Greenwich School Board agrees for St. Roch’s Day to use Hamilton Avenue School grounds

GREENWICH — After a nearly two-decade ban, St. Roch’s Church will be allowed to hold part of its annual summer party on the fields of nearby Hamilton Avenue School.

The approval came from the Greenwich Board of Education, after members went through a messy appeals process.

Board chair Kathleen Stowe, whose board member Michael-Joseph Mercanti-Anthony said she was “really working behind the scenes” on the issue, and board member Laura Kostin administration, abstained from voting. But it was passed with four council members in favor of the motion at a special meeting last Wednesday.

Many in the community consider the holiday a carnival, but the celebration is a tradition steeped in the history of St. Roch Church and its patron saint. It also serves as a key fundraiser.

The church had used the school grounds for St. Roch’s Day for decades – until the building was renovated in 2005.

Parishioner Paul Cappiali volunteered to coordinate parts of the party this year, including securing permission to use the grounds. But he told Greenwich Time the town had “ghosted” the church, dropping the communication earlier this year.

The school district, which is responsible for authorizing use of the land, said through a spokesperson that it remains in contact with Cappiali and the church.

But the communication breakdown is visible in a thread of emails that Greenwich Time acquired from the district.

On February 23, Administrative Assistant Patricia Spooner emailed Cappiali and said, “The Superintendent wanted me to let you know that it is acceptable to use the land this year.”

Cappiali emailed to confirm the church could use the whole lot, and Spooner replied that they had to stay in a section near the parking lot.

“I wouldn’t deviate from how you’ve used the property in the past,” facility manager Dan Watson emailed Cappiali. “I would have to execute all the changes in front of the superintendent and ultimately the BOE. From my previous notes, it seems that concerns about your land use stem from stakes/posts driven into the ground that could penetrate the lines to/from the pits. »

When the district renovated the Hamilton Avenue school, it installed geothermal ducts below ground that help heat and cool the building.

Cappiali said the stakes are 2 feet long and the conduits should be buried a few feet deeper than that.

Since St. Roch had been denied use of the land area the previous year, if they could only use the property “as we have done in the past,” that sounds more like “a denial.” of my request than an approval,” Cappiali wrote to Watson on February 23.

Greenwich Public Schools could not confirm whether a response had been written to Cappiali.

Special meeting

Cappiali then contacted the school board for clarification, and board members discussed the matter at a special meeting on June 22.

Council member Joe Kelly said he had been trying to settle the issue between the church and the city for five months and did not expect the council to have to vote on the issue.

“The (church) is very much encouraged to make sure they leave (the land) better than they found it. As they know, if they don’t, we’re going to rethink to give them the opportunity to move forward,” Kelly said.

Watson and Parks and Recreation Director Joe Siciliano, who is responsible for grounds maintenance, were concerned that the party’s carnival rides would damage the grass and geothermal pipes below.

A 2009 memo from former superintendent Betty Sternberg said: ‘Under no circumstances may the fields be used for carnivals or other programs or activities that could compromise the geothermal system in any way.

This letter remains in a file that guides decisions regarding the use of the land. Stowe said the council needed an independent study, which suggests otherwise, to remove the record.

Cappiali solicited a report from geothermal well engineers Thornton Tomasetti, which concluded “that the area of ​​grass land above the well field can be used for the annual carnival at St. Roch’s Church”.

Stowe, who previously asked first coach Fred Camillo to add the Thornton Tomasetti report to the docket “and/or remove the 2009 memo from the docket,” said the district needed a report to replace the memo from 2009.

The subcontracting of a study for the file was part of the motion granted on Wednesday evening.

Cappiali hired Matthew Elmore, a weed science extension specialist focusing on turf, landscapes, pastures and forages at Rutgers University, to examine the field on July 11.

Elmore documented that the field is less than 50% grass and the rest is white clover or gravel-laden bare soil. He wrote that the grass and clover were “very ripe”, contradicting Siciliano’s earlier statements.

“Carnival may short-term reduce grass and clover vegetation present on the grounds due to foot traffic or carnival equipment sitting on site. This is typical of any site where carnivals and similar events take place,” Elmore concluded.

Rules of use

St. Roch Church must comply with “certain conditions, which include, but are not limited to, appropriate insurance provided by the City’s Risk Manager and other standard City requirements,” the motion reads. advice.

Board members Karen Kowalski and Cody Kittle questioned the vague nature of the phrase “other standard city requirements.”

“It leaves open a huge ambiguity that can be interpreted in a million ways, and it can work against that,” Kowalski said.

Others questioned Cappiali’s actions, with council member Karen Hirsh saying she hadn’t seen a site plan for the party.

“I’m just not happy with the way this process has gone, despite objections from Parks and Rec and our administration,” said board member Christina Downey. “We haven’t received any significant documents. We just get a bunch of emails.

“Because there’s a carnival in a few weeks,” she said, “we have to make a decision.”

The Feast of Saint Roch is scheduled from August 10 to August 13 – the days leading up to the weekend closest to the annual Saint-Roch feast on August 16 marked by Roman Catholics.

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