Tag Archives: leaf blowers

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.

Leaf It Alone!

Alert — and displeased — “06880” reader Carl Swanson writes:

Westport is beginning to sound like a war zone, with high- powered leaf blowers polluting the air nearly every day and all daylight hours.

Greenwich and Ridgefield have restricted their use. Fifteen states have put restrictions on the noise makers.

Our entire street (off North Avenue) was awakened on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. to a neighbor’s lawn crew. There were 4 leaf blowers in use, working on a lawn for nearly 2 hours. Noise pollution.

What about the good ol Wonder Years days, when we raked the damn leaves but then got to burn them!

Carl is not alone. Emily Cooper graduated from Staples High School in 2011, a few decades after Carl. She returned to Westport after 5 years in Manhattan, to wait out the pandemic. She writes:

While I know bigger concerns weigh on most townspeople, over the last 8 months here I’ve been at points surprised, frustrated and saddened to realize that the peace and solace of the “country” is continually marred by incessant lawn and construction noise.

Particularly, now that many of us spend significant time working from home, we are treated daily, from early each morning through late in the evening, to noise from leaf blowers, lawn-mowers, tree choppers and and rock grinders.

I’ve read that nearby towns, notably Larchmont, passed a ban on leaf blowers. Even towns that permit use appear to have more stringent noise ordinances.

I contacted 1st Selectman Jim Marpe on the issue. He said it was a matter for the RTM. I spoke with one of my District 7 reps, who said a petition with 20 signatures would require bringing the matter to RTM attention.

Even if not a full ban on leaf blowers (which, in addition to the noise, create environmental damage), a few points of improvement could be limiting the hours further, and prohibiting construction on Sunday or the entire weekend.

Lawn Mowers And Leaf Blowers: One Solution

Alert — and neighborly — “06880” reader Dick Jay writes:

This past spring, Dan ran an eye-opening article about the significant air and noise pollution from lawn maintenance equipment.

I have been quite annoyed by the same quality of life issues — especially the deafening noise of mowers and blowers — and knew of a great solution that I saw at my brother’s house in Italy 2 years ago. European homeowners have already installed over 1 million private, self-recharging, electric robotic mowers like the one at my house. They’re way ahead of us on this one.

I was finally able to find not only where to get the equipment (Brandman’s), but just as important the installer, a local entrepreneur: erik@pyoorllc.com. Beachgoers now routinely gawk at the futuristic Husqvarna machine pictured below, as it mows my lawn at 53 Compo Beach Road across from the marina.


I have no personal stake in promoting Erik’s business, except improving the lives of local residents. He pays for and installs the equipment and dog fence-type wiring. His people monitor and service the equipment, and come weekly to trim and blow the lawn — all with quiet electric trimmers and blowers.

The total cost is comparable to conventional commercial services, but the advantages are beyond my expectations. No mowing noise. No pollution. Lawn mowing by small increments 2-3 times weekly, sun or rain. The lawn is always the right length. Minimum lawn stress, thereby saving significant water. No damage to lawn and landscaping from heavy fast moving mowers. One mower can handle up to 1.25 acres.

I have not encountered any negatives. I wish everyone converted, if only out of respect for their neighbors.