all of the associated boards – elected and appointed – are working hard to make sure what is put forth to the taxpayers is a responsible proposal that satisfies the Police Department’s needs while keeping costs in line.


Matt Knickerbocker Unanimously Nominated For Fourth Term

On July 23, 2015, Bethel Democrats unanimously nominated First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker and Selectman Richard Straiton for a fourth term. A well-qualified and enthusiastic slate of candidates for the rest of the ticket was also nominated. We are excited and energized about the November elections. We are especially looking forward to making real changes through additional participation on Planning and Zoning, Inlands Wetlands, and Zoning Board of Appeals, to help preserve the rural character of Bethel, while continuing growth in historic downtown.

The Democratic Candidates are as follows:

  • Treasurer: Whitney Vitti
  • Board of Education: Robin Renner, Jen Larsen, Penny Kessler, Carrie Sirois and Michelle Conderino
  • Board of Assessment Appeals: Diana Carlino, Esq. and Robert F. Pitt Jr., Esq.
  • Board of Finance: Claudia Stephan, Eileen Freebairn and Patricia Smithwick
  • Inland Wetlands Comm’n: Don Goodrich and Pat Perrefort
  • Inland Wetlands Comm’n(Alt): Louis David
  • Planning & Zoning: Sandi Richards Forman, Donald Brown, Kim Lemone and Rich Tibbits
  • Planning & Zoning (Alt): Louis Valenti and James Naddeo
  • Police Commission: Christopher McCollam, Richard Thode and Amy Mannion
  • Zoning Board of Appeals: Justin Hurgin and Victor Holomakoff
  • Zoning Board of Appeals (Alt): Gary Passineau and Greg Menti


If you are interested in volunteering on the campaign, please contact Chairman Nicholas Vitti at


Bethel Awarded $800,000 In Grants For Reynolds Ridge Senior Housing

Bethel has been awarded $800,000 in funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Small Cities Program to renovate and update the Reynolds Ridge Senior Housing Complex.  Renovations are to include the creation of two handicapped accessible units, replacement of interior and exterior doors, replacement of windows, and improving energy efficiencies in 80 units of housing.

Reynolds Ridge was completed in 1979 to provide elderly and disabled housing for the low income elderly (62+) and self-sufficient persons of disability, it is subsidized through HUD’s Section 8 program. Located on a hilltop in the country, with bus service to downtown Bethel and surrounding towns, there are 26 efficiency apartments and 14 one bedroom apartments for qualified low income senior citizens, age 62 and older and self-sufficient persons of disability.

The Reynolds Ridge Complex serves an integral part in this community by ensuring that seniors and disabled persons have a safe place to live.  Thank you to our First Selectman and members of the Bethel Housing authority who helped to secure these much needed funds!

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