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From Invasive Plants To Adaptive Ski Group, BOS Discusses Issues

Published: October 25, 2017

Invasive plants, community center director’s salary, the LOF Adaptive Skiers, and an art gallery were among topics Board of Selectman members discussed Monday night, October 16.
Among the handful of residents in attendance was Larry Passaro, who made use of a public comment period.

Explaining that he had attended a recent Commission on Aging meeting where “no one had answers” for a groundbreaking for the community center, a construction project poised to begin at Fairfield Hills, he said he was “sent to inquire.” He asked the board if they knew when a groundbreaking was scheduled.

“No,” said First Selectman Pat Llodra.

“That was fast,” Mr Passaro said, then asking if bids for the work had gone out.

“Yes,” Mrs Llodra said, and expected that in the coming days the town would receive back some information on the bid package.

Mrs Llodra then expressed that her office had received [electronically] communications regarding past months’ decisions regarding the LOF Adaptive Skiers group. The LOF is a Sandy Hook-based organization offering clinics to disabled and blind skiers, wounded veterans, and others. The organization had outgrown its Housatonic Drive location where clinics have run for 20 years.

During this past summer, the clinics ran from a town property on the corner of Walnut tree Hill Road and Bridge End Farm Lane, which drew strong opposition from the neighbors. Most recently, the selectmen extended the LOF’s use of that town property to finish its season, which has since ended, and use the coming months to explore other possible locations.

The selectman’s office has “been receiving information regarding the [LOF] with the plea that we reconsider the Bridge End Farm Lane decision, and undo that decision” Mrs Llodra said. “We are receiving communications. It was not our intent to invite ongoing discussion, and we are not having an ongoing discussion.”

Selectmen had also told LOF members that the town would work with them to find another location.
“It does seem there is some misinformation…” said Selectman Herb Rosenthal. “We said we would try to help them; that’s where I thought we left it.” He also has received communications about the LOF.

Next on the agenda was an item about naming an art gallery for the Cultural Arts Commission. The commission continuously displays local artwork along the Municipal Center’s main hallway, and in recent months had sought to formally name the gallery.

“We said we would consider it,” Mrs Llodra said. “And we will…” Seeing no Cultural Arts Commission members at the meeting, she chose to continue the discussion in the future.

Banning Invasives

Conservation Commission members Holly Kocet and Tom Philbrick again raised the subject of banning the use of invasive species in town landscaping.

Mrs Llodra said the BOS had “invited the Conservation Commission to come to us with language to launch a discussion,” about banning invasives.

Ms Kocet provided drafts to the board that included a list of plants to avoid. Plants on that list have “infiltrated our woodlands, waterways,” and more, she said. A large percentage of the invasives arrive “by being planted on properties,” she said. She named several locations in town where invasives were highly visible, such as the Japanese Barberry in front of Reed Intermediate School. Ms Kocet is also concerned about recent plantings at Dickinson Park.

She noted trees, including invasive varieties found at Fairfield Hills, asking how the natives are supposed to compete. Plants listed on a policy proposed by her commission include plants that “are here and endangering native plants,” Ms Kocet said.

She said some plants that “have invasive characteristics continue to be included in landscape design.”

Surprised that such plantings may have gone in at Dickinson, Mrs Llodra will contact the Parks and Recreation Department about the work.

While the town already follows state regulations for plant use, Mrs Llodra said the board also “hears what you’re asking,” glancing at Ms Kocet’s list, which was more extensive. She wants to first contact other town departments with the Conservation Commission’s proposal. “We need to hear from them.”

Ms Kocet asked when the selectmen might have a decision.

Mrs Llodra wants to give Land Use, among other departments, “A chance to react — I don’t expect a problem.”

A community center director’s salary occupied brief conversation.

The selectmen are considering language for a job description, while also determining a salary, and how best to advertise for the position. The community center — a project already out to bid — will soon be under construction.

Mrs Llodra anticipates conversations with the human resource department and also looking “at the marketplace for this level of director.” They have “not come to a final decision,” about salary, Mrs Llodra said.

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