May 2018

Weston Students Reach Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

Two Weston Intermediate School teams will compete in the Odyssey of the Mind world finals on May 22–25 at Iowa State University.

Weston's Team A and Team B qualified for the final round by respectively finishing first and second in their division for the state competition.

Odyssey of the Mind is a 40-year-old international science, technical, engineering and mathematics program. Weston schools have participated for the past four years.

In that time, three teams from Weston's schools have earned the honor of competing in the world finals.

Read more about what these kids have accomplished here.

Barbara Reynolds Named Chamber of Commerce Chair

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has named Weston's Barbara Reynolds as Chairman of the Board. Ms. Reynolds, a Realtor with Halstead Real Estate in Westport, is a 25-year resident of Weston and has been a Board member of the Chamber for over two years.

Ms. Reynolds also currently serves as an alternate on the Weston Board of Assessment Appeals and a member of the Panel of Moderators. She was the chair of the Real Estate Sub-Committee for Weston's Strategic Planning Committee in 2017. Previously, she served as Vice-Chair of the Weston Board of Education, President of the WMS PTO, and Chairman of the Board of The Weston Racquet Club.

Ms. Reynolds is a member of the Greater Fairfield County CMLS, National Association of Realtors, Connecticut Association of Realtors and Mid-Fairfield County Association of Realtors.

Ray Rauth Reappointed to Bicycle & Pedestrian Board

Weston's Ray Rauth has been reappointed to the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Board by Len Fasano, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore. The Board was created under the Complete Streets Law of 2009, and provides guidance to the Governor's office, the Legislative Transportation Committee, and the Department of Transportation.

Mr. Rauth was a charter member of the Board and its first chairman. He has served on it since 2009. His recent appointment will run until June 30, 2021.

Mr. Rauth has a long history of service to the state's bicycle and pedestrian community. He has served on the steering committees for the last two State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans and designed the current cross-state bicycle network.

As a test of pedestrian safety, Mr. Rauth recently walked US 1 from Greenwich to Westerly, Rhode Island. The route was selected because US 1 is the most dangerous roadway in Connecticut based on pedestrian deaths.

Weston Takes It Back

A steady stream of Weston residents took advantage of a dropbox in the Weston Police Department lobby on April 28 to dispose of unneeded prescription medications. 52 pounds of narcotics were taken in and turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency for destruction. This was Weston's part of a nationwide program to help people rid their homes of leftover medicines that are potentially dangerous to keep around and definitely dangerous to throw out as ordinary refuse.

While the dropbox was only open for a few hours on the 28th, it will soon be available every day during regular business hours. The lobby is being reconfigured to make it accessible at all times. The dropbox is secured. The lobby is constantly monitored and will contain a direct telephone line to the police.

In addition, the entrance will be more clearly marked so those in need of police services in an emergency will know exactly where to go. This will be a considerable step up from the existing area downstairs in the back of the building. That area is small, poorly lit, and difficult to find. It is often used as neutral ground in contentious divorce cases. The new lobby will be a much-needed improvement.

Photo: The drug dropbox was unveiled by, from left to right, Police Commissioner Dawn Egan, First Selectman Chris Spaulding, Police Chief Edwin Henion, Commission Chairman William Brady, Commissioner Beth Gralnick, and Selectman Brian Gordon.

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Weston Picks It Up

Volunteers from Kiwanis, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and a healthy number of residents collected an estimated 900 pounds of debris from Weston's roadsides in the town's annual GreenUp Day on Saturday, April 28.

The event was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and led by its member Bill McKinney, who worked closely with Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz to organize the event.

Eversource donated 200 tree saplings, which were given to volunteers by Tree Warden Bill Lomas (pictured). Earlier in the day, Mr. Lomas was presented with the Millie Best Award for his contributions to Weston's environment.

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Town Approves Budgets

By wide margins, voters today approved budgets for the town, schools, and capital expenditures. Turnout, while not up to the level of the recent Special Town Meeting, increased considerably from 2017 and prior years.

The operating budget for the town passed with 79 percent of the vote, 498 to 133. The capital expenditures budget also achieved 79 percent approval, passing by almost exactly the same number, 499 to 131. The education budget won by a slightly lesser margin, achieving 72 percent approval, 456 to 177.

First Selectman Chris Spaulding told Weston Today he is "thrilled by the outcome."

"This is the result of huge amount of time and effort put in by town staff to produce as lean a budget as possible to meet Weston's needs," said Dr. Spaulding. He expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the staff and for the hard work of the Registrars of Voters and elections volunteers.

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Students Organize to Fight Cancer

For years, Weston students participated in Relay For Life, an activity intended to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, funds for the Westport-Weston branch were eliminated this year. But now, a high school group has stepped up to fill the gap. And they could use your help.

33 Weston High School students have formed a committee and are holding a student-led educational event called Weston Against Cancer on June 9, from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Lachat Town Farm. A small portion of the proceeds go to Lachat, the majority to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The committee needs sponsors and donations to organize the June event and make it a fun and significant tradition for years to come. If you or an organization you belong to can donate or sponsor, and would like to know more, you can visit the committee's website. You can also stay connected and receive updates by liking its Facebook page, “Weston Against Cancer.” For questions, comments, and sponsorship offers, please email the group.

The June 9 event will be open to all ages. It will feature games, local food trucks, bands, raffles, and, at the end of the night, a family-friendly movie showing. The most important parts of the event are lessons on healthy living.

Diet is key to leading a healthy, cancer-free lifestyle. At the event, participants will receive “tickets” as a form of currency they can use to buy snacks. Each food item has a different ticket cost based on its health value. For example, a banana may cost one ticket while a small bag of candy may cost five or ten. This teaches the concept that unhealthy food comes at a greater cost. Health experts will be on hand to share expertise and give more in-depth education on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

April 2018

School Security Plan Advances

A plan to increase security in Weston's schools, jointly recommended by Superintendent William McKersie and Police Chief Edwin Henion, was approved by the Board of Education at its regular meeting on April 23.

The proposal calls for maintaining Weston High School's current School Resource Officer (SRO) and adding a second who would focus primarily on Weston Middle School. In addition, a currently part-time campus officer who concentrates on the Weston Intermediate School and Hurlbutt Elementary would become full-time. There would also be six security specialists to manage visitors and monitor entrances at the schools.

Speaking at the meeting, Chief Henion and Captain Matthew Brodacki told the Board that the roles of the police officers would "flex," meaning the officers would be covering all four schools. Dr. McKersie added that, in addition, both Chief Henion and Captain Brodacki have a visible presence at the schools and that officers from other towns working in the regional cyber crime lab, which is located on school property, are available as well.

Dr. McKersie stated that Weston is unique in having a "mile of safety," with all schools located on a one-mile road with the police department next door. The superintendent also described how Weston stands out in providing school security while "other districts are standing pat."

Chief Henion said "the key is to intervene before an event," and that SROs play a key role. "This is a prevention program, and it is proven to work," he said.

The Board was enthusiastic about the plan. Member Ellen Uzenoff lauded the "extraordinary cooperation" between the schools and police. This was echoed by member Dan McNeill, who thanked Dr. McKersie and Chief Henion for "a significant increase in security for our schools."

With the recommendation's approval by the Board of Education, it will be reviewed by the Police Commission. At some point, funding will have to be considered by the Board of Selectmen and, ultimately, the Board of Finance.

No Quorum for ATBM

At about 8:00 this evening, First Selectman Chris Spaulding called to order the Annual Town Budget Meeting and nominated Susan Moch as moderator. That motion passed unanimously and was, with the subsequent motion to adjourn, the only business conducted. After reading the meeting rules, Ms. Moch declared the absence of a quorum, as fewer than the charter-mandated 130 qualified voters were in attendance.

This means the town, education, capital improvements, and debt service budgets recommended by the Board of Finance were not modified. They will be presented intact for up-or-down votes in the Town Referendum. Those who attended the ATBM were able to cast their referendum ballots tonight.

The rest of us get to weigh in on Saturday, April 28. This is a machine-ballot vote. It will take place in the Town Hall Meeting Room from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Be sure to bring identification. Absentee ballots can be filed in person beginning Thursday, April 19 at the Town Clerk's office Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:30 PM. The deadline for filing an absentee ballot is Friday, April 27.

Annual Town Budget Meeting, April 18

Where & When

This year's Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) will be held on Wednesday, April 18, starting at 8:00 PM at the Weston High School Auditorium. You must be a qualified voter, so bring identification. Check-in will begin at 7:15 PM in the lobby.

Why?

At the ATBM, voters can discuss, approve, or adjust line items in budgets recommended by the Board of Finance following proposals by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education. (The Education budget has only one line item, the total.)

After that, a Town Referendum is held, a machine-ballot vote where voters can approve or reject each budget in total (not by line item).

The budgets ultimately approved by voters determine the town's mill rate.

Is the mill rate going up?

The recommended budgets call for a 1.69 percent mill rate increase. As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared the increase would be higher. To achieve a minimal increase, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education found ways to further reduce costs, and the Board of Finance released some excess reserve funds.

What happens at the ATBM?

A moderator calls the meeting to order, counts the number of attendees, and determines if there is a quorum of at least 130 qualified voters. If there is not a quorum, the meeting is immediately adjourned.

If there is a quorum, four separate budgets are presented, discussed, and subject to a vote.

The Board of Selectmen's Budget is for the cost of running the town. At the ATBM, voters can make motions to approve or reduce 31 separate line items. They cannot increase them. The line items range from the largest, around $4.3 million, for general administration, to the smallest, $4,300, for the Probate Court.

The Board of Education Budget is voted on in total, not by line item. It can be reduced, but not increased.

The Capital Improvement Budget is combined for both the town and the schools. It consists of longer-term items that cost $10,000 or more. Some are one-time expenditures, such as a new Town Hall telephone system. Others are recurring allocations, where funds are set aside each year for major expenditures that are known to be needed in the future. There are 16 items in this year's capital budget, which can be approved or reduced (not increased) at the ATBM.

The final budget presented is the Debt Service Budget, where funds are allocated to pay the town's debt obligations. Voters could opt to reduce this budget. The result could be default and the destruction of the town's credit rating.

What Happens Next?

By the end of the ATBM, the budgets originally recommended by the Board of Finance will either be intact or will have been adjusted. Either way, they are submitted to all voters in a Town Referendum. That is a machine-ballot up-or-down vote on each budget in total, not by line item.

In effect, the referendum begins shortly after the ATBM adjourns. Participants can cast their ballots that night. (Others can too, but would have to know when the meeting was adjourned, and presumably would want to know if adjustments were made.)

The Town Referendum resumes on April 28 at Town Hall. Absentee ballots will be available. We will provide details about the Town Referendum after this Wednesday's ATBM.

Does it really matter if I attend the ATBM?

Yes. Think of it this way. With a quorum of only 130, as few as 66 voters could make decisions about the budgets of your town, your schools, and your taxes, in your absence.

The Ayes Have It

Voters have approved the proposal to build a dog park in Weston. Turnout today was robust. The polls opened at 6:00 AM. A steady stream of voters cast ballots throughout the day, and continued right up until the polls closed.

Out of 1,686 votes cast, 888 (52.7%) were "Yes" and 798 (47.3%) were "No."

Maria Proto, speaking for the Weston Dog Park group, said: "We're very happy with the outcome. We think it's wonderful that Weston is moving ahead with this great town amenity. A big thank you to all our supporters! We couldn't have done it without you."

What Comes Next?

The Conservation Commission meets on April 26 to rule on whether a dog park at this location would have an impact on wetlands and watercourses. After that, the town — and the public — must decide whether and how to fund the construction of a gravel driveway onto the property. Weston Dog Park Inc. will pay for the construction of the park itself, and have committed to raising and donating to the town approximately $84,000 for that purpose.

A Thank-You is in order...

...to the Registrars of Voters, their staff, and volunteers for making today's vote a smooth process, especially when a glitch or two in the machines complicated the task.

April Declared Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Nationally, one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 19 percent of Connecticut residents report having been assaulted at some point in time.

Today, in a town hall ceremony with The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education, First Selectman Chris Spaulding proclaimed April 2018 “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” and urged “all our citizens to join me in participating fully in activities and events.”

The Center, led by former First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, who attended today’s event, offers a wide range of initiatives to prevent sexual violence. These include awareness campaigns, community outreach events, and prevention education for schoolchildren, community members, police forces, healthcare professionals, and elected officials.

In addition to Weston, The Center serves Darien, Westport, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Wilton. Darien Selectman Susan Marks and Westport Selectman Jennifer Tooker spoke at the ceremony. Also participating were Weston Police Chief Edwin Henion and Captain Matthew Brodacki, who serves on The Center’s board of directors. They were joined by officers Jason Kim and Jonathan Marsili.

The meeting included a harrowing first-person account of sexual violence, which drove home the importance — and urgency — of addressing and preventing sexual assault. The Center’s Executive Director, Quintin Ball, said she is “optimistic victims will come forward” as awareness of the problem has been heightened by revelations of assaults by high-profile celebrities.

The Center’s reach is significant. Last year, it provided free, confidential one-on-one counseling to 540 clients, educated 17,000 students as young as five years old and up to college age, and expects to exceed those numbers this year.

Ms. Ball told Weston Today that The Center’s work in Weston Middle School includes programs on sexual harassment and responsible use of social media. In the high school, students are producing twenty public service announcement videos, which will be submitted to a contest among the eight towns served by The Center. Programs at the senior center begin soon.

Captain Brodacki may have summarized it best, saying there is no "panacea" to preventing sexual assault, but that "identifying and helping victims is the best first step we can take as a community."

The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education opened in 1979. For more information, visit their website.

The Dog Park: Questions & Answers

Editor's Note

This article was updated on April 2, 2018 to clarify one answer and update voting procedures regarding identification and curbside voting.

What exactly will we be voting on?

You are voting on whether—in concept—you would like to have a 3.5-acre enclosed park where people could bring dogs to play off-leash. It would be located in roughly the center of a 36-acre parcel the town owns, land referred to as the Moore Property.

When and where do we vote?

Voting will occur—by machine ballot—on Wednesday, April 4, at the Town Hall Meeting Room. Voting hours are 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Bring identification. Curbside voting is available for those with disabilities.

How much would this dog park cost?

A non-profit corporation, Weston Dog Park, Inc., (WDP) will pay to build the park. By the terms of an accepted draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), WDP has committed to raise $84,000 for this purpose and donate it to the town. They have two years to do so. The funds will be used to install the fence and gates, provide waste dispensers, post signs containing the park rules, clear debris and underbrush, and build a turnaround area and parking lot.

The town will pay for the construction of a 1,200-foot gravel-driveway park entrance, a drainage system, and the removal of approximately 140 trees to accommodate the driveway. Current estimates for that work are around $155,000.

We don’t know the exact costs? How are we supposed to vote without knowing that?

Partly because you will not be voting on whether to fund this project or for how much. That would come later. These are best estimates, based on the current project plan, by the Town Engineer.

Do we have money for this in the budget?

No. And the 2018-19 budget, currently being developed, does not contain an appropriation for this purpose. After all, the administration has no way of knowing what the outcome of the vote will be.

So when will it be budgeted? And when will we have a say about whether to fund it?

It’s hard to say when. It could possibly be added to the 2018-19 proposed budget, but time is getting short.

You would most likely have an opportunity to vote on the funding, this year or in some subsequent one, at an Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM). This year the ATBM will be held on April 18.

At the ATBM, you can vote to reduce the budget, but not to increase it. And you have an opportunity to vote yea or nay on every capital line item. ATBMs are often lightly attended, and if fewer than 130 qualified voters show up, there is no result. There have been years that has happened.

All three town budgets—education operating, town operating, and capital improvement—aren’t final until they are approved at a Town Referendum, which this year occurs on April 28. This is an up-or-down vote on each budget in total. If voters reject any one of them, it’s up to the Board of Finance to sort out the mess and schedule another referendum.

As an alternative, it is possible that, after extensive hearings, this or some future Board of Selectmen could move to fund the park as a supplemental appropriation. They would have to find the money in reserves or the General Fund. The Board of Finance would have to approve.

What if WDP doesn’t come up with the money in the two years?

The town can cancel the agreement.

What if the town never funds the project, even if we vote for the dog park?

It doesn’t get built.

Can I vote for the park, in concept, but later vote against funding it?

Yes.

Aren’t there already places in town to walk a dog?

Yes. But not off-leash in an enclosed area.

Why can’t people just use dog parks in other towns?

They can.

Would people from other towns be able to use our dog park?

Yes.

Isn’t the Moore Property supposed to be conserved as open space?

No. The town acquired this land in 2003 for $2.3 million, funding the acquisition with a 20-year bond. Conserving it as open space was considered, but in the end the decision was made to bank it for possible future municipal use.

Couldn’t we sell it to developers and increase the tax base?

No. That is prohibited by the deed.

Can’t people walk dogs there now?

Yes. It is not enclosed, and can be somewhat difficult to access, especially for those with disabilities. There is no entrance and no parking.

Are those 3.5 acres going to be clear-cut?

No. The only live trees to be removed would be the 140 or so necessary to build the driveway. Within the confines of the park, some trees would be trimmed up to seven feet from the ground to make the area walkable.

Isn’t there somewhere else we could put a dog park?

From the inception of this proposal, two years ago, town staff evaluated a number of other locations. Among them, neither Bisceglie Park nor Morehouse Farm Park were deemed suitable, as they are already heavily used, and existing features such as playgrounds and ballfields would have to be removed. Keene Park was found to be too small. Lachat Town Farm was considered, but its deed prohibits such use.

Even the Transfer Station was considered, despite the challenging optics of placing a town amenity at the dump. An open space exists there, somewhere around an acre in area, but it is a landfill sealed with a virtually impenetrable cap. There is very little parking. It is gated and locked after hours. It is hard to imagine how the town could provide access to a dog park there and meet its requirement to monitor the dumpsters. It is equally hard to imagine the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection permitting it.

Would the dog park people (we assume this refers to Weston Dog Park, Inc.) get to run the park?

No. The Department of Parks & Recreation would run the park. The Weston Police would patrol it. The Animal Control Officer would be responsible for enforcing the rules.

As we understand it, if the park is built, WDP plans to follow the Lachat model and form a Friends of the Weston Dog Park group. They have offered to organize volunteers to help with maintenance, cleanup, and perhaps fundraising. It would be up to Parks & Recreation to take them up on these offers.

Money is tight. Our tax rate is high. Wouldn’t this make it go even higher?

It could. Even though WDP would pay to build the park, the town would pay to build the access driveway. Barring the grand list increasing, which hasn’t occurred in several years, unless such an allocation were offset by reductions elsewhere, it could impact the mill rate.

How can we justify spending this money when the schools are cutting two security guards from the budget?

It’s important to keep in mind that the education budget is completely separate from the town budget. The Board of Selectmen cannot take money from the schools and use it for any purpose. If they ever tried, you could make a fortune selling torches and pitchforks.

The Board of Education’s decision on security staffing is well outside the scope of this article. We will be reporting later, before the ATBM, about the budget.

How can we spend this money when the schools are cutting funds for theater arts?

They aren’t. In the proposed BOE budget, theater arts is one of the few areas where funding has actually been increased. There have been some accounting changes, and a theater director’s duties have been modified, a matter that, again, is outside the scope of this article. And, as before, the education budget is separate from the town’s. There is simply no connection to the question of the dog park.

How can we spend this money when the schools had to cut funds for a graduation tent?

Again, no connection. Conceivably, the Board of Selectmen could vote, and the Board of Finance could agree, to make a supplemental appropriation and give the school district funds for a graduation tent. But those monies couldn’t be taken from funds allocated for a dog park, because no funds are allocated for a dog park.

Where is the Moore Property?

It is located between Davis Hill Road and Lords Highway East. The access driveway would be built on Lords Highway East.

How do neighbors feel about putting a dog park there?

Some are for it, some are neutral, some are against. It would be unfair to casually dismiss their objections as a simple case of “not in my backyard.”

Some owners of neighboring properties have serious issues with flooding. They believe—and there is evidence to the effect—that some of that water is runoff from the Moore property. Trees absorb a certain amount of rainwater, and these residents worry that the removal of 140 or so would make the problem worse.

It’s a vexing question because it is not entirely clear where all the water is coming from. Some residents have fashioned their own drainage systems. Do those inadvertently create problems for neighbors? Hard to tell. We were told at the P&Z meeting that at least one homeowner essentially clear-cut their property. That is their right, but it probably doesn’t help. And someone apparently took it upon themselves to clear adjacent land that is owned by the town.

The Town Engineer’s design for the driveway contains a variety of provisions for drainage and catch basins. We are simply not qualified to weigh in on whether they are adequate, or whether the best they could do is maintain the status quo. We have observed that the Town Engineer has made several adjustments to the plans based on concerns expressed by some homeowners. We have also observed that he has been criticized—not necessarily by those same homeowners—for making adjustments to the plans.

Would the dog park have a negative environmental impact?

There are no wetlands in the acreage proposed for the dog park, but ultimately the Conservation Commission is responsible for determining that there is no negative impact on wetlands and watercourse. Should they find there is a negative impact, it is hard to see how the project could proceed, at least without significant modifications.

Conservation is scheduled to vote on this on April 26. Both sides will submit studies and other supporting documentation to each other and the Commission before the hearing.

Dogs defecate. Wouldn’t this pollute the area?

The Westport-Weston Health District says no. Opponents point out—accurately—that the District qualified this by noting it is true so long as park visitors obey the rules and pick up after their dogs. The MOU requires WDP to provide waste receptacles.

Since this land has been set aside for general municipal use, what happens if we need to use it for a school or a firehouse sometime in the future?

By the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the town has the right to close the dog park if there is some other reasonable overriding need for the land.

March 2018

McKersie, Henion Statement on School Security

The mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida has given renewed focus on school security. In Weston, many residents have expressed concern that, in the proposed 2018-19 budget, funding for two security staff positions has been eliminated.

In public hearings, members of the Board of Education, School Superintendent William McKersie, and leadership of the Weston Police Department have discussed the budget reduction in the broader context of overall school security. Their task is complicated by the need to not disclose details of new or existing security measures. This also complicates the public's ability to be assured that adequate security measures are in place.

To address these concerns, on March 26, 2018, Dr. McKersie and Police Chief Edwin Henion sent a letter to Weston public school families and staff on this important matter. If you have children in Weston's schools, you may have already seen it. If you do not have children in the schools, or for some other reason have not seen the letter, we have reproduced it here. We have included links referenced in the document to related correspondence issued earlier this year.

The following is a direct quotation from Dr. McKersie's and Chief Henion's letter, in its entirety.

March 26, 2018

To: Weston Public School Families and Staff

From: William S. McKersie, Ph.D., Superintendent; Edwin S. Henion, Chief of Police, Weston Police Department

Re: Weston Public Schools Safety & Security – Personnel Resources

Background

As Police Chief and School Superintendent, we are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all Weston Public School (WPS) students and staff. We have formed a strong team between the Weston Police Department (WPD) and WPS. Chief Henion brings expertise on school security to his leadership in Weston, including first responder work on school threats. Dr. McKersie has now led two districts that place top priority on safety and security.

Frequent communications on critical security issues is essential. Dr. McKersie has sent two major updates to the WPS community since the Parkland shooting. The first was on February 19 (2-19-18_WPS_Safety_and_Security); the second was on March 22 (3-22-18_Safety-Security_Drill_Update_Memo). Dr. McKersie stressed that "our focus is on providing high quality security structures, technology and personnel, but just as importantly developing connections to assist students and families in crisis." The statements addressed multiple aspects of our security apparatus and approach.

This memorandum reviews the comprehensive personnel resources protecting staff and students in case of any emergency or crisis. The WPD takes the lead role in providing protection and first- response services. This memorandum is intentionally technical and analytical relative to the plans and actions of our personnel. Please understand that for optimal safety and security, we cannot share all elements of our safety and security operations.

Personnel Resources

The Weston Public Schools have strong levels of security staffing and first-responder capacity. Few districts and towns in the region can match the combination of security and police protection Weston provides its schools.

Armed protection and response is the responsibility of the Weston Police Department. The following facts indicate the high level of police protection provided to the campus, schools, students and staff.

1) The layout of the campus, with four schools closely aligned on a one-mile long road, allows the police to efficiently monitor activities, identify possible threats and respond rapidly in an emergency.

2) It is rare to have the Police Headquarters immediately adjacent to a public school campus. This allows the Chief and other officers to be regularly on campus and around the schools, increasing police visibility on a daily basis. It ensures uncommonly fast response time by police during emergencies.

3) No other area district has within its campus a Regional Cyber Crime Lab (stationed in Central Office Annex Building), which on a daily basis has several police officers on site, each of whom are required to respond to any emergency or crisis on campus.

4) We have a School Resource Officer (SRO) at the High School, who now circulates to the Middle School on a regular basis. SRO Joe Mogollon also is called on to work with any families or students requiring police assistance at the elementary schools.

5) The WPD conducts active shooter drills in the school building during non-student hours.

6) The WPD participates in school safety drills, and provides post-drill critiques.

7) WPD patrol vehicles have current physical plans for the schools, and the officers have good knowledge of the buildings and have the means to access every part of a school.

8) The Mile of Safety construct, unique to Weston, continues to have police officers regularly patrolling campus during school hours. In addition to being a traffic control system at the beginning and end of the school day, it provides an armed presence monitoring who is coming onto campus at busy times. To clarify, the Mile of Safety will remain the same in 2018-19, unchanged from the current school year.

9) The WPD provides other monitoring and protective services, which we cannot divulge in order to ensure optimal security.

Weston families and staff must recognize the police expertise focused on our schools. Chief Henion’s assurances about the strong police presence for our campus is rooted in extensive command and front-line experience. Captain Matthew Brodacki has increased his role with the WPS. He directly supervises the SRO and works closely with WPS administrators whenever needed. Captain Brodacki also is an experienced first-responder in school crises. Within the WPS, Joseph Olenik, Director of Facilities and Security, has 38 years of law enforcement experience, including 20 years as a police chief in the State University of New York (SUNY).

Constant Review and Evaluation

As Police Chief and School Superintendent, we constantly review Weston’s security apparatus and approaches. We confer several times per week. Chief Henion and Captain Brodacki work regularly with Mr. Olenik and all school administrators, and meet with the Board of Education in Executive Session and in regular Board meetings.

We are charged with assessing risk levels relative to resource allocations. From a budget standpoint, we are confident that the proposed allocation of resources in 2018-19 reflects current and anticipated needs. This past year, a review of the district’s security procedures, plans and infrastructure, as well as the schools’ security plans, was completed. After this review, we believe the allocation of resources is appropriate.

Nevertheless, we listen to input and questions, and always consider new approaches, including necessary modifications to the level and deployment of personnel resources. Any changes would be based on evidence and expert analysis.

We understand the heightened fears about security and safety, sparked by the increased incidents of gun violence in schools. We must underscore, however, that schools remain the safest locations for young people, and the Weston Public Schools have attributes that law enforcement experts say make our schools especially secure.

Rest assured, we will be vigilant in our shared work to provide a safe and secure educational environment. Caring is what we have most in common—caring for the students and staff in the Weston Public Schools.

Westonites Join March for Our Lives

On Saturday March 24, Elissa Teles, a Weston High School senior, led a group of friends and neighbors to Washington, D.C. for the March for Our Lives rally. Ms. Teles, an organizer of the March 14 student walkout (related story), travelled with Sarah Grigerick, Nancy Kirwan-Hayden, Samantha Nestor, Andrew Paladino, and Chris Reilly. The group was part of a southwestern Connecticut delegation from the Newtown Action Alliance and consisted of more than 400 students,teachers, and parents.

Ms. Teles said "I went to the march to better understand and experience the full magnitude of the movement. I wanted to march alongside people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, all brought together for the same purpose. This particular march was special because the offices surrounding us in D.C. belong to the people who we are trying to reach, the people who hold the power to change the country."

Chris Reilly said "It was an honor and privilege to join a contingent from Newtown for the March for Our Lives. It was moving and inspiring day. I came into contact with at least three people who had been victims of firearms attacks, one who held a poster of an x-ray of his head with a bullet in it. He beat the odds. So many others don't. While episodes like that, and the testimonies up on the stage of so many who were victims of gun violence, both physically and mentally, made for an emotionally exhausting day, we were also incredibly inspired and awed at the positivity and purpose emanating from these kids. If they are any indication, the future of this country is in good hands."

Samantha Nestor said she is "hopeful" after participating in the march. "Our band of six travelers from Weston to D.C. laughed, cried, marched, and bore witness to the unbelievable outpouring of determination for change. I’m grateful to these remarkable young people who organized and took action, for the friends and allies supporting them, and especially for the opportunity to personally experience the day with a member of this remarkable generation."

"The most powerful moment for me," said Sarah Grigerick, "was realizing that all the speakers on that stage were children—no campaigning politicians, no important 'adults.' These kids are not going to be talked down to, or 'reasoned with,' or bullied out of their righteous anger. They are sick to death of dying, of watching their friends and family die, of participating in 'dying drills.' I was so proud to stand alongside them and support a movement that shouldn’t need to exist. We failed them after Newtown. But after yesterday I believe they will save us."

Andrew Palladino said "The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. sparked a host of emotions. I couldn't have been more inspired by the passion, strength, and tenacity of the children who spoke with such clarity and hope for change. However, I am frustrated that the collective voices and votes of adults who are as passionate about common sense gun legislation have fallen on compromised and deaf ears. As the father of two young children, I am embarrassed by our generation's failures on gun control and in securing a safe environment for our kids. But, I am confident the Parkland students have now sparked the flame for a greater generation ahead."

Students Walk Out in Honor of Parkland Victims

by Zoë Saldinger

Students across the nation organized a walkout on March 14, 2018, one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The walkout lasted from 10:00 AM to 10:17 AM, one minute for each of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

The Weston High School administration, while not endorsing the walkout, did not act to prevent it. The Superintendent of Schools sent emails to parents and students detailing guidelines for the walkout and ensuring that those who participate would not be punished. According to the guidelines, students choosing not to participate were to be respected for their decision.

Student volunteers shoveled the track clear of snow Tuesday night in preparation for the event. During third period nearly every Weston High School student and a number of teachers walked out of the building to the track.

Some students, such as Doran Sekaran, a junior, passed out pamphlets and informational slips of paper. Mr. Sekaran, co-president of the Young Progressives club, said he was “participating in this [walkout] to spread awareness about issues that plague our democracy at the current moment and to open up political discussion.” Other students shared a similar perspective.

After the students gathered at the base of the bleachers, the organizers began their speeches.

Elisa Teles, a senior organizer of the walkout, said that she wishes for people to look deeper into the issues, and not just repeat the information they hear because she thinks “the debate on gun control needs to be more elaborate.”

During the speeches, 17 students cracked glow sticks in honor of the Parkland victims. Additionally, 26 students held stuffed animals as they walked a lap around the track. Each animal represented a life lost in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, which took place less than 20 miles from Weston.

Zoë Saldinger, 17, is a junior at Weston High School. She is co-president of the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program (ADAP) and the Environmental Activists club. Ms. Saldinger is a contributing correspondent for Weston Today. We are happy to have her on board, and hope to have much more from her in the future.

The Weston Blizzard of March '88 (1888, That Is)

The havoc unleashed by the recent Nor'easters has been hard on Westonites, but the blizzard that struck during the Ides of March 130 years ago also had a major impact. Back then, every day was a day without power, or a telephone, or a motorized vehicle.

Drawn from the archives of the Weston Historical Society, here are three in-person accounts of that winter storm, the biggest in our history.

Lillian Morton, in her oral history interview for the Historical Society, told of snowdrifts along Godfrey Road East "as high as a maple tree (about twenty feet)" and it taking "a week before they cleared down to the main road (Newtown Turnpike)."

Ruth Lockwood, born in 1917 in the family house on Georgetown Road, remembered her father telling stories about snowdrifts reaching the second story windows and having to dig a tunnel to get to their barn. He and his brothers were still sliding down snow banks in June.

The most detailed account in the Society’s archives is that of Helen Fitch Sturges, whose husband's family had settled in Weston in 1760, and who kept a daily journal. She wrote:

“March 13: By noon it was impossible to reach the woodpile so we had to go into the cellar and get old pieces of a bin to burn. My grandfather and oldest son started for the red barn to tend to the oxen and calves, but the storm was raging so they had to come back. All night the wind and storm kept up a continuous howl, and it was 12 above zero.”

“March 14: John and Sammi managed to reach the red barn, found the calves standing by the oxen and the four looked as if they were forsaken. They managed to put the oxen in the horse stables and dug a path to the cow barn for the calves. Now all are under cover except three turkeys. The windows in the one room where we had a fire were so covered with ice and snow we could not see out, and one south door was the only door we could get out and the snow in front of that is five ft. High—something of a step.”

“March 15: At nine it commenced snowing again and kept it up till 2 in the afternoon; snow piled everywhere it could find something to lean against. Up until now we have had plenty to eat, but will be short of provisions in a few days unless we can get to the station (Cannondale).”

“March 16: Sun very bright and warm. Snow melting fast, but the chicken yard is full and the banks are so high that if you go up on a snow bank you can easily reach the tops of the highest pear trees. The children think it is great sport.”

“March 31: [Fifteen days later] Mr. Sterling drove by, the first team of horses that has passed here since March 12th. He delivered from Mr J. Templeton, South Wilton, a rag carpet that he has been weaving for me. I had sewed 51 pounds of rags [for it] in two months; it made 27.5 yards of carpet. Cost of weaving it was $6.32.”

The story of Weston, in documents, photographs, oral histories, memorabilia, clothing, farm tools, and much else can be found in the Weston Historical Society's archives, its barn, and its historic Coley House.

Important accounts of people and events since the founding of the town were regular features of "The Chronicle," the Society's comprehensive quarterly newsletter published between 1982 and 2004, which has been digitized by the Weston Library. A series of recent oral histories, which include videos and transcripts, can be found on the Society's website.

The Historical Society is currently preparing for a comprehensive exhibit and related events titled "Life in the Sixties." For more information about this and other programs, as well as to become a member, visit the website or call 203-226-1804.

Contributed by the Weston Historical Society. Photo: Fairfield Museum and History Center.

Dog Park Meeting Scheduled for March 22, Vote on April 4

On March 13, the Board of Selectmen set new dates for the storm-delayed hearing and vote on the proposed dog park.

A Special Town Meeting will be held on Thursday, March 22 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Weston Middle School cafeteria. This is a discussion-only hearing; no vote will be taken.

A follow-up machine-ballot vote will be held on Wednesday, April 4 at the Town Hall Meeting Room. Voting hours are 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

In this format, voting by absentee ballot is not possible. To offset the impact of that and to generally maximize public participation, the Board acted to expand the voting time to 14 hours, which is why ballots can be cast beginning at 6:00 AM. Normally, machine-ballot voting begins at noon.

Absentee ballots that had been submitted for the cancelled March 10 vote are no longer valid and will not be counted.

Why no absentee ballots?

This gets complicated. Please bear with us.

When a petition is submitted calling for a vote on a certain matter, and it contains a legally sufficient number of signatures, Weston’s charter compels the Board of Selectmen to hold a Special Town Meeting within 30 days. Those meetings must contain a discussion and a vote. Sometimes, it’s all done at one time, and the matter is decided on the spot.

But the charter also gives the Selectmen the option to hold the public discussion part, adjourn the meeting, and conduct the vote by machine ballot 7 to 14 days later. Technically, it is still one meeting. Everyone just takes a break for a week or two.

In the case of the proposed dog park, to encourage participation, the Board voted unanimously to take the latter course: discussion followed later by vote. Unfortunately, they referred to the meeting as a hearing and to the vote as a referendum. The hearing was scheduled for March 9, the vote for March 10. After those dates were cancelled due to the storm, the Town Attorney advised the Board that a different approach may be more legally appropriate.

There is a significant difference between a referendum and a machine-ballot vote that is part of a Special Town Meeting. Most relevant here is that absentee ballots are allowed in a referendum. You do not have to be physically present to vote.

In a Special Town meeting, you have to be there. You can show up late and miss the discussion, but you must be present to vote. So, even when a Special Town Meeting is adjourned, with discussion occurring on one date but the vote taken later, it is still one meeting. You can skip the discussion, but you must be physically present to vote.

In this case, the discussion part of the Special Town Meeting will happen on March 22. Attendance is optional. The vote part will happen on April 4. If you want to vote, attendance is mandatory.

We warned you it is complicated.

Is it true that, to pass, there must be hundreds more Yes votes than No votes?

No. The majority rules. But there is a catch. For the measure to pass, per the charter, even with a majority, the total number of Yes votes must be at least 3 percent of the total number of qualified voters. That isn’t just 3 percent of those who vote. It’s 3 percent of all those who could vote. According to Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz, qualified voters include both registered voters and those who are eligible to vote by virtue of the Grand List.

We do not know what the number of qualified voters will be on April 4. As we understand it, as of February 20 it was approximately 7,034. If that were the number on April 4, in order for the dog park proposal to pass, there would have to be at least 211 Yes votes and a lesser number of No votes.

Town to Vote on Dog Park March 10

Update, March 9 2018:

Due to a winter storm that created a state of emergency, the March 9 hearing mentioned below and the March 10 vote were postponed.

Our original report:

The town will hold a vote on Saturday, March 10 to decide whether 3.5 acres of a town-owned property should be used for a dog park. The machine-ballot vote will be conducted at the Town Hall meeting room from 12:00 noon to 8:00 PM.

The Board of Selectmen had previously voted for a public a vote, but park proponents accelerated the process by gathering enough signatures on a petition that, by a provision in the town charter, compelled a special town meeting within 30 days.

Absentee ballots are being made available on February 28, and must be submitted to the Town Clerk by 4:30 PM on March 9. Those not registered to vote may register by mail, online, or in person by 12:00 PM on Friday, March 9.

The town will also hold a hearing for public comment on Friday evening, March 9, from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Weston Library Large Meeting Room. The hearing will be recorded, and efforts are underway to stream it on YouTube.

The proposed dog park would be built on 3.5 acres in the center of 36 acres typically called the Moore Property. The town acquired the land in 2003 for $2.3 million, banking it for possible future use. It is situated between Davis Hill Road and Lords Highway East.

Update

The Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed dog park Thursday evening, March 1, at the Library Community Room. Tasked by statute to vote on whether a fenced 3.5 acre dog park at the Moore property is an acceptable use of town land, the Commission voted in the affirmative by a margin of 4 to 1. One member abstained.

As a practical matter, the vote was a formality, as disapproval would have sent the issue to a town meeting or balloted election, which is already scheduled to occur on March 10.

Additional Update

We will have a complete report on this issue in the middle of the week. The story is somewhat more complex than it may appear. The Conservation Commission still must decide whether a dog park at the Moore property would have a negative impact on wetlands and watercourse. They meet again on April 26. In addition, even if the proposal passes, how and whether to fund the town's portion of the project is yet to be decided. We will sort it all out for you as clearly as we possibly can.

February 2018

Marianne Frisch Named Executive Director of Weston Historical Society

Marianne Frisch, a 31-year Weston resident, has been named executive director of the Weston Historical Society. In her new role, Ms. Frisch will draw upon an extensive career in museum exhibition and curation, which began at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

"We are excited to have someone with Marianne's depth of professional experience to lead The Weston Historical Society," said Pam Kersey, president of the Weston Historical Society. "We are confident Marianne will continue our tradition of preserving Weston's unique heritage, and to manage several high-profile projects, including the Coley Barn restoration."

Ms. Frisch spent 14 years at the Reader's Digest Association maintaining and curating their 8,000-piece collection of artworks, furniture, textiles, decorative arts and related archives. Ms. Frisch also worked for three years with the Alden Sherman Classic here in Weston, and as Development Coordinator for the Mark Twain Library in Redding. She was the Director of the CWJ Classic Automobile Museum in Bernardsville, NJ. Recently, she has led press and promotion initiatives for art, automobile and business organizations.

"The Weston Historical Society has become such a vibrant part of the community, from exhibits to events to school outreach and to maintaining its extensive historical archives. I am eager to jump in and build on that tradition," Ms. Frisch said.

Ms. Frisch holds a BA in Art History from Dickinson College and is completing her MA in Art History from Hunter College. She has held numerous volunteer committee and board positions at local museums, including Westport Arts Center, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich and the Weir Farm Heritage Trust in Wilton.

Ms. Frisch and her husband, Richard, have lived in Weston since 1987. Their daughter Kate is a law clerk for the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review in Houston, Texas.

(Thanks to Susan Moran for the story and photo.)

Westonites Speak Up at League of Women Voters Event

The League of Women Voters held their annual Speak Up event in the Community Room of the Weston Library on February 3. Attending from the town were all three members of the Board of Selectmen, representatives from almost every town department, commission and committee, plus Weston’s three state legislators: Senator Toni Boucher, Senator Tony Hwang, and Representative Adam Dunsby.

Topics in the detailed question and answer session included town amenities, environmental concerns, the education budget, the impact of the new federal tax law, the state budget crisis, and the proposed dog park.

The first question was what the town would be doing to add to Weston’s amenities, particularly in view of the recently-announced increase in the cost of Westport beach stickers. First Selectman Chris Spaulding responded that the new Board of Selectmen has already held a workshop on a series of possible services, and will be conducting a survey to gain a sense of the town’s priorities and to obtain ideas about how to pay for them.

The Environment

In response to a question, Dr. Spaulding cited the town’s recently-signed solar energy contract as evidence of the selectmen’s major emphasis on the environment. Sustainability Committee chair Natalie Terrill described how the committee is working on a plan to inform the public and meet with local businesses to devise an approach to limiting or eliminating the use of plastic bags.

Several questioners were worried about the environmental effects of fracking wastewater, chemical lawn treatment and tick spraying. Dr. Spaulding discussed how the Sustainability Committee has provided guidance to the Board of Selectmen about a draft ordinance to ensure that fracking wastewater never comes into Weston. (Please see our related article.) He said there is no current town initiative on lawn treatment, but expressed concern that many residents may not be aware of the effects on ground water and wells from pesticides and poisons.

One resident appealed to the state legislators to “give us some help,” because state regulations limit how much a town can restrict the application of such chemicals.

Education

There was an extended discussion about the education budget. School Superintendent Dr. William McKersie and Board of Education chair Gina Albert detailed successful efforts to reduce costs in every function of the school district, with the exception of special education. Dr. McKersie described school funding in Weston and most districts as “in crisis,” explained that current reductions are not affecting the classrooms, but cautioned that the current budget process must ensure that more impactful cuts will not be required in the future.

Special education funds, currently in deficit, receive an increase in the proposed new budget. Dr. McKersie stated that Weston schools are committed to “embracing every single student in the district.” However, several residents expressed frustration, at times in deeply personal terms, with how the schools interact with families with special needs children. Dr. McKersie and Ms. Albert acknowledged that the district has “room to improve.”

Federal Taxes

The impact of recent changes to the federal tax laws was discussed. One question was whether the state and town are looking into the possibility, as have other jurisdictions, of declaring the town a not-for-profit corporation, thus restoring the ability of taxpayers to claim a portion of their income as charitable contributions.

Dr. Spaulding explained that the idea is still being researched, but there are doubts about its legality, and that it would only work for families with children. Nevertheless, he said that the Western Connecticut Council of Governments is looking into it, and that if legal opinions suggest it would survive a challenge, the town would consider it.

Representative Dunsby described such a solution as “probably problematic, and the less likely path.” Many Connecticut citizens, he said, favor the new tax laws, as they benefit those who do not itemize deductions. He also related that other governments are exploring whether to shift tax withholding to a payroll tax. Senator Boucher expressed concern that the issue “pits parts of Connecticut against each other,” that corporations would “hate the idea of a payroll tax,” and worried that such a measure would add to Connecticut’s reputation as anti-business.

Taxes and Tolls

The state’s own tax and budget issues were the subject of much discussion. Ms. Boucher said the state is $4.5 billion in debt, with a $200 million deficit this year. She was particularly concerned that the state transportation fund has been “raided” for so many years that its weak condition is being used to justify increased gas taxes and tolls on Connecticut highways, both of which she opposes.

Mr. Dunsby also opposes tax increases and tolls, suggesting that the state should first look at proposed spending, including $100 million to build a new train station in Bridgeport right next to the existing one. Senator Hwang related how even the state’s Tax Commissioner says “we can’t tax people any more.” Nevertheless, he wouldn’t rule out tolls or taxes, at least until the Legislature first takes a hard look at spending, saying “we should put everything on the table.”

Dog Park

Perhaps surprisingly, the proposed dog park received fairly little attention. The police were asked to help make sure Lords Highway East is kept safe. In the latest version of the dog park plan, an entrance would be built on that road, which the speaker described as “too narrow,” especially for emergency vehicles. Chairman William Brady said the Police Commission has not seen the Town Engineer’s traffic study, but that if and when it does, “we will be asking those same questions.”

Another speaker, expressing sympathy for the opponents of a dog park, hoped that a dog park would “help people across generations connect.”

Selectmen Want Your Ideas on Beach Sticker Pricing

On February 1, 2018, the Board of Selectmen discussed the recently-announced price increase for beach stickers by the town of Westport. First Selectman Chris Spaulding said that the board wants “productive suggestions” from the public about how the issue might be addressed.

According to Dr. Spaulding, the arrangement allowing Weston to distribute beach stickers locally, at a much lower fee than other towns, dates back to a shared resource agreement between the towns. In exchange for beach access, Westport was able to use Weston’s transfer station. But Westport stopped using the transfer station years ago. Nevertheless, Westonites still benefit from a reduced beach sticker fee, albeit a much higher one than the price for Westport residents.

Weston was surprised to learn in January that the cost of beach stickers is about to rise dramatically, up 50% to $375, $200 for seniors. (Please see our related story.) The social media reaction in Weston was swift and highly critical. “We are sensitive to the concerns of Weston citizens,” said Dr. Spaulding, and suggested the public provide respectful, productive suggestions such as letter writing, ideas about different types of fees (such as weekday-only passes) and the like. “We still want to reach out and have a reasonable discussion and see what can be done,” Dr. Spaulding added.

Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz acknowledged reports that less-than-friendly comments about Weston were made at the Westport hearing where the matter was decided, but said he understood there were also many expressions of support for Weston as a “sister town.”

Selectman Stephan Grozinger said that the fee increase “seems inequitable on its face, but it’s their beach, it’s their call. I’m not sure how much we can do about it.” He added: “It’s a good idea to have Weston citizens contact us. Then we can meet and discuss it again.”

Selectman Brian Gordon said: “It’s certainly worth discussion,” and expressed hopes for “a way to positively find a workaround.”

Westport representatives were invited to attend the meeting, but declined, instead sending a memo explaining reasons for the increase. There is one additional unfortunate possible outcome of the back-and-forth between the towns: Weston’s Town Clerk may no longer be able to distribute beach stickers. Unless a policy change occurs, they can only be purchased at Westport’s Town Hall or online.

Board Advances Fracking Wastewater Ban

In their February 1 meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to send to counsel a proposed ordinance to prohibit fracking wastewater from Weston’s borders. The draft regulation was first presented to the board on January 18 by the town’s Sustainability Committee.

Selectman Stephan Grozinger opposed the move, explaining that the proposal bans fracking wastewater from facilities the town does not possess. “There is no fracking in Connecticut,” he added, and noted that state law already contains a moratorium on importing fracking wastewater.

As a result, Mr. Grozinger described the proposed ban as “a nullity,” and objected to the cost of having counsel review it. He also expressed concern with a provision requiring that all town contracts adhere to the prohibition. “I’m not sure there is any utility in this,” he said.

First Selectman Chris Spaulding responded that town contracts always contain certain standard language. He also said he was “not comfortable” with the idea that the state would never cancel the moratorium.

As an example, Dr. Spaulding cited serious consideration given by the state government last year to require towns to pay a large portion of teacher pension costs. This would have potentially forced Weston “take over pension liabilities that we didn’t negotiate.”

Dr. Spaulding acknowledged that “we don’t have these facilities at the moment,” but added “that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t at some point. Some future administration might feel an offer is too good to pass up. I’m generally happier to ensure that it will never happen.” He also pointed out that many other towns have adopted the same ordinance, and that the Sustainability Committee had unanimously recommended it.

Selectman Brian Gordon described himself as “probably more in-between.” He stated his concern that the regulation could make something like rebuilding the football field in the future “terribly expensive.” However, he agreed that town counsel should review it.

Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz suggested that counsel not only review the measure, but also advise the board if there are any concerns. The vote to do so passed 2 to 1.

Town to Vote on Dog Park

In its January 18 meeting, Weston’s Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to let voters decide whether a section of town-owned land will be used as a dog park. The Board also referred the matter for further review to the Planning & Zoning commission, town Conservation Commission, and Parks & Recreation department. However, they stipulated that the final outcome will be determined by a ballot vote.

The proposed dog park would be built on 3.5 acres in the center of 36 acres the town acquired in 2003 for $2.2 million. Commonly called the “Moore property” after its former owner, the land is situated between Davis Hill Road and Lords Highway East.

In the meeting, Town Engineer John Conte gave a detailed presentation of the latest version of the plan, which primarily addresses concerns about a proposed entrance to the park, once thought to be best built on Davis Hill Road. In the revised approach, the park would be accessed from Lords Highway East, with parking available for 22 vehicles and a provision to accommodate 22 more if need be.

Mr. Conte described the advantages of the new access road in terms of construction costs. He also presented findings of a traffic analysis performed in conjunction with the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, which found that a dog park would not generate traffic.

The Moore property is heavily wooded. According to Mr. Conte, tree removal would only be required for the driveway, parking area, and dead trees already on the acreage.

The members of the board made little comment about their views of the merits of a dog park, except Selectman Stephan Grozinger, who voiced opposition. Selectman Brian Gordon wondered if a dog park could be built "in ways that preserve the integrity of the land." But in the end, the board unanimously agreed that the proposal had sufficient public interest to warrant a public vote.

But the board also voted to first refer the proposal to Planning & Zoning, which is required by state law, to the Conservation Commission for an assessment of environmental issues, and to Parks and Recreation to review revised park rules.

Animal Control Officer Mark Harper voiced frustration with this process, asking: "Why don’t we just have the meeting of the taxpayers to see if they want a dog park there? And then if we do, we can move forward with all the other finite things that we have to do?"

First Selectman Chris Spaulding replied: "We want to try to get the maximum amount of data to make the decision. Everybody is frustrated this has gone on so long and become so acrimonious. We’re trying our best to make sure we’re as transparent and thoughtful in this process as possible."

Planning & Zoning is taking up the proposal in a meeting on January 25. At this writing, dates for the other reviews, and for the public vote, are not yet set.

Beach Sticker Price Rises Bigly

Citing increased maintenance and police costs for Compo Beach, on January 24 the Westport Board of Selectmen voted to sharply increase the cost of beach stickers for residents of Weston, and even more for those from other towns.

Stickers for vehicles registered and taxed in Weston will now cost $375, up 50 percent from last year’s $250. Seniors take a hit as well, with the price rising to $200. Last year it was $135.

The news was even worse for surrounding towns, with fees going up 58 percent to $775.

Daily passes rose by about one-third to $40, with only 100 available on any given day. A weekend pass now costs $65.

Weston First Selectman Chris Spaulding announced on January 26 that the Board of Selectmen will discuss this matter in their February 1 meeting.

Board Honors Nina Daniel

In its January 18 meeting, Weston’s Board of Selectmen honored former First Selectman Nina Daniel with a proclamation that January 19, 2018 would be “Nina Daniel Appreciation Day.”

Current First Selectman Chris Spaulding lauded Ms. Daniel as “an unbelievable servant to our town, a mentor, a teacher to me, and a great Weston citizen.” He cited her more than 25 years of community involvement, and listed a number of accomplishments.

Ms. Daniel expressed gratitude for “the honor of serving the town,” and described “the privilege” of working with town staff. “Weston is family,” she said. “Weston is home."


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