Visions for the future inspire New Milford mayoral candidates
NEW MILFORD — After six terms and 12 years as mayor, Pat Murphy says she can point to a long list of accomplishments — and a broad vision of the future — to make the case for her re-election.
Murphy, a Republican, said she wants to see the projects she has begun come to fruition, including riverfront redevelopment, modernization of the library, reclamation of the Century Brass property and upgrades to athletic facilities, bike trails and Lynn Deming Park.
“All of this will be disseminated so we are dealing with real numbers, timelines, revenue streams,” Murphy said. “To pull out one or two things that are being undertaken is difficult. Everything is going on at the same time. It’s a good long list.”
But challenger David Gronbach says Murphy’s list of accomplishments has gaping holes that must be filled, including deterioration of the town’s roads and traffic bottlenecks on Route 7 at Still River Drive and near Veterans Bridge. He also faults her for what he sees as “weak and ineffective” leadership in combatting the heroin and opioid epidemic that has plagued the town in recent years.
The biggest issue, however, might be Murphy’s style, Gronbach said.
“The more I speak with people and hear that they feel disenfranchised from decision-making in the town, the more I hear the issues that affect them, I see so many quality of life issues that have to be addressed,” Gronbach said.
Murphy countered that she has made improvements to infrastructure a priority in recent years, but added that in a town the size of New Milford, with 212 miles of roads and 30 bridges to maintain, the work is never-ending.
As for battling the problems created by abuse of heroin and related drugs, she said great strides have been made.
All New Milford police officers are about to get training in the use of Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, and soon all cruisers will carry Narcan kits. Murphy said she has asked her husband, state Sen. Clark Chapin, to introduce legislation in the next session to allow school nurses to get the same training and be outfitted with kits. And a curriculum is being written to teach parents the warning signs that their children might be heading to drug use.
“If we can teach parents to look out for triggers that signal potential drug use, what the paraphernalia looks like, we can (equip) young parents with the information they need to assure that their children don’t begin drug use,” Murphy said. “It’s a serious and devastating problem in our and other communities. We need to all put our heads together.”
Gronbach envisions a town with walking trails, bike lanes and a greenway and a riverfront residents can enjoy. If elected, he said, he will build on initiatives for such by private individuals and groups without taking credit for them, as the present administration too often does.
He offers a “sustainable plan” for New Milford’s economic future, where government takes an active role in attracting manufacturing, guides commercial development and assures that a desire for making a profit “never outweighs the public good.”
Murphy said the strategic plan will take all aspects of New Milford’s future and put them together — economic development, infrastructure improvements, promotion of the school system and deciding the future of recently closed Pettibone School.
“We’re hiring a consultant to help us with a strategic plan to include all the projects under one document,” Murphy said. “I want to bring the public in and get them talking like when did when the Plan of Conservation and Development was being updated, see what people are thinking about the projects under way and coming up.”