Friday, May 09, 2003
Bridgeport Mayor Urges Suburbanites to Visit City
Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi, on the job only five weeks following the conviction of his predecessor on federal corruption charges, called on his suburban neighbors today to spread the word that times have changed for the better in his city.
Tell friends about your positive experience here,Ӕ Fabrizi told attendees at forum on Bridgeports economic development at Housatonic Community College. ғIf you can get the word out, thats half the battle.Ҕ
Addressing the meeting organzied by Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell, he said suburban support for the city was essential to its economic recovery.
Come visit our zoo, baseball games, and restaurants,Ӕ the mayor said. He invited everyone to attend Rediscover Bridgeport DayӔ on Saturday, May 17, and said details of the celebration could be found on a new Web site, www.rediscoverbridgeport.com.
At the end of the session, Fabrizi pledged in remarks to one discussion group of attendees to take steps to end corruption with a series of initiatives to be announced next week.
And he had a special message to those attending the meeting from the west of here Ӗ the so-called Gold Coast, a reference to wealthy Fairfield County towns such as Westport, Darien and Greenwich: ԓDont forget IҒm looking for buyers for a couple of Persian rugs and an SUV.
Fabrizi was referring to two expensive carpets and a Ford Excursion purchased by his predecessor, Joseph P. Ganim, that the city is now trying to auction off.
Bridgeport Economic Summit Attendees Praise Farrell, Call for End to Corruption
Attendees at todays summit meeting of regional political, business and non-profit organization leaders to discuss BridgeportҒs economic development repeatedly praised Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell for calling the meeting.
About 150 persons attended the three-hour event, the Bridgeport as a Regional Asset Forum,Ӕ at the Housatonic Community College just off I-95 in the citys downtown area.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi were among those citing Farrell for her vision in organizing the meeting.
Farrell, who leads a Fairfield County coalition opposing casinos in Bridgeport, said her goal was promoting Bridgeport as a regional center as well as increasing cooperation between the city and its suburban neighbors.
The Westport official, along with many other speakers, said it was essential that Bridgeport do everything it can to shed its image of corruption.
“Bridgeport’s future must include an active commitment to open and transparent government that radiates from the top down,” she told the meeting.
At the same time, she said it was necessary for suburbs to come to the assistance of Bridgeport and other cities. “It’s in our enlightened self-interest,” Farrell said. “We on the outside of cities must provide support. We must make cities more self-sustaining.”
She praised efforts Bridgeport is making to change its image. “Good things are happening in Bridgeport,” Farrell said. “The problem sometimes is to break through the negative noise.”
The Westport Democrat promised to compile a list of ideas and suggestions made by conference participants in breakout discussion groups and forward them to Bridgeport’s mayor as well as all those at the meeting.
Among other Westporters attending the event were State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard, Representative Town Meeting members Gerald Bodell, Lois Schine, and Gordon Joseloff, and Louis Gagliano, a retired business executive who does volunteer work in Bridgeport.
States Plan to Cut Back Park Services Spares Sherwood Island
The stateҒs plan to strip many state parks and recreation areas of site amenities and services due to budgetary cutbacks spares Westports Sherwood Island State Park.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Commissioner David K. Leff said the cost-saving plan announced this week allows continued funding for Sherwood Island and Madison’s Hammonasset State Park, according to a report in the Norwich Bulletin.
He said these primary recreational areas will be the department’s main focus as far as personnel and funding are concerned.
The DEPҒs reduced spending plan allows some parks to revert back to “natural conditions” and limits access to others by restricting vehicle traffic. It also eliminates lifeguard stations at some parks, the newspaper said.
Fifty properties, many local recreation areas, will no longer have site amenities such as picnic tables, toilets and drinking water, according to a department statement.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Forty percent of Westport Households Earn $200,000 Annually
Sifting through the 2000 census data, the lobbying group for Connecticut cities and towns has come up with the statistic that more than 40 percent of the homes in Westport earn more than $200,000 per year.
According to the newsletter of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, one of every two households earns $200,000 per year in seven percent of Connecticut communities, but in others, less than one in 100 households earns that much.
The newsletter said Westport ranked fourth in municipalities in the state having the highest percentage of households earning more than $200,000 annually.
Those ahead of Westport: New Canaan 49.19 percent; Darien 48.02 percent, and Weston 43.37 percent.
In Westport, 40.44 percent of all homes, or 2,898 households, earned more than $200,000 annually.
Behind Westport in the top 10: Wilton, Greenwich, Easton, Ridgefield, Redding, Avon and Woodbridge.
Compo Beach Fireworks Fund-Raiser Underway
This years Westport Police Athletic League (PAL) invitation to its biggest annual fund-raising event is going out to thousands of Westport homes with some good news Җ the Independence Day fireworks display will be back at Compo Beach.
The fireworks, which had been held last year at the state-owned Sherwood Island State Park, will be held Thursday, July 3 at 9 p.m. with a rain date of Monday, July 7. Car passes are $25 and will be $30 after June 6. Public sale of the passes will begin next week.
PAL was forced to relocate the display to Sherwood Island last year after being unable to secure a barge for launching of the fireworks. This year the group has hired a unit of the well-known Grucci fireworks family which arranged for a barge.
Bernhard Rejects Budget Plan as Too Heavy on Tax Hikes
Westports State Rep. G. Kenneth Bernhard says he opposes a new budget plan offered by the Democratic majority in the legislature as too heavy on tax increases.
The plan, according to the Republican legislator, would increase income taxes, sales taxes and business taxes on top of the stateҒs already heavy tax burden.
In a news release, Bernhard said the plan would boost spending above Gov. John Rowland’s proposed budget by $353 million over two years, and require additional tax increases of about $1.7 billion.
Bernhard also predicted that the budget also would exceed the states constitutional spending cap that was approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1992.
“My response to this budget plan can be summed up in four words: Too many tax hikes,” said Bernhard.
“No one disputes that we need to meet the needs of the people we serve,” Bernhard said, “but doing it right requires balance.
ғHow can we justify voting for a budget that promises to restore state aid to cities and towns, but does so by raising taxes by an average of $1,000 per family? I can’t support that.
The Town Clerks office has released the text of a petition being circulated by former Representative Town Meeting member Michael Gilbertie who is seeking a $5 million cut in the townҒs $128.6 million budget for the next fiscal year.
The petition asks signers to endorse the following language for a referendum to be held if 1,592 signatures of registered voters are obtained in the next two weeks:
Shall an appropriation approved by the Representative Town Meeting in the sum of $128,626,779 to meet operating expenditures in the Town of Westport annual budget for fiscal year 2003-2004 be decreased by $5,000,000 to the sum of $123,626,779?Ӕ
If the required number of signatures is obtained, the Board of Selectmen, under the town charter, must call a special election as soon thereafter as practicable.Ӕ
The charter further requires that the Board of Finance extend by five days after the referendum vote the date for determining the town tax for the year following the appropriation.
The charter requires that any referendum must be decided by a vote of at least 20 percent of registered voters, which is 3,184.
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.
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