Editor’s Note: CT Examiner profiled Wallingford Democratic mayoral candidate Riley O’Connell earlier this month. Today, we profile his Republican challenger Vincent Cervoni.
WALLINGFORD – Republican mayoral candidate Vincent Cervoni, who has promised to keep intact the “sound fiscal practices” of outgoing Republican Mayor William Dickinson Jr., took aim at his Democratic challenger on the issue of tax increases during a wide-ranging interview with CT Examiner that touched on finances, technology, infrastructure and schools.
“To say you are not going to increase taxes while also saying that you will increase wages is just disingenuous and that’s what he is doing,” Cervoni said of opponent Riley O’Connell. “It’s more complex than that. It’s about knowing what a budget is and how it’s built and what goes into it. Just by saying he [Dickinson] supported tax increases and that he will not do that is really misleading the voters.”
O’Connell has repeatedly – in interviews, on the campaign stump and in campaign literature – been critical of Dickinson and Cervoni because the mayor’s office has proposed a tax increase for 18 years in a row. Taxes in the town of 44,000 increased in 17 of those years, with the council overturning only one of the budgets.
Dickinson, mayor for 40 years, announced in March that he wouldn’t be seeking a 21st two-year term. Dickinson defeated O’Connell in 2021 for mayor by less than 300 votes,
The 55-year-old Cervoni noted his town experience – serving on the Town Council for 14 years, including the last 10 as chair, and two separate stints as a Zoning Board of Appeals member – as vital to run the town and move it forward. He’s lived in town 29 years.
His opponent, who is 27 years old, has never served on a town board.
“At his age, I had been practicing law for two years and I was working hard to learn my profession,” Cervoni told CT Examiner. “I was overwhelmed [at that age] by how much I didn’t know.”
Cervoni credits Dickinson, whom he called a “great fiscal steward” with keeping the grand list stable and bringing businesses into the town. The 2022 Grand List showed an increase of more than 1 percent. The Grand List, which is a listing of all taxable properties, rose to $4.6 billion and brought in more than $1.5 million in tax revenues into the city.
And, as Town Council chair, Cervoni says he has and will continue to provide incentives for current businesses and those that want to relocate. He noted that at a recent council meeting, “We approved a series of tax incentives to new businesses and there are also retention credits too.”
Cervoni said he will continue to work closely with the town’s Economic Development Commission, the economic development specialist, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce, of which Wallingford is a member, and Wallingford Center Inc., (which promotes business downtown) to make the town stronger economically.
“I think, generally speaking, we’ve done a lot to maintain affordability in the town,” Cervoni said. “We’ve encouraged downtown development and now we want to get a spark lit to revitalize the area down by our historic train station. There has been some stagnation there.”
He said the town is attractive for numerous reasons ranging from its relatively low mill rate [29.34]; to its high bond ratings [A1 or A+ depending on the rating company] to its location near Interstate 91 and Route 15, and for its safety. Cervoni noted that the town was recently named the fifth safest community in the state by Safewise.com, an online site devoted to safety trends.
Wallingford is home to several new businesses and several in the works, Cervoni said. He pointed to a laser cancer treatment center coming next year to the town’s Industrial Park as a prime example. The business will “easily” employ “dozens of people,” he said.
Technology upgrades in Town Hall are another campaign focus for Cervoni. He has called for the creation of a“Director of Information Technology” position since the town currently relies on the Information Technology Director within the Public Utilities Division.
“Because of the direction we are heading in, there is going to be an increase in the use of information technology in Town Hall,” he said.
Cervoni and O’Connell have both said that some of the current technological practices – or lack thereof – are hampering how City Hall operates.
“The current administration has given out computers on a need-based position,” said Cervoni. “We just have to streamline the process. We need to look for efficiencies throughout the town and increase those efficiencies. And, we are going to have to switch employees from using paper time cards to a swipe login system.”
Cervoni also said he wants an overhaul of the town’s website in order to provide easy access to forms, filings, tax and utility payments, and building and land use permits, among others.
Strengthening the town’s public safety infrastructure, Cervoni said, is one of the cornerstones of his campaign. He supports investing in a new, state-of-the-art Police Command Center that he said would cost $30 to $35 million. Cervoni said the new command center should be in place in about a year and will be primarily funded by bonding.
“We outgrew [the police station] about 15 years ago,” he said. “Our women’s locker facilities are inadequate for the number of women now on the force and our jail cells don’t meet current requirements.” The force has about 60 officers.
Cervoni weighed in on one of the hot-button issues in town: Whether or not to consolidate the two high schools, which could result in increased class sizes – a decision the school district will make.
“To be completely honest with you, I struggle with it,” Cervoni said when asked whether he supported the idea. He said the project would cost an estimated $130 million.
Cervoni said the biggest argument against consolidation – from what he has heard from residents – is that the school would probably be located at the current Lyman High School’s Pond Hill Road location, which is on the east side and not centrally located.
“It could take 30 minutes or so one way for some residents to get there,” said Cervoni, who added that any consolidation must include a traffic impact study on the neighborhood.