Last Friday an artist hired to paint a colorful mural on East Putnam Avenue was asked to put down his paint brushes.
The mural, located near the intersection with Overlook Drive and across from GHS was intended to educate the community about the value of pollinator pathways.
At the April 22 Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Fred Camillo said he had signed an encroachment permit with the CT Dept of Transportation for the mural by the bus stop.
“I’m excited for that. That will be later in the spring,” he said at the meeting, which coincided with Earth Day.
At the meeting Select person Jill Oberlander shared a Pollinator Pathway designation Resolution that the board voted unanimously to approve.
“We thought that Earth Week was a perfect time for the town to publicly assert its support with pollinator habitats,” she said. “Fred, you mentioned the mural is going to coincide and educate our community about pollinators and their pathways.”
Aleksandra Moch and Environmental Affairs Director Patricia Sesto both spoke about the value of pollinator pathways.
Myra Klockenbrink, a member of the town’s Sustainability Committee and co-chair of Greenwich Pollinator Pathway, spearheaded the mural project via the office of the First Selectman. She said the mural and the Resolution both supported the mission of establishing native pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, birds, butterflies, other pollinating insects and wildlife.
In April she proposed the mural project to the Town’s Greenscape Committee, where it was well received, though she was asked to factor in a budget for maintenance and possible graffiti removal.
She said the cost for the mural was $25,000, of which $5,500 was required to move the bus shelter in order to wash the wall and paint behind it. She said if $17,500 was achieved through fundraising, they would receive a matching grant from Sustainable CT for $7,500.
She said after an RFP was issued, Nelson Rivas of Newburgh, NY, proposed a design for the 100 ft long wall, which at its tallest is 9 ft high.
With all the enthusiasm, why was the artist asked to stop?
On Thursday, First Selectman Camillo explained that there was not an awareness that the gift of the mural required RTM approval.
Once the artist put paintbrush to concrete wall Camillo said he heard from the Budget Overview Committee that the approval should have gone through the RTM.
At that point Camillo asked the artist to pause the painting so he could consult town attorney Barbara Schellenberg.
He said Schellenberg’s research led to a memo from Aamina Ahmad opining on the offer of an anonymous gift in 1996 of $900 to the Town for the purchase of Tasers by the Greenwich Police Dept. Ahmad said there was an opinion from then Greenwich Town Attorney John Meerbergen saying there was but one procedure for the acceptance of gifts, “no matter how small, other than seeking approval from the RTM and the BET…”
And so Ms Ahmad advised that precedent existed requiring approval of the RTM.
“I wanted clarification, and that’s why I reached out to the town attorney,” Camillo said. “We now have that clarity.”
Unfortunately, Camillo said, the next RTM meeting isn’t until September. “We may need to put a green tarp over it.”
As for the neighbors not being consulted, Camillo said, “Let’s use this as a teaching moment. And everybody who is not sure will now know the precedent. Any time you do something, you want to check with the neighbors but this was on the Post Road. It was a dirty wall and it was Earth Day and there was the pollinator pathway (Resolution), but you still have to make sure the neighbors are on board.”
“Going forward, it’s learning lesson or everyone on board,” he added.
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