Tuesday, February 28, 2006

First 100 Days

Drop Cap Letter: It’s hard to imagine but Shelly and I have been in office 100 days. It’s been exciting, at times exhausting, but full of challenges.

At the top of my priority list when I came in to office were four items:

• Emergency preparedness
• Senior tax relief
• Property revaluation
• Technology

We’ve made progress on all of them.

On preparedness, I’ve met weekly with our police, fire, health, and Red Cross officials to make sure Westport is as prepared as it can be for any eventuality – natural or man-made. In addition, I’ve been to two state training sessions.

I’ll make no secret of the fact that of all the possible emergency scenarios that could hit us, I am most concerned about a pandemic flu and the spread of bird flu in Asia, Africa and now parts of Europe. Its consequences should it mutate into humans and spread will be catastrophic.

In April, Westport, Weston and Wilton are participating in an exercise that will simulate a health disaster necessitating the distribution of vaccines or medications to the estimated 50,000 residents of our three towns. It will be a good test of our readiness and, I hope, heighten public awareness of the need for each of us to be prepared for such an emergency.

We are working on a public education program that will tell Westporters how we are preparing and how you should as well. In the meantime, I recommend going to http://www.pandemicflu.gov/

Town Launches Newly Redesigned Web Site

Drop Cap Letter: The town launched its newly redesigned Web site today. Check it out at http://www.westportct.gov We hope you will find it interesting and, more importantly, useful. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Weekend Storm: Westport Did Well

Drop Cap Letter: This weekend’s storm, unlike the ones in January, did not sneak up on us and Westport was well prepared.

We put all our public works crews on alert as well as private contractors, checked our equipment, readied the sand and salt supplies, and were ready to go when the first flakes started sticking late Saturday night.

Fortunately, it was a fluffy snow, not the heavy kind that takes down trees and power lines. As a result, we did not have one report of a power outage or tree down in Westport during the storm.

Our big concern is that the northeaster coincided with the full moon high tide. The combination had the potential of causing flooding – and it did. The flooding was relatively minor, however.

I accompanied Assistant Fire Chief Larry Conklin and Firefighter Tim Chalfant as they made their rounds Sunday morning, first to Saugatuck Shores and then the Compo Beach area and Green’s Farms.

Shortly after 9 a.m., water had begun to creep over Canal Road. By 10:45 a.m., high tide, there was a good 3 feet of water (or more) over the roadway. By then, Conklin had ordered an engine company and staff car to Saugatuck Island as a standby – a precaution taken any time flooding is expected.

We also saw some minor flooding on Compo Road South near the Minuteman statute as well as on the entry road to Burying Hill Beach. There was also some flooding in the Old Mill area. 

More "The Weekend Storm: Westport Did Well"

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brown Bag and Legislative Priorities

Drop Cap Letter: A busy week gone by and a busy week coming. Last week included a brown bag on emergency preparedness and a review of events during January’s wind storms and power outages.

Chris Swan of CL&P was there to give us his perspective. We also had reports from Fire Chief Chris Ackley and Police Chief Al Fiore. Michelle Deluca of the Red Cross brought along a backpack full of supplies to keep on hand in case of emergency.

Also there was Eileen Woodley who told us of the nightmare she went through when a tree crashed through the roof of her Hockanum Road home. Luckily no one was hurt, but her house and contents suffered considerable damage.

It was a good opportunity to remind all Westporters of the steps they need to take to be prepared for an emergency. The question of opening a Westport shelter came up and I explained that we had little indication of a desire by residents to go to a shelter.

We opened a “warming station” at the Red Cross chapter on Church Lane and no one showed up. Weston opened its middle school as a shelter and also had no takers.

If a storm hits and you do want to go to a shelter, please let us know by calling the non-emergency number at the fire department – 341-5000. Westporters traditionally have been reluctant to go to a public shelter – preferring friends or a hotel first. But we are ready to open one if there is a need.

At the end of the week, I attended a breakfast meeting in Norwalk with other mayors, first selectmen and area legislators to discuss priorities for Connecticut’s legislative session opening this week.

The meeting, arranged by the South Western Regional Planning Agency, touched on a number of subjects – transportation, the economy, taxes, and speeding tickets, among other things.

SWRPA is asking legislators to once again consider adding a surcharge of $10-$25 to tickets issued by local municipalities that would come back to the towns and cities. Most people don’t’ know that all the revenue from speeding tickets and other moving violations all goes to the state.

The reaction from local legislators to the proposal was luke warm. One wanted to know how many tickets all the towns issued (that information is being compiled). Another expressed concern that the towns would start issuing more tickets when budget needs became acute.

Don’t hold your breath on this one.

P.S. I hope to get to Hartford for the opening of the legislative session Tuesday.