We’re writing not only about those municipal bodies that all local media outlets cover—New Canaan Board of Selectmen, Town Council, Department of Public Works—but also the Public Tree Board, Traffic-Calming Work Group, Parking Commission and Park & Recreation Commission.
The town is on pace to exceed its fiscal year 2021 budget of $300,000 in legal fees by tens of thousands of dollars, records show. Members of the Board of Selectmen discussed the high legal costs during their regular meeting Tuesday, while approving payment of a $40,271 legal bill for March from the town attorney’s firm that brought the total spent since July 1 to $297,967.79, according to a summary invoice. The town pays a $8,500 monthly retainer to Berchem Moses PC. “So we are definitely going to go over budget this year,” Selectman Nick Williams said during the meeting. “We’ve only got $2,000 remaining in the budget.”
As he has in the past, Williams noted that the single most-expensive legal matter on the bill involves a dispute over a proposed terrace on God’s Acre and ownership of the property.
Town officials announced Tuesday that a longtime member of the New Canaan Planning & Zoning Commission has submitted her resignation from the appointed body, effective immediately. Jean Grzelecki has served on P&Z for three decades, and has been elected secretary for the past several years.
She’s been “a fabulous, dedicated and very thoughtful Planning & Zoning commissioner,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, held via videoconference. “I have enjoyed working with her for the past several years and I think everyone is going to miss Jean’s contributions.”
The selectmen voted 3-0 to appoint Arthur Casavant to a three-year term filling Grzelecki’s regular seat on P&Z, through Dec. 1, 2023. Grzelecki’s positions on P&Z in recent years have included leading its Plan of Conservation & Development implementation committee as well as its Sign Committee.
Unafraid to question applicants or raise concerns about plans for expansion, reuse or redevelopment, Grzelecki through 30 years of service has bridged eras on P&Z, most recently from the chairmanship of former member and architect Laszlo Papp to current Chair John Goodwin and several recently appointed members.
Town officials say they’re seeing strong early demand for passes to Waveny Pool for the 2021 season. In the first 10 days of sales, the town sold 165 resident family, 15 senior and 20 individual passes for the popular facility, according to Recreation Director Steve Benko. “So people are looking forward to the pool season,” Benko told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission during their April 14 meeting, held via videoconference. State officials are expected to make an announcement this week regarding summer activities, including guidance on capacity limits for facilities such as Waveny Pool, he said. “Everybody is anxiously waiting to see what the [state Department of Economic and Community Development] and the [Department of Public Health] are going to to do for summer activities,” Benko said.
Town officials say that in the face of changes in project management, they’re focused on working with utility company officials amid the multiyear natural gas installation in New Canaan. In recent weeks, municipal officials have received the most complaints about the state of Main Street and Gower Road, two heavily traveled roads affected by the installation, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.
“So we are asking them to expedite that,” Mann told members of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure during their April 12 meeting, held via videoconference.
“The unfortunate thing is that Eversource went through a management change, so our longtime project manager Charlie Frangis, who did a fantastic job ushering this project in the past two years or so—he was instrumental in getting rid of Ferreira and bringing in Burns—he has been relocated to their central or northern district, and we have five or six new managers down here taking over the project, unfortunately.”
The comments came during an update to the committee on the status of the natural gas project.
The long-planned installation of natural gas lines through downtown New Canaan was thrown off by the COVID-19 pandemic. The town is in the fourth year of the Eversource-led expansion, which brought service to 30 roads in 2018 and extended an additional five miles in 2019. Another five miles had been planned for 2020 when the pandemic set in, and town officials have been pushing for Eversource to continue the project, including into the downtown.
Municipal officials have called for understanding from residents as multiple infrastructure projects get underway this spring and summer, including a natural gas line on Main Street between East and Locust Avenues, and then down Locust to Forest Street. The town is “still working with them on upper Elm Street, Grove Street, Pine Street—that area,” Mann said.
“And then with the new managers, I am trying to accommodate our final restoration of the roads that are slated for this year, taking into account that they lost last year and try to make sure that everyone who wants service gets service,” he said.
Parks officials this week voted to recommend that a proposed seasonal outdoor ice rink be located in Waveny. Based on the findings of a subcommittee, the Parks & Recreation Commission voted 10-0 in favor of trying out a winter “mini rink” in the parking lot that serves the Orchard Field softball diamonds.
One commissioner abstained from voting during the April 14 meeting, held via videoconference. Commissioner Jake Granito, who helped lead the Ice Rink Committee, said the group looked in depth at three possible locations—tapping Public Works Director Tiger Mann, Parks Superintendent John Howe and Recreation Director Steve Benko for their expertise—and concluded that the Waveny site “is best suited for the town.”
It’s a large area that’s “also good because you have the grass fields behind it,” Granito said. “The bathrooms are right there. There’s still plenty of parking.