NEW FAIRFIELD – Just under 50 residents attended a special Town Meeting June 28 to vote on a proposed $2.75 million appropriation of funds for cleanup from the May 15 storm. The vote was unanimously in favor of the appropriation. This is the second request by the Board of Selectmen for funds to clean up the Town. A preliminary amount of $750,000 was approved by voters on May 31. In both instances, the Board of Finance reviewed the requests and voted to approve a call for a vote at a Town Meeting.
Of the total $3.5 million appropriated through both votes, it is estimated that approximately $3.1-$3.2 million will be required to removed storm-related debris from both public and private roads in town. The remaining funds are earmarked for contingency and other storm expenses. So far, the Town has gone through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process for cleanup of town-maintained roads. The Board of Selectmen reviewed bids from five tree companies and was set to approve the winning bid at a July 2 special meeting. It is expected that once the contract is signed cleanup will begin shortly thereafter. The Board expects to begin the RFP bid process for the cleanup of private roads shortly.
The Town may be eligible for up to 80% reimbursement in clean up expenses from FEMA for roads it maintains. However, this accounts for only roughly half of the roads in town. At a Board of Selectmen meeting immediately following the Town Meeting, First Selectman Pat Del Monaco indicated that the Board is “pursuing different avenues to try to get FEMA reimbursement for the private roads as well.” At the Board of Selectmen meeting, Ms. Del Monaco indicated that once cleanup is set to begin, the Town will publish a cleanup schedule on the town’s website and Facebook page as well as outside the Town Hall and in the First Selectman’s office.
Ms. Del Monaco also said that anyone that did not have insurance coverage and whose house sustained major storm damage should complete a form and submit it to FEMA. The form is available on the Town’s website and Facebook page as well as at Town Hall. She also noted that the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Group is in town to help residents clear trees if needed. While not endorsed by the Town, the group’s contact information is posted on the Town website so that anyone in need could reach out to them directly.
Ms. Del Monaco gave School Safety and Security Committee update. She said that the security audit firm had completed its audit of the schools and submitted a final report. The report was going to be reviewed by the committee at its next meeting on July 2.
The Board also discussed the possibility of moving forward on proposing a blight ordinance and what the process might be. While acknowledging it as a sensitive issue, the Board stated it is looking to explore the issue based on requests it has been receiving. The Board began discussion on bringing forth a blight ordinance proposal. Ms. Del Monaco noted that an ordinance has been brought to a vote three times in the past and each time was voted down. She proposed initiating a public hearing process to get input from residents in order to craft a document that might work for the Town.
Selectman Kim Hanson suggested starting with something written to use as an initial framework and getting comment and suggestions on that. Selectman Khris Hall agreed, noting that the process was flawed the last time an ordinance came up for vote two years ago. She noted that process was contentious and that she felt the Town needed an ordinance, but not the last one as proposed.
Mr. Hanson felt that the last one was “too broad” and that one that was less so would be better received. Ms. Del Monaco said that she would send out a copy of the previous proposal to the Board for reference and that she would put the issue on a future meeting agenda.
The Board went into Executive Session to discuss the Communications Dispatchers and Town Employees union contracts. When it came out of Executive Session, the Board Voted to approve the contracts and to give Ms. Del Monaco authority to sign them. The vots were both 2 to 1. Mr. Hanson, while not objecting to the terms, did not want to give the First Selectman authority to sign the documents as the Board had not seen them in their entirety. Ms. Hall noted that the portions that had not been included were the existing union contracts that were public record. Nevertheless, Mr. Hanson objected and voted against.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Thursday, July 12 at 7:30pm in the Community Center.
By Greg Slomba