Pear Tree, swastika and fire horns discussed at recent Darien town leaders’ meeting
There may soon be fewer loud horns from the fire departments in Darien.
At a recent Operations Planning Committee meeting, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said town’s three volunteer fire departments, in coordination with its CMED (Centralized Medical Emergency Direction) fire dispatch, are undertaking a 90-day trial period of reduced audible fire horns.
Horns will not blow for alarm activations, carbon monoxide alarms, and the daily 6 p.m. horn test will be reduced to only three evenings instead of seven.
However, horns will continue to blow for structure fires, motor vehicle accidents and any other emergencies requiring the horn notification.
“I have been in conversations with our volunteer departments for a number of years on this issue after receiving innumerable complaints about the excessive noise and the negative impacts to the quality of living for residents and local businesses, particularly in the downtown corridor,” Stevenson told The Darien Times.
“I applaud the decision on the part of the departments to give this a try. The Board of Selectmen will continue to work with the fire departments on improved communication tools that might, one day, make the audible horns unnecessary, which is my ultimate goal, but this is a great start,” she added.
The RTM has passed a refinancing resolution, according to Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky.
There are three bond issues that qualify for redemption that the town had taken advantage of, he said.
He added that part of the reason for doing that is that the town has an excess in its fund balance.
“As a matter of prudence, we wanted to set a floor for the fund balance at 12 percent of budgeted town revenues,” he said. “We thought that 12 percent was the right number, and that numbers significantly higher than that essentially means that we have taxed taxpayers to put money in this fund balance that, according to our policy, we really didn’t need.”
By redeeming the bonds, the town will save about $50,000 in interest costs over the remaining term of those bonds, which is seven or eight months, according to Zagrodzky.
The value of the bonds being redeemed is $2.175 million, he said.
“We’ve got at least that much, if not more, in excess fund balance right now,” he said. “We’ll try to manage that prudently.”
Pear Tree renovation project
Zagrodzky said he agrees that Pear Tree needs an update, since it is a town asset.
“The town has a lot of public assets, whether it’s excellent schools, physical beauty, our beaches — those in combination make this an attractive place to live, and makes it so people want to be here.” he said. “It contributes to home values. It makes Darien fantastic.”
He said elected officials need to focus on making sure they’re maintaining those assets.
“That requires regular attention, regular spending, and regular commitment,” Zagrodzky said.
He said it’s time for a “refresh” of Pear Tree Point Beach, “just like any other asset in town.”
He added that the town should respect the Board of Selectmen’s plan in regard to maintaining these assets.
“It is extremely important that we avoid previous problems we have had where these projects are not executed in the best way possible,” he said.
He added that it’s important to bring experts into the process — in regard to the design of the project, prudent financial management during the project, and a very open and transparent communication of the results of that project once it’s finished.
Stevenson said the proposed plan will come back to the Board of Selectmen for its review.
“It will go to several other boards and ultimately go to the RTM, so the public will have four formal opportunities to give public comment about this project before it would ever be approved,” she said.
Stevenson added it’s the job of elected officials to look at the long-term best interests of the town, and make sure that it’s fulfilling the goals that will allow Darien to continue to be a “highly desirable community.”
“Along with our schools, our easy commute, [and] being on the water, our parks and beaches sell this town,” she said.
In regard to the recent swastika found at Middlesex Middle School, Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said school leaders are forming a plan to involve community leadership in educating students on the power of what those symbols can mean.
“I am sincerely hoping that this is a case of students who maybe haven’t been well informed about the impact of that particular behavior, and so I appreciate the efforts on the part of the district to reinforce that,” Stevenson said. “It certainly falls in the category of a situation that’s bigger than the district. It really affects in a negative way the town’s reputation.”
Brand-new houses are still being built in town, according to Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Stephen Olvany.
“There were eight new houses in one quarter that were being built,” he said “There’s not a lot of towns around the country that are doing that. That’s a positive thing.”
Expanding gas lines
Stevenson has been working with Eversource on expanding gas lines to Ox Ridge Elementary School.
“The committee and the Public Works Department and myself are engaged with Eversource on looking at the viability of that project,” she said. “It’s all based on the demand for gas. They work on a portfolio basis so they’ll be looking to see if the Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club [would be] interested in reaching out to the Country Club of Darien.”
She added that “unfortunately,” the homes along the way don’t provide enough of a load to incent that project.
If the schools would commit to connecting the Royle School in addition to Ox Ridge, it could make an “important difference” in whether that project can go forward,” she said.
Highland Farms outreach
Highland Farms construction should be beginning shortly.
Along with that, the town will be doing outreach to the immediate adjacent neighbors. “As a good will, we promised them that we would, so we could talk about landscape screening,” Stevenson said.