A controversy regarding banners and the lighting of a tree in one Fairfield County town has led a government official to make a statement on the issue.
The controversy surrounds the lighting of a tree at Sherman Green and a row of flags and banners by local town favorite and philanthropist Al DiGuido of Saugatuck Sweets.
According to a post on Facebook by DiGuido, he was removing all of the items after receiving complaints.
"It saddens me deeply that due to several complaints regarding the American flags, tree of hope lights & signage on the green that the Town of Fairfield has asked us to remove all of the above today," DiGuido wrote. "We have removed everything as per their request. The tree of hope will not be lit moving forward. If you would like more information regarding this move...I would suggest that you speak with your elected representatives."
In response, complaints flooded social media and town officials' ears.
Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick responded by saying she wanted to confirm her support for DiGuido's charitable work, but there are procedures that one has to follow before planting a tree or hanging a flag on town property.
The policy, she said. includes going through the Park's and Recreation Commission for approval.
“It’s critical there is a clear and fair process to vet requests to display anything on town property," Kupchick said. "In the instance of the Tree of Hope, Mr. DiGuido generously donated the tree to the Town and did so through the town’s long-standing process."
The tree of Hope will remain on the green, she said. And went one to "encourage Mr. DiGuido to make another request to the Park and Rec Commission to keep the lights on longer."
The Parks and Recreation Commission approved the Tree of Hope in October 2019 for the Sherman Green with an agreement the tree would be lit from November through January 15, 2020.
In early March, Parks and Recreation Director, Anthony Calabrese, spoke to DiGuido during the pandemic about adding patriotic flags on the green and maintaining the lights through July 1 in an effort to lift the spirits of our community and give hope during a very challenging time for our town, said Kupchick.
"This decision was made unilaterally without commission approval, as the commission was not meeting during this time of emergency," she said.
Last week, the town received a letter expressing concerns about the proper protocols not followed in light of the pandemic and asked for the flags and lights to be removed in accordance with the agreement.
“Last night I asked our Fire and Police to gather as many American flags as we could find so together we could line downtown Fairfield with flags to celebrate the 4th of July," Kupchick said. "I look forward to putting American flags up downtown today and celebrating America’s Independence throughout the weekend.”
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