Jewett City borough warden election is May 6

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Apr. 29, 2013
Benjamin Hull is the Republican candidate for Jewett City borough warden. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.
Benjamin Hull is the Republican candidate for Jewett City borough warden. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.

Residents of Jewett City will go to the polls Monday, May 6, to elect new borough leadership, but at least one candidate for the top post of warden wonders aloud whether the borough form of government is necessary. Republican Benjamin Hull, who is facing off against current Democratic burgess Alan Geer, said that Jewett City is one of only a handful of Connecticut communities governed by a board of burgesses, rather than a mayor or board of selectmen. “There are probably three, four or five towns out of Connecticut to have a borough,” he said.

About 3,200 residents live in the one square mile that comprises the borough of Jewett City. Since the town of Griswold also encompasses the borough, Jewett City residents pay property taxes to both governmental entities. The current tax rate for borough residents is 2.5 mils, which represents the amount of tax on each $1,000 worth of property. “I don’t see that as necessary. I don’t think we’re getting anything special by living in a borough,” said Hull.

Geer refutes that viewpoint. “I believe it’s a necessity at this point,” he said. “The borough has some pretty valuable assets,” including the municipally-owned sewer treatment plant and electric power company, as well as a resident state trooper program. “I believe we are also eligible for grants in the borough that the town may not be due to our size,” he said.

Even so, Geer said he advocates changing the title of warden, which he said is confusing to people. “It’s an old historic term that has been in our charter since the borough was incorporated,” he said. A title like president or mayor would be more modern and easier to understand, but such a change might need to be cleared through the secretary of state’s office, he said.

Geer, a lifelong Jewett City resident and a veteran of the Vietnam War, has long been active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Little League in town. He also served for 10 years as an officer in the now-defunct Jewett City Police Department, which was disbanded in 1994. “I would love to see a full-time police force [in the borough] but I don’t think it’s in the cards because of the money it would take,” he said. He said that police protection is a necessity in the borough.

Hull, who moved to Jewett City seven years ago, spent 24 years as a building and zoning enforcement official, working for the city of Norwich as well as for Franklin, Sprague, Bozrah, Lisbon and briefly in Ledyard. He said his familiarity with state statutes would be an asset in the post of warden. “I’ve definitely got some ideas that I believe should be enforced,” he said. “I know I’m running as a Republican in a Democratic town, but I truly think with the experience I have, I could do the job.”

A Korean War veteran, Hull said he would work to ensure that non-borough residents who use the borough’s utilities pay to do so. “Everybody in the borough is double taxed… [But] we do have people who use them and don’t pay for it. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Six hopefuls are vying for the four available slots for burgesses: Republicans Hull and incumbent Timothy Sharkey, and Democrats John Connelly, James Krueger and incumbent Laurie Sorder. Connelly is the borough’s current warden.

Three Democrats are running unopposed for re-election to office: Valerie Pudvah for borough clerk, Leona Sharkey for tax collector and Linda Cote for treasurer. Incumbent William Czmyr, a Democrat, is defending his office of baliff against Republican Donald David Moretti.
Polls at the Griswold Town Hall will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday.

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