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Greenwich's Top Candidates State Their Cases

GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich voters will decide between Republican incumbent Peter Tesei and Democrat John Blankley for first selectman when they head to the polls Tuesday.

Over the past few months, the candidates have argued over issues ranging from property taxes to education. Blankley recently released a "five point plan" headlined by the objective of getting the Board of Education to come up with ideas to present to the Board of Estimate and Taxation, along with Blankley if he is elected.

This would be "rather than the current procedure whereby the BET tells the BOE that it will be 'same as last year and level services,' i.e. no new initiatives." Tesei, however, says that when it comes to funding, it's "very clear that the school administration, through the board, has received the dollars that they've asked for."

He said that in talking to former superintendent Sidney A. Freund, who resigned last spring, it was made clear that it's not a question of having adequate resources. It's the school board "having a set list of priorities that they can agree on as a board," said Tesei. "I think that's part and parcel of the issue in the election of the board of education - an agreement."

In terms of future projects and the town's bond rating, Tesei has prioritized public safety and health, while taking into account schools, storm water/waste water management, sidewalks and other infrastructure projects.

The much-debated Central Fire Station supports "a very critical need" in town, said Tesei. A proposed $21 million new fire station was put on the back-burner as part of the deal made last spring over the Greenwich High School auditorium project, commonly known as MISA. Blankley shot down Tesei's role in the project, and said he believed the town had the capacity "to manage both of those large projects" without damaging its bond rating.

The candidates stand largely in agreement on the status of the Greenwich High School auditorium project. Over the summer, work was halted after contaminated soil was found on the site. Both candidates agreed they supported the project and the necessity for soil remediation but said the costs would have to be monitored.

"I am perhaps the greatest supporter of MISA in this town," said Blankley. "None of us is aware how much the remediation might possibly cost." If the cost is minimal, he said, then the project should go ahead. "If the remediation number is large indeed, it will affect other capital spending projects."

On taxes and the recent revaluation of property, Tesei said the town saw fewer appeals to state Superior Court than in previous years and said Greenwich remains a destination town.

Blankley spoke to the assessment issue, saying he agreed they were in line with market values. In terms of increasing property values, however, Blankley said a stagnant education system indicated that residents were "not getting proper value for our tax values at Town Hall." "That is why I believe the tax increase rate should continue to be as it has been, between 3 [percent] and 4 percent," said Blankley. "It's an ideal range to have."

Polling places will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Check online to find your polling place.

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