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John McKenna

Sep 30, 2023

Matt Tobin, a Republican seeking to regain his seat on the Board of Finance in November, listens to discussion during a GOP candidate forum at the Bantam firehouse on Thursday. BZ photos

Litchfield’s Republican candidates in the November election outlined their platforms during a public forum at the Bantam firehouse on Thursday.

A crowd of about 40 attended the GOP’s second candidate meet and greet of the past two weeks. Headlining the event were first selectman candidate Norman Sauer and Board of Selectmen candidates Dan Morosani and John Bongiorno.

Other candidates on hand were town treasurer candidate Alan Landau, Board of Finance candidate Stephen Krucker and incumbents Matt Tobin (Board of Finance) and Cleve Fuessenich (Board of Assessment Appeals).

The GOP candidates will be available to meet the public again on Saturday when they are part of a campaign kickoff at noon at Community Field.

Sauer, who is challenging First Selectman Denise Raap, used Thursday’s gathering to promote his plan to enhance volunteer recruitment and retention, if elected. Saying Litchfield faces a shortage of emergency services volunteers, Sauer said time demands, increased training requirements, increased call volume and aging are having a detrimental effect on volunteerism.

“When elected as first selectman, in my first 30 days I will assemble a task force to aid our fire departments in recruiting and retaining volunteers,” Sauer said. “This task force will evaluate ways to campaign for new volunteers and look to offer additional incentives.”

The current pension plan for volunteers, Sauer said, is not enough. Tax abatement and group insurance benefits are ideas that should be explored, he said.

In further comments, Sauer said the current Board of Selectmen has done its job to the best of its ability but is spending too much money that could be saved and applied to the tax rate to lower it.

Discussion also centered on police protection in town, specifically the current system of two resident troopers and the previous system of one resident trooper and two constables. Steve Ardussi, a Republican, blasted the current system, saying the lack of police presence at Center School when it opens in the morning and closes in the afternoon is noticeable.

“Traffic passing the school at those times of the day is horrendous and there is no control in place to do anything about it,” Ardussi said in directing his remarks at Selectman Jodi Tenney, a Democrat who was in attendance. Tenney is chairman of the traffic safety community action group that has been developing plan to address speeding, traffic flow and pedestrian safety in the center of town.

In response to Ardussi, Tenney noted how the TSCAG is working in tandem with the state Department of Transportation and is making progress toward initiatives that would improve conditions.

Former Resident Trooper Lynn Lewis, a Litchfield resident, said it’s impossible for the two resident troopers who work in shifts from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to cover the far-flung town.

“One person can’t be expected to keep up with the volume,” Lewis said, noting that when she began her 15-year tenure as resident trooper the town had 11 full-time and part-time officers at its disposal.

The last constables, Peter Russo and Gregory Kenney, retired in 2022 in were not replaced as a cost savings measure. Selectmen opted to go with two resident troopers as an alternative.

Sauer said he would support reconsidering that decision if he is elected.

“There are grants and financial resources available for police coverage,” he said. “It’s a matter of creating a plan to go after them.”

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