Selectmen Williams, Corbet Call for Reinstitution of New Canaan Utilities Commission

Nearly five years after New Canaan’s highest elected official did away with the municipal Utilities Commission by declining to appoint new members, some town officials are calling for its reinstitution. 

In December 2017, one month after winning the first selectman race by 33 votes, Kevin Moynihan said that he wished to dissolve the Utilities Commission while redistributing some of its responsibilities—such as cell coverage, natural gas and solar energy. 

Tom Tesluk, then-chair of the Utilities Commission, had resigned the day after Moynihan narrowly defeated Kit Devereaux. And though Devereaux, who went on to serve as a selectman, argued in favor of preserving the Commission, the volunteer body’s last meeting agenda was posted in December 2018. 

During the Board of Selectmen’s Sept. 20 meeting, Selectman Nick Williams said, “We had talked about repurposing or getting back to a Utilities Commission at some point and I bring that up in the context of the cell phone towers because I think that’s an issue that a robust Utilities Commission could tackle and Lord knows in this town we’ve got experts all over the place that could help out with something like that.”

His comments came during a portion the meeting dedicated to general matters before the town. Moynihan responded that he had attended all meetings of the Utilities Commission for four years while serving on the Town Council “to bird dog cell service.”

This exchange followed:
Moynihan: And Tom Tesluk resigned the day after the election. Williams: So we just gave up?

‘There Are a Lot of Questions’: Selectman Williams Pushes Back on West School Cell Tower Plan

Though New Canaan’s highest-elected official has charted a course for approving a cell tower behind West School, it’s unclear whether his colleagues on the Board of Selectmen will approve a lease to make the new infrastructure possible. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan at the Board’s Sept. 6 meeting called for the Planning & Zoning Commission to decide between a tower 1,000 feet behind the Ponus Ridge school and another, taller one further out. Yet at the Board’s Sept. 20 meeting, Selectmen Nick Williams and Kathleen Corbet did not commit—and in some cases, raised questions about—the prospect of approving a lease with the cellular infrastructure firm proposing a 125-foot “monopine” tower for West School. 

“Why would we be pushing stuff to Planning and Zoning and to the Town Council and other public bodies when we as a group have not gone on record as for or against?” Williams said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. 

He added, “To be clear: There is going to be no cell phone tower put up anywhere unless we approve it as a Board of Selectmen.”

The discussion came during a section of the meeting where the selectmen weigh in on general matters before the town.

Wetland Boardwalk Proposed for Irwin Park

Town officials on Tuesday approved a $13,300 contract with a local firm to do survey work at Irwin Park for a proposed wetland boardwalk. The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 in favor of the contract with RKW Land Surveying during its regular meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. 

The planned board was approved during the last budget season, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. “We had the area flagged for wetlands by William Kenny Associates,” he told the selectmen. “And we need to pick the flagging up and do some additional survey work and topographic work, things of that nature, of the area in concern.”

RKW had done the base mapping and original survey at the time New Canaan purchased the Irwin property, Mann said. 

“We’d like to engage them to do this work and then update that mapping,” he said. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted in favor of the contract. 

The selectmen asked whether the project had been considered for American Rescue Plan Act funding (no), why not (not sure), what is the total cost of the project when land surveying is included (the budget was about $175,000 but some is coming from DPW operating) and where the proposed wetlands boardwalk would go exactly (in the southwest corner of Irwin, mann said, “As you head up the hillside where the Flexi-pave trail is, you go past where the goats were and head up the hill, that area is wetlands in back”).