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Norwalk photos: Rapid-test giveaway

(Claire Schoen)

NORWALK, Conn. — Claire Schoen submitted these photos of Tuesday’s City distribution of free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to residents.

“It was a cold but beautiful evening at Calf Pasture Beach. Police and Fire Depts were on hand to help with distribution, traffic flow, and keeping everyone warm,” wrote Schoen, who volunteers at such events. “Cars were reportedly backed up to I-95 at the outset, but the line moved quickly once we got started.” Continue reading Norwalk photos: Rapid-test giveaway

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Sen. Will Haskell opts for law school over reelection

Sen. Will Haskell, then 24, made a generational appeal last year for TCI, the transportation and climate initiative. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

Will Haskell’s book about being elected to the Connecticut Senate as a 22-year-old isn’t out until Jan. 18, but here is a spoiler: It ends with an epilogue explaining his decision not to seek a third term in 2022.

Haskell, 25, a Democrat from Westport who unseated an entrenched Republican in 2018 and then handily won reelection in 2020, announced Monday he is stepping away from politics to enter law school in the fall. Continue reading Sen. Will Haskell opts for law school over reelection

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Norwalk to hand out COVID-19 tests, masks; Vets Park testing called a ‘challenge’

Monday’s COVID-19 map on the State website.

NORWALK, Conn. — The City is planning to distribute free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to residents at 6 p.m. today, Tuesday Jan. 4, at Calf Pasture Beach. Supplies are limited and the drive-thru distribution event is first come, first serve; if the supply doesn’t run out, the event will end at 9 p.m. N95 and KN95 masks will be available.

City officials are also talking about opening another testing site, given the long lines to get into Veterans Park, Mayor Harry Rilling said. Dealing with the “huge surge” in demand has been challenging but he gave the Norwalk Police Department instructions to close the gate until two hours before the test event is set to open and shoo people off the road if they line up before that. “So far, that’s been relatively good.” Continue reading Norwalk to hand out COVID-19 tests, masks; Vets Park testing called a ‘challenge’

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Norwalk Finance Department: Two hires, positive report on tax collections

Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets Tom Ellis speaks to the Board of Estimate and Taxation during Monday’s meeting on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk Finance Department news for you:

  • Tom Ellis hired as new Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets
  • Rita Nigri hired as grants administrator
  • Tax collection rate ‘holding up well’ through COVID, Dachowitz says

 

 

Ellis hired

Tom Ellis began work Monday as Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets, taking the role vacated when Angela Fogel exited sometime before October.

Ellis worked as finance director in Bethany before coming here, he told Board of Estimate and Taxation members Monday. Before that, he was Greenwich Finance Director of Operations for 1.5 years, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Before that, I was in big banking, a lot of the big global banks for many, many years,” Ellis said. “Some of it in New York City and some of it in Stamford including Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, the investment banking arm of that, and my last stint in the private sector was with RBS, which is now NatWest markets.”

He was at NatWest/RBS for just over a decade, his LinkedIn page states.

“I’m a Norwalk resident. I live not too far from town hall,” he said, adding that he has a child attending fifth grade at Marvin Elementary School.

“We went on a on a nationwide search and narrowed it down to two finalists. Mr. Ellis was the was the final choice,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “But it just goes to again, our policy of reaching out and trying to bring the best people into Norwalk to help work through the city help get things done with new ideas, new thoughts, new visions, and bringing us into the future.”

Fogel’s exit was one of three unexplained departures from City Hall in late summer or early fall. Budget Analyst Angela Gencarelli and Customer Service Manager Brian Avallone, both new employees, also left.

“I do not give out details on certain personnel matters,” said Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney in late September.

Fogel became director of management and budgets in September 2018.

 

Nigri hopes to find grants

Common Council members voted in March to promote Josh Morgan from communications manager to communications director and hire a part-time grants administrator or wrap grants writing into another full-time employee’s job.

In December, Norwalk Chief Financial Officer Henry Dachowitz announced that Rita Nigri was hired to be grants administrator.

“We were looking for someone part time and Rita explained that she retired a couple of years ago but was interested in coming back part time to keep her hands in it. We’re very excited to have her on board,” Dachowitz said.

Nigri, a Milford resident, was director of the North Shore-LIJ Health System Grants Management Office for just over three years before retiring in 2016, her LinkedIn page states. Before that, she spent 17 years as assistant professor- adjunct at Albertus Magnus College, School of New Dimensions while holding other jobs, including associate director of grant and contract administration for Yale University for almost 11 years.

“She’s already coordinated with different departments on existing grants as well as looking into other grants we might pursue,” Dachowitz said.

“My background has been in medicine, education, research. And 100 years ago, I also worked in municipalities, for the Board of Ed, various boards of education,” Nigri said. “So I come from a broad wealth of knowledge. And my experience is only going to be expanded here in Norwalk, which is a wonderful municipality, as far as I can see.”

The BET approved a $2,573 expense so Nigri can access private funding databases. She also said she’d accessed a Connecticut Council of Municipalities grant finder and tracker.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to help the city not only bring in more funding, but also to provide a series of reports periodically that allow the Committees and the City to understand where they are with their grants and what information they will need in order to be able to plan for the future,” she said.

 

Tax collections

Tax collections are “holding up well,” Dachowitz said Monday.

“We now have 93 weeks that we’ve looked at, starting with March of 20 when COVID started, and we’re up 4.4%. Which kind of makes sense based on the tax rates and what we’ve done. So knock on wood that’s holding up nicely,” Dachowitz said.

Dachowitz said that opinion comes from his weekly review of cash flow numbers.

Tax Collector Lisa Biagiarelli’s last report was Dec. 6. She wrote:

“As of the end of November 2021, representing the first five months of the fiscal year, we collected more than $191.4 million against our $353.7 million adjusted levy, or 54.11%. We collected 51.44% of our sewer use levy, more than $8.4 million and 82.46% of the Industrial Pretreatment Program (IPP) fee billing on behalf of the WPCA.

“Compared with the prior fiscal year, we ended the month of November 2021 slightly ahead with regard to taxes (1.19%), but down very slightly with regard to sewer use (-0.89%), and ahead with regard to the IPP fee (8.61%). Again, recall that last year was somewhat of an aberration, since the City gave taxpayers until October 1 to pay what normally is payable by August 1.”

Tax Collection 21-1206

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COVID rampant in Stamford, a harbinger of things to come

Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons talks about the COVID outbreak in Stamford. She spoke at the Stamford Health hospital complex with Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and others. (Mark Pazniokas, CTMirror.org)

STAMFORD — COVID-19 is spreading rapidly here in Connecticut’s second-largest city, where cases exploded with the suddenness of a Colorado wildfire, doubling last week to nearly 1,200 new infections.

Forty percent of the 4,200 tests administered at the Stamford Health hospital complex last week were positive, twice as high as the statewide average; it was 26% at the hospital the previous week and 13% the week before that. Continue reading COVID rampant in Stamford, a harbinger of things to come

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Combatants detail accusations in latest Milligan/Norwalk Redevelopment Agency legal battle

Real estate broker Jason Milligan, in front of a mural on the side of the former El Dorado Club, in 2020. The mural is gone now, as Milligan had that portion of the building demolished. Workers found it to be unsafe, he said. (Contributed)

NORWALK, Conn. — The war of words between real estate broker Jason Milligan and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency has escalated with reams of legal papers filed recently, as Redevelopment seeks to defeat Milligan’s attempt to overthrow its Wall/West Neighborhood Plan, approved by the Common Council in 2019.

The wonky legal arguments stand alongside accusations developed by both sides’ ability to issue subpoenas and/or compel contestants to testify. Some highlights:

  • Milligan “has visited the Agency’s offices unannounced and created disturbances so frequently, that exasperated Agency staff have purchased and installed locks and a security and intercom system for the building,” Redevelopment states.
  • Although Milligan seeks to invalidate the Wall/West plan, he was for it before he was against it, Redevelopment states, calling Milligan’s legal challenge a cynical attempt to get himself off the hook in the major lawsuit stemming from his purchase of “POKO” properties, which may cost him millions.
  • New Canaan resident Daniel Groff, Milligan’s business partner in the legal entity challenging the Wall/West plan, is “probably not” aware that he is involved in the lawsuit, Milligan said in a deposition.
  • The Redevelopment Agency is guilty of “negligence, audacity and even, at times, deceit,” Milligan’s attorney, David Rubin, states. The blight analysis done to justify the Wall/West plan was done via a computer overview, not in-person inspections a “sham” that cannot sustain the blight determination.
  • Then-Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss told Council members in 2019 that Redevelopment staff had photographed every property in the Wall/West area. That wasn’t true.
  • Rubin accuses Strauss of altering a statement in the report urban planning consultants Harriman Associates issued to make it “irrefutably false.” Former Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan called that sentence “inaccurate.” Rubin says the sentence mislead the public.
  • Rubin is “focusing on pedantic minutiae” without presenting evidence that the Wall/West area is not blighted, the Agency states. The Common Council heard most of the Milligan team’s arguments in 2019 and approved the plan.

Continue reading Combatants detail accusations in latest Milligan/Norwalk Redevelopment Agency legal battle

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Milligan submits Norwalk photo showing harmonic convergence

A photo submitted by Jason Milligan, who is third from right. At third from left is former Council member George Tsiranides; fourth is Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Brian Bidolli and fifth is Council Economic & Community Development Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C). Also shown are developer Clay Fowler, second from left, and Norwalk Housing Authority Executive Director Adam Bovilsky, second from right. (Richard Bonenfant)

NORWALK, Conn. – Real estate broker Jason Milligan submitted this photo recently with the words, “caption this.”

Milligan is pictured arm in arm with two combatants in his ongoing legal war with the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.  The tall fellow in the middle is Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Brian Bidolli, who is quoted in a Norwalk Police report filed in September saying that Milligan had been screaming at his staff.

Continue reading Milligan submits Norwalk photo showing harmonic convergence

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Opinion: Predictions for 2022

Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc. Board member John Levin.

Huh? A year ago I seriously was hoping, even expecting, that the pandemic would be over by now.  I even predicted that Norwalk would celebrate its end. (See here.)   Well, that didn’t happen.  The predictions business is not an easy one.  Indeed, my success rate with the 2021 Predictions was pretty bad – I can claim only two clean wins from last year:

#1: This sign now hangs from a home on Rowayton Avenue: Continue reading Opinion: Predictions for 2022

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You deserve the right to know other measures to protect your family from COVID-19

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Send signed letters to [email protected]

As the New Year approaches and we encounter yet another winter facing COVID transmission spikes, I want to offer several additional measures that you and your family can practice at your home, business, church or school starting today in order to reduce the chance that you will contract COVID-19.

One of the first things to highlight is that this is a collective pandemic, not an individual one.  Let’s remember the “We” not just the “Me” as decisions are made to enter buildings and homes. Continue reading You deserve the right to know other measures to protect your family from COVID-19

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How common is the ‘Common Era?’ How A.D. and C.E. took over counting years

Amid the pandemic, confetti fell on an almost-empty Times Square last New Year’s Eve. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Today, Dec. 31, people from cultures all around the world are raising a toast to welcome in A.D. 2022. Few of them will think about the fact that A.D. signals “anno Domini,” Latin for “in the year of our Lord.” In A.D. temporality – the one acknowledged by most societies today – next year marks 2023 years since the purported birth of Jesus Christ.

So why are we all toasting this new year, given that most of the world’s nearly 8 billion people aren’t Christians?

My fascination with time was nurtured by the millennium and the hype that surrounded its approach, as the globe anticipated traversing from 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 1999 to 12 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000. Continue reading How common is the ‘Common Era?’ How A.D. and C.E. took over counting years

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‘Airtight agreement’ to get COVID-19 tests to CT falls apart

Lamont blames ‘misrepresentation’ for mix-up

A worker unloads a pallet of N95 masks in East Hartford on Thursday evening. The masks were brought from a warehouse in New Britain. (CTMirror.org)

A promised order of 1.5 million COVID-19 home test kits that was supposed to be on its way to Connecticut is not coming, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday evening.

Lamont earlier this week told municipalities to prepare for the arrival of the rapid-test kits as early as Thursday. Many towns including Norwalk scheduled distributions based on the governor’s assurances, only to have to cancel them as it became clear no tests were arriving.

The state had an “airtight agreement” with a vendor who sent officials pictures of the supplies, Lamont said. State officials repeatedly said they had a purchase order with a wholesaler, and that since the kits were never delivered, no state money was paid to anyone. Continue reading ‘Airtight agreement’ to get COVID-19 tests to CT falls apart

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An e-mail exchange to remember

Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc. Board President Claire Schoen and Board member John Levin during NancyOnNorwalk’s fun cruise in July. (Nancy Chapman)

Over the year, we receive many emails and comments from readers, some complimentary, some not-so-complimentary, some downright nasty. As we wrap up 2021, I want to share one recent exchange that has stayed with me.

NancyOnNorwalk sent a fundraising appeal that included this message: “We don’t cover the news to make money, we ask you for money so we can cover the news.”

(It’s true. Nancy’s our only employee; many of us are unpaid volunteers dedicated to keeping local news alive.)

Within hours, I heard back from a reader unknown to me.

You’re kidding, right? You don’t even print comments that don’t go along with your liberal agenda. News? More like propaganda – you are no different than the rest of them.

 

Although I don’t always reply, this one resonated, and I responded:

I am genuinely curious – where else do you get your local news about Norwalk? 

The reply:

For news, unfortunately, it’s become like the days of old when you relied on neighbors and friends – Twitter and FB can be somewhat helpful – headlines from Fairfield County Business Journal, too. You find something interesting and spend the next half an hour digging around online…

 

Our exchange continued for a few more rounds, in which we discussed COVID, CT state education statistics and Norwalk BOE financing.  The reader had lots of question on local issues, but it became clear that many had been already answered on NancyOnNorwalk. (“Where does the BOE money go?” “What hasn’t anyone spoken about [xxx]?”)

We didn’t solve the world’s (or Norwalk’s) problems, but we came to an understanding:  although we might be looking through different lenses (reader skeptical of the news industry overall, and me concerned with the ongoing financial pressure facing every newsroom) – we both recognize the importance of the discussion.

And we both value local news.

We know you do, too.

Imagine my surprise when, the next day, this once-skeptical reader made a generous donation to NancyOnNorwalk.

We hope you will, too. *

Because without your support, we cannot deliver the news of local meetings, budgets, zoning issues, education – the stuff that truly makes us a community.

 

*Thank you to all of you who have already!

Best wishes to all our readers for a safe, happy, and healthy new year!

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Why Putin has such a hard time accepting Ukrainian sovereignty

Vladimir Putin at a concert in March 2021 marking the seventh anniversary of its annexation of Crimea. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image)

Ukraine is again looking warily over its eastern border as Russia threatens its territorial integrity.

In recent weeks, a buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border has rattled Western leaders fearful of an incursion similar to, or perhaps even more wide-ranging than, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Then, on Dec. 17, 2021, Vladimir Putin demanded that no former Soviet states, such as Ukraine, be added to NATO – the Western alliance that Ukraine has long expressed a desire to join – and that NATO cease all military cooperation in Eastern Europe. Continue reading Why Putin has such a hard time accepting Ukrainian sovereignty

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