In yet another uncontested race, six Town Council candidates sat down for a discussion during the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum Monday night at Town Hall. Republican candidates Roger Williams, incumbent Ken Campbell, incumbent Tucker Murphy and incumbent Steve Karl joined Democratic candidates Joe Paladino and John Emert to discuss issues such as planning and fiscal responsibility.

As far as the Long Range Planning Committee's efforts, the Council candidates were all in favor of the concept of planning, but in different ways. Paladino stressed the need to get as many people involved in the process as possible.

"I've spent some time looking at the Long Range Plan, and the public input is imperative because a lot of us are going to disagree with the findings and find, what they feel are, better ways to combat some of the topics," Paladino said. "I think it's important that it's a candid open forum and the entire town has the opportunity to come and give their vision for the long range plan and the input is taken by each committee process and appreciated. I think the process itself is something that is going to help our plan."

Williams supported planning but stressed fiscal responsibility alongside it and criticized the $200,000 spent on consultants for the work being done in the LRPC.

"I would agree it would be foolish not to plan. Same thing you do individually in your own lives and your own finances, it would be pretty crazy to avoid that or try to not confront planning," Williams said. "But I must quote my friend and future First Selectman Rob Mallozzi in that we have a lot of very talented people in this town and we don't have to waste $200,000 on consultants that tell us what we already know. We have to watch these dollars and that gets into the fact that we have to manage precious resources, critical resources, that belong to you the taxpayer."

Emert agreed with most of those points on the LRPC, citing costs as a main concern of his, and brought up several questions to consider for any proposal in the future.

"Will this project benefit the most number of people in town? How much would it cost? Are there collateral disadvantages to this project?" Emert asked. "In other words, it's a real soup-to-nuts type of approach that I think each of us needs to make with regard to anything that comes before the Town Council."

Murphy said the planning committee has done a great job and agreed with Paladino on engaging the public more and more.

"I think the process is a good one," Murphy said. "I think we asked for lots of public input, which is always a good thing. The role of the Town Council is that they have the final authority over any land-use decisions, so I think the more that we can engage the public and ask them to give us any feelings they have (the better)."

The discussion was a bit more uniform when it came to the discussion of open space. Council candidates were passionate about improving Irwin and protecting Waveny.

"I think we can all agree that open space is an asset," Karl said. You look at the parks we have in town -- Mead Park, Irwin, Waveny, some of the most beautiful open spaces around. I think it's most important that we take care of what we have and I think we do a very good job with that. Public Works does a very good job on trails and when we use these parks it's just an amazing space."

Campbell also reiterated the need to protect Waveny Park from future development ideas and keep it green.

"I am not particularly in favor of listening to proposals to pave (Waveny) over," Campbell said.

Williams echoed Campbell's sentiments.

"The other thing I am concerned about is Waveny. I want to make sure that it maintains its current condition as open space there," Williams said. "Too often it seems like everyone that has a pet project wants to carve up Waveny and build on it."

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