August 22, 2014

Craft Fair Vendor Spaces Available Now for May 12

The Sixth Annual Mother’s Day Craft Fair will take place on Saturday, May 12  from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Deep River, 1 Church Street.  There are inside and outside spaces available for a cost of $25.00 per space.  The indoor spaces are extremely limited and will be filled on a first requested, first served basis.  A limited number of 8’ tables for inside use are also available, for an additional $5.00.  Deadline for applications is April 30, 2012.

In addition to the numerous vendors, there will be a silent auction, garden plant and bake sale, as well as a luncheon.   Please come and enjoy the day!  You may contact the church office at 860-526-5045 or check our church web site, www.deepriverchurch.org for an application or further information.

Bushy Hill Farm Aid All Day Outdoor Benefit Concert May 12

Ivoryton, CT- Grab the kids and put on your dancing shoes as Bushy Hill is hosting its first ever Farm Aid, a benefit concert for the farm at Bushy Hill! On May 12 (rain date May 13) from 11am-5pm on the Activity Center field we will have performances from 6 local bands and musicians. There will also be a Primitive Studies Expo where kids and families can learn about flint napping, hyde tanning, primitive fire making, basket weaving and much more! There will be some great food vendors, including a donut truck, and many local artists selling their crafts. Admission is $5 per person, children under 12 are free! All proceeds will go towards operating the farm, which is in need of some repairs and new equipment.

The local bands and musicians performing at Farm Aid will be: The Side Doors, Margie Warner, The Meadows Brothers, Autopilot, Will Leet, The Dizzy River Band, and Eric & Sandra Lichter.

The farm plays an integral and ever growing part in the Bushy Hill Nature Center programs. At Bushy Hill we are committed to helping people of all ages, especially children, develop a strong connection to and reverence for our natural world. Our programs serve over 2000 children a year from pre-school through high school. We believe that by connecting with nature we come to better understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Bushy Hill at Incarnation Center is located at 253 Bushy Hill Road, Ivoryton, CT. Parking for the event will be on one side of Bushy Hill Road, you can then walk to the main entrance, past the pond, and you will see the Activity Center field on your left. If you have any questions call (860)767-0848. Visit our website at www.bushyhill.org for more information and to make a donation if you cannot attend.

The Essex Boat Show Is Underway, Power and Sail are on Display

The main dock of the show, off Novelty Lane in Essex

“Calling all hands.” Come visit the Essex Boat Show, which is being held on Novelty Lane in Essex from Friday, April 27, to Sunday, April 29, open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The first day of the show, April 27, was a wash out. The wind was blowing at 40 miles an hour, and attendance was light. However, the show’s second day, Saturday, after a cold start turned out to be bright and sunny.

Essex Boat Show is promoted on Main Street

Generally speaking, the larger vessels, both power and sail, were on display. Among the power boats, large Nordic Tugs were very much in evidence, as were the Hatteras and Grand Banks brands.  Sailboats too were in 40 to 50 feet long category. In fact, it might have been more appropriate to call the show, the “Essex Big Boat Show.”

A Nordic Tug 28' at the show

Four Essex yacht brokers are sponsoring the Essex Boat Show. They are: 1) Boatworks Yacht Sales, 2) Eastland Yachts, 3) Prestige Yachts and 4) Hank Aldrich Yacht Sales.

As with all boat shows there was more looking around and asking questions, then there was actually purchasing boats. However, in at least one instance, Leslie Guarrier of Boat Works Yacht Sales appeared to have found an interested buyer. He said to her loud and clear, “I might want to buy a boat.”

Yacht Broker Leslie Guarrier closing the deal

Also, hovering nearby was Debbie Soudan of Sterling Associates of Old Saybrook. She was ready to provide financing to buy a boat. “You can borrow money for under 5% these days,” she said.

Sailboat seller Jim Eastland of Eastland Yachts

History in the Park with Town Historian Chris Pagliuco May 20

The Essex Park and Recreation Department and Essex Historical Society are hosting: “History in the Park” on Sunday, May 20 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Grove Street Park in Essex, (next to Town Hall)

The event will feature a book talk and signing by author and Essex Town Historian, Chris Pagliuco. Pagliuco will speak about his newly published book entitled, The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe-Smuggled through Connecticut (History Press).

Pagliuco will be available for questions and signings of his book after his talk. Families are invited to attend, picnic and enjoy an afternoon at the Grove Street Park.  If you don’t want to pack a lunch – the Touchdown Club will be there with hot dogs and hamburgers for sale to benefit the Valley Regional Football Boosters.

In case of rain, the festivities will be moved indoors to the Essex Town Hall auditorium.

Runaway Vehicle Smashes into Three Parked Cars in Riggio Garden Center’s Parking Lot in Essex

Closed and damaged front doors of Riggio's Garden Center

It happened the morning of April 26, and by the time it was all over three parked cars in front of Riggio’s Garden Center in Essex had been smashed into, with one of them seriously damaged. Also, the front door of Riggio’s had been crushed off its hinges, and the store’s main entrance had to be taped shut with yellow tape.

According to an eyewitness, who was in the store at the time, the scenario of the incident went like this. First, a car, which was parked in front of Riggio’s main entrance, backed up forcefully, and hit another car parked behind it, “very hard.”

Next, the out of control vehicle pulled sharply forward, and smashed into a second parked car, a Saab, which was parked in front of it. The Saab in turn was pushed into the front doors of the garden center, forcing the doors off their hinges.

Then, finally, the out of control vehicle pulled forward and hit a third car, pushing this car over the store’s new statuary display in front of the garden center.

Soon after the incident Police and Fire officials arrived, and in the words of the eyewitness, who declined to give her name, “It was just like the movies,” with lights flashing and emergency vehicles on hand.

Reportedly, the driver of the runaway vehicle was a 74 year old woman, who was escorted away from the scene by authorities.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident, according to the eyewitness.

Riggio employees were particularly concerned that the vehicle smashing incident occurred just before its open house this Saturday, April 28, when the store in gratitude entertains its customers with a picnic.

Banner for April 28 "cook out" for Riggio's loyal customers

Although the official police report of the Essex Police of the incident was requested, it was not made available.

David Russell Announces Retirement After 17 Years as Principal at John Winthrop Middle School

REGION 4— David Russell, the principal at John Winthrop Middle School for the past 17 years, has announced plans to retire from a 42-year career in public education at the end of June.

Russell, who notified Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and the Region 4 Board of Education of his plans earlier this month, is only the second principal in the 42-year history of the school in Deep River, which was called John Winthrop Junior High School when it opened to seventh and eighth graders in September 1971. Only seventh graders had attended the nearly finished school during the 1970-1971 school year.

Russell, a Westbrook resident, was there that September after being hired as the school’s industrial arts teacher. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Russell had worked the previous two years as an industrial arts teacher in the Montgomery County, Md. school system. Russel said he had visited the shoreline area previously because his grandmother had a summer cottage on West Beach in Westbrook.

Russell taught industrial arts until 1985, when he was named as associate principal, a job that at the time included duties at John Winthrop and at nearby Valley Regional High School. Russell was named principal at John Winthrop upon the retirement of the late Timothy Doyle, the school’s first principal.

Russell said he has enjoyed his time at John Winthrop, watching former students become the parents, and grandparents, of students attending the school today. “Being part of Region 4 schools has been a very rewarding experience for me,” he said.

Russell said the “most unique experience” of his career was watching the $21 million renovation and expansion of John Winthrop that was completed in 2005. The school, which had followed a middle school education model since the late 1980s, was formally renamed as John Winthrop Middle School after completion of the renovation project.

Russell, who had also served as the appointed harbor master in Westbrook, said his retirement plans include sailing and travel, though he may also seek some temporary work in education, possibly as an acting or interim principal.

The closing date for submitting applications for the middle school principal position is Friday. The Region 4 Board of Education is expected to hire a new principal by June, with a salary range of $116,000 to $127,000.

Russell is the second Region 4 principal to announce a June retirement. Jack Pietrick, principal at Deep River Elementary School since 1999, is also retiring at the end of June. Jennifer Byars, a Deep River native and current town resident, has been hired as the new principal at Deep River Elementary School.

Rep. Phil Miller Named ‘Children’s Champion’

State Representative Phil Miller, who represents Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam in the Connecticut General Assembly, was recognized as a “Children’s Champion” during a ceremony held at the State Capitol.

Rep. Miller received the recognition for showing a strong commitment to early childhood issues in his district and at the legislature.

“Investments in early childhood education are an investment in our children’s futures,” said Rep. Miller. “I’ve been well influenced by the many great early childhood educators in my district, who have helped me to try to do right for our children. I’m honored to receive this recognition and want to thank everyone at the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance for this award and for all the great work they do.”

“Rep. Phil Miller was chosen as a 2012 Children’s Champion for demonstrating a strong level of commitment to early childhood through leadership on policy issues during the 2012 legislative session, and active involvement on local early childhood initiatives,” said Maggie Adair, Executive Director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance.

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide membership and advocacy organization committed to improving developmental outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security for children ages birth to eight.

Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He is Vice Chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee.

Chester Sets May 1 Public Hearing on Proposed $8 Million Town/Elementary School Spending Plan

CHESTER— The 2012-2013 budget plans for town government and Chester Elementary School will be presented at the annual budget hearing on May 1 at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m.

The town government budget totals $3,411,243, and is combined with a $446,961 capital expenditure plan. The town government budget is up by $87,525, or 2.63 percent, over current spending. The capital expenditure plan, which had been reduced for this year’s budget, would increase by $101,961 in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposed $4,205,900 budget for the elementary school is up by $41,831, or one percent, over the current appropriation for the elementary school.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, preparing the his first budget since winning election to the top job last November, said the major drivers for the town government budget are funding for anticipated higher fuel oil and gasoline expenses, and a two percent wage/salary increase for all town employees, including elected officials. The two percent pay increase matches the increase awarded to the eight town employees in the American Federation of State, county, and Municipal employees (AFSCME) bargaining unit. The contract extends to 2017-2018, when the pay increase for union employees would be three percent.

The proposed capital expenditure plan includes $303,961 for road repairs, $50,000 toward replacement of the firehouse roof, $50,000 toward the planned replacement of a 1988 fire truck, $18,000 for roof repairs at the elementary school, and $25,000 for the town hall space/needs study.

Meehan said one issue that is likely to be discussed at the hearing is the board of finance directive for a $20,000 cut in the elementary school budget. Meehan said the finance board recommended the cut based on declining enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school. Enrollment is projected to be at around 256 students this September.

The finance board has recommended a transfer of $174,641 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to limit the required increase in the property tax rate to .34 mills. The current tax rate is 22.11 mills, with the proposed 2012-2013 rate at 22.45 mills, or $22.45 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. The transfer would leave about $1.34 million in the fund balance as of June 30, 2013.

The town government and elementary school budgets are combined with Chester’s $4,683,977 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total 2012-2013 spending levy of $12,748,081. The Chester share of the region 4 budget is down by $39,000 because of fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.

The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m . referendum on May 8. The annual budget meeting vote on the town/elementary school budget plan is set for Tuesday May 15 at 7 :30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

Help Needed to Write Graphic Novel about Deep River and XYZ

The Deep River Public Library is looking for creative people to help us create a graphic novel about Deep River and XYZ. We have started but welcome anyone interested in drawing and writing the tale. It will be fun and rewarding as well. The group meets Thursdays at 3:30pm and on the first Thursday of the month the Comic Book Club meets. The tale is historically based so you will learn about Deep River’s past.

Please call the library at 860-526-6039 for more information.

Essex First Selectman Proclaims “Michele Connelly Day” for Stellar Town Volunteer

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman issued a Proclamation declaring April 21, “Michele Connelly Day,” in tribute for the work of Essex resident Michelle Connelly, “who has exhibited a sense of commitment and dedication working with Essex youth.”

The Proclamation continued, “We say ‘thank you’ to Michele who has unselfishly given her time, love and mentorship as a volunteer and surrogate guardian, enabling our young people to grow, mature, become confident, successful individuals.”

The full text of the Proclamation is as follows:


Romney Carries Three Towns in Extremely Low Turnout Presidential Primary

AREAWIDE— Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney carried Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a Republican Presidential Primary that generated extremely low voter turnout after the GOP nominating contest was settled two weeks ago.

What began as a competitive nomination contest wound down earlier this month after Romney won the Wisconsin primary and former Pa. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10. The date of the Connecticut primary had been changed from a February date in 2008 as the state teamed with Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in an effort to establish a northeast regional primary. Romney, who won statewide Tuesday with about 67 percent of the vote.

In Chester, Romney had 45 votes, with seven votes for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, four votes for Texas Congressman Ron Paul, six votes for Santorum, and three uncommitted votes. A total of 65 Chester Republicans turned out during the 14 hours of balloting.

A total of 91 Republicans turned out in Deep River. Romney had 55 votes, with 13 votes for Newt Gingrich, 14 votes for Ron Paul, seven votes for Rick Santorum, and two uncommitted votes.

The turnout was slightly higher in Essex, where Republican registration is higher than in Chester or Deep River. There were 315 ballots cast Tuesday. Romney had 244 votes, with 22 votes for Gingrich, 28 votes for Paul, 14 votes for Santorum, and seven uncommitted votes.

No Changes to Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets After Public Hearing

ESSEX—The board of finance made no changes to the proposed town government and Essex Elementary School budgets after the annual budget hearing last week, sending the combined $14.38 million budget plan to a vote at the annual budget meeting on May 14.

About 50 residents turned out for the April 19 public hearing on the proposed $6,853,640 town government budget and a proposed 47,535,591 appropriation for the elementary school. While there were questions and some discussion, there were no calls for significant changes or reductions in the spending plan.

The town government and elementary school budgets are combined with the town’s $7,701,887 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total proposed $22,090,118 spending levy for 2012-2013. The Region 4 budget, which funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 8. Essex, with more students attending the two secondary schools, faces a $294,943, or 3.98 percent, increase in its share of the total $17.5 million Region 4 spending plan.

The town government budget is up by $221,621, or 3.34 percent. The elementary school budget is up by $131,801, or 1.78 percent. The total proposed spending increase is $648,365, or a 3.02 percent increase over the current combined town/schools appropriation.

First Selectman Norman Needleman, who expressed satisfaction with the apparent positive response to the proposed budget, said this week the spending plan would require an increase in the property tax rate of between five-tenths to six-tenths of a mill. A mill generates about $1.1 million in tax revenue under the current grand list. The current tax rate is 17.98 mills, or $17.98 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Needleman noted the board of finance sets the tax rate after the budget is approved, while adding that he would urge the board to fund a portion of the total $388,117 capital expenditure plan with a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance. The proposed increase in capital funds for the volunteer fire department, road repairs, and parks and recreation, is $126,667.

Needleman noted that using some money from the fund balance for the capital expenditure plan would hold down the tax increase. “The six-tenths of a mill would be the high end but I am hoping it would be lower than that,” he said. The undesignated fund balance currently contains about $2.72 million.

While Bruce MacMillian, the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Needleman in the 2011 election, has requested a referendum vote on the spending plan and a split vote on the town and elementary school budgets, the budget vote on a combined town/elementary school spending total is expected to occur at the May 14 annual budget meeting. A paper ballot vote is expected at the town meeting, though a petition from voters could still force a referendum vote on the budget.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Joining Regional Council of Governments

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a resolution joining the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, a new organization that will supervise a planned merger of the two regional planning agencies serving Middlesex County towns.

About 30 residents turned out for the meeting, with the resolution approved on a voice vote with a handful of opposing votes. Linda Krause, the director of the Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency, said the Essex vote puts the process on the verge of obtaining the 11 town membership approvals required to establish the new council of governments. An Old Lyme town meeting is expected to act on the membership resolution next week.

The Old Saybrook-based CRERPA and the Middletown-based Midstate Regional Planning Agency currently serve 17 towns, including all 15 municipalities in Middlesex County, along with Lyme and Old Lyme. Under the plan, the existing and more informal Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials would become a council of governments that would manage the merged regional planning agencies.

Krause said the city of Middletown and Old Saybrook have joined the council, with other towns, such as Chester and Lyme, expected to act on the resolutions at the annual budget meetings in May. Deep River was one of the first towns to join, acting at a town meeting last December.

Voters at the town meeting also unanimously approved an expenditure of $109,711 from the capital improvements fund for Essex Elementary School to pay for some emergency and planned improvements at the school. The total includes $47,711 for a new oil boiler to replace a boiler that failed in February, and $56,500 to replace carpeting with new rubber flooring in seven classrooms in the 1991 addition to the school building. Carpeting had already been replaced with rubber flooring in most other sections as part of the recently completed renovation and expansion of the elementary school.

Chester Backyard Burial Case Heads to Connecticut Supreme Court

CHESTER— A dispute over zoning requirements for a backyard human burial that began in 2005 was argued this week before the Connecticut Supreme Court by attorneys for the town and local resident Elise Piquet.

The dispute began after the town zoning enforcement officer learned that Piquet had buried her late husband, John Shaboe Doll, on her eight-acre South Wig Hill Road property after his death in the fall of 2004. The burial had been done under the supervision of a licensed funeral director, but the state Department of Public Health had requested confirmation from the town that a backyard burial was allowed under Chester zoning regulations. The regulations did not address private burials, and the planning and zoning commission determined that means such burials are not allowed.

Piquet had appealed for a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow the burial, but the case was never presented for a public hearing after the town withdrew a cease and desist order against the burial to give Piquet and the Department of Public Health an opportunity to resolve the issue. Piquet filed suit against the town in 2007 after the commission continued to maintain she had violated local zoning regulations and needed a permit for the burial. A Middlesex Superior Court judge later ruled in favor of the town, and the requirement for zoning approval, but Piquet then brought the case to the Connecticut Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court reversed the judge’s decision on mostly technical grounds, sending the ultimate issue of whether town zoning approval is required for a backyard burial to the state Supreme Court. Piquet was represented in Tuesday’s arguments at the court chamber in Hartford by New Haven lawyer William Gallagher. The town was represented by town attorney John Bennet, a Chester resident. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by this summer.

TTYS Distribute Post Cards on Social Norming

Tri-Town Youth Services has recently mailed postcards to all box holders of Chester, Deep River and Essex.  The post cards were created through the Social Norming Committee, and bear the message that “86% of Region 4 Parents Ask Where Their Kids are Going and With Whom.”  The mailer side of the cards contains important information for parents and teens on underage drinking and encourages keeping “our kids safe, alcohol- and other drug-free through prom, graduation, and beyond.

Members of the Social Norming Committee, Jessica Ramage, Mackenzie Holdmeyer, David FitzGibbons, Cate Bourke, and Gail Onofrio, were intentional in having the post cards mailed just prior to the prom season.  Social norming is a manner of presenting information in a way that is similar to positive reinforcement.  Most parents do an admirable job in monitoring their teens, but may not realize they are such a majority.  The statistic used on the post card was gleaned from the most recent administration of the Search Institute survey, Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors.

The Social Norming Committee is one of several committees that comprise the Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council.  The Council is in its second year of a Drug Free Communities grant.  Funding is provided through an ONDCP and SAMHSA partnership.

State Police Arrest Two Westbrook Men in December Killing of Alpacas at Ivoryton Farm

ESSEX— State police have arrested two Westbrook men in the December stabbing and killing of four alpacas at the Applesauce Acres Farm on Bushy Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Police said Kyle Rossetti, 21, of 114 Meetinghouse Road, and Shawn Malcarne, 23, of 216 East Pond Meadow Road, turned themselves in late Tuesday at the Troop F barracks in Westbrook after learning police held warrants for their arrest. Police had been investigating since the alpacas were discovered dead in a pasture area of the 99 Bushy Hill Road farm on the morning of December 23.

Rossetti was arrested and charged with third degree burglary, conspiracy to commit third degree burglary, fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit fifth degree larceny, animal cruelty, first degree criminal trespass, and first degree criminal mischief. Malcarne was arrested and charged with third degree burglary, conspiracy to commit third degree burglary, fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit animal cruelty, and conspiracy to commit first degree criminal mischief.

Both men were held overnight at the Westbrook barracks, Rossetti on a $75,000 bond and Malcarne on a $50,000 bond. After they were presented at Middlesex Superior Court Wednesday, Judge Lisa Morgan released Malcarne on a written promise to appear at a May 18 court date. Rossetti was ordered held on a $75,000 bond for a May 8 appearance at Middlesex Superior Court.

Police said the incident remains under investigation by Essex Resident State Trooper Kerry Taylor, and Detective Scott Wisner and Sgt. Joseph Quilty of the Central District Major Crimes Unit, “with the possibility of more arrests.”

The Ivoryton farm is owned by George MacLaughlin and his daughter, Sara. The MacLaughlins, who at times have had more than a dozen alpacas at the farm, had offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for killing the animals.

Neighbors embrace proposed Foxboro Point Development; New York City Developer has won Their “Hearts and Minds”

Developer's attorney Terrance Lomme

By the time the April 17 public hearing of the Essex Planning Commission was over, current residents of Foxboro Point were practically oozing their praise for New York City developer, Frank Sciame.  His proposal of seven homes on eleven acres would after all keep property values on Foxboro Point very, very high, and this is fine with the residents of this upscale section of Essex.

Just to rub it in, Sciame noted in passing at the public hearing that Essex town zoning regulations would permit as many as 24 new homes on his eleven acres of Foxboro Point property. Without saying it, Sciame let hang in the air, which neighboring properties would they prefer: (1) 24 new homes jammed on little lots; or (2) seven spacious new parcels, each possessing over an acre of land?

New York City developer Frank Sciame at the Planning Commission

Or putting it another way, would neighbors want new homes which would lower property values, or a few big homes, which would sustain higher property values. Obviously, the second choice was preferred, and for this reason homeowners on Foxboro Point became allies of the developer.

New layout presented and rejected by all

Sciame’s private attorney Terrance Lomme, who has maintained a private practice of law, while serving as a sitting Judge of Probate over nine shoreline communities, began the developer’s presentation by offering a new layout for the 11 acre, Foxboro Point property. This new scheme was meant to meet some of the objections that were expressed at the March 8 public hearing of the Essex Planning Commission.

However, Sciame, himself, immediately, got up and attacked the new plans after they were presented by Attorney Lomme. “We don’t like it,” Sciame said of his own handiwork. “We do not want to do it,” he continued, and he added that the new layout “would block all views to the windmill.”

The windmill at Foxboro Point

Commission reverts to old plans

It turned out that the members of Commission did not like the new plans either, (they even had a parking lot in the middle of it), and so the new plans were quickly shelved, and the Commission members went back to working with the plans originally proposed by the developer in March.

With this settled, developer Sciame began a discussion of the architectural guidelines that he would insist upon before conveying the parcels to their new owners.  Furthermore, these guidelines would not only be embedded in the initial buyers contract to buy the property, they would be carried forward to apply to any future conveyances of the property he said.

Planning Commission Chairman, Dr. Thomas Danyliw, expressed doubt that these architectural guidelines could be carried forward in future sales of the various individual properties. However, Sciame was confident that they could be made in effect “to run with the land.”

One architectural guideline that was mentioned by Sciame was that a new owner would not be allowed to build a new home in a contemporary style. Another architected guideline would prohibit further subdividing the original purchased property. In fact, Sciame was adamant that the original density of the seven properties on the eleven acres of land would be preserved. “We shall make it,” he said, “so this [breaking up of parcels] can’t be possible.”

Sciame was also confident that by the method of architectural guidelines, “We can have a visual corridor to the windmill,” and he added, “We want the restrictions in architectural guidelines to be recorded and reflected in the deed.

A new public access corridor to the water?

After these discussions, there ensued a long discussion about the mapping of a public access corridor running from the road to the waters of North Cove. This topic was first introduced by Essex resident Bill Reichenbach, and later echoed in a letter from the Conservation Commission.

The essence of both Reichenbach’s remarks, and the letter of the Essex Land Trust, is that the developer is required to provide some viable scheme of pedestrian, public access from the road at Foxboro Point to the waters of North Cove.

A pedestrian pathway from the street to water was discussed extensively, especially one that would run down the south side of the development from road to water. In fact, it appeared that the developer was going to draft such a path to present at the next meeting of the Planning Commission, which will be held on May 10.

However, in informal discussions after the meeting with the developer’s consultants, it did not appear that they felt that there was a compelling need to address this public access pathway.

Sciame’s meetings with Foxboro Point residents

New York City developer Frank Sciame

Without question one of the major factors at the April hearing of the Planning Commission was the strong support for the project by the residents of Foxboro Point. In fact, prior to the meeting Sciame, made a number of personal visits with the residents of Foxboro Point.

He even perhaps encouraged one Foxboro Point residents to attack, preemptively, requiring any kind of public access from the road to North Cove. “We do not want public access,” this neighbor said. “There are already twelve locations in the Town of Essex where there is public access to the water.”

Focusing specifically on visual access from the road to the windmill will be the subject of another site walk of the Essex Planning Commission on Friday, April 20 beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the road above the development property. Members of the commission and those interested  in the topic are invited to attend.

Residents Support Essex Savings Bank’s Interest in Leasing Available Bank Space at Town Hall Building

CHESTER— An expression of interest from Essex Savings Bank about leasing soon-to-be-available space on the first floor of town hall drew strong support from residents Tuesday night as the board of selectmen held an informational meeting on options for the space that has been leased by a Bank of America branch for more than a decade.

About 50 residents turned out for the meeting that was called after Bank of America announced that it would close the branch and vacate the space by the end of June. The board was seeking input from residents on options for using the space, including possible town use as a community center. But the recent expression of interest from Essex Savings Bank dominated the discussion.

Bank of America occupied the space when the town purchased the building at Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) in 2002 and converted other sections on the first and second floors into town hall in 2003. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the bank has leased 3,200 square feet on the south side of the first floor at an annual rent of $75,000. The lease expires in August, but Bank of America is expected to vacate by the end of June.

Meehan said the town has received a payment of $280,000 from insurance carriers to replace the former community center building, located further south on Route 154, that collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in February 2011. Meehan said the total insurance payment was about $337,000, with some funds already expended for demolition and stabilization of the former community center site. The funds must be used to create a similar community center building for public use.

Meehan said there are options for town use of the vacant space at town hall, including a community center or possible use by the Chester Public Library, which is awaiting a feasibility study due in late June on a possible renovation and expansion of the historic 1908 library building on West Main Street (Route 148).

But nearly all of the residents at the meeting appeared to favor leasing the space to another bank, particularly a local institution like Essex Savings Bank. The bank’s president, Greg Shook, and Thomas Lindner, a vice-president who serves as the bank’s community relations officer, were at the meeting. After nearly an hour of discussion, Shook told the crowd Essex Savings Bank would be “honored to to able to fill the hole,” left by the departure of Bank of America.

Speakers at the meeting said the library should remain at the current site on Route 148, and some speakers questioned whether the town needed to replace the demolished community center with a new building. Lori Clymas, one of many who favored offering the space to Essex Savings Bank, said the community center insurance reimbursement could be directed to renovating underused space on the second floor of town hall for wider community use.

Several residents said Chester would benefit from having a second bank operating in town. With the departure of Bank of America, the only bank would be the First Niagara branch located on Water Street. Essex Savings Bank currently has two bank facilities in Essex, and branches in Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and a new branch that opened last year in Madison.

Meehan said he is proposing an appropriation of $25,000 in the pending 2012-2013 town budget to pay for a space and needs study of town facilities that would include “taking a look” at further renovations and other uses for the second floor at town hall. Meehan said the board of selectmen would discuss options for the first floor space at town hall, including possible lease talks with Essex Savings Bank, at a future meeting. He said the town must make a decision on use of the insurance proceeds from the former community center by the end of 2014.

Essex Town Meeting to Act on Funding for Elementary Improvements and Joining Regional Council of Governments

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday will act on authorizing an already spent appropriation to fund improvements at  Essex Elementary School, including replacement of an oil burner ,replacing the 20+ year old carpeting in the school’s B-wing with rubber flooring, and upgrading the security system.  There also be a vote on joining the planned Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments.

The town meeting convenes Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in town hall, but it will be preceded by a continued public hearing at 6 p.m. on the proposed entry in to the planned council of governments. First Selectman Norman Needleman said this week there were questions  from some residents about the newly forming COG at an initial hearing held on April 4, with the board of selectmen deciding to continue the hearing to gather all available information about the plan before a town meeting vote on a resolution to join the COG.

At the urging of top state legislative leaders, regional planning agencies around the state have begun a consolidation. To avoid the possibility that some area towns could be placed in more distant planning regions, the chief municipal elected officials from Middlesex County and some adjoining shoreline towns decided last year to support a merger of the Old Saybrook-based Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency with the Middletown-based Midstate Regional Planning Agency. The combined regional planning agency would be supervised by a new Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments that would replace the existing, but more informal, Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials.

The prospective member of towns for the proposed new council of governments would be the CRERPA towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, and the mid-state towns of Cromwell, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Middlefield, Middletown, and Portland.

The new council of governments would be established after at least nine of the prospective member towns approve joining the council. As of early this month, resolutions to join the COG had been approved by town meetings in Deep River, Cromwell, East Haddam, Haddam, Killingworth and Portland. An Old Lyme town meeting is expected to consider a resolution to join later this month.

Needleman said Essex could be left without regional planning services if the COG is established, and Essex does not join. “CRERPA does not tell us to do anything, but it does provide a lot of services to the town,” he said.

The $109,711 appropriation for the elementary school was already spent to replace an oil boiler at the school that failed last month. The town meeting is asked to formally authorize the expenditure from the capital reserve fund in the current budget for the elementary school.

Courtney Supports Effort to Dredge Westbrook Harbor with a $500,000 Federal “Earmark”

Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop (on left) with Cong. Joe Courtney and State Senator Eileen Daily celebrating new harbor dredging dollars

“This earmark had wings,” called out an excited Rives Potts at the ceremony to celebrate Congressman Courtney’s $500,000 federal earmark to dredge Westbrook Harbor. The recent ceremony was held at Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook. Potts, the Vice President and General Manager of the marina, will directly benefit from the new dredging of Westbrook harbor.

The Pilots Point Marina has a public, gas dock right in the harbor, and the deeper the harbor is dredged, the greater the number of deep draft vessels can be served by the marina’s gas dock.

Pilots Point Manager Rives Potts gives thumbs up to new federal earmark

In addition to helping a local marina, Town of Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop, who chaired the Courtney gathering, saw many other economic development benefits to the Town of Westbrook, when it has a deeper harbor.  The money spent by boat-arriving visitors will help the town “in many, many ways,” Bishop said. He mentioned specifically restaurants, food markets and other local businesses.

An interesting sidelight to the earmark that Courtney ultimately directed to Westbrook is that originally these earmark monies had been directed to new projects in neighboring Old Saybrook. However, with the agreement of Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, who attend the Courtney event, the monies were “reprogrammed,” so that they could be spent on dredging Westbrook’s Harbor instead.

With Senator Daily in center, and sporting a broken ankle, are supporters of the $500,000 federal earmark

Many Old Saybrook boat owners moor their vessels in Westbrook Harbor, so the argument can easily be made that dredging Westbrook Harbor means helping Old Saybrook boaters as well as those of Westbrook.

As for the timetable of dredging Westbrook Harbor, dredging will not actually begin until October of this year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have overall supervision of the project, and the Corps’ dredger boat, “Currituck,” will be used.  The performance of the actual work will be done by a local Westbrook contractor, Patchogue River Dredging.

According to a number of persons at the ceremony, Westbrook Harbor was last dredged in the early nineties.

$1.1 in state grants for dredging from State Senator Daley 

Although the recent celebration of the Courtney- sponsored $500,000 federal earmark was certainly appropriate, Westbrook State Senator Eileen Daily has already arranged a total of $1,100,000 in Connecticut state funds for dredging Westbrook Harbor.

These state funds were appropriated in two separate implements by the Senator, one for $350,000, and the second for $750,000. Considering the magnitude of these amounts, the Senator must be considered the leader in getting the monies necessary for dredging Westbrook Harbor.

In the Connecticut state legislature Daily holds the powerful position of Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. From this position, especially in the finance area, she can wield considerable power in the choice of funding state projects, as she certain has appeared to have done in the case of dredging Westbrook Harbor.

On hand to celebrate are Westbrook's Noel Bishops, State Rep. Jim Crawford, Cong. Courtney and Pilots Point's Rives Potts

As for the Courtney earmark Daily said, “Congressman Courtney’s federal grant will serve a very useful purpose in the Westbrook Harbor dredging project.” However, when the history of dredging of Westbrook Harbor is written, most likely Daily’s name will be mentioned as the project’s leading fund raiser.

Getting a federal earmark entails a lot of effort

In his remarks at the ceremony Congressman Courtney noted that the official name of the federal earmark program is the “Restore America’s Prominence Act,” and its grants are called “RAPA grants.” Courtney confirmed that getting these grants is an extremely competitive process among the nation’s Members of Congress.

Ed O’Donnell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s representative at the event said, “Without the dogged help of Congressman Courtney, this money would have gone elsewhere.” A number of others at the Courtney event characterized the Congressman as being. “a dogged sponsor, absolutely unrelenting” in his efforts to obtain the earmark grant.

Deep River Native Picked as New Principal for Deep River Elementary School

Jennifer Byars appointed as the new Principal for Deep River Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

DEEP RIVER— Jennifer Byars, a town native and Class of 1989 graduate of Valley Regional High School, has been hired as the new principal at the Deep River Elementary School. Byars, who begins working at the school in July, replaces Jack Pietrick, who is retiring in June after 13 years as principal of the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school.

Byars, whose maiden name is Pallon, grew up in Deep River and graduated from Valley Regional High School. Byars has served as principal of the Gallup Hill Elementary School in Ledyard for the past four years. She lives in Deep River with her husband Tim, and daughter Addie.

Byars, a graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts, earned a masters in education and a doctorate degree in administration and supervision at the University of Virginia. She began her career in public education as a high school science teacher at the Augusta County, Virginia, and later worked as an assistant principal at the high school in Rockingham County, Virginia. Byars returned to Connecticut, and Deep River, in 2006, working as an assistant principal at the Juliet Long and Gales Ferry elementary schools in Ledyard. She assumed the principal job at the Gallup Hill Elementary School in 2008.

Deep River Elementary School (photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

Byars said Tuesday she first learned of the principal opening at Deep River Elementary School in a school newsletter brought home by her daughter, a sixth grader at the school. Byars said she is thrilled to assume the leadership of the elementary school in her hometown. “You don’t often get that opportunity,” she said.

Byars was selected from a field of 71 applicants for the position. Region 4 Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said interview committees and the Deep River Board of Education, which made the hiring decision last week, were impressed with her “overall knowledge, commitment to excellence, strong leadership skills, exceptional personal style and commitment to students.”

“We are certain she will sustain and encourage an ongoing commitment to a culture of caring, high achievement, and mutual respect within a safe and productive school environment at Deep River Elementary School,” Levy said.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Funding for Emergency Management Improvements, Tax Waiver for Essex Court

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $50,000 special appropriation for emergency management items and authorized  years of waivers for the annual payment in lieu of taxes for the Essex Court elderly housing complex.

About 15 residents turned out for the town meeting, approving eight agenda items, including for appointments to town commissions, on unanimous voice votes with little discussion.

The $50,000 appropriation for emergency management items is the third and final expenditure for improving the town’s emergency management operations to be approved by voters since Tropical Storm Irene last August. Selectmen conferred with town emergency personnel and volunteers after the storm to develop a list of items that would be needed in an emergency.

Voters last fall approved appropriations of $32,528 for various emergency management items, and $38,000 for the nearly completed relocation of the town’s emergency operations center from a ground floor room at town hall to the former judge of probate office on the building’s first floor. The $50,000 will pay for various communications equipment, signs, and new appliances for the kitchen of the ground floor of town hall. All of the special appropriations were from the town’s undesignated fund balance.

The town has been waiving the annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the Essex Court elderly housing complex for several years after tenant complaints and other issues a decade ago depleted the reserve fund for the 36-unit complex in the Centerbrook section. The PILOT waivers cover the current year, 2011-2013, and date back four years to 2007-2008. The total lost revenue for the town is $48,293.

Selectman Joel Marzi said the waivers allow the Essex Housing Authority to avoid rent increases at the complex. Bruce MacMillian, a former chairman of the housing authority board of commissioners, supported the waivers. “It’s a good use of our money and its not major money,” he said.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Francis said the waivers were for multiple years because some of the waivers since 2007-2008 were not approved by a town meeting. “We’d like to clean up the record,” he said.

Voters also authorized expenditures of $4,000 for the park and recreation commission for repairs to the tennis court at Grove Street Park, and $3,050 to the tree committee for tree planting in town this spring. Both expenditures were from capital reserve funds already included in the current town budget.

Voters confirmed the appointments of Susan Malan to the conservation commission, Barbara Zernike as an alternate on the zoning commission, Virginia Willetts as an alternate on the parks and recreation commission, and Wally Schieferdecker as one of the town’s two representatives to the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission. Schieferdecker, who had questioned the town’s continued membership on the regional commission at a meeting earlier this year, later volunteered to fill a long-standing Essex vacancy on the commission.

Essex Village Recognized as War of 1812 Battle Site

This colorized map of 1814 Essex Village highlights the still existing properties now included in the British Raid on Essex Battle Site District on the State Register of Historic Places. Map created by Long Cat Graphics, property of the Connecticut River Museum

Essex, CT – The Connecticut River Museum, located on the waterfront in Essex Village, has announced that on April 4 the State of Connecticut Historic Preservation Council unanimously approved its submission to designate portions of Essex Village as the British Raid on Essex Battle Site District.  This official designation on the State Register of Historic Places is the culmination of intense research and community coordination led by Museum officials over the past year to gain recognition for the little known but quite significant raid.  On April 7, 1814, 136 Royal marines and sailors rowed up the Connecticut River under cover of night and landed at the foot of Main Street, where the Museum now stands, to burn privateers and other vessels at the docks and in the harbor.   A total of 27 ships were destroyed, making it the largest single loss of American shipping during the war, and in fact, the largest loss until Pearl Harbor. The district designation, which includes the grounds of the Connecticut River Museum, the Griswold Inn and 22 other historic properties along Main Street, Pratt Street, Parker Lane and Meigs Lane, is particularly timely as the nation launches its two year bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812. It cements the raid into the official history of the War of 1812 and is a stepping stone on the way to federal battle site recognition by the National Parks Service.

“The designation helps fill a missing page in the maritime history of our state and our country,” said Connecticut River Museum Executive Director Jerry Roberts. “Essex had been left out of the official narrative and the raid was dismissed as a minor event when actually it was big news back then, with over 70 newspapers covering it.  When the British burned Washington a few months later, it eclipsed the attack and it slipped into obscurity.”

For the past several years, the Museum has given voice to the story of the raid in its permanent exhibit and at its annual Burning of the Ships Day event, being held this year on May 12.  The Museum has also served as the conduit for new found artifacts and archeological discoveries relating to the raid, including an 1804 Pattern British Naval Boarding Cutlass found in the river off Hayden Point in Essex Harbor.  It is the type of sword that would have been carried by British sailors during the raid.  Then in June 2011, the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection brought in what has now been identified as a pre-1820 ship’s knee, a large wooden L-bracket used to fasten deck beams to the ribs of wooden ships.  Based on its age, the river location where it was found, and the presence of faint charring, it is possible that the knee is from one of the two American privateers that the British attempted to take down river after the raid but instead burned after running them aground in shallow waters.   A second piece of wood was found in the same location leading museum officials to believe that there is more to be discovered.  These join the Museum’s already significant collection of burned ship’s timbers, canon and musket balls and other artifacts associated with the raid.

The British raid on Essex as depicted in this painting by Kipp Soldwedel, property of the Connecticut River Museum

According to Connecticut State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, “Not only is the Thematic War of 1812 SRHP District significant for above-ground historic remnants of the Battle, but the Essex waterfront holds a significant archaeological potential that can yield important information and artifacts associated with the Battle.  We look forward to this multi-year research project that will bring long overdue recognition to this significant event in our national history.”

Roberts added, “We’re proud to set the record straight and be able to tell the story of the intensive American efforts to save the ships and prevent the British escape, and of the fact that there is far more to this story than anyone had imagined.  We are continuing our research and now planning new archeology in the town and in the river as we work with the National Parks Service Battlefield Protection Program to get national recognition within the year.  It’s all very exciting.”

The Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.  It is located in a national register 1879 steamboat warehouse at 67 Main Street.  More information can be found at www.ctrivermuseum.org or by calling 860.767.8269.

IFoundFitness Announces Winners of River Valley Slim-Down Challenge – Partners With Adam’s Supermarket to Support Soup Kitchen

"Eighteen participants of the IFoundFitness RiverValley Slim Down lost 191 pounds and raised $400 in canned goods, provided from the Deep River Adams Super Food Store at cost. The items were donated to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen." Pictured above: Phyllis Cappuccio MS, Development & Outreach Director for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens &Pantries: Donna Scott, Owner of IFoundFitness: Jeff Prindle, Manager of theDeep River Adams Super Food Store. Photo by Sarah Crisp, LymeGreen Inc.

DEEP RIVER, CT— In January, twenty-three enthusiastic shoreline health seekers began participating in the River Valley Slim-Down challenge run by IFoundFitness in Deep River.  It’s been 12 life-changing weeks since then, and 18 of the original participants recently completed the program run by Donna Scott, owner of IFoundFitness.

River Valley Slim-Down is akin to the Biggest Loser where participants compete to lose the highest percentage of weight and to win a jackpot cash reward along with other prizes.  The challenge focuses on weight control, exercise and group motivation.  On Thursday, April 5, Donna announced the winner of this winter’s slim down challenge, Bryan Ambrosino, who earned the jackpot prize of $1,859.00.  In second place was Hannah Schillawski and third place went to Carol Green.

In total, the participants lost a total of 191 pounds due to their hard work and Donna’s personal dedication to helping her clients achieve success towards their personal goals.  Through exercise, nutrition and health education, positive reinforcement, and empathy with each participant, Donna has motivated the group to achieve milestones they may have otherwise thought were unattainable.

River Valley Slim Down participant Hannah Tiffany Schillawski shared a day of excitement “I went shopping today and got a size 6 capri! I have NEVER been a size 6!”.  Ginny Mislick, who is getting in shape for her wedding next year, said, “Week after week in the River Valley Slim-Down, I was able to see results.  Whether it is on the scale or in the way my clothes fit me with inches lost, something was always happening along my journey to greater fitness.   I am a changed person, both mentally and physically.  The added and unexpected bonus was becoming part of a team of great people working toward the same goal to lose weight and become fit.  I was able to enjoy others’ success and feed off of their excitement.”

“My reward is seeing my clients motivated to make lifestyle changes that they can sustain.” said Donna Scott.  “It’s not about dieting, it’s about making healthy choices along their journey, choices that they can maintain.  And it’s about forgiving themselves if they go off track – which is going to happen from time to time.”

As part of Donna’s commitment to give back to the community, IFoundFitness donated over $400 worth of canned goods to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.  IFoundFitness partnered with Adams Super Food Store in Deep River who generously provided the canned goods at cost.  “Recently Adams Deep River launched the Culinary Health Club, a healthy eating initiative that dovetails nicely with the River Valley Slim-Down challenge.” said Jeff Prindle, manager of Adams Super Foods in Deep River.   In support of Donna and her hard work with her participants, Adams kindly donated four Culinary Club memberships that were given to the challenge runner-ups.  In addition to Adams, Vitality Spa in Old Lyme and Essence in Old Saybrook provided prizes for the challenge winners.

The Spring/Summer River Valley Slim-Down – 8 weeks to change your life, will begin in April 23, 2012 and will run for eight weeks.  Penny Smyth, CHHC, AADP, certified health coach will be offering a complimentary 30 minute consultation with each participant as well as offering several mini-workshops about weight management and healthier eating. To register and learn the more about the competition, contact IFoundFitness at (860) 961-4507 or email Donna at donna@ifoundfitness.com.

 IFoundFitness is personal training/group exercise business specializing in “Personalized, Personal Training” in an effort to improve clients overall health.  Donna Scott, owner and founder of IFoundFitness, is a certified AFAA (Aerobics And Fitness Association of America) Trainer; Zumba licensed in basic, gold and toning and is also Spinning (indoor cycling) certified. IFoundFitness is located at the Deep River Sports Academy at 190 Main Street in Deep River, Connecticut.  Learn more at www.ifoundfitness.com.

 

Letters: Thank You For Helping Me Get My Dog Back!

To the editor:

I’d like to express my most sincere thanks to the many people that stopped their cars on Grove Street on Saturday afternoon and patiently waited and tried to help me to get my dog, Couper, back.

Mostly I’d like to thank the incredibly generous and brave man in the blue pickup truck with the two dogs with their heads stuck out the windows, capturing Couper’s attention when I certainly was unable to.  In the midst of Couper running from car to car barking, this man calmly got out of his truck, held his hand out to my frantic dog and said gently “do you want a cookie?”  Couper finally stopped barking and looked at the man holding the dog treat – then the man said; “if you want this cookie, you have to sit”  and Couper sat – the man walked over to me, handed me the cookie and quietly said, “works every time”.

Kind sir, we are ever grateful to you.
Sincerely,

Susan Malan and Couper
Essex, CT

MacMillian asks for Split Vote, Referendum on 2012-2013 Town Budget

Bruce MacMillian

ESSEX— Bruce MacMillian, the unsuccessful Republican nominee for first selectman in last fall’s town election, has asked the board of selectmen for a split vote and a referendum on the town/elementary school budget plan for 2012-2013.

Appearing at Wednesday’s board meeting, MacMillian urged the selectmen to authorize separate votes on the town government and Essex Elementary School budgets. He also called for a referendum vote on the budgets in place of the planned May 14 annual budget meeting. MacMillian said separate votes on town and school budgets has been allowed under state law for nearly a decade, with 39 Connecticut cities and towns currently using a split vote.

MacMillian, who lost to Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman by 399 votes in the Nov. 8 election, praised Needleman and the current board for “an outstanding job in the preparation and presentation” of the proposed $6.85 million town government budget, including preparation of a detailed “citizens guide to the Essex town budget” handout. He contended a separate vote on the town government and elementary school budgets would be “the next step in transparency.”

MacMillian noted the town’s $7.4 million share of the Region 4 education budget will already be acted on in a three-town referendum on May 8. He contended a separate vote on the town and elementary school budgets would give voters “more options.”

MacMillian also requested a referendum vote on the 2012-2013 budget, whether the spending plans are presented for a separate vote or not. The town budget was sent to a referendum vote last year after an initial spending plan was rejected on a paper ballot vote at the annual budget meeting in May. A revised and reduced budget was approved on a 532-438 vote in a June 7 referendum.

The board of selectmen, with Needleman as a member, had sent the 2009 budget directly to a referendum, where it was approved in a low voter turnout. In 2010, the budget was approved on a voice vote at the annual meeting.

Needleman acknowledged a separate vote on town and school budgets is allowed under state law, but said he is not in favor of separate votes, and does not believe 2012 is the year to use a split vote for the first time. Needleman added that he would prefer the 2012-2013 budget be voted on at the annual budget meeting, not a referendum, suggesting it is “uniquely New England” to vote on municipal budgets at a town meeting.

Selectman Joel Marzi, MacMillian’s GOP running-mate last fall, said he views referendums as a “last resort” option for voting on a town budget. Marzi suggested holding a paper ballot, rather than show-of-hands vote, at the May 14 annual budget meeting as a compromise option. He also questioned whether a town meeting approved ordinance would be needed to set up a split vote procedure for the town and elementary school budgets.

While the board of finance is also expected to discuss MacMillian’s request for a separate vote, it is likely the town and elementary school budgets will be going to the voters next month as a package. Though MacMillian or others could petition to force the budget to a referendum, it also appears likely the budget plan will go to a paper ballot vote at the May 14 town meeting. The town and elementary school budgets will be presented for discussion at the annual budget hearing on Thursday April 19 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

Close to 3/4 of Essex Town Budget is Spent on Schools; and 1/4 on Everything Else

Valley Regional high school has 630 students

Education expenses for the public school children of Essex received a major portion of the Essex town budget in the last fiscal year. In fact, close to 3/4 of the town’s total budget, 73.1 % to be exact were dedicated to education expenses.

In contrast the town’s general operations budget, covering everything from park maintenance to policing, was just over 1/4 (26.9%) of the town’s budget.

Education expenses by category

In the present 2011/2012 Essex fiscal budget, education expenses on a percentage basis break down as follows: Essex elementary school  (24.45%).  Region 4 schools of John Winthrop middle school and Valley Regional high school (27.9%); Education supervision expense (12.6%) and Education debt service (8.1%).

Essex elementary school has 572 students

 

John Winthrop middle school has 340 students

To those who say that the Town of Essex is spending far too much of its budget on education, in defense James D. Francis, Chairman of the Essex Board of Finance, points to what he refers to as “the contract.” This means in his words, “When you sent your children to school, the town paid much more than your property taxes covered to educate them.  You balance out that gift by continuing to support the schools, even after your children are grown.”

Picking up a child at Essex elementary school

This could mean, for example, if the true cost of educating your child in public school was $13,000 a year, and your current property tax was $5,000 a year, you would be on the plus side of “the contract.” When your child is finished attending public schools of course, this would no longer be the case.

Complicating this “payback” concept of course is that town education costs, “keep moving up,” as Francis puts it.  He cited the growth of “special education” costs as one such factor.

Also, although Francis’ feels it will add little extra expense, in the next school year full-day kindergartens will replace the present half-day classes.   Furthermore, there is even discussion at the state level that public elementary schools in the future will be required to offer nursery school classes.

Two public proceedings on the Essex town budget

Two public proceedings are scheduled to focus on the next fiscal year’s Essex town budget.  Both will be held at Essex Town Hall.

The first will be a public hearing on April 19 at 8:00 p.m., sponsored by the Essex Board of Finance, to discuss the new 2012-2013 town budget. Both the Board of Finance and the Board of Education will participate.

The second will be an open town meeting on May 14, at 7:30p.m., to decide whether to adopt next year’s fiscal budget at the meeting, or to submit the budget to a town-wide referendum.

Which of these approval methods is decided upon, will be announced in advance of the May 14 meeting, according to Francis.

Region 4 budget referendum

In addition to the two Essex meetings on its new town budget, there will be a referendum on the Region 4 Board of Education’s new budget. It will be held on May 8 from noon to 8:00 p.m.at Essex Town Hall.

Another factor in the steady increase of the Town of Essex education expenditures is that the town’s percentage share in the Region 4 budget continues to climb. This is because Essex’s school age population is increasing at a rate greater than those of the other towns in the Region 4 school district, which are Deep River and Chester.

Yet another factor in the darkening cloud of ever increasing education expenses in Essex, according to Finance Chairman Francis, is that in Essex there is very little open space remaining, within the town’s boundaries that could be developed into new taxable land.

Bravo for new “Citizens’ Guide” on Essex town budget

To further budgetary understanding, the Town of Essex recently published a new “Citizen’s Guide to the Essex Town Budget,” which is available in the literature rack just inside Town Hall, when coming in from the parking lot. The guide is also accessible on line at the Essex Town web site, www.essexct.gov.

The guide’s explanation of important budget terms and procedures is outstanding!

Although the “Citizens’’ Guide” is overall a thoughtful and comprehensive guide to the intricacies of the town’s budget, and where the money goes, there is one very minor flaw. There is sometimes an over use of abbreviations.

For the reader of the guide, BOS means Board of Selectman; BOE means Board of Education; BOF means Board of Finance, and even Chairman Francis was baffled by this one, ADM means, which means “Average Daily Membership.”

Role of Essex Board of Education

The Essex Board of Education, chaired by Essex businessman Lon Seidman, also plays a major role in determining the funding of Essex schools. Seidman said recently that the new proposed Board of Education budget “reflects a 1.78% increase over last year’s budget.”

He also said, “The [Essex] Board of Education started work on our budget in December … [and] … We’ve worked collaboratively over the last several months to put together a fair budget that meets the educational needs of our young people.”

Seidman also invited Essex residents to review the Board’s budget document, which can be found at bit.ly/eesbudget2012. As noted, the Essex Board of Education will give a report at the April 19 Town Hall meeting.

Bank of America Leaving Space at Chester Town Hall, Selectmen set April 17 Public Information Meeting

CHESTER— Bank of America is ending its lease of space at the Chester Town Hall on Route 154, with an April 17 information meeting set to discuss possible town uses for the ground floor space.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of selectmen the bank will close the branch and vacate the space by June 22. The Bank of America branch has been in operation for more than a decade, but the town became the landlord in 2003 when the it purchased the building and converted the other sections on the first and second floor in to the town hall.

Meehan said there will be 3,200 square-feet of space available on the first floor of the building. The bank has been paying the town $75,000 per year for the space, which includes a drive-through. Meehan said the town has potential uses for the newly available space, either for the library, a community center, or some combination of the two options.

The town’s community center building, located further south on Route 154,  was demolished last year after the building collapsed in February 2011 due to the weight of accumulated snow on the roof. The Chester Library is currently considering options for a renovation and expansion of the historic 1908 library building on West Main Street, also known as Route 148. Library directors are awaiting a feasibilty study of expansion options that is expected by the end of June.

Meehan said a public information session would allow the selectmen to receive input from residents on possible town uses for the space.  “We need to hear more from the community on this,” he said

Meehan said he is also proposing a $25,000 appropriation in the 2012-2013 town budget for an architectural/engineering design study of possible town uses for the space. The April 17 public information meeting convenes at 7 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street.

Region 4 Board of Education Approves a Revised $17.5 Million Budget for 2012-2013

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education approved a revised $17.5 million budget for 2012-2013 Monday after a sparsely attended public hearing where no one objected to the spending plan.

The $17,506,213 budget was approved on a unanimous vote. The budget, which funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, represents a $181,280, or 1.05 percent ,increase over current funding. The budget is reduced by anticipated revenue to a $17,264,934 net budget that is assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools.

Board Chairwoman Linda Hall of Deep River announced before the public hearing that school administrators had found another $62,190 in reductions from the $17,568,403 budget that had been approved by the board on March 7. Hall said the savings come from a reduction of $119,000 in debt service expenses resulting from a refinancing of district bonds, and $88,000 from a reduction in the total cost of health benefits for district staff.

The new-found savings result in reductions in each town’s share of the net budget, but Essex still faces a steep increase in its share of the Region 4 budget because of a higher number of students from Essex at the two schools when the average daily membership from each town was tallied last October. Essex, with 434 students, now has a $7,701,887, or 44.61 percent, share of the budget. The Essex assessment is up by $296,752, or four percent, from the current amount.

Chester and Deep River, with fewer students, have a lower share of the budget. The Chester assessment is 44,683,977, down by $38,337 from the current amount. The Deep River assessment is $4,879,070, down by $103,313 from the current amount.

The budget includes three new part-time positions, or increased hours, along with an increase in the annual stipend for the athletic director shared by the two schools. There are increased hours for a social worker and a part-time custodian at the middle school, along with $33,000 for a part-time teacher assistant to run in-school suspensions at the two schools. Providing and staffing an in-school suspension option for students with discipline problems is now required by state law. The total cost of the staffing upgrades is $87,420.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy told the eight residents at the public hearing, including Chester First Selectman Edmund Meehan, the proposed budget is a “responsible and transparent” spending plan that meets the needs of the school district while taking in to consideration the economic climate in the state. The proposed $17.5 million Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in an eight-hour 12-noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 8.

Essex Garden Club Offers 2012-2013 Scholarships

The Essex Garden Club is now accepting applications from high school students, undergraduates and graduate students to share scholarship funds of $5000.   The following criteria will qualify students for consideration of a scholarship:

  1. Resident of Essex, Centerbrook or Ivoryton, Ct.
  2. High school senior or undergraduate/graduate student
  3. “B” or better grade point average
  4. Plans to pursue or currently pursuing studies related to environmental science in an accredited two year or four year institute of higher learning:

-       Fields may include: biology, ecology, horticulture, forestry, land conservation

-       Closely related subjects may also apply: landscape design, nursery management

Interested high school students should request an application from the school guidance counselor and return the application to the counselor by APRIL 27, 2012. Undergraduate/graduate students should call 860-767-1722 for more information. The deadline for all applications along with transcripts and references is APRIL 27, 2012.

Old Saybrook Memorial Day Parade Seeks Veterans to Participate

Old Saybrook, CT – The Town’s 2012 Memorial Day Parade Committee is seeking veterans from the CT shoreline and valley shore area to march (or ride) in this year’s Old Saybrook Memorial Day parade.

Veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces are encouraged to participate in the parade. In addition, the parade committee says that auto convertibles and floats are available for veterans to ride in if they’re unable to march the full parade route.

There will be a waterside naval service at 9 a.m. at the Dock & Dine. The 2012 Memorial Day parade will leave the Stop & Shop parking lot on Elm Street at 10 a.m. The parade will end at Old Saybrook’s Town Green. Marching bands from Old Saybrook’s Middle School and High School will be featured, along with the New London Fire Department Pipes and Drums, Mystic Highland Pipes and Drums, Old Saybrook Fire Department and its Honor Guard as well as the Old Saybrook Police Department’s Honor Guard and squads of marchers.

Veterans interested in participating should contact Max Sabrin, media relations representative for the Old Saybrook Memorial Day Parade Committee, via email at osfd@aol.com  or via telephone 860.395.5550 by May 21.

Square Roots Challenge by Chester Historical Society

Take the Chester Historical Society Square Roots Challenge

Are you ready for a challenge, limited only by your imagination? This spring, those accepting this Chester Historical Society challenge will be using simple and colorful aluminum squares as a component to create finished pieces of art, jewelry, sculptures, etc.

These squares date back to the 1950s when they were manufactured in Chester by C.J. Bates & Son as knitting gauges, measuring 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″. The historical society has 150 of them, which are being offered as a challenge for area artists, sculptors, photographers, engineers, jewelry designers, and all others with a creative mind.

The finished works will be exhibited and sold by silent auction at the Historical Society’s Square Roots Champagne Reception on Saturday, May 19, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Chester Meetinghouse.

The Squares artists pay a $25.00 entry contribution and will receive 4 gauges and a ticket to the reception. The Historical Society hosted a similar challenge in 2004, “Brooks for Hooks,” which used hooks and screw eyes manufactured by M.S. Brooks & Sons, Inc. Much like that event, the simplicity of the Susan Bates knitting gauge opens the door to many creative options and interpretations.

The squares can be seen at the Chester Gallery in the center of Chester, where you can also sign up to participate (or call 860-526-9822).

Essex Town Meeting to Act on $50,000 Appropriation for Emergency Management Items, Tax Waiver for Essex Court Elderly Housing

ESSEX— Voters will act on a proposed $50,000 special appropriation for emergency management items and tax waivers for the Essex Court elderly housing complex at a town meeting scheduled for Monday April 9 at 7 p.m., in the town hall auditorium.

The $50,000 appropriation, which includes funding for new appliances for the kitchen in the lower level of town hall, is the third special appropriation for emergency management improvements to be presented to voters since Tropical Storm Irene last August. Last fall, voters approved expenditures for $32,528 for various emergency management improvements, and $38,000 for the nearly completed relocation of the town’s emergency operations center from a room in the lower level of town hall to the former judge of probate office in the building.

Voters will also be asked to approve a waiver of payments in lieu of taxes for the Essex Court elderly housing complex in the Centerbrook section. The proposed PILOT payment waivers include the current fiscal year, 2011-2012, and date back four years to 2007-2008. The town began waiving the PILOT payments after tenant complaints and other issues from 2001 to 2004 depleted the reserve fund for the 36-unit complex.  Total lost tax revenue for the PILOT waivers would be $48,293.

The town meeting agenda also includes authorization to tap two existing capital sinking funds in the current town budget, including $4,000 for the parks and recreation department for repairs to the tennis court at Grove Street Park, and $3,050 to the tree committee for tree plantings this spring. Voters will also be asked to confirm the appointments of one member of the conservation commission, and alternate members for the zoning commission, parks and recreation commission, and the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission.

First Crossing Party of Chester-Ha​dlyme Ferry


Conn DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker hosted a “First Crossing” party on the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Saturday afternoon for local residents who helped raise public support for the ferry last summer when the ferry service was slated to be closed as part of the state’s austerity program.

After the state decided to fund continued ferry service for two more years, Commissioner Redeker formed a joint state-local task force to work on ways to reduce the ferry’s operating deficit by increasing ridership and increasing revenues.

Standing with Commissioner Redeker are Hadlyme members of the task force: left to right – Susannah Griffin, Wendy Dow Miller, Curtis Michael, and Dr. Matthew Elgart.

Despite temperatures hovering in the low 40s and a damp wind gusting up the Connecticut River, more than 70 local residents from both sides of the river turned out to ride the on the Selden III  and celebrate the start of another year of ferry service between Chester and Hadlyme. Daily ferry service officially started on Sunday April 1, continuing 243 years of ferry service first started by Jonathan Warner in 1769.

Iva Bittova, Vocalist, Violinist, Avant-garde Performer at Chester Meetinghouse April 22


Moravian-born Iva Bittova, vocalist, violinist, avant-garde performer, will be the featured musician at the third concert of the 38th season of the Robbie Collomore Concert Series at the Chester Meetinghouse on Sunday, April 22 at 5 p.m.

Iva Bittova is renowned for giving unique performances that draw upon her training in drama, classical violin and singing. Influenced by jazz, rock, Czechoslovakian folk music and classical violin training, Bittova creates vocal and violin sounds than have always been described as thrilling and impossible to categorize. As expected from an actress featured in a Czech film nominated for an Academy Award in 2004, her performances have a dramatic cohesion that is spellbinding. She will be accompanied by George Mraz, jazz bassist and alto saxophonist.

The Collomore Concert Series bring high-caliber, visiting musicians to Chester four times a year. Each performance is followed by a simple reception to mingle with and meet other music lovers and the performer. Tickets are $21 for adults and $5 for students. For information and tickets, call 860-526-5162 or visit www.collomoreconcerts.org. Iva Bittova’s performance is sponsored by First Niagara Bank.

Connecticut River Explorations and Art Adventures Planned for April Vacation Week

Children age 7 to 12 years can take a river exploration and art adventure during April Vacation Week at the Connecticut River Museum

Essex, CT – This April school vacation week will be packed with plenty of adventure and exploration at the Connecticut River Museum.  Children age 7 to 12 are invited to join museum educators for a day or two, or the entire week, as they discover the many wonders of the Connecticut River.  Starting on Monday, April 9, River Journey will feature a hike along the riverbank, a river scavenger hunt in the galleries, exploration of maps and charts and a chance to create your own river landscape.  On Tuesday, April 10, Community Creation will be all about creating a design for a park or building along the waterfront while working together to build ideas for a waterfront town.  On Wednesday, April 11, River Exploration will feature a hiking quest, sketching discoveries and planning a river landscape while on Thursday, April 12 , Construction Crew will feature an architecture adventure through Essex Village and the Museum’s aerial photography and river mural galleries for inspiration to build towns and cities on a tabletop river landscape.  The April vacation adventures wrap up on Friday, April 13 with River Valley Roundup, a program where all of the artwork completed during the week will be assembled to create a final tabletop river landscape and scavenger game.

Each program runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon.  A simple snack is provided, or kids can bring their own. The non-member fee is $30 per day or $135 for the week.  The member fee is $25 per day or $110 for the week.  Advance registration is required.  To reserve a space, download and mail in the registration form from www.ctrivermuseum.org or contact the education department at 860-767-8269 extension 113 or jwhitedobbs@ctrivermuseum.org.  The Connecticut River Museum is located on the Essex waterfront at 67 Main Street.