How BET Republicans have strangled civic planning
Spending lots of money on municipal planning studies by consultants, and then ignoring their recommendations, sounds wasteful. But in Greenwich, that’s what passes for “fiscal responsibility” by our Republican Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) leaders.
Adequate playing fields? Nope, not now.
In December 2020, independent consultants presented Greenwich with a plan to improve our tired athletic fields, worn down from excessive use, experiencing drainage problems, not ADA accessible, and insufficient to meet demand. The report found that Greenwich has a field deficit of nearly 1,600 playable hours, equivalent to four large fields. The condition of Town fields has been a source of frustration for years.
The consultants evaluated 27 of the Town’s fields (Teufel, Eastern Civic Center, and Binney among them) and provided detailed recommendations. In 2022 our Parks and Recreation Department submitted a five-year plan to address some of these concerns. These funds were approved.
Then something odd happened.
In the following year’s budget, projects in the five year capital plan simply vanished.
- Teufel field, one of our most popular softball/baseball fields, was dropped entirely.
- The Eastern Greenwich Civic Center playing fields, which received more support than the building itself during a public hearing, are now pushed back two more years to 2029 and funding cut in half.
- Binney Park’s fields have disappeared from the five year plan. These fields are often partially closed due to inadequate drainage and their turf conditions suffer from overuse. There is no spectator seating or ADA access.
The five year capital improvement budget for our playing fields went from $7.2 million in FY22-23 to $550,000 in FY23-24, an almost 92% reduction! Just another casualty of the unrealistic capital budget guidelines adopted on a party line vote by BET Republicans.
And, that’s not the first time this has happened
Bicycle safety…not this year
Back in 2000, Greenwich paid $25,000 for consultants to develop a Bicycle Master Plan to identify ways to get around town safely without using cars. In the 22 years since the release of that study, exactly $0 capital dollars have been allocated toward implementing its recommendations. This year’s capital budget looks exactly as it did 15 years ago, with a recommendation that $50,000 be allocated for this purpose next year.
Fire coverage…not today, thanks
In 2020, in response to requests to improve fire response times in the northwest section of Greenwich, the Town paid $100,000 for a study to assess the situation. The study concluded that fire coverage in the northwest section was indeed inadequate. Nevertheless, since the publication of that report, every year Republican BET members have rejected requests from the Fire Department to add more staff.
It’s not for a lack of means
Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies to address long-neglected problems in Town, and then toss the recommendations into the trash? It’s certainly not a lack of means. Greenwich’s grand list is the highest in the state, and at $34 billion, the biggest in Greenwich history. Is it that we can’t afford to have ADA compliant schools and streets, decent playing fields, sensible bicycle paths, and adequate fire coverage? Or that our Republican leaders won’t let us?
Governor Ned Lamont announced that he is committing Connecticut to join the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a newly launched, nonpartisan, coalition of 20 governors who are dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom in their states.
Editorial that caught our eye
“Why did it take seven years for Greenwich to address toxic school soil?” David Rafferty of Greenwich Time condemns the Town’s evasion in addressing the contaminated fields at Western Middle School. He writes, “The town tried ignoring the problem, then running out the clock, and finally has to do something because it won’t go away. So sometime this summer, it looks like the process of sort-of, partially cleaning up the fields will finally begin. Followed by the installation of a new artificial turf field. Yep, we’re likely replacing our contaminated dirt with the only other thing many parents and residents reflexively hate just as much.”
For your calendar
Administering elections in a polarized environment.
If you’ve followed the attempts by local Republican extremists to prevent our bipartisan voter registrars from accepting a grant to help us implement early voting, don’t miss this presentation. Registrars of Voters Fred DeCaro and Mary Hegarty recently met with election officials from Centers of Election Excellence to share best practices in election administration. This presentation gives members of the public the opportunity to learn first-hand some of the benefits for Greenwich’s election administration of accepting the $500,000 grant that we were awarded. February 27th, 6:00 p.m., Cone Room, Town Hall. For webinar access click here.
Harbor Management Bill public hearing
A recent appellate court decision undermines the home rule authority of not only the Greenwich Harbor Management Commission, but every harbor management commission in the state. There is a proposed bill in the State General Assembly, HB 5614, that would revise the harbor management act to clarify and reestablish the commissions’ authority. The General Assembly’s Environmental Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday February 27th. For more information about HB 5614 and Monday’s hearing, please go to the Connecticut General Assembly Bulletin webpage.
No Time to Fail
This documentary about election workers, filmed in Rhode Island, is a testament to the hard work of election workers during the 2020 election, and a reminder that our election officials need our support. March 2, 7:30 p.m., Central Middle School auditorium.
Can heat pumps work in your home?
A heat pump is an energy efficient and economical way to heat and cool your home for year round comfort. They are a great alternative or supplement to a typical oil fired furnace and air conditioning unit. Learn if they are right for you. March 2, 7:00 p.m. Zoom link here.
Seeking nominations for sustainability award
The Greenwich Sustainability Committee is pleased to request nominations for its newly established Sustainability Award to be presented in conjunction with the Town’s Earth Day Proclamation. The Sustainability Award has been created to celebrate Greenwich residents who embody the principles of the committee. Please send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than March 17.
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