December 18, 2014

‘Source to Sea’ Annual River Cleanup on Great Meadow Sept 29

Join the Essex Land Trust for the 16th annual ‘Source to Sea’ Cleanup of the rivers, streams and banks that make up the vast Connecticut River system from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound. This year’s focus will be Essex’ Great Meadow, from 8:30 a.m. until noon, September 29.

The annual Source to Sea Cleanup is a one-day cleanup coordinated by the Connecticut River Watershed Council in all four states of the Connecticut River Watershed, home to more than 2.5 million people.  For 60 years the Connecticut River Watershed Council has been advocating for the sustainable use of the Connecticut River watershed from source to sea.  The Source to Sea Cleanup is the Watershed Council’s largest event and a feel-good volunteer opportunity for all.  To date we have prevented more than 707 tons of trash from flowing downstream.

All ages and abilities are welcome and will help make a concrete difference for water quality, recreation and wildlife. Wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, sturdy shoes/boots and work gloves. Meet at 8:30am by the Essex Boat Club. Take the unpaved drive off River Road, Essex, right after #143. Rain or shine. Refreshments served.

Connecticut River Museum Receives USDA Loan to Purchase Samuel Lay House

Pictured (from l-r) at the front entrance of the Samuel Lay House is CRM Vice Chairman Peter Prichard, State Representative Phil Miller, USDA Area Director Mary Grasso, Essex First Selecman Norm Needleman, USDA State Director Jay Healy, CRM Executive Director Jerry Roberts, U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney and CRM Chairman Maureen Wiltsie O’Grady. Photograph taken by Susan Daniels

Essex, CT – On Monday, September 24, representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture were at the Connecticut River Museum to officially present a Community Facilities Loan in the amount of $900,000 for the purchase of the Samuel Lay House located at 57 Main Street, Essex, adjacent to the Museum’s 67 Main Street property.   Jay L. Healy, USDA State Director, MA/CT/RI, and Mary Grasso, Area Director, Rural Development, along with United States Congressman Joe Courtney, State Representative Philip Miller and Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman attended the brief ceremony and toured the property with Connecticut River Museum Executive Director Jerry Roberts, Chairman Maureen Wiltsie O’Grady and Vice Chairman Peter Pritchard.

Built in 1732 on the site of the original 1648 Robert Lay Homestead, the 3400 square-foot house, 1000-square foot carriage house and .8 acre of land represent several significant stories in the history of the town, the state and the nation.  In addition to overlooking the site of the village’s original colonial wharves, the grounds were also the landing area for the 1814 British Raid on Essex and the house was the target of British gunfire and entry.  It is one of the 24 properties that make up the State Register of Historic Places’ British Raid on Essex Battle Site District, a designation that was approved by the State of Connecticut Historic Preservation Council in April as a result of intense research and community coordination led by Museum officials over the past two years.

The Samuel Lay House located at 57 Main Street in Essex, CT. Photograph by Jerry Roberts

The home’s historical features include original wood plank flooring, a center chimney with open hearths, and visible posts and beams.  It has served as transient dwelling for seamen and boat builders, as the original location of the Dauntless Club, and most recently as a private dwelling.  It came on the market over a year ago, launching museum trustees, administrators and elected officials into acquisition and development efforts.   The end result was the application and approval of a United States Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Loan which are given to develop essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population.  Loans are available to public entities such as municipalities, counties, and special-purpose districts, as well as to non-profit corporations and tribal governments.  The current interest rate is 3.5% and the term for real estate can be as long as 40 years.

The acquisition, which is scheduled to close by September 28 , will more than double the Museum’s educational campus as well as increase its footprint as a heritage destination.   The space will enhance capacity for school groups and public programs, create more opportunities for special events and festivals, and significantly increase public access to the historic waterfront.   It will also build a stronger foundation for the Museum’s in-process submission for federal battlefield recognition by the National Park Service.

According to Executive Director Jerry Roberts, “The purchase of the Lay House is an important milestone in the evolution of the Connecticut River Museum. Not only does it double our educational campus and green space, it secures the future of this important dwelling that was built in 1732 on a site which has been occupied since 1648.  Just 28 years after the landing of the Mayflower in Plymouth, the Lay family built the original colonial wharves which established Essex as a seaport trading with the West Indies and as a ship building center where over 600 vessels would eventually be built.”

The Connecticut River Museum, founded in 1974 and housed in a National Register 1878 steamboat warehouse, is a private, non-profit organization with the mission to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the River and its valley.   More information can be found at www.ctrivermuseum.org or (860)767-8269.

Essex Welcomes Two New Police Officers

L to R: Officer Todd Belmont (new); Corporal Russ Gingras; Trooper First Class Kerry Taylor; Schultz (K-9); Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman; Officer James Kenefick (Former State Trooper); Officer Scott O’Donnell (Former State Trooper (New)

The Town of Essex is pleased to announce the appointment of one new full-time and one new part-time police officer.

Scott O’Donnell, our full-time officer, resides in Old Lyme, and is a retired State Trooper. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Lyme Youth Service Bureau, and as a lieutenant at the Old Lyme Fire Department.

Todd Belcourt, our part-time officer, is a resident of Southington and currently serves as a part-time police officer in Chester and Southington, and also works as a teacher at Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden. He is certified in marine patrol law enforcement, and received two recognitions in 2008, a Citation Award from the Town of Chester, and an Achievement Award from the Town of Southington.

After a careful search process spanning several months, Trooper Kerry Taylor says that she is very pleased to have these new officers on board. “I am encouraged by their experience, dedication and professionalism. We are fortunate to have them.”

First Selectman Norman Needleman concurs. “For various reasons, our Police Department has been understaffed for quite some time now. This will relieve some of the scheduling problems and provide better coverage on our streets.”

Officers O’Donnell and Belcourt will join Corporal Russell Gingras and Officer James Paul Kenefick as well as Resident Trooper Kerry Taylor.

Middlesex Hospital to Hold a Ground Breaking of Its New Westbrook Facility that Will Replace the Shoreline Clinic in Essex

Artist’s rendering of the proposed new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook

Moving rapidly, with its plan to replace its present Shoreline Clinic on Route 153 in Essex with a new facility in Westbrook, Middlesex Hospital will hold a Groundbreaking Ceremony at the Tanger Outlets in Westbrook on Wednesday. October 10 at 4:30 pm for invited guests.  The Tanger Outlets is located at 314 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook.  The new Westbrook facility of Middlesex Hospital will be located just down the road from the Tanger Outlets, which is just off Exit 65 on I-95.

The Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center has been in existence in its current location since 1975, and was the first, freestanding emergency department in the country.

Middlesex Hospital chose to build a new Shoreline Medical Center because the current facility’s size and land is being used to maximum capacity. There is no available space to add needed services, and existing services are being squeezed because treatment areas cannot accommodate all the technology that medicine today demands.  Also, the existing location cannot house an additional structure to “right size” the facility and allow for future expansion.

The new location in Westbrook will address all of these factors, as well as providing convenient access to emergency and diagnostic care for the tens of thousands of patients that use the Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center every year.

Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop said, “Westbrook is extremely excited that the new clinic will be located here in Westbrook. It is a fantastic opportunity for our town.” Bishop also noted that the Exit 65 location of the new clinic was just across the highway from the State Police station, and that the new medical center, “will be a great service to our [shoreline] communities.”

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said, “The Shoreline Clinic has been a wonderful and positive part of our Essex community for many years, and we are sad to see them move. However, it is our hope that Middlesex Hospital will continue to provide some medical services from their present building here in Essex.”

Chester Town Meeting Approves Lease of Town Hall Space to Essex Savings Bank

CHESTER— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday gave quick and unanimous approval to a 10-year lease of vacant ground floor space at the town hall to Essex Savings Bank. About 30 residents turned out for the town meeting and a required public hearing that preceded the vote.

The bank, which has branches in Essex, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Madison, will lease the 3,219 square-feet on the south side ground floor of the building at 203 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154. The space had been occupied by a Bank of America branch since the opening of the town hall in 2003 until late June, when the branch closed. Essex Savings Bank will be paying $67,599 per year, or $5,633 per month, for the space, along with 21 percent of the fuel oil and electricity expenses for the building.

While the payment for utilities is unchanged, the rental payment is slightly lower than the amount Bank of America has been paying since 2007, which was $75,900 per year. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the slow state and area economy of recent years was the reason for the decrease in the rent.

Several residents spoke in favor of the lease, which Town Clerk Debra Calamari described as a “very positive thing for the town.” Calamari and others praised Essex Savings Bank as a “wonderful community bank,” that would be welcome ion Chester.

The opening of the new branch also requires approval from the State Banking Commission, which is expected in the coming weeks. Meehan said the space is “really accommodating to a bank and ready to go.” The branch is expected to open for business later this fall.

Voters also gave final approval for two expenditures from the capital expenditure fund that is part of the current town budget, $326,123 for road repairs and improvements, and $161,208 for the 2013 townwide property revaluation. Meehan noted the board of selectmen last week accepted a favorable bid from EQuality Valuation Services for the revaluation, with the total cost for the project now expected not to exceed $78,000. He said the unexpended funds could be used next year to prefund other capital projects, or to help limit any increase in the tax rate in 2013.

Needleman and Clark Partnership Buys and Clears Westbrook Road Property

ESSEX— A partnership run by First Selectman Norman Needleman and local businessman Herb Clark has purchased a second parcel on Westbrook Road in the Centerbrook section. Clearing of the site began last week and is nearing completion.

Needleman said Wednesday he and Clark, operating as Centerbrook Properties, recently purchased the 3.5-acre parcel from Daniel Hamburg for a price of $130,000. The parcel is located just south of the Meadowbrook Rest Home at 63 Westbrook Road, also known as Route 153. The land abuts the Doane Airport property, also owned by Needleman and Clark, and a larger 22.5 acre parcel the partnership purchased in 2007.

Needleman said the site will be seeded, and some new trees will be planted in various locations. He said Winston Scott, a local farmer and orchard owner, would be allowed to use sections of the parcel for agricultural purposes, as he now does on the larger parcel.

Needleman said he and Clark had acquired both properties, which are zoned industrial, “with the primary intention of making sure the wrong things are not built there.” He noted the land could have been sold for development as a large, and unsightly, distribution warehouse based on its zoning.

Needleman said the partnership has “no immediate plans,” for the parcels, while adding they could eventually propose a small industrial park-style development on the north side of the parcels, which abut the Essex Industrial Park.  He said some of the land could eventually be donated to the town for municipal or recreation-related uses.

Needleman added that as first selectman, he believes clearing the newly acquired smaller parcel would improve sight lines and visibility for pedestrians walking around the sharp curve on Westbrook Road in the vicinity of the parcel and the former airport hanger.

Vin Pacileo Releases Statement on August Unemployment Figures

Vin Pacileo, Republican candidate for the 36th State House District

Vin Pacileo, Republican candidate for State Representative in the 36th House District, released the following statement on the biggest jump in Connecticut’s unemployment rate in 36 years:

“The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics just released Connecticut employment data for the month of August, which showed that the state lost 6,800 jobs. This caused the unemployment rate to shoot up from 8.5 percent to 9 percent – the single largest jump since 1976.”

“These numbers are a sobering reminder that the policies initiated by Governor Malloy and supported by Phil Miller have unfairly burdened individuals, families, seniors, and business owners. It is puzzling that our Governor continues to express open skepticism on the accuracy of these statistics, when it is obvious that the pace of economic recovery is weak at best.”

“Adding to the state’s woes, last week the University of Connecticut’s quarterly economic journal reported that the Connecticut economy will not recover all of the jobs lost during the recession until the year 2018. It is clear that the policies coming out of Hartford are not working.”

“State government continues to spend more than it earns and borrows more than it can pay back. We need to stop this irresponsible growth and expansion of state government. As your State Representative, I will roll back the income, sales, and business tax increases that were passed last year – including restoration of the full $500 property tax credit for each homeowner – while thoughtfully reducing the budget. If we work together, we can restore common sense principles to the legislature.”

The 36th State House District is comprised of the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam. Learn more about Vin’s plan to return common sense leadership to Hartford at www.vinpacileo.com.

Chester Selectmen Pick Berlin Firm to Design Town Hall Interior Renovations

CHESTER– The board of selectmen has picked Jacunski & Humes Architects of Berlin to design planned interior renovations to the second floor of town hall. The board picked the firm at a meeting last week after interviewing representatives of three finalists among the 13 firms that submitted bids for the project.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the base price for preliminary design schematic drawings and cost estimates was $7,500, with a  provision for an additional payment representing seven percent of the total construction cost for the project. Meehan said the preliminary design and cost estimate report should be completed by the end of October.

Town officials began focusing on an interior renovation of the second floor of town hall last spring after residents expressed support for leasing available ground floor space to another bank after Bank of America announced plans to close a branch in the ground floor space. The Bank of America branch closed in June, and voters will be asked at a town meeting Wednesday to approve a ten-year lease of the 3,219 square-foot ground floor space to the Essex Savings Bank. The building at 203 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) has served as the town hall since 2003.

Meehan said the goal of the project is to modify or combine several offices on the second floor, many of which are under utilized, to create a larger public meeting space that could accommodate 50 people. The project also includes construction of a 600-square-foot brick build-out at Chester Elementary School that would be used as storage space for the parks and recreation department.

Meehan said the plan is to use a $350,000 insurance payment for the former community center building on Route 154 that collapsed in the heavy snows of  February 2011 to pay for the renovation project. He said the town is required to sign a construction contract for the project by the end of this year to access the insurance proceeds. “We’re going to have to move this fast,” Meehan said, adding the second floor renovations and the storage space at the elementary school would be completed next year.

Linares Renews Call to End “Early Release Program”

Art Linares, 33rd District State Senate Candidate

Westbrook, CT – – 33rd District Senate Republican candidate Art Linares has renewed his call to end the states early release program.

Linares made his comments in an early morning speech on Saturday after police reported that Joseph Mabery, who had 28 prior convictions and was part of the early release program, was arrested for lewd behavior on a public bus in front of a 14 year old girl in the Middletown area. In a statement later released by his campaign, Linares called upon his opponent Representative Jim Crawford, for the third time, to abandon his support of the program and join his call for Governor Malloy to halt the program. Linares continued by saying that since the program began over 700 early release criminals have committed a crime and have been returned to jail.

“How can Governor Malloy and Jim Crawford still support this program after 700 crimes? What is the number that will make them give up on this failed policy? Will it be 1000, 2000, 5000. How many murders will it take three four five what is the number that will make them start protecting the citizens.”

At the end, Linares said, “The incarceration of prisoners should be left up to Judges and prosecutors and not a bunch of Politicians in Hartford.”

Foxboro Point Developer Appeals Essex Planning Commission Decision Requiring a “Public Access” Walkway Across His Luxury Development

Frank J. Sciame, Jr., opposed to “public access”

A prominent New York City developer filed an appeal on September 19 in State Superior Court in Middletown challenging a recent decision by the Essex Planning Commission that mandated a “public access” walkway across his proposed luxury development at Foxboro Point in Essex.

Frank J. Sciame, Jr., the developer, who is a Connecticut resident, charged in his Complaint that the Planning Commission’s requirement that he grant a “public access” walkway across his development property was “arbitrary, illegal and an abuse of discretion.” The “public access” walkway in dispute would go from Foxboro Road down to the waters of North Cove between the two easternmost lots of the seven lot development.

Most importantly, Sciame’s eleven acre-plus development along Foxboro Road and River Street, would spread across one of the last remaining open spaces along the Essex shoreline. Also, the development would include the historic Croft estate as one of the development lots.

The Croft mansion, one of the lots on the development site

Sciame plans to acquire the land on which Foxboro Point’s iconic windmill is located, but the windmill is not part of his development plan.

Sciame Offered a “View Easement” to Look Down at the Windmill

At one point during the extensive Planning Commission’s proceedings, the developer offered to incorporate a “view easement” over his property. This would have enabled visitors walking or biking along Foxboro Road to look down from the road and see both the windmill and the waters of North Cove below.

The iconic windmill at Foxboro Point

However, creating a “view easement” is a very different proposition from creating a “public access” pathway that would permit visitors at the site to walk down from the road to the North Cove shore, and back again.

Developer Alleges Financial Loss from “Public Access”

In his court papers Sciame lists a whole litany of objections to the ordered “public access” pathway across his property. Most of them concern the financial loss that he would suffer, if he was required to incorporate a “public access” corridor slicing through his development.

In fact, Sciame’s very first argument in his Complaint is that the Essex Planning Commission “has engaged in an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation.” In addition, Sciame complains that requiring a pedestrian walkway across his development would entail taking from him, “an extremely valuable portion of the subject property.”

A typical shoreline public access sign in Essex

He also argues that the pedestrian corridor from the road down to the shore would lower the value of “the remaining lots” of his development. He objects as well that, “By requiring public access over lot 6, the Commission has isolated Lot 7 from the rest of the subdivision.”

Other Objections to the Commission’s Decision                    

In another challenge to the Commission’s ruling the developer charges that the Commission failed to vote on his application, “within 65 days of the closing of the public hearing,” as is required by Essex’s subdivision regulations. In fact, the Commission did take 70 days to render its decision, missing the mandatory deadline by five days.

Another charge by Sciame against the Commission was, “That the members of the Commission had predetermined, and/or were biased to modifying the application.” However, there was no elaboration of this charge against a group of Essex residents, who unless proved otherwise were simply exercising their civic duty by serving voluntarily on the town’s Planning Commission.

Perhaps the Most Serious Objection to the Commission Decision

The developer also charges in his appeal to the state court that the Essex Planning Commission, “By discussing the motion to approve in Executive Session, it deprived the public the opportunity to listen to its reasoning … .” Also, earlier in the Complaint Sciame charges that, “the Commission went into an Executive Session for approximately one and half hours” … where, “Apparently they also discussed … their decision on the application.”

The reason for the legal strength of this objection is that public bodies, such the Essex Planning Commission, in most cases are required to make their decisions in an open, public way. In fact, Connecticut’s Open Meetings Law is built on this precept.

Although there are certain instances when a public body like the Essex Planning Commission can keep the public out, and go into executive session, in this application this appears not to be the case.

In fact, a full and open discussion by the Commission on a controversial doctrine like “public access” is just the kind of question that the general public should be entitled to hear. In response to this argument in Sciame’s Complaint, the Superior Court might even decide to throw out the Commission’s entire decision, because the most crucial part of it was arrived at in a manner that violated state law.

The Complaint Is an Informative Summary of the Case    

Sciame’s Complaint is an eminently readable summary the developer’s argument against the actions of the Essex Planning Commission. The legal counsel who drafted the Complaint is Attorney Terrance D. Lomme, Esq., an Essex resident. In this proceeding Lomme was acting in his capacity as a private attorney. Lomme is also a sitting state Judge of Probate with offices in Old Saybrook.

Among the items noted in the Complaint is that there were no less than four public hearings by the Planning Commission on the developer’s application, as well as two site walks. Public hearings were held on March 8, April 17, May 10 and June 14, and the two site walks on March 3 and April 20, according to the Complaint.

Also, the Complaint notes that, “the issue of open space was the main focus of each hearing.” Noted as well is that at one point in the Commission’s hearings the developer considered allowing “public access” on the development site. However, “Mr. Sciame, based on his conversations with the neighbors stated that he was not in favor of allowing public access.”

The Question of Mandating “Public Access”

Discussed at length in the Complaint was whether a town regulatory body, such as the Essex Planning Commission, could legally mandate “public access” on a private owner’s property. Both Attorney Lomme, and another private attorney who was also representing an interested party in the Foxboro Point application, agreed that, “Neither the town nor the state could take an open space area for public access without compensating for it.”

In the Complaint the Essex Planning Commission’s attorney, David M. Royston, Esq., is quoted as saying as regards public access, “In summary, given the lack of case law on the point or even addressing the issue of public access to open space, it would be speculative to attempt to predict the prospect of the ultimate success if litigation were to occur.”

In short, imposing “public access” on privately owned developments is still an open question.

The Specifics of the Commission’s “Public Access” Directive

In this case the Essex Planning Commission approved a 150 foot easement along the North Cove boundary of the property, as well as a public access/open space, easement pathway running from Foxboro Point Road down to North Cove. As for the specifics of the pathway, it would begin at the road with a width of 75 feet running down for 200 feet. Then, it would narrow to a width to 25 feet and would continue downward for 260 feet, until it reached the shore of North Cove.

Specific restrictions on this easement were noted in the Complaint, which provided that there could be, “no buildings, structures, or other improvements on the property other than a bench or benches to allow visitors to view North Cove.” Also, “public access” to the pathway may be restricted “to daylight hours.”

Few Visitors Expected on Public Access” Pathway

There is a general consensus, that even if the Commission’s plan is ultimately put into effect, that there would be very few visitors trekking up and down the “public access” pathway. However, it cannot be gainsaid that even if there were only a few visitors using the pathway, the fact of its very existence could lower the value of the neighboring luxury housing lots.

This is, most likely, the main reason that developer Sciame is going to the expense of bringing his lawsuit.

Sciame Lost a Recent Case in Superior Court

Finally, it is of interest to note that in a case not related in any way to this appeal, that Sciame last August lost a lawsuit in State Superior Court because of his installation of two, “too large” entrance posts in front of the house that he purchased from the estate of Katherine Hepburn in Fenwick.

Aerial view of the property Sciame bought from Katherin Hepburn’s estate

The judge in this case, in ruling against Sciame, wrote, “Apparently in certain neighborhoods, as in life, size does matter.” The judge then went on to enter an order that Sciame should shrink the size of his entrance posts, so that they were the proper size under local zoning regulations, and that he should do so within 45 days of the judgment.

Essex Capital Projects Study Committee Report Expected by February

ESSEX— The Capital Projects Study committee that was appointed by the board of selectmen earlier this summer is expected to submit a report by February that detail and recommend priorities for major town capital projects that would be needed over the next five years.

The five-member committee was appointed in July on the recommendation of First Selectman Norman Needleman. Selectman Joel Marzi, the minority Republican on the three member board, agreed to serve as chairman of the study committee.

Marzi reported at Wednesday’s meeting of the selectmen that the group has held three meetings since July, and plans to meet at least once each month as it prepares a report. The other members of the committee are Kelly Sterner, the town’s finance director, board of finance chairman Jim Francis, Terry Stewart, a former chairman of both the Essex Board of Education and the Region 4 Board of Education, and Leigh Rankin, a former U.S Coast Guard officer with engineering experience.

Marzi said the group would review and prioritize capital needs for the town hall building and Essex Elementary School, along with road and bridge projects. Marzi said one certain priority is replacement of the roof on the oldest 1950’s section of the elementary school.

Marzi noted the roof was not leaking when the town began the latest renovation and expansion of the elementary school in 2005, but has developed several leaks over the past five years. He said sections of the town hall roof also need repair or replacement.

Marzi, noting that Needleman is anxious to receive the report, said the committee is working to prepare a report by February that would recommend some priorities, and include include some preliminary cost estimates.

Marzi said the board of selectmen and board of finance could consider the report during preparation of a proposed 2013-2014 town budget next spring, and determine which projects could be paid for with existing budget sinking funds or new appropriations. Marzi said a bonding proposal would probably be needed for some projects, particularly the elementary school and town hall roof work.

Chester Selectmen Pick Waterbury Firm for 2012 Property Evaluation

CHESTER— The board of selectmen has picked a Waterbury firm, EQuality Valuation Services, to complete the townwide property revaluation that will be done in 2013, a full revaluation that will include physical inspections of all residential, commercial, and industrial properties.

EQuality Valuation Services was the lowest of four bids reviewed by the board at a meeting Tuesday. The bid price was $60,000, though First Selectman Edmund Meehan noted Wednesday some computer upgrades needed for the process would add a small amount to the total cost. Also submitting bids were Vision Appraisal of Northboro, Mass., Tyler Technologies of Norwich, and Municipal Valuation Services of Fairfield.

The Waterbury firm had done the revaluation update completed in 2008, a statistical update that included a data mailer sent to property owners. The last full revaluation in Chester, including a review of real estate sales combined with inspections of all properties, was done in 2003.

Meehan said inspections of properties would begin in the spring of 2003, with the revaluation to be completed for the October 2013 grand list. Residents are expected to receive new value notices for their properties in November 2013.

The 2008 revaluation update, done just before the economic crash in the fall of 2008, brought an increase in the grand list of taxable property. Meehan  acknowledged a drop in the grand list is likely, given the continuing slow economy and the decline in residential property values over the last four years. “Knowing the real estate market it’s a fair conclusion there will be a decrease, how much we just don’t know,” he said. The revalued 2013 grand list will be used to set the tax rate for the 2014-2015 budget year.

Ingham Hill Road Residents Seek to Protect Their “Dead End Paradise”

The Essex Planning Commission considering Ingham Hill Road application

A group of Ingham Hill Road residents testified at an Essex Planning Commission hearing on September 13 that they absolutely, positively, did not want the commission to approve a new housing development on the dead end road on which they live. They are perfectly happy with things just as they are, thank you.

Even though there is relatively little traffic on the dead end spur that is Ingham Hill Road, the Town of Essex faithfully maintains it, just as if were a two lane though fare. The road is plowed in the winter when it snows, and fully maintained year round. In fact, not too long ago the town straightened some curves in the road.

Then, along comes a developer who wants to build six new home sites on 36 acres on land that it owns, down near the end of the road. Even though Ingham Hill Road would stay a dead end, after the new development was build, the residents are still dead set against it. They simply don’t want it.

By way of background, Ingham Hill Road runs from Plains Road in Essex down to the boundary line of Essex and Old Saybrook. Vehicular traffic is permitted on the Essex section of the road; however, it is blocked by a fence and a stop sign when the road reaches Old Saybrook, although hikers are permitted to walk down the trail into Old Saybrook.

The stop sign and barrier that mark the Essex/Old Saybrook boundary

Lawyers and Consultants Hired to Halt the Project

To express their opposition, a group of Ingham Hill Road residents hired lawyers and environmental consultants to argue against the new project at earlier public hearings. At these proceedings these experts made much of the fact that in its present undeveloped state, the development property possesses a wealth of landmark trees, some over a hundred years old, as well as a plethora of spotted turtles, wood frogs and song birds on the site.

Also, the site possesses an undisturbed forest canopy, as well as a couple of iconic vernal pools, whose purity, the experts argued, would be compromised by the development of the site.

A vernal pool on the wooded, 36 acre development site

In sum, the present residents of Ingham Hill Road have gone to considerable expense to prevent having any new neighbors moving in along their precious road. They want to keep everything just as it is, as a paradise along the dead end road on which they live.

Commission Chairman Opens Hearing to Public Comment

Unlike the earlier hearings, when only the experts were heard, Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw opened the September hearing to comments on the proposed development by private individuals.

First to speak from purely a personal perspective was Judith Bombaci of Essex, who is a resident of Ingham Hill Road. In her testimony she read word-for-word a number of impassioned personal letters from Ingham Hill Road residents, who were unanimously opposed to the new development.

Ingham Hill Road resident, Judith Bombaci, who spoke in opposition to the project

At one point Ms. Bombaci got a bit mixed up during her testimony. Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw assured her not to worry, “You are doing fine.”

Ms. Bombaci testimony was followed by that of her husband, Kenneth Bombaci. In his testimony he said that his principal objection to the new project was, “the water that will be going down in my lawn and threatening the historic trees on my property.” Bombaci also said that he wholeheartedly agreed with the Essex Tree Warden, Ahgie Pampel, who said in a comment from the audience, that it was his opinion that many of the large trees on the site would die, if the development went forward.

It’s the Preserve’s Developer, Who Is Behind it All

One of the impassioned speakers against the project said at the hearing, “This is a part of the Preserve, a three town development effort.” The three towns referred to by the speaker are Essex, Westbroook and Old Saybrook, and the speaker was making the point that in the future, the developer of the Preserve, River Sound Development LLC, would not only continue its efforts to develop the 1,000 acre Preserve property in Old Saybrook, but down the line it would want to develop the smaller parcels that it owns in Essex and Westbrook.

Of course River Sound has not been very successful to date in developing its property in Old Saybrook. 13 years ago the developer put forward an elaborate proposal to develop 1,000 acres of open land that it owns in Old Saybrook. However, because of neighborhood resistance, to date not a single improvement has been built on the property.

As noted, River Sound, the Preserve’s developer, also owns property located in Essex and Westbrook, and, in fact, the Ingham Hill Road proposal in Essex could perhaps someday be characterized as the Essex portion of the Preserve.

Other Preserve Developments Should Not Relate to Essex

However, at the recent hearing, River Sound’s attorney, Brian Smith of the law firm of Robinson & Cole, said, repeatedly, that the application before Essex Planning Commission should be judged solely as an Essex project. Trying to link it to other developments of River Sound he viewed as inappropriate and beyond the scope of the hearing.

Consistent with this position, later in the hearing, when a member of the Planning Commission suggested that approval of the Essex project might be linked to the River Sound development in Old Saybrook, Attorney Smith said again that such a linkage would be totally inappropriate.  This application relates solely to the Essex project, he said, and could not be linked to any other River Sound activity.

However, the fact that the developer of the Preserve in Old Saybrook was the same as the developer of the Ingham Hill Road project kept coming up in the remarks of speaker after speaker. One said, “Opening the Ingham Hill Road to development will be a disaster waiting to happen.”  Another speaker said flatly that it was imperative “not to let the developer of the Preserve to develop Ingham Hill Road.”

Yet another speaker said that the Essex parcel was “was part of the Preserve,” which was a “three town proposition.” One person even charged that River Sound developer was engaged “in a shell game.” “The applicant is trying to get a toe hold” by developing the Ingham Hill Road property, he said; “This is the start.”

Application Also Faulted for Other Reasons

Other critics of the Ingham Hill development raised concerns that related only to the specifics of the project, and not to other activities of the developer. There were concerns raised about the adequacy of the new septic systems at the development. Also, there were concerns about protecting the vernal pools and the canopy of trees above the site.

In addition, there was a last minute submission made by a traffic consultant, that the developer’s counsel said was introduced too late in proceeding to be properly considered. However, the issue of an adverse traffic impact on a dead end street did not turn out to be a major issue at the hearing.

The hearing finally came to an end, when the developer’s Engineer, Bob Doane, who, incidentally, also serves as the Engineer of the Town of Essex, summed up the case for developing the Ingham Hill Road parcel. As for the septic systems at the site, Engineer Doane said that they were standard to developments in this area.

Engineer Bob Doane closed the case for the new development

Furthermore, he said that the location of the new houses portrayed on the site maps were not the final sites of the houses, but rather they were schematic drafts of where the houses might be placed. Doane’s remarks were a soothing presentation, articulated by a long time resident of Essex, who had been retained to be the Engineer for this particular project.

Doane was the last speaker to comment at the hearing, and after his remarks the   hearing was closed. The Essex Planning Commission now has 65 days, in effect two months, to accept, reject or approve with conditions the development.

If the commission decides to approve the project with conditions, some of these conditions the developer might not particularly like. However, it might have to accept them, if it wanted to move the project forward expeditiously.

Finally, in making their decision on the application, the commission will discuss the developer’s application extensively with its staff. However, it will not receive, or consider further comments from any of the private parties of interest, nor from the general public.

Democrat Jim Crawford Receives Environmental Group Endorsements in Senate Race

Democratic State Rep. Jim Crawford of Westbrook receives endorsements from 12th District Democratic State Senator Edward Meyer of Guilford, Martin Madore, legislative and political coordinator for the Sierra Club, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman and 36th House District Rep. Phil Miller.

AREAWIDE— Democratic State Rep. Jim Crawford of Westbrook Tuesday received endorsements from the state chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters in the Nov. 6 election contest for the 33rd Senate District seat.

Crawford, a former Westbrook selectman elected to represent the 35th house District in 2010, was joined in the gazebo at the Essex Town Park by Martin Madore, legislative and political coordinator for the Sierra Club chapter. Madore said the endorsement was based on Crawford’s responses to a detailed 15-page questionnaire on environmental issues, and a subsequent interview.

“It’s not a light weight process,” he said.

Crawford also received endorsements from 12th District Democratic State Senator Edward Meyer of Guilford, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Environment Committee, and 36th House District Rep. Phil Miller of Essex, who is a vice-chair of the environment Committee. Miller, who was also endorsed by the Sierra Club and LCV chapters, had endorsed Crawford previously in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary for the state senate nomination. Meyer and Miller were present at the park Tuesday, along with Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman.

Madore said Crawford’s two opponents in the Nov. 6 election, Republican Art Linares of Westbrook and Green Party candidate Melissa Schlag of Haddam, also received the Sierra Club questionnaire, but did not reply.

The candidates are competing to succeed 20-year Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. The 33rd District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton ,Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.

Essex Town Meeting to Consider Repeal of Outdated Town Ordinances

ESSEX, CT — Voters will be asked at a town meeting Wednesday to approve repeal of eight town ordinances that are now obsolete or outdated. The town meeting convenes at 6:30 p.m. in Room A at town hall.

Town Clerk Frances Nolin presented the ordinances to the board of selectmen at the Sept. 5 meeting as part of an ongoing review of town ordinances, all approved by a past town meeting, that are now outdated. The board voted unanimously to bring the list to a town meeting for repeal.

The ordinances include a 1979 ordinance on the appointment of town constables, made obsolete as the town moved to a more full time police force during the 1980s and 1990s. There is also a 1910 ordinance related to the Riverview cemetery, a 1929 ordinance related to building permit procedures, and ordinances from 1947 covering littering and burning at the now closed town landfill.

Voters at the town meeting will also be asked to approve a resolution on a grant application seeking funding for possible improvements to the intersection in Ivoryton Village center, and to approve the appointment of Claire Matthews at the town’s regular representative to the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission. Matthews has volunteered for the position that had been held in recent years by Anthony Chirico.

The Ivoryton Library Has Its Own Special Place in the Town of Essex

The imposing ivory tusks at the entrance of the Ivoryton Library

In many ways the Town of Essex is very fortunate to have two public libraries within its town boundaries. After all, Essex has only a population of 6,500. The two Essex-based libraries are of course: (1) the newly enlarged Essex Library, which is located across from Essex Town Hall in downtown Essex, and (2) the Ivoryton Library, which is located way out on the Main Street of Ivoryton, and which offers library services in a building that has been a library since 1889.

Elizabeth Alvord, the Librarian in charge of the Ivoryton Library, makes the point that the two Essex libraries are “very different places.” The Essex Library she views as a “more traditional” library, one that is conducive to studying on the library’s premises.

Head Librarian Elizabeth Alvord assists Ivoryton resident Carol Phillips in selecting a book

As for the Ivoryton Library she believes, ““We are more informal than the Essex Library. You can even come in here, just to shoot the breeze.” Also, Alvord says, “We are open to finding just what patrons are looking for, because we can take more time with patrons at our library.”

She also maintains, “The Ivoryton Library speaks to the residents of Ivoryton. We are truly a neighborhood library.” She continues, “A lot of young families use the library, as do lots of retirees.” Also, she says that many local children come to the library either on their bikes, or in their strollers. Sometimes whole families just come in to sit in the library, “which is perfectly fine with us,” she says.

A Look at the Inside the Ivoryton Library

As you come into the main room of the library, there is a display of the “Staff Picks” of the best books to read. “It is tough to keep the books there,” Alvord says, because the staff’s picks are so popular with the library’s patrons.

The main room of the library houses the collection of adult fiction and non-fiction books. To the left facing the main desk is in a separate room for the Young Adult books, and to the right is the Local History room, which contains materials on the Village of Ivoryton’s role in the making of pianos.

The Ivoryton Library also prides itself as having a very big selection of “take home” movies on DVD’s for both for adults and children. Also, it has many of the “best sellers” on hand.

The Ivoryton Library is a part of the Connecticut card system. This means that the library can borrow materials of all of the other public libraries in the state.   

Special Programs at the Ivoryton Library

The library offers a plethora of programs for its patrons. There are language courses in French and Spanish from Tuesdays through Thursdays. Also, the library’s Watercolor artists meet to paint on Wednesdays from 10am to noon.

More ominously, the library’s “Tea and Murder Club” meets every third Friday of the month, and the club has been doing so for the past five years. In addition, there is a Mah-jongg group that meets every Thursday at 6pm.

Incidentally, all of these programs are open to new members.                      

The Ivoryton Library also attracts many users, who come in after work to use the library. Since many of these patrons do not get off from work until five o’clock, Alvord recently extended the library’s hours from five to six on Fridays. The library was already open on Tuesdays and Thursdays until six, and on Wednesdays the library has been open until eight.

Also, the Ivoryton Library is open from one to four on Sundays, whereas the neighboring libraries in Essex, Deep River and Chester are not. The Ivoryton Library is closed Mondays.

The full schedule of when the library is open is as follows: Sunday 1-4; Monday closed; Tuesday 10-6; Wednesday 10-8, Thursday 10-6, Friday 2-6, Saturday 9-12.

Downstairs in the Children’s Section

It takes some careful maneuvering to go down the steep and narrow stairs that lead to the Children’s Section, which is located below the main floor of the library. However, the children’s section can also be reached by a ground floor entrance at the back of the library building.

Children’s Librarian Elizabeth Barlett checking out books in the downstairs Children’s Room

The Ivoryton Library at one point considered putting in an elevator from the main floor down to the Children’s Section on the floor below. However, the cost of $15,000, or more, to install such an elevator was considered prohibitive.

The Children’s Section is open during the regular library hours, and it is where children can pick out just the right book to take home and read. Also, there are two children’s computers and an assortment of play desks and chairs on hand.

The Ivoryton Library also has an extensive schedule of children’s activities. For example, every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. the library sponsors a “Drop-In Story Time.” All ages of children are welcome to join for the stories, as well as singing “silly songs” and doing small crafts.

Also, there is the “Afternoon at the Movies” program. It includes a movie showing and an afternoon snack. It is held every third Friday of the month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

There is also the “Homework Club” for children, which meets every Tuesday, after school, until 5:00 p.m. The club is designed to get young people ahead on their homework. Computers are available and printing is free during club time. Also, a snack is provided.

Young patrons: Katelyn Marsh (r), Samantha Bartlett (r) and Brian Phinney (rear) studying

NO SCHOOL Day programs will also be held on Wednesday, September 26, and Monday, October 19, days when there is no school. The Children’s Room will be available for crafts both days, such as jewelry making, Lego building and painting pictures in a Young Artist Corner.

Finally, the month of September is “National Library Card Sign-Up Month,” which means that children who are residents of Ivoryton and nearby Centerbrook, who are five years and older, can sign up for a library card. If they do so, they are given a book to take home to read as a welcome present.

In addition to these children’s activities, the library has a special Junior Readers program. Junior Readers are library volunteers from ages 9 and up, who volunteer to help the library function. Among their duties, Junior Readers re-shelve books, help organize book sales and read out loud to younger children from favorite books.

Junior Readers meet every third Sunday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. to discuss how they can help the library.

Background of Ivoryton Staff Librarians

Head Librarian Alvord at the Ivoryton Library holds a BA degree from the University of California (Berkley). She has spent 30 years in the book industry, as a buyer for book stores and as a publisher’s representative. She has also worked in other local libraries.

The Children’s Librarian at the Ivoryton Library is Elizabeth Bartlett. She has a BA from St. Joseph’s College in Hartford, and worked for many years in private industry. She also has three children ages, 1½, 9 and 11.

In conclusion the Ivoryton Library founded in 1889, is very much a going institution. Although some Essex residents may on occasion grouse about the expense of maintaining two town libraries, it is probably a safe bet that the Ivoryton Library, and the Essex Library as well, will be with us for many years to come.

A FestiFall of Family Fun Coming to Essex October 5 and 6 – Call for Scarecrows!

Scaring up some fun are members of the Essex Board of Trade’s Scarecrow FestiFall Committee (from l-r) Pam Carlson, Jim D’Alessio, Robin Andreoli, Judy Heiser, Susan Dee and Joan Paul.

Essex, CT – ‘Tis the season to scare up some scarecrows and head to Essex for a festival of family fun this October.  The Essex Board of Trade has announced plans for the fourth annual Scarecrow FestiFall, sponsored by Essex Savings Bank, with an expanded schedule of events and locations for this extremely popular Columbus Day weekend celebration.  Once again, creatively-themed scarecrows made by individuals and businesses will fill lamp posts, lawns, and benches along the village streets of Essex, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton during the month of October while an outdoor movie, art show, live music, games, food, pie contest and scarecrow judging will take place on October 5 and 6.

All are encouraged to contribute a creative scarecrow to be displayed and entered in the voting competition. A free “how to” workshop for special tips and hands-on assistance in crafting a scarecrow will be held on Friday, September 28 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Ivoryton Library, 106 Main Street in Ivoryton Village.  Bring your own materials or purchase a kit including a frame and straw for $15.  All scarecrow entries must be dropped off no later than Wednesday, October 3 at J.Alden Clothiers located at 17 Main Street in Essex Village.

On Friday, October 5 at 6:30 pm, an outdoor screening of short films by Valley Regional High School students and the feature movie Monsters, Inc. will be staged in the parking area of the Community Music School, located at Spencer’s Corner, 90 Main Street in Centerbrook Village.  The showing is free of charge with complimentary popcorn provided by the Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley.  Please bring lawn chairs or other appropriate seating for use on the hard top surface.

The FestiFall continues on Saturday, October 6 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm with a diverse mix of food, entertainment and contests happening at the Main Street Park in Essex Village.  The Community Music

School will keep kids busy with pumpkin painting, an instrument “petting” zoo and arts & crafts.  Live music will round out the entertainment while the Essex Lions Club will serve up food and drinks.   Throughout the afternoon, the public can cast their vote for their favorite scarecrows and browse the Essex Art Association’s showing of original works by several EAA artists, all available for purchase.

For those who prefer to get creative in the kitchen, the annual pie-contest will also be held in the afternoon with judging in two categories, “Apple” and “All Other”.  Pie contest entries will be accepted between 1:00 and 1:30 pm at the designated contest table and awards will be announced later in the day.

Sponsored by Essex Savings Bank, Page Taft, and William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, admission to all FestiFall events and activities is free.  For more information events and contest details, go to www.essexct.com.

Letters: Fear and Violence

To The Editor:

Here we go again. The Middle East is a powder keg and four of our patriots have been viciously killed. Now the violence has spread to Northern Africa. The Obama foreign policy is not working; it is meek, weak, hide-and-seek. We should have known that candidate Obama was flying high on out-of-control-narcissism when he claimed that the day he was inaugurated Muslim hostility would ease. This kind of hatred and violence is too deeply rooted to be ameliorated by one man who sees his presidency as the time when the “rise of oceans begin to slow and the planet begins to heal.” What kind of leadership is this?

The human community has suffered from bloodshed in the name of religion since antiquity. The conquest of more than two thirds of the Christian world by Muslims and the bloody retaliatory crusades that responded centuries later, the Spanish Inquisition, Auschwitz, Treblinka, the slaughter of Jews by their Christian neighbors and “friends” in the polish town of Jedwabne, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, hatred between Pakistan and India, the Muslim jihad against Christians in Indonesia, the horrific and savage “holy war” launched by fundamentalist Muslims on September eleven, the slaughter of Christians in Pakistan, and the murder and mayhem now in the middle East are but a few examples of the havoc reaped because of humanity’s basic insecurity and fear that cuts deep into the heart of the human community.

As I see it, our intolerance towards each other is an out-picturing of a deep sense of fear and abandonment that exists in the psyche of the human community. We have been cast into the world to fend for ourselves and to grapple with loss and end of life issues. What other species is unconsciously, if not consciously, riveted to loss and death? We know that we and our loved ones are going to die, yet we have no idea how death will come, when it will come, or who, if anyone, has the right answers as to what happens after death. This is the cruel fate of humanity.

And for most of us, the need to believe that our loved ones and we exist after death in some rarified form, or another, is the strongest and most urgent force within us. Whether it is psychic, cosmic, or biological, our belief in immortality is more basic than our need for sex and nourishment.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, we have created, been given, or inherited over two thousand religions to help allay our fears about “end things.” Essentially, religion has been based on disassociating the idea of death and ceasing to exist. Virtually all religions promise some form of afterlife-with death as an end of temporal life and the beginning of something else.

While it is true that millions of humans profess to have no religious yearnings or concerns about their fate after death, for most of us, whether we are willing to admit it or not, the thought of not having the “right” answers as to what happens to us after death is untenable. As a result, life has become a battleground of intolerance and hatred.

It seems almost diabolic that the religious teachings that ostensibly provide us with our symbols, our values, our purpose and our comfort are so often the fuel that ignites violence and hatred between humans who look and think differently. Throughout our history we have witnessed the use of sacred texts- perverted, interpolated, misunderstood and misrepresented to justify savage cruelty by extremists from many faiths.

Most of humanity wants to rid our planet of the cruelty that we continue to inflict upon each other. However, looking for love in all the wrong places is naïve at best. At this time in human history, Islamic extremist have Americans squarely in their cross hairs. Obsequiousness will not heal this deeply rooted hatred.

Did this administration learn anything from September 11?  It was the timidity and perceived weakness of America during the Clinton administration that allowed Global Terror Inc. to implode on Ground Zero at the beginning of the Bush administration.

American foreign policy must be hardened to protect us here and around the world. Perhaps, instead of sending the bust of Sir Winston Churchill back to English diplomats, Obama should have put the bust on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder of strong leadership. “Victory at all cost, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols,
Essex, CT

Sept. 26 Town Meeting Set to Act on Lease of Chester Town Hall to Essex Savings Bank

CHESTER— Voters will be asked at a Sept. 26 town meeting to approve a ten year lease of the vacant ground floor space at town hall to the Essex Savings Bank. The town meeting, set to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street, will be preceded by a public hearing on the issue that convenes at 7 p.m.

The lease agreement that was released by town officials Thursday specifies the bank would lease 3,219 square feet on the south side ground floor of the town hall building at 203 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) for a monthly rent payment of $5,633, or $67,596 per year. The lease would extend for ten years, to 2022, with an option for two five year renewals.

The ground floor space had been occupied by a Bank of America branch from the opening of the town hall building in 2003 until June, when the Bank of America branch closed. The closure plans were announced early this year, and residents at an April 17 public information meeting expressed strong support for seeking another bank to lease the space, rather than converting the space for municipal use. Representatives of Essex Savings Bank, which has offices and branches in Essex, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Madison, expressed interest in the space at the April meeting, and Essex Savings Bank was the only responder to a request for proposals published by the town in June.

Bank of America had been paying $75,000 per year for the space under a lease agreement that was last revised in 2007. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said Thursday the continuing slow national and regional economy was the main reason for the drop in the rental payment.

Meehan said the lease agreement has been unanimously approved by the board of selectmen and board of finance, even with the decrease in rent. “It’s a specialized space and we only had one bank looking at it,” he said.

Under a provision that is unchaged from the previous lease, the bank will pay 21 percent of all monthly utility expenses, such as fuel oil and electricity, for the town hall building. Meehan said the opening of a new Essex Savings Bank branch in Chester will also require approval from the State Banking Commission, a step that would follow final approval of the lease by the town. The bank is scheduled to begin paying the monthly rent and occupy the space in November.

Letters: Candidates Should Debate!

To The Editor:

Vin Pacileo of Essex is challenging incumbent Phil Miller of Essex for the State Representative seat that represents Essex, Deep River, Chester and Haddam (the 36th District).  We need these candidates to face each other in a debate and discuss how they intend to overcome the challenges facing our state.

We must elect a representative that truly represents our local interests.   A great way to make an educated decision about who can best represent us is by contrasting and comparing candidate responses during a debate.

Sincerely,

Susie Beckman
Ivoryton, CT

 

 

Vin Pacileo Receives Independent Party Endorsement

Vin Pacileo, Republican candidate for the 36th State House District

AREAWIDE – Vin Pacileo, Republican candidate for the 36th State House District, today announced he has received the endorsement of the Independent Party of Connecticut, the third largest political party in the state.

“I am honored to accept the endorsement of the Independent Party of Connecticut,” Pacileo said. “The Independent Party is dedicated to ensuring open, honest government, with realistic objectives. My campaign is equally committed to these goals. Voters look to their elected leaders for assurance that the government is operating with integrity and I will work to restore a culture of accountability and transparency in Hartford.”

“We are pleased to endorse Vin Pacileo for State Representative in the 36th District,” said Michael Telesca, State Chairman of the Independent Party of Connecticut. “I want to be clear that the Independent Party is not simply a rubber stamp for the Republican Party. As our name implies, we are independent. Vin is a worthy candidate for office in the eyes of Independent voters because his principled and evenhanded approach to governance are qualities necessary to solve the significant problems affecting our state.”

Pacileo continued, “The Independent Party endorsement of our campaign demonstrates the broad appeal of our message among independent-minded voters who want common sense leadership on the issues that affect our communities. My plan is to roll back the 2011 increases in income, sales, and business taxes supported by my opponent. In addition, I will work to restore the full $500 property tax credit for homeowners. These actions, combined with thoughtful budgetary reductions, will bring a halt to the culture of uncontrolled spending that exists in Hartford.”

The 36th Assembly District is comprised of the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam.

 

Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller Files Delayed Campaign Finance Report

AREAWIDE— Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller has filed a campaign finance report that had been due with the State Elections Enforcement Commission on July 10. The report, received by the commission on Sept. 5, shows Miller had raised $684 for a 2012 re-election campaign as of June 30, the end of the reporting period for the July 10 report.

Miller’s filing was delayed after his campaign treasurer and deputy treasurer, Essex residents Carla Feroni and Claire Tiernan respectively, resigned from the positions at the end of June. They were replaced in July by Fred Vollono, the Democratic town chairman in Essex who continues to serve as campaign treasurer.

The former first selectman of Essex from 2003 to 2011, Miller was elected to represent the four-town 36th House Disrtrict in a February 2011 special election. The $100 contributors to Miller include Nancy Fischbach and Carl Kaufman of Deep River, Janice Atkeson of Essex, and Matthew Gianquinto of Hartford, a registered lobbyist with the Judith Blei Government Relations firm of Hartford.

Miller faces a Nov. 6 election challenge from Republican nominee Vincent Pacileo of Essex. Pacileo served as the Republican minority member of the Essex Board of Selectmen during the  first six years of Miller’s tenure in the top job, from 2003 to 2009. The 36th House District includes the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam.

Pacileo, who emerged as a candidate at the May 16 GOP district nominating convention, reported campaign contributions totalling $3,575 in his July 10 filing. On August 1, Pacileo announced he had qualified for a $26,850 funding grant under the state’s Citizens Election Program by raising at least $5,000 in contributions of between $5 to $100 from at least 150 contributors living in the four district towns.

The deadline for candidates to qualify for a funding grant from the Citizens Elections Program is Sept. 27. The next campaign finance report for 2012 legislative candidates is due with the state commission on October 10, covering contributions received in the period from July 1 to Sept. 30.

Lyme Academy Professor’s Sculpture Commemorates 9/11

The Memoria Project stands serene at Highlands on the New Jersey Shore, overlooking Manhattan. Almost 8,000 people were evacuated by boat to Highlands on 9/11/01 following the Twin towers tragedy.

A long-anticipated memorial to the 9/11 tragedy, known as the Memoria Project, stands on a 1.7 acre waterside park at Highlands, N.J., with a backdrop of the New York City skyline.

The oversized, striking sculptures that form the memorial are the brainchild of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts sculpture professor Stephen Shaheen and represent an almost 10-year labor of love for the young teacher. Moreover countless members of the community have also helped to create the memorial giving it the depth of meaning and personal reconciliation that Shaheen was seeking. Shaheen notes, “People got a lot out of the opportunity to be involved in something tangible following an event where people where helpless to act.”

Shaheen was studying in Italy on Sept. 11, 2001, and was coincidentally being visited by his long-time friend Evan Urbania. Shaheen grew up in the town of Rumson, N.J., 10 minutes away from Highlands, and Urbania in the next town. This area, along with Highlands was in Shaheen’s words, “profoundly impacted by 9/11,” because he explains, “Many of the people who died had taken the ferry from Highlands to Manhattan that day. Nearly 8,000 were evacuated by boat to Highlands on 9/11, which became a major triage point for the recovery operation.”

Shaheen and Urbania, in Shaheen’s words, “went through the 9/11 experience together,” and it did not take long on their return to the US to realize that “Many of the memorials [to 9/11] that existed were, “personal effects,” or in other words, “things that were deteriorating.” Shaheen quickly conceived the idea of a lasting memorial involving the art that he both loved and taught: sculpture.

Urbania meanwhile, “figured out the nuts and bolts” and set about incorporating Shaheen’s idea as a non-profit. Thus the Memoria Project was born and, in a flurry of activity, a significant amount of fundraising was successfully achieved.

Consequently the main sculptures were carved during 2002 out of some 40 thousand dollars of white Imperial Danby marble donated by a quarry in Danby, Vt. This gift of marble – in fact, the same stone that was used for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.– “gave great momentum to the beginning stages of the project,” recalls Shaheen. At this time, the higher than 13 foot sculptures were being created in a National Park at the end of Sandy Hook, N.J., and in association with the sculpting process, some 37 free lectures and workshops were held.

After the initial burst of activity however, progress slowed to an extended halt, while the location and installation were, “Figured out.”

Finally, with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching and, in some ways, providing the necessary impetus for completion of the memorial, everything came together. A permanent location in Veteran’s Memorial Park in Highlands N.J. was finalized, and ground broken on the new site Aug. 22, 2011. A renewed sense of purpose enabled the stones to be in place by Sept. 9 allowing a formal commemorative ceremony to be held Sept. 11 in the new location. Between that ceremony and the subsequent Oct 23 dedication the same year, final details such as the grass planting and lighting installation were completed.

Another issue that has taken a considerable amount of time and energy was the carving of granite blocks with all 2,987 names of those who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001. Shaheen found there were, in fact, four lists of the deceased to reconcile, which proved to be a labor-intensive process. The lists were closely examined for duplications and inconsistencies in terms of titles and name suffixes. Finally, only in August of this year, was the list finalized and engraving begun.

Brian Craig-Wankiiri, Chair of the Sculpture Department at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, comments, “Steve’s determination to produce a lasting memorial to the 9/11 victims without official funding, while at the same time involving innumerable volunteers, is a testament to his remarkable character. The finished sculpture is equally a testament to his extraordinary talent and vision. We are all honored and privileged to have such an accomplished and ambitious artist as a member of our faculty.”

The celebrations on Oct. 23 were joyous in terms of the completion of the project but still tinged with an air of sadness as a mark of respect to the events which caused the memorial to be built. The location of the memorial, looking across the Hudson River to Manhattan, will always have what Shaheen sensitively describes as a “visual connection to New York City,” which was precisely his intent.

Examples of more of Shaheen’s works will be on display in the Chauncey Stillman Gallery at Lyme Academy College as part of the Studio Faculty Exhibition, which opens Friday, Oct. 5 with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. and is on view through Nov. 17, 2012. Admission to the exhibition is free and the gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

 

The Captain of the Mary E isn’t Just a Captain

Captain Matt Culen with one hand on the throttle, one on the wheel, and an eagle eye for what’s ahead

This isn’t just a story about the Mary E. It could be. She is deserving. So deserving that many stories have been done about her.

She is known to us hereabouts as the romantic, beautiful old schooner that ties up at the Connecticut River Museum in the summer and gives boat lovers two-hour excursion rides up and down the river.

She’s more than a hundred years old. She’s been the Mary E all those years though she’s had many different jobs and assignments.The live Mary E must have been quite a lady to the man who put her name on  the ship. When she comes here, she’s certainly the largest sailing vessel.

To me she’s the most beautiful thing floating in the harbor.  I think of everything else out there as a boat, some extremely pricey. But I think of the Mary E as a ship. There’s a difference.

She was launched as a work boat, not a rich man’s plaything. And she was built long before that wonderful but character-less plexiglass came along. Meaning built of good, proud New England wood.

Lots of folks feel they have to come and take a close look at her. Seniors like me. Couples with young kids. Dating couples holding hands. Having her at the dock is a big asset to the museum, I believe.

But really this story is about Matt Curlen. He’s the owner of the Mary E and her relief captain—he drives up from Pelham, N.Y,, to take over when the regular captain is off.

I went out on her last summer. My first time.

I love sailboats. I was a small-boat sailor for years. Owned several. My biggest was my 16-foot  O’Day sloop. Many fine times in it, mostly on lakes and harbors and bays. Never ventured far out.  I get seasick just at the sight of a big wave.

My longest was my 18-foot Grumman canoe. I liked paddling as much as I did sailing. I went paddling whenever I could.  But I had a sailing kit for it, too.  Which is quite rare. A  mast and sail and Dutch-style lee-boards and a rudder with a rope tiller. Wonderful. But strictly for lakes. Not salt water. Great fun.

Before long I realized she’d be good to row, too. So I put on oars. Then added rear view  mirrors on the left and right sides. Rowing can be hazardous. It’s hard to see where you’re going. I loved my mirrors. And I was right—my canoe was great fun to row. We lived near Lake Singletary up in Massachusetts. After work I’d row my Grumman all around the lake. My rear-view mirrors drew lots of attention.

But such  pleasures are no longer possible. That’s why I bought a ticket on the Mary E that day last summer. It was the next best thing for me.

I took a seat at the very stern. I wanted to be close to the skipper. Sail with him vicariously, so to speak.

Matt Culen was the skipper that day. I didn’t know his name. Didn’t know a thing about him.  He turned out to be a lean, pleasant, and totally focused guy. Really knew his stuff. Well, the passengers were on board and he and his crew of two were getting ready to hoist sail. Suddenly he noticed something wrong at the top of the taller mast. That mast is 45-feet high.

Faster than I can write this sentence, he skipped over to one of the ratlines— the rope ladders— and  scampered right up to the top. Like a monkey. Wow! He fiddled up there for two minutes, solved the problem, and scampered down. Then came back to the wheel, ordered sail up, and off we went.

But there’s more to my story. As I had hoped, I was able to chat with him.  Not a real chat because he was so busy. Sailing a big old-timer like this is a challenge. Checking the current and the tide. Calculating the best route to give the best ride with the sails up and get back at the right time. And giving orders to pull in this sail or let out that one—the Mary E can carry up to six sails.

On and on. I’m curious and ask questions. Can’t help myself. He did his best to satisfy me. It turns out the Mary E is not his day job.  His day job is also water-related, but so different.

Matt is a civil engineer, in fact, a P.E.—a professional engineer. And he has a specialty that makes him him spend time under water.  Yes, under water. Far more time under water than on the water skippering the Mary E. He is a diver. Diving is an essential part of his work.

It’s this contrast of sailing on the water and  then working under water that fascinated me. That’s why I’m writing this.

But all that was last summer. I looked forward to another ride with him. This summer she was late in coming back—a humongous repair problem. So my second ride was this Labor Day. The Mary E’s sail time was 3 p.m. but I came early in hopes of a real good chat. I was lucky. He had the Mary E all set and he had time. We sat in his Jaguar, where it was nice and quiet. And I pried out one detail after another.

He owns a company, Hudson Marine Inc., in Pelham Manor, N.Y. He started it. Its main specialties are Engineering Inspections and Underwater Construction.

He was born in Slovakia. He came to New York City when he was 12.  Lived close to the salt water.  Loved it. Quickly got a part-time job as a dock boy. As he entered his teens, be began thinking of a career in the military. The Navy, in fact.

What he told me next surprised me. For college, he went to the Citadel, a military school in South Carolina. He majored in engineering. There seem to be as many specialties in engineering as there are in medicine, and he opted for civil engineering.   When I think of civil engineering I think of highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and sewer systems and things like that. Never of anything under water.

Then into the Navy where he became a diving and salvage officer. The training was tough. He took to the work. He finished his hitch  and it led to his career. He’s been at it for more than 30 years.

He’s built up Hudson Marine with a crew of seasoned divers like himself. Matt is still an active diver, but now his role is more varied, of course. He’s got the whole business to run.

At one point, I said to him. “You know, professional pilots log their flight hours. A captain for Amerian Airlines might say he has 19,200 hours. You must log your hours diving.”

He nodded. “I used to but I stopped a long time ago. I’d be shocked to learn the total!”

I asked him for typical projects. He suggested  his website, www.hudsonmarineinc.com. He describes many of his jobs there. You may like to look at it.

When he started out, all divers wore the heavy, bulky outfits that have become familiar to us through books and movies. The massive steel helmets, the ballon-like suits, the weighted shoes Diving suits have greatly improved. But they’re still designed for heavy work down there, not just swimming around looking for interesting fish and snapping pictures of them.

Often  the diving is in awful water. Foul. Stinking. With terrible visibility and lots of junk around. Hazardous.

I said to him, “I believe that the Mary E is really your hobby. And your running her on excursions like this as a way to make your hobby help pay for itself.”

He smiled. “Yes, that is so.”

He has owned the Mary E for six years. So how did he become interested in her?

“I went on board for a ride,  and one thing led to another. And she became mine.”

He had sailed boats for fun but the Mary E took out passengers. He wanted to skipper her now and then. The skipper needs a captain’s license. So he took it upon himself to pass the Coast Guard’s certification tests.

Now it was time to go on board. Twenty people had signed up. He was pleased. His crew had arrived. The first was Devon Ford of Westbrook. She’s a friendly young gal just graduated from Boston University with a degree in marine studies. She’s still trying to find her niche and this job had sounded interesting.

The crew: Devon Ford and Tim Visel. Interesting in their own way

Matt introduced her as “my second mate.” He said it with a big smile. She seemed surprised to hear that. And pleased.

The fist mate did come along, gray-haired, in work clothes, with an air of know-how and assurance. “Tim Visel,” he said, extending his hand to me.

They helped the tourists aboard. Older people mostly. Many with cameras in hand. All obviously looking forward to a nice ride on the water on Labor Day. The day most of us think of as the end of summer. Vacations are over mostly, Schools have re-opened. Everybody’s getting serious again.

They took seats here and there along the sides. Some insisted on standing. I managed to get my seat at the stern again. Matt began giving orders.

Readying a ship this size and this old is work. This has to be done, and that, and that. His crew got to it. She has an engine, but for propulsion only. Everything else requires muscle.

The captain explains something. Devon finds it funny

The mainsail was hauled up. Matt pushed a button and the engine came alive with a nice purr. The mooring lines were pulled aboard. Matt checked the water for nearby craft. He peered ahead. So many people on board that he had to crane. He turned the wheel a hair  and slowly we left the dock. He had to crane throughout the trip. Lots of water traffic,

I asked and he said yes, this was the busiest day of the year on the river. Boats of all kinds. Mostly motor boats. Of all sizes. All pleasure boats. Work boats on the Connecticut nowadays are a rare sight.  There was a time when pleasure boats were very rare.

What was remarkable to me—and always is—is how few boats are actually moving on the water. There are thousands of recreational boats here. They crowd marinas and boat yards beyond number. But the great majority never seem to go anywhere.

A gorgeous day. Blue sky, nearly cloudless. A good wind—15 miles per hour, he estimated. Perfect, I thought. As always, tide and wind—those were the  key factors.

A great pleasure are all the sights

Matt decided whether he’d head up river or down, and how long he’d have to go in order to return reasonably on time. He headed south, toward the Baldwin Bridge. And we made a long, squished circle, making our way up toward Gillette Castle, then around to get back to the museum dock.

Shortly Tim Visel took a position standing at mid-ship, on the other side. Mot passengers were up there. He began talking. I couldn’t hear him, but I could tell he had lots to say, and he kept people’s attention. He’d be serious, then smile and joke, and point to this and that on the shore and the river.

Second mate Devon came along and I asked her about Tim. “He’s done a lot of commercial fisherman. Has spent a lot of t ime on the water. And he knows so much about local history!” I was sorry I wasn’t closer to him.

As it turned out, we had another crewman on board, Craig Carter. He relieved Matt at the wheel. He was a captain, too, he told me. Just helping a bit.

Matt went midships to talk to the passengers, too. He welcomed them and explainr how a ship like the Mary E makes the most of the wind. Especially sailing against it.

He returned and kept ordering sail adjustments. Kept his eye on a Garmin GPS. That electronic whiz showed him this stretch of the river in detail–its channel markers, landmarks, depth of water under us, wind strength. Indispensable nowadays.

He and Craig would peer at the Garmin and talk. And glance at everything else around.

How did the old-timers manage so well?

There was also a compass nearby, not needed here.

Truly a fine day. The passing boats were fascinating, and the people on board. Many waved at us. The lovely homes along the shore, homes that we never get to see from the road. The beaches and islands. The foliage of endless shades of green and yellow.

Many of the properties are calendar-worthy

A long string of geese appeared  overhead. I followed them until they went out of sight. I spotted three swans, too, far less than usual.

As always, the boaters having the most fun were those in the smaller boats, especially the small sailboats. Well, to my eye.

A lovely catboat skimmed along, gleaming white with s gleaming white sail. Just two women on board, skipper and crew. Moving along so nicely and so expertly. A thing of beauty. I kept my eyes on her.

But for us the wind became a problem. “Very tricky!” Craig told me.  So we used only the mainsail. The other sails never got put up. And the engine was on nearly all the time, but on idle. Just in case, I surmised. Important in a busy waterway like this.

Tim Visel happened to come close. We talked. What a surprise. He was a full professor of things marine and maritime. At the University of Rhode Island and then UConn. Then he had gone back to public education. Told me he had built schools of marine studies. Was now heavily involved with The Sound School in New Haven, part of the city’s public school system.

He dug out one of his business cards. “Sound School Regional Vocational Aquaculture Center. Timothy C. Visel, Coordinator.” It all sounded extraordinary. I tucked it in my pocket.

I asked him, “Why the heck are you doing this today?”

He smiled. “This is my son Will’s job. I’m subbing for him. He needed a day off.”  He went off to help Devon. We were getting close to the dock.

Matt got us back right on time. Tim and Devon helped the passengers  get off.  They looked happy and contented. I lingered. Wanted to have a few more words with Matt. But he was busy. He’d be taking the Mary E out again at 6 p.m.

Finally I got his attention. “I’ll be in touch!” I said. He gave me a wave.

For me it was a perfect thing to do on Labor Day. I was glad the Mary E was around to make this possible. Glad Matt had done all this expensive work to keep her running for years to come.

Captain Matt Culen. One ride finished, one more to go. A totally different life tomorrow

In a minute I glanced back at her. The museum dock would look bare indeed without her come fall.

Collomore Opera Concert in Chester Featuring Timothy McDevitt Oct 7

Baritone Timothy McDevitt will perform at Chester Meetinghouse on Oct 7

The 39th season of the Collomore Music Series in the historic Chester Meetinghouse opens on Sunday, Oct. 7 with baritone Timothy McDevitt, who has recently gained recognition winning the Metropolitan Opera’s New York District Competition and as a finalist in the Paris Opera’s Atelier Lyrique Competition.

With a 2011 master’s degree from the Juilliard School, McDevitt’s Chester concert is this year’s Barbara and Edmund Delaney Young Artist Concert. His active recital schedule also includes recent New York appearances at Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie (Weill) Recital Hall.

Tickets for the 5:00 p.m. concert are $21. For students from elementary through graduate school, a ticket is $5. If you’re interested in attending all four concerts of the 39th Collomore season, a subscription is just $63 or $15 for students (that’s four concerts for the price of three). All ticket-holders are invited to stay for a reception after the concert to meet McDevitt. Ticket info: (860) 526-5162 or www.collomoreconcerts.org. The Chester Meetinghouse is located on Goose Hill Road in Chester. Check the website for information on all four concerts in the 39th season.

Talking Transportation: The Bridgeport – Port Jefferson Ferry

Every now and then it’s great to see a transportation system that works really well.  Case in point, the Bridgeport (CT) to Port Jefferson (NY) ferry.

I’ve written in the past about some folks’ crazy idea that ferry boats are the solution to our traffic problems along I-95.  They are not.  But they do prove useful when they take you where the roads and rails can’t, like across Long Island Sound.

The first ferry ran this 18-mile route in 1872.  By 1883 permanent service was offered by a company owned in part by Bridgeport’s PT Barnum (after whom one of the line’s current vessels is named).  In 1980 all-season service began with the line’s largest vessel, “The Grand Republic”.

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company is 100% owned by Brian McAllister, a fourth generation seaman and tugboat czar who lives on Long Island.  You’ll usually see one of his tugs in Port Jeff’s harbor.

Each of the line’s three ferries is “RO-RO”, for roll-on, roll-off.  At Bridgeport, cars and trucks drive on from the rear and exit in Port Jefferson by driving off thru the raised bow of the vessel.  The ferries can carry between 90 and 110 vehicles and a thousand passengers.

The crossing takes about an hour and a quarter but you can save considerable time, tolls and aggravation by avoiding driving to New York City and crossing the Whitestone or Throgs Neck bridges.

When it began, the ferries carried food grown on Long Island to industrial cities in New England.  Today you’ll still see an occasional truck ferrying seafood, but most of the traffic is tourists and business people.

In season, all three vessels are in operation allowing for almost hourly departures.  If you’re bringing a vehicle a reservation is a good idea, though on most weekday runs you can just drive right up and catch the next boat.

The vehicle unloading and re-loading process is smooth and when passengers leave their cars they can join foot passengers upstairs at the snack bar or cocktail lounge.  In good weather the sundeck affords a wonderful view.  There’s Wi-Fi available on board and cell-phone signals are strong, even in the middle of the Sound.

In Bridgeport, the ferry dock is a two-minute walk from Metro-North.  But in Port Jefferson it’s about a 25-minute walk from the dock to the nearest Long Island Railroad station.  Taxi service is available at both terminals.

Fares aren’t cheap:  $54 for a car and driver, $15 for each additional passenger.  Foot passengers are $18 one-way, $26 for same-day round trip.  Seniors (age 60+) are $13 one-way, $18 for a same-day return.  Kids 12 and under are always free when traveling with an adult.

There was talk a few years ago of offering additional service from New Haven to Port Jeff.  More recently there was discussion of also running to Stamford and from there to NYC using a high speed ferry, but rising fuels costs sunk those plans.

The current ferries are hardly high speed… just 17 mph according to my GPS on a recent crossing.  But they’re a fun way to travel, avoiding the traffic mayhem of New York City when going from Connecticut to Long Island.

 JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 21 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  You can reach him at CTRailCommuterCouncil@gmail.com or www.trainweb.org/ct .  For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

 

Deep River Book and Bake Sale Sept. 15

Bargain books, local crafts and baked goods will be available at the Deep River Book and Bake Sale on Saturday September 15 at Deep River Library, 150 Main Street, Deep River.

Admission is free. All proceeds go to the library.  Special this year: Peggy Scheadler will be at the library to sign and read excerpts from her newly published children’s book: Dagger & Dash: The Scrimshaw Medallion

For more information cal l(860)526-6039 or visit www.deepriverct.com/library.

Event sponsored by the Friends of the Deep River Library.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Volunteer Firefighter’s Pension Upgrade

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday gave unanimous approval to an upgrade in the town’s merit service retirement plan for volunteer firefighters that will increase the monthly pension stipend for both current and future retirees.

About 30 residents, many of them members of the Essex Volunteer Fire Department, turned out for the town meeting to approve the most generous of two options that were presented by the board of selectmen at a public hearing that preceded the town meeting. First Selectman Norman Needleman said the board decided to let voters at the town meeting decide whether to approve the increase in the pension stipend for only the 40 current active volunteers receiving credited service under the plan, or to also extend the increase to the 16 retired participants currently receiving benefits and five non-active former volunteers not currently receiving benefits.

The merit service plan first adopted in 1992 provides a pension stipend of $15 per month for volunteers with ten or more years of service. The upgrade would increase the pension stipend to $16.65 per month for each year of service after the initial 10-years vesting requirement. The plan had total assets of $610,460 as of June 30, with the town contributing $69,922 to the plan in the current 2012-2013 budget.

In a straw vote requested by meeting moderator Alvin Wolfgram, the group was unanimously in favor of extending the new $16.65 per month pension multiplier to all qualified current volunteers and current retirees, with the higher multiplier also applied to past years of credited service. Voters then approved the change on a unanimous voice vote.

The enhancement will increase the town’s annual contribution to $95,182 in the 2014-2015 budget year. The town contribution is projected to increase to a maximum of $104,600 in 2018-2019, and then decrease in subsequent years.

Voters at the town meeting also approved an amendment to the retirement plan for town police to include a provision allowing for a negotiated resolution of disputes related to any employee retirement. Needleman said the plan currently has no provision for resolution of disputes, forcing any possible disputes between the town and an employee to move directly to a superior court lawsuit. The new provision would allow the board of selectmen to attempt to negotiate a settlement to any possible dispute that can not be resolved by the appointed retirement committee.

The call of the town meeting had also included a resolution amending the retirement plan for all town employees to include the new dispute resolution provision. But the third resolution on the town meeting agenda was withdrawn after Needleman announced the union representing town highway department employees had asked for more time to review the new provision. Needleman said a resolution to include the dispute resolution provision in the retirement plan for all employees would be on the agenda for a future town meeting.

Cappella Cantorum Men’s Chorus Concert September 29

Sunday, Sept. 9, 3:00 PM,  at the First Church of Christ Congregational, 499 Town St., East Haddam 06432. This is a Church Benefit Concert followed by a reception. The 32 member male chorus is conducted by Barry Asch and accompanied by Deborah Lyon. The concert features: Selections from Les Mis, (The Musical that Swept the World;) Swansea Town; Battle Hymn, Soon and Very Soon; Solos, and The Hill Top Four, (Barbershop Quartet) will also perform. Tickets $15 at the door, Advanced sales $12, Goodspeed Station Country Store-Haddam; Celebrations-Deep River,  call  860-537-2052 or  860-526-1038. (12 & under, free.)

Saturday, Sept. 15, 3 PM at the Kate, Katharine Hepburn Cultural Art Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook, CT 06475.Tickets $16, available through the Box Office,            877-503-1286, www.thekate.org     or day of performance.

Saturday, Sept  29, 7:30 PM, Christ Episcopal Church, Guilford 06437  on the Green. Tickets $16, Concert Series sponsored by the Church  (203) 453-2279.  11 Park St., Guilford CT

Chester Rotary 42nd Annual Lobster Festival This Saturday Sept. 8

The Rotary Club of Chester will host its 42nd annual Lobster Festival at the Chester Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 8, 2012.  Tickets are on sale now!

The event is highlighted by classic double entree dinners featuring Twin Lobster, Twin Steak, or Surf and Turf.  Traditional sides include corn on the cob, baked potato, coleslaw and rolls.  The gates will open at 4:00 pm for table decorating and general admission.  Dinners will be served from 5:00 pm and continue until 7 pm.   Soft drinks, bottled water, draft beer and wine are available for sale throughout the night.   The bands Bittersweet Harmony, Flying Blind & Second Chance return to entertain with classic tunes until closing at 10:30pm.

Admission tickets for double entrée meals are $40 in advance, $45 for remaining tickets at the gate.  Single entree dinner tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate.  Children’s hot dog meal tickets are available at the gate for $5.  Purchase tickets from any Chester Rotarian, from selected Chester merchants including Chester Bottle Shop, Chester Package Store, Century 21 Heritage Company and Chrisholm Marina or call Angie at 860-204-2426.  Tickets are also available for purchase on-line at www.ChesterRotary.org.

Access to the Lobster Festival is restricted to dinner ticket holders.  Seating is limited.  This event has been a sell out for the past several years so be sure to get your tickets early!  For additional information please visit www.ChesterRotary.com.

Chester Rotarians are dedicated to providing funding and service to local, national and international charitable organizations.  All proceeds from this event support these causes.

Creatures of the Night at Deep River Library Sept 26

Join US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge, Kris Vagos, for an activity and discussion filled evening focused on nighttime wildlife at Deep River Public Library on Wednesday September 26 at 7:30pm.

Learn about owls, bats, oppossums, flying squirrels and other fun and fascinating creatures.

Family friendly fun and everyone is invited.  For more information and to register please call 860-526-6039.

Chess Nuts on Fire at Essex Library – Sept 13

Are you chess nuts? The Essex Library is hosting an open meeting for chess players, all levels and ages welcome, every Thursday afternoon from 3 until 5 PM beginning on September 13.  Drop in and enjoy a game; no registration necessary. Please bring a chess set if you have one. The Essex Library is at 33 West Avenue. For more information , please call the Library at 860-767-1560.

Essex Savings Bank Recycles Income to Non-profits

Essex, CT – Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank announced that non-profit community organizations will receive $102,250 from the Directors’ portion of the Bank’s Community Investment Program.  The Bank annually commits 10% of its after tax net income to qualifying organizations.  In April 2012, the Bank donated $76,698 to 94 non-profits who participated in the customer preference balloting at the Bank.  By year end 2012, $255,665 will have been allocated to over 200 organizations bringing the total distribution since the inception of the program in 1996 to $3,415,552.

The Directors’ portion of the fund will be donated to the following:

Camp Hazen YMCA (Chester)  $2,500

“Night at the Theatre” Benefit Gala to be held November 17, 2012

Camp Hazen YMCA (Chester) $2,500

2013 Healthy Kids Day Sponsor

The Chester Historical Society, Inc. (Chester)  $1,500

Toward underwriting cost of three newsletters and Annual Report.

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. (Essex)  $4,000

Toward funding of Agency newsletter and Annual Report.

Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock (Essex)  $2,500

Benefactor Sponsor of the Fall Ball 2012 (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $5,000)

The Deep River Historical Society (Deep River) $1,500

Toward mailing of Society’s newsletters and flyers for special activities.

Essex Historical Society (Essex)    $1,500

To fund membership newsletter.

Essex Library Association (Essex) $1,500

Toward costs associated with Strategic Planning Process.

Essex Park & Recreation (Essex) $2,500

Toward Essex Basketball Center Project (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $5,000)

Essex Winter Series (Essex)$3,000

Principal Concert Sponsorship.

Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. (ECSI) (Old Saybrook) $2,500

To underwrite portion of mailing expenses for monthly newsletter, “The Estuary Gazette”.

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme) $1,750

“Major Donor” Reception (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $3,500)

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)  $5,000

“The Magic of Christmas” 2012 (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $10,000)

Goodspeed Musicals (Chester/East Haddam)$5,000

2012 “Supporting Sponsor” of spring production “Amazing Grace” at the Norma Terris Theatre

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme) $5,000

2012 Symphony Orchestra New England June 2012 (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $10,000)

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme) $2,000

To assist in underwriting cost of producing printed and electronic newsletters and maintenance and development of website during the 2012-2013 fiscal/academic year.

Ivoryton Village Alliance (Ivoryton/Essex)  $1,500

Assist funding for 2012 Ivoryton Illuminations held in December 2012

Katharine Hapburn Cultural Arts Center & Theatre (Old Saybrook) $5,000

“Producer Sponsor” for venue sponsor 2012-2013

Lawrence & Memorial Hospital (New London) $5,000

Donation to Centennial Campaign

Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc. (Essex)  $1,500

For publishing and mailing quarterly newsletter, “Tutor”.

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (Old Lyme)  $5,000

Signature Sponsor of the 2012 PopArts Ball held in June 2012 (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $10,000)

Lyme Art Association (Old Lyme)  $1,750

Presenting Sponsor of the 2012 New England Landscape Invitational Exhibition and Primary Sponsor of the Weekly E-Blasts (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $3,500)

Lyme Public Library, Inc. (Lyme)  $1,000

To fund annual cost of Library’s newsletter.

Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) (Old Lyme)$4,000

Toward funding of newsletter, “Youth Connections” both printed and on-line.

MacCurdy Salisbury Educational Foundation, Inc. (Old Lyme) $1,500

To fund newsletter, “Evelyn’s Wishes”.

The Madison Historical Society (Madison) $1,500

Toward underwriting costs of publishing the quarterly newsletter.

Middlesex County Community Foundation, Inc. (MCCF) (Middletown) $7,500

“15 Candles Anniversary Celebration – 15 Towns, 15 Years” to be held November 16, 2012 (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. –Total of $15,000)

Middlesex Hospital (Middletown) $5,000

Toward the new Shoreline Medical Center Campaign (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. – Total of $10,000)

Musical Masterworks, Inc. (Old Lyme) $1,250

Concert Co-Sponsor (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc. Total of $2,500)

The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association, Inc. (Old Lyme) $1,500

For costs associated with two printings and mailings of newsletter.

Strong Center at the Surf Club, Inc. (Madison) $5,000

Toward renovations of the Strong Field at the Surf Club.

Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau, Inc. (Deep River)   $4,000

Toward printing and distribution of three issues of Agency newsletter.

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook) $2,500

Toward sponsorship of  “Healthy Kids Day” 2013

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook) $2,500

Toward the “After school Enrichment Program” for 2012-2013 school year.

Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center (Westbrook/Madison) $1,000

Toward sponsorship for the 2012 Vista Tour de Shore.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline with five offices in Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council Meeting Sept 12

The Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council will hold its first meeting of the new school year on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. at Tri-Town Youth Services, 56 High Street in Deep River.  The Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council is open to all who live or work in Chester, Deep River, or Essex who are concerned with substance abuse and committed to its prevention.  Many “sectors” of the community are represented on this Council: schools, youth, parents, law enforcement, healthcare, and others.

At the September meeting current prevention programming will be discussed as well as ways of strengthening our Coalition, currently in Year 2 of a Drug Free Communities Support Grant.  For further information please call Tri-Town Youth Services at 860-526-3600.

Le Comte Ory at Essex Library Sept 24

Juan Diego Flórez as Count Ory (disguised as the nun) and Diana Damrau as Countess Adèle in Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory.” Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Enjoy the Metropolitan Opera’s lively production of Rossini’s romantic farce Le Comte Ory starring Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato at Essex Library’s Monday Afternoon At the Opera, September 24 at 2 PM. Directed by Tony-award winner Bartlett Sher, this light-hearted romp stars Florez as the Don Juan-like Comte, who disguises himself first as a hermit, then as a nun, to get close to the virtuous Countess Adele (Diana Damrau).  The New York Times raved about  Damrau’s “lustrous, agile coloratura soprano voice, and charisma galore” and how Joyce DiDonato, playing the trouser role of the Comte’s page Isolier, ” sang with plush sound and impeccable passagework, sent top notes soaring and conveyed all the swagger of a smitten page.” This screening  is  free and open to all. The Essex Library is at 33 West Avenue; you may register for this program by calling the Library at 869-767-1560.

Deep River’s Oktoberfest Celebration Sept. 21

Popular Polish polka band Dennis Polisky & The Maestro’s Men will perform at the Deep River Oktoberfest on 21 September

Beer and polka, food and fun!   The Deep River Rotary Club invites everyone to come on down to the Stone House in Deep River on Friday, Sept. 21 for our 2nd annual Oktoberfest extravaganza.   Music will feature the popular Polish polka band Dennis Polisky & The Maestro’s Men.   They will be making joyful dance music from 7 to 10 p.m. under the tent on the lawn of the Carriage House.    In addition an authentic German feast will be available beforehand, from 5-8 p.m., including sauerkraut and sauerbraten, sausage, vegetables and desserts.    The evening will also include exciting auctions and fantastic brews.  The Committee especially looks forward to a German chocolate cake eating contest!   Tickets are available for $35 (which includes dinner) or $15 (music and dancing only).  Commemorative beer mugs will also be on sale.

Event organizers include Club members Jenny Pace, Desiree Richardell, Lorianne Panzara-Griswold, and Hedy Watrous.

The Maestro’s Men have been performing together since 1996.  They currently have seven recording releases.  The musicians’ unique backgrounds and experience form the heart of the Maestro’s Men sound.  Their unique sound and arrangements of traditional and original music offer an exciting and entertaining musical variety.  The band was a seven-time”Favorite Band/Instrumental Group Of The Year” by the International Polka Association Of Chicago, IL.  Their CD “Strike Up The Band” in 2003 was nominated for a Grammy as part of the 46’th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles California.  The band was honored at this prestigious event in Los Angeles.

Chester Planning & Zoning Sets Public Hearing on Residential to Commercial Zone Change Request

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a petition from a local resident to change the parcel at 90 Goose Hill Road from the current residential to a commercial zone. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House, followed by the panel’s regular monthly meeting.

Resident Gary Clark has submitted the petition to change the zoning map and boundary for the four-acre parcel, which also has frontage on the west side of Middlesex Avenue (Route 154), and on a right of way extending off Middlesex Avenue.