Newly elected of­fi­cials join town boards

Elec­tion re­count will de­cide coun­cil ma­jor­ity

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Mill

EAST HAMP­TON — A re­count Mon­day morn­ing will de­ter­mine which party will con­trol the Town Coun­cil for the next two years.

It will de­ter­mine if Repub­li­can Tim Fee­gle or Demo­crat Alan Hurst will be­come the sev­enth and de­cid­ing mem­ber of the coun­cil. In the wake of Tues­day’s vot­ing, Fee­gle leads Hurst by 12 votes.

In the mean­time, there was a swear­ing-in cer­e­mony Wed­nes­day evening for some mem­bers of the coun­cil, the Board of Fi­nance, Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and Zon­ing Board of Ap­peals elected to their po­si­tions Tues­day.

The re­laxed cer­e­mony was held in the T-Bell room at the high school and the oath of of­fice was ad­min­is­tered by As­sis­tant Town Clerk Ber­nice C. Bartlett. Bartlett vol­un­teered to take on

the role so Town Clerk San­dra Wieleba, who had worked late into the night Tues­day co­or­di­nat­ing elec­tion re­sults, could rest.

Then, as soon as she de­liv­ered the oath, Bartlett ad­journed the meet­ing.

The nearly 20 new­lyminted of­fi­cials went back to talk­ing among them­selves, shar­ing con­grat­u­la­tions and/or meet­ing with Town Man­ager Michael Manis­calco and Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Paul K. Smith.

Aided by newly elected Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber Marc Lambert, who cut the cake, Ad­min­is­tra­tive As­sis­tant Cathy Sirois served pieces of a con­grat­u­la­tory blue-and-white iced choco­late sheet cake.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the win­ners were an­nounced, Repub­li­can Melissa En­gel, who ap­peared to be the coun­cil chair­woman des­ig­nate, said her first pri­or­ity will be to re­solve the nag­ging is­sue of bring­ing potable wa­ter to town.

Ad­dressed by reporter El­iz­a­beth Re­gan as “Madame Chair,” En­gle laughed as she said, “Oh, I love that!”

En­gel said she was “thrilled that (the GOP) did so well” in the vot­ing.

“In the last two years, there has been a lot of progress, which speaks to the tenac­ity of the Repub­li­can Party,” En­gel said.

The GOP held a 5-2 ma­jor­ity on the just-ex­pired coun­cil.

Two rea­sons drive her de­sire to re­solve the wa­ter is­sue, En­gel ex­plained. They are “eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and pro­vid­ing wa­ter to peo­ple who need it.”

The town was built around wells to pro­vide wa­ter. But its long his­tory of late 19th- and early 20th-cen­tury man­u­fac­tur­ing also left a toxic le­gacy of con­tam­i­nants which have fouled many of those wells. The well that is sup­posed to pro­vide wa­ter to Town Hall is con­tam­i­nated, forc­ing the staff to rely on bot­tled wa­ter in­stead, Manis­calco has said.

“The next big thing for me is re­duc­ing prop­erty taxes, and the way to do that is through eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” En­gel said.

And the key to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is a re­li­able wa­ter sys­tem, she said.

If she is in­deed to be­come “Madame Chair,” En­gel said she does not ex­pect push­back from the Democrats on the new coun­cil over the is­sue.

“Wa­ter is the pri­mary goal of both par­ties,” En­gel said.

How­ever, Kevin Re­ich, the prospec­tive chair­man if Democrats cap­ture the coun­cil ma­jor­ity, said he is not yet ready to com­mit to any one is­sue. Speak­ing fol­low­ing the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony, Re­ich said, “I haven’t given any thought to ‘a pri­or­ity’ at this mo­ment.”

He said he didn’t nec­es­sar­ily dis­agree with En­gel about the need to ad­dress the lin­ger­ing wa­ter is­sue. Rather, “we have yet to dis­cuss and pri­or­i­tize the is­sues,” Re­ich said.

“I hope we can have a con­ver­sa­tion” about the var­i­ous is­sues fac­ing the town and the coun­cil and then pri­or­i­tize the coun­cil’s ap­proach, Re­ich said.

Jeff Mill / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Newly elected mem­bers in East Hamp­ton took their oaths of of­fice on Thurs­day morn­ing at Town Hall.

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