CCRC policy development team: one member drops out, more to be added
Possible changes to the Continuing Care Retirement Community policy development team is slated for discussion at the March 16 Board of Selectmen meeting. Additions to the team are likely to be proposed, according to First Selectman Jeb Walker.
Announced by Walker in early January, the policy development team, headed by the Health and Human Services Commission, was assigned to study the health-care and housing needs of New Canaan seniors and residents with aging parents, determine the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a CCRC in town and review CCRC location options, including the building of a center in Waveny Park.
Changes have not yet been made to the policy development team as originally slated, aside from the resignation of one of its members.
HHSC Secretary Lissa Barker withdrew her name from the roster and from future consideration for a re-constituted group when the Board of Selectmen put the group on hold last month.
Barker said she based her decision to withdraw on possible public criticism that she may attract following her family's "sudden" decision to put their New Canaan home on the market. Barker said they plan to move to Pittsburgh.
"There are people who are heatedly against the CCRC on public land," she said. "I thought that [putting my house on the market] would make me too much of a target and that people would say, `What does she care, she's moving anyway.'"
A week after Walker announced the formation of the review team, Selectmen Rob Mallozzi and Sally Hines voiced concerns about the makeup of the team and its fundamental purpose.
According to Hines, neither she nor Mallozzi were consulted in the development of the policy development team.
When Walker first announced the formation of the group, she and Mallozzi found fault with the lack of diversity among the community members named to participate in the group and with the task handed to that group.
"I want to divorce totally the issue of Waveny Park and a CCRC," Mallozzi said. "That issue is secondary. ... `How important is a CCRC for New Canaan' is the way we should be headed."
Hines also questioned the objectivity of a committee whose chairman and at least one other member have taken a public stance on the issue at task.
HHSC Chairman Jim Lischer and Staying Put in New Canaan President Tom Ferguson's names appeared on the Waveny Care Network's Web site on a list of supporters of the concept of a CCRC, and were removed last month. According to Lisher, he and Ferguson, both members of the CCRC policy development team, requested to have their names removed from the supporters list.
"I think it's inappropriate to sit on a board and endorse something that's coming before a town board," Hines said. "I'm not saying it's unethical, but it's odd."
Barker said that she would not be surprised if disagreements among officials over the makeup and task of the policy team continue to stall the group from meeting.
"If the team had gone to work as planned, it was due to be finished in May, which is what I signed on for," she said. "Now they'll be lucky to assemble by then, if you ask me. It was supposed to be a short-term project and now it's looking more like a long-term one."
Barker, 67, said her resignation from the group also makes room for a younger community member to join the commission.
"The committee was largely made up of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s," she said.
Barker said that the majority of the contention surrounding the topic stems from its pending location, should one be built in New Canaan.
"People have come up to me and pleaded with me about not wanting to use the Lapham Road public land for the CCRC," she said.
As for the Board of Selectmen's decision to put the policy development team on hold, Barker said the decision was rooted in disagreements between the selectmen.
"I think Mallozzi and Hines felt left out of the decision making process," she said.
Public debate has played out over whether or not the Health and Human Services Commission should head the policy development team. Walker asserts that it should, and Barker agrees.
"One of [HHSC's] mission's is elder care," Barker said. "It's a sensible thing for us to be heading up."
Walker said that despite the contrary opinions of his fellow selectmen, he continues to believe that the HHSC is the appropriate group to review housing and health-care options for seniors.
Walker also said that Mallozzi and Hines raised points "worthy of consideration" and that the selectmen are currently looking to add community members to the policy development group.
"Sally [Hines] is working on finding and vetting people, so that's what we're waiting on right now," Walker said.