and all of the ways our community benefits from it, the Board of Finance unanimously approved the appropriation Wednesday night.
The board saw the $6.7 million appropriation -- $1.1 million being contributed by the Town of Westport -- as a lucrative and worthwhile financial deal.
Board of Finance Chair Avi Kaner noted that the .
“This is a one-shot deal that will benefit Westport for years to come,” Kaner said, adding that the Levitt is one of the reasons people choose Westport as their hometown.
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff recognized that a number of Westporters questioned why the Levitt was at the top of the town’s list.
“Some people ask, ‘why is this project more important?’” Joesloff said.
Joseloff went on to list the and Club House as places that could use improvements. He said that as we emerge out of recession the town will look at a number of other requests for municipal funding.
“The Levitt people did their homework on this one. This timing was right,” Joseloff said “If we are going to borrow this is a great time to borrow. and we have done so. It’s a good investment for the town.”
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Acknowledging the site of the , such as a potential contamination spill. He said he feels more comfortable with the project after visiting the site and meeting with the environmental company overseeing the operation, the Westport town attorney and hearing about the insurance options if there were complications during construction.
The construction company is liable for up to $5 million for any mishaps or negligence. Additionally, the town is insured for up to $5 million for third-party accidents, according to Rea.
“I remember when it was a dump. I remember the lack of concern of what our downtown was supposed to be back in the 60’s and 70’s,” Rea said. “Over the decades the Levitt Pavilion, the donors, the volunteers, they kept that dream alive -- about what Westport should be now. And this represents what Westport should be in the future… You created a legacy!”
A legacy is exactly what the Levitt is for Westporters like Joseph Fini, a Greens Farms resident for 52 years.
“Growing up in Westport in a (wheel) chair, having a handicap, it was difficult to attend functions and activities, but with the Levitt, I’ve gone to every performance and enjoyed it,” Fini said.
Fini’s one request was that the new pavilion be completely handicapped accessible. The only part of the project that will not be handicapped accessible is the Riverwalk that that surrounds the Levitt Pavilion.
Board member Janis Collis was pleased that the Levitt project will also significantly enhance the Riverwalk, a job the town was initially going to fund. Collins said Westport received estimates between $300,000 and $500,000 to make the necessary improvements to the walkway, something that will no longer have to be done.
Board of Finance member John Pincavage reminisced about the days when he brought his family to the Levitt and was enthusiastic about the new venue attracting families to town.
“It ensures, in many instances, fresh blood coming in to town and repopulating houses,” he said.
Brian Stern, of the Board of Finance, said that the new pavilion is a ‘wonderful gift from some very generous people.’ Stern appreciated the financial aspect, but also recognized the time that was put into this project by the donors and Levitt board members.
“It is a the value of our community,” Stern said. “It really does make Westport a much more valuable place, in many dimensions.”
Though Board of Finance Vice Chair Helen Garten was not in attendance Wednesday night, she voted in favor with one concern. She said she hoped that the public would have access to the area when the venue is not in use.
Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy clarified that the Planning and Zoning Commission decided that people would have access to the venue from April to October, dawn to dusk.
The vote now goes to the Representative Town Meeting, which will make its decision next Tuesday. The project will go before the Board of Selectman Wednesday for contractor approval. Then the Levitt Pavilion Board will turn over the funds necessary to execute the contract and construction will begin.
About the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts:
The plan calls for two new buildings including an entrance building that will provide concessions, toilets, storage, and an area for a reception on the second floor. The pavilion will have a bathroom, dressing and gathering areas, and the stage, which will be similar in size to the larger stage that was on the property prior to 2006.
In between the two buildings will be a six percent slope, which will improve drainage and viewer visibility.
Peter Cadoux, of Westport-based Peter Cadoux Architects, who has been working on designs and permit approvals for the project for the past four years, said that there are plans to remove most of the trees blocking the Levitt’s view of the Saugatuck River. Most of the trees that currently surround the pavilion are invasive species that prevent more desirable trees from growing, according to Cadoux.