We passed the 100,000 mark of deaths from COVID-19. We were traumatized by the horrific murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. We watched our president move to militarize our streets.
Locally, we saw the chair of our Police Commission tear down heartfelt signs, calling them “litter” with a shameful insensitivity to the historic moment. We saw our first selectman force the resignation of Mike Handler, our guiding light through all kinds of emergencies over the past two decades. But on Thursday, hope was renewed—a warm light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
The New Canaan Fire Department launched a new policy with respect to wearing masks after two municipal employees—neither of them firefighters—tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday. All personnel in the fire house will wear a surgical mask when there are two or more people in the same room, and if firefighters are unable to social-distance in the trucks, they will wear masks there, too, according to Fire Chief Jack Hennessey. “Community spread is out there, so we assume everybody we run into could be potentially infected, so we are protecting each other and ourselves from everybody,” Hennessey said during the Fire Commission’s regular meeting, held via videoconference.
He added, “We are trying to get better testing for our personnel but that is not available yet because they are still only testing symptomatic people and there is no antibody test available to the general public yet. So we are kind of in a holding pattern. No firefighters that I am aware of have tested positive or have COVID, but we do have a number of family members that are sick so we do have three or four people that have been missing work because of sickness in their families and we want to make sure that it does not come into the firehouse.”
Town Hall has been closed to the public since March 23.
Town officials last week approved a $52,800 contract with a Scotts Corners, N.Y.-based engineering firm to convert seven oil-fired burners in town-owned buildings to run on natural gas.
Approved 3-0 by First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams during the Board of Selectmen’s July 9 regular meeting, the contract with Marchetti Consulting Engineers will cover the conversion of the burners in the Parks Department Garage, Police Department, Schoolhouse Apartments and New Canaan Day Care, Highway Garage, Wastewater Treatment Plant, and former Outback Teen Center buildings. Devereaux asked whether converted oil-fired burners are as efficient as purpose-built gas-fired ones. Department of Public Works Building Superintendent Bill Oestmann said that they are not, but that as technology improves this could change. “We’ll get efficiencies going to gas, and cleanliness,” Oestmann said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “It should be a little better over time and that’s what the engineer’s going to help us understand.”
In this week’s installment of our free weekly podcast, 0684-Radi0 (subscribe here in iTunes) we take a closer look at the Town Council’s decision last week to remove funding for a $225,000 roof replacement at The Playhouse. We interview Beth Jones, a fire commissioner and former selectman who sat on the town-appointed Playhouse Committee and also helped organize a League of Women Voters forum on the Elm Street building’s future four years ago, when public works officials let it be known that the structure had $2.5 million in capital needs. This week’s podcast is sponsored by STAR Inc., Lighting the Way, serving our neighbors in New Canaan and surrounding towns who have intellectual disabilities and their families since 1952. STAR invites the whole community to join them at their annual “Family Fun Day Walk and 5K Run” at Sherwood Island on Sunday, May 5. Sign up here.
Beth Jones, lifelong New Canaanite and former selectman, has been appointed as a member of the Fire Commission. She is the first woman to serve in the role. “This is a historic moment for New Canaan,” Selectman Nick Williams said moments before he and fellow Board of Selectmen members Kevin Moynihan and Kit Devereaux voted 3-0 to appoint Jones. “I look forward to seeing more females on commissions that historically have not been populated with females. Beth Jones, I had the pleasure of serving with her for six years.