Bedford Science Olympians Score At Nationals

Olympics are not just for athletes.

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team finished 1st in the state last month — earning them the right to represent Connecticut at the 34th annual Science Olympiad national tournament

It was held last weekend at Colorado State University.

So how did our guys and girls do?

Here are 2 reports. The first — from parent Danielle Teplica — sets the scene:

It was a fantastic experience — a deep and extreme immersion into a much higher level of science competition than they had yet been able to fathom, let alone experience.

They had the chance to feel what it’s like to respect awesome competition, and perform their best against it.  It was a non-stop, fast-paced 4 days, packed with parades and pageantry, bright lights, loud music, big arenas, learning how to run from one event to another across a university campus, high altitude, little sleep and lots of science.

Plus live tarantulas, turkey costumes, CalTech professors — a lot to take in.

Hannah Even and Anja Gubitz represent Connecticut, at the opening ceremonies.

The team bus arrived at BMS Monday around 2 a.m. None of them had napped on the plane or bus. They were still excited by what they’d just done.

What had they done? Read this report, from parent chaperone Trudie Gubitz:

They performed exceptionally well. The team brought home 2 medals: 6th place for Mystery Architecture, and 1st place for Rollercoaster! In the 34 years of Nationals competition, no Connecticut team had won a gold.

Overall, Bedford finished 25th out of 60 teams — the highest ever for a team from our state. That’s a wonderful achievement — especially because BMS had competed at nationals only once before (in 2015). Most of the top 20 teams are regulars.

For me, the most inspiring thing was the team’s cohesion. These kids have  worked, built and studied for this event for almost a year. Over this time they have created a bond that is hard to describe in words.

They laugh and play while working to a common goal. They support each other when things do not go as planned, celebrate each other’s successes, and pick each other up from disappointments.

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team.

Fifteen children competed in the 23 diverse events: Microbe Mission, Hovercraft, Dynamic Planet and Road Scholar, to name a few.

Another 9 students and their parents also formed part of the team as alternates, showing enormous support.

The support extended further to BMS alumni, who came from Staples to help during preparations. One was even there at 2 a.m. to cheer the returning team bus.

Staples High School Science Olympiad students — and Bedford Olympiad alums — sent this encouraging photo to the BMS team in Colorado on the morning of the competition.

The children had a wonderful time. That speaks to the amazing guidance provided by the 3 teachers who support this program: Arthur Ellis, Dr. Daniel Cortright and Kathryn Nicholas.

Thanks too to all the Westporters who donated to help get the team to Colorado (and back).

Now get some sleep. 

And then get ready for next year!

Coach Art Ellis

Farmers’ Market Serves Up Top Chef Battle

The Westport Farmers’ Market is 12 years old — and wildly popular.

Every Thursday from May through November throngs fill the Imperial Avenue parking lot, on a hunt for fresh produce, meat and fish, baked goods, even pizza, tacos and dog food.

But the Market always looks to add spice to its spices, herbs and more.

So — even though the Westport Farmers’ Market is a community celebration, not a competition — they’re introducing a Chef of the Market contest.

Starting this Thursday — and running once a month through the fall — 12 well-known names battle it out through an opening round, semifinals and finals. The winner will be, I guess, the chief chef.

The brainchild of board member — and no-slouch-himself chef Bill Taibe — works like this.

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, 3 chefs go head-to-head-to-head.

At 10 a.m., they get $20. They have 45 minutes to shop for ingredients, cook, and present their appetizer-size dish to the judges. PS: Electricity is not allowed.

In keeping with the fun theme, judges are randomly selected from any shopper who wants to participate.

In 2015, chefs prepared a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. This year, they’ll compete against others. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

The first round runs through August. The winner of each group moves on to the semifinals, the 3rd Thursday in September.

Finals are set for “Fork it Over,” the Westport Farmers’ Market annual October fundraiser.

All chefs donate one $50 gift certificate from their restaurant. The winner gets every gift card — so he can enjoy his competitors’ meals yet not pay for them — along with other prizes.

The early chefs — particularly those tomorrow — have it tough. They can’t choose from flavorful snap peas, strawberries or squash. However, Taibe is sure they’ll do imaginative, tasty things with this month’s bounty, like radishes and kale.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions. Chefs competing in this year’s competition know exactly how to prepare it. But can they shop for it — and finish their dish — in just 45 minutes?

All 12 chefs gathered at the Market last week, to pick their dates out of a hat.

There was already smack talk — including between the chefs at Taibe’s own Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall, all of whom are competing. Other Westport chefs represent The Cottage, OKO, Match Lobster Burger and Amis.

There’s chatter on social media too.

Starting Thursday, the rest of us can see where it all leads.

Let the Chef of the Market games begin!

Chef competitors include: May 24, Geoff Lazlo, Ben Freemole, Christian Wilki; (June 21) Matt Storch, Jeff Taibe, Adam Roytman; (July 19), Jonas/Brad, Anthony Kostelis, Anthony Rinaldi; (August 16) Nick Martschenko, Dan Sabia, Carlos Baez.

Pic Of The Day #399

Sharing water at Winslow Park. (Photo/Dan Woog)

A Ducky Rescue

Most Westport Fire Department press releases describe house blazes, motor vehicle extrications and hazardous waste clean-ups.

This one’s different. 

And one more reason why we love our firefighters:

 Earlier this evening, Westport Fire Department dispatchers received numerous calls for an animal rescue on I-95. A family of ducks had been observed trying to navigate I-95 at rush hour, resulting in 9 ducklings falling into a storm drain.

Rescue 3 and the shift commander responded to I-95 North to provide assistance, meeting up with state police troopers just prior to exit 17. A Department of Transportation Safety Patrol vehicle provided critical barrier protection for those working on the highway.

Removing the grate for the rescue.

Firefighters used a variety of hand tools, hydraulic rescue tools and metering equipment to gain access to the storm drain. Firefighter Andrew Ponticiello entered the storm drain via a ladder and patiently rescued all 9 of the ducklings, despite their reluctance to exit. This was his second animal rescue from a storm drain in as many days.

Firefighter Andrew Ponticiello, with his 9 ducklings.

As a reminder, if you are concerned about the welfare of any animal — particularly when the animals are on a highway or main road — call 911 and ask for assistance. The roads and highways are dangerous places to be. We want to make sure everyone goes home safely.

Calling All Veterans!

Like a true veteran, Ted Diamond keeps serving.

He’s 100 years old. He’s a former Memorial Day parade grand marshal.

And he wants to make sure that every vet — particularly those who, like he, served in World War II — get a chance to participate in the event.

For the past 10 years, he has arranged transportation in the parade. Once again, he’s made sure there are a few cars available, for vets to ride in.

Any veterans wishing to participate next Monday should call Ted (203-227-7680), or e-mail him: tdiamon2@optonline.net.

As for the rest of us: We’ll line the route, waving and giving our thanks.

Ted Diamond, at last year’s Memorial Day ceremony.

 

[OPINION] Developer: In Wake Of Hiawatha Court Decision, We Plan 187 Units

In the wake of a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Westport grant conditional approval for a sewer line extension — the first step toward construction of a large housing complex on Hiawatha Lane, off Saugatuck Avenue next to I-95 Exit 17 — the developer in the lawsuit has issued a press release.

Summit Development says:

A 14-year effor to create a moderate-income housing community in the Town of Westport took a major step forward after a State Superior Court judge ordered the town to grant a conditional approval for a sewer line extension to serve proposed new development on Hiawatha Lane in the Saugatuck neighborhood.

In a ruling issued May 7, Judge Kenneth Shluger ordered the town to extend an existing municipal sewer line 1600 feet to serve the proposed development. The judge said the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority has abused its discretion by delaying the extension. The town’s 3-member governing Board of Selectmen serves as the commissioners of the Authority.

The town has maintained that it could not consider extending the sewer because a failing sewer line and related pumping station that would serve the site are inadequate to handle the additional sewage effluent the new housing would generate, and further said that an existing town policy precluded it from issuing conditional approvals.

The developer, Summit Saugatuck LLC of Southport has maintained since early 2016, when it negotiated a joint venture agreement with the Westport Housing Authority to build 155 units, that the town was not only authorized but obligated to issue a sewer extension approval conditioned upon the completion of the sewer and pump station upgrades.

In 2016, the Public Works Department set the schedule for the upgrades, which are now nearing completion. Summit’s property met all the criteria for receiving sewer service, including being within the Sewer District, and that the town’s sewage treatment plant having ample capacity.

Summit’s attorney, Timothy Hollister, said the judge’s decision supports Summit’s position that the town’s interests are fully protected by granting the extension conditioned on the upgrade being completed, and that the town produced no evidence that it has a long-standing policy against issuing conditional approvals. “There is no such policy,” he said.

Felix Charney, president of Summit Development, said: “The judge found that the town has been using the sewer system upgrade as a way of delaying creation of the moderate-income housing that is so desperately needed in Westport. In 2016, the town encouraged us to partner with the Westport Housing Authority and we came up with a great plan for 155 units including 70 moderate-income units. But when we presented the very plan the town had encouraged, the Town Board dropped its support and hid behind the sewer line issue as the way of blocking the development. Now, with the Housing Authority having lost its financing opportunity, we are proceeding on our own.”

Summit’s new proposal: 187 units.

Summit’s revised plan will feature 187 studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with 30 percent for moderate income households having maximum rent and household income restrictions for 40 years. The 8-acre site is centrally located with access to local stores, restaurants and services.  The community will be a transit oriented development (TOD), as it is within easy walking distance of the Saugatuck train station.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has been quoted saying that the court decision will have “very little practical impact on the proposed project’s timetable.”

Charney responds: “For years we have offered compromises, all of which have been rebuffed by the town. We have a great location near the train station, are in a neighborhood where there are other multi-family apartments and are using a classic New England-style architecture that fits beautifully within the community. The real question boils down to whether Westport wants to be an inclusive or an exclusive community?”

He said Summit had offered the town a series of smaller proposals including the one in partnership with the Westport Housing Authority, but the town chose to not commit.“They left us no alternative but to turn to the courts.”

Carol Martin, executive director of the Westport Housing Authority, said the authority supports the private sector developing housing in the town. “We have reached the point where we are no longer accepting additional applicants signing up with us. With approximately 1,000 names already on the list, there’s no point. We applaud private sector developers like Summit who are willing to step in and help to address the huge need we have in Westport.”

Most Entitled Parking Ever?

Sometimes, “06880” readers find a way to excuse an “entitled parking” photo.

The brake slipped. There was no one else nearby. It was raining.

I can’t imagine any way anyone can defend this parking job though, in Colonial Green.

It’s deliberate. It’s aggressive.

(Photo/Breno Donatti)

And — of course — there was no handicap permit.

Mike Greenberg: Heidi And Phoebe’s MVP

Mike Greenberg gets up early.

Just after 4 each morning, he heads to New York. There he hosts “Get Up!”, ESPN’s new TV show.

Mike Greenberg

He’s used to those hours. For years, he traveled an hour in the other direction — to Bristol — for the “Mike & Mike Show.”

But this is not a story about Greenberg’s ESPN gigs.

It’s about how his friendship with a Westport neighbor led to a novel, a children’s book, and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to fight cancer.

Greenberg and his wife Stacy moved here in 1998. On the first day of pre-school a couple of years later, she met Heidi Armitage Green. Both women had 2-year-olds. Both were pregnant again.

They became close friends. So did Mike and Heidi’s husband Adam, and eventually both families’ kids. They shared ski vacations, dinners, and daily life in Westport.

Heidi’s life ended far too early. She died in 2009 of breast cancer. She touched many lives in town, and her memorial service at the Westport Country Playhouse was packed.

Heidi Armitage Green (2nd from left) with (from left) friends Wendy Gardiner, Jane Green and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, in 2009. Heidi and Jane were not related. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Her death made Greenberg “sad and angry,” Greenberg says. And it spurred the ESPN personality to write his first novel.

“All You Could Ask For” had nothing to do with sports. It chronicled the friendship, love, heartbreak and renewal of 3 women.

Greenberg donated 100% of the proceeds to the V Foundation — the cancer research organization founded by legendary basketball coach/ESPN broadcaster Jim Valvano. Since its publication in 2013, Greenberg’s book has raised over $150,000.

Still, he wanted to do more.

As Stacy’s Instagram posts of Phoebe — the family dog — drew attention, the couple thought of collaborating on a children’s book featuring the pet.

Mike and Stacy Seponate Greenberg, with (of course) Phoebe.

Around the same time, Dick Vitale — Valvano’s longtime friend and fellow ESPN broadcaster — asked Greenberg to be an honoree at Vitale’s V Foundation gala.  He is deeply involved in pediatric cancer research.

Bingo! 

Mike and Stacy Greenberg’s new book — “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” — was released this month. This one is a children’s picture book.

Again, 100% of the proceeds go to the V Foundation. This time, they’re earmarked for pediatric cancer.

The plot is clever — and based loosely on the Greenberg family. A girl wants to play sports, but is afraid to try. Phoebe knows, though — from watching her master talk about sports on TV. So the dog teaches a group of kids how to play soccer and football.

It’s a perfect, uplifting, “go for it!” children’s tale. The artwork is sensational. And even though it’s pitched at 4-8-year-olds, Greenberg says it can be read to younger ones too.

Writing a kids’ book is a lot different than a novel, the author notes.

He and his wife had to figure out the narrator’s voice. How would a dog talk?

Then they had to choose the perfect story to tell. They went through a dozen or so ideas, before settling on the canine-teaches-kids idea.

“MVP” is a winner. As soon as it was released, it zoomed to #1 on Amazon’s New Kids book list, and #3 among Movers and Shakers.

The Greenbergs have remained close to Heidi’s husband Adam, and their kids Walker and Georgia. At dinner a couple of weeks ago they celebrated publication of the book, and Walker’s upcoming Staples High School graduation.

“The kids are doing great,” Greenberg says. “But it still bothers me that they’ve grown up the last 9 years without their mother.”

Meanwhile, he and Stacy are thinking ahead.

Phoebe the dog has plenty of adventures — in real Westport life, and on the pages of kids’ books. Is a series in the works?

“She could do a million things,” Greenberg says.

“And 100% of the proceeds would go to the V Foundation.”

(To buy “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy,” click here.)

 

 

 

 

Pic Of The Day #398

National Hall, and the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Boosting The Bayberry Bikers

The weather was not great. The miles were not easy.

But 92-year-old Paulette Weibel sat at the end of her driveway today, cheering on the hundreds of Bloomin’ Metric bicyclists who struggled up the Bayberry Lane hill.

She waved to every one.

And nearly every one waved back.

(Photos/Joyce Bottone)

Paulette’s daughter Joyce Bottone asked “06880” to give a shout-out to all those bikers who — despite their exhaustion — returned the wave.

But Paulette deserves our thanks too. Those guys (and gals) loved seeing you there!