Letter: Fairfield's Penfield Committee Needs To Make Smart Choices

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Fairfield Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to fairfield@dailyvoice.com.

To The Editor: 

The Penfield One rebuilding committee opened its Jan. 9 meeting with the statement that it was not concerned with flooding as part of its job. This is the same disregard the original building committee showed toward flooding. Why should the public expect different results from the same process that didn’t work the first time?

This moral disregard by the town to allow more than $5 million of taxpayer money to be spent on building the pavilion without regard for minimizing flooding behind the beaches is disgraceful. For a second Penfield One committee to again state that it was not concerned about flooding is doubly disgraceful.

Whose responsibility is it to responsibly spend your tax dollars? One would have thought that the selectman elected to represent all voters would have made that a high priority, and one the committees would welcome as they were appointed to represent all of Fairfield’s taxpayers, not just the ones living beyond the flood plain behind the beaches. The homes behind the beach sustained greater monetary damages than the pavilion, even after insurance payments.

The pavilion occupies the low ground between the dune to the East on Rickard’s Beach and the stone seawall on the West between Penfield One and Two. This is a considerable “hole in the dike” area. To allow water to freely flow through this area during Sandy without the protection of the current seawall, which wasn’t built as recommended by the town’s Flood and Erosion Board, would have caused Sandy to flood all the way to the center of town.

I contend that the current seawall protected the pavilion on the incoming tide from the waves and slowed the flooding of the area behind the beaches. Regrettably, the receding waters found the flaw in the original design of the pavilion and the seawall the engineers told us wasn’t there. However, I believe both of these flaws are fixable and can live in harmony.

The flood waters from Sandy (the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic and the largest to hit Fairfield since 1938) were again slow to drain because the town has been studying the recommendation of the F&E board since 1992, when they recommended the installation of a series of sluice gates in the town built dike designed by engineers to keep water out, but with disregard for getting water out that got behind it from big storms.

This dike is located between the fire training station and Fairfield Beach Road. It traps the flood waters that fill the entire flood plain behind it from receding. That is 22 years of studying. An additional $20,000 was spent since Sandy to an engineering firm to confirm that this is the right idea. Time to build it before the next big storm.

The F&E board has offered its assistance to the rebuilding Committee. Hopefully the two will work in harmony as we move forward.

Penfield One is a town facility that should be enjoyed by all that paid for it, without endangering those that live behind it or the town infrastructure that exists in this fragile area. I urge all who agree that flood protection can and must coexist with any rebuilding of the pavilion to email their thoughts to penfieldcommittee@town.fairfield.ct.us

Rick Grauer

Chairman, Flood & Erosion Board

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