Westonites spoke up on Saturday. What's on their minds? A potential new town cemetery and school salaries, initiatives and the proposed budget topped the bill.
Weston's League of Women Voters sponsored the 20th annual Speak Up! event on Saturday, March 12, where local residents put their toughest questions to town and state elected officials. The event was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 5, but was postponed due to inclement weather.
Residents packed the town library's community room, where the biggest topics during the question and answer session revolved around the and .
Weston resident Jeff Sears applauded the project as a "great program" and asked Assistant Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice to explain the initiative, which has received a grant from the Weston Education Foundation. The schools' PTOs have also been asked to contribute.
Several residents expressed misgivings about the program's cost, estimated to be $300,000 over two years, and asked, "what have [the schools] been doing in the meantime? Did they not teach [the students] how to think?"
Board of Education Chairman Phil Schaefer defended the program, saying that the board "fully supports this project. I gave out of my own checkbook and strongly believe in it. It's money well-spent."
However, with one resident noting that "the municipal side is chipping away" at town employee salaries, the question remained: "can you do [AIM] for less money?"
School administrative salaries also came under the microscope, with another resident noting that Weston spends over $500,000 in the superintendent's office.
"This is a little town," he said.
Resident Megan Couch asked that the board leave teachers' salaries alone, stating "we won't have this education and these teachers if we don't [pay them]."
Chairman Schaefer added, "we must pay within the range of other comparable schools in our DRG-A."
The 20-year quest for a town cemetery also garnered several questions and comments, with resident Hal Mathews noting that "many of us don't have much longer." He then asked First Selectman Gayle Weinstein and Planning and Zoning Chairman Stephan Grozinger to answer a simple question with one word: "do you favor a town non-denominational cemetery?"
While Grozinger responded that he supports the cemetery, Weinstein replied that "regardless of my opinion, we need to get town support," and that she would not supply Mathews with the one-word reply.
"My role is not to put my spin on it, but to ensure that the town gets what it wants," she said. Cemeteries are "forever" decisions, she said, and once it's built, it can't be removed.
Others who attended asked that the town host a public meeting to facilitate discussion regarding the matter, noting, "a public hearing has never been held. Why?"
The selectment responded by noting that residents have had and will continue to have the opportunity to speak during the public comment sessions prior to selectmen and cemetery committee meetings. Two meetings will also be held at the end of the month, on March 30 and March 31.
Other topics of interest included:
- The possibility of creating bike lanes on town roads, either by creating lanes for full-time usage or blocking off streets such as School Road on the weekends.
- Controlling speeding cars on residential streets, such as Kettle Creek Road and Lyons Plain Road.
- Resident Neil Horner asked State Rep. John Shaban and State Sen. Toni Boucher "what actions are being taken [at the state level] to reduce the pain to all of us?" Shaban and Boucher acknowledged this "valid and timely" question and noted that there are "hard cuts" coming, but that they were trying to work with new governor Dan Malloy to "create predictability" to keep our economy growing.