Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Different rules

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Seen on the Norwalk River bed: A pellet rifle under the Stroffolino Bridge, visible at low tide on Jan. 31. A Norwalk Police officer ventured out onto the mud and retrieved it the next day.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

Now in the lead: Mike Mushak

Norwalk activist Mike Mushak addressed the council’s Public Works Committee for about 11 minutes Tuesday, sharing information about sidewalks before revisiting the issue of accidents in the area of the Rowayton Avenue railroad bridge and the recommendations in two studies that were commissioned by Norwalk.

Councilman David Watts (D-District A) thanked Mushak for the information, saying, “My buddy Warren Pena said he was going to be the 16th councilman but I think you’ve got him beat.”

Time keeping varies

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Seen in Norwalk: “The 16th Councilman.” Mike Mushak, expounds at Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting in the absence of Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E).

Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) was in charge of that meeting as committee Chairman David McCarthy (R-District E) was not available. Petrini let Mushak go on, as mentioned previously, for 11 minutes, allowing Mushak to say everything he had come in prepared to say – a major change in style from January’s meeting, which was led by McCarthy.

McCarthy did give Mushak five minutes at that meeting although speakers at public meetings are customarily told three minutes. Most of the first minute went to lauding the late Diane Witkowski. After four minutes McCarthy said, “I didn’t count anything you said about Diane. I started your time after that and you’ve gone through three. I gave Nora (King) an extra 30 seconds so I’ll give you an extra 30 seconds but I’m giving you fair warning.”

Mushak talked for a minute before McCarthy cut him off, saying, “You’re rehashing stuff that has already been passed.”

Mushak expressed frustration later, saying he had done a lot of research on Rowayton Avenue, which he was not given the opportunity to present.

The research Mushak presented this week included a copy of Connecticut Public Act No. 09-154, An Act Improving Bicycle and Pedestrian Access; a chart of stopping distances for cars at various speeds; a Norwalk Police email about the number of accidents on Rowayton Avenue; excerpts from the Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Transportation Plan; and excerpts from the Transportation Management Plan.

All of those things are now “on the record.”

Will Fourth District disappear?

At that same meeting, Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) asked Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord if there had been any discussion recently about extending the city’s garbage collection into areas that don’t get the service now — in other words, the Fifth District.

Alvord said McCarthy had asked him to look into it.

“The ordinance needs to be cleaned up first,” Alvord said. “… You’re talking about just about really eliminating the Fourth District. Which makes sense because when everything came out of the ad valorem tax and it was based on who was hooked up to the sewer, then it sort of made sense. When the WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) was formed and the sewer use rates were taken out of that it really doesn’t make any sense anymore.

Seen in Norwalk: Pamela Clark Jeffries being honored with the David S. Dunavan Award by the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission.

“We have some really screwed up situations where it really doesn’t make sense anymore. For example, we have cul-de-sacs where you have six houses down one side, three at the end, six houses on the other side. All houses on the street are not hooked up to the sewer but the three down on the end hooked it up to the sewer from behind their properties on the other street. So the garbage truck comes down the street, skips those six houses, picks these three up, skips these six – they’re all screaming ‘How come you’re not picking up my garbage… There’s all kind of these all over the city.”

He said a proposed solution would be worked on.

Snowy stubborness

Mayor Harry Rilling reminisced recently about a situation he dealt with as Norwalk Police chief when he tried to smooth talk an elderly man who Rilling described as “set in his ways.”

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Seen in Norwalk: Lights on at Waypointe, a new development on West Avenue. No one has moved in yet, Redevelopment Agency Director Tim Sheehan said. “I believe they are waiting until they have 50 completed units,” he said.

His ways included replacing the snow in the street after a snow plow had come through and removed what had been there. He did this by pointing the shoot of a snow blower in a destructive direction.

“I was coming around the curb and coming down the hill and there was this great big pile of snow on an otherwise totally clear street,” Rilling said. “I stopped and I said, ‘You know you can’t blow the snow out into the road.’ He said, ‘Well where do I throw it?’ I said just turn the shoot so that it goes onto the lawn. He goes, ‘I’m not going to do that, I don’t want it on my lawn.’

“I tried to explain. I took 10 to 15 minutes trying to explain exactly what was happening and why he couldn’t do that. He starts up his snow blower — and I’m in uniform! — He starts up his snow blower and continues to blow the snow out into the street. At that point, I had no other choice, I had a police officer come up and give him a ticket. I felt so bad. … It made a tremendously slippery area.”

Do not use

Town Clerk Rick McQuaid got an odd gift this week: Friends had a toilet installed in front of his house.

Well, for a day.

It’s part of a St. Philip’s Catholic Church fundraiser. The explanation from the church’s Facebook page:

“To build excitement and to ‘tell everyone’ about our fight against world hunger, we have painted and decorated four toilets, which are outside the four doors of the church. Starting at all Masses this weekend, there will be ballots available for $1 each on which you can place the name and address of someone (in Norwalk) on whose lawn you want the toilet placed. You can buy as many ballots as you like!

“At the end of the Noon Mass every Sunday for the next three weeks, we will draw 20 names. Each of these ‘winners’ will have the brightly decorated toilet left on their lawn for a day. We are hoping to ‘flush out hunger’ by raising both visual awareness and funds by your ballots. That is a total of 60 different addresses that will get a purple or pink or yellow or green potty! When people driving around Norwalk begin to see brightly colored toilets, they are going to wonder what is going on.

“Now, if you don’t want a toilet left on your lawn, we have ‘potty pooper’ insurance. You can purchase this insurance for a one-time fee of $25, which will ensure that no toilet will ever visit you!”

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Seen in Norwalk: Questionable lawn decorations. Town Clerk Rick McQuaid took the prank in stride, posting pictures on Facebook of himself and his family with the toilet. #30HFtoilet


4 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Different rules”

  1. Mike Mushak

    Kudos to St. Philips for a brilliant toilet-oriented fundraiser! Reminds me of the story about the time all the toilets were stolen out of the new police headquarters. Chief Rilling at the time said his detectives had nothing to go on. (It’s just a bad joke, and never happened, by the way.) Seriously, churches are a crucial part of our community fabric, and keeping them financially solvent is harder each year with escalating costs and aging infrastructure, as my church (St Paul’s) knows full well.
    I am grateful to Councilman Petrini, and previously Councilman McCarthy, for the time to speak. It is worth noting that I spoke on 3 pertinent subjects before the committee, and would think maybe 2 minutes per subject might be better rule . Also, at least half of my eleven minutes I bet were taken up in conversation with committee members who asked questions and made their own comments, which was out of my control and should not be included in my time, to be fair!
    We have so many serious issues we are dealing with in Norwalk right now that concern the committee and the protection of public health and safety, one of the principal respondibilities of government, and I applaud the committee for addressing them with good debates and a search for solutions after years and decades of neglect. An immediate change should be for a full time enforcement position, as Mr Alvord has made it quite clear there will be no snow clearing enforcement, at least in District B, until he gets a full time position. I wonder what the current part time officer actually does all week during the 20 hours he does work, that simple warnings couldn’t be given out to chronic documented violators, that we have requested repeatedly.
    Perhaps committee members can find that out through their inquiry. If the work load is carefully presented and justified with evidence, and a full time position is the only solution, than I think that position should be increased to full time especially if the fines posed can offset the expense to taxpayers.
    What is disturbing is Mr Alvord’s repeated excuses over the years for no fines ever being given out, as he says they are “hard to collect”. Why? How do other cities do it? Why can’t we enforce our own ordinances with common sense and an efficient fining system, perhaps toed into property liens like other cities do? These are the questions that need asking by the committee (hint to Mr Kimmel who usually does a good job of inquiry). .

    I have heard from Mr Alvord that the enforcement officer concentrates near schools only, but my point is we have schoolchildren forced into busy streets like Taylor and Fairfield and Flax Hill , trying to get to bus stops in areas where condo complexes and large to families owned by wealthy out of town landlords don’t even bother to clear their sidewalks (although their driveways are done within hours after a storm). These are not low income or elderly owned properties , but condo boards and rich landlords that should know better and can afford to do it but simply choose not to with impunity. Those are the folks that should be fined. That’s all!

  2. Oldtimer

    The toilet bowls, if you look closely, are labeled with the 30 hour famine, an effort by the very active St Philip youth group to raise awareness of the problem of hunger and to raise funds to help alleviate hunger. As part of this effort, the young people themselves fast for 30 hours. None of the funds raised go to the church. All are used to support this youth anti-hunger campaign which culminates with a night time trip by truck (with adult volunteers) to New York City where food, and clothes, are distributed.

  3. Mike Mushak

    Understood Old Timer. I should have said that the pressures of the economy on churches to survive has led to lots of creative solutions for them to further their community missions. There was a time when churches had almost unlimited resources from growing congregations to fulfill all of their missions and meet their basic expenses . Those days are over for most churches as they struggle with escalating costs and membership pressures, so kudos to the youth group to come up with such a creative way to raise funds to further their mission to help the hungry!

  4. Thank you for all the support of our fun project at St. Philip! The hope is to raise awareness and funds and have a little fun in the process. The 30 Hour Famine features close to 200 youth from over 25 schools and over 20 faith communities fasting for 30 hours to raise money to fight global and local hunger. Part of our funds go to World Vision (global) and part go to the Manna house(our local soup kitchen in Norwalk). The students also participate in service projects while fasting.

    Donations can be made easily online to our St. Philip team page at World Vision: http://30hf.worldvision.org/goto/stphilipnorwalkct or at St. Philip Church in Norwalk.

    Thanks all!

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