Kent First Selectman candidate Ed Matson concerned over fire department, parks

Ed Matson, Kent First Selectman candidate

Ed Matson, Kent First Selectman candidate

/ Ed Matson

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four profiles on the first selectmen candidates in Kent.

KENT — Choosing how the fire department is managed and renovating the town’s common park are two of many issues important to Selectman Ed Matson, who is running for first selectman in the November election.

Matson, a Republican, is running against First Selectman Jean Speck, a Democrat; and petitioning candidates Rufus P. de Rham and James E. Rundall.

Matson said the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, which has both a volunteer and paid service, is paying a lot of money for its paid ambulance services.

“It’s budgeted for $112,000 this year. It was zero the year before,” said Matson, a 40-year member of the department. Last year, he served as its fire chief.

He said the paid service is due to a shortage in volunteers, many of whom have retired or dropped out, some due to their fears over the pandemic.

In prior years, he said businesses have supported the fire department, and local schools tried to have EMTs on hand. “But with the strict state rules and the EMT rules, the town is finding less volunteers now to do this,” Matson said. “It’s hard finding volunteers that are allowed to leave work to go for two hours on an ambulance call.”

He added the town has just started working with an ambulance service that will send in people to help when Kent is short on sign-ups.

He spoke of the possibility of the town moving to an ambulance association full time. In this instance, the ambulance would be funded by the town and the town would be responsible to collect insurance money for those who go on ambulance calls.

Currently, the Kent Volunteer Fire Department bills those who have insurance to help offset the costs, he said.

He added the decision needs to be made very soon as to which option the town will go with.

“It’s splitting the department in lots of ways right now because we’re giving stipends to ambulance people to stand by,” Matson said. “So, technically we’re paying volunteer ambulance people to go on calls. We’re having a paid staff person at the fire house a lot.”

He said in the near future, he sees a full-time paying ambulance service staff.

“We are finding that the volunteer sign up is getting less and less, and the paid person is getting more and more,” he said.

Matson has worked in safety patrol for the state Department of Transportation for more than 20 years. Additionally, he owns a landscaping business in town, in his name. He’s married to Constance Matson and has three sons.

He’s a member and past president of the Kent Lions Club, is an Eagle Scout, was troop committee chairman of the local Boy Scouts, and was president and is treasurer of the fire department.

A second issue of concern to Matson is the condition of the town’s parks. He said Emery Park, which is spring fed from a brook, should not be used for swimming.

Oftentimes, he said the water turns to algae in summer time. When it’s tested for bacteria levels, it fails, he said.

Additionally, he said there is no sidewalk going to Emory park.

“Kids can’t ride their bikes or walk to Emery Park. “It’s about a mile out of town,” he said.

Instead, he said he would like to get the Kent Common Park redone.

He said he would either put in a water park or a pool at the common park or turn it into a skateboard park — depending upon what residents decide.

Additionally, he said he would like to improve the town’s roads and speed up the progress of the streetscape project, a $3 million project, which has been 12 years in the making. The project involves replacing all the asphalt sidewalks on both sides of the streets from Kent Greenhouse & Gardens at 30 South Main Street to south of Kent Congregational Church at 97 North Main Street.

Matson has served on the town’s Board of Selectmen from 1999 to 2001, and has been a selectmen again since 2020. He ran for First Selectman in 2019.

In regard to accomplishments as a selectman in town, he said he’s “very proud” to have worked with fellow Selectman Chris Garrity to keep the increase of the mill rate flat over the last two years.