Helping vulnerable populations among goals of New Milford mayor: ‘Focused on New Milford being a safe town’

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is seeking a third term.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is seeking a third term.

Pete Bass /

NEW MILFORD — One of the goals of Mayor Pete Bass, a Republican who is seeking a third term in the November election, has been on safety.

“We’re really focused on New Milford being a safe town,” said Bass, 59, who is running against resident Ted Hine, a Democrat.

Safe means a lot of things, Bass added.

“First and foremost, our public wants to know when they’re working or away from their home, are they safe?” he asked.

The answer to those questions, Bass said, is “Yes.”

According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System received from the state in June, for the first quarter of 2021, all offenses are down 18.7 percent compared to the same quarter last year, said New Milford Police Chief Spencer Cerruto. There were 134 total NIBRS offenses in the first quarter of 2020 and 109 in the first quarter of 2021.

Additionally, Cerruto said crimes against persons, which is crimes that use or threaten to use physical force against another person, went down 32.6 percent compared to the same quarter last year — going from 43 down to 29.

Bass said those figures are a “testament” to Cerruto and the entire police department.

Safety continues to be a priority for those affected by domestic violence, Bass said. To that end, he has just created a new position within the town’s social services department, called a domestic violence and family advocate. This position will work in tandem with the police department and social services to be a point of contact for the victims.

He added the town has a “no tolerance policy” when it comes to domestic violence, “so that those who have been battered can feel safe in getting the resources they need.”

Additionally, two years ago, the town created the position of community care coordinator — which is filled by resident Justin Cullmer.

Cullmer serves as a liaison, connecting vulnerable populations — homeless people, those suffering from addiction or violence — to the assistance they need, whether it’s housing, counseling or anything else.

“The statistics has shown this position has been a tremendous success,” Bass said. “Year over year, overdoses are down 50 percent, homelessness is down to basically almost zero.”

Bass said the town has also looked at providing resources, especially during COVID-19 — to serve as a safety net for people. The resources include the town’s community food bank, and the efforts of its social services team and the public in donations.

“We’ve had a very robust ability to help those that need food resources,” Bass said. “Our community fuel bank, through the generous donations of our public, has been able to help those that need assistance with their utility bills or their fuel bills.”

He added the town has also focused on making sure its seniors are safe, and one initiative was creating strength and balance classes for them.

Additionally, the town has partnered with The United Way and the Savings Bank of Danbury to offer financial literacy classes.

“We’re teaching everything from why your credit is important to your savings to your credit reports, and investments,” Bass said. “We know the truest way to get people out of the lower economic ladder is to help them with jobs and to help them create their own wealth.”

Continuing with the theme of safety, Bass said the town will put smoke detectors in the homes of people who need them.

Bass also spoke of affordability, saying that a lot of new residents have moved into town because its more affordable when compared to other towns in Fairfield County — he credited this to the town’s finance team “Greg Osipow (New Milford finance director) and all of our town department heads. For the first time in over 30 years, we’ve had back-to-back tax rate reductions.

He added due to the “strength” of the town’s credit rating, “with the credit agencies and with our ability to be an affordable town,” the town has seen the “growth in our Grand List and many new residents making New Milford home.”