January 28, 2015

Essex Zoning Approves Store Expansion with Dunkin Donuts Relocation

ESSEX— The zoning commission has approved an expansion of the convenience store that the Shell service station at 23 Main St. in the Centerbrook section that also includes a relocation and expansion of the Dunkin Donuts within the building. The commission last week amended  the 2007 special permit for the convenience store and Dunkin Donuts to allow the changes.

The panel acted after a June 17 public hearing where the change drew few objections from residents. One resident questioned the traffic situation at the intersection of Main Street and Dennison Road, which abuts the Shell station parcel. But commission members concluded that moving the main entrance to the Dunkin Donuts to the east side of the bulding would reduce any traffic issues.

The convenience store would expand in to a separate space in the commercial building now occupied by the Ashleigh’s Garden floral; shop, with the existing counter service only Dunkin Donuts to be relocated in to the former floral shop space. A second entrance to the store/Dunkin Donuts would be through the floral shop space.

Rep. Miller Ends Haddam Land Swap Saga

State Rep. Phil Miller

State Rep. Phil Miller

State Representative Philip Miller (D- Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Essex) voted in favor of H.B. No. 6672, an act concerning the conveyance of certain parcels of state land.  The bill included the formal repeal of the open-ended Haddam Land Swap dead brokered in 2011.

“I worked with the staff attorney and the members of the Government Elections and Administration Committee to formally close the land swap,” remarked Rep Miller. “Preventing this deal will ensure state-owned lands are not developed, keeping our air, water and land clean.”

The deal originally fell through due to a great discretion in the values of the two parcels to be swapped between the State of Connecticut (specifically the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection (DEEP)) and Riverhouse Properties.

‘The land swap did not represent the best interests of the people of Haddam. Conservation is incredibly important to maintaining the beauty of the region,” said Rep. Miller. “While I agree that in general economic development is essential, we must find better ways to balance the conflicting desires of seeing more investment in our communities while investing in all that we already have.”

The bill passed the House VOTE COUNT. The Senate passed the bill VOTE COUNT. The bill will now be sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

The Black Seal Has “Appetite for Life”

Essex, CT — The Black Seal Restaurant has joined other local restaurants throughout Middlesex County for the fourth year of a special dining program during the month of June – Appetite for Life – to benefit the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center. The Cancer Center offers a complete range of services to meet the needs of cancer patients and their families that includes preventive, diagnostic, treatment, support, survivorship and end-of-life Hospice and palliative care services. Its team approach to care and treatment is carefully coordinated for patients throughout their cancer journey.

On Wednesday, June 12, The Black Seal will be donating 10 percent of its proceeds from lunch and dinner to the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center to support its many services, as part of the Appetite for Life program.

For the complete listing of restaurants participating in the Appetite for Life program during June, to go www.middlesexhospital.org\AFL.

A Wonderful Premiere Hits the Shoreline

Swans And Balanchine

Two of the graceful starring Swans of Ballerina Swan,  Emily Kramm of Old Lyme and Sarah Marsoobian of Guilford celebrate the success of Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s World Premiere Ballet with NYC Ballet acclaimed ballerina and author of Ballerina Swan, Allegra Kent and Gloria Govrin, choreographer and Artistic Director of Eastern Connecticut Ballet and former NYC Ballet soloist.

More than 1,000 guests laughed and cheered for Sophie the Swan throughout the Premiere, enjoyed the delicious Rita’s of New London Ices and delighted in meeting the author and cast!  Photo credit: G.Mazzola

Rep. Miller Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage – Bill Passes the House and Senate

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Philip Miller (D- Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Essex) voted in favor of S.B. 387, An Act Increasing The Minimum Fair Wage.  The bill would raise the minimum wage to $8.70 per hour, effective January 1, 2014 and to $9.00 effective January 1, 2015.

“I support this bill because Connecticut’s families are struggling,” remarked Rep Miller. “These full-time employees earn a legal wage that puts them below the poverty line. Connecticut is a very expensive state to live in and raising the minimum wage ensures that Connecticut’s workers can afford to stay in Connecticut.”

According to the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) and the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 10% of those employed in Connecticut earn the minimum wage. 80% of those earning the minimum wage are adults older than 20, 50% of whom have had some college education.

The minimum wage disproportionately affects women; 60% of the 106,000 minimum wage earners in Connecticut are female. One in three women workers in Connecticut earn the minimum wage and 20% of all minimum wage earners are female heads of households, single moms working to provide for their families.

“The National Employment Law Project found that two-thirds of America’s low-wage workers work for companies with more than a hundred employees, such as Walmart and McDonald’s,” argued Miller. “Small business owners know that paying their workers a higher wage makes them work harder and reduces turnover. Most small businesses in Connecticut already pay their workers more than the minimum fair wage required by law.”

Economists on all sides of this argument agree that what the economy needs most are consumers. Low-income workers spend their entire paychecks in their community, unable to afford to accumulate savings. “Our farms and small businesses need consumers therefore giving low-income, full-time employees an extra $936 per year for their labor will help put more money into our local economy.”

The bill passed the House 89-53. The Senate passed the bill on May 23. The bill will now be sent to the Governor, who has indicated his support.

Linares – Why I Voted “No” to Undocumented Immigrant Drivers Licences

LinaresJan9oathI am a proud Cuban-American, and I believe in the American dream.  My father and grandparents immigrated to the United States after the attempt to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro failed. Before they fled, my grandfather was imprisoned for opposing communism.

Here in America, my family was able to realize the American Dream.  They worked hard and achieved success.  I saw their work ethic and emulated it.  That work ethic helped me to co-found a successful business and helped me get elected to the Connecticut State Senate.

It was a proud day just about five months ago when I held up my right hand and took the oath of office in the Senate Chamber.  I was surrounded by my family, and I thanked them for all that they have done for me and for pursuing their dreams here in America.

In America today, our immigration system is broken.  It needs to be fixed. I have followed the immigration debate closely in Washington DC. I once worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.  Sen. Rubio is currently leading the effort to craft workable immigration reform in Congress.

Like Sen Rubio, I believe this country is ready to support immigration reform, as long as it is:

  • pro-economic growth
  • strengthens families
  • fosters assimilation
  • prevents another wave of illegal immigration from happening again.

The immigration bill being taken up in the United States Senate is an important starting point in the effort to improve a failed and broken system.  The federal legislation is not perfect.  Primarily, the complaint seems to be about the size and scope of the bill. But I believe Sen. Rubio proposed it for the right reasons. We can’t leave the system the way it is. The status quo is just as bad.

If Sen. Rubio’s plan passes:

  • People here in this country illegally now who are not paying taxes will be paying income tax and revenue to the government.
  • They will also be given the opportunity to improve themselves, to go up the economic ladder to become net contributors to our economic life in this country as consumers and buyers.
  • Legal immigration, if done right for this country with the proper enforcement mechanisms, should be a net positive for the United States and fuel economic growth.

Passage of immigration reform at the federal level will solve the problem that the State of Connecticut is trying to resolve, and many others as well.

Here at the state level, I am sympathetic to those who note that this is a public safety issue.  I agree that we want every driver in Connecticut to prove that they are a safe driver, regardless of where they came from.   I care about every person in my state senate district, and I agree that something needs to be done to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows.

But when you do something like this, you have to do it right.

A comprehensive study of this concept would seem to be the appropriate, common sense solution.  That study – which could be conducted in a short amount of time  – would get any loose ends and inconsistencies cleared up and better prepare our state to implement this legislation.  But that study idea was rejected.

I would have liked to have seen safeguards inserted into the bill to protect against fraud and abuse.  This bill doesn’t have those safeguards.

Undocumented immigrants seeking licenses should prove they are who they say they are – – just as those of us who are U.S. citizens have to prove we are who we say we are.  For example, U.S. citizens must provide original documentation to verify who they are to get their driver’s license.  Photocopies and non-certified copies are not accepted by the DMV.  Under this bill, that same requirement does not apply for undocumented immigrants.

When I took that oath of office five months ago, surrounded by my family, I thought about all they had gone through to get to this point.  During that ceremony, I also made a vow that I would never vote for a bill – however noble its purpose – if I felt uncomfortable about the consequences of my vote.

I appreciate the concept behind this bill and I give tremendous credit to the many advocates who have worked on it.  As the son and grandson of immigrants, I share their passion to change the system.

But in the bill I voted on today, the unanswered questions it created were too numerous.  The unintended consequences it could create were too vast.

I believe we should take the time to get those questions answered before we set this process in motion.  For these reasons, I voted no.

Sen. Art Linares

 

Navy Commander Philip Beckman Awarded Military Professional Employee of the Year

Beckman, Philip_CDR_091407 Navy Commander Philip Beckman of Ivoryton received the Award for Military Professional Employee of the Year from the Rhode Island Federal Executive Council on May 8th.

CDR Beckman, on the faculty of the Naval War College in Newport, is part of the College of Operational and Strategic Leadership and interacts routinely with the U.S. Navy’s maritime operations centers around the globe to improve war-fighting effectiveness at the operational level. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy, a M.S. in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Masters in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University.

The Rhode Island Federal Executive Council (RIFEC) recognized outstanding federal employees for their work and accomplishments over the past year at a ceremony held at the Radisson Hotel in Warwick, RI.

Essxe Town Meeting Approves $22.68 Million Budget Plan on Voice Vote

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $22,684,150 town/school spending plan for 2013-2014 on a voice vote. About 50 voters turned out for the annual budget meeting, with a motion for approval going directly to a voice vote, without discussion or questions. There were several opposing votes, but no motion from the crowd for a show-of-hands or paper ballot vote on the spending plan.

The spending plan includes a $6,967,461 town government budget, and a $7,634,917 appropriation for Essex Elementary School. The town’s $8,081,772 share of the Region 4 education budget had already been approved by voters in a May 7 referendum. The total spending appropriation of $22,684,150 represents a 2.69 percent increase over the current spending total.

The board of finance will set the tax rate for 2013-2014 at a meeting Thursday. First Selectman Norman Needleman and finance board chairman Jim Francis each said after the vote the tax rate is expected to increase by “about one-half mill” to fund the total spending package. The current tax rate is 18.47 mills, or $18.47 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The property tax rate was increased by 0.49 mills last year to fund the current town and school budgets.

No Changes as Tax Decrease Budget Goes to May 21 Chester Town Meeting

CHESTER— Voters at the May 21 annual budget meeting will consider a proposed $12.32 million spending plan for 2013-2014 that includes an unusual one-half mill decrease in the town’s property tax rate. The meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the new community meeting room on the second floor of town hall.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said there have been no changes to the budget that was presented to a handful of residents at the May 1 public hearing. The total $12,328,940 spending plan, which is $419,141 less than current spending, includes the $3,515,054 town government budget, a $373,620 capital expenditure plan, a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester Elementary School, and the town’s $4,257,893 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 education budget was approved by voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 7 referendum.

Education spending in the proposed budget is down by $467,000 because a declining enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending the  two Region 4 secondary schools, Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The decrease in enrollment has led to a $426,084 reduction in the Chester share of the Region 4 budget.

Meehan has described the proposed 2013-2014 budget as “an anomaly” that is unlikely to be repeated in future budget years. The enrollment-driver reduction in education spending has allowed the board of finance to recommend a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate, from the current 22.45 mills to a tax rate of 21.95 mills. The new rate represents $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Unlike many past years, the board of finance has found no need to transfer funds from the town’s undesignated fund balance as a way to hold down taxes. The fund balance is projected to total $1.57 million when the budget year ends on June 30, 2014.

DR Quiet Budget Hearing, Town/Elementary School Plans go to Town Meeting Vote

DEEP RIVER— A proposed $3.7 million town government budget and a proposed $5.51 million appropriation for Deep River Elementary School go to the voters for approval at a May 20 town meeting after a quiet budget hearing held earlier this week.
First Selectman Richard Smith said about a dozen residents turned out for the May 7 budget hearing, Smith said there were few questions, and no specific calls for any changes to the 2013-2014 budgets that were approved by the board of selectmen and board of finance.

The town government budget of $3,701,379 is combined with a $43,000 capital expenditure plan and $348,060 in debt service for a total town government appropriation of $4,094,439. The proposed $5,511,158 elementary school budget is up by $110,371, or 2.04 percent, over the current appropriation for the elementary school.

The annual budget meeting is set for Monday May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated second floor auditorium at town hall. This will be the first town meeting vote on a town budget since 2000. The town has been holding referendum votes on budgets since 2001, but ever decreasing voter turnouts for the annual referendums led the board of selectmen to hold a town meeting vote on the budget this year. The vote will be conducted by paper ballot.

Region 4 Education Budget Approved on 274-145 Vote

REGION 4— Voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex approved a $17,776,120 Region 4 education budget for 2013-2014 Tuesday on a 274-145 vote in an eight hour referendum. The budget, which funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School,represents a $269,907, or 1.54 percent, spending increase over the current appropriation. The spending plan won voter approval in all three district towns.

But the result was close in Deep River, where the budget carried on a 68-64 vote. The budget carried in Essex on a 161-69 vote. In Chester, where a decrease in students attending the two secondary schools has set the stage for a one-half mill decrease in the tax rate, the budget carried on a 45-12 vote.

A total of 419 voters from the three towns turned out for the referendum. Voter turnout was down from the 2012 referendum, where 619 voters turned out the approve the budget on a 412-207 vote. A total of 699 voters participated in the 2011 budget referendum.

The low turnout prompted Region 4 Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall to suggest the board should reconsider it’s policy of holding an annual referendum vote on the budget. The annual referendums began in 2001, the last year a Region 4 budget was rejected by voters of the three towns. In previous years, the budget had been considered by voters at a district meeting held on the first Monday in May.

Hall, a veteran board member who has served two six year terms on the panel, said she will not be seeking another term in the November municipal election. But Hall suggested said the board that is seated in December, after the election, should take another look at the annual referendum policy based on the decreasing voter turnouts of recent years. “It’s something that should be brought to the table,” she said. “It’s such a low turnout and it is an expense for the towns.”

Large Crowd Celebrates Reopening of Deep River Town Hall Auditorium

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

DEEP RIVER— More than 200 residents turned out Wednesday evening to celebrate the reopening of the second floor auditorium at the historic 1893 town hall after a renovation project that was brought to completion over the past year by a committee of volunteers.

Former Selectman Art Thompson, who chaired the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee, welcomed the crowd to an event “that only happens once every 120 years.”  Thompson, who had pushed for completion of a restoration effort, served as master of ceremonies for a program that celebrated the role of the town hall auditorium in the town’s history.

Thompson introduced former First Selectman Joe Miezejeski as “honorary chairperson,” for the event. Miezejeski, who served four terms as first selectman through the 1980s, was a member of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association that began the restoration effort when it incorporated and began collecting donations for the project in 1979.

The association collected about $270,000 in donations and coordinated various improvements over the past 30 years, including installation of an elevator that was funded by the late Emma Marvin, a former selectwoman. But many improvements remained unfinished, including renovations needed to bring the auditorium in to compliance with current building codes to allow full use of the balcony.

 Looking down on it all, the Auditorium's new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Looking down on it all, the Auditorium’s new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

At Thompson’s urging, the board of selectmen in 2011 appointed the new 11-member committee and gained control of the funds amassed by the former restoration association. The committee included four members of the association, Bruce Edgarton, Sally Carlson-Crowell, Frances Strukus and Kenneth Wood Jr. The new members included Claudia Epright, Janice Kmettz, Richard Nagot, Kim Olson, Linalynn Schmelzer, and Dennis Schultz. The committee used the $270,000 in available funds to complete the restoration project over the past 14 months.

Attending the program Wednesday were more than a dozen elderly graduates of the former Deep River High School, which closed when Valley Regional High School opened in 1952. The high school was located in a section of what is now Deep River Elementary School, but it lacked an auditorium. For more than 60 years, students used the town hall auditorium for group events that ranged from dances to the annual graduation ceremony. The construction and April 1893 dedication of the town hall was recounted by Dan Conners, a retired history teacher who was a member of the original faculty at Valley Regional High School and author of a book on the history of Deep River.

Wednesday’s program, which also featured music from the Deep River Junior Ancient Fife and  Drum Corps and the elementary school chorus and clarinet ensemble, opens a period of active use of the 279-seat auditorium. Over the next month there will be concerts, movies, and a May 31 dance. The new chairs on the main floor of the auditorium are movable, allowing for a return of dances to the historic facility.

Deep River Budget Plan With Expected Four-tenths Mill Tax Rate Increase Goes to Public Hearing

DEEP RIVER— A proposed $3,701,379 town government budget and a proposed  $5,511,158 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School goes to a public hearing on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated second floor auditorium at town hall.

The town government budget is combined with a $43,000 capital expenditure plan and $348,060 in debt service for a total town government expense of $4,094,439. The town government and elementary school spending plans are combined with the town’s $5,160,854 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total proposed 2013-2014 spending levy of $14,779,521.

The $3,701,379 town government budget is up by $192,113, or 5.47 percent, from the current appropriation The town budget includes a three percent wage-salary increase for all town employees, including elected officials and part-time employees.. Debt service is up by $155,357, mostly due to new lease payments for a new fire truck and highway department truck, while the capital expenditure plan has been reduced by $291,000.

The $5,511,158 appropriation for the elementary school is up by $110,371, or 2.04 percent.  A shift in student enrollment, with additional students from Deep River attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, contributed to the $281,854, or 5.78 percent, increase in the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget.

The total $14,77 million spending levy, including Region 4, is up by $448,695, or 3.13 percent. The board of selectmen and board of finance has endorsed a plan to increase the tax rate by four tenths of a mill to fund the proposed spending plan for 2013-2014. The increase would bring the tax rate to 25.08 mills, or $25.08 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The proposed tax increase matches a 0.40. tax increase that was required to fund the current budget.

or the first time since 2001, the board of selectmen has decided to hold the budget vote by paper ballot at a May 20 town meeting, rather than by a referendum vote. Extremely low voters turnouts for the budget referendums in recent years led the selectmen to call for a town meeting vote on the budget.. The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 7, the same day as the town budget hearing.

Chester Budget With Unusual Tax Decrease Goes to May 1 Public Hearing

CHESTER— A proposed $3,852,474 town government budget and a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester  Elementary School go to a public hearing Wednesday in the newly finished community room at town hall. The session begins at 7:30 p.m.

In what First Selectman Edmund Meehan describes as “a one-time anomaly,” reduced spending for both the elementary school and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget will allow a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate with no transfers from the undesignated fund balance. The planned reduction, from the current tax rate of 22.45 mills to  21.95 mills, would represent a property tax cut of about $150 on a house assessed at $300,000. The planned tax rate for 2013-2014 would represent $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last year, the selectmen and finance board approved a transfer of $174,641 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to hold the tax rate at 22.45 mills.  Meehan said no transfers from the fund balance were needed to cover this year’s one-half mill cut in the tax rate, with the undesignated fund balance expected to total about $1.57 million in June 2014.

The net spending decrease of about $420,000 includes a $41,527 decrease in the elementary school budget, and a $426,084 decrease in the town’s share of the Region 4 budget. The reduced spending for education results from decreased enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.
The town government budget is up by about $47,000 from the current appropriation. The $3.85 million town government budget includes a 2.25 percent wage/salary increase for union and non-union town employees, including elected officials, and additional spending for medical insurance and the town employee pension fund. There is also an additional $6,500 for winter snow removal expenses.

Wednesday’s public hearing will be the first major municipal meeting in the community meeting room at town hall that was part of the second floor renovations that Meehan describes as “95 percent complete.”

The town hall second floor renovation project that began in February was funded by the insurance settlement from the February 2011 collapse of the former community center building on Route 154. The new community room at town hall will now host most town meetings that were previously held at the historic Chester Meeting House on Liberty St.

The annual budget meeting vote on a town/elementary school spending plan for 2013-2014 is set for Tuesday May 21 at the town hall community room. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in an eight-hour referendum on May 7.

Letter: In Defense of W

To the Editor:

On behalf of those Americans who did not cheer the departure of President Bush, I would like to thank and defend him for his honorable service to America.

There are legions of us who recognize his decency, his many accomplishments (CAFTA, Medicare reform, tax cuts, democracy in Iraq, missile defense, unprecedented aid to Africa and Asia, denuclearizing of Libya, taking the lessons learned from Katrina to reform the emergency response system) and his unwavering commitment to keep America safe.

I and those like me respect and honor President Bush because after America was brutally attacked on 9/11, he never lost his will and sense of urgency to keep Americans safe. Despite nauseating teeth-clacking from the left, President Bush put policies and programs in place that protected America for the next seven and one-half years.

We honor George Bush for sending a strong signal to the enemies of peace and freedom that he believes in peace through strength and that he understands that talk-therapy is out of the question when dealing with the pathological hatred felt by those who want to destroy the infidels- us. He had the leadership to ignore the anti-war agitators, hand-wringers, and naysayers. He and our brave heroes have kept us safe. Although he has been cruelly, dangerously, and unjustly maligned, Georg Bush will be judged an extremely consequential president.

Sincerely,

Alison Nichols, M.Div.
Essex

Local Library Directors Celebrate World Book Night at the Adams Shopping Center

world book night

Susan Rooney (right), the new Deep River Library Director, and Linda Fox, the Chester Library Director, represented their respective libraries at the Adams Shopping Center on April 23 as part of World Book Night. They gave away free copies of The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light readers and non-readers. Not only is World Book Night about giving books. It’s also about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

DR Selectmen Choose Town Meeting Vote, No Automatic Referendum This Year

DEEP RIVER-– For the first time in 11 years, voters will decide on a town/elementary school budget plan by a town meeting vote without a referendum.  The town meeting vote on a spending plan that is still being finalized will be held on Monday May 20 in the newly renovated town hall auditorium. The annual budget hearing is set for May 7.

The board of selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday not to hold a referendum vote on the budget plan for 2013-2014. First Selectman Richard Smith said Wednesday he had consulted with members of the Deep River Taxpayers Association before making the decision, and pledged that the vote at the May 20 town meeting would be by paper ballot. “There will not be a referendum this year unless we’re petitioned for one,” he said.

Smith said most residents, and elected officials such as members of the board of finance, had advised that a referendum vote on the budget should be skipped this year after extremely low vote turnouts for the budget referendums held in recent years.

Last May, a total of 190 voters turned out to approve a $14.3 million town/elementary school budget plan on a 147-46 vote. A total of 361 voters turned out for the budget referendum in May 2011. “It’s just too costly based on the turnout,” Smith said, noting that with a budget referendum costing the town about $1,800, the 2012 turnout amounted to an expense for the town of almost $100 per vote.

The town began holding annual referendums on the town government/elementary school budgets in 2001, when a depleted fund balance and steep tax increase led to controversy, and three votes before a spending plan was approved by voters. The taxpayers association formed that year, and indicated to the selectmen that they would seek a referendum vote on future budgets.

Rather than allowing a petition process to delay the budget vote, the board of selectmen, led by Smith, agreed to send the annual budget directly to a referendum vote. But turnout for the referendum that is usually held in the last week of May has decreased in recent years.

Referendum voting will continue on the Region 4 education budget, which is subject to approval by voters of the three district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The Region 4 Board of Education had adopted a policy of referendum voting on the budget in 2001, after spending plans were rejected twice before wining voter approval in a third referendum. The Region 4 budget referendum will be conducted on May 7 from 12 noon to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling places for the three towns.

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.” 

Prescription Drug Discount Program Offered by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

The Town of Essex, through its association with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the statewide association of towns and cities, is now providing a new prescription discount card that will provide uninsured and underinsured residents steep savings on prescription medicines. Essex is a member of CCM and this new program is only available to CCM member-communities.

In Connecticut, over 10 percent of Connecticut residents – nearly 360,000 people – currently lack health insurance and prescription plans and another 800,000 residents are under-insured. There are over 50 million uninsured individuals living in the United States.

The “Town of Essex Prescription Drug Discount Card” helps residents save money on their prescription medications any time their prescription is not covered by insurance.  This new prescription discount card will provide immediate fiscal relief at the pharmacy counter for uninsured and under-insured residents and offers the following features and benefits:

  • Anyone can participate regardless of age or income;
  • All prescription medications are covered including pet prescriptions that can be filled at a pharmacy;
  • There is no cost to the municipality or to participating residents;
  • Cost savings average 45% ;
  • There are over 63,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, including CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Stop and Shop, and Big Y, and many independent pharmacies;
  • Discounts are also offered on other medical services including vision, hearing and Lasik services.

Norman Needleman, First Selectman of Essex, said, “CCM really came through for our town residents. It should have a positive benefit for residents and property taxpayers across Essex.”

“CCM is pleased to offer this valuable community service to Essex,” said CCM Executive Director and CEO Jim Finley. “Many families are struggling and even some families with health insurance may not have all their prescriptions covered. This program will help them save money on any medicines not covered by their insurance.”

Each residence in Essex will receive a “Town of Essex Prescription Discount Card” by direct mail which they may use at any participating retail pharmacy.  Cards may be used by all town residents regardless of age, income or existing health coverage.  There are no enrollment forms, membership fees, restrictions or limits on frequency of use for residents.  Cardholders and their family members are encouraged to use the cards any time their prescriptions are not covered by insurance.  Cards can also be printed by visiting www.CTRxDiscountCard.com, and selecting Essex from the drop-down menu.

Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets Draw Mild Response

ESSEX— A proposed $6,967,461 town government budget and a proposed $7,634,917 appropriation for Essex Elementary School drew a generally quiet response Monday from residents at the annual budget hearing. About 45 residents turned out for the public hearing on the two spending plans.

The town government budget, which represents a $113,821, or 1.66 percent, increase over the current budget, and the elementary school budget, which is up by 100,326, or 1.33 percent, over the current appropriation, are combined with the town’s $8,081,772 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total $22.62 million spending plan for 2013-2014. The Region 4 education budget, which funds John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 7.

First Selectman Norman Needleman described both the town government and elementary school budgets as “reasonable” spending plans that maintain current services while limiting the proposed spending increase. The largest portion of the total proposed $594,000 in new spending is a $379,885 jump in the Essex share of the Region 4 budget that results from 31 additional students from Essex attending the district’s two secondary schools. The elementary school budget includes a reduction of two teaching positions in  response to a drop in enrollment at the school.

There were no calls for specific reductions or other changes to the budget plan during the nearly two-hour hearing. But one resident, Wally Schieferdecker, offered a specific suggestion for what should be done with a one-time $229,721 payment the town received earlier this year from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

The payment from the regional trash disposal authority was to cover more than 20 years of unpaid rent and promised host town benefits for the regional solid waste transfer station located off Route 154. The Essex facility compacts trash and collects recyclables from nine area towns for transport to the CRRA incinerator and collection site in Hartford.

Schieferdecker said the $229,721 should be used to help limit any increase in the tax rate needed to fund the combined town government and school spending plans. “This is a windfall and it’s money the taxpayers have already paid over the years,” he said, adding “the taxpayers deserve a little benefit from our good fortune.”

Needleman, who negotiated the settlement with CRRA officials before accepting a new long-term contract for solid waste disposal through CRRA, agreed the one-time payment was “found money.” Needleman said he hopes the board of finance would consider the windfall when it sets the tax rate for 2013-2014 after the budgets are approved by voters. “It should ultimately have an impact with the mill rate,” he said.

Town Treasurer Robert Dixon told the crowd the town should end the current fiscal year on June 30 without any significant spending overruns. He said the town currently has about $2.6 million in its unappropriated fund balance.

The current tax rate of 18.47 mills, or $18.47 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value, represented a tax increase of .49 mills when it was set after the budget approval last May. With a mill generating about $1.1 million in tax revenue, a similar increase in the tax rate is likely for 2013-2014 to fund the total combined town/school spending plans. The annual budget meeting vote on the town government and elementary school budgets is set for Monday May 13 at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

Editor’s Note:  The following letter was received today (4/24/2013) after publication of this report challenging the statement that there were “no calls for specific reductions.”  Link to letter.

 

John White Jr. Honored for 50 Years Service to the Deep River Fire Department

Fire Chief Tim Lee presents Chief Engineer Jack White with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the Deep River Fire Department.

Fire Chief Tim Lee presents Chief Engineer Jack White with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the Deep River Fire Department.

The Deep River Fire Department presented John White Jr. (Jack) with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service, while First Selectman Dick Smith presented White with a citation from the State of Connecticut commending his service to the Fire Department and to the town of Deep River.

White joined the Department at the age of 21, inspired by his father, John White Sr. who served the Department for over 25 years as Secretary. White, the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department is responsible for the upkeep of all the fire engines and equipment used by the department.

Essex Printing Winner In New England Regional Awards of Excellence Competition

The announcement was made on April 4 during the Printing Industry of New England (PINE) Industry Awards Gala with hundreds of industry professionals in attendance. PINE’S Awards of Excellence Competition attracts over 200 entries from 41 printing and imaging companies across New England competing in a variety of printing and graphic communications categories.

Essex Printing won Awards of Recognition for the printing of Essex Savings Bank’s 2013 calendar. A panel of judges with extensive experience in printing and print production examined a wide range of work submitted. Each entry was judged anonymously on its own merit in a category with similar printed pieces.

“We are very proud to have won this competition because it confirms our commitment to our clients that we provide an outstanding level of quality printing, William McMinn, President”.

For more information please contact Essex Printing at 860-767-9087

Sen. Art Linares Tours Chester-based Roto-Frank, Inc.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou (left) and Sen. Art Linares (right) chat during Linares’ April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou (left) and Sen. Art Linares (right) chat during Linares’ April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares on April 11 toured Chester-based Roto-Frank, Inc. (www.roto-frank.com) and spoke with the manufacturer’s 50 employees.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou led Sen. Linares on the tour, introducing Sen. Linares to employees and discussing the company’s future goals. The company creates worldwide leading hardware technology for windows and doors.

Sen. Linares’ tour coincided with National Window Safety Week, which is observed annually during the first full week in April.  The designation aims to heighten public awareness of what can be done to help keep families safe from the risk of accidental falls or injuries in the home.

Sen. Art Linares speaks with Roto-Frank employees during his April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares speaks with Roto-Frank employees during his April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

“Windows play a vital role in home safety, serving as a secondary escape route in the event of a fire or other emergency, but they can also pose a risk for a fall if safety measures are not followed,” Sen. Linares said.  “I was a pleasure to tour Roto-Frank to see firsthand the great work being done in this area.”

Sen. Linares, who serves on the legislature’s Commerce Committee and the bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus, has been visiting with area manufacturers to discuss their concerns and to learn how state government can help them grow and retain jobs.

“By listening to area manufacturers, I can take their concerns and ideas directly to Hartford,” Sen. Linares said. “My goal is to pass policies at the State Capitol which help our local businesses thrive.”

Sen. Linares is supporting a bill to eliminate the state’s business entity tax and a proposal which aims to establish a “Learn Here, Live Here” program to provide an incentive for students who graduate from Connecticut colleges or technical schools to establish a new business in the state.

Sen. Linares (www.senatorlinares.com) can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at 800-842 1421. Sen. Linares represents the 33rd Senate District, which encompasses Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

Tri-Town Youth Services Announces Three Mini-Grant Recipients

In the photo, L-R:  Calley Beckwith and Denise Learned of Camp Hazen YMCA, Carol Jones and her son, Peter, from Valley Baseball Boosters.

In the photo, L-R: Calley Beckwith and Denise Learned of Camp Hazen YMCA, Carol Jones and her son, Peter, from Valley Baseball Boosters.

Through funding from Middlesex United Way for Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth of Chester, Deep River, and Essex, Tri-Town Youth Services recently awarded mini-grants to Camp Hazen YMCA, Valley Baseball Boosters, and Deep River Congregational Church South Dakota Mission Trip.

All three programs will take place over the summer and all three are designed to build youth developmental assets.  For further information about Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth, contact Gail Onofrio at 860-526-3600.

For additional information about developmental assets, visit: www.search-institute.org.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Split Opinions on Requested Rule Change for Chester Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Swimmers Give Stellar Performances in State Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sen. Art Linares to Hear from Chester Taxpayers March 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LinaresMar4COST

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

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

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

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

Rep. Miller Honored at Heart Health Awareness Month Forum

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller

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

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

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

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

Sen. Art Linares Tours Chester Firm AeroCision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essex 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

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

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

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

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

Connecticut River System Highlights Role of People in Sustaining Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just for starters, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Essex Town Hall Auditorium Closed After Partial Ceiling Collapse

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

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

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

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

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

Sen. Art Linares Meets With Deep River Taxpayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stu Ingersoll Credit Peter Harron (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concert sponsored by Tower Laboratories and The Clark Group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini grants 2013

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

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

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

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

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The view east into Hamburg Cove from the Connecticut river

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

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

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

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

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

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A juvenile bald eagle in flight over the Connecticut river

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

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

Eagles nesting on Nott Island

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

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Female bald eagle on nest on Nott Island, CT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The common merganser duck in full flight along the river

February Vacation Week Programs

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

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Avian wildlife exhibit in the Connecticut River Museum

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

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

 

Ivoryton Playhouse Announces 2013 Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linares – Working to Grow Latino Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greenleaf Music Award Recipient Announced – Pivate Lessons at CMS

Jenna Wilson of Niantic.  Recipient of the Spring 2013 Carolyn R. Greenleaf Music Award

Jenna Wilson of Niantic. Recipient of the Spring 2013 Carolyn R. Greenleaf Music Award

The selection committee for the Carolyn R. Greenleaf Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County has chosen violinist Jenna Wilson of Niantic as the recipient of the Spring 2013 Carolyn R. Greenleaf Music Award.

This award is given each semester to a high school junior or senior who has demonstrated exceptional musical ability and motivation, and represents a semester of private lessons at the Community Music School in Centerbrook.

This semester’s winner, Jenna Wilson, is a student of violin teacher Martha Herrle at the Community Music School, where she has served as Concertmaster of the CMS String Ensemble since 2010.  A senior at East Lyme High School, Jenna plays in the school orchestra. She also performs as a volunteer for various nursing homes and senior centers.  She has received several awards for her musical achievement, both at East Lyme High School and the Community Music School.

The Carolyn R. Greenleaf Memorial Fund was established at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County in 2008 by her friends to honor Greenleaf’s dedication to music and education. The Carolyn Greenleaf Memorial Music Award is open to students of Middlesex County and the Lymes and is awarded each semester.  It is entirely based on merit, and is the only such award at the Community Music School.  The deadline for applications for the Fall semester will be announced in July. The application may be downloaded from the websites of the Community Music School (www.community-music-school.org) and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (www.middlesexcountycf.org).

Community Music School is an independent, nonprofit school which provides a full range of the finest possible instruction and musical opportunities to persons of all ages and abilities, increasing appreciation of music and encouraging a sense of joy in learning and performing, thus enriching the life of the community.

Community Foundation of Middlesex County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Middlesex County. Working with charitably-minded individuals and organizations to build permanent endowments since 1997, the Community Foundation has provided 850 grants totaling more than $2.5 million to organizations for the arts, cultural and heritage programs, educational activities,  environmental improvements, and for health and human services.  For more information, contact us at 860.347.0025 or info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org.

Middlesex County Youth to Experience Homelessness for a Night

Young people from across Middlesex County are going to brave January’s cold and sleep outdoors Saturday, Jan. 26, as part of a program to educate people about the existence and conditions of homelessness in the community.

The fourth annual Homelessness Awareness Discussion and Sleep-Out will kick off in two locations at 6:45 p.m. at South Congregational Church on Main Street in Middletown and at 6 p.m. the St. Joseph’s Church in Chester. The event is sponsored by 10 faith-based organizations in collaboration with the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (MCCHH), which is implementing a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in the county.

The teens will hear first-hand about the ordeal of homelessness from several people who are currently or formerly homeless and be able to ask questions. A simple soup and bread dinner will be served.

“The biggest thing they take away is that these homeless people are real; they are just like them,” said Jim Tabor, youth ministry coordinator for St. Joseph’s, which this year will have 10 teens joining the sleep-out. “There were circumstances that drove them to homelessness, some within their control and some not. And they learn just how difficult homelessness is.”

Youth participants then will to spend the night outside. In the past, some of them have chosen to sleep in their cars without heat, build cardboard shelters or just spread their sleeping bags on tarps on the frozen ground.

The Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness was formed in late 2007 to execute the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness.  Over the past year, 56 “Housing First” supportive housing units were created to house formerly chronically-homeless individuals and 170 households, including more than 230 children, have been helped through the flexible homelessness prevention fund.

Despite some positive signs, homelessness in Middlesex County increased from 2010 to 2011, due largely to the ongoing recession, and is affecting new segments of the population. According to figures from January 2011, there were 248 people including 159 single adults and 37 families with 52 children in Middlesex County experiencing homelessness, a 15 percent increase over 2010.

Out of the 248 homeless people, 43 percent had never been homeless before. In Middlesex County, 43 percent of adults in families cited domestic violence as a contributing cause of homelessness, while 25 percent of families reported rent problems or eviction as the reason they left their last residence. Ten percent of the total included chronically homeless people, adults with disabling conditions who had been homeless for a year or more or who had at least four episodes of homelessness during the past three years. The remaining 90 percent experienced situational homelessness caused by a crisis such as  job loss, foreclosure or illness and typically return to permanent housing within 30 days of becoming homeless.

Through the creation of permanent supportive housing, the operation of a Homelessness Prevention Fund, the development of outreach and education programs to help homeless people find and retain jobs, and improving coordination of services for the homeless, the Coalition is dedicated to achieving its goal of “An End In Ten”— eradicating the tragedy of homelessness from our communities by 2018.

For more information on the Middlesex Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness visit www.AnEndInTen.org or www.facebook.com/anendinten.