Annual Town Meeting and Referendum
The Board of Selectmen met twice this past week. We had a special meeting via Zoom on April 19 to set the agenda for the Annual Town Meeting which will be held on Monday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at Samuel Staples Elementary School. The meeting will also be live streamed as in-person attendance will be limited to 80 people.
At the Annual Town Meeting there will be discussion and presentations regarding the town budget, the Region 9 (Joel Barlow High School) budget, and the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health. The board exercised its authority to adjourn the town budget and the Racism Resolution to a machine vote referendum to be held on May 4 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., also at Samuel Staples Elementary School. The Region 9 board has separately acted to adjourn the vote on the Region 9 budget to a machine vote referendum. Accordingly, there will be no votes taken on these items at the Annual Town Meeting.
Those who need to vote by absentee ballot can obtain an application for an absentee ballot online or through Town Hall. The absentee ballots themselves will be available after the Annual Town Meeting. Applications and ballots can be returned to Town Hall or deposited in the drop box across the street from Town Hall in the library parking lot.
The other items on the agenda for the Annual Town Meeting are 1) acceptance of the five-year capital project plan, 2) setting the due date for tax bills for July 1, 2021, and January 2, 2022, 3) approval of a special appropriation in the amount of $75,000 for Easton’s 50% share of the estimated cost of engineering design work for the Judd Road bridge replacement. Monroe will pay the other 50% share as the work is being done in both towns, and 4) approval of a special appropriation of $150,000 for estimated cost of the engineering design work for the Valley Road bridge replacement.
April 22 Meeting
At our regular meeting on April 22, the board approved the minutes from our April 1 and April 19 meetings and approved five tax returns as recommended by Tax Collector Krista Kot.
South Park Avenue Bridge Bid
The board awarded the bid for the second South Park Avenue bridge replacement project to Nagy Brothers Construction LLC. The bid award is in the amount of $1,265,597. There were eight bidders. The Nagy Brothers bid was the low bid.
Body and Dash Cameras
The board waived the bidding process for the purchase of the police department’s new body and dash cameras. The board waived the bid because Police Chief Richard Doyle wants to use the same company that already supplies the department’s current dash cameras. He argued it will be more efficient, cost effective and consistent to use the same supplier.
Batting and Pitching Cage
The board approved the request of the Park and Recreation Commission for an 8-24 referral from Planning and Zoning for the installation of a batting and pitching cage on the Field of Dreams located on the Morehouse Road property. The Easton Baseball League will finance the cost of the project. However, whenever town property is being developed, the Planning and Zoning Commission must weigh in on the plans in a process referred to as an 8-24 referral. 8-24 refers to Connecticut General Statutes Section 8-24 which sets forth the legal requirements associated with this process.
The board approved the request of Attorney Joel Green, representing Cynthia Fox and Mark Conese and their company, Old Burrs Highway LLC, for an 8-24 referral from the Planning and Zoning Commission. They are seeking a discontinuance of use of by the town for Old Burrs Highway, which is the unimproved section of Norton Road north of the Freeborn Road. They are joined by the Aspetuck Land Trust and Marie and Harry Schmitz in this request.
Water Diversion Liaison
The board was advised of the appointment of Ray Martin, vice-chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, as the liaison between the board and the Planning and Zoning Commission in connection with the Aquarion Water Company’s water permit diversion application and with regard to the taxation of the company.
Health District Representation
First Selectman David Bindelglass notified the board that the Westport Weston Health District has now acted to formally accept Easton as a member. It is, therefore, necessary for Easton to appoint a representative to the district. Four people have thus far submitted resumes and letters of interest in serving as the town’s representative. The board discussed the question of what process we should use to decide who is appointed.
Some issues raised were whether the first selectman or the full board should make the appointment, whether the Republican and Democratic Town Committees should be invited to submit names, and whether to have an open interview process. The board will ask all interested parties to explain why they wish to serve, we will find out what process Westport and Weston use, and we will ask the political party committees to offer candidates.
Child Abuse Awareness Month
Chris Griffen, representing the Center for Family Justice, thanked the town for its proclamation of support and informed the board about steps everyone can take in recognition of April as Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Suggested action is to wear the color teal, display a blue pinwheel, join the virtual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event and video contest, and display the flyer he provided to the board. Contact Lisa Labella for more information at llabella@centerfor familyjustice.org or 203-334-6154 x 121.
The first selectman updated the board concerning the multi-use pathway project. By way of background, voters approved the expenditure for the pathway as an advisory question on March 30. Subsequent to that vote, the Board of Finance discussed the issue but took no further action. Since then, the record shows that the reimbursable nature of this project was fully disclosed to the Board of Finance in October 2019 by former First Selectman Adam Dunsby.
Board of Finance Chairman Andy Kachele met with representatives from Aquarion regarding the possible alternate route through the woods which would go through the water company’s property. He reported that Aquarion now says a path in this location is “impossible.” The first selectman expressed his thanks to the several townspeople who offered to donate their services to assist with the construction of this alternate route.
The first selectman pointed out that, just like other building projects, a hard final cost is not knowable until the design work is completed and the design work cannot be completed without upfront funding. If the design work establishes that the project is too expense, it can be terminated. He advised that the Department of Transportation has worked on similar projects with at least two other towns which operate under the town meeting form of government just like Easton. Those two towns also set up their votes without including the full anticipated cost. Their ballot questions only included the 20% portion the town is responsible to cover just like Easton.
This puts to bed the question of the wording of the request to the Board of Finance and on the referendum advisory question. Therefore, even if the town only formally approves the 20% portion, the 80% to be reimbursed by the state will not go away absent fraud or unsatisfactory paperwork.
There may be a second alternate route running down the third baseline at Veteran’s Park, straight through the woods and onto Old Oak Road. The town will take a look at the viability of this new alternate route. It appears that the state will continue to work with the town and wait until the fall so long as forward progress on the pathway continues. To that end, the next step in the process is to engage a design firm. We will begin that process although no actual design work can begin until the funding is approved.
Covid-19 in Easton
The first selectman updated the board on Covid 19. Our rate of infection per 100,000 people is 15.2 which is improved over recent numbers. 410 people in town have been diagnosed with Covid 19. The governor has announced the end of most outdoor restrictions beginning May 1 and of most indoor restrictions beginning May 19. Concerts, graduations and the like will be able to take place after May 1. Mask wearing will continue. The first selectman is committed to having some type of Memorial Day Parade.
The board heard public comment from several people. June Logie spoke about the Multi-Use Pathway Project, the possible request that people who have not been vaccinated not enter town buildings or attend other town events, and the proposal to discontinue Old Burrs Highway. Grant Monserrat spoke about the appointment of a representative to the Westport Weston Health District, Jeff Becker spoke on behalf of Dwight Senior regarding the need for more signs telling people about a vote and his hope that we can have a Memorial Day parade.
Dana Benson spoke about the Multi-Use Pathway project. Jen De Jesus spoke about the Multi-Use Pathway project. Dwight Senior spoke about the death of former First Selectman Bill Kupinse, more signage about town votes, the Multi-Use Pathway project, and the South Park Avenue bridge replacement project.
Selectman Sogofsky commented on the plan to allow the public to attend board meetings in person. Selectman Lessler commented on how the town did not put its best foot forward in the last several weeks and we should all do better, about the death of former First Selectman Bill Kupinse, and about his hope that all items on the ballot on May 4 will be supported.
First Selectman Bindelglass spoke about the death of former First Selectman Bill Kupinse, he spoke in praise of the work and professionalism of Land Use Director Justin Giorlando and he encouraged everyone to attend the Annual Town Meeting on April 26 and to vote on May 4 and to educate themselves on the issues to be decided at these two events.