Wilton COVID-19 Update: Trespassing Fines for Using Playing Fields and Warning–”Don’t Pick Up Trash”

Wilton officials have closed all town fields and recreational facilities.

Monday, April 6 was an unusual day for First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. She had to issue a warning to residents to not pick up trash around town, and she announced plans to issue an order that will do something she didn’t want to have to resort to–impose a trespassing fine on anyone caught using town fields and playgrounds, which have been closed during the COVID-19 health crisis.

She explained these moves and other information during her nightly email update on the town’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [To receive her updates directly visit the town website’s subscribe page and check off “News and Announcements.”]

“On your many walks, you have likely noticed trash along the side of the roads. This is an ongoing issue in town, but Health Director Barry Bogle advises that now is not the time to be picking up other people’s discarded trash. The safer alternative is to wait. In a normal year, we would be holding our annual, town-wide cleanup at the end of April. This year, we hope to be able to hold the event in the late fall and invite you all to join us,” she wrote.

UPDATE:  Vanderslice added information about why it’s difficult to police littering at all: “For a police officer to ticket a resident, they have to actually see the resident litter. The reality is most residents don’t litter when there is a police officer present. With three patrol officers and one sergeant answering 9-1-1 calls and patrolling 127 miles of town-owned roads, 80-plus private roads and Rte. 7 and the other state-owned roads, they can’t be everywhere at once. The best solution is for all of us to commit to not litter. Now and throughout the year, please speak about this with your family members and anyone you employ.”

The announcement of a trespassing fine comes after Vanderslice had to repeatedly issue requests for residents to respect the field closure edict. During Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Vanderslice called it “an ongoing issue” and that multiple individuals continue to disobey the town’s prohibition against using town athletic fields, playgrounds, and recreation facilities.

“There’s barricades, yellow tape, huge signs, and yet it still keeps happening,” Vanderslice said.

She reported that last Friday, 30 people were removed from the fields, including some she had to ask to leave herself. Town officials have even caught people trying to sneak under or climb over the fence at the town tennis courts.

“It’s an ongoing nuisance, and a health issue for all of us. Doing it by executive order the ban will be strengthened. Police will be ordered to issue trespassing fines of $92 per person. We’re hoping that that will help these individuals understand that they shouldn’t be on the field,” Vanderslice explained.

In addition to announcing it at the BOS meeting, and telling the media, she also plans to issue an open letter reiterating that it’s not safe for members of the community to use the fields or facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic–and that they’ll now be breaking a law if they do so.

COVID-19 Financial Costs to the Town

Also during Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Vanderslice and town CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz reviewed possible revenue risks to this year’s financials and next year’s proposed budget, and what the actual and possible direct costs will be to the town as a result of the coronavirus. These include:

  • Housing to isolate and quarantine emergency responders
  • Housing for residents who cannot isolate or quarantine at home and for Wilton’s vulnerable population
  • Temporary assistance to long-term care facilities
  • Board of Education (BOE) janitors redeployed to perform cleaning at these facilities.
  • VNA nurses, including school nurses, redeployed to perform nursing duties and assist within the health department
  • Temporary personnel to assist in the health department and cover vacancies
  • School campus supervisors redeployed to patrol fields and recreational facilities.
  • Increased medical benefits costs

Jump in Numbers

In her report to residents, Vanderslice included updated data on tests and positive COVID-19 cases. “This rate of growth is very much needed as CT lags our neighboring states in tests per capita.  Our positive rate is higher than our neighbors to the north, which is likely a combination of our lag in testing and our proximity to NYC. New 24-hour tests are rolling out this week,” Vanderslice wrote.

Here’s how the cases broke out:

  • The Connecticut Department of Public Health reports 6,906 laboratory-confirmed statewide cases in CT–a 22% increase.
  • That includes 3,719 positive cases (54%) in Fairfield County
  • 79 positive cases in Wilton.
    • Vanderslice noted that as of Monday morning, only 10 cases in Wilton were associated with the long-term care facilities.
  • Of Monday’s 309 new cases in Fairfield County, 236 were in Stamford, which leads the state with 888 cases. Approximately 4% of total reported cases remain unassigned to a municipality.
  • The number of cases requiring hospitalization increased to 1,221, with 572 in Fairfield County. All hospitals are taxed, but particularly those in southern Fairfield County, as they are admitting patients from New York and southernmost municipalities have high case levels totaling over 1,200 combined. Hospitals expanded capacity and are seeking additional capacity.

Vanderslice included her important, nightly warning about staying home and social distancing:  “Each night, please remember hospital workers, emergency responders and all those who come to work each day to serve the public, despite the risk. Honor their sacrifice by behaving as if you have the virus and as if those around you do as well.”

As always she wrote the following:

“Anyone who has received a confirmed or presumptive positive test and has not been contacted by the Wilton Health Department, should contact the department. Department members are out in the field, so they can be reached more quickly through email.

“Great seeing people in their masks today.  We encourage everyone to do the same.

“As always, if you have any questions, please email the appropriate town department or me.  Email is the preferred means of communication because most employees are working from home. I have immediate access to my email and try to respond promptly. If you contact me on Facebook, know that my response will be delayed, as I only check my F S Lynne Vanderslice Facebook account a few times a day. I generally don’t use Messenger and have limited ability to access it.”