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Norwalk political notes: Dollar signs, balloon bill

From left, developer Jason Milligan, former Mayor Alex Knopp and Mayor Harry Rilling at a June 2017 press conference outside the Norwalk Public Library.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political info for you:

  • Charter revision lawyer’s fees
  • Council to discuss library deal
  • Friends of animals celebrates

Cost of Charter revision

The Board of Estimate and Taxation approved a $62,947 budget transfer from the contingency account to the legislative account to pay Attorney Steven Mednick for his work rewriting Norwalk’s 100-year-old charter through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. That’s in addition to about $75,000 paid last year, Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets Tom Ellis said at the May 1 meeting.

In FY24, as the charter heads for a vote in the general election, Mednick estimates three months of work at $15,000 a month, Ellis said. The total is expected to be about $180,000.

Normally, the legislative budget line item is about $10,000, Ellis said. “But obviously, we don’t frequently do charter rewrites.”

When the Common Council hired Mednick just over a year ago, then-Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E) estimated the cost would be about $100,000.

Mednick’s drafted charter rewrite is 228 pages long, including the table of contents.

An excerpt:

“What is the Norwalk City Charter? A city charter is a constitutional document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of a city’s government. Municipalities in the State of Connecticut are permitted to create and amend their charters within the scope of power granted by the legislature. Norwalk officially became a city in 1913 and has been governed by a City Charter since its inception.

“Norwalk’s City Charter (hereafter referred to as ‘Charter’) serves as Norwalk’s local constitution and creates the structure of Norwalk’s government. The Charter includes the rules that govern Norwalk’s elected and appointed officials, including the mayor, the Common Council, boards and commissions. Courts refer to the Charter as the “organic law of the city” and it has been a product of years of Special Acts passed by the General Assembly that empower local officials to conduct the affairs of government.”

Executive session planned

The Common Council agenda for Tuesday includes an executive session “pertaining to a certain option agreement, with an effective date of August 17, 2017, by and between the City of Norwalk, Norwalk Public Library Board and 587 CT Ave, LLC for the option to purchase real property

at 11 Belden Avenue, Norwalk, CT.”

In 2017, the City paid real estate Milligan $460,000 for a six-year purchase option for his property at 11 Belden Ave., where he had planned to build apartments. The deal included a fixed purchase price of $4,885,000 for the entire property, should the City decide to buy it by Aug. 31, 2023.

The deadline is nearing. Former Mayor Alex Knopp, who negotiated the option deal with Milligan,   said the City must notify Milligan by June 30 if it intends to exercise the option.

City officials have been mum.

Also up for a private discussion Tuesday is “Discussion of potential acquisition of real property at 3 Belden Avenue, owned by the Norwalk First Taxing District.”

Knopp, in a recent opinion, said the City might acquire 3 Belden Ave. “That change would be very positive but the (parking) spaces at 3 Belden are not numerous enough to substitute for the current lot,” he said. “…Even more important, that property is the prime location for library expansion and cannot be expected to double usage as both an expanded library facility and a parking facility.”

Knopp’s been campaigning for the City to exercise the option, saying “there is no viable alternative to retaining the current library parking lot.”

He also said “the City would be getting the better deal by negotiating a partial ‘option’ purchase.”

Bill that grounds helium-filled balloons to protect wildlife waits for Senate vote

Darien activist group Friends of Animals is applauding the advancement of a bill that would ban the release of helium balloons in Connecticut.

Not even one balloon would be allowed under House Bill 6481, which passed the house 137-5 on May 3 after lawmakers agreed to remove infraction fines of up to $90 and turn the penalty into a warning from law enforcement, a news release said.

State Senators should vote on the bill within the next three weeks, Priscilla Feral said.

“Connecticut’s waters are home to four species of sea turtles, who often mistake latex balloons for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. When sea turtles washed up dead onshore were sent to a Connecticut aquarium for autopsies, their intestines were found to be clogged with latex balloons. Helium balloons also harm other marine life, such as whales whose intestines have been found fatally blocked by Mylar,” the news release said.

State Rep. Irene Haines (R-34), who co-sponsored the bill, likened releasing balloons to throwing garbage into the air, the release said.

“Even without a fine, FoA believes this legislation is a powerful, necessary tool to help educate communities to prevent intentional releases of balloons to commemorate a celebration or other life event. In the months ahead, we are committed to educating people that they can still celebrate but without harming animals who live in or visit Connecticut.”

Current Connecticut law allows the release of 10 balloons, the release said. The bill wouldn’t stop people from celebrating with balloons but would just require it to be done indoors or for appropriate measures taken outdoors to prevent their release.

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