Board votes to keep farm running
WESTPORT — An additional $325,000 has been appropriated by the Board of Finance to keep Wakeman Town Farm operating. The money will be used to complete crucial renovations, including lead and asbestos remediation.
The board voted 5-1 in favor of the measure, with finance board member Sheri Gordon dissenting.
Of the $325,000, Wakeman Town Farm will pay $86,500, while the town will cover the remaining amount.
Before the vote, $667,000 had already been allocated for improving the worn facilities at the farm.
Further environmental testing and review led to the uncovering of a “fairly minor” amount of asbestos and a large amount of lead at the farm. The lead prevalence was described by Deputy Public Works Director John Broadbin at a previous meeting 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 6.”
The cost of the project now stands at $992,000, with the town responsible for almost half a million dollars, leaving the farm to pay $492,500.
Finance board member Lee Caney, who has enjoyed the farm’s offerings with his daughter, voiced support for Wakeman.
“A lot of the kids who use the farm may not play sports or play musicals or whatever, and I think it’s a great option,” he said.
Finance Chairman Brian Stern said he believes Wakeman Town Farm embodies one of the many aspects of the town that make it, as he described, an oasis of sorts. “I’ve used the language ‘the brand of Westport’ a lot, and we are different, and that is why people value coming to live here and that’s why we are an island of prosperity in quite a chaotic sea around us,” Stern said. “Things like the golf, the beach, the Levitt, the library, Earthplace, our education system, all the arts activities are part of our brand, and I feel like Wakeman Town Farm fits right in with that. If there’s any decision that makes the Wakeman Town Farm institution vulnerable, I don’t want to be in a position of making that decision.”