NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Harry Rilling’s latest effort to “bring City Hall to the people” Thursday night brought a strong turnout of West Norwalk residents, whose topics included speeders, the water quality of the Five Mile River and a potential BJ’s Wholesale Club on Main Avenue.
Rilling and a contingent of department heads faced more than 80 people in the cafeteria of Fox Run Elementary School, where Rilling listened to what seemed to be talking letters to the editor – a West Norwalker read three pages of sentiments – referred a number of questions to Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord and promised John Mosby a seat on a board or commission.
First up: a resident requested an update on BJ’s.
“Right now nothing is happening because they have not resubmitted their application,” Rilling said. “They have approached me and met with me. They asked for, kind of, my feedback on a redesign and a downsizing of the property. They didn’t convince me of much.”
That was maybe a month ago, he said. Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Mike Wrinn described the project as being “on hold.”
Next, a resident of Old Rock Lane wondered what might be done to deal with traffic on the road, where he said there are a lot of blind spots and people almost getting hit as they try to back out of their driveways. He asked: “Would speed bumps be a consideration?”
“I have mixed feelings on speed bumps,” Rilling said. “I think there’s other traffic calming measures that can be taken, but you can’t have speed bumps on a primary road.”
There are more effective traffic calming measures, he said, turning the floor over to Alvord.
“When we were doing speed bumps there really was no rhyme or reason to it,” Alvord said. “We were doing them one street at a time and then it had impact on neighboring streets. You have to look at whether you do traffic calming-wise on a neighborhood basis or whether you do it on individual streets.”
Striping and landscaping are good, he said.
“Actually, potholes are an ideal traffic calming measure. We’re trying to employ those across the city right now,” he said, to laughter. “So there’s a variety of things they can use that are actually more effective than speed bumps.”
Mosby, a South Norwalk activist who speaks at many Board of Education meetings, said the city holds meetings in South Norwalk and does not let residents know.
“Somebody’s got to start listening to us,” he said. “They don’t want to listen to us. I’m not talking just for the black kids, I’m talking for the Spanish kids, I’m talking for the Haitian kids. … our children are bleeding. Please help us. And nobody’s doing anything about it.”
“Mr. Mosby, if you come and see me I’ll figure out what committee I can put you on. I know that you’ve been an advocate and strong — “ Rilling said, before being cut off by Mosby, who said he had been called a troublemaker.
“This has got to stop, Mr. Mayor,” he said, before sitting down.
Bob Wagman asked Rilling to read a report about the Five Mile River that he had submitted to then-Mayor Richard Moccia in 2007. He said it had been more than six years since the last time the river flooded but no noticeable progress had been made in dealing with the issue.
“I am concerned, based on almost six years of inactivity, that the city fathers consider West Norwalk to be a nuisance. These concerns don’t apply to the rest of the city,” he said.
He spent eight minutes reading to Rilling, telling him how the sensitive organisms that live in the river have died off.
“I’m not proposing that the city spend a lot of money,” he said. “I would like to see you take a leadership role in improvements, most of which rely on the homeowner to take responsibility. … Why can’t we clean our own drains? If you have a lawn service it will probably take you 30 seconds. If you don’t, you can probably do it yourself in a minute.”
Rilling said he had not seen the report and announced that he had created an Energy and Environment Task Force.
Alvord said he had the report and would share it with Rilling. There are 12,700 catch basins in Norwalk, he said. The DPW put inserts in some places, he said; that had proven to be successful but the inserts cost $500 apiece and their 5-year life expectancy has expired. There has not been money in the capital budget to replace them.
He said, “I agree with you, Bob, there’s things we can do to control the kind of stuff we are putting into the water courses.”