September 30, 2014

Essex Planning Commission Abandons a “Public Access” Pathway to North Cove, in a Deal with Foxboro Developer

Attorney Terrance Lomme and Sciame Vice President John Randolph explaining their compromise plan to the Commissioners

The Essex Planning Commission has decided to junk its original plan to create a “public access” pathway, running down from Foxboro Road to the waters of North Cove. The pathway plan was originally put forward as a condition for the Commission’s approval of the development of 11 plus acres at Foxboro Point by a private developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr. This original plan had been challenged by developer Sciame, and, separately, by a group of Foxboro Point neighbors, in state Superior Court.

Darker lines show new small viewing pocket agreed by the Commission

In place of the original plan, the Commission has now accepted a “compromise plan” with Sciame’s development company, which would create a new, small pocket park on Foxboro Road. The original “public access” walkway from Foxboro Road down to North Cove, once agreed to be the Commission, has now been completely abandoned.

Red lines indicate original Commission approved “Public Access” path to the North Cove

At the Commission’s recent November 27 meeting, Sciame’s counsel, Terrance Lomme, offered the Commission the compromise proposal. This proposal eliminates, totally, the “public access” walkway to the water, and puts in its place a small, pocket park off Foxboro Road.

Final Approval of Compromise Plan at December Meeting

The final acceptance by the Commission of the roadside public park proposal is expected to take place at the Commission’s December meeting. The measurements of the small, pocket park are 75 feet by 80 feet, with an overall size of 6195 square feet.

In contrast, the square footage of the now junked, public pathway to the water from Foxboro Road to North Cove would have required 21,500 square feet on the development site.

Not a single member of the Planning Commission raised an objection to the complete scuttling of the Commission’s original “walk to the water” proposal at the November meeting, at least in the public portion of that meeting.                 

Secret Commission Discussions of Compromise Plan

The Commission made its decision to junk the original “walk to the water” plan, and to replace it with a small pocket park, at a two hour Executive Session at its November meeting. The general public is excluded from attending Executive Sessions of the Essex Planning Commission.

Ironically, when the Commission’s “walk to the water” plan was challenged in Superior Court by the developer, as well as by a group of neighbors in a separate action, one of the grounds for the challenges of both was that the Commission had made its approval of the original plan in a manner that “deprived the general public the opportunity in listening to its reasoning …”

On this ground alone the developer and neighbors’ counsel asked the Superior Court to throw out the Commission’s original walkway to the water plan in two separate lawsuits.

However, in presenting its compromise proposal at the November meeting the developer’s representatives, who included Sciame Vice President John Randolph, did not say a word about objecting to the Commission’s Executive Session that considered the compromise proposal.

“Executive Sessions” May Violate State Open Meetings Law

Many open meeting advocates are troubled by the practice of local regulatory bodies, such as the Essex Planning Commission, who hold their key discussions of applications before them in secret, Executive Sessions. Some charge that this practice violates the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

This Act, after all, provides that meetings of a “public agency … which is meeting “to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has jurisdiction” should be made at an open meeting. However, to date a legal challenge to the Essex Planning Commission’s practice of going into Executive Sessions to discuss important decisions has not been challenged in a court of law.

This issue aside, the Essex Planning Commission’s decision at its last meeting to join the developer in abandoning, completely, the Commission’s original decision to allow full “public access” to walkers to the waters of North Cove, and replace this extensive walkway with a crimped little park up along the road, is truly surprising.

How to Explain the Commission’s Retreat from Its Original Plan

One informed observer of the Commission’s evident determination to accept the developer’s compromise said that the Commission may have made such a decision, because it had doubts about the legal validity of the “public access” doctrine.

In fact, Essex Attorney John Bennet, who represents a group of neighbor interveners, has on a number occasions given impassioned speeches at Commission meetings, exhorting the Commission to accept the fact that “public access” has no legal validity.

If “public access” as a doctrine is on shaky legal ground, then recognizing a right of “public access” could be decided more on the basis of a developer’s civic generosity than on a firmly grounded, legal principle.

Other Elements of the Compromise Plan

In addition to retreating, radically, as to the reach of “public access,” the compromise plan of the developer was modified in a number of ways by the Commission.

One the developer’s suggestions called for the creation of new parking spaces for visitors along Foxboro Road. This proposal was totally rejected by the Commission. In fact, the elimination of new parking spaces on Foxboro Road might well have been welcomed by the developer, because it would mean fewer “public access” visitors at the proposed, pocket park viewing site.

Another restriction, insisted on by the Commission, was that the hedges around the small viewing area should not be higher than three feet. Also, no trees should be planted by neighboring land owners that would impede the visual sighting of the iconic Foxboro Point windmill from the viewing perch.

Foxboro windmill can be viewed from proposed pocket park

In addition, on the large conservation easement area that runs along the base of the development property, the Commission wanted no plantings or the setting up of lawn furniture and the like by adjoining property owners.

Finally, the developer is required to make a money payment of $120,270 to the town in connection with the development.

Future Looks Bright for Compromise Plan

It is widely expected that at its December meeting, the Essex Planning Commission will give its full approval of the compromise plan, as put forward by the developer, and modified in minor ways by the Commission.

Of course, Attorney Bennet’s lawsuit on behalf of the neighbors of the development would still be pending before the Superior Court, even after the Commission and the developer settled their dispute. However, since the neighbors are more spectators than principals in the actual development, it is questionable that they could hold up the entire project, just because they do not want any new neighbors.

Essex Couple Receives Philanthropy Award from the CFCM

Herb and Sherry Clark Receive Philanthropy Award from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County

The Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC) is pleased to announce the recipients of its first Philanthropy Award — Herb and Sherry Clark of Essex. The Clarks are being recognized for their longstanding spirit of giving, their extraordinary commitment to helping others throughout Middlesex County, and their leadership in promoting philanthropy each and every day.

The Philanthropy Award was presented to Herb and Sherry during the Community Foundation’s 15th Anniversary Celebration on November 16, 2012. Joining more than 300 guests amidst a standing ovation, Cynthia Clegg, CFMC President & CEO, remarked, “the Clarks seem to have a sixth sense about who needs help and what issues in the community need to be addressed. The Clarks are quiet in their work, yet deliberate in taking action to help others and encourage all of us to do more, be more, give more.”

Herb and Sherry Clark are the embodiment of Philanthropy – through their actions and examples. They, indeed, live by the rule Philanthropy Matters. Philanthropy Works.

In further recognition of their lifelong commitment to the Middlesex County community and the Community Foundation, the award hereafter will be known as the Herb and Sherry Clark Philanthropy Award at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

The Community Foundation of Middlesex County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Middlesex County. Its two-fold mission is: (1) to work with charitably-minded individuals and organizations to build permanent endowments and other charitable funds and (2) to support local nonprofit organizations through effective grant making to address community needs. Since its founding in 1997, the Community Foundation has provided 819 grants totaling $2.5 million nonprofit organizations for the arts, cultural and heritage programs, educational activities, environmental improvements, and for health and human services. For more information call 860-347-0025, email info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org or visit the website: www.MiddlesexCountyCF.org.

Appreciation Dinner for Essex First Responders and Volunteers for Storm Sandy

Photo courtesy of Ed McCaffrey

The Essex Community Fund (ECF) thanked Sandy responders and volunteers on November 4th with a pasta dinner as a show of their appreciation for their time, dedication and commitment to our community.   For more information about ECF please visit:  www.EssexCommunityFund.com

 

Region 4 Considers Proposed 2013-2014 School Calendar That Cuts February Vacation, Holds Classes on Veteran’s Day

REGION 4— The Region 4 school boards will consider a proposed 2013-2014 school calendar that cuts the February vacation week to two days and holds classes on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday.

The revised 2013-2014 calendar received a consensus endorsement at a meeting Wednesday of a calendar committee comprised of members of the four district school boards. The group also endorsed minor changes to the current year calendar in an effort to prepare for possible snow cancellations this winter after already losing five days of school to Storm Sandy during the week of Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

For the current calendar, the committee endorsed a change to make Friday Jan. 18 an early dismissal day to allow for one additional snow cancellation day. The summer closing day is now June 24, but the graduation ceremony for the Valley Regional High School Class of 2012 remains fixed on Thursday June 20. Any additional snow cancellation days would be made up with days taken from the spring vacation week set for April 15-19.

The committee spent nearly two hours discussing, and sometimes differing, on a 2013-2014 calendar presented by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy. The superintendent noted the calendar must accommodate the 180 school days requires by state law, and an additional five days for teachers and other staff required under existing union contracts. These must also be at least 18 hours for staff professional development activities.

The proposed 2013-2014 calendar again closes school on the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, though in 2013 this requires only one closing day for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 5. The district began honoring the Jewish holidays this year in response to appeals from Jewish parents and students.

But the current calendar also opened schools on the traditional second Monday in October, Columbus Day holiday. Levy acknowledged there had been “a few comments” from residents objecting to holding classes last month on Columbus Day. For 2013, Columbus Day would be a day off for students, but a professional development day for staff.

The 2013-2014 calendar for the first time would open schools on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday. Schools had been closed on Veterans Day this year. Levy said she would work with local veterans groups to present in school educational programs on the meaning of Veterans Day for 2013.

Another big change for 2013-2014 is the shortening of the February winter vacation from a week to two days, including Presidents Day on the third Monday in February. Levy said there is a trend in state school districts, including nearby districts using the Project Lean model calendar, to shorten the February break. She noted the winter months are “meat and potatoes time,” for classroom instruction. But some committee members, particularly Region 4 board member Jennifer Clark of Essex, contended the near eliminatiion of the February break would be a “big shock” for some parents.

Clark suggested holding school on Nov. 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving, and adding one day back to the February vacation. For the first time this month, district schools were closed on the day before Thanksgiving. Levy said this was partly a response to labor contracts that required Columbus Day as a holiday, but was also a response to high absentee rates on the day before Thankgiving that is usually a big travel day for some families. Schools had previously been open for only a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

After discussion, the committee endorsed the option of closing again on the day before Thanksgiving, and cutting the February 2014 winter break to two days, Monday-Tuesday Feb. 17-18 2014. The proposed 2013-2014 calendar that will be formally adopted by district school boards in the coming weeks also allows for an early summer closing in June 2014. Barring snow days or major storms, district schools would close on June 11 in 2014.

New Chester Vegan Restaurant Receives Top Rating from the New York Times

Exterior of Chester’s new vegan favorite, 6 Main Restaurant

The 6 Main vegan restaurant located at 6 Main Street in Chester has been given a top rating by the New York Times. The newspaper puts the restaurants that it reviews into the following categories: Don’t Miss, Worth It, O.K., and Don’t Bother.

Chester’s 6 Main Restaurant was placed in the top “Don’t Miss” category, which was accompanied by a long culinary review that appeared in the newspaper on November 16.

“Artistry at Work in a Vegan Menu” was the headline of the Times review, which was written by restaurant critic Stephanie Lyness. In her review Lyness was effusive in her praise for 6 Main’s creator and manager, Rachel Carr. She wrote:

“Rachael Carr speaks modestly about her considerable talents, which turns things like walnuts and avocado into other things like chorizo and ice cream. She smiles broadly when I suggest that her skill, making great-tasting vegan and raw food, might be more difficult than ‘real’ cooking –  after all, making everything from scratch takes on a whole new meaning when you make your own sour cream. ‘You just put stuff in the blender, ‘she says. Right.”

6 Main Restaurant’s Rachel Carr, a rave review by the New York Times

The Times review goes on to report that before she created 6 Main Restaurant in Chester, Ms. Carr served as “the executive chef at the award-winning Cru Restaurant in Los Angles for six years, after which she ran the kitchen at SunCafe’, a raw food restaurant in Studio City.”

6 Main Restaurant Just Opened Last June

Ms. Carr opened her 6 Main Restaurant in Chester last June, and even before critic Lynees’ rapturous review in the Times, the restaurant had been a success. Still, as Carr is quick to acknowledge that by serving only vegan and raw food, “We are a different kind of restaurant.” However, she adds, “We are really happy how we have been received in Chester. People have really embraced us.”

More Times Praise for 6 Main’s Creator, Rachel Carr

Continuing with its praise the reviewer Lyness wrote, “But it would be a mistake to reduce Ms. Carr’s artistry to sleight of hand or mimicry. The forms are familiar — entrees on the often-changing menu also include a raw-food tostada and linguine, and vegan potpie, mole enchilada and beet burger. But her cuisine is unique, distinctive and exciting, eliciting rounds of ‘utterly delicious’ and ‘pretty fabulous’ from my (the reviewer’s) dining companions throughout the meal.”

Look what’s cooking at Rachel Carr at 6 Main Restaurant in Chester

The review continued, “Sometimes Ms. Carr’s renditions almost seem to have an edge over the originals. Whisper-thin, jicama ravioli wrappers contrasted appealingly with the creamy filling, and their fresh, delicate sweetness was delightful with the lively, tart and tangy sun-dried tomato-hazelnut Romesco Sauce,”

The review concludes, “But Ms. Carr’s skills are incontrovertible. She has managed to create a plant-based cuisine that is homey and elegant, satisfying, clean and beautiful without being fussy. And for sheer wizardry, one can only marvel at her flaxseed tostada topped with walnut-pepita ‘chorizo’ cumin-sunflower seed ‘frajols’ and cashew ‘crema.’”

Many Ingredients from a Farm in Old Lyme

Many of the organic ingredients that Six Main’s Rachel Carr uses at her restaurant are harvested from the Upper Pond Farm in Old Lyme. The farm is owned by Bill de Jonge, who also owns the Chester Bank building in which the restaurant is located and who is a principal investor in the restaurant, the Times reported.

The complete Times review of 6 Main Restaurant can be found on the newspaper’s web site.  The phone number is 860-322-4212 for reservations.

Proposed Essex Zoning Amendments Would Ease Restaurant Restrictions While Banning Fast Food Establishments

ESSEX— The zoning commission has proposed two zoning amendments that would ease restrictions on any proposed new restaurants while separately banning chain fast food restaurants and drive-through windows in town. The proposed amendments, along with a series of revised and updated definitions, will be presented at a Jan. 28 public hearing.

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said Wednesday he has been working with commission Chairman Alvin Wolfgram on the proposed amendments for more than a year. One of the proposed amendments would remove provisions of the zoning regulations that have limited new restaurants in Essex for more than two decades.

The amendment would delete language in the regulations dating back to the 1980s that prohibit new restaurants on a corner lot, on parcels with 200 feet of a corner lot, and on parcels within 750 feet of an existing restaurant. These restrictions played a role in March when the zoning board of appeals rejected variance appeals for a proposed coffee and pastry shop in vacant space at 57-61 Main Street in the Centerbrook section.The board suggested it was up to the zoning commission to revise the rules on restaurants, rather than looking to the ZBA to approve variances of the regulations to open up vacant space for possible new restaurants.

“The commission decided this was something it would like to do,” Budrow said. He added the panel later next year would propose removal of another restaurant restriction dating to the 1980s that limits new restaurants in Essex to no more then 10 seats. This rule has also blocked proposals for new restaurants in recent years.

But while the commission is proposing an easing of some restaurant restrictions, the Jan. 28 public hearing will also include a proposed ban on any new fast food restaurants in Essex, along with a ban on new drive-through windows for either restaurants or banks. The only fast food restaurants in town are the Dunkin Donuts in Centerbrook, that has been in business for about five years, and a subway restaurant at the Bokum Corners shopping plaza. Three banks in town currently have drive-through windows for banking.

Budrow said Wolfgram had suggested the proposed ban on fast food restaurants and drive- through windows. He acknowledged the proposed blanket prohibition on these uses could generate a legal challenge.

The definition of a fast food restaurant, which is included among the proposed updates of definitions set for the January public hearing, would define a fast food restaurant as an establishment with over ten franchises in other towns that offers a “standardized menu” that customers order and obtain at a location separate the from tables where people consume food.

Budrow said the proposed changes for rules on restaurants are not prompted by any possible specific proposals expected in the near future, but rather are an effort by the commission to determine whether town residents support the proposed changes.

How My Flight Suddenly Became a Train Ride

I expected to fly out of Bradley. But United Airlines decided I should start on Amtrak!

Here’s what startled me. I just bought a three-flight trip to California. It always take me three flights to get to my daughter Monique’s. But the first flight on that ticket suddenly turned into a ride on Amtrak!

I didn’t plan it. Didn’t want it. It happened automatically. Has this happened to you of late?

It was time to book my traditional flight to my daughter Monique’s for Christmas and New Year’s.

She lives in Morro Bay, CA. I’ve been making this trip every year for 20 years or so.

The trip invariably involves three flights. I did the usual. What millions of Americans do every day. I sat at my keyboard and went to a travel search engine.

First Kayak. Then Expedia. Like 99 percent of us, I checked for the best deal. And the best time of departure. And the best price. Those are the essentials. The rest means little to me. I believe that the big difference among main airlines is the paint jobs on their planes.

The tricky part are the times of leaving and arriving. California is three hours behind us, of course. But other factors weigh in.

My wonderful sister Lucie in West Hartford invariably picks me up and drives me to Deep River. A flight at 9 a.m. seems reasonable on the face of it. But we’re told we must be at the airport 90 minutes before our flight. Right? And it’s a ride of one hour door to door from here to Bradley. It’s one hour for Lucie from home to here. Allow 30 minutes for contingencies. And allow her one hour to get up and breakfast and dress.

That means she must rise at 5 a.m. She’ll do it, and willingly. Has done it often for me. But I try to make it more convenient. You’d think the same way, I’m sure.

That’s the problem at my end. My daughter Monique has a time problem at her end, too.

She and her hubby David have busy days. Must rise early. Not unusual for the third of my flights to arrive in San Luis Obispo at 10 p.m. Even later. Their home is a good 30 minutes of fast driving from the airport. Allow 30 minutes at the airport to greet me, get all my stuff and me into their car. Then 30 minutes to their home. My plane may be late. It might be midnight when we walk in the front door. Not good. I do my best to minimize that headache.

Of course, the search engines offer flights that range from the ridiculous to the absurd. One such offered a departure at 2 a.m. and a price of $940. That’s in economy. Come on!

I went to a third search engine. CheapOair. Had never heard of it. Typed in the usual. Kind of flight: economy. Departure: Bradley. Destination: San Luis Obispo. Some in my family travel a lot. They tell me the best days from my point of my view are Tuesdays and Wednesday. So, I type in Wednesday.

Bingo!

I hit a grand combo. Departure: 9:10 a.m. Arrival: 9:05 p.m. On United Airlines. United is fine. With the usual three flights. The first to Dallas. The second to Los Angeles. The third to San Luis, as the folks there call it. Price: $395 one way.  That seems high to me, but with the huge price rise in gas and other things, I find it acceptable.

CheapOair Air tells me my purchase is non-cancelable. But that’s a routine notice nowadays. I buy the flight with my credit card.

I always buy this flight one way. No, I’m not migrating to California in my old age. After New Year’s, I always take Greyhound south to milady Annabelle’s. (For the record, I like Greyhound! Some folks call me nuts. But they should try Greyhound, too!)

She lives in Newport Beach, an hour south of L.A. I’m there with her till early April. She comes east to Connecticut when the weather warms up here. That, too, has been our routine for nearly 20 years.

So, in late January I sit at my computer again and play the Search-Engine Game again, but in reverse.

 

My flight confirmation from CheapOair arrived within minutes. Shock! I had specified Bradley as my departure airport, remember? CheapOair was telling me that my first flight would not be a flight. It would be a train ride! From New Haven to Newark! In Newark I would board a flight to San Francisco rather than Los Angeles. Then on to San Luis, arriving at.  Excellent!

But the train ride! I like trains. Have taken many, including a long one all across India and one all the way up from Singapour to Kuala Lumpur. But out of the question for a 3,000-mile trip across the USA.

I consider myself an experienced air traveler. I had never run into a situation like this. I recognized that a train on a short run like this might be a good idea. Lucie would not have to drive 80 miles or so to get me to the airport. I would avoid that awful take-off-your-shoes-please hassle at the airport. And all the waiting.

But, how to get to New Haven? Well, I have a friend who commutes to New Haven to work. I could bum a ride from her.  But she boards the train in Old Saybrook. Fine, though that would add an extra charge. But how would I get from the train station in Newark to the airport? Would there be a shuttle? How long would that take? In heavy traffic, might I miss my flight? That would add an extra expense, too.

I found an 800 number for CheapOair and called it. I got a man in India. I’ve been to India twice and have Indian friends. I can detect Indian English at the first word. I like Indians.  So not a problem. Furthermore, I admire Indians and Filipinos and Peruvians who man our off-coast call stations nowadays. They do a wonderful job at work that is truly daunting. Imagine having

I explained my surprise at the train ride. Told him I wanted a plane ride, not a train ride. Said to him, “I have never experienced this before!”

“I am sorry, sir,” he said with the greatest politeness. “One minute, please.” Well, it turned out to be several minutes. But I understand that, too.

He came on again. “I have canceled your flight, sir. I am returning what you paid to your Visa account. But you will be billed $14. That is for canceling your flight.”

“Please waive that $14 charge. Not fair. That train ride was a total surprise. How would you feel in my situation”?

“I am sorry, sir. Our rules prohibit that. Is there anything else I can help you with today?’

“No, thank you.”

That was that. I’d re-book again as soon as I had time. No rush. A day or two would make little difference.

But! As it turned out that train ride was indicated when I downloaded all those original details. In my rush, I did not notice that little item. I take the blame.

That evening I called Annabelle and told her the whole story. She was dismayed. She is an experienced air traveler, too. And had worked a long time as a travel agent. Things have changed enormously since those days but she’s still savvy. And my word “dismayed” was the right word.

“Oh, John, you should not have canceled! That was a better deal. In more than one way.”

“Yes, I know. But the problems. How to get from Newark to the airport…”

“The train goes right on to the airport. It’s just a few minutes farther along the track. Nothing to it! In fact, you and I did that once. Right from Old Saybrook to Newark. When we flew to Italy!”

I blushed. I actually blushed. But she could sense it way out there in California. I am sure. Of course! She was right. Now I remembered!”

“Call them back!” she told me. “See if you can re-book that flight.”

I found that 800 number again. I made the call. Got an Indian lady this time. Definitely young, but yes, a lady.

“I understand, sir. I’ll be glad to help you if I can. It will be a minute or two, please.”

Finally she returned to me. “Yes, that flight is still available. But the price has risen. It is now $444.

Shall I book it for you?”

“Is it available on Tuesday rather than Wednesday?” I have found that sometimes a one-day difference can change the price significantly. I’m a retiree. Such a change would not be a hardship. Nor for Monique and David in California either, I was sure.

She went offline for another “minute.”

“Yes, it is available. The price will be your original price, $395. But you will fly to San Luis Obispo from San Francisco instead of Los Angeles. And your new arrival time will be 7:54 p.m. Is this satisfactory?”

“Yes!”

That airport change would be insignificant. Anyway, I wouldn’t get to see either of those cities. Maybe just a few lights down below if I happened to be sitting at a window on the right side of the plane. The new arrival time would make it easier for Monique and David. And me, too.

“Please book that flight for me, Mam. Thank you very much for your help. You’ve been very good.”

“My pleasure, sir.” Soon she came back on. “Your new travel arrangements are confirmed, sir. You will receive an onli. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

An idea had come to me. I said, “As you know, I had to pay a $14 penalty when I canceled. Can that be refunded to me now?”

“Let me see what I can do, sir. One minute, please.”

She came back on. “I have just returned $14 to your Visa account. All this will be confirmed to you. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

“No. I am very happy. Thank you.”

And that was that. Remember, that was a “non-cancelable deal.” I have to salute CheapOair. Don’t you agree?

Talk about coincidences. Two days later, in the New York Times, I read a long article about airline flights with railroad legs. Its headline was “Train or Plane? More Travelers Choose Both.” “Choose” was the right word only if they noticed the train ride on their ticket and approved.

It explained this whole new business was a common practice in Europe. Big cities there are much closer together. Trains travel much faster and more frequently. Yes, it’s a new practice here in the U.S. But becoming popular because easier and more convenient in some ways. Yet not commonly available because we have few railroad stations located within practical distances of major airports.

I have questions about all this, of course. United lost the first of my three air trips to Amtrak. Is United happy about that? I wouldn’t think so. Also Bradley International lost me as one of its passengers. Is Bradley happy about that? I wouldn’t think so. Is Amtrak being paid by United? Or CheapOair? I don’t know. But it’s all so interesting.

Please note: some of the small details above, of flight times and prices and such, may be off a bit.  I am writing this from memory.

We know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, so is progress.

I’ll try in time to bring you up to date on how all this works out.

So now you know. Take a careful look at the tiny details the next time you okay a multi-flight trip. Before you book it!

Frostbiters Collect a Boatload for Shoreline Food Pantry

(left to right) Frostbite Yacht Club members Mark Kondracky, Terry Stewart, Roman Daniels, Travis Carlisle, Kyle Fasulo and Annie Hughes help fill a 420 boat with food donations for the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries in Old Saybrook.

Essex, CT – In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when all was back to normal for Frostbite Yacht Club sailors, the group decided to do their part for those in need.  A non-perishable food drive was organized by the club’s high school 420 fleet and held on November 11, resulting in a boat load of donations being delivered to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries in Old Saybrook.

The Frostbite Yacht Club, open to any sailor age 15 and older, is a volunteer organization that hosts multi-week race series in the late fall and early spring.  For more information, go to www.fbyc.org

Civic Group Tackles Improvements to Essex’s Gateway, the Beloved “Sunset Pond”

Piles of dirt along the pond’s north shore, which will be removed next spring

A group of civically motivated citizens of the Town of Essex have embarked on a major effort to upgrade the Town of Essex’s gateway to visitors and residents alike, the town’s much loved Sunset Pond.

Over the years, unfortunately, this unique property has quite literally gone to seed. Along the north side of the pond, facing West Avenue, mud and debris was painfully prevalent. Also, invasive weeds were growing without control around the entire perimeter of the pond.

In addition, the west side of the pond was overgrown with weeds, and the existing paths along the pond’s edges were overgrown for lack of maintenance. Needing clearing as well was the heavy scrub overgrowth at the west side corner of the pond.

                        To the Rescue, “Friends of Sunset Pond”

As a result of these shameful conditions at the town’s major point of entry, a group of motivated citizens decided to do something about the situation. To do so they formed a group called the “Friends of Sunset Pond.”

Members of the “Friends” include Geoffrey Paul, the head the Paul Foundation;  Jim Godsman, who has assumed the role of the group’s spokesperson; Rick Audet, Director of Essex’s Parks and Recreation Department, as well as other concerned citizens.

Sunset Pond spokesperson Jim Godsman outlines the Sunset Pond renewal plans

To date the Friends of the Sunset Pond have raised $30,000 for pond improvements, according to Godsman. $20,000 of this amount has been given by the Paul Foundation, and $10, 000 has come from civic minded citizens and organizations. The Paul Foundation, incidentally, owns the property on which Sunset Pond is located, and it leases the pond and its surrounding shores to the Town of Essex for recreational purposes for $1.00 a year.

The First Phase of the Clean Up of Sunset Pond

At its March 13 meeting the Essex Wetlands and Watercourses Commission gave its final approval for the Friends of Sunset Pond to take steps to upgrade and renew Sunset Pond.

In response to this approval the Friends in a first phase addressed some long overdue maintenance issues, and to clean up generally the pond. As part of this phase, which is presently underway, steps are being taken to restore the banks of the pond to their original parameters.

Also, mud and debris along the northern shore of the pond, which is visible from West Avenue, have been stacked up along the pond’s banks and after drying and debris removal, will be graded, webbed and seeded. Then, next spring in March 2013 the soil will be placed along the banks of the pond.

The Second Phase of the Pond’s Renewal and Renovation

The second phase of the pond’s renewal has been called by the Friends of Sunset Pond, “The Vision.” Although at this point, The Vision “is a concept that is totally unfunded and speculative,” Godsman notes. However, this second phase of the Pond’s  future may include the construction of a walkway around the entire perimeter of the pond, as well as the introduction of new landscaping, plantings and other attractive amenities. “We are exploring The Vision both in terms of resources and plan options,” Godsman says.

However, under neither present nor future plans will the existing trees along the east side of the pond be removed.

The end result of the two phases, according to spokesperson Godsman, will be that, “visitors and residents will have a much improved visual entry to the town.” He adds pointedly, “This will require the development of a solid professional plan that is environmentally-friendly and attractive as an investment to external governmental and philanthropic institutions.”

In short, more fund raising efforts will be required to renew and maintain the pond in top condition.

A Late Arriving Crane Slowed the Effort    

In any construction project, no matter how worthy, and how much desired by the public, there always seems to be a glitch. The glitch in the case of the renovation of Sunset Pond was that the gigantic crane that was to lift the mucky soil along the north shore further upland was late in arrival. The crane was scheduled to appear in August, but it did not show up until October.

The crane, whose late arrival pushed renewal steps back to March 2013

This meant in turn that drying mounds of earth are now visible along the north shore of the pond facing West Avenue.  Furthermore, although they may be trimmed a bit in height, these mounds of earth will remain visible throughout the winter months. However comes spring in 2013, the dried soil will be carefully placed along the very visible north shore of the pond.

Winter Activities to Continue During the Pond’s Renewal

Even though the pond’s north shore along West Avenue may visually leave something to be desired during the coming winter months, ice skating will be permitted off the pond’s south shore. Then, next spring more improvements will come into place, and down the line activities such as fishing, picnics, exercising, and even special fun events, such as regattas for children and fishing derbies will be the rule at “Sunset Pond.”

Essex Town Meeting Approves Annual Town Report, Board and Commission Appointments

ESSEX— Voters at the annual town meeting Monday approved 20 board and commission appointments, along with the annual town report for the 2011-2012 fiscal year that ended in June. Only a dozen residents turned out for the town meeting that he held each year on the third Monday in November, unanimously approving all resolutions in less than 15 minutes.

This year’s annual town report is dedicated to Herb and Sherry Clark, a local couple that have engaged in numerous philanthropic efforts that have included preservation of the Centerbrook Meeting House, and the Ivoryton Playhouse in 1978.

Nearly all of the board and commission positions confirmed Monday were reappointments of serving members. The appointments include Richard Helmecki and Kathleen Tucker for the conservation commission, Susan Uihlein and Larry Shipman for the zoning commission, Ralph Monaco and Linda Herman for the planning commission, and Nancy Arnold for the inland-wetlands commission with Jim Leo as commission alternate.

Also Paul Greenberg and Alexander Daddona for zoning board of appeals with Lynn Faulstick as ZBA alternate, John Beveridge, Edward Cook and David Winstead for economic development commission, Wally Schieferdecker and John Senning for harbor management commission, and Cathy Bishop and Thomas Clerkin for parks and recreation commission with Virginia Willetts as commission alternate. John Malloy was confirmed for the tree committee.

Holiday Train Show Steams Up Re-Opening of Connecticut River Museum

Skye Roberts and Zachary Dobbs discover one of the scavenger items hidden in the layout of the Holiday Train Show exhibit now open at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex.

Essex, CT – – What a difference a week makes!  That was the sentiment at the Connecticut River Museum as doors re-opened to the public on Friday, November 16, just in time for the scheduled debut of the 19th Annual Holiday Train Show exhibition.  After Hurricane Sandy dumped a foot of water throughout the first floor of the 1878 steamboat warehouse building, best expectations were to be open in a very limited capacity for the new exhibit.  But with plenty of scrambling and team work, all is up and running with the exception of the Boathouse gallery and education center. Museum officials hope to have that restoration work completed within a few weeks.

Members’ were invited to a sneak preview of train artist Steve Cryan’s locomotive extravaganza on Thursday evening and seemed impressed with this year’s display featuring 12 operational model trains running on over 26 feet of creatively set track.  The Connecticut River flows down the center of intricately detailed scenes including the Museum’s steamboat warehouse building and dock, Goodspeed Airport, Schooner Mary E, the Lady Catherine cruise ship and other River Valley landmarks.  A scavenger hunt challenges visitors to find a list of hidden surprises while young children can get hands on at an American Flyer and Lionel Train display designed specifically for toddler-size enjoyment.  Sponsored by Liberty Bank, The Safety Zone and Valley Courier, the exhibit is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM through February 10.  For more information, call the Museum at 860.767.8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.

Chester Seeks Bids for Second Floor Renovation at Town Hall

CHESTER— Town officials will open bids on Dec. 13 for a renovation to the second floor of town hall that would be funded by the insurance payment for the collapse of the former community center building on Route 154 in February 2011.

The board of selectmen voted at a meeting last week to seek bids for the town hall work, while dropping an earlier idea to use some of the insurance proceeds to pay for a 750-square-foot parks and recreation storage structure at Chester Elementary School. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said cost estimates for the storage addition were over $200,000, and would have used too much of the total available funding. “It did not make economic sense ,the cost per square foot was too high” he said.

The second floor renovations designed by Jackunski & Humes Architect of Berlin would create a larger meeting room to accommodate up to 65 people, along with changes to some of the offices on the second floor. The larger meeting room would reduce the need to use the historic Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street, particularly for less well-attended town meetings and board and commission meetings.

Meehan said $260,000 is available from the community center insurance settlement.  He said selectmen are “optimistic” the second floor renovations can be fully paid for with the available funding. Meehan said additional storage space for parks and recreation would be created at Cedar Lake, where the town sponsors a summer program, and in the renovated second floor of town hall.

Meehan said the board of selectmen has the authority to direct the insurance funds for the second floor project without a requirement for further approval from a town meeting. Work on the second floor renovations is expected to begin during the coming winter months.

Essex Awarded $471,500 State Grant for Town Hall and Park Improvements

Needed repairs to Essex Town Hall parking lot (photo by Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX -- The town has been awarded a $471,500 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for a series of improvements to the town hall property and the abutting Grove Street Park.

The grant, which the town applied for over the summer, was announced in a visit late last month by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The project includes repaving the town hall parking lot, including a section that remains unpaved, reconstructing the tennis courts at the adjoining park, constructing a new handicapped accessible children’s playscape at the park, and improving the crosswalk across Grove Street to the Essex Library.

Restructuring of Essex tennis courts (photo by Jerome Wilson)

First Selectman Norman Needleman said this week the project would be coordinated by members of the economic development and parks and recreation commissions working with Highway Department Foreman David Caroline. There would be no formal building committee. Needleman said the improvements, which are expected to be completed in 2013, would create “more of a feeling of connectivity,” between the town hall/park property and the library.

Improving crosswalk from Town Hall to Essex Library (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Essex has been awarded several STEAP grants since the program began in 2002, with the grants funding the public restroom at Essex Town Park, new streetlights, sidewalk and street improvements in Essex village and Ivoryton, and a new boat launch on the Connecticut River at the end of Main Street.

Community Music School Honors Supporters

Pictured (l-r) are Rev. Ken Peterkin, First Congregational Church; Gail Morris; Steve Haines, Centerbrook Architects; Andrew Morris; and Mike Hart, Chad Floyd, Ed Keagle and Sue Wyeth of Centerbrook Architects

Community Music School recently recognized longtime supporters at its 2012 CMS Champions Award Breakfast held at Water’s Edge Resort & Spa in October.  Honorees included Centerbrook Architects and Planners , Gail and Andrew Morris, and First Congregational Church of Essex.

Community Music School presents the Champions Awards annually to those who have supported the School and its mission and who strive to improve our community through the arts. Since 1983, CMS has offered innovative music programming for infants through adults, creating a tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities.

Essex Community Fund Seeks Grant Applications

Grant applications for 2013 awards are due December 15th.  Grants are open to any non-profit organization that serves the needs of the residents of Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton.  You may obtain an application online at www.essexcommunityfund.com.

Essex Holiday Stroll Promises An Authentic New England Shopping Experience

Essex Board of Trade Holiday Stroll Organizers (l-r): Donna Torza of Bell Flower Antiques, Emmy Cline of Scensibles , Mark Bombaci of Page Taft-Christies Real Estate, Judy Heiser of Essex Board of Trade and Jim D’Alessio of J. Alden Clothiers.

Essex, CT – Unplug the Muzak, boycott the mall traffic and head to Essex Village for the Essex Board of Trade’s Annual Holiday Stroll, a quintessentially New England shopping experience taking place on Saturday, December 1 from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

In addition to special savings and festive refreshments at participating shops and restaurants, free gift wrapping will be provided at Page Taft – Christies Real Estate with donations benefiting the Essex Community Fund.

Free horse-drawn carriage rides through the heart of the village will be offered from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm while the Hilltop Barbershop Quartet will perform at various locations from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm.  Then at 4:00 pm, the Grace Notes Handbell Choir will perform in front of the Griswold Inn, leading up to a performance by the Coast Guard Academy Idlers and tree lighting in Griswold Square at 4:45 pm.

It is a day filled with holiday memories in the making and made possible by events sponsors Wells Fargo Advisors, Peck and Ficarra Attorneys At Law, Scensibles, Valley Courier, Hudson Paper and the Griswold Inn. Free parking is available on village streets, in designated lots and at Essex Town Hall.

For more information, go to www.experienceessex.com or call the Essex Board of Trade at 860-767-3904.

Consultant Hired to Study New Deep River Firehouse Option

DEEP RIVER— A consultant’s study of the option of building a new firehouse on the existing site is the next step in a more than five year effort to upgrade the 51-year old main firehouse at the corner of Union and West Elm streets.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the town has hired Noyes-Voght Architects of Chester to study the option of constructing a new firehouse that would use more of the site of the existing firehouse, a step that would include a phased demolition of the existing building that was built in 1961. He said the idea under study is to use an area to the south of the existing 5,084-square-foot firehouse to construct a new and larger facility.

Smith said the initial goal is avoid demolition of a two-story house on an abutting parcel at 57 Union Street that was acquired by the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department in 2007. He noted that objections to removing the house, which is currently rented out by the department, may have been a factor in the most recent narrow referendum defeat for a firehouse renovation and expansion project.

A $2.4 million plan to renovate and expand the existing firehouse was defeated on a 347-312 vote in a July 2010 bonding referendum. A more costly renovation and expansion plan failed by a much larger margin in a November 2007 referendum.

A preliminary report from the firehouse project study committee last January had raised the possibility of constructing a new firehouse on a 14-acre parcel on the north side of Route 80, near the Platwood Park area. The January 2012 report had estimated the cost of constructing a new and larger firehouse at about $2.8 million, an estimate that did not include any land acquisition cost.

Smith said last week he did not favor an alternate site for the new and larger firehouse because of the need to maintain fire equipment at a different location during much of the construction, and questions about what to do with the existing building.

Smith said the consultants would prepare a “site plan” for a new and larger firehouse that would use more of the property, but avoid demolition of the house on the abutting fire department owned parcel. He acknowledged the study could lead to the conclusion a new and larger firehouse could not be built without removing the nearby house. “We need to get to the next step,” Smith said. “We’ve got to find out if it in fact works.”

Smith said the consultant’s report should be completed by January for discussion at a joint meeting of the board of selectmen and board of finance. Smith said there is a consensus among the two boards to try to resolve the fire department’s space and facilities needs in 2013.

Transportation: High Speed Rail in Japan

I am just back from two weeks’ travel in Asia where I have seen the past and the future of the world’s best high speed rail.  This week, my thoughts on Japan and next week, China.

It was 1964 when the Japanese introduced the world’s first “bullet train”, the Shinkansen.  Using a dedicated right-of-way (no freight, no slow trains), the Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka today carries over 150 million passengers a year at speeds up to 190 mph… not the fastest in the world, but easily the busiest.

Now on its seventh generation of equipment, I rode the Nozumi Express from Tokyo to Kyoto and was amazed at the service.  Like Grand Central Terminal, Tokyo’s main downtown station is a dead-end.  As trains arrive, passengers disembark and uniformed cleaning crews have about ten minutes to clean and freshen the equipment for the next run.

The Nozumi runs from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 314 miles, equivalent to the distance between Boston and Baltimore.  And it makes that journey in 2 ½ hours with trains every five to ten minutes!  Each 16 car train can carry up to 1300 passengers in first (“Green”) class (two by two seating) or second class (three by two… the Japanese are small).

Compare that to Amtrak with hourly Acela service in six car trainsets holding 300 passengers total.  Acela’s fastest run from Boston to Baltimore is just shy of six hours with an average speed of 90 – 120 mph.

The Japanese trains are so fast there is no need for a diner or bar car.  Instead, passengers can buy an “ekiben” boxed lunch from dozens of stores at the station.  Because all seats are assigned, passengers que up at the exact spot on the platform where their car will stop, awaiting permission to board.  When the cleaning crews finish, the doors open, passengers board and the train departs… always on time, and to the second.

As the conductor collects tickets, he bows to each customer.  Train crew passing through the cars always turn and bow to the passengers before going to the next car.  The ride is so smooth as to not be thought possible.  And arrivals and departures are to the second with average dwell time at intermediate stations no longer than 90 seconds.  And, of course, there is free Wi-Fi during the entire journey.

The first class fare on the Nozumi Express between Tokyo and Osaka is $186.  On Amtrak’s Acela, the Boston to Baltimore ride costs up to $279 for business class, $405 in first class.

Japan’s Shinkansen is the grand-daddy of high speed rail, but still among the best.  Next time I’ll tell you about the newest, and to my thinking, the world’s best high speed rail… in China!  And I’ll recount my 11 minute ride on the world’s only commercial maglev in Shanghai.

 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

Surviving Hurricane Sandy

Which candle do you think gives better light?The big one, right? That’s what I thought, too.

Yes, Sandy taught me a big lesson: how much light does one candle give? Oh, not as the centerpiece during dinner. And not on a birthday cake. In the pitch dark! For hours. I had no idea. It was an illuminating lesson. (Pun.) But not an illuminating experience.

History story tells us that one horsepower is the power of one horse. No idea what horse was used to figure that—its size or breed or age or gender or anything else. But it doesn’t matter.

Now how about one candlepower? Well, if 1 hp. is the effort put out by 1 horse, then 1 candlepower must be the light put out by 1 candle. Wouldn’t you agree?  But in practical terms, how much is that?

During the hurricane I learned the hard way. It’s shockingly, disappointingly little. Yet it’s mostly with candles that I managed to get through the three days of that ordeal. Excuse me, the three nights.

Like everybody else hereabouts, I made many preparations for Sandy’s hugely publicized and awesome arrival. One was to buy a couple more flashlights. Another was to dig out my stash of candles. I have a shoebox full, candles big and small, candles never used and candles partly used. Flashlights are more convenient, but candles have more staying power. And Sandy might knock out our power for days.

I live at Piano Works in Deep River. It’s called that because our big 4-story brick building was the high-tech center of the piano industry a hundred and fifty years ago. Mine is one of about 60 condos in the building. I live alone most of the time. I was alone during Sandy.

As we all know, Sandy hit our area with a huge wallop. Worse even than the unforgettable hurricane of 1938. Which I remember, by the way.  We were lucky at Piano Works. The gusts of wind were huge. I could see that just by peering out the window. Even at night. But with my eyes closed, I couldn’t even know Sandy had hit. Our big brick building had survived many big storms over the years.  I felt it could take anything Sandy threw at it, it seemed.

The worst that happened to us at Piano Works is that we blacked out. Everything electrical that we possessed went dead. Speaking for myself, that meant my lights, heat, telephone, TV, radio, stove, fridge, TV, computer, clocks, on and on. Same for you, undoubtedly. I didn’t list them in any special order. Except for the first. My lights. To me that was the most critical.

I took extra pains to prepare for the loss of my lights. I moved anything possible to trip over well out of the way. Footstool, piles of books, hassock, wastebaskets, magazine rack, bathroom scale. To trip and fall could be catastrophic. And I placed candles strategically here and there. A big fat one on my dining table. Another big one by my kitchen sink. Another in the bathroom. Smaller ones here and there also. I had plenty. Why not? I also put matches next to each one. I wouldn’t have to fumble for a match if one of my candles went out.

I own three fire extinguishers. I placed them strategically also. I also placed jars of water here and there. Water is fire’s natural enemy, right? Remember the Grear Chicago Fire and how that started when a cow knocked over a lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn? I didn’t want one of my candles to cause the Great Piano Works Fire! This was no time to be lazy. Prepared I would be!

I also placed my flashlights with care. My condo is on two floors. I placed one at the top of the stairs I’d have to use to get out. Another by my bedside table. And so on. And I kept one in my pocket all the time.

Well, Sandy struck. What for me had been about 16 hours of light per day—daylight and electric—and 8 hours of dark suddenly became 12 and 12. Thanks to my planning, my 12 hours of dark included 4 hours of dark that were enlivened by tiny flickers of light from my candles throughout my apartment. The place looked nice and cozy. I thought, If only I had somebody to share this with!

But the candles made me nervous. True. Especially those out of sight. So, I blew out the candles that I couldn’t see from my living room. I sat in my favorite rocker there. Better not waste candles. Sandy’s aftermath might last a long while.I kept only two going. The big one on the table. And a small one on the table by my rocker.

The big one was 10 times bigger than the small one. The small one was the size of a votive candle. In fact it was a votive candle. If you’re not familiar with that, imagine a cupcake. A small cupcake.

The change in the room was dramatic. Dim! It took me a while to adjust. Now my place looked gloomy. And this gloom was emphasized by the sudden loss of something very important in my life. Music.

I realized more than ever how much of my day is brightened by music. I realized that I have music playing just about all the time. This was now so quiet. So still. So uncomfortable.  “Gloomy” was definitely the right word. But one thing surprised me after a while. The two candles gave me enough light to function in the most basic way. I could walk safely. I could eat okay—could distinguish tell the salt shaker from the pepper shaker.

But know what? The small candle gave off more light than the big fat one. I kept checking one against the other. It was true. Both had wicks the same size. The big one was made of red wax. As the flame sank deeper in the wax, it left a ring of wax that got higher. True, this ring turned translucent pink. Very pretty. Very romantic if romance happened to be key. Not this evening. Not for me alone.

But that ring kept the light from spreading sideways. The small candle was white wax. White wax reflected the flame better. As it burned lower, it left a much smaller ring of wax. I didn’t understand why but the flame always stayed level with the brim of the ring. It didn’t sink down into the wax like the other one. So it gave off more light sideways. Who would have bet on that? I was intrigued. I decided to experiment. For an hour, I would not use the flashlight I had on me. I would live by the light of these two candles. That’s all. Regardless of what I had to do in my condo.

Now I had to go to the bathroom. I chose the big candle. That made sense. (This was before I measured its output against the baby candle.) I had placed it in a saucer.  I picked up the saucer and headed toward my dark bedroom. The bathroom is off the bedroom. I moved gingerly. Oops!  The candle nearly slipped off the saucer. Imagine if it had fallen onto the carpet. Imagine if it had started a fire.

A lesson learned!  I clasped the saucer so my fingers keep the candle firmly in place. No chance of it falling. But now I noticed something else. The candle did not cast light on the floor. The floor was dark. Too dark.  And dark might conceal danger.  I put the candle and saucer back on the table. And picked up the small one. It was in a small glass of clear glass. My fingers could hold this one much steadier. Safer. But it didn’t cast light down, either. What to do?I held it slightly canted. That helped. But I risked dripping hot wax onto the carpet. I tried holding the candle much lower—down at the level of my knees and tried to walk that way. Awkward. Very awkward. Very bad.

So? I placed the candle right down on the carpet. Off to one side of my path, out of the way, but halfway to the bathroom.  The light was faint, but it made a big improvement. I could walk to the bathroom and back—in fact—anywhere in my living room—without fear of tripping. And with my hands free. Which meant I could carry something.

To test the light cast by the candle, I walked to my bookcase on the far wall. And searched for a certain book. It took me a minute but I had enough light to locate it. But not really a fair test. I knew approximately where the book was, and what size it was. But still. I was learning.

I was hungry. I hadn’t had supper. I picked up the big candle and placed it on the work counter I have across from my sink and stove. That is, right next to my fridge. And I placed the small candle by the sink. I already had a candle there, but it was dead now. I moved it out of the way.  I shifted both candles with their flames burning.

What to eat? I wanted something substantial. I picked out a can of baked beans. But no way to heat them. I remembered Vinnie—more about him in a minute. I opened the can, poured out half for myself, found some raw carrots and celery in the fridge that I had pre-cut into small pieces. I picked up a spoon and dug into my cold beans.

Now about Vinnie. Important for you to know about him.  Twenty-five years ago I had bought a big, 4-story brick building in Worcester. Bought it at auction. That was what I call the Real Estate Chapter in my life. I had read a book, “How to Make a Million Dollars in Real Estate in Your Spare Time.”  The book impressed me. I already had a going business. But I had a bit of spare time. And I liked the idea of making a million. I put what the book taught me into practice. Buying that empty, boarded-up building was part of that chapter in my life.

Suddenly I owned the building. Wasn’t sure what to do with it. Decided to convert it into condos. The condo craze was catching on. Hired an architect. He drew a plan. I converted the building into a new office for myself on the first floor, and eight condo apartments—two on each floor—above.

A big project. I had to assemble a work crew. The work started in late October, stretched all through the winter. A frigid winter. No heat of any kind in the building. The crew pounded away. Five rugged guys.

At noon they’d break for lunch. Would gather in one empty room in that great big building. Open their Thermos chests. Pick out hot chili, or beef stew, or whatever. Sit side by side on the floor, their backs against the wall, and eat. There in that frigid room. So cold that you could see your own breath. They’d also bring coffee and enjoy that with a donut or slice of pie.

Not Vinnie. He never brought a Thermos chest. He was 32 or so. Married with two kids. A good worker. He brought just a can of baked beans. A big can. He would plunk down next to the others. Open the can. Dig in with his spoon.He kept it next to the fat carpenter’s pencil in his overalls’ bib pocket. And eat his beans. Cold. Right down to the last bean and the last bit of juice. Didn’t even bring something to drink.

He worked for me five days a week, and brought a can of beans, same brand, every day. And ate the beans contentedly. With great relish. Just the beans. No bread. No veggies. Nothing else. He took a lot of kidding. It didn’t bother him. He’d give it right back.
“This will keep me goin’ nice all afternoon. You fellas should do the same. So easy. Saves lotta money. These beans are cold, sure, but they keep me nice and warm. You guys should do the same. But you’re too dumb! And hey, this makes it easier for my missus!”  I’d stop by now and then to say hello and check their progress. I saw this strange scene many times.

Now as I sat eating my own cold beans, I thought of Vinnie. He was right. This wasn’t a bad meal. Not bad at all. I had my veggies. A couple of ginger snaps plus a glass of milk.  The fridge wasn’t working but the milk wasn’t bad yet. And a crisp apple to bite into. Those beans would keep me warm.

Vinnie had taught me a lesson. The right attitude is all-important. Besides, I didn’t expect to have to eat cold beans five days straight as he did. I hoped not!

I hate dirty dishes in the sink. The water was still running, thank God. What a blessing. I washed everything and tidied up. The two candles gave me enough light. I enjoyed the dancing flames.

Came time for bed. I love to read for 15 minutes or so in bed before I turn off the light. I’m a creature of habit. I admit it. I decided to carry on my candle experiment. I blew out my big candle. Set up my small candle, still lit, on my bedside table. As close to the edge as I felt safe. So I’d be close to the candle. Changed into my pajamas and crawled in. It felt so good. I picked up—Noel Perrin’s “Solo,” which I was half-way through.

Perrin wrote terrific essays. He died about 10 years ago. Was a professor of English at Dartmouth up in Vermont. Was a city guy but bought an old, tired farm in the nearby village of Thetford. And took to farming. Got very good at it. Loved it. Became interested in energy conservation and environmental protection. Was fascinated by it. As a  hobby, studied it in depth. He was an expert of Robert Frost and his poetry, but started teaching this environmental stuff on the side at Dartmouth.Very avant-garde guy.

Heard of electric cars. This was some 30 years ago. Decided to buy one. Went to California to a small outfit that was turning out a few. Bought one. It could get only 40 miles or so on one charge. Installed solar panels on its roof as a booster when the sun shined. And decided to drive his new car—he named it Solo—clear across the country right home to Vermont.
A wonderful adventure. He had a hard time. The mountains were formidable. He actually had to buy a truck and tow Solo along some tough stretches. But finally home, he used Solo to commute to his classes at Dartmouth. Installed a solar panels on top of his barn to keep Solo’s batteries charged up. What a story!

Now I opened “Solo” to Chapter 9. Hard to see the type. I edged closer to the side of the bed. As close to the candle as possible. Still not good. I got up, and now using my flashlight, went to my pantry. Ripped off a piece of aluminum foil, then stapled it to a plain, manila office file. I propped up this reflector behind the candle, kept shifting the reflector for the best light on the bed.
Got back into bed, opened “Solo” again. The reading was tough going. I strained. Finished the chapter. But enough is enough. I closed the book and blew out the candle and pulled the covers way, way up. The room was definitely cool now. I pulled the covers right over my head. Wonderful.

I thought of Abraham Lincoln. How as a young guy he would study law books at night in his small, rough house. Study them by candlelight, mind you. Night after night, after a day’s work farming. And how he became the great man that we all admire.
I also marveled at the thousands of generations of people over countless centuries who were born and grew up and worked and lived and died with only natural daylight, so to speak. Oh, they had the light of the fire in their hearth, at night. That’s all. Firewood was precious. They used no more than they had to.

Candles were enormously expensive. And rare. Only the very rich could afford them. These folks got up just before the sun rose in order to make the most of the daylight. And went to bed quite soon after the sun went down. They stayed in bed far longer in the winter than the summer. Had to. They accepted that. No other choice. They knew no other life.

Imagine the world as a big onion. A huge, huge onion. Imagine that onion as the history of the world. Of mankind. And think of this: That thin, flimsy outer skin represents the only period of time in history when we have had real, reliable, effective artificial light, available by flicking a switch. All those generations of people under that outer skin never had it. Couldn’t even imagine it. Their first big break-through was spermaceti oil, from whales they pursued across the oceans. And that was only two centuries or so ago.

The next morning dawned gray. I looked out the window. The branches of the big trees were hardly moving. All the predictions were that Sandy’s powerful landfall would happen last night. I walked to the window. The storm seemed over. Could it be?
I had in mind only one thing. To get to Cumberland Farms the minute it opened. Gas would be running out. I wanted to tank up. Cumberland Farms was closed tight. An employee at the door said. “Go to Cumberland Farms in Centerbrook. They got gas. But don’t wait!”

I rushed there. It was jammed with cars and people. I did manage to tank up. Inside, I got a hot coffee. I had to wait in line for it.
Paying the clerk, I said, “What are you going to run out of first? Gas? Or coffee?” He managed a laugh. “We’ve got plenty of coffee. But gas? Not sure. We get our gas out of New Haven. And that don’t look good!”

I kept busy throughout the day, at this and that. I ate a cold lunch. Not the beans, by the way.n As night fell, I thought of supper. By then I remembered that somewhere I still had a one-burning propane camping stove left over from my camping days.  Plus a can of propane. In fact, two. They were small, but I wouldn’t waste.

Propane is notoriously dangerous. Where to set up the stove? I tried here and there. Finally I placed it right in my kitchen sink. That seemed safest. I put one of my fire extinguishers right next to it. And put a match to the nozzle. The stove fired up instantly–it  hadn’t been used in 15 years! Carbon monoxide can be a killer. But I planned to use it only 15 minutes. I didn’t even consider finishing my can of beans. I made myself a thick, hearty soup. Based on ramen noodles, I admit. Ramen noodles—that’s another great invention. I added chunks of tofu and spoonfuls of beans. Added chopped-up carrots and celery and some leftover cooked turnip and peas. Delicious!

The evening was young. I remembered Bob Johnson’s invitation. There are friends, and there are good friends. Bob is a good friend. We’re about the same age  tut have different backgrounds and that keeps things interesting. I knew Bob had electricity. “Come on over,” he told me. “Don’t be bashful.” Bob is a clever guy. He had anticipated. He has a big portable electric generator and he had it going.  He had lights, heat, the whole works. And I had just candlepower, so to speak..

I drove over. His lights were on. The only one lit up on the street, it seemed.  My arrival was a surprise, of course. But he gave me a great big “Hello! Come on in!” Our big topic was Sandy, of course. He was following the hurricane via the Internet!  progress.  He told me, “Just another hour or  so and we’ll really get walloped!” Scary! We talked and talked. He invited me to check my emails, which I did. How generous. I returned home. The wind was picking up. Trees and branches were swaying. It will be an awful night, I kept thinking.  Sandy was about to hit!

I lit only one tiny candle. It was time for bed. I pulled the covers up high over me.  Some light came in through the window. The branches were going crazy.  I kept thinking, What will it be like out there in the morning? In minutes I was sound asleep.
At dawn, I looked out first thing. How bad it was it? No shrill wind. Hardly and wind at all. No rain. The trees were still. Plain exhausted, I’m sure. This was the third morning—the height of the storm.! The storm seemed over. Gosh!

I had backed-up errands to do in Saybrook. I lost no time. I cleared my windshields of leaves and took off. Deep River was dramatically quiet. Few people out. On I drove.  I braced myself for Old Saybrook. The damage must be awful. But downtown was fine. I stopped by Burger King. Many people ahead of me. I heard about the huge damage along the coast. Two hundred people again had taken refuge in the high school gym for the night. I did my errands.

Then on to the Acton Library. It had been shuttered, of course. Now it was jammed. The parking lot was full. Every seat inside was taken. I understood. What’s more pleasant than a nice, welcoming library under harsh circumstances like these? I spent a long time there. Then I rode around a bit. I saw branches down. A tree or two. People were already out, raking and picking up. I drover closer to the coast. Much more tree damage. But I didn’t get to see any of the destruction and incredible that I later saw in the media.

It was nearly 6 when I returned to Deep River. A few lights were on, but isolated. These folks must have generators going, too. Cumberland Farm was dark.  The Town Hall had lights on but was closed.Our Deep River Library had lights, too, but also closed. But those lights boosted my hopes for Piano Works.  Then Piano Works appeared. A big black hulk, totally lifeless, against the night sky.

How could I explain that, with so many other lights on in town? I could not. What to do? I picked my way along the pitch-black hallway to my apartment with the narrow beam of my flashlight. Home, I lit a candle. Then another. What now? I was hungry. I lit my small burner and made myself a really decent supper.

The thought of  spending the long evening alone here by candle-light had lost its appeal. And I thought my experience with the candles might interest you. I decided to write it up for you. But where?  Impossible here. I blew out the candles, turned on my flashlight, and got to my car. And drove to my friend’s, Bob. His light would be aglow, of course. I brought along my laptop. He could watch TV. I’d sit in a corner and write this for you while it was fresh in my mind.

I was at Bob’s in five minutes. The whole house was black! What a disappointment. He must be at his son’s, Bob. What now? I really wanted to write this. To Burger King in Saybrook! It would be open. I even knew where I’d sit with my coffee.  There was a table and a chair at the far back—right next to an outlet. I could plug in there. Good. I needed an outlet. My netbooks battery would die in a jiffy.

I made my purchase and hurried to that favored table. Oops! A young guy was sitting there, his computer going, and it was plugged in. But it was a double outlet. Maybe I could plug in to the second outlet. But he had had something else connected there, too.

What frustration. A new idea. I returned to my car, put my laptop in it, and picked up a pad and pen. Chose another quiet corner. And began writing this the old-fashioned way. Longhand. And got it written. Well, in draft form.

By the time I was finished, it was bedtime.  I looked back. The young guy was gone. Maybe long gone. The plug was available. I had never noticed. So engrossed. I’d still have to type this. When power returned. That might be a few days off. Home I went. I expected nothing new. The same cold, bleak blackness. But! Piano Works had lights on. Not only at the front door. In many windows here and there. Wow! I Inside, the corridors were lit! had power in my place! I flipped on lights. Turned up the thermostat. After three days, life was back to normal. Hallelujah!

My experience was irritating. Yes, definitely. But I was so much luckier than so many others.  Some friends went without power for another two days.  And so many other folks suffered so much, as we know. Experienced devastating losses of property. Face a long struggle and severe financial challenges to fully recover.  If they all eventually do. Maybe you are one. I hope not. Two blessings.  One was that our local water supply did not seem affected. Mine ran strong and clean. And we didn’t have a severe cold snap. Like this recent one. That would have made Sandy even tougher.

And it made me appreciate Thomas Edison as never before. He gave us the modern electric bulb. How marvelous. Sandy reminded me of that. He gave us 100-candlepower bulbs! 200-candlepower! And with little risk of fire!

As I think back, Sandy taught me more than just what one candlepower is. I’m grateful for that.

Essex Town Meeting Approves CRRA Lease and Police Budget Overrun

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a new 15-year contract and a lease agreement with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), and a $106,574 overrun in the police budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The town meeting, held amid a developing early season snow storm, attracted only a handful of residents. All of the agenda items were approved on unanimous voice votes.

The resolution involving agreements with the regional trash authority included a new 15-year contract with CRRA for disposal of solid waste and recyclables, along with a new and updated agreement with CRRA for lease of a town parcel that houses the solid waste transfer station that serves a nine town region. The existing contract and lease agreement with the authority is set to expire later this month.

Under the agreements negotiated by First Selectman Norman Needleman and members of the sanitary waste commission, the town will receive up front payments totaling $229,721 for unpaid rent on the transfer station site, located on Dump Road off Route 154, along with several years of unpaid host town benefits that were promised when Essex agreed to be the host town for the authority’s regional transfer station.

The regional transfer station, which serves nine area towns in the former Connecticut River Estuary regional planning area, opened in the late 1980s. The facility compacts solid waste and collects recyclables from the area towns for compacting and trucking to the CRRA incinerator and collection site in Hartford.

Along with the back payments, the town will receive $15,000 per year in rent for the regional transfer station site, and a host town benefit of .54 cents per ton for each ton of material processed at the facility. The amount of the host town benefit would vary from year to year, but would have totalled about $37,000 from the 2012-2013 year. Essex would still be required to pay the authority a $59.50 per ton tipping fee for solid waste and recyclables from the town that are processed at the facility.

The $106,574 overrun in the 2012-2013 police budget resulted largely from overtime, including all of the overtime for a second resident state trooper that was retained in 2011 when the force of local police officers was understaffed because two officers were on leave for various reasons.

Democrats Carry Chester, Deep River and Essex Despite Senate Loss for Crawford

AREAWIDE— Led by the Obama/Biden presidential ticket, Democrats carried all races on the ballot Tuesday in Chester, Deep River, and Essex, despite narrow margins in the 33rd Senate District race that contributed to the defeat of Democratic nominee Jim Crawford.

Crawford, a former teacher and state representative from Westbrook, lost to Republican nominee Art Linares Jr., a 24 year-old businessman and former U.S. Senate intern, in a race where Green Party nominee Melissa Schlag pulled nearly 10 percent of the total vote. Linares, also a Westbrook resident, carried seven of the 12 district towns, including Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Lyme, and portions of the district in Old Saybrook. Crawford carried Chester, Deep River, Essex, Portland, and Westbrook.

The unofficial final result, including Colchester numbers that were not available Tuesday night, are Linares- 26,896, Crawford- 21,220, and Schlag- 4,316. Crawford carried Essex by only a single vote, 1,750 for Linares to 1,749 for Crawford, with 243 votes for Schlag. The vote in Chester was Linares- 795, Crawford-976, and Schlag-229. In Deep River, it was Linares-1,052, Crawford-1,079, and Schlag-195.

Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller carried the three area towns on his way to winning a full term in the 36th House District over Republican Vince Pacileo. Miller, a former four-term first selectman of Essex, had 2,210 votes in Essex to 1,588 for Pacileo, also a former town selectman. The Chester result was 1,315 for Miller to 676 for Pacileo. In Deep River, it was 1,419 for Miller to 894 for Pacileo. The total result was 7,105 for Miller to 5,352 for Pacileo, with Pacileo carrying Haddam.

In the presidential results, Democrats Obama/Biden carried Essex, with 2,230 votes for Obama/Biden to 1,701 votes for Republicans Romney/Ryan. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had 29 votes. In Chester, it was Obama/Biden-1,380, Romney/Ryan-707, and 16 votes for Johnson. In Deep River, it was Obama/Biden-1,479, Romney/Ryan-932 and 16 votes for Johnson.

Democrat Chris Murphy carried the three towns in the U.S. Senate race. for Essex, Murphy-2,060, Republican Linda McMahon-1,650 and Libertarian Paul Passarelli-94. For Chester, Murphy-1,270, McMahon-711, and Passarelli-53. For Deep River, Murphy-1,354, McMahon-984, and Passarelli-63.

Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney carried the three towns to win a fourth term in the 2nd Congressional District. In Essex, it was Courtney-2,418 votes to 1,293 votes for Republican challenger Paul Formica. In Chester, Courtney-1,481, Formica-481. In Deep River, it was Courtney-1,629, Formica-658. Green Party candidatre Colin Benett had 38 votes in Essex, 45 in Chester, and 43 in Deep River. Libertarian Roger Reale had 49 votes in Essex, 18 in Chester, and 25 in Deep River.

State Representative Phil Miller Wins a Full Term; Saddened by Running Mate’s Loss

State Representative Phil Miller smiles wearily at his victory celebration on Election Night at the Griswold Inn in Essex

Although State Representative Phil Miller won his race by a comfortable margin, the fact that his running mate for State Senator, Jim Crawford, lost, cast a pall over his own victory. In beating his Republican opponent, Vin Pacileo, Miller won with a comfortable margin of over 1,700 votes.

Early totals had Miller receiving 7,083 votes to Pacileo’s 5,344 votes. In his 36th House district race Miller carried the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester. However, he lost Haddam to his Republican opponent.

Looking ahead Miller said that among other environmental issues, he would work to clean up existing pollution sites in the state. Miller is presently the Vice Chair of the House’s Environmental Committee. He said that at the next session he might attain the post as Chair of the committee.

Miller also said that he had no regrets about his sending out a letter to constituents during the campaign, pointing out that in the 33rd district State Senate race that a vote for Green Party candidate Melissa Schlag could lead to the election of the Republican candidate.   This is of course exactly what happened.

Republican Art Linares Wins 33rd Senate District Race

AREAWIDE— Republican Art Linares Jr. of Westbrook was elected as the new state senator for the 33rd District Tuesday, defeating the Democratic nominee, State Rep.Jim Crawford of Westbrook, in a race where Green Party nominee Melissa Schlag of Haddam garnered more than 10 percent of the total vote.

Linares, who succeeds ten-term Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook in the 12-town district, becomes the first Republican to hold the seat since 1992, and at age 24, one of the youngest state senators in Connecticut history. Linares carried only half of the district towns, but ran up wide margins in the northern towns of the district to outpoll Crawford by about 2,000 votes.  A preliminary total showed Linares with 20,236 votes to 18,153 for Crawford, with Schlag pulling nearly 4,000 votes.

Linares carried Clinton, Colchester ,East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Lyme and the sections of Old Saybrook in the district. Crawford carried Westbrook, the home town for both he and Linares, Chester, Deep River, Essex and Portland. But the Democrat’s margins were narrow in some towns, less than 50 votes in both Deep River and Essex. Schlag polled more than 1,000 votes in her hometown of Haddam.

The results in the three Region 4 towns include Chester- 975 for Crawford, 793 for Linares, and 228 for Schlag. In Deep River, it was 1,073 for Crawford, 1,049 for Linares, and 195 for Schlag. In Essex it was 1,762 for Crawford, 1,754 for Linares, and 243 for Schlag.

The mood was quiet among supporters at Crawford’s gathering at the Griswold Inn in Essex. The candidate remained sequestered in a side room with family members and his closest supporters as results from the four towns were phoned in. By 9:30 p.m. it became clear that Crawford was trailing. Daily and her husband, Jim, were also on hand with the group of supporters.

Crawford later told supporters he was more disappointed for them than for himself. “This did not turn out the way we hoped it would,” he said, adding “the kid worked hard and made it happen. We did the best we could, still it has been a hell of a lot of fun.”

There was excitement at the Linares gathering at the Water’s Edge in Westbrook, with more than 100 supporters cheering as Linares arrived to claim victory around 10:15 p.m. Linares hugged two key supporters who are both former state representatives for the 35th House District that has been represented for the last two years by Crawford, Republican Sidney Holbrook and Democrat Robert Landino. Holbrook held the House seat from 1982 to 1995, and was succeeded by Landino, who held the seat from 1995 to 2000.

Linares, who was a student in Crawford’s social studies class at Westbrook Middle School, praised his former teacher as “an honest and decent man.” He promised to “reach out” to both Crawford and Schlag and “welcome their input.” Linares also thanked his parents, father Arthur Linares Sr and mother, Robin, and his younger brother, Ryan, who served as campaign manager. “We have seen what business as usual has done to our state and tonight marks the dawn of a new era,” he said.

Schlag said she has no regrets about the race.  “I am very proud of my accomplishments and a grass roots campaign,” she said. Schlag said she wishes Linares “strength and courage to fight for the people and not become a pawn of his party.”

Erratum
Please note than an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Art Linares lost the town of Lyme.  Linares won the vote in the town of Lyme by 655 votes to Crawford’s 583 votes.

The Polls on Election Day in Essex, Deep River and Chester; They Close at 8:00 p.m.

The early morning rush had just ended, but there was still a steady stream of voters coming into the polling stations of Essex, Deep River and Chester. By and large it looked like a large turnout of voters in the three towns.

In Essex the largest polling station in town is at Essex Town Hall. Although campaign supporters are not permitted to get too close to the Town Hall entrance door, they are permitted to hold their campaign signs at the entrance of the Town Hall parking lot.

State Representative Phil Miller at Essex Town Hall parking lot

State Representative Phil Miller of the 36th House district was personally on hand, as were sign carrying supporters of State Senate candidates in the 33rd Senate district, specifically, Democratic candidate James Crawford and Green Party candidate Melissa Schlag.

Also, in the parking lot, just after they both had voted, were the Republican 36th House district candidate, Vin Pacileo, and his wife, Laura. Neither Miller nor Pacileo made an outright prediction that they were going to win the race, though Miller said that he was “cautiously optimistic.”

Republican State Representative challenger Vin Pacileo and his wife, Laura

Up in Deep River at the polling place just behind the Deep River Library, there was also a steady stream of voters.  Working alone at the very entrance of the parking lot was local Deep River architect, John Kennedy. Kennedy is an avid supporter of Melissa Schlag, the 33rd Senate district candidate on the Green Party Line, as his decorated van illustrated.

“Melissa Schlag for State Senate” supporter, John Kennedy in Deep River

Although fervent in his support for Schlag, Kennedy hesitated to make a prediction that her victory was a “shoe in.”

Next stop, going up the west bank of the Connecticut River is the Town of Chester. By far the busiest voting station in Chester is at the Town Hall. A steady stream of voters was entering Town Hall from the parking lot to cast their ballots late in the morning.

On hand to great voters at the very entrance of the parking lot were two Democratic stalwarts, Peter Zamarei and Larry DiBernardo. Both said that the polls had been very busy throughout the morning. However, as Zamarei pointed out, “Voting is a very personal thing,” and he felt that people do not talk a lot about who they voted for.

Democratic Party supporters, Peter Zanarei and Larry DiBernardo in Chester

Also, DiBernado said that there had been no arguments at the polls. “It is too late to argue,” was the way he put it.  The campaign signs beside the two campaigners mentioned the entire Democratic ticket, including the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

Obama re-election signs were not evident at either the Essex or Deep River polling stations mentioned above.

“Linda,” the Winner of the Political Lawn Sign War in Essex

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon has besieged Essex with lawn signs

Regardless of her qualifications for the U.S. Senate, pro or con, the clear winner of the campaign sign war in Essex is without question Republican candidate Linda McMahon.  Even a town fire hydrant is not safe from the draping of a “Linda” campaign sign.

McMahon’s campaign sign effort has two distinctive characteristics. One is that her campaign signs appeared in Essex weeks before any other candidate.  Also, in most cases McMahon shares her campaign sign positions with other Republican candidates, such as Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and State Representative candidate Vin Pacileo.

“Linda’s” lawn signs share positions with other Republican candidates as well

Democrats Came Late to the Lawns of Essex

Even now, as close as it is to the Election Day, President Obama and other Democratic candidates are way, way behind in lawn sign postings in this shoreline town. When the Democratic campaign sign postings finally did come into view, they included the signs of McMahon’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, Chris Murphy, and in a few cases the top of the ticket of Obama/Biden.

Late in the campaign a few lawn signs for President Obama and Senate candidate Chris Murphy appeared

In the polls Murphy appears to be leading McMahon, regardless of the Republican candidate’s lawn sign advantage.

The reason for the paucity of lawn signs by the Democrats in towns like Essex, could well be that national Democratic strategists take for granted that Connecticut will vote for the Obama ticket.

So why waste precious campaign resources? Better to concentrate on the “Battleground States,” which virtually all commentators say will decide the national election.

This Republican sign poster wants to sell his house as well as his candidates

Foul Play in Lawn Sign War Alleged by Essex Resident

According to Essex resident Jane Siris, her Obama lawn sign, and those of several of her neighbors, are now “missing. “There were few of them to begin with,” she also said.

Originally, there was an Obama lawn sign here as well, but it was removed by persons unknown

Finally, there is an interesting footnote to the lawn sign story in Essex. On one of the most expensive properties in town, overlooking the water at Foxboro Point, there are just two campaign lawn signs in view. One is for “Linda,” and the other is for Romney.

The lawn signs of choice of a large land owner on Foxboro Point, “Linda” and Romney

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Endorses Linares For Connecticut State Senate

Connecticut State Senate candidate Art Linares and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last week endorsed Art Linares in his race for the 33rd District State Senate seat.

While it is rare for a sitting governor – let alone a governor of Christie’s stature – to endorse a candidate running for election to another state’s legislature, Christie said, “Our region and our country are facing critical challenges that will only be met if we elect strong leaders in state houses across our nation. Art Linares is a strong leader who is ready to meet those challenges.”

Linares was an active volunteer on the ‘Chris Christie for Governor Campaign’ in 2009 and has stayed in contact with the Governor since that time. The two recently discussed policy and Linares’s State Senate race while the Governor was in Connecticut.

“I’m honored to have Governor Christie’s support for my campaign for the 33rd state Senate district.  In observing Governor Christie on the campaign trail and in public office, I’ve learned to always speak from the heart, be honest and straightforward, and always fight for your principles. Whether you agree with his politics or not, Republicans, Democrats and Independents can admire those attributes in Governor Christie; I know I do,” said Linares.

Christie, who gave the prestigious keynote address at this year’s Republican National Convention, served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey from 2002 to 2008. He was sworn in as New Jersey’s 55th Governor on January 19, 2010; since then he has been a strong leader making it a priority to reduce the tax burden on residents and business, promote job growth and transparency in state government. Most recently he has demonstrated his strong leadership abilities in his tireless efforts on behalf of New Jersey residents tragically affected by Hurricane Sandy this past week.

To make a donation to support the recovery process after Hurricane Sandy, visit  www.redcross.org/charitable-donations

For more information on Linares’s State Senate campaign, visit www.artlinares.com.

33rd Senate Race Takes Sharper Turn in Final Days

AREAWIDE— The three candidate contest for the open 33rd Senate District seat has taken a sharper tone in the campaign’s final days with a mailing from Democratic candidate Jim Crawford highlighting an endorsement for Republican nominee Art Linares from the Family Institute, a conservative group that stresses social issues such as abortion and opposing rights for homosexuals.

Crawford, a former Westbrook selectman and the one-term Democratic state representative for the 35th House District, is competing with Linares, a 24-year-old businessman of Cuban heritage from Westbrook, for the seat held for the past two decades by Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. The race is complicated by an active campaign waged by Green Party nominee Melissa Schlag, a civic activist from Haddam who organized opposition last year to the now cancelled Connecticut River land swap that was supported by Daily.

Crawford also has the ballot line of the Working Families Party, while Linares also has the line of the Independent Party, a Waterbury-based group that supported former Chester First Selectman Tom Marsh for governor in 2010.

Both Crawford and Linares faced challenges for their party nominations in a race that fully developed after Daily announced her decision to retire on May 15. Linares was edged on a 24-22 delegate vote at the May 14 GOP nominating convention by Neil Nichols, the Essex Republican who was Daily’s opponent in 2010. But days later Nichols withdrew and endorsed Linares. Crawford faced a primary challenge from Mary Ellen Klinck, a former state commissioner on aging and longtime party activist from East Haddam. Crawford defeated Klinck by 498 votes in the Aug. 14 primary.

All three campaigns have been well funded, with Crawford raising $145,000 and Linares raising $107,000, totals that include funding grants received under the state’s Citizens Elections Program. Schlag has also raised significant funding as a third party candidate, reporting contributions totaling $13,243 on the latest campaign finance report.

In two public debates last month, the candidates stressed economic issues. Crawford cited his support for a bipartisan jobs bill last fall and called for increased support for community colleges and technical schools. Linares, who is a co-founder of the Middletown-based Green Skies solar energy company, contended tax increases supported by Crawford in the 2011 state budget plan have hampered businesses and economic recovery. Linares has also criticized Crawford’s support for an early release program for prison inmates that was initiated by the administration of Democratic governor Dannel Malloy. Schlag has stressed her independence from the two major political parties and special interests, advocating a progressive agenda that includes higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthy, along with term limits and greater transparency in government.
But a late campaign mailing from Crawford has shifted some of the focus in the race by noting the support for Linares from the conservative Family Institute group that pushes social issues, while cautioning liberal and progressive voters that supporting Schlag could help elect an “ultra-conservative Republican.”

The district-wide mailing declares that  “when right-wing extremist group the Family Institute endorses Art Linares, it should give us all pause.” The mailing says Linares solicited an endorsement from the group, declaring he is “too inexperienced to understand the impact the Family Institute’s divisive policies have on real people.” The mailing also addresses Schlag’s campaign, declaring “there is to much at stake in this election to risk your vote.”

In an interview Friday, Schlag  said she has “received a lot of backlash from Democratic Party leaders saying I’m ruining it.” Schlag said she would “not be beholden to party leaders,” adding “if that is the mentality we might as well have a perpetual vote on your tax return.” Schlag has been endorsed by the New London Day and the Norwich Bulletin, two newspapers that cover towns on the eastern edge of the 12-town district.

In an interview Thursday, Crawford praised Schlag as a “worthy opponent”, while suggesting that most of the votes she garners would be pulled from district Democrats. “I am worried about it,” he said. Linares, who did not mention social issues like abortion and homosexual rights during the debates, could not be reached late this week for comment on the Crawford mailing.

Both Crawford and Schlag said Linares is “too inexperienced” to serve in the state senate, though Crawford added that he is pleased to see Linares, a former student in his middle school social studies class “take it to the next level,” by running for public office. 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.

Sandy’s Storm Waters Only Nine Inches from the Floor of the Pettipaug Yacht Club Clubhouse

Club dinghies on porch of clubhouse

Before the storm, volunteer work crews at Essex’s Pettipaug Yacht Club put all of the club’s dinghies up on the raised deck of the clubhouse. It paid off, with just nine inches to spare.

The waters of the Connecticut River completely covered the grounds of the club’s property, but did not reach the elevated floor the clubhouse. In fact, if the waters had been just inches higher, they it could have swept away the club’s dinghies.
The high water mark is shown by the storm’s debris left on the clubhouse’s steps.

Sandy Forces Connecticut River Museum To Close For Flood Damage Repair

(l-r) , Bogaert Construction Supervisor Paul Deckelman , CRM Executive Director Jerry Roberts and Bogaert Construction Principle Bruce Lawrence assess damage from flooding in the Connecticut River Museum’s Boathouse Education Center.

Essex, CT – With Essex Village still in the dark in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, flood damage cleanup and repair work has begun at the Connecticut River Museum.  Situated on the banks of the Connecticut River, the National Register 1878 steamboat warehouse that houses the Museum’s exhibit galleries, education center and gift shop saw over a foot of water flood the first floor while the basement of the adjacent chandlery building was awash in waist-high waters.   The schooner Mary E was moved to safe harbor at Deep River Marina while storm preparation efforts by Museum staff and friends on Sunday afternoon, which included moving every item up to the second floor gallery, greatly decreased the overall loss.    Early assessments indicate that, at minimum, most of the first floor wood flooring and carpeting along with sections of drywall and some electronics will have to be replaced.  The Museum is closed to the public with plans to open in a limited capacity for the opening of the annual Holiday Train Show on November 16.

“While we are relieved that we did not lose anything that is irreplaceable or of historic value, the repair and restoration process will be a significant financial setback for us,” stated Executive Director Jerry Roberts, “Insurance coverage is in place but we are looking at tens of thousands of dollars of damage that is not covered.  We are now taking complete inventory of the storm’s impact and looking for other sources of disaster relief funding.”

Museum Executive Director Jerry Roberts, pictured, said it was too early to quantify damages (photo by Jerome Wilson)

This is the second hit to the Museum in the last few years.  In August 2010, a fire destroyed portions of the roof, exterior siding and docks and caused interior water and smoke damage.  Those restorations efforts were completed in 2011.

The Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.  More information can be found at www.ctrivermuseum.org.   Donations may be sent to Connecticut River Museum, 67 Main Street, Essex, CT 06426.

Museum’s treasured schooner, the Mary E, sat out the storm at Deep River marina (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Letter: Kudos to the Chester Fire Department

To the editor:

At the height of Hurricane Sandy, the apple tree in our fron yard blew down, blocking access to Spring Street. As instructed by the Chester town website, we called the Fire Department. They were just amazing — they arrived in less than five minutes and in driving rain and fierce wind cleared the road in under ten minutes.

Everybody should take a minute to thank a firefighter today. I’m so grateful to them for what they do for us all at great personal risk.

Oh, and sending a donation wouldn’t hurt if you can do it.  We sure will be.

Thanks again to the great folks of the Chester squad!

Sincerely,

Leslie Ann Holbrook
Chester 

Deep River Fire Department Welcomes Trick or Treaters!

Hurricane Sandy didn’t stop the ghosts and goblins of Deep River from making their rounds and with most of the Town still without power the fire department made it just a little bit safer.

The Deep River Fire Department set up their Rescue Truck’s light tower in the firehouse parking lot and passed out treats to close to 200 kids. In all they went through 80 premade goodie bags and an additional 12 more bags of candy. It was also a great spot for the kids and adults to take a break too and due to the overwhelming response the Department is planning on making this an annual event.