1st Selectman’s Race Heads “Home”

Tip O’Neill said that all politics is local. On North Avenue, it doesn’t get more local than water tanks in your neighborhood.

In what may be the only time this year the Democratic and Republican candidates for 1st selectman speak in the same home on the same day — though not together — Melissa Kane and Jim Marpe meet tonight with residents concerned about the planned expansion of Aquarion’s water towers.

The events take place at 66 North Avenue — opposite the Aquarion site.

Last month, Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the 3- to 5-year-construction project. Located directly across from Staples High School, it will more than triple the current water capabilities. Two new 40-foot tanks will replace the one current 12-foot tank.

Aquarion cites fire safety and increased daily usage as reasons for the new tanks. The fire department supports the proposal.

Over 200 residents have signed a petition opposing the project, and a legal challenge is underway.

A photo shows the height of the proposed new water tanks. Since the photo was taken, taller trees have replaced those in the photo.

31 responses to “1st Selectman’s Race Heads “Home”

  1. Aquarion is owned by an Australian private equity firm, so probably not the most locally-empathetic of companies…Is the projected water needs supposed to triple? What is the problem now with capacity? Does this system feed other towns? – Chris Woods

  2. I was just without power for 18 hours. The Eversource website was useless, so I called Mr. Marpe’s office. They knew NOTHING and referred me back to the power company website. Also, no texts about the multiple road closures. Where is the communications? Leadership? Accountability?

  3. Clean water is a gift.
    Are the tanks an eyesore?

  4. What do these tanks do? Are they backup water supply? Is tap water coming from the current tank or piped from the reservoir directly? Is the water in the current tank treated or untreated?

    • Imagine that your daily water supply will be transferred from the tank to a truck to your house. Many communities live this way. Aesthetics have no place.

      • Michael Pettee

        I can not imagine that aesthetics do not have a place. I grew up on North Avenue just a few doors down from these tanks. I live in Saint Paul now (in the Highland neighborhood), also a few doors down from Saint Paul’s equivalent to the North Avenue tank: an aesthetically pleasing Water Tower built around 1910, plus two two underground/out-of-sight chambers. Can the North avenue facility go down instead of up?

      • That’s the spirit, Nancy. Tell these unwashed cave dwellers how they should think about an uber local issue their own community – from your perch in another country. I’m sure the cranky cat lady approach is sure to win hearts and minds.

      • Enough already! Focus on your own local stuff and leave us alone.

    • So no one knows what precise purpose they serve?

      • Silence…. folks arguing for or against it should at least know what precise purpose it serves….

  5. The graphic seems misleading. If the current tanks are 12 feet tall, shouldn’t we see them in the photo as being twice the height of the 6ft tall “stick figure?” I assume we don’t because there is a grade that has them starting some 10-12 feet below street level. Taking 12 feet from the top puts the tanks within the tree line. They still may be unsightly and dangerous, but they might not be quite as imposing as the graphic suggests.

    • Hi Kerry, please get your facts straight. What you see in the image above is NOT the current tank (and BTW there is one tank now, not multiple, as you plural suggested). The image above shows you the base of the new pump, not the current tank. Aquarion did not inform the neighbors before the pump construction. The neighbors were then told it would take 6 months. Actual construction time: 2 years.

      The current tank is indeed 12 feet above ground and shielded by mature trees. No eyesore there. Aquarion’s proposal for the TWO new tanks has them go up to 37 feet above ground, approaching the height of a telephone pole, which is 39-40 feet. A pretty big eyesore for tanks that will be in the middle of Westport and serving southwestern CT!

      • Thanks for helping me “get my facts straight.” Also, apologies for the plural. I realized it after I had posted the comment, but didn’t know how to edit it.

  6. I think that the town administration of Westport is “hired” or organized by and for it’s citizens for their safety and well being. I don’t think Luke was asking for the town to do the job of the utility company, but that it isn’t unreasonable – and probably advisable – for the town to have a safety department that is on top of town electrical outages. That seems like a pretty important town issue, with schools, traffic lights, home health equipment, etc. that rely on the grid. Knowing what neighborhoods are in distress (or at-risk) would seem like a no-brainer.

    Likewise, knowing what a foreign-owned utility company is doing for the town, rather than for themselves at the expense of the town, is something I believe the town administration should understand.

  7. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    I miss Westport!!!! I really do!!!! Every Midwest town where I unfortunately live has at least one water tower and a ridiculously high bill every month for water. When I was growing up in Westport the water was so good. I remember traveling to California as a kid and learning about bottled water and seeing delivery trucks on every road calling on every house. I don’t recall ever seeing any home water softeners in Westport because they were a waste of money and wrecked the taste of the local water. I remember when the trees obscured the North Avenue water tank and wondering why they wasted the time/money on the trees. A balanced outlook and focus on the really important environmental issues in the tradition of saving Cockenoe Island and buying Longshore might alleviate some of the pain over the true cost of decent water.

  8. I repeat, Aquarion is now owned by a company that is accused of scamming the energy market – their customers…us! – in New England out $3.6 Billion dollars.


    Certainly wouldn’t expect them to be good neighbors… – Chris Woods

    • Chris Woods, thank you for the reminder. I will bring up the Eversource factor to our state representative Jonathan Steinberg.

      Everyone, we need to get TRANSPARENCY form the current town leadership and P&Z on this water tank problem. At the P&Z debate 1-2 weeks ago, most candidates REFUSED to discuss this issue because of a “lawsuit”. I know for a fact that there is no lawsuit. A group of concerned residents filed a procedural appeal to PURA (the state agency, Public Utility Regulatory Agency) to oppose Aquarion’s current proposal of the new tanks.

      The only P&Z candidate willing to discuss this was JENNY JOHNSON. We need the public to know the facts about the project and how it will affect SAFETY and TRAFFIC for SHS, BMS, LLS, Greens Farms train station and BMS playing fields. I challenge other P&Z candidates to show transparency on this topic.

  9. As someone who lives next to a special permit utility property in a residential neighborhood, I truly sympathize with the neighbors who will be impacted by this project. I don’t want to think about all the money I’ve spent over the years keeping the gorilla in its box.

    However, before we throw our elected officials down the stairs, in fairness, it should be noted that our three Selectmen recently did a remarkable job of pushing back on Aquarion after the company announced plans to dig up Myrtle Avenue for four months. At night. Suffice to say, the neighbors – many with young children – knew this would be a major problem.

    Despite thinly veiled threats from Aquarion, the Selectmen calmly and politely addressed the whole thing in the space of two public meetings. I was pretty impressed, actually. Now the work will take place next summer – during the day.