Penfield and Politics: The Real Truth

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

In a recent letter to the editor, Fairfield resident John Mitola accused Fairfield First Selectman Candidate Chris Tymniak of producing a “piece of campaign literature” regarding Penfield Pavilion that was “misleading, sad, and laughable.” Unfortunately, much like campaign rhetoric in politics, Mr. Mitola’s allegations were misleading and inaccurate.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Penfield Building Committee (PBC), and my comments in this letter are my own, not to be deemed representative of the full PBC. One of my stated goals of serving on the PBC is to make sure No One Pulls the Wool Over the Eyes of Fairfield Residents on this project as politicians have done in the past.

Mr. Mitola alleges that Mr. Tymniak voted “against funding for Penfield Pavilion” at the RTM meeting, and that “if Mr Tymniak had his way, Penfield would be closed for many more years”. That statement and allegation is about as far from accurate as anyone could imagine. Here is the Real Truth: In preparation for the PBC presentation to the RTM, the PBC was instructed by the current Administration to “present only one option”. Despite the fact that the PBC had several options that were viable, we were told: “ the RTM vote will be an Up or Down vote”, which means the RTM could either vote For the one option proposed, or Against it. If the vote was Against, the PBC would need to go back to the drawing board and come up with another option. I for one, voiced my opinion that this would not be how the “real world” would approach a situation like this, and that we should present several of our options in full, to the RTM so they could see the comparisons and hear our views on why one may have been more desirable than another. Again, we (PBC) were told this is not how we should present to the RTM.

So, those members of the RTM who voted against the one option presented, were NOT saying they didn’t want a Pavilion at Penfield Beach, they were simply saying they didn’t want the one that was presented by the PBC.

There have been many misleading statements and published articles about the Penfield Pavilion. If we stick to the FACTS, everyone would realize that the Pavilion was only open for 1 year as a “year-round banquet facility”. This is in sharp contrast to those who allege “it has been there for 100 years”. Yes, the former building was there a long time….. but NOT as a year-round banquet facility. Other than that 1 year after the new pavilion was built, it was used only in the summer, and the rentals were smaller venues that usually had very little impact on the surrounding neighborhood. It is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and parties for the full year of year-round operation were allowed to go on until 12 AM, 7 days a week, according to published documents from the town. So I would like to ask you: how would you feel if you lived in a nice residential neighborhood, and all of a sudden you were in the middle of a banquet hall business ?

Rental of the banquet hall is by a “Lottery System”, which means there are no guarantees that any resident will be able to book it for their event. And another fact: approximately 20-25% of rentals have been to Non-Residents of Fairfield.

Other misleading statements refer to the “revenue stream” of the Pavilion, where it has been shown that certain operating expenses have not been properly accounted for, and in the case of the Option as presented to the RTM, alternative options had been made to look less attractive from a cost and operations perspective.

Receiving a grant from the State of CT, or from FEMA, is not “free money”. Where do you think this money comes from ? Our current taxes, our future taxes, and the taxes our children will have to pay.

The last FACT I would like to share in this letter is this: On 3 separate occasions, the Town of Fairfield has asked for input from citizens and taxpayers of our fine town, on what they think we should do about Penfield Pavilion. The first occasion was a well publicized town-wide meeting that was held at Ludlow High School. Several hundred residents attended, listened to a presentation by the First Selectman and Architectural consultants. During the public comment session, the overwhelming majority of residents were in favor of a smaller, less expensive Penfield Pavilion. It was recorded on FairTV. The 2nd occasion was a well publicized request from the First Selectman’s Office to residents of Fairfield to email our suggestions and opinions on the Penfield Pavilion project. I have copies of all the emails that were submitted to the First Selectman’s office. The responses were a margin of 3 to 1 in favor of a smaller and less expensive pavilion. The 3rd occasion was a publicized meeting of the PBC (all our meetings are open to the public, but this one in particular was publicized). The majority of people who spoke at the meeting were in favor of a smaller, less expensive Pavilion.

I take no position on who I am, or not, supporting for the upcoming election for First Selectman, I only want to make sure the FACTS about the Penfield Pavilion project are made known to the public, and not influenced by political rhetoric.

Ian Bass

Fairfield

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