‘The Change in Our Community’: Facing Criticism of Sewer Fee Proposal, Finance Board Postpones Vote

Russ Barksdale, president and CEO of Waveny LifeCare Network, received notification this week about $8,5000 in annual sewer usage fees that the nonprofit organization would be expected to pay for the fiscal year starting July 1. A proposal from Town Hall that’s designed to more fairly distribute sewer-related costs among residential and commercial property owners, the fee ultimately would see both for-profit and nonprofit businesses—including churches, charitable organizations and municipal buildings—taxed for water usage for the first time. 

Barksdale in addressing the Board of Finance on Tuesday night during a public hearing on the proposal said he found that his organization, which includes both the Waveny Care Center on Farm Road and The Inn on Oenoke Ridge, would be “hit more than any other nonprofit in our area, sizably more than any other nonprofit.”

“I went to then think of the pebble effect, the pebble effect that it would have for that usage fee to be placed on us as a nonprofit, to be placed upon the other churches and other nonprofits that enrich the culture of this great community that we have in New Canaan,” Barksdale said during the well-attended hearing, held at Town Hall. 

Noting that Waveny has provided some $10 million in charity care in the past two years in ways that saves government spending, Barksdale added, “We have a very fragile, very large group of seniors that come to us who cannot afford or find themselves at the end of being able to afford the highest level of care that we provide. And so I applaud our charity care to provide that. Who do we bill that usage fee to?”

Medicare and Medicaid are not options, he said, and there’s “really no place to pass that fee on to others to be able to incorporate, so we have to as a nonprofit be able to absorb that expense.”

“We would just ask that, similarly to the $15 minimum wage, that you give us an opportunity and all the nonprofits that are here the opportunity to build it within our budget. Right?

Q&A with LiveGirl’s Sheri West: ‘The Art of Being a Girl’

New Canaan-based nonprofit organization LiveGirl on Thursday is launching a new exhibit at the Carriage Barn Arts Center. 

Featuring work from New Orleans-based mixed media artist Ashley Longshore and award-winning artist Michele Voigt, “The Art of Being a Girl” will include work in all media that expresses what organizers call “the essence of female power.”

The exhibit will run through May 26 and features two community events—on May 19, LiveGirl is hosting a benefit with music by Sariah and Hope In Harmony, spoken word by bestselling poet Cheyenne Taylor Jacobs and Voigt completing a piece. Then on May 23, LiveGirl and CWEALF will present “Enough As She Is” with Rachel Simmons, the New York Times bestselling author of “Enough As She Is,” “Odd Girl Out” and “The Curse of the Good Girl.” 

We put some questions to LiveGirl Founder Sheri West about the exhibit and her organization. Here’s our exchange:

New Canaanite: Give me an idea now of how many girls now benefit from your organization’s programs, including Camp LiveGirl. 

Sheri West: This year, we will serve 1,500 middle and high school girls in our free of charge programs statewide. Additionally, we will welcome 150 girls at Camp LiveGirl—to run July 22 to 26 at New Canaan High School—including 60 girls on full scholarship. How will funds raised through “The Art of Being a Girl” support those programs?

Jim Mark Fowler, 89

Betsey Fowler along with her children, Mark Fowler and Carrie Fowler Stowe, the family of the iconic wildlife expert and television personality, Jim Fowler, shared that their father passed away on Wednesday, May 8th, peacefully at home at the age of 89, surrounded by his family.  Known to generations as Co-Host and later Host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a favorite guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,  and the Wildlife Correspondent on NBC’s Today Show, Jim lived an incredible life as a naturalist and spokesperson for wildlife and the natural world.  Before his television career began, he carried out expeditions to Africa where he lived with the Kalahari Bushmen, and to South America where he conducted ground-breaking research on the Harpy, the world’s largest eagle, and the Andean Condor. Jim was a member of the world renowned Explorers Club since 1960, and was a recipient of the Club’s highest honor, The Explorers Medal.  Jim grew up on his family’s beloved farm in Albany, Georgia, known as Mud Creek, where he first bonded with nature and, by age eleven, was training birds of prey.  Jim designed and created free roaming wildlife parks in Charleston, South Carolina, and at Chehaw Park in Albany, Georgia with the primary goal of inspiring families to make a connection with the natural world.  His property of 30yrs in New Canaan, Connecticut, became the gateway to what is now a 50 acre land trust preserve called the Silvermine Fowler Preserve for all to enjoy.  One of the most influential personalities in nature programming, Jim inspired millions to care about wildlife and nature and inspired countless zoologists, wildlife educators and other professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping preserve the natural world and the animals and habitat in it.  His impact as a spokesperson for our planet will be felt for generations to come. Jim’s wife Betsey Fowler is a renowned wildlife artist, his son Mark Fowler is the VP of Wildlife Conservation at the Explorers Club and Nature Initiative Director at Grace Farms CT where he works to save African wildlife from poaching and trafficking, and his daughter Carrie Fowler Stowe is an advocate for the environment who is passionate about the connection between human health and the health of the natural world.  Her husband Doug is an avid outdoorsman and spends as much time as possible in the back country.  Jim’s grandchildren Avery and Brinton have taken on the love of the outdoors and together, they are continuing his legacy by focusing on preserving and protecting the future of wildlife, wilderness and the health of all living things on this planet. The Fowlers also added that Jim was a Georgia boy at heart who loved being with his family and in recent years, loved driving around in his vintage jeep on his wildlife preserve in Georgia and sitting outside watching birds at his homemade bird feeder while his grandchildren played in the yard. He also recently completed his autobiography called Jim Fowler’s Wild Life (to be released soon), and loved reminiscing about the good old days as he told stories around the campfire with friends and family.

Parks Commissioner: Trash Bin at Waveny To Address Problem of Dumped Dog Waste Bags

Saying a similarly placed trash receptacle has worked in Irwin Park, officials announced last week that Waveny visitors will have a new bin to dump their used dog poop bags. As it is now, many of those bags end up dumped in the southwest corner of the park, where a trail that runs alongside the Merritt Parkway intersects with Lapham Road, according to Parks & Recreation Commissioner Sally Campbell. “Someone always puts a trash bag up there,” Campbell said during the Commission’s May 8 meeting, held at Town Hall. She referred to a bag that a park visitor ties to a tree to receive the used bags. Campbell said she has spoken to the head of public works about putting a trash bin in Waveny, and that he’s “is in agreement that that’s not a bad idea.”

“It is just one trash can in the park, it is not everywhere, but it is just a natural turn” in Waveny for those carrying the bags, Campbell said.