That annual St Roch’s feast drew hundreds if not thousands of people to Chickahominy last weekend, benefiting from mostly good weather and culminating in Sunday morning’s procession led by Father Carl McIntosh and his service dog.
Friday was a beautiful night for the feast after Thursday’s rain, and attendees enjoyed games, rides, food and drink, and a chance to catch up with neighbors.
The event was on church property on one side of St Roch Ave, and Hamilton Avenue School property including the parking deck and field on the other side. A road closure had been approved by the Board of Selectmen and there were tables and chairs in the street.
Beer and wine were being sold by First Selectman Fred Camillo and Town Clerk Jackie Budkins on church property. Both were members of the feast committee.
It was after the alcohol was sold that Greenwich Public Schools policy against alcohol on school property was violated.
People who purchased alcohol simply walked across the street and onto school property.
The policy had come up at several public meetings.
The Board of Education, at their April 20 meeting, voted to okay use of school property for the feast, with a condition they follow all district policies.
At that meeting, which is available here on YouTube (at 3:31:49) Karen Kowalski made the following motion:
“The Greenwich Board of Education recognizes the value of the St Roch annual feast for the Hamilton Avenue School community. The board hereby agrees that the St Roch Church is permitted to use the Hamilton Avenue field school school property: field, court and facilities for its annual feast on August 9-12, 2023. The St. Roch church shall, 1) Seek and receive an event permit from Parks & Recreation; 2) proactively begin to work with Town of Greenwich risk manager 30 days in advance of annual feast; 3), retain or hire Greenwich Police Dept, GPD, for event security and any additional security subject to GPD’s official request; 4) return the fields to pre-feast condition, and 5, agree to follow Greenwich Public Schools’ policies. ” (boldface added).
The motion was seconded by Laura Kostin. The vote was 7-1 in favor with Christina Downey abstaining.
Then, at the July 13 Selectmen meeting, Paul Cappiali’s agenda item requesting a waiver for the insurance requirement for alcohol on private property during St. Roch’s Feast was withdrawn. Mr. Cappiali is a member of the feast committee and was in charge of the raffle.
During that meeting, Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan brought up the topic of alcohol on school property.
“The consumption of alcoholic beverages on the field…?” she asked.
“Here’s my take on it. I work there. I volunteer there. We do it all the time,” Camillo said. “It’s a reasonable thing for someone to say, ‘Well it’s not on school property.’ So I did go to the town attorney and say, ‘Does it hold any weight?’ It was just a question, and the town would rather err on the side of caution, that they could take it over there. There hasn’t been any issues with that, but you want to make sure you’re safe and crossing our t’s and dotting your i’s, so we’re fine with that.”
At the feast on Friday a sign was posted facing the school entrance with Greenwich Schools Personnel Policy #4118 referring to “the importance of maintaining a drug-free environment for its staff and students.”
However, the more relevant policy is #1316 Relations Between Public and School Personnel – Conduct on School Property:
“…the Board expects that no person on school property or at a school event shall…Consume, possess, distribute, or be under the influence of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs, or possess dangerous instruments or weapons; or distribute alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs.”
Board of Education chair Joe Kelly was not on school property with his beer on Friday, but rather was at a table in the street.
But several elected officials were on school property drinking alcohol, and appeared in a live Raffle Video which captured several hours of the event.
Sometime on Wednesday afternoon the raffle video was removed from YouTube, but there are screenshots.
Reached by email Wednesday, Megan Damato, Director of Risk Management for the town and Greenwich Schools, wrote, “Alcohol is not allowed on school property and was not permitted by my office, Parks and Rec or the BOE who issued permits and insurance requirements.”
“Perhaps a discussion needs to be had with St. Roch’s next year before their event to reorganize things to ensure no alcohol is served or consumed on school property. If the situation is not improved, then the Town may decide to not allow alcohol to be served at the event at all.”