Wednesday, June 29, 2016
After a spirited discussion, the Board of Selectmen voted 2-0 today to approve awarding of a controversial construction project contract to renovate commuter parking Lot No. 1 at the Metro-North Westport station at Saugatuck.
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Selectman Avi Kaner voted in favor of the award to Norwalk-based Deering Construction Co. while Selectman Helen Garten abstained, saying, “Maybe we should have a broader discussion.”
The project generated much controversy earlier this month when, after almost three hours of discussion, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) on a 24-2 vote with three abstentions approved a $1.5 million appropriation. (See WestportNow June 8, 2016)
The controversy arose over an original plan to reduce the lot’s five exits to one as some commuters and RTM members feared this would add additional time to exit the lot. But after a real-time test on the eve of the vote, a second exit was added to the plan.
“You guys have found a good balance,” Kaner told Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Deputy Public Works Director John Broadbin, who presented the plan.
“It is important for the public to realize we have actually added (parking) spots instead of losing spots. So I think it is a win-win.”
Koskinas explained that while 17 to 20 spots will be eliminated in the lot, plans call for adding another 75 to 77 commuter parking spots in adjacent areas by the time the project is completed.
In addition, Koskinas said, up to 190 spots, many of them temporary, will be added during the summer work on Lot. No. 1, including some at Greens Farms. He noted commuter lot usage is normally reduced during the summer non-school months.
Plans to restore the 321-space lot on 2.8 acres include new LED lighting; a second stairway to Lot 8; repaving and raising the lot 2 to 4 feet to keep it out of the flood zone; tree plantings; improved streetscape; and a pedestrian sidewalk around its perimeter.
During the Board of Selectmen discussion, RTM member Jennifer Johnson, who led the opposition to the RTM appropriation approval, once again argued that commuters had not had enough opportunity to provide input.
“The bottom line is that this construction project train has left the station without the commuters on it,” she said.
Fellow RTM member John Suggs told the board he had found a design document on the internet for redoing Railroad Place, which he said includes a reference to a parking structure on Lot 1.
He repeatedly asked members to disavow building of such a structure, a request denied, said Kaner, because the was no such item on the agenda. He suggested Suggs bring it before the RTM for discussion.
In explaining her abstention on the contract award, Garten said, “I honestly feel that if quickly we could have gotten one additional exit, maybe we should have a broader discussion.”
She added, “I’m abstaining because I understand your time limitations. I understand you are in a box about this.”
Koskinas said there had been adequate time and notice for commuter input, with the proposal first brought to the RTM Transit Committee in January.
“There was plenty of time to review this, and there was plenty of time to reach out to people,” he said.
The police chief noted that over the past two years, 65 to 70 commuter spaces have been added to the Saugatuck and Greens Farms commuter lots.
He said he hoped work would begin next week but certainly by July 15.
“I don’t want to close the lot before work begins,” Koskinas said. “There is nothing more frustrating than walking by a lot where no work is being done and you can’t park there.”
He said the renovated lot would be ready for parking by Labor Day, even if tree and lighting work is not completed.
The new lot would include seven to eight electric vehicle parking spaces as well as several new “blue light” emergency call boxes for direct communication with the police 911 dispatch center, Koskinas said.
Posted 06/29/16 at 11:27 AM Permalink
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Can someone please provide REAL information to those of us who use this lot on a daily basis. Where exactly will the “up to 190 spots, including Greens Farms” be available for parking and can we get a real date on when Lot 1 will be closed? Although lot usage is reduced in the summer, this will be seriously disruptive. Parking was always non-existing during the closing of this lot for the Italian festival; and that was for only a 3 week period every year. Finally, can someone give us the actual date of when the lot will be closed? “Hoping the work will be begin next week but certainly by July 15” is not a definitive answer.