RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

This is Peter Gold’s report on the December Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.

December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.

Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.

The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.

The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.

The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.

$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.

Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.

The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.

The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.

Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.

A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.

Peter Gold

While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.



13 responses to “RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

  1. John D. McCarthy

    This is a great feature. Would be great to get similar reports here from P&Z, BOF, etc.

    Love Dan’s description of the RTM “It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

  2. Lynn Untermeyer Miller

    About that new railing to be installed on the seawall, I’m just wondering… does anyone know how many people have fallen into the river, over all these years? Is a railing really necessary?

    • Wendy Crowther

      The exact same question crossed my mind.

    • Andrew Colabella

      So far, I’ve only heard of one person, a young girl, fall into the River. If any fence, a steel braided guide wire style would be best. It wouldn’t have a railing for people to sit on or jump from, is weathered, can brace X amount of weight from impact, and is the least bit obtrusive to the view I think.

      The design and choice is left to the Parks & Recreation Commission.

    • I came here to ask the same question.

  3. Jennifer Johnson

    Supplemental information to Peter Gold’s report on his appointment to serve as the next Westport Transit Director:

    It should be noted that the following letter was submitted as public comment – see below. It should also be noted that one member of the RTM (Sal Liccione – RTM District 9) voted against Mr. Gold’s appointment this week. Instead, Representative Liccione advocated for a short postponement until after the RTM Transit Committee meets on January 12 2021 when hopefully the Selectman and the Board of Finance would indicate whether funding for a transportation position would be included in the upcoming budget. It should also be noted that during a pandemic and during the holidays few people are using the significantly cut WTD services. Ergo – No urgency for any appointment this month.

    Public Comment:
    “For over 30 years the RTM Transit Committee and the full RTM have worked in good faith to oversee the Transit District’s volunteer directors. For at least the last decade, Transit Directors as well as the RTM Transit Committee have repeatedly maintained that the scope of work of a Transit Director is too extensive and too important to be filled by volunteers. In that time there have been repeated appeals to the Town to either appoint a Town employee to take on the work of the Transit Director, or to fund a new position. Nothing has changed.

    It’s time the RTM acts to end the year-in and year-out funding battles with the BOF. It is abundantly clear that the current model of relying on significant efforts of volunteers has not been successful for Westport.

    Rather than approve Peter Gold tonight as an interim Transit Director, I urge the full RTM to table this vote until after the BOS and the BOF vote on the upcoming budget. If the BOS and the BOF seek to restructure the WTD Director position (as either a current Town employee or a new position), then the RTM can act to approve a new Transit Director at that time.

    Given the pandemic, there is no urgency for service. It is unlikely that any regulatory body will seek to enforce specific requirements for a Transit Director while the Town works to restructure it’s Transit District.

    We are at a point in history where we have the time and reason to rethink what we’ve done before and restart in a new direction. If the BOS and the BOF choose not to restructure or fund a position that incorporates the Transit Director role, then that will signal the end of the Westport Transit District’s roughly 50-year Town legacy.

    On behalf of all Westporters who seek better solutions for our Town’s growing transportation needs, I urge the RTM use it’s authority to begin the process of resetting how Westport manages our Town’s growing transportation needs. Please vote to postpone this decision until after the BOS and the BOF decide next year’s budget.

    Thank you,
    Jennifer Johnson”
    Former: RTM Representative (District 9), Park Commissioner, Transit District Director

    • Dick Lowenstein

      For the record: All RTM members, including Mr. Liccione, voted in favor of Peter Gold’s appointment. (There was one abstention.) On his own motion to delay the vote, only Mr. Liccione voted for it.

      Dick Lowenstein, Chair
      RTM Transit Committee

  4. Just when I think the Town of Westport has run out of lavish solutions looking for problems, I’m smacked in the face with the silly seawall railing appropriation. Given that Public Works is involved, you can bet on a design which would be right at home on I95.

  5. James Waldron

    And here I am thinking that I95 is considered Westport’s view of mid-century modern architecture.

  6. Most of the funding for the seawall project is to repair the seawall itself. Only a small portion of the appropriation is for the addition of a railing.