The Police Commission voted 3-0 last week to install a stop sign with flashing lights at Michigan and Smith Ridge Roads to alert westbound traffic seeking to cross or turn onto Route 123 of the dangerous intersection. The move is one measure town officials are taking while they wait for the state to address concerns raised months ago regarding the intersection, site of “multiple serious accidents,” Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said during the Commission’s Oct. 16 meeting, held at police headquarters.
“We just had another one,” Krolikowski said. He referred to an Oct. 15 crash in the area.
Officials said last week that they’ve re-designated 12 parking spaces in metered lots downtown for disabled motorists following an anonymous complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice. The town had been “deficient in number,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann said, and quickly addressed the problem by installing three disabled spaces in Morse Court, six in Locust Avenue Lot and three in Park Street Lot. “We had someone contact the Department of Justice and they came down and said that we needed to amend our number of handicapped spaces in three separate parking lots,” Mann told members of the Police Commission at their regular meeting, held Oct. 16 at the New Canaan Police Department. The complaint “fell on the heels pretty much right after the original thing for Main Street,” he said, referring to a complaint that had been made to the state that could see New Canaan lose even more parking spaces near crosswalks.
New Canaan shouldn’t remove any crosswalks on Main Street until a traffic study is in hand and the town attorney reviews a legal opinion that could preempt the need, officials said last week. The Police Commission, New Canaan’s local traffic authority, during its Sept. 18 meeting voted unanimously to request that the town attorney look at a legal opinion challenging the notion that a state law required the municipality to lost 13 parking spaces on Elm Street irretrievably last summer. That same legal opinion—which finds, in part, that the town could preserve some parking through local ordinance—also bears “tangentially” on a more recent finding that New Canaan must lose 10 to 12 spaces on Main Street because they’re located within 25 feet of a crosswalk, according to Commission Chair Sperry DeCew. “If we had some municipal parking regulations, which are indicated… that could possibly help us with the Main Street issue,” DeCew said during the Commission’s regular meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department.
Though it may look perfectly fine to those driving past on South Avenue, the New Canaan Police Department building has defective plumbing, mold, crumbling masonry, 16 broken windows, a leaking skylight, a sewer fly problem in the men’s locker room, loose and broken tiles in the women’s and poor or non-existent ventilation throughout, officials said Wednesday. Two of four men’s jail cells have been closed due to plumbing issues, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said during a regular meeting of the Police Commission, and the old-style cell bars in them also must be replaced with flat plexiglass doors because prisoners have tried to hang themselves by the bars.
Several offices in the building are not connected to its centralized HVAC system, and 48 windows require hardware that’s no longer available because the windows themselves are so old, he said. “There is moisture in some rooms—that’s not a good thing,” Krolikowski said during the meeting, held in the training room at police headquarters. “Ventilation in processing areas is nonexistent and we often get narcotic smells in our hallways due to evidence storage and no way to ventilate that.”
The comments came during a general update to the Commission, as the police building itself—though multiple town bodies have acknowledged the pressing need for renovation—sits as-is while town officials consider a complicated, multi-transaction proposal that would see the department relocated downtown (more on that below). “I don’t think the public knows any of this,” Police Commissioner Jim McLaughlin said, referring to the problems enumerated by the chief during his brief presentation.
Members of the Police Commission said Wednesday night that they’re willing to take a second look at a decision they made last summer to comply with a seldom-observed state law, leading to the elimination of 13 parking spaces on Elm Street.
Prompted by a local attorney’s assertion that there appears to be a relevant 1950 opinion letter from the state attorney general and an appellate court case that could empower the town to find relief from the statute, commissioners said during their regular meeting that they would ask for a formal opinion from municipal counsel. New Canaan lost 13 spaces on Elm Street after a resident put town officials on formal notice about the town’s lack of compliance with a state law requiring a 25-foot buffer between crosswalks and parking spaces. Though local officials at the time asked transportation consultants and the state about what New Canaan might to do find a way out from under the restriction, no path to exemption materialized, and the Police Commission—the town’s on-street parking authority—voted 3-0 at its July 18 meeting to change Elm Street’s parking configuration.
Merchants in the heart of New Canaan bemoaned the loss of parking.
A guest at this week’s Commission meeting, Richard Stewart, said the change has upset him. Saying he’s seen a high number of vacant storefronts on Elm, Stewart told the Commission, “I know they are all under attack from Amazon and the Internet but in New Canaan that is such a vital thing for our town—we don’t have like Darien has a waterfront, we have the 100-acre cent er of town with the retail space and everybody comes in and it becomes a friendlier town.”
According to Stewart, an opinion issued by the Connecticut attorney general in 1950, one year after the statute in question took effect, could give municipalities the ability to pass an ordinance that allows them to get out from under the 25-foot rule. Stewart said he would investigate the option which while it “doesn’t have the power of law, still has power.”
He added that he found an appellate court case where a man fighting a $90 parking ticket was told by the court that he would have the ability to be exempted from the parking rule but that his city didn’t have an exemption on its own books, “so let’s make sure our town does that.”
Stewart said he would return at the Commission’s April 17 meeting with the information.