Community News

Remediation of Maple Avenue Begins Monday

Work will begin Monday on remediation of Maple Avenue following last November’s massive gas spill, according to First Selectman Matt Riiska.

He said work will begin near the Manor House where a wall will be removed and its materials stored for later reconstruction. Earth will be excavated, tested and removed when deemed necessary. 

Work will then move to installation of a headwall on Maple Avenue as part of the stormwater drainage system. With that in place, crews will move on to Pettibone Lane, where extensive excavation is anticipated to remove gas contamination.

Riiska said Maple Avenue will be closed to through traffic during the work because of the heavy equipment in the road. If necessary, residents in the region of the heaviest contamination will have alternate accommodations offered.

Remediation work has been completed on Route 44 and landscaping has been started. It is hoped that families displaced by the gas spill remediation will be back in their homes by July 1, but Riiska said monitoring of the area will go on for some time and will be addressed as needed.

Residents who have questions are asked to call the First Selectman’s office at 860-542-5829.

Norfolk Projects Warm Up in Summer Weather

Warmer weather has brought a spate of activity to Norfolk. First Selectman Matt Riiska reports that several projects are currently underway with completion of some expected within the summer months.

“They will start to remove the old heating oil tank at Botelle School Monday and get the new one hooked up,” Riiska reported. “We have received approval for loans for Maple Avenue and the school roof and all the paperwork will be wrapped up next week. They are eager to get started on the school roof and we would like to get both the tank and the roof done before school starts again.”

Also at the elementary school, work is supposed to start Monday on the replacement of a broken 70-foot slide. “It was broken after years of exposure and abuse by some people who used it,” he said. “Insurance wouldn’t pay for it and some townspeople asked that ARPA funds be used to replace it. All the components are here.”

Work on refurbishing the tennis courts will start in the near future as well, and Riiska said he hoped people would soon be playing on resurfaced courts.

Only one area is lagging. “I’m still working on getting reimbursement for Mountain Road bridge, and the River Place bridge is on hold because engineering work is being done,” he said. “I’m not happy about that. It is dragging on way too long.”

Save the Dates: WIN Returns August 4

Weekend in Norfolk will return Friday, August 4, and continue through the weekend with a wide variety of activities to educate and amuse. There’ll be all kinds of fun events, both old favorites and surprises, including concerts at the Music Shed and work by artists and artisans all over town.

Do you want to join others in Norfolk during WIN weekend? If there is enough interest, a tag sale event may be coordinated during the WIN weekend. Indicate interest by emailing Andra Moss to say you want to join in a community tag sale, either by being on a map or joining a group location.

Check here for the developing schedule of events.

Land Trust Spotlights Stony Lonesome

This week’s flash flood damage has prompted the Norfolk Land Trust to shift the spotlighted trail to its 1.45-mile Stony Lonesome Trail. The trail begins at a metal gate on Ashpotag Road, a half mile from the road’s intersection with Route 44 and features deep woods, high embankments and three spectacular rock cuts.

The land trust is encouraging people to get outside this summer to hike its trails. A new trail is highlighted each week.

Two Groups Working to Enhance City Meadow

City Meadow is getting plenty of attention these days with two groups working for its preservation and improvement.

A “Friends of City Meadow” group is growing under the leadership of Economic Development Commission Co-Chair Libby Borden and Walter Godlewski. They are coordinating with First Selectman Matt Riiska and will be meeting with him Friday.

The Friends’ goals are to promote use of the meadow as an environmental/horticultural area and as a place to gather for music and other cultural events. This latter goal includes the newly enlarged Robertson Plaza. 

An additional focus is on the physical status of the Meadow. It is possible that work parties will be formed to assist professional horticulturalists or an invasive plant specialist to keep the Meadow functioning as a healthy wetland environment and keep it attractive and inviting. Further, the Friends hope to promote the Meadow with such attractions as a sculpture park, and to put up signage bearing information about the plants found there or about the Meadow’s history. Additional areas for seating would also be considered.

Finally, the Friends would address maintenance of boardwalks and plant restoration and raise funds to underwrite these endeavors.

The second group working for the Meadow consists of a few members of the original City Meadow Committee. Their focus is to establish a master plan for invasive control, plant placement and maintenance, wetlands and water course maintenance and the introduction of new plantings. The master plan will not only be used for Meadow maintenance and development, but will also serve as a guide for meeting the requirements of the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Meadow as a wetlands area. This was a requirement when the Town accepted the funding from the State of Connecticut.

Scholarship Deadline Nears

The ICC Mens and Women’s Clubs of St. Martin of Tours Parish are offering a scholarship for an active member of the parish who are continuing his/her education. The deadline is May 31. For more information, click here.

PZC Approves Dog Park Application

The Planning and Zoning Commission acted last week to approve a dog park on Westside Drive. Residents had presented hours of testimony and submitted 66 letters both supporting and objecting to the controversial park.

The Planning and Zoning Commission was guided by its regulations, which allow special permits for passive recreation facilities, according to PZC Chairman Thomas Fahsbender. 

“We attempted to balance the interests of the applicants and the concerns of neighbors,” he said, explaining that conditions were imposed. Interested persons can view the documents at Town Hall and on this site. Among the conditions were increased setbacks around the park and restrictions on signage to reduce its visual impact. Hours of operation were set for 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Discussion lasted more than two hours before the commission was content that it had devised conditions that “were appropriate and fair.”

“We took it very seriously,” Fahsbender said. “We had to make our best judgment. I feel the commission did a good job in taking everything into consideration.”

Photo Contest Winners are Named

In December 2022 the Town Website Committee had a brilliant idea. We decided we would ask residents to submit photographs that illustrated what made Norfolk special to them.

Well, we received a flood of entries, more than 220, demonstrating that many citizens are acutely aware of the glories of their surroundings. Galleries of the photos can be accessed by clicking here.

The “My Norfolk” Photo Contest filled our coffers with beautiful images and challenged our judges, local photographers Savage Frieze, Katherine Griswold, Christopher Keyes, Christopher Little and Babs Perkins, to select only six—one winner and five runners-up.

The judges did two rounds of selection, unanimously choosing six finalists. These were then painstakingly ranked after an hour of debate.

Long-time resident Elizabeth Hilpman emerged victorious. Her picture of a perfect summer day at Tobey Pond seems to epitomize the essence of Norfolk life.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the email saying I had won,” she said this week. “We had house guests that day and we were taking them around town to show them different sites. It was one of those beautiful perfect afternoons—not too hot, not too cold, not too humid—just one of those opportunities that come along.”

While she takes many pictures, she termed this shot “serendipitous.” She owns a high-quality Nikon digital camera, but that afternoon she had only her iPhone with her, a device she finds herself using more and more.

Sean Iceton, a transplanted Brit, was more deliberate in his pursuit of what became the second-place picture. The craftsman, who creates design-built carpentry and cabinetry, studied design in England. He says his photography is strictly “amateur,” a way to shrug off life’s tensions.

On the day he found the barn and stone wall on Ashpohtag Road, he was indulging in a relaxing walk with his camera. “I was just struck by the light,” he said. “It was kind of overcast so the colors weren’t washed out the way they would have been in bright light. It was just a nice, old barn and I was very taken with the stone wall because I have built stone walls around town.”

Making the image “pop” is a splash of autumn-red vine twining across the top of lichen-grey stone wall. That detail was what initially drew his eye to the scene. 

Bill Ticineto, who is also a designer, took his spectacular third-place picture from the top of Beech Hill on a freezing winter morning. He was hiking in Barbour Woods in an area he frequents, when he came upon a scene of sparkling beauty, with traceries of ice forming along the branches of beech saplings.

“I do have a nice digital camera with a great macro lens that I used for my other submission of tulips in the snow. Where but Norfolk do you see tulips growing in the snow? But that morning, all I had was my iPhone. I tend to take it along in case I see something.”

The couple, originally from California, have lived in town for six years now and Ticineto has recently joined the Conservation Commission. “The town is so interesting,” he said. “it is just beautiful, and it has a lot of art, music, writing. We feel so at home here.”

Chef Tom Daly also finds relaxation in his amateur photography and is sometimes intentional in seeking images, such as the one he took for his fourth-place submission. “I don’t usually carry my camera around with me, but I knew it was going to be a full moon, so I had driven around a little bit looking for a shot.”

What he found on that early-spring evening was a peaceful composition of a gnarled old tree, silhouetted in a graceful sweep against the twilight and a rising moon. The scene was shot near Husky Meadows Farm. “I had been up there before,” Daly said. “I actually took it out of my car window.”

Daly termed himself “a lifetime Norfolk resident,” but put a fine point to it by recognizing that he is not a native. “I didn’t get here until I was three,” he said wryly.

Taking fifth place was Daniel Girolamo, who took a panoramic image of Wood Creek at sunset on an autumn evening. This image, too, was taken with a phone. 

“I just do it as a hobby,” he said, “although people tell me I have a good eye.”

Currently a custodiam, he has lived in Norfolk two-and-a-half years, drawn here by the town’s affordable housing. “I have a great apartment and the people here are wonderful. And there are a lot of cultural events.”

Daniel Wuri, a medical technician, is, again, a hobbyist but shares his photos with friends through postings on his Facebook page. He, too, resorted to his phone to take his pastoral picture of a snow-covered field on Mountain Road one crisp evening. “I took this picture with an iPhone 10,” he said, adding that he has just upgraded to an iPhone 14 Plus. “There is quite a bit of difference in the quality of pictures you get,” he reported. 

Thrilled with the success of its first photo contest, the Town Website Committee is contemplating future competitions. It offered special thanks to the judges and to all who submitted photos.

Editor’s note: Another article by Kathryn Boughton on the photo contest appears on Berkshire Style; click here to read it.

Farmers Market Now Stewards of Botelle Gardens

The Farmers Market Committee has taken over stewardship of the gardens behind Botelle School. The gardens were designed to provide an agricultural learning space for children in the community. The committee will also be growing some produce there to supplement the offerings at the summer market.

Volunteers are already at work on a spring cleanup of the beds. Anyone interested in learning more or assisting in the project should contact Market Manager Angie Bolland, Follow on the market’s website, Facebook page or Instagram.

The Farmers Market will open Saturday, June 3, on the grounds of Town Hall, Maple Avenue.

Town to Vote May 8 on $7.7 Million Budget

The Board of Finance approved the $7,739,860 proposed municipal budget Tuesday night following a quick public hearing. It will now go to a May 8 Town Meeting. 

A referendum to vote on the $21,108,004 Region 7 School District budget is slated for May 2. Norfolk’s portion is $1,804,736.

Municipal services would cost $3,701,585, while the local elementary school budget is $2,418,457. If approved, the municipal budget would increase $149,000, but the anticipated mil rate would still drop from 27.84 to 27.79.

Board of Finance Chairman Michael Scoyers lauded the budget, praising the Selectmen for submitting a budget that reduces the mil rate even as they grapple with expensive projects. “I think [First Selectman Matt Riiska] has done a fantastic job,” he said, adding that the Board of Education also turned in a “seriously conservative budget.” 

Click to view the budget summarybudget income summary and budget by department.

Residents were not without questions and opinions, however. Susan MacEachron questioned the town’s debt service, which would increase by about $132,000 to a total of about a half-million dollars.

Riiska explained that the town is paying $56,000 as its portion of the recently rebuilt Mountain Road Bridge, for which it will receive a 50-percent state reimbursement. River Place bridge, still under construction, is included at $50,000 to cover interest costs until the project is complete, probably this fall. Both loans are at 2.25 percent interest. 

Eventually, the town will receive an 80 percent federal reimbursement of the cost of the River Place bridge.

Maple Avenue is the biggest project and is expected to cost the town $2.1 million. Riiska has secured a $500,000 STEAP grant to reduce the cost and budgeted a $124,000 debt payment. He predicted that the entire road will not be completed this year, however, because of extensive rehabilitation needed there following last November’s massive gas spill on Route 44.

“It’s going to be difficult. There is a lot involved and the window closes quickly for construction in Norfolk,” Riiska said. “That could jeopardize doing the whole job this year.”

He said Bond Council recommended a 30-year loan or bond at between 4 and 4.5 percent interest. Riiska reported, “I put in 4.5, so we are covered.”

The school roof replacement is estimated to cost $1.8 million. It will be financed at 4.5 percent interest. Riiska said the town looked at a school construction grant, which would reimburse 30 percent but would also require adhering to state labor standards. It would ultimately cost more. 

Discussion shifted to installation of fiber optic wires around town. Frontier has quoted the town $467,000 to extend coverage to less densely populated areas. There is $30,000 debt figure in the budget, but Riiska said negotiations are continuing. “Based on a half-million, I figured 15 years at 4.5 percent interest,” Riiska said. 

Phylis Bernard asked why the town would pay Frontier to install infrastructure for a service they will then charge for. “That’s a good question,” said Riiska. “We’re still negotiating and will say, ‘Give us another price and it has to include everyone, or we won’t sign up.’”

Bernard further asked about the $110,000 budgeted for tennis court refurbishment. Riiska said the courts are heavily used. “You would be amazed.” 

“It [the sum] looks like a state trooper to me,” she said, referring to the fact the fact that the town does not have a resident state trooper.