Was It Really The Sign?

A Darien Shake Shack is not to be. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) turned down the sign to be used at the proposed Shake Shack on the site of the former iconic Chuck’s Steak House. In a town with an inept and corrupt government like Darien, there are plenty of conspiracy theories making the rounds. Here are some of those most prominent that people are talking about.

I don’t need you.
There are those who feel that First Selectman Jayme “Gone Girl” Stevenon is behind the sign refusal. She is sending the developer a message that she has plenty of money behind her and doesn’t need him. “Gone Girl” may feel that this developer has gotten too powerful and needs to be put in his place.

Trim your sails.
The Shake Shack developer is the same developer that is behind the huge Corbin Development downtown. The powers that be may be sending the developer a message that there is more to come unless he scales back his Corbin Project. The initial favorable reaction to the project may have faded as people assessed the enormous scale of the project. The powers that be may be sending a message to scale back the project in reaction to negative public feedback.

35 Leroy
This will be viewed as self serving and it is. My disclosure of the lack of adherence to town regulations at 35 Leroy may have caused the ZBA to be extra tough with Shake Shack.

Name ends in a vowel.
The Shake Shack developer is the same as the developer of the Corbin Project and he is an Italian American. I have had Darien Italian Americans tell me that the powers that be are pushing back against having an Italian American play such an important role in Darien.

It was just the sign.
This is nowhere near as much fun but it may have been that the sign just didn’t align with Darien’s regulations.

Combination
Another possibility is that some combination of the above is at play.

What’s Next?
It looks like we are heading to a competition between Starbucks and Chick Fill A. I can hardly wait to go into Starbucks next Christmas and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I would probably not eat at Chick Fill A on Sunday anyway so I can also look forward to a huge chicken sign on the Post Road surrounded by parachuting cows urging us to eat more chicken.

Walter Casey

Thanks Kip

In the 1970s, we lived on Long Island, in Garden City. I commuted into NYC on the LIRR. First, I took a long walk to the station. Then I took the LIRR to either Brooklyn if I was working in downtown or to Penn Station if I was working in midtown. When I arrived at either the Brooklyn LIRR terminal or Penn Station, I would have to take the subway followed by a walk to my office. That was a four step trip: long walk to the station, LIRR, subway and walk to the office. Every step commuting into NYC is not additive, it is exponential. In addition, at that time, the service on the LIRR was abysmal. It was so bad that it became an issue in a gubernatorial campaign.

We moved to California and then I transferred back to NYC. We chose Darien in the first instance because of the straight shot commute into midtown where my office was located. We chose our house because of the easy walk to and from the station. There are many towns with good schools. Taxes were a consideration but Darien was commuter friendly and that was very important.

I don’t believe there is a commuter on today’s BOS. We do have Kip Koons who owns a parking lot that caters to commuters. It appears that the BOS will be increasing the parking fees the town charges commuters. It is interesting that this will provide Kip with an opportunity to raise his fees now that his competition, the town, has gotten more expensive. Even if Kip has the good taste to recuse himself, he would appear to be a winner.

The next consideration is whether the raising of commuter parking fees is Republican First Selectman Jayme “Gone Girl” Stevenson’s way of paying Kip back for stacking the RTC in her favor. With an inept and corrupt administration, these are the kinds of conspiracy theories that easily come to mind.

Walter Casey

Town Counsel

I have said that I believe that Town Counsel Wayne Fox is incompetent. I did not go far enough.

I have also said that the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for 35 Leroy almost had to be fraudulent. It was signed on 8/21/14, the same day that my letter appeared in the Darien Times saying that the temporary CO had expired one year earlier. On 9/9/14, Chairman of the Shuffle Building Committee (SBC) Dave Campbell said in the Darien Times that my letter of 8/21/14 prompted him to get the CO signed.

We are expected to believe that Campbell told the three town employees to sign the CO and they did so on the same day believing the building had met the CO requirements. However, two weeks later, BOE Chair Hagerty-Ross told Campbell of major problems at 35 Leroy as reported in the minutes of the 9/9/14 SBC meeting. She also refused to accept the building on behalf of the BOE. I believe there are still questions regarding the heat, the boiler room and the roof.

Town Counsel Wayne Fox needs to explain to Darien taxpayers how 35 Leroy could possibly have met the standards necessary for a CO. Fox needs to explain if he considers the 35 Leroy CO to be fraudulent and whether crimes were committed in issuing this CO. As an attorney and an officer of the court, doesn’t Fox have an obligation to report illegal or potentially illegal activities to the proper authorities?

Finally, I have a difficult time believing town employees put themselves at risk of prosecution by approving the CO. Rather, I believe it is more likely that they were ordered to sign the CO. If they were so ordered, who gave the orders?

Walter Casey

Remembrances of Minutes Passed

Introduction
I have reported the minutes of the Shuffle Building Committee (SBC) on this blog concentrating on 35 Leroy. Even for me, this has been an eye opening experience. I have seen much ineptness in Darien over my 32 years but this took the prize. We are not done with 35 Leroy. In the recent issue of the Darien Times, Director of School Facilities Mike Lynch explained that an additional $40,000 was needed “to bring the building’s boiler room up to code, as it had been without a boiler for four years.” Will this ever end?

Implications
I have said that Darien’s government is inept and corrupt. 35 Leroy puts that issue to rest. The special education scandal and the related fraudulent audit, non audit review, the Hecker Avenue mess, the very deadly refusal to have Paramedics based in Darien et al all lead to a picture of ineptness and corruption. 35 Leroy seals the deal.

Therefore, the first implication is that Darien’s government is inept and corrupt. Then I think we have to face the fact that we cannot rely on the town’s buildings, including the schools, to be safe and healthy environments. Having reviewed this project, you cannot have any confidence that the building review process in Darien is performed competently and with integrity. This means that we cannot assume the three major developments will be reviewed with the town’s best interests in mind.

Background
Under Democratic First Selectman Evonne Klein, 35 Leroy was envisioned to be an affordable housing project. Among the problems with this idea was that there were very few units planned, I think the number was 21, for such a valuable piece of property. Another problem was that the nearby neighbors on Old Stone Road were very upset with the idea of a large affordable housing project nearby. This also helped to keep the number of units small. Norm Guimond, a resident of Old Stone Road, became prominent in the 35 Leroy debate resulting in his becoming the first Chairman of the SBC. Ironically, the Old Stone residents should have been more concerned with the development on the corner of Leroy and West. Just go look at it when you get a chance.

Early Days of the SBC
What struck me about the minutes of the early meetings of the SBC was that there did not seem to be any attempt to get an objective assessment of the condition of the building. When you open up an old building, lots of problems come out of the woodwork. The best course of action might have been to tear down the building and build new. I suspect the rush to move the Education Administration into 35 Leroy and cost drove the decision to work with the existing structure. However, it might have been faster and cheaper to tear down and build new.

Town Counsel
Town Counsel is incompetent.

Duration
This saga has been going on for over five years and is still not done. How many times did you read that the roof was OK, that the HVAC system was OK, that the project was on schedule and the project’s costs were under control. None of those things were true and nothing was done about it over five plus years. This is inexcusable.

Dave Campbell
Dave is a very generous person. He has done much to help Darienites in need. Having said that, he should not be allowed near anything that is a serious, complex task. He may want to help but it just doesn’t work out. DHS and now 35 Leroy are prime examples.

The next Dave subject is more difficult to discuss. It involves the two bankruptcies. I cannot tell you how many people don’t believe the “coincidence” that these two vendors went bankrupt. Readers bring up Dave’s experience with builders and want to know about dealings between Dave’s business and these two failed businesses. Disclosure would be helpful and I just hope there are no problems.

Inside and Outside
When I talk to Susan Cameron, the Chairman of the P&Z Commission, she maintains that P&Z is responsible for the outside of the building and the Building Department is responsible for the inside of the building. The problems seem to be with the inside of the building. Having said that, the “As Built” Survey, required by the P&Z resolution that dealt with the outside of the building was never done. I am still not sure it has been done.

In addition, the P&Z resolution required that all codes and regulations be followed. Even if this involved the inside of the building and not under the strict jurisdiction of the P&Z Commission, I believe Cameron had an obligation to speak up publicly. To my knowledge, she did not speak up.

Fraudulent CO
There were and still are (the boiler) major problems with the inside of the building. The CO was signed on the same day my letter appeared in the Darien Times saying there was no signed CO in force. At the next SBC meeting, there was a long list of serious problems still pending and that remains the case today. I do not understand how that CO could have been signed. I believe that it is quite possible that town employees were forced to sign the CO. I do not see another explanation. The CO is the main reason I feel Town Counsel is incompetent.

Coverup
You have to wonder if the “retirement” under mysterious circumstances of the Building Department Chief, the “resignation” of P&Z Commission Chairman Fred Conze and the non-renomination of P&Z Commission member Joe Spain all allowed the cover up Of 35 Leroy which has now been exposed.

“Gone Girl” is Responsible
If the Building Department is responsible for the inside of 35 Leroy, then “Gone Girl” Stevenson is responsible for the inside of 35 Leroy because the Building Department reports to “Gone Girl.” In addition, “Gone Girl” has overall responsibility and the SBC reports to the BOS and she heads the BOS.

Where are We?
I have no idea where we are and I don’t believe anything “Gone Girl” says. You have to wonder if 35 Leroy is a safe and healthy work environment. In fact, you have to wonder if any town building is a safe and healthy work environment.

Walter Casey

Killing Us Softly

Recently, I published an FOI request asking First Selectman Jayme, “Gone Girl,” Stevenson for a copy of the EMS Consultant’s report. Having had no response, I have sent a letter to the FOI Commission in Hartford asking them to help me obtain the report. Why am I doing this?

The first EMS consultant mysteriously resigned and didn’t take any portion of his fee. This was beyond suspicious. My opinion has been that someone made him a deal he couldn’t refuse. Therefore, I want this new consultant’s report to be available to the public.

You need to understand how ridiculous is the fight to keep Paramedics out of Darien. Post 53 acknowledges that Darien needs Paramedics but they want them in Stamford, not in Darien. The result is much slower response times. If based in Darien, Paramedics could reach victims in the time it takes Post to reach victims which is under six minutes. That six minutes could probably be reduced to five minutes or less with proper management. Five minutes or six minutes compares with the 13 or 14 plus minutes it now takes Stamford Paramedics to reach a victim in Darien from the time the 911 call is made. Lives are being lost.

“Gone Girl” and Post 53 don’t care about you, they care about themselves. They may be killing us softly but they are still killing us and they don’t care.

Walter Casey

2014 Minutes

There were 25 meetings scheduled but 15 were cancelled.

1/14/14
Testing and balancing of HVAC should be completed by 1/16/14. That was more than two years ago.

Campbell is encouraging the lawyers to release payment for change orders to sub contractors who were hired by Deppreio Construction (DC).

1/18/14
Discussion of final work needed for generator and elevator. Trying to resolve heating issues.

Campbell holding meetings with Town Counsel regarding DC bankruptcy.

2/11/14
Cancelled

2/25/14 and 3/11/14
Work on HVAC continues. Got quote to complete generator and elevator work.

2/28/14
BOE Building Mgr. Lynch memo or Punch List to Interim Superintendent Pierson. Long list of unfinished items.

3/25/14
Training for PC based HVAC control system completed.
Sprinkler system installed and completed quarterly inspection.

4/8/14
Lyncn reported on operational issues with heating system.

4/22/14
Ryan wanted to get CO for building in month with installation of ultra-urban filters and demonstration of emergency generator.

5/13/14
Peer review on HVAC system in process.
Repair to existing lights for large meeting room should arrive on 5/24/14.

5/27/14
DISCUSSION RE SOURCE AND RESPONSE TO MUSTY ODOR EMANTING FROM LOWER LEVEL OF BUILDING ((This is well over three years after the project started).

Generator is operational.
Lighting in large meeting room remains to be resolved.
BOE will begin process of drawing down grant funds.

DISCUSSION OF MEETING SCHEDULE AS CONSTRUCTION COMING TO AN END (This was almost three years ago).

6/10/14
Cancelled, no quorum.

6/10/14
Update of Lynch’s Punch List of 2/28/14. Very little progress.

6/24/14
Installation of new lighting to be completed.
HVAC issues continue.

7/8/14 and 7/15/14
Cancelled.

7/22/14
Roof leak in large conference room repaired by BOE.
Added lighting installed in large conference room.
Repairs to HVAC system needed.
Indoor air quality test was acceptable.
Pierson noted list of unfinished items Lynch prepared added to project costs.

8/12/14
Meeting cancelled.

8/12/14
I visit Town Hall and find no permanent CO only the temporary CO which expired on 8/28/13, a year earlier.

8/21/14
The Darien Times publishes my letter which describes what I found and didn’t find on my visit to Town Hall on 8/12/14.

A permanent CO is isrsued on 8/21/14, the same date my letter appeared.

I believe one has to consider that this permanent CO was fraudulent and that Town Hall employees were forced to sign off on it.

8/26/14
Cancelled

9/9/14
This is the last meeting for which minutes are available.
Lighting and HVAC are OK according to Campbell.
Hagerty-Ross raised following issues: HVAC system, winter heating, conditions in basement and lower level plumbing.
Hagerty-Ross said BOE would not accept the building.
Campbell said there would be a cost estimate for a supplemental heating system and that he would hold a follow-up meeting to address 35 Leroy concerns.

REMEMBER, ALl OF THIS IS AFTER THE PERMANENT CO IS SIGNED OFF ON AND ISSUED.

9/11/14
Incredibly, in a Darien Times article Dave Campbell said: “a letter from resident Walter Casey triggered him to remember to get the permanent occupancy certificate.”

9/23/14
This and the nine remaining scheduled meetings are cancelled.

I guess everything must have been OK.

PS Sixteen months later on 1/25/16, after postponing the issue, the RTM, in a close vote, transfers 35 Leroy to the BOE.

DETAILS WERE TO FOLLOW.

Walter Casey

2013 Minutes

There were 26 meetings scheduled but 7 were cancelled. I will only highlight some of these meetings.

1/8/13
Roofing work should start shortly.

1/22/13
Lower water pressure is problem for sprinkler.
Roofing work starts next week. Project is on track.

2/12/13
Larger pipe from hydrant to fix water pressure. Roof work begins. Project is on schedule for April.

2/26/13
Cancelled

3/26/13
Cancelled

3/28/13
Concern that tech be plug and play.
Project is only $16,876 over original project budget.

April, 2013
I believe this is when the BOE moved into 35 Leroy.

April, 2013
Fred Conze “resigns” on 4/18/13 effective 5/1/13.

5/14/13 and 5/16/13
Cancelled

6/25/13
Lynch, building manager of BOE, says project almost done.

6/28/13
TemporarY Certificate of Occupancy (CO) issued effective for two months.

8/27/13
Cancelled

8/28/13
Temporary CO expires.

9/10/13
Will meet to finalize elevator inspection and get operational.
Roof leak identified.
HVAC needs to be balanced.

9/24/13
Cancelled

10/1/13
Roof repairs are COMPLETED.

10/8/13
Work being completed left incomplete by Deppreio Construction (DC).
Committee advised that Town Counsel was involved with departure of DC from project.

These comments apparently relate to the bankruptcy of DC. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

November, 2013
Joe Spain is not reelected to the P&Z Commission because he was not renominated. In my opinion, the departure of Fred Conze and
Joe Spain allowed for the deafening sounds of silence from the new P&Z commission chaired by “Gone Girl’s” “Mean Girl” Susan Cameron. The cover up of this 35 Leroy fiasco had to have been deliberate.

11/26/13
Cancelled

12/10/13
HVAC concerns to be addressed next week.
State inspected elevator.

Stay tuned for 2014, the last year of minutes but not the last year for this project.

Walter Casey

FOI EMS STUDY

Eight Webster Valley Road

Darien, CT 06820

March 3, 2016

Ms. Jayme Stevenson
First Selectman
Town of Darien
Two Renshaw Road
Darien, CT 06820

Dear Ms. Stevenson:
Pursuant to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), I am requesting a copy of the report from the McGrath Consulting Group dealing with Darien’s EMS system including Post 53.

Sincerely,

Walter J. Casey

Housekeeping

I have a few housekeeping items arising from some readers who have used the anonymous contact button on this blog’s homepage.

I’m sorry, I do not have a way to notify readers when I post a new blog comment.

I’m sorry, I am not adding to my very limited e mail list. The readership of the blog has grown beyond anything I thought possible. I just cannot maintain an extensive e mail list. For many, I e mail one at a time in order to maintain their privacy. I am at my limit.

You can use the anonymous contact button to reach me but I do not have a way for readers to leave their comments which can be read by all. I would have to edit these comments to prevent threatening or obscene messages. I do not have the time. I also do not have the patience for the likes of Porter Gladstone and the moronic Post 53 fan club. I have had to deal with their idiocy on other blogs and it was just too time consuming.

Last weekend, I reported the 3000th unique visitor. Since then, there have been over 200 new visitors. I thought readers might find reporting the minutes of the Shuffle Building Committee to be tedious. The exact opposite has been true. There has been a swell of readership of these minutes. A source tells me that the heating system at 35 Leroy still doesn’t work.

Walter Casey

2012 Minutes

The following is a summary of the Building Committee minutes for 2012. There were 36 meetings scheduled for 2012. Only three were cancelled.

1/13/16
An update of the site survey for 35 Leroy was aprroved and the natural gas quote came in $31,000 over budget.

1/24/12
Decided to use natural gas for HVAC system. Needed to remove underground storage tank but the funds will come from the town and are already on hand.

2/24/12
Generator to be moved from Police HQ and stored until needed. However, Generator not powerful enough. I wonder if the generator was beyond its useful life as almost every other piece of equipment was.

3/13/12
Submitted P&Z application and Committee decided to seek State reimbursement.

3/27/12
Chairman Guimond resigns effective 3/28/12. Former First Selectman and then current Selectman Dave Campbell joined the Committee.

4/10/12
Campbell elected Committee Chairman. Architects discussing P&Z process with Jeremy Ginsberg. Improving storm water run off would add $25,000 to $30,000.

4/24/12
Committee to prepare for next P&Z meeting re storm water management, water run off etc. Since the “As Built” Survey is still not complete, this meeting must not have gone well.
Decision was made not to “renovate-as-new” option because would have to bring building up to modern code.

5/22/12
Budget is being updated to reflect P&Z meeting. Removal of underground storage tank not in budget but costs to be handled by owner with pre-existing funds. I do not know what that means. John Ryan is recommended to be owner’s rep instead of AP Construction.

6/5/12
Apart from the Building Committee, the PZ Commission passes a resolution which imposes numerous conditions on this project. I find it very difficult to understand how these conditions were met.

6/12/12
Committee will look for local code review instead of State review so schedule is not impacted. Did this make it easy to manipulate?

6/26/12
Portions of lower level test positive for radon but costs to abate will be minimal.

7/24/12
State rules that a second elevator is not needed.

9/11/12
Bids to open on 9/17, Campbell anticipates 8-10 bidders.

9/25/12
Dappreio Construction (DC) is low bidder. DC outlines value engineering ideas especially ones involving the fire code.

10/16/12
Haz mat remediation completed, underground tanks removed and the natural gas line installation begins.

10/23/12
John Ryan says 35 Leroy is one month behind schedule. This was over three years ago.

10/31/12
Aside from the Building Committee, the Building Permit is signed by a Town Hall employee who mysteriously “retires” in November.

11/13/12
Campbell announces DC ready to begin. Hurricane Sandy arrives.

11/27/12
Selective demolition begins.

12/11/12
Project is advancing with no major issues.
Interestingly, Campbell said it would be in Town’s interest to award bid to DC based on combined bid for two facilities. Did DC have dealings with Ring’s End?

Stay tuned for 2013. Too bad you know the ending but it will be fun knowing the details.

Walter Casey