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Council candidates field questions, offer solutions at forum

WALLINGFORD — Democratic and Republican candidates for Town Council squared off during a forum sponsored by the Wallingford Community Women Tuesday night.

The forum, held in the auditorium at Town Hall, had the 13 candidates fielding questions from local reporters and Sheehan High School students.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., the Republican incumbent, and Jason Zandri, the Democratic challenger, also expressed their positions on a number of topics.

The Town Council candidates forum was held in two parts — the first featuring seven candidates and the second consisting of the final six candidates.

A number of the questions focused on technology and whether the candidates believed more work should be done to implement it in Town Hall.

Craig Fishbein, a Republican, said he hasn’t been silent on the issue and has made efforts to incorporate more technology throughout various town departments. However, he cautioned there must be a balance.

“I’m in favor of some technology. There has to be some balancing,” Fishbein said. “There are some people who are over the top everything technologically. (We have to) get to a point where you have a proper balance.”

Tom Laffin, a Republican incumbent, agreed with Fishbein and added that while discussions of technology are “overplayed,” he believes it to be an important topic to continue discussing.

“Technology is important if it makes our lives a little bit more connected,” Laffin said. “But at the same time, I’ve realized people are striving for personal contact and that real touch.”

The candidates stressed that implementing technology can’t be done entirely in a year, and a plan would have to be established.

Christine Mansfield, a Republican who now serves on the Board of Education, said she would “strategize” to develop a plan to implement technology without affecting taxpayers.

“Email is the lowest barrier with the greatest efficiency,” she added.

John Sullivan, an incumbent Democrat, agreed with Mansfield on establishing a plan, but added that with changing times the town has to adapt.

“This is the 21st century, times have moved on since 1670 when the town was first organized,” Sullivan said. “Sooner or later, we’re going to be forced to install technology when we’re required by the state and federal government to submit reports electronically.”

The candidates were also asked if they supported the decision not to install a prescription drug drop box in town.

The Coalition for a Better Wallingford is a group that has been trying to get the drop box installed in town.

Vincent Cervoni, a Republican and Town Council vice-chairman, said while he respects the group’s concerns, he questioned if the box would result in residents handing in prescriptions and believed the town’s police department was doing a good job.

“I have a lot of faith in Chief (Douglas) Dortenzio, he’s a good chief and good administrator,” Cervoni said. “I don’t’ know that I have the ability to tell him it’s a good use of his resources to allocate a considerable amount of man-time and woman-time to monitor the drop box and to go through the evidence procedures.”

Debbie Reynolds, a Democrat, felt otherwise. When her mother died, Reynolds said, she had a large number of prescription drugs that she had to dispose of responsibly. A drug box would have made things easier, she said.

“I know there are ways of disposing of them, but I don’t understand why something so valuable isn’t allowed,” Reynolds said.

Parking throughout town was also a topic.

As a business owner in downtown Wallingford, John LeTourneau, an incumbent Republican, was asked his opinions on parking in downtown Wallingford — something he felt was “status quo,” with some parking lots being heavily used, and others not much so.

He also said he would like to keep the Wooding-Caplan property as a temporary parking lot, until a decision is made on what should be done to it.

Dana Camp, a Democrat, said before he would be in support of spending town money on revamping a parking lot, he said he would need to first see a plan and how it would impact the community and surrounding businesses.

Nick Economopoulos, an incumbent Democrat, said he there needs to be more accountability and efficiency in the town.

“The services this town has provided are wonderful, but we have to be a little bit more accountable and supervise those services,” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of waste … There are services we can do at a cheaper rate.”

In a situation where there was left over money the town didn’t use, Vincent Testa Jr., a Democrat, was asked if he would use it for any projects. He said he wouldn’t because the money has to do with the town’s credit rating.

Rather than use it on one-time expenses, Testa said he’d opt to properly plan expenditures.

Larry Russo Jr., a Democrat, was asked how his job experience makes him qualified to run for the Town Council.

“I’d do a good job as a councilor for three (reasons): my background in education, second is my diverse work experience and third is my track record for community service,” Russo said.

Robert F. Parisi, a Republican and current Town Council chairman, is the longest serving member on the council.

Asked if he believed in term limits, Parisi said each election has the possibility of a term limit — if you’re not voted in, your term is over, he said.

“Sometimes when you want to dabble in limiting things,” Parisi added, “you may lose a lot of expertise.”

Ray Rys, a Republican, was asked what he’d like to be seen done to the American Legion Building.

Rys, who last served on the council during the 1990s, said he’d like to keep the building in town and go back to court in an effort to remove its protected historical status lifted.

After the candidates answered questions for an hour, they gave closing statements persuading residents why they should either be elected or re-elected to the Town Council. (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

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