During a contentious race for the Senate last year, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) did not spend a lot of time in Greenwich, focusing his campaign elsewhere. But with all that behind him, he came to town last week to hear about Greenwich’s needs.
As part of a trip through Fairfield County on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Mr. Murphy spent a little more than an hour in town with First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman Drew Marzullo. They met in Mr. Tesei’s office in Town Hall and then proceeded to tour areas of the Mianus River before a stop at the GADC River House and the Hill House complex in Riverside to meet with officials about Greenwich seniors. Both of those facilities receive money from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and need help from the federal government to keep that funding coming.
In an interview with the Post, Mr. Tesei said that they looked at both Greenwich Harbor and Grass Island and the Cos Cob Riverscape and Mianus River Channel.
In Cos Cob they were joined by Harbormaster Ian MacMillan and looked at areas that needed dredging along the river, something that hadn’t happened since 1984.
The town is currently hoping for federal funds for that project, something Mr. Murphy is hoping to assist with.
“I think it was a really great visit in town,” Mr. Murphy said. “We discussed a laundry list of the very important in the town that the federal government has helped with and can help with. We spent a lot of time on the dredging needs for the Mianus River and Greenwich Harbor and it’s clear what needs to be done. Greenwich is a community where a major part of its economy comes from its access to the water and if boaters can’t get into the water then that’s a concern.”
Despite his junior status in the Senate, Mr. Murphy is quite familiar with the ways of Congress, having served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 5th District.
He said he had a good record there of bringing back needed federal dollars to the district to help with projects like these and pledged to bring “persistence and hard work” to this. And Mr. Murphy’s colleague Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will also be quite a bit of help as a longtime resident of the town.
Mr. Murphy, having grown up in Connecticut, said Greenwich’s issues were not new to him but he was happy to get a firsthand look at them with Mr. Tesei and Mr. Marzullo.
Mr. Murphy told the Post on Monday that he planned to be an “active presence” in Greenwich, which he called “an incredibly important community in Connecticut.”
As a Republican, Mr. Tesei has long complained about wasteful government spending but said the places they toured with Mr. Murphy showed examples of how direct government help can be a benefit.
“While the federal government needs to reform itself when it comes to runaway spending and operate in a more efficient way, this was us showing how that can be done,” Mr. Tesei said. “These are projects that can benefit from direct application of grant money to support our waters and our at-risk population without the need for extra levels of government bureaucracy.”
While at the River House they were given a tour of the facility, and then at Hill House, the group was given a presentation about expansion plans that will increase the number of residents who can live there.
That project is one of several in contention for state grant money to help fund the construction. Mr. Murphy said that recent budget negotiations have put money for CDBG on the chopping block, but he would continue to fight for them to help projects like these all over the state. Mr. Murphy called Hill House a “fantastic facility.”
Mr. Tesei said he considered the trip a success and felt that Mr. Murphy came away with a new appreciation of what Greenwich is all about.
“I think he has a better understanding of the diversity of Greenwich,” Mr. Tesei said. “He admitted that there are people out there under the misconception that Greenwich is only a place of extreme wealth and not home to the diverse population we have here. He was made aware of the way places like GADC and Hill House play a vital role in our community and the needs we have in Greenwich.”
The trip around town also included a quick stop in the Town Hall Meeting Room, where Mr. Murphy met with the Board of Estimate and Taxation’s Budget Committee as it deliberates the 2013-14 municipal budget.
Afterward Mr. Tesei said he believed that Mr. Murphy got a real sense of the collegial and bipartisan way Greenwich conducts its business from his time in town.
“I think he found it to be a nice change of pace from Washington,” Mr. Tesei said. “It seemed pretty refreshing to him to see the way we can work together on the community’s needs and priorities.”
Mr. Tesei added that Mr. Murphy has an open invitation to come back to town whenever he wants, an invitation the senator seemed eager to accept.
“I hope that this is the start of a long relationship with the town leadership,” Mr. Murphy said.