Tag Archives: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe

North Avenue Water Tank Agreement Reached; Site Work Begins Thursday

It’s tough to get anyone, anywhere, to agree on anything these days. And in Westport, a long-running, particularly thorny issue was the North Avenue water tank project.

Area residents worried about installation of big, tall tanks near their property, and traffic issues during construction across from Staples High School. On the other side: the need for upgraded facilities, plus Fire Department concerns about inadequate water supplies in town.

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

But town officials, Aquarion representatives, North Avenue neighbors and the state Public Utilities Regulatory Agency worked together to address water supply, public safety and construction concerns.

Today, the town and Aquarion announced that site preparation will begin Thursday (June 4), with the installation of erosion controls, temporary fencing and limited site clering.

The project itself includes construction of two water tanks (28 and 33 feet tall — lower than the original 40-foot plan); removal of an existing tank, and extensive landscape restoration. Sound dampening equipment will be installed. Work is expected to take 2 years.

Among the conditions of the settlement agreement is appointment of an ombudsman: former assistant town attorney Gail Kelly. She will act as a liaison between the neighbors, town officials and Aquarion, providing weekly construction updates to residents, and meeting with school and police personnel to insure minimal impact on North Avenue traffic. No road closures are planned.

In addition, an independent site monitor will ensure permit compliance.

PURA members and protesters at the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site in December, 2018.

Construction hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with pre-arranged extensions as required.

First Selectman Jim Marpe thanked all parties for their cooperation, along with state legislators Will Haskell, Tony Hwang, Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg.

Click here for construction status, work schedules and project updates.

Police Chief, 1st Selectman React To Minneapolis Death

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued this statement today:

We certainly can be counted among the many municipal and law enforcement leaders who were horrified and deeply disappointed by the recent tragedy in Minneapolis.

The Westport Police Department, like so many others across our country, has worked diligently to build relationships and trust within our communities; a trust which we and our national partners in law enforcement recognize must be incrementally earned and always carefully maintained. Fostering this trust among our community through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority.

During difficult times such as these, it is important to reaffirm that the Westport Police Department remains resolutely committed to pursuing the goals of its mission statement through the fair and equitable treatment of all of those we encounter.

Marpe noted: “Westport’s commitment to fairness, equality and social justice is stronger than ever, and is reflected daily in the actions of our Police Department, as well as in all town departments and activities.”

No Memorial Day Parade? No Problem! Town Sets Virtual Celebration.

On Monday we won’t see military veterans, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, politicians, Little Leaguers, Suzuki violinists, or the Y’s Men’s fantastic float.

We’ll miss crowds along the parade route, a grand marshal waving to crowds, stirring speeches and mournful “Taps” across from Town Hall.

COVID has knocked out Westport’s Memorial Day traditions.

That’s okay. We’ll have a virtual Memorial Day parade and ceremony on Monday anyway.

At 9 a.m., a 17-minute video will be broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. It will also be available on the town website (westportct.gov), and posted on the Town of Westport Facebook page.

The video will loop all day on TV after its 9 a.m. debut. It will be available on Facebook forever too, it seems.

..A classic scene from Westport’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

1st Selectman Jim Marpe thanks the Bedford Middle School band and town band teachers, Police Department Honor Guard, and artists and crew for making the production possible.

He adds:

As Memorial Day weekend arrives during this difficult time, it is as important as ever to take a few moments to remember those servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Obviously, the current conditions in the world dictate how we memorialize and honor those veterans. In the upcoming days, I encourage everyone to reflect and give thanks to the men and women who served and continue to serve in the military. We cannot celebrate together, but we can collectively in spirit celebrate their heroism in our own individual ways.

Two years ago, grand marshal Larry Aasen spoke about the horrors of war.He’ll join many Westporters on Monday, honoring the holiday virtually. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Marpe: Beach Reopening Went Well, But …

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

This weekend’s reopening plan for the Compo Beach and Soundview parking lots, as well as reopening of play at Longshore golf course with restrictions, was successful.

In general everyone was respectful, aware, accommodating of social distancing, and had masks available when not able to maintain 6-foot distances. I appreciate the efforts everyone made, including residents and town staff, that helped insure a positive outcome.

There remain, however, some who choose not to adhere to the CDC recommendations. To be successful in our reopening efforts, we must self-monitor, and request that everyone comply with the recommendations outlined for the general health and well-being of all.

We are in uncharted territory, and gentle reminders to those around us are encouraged. Remember: Whenever you leave your home, you wear a mask to protect your neighbors, and they wear one to protect you. Please have a mask readily available (around your neck, not in your pocket) and be prepared to carefully pull it up and over your mouth and nose at any time.

Parents, please remind your children that the rules apply to them as well. Together, we can meet the challenges that face us all during these unprecedented times.

Compo Beach was quite empty yesterday (Sunday) morning. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Re-Open Advisory Team:

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team will hold a public meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, May 19, 11:00 a.m.). It will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Emails to the Advisory Team may be sent to reopenteam@westportct.gov.

For information on town services and facilities status reopening plans: www.westportct/reopen

Restaurants Re-Opening:

The town of Westport will streamline and expedite the process for applicants seeking approval of outdoor dining. The application form and a detailed description of the rules will be available on the town’s P&Z website this week (www.westportct.gov/pnz).

Applications will be approved with an expected response time within 10 days of the receipt date. The Planning & Zoning Commission has waived requirements for hearings on these applications, to allow for an expedited reopening of outdoor dining in Westport.

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team is working with Westport retailers and the Selectman’s Office for administrative approvals on the use of town property for the outdoor display of retail goods.

As Westport begins to reopen, town officials are working on rules for the outdoor display of retail goods. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Tax Relief Program Reminder

The tax relief program application for April’s tax payment is due this Friday (May 22). The deadline for the July payment is July 1. Click here for more information.

Westport Weston Health District Update

Westport-Weston Health District executive director Mark Cooper reports:

Phase 1 of reopening Connecticut businesses begins next week. The WWHD has been hard at work contributing to both state and town planning efforts, as well as training for the anticipated surge in testing and contact tracing.

Widespread testing and contact tracing are key components of a successful and steady reopening process. Our community health staff will perform contact tracing for our community. While some municipalities across Connecticutrely on the State Department of Public Health to do the tracing, the WWHD expects to have the ability to manage the volume of calls in-house.

From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Westport and Weston, WWHD staff has been contact tracing infected individuals. We anticipate that the number of positive tests will increase with widespread testing, so capacity has been augmented accordingly.

Staff will be joined in the efforts by the Westport Public School nurses, who have generously volunteered to help our community with this important work. Additionally, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have answered the call for assistance. We are grateful for all of these knowledgeable volunteers.

This team effort will enable the Health District to reach out to impacted individuals to educate them on safe practices, self-isolation measures, and to answer any questions.

Marpe: As Compo, Longshore Open, Cooperation Needed

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Tomorrow we reopen the Compo Beach and Soundview parking lots at 50 percent capacity, for Westporters and Westonites with valid 2020 beach emblems. The golf course at Longshore Park will be open as well, with restrictions in place.

I’m excited that you’ll have more opportunity for being outdoors, and for enjoying our wonderful parks and beaches.

But for the reopening of our beaches and golf course to succeed, caution and mutual respect are essential.

Key requirements related to the reopening of our beaches will help keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. Following these recommendations is imperative so that the state’s rules for social distancing and limiting group sizes are implemented.

Even at the beach, you must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others who are not members of your immediate household. Face coverings are required if you are in a position where you are not able to socially distance. You should have a mask ready.

A typical scene recently: Compo Beach being groomed for a new season. The rules will be different though, when the parking lots open tomorrow. (Photo/Karen Como)

Be aware that beach capacity will be limited to 50 percent of the parking lot capacity.

Parks & Recreation staff will control traffic at the parking lot gates, so you may be denied admission into the lots when you get there. We will have signage at key locations on the approaches to Compo Beach to warn you of this before you arrive at the beach. You may have to make alternate plans, return at a later time, or visit on another day.

You may bring your own umbrellas, chairs, blankets and towels, and enjoy the beach. However, please leave tents, pop-ups, Frisbees and sports equipment at home. We are not allowing any type of activity that has the potential for people encroaching on others.

The playground, basketball courts, skate park, volleyball courts, pickleball courts and softball field remain closed. Port-a-johns will be available, and held to a stringent cleaning and sanitization protocol by our Parks maintenance staff.

There are no tables available in any location. Grills have been removed, and bringing your own grill is not permitted. All of this is being done in an effort to limit gatherings.

Tables and grills have been removed from Compo Beach. (Photo/Dan Woog)

These restrictions may be changed over time based on guidance from the governor, federal, state and local authorities, as well as community compliance and experience. We ask for your patience and adherence to the established rules.

Over the past several weeks, Longshore Club Park has been heavily used by walkers, joggers, cyclists and others. With the golf course open, these types of activities, even along the roadways, pose additional safety concerns from errant golf balls. For your safety, please take part in these types of activities at other locations. In addition, starting tomorrow, a valid 2020 beach emblem is required for parking in some Longshore Club Park lots.

Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents. A good rule of thumb: Act in public as if you have the virus, and that anyone you encounter has it too. We request that you follow the rules and guidelines closely. Remember that everyone in town is relying on your compliance. Strict adherence to social distancing and face covering requirements is imperative if we are to keep the beaches and golf course open.

During these unusual times we need to work together to ensure the health and safety of our community, as well as to ensure that the effort to reopen our parks and beaches is successful.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Today Is Westport’s 2nd Annual Gatsby Day. Party Time!

Exactly one year ago today, Westport celebrated its first-ever Gatsby Day.

May 14 was the 99th anniversary of the day a young couple signed a 5-month lease for a modest gray cottage on South Compo Road.

It was not big news. In fact, it took the Westporter-Herald — the local newspaper that chronicled every visitor, gathering and event in town — until the next month to run this small item:

“F. Scott Fitzgerald, a writer, has leased the Wakeman Cottage near Compo Beach.”

The iconic (and Photoshopped) shot of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of their Westport home.

But the honeymoon home of Fitzgerald and his new bride Zelda — they’d gotten married on April 3 –had a profound impact on both. It appears in more of their collective works than any other place they lived.

With good reason. The couple drank and partied all summer long.

In case you missed last year’s Gatsby Day event, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe read a declaration. Richard Webb and Robert Steven Williams — Westporters who have study Westport’s impact on Fitzgerald, and keep it alive via a documentary and book —  cracked a bottle of champagne. One other person showed up to watch.

Celebrating last year’s first-ever Gatsby Day are (from left) Robert Steven Williams, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (with proclamation), Richard Webb, and Westport Museum of History & Culture executive director Ramin Ganeshram. (Photo/David Matlow for WestportNow)

The cottage that once abutted larger-than-life multimillionaire Frederick E. Lewis’ property (now Longshore Club Park) still stands. Today it’s a handsome home.

It was supposed to have been the site of Westport’s 2nd annual Gatsby Day. A big celebration was planned foro today. After all, “centennial” sounds a lot more impressive than “99th anniversary.”

The COVID virus scuttled all that. So Webb, Williams, the one or two random people who may have showed up today, and all the rest of us will have to do the next best thing: enjoy last year’s part-legalistic, part-whimsical proclamation.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at the Compo Beach bathhouses, in the summer of 1920. (Courtesy of F. Scott Fitzgerald Trustees and Richard Webb)

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS COME – GREETINGS:

Whereas, it was an age of miracles. It was an age of art. It was an age of excess and it was an age of satire.

Whereas, It was also the year Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came to Westport, 1920.

Whereas, 99 years ago, on this very day, the Fitzgeralds signed a lease right here at 244 South Compo Road. Owned by the Wakeman family, this New England colonial stood defiantly then, as Scott once wrote. And today, this façade looks very much like it did when they lived here.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here, on South Compo Road.

Whereas, The Fitzgeralds spent their honeymoon months here. Both Scott and Zelda would repurpose this Westport experience in fiction and essays. Zelda would even paint this home on a lampshade that showcased places that meant something special.

Whereas, most remarkable, the seeds of The Great Gatsby are here on Compo Road.

Whereas, we are gathered here today to celebrate the impact of two remarkable cultural icons that launched in Westport a revolutionary American literary movement that has influenced in innumerable ways every aspect of the creative life of the United States.

Party at 244 Compo Road South! From left: Tana, their butler; John D. Williams,  Broadway actor, director and producer; Zelda Fitzgerald; John Jean Nathan, author and critic; F. Scott Fitzgerald; Princeton classmate Alexander McKaig. According to historian Richard Webb, Zelda may have been having an affair with Nathan at the time. McKaig kept a diary of his Westport visits, an excellent window into their time here. (Courtesy of F. Scott Fitzgerald Trustees and Richard Webb)

NOW, THEREFORE, I, James Marpe, by the authority vested in me by the laws of Westport, do hereby proclaim May 14, 2019, as

Great Gatsby Day

So that residents of Westport and fans of the Fitzgeralds, far and near, can celebrate the joy and intrigue that comprised their stay here, back in 1920.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the Seal of (governing body) this 14th day of  May, in the year of 2019  that we are here to mark the inauguration of the first annual Great Gatsby Day in Westport.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, resplendent in matching white suits, ready to leave Westport to visit Zelda’s parents in Montgomery, Alabama. According to Richard Webb, 
“a woman wearing such a suit at that time was considered so scandalous they were denied entry into at least one hotel on the trip south.” (Courtesy of F. Scott Fitzgerald Trustees and Richard Webb)

Marpe: “A Good Week In Westport”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

This has been a good week in Westport. The rate of growth for confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to slow, and across the state the number of hospitalizations continues to fall.

The RTM passed the town and school budgets for fiscal year 2021, resulting in an overall increase of less than half of a percent. The town’s AAA rating from Moody’s has been reaffirmed. We are also pleased to announce that the town’s tax collections this fiscal year are on target and have not been significantly impacted by the virus. As a reminder, you have until May 22 to apply for a COVID-19 related tax deferment on your April installment payment.

The state is working toward reopening much of the private sector. Later today, we expect new guidance from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which will cover aspects of reopening salons, barbershops, restaurants, offices and other businesses.

Businesses like Joe’s Pizza, Le Rouge Aartisan Chocolates, Ron’s Barber Shop and Westport Wellness Massage look forward to new “reopening” regulations.

Westport will largely follow the state’s reopening strategy, as communicated by Governor Lamont. We have launched the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team, which held its first public meeting on Wednesday. Liaisons were named for each local business segment, and are actively reaching out to business owners.

The team is pleased to have Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Westport resident and former FDA commissioner, share his perspectives on reopening at the Monday, May 11 meeting (11 a.m.). Westport’s state legislative delegation will also attend, to update the team on the state’s plan. You can watch this meeting via live streaming on our website, or Cablevision channel 79.

A week from today we will open the parking facilities at Compo Beach at 50% capacity, and the Longshore golf course will be open for play (with certain restrictions). This is an opportunity to get out of the house, enjoy the warmer weather, and perhaps get some physical activity. But remember the importance of maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet at all times, and you must bring or wear a mask if you anticipate difficulties achieving that.

Compo Beach, this week. (Photo/Yvonne Claveloux)

In the coming week we will announce the specific rules and regulations related to the beach opening. We encourage you to follow them, and remind you that everyone in town is relying on your compliance. Social distancing and wearing masks is imperative if we are to keep the beaches and golf course open.

Public health experts have determined that wearing a cloth face covering may prevent transmission by an infected person. The use of appropriate personal protective equipment in public places is of critical interest to all of us. If you are in a public place and cannot maintain a safe social distance of at least 6 feet, then you must cover your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face covering. The best advice is to have a mask available at all times if you are outside of your home, and most certainly when you are at our beaches and parks. I keep mine around my neck when I step outside so it’s ready to go if necessary.

The town of Westport has procured 25,000 face masks, with the help of the Grace Farms Foundation in New Canaan. We plan to distribute them to the general public Tuesday morning.  Further details will follow on Monday.

Please continue to stay connected with the town as the COVID-19 response and reopening evolves. For updates, please check the town website or the ReOpening site.

I want to wish all of you a great Mother’s Day weekend. Don’t forget: You’re not stuck at home; you’re safe at home.

Marpe Offers Details On ReOpen Westport Team

On Friday, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced the formation of a ReOpen Westport Advisory Team.

This afternoon he provided more details on the group. Their charge is to advise him “on issues relating to the reopening of our local economy and community as we navigate the risks of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.”

The team includes:

  • Jennifer Tooker, 2nd Selectwoman (chair)
  • John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration, Westport Public Schools
  • Mark Cooper, director, Westport Weston Health District
  • Jen Fava, director, Westport Parks & Recreation Department
  • Sara Harris, operations director, Town of Westport
  • Foti Koskinas, chief of the Westport Police Department
  • Mary Young, director, Planning & Zoning Department
  • Randy Herbertson, president, Westport Downtown Merchants Association
  • Matthew Mandell,  executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Brian Stern, Chair, Board of Finance.

2nd selectman Jennifer Tooker, ReOpen Westport Advisory Team chair

The Advisory Team will focus on working with the local business community. It will not make regulatory decisions.

Westport will “generally follow the guidelines issued by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group and Governor Lamont,” Marpe says.

“However, there will likely be operational issues that will arise with our local business owners through this gradual reopening phase. The Advisory Team will seek feedback from them and assist in their understanding of the guidelines as the businesses transition through this uncertain period.”

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team will seek input from local business and community leaders in these areas, though more may be added later:

  • Real estate
  • Retailers
  • Medical offices
  • Restaurants, bars and delis
  • Salons and spas
  • Offices
  • Banks
  • Fitness facilities
  • Houses of worship
  • Day camps
  • Day care and preschool
  • Grocers
  • Liquor stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Dealerships and auto repair shops.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA is sure to be one of the groups providing input to the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team.

Marpe adds, “This team of operational experts will be in communication with our local business owners in an effort to guide them through issues that will undoubtedly arise in the coming months.”

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team’s first public meeting/work session is this Wednesday (May 6, 11 a.m.). It will be live streamed on www.westportct.gov, and aired on Cablevision Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. The public is invited to view the meeting.

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team’s email is reopenteam@westportct.gov.

Health District Chief Addresses COVID Numbers, Tests And More

As of yesterday, Westport had 233 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 13 COVID-associated deaths.

Today, Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper said that while all data is preliminary, the number of cases and associated deaths have increased, while the number of hospitalizations has decreased.

Day to day changes reflect newly reported cases, deaths, and tests administered up to a week prior. Reported deaths can lag by up to 10 days due to issues with data collection. COVID-associated death numbers may go up or down, as medical providers and epidemiologists continue to refine case definitions and audit autopsy reports.

Cooper said that early efforts to flatten the curve by social distancing are having positive impacts. Westport and Weston’s case rates (829 and 615, respectively per 100,000) are lower than many nearby communities.

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right) and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at a March 11 press conference.

Cooper urged continued vigilance: Stay safe and at home whenever possible. Avoid social gatherings. Maintain at least 6 feet of separation from others, and wear a mask or cloth face covering in public.

Cooper noted that the WWHD is seeking rapid result saliva test kits, for an easier, less invasive method of checking infection status. These tests can be repeated multiple times, and are safer for health care providers because of reduced risk of exposure. Turnaround time for results is much faster as well, sometimes just 24 hours.

While the Health District looks to transition to the new rapid result saliva test process, there are currently a number of sites where concerned citizens who fit the criteria for testing can be tested. For a complete list and contact information, click here.

Cooper also provided these CDC guidelines. A face mask should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

A man and his mask

First Selectman Jim Marpe added, “We appreciate your continued patience and persistence as we all work together to assess, manage and combat the coronavirus. In cooperation with surrounding communities and under the direction of state and local health officials, and state government directives, our town departments are working on an effective re-opening strategy that will not reverse or diminish the progress made so far.

“As we continue to work though this crisis, please be sure to look after your families and friends as well as yourself. Together we will get through this, and remember you’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.”

RTM Approves Local Tax Deferment Program

Last night, the RTM approved 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s tax relief deferment program.

The program — worked out with the help of a number of town officials — acts as an extended grace period on tax payments for Westport taxpayers suffering financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Eligible taxpayers can utilize the program for their April and July tax bills on real estate, personal property, motor vehicles and sewer assessments.

Payments made any time within 3 months from each bill’s due date will not incur interest charges or penalties.

Applications for the deferment program must include one of these hardships:

  • Household has suffered a reduction in income of at least 20 percent due to COVID-19.
  • Business or nonprofit revenue from March, 2020 to June, 2020 is expected to be reduced by at least 30 percent compared to the same time last year.
  • For landlords: Income is significantly reduced.

The tax deferment program does not forgive tax payments. Late penalties will apply retroactively, at 18% annually or 1.5% per month.

Applicants must submit documentation. Deadlines are May 22 for April 1 taxes, and July 1 for July 1 taxes. Click here for the form, and other information.

Because Town Hall is closed to the public, residents with questions should call 203-341-1147 or email TaxRelief@WestportCT.Gov.

NOTE: Banks and mortgage services that hold tax payments in escrow must continue to pay the town when the taxes are due, even if the homeowner participates in a moratorium on mortgage payments.