The Board of Selectmen approved $9,925 on Tuesday, May 7, for the planting of ornamental trees around the Richmond Hill Parking lot.

Tree Warden Bruce Pauley said the trees would include several different species, which would prolong the flowering period during the spring.

"It was brought to my attention, and it looked pretty bad," Pauley said of the dead tree situation at the parking lot. "I wouldn't have parked my pickup there."

All three selectmen were in favor of the project.

"It sounds like it will be beautiful," Selectman Beth Jones said.

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Selectman Nick Williams agreed.

"It's good we're upgrading the commuter lot," he said.

"Definitely," First Selectman Robert Mallozzi concurred.

But the approval was not without a degree of controversy.

Resident Michael Nowacki sent out an email the day before the selectmen's meeting to virtually every town official and media outlet, alleging corruption on the part of town government.

Town Councilman John Engel lives in the house directly next to the Richmond Hill lot.

"If my information is correct, Mr. Engel, aren't you required as a public official from receiving a benefit which comes from a `yet to be identified' request? I doubt whether there is any evidence which exists of your disclosure of this impending benefit in advance of the vote. Mr. Engel, if there is a citizen who requested that there should be screening of the residents who pay a parking fee to the Town to be shielded from your personal BBQ's held with (Town Council) members, then please send those letters from those assigned to the Talmadge Hill lot requesting trees paid for by taxpayers to my attention, as they would provide proper evidence of an `arm's length' or `tree length' or `car length' transaction," wrote Nowacki, who is presently engaged in several lawsuits against the town and has filed a criminal complaint against many members of the Town Council.

Pauley responded with an email within an hour.

"I was originally e-mailed by Mrs. Engel regarding trees in the parking lot at Richmond Hill. I inspected them and found dead trees, trees covered in three different types of vines, broken trees, and trees known to be unsuitable for that location such as ailanthus and Norway maple. After removing them, I felt that given the location so close to town and the barren look, I would ask for recommendations and bids for a replanting using a variety of ornamental trees that would enhance the beauty of the parking lot. This in no way is `screening' for any neighbor, but simply an improvement over the preexisting condition."

Engel, who attended the meeting, did not speak, but did offer a brief comment in an interview afterwards.

"I choose not to dignify (Nowacki's) outrageous allegations with a comment. There's no merit to his accusations. I'm happy to provide all my correspondence to the town attorney."

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