Tetreau outlines goals in first State of the Town address
Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau, in his first State of the Town address Monday before the Representative Town Meeting Monday, laid out several goals for his administration in the coming year, which include strengthening the town's fiscal standing, support for arts and culture, a more senior-friendly town, better communication and teamwork, and a sustainable, environmentally aware community.
"The last six months have gotten me more excited about leading our town and looking forward to the challenges ahead," Tetreau said. "While there is much to appreciate and savor about the wonders of our town, there is also much we can improve on."
Tetreau recounted some of the events from the first six months of his service as first selectman, starting with leaving the Board of Finance to fill the first selectman's job vacated in June when Kenneth Flatto stepped down to take a state job.
"We certainly had our share of challenges and learning experiences," the Democrat said, like the discovery of $7.5 million in cost overruns at the Fairfield Metro railroad station, "but we did finish it and now have a huge opportunity for commercial growth and new tax revenue."
He gave kudos to town departments and residents alike for the way they dealt with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in August. "Through it all we found a renewed sense of community spirit," Tetreau said. "We not only learned how to live without the internet, TV and phones, but also were reminded of the value of our neighbors."
Going forward, Tetreau said he plans to set financial goals for the town such as taking the steps necessary to remove on rating agency's negative outlook given to the town and hosting a budget planning workshop in the fall to review and suggest improvements on this year's approved spending package.
"The goal is to get more community involvement," he said.
There is an ongoing challenge to manage the town's debt, the first selectman said, and deal with the tough economic climate.
To improve communication, Tetreau said the town's website will be given a facelift this year, and that he hopes public-access FairTV will soon broadcast town meetings live. He also praised the RTM for establishing bipartisan leadership for its subcommittees.
"I also want to recognize the steps that the Board of Education and Dr. (David) Title have taken to work with the Board of Finance, the Board of Selectmen and the RTM in evaluating changes to how we approach non-recurring capital projects, how we approach building projects and how we approach funding our workers' comp and health insurance program," he said.
Fairfield, he boasted, has become a "destination" for many visitors. "Our town is where people want to come for shopping, dining and entertainment," Tetreau said.
"The last six months has gotten me more excited about leading our town and looking forward to the challenges ahead," he said. "The most distinguishing trait about our town for me is our spirit of service and volunteerism."
"The free-spending habits of the previous administration inflated Fairfield's budget by over $100 million dollars in just 10 years, that is an increase of over 70 percent," the statement said. The GOP views 2012 as a "great opportunity to turn the tide and begin a new era of fiscal responsibility and government transparency in our town."
The statement touted the GOP's budget review process last year -- much of it in private -- that scrutinized all line items in the budget. This year, they said, those budget sessions will be open to the public.
"RTM Republicans will lead an effort to work with other town bodies and department heads to further streamline and open the budget approval process to maximize information flow and transparency ... We will continue to insist on a more rigorous and informative funding approval process from town officials and ask the hard questions that residents demand answers to in our roles as public officials," Becker and Palmer wrote.
Under the GOP majority, they said the RTM for the first time "voted down unsustainable union contracts" and began to make the move to have newly hired town employees covered by 401-K retirement plans rather than pensions. They urged the town to expedite court appeals over the recent property revaluation, and want a charter revision to prevent "future abuses of power that we experienced throughout the Metro Center project."
"We look forward to working with the Board of Ed and superintendent to continue to find opportunities to make the school district more efficient and less costly to operate," the Republicans said.
Tetreau, the GOP said, needs to "make the tough decisions the previous administration avoided for years, including re-evaluating staffing levels, recalibrating union agreements, implementing the technology advances that our archaic infrastructure needs to efficiently thrive, and reviewing the significant structural changes that will save taxpayer dollars."
Democrats had their own take on the state of the town. "In the past six months we have had our fair share of surprises," said Minority Leader Hal Schwartz, D-7. "Whether they were project or weather related this administration has handled it open and honestly and with complete transparency. We have come through this by pulling together and dealing with each issue as it arrived."
Schwartz said he believes the current administration will guide the town through the upcoming budget process "with a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how that can be done in the best interest of all of us."