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Fairfield GOP Candidates Call for Changes

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — All three candidates made many promises to the voters in the crowd at the debate among the Republican first selectman candidates Monday night. But the responses from Representative Town Meeting member David Becker , Board of Finance member Robert Bellitto Jr. and firefighter Hugh Dolan all boiled down to one thing — a change to a more open leader in Fairfield’s top government job.

“Now, more than ever, our town government is more transparent than it’s ever been … with one exception, and that’s the first selectman’s office over the last few years,” Bellitto said. “The only way that changes is having someone at the top who believes in open government.”

Many voters in the room expressed worries about increasing taxes. The three candidates offered their plans to get more revenue from sources other than residential property taxes.

Becker said he would take Director of Community and Economic Development Mark Barnhart away the Metro Center project, which he has been overseeing for the town, and have him focus on bringing more commercial businesses to Fairfield. Bellitto said he would loosen zoning laws to make it easier for businesses to move in.

Dolan suggested turning to two large institutions that are tax-exempt but use town resources— Sacred Heart and Fairfield Universities . “There may be great opportunities for Fairfield U, Sacred Heart and the town of Fairfield to work out some sort of agreement where each student pays a small service fee to the town.”

On education, the three promoted different ways to tighten the Board of Education’s spending while maintaining good programs. Bellitto said he would create “more trust” between himself and the school district administrators to work out a better spending plan. Dolan suggested bringing non-educational services such as buses, school lunches and non-certified employees under town control to ease the school board’s burden.

Becker advocated an idea that combined his opponents — working with the Board of Education to find ways to combine resources. “The right first selectman, working with the superintendent and administrators, will come in and say, ‘You know what? You do this better than us, and we do that better than you.’”

Fairfield’s Republicans will choose their candidate next Tuesday, July 19. All registered Republicans can go to their normal polling places from noon to 8 p.m. that day to vote in the party’s caucus.

Have a question about where the candidates stand on a specific issue? Offer suggestions in the comments or send ideas to gcanuel@thedailyFairfield.com .

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