Hines Sight / Woman moderator, reel opportunity and fixer-uppers
It's about time
On the eve of the town's 375th anniversary, it's only fitting that the Representative Town Meeting has installed its first-ever female moderator. And did so with a unanimous vote.
Mary McCullough, a Republican in District 3, has taken over the reins of the legislative body -- the group that wields the most power in town -- from a string of male counterparts. The town has had an enviable list of female public servants, including our first (and only, so far) chief elected official -- Jacky Durrell, who, by the way, was the first chairman of the Board of Education.
What Mary brings to her new role are years of civic and political experience -- all of which she has handled with grace and integrity. She's an eight-year veteran on the RTM, and was chairman of its Education and Recreation Committee for the last four years. She also spent numerous hours in her early civic career advocating for the schools.
And she's smart, and has a great sense of humor -- just what the RTM needs on occasion.
Light up that marquee
The Community Theatre in the heart of downtown has been dark for two years.
The history of the Community goes back to 1920, when it first opened. A nationwide chain owned the place for many years, until it decided it was no longer profitable and shut it down.
In 2001, Fairfield native Leo Regate Jr. resurrected the movie house by implementing a nonprofit operation, run by student volunteers, that showed second-run films. But when his organization ran into financial troubles, he was forced to close it.
The town and Sacred Heart University are now conducting a survey to determine what people would like to have at the Community.
But that's simple -- it's time to dust off the reels and bring movie watching back to Fairfield Center. Sure, we go to the two cinemas on lower Black Rock Turnpike on the Fairfield/Bridgeport line where we can watch as many movies as we want in a day. But that's not the same thing as heading downtown to catch a flick.
Other towns our size -- and smaller -- have their own centrally located movie house. Just look at Darien or New Canaan, where their local theaters are thriving.
Rebuild it, they will come
The Penfield Pavilion, closed since Superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012, continues to deteriorate as town officials and residents debate what to do with it.
The storm obliterated the structure's soundness, making it completely unsafe. We spent more than $5 million to build the pavilion when the 100-year-old original needed long-overdue care.
A building committee now has been empaneled and charged. Its members will explore the options for repair and then oversee the construction.
As for the money, $1 million already has been set aside in a bonding package, and the town anticipates reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is a $500,000 deductible on the insurance coverage for the pavilion.
There is a possibility the town will have to expend more money than what it already has invested. But, the way I see it, a rebuilt pavilion has the potential to make money.
Just how the pavilion will be repaired is up to the committee. But we must build on our investment and make it even stronger.
That's nice, but...
The town has been given a $1.2 million state grant to make infrastructure improvements along Kings Highway East. The money is slated to be used for new sidewalks and bike paths and racks from Chambers Street to Brentwood Avenue and at the Fairfield Metro station. Construction isn't expected to start until 2015.
It's about time that area of town has gotten some attention.
However, the infrastructure upgrades will mean nothing unless someone does something about the years of persistent blight on Kings Highway East -- specifically the sites of the former I. Brown Bros. furniture store, the former car dealership and the two dilapidated houses that once contained "adult" amusements.
The old furniture store site was tagged as a blighted property by the town, so the owner was fined $100 for every day it wasn't cleaned up. There was a brief time when attention to the property was consistent -- weeds and graffiti were removed, garbage picked up, a fence installed -- but it is has been allowed to languish in continued ugliness for more than a year now.
Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.