The Board of Selectmen delayed making a decision on the future management of Eichler's Cove during a Tuesday meeting after 20 or so boat owners from Newtown, Monroe and other parts of the state spoke in support of the woman who oversees the Lake Zoar marina.
"This is typical Newtown stuff where we go right up to the eve of a contract and try to change things or reach a resolution," Selectman Will Rodgers said during the meeting held at the Municipal Center. "There's no way I'm prepared to take action on the policy of Eichler's Cove tonight and there's no way I'm prepared to take action on the contract."
The Parks and Recreation Commission had recommended in August the town take over managing and overseeing boat slips at Eichler's Cove, specifically hiring a company to provide around-the-clock seasonal security starting in May while a more permanent system of surveillance and other measures are installed.
That would have put Carol Marchetti, who lives at Eichler's and is contracted to oversee the boat slips, out of a job by next month and her house by January. Under the terms of her contract, the town would have had to inform her by October 15.
Marchetti said she was unaware the recommendations had been issued until a Newtown Patch reporter sought comment from her, and then later she read about the proposal in the newspaper.
"One of my big concerns is of course I've been trying to get a decision since April on where I stand," she told the selectmen. "Waiting until October would put me behind the eight-ball."
Marchetti's family used to own Eichler's Cove before selling the nearly 11 acre property to the town five years ago for $1.4 million. As part of the deal, the town contracted with her to oversee the boat slip rental program.
She and her husband live on the property, which provides the town and boat owners with around-the-clock security.
"I question everyone that comes on that property," Marchetti said. "I make sure that people that are there are the ones that are suppose to be parking there and I make sure that boat owners have a priority to be able to park."
The marina features 76 boat slips. Newtown and out-of-town residents pay between $1,025 and $1,475 for each slip depending on the size of the vessel and whether they live in town.
"You have a great resource in Carol and her husband, Bill, as long as they are willing to partake and represent your town; I think it would be unwise to let that go," said boat owner Jeff Martinik, of Scenic Hill Lane, Monroe, adding that the town should consider a marina as a community of people rather than just boat slips. "Think about your long term goal – it just seems it's moving too quickly."
Another Monroe boat owner Paul Balsano, of Fan Hill Road, who is married to state Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112, Monroe, Newtown), also asked the selectmen to allow longtime out-of-town boat owners to continue using Eichler's.
"I've been there since Carol's mother ran the place," Balsano said. "I just hope you take all these things in consideration – grandfather us in and keep us there."
Parks and recreation officials said that while many people have differing opinions on what "grandfathering" entails, there was always an expectation out-of-town boat owners could remain, though fees may change.
"When we had discussion about this, the feeling among members of the commission as a whole was we wanted to encourage greater use by Newtowners," said Ed Marks, head of the parks and recreation commission."I don't think there was any sense that we would try to fill up slots that were traditionally filled by out-of-towners."
First Selectman Pat Llodra said she wanted an explicit clause in the recommendations for longtime boat owners.
Selectman Bill Furrier said he sympathized with boat owners but town officials have a duty to Newtown residents.
"From our perspective, our fiduciary responsibility is to the residents of Newtown," he said.
Llodra also asked for parks and recreation officials to consult with Newtown police and seek their opinions on Eichler's from a public safety perspective after one boat owner mentioned the cove's distance from the police department.
Finally, parks and recreation officials also were asked to talk with the Marchettis and understand "what their dream situation is and how much of that if anything you can accommodate " before returning to the selectmen, Rodgers said.
Parks and recreation director Amy Mangold, who also was at the meeting, said that she has had past conversations, and that while Marchetti initially said she did not want the post if it did not allow her to live on the property, she has since said she would consider it.
"Will you explore that further?" Llodra asked. "And then nail it down."