December 22, 2014

New Deep River Zoning Application for Disputed 444 Main Street Property

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has received a new application for the 444 Main St. property that last year was the subject of an application for a proposed used car dealership that led to a lawsuit against the town’s zoning board of appeals.

Local resident George Bartlett Jr. has filed a special permit application for the “sale and maintenance of used and new construction equipment,” on the former Champion Tool & Die property at 444 Main St., also known as Route 154. The commission received the application at its Feb. 21 meeting, and scheduled an April 18 public hearing on the application.

But Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson said Wednesday she is still reviewing the application to determine whether any additional approvals, such as a variance from the zoning board of appeals or approval from some state agency, are required before the commission holds a public hearing on the application. The sales and work on construction equipment would occur in the existing 20,000-square-foot industrial building on the property. The building owned by Bartlett is more than half vacant, with about 8,000 square feet currently leased to a small manufacturing business.

Last year, Bartlett requested approval from the zoning board of appeals of two variances that were needed to open a used car dealership on the property. One was a dimensional variance because the parcel had only 144.7-feet of road frontage, less than the minimum 150-feet required under zoning regulations for the Turnpike Industrial Zone on the south side of town.

But the application for a second variance drew strong opposition, and the threat of a lawsuit, from the planning and zoning commission when it was presented to the ZBA at a public hearing last June. Commission lawyer William Howard contended Bartlett was also seeking a use variance that was beyond the jurisdiction of the ZBA. The board approved the 5.3-foot dimensional variance, but there was dispute about whether the board also approved a second variance for the proposed used car dealership use.

In September, the board declined a request from Bartlett to amend minutes of the June 19 public hearing to reflect that he had sought, and the board had approved, two variances. In December, Bartlett, represented by Essex lawyer John Bennet, filed a lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court seeking a court order directing the ZBA to amend its minutes to reflect approval of two variances at the June 19 session.

Jefferson said the lawsuit and the new application for sale and maintenance of construction equipment are ‘unrelated,” and with the still pending lawsuit not preventing the planning and zoning commission from considering the new application.

Sen. Art Linares Tours Chester Firm AeroCision

Sen. Art Linares (left) listens to AeroCision CEO Andrew Gibson during a Feb. 27 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares (left) listens to AeroCision CEO Andrew Gibson during a Feb. 27 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares on Feb. 27 toured Chester-based manufacturer AeroCision with CEO Andrew Gibson.  Sen. Linares, who serves on the legislature’s Commerce Committee and is a member of the bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus, met with company employees and learned about AeroCision’s operations during the hour-long visit.

AeroCision CEO Andrew Gibson (center left) and Sen. Art Linares (center right) chat with AeroCision employees during Linares’ Feb. 27 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

AeroCision CEO Andrew Gibson (center left) and Sen. Art Linares (center right) chat with AeroCision employees during Linares’ Feb. 27 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer. 

AeroCision (www.aerocision.com) makes and assembles complex aerospace parts involving exotic metals and sophisticated processes. The company has built a reputation for having the best customer service culture in the business, and its employees are known for their superior engineering and machining skills.

“I am doing my very best at the State Capitol to improve our state’s business environment so that small manufacturers like AeroCision can grow and retain jobs,” Sen. Linares said.  “It was great to meet AeroCision’s talented employees and to hear directly from Andrew Gibson.  When companies like AeroCision succeed, our whole region benefits from that success.  As a legislator, I aim to be a voice in Hartford for businesses like AeroCision.”

Sen. Linares plans to reach out to high schools and vocational-technical schools throughout the area to raise awareness about the rewards of choosing manufacturing careers.  He has proposed a variety of pro-business legislation, including the elimination of the state’s business entity tax.

Sen. Linares (www.senatorlinares.com) can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at (800) 842 1421. He represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

Essex Zoning Commission to Vote on Reopened Convenience Store at Former Sunoco Station

The presently abandoned Sunoco gas station on Main Street in the Centerbrook section of Essex.  (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

The presently abandoned Sunoco gas station on Main Street in the Centerbrook section of Essex. (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX— The zoning commission will vote at a March 4 meeting on the special permit application for a convenience store and reopened gasoline station at the former Sunoco station site at 1 Saybrook Road. Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the panel agreed to schedule a special meeting after receiving a revised site plan from the applicant, Bestway 2 LLC of Norwich, at a public hearing Monday.

The partnership is planning to purchase the property, located near the Route 3 Exit 3 interchange, for use as a Sunoco gasoline station and convenience store. There would be no additions to the existing 1,800-square-foot building, which has been vacant for several years. The gasoline station would have eight pumps.

Budrow said the applicants submitted a revised site plan for the one-third-acre parcel that included the 14 parking spaces that are required for a retail grocery use under town zoning regulations. The revised site plan also closes an access on to Plaza Drive, an existing road that leads to a commercial development behind the property. Entry and exit from the site would only be on to Saybrook Road.

The commission continued to its regular March 18 meeting the public hearing on its own proposed zoning amendment that would prohibit new fast food restaurants and drive-through service windows in Essex. Budrow said the commission would review several recommendations on the issue from the planning commission, and also consider a report from the economic development commission opposing a total ban on new fast food restaurants in town.

Essex Town Auditorium Update – Re-opening Feb. 27

A spokesperson for Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said that work on the ceiling of the auditorium of the Essex Town Hall will be completed this Wednesday, February 27. This will be mean that all events scheduled after that date can be expected to proceed on schedule at the auditorium.

The entire auditorium has been closed to public functions, since debris from a feeding duct from the auditorium’s heading system was discovered on the floor after the weekend of February 9-10. Because of this incident town authorities decided to check out all of the ceiling ducts in the auditorium.

According to Mark Hiatt of the Town of Essex’s Maintenance and Custodian staff, the single duct that fell to the floor was in the rear of the auditorium.

Read related article by Charles Stannard

Se. Art Linares Updates Shoreline Business Leaders

Former Sen. Eileen Daily (left) chats with Sen. Art Linares during the Westbrook Chamber of Commerce’s Feb. 26 breakfast meeting.

Former Sen. Eileen Daily (left) chats with Sen. Art Linares during the Westbrook Chamber of Commerce’s Feb. 26 breakfast meeting.

Sen. Art Linares (R- Westbrook) provided a legislative update to area business leaders Feb. 26 during the Westbrook Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast meeting at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa.

Sen. Linares discussed his efforts to push pro-business policies at the State Capitol, such as eliminating the state’s business entity tax and putting an end to wasteful state spending.  Sen. Linares also stressed the importance of preserving and growing area manufacturing jobs.  He said he will be encouraging area high school and vocational-technical students to consider a transition to a manufacturing career as they plan their post-graduation futures.

Help Develop Strategic Plan for Essex Library and Win an iPad Mini

ipad miniWould you like to win an iPad Mini, and help the Essex Library out at the same time? We need your input; the Essex Library Association is developing a strategic plan, which will guide the Library in serving the Essex community for both the next several years and the next generation. A committee headed up by Association President Fred Szufnarowski and Library Director Richard Conroy is working with nationally recognized Library Development Solutions of Princeton, NJ to address challenges specific to the delivery of library services during this period of rapid transition to electronic media.

Community outreach will be a key element of the strategic planning process as the Library develops service models to meet the needs of patrons and residents. We’re asking Essex residents to take a survey, either on line at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Essexlibrary or at the Library, on paper or a computer set up for that purpose. Anyone who takes the survey and provides the Library with their email address will be entered in a drawing for an iPad Mini. If you’ve already taken the survey, and didn’t provide an email, you can enter the drawing by calling the Library and giving your email address to the librarian. Community engagement is critical to the success of this initiative.

Some of the questions to be explored during the planning process include:

  • What do residents and leaders of Essex expect and need from the library, both now and in the future?
  • Does the current vision and mission of the library reflect those needs?
  • What are the contemporary roles of the library for the community’s children, teens, older adults and parents?
  • How does the library respond with services, collections, staffing, and facilities to meet identified community needs and expected future needs?
  • How does the library respond to a quickly changing environment in which the issues of library funding, content and collections, and staffing?
  • What are the challenges and barriers associated with creating the Essex Library of the future?

The consultants will facilitate interviews and workshops with key stakeholders, as needed, to ensure the involvement of the community, staff, ELA Board, and town leaders in order to assess residents’ current awareness and satisfaction with library services, programs, collections and the facility and to discuss their ideas for future library services, collections, programs and facilities. Both   online and print surveys may be developed and distributed through which residents can contribute open-ended ideas and feedback to the strategic planning team.

Leslie and Alan Burger of Library Development Solutions have worked with many Connecticut libraries, both municipal and association, consortia and boards throughout the state on strategic planning, facilities and funding projects. The consultants will provide a process that includes the community, staff, and director.

Library Development Solutions was founded in 1991 to assist librarians and library boards with strategic planning, building programs, service program design, improvement and evaluation, community needs assessments, and organizational and staff development. In the past few years, they have interviewed over 5,000 library customers and potential customers in focus group sessions and have surveyed over 25,000 individuals to determine their library and information needs.

For more information or to learn how you can participate in the strategic planning process please contact Richard Conroy at (860) 767-1560.

Essex Meadows, a Nationally Recognized “Life Care Retirement Community,” Celebrates its 25th Anniversary

The impressive portico at the entrance of Essex Meadows

The impressive portico at the entrance of Essex Meadows

Essex Meadows, which is located at 30 Bokum Road in Essex, Connecticut, is a treasure in our midst. This coming year, 2013, “The Meadows,” as everyone calls it, will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. To give our readers a unique perspective as to how the Meadows operates, and why it has achieved nationally recognized stature as a retirement community, we have submitted the questions below to the Meadow’s Director of Marketing, Susan Carpenter, for her to answer.

Our questions are in bold face type, and Ms. Carpenter’s answers follow each question. So let us begin:

1) How many total residents are there at Essex Meadows?

There are approximately 240 residents.  Several live in Essex year round, and many maintain second homes in places like Fishers Island, Florida, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Essex Meadows resident Jean Ryan by the entrance Christmas Tree at the Meadows

Essex Meadows resident Jean Ryan by the entrance Christmas Tree at the Meadows

2) How many residential apartments, and how many individual homes, are there at the Meadows, and what is the size and layout of each category?

We have 183 apartments, 13 cottages, and 45 skilled nursing beds in our Health Center.  Two thirds of the apartments, and all of the cottages, feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and they range in size from 1,050 to 2,400 square feet.  We also offer several different one bedroom layouts, some with dens, ranging from 600 to 900 square feet.  Some of these have one bath while others offer 1 ½ baths.

3) What are some of the amenities at the Meadows, such the golf course (How many holes?), library and dining room?

Our Executive Golf Course is a “par three,” and it is home to the annual Essex Fire Department Golf Tournament.  We also offer croquet, walking trails, and a large garden area with raised and traditional flower beds for our outdoor enthusiasts.  For those who prefer indoor activities we have a swimming pool, fitness center, art studio, library, Pub, and woodworking shop.

C. Allan Borchet, former Chairman, Residents Council of Essex Meadows and model shipbuilder

C. Allan Borchet, former Chairman, Residents Council of Essex Meadows and model shipbuilder

 

4) Anything else?

The Community has everything you need for an active lifestyle right at your fingertips. The Niagara Bank has a full service branch right on campus. Next door to the bank is “Meadowmart,”our full service in-house grocery store, which is entirely run by resident volunteers. We carry the best and most inexpensive selection of greeting cards in town. Great bridge mix too.

5) What are the categories of care at the Meadows, such as ordinary resident care and assisted living care?

Our apartments and cottages offer independent living with the security of knowing that our licensed Assisted Living Program can step in to provide supportive services as health needs change.  These services can include neighborly services such as walking your dog or watering your plants, to more complex health services including assistance with medication management and help with a resident’s activities of daily living.

6) What services does the Meadow’s Health Center provide?

For the past three years our Health Center, which provides professional clinical services and nursing care, has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top skilled care facilities in the country.  The Health Center offers short term rehabilitation, respite care, long term custodial care, and Hospice services.  Hospice is also available in our apartments and cottages for those whose end of life decision is to remain at home.

7) What kind of health care professionals are there on duty, or on call, at the Meadows on a given day?

We have professionals, both on the independent living side and the skilled nursing side.  Our staffing patterns vary according to acuity or need.  Our staffing levels are significantly higher than State regulations require.  Angela Christie and Kathleen Dess are responsible in these areas. Kathleen is the Administrator of our Health Center, while Angela is the Director of Resident Health Services.

(l to r) Essex Meadow's senior staff: Angela Christie, Director of Resident Health; Susan Carpenter, Director of Marketing Services, and Kathleen Dess, Administrator of the Health Center,  in the Residents' library

(l to r) Essex Meadow’s senior staff: Angela Christie, Director of Resident Health; Susan Carpenter, Director of Marketing Services, and Kathleen Dess, Administrator of the Health Center, in the Residents’ library

8) What is the ownership structure of the Meadows?

Essex Meadows is a family owned business incorporated in Iowa.  The board of directors visits quarterly to meet with the residents and the management team.  Essex Meadows is managed by LifeCare Services, LLC.

9) Who is the Executive Director of the Meadows?

 Our Executive Director is Jennifer Rannestad. We also have management input from an active Residents Council and various resident committees.

Jennifer Rannestad, Executive Director of Essex Meadows, at the entrance of Essex's premier retirement community

Jennifer Rannestad, Executive Director of Essex Meadows, at the entrance of Essex’s premier retirement community

10) What are the cost arrangements at the Meadows for buying and selling the apartments and separate homes?

In addition to payment for meals and necessity of life services, our popular Return-of-Capital plan has been offered at Essex Meadows since it opened its doors in 1988.  Residents and/or their estates receive a large portion of their original Admission Payment back after their cottage or apartment has been resold.

11) Is there another ownership alternative for residents?

Yes, the Flex Plan is our newest financial option to maximize choice and flexibility, when it comes to retirement planning.  For those who prefer a plan that demands less up front capital, the Flex Plan offers a reduced Admission Payment.  While there is no return of capital to the estate, a resident has the ability to continue to control his or her assets and invest their savings as they wish.

12) What are the specifics of the cognitive test that applicants to the Meadows must take before they are accepted as residents?

Our health-evaluation process requires that paperwork be completed by an applicant’s physician as well as a meeting with our Director of Resident Health Services.  In addition to asking an applicant about their general health and activities of daily living, we use standardized cognitive scales in our evaluation.  The Mini Mental Status Exam and St. Louis University Mental Status Exam are two such examples commonly used by life-care communities and long term care insurance providers nationwide.

13) Is there a review process of the cognitive test results?

The results of this health-evaluation process are reviewed with the Essex Meadows Medical Director.  The results of the interview will be considered along with the information that is provided by the applicant’s physician.

14) Who has the final say in accepting a new resident at the Meadows?

Each applicant must meet both medical and financial criteria for residency.  It is the role of Executive Director to review both the medical and financial information for each applicant to make a decision for occupancy consistent with the admission policy established by our Board of Directors.

15) Who assumes the risk of paying for the long-term care of residents?

Because Essex Meadows is a life-care community, the financial risk of long-term care is a cost shared by the whole community.  Therefore an individual resident does not have the financial exposure of having to pay the high costs of nursing home care should those services be needed.  Some residents consider this an alternative to long term care insurance when planning for future health care costs.

16) What do you view are the unique aspects of Essex Meadows that average nursing homes might generally not provide?

The Essex Meadows provides a beautifully appointed residential atmosphere, a resident centered approach to care, and is well staffed. These are just a few of the reasons as to why Essex Meadows provides exceptional care, as well as specialized services in its adjoining Health Center.

17) Are there any other benefits to residents at Essex Meadows, which you feel deserve to be mentioned?

We believe that our residents are the most wonderful and unique part of our lifestyle benefits.  Furthermore, residents have generously organized and administered a scholarship fund for Meadows’ employees and their children. To date, the scholarship fund has provided over 400 grants, totally more than $750,000.

18) Do Essex Meadows residents take an interest in the Town of Essex?

Our residents have a great love of the Essex community.  They are lifelong learners, patrons of the arts, and protectors of the environment.  Essex Meadows is involved in the general community creating partnerships and relationships with those organizations that our residents would also support as individuals.

Essex Meadows has also been a great corporate contributor and supporter of the Connecticut River Museum, the Community Music School, the Essex Winter Series, the Ivoryton Playhouse, the Essex Library, FISH, the Essex Garden Club, Essex Child & Family Services Agency, the Essex Fire Department, Ivoryton Illuminations, the Essex Rotary Club, Essex Land Trust, the Essex Historical Society, and many others.

 

19) Have there ever been any marriages between residents at the Meadows, or any other “human interest” stories at the facility.

There have been no marriages, but the creation of many deep and meaningful friendships.  One of the most interesting aspects of the Meadows is that despite the geographical diversity of its residents before coming to the Meadows, many residents have social connections dating back to their childhood days, college years, summer camps, vacations, board memberships, private clubs and the like.

As for “human interest” stories, we have residents Art and Peg Howe, who engage in ice cutting on Squam Lake in winter, Jean Luberg and her tandem sky diving, published authors such as Nicole Prevost Logan and Jeanne West, and many very talented and successful people at Essex Meadows. They all have wonderful stories to tell, including two of our residents who celebrated their 105th birthdays this past year.

Letter of Interest Invited: Cedar Lake Concession Stand – Pelletier Park

…or What do Blue Skies, Hot Sand, Cool Water, Hot Dogs and Ice Cream have in common?  The Snack Shack at Cedar Lake!

The Town of Chester is accepting letters of interest to operate the Cedar Lake Snack Shack for the 2013 Summer Season. Letters of interest will be accepted through April 10, 2013.

Interested concessionaires should contact the First Selectman’s Office and request a copy of the draft lease agreement for the 2013 season. Concessionaires will be asked to indicate hours of operation, provide a sample menu, staffing levels, and expected equipment to be provided by the concessionaire in the operation of the business. The Board of Selectmen reserves the right to accept or reject any or all of the letters of interest if deemed in the best interest of the Town of Chester.

Did Jesus have a wife? New evidence says “Yes.”

Dr. King shows the sample of papyrus at a conference of scholars in Rome. –from the New York Times

Dr. King shows the sample of papyrus at a conference of scholars in Rome.
–from the New York Times

Eagle Rock, CA  — Milady Annabelle and I were visiting Occidental College. She’s an alumna. It’s a fine private, coed college, one of the oldest on our Pacific coast. Just a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

We were strolling the beautiful grounds. I noticed a newspaper box and, news junkie that I am, took out a paper—the students’ Occidental Weekly! A freebie. Never saw it before.

A big headline on Page 1: “Former Occidental Professor debates possible existence of Jesus’ wife.”

Couldn’t resist it. Read it right there. Every word. Seems that Jesus did have a wife. Gosh! But the headline was mild compared to the story itself. In her talk to Occidental students, the professor wasn’t “debating” anything. She said she had strong evidence that suggested yes, Jesus did have a wife!

I handed the paper to Annabelle. She feasted on it. “Sensational,” she said.

Both of us had heard allusions of this over the years, whispers, so to speak. But nothing like this. Nothing this firm. And that’s why I’m sharing it with you now.

Imagine our learning of this in a student newspaper!

The professor, Dr. Karen L. King, had moved on from Occidental and was now a professor at Harvard U. Divinity School. She had had come back to give to give her talk about this astounding development.

And she had first-hand info—she had done the research to come up with it.

She had gotten possession of a scrap of ancient papyrus. Just a tiny thing—the size of a business card. It had pieces of Coptic writing on it. Translated, one of them stated, “Jesus said  (to his disciples), “my wife….” That’s all.”

Unfortunately, the rest of the sentence was missing.

The story we were reading was written by student Clark Scally—students produce the whole paper. I was impressed by it. I noticed Scally had also authored two other articles in it. A busy young man. To my eye, quite professional.

His story about Dr. King’s talk had a juicy tidbit. He wrote, “In the Gospel of Philip, discussed by (Prof.) King in her lecture, Jesus speaks of marriage and sexuality extensively. He also refers to Mary Magdalene as his close companion whom he kisses more often than his other disciples, much to the concern of Apostles Peter and Matthew.”

That tickled me. For the simple reason that over the years I have come to think of Jesus as a man, as a very great teacher, one of the greatest ever, but just a man. And this certainly makes him look manly. I like that. Besides. I had never heard it said that boldly before.

In her talk, Dr. King said that scrap of papyrus was believed to have come from the fourth or fifth centuries.

She said an anonymous donor who collected such things had given it to her at Harvard Divinity School.

She had made thorough efforts to authenticate that exciting bit of papyrus. Had shown it to numerous scholars. Had discussed it with them. Had double-checked everything as carefully as she could. Had slept on it. Had decided it was legitimate. But she said more analysis is going on.

Certainly she’s a lady and professor of high repute and attainment. She left Occidental to join Harvard Divinity in 2003 as the Winn  Professor of Ecclesiastical History.

Six years later she made history when she became the first woman to be the Hollis Professor of Divinity. It is the oldest endowed chair on our shores, dating back to 1721.

She has received research grants from prestigious foundations. Has written many articles and half a dozen scholarly books. So, she is no lightweight.

I find the titles of two of her books tantalizing, The Secret Revelation of John and The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.

She spilled this about Jesus and his wife at Occidental on Feb. 7. But that came after a storm of controversial announcements and newsbreaks about it.

Initially, Dr. King had traveled to Rome with the papyrus and displayed it to a group of New Testament experts. She came back sure that it was authentic, though apparently the scholars were not all agreed.

The Vatican blasted it as counterfeit. A columnist for Britain’s eminent Guardian newspaper disagreed loudly. Declared the papyrus document a fraud and explained why. It boiled down to a typo.

It is known that the notion that Jesus did not have a wife developed only a century after his death. It is said that numerous people of Jesus’ time believed that he was indeed married. How about that?

To announce her findings to the wide public, Dr. King staged a press conference at the Divinity School.. It got attention. The New York Times was there, among others. It followed up with a detailed story. And it stirred up scores of comments, pro and con.

I read many. Scholarly and impressive. Regardless what side they were on, these people seemed awfully knowledgeable.

I’m not sure what to believe. I’d like more than a scrap of evidence. But again, deep down I like to believe that Jesus was a married man. That’s so natural. That’s what most of us want to do and end up doing. More and more of us get married more than once!

And now we have men marrying men and women marrying women! Legally.

Getting hooked seems to satisfy an inner need.

The public reaction was more than Dr. King expected. She says shat she is not saying Jesus had a wife. She is saying that the papyrus said he did.

I found it dramatic that this red-hot story was appearing in the student newspaper of a college of strong Christian origins. Occidental was founded by staunch Presbyterians and was totally Presbyterian for a century or so. It has been liberalizing in the last decade or two. I wonder how the old-timers would feel about this.

For sure one would be the Rev. Dr. Hugh K. Walker, D.D. He was a long-time chairman of Occidental’s board of directors in its earliest days. He set the school on a firm path.

He was the minister of the leading Presbyterian church in Los Angeles.

Why am I telling you this? Because of a terrific coincidence. Dr. Walker was milady Annabelle’s grandfather on her mother’s side. And that’s why her mom and dad enrolled her at Occidental.

In fact, her dad also was a Presbyterian minister. But he gave that up and became president for many years of the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital… in time also became president of the U.S. Protestant Hospital Association.

Occidental’s fine reputation has become even more widely known of late. A big reason is that it was the first college in our continental U.S. that young Barack Obama, freshly arrived from Hawaii, attended. He lasted two years, transferring to Columbia U. in New York.

That’s something Annabelle shares with him. She jumped after two years, too, and probably for the same reason—to experience a broader undergraduate experience. She went on to the University of California at Berkeley and graduated from there.

One more thing about Clark Scally’s piece in the Occidental Weekly.

At its close, he wrote: “A member of the audience asked Dr. King how she was handling the attention and its pressure.

“’I lost eight pounds in the first week.’ Dr. King answered.

‘The Divinity School arranged a panic button in my office due to concerns for my physical safety. Most of my job since this has come out is to throw cold water on everything.’”

I liked young Scally’s including this quote.  it shows that it’s not so easy to be a professor. At times you must really profess.

Maybe he’ll wind up on the New York Times someday.

Connecticut River System Highlights Role of People in Sustaining Nature

Dr. Frogard Ryan,  state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

Dr. Frogard Ryan, state director, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut

A fishway around a dam on the Mattabesset River in East Berlin might not seem to have much to do with the towns along the lower Connecticut River.

But the fishway The Nature Conservancy is building on the property of StanChem, a polymer manufacturing company about 35 miles from my home in Old Lyme, is good news—here and there.

As the Conservancy’s state director, I have a vested interest in the project’s success. It’s no stretch, though, to say we all have an interest in this work.

The Mattabesset River is a tributary of the Connecticut River, and the elaborate U-shaped fishway being built near the StanChem complex will help improve the health of the river area residents know and love as a neighbor.

That’s just for starters, though.

As I toured the site recently with StanChem President Jack Waller and Conservancy Connecticut Director of Migratory Fish Projects Sally Harold, I was reminded of a fundamental truth:  Conservation is made possible by people, and if Connecticut’s natural resources are to be sustained into the future, it will be because people make it so.

River and stream connectivity is an important environmental issue and opportunity in our state. The vast majority of dams in Connecticut are relatively small and privately owned. Many of them no longer serve the purposes for which they were built; some are at risk of failures that could threaten public safety.

From an environmental perspective, dam removal can open access to upstream spawning habitats for migratory fish. It also can restore the natural, swift-moving flows that support some native species, and it can enhance water quality by improving nutrient and sediment transport.

Removal isn’t always an option, of course, and that was the case with this project, where the impoundment created by the dam provides water that would be crucial for StanChem in case of a fire. In such circumstances, a well-thought-out fishway is a great—if not always easy— alternative.

The fishway on the Mattabesset is designed so that American shad, alewife and blueback herring will be able to use it. Because the old dam has been a complete barrier, none of those species has been above it in maybe 100 years.  All told, about 50 miles of habitat—including tributaries to the Mattabesset—will become available to them, improving the overall health of the Connecticut River system.

An embedded tube for migrating American eels is part of the project, too, and the Connecticut Department Energy and Environmental Protection will gather information from an observation room there for its “No Fish Left Behind” reports about monitored fish runs across the state.

Equally important, though, is how this project has happened.

A $308,000 Connecticut DEEP Ecosystem Management & Habitat Restoration grant, a $10,000 contribution from the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership through Northeast Utilities, and private donations to The Nature Conservancy are helping pay for this work. Of course, it also couldn’t happen without StanChem’s active buy-in.

With the state and the private and nonprofit sectors involved, the cooperation that characterizes this project is a model for conservation.

Still, it wouldn’t be possible without the commitment of individuals—people who want to make a difference. Mr. Waller, whose buoyant enthusiasm for the project is infectious, comes to mind, as does DEEP Supervising Fisheries Biologist Steve Gephard, a long-time champion of the project.

A great deal of work was done last year to improve the health of Connecticut’s rivers and streams. In East Berlin, Farmington, Stonington and elsewhere, there were real successes with dam removal and fish passage.

With so many of Connecticut’s dams privately owned, the future of this type of work depends greatly on individuals—including, I hope, some readers here—who see and cherish the opportunity to make a difference. There are so many dams out there where work of real ecological value could be done. Perhaps one of them is yours.

 

Dr. Ryan, who is the State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut, lives in Old Lyme; the Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter is located at 55 Church Street, Floor 3; New Haven, Conn. 06510-3029.

Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition Meeting – Mar. 13

The next meeting of the Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at Tri-Town Youth Services, 56 High Street in Deep River.  Membership on this Coalition is open to all who live or work in the tri-town area who are concerned about substance abuse and interested in its prevention.

In addition to ongoing prevention programming in our schools and communities, the tri-town area is currently involved with Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth, an initiative funded through Middlesex United Way to build youth developmental assets.  The Coalition is also engaged in environmental prevention funded through the Drug Free Communities Support Program.

A guest speaker, William Lugo, will address the Coalition at the March 13 meeting to present information regarding the evaluation of the Freshman Transition Event held at Camp Hazen on August 28, 2012.  For further information, call Tri-Town at 860-526-3600.

 

Essex Town Hall Auditorium Closed After Partial Ceiling Collapse

ESSEX— The auditorium at town hall is expected to remain closed to the public at least through the end of the month after a partial ceiling collapse that occurred over the weekend of Feb. 9-10. First Selectman Norman Needleman reported at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of selectmen that heating and ventilation ducts in the ceiling above the auditorium fell on to the floor below.

While the breakage occurred soon after the Feb. 8 blizzard, Nedleman said the problem is believed to have resulted from the age and condition of the duct work, and not directly related to the snowfall. But Needleman added the town is “very lucky,” the breakage occurred over a weekend, when the auditorium was not being used by the public. “There are a lot of hidden things in this building that are there and need to be resolved,” he said.

The historic town hall building was constructed in 1892, and was used as the town’s high school, named Pratt High School, until the Region 4 Valley Regional High School in Deep River opened in 1952. There were some renovations to the building in the mid-1970s, along with other limited renovations to sections of the building that were completed over the past six years.

Along with serving as the town’s election and referendum polling place, the auditorium is used for larger town meetings and public hearings, along with various community events and occasional blood drives. Needleman said a local contractor, Riggio & Sons Inc., is expected to complete repairs that would allow the auditorium to reopen for public use by early March.

In other business Wednesday, the selectmen approved an expenditure of $36,884 from a capital purchases sinking fund in the current town budget to purchase a new SUV-style Ford Explorer police utility vehicle. The new vehicle would replace the town’s oldest police cruiser, a 2001 model. Release of the monies from the sinking fund also requires approval from the board of finance.

Sen. Art Linares Meets With Deep River Taxpayers

Sen. Art Linares (center) speaks with a taxpayers at his Feb. 20 Town Hall Meeting in Deep River.  Sen. Linares’ next Town Hall Meeting will be Tuesday Feb. 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Senior Center, 7 Waverly Ave.

Sen. Art Linares (center) speaks with a taxpayers at his Feb. 20 Town Hall Meeting in Deep River. Sen. Linares’ next Town Hall Meeting will be Tuesday Feb. 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Senior Center, 7 Waverly Ave.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, State Sen. Art Linares held a 90-minute Town Hall Meeting at Deep River Town Hall.

The meeting, which was attended by about 20 taxpayers, allowed area residents to question Sen. Linares about the state budget and discuss his efforts to make Connecticut more business-friendly.

“We had an excellent discussion, and I thank Deep River taxpayers for stopping by,” Sen. Linares said.  “For those who could not attend, feel free to contact me with any questions you have about taxes, spending, or any topics you wish to discuss.  I can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at 800 842 1421.”

Residents may sign up for Sen. Linares’ State Capitol e-alerts at www.senatorlinares.com .  His next Town Hall Meeting will be Tuesday Feb. 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Senior Center, 7 Waverly Ave.

Sen. Linares represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

Essex Winter Series Names Annual Jazz Concert in Honor of Stu Ingersoll

Stu Ingersoll Credit Peter Harron (1)

The Board of Trustees of the Essex Winter Series has announced the naming of its annual jazz concert in honor of longtime Essex resident, former ‘Essex Man of the Year’ and renowned jazz musician, Stu Ingersoll, who retired from the Board last year.

Ten years ago Stu Ingersoll, one of the three founders of the Great Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival, spearheaded the Essex Winter Series’ expansion of its annual offerings to include a jazz concert.  Today this concert is an annual sellout and, thanks to the generosity of a local foundation, has branched out to include an outreach program in the New London public schools.

Originally from Long Island, Stu has lived in Essex for over 50 years. For 37 years he owned and operated the Essex Boat Works, where he hosted an annual Tuba Festival. He renovated ‘Flora’, his signature Oyster Boat, which was renowned for wonderful concert parties on the river – and a piano on her deck.

Stu continues to serve as Chairman of the Essex Zoning Board of Appeals.  On the local music scene Stu is a steady fixture.  Whether performing regularly on banjo, or tuba, or buying and selling musical instruments – often these days on eBay, or running the Horns for Kids program which provides musical instruments to local schools.  Stu seems to be everywhere at once.

At the end of the 2012 concert season, Stu announced his retirement from the Board of Trustees of Essex Winter Series.  It was at that time, it was decided to honor Stu by naming the Jazz Concerts in his honor.

Essex Winter Series President, Peter Amos, says, “Essex Winter Series owes so much to Stu. His annual jazz concerts are always tremendously popular, recreating the golden years of jazz of the ‘20s and ‘30s. Stu’s wide circle of friends in the world of jazz make every concert a joyful celebration of music and fellowship. Stu will be at our upcoming concert on March 3rd, to announce the program and introduce the musicians.”

Artistic Director Mihae Lee noted that “[She] will miss his leadership, his dedication to present carefully crafted programs with exciting musicians, and the way in which he has managed to bring jazz into our community to build the audience over the years.”

The first of the Essex Winter Series Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concerts will take place on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. at Valley Regional High School, 256 Kelsey Hill Road in Deep River, CT.  featuring the Northeast Traditional Jazz Ensemble with bandleader Scott Philbrick.

More than a decade after their appearance in the Essex Winter Series inaugural jazz concert, the Northeast Traditional Jazz Ensemble with bandleader Scott Philbrick, is back to warm up a chilly winter afternoon with some smokin’ hot jazz.  Seven equally outstanding jazz musicians will come together to form the band for this one special concert event. They will take the audience on a journey through the early jazz forms of ragtime and the introduction of improvisation, to New Orleans with the blues and Dixieland, to prohibition-era Big Band, to the much loved Swing.  You’ll be dancing in the aisles!

Tickets are $30, discounted student tickets are available for $12.  All tickets may be purchased online at www.essexwinterseries.com, by calling 860-272-4572 x1, or at the door.

For more information and directions, please visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

Concert sponsored by Tower Laboratories and The Clark Group.

The Essex Winter Series’ mission is to bring the finest music, in live performance, to the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline Region during the winter months and to cultivate its appreciation to the widest audience.

More information, including details for the 2012-2013 season, can be found at www.essexwinterseries.com or calling (860) 272-4572.

A Portfolio of the Beauty of the Recent Snow Storm

A snow covered tree top surveys the scene

A snow covered tree top surveys the scene

Without question much damage was done by the recent snow storm. For some the lights and the power went out. Others were trapped in their homes for days because of the sheer massiveness of the snow storm.

Whereas below every element is covered with snow

Whereas below every element is covered with snow

Shoveling out was incredibly difficult. In many cases professional work crews had to dig people out.  Cars were buried; driveways were non-existent and getting to the store was a major undertaking.

Two straining trees, their branches bent with the weight of snow

Two straining trees, their branches bent with the weight of snow

Still, there was a memorable beauty to the storm. It created whole new worlds of splendor. Soon enough it degenerated into muddy piles of dirt and snow, but in its fullest glory here is what it looked like.

The sun illuminates the snowy scene

The sun illuminates the snowy scene

The deer look at us as we look at them

The deer look at us as we look at them

 

Essex Zoning Board of Appeals Postpones Hearing on Proposed Dunkin Donuts Relocation

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals has postponed a public hearing on the proposed relocation of Dunkin Donuts to its March 19 meeting at the request of the applicant. Board counsel Michael Wells said JMB Properties LLC of Cheshire had requested the delay Tuesday, the same day the ZBA was scheduled to hear an appeal of the decision by Zonuing Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow to deny a zoning permit for the proposed relocation

JMB Partner John Weinstein had requested a zoning permit to allow the relocation of the town’s only Dunkin Donuts from its current location in the Shell station at 23 Main St. to nearby vacant space at 31-33 Main St. JMB Properties owns the 31-33 Main St. building, which currently houses the Centerbrook Package Store and the Centerbrook Cheese Shop. The space, the former Debbie’s Restaurant, has been vacant for more than two years.

Weinstein has maintained the relocation should be allowed under a zoning permit, rather than through a special permit application and required public hearing before the zoning commission, because the Dunkin Donuts use would be the same as the former restaurant. The Dunkin Donuts at 23 Main St. is counter service only. Budrow has maintained the proposed relocation could only be allowed under a special permit from the zoning commission.

Tri-Town Youth Services Announces the Availability of Mini-Grants

Mini grants 2013

Tri-Town Youth Services announces the availability of mini-grants ($500 or less) to local nonprofit organizations in Chester, Deep River, and Essex.  Applications are currently available at Tri-Town Youth Services, 56 High Street in Deep River or on the Tri-Town website:  www.tritownys.org

A workshop about asset development and the application process will be held at Tri-Town Youth Services, 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.  This workshop is required for all first-time applicants.  Nonprofit organizations who have previously applied are not required to attend the workshop.  Completed applications must be received by Tri-Town by noon on March 22, 2013.

Programs that will be considered for funding are those that build youth assets and take place between May 1 and August 31, 2013.  These mini-grants are part of the Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth of Chester, Deep River, and Essex initiative that is funded through Middlesex United Way.  For additional information, please call Gail Onofrio at 860-526-3600.

Talking Transportation: The Great Train (Ticket) Robbery

Jim CameronIf you had a contract with someone and paid them in advance to do a job, only to find they never provided that service, you should get your money back, right?  Otherwise, by keeping the money and not delivering on the bargain, that person would be committing fraud.

Well, that’s exactly what Metro-North does to weekly and monthly ticket holders when it sells those tickets but cancels train service.  The railroad refuses to give those riders a refund.  That’s wrong.

For years the CT Rail Commuter Council has asked Metro-North (and its boss, CDOT) to rethink that policy, but they have refused.  We even approached Attorney General Jepsen, making a consumerist’s argument, but he wasn’t interested in helping.

Clearly, it’s not Metro-North’s fault when tropical storm Sandy or winter storm Nemo leave the tracks buried.  In some cases they can attempt substitute bus service, in which case refunds shouldn’t be required.

When the Commuter Council last year pushed for a “Passenger Bill of Rights” we asked for refunds when service was out, but the railroad said “impossible”,  though they did allow refunds on one-way tickets, which is not the problem at all.

One-way tickets are good for sixty days.  If the train’s not running, you can use them next week.  But weekly tickets are only good for seven specific days, Saturday through Friday.  If the train doesn’t run, you’re out of luck.

Look at the Waterbury line during storm Nemo.  Train service was halted Friday night and wasn’t resumed until the following Wednesday… four days.  A commuter who’d bought a weekly ticket from Waterbury to GCT paid $125 but lost 4/7ths of the ticket’s value and was denied a refund.

This year we’re pleading our case for fairness to the state legislature with the help of State  Representative Gail Lavielle of Wilton.  At our behest she introduced HB 5127 which would require Metro-North and CDOT to offer credit for unusable tickets when service is cancelled for more than 48 hours.  That credit could be made by extending the validity of a ticket, offering replacement tickets or maybe even a refund.

Fifteen commuters submitted testimony in support of the bill, making a very simple argument:  if the railroad can’t provide train service (or buses), ticket holders should be made whole.

When the airlines cancelled thousands of flights due to the blizzard, they honored passengers’ tickets on later flights.  When Metro-North cancelled trains, they just kept the money.

In his testimony on the bill, the Commissioner of the Connecticut Dept of Transportation said the refund plan wasn’t feasible.  And weekly / monthly commuters already get a discount, so why are they complaining?

And Metro-North, in one of its more arrogant moves of late, thumbed its nose at the Connecticut Legislature saying that as a NY State agency it was immune from Connecticut law.  That, in New York, is what they call chutzpah.

It’s not too late for commuters to support this bill by calling their elected officials.  Because while Metro-North deserves credit for much improved, usually on-time service, it should not be allowed to pick our pockets by selling us tickets when it cannot run trains, for whatever reason, but then keeps our money.  That’s just unfair.

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 Cameron06820@gmail.com or www.trainweb.org/ct

Enjoy an Exciting, Educational ‘Eagle Watch’ Cruise with CT River Museum

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The view east into Hamburg Cove from the Connecticut river

Last Friday was the perfect winter weather for a boat trip on the lower Connecticut River to view the wildlife and enjoy the experience of being one of the very few boats on the river during mid-February.  I was a guest aboard the 65 ft. Project Oceanology vessel Enviro-Lab III  for one of the “Eagle Watch” boat trips offered by Connecticut River Museum in partnership with Project Oceanology during February and March each year.  This is the fourth season the Connecticut River Museum has teamed up with the Groton-based marine science and environmental education organization, Project Oceanology, to provide a dynamic on-water experience.

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

The 65 ft Enviro-Lab III owned by Project Oceanology who have partnered with Connecticut River Museum to offer the Eagle Watch trips

Although visitors to the river in winter can see many interesting avian species, the bald eagle is the one most visitors hope to see.   Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, populations began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007,  the bald eagle populations had recovered to the extent that they have now been removed from the endangered species list.  They are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze.  Many of these birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, and can been seen feeding and occasionally nesting on the banks of the Connecticut river.

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A juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Connecticut river

Although a sighting is not guaranteed, eagles are spotted on most trips.  On the first trip of the season, six adult eagles and eight juveniles were spotted.  On this trip, we were fortunate to spot our first young eagle soaring high above the boat minutes after casting off from the town dock as the boat headed north up river and then we saw several more eagles throughout the trip, some roosting in riverside trees and some gracefully circling above the river.

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A juvenile bald eagle perched on a tree along the river bank

Eagles nesting on Nott Island

One of the highlights of the trip was to observe, from a distance, the rare sight of an eagle on her nest on the eastern side on Nott island, just across the river from Essex harbor.  In the 1950s the bald eagle was no longer a nesting species in Connecticut but, according to the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, in 1992 the state documented its first successful nesting of bald eagles since the 1950s when a pair raised two young birds in Litchfield County.  Since then, the nesting population has increased gradually and, in 2010, 18 pairs of bald eagles made nesting attempts in the state.

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Female bald eagle on nest on Nott Island, CT

One such nesting pair is seen here on Nott Island.  The female was about to lay her eggs a week or so ago but was temporarily disrupted by Winter Storm Charlotte.  Hopefully, now that she is back on her nest, the eggs have been successfully produced.

“Let’s go out on the river and have some fun!”

The Eagle Watch boat trips are led by local expert naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule, who is an educator at the Connecticut River Museum.  He is not only an expert on most wildlife species found along the Connecticut River but also a renowned expert on local mushrooms and fungi.  Yule welcomed visitors aboard the trip with the invitation, “Let’s go out on the river and have some fun,” and throughout the trip he helped locate and identify birds, related historical stories about life along the river and made sure all the passengers were warm and comfortable with plenty of hot coffee.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule provides interesting and informative information on all wildlife species seen along the river throughout the cruise

Yule was accompanied by two educators from Project Oceanology, Chris Dodge and Danielle Banco, who cheerfully helped identify interesting birds and assisted the boat captain with docking and navigating up and down the river between the ice flows.

Bald eagles are certainly not the only avian species guests can enjoy on the trip and on this particular voyage, we enjoyed numerous sightings of  cormorants, black-backed gulls, red-tailed hawks and common merganser ducks.

We returned to the town dock some 90 minutes after departure excited by all the birds we had seen and moreover, educated about them, and, despite the cold, I am confident I am not the only traveler on that voyage who will be taking another trip later in the season.  All in all, it was an awesome experience!

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The common merganser duck in full flight along the river

February Vacation Week Programs

The Connecticut River Museum is also offering a week-long program of vacation week activity for the February school break starting tomorrow, Feb. 19.  In addition to an Eagle Watch adventure on Friday, Feb. 22, the program will also include a day exploring the many galleries in the museum, an outdoor exploration day including a nature hike and animal tracking, and an arts and crafts day building models boats, learning knot tying and other maritime arts.

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Avian wildlife exhibit in the Connecticut River Museum

To make reservations for the vacation week program or for more information about Connecticut River Museum educational programs or Eagle Watch Tours, visit www.ctrivermuseum.org or contact Jennifer White Dobbs in the Education Department at jwhitedobbs@ctrivermuseum.org or Bill Yule, also in the Education Department, at byule@ctrivermuseum.org.

Project Oceanology in Groton also offers Winter Seal Watch trips during weekends in February and March.  These two and a half hour trips travel out into Fishers Island Sound to view these playful creatures, which are abundant in this area.  The ticket price of $25 (adults) and $20 (children) also includes a 20-minute slide presentation.

 

Blizzard Charlotte Puts Essex Snow Budget in the Red

ESSEX— Blizzard Charlotte has put the town’s annual snow removal appropriation in the red, though the exact amount of the expected overrun remains undetermined. With an appropriation that stays roughly the same from year to year, Essex budgeted $20,000 for sand and salt purchases, and $20,000 for plowing and sanding, including labor, in the 2013-2014 town budget.

Kelly Sterner, the town’s assistant treasurer/finance director, said about half of the total $40,000 amount had already been spent this winter before the big storm hit on Feb. 8, including about $12,000 from the sand and salt appropriation, and $8,000 from plowing and sanding. Sterner said approval of a federal emergency declaration for the storm may allow the town to obtain some funding reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said Thursday he is “very proud and happy,” with the town’s response to the storm, which brought nearly two feet of snow to most locations in Essex. Needleman said the town’s four full-time public works employees, along with several part-time workers and private contractors, worked long hours to clear the roads.

Needleman said the town rented three front-end loaders and two larger tri-axle trucks to supplement its own trucks and plowing equipment. “Let’s hope a storm like this one only happens every 35 years,” he said, referring the blizzard of February 1978.

Reading of Frederick Kirwin Play “Life and Death” in Chester Gallery – Mar. 3

“Portrait of Frederick Kirwin” oil/linen 34” x 30” by Scott Kahn

“Portrait of Frederick Kirwin” oil/linen 34” x 30” by Scott Kahn

A reading of an original play written by poet Frederick Kirwin titled “Life and Death” will be performed at the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Galley, in Chester on March 3, from 4-6 p.m. Seating will open at 3:30 pm,  and will “first come – first seated”. $10 donation suggested – BYOB – Bistro Style Seating.
Five New Yorkers gather in a West Village apartment to talk about their lives and their fears of death, suicide and the future as they await the results of a biopsy.

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 performance.

Visit  www.nilssonstudio.com for more information.

February Vacation Week Programs at the Connecticut River Museum

art project in process

Art activities and outdoor adventures are part of the week at the Connecticut River Museum’s February Vacation Week Programs.

Essex, CT – When school is out, the Connecticut River Museum is the place to be! Take a hike, create a masterpiece, challenge yourself to a scavenger hunt or take a cruise up the river on an eagle boat trip. Our February Vacation Week is packed full of discovery, exploration and fun. Plan to come for a day or two, or join us for the week.  Weather permitting a portion of each day will be spent outdoors, appropriate clothing is required. Each program runs from 9:00 – 12:00 and is designed for children ages 7 – 12.  The member fee is $25 per day for the Tuesday – Thursday sessions, $35 for Friday and $95 for the week.  The non-member fee is $30 per day for Tuesday – Thursday, $40 for Friday and $110 for the week.  Advance registration is required.  To reserve a space, download and mail in the registration form from the website: www.ctrivermuseum.org, or contact the education department at 860-767-8269 x113 or jwhitedobbs@ctrivermuseum.org

Tuesday, February 19: Museum Quest
What treasures live in the Museum? It’s discovery day as we explore the galleries, solve puzzles, create our own I SPY adventures to challenge our friends and make masterpieces inspired by the museum collections.

Wednesday, February 20: Winter Wonderland
Bundle up for outdoor exploration as we take a nature hike to search for animal tracks and other natural treasures. Back inside we will create nature collages and paint winter landscapes.

Thursday, February 21: Sail Away
Ahoy Mateys! Join us for a day of sailor life as we build model boats, make sailor crafts, perfect the art of knot tying, send secret messages with signal flags and play a treasure hunt navigation game.

Friday, February 22: EagleWatch Adventure
Join us for an adventure on Project Oceanology’s Enviro-lab III as we cruise up river in search of eagles and other winter birds. Kids are welcome to bring their own cameras. Back in side we will create eagle art and make a bluebird box to take home for your yard.
For more information on these and other February vacation activities at the Connecticut River Museum, go to www.ctrivermuseum.org or call 860.767.8269.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the Essex waterfront.

Meehan Announces Chester to Join the CT Solar Challenge

solar challengeChester, CT – First Selectman Ed Meehan announced today that the Town of Chester has joined  the CT Solar Challenge™, a community-based group purchasing program that promotes the adoption of solar energy through cost reductions and volunteer-driven outreach and education.  Chester is one of only four towns selected to participate in the program.  The CT Solar Challenge™ program in Chester will run for a limited time, beginning February 28, 2013.

CT Solar Challenge™ presents a new purchasing model.  Traditional marketing and advertising costs are virtually eliminated by the outreach, networking and education efforts of volunteers.  Group purchasing savings are achieved by installing multiple solar systems in the same geographic area through a pre-selected single source vendor. These savings are passed on to participants who save thousands of dollars on the cost of installing a solar energy system.

Solar energy systems are more affordable than at any point in history.  Solar panel prices are at a record low, driven down by heavily subsidized Chinese panels flooding the US market. Participants receive a 35% upfront rebate from the State of CT and a 30% Federal tax credit.  Solar systems are also sales tax and property tax exempt,  but the window of opportunity is closing.
Connecticut plans to completely eliminate upfront solar rebates in coming months.  Residential rebates have been reduced twice in the past nine months.  And, the downward trend in panel prices has ended abruptly due to new US Trade Commission tariffs imposed on Chinese panel imports.

Each system installed through the program, will earn the Town of Chester credit towards the installation of a solar system on a town property.

Chris Lenda, President and CEO of Aegis Solar Energy, said that Aegis is excited to be working with Chester and the CT Solar Challenge. The CT Solar Challenge program completely changes the way solar energy systems are currently sold and installed.  Lenda said, “I can see the program spreading quickly to other communities as town leaders see the incredible benefits to residents.”

Chester residents and business owners are invited to the kick off of the Chester CT Solar Challenge™ at the first Solar Workshop to be held on February 28, from 7-9 pm at the Chester Meeting House, and may register by visiting CTSolarChallenge.com, clicking “Chester” and filling out the form.

For more information contact:
Gail E. Spence, CEM, LEED Green Associate, DIRECTOR
CT Solar Challenge
1 Research Drive, Suite 2
Branford, CT 06405
800- 505-7419
info@CTSolarChallenge.com
www.CTSolarChallenge.com

Region 4 Cuts Two Days From April Vacation Week to Make up for Snow Days

REGION 4— Region 4 schools reopened Wednesday after losing three school days to Blizzard Charlotte, forcing school officials to cut two days from the April vacation week to make up for the lost class time. The April vacation week will last for only three days, April 15-17, with school in session for Thursday April 18 and Friday April 19. Any additional snow cancellation days this winter would also be made up by taking one or more days from the remaining three April vacation days.
The district lost a week of school to Storm Sandy from October 29 to November 2.  The loss of days last fall forced district school boards to push back the June closing date. With the plan for additional make-up days in April, the last day of school is expected to remain fixed on Tuesday June 25. The Valley Regional High School graduation for seniors in the Class of 2013 will remain fixed on Thursday June 20, which was originally expected to be one of the final days of the school year.
District schools will be closed next week for the President’s Day holiday and the traditional winter break. But under a 2013-2014 school calendar approved by district school boards in December, next year, the February break will be limited to two days, the Monday President’s day holiday and the following Tuesday.

Essex Zoning Board of Appeals to Consider Appeal for Dunkin Donuts Relocation

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals will be asked next week to overrule the town’s zoning enforcement officer and allow Dunkin Donuts to relocate to a vacant restaurant space in the commercial building at 31-33 Main Street in the Centerbrook section. The board’s meeting begins Tuesday Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at town hall.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the owner of the 31-33 Main Street building, JMB Properties LLC of Cheshire, is appealing his denial last month of a zoning permit to relocate the Dunkin Donuts from its current location as part of the Shell gasoline station at 23 Main St. to the space formerly occupied by Debbie’s Restaurant in the 31-33 Main St. building. The restaurant space has been vacant for more than two years. Dunkin Donuts has been in operation at the nearby 23 Main St. site for about five years.

Budrow said he had advised representatives of JMB Properties and Dunkin Donuts that a special permit from the zoning commission would be required to relocate the Dunkin Donuts and offer sit down restaurant service. He said the owner of JMB Properties, John Weinstein, has decided to first pursue an appeal to the ZBA. The existing Dunkin Donuts at 23 Main St. provides counter take out service only, while the Dunkin Donuts at the proposed 31-33 Main St. site would have about 30 seats for eat in customers.

Budrow said Weinstein and Dunkin Donuts could apply to the zoning commission for a special permit for the 31-33 Main St. site at any time.   He maintained a special permit from the zoning commission would be required to relocate the Dunkin Donuts even if the ZBA overrules his denial of the requested zoning permit. The special permit application process would include a required public hearing before the zoning commission.

Ticket Sale for Brigadoon at Valley Regional High School Starts Feb 14

Valley Senior Anna D'Agostino as Fiona MacLaren performs for a video sequence that will be used to establish a character’s memories of time in Brigadoon.

Valley Senior Anna D’Agostino as Fiona MacLaren performs for a video sequence that will be used to establish a character’s memories of time in Brigadoon.

Deep River, CT – While cast members are in full rehearsal mode and the production crew is busy building sets, Valley Regional Musical Productions (VRMP) has announced that tickets are now on sale for the school’s performance of Brigadoon set for Friday, March 22 at 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 23 at 1:00 pm and at 7:00 pm, and Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 pm.  Set in a Scottish village that comes out of the Highland mists for one day every 100 years, Brigadoon is a whimsical musical fantasy created by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe.  This beloved classic tells a story of tradition, family and the importance of being true to oneself.

“Our goal is to transport the audience to a magical time of tradition and authenticity while telling a story that takes place in the very past and the very present,” commented VRMP Director Ingrid Walsh. “We have all enjoyed immersing ourselves in the heritage and culture of the Scottish people and aim to do them proud.”

A relatively new set design technique of projecting animated images will be used to present two scenes, one in the past and one in the present, on stage at one time.  The animation sequence is being created by the school’s Set Design art class taught by Val Krop.

Ticket sales will start February 14.  All seats are $12, general admission.  A special preview show on Thursday, March 21 has been added to this year’s production dates, giving the audience an opportunity to sit in on the full dress rehearsal for a lower ticket price of $10 per person.  Tickets can be purchased at Gather in Ivoryton, Celebrations in Deep River, The Wheatmarket in Chester, Toys Ahoy! in Essex and Valley Regional High School.  More information is available at vrhs.reg4.k12.ct.us or by calling the school at 860-526-5328.

A Swashbuckling Party Promised at Connecticut River Museum’s Privateers’ Bash

Free Men of the Sea will lend their voice to the Connecticut River Museum’s Privateers’ Bash on March 2.

Free Men of the Sea will lend their voice to the Connecticut River Museum’s Privateers’ Bash on March 2.

Essex, CT – AARRGH! If you are looking for a fun and lively way to let off a bit of winter steam, gather your crew and make plans to head out to the Privateers’ Bash on Saturday, March 2 at the Connecticut River Museum presented by Guilford Savings Bank and Gosling’s Rum.  All are invited to come in costume and relive Riverfront history at the seventh annual Bash, a playful nod to the privateers who made their wealth by relieving foreign ships of their valuable cargo during the War of 1812.  Grog, grub, music and dancing will fill the exhibit galleries from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm.  The Sun Kings, a Caribbean party band, will create the vibe while Free Men of the Sea will sing chanteys and banter about. Savory bites will be provided in-part by Culinary Concerts, Gourmet Galley, La Cuisine Café & Market, and Coffee’s Country Market. Great treasure can be found with great prizes up for raffle plus booty awarded for best costumes.   Presenting Sponsors for the event are Guilford Savings Bank and Gosling’s Rum. Benefactor Sponsors are Bogaert Construction Co. and Rachel Thomas Associates.  Supporting Sponsors are Clark Group, McChesney Design, Reynolds’ Garage & Marine and Sound Rigging Services. Patron Sponsors include All Pro Automotive, Brown & Brown of CT/McCutcheon Burr & Sons, CCA Services, Drs. McAraw, Cantner & Cantner, Muir Electric, Pages, Inc,. River Valley Oil, Shore Discount Liquor and Tower Landscaping & Design.

A $50 Privateer ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, grog and one complimentary drink. Or take advantage of a two-ticket purchase deal and buy two Privateer tickets for just $80.  A $75 Commodore ticket also includes hors d’oeuvres and grog plus an open bar. Net proceeds benefit the Connecticut River Museum.  Tickets may be purchased by calling 860-767-8269, online at www.ctrivermuseum.org, or at the door on the evening of the event.  The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street on the Essex waterfront.  It is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley.

Letters: Climate Change a Manufactured Crisis

To the Editor:

I am scratching my head in wonderment over President Obama’s Inaugural address in which he pledged to address the “threat of climate change.” Why now? The economy is shrinking. Seven million people are poised to lose their health insurance under Obama Care. Unemployment, underemployment and those no longer looking for employment is a real crisis in America. And our President is focused on a hoax created by the UN. Perhaps now that Obama is sinking in the polls, he will, in his State of the Union address to the nation, focus on the real issues facing America.

Obama knows that “climate change” is a giant hoax. John Kerry, the new “climate-change” secretary of state, knows it is a hoax. And yes, the guy who has made gobs of money perpetuating the false beliefs surrounding the hoax, the king of carbon-credits, Al Gore, also knows it’s a hoax. Not only has Gore’s book (An Inconvenient Truth) been used in schools to indoctrinate our kids and grandkids, but this giant hypocrite has just raked in one hundred million dollars from oil monies after claiming that fossil fuel is the culprit in “climate change.” The inconvenient truth is that the earth’s climate has been warming, cooling and dramatically changing from the beginning of time. For goodness sake, the plague in 1867 is blamed on weather. Chinese sea captains reported melting ice caps as far back as 1434. Mega earthquakes and Tsunamis as well as blizzards, “raging fires, crippling droughts, powerful storms,” horrific tornadoes and scorching heat waves have also been around since antiquity.

Thankfully, a majority of Americans are no longer drinking the climate cool- aid passed out by liberal/progressives, or better “UNers.” We are beginning to ferret-out the truth that this hoax was created by the UN to gain power to itself. The plan was conceived in 1987 as a means to achieve “Global Government” through a manufactured crisis. Who can forget the words of Obama’s former chief of staff, the present mayor of Chicago, who said, “never let a crisis go to waste.”   We have been duped. All the over-arching rules and regulations have been used to force citizens to obey a doctrine that is fallacious.

The creators of the giant hoax, the UN and its sycophants, realized, brilliantly I might add, that its Agenda, that openly targets private property with oppressive regulations, had to be established on a local level first. That said, it is up to each of us to discern if our local boards, commissions and legislature are loaded with “UNers.” Are those serving selflessly performing their civic duties and looking out for the citizens of their towns and districts- or is their agenda the UN Agenda? Our founders were counting on ordinary citizens to speak out to protect our rights.

I wonder, do “We the People” of our great nation really want to be manipulated by the UN? Do we care that this UN invasion into our country will ultimately strip away our freedoms? Do we care that “global warming” hype, “climate change” hype and “rising sea levels” hype is a sinister means of enforcing the idea that the collective takes a front seat to individual rights? Inherent in this idea is the belief that the government can “plan” our lives better than the individual.

Liberal/progressives have very effectively demonized and dismissed the canaries in the coal mine as whacky, paranoid conspiracy theorists. No, the canaries understand that the invasion of the UN agenda has ushered in “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that the Constitution warned would threatened our Freedom and Liberty.

Many Americans watched Paul Harvey’s stellar tribute to our Farmers delivered in a commercial at the Super Bowl.  Have you heard the recording of Harvey’s prescient “warning for a nation” delivered in 1965? It is entitled, “If I Were the Devil.” Please, google it!

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols,
Essex, CT

 

Gov. Malloy Declares State of Civil Preparedness Emergency

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HARTFORD, CT – Governor Dannel P. Malloy declared a state of emergency at 11.45 a.m. Friday in preparation for the coming blizzard which is anticipated to heavily impact the state Friday and Saturday.  In addition, the Governor announced that limited access highways may be subject to closure as early as noon Friday.  The Governor is asking all residents to limit nonessential travel.

“People need to take this storm seriously.  If current predictions are accurate, we will need people to stay off the roads so that emergency personnel and utility crews can get to the places they need to get to, and to make sure that our plows can keep critical roadways clear,” Governor Malloy said.  “Please stay home once the weather gets bad except in the case of real emergency.”
A Declaration of Emergency provides the Governor with a number of emergency powers, including:
  • The ability to modify or suspend any state statute, regulation, or requirement (for example: altering work hours, waiving licensing requirements, etc.)
  • The ability to order civil preparedness forces into action
  • The ability to designate vehicle and person routes and movements
View emergency declaration:  Governor Malloy’s Declaration of Emergency

Ivoryton Playhouse Announces 2013 Season

ivoryton playhouseIvoryton: On March 13th, 2013 The Ivoryton Playhouse opens its doors for a year full of exciting, live theatre. There is something for everyone this season – a season that is explosive, upbeat, hilarious, original and even a little naughty! -you won’t want to miss even one of these shows.

Beginning March 13th – 30th, the Playhouse will take you back to the 50’s with some of the classic doo wop melodies you danced to at the sock hop! Life Could Be a Dream features classic oldies Tears on My Pillow, Unchained Melody, The Great Pretender and, of course, Life Could Be A Dream.

In Other People’s Money – April 17th – May 5th, a corporate raider threatens a hostile take-over of a New England “Mom & Pop” company (sound familiar!). What follows is a snowballing plot of financial manipulations, unlikely alliances and a surprising twist at the end.

The Playhouse opens the summer with a brand new play from Mike Reiss, one of the writers of The Simpsons, I’m Connecticut is a wacky, fast-paced, sweet romantic comedy about Marc, a Connecticut native who struggles with relationships and feelings of inadequacy – why? Because he comes from Connecticut – land of steady habits, sanity and politeness. A must-see comedy for anybody from the Nutmeg State! From June 5th – 23rd.

From July 3rd-28th, one of the most explosive movie musicals bursts onto the live stage with exhilarating results. Footloose is the heartfelt story of a father longing for the son he lost and of a young man aching for the father who walked out on him. The rockin’ rhythm of the Top 40 score includes Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Almost Paradise, and, of course, Footloose.

A smash Broadway musical, Dreamgirls captures the spirit and hope of Motown when a girl group from Chicago makes it big. In a business controlled by men, the female trio fights for recognition, fellowship and love as superstardom challenges their musical and cultural identity. Dreamgirls sizzles with sparkling dance and R&B soul – Featuring the hit songs Dreamgirls; And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going and One Night Only. August 7th – September 1st.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change – September 25th – October 13th – is a hilarious revue that pays tribute to those who have loved and lost and lived to try again. Smartly conceived with catchy tunes and witty lyrics, this affectionate look at love and marriage is as amusingly appropriate today as when it first opened in New York in 1996.

The season closes with a fabulously funny farce from the fifties – The Seven Year Itch – October 30th – November 17th. The play takes a humorous look at the problems of a typical married man whose wife and son have gone to the beach for the summer when he is suddenly confronted by a stunning new upstairs neighbor.
Don’t miss some of the most exciting and entertaining theatre on the shoreline!  Subscriptions are on sale now.  Single tickets go on sale February 14, 2012.  Visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767 7318 for the latest ticket information.

Essex to Refinance Municipal Debt – $100,000 Interest Savings Expected in 2013-2014

ESSEX— The town will refinance up to $10 million in municipal debt, taking advantage of current low interest rates to save about $100,000 in interest expenses this year and over $500,000 in interest costs over the term of the bonds. The board of selectmen approved the refinancing at a meeting Wednesday.
The refinancing plan was developed by longtime Town Treasurer Robert Dixon. The debt, which currently totals about $8.55 million, is from the now completed Essex Elementary School renovation and expansion project that was approved by voters in a 2005 bonding referendum, with an additional appropriation for the project approved by town meeting vote in 2007. The 20-year term of the bonds runs through 2028.
Dixon said the town is currently paying an interest rate of 4.35 percent on the bonds, with refinancing expected to bring the interest rate down to about 2.25 percent.  Dixon said the refinancing would also “level the principal payments,” to avoid the need for any large payment in any particular year.
Dixon said the savings on interest costs would be about $100,000 in 2013-2014, and as much as $540,000 over the term of the bonds. Dixon said the refinancing should be completed in March. The bond refinancing resolution approved by the selectmen does not require a town meeting vote.

Obituary: Richard F. Schneller – 5 Feb. 2013

Richard F. Schneller

Richard F. Schneller

Richard F. Schneller passed away February 5, 2013 at his home in Palm Desert, CA. He was 90 years old. Schneller was born in New York City, the son of Julius and Helen Efros Schneller. His only sibling, Marjorie, died in 2007. He spent his first 13 years in Plainfield, NJ. The family moved to Essex, CT in 1935 where his parents relocated The Verplex Company, manufacturers of lampshades.

Schneller served as Chairman of the Essex Democratic Town Committee, 1971-1978, was a member of the Essex Board of Finance, past member and chairman of the Regional District # 4 Board of Education.

Read full obituary in the Hartford Courant

Chester Grand List is Flat, Will Generate No New Tax Revenue

CHESTER– Assessor Loreta Zdanys has filed an October 2012 grand list of taxable property that totals $501,408,810, representing a $148,006, or three-one hundredths of a percent, decrease from the 2011 grand list total. The small decrease means the town will begin the 2013-2014 budget process with $3,300 less in tax revenue at the current tax rate of 22.45 mills.

It was the first decrease in the grand list in recent years. Last year, the 2011 grand list total registered a 0.70 percent increase over the 2010 total. The town’s 1,817 real estate accounts had a net assessment total of $458,894,100. The town’s 437 personal property accounts had a net assessment total of $14,090,360, down from the 2011 total. The town’s 4,113 motor vehicle accounts had a net assessment total of $28,424,350.

Zdanys said the flat grand list confirms there was “hardly any new houses and very little construction,” in Chester during 2012, along with the loss of a company that had relocated from Deep River to Chester. PCI Medical, which began in the 1990s at a small business incubator building in Deep River, returned to Deep River last year to renovate and occupy a vacant industrial building off Winter Avenue.

Deep River was the only Region 4 School District town to report an increase in the grand list, with a 1.21 percent increase in 2012. The Essex Grand List was down by six one-hundredths of a percent.

The list of the town’s top ten taxpayers was unchanged from 2011. The top ten taxpayers, with their current assessment totals, are as follows 1) Chester Woods Inc. (Chester Village West) $15,476,930, 2) Whelen  Engineering Co. Inc. $8,798,870, 3) Connecticut Water Company $5,894,150, 4) The Eastern Company $4,317,610, 5) Connecticut Light & Power Company $3,932,280, 6) Whelen Aviation LLC (Chester Airport) $3,851,810, 7) Roto Frank of America Inc. $3,742,450, 8) Arthur & Judith Schaller $2,450,360, 9) Margaret & Robert Sbriglio $2,234,740, 10) Dawn Hays & Hays Properties LLC $2,163,100.

Charles StannardCharles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex and a graduate of Valley Regional High School and the University of Connecticut at Storrs.  Charlie worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995, covering Haddam and Killingworth and later Middletown city hall and schools.  From 1997 through 2010 Charlie was a reporter for the Hartford Courant and has covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade.  Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.  Contact Charles at stannardcharles@yahoo.com

Off to Germany at 68 with Great Hopes

He’s garaging his beloved bike. But I’ll bet he has his heart set on getting a second one when he returns

He’s garaging his beloved bike. But I’ll bet he has his heart set on getting a second one when he returns

Morro Bay, CA—My new friend Don is rushing to meet his new love.

I’m visiting my daughter Monique here. We say New Year’s Day is the golden opportunity to turn a new page and start a bright new life. Well,  Don is really resolved!

I met him because of the bike he was riding. I love bikes. Rode actively for decades.

But his wasn’t a bicycle. It was a tricycle. A recumbent—he sat low on a seat, not a saddle, leaned way back, and worked pedals not under him, but straight ahead. He seemed as comfortable as in a TV chair. He was towing  a neat little trailer.

Don was an unlikely rider– 65 or so. Six-four. Rumpled. Twenty pounds overweight. A mustache a bit out of control. Very sharp  eyes.

He was sitting with two friends outside Spencer’s, the local supermarket. It offers free coffee. They were sipping coffee out front in the sunshine. So, it attracts a lot of seniors. It attracts me. I like to take a walk and run into people. And I like a free coffee.

I paused. All strangers. I broke into their talk. Focused on him. “Quite a bike!|” I said. He nodded. But he was  busy talking with his buddies. I went on for my coffee and a bit of shopping. When I came out, they were gone. I was disappointed. This was two days before New Year’s.

I ran into him again three day after New Year’s. Downtown, a mile away. I was on a walk.  He was parked on the sidewalk, lounging on his trike in front of a store. He recognized me. But no smile. I began talking bikes again. Now he began talking. But in clipped sentences. Offered nothing more.

Said he had owned the trike five years. No longer had a car—didn’t need one—especially with the trailer. He could carry groceries, books, lots of stuff. He had a balance problem and the trike was much more stable than a bike.  And it had 27 gear possibilities—“I could climb a wall if I had to!”

I tried to guess his occupation. Not easy. He was big and muscular. But his hands didn’t show hard work. He was smart, but he spoke too few words to tip me off about his education. He had a friendly face but seemed determined not to smile.

“Got to go!” he said finally and pedaled away. Down a slope. Coasting, not pedaling.So nice and easy. I wished I could see him come UP the hill. How easy would that be?

My third encounter was again at Spencer’s. This time he hailed me! “Ah, the newspaperman!” What a change! And we had coffee together out front. He smiled a bit. I talked bikes again. And now he opened up.

“This is my all-around vehicle. Haven’t had a car in 20 years. I just don’t like cars. I like bikes. Good exercise. Cheap to own and use. Especially in this nice weather year-round here.”

I tried broadening my questions. “Don’t interrupt me!” he said. “I’ll fill you in. But let me tell it my way! I grew up in Kansas. Graduated from the University of Kansas. Moved out here. Went to grad school at Berkeley.”
Graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley–that impressed me. “For a master’s?”

He shook his head. “No, a doctorate.”

I pressed him.

“Yes, I have a Ph.D. In classical languages.”

“Oh? Latin and Greek?” He nodded.

I couldn’t resist. I began conjugating the Latin word for “love” in the present tense: “Amo…amas…amat…amamus….”  And I added, “I studied Greek, too.”

He put up his hand to stop me. “Yeah! Yeah! I became a teacher of Latin and Greek. Taught in quite a few places. Was fired at half of them…but I won’t go into that. I loved Latin and Greek. I was hooked as a kid! Am still fascinated.”

I jumped in. “Don, you’re smiling! You said you don’t smile. You’re smiling!!!”

He stopped me again. ”I don’t smile!”

But he was wrong. He had been smiling. He went on. “I’ve done other things. Picked olives in Greece for more than a year. Knocked around. I’m retired now. But!” Suddenly he was excited. “In four days I’m going to Germany!”

“Germany?”

“Yes, Leipzig. Yes, my first time to Germany. All because of a website. It’s called Libri Vox—www.librivox.com.  It offers free audio books. You know, books you listen to. Volunteers read them and record them. Many languages. Including Greek and Latin. I’ve been listening to readings of old Latin writers on Libri Vox. Virgil. And Lucretius. And others.”

He told me that through Libri Vox, he had met a woman reader of Latin texts.  She lives in Leipzig, They have talked and talked.  Not only about the ancient authors. About all kinds of things.

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Half my age. Not a problem! We’ve discussed all that. And I am going to Germany to meet her!.”

He didn’t have to say any more. He had a dream. And his dream was to bring her back to California. And he was  determined. At 68!

“God bless you, Don!  And God bless her! I hope, hope it works out!”

He smiled. Broadly! Wow!

We shook hands.  I couldn’t stay longer. My daughter was waiting for me.

Now Don is over there. What a great New Year’s story. The rare opportunity for a fresh start. And he grabbed it. It’s inspiring, really. Don’t you agree?

Don said he’d e-mail me. I can’t wait. I’m praying for a happy ending. I’ll let you know. I hope she’ll take to a trike like his, too.

Jay Mills of Essex Elected to Middlesex United Way Board

ESSEX— William “Jay” Mills, financial advisor for The Oakley Wing Group at Morgan Stanley in Essex, was elected to the Middlesex United Way Board of Directors at the organization’s annual meeting Jan. 29.

After graduating from Hobart College in 2008 with a double major in economics and environmental studies, Mills began his career as a financial advisor in at Merrill Lynch in New York City, with a focus on helping everyday people understand complex economic, market, and financial planning issues in a language that makes sense.   In 2010 he moved his practice to Essex to join a wealth management team that shared his values, and to be a part of a small, tight-knit community to which he could contribute. Mills also serves as treasurer of the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce.

Middlesex United Way is a locally based organization dedicated to strengthening lives, helping people, and improving community conditions in the fifteen towns in Middlesex County. Middlesex United Way serves the towns of Chester, Clinton, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Middlefield, Middletown, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook. To learn more, visit middlesexunitedway.org or facebook.com/middlesexunitedway.

Linares – Working to Grow Latino Businesses

State Sen. Art Linares (left) at the State Capitol complex with former Hartford State Rep. Art Feltman (center) and Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) Executive Director Julio Mendoza (at right)

State Sen. Art Linares (left) at the State Capitol complex with former Hartford State Rep. Art Feltman (center) and Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) Executive Director Julio Mendoza (at right)

State Sen. Art Linares on Feb. 4 met at the State Capitol complex with former Hartford State Rep. Art Feltman  and Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) Executive Director Julio Mendoza to discuss policies which can help Connecticut small businesses grow jobs.

Sen. Linares is trying to make Connecticut more business-friendly by eliminating the state’s business entity tax, which is currently paid by more than 118,000 Connecticut businesses.

The Spanish American Merchants Association (www.samact.org), is a Connecticut non-profit organization created to assist business people, in particular Latinos, to acquire a better understanding of economic principles. The organization seeks to promote business expansion, job creation, economic growth, and new entrepreneurship. The group now boasts the membership of more than 500 Hispanic business owners and organizations statewide.

Sen. Linares  (www.senatorlinares.com) can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at 800 842 1421.  He represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

Essex Grand List Totals $1.11 Billion, Down by 0.06 Percent

ESSEX— Assessor Jessica Sypher has filed an October 2012 grand list of taxable property that total $1,119,619,296, a decrease of $660,340, or six-one hundredths of a percent, from the 2011 grand list total.

A small increase in real estate assessments was offset by decreases in both personal property and motor vehicles to produce the first drop in the grand list in several years for a year that did include a townwide property revaluation. The decrease will result in a loss of $12,200 in tax revenue at the current tax rate of 18.47 mills.

The town’s 3,245 real estate accounts have a net assessment total of $1,032,086,440, an increase of only $207,370 from the 2011 real estate total. The 739 personal property accounts have a net assessment total of $28,670,576, a decrease of $297,655 from the 2001 personal property total. The 7,606 motor vehicle accounts have a net assessment total of $58,862,280, a decrease of $570,055 from the 2011 motor vehicles total.

Sypher said the sale of the historic Samuel Lay House at 57 Main Street to the Connecticut River Museum had taken nearly $1 million off the real estate total when the property became tax exempt. The sale last fall was financed by a $900,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An even larger drop in the grand list is expected this year, as the town completes its first full townwide property revaluation, including inspections of individual properties, in a decade. The 2007 revaluation, a a five-year update based on sales data, was completed before that sharp decline in property values that occurred after the start of the national recession in 2008. The Deep River grand list dropped by eight percent after a revaluation was completed in that town in 2010.

The list of the town’s top ten taxpayers was unchanged from the 2011 top ten list. The top ten taxpayers, with their current assessments, are as follows, 1) Essex Meadows Properties Inc. $24,672,600, 2) Lee company $14,064,780, 3) Connecticut Light & Power Co. $6,282,960, 4) Griswold Inn LLC $3,849,980, 5) Stephen R. Cline Successor Trustee $3,587,400, 6) Essex Savings Bank $3,449,670, 7) Herbert T. Clark III $3,002,240, 8) MacBeth Ventues LLC $2,870,000, 9) River Properties Inc. $2,790,170, 10) All Waste Inc. $2,658,270.

Charles StannardCharles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex and a graduate of Valley Regional High School and the University of Connecticut at Storrs.  Charlie worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995, covering Haddam and Killingworth and later Middletown city hall and schools.  From 1997 through 2010 Charlie was a reporter for the Hartford Courant and has covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade.  Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.  Contact Charles at stannardcharles@yahoo.com

Local Marinas Use Shrink-Wrap to Cover Boats Stored Outdoors for the Winter Months

A row of shrink wrapped boats at Island Cove Marina in Old Saybrook

A row of shrink wrapped boats at Island Cove Marina in Old Saybrook

Local marinas these days store the boats in their care for the winter, literally hundreds of them, with bright white coverings of what is called “shrink wrap.” Shrink wrap, in fact, has some ideal characteristics for covering boats.

Number one, once a boat is shrink-wrapped, it is truly protected from the elements. Only the most extreme weather conditions, such as hurricane winds, could possibly rip the shrink wrap away from the boat that it is covering.

Second, shrink wrap can be custom fitted as a winter cover over virtually any kind of boat, large or small. Shrink wrap is even superior to weather-treated canvas covers, which can never be fitted as tight to the hull of a boat as shrink wrap.

The bow of a shrink wrapped boat on wood blocks and supporting metal stands

The bow of a shrink wrapped boat on wood blocks and supporting metal stands

Third, installing shrink-wrap on a boat is not rocket science, and it can be done by skilled yard workers at local marinas. However, these workers must know what they are doing, because putting shrink wrap on a boat involves the use of a fire-flaming tool during the installation process. If not applied carefully, shrink wrap can catch on fire.

Because of the risk of fire, it is advisable that fire extinguishers be near at hand, when a boat is being shrink wrapped.

Shrink wrapped boat in winter with water slips behind them

Shrink wrapped boat in winter with water slips behind them

The Process for Putting Shrink Wrap on a Boat

Although there are variations in shrink wrapping a boat, these are the main elements of the process. Even before a shrink wrap cover is put on a boat, a frame has to be constructed to fit over the boat’s topsides.

For a smaller boat constructing a frame can be quite simple. For example, the frame could consist of a piece of strong rope, tightly stretched over a vertical post at mid ships of the boat to be covered that is affixed to both bow and stern of the boat. Or, instead of rope, stiff and strong pieces of wood could be used to form the frame.

For larger boats a full blown wooden frame has to be built and fitted over the entire topsides of the boat. For boats large and small the ultimate purpose of the frame is to provide a raised superstructure that can support the shrink wrap, when it is draped over the top of the boat and down the sides.

Another element of the shrink-wrapping process is the installation of the perimeter band around the boat. This band consists of a very tough line that is fitted tightly around the entire circumference of the boat. The perimeter band plays a major role in shrink wrapping a boat.

Heating the Shrink Wrap with the Flaming Tool

The climax of the shrink wrapping process involves the use of a flaming, shrink-wrapping tool. The tool is used to heat the shrink wrap, so that it is pliable, when it is stretched and configured over the boat’s hull.

The fact that heated shrink wrap is very malleable allows a skilled operator using the flaming tool to smooth out folds or imperfections in the shrink wrap covering of the boat. Importantly, after the shrink wrap cools it retains its molded shape.

Another important component of the shirk-wrapping process is the installation of belly bands. The belly bands are fastened to the perimeter band of the boat, and stretching around the bottom of the boat as they do so. When properly in place belly bands pull the shrink wrap closer to the boat’s hull along the sides of the boat.

Shrink wrapped boat with belly bands fastened to the perimeter band around hull

Shrink wrapped boat with belly bands fastened to the perimeter band around hull

 

If the shrink process is done correctly, it will eliminate any folds or crevices in the shrink wrap that could hold water that could turn into ice. Ice could even split the shrink wrapped cover of the boat, exposing the uncovered hull to the elements.

Boat Work Goes on Even under the Shrink Wrap

Keith Hultmark, the Marina Manager of the Island Cove Marina in Old Saybrook, says that even though their boats are completely covered in shrink wrap, “Customers will do some winter projects on their boats,” such as repairing an exhaust pump or refinishing the boat’s bright work. When the sun is bright in the yard, Hultmark says that under the shrink wrap, “it is so warm that you can do anything.”

Keith Hultmark, Marina Manager at Island Cove Marina

Keith Hultmark, Marina Manager at Island Cove Marina

The Island Cove Marina has 140 shrink-wrapped boats on its premises during the winter months, and 100 boats at in-the- water slips in the summer. The boating year at the local marinas like Island Cove is essentially divided into two parts. One is from November to April when the boat is under  shrink wrap, and the other is from May to October, when the boats are at their slips at the marinas or at other locations.

The Short Boating Season

Marina Manager Hultmark states a truism when he says, “We have a short season in the Northeast.” Also, he feels that putting a boat in the water as early as March “is for diehards.”

He also observes that, “The boats go into the water a little slower for the season in May, than when they come out of the water for the season in October.” The delay in getting in the water in May could be caused by having to address various engine problems. As for boating late in October, it may be based on the desire of a boater who wants just one last trip for the season.

Typical Annual Expense for a Boat at a Local Marina

Hultmark in a recent interview observed that, “Boating is an expensive hobby.” To illustrate this fact these are typical annual expenses for keeping a thirty foot boat at a local marina for a year.

The cost of having a slip for the summer, at $140 a foot, is $4,200; hauling the boat out of the water and storing it for the winter costs, at $30 a foot, is $900; and shrink wrapping a boat for the winter, at $15 a foot, is $450. This means that the minimum cost for keeping a thirty foot boat at a local marina is $5,500 a year.

In addition, should it be necessary to commission or decommission the motor (or motors) on a boat, the cost can range from $200 to $2,000, according to Hultmark.

There is a short season for the boats using the marinas along the Connecticut River. Also, admittedly, boating is an expensive hobby. Nevertheless local boaters consider it all worthwhile, when the boat is in the water and the season begins.

Jerome Wilson, Esq.Jerome Wilson is a former New York State Senator
and Political Editor of WCBS-TV (Channel 2).
He is now a freelance journalist and lives in Essex.

 

Community Music School Kicks Off 30th Year Celebration

Essex Ed and other winter revelers help kick off the Community Music School’s 30th anniversary celebration in Essex Village.

Essex Ed and other winter revelers help kick off the Community Music School’s 30th anniversary celebration in Essex Village.

Centerbrook, CT – On January 27, there was much cause for celebration in the Connecticut River Valley area as Essex Ed, a nine-foot tall fiberglass groundhog, made his annual parade appearance in Essex Village dressed as ‘The Music Man’ in honor of the Community Music School’s 30 anniversary year.  Patricia Hurley, who founded the school in 1983 on the top floor of Essex Town Hall, served as parade Grand Marshall while members of The New Horizons Brass Ensemble, a CMS group of adult beginners, performed “Seventy-six Trombones”.   After the ceremonial activities, well over 100 revelers enjoyed a cupcake and cocoa reception hosted by CMS at Essex Town Hall.

The New Horizons Brass Ensemble performs as part of the Essex Groundhog Parade where special tribute was given to the 30th anniversary of the Community Music School.

The New Horizons Brass Ensemble performs as part of the Essex Groundhog Parade where special tribute was given to the 30th anniversary of the Community Music School.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off our celebration of 30 years of building community through music than with Essex Ed and his long tradition of bringing the town together to make some noise and have fun,” commented Robin Andreoli, who joined CMS in 2010 as Executive Director.  “ It is a great prelude to the many new and exciting programs and events that we will present this year. ”

Now located at 90 Main Street in Centerbrook Village, the school has grown from 5 instructors teaching 40 students to 30 instructors teaching 500 students of all ages through private and group lessons, instrumental and voice ensembles, orchestras, music therapy, special events and summer programs covering a broad spectrum of musical interests.   As a private, non-profit organization, the Community Music School’s mission is one of enrichment with a focus on public performances and community outreach.

Next up for CMS is the Essex Winter Series Master Class for clarinet, oboe and bassoon on  Monday, February 11 at 4:00 pm.  Planning is also underway for The  Pearl Twirl: A Swellegant Affair, a 30th anniversary gala scheduled for April 20 as well as for Kate’s Camp for Kids, an exciting and new comprehensive summer performing arts camp to be launched this year in partnership with the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center .  For more information on these and other Community Music School programs, go to www.community-music-school.org or call 860.767.0026.

Essex Ed stands guard at the top of Main Street in Essex dressed as The Music Man in honor of the Community Music School’s 30th Anniversary.

Essex Ed stands guard at the top of Main Street in Essex dressed as The Music Man in honor of the Community Music School’s 30th Anniversary.

Deep River Grand List of Taxable Property Totals $488 Million, up by 1.21 Percent

DEEP RIVER— Assessor Robin O’Loughlin has filed an October 2012 grand list of taxable property that totals $488,099,951, an increase of $5,842,067, or 1.21 percent, from the 2011 grand list total. The list shows increases in real estate and personal property, with a small drop in the motor vehicles assessment total.

The town’s 2,182 real estate accounts showed a net assessment total of $438,166,830, up by $3,397,540 from the previous year. The town’s 428 personal property accounts had a total of $16,917,571, up by $2,677,877 from 2011. The 4,795 motor vehicle accounts had a new net total of $33,015,550, down by $233,350 from the 2011 total.

The 1.21 percent increase was stronger than 2011, when the grand list increased by only 0.73 percent. The 2012 increases would generate about $144,000 in new tax revenue at the current tax rate of 24.68 mills.

First Selectman Richard Smith said he was pleased with the increased revenue, even as higher teacher salary costs are expected to lead to higher education spending this year. “It helps,” he said, adding “if it were flat then we would really be behind the eight ball.”
Smith said the increases in real estate and personal property reflect a handful of new homes, a new building at Brewer’s Deep River Marina, and the relocation of PCI Medical to the former Champion building on the north side of town. “It’s a good indicator that Deep River has a healthy business climate,” he said.

The town’s list of the top ten taxpayers was unchanged from 2011. The top ten taxpayeers and their 2012 assessments are as follows, 1– Connecticut Light & Power Co.- $5,176,987, 2- Brewer’s Deep River Marina Inc.- $4,443,901, 3–Silgan Plastics Corp.- $4,435,461, 4– Mislick Family Limited Partnership- $3,137,190, 5–Deep River Associates LLC- $2,605,680, 6–Thomas Boyd & K. Dernocoeur-$2,430,610, 7– 180 Main Street Partners LLC (Adams)-$2,277,450,8– Goodspeed Leasing Co. LLC–$2,145,010, 9– Jerome and Marlene Scharr–$1,923,180. and 10–Virginia B. Linburg–$1,881,950. The Scharr, Linburg and Boyd-Dernocoeur properties are all high value residential properties located near the Connecticut River.

Charles StannardCharles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex and a graduate of Valley Regional High School and the University of Connecticut at Storrs.  Charlie worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995, covering Haddam and Killingworth and later Middletown city hall and schools.  From 1997 through 2010 Charlie was a reporter for the Hartford Courant and has covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade.  Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.  Contact Charles at stannardcharles@yahoo.com

Essex Savings Bank Reports Increased Earnings in 161st Year

Essex, CT–  Essex Savings Bank held its semi-annual Trustees Meeting Monday, January 28, 2013 at the Bank’s Plains Road office in Essex.  Bank Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Gibble, welcomed the attendees and stated that he was proud to preside at the completion of our 161 st  year.

Mr. Gregory R. Shook, President and CEO, reported on the Bank’s performance for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, “I am pleased to report that this was one of our best and most profitable years with earnings slightly ahead of last year with a net income of $2 million. Bank assets grew by $16 million to $314 million. While core deposits rose 8.7 %, credit quality remained strong and capital increased by $2 million to $38.6 million – far exceeding regulatory requirements.  Our branches continue to attract new relationships and our new branches in Madison and Chester are operating ahead of our projections. During the year, the bank generated over $76 million in loans which were comprised of both residential and business loans. We are also proud to report that our Trust Department, led by professionals, Granville Morris and Moira Martin, has brought assets under management to over $267 million.  As part of our Bank’s success, we will again be distributing 10% of our after-tax net income or $258,000 to non-profits in our market area. By year end, we will have contributed back to the community in excess of $3.7 million over the past 17 years.”

Mr. John W. Rafal, President of Essex Financial Services, reported that this year was one of their best performances with fiscal year revenue up 11%.  Gross revenue for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012 was $17 million.  Assets under management grew to over $4 billion at fiscal year end.  Mr. Rafal noted, “I am proud to report that the firm is now operating as one of the top 25 independent Broker Dealers in the country.”

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six 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 and are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.