The Board of Selectmen held its regular meeting on Thursday, April 16. For the first time, the meeting was live streamed over our new Easton Board of Selectmen Facebook page. The session seemed to work well. There were several folks following the meeting and the board was able to receive at least one comment from a member of the public in real time.
We hope to continue this method of communication together with the usual Channel 79 recording of the meetings. The board approved the minutes of our April 2 meeting.
A member of the public offered a comment thanking our first responders for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. This individual also objected to the fact that non-essential boards and commissions are continuing to meet and this deprives members of the public of the opportunity to observe and to be heard.
The board approved three tax refunds. This is a routine action by the board usually relating the sale of motor vehicles generating the right to a refund of motor vehicle tax payments.
The board accepted the recommendations of the 2020 EMS and Firefighters Honorarium Review Committee and voted to send the revised ordinance to a town meeting for final approval. The new program authorizes payments to volunteer EMTs and firefighters up to the new maximum amount authorized by state law. The new caps are $1,500 beginning July 1, 2019, and $2,000 beginning July 1, 2021. This is up from a maximum of $1,000.
The board decided to offer taxpayers both of the tax relief programs authorized by Governor Ned Lamont in his emergency order 7S. The governor has authorized towns to provide either a three month deferment of taxes from July 1 to Oct 1, or a reduced interest rate option for the July 1 tax payment, or both.
Under the deferment program, taxpayers can apply for a deferral of taxes until Oct 1 with eligibility based on a state form that must be filed with the town. Under the low interest program, taxpayers will be charged only 3% per annum interest for delinquent taxes due on July 1 instead of the normal 18% per annum. This low interest rate program will run for the three month period July 1 to Oct 1.
The board authorized the first selectman to enter into an agreement with the state of Connecticut DEEP for a Special Use License in order to allow the town to complete the bridge repair work on South Park Avenue. A portion of the property on which the work is being done is on state property known as the Centennial Watershed State Forest. The agreement will allow the contractor performing the work to enter upon the CWSF land.
The town will be implementing stricter rules and procedures for those entering or working at Town Hall. Face masks will now be required. Limitations on the time spent in Town Hall will be increased. Police Chief Richard Doyle is also implementing measures to limit the foot traffic into the police department as well as measures to enhance police officer safety.
The Westport Weston Health District has informed us that they are in a position to move forward with discussions on merging the Easton Health Department into the WWHD. Those efforts had been slowed due to the work the WWHD needed to do in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been several public hearings. There is information on this topic on the town website.
If the town does not join the WWHD, the alternative will be to hire a new part or full time health director and sanitarian to replace the incumbents who will be retiring from their posts in any event. At some point, there will be a town meeting and, likely, a machine vote referendum to decide the matter.
The board accepted the resignation of Gayle Gay from the Library Building Committee with thanks for her service.
Selectperson Kristi Sogofsky advised the board that the library is planning to develop a new expansion plan that will be reduced in scope from the earlier plan in order to meet the available budget.
I advised the board that informal discussions are taking place regarding how to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the town of Easton now that a single, communal event is not likely to be possible. A group of interested citizens will hopefully convene soon to discuss potential options including virtual/online options.