The board approved the minutes of its May 21 meeting with two minor changes to language.
The board approved a driveway variance for property located at 40 Adirondack Trail. This is commonly done, as in this case, so the town is not liable for any damage to the driveway pavers which intrude into the town’s right of way and so the property owner does not have to remove the pavers.
Senior Center Advisory Board Appointment
The board appointed Wendy Bowditch to the Senior Center Advisory Board to fill an unexpired term running from January 2, 2020 to January 1, 2023.
Tax due date and mill rate
The board set the due date for real and personal property taxes for July 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021, and for motor vehicle taxes for July 1, 2020, based on a mill rate of 31.00 for the Grand List of October 2019.
New Park and Recreation ordinance
The board discussed the proposed new ordinance for the Park and Recreation Department and reviewed the information gathered by Selectwoman Kristi Sogofsky. Most towns keep the parks function within their Parks and Recreation Department but some have the function performed by part time or seasonal help or have staff employed only 10 months a year. Also, complicating comparisons is the wide disparity in the amount of fields and recreational facilities each town has to maintain.
The board agreed to continue on parallel paths of considering the new ordinance which would remove the parks function from Park and Rec and transfer it to Public Works and considering how to achieve better working synergy between Park and Rec and Public Works during the winter months. Reporting to two different masters is problematic under the current arrangement.
Westport Weston Health District
Negotiations continue between the town and the Westport Weston Health District for a one-year contract for the health district to provide health services to Easton. The key issues in the negotiations involve the amount of time personnel will spend in Easton. Financial issues are not expected to be a major hurdle. Receipt of state funding that is available to the larger combined entity also does not appear to present a problem.
proposed land use ordinance
The board discussed the proposed land use ordinance which would require town meeting approval for certain town involved land transactions. At present, the power to sell or lease land is vested in the Board of Selectmen after a public hearing similar to the process by which Planning and Zoning and Conservation adopt rules related to land use. The power to purchase land is also vested in the Board of Selectmen but is subject to Board of Finance and town meeting approval since it most always involves a cost of at least $20,000 (the threshold for town meeting approval). Discussions will continue as there is not agreement on the proposal and there cannot be a town meeting at this time to adopt such an ordinance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
South Park Avenue property
First Selectman David Bindelglass updated the board on the status of the split and sale of the town owned South Park Avenue property. Work is being completed on the letter of intent to sell the portion of the property along the river to the Aspetuck Land Trust. A final map and an initial appraisal is needed before the final July 1 filing deadline in order to quality for state funding of the bulk of the transaction. Work is also progressing on the ecological report that is needed but not due on July 1.
Covid-19 reopening plans
Bindelglass updated the board on Covid-19 reopening plans. Every office in Town Hall is now staffed by at least one person during the entire business day. Plans are being developed to allow public access to Town Hall, particularly considering those who pay taxes in person. Plans for youth camps and sports camps are expected to be announced by the state on June 20. The board voted to appoint Police Chief Richard Doyle as the Covid-19 municipal designee for the town as required by the state. In this capacity, the chief will be responsible for enforcement of Covic-19 rules and procedures.
The board heard public comment from Bill Kupinse, June Logie, John Harris and Grant Monserrat in support of the proposed land use ordinance. The board heard from Peter Howard and June Logie about their concerns regarding the Westport Weston Health District. They explained that the WWHD has a reputation of slowing work down by requiring more than the state health code requires and by not being timely in responding to routine and seemingly simple inquiries. For example, they could take three weeks to tell you that no work is required for a particular project when that answer could likely be provided by a cursory review of the application at the time of filing.
175th anniversary celebration
Selectman Bob Lessler offered board member comment to announce that the 175th anniversary celebration steering committee has now opened applications for the design logos for the anniversary. Residents should go to Easton175.com for contest rules and for information about other activities and events celebrating the anniversary.
South Park Avenue bridge
In response to an inquiry from Lessler, Bindelglass reported that work on the South Park Avenue bridge is nearly complete. Paving should be done next week and then just minor finishing touches will remain such as installation of guard rails.
memorial car parade
Lessler extended a salute to those who participated in the memorial car parade honoring the late police commissioner, Marvin Gelfand, who passed away from Covid-19 earlier this year.
appreciation for stance on George Floyd
Lessler commended Doyle and former Police Chief Tim Shaw for their public stands in opposition to police actions which resulted in the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Bindelglass and Selectwoman joined in this statement of appreciation.