BEACON FALLS — First Selectman Chris Bielik isn’t facing a challenge come Election Day, a turn of events the first-term Democrat described as a “luxury.”
“Not having an opponent has been a luxury, to be frank,” Bielik said.
Bielik, 54, said being unchallenged isn’t a luxury because he’s guaranteed a second term, adding that he’s lucky to have the opportunity to serve. Rather, he said, not having an opponent has allowed him to focus on his duties as first selectman day in and day out.
Bielik was elected to his first term as first selectman in 2013. Prior to 2013, he served two years as selectman, chaired the Board of Finance for one year and served on the Conservation Commission for two years.
Bielik called his first term “eye-opening,” adding that he has learned a lot over the past two years. Although his first term has been a learning experience, Bielik feels much has been accomplished.
“I think we’ve managed to do a lot,” he said.
The town has been discussing road improvements for years. Through a combination of a state grant, aggressive collection of back taxes by Tax Collector Mary Anne Holloway and a $2.1 million bond approved by voters, Bielik said the town has been able to put together about $3 million to make those long-awaited repairs.
Bielik said the town was also able to keep the municipal budget increase to less than 0.5 percent each of the last two years by working in a bi-partisanship manner with the Board of Finance to identify efficiencies in the budget.
“I’m very proud of that,” Bielik said.
Bielik added that the town is also poised for big economic growth with the proposed Beacon Falls Energy Park, a fuel cell power plant planned to be built by a private company off of Lopus Road.
The project is pending approval from the Connecticut Siting Council. If the project goes forward, Bielik said, it has the potential to grow the grand list by $200 million, or roughly 42 percent.
He added the energy park can lead to other economic development opportunities as the town will look to leverage the project to extend a natural gas line to the Murtha Industrial Park.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” Bielik said of the energy park.
Looking ahead to the next two years, Bielik said there is still much work to be done.
Among Bielik’s top priorities for his next term will be moving forward with a multi-million dollar upgrade needed for the wastewater treatment plant. Bielik said he plans to work to bring all the pieces of the project together and to pursue any available funding to offset the cost of the project, before presenting a plan to the public.
Bielik said the town also needs to work with Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 to find a way to replace a pumper truck that is over 25 years old to get firefighters the equipment they need, and continue to work on fixing roads in town.
There will be little drama come Tuesday at the polls in Beacon Falls.
Aside from Bielik, selectman candidates Democrat Peter Betkoski and Republican Mike Krenesky are also unopposed. Republican Joe Dowdell was listed as a write-in candidate for selectman by the Secretary of State’s Office. He has withdrawn as a write-in candidate, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.
The highest profile race is for Region 16 Board of Education. Republican Douglas Bousquet is challenging incumbents Priscilla Cretella and David Rybinski. Cretella, an Independent, and David Rybinski, a Democrat, were endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee. Two of the three candidates will be elected.
The only other races are for Zoning Board of Appeals and Library Trustees.
Bousquet and Democrats Tony Smith and Robert Doiron are vying for two seats on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Democrats Barbara Betkoski and Darlene Ragozzine and Republican
Randi Bellemare are running for two Library Trustees seats.
Though the top of the ticket is unopposed, Bielik urged voters to get to the polls on Tuesday.
“Everybody in town needs to stay in the habit of getting out and voting on Election Day,” he said.