Tag Archives: Robert Harrington

Harrington: Locked Out Of GOP Meeting?

On Monday, Republican Board of Education member Robert Harrington wrote an “Opinion” piece on “06880” about his party’s candidate selections for the board. He strongly criticized Camilo Riano for saying that superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice is “grooming” children.

Harrington also said he has “never met” Riano’s running mate, Jamie Fitzgerald, and has never seen her at any Board of Ed or Republican Party meetings.

Robert Harrington

Last night Harrington tried to dial in to his first Republican Town Committee meeting in Westport since his comments. The “special meeting” — to fill a vacancy on the Planning & Zoning Commission — was set for 8 p.m., via Zoom.

Harrington was at a work meeting in New York, but left to participate in the RTC meeting. He planned to show his support for Michael Calise, the RTC-endorsed candidate for the P&Z slot.

Harrington told “06880” that he tried to join the meeting several minutes early, from multiple devices. He emailed and sent other messages to the organizers,  but says he was not let into the meeting.

Harrington told “06880” that this was the first time he has been unable to access an RTC meeting. As of 10 p.m. last night, he had not heard back from the RTC about his inability to access the meeting.

He told “06880”:

“I am glad that you have provided Camilo an opportunity to respond to my opinion piece from earlier this week.

“I don’t know if I was intentionally excluded from entering a public Zoom meeting of the Westport Republican Town Committee. Maybe it was a technical glitch. It has never happened before. I still haven’t heard back from them about the issue.

“I have a message for my party: I am not going anywhere. This is too important. I’m not a Democrat, and I will keep trying to change our party.  I will keep knocking on the door and showing up to party events.

“Issues matters. Parental involvement in our children’s education is non-negotiable. But words matter too. I am proud to state without any hesitation that Mr Scarice, as superintendent of our public schools, you are not child grooming any children.

“I am not angry with Camilo. This is not personal. Those are his views. However, I am saddened that my local Republican Party has chosen to endorse those words by endorsing this candidate. I do not not endorse those words or this candidate.”

“06888” asked Westport Republican Town Committee chair Joseph Sledge for a comment late last night, but has not yet received a comment.

[OPINION] Camilo Riano: “Give Parents The Representation They Deserve”

On Monday, Republican Board of Education member Robert Harrington said that Republican candidate Camilo Riano “crosses the line.” Harrington cited Riano’s comments about superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice, and 2 complaints Riano filed against the town of Westport.

Riano replies:

As one of the Republican candidates for the Board of Education, I was truly hoping for a campaign in which we had substantive discussions on topics which are important to the parents, the teachers and the children of Westport. Instead, we are already down the path of character assassination.

Camilo Riano

During the past few days, there has been an increase in social media posts that reiterate the innuendo against me that my Democrat rivals have been circulating in their campaign communications. The comments are also consistent with the various smears and character attacks that their supporters have been directing towards me in different media outlets.

The objections to my candidacy seem to revolve around two major points. First, my use of the phrase “child grooming.” Second, my legal efforts, as a concerned citizen, to correct violations of the Westport town charter.

For the benefit of voters, I will address both points head on.

First, in an open letter to Superintendent Scarice, and at Board of Education meetings, I have asked for an end to the “child grooming” that is taking place within our schools.

Pornographic images are widely recognized tools within the child grooming toolkit. According to retired FBI Agent Bob Hamer, “the most important step” in seducing a child through successful grooming techniques is the introduction of “sexual talk and pornography, explaining to the child that he was old enough to understand and mature enough to appreciate sexual topics.”

Along with many parents in our community, I considered the “banned books” display that was set up at the high school library extremely problematic. Some of the images in these books were so pornographic that Dan Woog himself took them down from his website, after briefly posting them. This material was not merely sitting on the shelves of our school libraries. The book display was intentionally designed to tempt our children to review the images by inviting students to “find out why” the books were “banned.”

Three books in the Staples High School Library were challenged by parent Tina McLaughlin. A special committee later voted unanimously that the books could remain in the library. Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice affirmed the decision; McLaughlin later dropped her appeal of that decision.

I do not believe, and never stated, that anyone connected with our schools intended to abuse our children physically, but the unintended risks associated with sexually inappropriate material are potentially very serious. If rational people are having a genuine discussion as to whether or not material displayed in our school library legally qualifies as obscenity or child pornography, something is seriously wrong.

While some might be offended by my choice of words, attacking the words I used does not change the inappropriateness of what has been taking place in our schools. Citizens have a right to dislike this word or that, but I believe most parents, across party lines, are quite uncomfortable with many things happening in our school district that would have been unimaginable in years past. I believe parents are much more concerned about the recent escalation of sexual content and themes in so many facets of our schools and much less concerned about which terms are the most politically correct. As a candidate for BOE, I stand for reasonable and appropriate boundaries when it comes to sex and gender related matters.

Second, let’s discuss my engagement with the town of Westport on the topic of the violation of the town charter. In two instances, I brought to the Town’s attention (working with an attorney who actually acts as legal counsel for multiple other towns in our state) what I believe were clear violations of the Town Charter.

In the first instance, my engagement on the subject of the composition of TEAM Westport, the town lawyer and the first selectwoman actually concurred with our analysis and responded to it by restructuring the committee to bring it in line with the charter. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to thank me for bringing this to the town’s attention, rather than using my involvement here as some kind of talking point against me? Do we not value compliance with the law in Westport?

In the second instance, I communicated my view, supported by legal analysis, that the Board of Ed lacks the legal standing to add student representatives who will function as de facto board members. All 3 Republican board members had objections to the installation of these student “representatives.” I stand with them in their positions.

I am putting myself out there as a candidate because I have strong objections to how the Democrats, under the so-called leadership of chairperson Lee Goldstein, are running the school system. I think it is time to renew the membership of the Board of Education and give parents the representation they deserve.

I continue to believe that how we approach the issues of gender and sexuality within our schools is very important. While activists may continue to insist on their various philosophical positions, these are our children and we need to stand up for them. It was only because of strong advocacy from parents that superintendent Scarice recently had to clarify that our teachers are prohibited from inquiring about student pronouns (indirectly asking children as young as sixth grade, on their very first day of school, if they are transgendered). In some cases, teachers were even asking the students if they wanted this information to be withheld from their parents! Mr. Scarice is correct in his determination that this practice is unacceptable, and I commend him for making that unambiguous.

We should not just blindly trust ideologically motivated activists who have been ignoring what the administration told them. Parents need to be involved. This is why we have a Board of Education. By and large, our teachers are excellent and I have been always on their side, but when something is going wrong in our district, it is the obligation of good parents to step in and make their voice heard.

Enough with the personal attacks. Let’s stop distracting voters with semantics and focus on substance. Let’s have a real dialogue. I welcome the opportunity to engage with my Democrat rivals on these crucial issues.

Let’s have a meaningful and civil exchange of ideas. Let the voters decide. This is how American democracy works.

[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Fellow GOP Member Running For Ed Board “Crosses The Line”

Robert Harrington was elected to Westport’s Board of Education 2 years ago, on the Republican ticket. Halfway through his term, he writes:

Two years ago I had a major issue with my local party’s silence stance over the anonymous “Westport Parents” WP06880.com website. In August 2021 the anonymous website was created. Signs started appearing around town stating “Wale up Westport! CRT is here!” in reference to Critical Race Theory.

Despite an uncomfortable election (when I was running), I decided to stay inside the local Republican Party and have been an active member at meetings since.

I am proud of the way my 2 Republican BOE colleagues and I have worked together and put that election behind us. The Republican minority on the BOE has tackled tough questions like redistricting. We’ve asked tough questions, and have not always sided with central office and our superintendent just because they are the administration of Westport Public School or its chief executive officer.

We haven’t always voted as a party block, and we’ve certainly participated in multiple unanimous votes on issues like our budget and school facilities.

That’s not the end of this article. I’m heading for another disagreement with my local Republican Party into the upcoming election.

Robert Harrington

I’m sure some in my party will be thinking of the words of President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” But this is too important for me to remain silent on.

I am highly disappointed by my party’s choice for at least one of the candidates for the Board of Education.

In late August, the Republican Town Committee nominated Camilo Riano and Jamie Fitzgerald for the Board of Education. I really cannot comment on Camilo’s running mate, as I have never met her or seen her at any BOE or Republican Party meetings.

I am not here to attack Camilo personally. He is a resident, a father of 4 kids who attend our public schools in Westport. Furthermore, he has participated in almost every BOE meeting over the past 2 years. He has turned up and been engaged.

Camilo Riano, from the livestream of a Board of Education meeting.

I don’t disagree with everything he has ever said. I personally strongly advocate for asking tough questions and involving parents in the education of our children. I may disagree with many of the comments he has made and actions he has taken, but he has every right to do that as a citizen, Westport resident and parent.

The real issue for me is that my local Republican Party has chosen to be associated with those views, and has voted to nominate him as one of our 2 candidates.

Our Republican candidate has stood up in public BOE meetings and been active on social media denouncing board members and school administrators for enabling “groomers.” He has directly called out the WPS Superintendent and accused him of “grooming” children. For instance, at a BOE meeting last October 3 he said, “Mr. Scarice, as superintendent of our public schools when are you going to stop the child grooming of our children?”

This is crossing the line.

I think we should all stop and pause for one second. Let it sink in. Those are the words of one of the official local Republican Board of Education candidates.

It’s one thing to disagree with an equity study, not support DEI, or even support a book challenge. But the words above were said directly to, and directly about, our school administrators, central office and our superintendent.

I personally have had several disagreements in public with our superintendent. I’m pretty self-aware, and I’m sure I have irritated and frustrated our administration on multiple occasions. I passionately believe it’s our role as elected representatives to support, question and challenge our leaders to make our school system better. Local residents also should challenge us as BOE members. I certainly did before I got elected, when I had the microphone for 2 minutes.

However,  I would never accuse our administration or superintendent of anything like that. My Republican and Democrat colleagues on the board never have, and I’m confident they never would.

Secondly, Camilo has filed 2 complaints against the town of Westport related to student participation on the BOE, and challenging the composition of TEAM Westport. Do we really want to be nominating Republican candidates who are trying to take legal action against the town of Westport?

Over the past few weeks I have spoken with senior members of my local party, and been upfront about my concerns. I have also reached out multiple times directly to Camilo himself and explained my views. I have asked to speak with him either on the phone or in person, and consider retracting the “grooming” comments and apologizing to our school administrators and superintendent. He politely declined, stating, “I am really busy and do not see much value in getting together to discuss Mr. Scarice’s feelings.”

I think extreme attacks and accusations need to stop, whereever they come from. It’s not just from from the right. At the end of the last school year in a public BOE meeting a member of the public, and an active local Democrat (although not a candidate) referred to my Republican BOE colleague as a “Nazi.” Accusations and references to people as “Nazis,” “groomers,” “fascists,” “racists,” “Marxists” should have no place in our local politics. I hope we can leave all this behind.

Westport Board of Education members, with Westport Public Schools administrators and Long Lots School Building Committee representatives, last week. Robert Harrington is second from left, facing the camera.

Many people reading this may simply ask, “Robert, why do you stay in your party?” I am a Republican. I’m not going anywhere. I am going to stay and fight to try and change our party from within. I may well be unsuccessful. However, I feel it would be disingenuous to suddenly switch to being a Democrat. Even our local system of elections forces us to choose a party if we want to serve on the BOE, and our town charter limits any political party to a maximum of 4 of 7 members on the BOE. Running as an independent is simply not a reality.

The Republicans have not had a majority on the BOE in Westport for over 25 years. If both these candidates were to win, it would break this trend — and I might stand to gain personally. However, I would not want the Republicans to take control like this.

I really hope my party can find another way. I just can’t support them on this.

Board Of Ed Candidate To His Party: We Must Change

I have not posted anything about the Board of Education campaign — nor did I intend to. The race was uncontested (until the emergence of a write-in candidate), and the Republican and Democratic nominees are largely in agreement on issues like learning loss and infrastructure.

But at the end of Thursday’s mostly uncontroversial League of Women Voters’ forum, one candidate addressed an issue that has percolated both locally and nationally: Critical Race Theory.

In doing so, Robert Harrington broke with the Republican Party that had endorsed him. 

Addressing the anti-CRT signs that have appeared around town — and an anonymous website — he said:

Thank you to the other candidates — and fingers crossed, I hope to be working with all three of you after November 2nd election.

Hopefully tonight has shown it is not about about “Republican vs. Democrat” or “Red versus Blue” when it comes to  a local school board election.

But that is the system that Westport chooses. Political parties nominate candidates.

So as a Republican candidate for the Board of Education in Westport, I have a strong and direct message to my local Republican Party.

To be clear: This is not about my running mate, Dorie Hordon. I look forward to working with her.

But my party’s response to “Wake Up Westport CRT: signs is not okay with me.

Their response to the an anonymous website has not shown leadership throughout the party.

This goes beyond those behind this website, and the lawn signs. They have full right of free speech. There is no issue with that. But it is about how we respond to that message. My party’s response is not okay.

I fear in my local Republican Party I am paying  the price for speaking out. I suspect tonight it won’t get any better.

In terms of the local campaign, I have 4 points to make to my party:

Joint Facebook Page/Account: The Republican Party has  deleted all the content, and has not allowed me to put up any new content — not even highlighting an upcoming meeting about our failing school bus schedules. If you go to HordonHarrngton4BOE, you will see there is zero content there.

Campaign email:  The same here. As a candidate I have not be able to email voters or residents — not even a personal statement.

Message from my party: I’ve been asked or told to stop campaigning, shut up, sit down and cancel meetings.

Questions from residents: A resident asked me online (before the entire contents of the site were deleted) a series of legitimate questions on my views on the future of Trump, my response to January 6, and the way I dealt with “The Big Lie.” I answered all these questions, and was happy to do so. However, the Republican campaign, without my knowledge or approval, deleted all my answers.

This is not democratic. It’s not transparent — for a party that often talks about transparency. It’s not a good look for Westport.

Worst of all: It’s not a good look for local Republican Party. They are acting like the national Republican Party

For the sake of Westport and the local Republican Party: We must change.


I reached out to Republican Town Committee chair Joe Sledge for a response. He referred me to the “Westport Republicans” page on Facebook. and this post pinned at the top of the page:

At last night’s League of Women Voters debate, Robert Harrington commented on procedures that the Westport Republican Town Committee put in place with respect to campaign communications by candidates on campaign social media accounts.

Connecticut State law requires that campaign communications contain specific attribution language, and the WRTC has sought to assure that candidates comply with these rules. Understandably, Robert may not be fully familiar with these regulations. We commend Robert’s passion and willingness to express his perspective.

Aquarion Water Towers: Jim Marpe Responds

This morning, “06880” reader Robert Harrington criticized 1st selectman Jim Marpe and other town leaders for their actions during the Aquarion/North Avenue water tower debate. The 1st selectman responds:

Thank you for the opportunity to address Mr. Harrington’s concerns and accusations. I will try to clarify certain facts and misstatements, as well as explain how my staff and I have willingly assisted a group of residents who abut Aquarion’s property on North Avenue. I have remained sympathetic with their concerns regarding quality of life and property values, and have sought to mitigate the impacts that this vital infrastructure project may have on them.

The town attorney, operations director, director of public works, fire chief, fire marshal, tree warden, other staff, volunteers and I have devoted hundreds of hours over the past year and a half researching and mediating toward a solution that would help the neighbors, and at the same time address the water supply needs of the entire community. I personally have taken the following actions:

  • led public and work group meetings;
  • facilitated communications between Aquarion and the neighbors;
  • advocated for a peer review paid for by Aquarion;
  • dedicated my staff’s time;
  • enlisted experienced resident volunteers to assist with mediation;
  • remained non-partisan and neutral with the goal of compromise; and
  • wrote several letters to PURA on behalf of the residents.

These are tangible services that I believe speak volumes over appearing at a single public regulatory hearing to make a statement. I appreciate the state legislators’ ongoing efforts to help, but my office and several dedicated town employees have been consistently involved in trying to reach an acceptable solution. The positions that I have taken are not just advocacy. They also reflect a careful weighting of all the options and their outcomes, as well as the benefits to the greater good of all Westporters.

The town stayed involved in this process and conveyed to Aquarion the importance of:

  • finding a way to lower the height by eliminating the dome;
  • increasing the landscaping;
  • managing the traffic and disruption; and
  • expediting the water main upgrade.

Had we not stayed involved, Aquarion would never have agreed to the most recent settlement offer. They also would never have agreed to the peer review. It is clear that my pressure on Aquarion led to the agreement on several concessions.

In advance of the public hearings in New Britain, I submitted a detailed letter to PURA with very specific requests. Furthermore, while I remained in Westport to address other town-related issues, at my behest and with my full confidence the town Attorney and operations director attended the hearings held in November and January. PURA requested that the fire marshal and public works director testify. That totals 4 senior town representatives involved with 2 hearings in New Britain.

Public works director Mr. Ratkiewich is a dedicated 29-year town employee who has no affiliation with Aquarion. He was requested by PURA to testify under oath and responded to specific questions on a factual basis. This testimony, along with that of our fire marshal and Mr. Harrington, are all available for the public to review. I am confident that upon review of the public proceedings, no one would describe Mr. Ratkiewich’s tone and commentary as anything but professional and forthright.  I will not accept attacks on, and I will always defend, our town staff when they are inappropriately accused.

It is easy to say that a tank should go “here” or “there” as an alternative, but Mr. Harrington fails to mention the related costs and potential disruption to our town. Also, he doesn’t point out that his proposed alternate sites include the entrance to the Bedford Middle School property and a location in another residential zone. If PURA believes that these locations or other alternatives should be pursued, then I’ll direct the efforts of our town staff accordingly.

We know that the water main upgrades in Westport have been on Aquarion’s capital plan. Aquarion offered to accelerate them in order to come to a compromise. The town remains skeptical that Aquarion has the ability to complete the work within the accelerated timeframe, which is why the tank construction is vital to our water supply infrastructure.

We have gone above and beyond to assist. I am proud of the compromises the neighbors and the town have accomplished during negotiations with Aquarion. In fact, the final settlement agreement was close to acceptance by both parties until the fire marshal would not agree to further lower the height of the tanks because of the impact on fire flow. Since I trust his expertise and experience, I removed the additional lower height provision from my request to PURA. I agreed that the town should not reduce the fire flow improvements that we are receiving from this project. At that point, several residents split apart because many were ready to settle. Mr. Harrington now represents a smaller fraction of the impacted homes.

Last fall, PURA members — and a few protesters — toured the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site.

Despite all the time, energy, costs and effort that my staff and I have dedicated in the mediation process, the neighbors were not able to reach a settlement with Aquarion. That is why PURA, the regulatory authority tasked with oversight of Aquarion, has become the forum to address the issues. The proposal to allow Aquarion to build one tank while a second site location is found is best left for PURA to decide.

In conclusion, I stand by the efforts of the town as well as my leadership. Other local challenges also require my time and attention, including the rehabilitation of Coleytown Middle School and finalizing the town’s operating budget. Nevertheless, the North Avenue water tanks remain an important issue for the town. As such, our staff and I will continue to be involved as appropriate, and if we believe it can bring us to a settlement that all parties can accept.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to state the facts and provide my support of the town’s dedicated employees.


[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Leadership Needed On Aquarion Tanks

Robert Harrington, his wife and 4 children have been Westporters since 2004. He speaks out on local issues — including the Aquarion/ North Avenue water tank debate. 

“I live over a mile away from the approved tanks, so this is not a NIMBY issue for me,” he says. “It’s about elected representatives supporting local residents.” In the wake of a recent regulatory hearing in New Britain, he wrote this letter to 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

I was greatly disappointed by how several town officials came to speak out against community requests at the recent Aquarion Public Utilities Regulatory Authority hearing in New Britain. This will likely ensure that the town of Westport will fail to get the best results for all residents.

No Westport resident should be put in a situation where the quiet use and enjoyment of their property is destroyed by a private company.

This is not just another large-scale development. This is the largest public works project in our town’s history. It is being placed in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

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

In particular, I was personally angered by the tone and commentary from public works director Peter Ratkiewich.

Neither Mr Ratkiewich nor any of his staff attended any of the P&Z meetings in 2017 when the project was discussed and voted on. He never explored valid alternatives. Then, at PURA, he sought to undermine any attempt to consider alternatives that could have offered  increased fire protection and fire flow.

At times during his testimony, Mr Ratkiewich sounded more like an Aquarion employee than a town of Westport representative.

Other towns across the state from Greenwich to Derby to Mystic have supported residents and successfully fought back against private interests. They found workable alternatives. Westport did not.

I was very careful not to attack our fire marshal in New Britain. I didn’t want to undermine one of our key leaders before the commission. However, if this project is really that urgent why are we not looking at all potential supplies, in addition to tanks? Why did Aquarion and Westport do nothing for 5 years following the Saugatuck Congregational Church fire in 2011? Why are the key players not making a much stronger argument for water main upgrades?

The water mains may yet be improved, although we have not been able to get concrete guarantees from Aquarion. Our community group fought hard to have upgrades included in any deal, despite the fact that in August 2018 your staff meekly recommended that we drop the effort given Aquarion’s stubborn refusal to do so. We wouldn’t take no for an answer, and upgrades are thankfully back on the table.

Even more worrisome, Aquarion has changed the fire flow numbers that were contained in the original reports they gave to rgw town. No one from our town is questioning this.

Why have these numbers changed?

The town of Westport has approved a plan that is better than the current situation — but will leave places like Saugatuck Shores vastly below what is recommended for fire flow.

Party politics should play no role in a project that will last for the next 100 years. That said, as a Republican I was embarrassed by the fact that Republicans didn’t come and represent any of the people in the room at PURA, New Britain over the past 3 months.

Westport was well represented by many Democrats and small parties. We had wonderful representation from State Senator Will Haskell, Representative Jonathan Steinberg and many RTM members

You took the explicit choice not to stand with the community — or even attend.

We also had strong participation from community leaders like Valerie Jacobs and Ian Warburg from Save Westport Now, and Jennifer Johnson from the Coalition for Westport.

Many residents spoke about losing value on their homes, and had to do the work that Aquarion and the town of Westport should have done.

We will likely see 2 huge tanks constructed on the current 3-acre site, which is far too small to provide full screening.

Balloons show the height of Aquarion’s proposed water tank on North Avenue.

We also offered several alternatives to PURA to evaluate. PURA could immediately approve one tank on the site and rule that a second location must be found for a second tank. You and your staff dismissed this.

Alternatively, Aquarion could build two2 shorter tanks on the  site. But getting approval for the second tank, they would have to demonstrate to the community that they were being good neighbors and honoring their commitments while the first tank is constructed – including committing to material water main upgrades.

If 2 tanks are squeezed on to the site, Aquarion could plant taller trees to fully screen the tanks — and reduce the side wall by 3 feet. They offered the community this height reduction in August 2018, but didn’t bother to speak to the fire department first.

You and your staff chose not to support these common sense proposals.

There is a potential deal to be done on Bayberry Lane for a second tank location, but that would require political leadership. Alternatively, you could have explored leasing land on school property — potentially giving the town a much needed revenue source.  None of that happened.

Any delay at this point is your responsibility.

We urge PURA to approve one tank on the current site, and begin the work immediately driving almost a 50% increase in storage within 12 months versus the current single tank. Until the current old tank is decommissioned, the 2 tanks will contain almost 150% more water today.

The Westport P&Z was misled by Aquarion. Your town employees are helping to ensure a project that won’t fix Westport’s water pressure and fire flow gets the go-ahead because this is the easiest and cheapest route for Aquarion.

We need your leadership.

[OPINION] Westport Deserves Better From Aquarion

The battle between Aquarion and North Avenue residents — over the proposed construction of 2 large water tanks — drags quietly on.

“06880” Robert Harrington provides this view of the ongoing battle:

Behind the scenes, things has been busy. Since December, we have been trying to gain a better understanding of the reasons for the increase in water capacity and work with Aquarion on a compromise for the proposed water tanks on North Avenue.

To date, we have not reached agreement. Aquarion has rejected our compromise plan, committing only to extra landscaping.

After a months-long campaign, North Avenue residents have removed road signs opposing the water tanks. They hope to foster a better relationship between Aquarion and the community.

Our plan proposed removing the 9-foot dome roof, and a modest 5-foot reduction to the planned 31-foot side walls. (The current tank side wall is 11 feet).

Piping upgrades alongside this project would deliver the fire department more fire flow and pressure than the current plan.

It is nearly impossible to shield 2 40-foot giant tanks. Last August, Aquarion’s CEO promised Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission that the tanks would be “fully shielded within a few short years.”  This will not be the case. Under our plan, two 25-foot tanks would be much easier to screen. Nowhere in Connecticut has anyone successfully screened 40-foot tanks.

Twin tanks in Trumbull are unscreened.

The 3-acre North Avenue site is very different from other Aquarion properties. They are typically located on 20 to 30-acre lots, surrounded by thick woodland.

The Westport project is currently on hold, pending an appeal at the state’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority. Yet neighbors may be denied an opportunity to present their arguments.

Limited talks with Aquarion are ongoing. However, Aquarion’s legal stance is to stop the neighbors by filing motions to block them.

The neighbors’ action group has an important message. 1,200 residents signed a petition requesting an independent water study, and lower tanks.

We support a major water infrastructure upgrade, but the new tanks need to fit better within the residential environment.

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

The problems are not just related to how they look.

During low usage periods, (i.e., during the fall/winter months), water will have to be drained off to prevent water quality issues. The tanks are too large.

More worrisome, 73% of Westport’s key fire hydrants will still have “deficient” fire flow and pressure.

11 of 15 test hydrants will not be compliant with Insurance Service Office standard. As the P&Z is sworn to uphold public interest and welfare in town, we have formally asked them to investigate this.

A peer review, paid for by Aquarion, cited both issues.

What the study did not highlight is the biggest single opportunity to increase our ISO rating: annual inspections of fire hydrants. Aquarion won’t commit to annual inspections. They should.

Bigger tanks alone cannot fix the problem. Piping upgrades are needed too. This is critical to properly protect Westport.  Aquarion’s own data shows this clearly.

Residents can get lower tanks. Fire Department can get significantly better fire flow. This costs money — although both tank and piping upgrades could be paid for over the life of this 50+ year project.

This appeal matters. Our voices should be heard. Aquarion is trying to ensure that doesn’t happen. Elected officials have our backs.

First Selectman Jim Marpe has written to PURA requesting our appeal be heard,

State elected officials have followed his lead. Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle have written to PURA Secretary Katie Dykes that they support the rejection of Aquarion’s motion to dismiss.

Save Westport Now and the Coalition for Westport have shown strong support too.

Water quality issues, deficient hydrant data and a proper look at alternatives were not fully discussed at the P&Z.

Eversource/Aquarion, the state’s largest electric/water utility, need to rethink. Our plan would protect Westport and avoid going to PURA altogether — if agreement can be reached beforehand.

Westport deserves better.