The manpower that New Canaan Police dedicated this past summer to the investigation of a missing local mom drained the department’s staff to minimum levels for a time, leading to a decline in motor vehicle violation citations, officials say. Year-to-date motor vehicle violation incidents were down about 20% as of Oct. 31, officials reported at last month’s meeting of the Police Commission. Responding to a question from Commission Chair Sperry DeCew about the decline in incidents—from 3,648 through the first ten months of 2018 to 2,933 this year—Deputy Chief John DiFederico said, “With the investigation this summer, that took a lot of manpower away.”
“We also had a very high number of order-ins,” DiFederico said at the meeting, held Nov. 20 at NCPD headquarters.
New Canaan likely won’t be able to negotiate a way around losing several parking spaces on Main Street downtown, as per a state statute that prohibits spots near crosswalks, officials said this week. After speaking with Connecticut Department of Transportation officials, state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th) said that “obtaining waiver is probably not likely.”
O’Dea told members of the Police Commission during their regular meeting Wednesday that he intends to schedule a meeting with the DOT that includes New Canaan’s delegation to the General Assembly. “It is a statute, or regulation, that we have to try to get an exemption from,” O’Dea said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department.
“What we are going to try and bring up is what other possible things we can do to address their safety concerns with having crosswalk and parking spots where they are currently, whether that be some sort of lighting or some sort of reflective things, but I would say I’m not optimistic I will be able to change their position.”
After a town resident complained to the DOT regarding New Canaan’s failure to observe a 1949 state law that prohibits parking within 25 feet of a marked crosswalk at an intersection, state officials pushed for immediately compliance. (The stretch of Main Street from Cherry to Locust Avenue doubles in parts as state Routes 106 and 124.) The town hired a Fairfield-based transportation consultant to study the area, and that firm returned last month with a new parking configuration that would limit the loss of parking to six net spaces. The Commission decided to hold off a vote on that plan, pending O’Dea’s input.
O’Dea said the response from the DOT regarding its insistence that New Canaan comply with the law where perhaps other municipalities are not is, “Well, we have not received complaint or we are not aware of them, and they don’t have the staff to go inspect this situation.”
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.