Category Archives: Police

Read And Heed: Traffic Info For Fireworks Tomorrow

Headed to the fireworks tomorrow?

You and everyone else! Here are some things to know before you go. According to the Westport Police:

This well-attended event with heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic affects all roads south of Greens Farms Road, between Compo Road South and Hillspoint Road. Spectators should plan ahead, as traffic delays are inevitable.

The beach closes at 4 p.m. Fireworks ticket holders will be asked to report to their cars, to verify they can remain parked in the lot.

The beach should reopen to ticket holders by approximately 5 p.m. That’s the time vehicles will be allowed in. Drivers should display their ticket prominently on the dashboard.

If everyone cooperates, getting into the beach goes smoothly.

Vehicular access will be through South Compo Road only. Hillspoint Road south of Greens Farms Road will be open only to people who live south of that intersection.

Vehicles without a ticket cannot go closer to Compo Beach than the Minute Man statue. Shuttle buses will run from Longshore Park by the marina to Compo Beach, if the tickets for the beach sell out. So far, a few tickets remain unsold.

Uber, Lyft and taxis will be directed straight past the Minute Man on Compo Road South. People being dropped off can walk from the corner of Compo Road South and Soundview Drive to the beach.

NOTE: If you use this method of transportation, return service will not be available until after 11 p.m., due to 1-way traffic exiting the beach area.

At the end of the fireworks display, 2-way traffic will be suspended on Compo Beach Road and South Compo Road to the intersection of Greens Farms Road. There will be 2 lanes of northbound traffic on those streets until the beach is cleared.

Residents of this area will encounter delays getting home for approximately 1 hour, or until traffic has cleared from the Compo Beach area.

Hillspoint Road is also used for drivers leaving the beach.

Anyone planning to pick up family members in the beach area should also plan for delays.

Storm Sequel: Police Report Road Closures

As cleanup and repairs continue after yesterday’s storm, the Westport Police Department urges residents to stay home. They say: “If you must be on the road, please drive with caution. Do not attempt to go around police tape and/or barricades.

“Please be considerate of these conditions during your morning commute. Allow for extra time, as damage has been extensive.”

These roads are still closed:

  • Long Lots Lane
  • 1 Long Lots Road
  • 30 Long Lots Road
  • Long Lots Road at Morningside Drive North
  • 30 Morningside Drive South
  • Spicer Court at Spicer Road
  • 6 Clapboard Hill Road
  • 235 Greens Farms Road
  • 245 Greens Farms Road
  • 23 Hillandale Road

The WPD also reminds Westporteres to treat every downed wire as if it were live, even if it does not appear to be energized.

Power outage reports, general outage questions, or non-emergency issues associated with electrical repairs should be directed to Eversource: 800-286-2000.

This Colony Road home sustained a direct hit from a tree during yesterday’s storm. One resident sustained minor injuries. The house was declared uninhabitable. (Photo/Westport Fire Department)

Use The Sidewalk. It’s The Law!

It’s not the weightiest question ever — nothing like, say, what came before the Big Bang, or who killed JFK.

But it sure puzzles me. Why — when there are perfectly good sidewalks — do so many Westporters choose instead to walk in the road?

North Avenue.  South Compo. Long Lots. You name it: If there’s a sidewalk, most people won’t use it.

Sometimes they’re on the opposite side (walking incorrectly, with traffic). Sometimes they’re on the same side as the sidewalk. Yet they ignore it — or worse yet, treat it with contempt. Like, screw you, sidewalk. I’m not going walk on you.

Sidewalks are for other people.

For a long time I thought that was my pet peeve. But I have company.

The other day, alert “06880”reader/former Staples High School classmate, and — most importantly for this story, retired Westport Police detective — Dave Eason emailed me.

He had just gotten home after running errands. No one was on the sidewalks — but he saw plenty of folks on the roads.

Turns out, we’re not the only ones aggravated by this. Dave sent along Connecticut General Statute 14-300c (a). It says:

No pedestrian shall walk along and upon a roadway where a sidewalk adjacent to such roadway is provided and the use thereof is practicable.

I don’t imagine this is Chief Foti Koskinas’ top enforcement priority. Nor should it be.

But here’s your warning, streetwalkers: The law is on our side.

Sidewalks are there on the side too. Use them!

PAL Fireworks And Parking Passes: The Back Story Many People Miss

Since 2003, Westport PAL has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.

In the past few years they’ve donated $153,000 to the Field of Dreams turf field project, $49,000 to Westport Baseball and Softball, $23,000 to Special Olympics, $15,000 to the Compo Beach playground, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more to many worthy, kid-related causes.

Each year, they help sponsor the 4th of July* fireworks. They are allowed to sell a maximum of 2,000 Compo Beach parking passes. The cost — $35 per vehicle — has not risen in years.

Last year, they sold fewer than 1,900. Yet an estimated 15,000 party-goers thronged the beach, for the best community event of the year.

You do the math.

A small portion of the very large crowd.

Westport PAL was organized in 1948. A few years later, they started the fireworks tradition.

It takes a ton of work. The volunteer organization partners with the Westport Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments; EMS; Fireworks by Grucci — and many others — to make the event a smash.

About 20 years ago, PAL offered to hand it over to the town. First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said thanks, but no thanks.

Everyone — including out-of-towners — pitches in to make the fireworks a success.

The fireworks is PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help run programs in football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, rugby and track. They impact thousands of boys and girls each year.

In addition to the recipients of PAL money listed earlier, recent donations include $24,000 for health and wellness programs, $20,000 for lights at Staples High School, $5,000 for wrestling mats, $2,000 for a WWPT-FM Wrecker Radio tent, thousands to Staples’ Gridiron Club — the list goes on and on.

The fireworks is a true community effort. Melissa & Doug — the internationally highly regarded, locally owned children’s toy company — generously covers the cost of the actual pyrotechnics each year. (Grucci offers 3 levels. Westport’s is the top-tier.)

Happy birthday, America! (Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

But PAL picks up other costs: the barge ($15,000 a day). The Cobra marching band, with Sapphire dancers. The Nassau County bomb squad. Food and drinks for police, fire and Parks and Rec workers (beyond what Jersey Mike’s provides). This year, PAL is even springing for a new barge mooring.

PAL president Ned Batlin, and past president/current vice president Sam Arciola, are both Staples grads. They grew up going to the fireworks — and playing PAL sports.

They want Westporters to know: Those $35 parking passes are not a ripoff.

They’re a bargain.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helps collect tickets. The process is quick and easy.

Last year’s non-sellout — despite the packed beach — was part of a trend. Some fireworks-goers arrive by Uber. Others park — as far away as the Children’s Community Development Center on Hillspoint Road — and walk in.

Of course, there are people like the homeowner on Soundview Drive. Like many neighbors, he throws a huge fireworks bash every year.

But he also buys 30 parking passes, and gives them to guests. He wants to support PAL; he doesn’t want friends to freeload.

Party on Soundview!

“One of our longtime executive directors, PJ Romano, used to say, ‘It’s all about the kids,'” Batlin says.

“PAL — and the fireworks — is all about local police and citizens who really care about the town, and everyone in it. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we don’t sell out, it really handcuffs our ability to help.”

That’s the back story too few people know. So pony up, Westporters. PAL needs you to buy those fireworks parking passes.

They’re available at the Parks & Rec office in Longshore (opposite the golf pro shop) during business hours, and 24/7 at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). You can pay by cash or check (“Westport PAL”).

If — er, when — they sell out, you can buy a pass to park at Longshore. Dattco donates buses, which shuttle back and forth to the beach from 5:45 to 11 p.m.

With a police escort.

*Okay, the 3rd of July. You know what I mean.

Westport’s fireworks are timeless. This shot is from 2016. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Unsung Hero #103

Alert — and thankful — “06880” reader Karen Murphy writes:

As the school year ended, many of us thanked parents, teachers, bus drivers and school administrators.

Those praises are well deserved. It was a challenging year for all Westport residents, teachers, students and administrators. They pulled together, and showed resilience after Coleytown Middle School was closed in September.

This bump in the road helped me focus on all that we have to be grateful for here. Today I’d like to give a loud “thank you” and shine a light on the traffic duty officers on North Avenue.

This year, like many parents I drove one or both of my kids to Staples at different times of the morning, from 6:30 to 8 a.m. Every day we were greeted by clear and concise hand signals.

These dedicated few helped guide adults on their way to work, parents dropping kids off, teen drivers, bus drivers, delivery trucks and the few students who walked to school through the intricacies of intersections without traffic lights.

For the most part everyone obeyed the hand signals and were attentive to the traffic officers. These officers were there early in the morning, challenged by giant vehicles and in all kinds of weather.

This was the scene on the last day of middle school. Staples graduation looked similar.

I am so appreciative of all the professionals who helped us through the year!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

The Sorriest Thief In Westport

Just when you think you’ve heard everything, you read Debra Kandrak’s post on Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page.

And you wonder what the hell is going on in our world. She writes:

I am posting this because I cannot believe that someone would stoop so low as to steal plants from an Adopt-a-Spot.

I had 4 vibrant blue grasses recently stolen from my spot. An Adopt-a-Spot is town-owned, but maintained by town residents or local businesses. All plants, mulch and labor are borne by the individual or company. It’s time-consuming, but I consider it a labor of love because I believe in giving back to my community.

I find it shocking that in this well to do community someone would do such a thing. But I hold no grudges, because I believe in karma. What is disheartening to me is that these plants were given to me by my friend. They came from her garden when she moved to Florida, and were her gift to me.

I wish now that I planted them in my yard. 

Here is a photo from last year …

 

… and this:

 

We Remember: Memorial Day 2019, Part 1

Today’s Memorial Day parade was the first in several years with beautiful weather.

Nearly everyone marched: police, firefighters, non-profit organizations, youth teams, Scouts, Suzuki violinists, a random pediatric dentist.

As usual — and as always deserved — the Y’s Men won the Best Float competition.

Here are a few scenes from today’s parade. More — plus images from the post-parade ceremony on Veterans Green  — will be posted later today.

The start of the route, on Riverside Avenue, was swimming with Westport YMCA Water Rats. (Photo/Jodi Harris)

It doesn’t get more classic than this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Alex Merton — almost 3 — is captivated by a fife and drum corps. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The theme of the parade was “Thank a Veteran.” This vet received many thanks … (Photo/Beth Devoll)

… as did this veteran … (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Page Englehart gives the thumb’s up to a float honoring servicemenbers. Her son Williiam — a Staples High School 2014 graduate — is in the Marine Corps. (Photo/Anne Hardy)

Suzuki violinists played “Turkey in the Straw.” (Photo/Burton Stuttman)

A Myrtle Avenue home honors the holiday. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas greets a young fan on the parade route. (Photo/Marshall Kiev)

Patriot and noted artist Miggs Burroughs marches with the Westport flag — designed, for Westport’s 150th birthday in 1986, by himself. (Photo/Beth Devoll)

The red, white and blue was evident in flags … (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and everywhere else. This is RTM member Andrew Colabella.

Bear With Us

The Westport Police report that around 8:30 this morning, a North Avenue resident reported a black bear on his property. Officers tracked it to the area of 300 North Avenue and Tuck Lane.

The bear was not acting aggressively. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Wildlife Division was notified.

Police note that black bears are becoming increasingly common in Connecticut. Residents should take precautions to prevent negative encounters with bears and nuisance behavior.

In 2013, Cablevision News12 aired this dramatic shot of a black bear in Westport.

Bears have an incredible sense of smell. Secure garbage in sturdy covered containers in a garage or outbuilding.

If you compost, do so responsibly. Do not throw meat scraps or greasy, oily or sweet materials in the compost pile. These foods attract bears and other animals.

Clean barbecues and grills after each use. Do not leave pet food outdoors, and remove bird feeders from your property for the summer.

Keep an eye on pets and small children playing outside.

If you see a bear, do not approach it. The mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. If left alone and given an avenue for escape, the bear will usually wander back into more secluded areas.

Sightings can be reported to Westport Animal Control (203-341-5076).  For more information on bears, click here.

Winslow Park This Sunday: Dog Day Afternoon (And Morning)

Last year’s Dog Festival was postponed — twice! — by rain.

Matthew Mandell — executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, producer of the 4th annual event — has done his due diligence.

He made sure that this year’s rain fell in all of April, and continued through early this week.

Sure, there are a couple of pesky showers forecast for Sunday morning. But Mandell says they’ll clear out in time for every dog to have its day.

The Dog Festival is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Winslow Park. Fido’s favorite playground will be even more dog-gone fun on Sunday, with:

  • Exciting demonstrations (police dogs, guide dogs, agility and training)
  • Goofy competitions (best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, dog that most looks like its owner — all judged by state and local officials)
  • Obstacle course (fastest dog wins a year’s supply of dog food)
  • Kids’ activities (caricatures, face painting, etc.)
  • Vendors
  • Food trucks
  • Adoptables
  • Information about non-profits (including co-producer TAILS)
  • Giveaways, and more.

New this year: a Frisbee catching and agility show, with tips on how to train your dog to do those tricks too.

This guy loved last year’s Dog Festival. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Also new this year: no parking at the Westport Country Playhouse. The lot is reserved for the “In the Heights” audience.

Instead, there’s easy access via the Saugatuck Congregational Church back parking lot (after 10:30 a.m.), private lots across the Post Road (with traffic agents helping to cross), and the Senior Center’s new gravel path to the Post Road (much closer than you think).

Every day — rain or shine — Winslow Park is filled with dogs. Here’s hoping that  on Sunday — their special day — the only thing wet will be their noses.

(For more information, including how to sign up for competitions, click here.)

Andrew Colabella Turns 30

Andrew Colabella is still the youngest RTM member in town.

But he’s no longer in his 20s.

The lifelong Westporter just celebrated his 30th birthday. As he reached that milestone, the 2007 Staples High School graduate reflected on 3 decades in his home town. He writes (and shares some favorite photos he’s taken):

For the last 15 years, I’ve spent my birthday on the bench of “Myrna Wexler” at Compo with my family. I reminisce about my years on earth, waiting for 9:35 a.m.

While I reflect on my personal experiences and stories, I can’t help but reflect on my memories with Westport too.

Growing up, this was not only my home but my play pen. From riding my bike and then my scooter to driving a car, I passed the same buildings, and drove on these roads a thousand times. It never got old for me.

Westport’s roads are very familiar. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

My first time meeting a police officer was when I was 3. I stubbed my toe outside of the Old Mill market. Dave Eason pulled over and gave me a Band-Aid.

I watched Sam Arciola, Foti Koskinas, Dale Call, Ryan Paulsson, Eric Woods, Craig Bergamo, Kevin Smith, Howard Simpson and the great Bobby Myer climb through the ranks, as they watched me grow up.

I remember standing on the train platform. Everyone spoke to each other with their newspapers clenched between their arm and chest. Now, we’re buried in our phones.

Restaurants like Mario’s, DeRosa’s, Mansion Clam House, Doc’s Cafe, Oscar’s, Onion Alley, Bogey’s, National Hall, Swanky Frank’s, Tacos or What? and many more are now distant memories. My taste buds tingle, wishing for them all to come back.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Going to Longshore on Fridays when Rec-ing Crew was in session during the summer, riding a GoPed to expose myself to hypothermia from the pool on hot days to be with my friends and meet kids from the rival Coleytown Middle School.

Going to Joey’s to hang out with Billy Hess and eat Toasted Almonds out of the old food trailer, then go home and watch Top 10 music videos on VH1 and MTV.

The last few years I’ve been to the movies once or twice. When I was younger, I went to the theaters in Westport to see “Free Willy,” “Leave It To Beaver” and “The Lion King.” Now they’re Restoration Hardware, and the former Pier 1 Imports.

Going to Arnie’s, playing games with my mom and sister, meeting Arnie who had a pool in his living room with a parrot on his shoulder and big Great Dane dogs. Arnie’s turned into Hay Day, where we would run into Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Martha Stewart, Linda Fiorentino, Jason Robards and Christopher Walken.

After the first warm day of the year, my family was at the beach every day by the cannons. What was once my recreational heaven became summer jobs. I worked with Parks & Recreation in high school and throughout college until I graduated from UConn.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Who would’ve thought that when I turned 16, free to drive the roads of Westport I once biked up and down a thousand times, that I would get stuck next to a Volvo station wagon at a traffic light with Ferrari emblems. All 4 tires spun, as Paul Newman pulled out. (Never underestimate custom work and a Volvo station wagon).

Speaking of cars, who remembers the man at Compo Beach who drove a Chrysler LeBaron with leopard seats? He wore a boat captain’s hat, with a scarf around his neck. I never knew his name.

I also never knew the name of the woman who would come to Compo at night in her sweatshirt and sweatpants in the dead of summer, and jam out to her Walkman, dancing in the sand as people strolled by.

Compo sunsets never get old. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

These recurring events and people I took for granted. I thought they would never stop and no matter where I was, they would play out naturally.

Now I think about the last 3 years. They say your late 20s are your most difficult and loneliest ever. Mine were definitely difficult. I lost friends to car accidents, suicide, drug overdose. I’ve watched friends move away, get married, have kids and land the job opportunities of a lifetime. Buying homes, living in high rises or just traveling the world not knowing what to expect the minute they woke up.

As much as I would love to leave, explore with no home address and be on the move, I would feel empty.

The Italian Festival brings back memories. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Yet going to work every day from 7 to 3:30, I also felt empty. I had all this time I could fill. I wanted to do more.

It wasn’t until I read an article on LinkedIn that I relaxed about my age and success, and stopped comparing myself to others. It said:

  • At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
  • At 24, Stephen King worked as a janitor and lived in a trailer.
  • At 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.
  • At 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
  • At 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.
  • At 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
  • At 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.
  • At 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.
  • Julia Child released her first cookbook at 39, and got her own cooking show at 51.
  • Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the editor-in-chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at 40.
  • Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.
  • Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at 42.
  • Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.
  • Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at 52.
  • Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at 57.
  • Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until 76.
  • Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Now when I’m not working, I devote my time and energy to the RTM. I go to schools and educate students about town politics, single-use plastics and composting. I find myself most at ease in Board of Finance meetings listening to Gary Conrad and members talk about line items. I go to every meeting to keep myself up to speed, even committees I’m not on. It’s relaxing, and I want to learn everything about the town I grew up in.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

I’m sitting on this bench as I write down memories, and reminisce about how I got where I am today. I hope to do it next year. The year after. The decade after that. And continue it with my kids and grandkids.

Here’s to 30. Here’s to Westport. The town where everyone holds history and legendary stories that make this town our home. To the RTM (my family away from home), and my family: Frank, Jann, Sara and Roxie.

Andrew Colabella, in his traditional fireworks attire.