GOP in Litchfield holds final pre-election rally
Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul Jr., right, addresses the crowd at a Republican Party rally at the Litchfield Distillery on Thursday. To the left is Bill Burgess, a candidate for the Board of Selectmen, chairman of the Board of Finance and chairman of the Republican Town Commitee. BZ photos
The Republican Party in Litchfield geared up for the Nov. 5 election by holding a fundraising dinner at the Litchfield Distillery on Thursday.
It was a chance for outgoing First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. to thank those who have supported him during his 16 years as a chief elected official and to promote the selectman looking to succeed him. Selectman Jonathan Torrant, and Torrant's running mates for the Board of Selectmen, Bill Burgess and Thomas Waterhouse.
Torrant, Paul said, is the best choice to lead Litchfield for the next two years based on his seven years of experience as a selectman and his understanding of municipal government. Burgess offers experience as chairman of the Board of Finance and a past member of the Planning and Zoning Commision and Waterhouse as a past chairman of planning and zoning.
In his turn before the crowd, Torrant said his campaign for first selectman has received a positive reception and that his experience as a selectman would allow him to "hit the ground running without a learning curve" when he's elected first selectman.
By comparison, Torrant said, his opponent, Democrat Denise Raap, an owner of the Village Restaurant, lacks municipal government experience.
"With all due respect to my opponent, running a municipality with unionized employees as well as dealing with financial markets is far more complex than running a small bar and resturant as successful as the Village," Torrant said.
Torrant also targeted several of Raap answers at Tuesday's first selectman's debate, saying they were misleading or incorrect. He said her suggestion that interns or high school students could be used to make the town's website interactive would be squashed by the town's employees unions and that the greater interaction between the Board of Selectmen and the public at selectmen's meetings that Raap supports could lead to problems with the Freedom of Information law if decisions based on the interaction were made immediately.
The town has a five-year capital plan identifying future needs such as fire trucks and public works vehicles and their costs, Torrant added in response to Raap's claim that the town needs to budget for future capital expenses. He also said Raap's claim that the public works department has too much equipment is off base and that the town routinely auctions off old equipment or sells it as scrap metal.
Raap said money could be saved through more sharing of public works equipment with neighboring towns. Torrant noted that the town already does that through the Northwest Hills Council of Government's cooperative program.
The last issue Torrant touched on was Raap's view of the town's fund balance, or rainy day find, which currently stands at $12 million, or 18 percent of budgeted expenditures. The amount of fund balance has helped the town secure an AA+ bond rating from S&P Global, allowing it to borrow, or bond, money at rates of less than 2 percent.
Raap suggested lowering fund balance to 15 percent and using the $600,000 that would take fund balance down to that level on operating costs.
"This too shows a lack of understanding of public financing," Torrant said. Keeping fund balance where it is, he said, allows the town to maintain its high credit rating and provides a cushion should the financial mess that is the state of Connecticut result in a cut in state aid to the town.
Below, a look at some of the crowd that was in attendance.