Category Archives: Police

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.

Roundup: Easter, Daffodils, Dragon …

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Westport is getting ready for Easter weekend.

A Sunday sunrise service is set for 6 a.m. at Compo Beach, between the cannons and the pavilion. It’s co-hosted by 4 churches: Saugatuck, Greens Farms and Norfield Congregational, and United Methodist. All participants are asked to please wear masks!

Also on Sunday, Saugatuck Congregational will hold a “drive-in” worship in the parking lot, at 10 a.m. The service — featuring live music, drama and Easter reflection — will be broadcast to car radios. Sit in the comfort of your car, or bring a beach chair and “tailgate.” The service will also be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. Click here for details.

And tomorrow (Good Friday, 11:30 a.m., Branson Hall), Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will screen the choral piece “The Last 7 Words of the Unarmed.” It will be followed at noon by an intergenerational neighborhood walk. Following a liturgy of Stations of the Cross, it will focus on racial justice and reconciliation. Participants will make a small loop around downtown Westport, stopping at various locations to pray and reflect.

Easter sunrise service, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Alison Patton)

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It’s April — and that means National Distracted Driving Month.

The Westport Police Department is joining with the Connecticut Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office in a month-long “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign.

So put down your phone — this month, and every month. The first offense will cost you $150. Then it’s $300 the second time. And $500 for the third and subsequent violations.

But if it gets to that point, you shouldn’t be driving at all.

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The daffodils all along Prospect Road are blooming beautifully.

And if you know someone who has been bullied — or helped prevent bullying — they’re yours for the taking.

Melissa Ceriale — the owner, with her husband John, of an 8-acre oasis midway down the street — invites anyone who knows people in the categories above to clip a bouquet, and give it to them.

NOTE: Please take them only from the roadway in front of #11, 13, 21 and 25 Prospect Road — and not from the gardens themselves!

Daffodils on Prospect Road. (Photo/Melissa Ceriale)

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In other nature news: Last night, a huge dead tree on the big hill at the south end of Winslow Park, not far from the North Compo parking lot, came crashing down — smack across the walking path.

Bob Cooper says: “I’ve had my eye on it for a couple years, but this was sooner than I expected. It appears the lower end was rotting inside.”

(Photo/Bob Cooper)

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The Westport Youth Commission is one of our town’s great, under-the-radar groups.

Thirty members — 15 students, 15 adults, all appointed by the 1st selectman — meet monthly. They talk about teen needs, plan projects and programs, and (this is huge) provide high schoolers with a great experience in leadership.

Of course, every year members graduate. So the YAC is looking for students now in grades 8-11 (and adult members) to serve for the 2021-’22 school year. Freshmen join a special committee, before joining the board officially as sophomoes.

The appointment process includes an application, and at least one letter of recommendation. The deadline is May 14. Click here for the application. For more information, call 203-341-1155 or email kgodburn@westportct.gov.

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The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is the scene for just about everything. Political protests, Memorial Day parades, fishing — you name it, it’s happened there.

Though this scene Tuesday evening was probably a first:

(Photo/Barbara McDonald)

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Aquarion has announced its 2021 mandatory sprinkler irrigation schedule.

They say: “The schedule helps conserve water supplies by reducing overwatering of lawns and gardens through a maximum 2 days per week schedule. The purpose is to ensure that local water supplies remain sufficient for critical needs such as human consumption and fire protection.

“Lawns and gardens can thrive on reduced watering. By encouraging roots to grow deeper into the soil, they’re able to absorb more moisture and nutrients, even during dry spells. Customers may continue using drip irrigation, soaker hoses and hand-held watering at any time.”

The schedule begins today, and is based on the last digit of your street address.

If your address ends in an even number, or you have no numbered address, you can water only on Sundays and Wednesdays, from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m., or 6 p.m. to midnight.

If your address ends in an odd, number, you can water only on Saturdays and Tuesdays, same times as above.

For more information, click here. NOTE: Some residents may qualify for a variance. For example, if you’ve installed new plantings or sod in the spring, you arw allowed to water more frequently to help get plants established.

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MoCA Westport’s new exhibit, “Smash,” is dedicated exclusively to the videos of
Marilyn Minter.

It opens to the public tomorrow (Friday, April 2). Reservations are available through the website, On Free Fridays, reservations are not required, and admission is free. Click below for a sneak peek:

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The Westport Library’s Verso Studios are certainly versatile.

Starting April 12 (7 p.m.), it’s the focus of a Video Production hybrid course. The instructor is the Library’s own Emmy Award winner, David Bibbey.

The first 4 sessions are virtual. The final 2 are in-person. Participants will learn how to use professional video and audio recording equipment, lighting, and live switching/recording/streaming equipment. Participants can also serve as live crew for video shoots.

The cost is $150. To register, click here.

Part of the Westport Library’s Verso Studios.

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With all the talk about vehicular traffic on a renovated or rebuilt William F. Cribari Bridge, no one has thought about what would happen if a super tanker got caught nearby.

Evan Stein has it figured out:

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And finally … today is April 1.

 

Roundup: Autism Awareness, Burying Hill Rocks …

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To honor Autism Awareness Month, Westport Police officers bought special commemorative badges. They’ll wear them on their uniforms throughout April.

The blue badge prominently features the puzzle piece logo — the symbol of autism awareness. A portion of the badge’s purchase price will be donated to Autism Speaks.

Westport Police officers show off their autism badges.

In addition, Fleet Auto Supply donated autism logos for the doors of all police cars.

During Autism Awareness Month, the Police Department reminds Westporters about the town’s Disability Registry. A combined effort of the Westport Disability Commission, Human Services and the Police, the confidential registry provides essential information to assist police and other emergency workers to address the needs of residents of all abilities. Click here for signup information.

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Westport’s rockiest beach is getting some love.

Two machines were hard at work yesterday and today, at Burying Hill Beach.

One ran rocks through a sifter.

Another smoothed the sand.

(Photos/Art Schoeller)

It’s not as difficult as freeing a 220,000-ton ship from the Suez Canal.

But it’s close.

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Concerned how much longer the bull market will run? Worried what’s next?

Y’s Women’s Investment Group has a few slots for new members. The club has analyzed the market for more than 20 years — and achieved better results than some famous prognosticators. For more information, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Y’s Women membership is $45 a year. To learn more, click here. For the latest newsletter, click here.

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Betty Stolpen Weiner writes: “I recently moved back to the area (Weston), and wanted to share a nice Westport experience.

“I needed a large and very heavy table moved to my basement. I saw on Facebook that the Staples High School wrestling team moves furniture in exchange for a donation for the team.

“Sal Augeri sent his son Nick over with some friends to help. I was so impressed with how polite, responsible and helpful the boys were! It was a nice reminder of why I chose to move back to the area.”

If you’ve got moving (or other physical labor) needs, email salaugeri@me.com or terrybrannigan5@gmail.com.

Among the wrestlers’ jobs: moving a chicken coop. (This was before the pandemic, which is why they’re not wearing masks.)

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Samantha Lavy and Jennifer Strom — aka the JSRC Group of therapists — has opened a Westport office, at 26 Imperial Avenue. They’ll continue their Stamford practice too.

“We support couples, families, teens, and individuals as we all move through these challenging times and beyond,” they say. “We also continue our work advising families navigating the particular complexities and family dynamics which often occur in the context of family business and wealth.”

For more information call 203-212-8383, or email hello@jsrcgroup.com

Samantha Lavy (left) and Jennifer Strom.

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A worried “06880” reader writes:

“I was on my way to the transfer station, when a lady behind me took a picture of my minivan. I thought, oh boy, I bet with the wind, a trash bag fell out of the can on my cargo hitch.

“I got the station. Sure enough, one bag was missing.

“I drove the same route back, and found it. I picked it up and drove home.

“I am writing just in case a picture of my super-cool white minivan with an awesome cargo hitch gets carrying a couple of trash cans gets to you.

“I thought the lady who took a picture of my minivan would post it on social media and send it to you. I thought I would have to sell the super-cool minivan to avoid being identified and embarrass my children forever.

“I swear I pick up after my dog and park my car using one spot. Nevertheless, the fact that someone had a picture of my car was a very strong incentive to trace down the fly-away-trash bag.”

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And finally … tons o’ musical birthdays today, with a variety of genres. We salute:

Jay Traynor, the original “Jay” of Jay & the Americans (replaced later by Jay Black); born in 1943, died in 2014, age 71.

Eric Clapton: 76 years old today.

MC Hammer: 59 years old.

Tracy Chapman: 57 years old.

Celine Dion: 53 years old.

Norah Jones: 42 years old.

Roundup: COVID Vaccine, Beach Stickers, The Remains, Invasive Plants …

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In case you missed it: Connecticut has moved up the date for all eligible residents 16 and over to get COVID vaccines. It’s now April 1 — no fooling!

An increased supply of vaccines will enable 200,000 doses to be distributed next week. That includes the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

You can call 877-918-2224, 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to schedule an appointment. Click here to schedule online.

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Beach stickers will be available this Monday (March 29). Click on the Parks & Recreation Department website, then “Memberships.”

At least a couple of beachgoers were ready yesterday for summer to begin:

(Photo/Karen Como)

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Westport hits the jackpot with this month’s Connecticut Magazine.

Local writer Michael Catarevas contributed an in-depth, insightful, and very intriguing look back at the Remains.

They’re the band — fronted by 1963 Staples High School graduate Barry Tashian, with ’64 alum Bill Briggs on keyboard — that packed clubs around New England, played “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo,” had a major recording deal — and in 1966, toured with the Beatles.

They were all set to be rock’s next big thing — until they weren’t.

I’ve written often about the Remains. Jon Landau nailed it, back in the day: “They were how you tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.” Now Catarevas’ story — which includes details about their still cult-like status and recent tours — puts it all together, for a statewide audience.

Bonus cuts: There are sidebars about Briggs’ tour with the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”),

Click here for the main story. Click here for one sidebar on ’71 Staples grad Fred Cantor’s off-Broadway play and film documentary on the Remains — and another on Prudence Farrow, the inspiration for the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.”

The Remains

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A reader writes:

“In light of the town support of our Asian community, I want to share what I saw in New Luxx Nail & Spa (near the old Calico) earlier this week.

“A gentleman in uniform came in. I’m not sure if he was a police officer or firefighter. I heard him speaking to the owner and workers, who are Asian.

“He warmly told them that we (I assuming he meant Westport law enforcement) are very proud of and value our Asian business community. He said ‘we are here to support you,’ &Sp and that anything they need, or any issues they might have, they should not hesitate to contact them.

“I am proud of our community and law enforcement, that they made this outreach to these wonderful people of whom I have grown very fond. It is these unseen acts that help make Westport the place that it is.”

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Invasive plants have invaded Westport. They crowd out natives and are harmful to our natural resources, disrupting biodiversity and ecological processes.

Earthplace has partnered with Sustainable Westport and the Town of Westport to host 2 events.

The first is an in-person walk this Sunday (March 28th, 1 to 2:30 p.m., $10). Click here to register.

The second event is a free webinar on Sunday, April 11 (1- to 1:45 p.m). Click here to register.

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The Assumption Church Youth Group holds a food drive this Sunday (Palm Sunday, March 28, 7:30 a.m. to noon). Non-perishables are needed. All donations go to their sister parish in need — St. Charles in Bridgeport — and to children in the care of Missionaries of Charity in Bridgeport.

Donors should pull into the back parking lot. Someone will unload your trunk.

Meanwhile, tomorrow (Saturday, March 27, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), Weston’s St. Francis Church holds a drive-through food drive in their parking lot on 35 Norfield Road. As with Assumption, volunteers will unload non-perishables from your trunk. All donations will be delivered to the Weston Food Pantry, and Norwalk’s Open Door Shelter.

Assumption Church, from Imperial Avenue (Photo/Patrick Goldschmidt)

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And finally … ladies and gentlemen: The Remains!

 

Roundup: Joey’s, Vaccine, Seniors’ Blog …

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Yesterday’s gorgeous weather brought beach-lovers to Compo.

It also kicked off the season for entitled drivers. First off the mark: This person, who believes the only way to enjoy the water is to park as close as possible to it.

(Photo/Roseann Spengler)

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Another sign of spring (and summer): Joey’s by the Shore (featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar) opened yesterday.

Hours are currently 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather dependent. Joey, Betsy and the crew say hi!

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After all the stories about difficulties scoring a COVID vaccine appointment, I heard the other side: how efficiently the process runs, once you actually get a slot for a shot.

The operation at the former Lord & Taylor parking lot in Stamford sounded particularly well organized.

That’s where I was scheduled yesterday, for my first dose. It’s all true.

From check-in to the shot itself and on through the 15-minute observation period afterward, the process was top notch. It was run with military precision. That’s not surprising: Connecticut’s National Guard was in charge.

Kudos to all involved. A big shout-out to the Guardsman pictured below. We had a great time chatting. He represents his unit — and the entire operation — exceptionally well.

The only tweak needed is laughably minor. The address given for the Lord & Taylor lot is 110 High Ridge Road. But the entrance for vaccines is on Long Ridge.

I can live with that.

(Photo/Dan Woog)

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Westport Police say:

“The Westport Police Department is shocked and saddened by the murders that occurred this past week in the greater Atlanta area. Our hearts go out to the victims as well as their loved ones. Violence committed against a person because of their race is something that should never be tolerated or excused.

“The Westport Police stands with law enforcement agencies nationwide as well as our partners at the Anti-Defamation League in condemning this horrible crime.For more information and resources please go to the Anti-Defamation League’s website.”

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Electric vehicle brands and state legislators hold a press conference tomorrow (Monday, March 22, 10 a.m.) at the Westport train station’s eastbound side.

They’ll discuss what they call “outdated dealer franchise laws that have plagued direct electric vehicle sales for almost a decade.”

A proposed bill would give “innovative companies the ability to have an uncorked presence in Connecticut.” Without this legislation, they say, many EV manufacturers will continue to be blocked from opening sales sites, offering test drives, and selling directly to consumers.” Click here for more details.

Westport is an appropriate site for the press conference. We have the highest percentage of EVs registered in the state — over 250 Teslas alone.

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leafes,

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For nearly 2 years, Rosemary Cass’ blog has enriched the lives of people age 55 and older.

“Seeing it Clearly Now” inspires everyone — retired or not — be better with age. Her focus is on learning new things, finding purpose, and exploring the arts.

The blog features creative works of older writers and artists. For example, a recent post explored the writer’s gratification from her volunteer work with Al’s Angels.

Many contributors are members of the Westport Senior Center. Cass herself is a student in Jan Bassin’s writing workshops.

She’s always looking for submissions. Click here for the blog; email cass.rosemary@gmail.com.

Rosemary Cass uses the pen name “Rosy Prose.”

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And finally … Happy 436th birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors: What We All Can Do

Earlier this month, several Westporters grew worried about a neighbor.

In his 90s, he lived alone. Several people would cook, and leave bags of food at his door. Two bags had not been retrieved; his mail was still in the box, and the carrier was worried.

Recently, a neighbor had seen bruises on his face. But when anyone knocked, he’d yell from behind a chained door, “COVID! COVID! Go away!”

Yhe Westport Police, EMS and Department of Human Services were called. Sadly, he had died.

A neighbor emailed me: “My heart breaks for the old man, by himself, perhaps ill and/or with failing memory, and so terrified of COVID he refused contact with concerned neighbors, who he knew also brought him food.”

Could they have done more? she wondered.

I asked Human Services director Elaine Daignault. She says:

“Neighbors are often the first line of support for individuals who live alone. That’s why it is so vital for Westporters to get to know their neighbors. Human Services frequently receives calls from concerned neighbors of elderly and disabled residents.

Elaine Daignault, director of Westport’s Department of Human Services

“Every scenario is different. A DHS social worker is always available to listen to concerns, and work collaboratively with neighbors and emergency responders to determine the best way to support the individual in question.

The strong partnership between first responders and Human Services ensures a collective approach to supporting seniors’ health and well-being in various situations.

“If the individual is in imminent danger, residents are encouraged to call 911. If DHS receives the call, we contact the police immediately for a welfare check.

“If warranted, EMS will transport the individual to the hospital for medical emergencies. In this scenario, Police, Fire and EMS will refer the household to Human Services for follow-up, as needed. We also work with hospital social workers to help with discharge planning.

“Concurrently, a call to Human Services initiates a trained social worker’s response to directly contact the individual to assess their needs and create a plan to help.

“Some people are more open to discuss their needs than others. Some people choose to decline assistance altogether. If they are not amenable to sharing, we will identify a family member or friend to offer assistance where needed.

“If we cannot make contact or progress, Human Services works collaboratively with first responders and the Westport Weston Health District to schedule an in-home safety assessment.

“If we cannot find a responsible family member to assist, or the individual is resistant, the team may refer the case to CT Protective Services for the Elderly.  The state then becomes the lead agency, and town partners serve as local resources to ensure that the resident receives appropriate supports.

“Here are some ways for neighborhoods to look after the elderly in their communities:

  • Exchange phone numbers and ask for a loved one’s contact information, just in case.
  • Check in with them regularly, or set up a  simple check-in. For example, offer to do their grocery shopping or bring them their mail. Request that the senior provides a regular “signal” to their neighbors, like opening and closing a specific blind each day, to avoid concerned neighbors making unnecessary calls for welfare checks.
  • Consider encouraging them to register for a Human Services program, or participate in the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
  • DHS has several call programs to provide additional support and welfare checks for registered residents. Anyone wishing to receive a friendly call from a community volunteer (Hello, Neighbor), a welfare check during emergencies (Emergency Registry), or to register special circumstances through our Voluntary Registry for People with Disabilities can contact DHS through the links above, call 203-341-1050, or email or humansrv@westportct.gov.
  • Seniors and people with disabilities may be eligible to receive home delivered meals. This provides an additional layer of support, because volunteers personally deliver meals to recipients weekly.

“It sounds like the neighbors did the right thing by calling the Police Department and Human Services. Together, we will follow up on the calls and do our best to address concerns directly.

“Note that we cannot share personal information or circumstances without the individual’s expressed consent, which can be frustrating to the person making the initial call.

“In a non-emergency situation, anyone can call Human Services at 203-341-1050 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or contact the Police non-emergency line at 341-6000 any time. The Police Department will always bring necessary backup, including Fire and EMS.

“If someone notices a pattern of suspicious activity, or has a concern about abuse or neglect, they can contact both numbers above or make a direct report to the Connecticut Department of Social Services Protective Services For The Elderly central intake line at 888-385- 4225. For after-hour reports, call 211.”

Roundup: Rabbit, Flag, Book, Music …

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Yesterday, while researching a potential training location, Westport firefighters discovered a dislodged vault cover that needed re-seating.

Then they found something else: a rabbit. It was trapped 6 feet down inside the vault, with no escape route.

Westport Animal Control officer Peter Reid helped the firefighters remove the rabbit, and transported it for evaluation.

Peter Reid, Peter Rabbit … what a great pre-Easter story! (Hat tip: Westport Police Department)

Peter Reid and friend. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)

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Flags at Town Hall fly at half staff, in memory of the 8 people killed in Atlanta earlier this week.

The town’s Facebook page says: “The Town of Westport condemns the horrific attacks on our Asian neighbors, families and friends. An act of violence and racism against anyone is an affront to those among us who promote love, unity, and acceptance for all.

“Westport stands in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.”

(Courtesy of Town of Westport/Facebook)

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Today is the first day of spring. At Comp Beach, Amy Schneider captured the first spring sunrise:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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Christy Colasurdo writes:

Joan Isaacson, my neighbor of many years, recently wrote a book: The Red Velvet Diary.

“When I saw a post on Facebook, I figured I’d buy the book to be supportive. Little did I know it would be a heartfelt page-turner, and that my longtime next door neighbor, a grandmother of 6 teens, is also an excellent wordsmith with an emotional multigenerational story to tell.

“An avid reader, I was impressed. I believe other Westporters will also enjoy this captivating tale by a woman who has lived and raised her family here for the past 26-plus years.

“The story spans 3 generations of strong women, from the wartime 1940s to today. It deftly shifts perspectives and countries, between Joan, a modern woman coming of age in the tristate area and her star-crossed ’60s romance; her mother, an innocent teen in Athens during the Axis occupation who toughens up, joins the Resistance and falls in love with the enemy; and grandmother, the young daughter of a rabbi who is forced to leave her doting Jewish family in Turkey and flee to a convent in Greece under an assumed Christian identity to escape the pogroms.

“Isaacson has a steel-trap memory, a knack for period details, and a penchant for describing the music and food that pulls you directly into each era and country, from Weehawken, New Jersey to Odessa, Russia to Athens, Greece to Westport.

“It’s a story of struggle, survival, sisterhood, and of enduring family love that spans 3 generations. Pour yourself a cup of Ibrik (strong Greek coffee) and put your feet up for a good read by a local author.”

Joan Isaacson with her husband Sheldon, at Compo Beach.

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Ten Staples High School students made it through several auditions. They’ll  participate in the Connecticut Music Educators Association All-State Festival next month.

The young musicians will participate in master classes and workshops with world renowned artists. The event culminates in a virtual ensemble performance. 

All-State honorees include

  • Orchestra: Zachary Bishop (viola); Janna Moore (double bass); Izabela Pauliny (oboe); Samantha Taylor (trombone); Sarah Thomas (viola)
  • Concert Band: Jason Capozucca (bassoon); Alexandra Hermus (euphonium); Nina Lauterbach (mallet percussion) 
  • Jazz Ensemble: Witt Lindau (drums)
  • Treble Choir: Maya Vogelmann (alto). 

Janna Moore and Witt Lindau earned the highest scores in Connecticut on their instruments. Zachary Bishop and Izabella Pauliny both scored 3rd in their instrument categories. 

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And finally … today is the first day of spring. We may not be out of the woods yet. But winter is already in the rear view mirror. Word.

Roundup: Long Lots Readers, Nature …

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Long Lots Elementary School students love to read. And they love sharing books with others.

The other day, as part of a “Reading Across America” project, students and staff brought in 1,200 new and gently used K-5 children’s books. Bridgeport’s Lighthouse Program will donate them throughout the city. Westport and Bridgeport Police officers, and Connecticut State Police, helped with collection and distribution.

Way to go, Long Lots Lions! (Hat tip: Ned Batlin)

(Photo/Trooper P. Muniz)

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Sure, you lost an hour of sleep last night. But look what this late winter day has given us:

Blooming crocuses on Riverside Avenue (Photo/Katherine Ross)

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Michael Catarevas writes:

“This is what happens when the neighbor on one side has a deer fence on their property, and the other side neighbor’s backyard is swampy. We have drainage pipes in the backyard, so the ground is nice and dry.”

(Photo/Michael Catarevas)

And finally … On this day in 1794, Connecticut’s own Eli Whitney received a patent for the cotton gin.

BREAKING NEWS: Beach Benches Found!

For 2 days, Westporters grieved with Laurie Crouse over the loss of a Compo Beach bench dedicated to her husband.

Today, we can all celebrate!

This morning Westport Police — working with the Parks & Recreation Department — recovered Martin Crouse’s bench. It was in the channel, near Ned Dimes Marina.

Martin Crouse’s bench was found in this channel.

A closeup of the bench.

Recovered!

They found a second bench too. Spotted yesterday from afar by Tina Green, as she looked for birds, it had traveled all the way to Cockenoe Island.

A second bench recovered from Cockenoe Island

The plaque from the bench near Cockenoe Island had come loose. But it was found very close to the bench.

Both benches have been brought ashore. They’ll be cleaned, and put back in their honored spots.

The benches were probably thrown into the water as a thoughtless prank. Fortunately they floated for a while; they did not sink to the bottom.

Even more fortunately, our Police and Parks & Rec departments were there to help. Thank you, Chief Foti Koskinas, Deputy Chief Sam Arciola; your men and women, and the Parks & Rec crew.

If that doesn’t make you smile today, nothing will.

A closeup of Martin Crouse’s bench, this morning. (Photos/Courtesy of Westport Police Department)

Craig Bergamo: Westport Kids’ Best PAL

Craig Bergamo has quite a back story.

He grew up “everywhere,” he says — in and out of shelters. He and his brother were shuttled from place to place.

When Bergamo was 17, his parents died. He wanted to join the military, but for his brother to keep Section 8 housing, Bergamo had to live there as his dependent.

During tough times, police officers had always been nice to Bergamo. He looked up to them. To give back, he studied criminology in college.

Craig Bergamo

In 2006 — just 22 years old — he was hired by the Westport Police Department. His duties include overseeing the car seat program, motorcycle instructor and field training.

Bergamo won the Medal of Valor, for his actions in the Westport force’s first shooting in 30 years.

He also earned a Community Service Award for his fundraising with LivFree, a pediatric cancer support group.

Giving back is a key part of who Bergamo is. He coached in Norwalk’s Pop Warner football program for 6 years.

Early in his Westport police career, PAL athletic director Carmen Roda suggested he get involved with the local program. He became head football coach for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, then volunteered as secretary and vice president.

Now he’s in charge of the entire Westport PAL.

Earlier this month, Bergamo succeeded Ned Batlin as president.

It’s a big job. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program, the ice skating rink at Longshore — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Plenty of (pre-COVID) action at the PAL Rink at Longshore.

“This is an amazing organization,” Bergamo says. “The motto is ‘All about the kids and community.’ It’s safe and friendly. There are not many Police Athletic Leagues still out there. But ours is going strong.”

Bergamo is already planning new fundraising efforts — like a car show, digital events, perhaps a gala “when things are normal.”

Wrestling is one of Westport PAL’s many programs.

For someone who grew up in shelters, and lost his parents as a teenager, offering hope and activities to youngsters is crucial. In addition to his PAL efforts, he coaches his daughters in softball.

“When I see 3rd graders I coached move up to high school, and then graduate. I get chills,” Bergamo says. “I’ve had great interactions with them, and their parents. That’s what PAL is all about.”

(To learn more about Westport PAL — and participate in the See’s Candy Shop fundraiser — click here.)