Tag Archives: Eversource

Roundup: Trash Clean-up, Energy Costs, Pollinators …

Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup gave an incorrect date for the next trash clean-up, at the Sherwood Island Connector I-95 Exit 18 commuter parking lot.

It’s this Sunday — not Saturday — at 11 a.m.

Bring trash bags and work gloves. There’s plenty to do!

Westporters picked up tons of trash last weekend at the Greens Farms train station. This Sunday at 11 a.m.: the commuter parking lot on the Sherwood Island connector.

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The Westport Transit District and Steam again team up to offer free coffee to people who take Wheels2U to the Saugatuck train station. The offer is good this Friday (January 13) and next Tuesday, (January 17).

Just ride Wheels2U to the station between 6 and 10:30 a.m., and show proof of the ride at the Steam counter.

For more information on Wheels2U — the home-to-the-station ride service — click here.

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David Pogue got a note from his neighborhood association treasurer. It said:

As many of you know, the cost of electricity spiked at the beginning of this year. If you look at your utility bill, it will be divided into two sections: (1) supplier costs and (2) delivery costs.

Supplier costs are the cost to generate the electricity, which has been ~12 cents per kWh. Starting in January, this rate doubled for Eversource —to 24 cents per kWh. Since supply is about half your bill, and this has doubled, your bill went up about 50% in total starting January 1.

You have the option in CT to choose a third-party supplier, which often come at hefty discounts to Eversource.

(For more details, click here.)

David adds: “He pointed out that customers can compare rates at EnergizeCT.com. At the moment, Town Square Energy’s rates are about 38% less expensive. I switched today!”

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You can go home again.

Will Haskell recently “retired” at age 26, after 2 terms as state senator. (He won’t play shuffleboard — he’s at NYU Law School.)

But the other day he headed to his alma mater — Greens Farms Elementary School — to talk to 3rd grade students about local and state government.

Students asked plenty of questions. Perhaps he inspired one of them to follow in his footsteps.

If so, then in just 20 years he or she will return to GFS, as an already former state legislator — on to a new adventure.

Will Haskell inspires 3rd graders.

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A return of another sort: Kyle Martino, to the airwaves.

The Staples High School Class of 1999 graduate — and former Staples soccer star, who was named Gatorade High School Player of the Year — has just been named to the TNT and HBO Max broadcast team for US men’s and women’s national team matches.

Martino spent 8 years as a Premier League analyst with NBC Sports. He is also a soccer entrepreneur. He founded the Goalpher system for turning basketball courts into small soccer fields, and also developed the OverUnder Initiative, to bring soccer to under-resourced communities.

Martino was MLS Rookie of the Year with the Columbus Crew in 2002. He also played with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and has 8 caps with the US men’s national team.

His announcing partner on TNT and HBO Max is former women’s national team star Julie Foudy.

Kyle Martino

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There were 3 custodial arrests last week, by Westport Police.

One person was arrested for shoplifting, conspiracy to commit a crime, and failure to appear.

Another person was arrested for shoplifting.

The shoplifting incidents occurred at Whole Foods (over $300 worth of items), Walgreens (over $1250) and Stop & Shop (over $1350).

A third person was arrested for reckless driving, failure to carry a license, and failure to drive in the proper lane. That happened when a jogger said he was struck by a vehicle turning left from Greens Farms Road onto Hillspoint Road. The driver allegedly left the scene. A witness then told police that the suspected offender was inside Cumberland Farms, making statements about “hitting a jogger.” 

The following citations were issued:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 9
  • Failure to obey control signal: 2
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 1
  • Driving with out of state plates: 1
  • Violation of traffic commission regulation: 1
  • Breach of peace: 1
  • Assault 3rd degree, risk of injury to a minor: 1

When you move to Connecticut, you must register your car here.

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It’s mid-winter. Time to get a jump on spring – and attract pollinators to your garden this summer.

University of Connecticut advanced master gardener Alice Ely leads a Wakeman Town Farm “Winter Sowing Demonstration” on January 23 (7 p.m.).

Attendees will learn how to make mini-greenhouses (in bottles) to start seedlings. Left outside until spring, they’ll turn into milkweed plants that attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

Click here for more information, and registration.

Milkweed seedlings

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There may not be many boats at Ned Dimes Marina.

But — as Patricia Auber’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows — there is plenty of action there anyway.

(Photo/Patricia Auber)

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And finally … on this date in 1964, the Surgeon General of the US published a landmark report. It said: “Smoking may be hazardous to your health.”

 

Roundup: Christmas Tree Pick-ups, Dawn Swim, Playground Fun …

If it’s New Year’s, it’s time to … get rid of the Christmas tree.

It can be disposed of online — well, the registration is done that way, anyway. Scout Troops 39 and 139 will happily pick up yours. Click here for the form. 

You’ll get a confirmation email. Then, this Saturday (January 7 — by 6:30 a.m.), put your tree by your mailbox.

There’s a suggestion donation of $20 per tree. Tape an envelope with cash or check (payable to “Boy Scout Troop 39”) to your front door.

NOTE: All Christmas trees are mulched into wood chips, and donated to the town. So no wreaths or garlands (the wires ruin the machinery).

Boy Scout Troop 39 to the rescue!

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Like many Westporters, you probably spent yesterday’s dawn in bed.

Maybe you were arriving home from a late party, eager to crash (metaphorically, of course).

If you were one guy though, you went for an early morning, greet-the-new-year swim at Compo Beach.

(Photo courtesy of John Karrel)

Fortunately, the weather was nice.

For January 1, anyway.

PS: Let’s see if he can keep this up for the next 364 days.

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The sun was high a few hours later. The temperature climbed to the mid-50s.

And the Compo Beach playground looked (almost) like a mid-summer day.

(Photo/Karen Como)

Can the rest of the year continue on such an upbeat note?

Fingers crossed …

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Also seen at Compo Beach: this message to “rock” (ho ho) 2023.

It’s the handiwork of Ross and Wendy McKeon. And the “rock” part can be taken literally: They’re the parents of 2000 Staples High School graduate Drew McKeon. Among his many talents, he’s the longtime drummer in fellow Westporter Michael Bolton’s band.

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Yesterday’s Roundup included a photo of a utility pole on Hillandale Road. An “06880” reader explained why it’s hard to get broken ones fixed, or obsolete wires or cables removed.

The example shown was hardly the worst. Michael Lonsdale noticed more, on the short stretch of Kings Highway North between Main and Canal Streets.

(Photos/Michael Lonsdale)

It will not be easy to address the issue. Each pole has multiple “owners” — Eversource, Altice and Frontier, for example.

Low hanging wires and excess poles are low priorities. They’re prime candidates for buck-passing.

But the lower the wires droop, and the more old poles tilt and rot, the more dangerous they are.

When they come down in a storm, excess poles and obsolete cables make clean-up that much harder.

Our electric and telecom companies have lots to do. Removing unsightly — even dangerous — wires and poles are not at the top of their lists.

And unlike weeds or brush, this is not something we can take in our own hands.

Thoughts? Click “Comments” below. Please be constructive, not nasty. And be sure to use your full, real name.

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Photographer Lauri Weiser calls today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo “my holiday friend.”

Check out her friend’s claws!

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … on this day in 1788, Georgia became the 4th state to ratify the Constitution.

The next? Connecticut.

(Wherever you live — Westport, Georgia or anyplace else — you can contribute to “06880.” Please click here. Thank you!)

Roundup: 2023 — In Westport And Lyman

Levon celebrates at Compo Beach (Photo montage/Patricia McMahon)

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As the New Year begins with bang here, we think of our friends in Westport’s sister city of Lyman.

They greet 2023 in homes without heat — in some cases, even roofs and walls.

They lack electricity and running water. Their police and fire departments have no vehicles.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of “06880” readers, they’ve gotten some help. They had homemade meals on Christmas, and all 491 children left in Lyman got gifts.

They need much more. We set an audacious goal of $250,000. In just 13 days, we’ve raised $227,700.

How’s this for our New Year’s resolution: We’ll raise that final $22,300 today.

If every Westport resident gave $1, that would get us over the top. That’s right: With just $1 from every Westporter, we’d reach and pass our target for Lyman.

Come on, Westport! Take 2 minutes from watching football, getting ready for a party or beach walk, or whatever else makes life here so good.

There’s no better way to ring in 2023 than with $1 for our sister city.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to Lyman through Ukraine Aid International. Please click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).

PS: Our partners on the ground, Ukraine Aid International — co-founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer — are purchasing building supplies right now for Lyman. They will be shipped soon to the town.

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Barbara Walters — the pioneering newscaster and interviewer who died Friday at 93 — inspired countless aspiring journalists. Many were girls.

Alisyn Camerota was one. The author, “CNN Newsroom” anchor and Westport resident described Walters’ early influence, in an opinion pieces posted on CNN+ yesterday.

“Whenever people ask me about the moment I decided to become a broadcast journalist, I explain that it happened in utero,” Camerota begins.

How did that happen? Click here to read the full piece.

Alisyn Camerota

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Howard Simon, a longtime resident of Weston, died Friday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 90 years old.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Howard studied business administration at the University of Minnesota, and was a member of Phi Epsilon fraternity.

He joined his family’s manufacturing business, Simon and Mogilner, in Birmingham, Alabama where he directed sales and marketing before becoming CEO. Howard then worked as an early pioneer in financing for cellular communications and independent TV stations, before representing Major League Baseball players as an agent.

Howard was an avid tennis player and sports fan, and loved his monthly poker game. He followed politics and current events with keen interest. He was a mentor and advisor who was always happy to provide advice and business guidance. Above all, his family says, “he was known for his affable personality, engaging everyone he met with Midwestern charm.”

He is survived by his wife Amy Simon; daughters Katherine McCarty (Matthew) and Lisa Simon Bailey (Jeff); sons Matthew, David (Andrea) and James, and grandchildren Ross and Evan Simon, Marshall Bailey, and Reed and Kira McCarty. Howard was predeceased by his brothers Jerrold and Ronald, and his son Bruce.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday (January 4, 11 a.m., Abraham Green & Son, Fairfield). Memorial contributions may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Howard’s family is grateful to the staff at Jewish Senior Services of Bridgeport, who cared for him with great compassion and kindness.

Howard Simon

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Sure, it was New Year’s Eve.

But Bob Weingarten wondered about a utility pole.

He sent a photo from Turkey Hill South …

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

… and wrote: “For all the money we pay to Eversource, you would think they would not include a 5-6-foot extra pole about 2/3 up an existing one pole.”

I’ve learned not to fire first and ask questions later. So I forwarded this to my utility “source” — er, expert.

He replied:

Poles in Westport are 95+% owned and installed by Eversource as the custodian utility. Across Connecticut the ratio is 50/50. Eversource has half and Frontier half, as owners and custodians.

There is no joint agreement on attaching or shifting wires and equipment on and off of poles. The company that owns them installs, maintains and removes the attachments’to each overhead wood pole.

Now comes the tricky/frustrating part. When a pole is damaged or replaced, the custodian does the pole setting/replacement, but each “owner” of the attachments (wires, transformers, streetlights, etc.) does the work to shift their equipment onto the new pole,

In this photo, the top primary voltage electric wire (sitting on the gray transformer) belongs to Eversource, so they set them onto the new pole. The bottom of the transformer has secondary (120 volt) wires running to the left and right from the transformer — owned and installed by Eversource as well.

The next wire down just below is a telecom (Optimum’s?) wire with a roundish spreader (left side of pole), but attached to the new pole. Now come the last 2 wires going down the photo, both telecom wires, likely owned by Frontier … and still attached to that 3-foot long piece of the old pole, dangling in the air!

From my experience it’s likely to remain like that for months, because it’s low (very low!) priority for the company that owns those telecom wires.

So advise your reader that it’s not Eversource’s problem!

Then he added a PS:

Look at every pole you pass by just in this town alone.  Count how many “double” poles there are — not just a piece of a pole dangling 15 feet up, but the entire old pole, from the ground up to the top telecom wires.

I’d guess something around 1 in 20 or 30 poles will have one of these hideous double poles. And some lean out from the new straight (and usually sturdier pole), looking a bit precarious.

Take a look. You’ll be amazed!

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Westporters don’t always get along.

Nor do other animals.

Perhaps — as the new year begins — we should take a page from today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

Well, at least for a day …

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And finally … in the spirit of the photo above, as we welcome 2023:

Roundup: Last Push For Lyman, Eversource Slammed, Main Street Meathead …

Less than 24 hours remain, to reach our goal of $250,000!

That would help rebuild every home and apartment in Lyman — our Ukrainian sister city — that can be salvaged. It would give them each a generator. It would provide a water filtration system for the town. (Click here for the first story about Westport and Lyman, with important details.)

It would get them through a dark, dangerous winter. Those brave, embattled men, women and children need to know that they are not alone.

They already know that Westport has their back. They are very, very grateful for what we’ve done.

Westporter Brian Mayer (right) and his on-the-ground support team of Richard von Groeling and Liz Olegov flank Lyman Mayor Oleksandr Zhuravlyov. Brian, Richard and Liz wear protective equipment, because they’ve just been outside. The Ukrainian and Lyman flags will soon be joined by one from Westport.

Now, on Christmas Day, let’s give them everything they need.

$250,000 sounds like a lot. But it breaks down to just $10 for every resident of Westport.

Can you spare that? If not, no worries. Someone who can, will cover you. Right?

Just click here for the credit card “Donate” button. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” You can also scroll down on that page for other donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo.) Or you can donate directly, via Stripe (click here). 

Meanwhile, our online auction for an oil painting of Marigny — our other sister city in France, which joins us in helping Lyman — ends at 11:59 p.m. We began the bidding at $1,000. It is now up to $1,500. Email 06880blog@gmail.com, or click “Comments” to bid; you don’t need to fill out your real (but please include your email).

This Marigny scene is being auctioned to the highest bidder.

Westporters have been supremely generous so far. We are nearing our audacious — but crucial — $250,000 goal. Every dollar helps our sister city of Lyman. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Eversource earned props for putting crews on the road early during Friday’s wind and rain storm. The number of outages in Westport was halved throughout the day, from 700 or so to about 350.

Their performance since then has been less praise-worthy.

An “06880” reader wrote last night, just before midnight:

“I am spending the holidays with my 92-year-old homebound mom on Bayberry Ridge Road. Power has been out for the whole street since 4 a.m. Friday. Despite 40-plus hours elapsing, Eversource still has no projection for repair, citing ‘To Be Determined’ as the date when one inquires.

“They no longer even list Westport on the updated outage report, because over 99% of homes have power. This is cold comfort to residents on this street, who cannot get any information out of this vastly overpaid and underperforming public utility. With zero communication since the beginning, we worry that they’ve forgotten about us entirely.”

The reader responded at 1:04 a.m. that his power was back on. He doesn’t know if it was the result of his phone call, Tweet, or because they were about to do it anyway.

I’m keeping his complaint up though, because it’s not isolated. I’ve heard from other readers in the north end of Westport, who also had issues with Eversource.

Most seemed to understand the severity of the problem. What bothered them was Eversource’s lack of communication about when power was expected to return.

“We just want to be able to plan,” one reader said.

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Compare the situation in Lyman (top story above) with the behavior of one Very Entitled Driver downtown yesterday.

He ignored several “One Way/Do Not Enter” signs. He headed past all the cars, on 2 sides of the street, facing toward him.

Drivers stopped. One rolled down his window, and explained the driver was going the wrong way.

He couldn’t be bothered. Perhaps backing up was too difficult or time-consuming. Maybe doing so would be admitting wrongdoing, or a blow to his masculinity.

So he got out of his car. He had angry words with one of the right-way drivers.

Then he got back in his vehicle, swerved around a couple of cars, and kept driving.

All the way to the Post Road.

Very Entitled Driver — after already being told he is going the wrong way on Main Street.

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Also downtown: Our own Barnes & Noble was featured in the opening seconds of Yahoo News’ recent feature on the chain’s resurgence.

Young readers in particular have driven the opening of new (and newly designed) stores.

CEO James Daunt was interviewed by Dave Briggs. The Yahoo journalist knows what he’s talking about — he lives here in Westport, just a couple of miles from one of those slimmed-down, brighter, more open and less “library-looking” Barnes & Noble’s than the previous one.

Click here for the full Yahoo story.

Screenshot of the Yahoo story

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The Burying Hill High Tide Club has earned an “06880” mention — and props — for weekly swims at that Greens Farms beach, all the way through fall.

Now another group is earning even more awe (and raised eyebrows).

Nico Eisenberger reports: “This year we spawned a crazy cousin of the High Tide Club. Inspired by some of the hardy originals, and carried forward with an unreasonable and illogical vigor, is Club Plunge.

“We’ve done it every week since early November. It’s amazing and wonderful — and makes you think that maybe the extremophiles one sees on YouTube are really on to something.”

The group includes 8 regulars.

“We try to stay in for at least 3 minutes,” Nico says. “The screaming subsides after 1 minute, then picks up again after 2.”

No word on “weather” they ventured in yesterday.

Club Plunge at Burying Hill Beach.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows how a gifted decorator can transform beautiful plants and flowers into something even more stunning.

This is the holiday table at the home of Elena and Richard Nasereddin. She’s Catholic. He’s Muslim.

Both wish everyone in the “0688o” community — in Westport, and cyberspace — “happy holidays, and many blessings in the new year.”

(Photo/Maria Elena Nasereddin)

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And finally … Christmas music ends tonight. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your threshold for jinglyness.

But before we say goodbye (till next year) to Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Bobby Helms, Bing Crosby and Gene Autry, let’s tip our Santa hat to Johnny Marks.

He lived for many years on Green Acre Lane, off South Compo. He died in 1985 from complications of diabetes. His son still lives here.

Who was Johnny Marks?

Just the guy who wrote “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

And “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” “Run, Rudolph, Run.” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.” And many others.

Not bad for a Jewish kid from Mount Vernon, New York.

Merry Christmas! Oy!

 

Roundup: Power Outages, Coleytown Portable, Optimum Bill …

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Eversource continues to restore power to the 1,450-plus customers who lost it in last night’s rain-and-wind storm.

The worst affected area was Hillspoint Road south of the I-95 bridge, down to Soundview Road. 550 customers were affected.

We’re lucky. Most trees still don’t have full leaves. If this happened a few weeks later, the damage could be much worse.

Downed tree, on Hillandale Road. (Photo/Bob
Weingarten)

We’re also lucky that this is spring break for public schools. Easton Road is closed west of North Avenue, with a number of trees down. That would have played havoc with this morning’s bus rides to our 4 North Avenue schools.

Easton Road scene. (Photo/Jeff Mitchell)

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It’s not quite the “Teardown of the Day.”

But work has begun to replace a 1,114-square foot Coleytown Elementary School portable classroom with a more modern, efficient and bigger (2,713 square feet) one.

The classroom — used most recently at Fairfield’s Holland Hill Elementary School — will solve a space crunch, due to increasing enrollment at CES.

Preparing for a new portable classroom at Coleytown Elementary School. (Photo/Jeff Mitchell)

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Matt Murray jut got his Optimum bill. Tucked inside were new “Terms of Service & Information.”

They seemed long. Really long.

Matt spread them out in his kitchen. Then he took out a tape measure.

He was right. Unfolded, they’re 35 inches long.

That’s twice the length of a newborn baby.

Optimum’s “Terms of Service & Information.” (Photo/Matt Murray)

But don’t try to read them all. They’re in a type size Matt estimates at “less than 5-point.”

On the upside, there’s a Spanish-language version on back.

“I get the feeling Optimum really cares about its customers,” Matt says, tongue firmly planted in cheeck. “I can’t figure out why people say such bad things about our cable service provider.”

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The past 2 years have turned the world upside down.

Now Beechwood Arts — the intimate, immersive arts-and-more salon — is back. They’re celebrating the resilience of the human spirt — especially the artistic innovation and reinvention that’s occurred during these upside-down times.

Beechwood’s spring season is called “Upside Down.” Both are hosted by the Westport Library, produced by their superb Verso Studios staff.

On Friday, May 6 (7 p.m.): Dan Tepfer’s #BachUpside Down. He’s performed this innovative project worldwide. He’ll then join internationally famed pianist — and Beechwood co-founder — Frederic Chiu onstage, for a lively conversation.

The following Friday (May 13, 7 p.m.), “GatherRound UpsideDown Art & Story Share” brings the community together. Art will be projected o the Library’s large screen, as artists tell their stories. The first “GatherRound” drew over 200 people.

Click here to register for Dan Tepfer’s #BachUpsideDown. Click here to register for “Gather Round Upside Down Art & Story Share.” For more information, click here.

Note about the logo below: In some Yogic traditions the Tree of Life is turned upside down. The tree exposes its essence — that which grounds it and gives it life. That reflects how this period has caused many artists to tap into their essence, discovering what truly grounds them.

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Jillian Elder — of “Finding Westport” fame — has rolled out new designs.

She’s got new tank tops, t-shirts, hoodies and mugs, all saying “203 Westport.” Click here to see, and order.

She’s also got a rainbow-colored Pride line, with more to come soon. Click here to see, and order.

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Jeff Bullwinkel grew up in Westport. He and his wife spend most of their time in Amsterdam. But they were back this weekend — just in time to enjoy the magnificent cherry trees on their South Compo Road property.

Jeff shares their beauty, as today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Jeff Bullwinkel)

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Every 33 years, 3 of the world’s most popular religions celebrate very important holidays at the same time.

This is one of those rare years. The Christian celebration of Holy Week, Jewish observation of Passover, and Muslim month of Ramadan all coincided this past weekend.

Happy Easter! Chag Sameach! Ramadan Mubarak!

Power Outages Slam Westport

Over 1,450 Westporters — more than 11% of the town — is without power this morning.

Heavy rain and winds gusting up to 50 miles an hour brought tree limbs crashing onto utility lines last night. The worst affected area seems to be Roseville Road.

Westport had more outages than anywhere else in Connecticut.

Eversource says it has extra crews working here. Click on this map for exact locations, and restoration times.

Bury The Wires? Not So Fast!

Recent tree cutting by Eversource and Metro-North at the Westport train station evoked a predictable response: Bury the power lines!

It sounds doable, though probably expensive.

Recent tree removal (and overhead wires) at the Westport train station. (Photo/Matthew Mandell)

But that’s not the only issue. A Westporter with long experience in areas like this writes:

To “burying the lines” — and not just those owned by Eversource, but also phone (now owned by Frontier) and cable (Optimum) — you’d need to:

  • Get all 3 companies working on the project simultaneously
  • Get 100% of every house, building, traffic signal, street light, closed circuit TV camera, fire siren, crosswalk signal, etc., to agree to go underground
  • Every existing overhead service would need to be prepared for the new underground connection in advance (and all work on private property up to and including the meter box and service panel at the home or building is the responsibility of the owner — costing at least several thousand dollars for just a simple home (200 amp, which is not the average with today’s large homes)
  • Once all are agreed 100%, the underground system would be installed in conduits in trenches alongside or within the street, including pad-mounted transformers (boxy containers roughly 3 x 4 feet by 3-foot high, located along the street on the shoulder of the road)
  • Each home or building owner would trench from the transformer pad to the location on the house or building where the meter would be (all trenching on private property is done by the home or building owner’s contractor, paid for by the owner)
  • Once all is ready (as in 100%), the system would then be transferred to the new underground wiring from the overhead
  • Only when all the above is done 100%, and every building is operating on the new underground system (electric, phone and cable), can the old overhead system of wires, poles and transformers be removed.

If all this sounds very complicated, very expensive and nearly impossible: It is!

Which is why the overhead system we look at continues as the source for somewhere around 90% of most towns’ residences and commercial buildings in this area.

Cables on South Compo Road. Burying these lines is far easier said than done. (Photo/Morgan Mermagen)

Train Trees Cut Down

Private property is not the only place where trees are being cut in Westport.

Earlier today, Eversource and Metro-North took down trees in the right-of-way at the railroad station.

Matthew Mandell — an RTM member for the district, and director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — called it “a great loss to the community. A number of these trees are beautiful in summer. They also obscure part of the tall electric gantry.”

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

(Photo;Monica Buesser)

 

[OPINION] Tree Trimming Is Overly Aggressive, Environmentally Unsound

Annalise Ferrara moved to Weston 10 years ago from Brooklyn, where she practiced law. She’s enjoyed the town. But recently she and her neighbors — including Red Bee Honey — have noticed plenty of tree-trimming by Eversource. She writes:

Aggressive deforestation is occurring in Connecticut, particularly the historic Bradley Edge Tool Factory District of Weston.

Eversource has been removing essential carbon-eliminating and pollinator vegetation by the hundreds, in an effort to reduce the possibility of power outages.

Instead of trimming trees over the years, they suddenly cut them down, leaving an eyesore of tree stumps littering the properties of tax-paying citizens, and exposing electric towers that are devaluing neighborhoods.

One of my neighbors is a beekeeper and founder of woman-owned Red Bee Honey, a Connecticut state treasure. Her honeybees and the honey they produce are a valuable asset to all of us. Eversource has removed several trees next door, and is planning to remove even more from her property.

These trees are a source of food and medicine for her bees. This will compromise their ability to pollinate the environment, and her ability to run her business.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 16-234 had allowed a utility to remove hazardous trees — any tree or part thereof that is dead, extensively decayed or structurally weak which, if it fails, would endanger the utility’s infrastructure. The law also allowed the utility to prune or remove trees that pose a risk to the reliability of the utility’s infrastructure.

The issue here is who gets to decide whether the tree poses a risk? If it’s a healthy tree, why remove it? Why not just prune it? Eversource has decided it is easier to simply remove all the trees in its path and leave behind the stumps (which they are also allowed to grind down, if they see fit).

It used to be that Eversource could not do any work without first giving notice to the property owner that they had a right to consent, object or modify in writing the proposed pruning or removal. This notice had to include instructions on how to make the objection.

On July 1, 2013, the law changed. Now, Public Act No. 13-298 states that the notice only requires the utility to inform the property owner that they have 10 days in which to file an objection. I was unaware of this change. I wonder how many property owners were?

My neighbor on Lyons Plain Road has 18 tree stumps on her front lawn. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live in her house right now. She is a senior citizen and is in California. I don’t suppose Eversource knew that. How is it possible that all of those trees posed a risk to Eversource’s infrastructures?

Another neighbor’s property runs from Lyons Plain down River Road. The house was buried behind beautiful tall hickories but now sits completely exposed. Not one tree remains. Who knew there was a tall electric tower behind their house?

The transmission tower in Westonm, after cutting.,

I doubt all their trees posed a hazard. Wouldn’t it have been wiser and better for the environment to simply have pruned all these trees? Was there financial gain for someone in salvaging the wood, or in the contract for removing the trees? Something is wrong with this picture.

It is possible for Eversource to remedy some of what it has done? United Illuminated’s Vegetation Management Plan allows for stump grinding and replanting site-appropriate trees on a case-by-case basis. This might help my neighbor with the 18 stumps regain her lawn, the Red Bee Honey farm get some trees back, and the power tower to be hidden again.

If Eversource isn’t stopped our beautiful state will be beautiful no more, and our homes will lose their value. This deforestation must stop. Something must be done. I implore our legislators and governor to do something to curtail Eversource.

“06880” says: The issue is not so “cut” and dried. Apparently the need to obtain permission applied only to distribution circuits (35 kV and lower voltage typically found on the street — not transmission circuits (69 kV up to 345 kV). These are almost always located on rights of way, and permission was never required there.

The high-voltage tower has been in Weston for decades. The vegetation — not taken care of earlier — may have grown to threaten the lines supported by the towers.

Eversource now leaves notices on doors, informing residents that tree trimming is cutting. They also meet with first selectmen or their designees to discuss the coming year’s tree trimming planned by circuit (though not necessarily detailing the type of trimming required).

Eversource: Source Of Taxes

The other day, “06880” listed our town’s top 10 taxpayers.

At the top of the list — by a wide margin — was Connecticut Light & Power (now called Eversource).

The utility’s personal property assessment is $140,509,070. That’s nearly double the #2 taxpayer, 60 Nyala Farms Road LLC (the office complex owner near I-95 Exit 18 owns real estate assessed at $83,338,970).

So what exactly does Eversource own?

A longtime Westport resident and retired utility director explains that it all starts with substations.

Eversource substation on South Compo Road between I-95 and the Metro-North tracks, as seen from Narrow Rocks Road.

The Sherwood substation, for example, sits on about 1.5 acres of land, bought in 2004. There’s also a transmission line that runs under state (Route 1) or town roads (Imperial Avenue from the old State Cleaners to the Westport Woman’s Club overflow parking lot, then under the Saugatuck River to the Assumption Church parking lot, under Lincoln Street and back to the Post Road).

So Eversource either had rights to locate within state and town roadways as a public utility, or when splice vaults had to locate off the roadway, they bought easement rights or “ownership” of the eased area on private property (for example, Assumption Church’s parking lot, the parking lot of the former Saab dealership on Post Road West, the parking lot between Balducci’s and Ulta, and Vautrin Auto’s parking lot).

Those easements were bought for an average of $250,000 each from the property owners.

Other substations include the one behind Coffee An’, built in the 1930’s; Compo Road South, between I-95 and the Metro-North train tracks — plus all overhead and underground wires, poles, transformer vaults, etc.

The Main Street substation, behind Coffee An’.

Big ticket items also include the existing double 115 kV overhead transmission lines on either side of the railroad right-of-way, from Fairfield to Norwalk.

Eversource has been taxpayer #1, ever since the transmission underground project went into service around 2008. They’ll be way ahead of Nyala for years to come.