The "What": This Week in Southwest Connecticut

A look at what's happening across southwest Connecticut for the week of January 31.

The "What": This Week in Southwest Connecticut
Dreaming of warmer, sunnier days. Photo by Kelly Prinz.

January 31

Hope everyone stayed safe and warm this snowy weekend. It’s officially budget season for our area, with many budget workshops, presentations, and public hearings taking place.

A few municipalities are discussing what capital projects, particularly investments in infrastructure, could be covered by American Rescue Plan funds, including Westport, which has two projects before the Representative Town Meeting this week.  In case you missed it, here’s our reporting on how much each municipality will receive and what  they’re proposing to spend it on, and a municipality-by-municipality breakdown. (Greenwich | Stamford | Darien | Norwalk | Westport | Fairfield)

Let’s take a look at the week ahead.


Flooding mitigation and replacing the West Main Street Bridge top the agenda for the Board of Representatives’ Operations Committee on Monday, January 31 at 6:30 p.m. The committee will be reviewing its call—now that there’s a new administration in place—for the city to address its stormwater infrastructure particularly in light of the damage caused by summer storms Elsa and Ida in 2021. The resolution calls for the city to implement short-term measures such as keeping rivers and streams free from debris and to work on long-term plans to improve its drainage and infrastructure.

The committee will also be discussing a proposed resolution that looks at the future of the West Main Bridge. The bridge, which connects the Downtown to the West Side, has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2002 and is closed to pedestrians during storms for “fear of collapse.”

The updated proposal calls on the city to “study four alternative plans”:

  • removing the current bridge and replacing it with a pedestrian bridge and not taking into account the current bridge’s historical elements
  • constructing a renovated/restored bridge that preserves the historical parts of this current bridge and can accommodate vehicles
  • constructing a new pedestrian and vehicular bridge that doesn’t include any of the historical elements
  • constructing a pedestrian and vehicular bridge that includes restoration and/or renovation of the historical elements of the bridge.

The future of the bridge has been a contentious issue in the city for years. Many who support keeping the bridge as a pedestrian walkway say it helps to keep the neighborhoods connected, allows for more walkability, keeps pedestrians safer, and saves the city money as a vehicular bridge is projected to cost more. Other city residents, particularly those who live and work on the West Side, said that closing the bridge to vehicle traffic has cut off their neighborhood and that the city has neglected them by allowing the bridge to fall into disrepair.

On Thursday, Feb. 3, the Board of Education will host a public hearing on the proposed $306 million budget at 8 p.m. The top budget priorities include:

  • Adding special education services including teachers, board certified behavior analysts, physical and occupational services and more for $2.3 million
  • Adding more than 30 kindergarten paraprofessionals to help address COVID-19 impacts for $1.5 million (some of which will be covered by grants.)
  • Providing social-emotional support for students with $1.5 million (mostly from federal funding sources)
  • Adding two alternative education administrators to enhance the Pathways for Career Connected Learning program for $390,000

As compared to last year, the proposed budget shows salaries and wages going up by almost $4.5 million (including both salary increase and new staff members), benefits up by $3 million, and contracts for services such as legal, rehabilitation, and educational purposes—including a substitute teaching contract—will go up $5.2 million.

Other meetings this week include:


The Common Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee will meet on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. to discuss how American Rescue Plan funds will be used for environmental, green space, and infrastructure investments. The committee will also review the applications for the Community Development Block Grant program, a federal program that supports efforts such as infrastructure, economic development projects, public facilities installation, community centers, and housing rehabilitation.

Other meetings this week include:


The Board of Selectmen will be meeting on Monday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. to hear and discuss the Racial Equity Plan for the town put forth by the Racial Equity and Justice Task Force. First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick created the task force in Sept. 2020 “to identify any race or ethnic inequalities and to propose the means to eliminate them.” Since then the task force has conducted interviews with residents and town officials, heard from experts working to address racism, and conducted data research into disparities between racial groups, such as gaps in standardized testing scores.

The task force put together a draft plan, which includes both short-term actions and long-term proposals for the areas of: city governance, criminal justice/policing, housing, education, community engagement, and arts/culture. These “are areas of Town operations requiring careful consideration of how to best address racial equity,” according to the plan.

The immediate actions call for:

  • adopting the draft as an official city plan
  • establishing a permanent Commission on Racial Equity and Justice to help with recruiting diverse employees to the town, conducting data collection and analysis, and hosting conversations between community members and town officials
  • hiring a full-time Director of Community Justice and Belonging to “develop and coordinate any racial equity and justice initiatives.”

The task force unanimously approved the proposed plan at its Jan. 6 meeting. However, after the approval of the proposal and after discussion in the community following an article by The Connecticut Post, two members of the task force changed their mind and, later in January, voted to rescind their approvals for the plan. At a Jan. 13 meeting, the two members voiced concerns that, in their opinion, the plan “implied” that the town had systemic racism.

Other meetings this week include:


The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet at 4 p.m. to discuss a proposal for 2-28 Railroad Avenue, which includes the movie theater near the train station. The proposed updates to the site include demolishing the existing theater building, which closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and suffered water damage from Hurricane Ida. Plans for the area also call for constructing a new mixed-use space with a pedestrian plaza and access to the train platform, renovating the mixed-use building on the site, and improving the train station itself.

The commission will also be reviewing the plans to redesign the Glenville Road/Street Corridor to “reduce congestion and improve air quality by reducing emissions to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, providing wider lanes, improved traffic signaling, new sidewalks and curbing, realignment of crosswalks at critical intersections, on-street parking, and related road improvements on Glenville Street/Road from Glen Ridge Road to Weaver Street.” The project will be done through a Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant.

Other meetings this week include:


The Board of Selectmen will be continuing its budget workshops on Monday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. The board will hear from police, the Darien and Norton Heights fire departments, EMS, and public works departments Monday, before reviewing the town’s capital budget on Tuesday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will, again, be continuing its deliberations on Tuesday, Feb. 1 for the plans at 3 Parklands Drive that call for demolishing the existing office building and building about 60 apartments.

Other meetings this week include:


The Conservation Commission is holding a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. to review a proposed cell tower on Greens Farms Road. The proposal, made by AT&T and Tarpon Towers, calls for an approximately 130 foot tall cell phone tower at 55 Greens Farms Rd. There is also an alternative site for the tower—92 Greens Farms Road—that will also be discussed.

The Representative Town Meeting will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. to vote on appropriating more than $200,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for grants for nonprofit arts organizations recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 and $1.3 million for replacing the Burying Hill Beach jetty.

Other meetings this week include:

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Have a great week,

Kelly Prinz

Founder, Reporter at Coastal Connecticut Times