BEACON FALLS — Republican First Selectman Gerard Smith is looking to secure a second term in office.
Smith, 52, said he is running for re-election because he has just begun to reach a point where he can begin moving the town forward.
“Learning the office, finishing unfunded projects and taking care of mismanaged projects occupied all my time. So, now I’ll be able to fulfill my promise of getting a five-year capital project plan and getting the town headed in a fiscally responsible direction,” Smith said.
Smith is being challenged by Democratic Selectman Christopher Bielik, 52, who is in his first term on the board. Smith has held the first selectman position since November 2011.
Smith, a real estate agent, is the managing director at Grubb and Ellis Co. He has lived in Beacon Falls for 27 years and raised his family in town. In addition to being the first selectman, Smith has served as a selectman and the chair of the Board of Finance and Planning and Zoning Commission.
Smith said his plans for a second term include drawing more businesses into Beacon Falls.
“I’d like to fill the industrial parks. The real estate that’s in the industrial park needs to be filled with businesses that are going to create revenue that doesn’t tax the taxpayers but actually adds revenue,” Smith said.
Smith said since he took office he has worked with the Economic Development Commission to bring more than a dozen businesses into the town. However, he would like to add to that total.
“I’d like to work on stabilizing the taxes for the residents of Beacon Falls,” Smith said. “I’ve got some plans, with my commercial background, to attract some of those people to the valley. We’re in an enterprise corridor zone.”
Smith said he is working with the commission to bring more businesses to Main Street. However, development can only occur on one side of Main Street as the other side has both the river and the streetscape, he said.
“Main Street, we’re going to do what we can to assist the developers that are coming in there, but the business park, the industrial park and the Pinesbridge Commerce Park are the main focus of where we can get large tenants to come in and really broaden our tax base,” Smith said.
Smith said the biggest problem the town is facing now is the fact that it has an older infrastructure that has not been replaced in a long time.
“It goes to the capital plan that we don’t have, have never had, and need to get into place,” Smith said.
The town is facing two large projects on the horizon — the $16 million upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and fixing many of the roads in town — that will need to be addressed in the near future.
Smith said those two projects will be handled “piece by piece and together.”
“We need to provide sewers where there needs to be sewers, and people will be assessed for those. As we open the roads to the sewers, that’s the time to replace the roads. So it’s going to be a large undertaking,” Smith said.
Smith said the town has begun to look into some of the financing for these projects. When it comes to the largest portion of the projects, however, Smith already knows how it is going to have to proceed.
“It’s going to be spread out over a number of years and we’re going to bond it. The only way to do it is to bond it,” Smith said.
Smith pointed out the roadwork and plant upgrades are not the only large projects the town has to think about.
“That’s in conjunction with some of the expenses coming, such as the improved Region 16 renovations, which are also going to have to be put into a long term financial package,” Smith said.
Smith said everything comes back to attracting more businesses to the town.
“We’re hoping to increase the revenue through the businesses that come into town to offset some of that for the taxpayers,” Smith said.
Smith said another part of his capital plan for the town is to shift more of the financial responsibility onto the finance department.
“With most municipalities the financial wherewithal of the building is handled by the finance department with assistance from the first selectman. Beacon Falls does things backwards,” Smith said.
Smith said he would work with the finance department and the Board of Finance on the capital plan to create a way to put more of the financial responsibilities on them.
“So we’re changing philosophically how things happen in Beacon Falls. All to strengthen the financial picture of the town,” Smith said.
Smith said he was proud of what he accomplished in the past two years, including helping the residents of Beacon Falls secure $700,000 in small cities grant funds, helping the residents in need renovate their home with 0 percent interest loans, and removing the in-ground fuel tanks and installing a fueling station at the public works department.
As Election Day draws nearer, Smith urged residents not to believe any rumors they might hear during this campaign season.
“Don’t believe what you read in the papers. If you have a question, call my office. Unless you’ve heard it spoken from my lips, it’s not true,” Smith said.