October 23, 2014

Essex Zoning Commission Sets Dec. 19 Meeting on Accepting Current Connecticut River Gateway Standards

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a Dec. 19 public meeting to discuss whether Essex should accept the current standards of the eight-town Connecticut River Gateway Commission. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Essex joined the Connecticut River Gateway Commission with its inception in the early 1970s. The commission, which also includes the towns of Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook, offers advisory opinions to local zoning authorities for development proposals falling within the ridgelines on both sides of the lower Connecticut River. The panel also administers a fund created in the 1980s to purchase properties or easements in the scenic Gateway Conservation Zone.

But Essex declined to accept new standards that were adopted by the commission and all of the other member towns in 2004. Torrance Downes, staffer for the Gateway Commission, said Wednesday that some Essex residents felt the new standards were too restrictive, particularly an increase from 50-feet to 100-feet in the standard’s setback requirement from the edge of the Connecticut River.

Downes said under the standard accepted by the other Gateway towns, construction activity including home additions would be subject to an advisory review by the Connecticut River Gateway Commission. Downes said the local zoning board of appeals would still retain final regulatory authority over construction within the 100-feet setback, but the regional commission would have the standing to challenge a local ZBA decision in superior court.

The 2004 standards also include a requirement for a special permit from the Connecticut River Gateway Commission for new homes and structures, including additions, within the Gateway Conservation District that exceed 4,000-square-feet. This is the so-called “McMansions rule.”

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said he expects most of the discussion to focus on the proposed expansion of the setback rule to 100-feet, a step that would cover more than 100 additional existing homes in Essex. “It brings a lot more people in to play,” he said.

Budrow said the Dec. 19 session would be for discussion only, with the panel expected to hold a formal public hearing on accepting the latest Gateway standards early next year. The zoning commission holds the sole authority over whether to accept the current standards, with no requirement for town meeting approval.

Connecticut River Museum to Host Post Roads & Iron Horses

Essex,CT – On Thursday, December 8 at 5:30 p.m., the Connecticut River Museum’s Boathouse Gallery and Education Center will be the setting for the fascinating history of  the turnpikes, steamboats, canals, railroads and trolleys that helped define Connecticut and shape New England.  Advances in transportation technology during the nineteenth century transformed the Constitution State from a rough network of colonial towns to an industrial powerhouse of the Gilded Age.  Drawing from his recently published book, historian and transportation engineer Richard DeLuca will provide engaging stories and trace the significant themes that emerged as American innovators and financiers, lawyers and legislators, struggled to control the movement of passengers and goods in southern New England.

The program will be followed by a light reception and book signing by Mr. DeLuca.  Admission is $5 for the general public and free for Connecticut River Museum members.   Reservations are requested and can be made by calling 860-767-8269.  The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street.

About Richard DeLuca

Mr. DeLuca has worked as a transportation planner in Connecticut for ten years and written on regional transportation for Connecticut History and the Encyclopedia of Connecticut History Online.  He is the author of We, the People! Bay Area Activism in the 1960s.

Fiddling Poet Comes to the Kate for Holiday Show with Ace Accompanists

When Ken Waldman, Alaska’s Fiddling Poet, comes to the Kate, he’ll have five stellar musicians joining him. His Friday, December 16, 8 p.m. show is titled From the Kate to Kodiak, and Waldman will host an evening of holiday variety that will transport the audience to the grandeur of Alaska. He’ll be joined by Massachusetts banjo player, guitarist, and flute player, Mark Roberts, by Massachusetts banjo player and flute player, Andrea Cooper, and by three New York City singers, Rosalind Gnatt, Dayle Vander Sande, and Anthony Bellov. Tickets are $25. The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center is at 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook. 860/510-0473 for information. Or www.thekate.org.

Waldman combines old-time Appalachian-style fiddling, original poetry, and Alaska-set storytelling for a performance uniquely his own. The show marks his first Connecticut appearance in almost three years.

Mark Roberts and Andrea Cooper are a Massachusetts-based couple who’ve previously played and recorded with Waldman. Roberts has played internationally for thirty years and was a founding member of the acclaimed Irish band, Touchstone. Cooper often joins him onstage, and they’ve combined banjos, flutes, and pennywhistles from Vancouver to Boston, and beyond.

Rosalind Gnatt, Dayle Vander Sande, and Anthony Bellov are members of the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society, house artists for the Merchant’s House Museum in Manhattan’s East Village. Their repertoire includes spirited carols.

Ken Waldman, who has eight books and nine CDs, promises a coastal Connecticut music party complete with favorite seasonal songs, rare gems, and special guests. A 25-year Alaska resident, Waldman’s live performance has been described by Austin Chronicle writer, Ric Williams, “Feels like a Ken Burns movie. . . . Always recommended.” Shepherd Express Weekly in Milwaukee termed Waldman, “A one-man Prairie Home Companion.”  More recently, the Denver Post praised Waldman’s mix of music and words, calling it “Renegade Americana.” The holiday-themed evening will appeal to anyone who enjoys traditional music, exquisite singing, smart poetry, acclaimed storytelling, or Alaska. Begin the evening at the Katharine Hepburn
Cultural Center, then journey to Kodiak and back.

More?  www.kenwaldman.com. Or call Ken Waldman at 337/258-5994.

Breast Cancer Survivors Invited to Participate in Exercise Study at Yale

The Hormones and Physical Exercise (HOPE) Study, a Yale School of Public Health study, funded by the National Institutes of Health is expanding and women living on the shoreline are being invited to participate.

Women who have been treated for breast cancer and who are taking an aromatase inhibitor (Femara, Aromasin, Arimidex or a generic version) are being invited to participate in this important study.  Aromatase inhibitors are taken by many post-menopausal women who have had breast cancer.

This research study will examine if a program of strength training combined with moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves the side effects from aromatase inhibitors, such as joint pain and bone loss.

Half the women in the study will be chosen at random to start a 12-month exercise program.  The other half will participate in a health education program for 12 months.

The exercise program will be individually tailored to your needs and will include two supervised strength training sessions per week at the Westbrook YMCA and 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking.  A 12-month membership to the YMCA will be provided to those in the exercise group.

The health education program will involve a health counselor telephoning you once a month to discuss topics of interest for women who have had breast cancer.  Upon completion of the 12-month program, an exercise trainer will also develop a personalized exercise program for you.

All costs related to the study will be paid by the HOPE study.  Office visits will be reimbursed with a $20 gas card and payment of all parking charges. If the 12-month study is completed (including attendance at the 6-month office visit), the participant will receive a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart

If you are interested in learning more about the HOPE Study by phone or email, call 203-764-8427 or email the Principal Investigator, Dr Melinda Irwin at melinda.irwin@yale.edu

Click here for more details

Chester has Two Region 4 Board of Education Vacancies

CHESTER— The board of selectmen will be filling two vacancies on the Region 4 Board of Education by appointment through the 2013 town election. The second vacancy takes effect on Dec. 6 with the resignation of Pamela Christman, the board’s current vice-chairwoman.

Christman, a Republican, was narrowly elected to a six-year term on the board in 2009. She served previously as a member and chairwoman of the Chester Board of Education. Richard Strauss, another Republican who served as the treasurer of the nine-member regional board, had resigned in October. Strauss’s term expires in 2013. The town’s other member, Democrat Elaine Fitzgibbons, was re-elected to a second term on the board in the Nov. 8 election.

The Chester Republican Town Committee last month recommended Mario Gioco for appointment to the vacancy created by the Strauss resignation. But with the town election only weeks away, the board of selectmen decided to defer action on the appointment until a newly elected board was seated for the 2011-2013 term. Gioco, the chairman of the town committee, is also a longtime member and chairman of the zoning board of appeals.

Democrat Edmund Meehan was elected on Nov. 8, with Democratic Selectman Larry Sypher and Republican Selectman Tom Englert also returning for second terms on the board. The board is expected to discuss the Region 4 vacancies when it holds its first meeting on Dec. 6.

The individuals appointed to the vacancies will serve until November 2013, when both seats will be on the municipal election ballot. The selectmen’s vacancy appointees are not required to be a member of any particular political party.

 

Mount Saint John Christmas Boutique

Local Crafters and artisans will display their wares at the First Annual Mount Saint John Christmas Boutique on Saturday, December 10, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 135 Kirtland Street, Deep River, CT 06417.

Enjoy live entertainment by the Mount Saint John Christmas Choir and Visit with Santa.  Homemade soup, sandwiches and beverages available for purchase. The school’s Culinary program is featuring a bake sale.

Shop for all your gift giving this season, choosing from a variety of items including quality crafts, artisan items, wreaths, baskets and freshly cut Christmas trees.

Great fun for the whole family. Admission is free!

For more information or to reserve your table as a vendor, please contact Vicki McKenney, 860.343.1340 or mckenneyv@mtstjohn.org

 

Laura Levine Artist of the Month – Reception December 9

Laura Levine at work on "Saybrook Lights"

 Laura Levine has been selected as the Estuary Council of Seniors December Artist of the Month.  Old Saybrook scenes have been the inspiration for the majority of award winning Laura Levine oil paintings over the last two decades. Working on location, she has become part of the landscape as residents have observed her at work.

Originally from New York, Levine studied at SUNY Purchase and later at the New Brooklyn School for Life Drawing, Painting and Sculpture in New York City.  Her paintings have been featured in galleries and cultural center throughout New England and will be featured at ECSI Marshview Gallery, 220 Main Street in Old Saybrook from December 1 through December 30.  A reception to honor Laura and introduce her work will be held on Friday, December 9 from 5-7:00 pm.  Everyone is welcome.

Commuters Howl About Paying for Parking at the Old Saybrook Railroad Station

Sign for $5 a day parking fee

“I think it is lousy,” said a rushing commuter about the new system of having to pay for parking at the Old Saybrook railroad station. She herself was avoiding paying, by parking for free out on North Main Street.

Another rushing commuter was Nancy Johnson of Old Saybrook. “I am sad about it. It’s awful,” she said about paying for parking at the railroad station. “What’s going to happen, when it snows? It’s going to get worse. People are going to get killed. There are no lights in the parking lot,” she pointed out.

Carolann McNeish of Old Saybrook also protested the new $5 a day parking fee at the station. “We need to encourage people to take the train,” she said. “This discourages them.”

McNeish said that she had called to complain about the new $5 fee for parking at the station. However, she was doubtful that it would do any good. As for her using the free parking area set aside for Shoreline East commuters, she said, “It’s always full.”

Even one of the new parking attendants, hired to collect the $5 fees, said, “A lot of people are complaining.”

What’s going on here? Well, it all began when David M. Adams, a partner of Saybrook Realty Partners, decided that it was time to charge for parking on the private property that his firm owns next to the railroad station. This property, called, Saybrook Junction, encompasses both the parking spaces at the shopping plaza, as well as those next to the railroad station.

To put the new “pay for parking” scheme into effect, Adams hired a large professional firm called LAZ Parking, and LAZ in turn hired two parking attendants to collect $5 a day parking fees from frequently puzzled parkers.

One parking attendant is on duty from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the second, works from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Since there is no on site booth for the attendants to sit in, they simply wander around the parking lot trying to get parkers to pay the $5 fee for parking, when appropriate. When the attendants get cold, they sit in their cars to warm up.

Not enough free parking spaces for commuters

In addition to putting into place a new “pay-to park” parking scheme, an attempt has also been made to provide free parking for train-bound passengers at two of the station’s “park-free” areas.

Shoreline East's free parking area

One is an enclosed lot set aside for Shoreline East passengers, which faces North Main Street. On this lot there are 160 free parking spaces. However, the problem is that this Shoreline East lot is frequently full.

Also, there is a parking area reserved for Amtrak passengers. This area has 41 free spaces, and on busy days it too can be full.

Both of these free parking areas for train riders are well in the back of the Shoreline Junction’s parking spaces, so it is always something of a walk for Shoreline East and Amtrak passengers to get to the station.

Furthermore, Shoreline East and Amtrak riders are exempt from paying for parking, only when they are parking in their designated areas. Even if a person has a train ticket in hand, and shows it to the attendant, that is not good enough. They have to pay for parking.

The parking spaces closest to the new $6 million railroad station building are those which are reserved exclusively for the patrons of the “Pizza Works, pies and suds” restaurant. These “Pizza Works” parking spaces generally remain empty throughout the day.

Saybrook Junction, the private owner of rail station parking

Bob Kehayias of Pizza Works, while intent on preserving his restaurant’s privileged parking spaces, said in a recent interview that the solution to the parking problem at the railroad station is to build a new, freestanding parking garage, which would provide free parking for all.

Also, Kehayias said that at one time Amtrak owned the parking area next to the railroad station, but then sold them to a private owner, which he felt was very shortsighted. As for the present parking situation at Sayrbook Junction, he says, “Some people are upset and confused.”

Parking for free, away from the station

Still, some commuters have taken the new parking charges in stride. “It was a nice perk, while it lasted,” said one, referring to the days when parking at the station was free. When Pat Thompson of Essex on her way to the train was asked, if she was angry about having to pay for parking, she replied, “Not a bit.”

To end some of the confusion here is a summary of when “to pay, or not to pay” for parking on Saybrook Junction’s property at the Old Saybrook railroad station.

  1. Any person who is doing business with one of Saybrook Junction’s tenants, or who is an employee of one of its tenants, can park for free.
  2. Any person parking in the special area reserved for Shoreline East commuter parking can park for free, if of course they can find a space.
  3. Any person parking in the special spaces reserved for Amtrak passengers, which are indicated by painted yellow stripes, can park for free, if they can find an empty space.
  4. Any person parking in the One Hour Parking row at Saybrook Junction can park for free for one hour.
  5. Any person parking outside the Saybrook Junction parking lot, such as along the side of North Main Street, can park for free.
  6. Any handicapped person can park for free in handicapped spaces at the Saybrook Junction parking lot at the station. However, the handicapped parking spaces in the Pizza Works restaurant area require eating at the restaurant at the time of their use.
  7. Any person that parks in Saybrook Junction’s  parking spaces, which do not fit one of the above “park free” categories, must pay $5 a day for parking. Furthermore, if a person, who is required to pay, wants to park for more than one day, they must pay in advance for the multiple days and display their daily receipts, so they can be seen by the attendants.
  8. As a general rule those persons parking in spaces that are bordered by white stripes are required to pay the $5 a day parking fee.

David Adams, the partner-owner of the Saybrook Junction, said in a recent interview that by instituting charges for parking on their parking lot, “We wanted to get the situation under control and to alleviate the pressure.” Asked about what he felt about those people who are not paying for parking, when they should be, he said, “If there is a ten percent slippage, so what.”

Even with the slippage it appears that charging for parking on   Saybrook Junction’s property at the railroad station is making money. “It’s profitable,” is the way Adams puts it.

The Company of Fifers and Drummers Holiday Concert

The Company of Fifers and Drummers will be holding a Holiday Concert on December 3, 2011 from 3 pm – 10 pm at the Museum in Ivoryton.

The Concert will feature unique arrangements of new and old holiday favorites.  A variety of percussion, wind, brass and caroling will be heard throughout the evening with a jam session following.

Food and refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon and a small donation will be asked at the door to go towards the Company.

For more information please e-mail buppababi1@netscape.net

The Company of Fifers and Drummers Museum, 62 North Main Street, Ivoryton CT  06442

Deep River Rotary Raises Over $1,000 for Local Families

First Selectman, Dick Smith receives $1,000 check from Liberty Bank Branch Manager, Robin Walonski and Deep River Rotary President, Hedy Watrous.

Deep River Rotary Club completed their Thanksgiving Fundraiser with the help of Liberty Bank.

They were able to raise over $1,000 to provide food for families in need in the community of Deep River.

Rotarians placed Thanksgiving jars throughout town at local businesses and individual contributions were made as well.

Liberty Bank added 25% to the funds raised by Rotary clubs. All participating clubs and Liberty Bank were able to raise a total of over $100,000.

A Christmas Story – “Home for The Holidays” at Ivoryton Playhouse

Take an unexpected blizzard, add a sprinkling of the Nutcracker, a pinch of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, stir in a little romance and festive song, top it all off with holiday magic and you get a new family tradition called Home for the Holidays premiering at the Ivoryton Playhouse on December 8.

Home for the Holidays is a new holiday show conceived and directed by Playhouse Executive/Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard. “This has been such an important year for the Ivoryton Playhouse. Not only did we reach our 100th birthday but we weathered a hurricane that tore down our beautiful spruce and narrowly missed the building. I feel as though something was watching over us on that day and that was the inspiration for this story.”

This heart warming family story is filled with carols, new and old, and many faces familiar to Playhouse audiences. Cast includes Playhouse favorites –  Beverley Taylor, Norm Rutty, Michael McDermott*, John DeNicola, Maggie McGlone Jennings, Caroline Read, Alanna Burke, Gayle LaBrec, Jason Naylor, Brandon Clark and Addison Marchese. And some new local talent will be making their Playhouse debut in this show – Erica LuBonta, Liz Pester, Will Schneider, Kaitlyn Vitelli, Kearney Capuano and Carson Waldron.

The set for this production is designed by Jo Nazro and lights by Doug Harry.  Come and experience the true magic of the season with this original Connecticut Christmas story – for two weeks only.

Home for the Holidays opens on Thursday, December 8 and runs thru December 18 for 2 weeks. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*member of Actors Equity

Book Review: “27 Months In The Peace Corps. My Story, Unvarnished” by local author

John Guy LaPlante

The following book review will be of interest to local readers as it concerns a book written by one of our own, a man who has for years written a column for local print newspapers as well as for our three on-line news sources. I got to know him a few years ago when I emailed him about one of his columns and have ever since enjoyed corresponding with him and reading of his adventures.

John Guy LaPlante, an octogenarian who has adopted Connecticut as his home, has probably had more adventures since he retired than many people have in their lifetimes.

First there was his trip Around the World at 75, Alone! Dammit!  followed by his journey through Asia In 80 Days, Oops, 83! Dammit! Each of these odysseys was followed by a book, as titled above. Now he gives us his latest work 27 Months In The Peace Corps. My Story, Unvarnished.

His tale begins as he explains why he became interested in Peace Corps. Without giving away any details, it had something to do with a concert. He moves on through the application and vetting processes, both very detailed and sometimes grueling. His delight at being accepted is somewhat tempered when he learns that he will be sent, not to a Francophone country, as might befit his ability to speak French, but to Ukraine, as an English teacher.

Then come the challenges of getting ready for the trip: deciding what to take, how to deal with all the responsibilities that will remain in Connecticut. The story of getting to the train station  and why he had to leave a wastebasket on the train are clues that his experience and his ability to narrate it are going to be unique. A preliminary meeting in Philadelphia is followed by the flight to Ukraine. Here he discovers, as do all Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), no doubt, a little bit about what he is in for. He will be posted to the city of Chernihiv.

Three months of training, including some less-than-successful language lessons and he is now a full-fledged volunteer, facing groups of college-age students in English language discussion groups.  As his tale progresses, we meet all sorts of fascinating people: his students, American and Ukrainian Peace Corps staff members, his three host families, American ex-pats living in Ukraine, European travelers, an Iranian family with whom he shares food on a bus and Joe Biden. That’s right, he crossed paths with the Vice-President.

Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to do more that just teach. In the course of his two-year service, John undertakes a few projects, with varying degrees of success: one is to develop a guide to using the city transit system which consists of three different modes: trolley buses, buses and marshrutkas (mini-vans), all very baffling and greatly in need of some sort of organized guide; his other project is to digitize the local library, an institution he comes to greatly appreciate. Add to this a French club and his desire to see and do as much as he can while there and it’s easy to see why the whole experience was such a great adventure.

A few common denominators are the fact that he misses his home and family although we never get the feeling that he is homesick. He misses many of the things that we take for granted (toast!) and he obviously misses the lady in his life, identified only as Milady Annabelle, with whom he is lucky to connect during his service.

However, this is not just a narrative or travelogue. This book would be invaluable for anyone, 18 or 80, contemplating service in  Peace Corps. The processes of both getting in and getting out are carefully detailed. The benefits are clearly laid out as are the drawbacks. Of particular interest are the suggestions, drawn from a lifetime of experience, that he makes for improving  Peace Corps and the experiences of those in it. Many of the chapters end with a “Did You Know” section in which he reminds readers of information about Peace Corps. He is not afraid to “tell it like it is”; we see Peace Corps, warts and all. But on balance, the reader will come away from the book feeling that John’s experience in Peace Corps was a positive one, one that makes it easy to understand why many Peace Corps volunteers “re-up” for another round of service.

John writes as he speaks and in so doing tells a captivating tale. This is a book which can be easily read on two levels: by an armchair traveler who will see the story of a bold retiree undertaking something normally appealing to younger folk (indeed. for a while, he was the oldest active PCV in the world) or by someone interested in joining Peace Corps. In either case, you are guaranteed an enjoyable “read.”

Chester Holiday Door Celebration

Paula Dutka at Chester Mill (photo courtesy of Skip Hubbard)

Chester residents are encouraged to sign up for the Chester Historical Society’s Holiday Door Celebration this year.

By December 10 decorate one door per household and send in your $15 registration fee to Paula Dutka, 33 Castle View Dr., Chester, CT 06412.

The judging will be done on Dec. 16 and prizes donated by Simon’s, Ceramica and Acer Gardens will be given to the winners.

More information is available by calling Paula Dutka at 860-526-9722 or by going to www.ChesterHistoricalSociety.org.

Capella Cantorum to Perform “Petite Messe Solennelle”

Music Director/Conductor and co-founder of Cappella Cantorum, Barry B. Asch

Cappella Cantorum, a 100 voice community chorus conducted by co-founder Barry Asch since 1970, will perform Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle,” a work with a misleading title, on Saturday December 3 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 Winthrop Road , Deep River, Rt. 80 or Exit 5 off Rt. 9.

The “Petite Messe Solennelle was composed in 1863, and is scored for four soloists and chorus with harmonium and two piano accompaniment.  The works title is misleading since the “Petite Messe Solennelle” is neither petite nor particularly solemn. Despite the religious text, it is unmistakably operatic in style.  The music ranges from hushed intensity to boisterous high spirits, and abounds in the memorable tunes and rhythmic vitality for which Rossini became justly famous.

Tickets are $20 and available at Celebrations, Deep River; Homeworks, Old Saybrook; The Bowerbird, Old Lyme; and Stewart’s Music, Niantic or call 860-767-8452, children twelve and under are free.

Deep River Town Meeting Authorizes New Structure for Town Hall Auditiorium Restoration Effort

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday authorized the formation of a new committee to coordinate the ongoing effort to restore the auditorium at town hall.

About 15 residents turned out for the meeting, approving the board of selectmen’s recommendation for a new committee and a special town fund on a unanimous voice vote. The resolution had three parts, beginning with the rescinding of a February 1981 town meeting resolution that gave the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. sole authority to coordinate restoration of the historic 1892 town hall.

In recent years, the restoration effort has focused on upgrading the second-floor auditorium for wider community use. The board of selectmen earlier this fall urged the association to expedite the restoration effort utilizing a fund made up of private donations to complete the fire safety and building code improvements. The funds held by the association total about $250,000.

After meeting with the board of selectmen on Nov. 8, the association directors agreed to disband the organization and support the selectmen’s goal of establishing a new town committee to complete the improvements to the auditorium as soon as possible.

The second part of the town meeting resolution establishes a new 11-member Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee to coordinate the effort to restore the auditorium. A third part of the resolution creates a special town fund, to be called the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund, that would be comprised of the donated funds now held by the restoration association.

Former Selectman Arthur Thompson, who pushed for a revised structure for the restoration effort during the final weeks of his term, said the transfer of the funds to the new town special fund would require approval from the state Attorney General’s office, and the regional probate court in Old Saybrook, because the association was both a non-profit corporation and a charitable organization. Thompson said it could take up to two months to secure the required approvals.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board of selectmen would appoint the new committee during this waiting period, with some members of the association board of directors expected to volunteer to serve on the new committee. Smith said he already has received a list of required fire safety and building code improvements for the auditorium from Building Inspector Richard Leighton.

Smith said the new committee would develop a plan to complete the improvements using the donated monies in the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund. “It should move pretty quick,” he said.

In other business, the town meeting confirmed reappointments to the planning and zoning commission and the zoning board of appeals. Confirmed for a three-year term on the planning and zoning commission were incumbents Janet Edgarton, Nancy Fischbach, and Thomas Walsh. Confirmed for three-year terms on the zoning board of appeals were incumbents Jerome Ackerman, Margot Gamerdinger, and William Harris.

Smith announced there is a new opening on the seven-member planning and zoning commission with the resignation of Angus McDonald Jr., who began his term as the new Democratic selectman this week. McDonald, who replaces Thompson on the board, participated in his first meeting Tuesday. Smith said there is also an alternate vacancy on the commission.

 

Letters: Basketball Center Bad Location

To The Editor:

The last thing we need near an emergency facility and high power lines is a basketball court.  I can not believe that anyone with a clear mind would wish this to be placed there.  I do not object to a court, but not there.  And, what is wrong with using the gym at the elementary school to which we all pay our taxes to support?

When there is a fire emergency, the firemen move very fast to the firehouse and then just as quickly out of the building, the driveway and down the road.  Someone surely will be injured at some point in the future.  Essex does not need another lawsuit?

Let’s find another means to accomplish the goal of the Park & Rec.

Sincerely,

Melanie Phoenix,
Essex.

Departing Essex First Selectman Philip Miller Looks Back at his Record of Service to the Town

Former First Selectman Philip Miller at the new boat ramp at the end of Main Street in Essex

Question:What were your first priorities as First Selectman of Essex?

Miller: Several things; first, my philosophy was to promote Essex’s  commercial and light industrial base, and to keep residential taxation manageable, not by offering tax breaks or other gimmicks, but by keeping our tax rate low and investing in infrastructure. This would enable us to move goods and people safely and efficiently, and to avoid costlier deferred maintenance later in our facilities.

 

Question: Did you inherit a lot of deferred maintenance in the town, when you first took office?

Miller: Yes, we did have a lot of deferred maintenance, because in the nineties our population grew rapidly, and we added so many more children in our schools that in order to keep taxes from rising dramatically, maintenance had been sacrificed here and there.

 

Question: How did you address this problem?

Miller: We have a small municipal workforce, so I recruited talented, citizen volunteers to help research grants and to write them, and when grants were approved, these volunteers helped us to prepare bid packages, choose subcontractors, and review plans with our professionals. Also, we have used our Public Works Director, David Caroline, as our General Contractor, and we subcontracted out labor and materials.

 

Question: Did you encounter any problems with the approach?

Miller: With a few of a dozen projects we faced some delays, as with our first Small Cities grant at Essex Court, and with an Essex Elementary School project. Also, on a few occasions, when our applications were stalled, we received some helpful advocacy from our legislators like Senator Eileen Daily.

 

Question: What are some specific grants that you were successful in getting?

Miller: Well, the $190,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) funded three projects; (1) reconstructed the boat launch at the end of Main Street last winter; (2) the recently completed Novelty Lane public access project, which received some financial help from a neighbor to resolve a drainage issue; and (3) construction of a new paddle launch also at the foot of Main Street. Yet another grant also allowed for the construction of a new paddle park at the foot of Teal Lane off of Bushnell, where the Harbor Commission and our Public Works people built an observation deck, kayak racks and added landscape improvements to accommodate our ever increasing paddling public, who enjoy North and South Coves.

 

Question: What do people think about these projects?

Miller: All of these projects to improve public access to the river have been well received, and we also have benefited by having terrific neighbors who keep an eye on these areas, which is helpful to our Commissions in charge.

 

Question: Were there any other similar grants before these?

Miller: Yes, this was the fourth STEAP grant that Essex solicited and received, and there were three earlier grants of $486,000, $491,000, and $90,000. These earlier grants funded new street lights, new curbs and sidewalks, and rebuilt drainage systems in both downtown Essex and in downtown Ivoryton. A $90,000 STEAP grant also enabled us to build a sidewalk connector from Main Street in Ivoryton to Pond Meadow.

 

Question: Any other grants that you wish to mention?

Miller: Yes, we received a $450,000 Federal Safe Routes to School grant, which will be used next spring to rebuild the existing sidewalk which runs from downtown Ivoryton through Centerbrook. Also, we received a $135,000 state transportation planning grant, and a federal Weatherization grant of $44,000, which has been used to replace thermostats and windows at Town Hall.

 

Question: Any others?

Miller: In addition to these, our Emergency Management Director, Bill Buckridge, has researched and written other successful grants, which has funded our   generator at Town Hall, and enabled us to modernize and advance our communications capabilities. Buckridge teams with his Assistant Stewart Schenk, and the officers of the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.

 

Question: Who deserves the credit for the town’s successful grant program?

Miller: The people who have been instrumental in our success have been our Public Works people; our Treasurer Bob Dixon; our Selectmans’ Assistant and Grants Administrator Maria Lucarelli; Deputy Treasurer Kelly Sterner; our Planner John Guszkowski; our Town Clerk Fran Nolin; our Economic Development Commissioners Lee Thompson and John Beveridge; our Harbor Commissioners Jeff Going and Joe Zaraschi; and our Harbormaster Paul Riggio. We have also had some very good partners at some State agencies, like the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Department of Transportation.

 

Question: Anyone else you want to thank?

Miller: Yes, I want to say that our Park and Recreation Commission continue to make substantive improvements to our parks. They seem to get a lot done on a modest budget, and they are currently raising funds for the Basketball Center and supporting an effort to upgrade Grove Street Park, which is a necessity as it gets a lot of use. Also, it is such a nice place for a park. Also, I want to thank Frank Hall, Keith Christman and the Essex Citizens for Clean Energy, who helped us, get a Town Hall grant and photo-voltaic arrays for both the Town transfer station and John Winthrop Middle School.

 

Question: What’s ahead for the Town’s future, now that you are stepping down as First Selectman of Essex?

Miller: I believe that the Town must continue to upgrade emergency response capabilities, and we shall need to execute more capital projects in the next few years. I know that the new Board of Selectmen of Norman Needleman, Stasia Rice-Libby and Joel Marzi will do an excellent job of recruitment, preparation, evaluation and execution of these Town improvements. Coupled with some new potential open space acquisitions, this will strengthen the Town for many years to come.

 

Question: I have heard that in your service as First Selectman, you brought $5 million in federal and state grants to the Town of Essex. Is this true?

Miller: Yes, it is.

 

(Phil Miller served as First Selectman of Essex from 2003 to 2011).

Essex Town Meeting Approves Additional Appropriations, Appointments

ESSEX— Voters quickly approved three additional appropriations and confirmed more than a dozen appointments to town boards and commissions Monday at the annual town meeting.

About 40 residents turned out for the meeting, which also included approval of the annual town report for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The report is dedicated to Lois Ely, a long-time resident and chairwoman of the board of assessment appeals who currently serves as the Democratic registrar of voters.

All of the agenda items were approved on unanimous voice votes. Voters approved a $22,796 appropriation for police services. First Selectman Norman Needleman said the additional expenditure would be offset by a state driving under the influence enforcement grant. “This is really just an accounting thing,” he said.

Voters approved an $11,500 appropriation to install new carpeting in the 1991 addition section of Essex Elementary School. But the town meeting first rescinded a town meeting vote from last July that authorized an expenditure of $24,800 for new flooring and carpeting at the school.

Lon Seidman, chairman of the local board of education, said the board has decided to defer installation of the flooring until next year, but wants to proceed as soon as possible with the new carpeting. Funds for the work will come from an existing capital improvements sinking fund for the school. Voters also approved an additional appropriation of $2,110 for the park and recreation department.

All of the appointments were confirmed together on a single voice vote, with the exception of Gudrun Lelash, who had recently declined reappointment for new terms on the conservation commission and inland-wetlands commission. Most of the appointments were reappointments of incumbent members also serving on the boards and commissions.

Appointments to the zoning commission for three-year terms include Lillian Mosa and Alvin Wolfgram, the current chairman, for the zoning commission, with Robert Connelly and William Reichenbach as zoning commission alternates. Reappointed to the zoning board of appeals for three-year terms were Douglas Demerast and William Ferguson.

Voters also confirmed appointments to the economic development commission, conservation commission, inland-wetlands commission, park and recreation commission, sanitary waste commission/water pollution control authority and the tree committee.

Holiday Happenings at Essex Library

A trio of fun, informative, and creative holiday programs are coming to the Essex Library.

We begin with a wine-tasting evening led by Steve Hargraves, wine expert from Shoreline Discount Liquors in Deep River, Thursday December 1 at 5 p.m. At this always-popular evening, Steve will introduce us to an assortment of great, affordable wines that are perfect for your holiday entertaining (over 21 only, please).

Saturday December 3 at 10 a.m., learn how to make a small decorative tree with fresh greens and flowers or ornaments that will last all thru the holidays and can be used as a centerpiece, on a side table, a mantle, or to give as a gift.  No experience is necessary, and fun is guaranteed. The workshop, co-sponsored by the Essex Garden Club, will provide round green floral containers, oasis, boxwood (and a few other evergreens). We ask that participants bring their own clippers and scissors, small stemmed greens from your yard such as juniper, cedar, cypress, spruce and holly, small flowers that will last, such as mini carnations, mums, roses, baby’s breath, and any special container or ornaments you wish to use. Participation is limited to the first twenty sign-ups; we’re requesting a $5 donation to help defray costs.                                                                   

Italian Cheese is the topic for caterer Andrea Isaacs’ (Cloud 9 and The Lace Factory) taste tour on Tuesday, December 6 at 6:30 p.m. Explore the great flavors of Italy, eat a little, learn a lot; a delicious evening out! Andrea will also be demonstrating how to make your own fresh ricotta, so great for stuffing delectable cannoli or your homemade lasagna.

To sign up for any of these programs, please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560, or visit our FaceBook page.

First Congregational Church of Deep River, Ye Olde English Christmas Faire

The month of December is an especially busy time for our congregation and offers many opportunities for members of the community to join us as we celebrate the Christmas season.  Begin the month by attending our “Ye Olde English Christmas Faire” Week-end.   To order tickets for the Dessert by Candlelight or Concert, call (526-5034) or stop in at the church office, which is open Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 2:00.

  • Friday, December 2  ~  Dessert by Candleligh
    Enjoy our gourmet desserts ~ $6.00 with seatings at 6:00 and 7:30p.m.

  • Saturday, December 3 ~Ye Olde English Christmas Faire, 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
    Do your Christmas shopping in decorated booths filled with homemade decorations, candy, pies ,cakes, wreaths, toys, games, knitted and crocheted items, and much ,much more.  Stop by the Country Kitchen and take home some seafood bisque or loaves of bread.  If you are interested in Treasures, antiques, and Specialty items, be sure to stop at King’s Treasures and Queen’s Attic.  Visit the Reindeer Restaurant for breakfast or lunch.  You can even have your picture taken with Santa!

  • Sunday, December 4 ~ Festival of Christmas Music, 6:00p.m.
    Featuring Bil Groth, Pianist.  Tickets:  Adults:  $10.00, Children 6-12:  $5.00, Children under 6:  Free

Please contact the church office at 860-526-5045 or email: office.drcc@snet.net for more information about any of the above events.

The Merchants of Chester Present The Annual Holiday Night

The merchants of Chester will present The Annual Holiday Night in Chester, on  Friday, December 2, 2011. The annual tree-lighting and sing along will begin at 6:00 pm – Art Gallery, restaurant and shop opening receptions from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.

The Holiday Night Festival, co-sponsored by the Town of Chester, Chester Rotary Club and the Merchants of Chester, will begin at the Chester Flag Pole between Main Street and Maple Street with the annual tree-lighting and sing along at 6:00 pm. Join our community as we gather to sing carols around the decorated Christmas Tree (click here for the song list). Most Shops, Restaurants and Galleries in Chester will be open for the Special Event to showcase our unique wares, gifts, menus and art work from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.

Evening highlights will include a sing-along led by local talent, the children’s decorating of the tree, and special merchant events and gallery openings. The Chester Boy Scouts Troop 13 will line the streets with luminarias, while Saint Lucia Girls stroll around with goodies. The Garden Club will decorate the lampposts, adding to the holiday feeling we all enjoy. There will be plenty of demonstrations, exhibits, openings and of course, shopping. And not to be forgotten, the newest pewter ornament will be on sale by the Chester Hose Company and local merchants throughout the season designed by a Chester artist.

Free parking is available at the Water Street and the Maple Street parking lots, both a short walk to the center. Limited on street parking is available as portions of Main Street will be closed to vehicle traffic.

More information about Chester can be found at www.visit-chester.com and www.chesterct.org

“Trees in The Rigging” Returns to Essex on Sunday, November 27

Essex’s annual Trees In The Rigging features a parade of festively-lit and decorated boats on the waterfront at the Connecticut River Museum.

Essex, CT –  On Sunday, November 27, the holiday season kicks off in Essex with the annual TREES IN THE RIGGING Community Carol Sing and Boat Parade.   The Connecticut River Museum, the Essex Board of Trade, and the Essex Historical Society combine to present this annual event that includes a traditional, lantern-lit carol stroll down Main Street where spectators are invited to bring their own lanterns or flashlights and join in with the Sailing Masters of 1812 Fife and Drum Corps and a parade of antique cars.  The stroll steps off at 4:30 pm at the Essex Town Hall on West Avenue and ends at the Connecticut River Museum with a parade of vessels dressed out in holiday lights and passing in review along the Connecticut River.  The best viewing is from the lawn of the Connecticut River Museum at the foot of Main Street.  Santa and his elves will arrive by one of the parade boats for visits with children on the lawn of the Museum.  The Connecticut River Museum will also be open that evening for all to attend the 18th Annual Holiday Train Show at a reduced admission of $5.

The event rain date is Sunday, December 4.  For more information or in case of questionable weather, call the Connecticut River Museum at 860-767-8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.

Holiday Trolley Rides, Musical Performances, Tree Lighting To Highlight Essex Holiday Stroll

Essex, CT – If you are looking to put a little “jolly” back into your holiday shopping this year, look no further than the Essex Holiday Stroll taking place on Saturday, December 3.

In addition to special savings, free gifts and refreshments at participating shops and restaurants, holiday performances and activities will take place throughout the day in Essex Village. The Holiday Trolley returns with Community Music School performers on board for free, musical rides that start at Essex Town Hall and loop through Essex Village from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.  At the Gallery space at 10 Main Street, the Community Music School will also host a children’s ornament workshop from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm followed by a preview of the “Nutcracker” by the Eastern Connecticut Ballet from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm, a performance by the Community Music School String Trio from 2:30 pm to 3:45 pm and a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at 4:00 pm.   There, you can also register to win an Essex shopping spree with no purchase necessary.  Griswold Square, across from the Griswold Inn on Main Street, will be the stage for the Grace Notes Handbell Choir from 3:45 pm to 4:15 pm and the Holiday Stroll tree lighting and caroling presented by the Griswold Inn at 4:30 pm.

The Essex Holiday Stroll is sponsored by the Essex Board of Trade.  Free parking is available on village streets, in designated lots, and at Essex Town Hall.  For more information, go to www.essexct.com or call the Essex Board of Trade at 860-767-3904.

500 Firefighter Fans Show up for Firehouse Breakfast in Essex

Old Glory flying at the Essex firehouse

They came, and came, and came, a happy, celebratory crowd, many with excited children in tow. They came to eat, to look at the fire engines and to enjoy the latest of Essex’s firehouse breakfasts last Sunday (Nov. 20). Pancakes with strips of bacon were among the items on the menu.

But for the young, who wants to eat, when you can climb all over a fire truck? And even pretend you are driving one? And talk with real firefighters?

For some it is not too easy climbing aboard a fire truck

“Pancakes and fire trucks, it’s a perfect combination,” said Mike Delouchry of Ivoryton, who with his wife, Heather, and their two children, Drew and Sara, were out among the fire trucks. “They love it,” their father said.

Five kids in an Essex fire truck

The official host of the bi-annual pancake breakfasts is Essex Fire Engine Company No. 1. The breakfasts, at $5.00 a piece, take in between $1,500 to $2,000 a year, according to Fire Chief Steven Olson. The money raised is used for official fire station purposes. “Its money which would otherwise have to come out of the town budget and from  people’s taxes,” the Chief pointed out.

In addition to raising funds, the breakfasts are designed “to show the community what we are doing,” Chief Olson said. As for training to be a firefighter, he said that each firefighter has to have over 100 hours of training, and that training for a firefighter was on going.

According to the Chief, the Essex Fire Station gets between 800 and 900 calls a year. The calls relate not only to fires, but to accidents, medical emergencies and transporting hazardous materials. “We are the first responders in Essex,” he said.

Essex Fire Chief Steven Olsen

All told, there are 60 firefighters in the Engine Company, and all of them are volunteers. “They range in age from 15 years to 80 in age,” the Chief said.

Meanwhile, the Sunday pancake breakfast was attracting larger and larger numbers number of people, and the floor of the firehouse was getting more and more crowded. Whereas at 8:30 a.m. there had been 147 people who showed up, twenty minutes later there were 230.  Then, by 9:10 a.m. there were 300 pancake eaters on hand. The target goal of 500 in attendance was clearly going to be reached.

Breakfast is served at the Essex firehouse

Tom and Maria Coffrey of Deep River were out among the fire trucks with their sons, Ryan and Dillon. “We come every year. Our two boys love it,” their mother said.

Also, circulating both out among the fire trucks, and inside among the pancake eaters, was “Sparky.” He was a human firefighter dressed up as a big fire dog for the occasion.

Making fiends with Sparky, the firehouse mascot

Family Turkey Tromp and Plunge!

Any one for a bracing November plunge at the Turkey Tromp and Plunge at Viney Hill Brook on Nov. 26 at 10 a.m.?

Be part of or just watch some wacky folks plunge into Wollock’s Pond at Viney Hill Brook Park on Saturday November 26, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. , co-sponsored by  the Essex Land Trust and the Town of Essex Park and Recreation Department.

Prior to this daring event, plan on joining naturalist Phil Miller and Essex Conservation Commission members as they lead groups through the trails of this beautiful 92-acre town park, a hidden gem. The walk will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by the plunge. Participants in the plunge must sign waivers and be over age 18. This event is the last of 2011’s Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit. The park is accessed off Hillside Drive in Essex. Ample parking is available in the park, near the pond. Rain or shine.

The Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit has been created by the Essex Park and Recreation Department with the mission of bringing the families of Essex together through positive and healthy outdoor endeavors while increasing the presence and awareness of our local parks, open spaces and preserves to the community. The Essex Land Trust is pleased to be a co-sponsor of this program. For more information about the program, please visit the town website www.essexct.gov; click on “Park and Recreation

Chester Museum at the Mill Offers Free Admission

Looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving holiday?  Chester Museum at The Mill will be open to the public without charge on Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26.  Stop by and see our two-time award-winning Streams of Change permanent exhibit, plus the last two days of our 2011 season exhibit, Chester Voices of the Civil War.  Museum hours will be 10 am to 4 pm each day.  The museum is at 9 West Main Street, just steps from Chester center.

Appointments, Additional Appropriations on Agenda of Essex Annual Town Meeting Monday

ESSEX— Special appropriations and confirmation votes on more than a dozen board and commission appointments are on the agenda of the annual town meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

The meeting, held on the third Monday of November, is called the annual town meeting because the agenda also includes a vote accepting the annual town report. The latest report covers the 2010-2011 fiscal year that ended last June.

Voters will be asked to approve a $22,796 additional appropriation for police services. The other additional appropriation is $11,500 from the Essex Elementary School capital improvement sinking fund for purchase and installation of carpeting in a wing of the school. Both additional appropriations have been approved by the board of finance.

Voters will be asked to confirm several reappointments and appointments to town boards and commissions that were approved by the newly elected board of selectmen at a meeting Wednesday. Most of the members up for confirmation votes Monday are incumbents on the boards and commissions.

The appointments include Lillian Mosa and Alvin Wolfgram for three-year terms on the zoning commission, with Robert Connelly and William Reichenbach as commission alternates, along with Douglas Demarest and William Ferguson for three-year terms on the zoning board of appeals.

Also Lon Seidman, Lee Thompson, and Mark Uihlein for two-year terms on the economic development commission. Walter Weigert and alternate Mark Faulstick are up for reappointment to three-year terms on the harbor management commission.

Appointments to the sanitary waste commission/water pollution control authority for two-year terms are Mark Reeves, Randel Osborne, Robert Van Houten, Leigh Rankin, and Alvin Wolfgram as a commission alternate. Wolfgram is becoming an alternate after serving as a member and chairman of the joint commissions.

Appointments to the park and recreation commission for three-year terms are Anthony Mosa, Robert Russo, Douglas Senn, and Cathy Bishop as a commission alternate. Nancy Hudson and Ann Penniman are up for appointment to three-year terms on the tree committee.

Gudrun Lelash, Claire Tiernan and Barbara Zernike are up for appointment to three- year terms on the inland-wetlands commission. Lelash, Pamela Barnardini, and Maryann Pleva are up for appointment to three-year terms on the conservation commission, with Susan Malan as a commission alternate.

 

Essex Historical Society – Life in a Village

In 1873/1874, Samuel Merrit Comstock built a store in the center of Ivoryton. The Ivoryton Store, later called Rose Brothers served as the anchor for the plan “of a village built around a factory and a factory around a village” (quote from Houses of Essex by Don Malcarne). The second floor of this structure was known as Comstock Hall where Company and social functions were held until 1911.

The Essex Historical Society held a program called “Life in a Village” on Wednesday, November 9, from 7-9 pm at Gather, the present name of the Ivoryton Store. The main speaker, Chris Pagliuco, spoke about “the transition of Ivoryton from a rural farming community to an industrial village in a larger economic, political and cultural context.”

Chris Pagliuco, Essex Town Historian, giving the presentation at Gather

Chris was recently named the Town Historian of Essex, which was originally comprised of three villages Centerbrook, Essex and Ivoryton. He contrasted the fundamental differences in the pace, routines and relationships of our daily lives with those of Ivoryton residents 130 years ago. He also paid tribute to the thoughtful planning Mr. Comstock gave to creating the industrial village of Ivoryton. He included “references to many of the features of the village still present today.”

Marie Negrelli, a resident of the area during the World War II era brought a personal perspective of the Ivoryton village. Marie told of “growing up in Ivoryton, sharing memories of Ivoryton Grammar School, Ivoryton Playhouse, Ivoryton Store, Pratt –Read, Clarks Pond and Jone’s Store.” She brought unique memorabilia and enlargements of her own postcard collection to share with the appreciative crowd. Marie credited Ivoryton Librarian, Robbie Storms with sharing historical documents to give insight to her memories. Marie frequently looked to her sisters Mary Lombardi and Joann Stone for confirmation of details. When Marie described the smell of sawdust or the thrill of skating on a frozen pond we actually felt those sensations. Some members of the audience added their stories and both old and young related to their comments.

Rose Brother’s Store and village gathering spot, as it was almost a century ago

The Ivoryton Store has changed in appearance, in owners and in services and goods offered. However, it represents a glorious example of the Industrial Revolution in the lower Connecticut River Valley. So we gathered with owner Deanna Pinette of Gather as she graciously opened 104 Main Street, Ivoryton after hours for a night of reminiscing.

Gather today. The building is practically unchanged from a century ago when it served as the location of the Rose Brother’s Store (photo by Jody Dole)

New Essex Board of Selectmen Sets Hearing and Town Meeting on Emergency Management Funding, Discusses Meeting Agenda Rules

ESSEX— The newly elected board of selectmen held its first meeting of the 2011-2013 term Wednesday, setting a Dec. 7 public hearing on proposed $32,528 expenditure for emergency management items and discussing meeting agenda rules for public comment.

It was the first meeting in the top job for Democratic First Selectman Norman Needle, the four term selectman who was elected first selectman last week, and the first meeting for new Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, the first women to serve on the board since the 1980s. Republican Selectman Joel Marzi is back for a second term. It was the first meeting in 12 years without former Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who was on the board from 1999 to 2003, and first selectman from 2003 until Tuesday.

Needleman, who was sworn in to office Wednesday morning by local resident and Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone, noted it is “a new board of selectmen by some measure, adding “I hope we have a good couple of years and get a lot of good work done for the town.”

Needleman announced that he was eliminating one of the two public comment segments from the board meeting agenda. In recent years, the board has had public comment as an agenda item at the beginning and end of each meeting. Needleman, who said he remains “open-minded” about the change, said he would prefer a single public comment, probably at the beginning of each meeting.”I’m not sure it has been helpful to have two,” he said.

Marzi said he favors allowing two public comment periods, noting the bi-weekly meetings are “the only time the public can interface,” with the full three-member board. The board agreed to discuss agenda rules again at a future meeting.

The board scheduled a Dec. 7 public hearing on a proposed $32,528 special appropriation for purchase of emergency management items. The list of items, including signs and new communications equipment, was developed by the board in consultations with town emergency services personnel after Tropical Storm Irene hit the town on Aug. 28. The public hearing is set to convene at 7 p.m. in town hall. A town meeting vote on approving the special appropriation is set for Dec. 21.

In other business, the board agreed to continue with the same meeting schedule that has been in place in recent years. Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m., and the third Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Estuary Council of Seniors Receives $20,000 Grant for New Oven!

The Walmart Foundation – MOWAA (Meals on Wheels Assn. of America) Building the Future Grant has been awarded to The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. for $20,000 towards the purchase a new double stack Combi oven costing $41,000.

ECSI applied for this “Impact Grant” because they had a 20 year old oven that was often broken and not reliable to cook 100,000 meals per year.  The impact of having this new oven is enormous!  They are now much more efficient, saving money, reducing staff time and confident that all our Meals on Wheels meals are delivered hot and nutritious to the homebound seniors in the 10 towns they serve.

ECSI also received individual donations from our appeal letter, a $5,000 grant from the F. Curtis Thrall and Susan B. Thrall Foundation, and a $500 donation from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex.

Community Music School Recognizes Founder

Pictured (l-r) are former trustee Anne Easton; Patricia Hurley, founder and current faculty member; founding trustee Margaret Very; and Tom Briggs, CMS Music Director. Photo credit: Joan Levy Hepburn

On Wednesday, November 9, Community Music School honored its founder, Patricia Hurley, at the 2011 CMS Champions Award Breakfast held at the Copper Beech Inn.

Paddy founded the not-for-profit school in 1983 with the support of many volunteers from the community, with the first classes taught at Essex Town Hall. Community Music School, located on Main Street in Centerbrook, continues to be dedicated to music education and appreciation for students of all ages. Paddy remains a member of the faculty and is also director of the New Horizons Band program.

The Ivoryton Village Alliance – Ivoryton Illuminations Event

Photo courtesy of Anne Hudson

Ivoryton:  Looking for a different way to celebrate the holiday season? Then head down to Ivoryton for an incredible family event on December 3 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The village of Ivoryton will become the brightest village in Connecticut with over 100, 000 lights illuminating Ivoryton! The entire village will be participating in this Holiday Extravaganza with carol singing, storytelling, bell-ringing, Holiday Bazaar and culminating with the lighting of the tallest living Christmas tree in the state at 6pm and the surprise arrival of Santa!

Family activities begin at 5pm at the Ivoryton Library with renowned actor, Peter Walker, reading an original story, ”That Wonderful Christmas Eve Morning”. Activities also include letters to Santa and holiday letters to our soldiers abroad at the library; The Hartford Children’s Theatre will perform at Six Summit Gallery followed by music from Shinbone Alley; carol singing and bell ringing outside the Playhouse and a holiday bazaar and visit with Santa inside the historic theatre; old time candy store at Gather; cookie decorating at Aggie’s and Christmas crafts at Elizabeth’s; The Ivoryton Tavern and the Essex Lion’s club will provide food and there is even an outdoor fire.

Tune your radio to 101.5 and watch the lights dance to music throughout the month of December. Sponsored by First Niagara Bank, Citizens Bank, Essex Meadows, and Valley Courier.

Come and experience the true magic of the season at the Ivoryton Illuminations.  For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/our-season/ivoryton-illuminations or Ivoryton Village Alliance on Facebook.

Uncommon Fundraising Show Features Hard Times & Hope – and a Chance to Shine!

Leslie Strauss (violin) and Trip Wyeth (guitar) of Moving Target. Photo credit: (c) 2010 John Stack

On Friday, November 18, 2011, at 8:00 p.m., the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center hosts “Songs of Hard Times & Hope: A Tribute to the Music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and The Roots of Americana Music.”

100% of the proceeds from the show go to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen & Pantries.

Tickets are $25 and will be matched. In addition, as an exciting addition to an already uncommon evening, for a $100 ($200 matched!) donation to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, audience members are invited to join in onstage at the Kate with the musicians as (a) Special Musical Guest(s) for the final number, “This Land Is Your Land.”

Musical guests include Amalgamated Muck, Moving Target and Ragweed (producers: Small Town Concert Series and the Shoreline Acoustic Underground; underwritten by Wyeth Architects LLC and AcousticMusic.Org)

Get the Home You Want, Without Moving

The Essex Library’s popular Centerbrook Architects’ Lecture Series kicks off its fourth year of talks by celebrated architects with an illustrated talk by Duo Dickinson, maverick architect and author, Friday December 2 at 7 p.m.

Dickinson will talk about his new book, Staying Put; Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want. In this era of staying put, the idea of remodeling is ever more attractive. Duo will share his passion for saving money without sacrificing good design, and show examples of his design philosophy as it was explained by the New York Times: “Design it small, make it as beautiful as possible, and practice every trick in the book to keep it as cheap as possible”.

Books will be available for sale and signing, courtesy of Essex Books. The program will be held at Essex Meadows’ Hamilton Hall auditorium, and is free and open to all.  A wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30.  Essex Meadows is at 30 Bokum Road in Essex. To register for this talk or for more information, please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560.

 

 

(PHOTO CAPTION) rd at 7 PM, with a talk on creatively remodeling your home.

Deck the Walls at the Lyme Art Association

K. Muller Thym - Lambing Snow 2011

The Lyme Art Association’s most festive art exhibition and sale is their annual “Deck the Walls” holiday show, on view November 18, 2011 through January 7, 2012.  More than 200 original works of art by member artists will be on display and priced to sell as holiday gifts. Artwork by newly inducted Elected Artists will be featured in their own exhibition in the Goodman Gallery.  The opening reception on Friday, December 2 from 5 – 7pm is free to the public and will feature live music.

Once again the Lyme Art Association will assist the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries by donating 10% of gallery sales from the opening night of “Deck the Walls.”  “We hope that the community will help us support the Soup Kitchen during their busy holiday season by purchasing artwork on opening night, and by bringing a canned good donation to our opening reception,” states Susan Ballek, Director of the Lyme Art Association.

In conjunction with “Deck the Walls,” the Association will host the second annual “Holiday Festival of Trees and Music,” on view in their historic galleries from November 25 – December 4.  This special display of designer trees is sponsored by the non-profit organization by Bring Our Music Back.  Please visit bringourmusicback.org  for more information on special activities planned during this holiday extravaganza, which include breakfasts with Santa and live music events by local artists.

Lyme Art Association Member Artists of all levels (Individual, Associate and Elected) are invited to enter the “Deck the Walls” juried exhibition.  Artwork will be accepted at Receiving Day on Sunday, November 13 from 2 – 5pm.  Anyone interested in submitting artwork may join the Lyme Art Association as a Member on Receiving Day in order to be eligible.

The Lyme Art Association is open Monday through Saturday from 10am – 5pm, and Sunday from 1 – 5pm and is located at 90 Lyme Street in Old Lyme, at the corner of Halls Road.  Please call (860) 434-7802 for more information, or visit www.lymeartassociation.org.

About the Lyme Art Association 

The Lyme Art Association was founded in 1914 by the American Impressionists and continues the tradition of exhibiting and selling representational artwork by its members and invited artists, as well as offering art instruction and lectures to the community. The Lyme Art Association is located at 90 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT, in a building designed by Charles Adams Platt and located within an historic district. Admission is free with contributions appreciated. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm, Sunday 1 to 5pm. For more information on exhibitions, purchase of art, art classes, or becoming a member, call 860-434-7802.

Rep. Phil Miller Receives Perfect Rating from Environmental Group

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) awarded State Representative Phil Miller a 100 percent rating for his support and advocacy of environmental initiatives in their 2011 Environmental Scorecard.

“I made a public commitment to improve air and water quality when I ran for office last winter so it is truly an honor to receive a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters in my first year at the Capitol,” said Miller.

Miller, a Democrat who is serving his first term representing Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam in the General Assembly, is one of only 29 state representatives—less than 20% of the Connecticut House—to earn a rating of 100 percent.

The annual environmental scorecard grades state lawmakers based on how they vote on significant environmental legislation. This year the scorecard grades legislators’ votes on twelve bills that came up during the 2011 legislative session.

CTLCV Co-Chair David Bingham said of the legislators who received high scores, “despite the pressures of economic distress, they upheld policies that are critical to providing clean air and water and make Connecticut an inviting state to do business.”

Formed in 1998, the bipartisan CTLCV works on laws that affect Connecticut’s air, water, wildlife, open space, transportation, energy choices, and health.

State Representative Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He sits on the legislature’s Environment, Human Services, and Public Health Committees.

Real estate firm enlists “silent policeman” to help sell houses at head of Main Street in Essex

Coldwell Banker advertising sign by Essex’s “silent policeman”

The Coldwell Banker real estate firm, which has had a residential sales office in Essex for many years, recently enlisted the town’s “silent policeman” to help sell houses. The “silent policeman” is the name given by local residents for the lantern-like structure in the middle of the roundabout at the top of Main Street in Essex.

Frequently, the structure is adorned for town celebrations such as Ground Hog Day; and a holiday decoration is now being put in place.  However, Coldwell Banker appeared to be breaking new ground with its use of the “silent policeman” to post a real estate advertising sign last Sunday, Nov. 13. The sign was removed in the afternoon.

However, a broker at Coldwell Banker at the Main Street office, who asked that her name not be used, refuted that only Coldwell Banker’s real estate agents use the “silent policeman’” for advertisement purposes. “Everybody does it,” she said, “particularly on Sundays, when brokers have ‘open houses’ at the properties that they are selling.”

As to whether the posting of advertising signs on Essex town property is permissible under present town regulations, Joseph Budrow, the town’s Zoning Wetlands and Enforcement said, “as of now the signage regs will be updated in early 2012.   So right now there isn’t a clear plan on what the Zoning Commission wants.”

However, Budrow said that he would have an update on the issue in mid-December.

Ivoryton Illuminations Outdoor Lights Competition

Ivoryton, CT: It’s that time of year again! Ivoryton Village Alliance is now accepting applications for its Outdoor Lights Competition.  Due to the overwhelming success of last year’s event, the Ivoryton Village Alliance will be expanding entrant eligibility to include ALL of Essex Village this year. Every house in Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton can enter to win. If you would like to enter but feel that you do not have enough lights, thanks to local donations, we will be able to supply you with some. There will be a total of 15 of prizes: A first prize of $200 savings bond, 5 prizes of $100 savings bonds, $50 gift certificates from Gather, Ivoryton Service Station, Aggies and the Ivoryton Tavern, as well as 5 pairs of tickets from the Ivoryton Playhouse. If you are interested in participating, please contact Gather in Ivoryton at gather.ivoryton@yahoo.com.

The judges will be making several drive-bys between Dec 1 and Dec 18 so please keep your displays on during the month. The judges’ criteria will be the same as last year:

  1. Creativity
  2. Number of lights
  3. Colored lights are looked upon favorably

The winners will be announced in the Valley Courier the week before Christmas. If you need lights or have any questions contact: Chris Shane 860-767-1147 or shanec89@comcast.net

 

Related story

Deep River Town Meeting to Establish Replacement for Disbanded Town Hall Restoration Association

DEEP RIVER— Voters will be asked at a town meeting Tuesday to approve a resolution establishing a replacement for the now disbanded Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. The meeting, which also includes confirmation of appointments to the planning and zoning commission and zoning board of appeals, convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The resolutions related to the ongoing town hall restoration project include rescinding a February 1981 town meeting resolution granting sole authority for the town hall restoration efforts to the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc., and adopting a new resolution establishing an 11-member Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee to “oversee and complete restoration of the Deep River Town Hall auditorium to the extent that funds are available.” A third resolution would create a special town fund called the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund.

The review of authority granted to the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association began earlier this fall, when the board of selectmen met with members of the association to obtain an update on the ongoing restoration plans for the second floor auditorium at the historic 1892 town hall. Improvements to the town hall began in the late 1970s, but in recent years have focused on upgrading the auditorium to meet all current fire safety and building codes.

The selectmen in October formally objected to any move by the non-profit association to create a permanent endowment fund from the private donations provided for the auditorium restoration work. The funds, believed to total about $240,000, had largely been invested in the stock market.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board of selectmen met with members of the association board on Nov. 8, a session where the association members offered to disband the group and transfer authority to a newly created town committee. “It was their idea,” Smith said, adding that he expects many of the association members to be appointed to spots on the new committee. The board of selectmen will appoint members of the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee.

“It will just be a better structure,” Smith said, adding that the goal is to use available funding to complete as many of the auditorium code upgrades as possible.

“People want to see it finished,” Smith said, adding that many of the donors want to have the improvements completed as soon as possible. Smith said expenditures from the new special fund would be approved by the board of selectmen based on recommendations from the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee.

Voters at the town meeting will be asked to confirm appointments to the planning and zoning commission and zoning board of appeals for three-year terms ending in December 2014. The reappointments to the planning and zoning commission, all incumbents, are Janet Edgarton, Nancy Fischbach, and Thomas Walsh. The appointments to the zoning board of appeals are Jerome Ackerman, Margot Gamerdinger, and William Harris.

 

The Life of the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium 1893 – 2011

The Deep River Restoration Association announces the first historical exhibit on the Town Hall Auditorium.  The exhibit highlights the unique history of the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium with photographs, postcards, antiques and interviews.  This exhibition demonstrations the modest elegance of the Deep River Town Hall, built in 1893, it has held many events and is a major thread in the tapestry of Deep River history.

The Life of the Deep River Auditorium 1893-2011 is open at the Deep River Library for the month of November.  Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the exhibit will have an attendant to discuss the exhibit with from 12-2pm.  Bring your questions.

In this photograph of the 1931 production of College Flapper,  there are eighteen men in costume on the Deep River Auditorium Stage, many whom where prominent figures in Deep River.  Many more images will be on display, including the original 1893 dedicatory program for the Deep River Town Hall.

This exhibit is made possible by a generous gift in the estate of Charles Messerschmitt.  The Restoration Association has worked with local residents, town officials, the Deep River Historical Society and stacks of old newspapers to put this distinct collection together.

For more information please contact the coordinator Linalynn Schmelzer 860 304-8459 or Linalynnschmelzer@yahoo.com.  You can also find the Deep River Auditorium on Facebook.

 

Chester Planning and Zoning Denies Permit for Bulk Propane Storage

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has denied a special permit for a proposed bulk propane storage facility at the Airport Industrial Park off Route 145.

The panel acted at a special meeting on Nov. 8. The permit application of DSDM LLC was rejected on a unanimous vote.

DSDM LLC, an affiliate of Uncas Gas Company, was seeking a permit for two 30,000-gallon propane storage tanks on a parcel at 25 airport Industrial Park Road. The industrial park is located off Winthrop Road, also known as Route 145, in the rural western section of town. The plan drew strong opposition when it was presented at public hearings in September and October, with a final session held on Nov. 3.

A nearby business owner at the industrial park, and a nearby resident, each hired lawyers to support their objections at the public hearings. William and Susan Sangster, owners of Hull Management LLC on a nearby parcel in the industrial park, were represented by Hartford lawyer John Bradley and an engineering consultant. Keith and Maria Scherber, of 70 Winthrop Road, were represented by Old Saybrook lawyer Michael Cronin.

More than a dozen residents spoke in opposition to the permit application at the public hearings. Opponents contended the industrial park road, which ends in a cul-de-sac, was not a suitable location for bulk propane storage, and that bulk propane storage should not be allowed in an area that is not served by a public water line.

Essex is Well on its Way to Building a New Basketball Center for Kids

Artist rendering of the Essex Basketball Center to be completed in the spring of 2012

A wonderful dream is on its way to becoming a reality. After over three years of intense effort, by as early as next spring the Town of Essex is going to have its very own basketball center. Situated on a now underused  area next to the imposing Connecticut Light and Power transformer substation, and neighboring the Essex Fire Engine Company’s Fire House, there will soon be a beautifully laid out basketball center.

The center will be situated at the southeast quadrant of West Avenue and Route 154, just as you enter the Town of Essex.

Officially called the “Essex Basketball Center & Gateway Project,” the new facility will include a full sized basketball court with two backboards, as well as two practice backboards, for a total of 7,140 square feet of playing surface.  The surface of the new courts will have a new cover of treated asphalt; and there will be spectator bleachers, large enough to seat 70 people.

The basketball center will be lighted until 10:00 p.m. every evening, and will be monitored by security cameras for safety. In addition, the entire facility will be designated as a Safe Zone, meaning that  alcohol, drugs and tobacco products will be strictly prohibited.

The central purpose in building the basketball center is to create a facility for young people, “where they can safely hang out together and play basketball in a secure environment.” The center will be used for friendly pick-up games and informal play and practice, but it will not host league games of local school teams.

A prime mover of the entire effort to bring the Basketball Center to Essex is local resident James Rawn. Rawn serves as one of three Co-Chairs of the Essex Park and Recreation Subcommittee of the Park and Recreation Commission. Other Co-Chairs are Dennis Robida and Tony Mosa. The Essex Rotary Club is a co-sponsor of the project.

Local Essex resident James Rawn, leading the effort to build the Essex Basketball Center

As for the costs involved in building the new basketball center, according to Rawn, the total cost, relying on firm quotations from reputable contractors, is $177,000. This number includes 15% for contingencies.

These monies will pay for a wealth of improvements, including the construction of the basketball courts and practice area with fencing; new bleachers, bike racks and picnic tables; and new lightings fixtures, which will match the style of the lighting fixtures of the neighboring Fire House.

Also, covered in the projected costs will be new asphalt for the adjacent parking lot, an extensive new grass sprinkler system and new landscaping for the lawn areas of the property. Also covered will be expenses for the construction of new sidewalks around the edges of the property, and new landscaping around the Connecticut Light and Power substation.

New crosswalks and crossing lights are being installed by the State Department of Transportation at no expense to the town.

It is the firm intent of the sponsors of the project to fund the entire construction of the basketball center with private monies, without the expenditure of a single dollar of Town of Essex funds. To date, according to project Co-Chair Rawn, there is already over $50,000 in cash and firm commitments.

Rawn says that he is confident that the rest of the money can be raised.  In fact, he believes, “The rest of the money will come in easily.”  He adds, “Money is coming in from contributors, when they understand that this is all about the kids.”

Young Essex residents ready to play basketball with "Park and Rec" Commissioner Jack Spangler and project Co-Chair James Rawn

The roll out of the fundraising campaign began the weekend of November 12 and 13, with over 60 local families and Park and Recreation Commissioners going door to door calling on their neighbors and friends to support “this community project for the kids,” as Rawn describes it. Also, solicitation postcards were sent out to all Essex residents on November 9.

To obtain a donor package supporters of the project should go to: www.essexct.gov, next click on “Park and Recreation,” and then click on, “Essex Basketball Center.” The donor package will specify how contributions can be made directly on line.

Contributions can also be made to the new Essex Basketball Center by mail, by making out a check payable to: “Town of Essex, Basketball Center & Gateway Project,” and sending it to: Essex Park and Recreation Department, 29 West Avenue, Essex, CT 06426. All contributions are tax deductable.

Although not responsible for any initial construction costs, going forward the Town of Essex will incur upkeep expenses for the new facility, which will include lighting the parking area at night for “park & ride” users, and for the general public.

Actual work on the new basketball center is scheduled to begin this coming March, and the construction period is estimated between four and five weeks. This means that the facility will be available for play as early as next spring, then into next summer and fall, and even into next winter on good days, not to mention for years to come.

Not a bad thing, when you think about it … “for the kids.”

New Childwatch program at Valley-Sho​re YMCA

Expanded babysitting service at the Valley-Shore YMCA makes it easier to find time to exercise.

In an effort to better serve the community and the needs of members, the Valley-Shore YMCA is offering a free hour of babysitting while you workout. This service, called Childwatch, is open to children from eight weeks to eight years old during mornings and evenings, including Saturdays.

“We have a wide array of members with varied schedules,” said Stacey McGee, Director of Healthy Living at Valley-Shore YMCA. “We saw the need for more Childwatch hours so they can take advantage of our facility.”

Members using of the service can expect their child to be taken care of by a mature, well-trained adult. Children are entertained with arts and craft projects, games and social activities with other children.

The Valley-Shore YMCA serves 8,000 children and adults along the shoreline area at our 40,000-square-foot facility. We have two, six-lane swimming pools and a full-sized gymnasium and fitness center. Established in 1975, the Valley-Shore Y is a non-profit organization focused on building strong kids, strong families and strong communities.

For more information, visit www.vsymca.org or call (860) 399-9622.

Chester Hires South Windsor Architectural Firm for Library Expansion Study

CHESTER— The town will hire Drummey-Rosane-Anderson Inc., a South Windsor architectural firm, to develop an expansion plan for the Chester Public Library.

The board of selectmen approved the hiring earlier this month based on recommendations from the library expansion committee and the elected library board of trustees. The firm, which has experience preparing building expansion projects for libraries and historic buildings, which selected from about ten firms that applied for the job. The services are expected to cost about $20,000.

The board of selectmen earlier this year appointed a volunteer library expansion committee to determine the feasibility of expanding the historic 1906 library building on West Main Street, and if an expansion is feasible, developing a plan and cost estimate for a building project. In discussion with the selectmen last winter, library trustees said they were considering a “limited expansion” of the 2,000 square-foot library building.

The committee and architects are expected to present a report and recommendations to the board of selectmen in the coming months. The recommendation, including a cost estimate, could lead to a library expansion proposal that would be presented to town voters for approval later this year.

 

 

Coast Guard Band Concert – Outstanding

The first band back in 1925

I’ve attended 50 Coast Guard Band concerts, I’d say. All at the band’s home base at the Academy in New London. The recent one in Clinton was not only unusual but truly outstanding, and this is why I’m telling you about it.

One reason unusual because it was my first one not in the band’s Leamy Hall at the Academy. And outstanding because the audience was so big and so appreciative of the fine program and great playing.

It turned out to be the 23rd straight year the band was playing in Clinton. The band gets around a lot, but no other community in the U.S. has enjoyed as many of its concerts as Clinton. The performance established a new record in the band’s annals.

As usual in Clinton, it was sold out. Not that anybody had to pay, so “sold out” is the wrong expression.  Admission is always free.

It’s hard for me to recall, but it may have been the most beautiful I’ve attended.

The audience there agreed. At the end they all jumped up and applauded loud and long. The players must have gone home proud.

I’ve enjoyed just about every concert. The only time I’ve been disappointed has been the occasions when it has included avant-garde  or experimental music. Connoisseurs may savor that. I don’t. None of that in this concert.

Annabelle and I were lucky to get in. For out-of-town concerts like this one, tickets are required. Not so for Leamy Hall.  I guess this is to get a better idea of how many want to attend and to have better control.

This time I was late in reading a newspaper notice of the concert. Immediately I sent in my request for two tickets along with the necessary postage-paid self-addressed return envelope. I kept my fingers crossed. The tickets popped in just two days before the concert. Wonderful.

The concert time was 7:30 p.m. at the Morgan School, its traditional venue. We decided to be in our seats by 7.  Easier parking. Better selection of seats. We got there on time. Bur surprise!

The only parking site we found still available in the huge lot was way, way out in left field.  So, a long walk up to the auditorium for us. There a  great line of people, two wide, backed up from the front door right around the corner of the building and way up the side.  Incredible. We double-timed to beat others to the tail of it.  Lucky that it was not a rainy, miserable evening.

But the line moved along smoothly. A whole team was at the front door to usher us in and make sure we got a program and move us into the auditorium. All volunteers, I think, and well practiced.

Seven hundred and fifty seats in there and already they seemed all taken. Rather than rush ahead, I stood back and scanned for seats and spotted three down front. But people were streaming down the aisle searching, searching. Would they get to them before us? We scurried down and claimed them.

The three were about 10 rows back and in the plumb center. Perfect. Of course, we had to bother folks already seated in order to squeeze through to the seats, but we managed without stepping on any toes. Our seats couldn’t have been better.

Annabelle sat behind a slight teen-age girl but I plunked down behind a big, chunky guy. I had to crane to the left  of him for a good view. We both shifted one seat over. That wound up fine for both of us, especially me behind the little gal. I expected someone to squeeze in for the empty seat next to me but it remained untaken. It must have been the only empty seat that evening. I enjoyed it.

 

The band took their seats right on time. What a smart-looking outfit. Impressive in their sparkling, sharply pressed white jackets, the men in their blue trousers and the women in their  ankle-length blue skirts.

The band was started in 1925, Much smaller back then. It now has 55 members and is coed now, of course–that big change happened back in 1973, which is when the Coast Guard Band enlisted its first female musician.  Tonight they filled the stage. I made a quick count, 31 men and 13 women, it seemed. Not sure why the disparity.

It has two officers.  The director / conductor is Commander Kenneth W. Megan. He started as an arranger in 1975. That date surprised me—so long ago–but it’s the date lsted.  He became assistant director in 1986 and took over in 2004.

Chief Warrant Officer 3rd class Richard Wyman is the assistant conductor and announcer.   He began in 1998 as a sax player and took on his new role in 2004.  I am told they had to audition for those positions.

In a concert of some dozen pieces, Megan usually conducts one or two, and Wyman becomes the announcer for them. Then they swap roles for one or two pieces.Both fill both roles beautifully, in my opinion.

Old photos in the lobby at Leamy Hall show the band marching. I have never known the band to march.  The band marches very seldom. However,it always does the Inaugural Parade for each President and occasional other short marching events.

This is why a marching band uses only wind and percussion instruments, of course.  How can you march with a bass or a piano or a harp?  But those are instruments that are usual in the band now, though few. On this night the harpist was playing and the bass player also. But no pianist.

And in my experience it has always featured a singer, always female. Soprano Megan Weikleenget performed twice on this evening. She is a Musician 1st Class. No uniform for her. She was stunning in a beautiful off-the-shoulder blue gown. I’m sure nobody missed the fact that she is approaching motherhood quite soon.  I admired her for her poise.

She was excellent.  Great applause. She earned it.

To me it seems the band is morphing toward the symphonic. No objection from me though I like it just as it is.

I also noticed two musicians in civies—the professional musician’s black and white.  A man flutist and a woman bassoonist were filling in. I found out the band is awaiting new hires to take on those positions.

This is the band’s second set of uniforms in my 15 years of attending. I liked their old one, too, which was blue tops and and white bottoms, as I remember it. Not sure why the change was made. Maybe the old one got boring to them. It turns out the band has had a number of uniforms.

I should mention that it is classified a “premier” military band.  This means it’s the service’s finest band-its name band. It is the Coast Guard’s only band.  The other services—the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines—have numerous bands.

By the way, I understand that all new members train at the Armed Forces School of Music. It is on the Naval Amphibouse Base in Norfolk, Va.  In fact, it used to be the Navy Music School. The training lasts about  six months.  They learn how to salute and other basic military etiquette plus rules and regulations. Plus more specific music training.

The band’s role is to promote good will by spreading the word about what a proud and efficient and effective outfit the Peace Corps is. To inspire recruiting in the corps. And reflect its culture and tradition. And of course play at ceremonies.

It is usual for the announcer to recite how busy the Coast Guard is in an average day: how many rescues and interventions carried out, and contraband snared, and illegal immigrants blocked, and oil spills contained,  and so on. Which always impresses me.  It didn’t happen on this evening.

Many up there were familiar figures to me and Annabelle. I can recognize them as easily as Red Sox fans can spot their stars at Fenway Park. I root as heartily as  they do for the Sox, I’m sure.  The band does have legions of fans. I have friends who also never miss a concert.  I saw a couple here. I see many same faces at Leamy Hall.

I mentioned the band’s PR role. For this, the United States is divided into five big chunks and the band makes a two-week swing through each every five years.

The recent one was in California, with 13 concerts up and down the state.  I learned that one of its stops would be in San Luis Obisco, a beautiful “Spanish mission” city half way between L.A. and San Francisco.  My daughter Monique and her husband live only 15 miles north, in Morro Bay.

“This is your chance!” I e-mailed her.  “Get your tickets. Right now!” They did. Finally they got to enjoy for themselves what I’ve been telling them about.

This year was remarkable for another reason. The band traveled to Taiwan to participate for two-weeks in an international get-together of military bands.

Not its first trip abroad. The band often mentions how it played in Leningrad, Russia, back in 1989. Those were still Soviet times. By invitation, of courseThat was the first time an American band played there. It was a historic event and the band makes much of it, understandably so. It was the first American premier band to play in Japan. It has played in England and other lands.

It made much of its planned tour to Taiwan.  That would be whoppingly expensive, I was sure. When I read about it, I wondered, “How can the band do that now, when our country is staggering with debt and is in recession? How will this go over with people who think of that?”

Well, the band did it with private (non-government funds), whatever they were. But it was late in making that clear. My opinion.

Band members are chosen only after strenuous auditions and background checks. This is usual in the business. A typical audition will evaluate numerous competing performers, out of view behind a screen to assure fairness, and all culled from a list of applicants from all over the country, including leading music schools. They travel to New London at their own expense.

It’s a coup to get in. The band has an outstanding reputation. There’s another reason. A professional musician can lead a precarious life financially. The security of playing in the band is considered fantastic, especially in these harsh times.

I’ve wondered about the pay and the benefits. I found it easy to dig up a bit of this info on the band’s website, www. uscg.mil/band.

The band pays the same salaries as the Coast Guard pays similar ratings.  A beginner as an E-6 gets $46,032 ($50,784 with dependents). I was interested in pay for the higher levels also but couldn’t spot that easily.

Then there are allowances of various kinds, for family, housing, continuing education, and so on. Plus nice perks.  They can use the PX and get medical care at the Navy base across the river, for instance.

The band supplies the instruments, but they must not be used for non-band purposes.

The band also has a supporting staff. I looked for its annual budget. No luck. I’m sure I’d whistle if I saw it.

 

Finally the band struck up!  Chief Warrant Officer Wyman walked to the microphone with his usual polish and charm and made us welcome. (Generous applause.)  Commander Megan strode on stage and took a bow. (Generous applause.)

We stood and faced the flag and the band launched into the National Anthem, and that opened the band’s zillionth concert–oh, you know what I mean. They were perfect. Well, to my ear. Full disclosure: I can’t carry a tune. Yet I cannot live without music.

The concert lasted close to two hours, with an intermission. No time for the details, but the first half included pieces by Henry Fillmore, Modeste Moussorgsky, Ernest S. Williams,  Samuel R. Hazo, and Benjamin Britten. I know some of those may be unfamiliar, but their pieces were delightful.

It ended with the Service Medley. It’s a part of every concert. The band plays familiar snatches from the anthems  of the Army, Navy, Air Force,  Marines, and its own Coast Guard.

I would say that 75 percent of the attendees at any concert are senior citizens. I don’t understand why more younger people don’t attend. Well, during each snatch of  the medley, veterans of that service stand. The old soldiers, the old sailors, and so on.

I never stand.  The reason is simple. I never served. But I have felt bad. I have wished I could stand proudly, too.

Five years ago, a few days after a concert, I happened to read a short Associated Press story in The Day (I think it was The Day) saying that Peace Corps was actively recruiting older Volunteers. Older men and women have served but traditionally it has been a young person’s deal. The greatest number are in their 20’s.

But the Peace Corps suddenly had an important insight. It saw that older folks could contribute wonderful things in addition to patriotism and altruism, which seem to be factors.  Experience, for one thing, and determination, and maturity, maybe even wisdom. All true, of course. But why did it get smart so late?

A thought flashed up in my mind: maybe finally I could serve, too!

Oh,  I would never get to wear a uniform. The Peace Corps doesn’t have any. All I would get would be a pin for my lapel (and would have to buy it!).  But I was eager to check out the possibility. And that’s how I wound up as a Volunteer in Ukraine for a full hitch of 27 months. And how I just published a book about all that. It’s called “27 Months in the Peace Corps. My Story, Unvarnished.”

One day Peace corps notified me I was suddenly the oldest of 8,000 Volunteers serving in 74 countries in the world. All because I happened to turn 80 while in Ukraine. No big deal to me. “I’d rather be the youngest!” I replied.

Truth is that Peace Corps was a tough but very satisfying experience for me. A true adventure. So, I blame the band and its armed services medley for all that.

 

During the intermission I found Ellen Cavanagh in the crowded lobby. She was busy chatting in a thick group crowding around her. I got to speak with her. She is the executive director of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was the sponsor of this concert. In fact, she was the one who invited the band back 23 years ago.  It has been SRO—standing room only—at nearly every concert.

She told me that tickets had been mailed out for all 750 seats. But some people don’t show up. She expects that. At 7:20, as usual, non-ticket holders were let in. And an extra 30 chairs had been set up at the back. She said, “So we managed to accommodate everybody, I believe.

“The concerts are always a great success. They are free, of course, but a big factor is that they’re always wonderful.”

But not really free, it turns out. The band’s budget doesn’t cover such trips afield. Organizations and communities interested in a performance must fill out a form to invite the band.

Decisions are based on various factors. Nobody must make any money off the concert. The concerts must be open to everybody—no discrimination. And the expenses must be covered: the bus for the band, the two trucks for the instruments, and the meals and lodging if necessary.

This concert’s program announced that funding was provided by Shore TV and Appliances of Clinton and Old Saybrook. Also that the printing was provided by Technique Printers of Clinton.

And the Clinton Board of Education and the Morgan School Administration were thanked for their cooperation,  with special thanks to Raymond Smith of the school’s music department and a crew of students he provided.

The second half was equally beautiful. First, the “Folk Song Suite” by Karl King. And then, what is not uncommon, three selections by the band’s five–piece Dixieland Jazz Band, always a great hit.

This group also had a stand-in, a fine guitarist. I noticed he had a well-trimmed beard. It occurred to me he’d undoubtedly have to shave that off if he wanted to don a uniform like the others.

The band has half a dozen ensembles…chamber, brass, jazz, swing, sax, and woodwind. They attract their own audiences. Annabelle and I have attended some of these smaller concerts. The ensembles are also an appreciated extra outlet for musicians with specific interests.

 

Next came an aria from the “Marriage of Figaro” by soprano Weikleenget, and then the rollicking “On the Mall” by Edwin Franko Goldman.

Mr. Smith, director of music at the Morgan School, picked up the baton for this piece. Very nice job. He has been the guest conductor for one piece since the beginning of the series. I was told that he had conducted it cold, although the band had rehearsed it.

Then Samuel Ward’s “America the Beautiful.”   A fitting finale.

The whole auditorium jumped up. Much, much applause. Bows by all the principals. Numerous acknowledgements of players. More applause–heavy applause. Another triumph for the band.

I’m sure it will be back in Clinton next year. For its 24th year!

This week it’s off to Washington, D.C., for a concert there. It’s a very busy outfit.

And it will be performing at Leamy Hall this Sunday. No tickets required.

Annabelle and I wouldn’t think of missing it.

Rockfall Foundation to Honor State, County Environmentalists

Middletown–The Rockfall Foundation will recognize Karl J. Wagener, Executive Director of the CT Council on Environmental Quality, for his lifetime of service at the foundation’s 2011 Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony on November 17, starting at 6 p.m. at the deKoven House Community Center, Middletown.

Wagener (photo attached) featured speaker for the event, will be given Rockfall’s Certificate of Honor in recognition of his lifelong concern for the environment, and achievements as Executive Director of Connecticut’s Council on Environmental Quality for more than 25 years. Before joining the CEQ, he was director of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Environmental Center in Hartford and served as their lobbyist at the State Capitol. In 1995, Wagener was selected for an Eisenhower Fellowship and spent several weeks in the Czech Republic and Slovakia exchanging information with environmental officials and advocates in those countries.

The foundation will also present two Certificates of Appreciation that evening. Margot Burns, Regional Planner for the CT River Estuary Regional Planning, is being recognized for organizing and providing leadership for the Lower CT River and Coastal Region Land Trust Exchange. The Exchange was organized in 2009 to create a stronger connection between the local, regional conservation community, and the Regional, State, and Federal land use planning process, and to enhance collaboration between land trusts and other local conservation organizations.

Ken Kruse, on staff of Middletown’s Russell Library, will be recognized for founding and leading the library’s Green Children program. Meeting twice a month for the past eight years, the program has engaged hundreds of children in environmental education programs including gardening, composting and recycling.

The evening will feature project displays by the foundation’s 2011 grant recipients and a reception with light refreshments.            For information, call the Rockfall office at (860)347-0340, or e-mail crusowicz@rockfallfoundation.org.

The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation programs and planning initiatives in Middlesex County. Established in 1935, it is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations whose mission is to be a catalyst– bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the county’s natural environment. Rockfall awards grants each year to organizations, schools and municipalities, and continues to hold and manage open space property in the county.

UCONN Basketball Tickets Available from DR Park & Rec.

The Deep River Parks and Recreation Commission is offering tickets to three UCONN Men’s and Women’s basketball games held at the XL Center in Hartford.

The tickets are for the Women’s games on 11/21 vs. Stanford, section 223 and for the 1/28 game vs. USF, section 222.  Tickets are $11.00, regularly priced at $22.00.

Tickets for the UCONN Men vs. Holy Cross on 12/18, section 206 are also available for purchase at $16.00 each, regularly $30.00 each.  Tickets are for the game only and the ticket holder is responsible for transportation to the game.

Please call 860-526-6036 to reserve your tickets.

Model Train Display at Deep River Town Hall

The Deep River Parks and Recreation Commission is pleased to announce that as part of our annual Holiday festivities, the Connecticut Shoreline Train Group will have a holiday model train display for all ages to enjoy in the Deep River Town Hall auditorium on November 30, December 1 and December 2.

The group is made up of seven members who have been building and displaying trains together for over 25 years.  The members are Bob Lee, Jimmy Skeffington, Rob Larsen, Sandy Alonzo, Paul Jiantonio, Mike Tierney and Pete Sulinski.  The model train layout will include an N-Scale modular layout which is approximately 16 feet long, and a 34 foot on 30 modular layout.  Also on display will be other various gauge trains, including HO, G and a 3-rail Lionel.  The group participates in train shows and displays throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

The display will be open to the public on Wednesday, Nov 30 and Thursday, December 1, from 6:00-8:30 pm and on Friday December 2 from 5:00-9:00 pm.  Admission is free.

Estuary Council of Seniors Holiday Craft Fair

The Estuary Council of Seniors will be holding their Holiday Craft Fair on Saturday, November 19 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.at 220 Main Street, Old Saybrook.

Local crafters will display an array of hand crafted afghans, quilts, handbags, scarves, jewelry, photo cards, pottery and much more!

There will also be a wonderful “Bake Shop” filled with homemade desserts and candy for sale.

Call Sandy at the Estuary for more information 860 388-1611

The fair is open to the public of all ages to come and enjoy local hand crafted items for their holiday shopping needs!

Middlesex County Meet Your Greens at It’s Only Natural Restaurant

Middletown, CT– Meet Your Greens, Middlesex County monthly green drinks networking gathering, will meet November 15, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at It’s Only Natural Restaurant (ION) in Middletown www.ionrestaurant.com.

The evening will feature an informal talk by ION staff on vegetarian and vegan options for Thanksgiving. It’s Only Natural Restaurant has served CT diners for more than 30 years. It is known throughout the state for its delicious, innovative vegetarian/vegan creations.  In addition to offering recipe tips, ION will share its 2011 Thanksgiving menus, which are available for dine-in as well as takeout the day before Thanksgiving. There will also be ½-priced drinks and appetizer specials.

Meet Your Greens is Middlesex County’s monthly green drinks happy-hour network providing opportunities to make connections and exchange news about environmental issues in Middlesex County. Based on the popular Green Drinks in CT and nationwide, this informal gathering of people drawn from the community, nonprofit groups and the business world offers time to brainstorm ideas and plant seeds for collaboration. All are welcome with no reservations or advanced registration necessary.

Meet Your Greens meets every third Tuesday of the month. Venues and times change– join our e-list for updates and invites by contacting Claire Rusowicz, crusowicz@rockfallfoundation.org; or Jennifer Weymouth, jaweymouth@yahoo.com. You can also join us on Facebook (“Meet Your Greens”). Schedule updates are also provided on The Rockfall Foundation website, www.rockfallfoundation.org.

The Rockfall Foundation supports environmental education, conservation programs and planning initiatives in Middlesex County. Established in 1935, it is one of Connecticut’s oldest environmental organizations whose mission is to be a catalyst– bringing people together and supporting organizations to conserve and enhance the county’s natural environment. Rockfall awards grants each year to organizations, schools and municipalities, and continues to hold and manage open space property in the county.