Tetreau, Kupchick meet in last debate before Fairfield First Selectman vote
FAIRFIELD — In the second and final First Selectman debate before the Nov. 5 election, the candidates met one last time at the Gaelic-American Club on Monday.
The Rotary Club of Fairfield hosted the candidate forum, where Brenda Kupchick and Mike Tetreau discussed issues such as economic development, party politics and the fill pile.
Republican State Representative Kupchick is challenging Democrat First Selectman Tetreau for the seat he’s held since 2011.
The candidates agreed on many specific town issues, including the need to curb state overrides allowing the development of mental health facilities in Greenfield Hill and re-evaluate the proposed renovation of the marina, which boaters have largely opposed.
They disagreed, meanwhile, on issues including the prevalence of party politics in town. Tetreau said town boards have a history of collaborating and putting party affiliation aside.
“You hardly ever see a political agenda,” he said. “It’s Fairfielders putting Fairfield first.”
Kupchick took exception to this statement, saying she’s noticed a troubling trend of party divides on boards such as the RTM, and that as First Selectman she’d work to improve collaboration.
Tetreau also cited his track record on many major topics, such as disaster relief and economic development. Kupchick, meanwhile, said Tetreau hasn’t done enough in office. She said she would prioritize topics that haven’t been adequately addressed, such as the flooding of Rooster River and development of the Metro Center.
The same went for discussions of the town’s fill pile scandal, with Tetreau pointing to his ongoing, active leadership on the issue and Kupchick saying he dropped the ball.
The town’s Public Works pile is the subject of an ongoing criminal case that has led to charges against two town employees and Julian Enterprise’s co-owner, who are accused of conspiring to allow Julian to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the pile.
Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects in the town. After testing 60 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds, the town identified eight areas that need to be cleaned up. Removing the materials, including arsenic and asbestos, is expected to cost the town millions.
Kupchick went through the timeline of events, pointing to examples where, she said, Tetreau was to blame for the scandal.
“The situation regarding the fill pile has illustrated a total lack of accountability, transparency and leadership from the top,” she said. “I will make sure to restore the public trust and put stricter controls in place to make sure this never, ever happens again in our town.”
To counter, Tetreau explained the active role he took in many of the events Kupchick mentioned, such as ordering the police investigation into the pile in the first place. He accused Kupchick of fearmongering and falsifying his record in office to suit her political agenda.
“There have been so many misstatements and inaccuracies from Ms. Kupchick and her campaign,” he said. “Fairfield cannot afford a First Selectman who will not stand up for the town, who will not do their homework and will make false statements.”
As to the question on the minds of many — if either candidate would serve as Selectman if elected to that lower position — both agreed to defer that decision for now.
“Right now I’m focused on winning the First Selectman seat, and I think that would be the best choice for the town,” Tetreau said.
“Ditto,” Kupchick replied.