Baron’s South And The RFP

John McCarthy is a longtime, strongly committed Westporter.

He also knows his way around town politics. He keeps his eye on things most of us don’t have time for, forget about, or never knew.

The other day he posted on Facebook:

Anyone else in Westport think that the Baron’s South Committee has lost all credibility by keeping responses to the RFP (request for proposal) secret for 5 months?

Why the secrecy? Why only discussed in Executive Session? What happened to the open and transparent process we were promised?

John says that since receiving 3 responses to an RFP in early April, the committee has met 15 times in executive session (closed to the public). No information about the responses has been released.

A 2010 map, showing senior housing at Baron’s South.

The Baron’s South proposal — for senior housing on the town-owned property between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue — is one of the most far-reaching in recent town history.

Information on the proposals — including financing options, and the principals backing each group — may make or break public support.

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg responded on Facebook that the holdup is due to a Board of Finance request for an update in executive session. That meeting — originally scheduled for next week — has been delayed.

The RTM’s Planning and Zoning Commission will also weigh in on the RFPs, prior to public discussion.

John’s Facebook post stirred the pot a bit. That pot will boil once the discussion gets going.

The future of Baron’s South — and, with it, the look and feel of downtown Westport — could be the biggest town controversy of the next few years.

128 responses to “Baron’s South And The RFP

  1. Thabk you John. The lRFp’s should have been discussed from the first day they opened them with the public so we got to see them. This secrecy tells us it did not go as they were telling us it would and who knows what is going on now? Why the secrecy when they told us this would be an open process? Just amazing.

    By the way, our pension and OPEB obligations were in the news again. I guess we are not getting the return projected. Could taxes go up again?

  2. Local town government and politics at it’s worst! Small people with nothing better to do than meet in “executive sessions” telling each other secrets like the worst middle school girls. It’s shameful and deplorable behavior. One can only assume that the “process” as it were, is a set up for some kind of sweetheart deal involving a friend or co-conspirator contractor who will likely be making under the table kick backs to one or more of these board members.

    OK, some might say I’m over reacting, but the reality is when governments engage in secret practices the reason is most often that the public good is not the highest priority. This kind of behavior should be roundly condemned and the people involved should be, at the very least, shunned by friends and neighbors for their self serving, suspicious behavior. This is not public service, this is transparently self service.

    We won’t need to investigate this process later, for substandard construction, unplanned cost overruns and the like if we don’t’ allow the corruption to take place now.

  3. I thought they were going to park buses on Baron’s South.

  4. This whole project smells like pork.

  5. Judy read this, and we can talk about it tonight. joyce

    • Joyce,
      Can’t the RTM add a member to the committee? Seems important enough.

      • To introduce myself-I was the one who led the petition against Barons South. It is great to see all the support against it and now how it is being managed. We were promised everything going forward would be an open process. They started by having their committee meetings Friday mid morning. Most who work could never attend at that time.

        Now they have closed meetings regarding the bids. This goes against everything that was promised by the committee and Joseloff.

        But I have to remind everyone- the RTM could have stopped this from the start when I did my petition. They did not. I just want to remind everyone what could have happened an what did not.

        But Joseloff and the committee promised it all to be an open process. I guess Me. Daniels and team misled us all.

  6. Our state rep supports the Barron South boondoggle? Is there anything Mr. Steinberg takes a position on that doesn’t involve the ridiculous over development of downtown Westport. He must not like the job very much. Democrats – Joseloff/Corwin will be long gone in a year or so. Where will the rest of you be?

  7. The political class at its worst. Time for them to be thrown out.

  8. LOVE John McCarthy and the job he does, both on the RTM and as a concerned citizen. He’s Westport’s own “Anderson Cooper” when it comes to “keeping them honest.”

    Unfortunately, there are too many dishonest members of our local government to keep track of! I was told by someone in the know that the contract is going to go to the Jewish Home for the Elderly, all as originally planned by Shelly and Gordon – so perhaps the whole RFP process was a farce.

    As for Jon Steinberg, he is Gordon’s heir apparent for First Selectman in two years. That’s the job Mr. Steinberg really wants and he will have Gordon’s backing and blessing. Jonathan is very much into playing Downtown Developer, just like Gordon and the rest of the bunch. They remind me of little boys with Tinker Toys, Legos and Lincoln Logs. Mommy, what should we build today?

    These people are going to do what they want, whenever they want. That’s always been clear, no matter how much public opinion or intervention. As the people who actually own this town, AND Baron’s South, we don’t count. This is Gordon’s legacy, man, so don’t you go messing with it.

  9. Sounds to me as if the RFP from the Jewish Home for the Elderly wasn’t the best one on the table.

  10. What ever happened to our love of open space..
    Why are we developing and giving away our land for free?

    • So that 2 elderly Wesporters in 2020 can have a nice place to convalesce/retire too.

    • We lost that love somewhere along the line. I’m always thinking that many of us who sang Joni Mitchell’s “Put up a parking lot” have really come a long way, in the wrong direction!

  11. This post alone should put to rest Dan’s alleged agenda bias to rest.
    Amy and armMan nailed it. Gordo is up to his old tricks again and his sleazy Democrat supporters and suck-ups remain silent. What does Steve Rubin think? He’s always posting gratuitous remarks on WN and we know he reads 06880 🙂 Chime in Stevie, if you want my vote!
    Ever go to a political event where Gordo and Steinberg weren’t joined at the hip whispering in each others ear?
    Wake up Westport. THE FIX IS IN!

    • Just want to clarify that I’m a lifelong Democrat and one of those annoying progressive liberals, but I vote based more on personal integrity and how a candidate treats “the little people” than i do based on party. IMHO, Gordon has treated most of the public with contempt and disrespect throughout his reign as First Selectman, so even as a diehard Democrat, I could never support him or any candidate who behaves like him. What’s happening with Baron’s South is just another example of how little Gordon and his administration think of the public they serve and how they’re always the smartest people in the room.

      • Amy, I know you are not a groupie in “his sleazy Democrat supporters and suck-ups.” And there are many Democrats who put the welfare of Westport above party affiliation who speak out. Unfortunately, too many practice the vow of silence on anything controversial. Nuff said.

  12. So now we have to go to Steinberg’s Facebook to hear from him on issues?

  13. Gordon’s effort to line the pockets of his friends will result in a lawsuit that will far outlast Gordon’s regime.

    • So who do you think is going to sue the town over Baron’s South? The property has already been rezoned to accomodate senior housing. I suppose if the project goes to P&Z, abutting property owners could sue if P&Z approves, but I’m not even sure the project would go to P&Z. Has this project been so structured so as to bypass our regulatory agencies? I don’t know. That’s the problem when there’s no transparency. How much of this thing has already been cooked?

      • Maybe the effort should start with a FOI request. i don’t know, that’s why there are lawyers. Gordon is giving away something of economic value that belongs to the town of Westport. Every citizen has an interest in the disposition of the property.

  14. Interesting that no one that I have talked to….both Democrats, Republican and Independents think this is a wise use of this property… Maybe the silence has to do with the fact that this will have little to no benefit toward helping but a tiny handful of Westport seniors if any at all… This has been hardly a transparent process and Jonathan Steinberg has political pixie dust sprinkled in his eyes if that’s his response. What a shame considering I voted for him thinking he would be a balanced voice of reason. Amazing that you do not even have to head to Washington to get sucked into the political vortex. Machine politics are alive and well in Westport as evidenced by the continued lack of transparency and failure to entertain a referendum on this particular issue. All I have heard is the public will have many opportunities and there will be many layers of review. The failure of allowing the public to participate stinks and frankly…so does this proposal which cannot guaranty that local seniors will benefit in any meaningful way.

  15. Jonathan Steinberg

    Many people know I suggested to both Gordon and the committee — months ago — that they hold an open meeting or at least issue an update. This process has needed more transparency, despite the need to keep some proprietary information provided by the applicants in confidence, as is standard practice. We’re all curious about where matters stand and we’ll find out soon. Perhaps that will put some of the conspirary theorizing to rest for a little while. Sorry if people expect me to issue my opinions on every subject on the front page of the paper. Hey, you could always ASK me, rather than assume you know what I think!

    • Jonathan. Nice excuse. You are our elected leader and it would help you to be more vocal. Hiding being ‘you told some people’ is ridiculous. And sad.

      • What did you expect? Honesty? There are substantial economic at political interests to be furthered. The only optioned that remains is to throw the bums out.

        • I hope you do vote against Mr Steinberg. The democratic governor of CT raised taxes this last year and has caused our state to run another deficit and drop in employment and other measures. We need to change away from a democratic controlled congress in CT. They protected the unions using overtime to gain excess pensions while raising taxes on the MIDDLE CLASS. This is an important election to send a message to Malloy we won’t stand for this anymore.

    • Mt. Steinberg, thank you for joining us. As our CT State Representative running for reelection, can you share with us your vision for Westport and its downtown? We know you are on record supporting a downtown cinema, and from what this post suggests, the Barron’s South development. In addition, your support for the Levitt facility is well known and commended. Please use this forum to enlighten us on your vision (what do you stand for?) and where you stand on the specific land use issues that always light up the hit counts on 06880. This is a sincere request, and a great opportunity for you and the 06880 community.

    • Jonathan,
      OK..I’ll ask: WTF is going on? You’re not supposed to be curious, you are supposed to be informed, and then to let us know. That’s your JOB…or at least that’s what I thought we elected you to do. RSVP 🙂

  16. I have to admit I’m more than a bit confused about the term “proprietary information” used in this context. What secret ingredient can these caregivers-cum-developers possess that, if exposed, will give competitors a leg up? If we’re going to have this boondoggle shoved down our throats, shouldn’t we at least have a say in which company will benefit from our tax dollars?

    • What propriety information. This is a Governement bid. It should be all open.

      Is Steinberg protecting anyone. Does he not want us to see what was bid and what they are doing?

    • “proprietary information” = dividing the pie.

  17. Ok..Jonathan…you are correct……we are asking you?

  18. Above comment by Jamie walsh

  19. Above comment issued by jamie walsh

  20. Jonathan Steinberg

    I won’t claim to be an expert on the RFP process, but it is common that applicants share some information which is proprietary. There’s no coverup here, it’s standard practice. Check it out for yourself.

    As for being informed, I have no standing as a State Representative to have any special status on a municipal project.

    Lastly, yes, I did support the Levitt project and I’m keeping an open mind (someone others might do) on Baron’s South. You don’t have to be on the Legislature’s Aging Committee, as I am, to be aware of the serious and growing senior housing shortage in the state. There are already many seniors who are eager to apply for senior housing, should it become available. So let’s see what the committee comes up with and judge it against other uses of Baron’s South. I like the idea of multiple uses. Some of the topography is not suitable for development and should be kept as open space, accessible to the public. It might not be a bad idea to have a playground or a minature golf course so we can make the space attractive to Westporters of all ages. I believe there will be plenty opportunity for the public to weigh in. We’ll see who is right.

    • Mr. Steinberg, could you be more specific about the “information which is proprietary”? Company financials? Environmental record? Lawsuits? Standard or not, it’s perplexing.

      • Perplexing. Yes. How can they tell us which bidder they chose without disclosing the bids? Never saw a public situation where nothing is disclosed. What are they hiding? An why is Mr Steinberg supporting the hiding? Now that is perplexing.

    • Lets all remember that this project CANNOT guarantee that only Westporters get into this new costly facility. So once again we will give a huge asset this town owns and have the potential for outsiders to use.

      In addition this committee said it would all be open. Now Mr Steinberg is supporting a closed environment. Come on. They all bid and we should see what the bids are. How would they vote at any bid without disclosing why they chose a certain bidder.

      This was suppose to be an open hearing. An open committee. Why all
      Of a sudden is it closed? What deal is being made Me Steinberg?

  21. Why is there so much focus on increasing density and traffic in downtown Westport? You are on record approving of tens of thousands of square feet of new development downtown. How does this benefit your constituents? Why is this good for Westport?

    • Oh, and Mr. Rubin, please don’t hesitate to jump in. We know you’re reading this. Tell us where you stand.

      • You asked me to jump in … well I already did on Facebook and this is what I said:
        “Lost all credibility,” and keeping secrecy “for 5 months,” is just how they do it. Direct from the Governor and right down to the State Reps under his control. We are told that this is how it is done in Hartford, but that has not always been true and must change in the near future. Promises seem to be simply campaign rhetoric for some. “Disturbed,” you bet and we have had enough.
        “… Responsibility to the public and missed opportunities to provide a “topline” update,” … to say the least and we are entitled to the best, not the least. Now that the facts are out and they will have to try to back pedal and try to do damage control. They may call it “vetting” but I call it a poor job. Nothing is transparent for this calculating majority.
        I suggest you go to Facebook (“Stephen Rubin” so that you can read the full text.
        Stephen Rubin

        • Facebook is now a “source”? It seems to be just pics of parades and grandchildren.

        • Mr. Rubin, what is your vision for Westport and its downtown? How does it differ from Mr. Steinberg’s? I’m really not interested in a discussion on which party is more crooked. In CT, it’ll always be a draw. What I want to know is the exact same thing I asked Mr. Steinberg – what do you stand for, and why should I care?

  22. Thank you for your response Jonathan. I am familiar with the RFP process as I am involved in responding to at least several every week. You are correct on one hand…privately held firms can conduct confidential and propriety exchange of information but this is driven by a public administration seeking RFP’s from private and or not for profit operators….the longer time goes by and no information exchange occurs with the public involvements and total transparency…the more people formulate their own conclusions…right…wrong or indifferent. I acknowledge that you have no standing on this particular issue, but your finger is on the pulse and as a resident and native son of Westport you must have an opinion as you did comment on the issue and process: ie: Board of Finance delay. Let’s face it…I voted for you based in your integrity and sense of fairness and communication between Government and J Q Public. Remind those involved in the process that they should be the ones speaking to this issue rather than you having to optimistically defend the process.

    • Mr Steinberg. I really do not understand you and what you are doing. Our wonderful town that faces serious financial issues with OPEB and our pensions is about to give away a major asset we all own. This town is somewhat divided by the Barons South project.

      You have joined into this conversation by coming across suppporting this closed door committee that is deciding and discussing the bids. Why? What value are you bringing to us residents who are concerned with this project and the issues we face. Why have you come across endorsing the behavior we were promised would NOT happen.

      This town is clearly divided and your motivation is what? Your contribution to helping the situation is what?

  23. The Board of Finance is expected to meet in public session on October 3rd with Baron’s South on the agenda. We are scheduled to meet in executive session on September 19th. An RTM planning and zoning committee is also expected to meet in executive session prior to the BOF public meeting.

    No member of the Board of Finance has seen the bids yet. The purpose of the executive session is to review the bids and potentially return to the bidders for clarification. Once we hold the public meeting all the bidders will know each other’s bids, effectively ending negotiations. Absolutely nothing will be decided or voted upon in our executive session. All of the bids will be discussed at the public session. Any vote will only take place in public session.

    Earlier this year we commissioned an appraisal to determine valuations for various types of installations. We’ll be able to compare the bids with this appraisal. The Board of Finance cannot decide what will go on Baron’s South. Rather, we provide recommendations and then vote on any lease or land disposition.

    We have a wonderful and extremely capable group of people on our Board, on both sides of the aisle. We’re looking forward to our review and hearing from the public.

    Avi Kaner
    Chairman, Board of Finance

    • Avi. Great to see you get involved. Finally someone from the public side giving us real information.

      Please I hope you can answer this. The bids have been in for quite some time yet no open meetings by the Baron South committee occurred to inform the public of the bids. Are you saying the bids came in, are sealed, and will be opened at one time? Or has the committee met, reviewed the bids In a closed door session or sessions?

      There is a string feeling by many that the bids came and then the committee went from open sessions to closed. So the ‘optics’ are something is going on behind closed doors.

      Can you tell us all since you decided to join in and seem to know?

      • “No member of the Board of Finance has seen the bids yet. The purpose of the executive session is to review the bids and potentially return to the bidders for clarification. Once we hold the public meeting all the bidders will know each other’s bids, effectively ending negotiations.”

        – Sounds like lots of closed door clarification & negotiation, followed by some show and tell. I am greatly reassured.

        • Avi. Again, thanks for joining in.

          Unfortunatley your answer confines the fears of the residents. This committee went from an open door program to one that became closed once the bids came in. I am sorry but it is difficult to accept your opinion that it is all on because you have been assured.

          Once the decision was made to go close doors you can not help but believe something is going on. Especially when during the petition it was promised none of that would happen.

          It is good to know you will be involved. Too bad this could not be done in a way we can all trust.

          Nice try.

      • Thank you Bart. The details about what the Barons South committee has been doing will come out in public session. I’m just as eager as everyone else is to see the bids, and I’ll have an open mind – as I’m sure all my Board members will.


  24. I am 75, a senior, and dead set against this use of public land. Irrespective of all the political posturing about bids. I doubt the truth about any of the comments made by policos above. Most of my local friends and trust me I have many agree with my feelings and will so state when this goes “public”

  25. Why are people picking on Rep Steinberg? This isn’t even a state project. It is a local one. I think he is just sharing his knowledge of the RFP process.

    I don’t think the town is divided on this issue. People have been wondering about what to do with this for years. Its not clear what is the best use.

    So what if the RFP process is private, they can’t do anything with contract until it is approved and goes public. If we don’t like RFP selection we can still negotiate changes. If anyone thinks anything is going to happen fast on this has not looked at the town decision making process lately

    These comments on this article seem over the top

  26. This project will evoke STRONG feelings…listen up. The folk posting on here simply don’t trust any politicians anymore even “locals”. Looking for any semblance of straight talk and not politically spun obfuscation..

  27. Jonathan Steinberg

    OK, you’ve heard my POV on Baron’s South. I haven’t defended the lack of transparency and I think the process should be more open. I expect it will be more so, going forward.

    So, maybe some of you would be willing to share what YOU’D like to see happen on Baron’s South, Don’t tell me just open space; Winslow Park is designated for passive use and appropriately so. But Baron’s South is different; It was purchased for municipal use. So what should these uses be? Maybe we can turn this into a constructive dialogue.

    • Mr. Steinberg, just to confirm – you support the Barron’s South project, but you “haven’t defended the lack of transparency” that will result in its construction. Rather than we play the “what she would do with Barron’s South” parlor game, please clarify and defend your position that something/anything must be built on Barron’s South. Convince me, or at least convince me that your convictions are based on something other than political expediency (no matter how poorly calculated).

      I appreciate you jumping in here… hope you make it out unscathed.

    • Mr Steinberg. You are sounded more ridiculous the more you write. Of course. Just my opinion. For you tried to convince us the ‘go slient’ by this committee was ok, now you say you expect them to be more open. Why would they have shut the meetings in the first place? So what if it might get more open based on your opinion, why did the decide to hide after the buds came in. When everything should have been open.

      Now you try and start a whole new discussion on what the property should be used for? Really Mr Steinberg? This is how you insert yourself?


      • Thanks for your efforts on this, Bart.

        It might be instructive to go back to the history of how Baron’s South became “designated” for public housing. I was a reluctant observer of the RTM Long Range Planning Committee during the process of determining the 10-year Town Plan for Conservation and Development. (2006?) The 10 year plan is a terrific process mandated by the State. Other towns take it very seriously. Westport “leadership” used the process for their personal agenda.

        At the time, the Y relocation out of downtown was a front and center debate and interestingly enough, the location of the Y was not included in the 10 year plan, by explicit order of Joseloff and the P&Z. Discussing the impact of downtown without the Y and sewer blue lines were said to be “too controversial” for an important town-wide plan!

        Likewise, the RTM Long Range Planning Committee was “veal penned” (look up the term for how politicians neutralize pesky constituents) and completely shut out of the 10 year plan. The RTM LRP seemed to ask too many questions for Joseloff and the P&Z’s specific agenda.

        One of the questions the LRP asked, in their capacity as responsible to the overall RTM and the community, was to determine if the P&Z’s hiring of the outside consultant to lead the 10 year planning process and write up the recommendations was done with legally sourced town funds. From what I could tell, the hiring and fee for the consultant did not go through the proper channels. It became a minor issue, but given the LRP’s weak position vis a vis the P&Z and the heated Y discussion, it never got the airing or resolution it should have. I think the hiring and the money was simply spent backhanded and no one had the political will or leverage to go against Joseloff and the P&Z.

        (BTW: the RTM LRP bent over backwards to help the Y stay downtown, but the Y treated them as rudely as imaginable. Or maybe you can imagine it given how the Y has treated most everyone…)

        So Baron’s South was a topic for the 10 year plan, mostly as it could be used to keep the Y downtown. There were some challenges due to the topography and the ridiculous concept that the 9am-5pm Sr. Center wouldn’t share space with the Y (huh?), but nothing that couldn’t have easily been overcome.

        During the 6+ months of the 10 year planning process, there was NO mention of any kind that Baron’s South as a location for public housing.

        As these planning exercises go, there were several drafts circulated for comment before the “final” plan was formally adopted; something like 3 drafts over 6 weeks.

        The “Final” draft was circulated a week before the plan was to be certified (the following Wednesday, I believe). Given the tight and closed control the P&Z had on the process, not much was allowed to be discussed. The RTM Long Range Planning Committee was able to get only one visit from the P&Z to air its take on the plan and was completely dismissed in every one of their most basic questions on trade off’s and vision for the town. There simply was no vision from the P&Z.

        Last comments were to be in by Friday, with the plan certified (per State mandate) the following Wednesday (I believe).

        On Monday, two days before the certification, and after it was closed to all comments, out-of-the-blue, the consultant who wrote up the plan (hired and paid for by Joseloff and the P&Z under opaque circumstance) included a half page about how they had studied Baron’s South for public housing and it was their specific recommendation that it be used as such, and that they decided it was also unsuitable for the Y. No one had heard of any analysis of this idea, nor was that “plan” ever available for public comment.

        My memory might be inaccurate, so I urge you to talk to Jack or Mathew from the LRP. But it seemed to me to be small town politics at its worst (or maybe second-worst when you consider how we lost our downtown Y to a dog park for professional dog walkers and out of towners…).

        The process was rigged from the start. Someone had a person long term plan of their own and they are still moving forward in the same manner. Thank you for your efforts.

        • Little did we know that when Ms. Farrell rightfully rejected the idea of a private facility on Barron’s South (the Y), that her successor had planned to put up a nursing home. At the time, I very much supported Ms. Farrell’s decision, and for the most part I still do, but given the ridiculous plans Mr. Joseloff and Corwin have come up with, it’s clear I underestimated the mischief a socially awkward 1st Selectman could achieve with the support of his downtown real estate buddies.

        • Thanks for your comments. I truly appreciated it and also your discussion on the history. It does not surprise me this had been a troubled environment from the start.

          My big concern is what is happening to Westport. While we watch other states and towns look at their spending issues, Westport leaders want to begin another program. We still have not heard about OPEB and our true obligation and the status of our pension and yet our leaders want to move forward with another program. That is what got this town in trouble from the beginning.

          Please understand this town CANNOT guarantee 100% use by Westport residents. In addition there will be an asset test. How many of our senior citizens will be under the limit?

          Yet our town and people like Mr Steinberg continue to support such a program moving forward. Joseloff wants his name on a building and we know this type of facility will benefit his real estate situation. And we also know someone else high up is very involved in the Jewish Home. Yet we continue to move forward.

          Spending is an issue in Westport. Just talk to the senior citizens. While interest rates are very low they are feeling the increase in town taxes the most. Yet we continue to move this forward.

          Again I appreciate the nice comments.

  28. For openers parking the school busses and saving $250,000 a year…more to come. What precludes the use as open space. What did I miss?

  29. OK, Jonathan here is what I want from Baron’s South. Open space. If we are going to have a respectful dialog don’t make rules for other people’s opinions, you weren’t elected to do that. Asking for opinions and making, a priori, rules for other people’s opinions is unacceptable. There is no town mandate to build, build build, that’s coming from someone else.

    Do you think we have too much open space here in Westport? If you do, then say so. I do not. You are keeping an open mind as long as it means considering more construction. That is not an open mind, that is a clear and stated bias.

    Senior living, skilled nursing homes generally do not make money. Many if not most of the larger companies including Marriott got out of this industry for that very reason. The only other municipality that has a town owned nursing home in the state is Greenwich and their nursing home has been a burden more than an asset for many years. So it’s not like it’s a state mandate that every town must build a nursing home and senior residences on undeveloped land, no less.

    These are bad ideas on top of bad ideas. I think there are a lot of people around here thinking that they can get away with these less than honorable practices. I am hoping that they are wrong. I am certain there is a lot of fast talking going on, you don’t have to be a politician to see that. Remember, Enron was a huge, seemingly profitable endeavor, and they thought they were doing nothing wrong and/or they figured they would get away with it. They also thought they were the smartest guys in the room, this reminds me a lot of that.

  30. One of my biggest concerns is the organizations that have filed RFPs to build senior housing on Baron’s, and whether one of them is still the Jewish Home for the Elderly. That’s the organization that Shelly was originally talking with to do a deal. The reason I’m so concerned about the Jewish Home – besides the obvious church and state issue – is because, for the past few years, I’ve seen the same Help Wanted ads for the same jobs at the Jewish Home over and over again – which really raises a lot of questions for me, particularly in this economy when there aren’t enough jobs to go around. Can the Jewish Home not keep their employees, and if not, why not?

    Today there are 51 job postings for the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield on Pretty much the same 5O+ jobs – from janitors to CNAs to Directors – that I’ve been seeing them repeatedly advertise over the years. If the Jewish Home is one of the RFPs, it sure makes me wonder if this is the kind of senior care institution we really want.

  31. Jonathan Steinberg

    I’ve already explained that there’s a demonstrated demand for senior housing. I’ve done the research. I’ve tried to understand why the committee has preferred confidentiality over transparency, but have stated I don’t defend their process. I will reserve judgment on the project until the recommendation is disclosed and discussed in the public forum.

    Baron’s South was purchased for municipal use, unlike Winslow Park. You’re right that shouldn’t rule out open space, and I think the question of whether Westport has enough open space is an interesting one. But I don’t see the problem in exploring our options.

    Have a good night, everybody!

    • Jonathan, you have been more than generous with your time one this one. I hope my emotion about this wasn’t off putting. I respect your honesty and candor and still feel good about voting for you. I’m just hoping that we can find something to agree on! And to you too, a good night!

    • Show us the evidence of a “demonstrated need” Tell us why the taxpayers of Westport should subsidize this project. This project is nothing more than the exploitaion of the taxpayers of Westport to benefit a few.

      This project should be scrapped, as should those politicians who support it.

  32. Check out –

    Career Background:
    A marketing executive for over 25 years, working primarily in New York City, Jonathan was employed by several Fortune 100 companies such as, Bristol-Myers Squibb, American Home Products/Wyeth, and Revlon, in product marketing and new product development roles.  Jonathan also worked for several healthcare organizations such as Mount Sinai Medical Center, and The Jewish Home Lifecare System, where he was Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications.


  33. Jonathan, thanks for your opinions. You’ve convinced me to vote for the other guy in Nov! Get ready to move over and let someone new take a shot at it. BTW, hanging around with Gordon won’t help your political status.

  34. Dan,
    Thanks for posting this and for all you do keeping people in Westport informed and engaged. What happens here is not always pretty, but it is always entertaining and important.

    For those who haven’t seen it yet, here is a link to a copy of the Status report of the Downtown 20/20 committee, another one of our First Selectman’s hand picked committee’s. I am particularly taken by the need they see to hire a consultant, which would, among other things endorse 20/20’s continued goals of setting up an Economic Development Corporation to manage downtown. Another takeover of a town asset? Or at best a diminution of existing elected bodies responsibilities? This one will make the Y and Baron’s South look like a polite tea party (no national political reference intended.)

  35. Oh, and I will be voting for Jonathan in November.

  36. Senior housing is one OPTION for Barons South. There is rumor of an outright offer to purchase the entire property. Why is no one talking about that? Why is the public not informed of this OPTION? This could be a win win for the town. Cash up front, and income stream.

    Green Space is another OPTION. Preserving a town asset for the future is an OPTION.

    Giving away or carving up a prime piece of real estate , or leasing at a discounted rate for a project that will never benefit Westporters-HUD financing is rumored to be involved.-is NOT in the best interest of Westporters.

    Green space gets my vote until clearer heads prevail.

  37. If the site did not suit the relocation of a the Fire Station why would it be good for senior housing? Don’t ambulances and emergency vehicle need to have proper access? Are they going to put in a giant escalator to access the buildings from the street? Maybe a chairlift would be fun. Seriously, a bad use of the site and a givaway. Let’s face it, onl half a handful of actual Westport seniors may benefit from this boondoggle!

    • That’s exactly what a number of us argued at the RTM Long Range Planning meeting when Gordon and his crackerjack engineering team first presented their plan. This whole thing has been rigged by Gordon for housing from the start. First it was for work force housing and then senior housing.

    • Funny how we can have a senior housing complex but the space was deemed tough for a Y.

  38. From Town Clerk email, re Friday Sep 14th meeting:
    “*Rev. #1 – 10 a.m. – Room 201 – Baron’s South Committee Executive Session – Canceled “

    • Do you think they found the bugs I planted?

      • The meeting rooms are all wired with cameras. Would be a trivial exercise for someone with the right skills to turn them on covertly during “Executive Session.” Not that I would condone that 🙂

        • You’ve given this much thought. Excellent. We might be getting somewhere.

        • You cannot make this stuff up. Closed meetings and now when it gets exposed they cancel a meeting.

          Mr Daniels and Mr Joseloff promised total openness. Their definition is quite different than most.

          I like the camera idea.

  39. The privacy continues. Now the Board of Finance is getting into the act.Another Private meeting to discuss the RFP responses, this time by the board of finance. We need an immediate public release of all RFP responses and an accounting of agenda for and who attended all of the ES meetings held to date. The FS won’t allow that. So who is going to get the ball rolling on the Freedom of Information Act requests?

    Board of Finance Notice of Executive Session
    Date: 9/19/2012 7:00 PM
    Location: Town Hall, Room 309


    The Board of Finance anticipates voting to go into Executive Session on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 7:00 P.M. in Room 309 of Town Hall to discuss with members of the Baron’s South Committee responses to the Request for Proposals for the construction and management of the Baron’s South Senior Residential Community. No action will be taken.

    Sept. 12, 2012

    • John, I say that FOIA request has your name on it. Go to it, man.

    • John. Hoping you can help me.

      I just found out Westport is involved with a program called “Solarize Westport’.  Sounds like a great idea.
      However, the town seems to be aligned with a private company—I have attached some information.  Do you know if the town received any benefits by endorsing one company?  Is there a way to find out?  Seems like the town not just the residents should receive a huge benefit if we are endorsing a company.

  40. Dear bloggers,

    Thank you for your insights and opinions. We all want what’s best for the town.

    The nature of the proposed Board of Finance September 19th meeting is one the legal advisors are examining. It has to do with the Town’s negotiating ability. They should have an answer soon.

    Once again, no member of the Board of Finance has seen the bids. We are just as eager as you are to get to the next step. We will all approach this with an open mind once we have the details.

    Avi Kaner
    Chairman, Board of Finance

    • Avi,
      thanks for your continued involvement and updating, but “open mind?”

      This plan is way too stupid for an open mind. It’s like I have an open mind about decapitating myself 🙂

    • Avi,
      “Dear bloggers” sounds condescending and arrogant and sounds to me like you are saying: “Thanks kids, let the grownups take it from here, you can go back to playing with your toys.” But I may just be too sensitive.

      • John. I can understand how you might have come to that conclusion but unread it differently. The chair of the B-of-F is letting us know he wants to see what this is all about. I take that as a real positive. Avi has worked hard to improve the financial situation in Westport. I will hope that is his motive here.

      • John – I’m a blogger as well. So – I’m condescending and arrogant to myself! 🙂 Seriously – there is only positive and non-arrogant intent here. Bloggers sounded more accurate and high-tech (given the launch of the iphone 5 today, how can you not be in the spirit?) than commenters.

        If you read my blogs posts you’ll see that I have not taken any side. I will do so only after analyzing the bids.


        • Avi, yeah, my reply was a bit over the top. Apologies. Getting Baron’s South right is important, not just for what may or not be built there. But for setting an example for how a government can trust the citizens from whom its power derives. I’m not a radical tea-bagger, but seeing how this has been handled over the past 5 months (probably even 5 years) makes a mockery of how local governments should operate. Transparency and openness and trust is what good government is built on. I have not seen any of this in play on Baron’s South, ever since Gordon’s Weston & Sampson report charade.

          Back to work.

    • Avi. Truky appreciated your note. It is good to know you will eventually see what is going on. It is also troubling that the committee is keeping this such a secret and for so long. It creates a level of doubt and suspecion.

      Is there anyway the public will be able to see what this committee did once the bids came in?

  41. fyi. We will be canceling the September 19th meeting altogether. Please expect an announcement next week regarding the public session schedule.

    For those of you celebrating the holiday on Monday and Tuesday, Shana Tova.


  42. And the winner is … the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

    Big surprise. (sarcasm)

  43. Just tried posting this on post on Baron’s South:
    “This outcome has been known/predicted/rumored for a long time, so no suspense here. A sad day for Westport, and those that believe in transparency in government. An immediate public, online release of all RFPs, would be the first step before this committee can expect to have the public trust its recommendation.”

    I have been told it must be reviewed by a moderator before it is posted. Anyone think Gordon will allow it? Maybe Dan Woog will post it?

  44. Check out these link to 2 documents given to me by members of one of the bidding groups that did not get its response considered because it apparently was not fully in the scope of the RFP.

    I have not reviewed either proposal as the town has not posted them online and I can’t get to town hall during business hours so I am just passing this on to make sure that another point of view and option begins to be considered.

    Given the huge gap between the Hillspoint Group proposal and the recommended proposal from the Rose Group in regards to monetary benefits to the town and the guarantee that a large number of units would be available to Westport seniors, I believe the committee should have considered the Hillspoint proposal or at least given the public a summary of what was proposed and why it was not considered.

    1. $1.25 million paid as a lease to the town with escalators over the life of the lease PLUS property taxes that would start at around $1.0 million, rising tio an estimated $1.29 million over 10 years. With Bridgewater leaving, this would be a great way to fill the gap.

    2. Because the Hillspoint Group would not require state or federal funds, it says that up to 70 units would be set aside for Westport Seniors, with a mechanism in place for the town to provide scholarships to fund housing for seniors who needed help.

    • Read the links…are you kidding me?
      How could “they” not consider the Hillspoint proposal?

    • As I predicted earlier, the Jewish Home for the Elderly was not the best RFP on the table. John, thanks for the information.

  45. Bart Shuldman

    There are so many questions–this project is being handled horribly.

    Let me ask you a question—when thinking of senior housing—how do you decide who gets it? Someone who lives in Westport 5 years? 10 years? 1 year? A parent of a resident? Or just moved into town? What would be the criteria? And shouldn’t we know that before deciding to give away a wonderful piece of land?

    If it is affordable—what is the criteria? What is the law? How many Westporters would be under the ceiling? Are these residents that have been in town for 5 years? 10 Years? 1 Year? A parent of a resident?

    Besides the question of what will be the responsibly of the town and analyzing that—just look at what OPEB is now doing to us, is it logical to have all these answers and discussions now, then decide if this is a project the town wants to do?

    This project is causing so much emotion—but still so many open questions.

    • Don’t forget the “medical services for an extra fee” kicker that the operator gets.

      Such a vague reference to a significant component is a very big red flag. That is a major financial consideration to the population and that is all the treatment it gets in the bid?

      It is not hard to imagine that the value of such a “concession” is significant to the operator. Has anyone tried to figure those numbers out? Obviously the operator has. And obviously Westport doesn’t have that expertise in-house. Few towns go the BS route for a reason: it is too risky to take on the responsibility of ensuring their citizen’s healthcare.costs are fair.

      We can’t even manage to hire someone to figure out our pensions without taking an enormous hit in just a few months. Imagine being responsible for the health care fees for our seniors.

      • Bart Shuldman

        All great questions and concerns. This is what gets towns and cities in trouble. No details. No real plan and debate in the town. Rush to get quotes and move forward. Why? Shame on the towns leadership to let this get as far as it has. 1st and 2nd Selectman have let us all down. Ken Bernard, the distinguished gentleman should back away. He has done too much good to associate his name with this disaster. Leadership in our town needs to change and get focused on the burdening budget. All senior citizens are feeling the pain of high taxes that will continue to rise unless we get better leadership. How could this get this far?

    • You want facts? “Don’t confuse me with facts, I’ve already made up my mind” 🙂

      Looks like the BS committee was totally manipulated by the RFP and Corwin’s P&Z.

      The other common denominator? Mostly

  46. Well. This is now a done deal. The RTM rolled on this yesterday, the Board of Finance will do the same. And The big losers are the Westport taxpayers and anyone who cares about an ethical and transparent government.

    • John,
      How do we see how our representatives voted?

      If AVI’s BoF would veto public transportation, they must VETO the NURSING HOME !

      Thanks for all your intelligent work.

      • There

      • There was no vote. Just no strong opposition or any presentation of the real issues, as I understand it. I wasn’t there, bad timing for a trip to SF. Avi will cave, I believe and take the BOF with him. Too much pressure from Shelley. Gordon and Shelley now feel emboldened and will bully this through to the precise conclusion that was pre-ordained 4 or more years ago. Sad day for anyone who cares about ethics and transparency in government. I am calling for the removal of the BS committee from the process and an entirely new RFP. I’m afraid that is not going to happen.

    • John–I watched the RTM hearing. It was quite unfortunate to listen to the misleading comments by those in charge of the project and the winning bidder. The fact is we CANNOT 100% guarantee Westporters be on top of the waiting list. This was, without a doubt, misrepresented the whole time during the meeting. I made a copy of the regulations right from the HUD Handbook. Here it is:

      Residency preferences. A residency preference provides applicants who
      live in a specific geographic area at the time of application a priority over
      a. Owners must never adopt a residency requirement (meaning the
      owner will not lease to any applicant who does not live in the
      defined jurisdiction or municipality).
      b. A residency preference may not be used for the purpose or effect
      of delaying or otherwise denying admission to a project or unit
      based on the race, color, ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability,
      or age of any member of an applicant family.
      c. HUD must approve residency preferences prior to use by the
      owner. HUD will approve residency preferences only if the
      preference does not result in discrimination or violate equal
      opportunity requirements.
      d. When an owner adopts residency

  47. John–if true–then all Westport loses. Many senior citizens who have too many assets, will be stuck paying the high taxes–and higher taxes. They have no help. Few Westporters will get into this facility–others will lose out to outsiders.

    A project of this scope should have all details vetted before moving forward. Letting the hen run the hen house–the developer answering the tough questions of priorities is almost comical. Where were the real experts? Also–what is the asset test? Never defined. Yet it is available. And saying the purchase of Baron’s South was for one reason and never can be changed, even though the issues in Westport have changed, is just sad. The best comment of the night was the developer saying he can change his bid so we should let him. If he can, then open it up to all again.

    Oh well, our children will have the deal with this new program, like we are dealing with OPEB and the pension costs. seems like our leadership just does not want to learn from other failures.

    John–thanks for all you did. I will still stay optimistic this will run into many problems as they move forward and a new leadership team comes in and calls for it to stop.

    • Bart, still many hoops to jump through. But Shelley and Gordon are now emboldened because the usual RTM cheerleaders waved their pom poms. BOF needs to stand firm and insist on a new RFP and a REAL level playing field, not the sham process that it has been to date.

  48. John. I was amazed to see how almost emotional Shelley got as it came across begging the RTM not to delay or want more details. It came across on the TV as desperate. rushing. Given the consequences both positive and negative you would think she would want to insure everything is 100% right. And the decision to have the developer be the so called expert was truly concerning. He could not answer some question yes or no. He had to try and give excuses to support a no answer. The resident question he answered was almost non sensical.

    But I have to stay positive that the BOF will not back down. This is too risky to the long term health of our town.