Board Of Finance Delays Beach Concession Discussion; Chair Gives Somber Fiscal Assessment

Westporters who tuned in from home last night to watch the Board of Finance discuss the new Compo and Longshore beach concessionaire got a surprise.

As the meeting began, chair Brian Stern announced that the agenda item has been moved to April 15. The COVID-19 crisis necessitates the rewriting of the first year of the contract, so more time is needed before a board vote.

Stern moved quickly to an overview of the virus’ effect on town finances, and the budget process that lies ahead.

Acknowledging the difficulties faced by residents, businesses and non-profits, he admitted, “No one knows how long or deep this will be.”

Westport’s pension fund has already plunged from $350 million to $300 million. However, he assured his fellow members, “benefits are secure.”

Brian Stern chaired the remote Board of Finance meeting. Members joined from home.

As the country heads into a recession, Stern said, the town will be hit with non-recoverable costs. The Parks & Recreation Department, for example, could lost $ 1 million to $2 million, from its $5.2 million budget.

Effects on the state of Connecticut, meanwhile, will be “huge.” Deferred income tax and plunging sales tax revenue will be “devastating. And these big numbers will trickle down to our little town.”

There are some mitigating factors. For example, Westport will save money by paying fewer Parks & Rec summer workers, and see lower utility costs in schools.

But those savings come with costs: “There will be fewer Westporters at the beach, and our kids are not going to school.”

If the coronavirus crisis continues into summer, crowds may be down at Compo Beach. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Stern counseled his Board of Finance colleagues: “Be prudent.”

He promised,”We will protect town services, pensions and benefits. Our reserves are robust, and our tax base is strong. But we must be proactive, and frugal.”

33 responses to “Board Of Finance Delays Beach Concession Discussion; Chair Gives Somber Fiscal Assessment

  1. So, Westport will save some money by paying fewer parks and rec workers….that means our town is not paying laid off workers..what the hell are those workers supposed to do while one of the richest towns in the nation(ne world) saves a little money, Mr. Stern.

    • I believe he was referring to people like lifeguards and other seasonal workers.

      • Hope you’re correct,Dan. If so,he should have said that.

        • Chris Grimm

          “Parks & Rec summer workers” seems clear.

          • Ciara Webster

            Nothing is clear within this town administration or government !!! Zero transparency, zero anything in terms of justified votes !

          • Not at ALL clear since ALL the golf course guys are “summer” workers. Only a small number are year round…thus the LOGICAL confusion, Chris.

  2. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    In part meetings Stern has stated that one of the critical measures that the BoF MUST consider is whether or not the purchase or the contract is what the TOWN RESIDENTS WANT.

    Did I hear Stern last night state that the BoF has zero interest in the food quality, the menu offerings, the customer service, the vendor reputation, the employee experience, the community involvement, etc. of the contracted vendor? In other words the BoF purchases and contracts a “black box’ without opening it and examining its contents to determine exactly what is being purchased on behalf of the Town residents?

    If so, how does THAT represent and protect the residents whom they were elected to serve? (pun intended)

    • Jay Walshon MD FACEP

      *In past meetings…
      Sorry for the typo.

      • That’s not exactly what Brian said. He explained (as best I can recall) that those things were not in the Board of Finance’s purview. “We are not the Recreation Commission,” he said. The Board of Finance’s job, he said, is to look at the financial aspect of the contract, in terms of dollars and cents (that’s a paraphrase).

        • Jay Walshon MD FACEP

          Dan, that’s exactly what my posting is saying.

          Beyond the micro- financial aspect, the BoF SHOULD BE kicking the tires before making a decision on behalf of the community that elected them to represent their wishes.

          They should not pick and choose which issues that they want to thoroughly examine – but this is what they do.

          As Stern has publicly stated in the past (and I can find you the video recording) their role is to examine the “VALUE” of the purchase, the “AFFORDABILITY” of the purchase, and “WHETHER OR NOT IT’S WHAT THE TOWN RESIDENTS WANT”.

          Brian Stern was correct when he asserted that to the public. Therefore the BoF must engage in that very examination too answer all 3 questions, just as anyone of us would do prior to making a meaningful purchase or signing an important contract.

          That’s precisely why we elected them.

          • Ciara Webster

            At the end of the day here westporters have done their due diligence on this company and we smell a rat !!!
            We have voiced our objections ! I don’t see a single positive response other than the odd person who just doesn’t care! But really those ppl shouldn’t count as they don’t seem informed or like community players..
            to say you don’t care who runs the concession or what kind of junk you get served is akin to saying you don’t care what kind of teachers we have teaching our kids or if there school
            Is full of mould.. again the people are speaking and nobody wants this vendor !
            Board of finance needs to do the right thing here and they appear to be intent on ignoring it !
            Maybe they should listen to those who elected them and will or WONT elect them again !

          • William Strittmatter

            I take it from your handle that you are a doctor. Presumably you are responsible for the health of your patients. Out of curiosity, would you repeat everything your nurses and/or fellow doctors have done or would you have relied upon them to have done their jobs so you wouldn’t have to do it? Like administer the meds, change the bedpans, check weight and blood pressure, prep for surgery, anesthetize them?

            Separation of duties, delegation and not doing other folks jobs is as important in government as elsewhere. It is inefficient enough as it is. Checking menus probably isn’t what the BoF should be doing.

            • Ciara Webster

              It seems today that one must run around after elected officials to make sure they are not making decisions based upon what selectmen and appointed officials are recommending in spite of vehement public expressions of disgust !!!
              And yes I imagine as a doctor plenty have to af some polnt over ride their delegates opinions !!!
              These vendor decisions were made by appointed ppl who DID NOT do any due diligence ! Tax liens again !!

              • William Strittmatter

                Financial wherewithal/ability to pay the rent probably should be in the BoF purview unless that was delegated to some other responsible party. Checking menus…not so much.

                Maybe they required a deposit or bond or LoC to ensure payment. Maybe they have investigated the financials. Maybe let them do their jobs before jumping to the conclusion that they haven’t.

                By the way, disagreeing with their decision does not necessarily mean they didn’t do their job or exercise reasonable judgment.

                Hard to extrapolate from your opinion or the opinions of a handful of commentators on Dan’s blog (many of who seem to live to bitch about anything different) that Westport has spoken and no one want this vendor. You are correct about one thing though. If you don’t like the job your elected representatives do, vote for someone else next time.

                • They and that is parks n rec did not look
                  At financials !!!!
                  If they had this vendor would have been disqualified !
                  And don’t you worry ! I’ll be voting for someone else !

    • Ciara Webster

      Jay, well said!
      First I was appalled and disgusted by the sheer arrogance of Sterns comments last night and I’m still smh as to why other board members or selectmen rep”s did not object to his flippant disregard for everything that is important to town residents who have clearly spoken by emailing board members with objections to this vendor.. and stern looked like he was responding to comments left by residents on this 06880 platform with as much as a “we could care less what you think” ..

      Why indeed did we even get out of bed on voting day to elect these board members if this is their attitude towards legitimate town residents concerns.
      Mind you rumour has it Stern is not going for re election again,. But what about the others ?
      This is starting to smell fishier and fishier!

      I’ve done my due diligence on this company and have sent it to all Bof F “elected” representatives and I fully expect them to investigate etc..

      I also want to know what local vendors applied and why they were not awarded the contract.

      A little transparency here would go a long way.

      • William Strittmatter

        I know he became a Westport institution but was Joey Romeo a “local vendor” when he first got the gig?

        Just curious. Would he have even been there if the standards being advocated by some commenters applied in 1988?

  3. Christian Hunter

    If, like myself, you have no particular interest in who does or does not supplies the hot dogs at a beach that invariably will not open this season anyway, instead entertain yourself and check out my new short story,

    Social Distancing: Episode Two, Community Spread, Available on Amazon FREE all weekend.

    • Jay Walshon MD FACEP

      Perhaps you have not resided in Westport very long, but FYI Joey’s did far more than “sell hot dogs”, and resident expectations for any replacement vendor far exceed such mundane assessment.

    • Ciara Webster

      Are you new to town ?
      Have you ever been to the beach and to joeys ?
      Sounds like you have not !
      Residents looked forward to joeys opening every season and they sold a lot more than “hot dogs”.
      Our kids grew up some of them working seasonal jobs there and others just enjoying the fun and warm atmosphere. Kids and adults alike.

      This is not an advertising forum

    • I have gone to Joey’s at Longshore / Compo since I a kid. Even though I stopped visiting the beach and instead started spending my free time on a boat, I still made an effort to go to Joey’s at least a few times every summer. I would tie up at Ned Dimes, go get all the food, bring back to the boat and enjoy. That says something! And that should say someone should have interest in doing due diligence on the vendor that will be replacing Joey’s (along perhaps making sure the contract is written with the best interests of beachgoers in mind whether that is menu selection, pricing, whatever).

  4. Wyatt Jansen

    I’m not sure that town employee pensions are at the absolute top of mind for most town residents right now.

  5. Barbara Wanamaker

    This is reminiscent of the”Master Plan” of 2014 that the Rec Commission was ready to force down our throats. Public outcry got that $50,000 study dumped. Losing Joey’s is bad enough but replacing it with an unknown concessionaire is disgraceful.

    • William Strittmatter

      Similar question to above. Was Joey Romeo a “known concessionaire” when he first got the gig 30+ years ago?

      Personally, I don’t know, but I somehow doubt it.

      FWIW, the proposed vendor does seem to have a website and some experience. Wasn’t that hard to find with Google.

      • Ciara Webster

        The proposed new concessionaire sure does !!! Along with tax liens dating back to 2008 and tax extensions til 2029… how great for some to pay taxes and others not to bother !!!!
        Look it up !
        They owe 225k in federal tax liens !
        They are pure shade !
        It’s all on public record !

      • Jay Walshon MD FACEP

        Hi William
        Note that the vendor is Upsilon Entertainment Group, not Upsilon Ventures. Same principal for sure, but not the same company.

        • Ciara Webster

          It also appears the owner of the companie(s) has several “small business” tax liens against them anointing to well over 200 thousand dollars and have extensions til 2029 to pay these… hey I wish the town of Westport would give me too 2029 to pay my taxes !!!!!!

  6. Diane Bosch

    Retired town employees that live in Westport, pay taxes here and are a part of this community certainly are concerned about their pensions. I am sure that others who live out of town are as well. Please be kind during this difficult and dangerous time.

  7. Jay Walshon MD FACEP

    Hi William
    Note that the vendor is Upsilon Entertainment Group, not Upsilon Ventures. Same principal for sure, but not the same company.

  8. Don Bergmann

    My expectation, without knowledge, is that there were good reasons why a local concessionaire was not selected. However, I did e mail the BoF and others stating that I thought it was a mistake not to give Jim Marpe and Jen Fava an opportunity at last nights meeting to address that one issue. I understand the reason for postponing a vote until the revised contract is agreed to. However, the decision not to address the local concessionaire issue probably heightened the concerns of a number of people.
    Don Bergmann

    • Ciara Webster

      If there was a good reason a local
      Vendor was not appointed then we should all have a right to know !
      I believe we have a right to know the financials of everyone who was in the running !
      I think Jim Marpe and Jenn Fava did not address it because there is no such good reason.
      We have all heard the “rumour” that this vendor is known to someone on parks and rec and this is why they have been chosen. We also now know they have numerous huge tax liens against them with extensions to pay until 2029
      Let me see ! How is that going to work out for the town when the same thing happens to us ! Other than the residents to say “we told you so”
      Again let’s see the financials of all who competed !

  9. Okay, readers — you have made your points. Please do not continue posting, unless you have not yet commented. Thank you.