Letters: Time for a change ... and more
Time for a change
To the Editor:
The current leadership in Fairfield seems to not be concerned about the residential taxpayers and wants to grow the commercial tax base and keep “residential taxes from rising too much.” This is more of the same, tax increases to the already over-taxed residents of Fairfield. Add this to the expenses going forward to remedy environmental issues that appear to have been ignored for way too long and we have more of the same tax and spend mentality.
Brenda Kupchick wants to focus on economic development and grow the corporate tax base and “ease the residential tax burden.” As a residential taxpayer since 1972, and a former Representative Town Meeting member, I support the much-needed change to Fairfield’s leadership.
David Hall Faile, Jr.
To the Editor:
Fairfield deserves a role model as our First Selectman. Brenda Kupchick is that role model. An advocate for Fairfield’s children, seniors, and education, Brenda has the common-sense approach to do what is best for Fairfield. As the son of a former First Selectman, I see the most important characteristic needed to succeed as First Selectman in both Jacky Durrell and Brenda-a tireless commitment to Fairfield. Having raised a family in Fairfield, having started a successful business in Fairfield, having proudly served Fairfield, Brenda represents the best in Fairfield.
I am proud to support Brenda Kupchick as Fairfield’s First Selectwoman.
Alex Durrell, RTM-3
‘Just plain fear mongering’
To the Editor:
It matters how you win
Let me first say that I love my town. I’m proud of its economic health and vibrant downtown as well as the school system. It has been wonderful living in Fairfield, up until the political games started up.
True, Fairfield is dealing with incorrect usage of fill and a bad contractor. Two town employees betrayed our trust and are being prosecuted for their actions But, why is this issue front and center on election eve? The suddenly remembering the fill issues we have been working on eliminating in town for years is beyond me!
In particular I thank my RTM members for keeping me fully informed without scaring the daylights out of me. Thanks for that Lauren Bove, my current RTM 7 Rep and neighbor. With my three additional RTM Reps, Mark McDermott, Jill Vergara and Karen Wackerman, I have apprised of the situation in a non alarmist, but truthful way. I’m thankful for their efforts.
This town once boomed with industry. The byproducts of industry may be materials we would rather not have around us now that we know better. So, lets get on with it. Fairfield is not alone. All towns have had to manage similar situations. From what I see, all steps are being taken out of an abundance of caution.
I’ve never witnessed such histrionics, hyperbole and just plain fear mongering until just prior to this particular campaign season. I’ve even seen strange signs popping up that have nothing to do with the election and are literally “fake news.”
This is not new news people. We have in the past and are now and may in the future have to deal with problems such as this. It should not be politicized; it’s shameful. I will not vote for anyone who has taken part in ramping up fear and anger just to get a win on a local board or commission.
To the Editor:
Each day as the Fairfield community learns more about the landfill, the pile, and the repeated mistakes that resulted in parks, playgrounds and fields contaminated with hazardous fill, I am reminded of a similar issue the town faced almost 20 years ago.
That issue was first brought to my attention in 2000 by a newly elected RTM member, Brenda Kupchick. She had been alerted by a constituent that children and teachers at McKinley Elementary School were experiencing unexplained illnesses, including seizures and respiratory problems. When it became clear to Brenda that the school district and the superintendent were not acting on these concerns with any sense of urgency, she took immediate action to figure out if there was a threat to our community’s health.
Brenda enlisted the first selectman and me into the cause and eventually we forced the school district to hold a meeting with the McKinley community. Hundreds of parents shared stories of illnesses they believed were caused by something at the school. School administrators repeatedly assured parents there was nothing wrong with the school, but agreed they would begin testing to prove the school was safe.
As the number of illness-related absences grew and grew, Brenda became a daily fixture in the first selectman’s office, talking to parents and staff, researching indoor air quality, calling in environmental testing companies, and gathering evidence that the school needed to be shut down before more damage was done. When the evidence failed to convince the superintendent, Brenda kept up the fight until town officials were successfully persuaded that the town had the authority to close the school building, and the first selectman did just that.
Testing eventually proved conclusively that McKinley was infested with toxic mold and fungus to such an extent that it had to be demolished and rebuilt.
There were over 150 meetings about McKinley that one year alone: consultations with environmental experts and OSHA, pressing to shut down the sick school, making provisions for the relocation of the students, pushing for the building’s demolition, and planning the new school to replace it. When the school district failed the McKinley community, Brenda built a team of advocates and led them every step of the way through this highly emotional and difficult time.
Since the McKinley crisis, I have seen Brenda’s dedication and leadership skills in action many, many times as a Board of Education member, congressional caseworker, member of my own staff, and state representative. No elected official I know is a better champion for their constituents than Brenda.
As first selectwoman, I know she will continue to dedicate every ounce of her energy to ensuring the residents of Fairfield are protected and their voices are heard.
Former Senate Minority Leader
No Confidence petition
To the Editor:
A petition for a Vote of No Confidence in the Fairfield First Selectman was sent to the RTM on October 10 (based on gross negligence and mis management of the Town of Fairfield). The petition currently has over 300 signers (close to 1% of the electorate) and can be seen at http://chng.it/XZCG5zQr. I understand the RTM has the ability to bring this item to the floor at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, 10/28 and I am re-submitting my request that they do just that in an effort to urgently inform the Fairfield voters of their individual positions on this issue. To ignore this is to abdicate responsibility for leadership and accountability and anyone who chooses to sit down and remain silent does not deserve your vote.
Tetreau violated Charter
To the Editor:
For the past four years it has been my pleasure to serve as your Selectman. I value the residents of our community, their input in the government process, the volunteers who have been willing to serve on our boards and commissions, and the hard work of all the professionals who I have interacted with during my tenure on the Board of Selectmen.
Unfortunately, as has been revealed over the last few months, there have been serious breaches of public trust by the Tetreau Administration, including the revelations the First Selectman did not follow our Charter, adhere to town policies, and ignored warnings about asbestos and glass at Gould Manor Park; and, of course, the shocking arrest of two long-time town employees for alleged public corruption.
The Charter states that all town contracts must be approved by the Board of Selectmen (BOS). Exceptions are made if a contract is for a period less than one month and involves an expenditure by, or income to, the Town of less than $10,000. By that standard, the service contract awarded in 2013 by the Tetreau Administration to Julian to run the Fairfield Aggregate Fill Pile Operation should have been approved by the full Board of Selectmen at that time. The contract was a three year deal and resulted in $27,000 of income to the Town. Mr. Tetreau clearly broke the Charter by never presenting the contract to the BOS for approval.
To make matters worse, the bid requirement, which Mr. Tetreau signed, required Julian to provide a bond for the work they were awarded. However, due diligence was not performed to ensure the bond was valid. The Town is now financially exposed because the bond received from Julian was improper and therefore fraudulent. Mr. Tetreau, a member of the Town Purchasing Authority, is well aware of the proper bonding requirements. He broke town policy and failed to protect the taxpayers by not researching and validating the bond presented to the Town.
In 2014, Mr. Tetreau never acknowledged receipt of multiple emails from a resident living across from Gould Manor Park. This resident alerted DPW senior staff and Mr. Tetreau that there was glass and asbestos in the grassy area along the sidewalks in the park. Mr. Tetreau never asked his staff to explain the situation, and he never forwarded the concern of asbestos to the Health Director. Instead, Mr. Tetreau did nothing.
Four years later, following the arrest of two DPW workers, that same resident made the connection between the fill pile and the dirt used in the sidewalk project. Where Mr. Tetreau failed to act, the resident called the police to report the potential crime. In fact, Mr. Tetreau remained absent on the matter until the police and DEEP got involved. We are now in a situation where the Chief State’s Attorney has said that her investigation is on-going and widespread.
Further causes of concern: In an effort to evade transparency, Mr. Tetreau unilaterally moved the town lawsuit with Julian to private arbitration and out of a public courtroom. Meanwhile, he and Town Attorney Stanton Lesser adamantly argued for the renewal of a maintenance building lease with Julian despite the ongoing lawsuit with Julian. Mr. Tetreau even went so far as to convince his Democratic majority caucus on the RTM to approve the lease with Julian.
Mr. Tetreau once again violated the Charter by not obtaining approval from the BOS when he entered into an agreement with and hired a Reputation Advisor. The contract was for a term commencing August 1, 2019, and ending November 2019, and cost Fairfield residents $19,600. The Reputation Advisor was paid to monitor your social media, write town communications sent out under Tetreau’s name, and shockingly advised Tetreau to engage surrogates to call out any one, including residents, with concerns about the fill pile situation. What kind of public leader behaves this way?
By design, Mike Tetreau has not been forthcoming with public information; he has not followed the Charter; and he has not followed town policy. Under his leadership, or lack thereof, two town employees were arrested. Either the rules don’t apply to Mr. Tetreau, or he believes that he is above them.
It is time to replace Mr. Tetreau and to clean house. We need new leadership with a fresh set of eyes. Nine years of mismanagement by the current administration is enough. Let’s hire someone who knows how to follow our Charter, and who will follow policies and work to improve them. That person is Brenda Kupchick. I fully support Brenda and her running mate Tom Flynn, two leaders with Fairfield’s best interest at heart and the integrity to follow the rules. We need their leadership now more than ever.
Chris Tymniak, Selectman
Protecting Mill River
To the Editor:
Our Town has a rare opportunity to protect and promote Mill River, one of its most precious assets, and ensure that future generations will be able to access and enjoy the river within walking distance of downtown.
A great deal of public funds and sweat equity have been invested into the restoration of Mill River and the adjacent six-acre Exide property which reflects how highly we value the river. Our land use decisions for the site should be governed by the value we place on the river.
We believe that a wide natural buffer and public access enhancements will reflect our Town’s priorities while also boosting the economic value of future development over the long term.
FairPLAN recommends a natural buffer along the Exide property’s border with Mill River exceeding the 145-foot wide wetlands buffer to be used for public access, parking spaces, a kayak and non-motor boat launch as well as a ‘river walkway’ along the 450 or so foot length of the Exide property connecting it to sidewalks from Fairfield center.
As a group dedicated to preserving lands and neighborhoods, FairPLAN provides a brief history lesson on Mill River, the arduous battle to clean and preserve it and the opportunity that lies ahead.
If you are a product of the Fairfield school system you’ve probably engaged in the River Lab curriculum that educates young students on the value of Mill River and wetlands, on how to advocate for their continued protection and to be good stewards of our environment.
Mill River is a significant natural resource- it is Fairfield’s longest river, meandering over an 8-mile course, flowing into Long Island Sound, giving shape to Southport Harbor and hosting diverse species from shellfish beds to birds of prey. Ahead of its time, Fairfield put eminence on this waterway.
The river was severely compromised over a 30-year period between 1951 and 1981 when the Exide battery plant polluted the land and much of the lower 2-mile, tidally influenced stretch of Mill River with high concentrations of lead. This was followed by another 30 plus years of lengthy administrative proceedings between the State and Exide which included a partial cleanup, river recontamination, and clean-up of the land but not the River, which remained unresolved as recently as 2013.
While the land had been remediated, it could not be returned to economic use because it was needed as the staging ground for the River cleanup which still had no accepted clean-up plan
Finally, in 2013, in a refreshing and unique collaboration which was ultimately successful, FairPLAN and Fairfield’s Town leaders joined forces by intervening into the State proceeding as full parties with seats at the ‘remediation table’. The joint effort helped push the project forward to restore the River and ensured a higher-level cleanup.
The Town had the Conservation, Shellfish, and Harbor Management commissions intervene and work with FairPLAN, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and Exide to develop a remediation plan up to the Town’s standards. This collaboration ensured not only an upgraded cleanup, but real-time updates and transparency throughout the project and the water quality monitoring that followed. Throughout the entire process of planning, remediation and follow up, the Town and FairPLAN retained their ‘seat at the table’.
This past June, DEEP issued Exide a Certificate of Compliance, officially acknowledging the completion of the decades-long cleanup project, clearing the property for development.
The property will likely be sold to a developer and plans will filed to build a large development. The property is zoned for industrial use but that could change, and the property could be re-zoned (pending approval) for retail, mixed-use or even housing.
Developing this property offers an opportunity for Fairfield to be aspirational and forward- thinking. Many cities today are incorporating development that includes natural surroundings as part of the design plan.
We call upon Town leadership to be good stewards and require the developer to ensure public access to Mill River for fishing, shell-fishing, boating and recreation, and to both restore and maintain a significant natural buffer along the river to protect from worsening flood events and ensure the Mill River greenway is continuous along its length.
There is only one chance to get this right, and the time is now.
Co-President, Fairfielders Protecting Land & Neighborhoods
‘Kupchick an anti-vaxxer’
To the Editor:
Earlier this year, Representative Brenda Kupchick co-sponsored House Bill 5135 in the Connecticut state assembly. This bill, which died in committee, would have prohibited any health care professional from administering a vaccine containing thimerosal to children under the age of three or to pregnant women.
Thimerosal is used as a preservative in some vaccines. It has been shown to be harmless in small amounts because the body metabolizes and passes it as ethylmercury. However, anti-vaxxers regularly conflate ethylmercury with a very different compound called methylmercury which, while toxic, has never been used in vaccines.
While thimerosal has been largely removed from children’s vaccine schedules, it is sometimes still used in flu vaccines. The CDC recommends that high-risk groups — which include young children and pregnant women — get an annual flu shot, and HB 5135 may have complicated or prevented those populations from being vaccinated against the flu.
Further, HB 5135 would have prohibited schools from establishing immunization requirements “for diseases that are noncommunicable, including, but not limited to, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus.” Of course, both hep B and HPV are communicable diseases, which means they are passed from person to person. Every year hepatitis B kills 750,000 people globally. It spreads from exposure to infected blood or body fluids, and as any parent knows, whether it’s from a bloody nose or a skinned knee, kids bleed at school. Banning requirements for immunization from hep B would have endangered school children.
Brenda Kupchick is an anti-vaxxer. By co-sponsoring HB 5135, Kupchick has demonstrated that she has little regard for public health or the safety of children. She does not deserve to hold public office, and she certainly does not deserve our votes.