In a break from the town’s highest elected official, Selectman Kit Devereaux this week said that New Canaan should preserve its volunteer Utilities Commission rather than allow it to disband or go dormant.
During a Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, Devereaux noted that the Town Code assigns a wide range of responsibilities to the commission, covering railway, electric, gas, telephone, sewage and water. And she also noted that the group’s job includes ensuring that local needs are met, fielding complaints from residents and business owners and presenting concerns to state agencies.
“I think that this is something that should not be put into hiatus because, as I read it, it really does it seemed to serve purpose for the people,” Devereaux said during the meeting, held at Town Hall.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan was absent from the meeting. He has said that he favors allowing the Utilities Commission to go dormant, while assigning responsibility over solar energy in New Canaan to its standing Conservation Commission, and creating a Technology Advisory Committee while he himself takes on the task of improving cellular coverage in town.
Devereaux during the meeting asked that fellow Selectman Nick Williams, a lawyer, review the legal ramifications of doing away with the commission itself.
“It’s a vehicle for residents to be able to bring their complaints,” Devereaux said, adding: “I know that there is a feeling that this should just be retired but I wish you would look at it, too.”
In New Canaan, the Utilities Commission had been dormant for years until former First Selectman Rob Mallozzi re-formed it during his first term in order to examine the prospect of bringing natural gas into town. Since then it has become a central body in studying the prospect of improving cellular service here and also taking advantage of solar energy. Some members of the commission dropped off around the time of last year’s local election.
Williams noted that only the Town Council, not the selectmen, could effect a change to New Canaan’s local ordinances. He said he supported Moynihan’s idea of creating a Technology Advisory Committee but that he also would be hesitant to support a change to the town’s government document.
“I cant speak him but in terms of changing laws or, as you know I am fairly conservative about that—I still believe that the first selectman should be the Board of Finance chairman—but that issue has come and gone,” Williams said. “But I don’t disagree that we should be careful in changing existing ordinances even if that means we have an additional commission or committee that focuses on technology.”
Williams noted that the first selectman “I know the first selectman wants to personally take on cell usage and towers, and I think he ran on that platform,” but said he doesn’t believe that “just doing away with a commission on the books is a good thing.”
When Williams said he supported the idea of a selectmen committee focused on IT issues, Devereaux said: “But I think ‘utilities’ takes in much more than IT.”
She cited part of the Town Code’s description of the Utilities Commission as “receiving and evaluating complaints and presenting its position and concerns to appropriate local and state agencies.”
“I would think that has a valid place in New Canaan,” Devereaux said.