March 28, 2017

Archives for March 2014

Valley Shore YMCA Marlins Compete in New England Championships

The Valley Shore YMCA Marlins swim team enjoyed a busy and successful championship season. Twelve athletes qualified to swim in the New England YMCA Championships held at MIT in Cambridge, MA held March 15-16 and 22-23. Top accolades go to Jessica Lee of Old Lyme for her 1st place finish in the girls 15 and over 50 yard freestyle event and 7th in the 100 yard freestyle. Other notable finishes include Kyle Wisialowski of Old Saybrook finishing 4th in the boys 9-10 year old 50 yard fly, 4th in 100 yard fly, and 6th in 100 yard individual medley; Kaeleigh O’Donnell of Essex earning 4th in the girls 9-10 year old 100 yard breast stroke and 6th in the 50 yard breastroke; Helen Day of Old Saybrook earning 4th place in girls 9-10 year old 100 yard individual medley and 8th in the 100 yard backstroke; Mike Healey of Madison finishing 5th in boys 13-14 200 yard individual medley; and Kayla Mendonca of Madison finishing 8th in girls 11-12 year old 100 yard butterfly.

Accolades also go to the ten Marlin swimmers who qualified to compete in the US Swimming Connecticut Age Group Championships which include top swimmers from all regions of the state. Daniel Chen, Kayla Mendonca, Michael Healey of Madison; Nick Husted, Christopher Thomson, Kyle Wisialowski of Old Saybrook; Peter Fuchs, Jessica Lee of Old Lyme; Kaeleigh O’Donnell of Essex; and Robert May of Guilford qualified for this short course season championship event.

Four of the team’s senior athletes, Nick Husted, Christopher Thomson, Jessica Lee and Peter Fuchs, qualified for the Connecticut Senior Championships.

The Valley Shore YMCA Long Course season (competing in 50 meter pools) starts in mid-April and the team welcomes aspiring swimmers to come by the Y, located in Westbrook, to try out and learn more about our program. For more information, please visit our website at www.vsymarlins.org or call 860-399-9622

 

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Chester and Old Saybrook Receive $5K Energy Efficiency Grants

 L-R: Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Richard Holloway from the Chester Conservation Commission; Chester First Selectman Edward Meehan and Tilak Subrahmanian, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at Northeast Utilities.

L-R: Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Richard Holloway from the Chester Conservation Commission; Chester First Selectman Edward Meehan and Tilak Subrahmanian, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at Northeast Utilities.

Chester and Old Saybrook were among twenty-three Connecticut municipalities who were recognized during a ceremony Tuesday at the State Capitol for their participation in the statewide Clean Energy Communities program, an Energize Connecticut initiative that incentivizes cities and towns to support energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Municipal leaders from the communities were joined by their state senators and representatives to celebrate their city or town earning its first “Bright Idea Grant” through the program. These communities earned the grants based on the level of community participation in Energize CT programs. Bright Idea Grants awarded range from $5,000 to $15,000 and can be used toward a community selected energy saving project.

Together these cities and towns have collectively saved more than 277 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 2.8 million Ccf (one Ccf = 100 cubic feet) of natural gas through their energy efficiency efforts. Those savings are equivalent to the amount of power 33,000 homes would typically consume in one year, and result in avoided emissions of approximately 152,500 tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking 26,500 cars off Connecticut’s roads for a year.

“These cities and towns prove that energy efficiency can benefit an entire community, and we hope they encourage every municipality across Connecticut to join this valuable program,” said Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee. “Not only have these communities lowered energy use and costs overall, but have now earned money toward future projects that will help them use energy more efficiently.”

Under the Clean Energy Communities program, municipalities sign a pledge to reduce municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent by 2018, and to attain 20 percent of municipal electricity from renewable sources by 2018. Through community-wide participation in energy-saving and renewable energy programs, including resident and business participation, the community receives points toward rewards. For every 100 points earned through participation in energy efficiency programs, a community is eligible to receive a Bright Idea Grant. Similarly, for every 100 points earned through participation in renewable initiatives, a community can receive a renewable energy system equivalent to a one kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

The nationally recognized Clean Energy Communities program expanded in 2012 to include energy efficiency. To date, 93 Connecticut cities and towns have signed the new pledge to support both renewable and energy efficiency initiatives.

Following the signing of the pledge, Clean Energy Communities program administrators work with municipalities to establish a local Clean Energy Task Force and aid them in developing a plan of action to reduce overall energy consumption, support renewable energy, and earn rewards for their efforts. Program administrators often host workshops at local public libraries and other municipal buildings to educate residents and businesses on available energy-saving and renewable energy programs that can help them earn points for their community.

The following Connecticut municipalities were recognized for earning a Bright Idea Grant during the March 24, 2014 ceremony at the State Capitol in Hartford:

$5,000

Ashford, Bridgewater, Chester, Coventry, Derby, Goshen, Litchfield, Old Saybrook, Sharon and Thomaston

$10,000

Brookfield, Cheshire, Rocky Hill, Suffield, Watertown, Windham and Wolcott

$15,000

Bristol, New Britain, New Haven, Shelton, Waterbury and West Haven

For more information on the Clean Energy Communities program, visit EnergizeCT.com/communities.

About Energize Connecticut

Energize Connecticut helps you save money and use clean energy. It is an initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities, with funding from a charge on customer energy bills. Information on energy-saving programs can be found at EnergizeCT.com or by calling 1.877.WISE.USE.

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Region 4 Elementary Schools Begin Breakfast Program

REGION 4— District elementary schools have begun offering breakfast to students in a grant-funded program that is expected to continue in future school years. The program began at the Chester and Deep River elementary schools on March 10, and started at Essex Elementary School this week.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Director of Food Services Thomas Peterlik determined there was federal funding available for a school breakfast program, and later secured nearly $3,000 in grant funds even though the current school year is now entering its final months. She said the program started first at the Chester and Deep River schools because those schools have a higher number of students received free or reduced price school lunches under federal guidelines, though school officials quickly determined there would be sufficient funding to extend the program to Essex Elementary School.

Levy said the program should be a benefit for both students and working parents. She noted that numerous studies have confirmed that children learn better if they have eaten breakfast, while adding the program would offer “another option for parents.”

Peterlik said this week he decided to keep the breakfast options simple in order to begin the program as quickly as possible and utilize the funding available for the current school year. Students are offered a brown bag breakfast before the start of classes at a price of $1.25. The breakfast includes fresh fruit and milk each day, while other items vary from cereal to yogurt, pastries, or bagels with cream cheese.

Peterlik said student response over the past two weeks indicates the program would be a success. He said average daily participation since March 10 has been 39 students for Deep River and 29 students for Chester, with at least 27 students taking breakfast each day this week as the program was rolled out for Essex Elementary School. The district’s two secondary schools, John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, had already offered breakfast for students and staff.

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$7.74 Million Budget Proposed for Essex Elementary School

ESSEX— The board of finance has received a proposed $7,742,313 budget for Essex Elementary School. The spending plan, which was approved by the local board of education earlier this month, represents a $107,396, or 1.41 percent, spending increase over the current budget for the school.

The budget projects enrollment for the kindergarten-sixth grade school at 428 students when the 2014-2015 school year begins, down from a current enrollment of 451 students. The spending plan includes no new staff positions, but calls for elimination of one classroom teacher position due to the drop in enrollment. The reduction of one teacher position brings a total savings of about $87,000 for salary and benefits, with an additional $27,529 in savings anticipated from other staffing changes.

The only enhancements funded in the budget are $10,000 for painting in the gymnasium and one wing of classrooms, and $7,143 for an improved student assessment system for math and reading.

The spending plan for the elementary school will be presented, along with the proposed town government budget, at an April 24 public hearing. The elementary school budget goes to a vote with the town budget at the annual budget meeting on May 12. The Region 4 education budget, which funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, goes to the voters of Chester,Deep River, and Essex for approval in a May 6 referendum.

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Letter From Paris: Mr. Putin, You Have Much To Lose

Nicole Prevost Logan

Nicole Prevost Logan

At the foot of Mount Mithridates, in eastern Crimea, stood the ancient city of Pantikapeion founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists.  It is where King Mithridates killed himself in 63 BC by the sword since his body was immune to poison.

In 1992, I joined the archaeological expedition from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts led by Dr. V. Tolstikov, head of the department of near eastern antiquities, and Dr. Michael Treister, curator, in order to publish an article in Archaeology.  That season the Russian team was researching the acropolis and a vast architectural complex with a colonnade dating from the 2nd century BC.  Below the steep cliff, one could see modern Kerch and the Russian shore of the Krasnodar region across the five kilometer-wide Cimmerian Bosporus.

The scholars from the Pushkin museum were among the many Russian, Ukrainian and foreign archaeologists who have long been researching the rich strata of human occupation on the northern shore of the Black Sea.  They have also studied the Scythian civilization, whose “kurgans” (tombs) contained the famous gold treasures.

The Institutes of Archaeology in the major cities, like Moscow, St Petersburg and Kiev, the universities and most of the museums, have their own expeditions. For instance, Odessa conducts regular excavations in Olbia, one of the major “emporia” (commercial trading post) for the export of cereals, fish and slaves to Greece and for import of Attic goods to Scythia.  On the outskirts of Sebastopol, the ancient Greek city of Chersonesus has been excavated jointly by teams from Ukraine, the University of Texas and the German Institute of Archaeology.

Archaeologists, historians and other specialists exchange the results of their finds and publish joint papers in scholarly journals.  The Center for Research on Ancient History, located in Besançon in eastern France, is an invaluable source for the Black Sea region and has collected works from scholars, irrespective of their nationality. Periodically, a Black Sea symposium, which attracts several hundred scientists, meets in Vani, Georgia.

After this long description of the archaeological scene in the Black Sea region, the question arises: what is going to happen to this fruitful scientific collaboration currently happening across the borders ?

During our sail along the Black Sea coast in 1991 (see the Feb. 8 Sochi article posted on this site), we saw dozens of wind turbines near Evpatoria in western Crimea.  Today Ukraine and Russia have ambitious plans to create a wind farm of 3,000km2 for a grid power of 16,000 MW.  Aeolian energy is readily available in this area, thanks to the shallow waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

On March 20, Le Monde published an article entitled, “Antonov mirrors the break between Russia and Ukraine.”  The article explains how the plane was built with technology and software from Dassault Systemes, employs 16,000 Ukrainian workers, but 40 percent of the parts are Russian.  On March 22, a Moscow official announced that the extension of the capital’s subway had to be put on hold since they could not take delivery of some of the construction material ordered from the Ukraine.  In the art world, a Paris galerist told me they were expecting difficulties in the near future.

Human, cultural and economic ties between Ukraine, Crimea and Russia are so interwoven that the break up of the Ukrainian territorial integrity and the announced sanctions from the West are bound to have serious consequences.

Vladimir Putin is supposed to be an excellent chess player.  One assumed that each one of his moves was made according to a planned strategy.  This does not seem to be true anymore.  He has won the Crimea, but what about the long term waves he is making?  Problems are going to catch up with him.

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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New Hobby in Essex, the Keeping of Chickens

 

Dr. Michael J. Darre, Professor, Department of Animal Science, UCONN

Dr. Michael J. Darre, Professor, Department of Animal Science, UCONN

Who would have thought it? Well, it’s true, many residents of Essex, Connecticut, are now keeping chickens. The wide interest in this “feathery” hobby was evident at a recent program at the Essex Library. The program, which lasted well over two hours, was about just one thing, the care and feeding of backyard chickens.

The speaker at the program was Dr. Michael J. Darre, PhD, P.A.S., who is a Professor of Animal Sciences at the Department of Animal Science of the University of Connecticut. Darre invited those attending the program to contact him directly at any time, if they had any questions about raising chickens. He added that those persons attending the Library’s program might find the “UCONN Poultry Pages” of particular interest.

In passing Dr. Darre’s said that one of his own specialties was training chickens to stand still in chicken competitions. He also said that on the UCONN Poultry pages, there was information on where to purchase chickens.  

It Takes a Lot of Skills to Raise Chickens

In addition to asserting that it takes a lot of skills to raise chickens, Dr. Darre said that in raising baby chickens to the point where they are laying eggs, required the adoption of what he called a “Food Safety Plan.” He noted, ominously, that over 50,000 chickens die every year from fecal poisoning.

As regards egg production the professor said that when they are fully grown, five chickens can produce 3 to 5 eggs a day. He also said that when considering the cost of chicken feed and the construction of proper chicken housing, that from “a cost benefit analysis,” no one saves money in the cost of eggs by raising their own chickens.

He said that that there are three types of chickens that can be raised in the backyard. They are: 

1) Layer chickens, which are owned for producing eggs,

2) Meat type chickens, which are for eating, and

3) “Show bird” chickens, which are for chicken beauty contests.

He also noted that there are regular sized chickens, and “bantam,” smaller chickens.  Dr. Darre suggested that, “giving five ‘live’ chickens to another person would make a nice Easter gift.” 

Dr. Darre discussed the proper hormone supplements that are safe and nutritious for chickens, and he noted in passing that he taught a poultry class at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. The poultry professor also noted that in the hen house, older birds have a tendency to pick on younger birds, and that chicken keepers should be aware of this fact.

There then followed an extensive discussion on the proper housing for chickens. The professor pointed that “hen houses” should have proper ventilation, and that roosting chickens should be keep, “free from drafts.” Dr. Darre’s said that there should be heat sources in the hen house to protect the chickens from the cold, and that chickens should not be kept outdoors, when it is over 95 degrees. “Watch your chickens to make sure it is not too hot or too cold,” he said with emphasis.

He added that if the chickens were clucking, it meant they were happy, and when they are making distress noises, they are not. Then, the professor went into what he called, “An owner’s checklist.” One of the items mentioned was that dry litter made of pine savings was the best thing for chickens to rest on, and he cautioned against using straw in the hen house. He also suggested the use of a garden rake to spread the liter around.

There should also be a perch for the chickens to walk on, and a roost on which the birds can sleep, he said. The professor noted that the birds like to cuddle together when they sleep. 

As for feeding the birds, he said that bird feed should be bought by the bag, and that it was a good idea to buy “name brands” of feed. He also noted that chickens like to eat table scraps. He stressed as well that bird owners should make sure that the chickens have enough drinking water at all times.

Professor Darre said that chickens should be kept away from rodents, and that wild birds sometime eat chickens. Also, he advised that sick chickens should be put in quarantine. The professor also observed that in the hen house, “the birds themselves establisher their own pecking order.”

Baby Chickens for Sale in Old Saybrook

Baby chickens are frequently available for sale at the TSC Tractor Supply Co at 401 Middlesex Turnpike in Old Saybrook.

Tractor Supply Company, which sells baby chickens

Tractor Supply Company, which sells baby chickens

Store Manager Andrew Gaskine said that the store orders as many as 400 “live” baby chickens at a time, and that they are completely sold out in a matter of days. He said that state law requires that the baby chickens be sold in groups of six. The price range is $1.99 to $2.99 per chicken. Call 860-388-9641 for further information.  

Chickens for Sale sign at tractor company

Chickens for Sale sign at tractor company

 

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Zoning Board of Appeals Denial of Variances Puts Essex Property Purchase on Hold

ESSEX— A zoning board of appeals denial of variances to allow a property split has put on hold the $200,000 purchase of a back section of the Perry property at 27 West Avenue that was approved by voters at a November town meeting. The property abuts the town hall property.

The ZBA, acting after a public hearing that began in February, Tuesday rejected variances requested by the town on a 4-1 vote. Member Michael Noto supported approval of the variances, with members Paul Greenberg, Al Daddona, W.T. Ferguson, and William Veilette opposed. Minutes released Thursday show the board majority determined the town had not proven a hardship from its zoning regulations, and that any claimed hardship was ‘self-created and financial.”

First Selectman Norman Needleman negotiated the purchase of the back, .65-acre, section of the 27 West Avenue property with the heirs of longtime resident Eileen Perry, who died last June. Needleman, with support from other members of the board of selectmen, contended the town could have future use of the back section of the parcel, but had no interest in owning the historic house that fronts on West Avenue. The back section of the property also abuts the Pratt House property that is owned by the Essex Historical Society.

The $200,000 land purchase was approved on a 34-30 show of hands vote at a Nov. 20 town meeting, with the purchase contingent on approval of any zoning variances required for a split of the property.

The variances requested by the town would increase the non-conformity of the 27 West Avenue property by raise the building coverage on the lot while reducing setbacks and the required minimum lot area. Lawyers for the town with the Hartford firm of Robinson & Cole had contended during the two-part public hearing that the town’s desire to acquire the property for preservation and possible future municipal uses represented a legitimate hardship from zoning regulations. Two West Avenue residents spoke in opposition to the variances at the Feb. 18 public hearing, one in person and one by letter, but there were more residents speaking in opposition at Tuesday’s hearing.

Needleman said Wednesday he is disappointed by the ZBA decision, and is currently reviewing options to determine whether there is any way the purchase could proceed. He noted the Perry family is hoping to sell the 27 West Avenue property, including the house, is town is unable to complete the purchase of the back section under the terms of the agreement negotiated last fall. “For now this may go down on the list of missed opportunities for the town,” Needleman said.

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They’re Putting in the Docks at the Pettipaug Yacht Club; It Must Be Spring

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A harbinger that spring must be on its way, is when the Pettipaug Yacht Club starts putting its docks in the water on the Connecticut River. During the winter the dock sections are stacked up in piles in the open air.

Club work crews, with the assistance of a powerful crane which can lift over 1,500 pounds, raise up docks sections one by one, and then lower them down to the waters below. Directing this procedure last Saturday was Sandy Sanstrom, a former Club Commodore and Member of the Board of Governors.

Although the club’s crane can handle heavy loads, when dock sections are being lowered into the water, work crews must physically swing the cranes and their loads into position.

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The Club’s Director of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the venerable Paul Risseeuw, looks on at the docks-in-the-water proceedings.

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Club member Doreen Joslow (left) and Club Rear Commodore Kathryn Ryan (right) clear debris from the small Pettipaug beach.

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A very important step in putting in the docks consists of anchoring the dock sections, securely, to the underwater ground below. The method used at Pettipaug is that at each of the four corners of the floating dock sections, there are 21 foot hollow steel pipes holding them in place. These pipes are driven straight down to the ground underwater.

To drive the steel pipes into the ground entails using a gas powered water pump, which pumps water into the top of the steel pipes at a rate 150 gallons of water pressure per minute. This strong, gushing water, coming out at the bottom of the steel pipe, blasts away the sandy soil beneath it. This in turn creates a hole that goes deeper and deeper into the ground.

In some cases the steel pipe can burrow itself into the ground to a depth of 10 feet, according to Risseeuw.

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Here is a final look at a dock fully installed, even including an outboard ready to go. The preparation of the docks is just a prologue to the sailing of sail boats at the club. Sailing will commence as early as next Wednesday, March 18, by groups of high school sailors.

Let the races begin!

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Essex Zoning Commission Continues Public Hearing on Proposed Elderly Housing Expansion to April 21

ESSEX— The zoning commission has continued until April 21 the public hearing on a site plan for a proposed 22-unit elderly and affordable housing project in the Centerbrook section after the plan received expressions of support at a public hearing Monday.

Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a non-profit group associated with the appointed Essex Housing Authority, is pursuing development of 22 units of elderly and affordable housing, including four two bedroom units, in a three-story building to be constructed on a one-acre town owned parcel on the southeast side of the existing Essex Court elderly housing complex at 16 Main St. The development would be called Essex Place, and receive access off Main Street through the Essex Court complex.

The project is being presented for site plan review under a process defined by state statute 8-30G, a law that is intended to promote additional elderly and affordable housing in Connecticut. Under the law, the commission retains authority to approve or reject the site plan for safety and public health reasons, but must waive certain requirements of the town’s zoning regulations in reviewing the proposal. The zoning board of appeals last fall rejected a request from EEAH Inc. for several variances related to the project.

Janet Atkeson, chairwoman of the Essex Housing Authority and president of EEAH Inc., told the commission the waiting list for units at Essex Court, a 36-unit elderly housing complex that opened in 1985, contains more than two dozen names. She said there is a clear need for the additional units that would come with an expansion that has been under discussion for more than a decade. The new units would be reserved for persons age 62 or older who meet income guidelines.

Project architect Tom Arcari, with the Quisnenberry Associates firm of Farmington, presented the plan for the building that would be 30-feet high and include a first floor community room that could seat up to 70 persons, and also serve as an emergency shelter for both complexes. There would be 46 parking spaces, with most located behind the building on the west side of the property.

While the 8-30G process limits the commission’s discretion over many details of the development, the project must receive local and state Department of Public Health approval for the septic system that would serve the complex. The plans remain under review by the local and state health departments, though Arcari said he anticipates receiving a written approval by the time the public hearing resumes on April 21.

Nine residents spoke in support of the project during the public hearing, with resident Mary Ann Pleva declaring the expansion of elderly housing is “very much needed and long overdue.” No one spoke in opposition to the project at the hearing.

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Talking Transportation: The Feds Deep Dive into Metro-North

Jim CameronIt was worse than we’d ever known. Metro-North was almost an accident waiting to happen.

That summarizes the Federal Railway Administration’s “Operation Deep Dive” report issued last week, following 60 days of probing into every aspect of the railroad’s operations. All of this comes on the heels of collisions and derailments in the past year that have taken the lives of four commuters and two railroad workers.

The 28-page report confirms that what was wrong at Metro-North was not just old equipment but a failure of management with very misplaced priorities. “On-time performance” was what mattered most, even at the expense of safety.

Among the report’s findings…

• Half of the personnel who dispatch and monitor the trains have less than three years’ experience, are not properly trained and are so tired they make mistakes

• The railroad’s “safety culture” was “poor”. Safety meetings went unattended.

• Fatigue by train engineers, track workers and dispatchers may have affected performance.

• The trains themselves are in good shape, but the tracks are not.

I’ve been following Metro-North for more than 20 years, so much of this is not news to me but just a substantiation of my worst fears. Still, the report makes for interesting reading because it cites many examples as proof-points for these findings:

Metro-North has known for a decade that they were facing a “retirement cliff” with 20% of its employees, those with the most experience, reaching their 30th anniversary of employment to retire on fat pensions. But the railroad was clearly inadequate in hiring and training their replacements.

Fatigue becomes a factor because soon-to-retire veterans grab all the overtime they can in their final year to increase their income and their railroad pensions. They are among the oldest employees and least resilient.

Metro-North’s management wasn’t even enforcing its own rules. The report says employees were “confused” about cell phone use on the job. Any teenager studying for his driver’s license knows not to use a cell phone while driving, but track workers at Metro-North got away with it.

Additional funding for staff and infrastructure are important and must be found. But turning around a culture of lax enforcement and lip-service to safety is going to take more than money.

Only a month on the job, espousing “safety is our top priority” at every turn, the new President of Metro-North, Joseph Giulietti, recently saw the first fatal accident on his watch: a track worker, 8 years on the job, was struck by a train just outside the Park Avenue tunnel. Why?

There are no quick fixes to this mess. It took years of invisible neglect for Metro-North to slide into this abyss, and it will take years to rebuild the railroad and regain riders’ trust.

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years. He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

 

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Purchaser of “Slum House” at North Main Street and New City Street in Essex Backs Out

 

Exterior of auctioned property

Exterior of auctioned property

The winner of the bid at auction to purchase the dilapidated house at 63 North Main Street in Essex has withdrawn from making the purchase. “I will not be purchasing 63 North Main Street, Essex. CT,” Edmund Mormile of Madison said in a written statement sent with a note dated March 14.  

Mormile won the right to purchase the property at an auction on January 26. His winning bid for the property was $142,000. In justifying his action to cancel his bid Mormile wrote, “After dealing with a long list of issues and potential problems two concerns are especially difficult and very expensive to resolve.”

“First,” he said, “the septic system as shown on the site plan dated 2001 can not be documented” …A map of the sanitary system (an as-built) is not on file with the Essex Health Department as required by both state and local regulations. Without verification the existence of an upgraded sanitary system is questionable.”  

The bid winner’s second concern, “is an existing and out – dated septic tank located under the building. The environmental concerns and potential cost grow.”

Mormile asserted, “If the town determined an engineered septic system is needed, then the cost of the project could increase twenty-five thousand dollars or more.” Furthermore, he wrote, “The town would only make the decision regarding the suitability of the septic system after I purchased the property, applied for a variance and a building permit.”

Momile wrote, “Although it is disappointing to reach this conclusion [of cancelling his bid], I am thankful for the experience and the lessons learned.” He concluded, “Finally, I’m grateful for all the friendly advice and good wishes received from the people of Essex.”

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Essex Selectmen Present a Proposed $7.18 Million Town Government Budget for 2014-2015

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has endorsed a proposed $7,189,062 town government budget for 2014-2015. The spending plan, to be presented to the board of finance at a March 27 meeting, represents a $221,601, or 3.18 percent, spending increase over the current town government budget.

The selectmen approved the budget plan ion a unanimous vote at a March 5 meeting after holding budget review workshop meetings on Feb. 8, Feb. 19, and March 5. First Selectman Norman Needleman said he is pleased with the proposed budget. “We’re keeping up with things and we’re keeping a lid on the costs,” he said.

The proposed budget includes a general three percent wage/salary increase for most town employees. The salary for the first selectman job will not increase, remaining at the current $87,296. The salary for the town clerk position, held by newly elected Town Clerk Joel Marzi, is set at $61,179, with a salary of $58,492 for the tax collector, and $10,300 for the part-time elected position of town treasurer.

The budget increases town funding to the two public libraries by three percent, with appropriations of $275,300 for the Essex Library, and $104,000 for the Ivoryton Library The budget funds four full-time police officers at an expense of $243,179, and a full-time health director/sanitarian position with a salary set at $78,396. The budget includes $453,425 in “sinking funds” for capital expenditures and projects, including $140,000 for the volunteer fire department, $32,500 for parks and recreation, and $60,000 for municipal properties.

After review by the finance board, the budget plan will be presented at an April 24 public hearing in combination with the proposed budget for Essex Elementary School. The town’s share of the Region 4 education budget goes to the voters in a May 6 referendum, with the annual budget meeting vote on a total spending package for 2014-2015 set for Monday May 12.

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Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 Newest Eagle Scout!

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo  Lianne Rutty).

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo Lianne Rutty).

Troop 13 – Boy Scouts of America would like to congratulate our newest Eagle Scout, Dillon Eriksson of Deep River. Dillon is the 60th Eagle Scout in the history of Troop 13.

To become an Eagle Scout a boy must advance through the seven ranks by learning Scout and Life skills all while providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community. One on the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the boy’s community, school, or religious institution.

Dillon’s project was to show leadership over others by developing and implementing a plan that resulted in the construction of a crush stone base, blue stone slate walkway using historic site pieces on the property of the Deep River Congregational Church. Completing this project entailed working with various private and municipal agencies to meet permitting requirements, securing donations for supplies, designing and overseeing volunteers through the construction and installation of said walkway. The completed project provides an important service to the members and guests of Deep River Congregational Church, in particular the youth members by providing for a more stable ground area connecting the hall to the play yard.

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

Troop 13 Boy Scouts serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young men develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these young men to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scout methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun. To learn more information about joining Troop 13 please contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola @ 860-526-9262

 

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Letter From Paris: A Week Like No Other in French Politics

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy was at the center of an extraordinary week in French politics.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy was at the center of an extraordinary week in French politics.

It has been a week out of the ordinary in French politics, to say the least. A summary of the sequence of events may help the foreign reader in deciphering the situation.

It all started March 2 with a few revelations about the UMP (Union for Popular movement) right wing party. Jean François Copé, UMP president, was denounced in the weekly magazine “Le Point” of surfacturation (over billing) of expenses incurred during the 2012 electoral campaign. A “dot.com” company had obtained the contract without preliminary invitations to tender. Copé, looking wan and thin, reacted almost emotionally to the attack. He announced that all the accounts of the UMP would be locked in a sealed room contingent upon the other political parties as well as the media, doing the same .

Then, on March 3, the whistle-blowing satirical newspaper, “Canard Enchainé,” reported that Patrick Buisson, a collaborator of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, recorded the latter’s conversations. Buisson was part of Sarkozy’s first circle and his closest adviser. He made the recordings himself for hours on end, from morning to evening, with an old-fashion dictaphone carried in his pockets. Some of the recorded conversations took place just prior to a planned cabinet reshuffle — in other words, they were politically sensitive.

The question was: who gave the recordings to the press? Buisson’s lawyer vouched that his client did not. But what was suspicious was the fact that Buisson told his son (father and son have been estranged for two years) that those recordings were a “life insurance” and that cela peut toujours servir (One never knows, it might be useful someday)

But this was just the beginning. An avalanche of revelations, which followed – all involving the wiretapping of Nicolas Sarkozy to hamper his return to the political life – was even more serious and turned into a full blown political crisis reaching the top level of the Executive and of the Judiciary.

Four legal cases or “affaires,” which had been dormant, were resurfacing now: the 2008 arbitrage-granting of 403 millions to businessman and former minister Bernard Tapie by the Credit Lyonnais; the “retro- commissions” obtained from Pakistan after the Karachi terrorist attack in 2002 ; the alleged financing from Libyan president Gaddafi in 2007 ; the funds given by Liliane Bettencourt, one of the richest women in the world and heir to the l’Oreal company.

These four affaires share the common factor of suspicion in involvement of the illegal financing of Sarkozy’s electoral campaigns of 2007 and 2012. Last October, Sarkozy was cleared and received a non-lieu (no ground for public prosecution) in the Bettencourt affaire.

On March 6, the headlines of the daily “Le Monde” were a bombshell: the former president’s phone had been tapped since April 13 by orders of the judges d’instruction ( investigating judges running preliminary inquiry) – a totally unprecedented occurrence in the French Republic. In early March, the judges opened an inquiry for traffic of influence and corruption against Sarkozy, his lawyer Thierry Herzog, and Gilbert Azibert, general counsel at the Cour de Cassation (highest judiciary court in France).

An aggressive perquisition (search) was conducted in Herzog’s Bordeaux residence. Ten police and judges showed up at eight in the morning. The lawyer’s computer and his portable phone were seized. The taking of the former president ‘s personal “carnets” (agendas) created a great commotion. In a television talk show, the president of the Bar commented that these actions were reminiscent of the Stasi.

Up to that point it was all bad news for the former president. The socialist government had remained prudently quiet. The wiretapping of Sarkozy was legal (he did not have immunity any more) as long as there was a suspicion of infraction. However, the accumulation of proceedings against him was beginning to be seen as harassment. By coincidence, Eliane Houlette was appointed in the new position of “National Financial Attorney” on March 3 in order to deal with corruption and tax frauds. The first case was to be Sarkozy’s.

Then the blame game seemed to move from the opposition to the majority. As a journalist commented, the government turned this gold – Sarkozy on the run – to lead, with the government violating the independence of justice. The Garde des Sceaux or Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, a high-spirited and smart woman, born in Guyana, was put on the defensive and even accused of lying.

Did she know the content of the recordings? When did the prime minister and the minister of interior (Secretary of the Interior) know? Their evasive and even conflicting answers made them appear guilty when their main sin was probably just to be disorganized.

By the end of that memorable week, “Le Monde” published a letter, co-signed by the most eminent members of the judiciary corps, calling for moderation. The letter praised transparency, but said that lawyers were not above the law, and that wiretapping was only legal if carried out by independent judges. It also demanded a return to one of the basic rules of the French (and American) institutions – the separation of power between Executive and Judiciary.

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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St. Patrick, Himself, Would Have Been Pleased with the Essex Parade

The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Essex last Saturday was a triumph. The audience along the Main Street parade route, especially from the traffic circle down to the Griswold Inn, were as much as five or six spectators deep. And every one of the marchers wore at least some kind of green.  

The parade feature a wonderful variety of home town floats. Among the highlights one of many green bedecked couples, a color guard, a green-bedecked Model A Ford, a bright red tractor, a big green tree cutter, a horse drawn carriage, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman with State Representative Phillip Miller and State Senator Art Linares, Essex’s own “Sailing Masters,” always in perfect order, and a huge bunch of green balloons. Here they are and more:

St pat 1

St pat 2

St pat 3

St Pat 4

St Pat 5

St pat 6

St Pat 9

St Pat 10

St Pat 11

Stpat 7

Stpat 8

Stpat 9

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Fire Destroys Clubhouse of the Pattaconk Yacht Club in Chester

Remains of burned out Pattaconk Yacht Club House after fire (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson).

Remains of burned out Pattaconk Yacht Club House after fire (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson).

CHESTER— State and local fire marshals are investigating to determine the cause of a Friday night fire that destroyed the clubhouse of the Pattaconk Yacht Club at 61 Dock Road.

The fire, reported by nearby property owners around 9:30 p.m., was full involved, with flames breaking through the roof, when volunteer firefighters from the Chester Hose company arrived on the scene. The clubhouse is located directly on the Connecticut River, with firefighters drawing water from the river to battle the blaze.

Chester firefighters were joined under mutual aid by firefighters from the Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Old Saybrook, and the South District of Middletown. Dozens of firefighters were on the scene for about three hours to extinguish the blaze. There were no injuries to firefighters, but the clubhouse building was completely destroyed.

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The Tri-Town Parent Survey: A Win-Win Proposition

surveyAre you a parent or guardian of a Pre-K to 12th grade student in the tri-town area? The Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition invites you to participate in a brief, anonymous and confidential survey that asks about your experiences, perceptions and challenges in raising children in Chester, Deep River and Essex. Located on the Tri-Town Youth Services website (www.tritownys.org) from March 28 through April 30, the survey will help the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition better understand what information, resources and services parents actually need to keep our young people healthy, happy and substance free. Tri-Town has designed the survey process to be a win-win proposition. Parents who take the survey—a win for our community—are then invited to enter Tri-Town’s drawing to win one $100 gift card, or one of four $25 gift cards. The Coalition thanks parents in advance for contributing to the well-being of our tri-town youth and families!

Tri-Town Youth Services supports and advances the families, youth and communities of Chester, Deep River and Essex.  We coordinate and provide resources needed to make positive choices, reduce substance abuse, and strengthen the relationships that matter most.  Discover programs and information for families, as well as opportunities for community collaboration at www.tritownys.org

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Essex Zoning Commission Has Public Hearing Monday on Site Plan for Elderly Affordable Housing Expansion

ESSEX— The zoning commission will hold a public hearing Monday for review of the site plan for a proposed 22-unit expansion of the Essex Court elderly housing complex off Main Street in the Centerbrook section. The public hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a non-profit group associated with the appointed Essex Housing Authority, has submitted plans for a 22-unit housing complex, including four two bedroom units, to be located on a one-acre parcel on west side of the existing Essex Court elderly housing complex off Main Street. An expansion of the existing 36-unit elderly housing complex that opened in 1985 has been under discussion for more than a decade, but the award last year of a $250,000 planning grant from the state Department of Housing gave new impetus to the effort.

Some of the grant funds were used to hire Quisenberry Associates, a Farmington architectural firm that has prepared plans for the elderly and affordable housing expansion that would be called Essex Place. EEAH Inc. is seeking approval for the project under state statute 8-30G, a law intended to promote additional affordable housing in Connecticut.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said this week the 8-30G law does not provide for special permit approval of proposed elderly and affordable housing projects, but rather allows town zoning authorities to review site plans for a proposed project. The proposed 22 units would be located in a single building that required several variances of town zoning regulations. The zoning board of appeals last fall denied a request for several variances, leading EEAH Inc. to submit it’s zoning application under the 8-30G law.

Budrow said the process provided by statute 8-30G negates the need for variances, but gives the zoning commission some authority in reviewing the site plan for the project. Budrow said the commission could reject the site plan only for public health and safety reasons.

The commission will also hold a public hearing Monday on a zoning amendment proposed by the panel that would include family day care homes as a permitted use in residential districts. A family day care home could serve up to six children under the proposed regulations. Budrow said town zoning regulations currently do not provide for such family day care homes, though there are currently several in operation in Essex.

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Death Announced of Jean Washburn Hernandez: Essex Resident, Dedicated Volunteer

Jean Washburn Hernandez

Jean Washburn Hernandez

Jean Washburn Hernandez died peacefully on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at her home in Essex Meadows in Essex, Connecticut. She was 93 years old.

Jean was born on September 20, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, to Lawrence and Margaret Washburn and was the oldest of three sisters. Raised in Montreal, Canada and Scarsdale, New York, she was the 4th generation of women in her family to graduate from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, NY. After a childhood bout of polio, she attended Mt. Holyoke College where she contracted tuberculosis. After recuperating in upstate NY and Arizona, she resumed her studies at the University of Arizona.

At the start of WWII Jean enlisted in the American Red Cross and served at an Army Air Force Base in Arizona, at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, Otis Field on Cape Cod, and at Washington DC’s St. Elizabeth Hospital. In all locations she tended the returning wounded, particularly those impacted by psychological trauma.

Before the war she met her future husband, Silvio E. Hernandez in Havana, Cuba while staying with family friends. She married him in 1946, when he returned from wartime service with the U.S. Army in Europe. They first resided in New York but shortly after the births of their two children were sent by Westinghouse Electric to Madrid, Spain where they remained for 8 years. From there they moved to Havana, her husband’s birthplace, a year before the Cuban Revolution. After being witness to the tumultuous changes brought on by Castro’s policies, they fled in 1960, settling in Essex CT so as to be near Jean’s parents who had retired there. She remained a resident of Essex for 54 years as an active and contributing member of the community.

Jean was a homemaker and dedicated volunteer. She was on the Board of the Florence Griswold Museum, in Old Lyme, CT, where as a volunteer, she initiated and ran a successful travel program for the members of the Museum. She was President of the Essex Garden Club, on the Board of the Essex Library Association, and active with St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, the Child and Family Agency of SE CT, and many other charitable and community organizations. Jean and her husband loved to travel and together they enjoyed taking extended trips throughout the world.

Jean was preceded in death by her loving husband of 55 years and more recently by her gentle companion, George (Bud) Lethbridge. She is survived by her daughter Margaret (Maggie) Hernandez of Key Biscayne, FL, son Robert (Laurie) Hernandez of Essex, CT and their sons Alexander and Christopher.

A memorial service will be held May 2, 2014 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, CT at 10 a.m.

Memorial donations can be made to the Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT, 06371

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Exhibition Commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 at the CRM

 

Departure, by Victor Mays, Connecticut River Museum collection.

Departure, by Victor Mays, Connecticut River Museum collection.

As part of the 200th anniversary of the British Raid on Essex, the Connecticut River Museum will host a traveling fine art exhibit by members of the American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA). Twenty-five paintings by sixteen different artists illustrate the various arenas of military action that unfolded during this War which was largely fought on the water. The exhibit is comprised of three theaters of war: the oceans; the Great Lakes; and the bays, estuaries, sounds and rivers of the Eastern United States. The paintings include oils and watercolors, and depict scenes of famous engagements as well as lesser known vessels and locales. While many of the works of art present traditional views of the great navy vessels on the high seas or in action, others feature more personal views of men, giving the war a human face.

The American Society of Marine Artists was founded in 1978 by a small group of professional artists who shared a love for all things maritime. The Connecticut River Museum is pleased to team with ASMA for this themed exhibit. 

The Connecticut River Museum is one of five national venues in which this exhibit will travel. It will be on display during the bicentennial of the April, 1814 British Raid on Essex.  The Raid has been the subject of considerable research and attention at the Museum in recent years and will culminate during the spring of 2014 with this special exhibit along with a series of related programs and events.

In addition to the exhibition, the Connecticut River Museum will be offering a series of programs about the War of 1812 and the art in the exhibition.  The Naval War of 1812 Illustrated program will be a four part series running Thursday evenings from March 27 – April 17 at 5:30pm. To commemorate the bicentennial, the American Society of Marine Artists has released this video series and it is with great pleasure that CRM is able to make it available. Each program will explore a different aspect of the naval war from Open Ocean to the Great Lakes, to rivers and coastal conflicts. The programs will include commentary from CRM staff and ASMA artists. You may register for one session or all 4. The program series is free for CRM members and $7 session, $20 for the series for nonmembers. Please call 860-767-8269 for information or to reserve a space. For more information on the exhibition and related programs, please visit ctrivermuseum.org. The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm and closed on Mondays.

 

 

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Essex Resident to be Honored at New CT Bar Association Awards Celebration

Attorney Christina M. Storm, Recipient of Connecticut Bar Association Citizen of the Law Award

Attorney Christina M. Storm, Recipient of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Citizen of the Law Award

The Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) is proud to announce Attorney Christina M. Storm as the recipient of this year’s Citizen of the Law Award.

Christina Storm has been a practicing trial lawyer for the last 35 years and is currently a partner at Byrne & Storm PC in Hartford. Her longtime litigation experience covers a wide spectrum of practice areas, including civil and criminal, matrimonial, employment discrimination, and alternative dispute resolution.

As an active member of the CBA throughout the years, Attorney Storm has held membership in the Human Rights and Responsibilities Executive Committee, Pro Bono Committee, Family Law Section, and General Practice Section, and has chaired the International Law Section. She is currently a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.

In 2000, in a quest to channel more time into pro bono and to provide lawyers around the world the opportunity to do the same, she founded Lawyers Without Borders, an international nonprofit organization with chapters in New Haven, London, and Nairobi, Kenya. Lawyers Without Borders is dedicated to the promotion of the rule of law. The organization, which maintains a commitment to practical, concrete programming that has observable and measurable impact and results, has won the recognition from the United Nations and has placed volunteer lawyers in various countries around the world to help promote the rule of law. She currently serves as the organization’s Executive Director.

The Citizen of the Law Award will be presented to Storm at the CBA’s new annual awards celebration, “Celebrate with the Stars,” on April 3 at Cascade in Hamden sponsored by Geraghty & Bonnano LLC, Attorneys at Law and Kronholm Insurance Services.

For decades, the association has honored leaders in the legal profession for their professional accomplishments and community service as part of the CBA Annual Meeting. This year, a separate event is being dedicated to recognizing Connecticut’s top judges and lawyers who make a difference through their work by demonstrating allegiance, dedication, conscientious service, commitment, and mentorship.

“Celebrate with the Stars” is an exciting occasion where professionals and supporters of the legal industry can mix and mingle with their peers in a lively, celebratory evening out. Other awards to be presented at “Celebrate with the Stars” include: John Eldred Shields Distinguished Professional Service Award, the Henry J. Naruk Judiciary Award, the Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award, the Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award, and The Anthony V. DeMayo Pro Bono Award.

The recipient of the Citizen of the Law Award must meet the following criteria: be a judge, attorney, or paralegal member of the CBA who has made a significant contribution to a charitable or public service cause that does not involve professional legal skills, but provides inspiration and contributes to the needy, the good of society, the environment, or our way of life. These activities should have been undertaken on a nonprofessional, charitable basis with little or no personal economic reward, and some personal sacrifice.

Attorney Storm was selected based on nominations submitted to the CBA Awards Committee.

The Connecticut Bar Association is a professional association committed to the advancement of justice, the practice of law, the image of the profession, and public understanding of the law. For more information, please visit www.ctbar.org.

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Chester Planning and Zoning to Hold Thursday Public Hearing on Stone-Cutting Business at Industrial Park

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on two related special permit applications for a decorative stone business on two parcels on Airport Industrial Park Road. The hearing ,which was rescheduled from the February meeting due to snow, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the community meeting room at town hall.

A.I.S Properties LLC of Deep River is seeking permits for two parcels at 25 and 35 Airport Industrial Park Road. The industrial park is located in the western section of town, off Route 145 near the Chester Airport.

The company is seeking a permit for a 50-foot by 80-foot industrial building at 35 Airport Industrial Park Road for the cutting of decorative stone. The business would have four employees, with hours 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. A.I.S. Properties is seeking a second permit for outside storage of raw stone material on a lot at 25 Airport Industrial Park Road.

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Essex Seeking New Advisor for Three Town Pension Plans

ESSEX— The board of selectmen will be seeking a new adviser for the town’s three pension plans for town employees, with a goal of selecting a new manager for the plans before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

First Selectman Norman Needleman told the board at a meeting last week that the town has received notice that Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, the town’s current pension adviser, will cease providing services for municipal pension plans as of June 30.But Needleman said Wednesday that Bank of America/Merrill Lynch had submitted a second notice advising that current services could continue through October. He said the town will publish a request for proposals for pension services, including managing investments, custodial banking, record keeping, and actuarial services.

Needleman said the town’s appointed retirement committee will review the proposals before making a recommendation to the board of selectmen for selection of a new pension plan adviser. Needleman said he is hoping some local financial services firms will offer proposals for the town’s pension management business. The town has three separate pension plans, including the municipal plan for town employees, a merit service incentive plan for volunteer firefighters, and a police pension plan.

In other business, Needleman announced the town’s emergency operations center is starting a program to register emergency volunteers. The registered volunteers would receive training and identification badges, while also being subject to a back round check. Interested residents should contact the selectmen’s office at town hall for additional information.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About a ‘Passive House’

Doug McDonald is a proponent of a ‘Passive House.’

Doug McDonald is a proponent of a ‘Passive House.’

Can you heat a home with a hair dryer? You will find the answer at a free-to-the-public program hosted by the Shoreline League of Democratic Women (SLDW) on Sunday, March 30. Their special guest speaker Douglas Mcdonald of MyCodePlus.com is a Passive House expert and developer, and builds Code Plus homes.

The event will be held at 1:30 p.m., at the Guilford Free Library, 67 Park Street, on the green in Guilford, CT. Mcdonald’s presentation, “What’s So Special about a Passive House?” will cover the core concepts of a passive house, which is extremely insulated and virtually airtight. The design of these homes results in a 90 percent reduction of energy use and minimal bills.

Mcdonald created and lives in one of the first retrofitted passive house in the country, but there are many newly built passive houses in the United States and overseas. There will be a Q & A session at the end of the program.

Developed by Germany’s Passivhaus Institute, the Passive House standard has the most rigorous requirements for green building construction. Mcdonald will share his unique perspective of someone who actually lives in a 3,800-square-foot Passive House. His home was originally built in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright protege Barry Bryne, then transformed by Mcdonald into a super energy-efficient dwelling in 2010.

His projects have appeared on the cover of the New York Times Real Estate and selected for the Fine Homebuilding Reader Choice Award. Mcdonald has made guest appearances on The History Channel, where many of his innovative renovation ideas have been featured. With his team of LEED architects and engineers, he applies his unique and world class approach to creating iconic country homes utilizing the best building standards from around the world, including the Passive House standard, at a price comparable to conventional construction.

The Shoreline League of Democratic Women (http://www.sldw.org) is a chapter of the Connecticut Federation of Democratic Women (CFDW), which is a chapter of the National Federation of Democratic Women. The Shoreline League of Democratic Women continues to seek membership from women who live in Clinton, Madison, Guilford, Branford, Killingworth, Old Saybrook, Essex, Westbrook, Chester, Deep River, Old Lyme, and Lyme. SLDW Meetings are held monthly from September through May.

The Shoreline League of Democratic Women is dedicated to educating its members about political and social issues important to women of all ages in Connecticut’s Second District. Women in the local district are encouraged to join the SLDW and participate in the organization’s valuable work in the community. Members can be involved in any capacity, whether it is 30 minutes a month, or 30 minutes a year.

As a part of the SLDW educational charter, members will be notified of important pending state and national legislation. For more information on the Shoreline League of Democratic Women, send email to sldworg@gmail.com or contact Kathleen Skoczen at 860-669-7034 or Belinda Jones at 860-399-1147. Visit their web site at http://www.sldw.org.

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Essex Park and Recreation Summer Programs…

It’s almost  that time of year again – Summer!!! Are you and your children ready for Tons of Summer Fun?

Join Essex Park and Recreations 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 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 Coach Gary Ribchinsky will be teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volley, serve, and game play in the clinics designed for ages 5 – 15.

Girls LAX Clinic – Join 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!! Clinic includes—t-shirt, reversible game pinnie, light food each night, raffle prized and more!! (There will be no goalie play of goalie training at this clinic)

We offer several other great summer programs such as Summer Day Camp with some really great themed activities, field trips and games. Mini Hawk Sports Camp a great way to introduce kids ages 3 -7 to a variety of different sports. Baseball & Softball Camp with “Between the Lines”, Skyhawk’s Multi Sport & Golf is also being offered. Also this summer join the Staff at Shoreline Gymnastics for another great camp designed to teach basic gymnastics skills, while increasing confidence. Coach Mesite & Konstan will once again offer the “Made in the Summer” Girls Basketball Camp. New this summer is our Field Hockey Camp with JWMS teacher & Coach Rebecca Suntheimer, with the popularity of our Fall Clinic this is sure to be a great addition to our summer programming. Again for more information visit our web site www.essexct.gov or contact Park and Recreation 860-767-4340 x110.

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My Take on Embattled Ukraine

KievI’ve been getting one e-mail after another: “John, what you think about Ukraine? What’s it all about?  How do you feel about it?”   Why those emails?  Because many of you know that I served my Peace Corps hitch–the full 27 months–in Ukraine. And that was barely four years ago.

I never dreamed this awesome historic event would happen.  That I’d see the Ukrainian protestors —revolutionaries, in fact–storm into Kiev and topple the government. See their hated president abandon his office and take off to Russia to save his life. See the revolutionaries take over their parliament, the Rada. And set the country on a new and so-longed-for course—toward affiliation with the West and the European Union!

Read Full article on John LaPlante’s blog

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Letter From Paris: US Academy Awards Spark Thoughts on ‘Le Cinéma Francais”

Nicole Prevost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

The ceremonies of the 86th “Oscars” and of the 39th “Césars” took place this week within two days of each other. In comparison with the glamorous and giant show of the American Academy Awards, the French Césars seemed almost like an intimate affair. But for the French it is very important as a way to evaluate the status of the film industry and for professionals in this field to reassert their contribution to the country’s Culture (note that ‘Culture’ is usually spelled with a capital “C” in France.)

In recent years – and this a very personal opinion – the French art of making films has been losing its edge as a leader in the industry, as it did for instance during the days of the Nouvelle Vague associated with the names of François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard in the late 1950s. Nowadays, the subjects of the films are so specifically French as to be un-exportable. Too often they turn into crowd-pleasers with simplistic plots and actors, who seem to have become the pet actors for the foreign market.

“The Artist,” which received multiple prizes in several countries in 2012, is the best illustration of this remark. It catapulted Jean Dujardin from a second tier actor in France to a star. Moreover, giving the award to a silent movie represents a negation of what makes French films special — that is, the thought-provoking ideas (such as Men and Gods, 2011) or the humor (such as the Intouchables 2012.)

Cecile de France, hostess of the 2014 Césars was most entertaining. She kept the proceedings at a fast pace and had several funny quips. She remarked, “Nobody’s perfect ” about the Belgians. This obviously alluded to her own origins and also to the fact that the director of the best foreign film was Belgian. Taking advantage of sexual orientation as the main theme of the evening, she addressed the audience thus, ” If there are any heteros in the theatre, it’s OK. There are still a few among us who are.”

Francois Cluzet, the President of the Cesars, as he appears (left) in Les Intouchables,François Cluzet (the lead actor pictured above, who plays a wealthy quadraplegic in the Intouchables), who was the chairman of the ceremony, made a few political comments to support the ongoing crusade of the intermittents du spectacle (show business workers) to defend the exception française (French exception.) For them, special unemployment benefits are at stake.

Guillaume Gallienne’s,”Les Garçons et Guillaume, à Table was voted as the best film and received five Césars. Gallienne is a societaire from the Comedie Française, the prestigious theater company founded in 1680. He developed the idea of his film from the one-man show he created. It is a funny, but mostly touching, story of a boy, who was brought up as a girl by a chain smoking and insensitive mother.

Mocked at home by his two older brothers and ridiculed by all, he survives years in French and English boarding schools. He continues to be the suffering nice guy always wearing a big smile on his face, until one evening at a roof party. The hostess calls out, ”a table, les filles et Guillaume” (“dinner’s ready, girls and Guillaume.”) He finally realizes he is not a girl. The film is centered on the brilliant acting of Guillaume, who also plays his mother, using the same voice.

The day after the Césars, Alain Resnais, a monument of the French cinema, died at age 91. He will be remembered by many movies, including, “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, 1958 (after a story by Marguerite Duras) and ” Last Year in Marienbad“, 1959 (after a novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, who was the champion of the Nouveau roman.)

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Region 4 School Board Approves $18 Million Education Budget for 2014-2015, Returns $221,242 Surplus to District Towns

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education has approved a proposed $18,377,431 education budget for 2014-2015 that represents a $601,310, or 3.38 percent, spending increase over the current appropriation. The budget plan will be presented to residents of Chester, Deep River, and Essex at an April 7 public hearing.

The budget that funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School was approved on a 7-1 vote at a Feb. 26 meeting after budget review workshop sessions that were held on Jan.. 28 and Feb. 4. Board member Mairio Gioco of Chester cast the single dissenting vote, with Deep River member Lori Wichtowski absent from the Feb. 26 session.

The gross budget is reduced by $297,447 in anticipated revenue to a net education budget of $18,079,984 that will be assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River, and Essex based on each town’s average daily member ship of students at the two secondary schools. The net budget represents a $579,395, or 3.31 percent, increase over the current net appropriation.

Chester, with 240 students, will pay a 24,14 percent, or $4,364,508, share of the budget. The Chester assessment is up by $106,615 from the current town share. Essex, with 446 students, will pay a 44.87 percent, or $8,112,489, share of the budget. The Essex assessment is up by only $30,717 from the current town share. The Essex share is down from the current year, when an Essex ADM of 465 students led to a sharp increase in the town’s share of the Region 4 budget.

But this year it is Deep River that faces a sharp hike in its share of the Region 4 budget. With an average daily membership of 308 students, Deep River will pay a 30.99 percent, or $5,602,924, share of the budget. The Deep River assessment is up by $442,063 from the current amount.

The spending plan includes no new certified positions, with reductions of a half-time art teacher, a reduction in hours for a Latin instructor position, and reducing two secretarial positions at the high school from full year to 10-month positions. The budget plan contains only $43,300 in new spending items, with most of this amount directed toward the purchase of new security cameras at the two schools and gates that could be used to limit access to the school properties at various times.

Board Chairman Chris Riley of Essex said the proposed spending plan is a responsible budget considers the needs of both students and district taxpayers. “It’s always a balancing act to meet the needs of students while using the resources provided by the communities appropriately, and this budget does just that,” he said.

The regional school board may have sweetened it’s spending request Thursday then the panel voted to return a $221,242 surplus from the 2012-2013 budget to the towns. The refund is divided based on the ADM split of the budget, with Essex receiving $98,696, with a return of $62,523 to Deep River, and $60,023 to Chester.

The Region 4 budget also includes a share of a $6,591,307 supervision district budget that is up by 3.14 percent from the current supervision district appropriation. Under Region 4’s complex governing rules, the supervision district budget covers personnel and services that are shared by all five district schools, including the elementary schools in each town. The supervision district budget, which was approved by the combined Region 4 and local school boards at a Feb. 27 meeting, is divided between the Region 4 and elementary school budgets based on the student average daily membership split.

The supervision district budget contains one new position, $68,361 for an instructional technology trainer who would provide assistance and support to teachers at all five district schools in integrating instructional technology in to the classroom curriculum.

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Time for another British Invasion! SHOUT! The Mod Musical – Ivoryton Playhouse

Tamala Baldwin*, Mikah Horn, Monica Bradley*, Jennifer Lorae* and Bethany Fitzgerald* * Denotes member of AEA

Tamala Baldwin*, Mikah Horn, Monica Bradley*, Jennifer Lorae* and Bethany Fitzgerald*
* Denotes member of AEA

Ivoryton: The last British raid on Essex was 200 years ago and 27 ships were burned. This year, they are coming back! Not burning ships this time, but definitely shaking up the town with the fab music of London in the 60s and 70s.

SHOUT! is the mod musical magazine that brings back the beautiful birds and smashing sounds that made England swing in the 60’s. Created by Phillip George and David Lowenstein, SHOUT! features terrific new arrangements of such classic tunes as “To Sir With Love,” “Downtown,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “Goldfinger.”

SHOUT! travels in time from 1960 to 1970 chronicling the dawning liberation of women. Just as Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, and Cilla Black were independent women with major careers, English and American women were redefining themselves in the face of changing attitudes about gender. SHOUT! (and its all-female cast) reflects that through the unforgettable music of the time. With a shimmy and shake, the songs are tied together by hilarious sound bites from the period — from 60’s advertisements to letters answered by an advice columnist who thinks every problem can be solved with a “fetching new hair style and a new shade of lipstick.”

The songs in this delightful musical resonate with a timeless quality which appeals to every generation.

The show is directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, musical director is Kyle Norris and choreographer is Cait Collazzo. Set designed by Dan Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Kari Crowther.

SHOUT! The Mod Musical opens in Ivoryton on March 19th and runs through April 6th. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

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Essex Town Meeting Approves Funding for Ivoryton Bridge Projects, Elementary School Natural Gas Conversion

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved funding for four special appropriations, including $325,000 for engineering design work for two bridge replacement projects in Ivoryton, and $110,000 to convert Essex Elementary School to natural gas hearting by this fall.

About a dozen residents turned out for the town meeting to approve the appropriations on unanimous show-of-hands votes. Despite the lack of opposition, show of hand votes were required because officials intend to use proceeds from a bonding authorization planned later this year to reimburse the expenditures for the bridge design work and the school natural gas conversion.

A conversion of the elementary school to natural has heating was endorsed by the local board of education last year. John Maziarz Jr., a representative of the Southern Connecticut Gas Co., told residents at the meeting the plan for an extension of the natural gas main south along Route 153 from Westbrook to Essex is on track for construction to begin this summer.

The gas main extension would end at the elementary school in the Centerbrook section, with another extension east along Bokum Road to provide service to the Lee Company and the Essex Meadows lifecare complex. Mazairz said the gas main expansion should be completed and ready to provide service by the start of the next heating season this fall.

The $110,000 appropriation for natural gas conversion at the elementary school was approved on a unanimous vote. The gas company is expected to hold a public information session at town hall later in the spring to provide information to home and business owners along the expansion route on the option, and potential cost savings, of using natural gas for heating and cooling.

Voters also approved a $325,000 appropriation to pay for engineering design for replacement of the Walnut Street and Ivoryton Street bridges in the Ivoryton section. The Walnut Street bridge that spans the Falls River was constructed in 1983 as a temporary replacement for a bridge that was breached in the June 1982 flood. Both bridges were rated in poor condition after a state Department of Transportation inspection last year, a report that led the board of selectmen to expedite plans for the bridge replacement projects.

Both the bridge and elementary school conversion appropriations were transfers from the town’s undesignated fund balance.The selectmen and finance board plan to reimburse the fund balance for the appropriations with proceeds from a bonding authorization that is expected to go to the town’s voters for approval later this year. The bonding authorization would also include funding for actual construction of the bridge replacements, replacement of sections of the elementary school roof, and other large capital improvement projects.

Voters also approved an expenditure of $25,000 from the municipal property sinking fund for renovations and improvements to the ground floor kitchen at town hall. Improvements to the outdated kitchen were needed because the town hall also serves as the town’s emergency operations center, and a possible emergency shelter for residents.

Voters also approved an expenditure of $21,700 from the elementary school capital improvements fund to pay for barrier fencing, a new walk-in cooler, and replacement of ceiling fans in the school building.

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Six Member Committee to Direct Review of North Quarter Park for Potential Library Site, Other Uses

CHESTER— The board of selectmen will appoint a six-member volunteer committee to direct a review of North Quarter Park as a potential site for a new library and other possible uses.

Acting on a suggestion from First Selectman Edmund Meehan, the board Tuesday endorsed the idea of a coordinating committee, with members expected to be appointed over the next month. Meehan initially suggested a five member committee to be comprised of representatives of the board of selectmen, the planning and zoning commission, parks and recreation commission, library board of trustees, and the main street project committee, but later agreed to a suggestion for one additional at large member of the volunteer panel.

Meehan said the new committee would coordinate the process of hiring a consultant to prepare a master plan for possible future uses of the 22-acre park located on the north side of Main Street near the intersection with Route 154. The site for a new public library would be one of the potential uses for the park, which currently contains only a small children’s playground.

The selectmen and finance board last month approved a $20,000 appropriation to pay for the study of North Quarter Park, a process which would help determine whether the park is a suitable location for a new library building that would replace the existing Chester Library located in a historic 1907 building on West Main Street. Meehan said a consultant should be hired by early April, with park study reported to be completed by June.

Library trustees have been hoping to reach a final decision on a library expansion project by August, in time for a September 1 deadline to apply for available state grant funding for library construction projects. Meehan said making a final decision, and completing the preliminary schematic plans that are required for the grant application, before September 1 is an “optimistic” goal. “It’s something to work toward,” he said.

Meehan said the consultant hired with the new appropriation for the park study may not be the same the firm that prepares any preliminary site plan for a grant application. He said funding for preparation of site plans for a new library would not be available until the start of the town’s next budget year on July 1.

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Murphy Pushes For Federal Recognition of Battlefield Essex Project

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) recently wrote a letter to leaders at the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council to offer his support for the Battlefield Essex project and alert the Council that he would strongly advocate for the project to be named to the National Register of Historic Places. The project recognizes the tremendous contributions of the Essex shipbuilding industry to American history during the War of 1812, and will help increase tourism to the region.

“I’m encouraged to see our state remembering this noteworthy moment from a time in Connecticut’s past that gets too little recognition,” said Murphy. “Naming this site to the National Register of Historic Places will bring the area the recognition it deserves from the federal government, while boosting the local economy through increased tourism. The Connecticut River Museum has done tremendous work to restore this site and I’ll do everything I can to support its efforts.”

The Battlefield Essex project recognizes the British Raid on Pettipaug during the War of 1812. During the raid, Americans experienced the greatest shipping loss of the war. This April will mark the bicentennial of this raid.

Full text of the letter:

Mr. Daniel Forrest Chairwoman, State Historic Preservation Officer,  One Constitution Plaza, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT 06103.

Sara O. Nelson, Historic Preservation Council, One Constitution Plaza, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT 06103.
Dear Mr. Forrest and Chairwoman Nelson,

As you know, April 8th of this year will mark the bicentennial of the British attack on Essex during the War of 1812. While this attack was the largest American shipping loss of the war, those 136 British soldiers, 27 American vessels, and tiny local Connecticut militias seem to have been all but lost in the annals of history.

I commend the Connecticut River Museum for resurrecting this raid from history—while it was a terrible financial tragedy for the town, I believe this event also highlights the importance of the Essex shipbuilding industry and Connecticut’s trade ports during this period of American history. The history of the War of 1812 is so rarely remembered in our country and I am encouraged to see our state remembering this noteworthy moment from Connecticut’s past.

As the Battlefield Essex project makes its way through the Historic Preservation Council’s approval process, please know that I look forward to supporting and guiding this project through the federal process of being named to the National Register of Historic Places. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator

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Chester to Receive $450,000 State Grant for Initial Phase of Main Street Project

CHESTER— Town officials received good news last week with an announcement the town will receive a $450,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for the initial phase of the long-planned Main Street reconstruction project.

The funding for Chester was one of six STEAP grants for municipalities announced last week by Gov. Dannel Malloy. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the funding would allow the town to complete the first phase of the Main Street project this year. The initial phase calls for a full reconstruction of Main Street, including new sidewalks from the intersection with Route 154 west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Later phases of the project, covering the commercial area in Chester Village, will be done in 2016 in conjunction with a state Department of Transportation plan to replace the Main Street bridge over Pattaconk Brook. The initial phase of the project is expected to be put out to bid in May, with construction to begin later in the year.

State Rep. Phil Miller, D-Essex, who lobbied for the funding at the capitol, praised Meehan and town public works director John Divas for “doing their homework,” with the application process to make a strong case for the grant funding.

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Sen. Linares Promotes Problem Gambling Awareness

LinaresMar4gamblingnew

Sen. Art Linares (at podium) on Mar. 4 joined with state legislators, students and representatives from Clinton-based Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, Inc. at an event at the Legislative Office Building to kick off National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The Council works to get help for those who have a gambling problem. Sen. Linares is co-sponsoring a bipartisan legislative proposal to repeal the implementation of Keno in Connecticut, noting that putting the video gambling game in stores and restaurants across Connecticut could expose children to gambling. Sen. Linares serves as Ranking Member of the state legislature’s Children’s Committee. On the web: www.senatorlinares.com and www.problemgambling.org . The Problem Gambling hotline is 1-888-789-7777.

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Letter From Paris: The Complex Conundrum of Ukraine

The future of Ukraine remains uncertain and the problems multiple.

After three months of violence opposing the people of Kiev and the government of Viktor Yanukovich, the situation culminated in a bloody clash on February 19, leaving over 60 dead and hundreds wounded. Why did the confrontation last so long? The West holds part of the responsibility. Some voices from abroad were just throwing oil on the fire, such as an inflammatory piece of Bernard Henri Levy entitled “Vive l’Ukraine Libre” in the Huffington Post. Besides, the European Union’s position was unclear and some of its members made unattainable promises.

The EU may have been slow in acting but when it did, its stand was tough enough to force the Ukrainian government to back down. Brussels mandated the ministers of foreign affairs of Poland, Germany and France to act as mediators, then announced immediate sanctions -cancelling visas of government officials, freezing assets of Ukrainian oligarchs abroad. At the same time, Angela Merkel, the chief mediator, was on the phone with Putin, both of them conversing in Russian and German. As early as five days after the peak of the violence, a few signs of appeasement began to turn the situation around. US secretary of state John Kerry said what needed to be said: there should not be a partition of Ukraine; the Ukraine should not be put in a position to have to chose between Europe and Russia. Even more promising was the statement made by Sergei Lavrov , the Russian foreign minister: “We want Ukraine to be part of the European family in every sense of the word” .

The Yanukovich government collapsed overnight. In rapid succession, the mayor of Kiev, the minister of defense ,the whole police force of Lviv in Western Ukraine, the president of the parliament and 40 of its deputies defected. Calm returned to Maidan square. One thousand policemen were escorted peacefully out of the city by the insurgents. An interim coalition government was rapidly formed and general elections were to be held before the end of the year. As to president Yanukovich, he just vanished.

Ukraine is not an easy country to govern. The politicians’ class is rampant with corruption and can be violent. Since it acquired its independence in 1991, at the implosion of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine has been in a state of turmoil marked by the “orange revolution” of 2004. The government’s way to deal with the opposition has been either to poison its members ( every one saw on the television the pock-marked face of former president Viktor Yuchtchenko allegedly poisoned by dioxine) or throw them in prison (prime minister Yulia Timoshenko was condemned to seven years behind bars in 2011). Fights in the Rada (parliament) are not uncommon. Seats in that assembly are for sale to the price of one million dollars. Deputies may be offered a large amounts of money to change camp.

Therefore it is not surprising that the people, who put their lives on the line during the civil war, refused to trust their politicians. The reaction -or rather the lack of reaction- of the crowd when Yulia Timoshenko appeared in a wheel chair on Maidan square and made an emotional appeal, is very revealing.. One might have expected a wild clamor of support. Bu no, it is not what happened. The people stood, almost frozen, listened to her politically-clever words but did not seem to buy her message.

Many foreign pundits, apparently influenced by the continuous media coverage of the events on Maidan square, seem to forget the other half of the Ukrainian equation -the Russians. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the fact that Ukraine is part of the historical past of Russia and also of its culture. Therefore it is not only Putin who refuses any interference in the territorial integrity of Ukraine , it is also the Russian people.

Historically and culturally Ukraine is the cradle of Russia. The Russian nation started as a Kievan state. In the 10th century AD, Slavic prince Vladimir ruled over a huge territory including Novgorod, was baptized in 989 and absorbed the Byzantium culture. The magnificent mosaics and icons in St Sophia cathedral, completed in 1041, attest to those beginnings.

The cultural heritage of the Russians is also linked in many ways to the Crimea. The great Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva joined other writers, like Osip Mandelstam and Andrei Bely. in the writers’ colony of Koktebel, in the eastern part of the Crimea. The short story “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov, which takes place in Yalta, is practically memorized by every Russian child in school. Based on a Pushkin’s poem, the ballet entitled The Fountain of Bakhshisarai (a town in central Crimea) is part of the permanent repertoire of the Bolshoi.

The violence which started in Simferopol only one week after the end of the uprising on Maidan square is a reminder that the situation remains explosive in the area.

What will be the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis ? A federation of autonomous republics, similar to the Crimea whose status was recognized by Russia in 1997 but only for a period of 10 years?

Another thought. Joseph Beuys, (1921-1986) is probably the best known artist in Germany to-day. As he was flying with the Wermacht in 1944, his plane was shot down over the Crimea and saved by a Tatar “shaman” . Beuys’ installations and other works are inspired from that unique experience. This is what Ukraine may need- a Tatar shaman .

Editor’s Note: This piece was written prior to the invasion of Crimea by the Russians.

 

 

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Chester Grand List Drops by 12 Percent After Townwide Property Revaluation

CHESTER— The 2013 grand list of taxable properties is down by 12 percent after the first full townwide property revaluation since 2003, with decreases in all three real estate categories and the personal property total.

Assessor Loreta Zdanys has filed an October 2013 grand list that totals $441,523,635, representing a decrease of $60,354,708, or about 12 percent, from the 2012 grand list total. Motor vehicles was the only category that showed a small increase over the 2012 total.

The townwide property revaluation conducted last year by eQuality Valuation Services of Waterbury was the first full revaluation, with visual inspections of all properties, done in Chester since 2003. The Waterbury firm had also handled the statistical update revaluation that was done in 2008. But the latest revaluation shows the full impact on property values resulting from the national Great Recession that began in the fall of 2008.

The grand list shows a real estate total of $398,423,780 for the town’s 1,858 accounts, a decrease of $60,362,060 from the 2012 real estate total. Along with residential. property, there were also declines in assessed value for the town’s 88 commercial and 14 industrial properties.

There was also a small decrease in the assessment total for the town’s 1,073 personal property accounts, with a 2013 personal property total of $14,434,390, down by $708,450 from the 2012 personal property total. The town’s 4,115 motor vehicle accounts show an assessment total of $28,665,465, up by $705,802 from the 2012 motor vehicles total.

Zdanys said more than 90 percent of the town’s real estate accounts showed a drop in assessed values, though some properties in the vicinity of the downtown village did not show a decrease. In contrast to past revaluation years where property owners were often objecting to higher assessments, Zdanys said there have been some complaints from property owners, particularly those considering selling, that their assessments were too low. Zadanys said the deadline for property owners to file applications to contest their assessments with the elected board of assessment appeals in March 20.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the decrease in the grand list was actually slightly less than he was expecting. “I was expecting closer to a 15 percent drop,” Meehan said, adding “it reflects market conditions.” Meehan said the selectmen and board of finance are prepared to support a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance “to ensure a smooth transition’ ‘in the tax rate for 2014.

The current tax rate is 21.95 mills, or $21,95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. While the tax rate is likely to increase in 2014, most property owners would be paying the higher rate on a lower assessed value for their property. The town’s undesignated fund balance currently totals about $1.8 million.

In recent years, selectmen and the finance board have authorized transfers from the fund balance in the range of $150,000 to $200,000, to limit increase in the tax rate. Lower totals for education spending allowed the town to avoid any transfers from the fund balance for the current 2013 budget.

The town list of top ten taxpayers remained unchanged from 2012. The top ten taxpayers, along with their 2013 assessment totals are Chester Woods Inc. (Chester Village West)-$15,092,330, Whelen Engineering Co. Inc.-$8,400,010, Connecticut Water Co.-$5,181,300, The Eastern Company-$4,065,740, and Connecticut Light and Power Co.-$4,001,560.

Also Whelen Aviation LLC (Chester Airport)-$3,843,340, Roto Frank of America Inc.-$3,620,820, Hayes Properties LLC-$2,248,350, Margaret & Robert Sbriglio (Aaron Manor)-$2,214,990, and Chester Point Real estate LLC-$2,079,830.

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Funding Approved to Study North Quarter Park as Potential Chester Library Site

A patron entering the small and historic Chester Public Library (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

A patron entering the small and historic Chester Public Library (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

CHESTER— A special appropriation of $20,000 has been approved for an engineering analysis of North Quarter Park as a potential site for a new Chester library. The board of selectmen and board of finance approved the expenditure last week.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the appropriation would allow the library board of trustees to hire an engineering firm to analyze the 22-acre park located on the north side of Main Street near the intersection with Route 154 as a potential library site. The study would also include preparation of a conceptual master plan for the park, which now contains only a small children’s playground.

The focus on North Quarter Park as a potential library site began earlier this month after the board of selectmen expressed reservations about a proposal for a $2.8 million renovation and expansion of the existing library building on West Main Street that would place most of the new construction underground. It was the second proposal in the last two years from library trustees seeking to upgrade and expanded the historic 1907 library building.

Meehan, in a meeting between the selectmen and library trustees on Feb. 4, had noted that building a new library could be less costly than attempting to renovate and expand the historic building, while also eliminating the expense and inconvenience of relocating the library during more than a year of construction.

Meehan said Monday the trustees would now seek proposals from engineering and architectural firms, with the plan and site analysis expected to be completed by early summer. The trustees are hoping to make a final decision on a library expansion plan, and complete schematic drawings for the building project, by August, a step that would allow the town to apply for an available $1 million state grant for library building projects. The grant application has a September deadline for submission.

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