Tag Archives: Aquarion Water Company

Roundup: Hybrid Schools, Hugh Jackman, Irrigation Ban, More


The current hybrid model — 2 days in person, 3 out for middle and high schoolers; morning and afternoon sessions for elementary-age youngsters — will continue at least through December.

Superintendent of schools Tom Scarice announced that decision last night, at a Board of Education meeting. It was driven by an uptick in coronavirus cases — a trend expected to rise this fall.

Public sentiment is divided. But Scarice called this “the prudent” and “correct” approach, based on current infection numbers, future models, the ability of educators to adapt to both in-person and distance learning, and input on how the hybrid model has worked so far.


Sure, it rained earlier this week. But Aquarion has announced a mandatory irrigation ban in southwest Fairfield County. The area — including Westport — has hit its 3rd “drought trigger” this fall.

Effective immediately, the ban includes automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers. (Hand-held watering, soaker hose and drip irrigation continue to be permitted for new plantings.)

The ban will help ensure “an adequate water supply for everyday needs, and give reservoirs time to recover for the spring,” the water company says.

Click here for water conservation tips.

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 Last Friday, Hugh Jackman stopped by the Remarkable Theater.

Okay, the Australian actor was not actually at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

But he did send a special message, introducing a screening of “The Greatest Showman” (and it had nothing to do with the music, by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul).

A video message from the movie’s creator and screenwriter Jenny Bicks also greeted the audience. The screening was in support of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Next up: “Playhouse at the Drive-in,” this Saturday night.


The Milken Institute Global Conference is in the midst of 8 days of inspiring talks and panels. This year’s topics are (of course) the global pandemic, and social injustice.

And (of course) it’s virtual. Over 4,000 of the world’s leading thinkers have tuned in.

There’s a solid Westport presence at the prestigious, 22nd annual event.

RTM member Kristin Schneeman is a director at FasterCures, part of the Milken Institute. Théo Feldman is an associate director, innovative finance there.

Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio was featured in a conversation, while the hedge fund’s CEO David McCormick spoke on a panel called “Leadership: Moving Beyond Conventional Thinking.

Feldman adds: “During last year’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, I met a fellow Westporter: Russell Sherman. We realized his sister — Suzanne Sherman Propp — taught my daughter at Greens Farms Elementary School. And his niece did a play with my other daughter.”


As the weather turns cool, a pair of local religious institutions are sponsoring a coat drive for Person to Person.

Clothing should be bagged, and sorted by gender and age (adult or youth). Donations can be dropped off in a blue bin labeled “Coat Donations” on the side elevator entrance at Saugatuck Church, or The Conservative Synagogue.

Donation pick-ups are available too. Email alexandrawalsh9@gmail.com for arrangements.


Speaking of help: last week’s Longshore Ladies 9 Hole Golf Association annual fundraiser brought in plenty of groceries for the Westport Woman’s Club food closet. The event also raised over $1,170, which will go to gift cards for food insecure Westporters.

Donations for the Longshore golf food drive.


And finally … in honor of Hugh Jackman’s Westport “appearance” (and Justin Paul’s music):

 

Roundup: Smart Switch; Water Tanks; Panera Bread; More


Chris Scherban is quite bright. He was Staples High School’s 2017 salutatorian; he’s now at Georgia Tech. He’s a veteran of many Westport Maker Faires.

He and 2 friends have just launched a smart home startup, called Theory. With it, anyone — including numbskulls — can make any light switch (indoors or out) smart. Chris’ switch goes on top of existing one — no tools needed. It works via an app, and an adhesive strip.

Theory can be controlled through iOS, Android, Alexa, Google Assistant, even his new website. 

Now they just have to bring it to market.

A few minutes ago, they launched a Kickstarter campaign. The goal is $45,000. To help, click here.

Chris Scherban


Site work has begun on the North Avenue water tanks. A row of old trees has been taken down, offering a few of the decades-old tank that few have ever seen.

As part of the agreement with neighbors, Aquarion will eventually provide extensive landscape restoration.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


When the Westport Panera location looked closed — and any mention of it vanished from their website — Bitsy Higgins reached out to their “customer care” team.

This morning, they emailed her:

Thanks for your patience the West port location will reopen on 7/7/2020. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Have a great day!”

That’s tomorrow. And the news will ensure that many Westporters (or “West porters”) have a great day.

The Panera Bread near the Southport line.


Westport was awash in red, white and blue this holiday weekend.

There was this too, at a home near downtown: a reminder of another color that is an important part of the fabric of America. (Hat tip: Hannah Spencer)


And finally … 22 years ago today — July 6, 1998 — Roy Rogers died of heart failure. He was 86 years old.

 

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.

Neighbors Oppose Aquarion’s Proposed North Avenue Water Tank

For nearly 2 years, on-again, off-again construction of a new water pump directly across from Staples High School slowed traffic and disrupted neighbors.

Now a group of North Avenue residents is alarmed at the next project. Aquarion wants to build 2 storage tanks — each holding 2.5 million gallons of water. They would replace the one current 1.5 million gallon tank, built in 1956.

Aquarion says the tanks are necessary to address future town growth. Fire chief Robert Yost supports the proposal.

Opponents disagree. Their petition to the Planning & Zoning Commission says:

We, concerned neighbors surrounding and adjacent to the area of the proposed water tank construction project on North Avenue, hereby urge you reject Aquarion Water Company’s Special Permit Application #17-043 to allow the installation of two 2.5 million above ground concrete water storage tanks at 63-67 North Avenue, Westport.

We believe that Aquarion’s construction of the tanks, along with their permanent siting on this property, will have a deleterious effect upon our quality of life, neighborhood safety, North Avenue traffic, visual landscape, and home values.

Our objections are as follows:

1)  The proposed 39 foot above-ground height of the two tanks far exceed the 24 foot height of the one existing tank, as well as the heights of all homes in the surrounding area. This will have a significantly negative impact on the character and quality of the residential neighborhood surrounding it, effectively changing its appearance from residential to commercial.

2)  As proposed, construction of these tanks will take 2 years but is very likely to take longer, based on Aquarion’s previous record of construction of its pump station, which was projected to take 6 months but actually took 18 months. During that time the ensuing noise of construction activity, all-night presence of high intensity construction lights, debris and operation of construction equipment had a severely negative impact on the peaceful enjoyment and quality of life of our neighborhood. Additionally, landscaping besides 6-foot trees, has never been restored since then. With the proposed project we expect this impact to be magnified due to its much larger scale, and Aquarion’s lack of concern for the neighborhood be repeated.

The Aquarion water tank, during recent pump station construction.

3)  Construction activity will severely exacerbate traffic conditions on North Avenue which already suffers from chronic traffic backups and congestion due to the daily volume of cars and school buses traveling to and from Bedford Middle School and Staples High School. This will make travel to and from the schools virtually impossible for both staff and students, and guaranteed to result in school delays.

4)  We are very concerned about the impact on the safety of this residential neighborhood, where so many children live and commute to school, due to the siting of two huge water tanks at this location. When at the June 28 informational meeting Aquarian was asked precautions have been taken regarding the storage of five million gallons of water in a residential neighborhood, Aquarion’s response was “nothing will ever happen.” We find this response irresponsible and unacceptable.

5)  It is highly objectionable that Aquarion did not adhere to the Site Plan and Special Permit requirements, as follows:

a) Aquarion informed and invited only 13 neighbors to the June 26 informational neighborhood meeting, instead of all 27 neighbors in the 250 feet radius from their property.

b) The neighbor list was not distributed to the neighbors in that invitation, as required.

c) Important details were not communicated during the meetings, such as the fact the application had already been filed.

6)  Siting of these highly visible, unsightly structures in our neighborhood will be unpleasant and will adversely affect our property values to a significant extent.\

7)  Given that Aquarion filed the Special Permit Application only on June 21, the last week of school when many families are involved in graduations or traveling, insufficient time has been given to neighbors to review and weigh in on the proposed project. Aquarion has thus far failed to provide answers to our questions including:

What is the basis for the project?
Capacity: Why is there a need to increase the current tank capacity by almost 400%, from 1.5 million gallons to 5.75 million? Population in Westport has been relatively stable since 1970, during which time we have not been made aware of any serious water shortages in our area.

Why situate two huge tanks next to each other in a residential area?
a) Alternative sites: What other options have been considered?

b) Can the second tank (if need has been proven) be situated on a different piece of land?

c) Why is such a large (62.5%) increase in tank height necessary?

A photo in the position shows the height of the proposed new water tanks.

Finally, we are dismayed and concerned that the Planning & Zoning Commission has agreed to review and presumably rule on this Special Permit Application along such a rushed time frame, with so little consideration given by Aquarion to neighbors who wish to review and weigh in on the application. Thus far, few of our questions have been answered to our satisfaction, and few of our concerns addressed. We would expect that in your roles as advocates for us, the Town’s residents, Planning and Zoning Commissioners will not allow this process to be rushed. We are counting on you to insure that our concerns are addressed and alternatives proposed.

In conclusion, we once again respectfully urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to reject Aquarion’s Special Permit application pending further review, consideration of alternatives, and input by Westport citizenry and other public officials.

Thank you for consideration of this very important matter. Yours truly,

North Avenue Neighbors including: Dr. Stefanie and Marc Lemcke; Michael and Kusumarn Fleming; Jennifer and Andrew Kobettisch; Claudia Steinman, Alfred and Mirian Popkin; David and Dawn Chaskin; Jodi and Russel Hardin; Jennifer and Jeffrey Watzman; Jennifer Stein, 12 Terhune Drive, and many concerned neighbors of Westport.

Aquarion’s Version Of Great News

Aquarion — the elegantly named local water company — recently sent a notice to customers.

“We are pleased to inform you…” it began.

Sweet! What was coming? News of a rate decrease?

Yeah, and I can walk to the planet Zork.

The wonderful news was that Aquarion is moving from quarterly to monthly billing!

Aquarion Water company

Thankfully, customers “will no longer need to wait up to 12 weeks or more to see how much water you’re using, what it’s costing you and how well your conservation efforts are working.”

Of course! I know from chatter around town that one of Westporters’ biggest concerns is we just don’t know how much water we use, on a monthly basis.

But wait! There’s more!

“Monthly billing will make it possible to detect and repair water leaks more quickly and provides greater flexibility from a budgeting perspective.”

So thank you, Aquarion! This new billing plan is very, very helpful.

Though if you truly want to help, bill us weekly.

Better yet: every time we turn on the faucet. Then we’d really find those leaks!