PROSPECT — After 40 years in office, Mayor Robert Chatfield is facing something he never encountered before — an unopposed race.
Chatfield, 74, a lifelong Prospect resident and the Republican incumbent, will earn a 21st term as mayor on Tuesday at the polls without a challenge from the Democratic Party or a third party.
“I’ve never run unopposed before,” Chatfield said.
Heading into his next term, Chatfield said the state’s financial issues will be a large factor in how the town operates.
The state budget stalemate that stretched over three months into the fiscal year left municipalities in limbo. The state legislature late last week passed a $41.3 billion two-year budget that Gov. Dannel Malloy signed on Tuesday.
“I think people will be a little more aware of the state and local budgets because of all publicity the state budget has had. I think people are also more aware of what money the state gives us to function,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said one of the things he wants to do in the upcoming term is improve roads, adding that he hasn’t spent any budgeted funds yet this fiscal year for road work due to the state budget statement.
“I borrowed money and that is what I am using,” Chatfield said.
One road in particular is on Chatfield’s mind — Scott Road.
Chatfield plans to begin making headway with the third and final phase of the reconstruction of Scott Road. The third phase of the work on the road extends from Waterbury Road to Maria Hotchkiss Road.
Chatfield expects the town to be able to get the engineering work done and go out to bid on the section of road, which is approximately 0.8 miles.
“The last phase is where you need the majority of the drainage work done,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield’s other priorities over the next two years include buying a new minibus for the senior center, continuing to change the street lights over to LED lighting to save electricity, and securing a grant to expand the kitchen in the senior center.
Chatfield has faced criticism for what opponents have described as outdated policies and procedures for operating the town.
The Town Council went back and forth with Chatfield and Treasurer David Young for months earlier this year over questions and concerns about seven transactions, totaling $45,000, from previous years that were incorrectly accounted for in the budget. The issue was resolved in late August when Chatfield told the council mistakes had been and they were caused by human error.
Since the mistakes were brought to light, some changes have been made, including that the treasurer is required to examine and sign off on every page of an invoice.
“There is a lot of ‘fake news’ there,” said Chatfield, who didn’t elaborate on the issue and the criticism he’s faced. “We have made changes that the council has asked for in some of the reporting to the council.”
The town’s mill rate increased 1.34 mills, or about 4.4 percent, to 31.25 this fiscal year due largely to spending increases in the town’s budget and the budget for Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls.
Chatfield said to make sure that spending doesn’t increase more than necessary, he would continue to “be cheap and watch every nickel.” In order to save money, Chatfield continued, he would have to cut services.
“To save money a few years ago I shut the recycling center down for January and February. You would have thought I shut the senior center down. The people who went down there were angry,” Chatfield said. “No matter what you cut or what you don’t do, people are going to get upset. You have to be very careful and juggle all the balls.”
While he has a plan for what he would like to get done over the next term, Chatfield said there is always the chance the plans get put aside for a new problem that arises.
“You don’t know from day to day what problems are going to come through the door,” said Chatfield, who added the knowledge he has gained running the town for the last 40 years comes in handy.
“I am not tooting my own horn here, but there is a lot I have picked up over the years,” he said. “I have already gone through some of the problems other towns are going through and I have already solved the problems, so it isn’t as big of a deal for me because I have been through it before.”
Chatfield said he looks forward to continuing to serve as mayor.
“It has been an honor to serve. People may not always agree with what I do or say, but nobody can say I am not dedicated to the town,” Chatfield said.