First Selectman’s Corner

First Selectman Reminds Drivers to Share the Road

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First Selectman Reminds Drivers to Share the Road

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FROM THE FIRST SELECTMAN’S OFFICE

December 11, 2012

Bethel Cycle and Bethel PD Announce New “Share the Road” Program

Bethel, Conn. –  The Town of Bethel and Bethel Cycle Sport LLC today announced a  partnership designed to help improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists using Bethel roadways.  The program involves placing unique new safety message signs designed to increase driver attentiveness to other modes of transportation being used on heavily traveled roads.  The cost of the new signage was paid entirely through a donation by Bethel Cycle Sport.

The new signs carry the proclamation “Share the Road – Live and Let Live” and depict images of a car, a pedestrian and a cyclist.  The program’s theme and the design and locations of the signs were developed jointly by Lt. Richard Dickinson, Bethel Police Departments’ Traffic Safety Officer and Mr. Norman Semchyshen of Bethel Cycle.

Lt. Dickinson explained that New England roadways have traditionally been designed almost exclusively for automobiles, and rarely take other uses into consideration.  Because of that, he said, there is insufficient room, leading some drivers to express their annoyance through unsafe driving.  The placement of the new signs on key roads will serve as a reminder that drivers should expect to expect to see walkers, joggers and cyclists.  In total, 14 signs were placed in highly visible locations on several of Bethel’s busiest roadways.

First Selectman’s December 2012 Newsletter

DEC 6, 2012

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First Selectman’s December 2012 Newsletter

The First Selectman of Bethel, Matthew Knickerbocker. Contributed Photo.

The First Selectman of Bethel, Matthew Knickerbocker. Contributed Photo.

Bridge update.

A welcome sight greeted drivers whose daily commute takes them over the Walnut Hill bridge: Except for a little bit of cosmetic work, it’s done! Sight lines have been improved at the base of the hill, the bridge is wider to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians with greater safety and the roadway has been raised to prevent flooding.

Construction preparation is under way at the other Walnut Hill bridge near the intersection of Taylor Road.

Road work for 2012 season completed.

Year No. 2 of the four-year Road Recovery Project has drawn to a close for the season. Only one planned road reconstruction, Diamond Avenue, was forced off the schedule by Superstorm Sandy. That one will be added to next season’s schedule when construction resumes this spring, 2013. Roads completed this year include Aunt Patty’s West, Williams, McNeil, Castle Hill, Adams, Buff, Partridge, Wooster, Keeler, Cawley, Hearthstone and North Hearthstone. The roads remaining on the four-year project will be reevaluated for wear and deterioration during the winter months. The construction list for 2013 will be announced as part of the upcoming budget process.

Solar Farm on “hold,”For now…

Readers may recall the announcement more than a year ago about our plans to install a “farm” of solar panels at the town’s transfer station. Bethel was poised to take advantage of the states new “net metering” law, which would allow municipalities to set up renewable energy generation systems that “sell” electricity back into the grid, thereby reducing the town’s energy costs. The cost of the installation was to be covered through a third-party power purchase agreement, which would allow the solar panels to be installed at zero cost to Bethel taxpayers. The energy cost savings would be shared with the third-party provider.

Unfortunately, a recent decision by P.U.R.A. (Public Utility Regulatory Authority, the state’s utility regulator) determined that the new net metering law does not apply to third-party agreements. In order to be eligible to take advantage of net metering, Bethel and several other towns with similar plans under way would have to own their own equipment, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Clearly, this was not what the legislature intended. Attorneys for P.U.R.A. have sent the net metering law back to the state legislature with a request that it be amended to allow third-party power purchase agreements. There is strong bipartisan support for this in Hartford, and we are hopeful that this flaw can be corrected during the new legislative session that begins in January and put our solar farm project back on track.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Please call or stop by for a cup of coffee.

Matthew S. Knickerbocker First Selectman

The hours of the CJH Municipal Center are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Municipal Center Will be closed Monday, December 24th & Tuesday, December 25th in honor of Christmas.

First Selectman Responds to Bethel Action Committee’s Letter

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First Selectman Responds to Bethel Action Committee’s Letter on Public Hearing
The following is the First Selectman’s response to the Letter to the Editor sent in by Billy Michael earlier today–
1)  Contrary to Billy’s point, no vote has been taken and the final decision is still pending.  The BOS has voted so far only to recommend to P&Z that the building be razed.  What follows next is a public hearing, then a final decision by the BOS.
2)  The accusation that the public hearing is a “sham” is ridiculous.  It is the same as any other public hearing.  When the BOS puts forth a new ordinance, for example, it votes to recommend that new ordinance to the public at a hearing.  Following that, the BOS takes a final vote on the proposed ordinance.
Similarly, when the PUC establishes new water and sewer rates, they vote to recommend those proposed rates and send it to a public hearing, after which they take a final vote.
3)  As for the procedures the Board of Selectmen are following, we are following the law, to the letter, both with regard to the town charter and to state statutes.  Judging from previous debates over the past two years, some folks seem to think the charter should be followed exactly, except when doing so is inconvenient to their point of view, at which point the BOS should deviate from the charter and do what will make them happy.
The final decision as to the fate of Old Town Hall and whether or not to refer it to a town meeting or referendum has not been decided.  I cannot speak for either of my colleagues on how they might respond to those questions.
Regards,
Matthew Knickerbocker
First Selectman
Town of Bethel

First Selectman Announces Feb. 29 Public Hearing for Old Town Hall

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First Selectman Announces Feb. 29 Public Hearing for Old Town Hall

First Selectman’s Corner, Update for February 13, 2012

Bethel is a beautiful town that typifies rural New England, with its historic village and unique downtown shops.  We’re fortunate to have these features, since many towns in Connecticut do not have a distinct downtown area and the opportunities it provides.

The single biggest obstacle to growth in our retail district, according to our local business owners, is the lack of parking.  A recent study conducted by a noted planning consultant helped quantify the problem:  Taking into consideration our current traffic patterns, frequency of downtown visits, number of shop employees and so on, the town should have a minimum of 235 parking spaces to support our village retail district.  Bethel’s current inventory is just 150.  Compounding the problem, our library, located in the heart of the village, attracts about 10,000 visits per month on average.  The dedicated library lot has only 24 spaces, is far too small for this level of usage.  The lot is often full, forcing library visitors to park on the street or on private property, filling valuable spaces that would otherwise be used for shopping along Greenwood Avenue.

The town now has a plan in place to begin addressing this problem.  The Board of Selectmen and the Planning and Zoning Commission have both voted overwhelmingly in favor of demolishing the Old Town Hall and using the space to provide additional parking to support both the library and our downtown retailers.  This would yield at least 25 new parking spaces for a total of 50, ten more spaces than required under the Planning and Zoning approval.  While this may not seem like much, it’s significant because every library visitor not parked on the street provides another space for retail use.  Best of all, 100% of the cost of demolition and construction of the lot will be covered by a state grant.  No taxpayer funds will be required.

Some members of our community are opposed to this plan and are instead strongly in favor of selling the Old Town Hall in order to generate income to the town in the form of  property taxes.  However, “privatizing” the building may not be economically feasible, as the estimated renovation costs far exceed the value of the building.  According to Bethel’s tax records, the building’s most recent assessment set the value at $489,000 (in “2007 dollars” at the peak of market value).  Renovation costs, including removal of asbestos and meeting standards required by code start at $675,000.  That cost estimate does not include reconfiguration of inside space, which could easily push the total over $1 million.  The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a public hearing to listen to comments from the community about the plan to demolish Old Town Hall.  The hearing will be held on Wednesday, February 29th at 7:00pm in the auditorium at Bethel High School.  I encourage all of our Bethel residents to participate.

– Matthew Knickerbocker, First Selectman

First Selectman’s Update on Bridges

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First Selectman’s Update on Bridges

The following was sent from the First Selectman–

Walnut Hill at Weed Road – The good news is that bridge is now open.  It is not finished, however, as you will see when you drive over it.  The installation of the culvert and deck material was completed shortly before Christmas, but it will not be possible to complete the final grading of the road and installation of the permanent guard rail until the asphalt plants reopen in the spring.  At that time, the roadway will be reclaimed, and new base material will be applied to bring the level of the roadway up to the height of the bridge deck.  This will prevent flooding of the roadway in the low section just west of the bridge, which happens occasionally in very heavy rainfalls.

Walnut Hill at Taylor Road – This project to replace the aging bridge that now has a weight limit that prevents full school buses from passing over it is finally in line for replacement.  The final contract with the State Department of Transportation was signed last week and the project will go out for bid later this winter.  Construction should begin in the summer.

Plumtrees Road at Whittlesey Drive – This project, now more than ten years in the planning phase, is still tentatively scheduled to begin in the summer of 2013.  When completed, the new bridge will line up Walnut Hill Road with Whittlesey Drive and create a standard four-way intersection, eliminating the “dog leg” intersection that bottles up traffic every rush hour.  I will continue to follow-up with state D.O.T. on a regular basis to insure this project remains on schedule.

News From the First Selectman: Jan. 5

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News From the First Selectman: Jan. 5

From First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker–

New Heath Van

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

I am very pleased to announce a new service for all Bethel residents.  Beginning Wednesday, January 4th, a mobile health care van began visiting Bethel  The van will park by the back entrances to the Senior and Teen Centers beginning at 9:30am until noon.

The van is fully equipped to handle all routine medical needs.  Advance appointments are not necessary, but follow-up appointments may be scheduled as needed.  The program will accept all patients as well as most health care insurance plans, without regard to employment status.  Those without insurance will be charged on a sliding scale according to income.

The health van is provided by the Greater Danbury Community Health Center and is funded by a grant from the Federal Government.

For more information, contact Mary Pina at CIFC Community Health Center of Greater Danbury.  She can be reached at 203-743-0100, ext. 342, or via email at PinaM@CT-Institute.Org.

Weed Road Bridge

Concerning the Weed/Walnut Hill Rd. bridge: ”It is supposed to open tomorrow afternoon, right after the contractor installs Jersey barriers along the sides to serve as temporary guard rails. Those were supposed to be installed over a week ago, and I do not know what caused the delay. It will not be 100% done until spring, when we can resume the road grading, repaving and permanent guard rail installations. I am following up with the contractor this afternoon, and if I find out the barriers will not be set up tomorrow I will let you know.”

STEAP Grant Money

From Governor Dannel P. Malloy–

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced the last round of Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) awards on Tuesday, January 3. Towns across the state were awarded funds to make infrastructure upgrades, strengthen business corridors and local economies, and improve public spaces. Bethel received  $500,000 to reconstruct and repave major roads impacted by the Stony Hill sewer extension. This award goes toward a larger project that will cost an estimated $1.48 million to complete.

 “I am pleased Bethel has received this state grant approval for $500,000 for the Stony Hill Road resurfacing project. I have worked with town officials for several months to get state assistance for the project. The town put in sewer lines to benefit some property owners and a road resurfacing is needed to complete the project. This grant benefits all the residents who travel this road in Bethel,” said State Representative David Scribner.
First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said: “This is a new grant that we applied for a few months ago.  These funds will used to the repave roads in Stony Hill that had only temporary patching done following the installation of sewer lines.  This will also reduce the overall cost of the four-year Road Recovery Project, as that plan included many of those roads in Stony Hill.”

First Selectman’s Corner 12/9/11

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First Selectman’s Corner ~ By Matthew Knickerbocker

– December 9, 2011 

Hello, everyone.  It’s been quite a while since I updated this column, considering the Halloween snowstorm, the ten-day power outage that followed and the weeks and week of ongoing cleanup, so it’s high time for an update.

Brush pickup from the Halloween storm (otherwise known as Winter Storm Alfred) is nearly complete as of today.  Our highway department crews have been working seven days a week since the storm ended to get all debris picked up and recorded by the deadline imposed by FEMA.  All debris must be picked up by December 15th in order for the town to receive its reimbursement of 75% of all storm cleanup costs.  So aside from a short two-day Thanksgiving break, our employees have worked around the clock to get it done.  They’ve done a great job, and I thank them for all the time and effort they put in.

Also, the transfer station is still accepting drop off of storm related brush free of charge to Bethel residents.  The free drop off ends on December 17th, however; after that date, the normal charges will again apply.  Please remember that the transfer station is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7:00am to 3:00pm.  It is closed Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.

Beginning Monday, December 12th, our highway crews will resume picking up leaf bags.  However, as I announced in the last robo-call, there is no guarantee they will have time to pick up all of them before the next heavy snowfall.  So, if you have any means to bring your leaf bags to the town transfer station, you are encouraged to do so.  Drop off is still free to Bethel residents.

One final note:  I wish to sincerely thank the voters of Bethel for your confidence in your town government and your participation in the electoral process.  I congratulate all those who were elected and I thank all those who ran and those who have served.  Our community depends upon dedicated volunteers like you who are willing to step up and serve your town.

First Selectman’s Update: Sunday, Nov. 6,12:30pm

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Bethel Update for Sunday, Nov. 6th @ 12:30pm:

From the office of the First Selectman
  • Power outages remaining total about 410 homes, or 4% of CL&P’s customer base in Bethel .  CL&P crews are currently working on circuits along Taylor Road and adjacent side streets and Castle Hill Drive.  There are a large number of individual homes still dark as a result of broken service lines to the house, even though power has been restored to the neighborhood, and these are being addressed by a team of electrical contractors supplied by CL&P.  If your neighbors have power and you still do not, please be sure to notify CL&P at 1-800-286-2000 if you have not already done so.
  • The American Red Cross has shut down the overnight emergency shelter at the municipal center, as power was restored last evening to all of the remaining “guests” who had been staying at the facility.  However, the municipal center remains open today for showers until 4:00pm this afternoon.
  • Again, I want to thank everyone in our community for the tremendous outreach in helping their neighbors through the past week.  I again want to express my gratitude to our highway department, police department, emergency management department, our volunteer fire fighters and our staff members who have stayed here in town hall around the clock to help the CERT and Red Cross volunteers keep our facility running smoothly.
More information will follow later this week concerning brush and leaf pickup schedules.  There is still far too much cleanup work remaining to be able to set a schedule just yet.
Matthew S. Knickerbocker
First Selectman
Town of Bethel
Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center
1 School Street
Bethel, CT  06801

Bethel Storm Update Nov. 5, 11:00am

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Bethel storm recovery update for Saturday, Nov. 5th @ 11:00am

From the First Selectman’s office:
  • I am extremely disappointed and angry about CL&P’s inability to make good on their promise to have Bethel at 99% recovery by midnight last night.  As of 6:00am today, about 1,566 (18%) of Bethel customers remain without power.  I was informed earlier this morning that today and tomorrow, CL&P is dispatching 20 repair crews (10 tree, 10 line) into the Nashville, Bethpage/Cherry Lane/Grassy Plain and Stony Hill neighborhoods and are expected to continue working in those areas for the next 48 hours.
  • The American Red Cross emergency shelter at the municipal center remains open for hot showers, hot food at mealtimes and overnight stays.
  • The transfer station is open today until 3:00pm.  Brush can be dropped off free of charge, and food that spoiled as a result of the power outage can be disposed of at the rate of .20 cents per pound.  No transfer station permit is needed for either drop off.
  • Governor Malloy has extended the deadline for “in person” voter registration and absentee ballots to Monday, November 6 at noon.  The Town Clerk’s office will open at 8:30am on Monday and will still be accepting new voter registrations in person up until noon.
A few callers to town hall questioned whether we are pushing CL&P hard enough to get the resources needed to bring all of our town back on-line.  The following shows the percentage of homes still without power in each town compared to Bethel:
  • New Fairfield  45%
  • Ridgefield       42%
  • Newtown        40%
  • Redding          34%
  • Brookfield       28%
  • Bethel           18%
Only the City of Danbury has a lower rate than Bethel with outages currently at 12%, but Danbury’s outages were slightly less than 65% from the beginning of the recovery.  All of the towns listed above had outages above 90%
I know statistics like these do not make you warm nor light your home if you are one of those still without power, but I want all Bethel citizens to know that your emergency management team and I are working with CL&P and pushing them hard on your behalf, 24 hours per day throughout this weekend until every home is reconnected.
Matthew S. Knickerbocker
First Selectman
Town of Bethel
Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center
1 School Street
Bethel, CT  06801

First Selectman’s Storm Update Wednesday, 4:00 p.m.

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Update from the First Selectman–

The power company projects 99% restoration for Bethel Friday by midnight and 100% restoration Sunday by midnight.

Schools will reopen Thursday, Nov. 3 and will be on a 2-hour delay Thursday and Friday. Click here to read previous article for details from the Bethel Board of Education on alternate bus routes.

The City of Bridgeport is working with the Town of Bethel road crews to clear the roads of trees and debris. The Bridgeport crews have been deployed by the State Emergency Management Department.

The emergency shelters at the Municipal Center remains open 24/7 for sleeping, showers and recharging.

Road Update

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First Selectman’s Corner, Oct. 27, 2011

By Matthew Knickerbocker, First Selectman 

Road Update:  Still the most popular question by visitors and callers to town hall.  It’s election season, so there are a lot of opinions being offered as to whether or not the plan is on schedule, was it the right plan, was it a realistic plan, who’s fault it is that it’s not done yet, etc, etc, etc…  So again, a brief update.

The first $2 million that was approved by the BOF and by voters last December definitely called for an aggressive, but realistic work schedule.  It was designed to cover about six miles or so of heavy duty reconstruction with partial milling on some roads and extensive full depth reclamation on others.  It also included new storm drain tops and in many cases, reconstruction of drain vaults and piping.  The amount was not pulled out of thin air.  It was carefully developed by our own highway supervisor with sharp attention to how much work could realistically be completed by our crews working in conjunction with milling and paving contractors.

Having said that, yes, the work is slightly behind schedule, and the culprit that has affected Bethel as well as every other town in Connecticut is the weather.  It started out bad right from the first day of spring, when asphalt plants opened over a month late after that brutal winter (the one we’d all like to forget), and then got worse.  Record snow melts and super heavy spring rains kept the ground too wet to start the drain work on time.  Heavy rains continued on and off all summer, frequently cancelling contract work and pushing it to later dates.  Tropical Storm Irene stopped the entire project in its tracks while our road crews performed cleanup operations for about two full weeks before getting back to the road work, plus the tree removal contractors we need for road widening were tied up even longer.

Despite all of this, our crews are still very close to completing all the work that was authorized for the first year.  It’s possible that a few of the phase one roads will have to roll over to spring for completion, but if we get any break in the rains, they could still be done this fall.

And residents will be happy to know that as of right now, the project is running about $100,000 UNDER budget.  The original cost estimates were correct, if not a bit conservative, and we should be able to do more with the first $2 million than originally expected.

As always, please call my office if you have questions at (203) 794-8501.

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First Selectman Discusses “Safe Routes to Schools” & More

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First Selectman Discusses “Safe Routes to Schools” & More

First Selectman’s Corner, By Matthew Knickerbocker

Oct. 19, 2011

 Keeping the momentum going

The opening season of our new downtown farmers market was so successful, we decided to hold monthly markets in the CJH Municipal Center gym throughout the off-season to keep people in touch with some of their favorite vendors.  The first market event comes up this Saturday, October 22nd and will again feature summer favorites Billie’s BBQ, Whistle Stop Bakery plus several new vendors.  Hours are noon to 4:00pm with a free magic show for kids (of all ages) at 2:00pm.

“Safe Routes to Schools” Project Begins

Construction began on Monday, October 17th on a new sidewalk that will provide a safe walking area along Maple Avenue beginning at the corner of Hickok and will run all the way up past the police station to the intersection with Whittlesey Drive.  This work is being paid for by a Safe Routes to Schools grant.  Construction is expected to last about six to eight weeks, depending on weather.

Road Update

Speaking of weather, this year’s Road Recovery construction will continue until as long as possible and will not end for the season until the area asphalt plants close for the winter.  But I ask residents to please understand that the weather has had quite an impact on the project, beginning first thing in the spring with leftover snow and heavy rains all the way through the summer storms and TS Irene.  On Linda Lane, for example, our crews installed all new storm drains and completed the prep work several weeks ago, but the rainstorms over the past two months have repeatedly pushed back the construction.  The problem we face is the rescheduling.  When we lose our “construction window” due to heavy rain, the contractors do not simply pick up where they left off when the rain stops.  They move on to the next town on their construction list, and our date gets pushed back to the next available opening, which may not be for several weeks.  This has happened to us several times this season.  We will continue to push ahead as fast as possible and I will publish regular updates.

Thoughts on Economic Development

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First Selectman’s Corner – Bethel Buzz 

By Mathew Knickerbocker, First Selectman

 

 Thoughts on Economic Development

One of the concerns I’ve heard over the past two years from our residents is about the economic health of our town.  For quite a while, too many of our signature properties downtown and in Stony Hill remained stubbornly vacant. However, we began to see a turnaround this year with the opening of several businesses such as the new English Apothecary, Cupcakes & Milkshakes, PeachWave, Stella, Bethel Cycle’s renovation of the Old Train Station and others.

Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement, and we are working hard to attract new retailers, new businesses, new jobs and new visitors to town. This is a vitally important goal.  New commercial enterprises in Bethel will help our Grand List grow, which, in turn, will bring new revenue to the town and help reduce the tax burden on homeowners.

There is no one magic solution to making this happen.  Rather, we can make our business base grow by doing many smaller things better and making Bethel an easier place to do business.

For example, our new “wayfinding” signs were recently installed between the downtown village district and Stony Hill.  I receive an astonishing number of calls and emails from travelers who would like to visit Bethel but have a hard time finding it.  These new signs will help a great deal.

Our new downtown farmer’s market this summer was a definite hit.  The market had two primary goals:  One, to offer Bethel residents a unique variety of fresh and prepared foods, and two, to establish a steady stream of visitors to downtown Bethel on Thursday afternoons, the day most stores are open late.

This is just the beginning.  In July, the Chairman of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) and I conducted the first of a series of meetings with Bethel property owners to explore new ways the town can make their job of finding qualified tenants easier.  As a result, on September 26th I announced to the property owners that I was launching a review of Bethel’s fee structure for building permits, with a goal of streamlining and simplifying the process to make Bethel a more business-friendly town.

Streamlining our regulatory process and establishing new dialog between property owners, business operators and town government to explore ideas for new events to bring visitors to Bethel will help our local economy grow.

Democratic Canvas Kicks Off Saturday With Door-to-Door Campaign

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Democratic Canvas Kicks Off Saturday With Door-to-Door Campaign

The Democratic Town Committee and candidates for office ready themselves for their official campaign kickoff Saturday morning.  Volunteers and candidates, armed with campaign literature, will meet at the Democratic headquarters Saturday morning for a pep talk and street assignments before they head out to canvas neighborhoods.

Volunteers came out Friday evening to prepare pamphlets and bags to hand out to Bethel residents. Saturday at 10:00 a.m. they will gather, along with Democratic candidates, for the first official walk to share their platform with voters. Volunteers are welcome to assist in the campaign.

According to their handout, the Democratic party pledges the following to the citizens of Bethel:

~To let YOU vote on the full Road Recovery Project

~To support our seniors by restoring funding for Meals On Wheels, Regional Hospice and other essential services

~To work with the Board of Selectmen on Bethel’s 5-year Capital Plan to protect your investments in town buildings and schools, reduce debt and establish sound fiscal policies

~To work with and respect all Boards and Commissions

Democratic candidates for re-election First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker and Selectman Richard Straiton hope to clinch their re-election by reminding voters what they accomplished from 2008 up until now:

~Secured funding for Phase-1 of the Road Recovery Project

~Relocated Bethel Teen Center to a new temporary space at no cost to taxpayers

~Created a new Economic Outreach Commission to bring business and shoppers back to Bethel

~Opened Bethel’s first downtown farmer’s market

~Put the Bethel Public Library renovation back on schedule

~Restored civility and cooperation within Bethel’s town government

With their commitment of “Leadership and experience working for you,” Knickerbocker, Straiton and the rest of the slate of Democratic candidates set out to share how they plan to accomplish that goal.

Democratic candidates for Board of Finance, Eileen Freebairn, Patricia Smithwick and Claudia Stephan  are “Financial Professionals with decades of business experience,” according to their campaign flyer.

Their flyer also states: “If you’re tired of the politics, if you want a Board of Finance that will respect your wishes, there is a better alternative.”

The Democratic headquarters is located at 110 Greenwood Ave., in the plaza next to O’Neil’s Restaurant. All are welcome to come out for the campaign kick-off.

First Selectman’s Storm Update, 9/5

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First Selectman’s Storm Update, 9/5

As of 7:00am on Monday, September 5th, CL&P reports power restored to 99.5% of Bethel residences, leaving 38 homes remaining to be reconnected.  The company estimates 100% restoration in Bethel by Tuesday night.

At 10:00am today, CL&P reports they are deploying crews to reconnect the remaining customers in Bethel and expects to have the town at 100% recovery by 6pm tonight.

IMPORTANT:  Any Bethel residents still WITHOUT power after 6pm tonight should report that fact to CL&P at 800-286-2000.

The Bethel Municipal Center will remain open today until 2pm for water and hot showers, and will return to normal operating hours beginning Tuesday, September 6th.

First Selectman’s Storm Update, 9/4

POSTED BY  ⋅ SEPTEMBER 4, 2011

First Selectman’s Storm Update, 9/4

As of Sunday, August 4th at 6:00am, CL&P reports power restored to 98.5% of Bethel’s 8,290 electric customers.

This still leaves about 126 Bethel households without power.  CL&P has advised us, unfortunately, that it could take a few days longer to clear these remaining outages.  The company explained that in a few areas they face more complex technical challenges, such as underground damage, which take longer to repair.  There may also be situations where power has been restored to the neighborhood, but possible damage at the connection or even inside individual homes will have to be located and repaired.

Everyone who is still without power is encouraged to stay in contact with CL&P directly at 800-826-2000 to get a time estimate for repair.

The Bethel Municipal Center will be open today from 9:00am to 2:00pm for water and hot showers.

Matt Knickerbocker

First Selectman

First Selectman’s Update 9/1, 8:30pm

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First Selectman’s Update 9/1, 8:30pm

Bethel Update for Sept. 1st @ 8:30pm:

  • ·          Power restored to 86% of town.
  • ·          About 1,000 homes remaining to be reconnected (about 14% of total).
  • ·          Roads fully cleared at Nashville, Nashville Extension and Taylor Ave.
  • ·          Power restored to all Nashville Ext. and Taylor Avenue homes, and along Nashville Road as far south as Mountain Orchard.  Power expected to be fully restored along Nashville by Friday.
  • ·          Line repair crew still working to restore power in Wolfpits area, but traffic signal is now working.
  • ·          CL&P tree crews will begin work on Sky Edge, Walnut Hill and McNeil Road on Friday, Sept. 2nd.
  • ·          Municipal Center is still open from 7am to 9pm weekdays, and will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 2pm.  If coming to use showers before or after normal town hall hours, please use the back entrance by the gym.

Matt Knickerbocker

First Selectman’s Storm Update 8/30

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Update from Bethel for Tuesday, August 30th:

  • CL&P reports power restored to 1,400 Bethel customers since Monday morning; work continues to restore power to remaining 3,300 homes and businesses.
  • CL&P has assigned additional crews to Bethel, some to continue clearing downed trees and wires and others to begin restoration process.  Experienced disaster relief crews have been brought in from Canada, Ohio, Michigan and Florida to increase CL&P’s field work force.
  • First day of school still tentatively set for Thursday, September 1st, but subject to power restoration and insuring bus routes have been fully cleared or effectively rerouted.
  • Concerning the timeline for full service restoration, CL&P continues to stand by their original projection of one week or possibly more from the end of the storm for full statewide restoration.
  • Bethel Municipal Center remains open from 7:00am to 9:00pm for showers and a place to recharge cell phones and laptop computers.
Please call if you have further questions.  I will update as I obtain fresh information.
Regards,
Matthew S. Knickerbocker
First Selectman
Town of Bethel
Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center
1 School Street
Bethel, CT  06801
Office:  203-794-8501
Fax:     203-778-7520

Storm Damage Town Update: From The First Selectman’s Update on Hurricane Irene Damage

POSTED BY  ⋅ AUGUST 28, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

Storm Damage Town Update: From The First Selectman

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said at the height of the storm, 17 Bethel roads were shut down due to downed trees and/or power lines.

As of 5:10 p.m. Sunday Wolfpits Road is still shut down.

Knickerbocker said most roads have been reopened. Route 53 at the railroad bridge is flooded.  Plumtrees Road is closed north of Walnut Hill due to a tree that fell and hit a house causing a small fire that was put out fairly quickly.

“CL&P is just now arriving on the scene at Plumtrees. They were waiting until it was safe for their crews to go out. The Highway Department has a list of priority roads to be worked on and CL&P working through the evening to clear those,” Knickerbocker said.

Town Hall phones are still down due to an issue with AT&T, according to Knickerbocker. He will have a better estimate on when they will be restored tomorrow morning and believes they went down due to flooding.

“The phones were working this morning but went down at about 8:30a.m. this morning [Sunday]. They were out on Thursday and Friday. There is an underground junction by the railroad tracks near Nicky’s Barber Shop that flooded. Last time it took out phones it took 2 days to restore and the time before that it took 8 days,” Knickerbocker said.

An automated message is going out alerting staff not to report to school Monday. Parents should check the school websitehttp://www.bethel.k12.ct.us/ and their email to see if the first day of school is delayed. Announcements will be posted on the school website as well as the local radio and TV news stations including 95.1 FM, 98.3 FM and WLAD. Click here for school delays and cancellations.

The First Selectman is cautioning anyone out driving to “Be very careful. It is still very windy. Don’t drive around blocked off roads because there could be downed wires.”

[UPDATE] 6:36 p.m.: From Tom Galliford, Bethel Office of Emergency Management: We are working with CL&P to establish a priority list of areas to make safe and restore power. Bethel is experiencing, like most other towns, over 50% without electricity. Please be patient. Power restoration is our number one priority at this time.

Some of main routes still closed at 630pm: Plumtrees btwn Walnut Hill and Taylor. Wolfpits @ 302, Taylor Rd by #24, Chestnut Ridge Rd by @ 170, Nashville Rd by Rte 53, rte 53 at train bridge, Codfish by Jacklin, Wolfpits by Sunset Hill. Route 58 btwn Hoyts Hill and 302 one lane and DANGEROUS.

Greenwood ave by Andrew St-1 Lane, Taylor Ave closed. This list is not 100%. We advise residents to stay away from any downed power lines- you can not tell if they are energized! Several people have been warned to stay away!

First Selectman Responds To Criminal Activity Claims

POSTED BY  ⋅ AUGUST 13, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

First Selectman Responds To Criminal Activity Claims

Since Bob Burke has announced he is running for reelection, the internet has been buzzing with accusations of illegal activity directed toward both Knickerbocker and Burke.

While another Bethel town website claims in its Terms of Service that users are not supposed to “post or transmit to other users anything that contains content that is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive; violates any party’s right of publicity or right of privacy; is threatening, harassing or that promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; promotes or encourages violence; is inaccurate, false or misleading in any way,” the editor of that website has done nothing to shut down or moderate the comment thread. This has left many residents wondering.

One Bethel resident was so concerned by the accusations of illegal activity that he read online, that he emailed Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker to set the record straight. Below are excerpts from that resident’s email, as well as Mr. Knickerbocker’s response to the accusations and allegations of illegal activity.

Emails were released to Bethel Buzz from the office of the First Selectman with the condition that the resident’s name remain anonymous.

Bethel Resident, 8/11/2011, 2:00 p.m.:

Mr. Knickerbocker,

I have just read an online comment by Bob Crnic and Thomas Peters that in my mind accused a local business owner of stealing tax dollars. I have shopped and supported this local business but I am concerned as a taxpayer of these allegations of illegal activity by both the town and the business owner. The business and its owners are referred to as a “bandit” and that he benefitted at out (the taxpayer’s) expense. Here are the attached quotes:

Thomas Peters

7:39pm on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“Luddite, what I read in the article was that Pelican was to do all repairing upgrading. Then I read Matthew said lease money was used to upgrade the parking lot and drainage. Private contractors do inside work paid by Pelican, town highway, outside work material paid for by lease money and town employees (paid by the town) did all outside work, by pulling the away from other planned town highway projects. We will make $130,000 by contract end, yes and I will be doing nose jobs at the hospital free of charge. We lost lease money highway dept. people time and if any police were needed, we paid for that. Oh yes any money made by rental has to be used to maintain the property. That wall is going to be some big piece of work for $130,000 so if the town has to use all money made from the property on the property, how does the town make $130,000. Tell us Matthew, please.”

BOB CRNIC

10:08pm on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

“The bike shop is making out like a bandit on our nickel. He gets to deduct $1,900/month from his monthly lease payment to the town to pay his loan payment on the $160K he borrowed. Whoever put that deal together should be thrown head-first out of office. If Bethel voters don’t see why this is so wrong, then we’re opening the barn doors for corruption on a grand scale. Remember that small town in CA where town officials were paying themselves outrageously high 6 digit salaries? How do you think that happened?”

Though I am fully aware this is an election season these comments go beyond political rhetoric and if true concern me, if not true I believe the taxpayers and voters deserve and explanation from legal counsel from both the town and the business owner accused of the illegal activities the town and this business owner have now been accused of in a public forum. The taxpayers are now owed an explanation.

Respectfully,

XXXXXXXX

Bethel, CT.

———————

Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker Responds, 8/12/2011, 12:31 p.m. :

Dear XXXXXXX,

Thank you for your email. I’m glad to have an opportunity to set the record straight. It is very unfortunate that just because we have an election coming up, some political candidates are using this as a means of spreading distortions about a project that continues to benefit the town.

Let me assure you that no one, neither the town, any town employee nor any private business owner has broken the law. Nor has any business owner, in this case the owner of Bethel Cycle, derived a benefit at taxpayer expense. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is the town that has benefitted the most from this arrangement, since the owner of the shop has covered all of the costs of renovating a building he can use, but will never own.

Here are some facts:

  • The resurfacing of the parking lot was paid 100% by rent payments by the previous tenant (an art gallery that ceased business s a few years ago), as required by the Department of Transportation deed. Not one penny of Bethel tax dollars was used.
  • Use of both the old train station and the new one are restricted by the Department of Transportation. All monies collected from leases and parking fees (as with the new station) must be kept in separate accounts and can ONLY be used for upkeep of the property. This is how the town can reduce the workload on our town crews by using contractors to plow the old station lot in the winter, using the rent money collected from the business, as well as possible future improvements to the municipal parking lot.
  • As mentioned above, the business owner of Bethel Cycle paid all the costs of renovation. He obtained, on his own, a small business loan to do so. Neither the town nor me as First Selectman had anything whatsoever to do with that loan. There is no kind of personal guarantee by me or the town on that loan. There is no collateral that would cause the town to lose its property in the event the business owner defaulted.
  • It is true the business owner is allowed to take a credit against the rent payment while the loan is being paid off. In round numbers, the rent is $3,000 per month, and he is allowed to deduct slightly less than $2,000, which gives his a positive cash flow of $1,000 per month. When the loan is paid off (and remember, 100% of the loan money was used to improve property that Bethel owns), then he will pay the full $3,000 per month.

In effect, this private business “fronted” 100% of the money needed to fix the train station, rather than have the taxpayers pay for it. Not only is there nothing wrong with this arrangement, it is almost exactly the same as the lease that Bob Burke, the former First Selectman, negotiated with Daily Fare, the food service tenant who leases space at the new train station. In that case, the business is actually allowed to deduct 100% of the rent while the cost of the commercial kitchen is being repaid. Meaning, of course, the business has not paid a penny in rent since opening in 2008.

I have no problem with this, and I am not criticizing it. But it is more than hypercritical for any political candidate to irresponsibly accuse me personally or anyone else in town government of criminal activity.

Sincerely yours,

Matthew S. Knickerbocker

————————————-

Editor’s Note: Check back on Bethel Buzz on Sunday for the First Selectman’s and the Town Attorney Martin Lawlor’s response regarding the allegations of a nearly $3,000,000 unauthorized transfer from the town’s general fund.

First Selectman Gives Road Work Updates & Welcomes New Businesses

POSTED BY  ⋅ AUGUST 8, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT
FILED UNDER  

First Selectman Gives Road Work Updates & Welcomes New Businesses

Happy Monday, everyone!

There are a few important updates I’d like our readers to be aware of this week:

Roadwork

Full depth reclamation, grading and paving of Walnut Hill, Weed and part of Ridgedale Roads is scheduled to begin this Wednesday (August 10th), following the installation of new, improved drainage.  Work should be complete in this area by August 26th, with final curbing and driveway aprons installed a few weeks after that.  Residents who live on these roads and emergency personnel will continue to have full access into this area, but please expect daily road closures to through traffic and plan accordingly.

New businesses in town

English Apothecary:  I’m very pleased to see one of our oldest and most well-known downtown anchors reopen its doors under new ownership.  Congratulations to owner Peter D’Aprile and his family and staff, and welcome to Bethel!

Peachwave:  This new self-serve frozen yogurt operation in the Dolan Plaza probably could not have picked a better heat wave for it’s opening.  Congratulations to the Clifford family, and thank you for opening your new business in Bethel!

As always, please call my office any time if you have questions or concerns.

-Matt Knickerbocker

 First Selectman, Town of Bethel

203-794-8501

Bridge Replacement

POSTED BY  ⋅ JULY 31, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

FILED UNDER  

Bethel Buzz

Selectman’s Corner

By Matthew Knickerbocker

Week of Aug. 1st, 2011

 Dear Readers:

People have been asking recently about the status of a few long standing projects.  Some of these date back quite a few years, so I thought now would be a good time to give you an update.

Walnut Hill and Plumtrees/Whittlesey Bridge Replacements:

These two bridge projects date are almost a decade old.  The first thing I want our residents to understand is these are not “Town of Bethel” projects; rather, they both under the control of the State Department of Transportation.  This means that although the town continues to work closely with state officials, the timing of the construction is out of our hands.  The good news, however, is that both projects continue to move forward.

The D.O.T. contract for the Walnut Hill bridge was issued about two weeks ago and has been signed in my office.  Formal bid requests will follow this fall.  Construction to replace this bridge should be underway by this time next summer.

Regarding the Plumtrees/Whittlesey bridge, there are several studies that are required by state and federal authorities, some of which are still under way.  These include engineering, environmental, hydrological, archeological and biological assessments of the proposed bridge and its impact on the stream and surrounding lands.  D.O.T.’s projected start date for reconstruction is tentatively set for summer of 2013.

This project dates back to 1999-2000, but it will be worth the wait.  When it is finally completed, the roads will be shifted to make Walnut Hill align directly with Whittlesey, creating a standard four-way intersection that will relieve the morning traffic bottleneck and provide a safe pedestrian crossing up to the school complex.

As always, please feel free to call or email if you have questions.

Knickerbockerm@betheltownhall.org

(203) 794-8505

Knickerbocker Announces Plans To Run for Reelection

POSTED BY  ⋅ JULY 12, 2011

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker announced Tuesday at Town Hall that he will be running for reelection in the fall.

“I am very proud to announce my run for reelection for the town of Bethel and I’m proud to have Rich Straiton with me,” Knickerbocker said.

Standing alongside Knickerbocker and Straiton as they addressed the small crowd was Campaign Chair Alice Hutchinson, Bethel First Selectwoman 2003-2005 and former First Selectman David Deakin, 1959-1967, for whom the Education Park was named after.

Knickerbocker cited accomplishments he has completed since taking office such as bringing the first downtown farmers market and giving the teen center a temporary home.

“We’ve done a lot [of work], we have a lot left on front of us,” Knickerbocker said.

Another project mentioned was the 12-year-long project to replace the bridge at Plumtrees and Walnut Hill Roads.

“Someone once asked me the most frustrating part of the job and I said it is how long it takes to get things done when dealing with the government.”

Plans for the next term also include continuing on the road recovery, completing the library project and focusing on bringing more businesses into town.

Knickerbocker said he created an ad-hoc Economic Outreach Commission that is designed to bring jobs, and tax dollars, to Bethel. Residents can expect to see way-finding signs, he said, that would point visitors to the downtown shopping district. Working with the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Knickerbocker said, will help to facilitate this plan.

Knickerbocker and Straiton were endorsed by Bethel’s Democratic Town Committee and will seek an official nomination at the party’s caucus on Thursday, July 21 at Town Hall.

For more information go to www.betheltoday.com

News From the First Selectman

POSTED BY  ⋅ JUNE 28, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

From the office of the First Selectman, Matthew Knickerbocker.

There are quite a few important projects underway this summer.  The following is a short update on several.  As always, please feel free to give my office a call if you have any questions.

Old Hawleyville Road repaving:  This project began last summer and is complete except for the short narrow section just south of the Plumtrees Road intersection.  This area will be widened to conform with the width of the rest of the road and will be completed later this summer.

There were several reasons it could not be done at the same time as the rest of Old Hawleyville:

  • The town did not own the property in the location where it is to be widened.  Negotiations to acquire the easements took until this past winter, and no work could begin on that section until spring.
  • Once the easement was secured, extensive tree removal was needed.  This step is now complete.
  • The final phase before widening and completing the road requires several AT&T utility poles to be moved.  The town can not proceed until AT&T completes this step.  Once that is done, that small section will be completed.

As a reminder, 100% of the cost of the Old Hawleyville repaving was provided by a Federal ARRA grant.

Safe Routes to Schools:  In 2007, the town won a grant to provide safe sidewalks to the school complex, and this project is finally under way.  The Safe Routes sidewalk will run from the corner of Hickok Avenue down along Maple to the intersection with Whittlesey Drive.  Work to move the underground utilities along Maple in preparation of sidewalk construction is now underway.  This project should be complete before winter, weather permitting.

Old Train Station Parking Lot:  The lot has been completely repaved, at no cost to Bethel taxpayers!  This project is a separate project, not part of the $2 million Road Recovery Plan.  Funding for parking lot improvements comes from rent payments from the business that occupies the Old Station.

Road Recovery:  Road reconstruction is proceeding quickly.  Far Horizon, Green Pasture and Quaker Ridge have been resurfaced and will be completed when the new curbs are installed.  The month of July will see reconstruction of Walnut Hill and Weed roads.

Watch the town website for further updates on the remaining roads in the 2011 summer plan.

The Situation With Our Roads

POSTED BY  ⋅ JUNE 21, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

The Situation With Our Roads ~ By Matthew Knickerbocker, First Selectman

For my very first Bethel Buzz blog posting, I thought I’d give you a short update on the situation with our roads.  Yes, I can hear it now:  We’re STILL talking about that?!  After almost two years??  BORING!!  Well, it may not be the most exciting topic, but it’s still the number one reason why people call town hall, so here’s your update…

Full depth reclamation and repaving of Quaker Ridge, Far Horizons and Green Pasture is under way and will be completed within the next few days.  The rest of the month of June will be devoted to resurfacing Walnut Hill and Weed Roads, and both should be completed by early July.  The rest of the roads on the 2011 schedule (see the town website at http://www.bethelct.org/) will be posted as the sequence is determined.

And that brings up a question I’ve heard:  What determines the sequence, and why are some roads repaved before others?

The answer depends on what kind of prep work needs to be done before the repaving process begins.  Some roads just need to have the top stripped off.  Others need extensive repair of drainage systems, new base material, widening and tree cutting.  The Highway Department schedules the order of work to achieve maximum efficiency and the lowest possible cost, and sometimes that means they’ll be working on the less heavily traveled roads first.

But no matter which ones are first or last on the 2011 list, several roads that have not been repaved in decades WILL be done before summer’s end!

Road Repaving

POSTED BY  ⋅ JUNE 17, 2011 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

Road Repaving ~ By Wendy Mitchell

Out and about in my travels the subject of road repaving has come up more than once. It  seems to be the hot topic subject at the moment.

Here are some comments on the topic:

“Wow, a new paved parking lot for the Bike Shop and big pot holes on our streets. Glad my taxes went up.”

“Love how the Town of Bethel paves the bike shop parking lot. Have you driven in Chimney Heights lately?” 

“How about Reservoir Street? I totally go out of my way to go home, so I can avoid ruining my tires! I thought the same thing when I passed it tonight! You pave a parking lot before a street?” 

“It doesn’t appear that anything has been done – although it was promised to be done a few weeks ago. That being said, we were also told that Old Hawleyville Road was going to be done early last year and it was done in late Fall!” 

“I know of a parking lot that is town owned that needs work very badly; the YMCA of Bethel. That lot is so bad you have to pull out really slow in order to not bottom out your car, while also not getting hit from Grassy Plain. The lot is bad throughout the entire thing, when I pick my daughter up it feels like my car is going to fall apart and it is a new car! I think Hawleyville needs to be completed, as well as that side road behind Stony Hill Fire Department. That road is BAD! Now this is only my opinion but I am sure any other parent will agree with me as far as the Y parking lots goes.”

As we see here from the comments, road repaving is a very important issue right now.  Scouring Bethel’s town website there are no current updates on the schedule of road repaving.  Residents want to know when the potholes in front of their driveway, business, daycare or the roads regularly travel on will be fixed.

Here’s what Bethel’s First Selectman, Matthew Knickerbocker said on the topic Friday:

“For the last several weeks we [the Town of Bethel] have been preparing the roads for paving. We have been working on Far Horizon, Quaker Ridge Road and Green Pasture. Crews have been working on easements and drainage. We have been working with Comcast, AT&T and United Water, cutting trees, working on wiring, rerouting drainage, all in preparation for the upcoming paving work that will be done soon.

The parking lot where Bethel Cycle is, is town-owned. We bought asphalt in bulk to get the best price and that is being done in conjunction with other projects. It is not just to benefit Bethel Cycle. It will benefit all businesses down there, The Putnam House, The Spot, Nicky’s and lots more. 

That parking lot should have been done years ago because water was backing up into the old train station and creating rot. If Bethel Cycle didn’t go in, the building would have probably had to be condemned.  We have a “Quit Deed” with the state that requires the town to take any rent on the property and use it toward the repairs, without using a penny of taxpayer’s money. 

Residents and businesses on Greenwood Avenue should know that any potholes in front of their driveways should be called into the State Department of Transportation. Greenwood Ave [also Route 302] is state owned and the town is not responsible for any repairs on it. However, we are willing to help residents facilitate any potholes or repair work being done by calling for them. All they have to do is call in the problem to the Department of Public Works at (203) 794-8549.

Next on the list for paving is Walnut Hill Road from June 21-30 and Weed Road on July 1. The rain has been holding up a lot of the paving and the town is doing their best to work when they can.

As always, residents are encouraged to call my office for any problems and we will do the best we can to help.”

To call in a pothole on your road dial (203)794- 8549. To contact the office of the First Selectman, Matthew Knickerbocker, call (203)794-8501.

Editor’s note: The First Selectman will provide an updated paving schedule to Bethel Buzz shortly.

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