Norwalk Council roundup: Yes votes

Norwalk Common Council Personnel Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large), left, explains pay raises for ordinance employees as Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) listens, Tuesday in City Hall.

Updated, 7:30 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s the news from Tuesday’s quick Norwalk Common Council meeting:

  • Ordinance employees granted pay raises; better evaluation system promised
  • CHM2 hired to explore flooding issues
  • Registrars expect pay raise to bring them in line with Danbury
  • Ramirez appointed to Fair Housing
  • Pop Up Library expected


Pay raises authorized

Common Council members Tuesday updated the pay plan for non-union, appointed and elected city officials to allow Mayor Harry Rilling to grant those employees a 2.36 percent raise retroactive to July 1.

Personnel Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) explained that six of the “ordinance employees” are not eligible for the raises as they were recently hired.  Neither are the department heads whose positions were elevated to cabinet level and received significant salary boosts in the recent reorganization.

Rilling can also award raises from a $50,000 bonus pool that is already in the budget, a pool that predates the Rilling administration, she said.  The maximum bonus that an employee can receive is 5 percent of salary.

Smyth said the Committee generally supported the bonus pool as some employees have been receiving the bonus annually for eight or nine years, and have been counting on it and expecting it, but committee members also felt that an evaluation system is needed to bring more structure and more accountability.

Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney said he would develop “a revised pay plan that includes a revised, hopefully better performance evaluation program” and deliver it by April.

“It is critically important that we make sure that we evaluate in a manner which is effective to evaluate our employees,” Rilling said. “… I have worked with these employees for five years now. I can state unequivocally that they are good hardworking dedicated employees who give everything they have to the city of Norwalk and many of them, although they are not entitled to overtime, work long and hard hours. Even in my office, I will see the employees there until 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. I walk out of my office and I say what are you still doing here?”

“Right now, as you know, there is kind of a halo effect on performance evaluations and they don’t always do the job that you want them to do,” Rilling continued. “… I also project perhaps that when we do we are going to find out that the employees that work for us are top notch, and we are very lucky to have them.”

Council voted to approve the measure 11-1-1.  Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-District D) was the lone “no” vote and Ernie Dumas (D-District B) abstained. Tom Livingston (D-District E) and Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) were absent.




Council approves ‘excellent’ $150,000 contract amendment

The Council unanimously approved an amendment to an existing contract to allow CHM2 Hill Engineers, Inc. to begin addressing Norwalk’s stormwater system issues after three intense rainstorms created widespread flooding issues.

Public Works Committee Chairman John Igneri (D-District E) called the amendment an “excellent item,” explaining that “unbelievable rains” have overwhelmed the sewer system, particularly during one storm.

The sewer system is built to handle up to 90 million gallons a day, with a usual flow of 13 million gallons, but on Sept. 25, the system was overwhelmed with 105 million gallons, Igneri said recently.  When the system is overwhelmed, untreated sewage can flow directly into the Sound.  On Sep. 25, m ore than 1 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed into the Sound, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

CHM2 already has a contract with the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA).

“We need to look into this and here is an engineer that we have been working with WPCA, who is proven, and he can quickly get to work to look at some of the storm service engineering problems we have,” Igneri said. “I think it’s a good item.”

“I believe this is a good first step to move forward,” Council President John Kydes (D-District C) said, thanking Rilling and Igneri for expediting the matter. “I think we’re living in a world now where we have got 200-year storms happening on a regular basis and we need to do something to resolve the flooding issues we have around town. I think this will also shed light on those areas in town that flood even without this tremendous amount of rain.”

The approval was unanimous.




Registrars will get raises on Jan. 1

Pay rates for Norwalk’s registrars of voters have been lower than they should be, Smyth said.  Because registrars are elected they have only gotten raises every other year and, “they have fallen a little bit behind, if you look at what other towns are doing,” she added.

A 2.36 percent raise on Jan. 1 will come after a previously authorized raise on Dec. 31, Burney explained. Then there will be another 2.36 percent raise on July 1.

The raises will bring their pay to slightly more than that of Danbury registrars, Smyth said.

Rilling said that raises for the registrars have been “kind of left up to a whim” and now they will get the same raises as ordinance employees.
“I think that’s really a great move on behalf of this Council. I think that a lot of thought went into this, a lot of understanding of what the registrars do,” he said. “… The administrative staff in the office are currently making more than the registrars themselves. So, I think that’s really important, as a consideration…. it could be demoralizing, and we need to make sure that we have people in the registrars’ office who are qualified to serve, rather than take a chance on losing them if they decide the compensation they are receiving is not fair and equitable based on other registrars throughout the area.”

The vote was unanimous.




An appointment and a reappointment

Norwalk Housing Authority Board Chairman Cesar Ramirez was appointed to the Fair Housing Advisory Commission in a unanimous vote.

Greg Burnett (D-At Large) observed that Ramirez is a Norwalk Police Officer who is “very active in the community, always welcoming” and always willing to hear about people’s problems.

Travis Simms (D-District B) said he’s known Ramirez for 25 years and he is “very professional.”

Also, Nancy Burke was reappointed to the Fair Housing Advisory Commission.

“Her legal background will continue to serve her well, continuity is important to this commission,” Burnett said.

Burke’s background includes working as a family attorney for Connecticut Legal Services in Stamford, followed by private practice with cases in local Probate Courts, and service representing children in family matters, according to her resume.



Library vehicle

The Council unanimously authorized the use of $75,000 of capital budget funds to purchase a Mobile PopUp Library vehicle.

“About the size of a tiny delivery van, the PopUp Library is a fully electric low-speed vehicle that is specially customized to transport and display library materials,” Norwalk Public Library Director Christine Bradley wrote on Sept. 13. “Visitors can browse and check out a selection of materials, get a library card, and enjoy a storytime. A low-speed vehicle, (25 mph) has an exceptional ‘green’ rating, is a fraction of the cost of a standard bookmobile, and can be driven by any licensed driver. Unlike a standard bookmobile, it can be managed by one person. It’s charged by a standard 110 volt outlet and is street legal, so it can be driven to a location and parked on the grass or sidewalk.”

On Tuesday, Bradley said that someone has already offered to donate the vehicle’s opening day collection.  “Look for us in the Memorial Day parade,” she added.


Sue Haynie October 24, 2018 at 6:17 am

Boy, what limp answers!

Rilling notes, ‘there is kind of a halo effect on performance evaluations’ so Burney, Director of Personnel, will develop a plan that ‘includes a revised, hopefully better performance evaluation program in April.’ How encouraging.

The Common Council used Danbury registrars salaries as a model? Why didn’t they use Danbury’s Assistant to the Mayor salary of $50,000 as a model too, instead of approving a $140,000 salary based on Stamford/Bridgeport?

Norwalk spends $300,000 plus benefits on two Mayors and these are the kinds of answers were getting?

Lisa Brinton Thomson October 24, 2018 at 7:53 am

The other night CNNA neighborhoods were told by city officials (not the mayor btw – who was invited) that there aren’t enough staff to enforce ordinances. So why are we giving raises and why did we add another layer of management (the reorganization) into the budget? This single party rule in retaliation to Washington is only sealing Norwalk’s demise. Wake up folks! Single party rule is running your residential properties into the ground.

Stuart Wells October 24, 2018 at 8:19 am

Danbury has 10,000 less voters than Norwalk and 5 less polling places. Norwalk’s housing costs are a lot higher too. The “previously authorized raise” the Registrars are finally getting was authorized two years ago to take effect July 1, 2017 — the council just didn’t do it correctly, so we are not getting it until a year and a half late. Not retroactively either. Hopefully they did it correctly this time. Incidentally, Danbury’s Registrars are getting a cost of living adjustment of 2.6% on July 1, so we will still make less.
Under the Norwalk Charter, Registrar pay is solely up to the Common Council. The problem has been that they tend to forget us because the vote on pay for elected officials comes up every two years in their election years and we are elected in even-numbered years while the Mayor and Town Clerk are elected in odd-numbered years.
Stuart W. Wells III, Democratic Registrar of Voters (for 10 years, as of last Monday)

Rick October 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

Stuart its been suggested a lot of housing vouchers from Danbury are now in Norwalk not sure if that effects housing costs in that category .

Kevin Kane October 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

EXACTLY Sue Haynie. It seems Scramble Mode has ensued and the concept of Performance Reviews is just coming to light when Mayor King was added along with the reorg. What a joke.
A private sector mentality and accountability does not seem to exists at the corner of East Ave. and Sunset Hill aka Town Hall. Mayor 1 seems to think it’s amazing town employees are there at 5:30…6:00. Are they starting their day at 7:00 too? Does he not realize this can be the norm in the private sector and at a company like mine, I am in contact with Taiwan, China and Germany – a massive time zone span and yes, there will and can be conference calls at 7…8…9:00 at night. As we say, sometimes you just have to GSD – Get Shit Done.
With regards to raises, there are typically no baked in increases. If the “company” is not doing well, the raises are not there and if you don’t like it, leave for better pay and/or quality of life. When will Town Hall start acting like a “company” in the private sector?
Nancy – how but a Freedom Of Information Act gets filed seeking the performance review process and related documents as it EXISTS AND when it gets revised? We need to see the before and the after. Better yet, the Norwalk Mayors should simply release the info for all to see and be prepared to compare and contrast come April when the evaluation process is complete.

EnoPride October 24, 2018 at 10:15 am

“It is critically important that we make sure that we evaluate in a manner which is effective to evaluate our employees,” Rilling said. “… I have worked with these employees for five years now. I can state unequivocally that they are good hardworking dedicated employees who give everything they have to the city of Norwalk and many of them, although they are not entitled to overtime, work long and hard hours. Even in my office, I will see the employees there until 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. I walk out of my office and I say what are you still doing here?”

Wait… Did I just read this correctly? Mayor Rilling is implying that there is no real evaluation procedure in place to gauge performance of City Hall employees, yet he is comfortable handing out generous raises and/or bonuses across the board regardless, just because these employees are hard working? Hard working does not mean effective, productive, and deserving of an increase in lots of cases. Wouldn’t these folks need a performance based evaluation annually before they are even eligible for a monetary increase?

Mr. Mayor, you are embarrassing us Norwalkers who wirk in the corporate world. A 5:30 or 6:00 night at the office is considered an early night, like Kevin Kane mentioned. Working long, hard hours should not be an indicator of a raise – the quality of work, productivity, and progress should be the indicator. Mr. Mayor, how do you measure these qualities if you have no annual evaluations in place? Why do you feel comfortable giving out raises arbitrarily without evaluations in place? Your process is flawed, financially irresponsible, not how it is done in the corporate realm to control spending, and is wasting substantial amounts of money year after year. This excess of
spending is alarmingly evident when you see the annual
city salaries list each year and do the math. A huge amount of excess $$$ that could be put toward better serving the Norwalk residents.is wasted on individuals with “meh” or worse performance levels.

Piberman October 24, 2018 at 10:42 am

Isn’t just wonderful. Everyone in City Hall gets raises for doing the same work as before. No economies at City Hall. Why isn’t Mayor Rilling getting a raise ? Anyone note Danbury spends 30% less per capita than Norwalk providing City services. We need a few more terms with Mayor Rilling to make sure our City Hall folks are the best paid in the State. As befits what our Mayor calls “CT’s Greatest City”.

Surely voters witnessing our decade long stagnant Grand List, declining property values, exodus of long time residents and influx of renters can fully appreciate the wisdom of giving City Hall folks raises just because. Or maybe hang their heads in despair.

EnoPride October 24, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Piberman, you are right about people leaving. Our street has had 2 families move to Trumbull, 2 families move to Westport, and three families move to Ridgefield over the past several years. Sad, because these families, all with young children, were really great neighbors and residents. I am sure I have missed some families. I know of others who left Norwalk for Wilton and Weston, specifically because of our school system. One family would have stayed and bought a larger home in Norwalk, but the family couldn’t afford to upgrade from their starter home which they grew out of. They got more bang for their buck in Trumbull. They got a larger home and property and a better rated school system. Wake up, City Hall. You are losing some top notch residents. You should be motivated to retain them instead of lose them. What will you do to reverse this exodus trend which plagues Norwalk?

My family is on the cusp of considering leaving to another town or even state as well. We really do love Norwalk for its potential and its people though, and are hesitant to give up on this city. We invested in Norwalk many years ago thinking it would be moving in the right direction, but we are getting tired of the stagnant mismanagement of this city and the misappropriation of our taxpayer dollars for what exactly in return? We are tired of watching our property value decrease and watching the city sidewalks outside of our house that were supposed to be replaced in ’08 crumble and become hazardous to walk on. The unnavigable sidewalks are a constant daily reminder of how inefficiently City Hall is run. City Hall, we are walking in the road to avoid turning our ankles on your dangerous sidewalks! We are also saddened by the copious amounts of urban sprawl apartments being irresponsibly built in Norwalk all over the place which bring down quality of life and create more road congestion, despite what City Hall delusionally believes. We are saddened to watch City Hall sell out Norwalk on the cheap. Norwalk needs some new leaders… Norwalk deserves Excellence.

Scarlet ohara October 24, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Talk about moving, three families that i know if are also leaving. We’re next. Getting the house ready to leave this pit of a town.

Goid going rilling. You nailed it.

And yes. Trumbull is our destination as well.

PNolin October 24, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Registrar is a part time position and we are paying more than $60,000 per year? Lots of taxpayers working full time for far less. Very unfair.

B Meek October 24, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Look at the bright side. The fines on Milligan at $150 a day will cover the bonuses. The $100 on Citibank will cover the assistant mayor’s salary increase so long as the punitive fine doesn’t put Citi’s financial health at risk. With nearly $2 Trillion in assets, this amount will surely make them take action. And our 1/2 time enforcement officer will get around to finding more issues between lunch breaks to help pay for the rest of the goodies. Aren’t we already overdue for an assistant chief of staff?

CWatson October 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm

The two elected Registrar of Voters positions are not part-time positions. P. Nolin where did you get your information. Some of the deputies, employees are part time.

Hugh Sling October 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm

“Even in my office, I will see the employees there until 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. I walk out of my office and I say what are you still doing here?”

This is disgraceful. WE pay HIM AND AN ASSISTANT EACH SIX FIGURES to go home at 5:30. And he says he encourages employees to do likewise, while the rest of the white collar working world carries on well into the evening.

James Cahn October 24, 2018 at 4:26 pm

It’s an insane philosophical dichotomy, if you think about it.

Norwalk tax payers have clearly defined metrics that they must fulfil…At jobs where they routinely stay past 8pm in the office. If they exceed their metrics, they may be given merit-based bonuses or raises.

They do this, in part, to send a portion of the money which they earn to the City of Norwalk. That payment is mandatory.

Meanwhile, Harry takes this money and hands it out to municipal employees with no clearly defined goals or metrics. He does this because in his mind, being in the office at 5:30 is evidence of being deserving of what amounts to a present. Raises are handed out, not on merit but based on, “Other people make more money. I want more money, too. Plus, I haven’t even gotten a raise since the last time I got a raise.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that more accountability and longer hours are expected of elementary school children.

Is there anyone who imagines that with a red sharpie and an afternoon you couldn’t easily half the staff at City Hall with no effect on “services?” There’s a reason workforces like this need the protections they have. It’s to be sheilded from the people paying the tab.

EnoPride October 24, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Well put, James Cahn. You have written exactly how I feel. Would love to have at it one afternoon, cutting the excess out with a red sharpie. Oh, the money we would free up! All those hires at City Hall, and they complained at a CNNA meeting to residents that there is not enough staff to enforce ordinances? Huh? How many Norwalk city workers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Here’s a tip, City Hall: If you are having a hard time screwing in the lightbulb, hire some interns or entry level graduates just out of college at a nanofraction of the second mayor’s salary to help you organize your departments. What’s going on here sounds to me like a lot of excuses, no accountability, and no enforcement of enforcement. Nobody appears to be in control of the chaos. Makes zero sense. These employees at City Hall should not be automatically entitled to an annual salary increase, paid for compliments of us taxpayers. Norwalk is desperate for smart leadership… Lisa Brinton Thomson, we need you!

Pros & Cons October 24, 2018 at 7:29 pm

Lively dialog but sure wish commenters would pay more attention to their grammar: less vs. fewer, affect vs. effect, etc.

Ron Morris October 24, 2018 at 9:15 pm

You do make some valid points EnoPride, however Lisa Brinton Thomson is not the person that we need. She cant even make up her mind if she is a Democrat, Republican , or independent. She campaigned by condemning the 2 party system and now she sound like a mini Trump.

Scarlet ohara October 25, 2018 at 8:11 am

Seriously, ron morris, who cares what political party Lisa belongs to, she is smarter than what we have been exposed to in the past umpteen years.

EnoPride October 25, 2018 at 5:59 pm

I beg to differ… Lisa Brinton Thomson is just what we need, Ron Morris. She is diplomatic, engaged, proactive and passionate about Norwalk. She is always knowledgeable and well voiced about Norwalk’s current issues. She is highly visible and highly engaged with our residents within our community. She attends/moderates meetings and represents the people of Norwalk consistently. She comes off as a strong, independent thinker who possesses good judgement, business savvy and big picture vision. In her writing on this site, her point of view on various topics, in my opinion, comes off as intelligent, well informed, bipartisan, and spot on, which is refreshing. Lisa could never be a mini Trump as you have stated, Mr. Morris. If Lisa chooses to give it another go, and she runs as a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, it doesn’t matter to me. I would vote for her. She would make an excellent Mayor. Party labels are too constricting, too defining, and are creating such divisiveness in our country. Just look at how our country is torn apart by the divisiveness generated by extreme partisanship and tribal mentality right now. A candidate need not be tethered to a particular political party in order to be a viable candidate, Ron Morris.

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