Greenwich 360: First Selectman Peter Tesei's State of the Town Luncheon Recap
Here is a recap of our State of the Town Luncheon by the Greenwich Time:
State of Greenwich
By Ken Borsuk | September 30, 2016
GREENWICH — It wasn’t the official annual State of the Town address on Friday that kept First Selectman Peter Tesei tied up for longer than expected.
Instead, it was the questions his listeners, many of whom are business people, lobbed at him after his description of the programs and progress of Greenwich.
“Greenwich continues to be a town of evolution,” Tesei said to a crowd of more than 150 at the event sponsored by the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency. “We face a bevy of challenges, but thanks to the support of its residents and folks like you who continue to conduct business here, this is a town that will continue to improve and raise the bar for the quality of life, not only for its residents but for all constituents including the local business community.”
The majority of Tesei’s speech was given over to what he called a “verbal tour of Greenwich.” He touched on the major projects going on throughout town from Byram to Old Greenwich.
But after the speech, audience members grilled him on a range of topics, including contaminated soil at Western Middle School, a discovery that caused the closure of the fields there last month.
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has called for more tests but both the environmental consulting firm Langan Inc. and the state’s Department of Public Health have said the school is safe and the contamination can be eliminated.
“There’s a great deal of science around the subject and I think we should let the science drive the decision making,” Tesei said. “There’s a natural emotional response to this, but we have to be leaders and listen to the scientific response and do what we have to do to be leaders and not just throw money around to make us feel better.”
Tesei was also asked about cutting the number of town employees.
He said people had to realize that a reduced headcount would come with a consequence of reduced services.
“I very rarely have someone come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Tesei I want you to reduce the services you provide to me.’” Tesei said. “If anything they want to increase them…Frankly no one has said to me that their taxes are exorbitant (in town). Taxes in the state of Connecticut? Yes. But not taxes in Greenwich. It comes back to the value of our residency. We want to insure value in our residency. So we will see how it goes.”
Tesei was asked if he thought the planned New Lebanon School building in Byram was too big. A recent motion came before the Representative Town Meeting calling for a smaller building, but it was defeated.
Tesei said he was confident there would be enough students to fill the new building.
“If more housing is built in Byram where are those kids going to go school?” Tesei said. “People are looking ahead based on the demographics and anticipation and land use. I see Byram as the gateway to this town for families who want to live in Connecticut and the town of Greenwich.”
Attendees also asked about the outdoor water use ban the Board of Selectmen put into effect last week keeping residents from watering plants outdoors or power washing houses, sidewalks and cars until next year.
Tesei cited town Conservation Director Denise Savageau in saying that voluntary restrictions did not work and that they had to be mandatory in order for there to be any impact.
“I’m confident we will be in good shape with these efforts,” Tesei said.
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