In the 1700's Brookfield was an area of rich farm lands, forests filled with game and streams abundant with fish. It was called Newbury, a name derived from the three towns from which its land was taken (New Milford, Newtown, and Danbury). Here lived a hardy breed of people. They believed in hard work six days a week, and on the Sabbath they rested and attended worship, even though it meant a ten mile trip to New Milford, Danbury, or Newtown. Because of the hardship of winter travel, 1752 saw the introduction of winter church privileges. Worship was allowed to be conducted in the homes from September to March. In 1754, the General Assembly finally granted the petition for the Parish of Newbury to build their own meeting house and call their own minister. On September 28, 1757, the first Congregational Church building was dedicated, and the Reverend Thomas Brooks was ordained as the first settled minister. In 1778 the Town was incorporated. The name Newbury was changed to Brookfield in honor of the Reverend Thomas Brooks, who was still the minister. The first Town Meeting was held on June 9, 1788.
As early as 1732, there was industry along the Still River, and the area became known as the Iron Works District. Found here were the furnaces for making iron, the ever important grist mills, sawmills, comb shops, carding and cotton mills, a paper mill, knife factory, hat factories, and others. Still standing today is the grist mill (now the Brookfield Craft Center) and the Iron Works Aqueduct Company. This company was formed in 1837 to supply water from the mountain springs to the Iron Works District and today it still supplies water to the area.
Indian trails were the first roads for travel. As the area became more populated, roads were laid out. Wagons and stagecoaches became the main means of transportation. Toll gates were used on the main roads to pay for the upkeep of the roads and salaries of the gatekeepers, and the dividends went to the owners and stockholders of the roads. Travel was slow and it took three days to travel to Bridgeport, conduct business, and travel home.
At one time there were two train stations: one in the Iron Works District and the Junction Station located near the corner of Junction Road and Stony Hill Road. The trains carried freight and visitors into and out of Brookfield, and young people from Brookfield traveled from the Junction Station to Danbury to attend high school.
During early Colonial days it was required by law to establish a school if a town had at least fifty families. In January, 1756, it was voted to maintain a school for six months each year, two months in the New Milford District, two months in the Danbury District, and two months in the Newtown District. By 1808, there were eight school districts within Brookfield.
After many heated debates about taxes, the Brookfield Consolidated School was built to replace the one room school houses in Town. This school was built in 1938 and is now called Center School. Besides the public schools, many private schools were located here: The Saint Paulís School for Boys, the Curtis School for Boys, a Town Singing School, and the Greene School of Music.
Electricity was first brought to Brookfield in 1915, when the Danbury and Bethel Gas and Electric Company hooked up the homes in Brookfield Center to their electric lines. By the late 1920's electricity was in more demand. The Connecticut Light and Power Company built the first hydroelectric plant in America at Rocky River, just north of New Milford. A reservoir for the water was needed, so land from Danbury, New Fairfield, Brookfield, and Sherman was taken. This land also included ponds named Neversink, Barses, and Squantz. By 1928, the plant was finished and Candlewood Lake was formed. It is the largest man-made lake in Connecticut. Brookfield Town Park is located on the Candlewood Lake Beachfront.
For many years a small parcel of land that was part of New Fairfield was separated from the rest of New Fairfield by Candlewood Lake. In 1961, this land was annexed from New Fairfield to Brookfield and it is now called Candlewood Shores and Arrowhead Point.
Brookfield is a growing community with a population of approximately 16, 000. Instead of one church, there are now churches of many denominations. There are four schools in the public school system, one private school, and several nursery schools. Many of the historic structures have been preserved and in 1991 Brookfield Center was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
*Information in this briefing was provided by Marilyn Whittlesey.
Brookfield is incorporated under the provisions of a Town Charter, the State Constitution, and the General Statutes of the State of Connecticut. In 1957, the State Assembly passed the "Home Rule" Act, which allows each town to adopt its own charter to manage the property, government, and affairs of that town. Brookfield adopted its charter in November 1975, and it was revised in November 1977, November 1979, November 1981, November 1987 and November 1993. The Charter states that a commission must be established at least every five years to review, amend, or revise it. State law mandates a Charter Revision Commission must be appointed within 30 days of the filing of a petition with ten percent of the Town's electorate's signatures or when a two-third vote of the Board of Selectmen calls for action to amend the Charter.
Board of Selectmen
Brookfield has a Selectmen-Town Meeting-Board of Finance type of government. The three members of the chief governing body, the Board of Selectmen, are elected in regular biennial Town elections on a partisan basis. There are separate races for First and Second Selectmen. The Third Selectman is the person who receives the third highest number of votes. The party having two members on the Board of Selectmen is the majority party; the other Selectman is from the minority party. The First Selectman is the full-time executive and chief administrative officer of the Town. He or she is an ex-officio member of every board. The legislative authority is vested in the Board of Selectmen, and they are responsible for ordinances, making appointments and filling vacancies on local boards, and calling Town Meetings. The Selectmen meet the first Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Town Meeting is a form of democracy practiced for over 300 years in Connecticut. The location of the meeting is announced in advance. The qualified voters of a town meet to make decisions concerning expenditures, schools, and many other topics. To be qualified to vote on financial questions, a person must be a United States citizen, a registered voter or a Brookfield property owner of at least $1000.00 in value. Each qualified voter has the right to speak to the issue at hand at the Town Meeting and to cast a vote on the issue. The Selectmen carry out the instructions of the Town Meeting.
The annual Town Meeting is held on the first Tuesday in May. The purpose of this meeting is to approve or reject the final draft of the Town budget. The meeting has the power to decrease or delete any appropriation or item in an appropriation, but it may not increase nor add any appropriation not recommended by the Board of Finance.
Board of Finance
The Board of Finance consists of six members elected to four year terms who are not paid a salary. By charter, the First Selectman is a member of this Board but is permitted to vote only to break a tie vote. The Board recommends the annual budget for approval to the Town Meeting, it establishes the mill rate, oversees the financial operation of the Town, and publishes the annual report. Regular meetings of the Board of Finance are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall. Special meetings are held occasionally. Notice of all meetings is posted and meetings are open to the public.
The Town Clerk is elected biennially on a partisan basis. The Clerk is the chief Election Official and as such is responsible for election procedures, registration of new voters, and recording at Town Meetings. The Town Clerk is also the registrar of vital statistics, records, and legal documents such as land transfers and deeds. He or she also issues marriage licenses, burial permits, and dog, kennel, beekeeping and sportsman licenses. Other duties of this office include filing the dates of the Town board meetings, filing survey and subdivision maps, and issuing liquor permits.
Registrars of Voters
Two Registrars of Voters are elected for four year terms; one Registrar is elected for each political party. The Registrars of Voters and the Town Clerk constitute the Board of Admission of Electors, and as such, hold special voter-making sessions during the year. The Registrars are responsible for maintaining and updating the voter list. Their duties also include the appointment of election workers at elections, primaries and referendums, and managing the setting up of polling places on those days.
The Board of Finance is responsible for establishing and maintaining the financial policy of Brookfield. Brookfieldís fiscal year ends on June 30th. Around the middle of February, the Board of Selectmen presents to the Board of Finance the requests from all departments for monies they will need to operate during the coming year. The Board of Finance reviews these requests and sets up meetings with department heads to discuss their budgets. Beginning in March, the Board may afford each agency and department upon request, an opportunity for a hearing.
The Board then tabulates all requests for presentation to a public budget hearing. At this time any person qualified to vote at Town Meeting can express his views on the budget requests. The budget hearing must be held not less than 14 days before the annual Town Meeting. After reviewing the original requests and taking into consideration the input of the voters at the budget hearing, the Board of Finance then determines what the budget should be and submits its recommended budget to the annual Town Meeting which is held on the first Tuesday in May. At the Town Meeting, the voters can accept the entire budget as recommended and can delete or reduce any item, but they cannot make any increases.
All notices of hearings and meetings are publicized in at least one of the local newspapers. Taxes are due on July 1st and January 1st. Assessments are made on all property on record on October 1st of the previous year.
The Treasurer of Brookfield is an elected, salaried official. Any expenditure made by the Treasurer must be authorized by the budget. The Treasurer is responsible for borrowing and investing Town money in as profitable a manner as possible. The decision as to which banks are used is left to the Treasurer. Idle funds are invested. To protect the money and avoid legal risk, legal limitations are imposed as to the type of investment.
The Assessor is an appointed, salaried official who is responsible for the compilation of all taxable property in Brookfield. By State mandate, when a building permit or a Certificate of Occupancy is issued the Assessor must assess the new construction. All Town properties are re-evaluated every five years. The Assessor is also responsible for maintaining and updating the Grand List of Taxable Property. Brookfield has a salaried Controller who is hired by the First Selectman subject to approval by the Board of Selectmen. The Controller is in charge of receipts and disbursements, and like the Treasurer, the Controller is bound by the budget. All purchases are made though the Controller.