An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will. — Thomas Jefferson
To Easton Citizens:
Easton citizens would not be wise to sell our health department rights to the first buyer that has come along by joining the Westport-Weston Health District (WWHD), all in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. This decision will have a profound effect on our town, and we will have to live with the consequences for years to come. We should not jump quickly at the first option to come before us on an issue as serious as our health services. This decision needs to be made after serious deliberation, exploration of other options, vetting by town boards/commissions, with a vote of our legislative body, and in a manner that enables all residents to participate – not just those who are computer savvy. We need to ask ourselves: Is the WWHD the right fit for Easton’s size and character?
Points to consider:
- Rural Easton would be joining a health district that is 5 times our size (Easton – 7500, Westport: 28,000 + Weston:10,000 = 38,000).
- It is home to 75 restaurants, 49 retail stores, 27 physicians’ offices, 12 gas stations, 9 physical therapy offices, 13 beauty salons, 15 hair salons, 8 home care companies, 10 massage businesses, 2 beaches, 1 state park, 2 beach clubs, 2 country clubs, 9 delicatessens, 3 ice cream parlors, 6 personal training businesses, and 11 spas. (data from the Westport tax assessor’s office).
- It includes access to I-95, the Merritt Parkway, and Metro North, with significant exposure to NYC.
Westport is nothing like Easton, and WWHD regulations are geared toward a municipality that has all the components listed above – not toward a town like Easton with 7,500 residents, three grandfathered stores, and acres of farmland, watershed, and reservoirs. By joining the WWHD, Easton will position itself as a small rural appendage to a larger, more complex population center. We will be entangled in its extensive list of regulations and its finances. WWHD relies on state money which cannot be counted on over time.
Information is needed for us to make an informed decision. We need to turn to our Town Sanitarian and Director of Health for answers to important questions. Here are just a few:
- What are the specific differences between Easton’s current regulations/enforcement and those of the WWHD? How will those regulations affect contractors, landscapers, and tradesmen or applicants for wells/septic systems?
- What services are available to Easton citizens through our current employees and the Senior Center? What needs are not being met?
- We will be trading a part-time sanitarian and part-time health director serving our population of 7500 for a district that has two full-time employees serving a 3-town population of 45,000 plus the list of establishments above. How is that an improvement?
- Is there significant financial benefit to joining WWHD? Health decisions are not purely financial. Finances must be balanced with real health concerns. For comparison, we need a detailed examination of WWHD finances and hard numbers on what it will take to develop an Easton Health Department.
Bigger is not always better. Over regulation is destructive to good governance and public trust. Let’s find qualified people to replace our retiring health employees and take time for a responsible and serious look at what we want and need for Easton health services.
Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) was founded by Easton resident Bud Jennings over 30 years ago and is the oldest PAC in CT. For many years the group acted as a tax watchdog. In more recent years the mission has broadened, and CRG works to protect and sustain the traditional processes of Easton governance, the Town Meeting, by raising awareness regarding important town issues. To see our most recent publication, Important Easton Issues, visit our website at https://www.eastoneye.org/ .