Letter: First Selectman speaks on busy December


To the editor,

Our first December in office was busy and productive, filled with meetings, appointments, and visits with the many citizens who stopped by Town Hall. As we settled into our new routine, getting to know all of the town employees, we also made it a priority to acquaint ourselves with each town board and commission, attending as many of those meetings as physically possible. A new website, a CERT program, and a town-wide clean-up were all addressed.

The town of Beacon Falls’ website has been without a webmaster since its inception. Under my direction, Ed Groth has been named to fill that position, and the website is targeted to be updated and fully operational by the end of January. Please visit the site often, because the site is intended to foster communication and ensure transparency.

The unprecedented natural events of the past year have made clear the urgency of preparation training. Hurricane Irene was manageable because town staff was available to respond to residents’ needs, but Storm Albert was another matter; emergency personnel had their hands full tending to their own homes and families. Therefore, I will institute a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program in Beacon Falls. Training will begin during the last week of January, and the program should be up and running by the beginning of February. Please contact Town Hall for more information or to volunteer.

Among our administration’s first challenges was one shared by every municipality in Connecticut — organizing and carrying out a major clean-up after the October storm. I am pleased to state that we sailed through with minimal pain or expense to the town. I am extremely proud of our Public Works Department and grateful to the citizens who stepped up and took on this challenge.

In the past, Beacon Falls would take estimates, hire a contractor and wait for a 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government through FEMA. The one FEMA-approved, local (but out-of- town) contractor gave me an estimate of $60,000. We would have had to front the entire bill, and then wait for at least one year for FEMA to reimburse us, at which point we would receive only $45,000. The initial cost to Beacon Falls would be $60,000 to address a winter storm, with the entire winter still ahead of us; the final cost to the town, $15,000. (Beacon Falls is yet awaiting FEMA money from past storms.)

Having run on a platform of small government, fiscal conservatism and self-determination, I found this plan to be unacceptable. Conferring with second Selectman Dave D’Amico, whose area of expertise is public works, and Eddie Bea, the director of Public Works, I ascertained that, partnering with a local contractor, our own town’s employees could incorporate the clean-up within a regular work week. An in-town firm was hired to collect the brush for $9,600; this was accomplished within one week, and the town crew disposed of the brush.

As we enter 2012, I acknowledge that each month will undoubtedly bring its own unique challenges, but I am confident that Beacon Falls will meet each situation with a spirit of unity and excellence. I wish everyone a very happy new year.

Gerard F. Smith

First Selectman, Beacon Falls