The Board of Selectmen will hold a public forum on geographical information system (GIS) mapping Thursday, May 2, at the Easton Senior Center. The meeting will follow the regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting at 7:30, which will also take place at the senior center.
First Selectman Tom Herrmann said at the April 4 selectmen meeting that Town Clerk Derek Buckley was making progress in turning over mapping data to the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council as part of a regional geographical information system, funded by a state grant.
The town clerk has opposed the idea of being involved in the mapping program and transferring government power to a regional authority. As custodian of town records he does not think he has the authority but rather that it should come from the Town Meeting, which serves as the town’s legislative body.
The board of selectmen received a petition to hold a Town Meeting on the GIS mapping system, signed by 61 voters, and held a special meeting Jan. 31 at Town Hall to take possible action. But the board decided against scheduling a Town Meeting on the advice of counsel.
In lieu of a Town Meeting, the Board of Selectmen agreed to hold a town forum on the GIS mapping. Mr. Buckley requested that the selectmen schedule the forum at the senior center.
Just as the meeting was adjourning, resident Beverlee Dacey raised her hand to request that the board reschedule the GIS forum because May 2 is Holy Thursday for Eastern Orthodox Christians, and she will be in church.
The selectmen did not see her raise her hand. She told the Courier that town officials avoid meetings on major Western Christian and Jewish holidays, and she thinks they should do likewise for major Eastern Orthodox holidays.
She followed up with an email to the selectmen, copied to the Courier, which led to some testy exchanges between the parties, but as of press time the selectmen had not changed the date.
In other business, the selectmen approved the release of a driveway bond in the amount of $1,000 for 26 Lakeview Drive as recommended by Bruce E. Bombero, deputy director of public works.
Use of town seal
The Easton Little League uses a logo that resembles the town seal in that it has a leaf motive and part of a circle. In light of this use the selectmen discussed the appropriateness of use or modification of the town seal by organizations other than the town.
Mr. Herrmann questioned whether such use should be subject to approval by the selectmen. Selectmen Robert Lessler and Scott Centrella, both of whom are attorneys, did not see a problem with the use of some aspect of the town seal by a non-profit organization.
Referring to the Little League logo, Mr. Lessler said, “I kind of like that some aspect of the town seal is incorporated into it.”
“It’s not an infringement even in the commercial world,” Mr. Centrella said.
The selectmen approved the appointment of the law firm of Berchem, Moses and Devlin to represent the town in reviewing proposed draft amendments to the Planning and Zoning regulations.
Dori Wollen, Republican Town Committee nominating chairman, was on hand to recommend appointments to fill vacancies.
The selectmen approved Paul Diana as an alternate to the Commission for the Aging, Vincent Caprio as a full member of the Advisory Board for the Easton Senior Center, and Eugene Leone as an alternate on the Board of Assessment Appeals.
Residents spoke their mind on several topics during the public comment portion of the meeting. Two residents, John Bromer and Sherry Harris, separately recorded the meeting on small camcorder devices.
Ms. Harris at a later meeting said that they wanted to keep a record of the meetings and would like to see town board and commission meetings broadcast on cable TV.
Resident Gowan Dacey noted the recently passed ordinance to abate the taxes of surviving spouses of fallen firefighters and police officers and the fact that state statutes don’t provide for a similar benefit for Emergency Medical Service workers. Town officials are looking into how to work with the state delegation to change the law to provide a similar abatement benefit for the EMS.
Mr. Dacey suggested that the selectmen also look into working with state legislators to change state statutes with regard to the 18% interest rate that people who are delinquent on their taxes must pay. He said that the “usurious” rate was set a number of years ago when interest and mortgage rates were sky high and has never changed despite today’s much lower rates. Since the tax burden falls on people “who are in dire circumstances,” Mr. Dacey said it would be worthwhile to work to lower it and reduce “these poor folks suffering.”
John Bromer referenced an item on the agenda about the town seal and read aloud a letter Town Clerk Derek Buckley wrote to the selectmen and others about Mr. Herrmann “stealing” the town seal from Mr. Buckley’s office and unplugging computers in the Town Clerk’s office while Mr. Buckley was on vacation and bringing a police response.
First Selectman Tom Herrmann spoke out immediately following Mr. Bromer’s comments to say that the allegations had been determined to be “patently false.” by Police Chief James Candee.
Mr. Bromer has been a frequent critic of the first selectman. Along with Bert Webbe he was arrested for disorderly conduct at the Dec. 6, 2012 Board of Selectmen meeting. Following the incident, the selectmen drafted rules for public participation. Residents may only speak during the public comment item at the beginning of meetings, unless they have a direct involvement in an agenda item.
Laura Manusky asked the selectmen to change the order of public comment from the second item on the agenda so people could comment on agenda items after the selectmen discuss them.
Bert Webbe read a small portion of an editorial dated March 1, 2012, by a previous Easton Courier editor. It censured Mr. Herrmann’s “lack of transparency and centralization of town government,” stating that for him “to deny anyone the right to speak at a public meeting, even outside of public comment, is condemnable.”