Tree worker in fatality employed by Cos Cob company
A 26-year-old Port Chester, N.Y., man has been identified as the tree worker who died while working on a tree at a Belle Haven residence Monday afternoon.
Alvarro Lopez, of 122 Terrace Ave., had been working at 41 Bush Ave. most of the day to remove a large tree, Greenwich police said in a statement released Tuesday evening. Lopez had climbed the tree using boot spikes and was wearing a harness. According to witnesses, Lopez had cut a large section of the tree trunk, which unexpectedly fell backward, knocking him unconscious, police said.
The ground crew, which included members of Lopez's family, extricated him from the tree and called 911. He was in cardiac arrest when police and paramedics arrived.
CPR was performed at the scene before he was transported to the Greenwich Hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead.
Lopez was an employee of his family's Cos Cob business, Lopez Landscaping.
The federal Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is conducting the investigation. Robert Kowalski, area director of OSHA's Bridgeport office, said a compliance officer was sent to the scene Monday afternoon.
A report has to be completed within six months of the fatality, but Kowalski expects the agency to complete the report before that deadline.
Tree-related accidents can crop up after major storms like Superstorm Sandy, Kowalski said, although he said it's difficult to say whether accidents are common.
"Is it frequent? No. Am I going to say it is rare? No," said Kowalski, who declined to get into specifics of the fatal fall.
Federal OSHA officials have authority over workplace injuries involving private companies, while state officials have authority over workplace injuries involving the state and municipalities in Connecticut.
The last outdoor workplace fatality in Greenwich came in November 2010 when a Stamford man was working in a trench on MacPherson Drive when it collapsed and a concrete slab fell on him. The company that employed him, Stamford-based Sosa Construction, was later fined nearly $9,000 for violating five safety standards involving the collapse that occurred during the major home renovation project, including for failing to have its employees wear head protection while in trenches and failing to secure the excavation project properly.
Another Port Chester man was seriously injured in March 2011 when both arms and a leg became entangled in a large mechanical stump grinder he was using at a North Street home.
A year earlier, a worker partially severed his hand in a chain saw accident while working on a tree about 50 feet up on Tod Lane.
--Frank MacEachern, staff writer
Schools to eliminate drama, phys ed coordinators
The first casualties of a reshuffling initiative within the senior management ranks of Greenwich Public Schools, part of $1 million in cuts set by first-year Superintendent William McKersie, include the district's music/theater coordinator and the administrator in charge of physical education.
In a letter to fellow educators sent Monday, McKersie identified six administration-level positions that are part of the consolidation plan, which will take effect when the current academic year ends in the spring.
Two of the positions are being eliminated outright, while four others are being combined into two. Further staff reductions in the district's central office are also on the horizon, but not at the top of the organization, according to the email from McKersie.
"The loss of these key positions will impact the district," McKersie wrote his colleagues. "There is no question that those in the current positions slated to be eliminated or reduced have provided outstanding service to the Greenwich Public Schools. It is hoped and anticipated that many, if not all, of those currently in the affected positions will have the option of remaining in the school district in a productive capacity."
The position of art, music and theater program coordinator, held by Jeffrey Spector since 2001, is being eliminated.
The part-time position of physical education, health and family consumer science coordinator, held by Colleen Morey, also is being eliminated. Morey retired from full-time service to the district last year and came back on in a part-time capacity under interim Superintendent Roger Lulow.
The efficiencies are expected to yield $350,000 in annual salary savings.
"Reductions are always a very difficult process," Leslie Moriarty, the school board's chairman, said.
Moriarty commended McKersie's handling of what she characterized as a delicate task, saying that he kept the board and school staff well informed every step of the way. She declined to discuss whether the administrators affected will receive severance packages or are eligible for retirement, referring those questions back to the district's central command.
"They all have the opportunity to apply for the new positions," Moriarty said. McKersie stressed a commitment to the administrators affected by the cutbacks.
"Simple answer is that all are assured continued employment in the district if that is what they choose," McKersie told Greenwich Time by email Tuesday night. "They have been excellent contributors to the GPS. We will work with them to find the best option."
The district will no longer have separate math and science coordinators, combining them into a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM coordinator position. Those posts are currently held by Brenda Brush and Sheila Civale.
McKersie's reorganization plan also calls for the consolidation of the English/language arts and social studies coordinators' posts into the new position of humanities coordinator. Those posts are currently held by Jennifer Mitchell and Jarret Pepe, the latter of whom spends the bulk of his time as assistant principal at Western Middle School, a job that is not affected by the plan.
The school district's original 2013-14 budget proposal came in at $143 million, a 2.7 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
But educators are under pressure from the Board of Estimate and Taxation to cap increases in operating expenses at 2 percent, a difference of $1 million.
-- Neil Vigdor, staff writer
Decision on proposed synagogue's first step postponed
About 80 people crowded into the Town Hall Meeting Room Tuesday night expecting a decision on the first step toward a new synagogue in Cos Cob.
Instead, they will have to wait until the Planning and Zoning Commission's next meeting on Jan. 29 after the commission asked for more information from the lawyers representing the synagogue and its opponents.
One of the opponents, Tina Walsh, said she had been expecting the commission to make a decision Tuesday, but understands why the commission pushed it to later this month.
"They have to do what they have to do," Walsh said. "I would rather they take more time to review this."
The Greenwich Reform Synagogue is planning to make its new home on Orchard Street in Cos Cob. In October, it purchased 92 Orchard St., a property totaling less than 1 acre that is not large enough for the synagogue. Synagogue leadership is seeking to split the adjacent property at 96 Orchard St. in two, with about 38,000 square feet joined to 92 Orchard St., while the balance, about 12,450 square feet, would stay in the hands of current property owner Lou Caravella.
However, that lot-line revision has to be approved by the commission before the synagogue can proceed. If approved, the synagogue would be able to purchase 22 Osee Place, owned by Randy Caravella, Lou's son, and the back portion of 96 Orchard St. in order to create an approximately 2-acre site.
Opponents say a synagogue would be too large for their neighborhood and would bring too much traffic into their neighborhood. They also expressed concern about the effect on wetlands.
Thomas Heagney, the lawyer for the synagogue, said the matter is a simple lot-line revision, while Mario Coppola, the opponents' lawyer, argued against the revision and instead said it should be considered a subdivision. Heagney made a slight change in the lot lines that differed from the proposal the commission first dealt with in November.
"Plain and simple, we are starting with two lots and we are ending with two lots," he said Tuesday.
However, Coppola criticized the application, specifically targeting the altered lot lines. "It just doesn't make sense, and that's why the applicant didn't propose it in the first place," he said Tuesday about the revision. He said it will reduce the frontage of 92 Orchard St., at the very area where motor vehicles will enter and exit the proposed synagogue.
Coppola also argues that the synagogue's application is not for a lot-line revision. It should instead be filed as a subdivision, which could make it more difficult for the synagogue to proceed with its plans, Coppola has said.
The synagogue has not filed a site plan application for the proposed structure. That is months away, synagogue officials said. The lot-line revision has to be approved first to allow it to go that stage.
-- Frank MacEachern
Ice arena draws fire from Greenwich
Greenwich residents and officials say they have been frozen out of a plan to install a four-rink ice arena just over the town border in Rye Brook, N.Y.
"I think for the people who live in the residential neighborhoods in Greenwich and in New York, this is an unmitigated disaster if it is allowed to be implemented," said Robert J. Richardson, who lives in the nearby King-Merritt development.
The 140,000-square-foot recreation center would be built at the rear of Reckson Executive Park at 1100 King St. The proposed 142,000-square-foot arena would have 1,052 parking spaces with seating for 1,550 in two different seating areas.
Currently, there are six office buildings on the site and the arena would be in a low-lying undeveloped area at the back of the property. There is a previous site plan approval for a 280,000-square-foot office building that was never developed. Reckson LLC, the property owner, is proposing the project, which would be operated by Stamford-based QMC Group LLC.
The village's planning board voted 4-2 to back the project and the village's Board of Trustees is expected to set a date for a public hearing.
-- Frank MacEachern