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Letter: Penfield plan must include flooding

Published 10:31 am, Friday, January 24, 2014
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The Penfield One rebuilding committee opened its Jan. 9 meeting with the statement that it was not concerned with flooding as part of its job. This is the same disregard the original building committee showed toward flooding. Why should the public expect different results from the same process that didn't work the first time?

This moral disregard by the town to allow more than $5 million of taxpayer money to be spent building the pavilion without regard for minimizing flooding behind the beaches is disgraceful. For a second Penfield One committee to again state that it was not concerned about flooding is doubly disgraceful.

Whose responsibility is it to responsibly spend your tax dollars? One would have thought that the selectmen elected to represent all voters would have made that a high priority -- and one the committee would welcome, as it was appointed to represent all of Fairfield's taxpayers, not just the ones living beyond the flood plain behind the beaches. The homes behind the beaches sustained greater monetary damages than the pavilion, even after insurance payments.

The pavilion occupies the low ground between the dune to the east on Rickard's Beach and the stone seawall on the west between Penfield One and Two. This is a considerable "hole in the dike" area. To allow water to freely flow through this area during Sandy without the protection of the current seawall would have caused flooding all the way to the center of town.

I contend that the current seawall protected the pavilion on the incoming tide from the waves and slowed the flooding of the area behind the beaches. But the seawall was not built to specifications recommended by the Flood & Erosion Board. Regrettably, the receding waters found the flaws in the original designs of the pavilion and the seawall -- flaws the engineers told us weren't there. However, I believe both of these flaws are fixable and can live in harmony.

The flood waters from Sandy were slow to drain because the town has not followed the Flood & Erosion Board's 1992 recommendation to install a series of sluice gates in the town-built dike. The dike was designed by engineers to keep water out but with disregard for draining water that got behind it during big storms.

The Flood & Erosion Board has offered its assistance to the rebuilding committee. Hopefully the two will work in harmony as we move forward.

Penfield One is a town facility that should be enjoyed by all who paid for it, without endangering those who live behind it or the town infrastructure in this fragile area. I urge all who agree that flood protection can and must coexist with any rebuilding of the pavilion to email their thoughts to penfieldcommittee@town.fairfield.ct.us

Rick Grauer, chairman

Flood & Erosion Board

Grads need bailout

for student-loan debt

Student loan debt has reached the highest form of debt for many young Americans, surpassing credit card debt, auto insurance and home mortgage debt, and it shows no sign of slowing down -- in fact it is increasing.

The total amount of student-loan debt has reached $1.1 trillion, with the average student debt of around $26,000. Students with private loan debt included are in the six digits. I am one of those college graduates.

Like other studen-loan debtors, I am facing the difficulty of putting off important decisions for my future. Will I ever be able to afford a car? A house? A health-care plan? Save for a retirement plan? Get married and have a family? Or even travel?

With increasing interest rates and private lenders steamrolling borrowers for profit, how can any young Americans get out of this colossal debt just because they were trying to better their education and standing in the job market.

I have written to Congressman Jim Himes and both of Connecticut's U.S. senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, to address this problem immediately. I have asked that they put forward a Student Loan Forgiveness Act to erase all federal student loan debt and pay borrowers for private loan debt.

If college graduates didn't have all this debt, more money could be propelled into the economy from consumer spending. We would be able to purchase homes and move out of our parents' homes, buy cars, invest in businesses and the stock market, and spend on goods and services that we could not afford under this debt. This would create huge economic growth with added revenue and serves as a common-sense approach.

For future college graduates with student-loan debt, changes will be needed, such as a way for graduates to claim bankruptcy, just like any other debtor. Let borrowers apply for their private student loans to become consolidated Federal Direct Education Loans, expand the public-service forgiveness to include part-time workers in public service, force private lenders to advertise multiple repayment plans for a single loan instead of only one, and cap interest rates for federal direct loans at 3.4 percent.

We need to rein in private education lenders like Sallie Mae, who are free from government oversight to do what they want to borrowers, and we need to fix the way colleges set tuition rates. This is not the American Dream I had in mind. Enough is enough.

Gregg J. French

Fairfield