Results of Q&A sessions with First Selectman candidates

Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods (FairPLAN), a non-partisan grassroots environmental action group, announces the results of Q & A sessions held with Michael Tetreau (D) and Chris Tymniak (R), candidates for First Selectman in Fairfield.

FairPLAN and the candidates discussed candidate positions on environmental issues and visions for the town’s conservation development. The candidates submitted detailed written responses in addition to their interviews. “FairPLAN appreciates that the candidates took time from their busy schedules to meet with us and provide very concrete views,” said Alexis Harrison, FairPLAN’s Chair.

“Voters can evaluate the candidates’ positions on conservation issues when they are considering their voting choices.” Mary Hogue, FairPLAN Vice Chair noted that “FairPLAN does not endorse candidates, but we wanted to bring candidate views to the public as an educational public service.”

First Selectman Tetreau identified areas of greatest environmental concern now and in the future. He said, “The areas of the largest concern are water quality in Long Island Sound, town rivers and waterways. I also worry about PCBs and other construction material containments, invasive species of all types and lastly, how are we prepared to react quickly to future unknowns.” Mr. Tymniak opined that, “Beach erosion is rapidly getting worse and needs increased attention. We need greater energy efficiency, and we need to be better positioned to make improvements when they are available with new technologies. Development in environmentally sensitive areas is concerning and needs to be watched.”

The candidates were asked about their view of the role of Open Space in Fairfield. Mr. Tetreau stated that, “Open Space is very important and will be more so in the future.  Every year it is more expensive to put aside land for Open Space. I support collaborative programs with Aspetuck Land Trust and other community groups. I believe maintenance and management are critical to insure that the Town’s open space lands are managed in a productive manner so that residents can appreciate its benefits while also protecting critical wildlife habitat.”

“I believe we have much work to do to educate our community on the value and benefits of our open space properties,” Mr. Tymniak said, “Fairfield has a large Open Space, and I’m comfortable with not seeking out acquisitions. This is largely a funding issue and if the town is back on a better footing, this could be looked in the future. I’m open to donations of land that fit our overall plan.  While at times there are some minor costs associated with donated land, if the land fits our overall plan, I believe the benefits are worthwhile for the community as a whole.”

On the issue of the conservation of natural resources and support for the Fairfield Conservation Department, both candidates expressed their dedication to conservation efforts.  Mr. Tetreau said, “My dedication can be seen in my leadership on the cleanup of Mill River and my requests to our Department of Public Works to aid the Conservation Department in catching up on the backlog of Open Space projects. We recently upgraded flood gates as part of Storm Sandy repairs, and we are improving tide gate management.”

Mr. Tymniak emphasized that “an important way to support our Conservation Department is by getting our Town’s fiscal health in order. This will allow us to increase resources for areas including the Shellfish Commission, Inland Wetlands Agency, and the Conservation Department.  

About Fairfielders Protecting Land and Neighborhoods
FairfieldPLAN’s mission is to support open spaces, natural resources and the character of our neighborhoods, by –
–  supporting positive government action through good laws, regulations and land use decisions
–  promoting appropriate development to achieve both economic and environmental health
–  being a resource for local groups by providing education, support and advocacy
–  encouraging and sponsoring planning initiatives

Below are fuller answers to these and other related questions.

FairPLAN’s 2015 First Selectman Candidate Questions and Answers
Prepared as a Non-Partisan Public Service related to the voters interested

in issues related to the environment and public action

 

 

What are your biggest environmental concerns for Fairfield and its future?

 

Mike Tetreau: The areas of the largest concern for me are Water Quality in Long Island Sound and town rivers & waterways. PCBs and other construction material containments, invasive species of all types and lastly, how are we prepared to react quickly to future unknowns. Chris Tymniak: Beach erosion is rapidly getting worse and needs increased attention. Energy efficiency and better positioning town to be able to move quicker when items are available to us due to ever improving technology. Development in environmentally sensitive areas is concerning and needs to be watched.
 

What criteria do you use to appoint Conservation Commission members?

 

Mike Tetreau: In reviewing candidates and their backgrounds, I would look for Community Balance for the Commission overall, Concern for the Environment from the individual candidate, Interest in Conservation and a commitment to learn more about the needs of our community. Chris Tymniak: Consistency should be applied to the criteria used for appointing members. Members should have passion for our town and a vision for its future as a whole. Preservation minded members that also understand the bigger picture for the future of managing conservation and development in our town.
 

What do you see as the role of Open Space in Fairfield?  Should we expand in this area, i.e. amount of open space, improved management and maintenance, etc.?

 

Mike Tetreau: Open Space is very important and will be more so in the future. Every year it is more expensive to put aside land for Open Space. I support collaborative programs with Aspetuck Land Trust and other community groups. I believe Maintenance and Management are critical to insure that the Town’s open space lands are managed in a productive manner so that residents can appreciate its benefits while also protecting critical wildlife habitat.

 

We had a good community discussion during the approval process for the new land purchase on Fairfield Beach Road. I thought this was informative and educational for all involved. Recently during Land Conveyance discussions with the State, we identified the need for much better communication and coordination among Conservation groups throughout the region. I also value initiatives like the Mill River Lab as a Class Room and educational opportunity. I believe we have much work to do to educate our community on the value and benefits of our open space properties.

Chris Tymniak: Fairfield has a large open space and I’m comfortable with not seeking out acquisitions. This is largely a funding issue and if the town is back on a better footing that could be looked at again in the future.  It is unfortunate but we are living with the mistakes of the past as a town which is hurting important programs like this.  I’m open to donations of land that fit our overall plan.  While at times there are some minor costs associated with donated land, if the land fits our overall plan, I believe the benefits are worthwhile for the community as a whole.
 

What do you think the priorities of Fairfield’s environmental groups should be and how would you release information to them?

 

Mike Tetreau: The priorities for environmental groups should be a focus on education and awareness. First, to our community so our residents appreciate the benefits of Open Space. Second, to our Boards, Commissions and Elected Officials so we can make informed decisions.

 

In terms of full disclosure and open access to information, I believe the Mill River cleanup has demonstrated that we have a policy of full disclosure and full access.

Chris Tymniak: Community watchdog groups are a vital part of our community and that goes for environmental groups as well.  The groups have an important role in bringing the voices of all key stakeholders of projects and the town together and I would like to see that relationship thrive for the betterment of our town.  Additionally, I will increase transparency and access to information.  This should be viewed as a tool for the benefit of all.  My administration will also get more information online and faster.  I plan to modernize government and this department will be a direct beneficiary of that new approach.
 

Would you support a full-time Wetlands Compliance Officer in the town budget?

 

Mike Tetreau: Yes. I took first step in years by proposing a part time position to replace a position that had been eliminated by the prior administration. We do have to manage Budget additions and realize they must be balanced with tax increases. Our current expense budget now makes the jump to a full time replacement once we determine that is needed – a much smaller budget increase and an easier step to handle. I will work with Conservation Director and the Conservation Commission to incorporate this position into future plans. And just for the record, I would not have supported the initial headcount reduction.

 

Chris Tymniak: I need to get more information from the Conservation Director about this position.  I am in support of the recent decision to hire a part time employee into this position and look forward to seeing how things run with this change as well.  None of this can either be sustained or expanded upon if we don’t fix our town as a whole.
 

Do you support continued investment in all the Conservation Department programs that it currently runs including (a) Shellfish habitat management and support to Shellfish Commission; (b) marsh restoration including tide gate management; (c) open space planning and management; (d) Inland Wetlands protection and regulatory support to the Conservation Commission when acting as Inland Wetlands Agency; and (e) conservation of natural resources and support to the Conservation Commission?

 

Mike Tetreau: I would enthusiastically support expansion of the Shellfish Commission’s seeding and educational programs. Additionally, I support the Commission’s continued goal of trying to open larger areas of the Town’s closed recreational shellfish beds off of Southport Beach. The Commission has been working to implement a new water quality sampling program in collaboration with the Department of Aquaculture to properly document the continued improvements in water quality.

 

New Flood Gates and Tide Gates are critical components to the marsh management program and are a critical tool for flood mitigation for the Town. The Town recently upgraded several floodgates as part of Storm Sandy repairs and improvements. I will continue to work with our Conservation Director and Public Works Department on the ongoing maintenance plan to keep these critical pieces of infrastructure in full functioning condition.

 

I have proposed to share additional resources from Public Works to help catch up on our backlog of work. I am asking for the backlog review and catch up plan to be put into a priority sequence. The Town will also continue to pursue the acquisition of open space parcels when it appears appropriate to meet the goals of the Town from both a conservation and fiscal perspective.

 

We will continue to follow the law and meet our obligations as a town on regulatory matters.

 

I believe that support for conserving natural resources has been demonstrated by the current Mill River cleanup project. My support for funding for the recent Fairfield Beach Road lot acquisition is another example.

Chris Tymniak: I am in support of continued investment in all of these areas. In order to continue and ultimately better support those items, my first priority is to get our town’s fiscal health in order.  That hasn’t been done in a long time and has caused issues for this very important department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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