Sometimes change

is unnecessary

To the Editor:

As one media outlet said in its editorial last week, "issues of access, systems failure, and tax payer expense all make relying exclusively on video recordings of our Board of Selectmen meetings an unnecessary change." I reluctantly voted in favor of "trying it" for three months to be a team player. But I agree, sometimes change is unnecessary.

Changes required to implement the shuffle plan are also unnecessary, especially moving the Board of Education from its home at Town Hall. Education dollars should be spent on teachers in classrooms, NOT reorganizing and relocating offices for administrators who do not need to be moved.

The impetus for the shuffle is the undeniable: Darien needs a new senior center. Before spending millions of taxpayer dollars, however, we need to be sure that we're doing the right thing.

We need to know how many senior center visitors are Darien residents. New Canaan and Westport treat their senior/community centers like their public schools by opening them to residents only. We know our senior center attracts non-residents, especially for subsidized lunch. We need to talk about whether our center should have such an open door policy, because that also inflates usage (and our costs).

With an accurate census we could assess the shuffle plan better. Essentially, the shuffle plan results in two town halls, and relocates the senior center from one former school building to the basement of another. The shuffle reserves 18,000 square feet for the senior center without complete information about whether that's appropriate/needed.

Would it make more sense to build a right-sized facility on the current senior center property? We could sell the former library, or re-develop it for senior housing. Consider this: a homey, attractive, stand-alone new senior/community center could be a revenue producer, as it could be rented for weekend events.

I have concept drawings and preliminary cost estimates for such a Community Center project. The shuffle is not a done deal. The Board of Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission and RTM still need to consider and vote on it. Please join me in asking town officials to consider the smaller stand-alone option before they commit your tax dollars to the shuffle.

Callie Sullivan

Darien Board of Selectmen

Darien Schools

suffer loss

To the Editor:

On Nov. 8, our community lost an integral member of our public school system with the sudden death of Paul Engemann, director of facilities and operations.

It was my pleasure to work with Paul from 2004 to 2008 as chairman of the Tokeneke School Building Committee. Consistent with all of his work within the school system, Paul embraced the Tokeneke project, shepherding it from the drafting of the specifications through the opening day and beyond. He worked tirelessly to explore every detail that could improve the school, increase efficiency and minimize inconvenience to the students, staff and neighborhood. Paul was the lynchpin of the effort and without him the new school could not have been delivered on schedule and under budget.

Whenever I thanked him for his efforts, he invariably responded, "No problem -- I love my job." It will be a daunting challenge to find someone to fulfill Paul's duties. No one could possibly replace him. I am writing to urge our community to show its gratitude and support by making a donation to assist with the education of Paul's two young children. Donations may be sent to Burt M. Hoffman, Trustee for the benefit of Kelton and Andrea Engemann Educational Fund, 1234 Summer St., Stamford, CT 06905.

Bruce Hill


Changing minutes could limit public access

To the Editor:

In this day and age of sound bites and tweets it may seem as a natural progression to follow with a governmental body proposing a shortened version of its minutes. Who doesn't love a good sound bite and a quick quip, but when it comes to town government and information access having a thorough set of minutes available is essential. Minutes not only capture the tone and tenor of a meeting, but also the position and rationale of elected officials, development of policies as well as the actions of a specific governmental body.

The Board of Selectmen is the executive branch of the Darien government and is the policy making body of the Town of Darien. The details on how this Board comes to a decision is important -- for the public it serves as well as to other elected officials as they consider their actions as they relate to the policy the Board of Selectmen has set.

In this day and age the public our elected officials serve expect minutes will be easily accessible, user friendly and provide an accurate accounting of the particular meeting. Meeting minutes are readily available on the Town of Darien website and are user friendly. If their accuracy is of concern to Board members, then it is worth taking the time during the review of minutes to make the necessary corrections.

Evonne M. Klein

Former First Selectman

Barbara L. Thorne

Former Selectman

RTM Member

P2P thanks

community for generosity

To the Editor:

Whenever a person comes to us for help -- either for free, gently-used clothing for the family; groceries to prepare a full week of meals; or financial emergency assistance for rent -- we are always reminded that our ability to meet this need is due to the generosity of foundations, businesses, organizations and individuals in New Canaan that donate their time, talent and resources to Person-to-Person.

Just last year, we helped more than 20,000 people with food, clothing, baby layettes, car seats and household items worth more than $5 million. We awarded $360,000 in scholarships to 162 college students for the academic year. During the holidays, we distributed numerous Thanksgiving meals to area families and provided more than 1,200 children with a new toy and book.

And we did all this thanks to you: The volunteers who staff our reception area, greeting clients and scheduling appointments; who work in our clothing center sorting and displaying the donated clothing; who inventory donated food, stock shelves and assist clients in our food pantry; the schoolchildren who organize food drives; the police officers who collect donated winter coats; the families that fund our college scholarships and the grantmakers who provide funding for our emergency assistance services.

With your help, people in our community have an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by attending college. With your help, people in our community have an opportunity to move out of an emergency shelter and into their own apartment. With your help, people in our community have an opportunity to receive budgeting help and assistance to help sustain them through a financial crisis.

Many who come to Person-to-Person have never had to ask for help before -- and most will likely not have to ask again. But regardless of the circumstance, Person-to-Person is there when help is needed most.

And we are there because of your caring and commitment.

On behalf of everyone who gains from your spirit of generosity, we are most grateful.

Ceci Maher, Executive Director


Families have right to protect themselves

To the Editor:

With regard to the Jan. 7 article quoting Linda Heinberg (Controlled deer hunts may not be the answer, Darien News) there is abundant evidence from scientists and deer control committees that culling does reduce the population of these tick carrying creatures. There is some anecdotal evidence that a culled herd is less likely to return to a place where one was removed through hunting.

Deer fences cost money and I saw a massive buck in the yard next door where there is a fence. Spraying can be helpful but is difficult to do with snow on the bushes. If any of those who speak against culling ever get Lyme disease, they will reevaluate their thinking.

My wife has had it two years in a row, and, in spite of being an avid gardener, is now afraid to go into our yard.

There will be no definitive answer to the argument, but in the mean time, it is our right and our duty to try to protect our families from the source of a sometimes devastating disease.

Robert C. George, MD