By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
BEACON FALLS — Former selectman Peter Betkoski is aiming for the highest political seat in town.
Betkoski, a 60-year-old Democrat, said he’s running for first selectman to give back to the community — a value instilled in him and his siblings by his parents.
“I also want to bring back neighborly love in the town of Beacon Falls,” Betkoski said. “I want the new generation of people in town to realize what I grew up with in this beautiful town.”
Betkoski, who is the Beacon Falls Democratic Town Committee chairman, served as a selectman from 2013 to 2019, and vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission for 10 years. He also represents the town on the regional water authority.
Betkoski is challenging First Selectman Gerard Smith for the seat. Smith is unaffiliated and running under the Beacon Falls First party, which he formed this year.
With only one selectman candidate on the ballot this year, the loser of the first selectman race will automatically win the second selectman seat, if he wants it.
Betkoski said he would serve on the Board of Selectmen, if he lost the first selectman race.
Betkoski, who has a son, Luke, is a general contractor with his family business, Betkoski Brothers, a local paving company.
Infrastructure improvements have been a focal point for the town over the past two years. In 2020, voters approved bonding up to $6 million — $5 million for the road repairs and $1 million for upgrades to the waste water treatment plant.
Two large projects — reopening a closed section of Burton Road and the reconstruction of Beacon Valley Road — are moving ahead.
Betkoski said the bond package was the right decision due to low interest rates. It’s the time to borrow, he added. He said it isn’t always feasible to do all the town’s infrastructure projects all at once.
“You got to follow up with grant money and strategically take the older infrastructure and take care of them first,” Betkoski said. “You got to have a five-year plan with the infrastructure no matter who’s in office.”
When it comes to economic development, Betkoski said town officials need to be more accommodating to help businesses come into town.
“If they’re going to have growth, we need to be a little open-minded,” Betkoski said.
If elected, Betkoski said his focus will be on a project to develop land between Route 42 in town and Route 67 in Seymour.
“That’s the biggest project I see coming down the pike that will generate revenue for economic development,” Betkoski said. “I’m concentrating on that.”
Housing development has been a hot topic of late with the pending proposal from Hopp Brook Developers to build 109 homes on land off Oakwood Drive near the Bethany border. The proposal sets aside 30% of the homes for people who earn 80% or 60% of the median income in the surrounding area.
Betkoski said the town needs affordable housing but isn’t sure if the size of Hopp Brook’s proposal is necessary. Betkoski remembered when he was growing up that the area was partly farmland with cows on it.
“We’ve got to have more than cows in town,” Betkoski said. “As long as they get another road open and they meet the specifications, you got to let it go.”
If elected, Betkoski said tearing down the Wolfe Avenue house and expanding activities for youth will be among his priorities. The two are tied together, he said.
Voters approved buying the property and house at 35 Wolfe Ave. in 2008 for $425,000. At the time, officials planned to build a community center and library on the property. However, that never happened and the house is now in disrepair.
Betkoski said he will demolish the house, if elected, and that he would love to see new library and youth center built on the property.
As Election Day gets closer, Betkoski said he’s thankful for the opportunity to serve as selectman and on other committees in past. God has been his constant source of strength, he added.
“I just would like them (residents) to give me the opportunity to lead the town in a better direction. I’m very proud of my family legacy in the town of serving the public,” Betkoski said. “I just would love the opportunity to be the leader.”