2020-07-01 #Fairfield CT— I don’t normally to investigative reports but many of you reached out to me to find out why the Tree Of Hope was taken down at Sherman Green, but mainly WHO caused it to come down. Many sources pointed to Representative Town Meeting Member (RTM) Dru Mercer Geoprgoados of the 9th district. I spoke with Dru on the phone to get her side of the story. She said I can quote her that the person who complained to her was former First Selectman Sherri Steeneck (First Selectman for 40 days after Ken Flatto stepped down).
Briefly, the tree was approved in 2019 and not re-applied for 2020. The lights on the tree are required to be turned off on January 15th. The plaque, banners (red white and blue but not flags), and the cornhole game were not approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Today, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick released this statement:
Town residents have voiced their concerns via email and social media over a Facebook post shared yesterday by Al DiGuido of Saugatuck Sweets regarding banners and lighting of a tree at Sherman Green.
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said, “I want to lay out the facts so residents understand what transpired and confirm my support for the charitable work and generosity of Mr. DiGuido and our community and for the American Flag being flown in our town.”
The Town has procedures in place for any business or individual who wishes to plant a tree, hang a sign or flag, or display any item on Town property. This policy includes going through the Park & Recreation Commission for approval.
“It’s critical there is a clear and fair process to vet requests to display anything on town property. In the instance of the Tree of Hope, Mr. DiGuido generously donated the tree to the Town, and did so through the town’s long-standing process. The tree of Hope will remain on the green and I encourage Mr. DiGuido to make another request to the Park and Rec Commission to keep the lights on longer,” said Mrs. Kupchick.
The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the Tree of Hope in October 2019 for the Sherman Green with an agreement the tree would be lit from November through January 15, 2020.
In early March, Park & Recreation Director, Anthony Calabrese, spoke to Mr. DiGuido during the pandemic about adding patriotic flags on the green and maintaining the lights through July 1st in an effort to lift the spirits of our community and give hope during a very challenging time for our town.
This decision was made unilaterally without commission approval, as the commission was not meeting during this time of emergency. There have been many instances in which the director makes similar decisions in between meetings. This was a decision the First Selectwoman fully supported. Last week, a member of the RTM wrote to town officials to express concerns about the proper protocols not followed in light of the pandemic and asked for the flags and lights be removed in accordance with the agreement. The flags and lights were removed yesterday by Mr. DiGuido.
“Last night I asked our Fire and Police to gather as many American flags as we could find so together we could line downtown Fairfield with flags to celebrate the 4th of July. I look forward to putting American flags up downtown today and celebrating America’s Independence throughout the weekend,” said First Selectwoman Kupchick.