What’s the best way for Monroe to grow its grand list? Council candidates weigh in

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The following story lists all 12 Monroe Town Council candidates’ answers to a campaign question. Nine will win on election day in a highly contested race. Republicans currently hold a 6-3 majority, the maximum number of seats one party can have due to minority party representation rules.

Follow the hyperlinks to see candidates’ individual profiles.

The state continues to cut funding for towns, putting pressure on taxpayers. What is the best way for Monroe to grow its grand list, while maintaining its rural character? How would you like to see the town developed?

Sean O’Rourke

Sean O’Rourke

There is no one answer solution. It takes a multi-pronged approach to manage the challenges that face Monroe. Monroe must encourage development on a commercial level, as well as continue encouraging families to choose to make Monroe their home. I believe you cannot have one without the other.

Development is a symbiotic relationship between goods and service providers and consumers — you need to have both in place to have a thriving tax base, which leads to a thriving community. It is a delicate and careful balance we must strive to obtain, but I’m confident with the experienced women and men who serve on our boards/commissions/councils, we can handle the challenges that face Monroe now and in the future.

Phyllis Kansky

Phyllis Kansky

As funds are being reduced at the State level, the Town must seriously look harder for state and federal grants for leverage. There are still grants out there and the Town needs someone to go out and aggressively look for and apply for grant funding.

Monroe has a unique character we want to preserve. With that in mind, we need to attract light manufacturing industries, retail organizations, white collar businesses. We need an Economic Development Coordinator working to attract these type industries and also to aggressively look for grant funding.

Enid Lipeles

Enid Lipeles

I have strived to make Monroe an excellent town to Iive in. We increased the number of Advanced Placement courses to a very high level. This very important gain at Masuk High School leads to higher property values, which in turn leads to a higher grand list. The outstanding honor of having 4 Schools of Distinction helps to maintain the higher property values, which results in increasing the grand list.

Dee Dee Martin

Dee Dee Martin

Economic development is the key to relieving the burden of individual taxpayers. It’s time to have an economic development coordinator that’s included in the planning department. They would assist in business retention, expansion and attraction, marketing Monroe for economic growth, maintenance of development statistics, data and demographic trends. Look at all the empty businesses in town, we need a professional to lead.

The current administration budgeted a lot of money for the volunteer EDC commission, made up of appointed concerned and conscientious residents, but we need a professional for the future.

Frank Lieto

Frank Lieto

The only way that the town of Monroe can grow its grand list without further significant burden to our education spending is to promote responsible commercial development supported by residential development which has little or no further burden on our school systems, for example, without limitation, age restricted communities.

We must continue to find revenue solutions that continue to allow our schools to thrive, while providing the essential public services in a rural setting that sets Monroe apart from our neighboring communities.

As a resident of Monroe for almost 30 years, I have witnessed the tremendous accomplishments this Town has achieved in its development. Our strong and collaborative leadership has enticed many new businesses to call Monroe home, which has added substantially to our grand list.

However, there is still much more work to do. I would like to see planned commercial and mixed-use development on both ends of our Route 111 corridors, which would serve to benefit our citizens and encourage community sustenance by providing a place for our citizens to convene for shopping, dining and other recreational activities.

In addition, I would discourage any further expansion of our planned zones, which permit uses that require little investment in the community, property or buildings, which uses typically burden our roads with heavy truck traffic and fail to serve as the highest and best way to increase or our grand list.

In addition, I am hopeful that future development will encourage consolidation and or cooperation between our adjacent commercial sites along Route 25 and 111, so that the revised planning can reduce curb cuts and increase the flow of traffic along these vital corridors.

Jason Maur

Jason Maur

Monroe has always been a draw to families because of its quiet, small town feel and quality education. That does not mean that there are no areas that are ripe for development.

The 111 and 25 corridors not only have a large number of open store fronts, but also a great number of undeveloped lots. We lose businesses to our neighboring towns due to antiquated zoning regulations that do not allow for larger developments in these commercial areas near our borders.

We need to rework our zoning to allow for Monroe to compete with our surrounding towns, allowing for larger buildings and more commercial property in these spots. This will allow us to build up our grand list using properties on the outskirts of town without disturbing the charm and character of the residential areas of town.

There is no reason that the old Stevenson Lumber location should still be sitting vacant. We need to work to make Monroe a place where businesses want to come to and where they can thrive.

By building up around our borders we will be able to increase our tax revenue from commercial or industrial operations, lowering the tax burden on individual tax payers, all the while allowing for more and greater opportunities, jobs and services to the residents of Monroe without disturbing the charm and character of the town we all call our home.

Terry Rooney

Terry Rooney

The State of Connecticut and it’s Democrat leadership certainly does not make it easy on fiscally responsible towns, such as Monroe. The best way to increase the grand list is to do the exact opposite of what the leadership in Connecticut has done, in recent years.

We need to bring in companies, that will not only enjoy the comfort of a rural town like Monroe, but also develop modern buildings that suit their needs and the needs of their employee base. More employees in the area means more of a need for commerce.

While being responsible in development, we also must consider new creative approaches for our empty spaces. In talking to people in town, the point of more foot traffic was introduced. Maybe consider the approach of more interactive places, cafes and modern trendy shops that sell products people cannot get online.

It is very challenging with the loss of a company like General Electric that supported the Monroe area for many years. The loss of that company has had devastating impacts on our town. These talking points, along with Amazon Prime selling things quicker and cheaper to consumers also have impacts to not only Monroe, but nationally and globally.

We honestly live in challenging times, in regard to brick and mortar retail spaces. However, there are solutions. Lack of sewers and commercial traffic is a factor also, but new treatment systems have been invented to minimize space, therefore larger buildings and more parking spots can be utilized.

In closing, Monroe has made great strides in the last two years with the current administration, and developers are talking about it. Our first selectman has streamlined processes and revitalized interest with the hiring a town planner from our neighboring town Shelton.

Everyone in Monroe has seen how well they have done keeping taxes down, while increasing the grand list. Not all efforts in Shelton apply to Monroe, however talented people find options that may have not been previously explored.

Our EDC is consistently doing ribbon cuttings for new businesses in Monroe now and it’s only a matter of time that more businesses show interest in investing in our great town and, my personal favorite, our well rounded, hard working, great people.

Jennifer Aguilar

Jennifer Aguilar

I think an EDC Director is an essential job for the town. We have a dedicated board at the time, but there is a very high turnover on this board. If we put money in for even a part time EDC director position, we could build it up.

We have so many empty retail fronts right now and getting tenants seems to be a problem. Working more on building our main corridors and keeping business in these locations, while maintaining the inner rural character of the town needs more than volunteers working on it.

Last budget season, I voiced these concerns. We still do not have an EDC Director. I will continue to push for one in the best interest of business in Monroe.

I also think we need to take a very deep dive into the minutia of the budget. If $1,000 can be cut, it cannot be overlooked because we came in at an overall low budget. We have to find ways to slowly get off our dependence on state money, because one of these days it will not be there at all.

Jonathan Formichella

Jonathan Formichella

As Connecticut faces tremendous fiscal challenges, Monroe has remained fiscally strong and a wonderful place to live and work in. If I am chosen to continue to serve this community as a member of the Town Council, I am committed to build upon our recent successes and keep Monroe a great place to live and work in.

The best way for Monroe to grow its grand list, while maintaining its rural character, is to continue the policies and practices of our current First Selectman and Town Council. It is of critical importance that the Town Council continue its work with the Economic Development Commission, the First Selectman’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee, Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Town Planner.

Working with these different groups will bring new and innovative ideas that will help Monroe continue to thrive. We must continue to responsibly invest in our town’s infrastructure and lower any unnecessary administrative barriers, so that businesses and individuals will further invest in our town.

If I am chosen to continue to serve on the Town Council, my foremost priority is to control municipal taxes and spending. In order for Monroe to remain competitive with our surrounding communities, the Town Council and First Selectman must continue to present fiscally sensible budgets that reduce taxes on our citizens and businesses.

The future of Monroe is incredibly bright and the possibilities for success are limitless. Having said that, there are a few important areas that we can continue to address. Monroe must capitalize on the opportunities it currently has in its commercial corridors.

Further, we must work with the State Department of Transportation to alleviate traffic congestion on Monroe Turnpike and Main Street.

Finally, we need to complete our evaluation our town’s space-needs and ensure that those needs can be met in a fiscally responsible manner.

Sue Koneff

Sue Koneff

The best way for Monroe to grow the grand list is to hire a full or part-time economic development coordinator. There needs to be one individual solely responsible for this job. Many of our surrounding towns have recognized this fact.

Because Monroe does not have sewers, it presents a problem to attract businesses. A skillful individual can design their promotion to those businesses that will be appropriate for the town.

The right individual will more than pay for the cost of their salary. In the past the First Selectman has attempted to take on this task with little success. The First Selectman has more than enough to do without taking on this additional job.

Kevin Reid

Kevin Reid

The approach is two-fold. We need to stay close to and work respectfully with our developers, business owners and investors in Town all while making sure we stay vigilant on how the State is impacting our budgets.

On the subject of our local developers and business owners, we happen to have some wonderful, caring and deeply invested folks that want the best for the folks in Monroe.

We must continue our government-business partnership that ensures we have simple processes to follow and that fosters mutually beneficial policies and standards that keep our people safe, while maintaining our Town’s charm.

The EDC, Mr. Kellogg’s office, the Architectural Review Board, P&Z, Park & Rec., Wetlands, the Building/Planning Department, just to name a few, are all working together and ensuring we have vetted and properly strategized the changes and developments in town.

This took proven, tried and true leadership from the First Selectman and our various committees and commissions sited above. I truly believe that if we stay the course, continue to tirelessly work together and maintain our positive momentum, we will open more businesses, continue to influence outside companies to invest here and make it easy and enjoyable to open shops!

It’s happening now! If you spend time at town hall and feel the culture and environment there, there is definitely a new level of excitement and electricity in the air. Interest in Monroe and the resulting development is definitely moving forward at a high velocity and continuing to head in the right direction.

As for ensuring we remain connected to the State’s backwards policies and tax-and-spend economics, we must be ever vigilant in our awareness of State policies and decisions. An educated Town Hall, Town Council, Board of Education and Board of Finance are critical to making this happen.

A close working relationship with State Rep. JP Sredzinski certainly helps a lot and closes that gap between the daily happenings in our Town to that of the fast moving State that is constantly discussing and enacting policies that negatively affect us.

Some of these polices like regionalization of schools, tolls, bag taxes and expected annual litany of other taxes are a threat to our finances as a town and as individuals.

Being fiscally responsible and making sure we dovetail our long term goals and investments with the current day-to-day spending is also important. We must have our eyes on tactics and strategies that can only be successful if it is led by experienced and proven people that do this in their everyday lives.

The Republican slate this year has a strong and diverse set of life and professional experiences that make us a formidable team, ready to take on the State, influence investment and make the right and responsible financial decisions. I am proud to serve with them, and I hope to do so with your confidence and vote in the years to come.

Spencer Wesley

Spencer Wesley

I am a citizen of Monroe, Connecticut, and have been for the last 17 years. I have seen and experienced Monroe change through the years and more recently my thoughts have been purposed towards the many improvements we can make in our Town.

The areas of concentration are:

1) A tighter control on how funds are spent in the town, especially on the “infrastructure.” By doing so, we  maximize the use of taxpayer funds and create a sustainable future. Without this forward thinking vision, the inevitable collapse that may require raising taxes will unfortunately be unavoidable.

2) Economic Development to protect against the increasing vacancies and unused zones around the town.

The quality of our roads can be improved at a faster pace by using reserve funds and using low rate bonding. It is possible to bring businesses into Monroe and keep our local charm. This can be achieved by hiring an economic developer positioned with the sole purpose of seeking out and bringing businesses to the town proper that fit our quaint and charming landscape.

Monroe can continue to offer a high quality education to our students, as opposed to coming up short due to the fact this area was under budgeted, based on information that was known prior to the budgeting.

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