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July 12, 2020
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Unopposed in 2019 Race, Saybrook First Selectman Fortuna Looks Back and Ahead

Published Oct. 22, 2019

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Carl P. Fortuna, Jr. is running unopposed for his fifth two-year term as First Selectman of Old Saybrook. Assuming he receives at least one vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5, he will be re-elected.

A repeated theme for Fortuna, when discussing his tenure and his priorities, is quality of life. Another is good fiscal management: providing services residents want and need while keeping costs low and being a responsible steward of public funds. A third is listening and being responsive to residents’ questions and feedback.

Looking Back

Fortuna reviewed the past few years with satisfaction.

“Some of the things that we’ve accomplished have really made the town a better place to live from a quality of life perspective,” he said. “It’s all the capital projects we’ve done, with either grant funds or our own capital account.”

Projects completed with large grants over the last few years include dredging in North Cove, rebuilding North Main Street from Boston Post Road to the train station, and constructing the Main Street parking lot and park.

“Those were all grant dollars that we obtained and were able to complete those projects on time, on budget,” said Fortuna.

Additional projects, such as the pickleball courts, the renovation of the Youth & Family Services building, and The Kate pillars and pedestal project, were funded via the town’s own capital account, said Fortuna.

“The capital projects have been a real source of pride,” he continued, “not only for town government but for the people in this town.

“We’ve been really successful in terms of keeping up on our capital needs and not raiding our rainy day account,” he said.

The reserve fund amounts to roughly $7 million, according to Fortuna.

“It’s money that you’re probably never going to touch,” he said. “On the other hand, if you ever want a bond project or [to] refund those bonds...we can go to the rating agencies and say, ‘We’re at 15 percent’ [of savings in relation to our annual spending]...and they reward you with lower interest rates.

“We’ve done two bond refundings in this most recent [two-year] term, which has saved the taxpayers nearly $1 million in future interest costs,” he added. “[T]hat helped us deliver one of the first tax cuts...that the town has ever experienced over a generation in the 2018 fiscal year. We actually reduced the mill rate in a non-revaluation year.

“Other than quality of life,” he continued, “it’s about delivering budgets that people think they’re getting good government for. The taxpayers/residents need to know that the government is listening to them.”

Looking Ahead

“Over the next two years, this town is going to determine the future of its Water Pollution Control Authority program,” said Fortuna.

Two phases of the three-phase septic upgrade project have been completed and of about 1,900 houses that needed to be upgraded, roughly 700 remain.

“[T]he town is going to determine how it is going to resolve the most difficult properties in town that are located within the Wastewater Management District,” he said.

“That conversation is going to start occurring publicly probably in the next two to three months,” Fortuna continued. “There’s going to be public outreach.”

This is the most difficult issue facing the town and has been for years, Fortuna said, “both from an engineering and a public understanding perspective and the most challenging capital project we have in town. And that is something we’re going to meet head on over the next two years. Because we’re there...We’re getting that kind of pressure” from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.

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