Penfield Pavilion Reconstruction

Penfield Meeting Recap 02/23/23

FBRA Opinion re: Penfield Reconstruction


After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Penfield Pavilion was severely damaged and closed for three years for reconstruction – presumably within conformity to required standards set by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, due to the town not complying with FEMAs approved scope of work and lack of FEMA approval prior to rebuilding, the town is now faced with a required re-renovation at significant additional costs to be borne by all Fairfield taxpayers.

The meeting is meant to educate the public on the matters at hand, to present options on potential reimbursement for the original renovation problems, and to discuss the increased flooding impact based on the upcoming rebuild plan. Below are some of the correspondences between FBRA, the town and RTMs – hopefully it can provide some context ahead of this important public forum.

This tax burden is not isolated to the beach community.

On January 3rd, the FBRA board voted to send the following letters to the Board of Selectmen (BOS), Board of Finance (BOF) and RTM members. We feel strongly that the firms hired to provide design, engineering, and FEMA expertise for the initial Penfield Pavilion reconstruction have not been held accountable for FEMA’s Notice of Violation. Has the town aggressively pursued all avenues of possible redress for reducing the burden on taxpayers? The FBRA letter, as well as responses from RTMs in support and from First Selectwoman Kupchak are below:

FBRA Letter to BOS and RTMs re: Consulting and Engineering Liability and Pursuing Reimbursement to Town

From: Fairfield Beach Residents Association

January 6, 2023
To: Town of Fairfield Board of Selectmen via e mail
cc: Town of Fairfield Board of Finance and RTM

We understand remediation of the Penfield Pavilion is expected to cost roughly $8 million dollars to address the FEMA Notice of Violation (NOV) as FEMA did not approve the plans for the building as it was built.  This is on top of the $4 -5 million that it is anticipated will be needed to address the removal of contaminated fill that was used during the last renovation.

It is also our understanding the town retained building, engineering and coastal engineering firms and consultants to work with the Penfield Building Committee and relevant Town departments as part of the original rebuilding of the pavilion after damages incurred after Superstorm Sandy. These firms provided the technical expertise to rebuild the pavilion as it stands today.  Several of these consultants and firms provided their expertise and opinions in the development of the two different appeals that went to FEMA supporting the physical grade beam and elevation decisions that went into the building that have been deemed by FEMA to be in violation in the NOV and resulted in a loss of expected grant reimbursement.

We write on behalf of the Town taxpayers who now stand to cover the cost of not just this remediation at $8 million dollars, but also cover the roughly $4.3 million in costs that the town did not receive as part of the expected grant reimbursement for the initial post Sandy rebuild due to the non-compliance with FEMAs guidelines for building in a flood plain. The FBRA would like to understand what recourse the town has to request that the appropriate engineering and building firms cover these costs through their insurance policies.   

Can you please let us know what action has been taken to date to seek reimbursement and what the Town’s legal and third-party insurance coverage options are in this regard.

Thank you.

Carolyn Kamlet; President
FBRA Board of Directors 

Letter From RTMs in Support or here

BOS Response Letter re: Engineering Liability and Possible Reimbursement to Town or here

(Editor’s Note: The following response incorrectly addresses liability for the fill pile underneath Penfield. The FBRA request is to pursue an insurance claim on the consultant and engineering firm hired for the reconstruction itself.)

Town of Fairfield
Office of the First Selectwoman
725 Old Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824

January 10, 2023

Fairfield Beach Residents Association
C/O Carolyn Kamlet, President

Dear Ms. Kamlet:

Thank you for your letter of January 6 regarding Penfield Pavilion and the Notice of Violation from FEMA.

The Town has determined that the failure to comply with FEMA guidelines during the last rebuild of Penfield Pavilion was due to the misfeasance of the former First Selectman in concert with criminal defendants Robert Mayer, Joe Michelangelo and Scott Bartlett.

Through the pending criminal actions, the Town is hoping to receive restitution upon conviction or through plea agreements. In the case of Mr. Michelangelo, his tentative plea agreement stipulates $500,000 in restitution to the Town. The amount for the other two named defendants, if any, is yet to be determined.

The Town has also made a claim under its Crime Insurance Policy however that will provide very limited (less than $100,000) for the actions of the criminal defendants.

Insofar as FEMA also cited the quality of the fill used beneath the building that came from the Julian contaminated fill pile, it has also brought legal actions against Julian that include claims for the cost of removing and replacing that fill.

The removal and replacement of the fill is governed by CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection and US Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and the Town’s licensed environmental professional has worked in concert with staff from these agencies to develop the plan to complete the work.

After careful review it has been determined that the retained engineering and FEMA consultants were not considered responsible for the actions of these players who essentially chose to ignore or override their recommendations.

On behalf of the Town’s taxpayers I am incredibly frustrated by the time and resources that will be spent in total on this entire scandal. Tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money is being wasted cleaning up this mess that could have been used for much needed projects in town. Addressing this issue has consumed hundreds of hours that would be much better spent on other important Town matters. What was allowed to happen in this Town is an atrocity, from the criminal cases, arrests, the employees who were used in the process, and the harm done to public trust in government.

I am doing my very best to clean up the mess left in the wake of this public corruption, and to rebuild trust with the public and Town employees, by being transparent and sharing our government’s work through my newsletter. I hope all of our elected officials, especially those who were in office during these transgressions, and were publicly lied to or misled, will work with me to resolve these very complex issues so we can move our town forward together.


Brenda L. Kupchick
First Selectwoman

Board of Selectmen
Board of Finance

Letter from FBRA to BOS re: We are not referring to the fill pile

From: FBRA
Date: Thu, Jan 12, 2023 at 2:46 PM
Subject: Re: Penfield Pavilion Remediation
To: Kupchick, Brenda
Cc: BOF, Board of Selectmen, RTM, Baldwin, James, Bremer, Tom, Miller, Michael <

First Selectwoman Kupchick,
FBRA is in receipt of your response to our letter of January 6, 2023. Some of our board members remain concerned that the specific consultant advice we are referencing is not the fill pile, but the advice and expertise provided on the height of the grade beam and natural grade of the site resulting in the FEMA NOV (Notice of Violation) leaving Fairfield with this financial burden.

However, FBRA appreciates your willingness to hold a town meeting so all residents can be fully educated on the options facing us and what it means to taxpayers across Fairfield.
We assume the meeting will happen in the immediate future well in advance of a final determination from FEMA.

FBRA stands ready to assist in notifying our members and the members of neighborhood associations across Fairfield as we are all in this together.

Please let us know the date and time of the meeting and we will alert residents.


Carolyn Kamlet

Finally, below is a proposal by FBRA for mediation with DEEP, FEMA and the Town. This option has not yet been acknowledged by the Town. We believe residents need to be educated regarding FEMA and DEEP’s stance before we have no choice but to spend another $8-9 million once again rebuilding Penfield.

FBRA to BOS re: Request for Mediation

From: Fairfield Beach Residents Association

January 9, 2023
To: Town of Fairfield Board of Selectmen via e mail
cc: Town of Fairfield Board of Finance and RTM

First Selectwoman Kupchick, Selectman Flynn, and Selectwoman Lefkowitz:

After reviewing the information available to date on the proposed actions at Penfield Pavilion to remedy the FEMA Notice of Violation, we are concerned about the significant expenditure of taxpayer funds to execute a plan that will negatively impact the Town’s coastal resiliency and the associated flood impacts to the thousands of citizens we represent.
We know the history that led us to this place and FEMA’s desire for accountability. However, the current requirement to lower the elevation of the beach to eight feet and the associated changes to the supporting structures to retain the Pavilion at a cost of $8-9M do not make good sense to us. The current beach elevation at Penfield is a key part of our town’s flood defense; lowering it weakens our town’s flood resiliency and serves to increase the speed, and possibly frequency, with which water will flood the neighborhoods in the beach area. In addition to the $8-9M to comply with FEMA’s current demands and keep the Pavilion, the Town will need to budget for new flood mitigation measures to protect the homes behind Penfield Beach due to the new lower elevation; a cost estimated to be $8-10M or more; bringing the total cost to taxpayers in excess of $16M. The lowering of the beach elevation has no positive environmental impacts, it simply corrects an error in height FEMA states we made when building the pavilion. There must be a better solution for FEMA to have the accountability they desire that does not spend millions of taxpayer dollars to decrease our coastal flood resiliency and have no positive impacts on the Town, while diverting tax funds from other vital government programs and initiatives.
One of our members brought us a proposal for a mediation effort between all parties involved in the situation at Penfield, the town, FEMA and DEEP. We believe this an opportunity worth pursuing. We know the administration has worked hard to get to a solution with FEMA, but this approach might allow your team to work towards a better solution for all involved. A solution that will hold the Town accountable without wasting crucial public dollars and reducing our flood resiliency.
If mediation is not possible or if another strategy is being pursued to address the concerns referenced above, we would respectfully ask to understand this alternative path. We thank you for your hard work and diligence on this matter.
FBRA Board of Directors