Stratford’s blight officer position will go full-time for the remainder of the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Town Council members voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to make the blight officer post a full-time position through the end of the fiscal year. Current blight officer Rich Fredette will remain in the post, according to Chief Administrative Officer Chris Tymniak. The town will spend $21,000 to make the position into a full-time job.
Council members compromised after initial discussion to make the job full-time going in future years, which would cost about $54,000 a year.
Fourth District Councilman David Harden was the biggest proponent for expanding the blight officer’s hours, saying there were many areas in his district with blighted conditions in need of attention, including on Hollister Street, Boston Avenue and Jackson Avenue.
“A lot of buildings there … had a lot of waste and materials on the street that should not be on the street. So that was my concern that these things are considered,” Harden said. “It’s important that we take care of the safety issues and the blight issues in town.”
Harden had a testy exchange with 10th District Councilman Tina Manus in pushing for the blight officer expansion. Second District Councilman Scott Farrington-Posner said he understood Harden advocating for his district, but noted that residents in his district are concerned about taxes.
Farrington-Posner said the No. 1 issue he heard about when walking his district was taxes and how the recent tax increase made it difficult for residents to stay in their homes.
Harden was one of five council members who voted for the current fiscal year’s $215.3-million spending plan. The 5-5 tie was broken by Mayor John Harkins. The budget included a 2.01-mill increase.
Manus and Farrington-Posner also took issue with Harden for criticizing Stratford firefighters and Department of Public Works employees for their workmanship on preparing the new town ice rink at Longbrook Park. Manus said she was “offended” by Harden’s critiques of the town employees.
“You don’t go after our firemen and our public works people. Not with me around, you don’t,” Manus said after the meeting. “It’s one thing to want things for your district. It’s quite another to want things and throw Department of Public Works and fire under the bus at the same time.”