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Letter: Response to Kristi Sogofsky’s Op-Ed on Region 9 Board Appointment

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Kristi Sogofsky’s LTE dated July 22.

I’m reminded of the phrase “you only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Kristi and the RTC had the same opportunity as the DTC to search for a BOE candidate, prepare a response, and make a recommendation to the BOS.

The DTC vetted and presented Sarah Lehberger to the BOS and included a formal resume and letter of interest from Sarah as part of her presentation at the meeting. She was also present at the meeting. This demonstrated her sincere intent to be appointed.

The RTC’s candidate presentation included a “brief bio” and she neglected to attend the meeting.

Dr. Bindelglass and Bob Lessler gave Kristi every opportunity to postpone the appointment so the RTC could make a better presentation of their candidate. Kristi opted to ignore the request and pushed forward with the discussion of the appointment at the meeting.

If you are in a professional setting and presented with two candidates for a position, one who actively demonstrates an interest in the position and one who shows a casual interest, which candidate would you nominate to put forth? Sarah made a notable first impression while the other candidate’s first impression was lackadaisical.

We all know this is the beginning of the fall political season and Kristi’s letter is nothing more than political posturing. Dr. Bindelglass and Bob Lessler made a decision that was in the best interest of the Town given the information they had to make the evaluation. That’s the kind of intellect and leadership I think is necessary to run the town.

David Katz

Easton




Easton Republicans Endorse Candidates for November

Easton Republicans formally endorsed their slate of candidates for the November municipal election during their caucus on July 22 at the Easton Public Library.

Jeff Parker is the party’s candidate for first selectman. Parker announced his candidacy and filed the paperwork to run for the position in May. In accepting the endorsement of the party, Parker said, “We are in it to win it. We must bring the town back together.”

Kristi Sogofsky is running to retain her seat on the Board of Selectman. Sogofsky has served on the board since 2018.

The Republican slate includes many returning candidates as well as several residents eager to take on official roles in the town.

“The Easton Republican party is proud of our full slate of candidates for the November municipal election,” said Wendy Bowditch, chair of the Easton Republican Town Committee. “Easton is lucky to have such a talented and committed group of people passionate about serving our community. We look forward to communicating with the voters in the coming months and are confident our candidates will serve the best interest of this community.”

Candidates seeking re-election include: Christine Halloran for town clerk, Christine Calvert for treasurer and Krista Kot for tax collector.

The ERTC Nominating Committee interviewed and vetted candidates over the past several months. The committee then presented the slate to the Easton Republican Town Committee for consideration and acceptance. The caucus was the final step in the endorsement process.

The following is the slate of candidates as approved by Easton Republicans for the November 2021 municipal election:

Gerry O’Brien, chair of the ERTC nominating committee, looks on as Jeff Parker, first selectman candidate, signs papers.

First Selectman — Jeff Parker

Selectman — Kristi Sogofsky

Town Clerk — Christine Halloran

Treasurer — Christine Calvert

Tax Collector — Krista Kot

Easton BOE — Jenny Chieda

Region 9 BOE — Todd Johnston

Region 9 BOE — Steve Costantino

Region 9 BOE — Kathy Thompson

Board of Finance — Mike Ring

Board of Finance — Wendy Bowditch

Zoning Board of Appeals — Victor George

Zoning Board of Appeals — Ray Ganim

Library Board — Shari Pearlman

Constable — Anthony Farmer

Constable — Chris Peritore

Constable — Darrin Silhavy

Constable — Raymond Martin III

Board of Assessment Appeals — Adam Bonoff

For more information, go to eastonrtc.org.




Board of Selectmen Meeting of July 15, 2021

The board met with Selectman Kristi Sogofsky present via Zoom and the First Selectman Dave Bindelglass and Selectman Bob Lessler personally present. The minutes of the meeting of July 1 were approved with modifications.

Appointments

The board appointed Sarah Lehberger to fill a vacancy on the Region 9 Board of Education. She will serve until the Nov. 2 election. The board re-appointed Richard Colangelo to the Police Commission for a term next ending on June 30, 2024, and appointed Victor Alfandre to the Police Commission for a term next ending on June 30, 2024.

‘Easton Grows ‘Hemp Pilot

The board received an update on the progress toward finalizing a lease of one acre of land on the South Park Avenue property to be used by Easton Grows to grow hemp for a one-season pilot project. The lease negotiations are nearly completed, and it is likely the board will hold a special meeting to review the lease and business plan sometime next week. If the agreements are approved, Easton Grows will plant, grow, and harvest a hemp crop and share any profits realized with the town.

Social Media Policy Draft

The board reviewed the draft of a social media policy, made modifications to the draft, and adopted the revised policy. The goal of the new social media policy is to guide town employees and officials in the appropriate use of and participation on various social media platforms. The key concepts are that town employees and officials should identify themselves when speaking about town policy and should always present themselves in a professional, civil and dignified manner on social media.

Opening and Closing Public Comment

Several people spoke during the opening and closing public comment section. June Logie asked that the power point presentation by Citizens for Easton presented at our July 1 meeting be posted on the town website. She pointed out discrepancies in the information that appears on the town website when using a cellphone versus a PC and asked if that could be rectified. She inquired if Covid funds could be used to improve and enhance our ability to get various town meetings online. She asked that future meeting agendas state whether a meeting is by Zoom, in person, or both going forward. She expressed concern about the recent increase in crime in town, including but not limited to, car break-ins and thefts.

Tom Herrmann spoke in support of his desire to be reappointed to the Police Commission. John Meyer asked that the town calendar be updated to show that the July 26 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is a special meeting and not a regular meeting. It will cover changes to the Plan of Conservation and Development and discuss a potential new regulation concerning managed residential homes. He also urged adoption of an ordinance to shift sidewalk maintenance to the homeowner and away from the town.

Grant Monsarrat asked for an update on the modified ethics ordinance and the proposed land use ordinance.
Jeff Becker spoke about making it clear on the website that the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting for July 26 is a special and not a regular meeting. He spoke about the revaluation process, the Easton Grows lease for South Park Avenue, and the increase in car-related crimes. He reminded people to lock their cars, not leave valuables in their cars, and to use doorbell cameras to keep an eye on things.

Dana Benson spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein. David Bryant spoke about critical race theory and the diversity, equity and inclusion work. Maureen Hanley asked if a new search fee for a new superintendent of schools will be incurred. She expressed concern about the unannounced visits by people doing the revaluation of homes. She spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein. She thanked Selectman Sogofsky for nominating an unaffiliated voter for the Region 9 Board of Education.

Devon Wible spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein. She thanked the first selectman for his work on Covid and other challenges faced this year. Mimi Jacob spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein. She expressed thanks that the boards of education work well together and in a bipartisan manner.

Pat Linnane spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein. Bev Dacey spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and the issues raised therein. Dwight Senior spoke about the recent increase in crime in Easton. Debbie Barer spoke about the first selectman’s post on Facebook and issues raised therein.

Selectmen’s Comments

Selectman Lessler updated the board about the work on updating the town’s ethics ordinance. He and three other people met and are drafting a revised ordinance with a goal of presenting it to the Board of Selectman and the Town Meeting for a vote in mid-September.

Selectman Sogofsky thanked the board for allowing her to participate remotely. First Selectman Bindelglass updated the board about the work on producing a land use ordinance. He expects a final version to be ready for the Board of Selectmen soon and for the Town Meeting which is expected to take place in mid-September. He pointed out that the revaluation process is complex and the database of home information is very large. The point of the questionnaires sent to residents in the spring was to identify discrepancies. He will check into the issue of unannounced visits by revaluation investigators.

He will check on the issue of discrepancies on the website depending on the type of device used to access the website. He has no information on the issue of whether the town will incur a search fee for the hiring of a new superintendent of schools. He pointed out that residents may register their doorbell cameras with the police department which would help fight crime. Lastly, he pointed out that Covid 19 numbers are now slowly increasing. He urged everyone to get vaccinated against the virus.

The meeting video is available for viewing at https://vimeo.com/showcase/easton-board-of-selectmen




Board of Selectman Meeting of June 17, 2021

The Easton Board of Selectmen held its second regular June meeting on June 17. We approved the minutes from our June 3 meeting. In addition, we approved the release of a road opening bond for property located at 50 Abbey Road. We approved two equipment purchases for the Department of Public Works. The department will now move forward with these purchases. We approved a driveway variance and indemnity agreement for the installation of Belgian block for property located at 35 Riverside Lane.

You can watch the June 17 Board of Selectman meeting video here.

Appointments and Resignations

The board accepted the resignation of Chris Neubert from the Pension and Employee Benefits Commission with thanks for his service. We appointed Jamie Weinstein to the Cemetery Commission to a term running until November 30, 2024. We appointed Chase Cameron to the Park and Recreation Commission for a term running until January 2, 2022. The first selectman advised the board that he appointed Karen Neisyn to an alternate seat on the Conservation Commission. The board deferred action on appointments/reappointments to the Police Commission. The board also received notice that John Harris, the long time chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, will resign his seat effective, June 30 as he is moving out of town.

The board held a long discussion regarding the proposal for a one growing season pilot project to grow hemp on one acre of the South Park Avenue property owned by the town. The proponents of the project met with the Agriculture Commission the day before our meeting. From that meeting, a list of recommended changes and revisions to the lease proposal and the business plan were developed. The proponents will now work on preparing revised documents and get them to the first selectman for legal review.

The shared goal is to have final documents ready for approval at our next Board of Selectmen’s meeting on July 1. Assuming the documents are in final, or near final, form and are acceptable to all parties and the South Park Avenue Advisory Committee final report is not inconsistent with the plan for this pilot project, the consensus of the board is to proceed with the project. This would hopefully mean the pilot project will take place this calendar year.

Town Website and Social Media

Selectman Kristi Sogofsky raised the question of the applicability of the town policy on usage of the town website and email platform for certain unofficial purposes. Specifically, she raised the question of whether to limit such usage by town officials — and in particular, the first selectman — during campaign season. First Selectman Dave Bindelglass pointed out that he always tries to be clear in his weekly reports when he is expressing opinions as contrasted with when he is reporting basic, objective, factual information.

He pledged to redouble his scrutiny of his commentary posted on the website or disseminated through the town email, especially during campaign season.The board agreed to revisit this issue after reviewing the policies of some other towns that Selectman Sogofsky has collected. Apparently, the practice currently employed is similar to that of the first selectman in Fairfield.

A proposal for a social media policy was distributed to the members of the board for review and will be discussed at our next meeting.

Pride Flag

The board approved the request of resident Sara Hunsucker to fly the Pride flag in celebration of Pride month from June 25 to June 28. Although the plan was to fly the flag as we did last year, from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, Selectman Sogofsky pointed out that June 28 is the anniversary of the Stonewall Riot and thought we should consider extending the Pride flag flying well into the day on the 28th. After an extended discussion, the board voted to authorize flying the Pride flag on the Town Hall flag pole below the U.S. flag and the state of Connecticut flag from the afternoon of Friday, June 25 until the evening of Monday, June 28. The vote was two in favor (Bindelglass and Lessler) and one abstention (Sogofsky).

The board agreed to revisit our existing flag policy to consider whether to limit the flying of such flags to groups recognized in a presidential or gubernatorial proclamation or resolution or other very limited circumstances. The board will continue to investigate options for construction of a second flagpole at town hall or replacing the existing flagpole with a nautical style pole which would allow three flags to fly from a single stanchion.

Public Comment

The board received public comment from numerous residents on a variety of topics at our beginning of meeting and end of meeting periods of public comment.

The following people spoke in favor of the hemp farm project: June Logie, Dana Benson, Pat Linaine, Rene Etah, Gale Bellas, Devon Wible, Sal Gardina, Jeff Becker, Sarah Lehberger, and John Meyer.

The following people spoke in favor of flying the Pride flag: Agnes Bebon, Pat Linaine, Rene Etah, Gale Bellas, Elliot Leonard, Helen Moy, Sarah Hunsucker, Lisa Valinsky, Devon Wible, Hilary Desmond, Jeff Becker, Sarah Lehberger, and Susan Falzone.

The following people spoke in opposition to flying the Pride flag: Dana Benson, who referenced a petition signed by 50 people opposing flying the Pride flag which was presented to the first selectman, and Kevin Rodrigue.

The following people spoke about flying the Pride flag: Sal Giardina and Lou DePietro.

Additional Comments

The following additional comments were made by residents on other topics: June Logie asked about the timeline for the proposed Land Use Ordinance and thanked the board for placing a proposal by Citizens for Easton (CFE) on our agenda. (Note: this item was not addressed during the meeting as no one from CFE appeared to speak on the matter. It will be placed on our next agenda.)

Jeff Becker wanted to know why the tree hung up in some wires on Bibbins Road has not been removed. He also wants to know what steps the town is taking against possible ransomware cyber-attacks. Grant Monsarrat asked about the status of the proposed revision of the Ethics Ordinance. Leslie Minasi asked that email addresses on the town website be made clickable which would be easier to use. She also asked the board to preserve the entire South Park Avenue property as open space. She reported that CFE will do its annual farm tour this year on Aug. 14.

Gale Bellas expressed dismay that local social media websites and outlets seem to be mostly too far leftwing or too far rightwing. Dwight Senior asked if the police department is taking proactive or reactive action regarding recent criminal activity in the south end of town. Devon Wible thanked the first selectman for his weekly reports to residents.

Hilary Desmond announced that on June 19 from 1 – 4 p.m. there will be a Juneteenth celebration at Morehouse Field. State Senator Tony Hwang, State Rep. Anne Hughes and Congressman Jim Himes will attend as may one of our U.S. Senators. In addition, there will be a Pride event on June 26.

Lou DiPietro commented on the weekly emails from the First Selectman and said while he thought there was some editorializing, people should consider the source of the complaints about this practice. Sarah Lehberger said she appreciates the communications from the first selectman. John Meyer pointed out that the volume on the recordings of public meetings on Channel 79 is often too low making it hard to hear.

Selectmen Comments

The members of the board offered comments as follows: Selectman Lessler said he supports the Pride flag raising as it enhances the notion of our country as a mosaic composed of individual unique tiles that when viewed at a distance create a bigger picture. The U.S. flag is similar in that, as a whole, it is representative of us all; but broken down, it is also a mosaic composed of one star for each state and one stripe for each of the original 13 colonies.

Putting the Pride flag up highlights some of the tiles that make up America. He said he looks forward to the Juneteenth and Pride in-person gatherings which are possible now as the pandemic danger recedes.

Selectman Sogofsky said she will be out of town on June 25 and won’t be able to attend the Pride flag raising ceremony. She does not want her inability to be present to be misconstrued. She reaffirmed her view that only the U.S., state and town flags should fly on the main Town Hall flagpole.

First Selectman Bindelglass said he understands and accepts that Selectman Sogofsky cannot be at the June 25 Pride flag raising due to a prior out of town commitment.




Will Pride Flag Fly in Front of Easton Town Hall?

June is designated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month and the Board of Selectmen will determine how and where a flag-raising ceremony will occur in town this year when it meets on Thursday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. The agenda is available here.

Pride flags are already raised in neighboring towns. Westport is flying the rainbow Pride flag in front of Town Hall, and Monroe has eight Pride flags surrounding Old Glory on Main Street as well as in front of the Monroe Town Hall. Last week the Pride flag was raised at a ceremony in front of the Trumbull Town Hall.

In Trumbull, the LGBTQ+ Pride flag flies alongside the Connecticut flag and the Gold Star flag. — Kathleen McGannon Photo

Last year, Easton raised the Pride Flag for the first time. It flew below the American flag in front of Town Hall for one week. Eastonite Elliot Leonard was central to that effort. “Pride is an issue that extends well beyond Easton [and] crosses all party lines,” Leonard said. “We live in a diverse world and we’ve made major advances here.”

First Selectman David Bindelglass agreed to add an item to the June 3 agenda to discuss a request to raise the Pride Flag on the flag pole outside of Town Hall and hold a flag-raising ceremony to honor the LGBTQ+ community. The request is to hold a ceremony on Friday, June 25.

“I was very fortunate to attend last year’s inaugural Pride Flag raising event at Town Hall,” resident Devon Wible said. “The event reaffirmed that Pride month is about celebrating our LGBTQ+ community members and the contributions that they have made in Easton and throughout our state, country, and world.

“Last year, we committed to honoring Pride month every year, which is why it’s essential that we continue this tradition by raising the Pride Flag and publicly affirming that every Easton resident is welcome and supported in embracing their true self,” Wible said.

Elliot Leonard of Easton speaks at the Easton Town Hall Gay Pride 2020 — Bob Lessler Photo

But some residents objected to the protocol of last-year’s flag-raising ceremony. There were questions from residents about how and where the Pride flag should be flown this year and in future years. Some hoped a separate flagpole elsewhere in town could be constructed for the Pride flag as well as flags representing other special interests. There were no explicit objections to recognizing the LGBTQ+ community in Easton.

Selectman Kristi Sogofsky indicated some residents had voiced more general concerns about flag-sharing. She suggested that only the American flag, the Connecticut state flag, and the town flag should be flown in front of Town Hall and that perhaps there should be another way to display special interest flags and banners.

One resident expressed concern about what other special interest groups might want to be recognized and that some of these groups might be objectionable. Sogofsky was asked what other groups requested a flag display and she said there had been no others to date.

Most who offered alternatives to flag sharing prefaced their ideas with support for the LGBTQ+ community, which produced skepticism from members of that community. Two students expressed a preference for proximity to the American flag at Town Hall as they identify as Americans and members of the Easton community.

“Pride and all aspects of diversity are part of an evolutionary process,” Elliot said. “Children are integral to that process … and Easton has gone further than I ever expected.”

Leonard and his partner of 51 years, Roger Litz, established a foundation to fund organizations that advance the interests and well-being of the LGBTQ community. More information about their mission can be found at https://leonardlitz.org.

As to the Pride flag raising, the selectmen agreed to look into options and plan to vote on the request at their June 17 regular meeting. Sarah Lehberger said she hopes for a positive outcome.

“I applaud the efforts of our Board of Selectmen who are listening to our community’s needs, and I hope they’ll choose to raise the Pride flag at Town Hall again this year and join the many towns and cities in Connecticut that celebrate and affirm all of their residents,” she said.

Lehberger is leading another celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride month. Eastonites are invited to a family event at Morehouse Park at the Samual Staples Elementary School pavilion on June 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. where a program of activities will highlight local pride resources, pride books, yard games and music in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m thrilled and honored about the event,” said Leonard. “Sarah Lehberger has taken the lead and I’m very proud of her.”

LGBTQ+ Pride flags surround Old Glory on the Stepney green in Monroe. — Jane Paley Photo



Board of Selectmen Recap

Discussions and comments about the proposed South Park Avenue hemp farming lease, the proposed pathway along Sport Hill Road and a request to raise the Pride flag outside of Town Hall drew the most attention at the Board of Selectman meeting on June 3.

South Park Avenue Farming Lease

First Selectman David Bindleglass updated the board on informal conversations with members of the town’s Agricultural Commission, noting the commission as a whole has not reviewed the proposed project and therefore does not have a position. The Ag Commission meets on June 16 and plans to discuss the proposed lease at that meeting. The Board of Selectmen meets again on June 17 and will also revisit the topic.

Sport Hill Road Pathway

The board reviewed the recommendation from the Board of Finance in regard to the proposed pathway along Sport Hill Road.

The Board of Finance approved funding for the initial design phase of the project, in the amount of $80,000. The town would be responsible for $16,000 of that amount following reimbursement from the state under the grant program. Because of the total amount, the funding request must go before the Town Meeting. The selectmen agreed adjourning the Town Meeting to a machine vote would be the best course of action due to the interest in this project. They intend to hold the Town Meeting on this issue in September.

The initial design will provide more detail and specifics to the project, adding more clarity to the conceptual design which has been discussed up to this point. The town will begin the process of looking for a design firm to complete the work.

Pride Flag Raising

First Selectman David Bindleglass moved to add an item to the agenda to discuss a request to raise the Pride Flag on the flag pole outside of Town Hall. The request is to hold a ceremony on Friday, June 25, which will include raising the Pride Flag in support of the town’s LGBTQ+ community. The applicants asked to have the flag fly through the end of the month. Selectman Bob Lessler proposed that the flag be displayed from June 25 through Monday, June 28.

Selectman Kristi Sogofsky commented that many people feel the town flag pole should only display the American, state or local flag, not the flag of special interest groups. She noted that her comments are not specific to the Pride Flag but relate to the general practice. Sogofsky asked about alternatives that would allow for displaying flags of groups within town.

The board agreed to look into options and plans to vote on the request at its meeting on June 17. In accordance with the Flag Policy adopted by the Board of Selectman last year, the group requesting the flag raising will submit a written request to the Board of Selectman prior to that meeting.

Additional Items

The Board of Selectmen also took action on the following items:

  • Awarded the bid for a Ford Police Interceptor and Ford Explorer to Gengras Ford in the amount of $69,012 as recommended by Police Chief Richard Doyle.
  • Awarded the bid for architectural and design services for the partial roof replacement at 660 Morehouse to Hibbard and Rosa Architects in the amount of $18,300 as recommended by Ed Nagy, director of public works.
  • Accepted the resignation of AJ Martinich from the Park and Recreation Commission, with thanks for his service.
  • Appointed Elaine O’Keefe to the Easton Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. She had been serving as an alternate member of the task force.
  • Discussed the Planning and Zoning public hearing scheduled for July 26 at Samuel Staples Elementary. It will be held in person, with a virtual component. Proposed changes to the Plan of Conservation and Development will be posted on the town website for review. The board agreed to prepare individual comments to share with the commission.

View a recording of the meeting on the town website.




Board of Selectmen Meeting of May 20, 2021

Approvals

The Board of Selectmen held what it hopes is its last Zoom-only participants regular meeting on May 20th. The board approved the minutes from its May 6th meeting and approved one tax refund as recommended by the tax collector. We also approved the release of a driveway bond as recommended by the deputy director of public works.

Health District Representative

After considering five extraordinarily well qualified candidates, the board named Doreen Collins as our representative to the Westport Weston Health District. Doreen has vast high level management and human resources experience with GE. The health district had indicated that this skill set is just what its board needs at this time. Congratulations to Doreen and thank you to all who expressed a desire to serve.

Hemp Farm Pilot Project

The board decided not to pursue the proposal for a one year hemp farm pilot project on the South Park Avenue property. While all board members spoke favorably about the concept, the project did not have the support of the South Park Avenue Advisory Committee and there is not enough time left before the start of the growing season to fully vet the project. While no actual vote was taken, it was the clear consensus of the board not to pursue this project at this time.

Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

The board appointed Kevin Oliver to a vacancy on the Easton Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Thank you to Kevin for agreeing to serve.

Reopening Plans

First Selectman David Bindelglass announced that town hall will reopen to the public next week but urges people to call ahead and make an appointment. He said town hall employees have learned that they can better serve the public by appointment. Therefore, while anyone can come into town hall starting May 24th, preference in service will be given to those with an appointment. Masks are required for those who are not vaccinated.

He also reported that the governor has extended the public meetings pandemic rule until June 30, 2021. The town will direct boards and commissions to follow the requests of their members in moving towards a return to regular proceedings. Board chairs will have the option to use some form of hybrid public meetings during the transition period between now and June 30th.

The Board of Selectmen will allow the public to attend our meetings in person from now on and will continue to offer Zoom participation as a supplement to our regular meeting procedures. Masks will be required for the time being as our regular meeting room is rather small and is especially narrow.

Sport Hill Road Pathway

The chairman of the Board of Finance has decided that he would support a new request to fund the pathway on Sport Hill Road, provided all materials, documents, maps, cost and other information about the project is posted on the town website. The First Selectman and the chair are meeting to determine which materials should be posted. In the interim, the Board of Selectmen has formally asked the Board of Finance to reconsider the pathway. As reported to the selectmen by the First Selectman, an important factor in this new development is the determination by the finance chair that there is no viable path elsewhere as he and others had hoped. If the Board of Finance chair changes his vote and no other votes change, there would be a bare majority to send the decision to a town meeting and, likely, to a machine vote referendum which would then be binding. As you may recall, the prior vote was advisory only. Our system requires any such expenditure to have the approval of the Board of Finance and then the approval of the town meeting.

Passing of Anthony Ballaro

Sadly, our town building inspector, Anthony Ballaro, passed away suddenly several days ago. The board expressed its condolences to his family. He was a well-liked and dedicated employee and will be deeply missed.

Building inspectors from Orange, Fairfield and Westport have graciously agreed to cover the building inspection business for our town while we sort out a new course for the department. This should mean that homeowners will not experience any disruption in projects they may be working on as a consequence of this tragedy.

Planning and Zoning

The Planning and Zoning Commission has requested that the Board of Selectmen offer comments on a proposal to amend the Town Plan of Conservation and Development and the Easton Zoning Regulations in advance of a public hearing to be held on July 26, 2021. The most significant change relates to a proposal to allow what would essentially be boarding style housing for seniors. These changes do not address the important current topic surrounding non-farming accessory use of farm property. That will likely come at a later date.

Public Comment

The board received comment at both the beginning and end of its meeting from several people.

Grant Monserrat wondered why the ethics ordinance revision and land use ordinance proposal are not on the agenda.

Several people spoke on the proposal for hemp farming on South Park Avenue. These included: Jeff Becker, Dana Benson, Grant Monserrat, Beckett Tagonna, June Logie, Dwight Senior, and Griff Conti (a partner in the hemp farm project).

Dana Benson and Dan Lendt spoke about the pathway on Sport Hill Road.

Jeff Becker informed the board that the net zero high speed internet access is moving forward nearby. The First Selectman said Easton still needs about 400 people to formally express an interest in this service before we can expect a company to consider this high speed internet service for Easton.

Dana Benson reported that the recent flier from his organization, Save Our Town/Save Our Schools mistakenly included the return address of the group CRG. That was a printer’s mistake.

June Logie urged that EDIT be disbanded.

Kevin Oliver thanked the board for its work and for his appointment to EDIT.

Maureen Hanley spoke in opposition to the school survey and urged the board to stop it. The First Selectman explained that our board has no authority over the schools as those boards are independently elected and act on their own regarding all aspects of the school system.

June Logie reported that Andrew Kupinse, the son of the late Bill Kupinse, may pick up the work his father was doing on the Land Use Ordinance at the time he took ill.

Easton 175 Committee

Selectman Lessler reported that the Easton 175 Committee will have a table at the library during the Memorial Day Parade and ceremony to distribute literature about various town organizations. In fact, while the 175th anniversary of the founding of the town has now passed and the committee has completed its work on this task, the members want to continue to be of service to the town by hosting a new website which they hope will become the “go to” spot for finding information about town businesses, organizations, farms, clubs, non-profits, and other entities. It may be called “the06612.com”. He welcomed news of the loosening of pandemic restrictions and expressed his condolences on the passing of Anthony Ballero.
Selectman Sogofsky said she echoed the sentiments expressed by Selectman Lessler.

Organizations for Donations

The First Selectman picked up on an idea first raised at our last meeting by resident Dana Benson. Mr. Benson said he would address the issues of health inequities in race by donating to related organizations serving Bridgeport. The First Selectman will ask EDIT to develop a list of such organizations and encourage all residents to donate to them as a means of expressing support and acknowledging that actions sometimes speak louder than words.

A video of the entire meeting can be accessed on the Channel 79 website and at https://vimeo.com/showcase/7815363/video/553186795.




Voters Approve Town and School Budgets

Reject Resolution on Racism and Public Health

Town Clerk Christine Halloran today released the official results of the May 4 referendum. The polling went well and more voters turned out for the referendum than was typical in recent years, she said.

Last year, an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont to keep people safe during the height of the pandemic prevented the referendum vote from occurring. Instead, the Board of Finance set the 2020-21 budget.

Halloran said that more than 2,000 voters — 36% — turned out at the polls on May 4. For the last seven years or so, budget referendums typically brought out 800 voters at most, she said, or roughly 14% of registered voters or fewer.

Voters approved municipal and school spending for 2021-22 by a vote of 1,310 to 713. They approved the Region 9 budget for Joel Barlow High School, which Easton shares with Redding, 1,313 to 715, and they declined to support a Resolution on Racism and Public Health by a vote of 761 to 1,259.

Easton has 5,575 registered voters. The breakdown of voters according to political parties is as follows:

  • Democrats: 1,611 
  • Republicans: 1,597 
  • Unaffiliated: 2,287 
  • Other Parties: 80

Following are the poll questions and official results, including Redding’s tally on the Region 9 budget.

1. Shall the Town of Easton appropriate the sum of $46,249,385 for the annual budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022?  (This includes Easton’s share of the Region No. 9 budget.)

YES:  1,310        NO:  713
PASSED.

2. Shall the Regional School District No. 9, composed of the Towns of Easton and Redding, appropriate and authorize the expenditure of $24,595,254 as the operating budget of the district for the period of July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022? (Easton’s share is $11,921,320 and Redding’s share is $12,673,934)

Easton       YES:    1,313   NO:  715
Redding     YES:   837     NO: 282
Passed overall by 1,153 Votes.

3. Shall the Town of Easton approve the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health?

YES:   761       NO:  1,259
DEFEATED.

You can read more about the 2021-22 budget at the link below:

Proposed 2021-22 Budget Heads to Annual Town Meeting

You can read more about the Easton Resolution on Racism and Public Health at the links below:

The Connecticut Health Divide: How Racism Contributes

Op-Ed: Easton Resolution on Race in Public Health

Officials React to Polling Results

First Selectman David Bindelglass said that with the May 4 referendum “the town has concluded the business of the annual town meeting. 

“The Town Meeting is the legislative body of our town, so public debate and excellent turnout at our referendums indicates that our  form of government which we all cherish is working,” Bindelglass said. “I am very pleased with the approval of the town budget. I realize the increase is more than we are generally used to, but the people of Easton realized the value that would come to the town from these increases.”

Bindelglass said that on the town side, the major increase was adding to the staff of the Department of Public Works  to continue to improve the department’s service to the town. The Board of Education was able to return vital staff and programs to the students as they recover from a difficult year of the pandemic, he said. 

“Finally, I believe there was an understanding of the need to absorb our proportional increase of the Region 9 budget as we gain a greater percentage of the students at Joel Barlow. The budgets were accepted by a wide margin, and I am grateful for that.”

As for the question of  adopting the resolution on race as a public health issue, Bindelglass said he was disappointed. “As you may remember, this was a lengthy and complex resolution initially adopted unanimously by the Board of Selectmen in the wake of the George Floyd killing,” he said. “A number of months later my colleague Kristi Sogofsky asked the BOS to consider rescinding the board’s resolution and putting it to the town meeting for approval. We voted again unanimously to do this. The vote was put off to the annual Town Meeting because other business was more time dependent.”

As first selectman, Bindelglass said it was his job to organize the Town Meeting and present the resolutions.  “Although there was a lot of spirited  discussion about this resolution, I have to admit I did a poor job of communicating what was actually being considered,” he said. “The resolution was available to be read. It was lengthy, and  from conversations I had at the polls, it was clear to me that  many people still did not understand what the resolution said, or even what we were actually voting on. I consider that to be my fault. I apologize for not doing a better job of presenting it. The resolution was not adopted as per the decision of the Town Meeting via referendum.”

That being said, Bindelglass said he thinks he and others learned a lot from the discussions they had with each other. He said it seemed to him that everything he heard or read from people demonstrated agreement with the fact that there were definite differences in the health of different groups of  the population, and  that it should not be that way.

“How this affected Easton, and if we had any role or responsibility for dealing with these differences was, in my mind, the real subject of the debate,” he said. “The prevailing answer was that we did not. As my colleague Kristi suggested in the Courier, ‘This resolution does not apply to our community.’”  

Some of the issues Easton faces will be controversial going forward, Bindelglass said. “It remains my hope that we can continue to have honest and open debate as new issues arise. Given that we are our own legislative body, civil discourse is a necessity.”

Selectman Bob Lessler also said he was disappointed that the resolution on racism was defeated. “However, the people of Easton have spoken,” he said. Moving forward, he said he was pleased “a serious conversation about race has begun in our town. The issue of race in our society is too big to be ignored anywhere, and so, I am proud of our community for its willingness to engage on this difficult and fraught topic. Let’s continue the conversation.”

Selectman Kristi Sogofsky had this to say, “The turnout for this referendum shows that the community is thoroughly engaged in this issue. While everyone agrees that racism should not and will not be tolerated, the vote shows that the way in which this resolution was drafted did not meet the town’s needs. I fully support efforts to examine areas where we can make improvements and encourage community involvement in those efforts.”

Sogofsky said she was pleased to see such overwhelming support for the town and Region 9 budgets. “It shows a commitment to education and the importance of providing the necessary financial resources to support our kids, both of which are top priorities to me,” she said.




Board of Selectmen’s Meetings of April 19 and 22, 2021

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.

Road Discontination

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.

Multi-Use Pathway

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.

Public Comment

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.

Board Comment

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.




Board of Selectmen Meeting of April 1, 2021

Comments about the proposed multi-use path along Sport Hill Road and the results of the March 30th referendum dominated the discussion during the regular Board of Selectmen meeting on April 1st. Several people spoke during public comment in support of the pathway, the outcome of the vote and urged the Board of Finance to approve funding for the project. Several others expressed continued concern and urged further review of the plan and alternatives options.

The referendum ballot included an advisory question about whether the town should allocate $249,400 to cover 20% of the project, with the other 80% coming from federal transportation funds administered through the state. The total project cost is set at $1,247,000. The final official results on the question were 708 in favor and 604 opposed, or 54% in favor to 46% opposed.

The selectmen agreed that they the would like to see the Board of Finance discuss and approve a special appropriation for the funds at the board’s meeting on April 6th. That would allow the special appropriation to be included on the agenda for the regular Town Meeting at the end of April. Should the Board of Finance recommend the special appropriation, the question would then need approval from the Town Meeting or another referendum before being finalized.

Selectman Bob Lessler acknowledged the desire to explore an alternative path through the woods but expressed concern about the amount of time that may take. He suggested that the Board of Finance allow both plans to proceed at the same time. That would mean recommending the special appropriation for the multi-use pathway in order to keep the process moving forward in recognition that the state needs to know whether the town will accept the grant. At the same time, conversations about the feasibility of the wooded path can continue.

Other Actions

The selectmen meetings also included the following:

  • Discussion about upcoming meetings to finalize the town’s entry into the Westport Weston Health District following approval in the referendum. The town will need to select a representative to serve on the health district board.
  • Appointment of Brian Williams to serve on the South Park Advisory Committee
  • Acceptance of the resignation of Shari Williams from the Easton Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The task force currently has two open seats and one open alternate position.

Watch the video of the meeting on the town website or on the Board of Selectmen Facebook page.

The next Board of Selectmen meeting is on April 22nd, which deviates from the standard schedule of the third Thursday of the month. The date is noted on the approved meeting schedule for 2021.