Wednesday, January 21, 2004
It’s back to the classroom for members of Westport boards and commissions next month.
First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell has arranged for members of all boards and commissions to attend two training workshops—one on ethics and conflicts of interest, and the other on the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
The workshops, organized by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, will be held on Monday, Feb. 2, and Monday, Feb. 9, from 7 to 10 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.
To the Editor:
At the Jan. 26 Board Of Education meeting, there will be a discussion to eliminate the position of Arts Division Coordinator at Staples High School.
This position is crucial to not only the physical maintenance of the Staples High auditorium and arts facilities, but in maintaining awareness of the needs of the arts when it comes to fiscal and policy decisions.
For unexplained reasons, the Arts Division Coordinator is the only division coordinator position being proposed for elimination.
The administration intends that all questions regarding the arts would be decided and coordinated by an as yet unnamed assistant principal.
This proposal means that all those who teach music, drama and visual arts would be evaluated by an assistant principal who may not have experience or training in the arts.
It also means that the arts would have no representation at the weekly division coordinator meetings. The administration and other departments would be free to make decisions that affect the arts program without input from the people who actually know and teach the arts.
To give you a practical example of the importance of having an Arts Division Coordinator, the fire curtain on the Staples stage fell the week before Staples Players production of “Oliver!” opened this fall.
If it were not repaired, the Fire Marshal would not have allowed the show to open. It was Arts Division Coordinator Alan Dodd who quickly managed the repair of the fire curtain so that the show could go on.
Without the help of a person whose most important priority is the arts, the show was at risk of being cancelled, obliterating months of work by hundreds of Staples students.
We are extremely concerned to consider what the future of the arts at Staples will be if we donҒt have a representative who understands the importance of the arts to the educational curriculum.
This proposal is a slight to the arts, communicating to the students and the community that the arts are not as important as other disciplines.
It is imperative that the community speaks out on this important issue before it is too late. Please attend the Jan. 26 Board of Education meeting, or contact its members in advance, to express your concern about the elimination of this position and its ramifications on the arts program at Staples.
Property transfers as reported by the Westport Town Clerk’s office for the period Jan. 12-16, 2004:
Lucky 139 LLC to Joseph and Tracy L. Troy, 139 Harbor Road, $2,450,000.
James R D. and Lisa M. C. Allison to Eric A. and Laarni Ragaza, 7 Lees Lane, $735,000.
Terry Marsh to Ashley S. Moran, 85 Valley Road, quit claim, $45,400.
William W. and Amber L. Sweedler to Susan Jaffe Tane, 36 Bermuda Road, $4,250,000.
Estate of Betty M. Strong to Lucky 139 LLC, 187 Compo Road South, $515,000.
The press was barred from watching questioning of potential jurors in the insider trading-related trial of Westport’s Martha Stewart, but a transcript released today of Tuesday’s session showed the jury pool is diverse.
The potential jurors ranged from a man who said Stewart could not be trusted to a woman who told her: “I am a huge fan of yours. Good luck.”
The transcript offered a glimpse into the painstaking process by which lawyers for the government and Stewart are trying to detect whether jurors might favor one side or the other.
Stewart arrived at the courthouse today to watch the second day of juror questioning.
Metro-North said today it will extend its weather-related service cutbacks into next week.
“The recent snowstorms and seemingly endless rash of sub-freezing days this region has experienced has had a severe impact on Metro-North’s electric railcar fleet,” an advisory said.
“The snow and cold has wreaked havoc with major electrical components, traction motors, air compressors, train brakes, and train doors. There are no quick fixes.”
The railroad said repairs and component replacements take much time to accomplish and that employees are working around-the-clock. But the weather, it said, has taken its toll.
Westport Country Playhouse Executive Director Alison Harris tells today’s brown bag lunch at Town Hall about the Playhouse’s renovation and expansion plans. She said actual construction will begin in early February. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the public more time to offer the federal agency feedback on revisions made to a controversial oyster farming plan proposed for parts of Long Island Sound off Westport and Milford, according to the New Haven Register. Flashback: Westport Dr. John Garofalo explains his Mariculture Unlimited oyster proposal at a Milford public hearing last July. WestportNow.com file photo
Army Corps officials had initially announced in mid-December that the public had until today to submit comments on Mariculture Unlimiteds revised plan to grow oysters in cages submerged a few feet beneath the surface of Long Island Sound.
Now, the public has until Feb. 9 to submit comments, the newspaper said.
But the Army Corps still has not decided whether it will grant a request by Milford officials to hold another public hearing on the proposal.
State House Majority Leader James Amann, D-Milford, and state Senator Win Smith, R-Milford, made the request for a public hearing, the Register said.
“Whether we decide to hold another hearing or not will depend upon whether we expect to get any new information out of it,” said Tim Dugan, an Army Corps spokesman.
Amann said it would shortsighted for the Army Corps not to conduct another public hearing on the plan.
Jury selection continues today in a New York federal courthouse where the stock-fraud trial of Westport’s Martha Stewart is underway.
The juror questioning was conducted in secret Tuesday as Stewart’s trial began in earnest. About three dozen filed into a judge’s chambers to answer questions, and more were expected today and the rest of the week.
About a dozen of the potential jurors interviewed Tuesday were given the green light by the judge to proceed to the next round of selection, a source close to the case told The Associated Press.
The Westport Board of Selectmen will consider requests to add speed humps to three new town roads.
The Jan. 28 meeting will take up petitions to add speed humps to Cob Drive, Silver Brook Road, and Cavalry Road.
The 7 p.m. meeting will be held in Town Hall room 309.
Insurance consultant Robert L.Pernicka, senior VP of The Segal Company, told town officials Tuesday night he had good news and bad news about Board of Ed employee insurance claims. The good news claim expenses are 82 percent of what was anticipated this year, resulting in a $700,000 cost savings. The bad news ֖ he can’t guarantee the lower claims will continue. Board of Ed Chair Sandra Urist looks on. WestportNow.com photo
7:30 a.m. - Town Hall Room 309 - TEAM Westport
10:30 a.m. - Town Hall Room 102 - International Hospitality Committee
Noon - Town Hall Room 309/307 - Citizens brown bag luncheon
7 p.m. - Town Hall Auditorium - Conservation Commission
7:30 p.m. - Library - Westport Library Board of Trustees
7:30 p.m. - Town Hall Room 102 RTM, Long-Range Planning Committee
The Staples boys basketball varsity tonight trounced St. Joseph of Trumbull 68-39 at Trumbull to qualify for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) state tournament.
It was one of the earliest times in Staples’ history for the Wreckers to qualify for the tourney. It takes eight wins to qualify.
The game had special significance for St. Joseph. It was Coach Vito Montelli’s 1,000th game for the school where he has been part of the athletic program for more than 40 years.
It was one of the first times in memory that Staples beat the Trumbull powerhouse.
Staples, which improved to 8-1 on the season, plays Bridgeport’s Harding High School (7-2) at Harding on Friday.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Today was the first business day at Town Hall following receipt by Westport residents of their new property assessment notices over the weekend and reaction was generally muted, according to Tax Assessor Glenn Werfelman.
“I kind of expected we’d have more people coming in and calling,” he said. “But that has not been the case.”
Werfelman said as of mid-day, about 30 residents had set up appointments for an informal hearing with an appraiser from J.F. Ryan Associates.
By the end of the business day, 67 people had made appointments, he said.
Click here for the entire town reval list, alphabetical by street name. It is an Excel file and may take several minutes on a broadband connection—much longer on dialup. If you prefer a PDF document, click here.
Denver-based Janus Capital Group Inc. today named Jill Paitchel as president of Janus International, its global division based in Westport.
The mutual funds company said Paitchel, formerly of Citigroup Asset Management, will be responsible for day-to-day oversight of international business, which had more than $6 billion in assets under management at the end of 2003.
Paitchel will report to Erich Gerth, senior vice president and managing director of the Janus Global Adviser business.
Gerth replaced Richard Garland, 42, who resigned last fall. Investigators said Garland may have approved improper trading arrangements. (See WestportNow Nov. 18, 2003)
Things were busy at the Westport Arts Center (WAC) today in preparation for Friday’s opening of two exhibits “Wolf Kahn: A Celebration of Color” and “Landscapes in Black and White.” Barry Katz, curator of the show, unwraps one of Kahn’s large landscape paintings as Eileen Wiseman, WAC director, looks on. Emily Laux Roche for WestportNow.com
Metro-North said today continuing weather-related equipment problems have forced it to reduce the number of cars on its trains for the evening rush hour.
In addition, an advisory said it will combine five pairs of afternoon and evening peak period trains.
“Metro-North anticipates that customers will experience crowded conditions and some delays throughout the week,” the advisory said.
“Maintenance forces continue to repair and replace major railcar components.”
The affected trains leaving Grand Central Terminal include the following New Haven Line trains:
The 4:05 p.m. train to New Haven and the 4:16 p.m. train to New Haven are combined, departing at 4:16 p.m.
The trial of Westport’s Martha Stewart on insider trading-related charges finally got underway today and her hometown undoubtedly will be caught up once again in Martha Media Mania.
Flashback: NBC News set up a remote truck last June at the railroad station to get Westport reaction to Martha Stewarts indictment. WestportNow.com file photo
Most of the media attention is focused on the Manhattan courthouse where Stewart and her former stockbroker and co-defendant, Peter Bacanovic, are on trial.
(Stewart arrived at the courthouse shortly after 9 a.m. today. As she walked up the steps, she waved to acknowledge a group of supporters who shouted words of encouragement to her. She made no statement.
(During the proceedings, in a barely audible voice, she reiterated her plea of “not guilty” to all five counts of the indictments. Most of the day was devoted to jury selection.)
But given the intense media interest, thereҒs little doubt that at some point, Westport will again be the dateline for newspaper or broadcast stories about how Stewarts hometown is reacting.
Last June, when word of StewartҒs indictment leaked out in advance, NBC News set up a remote truck outside the railroad station at Saugatuck to get Westporters reaction. A New Haven TV station set up on Main Street.
8:30 a.m. - Town Hall Room 201 - Human Services Commission
10 a.m. - Town Hall Room 201 - Administrative Review Committee
10 a.m. - Town Hall Room 309 - Arts Advisory Committee
7:30 p.m. - 180 Bayberry Lane - Westport/Weston Health District Board
7:30 p.m. - Staples Library - Board of Education/Board of Finance/RTM Education and Finance Committees
Monday, January 19, 2004
Greenwich Democrats say Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell could pull off an upset victory over Rep. Christopher Shays in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District, and those involved in the party are pledging their full support, according to todays Greenwich Time.
“Although it is always difficult to run against an entrenched incumbent, Diane Farrell will present a really viable alternative which could captivate people’s imaginations,” former First Selectman Richard Bergstresser said, according to the newspaper.
Greenwich Time said Farrell is running as a fiscally conservative Democrat who opposed going to war in Iraq without broader international support and favors civil unions for gay couples.
Greenwich Democrats said Shays could lose his more liberal and moderate voters to Farrell, the newspaper said.
Town Hall and schools closed due to Martin Luther King birthday holiday.
Sue Pfister, coordinator of Westport’s new Center for Senior Activities, is framed by members of the Hoot Owls singing group during Friday’s official opening ceremony of the facility. Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell praised Pfister as instrumental in the successful completion of a home of their own for Westport seniors. WestportNow.com photo
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Today’s snowstorm dropped seven to nine inches of snow around the area but this Metro-North train was only a few minutes late pulling into Green’s Farms station this afternoon.(CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
This is a sober weekend for many Westport taxpayers. Notices of updated real estate assessments and taxes for the next year based on the projected grand list and mill rate have hit Westport mailboxes and the news for some is jolting, for others, relief. Tax notices hit mailboxes Saturday. WestportNow.com photo
The notices listed 2003-04 taxes that would have been paid on the projected rates, in effect giving the town’s best guess at what taxpayers might approximately pay in the next tax year,
“My taxes went down $300,” said one resident, who, like other Westporters agreeing to comment for this story, asked for anonymity.
“It was quite a relief since they already went up 50 percent since I bought my house five years ago.”
Another resident said he, too, was relieved, when he opened the tax assessor’s “2003 Property Assessment Notice” Saturday.
“My projected taxes are up 5 percent,” he said. “I think, all in all, that’s reasonable.”
A number of Westporters attending Saturday’s community meeting at the Westport Public Library held by Rep. Christopher Shays chatted about the notices in the hallways.
Westport physicians Robert Altbaum (r, keyboard) and Fred Kaplan (rear, drums) are part of the “DNR” band made up area doctors who performed Saturday night at Al’s Place in Fairfield. WestportNow.com photo
Rep. Christopher Shays told a community meeting in Westport today his constituents had reason to question his credibility for assuring a Westport meeting on Iraq and terrorism last February that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq. “I’m in a lot of trouble and President Bush is in a lot of trouble,” he said. But Shays said many others, including the U.S. military, Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman, were also mistaken.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
Rep. Christopher Shays addresses a community meeting in Westport today. The veteran Republican lawmaker touched on a wide range of issues ranging from the war in Iraq to transportation in Fairfield County. About 100 people attended. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell exchanges a few words with Rep. Christopher Shays prior to the congressman’s community meeting today in Westport. It was the first meeting between the two since the Democrat Farrell filed a statement of candidacy this week to challenge the veteran Republican in November. Farrell remained at the meeting only a few minutes. WestportNow.com photo
The Representative Town Meeting this week gave final approval to a $349,121 purchase of a new rescue truck for the Westport Fire Department. The vehicle, similar to this one, will be delivered in about a year and replace the 20-year-old Rescue 8 truck donated to the town by the Coleytown volunteers. Contributed photo
WestportNow Consumer Correspondent
Whatever your race, creed, or religion, if youre from anywhere east of the Rockies, when Sunday morning comes, youҒre going to be thinking bagels. Lucky that Westport has more than our share of top-notch bagel purveyors.
Part of the selection at Bagel Maven: some of the town’s best. WestportNow.com photo
It seems it doesnt take long to become an instant expert on the comparative virtues of bagels. What I find truly amazing is the variety not only in price, but in defining characteristic.
For example, did you ever notice that Stew LeonardҒs bagels get hard about 20 minutes after you buy them? That those soft, spongy Dunkin Donuts bagels are really not bagels at all, just slightly-less-sweet donuts in disguise?
That you can pass out from pure carbohydrate pleasure and gain a few pounds ֖ just by deeply inhaling inside Bagel Maven?