Editor’s note: The Easton Courier asked the first selectman candidates to answer each of five questions in 500 words or fewer. The responses from Republican candidate Wendy Bowditch follow below.
Please provide your budget priorities for the town and Easton Board of Education. How will you stay knowledgeable about how much revenue town departments and the local school board require? How will you reconcile funding requests while acknowledging the tax burden on residential property owners?
Given that education spending makes up a significant portion of our town budget, the town side budget tends to run very lean. I will take a proactive approach to financial planning each year to ensure all departments are properly funded without putting undue burdens on Easton taxpayers.
After several years of inflation and rising costs, we must be more productive and efficient with our finances. Staying on top of expenditures is part of everyday procedure. All payment orders and checks are signed by the treasurer and first selectman. We need to find grants that fit our needs, rather than try to jam existing grants into town plans. Currently we do not have a full or part-time grant writer in town. I would get one on board, working for us to fulfill our needs, not the other way around. We send a lot of money to Hartford and receive next to nothing back in return.
How should Easton balance its responsibility to protect the water supply for Fairfield County with the mandate to provide more affordable housing options?
I believe that people intentionally chose to live in Easton for its unique rural character, and that town leaders must work to fulfill the quality-of-life promise that led people to move here in the first place. We have had an influx of new residents, many due to COVID, who I am sure enjoy the privacy and space that Easton affords. We must be able to continue to make our own decisions about our future.
I was very disappointed to see our Democratic State Representative Anne Hughes vote in favor of the Fair Share affordable housing proposals (part of 8(30)g) in the last legislative session. Protection of watershed flies in the face of high-density housing. We need to be cognizant of housing issues but more importantly be the stewards of the reservoirs and wetlands that make up 45% of Easton’s geography.
The Board of Selectmen recently revived the dormant Land Acquisition and Preservation Authority. What more do you propose to do to fund land acquisitions and preserve Easton’s agricultural heritage?
I am very proud of the Farming Community in Easton. The future possibility of large tracts of land coming onto the market should be fought with every tool we can get. The newly reopened Land Acquisition and Preservation Authority’s first task should be to identify vulnerable land and then we can work with DEEP and the Agriculture Department and other state and federal agencies to ensure we maintain local control.
Marketing the land to be farmed by a new generation of farmers should be an option. I do not believe that the town should be in the business of buying land, but we should reach out to preservation groups and find other options for continuing the farming legacy.
What are the top challenges facing Easton and how will you address them?
Maintaining local control and preservation. Easton once again finds itself at critical cross-roads in its perennial struggle with zoning. Zoning protection and enforcement is one of the biggest issues facing Easton, as it has the potential to change, disrupt or even destroy many other issues voters care about: our environment, farms, water, and town finances.
First Selectman David Bindelglass gave voters a piecemeal approach to South Park that led to confusion. The town agreed to the sale of 19 acres of the land to Aspetuck Land Trust. By transferring the title for that portion of the land without payment he showed he was NOT protecting the taxpayers of Easton. If we had not put a conservation easement on the remaining land it would have become vulnerable to development. Our town’s finances and future cannot afford these mistakes.
Why should voters vote for you?
I promise to put Easton first. Instances of hazardous, contaminated soil or lack of ensuring zoning rules are enforced have impacted residents and local business owners. Finding a safe and modern home for our Emergency Medical Services and making sure day-to-day details can’t get overlooked should be managed more carefully and efficiently.
Easton deserves leaders with experience and full-time commitment to the job. The smallest details can be overlooked. They need not be and make for a better run, happier town. I pledge to be at Town Hall daily to oversee our fine staff and be available to the citizens. Easton needs leaders who will put 100% of their focus and attention into the daily lives of the people who live here.