Connecting Fairfield


News from First Selectman Bill Gerber


From left to right, Laura Glick, Aaron Glick, Jacqueline Glick and First Selectman Bill Gerber at the Dwight Elementary School celebration for Jacqueline as the lollipop became the state's official candy. Jacqueline began working to have the lollipop named the state candy when she was in Mrs. Robb's third grade class following a lesson on how a bill gets passed in the legislature.


A NOTE FROM BILL



Dear Fairfielders,


Sometimes there are questions about Fairfield's tax rate and how it compares within our region. As towns in Connecticut finalize their budgets, a picture is emerging of how we compare with other municipalities.


For those who focus on mill rates (the tax rate applied to the assessed value of your house), Fairfield’s has increased by 1.42% for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. That compares a 1.47% increase in Westport, 1.55% in Trumbull, 2.09% in Ridgefield, 3.12% in Darien, and 7.25% in Milford. The Town of Fairfield is often compared to West Hartford due to population size, affluence and number of schools; their Mill rate is increasing by 3.49%. 


Fairfield’s mill rate increase appears to be low compared to other towns. Mill rates can be misleading, however. They are calculated as follows: divide the tax dollars needed to fund the budget by the assessed value of all property available for taxation. Both the numerator and denominator are variable, but the denominator is highly dependent on the timing of a municipality’s real estate revaluation (“reval”) timing. We are required to have a detailed (“full”) revaluation every ten years and a partial one every five. If taxes required to be raised were to increase by 2% the same year that property available for taxation increased 10% due to a reval, the mill rate would DECREASE by 7.3%.


Over the prior four years Fairfield’s mill rate increased, on average, by only 0.69% per year, yet we had among the highest increases in the State of Connecticut (127th worst out of 169 municipalities). How is that possible? The denominators (real estate values) exploded during the COVID-19-driven migration out of major cities, while American Rescue Act funding helped offset the numerators (budgets).  


I hope this helps put our mill rate into perspective. While no one likes a tax increase, even a low one, my goal is to keep our taxes as low as possible while providing you with the level of service you want and deserve. I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions about this, or anything else. You can email me at firstselectman@fairfieldct.org, or you can call my office at 203-256-3030. I look forward to hearing from you.


Bill Gerber

First Selectman



PRIMARY ISSUES FACING OUR TOWN



Penfield Pavilion


We have reached an important milestone in the Penfield Pavilion renovation project. Removal of the contaminated fill beneath the locker room is complete, marking a significant step forward in our efforts. The contaminated soil is being transported to licensed disposal facilities in accordance with environmental regulations and the Town’s Licensed Environmental Professionals.

 

Currently, the construction crew is excavating around the building and under the main structure in preparation for the installation of new helical piles. We anticipate that the helical pile work will begin at the end of this month.

 

For questions about work at Penfield Pavilion, please send an email to Penfield@Fairfieldct.org. Project Manager Eli Ghazal will respond to your queries. Thank you for your continued support!

UI Monopoles


A Town Hall meeting was held on May 30 updating residents on the status of the Town's appeal of the Connecticut Siting Council's (CSC) decision in Superior Court, and on new legislation altering the process used for CSC consideration of future utilities' plans. Panelists at the meeting included First Selectman Bill Gerber, Town Attorney Phil Pires, SCNETI Co-Founder Andrea Ozyck, and members of the state delegation: Representative Jennifer Leeper (D-Fairfield), Representative Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport), Representative Sarah Keitt (D-Fairfield), and Senator Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield).

The Appeal Process: The Town's appeal against the CSC and UI joins others, including grassroots organization SCNETI, the Southport Congregational Church, and BJ's Wholesale Club. Presiding Judge Matthew Budzik has scheduled oral arguments for the appeals in January 2025, with briefs due at dates leading up to January. The appeal asks that the Court vacate the CSC's decision, which would require UI to resubmit its application with details concerning the new route to the north of the railroad tracks and its potential impacts.

United Illuminating's Design and Management Plan: United Illuminating is in the due diligence phase of designing their Design and Management Plan, and as part of that phase, has been requesting Right of Entry permissions from north side abutters. In a meeting between United Illuminating and Town officials, the Town suggested to UI that it limit its Right of Entry requests to a three month-time period, and that UI narrow the scope of its forms to be task-specific which would give residents a better understanding as to whether UI intends to perform non-invasive work, like surveying, as compared to drilling for soil borings. We have not yet seen any modified Right of Entry requests from the company.

HB 5507 Status: In passing HB 5507, the Connecticut General Assembly took an important step towards correcting regulatory bias currently favoring utility companies. HB 5507’s aim of achieving a fairer balance with the needs and rights of Connecticut residents, businesses, and municipalities in matters relating to infrastructure siting, use of land, and construction, if signed into law by Governor Lamont, will be the most significant change to the regulations governing the CSC since its creation in 1981. The bill is currently awaiting review by the governor. More than 700 residents have emailed Governor Lamont, asking for him to sign the bill into law. A decision should be made in the next two weeks.


Our thanks to Representative Leeper, Representative Stafstrom, and Senator Hwang for their determination and diligence in passing this bill.



THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW



Turney Creek Culvert Replacement Project


The town has an upcoming project to replace the Turney Creek culverts and tide gates at Riverside Drive. Utility work in the vicinity of Riverside Drive is still ongoing. This preparatory phase is crucial to ensure that all necessary utilities are relocated before the culvert replacement project begins. We anticipate the utility work will be completed by the end of the month.


Additionally, it's important to inform you that a long-term detour will be necessary during the entire duration of the project. However, we want to reassure everyone that this detour will not be implemented without proper notification to residents beforehand. We are committed to ensuring that you are informed well in advance, allowing you to plan accordingly and minimize any inconvenience.


Please continue to monitor updates through the Town's Website Engineering page for the latest information on the project's progress, utility work, and upcoming detour plans.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we work to improve our community infrastructure.


Penfield Beach Bathrooms


We are pleased to announce that a temporary bathroom trailer has been placed at Penfield Beach! This addition aims to provide better amenities for your convenience while construction on the pavilion is ongoing.

 

The trailer is equipped with four women's stalls along with two men's stalls and two urinals. Additionally, it features sinks, soap, and paper towels.

 

You can find the trailer conveniently located near the Jacky Durrell Pavilion. See map of Penfield Beach below.

Lower Wharf Repairs Funded


The State Bonding Commission today approved over $1 million to repair the Lower Wharf in Southport. The funds will go toward the repair and replacement of stone retaining walls and replacement of a public fishing pier destroyed by a coastal storm in December 2022. Project specifics include reconstruction of damaged seawalls, concrete cap/retaining walls that support the property, along with the replacement of a public fishing pier. Thank you to State Representative Jennifer Leeper and State Senator Tony Hwang for applying for these funds!

Dog License Reminder


Fairfield dog owners: all dogs six months of age or older must be licensed by July 1 each year. Licenses may be purchased at the Town Clerk's office, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A current rabies certificate is required.


The fee for a spayed or neutered dog is $8. If the dog is not spayed or neutered, the fee is $19. The first time a dog is licensed, a certificate of spaying or neutering must be presented to qualify for the lower fee. After June 30, a $1 per month penalty is added to the licensing fee.


Online renewals are available from June 1 to July 31 here. To apply for the license by mail, send the required certificates and check in the appropriate amount payable to Fairfield Town Clerk. Mail with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Betsy P. Browne, Town Clerk

611 Old Post Road

Fairfield CT 06824

Paving Project with Complete Street Components: Route 58


Beginning in mid-June, the CT Department of Transportation plans on improvements along Route 58 in Fairfield. This project is 3.9 miles long and extends from the Kings Highway intersection to 0.45 miles north of the Merritt Parkway. This will be a mill and pave project containing some complete street elements: centerline rumble strips on CT 58 between Congress Street and Bennington Drive, up to 25 concrete sidewalk ramps, some pedestrian facility upgrades, and signal detection upgrades at thirteen intersections. Most of the work south of the Merritt Parkway will occur from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., while the area to the north will follow same timeline but would allow some work to occur in between rush hours during weekdays (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) and hours from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. weekends. Project completion is expected by October 1, 2024.


Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan


The Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments (MetroCOG), which represents the municipalities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford, and Trumbull, recently released a draft update to the Regional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. The Plan emphasizes actions that can be implemented now to reduce or prevent damage from a future natural disaster, and helps residents take steps to reduce property damage, injury and loss of life. The public is encouraged to review and comment on the Plan through Friday, June 28, 2024. You can find the Plan here.

Town Awarded $255,284 for Open Space Trail


The Conservation Department was awarded $255,284 as part of a Recreational Trails Grant from the state. Earmarked for an "Open Space Trail in Urbanized Fairfield Neighborhood," the grant was awarded to create a small loop trail (approximately 1/2 mile) in a part of Town with limited open space. A design will be created for a trail accessible from Villa Avenue and Algonquin Road as points of entry, with full wheelchair access and parking spaces for handicap vehicles only. It will be located within 1,100 feet of affordable senior housing and will be accessible to pedestrians via sidewalks.



TOWN CEREMONIES



Fairfield Fire Department Promotion and Appointment Ceremony


A Fairfield Fire Department Promotion and Appointment Ceremony was held Monday, June 3 at the SHU Community Theater, recognizing seven new lieutenants and appointing two new firefighters. First Selectman Bill Gerber administered the Oath of Office to the promoted lieutenants and new firefighters, following remarks by Fire Chief Denis McCarthy and Deputy Emergency Management Director David Becker, and an invocation by the Reverend Alida Ward, Fire Department Chaplain.


Congratulations to Lt. William Malkin, Lt. Thomas Keneally, Lt. Jason Salvato, Lt. Matthew Pastir, Lt. Richard Bassett, Lt. Christopher Eidam, and Lt. Michael Ducey, and to new firefighters Shawn Stewart and Clayton Ahearn!




Lollipop Named the Official State Candy!


Dwight Elementary School held a celebration for student Jacqueline Glick on Monday, June 3 as the lollipop became the official state candy! Jacqueline began working to have the lollipop named the state’s official candy when she was in Mrs. Robb’s third grade class following a lesson on how a bill gets passed in the legislature. After years of lobbying for the bill, emailing anyone who could help, and enlisting the state delegation for help—it happened! The original “Lollipop Kids” —the entire third grade class, now sixth graders—traveled back to Dwight school to celebrate with Governor Ned Lamont, First Selectman Bill Gerber, State Representatives Jennifer Leeper, Sarah Keitt and Cristin McCarthy Vahey. Congratulations to Jacqueline, Mrs. Robb, and all the "Lollipop kids!"

Photo upper left, from left: Dwight Elementary School Principal Mimi Maniscalco, Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey, Governor Ned Lamont, 3rd Grade Teacher Joan Robb, Representative Sarah Keitt, Representative Jennifer Leeper, and First Selectman Bill Gerber

Photo above, from left: Representative Jennifer Leeper, Dwight Elementary School Principal Mimi Maniscalco, First Selectman Bill Gerber, and Lollipop State Candy Advocate Jacqueline Glick


Town Celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month


First Selectman Bill Gerber issued a Town of Fairfield Proclamation on Wednesday, May 29, recognizing Jewish American Heritage Month. The proclamation spoke to the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and the significant role of the Jewish community in Fairfield. Additionally, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s description of antisemitism was adopted for the Town of Fairfield. The Fairfield Ludlowe High School string quartet began the event with a beautiful selection of music.


Thank you to everyone who attended, and our speakers: First Selectman Bill Gerber; Fairfield Public Schools Superintendent Michael Testani; Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras; Rabbi Josh Ratner, Or Hadash; Rabbi Shlame Landa, Chabad of Fairfield; Rabbi Evan Shultz and Rabbi Sarah Marion, Congregation B'nai Israel; Susan Stern, American Jewish Committee; The Reverend Alida Ward, Greenfield Hill Congregational Church; Laurie Renzulli, Fairfield Jewish Advocacy Coalition; and Ann Harvey, Fairfield Jewish Advocacy Coalition.

Fairfield Veterans Award Ceremony


On Thursday, May 30, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Commissioner Ronald Welch and Bill Gerber, along with the state delegation, honored Fairfield’s Korean War-era veterans and Vietnam War-era veterans in two powerful and moving ceremonies that recognized their service and their sacrifices. We honor and remember all who served.





DON'T MISS THESE EVENTS!





Blessing of the Fleet: Saturday, June 8


The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition begun in Europe centuries ago: a blessing of vessels by local clergy to ensure a safe and bountiful season. Each year, we expect between 50 and 100 vessels to parade from the area adjacent to the Pequot Yacht Club down the Harbor and out into the Sound. As the vessels pass the Lower Wharf, the Southport Fire Department sprays an arch of water over the Harbor from Ye Yacht Yard, and each vessel receives a blessing as it passes by.


Breakfast at the Southport School, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Breakfast is free of charge, with donations accepted.


The Parade: 11:00 a.m. Begins at Southport Congregational Church, proceeds to Main Street, then to Harbor Road. It ends at the Lower Wharf, where the clergy performs the blessing. Residents can join the end of the parade with the marchers and proceed to the Lower Wharf or wait for the parade there. See you Saturday!


Celebration of Juneteenth: June 19, 11: 30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States in 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The first Town Juneteenth celebration is a day not only celebrating freedom, but also one of opportunity, equity, and access, to encourage cultural curiosity and historical awareness throughout the Town. In the spirit of inclusion, the event is open to all Town residents and Town Hall employees, with an educational presentation offered at two times, food available for purchase, and music. Help us spread the word!


Location: Town Hall Green and Burr Mansion Tent


11:30-2:00: Blind Rhino Food Truck on site


11:30 a.m. to Noon: Educational Presentation

Presenter: Maurice Nelson, Med, CDE

Maurice Nelson is Sacred Heart University's chief diversity & inclusion officer. Working to increase SHU's value and mission alignment, he ensures the implementation of a diverse and supportive environment that is conducive to the success of all members of the community. Maurice was director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Yale School of Nursing. He earned his bachelor's degree in management from Savannah State University and his master's in higher education administration from Georgia Southern University.


Noon to 12:15 p.m.: Proclamation

Presentation by First Selectman Bill Gerber on Juneteenth Day of Observance


12:15 to 1:15 p.m.: Live Music

The George Lesiw Trio

Recognized as one of the most versatile performers on the Connecticut music scene, guitarist Geore Lesiw combines the true improvisational essence and language of jazz, the daring electricity of rock-fusion, and the gritty fire of blues.


1:30 to 2:00 p.m.: Repeat of Educational Presentation


2:30 p.m.: Event concludes.


Make Music Day, Friday, June 21


Thirteen cities and regions in Connecticut will join forces to present hundreds of free outdoor musical events on Friday, June 21 for Make Music Day, a global music celebration on the summer solstice each year that brings people of all ages and skill levels together to make music.


In Fairfield, there are more than 100 performances planned--from sunrise to sundown, Jennings Beach to Ye Yacht Yard, the LOT@FTC, the SHU Theater Plaza, Black Rock Theater, the sidewalk at the Fairfield University Bookstore, all three Fairfield Libraries, Fairfield History Museum, lawns and front porches, retail stores, an art studio and more. The day will begin with yoga and a sound bath on Jennings Beach and Sing and Stomp active story time at Sherman Green. It will be ceremonially opened at the Gazebo by Fairfield's Roc & Roll Hall of Fame members, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads, striking the handmade gathering drum crafted by Jim LoPresti.

 

Make Music Day is a free and open invitation for everyone to perform, teach, learn, and experience the joy of making music on the longest day of the year.


Pride Flag Raising and Picnic: Monday, June 24, 5 p.m.


The Town of Fairfield has planned a "Power in Pride" Flag Raising and Picnic on Monday, June 24 at 5:00 p.m. to commemorate Pride Month and support the LGBTQ+ community. The public is invited to the Town Green in front of Old Town Hall at 611 Old Post Road for inclusive events that include a flag raising ceremony, a Proclamation from First Selectman Bill Gerber, music, and children’s activities. BYOB--Bring your own blanket and picnic!


When: Monday, June 24 at 5:00 p.m.

Where: Town Green in front of Old Town Hall


Fireworks: Saturday, July 6, 9:15 p.m.



MAKE THE CONNECTION


Harbor Master Bryan LeClerc





Q: How did your career and experiences lead you to your current role? How does someone become Harbor Master?

A: Harbor Master is a position appointed by the Governor, following the recommendation of the Harbor Management Commission. I have always loved being on the water, beginning during my early childhood, learning about the marine environment and becoming involved in sailing. I was a summer lifeguard during college and continue to enjoy my small sailboat today.


The position of Harbor Master is essentially a community service position. I also maintain a practice as an attorney. Over the past 30+ years I have volunteered in Fairfield in various capacities, including as a member of the Representative Town Meeting and on the Fairfield Town Plan and Zoning Commission. In the past I was also involved with youth sports and the Boy Scouts, as well as Commander of the Penfield Power Squadron.

I love Southport Harbor and our coastline and enjoy preserving and maintaining them for the benefit of all. Southport Harbor is one of Fairfield’s most valuable natural resources. I have lived in my current home on Henderson Road for the past 35 years, with easy access to the Mill River and close to the harbor. 


Q: What does a Harbormaster do? Walk us through a typical day.

A: Each day is different and unpredictable. Harbor Masters in Connecticut are responsible for the care and supervision of harbors and navigable waterways, including the safe and efficient operation of harbors and moorings. The general duties include assignment of boat mooring locations and issuance of mooring permits; keeping records of all boats moored in the harbor and along the coast; addressing obstructions to navigation and derelict vessels; monitoring channels for obstructions and hazards, and coordination with other local, state and federal agencies to resolve such; enforcing state marine laws; preparing reports on safety, moorings, dredging, accidents, special events, and other issues that occur within the harbor; and public education on marine safety topics. I also answer numerous inquiries from the public regarding water access and moorings/docking.


Q: What are the marine regulations and policies you have to enforce?

A: Harbor Masters enforce state and local laws regarding operation of vessels and use of harbors, as well as rules and regulations set forth in the Harbor Management Plan. 


Q: Are there emergencies you have to deal with? Is there a dangerous part of your job?

A: I have encountered various situations while I am out of the water performing my duties. For example, I have addressed abandoned vessels, sinking vessels, vessels that have run aground, disabled vessels, and in one instance rescued 2 swimmers in distress who were unable to get back to shore.

As Harbor Master I also must routinely patrol and respond to and remedy obstructions and hazards, and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies as necessary.


Being on the water always has an element of danger, but preparation and training are the keys to safety. We are lucky in Fairfield to also have a well-trained Marine Police unit and a Fire Department with vessels to respond to emergencies.  


Q: What do you think people would be surprised to learn about the Harbormaster’s role?

A: Harbor Masters do much more than patrol the harbor and coast. There are many duties outside the boating season regarding the administration of moorings, inspection of mooring tackle, harbor management, community relations, and record keeping.


Q: What do you consider your greatest challenge?

A: Education of the public is a constant requirement of the job. From reminding individuals on kayaks and paddleboards that they must have a life jacket onboard to ensuring vessels are operated safely requires constant vigilance.

But this is also very rewarding. For example, I participate in an annual safety drill with the Pequot Yacht Club, Fairfield Police Marine Unit, Fairfield Fire Department, and AMR. There is an upcoming drill scheduled for next week. This is an opportunity for the youth sailing instructors to encounter a simulated emergency, and coordinate their actions with the response of the Police and Fire units. Practice and training is essential to be properly prepared for an emergency.


Q: How are things changing? Do storms and climate change create a different environment than previously?

A: Storms are always something that must be tracked and respected. With modern technologies on land and on the water, it is easier for vessels to monitor hazardous weather conditions. But again, training and preparation are essential for safety.


Q: Tell us about The Blessing of the Fleet on Saturday. What is your role? What would you like people to know about this special event?

A: The Blessing of the Fleet is tomorrow, Saturday June 8. The Blessing is a tradition that began in Europe hundreds of years ago. It involved blessings from local clergy to ensure a safe and bountiful season for the commercial fleet.


It is appropriate that this tradition continues in Southport Harbor. From about 1760 to 1900 the harbor was a major maritime center, and in 1836 it was written that “more shipping is owned in this place in proportion to its size than any other place between New York and Boston.” So-called “market boats” carried cargo (notably onions and other local farm products) to distant and nearby ports, and vessels ranging from small sloops to large ocean-going sailing ships were built in shipyards on the west side of the harbor. Southport Harbor and its jetty is one of the oldest Federal navigation projects in the United States, dating back to 1829, prior to the Civil War.


My role is the coordination of vessels participating in the Blessing and ensuring the safe and orderly procession through the harbor. There is a parade beginning at 11:00 a.m., followed by the Blessing at noon. We expect in excess of 50 boats to proceed by the Lower Wharf at the end of Harbor Road to be blessed by the clergy.



BOARD AND COMMISSION OPENINGS





Here are the current vacancies for Town residents:

Flood and Erosion Control Board: Learn more about this Board here.

Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA): Learn more about the WPCA here.

Parking Authority: Learn more about the Authority here.


Learn more about the Appointment Process here.


How to Contact Your State Legislators


I encourage you to reach out to your elected state legislators with questions or comments on their legislative work in the Connecticut General Assembly. Click on the name below to contact them at their website:


State Senator Tony Hwang

State Representative Jennifer Leeper

State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey

State Representative Sarah Keitt


Board of Selectman Meetings


The next regular Board of Selectmen meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 26 at 4:00 p.m. Meetings are held in Independence Hall and open to the public. You can attend either in person or on Webex. You can also read minutes of previous meetings here.





EYES ON FAIRFIELD


Help us celebrate the unique beauty of life in Fairfield by sharing your photos with our community. Submit your photos at 300dpi to firstselectman@fairfieldct.org. We live in such a special Town. Share with all of us the sites and sights you love.

Southport Harbor Photo by Peter Bravo

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Independence Hall

725 Old Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06824

203-256-3030

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