Tag Archives: leaf blowers

Roundup: Parks & Rec Survey, Death With Dignity, Staples Girls Sports …

The Parks & Rec Department has held open houses on its Longshore Capital Improvement Plan. Residents weighed in — pro and con.

Now there’s another way to provide feedback. They’ve posted a survey on the project website, along with all the concepts already presented. It’s open through November 9.

Click here to take the survey. Be sure you have some time — it’s comprehensive.

The full project website is available at Stantec Longshore Club Park.

What changes would you like to see at Longshore?

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A new, revised leaf blower ordinance got its first reading at last night’s Representative Town Meeting.

Because there are a number of changes from the original proposal — including the elimination of fines — there was no vote. After new committee hearings, the ordinance may be voted on in January.

Click here to read the full proposal.

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Actor/director/Weston resident Jim Naughton writes:

“State Senator Will Haskell has told me that when he visited senior centers in several of the towns in his 26th District, he found that ‘Medical Aid in Dying’ was the bill they most wanted passed.

“This did not surprise to me. When my wife Pamela, having battled pancreatic cancer for 4 years, got to the end of her journey, she said to me, ‘Jimmy, I don’t want to wake up anymore.’ If Connecticut had made it available to her then, she would have used it.

“Also known as ‘Death With Dignity,’ the law has been adopted in 10 states and the District of Columbia. It came within one vote of making it out of the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee last spring. A Gallup poll determined that 75% of Connecticut residents want it.

“I urge our neighbors to know where the candidates stand on the issue before voting next week.  It will be revisited in the next session.”

Pam Naughton

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Earth Animal cares about pets — and the humans who love them.

For the 15th straight year, they’re participating in the Mitten Project, for Connecticut Food Share. Last year, they raised over $40,000. This year — with increased need for help — the goal is $45,000.

Froom now through December 31, people can buy “mittens” at the store (and others in the area). Each “purchase” is a $5 donation.

In addition, cashmere mittens, Advent calendars and wreaths will be sold December 3 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at Earth Animal. The store will match every dollar donated.

Special “Sip and Shop” events will also benefit CFS at:

  • J. Mclaughlin (342 Pequot Avenue, Southport,, November 17, 1-5 p.m.)
  • The Post (1799 Post Road East, November 17, 3 to 6 p.m.)
  • Millie Rae’s (1011 Post Road East, December 8, 4 to 6 p.m.)
  • Scout & Molly (283 Post Road East, November 16, 2 to 6 p.m.)
  • Outdoor Design and Living (1301 Bronson Road, Fairfield, November 17, 4 to 7 p.m.)
  • Mo’s Wine and Spirits (957 Post Road, Fairfield, December 8, 7 to 9 p.m.)
  • Milestone Restaurant (2 Main Street, Redding, CT, December 8, noon to 5 p.m.).

In addition, a homemade pie sale (apple, apple crumb, cherry, cherry crumb, pumpkin) at Wakeman Town Farm will send all proceeds to Connecticut Food Share. Click here to order between November 14 and 18. Pickup is November 22, from 3 to 7 p.m. at WTF.

And … Earth Animal is selling wreaths December 3 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), also for the CFS cause.

Want to make a donation without a purchase? Click here.

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Sami DeWitt scored on a pair of corner kicks, and Annabel Edwards knocked in a third goal, as Staples High School’s girls soccer team downed Greenwich 3-1 last night, in the FCIAC tournament semifinals. A late Cardinal goal ruined Cami Kolek’s shutout bid.

The Wreckers — defending state and FCIAC champs — look to add another league title in tomorrow’s championship match against longtime rival St. Joseph (Thursday, November 3, 7 p.m., Wilton High School’s Kristine Lilly Field).

The Wreckers  are ranked 3rd in the tourney. The Cadets are first. St. Joseph won the teams’ regular season match 2-1, less than 2 weeks ago.

Staples High School girls soccer Senior Day.

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Congratulations too to the Staples field hockey team!

They also play for an FCIAC championship tomorrow (Thursday, 7 p.m.,  Brien McMahon High School).

The #3-seeded Wreckers topped #2 Wilton 3-1 last night. Their opponents tomorrow are top-rated Darien. Staples will seek to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Blue Wave earlier this year.

The Staples field hockey team, after last night’s FCIAC semifinal win. (Photo courtesy of Inklings/India Ahl)

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Stacie Curran writes:

“Without much fanfare, a new stop sign appeared at the intersection of Greens Farms Road and Bulkley Avenue South.

“It seems that no one is observing it. Waze and other apps direct traffic this way when I-95 get congested- The morning (race car) commuters are in their zone, and blissfully unaware of this change.

“Without some police presence (or the addition of a stop  sign 🛑 to map-apps), this interaction is actually more dangerous now.”

Greens Farms Road, looking west. South Bulkley Avenue is to the right; Stop and Shop (not pictured) is off it. (Photo/Stacie Curran)

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Yesterday was the day after Halloween — November 1.

Time to put up the Christmas lights!

This was the scene on Hillspoint Road. One homeowner — well, the landscaping crew — was already hard at work.

You’ll have an extra hour to see them twinkle soon. Daylight Savings ends on Sunday.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Michael Chait has a large and well-deserved following for his original photographs, which he blends with aspects of paint technique. He is particularly fond of photographing Westport and New York City.

His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Natural History and the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Now — just in time for the holidays — he’s got a new website. Click here to explore.

Michael Chait’s flag over the Saugatuck River.

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Folk and other music lovers know Voices Café — tucked inside Westport’s Unitarian Church — is a hidden gem.

Now kids can enjoy it too.

A special Voices youngsters’ event brings Dan and Claudia Zanes back to Westport this Saturday (November 5, 4 p.m.). They entertained a large Levitt Pavilion Chidren’s Series crowd a couple of years ago.

Voices Café is a sensory-friendly, open environment. There’s space up front for movement and fun.. Tickets are $25 per adult, $15 per child ages 2 to 17; children under 2 are free. A 15% discount is available for families of 4 or more. Click here for tickets and more information.

Claudia and Dan Zames.

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There are many things to love about the Saugatuck Rowing Club. High on the list this time of year: the view from the river.

Rachel Halperin stopped long enough from her workout to snap today’s “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/Rachel Halperin)

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And finally … Happy 2nd Day of the Dead!

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Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Jim Wheeler, Trick Or Treat! …

Leaf blower legislation alert!

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 1, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), the Representative Town Meeting holds a first reading. of the newly revised leaf blower regulation.

Click here to read the full proposal. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)

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Jim Kemish — son of former 1st Selectman John Kemish — now lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

The other day his neighbor Adam, and Adam’s daughter, knocked on Jim’s door. She was selling coupon books to fund her class trip to Washington.

Jim asked them in, and Adam admired the art on the walls.

Jim pointed to his favorite print and said proudly, “That was done by one of my high school art teachers.”

He was stunned when Adam replied, “That’s a Jim Wheeler!”

Jim Kemish and Adam Goby had been dog-walking buddies for a couple of years. But they never knew they both went to Staples — in fact, Adam’s father Dave was a highly respected biology teacher there — and that, to top it off, both were Jim Wheeler fans.

Jim and Adam both wondered if Jim is still alive.

I told them: Not only alive, but healthy, active — and still drawing!

Jim Kemish’s Jim Wheeler print.

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Tonight, the streets around Compo Beach will be flooded (with trick-or-treaters).

There’s safety in numbers. So hopefully, not even the littlest one will be scared off by this guy on Soundview Drive.

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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Also tonight: kids begging for candy on Lone Pine Lane will have to navigate past these eerie inflatable eyeballs.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

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Meanwhile, as Halloween fades into the rear view mirror — except, of course, for your kids’ 3 tons of candy — it’s time to think about our 2nd “06880” Holiday Stroll.

Mark your calendar for Friday, December 2 (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.). It’s right after the tree lighting — just walk down the Town Hall hill to Main Street.

This year, we’re partnering with the Westport Downtown Association. Details will be announced soon — but right now we’re looking for a Santa Claus and a face painter.

If you can help in either role, please email 06880blog@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Staples Orphenians’ will once again sing at the Holiday Stroll.

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The weather is turning colder. But last week was delightful — perfect beach weather. And there’s no better place to catch some rays — and catch up on reading than Compo.

(Photo/Howard Silver)

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Claudia Sherwood Servidio took her first hike yesterday at Haskins Preserve. Like everyone who discovers the hidden gem on Green Acre Lane, off Compo Road South, she was awed.

For a bit of what you’ll see, at this Aspetuck Land Trust property, check out this “Westport … Naturally” image:

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … ain’t no haint gonna run me off!

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Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Halloween Stuff, Pumpkin Toss …

For several years, a proposed gas-powered leaf blower ordinance has been blowin’ in the Westport wind.

On Tuesday (November 1, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), a proposal — already approved by the Ordinance Committee — heads to the full Representative Town Meeting. for a first reading.

The text of the amendment is not yet available online. It is available at the Town Clerk’s office during business hours.

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Four Halloween films — and a bonus Christmas movie — top the bill at the Remarkable Theater this weekend.

The Imperial Avenue drive-in will screen:

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (tonight: Saturday, October 29; doors open at 6, movie at 7; free (donate whatever you wish)

Double feature: “Charlie Brown” and “Curious George” (Sunday, October 30; doors open at 5, movie at 6)

“Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (Sunday, October 30; doors open at 8, movie at 8:30)

“Halloween” (Halloween, Monday October 31; doors open at 6, movie at 7)

Click here for tickets, and more information.

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On Thursday (November 3, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), the same site — the Imperial Avenue parking lot — turns into the Great Pumpkin Toss.

The free community composting event returns for its 4th year, at the Westport Farmers’ Market. Action Waste Solutions will collect pumpkins — aka “Halloween food waste” — while also having some fun.

Just “toss” your pumpkin (or gourds) in the bin, and go.

All pumpkins and gourds in their natural state are welcome. Squishy and rotted ones are fine, but decorated or painted pumpkins cannot be composted.

In addition to creating compost, pumpkins provide food for livestock. Stephanie Maynard from Ox Hollow Farm will fill her truck with good pumpkins that will serve as food for her cows .

Last year’s Great Pumpkin Toss diverted one ton of pumpkin waste from landfill. Can we break that record this year?

Come help!

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We’ve got winners!

Last Saturday, over 75 children painted 63 store windows throughout town this past Saturday, in the annual Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce Halloween Contest.

Winners received gift certificates for an ice cream cake at Gofer Ice Cream.

They are:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 

  • Scariest: Chloe Robbin (Cycle Dynamics; Long Lots grade 4)
  • Best Halloween: Scarlett Nathan (Stephen Kempson, Saugatuck grade 4)
  • Most creative: Calvin and Julian Carreras (ASF, Long Lots grades 1 and 3)

MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Scariest: Hailey Kipperman (Sephen Kempson, The Southport School grade 8)
  • Best Halloween: Linda Morgan and Julie Ferraro (Cold Fusion, Bedford grade 6)
  • Most Creative: Milo Milgrom (Greens Farms Spirit Shop, Bedford grade 7)


Chloe Robbin with her “Scariest” Elementary School award, at Cycle Dynamics.

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Kaitlyn Steffa loves living on High Point Road. “There’s always something fun going on,” she says.

Like her neighbor at #26, For the past few weeks Sarah Maraun has entertained anyone driving, biking or walking by with creative skeleton displays in her front yard.

One day they’re out playing Twister; the next, they’re doctors performing surgery, or having a potato sack race.

As you can see, Sarah does not mess around. These are some hard-core decorations — and some very hard skeletons.

(Photo/Kaitlyn Steffa)

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More than 200 movie lovers thronged the Westport Library this week, for the opening night of “Short Cuts.”

Five international short films were screened, followed by a conversation.

The next installment of the “short film” festival (Thursday. November 17) features documentary films, with guest Oscar-nominated Kevin Wilson Jr. Click here fpr tickets. and more information.

“Short Cuts,” at the Westport Library.

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“06880” does not often post wedding announcements.

But this one has a twist.

Staples High School graduates Juliet Senia and Josh Jeavons are getting married November 18, at Town Hall. State Representative Jonathan Steinberg will perform the ceremony.

Bride and groom live in England. A celebration is planned there in June.

What makes this special is that Juliet was the first baby born to a Westport couple in the new millennium.

Billy and Linda welcomed their 7-pound, 5-ounce daughter into the world at 9:09 a.m. on January 3, 2000.

Julia’s parents are not the only ones thinking right now, “Time sure does fly!”

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Westport PAL’s first-ever gala on Thursday was a hit.

The Inn at Longshore was packed, as residents dined, drank, danced, and raised funds for the kids-first organization’s projects like renovating the clubhouse at PJ Romano Field. Click here to see all that PAL does.

Westport PAL gala-goers (from left):Anna Rycenga, Pam Romano, PAL president Craig Bergamo, Kristen Zygmant, Catrina Hegarty, Emma Rojas, Georgia Rojas. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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Longtime Westporter Nancy Gershon died last month, 10 days before her 87th birthday, of multiple medical causes.

The Brooklyn native was a stellar student, and an excellent pianist and flutist.

After graduated from James Madison High School and Barnard College, majoring in math, then earned a master’s degree in education from Teacher’s College.

Nancy married Richard Gershon in 1957. She worked as a calculator (a pre-computer-era job)  at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory. After he graduate from Harvard Business School they moved to Queens NY, where she worked as a substitute high school math teacher.

The couple moved to Westport in 1963. Her 4 children, born in 6 years, kept her busy, but she took up cello. She played in the Norwalk Symphony and in informal Westport chamber groups. Nancy ‘s oldest child went on to a career as a professional musician.

Nancy and Richard divorced in 1980e. Once her nest was empty she continued with musical activities, including learning jazz piano and taking up saxophone. She also studied computer science at Norwalk Technical College. She collected large quantities of music books, which her musician son has been distributing to music students.

She is survived by her children Russ of Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Andrew, Jill and Laurie of Manhattan; 3 grandchildren; sister Maryanne Lehrer of Oceanside, New York and brother Dr. Robert Leon of Scottsdale, Arizoba. She was ably cared for in her home by Lorna Jones for the last 6 years of her life.

Nancy Gershon

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Today’s spectacular “Westport … Naturally” fall foliage photo is from Compo Road South, near Bradley Street. Thanks, Matt Murray, for the image — and kudos too to whoever takes care of this beauty!

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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And finally … rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis died yesterday in Mississippi. He was 87.

He was a legend. Just imagine what his career would have been like if he hadn’t married his 13-year-old cousin. He was 22 years old at the time — and still married to his second wife. (Click here for a full obituary.)

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Roundup: Riverfront, Banned Books, Banned Dogs …

If you’ve lived here for more than 6 minutes, you’ve got some ideas about downtown.

Don’t keep them to yourself.

The master plan for downtown parking and pedestrian areas — called “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — has moved into the “public engagement” phase.

Click here to take a survey. The link also offers a “Comments” section, for various parts of the proposal.

The survey follows a “visioning charrette” last month. There will also be pop-up displays at downtown locations this fall.

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Irony is not dead.

A lone protestor took to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge yesterday. In what looks like a reference to Monday’s controversial Board of Education meeting about a banned books display at Staples High School, he urges the teaching of reading:

(Photo/Chris Grimm)

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Speaking of the local controversy: Fox News has taken notice.

The network includes a story about the Westport Board of Ed meeting on its website. The piece is illustrated with video from a Southington Board of Education meeting about a “woke worksheet,” and 2 photos from a Virginia Board of Ed protest about Critical Race Theory.

Click here for the Fox News story.

Screen shot of the Fox News story.

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The Westport Library and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce are serious about democracy.

On October 18 (noon, Trefz Forum), they’ll sponsor an interactive candidate forum.

State Senate District 26 candidates Toni Boucher and Ceci Maher, State Representative District 136 hopefuls Alma Sarelli and Jonathan Steinberg, and State Rep District 143 nominees Nicole Hampton and Dominique Johnson will appear.

The debate will be moderated by Chamber director Matthew Mandell, and archived on Vimeo.

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Two sides of the same coin:

An “06880” reader sent this photo of a new sign at Wakeman, the athletic fields adjacent to Bedford Middle School:

She writes:

“Many people feel it’s hard to have a dog in Westport. So many restrictions, especially during the warmer months. But now this new sign just went up in a few places at Wakeman.

“It was all the talk this morning with the moms and dads, where many walk their dogs, and bring them to weekend soccer, baseball and lacrosse games. It’s a shame our town can’t be more accommodating.”

But a youth sports coach had a different reaction.

“It’s about time,” he tells “06880.” “Now maybe I won’t have to walk the fields before practice every day, picking up poop.”

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Frank Accardi writes that yesterday at 7:45 a.m. on Whitney Street, a woman driving a gray Volvo SUV began honking repeatedly as a school bus stopped to pick up children.

Several times, the driver attempted to pull into the opposite lane to pass the bus. Its lights were still flashing.

“If ever there was an instance of thumbing your nose at the community, this is it,” Frank says.

Sure, it’s a pain to be behind a school bus that stops every few feet.

But attempting to pass it, while children are getting on?

That’s worse than any Entitled Parking photo I’ve posted, for sure.

Those lights are there for a reason.

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A proposal to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in Westport — scheduled for the October Representative Town Meeting — has been removed from that agenda. Discussion and a possible vote will be postponed to a future date.

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Next week, the very local Westport Farmers’ Market will be the site of an effort for international aid.

Lawn signs supporting Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression will be on sale next Thursday (October 13, Imperial Avenue parking lot). 100% of all money raised will go to Ukraine Aid International, organized by Westport native Brian Mayer. UAI provides food and medicine to Ukrainians isolated near the Russian border.

Westporter Ken Bernhard and Weston Kiwanis Club member Amy Jenner have already raised $3,000. They have 200 signs left.

If you can’t get to the Farmers Market, email kbernhar@optonline.net for details on purchasing a lawn sign.

Amy Jenner, Ken Bernhard and their Ukrainian lawn signs.

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Congressman Jim Himes is featured at a “Rosé and Reproductive Rights” event (October 11, 7 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club). He’ll discuss the impact — both nationally and locally — of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, and take questions from audience members.

In May, Congressman Jim Himes spoke at a Westport rally protesting the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling. Governor Lamont and Senator Blumenthal (left to right) spoke also. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Westport’s Unitarian Church hosts a potluck brunch Sunday (October 9, directly after the 10 a.m. Sunday service). The group will then carpool to Stamford, for a 2 p.m. Women’s march.

The Church invites everyone interested to attend. For more information, email janetluongo.wellness@gmail.com.

Unitarian Church members making signs for the women’s march.

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Staples High School squash players were among a large crowd that packed Intensity Fitness yesterday.

They saw a great exhibition match between 2 top players. Paul Coll is ranked #1 in the world; Diego Elias is #4.

The Wreckers hope to duplicate some of that success soon, when their season begins.

Intense exhibition squash at Intensity. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

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It’s osprey time again!

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows one of our favorite raptors, enjoying a meal in Ester Clanton’s neighbor’s yard.

(Photo/Ester Clanton)

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And finally … today’s “06880” Roundup features a number of signs: on the Ruth Steikraus Cohen Bridge, Wakeman Fields, Farmers’ Market, and for reproductive rights and the women’s march.

So of course our featured song is …

[OPINION] Landscapers Group Joins Leaf Blower Ban Buzz

As a proposed leaf blower ordinance makes its way through the Representative Town Meeting, many residents are making noise.

Some want it enacted, for peace and quiet. Others oppose it, because it limits the times they can tend to their lawns.

One group has been noticeably silent: the leaf blowers themselves.

The other day, they weighed in. Here’s what the Connecticut Grounds Keepers Association — a non-profit serving “landscaping firms and their allied manufacturers and distributors” — says:

A proposed ordinance is working its way through Westport’s RTM committees pertaining to the use of leaf blowers. While the concept of decreasing noise is a noble and worthy cause, the execution and language of this ordinance is problematic at best.

One issue with this ordinance involves the time window given to use gas or electric leaf blowers. If you were to use even an electric leaf blower at 5:01 p.m. or later to clean the patio or clear your driveway, you could be subject to a $249 fine from Westport’s Conservation Department.

This means that commuters who find themselves stuck on the train or in traffic past 5 p.m. will be unable to ever use any form of a leaf blower during the work week.

Additionally, if your landscaper happens to use a gas-powered leaf blower between May 1 and October 14, you as the homeowner could be subject to
that $249 fine.

Furthermore, the reporting mechanism written into this ordinance encourages
neighbors to videotape one another and document leaf blower usage for submission and assessment of citations and fines.

Another issue with the proposed ordinance involves the selective targeting of landscape professionals.

This ordinance allows unrestricted use of gas-powered leaf blowers on town owned property and publicly or privately-owned golf courses.

During the recent RTM Health Committee meeting, some individuals expressed concern about the emissions and dust from leaf blowers for the operators and
bystanders. It is hypocritical and unjust to restrict gas powered leaf blowers for homeowners and landscapers, but condone and encourage their use by town employees and contractors who Westport is
liable for.

The burden of compliance for this ordinance lies solely with landscape professionals and you, the homeowner. While battery-powered landscape equipment is an adequate solution for many homeowners with small yards to maintain, the equipment isn’t ready for high-volume professional use.
This is confirmed by the exemptions of public works employees and golf courses.

The cost of compliance to a homeowner may be in the hundreds to purchase an electric leaf blower, but the cost to landscape professionals is in the thousands to outfit their entire team.

If electric leaf blowers were so much better than their gas-powered equivalent, they would have already been adopted and used en masse by the industry and the town.

Electric leaf blower.

The progressive transition in the powering of lawn and landscape equipment
should be allowed to happen as technology advances and becomes economically feasible for implementation by small business owners.

This ordinance has not yet passed. Since the stated goal was to achieve a quieter environment for Westport, a reasonable solution would be to determine acceptable working hours in residential areas, rather than restrict equipment use.

Furthermore, setting zero emissions equipment goals will certainly be dealt with at the federal level soon, and should not vary from one town to another.

Respectfully,
The Connecticut Grounds Keepers Association

(The RTM’s Finance, Public Works Committee, and the Environment Committee, have met about this bill. The Ordinance, Parks & Recreation and Public Works  Committees have meetings next week. The entire RTM will consider the proposal on October 11.)

(“06880” keeps you up to date on all that’s happening in town — without blowing smoke. Please click here to make a tax-deductiblel contribution to support our work.)

 

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Leaf Blower Ordinance Returns To RTM

Leaf blowers: Westporters love ’em when they make our lawns look neat.

We hate ’em when they make our neighbors’ lawns look neat.

They’re an efficient way for lawn crews to work. But they are very environmentally unfriendly.

All those ideas have been debated before, nationally and locally.

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting had a first reading of a proposed leaf ordinance — not the first one ever proposed here — earlier. Another reading (now that revisions have been made) is set for the September 6 meeting.

Among the draft’s key proposals:

  • Electric-powered leaf blowers would be permitted all year.
  • Gas-powered leaf blowers would be permitted only from March 15 through April 30, and October 15 through December 31.
  • No leaf blowers of any type could be used before 8 a.m., after 5 p.m. or on any state or federal holiday.
  • Exceptions could be made for storm clean-up operations.
  • The ordinance would also not apply to leaf blowers on town-owned property, or publicly or privately owned golf courses.

The Conservation Department would be in charge of enforcement. After warnings, they could assess fines of $100 for the first violation, and $249 for each subsequent violation.

Following Tuesday’s reading at the RTM meeting, it will go back to committee. A vote could be taken in October. If passed it would become effective on March 15, 2023.

(Other items on Tuesday’s RTM agenda include an appropriation of $237,000 for drainage on the Longshore golf course greens; an appropriation of $313,500.00 for a traffic study of the “Cross Highway School Zone” between North Avenue and Bayberry Lane, and the establishment of a Long Lots Elementary School renovation building committee.)

(Like fallen leaves, “06880” covers all of Westport. Please click here to help support your local blog)

Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Lamont, Trunk Or Treat …

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Yesterday’s “06880” post about leaf blowers created a lot of noise.

On November 8 (7 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farm hosts an information session to clear the air about the impact of gas blowers on our bodies and environment. There will be information too about a gas leaf blower ordinance being presented to the Representative Town Meeting.

The panel includes RTM member Kristin Schneeman, lead co-sponsor of the ordinance; Valerie Seiling Jacobs, advisor with the non-profit Quiet Communities, and Alice Ely, advocate for Westport’s Pollinator Pathway.

The event is moderated by Liz Milwe, WTF co-chair and proponent of Westport’s successful plastic bag ban. Tickets are $10. Click here to register.

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Governor Lamont believes that Connecticut residents should shop local.

So when it came time to pick out a gift for his wife’s birthday, he headed to one of his favorite spots: Savvy + Grace.

The Main Street store was not open decades ago, when Lamont was a young man living on Saugatuck Shores. But he discovered the gift shop-and-more on a trip to Westport, and has loved it ever since.

Governor Lamont, on Main Street.

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Pirates, princesses, superheroes — and all other costumed characters ages 12 and under (and their parents) are invited to tomorrow’s Trunk or Treat event, at the United Methodist church (Sunday, October 31, 1 to 3 p.m.).

It’s fun — and benefits local food pantries. The requested admission is a non-perishable food or cash donation.

Ideas for non-perishable food donations: hearty Soups, peanut butter and jelly, pasta and sauce, snacks like granola bars, canned items (chicken, tuna, beans, fruits, vegetables), cold cereal and oatmeal, shelf-stable milk, pancake and cakek mixes, rice, and mac and cheese.

For more information, click here.

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Jolantha — Weston’s favorite holiday sculptor — welcomes Pumpkin Day. (“Some find Halloween too spooky,” explains Jolantha’s creator, Hans Wilhelm.

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The air is getting colder. But folks continue to flock to Westport. So — as this “Westport … Naturally” photo shows — do our fine feathered friends.

Of course, they were there first.

(Photo/Bruce Borner)

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And finally … tomorrow is Halloween. Kids will dress up as anything. Maybe a walrus?

Meanwhile — once upon a time — the day before Halloween was “Mischief Night.” Hard to believe now, but Kids would toss toilet paper over trees, smash mailboxes, and throw eggs.

So, in honor of walruses and eggmen:

 

 

[OPINION] “Get Off My Lawn!”

Tommy Greenwald grew up in Westport. He’s still here.

The 1979 Staples High School graduate/Broadway advertising executive/children’s book author has seen it all.

Unfortunately, he’s heard it all too. Tommy writes:

No doubt about it, I spend way too much time whining about the cars that are getting bigger and bigger, the Halloween decorations that are getting excessiver and excessiver,  and traffic that is getting insaner and insaner.

But today, I’m talking about something much more down to earth.

Leaf blowers.

They’ve taken over Westport. Am I right?

It doesn’t matter if I’m going for my morning run (make that “jog”) (actually, make that “glorified stroll”) around Cob Drive, walking the dog up Blue Ribbon, or visiting a friend on Juniper Road. You can’t escape these infernal beasts. They are literally everywhere, every day. And somehow, some way, they’re just getting louder and LOUDER and LOUDER.

I’ve hated the damn things for years. Sometimes irrationally, I admit. I’ve been known to yell and scream way out of proportion when that unmistakable, jet engine-like cacophony touches down in our neighborhood. And when I do, most people (I’m looking at you, Cathy Utz) roll their eyes at me.

So for the most part, I’ve learned to hold my tongue. It’s hardly the most pressing issue in the world these days, right?

Well, as it turns out, not so right.

As Margaret Renkl points out in a recent New York Times piece (which has the beautiful title “The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Leaf Blowers“), it’s not just a matter of noise pollution, as wildly maddening as that is.

It also turns out that leaf-blowers are an environmental violation in the extreme.

Did you know that running a leaf blower for a half hour is worse than driving a truck from Alaska to Texas? I certainly didn’t, until Ms. Renkl pointed it out.

These gas-and-oil-powered backpacks from hell also endanger a whole ecosystem of fauna and flora that live among our grasses. And before you plead concern for the landscapers who run the machines — and I understand that, believe me — it might interest you to know that those who handle leaf blowers regularly are subject to an increased risk of lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, premature birth and other life-threatening conditions.

Noisy. And very, very unhealthy.

There are many remedies to this curse. The first, of course, is to let sleeping leaves lie, or mulch them with your (battery-powered) lawn mower — according to Renkl, “the ideal fertilizer for a lawn is a tree’s own fallen leaves.”

But for those who can’t sleep at night if there is so much as one leaf soiling their stunning green lawn, the good news is: There are newer, safer, and quieter technologies on the market. That’s good news for both the earth, and her residents.

We’re coming up on an important election here in Westport. I, for one, would love to know where Jonathan Steinberg, Jen Tooker and TJ Elgin stand on the issue of leaf blowers. It is way past time to ban, or at the very least, heavily regulate these “monsters” (Renkl’s word, not mine) ASAP.

I don’t deny having become one of those proverbial crabby old guys who yell, “Get off my lawn!” But when it comes to leaf blowers, I hope all Westporters join me in yelling, “Get off our lawns!”

RTM April Meeting: Refinancing, Reimbursement, Restrictions

This is Peter Gold’s report on the April Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

With one exception, April’s RTM meeting dealt with unexpected opportunities and unexpected costs.

The current (and very low) interest rates provided an unexpected opportunity to refinance $13 million in bonds issued in 2012 and 2013, when rates were much higher. The rate on the new bonds is expected to be less than 2%, given the Town’s AAA Moody’s bond rating. Refinancing will save the town approximately $500,000 over the 9-year life of the new bonds.

The RTM approved unexpected costs of $380,000 for additional COVID expenses, $780,000 for additional expenses related to Hurricane Isaias, $508,470 for Westport’s 50% share of additional costs for the new Fire, Police and EMS dispatch center being built in connection with Fairfield, and $32,970 for unanticipated state-required drug testing for police officers, and costs to hire new officers to fill 4 unexpected vacancies. FEMA is expected to reimburse the town for all COVID and Hurricane Isaias expenses.

Hurricane Isaias damage on the Longshore golf course. (Photo/Brian Sikorski)

The COVID expenses are for protective devices, sanitizing, legal fees, signage and employee testing. Ten percent of all town employees are tested every week.  During the debate, several RTM members expressed the need to relax the COVID-induced restrictions on public access to Town Hall once the pandemic is passed so people could freely access town offices.

Nearly all of the Hurricane Isaias expenses were for extra help, overtime, and contract services for extra equipment and help to clear roads. The town enters into standby agreements with various contractors to provide their services on an as needed basis in the event of an emergency. Westport incurs no expense if the services are not used. Contracting for emergency services on an annual basis ensures the services are available when needed, at a lower cost, and makes the costs eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

In addition to FEMA reimbursing the town for the $780,000 in out-of-pocket hurricane expenses, exceptional record-keeping by town employees will result in FEMA reimbursing Westport an additional $200,000 to $250,000 for the town’s storm-related use of its own trucks and other equipment.

The new joint Westport-Fairfield Emergency Dispatch Center has been in the planning stage for several years. The proposed site was the old GE headquarters building owned by Sacred Heart University.

Sacred Heart is building a new hockey arena next to the old GE headquarters, forcing the Center’s relocation to a different spot on the Sacred Heart campus. That, and delays in the start of construction, resulted in increased construction costs. Upgraded technology, new servers and a backup microwave communications link account for the remainder of the new costs.

The new appropriation brings Westport’s share of the costs for the establishment of the Emergency Dispatch Center to $1,928,470. Despite this, savings from the lower operating cost for  the Center are anticipated to exceed the cost of establishing the Center in 3 years, and to continue hereafter.

Connecticut’s new police accountability law requires officers to be tested for steroids as part of their certification. Ten percent of the  police force is recertified each year. While Westport police officers are already tested for drugs, this new mandate will increase drug testing costs.

The last item on the RTM agenda was a first reading of an ordinance banning gas-powered leaf blowers, except during 6-week periods each spring and fall.  There is no debate or discussion on a proposed ordinance at the RTM on a first reading. The draft ordinance now goes to the RTM Environment, Public Protection, Parks and Recreation, Health and Human Services, Public Works, Finance, and Ordinance Committees for review.

Dates for these meeting will be posted on the Town’s website at https://www.westportct.gov/about/advanced-components/meeting-list-calendar. The public is welcome to listen to the meetings and submit comments via email before and during the meetings. Once the committees finish their reviews, the draft ordinance returns to the RTM for a second reading and a vote.  This will not be before the June RTM meeting at the earliest.

Roundup: Leaf Blowers, Paper Source, Cable Monopoly …

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Leaf blowers — those must-have yet most-hated suburban scourges — are the subject of a proposed Representative Town Meeting regulation.

The RTM Ordinance Committee meets March 25 (7:30 p.m., conference call). They’ll discuss these rules:

  • Summer (May 16-October 14): Gas-powered leaf blowers not permitted; electric/battery-powered leaf blowers allowed.
  • Fall cleanups (October 15-November 30): Gas- and electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.
  • Winter (December 1-March 31): Gas-powered blowers not permitted; electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.
  • Spring cleanups (April 1-May 15): Gas- and electric/battery-powered blowers allowed.

In addition:

  • No leaf blower of any kind may be used before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
  • No more than 1 leaf blower (regardless of power source) may be used simultaneously on any site less than 2 acres in size.
  • No gas-powered leaf blower may be used on any state or federal holiday.
  • Exceptions: If the 1st Selectman declares an emergency, then gas-powered leaf blowers and/or electric/battery-powered leaf blowers may be used as necessary.

Fines (property owner is responsible):

  • $100 for 1st offense (after a warning)
  • $200 for 2nd offense
  • $500 250 for third or subsequent offense.

The public can call in to the meeting: 646-876 9923. The meeting ID is 850 4769 6393. The passcode is 788806.

 

 

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Paper Source — the Chicago-based stationery store chain — closed 11 stores in the past year.

The downtown Westport shop — between Bank of America and Barnes & Noble — remains open.

It is corporate owned. A recent story on the Well-Appointed Desk blog notes that headquarters “bought a bunch of product from small makers, declared bankruptcy so they would not have to pay the bills, then sell it in the stores for 100% profit.”

It’s great to shop local. But caveat emptor: Supporting this Westport business may mean complicating situations with its corporate owner. (Click here for the full story.)

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The weather’s nice. Time to get the kids moving!

The Joggers Club has opened a group for youngsters. Led by experienced runners, the focus is on form, endurance and fun.

It “runs” Sundays, 2 to 3:15 p.m., April 4 to May 2 at the Staples High School track.

Space is limited to 20 children, grades 3 to 8. The cost is $50 per child.

The Venmo account is “TheJoggersClub-Westport.” Questions? Email thejoggersclub@gmail.com.

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This evening Wednesday, March 10, 6:45 p.m.), Congressman Jim Himes hosts a “telephone town hall.” He’ll discuss the American Rescue Plan. Audience members can ask questions during the call. Click here for the link.

Congressman Jim Himes, at Bedford Middle School.

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Looking for another COVID test center?

There’s an under-the-radar spot right under our noses. Yale New Haven Health operates a drive-through operation at 140 Mill Plain Road in Fairfield, just off I-95 Exit 21.

Hours are by appointment only. Click here for more information, or call 833-275-9644. (Hat tip: Carol Waxman)

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Westport’s MaryGrace Gudis is one of 4 new members of Norwalk Hospital’s board of directors.

Director of the Norwalk Hospital Foundation Board since 2011, she has spent more than 1,000 hours researching and compiling the hospital’s history.

Active at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, MaryGrace is also involved in initiatives providing college educational assistance to disadvantaged students.

The Southern Methodist University graduate has held senior communications positions in the financial industry, including director of public information and senior liaison to the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank. Her husband Mark is on the board of directors for Nuvance Health, Norwalk Hospital’s parent company.

MaryGrace Gudis

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Last month, “06880” reported that the Tristate Coalition for Fair Internet Service is working on legal challenges to Optimum/Altice through the New York State Attorney General’s office, and promoting alternate providers. They’re also collecting data on customer experiences with the longtime cable service.

That survey data was lost when Google disabled the account without the group’s knowledge. They’re appealing. Meanwhile, they created a new survey.

They ask people to complete the Optimum/Altice survey, even if it was already done before. Click here for the link.

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The Webb Road goose is ready for every holiday. Next up: St. Patrick’s Day!

(Photo/MaryLou Roels)

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And finally … exactly one year ago today, COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

You know: WHO.