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Little Sparring Found at Greenwich Debate

GREENWICH, Conn. – “We’re going to have to find questions in which we disagree,” Democratic first selectman candidate John Blankley joked at the sparsely attended selectmen debate Thursday night. Blankley, incumbent First Selectman Peter Tesei and incumbent Selectmen David Theis and Drew Marzullo discussed issues including emergency responses and the renovation project at the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Home in the debate.

But there wasn’t much sparring at the debate, sponsored by the Old Greenwich Association and the Riverside Association. But Tesei and Blankley did spar about prioritizing capital expenditures.

Blankley emphasized his role in pushing through the approval of the high school auditorium project, more commonly known as MISA, in the Board of Estimate and Taxation. He downplayed the deal Tesei is credited with brokering with the board to allow MISA to go forward.

Tesei highlighted the necessity of choosing future projects that prioritize public safety and health, while taking into account schools, storm water/waste water management, sidewalks and other infrastructure projects. The much-debated Central Fire Station supports “a very critical need” in town, said Tesei. A proposed $21 million new fire station was put on the back-burner as part of the MISA deal made last spring.

Blankley shot down Tesei’s role in the project, and overall, said he believed the town had the capacity “to manage both of those large projects” without damaging its bond rating.

The candidates were largely in agreement on the status as MISA, which over the summer was halted after contaminated soil was found on the site. All candidates agreed they supported the project and the necessity for soil remediation but said the costs would have to be monitored.

“I am perhaps the greatest supporter of MISA in this town,” said Blankley. “None of us is aware how much the remediation might possibly cost." If the number is minimal, he said, then the project should go ahead. "If the remediation number is large indeed, it will affect other capital spending projects.”

In reaction to a question on improving response of Connecticut Light & Power, when residents were left in the dark after Hurricane Irene late this summer, Theis applauded his running mate, Tesei, for setting up the emergency center at Town Hall. Marzullo responded candidly, saying, “I think the communication component of CL&P was horrible” and said residents could not cope well without knowing when power would be restored.

Another topic all candidates agreed upon was extending support for the $22.5 million renovation of Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Home. The project needs approval from the Board of Estimation and Taxation as well as the Representative Town Meeting to break ground early next fall. “None of us are getting any younger in this town, may I remind people,” said Marzullo.

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