Environmental hazards found at Wakeman Town Farm
Updated 3:56 pm, Friday, August 12, 2016
WESTPORT — Newly discovered environmental hazards, including lead and asbestos at Wakeman Town Farm, spurred the First Selectman’s office to request an additional appropriation of $325,000 from the Board of Finance for the site’s improvement. The extra cash requested was intensely reviewed by the board and they decided to postpone the vote in order to conduct a workshop and a special meeting on the matter.
In March 2015, $667,000 had been granted for improving the facilities at 134 Cross Highway; however, Deputy Public Works Director John Broadbin said further environmental testing and review led to the uncovering of a “fairly minor” amount of asbestos and a large amount of lead at Wakeman Town Farm. Broadbin described the lead prevalence as an “extensive amount, not just in the portion of the farmhouse that is to be demolished, but in a portion of the farmhouse that’s standing, housing family, one of which the occupants was under the age of six.”
The total cost of the project, if approved, would come in at $992,000.
“The initial project, which was the farm kitchen, has now snowballed into remediating the structure that is the stay-in house,” Broadbin said. “So the project got expanded. Not by their own doing, but by regulation and happenstance.”
Citing Golden Shadows and the Nike Missile Site, Michael Rea, the finance board vice-chair, said the town makes a strong push for proposals to make use of properties and often finds that the locations are environmentally challenged.
“What is the town’s policy on being proactive? Why do we see proposals coming before our various town boards that haven’t gotten these environmental assessments prior to investing time and money in sites?” Rea said.
Public Works Director Steve Edwards responded saying that when his department goes through a building they remediate it.
“The first thing we do is go down with the old boilers, we go through and take out asbestos and do whatever we have to do to remediate it. Some of it is left in place and encapsulated. This building here has some down by the boiler that has been encapsulated,” Edwards said.
“I want to make something abundantly clear. Wakeman Town Farm is the heart of the Town of Westport,” Colasurdo said.
Chairman Brian Stern said the financial viability of the facility — the board received Wakeman Town Farm financial statements on Wednesday — should be more stringently vetted before coming to a vote.
“I think there are some unanswered questions and some due diligence that we need to do,” Stern said.