Tag Archives: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe

Jim Marpe: “I Proudly Represent All Westporters”

Earlier today, I posted an open letter to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Prill Boyle praised him for his civility, intelligence, caring, community building and fiscal prudence — then wondered why he did not speak up against “the values of today’s Republican party.”

He responds:

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to today’s “Open Letter.”

As 1st selectman I proudly represent all Westporters regardless of their individual party affiliations, points of view on particular issues, or whether or not they shake my hand. As much as physically possible, I stand ready to meet with constituents or respond to their emails and phone calls in order to hear their ideas and address their concerns.

There are nearly 4,500 registered Republicans living in Westport. Shaming our neighbors because you presume they do not share all or some of the same political beliefs is wrong.

Westport prides itself on being tolerant and inclusive. We are (or should be) Republicans and Democrats based on a set of principles rather than loyalty or fealty to one individual, including President Trump. It has been my experience in the past 5 years as first selectman that our individual principles as a community have much more in common than they differ.

At last year’s “06880” party, incumbent 1st Selectman Jim Marpe posed with Democratic opponent Melissa Kane. He won the election; she is now 3rd selectwoman. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

As Westport’s 1st selectman and a former Board of Education member and vice chairman, I have chosen to “speak up” through actions that impact Westport and its neighbors. I have supported programs that impact arts and intellectual activities and that address the social services needs of our community as well as neighboring communities that may be less fortunate.

I have committed Westport to an environmentally sustainable future through our “Net Zero by 2050” initiatives. And I practice fiscal prudence on behalf of all Westporters.

Most importantly, my administration is committed to continue to make Westport an attractive and welcoming community in which to live, work and operate a business, regardless of the continuing challenges that the State of Connecticut faces.

In order to affect change, we must have open dialogue. Demonizing someone because of his or her party affiliation, or presumed political beliefs, is not only unfair, it is also self-defeating. In Westport we can and must continue our tradition of listening to and respecting each other – not just when we agree, but more importantly when we differ.

And I will continue to do my best to address Westport’s challenges by reflecting what I believe are the broadly held principles of local governance and process, and a community commitment to tolerance, inclusiveness and civility.

[OPINION] Prill Boyle To Jim Marpe: “I Wish You Would Speak Up”

Last week’s “06880” blog party was a celebration of all things Westport. It was a chance for everyone in town to meet, eat, drink and chill, in a community environment at our favorite beach. And, as I always say, it was non-partisan.

But these days, politics intrudes everywhere. Prill Boyle — a longtime “06880” reader, 1972 Staples High School graduate, and the author of “Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women” — saw something that made her think.

And — nearly a week later — write. 

Here’s an open letter she’s written, to 1st selectman Jim Marpe:

Prill Boyle (Photo/Suzanne Sheridan)

When I witnessed my friend Rozanne Gates refusing to shake your hand at the beach last Thursday simply because you are a Republican, I was appalled.

The more I thought about it though, the more I came to admire both her principled stance and your even-handed response. I applaud both of you for being civil to one another.

Although I will always shake your hand if you extend it to me, I too question why you align yourself with today’s Republican party.

From what I have seen, you are a highly intelligent man, not someone who is anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-environment.

From what I have seen, you are a caring husband and father, not someone who would condone separating mothers and children at our southern border and shutting down Planned Parenthood.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe at last week’s “06880” party.

From what I have seen, you are someone who builds strong coalitions, not someone who would undermine NATO and the European Union.

Finally, from what I have seen, you are someone who is fiscally prudent, not someone who would give a deficit-financed tax cut to the rich while attempting to de-fund a healthcare program for poor children that saves society money in the long run.

In short, from what I have seen you are a good man, a person who values honesty, decency and community. In short, you don’t seem like a person who would tacitly condone the values of today’s Republican party.

So I wish you would speak up.

Cribari Bridge Advisory Committee Formed

The William F. Cribari/Bridge Street Bridge saga rolls on.

The 1st Selectman’s office just sent out this press release:

The state Department of Transportation recently announced the creation of a Project Advisory Committee for input and guidance as the project to rebuild the William F. Cribari Bridge advances.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 18 (6:30 p.m., Town Hall Auditorium).

According to the DOT:

CTDOT is initiating preliminary engineering work to address structural and functional issues affecting the bridge. As part of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act, an Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Evaluation will be conducted in order to determine the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various design alternatives. The purpose of the EA/EIE is to explore options that accommodate safe vehicular, bicycle, pedestrian, and marine travel, are resilient to the changing shoreline climate and environmental conditions and consider the historic character of the bridge.

The Cribari Bridge does open. The other day, a mechanical issue kept it in this position for a while. (Photo/David Squires)

Based on the concerns and needs of the community, the Department has identified a group of project stakeholders whose expertise may provide helpful input into a variety of issues, including safety, mobility, environmental concerns, and historic considerations. A Project Advisory Committee is being developed to provide critical input and assist the Department in its decision-making process. Other stakeholders may be identified during the study process and incorporated in the PAC as warranted.

The PAC will meet at key milestones during project development in fulfillment of its role.

Local organizations, businesses and government entities that CT DOT has identified in its initial PAC roster include:

Town of Westport:

  •             First Selectman
  •             Fire Department
  •             Police Department
  •             Public Works Department
  •             Conservation Department
  •             Historic District Commission
  •             Shellfish Commission
  •             Harbormaster
  •             Boating Advisory Committee
  •             Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Also:

  • Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Westport Preservation Alliance
  • Bridgebrook Marina
  • All Seasons Marine Works

State and regional entities that have been invited include:

  •             CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
  •             CT Commuter Rail Council
  •             CT Trust for Historic Preservation
  •             CT Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound
  •             Federal Highway Administration
  •             State Historic Preservation Office
  •             Western CT Council of Governments

The Selectman’s office suggested a number of additional organizations and individuals to be included in the PAC when it was made aware of the formation in late June. To date however, CT DOT did not include those groups in its initial invitation, but noted that other stakeholders may be identified and added to the PAC.

The future of the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is central to any discussion of the future of Saugatuck.
(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

First Selectman Jim Marpe commented, “The creation of this PAC is part of an ongoing environmental assessment that is required due to both the historic nature of the bridge and its location over the Saugatuck River. It should be stressed that this step in the process is not a sign of any intent or decisions regarding the ultimate design or rehabilitation of the bridge. Neither is it a reflection on any conclusions that may be made by the Town to accept the State’s offer to rehabilitate the bridge and turn its ownership over to the Town, as proposed by CT DOT in 2017.”

Marpe continued, “I recognize the Cribari Bridge contributes to the historic character of the Town of Westport and in particular, the Saugatuck community. This will be an important opportunity for the members of the PAC and eventually, the whole community to once again offer its opinions and observations related to the bridge and any environmental impacts that may result from its rebuild or rehabilitation.  The meeting on July 18 is open to the public, although CT DOT management has indicated that public input will be limited at this session.  It is unclear how much input or level of participation will be accepted from those individuals and organizations not identified as members of the PAC in either this or subsequent meetings that will be organized and conducted by the CT DOT.”

Comments or questions regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment process, the formation of the Project Advisory Committee and the agenda/conduct of the July 18 meeting should be directed to CT DOT’s Project Manager, Priti S. Bhardwaj by email (Priti.Bhardwaj@ct.gov) or phone (860- 594-3311).

Another view of the William F. Cribari Bridge. It’s interesting that everyone photographs it from the Riverside Avenue side. (Photo/Michael Champagne)

Westporters Push Against Cancer

The Levitt Pavilion was packed yesterday — with push-up people.

The view from the Levitt Pavilion stage.

Hundreds of men, women and kids — from super-jacked to usually sedentary — did as many push-ups as they could in an hour.

First Selectman Jim Marpe banged out his. So did Chief of Police Foti Koskinas. And Paul Newman’s grandson.

Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Push Against Cancer founder Andy Berman.

Which was fitting, because all the money raised goes to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the fantastic getaway for boys and girls with cancer and other serious diseases. It was founded, of course, by Westport’s own Paul Newman.

The 9th annual Push Against Cancer raised well over $120,000 — a record. That makes nearly $500,000 since the event began.

Congrats to founder and mastermind Andy Berman. To the many police and firefighters who helped make it happen.

And, of course, to everyone who participated — and feels very, very sore today.

(Hat tip: photographers Sabine Foreman, Andrew Kindt, Adam Vengrow)

[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.”

Judge Rules Against Town In Hiawatha Sewer Case

Development of multi-family housing in Saugatuck moved one step closer to reality yesterday.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Schluger announced his ruling: The town should grant an application to extend the town sewer, to serve a proposed development on Hiawatha Lane.

Two years ago, Summit Development proposed building 155 rental units on 5.34 acres. Hiawatha Lane is currently a narrow road accessible by West Ferry Lane off Saugatuck Avenue, between I-95 exit 17 and the railroad station parking lot.

Hiawatha Lane includes many rental properties — and some of the lowest housing prices in Westport. The land was originally developed to house immigrant workers who built the railroad.

Housing would include 85 market-rate units, and 70 “affordable” units, as defined by Connecticut’s 8-30 g regulation.

A rendering of the proposed Hiawatha Lane development.

The court ruled that the extension request should be granted, subject to a condition that a construction permit not be issued until repair work to the force main under the Saugatuck River, and Pump Station #2, was complete. The Public Works Department anticipates construction will be done by late summer.

The Westport Board of Selectmen — acting in their capacity as the Westport Pollution Control Authority — had denied one request for the sewer extension because repair work had not yet begun, and a second request because construction was not yet finished.

The court said that the WPCA could in fact grant conditional approval, provided no work begins until the repair work is done.

Hiawatha Lane is a narrow street, filled with homes that are modest by Westport standards. It’s accessible only via West Ferry Lane off Saugatuck Avenue, next to the I-95 eastbound entrance/exit ramp.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe said, “I am disappointed by the decision. But even if the court had ruled in the town’s favor, the WPCA would have no discretion to deny Summit’s application after the improvements and repairs … were complete and certified. Ultimately, the court’s decision will have very little practical impact on the proposed project’s timetable.”

#GregStrong

When Patty Strauss’ son Greg suffered a traumatic injury last month — he broke his back cliff-jumping, but lost his right foot below the knee — all of Westport rushed to help.

We should. In over 20 years as town clerk, Patty has helped nearly everyone here.

Folks in Town Hall were especially affected. She’s just one official among many, but her work is important to every department. Her warmth and generosity has impacted every office.

Everyone loves Patty.

On Friday, nearly everyone in Town Hall wore Virginia Tech colors: maroon and burnt orange. Greg graduated from there just 4 months ago, and was working  his dream job — crewing on a Caribbean yacht — when he was injured.

Showing the Virginia Tech colors for Greg Strauss.

They added messages of encouragement and inspiration. Those are small gestures, but they boosted Greg’s spirits — and of course Patty and her husband Ed’s too.

#GregStrong — started by Greg’s cousin — has caught on. Patty’s assistant Colleen Tarpey ordered stickers that will be sold soon.

Many Town Hall employees and Westporters have contributed to a GoFundMe campaign, for Greg’s mounting medical expenses. We’re all giving back to Patty, in whatever way we can.

Even non-employees sent best wishes.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing Virginia Tech orange — joined the chorus of encouragement.

Students, Selectmen Speak In Hartford On Bump Stock Bill

More than a dozen Westporters traveled to Hartford today. They testified before the Judiciary Committee, supporting a bill that bans bump stocks and related rifle accessories.

Alert “06880” reader Jaimie Dockray reports that at least 11 students were at the state capitol. Lily Kane testified. Kaela Dockray submitted written testimony. She and her mom had to catch a train to Washington for tomorrow’s March For Our Lives.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and Third Selectman Melissa Kane both testified. “They were awesome,” Jaimie Dockray says.

“The chairman of the committee asked their party affiliations, knowing they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. When asked if they agreed on this issue, they emphatically answered ‘yes.’ They said their only problem was keeping their combined testimony to under 3 minutes.”

Lily Kane is interviewed at the Capitol. (Photo/Jaimie Dockray)

Kudos!

Over 1,700 Westporters are still without power. Restoration continues slowly.

Wednesday’s storm — the 2nd in 5 days — took its toll on much of New York and New England.

But as we’re recovering from that double whammy, let’s realize how good we actually have it.

Our public officials and town employees really earned their pay this week. In no particular order, we owe huge thanks to:

Westport Police Department. They’ve been vigilant in responding to calls, assessing damage, helping work crews, and keeping the town safe and secure. They’re stretched thin — but every man and woman on the force responded. (NOTE to impatient citizens: Those traffic barricades are up for a reason. Click on the video from New Jersey below — but beware. It’s gruesome.)

Westport Fire Department. At the height of the storm Wednesday night, they answered literally hundreds of calls. From live wires and fallen trees to actual fires, they covered the town. They were often the first eyes on an incident, and they coordinated expertly with other town offices. On Thursday and through today, they’ve kept going. Their red trucks — and the firefighters on them — are a truly welcome sight. And they seem to be everywhere.

Public Works Department. They’re the guys who are actually out there, working all day and night. They plow the roads, remove the trees, and do all the other dirty work that enables the rest of us to carry on with our lives. It’s tough, demanding, physical work. And they haven’t had a break in days.

First Selectman Jim Marpe. He’s the man at the top. His calm, efficient yet commanding presence has inspired everyone else — at the emergency operations center, and in the field — to do their jobs. Jim believes in public service, and he makes sure every public official serves the town well.

Everyone else in emergency operations too. I don’t know everyone’s names. But quietly and effectively, they managed back-to-back storms with professionalism and care.

Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer. She had to make difficult, irrevocable, damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t choices about closing school.  That comes with the territory. But she went above and beyond, communicating often and clearly about how and why she made those decisions. Today she threaded the needle — opening school, but not penalizing students for absences, and postponing all tests and quizzes. She “weathered” criticism with grace — and kept thousands of youngsters safe.

School maintenance staffs. They shoveled tons of heavy snow, and did all the other work, to ensure that schools could open today. They were there at the height of the storm. No one saw what they did — but today we noticed how much they did.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten other key men and women in town. If you know anyone I’ve missed, click “Comments” below.

Public Works takes care of downed trees. Police put up barricades. It takes a village to help our town weather 2 storms since last Friday. (Photo/Janette Kinnally)

Watch Press Conference On Staples Incident Here

THANKS to the Town of Westport’s Facebook page for providing this video (livestreamed by Jonathan Kaner). It includes 1st selectman Jim Marpe, superintendent of schools Dr. Colleen Palmer, Staples High School principal James D’Amico, and Westport police chief Foti Koskinas.