‘It’s Frustrating’: Town Works With Utility Co. Amid Management Changes and Natural Gas Project

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.

Town: Carriers ‘Very Interested’ in Proposed Cell Tower for Northwestern New Canaan

The town’s highest elected official said this week that multiple carriers are showing interest in offering service through a new cell tower proposed for northwestern New Canaan. To be sited in a wooded hill at 1837 Ponus Ridge, just north of the intersection at Dan’s Highway and across the street from Laurel Reservoir, the proposed tower if approved by a state agency would serve New Canaan’s public safety needs and also have traditional cell carriers. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan told members of the Board of Finance Tuesday night that the Danbury-based wireless infrastructure company that will apply to the Connecticut Siting Council for permission to erect the tower, Homeland Towers, “has had some good news that the carriers are very interested, beyond AT&T which has already signed up in that location.”

“There seems to be a focus away from New York City now, and focusing on the suburbs, with the carriers, because they realize people are working from home and they need to ramp up their service in the suburbs,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “So I’m getting very good vibes from the carriers that they’re willing to work with us on several locations.”

His comments came during an update to the Board of Finance on various matters before the town. New Canaan for years has grappled with a lack of cell service through large areas of town, including much of the northeastern and northwestern quadrants.

Moynihan: Playhouse To Have New Movie Operator in September at the Earliest

The town-owned Playhouse on Elm Street likely will have a new operator in September at the earliest, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said this week. The town “may have news about a potential operator soon,” Moynihan told members of the Board of Finance during their regular meeting Tuesday, held via videoconference. Municipal officials “are working on the assumption that the town wants a first-run movie theater and that’s what we’re working on,” he told the Board during a general update. “If we can’t achieve that, we would look to other things,” he said. “But I think that’s a consensus in the town and certainly it supports restaurants and merchants to bring people to New Canaan.

Public Works: Plan To Widen Sidewalks on Elm Street Will Result in a ‘Net Zero’ Change to Parking

Public works officials next week will will bring forward a proposal to widen several sections of sidewalks on Elm Street, chiefly on the north side of the road between South Avenue and The Playhouse. Mentioned during last month’s Police Commission meeting, the new configuration will make permanent some of the pandemic-related changes now in place with temporary barricades, as well as bolster pedestrian safety in a major shopping and dining area of downtown New Canaan, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. “We are looking at bumping out the sidewalks from the intersection with South Avenue up to and through The Playhouse on the northern side and then on the southern side, the crosswalk at The Playhouse itself and then the intersection of South Avenue and Elm Street,” Mann told members of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure during their regular meeting Monday. “What that will do is that should help us on reducing the pedestrian crossing length of the crosswalks and then protecting the areas adjacent to the crosswalk, whereby right now it’s 25 feet on either side, if you have a hard bump-out you can actually reduce that requirement in certain locations,” he said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “And what it turns out to be is, we would lose five spaces on the northern side and gain five spaces on the southern side so it would be a ‘net zero’ change.”

Mann said he’s bringing the proposal to the Police Commission for approval at the appointed body’s April 21 meeting.