Moynihan: Selectmen May Vote on RFP for Sale of Vine Cottage Next Week

The Board of Selectmen next week will review documents that could lead to the sale of Vine Cottage, New Canaan’s highest elected official said Tuesday. According to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, the selectmen will review an RFP to either sell the gabled Main Street building or offer “a land lease with a condition that it be done with historic preservation intentions, with an easement.”

The selectmen “will hopefully approve an RFP” during their May 21 meeting, Moynihan told members of the Board of Finance. 

Before New Canaan sells the property, the Town Council would need to hold a public hearing, Moynihan said during the finance board’s regular meeting. Located opposite the firehouse, the 2,334-square-foot Vine Cottage was built in about 1859 and in recent years has housed the New Canaan Department of Human Services. 

That agency is moving into the lower floor of the former Outback Teen Center. Though Selectman Kit Devereaux has called for more public input prior to the town divesting itself of the building, finance board members have pushed for its sale. 

The Town Building Evaluation & Use Committee in its December 2017 report said the town should put off a decision on renovating the building until the future home of the Board of Ed is determined. The following summer, Moynihan noted that the town’s five-year capital plan assumed the antique structure was no longer in New Canaan’s portfolio. 

His comments to the Board of Finance this week came during the first selectman’s regular update on town matters.

‘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?

Foul Balls Crash into Two Windshields at Mead Park; Netting Around Backstop, Foul Lines Raised

Workers last week extended upwards the netting around a newly turfed little league baseball field at Mead Park, days after two foul balls went sailing into the lot behind it and crashed into the windshields of cars parked there. The backstop at Mellick Field was shifted back as part of a public-private project that also saw the infields of both Mellick and Gamble Fields turfed for the start of this season, officials said. It used to be that part of the backstop at Mellick jutted over home plate so that some pop ups hit it and bounced down, Recreation Director Steve Benko said when asked about the need to make the netting higher. But the architects of the project, partly because potential outs were taken away by that configuration, decided to move the backstop, Benko said. “What happened was the whole angle changed, we had foul balls that used to hit the fence or trees, so they had New Canaan Baseball raise the netting to try and stop the problem,” Benko said.

‘It’s a Pretty Apparent Conflict’: First Selectman Voices Concern About Parks & Rec Commissioner 

An appointed town official is risking a conflict of interest due to her position on a private nonprofit organization whose work involves the very area of municipal government she’s charged with overseeing, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said last week. Unknown to Moynihan and without permission, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Sally Campbell last year became vice chairman of the Waveny Park Conservancy, he said during a media briefing. 

“She was there [on the Conservancy] as an ex-officio representative to the town government and she somehow thought it was right to become a legal board member and now she continues to come before her own Commission representing the Conservancy,” Moynihan said during the briefing, held in his office at Town Hall. “I don’t understand why she does that.”

He added: “It’s a pretty apparent conflict to me, and I’ve talked to her about it and I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it.”

Asked about her role on the Conservancy, Campbell told NewCanaanite.com in an email: “I am not sure what Kevin’s concern is. As first selectman he advocated to have town reps on many of the non profits in town, Waveny Conservancy being one of them.” She added that she would discuss the matter with Moynihan.