Category Archives: Economy

Jennifer Tooker Runs For 1st Selectman; Andrea Moore Joins Ticket

Jennifer Tooker’s hat is in the ring.

This morning, the 2nd selectwoman announced she’s running for the town’s top spot. First Selectman Jim Marpe said yesterday that he will not run for a 3rd term.

Tooker was elected with Marpe in 2017. Her running mate this time is Andrea Moore, vice chair of the Board of Finance. Like Marpe, both are Republicans.

As 2nd selectwoman Tooker launched Westport Together, an alliance between the town and Westport Public Schools.

She also created and hosts Westport Means Business, a series of events through which business owners and entrepreneurs make connections, exchange ideas and promote Westport.

Last May, in the early months of the pandemic, Marpe appointed Tooker as chair of the ReOpen Westport advisory team.

Jennifer Tooker

Tooker — a longtime member of the Board of Finance, Board of Education and Conservation Commission — left her 22-year career with Gen RE’s US and European reinsurance markets in 2013.

Since then — and continuing as 2nd selectwoman — Tooker has created ties with the Westport and Fairfield County business communities. She served on the board of directors for the Women’s Business Development Council, which provides training and financial education to female small business owners around the state.

Tooker is also involved in education, with a focus on closing the achievement gap in Connecticut. She was a board member of the State Education Resource Center, the Education Commission for the Diocese of Bridgeport, and the Adam J. Lewis Academy.

Tooker’s other volunteer efforts include the Westport Weston Family YMCA board of trustees and Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund committee; Westport Sunrise Rotary Club and its 21st Century Foundation board, and coaching with the Westport Soccer Association.

Second selectman Jennifer Tooker’s shirt sent a message at a meeting to promote local women-owned businesses.

Tooker earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and international relations from the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband Mo have 3 children: Jack, Riley and Nicole. Her parents recently moved to Westport.

“It has been a privilege to serve Westport as second selectwoman,” Tooker says. “This is an amazing town where we enjoy an excellent quality of life. I’ve been part of the team that has worked diligently to ensure Westport is a great place to live and work.

“This community deserves a local government that is accessible and accountable with leadership skills, management expertise and a strategic perspective. As first selectman I will continue to bring these skills to Town Hall every day. It would be an honor to lead Westport, the community we all call home, and foster an even greater sense of community and belonging for all our residents and business owners.”

Tooker’s running mate was elected to the Board of Finance in 2017, and selected as vice chair 2 years later. Moore also serves on the board’s audit subcommittee.

Previously she represented District 9 on the RTM. Her committee work included Education, Public Protection, and Library and Museums.

Moore has worked for over 20 years in financial services, with positions in institutional equity sales, equity research and investment banking at firms including UBS, BT Deutsche Bank and Salomon Brothers.

Andrea Moore

A native Westporter and Staples High School graduate, Moore is member of the YMCA board of trustees. She has served on the National Charity League’s Westport board, and is a former president of Staples Tuition Grants, Saugatuck Elementary School PTA, and A Child’s Place preschool board. She also co-chaired the Westport Public Schools’ Workshopo Committee.

Moore received a bachelor of science degree in finance from the University of Massachusetts School of Management. She and her husband Dave have 3 daughters: Tessa, Janna and Ella.

Moore says, “It is an honor to run alongside Jen Tooker, a truly accomplished leader for Westport. I am continually impressed with the effective, bipartisan way Jen solves problems and drives positive change. Westport is a truly special place to call home, and I know Jen will work every day to bring people together, represent our community with the utmost integrity, and employ a fresh perspective to meet challenges and new opportunities in the days ahead.”

(Click here for the Tooker/Moore website.)

 

 

RTM April Meeting: Refinancing, Reimbursement, Restrictions

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

With one exception, April’s RTM meeting dealt with unexpected opportunities and unexpected costs.

The current (and very low) interest rates provided an unexpected opportunity to refinance $13 million in bonds issued in 2012 and 2013, when rates were much higher. The rate on the new bonds is expected to be less than 2%, given the Town’s AAA Moody’s bond rating. Refinancing will save the town approximately $500,000 over the 9-year life of the new bonds.

The RTM approved unexpected costs of $380,000 for additional COVID expenses, $780,000 for additional expenses related to Hurricane Isaias, $508,470 for Westport’s 50% share of additional costs for the new Fire, Police and EMS dispatch center being built in connection with Fairfield, and $32,970 for unanticipated state-required drug testing for police officers, and costs to hire new officers to fill 4 unexpected vacancies. FEMA is expected to reimburse the town for all COVID and Hurricane Isaias expenses.

Hurricane Isaias damage on the Longshore golf course. (Photo/Brian Sikorski)

The COVID expenses are for protective devices, sanitizing, legal fees, signage and employee testing. Ten percent of all town employees are tested every week.  During the debate, several RTM members expressed the need to relax the COVID-induced restrictions on public access to Town Hall once the pandemic is passed so people could freely access town offices.

Nearly all of the Hurricane Isaias expenses were for extra help, overtime, and contract services for extra equipment and help to clear roads. The town enters into standby agreements with various contractors to provide their services on an as needed basis in the event of an emergency. Westport incurs no expense if the services are not used. Contracting for emergency services on an annual basis ensures the services are available when needed, at a lower cost, and makes the costs eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

In addition to FEMA reimbursing the town for the $780,000 in out-of-pocket hurricane expenses, exceptional record-keeping by town employees will result in FEMA reimbursing Westport an additional $200,000 to $250,000 for the town’s storm-related use of its own trucks and other equipment.

The new joint Westport-Fairfield Emergency Dispatch Center has been in the planning stage for several years. The proposed site was the old GE headquarters building owned by Sacred Heart University.

Sacred Heart is building a new hockey arena next to the old GE headquarters, forcing the Center’s relocation to a different spot on the Sacred Heart campus. That, and delays in the start of construction, resulted in increased construction costs. Upgraded technology, new servers and a backup microwave communications link account for the remainder of the new costs.

The new appropriation brings Westport’s share of the costs for the establishment of the Emergency Dispatch Center to $1,928,470. Despite this, savings from the lower operating cost for  the Center are anticipated to exceed the cost of establishing the Center in 3 years, and to continue hereafter.

Connecticut’s new police accountability law requires officers to be tested for steroids as part of their certification. Ten percent of the  police force is recertified each year. While Westport police officers are already tested for drugs, this new mandate will increase drug testing costs.

The last item on the RTM agenda was a first reading of an ordinance banning gas-powered leaf blowers, except during 6-week periods each spring and fall.  There is no debate or discussion on a proposed ordinance at the RTM on a first reading. The draft ordinance now goes to the RTM Environment, Public Protection, Parks and Recreation, Health and Human Services, Public Works, Finance, and Ordinance Committees for review.

Dates for these meeting will be posted on the Town’s website at https://www.westportct.gov/about/advanced-components/meeting-list-calendar. The public is welcome to listen to the meetings and submit comments via email before and during the meetings. Once the committees finish their reviews, the draft ordinance returns to the RTM for a second reading and a vote.  This will not be before the June RTM meeting at the earliest.

Maxx Crowley: Downtown’s Revival, And The Rest Of Town Too

As 2020 began, downtown Westport looked bleak. Boarded-up storefronts, empty parking spots, questions about its very future — Main Street and environs were grim.

When COVID struck, downtown looked even bleaker. More stores closed. Fewer people strolled. The cancellation of big events like the Fine Arts Festival seemed like one final cruel blow.

Yet to the surprise of many, life sprouted amid all the real and metaphorical death.

GG & Joe opened in an out-of-the-way Parker Harding corner. Their acai bowls and pastries were instant hits.

Plywood and butcher block paper came down. New stores opened.

Two restaurants — Capuli and Basso — opened to rave reviews. Two bookstores — one new, one used — opened too, within days of each other. Two gelato shops announced their arrival. A highly regarded bakery will soon move in on Church Lane.

Capuli is one of several new restaurants opening downtown.

Counterintuitively, downtown has come back.

And no one is happier than Maxx Crowley.

He’s an unlikely champion for Main Street. He’s young (a 2010 graduate of Fairfield Prep). He worked in New York City, in advertising and real estate. He’s single. You wouldn’t figure him for a suburban guy.

But he comes from a storied family. His father Steve is the “S” in SCA Crowley, a residential and commercial real estate services firm. Since starting work in September with them, Maxx has jumped head first into the downtown renaissance. He’s already a co-vice president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

Maxx Crowley (right) with (from left) his brother Bob Crowley and father Steve Crowley.

Despite his youth, Maxx remembers “exciting stores,” Onion Alley with its rooftop music, and mom-and-pop shops like Liquor Locker.

He recalls took when chain stores — even big names like Nike and Banana Republic — swooped in. “They took some of the character” of Main Street away, he admits.

COVID was “a weird perfect storm” for Westport, Maxx says.

“There was a lot of loss. People died. Businesses closed. Restaurants struggled.”

But the virus drove people out of New York. Westport welcomed a surge of newcomers. And people who already lived here — but spent 12 hours a day, 5 days a week working elsewhere — suddenly had time to focus on their town.

They walked. They biked. They picked up coffee and lunch, clothes and furniture in places they had never known about.

Landlords struggled. Rents — quite a bit north of $100 a square foot — took a significant hit. But some of those same landlords also realized this was a time for a re-set. They lowered rates, and looked for new tenants. And those were not always the same-old, same-old national brands that could be anywhere.

Some landlords lowered their rents, or accepted late payments. Some offered a few free months, or help with certain expenses.

It was not easy. COVID or not, landlords still have their own fixed costs: taxes, insurance, maintenance and more.

Downtown depends on foot traffic. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Commercial real estate is “a relationship business,” Maxx says. Relationships often extend far. When one landlord sees another succeeding, they want to be part of the action.

Downtown has many things going for it, Maxx says. One key element is walkability.

“I can park my car. I get my coffee at GG & Joe. I cross the street to Savvy + Grace. My kid” — he doesn’t have one, but you get the point — “goes next door to Brandy Melville.”

That’s not the case in other parts of town. Anyone wanting to cross from Stop & Shop to the cute Peggy’s Cottage Irish store across the street takes his life in his hands.

But the right business in the right spot can succeed anywhere. Maxx points to Terrain: “a beautiful, redeveloped place. No one minds driving there.”

Terrain attracts customers with intriguing displays.

He’s bullish on both Compo Shopping Center too. “Torrey (Brooks, the landlord) is phenomenal,” Maxx says. “He builds relationships with all his tenants.”

There are vacancies there right now. Maxx is hopeful that a “memorable store” comes into the spaces previously occupied by Olympia Sports and Compo Barber Shop.

He also thinks the shopping plaza at the foot of the Sherwood Island Connector — with Restore Cryotherapy, among others — has great visibility.

Further east on the Post Road, Maxx has mixed feelings about Amazon Go, the automated grocery store that’s the rumored replacement for Barnes & Noble.

“People will always want to talk to the butcher and the deli guy. But it’s exciting to see a brand like Amazon come to Westport. There aren’t many Amazon Gos on the East Coast.”

And at the Southport border, Maxx notes that the Home Goods shopping center always has solid occupancy.

The one piece missing from downtown Westport, he says is “experiential” places. He cites the lack of restaurants on Main Street (though a new one will at some point replace Tavern on Main). “In a perfect world,” Maxx adds, “the ice rink would move from Longshore. And music always brings people together. We might not have bars with bands anymore, but they played on Church Lane last summer. That was great. And what about a stage downtown?”

Westport’s Fine Arts Festival is an “experiential” event. It has moved back to Main Street, from Parker Harding Plaza.

He’d also like to see downtown connected, somehow, to Saugatuck. “So many great stores across the river don’t get the attention they deserve,” he says.

“Europe has pedestrian bridges. It’s a beautiful walk along the river. This isn’t Amsterdam. But a bridge or two couldn’t hurt. Can you imagine having dinner at Bartaco, then walking across a bridge — without traffic whizzing by — to have a gelato on Main Street. Then you window shop, and run into friends. That’s a real downtown.”

Meanwhile, Saugatuck itself is filled with “wonderful, local restaurants and markets and shops. Viva and the Duck are anchors. It’s very walkable. There will always be activity there.”

The “ultimate connection” to downtown, he believes, is Longshore and Compo. A restaurant at the beach — and a shuttle between there and downtown — would be “amazing.”

Though not yet 30, Maxx says he has “always” been excited about downtown. Now he sees newcomers getting excited too.

All over town.

Board Of Ed Debates Budget Cuts

Money was on the minds of Board of Education members last night.

At their virtual meeting they addressed the gap between their submitted budget, and the $125,594,582 approved last month by the Board of Finance. The difference is $975,284.

Brian Fullenbaum reports that federal grants from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund’s (ESSER) 3rd round will total $1.6 million. The board will reserve 20% of that amount, to address learning loss.

Other grants approved for Westport include a maximum of $947,633 from the COVID relief fund, and $832,917 from the first 2 rounds of ESSER.

Two proposals were made. One would use $607,000 from ESSER II to meet the $975,000 reduction. Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice would then request restoration of the rest of the $367,000 gap.

The other proposal would rely fully on the ESSER III grant money to fill the reduction gap.

Though the possibility of not receiving that third grant is small, the board discussed a backup plan.

The board also noted the need to adjust technology purchases, in the event that online learning continues into the next year.

In addition, education costs may rise due to increased enrollment. Over 100 extra students joined elementary schools, necessitating new hires. Enrollment numbers for next year are already looking strong.

The board deferred a decision until Monday’s meeting.

 

[OPINIONS] Cons, Pros Of State “Multi-Housing” Bill

Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director and RTM member Matthew Mandell sends regular emails to a large list. He addresses a variety of local topics.

The other day he weighed in on State Senate Bill 1024, concerning multi-family housing. He wrote:

More than one bill being proposed in Hartford would usurp local zoning laws and single family zoning, and allow as of right multi-family housing.

One would mandate this change 1/2 mile around any train station, as well as 1/4 mile from a commercial zone.

Another would allow duplexes (2-family homes) in any single family zone.

The former, which I will focus on, would include both Saugatuck and Greens Farms areas, the swaths along Riverside Avenue and all along the Post Road. We are talking hundreds if not thousands of properties.

The Westport train station has long been the center of multi-use developments.

The term “as of right” means free to do it essentially without Planning & Zoning  approval. Any developer could come in and build 4 condo units on any property they wanted, regardless of our rules, and the concerns or living choices of the neighbors.

There is a need for affordable housing, no argument, and social inequities exist in our state. The cause of much of this is being laid, by the proponents of these measures, at the door step of our towns and more than often those towns in Fairfield County. Past zoning rules, now outlawed, fostered exclusionary practices and this, they say, still needs to be rectified. More importantly, they also say current zoning decisions still do this.

So in order to set things straight, all towns across the state would have to accept this responsibility and must allow this unfettered development.

Many legislators, senators and representatives, want to be doing the right thing. So do most of us. Being on the right side of history, by creating more affordable housing and correcting social injustices, is for the most part a no-brainer. It’s right.

But many of them yearning to help have and are being persuaded that this specific legislation is the right way to do it. It is not. It’s like many things that start with the best of intentions, if not vetted thoroughly, and yes challenged, have significant and unintended consequences

The proponents believe that legislating by fiat and across the board densification will solve the problem. Yet there is no proof offered that any of this housing would be affordable or that a great diversity of individuals would be benefited. It is a theory, it seems, without verified merit and a myopic view of how planning works.

For years, Canal Park has offered affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

What is most bothersome to me is that this would be done without regard to how this would affect those that currently live in these towns and specific areas. At risk are the areas where economics presently support naturally affordable housing and the strivers who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play.

In the case of Westport, this legislation would actually thwart our efforts to create housing diversity. We currently mandate 20% affordability for all multi-family housing and have advanced proposals to create more. We actually have done such a good job that not only did the state award us with an 8-30g moratorium that other towns are looking at what we have done to emulate it.

If this legislation came to be, developers would snap up the choicest of properties first, most likely along the river and build million dollar condos all along its banks. This would then cascade to more and more lots, especially the naturally occurring affordable, creating more unaffordable housing, stressing water, sewer, police, fire, school and road infrastructure.

The negative environmental affects would be dramatic as the walkable community envisioned would not exist as basic household needs and jobs would still be a drive away instead of within this newly over dense community. Saugatuck would grind to a halt and Greens Farms would be a shadow of itself.

Bottom line: All transit hubs and TOD’s are not the same and top down. One-size-fits-all legislation simply does not work. The only people who this would actually benefit are developers.

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Lawrence Weisman disagrees. Because he has no mechanism like Mandell’s to respond, he asked “06880” to post his response.

Dear Matt:

It is my observation that when a debater tries to persuade an audience of the rightness of his position by offering a parade of horribles, he is almost always on the wrong side of the issue and, for want of substance, is reduced to hyperbole.
Your description of the substance of this bill and its consequences is a prime example of that tactic.

You are wrong about both the substance and the probable consequences of the bill, and your reference to those “who have worked hard to have a home with a front and backyard for their kids to play” is a classic dog whistle in favor of exclusionary policies.

Connecticut has a systemic bureaucratic problem in addition to its systemic racial problem. Government in our state is fractured. We have counties but no county or regional government with authority to address what are clearly regional problems, among which are transportation, the environment, and housing.

So rather than trying to deal with regional issues in an uncoordinated town by town basis, we are obliged to rely on statewide action to produce uniform results. That’s what this bill is intended to do and why it is needed.

Westport is not the villain in this piece. Our P&Z has done and continues to do its part to address housing inequity and the need for affordable housing, and it is even considering “as of right” accessory dwelling units.

1177 Post Road East includes 30% affordable units, according to state standards.

You say that “as of right” means without P&Z approval, thereby suggesting that it means unregulated, but what you don’t say is that these accessory units do not require P&Z approval precisely because they are limited by regulation as to size, height, building coverage, number of parking spaces, and the amount of unused permissible coverage on the lot in question.

You do yourself, your constituents and the town as a whole a grave disservice by urging a point of view which is ungenerous, ill-considered, and provincial, and by playing to the fears and ultimately the prejudices of those who are resistant to change.

We desperately need new ideas for solutions to problems which, because they have existed for so many years, are assumed to be immune to correction. This bill is a judicious and creative step in the right direction which deserves your support.

Sincerely,
Larry

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Last night, State Senator Tony Hwang held a Facebook Live meeting on proposed zoning legislation. Among the bills is the one referenced above.

There is a public hearing in Hartford this Monday (March 15). Click here for information on that hearing, as well as a video of Hwang’s discussion. (Hat tip: Cornelia Fortier)

 

Unsung Heroes #180

It’s budget time.

Every town department has submitted their requests to the 1st Selectman. He and his staff have crunched the numbers, asked them to trim some figures, then compiled it all into a 483-page document.

Now the Board of Finance steps up. They hold hearings next week. First comes the town budget; then education.

They’ll debate. They’ll vote. Then they’ll send their recommendations to the Representative Town Meeting.

There may be some intermediate steps — protests of some cuts, more back-and-forth, public input about what’s essential, what’s a frill, and whose ox is getting gored.

The town budget

But by mid-spring, Westport will have a budget. Everything from pencils to potholes will be funded. Our mill rate will be set.

And — despite perennial complaints about high taxes — just ask relatives and friends anywhere elsewhere in the tri-state are about their taxes. You’ll realize what we pay is pretty low, considering all we get. (Perhaps you can compare your taxes with others while watching the sunset at Compo, walking at Longshore, or waiting to pick up your kid at school.)

Those budgets and mill rates don’t fall from the sky. They involve plenty of planning, short- and long-range; plenty of scrutinizing; plenty of priorities.

And plenty of time. The budget process is months in the making. Much of it is tedious (and eye-straining). All of it is crucial.

Making a budget is the job of town employees. Passing it is the work of volunteers, on the Board of Education, Board of Finance, RTM and other bodies.

The education budget

It’s easy to say “my taxes are too high.” It’s easy to say “why do we need x, y or z?” (of course, your x, y and z is very different from mine).

It’s a lot tougher to study spreadsheet after spreadsheet, attend meeting after meeting, and cast difficult vote after difficult vote.

This week’s Unsung Heroes are all the women and men who make the process work. Westport would not be Westport without your service.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

Board Of Ed: Pupils, Projects And More

The social, mental and physical health — and the health of several school buildings — were the focuses at last night’s Board of Education meeting.

On the student side, Brian Fullenbaum reports that townwide health and physical education coordinator Chris Wanner and Staples phys. ed. teacher CJ Shamas presented an update on social and emotional learning.

Embedded in the high school curriculum for juniors, it addresses social and emotional skills from a growth mindset point of view. Video testimonials showed students enjoying the health classes.

Board member Elaine Whitney and Westport Public Schools chief financial officer Elio Longo provided an update on capital projects.

Paving is needed at Greens Farms, Coleytown and Long Lots Elementary Schools, plus Bedford Middle and Wakeman. All roads there are at least 20 years old.

The $1.6 million estimated cost is significantly lower than expected, due to a partnership with the town’s Department of Public Works.

The Saugatuck Elementary roof project is out to bid. Work is scheduled for this summer. It should proceed without state assistance, because the roof is beyond its useful life.

A new roof is planned for Saugatuck Elementary School.

Staples’ roof replacement can be deferred for a year. State assistance may be available.

In the area of capital maintenance projects — from $500,000 to $2 million — superintendent Thomas Scarice noted that outside companies can help maximize value, and stay on schedule and within budget. He would like to create a school modernization master plan, then use help from an OPM to get through the process, including larger maintenance projects. The board discussed collaborating with the town on capital projects.

The board approved a new policy for minority staff recruitment. It updates the former document with more inclusionary language.

Supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur’s COVID report noted a slight uptick in cases in Westport schools last week, to 13 cases. The district’s first vaccination clinic for staff — run in conjunction with Weston and Easton — is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 3) in the Staples fieldhouse. 250 people are expected to get shots.

Budget Deliberations Begin

Budget season is here!

The Board of Finance begins its public examination soon.

First Selectman Jim Marpe presents his proposed town budget on Tuesday, March 9 and — if needed — Wednesday, March 10. He’s requesting $77,103,992 — a 2.21% increase over the current $75,439,392.

An additional $6,127,959 includes requests for the Westport Library ($5,090,148), Westport Weston Health District ($590,811), Westport Transit District ($342,000) and Earthplace ($105,000).

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice and Board of Education chair Candice Savin present their budgets on Thursday, March 11. They ask for $128,013,115 — up 4.98% over 2020-21’s $121,936.488. The bulk of the Board of Ed budget is salaries (64%) and benefits (16%).

Click here to see the entire proposed budgets.

All meetings are held via Zoom, starting at 7:30 p.m. They will be livestreamed on westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020.

Emails to Board of Finance members can be sent to BOF@westportct.gov. Comments to be read during the public comment period may be emailed to BOFcomments@westportct.gov. Full names and addresses are needed.

To comment in real time during the meeting, send an email by noon that day to mmace@westportct.gov. Include your name, address and the agenda item (click here) to which your comments will relate. Participation details will be emailed to you.

Roundup: Breakfast, COVID $$, Anti-Semitism, More

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There’s a new breakfast option in town. It doesn’t look particularly healthy.

But it sure looks good.

Grammie’s Donuts & Biscuits offers biscuits, croissants, donuts and cronuts (in flavors like very berry, lemon cake and passionfruit).

You can order online 24/7, for delivery or pickup (971 Post Road East, near Cycle Dynamics, Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

Grammie’s is part of the new Grateful Food Company. Click here for the website, with menu and ordering options; follow on Instagram @grammies_gfc.

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On the agenda for the Board of Finance meeting March 3 (7:30 p.m., livestreamed at www.westportct.gov): Moving $400,000 from the General Fund balance to the COVID Accounts balance.

A prior appropriation of $400,000 — approved July 8 — has been exhausted. Additional funds will cover costs for protective devices, sanitizing, legal fees, signage, and employee testing.

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The Westport Library’s next “Andrew Wilk Presents” examines anti-Semitism.

The event — a screening and conversation with filmmaker Andrew Goldberg and CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota — is set for next month.

On March 10 and 11, the Library offers Goldberg’s film “Viral: Anti-Semitism in 4 Mutations.” At 7 p.m. on the 11th, Goldberg will discuss the film with Camerota — anchor of the “New Day” morning show — and take questions from the virtual audience.

Camerota lives in Westport. Goldberg recently moved here. To register, and for more information, click here.

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Two days later — on Saturday, March 13 (7 p.m.) — the Library recognizes the anniversary of the pandemic lockdown with a concert that celebrates optimism, resilience and the power of music.

The virtual event — co-sponsored with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — is curated by area resident Chris Frantz, of Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club.

Several great bands will play, with proceeds going to support arts education through Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studios.

Tickets are $25 each; for $40, you get a ticket and poster. The first 25 will be autographed by Chris. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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Looking for a summer camp for your kids? Something along the lines of, say, Recycled/Upcycling Art, Nature in Art, Engineering and Art, Chemistry and Art, Movement and Art?

Those are some of the weekly themes at Camp MoCA, a new summer day camp for youngsters ages 3 to 13. It runs June 7 to August 27; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, rain or shine. Certified educators and art instructors are in charge.

An early registration discount of $100 per week is available through May 1. Campers can sign up for one or multiple weeks. Click here for details.

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The Westport Library is closed today (Thursday), due to the predicted snow. However, the virtual children’s programs will be held.

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And finally … on this day in 1791, Congress passed a law admitting the state of Vermont to the Union, effective March 4. It had existed for 14 years as an independent republic.

Many Westporters love Vermont. Among them: Jon Gailmor. The 1966 Staples High School graduate has lived there for decades. He runs music-writing workshops in schools, writes and performs all over, and has eveb been named an official “state treasure.”

Jon’s “Long Ago Lady” is a love song to his adopted state. It’s a beautiful tribute, to a wonderful place.

 

Winfield Street Deli: Despite Downturn, Donating Back

When COVID hit, it wasn’t just the coffee-and-lunch crowd that cratered at Winfield Street Deli.

They lost nearly all their catering contracts too. Breakfast and lunch deliveries to nearby offices had accounted for 30% of the popular Post Road West shop’s revenue.

Owner Breno Donatti made a quick decision. He closed completely, and helped employees get unemployment.

On May 15, Winfield Street reopened. “I couldn’t stay shut forever,” Breno says. “A lot of the staff wanted to get back to work. People were starting to come out from their homes.”

Breno devised a new catering menu. Breakfast boxes came individually wrapped; lunches of wraps, rolls, bowls and salads were separate too.

“People were trickling back to the office. They wanted to be safe,” the owner recalls. “Communal meals, with everyone grabbing something, no longer works.”

Winfield Delimobile

At the same time Winfield Street was struggling to stay in businesses, they were giving back. Realizing that people in shelters had less access to good food than ever — donations were down, and helping organizations were themselves hurting — Breno made some calls.

“Our staff was ready to work. And thanks to our wholesalers, we had access to great prices,” he say.

For every customer check of $20 or more, Winfield Street donates one meal.

By the end of December, the deli had provided 6,000 meals to Pacific House, Domus Kids and Inspirica.

Breno Donatti

Breno is not letting up. His goal for 2021: 21,000 meals. Sparked by a generous donation from former gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski and his wife Amy, he’s well on his way.

Meanwhile, both retail and catering are picking up. For all of last quarter, business was down 40 percent compared to the year before. Last month, that was cut to just 15%.

The other day, the Coleytown Middle School PTA raved about Winfield’s catering for a teacher appreciation event. They delivered 55 breakfasts and 88 lunches.

“Any excuse to make people happy is important,” Breno says. “We need positive stories.”

And Winfield Street is at the top of any list.

(To donate meals through Winfield Deli to area shelters, click here. Special offer: For every 200 meals you provide, you get a $100 Winfield gift card.)