Updated, 6:47 a.m., 10:09 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some recent Norwalk odds and ends:
- Two chosen for Redevelopment Agency
- Three appointed to Oak Hills Park Authority
- Remson named to Ethics Committee
- Barbara Smyth to lead Personnel Committee
- DiScala: ‘Smart money only goes where it is welcome’
- Wilms announces perfect voting record
Redevelopment Agency slots filled
Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland, who is also Second Taxing District Chairman, has added a new title to his list: Redevelopment Agency Commissioner.
Westmoreland and William Speirs, senior director of software engineering at Datto, Inc. were approved for appointment to the RDA at last week’s Common Council meeting, with many positive comments from Council members.
“I think they’re both going to be phenomenal additions,” Council member Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) said.
Neither name was on the agenda when it was posted to the City’s website on Friday, leading one NancyOnNorwalk reader to call them “last minute” appointments, and speculating that they are due to recent events in the Wall Street area.
“A spot on the Redevelopment Agency was recently vacated, and another term had expired, so we’ve been thinking appointments for quite some time,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a statement. “To characterize these appointments as ‘last minute’ is just incorrect. With so much happening with Wall Street, I felt it was essential to move forward, so the RDA had its full complement of commissioners.
RDA Commissioner Lori Torrano’s term expired in 2016 but she continued to serve. The Redevelopment Agency allows a Commissioner to continue serving until they are replaced, Chairman Felix Serrano said last year.
Council member Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) was among those lauding Westmoreland, who he said would “certainly bring a different perspective to Redevelopment, maybe hopefully tie in some of the historical aspects that maybe needs a little bit more attention.”
Hempstead also thanked Torrano for her service as “a very engaged person.”
Majority Leader John Igneri (D-District E) noted that Westmoreland is dedicated to Norwalk and “really understands the city” and Tom Livingston (D-District E) said he’s worked with Westmoreland for three years on the Historical Commission and, “It’s amazing to see the work he does there.”
“I think we all can appreciate the things that he has done in terms of preserving the historic aspects of the city as well as maintaining budgets in a very responsible way,” Livingston said. “…There are very few around the city that work as hard as he does. I think he will be an excellent choice.”
“I don’t think there’s many people in the city that loves the city as much as David and he’s proven that time and time again,” Rilling said, further commenting that he was “quite impressed” with Speir’s resume and, “I am sure that he’s going to do a remarkable job.”
Speirs is a Ph.D., according to his resume, which states that he is an “entrepreneurial minded software engineer” with more than a decade of experience “as both an individual contributor and team lead.”
Sacchinelli called him “highly respected” at Datto.
Westmoreland has been a landscape architect at Tuliptree Design since 2009, and was project manager at Daniel S. Natchez & Associates for two years before that, “responsible for all aspects of site development for waterfront residential properties and commercial marinas,” his resume states. From 1981 to 2003, he had a “career in corporate information technology as Vice President, Airport Systems Development at American Airlines and Chief Information Officer at Arrow Electronics.”
Oak Hills Park Authority gains three new faces
Council members also approved the appointments of Joseph Andrasko, Carl Dickens, and Jeffery Taylor to the Oak Hills Park Authority last week.
Dickens will bring media research and marketing skills to the Authority, Hempstead said, commenting, “I hope it’s a different addition but it’s a good addition and the person is also an avid golfer so understands the particulars.”
Dickens is president of Jack T. Wolf LLC, worked at CBS from 1981 to 1991, and “managed struggling CBS Media Properties to number one in their markets and made them profitable,” according to his resume.
Andrasko is a “proven leader with professional background in consumer finance and formal education in pure mathematics,” and a Vice President at Synchrony Financial, according to his resume.
Taylor frequently plays tennis and golf at Oak Hills and “had an Oak Hills resident pass each year for 12 years,” his resume states. He is also a business development consultant.
They replace Joe Kendy and Elsa Peterson Obuchowski, who have timed out, Chairman Bill Waters said, explaining that they both finished an existing term and then a full term, with the city counting a partial term as a full term.
Kendy and Obuchowski can reapply after two years, and have both offered to help the Authority as needed, he said. Obuchowski will remain on the Oak Hills Nature Advisory Committee.
There is one more vacancy left to fill, Waters said.
Remson to Ethics Board
Finally, Sue Remson was appointed to the Board of Ethics.
Remson is an eighth grade math teacher at Ponus Ridge Middle School and treasurer and executive Board member for the Zeus Swim team, according to her resume. From 2007 to 2012 she served as an executive Board member for the Naramake Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
Council member Barbara Smyth (D-At Large), a Norwalk High School teacher, said she’s known Remson for 10 years.
“I have seen her handle her teaching job ethically as team leader,” Smyth said. “I have watched her handle many conflicts between eighth grade students ethically, with parents and sometimes even with teachers. I think she is just a natural for the Ethics Board.”
Smyth to fill Bowman’s slot
Smyth, who is in her first term, has been named chairwoman of the Personnel Committee.
Smyth replaces Faye Bowman, who recently resigned her Common Council seat citing an imminent move out of Norwalk. Democratic Town Committee members chose Ernie Dumas last week to fill Bowman’s Council seat.
“I feel honored to have this position and I look forward to the help that I will get from all of you in running Personnel,” Smyth said last week to her fellow Council members.
DiScala touts tax incentives for developers
Other communities offer tax incentives to developers, and Norwalk should too, Michael DiScala of M.F. DiScala recently told members of the Common Council Planning Committee.
DiScala, in a letter that is included in the minutes for the May 3 Planning Committee meeting, said his development company is “in nine states in 23 Cities” and has “experienced what other cities have given to us as investors and developers to attract us to invest in their communities.”
“High on that list are tax incentives,” DiScala wrote. “It is very common that developers receive tax incentives to encourage developers. Norwalk is an exception. We need tax incentives in order to create attractive, well designed developments with the affordable component added as well.”
DiScala recently opened the long-awaited mixed-used development Head of the Harbor South on Smith Street and hopes to build Head of the Harbor North on a parcel that includes a city parking lot.
“Our company was established in 1923, and we are proud of all of our developments and holdings in Norwalk,” DiScala wrote, naming The Trolley Barn at 10 Wall St.; the Marshall’s Shopping Center at 390 Westport Avenue; Sedona Plaza at 295 Westport Avenue; County Mall at 250 Westport Ave.; and 1 West Pine Place, apartments and offices located at the corner of West Avenue and Pine Street.
“Without incentives, we cannot continue to efficiently develop in Norwalk,” DiScala wrote. “In most cases, the taxes charged on new developments, after the incentives, are greater than the taxes that were previously charged so it is a net gain to the City. The Head of the Harbor South property taxes were $16,000. After development, the annual taxes are estimated to be $175,000.”
Although Head of the Harbor South is fully leased, there is only one school child among its 60 apartments, DiScala wrote, adding, “In addition to adding to the tax revenue, our developments generate employment and increased revenue for Norwalk businesses.”
He concluded, “Therefore, we would encourage the City to advance the tax incentives in order for us and other quality developers to continue to enhance the landscape of our City. Smart money only goes where it is welcome.”
The Committee was considering the proposed Central Norwalk Innovation District, which includes tax incentives for developers in the Wall Street-West Avenue area. That proposal has moved on to the Ordinance Committee.
Wilms present for every vote
State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) was among the roughly 34 percent of legislators who were present for every vote in the 2018 legislative session, according to a press release.
“I take my job in Hartford very seriously,” Wilms is quoted as saying in the release. “Public service is a part of who I am. My constituents voted me into office and they expect me to be present for each vote. Every bill we consider is important to someone in the State of Connecticut and it deserves our consideration. I am proud of my record, but even more proud to represent the 142nd House district.”
There were 317 votes in the House during the 2018 legislative session and, “Only 52 members of the chamber, or roughly 34 percent, were in attendance for each of them,” the release said.
The release said Wilms took the leadership roles on the following bills:
- “The State Budget – no tax increases, fully balanced plus $1 billion placed into the Rainy Day Fund.
- “The Special Transportation Fund Crisis – by shifting the Car Sales Tax to this fund from the General Fund, MetroNorth and bus services cuts were avoided.
- “Education Cost Sharing Funding – protecting against funding cuts by the Governor.
- “Bioscience sector – creating a strategic plan for this promising economic sector.
- “Medical Telehealth services – updating our old laws to keep pace with new technologies.
- “Protecting children with food allergies while away at school.”
Wilms is being challenged for re-election by Democrat Lucy Dathan.