At the September 10 virtual meeting of the Board of Selectmen, First Selectman Pat Del Monaco gave a COVID-19 update. The Board also discussed a potential noise ordinance, and Ms. Del Monaco noted that in the past month there has been an “uptick” in COVID-19 cases reported in the state, and more specifically in New Fairfield. For that reason, she had noted that the basketball court had been closed down. She asked for everyone to be flexible as the town and the state reacted to the fluid state of the pandemic. She reminded residents not to let their guard down and become too relaxed about wearing masks and social distancing.
“Every time we close something or cancel an activity, there is a lot of thought that goes into that decision, then the final decision comes from the Director of Health,” Ms. Del Monaco said. “We recognize the benefits of the fields and basketball courts to everyone in town, and we certainly want everyone to be able to enjoy them safely.”
She also said that the Town performs contact tracing for every reported case. She noted that there are several nurses in town trained in contact tracing.
Selectman Khris Hall spoke about her drafting of guidelines for the draft of the proposed noise ordinance. She noted two kinds of noise ordinances; quantitative, which stipulate certain decibel levels and can be quite problematic to enforce, and qualitative, which attempt to describe infractions without assigning a decibel level. She said that the language used in a qualitative noise ordinance would have to be specific enough so that they are not vague and that the restrictions are reasonable.
In her draft, she said she had tried to outline the kinds of activities that the Board has received complaints about including noise on the lake, sustained animal noises, motor vehicle noise, residential and commercial lawn and garden noise between certain hours. She acknowledged that the language is still very rough and will need to be refined.
She noted that enforcement would be dictated by state guidelines including fines per offense.
Selectman Kim Hanson asked if enforcement of existing laws on the books had been explored, such as breach of peace.
Ms. Del Monaco said she had spoken with the Resident State Trooper. She said that a breach of peace complaint must be submitted in writing and that many times, a neighbor filing a complaint balks at having to do so in writing and declines to do so.
She also said that a statute involving creating a public disturbance requires intent and unreasonable noise. She said that would be a little easier to enforce and that the sergeant was going to have a discussion with the officers about enforcing creating a public disturbance.
Regarding noise on the lake, Ms. Del Monaco said it made more sense for DEEP to enforce and the Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol should be given the authority to address infractions on the lake. She also noted that other states use state police for enforcement. She said that the CLA is looking to get action at the state legislature level on this.
The Board decided to receive input from businesses and nonprofits as it moves forward with the development of the draft, and to obtain public comment once the draft is more fully developed.
In other business, the Board reappointed Jeff Main as a New Fairfield delegate to the CLA for another two-year term.
The Board also discussed the 2019-2020 fiscal budget surplus. Some uses discussed for the surplus were funding certain items dropped from the current fiscal year budget, such as a new plow truck and the shortfall for replacing one of the boat docks. Expenditure surplus for the town was roughly $625,000. The Board decided to review the surplus with the Board of Finance at its next meeting.
The next regular BOS meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24 at 7:30pm.