Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Westports State Rep. Ken Bernhard Votes for Smoking Ban
WestportҒs State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard was among House of Representatives members who voted today for a smoking ban in Connecticuts bars and restaurants.
After almost four hours of debate, the House voted to ban smoking by a 103-43 vote. The state Senate passed the same bill last week.
Gov. John G. Rowland said he is not happy with the legislation, but said he would sign it into law.
Once Rowland signs the bill, the ban on smoking in restaurants will begin on Oct. 1. The ban on smoking in bars takes place on April 1, 2004. Private clubs, such as Elks clubs, are exempt.
Geoffrey K. Ferguson, a former Westporter convicted of killing five people at a house he owned in Redding in 1995, took his own life today by strangling himself in his Newtown prison cell, according to police.
The 52-year-old Ferguson, who graduated from Staples High School in 1971 at the age of 20 after several brushes with the law, was serving a life sentence for capital felony and arson convictions.
The crime was one of Connecticut’s worst mass murders in years.
Ferguson was found unresponsive in his cell by staff at the Garner Correctional Institution just before 3 a.m., the state Department of Correction said, according to an AP report. He was pronounced dead just after 4 a.m. at Danbury Hospital.
Westports Black Duck Cafҩ Seeks Permit to Construct Small Marina
It may soon be beer, burgers and boats—or, if you prefer, suds, salads and sails—at Westports Black Duck Cafҩ.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the well-known restaurant whose home is a one-time barge on the Saugatuck River is seeking a permit to construct and maintain a small commercial marina providing 11 slips for vessels up to 20 feet in length.
The Corps is asking for public comment on the proposal with a deadline of June 2.
Details of the application are available on the Corps Web site.
The Black Duck Caf, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is located on a former sea-going refrigeration and ice storage barge that was built around 1840.
According to a history of the restaurant on the Black Duck Web site, the barge was refurbished in the early 1900s and had been anchored in Westport since 1961.
The restaurant is named for a legendary rumrunner that operated off the New England coast during the Prohibition era.
Longtime Westport Aviation Expert Paul Bray Dies in Crash
Whenever local or national media needed an expert to comment on a plane crash, they called Paul Bray Jr. of Westport.
He knew his stuff. As head of Westport-based Aviation Technical Consultants Inc., he was often called in to consult on plane crash investigations or searches for lost aircraft.
Monday Bray, 75, died in a plane crash near Howell Township, N.J. His son, Peter Bray, 48, of Norwalk, was listed in critical condition at Jersey Shore Medical Center’s trauma unit, according to an AP report.
Authorities said their single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A-36 aircraft was trying to land at nearby Monmouth Executive Airport when it went down over a wooded area.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane took off from Florida at about 10:15 a.m. and was bound for Stratford’s Sikorsky Airport. Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft was trying to land in Monmouth to refuel when it went down about 3:15 p.m., the AP said.
Sikorsky Airport was Bray’s longtime base of operations. As an aviation consultant and pilot for more than 50 years, he often analyzed air crashes for the FAA and insurance companies.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.
It was not immediately clear who was flying the plane, but authorities said the pilot had informed airport officials that he was low on fuel and was planning to land at the Monmouth County facility.
Bray was the husband of longtime Westport Board of Finance member Penny A. Bray. The couple had moved to Bradenton, Fla., some time ago, but friends said they still owned property in Westport.
Before moving to Florida, both Brays were active in local Republican Party politics.
Peter Bray operates Bray’s Tax Service, Inc., on Saugatuck Avenue in Westport along with his sister Doreen.
Update: A memorial service was held for Bray May 17 at Norwalk’s Grace Episcopal Church.
Memorial donations may be made in the name of Paul A. Bray Jr. to the Aeronautical Engineering Dept. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 Eighth St., Troy, NY 12080-3590.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Westports Representative Town Meeting has given preliminary approval to a $46.1 million budget for the town portion of spending for the next fiscal year, a 2.65 percent increase.
Formal approval of the amount, along with consideration of the Board of EducationҒs requested $70 million operating budget, a 5.09 percent increase over last year, will come tonight.
First Selectwoman Diane Farrell told the RTM at Monday night’s session that she anticipated that the town’s tax increase for the next fiscal year will be under 10 percent, less than originally expected.
She cited a jump in revenues from real estate transfers as well as a higher than anticipated increase in the town’s grand list.
The towns Board of Finance approved the budget amounts last month and recommended approval to the RTM.
Update: The RTM, by unanimous vote, formally approved both the town and education budgets Tuesday night. An attempt to reduce the education budget by $117,300 failed 25-9.
Former RTM member Michael Gilbertie told the session he would start a petition drive for a referendum to reduce the approved amount by $5 million. He has two weeks to collect the required 1,592 signatures.
Westports Representative Town Meeting (RTM), in a unanimous action, has approved a resolution thanking U.S. troops serving at home and abroad.
The ғsense of the meeting resolution approved Monday night also expressed appreciation to allied forces serving side by side with American troops.
The resolution made no mention of the war in Iraq.
Last month, the RTM took no action on an anti-war resolution after a representative of the petitioners said events had overtaken the measure which was submitted before fighting began in Iraq.
Monday, May 05, 2003
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Sunday, May 04, 2003
If you are driving with out-of-state plates and attend public meetings at Town Hall, drop off or pick up your kid at school, or go the library, beware someone may be taking down your number.
Westport Tax Collector George Underhill told The Advocate of Stamford these locales are among public places being monitored periodically by CT Tax Fraud Bureau, a firm the town hired three years ago to crack down on residents trying to avoid paying the town֒s automobile tax.
In Westport, the town notifies CT Tax Fraud Bureau when there are public meetings and investigators stake out the parking lots looking for out-of-state plates, Underhill said,Ӕ according to the newspaper’s story. It reported Stamford has hired the same firm.
He said investigators also look at plates while driving by the public schools when parents are picking up or dropping off their children and going through the library parking lot.
Not only have the efforts resulted in more auto tax money for Westports coffers, Underhill said, but there have been additional benefits from the snooping by the Monroe, Conn.-based firm founded by two former state troopers.
The newspaper quoted the Westport official as saying investigations have turned up a half-dozen cases in which students were attending public schools illegally and identified residents operating businesses out of their homes.
The town has since charged tuition of parents who want their children to remain in Westport public schools and has levied personal property taxes on business equipment in home offices, he told The Advocate.
“Our budgets are so tight around here that every nickel and dime helps,” Underhill said.
Martha Stewarts New Furniture Line Includes Some Westport-inspired Items
Martha StewartҒs new furniture line has some items linked to her being a Westporter.
For example, you can buy her Westport Studio Armoire,Ӕ which todays Fort Worth Star-Telegram says is one of favorites.
ғ(It is) a beautiful, carved piece with drawers and cabinets aplenty, inspired by a French Canadian antique that Stewart keeps stocked with craft supplies. A large piece, more than 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide, it sells for $3,599, the newspaper said.
ThereԒs also the Turkey Hill Chest,Ӕ the “Westport Stool,” and “Westport Kitchen Island,” but her Web site doesnt give the prices. You have to go to a local dealer for that.
The new line of furniture, along with a collection of flooring, paint and fabrics, are part of Martha Stewart Signature, which StewartҒs company describes as a complete decorating system of home furnishings.Ӕ
Alas, there is no store carrying the line listed in Westport. The closest Martha Stewart furniture outlet is Huffman-Koos on West Avenue in Norwalk.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
...that those unhappy with Schools Superintendent Elliott Landons management style are gearing up once again to lobby the Board of Education not to renew his contract҅
...that State Sen. Judith G. Freedman is telling friends that she will oppose a bill proposed by Westports State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard, a fellow Republican, to rename the Post Road Bridge after Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen—this despite last monthҒs Representative Town Meeting 26-5 vote endorsing the proposal
...that supporters of more lenient rules for dogs at the beach will ask the Board of Selectmen and Representative Town Meeting to modify the rules adopted this week by the Parks and Recreation Commission. They want to allow dogs off leash on the beach before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. from Oct. 1 through March 31…
...that former Representative Town Meeting member Michael Gilbertie is trying to rally enough Westporters for a referendum to cut $6 million from WestportŒs 2003-2004 fiscal budget
Friday, May 02, 2003
Heavy Cardboard Carton Contains Plans for $500 million Power Upgrade
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell found a heavy cardboard carton awaiting her in the office today. It contained a plan for a $500 million upgrade of power lines in the region.
Copies of the eight-volume report on the plan were delivered to Farrell and chief executives of 23 other municipalities Thursday, according to the Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co.
Public hearings on the plan, which would triple the capacity of transmission lines over a 69-mile stretch in municipalities from Middletown to Norwalk, are scheduled for this spring and summer. The project will then go before the Connecticut Siting Council for approval.
About 24 miles of the line, from Milford to Norwalk, would be buried underground. The northern part of the line would be installed on overhead wires.
The utilities said they are proposing the upgrade because the power supply in southwestern Connecticut is strained during high demand. The region also lacks enough capacity on its own to meet its power needs.
The Siting Council is expected to rule in June on another CL&P proposal to install 345-kilovolt service along 20 miles from Bethel to Norwalk.
Rhode Island Family Points to Westport as Model for Dangerous Dog Law
Members of a Rhode Island family whose dog bit the ear of a prize-winning calf are calling for a change in that states vicious dog laws and are pointing to WestportҒs dangerous dog ordinance as a good model.
Todays Naragansett Times reported that the Winn family of South Kingston spent thousands of dollars and months fighting to keep possession of their Siberian husky Jenga after it bit the ear of the calf in February.
They suggested Rhode Island adopt a law similar to the one approved in Westport last year.
In an editorial, the newspaper adds its voice to a call for change, saying:
ғIt’s time to revisit the law. As an article in today’s Narragansett Times details, the town of Westport, Connecticut, has a far better regulation in place. It was crafted with input from animal experts, veterinarians, law enforcement, residents. It defines specifically what a dangerous (their term) dog is, in a way Rhode Island law does not.
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