Following is the transcript that the Greenwich Sentinel commissioned of our recording of the televised version of the Round Hill Association First Selectman debate. It has been done with as much accuracy as possible but may contain small errors, “cross-talk” or misspellings.
John R. Conte (00:09:55):
Good evening, everyone. [inaudible 00:09:57] Thanks for being here. As President of the Round Hill Association, it’s truly my honor and pleasure to present you with the main event this evening, a candidate debate for our all important selectman seat. We look forward to a lively and friendly discussion of the questions that have been sent in by our members and by residents. We, at the Round Hill Association strive to provide an open and informative event that brings our town’s people together and helps educate and foster a more informed and active, involved community. I also want to thank Brendon DeSimone and Jane Sprung who chaired this event and all the hard work they together, put in to make it run smoothly. And our vice presidents, Nancy Duffy, and Patty Aser for their work. Also, in assisting in the programs operations. Thanks to The Round Hill Association volunteer timers, who will be keeping time.
John R. Conte (00:10:49):
And we do plan to keep time strictly monitored. So, I would appreciate it if you both watch the clock and bear that in mind, when you answer your questions. You’ll be given cues as to the time with a time’s up message. And thanks to Jenny Larkin for assisting with the technical aspects of this and GCTV for producing the event. Now, to the candidates. I want to welcome you again and wish you good luck. I’ve gone through the questions and I did an alphabetical first, second. But, I started with the questions and I forgot about your opening comments. So, Bill, you will be our first speaker for the opening comments. And then, Fred will have our first question. So, you have one minute to do an introductory-
John R. Conte (00:11:37):
Oh, the opening is two, the [crosstalk 00:11:39] ending is one. Excuse me, two minutes for opening. And then, at the end-
I can do one.
John R. Conte (00:11:42):
You’ll have another minute. No.
John R. Conte (00:11:43):
I can do one, or two-
John R. Conte (00:11:45):
Go. Thank you.
We’re very flexible. Two minutes, all right. First I want to thank the Round Hill Association for setting up this debate. It’s very important that we have an opportunity to talk to the public and they get to see us and listen to us. So, they get to know us. I can tell you, I’m very familiar with the Round Hill and the Back Country as Mr. Conte, the moderator, and I actually serve on the board of directors at the Greenwich Audubon. I’ve done that for six years. And by the way, we’ve just completed the lower barn and it has a beautiful outdoor patio and it’s rentable. So, consider that. I know Augustines, I had a chat with Augie over the weekend and he told me that Macouns are the best apples. So, I think that’s very important. I wanted to get that out there. I’m familiar with the Back Country, because I’ve done a comprehensive fire study when I was on the RTM. There was a fatal accident on the Merritt Parkway. And I was asked with Joan Caldwell and Jimmy Clifford, to do a study at the fire department from soup to nuts. And we did that and we were awarded a Selectman’s Award for that study.
I am familiar with the fire department. I have experience in town. You’ve probably seen my material. I served eight years on the board of ed. I served four years on the board of Estimate and Taxation. I served six years on the RTM. I was district leader of six and I have 18 seconds, okay. So, I have experience in town government. I have experience in my private life as an attorney, a founder of a law firm, I employ about 45 attorneys and I have 14 seconds. [inaudible 00:13:31] And our priorities are different, which is the real… Hopefully, we’ll get to that issue tonight. Our priorities are different and I’ve talked about the schools and maintaining the school system. My opponent has talked about bump-outs and developing Greenwich Avenue. There are clear differences in priorities and my time is over. Thank you very much.
John R. Conte (00:13:51):
It’s long night-
All right, I’m good.
John R. Conte (00:13:54):
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to express your thoughts, thank you. Fred Camillo.
Fred Camillo (00:14:00):
Thank you John-
John R. Conte (00:14:00):
Two minute opening, thank you.
Fred Camillo (00:14:02):
Thank you, John. Good to see you and thank you to the Round Hill Association and everybody here and my opponent. [inaudible 00:14:07]. My name’s Fred Camillo. I am a fourth generation Greenwich [inaudible 00:14:11]. I have a couple of degrees. I only used one of them briefly, as a high school history teacher. I have started a couple companies, including being a founder and a managing director of Greenwich Recycling, which helped Greenwich lead the state in recycling, for many, many years. I’ve been a high school baseball coach, high school basketball coach. I’ve been in real estate on and off for about 20 years, transactional and management and sales. I’ve served 11 years as a state representative and was the assistant minority leader in Hartford, where I authored probably a couple dozen Bills, not all alone.
Fred Camillo (00:14:55):
And last two years, the honor to be first selectman of my hometown. But, above all that, public service is my passion. I’ve done that since I was 19 years old. I served three and a half terms on the RTM. I was chairman of the board of parks and recreation. When we did all of our master plans for the town. I was chairman of the Republican Town Committee. I served on many boards and commissions, task force and committees here. So, as far as the debate tonight, it’s Northwest oriented.
Fred Camillo (00:15:27):
One of the first things we did, as a public-private partnership and yes, my opponent’s right, we have some big differences and that’s one of them. One of the first things I did, was a public-private partnership. We partnered with the Greenwich Land Trust, and we acquired 73 acres in the Back Country, Northwest section, so that we can all enjoy that. Also, Gem Station Four has been lingering for six years. We’ve got that done. Thank you, RTM for approving that last night. So, as I have five seconds left, there’s a few more things I like to get in about the Back Country, but we’ll have some more time. Thank you very much and look forward to the debate.
John R. Conte (00:16:02):
Okay, Fred, appreciate that. And we’ll get onto our questions now. And our first question, is on the subject of finance and [crosstalk 00:16:14] public-private partnerships. So, this question goes to Fred, which will be followed, same amount of time to Bill, and then each will have a rebuttal of 30 seconds. Greenwich has seen many public-private partnerships involving the construction of major projects in town. What is your view on the role of these partnerships? When are they appropriate, or not appropriate? And do you see them as a key element in future projects?
Fred Camillo (00:16:38):
Yes, thank you for the question. Greenwich has in the past, had a hesitancy for them. We’ve done them in the past, but not that often. I was a member of the Park’s board chairing it when we did the Ben time, Western Greenwich Civic Center. But, we’ve had plenty in my first two years here as First Selectmen, including last night, we finally got the approval, the RTM, the biggest grant that we’ve got so far for a public building, $5 million. Thank you to the RTM for overwhelmingly, approving that. But, if we want to really keep our tax rate low, our mill rate lowest in the state, and that’s a big thing, that’s a big draw. But, we want to get points on the board. We have citizens that are willing to help us do that. So, why wouldn’t we? We have $5 million in the bank right now, in the books for the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.
Fred Camillo (00:17:28):
We have a chip chart set up. So, we’re going to knock that down some more. So, we hope to get between five and $9 million for that. But, I would ask if we did not do that, where would we find that money without raising taxes? Right? That was a clear difference in the first debate between my opponent and I. I don’t see any problem at all, with somebody given money to the town of Greenwich, for the enjoyment of, not only residents right now, but future generations. We need to put points on the board and the new residents moving here, they’re picking Greenwich over other places, including some towns that are neighbors to the north, that are really well-run and terrific places to live. But, they’ve come to Greenwich.
Fred Camillo (00:18:08):
And so, we just can’t say we have low taxes. We have lots of things here. They move here for our schools. They move here for our wonderful park system, for the amenities, the programs we have, the proximity to New York and to Boston. But, above all, my favorite is, the civic involvement in Greenwich is second to none. As the state rep, I visited most of the 169 municipalities in the state of Connecticut and Greenwich is by far, at the top of the list.
John R. Conte (00:18:36):
Bill, let me know if you’d like me to repeat the question.
No, I got it. Public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships can be utilized in certain situations. One, to show interest in a project and two, for a non-essential item. For essential items that we need such as schools, firehouses, and other things, there should not be public-private partnerships. If essential services are needed, the town should provide them. Last night, you brought to the RTM, the gift, with a contract, with an agreement of seven pages, that apparently took 90 days to develop. Since, you knew about the actual donor on June 30th of this year. And it took July, August, and September to draft a seven page document. Now, I’m not going to go into detail. And the members of the RTM will understand why I will not go into detail, because of the bottom of page two of that document. And God forbid, I create a controversy. It’s planning, we need to plan. You cannot plan and rely on a public-private partnership. You have to plan. You have to set a policy. There’s no policy. We have no policy on naming. The board of Ed has a policy, 7551…
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:20:04]
[inaudible 00:20:01]. The Board of Ed has a policy, 75,51 I believe it is. And it specifically states when they will use the name, when they will have a name. Fifty-three members of the RTM wanted to adjourn the matter last night so that they could develop a policy and you push them to make a decision on that gift, even though money’s not even going to come in until next January or February, February 15th. It’s process policy planning. We need to set a policy and then we need to plan. You cannot plan relying on some donor to come forward and give you $5 million or $2 million or $1 million. If somebody wants to give me a check for $5 million, that’s free and clear. Sure. I’ll take it.
John R. Conte (00:20:46):
Thank you, Bill. Okay. Fred, a 30 second rebuttal.
Fred Camillo (00:20:51):
Sure. When you get these donations, they’re not done in 10 minutes. And certainly this is the biggest donation. The [inaudible 00:20:59] was 2. 15 million. That took years. We did this in less than that. And certainly, as I said last night, the RTM people want to have a morals clause put into it going forward. I’m absolutely okay with that, but it was a slow down tactic by a few people who tried to make it political. Now this is a donor that lives in town. This is a donor that has their name on a lot of other buildings. They’re well known here.
John R. Conte (00:21:30):
Fred Camillo (00:21:30):
John R. Conte (00:21:31):
Yep. And 30 seconds, Bill.
All right. It’s not political. It’s policy. It’s policy. You set policy, and then you follow the policy, you plan and you follow the plan. You don’t go and say, here’s this. Oh, I forgot the policy. Let me go back and get a policy. Okay. We can do that. We’ll delay it. It’s a delaying tactic. It’s not. It’s process, which matters. How you govern matters. That’s all I have. Thank you.
John R. Conte (00:21:55):
Thank you Bill.
Speaker 5 (00:21:58):
[inaudible 00:21:58] [crosstalk 00:21:58].
John R. Conte (00:21:58):
Otherwise we’d go all night. Yep. Thank you though. We’re going to move on to an easy one, affordable housing, and I mean that facetious. The goal to create more affordable housing is an important issue involving a complex mix of topics that greatly affects our town. We must increase our stock by over 1100 units to meet the state’s mandate. This law allows developers to circumvent local zoning regulations, making possible much larger buildings with tighter setbacks and much more overall lot coverage than would otherwise be allowed. Bill, please explain your thoughts on this subject and when, if ever, do you think we will meet this goal?
In two minutes. Sure. No problem. One of the things we’ve done is gotten the trust fund up, that was proved by the RTM. And that’s a good thing, because that’ll help us in negotiation with developers to hopefully get what we want. The actual law is 8-30 G, which is a state law that requires you to have 10% of affordable housing in your community. The fact of the matter is [inaudible 00:23:08] actually has that 10%. We’ve already met that number, but there’s a requirement that the affordable housing actually be set for 40 years. The rent has to be set for 40 years or the price has to be set so that it’s always going to be affordable for 40 years. We need to negotiate a certain local control and say, why don’t we have a grandfather clause? We already have 10% in our town. I’ve walked this town. I’ve walked this district. I’ve knocked on doors.
And I know that there’s 10% affordable housing. I’ve talked to Margarita Alban. We have it. Now, do we want to make more? Absolutely. We want to make more, but we don’t want to affect the character of this town. We have to do it efficiently. We have to do it proactively. We have to go out to the developers. Most of the developers coming to town live in town. They’re part of the town. I think they’d be very accommodating and work with us to hopefully work on their buildings.
Now this is a planning and zoning issue at the first glance. But if you have a bully pulpit and you can negotiate and I can’t see that because I don’t have my glasses…
John R. Conte (00:24:20):
26 seconds. Okay. Anyway, it’s a very complex issue. We have the trust fund, which I think is very important. It’ll help us negotiate with the developers. 8-30 G switches the burden of proof for anybody who is not up to date. It used to be that the planning and zoning normally makes the developer prove that this complies with sewer, water, traffic, however, the burden shifts to the town on an 8-30 G project. That’s all. Thank you.
John R. Conte (00:24:51):
Thank you. Fred.
Fred Camillo (00:24:51):
Thank you, Tom. The town does have about five and a half percent right now. We do have to get to 10%. We’re going to try our best. Going to meet with the governor soon about trying to get a [inaudible 00:25:01], but it’s not his call. It’s not that easy to assert local control. I was in legislature for 11 years. The housing committee is really made up a membership from urban communities that think the suburban towns are trying to get away with things. I was happy to work with Margarita Alban on the Housing Trust Fund, which was first attempted in 1988. We got it done this year. I also am proud to work with Sam Romeo and Tony Johnson with Greenwich communities. They’ve added about 53 new pieces of property that they bought and developed. That’s helped chip away at that a little bit, but they’ve also renovated every single complex in town. Armstrong Court where my grandmother lived, Wilbur Peck, Adam’s Gardens they’re on their way to making it the best public housing we have in the state.
Fred Camillo (00:25:47):
And as Ned Lamont said, when he came here and I debated the mayor of New Haven and the head of desegregate Connecticut, Ms. [inaudible 00:25:56] and others, and testified to defend local control. And we killed those bills. They passed something that was really watered down. But we worked with Sam and when we did a plaque unveiling at Armstrong Court, Ned Lamont, and these were his words, he said, Freddy is right. We don’t need Hartford telling us what to do because we’re doing the right thing here in Greenwich now. That was Ned Lamont’s words and it was on tape, not mine. But we’ll continue to work with our friends in Hartford, but it’s going to be a lot harder turning that around unless you change the makeup of the legislature.
John R. Conte (00:26:36):
Thank you. A 30 second Bill.
I got nothing.
John R. Conte (00:26:39):
We’re on the same page. We’re trying to get it.
John R. Conte (00:26:42):
Okay. Very good. We’ll move to the next question, which is on the same subject so we can elaborate a little bit more. Until we meet the required number of affordable housing units, how can we manage the intensive construction impacts on neighborhoods, street scapes and the town’s infrastructure? That goes to Fred.
Fred Camillo (00:27:00):
That’s the part that… Another reason why I think 8-30 G is a dangerous law [inaudible 00:27:07] it well intended, but each time you build something and you take away soil and you replace it with impervious surface, you’re exacerbating an already bad problem with the flooding. Tonight, when I’m done here, I’m going to go around town again and check out the various areas of town. Last night was another night that I didn’t sleep much. It’s a problem. It’s been a problem since we were flooded out in 1972 by Strickland Brook. And I got two more times flooded out in 2007 as did my childhood home. It’s a problem. The more we build, right? The more it’s going to cause a problem. I spoke with P and Z and I said, why can’t we get a requirement, a green requirement, every time there’s a new application and they’re thinking about it.
Fred Camillo (00:27:48):
But the last time they did that, they have a lot of unhappy developers and people coming in here, but we’re going to work with local officials. And also I’m going to set up a meeting, please God, if turns out okay, next Tuesday with the governor. Again, he does not control that. It is the legislature, but he does have a bully pulpit. He does have an opinion. He does have influence up there. Luckily, I get along really, really well with my colleagues in Hartford, my former colleagues. Even the very, very liberal ones. When I testified on the bills in Hartford, it was like old home week. We get along really well and there is room for dialogue, but it’s tough. Until you change the makeup of the legislature and you get more people up from the suburban towns on that housing committee. It’s going to be tough, but it’s absolutely doable.
John R. Conte (00:28:40):
Thank you. Bill, the question to you again, until we meet that housing unit number, how can we manage the intensive construction impacts on neighborhoods, street scapes and the town’s infrastructure?
It’s really to start with the planning and zoning issue. It goes before planning and zoning, and to the extent, they can impose certain conditions.
Fred Camillo (00:29:02):
They will do so, but it’s really the bully pulpit. And I want to take off on one of those topics that Mr. Camillo mentioned, which was flooding. One of my focuses is the infrastructure. The first selectman controls the priorities of the capital projects. The school submits their priorities. The town has their priorities. And the first selectman looks at it and decides where the priorities are going to be. My priorities, it’s not just an approval of the Board of Education thing and the approval of the town. It’s setting priorities and the priorities in this town need to be the infrastructure. They need to be schools. They need to be take care of the issues of flooding. They should not be on bump outs or development of lower Greenwich Avenue and the economic impact that may have.
If you look at the League of Women Voters guide, you will see a clear difference in what our priorities are. My priorities are school infrastructure, flooding infrastructure. I’m the construction litigator. I represent some of the biggest projects in the New York City. And I understand I have my hard hat, I got my boots and I got my vest. I’ll go with you later. And I understand what flooding is and the problems. One of new creations we have is permeable surfaces, asphalt. You can lay down asphalt and it’s permeable and the water goes straight down. It doesn’t run off. And it’s about 25, 20% more expensive, but it’s something we should be looking at in town. That’s all I have.
John R. Conte (00:30:52):
Very good. Thank you. Fred, if you’d like a 30 second comment.
Fred Camillo (00:30:57):
Sure. Yeah. My priorities included and still do public safety and those bump outs are not just to look nice. They actually slow down traffic. They improve sight lines. They decrease the amount of distance that somebody has to make when they’re going across the crosswalk there. The last time we had a pedestrian hit on Greenwich Avenue is 2019 in January. And it was right in front of a cop who was directing traffic. The bump outs will work. It’s not just for beautification. It actually is a public safety. That is one of my priorities, but I do… I can’t see…
John R. Conte (00:31:29):
It’s up. That’s a stop sign. [crosstalk 00:31:33] Bill, any follow up?
Quickly, the police are gone now. The police are taken off the avenue. I hope to bring them back in the form of either the special police or school crossing guards so we have some authority there at the intersections. [crosstalk 00:31:50] That’s it. That’s all I have.
John R. Conte (00:31:52):
We’re going to touch on that next subject a little bit here, because our next topic is police, fire and safety. Fire safety is a chief concern among many back country residents. The matrix study reported higher response times for the back country and Northwest Greenwich residents relative to other parts of town. With the approval of the RTM more than three years ago and the completion of the matrix study, which indicated the need for a back country fire station, will you commit to building and staffing a new station or do you believe the existing Round Hill volunteer fire station should be expanded to include accommodations for career firefighters along with the volunteers? This goes to Bill.
All right. I did a comprehensive study of the fire department years ago. I understand the fire department and how it works. Let me give you an analogy because we do not have the fire protection in the Northwest as you know. We have a volunteer station. We have 11 volunteers who go to work every day from nine to five, seven to seven, whatever. They’re not available during those times so there is no coverage for Northwest during that time. When they get home at night, yes, there’s coverage. Weekends, yes, there’s coverage. That’s how the volunteers work. If I was talking to Jim [inaudible 00:33:15], the chief of police, and I said, chief, we got seven… He goes Kelly, we got 75% of the town covered with police coverage. We just got this area in the Northwest. We can’t cover with police, but if you give me a couple more cops, I could cover it.
There would be no question. We would provide the cops and we have the same situation with the fire department. We have career personnel throughout the town, other than in the Northwest. We have just volunteers. Now the volunteers are great. They’re wonderful. I’ve dealt with them. I negotiated with them, but they’re not going to be available during the day. Now I will, and I wrote up to the Round Hill association, I’m going look into… First of all, the 75,000 for a design study for a career and volunteer station was turned down by the BET, the Republican BET. They turned it down. That was going to be a combined career volunteer station. That’s what you need up there. You need career there in order to provide the coverage that you’re entitled to and how we do that is we put the two stations together. We do a volunteer and career station. Without that you don’t have the coverage during the day. The Republicans don’t want to do it. I’ll do it, simple as that.
John R. Conte (00:34:30):
Thank you, Bill. Fred?
Fred Camillo (00:34:32):
Okay. It started off with public safety so that assumes that it could… About the police off the avenue comment that my opponent made. He said, I took the cops off the avenue. There were two cops directing traffic for seven hours a day, Monday through Friday. There are now six police officers there and they have stopped more crime and deterred more crime than ever before. And you could ask Chief [inaudible 00:34:52] that, and there are statistics on that. But going to Round Hill, the response time is over nine minutes in the Northwest, but it’s also over nine minutes in the Northeast. One of the first things I did when the chief, when I appointed Joe McCue, Greenwich native, 29-year veteran of the New York fire department is we spoke about it them putting together the first ever strategic plan. They’ve done that.
Fred Camillo (00:35:19):
They’re also looking at implementing the 22 suggestions for the matrix study. Now, two years ago, I stood before you at Round Hill and said when the former fire administration was looking at putting a fire station on the King Street [inaudible 00:35:35], which made no sense at all because if you draw the circle, you end up really covering white planes. I said, if it’s going to go somewhere, it made sense to put it at Round Hill. I’ve had many, many meetings, not just one to catch up on what’s going on there, but I meet with them every week and they’re telling me that they can get it down a little bit more. They just bought a new… A lot of the response times in the matrix… Some of the information in matrix was flawed.
Fred Camillo (00:36:03):
There’s no connectivity. Sometimes it doesn’t start right off the bat when they’re in the truck. They lose some timing there. They bought a component, they put it in one of the engines now to see if they could fix that. They think they’re going to knock some time off of the response times in the Northwest and Northeast. My job as the fire commissioner is not just to improve the response time in the Northwest corner. It’s to improve response times all over the town, the 67 square miles, 48 of it is land mass. That is what the job of the fire commissioner is supposed to do and that’s what we are working on right now. And I have the money and the budget to see…
John R. Conte (00:36:42):
Okay [crosstalk 00:36:43] Sorry, time’s up.
Fred Camillo (00:36:43):
John R. Conte (00:36:44):
But you’ll have a rebuttal. Bill?
There’s no career at Northwest. There’s no protection. Until there’s career firefighters you’re not going to have protection from nine to five while people are working. You’re just not. And the other thing the matrix study asked for a year ago was an organizational statement as to what’s the level of service that you’re going to provide for the town. We’re still waiting for that statement. It still hasn’t been done. It’s been a year and you are the fire commissioner.
Fred Camillo (00:37:12):
Can I go ahead?
John R. Conte (00:37:13):
Fred Camillo (00:37:14):
When I appointed Chief McCue last year, we went over all this and he said, commissioner, give us some time to figure this out. Of course, I’m not going to ram it down their throats and say, and I want something right away. We don’t do that. We actually go through the process and we actually… This is why people get aggravated with government, right? You run for office. And the first thing you say is, if I’m mayor, if I’m first selectman, I’m first selectman, I’m going to do A, B and C. Well, no one gets more frustrated coming from the private sector with this pace of government than I do.
Fred Camillo (00:37:45):
But I could tell you that the fire administration, they’re working on something and the money is in the budget for an architect to see if they can actually house professional staff at Round Hill.
John R. Conte (00:37:55):
Thank you, Fred. Next question. [crosstalk 00:37:58].
That was the same money that was turned down by the Republican BET.
Fred Camillo (00:38:00):
No, it was not.
John R. Conte (00:38:01):
Next question. [crosstalk 00:38:03] There are no longer police stationed at the intersections on Greenwich Avenue. This has been a Greenwich tradition for generations helping to promote a feeling of safety downtown. Do you support this change or would you advocate to bring the police officers back to these posts? Fred?
Fred Camillo (00:38:20):
You want to go first?
I’ll go. I don’t care. I’ll go. [crosstalk 00:38:23]
Fred Camillo (00:38:23):
I’m kidding. If it’s my turn… There was a study in 1938 that said what a waste of manpower having these cops directing traffic and they hated it. I only knew two cops in my life that loved it and they were great. There was one in 1999, it said, get them off. They’re a hundred-thousand dollar, basically, traffic lights. Growing up here, I have to admit, I was one of those people that loved them, right? I just loved having them there. But as I mentioned earlier, the last time we had a pedestrian hit was right in front of a cop directing traffic. They also cannot leave their post. They call in from their phone if they see a crime being committed. When the jewelry store guy was robbed a few years ago, one of them, they called it in there.
Fred Camillo (00:39:06):
Now we have six patrol officers and we have it undercover [inaudible 00:39:10] unit there. All right. You’ve probably been reading in the paper every time we’ve had somebody get robbed there. We’ve caught them. Now we now have cameras there. We have modern policing at its best, but what’s great about these police officers on bikes is they go up to 40 miles an hour. They actually check on us twice a day, at least twice a day in town hall and they go right back over there. They engage the people in this town, right?
Fred Camillo (00:39:34):
They don’t just sit there, waving and yelling and whistling, right? And they hated being there. It is the biggest waste. Every former first selectman I spoke to and every former chief and including the present chief did not want to do this, but they always had a political backlash. I said, when we get in we’re going to get this done by showing people what we’re giving the town, not taking away. If the narrative is you’re taking away officers… You just heard it tonight. He took the officers off the avenue. They’re not there.
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:40:04]
Fred Camillo (00:40:03):
Tonight. He took the officers off the avenue. They’re not there. That’s not true. There were two for seven hours a day. That’s it. DPW did a study that said the biggest traffic from pedestrians is after 4:00. There was nobody there. On Sunday and Saturday, bigger pedestrian traffic. They weren’t there. But now we have those [inaudible 00:40:21] are 24 hours. But we have six cops there, and they’re engaging people and they’re stopping crime.
John R. Conte (00:40:27):
Time. Thank you. Bill?
Speaker 6 (00:40:30):
Good answer, though.
Yeah, the police, once they’re taken off, they’re never coming back. So they’re not coming back to the avenue.
Speaker 6 (00:40:37):
You just said you were going to bring them back.
So we have to look and find a solution. We have increased traffic. It’s dangerous. Lunch hour is bad. Christmas is coming up. We’re going to have a lot of heavy traffic down there on Greenwich Avenue. We have to come up with solutions. We can’t just say, “Put the cops on bicycles and leave the traffic. Whatever happens, happens.” We have to find a solution. So I actually talked to Chief Heavey about a solution, which would be bringing school crossing guards, or special police, in there at certain times. And I’d have the school crossing guards, or I’d have the special police, there probably during the Christmas season, during certain lunch hours. And we’d figured out what the worst times are, and we’d provide some coverage there at the intersections so that it would be safe during those particular times. So we have to find solutions to these problems. So that’s all I have. I know I have a minute left.
John R. Conte (00:41:33):
I’ll cede it to somebody. There’s just so much you can talk about.
John R. Conte (00:41:37):
Fred, 30 seconds.
Fred Camillo (00:41:39):
Well, I don’t know what chief you spoke to, because the chief tells… Right off the bat, that was the first thing I said two years ago is, “Why can’t we put some crossing guards there as civilians?” You can’t do that right now. There’s unions. Unfortunately, it’s something we could work on and absolutely you could. But, at the end of the day, what we’re doing right now, if you go on the avenue… and I’m there every single day. I don’t just hear about it. I go there every day. I walk here through the tunnel. We have the guys getting off the bikes, and they, actually, do go there and direct traffic if they see a lot of cars there. I’ve seen them every day.
John R. Conte (00:42:12):
Fred Camillo (00:42:12):
So they are able to be flexible.
John R. Conte (00:42:18):
Next subject is finance. Under the pay as you go finance policy, the town sets aside and invests reserves for future needs. But to address large infrastructure projects, the towns sometimes borrow. Do you support long-term bonding for large projects, and, if so, how would you determine the amount of debt we should have outstanding at any one time? Bill?
Sure. I served on the BET, and we actually do long-term bonding for Nathaniel Witherell. We also do it for the sewers. So we were going to do a major project, certainly with the treasury rates at what, 2.1 for 20 year treasury bonds right now? This is not the 1980s when the treasuries were 15%. They are 2%. So, yes, you would have some long-term for a major project. But, again, that’s treading on the BET territory. We have a fabulous controller in Peter Minarsky, and I’m sure Peter Minarsky can come up with the ways that we can finance certain projects. We’re not going to raise taxes. Everybody says, “Oh, long-term debt, and you’re going to raise taxes.” We’re not raising taxes. I pay taxes. I’m not raising taxes. I may cut your taxes.
We have $69 million in the rainy day fund. $69 million. We’re getting 32 million from the federal government. The plan the guidelines set for this year provide for 70 million in capital expenditures. That’s $170 million for capital projects. It’s not the financing that’s the problem. It’s the priorities. We have to get our priorities straight. We cannot be cutting the ribbon on Greenwich Avenue for bumpouts while Central Middle School has monitors on the side of their building to see how far the wall is moving. We can’t. We got to establish priorities. We got to do it now.
John R. Conte (00:44:23):
That’s all I got.
John R. Conte (00:44:25):
Fred Camillo (00:44:26):
Well, I believe Central is the number one school that should be knocked down, but I don’t set the priority. That’s the BOE. Why did the board of education push it out 11 years? And, again, if you keep talking about the BET, you’re running for the office of first selectman. You’re not running for the BET. And, as far as priorities, I mean, couldn’t-
I, actually, served on both, so I understand them.
Fred Camillo (00:44:47):
Okay. I understand the BET.
John R. Conte (00:44:49):
One at a time.
Fred Camillo (00:44:53):
Okay. Well, the question, again, was… I’m sorry.
John R. Conte (00:44:56):
That’s okay. Do you support long-term bonding for large products?
Fred Camillo (00:45:00):
Yeah. So I served in Hartford. Hartford was well-run a hundred years ago. It was, actually, one of the best run cities and the wealthiest city. Long-term bonding, long-term debt is not a good thing. We saw what happened with a lot of cities and some of our neighbors. So I don’t support that. When I was on the parks board, we acquired two thirds of the Tuchman Pomerance property. So we did a modified pay as you go. I think it was a five year note. We paid it off quickly. That I’m open to. We do have some long-term, as my opponent said, that’s dedicated to Nathaniel Witherell and the sewers, but, you’ve got to be very, very careful. That was a big issue two years ago about that.
Fred Camillo (00:45:45):
But, certainly, when we’re going over the capital budget right now, my priorities are public safety, schools, public health. It’s not just one or the other. And, again, you could only do one school at a time. And I don’t want this to be partisan. We’re all here. And a lot of the BET members, I know one side keeps getting attacked by my opponent, but I can sit here and say the feasibility study for Riverside was cut by the democratic BET members. But that’s not what everybody’s here for. They’re here for your vision. And, yes, my record is open. As Bill Parcells says, “You are what your record says you are.” I’m running on my record and my vision, but I’m not going to keep deflecting and going over about the democratic BOE members or the democratic BET members. It’s not fair to the audience here.
John R. Conte (00:46:30):
Thank you, Fred. Appreciate it. Bill?
The BOE is I, believe, united. It’s the Republican led BOE. They’re the ones who make the proposals. They’re the ones who proposed a study of Central Middle School last year that was turned down by the BET. And, no, you don’t get a vote in the BET, but you do use your bully pulpit. You do get to prioritize. You do get to say, “That should come first. This should come second. That’s what you need to do.” That’s what we need to do as first selectman. We need to go and appear in our bully pulpit… Oh, my time’s up?
John R. Conte (00:47:06):
Oh, that’s right.
John R. Conte (00:47:07):
Yeah. This was just a rebuttal.
Did I get a reserve from last time? No? All right. All right.
Fred Camillo (00:47:10):
I’ll give him 20 seconds.
John R. Conte (00:47:12):
It’s not cumulative.
It’s all right. It’s all right.
John R. Conte (00:47:15):
Fred, if you’d like to respond? 30 seconds.
Fred Camillo (00:47:18):
Yeah. I do. I work well with both parties and the BET, but it’s not a dictatorship. I asked them last year to give me 1.25 million for Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. They said, “No. It’s a great idea. Come back next year.” And we’ve come back next year. We’re going to come back this year with an even better plan for it with some help for it. But it’s not a dictatorship. Our government’s set up in a way where you have checks and balances. Anybody who thinks they can run roughshod over somebody is going to be in for an awful hard time. Just ask Governor Malloy. Look him up. Malloy.
All right. Do I go again or no?
John R. Conte (00:47:54):
Not on this question.
Thought I’d confused him.
John R. Conte (00:47:58):
Not on this question. I know. I’m very organized.
I know. I understand.
John R. Conte (00:47:59):
The town will be receiving about $32 million in COVID relief funds under the Cares Act. So what are your priorities for these funds in terms of infrastructure, schools, or other projects? How will it be determined which town projects will be funded with this money? Fred?
Fred Camillo (00:48:17):
Thank you, John. I set up a committee that, actually, we’re working on this right now, we wanted to make sure we did not violate the spirit and the intent of what the federal strings are. So we have the first traunch already. We have about 15 million right now, and second one’s another 15 to 16 million, but things like air quality infrastructure. We’d love to put a lot of it towards the sewers and anything to help with the flooding. But we’re also doing a big study on the task force we put together that meets weekly on flooding.
Fred Camillo (00:48:53):
And I got to tell you, it’s like spitting in the ocean. It’s not going to make a dent in that one, but there’s certainly a couple things, smaller items that we could use with that money to fix, at least alleviate and mitigate, some of those flooding issues, some mental health things, issues and programs, some of the nonprofits. We would love to put a lot more into the capital, but you’d be surprised how quickly that goes. But we’re going to spend every penny of it, but we want to make sure it’s spent well and that it has long-lasting and sustainable effects, and that it does not violate anything that comes with the strings attached from the federal government.
John R. Conte (00:49:33):
The schools. The schools.
John R. Conte (00:49:38):
The schools. Let me be very clear.
John R. Conte (00:49:42):
We’re going to fix the schools. Yes, we’re going to take care of the infrastructure as well. There’re going to be long-lasting capital projects. So we’re going to take that 32 million, and we’re going to use it appropriately to fund projects that will last for 75, 100 years. That’s what we’re going to do. And we’ll form a committee and we’ll go through the issues and we’ll go through what’s available, and we’ll also look at what’s available from the town. And, together, there’ll be plenty of capital to get the projects done appropriately without raising the taxes. That’s it.
John R. Conte (00:50:17):
30 seconds, if you’d like, Fred?
Fred Camillo (00:50:18):
Yeah. And we’ll absolutely focus on the schools, too, but you could only do one at a time. So when you say schools, schools, schools, schools, schools, you could only do one at a time, so just keep that in mind. And, again, schools aren’t the only thing. We have infrastructure. We have public safety. We have public health. We have our park system to take care of. We have everything. People move here for a reason. It’s all these things, and schools are right up there, but you can only do one at a time. But we’re going to be focused on it.
John R. Conte (00:50:53):
Why this mentality of we can only do one at a time is beyond me. We can do them sequentially. We can get them started. We can get them rolling. We can get the design funds. I mean, we have Julian Curtis lined up with a 1.7 design, do the specs. Central Middle School, you’re even saying now we’ve got to replace it. We’ve got to fix it. We haven’t even done the study on the curtain wall. We’ve got to do the study on the curtain wall to find out what’s going on and why there’s monitors on the side. And we’ve got to go in front of the BET and get the money. So, anyway, that’s where we are.
John R. Conte (00:51:27):
Okay. We’re more than halfway through. A few more questions. The next one is under the category of the new normal. While COVID may be slowly coming to an end, it is possible that some of the lifestyle changes may be here to stay. COVID has impacted many small businesses on the avenue and around town. How will your policies help local businesses rebound from the COVID shutdowns and the reductions in business? Bill?
I will fix the parking in downtown Greenwich. That’s how I’ll fix it down there. That’s the big issue. The outdoor dining is here to stay. It’s very good. It’s popular. Mr. Camillo made a mistake at the start. He closed down the lower part of the avenue, which was very destructive to the businesses down there. Cars could not gain access. I will make sure that stays open, traffic flows. We will also create availability of parking, and creating availability of parking is not passing out little flyers, it’s actually coming up with a system where people know where to park. The parking is available. We have these dedicated spots all over downtown Greenwich that I see that are empty and unused, and we need to get them into the actual availability for citizens to go there and park there. We can solve the problem.
John R. Conte (00:52:51):
Fred Camillo (00:52:51):
Yeah. Parking was one of the things that I said we wanted to tackle. Even when we said, “We’re going to do these bumpouts,” and some of them took away a couple spaces, the next one scheduled [inaudible 00:53:00] actually adds parking. Because of the decades old problem of meter feeding by employees on the avenue, we opened up a couple hundred spaces in municipal lots at a discount to them. And I think I may be off on this, maybe it’s a little bit more, but at least 126 have taken advantage of that. So it’s 126 spots that were opened up. You kind of have to think outside the box, because we don’t want to see standalone ugly parking structures going up. If you do a parking structure, you’d want one like we have here at town hall, which is built into the grade, or like our plans to build into the grade on ramps of 95 and put green space on top.
Fred Camillo (00:53:38):
That’s out of the box thinking, and we’re doing that. We’re actually recreating parking. And, with all due respect, when my opponent says, “Mr. Camillo made a mistake,” I make lots of mistakes, and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes, but we were facing a pandemic. There was no manual on how to do this. Absolutely, talking about what did you do to help business, we waved all the fees. We said, “Come outside.” And I was getting pushback from some people in the department saying, “We don’t know if we can do this.” We did it. And Ned Lamont, his own words, bragged about it on his daily press conferences all the time. He still does. He loves it. We were one of the first ones. And I said a few weeks ago, a very successful mayor called my office in June and said, “How’d you guys do it so quickly?”
Fred Camillo (00:54:27):
We’d been doing it a month and a half at that point. So, absolutely, we’re working with them to try and keep them out there all winter. Some of them did last year, but there’s other things like dining domes, where we could even make it even better, a better experience. But, absolutely, parking has been a problem since before I was a little boy, and there’s a lot more work to do, but Lauren Rabin, and I have put a lot of time in that. We’re going to continue to focus on that.
John R. Conte (00:54:55):
Thank you. 30 seconds, Bill.
If you had consulted with the merchants on lower Greenwich Avenue before you blocked it off, there would be no need for an apology, because they would’ve told you, “You can’t block it off, because you will kill our businesses.” So less apologies, more planning.
Fred Camillo (00:55:14):
There was no apologies at all. In fact-
You said there was an apology.
Fred Camillo (00:55:17):
No, I did not say… I didn’t. If I said an apology there, we’ll roll the tape. I don’t think I…
You said you made a mistake. Don’t you apologize when you make a mistake?
Fred Camillo (00:55:24):
I said, “I make mistakes all the time.” Obviously, you don’t, sir?
Fred Camillo (00:55:29):
Well, that’s real humble.
John R. Conte (00:55:33):
Okay. Next up.
Fred Camillo (00:55:33):
But can I finish the… All right.
John R. Conte (00:55:36):
That’s [inaudible 00:55:37].
Fred Camillo (00:55:37):
I mean, we had a public hearing-
John R. Conte (00:55:38):
That’s time on that.
Fred Camillo (00:55:39):
… and I listened to the merchants and that’s why we opened them up and they were very happy. And I have a big letter-
John R. Conte (00:55:45):
We have to move on.
Fred Camillo (00:55:45):
… to show my opponent.
John R. Conte (00:55:46):
I’m sorry for this script format, but we have to hold to it.
Pretty tough taskmaster.
John R. Conte (00:55:50):
The last question… well, the second to last question is on the subject of schools. Well, no, no. I’m sorry. There’s one before that. Luckily, restaurants have flourished with outdoor dining. So we can talk about this a little bit more. Do you support the continuation of outdoor dining? Would you seek ways to improve upon the infrastructure and the temporary dining structures that were there and make them permanent? That goes to Fred.
Fred Camillo (00:56:18):
Yes. We’re meeting with them all the time. I visit them. I’m a customer, so I hear it all the time, complaints and praise for what the town has done. And I give the town the credit, not myself. They really worked hard to get this done. But, again, I mentioned before, we’re talking about if it’s January 5th, it’s cold outside and the restaurant’s full, having those domes. They could be kind of cool looking different types. They’re open to that. And then, at first, the state didn’t allow it. And I called David Leman up, who did a great job running the COVID operation for governor Lamont, and he said they were a little nervous because of the air quality at that point. But, we kept in dialogue, and we said, “New York’s doing it, places in Europe.”
Fred Camillo (00:57:05):
And they modified, they adjusted their policy, just like we did on the avenue. And that’s what you do. That’s what leadership is. You listen. If you listen, you can learn. And, if you learn, then you can lead. Listen, learn, and lead. And that’s what we did. And, I think the outdoor dining, I’d like to see it go to other parts of town where we set up meetings. We’ve had meetings, and we’re talking with restaurateurs in other parts of town on that. Some have already done it. I even pitched to Cos Cob where I grew up, the little one-way street in front of the fish store there across from Starbucks, and half of them loved it. And then they rethought about it. They didn’t want to give up the four or five parking spaces. So you have to back off. They didn’t want it. But I thought it would’ve been kind of a nice look for people on the Post Road to see them dining outside.
John R. Conte (00:57:57):
Bill, on the subject of outdoor dining?
It’s a good thing. I actually agree. I love to eat outdoors. The restaurants have done very well now, because, basically, a lot of them have doubled their capacity. They have the indoor dining, and they have the outdoor dining. And we have to figure out a blend here. We want the outdoor dining to stay, but we don’t want to hurt the merchants with respect to the lost parking spaces and access. So it’s a continual dialogue that has to take place, and we could, certainly, make it a little bit prettier. I mean, Greenwich Avenue should be the hub. Absolutely. And we have dining outdoors in old Greenwich. We have it at Fat Poodle, have it at Applausi, we have it at a couple other places. So those are just plugs. That may get me a drink. I don’t know. Let’s see.
John R. Conte (00:58:53):
All right. Why don’t we move on to schools, which are where I was a moment ago with an 800 million to $1 billion long-term capital plan for schools. What is your priority list for the renovation of schools? And this is starting with Bill.
Well, Central Middle School has a monitor on it, and if we don’t fix it, it’s going to cost us $21 million over the next 10 years just to maintain it, which is just-
Fred Camillo (00:59:22):
Tear it down and rebuild it.
… How do I say this nicely? Idiotic. So we got to get to work. We got to, first, study the curtain wall, find out what needs to be replaced there or whether the whole school has to be replaced. But there’s cracks everywhere in that building. I’ve toured it. We have problems all around schools. I took a tour of North Street. They have a floor in one of their classrooms that’s almost at a 45 degree angle in the last two feet of a classroom. I mean, it’s sinking. I mean, we’ve got to stop cutting the board of ed budget on maintenance. We’ve got to give them the tools they need and then hold them accountable. It’s-
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:00:04]
Give them the tools they need, and then hold them accountable. It’s very simple. If you keep cutting and cutting and cutting, you end up with monitors on Central Middle School’s wall. So yeah, Central Middle School’s a priority. Old Greenwich Ed specs were just approved the other night. Julian Curtis is right there. So how do you do that? And maybe you sequence them shorter. You’re not going to do them all at once, as we agree. We’ve got to do them so that we don’t bump the tax rate. And by the way, it was the Democratic BET that had a 1.4% increase in the mill rate when they got to run the BET for two years. That’s an important fact. Half what the Republican BET raised taxes. So this raised taxes thing is just nonsense. That’s all I got.
John R. Conte (01:00:52):
Fred, two minutes.
Fred Camillo (01:00:53):
Yeah, well, the last two years was about zero.
Sure. You took $21 million out of the rainy day fund to get it to zero.
Fred Camillo (01:01:00):
Well, I submitted 0.86. That was mine. They went a little bit lower, but this was before COVID, my first budget I submitted. And listen, if you want to be political, the town is-
I don’t want political. I’m not the career politician here.
Fred Camillo (01:01:17):
I’m not a career… Well, see, there’s another cheap shot. I was in the private sector most of my life. That’s just a cheap shot, and it’s not needed here.
What do you do? Well, all right. Well, I’ll wait till my turn. [crosstalk 01:01:28].
John R. Conte (01:01:28):
We’re going to have one little surprise at the end.
Fred Camillo (01:01:30):
If I’m the politician, you’re trying to run for it.
John R. Conte (01:01:31):
At the end of this question, we’re going to allow you each to ask each other one question. And so that will be the last question of the evening, which we’ll start with Fred to ask Phil a question and then Bill can ask Fred a question.
Fred Camillo (01:01:48):
That’s a tough one. Last year, when the majority party last spring tried to take over local control zoning, and now they’re actually-
John R. Conte (01:02:03):
Fred Camillo (01:02:04):
Since this is-
John R. Conte (01:02:07):
You’re working up to a question.
Fred Camillo (01:02:07):
John R. Conte (01:02:08):
Fred Camillo (01:02:09):
Since this is at Round Hill, they’re going after four acre zones now. If I miss something correct me, because I was debating them. I was testifying. I was working with them. Did you say anything at all about their attempt to chip away at our control of locals zoning? If you did, I apologize. I didn’t see anything. I just want to know if you said anything.
Speaker 7 (01:02:33):
No, Fred. I was not in politics at the time.
Fred Camillo (01:02:36):
Speaker 7 (01:02:36):
I was asked to run. I’ve now committed to running. And no, I did not testify and no, I haven’t been. No. So I did not say anything. So the answer’s no.
John R. Conte (01:02:48):
Okay. Bill, if you would like to ask Fred a question.
Fred, I know you’ve done studies on Nathaniel Witherell to turn it, to get RFPs. I haven’t seen those RFPs. I’d like to see them. I know that we also have done an RFP on Lower Greenwich Avenue and I haven’t seen those. I know the assessments are done and I haven’t seen those. And I know that the $5 million gift was announced at the board of Parks and Recreation on June 30th. And then it was hushed up and not discussed for three months until just before election day when the $5 million was announced. So my question is, are you holding these documents for political gain or are you holding these assessments or are you making these announcements for political gain or is there a reason why you’re holding them? Please explain. Thank you very much.
Fred Camillo (01:03:59):
Thank you. I don’t know. I never did an RFP for Lower Greenwich Avenue. So if I did, I haven’t seen it either.
That’s for the Island Beach parking. Is there an RFP there?
Fred Camillo (01:04:08):
Don’t you have [inaudible 01:04:09]
Fred Camillo (01:04:08):
Yeah, but it’s not a public document right now, but certainly the people I put on all these RFPs and these things that go over them are Democrats and Republicans, people that you know and actually worked with some of them. And the task force for the air rights for Greenwich Plaza, that saved our town probably a couple hundred million dollars, had just as many Democrats as Republicans on it. And those meetings were public. We’ve had, I can’t tell you how many Reimagine Greenwich and all these other committees, they’re all public meetings. So when you say I’m hiding things, that’s ridiculous to even accuse me of that. That’s that’s even lower than what you said before.
What’d I say before? Oh, I’ll let you finish.
Fred Camillo (01:04:54):
No. And we weren’t sure. We were going back and forth. So if somebody said on June 30th at the Parks and Recreation board, there’s a deal, the deal is when it’s signed. That’s when it’s done. It wasn’t signed. We went back and forth. The Alexandra and Steve Cohen foundation, this wasn’t the only thing they were working on. And sometimes we put a couple calls in and we get a call back a week and a half later because they’re working on so many other things. I didn’t realize how many other things they work on.
Fred Camillo (01:05:24):
And so when you’re asking for help and there’s a dialogue and they’re open to helping the taxpayers here, I’m not going to sit there and demand an answer right away because I need to get an answer on July 30th, because I don’t want it to be too close to the election to get accused by somebody running for office that I’m hiding it for political. I’m too old for that. Bill, I’m too old for that. I am what I am. People know me here. I’ve been on the ballot eight times. People trust me. If I was pulling stunts like that, it would’ve come out earlier. And I certainly would’ve done it before today.
John R. Conte (01:06:01):
Gentlemen, thank you both so much. I know this is-
Fred Camillo (01:06:03):
We’re just getting going.
John R. Conte (01:06:03):
This is a very difficult structure. I hope you both feel that you got to express your views. I think you guys both did an excellent job.