‘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.

Three-Week Closure of Route 123 in Effect 

The Connecticut Department of Transportation on Monday closed Route 123 in the area of the New Canaan Field Club in order to replace a culvert running under the state road. The closure will continue for about three weeks, with northbound traffic detoured at Parade Hill Road and southbound traffic at Canoe Hill Road. “You come down 123 onto Canoe Hill and and onto 106 and that gets you around the area,” Public Works Director Tiger Mann told members of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure during their April 12 meeting. 

“We put in additional signage in the Rosebrook area and to have people avoid Rosebrook itself, since we didn’t want people to consider going down Rosebrook or Brushy Ridge. Those are for people who use Waze.” 

Originally scheduled for last summer, the project was delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and then pencilled in again for October. But the town urged the state to put off a project so close to Thanksgiving, as well as the date that asphalt plants shut down for winter, and the state agreed.

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.

Ca.-1900 Greenhouse at New Canaan Nature Center Demolished

More than one year after demolition plans entered the public realm, a dilapidated ca.-1900 greenhouse at the New Canaan Nature Center has been razed, town officials said Monday. The contaminant-laden town-owned structure “is down,” Public Works Director Tiger Mann said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure. “We had some residents coming and asking for materials even after we told them that they couldn’t,” Mann said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “We had exhausted all possibilities as to re-using any of the materials themselves. But it’s down.