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Officials tour beach: 'Piles of people's lives at the side of the road, it's heartbreaking'

Updated 6:22 pm, Saturday, November 10, 2012

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  • Members of the Board of Finance -- from left, Christopher DeWitt, Kenneth Brachfeld and Thomas Flynn -- check sections of the storm-damaged Penfield Pavilion on a Friday afternoon tour.  Fairfield CT 11/9/12 Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    Members of the Board of Finance -- from left, Christopher DeWitt, Kenneth Brachfeld and Thomas Flynn -- check sections of the storm-damaged Penfield Pavilion on a Friday afternoon tour. Fairfield CT 11/9/12 Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Board of Finance members, along with Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey, got a first-hand look at the damage caused in the town's beach area by Hurricane Sandy during a quick tour of the battered shoreline Friday afternoon.

For most of the officials, it was their first trip to the area since the storm, which had restricted access for nearly two weeks because of the safety concerns posed by the damage.

"When you see piles of people's lives at the side of the road, it's heartbreaking," said Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey, who joined finance board members in a police van for the tour.

But, she added, "This is a resilient community."

The first stop was the recently rebuilt Penfield Pavilion, rendered unusable by Sandy until repairs are made. Water breached the bulkhead that surrounds the pavilion -- rebuilt over several years at a total cost of $5.5 million -- undermining its pilings and buckling the floor and deck.

Officials, who cancelled rentals in the pavilion for the immediate future, said the repairs will take at least several months.

"Maybe they'll be able to salvage enough of it," said finance Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr.

Town Engineer Laura Pulie has said the pavilion, built to Federal Emergency Managment Agency standards for a 100-year storm, can be repaired.

While on the tour, the board members realized there were many questions that needed answers, such as whether repairs to Penfield would be covered by insurance, and the status of residential property appraisals where not only homes were damaged but land was washed away.

"There are so many implications here," said Chairman Thomas Flynn. Board member Robert Stone suggested they put their questions in writing and forward them to the proper authorities. Another suggestion was to invite a representative of FEMA to the panel's next meeting.

"It's almost too much to take in," Vahey said.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost