March 5, 2015

Essex Town Meeting Approves 2013-2014 Town Projects Building Committee

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved the formation of a building committee to develop and implement several infrastructure projects that are expected to be presented to voters for a bonding authorization early next year. Six residents turned out to approve the formation of the 2013-2014 Building Committee and the appointment of its first three members on unanimous voice votes with little discussion.

The initial three appointments to what is planned as a five-member building committee are town finance director Kelly Sterner, Leigh Rankin, and Bruce Glowac. Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, is an uncontested candidate for Region 4 Board of education in the Nov. 5 election. Glowac, a former first selectman, has served as director of facilities for Region 4 schools since 1999.

Glowac is also the uncontested Republican nominee for an open seat on the board of selectmen in the Nov. 5 vote. Glowac is expected to begin a new term on the board of selectmen, where he served as a selectman and first selectman in the early 1990s, when the new two-year term begins in mid-November.

The first task for the building committee will be working with the board of selectmen to hire an engineering firm to prepare detailed cost estimates for various priority projects that would be used to establish an amount for the proposed bond authorization. The current list of priority projects includes replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof, and replacement of two bridges in the Ivoryton section.

Selectman Joel Marzi told voters Monday the early formation of a building committee would allow the town to begin work on an application for state funding assistance that would be available for the school roof project. A formal building committee is required for seeking state funding reimbursement for school building projects.

Marzi noted that Glowac has experience with this process from serving as Region 4 director of facilities during the Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School renovation and expansion projects that were completed in 2005. The town could also seek partial state funding reimbursement for the two bridge replacement projects.

The existing three-member building committee is expected to hold its first meeting later this month, with the board of selectmen expected to discuss the process for hiring an engineering consultant at its Oct. 16 meeting. After the make up and amount of the proposed infrastructure projects bond issue is established, the plan would be presented to voters at one or more public hearings before any town vote on a bonding authorization.

Health Care Reform – What You Need to Know Now!

Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins on Oct. 1. What do you need to know about the program and how will it affect you? Randi Redmond Oster, an independent health care advocate, reports that there is “not all good news, but it isn’t all bad either.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, Oster will be presenting two free programs, sponsored by the Valley Shore Public Libraries, to answer such questions as: What are the top ten changes I need to know about? How much will the new insurance cost? Will I qualify for the health insurance premium subsidies? What is the penalty if I don’t purchase insurance? Does my employer need to offer me insurance? Does my Medicare supplement change?

An afternoon program on Oct. 22 will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Acton Library in Old Saybrook. An evening program will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House. The programs are open to all at no charge. More information is available through your public library.

Newman Named New Executive Director at Lyme Art Association

The Lyme Art Association’s (LAA) Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Joseph F. Newman as Executive Director of the LAA, effective Oct. 1. Newman will be replacing Susan Ballek, who has accepted the position of Director and CEO of the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, CT.

Currently, Newman owns a private firm specializing in American fine art and rare book collection management, and serves as managing partner of Treasure Hill Farm, eastern Connecticut’s 97-acre premier equestrian facility.

Newman was previously responsible for new client development and sales for a major American auction house, as well as a prominent New York City gallery. His fine art career originated in Old Lyme, where he served as director of the Cooley Gallery, responsible for development, sales, and research. Newman received his Bachelor of Arts degrees from Boston College, graduating magna cum laude, and he holds an ALM from Harvard University. Writing as J. F. Newman, he is also the author of The Freeman’s Oath, a novel about the inside world of American rare books and documents.

“For the past two years, Joe Newman has been actively engaged in the Lyme Art Association as a board member, serving on committees dealing with exhibitions planning, development, and the launching of our Second Century Capital Campaign,” says LAA Board President Katherine Simmons. “His enthusiasm and commitment for the mission and values of the LAA, combined with his strong background in the arts and results-oriented style, is a perfect match for the Association’s goals as we embark on our next century of advancing the Lyme tradition of exceptional representational art.”

“The legacy of the Lyme Art Association and its founding artists is extremely important, both for our region and its role in our national art history,” says Newman. “Together with an outstanding and dedicated Board of Directors, I am excited to help lead the LAA and its Second Century Capital Campaign. When complete, the Campaign will strengthen the Association’s standing as an art destination for patrons from throughout the Northeast and beyond, and will improve the LAA’s mission to serve as an educational resource for local artists, schools, and the public. I welcome the community to join us as we embark on an exciting second century.”

The LAA invites its members, friends, and patrons to meet Joe Newman at the Opening Reception of the New England Landscape Invitational Exhibition, to be held on Friday, Oct. 4, from 6 to 8. pm.

The Lyme Art Association was incorporated in 1914 by members of the Lyme Art Colony, which included the American Impressionist masters Childe Hassam, Willard Metcalf, William Chadwick, and more. These nationally-recognized artists embraced the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme as pastoral havens to paint, re-kindle their creative energies, and, via the Association’s celebrated exhibitions, sell their work. Architect Charles A. Platt, designer of the Freer Art Gallery in Washington, D.C and the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London, CT, drafted the plans for the Lyme Art Association Gallery, designed specifically to showcase the art of its founders. The gallery opened in 1921.

Nearly a hundred years later, the Lyme Art Association continues to be a vibrant art center dedicated to producing major exhibitions of representational art in its four light-filled galleries. Annually these exhibitions feature over 2,000 pieces of artwork for exhibition and sale. The Association also offers a busy schedule of affordable art classes, workshops, and lectures. The Lyme Art Association, together with the Florence Griswold Museum, the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, and the Cooley Gallery, helps make Old Lyme the place where American art lives. The Lyme Art Association is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit the LAA online at www.lymeartassociation.org, or contact 860-434-7802 or info@lymeartassociation.org.

Town Meeting Approval Required for New Essex Projects Building Committee

ESSEX— Approval from a town meeting is required for the new 2013-2014 town projects building committee established by the board of selectmen last week. The town meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. in town hall.

The building committee will be charged with developing an implementing several town infrastructure projects that are expected to be funded by a bonding authorization that would go to town voters for approval early next year. A Sept. 18 town meeting approved spending $35,000 in surplus funds for hire an engineering consulting firm that would prepare detailed cost estimates for priority projects, including replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof and replacement of the Ivory Street and and Walnut Street bridges in the Ivoryton section.

The cost estimates would be used to establish an amount for the bonding resolution, which would be presented to voters at one or more public hearings before any vote.

Voters Monday will be asked to approve two resolutions, one for the establishment of the “2013-2014 Building committee,”, and a second to approve the appointment of three members recommended by First Selectman Norman Needleman last week.

The proposed members are Bruce Glowac, town finance director Kelly Sterner, and Leigh Ann Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard Officer who is an uncontested candidate for Region 4 Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election. Glowac, who served as first selectman from 1991-1995, currently serves as the director of facilities for Region 4 schools.

Glowac is also the Republican nominee for an open seat on the board of selectmen in the Nov. 5 vote where Democratic First Selectman Needleman, Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, and Glowac are uncontested for election to the board. Glowac’s term on the board of selectmen would begin in mid-November. The selectmen agreed last week to establish a five member building committee, with volunteers still being sought for the other two spots on the panel.

Land Purchase and Donation Expand Conserved Areas and Wildlife Refuge

LYME — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with The Nature Conservancy to add 66 acres of tidal marsh and coastal lands along Whalebone Cove in Lyme to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

Announced today, this expansion of the refuge includes the purchase of 26 acres from a private landowner, along with a donation of four previously conserved properties totaling 40 acres, from the Conservancy to the Service. Together, these parcels establish the new Whalebone Cove Division of the refuge.

The Nature Conservancy negotiated the new 26-acre property purchase on behalf of the Service and made option payments over 2 ½ years to allow time for the Service to secure funding for the purchase.

The newly protected property contains approximately 2,000 feet of Connecticut River frontage and forms the southern entrance to Whalebone Cove. It features extensive high and low tidal marsh communities; steep, wooded slopes; an upland kettle-hole wetland complex; floodplain forest; upland meadows; and mature forest. Whalebone Cove features exemplary tidal marshes that host one of the largest stands of wild rice in Connecticut. It is an important wintering area for bald eagles and black ducks and a significant feeding area for migratory waterfowl.

Just south of Gillette Castle State Park in Lyme, Whalebone Cove is one of the most undisturbed and biologically significant freshwater tidal marshes on the Connecticut River. The Cove has been a longtime conservation priority of The Nature Conservancy as well as a “special focus area” for the Conte Refuge. The donated acreage was originally conserved by The Nature Conservancy more than a decade ago.

“Today, we celebrate the permanent protection from development of these precious natural areas,” said Nathan Frohling, the Conservancy’s director of Connecticut coastal and marine initiatives.

“The new acquisition, combined with the parcels the Conservancy is now donating, will build on a legacy of conservation here and in the Lower Connecticut River. The Conte Refuge represents an important new and trusted partner in achieving a larger conservation vision for Whalebone Cove. The Service’s role was key to making the purchase possible, and with it 80 percent of this freshwater tidal marsh site is now protected,” Frohling said.

“This acquisition would not have been possible without the Service’s close partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the continued support from the Congressional Delegation and the Administration,” said Andrew French, project leader at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. “Now, we look forward to collaborating with local residents and our partners in being good stewards of this land and good neighbors with those who live in the area.”

Connecticut leaders this week expressed their support for the refuge.

“I commend the Nature Conservancy for their longstanding commitment to preserving vital natural habitats in Connecticut and nationwide. This partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve 26 acres of beautiful and environmentally-precious land deserves to be applauded and replicated,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I will continue to work alongside advocates to ensure that our valuable habitats are protected and treasured for generations to come.”

“This project is a testament to the incredible power of the Land and Water Conservation Fund when it comes to completing high-value conservation acquisitions,” said Senator Chis Murphy. “Unspoiled tidal lands are a rarity in heavily-developed states like ours, and this parcel will be a valuable addition to the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge.”

“The Connecticut River is an ecological treasure, and this project will help to protect it for generations to come,” said Representative Joe Courtney, of Connecticut’s 2nd District, which includes Lyme. “I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their work to secure this parcel of undeveloped land, and their commitment to protecting our state’s natural landscape.”

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve native plants, animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed that stretches across four states. It is the only refuge in the country dedicated to a river’s entire watershed. The refuge works to protect land, form partnerships with citizens to foster conservation efforts, educate the public, and pass on the importance of the watershed to future generations.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/connecticut.

 

Bids are High for Essex Town Hall Campus Project

ESSEX-– The bids have come in high for the Essex Town Hall Civic Campus project that is to be funded by a $471,500 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant. Four bids for the project were opened on Aug. 8.

All of the bids exceeded the amount of the grant the town was awarded late last year. The bids ranged from a price of $594,832 from B&W Paving of Oakdale to a high bid of $795,971 from Running Brook Construction of Killingworth. The second lowest price was a bid of $638,113 from Xenelis Construction Inc. of Middlefield, a company that has done work for the town previously.

The project calls for repaving and expanding of the town hall parking lot, new tennis courts and a new handicapped accessible play scape for the abutting Grove Street Park. There would also be new crosswalks and sidewalks and other improvements to Grove Street intended to enhance the connections between town hall and the Essex Library, which has its main entrance on the other side of Grove Street.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said Tuesday he is optimistic some components of the project can be adjusted to establish a final price that is more in line with the grant amount. “We think we can come in close,” he said.

Needleman noted that while the bid specifications includes extensive paving work, the town can secure a lower price for paving materials through a state price contract that is available to cities and towns. He said some of the work could be done by the town public works crew, allowing for removal of some project components from the bid price.

Needleman said he would work with Public Works Director David Caroline to negotiate possible changes to the bids, with a focus on the two lowest bidders, B&W Paving and Xenelis Construction. Needleman said he is hopeful a contract could be awarded early next month to allow construction to begin this fall for completion before the start of the winter season .

Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith Unopposed for 13th term, Republican Caucus sets up Contests for Board of Finance, Region 4 School Board

DR-Selectman-580x435

First Selectman Richard Smith

DEEP RIVER– Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith will run unopposed this fall for the third straight town election, but party nominating caucuses have set up Nov. 5 contests for two seats on the board of finance and a seat on the Region 4 Board of Education.

Town Republicans nominated no candidate for first selectman at the party caucus, with the seven party members at the caucus discussing a possible cross-endorsement of Smith for a record 13th term in the top job.

Long-time Town Treasurer Tom Lindner and Republican Town Chairman Greg Alexander, who sparred with Smith while serving on the board of finance in the 1990s, each said Smith has “done a good job in Deep River.”

Lindner said a cross-endorsement, giving Smith both the Republican and Democratic lines, could help Republican candidates in any contested races. But the caucus decided to make no cross endorsements, with some members noting town Democrats had declined to cross endorse  Linder and incumbent Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell for new terms.

Republicans nominated incumbent Selectman David Oliveria for a third term on the board of selectmen. Barring any unexpected petition candidates, the 2013-2015 board of selectmen  is certain to be comprised of Smith, one-term incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., and Oliveria. Republicans nominated Winchell, who was first elected in 2009, and Lindner, for new terms, with no candidate nominated to challenge two-term Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani.

Republicans nominated two candidates for board of finance, Douglas Nagan and John Wichtowski, who works as a chemist for Pfizer Corp. They will compete for the two open board seats with incumbent Democrat Lori Guerette and Russell Marth. Incumbent  Democrat Carmella Balducci is unopposed for a two-year vacancy term on the finance board.

Republicans nominated James Olson for Region 4 Board of Education. Olson is completing a term on the local school board that supervises Deep River Elementary School. Olson is in a contest with Democrat Jane Cavanaugh for the seat now held by departing Region 4 Board Chairwoman Linda Hall.

Republicans nominated Nelle Andrew and Michelle Grow for uncontested election to the local board of education. Douglas Dopp was nominated for a seat ion the board of assessment appeals, with incumbent Donald Routh and Patricias Unan nominated for library board of trustees.

Smith said Wednesday he is pleased with the chance to run unopposed for a new two-year term “I appreciate it,” he said, adding “everybody is working together and the results speak for themselves.” Smith was unopposed for re-election in 2009 and 2011, facing his last challenge for the top job in 2007 from a candidate running on the Deep River Independent Party line. Smith was also uncontested by town Republicans in 1995 and 1999.

Chester Democrat and Republican Slates Set Uncontested Fall Election

CHESTER— Town Democrats and Republicans have nominated slates that set up a Nov. 5 election ballot with no contested positions. Democratic First Selectman Edmund Meehan is unopposed for a second term in the top job.

Party caucuses last week nominated slates with numerous incumbents, while the positioning of candidates for full and partial vacancy terms provides for no direct contests on the ballot. Meehan moves toward a second term with two-term incumbent Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher as his running mate for board of selectmen. Republicans nominated incumbent Selectman Tom Englert for a third term, with no candidate for first selectman. Uncontested elections for the board of selectmen have occurred previously in Chester, with former Democratic First Selectman Martin Heft running unopposed in 1997, 1999, and 2003.

Democrats and Republicans each cross-endorsed incumbent Town Clerk Debra Calamari and incumbent Tax Collector Madaline Meyer for new terms. Calamari was first elected as town clerk in 1989. Democrats nominated incumbent Town Treasurer Elizabeth Netch for a new term, with Republicans nominating no candidate for the position.

Democrats nominated incumbent David  Cohen for a full six-year term on the board of finance, with incumbent Richard Nygard nominated for a full term as board of finance alternate. Republicans nominated appointed incumbent Charles Park for a full term on the board of finance, with Alexander Strekel nominated for a four-year vacancy term as board of finance alternate. There are two full member finance board seats on the fall ballot.

Democrats nominated incumbent Henry Krempel for a new term on the planning and zoning commission, with Republicans nominating incumbents Melvin Seifert and Doreen Joslow for the commission. Democrats nominated former Selectman Peter Zanardi for a four-year vacancy term on the planning and zoning commission.

While there are two Region 4 Board of Education seats on the ballot, two incumbents elected at a December 2011 town meeting to fill vacancies, are unopposed to continue on the board. Republicans nominated incumbent Mario Gioco for a full six-year terms, with Democrats nominating incumbent Ann Monaghan for a two-year vacancy term. Democrats nominated Arthur Henick and Robert Bibbiani for the local board of education, with Republicans nominating incumbents Ashley Marsh and Shaun Savoie.
Democrats nominated incumbent Dudley Clark for a new term on the board of assessment appeals, with Republicans nominating incumbent David Watts for the board. Democrats nominated Susan Ziren and Robert Gorman for library board of trustees, with Republicans nominating incumbent Teresa Schreiber.

Democrats nominated incumbents John Delaura Jr. and Michael Desnoyers for zoning board of appeals. Republicans nominated Brian Sakidavitch for a four-year vacancy term as ZBA alternate. Democrats nominated incumbents Albert Armington, Samuel Chorches, and Leroy Edward Ward for water pollution control authority, with Republicans nominating incumbent Felice Cressman for WPCA.  Democrats nominated incumbent Christine Darnell for inland-wetlands commission, with Republicans nominating incumbent Eric Davison for the IWC.

Work Helps Control Damaging Invasive Plant Along Lower Connecticut River

phragmites australis

Phragmites australis

In order to help restore and sustain the tidal wetlands along the lower Connecticut River, The Nature Conservancy last year undertook invasive phragmites control work at 12 locations on more than 215 acres.

Paid for by funding provided by the Ecosystem Management and Habitat Restoration grants administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state-permitted and safe herbicide treatments are necessary to help sustain the gains made by DEEP, The Nature Conservancy and others against phragmites.

Initial post-treatment monitoring concluded in June 2013, and the DEEP grant-funded work completed last year by the Conservancy helps ensure that gains made from previous phragmites control efforts are sustained.

In addition to sustaining gains made against phragmites, the project provides more experience and know-how for partners to better analyze best management practices, ensuring future decisions remain well informed.

The treatments took place at sites in East Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex and Old Saybrook. Observation of conditions in treated areas will be ongoing.

“The Conservancy is grateful for the DEEP’s leadership on this issue,” said David Gumbart, assistant director of land management for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. “We’re also grateful to the many private landowners who granted permission for work on their lands and appreciative of the many supportive local land trusts and towns.”

In the 1990s, a study documenting the invasion of phragmites along the lower Connecticut River showed that the outstanding native biodiversity for which these marshes are famous was disappearing at an alarming rate. In some locations, over 40 percent of the native plant communities had been converted to phragmites in less than 30 years.

Subsequently, the Conservancy, DEEP and others began work to stop these losses and rein in phragmites in the tidal marsh system using conventional herbicide and mulching treatments. Over time, an approximately 80 percent reduction of the plant has been achieved in the tidal marshes of the lower Connecticut River. These efforts also helped regain additional habitat that will see colonization by native species.

More about phragmites and the Lower Connecticut River

Invasive European strains of Phragmites australis were introduced to the United States in the 1880s, possibly through ships’ ballast, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Invasive Species Information Center.

Since then, phragmites has become one of the biggest threats to the lower Connecticut River’s exemplary tidal marsh system. This is because it overruns the native plant communities that are a primary feature in the system’s health and productivity.

Although common birds and wildlife can utilize stands of phragmites, the biodiversity and overall ecological integrity of a marsh system is severely compromised by the invasive plant.

Sustaining the tidal marsh habitats through efforts such as phragmites control sustains rare plant species, as well as the migratory, shore and wading birds that thrive in these habitats. Among the other beneficiaries are fish, including the Atlantic silverside, that utilize the marshes at high tide. Such work also helps sustain the quality of the Long Island Sound.

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org/connecticut

Deep River Democrats Nominate First Selectman Richard Smith for 13th Term, Town Republican Caucus Monday

Dick Smith by 1905 water fountain in front of Town Hall

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith (photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

DEEP RIVER— Town Democrats this week nominated First Selectman Richard Smith for a record 13th term in the town’s top office, with incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr. nominated for a second term as Smith’s running-mate for board of selectmen. Town Republicans will nominate candidates at a caucus Monday, though Smith is not expected to face a Republican challenger in the Nov. 5 election.

Democrats at their caucus Tuesday nominated incumbent Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani for a third two year term. But Democrats did not nominate candidates for either town clerk, to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell, or town treasurer, to contest long-time Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner.

Democrats nominated three candidates for board of finance, including incumbent Lori Guerette and Russell Marth for full six-year terms, and incumbent Carmella Balducci for a four year vacancy term. Balducci was appointed to the finance board last year to fill a seat that had been held by her husband, former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci.

Marth had served a single term on the board of selectmen after he won election on the Deep River Independent Party line in 2007, a year when town Republicans did not nominate candidates for first selectman or board of selectmen. He was unseated in 2009, when Republicans nominated current incumbent Selectman David Oliveria for the board.

Marth later rejoined the Democratic Party and became a member of the Deep River Democratic Town Committee. The 2007 election was the last year where Smith faced a challenge for the first selectman seat, with John Kennedy running unsuccessfully for the top job on the Deep River Independent Party line.

Democrats nominated Jane Cavanaugh for Region 4 Board of Education. Cavanaugh is seeking the seat held by current Region 4 Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall. Democrats nominated two new candidates for the local board of education, Hadley Kornacki and Augustus Ferretti. Democrats nominated incumbent Sharon Emfinger and Roy Jefferson for library board of trustees.

Town Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Monday at 7 p.m. in the meeting room at the Liberty Bank branch on Main Street. No candidates have announced to challenge Smith, though Oliveria is expected to be nominated for a third term on the board of selectmen.

Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman Uncontested for Second Term, Bruce Glowac Nominated for Republican Selectman Seat

First Selectman Norman Needleman

First Selectman Norman Needleman

ESSEX— Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman will run unopposed for a second term, as party nominations Wednesday set up a low-key Nov. 5 town election with two seats on the board of finance the only contested races on the ballot. Bruce Glowac, a former first selectman, was nominated by town Republicans for the minority party seat on the three member board of selectmen.

Needleman and Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby were unanimously endorsed by the Essex Democratic Town committee for a second term. Needleman was nominated by Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller, who served as first selectman from 2003 to 2011. Needleman served on the board of selectmen during Miller’s years in the top job. Miller said Needleman had provided consistent leadership over the past two years, and “loves and believes in the town and its people.”

The nomination for first selectman was left vacant when about 25 Republicans gathered for a nominating caucus at town hall after Democrats concluded their nominations vote minutes earlier in the same building. Republican Town Chairman Edward Cook said no one expressed interest in the nomination to challenge Needleman. Cook said members of the town committee had concluded that Needleman was “doing a pretty decent job,” and that 2013 was a year to “concentrate on being constructive,” as Democrats and Republicans battle over broader issues on the national level.

Bruce Glowac, who served as first selectman from 1991-1995, was unanimously nominated by town Republicans for the board of selectman. Glowac, who has worked since 1999 as director of facilities for Region 4 schools, said he had  “always planned to come back to public service,” in the town. Glowac, 61, also acknowledged he could be interested in another run for the top job in 2015. He will continue in the Region 4 job while serving as a selectman.  Glowac said his goals for the next two years are to “bring common sense to town government and to make sure we have a friendly town hall.”

The Republican selectman seat has been held since 2009 by Joel Marzi, who was nominated by town Republicans for the open position of town clerk. The Democratic town committee also cross-endorsed Marzi for election to a four-year term as town clerk. Republicans cross-endorsed the incumbent Democratic tax collector, Megan Haskins, for a second term

James Francis, chairman of the board of finance since 2003, was nominated by Democrats for the open position of town treasurer. Francis was not cross-endorsed by town Republicans, but is uncontested for election to a four-year term in the part-time job.

Leigh Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer with engineering experience, was nominated by Republicans for a six-year term in the Region 4 Board of Education. Rankin was cross-endorsed by Democrats. Incumbent Republican Coral Rawn was cross-endorsed by Democrats for a new term on the board of assessment appeals. Democrat Carolyn Rotella and incumbent Republican Adam Conrad were nominated for uncontested election of the local board of education.

The only contested races on the Nov. 5 ballot are for two seats on the board of finance. Democrats nominated two-term incumbent board member Campbell Hudson and Mary Louise Pollo. Hudson is a local attorney, Pollo is a former member and chairwoman of the local school board. Republicans nominated Peter Decker, a business consultant, and James Palagonia, a sales representative for a medical products company, for the finance board seats.

Needleman said he is pleased to be running unopposed, and “excited about the opportunity to serve the town” for another two years. Needleman added that Glowac would be a “good addition to the board of selectmen.”

Chester Sets July 23 Town Meeting on Main Street Project Plan

CHESTER— Voters will be asked at a July 23 town meeting to approve a long-range plan for the reconstruction of Main Street in the downtown village. The town meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the community meeting room at town hall.

The plan, prepared by an appointed volunteer committee with assistance from the Kent & Frost engineering consulting firm of Groton, is intended to serve as a “long-range guide to promote commercial viability, attract small business, and improve street surfacing, drainage, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, and way finding,” in the downtown village. The plan includes recommendations for phasing of improvements in coordination with plans for replacing the Main Street bridge in 2016. It will also be used in applying for state grants to help fund the improvement project.

Engineers estimated the total cost of the Main Street improvements at about $1.5  million at a public information meeting on the plan in March. The town is planning to use a combination of set aside town funds and grant funding to pay for the project.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan has said a decision by the state Department of Transportation to delay construction on the replacement of the Main Street bridge from 2015 to 2016 would allow the town to begin work on an initial phase of the Main Street Project next year. The initial phase would be a reconstruction of Main Street from the intersection with Route 154 west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. The second phase, encompassing most of the Main Street commercial district, would be done later, in coordination with the state’s bridge replacement project.

Essex and Deep River Parties Set Nominating Caucuses for November Election

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER— Democrats and Republicans in Deep River and Essex will hold nominating sessions over the coming week to pick candidates for the Nov. 5 town elections. Democrats and Republicans in Essex will meet on Wednesday, while Deep River Democrats will caucus Tuesday and town Republicans have set a nominating caucus for July 22.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee will hold an endorsement session Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at town hall. Incumbent Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman is expected to be nominated for a second two-year  term, with incumbent Selectwoman Stacia Libby continuing as his running-mate for board of selectmen. Essex Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

No Republicans have announced as candidates for first selectman to challenge Needleman, but a caucus contest is possible for the open Republican nomination for board of selectman. Two-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi is not seeking re-election, deciding instead to run for the open position of town clerk. While no one has formally announced as a candidate, there is believed to be more than one prospective candidate for the open GOP selectman seat. Democrats and Republicans will also nominate candidates for town clerk, tax collector, town treasurer, board of finance, Region 4 Board of Education, the local board of education, and the board of assessment appeals.

Deep River Democrats will caucus Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Lace Factory building, 161 River St. Incumbent Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith is expected to be nominated for a 13th term in the town’s top office, with incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr. expected to be nominated for a second term as Smith’s running mate for board of selectmen.

Town Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Monday, July 22 at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Bank building on Main Street. No Republicans have announced as a candidate to challenge Smith for the first selectman position. Incumbent Republican Selectman David Olivera is expected to be nominated for a third term on the board of selectmen.

Chester Planning and Zoning has Public Hearing Thursday on New Building at Chester Point Marina

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a special permit application from Chester Point Marina for construction of a new building on the marina property at 72 Rail Road Avenue. The building would house a seasonal restaurant and a marine products display area.

Chester Point Real Estate LLC of Essex is seeking to demolish an existing building on the property that has frontage on Chester Creek and the Connecticut River. Replacing it would be a new 5,561-square-foot building, with 2,653-square-feet of the new building to be used for a seasonal restaurant that would operate from April through October. The remainder would be used for an office and display area. The plans call for site improvements and 47 parking spaces.

The permit application would not change the use for the property in the waterfront design district because a seasonal restaurant has operated in the existing building on the marina property. The public hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at town hall.

Essex Selectmen Discuss Available Property Abutting Town Hall

ESSEX-– The board of selectmen last week discussed the possibility of a town purchase of a residential property at 27 West Avenue that abuts the east side of the town hall property. The 2.5-acre property that includes a 1766 house and barn, has been owned by the late Eileen Samuelson Perry.

Perry died on June 15, and is survived by five children. First Selectman Norman Needleman told the board at its July 3 meeting the property would be soon placed on the market for sale. Needleman said the town should at least consider a possible purchase of the property because of its proximity to the hall.

The property is assessed at $623,100 on the current grand list, a figure that should represent about 70 percent of fair market value. Needleman said he is uncertain what the listing price would be when the property is placed on the market.

Selectman Joel Marzi agreed the option of acquiring the property should be explored, while noting it would take at least six months for the town to be in a position to appropriate funds to purchase the property. An expenditure to purchase the property would require approval from voters at a town meeting, or possibly a referendum.

The board agreed to discuss the option further at its Aug. 7 meeting, and possibly schedule a public information meeting on the option of purchasing the property. Needleman acknowledged he is uncertain about how the property would be used by the town, or the cost of upgrading the historic house for possible public uses.

Deep River Planning and Zoning Expecting Application for Dunkin Donuts Relocation

Dunkin DonutsDEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission is awaiting a special permit application for a proposed relocation of the Dunkin Donuts franchise to a vacant commercial building at 241 Main St.. While an application has yet been received, Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson said Monday she has held a preliminary discussion about a plan to relocate the Dunkin Donuts to the building at 241 Main Street, near the entrance to Devitts Field.

A Dunkin Donuts has been in operation since 2009 at 190 Main St., the former Elms rooming house property. The 241 Main St. property was formerly owned by resident Donald Slater, housing an Irish gifts shop. The building has been largely vacant for more than three years. The property was purchased in 2011 by 246 Main Deep River LLC, a partnership established by Chester businessman Perter Kehayias, who also operates the Oregenon Market on Route 154 in Chester.

Last August, the commission approved a special permit to allow conversion of the 241 Main St. structure in to three shops. But no businesses are currently in operation on the property. Jefferson said the preliminary plan she was advised of calls for a Dunkin Donuts and one other unspecified business on the property.

Any special permit application for relocation of the Dunkin Donuts would require a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission. Jefferson a hearing could be scheduled for August if an application is received before the commission’s July 18 meeting.

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith to Seek 13th Term in November Election

DR-Selectman-580x435DEEP RIVER— Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith has announced plans to seek a 13th term in the Nov. 5 town election, extending a tenure in office that has made him one of the longest serving municipal leaders in Connecticut.

Smith, 62, said this week he had never considered not running again this year, and had advised the Deep River Democratic Town Committee of his intentions in March. “I love what I do and there is still a lot more to do,” he said. Smith, the current president of the state council of Small Towns (COST) said he enjoys working on local issues and improvements.

Smith, who also serves as a part-time town police officer, was first elected in 1989. He was last contested for re-election by town Republicans in 2005, and was previously unopposed for new terms in 1995 and 1999. Smith’s last election challenge came in 2007, when several residents opposed to Main Street redevelopment projects supported by Smith formed an independent ticket to contest various positions. Smith defeated Deep River Independent Party candidate John Kennedy by a wide margin in the 2007 race.

Smith said his latest running mate, Angus McDonald Jr., will also seek a second term this fall. McDonald was elected to the board of selectmen in 2011, replacing Democrat Arthur Thompson, who served from 2009-2011. No Republicans have declared as candidates to challenge Smith for the top job, though Republican Selectman David Oliveira is expected to seek a third term this year.

Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell is also seeking a third two-year term this year. Elected by a two-vote margin to the open town clerk seat in 2009, Winchell was uncontested by town Democrats for a second term in 2011. She is not expected to face a challenge this year.

The only contests on the Nov. 5 ballot could be for three seats on the board of finance, two full six-year terms and an unexpired vacancy term. Town Democrats and Republicans will nominate candidates for 2013 at party caucuses to be held between July 16-23.

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.