Joseloff Opposes Finance Blog on Westport Patch; Baron’s South Proposal

The Board of Finance elected new chairs, announced seven new committees, discussed Baron’s South and proposed a blog on Westport Patch Wednesday night.

Although much of Wednesday’s Board of Finance meeting focused on concerns with the property, board members spoke about developing more transparency through a blog on Patch.

The Board of Finance unanimously elected Democrat Helen Garten as vice chair and Republican Avi Kaner as chair. Kaner recognized seven new committees that have been instituted within the seven member, republican-majority finance board to provide guidance and optimal communication to town departments and offices.

The committees, which represent the areas in need of critical attention most, were identified as:

  • Financial Planning and Reporting, run by Janis Collins, who will work with and provide guidance to Westport’s finance director to produce a monthly financial status report and make Westport’s finances more transparent via user-friendly documents the public can view at meetings and online.
  • Legal and Contractual (including labor), run by Helen Garten, who will prepare for contract negotiations that are due to take place in two years and structure a sustainable benefits package.
  • Government Efficiency (consolidation between the schools and town), run by Kaner and Garten, who will save money by consolidating services rather than cutting services or increasing class sizes.
  • Employee Benefits run by Tom Lasersohn, who will compare Westport’s employee benefits program to neighboring towns’ and private employers’, in addition to hiring a new actuarial firm.
  • Public Safety (police, fire, EMS), run by John Pincavage, who will guide the three department’s large budgets, making them more efficient and equally as effective.
  • Revenue Enhancement, run by Micheal Rea, who will track town assets, like Baron’s South, and establish ways to enhance revenue while keeping taxes as low as possible.
  • Audit Committee, run by Brian Stern, who will protect and monitor processes that affect town assets while making sure they stay transparent.

Kaner stressed the need for transparency throughout the board’s operations and stated the board would be instituting a blog on Westport Patch where a different committee chairperson will update the community and present their thoughts to them on a monthly basis.

“The idea is to be fully transparent and communicate among us, between the Board of Finance and the department heads, and with citizens of the town,” Kaner said.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff—who is , a Web-based news site that some say —approached the podium and opposed the idea of board members blogging on Patch.

“As far as blogs, I think if you published on the town website, everybody could republish as they wish. But I caution you about favoring one website over another, ,” Joseloff said.

The meeting began to gain some character during the discussion of the latest request for proposal (RFP) for the property.  answered questions from board members and the public after presenting the ninth draft of their RFP.

Daniels proposed up to 100 apartment units, 60 of which would be affordable housing. Many residents took issue with the 60 percent figure, stating the number should realistically be lower.

“We believe it won’t cost anything and there will be revenue flow back to the town,” Daniels said.

Daniels’s presentation was not enough to convince board member Brian Stern, who expressed concern with the financial structure of the project.

“I’m asking you to change it (RFP) on behalf of the board of finance because I don’t believe your financials are there,” Stern said. “We need to know exactly what we’ll get (out of this). The last thing we need is to be a landlord -- what a disaster that would be.”

Westport resident Joyce Colburn said we should question Westport’s future needs and seek out the best possible use of the Baron’s South “irreplaceable land.”

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg believes Westport should continue to pursue offers from other companies capable of developing such a project, noting there are currently three parties interested in the job.

? Tell us in the comments. 

John Izzo December 08, 2011 at 01:49 PM
I don't belive senior housing is the best use of Barons south we can't assure that westporters would come first we also have far more housing units than any other towns camparable to Westport (economic reference group) I wonder how many of our present units are occupied by non westporters This development will further cost the taxpayers as more public services ie police, fire etc will be needed, if were going to sell Barons South highest bidder should should apply
Judy Starr December 08, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Ed Ianonne gave a moving speech about the 70th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was good that the event was recognized and remembered. About the RFP: there are many possible suggestions that could improve this document. The question doesn't have to be about whether or not to build senior housing, but how to go about it. A few suggestions follow: The present RFP is not based on a scientific, objective marketing study of the actual demand; the Board of Finance should recommend one. The minimum 60% affordability requirement (embedded in enabling P&Z Amendment #625) is, pragmatically, a bar to virtually any forprofit. This bar can bring consequences both in terms of ability to offer preferences to our own seniors and in the amount and consistency of a revenue flow. The Amendment should be amended. The accompanying costs to the project such as personnel, infrastructure demands, et al, have not yet been weighed against revenues. The Skilled Nursing Facility, although not per se up for bid but nonetheless one of the RFP's "core objectives" should be entirely abandoned as a losing financial proposition. c.$77,000,000 in unmet OPEB obligations over the next 30 years, and school capital requirements of $10,000,000 over just the next 5, the town must now operate under their long shadows. One must trust to our new Board of Finance's good judgment and hope they will yet make positive suggestions to incorporate into the RFP process.
Chris Rueli (Editor) December 08, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Westport Patch received the following email from First Selectman Gordon Joseloff concerning this article: "Chris, Your headline "Joseloff Opposes Finance Blog on Patch" is wrong as I told you. Please correct. I said I oppose favoring one website over another. Patch and all others have a right to publish such a blog. I suggested that finance members post their blog on the town website so all other websites (and readers) have equal access. Your portrayal of my remarks is deliberately misleading and disappointing. Appreciate adding my comments in full."
Tom Prince December 09, 2011 at 01:55 AM
"I oppose favoring one website over another." Oh, really? When did this ethical sunburst light up Gordon Joseloff's horizon? During one of the last two blackouts?
Dick Lowenstein December 09, 2011 at 11:29 AM
All the local news sites carry ads and their ad rates are related to the number of hits they get. If the BOF wants to blog on one of these sites, then all should be used: Westport Patch, WestportNow, The Daily Westport, and the Westport News. Or create your own blog (but not at Town expense). Ask Dan Woog how to do it.
Jonathan Steinberg December 09, 2011 at 04:33 PM
I never said that the project should be pursued to completion, nor did I state that I knew of three interested companies. I have no idea about any company's interest (how would I?) or if any company will be interested in the project as written in the RFP. In fact, that was my point: I'm curious to see who responds and what they propose. It will tell us a lot about the project as envisioned, particularly its viability for for-profit developers. If none come forward, that's revealing in itself -- and we are by no means compelled to simply go with the best offer on the table. It's simply the beginning of an ongoing dialogue to understand our options -- which might still include parceling off part of the property for sale or utilizing for broader public benefit. The process works if we obtain more useful information that will help the town make an informed decision on how best to achieve maximum benefit from land purchased for municipal use. We have nothing to lose and much to gain by allowing the process to go forward -- with the proper financial documentation and other sensible suggestions made by the BoF, the RTM and the public.
Andrew Yemma December 09, 2011 at 06:29 PM
So Chris -- this is a correction? You simply put Gordon's objection in the comments but leave the totally inaccurate headline sitting atop the article? It's pretty clear by now that Patch's constant insinuations about Gordon are self-serving, and that it's "journalism" is amateur hour.
Andrew Yemma December 09, 2011 at 06:32 PM
And so now he's to blame for the blackouts too? Oh really???
Tom Prince December 09, 2011 at 09:23 PM
@Yemma: That's not what I wrote. That's not what I implied. But whatever you want to tell yourself...
Andrew Yemma December 09, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Glad to know you weren't simply trying to impugn his integrity with a mean-spirited comment .
Tom Prince December 10, 2011 at 01:05 AM
@Yemma: It's hard to "impugn the integrity" of someone who publishes Joseloff-touting items about a town leader named Joseloff...on a site owned by someone named Joseloff. It's almost as if the integrity just impugns itself!


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