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Norwalk Council roundup: Grasso paving; appointments; new schools; and Enterprise Zone

Then-Bike/Walk Task Force Chairwoman Nancy Rosett leads a meeting last year. She is set for appointment Tuesday to the new Bike/Walk Advisory Commission.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Common Council has a few items on its plate:

  • Mushak among a slew of appointments, but not for the Bike/Walk Commission
  • Grasso slated for additional $1 million in paving work
  • Council set to award school architectural contracts
  • Committee considering Enterprise Zone tax incentives

 

Council to consider 10 appointments, seven reappointments

The agenda for Tuesday’s Common Council meeting includes seven appointments for what is now an official governmental body, the Bike/Walk Advisory Commission; the appointments of Eric Rains to the Parking Authority, John Crespo to the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission and former Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak to the Planning Commission; and the reappointments of members of the Human Relations Commission and the Fair Rent Commission.

Rains, a South Norwalk landscape architect who is a member of the SoNo Comeback Task Force and is on the Board of Directors for the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, would serve a Parking Authority term that ends March 31.

Crespo is an environmental scientist certified in hazardous materials management, according to his resume. He would serve a term that ends Dec. 31.

Mushak, a landscape architect and business owner, is known as a lightning rod former Zoning Commissioner, well versed in the many plans and studies that have been commissioned by Norwalk. He would serve a term that ends July 1.

“Mr. Mushak has in-depth knowledge of the city and the various plans commissioned over the years.  He would be a significant benefit to the process we have in place for developing our POCD,” Mayor Harry Rilling said Monday in an email.

The Council on Aug. 8 unanimously approved a new ordinance to create a Bike/Walk Advisory Commission out of what was the Bike/Walk Task Force, created by Rilling in 2014, with Mushak and Peter Libre as co-chairmen.

The seven appointments to the new Commission:

  • Nancy Rosett, former Task Force chairwoman (term ending June 30)
  • Peter Libre (term ending June 30)
  • Michael Heslin (term ending June 30, 2019)
  • Peter Franz (term ending June 30, 2019)
  • Kevin Kane (term ending June 30, 2019)
  • Jud Aley (term ending June 30, 2020)
  • Colin Grotheer (term ending June 30, 2020)

Reappointments are:

  • Timothy Buzzee, Human Relations Commission
  • Rahoul Duperville, Human Relations Commission
  • Carol Gavriliedes, Human Relations Commission
  • Yvonne Rodriguez, Human Relations Commission
  • Mary Geake, Fair Rent Commission
  • Brenda Penn-Williams, Fair Rent Commission
  • Sonja Oliver, Fair Rent Commission

 

Grasso lined up for $1 million in additional paving

The Grasso Companies LLC, the controversial recipient of $3.4 million paving contract in April and a $826,618 sidewalk and curbing contract in June, is set to be awarded a $1 million “change order” to pave 11 streets this summer:

  • Arrowhead Court
  • Buckthorn Road
  • Cindy Lane
  • Knob Hill Road
  • Noah’s Lane (from the extension to the cul-de-sac)
  • Ox Yoke Lane
  • Scott Street
  • Sherwood Street
  • Tulip Tree Road
  • Wake Robin Road
  • Wayfaring Road

Some Council members objected to awarding Grasso the prior contract because Grasso companies historically have been accused of Zoning violations, with many noise complaints from nearby residential neighbors. But Grasso Companies LLC is owned by Joe Grasso, Jr., and a majority of Council members said they had no grounds to deny the son a contract because of things the father had done.

When the Council awarded the paving contract, it said it would be monitoring the work.

“The paving they have done is very good,” Department of Public Works Director Bruce Chimento told the Council Public Works Committee last week.

It’s customary to amend the contract this way, adding streets after the paving contract is complete, Chimento said, after Council member Michael Corsello (D-At Large) protested that it seemed like, “a whole new project.”

The contract is awarded in advance of bonds being issued for the current year’s capital budget, DPW Principal Engineer Lisa Burns explained.

“We used to wait to we got the funds but it was the worst time to bid the project, in July,” she said.

Contractors know that if they complete the contract they have been awarded in a timely fashion then they are likely to get additional work, Burns and Chimento said.

“It’s not an entitlement, not a guarantee… It’s an incentive,” Chimento said, responding to comments from Council member Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large).

As for Zoning violations, the Committee was informed by Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn that Grasso had an application in for a berm in the back of its Wilson Avenue property, but, “As far as we are concerned there’s no violation,” Chimento said.

Wrinn, in a Monday email, explained:

“Crystal LLC, the owner of the property at 314 Wilson Avenue, has a request in with  the Zoning Commission to install a berm across the rear of the property to screen and also to better control runoff into the creek. It is part of a DEEP permit.

“There is also a public hearing on a auto restoration business on the Crystal LLC property Wednesday night, which should resolve Crystals issue of a tenant without a permit.

“I am not aware of any zoning violations issued to any Grasso Company. We issue violations to property owners, which is Crystal LLC in the case of the 314 Wilson Avenue property.”

NancyOnNorwalk did not attend the Public Works Committee meeting, but was given a recording.

 

School architects chosen

Perkins Eastman Architects has been selected to design the addition to Ponus Ridge Middle School in a $2.3 million contract to be voted on Tuesday.

“The Committee was very impressed with Perkins Eastman’s qualifications and presentation, specifically their concept for the addition and their understanding of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review’s requirements,” Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo wrote to the Council.  

JCJ Architecture has been selected for a $850,000 contract for design services on the South Norwalk school, with the scope of services limited as the city pursues state and federal approval for the required open land swap, Lo wrote.

“The Committee was very impressed with JCJ’s qualifications and presentation, specifically their desire to engage the school community in the development of education and building program requirements and their understanding of the ‘Bank Street Education Model,’” Lo wrote. “In addition, they are familiar with Office of School Construction Grants and Review’s process.”

He predicted that the approval on the open land swap would take another six to nine months.

Interview committee members were Land Use and Building Management Committee Chairman Thomas Livingston (D-District E), Council Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large), Board of Education Vice Chairman Mike Barbis, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton, Ponus Ridge Middle School Principal Damon Lewis, Jefferson Elementary School Principal Nick Brophy, Columbus Magnet School Principal Medard Thomas, Purchasing Agent Ben Luce, Purchasing Officer Sharon Conners, consultant Jim Guiliano, and Lo.

 

Planning Committee moving ahead on tax incentives

A U.S. Census map showing census tracts in Central Norwalk.

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan provided the Council Planning Committee with statistics for Census Tract 437, as the Committee considered Enterprise Zone tax incentives last week, Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) said Monday.

“Now we will begin evaluating our options,” he said in an email. “The consensus of the committee is not to blanket the area with an Enterprise Zone but rather look at each project individually.”

Pinnacle at Waypointe is in the middle of Census Tract 437; developer Paxton Kinol reportedly is looking for a tax incentive for the project, which is up for a vote Wednesday by the Zoning Commission.

Kydes said, “The tax incentive discussion did not begin because of anyone development.”

14 comments

Lee Levey September 12, 2017 at 8:05 am

Before Grasso is approved for additional paving contracts, I suggest that the council members drive north on Silvermine Avenue and take note of the damage Grasso inflicted on the trees and bushes on the east side of the street between Bartlett and Comstock Hill. The equipment cooked the sap in the branches of trees and burned bushes. DPW is not alarmed, but hoping it will all come back in the Spring. They won’t. A lot of trimming will help. Grasso is responsible for the damage and should not be handed additional paving projects.

Debora Goldstein September 12, 2017 at 9:34 am

They should also confirm the quality of the sidewalks and passing done while the recently done projects are still under warranty.

The sidewalks provided on Edlie Avenue in connection with that paving project started deteriorating a few months after they were installed.

Paving needs to be re-examined. Norwalk has a two year lockout after new road is put down. NYC has 5. We have an extensive secondary industry in “crack sealing” on the roads. NYC does not do this and, in fact, their standards manual does not even reference cracks as an issue to mitigate. Some tertiary roads only needed repaving once in ten years (no crack sealing).

This may not be a Grasso problem. I see other towns with the tell-tale crack sealing. But it sure begs the question as to whether some of the $ spent on paving might have served us better over the years.

It’s time the city began doing outcome based planning and budgeting. Residents need to be able to set priorities for the city and departments should be working at getting the very best outcomes when they put together their capital budget requests. We simply cannot afford to waste a single dollar any longer.

Bill Nightingale, Jr September 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

It should not be the problem of taxpayers whether developers get their projects built at certain profit margins. There should be no taxpayer subsidies. No tax abatements. No enterprise zones. If a developer can’t build a project approved by zoning for economic reasons then he shouldn’t have tried it in the first place. He can sell the project at market clearing levels.

There should be no taxpayer bailouts. No tax breaks. This is about pure greed by the developer. We need the developers to INCREASE our property tax revenue – not mooch from it.

Lisa gets this. Current administration does not and has the appearance of being influenced by folks such as Kinol on Loehmans Plaza. Remember, once the taxpayers subsidize one project we will have to subsidize them all. It is an awful cycle.

Vote for Lisa.

Adolph Neaderland September 12, 2017 at 12:19 pm

I see a fundamental city planning mismatch.

We have a POCD program underway, a process of determining what the stakeholders of Norwalk want to see for Norwalk’s next decade.

Yet we have our city commissions ignoring this mandated plan process, rushing to introduce changes in existing zoning, with the stated hope that these hurriedly introduced changes will somehow meld with the forthcoming POCD Plan.

As examples of this rush for approval, major plans are being developed at significant expense by both the Redevelopment Agency and the Parking Authority totally independent of either our existing 2008 POCD or the upcoming 2018 POCD!

Why are these activities being authorized ? Who has authorized these independent expenses at a time our finances are being squeezed and a new 10 year Plan has started?

Planning ?

A. Neaderland

huh? September 12, 2017 at 2:23 pm

What about the curbs?

I’ve been seeing curbs banged up or missing on roads that have had recent paving done.

Do they fix or replace?

Rick September 12, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Mushak is one toke over the line.He has cost the city millions yet the environmental damage in his estimation the city has ignored is ok .

Anyone who wants to run should be asked how much help was given to those on Quintrad ave when fighting Firetree?

A positive response to anyone running won’t happen ,we only saw a handful of politicians crossing the the line helping out the residents.

Crespo is an environmental scientist certified in hazardous materials management, according to his resume. He would serve a term that ends Dec. 31. No need to think this is important where has he been over the last year on hotbed issues that could of used his expertise.

This isn’t the same Crespo strain that has interest in a non profit from Greenwich that has plans for Ely ave is it?

Yes there is a lot of questions on the new non profit and the name of Crespo by the train station ,and city hall knows what the problem is with this non profit just ask anyone on Quintard ave. we put that together a while back.

No way could this Crespo have anything to do with Ely ave correct?

Brain dead ,special interest candidates are in abundance this year .

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 12, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Mike Mushak attended the recent CNNA meeting to lob blanket attacks on attendees and to champion every development project to come down the pipeline during Rilling’s tenure without regard for its success. I’m new in town. Someone please help me out here. Does the mayor just get to stack these commissions with cronies and lapdogs?

Nancy Chapman September 12, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Point of information: Mike Mushak’s service to the city as a Zoning Commissioner predates Harry Rilling’s overt involvement in politics. Mr. Mushak was appointed by former Mayor Richard Moccia, while Rilling was still police chief.

karl September 12, 2017 at 8:31 pm

JUST ASKING , HAS GRASSO PAID THE 350,000 IN BACK TAXES YET ??????? ONLY IN NORWALK !!!!! WHO IS TAKING A LITTLE EXTRA ON THE COMMON COUNCIL TO LET THIS GO ON ?????? AGAIN JUST ASKING . BUT WE ALL KNOW !!!!!!

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 12, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Mushak’s tenure on the Zoning Commssion as a Moccia appointee doesn’t alter his obvious current allegiance. The optics are bad on this for Rilling. Mushak attacked CNNA meeting participants with a broad cudgel. This was a diverse group with a variety of opinions and interests. Rilling’s name never came up. Yet Mushak assailed the entire room for being partisan. And now he’s being appointed by Rilling to the planning commission after having recently defended every single project that has passed by the mayor’s desk. This is not who I want on the Planning Commision.

Gabe Athaus September 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Take a look at the work Grasso did in the Westrocks area. One word describes it best – Disappointing. The milling was incomplete. You could remove slabs of asphalt by hand after they were “complete”. They had to redo the aprons to every driveway because they botched the street levels compared to driveways. Curbs are missing, while others were skipped. Can you say “Low bid”? Can we learn from our mistakes?

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 14, 2017 at 11:49 am

Grasso is in my neighborhood now. They’ve been here for weeks. They left a raised edge that could easily damage automobiles. Their work has been delayed pending gas line work by Eversource. In the meantime, they don’t have to park their equipment so that it blocks access to our beach lot. And they could ease the edge on the transition from unpaved to paved road.

By contrast, Deering did work on Burritt. They worked quickly and the works looks excellent. Did it dawn on anyone that maybe Grasso’s bids are lower becasue the quality of the work is also lower?

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.