Author Archives: Michael Tetreau

Fairfield – First in Flight!

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

DOT to expand Salt Storage Shed – Neighbors Concerned

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.

The Clean-up of our Mill River moves forward

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.

Mike Tetreau
First Selectman

Fairfield Voter Update

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.