NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:
Norwalk is not a trendsetter
Norwalk Public Library Director Chris Bradley told the Board of Estimate and Taxation on March 6 that she is “thrilled” that the long hoped-for library Sunday hours are coming to fruition, and gave the credit to Mayor Harry Rilling.
She produced an example to show how important she thinks it is.
“Of the 23 cities and towns in Fairfield County, only five did not have Sunday hours in Fiscal Year 2013,” she said. “Guess who they are? Easton, New Fairfield, Sherman, Shelton and Norwalk. That’s just not right. … We’re the sixth largest city in the state, you know, a leader here. … Sherelle Harris, our assistant director, goes with her daughter on Sunday to Darien. That’s something a lot of parents do, go and finish up homework.”
If you’ve been reading these pages you know that BET member Anne Yang-Dwyer is looking for revenues to lessen the tax burden for Norwalkers.
How about a Starbucks at the library? she asked.
Bradley took that well.
“They have one in Stamford,” she said.
Savings in dough but not time
In that same meeting, Rilling tried to spare Town Clerk Rick McQuaid and Registrars Karen Doyle Lyons and Stuart Wells the chore of sitting through a dissertation from Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord. BET Chairman Jim Clark said that wouldn’t do, as Alvord was expected upstairs for a capital budget hearing being held by Common Council members.
The questioning of Alvord went on for 50 minutes. McQuaid went next, in a presentation that lasted all of two minutes.
No exaggeration here.
McQuaid’s budget is going down, Director of Management and Budgets Bob Barron said. The town clerk’s office revenues went up, with $8,185 being given back to the city, he said.
This was due to employee turnover, as a senior employee who retired was replaced by an entry-level employee.
McQuaid said he is applying for grants to help with preservation of public records. Town clerk’s staff had been looking through birth, marriage and death certificates dating back to the 1800’s, he said.
“You didn’t find mine in there did you?” Rilling quipped.
No, but McQuaid said there was a circa-1869 death certificate of a woman who “gorged herself to death” eating green apples and grapes.
The registrars were the final people to be interviewed for the evening. Wells and Lyons were grilled for about 20 minutes.
Not as bad as you think
Another BET dissertation involved Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.
“We looked at overtime for other (similar sized) cities,” he said. “As a percentage of salary, we were the lowest. Danbury’s overtime is 21 percent of their salaries. New Britain is 17. We’re at 13. So our overtime budget comparatively to other cities is lower.”
More numbers to consider
Andrea Mancuso tried to convince BET members to raise the grant to the Domestic Violence Crisis Center.
A recently begun program features a home visit program involving cases referred to the center by Norwalk Police and the state attorney’s office.
“You might have a home where police were called; there wasn’t enough there to do an arrest but they have a good idea that there is a problem,” she said. “… We see probably 1,700 families coming through the criminal court system every year. I would say the collaboration with the Norwalk Police Department has really shown some impressive results over the last couple of years. Last year alone the domestic violence arrest rate in Norwalk dropped about 25 percent. … You still have one of the highest dual arrest in the state. It’s closer to the state average in functionally a year and a half as we have been working closely with them, which is a definite cost savings to the city. They are responding to fewer calls and there is less paperwork to do.”
BET member Ed Camacho suggested that giving the center more money might be a good idea, as not doing it might be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
It’s not on the budget yet, but the item is still up for discussion.
Wanna make a bet on this?
Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland came in to see the BET when the board was still looking to find $500,000 in cuts in Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s recommended budget, as mandated by the Common Council.
Westmoreland came armed with information.
If the $500,000 were spread evenly across all of the departments in the $318 million proposed budget, “That s a .00157 percent reduction in every budget,” he said. “My share, the Historical Commission, turns out to be $330.26, which I am happy to agree to.”
Laughter continued for a while over that one.
“All that work for nothing,” Rilling said.
The apparent need to make the cuts evaporated when more than $1 million was found in reduced health benefit expenses.
Patsy Brescia was also there on behalf of the Historical Commission, sharing facts about the Lockwood Mathews Mansion.
“The heating system is amazing,” she said. “We don’t even have electricity on the second and third floors. Many people don’t know that but when we do tours we’re using flashlights.”
Last BET item
Funding for the South Norwalk Community Center was also an issue, drawing discussion at the last BET budget workshop Wednesday.
Rilling suggested Camacho recuse himself, saying he was on the SoNoCC board.
Not so, Camacho said, explaining that he had been on the board briefly.
SoNoCC board Chairman Warren Peña confirmed that.
“Faye Bowman and Travis Simms are no longer board members, as of the fourth quarter of 2013. Ed Camacho is our Agent and is not a voting member of our Board,” Peña wrote in an email. “Our Board consists of three members: Warren Peña, chairman; Oscar Destruge, secretary; and Nathalia Gonzales, treasurer.”
“No way I’m taking my kid there”
The developing Harbor Loop Trail was met with profound skepticism at the latest Shellfish Commission meeting, where Commissioner Patrick Davito said he personally would not go to Oyster Shell Park.
He called it Mercury Park, a reference to tales of pollution, in a very sarcastic conversation with Chairman Pete Johnson.
Not going to Mercury Park, Davito said.
“There is no mercury. It disappeared,” Johnson said.
Yeah, right, Davito said.
“That smokestack that I watched for 20 years didn’t cause anything,” Davito said. “They want me to bring my granddaughters over there. They’re nuts.”
Al Madany movement
Seen on the federal court website: the latest movement in the Al Madany Islamic Center’s lawsuit against the Norwalk Zoning Commission, et al.
“ORDER setting Settlement Conference for 3/28/2014 at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Donna F. Martinez in her Chambers, Room 262, 450 Main St., Hartford, CT. Signed by Judge Donna F. Martinez on 3/13/14. Intervenor-defendant Stonegate Condominum Association, Inc. will attend. No later than 3/26/2014, counsel shall submit ex parte letters to chambers updating Judge Martinez on the progress of negotiations. (Nichols, J.) (Entered: 03/13/2014)”
“Joint MOTION for Extension of Time of Discovery Deadlines by Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk, Inc.. (Vigeland, Peter) (Entered: 03/13/2014)”
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