September 30, 2014

Boaters Just Seem to Want to Own Their Own Boats, Regardless of the Cost

The boats packed in at Ferry Point Marina in Old Saybrook

The boats packed in at Ferry Point Marina in Old Saybrook

There are two very strong arguments against owning a boat. Number one, it is very expensive to buy a boat, and Number two, once you buy a boat, it is very expensive to own it as well.

As for buying a new boat, a top of the line powerboat, of say 31 feet, can cost as much as $270,000. A slightly smaller boat of 28 feet can cost $160,000, and even a 20 foot powerboat can cost $50,000.

These figures are not “guesstimates,” they come from a reputable boat dealer.

The High Cost of Owning a Boat

Having surmounted the considerable financial hurdle of buying a boat, next there are the frequently the staggering costs of owning one. Let’s start by examining the actual expenses of an owner of a 34 foot powerboat, who keeps his boat for the season at Brewer’s Ferry Point Marina in Old Saybrook.

Although this boat owner was shy about giving his name, he was more than happy to lament publicly about the high cost of operating his powerboat during the boating season. These costs include: paying the winter storage cost of $1,600; paying the boat slip rental fee to the marina of $4,500, and paying his boat’s annual insurance fee of $2,000.

However these costs, which total $8,100, are just a start of what he has to pay to operate his boat. This is especially true; if this turns out to be the year, when one or both of the twin diesel engines of his 21 year old powerboat needs repairs. The highly trained mechanics that can fix boat engines, incidentally, are very, very expensive.

Now let’s turn to the costs of actually operating this powerboat, such as taking it on a trip to Block Island and back. This trip would cost $500, just for the fuel alone. Also, if he wanted to rent a slip on Block Island that could cost $40, if not more.

The point is that running the two powerful diesel engines that drive this powerboat is a very expensive proposition. However, when asked if he felt that the expenses of his boat are worth it, the boat owner replied, “I would not trade it in for the world.”

The boat, incidentally, is called, “The Other Woman.”

"The Other Woman," with her captain on board

“The Other Woman,” with her captain on board

Operating a Smaller Boat Also Expensive   

Another boat owner at the Brewer’s yard in Old Saybrook was the owner of a 20 foot, six inch, powerboat. The owner, who said his first name was “Russ,” is presently a senior designer at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Norwich.

With a certain pride this boat owner said that he could take his boat, “anywhere in Long Island Sound.” For this privilege he pays up front $3,000 a year for a slip at the marina, and $2,000 for insurance. He saves the expense of winter storage, because he keeps the boat off season in his own backyard.

The boat owner said that he frequently took his wife and their three children out for boat rides.  He also mentioned that when he was younger, he suffered a very serious motorcycle accident, which appeared not to have slowed him down.

Russ's wife and their three children frequently sail together

Russ’s wife and their three children frequently sail together

One thing that this boat owner is very serious about is that he would never rent a boat. “It would be like a box of chocolate,” he said, “You would never know what you are getting.”

He also said that, “I find the familiarity of owning my own boat, very comforting.”

A Boat Full of Old Lyme Visitors

Also on hand on a recent afternoon at the Ferry Point Marina, was a powerboat that had brought a family of five across the Connecticut River from Old Lyme to Old Saybrook. The members of the family were David Wiese, a Hartford attorney; his wife, Maher-Wiese, MD, a dermatologist in Essex, and their three children, Kaylyn, Ellie and Colin.

Happy family from Old Lyme pay a call

Happy family from Old Lyme pay a call

Asked why he owned a boat, Weiss replied, “Boating is a favorite thing.” He also acknowledged, “The boat is a lot of work, but we do it for the family.” The family has owned their 28 foot powerboat for the past ten years, and, interestingly, they never gave the boat a name.  “We just never got around to it,” Wiese says.

Another unique thing about their “nameless” powerboat is that there is a huge bimini shading the boat’s entire cockpit area. “That was my idea,” says dermatologist Maher-Wiese. She wanted to make sure that her family was completely sheltered from the harmful rays of the sun, while they were boating.

Old Lyme visitors head back home

Old Lyme visitors head back home

Conclusion

The general attitude of those boaters, who own their own boats, is that the financial expenses just have to be endured. Also, sometimes people get so close to their boats that the boats almost become a part of the family. You cannot begrudge a person from spending a lot of money on their own family, now can you?

See also related article by Jerome Wilson The Uphill Battle of Convincing Boaters to Rent Boats Rather Than  Own Them

The Uphill Battle of Convincing Boaters to Rent Boats Rather Than Own Them

It is hardly a contest. The favored way by more than a hundred fold and more, is that boaters along the eastern Connecticut shoreline prefer to own their own boats, rather than rent them.

Take for example the very modest boat rental program at the Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook. Whereas there are literally hundreds slips for boat owners keeping their own boats at this marina, there are only two boats that are available for rent at the marina.

Brewer’s Boat Rental Plans

That’s right, amidst hundreds of boat owners renting slips at the marina, Brewers offers only two boats that are for rent. They are: (1) a 24- foot Key West, center console, motor boat, and (2) a 24-foot Sea Ray Sundeck motor boat.

To rent these boats Brewers has set up a Brewer’s Boating Club, which offers boat renters a number of rental options. The top of the line of these plans are the Skippers Plans, which offer peak season boat usage, and which vary in price from $3,775 to $5,375 depending on boat usage. Next, down the line is the Captain’s Choice Plan for $6,295, which offers “Nearly Limitless membership features,” with “weekend reservation privileges… ”

Then there are the club’s Weekday Plans, including a Windward plan for $4,095 a season, and a Weekday Per Diem Membership Plan, which offers a 5-hour weekday usage for $395.

The complexity of these varying plans is challenging. However, Kit Will, Brewer’s personable, Pilots Point Sailing and Charter Director can explain it all. He can be reached at 860-575-8329, and at kwill@byy.com

One of the points that Kit Will makes is that belonging to the Brewers Boating Club is, “a good stepping stone to boat ownership.” He, himself, is a professional boat captain, who has over 25,000 miles of off-shore racing experience.

Pilots Point Marina's Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

Pilots Point Marina’s Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

A Simpler Boat Renting Option

Certainly, a far less complicated way to rent a motor boat along the Shoreline can be found at the Westbrook Marine Center, located at 533 Boston Post Road in Westbrook. The co-owner of the operation is the affable Tasha Cusson, who owns it with her husband. The advantage of renting a boat here, according to Tasha, “is that you just get in and go.”

The boats offered for rental at the Westbrook Marine Center are: 1) an 18 foot May-Craft Skiff, which has a five person capacity, and which is powered by a 90 horsepower outboard motor with a fuel tank of 42 gallons. 2) The second boat offered for rent at the Westbrook Marine Center is a 20 foot Hydras Sports Vector, which has a passenger capacity of six persons and is powered by a 225 horse power engine with an 85 gallon fuel capacity.

Westbrook Marine Center's 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

Westbrook Marine Center’s 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

The rates for boat rentals at the Marine Center are easy to understand. The 18 foot boat rents for $330 for four hours, and $495 for eight hours. The larger 20 foot boat rents for $365 for four hours, and $560 for eight hours.  Also, on occasion the boats are rented for a longer term at “a special lower rate,” according to Tasha. In addition to the rental charges, boat renters are required to fill up the fuel tanks of their rental boats before returning them.

According to Tasha, “Most people know boats, who rent from us.” As for those who are less familiar with boats, she says that a boat rental “is a fantastic opportunity to try out boating.” Before every boat rental, the renter is briefed from an extensive check list. Furthermore, Tasha says that she does not rent her boats to everyone. “I have turned people away,” she says, adding, “The personal safety of the renter is the key.”

Tasha also notes that possessing a State of Connecticut Safe Boating Certificate is not a necessary qualification for renting a boat in the state. However, her favorable judgment, as to whether or not the Marine Center wants to rent the boat to a particular person, is a necessity.

Tasha also noted that she had a number of rentals over Father’s Day weekend. The number to call for a boat rental is 860-399-8467.

Next week we shall profile three typical boat owners, who pay handsomely for their seasonal boating slips, but are grudgingly happy to do so.

Treasured Items Abound at Estuary Council’s “Thrift Shop,” and They Cost So Little

A large collection of ladies' blouses and slacks

A large collection of ladies’ blouses and slacks

Betsy Cote’ may be slight of build, but she has large responsibilities at the busy Thrift Shop of the Estuary Council in Old Saybrook. The Council’s building is located at 210 Main Street, way in the back of the shopping plaza. The Thrift Shop is on the first floor of the Council building.

Working under Cote’ at the Thrift Shop are 70 volunteers, who work in shifts at the check-out counter and around the store helping others. There are always at least three of the volunteer staff members on the floor, when the shop is open.  By far most of the volunteers are women, although there is a sprinkle of males.

Donations, which come into the Thrift Shop, are first sorted by item. The shop accepts donations of house wear, plates, cups and saucers, silver wear and clothing. When Cote’ was asked to give her definition of house wear, she said, “Anything in the house.”

No Electrical Items Accepted

However, if you have to plug in your donation, be advised the Thrift Shop does not accept electrical items. The most popular item at the Thrift Shop, according to Cote’, is puzzles.  At the shop the puzzles for sale range in size from 1,000 pieces down to 300 pieces. Most popular are 500 piece puzzles, and like the rest, “they go fast,” says Cote’.

The "Dollar rack" is always popular

The “Dollar rack” is always popular

Also, balls of yarn are a popular item among Thrift Shop shoppers, as is the sewing area, which offers a plethora of buttons in jars, and even a collection of zippers.  On hand as well are place mats, napkins, washcloths and towels. There are sheets as well of various sizes.

The motto of the Thrift Shop is, “If you would not buy it, we would not sell it,” Cote’ says. She, herself, is the only paid employee at the Thrift Shop, at a modest salary.

“Everything is really going great here,” Cote’ says. As for the Thrift Shop, “It is very successful.”

One thing that Thrift Shop customers should realize is that, the Thrift Shop does not wash or dry clean any of the items that come in as donations and are for sale.  Cleaning is left up to the customer, who purchased the item.

"But will the fit?" that is the question

“But will the fit?” that is the question

Wacky Wednesdays” for Super Bargains

One thing that brings in lots of customers is “Wacky Wednesday” specials. Kept a secret until the day of the event, on a recent Wednesday all articles of clothing were half price.

The Estuary Council’s Thrift Shop is open on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and Saturdays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays.

Volunteers at the shop on weekdays work in two shifts, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.  All are volunteers.

Cote’ tells the story that once someone donated, literally, a truck load of sheets, and the Thrift Shop sold them all. Customers made table cloths out of the sheets, lining for draperies, and some even made skirts out of the sheets.

Cote’ stressed that that they try to keep the Thrift Shop “neat and clean.” She also says that it is “a fun place to work,” and that “you meet great people.”

As for shop-lifting at the Thrift Shop, it may happen in very rare cases. As for the volunteers at the checkout counter, Coty’ says that she never once doubted their honesty.

The Eyesore of Lovely Essex; Can’t Something Be Done About It?

63 North Main Street in Essex. What a mess!

63 North Main Street in Essex. What a mess!

Downtown Essex has one of the nation’s classic, small town centers. There is the charming “round about,” where Main Street converges with North Main Street. There is the historic Griswold Inn just down the way on Main Street, and further still the striving Connecticut River Museum, and the waters of the Connecticut River.

As for North Main Street from the “round about” outward along the river, there is a veritable parade of marvelous residences, the restored Dickenson Mansion among them.

However, among the marvelous homes of Essex, there is one exception, and that is the abandoned, burned out structure located at the southwest corner of North Main Street and New City Street.

This is the Town of Essex’s poster child of urban blight.

The Essex "slum house" has considerable fire damage.

The Essex “slum house” has considerable fire damage.

Why can’t something be done to restore or eliminate, this boarded up, fire-singed property? Could it be torn down and replaced by a mini-park?  Or perhaps a new house could be built on the property, one that is worthy of its grand neighbors!

Present House Called an “Eye Sore”

“It’s an eye store,” says nearby Essex resident Marianne Flores, who was walking by the house on a recent afternoon. She lives nearby, and walks by the town’s “five star” slum almost every day. “I can’t believe that the town has not done something about it,” she says.

Furthermore, in Ms Flores’ view, “The property is beyond fixing up,” and the present house should be simply torn down. Another neighbor of the slum house, who just came by, nodded her head in agreement.

First Selectman Says He’s Trying  

Essex’s First Selectman Norman Needleman issued a long statement as to what he was doing to address the Town of Essex’s number one slum property. He said,

“Regarding 63 North Main Street property, we have been actively engaged with the bank, the insurance company, and the neighbors in trying to resolve the very difficult situation presented by this property.

It recently went into foreclosure, and my hope is that the bank will move forward in trying to sell the property soon.

“Options such as organizing a group of interested neighbors to purchase the mortgage on the property have been presented, but no response has been received from the bank. I have been told that they are under strict confidentiality guidelines. I regularly speak to the neighbors and keep them abreast of the situation.

“This issue is high on the list of property issues that needed to be resolved, since before I was elected nearly two years ago. I am happy to say that several of the other issues, like the Mazda dealership and the Sunoco station are, or are being resolved. In addition, the property across from the Sunoco station is in the process of a lengthy and costly cleanup.”

 Selectman Joel Marzi Expresses Concern

Essex’s Selectman Joel Marzi also expressed his concern about the eyesore on North Main Street. “It is absolutely a shame that it had to happen,” Marzi said, regarding the present degraded condition of the house on North Main Street. Marzi also said that he and the other selectmen were determined to address the issue.

Essex’s other Selectman, Stacia Libby, said, “We are all in this together,” referring to herself and the other two Selectmen. “It is an unfortunate situation, and we have about exhausted all our efforts.”

Five Sailboats of the U.S. Naval Academy Pay a Visit to Little Essex, Connecticut

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

Five, forty-four foot sailboats belonging to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis paid a call on the little shoreline town of Essex on June 14. They stayed the weekend of June 15 and 16, and then set sail back to Annapolis by eight in morning of June 17.

The five “Navy 44” sailboats arrived at the Essex town docks at around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 14, and they were greeted by Essex Yacht Club’s Rear Commodore Wes Bray. (The club’s Commodore and Vice Commodore were sailing elsewhere.) Rear Commodore Bray said in his welcoming remarks that it was “fantastic” that the Naval Academy had selected Essex for a visit of its sailboats, and that the town was “honored” by their presence.

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat's line

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat’s line

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

Also, Terry Stewart, the Commodore of the next door, Essex Corinthian Yacht Club, came over to greet the crews of the Naval Academy that had come to Essex.  It was a nice touch, and showed that at least one local Yacht Club Commodore had come out to greet them.

Each Naval Academy Sailboat Costs over $1 Million

As for the Naval Academy’s custom made sailboats, reportedly, it costs $1.09 million to build each boat, with every penny paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Presently the sailboats are three years old.

Lt. Commander Joe Slaughter, the ranking officer of the five-boat cruise to Essex, was asked why did the Navy need to have sailboats, when it has nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and a fleet of high tech, battleships. Were these sailboats really necessary to the Navy’s mission?

Commander Slaughter sprang to the defense of the Naval Academy’s policy of having sailboats at the Academy. Learning to sail, he said, teaches those at the Academy “the rules of the road” at sea, which “everybody has to learn.” These rules include, knowing the meanings of the lights, buoys and markers that are found in harbors and along coastlines.

Even more important, in the Commander’s view, learning to sail, was extremely important in learning the challenges of leadership in the Navy. This leadership training was crucial in his view to the positions of command that these midshipmen will hold in the future. These words were delivered by the Commander with almost an evangelical fervor.

Rough and Stormy Seas Sailing to Essex

The voyage from Annapolis to Essex was a very difficult sail. At times waves were as high as ten feet, and there were steady downpours of rain and high winds as well. Also, off the long New Jersey coast, one of the boats, the Daring, had an engine problem, and it had to be towed into Atlantic City by the U.S. Coast Guard for repairs.

One midshipman, John Kameen, who serves as the Starboard Watch Officer on the Daring, told the story that  at one point deep in the night in the stormiest of seas, the Daring boat found itself lagging further and further behind the other sailboats. This was happening, even though the engine of the Daring was running, and the sails were full.

Finally, as the boat slipped even further behind the others, the discovery was made that the boat‘s engine was not in gear. “Everyone was really tired,” the Starboard Watch Officer said, not really believing that this was a valid excuse.

Not a Lot of Room On Board for a Crew of Ten

Each of the 44 foot sailboats that came up to Essex had crews of ten. However, the number of sleeping bunks for these ten crew members was five.

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat's hull

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat’s hull

The boat’s five sleeping bunks are divided up as follows. There is one single bunk aft for the use of both the boat’s Skipper and the Executive Officer. This double use of a single bunk is called a “Hot Rack,” we were told.

For the other eight members of the crew, there are four bunks, which run along the along the sides of the main cabin. This means that while four crew members are sleeping in these bunks, the other four are either up on deck, or doing something useful below.

The Daring's Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

The Daring’s Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

In addition to this bunking arrangement there, is a single head (bathroom) located in the forward area of the boat. For delicacy’s stake the boat’s toilet area can be enlarged somewhat into a small dressing room. But again, there is only one bathroom for a crew of ten.

The Sexual Balance on the Sailboat

As for the sexes of the members of crew, the Skipper of the sailboat Daring was a male civilian, and the Executive Officer was a female Navy lieutenant. As for the rest of the crew, there were five males and three females.  This meant that in total the Daring had a crew of six males and four females. Considering the all male officers corps of the U.S. Navy not too many years ago, this ratio is quite impressive.

In the view of Starboard Watch Officer Kameen, and he seemed sincere, “The Navy has done a great job in making the integration of men and women seamless,” adding, “It’s been great.”

However, he did say that in a very few cases of lifting heavy objects, it is only the men that have the strength to lift them.

As for flirtations between the sexes on board, the Midshipman said, “They keep you so busy; there is no time to think about it.” Also, it should be noted that when the weather permits there are vigorous exercises programs top sides, which involves in some cases doing as many as 200 pushups.

New York City Developer Puts Iconic Windmill Property on Foxboro Point Up For Sale

Want to buy a windmill for almost $2 million?

Want to buy a windmill for almost $2 million?

With a price tag of $1,925,000, New York City developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr., is offering to sell a notable Essex landmark, the windmill at Foxboro Point. Listing materials assert that the sale is, “Once in the lifetime chance to own the windmill.”

They continue, “This unique waterfront [property] is one of the most recognized features on the Connecticut River. It is comprised of multiple floors of living area including, a living room, wet bar bedroom, full bath and more.” (Unexplained is what is meant by a “wet bar bedroom.”)

The listing materials also state that the property has on the third floor a master bedroom with a full bath, a second floor kitchen, and a first floor dining room. There is also a full, unfinished basement with hatchway. Real property taxes are listed in the materials as $15,441.

Windmill Not an Historic Building

Although many locals on the shoreline think that the windmill is a historic structure, it was actually built in 1967. As for further details about the property, it has shingles siding, a basement water heater and is connected to public water. It also has baseboard heating and electric sewer and septic.

The listing agent of the property is Colette Harron of William Pitt, which has an office in Essex.

“Meals On Wheels” Is Signature Program of O.S. Estuary Council of Seniors

IMG_6750

Chef of Estuary Council, Stuart Tedesco, cooking “Meals on Wheels”

It is difficult to get your hands around the many helpful services that the Estuary Council of Seniors provides to senior residents of its nine member towns in eastern Connecticut. These fortunate nine towns, served by the Council, are Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Clinton, Killingworth, Old Lyme, Lyme, Essex, Deep River, and Chester.

One undertaking that is certainly in the forefront of the Estuary Council’s services to seniors is the delivery of prepared “hot” and frozen meals to those in need. These meal deliveries are made to needy seniors in the Council’s nine member towns, as well as to seniors in Madison.  If you happen to live in one of these towns, the number to call to enroll in “Meals on Wheels” lunch and dinner programs is 860-388-1611.

However, meal deliveries are strictly limited to persons who are, 1) over 60 years of age, and 2) no longer able to prepare a meal for themselves, or can no longer shop for food.   However, a recipient is not required to have a doctor’s prescription to establish that she or he is eligible for an at home meal delivery.

Donation Requested of $3.00 a Meal

A donation of $3.00 a meal, payable at the end of each month, is requested under the program.  Noon meals on weekdays are delivered “hot,” and a typical “hot” lunch might consist of meat loaf, potatoes and beets, accompanied by coffee, milk and a fresh apple or pudding for desert.

Evening meals delivered for weekdays, and noon and evening meals delivered for weekends, are frozen and must be heated by recipients.

Summing up the service, the Estuary Council’s Nutrition Coordinator, Peggy Barrett, says, “We serve two meals a day, seven days a week, for every person who is a part of this program.”

Hundreds of “Meals on Wheels” Are Delivered

All of the meals delivered under this program are prepared at the Estuary Council’s well equipped kitchen in Old Saybrook. Supervising the entire food preparation operation is Stuart Tedesco, Food Service Manager/Chef of the Estuary Council of Seniors.

Tedesco says that the “Meals on Wheels” service is, “the best kept secret in the area.” “We still serve good tasting quality food for $3.00,” she says.

The totals of the number of “Meals on Wheels” delivered by the Estuary Council are impressive. On a single weekday, according to Nutrition Coordinator Barrett, one hundred and forty-one “hot” noon meals will be delivered by Council volunteers to needy seniors. These “hot” lunches are served to the previously noted member towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River, Chester, Killingworth, Westbrook, Clinton, Old Lyme, Lyme, as well to seniors in the non-member town of Madison.

Early morning packers of "Meals on Wheels, Ted Pigeon and Scotty Pepe

Early morning packers of “Meals on Wheels, Ted Pigeon and Scotty Pepe

In addition to the delivery of “hot” meals at noon on weekdays, the Estuary Council also delivers to entitled seniors weekday evening meals, and noon and evening meals on the two days of the weekend. However, these meals are frozen and must be defrosted by the recipient.

The meals to be distributed are first put together each weekday morning from a pool of 20 volunteer packers. Then, from a pool of 70 volunteer drivers, the meals are personally delivered to the homes of the seniors who are a part of the program.

"Meals on Wheels" volunteer, Katharina Youll making a delivery

“Meals on Wheels” volunteer, Katharina Youll making a delivery

Other Programs for Seniors at Estuary Council

In addition to the “Meals on Wheels” program, there are a host of other programs, offered by the Estuary Council of Seniors, which deserve mention. Among them are the Café lunches which are offered every weekday in the Estuary Counsel’s main dining room.  One special feature of the Café lunches is that before the meal those attending stand and recite the Pledge Allegiance to the Flag. (The words are listed below.)

Also, there is a thriving thrift shop on the lower floor of the Estuary Council’s main building, which has racks of women and men’s apparel as well exquisite place settings and literally racks of sportswear.

The Estuary Council also has a Medical Transportation service that takes seniors to their medical appointments, either at doctors’ or dentists’ offices, or to medical facilities, such as Hartford Hospital and Yale/ New Haven Hospital. Round trips for medical appointments taking less than five hours have a suggest donation of $35. For trips over five hours the suggested donation is $70.

There are also a staggering number of special programs, which take at the Council’s Old Saybrook headquarters. They range from free health check-ups to senior physical fitness classes, and from Yoga classes to the meetings of the Quilt Club.

Meals delivered (left to right) Katharina Youll and recipients Ann and Thomas Perrone

Meals delivered (left to right) Katharina Youll and recipients Ann and Thomas Perrone

And, now all together, the Pledge Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Powerboat Instruction a Popular Feature at Pettipaug Yacht Club This Summer

Pettipaug Waterfront Director Paul Risseeuw with his class

Pettipaug Waterfront Director Paul Risseeuw with his class

The Pettipaug Yacht Club’s Waterfront Director, Paul Risseeuw, is conducting Powerboat courses at his club this summer. The Pettipaug club is located in Essex, directly on the Connecticut River. The tuition for the one day, nine and a half hour powerboat course is $180, although there are circumstances when it can cost less. There will be a total of twelve of these courses during the boating season.

The Powerboat course includes an extensive “on shore” briefings of how to safely operate a powerboat, and it also includes considerable time on the water as well, where students operate powerboats themselves on boats owned by the yacht club.

The course on the first of June was attended by nine students. The “on the land” part of the course was held in the meeting room of the Pettipaug clubhouse, which was barely cooled by a single fan. However, the students attending, mostly teenagers, appeared eager to learn from the course.

Risseeuw began the course by saying, “We are going to have to correct some of your bad habits,” that they may have learned from previous motor boating on their own.

Risseeuw then patiently asked each student to share their own powerboating experience. Interestingly, many of the students had experiences in sailboats, but very few knew much about operating a powerboat.

There then ensued an hour plus, introductory lecture by Risseeuw on virtually every aspect on how to operate, safely, a powerboat. He spoke extensively on the basic right of way rules on the water, as well as the important principles involved in starting, stopping and maintaining an outboard engine.

Then, it was down to the docks of the Pettipaug club for some “on the water” instruction on operating a powerboat. The students were divided up in crews of two persons to each boat, and before they climbed on board their boats, Risseeuw spoke at length on how to start an outboard engine, by properly using the choke and the throttle.

He also spoke about the proper maintenance of the fuel and fuel tanks of outboard motors, and the importance of using gas that is less than three months old.

There was also instruction on how properly to get into and out of a powerboat. Risseeuw advocated a “three points of contact” rule. Under this rule, when getting in and out an open motor boat, an operators hands and feet should be touching something solid in three places.

Also, Risseeuw stressed again and again that the students should be wearing properly fitting lifejackets at all times, when they are in, or even around a boat. “I wear my life jacket all the time” he said.

The classroom moves to the docks on the Connecticut River

The classroom moves to the docks on the Connecticut River

The On-the-Water Part of the Course

Then it was time for the students to climb, two by two, into their assigned powerboats, and to motor out into the waters of the Connecticut River. Although one of the boat crews had a bit of trouble getting their engine started, requiring Risseeuw’s personal oversight, soon all of the boats were off and running over the water.

One powerboat crew had trouble starting the engine

One powerboat crew had trouble starting the engine

Risseeuw and his assistants had set up a number of in-line buoys on the water, through which the students were required to wend their way. Another exercise was to have the students circle their powerboats between two stakes, which were very close to each other.  Some of the students found this not an easy task.

But soon enough all the boats are off and running

But soon enough all the boats are off and running

After an extensive period of operating the powerboats on the water, it was time for a brief lunch, and then, soon after, more tutoring in the club house.

The topics included a lengthy discussion about the meaning of various navigation buoys, and how they are numbered, colored and designed.  Risseeuw also discussed the basic “Red-Right-Returning” rule, which means, simply, that when a boat is coming in from Long Island Sound and proceeding up the Connecticut River, it should keep the red buoys on their right.

Also, during the afternoon session of the course there was a long review of the right away rules on the water. These were introduced with a caveat by Risseeuw that, unfortunately, many powerboaters have no idea about proper “right of way” rules.  When this becomes evident, he said, the best recourse for a knowledgeable boater is to just to get out of the way.

Under proper “right of way” rules, the vessel that is required to get out of the way is called the “burdened” vessel, and it should give way to an  oncoming vessel.

Boating Can Be Dangerous!

Also, Risseeuw stressed again and again at the sessions that boating can be dangerous. He cited one accident on the Connecticut River last year where a driver in a boating accident had his head severed off by running his jet-ski into a fixed dock. Risseeuw noted in passing that jet-skis, officially known as Personal Watercraft, can travel over the water at over 50 miles an hour.

Risseeuw said in was his opinion, “Many of the persons who ride on Personal Watercraft are idiots and are reckless.”

He also told the students that most boating accidents happen late in the afternoon. This is when a boater is tired with too much sun, and perhaps too much alcohol. In Risseeuw’s view, “There is nothing positive about alcohol while boating. Drinking on a boat can lower reaction times and is never a good idea.”

Also discussed was what to do when a boat capsizes. Risseeuw’s cardinal rule is, “Always stay with the boat.”

“Hypothermia” was also discussed. It means a dangerous lowering of the body’s temperature, which can be life threatening. It can occur when a person spends too much time in cold water. The dangers of having gas fumes on boats were also discussed.

Answering a 60 Question Test to Pass the Course

Risseeuw said that to pass the course the students had to get 80 percent correct of a 60 question test. If they do pass the course, students receive two new boating licenses, 1) A U.S. Sailing certification, and 2) a Connecticut State Personal Watercraft/Safe Boating license.

As for how the students liked the course, Powerboat Student Bryan Byrnes-Jacobsen of Niantic, who appeared to be restless at times, excused himself by saying, “I don’t sit well.” He then went on to say, enthusiastically, that he had learned “a lot from the hands-on experience” of the course.

Bryan will be the Head Sailing Instructor at the Thames Yacht Club in New London this summer.

Powerboat Student Megan Ryan from Ivoryton, said that she thought the course was “really good,” and she was pleased that she could, “really go out on the water.”  She admitted that before the course, she “did not know how to drive a motor boat,” and that the course was her “first time” to do so.

Megan will be a Junior Instructor at the Pettipaug Yacht Club this summer.

For more information on the Powerboat course, which is open to all, go to www.pettipaug.com.

“Kid Safety” Lawn Signs Have Been Posted Around Essex, But Some Find Them “Tacky”

Combined image

The Essex lawn signs pictured along Main Street, opposite Champline Square, along Grove Street and next to Book Hill Road.

There is a smoldering controversy about the “kid safety” lawn signs that have been posted along the streets of Essex recently.  All the signs carry the same message, DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE.

The sign postings are the work of the Essex Police Department with the assistance of the Essex Boy Scouts. To date the Police Department has distributed dozens of signs to Essex residents, although a few appear to be coming down because of local protests.

For example, there used to be lawn signs out in front of Essex Town Hall and the Essex Library, but now they have disappeared.

A Sign Enthusiast Speaks Out   

One of the sign posters who is proud of her positing is Luisa Kreis Whiting, who lives on Main Street. “I love the signs,” she says. However, she adds, “Some people in town don’t like them.”

In encouraging the posting of the signs, the Essex Police Department has gone about it very carefully. Signs are only given to a home owner who requests one. It is not like the haphazard postings of campaign signs during election time, or the real estate “open house” signs, which also sometimes go up without permission.

Police lawn signs in Essex with their message, DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE, most likely will be around for awhile.

Local Voices Offered, “Selected Readings, Musings and Poetry,” at Ivoryton Library

The LOCAL VOICES at the Ivoryton Library reading event (left to right) State Representative Phillip Miller, Pamela Nomuna, Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker

The LOCAL VOICES at the Ivoryton Library reading event (left to right) State Representative Phillip Miller, Pamela Nomura, Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker

“Why did we pick this Sunday with so much going on?” Ivoryton Library Director Elizabeth Alvord asked herself before last Sunday’s afternoon program at the Ivoryton Congregational Church got underway.

But she did not need to worry.

No less than forty people showed up to hear five readers present their selections of poems and others musings. The topics ranged from the shop worn to the original, and in all it was a literary sweep of life’s joys and adversities, with far greater emphasis on the latter.

The five performers in the program were State Representative Phil Miller, poet/professor Pamela Nomuna, and poet/performers Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker.

The lead off performer was Beverley Taylor, who holds a senior position at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Ms. Taylor read a third person account of the laments of a “been there, done that” kind of woman, who now at fifty years of age, is well hardened by life’s difficulties, but is still soldiering on.

Ms. Taylor’s reading was polished and professional.

Next on the program was Phil Miller, who brought a very different theme to the program. Although the other performers tended to personal, self-revealing selections in their presentations, Miller spoke exclusively about the life style and noises of the Barred Owl.  This particular breed of owl is common in this area, according to Miller, and he estimated that there are no less than eight Barred Owl families in Essex.

Miller characterized the Barred Owl as a “mysterious, nocturnal bird,” which lives primarily on insects rather than small animals. He stressed that the Barred Owls’  “hoots and yowls” in the night were very distinctive, and in a fitting climax to his presentation he gave his own imitation of the Barred Owl’s full throated hoot and howl. The audience loved it.

Next on the program was Joan Wyeth, who was by far the youngest of the performers. She read, somewhat too rapidly, a personal account of the woes and irritations of an American family, with some keen insights in her subject matter. Her entire reading was completely original.

Number four on the program was an established poet, Pamela Nomura. Not only has she taught poetry at Wesleyan University, she is a published poet. One poem of hers that she read was called, “The Rain.”   Two stanzas in the poem tell the story:

I can’t work today, miss.
It’s raining, and it’s 2 years to the day
since your mother has not answered
your calls. And you wonder if it’s raining
in Puerto Rico, if it’s falling through

the shining leaves
and pinging onto the tin roof
of the yellow house
where the phone is ringing.

Concluding the Ivoryton Library program was the well established poet and performer, Peter Walker. Walker in his remarks complained that when it comes to popular music, the people who write the words should be more celebrated  than those who write the melodies.

Walkler then read some of his own poems, mixed with those of others. Also, he spoke of a safari in East Africa that he once went on, where he saw his own face implanted on a Serengeti cloud.

Ivoryton Library Director Alvord appeared to be generally pleased with this “bold” event, and more such programs may be coming up in the future.

Pettipaug Yacht Club Excels in Small Boat Sailing Programs for Young Sailors

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

The Pettipaug Yacht Club will offer a truly impressive roster of small boat, sailing programs for young people during the soon-to-be-upon-us summer sailing season. The club is located in Essex off River Road, directly on the Connecticut River, making it an ideal small sailing boat location. Among the club’s sailing programs for young sailors this summer are those at the club’s prestigious Pettipaug Sailing Academy.

The guiding spirit behind the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is retired Electric Boat engineer and club Board member, Paul Risseew. Risseew not only directs the Sailing Academy, he runs virtually all of the sailing and boating programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Learning to Sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy

The aim of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, which was founded in 1950, is to teach young sailors in Risseew’s words, “the pleasure of sailing in small boats and also the racing in small sailboats.”

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

155 young sailors have enrolled this coming summer for the sailing classes at the Academy. Courses at the Academy are divided into two sessions. The first session begins on July 1 and ends July 23, and the second session begins on July 25 and ends on August 16. Some students take both sessions for seven full weeks. Others opt for a single session of three and a half weeks.

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds await them

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds awaits them

Academy days are also broken up into morning classes and afternoon classes.  Morning classes, which are for children, ages 8 to 11, are held from nine o’clock until noon. Afternoon classes, which are for students, ages 12 to 16, are held from one o’clock until four o’clock.

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

The curriculum of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy includes lessons in teamwork, rigging, capsize recovery, tacking, gibing, reaching, running, sailing to windward and tying knots. Upon their graduation from the Sailing Academy, students are givens ranks that reflect their respective sailing skills. The rank of progressions as they are called are; Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Boatswain, Skipper, and Racing Skipper.

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

This year the enrollment at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy was completely filled by March 30. However, sometimes there are drop outs, just before classes begin. When this happens, new students are taken off the waiting list. The tuition at the Academy for both sessions is $700 and $400 for a single session.

A Sailboat “Race Clinic” to Precede Academy Classes

 Prior to the instructional sailing classes of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club will hold an intensive, five-day “Race Clinic” for small boat, racing sailors. Classes for the clinic will be held from Monday, June 24, to Friday, June 28. The “Race Clinic” is designed to teach students how to win sailboat races, and it is expected to attract some 25 students, ages 12 to 15.

All eight fulltime sailing instructors at the club will serve on the faculty of “Race Clinic.” The clinic’s curriculum will include; in getting a good start in a race, reading the wind to attain the fastest speed, as well as learning what are sometimes not so nice, but permitted, racing tactics. Tuition for the intense, five day “Race Clinic” is $200.

Other Summer Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Another program featured this summer at the Pettipaug Yacht Club will be Powerboat Courses designed by the U.S. Powerboating Association. There will be eleven, one day, Powerboat Courses held throughout the summer sailing season. The first course will be held on Sunday, April 28, and the other course dates will be posted on the club’s web site at www.pettipaug.com and on the club’s bulletin board.

The Powerboat Courses are for students of all ages, and the one-day course begins at 8:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. The tuition is $180. For further details contact Paul Risseew at 860-767-1995, or at PRisseew@aol.com .

Teaching Sailors to Teach the Art of Sailing

As if the above programs were not enough, there will also be two courses at the club on teaching sailors how to teach the art of sailing.  A Level 1 Instruction Course for would-be sailing teachers will be held over the two weekends of June 8-9 and June 15-16. A more advanced Level 2 Instruction Course for sailing teachers will be held over three consecutive days, June 17, 18 and 19.  The tuition for the Level 1 course is $350, and $300 for the Level 2 course.

In addition, there will be Windsurfing Courses, mostly for the young, throughout the summer, for which there could be a small charge.

Club’s Hosting of High School Racing Teams

Finally, during the months of March and April of this year, the club has been hosting sailboat races for three local, high school sailing teams. (Photos of a recent race of these teams are pictured with this article.) The teams are students from; Valley Regional High School, which has nine sailors; Xavier High School, which has 16 sailors; and Daniel Hand High School, which as 28 sailors.

Fifteen of the sailboats used in this pre-season sailing program are owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and twelve are owned by Xavier High School. Although it is understood that all of the sailors participating in this program are members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, there is no financial cost involved for the racing participants.

Paul Risseew’s Philosophy of Teaching Young Sailors to Sail 

 In teaching young sailors Risseew said, “Our priorities at Pettipaug are Safety, Fun and Learning, in that order.” He also noted, “If the students are not having fun, they won’t pay attention to the learning.”

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

“The majority of students return year after year, because they are spending the warm summer days with friends and playing on, and in, the water,” he continued. “Pettipaug is able to provide expert racing coaching to those who want to go in that direction. We send Optimist and 420 race teams to over a dozen regattas at other clubs in Connecticut.”

Putting it all in perspective, Risseew said, “As Rat said to Mole, in Wind in the Willows:  “‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 

Frame Finished at New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook; April 2014 Opening

IMG_6602

Hoisting the final steel girders for the frame of the Westbrook medical center

In an informal “Topping Off” ceremony last Thursday morning, the steel-girded frame of the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook was declared complete. Or, as one observer put it, “The steel skeleton is now finished.”

Huge crane that put in place the steel girders for the new Westbrook medical center

Huge crane that put in place the steel girders for the new Westbrook medical center

There now remains the task of covering the frame, completely, with new surface materials, as well as constructing the entire interior of the new medical center building.

Workers precariously perched on narrow steel girders at construction site

Workers precariously perched on narrow steel girders at construction site

Also, according to an official of Middlesex Hospital, which is building the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook, the project is still on track to open its doors for new patients in April 2014.

New Westbrook Center Will Be Off Exit 65 of I-95

The new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook will be located on Flat Rock Road at Exit 65 off I-95. The new 40,000 square, emergency medical facility will be twice as large as the present Shoreline Medical Center in Essex, which it will replace.

A Middlesex Hospital spokesperson said that there are still no plans as what to do with the Essex Shoreline Medical Center, once the Westbrook center takes its place.  Further dwarfing the size of the present Essex Shoreline center, the new Westbrook Shoreline Medical Center can be expanded from 40,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet, if necessity demands it.

Although Middlesex Hospital’s publicity materials stress that the new Shoreline center in Westbrook is only three miles away from the present Shoreline center  in Essex, in the minds of many Essex residents, it feels like their emergency center is gone forever, regardless of the new improvements in care promised at the new Westbrook facility.

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Read related article by Jerome Wilson:

New Emergency Medical Center to Replace Essex’s Medical Center in April 2014

New York City Developer Clears Away the Trees at His Foxboro Point Development Site

The pile of trees which once grew on the Foxboro Point site

The pile of trees which once grew on the Foxboro Point site

In an early step of his development of eleven acres of Foxboro Point’s shoreline property along North Cove in Essex, a New York City developer has now cleared away the trees at the development site. Last December the Essex Planning Commission, after a contentious review process, granted developer Frank J. Sciami, Jr., permission to develop seven new home sites, including the restoration of the historic Croft mansion on the property.

Part of the Foxboro Point development site, recently cleared of trees

Part of the Foxboro Point development site, recently cleared of trees

A major point of contention in the review process was whether or not the public should have access to the waters of North Cove by means of a pathway, running down through the development from Foxboro Road to North Cove. Initially, the Essex Planning Commission directed the developer to create such a pathway running from the road to the waters.

However, after the developer brought a lawsuit against the Commission protesting such public access, the Planning Commission consented to the developer’s objections, and worked out a settlement which junked the pedestrian walkway to water proposal. In its place the Commission created a view easement, which would give visitors along Foxboro Road a pubic perch to look down to the waters of North Cove, but not walk down to it.

The Foxboro Point development site is being built on one of the last remaining open spaces along the Connecticut River in the Town of Essex. The trees that have been cut down are now loosely piled in a stack to the right of the Croft Mansion. They will undoubtedly be removed as the development of the site continues.

Senate Republican Staff Attorney Prepares Summary of Provisions of New Gun Law

A summary of the provisions of Connecticut’s new “Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety” law has been prepared by Mike Cronin, Esq., a Staff Attorney of the Senate Republicans.  The summary, dated April 5, 2013, is available on the Connecticut Senate Republican’s website.

Using a question and answer format, the summary is a guide as how to obey the new gun control law. Typical questions posed in the summary include:

Do I have to give up any of my presently owned guns? How does the new law affect the sale of assault style rifles? Hand guns? Shot guns? What are the new registration requirements for assault style guns, and what are the new limits on ammunition purchases?

Private Guns Sales Covered by New Law

Also, the summary notes that the new gun control law requires a background check for firearm sales, including private transactions.

Here is one of the twenty-four questions asked and answered in Attorney Cronin’s guide:

Q. If I already own a large capacity magazine, can I still use it?

A. Yes. If you legally possess large capacity magazines prior to the passage of this bill you can still use it in your gun. If you are at home or at a target range or shooting clubs, you can load as many bullets as the magazine can hold. Anywhere else, you can only load 10 bullets in the magazine.

 

State Senator Art Linares Voted “No” on New “Gun Violence Prevention” Legislation

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares voted “no” on the recently enacted, new Connecticut state law, entitled, “An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety.” Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed the bill into law on April 4.

In explaining his “no” vote the Senator said in a written statement, “Having witnessed the emotional accounts of parents, teachers and citizens after the Newtown tragedy, I am more committed than ever to help create a safer Connecticut.”

He continued, “After much consideration and talking with many residents of the 33rd district, I decided to vote no on the bill. While I support some of the individual elements such as criminal background checks and discontinuing the early release program for violent felons, I concluded that [the bill] did not correctly address the most important issues of safe neighborhoods, school security, and most importantly, mental health.”

Following three more paragraphs of explaining the reasons for his “no” vote, the Senator concluded, “Now that [the bill] has passed, I will continue moving forward, working with our school superintendents to address school safety issues, with our mental health experts to get access to needed resources, and with gun owners to help them understand the new regulations.”

Sen. Linares represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

New Emergency Medical Center to Replace Essex’s Medical Center in April 2014

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

A new $28 million Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, which is presently under construction in Westbrook, is slated to replace the hospital’s present Shoreline Medical Center in Essex as early as next April. According to Middlesex Hospital’s Harry Evert, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Operations, the new Westbrook Shoreline Medical Center, “will double the number of rooms and bring a higher level of efficiency,” than exists at the present Essex facility.

Billboards Promise New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook next year

Billboards Promise New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook next year

The hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook will be located on Flat Rock Place, just off Exit 65 of Interstate I-95. The Center will be just down the road from the Tanger Outlet shopping mall. The frame of the new two story medical center is in the process of construction at the Westbrook location.

Construction workers busy at Flat Rock Place site, near Exit 65 of I-95

Construction workers busy at Flat Rock Place site, near Exit 65 of I-95

Essex’s “Shoreline Clinic” Served Area for 40 Years

The existing Shoreline Medical Center in Essex will be closed down as soon as the new Westbrook center is ready to accept patients. The Essex Shoreline Medical Center has provided emergency medical services to shoreline residents for the past 40 years, according to Middlesex Hospital materials.

What will happen to the Essex shoreline center, once it is phased out, however, has yet to be decided, according to Evert.

Some Essex residents are deeply concerned about closing of the present Shoreline medical center in their town. At the same time they can look forward to using a new larger and better equipped medical facility, when it comes on line neighboring Westbrook.

Essex Shoreline Center Was First of Its Kind  

According to a Middlesex Hospital sources, the shoreline facility in Essex was, “the first freestanding hospital-based emergency center in the country, and it became a model for other hospitals to follow.” In building a new medical center in Westbrook, the hospital notes, “We are moving three miles down the road from the current facility on Route 153 in Essex to Westbrook.” An advantage of the Westbrook location is that it “will provide easy access from I-95 as well as local roads.”

Middlesex Hospital’s Senior Vice President Evert also pointed out that the new Westbrook facility would be able to serve, more easily, the emergency medical needs of a number of towns along the I-95 corridor. For example, persons living in towns to the west of the new facility on I-95, such as Madison and Clinton, would have direct access to the new Westbrook center.

Also, towns to the east on the I-95 corridor, such as Old Saybrook, Old Lyme and Lyme, could be served by the new Westbrook center as well. The new Westbrook center could also serve the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester, as well as Haddam and Killingworth without difficulty. In addition, accident victims on I-95 could be treated more easily from the Westbrook center.

Middlesex Hospital’s Evert estimated that the increase in the number of patients at the new Westbrook facility over those at the Essex facility would be in the ten to fifteen percent range. However, when pressed he said that this might be a “low ball” figure, and that he “just wanted to be conservative.”

New Westbrook Center Twice the Size of Essex’s   

The new 40,000 square foot emergency and outpatient facility in Westbrook will be double the size of the present Essex medical center. Furthermore, according to Middlesex Hospital materials, “Should we need even more space we have the option to add a second level, which would increase the Shoreline Medical Center space to 60,000 square feet.”

Until the use of this additional 20,000 square feet becomes necessary, it will remain undeveloped on the second floor of the new medical center building.

A two story frame is in place for the new emergency medical center in Westbrook

A two story frame is in place for the new emergency medical center in Westbrook

The new 40,000 square foot facility, presently being built, on the first floor will have, “an expanded emergency center with an express care area for minor illnesses and injuries.” Also, the new 40,000 square feet facility will allow, “a separate ambulance entrance,” as well as a “covered drop-off area, and improved patient privacy.”

Outpatients at the new Westbrook emergency center will also have their own entrance, and at the center there will be, “a whole host of diagnostic and treatment services.” In addition at the new center, “Radiology services will expand to include a new MRI testing area, and designated women imaging area.” In addition, “Other offerings would include lab services, pre-surgical testing and chronic care management.”

In summary Middlesex Hospital released this summary of services at the new Westbrook emergency center:

  • Emergency: 24/7 care, Helipad, Paramedic service
  • Other Services: Pre-surgical testing, chronic care management programs.
  • Outpatient Diagnostics: X-ray, MRI, CT, Ultrasound, Mammography, Laboratory services

As for the staff at the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook, it will consist of:

  • Physicians, board certified in Emergency Medicine, providing coverage 24/7,
  •  Magnet nurses with a reputation for the highest quality care,
  • Laboratory and radiology clinicians credentialed in their areas of specialty.

Middlesex Hospital summarized by noting that, “Hospital emergency departments are the healthcare safety net for all in the community, any hour, day or night, seven days a week. All patients who come to the facility, regardless of their ability to pay receive care.”

The hospital also noted, “Each year, more than 23,000 people rely on the Shoreline Medical Center for emergency care.”

Helicopter Air Lifts Wounded Gunman to Hartford Hospital After Gun Incident

IMG_6563

A Life-Star helicopter is loaded with injured gunman at emergency medical center in Essex

A “Life Star” helicopter air lifted a wounded gunman at Middlesex Hospital’s Emergency Medical Center in Essex for a trip to Hartford Hospital around four o’clock Monday afternoon.

Reportedly, the gunman engaged in a gun battle with a state trooper after a car chase and car crash on Route 153 near the Westbrook Essex line. A state trooper was also wounded in the gun battle, but not seriously.  In addition, a second gunman was killed in the exchange of gun fire.

 

After incident State Police troopers gather outside Middlesex Hospital's medical center in Essex

After incident State Police troopers gather outside Middlesex Hospital’s medical center in Essex

 

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

Pizza Works restaurant, right next to train entrance

Pizza Works restaurant, right next to train entrance

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

Even handicap parkers must be eating in the restaurant

Even handicap parkers must be eating in the restaurant

 

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

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

Green colored borders ignored by parkers

Green colored borders ignored by parkers

Other Parking Spaces at Station Are Well Organized

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

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

Pizza Works Parking Rules Widely Ignored

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

Unauthorized parkers in Pizza Works spots

Unauthorized parkers in Pizza Works spots

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

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

Remembering for the Days When He Could Tow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railroad Parking Area sign

Railroad Parking Area sign

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

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

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

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

The Lot Where They Charge a Parking Fee  

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

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

Collection envelopes can pile up under windshields

Collection envelopes can pile up under windshields

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

Empty parking spaces at the pay for parking area

Empty parking spaces at the pay for parking area

The Collection Method of Paying for Parking

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

Parking Attendant Lobo puts in place a collection envelope

Parking Attendant Lobo puts in place a collection envelope

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

The formal printed instructions on these envelopes read as follows:

$5.00 Daily Parking fee     

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

Plate Number _______________________________________________

Date _______________________________________________________

 

Enforcement Signs Threaten a $150 Fine

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Statement by Owner of Saybrook Realty Partners

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

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

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

The rear of the lots, where AMTRAK parking is located

The rear of the lots, where AMTRAK parking is located

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

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

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

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

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

The Present Parking Spaces at the Old Saybrook Station

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

Cars parked beside the cemetery on North Main Street

Cars parked beside the cemetery on North Main Street

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

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

Colorful sign for Shore Line East Commuter Parking

Colorful sign for Shore Line East Commuter Parking

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

AMTRAK Passenger Parking

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

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

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

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

One Hour Parking Spaces at the Station

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

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

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

Essex Town Auditorium Update – Re-opening Feb. 27

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

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

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

Read related article by Charles Stannard

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

The impressive portico at the entrance of Essex Meadows

The impressive portico at the entrance of Essex Meadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4) Anything else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is the ownership structure of the Meadows?

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

9) Who is the Executive Director of the Meadows?

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

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

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

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

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

11) Is there another ownership alternative for residents?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

A Portfolio of the Beauty of the Recent Snow Storm

A snow covered tree top surveys the scene

A snow covered tree top surveys the scene

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

Whereas below every element is covered with snow

Whereas below every element is covered with snow

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

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

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

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

The sun illuminates the snowy scene

The sun illuminates the snowy scene

The deer look at us as we look at them

The deer look at us as we look at them

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shrink wrapped boat in winter with water slips behind them

Shrink wrapped boat in winter with water slips behind them

The Process for Putting Shrink Wrap on a Boat

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

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

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

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

Heating the Shrink Wrap with the Flaming Tool

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Boat Work Goes on Even under the Shrink Wrap

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

Keith Hultmark, Marina Manager at Island Cove Marina

Keith Hultmark, Marina Manager at Island Cove Marina

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

The Short Boating Season

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

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

Typical Annual Expense for a Boat at a Local Marina

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

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

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

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

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

 

Big New York City Developer Humbled by Small Borough of Fenwick Historic Commission

Developer Frank Sciame, the loser in a dispute with the Borough of Fenwick Historic Commission

Developer Frank Sciame loses dispute with the Borough of Fenwick Historic Commission

A major New York City developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr., whose many successful projects include a much praised renovation of the Morgan Library in Manhattan, has been defeated by the very small, Borough of Fenwick Historic Commission, thanks to the rulings of two recent, state court decisions.

The first loss for the New York developer was before Connecticut’s Superior Court earlier last year, and his second defeat was his more recent loss on January 7 before the state’s Appellate Court. In both cases the issue was whether the Fenwick Historic Commission had the power to order the developer to lower the height of two entry posts on his property in Fenwick, from a height of five feet to four feet.

Growth Around the Posts Pretty Much Obscures Their Height

In fairness to the developer, during the summer months the grasses around the two entrance posts grow to the point where they pretty much obscure their height. Nevertheless, the Fenwick Commission stuck to its guns in ordering the developer to lower the height of both his posts by a single foot.

As for the developer, he was equally determined to keep both posts at their present height, until he was ordered by two state courts to obey the directions of the Borough of Fenwick Historical Commission.  Accepting defeat, the developer chose not to try to take an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which more than likely  would have declined to even to hear his case.

When the second case against Sciame came down, wide media coverage ensued.  What added interest to the story was that Sciame’s waterfront property in Fenwick was once owned by the famed film actress, Katherine Hepburn.  Sciame, in fact, purchased the shore-front property from the Hepburn estate, and he has spent millions to renovate it, so as to put it up for sale.

Former Katherine Hepburn estate now owned by developer Frank Sciame

Former Katherine Hepburn estate now owned by developer Frank Sciame

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal Cover the Story

Because of the Hepburn connection both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal carried extensive articles about the ordered shortening of the two entrance posts by a single foot in Fenwick. The New York Times article by Elizabeth A. Harris was headlined, “Where Hepburn Lived, Last Act in Legal Drama Over Posts’ Heights.” The Wall Street Journal article, written by the Associated Press, was headlined, “Owner of Hepburn Estate Loses Appeal on Post Size.”

The former Hepburn property, now owned by Sciame, is located at 10 Mohegan Avenue in the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook. Of particular importance in its opinion the Appellate Court noted that “The property lies in the Fenwick Historic District, which is subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.”

In short, the court is reaffirming that Sciame’s property is both located within the boundaries of Fenwick Historic District, and that Fenwick Commission has the power to decide the present case.

Sciame’s Losing Arguments before the Appellate Court

In vain Sciame argued before the Appellate Court that the Fenwick Historic Commission lacked the statutory power to order the one foot lowering of the height of his two gate posts.  The Appellate Court also rejected Sciame’s claim that by ordering the shortening of the two entry posts by a single foot, he was entitled to damages from the Fenwick Commission for the “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Even though Sciame gives the impression that he is a typical, “tough as nails” New York developer, he argued before the Appellate Court that by ordering the shortening of his two gate posts, the Fenwick Historic Commission had hurt his feelings by engaging in “harassment and demands” against him, and that it “continued to harass and annoy“ him.

One of Sciame two gate posts crudely shortened to a height of four feet

One of Sciame two gate posts crudely shortened to a height of four feet

Left unmentioned by Sciame in his argument before the Appellate Court was the fact at that one point in the controversy, he tried to claim that he had shortened the posts by means of building up, by a single foot, the bases surrounding the posts. With these two, foot high bases in place, Sciame then claimed that the posts were in fact four feet in height.

However, when this strained interpretation was rejected, the developer simply chopped off the tops of the two posts by one foot each. However, even in his belated compliance with the Historic Commission’s order, the developer persisted with his lawsuit, until he was defeated in the ruling of the Appellate Court.

Sciame to Develop Major Residential Project in Essex

Even with the chapter now closed on Sciame’s dispute with the Fenwick Historic Commission in Old Saybrook, the developer is continuing to play a major role in the development of local shoreline properties. In fact, in Essex he was recently designated by the Essex Planning Commission to develop a major residential property at Foxboro Point.

Essex Foxboro Point site to be developed by Sciame

Essex Foxboro Point site to be developed by Sciame

At one point in this proceeding the Essex Planning Commission took under consideration a proposal that the developer create a “public access” pathway across the development property running from Foxboro Road down to the waters of North Cove.

However, after a questionable “closed” meeting, to which the general public was excluded, the Essex Planning Commission rejected this “public access” proposal, and adopted instead a plan that permitted only a “visual access” to the North Cove waters below. This, obviously, was a very different proposition from creating a “public access” pathway across the development property leading to these waters.

Also, in making its decision the Essex Planning Commission chose not to follow the example of the Fenwick Historic Commission of standing up to developer Frank Sciame, who has shown that he is prepared to spend his money on extensive court appeals.

Bennie’s New Owners to Expand Services at Popular Farm Market in Centerbrook

Bennie's famous front awning will not change

Bennie’s famous front awning will not change

Although the popular Bennie’s Farm Market will remain, essentially, the same under its new ownership, some major changes are on the way. Located at 5 Main Street in the Centerbrook section of Essex, the new owners of Bennie’s are members of the Patel family, who were originally from India.

According to Sky Patel, the family member now in overall charge of Bennie’s, going forward Bennie’s will put an even greater emphasis on offering, top of the line, prime meats. “We do exceptionally well with our prime roast beef,” Patel noted in a recent interview.

Sky Patel, the family member in overall charge of the new Bennie's

Sky Patel, the family member in overall charge of the new Bennie’s

Also, under Sky Patel’s direction the new Bennie’s will add a new home delivery services for area residents. Patel recognizes that during the winter months some of Bennie’s patrons, particularly seniors, have difficulty coming to the market. “So we’ll go to them, “is the way he puts it.

[The number to call for Bennie’s home delivery service is 860-767-8448.]

Also, under Bennie’s new management there will be a new emphasis in offering a wide range of catering services. Patel says that Bennie’s will now offer catering services for all occasions, such as weddings, corporate events and extended family get to gathers.

In addition to the market’s new catering services, Bennie’s will offer in its sales repertoire Italian gourmet food and Pasta Vista selections.

If anything, Bennie's will have a brighter look under the Patel family

If anything, Bennie’s will have a brighter look under the Patel family

Former Owner Operated Bennie’s for 33 Years

The previous owner of Bennie’s, David Costa, operated Bennie’s Farm Market for over 33 years. The name “Bennie’s,” incidentally, comes from the first name of David’s father, who himself owned the market before his son.

David Costa then sold the market to the Patel family late, last November, and according to Sky Patel, the new owners have promised to retain all of the present senior staff at the market.

For example, Bennie’s Deli Manager Karl Kulisch, who himself has worked at Bennie’s for 13 years, will continue working behind the counter under the new management. As for the reasons for selling Bennie’s, according to Kulisch, “David wanted to retire, and he got a good offer. So he accepted it.”

Bennie's Deli Manager Karl Kukusch, a 13 year store veteran

Bennie’s Deli Manager Karl Kulisch, a 13 year store veteran

New Owners Have Wide Experience in Running Food Markets

The new owners of Bennie’s are by no means strangers to operating retail food stores in Connecticut. In addition to their recent acquisition of Benny’s Farm Market, the Patel family owns the popular Bliss Market in Wethersfield, as well as a Krauszer’s Deli in East Hartford and the Dairy Farm in Glastonbury.

Family member Avani Patel has joined the Bennie's staff

Family member Avani Patel has joined the Bennie’s staff

At the family’s “upscale” Bliss Market in Wethersfield, home delivery of food items has been a great success, according to Patel. He anticipates that such services will be a success as well at Bennie’s.

As time goes by, Patel says that he intends to give Bennie’s an evolving new look. Also, there will be an increase in Sunday hours, from the present 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., to 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday thru Saturday hours will remain the same, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

As for its operation of Bennie’s Farm Market, so far, according to chief owner, Sky Patel, “Customers have been really nice.” Also, he personally reaffirms, “The present staff is really good, and all of the senior staff is staying.”

Summing up his experience in Essex so far, Patel says with a smile, “Essex is a really great town.”

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

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

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

Cabo Tequila Grill

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

The eye catching sign of the Cabo restaurant on Water Street

The eye catching sign of the Cabo restaurant on Water Street

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

Cabo Manager Karen Williams and daughter Karen

Cabo Manager Karen Williams and daughter Morgan

Price-Saving Specials at Cabo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant L & E

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

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

Exterior of L & E restaurant on Main Street

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

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

The French Food at L & E

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

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

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

A New Second Floor Restaurant

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

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

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

Background of the Head Chef at L & E

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

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

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

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

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

The Wheatmarket

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

Exterior of the popular Wheatmarket down on Water Street

Exterior of the popular Wheatmarket down on Water Street

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

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

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

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

The Emphasis Is on Lunch Not Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

Selling Sandwiches Is Only Half the Story

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

Inside the busy, busy Wheatmarket, stacked for the season

Inside the busy, busy Wheatmarket, stacked for the season

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

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

Chef Daniel and Joan Welch, owners of the Wheatmarket

Chef Daniel and Joan Welch, owners of the Wheatmarket

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

Pattaconk River Flooding Could Be a Threat          

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

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

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

Six Main Restaurant

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

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

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

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

Cases of bullets for guns on sale at Walmart

Cases of bullets for guns on sale at Walmart

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

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

BB guns for sale at Walmart

BB guns for sale at Walmart

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

Gun practice targets also on sale

Gun practice targets also on sale

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

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

The Villager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Simon’s Marketplace

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

Simon's Markeplace at center stage on Main Street

Simon’s Marketplace at center stage on Main Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

River Tavern

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

River Tavern, Chester's classic, superb food restaurant

River Tavern, Chester’s classic, superb food restaurant

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

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

River Tavern's Chefs, Chris Flahaven and Stefan Burcyuski

River Tavern’s Chefs, Chris Flahaven and Stefan Burcyuski

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

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

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

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

Another sample menu on the web site lists includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pattaconk 1850

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

Pattaconk 1850, awaits the night

Pattaconk 1850, awaits the night

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

At the bar of Pattaconk 1850

At the bar of Pattaconk 1850

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darker lines show new small viewing pocket agreed by the Commission

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

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

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

Final Approval of Compromise Plan at December Meeting

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

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

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

Secret Commission Discussions of Compromise Plan

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

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

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

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

“Executive Sessions” May Violate State Open Meetings Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Elements of the Compromise Plan

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

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

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

Foxboro windmill can be viewed from proposed pocket park

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

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

Future Looks Bright for Compromise Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Main Restaurant Just Opened Last June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many Ingredients from a Farm in Old Lyme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        To the Rescue, “Friends of Sunset Pond”

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

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

Sunset Pond spokesperson Jim Godsman outlines the Sunset Pond renewal plans

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

The First Phase of the Clean Up of Sunset Pond

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

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

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

The Second Phase of the Pond’s Renewal and Renovation

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

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

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

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

A Late Arriving Crane Slowed the Effort    

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

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

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

Winter Activities to Continue During the Pond’s Renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats Came Late to the Lawns of Essex

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foul Play in Lawn Sign War Alleged by Essex Resident

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

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

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

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

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

Club dinghies on porch of clubhouse

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

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

Fall Foliage in Centerbrook

Enjoy pictures of the fall foliage in Centerbrook, taken by Jerome Wilson:

Along the still waters of the Falls River

 

Down the Falls River more of the same

 

Lutheran Church bathed in color

 

Middlesex Hospital Breaks Ground for New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook

“Shovelers,” left to right, Noel Bishop, First Selectman of Westbrook; Vincent G. Capece, President & CEO, Middlesex Hospital; Harry Evert, Senior Vice President, Middlesex Hospital; Christopher Seaton, Chairmain of the Board of Directors, Middlesex Health Systems; Darlene Briggs, Chairwoman, Westbrook Division, Middlesex Chamber of Commerce; and Larry McHugh, President Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop was all smiles at the October 10 official groundbreaking ceremonies of the new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, scheduled to open in Westbrook in 2014. Bishop should be pleased, because for the past 37 years Middlesex Hospital has been operating its Shoreline Medical Center in neighboring Essex, and now the clinic is moving to Westbrook.

When the Medical Center moves from Essex to Westbrook, it is uncertain as to what the Hospital will do with the Essex facility. A number of possibilities are being assessed.

Worth noting is the fact that both Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna were on hand for the ceremonies. However, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman was unable to attend the celebration.

There was Included in the tent of notables, which had been set up off the Tanger Outlets, were the President and CEO of Middlesex Hospital, the Chairman of its Board of Directors, local Chamber of Commerce executives, among other dignitaries. Also, attending were over a hundred well wishers standing under a breezy tent that protected those present on a blowy and sunny afternoon.

Past History of Middlesex Hospital’s Outreach Medical Services

At the groundbreaking a number of speakers noted that that it was over 40 years ago that Middlesex Hospital made its decision to expand its emergency medical services out into the shoreline communities. In fact, the first “out placing” of emergency medical services by Middlesex Hospital took place in a single small building located along Main Street in Centerbrook.

This facility was a great success, and it demonstrated that there truly was a need for an outreach of emergency medical services along the shoreline. Then, in 1975 the hospital moved its Shoreline Medical Center from Centerbrook to a piece of privately donated land on Westbrook Road in Essex.

The Essex shoreline clinic to be phased out in 2014

Providing emergency medical services will continue to be offered at this Essex location up until the new Medical Center opens. Then, after that all emergency medical services will be provided at the new facility in Westbrook.  The exact of address of the new facility will be will be 250 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook.

A Brand New Chapter for Emergency Medical Care

As the hospital’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Christopher Seaton, put it, “Times have changed.” Or, as the hospital’s President & CEO Vincent G. Capece said, “This is a brand new chapter for high quality, emergency medical care.”

Also, cited by the parade of speakers was the fact that the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook would be 44,000 square feet in size, which is twice the size of the present facility in Essex. Others noted that there will be plenty of parking at the new emergency facility, as well as, perhaps the most obvious advantage of all; the clinic’s location will be very close to Exit 65 on I-95, a heavily traveled Interstate.

87,000 Visits Annually at Essex Clinic

To illustrate the enormous success of the concept of off-site emergency medical care, the Essex facility is now seeing 87,000 patient visits annually. One speaker termed the off-site formula of medical care as, “a humanistic approach to medicine.”

It also appears to be a very profitable approach, one where you can not only double the size of your present facility, but leave enough room on the land to treble the size, if necessary.

While the Speakers Spoke, the Nearby Bulldozers Roared

During the remarks in the tent on the grounds of the Tanger Outlets, just down the road on the right hand side, going towards I-95, there was a huge amount of earth moving going on. Across an expanse of land that was until a week or so ago a heavily forested area, the ground was now being leveled to make way for the new emergency clinic.

The site being cleared for a 44,000 square foot shoreline clinic building in Westbrook

Large boulders, which were just a few days ago were underground, were now stacked up in one gigantic mound. Everything was being done to level a shelf of land for the building that will house Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center.

Giant earth mover that is being used at site of new Shoreline Clinic

Factually speaking, it was here at the construction site, where the first, true groundbreaking took place, perhaps a week or so ago.  Furthermore, the dress of those who participated in this first “groundbreaking” wore work clothes and not business suits, although perhaps a suit or two came by for a brief look.

Still, the vision, and the willingness to take large risks to adopt a new and growing approach to providing medical care, belonged to those who wore the suits and spoke at the ceremonies under the tent up the road from the construction site.

Nine Features for the New Clinic’s Success

As for the nine primary features of this new facility, they were listed on one of the tent walls as follows: 1) Improved location; 2) Double the size of our current facility; 3) Expanded emergency center; 4) Improve patient privacy: 5) Separate entrance to outpatient center; 6) Lab services; 7) Infusion therapy; 8) Expanded radiology services; and 9) Designated Women’s imaging area.

Of this list perhaps the first, “Improved location,” is the most important. The new Westbrook location, although certainly not as desirable for Essex residents, for other shoreline residents, the new location on I-95 will be far more convenient and accessible.
Residents of Old Lyme and Lyme, and even Niantic , now have simply to get on I-95 for quick access to the facility. Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Clinton residents will also have easier access to a facility on I-95. Also, residents in the towns along Route 9, which merges seamlessly into I-95, will also have greater ease of access.

In a way the new location is a “win, win” for almost everyone. The hospital can address increased patient volumes and patients get more accessible medical care in an expanded and more modern facility.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook

Little Fenwick’s Historic Commission Orders Big Time Developer to Lower Posts

This story involves a dispute between the Borough of Fenwick Historic Distrcit Commission and a very large, New York City developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr. In the end the Historic Commission won the case, and developer Sciame lost.

In the Fenwick Historic Commission’s review of Sciame’s massive reconstruction of Katherine Hepburn’s former estate, the Historic Commission had one quibble. That was that the two, new granite posts at the entrance to the estate, were simply too high.

Former Katherine Hepburn estate now owned by Frank Sciame

Therefore, the Historic Commission ordered the developer to lower the height of both of the two posts from their  height of 60 inches to a lower height of 48 inches.  Sciame duly responded to the Commission’s request — but not exactly in the way that the Commission intended.

How Not to Measure the True Height of Posts

Rather than simply slicing 12 inches off the tops of both posts, Sciame built around the base of the posts, two flower beds, each of which were 12 inches high. Sciame then advised the Historic Commission that he had complied with its order, because if you measured the posts from the top of the flower beds to the top of the posts, the height of both posts was 48 inches.

Furthermore, Sciame told the Historic Commission, if it did not like this way of doing things, it should take him to court. The Fenwick Historic Commission did just that, and the result was a ruling by State Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg that was a “win, win” for the Fenwick Historic Commission.

The Judge in his opinion held, “[T]he most reasonable interpretation of the [Fenwick Historic Commission’s] order [to lower the height of the posts] is that the pillars must be reduced in height such that from the roadbed or whatever location that they are anchored into the ground, the height of the top of the pillar is forty eight inches.” In short, Sciame’s attempt to measure the height of the posts from the top of the flower beds was rejected by the court.

No Fines Imposed Because of Developer’s “Good Faith”

Nevertheless, the Court held at the end of its seven page decision, that, “Because of the good faith dispute over the appropriate interpretation of the [Fenwick Historic Commission’s] order, the court declines to impose fines for non-compliance with the [Fenwick Historic Commission’s] order.”

The Court also ordered compliance with its order, “within 45 days of this judgment.” Since the court’s decision was rendered on August 2, “within 45 days” would mean that the posts should have been shortened by September 16.

Although the developer may have missed the court’s deadline by several days, an inspection on October 6 revealed that both of the posts at the entrance to the estate have been neatly sliced off from the top, and the height of both posts are now 48 inches, from the ground up.

Both gate posts now shortened to 48 inches high

Five Foxboro Neighbors Appeal Essex Planning Commission’s “Public Access” Ruling

Five Foxboro neighbors have joined the cause of developer Frank J. Sciame, Jr. by filing their own Complaint and Appeal in Superior Court against the Essex Planning Commission’s approval of a “public access” corridor across Sciame’s development on Foxboro Road.  Sciame’s development is located on eleven plus acres that run along Foxboro Road and River Street overlooking the North Cove in Essex.

The protesting neighbors in this court action are Thomas D. Cunningham, III, Pamela H. Jones, Kathleen A. Maher, John N. Bauman and Jennifer W. Hunt. Their suit states that they all “are owners of real property which is located within 100 feet” of Sciame’s development.

The Foxboro property owners say in their suit that they are “aggrieved by the decision of the Essex Commission” to require a “public access” corridor to run across Sciame’s development. Their Complaint and Appeals track closely an earlier legal protest by Sciame, himself, in Superior Court.

Sciame filed his lawsuit on September 19, and the neighbors filed theirs two days later.  Both lawsuits are still pending before the court. The legal papers of the neighbors’ lawsuit were prepared by Attorney John S. Bennet, Esq.

The Measurements of the “Public Access” Corridor

The “public access” corridor approved by the Essex Planning Commission, and challenged by both appeals would run from Foxboro Road down to the waters of the North Cove. At Foxboro Road, the width of the corridor would be 150 feet. Then about half way down, the corridor would narrows to 75 feet until it reaches North Cove.

Map of the “public access” corridor outline in red on the Foxboro site plan

In its approval of the “public access” corridor across Sciame’s development, the Essex Planning Commission placed strict limits on the site’s use by the general public.  Specifically, the Commission required that there could be no “buildings, structures or other improvements on the property other than a bench or benches to allow visitors to view North Cove.” In addition, the Commission decreed that the use of the corridor could be limited to daylight hours.

The Arguments of the Neighbors’ Complaint

In their lawsuit the neighbors of the Foxboro Point development claim that the Essex Planning Commission’s order requiring a “public access” corridor across Sciame’s development “was arbitrary, illegal and an abuse of discretion.”

Furthermore, they specify nine reasons, most likely drafted by Attorney Benet, as to why the Superior Court should overrule the Essex Planning Commission decision on “public access.” The neighbors charge, referring specifically, to the Commission:

1. It has purported to require public access over private land, all beyond statutory authority of the Commission.

2. It has purported to take for public use an extremely valuable portion of the private Property which taking is beyond statutory authority.

(There is no number 3 listed in a lapse of draftsmanship.)

4. It has engaged in an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation and inverse taking of the property of the Plaintiffs. (Presumably, this “inverse taking” refers to the lowering of the real estate values of the neighbors’ properties.)

5. It is creating a sixty thousand square foot lot (in a town) zone which is nonconforming in several ways, contrary to the Essex Zoning regulations.

6. That the members of the Commission had predetermined this application, and were biased as to their consideration of the application. (This bias by Commission members was also charged in Sciame’s lawsuit.)

7. It has acted in violation of pursuant to (a provision of state law) by issuing its approval of the filed application as it failed to act within 65 days of the close of the public hearing as required by (state law.)

8. By requiring that Sciame deed the open space instead of restricting it by easement as allowed (in a section of town) regulations.

9. By requiring that the applicant provide over 31% of the property [to open space] when its regulations only call for 20%.

10. By deliberating and discussing the motion to approve in Executive Session, it  deprived the public the opportunity to listen to it reasoning, and there is no record of its reasons for the court to review and contrary to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

The neighbors final charge regarding the Commission’s decision to go into a closed, Executive Session, when it discussed the merits of the application, could well be one of the arguments that could persuade the Superior Court to invalidate the Commission’s mandate for “public access” on the development site.

Many Other “Public Access” Sites Exist in Essex

The neighbors’ Complaint and Appeal also argues that there is already, “a 7.8 acre park located directly across from the [development] Property which has both public parking and access to the Falls River and the Connecticut River. This parcel is 70% of the size of the Property, and provides complete and adequate recreational and access facilities.”

However, Osage Trails, which is the town park referred to, does require a long walk before a visitor can reach the waters of the cove. Also, the view from the Osage Trails lacks the sweeping view of North Cove that would exist from the Commission’s “public access” corridor of the development.

Also, the neighbors’ argue in their lawsuit that, “Additionally, there are 12 Public access ways to the coves and rivers in Essex including four between the  Property and Main Street Essex, which is approximately one mile south of the Property.” Basically, the neighbors charge that the Town of Essex already has enough “public access” open spaces in town, and does not need another.

The Fully Equipped “Public Access” Site off Teal Lane

One of these existing “public access” sites is located just off Teal Lane in Essex. This truly excellent “public access” open space has a boat launch, boat racks and an elevated wooden sitting and viewing area. Also, there is plenty of room for parking, and there is a latrine on the site.

A premier “public access” site in on North Cove in Essex

However, even this fully equipped, “public access” site does not offer  the sweeping views of North Cove, the Great Meadow and the Connecticut River that a “public access” corridor on the Sciame development would offer.

In the Commission’s approval hearings Sciame went so far as to offer a visual “public access” easement from Foxboro Road to the North Cove below and beyond. In short, the waters could be seen but not walked to. However, this alternative was rejected by the Commission.

Still, indisputably, the Commission’s “public access” corridor at Foxboro Point, would uniquely offer a visitor the joy being able to walk down and back to the waters North Cove. However, as is evident by this lawsuit, the neighbors would not like it.

Middlesex Hospital to Hold a Ground Breaking of Its New Westbrook Facility that Will Replace the Shoreline Clinic in Essex

Artist’s rendering of the proposed new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook

Moving rapidly, with its plan to replace its present Shoreline Clinic on Route 153 in Essex with a new facility in Westbrook, Middlesex Hospital will hold a Groundbreaking Ceremony at the Tanger Outlets in Westbrook on Wednesday. October 10 at 4:30 pm for invited guests.  The Tanger Outlets is located at 314 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook.  The new Westbrook facility of Middlesex Hospital will be located just down the road from the Tanger Outlets, which is just off Exit 65 on I-95.

The Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center has been in existence in its current location since 1975, and was the first, freestanding emergency department in the country.

Middlesex Hospital chose to build a new Shoreline Medical Center because the current facility’s size and land is being used to maximum capacity. There is no available space to add needed services, and existing services are being squeezed because treatment areas cannot accommodate all the technology that medicine today demands.  Also, the existing location cannot house an additional structure to “right size” the facility and allow for future expansion.

The new location in Westbrook will address all of these factors, as well as providing convenient access to emergency and diagnostic care for the tens of thousands of patients that use the Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center every year.

Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop said, “Westbrook is extremely excited that the new clinic will be located here in Westbrook. It is a fantastic opportunity for our town.” Bishop also noted that the Exit 65 location of the new clinic was just across the highway from the State Police station, and that the new medical center, “will be a great service to our [shoreline] communities.”

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said, “The Shoreline Clinic has been a wonderful and positive part of our Essex community for many years, and we are sad to see them move. However, it is our hope that Middlesex Hospital will continue to provide some medical services from their present building here in Essex.”

Foxboro Point Developer Appeals Essex Planning Commission Decision Requiring a “Public Access” Walkway Across His Luxury Development

Frank J. Sciame, Jr., opposed to “public access”

A prominent New York City developer filed an appeal on September 19 in State Superior Court in Middletown challenging a recent decision by the Essex Planning Commission that mandated a “public access” walkway across his proposed luxury development at Foxboro Point in Essex.

Frank J. Sciame, Jr., the developer, who is a Connecticut resident, charged in his Complaint that the Planning Commission’s requirement that he grant a “public access” walkway across his development property was “arbitrary, illegal and an abuse of discretion.” The “public access” walkway in dispute would go from Foxboro Road down to the waters of North Cove between the two easternmost lots of the seven lot development.

Most importantly, Sciame’s eleven acre-plus development along Foxboro Road and River Street, would spread across one of the last remaining open spaces along the Essex shoreline. Also, the development would include the historic Croft estate as one of the development lots.

The Croft mansion, one of the lots on the development site

Sciame plans to acquire the land on which Foxboro Point’s iconic windmill is located, but the windmill is not part of his development plan.

Sciame Offered a “View Easement” to Look Down at the Windmill

At one point during the extensive Planning Commission’s proceedings, the developer offered to incorporate a “view easement” over his property. This would have enabled visitors walking or biking along Foxboro Road to look down from the road and see both the windmill and the waters of North Cove below.

The iconic windmill at Foxboro Point

However, creating a “view easement” is a very different proposition from creating a “public access” pathway that would permit visitors at the site to walk down from the road to the North Cove shore, and back again.

Developer Alleges Financial Loss from “Public Access”

In his court papers Sciame lists a whole litany of objections to the ordered “public access” pathway across his property. Most of them concern the financial loss that he would suffer, if he was required to incorporate a “public access” corridor slicing through his development.

In fact, Sciame’s very first argument in his Complaint is that the Essex Planning Commission “has engaged in an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation.” In addition, Sciame complains that requiring a pedestrian walkway across his development would entail taking from him, “an extremely valuable portion of the subject property.”

A typical shoreline public access sign in Essex

He also argues that the pedestrian corridor from the road down to the shore would lower the value of “the remaining lots” of his development. He objects as well that, “By requiring public access over lot 6, the Commission has isolated Lot 7 from the rest of the subdivision.”

Other Objections to the Commission’s Decision                    

In another challenge to the Commission’s ruling the developer charges that the Commission failed to vote on his application, “within 65 days of the closing of the public hearing,” as is required by Essex’s subdivision regulations. In fact, the Commission did take 70 days to render its decision, missing the mandatory deadline by five days.

Another charge by Sciame against the Commission was, “That the members of the Commission had predetermined, and/or were biased to modifying the application.” However, there was no elaboration of this charge against a group of Essex residents, who unless proved otherwise were simply exercising their civic duty by serving voluntarily on the town’s Planning Commission.

Perhaps the Most Serious Objection to the Commission Decision

The developer also charges in his appeal to the state court that the Essex Planning Commission, “By discussing the motion to approve in Executive Session, it deprived the public the opportunity to listen to its reasoning … .” Also, earlier in the Complaint Sciame charges that, “the Commission went into an Executive Session for approximately one and half hours” … where, “Apparently they also discussed … their decision on the application.”

The reason for the legal strength of this objection is that public bodies, such the Essex Planning Commission, in most cases are required to make their decisions in an open, public way. In fact, Connecticut’s Open Meetings Law is built on this precept.

Although there are certain instances when a public body like the Essex Planning Commission can keep the public out, and go into executive session, in this application this appears not to be the case.

In fact, a full and open discussion by the Commission on a controversial doctrine like “public access” is just the kind of question that the general public should be entitled to hear. In response to this argument in Sciame’s Complaint, the Superior Court might even decide to throw out the Commission’s entire decision, because the most crucial part of it was arrived at in a manner that violated state law.

The Complaint Is an Informative Summary of the Case    

Sciame’s Complaint is an eminently readable summary the developer’s argument against the actions of the Essex Planning Commission. The legal counsel who drafted the Complaint is Attorney Terrance D. Lomme, Esq., an Essex resident. In this proceeding Lomme was acting in his capacity as a private attorney. Lomme is also a sitting state Judge of Probate with offices in Old Saybrook.

Among the items noted in the Complaint is that there were no less than four public hearings by the Planning Commission on the developer’s application, as well as two site walks. Public hearings were held on March 8, April 17, May 10 and June 14, and the two site walks on March 3 and April 20, according to the Complaint.

Also, the Complaint notes that, “the issue of open space was the main focus of each hearing.” Noted as well is that at one point in the Commission’s hearings the developer considered allowing “public access” on the development site. However, “Mr. Sciame, based on his conversations with the neighbors stated that he was not in favor of allowing public access.”

The Question of Mandating “Public Access”

Discussed at length in the Complaint was whether a town regulatory body, such as the Essex Planning Commission, could legally mandate “public access” on a private owner’s property. Both Attorney Lomme, and another private attorney who was also representing an interested party in the Foxboro Point application, agreed that, “Neither the town nor the state could take an open space area for public access without compensating for it.”

In the Complaint the Essex Planning Commission’s attorney, David M. Royston, Esq., is quoted as saying as regards public access, “In summary, given the lack of case law on the point or even addressing the issue of public access to open space, it would be speculative to attempt to predict the prospect of the ultimate success if litigation were to occur.”

In short, imposing “public access” on privately owned developments is still an open question.

The Specifics of the Commission’s “Public Access” Directive

In this case the Essex Planning Commission approved a 150 foot easement along the North Cove boundary of the property, as well as a public access/open space, easement pathway running from Foxboro Point Road down to North Cove. As for the specifics of the pathway, it would begin at the road with a width of 75 feet running down for 200 feet. Then, it would narrow to a width to 25 feet and would continue downward for 260 feet, until it reached the shore of North Cove.

Specific restrictions on this easement were noted in the Complaint, which provided that there could be, “no buildings, structures, or other improvements on the property other than a bench or benches to allow visitors to view North Cove.” Also, “public access” to the pathway may be restricted “to daylight hours.”

Few Visitors Expected on Public Access” Pathway

There is a general consensus, that even if the Commission’s plan is ultimately put into effect, that there would be very few visitors trekking up and down the “public access” pathway. However, it cannot be gainsaid that even if there were only a few visitors using the pathway, the fact of its very existence could lower the value of the neighboring luxury housing lots.

This is, most likely, the main reason that developer Sciame is going to the expense of bringing his lawsuit.

Sciame Lost a Recent Case in Superior Court

Finally, it is of interest to note that in a case not related in any way to this appeal, that Sciame last August lost a lawsuit in State Superior Court because of his installation of two, “too large” entrance posts in front of the house that he purchased from the estate of Katherine Hepburn in Fenwick.

Aerial view of the property Sciame bought from Katherin Hepburn’s estate

The judge in this case, in ruling against Sciame, wrote, “Apparently in certain neighborhoods, as in life, size does matter.” The judge then went on to enter an order that Sciame should shrink the size of his entrance posts, so that they were the proper size under local zoning regulations, and that he should do so within 45 days of the judgment.

Ingham Hill Road Residents Seek to Protect Their “Dead End Paradise”

The Essex Planning Commission considering Ingham Hill Road application

A group of Ingham Hill Road residents testified at an Essex Planning Commission hearing on September 13 that they absolutely, positively, did not want the commission to approve a new housing development on the dead end road on which they live. They are perfectly happy with things just as they are, thank you.

Even though there is relatively little traffic on the dead end spur that is Ingham Hill Road, the Town of Essex faithfully maintains it, just as if were a two lane though fare. The road is plowed in the winter when it snows, and fully maintained year round. In fact, not too long ago the town straightened some curves in the road.

Then, along comes a developer who wants to build six new home sites on 36 acres on land that it owns, down near the end of the road. Even though Ingham Hill Road would stay a dead end, after the new development was build, the residents are still dead set against it. They simply don’t want it.

By way of background, Ingham Hill Road runs from Plains Road in Essex down to the boundary line of Essex and Old Saybrook. Vehicular traffic is permitted on the Essex section of the road; however, it is blocked by a fence and a stop sign when the road reaches Old Saybrook, although hikers are permitted to walk down the trail into Old Saybrook.

The stop sign and barrier that mark the Essex/Old Saybrook boundary

Lawyers and Consultants Hired to Halt the Project

To express their opposition, a group of Ingham Hill Road residents hired lawyers and environmental consultants to argue against the new project at earlier public hearings. At these proceedings these experts made much of the fact that in its present undeveloped state, the development property possesses a wealth of landmark trees, some over a hundred years old, as well as a plethora of spotted turtles, wood frogs and song birds on the site.

Also, the site possesses an undisturbed forest canopy, as well as a couple of iconic vernal pools, whose purity, the experts argued, would be compromised by the development of the site.

A vernal pool on the wooded, 36 acre development site

In sum, the present residents of Ingham Hill Road have gone to considerable expense to prevent having any new neighbors moving in along their precious road. They want to keep everything just as it is, as a paradise along the dead end road on which they live.

Commission Chairman Opens Hearing to Public Comment

Unlike the earlier hearings, when only the experts were heard, Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw opened the September hearing to comments on the proposed development by private individuals.

First to speak from purely a personal perspective was Judith Bombaci of Essex, who is a resident of Ingham Hill Road. In her testimony she read word-for-word a number of impassioned personal letters from Ingham Hill Road residents, who were unanimously opposed to the new development.

Ingham Hill Road resident, Judith Bombaci, who spoke in opposition to the project

At one point Ms. Bombaci got a bit mixed up during her testimony. Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw assured her not to worry, “You are doing fine.”

Ms. Bombaci testimony was followed by that of her husband, Kenneth Bombaci. In his testimony he said that his principal objection to the new project was, “the water that will be going down in my lawn and threatening the historic trees on my property.” Bombaci also said that he wholeheartedly agreed with the Essex Tree Warden, Ahgie Pampel, who said in a comment from the audience, that it was his opinion that many of the large trees on the site would die, if the development went forward.

It’s the Preserve’s Developer, Who Is Behind it All

One of the impassioned speakers against the project said at the hearing, “This is a part of the Preserve, a three town development effort.” The three towns referred to by the speaker are Essex, Westbroook and Old Saybrook, and the speaker was making the point that in the future, the developer of the Preserve, River Sound Development LLC, would not only continue its efforts to develop the 1,000 acre Preserve property in Old Saybrook, but down the line it would want to develop the smaller parcels that it owns in Essex and Westbrook.

Of course River Sound has not been very successful to date in developing its property in Old Saybrook. 13 years ago the developer put forward an elaborate proposal to develop 1,000 acres of open land that it owns in Old Saybrook. However, because of neighborhood resistance, to date not a single improvement has been built on the property.

As noted, River Sound, the Preserve’s developer, also owns property located in Essex and Westbrook, and, in fact, the Ingham Hill Road proposal in Essex could perhaps someday be characterized as the Essex portion of the Preserve.

Other Preserve Developments Should Not Relate to Essex

However, at the recent hearing, River Sound’s attorney, Brian Smith of the law firm of Robinson & Cole, said, repeatedly, that the application before Essex Planning Commission should be judged solely as an Essex project. Trying to link it to other developments of River Sound he viewed as inappropriate and beyond the scope of the hearing.

Consistent with this position, later in the hearing, when a member of the Planning Commission suggested that approval of the Essex project might be linked to the River Sound development in Old Saybrook, Attorney Smith said again that such a linkage would be totally inappropriate.  This application relates solely to the Essex project, he said, and could not be linked to any other River Sound activity.

However, the fact that the developer of the Preserve in Old Saybrook was the same as the developer of the Ingham Hill Road project kept coming up in the remarks of speaker after speaker. One said, “Opening the Ingham Hill Road to development will be a disaster waiting to happen.”  Another speaker said flatly that it was imperative “not to let the developer of the Preserve to develop Ingham Hill Road.”

Yet another speaker said that the Essex parcel was “was part of the Preserve,” which was a “three town proposition.” One person even charged that River Sound developer was engaged “in a shell game.” “The applicant is trying to get a toe hold” by developing the Ingham Hill Road property, he said; “This is the start.”

Application Also Faulted for Other Reasons

Other critics of the Ingham Hill development raised concerns that related only to the specifics of the project, and not to other activities of the developer. There were concerns raised about the adequacy of the new septic systems at the development. Also, there were concerns about protecting the vernal pools and the canopy of trees above the site.

In addition, there was a last minute submission made by a traffic consultant, that the developer’s counsel said was introduced too late in proceeding to be properly considered. However, the issue of an adverse traffic impact on a dead end street did not turn out to be a major issue at the hearing.

The hearing finally came to an end, when the developer’s Engineer, Bob Doane, who, incidentally, also serves as the Engineer of the Town of Essex, summed up the case for developing the Ingham Hill Road parcel. As for the septic systems at the site, Engineer Doane said that they were standard to developments in this area.

Engineer Bob Doane closed the case for the new development

Furthermore, he said that the location of the new houses portrayed on the site maps were not the final sites of the houses, but rather they were schematic drafts of where the houses might be placed. Doane’s remarks were a soothing presentation, articulated by a long time resident of Essex, who had been retained to be the Engineer for this particular project.

Doane was the last speaker to comment at the hearing, and after his remarks the   hearing was closed. The Essex Planning Commission now has 65 days, in effect two months, to accept, reject or approve with conditions the development.

If the commission decides to approve the project with conditions, some of these conditions the developer might not particularly like. However, it might have to accept them, if it wanted to move the project forward expeditiously.

Finally, in making their decision on the application, the commission will discuss the developer’s application extensively with its staff. However, it will not receive, or consider further comments from any of the private parties of interest, nor from the general public.

The Ivoryton Library Has Its Own Special Place in the Town of Essex

The imposing ivory tusks at the entrance of the Ivoryton Library

In many ways the Town of Essex is very fortunate to have two public libraries within its town boundaries. After all, Essex has only a population of 6,500. The two Essex-based libraries are of course: (1) the newly enlarged Essex Library, which is located across from Essex Town Hall in downtown Essex, and (2) the Ivoryton Library, which is located way out on the Main Street of Ivoryton, and which offers library services in a building that has been a library since 1889.

Elizabeth Alvord, the Librarian in charge of the Ivoryton Library, makes the point that the two Essex libraries are “very different places.” The Essex Library she views as a “more traditional” library, one that is conducive to studying on the library’s premises.

Head Librarian Elizabeth Alvord assists Ivoryton resident Carol Phillips in selecting a book

As for the Ivoryton Library she believes, ““We are more informal than the Essex Library. You can even come in here, just to shoot the breeze.” Also, Alvord says, “We are open to finding just what patrons are looking for, because we can take more time with patrons at our library.”

She also maintains, “The Ivoryton Library speaks to the residents of Ivoryton. We are truly a neighborhood library.” She continues, “A lot of young families use the library, as do lots of retirees.” Also, she says that many local children come to the library either on their bikes, or in their strollers. Sometimes whole families just come in to sit in the library, “which is perfectly fine with us,” she says.

A Look at the Inside the Ivoryton Library

As you come into the main room of the library, there is a display of the “Staff Picks” of the best books to read. “It is tough to keep the books there,” Alvord says, because the staff’s picks are so popular with the library’s patrons.

The main room of the library houses the collection of adult fiction and non-fiction books. To the left facing the main desk is in a separate room for the Young Adult books, and to the right is the Local History room, which contains materials on the Village of Ivoryton’s role in the making of pianos.

The Ivoryton Library also prides itself as having a very big selection of “take home” movies on DVD’s for both for adults and children. Also, it has many of the “best sellers” on hand.

The Ivoryton Library is a part of the Connecticut card system. This means that the library can borrow materials of all of the other public libraries in the state.   

Special Programs at the Ivoryton Library

The library offers a plethora of programs for its patrons. There are language courses in French and Spanish from Tuesdays through Thursdays. Also, the library’s Watercolor artists meet to paint on Wednesdays from 10am to noon.

More ominously, the library’s “Tea and Murder Club” meets every third Friday of the month, and the club has been doing so for the past five years. In addition, there is a Mah-jongg group that meets every Thursday at 6pm.

Incidentally, all of these programs are open to new members.                      

The Ivoryton Library also attracts many users, who come in after work to use the library. Since many of these patrons do not get off from work until five o’clock, Alvord recently extended the library’s hours from five to six on Fridays. The library was already open on Tuesdays and Thursdays until six, and on Wednesdays the library has been open until eight.

Also, the Ivoryton Library is open from one to four on Sundays, whereas the neighboring libraries in Essex, Deep River and Chester are not. The Ivoryton Library is closed Mondays.

The full schedule of when the library is open is as follows: Sunday 1-4; Monday closed; Tuesday 10-6; Wednesday 10-8, Thursday 10-6, Friday 2-6, Saturday 9-12.

Downstairs in the Children’s Section

It takes some careful maneuvering to go down the steep and narrow stairs that lead to the Children’s Section, which is located below the main floor of the library. However, the children’s section can also be reached by a ground floor entrance at the back of the library building.

Children’s Librarian Elizabeth Barlett checking out books in the downstairs Children’s Room

The Ivoryton Library at one point considered putting in an elevator from the main floor down to the Children’s Section on the floor below. However, the cost of $15,000, or more, to install such an elevator was considered prohibitive.

The Children’s Section is open during the regular library hours, and it is where children can pick out just the right book to take home and read. Also, there are two children’s computers and an assortment of play desks and chairs on hand.

The Ivoryton Library also has an extensive schedule of children’s activities. For example, every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. the library sponsors a “Drop-In Story Time.” All ages of children are welcome to join for the stories, as well as singing “silly songs” and doing small crafts.

Also, there is the “Afternoon at the Movies” program. It includes a movie showing and an afternoon snack. It is held every third Friday of the month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

There is also the “Homework Club” for children, which meets every Tuesday, after school, until 5:00 p.m. The club is designed to get young people ahead on their homework. Computers are available and printing is free during club time. Also, a snack is provided.

Young patrons: Katelyn Marsh (r), Samantha Bartlett (r) and Brian Phinney (rear) studying

NO SCHOOL Day programs will also be held on Wednesday, September 26, and Monday, October 19, days when there is no school. The Children’s Room will be available for crafts both days, such as jewelry making, Lego building and painting pictures in a Young Artist Corner.

Finally, the month of September is “National Library Card Sign-Up Month,” which means that children who are residents of Ivoryton and nearby Centerbrook, who are five years and older, can sign up for a library card. If they do so, they are given a book to take home to read as a welcome present.

In addition to these children’s activities, the library has a special Junior Readers program. Junior Readers are library volunteers from ages 9 and up, who volunteer to help the library function. Among their duties, Junior Readers re-shelve books, help organize book sales and read out loud to younger children from favorite books.

Junior Readers meet every third Sunday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. to discuss how they can help the library.

Background of Ivoryton Staff Librarians

Head Librarian Alvord at the Ivoryton Library holds a BA degree from the University of California (Berkley). She has spent 30 years in the book industry, as a buyer for book stores and as a publisher’s representative. She has also worked in other local libraries.

The Children’s Librarian at the Ivoryton Library is Elizabeth Bartlett. She has a BA from St. Joseph’s College in Hartford, and worked for many years in private industry. She also has three children ages, 1½, 9 and 11.

In conclusion the Ivoryton Library founded in 1889, is very much a going institution. Although some Essex residents may on occasion grouse about the expense of maintaining two town libraries, it is probably a safe bet that the Ivoryton Library, and the Essex Library as well, will be with us for many years to come.

Planning Commission Approves Foxboro Point Plan, with a “Public Access” Corridor

The beautiful view of the undeveloped Foxboro Point property

The Essex Planning Commission at its recent August 23 meeting approved a New York City developer’s plan to develop seven new home sites on eleven acres of land at Foxboro Point in Essex. However, the Commission’s approval came with one big caveat.

That is, that the developer must acquiesce to a “public access” corridor running across his property, from Foxboro Point Road down to the North Cove below. Furthermore, this “public access” path would run between the sixth and seven housing sites of the luxury development.

Map of the “public access” corridor outline in red on the Foxboro site plan

“Public access” means what it says. In this case it would mean that the general public could traverse along a path from the road to the water without anyone shoeing them away.  Picnics, and, theoretically, canoe launchings, sun bathing and even swimming at the end of the access path would be permissible.

However, realistically, canoe launching or swimming from where the “public access” trail meets the waters of North Cove is unlikely, as the water at that point is far too shallow to swim in, or to launch a canoe from.

No Permanent Buildings Permitted on Corridor

Also, no permanent building structures would be permitted on the corridor, and public activity could be limited to the daylight hours. It is also envisioned that the developer might deed the “public access” portion of his property over to the Essex Land Trust, or other third party, to manager. This is, of course, all dependent on the developer agreeing to the “public access” component of the Commission’s approval.

The shape of the “public access” path in the Foxboro development is somewhat contorted, in that roughly the top half of the path is a generous 75 feet wide, whereas the bottom half of the corridor narrows to 25 feet in width until it reaches the waters of North Cover.

Putting it another way, starting at Foxboro Point Road, the access path would be 75 feet wide for a length of 200 feet. Then, at its roughly middle point, the path’s width would shrink to 25 feet for another 260 feet, until it reaches North Cove.

These dimensions of the access path from the road to the water were provided by John Guskowski , Essex Town Planner.

Developer Has Until September 21st to Decide

New York City developer Frank Sciame has until September 21st, according to Guskowski, to accept or reject the Planning Commission plan with its “public access” component. Should the developer not accept the Commission’s approved plan, he could challenge the “public access” portion of the plan on legal grounds in court, or he could simply walk away from the whole venture.

The Essex Planning Commission decision to attach a “public access” requirement to its approval of the developer’s plan appears to have been made pursuant to the Town of Essex Subdivision Regulations, including Sections 5.8 and 6.1.

Constitutionality of “Public Access”Questioned

 However, at one of the proceedings during the Commission consideration of the Foxboro development, an attorney hired by one of the development site’s surrounding home owners, vigorously challenged the constitutional authority of Essex’s Subdivision Regulations regarding “open space” dedicated to “public access.”

However, because of the time that it would take to challenge the Town’s “open space” regulations in the courts, this might not be a choice that developer Sciame would want to make.

The proceeding of the Essex Planning Commission on August 23, according to press reports, was five hours long and entailed a one hour of closed executive session. However, there remains one ancillary question related to this proceeding.

Attorney Terrance Lomme’s Advice Is Crucial

The advice that Attorney Terrance Lomme gives his client, Frank Sciame, as to how to proceed with his application is crucial. For one thing, Lomme might acquaint Sciame with the painful history of the nearby Preserve development in Old Saybrook.

Probate Judge Terrance Lomme acting in his capacity as a counsel for the developer Frank Sciame

The developers of the Preserve have been trying to get their development underway for well over a decade, and there is yet not a single spade in the ground for this ambitious 1,000 acre project. In fact, the Preserve developer has now been reduced to trying to develop a small portion of the property that it owns on Essex’s Ingham Hill Road, and even there, the developer is being rigorously challenged by a deep pocket Essex businessman and homeowner.

The point is that ultimately the wisest choice for developer Sciame might well be to make a virtue out of necessity and accept the Planning Commission’s decision. Certainly, there could be creative ways to shield the “public access” corridor from its luxury home neighbors, especially for those living on the two parcels that are next to the access corridor.

Dense flowering hedges might be one such option. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that there will be jostling crowds using the “public access” pathway. Most likely on weekends a few souls might want to walk down the hill from Foxboro Point Road to the waters of North Cove just to take a look, but that would be about the size of it.

Truthfully, there are many other, better places to see the water along the Essex shore than this.

Finally, Sciame, has said that he, himself, might want live in one of the new houses that he is developing on Foxboro Point. He might even want to take one of the properties beside the “public access” pathway, just to show that it is not so bad after all.

 

 

The Preserve Comes to Essex – Local Property Owners Take Action to Stop It

Lot 4, the knoll on which developers want a home site, and opponents see unacceptable runoffs

A “Grade A” controversy has broken out over a proposed new development on Ingham Hill Road in Essex. The proposed new development , which is sponsored by the developer of the now- stalled 1,000 acre Preserve in Old Saybrook, River Sound Development LLC, is now seeking to get town approvals for a new 36-acre, six lot development located on Ingham Hill Road in Essex.

Map of Ingham Hill Road development. The Essex/Old Saybrook boundary runs along the bottom

The property to be development in Essex abuts the town’s boundary with Old Saybrook, and it is on the right hand side of Ingham Hill Road, when looking up towards Plains Road (Route 153).

Neighbors Oppose Development

A group of three neighboring property owners on Ingham Hill Road are dead set against the proposed development, and at the August 23rd meeting of the Essex Planning Commission they filled an Intervention Pleading, so as to become a part of the approval process. This pleading was granted by the Planning Commission, which then entertained an almost two hour period for the interveners to make their case against the new development.

The Ingham Hill Road interveners were: Judith Bombaci, Kenneth Bombaci and Suellen McCuin.  The Bombacis are members of a well established family in Essex, and in fact there are no less than fifteen listings under “Bombaci” in the Essex section of YP Shoreline telephone directory. Ms McCuin has been a strong opponent of the development, since it was first announced.

Familiar “Bombaci Tree Experts” road sign on Plains Road.

Extensive Arguments Against the Project

Speakers who spoke in opposition to the Ingham Hill Road development were lead by the interveners’ attorney, Christopher J. Smith of the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford. Also, two Certified Professional Wetland Scientists from Rema Ecological Services, LLC,  (REMA), George T. Logan and Sigrun N. Gadwa, spoke against the project among other members of the interveners’ team.

Attorney Smith also submitted to the Planning Commission an “Opposition Packet,” which contained extensive written arguments against the new development, as well as typography charts of the development site prepared by the developer’s own engineer, Doane – Collins Engineering Associates, LLC, and professional biographies of the wetland scientists and Attorney Smith.

Air and Water Pollution Concerns Expressed

“We are in strong opposition to this subdivision,” Attorney Smith said in his testimony at the Essex Planning Commission hearing. “The property has significant natural resources,” he said, including “landmark trees” on the site, some of which are 120 to 140 years old.

Lot 2, the home site that the Essex Wetlands Commission rejected

Also, the interveners’ attorney said that the proposed Ingham Hill Road development, “will have, or is reasonably likely to have, the effect of causing the unreasonable pollution, impairment or destruction of the air, water or other natural resource of the State of Connecticut located on, and off, the subject property…”

In addition, the attorney made the troublesome charge that the developer of the Ingham Hill Road project had not disclosed during its  appearance at an earlier hearing of the Wetlands Commission, the project’s adverse effects from the “substantial clear cutting of landmark trees and vegetation, and site development including a septic system and dwelling immediately upland and in close proximity to an off-site pond and on-site intermittent watercourse …”

This “failure to disclose” charge could be a troubling for the developer, if it were proved that it failed to state significant environmental impacts of the project, which the Wetlands Commission was entitled to hear.  The Wetland Commission in an earlier proceeding approved the building of five of the six home sites proposed on the site, but disapproved of Lot 2 of the development.

Smith’s objections to the project were further amplified in a letter by Rema Ecological Services, LLC, of Manchester, Connecticut (REMA), to the Essex Planning Commission. The REMA letter asserted that “development of the subject property … would result in both short-term and long-term impacts … through sedimentation and surface water quality degradation.”

Spotted Turtles, Wood Frogs and Songbirds at Risk

In addition, the REMA letter asserted that, “Due to the taking of valuable upland habitats, including significant mature trees, and the fragmentation of the landscape, resulting in greatly reduced ecological integrity, wildlife resources at the site would be unreasonably impacted and impaired, including uncommon species such as the spotted turtle, a keystone species, such as the wood frog, and the whole guild of area-sensitive neotropical migrant songbirds.”

Also, REMA wetland scientists wrote that, “water resources, both on-site and off-site, will be impaired both during the construction phase, through erosion and sedimentation, and following it, by impairing surface water quality.”

Bombaci Pond Could Be Adversely Affected   

The REMA testimony mentioned that, “The proposed location of the house in Lot 5 is directly over a natural, frequently flowing stormwater conveyance channel that feeds the Bombaci Pond. The Bombaci Pond is visible from Ingham Hill Road and is an important part of the streetscape.”

Photo of Bombaci Pond. Members of Bombaci family challenged the development

One can speculate that the direct negative impact on the Bombaci Pond may have been a factor in motivating the Bombaci interveners to challenge the proposed development.

In conclusion, the REMA letter said, “With the possible exception of Lot 3, the lots in the proposed conventional subdivision are not feasible, in our professional opinion.”

The Developer’s Response to the Attacks on Its Project

At the conclusion of the presentation by those opposing the new development on Ingham Hill Road, the developer attorney, Brian Smith of the law firm of Robinson & Cole in Hartford, initially appeared to be taken aback by the drum role of hostile testimony against his client’s proposed development.

Smith, who is no relation to the interveners’ attorney, Stephen Smith, said to the Planning Commission that he hoped that he would be given the chance to respond to the attacks against his client’s proposed development at the next meeting of the Planning Commission on September 13. He also said that the developer needed the approval of at least six home sites “to make the project work.” Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw assured Smith that he would be granted an opportunity to be heard at the next Commission hearing.

The 1,000 Acre Preserve Proposal Still Alive

In what turned out to be something of a coda to the hearing on the Ingham Hill Road development, a resident of Old Saybrook, who was at the Essex hearing, said that he wanted to make sure that the Commission understood that the proposed development in Essex was a part of the Preserve sponsor’s larger plan to develop its property in both Essex and Old Saybrook.

Chairman Danyliw treated the citizen intervener courteously, and allowed him to present a quick slide show to buttress his point that the Preserve developer still had long range plans to develop its 1,000 acre site in Old Saybrook, and that this proposed development in Essex, was just a part of this long range plan.

In fact, the interveners’ petition by Attorney Stephen Smith also took  note of the fact the developer’s Essex application, “is part of an overall site development of a 1,000 acre parcel, which involves, in part,  substantial stormwater discharge onto the subject  property and directly or indirectly into a watercourse or intermittent watercourse with a vernal pool habitat,” and, “thereby unreasonably impairing such resources.”

All this shows that in spite of over a decade of disappointments in its effort to develop its 1,000 acre parcel of virgin land in Old Saybrook,  that this attempt to develop its property in Essex, clearly demonstrates that the developer of what was once called the Preserve, has yet to give up, and go away.

The Chester Library Offers a Big Welcome in a Small Space

A patron entering the small and historic Chester Public Library

Visiting the Chester Public Library is more like visiting the home of a friend than going to a public facility. Head Librarian Linda Fox, who greets visitors from behind the main library desk, is the perfect hostess. In fact, most of her conversations with visitors go on for awhile, before the topic of taking out a book is mentioned.

Chester Head Librarian Linda Fox (left) with Board Chairperson Terry Schreiber (right) at the main desk

“The library is like a family room,” Fox says, “where you can find something that people are interested in.” As for her role as Head Librarian she says, “If you can’t be welcoming and friendly, you should not be here.”

In addition to her greeting skills, professionally, Fox holds a Masters Degree in Library Services from Emory University, and she has been in charge of Chester’s library for almost a decade.

The Challenges of a Very Small Library

As director of the Chester library, Fox faces the challenges of being in charge of a very small library. In fact, the library is so small that there is room for only one public computer. The smallness of the Chester Library has also meant that many Chester residents go to the Deep River library, “because it has more computers,” Fox points out.

Head Librarian Fox in the upstairs adult room amidst patrons of the Chester library

In fact, the Deep River library estimates that as many as 2,700 Chester and other towns’ residents are making use of Deep River’s computers and other services. There is also the factor that the Chester library has less than 2,000 square feet of space, whereas the Deep River library offers 6,000 square feet of space to its patrons.

You immediately feel the limits of space, as you enter the Chester library.  After the entrance alcove, you come up to the library’s main desk with its attendant librarian. From there, a small children’s reading room is on your left, and a small adult reading room is on your right. The walls of both rooms are bulging with books. The library’s sole public computer is next to the main desk.

Behind the main desk there is also a cramped area for administration functions.  Also, in addition to upper main floor of the library, there is a lower floor as well. On the landing, on the way down the stairs to this lower floor, there is “snuggled in” the books of the library’s Young Adult collection.

The steps to the lower floor of the library are steep and narrow, and it is evident that they are not handicap accessible. In fact, Fox herself admits that the steps to the lower floor of the library “may not be up to code.”

Very steep stairs to lower floor of Chester library. Young Adult books are “snuggled in” on mid-stair landi

The lower floor of the library houses most of the library’s adult reading collection, and this subterranean space is certainly more spacious than that of the crowded, first floor above.  “Meetings and quiet study space is located on the lower level as well,” the Head Librarian notes.

Though the space for books at the Chester library is admittedly limited, Fox says, “As you can see, we put a lot of stuff in here.”

A  Small and Busy Library

For all its space limitations the Chester Library has a steady stream of visitors. As for favorite books, the Head Librarian says that, “most books taken out are current fiction, although not by much. Also, cook books and garden books are always popular.”

Furthermore, if the library does not have a book on its shelves that is wanted by a patron, it can be requested from the interlibrary loan system. With interlibrary loans, Fox says, “We can get books from all over the state and beyond, including even books from the Library of Congress.”

In addition to being a place for books, “The library is a gathering place, which is important,” the director says.

Staffing and Hours at the Library

The Chester library has a staff of four. Head Librarian Linda Fox is full time, and the other three staff librarians are part time. Pam Larson is in charge of interlibrary loans, which is a big operation at the Chester library. In addition, Patty Petrus is the Children’s librarian, and Leigh Basilone is the Circulation Librarian.

Librarian Patty Petrus helps Patron Walt Smith find books for his European trip on the library’s lower floor

The hours of operation at the Chester library are: Monday 10am to 8pm; Tuesday 2pm to 6pm, Wednesday 10am to 6pm, Thursday 2pm to 8pm, Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday l0am to 2 pm. Also, the library is CLOSED on Sundays and on Tuesdays from July l to Labor Day.

A Larger Chester Library in the Future?

Because of the admittedly small physical space of the Chester library, there have been some preliminary discussions about the feasibility of expanding the library building. The purpose of such an expansion would be to afford greater physical accessibility at the library, as well as to add additional space. These discussions have proceeded to the point where an architectural firm has been retained, and a number of expansion scenarios have been discussed with the firm.

The present classical building of the Chester Public Library is truly one of the town’s architectural highlights. The library building was built in 1907, and it has been a library for the public for 105 years. In any expansion plan, “Most people want to preserve the present space as a library,” Fox says. “Some people would like to build a whole new space for the library, but they are in the minority.”

The land on which the library sits was deeded to the town for a library by the church next door.  Also, the parking lot next to the library, which is used by library patrons, belongs to the church next door as well. This fact would make the church, the United Church of Chester, “an important stakeholder in any discussions of expansion,” Library Director Fox observes.

Off Site Programs of the Chester Library

In addition to the special programs held at the library, one of which, just recently included a ‘live” goat, other library programs are held at locations throughout the town of Chester. Among these program sites are the church next door and the Chester Meeting House. “We spread out our library functions,” is the way Fox puts it.

In contrast to the strictly public accessibility of the present Chester library, “formerly, the old library societies were largely private,” Fox points out. Testing the director, as to whether there was any anti-slavery sentiment in Chester before the Civil War, director Fox found the following account in a book entitled the “Chester Scrapbook.”

“On August 15, 1839, another library association was formed with twenty-four men and women members. They met at the house of widow Huldah Dunk Silliman … This library seems to have been more abolitionist than literary. Its constitution had a long preamble in regards to the evils of slavery, after which it stated … the object of the association … shall be to procure books that may be read by ALL persons who may be serious of receiving information on the subject of American Slavery.”

Head Librarian Linda Fox dug up this account in a matter of minutes from the materials that are on hand at the Chester library. It all goes to show that though the library may indeed be small, when it comes to knowledge of the history of Chester, among many other topics, the Chester Public Library knows just where to find it.

Deep River Library Is an Ideal Place to Read a Book or a Newspaper, Even with Reports of Ghosts on the Premises

Deep River Library building at 150 Main Street, Deep River

The Deep River Library is a typical small town library. Occupying the entire first floor of 150 Main Street in Deep River, it offers a lot of quiet time to read without distractions. In addition to the many favorite books on its shelves, the 6,000 square foot library has 42,500 items, including e-books, DVD’s, magazines and newspapers and audio books.

Also, if a patron cannot find a wanted item on the library’s shelves, it can usually be found through the inter-library loan.

The Director of the Deep River Library is Ann Paietta, who has held this post since 1999, some 13 years. In her experience in lending out books, she says, “I have found that most people still want a book in their hands.” “It is difficult to flip through the pages of an e-book,” she observes.

Long serving Library Director, Ann Paietta

Library’s Annual Budget Is $140,000 a Year

The Deep River Library has a modest budget of $140,000 a year. Also, the Friends of the Library, who have a one room headquarters upstairs, raise monies to get free passes for patrons to attend local attractions, and for other special programs.

Paietta is the only full time employee at the library, and she is assisted by a part time staff of six. Also, some 4,400 Deep River residents hold Deep River library cards, as do 2,700 residents from the neighboring town of Chester.

Assistant Librarian Susan Oehl, who binds the battered books of the library

The library is open Monday and Wednesday from 1pm to 8pm; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 6pm; and Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. During July and August hours on Saturday are 10am to 2pm. It is not open on Sundays.

Many Special Programs at the Library

The Deep River Library hosts many special programs throughout the year. For those interested in attending these programs, it might be helpful to record dates and times in a personal calendar.

Here are the library’s programs with their days and times:

  • Tuesday Friends, ages 3 and up, every Tuesday at 2pm
  • Parent/Infant Group, parents and caregivers with their babies and children up to 24 months, every Thursday at 11am
  • Knitting Club, knitting items for charity (beginners welcome), every Wednesday at 6:30pm
  • Daytime Book Discussion, on third Wednesdays of each month at 1pm
  • Movies and a Pizza, on third Mondays of each month at 5:30pm
  • Foreign Films, on first Fridays of each month at 7:30pm. (Many of   the films have subtitles, and films have been in French, Spanish, Lebanese and Hebrew)
  • Shakespeare Club, on the second and fourth Mondays of each month (Paietta says, “It’s fun. They read the parts of the plays out loud.”)

The following two programs are only held during the school year.

  • Mother and Daughter Book Group, last Monday of each month at 5pm
  • Comic Book Club, every Thursday at 3:30pm

Again, to keep track of the days and times of these programs, it would be a good idea to put them in a personal calendar.

Teddy Bear Picnic Coming Up

In addition to these programs, Deep River Library’s grand, annual “Teddy Bear Picnic” is coming up on Tuesday, August 21. The picnic begins at 11am and is held at the Gazebo at Deep River Landing. Children with their parents are invited to picnic.

Also, the picnic is a “BYOB” affair. That does not mean “Bring Your Own Bottle,” but rather, “Bring Your Own Bear.” Twenty or more children and adults are expected to attend the event, which will include a simple lunch at no charge. Deep River resident Linda Hall is running the show.

In addition to its regular programs, the library hosts guest speakers and local authors, such as Jane Manning, who recently wrote a children’s book entitled “Millie Fierce.”

Presently, favorite new books at the library are, “The Chaperone” and “Gone Girl.” “Gone Girl” is about a woman’s murder, and it is very popular,” the director says.

Among the library’s regular patrons, “A lot of men come into the library just to read,” the library director says.

Also, non-English speaking people are coming into the Deep River Library. Most are Spanish speakers, Paietta says. For those library visitors who want to strengthen their English, literacy volunteers, regularly tutor at the library.

One thing that you will not find at the library is copies of the New York Times. Paietta says, “You cannot have everything,” and also, “It is expensive,” referring to the subscription price of the Boston Edition of the Times.” However, the library does subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, although not to the Financial Times.

Both the New York Times and the Financial Times are available at the neighboring library in Essex.

Historic “New Era” Newspapers at Library

One hidden gem at the Deep River Library is that it has on microfilm back copies of the “New Era,” a local newspaper that was published from 18 47 to 1977. Only the Connecticut State Library has a similar copy of this historic publication. The “New Era” newspaper covered events in Old Saybrook and surrounding towns. “Some horrible things happened back then,” says Paietta, referring to some of the local news stories that she has read in the “New Era.”

As for the Town of Deep River’s support for the library, Paietta says that Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith is “very supportive of the library.”

Ghosts at the Deep River Library

Library Director Paietta says that in past years, as many as 30 times, people have reported evidence of ghosts on the premises of the Deep River Library.

Portrait of Robert Spencer, one of the library’s ghosts?

Although she personally will not commit herself, as to whether she believes that there are spirits roaming around the library during the night time hours, she does say, “Some people have said that they have seen evidence of the presence of the ghost of Robert Spencer, whose private home the library building used to be.” Spencer died in 1910.

Also, the smell of Spencer’s cigars and cigarette’s has been reported, as has the smell of the lavender soap used by his second wife. In addition,  there have been spooky sightings of a woman coming down the stairs, and other “weird things happening,” the director says.

Although there was a time, when she allowed night time visitors into the library searching for ghosts, she says that now, “I have kind of stopped it.”

“They used to stay all night, “she says of the once allowed, ghost seekers. Summing it up, “People believe what they want to,” she says. As for the ghosts, “The kids love it.”

 

Essex Library Has Many Patrons and a Wide Variety of Programs, but Faces a Substantial Debt to the Federal Government

Essex Library Director Richard Conroy in front the library and its ever full parking lot

The Essex library is a busy place. In the fiscal year that just ended, there were 63,000 visits to this small town library, to take out a book, read a newspaper, attend one of over 300 library programs, or even hang out for awhile. Essex Library Director Richard Conroy reports, “Attendance at library programs has doubled since 2008,” the year he became the director. However, for all this success, there is also a more sober story line about the Essex Library.

Essex Library Faces a Large Federal Debt

On its books the library has a large debt to a federal agency from a $2 million loan that it took out back in 2006. The monies that were borrowed at the time were used to fund the expansion and reconfiguration of the library building, which more than doubled the size of the library building from 4,000 to 9,500 square feet.

The present status of the loan is that the library still has $1.9 million to repay to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development fund, which made the loan to the library. The loan has a forty year term, which means that the repayment schedule stretches out to the year 2046.

Each year from now to then, the library must face a repayment burden. In fact in this year’s current library budget of $530,000, approximately twenty percent of it went towards repaying the federal loan.

Of course, the federal debt could be paid off sooner, if a generous donor came forward and repaid it all at once. However, there have been no indications so far that this is a possibility. Making the repayments even more uncomfortable is that earlier payments go more towards paying the interest on the loan, than paying off the principal.

Words of Praise for Past Library Directors

Obviously, the challenge of repaying the federal loan weighs heavily on the current library director. However, Conroy appears determined to make the best of it by being generous in his public comments about  two library directors that preceded him, Anne (“Boo”) Penniman and Bridget Quinn-Carey

In a recent interview he said, “I feel privileged to have had the base established for me by my predecessors, Anne “Boo” Penniman and Bridget Quinn Carey.” Of Penniman, who served as Library Director for eleven years from 1979 to 1990, he said, “Boo bought a new focus from a traditional library to a patron oriented environment. I am a very big fan of Boo,” he continued, “She brought the library into the modern era.”

As for Bridget Quinn-Carey, who was library director from 1999 to 2008, and who was in charge when the federal loan was taken out, Conroy said, “Bridget expanded on that base by doubling the size of the library building from 4,000 square feet to 9,500 square feet.”

The Quinn-Carey Years at the Essex Library

In a “History of the Library” in Essex that appears on the web, it is reported that when Quinn-Carey came on board as director, she, “immediately embarked on a mission to bring the library into the Computer Age.“ Also noted is that, “Under Quinn-Carey, circulation tripled to 56,000 and grew to more than 4,700 card holders.” In addition, “The need for library space became imperative and resulted in the very successful capital campaign … and the construction of the new wing behind the library on Grove Street.”

However, shortly after the expansion of the Essex library building was complete, Bridget Quinn-Carey left Essex for a new job as director the libraries of Buffalo and Erie County in New York State. Then a few years after that she became the Chief Operating Officer of the Queens Library, which has sixty branch libraries and has an annual budget of well over $100 million.

Since repayment of the federal loan was no longer Bridget Quinn-Carey’s responsibility, it was left to the new director, Richard Conway, to address it. However, he puts the best face on things, noting that,   “The building looks great and there are a large number of folks here day and night.”

Outstanding Community Support for Library

Conroy, who became Essex Library Director in 2008, also says, “The support that we get from the community is outstandingly positive.” One recent example he cites is in connection with funding of the newly planted entrance circle in front of the library. According to Conroy, “78 people contributed at least $40 each to upgrade the circle, and in less than three weeks, we had the monies to complete the project, without having to use any operating funds.”

The total cost for the upgrade of the entrance circle was $4,000, which, however, is a small amount when compared with library’s debt to the federal government.

As for the repayment of that loan, Conroy says, “We would love to have the onus of the loan gone, particularly since we are in a great spot right now.” For all the measured tone that Conroy uses in discussing the library’s outstanding debt, it must be his fervid dream to have the loan paid off.

The Future of the Essex Library

 Looking ahead, it is Conroy’s intent to make the Essex Library into “the default community center of the town.” Since tens of thousands of persons are already visiting the library each year, this could well be an attainable goal.

Conroy cites three factors that favor the continued success of the library. They are: “We have a great library building, we have an outstanding library staff, and, we have strong community support for the library, and now we are looking towards the future.”

To help map out that future, Conroy says, “We have begun the process of developing a new strategic plan for the Essex Library and expect to hire an outside consultant to assist with the creation of that plan.”

Director Says He Has A “Dream Job”

“This a dream job for me,” Conroy says, and, “If there were not challenges, it would not be so interesting.” As part of the new strategic plan Conroy mentions four elements.

Essex Library Director Richard Conway takes a turn at the Main Desk

They are: (1) upgrading the library’s present collection of e-books, (2) encouraging greater use of the library’s technologies, such as the Ancestry.com website, (3) redesigning the library’s present web site, and (4) continuing to find ways to make its programs for adults and young people even more relevant to our patrons’ needs. With these  in place, Conroy anticipates that, “going forward, the community of Essex will be very supportive.”                       

“Money is important in maintaining a high quality staff,” Conroy says, and presently, the library has eight staff members, with only the director being full time.  The job of the library staff is, in Conroy’s words, “to foster an open, patron friendly, library.”

Ann Thompson, Head of Adult Services

The Head of Adult Services at the library is Ann Thompson. Among her responsibilities, she prepares a monthly email newsletter called “Librar-E-Lations. The newsletter features a listing of upcoming library events and the meeting schedules of the library’s five book clubs that range in themes from American History to the plays of Shakespeare. Also, in the newsletter is a monthly message from the library director, a listing of the new books acquired by the library, and a general review of library services.

Also, Thompson, who possesses considerable computer skills, runs a “Book-A-Libdrarian” program, which offers one-on-one computer tutoring to members of the library.

Jessica Branciforte Head of Children’s Services

The Head of Children’s Services at the Essex Library is Jessica Branciforte. She holds a teaching degree in Elementary Education from Central Connecticut State University and has completed her studies for a Masters Degree in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University.

Head of Children’s Services Jessica Branciford at the library

Ms Branciforte is well aware that almost half of the library’s daily visitors are young people. She sums up her job as, “about helping young readers find the book that suits them.” Her job is also about, “helping hesitant readers to learn to embrace the love of reading.”  She works with children from “babies to young adults.” “My job is really about encouraging literacy of young people, and finding out what will trigger it,” she says.

Jenny Tripp, Programming Librarian

Also, a member of the library staff is Programming Librarian Jenny Tripp. Ebullient and full of excitement about the programs that she puts together, Tripp arranges well over 300 library programs every year.

Jenny Tripp checking out a book for a patron at the Main Desk

One of the most successful of her recent programs was about “How to Raise Chickens.”  The topic was so popular that Tripp had to put on three separate programs on the same theme. Even then, some chicken lovers had to be turned away, because the standing room crowds totally filled the library’s program room.

Future programs at the library include, “Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer,” conducted by a forensic psychologist, as well as a series of programs on scientific topics, funded by a local business man.

The programs in this series will include: a review of recent discoveries on the planet Mars by the Mars Rover, a report on recent pharmaceutical discoveries that address human health problems, and a program on artificial intelligence devices that are now close to replicating the intelligence of the human brain.

A seven veteran of working at the library, Tripp says that she finds the current director, “easy to work with.”

As for the library’s services to Essex’s senior community, Boo Penniman, says that Library Director Conroy, “has fostered a great relationship with the residents of Essex Meadows. He comes to the Meadows to discuss books at least once a month, except in the summer.” Also, “when a resident of the Meadows wants to borrow a book from the library, it comes in a whiz,” she says.

In sum, things appear to be going very well at the Essex Library, even in the face of having to repay over the next 40 years a loan from the federal government.

Book Reviews by Jerome Wilson

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS

Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

By Erik Larsen

William E. Dodd was a little known Chairman of the History Department of the University of Chicago, when he accepted President Roosevelt’s invitation to become the U.S. Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Dodd was appointed to this post, because the President could not find anyone more prominent to take it.

Although there were strong pressures, both in Berlin from the German government and from Dodd’s bosses at the U.S. State Department, to ignore the enormous evils being perpetrated by the Nazi regime, Dodd refused to go along. In fact, he frequently criticized the treatment of German Jews and elements in German society that supported Hitler’s regime, and in doing so doing exhibited the best of American democratic values.

For example, Dodd refused to attend Hitler’s monstrous Nuremberg rallies, and allied himself with the ambassadors from other nations, such as Great Britain, that were critical of the Nazi regime. Ultimately, after close to four years, the go-along-with-Hitler crowd at the U.S. State Department succeeded in forcing Dodd to resign. Roosevelt withdrew his support from Dodd as well.

Dodd’s replacement, Hugh Wilson, immediately after his  appointment  pledged to the Nazi Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, that if  Germany began a war in Europe, he would do everything in his power to keep America out of the conflict.

 

 WE MEANT WELL  

HOW I HELPED LOSE THE BATTLE FOR THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE

By Peter Van Buren

This book argues the futility of the American effort to gain acceptance in Iraq by building hugely expense construction projects. In the author’s view it was an impossible mission in the first place, made even more impossible by the gross incompetence of those building the projects, both American and Iraqi. The author came to these conclusions after spending a year in Iraq as a U.S. State Department official managing projects to rebuild the country.

Among projects that failed, according to the author, was (1) a brand new highway built by a U.S. Army contractor, which ended up being used by Iraq insurgents as a transit route for nighttime attacks on U.S. installations; (2) a new hospital in Baghdad, paid for by U.S. dollars, that was left roofless and abandoned, because the Iraqi government could not afford to complete its construction; (3) a $40 million Iraqi prison, paid for by the U.S., that after completion never opened; (4) a $104 million U.S. funded, and failed, sewer system in Fallujah; and (5) a $171 million U.S funded hospital in southern Iraq that Laura Bush “opened” in 2004, and which to date has never seen a patient. One estimate of this “legacy of waste” in U.S. projects came in at $5 billion, according to the author.

The author also relates that at the time he wrote the book, 4,471 United States military personnel had been killed in Iraq, and of that number 913 were suicides.

 

TO END ALL WARS

A STORY OF LOYALTY AND REBELLION, 1914-1918

By Adam Hochschild

World War I was one of the world’s most tragic wars, until of course the even larger tragedy of World War II. The German Kaiser effectively started World War I, and France and England, in spite of enormous losses were about to lose it, until two million of Woodrow Wilson’s U.S.  Troops turned the tide, and ultimately forced a Germany armistice.

In addition to a general history of this tragic conflict, the book includes an extensive portrayal of the peace movement in England and the many conscious objectors, a subject not generally found in books about wars.

The book also portrays the erosion of popular support for the war in England, as the enormity of English casualties began to sink in among the general population.

Fifty-six Fife and Drum Corps on Parade at Deep River’s Ancient Muster, While on the Sidelines Thousands Cheer

Marchers in the muster, all marching in perfect step

On and on they came, the parade of more than fifty, fife and drum corps, playing the old and sacred tunes of our national memory, “the Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “America the Beautiful,” and “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” In keeping with the music were patriotically dressed marchers, wearing the military uniforms of wars gone by, three corner hats, Union blue uniforms of the Civil War, and of the Revolutionary War as well.

A quartet of drummers at the Ancient Muster

In all there was 56 fife and drum corps on parade down Main Street in Deep River on Saturday, July 21. It took the units of the muster over an hour and a half to pass a given point along the parade route.

A close-up of fifers fifing

The annual musters were first started in Deep River back in 1953, which made this the 59th year of these events. Normally, the small town of Deep River has a population of around 5,000. During the muster the town’s population swells by another 5,000, taking into account the marchers and the rows of spectators along the sidelines.

A look at the audience viewing the muster on Main Street, Deep River

In front of Deep River town hall the chairs of muster watchers were four deep. In fact, rows of spectators in chairs and standing stretched from one end of Deep River’s Main Street to another. Adding to the pleasure of the event, the weather was perfect.

Marching fifers, all dressed in white

The Muster Represents U.S. Tradition

The President of the Deep River Annual Muster Committee is Deep River resident Tim Goss. It his committee that organizes the two day muster event.

The Essex Sailing Masters of 1812

The first day of the muster, always on the Friday the day before the march, there is what is called a Tattoo. It is a gathering at which members of the various marching corps can get to know each other. The second day, which always takes place on the third Saturday in July, is the day of the Ancient Muster itself, which features the actual march of the various corps.

In Goss’s mind, “The muster represents the country’s tradition, stretching back to the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.”

The first unit in the muster was the group where Muster President Tim Goss plays the bass drum

Goss, himself, participates in the muster. He plays the bass drum in the first, fife and drum corps in the march. Many of the marching units in the Ancient Muster were formed the 1870’s after the Civil War, when this conflict was still fresh in memory.

The Massachusetts colonial navy unit was founded in 1775

In addition to the tunes of the fifes, and the deep thumps of the drums, on occasion some minor explosions went off, making a bit of noise and smoke.

Leading the Deep River Ancient Muster

Leading off this year’s Ancient Muster were Deep River’s First Selectman Dick Smith and town Third Selectman, Dave OIiveria. Of the muster tradition in Deep River, Smith said, “Personally, I love the muster. It is one of the things that Deep River is known for, and we take pride in it.”

Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith (on left) and Third Selectman Dave Oliveria lead off the Ancient Muster

He continued, “When I am out of town, and I tell people that I am from Deep River, a lot of them ask me, isn’t that where they have the muster?  It is one of the things our town in know by. ”

The Moodus fife and drum corps proudly marching in the muster

Many of the fife and drum corps that took part in the muster were from Connecticut. There were also corps from other New England states, such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and as well as from New York and other states. Sometimes there are even overseas groups participating as well.

Political Campaigning among the Muster Crowds

There was also a bit of political campaigning among the swelling crowds before the muster began. Former Congressman Christopher Shays, who is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, against wrestling figure Linda McMahon, was shaking hands amongst the crowd. When asked why he was running, he said, “I want my party back.”

The Continentals of Camden, New York, which was founded in 1850, marched in the muster

Also campaigning were supporters of Melissa Schlag, who is running for the Connecticut State Senate on the Green Party ticket.

On hand as well was U.S. Navy veteran Pasqual Casanova, age 89, who saw action in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II. He said that he and his wife Rose love the muster and have been attending for many years.

Another unit in perfect step; this skill is only achieved with constant drilling

To give the reader a real sense of Deep River’s annual Ancient Muster, there follows more photos of this year’s event.

There was a woman’s group in the Ancient Muster parade, and why not?

 

These muster marchers wore the Union blue uniforms of the U.S. Civil War

Windsor, Connecticut, Fife & Drum Corp joined the muster