I recently issued an update on the sale of the General Electric property. Here is a video of my update:
I wanted to let everyone know the actions I have taken since the Governor announced his proposal to cut $4.6 Million in State Aid to Fairfield. This cut includes the reduction in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding and the reduction in Revenue Sharing from the State Sales Tax.
I have taken a very proactive approach. I have been working with Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) – the lobbying group for towns and cities. I have been on television as a panelist on News 12′s Focus on Connecticut. CCM asked that I represent the towns throughout Fairfield County. I have been interviewed by numerous news media. I have reached out to our State Delegation. I have spoken to numerous other State Representatives and State Senators. I have reached out to other First Selectmen and Mayors. I have met with the Speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey. I have also requested a meeting with our State Minority Leaders to present our case and hear their perspective. I have spoken before the Sherman School PTA and have been asked to present to others.
The budget proposals are currently in the hands of the General Assembly for their response and proposals. Everyone I have contacted has made it clear that there is no support for the Governor’s proposal. It will not go any further. Once the Assembly has made their recommendation and position clear, I will be reaching out to the Governor to garner his support for Fairfield and similar towns.
I have been in continuous conversations with our town elected officials who serve on the Board of Education, the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). I have had conversations with my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen.
I have continuously pointed out the poor process and the poor planning that led us to this situation. I have made clear the negative impact on our town by these proposals and these last minute devastating cuts. I have also spoken out about the lack of fairness in the cuts and approach to our town.
I have recommended to the RTM that we delay our town vote on the budget until we have answers from the State on exactly what cuts are coming. Everything from the State until now has been in the form of proposals but nothing is final. I have been following up with our Town Attorney to determine our options for delaying our vote and with our CFO to confirm our options and flexibility on getting out tax bills.
As a Town, our expenses are set. The appropriation or spending has been approved by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance. Our budget recommendations are now before the Fairfield RTM. The RTM can lower or cut these appropriations but cannot raise or increase them.
The budget I proposed at the beginning of March included a decrease from last year on the Townside and once combined with the BOE came in at just a 1% increase. One of the lowest in the last twenty years. The town tax increases over the last five years have been the lowest total increase as far back as I can find. Our tax and expense per capita are one of the lowest in Fairfield County.
I hope this helps you have a better understanding of all that has been going on.
Let me first say that on behalf of the Town, I am in active communication with both GE and the Governor’s office and have been ever since GE’s announcement that it is considering leaving the State.
Here is what I have accomplished so far:
- I have been able to keep the communication flowing between GE and the State while the evaluation is proceeding. There was a lot of emotion initially. GE specifically asked that we keep the emotion and rhetoric to a minimum.
- I made certain Hartford understands all the ways that GE makes valuable contributions to both Fairfield and our region.
- I encouraged the Governor to reduce the impact on GE by making changes to the budget in the follow up “implementer bill.” These changes helped but I am not convinced they went far enough.
- I encouraged the State to make an as aggressive and competitive proposal as possible to convince GE to stay.
- I encouraged GE to listen to the State’s proposal.
The tax situation created by the recently approved State budget can only be solved by the State. Both Democrats and Republicans at the State level share the blame for not addressing these financial issues over the past twenty years. There is a responsibility on behalf of both parties to stop playing politics and to take seriously addressing the current tax situation. Whether GE leaves or stays, Connecticut still has major competitive issues and our State leaders need to combine their efforts to resolve these issues.
Unfortunately, there is a very real chance that GE will leave Connecticut or at least relocate enough of their staff to change their headquarters to another state. Both the State tax situation and recent decisions at the Federal level are affecting GE’s future planning. Nevertheless, on behalf of the Town, I will continue to facilitate communication between the parties and work earnestly to keep GE, an incredibly valuable corporate citizen, here in Fairfield.
I wanted to take a moment to thank Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church for their recent decision to listen to the concerns of the neighborhood and suspend their cell tower negotiations with AT&T. This suspension will hopefully become permanent, but it is a very good first step. Thank you to the Church leadership and its members. This step starts the path to rebuilding the bonds of the community.
I also want to give special thanks to the neighborhood leaders who helped organize the awareness raising efforts. Cell tower installations don’t happen often. There was a lot of work done by many people to research and understand the process along with the decision making criteria. There was a lot of work done to help the Church and the neighborhood communicate.
To provide some background, despite the recent changes in State Statutes, the final say on cell tower locations rests with the State’s Siting Council. The Town has the ability to provide feedback and object to the location as well as provide alternative site locations, but the Siting Council is the final decision maker. The Town objected to the last cell tower installation on Wood House Road, but the Council gave its approval anyway. If this application had proceeded, I would have continued to voice my very strong objections to the Siting Council.
This issue started with a miscommunication and misunderstanding. The Town was never aware that AT&T approached the Church nor that any discussions had started. It wasn’t until the neighborhood concerns were voiced on social media that this information became public. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, perhaps the Church could have raised the question as to whether the Town would support a tower installation within 250 feet of a school given State Law. I clearly stated my opposition to this tower location to church leaders, the public and the press when this became public.
In addition, I held a meeting for church leaders and neighborhood representatives in my office. The purpose of this meeting was to bring people together for a better understanding and to share concerns. I believe this discussion helped the Church appreciate the depth of the concern in our community and led to the recent suspension of negotiations.
When I followed up with AT&T to let them know my concerns, they informed me that they had not yet selected a site. Fairfield Grace Methodist was under consideration along with Owen Fish Park, Fairfield Warde High School, a private cemetery and Lake Mohegan. Their goal is to fill in a gap in coverage for their network. Their engineers are evaluating alternative sites. There are 30 cell tower locations in Fairfield which are often located in church steeples, flag poles or on building roof tops. Three of these locations are owned by the Town.
As the Church has said, it would help to have more clarity in our State Statutes. I know our State Delegation has worked on recent changes to this legislation. We will need their continued efforts to help Fairfield and all communities in the future.
Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church has chosen to be a good neighbor and a good citizen. They deserve our thanks. We should all come together to help maintain the quality of life in our neighborhoods. We all need to continue work together for the best interests of Fairfield.
Thank you, Mike Tetreau – First Selectman
This Thanksgiving was a very memorable holiday for me and my family. It was the first one without my Mom who passed away in June. The holiday was brightened by my brother Bill completing his tour of duty in Afghanistan and being able to join all of us at the family table. All of this combined to make Thanksgiving a meaningful time that influenced the way I experienced the holiday.
When I reflect on everything that was going on in Town, it can be overwhelming. However, wherever I looked, there was an all-embracing theme of generosity throughout our community. Fairfield really took to heart the spirit of giving and sharing with those in need.
The holiday spirit started the Monday before Thanksgiving with our local Rotary Club collecting food and canned goods for Operation Hope. The Rotarians are always there when our community is in need, and those served by Operation Hope definitely needed a boost. I can still see the photo of the empty food shelves in Operation Hope’s pantry that was published in the local news media.
On Wednesday evening, I attended a Menorah Lighting on Sherman Green. It was quite a surprise to see each of the candles waiting to be lit sitting atop a collection of canned goods. It made a rainy night less noticeable when I was told that the canned goods were destined for Operation Hope. This is another sign of the generosity in our community.
On Thanksgiving morning, I was up bright and early to eat breakfast at Chips on Black Rock Turnpike where they were holding an annual fundraiser for Operation Hope—A Pancake Breakfast— with the proceeds going to put food on the empty shelves. The smiles on everyone’s faces showed the joy in giving and sharing.
I was then off to see the Ludlowe vs. Warde Football Classic. In addition to the game, the schools jointly sponsored a food drive for Operation Hope. I was able to drop off some canned goods on the way into the game. A truck soon became filled with donations. It was cold and windy at the game, but this definitely warmed the soul. Our high school students really understood the meaning of Thanksgiving.
On Saturday, the annual Sticks for Soldiers fundraiser was held at Fairfield Ludlowe. This local lacrosse organization brought out over 800 players to help raise over $80,000 for the benefit of two soldiers and their families. These two veterans were injured during their tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a tremendous compliment to the youth of today to donate their time to raise this generous amount of money for our veterans.
Additionally on Saturday, the Fairfield Board of Selectmen and our State Delegation held a food and coat drive. The food collected went to Operation Hope and the coats were brought to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Car after car came by Old Town Hall dropping off their donations. It was amazing how many people stopped by. Students from Wakeman Boys & Girls Club also volunteered their time to help out. Somehow it felt a lot less cold with this spirit of giving being shared.
All of this reminded me why our community is such a special place. Fairfield really came together to help those in need, giving our neighbors food and coats and the comfort of knowing we stand behind those who need our help. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to all who helped make this a very special Thanksgiving for our Town.
Thanks for Jeanne Harrison for lending her artistic talents and patriotic vision to our Town’s 375th Birthday celebration. Ms. Harrison is leading the recreation of the Fire Hydrant Brigade of Colonial Soldiers to keep Fairfield safe and secure from British invasion.
Between now and January 2014 – the start of our birthday celebration – you will notice more and more fire hydrants around town donning historic costumes to recognize our history and heritage. Part of what makes Fairfield special is our place in the nation’s formation and development. Our ancestors and relatives were there when it all began. We helped get the ball rolling.
This is just the start, we have a lot planned for the 375th so stay tuned.
Again, special thanks to Ms. Harrison and her team of artists decorating our town.
PS – thanks also to Aquarion Co for allowing us to paint their fire hydrants and to our Fire Dept for making sure we do it in a safe manner.
Move over Wright Brothers and Kitty Hawk, Fairfield is the location of the First Airplane Flight thanks to Gustave Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead took off in Fairfield on August 17, 1901 – a full two years before the Wright Brothers.
There is a lot more to this story. John Brown who did a huge amount of research to bring this to light is going to be speaking at the Fairfield Museum this week. Bring your own brown bag lunch and join us at the Fairifeld Museum from 12noon to 1pm on Tuesday, August, 13th. Mr. Brown will provide the critical details from his research that led to Jane’s Aircraft – the internationally recognized expert – to recognize Mr. Whitehead as the real First in Flight pioneer.
This is a historic moment in Fairfield’s history and comes just in time for our 375th Birthday celebration next year. What a great gift!
See you at lunch on Tuesday.
PS – if you plan to attend, please RSVP to 203-259-1598
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced plans to renovate and expand their current Salt Storage Shed located next to Exit 46 on the Merritt Parkway. This announcement created a number of concerns in the local neighborhood. DOT held a public information session on July 15th. However, many neighbors could not attend the session. In addition, not all the plans and information were finalized by this session so that left the neighbors with more questions than answers.
In meeting with the neighbors, we identified several priorities to help resolve the concerns. First, we needed the DOT project comment period extended. The meeting on July 15th allowed just two weeks for comments ending on July 31st. Second, we needed more information for DOT on exactly what was planned. The neighborhood had questions including: why was the expansion taking place here? Why was the shed going to be 35 ft high? What type of landscaping and barriers would be provided? Would the use of this facility be expanding resulting in more traffic? What were the plans for this location in the future? All these questions and more needed to be addressed. Third, since there was so much missing information, we needed another public information session to provide answers.
I was able to follow up with DOT and help address all three major concerns. The public comment period was extended till September 3rd. A second public information session will be help on August 19th at the Board of Education Conference Room. This meeting will take place at 6:30 pm. DOT will provide additional information at this session to help address the neighbors’ concerns.
I want to thank DOT for listening to our communities concerns and need for more information. While this is a DOT project on DOT land, we appreciate the time the State is taking to help inform and educate our community. If you would like more information, please take time to visit our town web site at www.fairfieldct.org or our town facebook page.
I want to thank volunteers for our Town in spending lots of extra time over the past four months working on achieving improvements to the clean-up plan for Mill River near the former Exide factory. Our Conservation Commission, Harbor Management Commission and Shellfish Commission met in long work sessions with representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and Exide to ask questions, discussion options and make sure that the Town’s concerns were understood. We were able to achieve significant improvements to the clean-up plan along with the communication and follow up approaches.
I also want to thank our State Delegation – State Senator John McKinney, Rep. Brenda Kupchick, Rep. Kim Fawcett and Rep. Tony Hwang – for their efforts in getting DEEP to meet with our town commissions. In hearing the questions raised by our community, they helped us get our State government bodies to listen.
I also want to thank DEEP representatives for changing their approach to community involvement. They didn’t just hold public hearings but rather changed the paradigm by meeting with town representatives in work sessions. This allowed them to fully understand our concerns and questions. DEEP showed their full commitment by the number of staff they committed to these work sessions and the effort they put in to help develop resolutions.
FairPlan, a volunteer group focused on preserving and protecting our neighborhoods, also deserves our thanks for their participation. Their involvement provided direct feedback from our residents beyond our more formal town volunteer commissions. This helps insure all perspectives were brought to the table for discussion.
We also need to recognize Exide’s efforts. These work sessions would not have been effective without Exide’s full support and cooperation.
The last four months have been an excellent example of all the stakeholders coming together, using a new and more comprehensive approach that improved everyone’s understanding and changed the outcome for the better. This new approach has helped our community and this clean-up project but looking to the future this improved approach will help other communities, other projects and our entire state.
Everyone involved has improved the process and the plans for the clean up of one of our town’s most treasured resources. Our goals at the start were to clean up Mill River so that is more alive and vibrant than today, minimize any long term clean up liability for our town and allow a productive use for the neighboring brownfield to move forward. We have accomplished all three.
Thanks again to all the individuals for their time, effort and commitment to helping move our town forward.
What does the “RTM Redistricting” Mean to You?
Districts are divisions of a municipality for the purpose of voting. RTM districts are the way Fairfield chooses the members of our Representative Town Meeting, the people in your neighborhood who have the final say on our Town’s budget-how much you, the taxpayer, will spend each year on our schools, our libraries, for paving roads and traffic safety. The State of Connecticut requires certain municipalities – like ours – to “redistrict,” following the federal census every ten years so that all voters remain well represented –basically keeping to “one man, one vote.”
Remote as this sounds, redistricting has been a subject of fierce fights, as parties try to attain power through how voters are grouped. Precisely to avoid this, in 2006 a Fairfield Charter Revision Committee enshrined in our Charter a process to ensure no party could unfairly control the process. The charter states that the RTM must appoint a committee of an equal number of members from each party, and that the committee must propose a plan to the RTM.
Simply put, last year our RTM appointed a six-member redistricting committee and began the State mandated process of reviewing and adjusting for population shifts. After a year of unsuccessful attempts by the committee to agree upon a plan, the Republican majority on the RTM passed a redistricting ordinance in May over the objections of the Democratic minority. In June a lawsuit was filed by a Fairfield voter stating that the RTM did not follow the rules of our Charter during this redistricting process and that the ordinance disenfranchised voters. Last week the court issued a temporary injunction ruling that both the process and ordinance were flawed and that the Town must act as if the ordinance was never passed.
What this means for the moment is for the 2013 municipal election, you will vote in the same neighborhood district that you did last year. The Town will operate with 10 RTM voting districts, each electing five members to our RTM, until further action from the court.
What am I doing about this? As First Selectman, I am reaching out to RTM leaders on both sides of the aisle to work together to pass a valid ordinance. This ordinance should outline a Redistricting Plan that is balanced and fair to all – Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters – a group that represents the largest segment of our voter base.
This important issue shouldn’t have to be decided in the courts. Responsible elected officials can and must work together for the good of everyone.
I propose two options. First, rather than focus on what cannot be agreed on, focus on what can be agreed on. If that is only changing the district lines to balance population shifts, let’s only do that. If we can agree on changing the number of RTM members, then let’s also consider that option. If that is all we can agree on, let’s proceed with those agreements.
As a second option, I ask the RTM Redistricting Committee to consider agreeing to binding arbitration. Let’s find an arbitrator to help facilitate the agreement process.
Either of these options will most likely be less expensive, divisive and harmful to our Town than continuing on in the courts. Both get the RTM back to working together as a single body for the good of Fairfield.