Friday, February 03, 2023

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S&P Upgrades CT Bond Outlook; First Time in 18 Years

State Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden announced today that Standard & Poor’s has elevated its outlook on Connecticut’s General Obligation bonds credit rating from “stable” to “positive,” and affirmed the state’s outstanding bond rating at “A.”

The action is the first positive outlook or credit rating upgrade for Connecticut’s GO Bonds since 2001.

It comes less than a week after Wooden, Gov. Ned Lamont and Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw made presentations to all four national credit rating agencies at the State Capitol last Wednesday and Thursday.

The presentations highlighted the state’s improving economy, fiscal controls on bonding in the governor’s proposed budget, increases in the Budget Reserve Fund and Common Cash Pool, and the treasurer’s plan to restructure the underfunded Teachers’ Retirement Fund.

Board of Finance Chair Cites Aging Population, Income Disparity

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Fresh from town budget hearings, Board of Finance Chair Brian Stern today addressed the weekly Rotary Club meeting at Branson Hall, Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Touching on a wide range of issues, he said Westport’s challenges include an aging population where the fastest growing segment is those over 60. He also cited income disparity whereby 61 percent of Westport wage earners make over $100,000 per year and a large segment of the balance earn less than $50,000, which, in many cases, includes social security income. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Comings & Goings: OfficeEvolution to Post Road East

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OfficeEvolution, a short- and long-term shared office space franchise concept, has opened on the second floor of 500 Post Road East. Owned by longtime Westport residents John and Laura Kaufman (l), the 8,000-square foot space offers 36 private offices ranging from 49- to 130-square feet plus two shared conference rooms and kitchen. With Kaufman is Lindy Steinorth, business center manager. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Third ‘Main to Train’ Meeting Set for March 25

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG) has scheduled its third public information session on Westport’s Main to Train Study for Monday, March 25, at Town Hall.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Room 201.

According to Nicole Sullivan, WestCOG associate planner, the purpose of the study is to identify improvements for pedestrian, motor vehicle and bicycle safety along the Post Road and Riverside Avenue.

“An important component of the study process is to conduct outreach to Westport residents, business owners, commuters and other local stakeholders who are concerned about transportation in Westport,” Sullivan said.

Progressive Dems Offer New Tax Hike Aimed at Millionaires

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The state House of Representatives’ Progressive Democratic Caucus today intensified its push for higher income taxes on the wealthy to mitigate Gov. Ned Lamont’s sales and sin tax proposals, which would hit the poor and middle class the hardest.

The caucus, which includes 43 House Democrats, also said Connecticut should increase its income tax credit for the working poor and maintain the gift tax.

“We’re looking at fair, creative, and equitable solutions to rebuild, reinvest, and renew Connecticut’s commitment to working families and modest income earners,” said Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Easton, co-chairwoman of the caucus.

“It will take moral courage to implement the systemic measures needed to create a new era of corporate responsibility and fair taxation in our state.”

Board of Finance Cuts Hit Transit, Parks & Rec

By James Lomuscio

For more than four hours tonight, Westport’s Board of Finance pored over and voted on department budgets comprising First Selectman Jim Marpe’s $76.5 million municipal budget proposed for 2019-20.

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Board of Finance members tonight listen to department heads. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

While some departments like Health and Human Services, Wakeman Town Farm, Railroad Parking, Westport Library, even Police and Fire, seemed to sail through unscathed, others were taken to task with reductions.

The Westport Transit District (WTD), for years a perennial whipping boy at these budget sessions, was the hardest hit.  It got a whopping $115,000 cut from its proposed $355,000 budget, a decrease of $3,300 over the current year.

The vote was 6 to 1, with finance board Vice Chairman Michael Rea being the lone dissenter.

Sign Out for Chef’s Table at Christie’s

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The sign went up today at the former Christie’s Kitchen Country Store, 161 Cross Highway, for new tenant Chef’s Table.  Owner Richard Herzfeld said in a social media posting he is aiming for an early April opening. The Chefs Table began as a small gourmet take out operation in 1995 and currently has one outlet in Fairfield. It had earlier Westport offerings on Church Lane and Post Road East. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Anna-Liisa Nixon for WestportNow.com

Playhouse Appoints New Development Director

The Westport Country Playhouse has appointed Gretchen T. Wright as its director of development effective March 4, it was announced today.

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Gretchen Wright: Yale Drama grad. Contributed photo

Wright, who previously served as development manager at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, will be responsible for the professional, nonprofit theater’s annual sustaining support from public and private constituencies, the announcement said.

They include corporations, government agencies, foundations and individual donors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Gretchen Wright to the Playhouse team,” said Michael Barker, Playhouse managing director. “More than half of the Playhouse’s operations are supported by contributions from individual donors and community partners.

Deli Owner Soured by Planned Power Outage

By James Lomuscio

The Eversource power outage planned for Sunday from 12:01 a.m. to noon has the owner of the Westport’s Rye Ridge Deli scrambling, not to mention soured at the power company.

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The Rye Ridge Deli is especially busy on weekends. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Not only is Sunday morning one of Scott Martin’s busiest times of the week, he says. He’s worried about spoilage in his deli display cases that could cost his business thousands of dollars.

Located at 159 Main St. in the same space as the former, iconic Oscar’s Deli, Rye Ridge is one of three delis Martin owns by the same name. The others are in Stamford and Ryebrook, N.Y.

The planned power outage is expected to affect businesses and residents along Main Street, Elm Street and the Post Road and possibly Riverside Avenue, even Saugatuck Shores.

Lamont: Private Investors Could Fund Toll Startup Costs

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont wants to explore tapping private investors to finance at least some of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to install electronic tolling on its highways.

Echoing a proposal raised earlier this year by Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich, Lamont said he believes the private sector is anxious for Connecticut to rebuild its aging, overcrowded transportation infrastructure, and some investors are ready to back that up with their wallets.

“We could put in place, probably, a public-private partnership so … we wouldn’t have to up front all of that (toll installation) cost,” Lamont said while speaking to the Connecticut Council on Philanthropy at the Hartford Hilton today. “This is the way I’m envisioning it right now.”

A November 2018 study from the Department of Transportation projected capital startup costs for tolls at about $372 million. This includes both roadside work, tolling equipment and fiber optic cable to support 82 tolling gantries.