December 13, 2017

Archives for March 2013

Essex Community Fund Donates $47,920 to 38 Local Organizations and Groups

ECF Awards

Representatives of the 38 organizations that received grants from the Essex Community Fund at their “Day of Giving” event held on March 27th at the Centerbrook Meetinghouse

ESSEX-— The Essex Community Fund this week announced donations totaling $47,920 to 38 non-profit groups and organizations serving the residents of Essex and surrounding towns. The funds were raised from donations made during 2012.

The awards were distributed Wednesday by community fund board members Jacqueline Doane and Mark Bombaci in a breakfast program held at the Centerbrook Meeting House. The Essex Community Fund had been raising and distributing charitable donations since the 1950s, a local version of the annual statewide United Way charitable fund drive.

The largest donation, $5,000, was made to the Old Saybrook-based Shoreline Soup Kitchens, which operates food pantries and meal sites in Essex and surrounding towns. The Friends In Service Here (FISH) organization, which provides rides to medical appointments, received $3,320. Essex Fuel Assistance received $3,000, with $3,000 going to the Essex Housing Authority for services at the Essex Court elderly housing complex. The Estuary Council of Seniors Inc., which coordinates meals on wheels programs for elderly residents, received $,2,500.

Other larger donations include Tri-Town Youth Services-$2,000, Gilead Community Services, which provides mental health services in the area, Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley-$1,500, and New Horizons Domestic Violence Community Health Service-$1,500. Essex Elementary School received $2,000 to provide free camperships for needy students in the town’s summer parks and recreation programs.

Also receiving donations were Bikes For Kids, Bushy Hill Nature Center, CDE Cooperative Nursery School , Community Music School, YMCA Camp Hazen on Cedar Lake in Chester, Essex Ambulance Association, Essex Fire Department Company 1, Essex Boy Scouts Troop 12, Essex Cub Scouts Troop 4, Essex Elementary School Foundation, Region 4 Education Foundation, Essex Tree Committee, Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Inc. Essex Historical Society, Essex Land Trust, Essex Police Union (DARE Program), Essex Historical Society, Essex Library Association, Ivoryton Library Association, Ivoryton Playhouse, Literacy Volunteers, Valley Shore YMCA, Valley Regional High School Safe Graduation Committee, Valley Shore Soccer Club, Early Childhood Council of Chester, Deep River, and Essex, and Teen Zone.

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Deep River Town Auditorium Restoration Nearing Completion

Painters are busy sprucing up the newly restored Deep River auditorium

Painters are busy sprucing up the newly restored Deep River auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson)

DEEP RIVER— The long-running restoration of the second-floor auditorium at the historic 1892 town hall is nearing completion, with a community open house scheduled for May 1 setting the stage for wider public use of the facility.

A restoration project that began in 1979 had been brought to completion over the past year by the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee that was appointed by the board of selectmen in late 2011. The nine-member volunteer committee, chaired by former Selectman Art Thompson, replaced the Town Hall Restoration Association, a private group that began the restoration effort more than three decades earlier.

Former Deep River Selectman Art Thompson supervising the improvements

Former Deep River Selectman Art Thompson supervising the improvements (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Thompson said this week the committee held its first meeting in January 2012, and quickly accessed a $260,000 fund that had been gathered largely through private donations by the former association. Thompson said the work that began last spring is now in it’s final stages, and has been entirely paid for by the available funds with no additional appropriations from the town.

Thompson said the latest improvements have resolved all building and fire code issues for the auditorium, allowing for public use of the auditorium balcony and an ornate rear staircase for the first time in several years. Seats that had been on the main floor have been relocated to the balcony to create a hall with a seating capacity of 279 persons, including 129 seats on the balcony and 150 on the main floor. But the main floor seats are all moveable, allowing for multi-use of the hall for dances and other programs that do not require seating.

Other improvements completed over the past year include a new control booth on the balcony, a small kitchen on the south aide of the building, air conditioning, new fire resistant stage curtains, and a slightly larger stage.

Thompson said the committee consulted with members of the former restoration association, and followed their guidance in choosing colors for the repainting- red for the lower levels and grey for the upper levels. He said the committee used local contractors for nearly all of the restoration work. A movable chandelier attached to the upper ceiling was provided by Schofield Lighting of Ivoryton.

The center ceiling of the newly restored Deep River Auditorium

The center ceiling of the newly restored Deep River Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson)

A new five-member committee is being formed by the board of selectmen to supervise promotions and scheduling for the 279 seat hall. Already appointed to the Town Hall Auditorium Management Committee are Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., and resident Linalyn Schmelzer, who had been handling scheduling for the former restoration association. Three additional members will be appointed before the hall is opened for wider public use in May.

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Only If You Are Eating at Pizza Works, Can You Park in the Restaurant’s Parking Lot

Pizza Works restaurant, right next to train entrance

Pizza Works restaurant, right next to train entrance

That’s right, if you want to park at one of the best parking spaces at the Old Saybrook railroad station, one that snuggles right up to the terminal entrance, you are supposed to be eating at the Pizza Works restaurant while you park there. Otherwise, parking is not allowed at one of the 38, green bordered parking spaces, reserved, exclusively, for those who are dining at Pizza Works.

Even handicap parkers must be eating in the restaurant

Even handicap parkers must be eating in the restaurant

 

The general public is not welcome to park in these spaces!

However, to the chagrin of the owner of Pizza Works, this strict no public parking rule is frequently ignored. In fact, more and more, it appears that the parking spaces, which are supposed to be reserved exclusively for Pizza Works customers, have turned into an unsanctioned public parking space at the station.

Green colored borders ignored by parkers

Green colored borders ignored by parkers

Other Parking Spaces at Station Are Well Organized

In contrast to the confused situation of Pizza Works parking, the other parking spaces at the station are well organized. For example, free parking is available, at the Shore Line East Commuter parking lot, as it is at the forty AMTRAK parking spaces at the station.

Also, there is free parking along the Upper Cemetery on North Main Street, and a  $5.00 a day parking system in a large lot at the left of the terminal building. In addition, there is a one hour parking rule in front of the businesses at the station, which seems to be generally accepted.

Pizza Works Parking Rules Widely Ignored

But that is not the case with the 38 green bordered parking spaces next to the Pizza Works restaurant. Here confusion reigns, and there appears to be little that Pizza Works owner Bob Kekayias can do about it.

Unauthorized parkers in Pizza Works spots

Unauthorized parkers in Pizza Works spots

Even though he has posted signs, saying that unless you are actually eating at the restaurant that your car can be towed, and/or subject to a $150 fine, many parkers pay little attention. This makes the restaurant owner both resigned and angry.

Kekayias, who declined to be photographed, says grimly, that persons parking on the spaces reserved for restaurant patrons, “do not have a right to park there under the law.” But then he notes, ruefully, that these days, he “can’t tow,” meaning that he cannot tow away cars that are not suppose to be parking in the restaurant’s parking lot.

Remembering for the Days When He Could Tow

“We used to be able to do so,” he says, “but no more.” “It is frustrating,” he says.  “Perhaps if I asked the police chief in town, I could tow,” he ruminates, but he does not sound very hopeful that he could get permission.

He also says that his restaurant can seat 50 people, and that these customers are entitled to the parking spaces closest to the restaurant.  But to him the situation appears to be pretty hopeless. He says, “I am just co-existing … [with the unauthorized parkers].”

As an example of the seriousness of the problem, he said that once even he could not find a parking spot next to his restaurant, because all of the spots were full. He also makes the point again and again, he pays to rent the parking spaces next to his restaurant.

There appears to be no practical solution as to how Pizza Works can limit its parking spaces, exclusively, to the restaurant’s customers. The yawning empty spaces, throughout much of the day are simply too tempting for non-dining  parkers to make use of.

Of course Kehayias could hire a parking attendant to keep non-restaurant customers from parking in the reserved restaurant parking spots. But, evidently, at this point, it is doubtful that the expense would make it worth it.

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Ivoryton’s Copper Beech Inn Expected to Reopen in May After Foreclosure

The Copper Beech Inn, Ivoryton - Under New Management (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

The Copper Beech Inn, Ivoryton – Under New Management (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX— The Copper Beech Inn in the Ivoryton section is expected to reopen in May under new owners, including former East Hampton builder and developer Wayne Rand.  The inn at 46 Main Street, which included two restaurants, closed in February.

The closing followed a foreclosure action in November where Ivoryton-Main LLC of East Hampton foreclosed on CBI Acquisitions of Old Saybrook.  The foreclosure on the partnership that was run by Ian and Barbara Phillips of Old Saybrook lists several other creditors, including Farmington Bank and the state Department of Revenue Services.  CBI Acquisitions had owned the 6.9-acre property since 2006.

Along with the historic inn, the property included two others buildings with rooms for rent, the newest constructed about five years ago.  A fine dining restaurant, called the Copper Beech Inn, had operated in conjunction with the inn under various owners for nearly 40 years, with a separate French bistro-style restaurant called Pips Brasserie added in 2007.

One of the partners in Ivoryton-Main LLC is Wayne Rand, a former East Hampton resident who runs the Rand Construction Company.  Rand currently lives in the former Castle Inn on Long Island Sound in Old Saybrook, which he converted to a private residence.  Workers, including some who identified Rand as the new owner, have been on the site since the beginning of the month, when a sign was posted announcing, “Closed for renovations- reopening in four weeks.”

In a brief interview at the site Saturday, Rand confirmed that he and other partners in Ivoryton-Main LLC held some of the debt on the property.  He said the inn and at least one restaurant are expected to reopen in early May.  Another sign announcing a pending application to the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission lists Michael Fitzgerald as the prospective permittee for the restaurant’s bar.

Rand referred any further comment on the planned reopening to Claudio Marasco of Westbrook, who is the vice presdient, chief financial officer, and general counsel for Waters Edge Resort and Spa on the waterfront in Westbrook.

But when contacted Monday, Marasco declined to elaborate on his connection to Rand and Ivoryton-Main LLC.  He said Water’s Edge Resort and Spa is not involved with the planned use of the Ivoryton property, which is assessed at $1,540,900 on the current grand list of taxable property.

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VRHS Seeking Hall of Fame Nominations

Nominations and applications are being accepted for the 30th annual VALLEY REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL HALL OF FAME AWARD.  Anyone may nominate a VRHS graduate who has gone on to excel in a particular profession, avocation, business, hobby, sport, etc., and who was graduated from Valley at least five years prior to nomination.

Call the Valley Regional High School office (526-5328) for an application, or write to the principal, Mrs. Kristina Martineau, 256 Kelsey Hill Road, Deep River, CT  06417, listing the name of the candidate, address, telephone number, year of graduation and his/her outstanding accomplishments.  Deadline for submitting applications is April 30, 2013.

The winner of the Hall of Fame Award will be honored at the graduation ceremony at Valley Regional High School on Thursday, June 20, 2013, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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Letters: Thanks to our First Responders

To The Editor:

Last weekend, our beloved Welsh Terrier, Jaynie,  Houdinied herself out of our parked car. I watched in horror as she rocketed down Main Street. Her little ears were flapping   joyfully in the wind. The bubble over her head must have read something like, “Yippee, I am free and on my way to mess with those River Museum ducks.”

Fortunately, one of Essex’s finest passed by in his patrol car.  With officer Belcourt’s guidance and a neighbor’s agility, Jaynie was scooped-up and returned to her grateful parents. Later on, I began thinking about our first responders and how lucky we are to have their help and protection. I will never forget the letter on your online news written by Jerry Wilson. Jerry was writing to thank officer Kenafick for responding to his call to Town Hall asking for help with a fallen tree. Officer Kenafick arrived on the scene and equal to Paul Bunyan lifted the tree off the driveway.

Of course small issues lead to the big issues. How do these men and women and all our first responders do what they do? When they get that 911 call, they never know exactly what is on the other end.  First responders to fires, car crashes, natural disasters, domestic violence, robberies, medical emergencies and more are heroes. They seem to have something extra in their DNA.  Maybe it’s “Grit” that allows this special breed to remain cool, dedicated and brave under unimaginable circumstances.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the first responders, not only for the warm and fuzzy thing that they do, but for their extreme bravery under extreme pressures.  I write with my deepest respect for these men and women.

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols, M.Div., Essex CT

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Essex Land Trust Cross Lots Property Spruce-Up – Apr. 6

Join the Cross Lots Property Spruce-up, Saturday April 6, 9 a.m. - 12 noon

Join the Cross Lots Property Spruce-up, Saturday April 6, 9 a.m. – 12 noon

Help the Essex Land Trust spruce up its Cross Lots Preserve after the winter by picking up brush, debris and other tasks. Make this a family event!

All ages and abilities are welcome including local groups and dog enthusiasts. If you can, plan to bring the following tools: rakes, brush saws and loppers.  Be sure to wear good gloves and dress warmly. Refreshments will be served.

The spruce-up lasts from 9 am to 12 pm. Rain or shine. Meet at Cross Lots (40 West Ave., Essex) for your assignment. Park on West Ave. or at Town Hall. If you need more information please contact Al Macgregor at 860-767-0693 or abmacgreg@hotmail.com.

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Essex Park and Recreation Summer Program Update

Brochure 2013It never too early to start planning for Summer!!! Are you and your children ready for Tons of Summer Fun? Registration for Essex Park and Recreation summer camps has begun.

Join Essex Park and Recreation, as we host a variety of Great Summer Camps.  Complete program information including registration, times, dates & fees can be found on our web site: www.essexct.gov. Choose the Department tab then choose Park and Recreation. For More information contact 860-767-4340 x110

Slamma Jamma Basketball Camp – Join the 2013 Class M Champions-Valley Regional High School Players & Coaches. The camp is built on individual instruction and fundamentals. The goal of the camps is to provide instruction that will help your child become a better basketball player. As the saying goes “Basketball players are made during the summer and perform in the winter.” Every camper gets a Slamma-Jamma T-shirt, Basketball, and Certificate.
Running Rams Track & Field Camp – Instruction in most of the track and field events from some of the area’s best coaches, eight in all, at one of the finest venues in Connecticut…Valley Regional HS in Deep River, CT. Campers will enjoy plenty of instruction, plenty of snacks, juice, water, plenty of breaks and awards at the conclusion of Friday’s final session.

Summer Tennis Clinics at Valley Regional High School Courts- Tennis Pro and Valley Regional Girls Varsity Coach Gary Ribchinsky will be teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volley, serve, and game play in the clinics designed for ages 6 – 15

Shoreline Girls LAX Clinic – Join Valley Regional HS Girls LAX Coach Greg Ruel, along with a coaching staff of USL certified coaches, club coaches & college and high school Players. No prior LAX experience required. Girls will be taught the fundamental and technical skills that will help them to become stronger all—around players.  The girls will be put in to different game environments where they will gain confidence and field mobility while increasing their comfort level on the field.  Enjoy great coaching, gear food & Fun!!

We offer several other great summer programs such as Summer Day Camp with some really great themed activities, field trips and games. Chose the weeks you would like to attend- just one week or all eight! Sports Squirts a great way to introduce kids ages 3 -5 to a variety of different sports. Baseball Camp with “Between the Lines”, Skyhawk’s Beach Volleyball & Golf is also being offered. Returning again this summer is Shoreline Gymnastics Camp – another great opportunity designed to teach basic gymnastics skills, while increasing confidence.

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Knights of Columbus Food Drive Collects 930lb Food for Local Community

KofC Food Drive

From left to right, Bill Kaiser, Ed McCaffrey, Andy Popp, Father Peter, Bart Ruggiero and Mike Berdencey- Grand Knight

The Knights of Columbus, Council 12113 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Essex, CT recently had a food drive to benefit the Shoreline Food Pantry. They were able to collect a total of 930 pounds of food for our local community.

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Chester Selectmen Approve Emergency Contigency Plan for Elections

CHESTER— The board of selectmen this week approved an emergency contingency plan for elections, a step that is being required of all state cities and town’s by the Secretary of the State’s office. The plan was prepared by the town’s two registrars of voters, Democrat Charlene Janecek and Republican Tracey Ohaus.

Janecek said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill had asked state cities and towns to prepare and submit emergency plans after Storm Sandy last fall, and earlier storm on October 2011, knocked out electric power in many communities and threatened the normal operation of elections that are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.

The plan, much of it based on model language from the state, notes that Chester Town Hall on Route 154 has back up electric generators. The plan designates the Chester Firehouse on High Street, which was the polling place prior to the opening of the current town hall in 2003, as the alternate polling site. Equipment and ballots would be transported to the alternate polling site under police escort.

The Essex Board of Selectmen also approved an emergency contingency plan for elections at a meeting Wednesday. The plan specifies procedures to be followed if there was a loss of electric power at the town hall polling place, or a malfunction of the voting tabulator. The emergency contingency plans would also be applied for scheduled municipal referendums.

In other business at the Chester meeting Tuesday, selectmen declined an informal request from the Chester Historical Society to reduce a $350 fee for use of the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street by local non-profit organizations holding fundraisers. The board last fall had approved new rules, and higher fees, for use of the historic meeting house by organizations or private parties, such as weddings.

Selectman Tom Englert noted the fee was still a relatively small amount, adding “every time you open those doors there is a cost to the town.” First Selectman Edmund Meehan agreed, noting “it’s easier to manage if we’re consistent.”

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Sen. Linares Welcomes Essex Steam Train & Valley Railroad Officials to Capitol

Sen. Art Linares (center) welcomed FVRR Treasurer Bob Wuchert (left) and Essex Steam Train & Riverboat President Bob Bell.

Sen. Art Linares (center) welcomed FVRR Treasurer Bob Wuchert (left) and Essex Steam Train & Riverboat President Bob Bell.

On March 20, 22 volunteer organizations representing Connecticut state parks and tourist sites visited the State Capitol.   Among the groups was the Essex-based Friends of Valley Railroad (FVRR), a not-for-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to the awareness, appreciation and historic preservation of railroads through education and participation.  For more details see www.friendsvrr.org ,  www.essexsteamtrain.com , and www.senatorlinares.com .

Sen. Linares represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook. He can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov.

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Old Saybrook Railroad Station Parking Fees Could Increase from $5 to $10 a Day

Railroad Parking Area sign

Railroad Parking Area sign

The daily parking fee on the privately owned parking lot, which is closest to the tracks at the Old Saybrook railroad station, could increase in the near future.  The present parking fee, which is $5 a day, could rise to $10 a day, according to Sebastian Lobo, the privately employed, parking attendant at the lot.

Lobo said that even with the increase, the cost for parking at Old Saybrook station would be far less than the amount charged at the New Haven railroad station.

However, a parking fee increase at one of the lots at the station would have no effect on the free-of-charge parking lots at the station, including, the Shore Line East Old Saybrook Commuter parking lot and the AMTRAK parking spaces at the station.  Nor would it affect the informal, free parking lot that extends along North Main Street from the Upper Cemetery almost all the way down to the tracks.

As for the 200 new parking spaces, which the state Department of Transportation plans to add at Old Saybrook rail station, it remains undecided as to whether there will be a parking fee or not for these spaces.

The Lot Where They Charge a Parking Fee  

The parking lot, where there is presently a $5.00 a day parking fee, is located right next to the relatively new, over the tracks terminal at the station.  For train passengers, it is clearly the most convenient place to park at the station.

These parking spaces are owned by Saybrook Realty Partners, whose address is 455 Boston Post Rd. in Old Saybrook, according to the collection envelopes put under the windshields of the cars parking there.

Collection envelopes can pile up under windshields

Collection envelopes can pile up under windshields

The border lines around the spaces owned by this group are white in color, and, generally, they are far from full.  Obviously, this is because most people parking at the station have found free spaces at other areas of the station.

Empty parking spaces at the pay for parking area

Empty parking spaces at the pay for parking area

The Collection Method of Paying for Parking

For those who pay for their parking at the station, there is a unique system of collecting parking fees.  First, parking attendant Lobo in his red car scoots around the lot, placing collection envelopes behind the windshields of the cars that are parked there.

Parking Attendant Lobo puts in place a collection envelope

Parking Attendant Lobo puts in place a collection envelope

These addressed envelopes instruct parkers to do three things: (1) put a $5 per day parking fee in the envelope, (2) place a stamp on the envelope, and (3) mail it.

The formal printed instructions on these envelopes read as follows:

$5.00 Daily Parking fee     

Please mail the $5.00 a day parking fee in this envelope. This parking lot is PRIVATE AND NO LONGER FREE. Amtrak travelers may park in the yellow lined designated area or pay the fee to park at will. Parking fees not paid within 14 days will be assessed an additional late fee of $10.00 per day.  YOUR LICENSE PLATE HAS BEEN NOTED Violators subject to tow at owner’s expense. For further information email parking@saybrookrealtypartners.com.

Plate Number _______________________________________________

Date _______________________________________________________

 

Enforcement Signs Threaten a $150 Fine

Signs around this Railroad Parking Area, as it is called, threaten significant consequences if parking fees are not paid.  “Violators Will Be Towed” and a “$150 Fine” will be imposed the signs say around the parking lot.

In an effort to obtain further information about this pay for parking organization, who declined an interview, we posed by email the following questions to Saybrook Realty Partners:

1) How many $150 fines have you imposed on persons who park on your spaces at the Old Saybrook railroad station?

2) How many $150 fines have you collected since you inaugurated a payment for parking scheme at the station?

3) How many cars have you towed for non-payment of parking fees?

4) How successful, generally, has been your return envelope payment system?

 Statement by Owner of Saybrook Realty Partners

Mr. David M. Adams, owner of Saybrook Realty Partners, which owns and manages Saybrook Junction, provided the following response, “The [Saybrook Realty  Partners’ parking] system has been very effective in preserving the integrity of the parking at Saybrook Junction for our 16 tenants. Saybrook Junction is a private business and has an obligation to provide parking for its business tenants and their customers, while also supporting Amtrak and overflow parking for Shoreline East commuters.  We continue to make progress to alleviate some of the parking concerns voiced by our tenants as well as commuters.”

A final article on the parking situation at the Old Saybrook railroad station will discuss the parking spaces that are controlled by the award-winning Pizza Works restaurant at the station. The restaurant has 38 reserved parking spaces close to the tracks.

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Essex Elementary School Board Approved $7.63 Million Budget for 2013-2014

ESSEX— The local board of education has approved a $7,634,917 budget for the operation of Essex Elementary School in 2013-2014. The spending plan approved last week represents a $100,326, or 1.33 percent, increase over the current appropriation for the school.

The budget plan addresses a drop in student enrollment by eliminating two teaching positions at the school. The current enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade school totals about 477 students, down from enrollment of 486 students during the 2011-2012 school year. Projections estimate an enrollment of about 455 students for the coming 2013-2014 school year.
The budget plan calls for reducing the number of classroom sections for the first, second, and third grades from four sections to three. But based on enrollment, the number of sections for the fifth grade would increase from four sections to five. There would be a net reduction of two teacher positions.

The budget funds only two physical plant improvements at the elementary school, including $15,000 for interim repairs to the roof over the 1990 building addition, and $5,000 for repairs to rubber flooring in hallways at the school. Town and school officials are planning for a more extensive roof repair project at the school, including the roof on the 1990 addition that received no improvements during the  school renovation and expansion project that began in 2007.

The board of finance will review the proposed elementary school budget at a meeting Thursday. The finance board could impose changes in the budget, including reductions, either before or after the town/elementary school budgets are presented at the annual budget hearing on April 22. The combined town government/elementary school budgets go to the voters in May, either at the annual budget meeting set for May 13, or in a subsequent referendum vote.

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Talking Transportation: Gov Malloy Seeks To Kill the Commuter Council

Jim CameronShortly after he came to office, I wrote something critical of newly elected Governor Malloy.  Nothing new there.  I’d certainly questioned Republican governors in years past, usually to little response.  But this time the reaction was different.

A Malloy confidant, a senior State Senator from Fairfield County, took me aside and threatened me.  Not physically, but legislatively.  “You know, we could eliminate the Commuter Rail Council if you keep this up,” he said in Machiavellian tones.  “Bring it on,” I said, half-shocked at this political threat.

Well, it took a couple of years (and more criticism), but the threat has come true.  The Governor has submitted a bill (HB 6363) that would wipe out the existing Metro-North Commuter Rail Council and its 15 members.  In its place, a new Council would be appointed and the Governor, not the members of the Council, would choose its Chairman.

Further, the new Commuter Council’s mandate would turn from investigation and advocacy on behalf of fellow commuters to a PR advisor to the CDOT.  While the current Council has the power to request information and is required to receive cooperation from any state or local agency, that power would be eliminated under Malloy’s bill.

The Commuter Council isn’t the only pro-transportation group affected by the bill.  The CT Public Transportation Commission would also be eliminated along with the last vestiges of the Transportation Strategy Board (killed off by Malloy last year), the TIA’s, or “Transportation Investment Areas”.

This obvious power-grab by the Governor has so far gone unchallenged in the legislature, buried in a 66-page Christmas tree of a bill.  If it becomes law, my 15+ years as a member of the Commuter Council (the last four as its Chairman) will be history.

But why is the Metro-North Commuter Council singled out for such harsh treatment?

It’s not that the Commuter Council has been wasting state money.  We operate on a budget of zero dollars, even dipping into our own pockets to pay for design of a logo and pay for postage.  And I don’t think it can be argued that we haven’t been doing our jobs… meeting monthly with Metro-North and the CDOT to address commuter complaints and push for ever better service.

No, I think the real problem is that we’ve done our job too well, calling out CDOT, the legislature and yes, even the Governor, when they did things that we felt screwed commuters.  That’s our mandate.

I guess Governor Malloy didn’t like it when we pointed out that as a gubernatorial candidate he promised to never raid the Special Transportation Fund to balance the state’s budget, but then did just that when he took office.  And I guess he wasn’t happy when I noted that his budget took new fare increases from Metro-North riders but didn’t spend the money on trains, in effect making the fare hike a “commuter tax”.

And I’d imagine the Commissioner of the CDOT… the fifth Commissioner in my 15+ years on the Council… would be happy to see the current Council gone, critical as we have been about their Stamford Garage project which we see as selling out the interests of commuters to private developers.

It’s sad that the Governor feels the way to answer legitimate criticism is to eviscerate those who question him.  But I can promise you that his proposed elimination of the Metro-North Commuter Council won’t silence me.  Bring it on, Governor.

JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 22 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  You can reach him at CTRailCommuterCouncil@gmail.com or www.trainweb.org/ct .  For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Split Opinions on Requested Rule Change for Chester Market

Chester's Organon Market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue.  (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Chester’s Organon Market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue. (photo by Jerome Wilson)

CHESTER— A request to allow limited seating at the Organon Market on Route 154 drew sharply differing opinions last week at a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission. The panel closed the public hearing Thursday evening after more than two hours of comment, and is expected to discuss the request at it’s April 11 meeting.

Resident Peter Kehayias is asking the commission to amend its August 2011 approval of a special permit for the market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue (Route 154), to modify a condition of the permit that prohibited seating and consuming of food in the building or the parking lot. Kehayias, who is a member of the commission, recused himself and joined the audience at Thursday’s session. Deep River lawyer Jane Marsh, representing Kehayias, said he is not seeking to create a restaurant-type operation at the market, and would continue a prohibition on service of food to patrons at tables.

Inside the Market where the proposed 12 chairs would be placed (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

Inside the Market where the proposed 12 chairs would be placed (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

Marsh, who described the request as “not earth shattering,” said Kehayias is responding to requests from customers for an area where they could sit down while having a coffee or a sandwich. She said easing the restriction would have no impact on the surrounding neighborhood, but would create “a little bit more of a general store type feel” at the market.

Kehayias said he currently averages about 40 customers per day at the market that opened last summer, noting the parking area that abuts the Chester War Memorial is “never full.” He is asking the commission to allow seaing for up to 12 people in the market, either on benches or chairs. There would be no tables.

But several residents who live near the market objected to the proposed rule change, contending that allowing seating would be a further expansion of the parcel’s non-conforming commercial use in the surrounding residential zone. Richard Gold, an abutting property owner, contended Kehayias is still hoping to have a restaurant-type operation on the property.  “Organon Market has been open for less than a year, and Mr. Kehayias is already asking for an expansion of the special exception which was difficult and controversial in its original form,” he said.

Several residents spoke in support of the request to ease the restriction. Gary Meade said the market is “a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” while Arthur Hennick said helping the market stay in business also helps the town’s commercial tax base. Robert Galbraith, who operates the Pattaconk Restaurant on Main Street, said the ban on all seating is an unfair inpediment to the business. “It’s not going to be a Big Y,” he said.

The building at 56 Middlesex Avenue was previously a gasoline station, then later used for marine and bicycle repair shops. It had been vacant for more than five years when the market opened last summer.

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Adams Hometown Market supports Deep River Fire Department

Adams Manager Jeff Prindle presents Deep River Fire Chief Tim Lee with check.

Adams Manager Jeff Prindle presents Deep River Fire Chief Tim Lee with check for $2,603.

Adams Hometown Market in Deep River sold paper fire alarms and hotdogs to the public to raise funds in support of the Deep River Fire Department.

According to Adams Manager Jeff Prindle, ” It is our responsibility to support an organization of men and women who are willing to protect their community 24/7. Due to the support of our community, we are able to provide the vehicle in which to do this.”

In accepting the check, Chief Tim Lee commented, “The department appreciates such a generous gift. This financial support will allow us to purchase tools and equipment necessary to provide the best possible protection in an ever changing fire fighting world.”

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Local Swimmers Give Stellar Performances in State Championships

Valley Shore YMCA Age Group Qualifiers include Liam Leavy, Jessica Lee, Peter Fuchs, Nick Husted in the back row, and Anna Lang, Maddy Henderson, Kayla Mendonca, Kyle Wisialowski and Kaeleigh O’Donnell in the front row.

Valley Shore YMCA Age Group Qualifiers include Liam Leavy, Jessica Lee, Peter Fuchs, Nick Husted in the back row, and Anna Lang, Maddy Henderson, Kayla Mendonca, Kyle Wisialowski and Kaeleigh O’Donnell in the front row.

Throughout the weekend of March 8-10, 11 athletes training at Valley Shore YMCA (VSYMCA) in Westbrook competed at Connecticut Swimming’s Age Group Championships.  This event is the state championship for age group swimming.

In the 10 and under age group, four girls (Kaeleigh O’Donnell of Essex, Kayla Mendonca, Anna Lang and Maddy Henderson- all from Madison) competed in individual events as well as teaming up for the medley relay where they finished fifth.  Kayla Mendonca of Madison set two team records in distance freestyle events; the 200 yard freestyle and the 500 yard freestyle.  Kayla also reset her own team record in the 100 butterfly.

In the highest finish of the meet, Kayla finished 3rd in the 500 freestyle, qualifying her to continue on to represent her state in Eastern Zone competition.  In her first year on the swim team, Anna Lang was proud to qualify for this prestigious event and swam the 50 free.  Kaeleigh O’Donnell swam the 100 yard breast stroke finishing 30th.  Maddy Henderson qualified in two backstroke events (50 yard and 100 yard) finishing 11th and 23rd.  Maddy also swam the 50 butterfly finishing 23rd.

The 10 and under girls were joined by two 10 and under boys, Daniel Chen of Madison and Kyle Wisialowski of Old Saybrook.  Dan, not having chosen his favorite stroke yet,  competed in every stroke excluding freestyle, and also both the 100 and 200 medley.  Dan’s 7th place finish in the 50 backstroke was among the best finishes on the team.  This was Kyle’s first appearance at Age Group Championships (in the 50 yard butterfly) after a winning performance at Regional Championships.

In the 12 and under age group, Liam Leavy (Ivoryton) was the only VSYMCA swimmer, but proud to boast his first age group qualification in the 50 backstroke.

The under 14 age group category boasted Mike Healey (Madison).  Mike swam the signature sprint event in swimming; the 50 freestyle as well as the 50 backstroke.  Mike also excels at the individual medley and swam both the 200 medley, and the 400 medley, widely thought to be swimming’s most grueling event.

In the 15 and up age group, the team fielded three senior members; freestylers Nick Husted (Westbrook) and Jessica Lee, as well as breaststroker Peter Fuchs both of Old Lyme.  Jessica had a top finish in the 50 freestyle, finishing in fifth place. Jessica also made the evening final in the 100 yard freestyle, finishing in 15th place.  This bodes well for Jessica’s next competition at the Y National Championships on April 3 in Greensboro, N.C.  Peter Fuchs set the team record in the 200 yard breaststroke.

Those interested in joining the swim team are encouraged to obtain more information about the Long Course season by visiting www.vsymarlins.org or calling the Valley Shore YMCA at 860 399-9622. Tryouts will be held in mid-April for the season which runs through to Long Course Age Group Championships in late July.

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Dunkin Donuts Drops Essex Zoning Appeal for Relocation

ESSEX— Dunkin Donuts will not pursue a zoning permit appeal to relocate in to vacant former restaurant space at  31-33 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said Thursday JMB Properties LLC of Cheshire earlier this week withdrew an appeal to the zoning board of appeals of his denial of a zoning permit to locate in the former Debbie’s Restaurant space at the 31-33 Main St. building.

The company was seeking to relocate the town’s only Dunkin Donuts from shared space at the Shell station at 23 Main St. to the vacant former restaurant space at 31-33 Main St.  The current location is counter service only, while the proposed new location at 31-33 Main St. would have seating.

JMB partner John Weinstein had claimed the relocation should be allowed under a simple zoning permit because the Dunkin Donuts use was the same as the former restaurant use. Budrow denied the permit application, maintaining the relocation could only be allowed under a full special permit from the zoning commission, a process that requires a public hearing.

The zoning board of appeals was scheduled to hear the case at it’s Feb. 19 session, but that same day JMB Properties requested a postponement of the hearing to the board’s March meeting. Budrow said there are now no applications pending for the former restaurant space, which has been vacant for more than two years.

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Chester P&Z to Hold Public Hearing on Rules Change for Route 154 Market

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a request to ease rules prohibiting on-site consumption of food at the Organon Market on Route 154. The public hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

56 Middlesex Avenue LLC, the property owner, and Peter Kehayias, the applicant, are asking the commission to remove a condition from the panel’s August 2011 special permit approval for the market that prohibited any “service of food at tables either in the building of the parking lot.” The commission approved a special permit for a market in the 56 Middlesex Avenue building after a lengthy process that included an initial denial and court appeal by Kehayias.

During the months long approval process, Kehayias was appointed as a member of the commission. The building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154, had been vacant for several years before the Organon Market opened last year.

In a written statement accompanying the request to amend the special permit approval, Kehayias advised that he is requesting a “clarification” and a “more relaxed policy about what people can do,” on the property. Kehayias noted that people are already purchasing sandwiches and other items from the market and beginning to consume the items in the parking area or at the nearby Chester War Memorial site.

In the statement, Kehayias advised that he has no plans to begin a restaurant-type operation at the market, but noted that under the language of the permit approval he is even prohibited from offering customers a free sample of items that are for sale at the market.

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Deep River Parks and Recreation Announce Upcoming Programs

Deep River Parks and Recreation is pleased to announce some upcoming programs.  The Commission is sponsoring two bus trips to see Major League Baseball games this spring. The commission is also sponsoring two, 1 day 8 hour safe boating courses and announcing their summer camp registration.

Two bus trips are planned to see MLB games at both Yankee Stadium and at Fenway Park.  The Yankee game will take place on Sunday, May 5th and will feature the New York Yankees vs. The Oakland A’s.  The cost is $66.00 per person which includes a ticket for the bus as well as the cost of the bus.  The seats are located in left field in section 233A.  The second bus trip will be to Fenway Park in Boston to see the Boston Red Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays.  The date of this game is Sunday, June 30th and the cost of this trip is $63.00 per ticket.  Seats are in grandstand, section 1 in right field. The coach buses will pick up and drop off from the exit 4 commuter lot off of Route 9.  Buses will depart at approximately 10:00 am and will leave the stadiums approximately ½ hour after the conclusion of the game.

Two sessions of the1 Day, 8-hour safe boating course are scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 7th and again on Sunday, June 2nd.  The classes run from 8:00- 4:00pm and will be held in the community room at the Deep River Public Library located on Main Street in Deep River. This single session, 8-hour course, taught by Professional Marine Education, provides a certificate of completion as partial fulfillment of the requirements to obtain the certification of Personal Watercraft Operation, which allows the operation of motorized recreational vessels up to 65’ and sailboats 19 ½’ in length and longer. Prior to taking this class each student should create an account online at www.ct.gov/deep, and then click “Purchase a Hunting/Fishing License” and click the START button. Create an account if you don’t already have one, and then print the page that includes your Conservation ID number and bring it to class. Once your score has been entered in the DEEP system you will use your account to purchase & print the certificate after the class. Students should bring a pen or pencil to class.

Finally it is time to register for the 2013 summer youth camp.  The camp will run for 6 weeks from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is a pre-camp option from 8:00-9:00 am. The camp begins the week of July 1st and concludes on August 9th.  The camp will feature different themes each week and will include field trips to such destinations as the Connecticut Dinosaur Museum, mini golf in Old Saybrook, The Trampoline Place, the Movies, Laser Tag and Bowling, and the Beardsley Zoo.  Children can register for a morning session only or a full day option.  Cost is $45.00 for half day or $80.00 for a full day. Pre-Care is an additional $15.00.  To see the complete camp schedule or to register, log on to the Town of Deep River website www.deepriverct.us.

Should you have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time.  By phone, please call the Parks and Recreation Office at 860-526-6036 or by email @parkandrec@deepriverct.us.

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Linares Honors Shoreline Student Artists at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts

from left to right:  Sen. Art Linares, Future Choices Co-Chair Kathleen Bidney-Singewald, Future Choices Co-Chair Ruth Baxter, student award winner Dai Yongzheng of Westbrook-based Oxford Academy, and Shoreline Arts Alliance Executive Director/CEO Eric Dillner.

from left to right: Sen. Art Linares, Future Choices Co-Chair Kathleen Bidney-Singewald, Future Choices Co-Chair Ruth Baxter, student award winner Dai Yongzheng of Westbrook-based Oxford Academy, and Shoreline Arts Alliance Executive Director/CEO Eric Dillner.

Sen. Art Linares presented official State of Connecticut citations to outstanding high school art students from the shoreline region during the Shoreline Arts Alliance’s Future Choices awards reception March 10 at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts’ Sill House Gallery. The art exhibition offers students the experience of being juried by experts in the arts and exhibiting in a professional gallery setting.

Students who reside or attend school in the shoreline region were eligible to submit works for the competition. Towns include: Branford, Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Durham, East Haddam, East Haven, East Lyme, Essex, Guilford, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Madison, Middlefield, North Branford, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, Westbrook.

Shoreline Arts Alliance Executive Director/CEO Eric Dillner, Sen. Art Linares, and Lyme Academy of Fine Arts President Scott Colley chat prior to the awards ceremony.

Shoreline Arts Alliance Executive Director/CEO Eric Dillner, Sen. Art Linares, and Lyme Academy of Fine Arts President Scott Colley chat prior to the awards ceremony.

“These young artists have tremendous talents, and it was my pleasure to help honor them,” Sen. Linares said.  “The support and encouragement these students have received from our communities has allowed them to thrive.”

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

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Region 4 Board of Education Approves $17.77 Million Budget for 2013-2014

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education last week approved a $17,776,120 budget for 2013-2014, an amount that represents an increase of $269,907, or 1.54 percent, over the current appropriation.

The budget that funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School is reduced by $275,532 in anticipated income for a net budget of $17,500,588 that is assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. The net budget billed to taxpayers is up by $235,655, or 1.36 percent.

Essex continues to pay a larger share of the net budget, with enrollment data showing Deep River paying more in 2013-2014 while the Chester assessment is down by nine percent. With 465 students attending the two secondary schools, Essex is assessed a 46.18 percent, or $8,801,772, share of the net budget. The Essex assessment is up by $379,885, or 4.93 percent, in the proposed budget. With 297 students attending the two schools, Deep River is assessed a 29.49 percent, or $5,160,924 share of the proposed budget. The Deep River assessment is up by $281,854, or 5.78 percent.

But the changes in student average daily membership have given Chester taxpayers a break for next year. With 245 students attending the two schools, Chester has a 24.33 percent, or $4,257,893 share of the proposed budget. The Chester assessment is down by $426,084, or 9.1 percent.

A large portion of the total $275,532 spending increase is directed to salaries for professional staff after district teachers received an average 3.9 percent salary increase under a three year contract approved in December. The only new position in the budget is a special education para-educator position at the middle school at a cost of $25,990.

The budget plan was approved by the Region 4 board at a March 7 meeting on a 7-1 vote, with board member Mario Gioco of Chester opposed. Gioco, a Republican elected to fill a vacancy at a December 2011 town meeting, said he had asked at the first budget workshop session last month for a breakdown of the number of students in each class at the high school, including half credit courses.

Gioco said information provided by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and Principal Kristina Martineau showed averages for the number of students in the various classes. “The averages don’t work for me, I can’t get a handle on it,” he said.
Other board members said they were satisfied with the information provided, while Levy said she felt “micromanaged,” by the request. Martineau said gathering all the data for each class was time consuming, adding that she found the request “disturbing and insulting.”

The proposed Region 4 budget will be presented at the annual budget hearing, set for April 1 at 7 p.m. in the library/media center at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. The budget goes to the voters of the three towns in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 7.

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200 New Parking Spaces to Be Added at the Old Saybrook Railroad Station

The rear of the lots, where AMTRAK parking is located

The rear of the lots, where AMTRAK parking is located

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna has confirmed in a recent interview that the Connecticut Department of Transportation, working with the Town of Old Saybrook, will soon formally announce a plan to add 200 new parking spaces at the railroad station in Old Saybrook.

The new parking spaces will require the purchase by the state Department of Transportation of 3.6 acres of private property, and negotiations for this purchase are presently underway. The new parking spaces will be situated on a site off  North Main Street, across the street from the Upper Cemetery.  The Upper Cemetery was established in 1750, and it is one of Old Saybrook’s historic landmarks.

Monies to acquire the 200 new parking spaces will come exclusively from the state, said the state’s Project Manager Keith Hall in a recent interview. There will be no federal funds involved in the purchase whatsoever, he emphasized.

Because of the good faith that has been shown in negotiating the sale of the property, Project Manager Hall also said that acquiring the property by eminent domain would not be necessary. Hall emphasized that to date there had been “fruitful discussions” with the property owners involved, and he anticipates that the final sale of the property would be consummated this coming April, if not before.

In discussing the planned acquisition of the new parking spaces, First Selectman Fortuna observed that the present parking situation at the Old Saybrook railroad station was “not ideal.”

The Present Parking Spaces at the Old Saybrook Station

The 200 new parking spaces at the station will add, substantially, to the number of parking spaces presently available at the station. One of the more informal of the existing parking lots at the station is the one that has a single string of parked cars running down North Main Street.

Cars parked beside the cemetery on North Main Street

Cars parked beside the cemetery on North Main Street

This ad hoc parking lot extends from next to the Upper Cemetery all the way down to the railroad tracks. During work days this informal “free” parking area is completely full.

Another significant parking area that also offers free parking is the Shore Line East, Old Saybrook, Commuter Parking lot.  This large lot has 137 parking spaces, with a few designated for handicap parking.

Colorful sign for Shore Line East Commuter Parking

Colorful sign for Shore Line East Commuter Parking

Although the Shore Line East parking lot is not directly beside the railroad station, it is still within easy walking distance of the trains. During work days the Shore Line East parking lot is frequently full.

AMTRAK Passenger Parking

In addition to these parking areas there are designated parking spaces for Amtrak passengers at the Old Saybrook railroad station. These Amtrak spaces are free, and they are indicated by painted yellow lines along their borders.

The Amtrak spaces are located just down from the Route 154 entrance to the railroad station property. This means that they are the furthest distance from where passengers get on and off their trains. Also, there are no designated parking spaces for handicapped Amtrak passengers, as there are in the Shore Line East Commuter Parking area.

Furthermore, the number of free-of-charge Amtrak parking spaces appears to be diminishing at the station.  Quite recently a number of Amtrak parking spaces were re-designated to be for the exclusive use of patients of a dermatologist with offices at the station. In the process Amtrak’s yellow boarders on these spaces have been painted over.

The considerable distance from the remaining Amtrak spaces to the train station can mean that a baggage-laden passenger, traveling on Amtrak, has further to walk to the train than any other passengers parking at the station.

One Hour Parking Spaces at the Station

Finally, there is another parking area that has at least a semblance of free parking. These are the spaces which are designated as offering just one hour of free parking, and no more. This means that if parkers decide to eat at Zhang’s Chinese Restaurant at the station, they better eat their shrimp chow mien with fried rice for lunch within an hour’s time.

However, it has to be said that this one hour limit does not appear to be strictly enforced by the private developer that owns much of the property around the railroad station.

Finally, it should be noted that the Old Saybrook railroad train station is in a unique category from among shoreline stations. This is because it serves both Shore Line East and Amtrak passengers. “It is not like the Guilford station that only serves Shore Line East passengers,” said DOT’s Project Manager Hall, when discussing the importance of the Old Saybrook railroad station. Of course it must also be sadly noted that Amtrak’s luxury train, the Acela, does not a stop at Old Saybrook. Rather, it insultingly barrels through the station at 80 or more miles an hour. Maybe it will stop for us someday.

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Local Land Conservation Trusts Announce Winners of Annual Photo Contest

The winner of the 2012 John G. Mitchell – Environmental Conservation Award is Mark Roger Bailey of California, formerly of Essex.

The winner of the 2012 John G. Mitchell – Environmental Conservation Award is Mark Roger Bailey of California, formerly of Essex.

The Essex, Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem and East Haddam Land Conservation Trusts announced have the winners of their jointly sponsored amateur photo contest. The purpose of the contest was to focus on the celebrated and scenic countryside in those towns and its diversified wildlife. The ages of the photographers ranged from children to senior citizens.

This contest was made possible by the generous financial support provided by Lorensen Toyota, Oakley/Wing Group at Smith Barney, Evan Griswold at Coldwell Banker, Essex Savings Bank, ChelseaGroton Bank, Ballek Garden Center and Murtha Cullina LLP.

“There were so many wonderful pictures submitted that the judges had a difficult time selecting the winners” said Tony Sullivan, spokesperson for the conservation trusts.

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

“This year an additional award was given out to honor one of our prior judges, John G. Mitchell, who passed away” said Sullivan. “John, who was one of the editors at National Geographic, dedicated his career to writing about the environment and conservation, so the award was for the best picture reflecting that subject.”

The categories and names of the winners are:

JOHN G. MITCHELL – Environmental Conservation Award

Mark Roger Bailey, California (Formerly Essex)

LANDSCAPES/WATERSCAPES

First Place:  
Skip Broom, Hadlyme

Second Place: 
April Surprenant, Salem

Third Place: 
Alexandria Hollwedel, Ivoryton

Honorable Mentions: 
Tom Nemeth, Salem
John Sargent, Quaker Hill
Gerry Graves, Old Lyme

PLANTS

First Place: 
Tony Sullivan, Lyme

Second Place:
Cheryl Philopena

Third Place: 
Skip Broom, Hadlyme

Honorable Mentions: 
Jessica Nemeth, Salem
Linda Waters, Salem
Marian Morrissette, New London

WILDLIFE

First Place:  
Skip Broom, Hadlyme

Second Place: 
Harcourt Davis, Old Lyme

Third Place: 
Cheryl Philopena, Salem

Honorable Mentions:  
Marian Morrissette, New London
Hank Golet, Old Lyme
Mark Roger Bailey, Essex

CULTURAL/HISTORIC

First Place: 
Skip Broom, Hadlyme

Second Place:  
Carol Giese, East Lyme

Third Place:  
Mark Roger Bailey, California (Formally Essex)

Honorable Mentions:  
Lionel Williams, Essex
Jacquelyn Sanders, Old Lyme
Donald Quigley, Old Lyme

YOUTH

First Place:  
Emma Pennie, Old Lyme

Second Place: 
Meghan Buckley, Haddam

Third Place: 
Courtney Briggs, Old Saybrook

Honorable Mentions:  
Rebecca Johnson, Colchester
Samantha Barretta, Lyme
Hannah Patten, Old Lyme

All the winning photographs will be available for public viewing at Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library at 2 Library Lane in Old Lyme during the month of April. The photos can also be seen at http://landtrustsphotos.shutterfly.com/ or on the web sites of each of the sponsoring conservation trusts.

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Essex Selectmen Approve $6.97 Million Town Government Budget for 2013-2014

ESSEX— The board of selectmen Wednesday approved a proposed $6,978,105 town government budget for 2013-2014, a total that represents a $124,465, or 1.82 percent, increase over the current town government appropriation.

Selectmen prepared the spending plan over three budget workshop meetings in February, endorsing only minor changes after discussion Wednesday, including a $3,000 reduction from the requests of several regional service agencies. The budget plan was approved on a unanimous vote, with Republican Selectman Joel Marzi joining Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman and Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby in supporting the budget proposal.

The budget includes a 2.5 percent wage or salary increase for all non-union town employees, including the elected positions of tax collector and town clerk. The selectman are taking no pay increase in the budget, with the salary for first selectman remaining at $76,271, and the stipends for the two selectmen set at $4,314 each.

The budget includes some changes, with $12,823 in new spending, for the town treasurer/finance office. Town Treasurer Robert Dixon, a Republican who has held the job since 2002, is not seeking a new term in the November town election. In anticipation that a newly elected treasurer would lack the experience of Dixon, the salary for the elected position is being reduced from $25,000 to $10,000. Finance Director Kelly Sterner would receive the general pay increase plus three additional hours per week, with funding also included for an assistant finance director position. The total appropriation for the treasurer/finance office would increase from the current $139,532 to $152,355.

The appropriation for the volunteer fire department is set at $307,700, with an appropriation of $321,250 for the town police department that now includes three full-time officers and one part-time officer. There is also a $113,304 appropriation for the resident state trooper.

The budget includes $372,000 for the town’s two libraries, including $270,000 for the Essex Library and $102,000 for the Ivoryton Library. Essex Library is receiving an additional $5,000, with an additional $2,000 for Ivoryton Library.

The budget includes $423,800 for capital expenditures and sinking funds, including $130,000 for a fire department sinking fund, $30,000 for the parks and recreation sinking fund, $75,000 for road reconstruction, $25,000 for sidewalk improvements, and $51,800 for capital equipment leases. With a refinancing of municipal debt that is now in progress, interest expenses in 2013-2014 are expected to decrease by $125,000.

The board of finance is expected to review the town government budget endorsed by the selectmen at a March 28 meeting. The town government budget is combined with the Essex Elementary School budget and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget to establish a total spending package for 2023-2014. The annual budget hearing, for discussion of the town government and elementary school budgets, is set for Monday April 22. The proposed total spending package goes to the voters in May, either at the annual budget meeting ion May 13, or possibly to a referendum vote later in May.

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Veterans Annual Corned Beef Dinner – Mar. 10

Veterans and members of Essex Veterans Memorial Hall in Centerbrook are holding their annual Corned Beef Dinner on Sunday, March 10.

From noon to 6 p.m. , a corned beef dinner complete with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, Irish soda bread and dessert will be served. Adults pay $10 at the door; children pay $5. Anyone who prefers take-out, may request it.

Proceeds from the dinner support our veterans and those currently serving our country. Recently, Ivoryton resident Hunter Sanford was deployed, so the members of the Veterans Memorial Hall will be sending him packages from home.

If more information is needed, call 860-767-8892.

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Annual Valley-Shore Men’s Palm Sunday Breakfast – Mar. 24

Palm SundayOver a hundred men, young and old, from congregations throughout the Connecticut River Valley annually gather in Deep River for the annual Palm Sunday Men’s Communion Breakfast.    You are invited to come at 7 a.m. on Palm Sunday, March 24, for a half-hour Communion service, followed by breakfast in Fellowship Hall.   After breakfast, we will welcome our speaker, the Rev. Keith Jones.

Please plan to join other men from throughout the Valley Shore for this long-time Valley Shore tradition  by calling the Deep River church office before Tuesday, March 19 (860-526-5045), or by e-mailing your reservations to congregational.chrch@snet.net (or go to our church web site and click the box on the main page  www.deepriverchurch.org ).

The Rev. Keith Jones is a retired UCC minister who lives in our Valley Shore area.   Rev. Jones has been in the ministry within the United Church of Christ for 45 years, serving half of those years in the parish. During the 1980’s and 90’s he worked as a competitive analyst at AT&T in New York and New Jersey.   Later he returned to parish ministry as an Intentional Interim Minister.  Throughout his ministerial career he has been sole pastor or Senior Minister in team settings in Windsor, Norwalk, North Branford, and Higganum as well as in various churches in New Jersey.  Most recently he served as Interim Minister at the Congregational Church in Old Saybrook.  

He received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Univ. of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business and his Master of Divinity from the Harvard Divinity School.   Rev. Jones is married to Joan and has three daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.    He enjoys music and model trains.

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Deep River Congregational Church Holy Week and Easter Services

On Palm Sunday, March 24, all men of the church, community and local churches are invited to attend our Annual Men’s Palm Sunday Breakfast.  Worship begins at 7:00 a.m., followed by a breakfast and guest speaker, Rev. Keith Jones.  There is no 8:30 service that morning.

Palm Sunday worship is at 10:00 a.m. and palms will be distributed.

On March 28th,  Maundy Thursday at 7:00 p.m., our Communion Service commemorates the Last Supper and our fourth grade Sunday School students will receive their First Communion that evening.

There will be a Soup and Bread supper at 6:00 p.m. on Good Friday, March 29th, followed by a moving Good Friday Worship service at 7:00 p.m.

The traditional Easter Sunrise Service will be held at Mt. Saint John School at 6:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday, March 31.  There will be two services at the church; one at 9:00 a.m., which is a family service and the traditional Easter at 10:30 a.m.  There will be special music from the Sr. Choir and Chancel Handbell Choir, along with a special Easter message from Rev. Timothy Haut.   A wonderful array of treats prepared by Martha Beaudoin will be served by our Deacons at a special coffee hour at 10:00 a.m.  between the two services.

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Letters: Essex Community Fund – Thank You Essex!

Thank you Essex!

The Essex Community Fund would like to thank the residents of the Villages of Essex for their generous support of our 2012 fund raising efforts.  Your generosity has allowed us to distribute grants to thirty-two local non-profit organizations, two different community projects, as well as support local community activities.

For sixty-four years ECF has continued to serve its mission statement by enhancing the quality of life for Essex residents thru the support of the non-profit organizations and programs that serve them.  At our annual Day of Giving on March 27th at the Centerbrook Meetinghouse, these local non-profits and programs that serve Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton, come together to be recognized and receive their grants.  This event is recorded by the Valley Regional Media Department and can be viewed on the local cable access channel.

Respectfully,

Jacqueline D. Doane, President
Essex Community Fund

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Sen. Art Linares to Hear from Chester Taxpayers March 18

Sen. Art Linares (right) talks with a taxpayer during a Colchester town meeting.  Sen. Linares will hold a Town Hall Meeting at the Chester Elementary School auditorium from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sen. Art Linares (right) talks with a taxpayer during a Colchester town meeting. Sen. Linares will hold a Town Hall Meeting at the Chester Elementary School auditorium from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on March 18

On Monday, March 18, Sen. Art Linares will hold a Town Hall Meeting at the Chester Elementary School auditorium from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Sen. Linares will take questions from taxpayers and discuss the state budget and efforts to make Connecticut more business-friendly.

Sen. Linares is co-sponsoring several pro-business measures, including a bill to eliminate the business entity tax and a bill which provides incentives for college and technical school graduates to establish a new business in the state.

“I look forward to talking with Chester taxpayers,” Linares said. “I’ve held similar town hall meetings in Deep River, Colchester, Essex, and Portland and I have found these discussions to be very helpful and informative.  I take your ideas and concerns and bring them with me to the State Capitol.  The taxpayers are my customers, so come out on March 18 with any questions you have.”

Those who cannot attend can contact Linares at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at (800) 842 1421. On the web: www.senatorlinares.com .

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Quick Actions Avert Serious Fire in Deep River

DSC_0416A little past 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, the Deep River Fire Department received a call for an active fire in duct work at the Silgan Plastics Manufacturing Plant on Bridge Street. While the plant was evacuated, workers used fire extinguishers to contain the fire.
Upon arrival, the Fire Department quickly knocked down the remainder of the fire. It was discovered that the source of the problem was an overheated bearing, which caught fire in the exhaust ventilation system.
According to Assistant Chief Jim Budney, “The workers did a great job of containing the fire and helped to avert a serious situation.”
With light smoke conditions in the building, the second shift for the Plastics plant was sent home. Silgan Plastics manufactures plastic bottles and containers for worldwide distribution.
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Rug Hookers Share their Expertise at Essex Library – Mar. 27

Get an Introduction to Rug Hooking at the Essex Library Wednesday March 27th at 2 P.M. This hand-hooked rug was created by instructor Mellicent Hawke, who’ll display her work and discuss the history and craft of rug hooking.

This hand-hooked rug was created by instructor Mellicent Hawke, who will display her work and discuss the history and craft of rug hooking.

The heritage craft of rug hooking is making a comeback as people rediscover this pleasant pastime as a way to create works of art that are both beautiful and functional.

Prize-winning rug hooker Mellicent Hawke and several of her talented friends will present an Introduction To Rug Hooking program at the Essex Library on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 p.m. You’ll learn about the history and techniques of rug hooking, what materials are required, and get a chance to try your hand at it with materials they supply.

The artists will be displaying a selection of their work, too. The program is free and open to all; please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560 for more information or to register for this program.  The Essex Library is at 33 West Avenue.

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Essex Zoning Commission Approves Convenience Store at Reopened 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 Monday approved a special permit allowing Bestway 2 LLC of Norwich to open a convenience store as part of a reopened Sunoco gasoline station at 1 Saybrook Road. The property, near the Route 9 exit 3 interchange and the Valley Railroad visitor attraction, has been vacant for nearly eight years.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the panel imposed only two conditions on the permit approval, a prohibition on gasoline delivery trucks backing out on to Saybrook Road, and a ban on signs for the station/store on Route 9. While there would be no expansion of the existing 1,800-square-foot building, the partnership plans renovations that would use more of the space for a convenience store. Existing pumps and underground storage tanks would be removed to construct a station with eight service pumps. Work on the new station/store is expected to begin later this year.

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Sen. Linares, Lyme, Deep River Leaders to Fight Property Tax Hikes

LinaresMar4COST

Sen. Art Linares, Lyme First Selectman and COST Board Member Ralph Eno, Deep River First Selectman and COST President Richard Smith, and Rep. Phil Miller.

At a March 4 press conference at the State Capitol complex, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST) voiced opposition to the governor’s car tax plan.

Mayors and first selectmen discussed how the plan would cause municipalities to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue and be forced to make up for that loss in other ways, namely through increased local property taxes.

Sen. Art Linares (www.senatorlinares.com) was among those supporting the town leaders at the press conference.  “No one likes paying the car tax and we’d all like to see it eliminated,” Sen. Linares said.  “But the plan that is before the state legislature would lead to higher property taxes for everyone.  The bottom line is that we simply can’t afford higher taxes.  By working together and speaking with one voice, we can put this car tax plan in the breakdown lane.”

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Deep River Selectmen, Finance Board, Endorse Proposed $4 Million Sewer Expansion

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen and board of finance last week endorsed a proposed expansion of the municipal sewer system in to the Kirtland Street-River Street neighborhoods that would be funded by grants and a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the proposed expansion would serve about 130 properties on and around Kirtland Street and River Street, east of Main Street (Route 154). Smith said many of the houses in this neighborhood are on smaller lots, with some failing septic systems. He said several property owners had requested an opportunity to hook in  to the municipal sewer system.
Smith said the town has already received grant and loan approvals for a project that is estimated to cost about $4 million. He said about $2.8 million would be funded by a USDA loan at 2.75 percent annual interest over 40 years. The annual payment for the town would be $116,000.

Smith said voters will be asked at a town meeting later this month to authorize an expenditure of up to $4 million for the expansion project, and accept the federal grants and loan that would fund the project. He said the project could be put out to bid by the end of this year for construction in 2014.

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Rep. Miller Honored at Heart Health Awareness Month Forum

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller

Representative Philip Miller (D-Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam) was recognized by Lily’s Kids, Inc. and presented a certificate of appreciation for his work on promoting children’s health and heart health awareness. Rep. Miller was joined by Lily Gagliardi, BA – Founder and C.E.O.  and Amy D. Gagliardi, MA, IBCLC, RLC, Chief Operating Officer for Lily’s Kids Inc.

“How to live a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things we can teach our children. I am honored to be presented an award by Lily’s Kids and am proud of the work they are doing to promote good habits, heart health, and eating natural local food,” Rep. Miller said.

Lily’s Kids Inc. is a Non-profit Organization for Children is committed to ensuring that all children live healthy, productive lives.  We believe it is the right of all children to have a healthy start in life.  We support Maternal and Child Health initiatives and evidence based interventions and are especially focused on the prevention and treatment of heart conditions in children. For more information please visit: Lilyskidsinc.org

Heart Yourself engages the youth to learn about healthy lifestyle choices including healthy eating, exercise, and not smoking to help prevent heart disease. Through a combination of age appropriate hands on discussions and activities, children and young adults are exposed to fun and creative ways to keep their hearts healthy. This program was selected for us to present in Washington, DC at the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit in April. Heart Yourself has been brought to all ages from elementary school through college, it is now available for toddler and caregiver groups.

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Region 4 School Boards Approve $6.39 Million Supervision District Budget

REGION 4— The four district school boards Thursday gave unanimous approval to a $6,390,898 supervision district budget that funds shared services in the Chester-Deep River-Essex school district. The budget total represents a 2.06 percent, or $129,160, increase over the current supervision district appropriation.

Most of the new spending is directed toward a new administrative position, assistant director of pupil services, at a cost of $127,710, including salary of $109,791, and $16,919 for medical and other benefits. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the new position would upgrade services for about 300 identified special education students, and enable the district to avoid out-of-district placements, and related transportation costs, for many of these students.  The number of identified special education students in district schools has increased from about 267 students in 2009-2010. Levy said several area school districts, including Region 17 (Haddam-Killingworth), Madison, and Old Saybrook have more than one supervisory position for special education programming.
In an effort to hold down the total spending increase in the budget, administrators identified about $138,000 in savings that includes some reductions in teaching hours for art, music, and elementary school foreign language positions.. Levy said the reductions in teacher hours are a direct result of declining enrollment at the three elementary schools, and would result in no reductions in instructional time for the elementary school art, music, and foreign language programs.

The supervision district budget was approved on unanimous votes of the Region 4, Chester, Deep River, and Essex school boards that gathered at John Winthrop Middle School Thursday for the joint meeting. The approval locks in a portion of the 2013-2014 spending plans that are now being prepared by the school boards. The supervision district appropriation is not subject to direct voter approval, but is divided between the Region 4 and three elementary school budgets based on the number of students from each town attending district schools. Essex, with the largest average daily membership (ADM) of students is expected to pay a 45 percent share of the budget.

The Region 4 Board of Education and local school boards for the three towns are expected to adopt proposed 2013-2014 budgets later this month. The proposed Region 4 budget goes to voters of the three towns at the annual referendum in early May. The elementary school appropriations, which are subject to review and adjustment by town finance boards, are presented for voter approval in May as part of the town budgets.

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