Westport beach sticker hike suggested over bridge cost

A map depicts a proposed roadway during construction of the Cavalry Road Bridge, during a public information meeting at Weston Town Hall on May 7, 2019.

A map depicts a proposed roadway during construction of the Cavalry Road Bridge, during a public information meeting at Weston Town Hall on May 7, 2019.

Melanie Espinal / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — It had plenty of strong opinions, but the Board of Finance decided to take no action on a request from Peter Ratkiewich, director of the Department of Public Works, on a $62,000 appropriation for design plans for the bridge on Cavalry Road on the Westport/Weston line.

For years the bridge, which the state inspectors deemed in need of repair, has been a sore point between the two towns because of disagreements over how much of the cost each municipality should burden.

Chairman Brian Stern said he had not had phone calls returned from Weston town representatives on the matter, while First Selectman Jim Marpe indicated that, in meeting with Weston’s First Selectman Chris Spaulding, he appeared to have avoided broaching the subject of the bridge and its cost.

“That is disrespectful,” said BOF member Lee Caney.

“I agree. I just don’t think they’re being good neighbors,” said Stern, noting the town originally agreed to split the costs 50-50.

“One could argue that maybe it’s them coming back at us,” Marpe said, as a retaliation for raising the price of beach stickers in 2018 for Weston residents from $250 to $375 for the season.

BOF member James Westphal suggested Westport should increase the price for beach stickers for Weston residents even higher in retaliation.

“They’re not showing us a lot of respect,” he said.

In response, however, Spaulding said Friday he had no knowledge of calls from Stern and argued there was never an agreement to split the cost evenly.

“Our understanding was that, in the absence of an agreement, the share defaults to state statute based on economic share,” he said. “ ... This has nothing to do with beach passes.”

Wengell, McDonnell & Costello, Inc., the engineering firm leading the bridge project, announced on May 7 the group will move forward with a $2.32 million replacement plan, as it’s the cheapest option and considered to be the most hydraulically efficient.

Of the estimated $2.32 million, the federal government is covering 80 percent of that cost, which would leave around $464,000 to be covered by the two towns.

If the matter ends up before the state to decide, Marpe said, they would divide the cost based on each town’s grand list, which for Weston is around $3 billion, versus $11 billion in Westport. That ratio means Westport would bear about 73 percent of the remaining cost, while Weston pays 26 percent.

“You’ve given us the message that now at least I’ll call my colleague in Weston again,” Marpe said, “and tell him it’s quite clear that my Board of Finance is not going to pay this.”

“I think they’re trying to screw us and I don’t like that,” Vice Chairman Michael Rea said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated First Selectman Jim Marpe did not have phone calls to Weston First Selectman Chris Spaulding returned, which was incorrect. Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern claims to have made the calls to Weston representatives.