November 27, 2014

Chantey Blast To Benefit Connecticut River Museum – Jan 15

Top chantey singers Rick Spencer (above), Geoff Kaufman, Dan Quinn and Joseph Morneault will perform at Chantey Blast to benefit the Connecticut River Museum on January 15.

Top chantey singers Rick Spencer (above), Geoff Kaufman, Dan Quinn and Joseph Morneault will perform at Chantey Blast to benefit the Connecticut River Museum on January 15.

Essex, CT – When word got out that the Connecticut River Museum had sustained severe flood damage from Hurricane Sandy, area maritime musicians decided to rally for the cause and put on a benefit concert to raise funds to help offset the $70,000 of repair expense.  Chantey Blast, scheduled for Tuesday, January 15 at the Centerbrook Meeting House, will feature some of New England’s top sea chantey singers in a rollicking celebration of the Connecticut River.  The concert will showcase the many talents of musicians Rick Spencer, Dan Quinn, Geoff Kaufman and Joseph Morneault and others in both solo performances and group arrangements.  The event kicks off at 6:00 pm with a chantey man “meet and greet” and a bit of libation followed by the show from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

The Centerbrook Meeting House is located at 51 Main Street in the Centerbrook section of Essex . Parking and seating is limited so come early.  The suggested donation is $20 but all are welcome.  The Connecticut River Museum is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.  For more information, go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860.767.8269.

Essex Library Presents “The Building Next Door” – Jan. 11

The Nationale-Nederlanden building by Frank Gehry, built in Prague, Czech Republic, known as “Fred and Ginger” for its resemblance to a dancing couple, is one of the designs featured in  “The Building Next Door” with John Dixon, FAIA, on January 11th at 7 PM at Essex Town Hall, part of Essex Library’s Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series.

The Nationale-Nederlanden building by Frank Gehry, built in Prague, Czech Republic, known as “Fred and Ginger” for its resemblance to a dancing couple, is one of the designs featured in “The Building Next Door” with John Dixon, FAIA, on January 11th at 7 PM at Essex Town Hall, part of Essex Library’s Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series.

The Essex Library presents “The Building Next Door: How Architecture Relates To Its Context”, a talk by John Morris Dixon, FAIA, part of the continuing Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series, Friday  January 11th at 7 PM at Essex Town Hall.

Every building is necessarily related to its surroundings, whether natural or constructed. But the pioneers of Modern architecture rarely gave much thought to neighboring buildings, because their ultimate goal was to replace them all. Around the 1960s, architects began to realize that the context of their works was going to stay around a while. Their designs increasingly took into account the scale, proportions, and materials of nearby structures, as well as established patterns of physical development. In some cases the pendulum swung too far, and “contextualism” was understood as a making new construction look just like its neighbors. Thoughtful contrast can be as effective a response to context as conformity. This talk will deal with revealing examples of architecture in context from around the world and right here in Connecticut.

An MIT graduate, John Morris Dixon began his career as an architectural journalist in 1960. He served as chief editor of Progressive Architecture 1972-96, helping achieve the magazine’s worldwide influence. The breadth of his knowledge and insight has made John Dixon a much-valued observer on numerous design juries and selection panels. In recent years, he has written for such publications as Architectural Record, Architectural Research Quarterly, Architecture, Competitions, Domus, Harvard Design Magazine, House & Garden, Office insight, and Places.

This talk is free and open to the public; Essex Town Hall is located at 29 West Avenue.please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560 for more information or to register for this program.

Little Chester Has Some Big Time Restaurants. Here’s What They Offer (Part 2)

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

As we mentioned in Part 1 of our review of Chester restaurants, it is truly a wonder that such a little town has so many fine restaurants. Part 1 profiled four of them, the Villager, Simons Marketplace, River Tavern and Pattaconk 1850. Here in Part 2 are four more Chester restaurants.

Cabo Tequila Grill

Karen Williams, the Manager of Cabo Tequila Grill, is virtually a one woman show. For instance, she personally squeezes one lime at a time to concoct, perhaps one should say to mastermind, the ten different kinds of margaritas that are offered at the Cabo Tequila Grill.

The eye catching sign of the Cabo restaurant on Water Street

The eye catching sign of the Cabo restaurant on Water Street

Williams says that the “Traditional” margarita is still the favorite at her Water Street restaurant. At Cabo its ingredients are: Milagro Silver Tequila, Agavero Orange Liquor and fresh limes (hand squeezed by the manager).  The runner up in popularity is the “Pomegranate” margarita, made from Don Julio Anejo Tequila, Stirrings Pomegranate Liquor and, again, fresh hand-squeezed lime juice.

Cabo Manager Karen Williams and daughter Karen

Cabo Manager Karen Williams and daughter Morgan

Price-Saving Specials at Cabo

There are regular weekday specials at Cabo Taquila Grill. They include: Margarita Monday,” when traditional margaritas are reduced to $6 each. In the same vein on Tequila Taco Tuesday, the special is three Street Tacos and a shot of Don Jula Silver for $7. Then, there’s Wine Wednesday, where you get a bottle of wine at half price, when purchased with an entrée, and finally on Thirsty Thursday, the price for top-ranked Sauze Hornitos Margaritas are $6, which is $2.50 off the regular price.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the prices are as stated on the menu, but none of them would break the bank.  For example, the Appetizer, Cabos Nachos, which is made from refried beans, and no less than eight other ingredients, costs but $11.95.

As for Entrees the long list of selections includes, Chicken Enchiladas for $15.95; as well as a Pulled Pork Taco, accompanied by corn tortillas with queso fresco, pico de gallo, sour cream and sofrito rice and refried greens, also for $15.95.

For dessert Cabo Tequila Grill serves homemade flan and a chocolate Mexican cake from a “secret recipe,” among other the desert items.

Not a “Slop on the Plate” Tex Mex Restaurant!”

Speaking with emphasis Williams says that, “Cabo is not you’re run of the mill ‘slop on the plate’ Tex Mex restaurant.” “We only serve fresh ingredients,” she says, and “All of our margaritas have fresh squeezed lime juice.”

Williams is assisted by her daughter, Morgan, who her mother says, “is a cook herself.” Right now “mother” Williams says that she is working as much as seven days a week. Also, she has managed Cabo since it opened in Chester four years ago.

Williams is originally from Massachusetts, but she is now a big booster of her new hometown of Chester. She terms it, “a cute, quaint little town, which has some wonderful people in it.” She especially likes Chester’s, “comfortable at home atmosphere,” adding that she finds her customers to be “a lot of fun.”

Cabo is open seven days a week. Hours are: Monday through Thursday from 5 pm to 9 pm, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 pm to 10 pm. The restaurant is at 4 Water Street in Chester, and the telephone number is 860-526-8277.

Restaurant L & E

“We serve quality food in a comfortable and inviting atmosphere,” is how L & E co-owner Linda Reid describes the dining experience at her L & E Restaurant in downtown Chester. The “L” in the restaurant’s name, incidentally, stands for “Linda,” and the “E” is for Everett, the first names of the two, married owners of the restaurant.

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

The Reid’s opened their L & E restaurant close to four years ago, taking up the space that was previously Restaurant Du Village. The Reid’s have continued the French theme of their predecessor with a “French 75 Bar” on the first floor, and with many French styled selections on the menu. Also, a number of the staff, who once worked for Du Village, now work at L & E.

The “French 75 Bar” at L & E must takes its name, perhaps, from the French 75 field gun of World War 1. Also, in 1915 Harry’s bar in Paris created a “French 75” drink made from gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar.

The French Food at L & E

There is also a strong French emphasis in the food that they serve at L & E. For example, Starters include a Salad of Duck Confit, an item which consists of Celery Root Puree, Gingered Figs and Red Wine Syrup.

A highlight on the Soup and Salad section on themenu is s French Onion Soup with Cherry Vinegar, Three Cheeses and Braised Oxtails, and one of the salads is Pan Fried Chicken Livers with Smoked Bacon Lardons, Frisee and Poached Egg.

Entrées include Venison “Osso Bucco” with Sweet Potato Sardalize Gratin and a Salad of Pears and Dried Black Cherries. Another entre is Pan Seared Atlantic Skate Wings with Brown Butter with Pancetta and Leek Confit with a salad of Arugula and Cranberry Beans.

A New Second Floor Restaurant

In additional to the downstairs that L & E took over from Du Village, the Reid’s have created an Upstairs L & E out of what was once an apartment on the floor above the restaurant.

Although it is a steep climb up the stairs to reach this second floor restaurant,   the upstairs space is billed as a perfect place for private functions. Also, it is open to the public on weekends, offering such fare as Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Golden Spotted Tilefish, which Linda Reid characterizes as “Beautiful.”

Prior to moving to Chester, Linda and Everett Reid for several decades owned the  American Seasons Restaurant on Nantucket Island, and, subsequently, a bistro, also on Nantucket.

Background of the Head Chef at L & E

Chef Everett G. Reid received his training at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and his ownership of earlier restaurants earned him considerable press attention. Chef Everett has also been publicly recognized as one of the “Great Chefs of the East.”

The Chef’s wife and partner, Linda Reid, has developed a passion and deep knowledge of American wines, and she has been recognized in the Wine Spectator magazine.

On Tuesdays L & E offers “Burger Nights,” which feature for $14 a “sumptuous” burger with fries and a glass of house wine or a beer. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, there is also a $25 Prix Fixe dinner.

The prices on the main menu range from $12 to $21 for Starters; $12 to $14 for Soups and Salads, and $26 to $32 for Entrees. Prices are similar at the Upstairs       L & E.  The restaurant is closed Monday and is open Tuesdays thru Sundays from 5:00 to 9:00. The Upstairs L & E is open Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 9:00.

L & E is located at 59 Mains Street, and the telephone number is 860-526-5301.

The Wheatmarket

Most people think of The Wheatmarket down on Water Street, as a great place for lunch, and they are right. As co-owner Joan Welch says, “We do a brisk lunch business.”

Exterior of the popular Wheatmarket down on Water Street

Exterior of the popular Wheatmarket down on Water Street

The Wheatmarket at lunch time offers the following made-to-order sandwiches: (1) a chicken and grape salad sandwich, (2) a store roasted, top round of beef sandwich with horse radish and cheddar cheese, (3) a tuna works sandwich with sprouts, carrots, dill and Havarti cheese, (4) an old-fashioned bacon, lettuce and bacon sandwich, as well as other sandwich selections.

Also at lunch time The Wheatmarket features “made from scratch” soups, including a homemade baked potato soup; chicken rice and a chicken noodle soups; house made chili; and cream soups of asparagus, tomato or potato. Deserts feature slices of Deep Dish Apple pie and a selection of saucer-sized cookies, including a ginger cookie, which is close to habit forming.

As for beverages there is “Honest Tea,” which is low in sugar, plus an array of soft drinks, including root beer, birch beer and Sarsaparilla tea.

All of these items can be eaten at one of the tables at The Wheatmarket, or they can be taken out.

The Emphasis Is on Lunch Not Breakfast

Although The Wheatmarket opens at nine in the morning, it does not offer much of a breakfast. You can get a muffin and coffee to tide you over, but that is about it.

The owners of The Wheatmarket are Daniel and Joan Welch, who live in Essex. This coming spring they will have owned their business in Chester for 22 years. Over that time, Joan Welch observes, “We are going into another generation of our customers.”

She means that children that once came in with their parents are now parents themselves. As for the adults back then, well let’s just say they are now a bit older.

Over the years Joan Welch has listened to a number of life’s travails from her customers. “Sometimes I feel like a bartender,” she says of her role as a sympathetic ear. Friends are friends after all, and Joan Welch has many friends among her customers.

Another indication of the passage of time at the market is that one of the former young dishwashers is now a medical doctor. Also the Welch’s two boys are now grown men. In fact, the younger son, Mark, is the Manager of the Colonial Supermarket in Essex.

Selling Sandwiches Is Only Half the Story

Serving soup and sandwiches is all that many people know about The Wheatmarket. But it is only half the story. In the large kitchen in the backroom of the market, Chef-Owner Dennis L. Welch conducts a full blown catering business, and don’t think that this is a small operation.

Inside the busy, busy Wheatmarket, stacked for the season

Inside the busy, busy Wheatmarket, stacked for the season

Just before Christmas The Wheatmarket catered complete meals for a group 600 people. This order entailed making some 600 pounds of Lasagna, and 300 pounds of Sausage and Pepperoni, according to Chef Welch.

Chef Welsh, who is deeply involved in his catering business, also tells the story that once he was hired by a very successful business person to cater a dinner for literally hundreds of the host’s friends and clients. Then, shortly before the big event, the Chef received a call that the host had died.

Chef Daniel and Joan Welch, owners of the Wheatmarket

Chef Daniel and Joan Welch, owners of the Wheatmarket

This meant the cancellation of the big dinner. However, Welch says that he did cater the funeral of the departed host. In fact, these days Welch says catering funerals, “last suppers” you might call them, has become an important part of his  business.

Pattaconk River Flooding Could Be a Threat          

About the only event that could threaten the present success of The Wheatmarket could be major flooding of the Pattaconk River. The river is just across the parking lot from the market.

A few years ago, in fact, the river flooded over the entire parking lot, although the market was on high enough ground. With global warming the next big flood could be even higher. As Joan Welch puts it, “After all we are on Water Street.”

But now is not the time to think about such things as floods. The Wheatmarket is decked out for the season, and Joan Welch has put together a couple of monster gift baskets, which a customer can take home for $60. Also, one suspects that even in this happy season, she is prepared to offer a listening ear to a customer who wants to talk to her about private things.

Six Main Restaurant

On November 29, ValleyNewsNow.com published a review of the Six Main Restaurant in Chester, entitled, “New Chester Vegan Restaurant Receives Top Rating from the New York Times.” The headline of the Times’ article was, “Artistry at Work,” and the Timesgushed at the skills of the Six Main Restaurant’s Chef, Rachel Carr.

The ValleyNewsNow.com article about Six Main Restaurant, and the Times enthusiastic endorsement, can be easily found by scrolling down to Recent Articles by Jerome Wilson on the ValleyNewsNow.com. The New York Times review referred to in the article was published on November 16.

One new development at the Six Main Restaurant is that it has recently put in place new soundproofing on the interior ceiling of the restaurant. After all, the restaurant space was previously used by a bank, which clearly did have the sound levels of a busy restaurant.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Elderly and Disabled Tax Deferral Ordinance

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a new property tax deferral ordinance for elderly and disabled homeowners while also extending the town’s existing elderly tax relief ordinance through November 2018.

Only a handful of residents turned out for the town meeting, with the ordinance approved on a nearly unanimous voice vote. One resident, Wally Schieferdecker, voted no, contending the ordinance was not clear on what would happen to outstanding taxes if it is not renewed in 2018.

The plan first proposed last summer by First Selectman Norman Needleman expands on an existing elderly and disabled property tax relief ordinance approved by voters in 2004. The ordinance, which currently assists 57 elderly and disabled property owners, allows the town to match any tax relief provided under the state’s Circuit Breaker Program for property owners who meet income guidelines.

The existing ordinance, along with the new option, requires that property owners meet the “rule of 85,” being at least age 65 and a resident of Essex for at least  as many years needed to add up to 85. Disabled property owners must meet Social Security Administration requirements for total disability.

The new option approved Wednesday allows eligible property owners to apply for a deferral that would freeze their tax bill, with the higher tax amount for future years becoming due within 90 days after the death of the taxpayer or the sale of the property. The new option would supplement, not replace, any tax abatements provided under the existing ordinance. The revised ordinance allows the town to place a lien on the property for the deferred tax total.

Needleman said he would have preferred to offer an expanded tax abatement for eligible homeowners, but analysis determined that an expanded abatement would have been too costly over the long term. Needleman said the deferrals and tax liens would continue after 2018, but acknowledged the ordinance may need revision in future years. Selectman Joel Marzi said the deferral option was “a solution worth trying,” as a way to offer some additional assistance to long-time residents who are having difficulty paying a rising property tax bill.

The revised ordinance will become effective next month, allowing interested property owners to apply for the benefit between February and mid-May for deferrals in the tax year that begins in July 2013. Property owners must be fully paid up on all real estate and motor vehicle taxes due by May 15 to apply for the deferral option.

Essex Elementary School Foundation Kicks Off Annual Appeal

EES Principal Scott Jeffrey and EES Assistant Principal Deborah O'Donnell help stuff envelopes for the EESF annual app

EES Principal Scott Jeffrey and EES Assistant Principal Deborah O’Donnell help stuff envelopes for the EESF annual appeal

The Essex Elementary School Foundation, a not-for-profit, volunteer organization that provides independent financial resources for worthy enrichment  projects and  programs at Essex Elementary School, had granted $23,480 to fund various programs during the 2011-2012 academic year.  Some of the specific programs receiving grant money that year included an iPad Lab enrichment program with $13,000 given for the purchase of 19 iPads, 19 smart covers, 19 Apple care protection plans and iPad Applications in the math and science areas for all grade levels. This academic year, The Foundation is looking to grant many of  the programs that have successfully been put in place  such as;  the Justus W. Paul World Cultures Program with $5,000 granted for the development of a new Haitian culture program and for  the implementation of previously developed programs on China and India; Grade Level Grants of $1000 per grade awarded to three grades each year on a three year rotating schedule; and the Historian-in-Residence Program. This year they are looking to give additional funds to the school as the needs arise.

On Tuesday, November 27, EESF board members met at the school’s media center to launch the Foundation’s annual direct mail campaign to Essex area residents and businesses. Continued growth in financial support will allow the Foundation to expand the enrichment programs and projects now underwritten by the organization. In October, the Foundation announced grant awards totaling approximately $23,000 for the development and implementation of several programs during the 2012-2013 school year.

Since its inception in 1996, the Essex Elementary School Foundation’s primary goal has

been to create a significant endowment that can support the school’s strategic vision to be a world-class educational institution.  Each year, 5% of the EESF endowment is allocated for programs and projects proposed by Essex Elementary School administration and staff.  Past grants have also funded a Scientist-in-Residence program, literacy support materials, equipment for musical and physical education, playground improvements, logical thinking games, and audio/visual equipment.

For more information about the Essex Elementary School Foundation or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www.essexelementaryschoolfoundation.org or make checks payable to “Essex Elementary School Foundation” and mail to Essex Elementary School Foundation, PO Box 882, Essex, CT 06426.

Special Concert in The Gallery – Jan 1

dan_stevens_Ramblin’ Dan Stevens will be performing in the SPECIAL CONCERT IN THE GALLERY at the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery, 1 Spring Street, Chester on January 6, 2013 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Dan performs an eclectic mix of traditional fingerstyle blues and originals and has entertained audiences throughout the US, Germany, UK, Canada and Virgin Islands. Of special interest is his unique style of “bottleneck” slide playing popularized by early Mississippi delta bluesmen including his use of a homemade, three stringed “Cigar Box Guitar” and one stringed “Diddly Bow”, both primitive blues instruments. Dan has been lauded for the authenticity of his approach gained by many years on the road as a traveling blues musician. Dan has appeared with such artists as Arlo Guthire, Richie Havens, Charlie Daniels, James Cotton, Gatemouth Brown and many others. For more info on Dan Stevens, please visit www.danstevens.net.

The Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grille is offering 1/2 off an appetizer and $3.50 for a glass of wine or a beer, before or after the concerts.

$10 donation suggested for admission – BYOB – Bistro Style Seating.  Call (860) 526-2077nilssonstudio.com for more information.

Letters: Proposed Path to a Safer Society

To the Editor:

Sandy Hook School is an earthquake that shakes the soul of human decency. My response:

I acknowledge the right to have a hunting rifle and a pistol for self-defense.  The right to self-defense is a root of liberty. Equally important is a coincident right of people who choose not to own a gun: the right to live in a safe and secure society. This right is an indisputable expectation. While I realize this is an ideal that will be difficult to fulfill, we must, for the sake of human decency, respect, and compassion, strive to create such a society. To not strive for this goal is disrespectful and inconsiderate to all people who want to live in peace.

My proposal to create an environment that begins to lead our society down this path is as follows:

1. A gun is not sporting equipment. To equate a gun to sports is akin to saying it is no different than a tennis racquet or basketball. This is an insult to humanity. There is no comparison because their designed purposes are so different – fun and games versus a killing implement.

2. Any weapon that is capable of firing multiple rounds in rapid succession should be outlawed to anyone other than military, law enforcement or security personnel. No one in a civil society should have such a weapon, for its sole designed purpose is to kill. For hunting and self-defense there should be no need for anything more than a single-shot pistol or rifle.

3. Any weapon that uses multiple round magazines or any type of device that loads more than six bullets at a time should be outlawed. Reasons stated in item 2.

4. Anyone caught in possession or ownership of these outlawed weapons and ammunition would be in violation of the law and should be punished with extensive community service or imprisonment.

5. Anyone who currently owns such weapons described in item 2 should be paid to turn them in. They should not be grandfathered.

6. Extensive background checks should apply to 100% of sales in any form for the purchase of legal pistols and rifles.

7. A permit is required to fish. A permit should be required to purchase ammunition.

8. Internet sale of any weapon and ammunition should be illegal.

I urge everyone with a strong opinion on this subject to voice their opinion to their representatives and senators. Time is of the essence. Do not let this moment and these memories fade.

Sincerely,

Thomas Soboleski
Essex, CT

Chester School Board Approves New Three-Year Teacher Contract

REGION 4—  The Chester Board of Education Tuesday approved the new three-year contract for Region 4 teachers, setting up a required 20-day on-file period before the agreement becomes effective.   The board approved the contract, which will provide about 220 teachers serving Chester, Deep River, and Essex with a total 9.5 percent salary increase over three years, on a 7-1 vote, with member Ashley Marsh opposed.

The Chester board, which governs the operations of the Chester Elementary School, lacked a quorum when the district’s three other school boards, the Region 4 Board of Education and the local school boards for Deep River and Essex, approved the agreement at a Dec. 6 meeting. The approvals were unanimous for the two local boards, but the vote for the Region 4 board that governs the two secondary schools was three members supporting the agreement, two opposed, and one abstaining. Two members, including board Chairwoman Linda Hall, were absent.

Members Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River and Mario Gioco of Chester voted against the contract, with member Ann Monaghan of Chester abstaining. Each had questioned the impact of the total salary settlement on future budgets and tax rates for their towns. Board members that had participated in the negotiations that led to the agreement, including current Supervision District Chairwoman Wendy King of Chester, maintained the salary package was in line with other nearby school districts, and that rejecting the contract would lead to last and best offer binding arbitration with the cost of the process to be paid by the school district.

The contract provides teachers with an average 3.9 percent salary increase in 2013-2014, a 1.7 percent pay increase in 2014-2015, and a 3.9 percent increase on 2015-2016. The totals include step increases on the 12-step teacher salary schedule in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, but not in 2014-2015. The anticipated total cost increase of the package would vary among the four boards, ranging from 9.12 percent over three years for Region 4, to a total 11.3 percent hike in salary expenses for Deep River Elementary School.

Under state las the contract is now filed with town clerks for the three towns for 20 days, a period where the board of selectmen for any town could request a town meeting vote on the agreement. Rejection of the contract by voters in any of the three district towns would block approval and send the contract negotiations to binding arbitration.

While selectmen in the three towns are expressing varying degrees of concern about the budget and tax rate impact of the contract, a move to force a town meeting vote on the agreement is considered unlikely with the tight 20-day on-file period that falls over the Christmas and New Years holidays. Such a challenge has never occurred in previous Region 4 contract negotiations.

Deep River selectmen discussed the contract at a Dec. 11 meeting, with all three selectmen, First Selectman Richard Smith and selectmen Angus Mcdonald Jr. and David Oliveria, expressing concern about the cost of the three-year package. Smith said he objected to providing a 3.9 percent pay hike in the first year, with two additional increases building on that. Mcdonald predicted “a sticky spring” for education budgets that could lead to teacher job cuts to limit the budget and tax rate impact. But Deep River selectmen did not move to challenge the contract, and are not scheduled to hold another meeting until Jan. 8, at the end of the 20-day file period.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said the contract “is not the way I would have negotiated it,” but added that board negotiators “did the best they could,” given that pay raises for district teachers have been lower over the past five years. Needleman said it would be “counter-productive” to challenge the agreement and send the negotiations to binding arbitration. The Chester Board of Selectmen were scheduled to discuss the Region 4 teacher contract at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Walmart Stopped Selling Guns in Old Saybrook Five Years Ago; But Store Still Sells Ammunition

Cases of bullets for guns on sale at Walmart

Cases of bullets for guns on sale at Walmart

According to several of its employees, Walmart stopped selling guns at its store in Old Saybrook five years ago. However, the store still has plenty of gun ammunition for sale, although it is kept under lock and key. A potential buyer has to ask a Walmart employee to unlock the cases to purchase the bullets for the various makes of guns.

Also, above the locked ammunition show cases are packages of gun targets. In addition, in an exhibit near the entrance of the store, there is a large display of BB guns and their ammunition for sale. BB guns are on sale for less than $30.

BB guns for sale at Walmart

BB guns for sale at Walmart

An informal survey among employees of stores in the shopping plaza confirmed that there was no store in the Old Saybrook shopping plaza that has guns for sale. There was, however, speculation that guns might be purchased in Groton, and certainly in other parts of the state.

Gun practice targets also on sale

Gun practice targets also on sale

After the terrible shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, many shoreline residents who shop in Old Saybrook are concerned about the sale of guns in the state.

Valley Regional High School Graduate Killed in South Carolina Home Invasion

steven grich 2DEEP RIVER– Police in Pickens County, South Carolina have arrested three suspects in the home invasion murder of 23-year-old Steven Grich, a former Deep River resident who graduated from Valley Regional High School and was attending Clemson University at the time of the crime.

Grich was shot to death Saturday night at his residence in Central, S. C. after four men entered the dwelling through an open back door. Grich, a junior engineering major at nearby Clemson University, shared the residence with 29-year old Robert McKinley.

Police investigating the crime later charged Mckinley with possession of marijuana. Police believe the suspects may have thought the two men had a larger quantity of marijuana at their residence, though only a small amount was seized by police. By Monday, police had arrested three men, ranging in age from 19 to 24, on charges of murder, armed robbery, burglary, and weapons possession. A fourth suspect, age 18, is still being sought by police.

Grich was raised in Virginia, but lived in Deep River during his high school years, graduating with the Valley Regional High School Class of 2007. He attended New England Technical College in Rhode Island for two years, but moved to South Carolina and entered Clemson University after his family moved to the state about three years ago. Friends and former classmates of Grich are planning a vigil in his honor Friday evening at the skateboard area at Plattwood Park.

Read obituary here courtesy of Heraldoline.com

Little Chester Has Some Big Time Restaurants. Here’s What They Offer (Part 1)

The Villager

How did it happen that the little town of Chester has one, first class restaurant after another? But who cares how it happened, just that it did.

Let’s begin with The Villager at 13 Main Street, which opens its doors at 5:30 a.m. every morning on weekdays, and an hour later on weekends. It closes at 2:00 p.m.

The Villager starts its breakfast at 5:30 a.m.

The Villager starts its breakfast at 5:30 a.m.

Diane and Frank Voccia, who took over the Villager a year ago this coming January, serve what you would expect at these early morning hours. Basically, its breakfast, breakfast, and breakfast, with everything freshly made.

Villager owners Frank and Diane Voccia, a new menu coming up

Villager owners Frank and Diane Voccia, a new menu coming up

Diane takes the orders, and Frank does the cooking, and unlike many other cooks he can actually make a soft, scrambled egg. Also served are pancakes, meats, fries and delicious toast. The bread for the toast comes from Fabled Food Bakery in Deep River, which only sells wholesale.

The clientele at The Villager is what you would expect among early risers, utility company workers all suited up for a second cup of coffee before they head off to clear brush and climb up telephone poles.  Also, along one whole side of the restaurant there sit the newspaper readers. They sit there for the better part of an hour, because there is a lot to read in a daily paper, especially when you are nursing a second cup of coffee.

The Voccia’s have big dreams for the future of their restaurant. In a few weeks they will add Italian favorites to their lunch menu. (Both of their parents came from Italy.) The future menu will include “real” Italian antipasto, as well as egg plant parmesan, sausage and pepperoni, meatball grinders and pasta fagioli. (Phone:  860-526-9981)

 Simon’s Marketplace

Next down the road at 17 Main Street is Simon’s Marketplace. The Marketplace opens at eight in the morning, and closes at six o’clock in the evening. Also, there is breakfast from 8:00 until 11:30 am.

Simon's Markeplace at center stage on Main Street

Simon’s Marketplace at center stage on Main Street

Simon’s owner, Jim Reilly, when asked what is special about his popular place says, “Everything is fresh, everyday.” Specialties include “great salads” with ingredients such as fresh fennel, corn beef, walnuts, chicken, goat cheese, pasta and arugula in many different combinations.

Reilly says, “Everyday, we do five new salads.” Also, portions at Simon’s are very, very large. In fact, it is not unusual to see diners splitting a single sandwich for two. The house also makes a variety of soups, a popular item.

Menu favorites also include: meatloaf, roasted salmon, and the “very popular” pulled pork. Also, Simon’s can cater to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers.

Owner Reilly notes that he has operated Simon’s “for eight great years.” He and his wife split the duties entailed in operating a restaurant, “She does all the book work,” he says, “and I run the restaurant.”

Not content with running just one restaurant. Reilly for the past 17 years has also run the Blue Oar, an open air restaurant in Haddam along the Connecticut River.

As for Simon’s Marketplace, one senses that it is the kind of place where the deals go down, where everybody is talking but others are not listening. The kind of deals going down could be financial, political, charitable, social, and perhaps even romantic on occasion.  (Phone: 860-526-8984)

River Tavern

 Without question River Tavern is the “Big Kahuna” among Chester restaurants. Located at 23 Main Street, it has set a high bar that other Chester restaurants can only attain to. Although, essentially, a high quality dinner restaurant, River Tavern also serves weekday and Sunday lunches as well.

River Tavern, Chester's classic, superb food restaurant

River Tavern, Chester’s classic, superb food restaurant

Lunch hours are: 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, Monday thru Saturday. Sunday lunch is from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm. Dinner hours are 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm, Monday thru Friday, with slight variations on Saturday and Sunday.

As for the food Executive Chef Chris Flahaven says, “We do everything to order, and we only serve local produce.” “We support our local farms,” he also points out. As for style the offerings at River Tavern can be very original and even complicated. They are also with very few exceptions simply delicious.

River Tavern's Chefs, Chris Flahaven and Stefan Burcyuski

River Tavern’s Chefs, Chris Flahaven and Stefan Burcyuski

Here are some samples dishes from the River Tavern web site.

First Course: soeltl farm pork liver mousse with grilled crostini & pickled local honey mushrooms & carrots;

Main Course: grilled Stonington swordfish with roasted potatoes, bacon-corn salad & smoked tomato cream sauce,

Dessert: chocolate-whipped ricotta with toasted pistachios, crushed amaretti cookies & grapefruit zest. Prices for the above are 12, 28 and 12 dollars, respectively.

Another sample menu on the web site lists includes:

First Course: crispy salt & pepper pork ribs with sriracha, sweet soy & crisp vegetables;

Main Course: sautéed fresh shrimp & squid with crispy polenta, tomatoes, corn, Swiss chard & herbs, and

Dessert: ginger-plumb crème brulee. These items are priced at 13, 28 and 6 dollars.

In addition to this dazzling display of culinary creativity, River Tavern has a number of price gimmicks to get you in the door. They include ½ price wine on Monday and Tuesday evenings; ½ price cocktails on Wednesday and Thursday, and a $10 children’s menu on Sundays.

Wine prices at River Tavern range from $350 for a bottle of Champaign Moet & Chardon Perpignan Brut 2002, to $14 for a bottle of Pinot noir rose on a half price wine night.

Like Chester’s new vegan competitor, 6 Main Restaurant across the street, River Tavern has been reviewed by the New York Times. However, 6 Main was placed in the Times’ highest culinary category, “Don”t Miss;” whereas River Tavern was in the second category as “Worth It.”

Although very enthusiastic about the food at River Tavern, the Times groused, “THE SPACE Tiny tightly spaced tables. (It can get noisy).”

True enough, but few can argue with the delicious sophistication of River Tavern.  No matter the Times quibbles; the bottom line for locals is that River Tavern cannot be beat. (Phone: 860-526-9417)

Pattaconk 1850

A competitor of Pattaconk 1850, once wrote off the restaurant as “nothing but a bar.”  This remarks angers Pattaconk’s Manager, Robort Gallbraith. “I hate the word ‘bar,’” he says. “We cater to everybody.”

Pattaconk 1850, awaits the night

Pattaconk 1850, awaits the night

Still there is some truth that Pattaconk 1850 is something of a bar; at least when compared to its down the street competitors, River Tavern and 6 Main Restaurant. In fact, on a busy weekend evening Pattaconk 1850 can have as many as three deep at the bar at its 33 Main Street location.

At the bar of Pattaconk 1850

At the bar of Pattaconk 1850

But the restaurant is, granted, far more than being just a bar. Posted on its web site a reviewer writes:

“The food is great. It arrives hot and in generous portions. I tend to have sandwiches and burgers when I go there, and I haven’t yet been disappointed in anything that I’ve ordered. They are cooked to order and they make reasonable substitutions when asked. I admit that I have a weakness for clam chowder… and it’s worth the trip up to Chester just for that

As for the “1850” in the title of the restaurant, Manager Gallbraith says that the Pattaconk 1850 restaurant was founded sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, but no one really knows when. So they just picked up the “1850” the middle of the century.

Pattaconk 1850 has an interesting and informative web site. One of the photos on the site, among others, is a long row of motorcycles parked out in front of the restaurant. But don’t call it, “a motorcycle bar.” The manager would not like it. (Phone: 860-526-8143)

 (Part 2 of this look at Chester’s downtown restaurants will include articles on Cabo Tequila Grill and the Wheat Marked on Water Street, as well as L & E Restaurant and 6 Main Restaurant back up on Main Street.)

At the Supermarket, Use the “Scan It!” and be Done With it!

First: At the Scan It rack, shopper Debra Mals scans her Stop & Shop card, then picks up a Scan It device from one of the nests.

First: At the Scan It rack, shopper Debra Mals scans her Stop & Shop card, then picks up a Scan It device from one of the nests.

If you have the chore of doing the shopping at the supermarket, use a Scan It!

A Scan It! will save you time. Give you more control over your spending. And speed you out a lot faster, not even having to deal with a clerk.

The Scan It! is the latest digital device that I’ve come across. As we know, there’s been a frenetic roll-out of electronic devices–escalating every year and changing our lives in remarkable ways. I’m delighted to have discovered the Scan It! It’s already changing the way I shop.

(Note: The Scan It! with the exclamation mark is a registered brand name. But to make your reading easier, I’m going to delete the exclamation mark. You’ll appreciate this as you continue reading.)

I go grocery shopping only for myself, and I’m not a technological nut by any means although I do own far more electronic gadgets than I ever imagined. A cell phone that I use little, a computer that I use a lot, a hearing aid (just recently), which isn’t helping me much. Plus an IPod, an e-book reader (two!), a DVD player, a camera, all unbelievably “smart.”

In truth, I’ve gotten along fine without the Scan It. But I recognized the advantages of this remarkable device get in the blink of an eye. Excuse me. Make that “at its very first scan!”

Of all the digital marvels I’ve mentioned, the Scan It is unusual in an interesting way. You don’t buy it or lease it. You borrow it. And only for when you’re really shopping in the store that makes them available.

And it has another distinctive feature. Its purpose is not only to make your life easier. It’s to make that store more profitable. Yes, the Scan It will help you in several ways. But it will let that store make more money by ushering you through your buying spree faster and without needing a clerk at checkout. The store will reduce its payroll.

You can breeze into the store, pick up a Scan It, cruise the aisles and pick up everything you need, then check out at a self-service register. You’ll get it all done and walk out without talking or interacting in any way with another person. Except maybe a clerk in deli or the fish or meat departments if you want something special.

I came across the Scan It at the Stop & Shop in Old Saybrook. I buy at three or four supermarkets in the area–wherever I happen to be when I need to pick up a few things. To my knowledge, Stop & Shop is the only one that has adopted the Scan It. And they have it only in select stores.

I know I’ve got you wondering, What the heck is the Scan It? Let me tell you. It looks like an odd-shaped cell phone, but bigger. It is hand held, easy to use, not heavy, and you use it for every item you want. But the item must have a barcode.

Stop & Shop has a display of Scan Its right by its two front doors. Two racks of 24 of them, each in its own nest. Each one has the word Motorola on it, by the way. They are silently charging, awaiting you. You take one and use it as you wander through. And you leave it behind when you check out. You can put it back. If you don’t, the store will do it, and the Scan It will immediately pep itself up for the next borrower.

No charge of any kind for you to use it.

I was standing there studying one of the racks. Had never noticed it. I had seen a gal using a Scan It on a previous visit and I became fascinated. Now, all the other shoppers were just walking by, ignoring the devices, or not being aware despite Shop & Shop efforts to promote it. All 24 were there idling, so to speak, not getting the attention they deserve.

Then Debra Mals strode in and picked one up. Right next to me. She did it so fast and so naturally that I was sure she was a Scan It expert. My big opportunity! Maybe I could entice her to become my personal Scan It tutor. And I succeeded.

It took me only two minutes to explain that she could help countless folks around here who know zilch about the Scan It. How? Just by letting me walk around with her, see how she uses it, take a few pictures at key moments, and let me write this report for you.

What a good sport this Debra! An interesting gal. She is a dance instructor in the Old Saybrook Park and Recreation program. Lives in Old Saybrook with her husband Peter and their college-age daughter. Debra does all the shopping and does it all in just a single visit per week. She comes in with a shopping list, not on paper but in her brain, and, I found out, gets the job finished with supreme efficiency. Then out she goes, all done for another week.

I asked her one question after another. She was suspicious at first. Of course. Who wouldn’t be? Then she smiled. “Sure,” she told me. “More people should know about the Scan It.” And we started out. Before long, I could see she was enjoying our Scan It ramble as much as I was.

She said, “I discovered Scan It about two years ago. When they were brand-new. Well, I think they were new. I’m not a digital person. Oh, I use a cell phone and computer and things like that. I just saw how useful this thing was. And so easy to get the hang of it.”

Here are the basic steps she went through as we walked along.

The Scan It rack has a scanner dead center at chest level. She swiped her Stop & Shop member card into it. That’s all she had to do. The Scan It computer now knew her. Then she picked up a Scan It and we started down an aisle. She kept the Scan It in hand as she guided her cart. The cart was as big as they come. “I usually fill it!” she said.

Second step: She selected an item, shot its barcode with the Scan It, then put the item in her basket. The Scan It kept full details.

Second step: She selected an item, shot its barcode with the Scan It, then put the item in her basket. The Scan It kept full details.

She knew the store cold. She stopped in the detergent department. She found the kind she wanted. She held the Scan It as she would a pistol, and scanned the item’s barcode by clicking a button. And put the item in the basket. Actually, in a heavy fabric bag. She had brought several.

And that’s all she had to, in aisle after aisle. The name of the item was not important. It’s its barcode that was all-important. For custom orders, fresh seafood for instance, the clerk puts a printout with a barcode onto the purchase.

And that’s how she proceeded through the whole store. She went at it fast and smoothly and her purchases piled up in her cart.

What will she do when she gets to produce, I wondered. Bananas, say. Or grapes.

No problem. She knew a trick. In fact, she did need bananas. She picked out exactly eight. I wondered why eight. “One for every day of the week,” she said with a smile. “And one as a spare.”

Third step: For loose produce, she weighed it. The scale spit out a receipt with a barcode. She shot it with the Scan It.

Third step: For loose produce, she weighed it. The scale spit out a receipt with a barcode. She shot it with the Scan It.

Then she showed me the trick. She carried the bananas to one of the digital scales. Put the bananas on it. Quickly tapped in the data the scale needed: she clicked Fruits, then Tropical, then Bananas, then Print It. The scale spit out a receipt. The receipt gave the price per pound and the weight and the total price. And it had a barcode. She just scanned the barcode and that was it!

Now came the dramatic finale. She pushed the cart to one of the self-service checkouts. Each one has a Scan It “target”. She aimed her Scan It at it and shot it. I asked her why.

“This tells the computer to add everything up!”

Then she passed her Stop & Shop card under its scanner. Took only a couple of seconds. Magically her whole order flashed up on

the big monitor. She could see the total price and whatever tax was required. But this was no surprise: she had already seen that on her Scan It. She tapped “Okay.” Then she told me, “Now I can pay with cash, or a credit card, or a debit card.” She used a credit card.

Now I saw why she had brought in her own bags. She said, “This way at the end I don’t have to bag everything in their plastic bags. Besides, better for the environment!” She smiled and gave me a wave, and pushed her cart out the door. She had saved a lot of time. Excuse me. She would have if she hadn’t had to explain everything to me.

I’ve got to tell you I could not have found a better tutor!

Debra had also explained a few other things as we worked our way through.

“If I’ve put something in my cart and change my mind, all I have to do is take it out and then delete the item from the Scan It.

“And on the Scan It I can review the list of everything I’ve bought and make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. And if

I want to stick to a tight budget, easy!”

“How?”

Final step: At the register, she shot a “target.” This told the computer she was done. It showed her every item and the total cost. She paid with her card. Then out she went in jig time.

Final step: At the register, she shot a “target.” This told the computer she was done. It showed her every item and the total cost. She paid with her card. Then out she went in jig time.

“Let’s say I don’t want to spend more than $50. I keep putting things in my basket and checking the total. Finally the total is $49.75. Then I spot the pineapples. They’re on sale for $2.50. A good buy. I want one! But it will blow my budget. How do I handle this?

“Simple. I review my purchases on the Scan It I and decide on something I can live without. The box of green tea, say. Click and I delete it from my list! Ads leave the tea behind. Then scan the pineapple and put it in my basket. My new total is $49.64. Problem solved!’

I stayed behind. I wanted some grapes and half a gallon of milk. I picked up a Scan It and started out. Nothing to using it. Now I saw other interesting features. On sale items, the device showed me the saving every time. I pushed another button and the device showed me six items on special sale for Scan It customers only.

One was a freebie: Muller Greek Corner yogurt with strawberries, 5.3 oz. I like yogurt. When I went for my milk, I picked up a container of it. Its price was $1.49. Who doesn’t like a freebie like that?

I discovered one more advantage. Some purchases can be embarrassing when you go and face a live checkout clerk. I’m sure you can think of some such items. Using the Scan It avoids that. No clerk will get to see what you’re buying.

It turns out that you can use your Ipad or Iphone or a device using Android to do the job.

Another thought: maybe the Scan It means so much to Debra that she would refuse to spend her money in any store without the device. If that is so, the Scan It gives Stop & Shop a strong competitive edge.

One thing I noticed on this whole experiment: I did not see any other customer using a Scan It. Remember, Stop & Shop has been offering the devices two years or more. How come such indifference? Is it because people are intimidated by the technology, which turns out to be so easy to use. I don’t know.

Got to tell you that I’ll use the Scan It the next time I go in that store. As I look back, I think it’s one of the best things in the retail food industry since the invention of the grocery cart back in the 1940’s, which I remember.

But I can look ahead, too. In 10 or 15 years, I see something else. No need for a Scan It. We’ll email our shopping list to our supermarket. If we’re not sure what we want, we’ll be able to examine each and every aisle of the store on our computer monitor. We’ll see every shelf close up, every item! We’ll type our selections on our keyboard and see how much they total! Then click “Send”!

At the store, a humanoid robot will assemble our order and put it on a truck which will take it to our door. I know Stop & Shop offers this service already, but with humans, not humanoids. But the humanoids are coming!

I won’t like shopping like that. I have other reasons to go to the big stores besides buying stuff. I like the exercise walking the aisles. And seeing people. So, so interesting.

Speaking of that, I know some folks found it very interesting to watch Debra tutoring me!

Estuary Council of Seniors Partners with Local Car Dealer to “Share the Love”

Hayden Reynolds, his daughter, Lilly and his father, Gary; three generations of the Reynolds family, personally delivered Meals on Wheels in Lyme

Hayden Reynolds, his daughter, Lilly and his father, Gary; three generations of the Reynolds family, personally delivered Meals on Wheels in Lyme

The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. Partners with Reynolds Subaru of Lyme, CT to “Share the Love” this Holiday Season.  Subaru’s “Share the Love” event helps deliver nutritious meals and compassion to Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Old Lyme, Lyme, Killingworth, Madison, Essex, Deep River, Clinton and Chester’s seniors.

The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. is proud to announce it has partnered with Reynolds Subaru of Lyme this holiday season to deliver meals to seniors in all ten towns and to provide awareness of the funding needs for senior nutrition. Since June 2010, The Estuary’s senior nutrition budget has been cut $102,000. Last year the Estuary provided 60,000 meals to seniors in the ten town area. The “Share the Love” campaign kicked off on November 21st with the three generations of the Reynolds family participating. Hayden Reynolds, his daughter, Lilly and his father, Gary; three generations of the Reynolds family, personally delivered meals in Lyme. Reynolds Subaru has loaned The Estuary a Subaru car for daily meal delivery throughout the six-week campaign. The Reynolds family has been serving the shoreline for over 150 years, they started back in 1859 with horse drawn carriages, today the 6th generation of the Reynolds provides his community with Subaru’s for a safe and reliable all wheel drive vehicle.

Each week thereafter through the holidays Reynolds Sales, Parts and Service staff as well as local Rotary Clubs and the First Selectmen of our ten towns will also visit seniors delivering meals. Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops from the shoreline towns are making holiday cards which they will deliver to each senior along with their meal and a Christmas plant the week before Christmas. Christmas plants are being donated by Clinton Nurseries and Grove Gardens of Clinton, Riggio’s of Essex, VanWilgens of North Branford and the Old Saybrook Walmart store. This local effort is part of the Meals on Wheels Association of America’s (MOWAA) participation in the national Subaru of America, Inc. “Share the Love” Event.

As one of the five Subaru “Share the Love” event charitable partners, the Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) is awarding $200,000 in “Share the Love” grants to local Meals on Wheels programs that partner with Subaru dealerships in the fight to end senior hunger. The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. is eligible to win a MOWAA-Subaru “Share the Love” grant of up to $35,000 to help provide hot, nutritious meals to homebound seniors in all ten towns it serves. Hayden Reynolds is spearheading a “matching funds competition” and hopes that many other local businesses will join him. If you are interested in providing a tax deductible financial match or a partial match to the grant they hope will be awarded to The Estuary Council of Seniors please contact Sandy at 860 388-1611.

“We are honored to be part of ‘Share the Love’ for a fifth straight year,” said MOWAA Interim CEO, Larry J. Tomayko. “Subaru recognizes the importance of giving back to the communities it serves. Working together, MOWAA and Subaru are helping to provide more than just a meal; we’re bringing warmth and compassion to so many hungry and homebound seniors who would otherwise go without.” The Subaru “Share the Love” Event runs from November 21, 2012 to January 2, 2013. Subaru is donating $250 for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased during “Share the Love” to the customer’s choice of one of five charities, including MOWAA’s Meals on Wheels. Over the past four years, proceeds from the Subaru “Share the Love” Event have provided funds to MOWAA to support its vision to end senior hunger by 2020.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) is the only national organization and network dedicated solely to ending senior hunger in America. MOWAA is the oldest and largest organization composed of and representing local, community-based Senior Nutrition Programs in all 50 states as well as the U.S. territories. MOWAA’s vision is to end senior hunger by 2020. To obtain more information about MOWAA or to locate a local Meals on Wheels program, visit the MOWAA website at www.mowaa.org

Local Artist Joan Wallace Shows Paintings at Essex Library

Joan Wallace

Joan Wallace, a resident of Centerbrook, will be displaying representational paintings in oil at the Essex Library during the month of December. She is a member of the Lyme, Clinton, and Madison Art Associations, and has studied under distinguished painters including Hollis Dunlap, Diane Aeschliman, Jack Broderick and Jack Montmeat. All works are available for purchase. For more information contact the artist at 860-767-0477 or jmwall888@yahoo.com.

Region 4 Teacher Contract has Salary Increas of 9.5 Percent Over Three Years

REGION 4-– A new three-year contract for teachers provides a total salary increase of 9.5 percent over three years, including 3.9 percent for 2013-2014, 1.7 percent for 2014-2015, and 3.9 percent in 2015-2016.

The contract for about 220 teachers in the Chester-Deep River-Essex school district has been approved by the union. The agreement was approved at a Dec. 6 meeting by three of the district’s four school boards. The Chester Board of Education, which governs the operation of Chester Elementary School, lacked a required quorum at the Dec. 6 meeting, with a Dec. 18 special meeting called to vote on the agreement which must be approved in separate votes by each of the four boards.

The votes at Thursday’s meeting were not unanimous, with some board members expressing concern about the total cost of the salary package after details of the agreement were presented by labor lawyer Kevin Roy with the Hartford firm of Shipman & Goodman. The agreement had been concluded in early October with assistance from a state mediator. While the local school boards for Deep River and Essex were unanimous in approving the contract, three members of the Region 4 Board of Education dissented after first asking for more time to consider the agreement.

Board member Ann Monaghan, a Chester Democrat, questioned whether the total salary package would “sit well”, with district taxpayers in the continuing economic slowdown. Wendy King, the chairwoman of the Chester Board of Education who is chairwoman of the combined Supervision District Board for 2012-2013, said  “these numbers are the best numbers we could have obtained,” without entering last and best offer binding arbitration. King said the binding arbitration process would cost the district up to $100,000 with no guarantee of a lower salary package. Monaghan later abstained from voting on the agreement, with board members Mario Gioco of Chester and Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River, both Republicans, voting no.

The salary increases will vary for each teacher, depending on what step the employee is on in the district’s salary schedule. About 25 percent of the district’s teachers are veteran educators at the top step of the salary schedule. The salary package includes step increases for 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, but no step increases in 2014-2015.

The agreement also requires teachers to pay an increasing share of their health insurance costs. The employee share under the district’s preferred provider plan would increase from the current 18 percent to 18.5 percent in July, 19 percent in July 2014, and 20 percent in July 2015. Employee shares under the health savings account option would rise to 15.5 percent in 2015-2016. Teachers volunteering for extracurricular activities, such as coaches, advisors and tutors, would receive a one percent increase in their annual stipend in each of the three years.

The overall cost of the salary package will vary for each school board depending on the number of teachers at the various steps on the salary schedule. For the Region 4 Board of Education, which governs the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, the cost increase over three years would be 9.12 percent. The salary package would be most costly for the Deep River Board of Education, 11.3 percent over three years. The total increase would be 9.65 percent for the Essex Board of Education, 9.39 percent for the Chester Board of Education, and 9.34 percent for personnel providing shared services for the supervision district.

The current contract which expires June 30 was part of a two-year wage/salary reopener that was provided under an agreement first negotiated in 2009. The salary reopener negotiated in the fall of 2010 with help from a state mediator provided a one-half percent general increase for 2011-2012, with a two percent increase for teachers at the top step. For the current year, there was a one-half percent increase for teachers at the top step, with basic step increases for all other teachers.

If the agreement is approved by the Chester school board on Dec. 18, it must then be posted with the town clerks of each town for 20 days, a period during which the board of selectmen of each town could decide to challenge the agreement and send it to a town meeting vote. Such a challenge has never occurred in previous Region 4 contract negotiations. Negotiations would move to binding arbitration if the agreement is not approved by the four school boards.

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith said Friday he believes the raises provided under the contract are “pretty high,” and “front loaded” to have a major impact on the budgets and tax rates for 2013-2014. Smith said Deep River selectmen would discuss the contract at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

Amateur Photo Contest Invites Photos of Local Scenic Countryside

2011-2012 second place winner in cultural historic category – by Skip Broom

Local conservation groups are inviting amateur photographers to focus on the celebrated and scenic countryside of Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex, Salem, and East Haddam and submit their photos to the Eighth Annual Amateur Photo Contest.

The Conservation/Land Trusts from each of those towns are sponsoring the contest. All amateur photographers are welcome to enter the contest regardless of what town they reside in.

This contest is being funded with the generous support of Lorensen Toyota, Oakley/Wing Group at Smith Barney, Evan Griswold at Coldwell Banker, Ballek Garden Center, Essex Savings Bank, Murtha Cullina LLP and ChelseaGroton  Bank.

Judges will award $100, $75, $50 and $25 cash prizes for each of the following categories:

  • Landscapes/Waterscapes
  • Plants
  • Wildlife
  • Cultural/Historic
  • Any subject for Young Photographers, below age 15

In addition to the above noted prizes, a special $100 award will be given in memory of a former contest judge, John G. Mitchell, for the best photograph that promotes and supports our environment and biodiversity. “As a former editor at National Geographic, John dedicated his career to writing about the environment and conservation and so the award is for the best picture reflecting that subject” explained Tony Sullivan, the conservation trusts’ spokesperson.

“We are delighted by the caliber of the judges we have been able to attract for this year’s contest,” said Sullivan.

The three independent judges are William Burt, a naturalist who has won acclaim for his books of wildlife photography: Rare and Elusive Birds of North America, Shadowbirds, and his recently released Marshes: The Disappearing Edens. Amy Kurtz Lansing, Curator at the Florence Griswold Museum and a Yale University doctoral candidate in the History of Art. She is also the author of Historical Fictions: Edward Lamson Henry’s Paintings of Past and Present. Rudy Wood-Muller, a photographic illustrator and designer. His first large exhibition was at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and was followed by numerous other shows, including a one-man show at the Rochester Institute of Technology. A group of his photographs have been selected to be part of the Permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“We’re expecting to see some wonderful photographs from our contestants,” said Sullivan.  “Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex, Salem and East Haddam are among the most beautiful places in Connecticut.  The landscapes and seascapes here turn up repeatedly in the great paintings of the American Impressionist movement.  We think photography is another way to remind ourselves of what we have, and to show how important it is to protect and preserve that heritage.”

The deadline for submitting photographs is January 31, 2013. For questions, entry forms and a copy of the contest rules, send an e-mail to landtrustphotos@yahoo.com. To see last year’s winning photos, go to http://landtrustsphotos.shutterfly.com/

 

The River Fix for Fatal Attraction

With a salmon hatchery program no longer clouding issues, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and directors from CT, MA, VT and NH have a singular opportunity to redeem the Connecticut River restoration.  They’re currently making choices for restoring migratory fish north to Bellows Falls, VT, begun under the 45 year-old New England Cooperative Fisheries Compact.  The decisions stem from the 1965 Anadromous Fish Conservation Act.  They’ll seal this ecosystem’s fate at four federally-licensed dams and the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station until 2058.

US F&WS’s Region 5 Director Wendi Weber, John Warner, and Ken Sprankle will join National Marine Fisheries’ Daniel Morris, Julie Crocker, and MA Fish & Wildlife’s Caleb Slater in making the decisions—with input from state directors.  Their 1967 mandate is restoration of shad and herring runs to offer the public “high quality sport fishing opportunities” and provide “for the long-term needs of the population for seafood.”

Sadly, in 1980 their predecessors abandoned two miles of the Connecticut to the power company operating at Turners Falls and Northfield Mountain.  By allowing privatization of the river at mile 120, they killed chances of passage success for millions of American shad barred from spawning at Greenfield, Gill and Northfield, MA, right to the foot of Bellows Falls at Walpole, NH at mile 172.  Unwittingly, they also continued the decimation of the ancient spawning grounds of the river’s last, 300, viable federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon.

Instead of mandating river flows and a direct route upstream to a lift at the dam, they acquiesced to diverting migrants into a power canal.  That Rube Goldberg–a three-trick knot of currents and ladders, proved an utter failure to the hundreds of thousands of shad moving upstream annually through elevators at Holyoke Dam.  There, via a lift built in 1955, 380,000 American shad streamed north in 1980.  It’s the East Coast’s most successful fish passage; it by-passes the city’s canals.

Half or more of those shad swam upstream; but foundered in the treacherous Turners Falls complex.  At the dam, just as today, some depleted their energies by treading water for weeks—washed back and forth by a power company’s deluge-and-trickle releases, finding no elevator or upstream entrance.  Many eventually turned back, only to be tempted by spill from their power canal.  Fish unlucky enough to ascend the ladder there found a desperate compromise.  Over 90% wouldn’t exit alive.  Just as today, alien habitat and extreme turbulence overwhelmed them.  Only 1-in-100 emerged upstream.  For the rest, a turnaround spelled almost certain death in turbines.  Others lingered for weeks in an alien canal environment, until they expired.  Just as today.

This year over 490,000 shad passed Holyoke.  Half or more attempted to pass Turners Falls. Just 26,000, or 1-in-10, swam beyond the dam–a percentage consistently reached in the 1980s.  This is described as “success” by US Geological Survey Conte Lab scientists, Dr. Alex Haro and Dr. Ted Castro-Santos, after fourteen seasons of canal study.  In work garnering annual power company subsidies, they’ve attempted to model that canal is a viable migration path.

I interviewed Dr. Haro in 2007, subsequent to a 1999-2005 study finding shad passage at Turners Falls had plummeted to “one percent or less” directly on the heals of Massachusetts 1999 energy deregulation for the Northfield Mountain-Turners Falls’ complex.  I asked why passage had failed there, “I wouldn’t call it failure,” Haro replied.  Fish passage saw no significant rebound until 2010, when the effects of GDF-Suez’s Northfield Mountain plant were stopped cold for 6 months—sanctioned by the EPA for massive silt dumping.  Likewise, Dr. Castro-Santos’s claims to passage of one-in-ten fish as progress seem deeply troubling when his findings, after 14 years, are just now revealing shad dying “in droves” in that canal, “We don’t know why.”

In 1865, James Hooper, aged 86, of Walpole, NH reported: (from The Historical Society of Cheshire County (NH) “The area just below Bellows Falls was a famous place for catching shad because they gathered there but did not go up over the falls. The fish were caught with scoop nets. One spring Hooper helped to haul out 1300 shad and 20 salmon with one pull of the net.”

Citizens upstream of the 1798 Turners Falls Dam need not accept the dead shad runs and severed ocean-ecosystem of the last 214 years at a dam operated to cull price-spikes from the electricity “spot market.”  An 1872 US Supreme Court decision against owners of Holyoke Dam mandates passage of the public’s fish.  Nor do citizens from Old Saybrook, CT to Bellows Falls have to accept endangered sturgeon, a lethal canal, and a dead river at mile 120.  After 32 years of fatal attraction at Turners Falls, its time to stop steering fish into a canal death trap.  Holyoke proves that’s possible.

Karl Meyer lives in Greenfield, Mass.  He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. He can be contacted at karlm@crocker.com

Region 4 Approves 2013-2014 School Calendar with Shortened February Vacation

REGION 4— The school district has approved a 2013-2014 school calendar that cuts the February winter break while holding classes on Veterans Day and restoring the Columbus Day holiday. The calendar, along with some minor revisions to the calendar for this year, was approved Thursday by the Supervision District Committee.

The committee unanimously approved a calendar option that was endorsed last week after lengthy discussion by a calendar subcommittee. The 2013-2014 calendar will continue to recognize the two autumn Jewish holy days, which was done for the first time this year, while making the second Monday in October Columbus Day holiday a day off for students but a professional development day for district staff. School was in session for Columbus Day this year. In 2013, school will be open for the first time on the second Monday in November Veterans Day holiday.

In the biggest change, the 2013-2014 calendar will reduce the February winter vacation to just two days, Feb. 17, which is President’s Day in 2014, and Feb. 18. The reduced break will start early for students with a half-day professional development day on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. The school year would end on June 11, 2014, depending on the number of days lost to weather events.

The major point of discussion for the calendar committee last week was whether to hold a half-day session on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving, and add one additional day to the February break, or whether to have the day before Thanksgiving off, as was done this year. The committee decided that with absences increasing on the day before Thanksgiving, students would gain receive more instructional time by having that day off and attending class on the Wednesday in the winter break.

In a minor change to the current calendar, there will be a one-half-day session on Friday Jan. 18. This would open up one additional snow cancellation day in a year where a full week of school has already been lost to Storm Sandy.

Village Street Bridge Reopens in Deep River

DEEP RIVER— After a six-month closing for construction, the Village Street bridge was reopened to traffic Thursday afternoon. The bridge over the Deep River, located on Village Street behind the Deep River Library, was closed for the reconstruction project at the end of May.

First Selectman Richard Smith said Friday he is pleased with the bridge replacement that was done by Brunelli Construction of Southington. Engineering design work for the new bridge was done by Jacobson Associates of Chester. The price for the bridge construction was $1.11 million.

The project was funded under the Local Bridge Program, with federal funds covering 80 percent of the total cost. The town was required to pay 20 percent of the project cost.

Essex Library Membership: A Perfect Holiday Gift

What is smarter than a smart phone, more enduring than a dozen cookies and classier than a Chanel handbag? The answer is — a gift membership in the Essex Library Association, the perfect holiday gift!

Membership in your local library is a truly meaningful, lasting gift for family and friends. Long after the other holiday offerings are used and set aside, a library membership keeps on giving, because it keeps the library thriving. Membership matters because it provides funding to keep the library doors open, the children’s and adult programs lively and relevant, and the shelves stocked with the best new books, audio books and DVDs.

Beyond that, a gift membership makes both the donor and recipient partners of Essex Library in promoting reading, lifelong learning, community spirit, and civic pride. What better gift could there be?

Membership is available at levels from $35 to $1,000. And membership does have its perks! Each level of ELA membership comes with an attractive and functional ELA keepsake, including magnets, mugs, totes and boat bags, plus a special treat for children. The recipient of membership will remember your thoughtful gift and your support of the library for years to come. Your donation to the Library is also tax deductible. Drop by the Essex Library to see the pretty gift baskets, and finishing your holiday shopping in one stop.

The Essex Garden Club Decorates and Donates

In the spirit of the holidays, the Essex Garden Club has once again decorated the merchant window boxes and doorways of Essex with a variety of evergreen cuttings provided by members and other generous donors from the community.  A special attraction is The Silent Policeman, decorated by DeeDee Charnok and Gay Thorn.

During the Club’s annual holiday festivities, Club members collected 276 lbs of food for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens and delivered it to the Westbrook Pantry. This amount of food is the equivalent of approximately 200 meals.  Given that this donation exceeds last year’s by more than 4 times, a hearty thank you goes to Janice Atkeson and her volunteers for their efforts.

The Essex Garden Club extends its best wishes to all the residents of Essex Centerbrook  and Ivoryton for a healthy and happy holiday.

Public Hearing on Proposed Chester Poultry Regulation Postponed to Jan 10

CHESTER— An anticipated need for a larger room has led the planning and zoning commission to postpone a public hearing that had been set for Thursday on a proposed zoning regulations that would limit the keeping of some poultry on residential property. The public hearing on the regulation proposed by local residents John and Bonnie Bennet is now set for Thursday Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the all purpose room at Chester Elementary School. The public hearing was to be held at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty St.

Bennet, a lawyer with an office in Essex who is the long-time town attorney for Chester, has proposed a revised regulation that would broaden the definition of poultry to allow the continued keeping of hens, but prohibit keeping of roosters, capons, or  any other fowl that “crows, screeches, squawks, or makes similar sounds.” Another section of the proposed regulation would prohibit keeping of “any animal, as a pet or otherwise,” that “howls, barks, brays, bellows, calls, screeches, squawks or makes other sounds during the day or night at frequent and/or extended periods of time so as to be a nuisance to one or more persons occupying a house or houses in any immediate neighborhood thereby preventing such person or persons from the comfortable enjoyment of their home.”

The proposed regulation is clearly generating opposition among many residents, with signs posted around town urging the commission to “keep Chester chicken friendly.” It was the anticipation of a large crowd that led to the rescheduling of the public hearing to a larger meeting room.

See related story

Essex Savings Bank Names Lisa Berube Officer

Lisa M. Berube appointed as Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager of the Chester office of the Essex Savings Bank

Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank, is pleased to announce the addition of Lisa M. Berube as Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager of the Chester office located at 203 Middlesex Avenue, Chester.

Lisa held numerous positions in banking since the 1990’s, and most recently served as Branch Manager at the Chester Branch of Bank of America.  Prior to that, Lisa held various NASD licenses and served as an Investment Representative.  Lisa attended Middlesex Community College and also the New England College of Finance.  She is very active in the local community.  She is a member of the Deep River & Chester Lions Club, she serves as treasurer for the Salvation Army Mid-Middlesex County Service Unit, she is a member of the Mount Saint John Gala Committee, and is a past member of the East Haddam Ray Board.

Essex Savings Bank opened its sixth branch on December 3, 2012.  The branch is located within the Chester Town Hall building.  Lisa will be joined by the following staff members – Sarah May, Karyn Shultz, Isabel Roberge, and Jennifer Frohlich.

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

Local Tissue Donor to be Honored in Rose Parade

Robert Novak, Jr.

Deep River, CT – At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12, Deep River  Town Hall will host an event to decorate a floral portrait of tissue donor Robert Novak, Jr.  On June 7, 2008, after winning a golf tournament with his father, 33-year-old Rob suffered an undetermined medical episode and died while driving home. Among those who benefited from his gifts of life were three infant boys.

At the event, Rob’s family, including wife Sage and daughters Grace and Natalie, will put the finishing touches on his floragraph.  Following this event, the portrait will travel to Pasadena and appear on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float titled “Journeys of the Heart” on January 1, 2013. Sage, Grace and Natalie will also be traveling to Pasadena for the Rose Parade and Donate Life Float official events.

The floragraph, a portrait made entirely of organic floral materials, will be one of the floral portraits that will appear on the Donate Life float to honor the lives of organ and tissue donors and the decision they made to give the gift of life by donating their organs. The floragraph is sponsored by CryoLife.

Chester Planning and Zoning to Consider Limits on Keeping Chickens

 

Meeting Postponed to Jan 10, 2013

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a petition from a local lawyer to change zoning rules on the keeping of chickens, specifically roosters and capons. The public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting house on Liberty Street.

John and Bonnie Bennet, of 23 Story Hill Road, have petitioned for a change in the definitions section for poultry. John Bennet, who has an office in Essex, is the long-time town attorney for Chester and a frequent moderator at town meetings. Bonnie Bennet is a former Chester judge of probate.

The proposed change would define poultry as hens, and allow the continued keeping of hens on private residential property “in a manner which preserves the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood.” The proposed new language would prohibit the keeping of roosters and capons, and any “fowl which crows, calls, screeches, squawks, or makes similar other sounds,” including “guinea fowl, peacocks or peahens, geese, parrots, macaws of similar calling species.”

An additional proposed regulation prohibits keeping “any animal, as a pet or otherwise, including fowl, which howls, barks, brays, bellows, calls, screeches or makes other sounds during the day or night at frequent and/or extended periods of time so as to be a nuisance to one or more persons occupying a house or houses in any immediate neighborhood thereby preventing such person or persons from the comfortable enjoyment of their homes.”

The proposed change appears to have generated opposition from some residents even before the public hearing. There are several small signs posted around town which highlight Thursday’s hearing, and call for “keeping Chester chicken friendly.”

Trees in the Rigging Boat Parade Contest Winners Announced

Trees in the Rigging event organizers and boat parade participants from left to right are Jackie Russo-Boudinot of Flat-Bottom Girl; Fred Heine of Boatique USA; CRM Boat Parade Judge Dean McChesney; Bill Sullivan of PAtience, and Michael Melluzzo representing Following C. Not pictured is Cynthia Yerman of Defiance III.

Essex – On Tuesday, December 4, this year’s Trees in The Rigging organizers and participants gathered at the Connecticut River Museum to celebrate victory in the annual boat decorating contest.  The event, held on November 25 under the light of a full moon, featured festively-lit vessels passing in review in front of the Museum.  Out of a field of 14 participants in the judged competition, Chis and Casey Clark of Following C and Bill Sullivan of Patience tied for first place while Dave and Jackie Boudinot of Flat-Bottom Girl took second place, Cynthia Yerman of Defiance III was awarded third place, and an honorable mention was given to Two Coots in Two Kayaks.

Judges Dean McChesney, Pam McChesney and Chantal Lawrence were extremely impressed with the creativity and execution of this year’s contest.  So much so they came up even when deciding between the glorious green tree created by strategic lighting of the ketch Patience’s rigging and the dazzling display of lights and artistry that turned the 44-foot Following C into a floating snow globe.  Each first place team won a etched glass pitcher and glass set donated by the Connecticut River Museum.   The second place, 24-foot pontoon Flat-Bottom Girl was honored for its use of white lights to create a brilliant star atop a luminous tree and was awarded a $50 gift certificate and nautical cheese board set donated by Boatique USA.  The third place Defiance III was recognized for its conversion to Santa’s sleigh, complete with Rudolph’s red nose lighting the way, and received a nautical welcome mat donated by the Connecticut River Museum.  Two Coots in Two Kayaks was literally a last minute entry, popping their lighted rigs into the river and paddling up the tail end of the procession, names unknown. Trees in The Rigging is a community event presented annually by the Connecticut River Museum, the Essex Historical Society, and the Essex Board of Trade.

Letter: The Year of the Role Model

To the Editor:

The Year of the Role Model is being celebrated in our community, and it has me thinking about an important role model from my own youth.  Mr. John Mills, my high school band director, had a profound influence on my development as a young person, one that I still feel today.  As I reflect on my time with him, I’m struck by something.  What stands out in memory is not so much what he said to us but how he conducted himself.  Somehow, without doing a lot of lecturing about it, Mr. Mills taught us all we ever needed to know about commitment and professionalism.  These critical traits have made an immeasurable difference in my professional life as both social worker and weekend musician.

Some 25 years later, I find his example offers me another important life lesson, one that hits closer to home.  What I do around my kids is at least as important as what I say to them.  In other words, “Do as I say, not as I do,” doesn’t cut it.  If we want our children to act a certain way, there is no better teaching method than to role model that behavior.

Sincerely,

Brad Pitman,
Member, Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Council

Region 4 Schools Boards to Consider Three-Year Teacher Contract, School Calendar Changes at Meeting

REGION 4 — The Region 4 Supervision District Board of Education will consider a new three-year contract for district teachers, and proposed changes to the 2013-2014 school calendar, at a meeting Thursday. The session convenes at 7 p.m. in the library at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. The supervision district board is a large group comprised of all of the elected members of the Region 4 Board of Education, and the local school boards for Chester, Deep River, and Essex.

The agreement with the Region 4 Education Association bargaining unit was negotiated in early October with assistance from a mediator assigned by the state Department of Education. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said last week the three-year contract that extends to June 30, 2016, has been approved by the teachers union. Levy said details of the contract, including salaries and benefit changes, would not be released until the Dec. 6 meeting.

Last week, a calendar committee of the boards gave a tentative endorsement to a proposed 2013-2014 school calendar that would again honor the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, make Columbus Day a holiday for students and a professional development day for teachers, and hold classes on the second Monday in November Veterans Day holiday. The proposed calendar would also cut the February 2014 winter vacation from a week to two days, including the required President’s Day holiday. Both the calendar and the teacher contract require approval from each of the four Region 4 school boards.