May 27, 2016

State Rep. Jim Crawford Wins Endorsement at Democrats Nominating Convention

AREAWIDE— State Rep. Jim Crawford of Westbrook won the Democratic Party endorsement for the 33rd Senate District at the district nominating convention held Monday at Essex Town Hall.

Crawford won the endorsement on a third ballot of the 58 delegates from the 12-town district, out-polling Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam and former state Rep. Dean Markham of East Hampton. The final vote was 31 for Crawford to 27 for Klinck, with Markham eliminated from the roll call after the third ballot.

A long-time social studies teacher at Westbrook High School, Crawford was elected in 2010 in the 35th House District covering Clinton, Killingworth, and most of Westbrook. He had served previously on the Westbrook Board of Selectmen.

Crawford is hoping to succeed ten-term State Senator Eileen Daily, who attended the convention Monday and received a warm standing ovation from the delegates. Until last week, Crawford had been set to accept renomination this week for a second term in the 35th House District. But Daily’s May 15 announcement that she would not seek a new term this year led him shift to a run for the senate seat.

Crawford, Klinck, and Markham confirmed their plans to run over the weekend, and met informally with many delegates in an informal gathering Sunday at Deep River Town Hall. The 33rd District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.

Crawford was nominated by former state Rep. Brian O’Connor of Clinton, who held the 35th House District seat from 20000 to 2010. O’Connor said Crawford has “proven himself an effective and pragmatic legislator after only one term.” In his own remarks to the convention, Crawford said he has the best experience for the position, adding “I am currently able to tell you where the battle lines are.”

Klinck, a realtor, former restauranteur and party activist who served as the first commissioner of the state Department on Aging during the 1980s, was described in a seconding speech from former East Haddam First Selectman Brad Parker as “the ultimate Democrat for our region.” Klinck told the crowd she had wanted to run for the seat in 1992, but deferred to Daily.

Markham, a realtor and certified public accountant who represented the East Hampton-based 34th House District from 1979-1993, was nominated by East Hampton Councilwoman Barbara Moore. Markham told the delegates he “has a great insight in to the process and will be able to hit the ground running,” with a focus on boosting the area economy.

The vote on the first ballot was 24 for Crawford, 19 for Klinck, and 15 for Markham. Crawford had all or most of the delegates from Clinton, Essex, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, while Klinck’s support was centered around East Haddam and Colchester. The vote on the second ballot was 29 for Crawford, one vote short of the 30 delegates required for a majority endorsement, with 17 for Klinck and 12 for Markham. Most of Markham’s support, which was centered around East Hampton, shifted to Klinck on the third ballot.

Crawford said after the vote he believes district Democrats would “stay united” moving toward the Nov. 6 election, though Klinck and Markham each said they would consider contesting Crawford for the nomination in an Aug 14 primary. District Republicans are expected to have a primary for the senate nomination after Neil Nichols of Essex edged Art Linares of Westbrook for the endorsement at the May 14 GOP nominating session. Klinck and Markham have until June 4 to formally file for a primary with Crawford, who as the convention-endorsed candidate would have the top line on the ballot.



Rep. Phil Miller Named ‘Children’s Champion’

State Representative Phil Miller, who represents Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam in the Connecticut General Assembly, was recognized as a “Children’s Champion” during a ceremony held at the State Capitol.

Rep. Miller received the recognition for showing a strong commitment to early childhood issues in his district and at the legislature.

“Investments in early childhood education are an investment in our children’s futures,” said Rep. Miller. “I’ve been well influenced by the many great early childhood educators in my district, who have helped me to try to do right for our children. I’m honored to receive this recognition and want to thank everyone at the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance for this award and for all the great work they do.”

“Rep. Phil Miller was chosen as a 2012 Children’s Champion for demonstrating a strong level of commitment to early childhood through leadership on policy issues during the 2012 legislative session, and active involvement on local early childhood initiatives,” said Maggie Adair, Executive Director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance.

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide membership and advocacy organization committed to improving developmental outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security for children ages birth to eight.

Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He is Vice Chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee.


Romney Carries Three Towns in Extremely Low Turnout Presidential Primary

AREAWIDE— Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney carried Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a Republican Presidential Primary that generated extremely low voter turnout after the GOP nominating contest was settled two weeks ago.

What began as a competitive nomination contest wound down earlier this month after Romney won the Wisconsin primary and former Pa. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10. The date of the Connecticut primary had been changed from a February date in 2008 as the state teamed with Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in an effort to establish a northeast regional primary. Romney, who won statewide Tuesday with about 67 percent of the vote.

In Chester, Romney had 45 votes, with seven votes for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, four votes for Texas Congressman Ron Paul, six votes for Santorum, and three uncommitted votes. A total of 65 Chester Republicans turned out during the 14 hours of balloting.

A total of 91 Republicans turned out in Deep River. Romney had 55 votes, with 13 votes for Newt Gingrich, 14 votes for Ron Paul, seven votes for Rick Santorum, and two uncommitted votes.

The turnout was slightly higher in Essex, where Republican registration is higher than in Chester or Deep River. There were 315 ballots cast Tuesday. Romney had 244 votes, with 22 votes for Gingrich, 28 votes for Paul, 14 votes for Santorum, and seven uncommitted votes.


Estuary and Midstate Regional Planning Agencies to Merge Under Proposed Regional Council of Government

AREAWIDE— The Connecticut River Estuary and Midstate regional planning agencies are expected to merge by this summer under a proposed new Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments that would replace an existing and more informal Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials.

The Essex Board of Selectmen last week received a report on the proposed changes. The board has scheduled an April 4 public hearing on an ordinance authorizing Essex to join the proposed new council of governments, a step that would precede a town meeting vote on the issue.

East Haddam First Selectman Mark Walter appeared at the board’s March 7 meeting to explain the plan. and the reasons for the proposed changes. Walter is the current chairman of the existing council of elected officials, a group that allows the chief elected officials of the Middlesex County towns, along with Lyme and Old Lyme, to meet monthly to discuss regional and state issues that effect each of the municipalities.

Walter said state officials, including leaders in the General Assembly, are pushing to reduce the number of state supported regional planning agencies. He said the elected first selectmen of the Connecticut River Valley had proposed merging the Old Saybrook-based Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency and the Middletown-based Midstate Regional Planning Agency to avoid the possibility that area towns could be shifted under a state mandate to much larger regional organizations based in Hartford, New Haven, and Norwich. “This is a positive step and also a defensive step,” Walter said.

The 17 towns currently served by the Estuary and Midstate regional planning agencies would have the option to join the proposed Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments. Under the plan, the council governments, made up of each town’s chief elected official, would serve as the board of directors for a merged regional planning agency serving the river valley region. Walter said the state has about $250,000 set aside to assist the merger plan.

The proposed member towns of the new council of governments would be the Estuary towns of Chester,Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, and the Midstate towns of Cromwell, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Middlefield, Middletown, and Portland. Approval from at least nine towns would be required to establish the COG.

Deep River voters approved resolutions supporting the RPA merger and the new council of governments at a Feb. 28 town meeting. Walter said the plan has also been approved by Cromwell, East Haddam, Haddam, Killingworth, and Portland. The Chester Board of Selectmen has discussed the plan, and is expected to bring resolutions supporting the changes to a town meeting vote later this spring. The April 4 public hearing in Essex is set for 6:30 p.m. at town hall.


Area Legislative Districts Remain Intact After 10-Year Redistricting

AREAWIDE— The state House and Senate districts that cover Chester, Deep River, and Essex have remained largely unchanged by the 10-year legislative redistricting. Redistricting of the state 151 House districts and 36 Senate districts is required every ten years after completion of the national census.

In maps released Thursday by the General Assembly redistricting panel, the 36th House District will remain comprised of the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam. The four Connecticut River valley towns have been together in a single House district since 2002, though from 1992 to 2002 Chester, Deep River, and Essex were in district that also included Lyme and portions of Old Saybrook. The district is currently represented by Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller, the former Essex first selectman who won the seat in a special election held last February.

Chester, Deep River and Essex will also remain in a largely unchanged 33rd Senate district. The 33rd Senate District will remain comprised of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook. The district, with some changes after the 2001 redistricting, has been represented since 1992 by Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook.


Departing Essex First Selectman Philip Miller Looks Back at his Record of Service to the Town

Former First Selectman Philip Miller at the new boat ramp at the end of Main Street in Essex

Question:What were your first priorities as First Selectman of Essex?

Miller: Several things; first, my philosophy was to promote Essex’s  commercial and light industrial base, and to keep residential taxation manageable, not by offering tax breaks or other gimmicks, but by keeping our tax rate low and investing in infrastructure. This would enable us to move goods and people safely and efficiently, and to avoid costlier deferred maintenance later in our facilities.


Question: Did you inherit a lot of deferred maintenance in the town, when you first took office?

Miller: Yes, we did have a lot of deferred maintenance, because in the nineties our population grew rapidly, and we added so many more children in our schools that in order to keep taxes from rising dramatically, maintenance had been sacrificed here and there.


Question: How did you address this problem?

Miller: We have a small municipal workforce, so I recruited talented, citizen volunteers to help research grants and to write them, and when grants were approved, these volunteers helped us to prepare bid packages, choose subcontractors, and review plans with our professionals. Also, we have used our Public Works Director, David Caroline, as our General Contractor, and we subcontracted out labor and materials.


Question: Did you encounter any problems with the approach?

Miller: With a few of a dozen projects we faced some delays, as with our first Small Cities grant at Essex Court, and with an Essex Elementary School project. Also, on a few occasions, when our applications were stalled, we received some helpful advocacy from our legislators like Senator Eileen Daily.


Question: What are some specific grants that you were successful in getting?

Miller: Well, the $190,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) funded three projects; (1) reconstructed the boat launch at the end of Main Street last winter; (2) the recently completed Novelty Lane public access project, which received some financial help from a neighbor to resolve a drainage issue; and (3) construction of a new paddle launch also at the foot of Main Street. Yet another grant also allowed for the construction of a new paddle park at the foot of Teal Lane off of Bushnell, where the Harbor Commission and our Public Works people built an observation deck, kayak racks and added landscape improvements to accommodate our ever increasing paddling public, who enjoy North and South Coves.


Question: What do people think about these projects?

Miller: All of these projects to improve public access to the river have been well received, and we also have benefited by having terrific neighbors who keep an eye on these areas, which is helpful to our Commissions in charge.


Question: Were there any other similar grants before these?

Miller: Yes, this was the fourth STEAP grant that Essex solicited and received, and there were three earlier grants of $486,000, $491,000, and $90,000. These earlier grants funded new street lights, new curbs and sidewalks, and rebuilt drainage systems in both downtown Essex and in downtown Ivoryton. A $90,000 STEAP grant also enabled us to build a sidewalk connector from Main Street in Ivoryton to Pond Meadow.


Question: Any other grants that you wish to mention?

Miller: Yes, we received a $450,000 Federal Safe Routes to School grant, which will be used next spring to rebuild the existing sidewalk which runs from downtown Ivoryton through Centerbrook. Also, we received a $135,000 state transportation planning grant, and a federal Weatherization grant of $44,000, which has been used to replace thermostats and windows at Town Hall.


Question: Any others?

Miller: In addition to these, our Emergency Management Director, Bill Buckridge, has researched and written other successful grants, which has funded our   generator at Town Hall, and enabled us to modernize and advance our communications capabilities. Buckridge teams with his Assistant Stewart Schenk, and the officers of the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.


Question: Who deserves the credit for the town’s successful grant program?

Miller: The people who have been instrumental in our success have been our Public Works people; our Treasurer Bob Dixon; our Selectmans’ Assistant and Grants Administrator Maria Lucarelli; Deputy Treasurer Kelly Sterner; our Planner John Guszkowski; our Town Clerk Fran Nolin; our Economic Development Commissioners Lee Thompson and John Beveridge; our Harbor Commissioners Jeff Going and Joe Zaraschi; and our Harbormaster Paul Riggio. We have also had some very good partners at some State agencies, like the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Department of Transportation.


Question: Anyone else you want to thank?

Miller: Yes, I want to say that our Park and Recreation Commission continue to make substantive improvements to our parks. They seem to get a lot done on a modest budget, and they are currently raising funds for the Basketball Center and supporting an effort to upgrade Grove Street Park, which is a necessity as it gets a lot of use. Also, it is such a nice place for a park. Also, I want to thank Frank Hall, Keith Christman and the Essex Citizens for Clean Energy, who helped us, get a Town Hall grant and photo-voltaic arrays for both the Town transfer station and John Winthrop Middle School.


Question: What’s ahead for the Town’s future, now that you are stepping down as First Selectman of Essex?

Miller: I believe that the Town must continue to upgrade emergency response capabilities, and we shall need to execute more capital projects in the next few years. I know that the new Board of Selectmen of Norman Needleman, Stasia Rice-Libby and Joel Marzi will do an excellent job of recruitment, preparation, evaluation and execution of these Town improvements. Coupled with some new potential open space acquisitions, this will strengthen the Town for many years to come.


Question: I have heard that in your service as First Selectman, you brought $5 million in federal and state grants to the Town of Essex. Is this true?

Miller: Yes, it is.


(Phil Miller served as First Selectman of Essex from 2003 to 2011).


Letters: Moving On

To The Editor:

Another Essex election has come and gone with an outcome that would have and should have been very different.  It is now up to our residents to attend meetings, ask questions and hold these elected officials, who work for us, accountable.

With that stated, let us say that we are both very proud of Bruce MacMillian for running a squeeky clean campaign.  He has more integrity in one finger than most people have in their entire body.

Thanks Bruce and thank you Jerri, his wife and most ardent supporter.

A clear conscience makes a soft bed pillow.

We were happy to support you and Joel Marzi.


Melanie and Paul Phoenix

Essex, CT


A one-two punch from winter weather – Message from Congressman Joe Courtney

Connecticut was hit hard by its second massive storm last weekend – a one-two punch from Tropical Storm Irene, then Winter Storm Alfred. With thousands of families still waiting for power to be restored, including my own, I wanted to update you on what I have been doing over the past few days.

Congressman Courtney joined other members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation and Gov. Malloy yesterday in Hartford to discuss federal aid that will help with storm cleanup.


After the storm hit and the lights went out, my office immediately arranged for a conference call with CL&P and town leaders from across eastern Connecticut. We learned in Irene that communication is key in this process, and connecting CL&P directly with town leaders is the fastest way to get resources where they are needed to deploy town work crews for “clear and cutting.” Despite that initial effort, the allocation of utility line crews has been excruciatingly slow and uneven. One thing that has been flawless though is the effort of countless volunteers and first responders across the district who have come together to keep us safe and warm.

Since the storm hit, I have visited Emergency Operations Centers in Vernon, Stafford, Suffield, Somers, Enfield, and Tolland, as well as emergency shelters. The professionalism and care on display in these town has been inspiring. The good nature of residents at shelters at Vernon Middle School, Suffield High and others was really impressive.

Federal resources to get the lights back on

At the end of the day though, Connecticut needs more crews and we need to get the lights back on. The Connecticut Congressional Delegation has worked with the Department of Energy to get CL&P the resources they need to accelerate the recovery process, turn the lights back on and reheat homes. As a result, the Department sent Bill Bryan, their Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration to Connecticut to help ensure that the federal government is doing everything possible to respond. Still, the onus is on CL&P to take advantage of the assistance they have secured so they can meet their projected Sunday restoration times.

As I write this, my own town of Vernon is still over 90 percent without power, and most of us know people who are struggling. The most immediate priority is getting the power back on, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Connecticut Congressional Delegation and federal officials to help coordinate additional resources, like work crews, to help speed up the process of restoring power.

With nighttime temperatures hovering around freezing, getting to shelters is critical. If your friends or family are still without power, 2-1-1 has a list of shelters and warming centers across eastern Connecticut. Help get the word out and share this valuable information.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office and me if we can be of any assistance.


Joe Courtney
Member of Congress


Churchill: A Celebration of His Life and Accomplishments

Sir Winston Churchill

The Churchill Society of Connecticut, in association with the Essex Library, will present a talk on Churchill; A Celebration of His Life And His Accomplishments by G.R. Barber, President of the International Churchill Society of Canada, on Wednesday, November 16. The talk will be held at Essex Meadows’ Hamilton Hall at 7 p.m., and a wine and cheese reception will precede it at 6:30, courtesy of Essex Meadows. The talk is free and open to all.

Essex Meadows is at 30 Bokum Road in Essex. For more information or to register for this program, please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560.


Rep. Miller Votes Yes on Jobs

State Representative Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He sits on the legislature’s Environment, Human Services, and Public Health Committees.

State Representative Phil Miller (D-Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam) voted for bipartisan legislation today that improves Connecticut’s ability to grow and retain jobs.

“Small businesses drive job growth in Connecticut and today’s legislation gives them the state support they need to truly thrive. Investing more money into Connecticut businesses will put more state residents back to work in stable, good-paying jobs,” said Miller.

Miller said one of the key components of today’s Jobs Bill (HB 6801) is the Small Business Express Package making $50 million a year available to small businesses through incentives, grants and loans.

“We shortened the time it takes businesses to get permits and eliminated the bureaucratic red tape which had gotten in the way of business growth in the state,” said Miller. “I’m proud that we have made it easier for businesses without jeopardizing worker safety or weakening our environmental laws.”

The Jobs Bill also contains short and long-term strategies to help ensure Connecticut’s workforce matches business demand by aligning programs at the state’s vocational high schools, community colleges and universities with the needs of employers, including manufacturing and technology companies.

Some of the key provisions of the Jobs Bill include:

  • Cutting the business entity tax
  • Streamlining the business permitting process
  • Consolidating and increasing the tax credit for new hires
  • A second “First Five” program
  • Remediating old industrial sites/brownfields
  • Computer upgrades to foster seamless communication between business and the state
  • Investments in roads and bridges
  • Replenishing the Manufacturing Assistance Act (MAA)
  • Main Street commercial centers improvement initiative

In addition, the legislature today approved the deal with Jackson Labs to build a $1.1 billion, state-of-the-art research facility at the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington. The State of Connecticut will invest $291 million and Jackson Labs will raise the balance of $860 million for the project.

According to the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), the project is expected to create over 660 new positions at Jackson Labs in Farmington within 20 years. DECD estimates more than 4,600 bioscience jobs would be generated through spin-off companies, and another 2,000 would be added to local service and area retail stores. The project would yield more than 840 construction jobs as well. Most importantly, it represents a critical step in establishing Connecticut as a global hub for genomic research, attracting companies and world-class minds dedicated to the pursuit of diagnostic and therapeutic medical breakthroughs.


Courtney Approves Iraq Withdrawal Plans by President

A message from Congressman Joe Courtney.

Rep. Courtney and Connecticut's Captain Frank R. DuVerger III in Afghanistan this month

Last week, President Obama announced that all U.S. military personnel will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Many of our servicemen and women who have been away from their families for too many birthdays, milestones and celebrations during the war will be home this holiday season.

President Obama’s decision to protect U.S. military personnel from unacceptable exposure to prosecution in Iraqi courts and instead execute the final removal of American troops from Iraq is the right decision for both countries. This milestone was achieved through negotiations between our two countries that provided a clear path for the transition of responsibility to the Iraqi government. After eight long years, our brave volunteers have given that country the opportunity to create its own future with a sizable security force and the rudiments of democratic institutions.

With the Fifth Fleet nearby in Bahrain and U.S. bases in Kuwait and Qatar, our ability to respond to any threat to American national security in the region is more than adequate. As the President said, our two nations will continue to have a special relationship for many years to come, built on the sacrifice and effort of our troops. Now is the time to pay particular homage to all who served in Iraq and their families – the “one percent” who have stepped up and volunteered to wear our nation’s uniform through a difficult time in our history.

On the ground in Afghanistan

 Of course, even as American troops leave Iraq, our servicemen and women remain on the ground in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I visited the country, where I was briefed on operations, met with Connecticut troops and top commanders, and learned more about the training of Afghan police and military personnel. Most importantly, General John Allen, commander of U.S./NATO troops, gave an encouraging brief on the planned draw down of U.S. troops: 10,000 this year and 23,000 by the fall of 2012. 48% of the Afghan nation will be under the control of the Afghanis in the near future, and the transition will continue until full control of Afghanistan’s future is in the hands of the Afghan people.

This was my third trip to Afghanistan since coming to Congress, and the progress was plain to see. More girls and young women are traveling to and from school, the education system has improved, and security forces are better trained and better equipped to keep the peace. While there are substantial hurdles left to clear, these are encouraging milestones that demonstrate movement in the right direction.

But to have gotten to this point – a place where real progress is clear – is a testament to the strength, bravery and resolve our military. As the war in Iraq winds down, their hard work has brought us to a place where, after 10 long years, Afghans are on the brink of reclaiming their country and their future.


Courtney Statement on Drawdown of U.S. Forces in Iraq

October 22, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney today release the following statement after President Obama announced that all U.S. military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq by year’s end:

“President Obama’s decision to protect U.S. military personnel from unacceptable exposure to prosecution in Iraqi courts and instead execute the final removal of American troops from Iraq is the right decision for both countries. This milestone was achieved through negotiations between our two countries that provided a clear path for the transition of responsibility to the Iraqi government. After eight long years, our brave volunteers have given that country the opportunity to create its own future with a sizable security force and the rudiments of democratic institutions.

“With the Fifth Fleet nearby in Bahrain and U.S. bases in Kuwait and Qatar, our ability to respond to any threat to American national security in the region is more than adequate. As the President said, our two nations will continue to have a special relationship for many years to come, built on the sacrifice and effort of our troops. Now is the time to pay particular homage to all who served in Iraq and their families – the “one percent” who have stepped up and volunteered to wear our nation’s uniform through a difficult time in our history.”


Congressman Courtney Questions Panetta on Strategic Value of Submarines

On October 13 at a  hearing of the House Armed Service Committee, Congressman Joe Courtney questioned Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on his views of  the strategic value of submarines in the light of the critical role of submarines in recent events in Libya.

Watch the exchange below:


Needleman: A Businessman and a Community Leader

Letter To the Editor:

Running a business and running a local government are two very different things, but as we face increasing challenges it’s important that Essex’s next First Selectman has experience in both.  That’s why I’m supporting Norm Needleman and his running mate Stacia-Rice Libby.

Norm built his company Tower Labs from scratch into a major manufacturer of pharmaceutical products that employs about 100 people right here in Essex.  He also has volunteered for our  community on a number of boards and commissions over the last two decades, currently serving as a Selectman since 2003.  Norm has contributed greatly to the success of a number of organizations in and around our community, including the Ivoryton Playhouse and the Rushford Center.

His work was not done alone.  Norm is a team builder and someone who is driven by his love of this community.  He will continue the bi-partisan spirit of cooperation that our town has fostered throughout its history.  Our town needs his leadership in the years to come, and that’s why Norm has earned my vote.


Stanley Sheppard
7 Mikes Terrace
Ivoryton, CT 06442



Chester and Essex First Selectman Candidates Appear Before Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce

DEEP RIVER— The four rivals competing for the first selectman job in Chester and Essex appeared Friday before the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

The candidates, Democrat Edmund Meehan and Common Ground Party nominee Andrew Landsman for Chester, and Democrat Norman Needleman and Republican Bruce MacMillian for Essex, were each given five minutes for presentations at the meeting held at Mount St. John School in Deep River. There is no contest in the Nov. 8 election for the top spot in Deep River, where Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith is unopposed for a record 12th term.

Meehan, a 40-year Chester resident who has served previously on the planning and zoning commission and board of finance, said he was running for the open first selectman seat “to keep Chester as it is.” Meehan said his past experience in town government, and employment history as town planner for Newington, ensures “there won’t be any need for on the job training.”

Landsman, a five-year resident who currently works as facilities manager for the local Aaron Manor Skilled Nursing Facility, said he has a “passion for the town,” that led him to step forward to run as the nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party, a local political party that formed in 2009 that is running its first ticket for board of selectmen this year. Chester Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman.

Needleman, who has served on the board of selectmen since 2003, said he was running to continue progress made in Essex under the administration of Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who was elected state representative for the 36th House District earlier this year and is not seeking a new term as first selectman. Needleman said he would be a “full-time first selectman,” despite his role as founder and president of Tower Laboratories, a local manufacturing company . “I have been able to remove myself from the day-to-day operation of the business,” he said.

MacMillian, who serves on the board of directors for Middlesex Hospital, said he would bring decades of business management experience to the job of first selectman “managing the town’s physical and human resources.” MacMillian said he would also be “the town’s chief salesperson,” while seeking to develop a “bipartisan approach” to town government.

Friday’s joint appearance for the candidates is expected to be one of only a handful planned before the Nov. 8 vote. Needleman and MacMillian will face off in a more formal campaign debate on Nov. 1 at the Essex library. No debate has yet been scheduled for the Chester contest, though a campaign debate has been held in most recent contested elections for the town’s top job.




Candidates to Square Off at Essex Town Hall Debate

Norman Needleman

Bruce MacMillian

The candidates for the office of Essex First Selectman, Mr. Bruce MacMillian and Mr. Norman Needleman, will square off at Essex Town Hall on Tuesday November 1 at 7:30 p.m., in a debate organized and sponsored by the Essex Library.  Also participating will be candidates for Second Selectman, Stacia Rice-Libby, and Joel Marzi. All are welcome to attend.

Do you have a question for the candidates? Questions can be submitted to the Essex Library, whose director, Richard Conroy, will screen them to ensure that they do not favor any particular point of view. All questions addressed in the debate will come from the public, and must be submitted in advance; none will be taken from the floor.

If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in several ways. You can stop by the Essex Library in person, or call the  Library (860-767-1560). You can submit your questions on the Essex Library’s FaceBook page, or email them to You can also go to the Essex Library website, at, click on the “About Us” tab, click “Contact”, and submit a question in that way. All questions must include the sender’s name and contact information, please, for verification.


Courtney statement after Obama jobs speech

Congressman Joe Courtney

Congressman Joe Courtney released the following statement on Thursday after President Obama’s jobs speech to a joint session of Congress:

“Washington’s focus veered off course with the unnecessary, distracting debate over the debt ceiling. With today’s speech, we are rightly focusing where we should have all along: on creating jobs and protecting our economic recovery.

“President Obama presented some positive initiatives tonight. I am particularly pleased that he will change refinancing rules to help homeowners who are current in their payments qualify for a lower mortgage. As I have repeatedly stated, we got into this downturn because of a falling housing market, and, in the end, a recovery will not happen without addressing that root cause. This change, which does not require Congressional action, will provide real, immediate benefits.

“I am also pleased by the President’s targeted tax breaks aimed at helping our small businesses grow and add jobs, as well as his focus on infrastructure investment. This spending will provide a quick uptick in jobs and has long-term benefit as well. Maintaining ports and harbors, fixing highways, and growing rail systems are essential steps toward getting our economy back on track.

“However, there are other large, bold ideas still on the table. Last month, American manufacturers set a record for exports, but their true potential is unrealized today because of bureaucratic red tape that prevents them from selling products even to allies. Eliminating these restrictions – some of which date back to the Cold War – would help local companies like BNL Industries in Vernon add new jobs, while still safeguarding national security.”

Earlier today, Congressman Courtney spoke on the House floor, and urged House Republican leaders to tackle big issues, including jobs, and to add additional work days to Congress’ work schedule. The GOP House floor schedule currently includes just five full days of work for the remainder of September.

Click here to watch video clip of Courtney speaking on the House floor.


Residents Offer Suggestions on Preserving Connecticut River Ferry at Chester Meeting

CHESTER— Area residents offered suggestions on ways to preserve the Chester-Hadlyme Connecticut River ferry, including higher fares, at a public information Thursday.

About 45 residents from towns on both sides of the river turned out at the Chester Meeting House to urge state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to keep the Connecticut River ferries, including the one connecting Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, off the table in any future state budget dispute. The turnout for the meeting, which was scheduled earlier this month at a time when the ferries were threatened with closure in early September, was clearly reduced after state officials announced last week that funding for the ferries was in place through 2013 based on state employee union’s approval of the labor concession package negotiated with the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy.

Redeker, a former New Jersey Transit official, had been appointed by Malloy as permanent commissioner for DOT Thursday after serving as acting commissioner since February. A similar meeting on the ferries was held Monday in Rocky Hill.

Redeker said the department has begun work on a “long term strategic investment and operating plan,” for the ferries that should be completed before 2013. Under questioning from residents, he also declared the ferries do not have to be “revenue neutral” or a money maker for the state. “All public transportation is subsidized to some degree by the state,” he noted.

Redeker pledged to work with and consider input from citizen’s groups supporting the ferries during preparation of the plan. One group, Friends of the Connecticut River Ferries, is preparing to organize as a non-profit foundation.

Privatization and higher fares were among the suggestions from residents for preserving the ferries. David Williams of Essex said the current fare of $3 per car could be raised , possibly to $5 per car, without undercutting usage.

Both river ferries are scheduled to continue operation, interrupted only by the threat of Hurricane Irene this weekend, through the end of the ferry season in late October.


Courtney joins bi-partisan majority in voting “yes” on compromise debt legislation

Eastern Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney was one of 95 Democrats who voted in favor of a bi-partisan “compromise debt agreement,” which passed in the House of Representatives on August 1. Joining Courtney in voting for the compromise bill was Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who returned to the House for the first time, since she was severely wounded by a  gunman in Arizona on January 8.

Also, 174 Republicans voted for the bill, while 95 Democrats and 66 Republicans voted against it. The final tally was 269 votes in favor, and 161 against the measure.

In a statement following the vote Courtney said, “With just hours to spare before the United States would default,” the bill is “the only viable path to avoiding economic catastrophe.”

Courtney, who last Saturday voted for a debt bill sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, stressed that like the Reid bill, “the compromise protects seniors by prohibiting automatic cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries”
Courtney also said that the legislation “provides long-term peace of mind to families and financial markets by ensuring that we are not engaged in this divisive, unnecessary debate just six months from now.”

However, the Congressman admitted, “This plan is far from perfect, but it succeeds on some critical fronts,” noting that it “locks down a significant payment toward deficit reduction, while also establishing a bipartisan process to address larger savings and tax reform in the future, including waste at the Pentagon.”

The Congressman, whose district includes the Connecticut River towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River, Chester, Lyme and Old Lyme concluded, “With this long process finally over, Congress must focus its attention where the American people have wanted it all along: on job creation and protecting our fragile economic recovery.”


Local Congressman Courtney Busy Voting “No’, and “Yes,” on Federal Debt Ceiling Measures

Congressman Joe Courtney, who represents most of the eastern half of Connecticut, including the towns of Old Lyme, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River and Chester, is in the thick of the nation’s current debt ceiling crisis.

First, on July 29 he voted “no” on House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address federal debt ceiling crisis and related issues. Courtney charged that the Boehner bill “is no solution at all,” and is no more than “a short term patch that provides no certainty to the American people or to the financial markets.” Also, the Congressman said that the legislation “sets the stage for a repeat of this divisive, unnecessary debate just a few months from now.”

Courtney also attacked the Speaker’s bill in that it would impose “a grotesque requirement that Congress deface the Constitution with an amendment that would cripple the country’s ability to meet the challenges it faces” by requiring a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Next, on July 30 Courtney cast a “Yes” vote in favor of Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “compromise bill to end the default crisis.” The Congressman said, “Like any compromise that includes Democratic and Republican ideas, Senator Reid’s bill is not perfect.” However, he said that the Reid bill “accomplishes what Speaker Boehner’s plan would not,” in that “it protects seniors, Social Security and Medicare,” among other federal programs. Most importantly, the Connecticut Congressman said, the Reid bill is “the only bipartisan option before Congress.”

A big bone of contention for Democrats is that the Boehner bill would require that the nation’s debt ceiling limit be renegotiated again in just six months. However, there is agreement under both the Boehner and Reid bills in that there are no tax increases in either measure.


Courtney speech on default crisis; “Downgrade is as bad as default”

Congressman Courtney spoke yesterday on the House floor in favor of a balanced solution to address our default crisis and prevent economic catastrophe. Citing a CNN report prior to Speaker Boehner’s speech the night before, Congressman Courtney highlighted that even if the Speaker’s plan passes, ratings agencies still may downgrade U.S. Treasury bonds from their current AAA rating, driving up lending costs and damaging a fragile economy.



Protecting the promise of Social Security and Medicare – a Message from Congressman Joe Courtney

As Congress considers proposals to get our fiscal house in order, I have heard from and spoken to hundreds of constituents from across the district who, like you, are concerned that the Social Security and Medicare programs they rely on will suffer major cuts. I share your concerns about reckless cuts to these programs, and I want you to know: I consider it my sacred duty to protect these programs that are the bedrock of middle class retirement security.

Click to watch Congressman Courtney vow to protect Medicare on the House floor.


Seniors have paid into Social Security and Medicare over the course of their lifetime. Cutting promised benefits is not only wrong, but it would have grave economic consequences for millions of older Americans who are faced with increased financial hardship and erosion of their retirement savings. As a member of the Congressional Seniors Task Force, I cosigned a letter to the President last week, raising these and other strong objections about proposed changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Preserving and improving a system that works

While it is necessary to address thoughtful modifications to Social Security and Medicare to preserve the programs for decades to come, recent projections by the Trustees confirm that drastic changes to both programs are unnecessary. The 2011 Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees projected that Social Security will remain completely intact until 2036 even if no changes are made today. For Medicare, the program is expected to meet all benefit obligations until 2024 – and 90 percent of obligations between then and 2045. Considering a majority of seniors currently rely on these programs to meet basic life necessities, like groceries and medical care, there is no reason to drastically change benefits.

There is no doubt that raising the debt ceiling and addressing deficit reduction are serious issues that deserve thoughtful and long-term bipartisan solutions. However, the promise of Social Security and Medicare should not be undermined in these negotiations, and I will continue to oppose efforts to scale back benefits in these talks.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about this subject, or if I may be of assistance in any other way.


Joe Courtney
Member of Congress


Essex Republicans Nominate Bruce Macmillian for First Selectman After Caucus Challenge

ESSEX— Town Republicans nominated Bruce MacMillian, a retired business executive and former vice-chairman of the Essex Housing Authority, for first selectman Wednesday after a caucus challenge that is not expected to lead to a September primary for the party nomination.

MacMillian outpolled Leigh Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, on a 36-24 paper ballot vote at the caucus. Both MacMillian and Rankin had declared before the result was announced that they would support the caucus winner without a primary contest, and Rankin joined in a standing ovation for MacMillian and other members of the Nov. 8 municipal election slate.

MacMillian, 64, is a former executive with the Traveler’s Insurance Company. A 25-year town resident, he served as a member and vice-chairman of the Essex Housing Authority from 2004-2007. MacMillian was recommended by the party nominating committee and endorsed for the first selectman nomination by the Essex Republican Town Committee last week.

Rankin, a mother and resident of the Centerbrook section, had joined the town committee earlier this year, and also serves as an appointed member of the park and recreation commission and the water pollution control authority/sanitary waste commission. Rankin had indicated at the July 13 town committee meeting that she would not contest MacMillian at the caucus, but told the crowd Wednesday she wanted to offer party members a choice for the top position on the slate. “I am here because I’ve been asked to be here,” said Rankin, who was nominated by resident Kenneth Bombaci.

MacMillian, in remarks to the caucus, said the town needs a change from the administration of Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller and Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman that was first elected in 2003. MacMillian contended the “Miller-Needleman team” has “mismanaged” town hall, and shown a “lack of focus” on controlling expenditures and improving the business climate in Essex. He said the Democratic administration has demonstrated a “lack of transparency” on various issues in recent years, adding “their complacent attitude to me is an insult.” MacMillian said he would serve as a full-time first selectman if elected in November.

Republicans nominated incumbent Selectman Joel Marzi for a second term on the board of selectmen. A former member of the zoning commission and board of finance, Marzi had lost the 2009 first selectman race to Miller by about 400 votes, but later decided not to run for the top job again this year.

Republicans nominated two incumbents, Keith Crehan, an accountant, and Jeff Woods, a retired businessman, for new six-year terms on the board of finance. Judy McCann, a children’s librarian, was nominated for a six-year term on the Essex Board of Education, with Adam Conrad nominated for a two-year term on the local school board. The caucus accepted the nominating committee’s recommendation to cross-endorse incumbent Democrat Chris Riley for a new six-year term on the Region 4 Board of Education.

Miller, who was elected state representative for the 36th House District in a February special election, is not seeking re-election as first selectman. Needleman is seeking the Democratic nomination for first selectman with Stacia Libby, a former Republican who serves on the park and recreation commission, as his preferred running-mate for board of selectmen.

Needleman and Libby are expected to face a challenge for the nominations at the Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement session Monday from Anthony Chirico, running for first selectman, and Linda Savitsky, running for board of selectmen. The contest for the nominations could lead to a Sept. 13 Democratic primary.



Chester Democrats Expected to Nominate Edmund Meehan for First Selectman

CHESTER— Town Democrats are expected to nominate Edmund Meehan, a former member and chairman of the board of finance who works as town planner in Newington, for first selectman at the party caucus next week.

Peter Zanardi, chairman of the Chester Democratic Town Committee, said the committee has endorsed Meehan for the open first selectman seat, with incumbent Democratic Selectman Larry Sypher seeking a second term as his running-mate for board of selectmen. Zanardi said five people had expressed interest in the first selectman nomination, while adding that he does not expect Meehan to face a challenge for the nomination at the party caucus set for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

Meehan is seeking the seat now held by First Selectman Tom Marsh, a Republican-turned-unaffiliated voter who has held the top job since 2005. Marsh is resigning effective August 1 to relocate and become town manager in Windsor, Vermont. Zanardi said he does not expect Meehan, who currently works full-time in Newington, to be in a position to accept the position of interim first selectman next month to complete the remainder of Marsh’s term that ends on Nov. 22.

Meehan, a long-time town resident, worked as a staffer for the Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency and the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, before taking the planner job in Newington. He has served previously as a member and chairman of the board of finance.

Town Republicans have not announced a prospective candidate for first selectman, or an interim replacement for Marsh.  Mario Gioco, chairman of the Chester Republican Town committee, said the committee is seeking a candidate for first selectman, but “does not have a definite yes from anyone yet.” Incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert, who was elected with Marsh in 2009, is seeking a second term on the board of selectmen, but is not interested in running for the top spot. The Republican nominating caucus is set for Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

The decision on appointment of an interim first selectman rests with Sypher and Englert, who cannot make the appointment until Marsh’s resignation is effective on Aug. 1. Under state law, if the two selectmen are unable to reach agreement on the interim appointment within 30 days, the appointment is made by a committee of Republican office holders because Marsh had been re-elected to his third term as a Republican in 2009. The GOP committee would be comprised of Englert and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, who serves as the town’s Republican registrar of voters. Gioco said town Republicans hope to announce a choice for the interim position before Marsh’s resignation is effective.


Norman Needleman Declares for Democratic First Selectman Nomination with Stacia Libby, Former Republican, as Running-Mate

ESSEX— Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman formally declared as a candidate for the open first selectman nomination Monday, announcing Stacia Rice Libby, a former Republican, as his running-mate for board of selectmen.

About 35 Democrats turned out for the announcement on the front steps of town hall. Needleman was introduced by Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who has served on the board with Needleman since their first election in 2003. Miller, who was elected state representative for the 36th House District in a February special election, said Needleman and Libby would be a “strong team” for the town.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee will hold an endorsement session for the 2011 election slate Monday at 6:30 p.m. in town hall. The Needleman-Libby ticket is facing a challenge for the party nominations from Anthony Chirico, running for first selectman, and Linda Savitsky, running for board of selectmen. Chirico, a former Republican, was the unsuccessful GOP challenger to Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook in 2000 and 2002. Chirico, who became a Democrat in 2004, served previously on the zoning commission with Savitsky, a former employee of the state Office of Policy and Management.

Needleman, 59, moved to Essex in 1987, founding Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing company located at the Essex Industrial Park. Before running with Miller in 2003, he served on the zoning board of appeals and the economic development commission. Needleman said he asked Libby, who currently serves on the park and recreation commission, to change her party registration and become his running-mate.

Libby, 38, is a 14-year town resident who has also been active on the board of the Essex Community Fund. Until last week, Libby was a member of the Essex Republican Town Committee. Town Republicans accepted her letter of resignation from the committee on July 13, and Libby changed her registration from Republican to Democrat the following day. She is married and the mother of two children.

Needleman said he has the experience needed for the position of first selectman. Needleman said “the role of first selectman would be the first priority to me,” noting that he has “an experienced, capable management team in place,” to run his company.

Needleman said he is prepared for a possible challenge from Chirico, which could lead to a Sept. 13 Democratic primary to determine the party nominees. “I am going to work very hard to get us elected as a team,” he said.

Candidates who do not receive the town committee endorsement could force a primary by submitting petition signatures signed by five percent of the town’s registered Democratic voters, or about 60 signatures, by an early August deadline. Town Republicans are expected to nominate Bruce MacMillian, a former member of the Essex Housing Authority, for first selectman, and incumbent Republican Selectman Joel Marzi as the running-mate at the party caucus Wednesday evening.


Towns Agree to Explore Legal Route to “Save The Ferries”

The towns of Lyme, Chester and East Haddam have agreed to explore whether to seek a court injunction to bar the state Department of Transportation (DOT) from closing the Connecticut River ferries.

The inter-town agreement was announced by Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno and East Haddam First Selectman Mark Walter Sunday evening at a “Save the Ferries” meeting at Hadlyme Public Hall.

About 125 local supporters of the Chester-Hadlyme and Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferries cheered the announcement and went on to work on plans to galvanize public opinion to convince the state to keep the ferries running.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) has scheduled the closing of the ferries for next month.  All eight employees of both ferries received termination notices from DOT last week as part of Governor Malloy’s lay-off of more than 6,000 employees in order to balance the state budget after pubic employee unions rejected a revised contract designed to save the state $1.6 billion.

Eno explained that the DOT will be violating two state laws by following through on its plans to shutter the ferry service.

The first is a section of the state Transportation Law that requires DOT to “maintain and operate” both of the ferries, he said. ( See Sec. 13a-252 detailed below.)

The second is the section of the Transportation Law regarding sections of the state highways officially designated as “scenic roadways.” The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is part of Rte. 148, and the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry is part of Rte. 160.  The routes of both ferries are incorporated into sections of both highways designated by the state DOT as “scenic roads.”  (See Sec. 13b-31d  detailed below.)

Eno pointed out that Transportation Law prohibits any alternation of a state highway designated as a “scenic road” without publication of notice of such changes and providing a period for the public to “comment” on the proposed changes.

Eno and Walter said their plan is to team up with other towns – Chester, Glastonbury and Rocky Hill – to seek a court order barring the DOT from closing the ferries based on these two state statutes.

Eno said the Lyme Board of Selectmen will meet today (July 18) with the town attorney to decide whether to seek such a court order.

Both State Senator Eileen Daily (D-33rd) and State Representative Philip Miller(D-36th) told the ferry supporters that they hope the state employee unions will reconsider their rejection of the contract changes so that the Governor can rescind the lay-off notices.  Both urged the ferry supporters to continue their efforts to convince the Malloy administration to maintain ferry service.

The meeting was sponsored by Hadlyme Public Hall.  The organizers outlined plans to reach out to ferry users and others locally and across the state to communicate support for the ferries to the Malloy administration.

Those who would like to help can contact the organizers at or call Humphrey Tyler at 518-253-4844 .

Sec. 13a-252. Certain ferries to be operated by state. Fees. Rocky Hill ferry deemed a state historic structure. (a) The ferries crossing the Connecticut River, known as the Rocky Hill ferry and the Chester and Hadlyme ferry, shall be maintained and operated by the Commissioner of Transportation at the expense of the state. The rates of toll or the charges to be made for travel upon said ferries shall be fixed by the commissioner with the approval of the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. The commissioner may establish a discounted commuter rate for travel upon said ferries.

      (b) All expense of maintenance, repairs and operation of said ferries shall be paid by the Comptroller on vouchers of the commissioner. The commissioner shall include in his report to the General Assembly a report of the receipts and expenditures incidental to the control and maintenance of said ferries. Said Rocky Hill ferry shall be maintained as a state historic structure and shall be so marked with an appropriate plaque by the commissioner in cooperation with the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

Sec. 13b-31d. Alteration or improvement of scenic road. Prior to altering or improving a state highway or portion thereof that has been designated a scenic road, pursuant to section 13b-31c, the Commissioner of Transportation shall cause to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality or municipalities in which such scenic road is located, a notice describing the alteration or improvement. There shall be a comment period following the public notice during which interested persons may submit written comments.


Deep River Democratic Town Committee Annual BBQ

The Deep River Democratic Town Committee will be holding their annual chicken BBQ at Plattwood Park on July 30,  from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Meet and greet the slate of candidates for the upcoming election as well as other special guests who will be stopping by.

As well as great food there will be raffle prizes and music provided by the Brian Shepley Band.

Tickets: Adults $10, seniors $8, children aged 5-12 $6.  Contact Lisa Bibbiani for further details 860-227-1697.







Local legislators split on state’s new “land swap” law; Daily in favor, Miller against

View of the state land in the swap, which has a river view

The “Haddam land swap” bill, which the Governor approved last Friday (July 8), is now the law of the State of Connecticut. The two local legislators who represent the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester took completely opposite views on the issue.

State Senator Eileen Daily was the enthusiastic sponsor of the new law, whereas State Representative Phillip Miller strongly opposed it, consistent with his reputation as an uncompromising environmentalist.

The new “land swap” law provides that the state can enter into an even swap of 17.4 acres of a state owned, wildlife management area in Haddam, for an 87 acre track of woodlands adjacent to Cockaponset State Forest in Higganum, owned by a private developer.

A big issue is whether this is a fair deal for the state, since the state paid $1.3 million for the property that it is swapping, and the private developer paid only $428,000 for its property in the deal. Furthermore, the purchase dates of the two properties were only six years apart, 2003 in the case of the state, and 2009 for the developer.

There is no money involved in the swap. The entire deal, sanctioned by the new law, is a pure swap, one parcel of land for another.

Haddam bridge and Goodspeed Opera House, close to the state land being swapped

The state’s 17.4 acre land in the swap overlooks the Eagle Landing State Park, as well as in the distance the Haddam swings bridge and the Goodspeed Opera House across the river. The private developer’s Higganum land in the swap is 87 acres of woodlands, next to the state’s second largest park. In addition, according to swap sponsor Daily, “as many as 33 new single family homes could be built on the Higganum parcel.”

To still the controversy over the fact that the state paid far more for its land than the private developer, the new law mandates that current appraisals be made of the properties to make sure that they are, presently, of equivalent value.

Also, both parties under the new law must make “all reasonable efforts” to conclude the details of the swap by the end of this year. In addition, the new law provides that the State Properties Review Board must approve the swap deal.

The mission of the Review Board, according to its website, is “to provide oversight of State real estate activities … as proposed by State Executive Branch agencies.”

Furthermore, the Board is directed “to assure that transactions are done in a prudent, business-like manner that costs are reasonable, and that proposals are in compliance with State laws, regulations and procedures.”

This language could address the question as to whether or not the state was getting a good or bad deal in the swap, regardless of disparities in the original costs involved in acquiring the two properties.

State Senator Eileen Daily

Also, of course the Governor’s view of the swap could weigh heavily on what the Review Board ultimately decides. As for the Governor’s take on the deal, the Hartford Courant reported that Governor Malloy visited both parcels last Thursday (July 7), and said, “I came to the conclusion that it is potentially a fair transaction, subject to a process,” which would include valuation of both properties and local zoning approvals.

Swab bill sponsor, Senator Eileen Daily said, “I supported this initiative because it makes good sense to concentrate development in the built-up area of Tylerville and add 87 contiguous acres to what is already Connecticut’s second-largest State Forest.  This plan makes good sense environmentally and in terms of economic development for the area,” she said.

In his comments freshman State Representative Miller was careful to be respectful of Senator Eileen Daily, who is a five term incumbent Senator. He said, “I wish I was not against Senator Daily on this [issue], since her public service is quality.”

Miller then went on to harshly criticize the Governor’s actions in signing the swap bill into law. “I am surprised that Governor Malloy would not recognize the bad public policy and false argument  that this bill represents, ” Miller said.

State Representative Phil Miller

Miller also said the bill “presupposes that the legislature would first convey what is clearly conservation land, as though it were surplus to a private developer.” This precedent undermines the foundation of our conservation [policies] hundreds of years in the making here in Connecticut,” he said.

Miller then took a swipe at the state’s new environmental commissioner, saying, “It is too bad that a world [class] academic like Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Esty would not commit to study this issue.”

“Conservationists, sportspeople and citizens from all walks of life in Connecticut are disappointed with the process,” Miller said. “Some citizens of Haddam feel disenfranchised because not a single Board or Commission has had this subject on their agendas, and no town-sponsored public forum was ever convened.”

The Representative Miller concluded, “I am proud to still stand with citizens who feel as we do about this issue.”

Deep River environmental activist John Kennedy was even more outspoken in his criticisms of the swap law. Kennedy criticized what he called “the shameful way that Governor Malloy and his appointed environmental chief, Dan Esty, dodged and fumbled this matter.”

John Kennedy

Kennedy also criticized swap sponsor Senator Eileen Daily. “Daily clearly has an agenda, whatever it is,” he said, and he added, “She is powerful because no one gets any money for their constituent’s projects without her.”

Furthermore, Kennedy charged that Governor Malloy and Commissioner Esty had “no understanding of the state’s environmental law,” exemplified by the Governor’s signing of the new swap law, which Kennedy called “this scarlet letter.”

As for the new law’s impact on Haddam and East Haddam, Kennedy predicted that it will mean “the death of almost all of their small, local businesses … , suffocated by the new shopping mall and hotel.”

“But – [both towns] will have the wonderful bonus of a new river view of a hotel and shopping center – instead of that horrible and ‘polluted’ wildlife management area,” he said sarcastically.

“My – what a great idea this is. This is a perfect storm of stupidity and greed.”


Selectman Norman Needleman Expected to Seek Democratic First Selectman Nomination in Essex with Possible Challenge

ESSEX— Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman is expected to seek the party nomination for the open seat of first selectman, but Needleman is expected to face a challenge for the position from Anthony Chirico.

Needleman is expected to formally declare his candidacy Monday at 6 p.m. outside the Essex town hall. Needleman said Wednesday he has a prospective running-mate for board of selectmen, a woman who would also formally declare as a candidate Monday. Needleman, a local businessman who owns Tower Laboratories located in the Essex Industrial Park, has served on the board of selectmen since 2003. Needleman is seeking to succeed his former running-mate, Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who announced he would not seek re-election to the town’s top job after winning election as state representative for 36th House District in a February special election.

Needleman had been widely expected to run for the top job after Miller’s announcement earlier this year, but a challenge emerged this week when Anthony Chirico announced in an email to members of the Essex Democratic Town Committee that he would seek the party’s nomination with Linda Savitsky as his running-mate for board of selectmen.

Chirico a business consultant, who advises clients in China, is a former Republican who was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook in the 33rd Senate District in 2000 and 2002. Chirico, an Ivoryton resident, became a Democrat in 2004 and later joined the Essex Democratic Town committee.

Chirico served previously on the zoning commission, as has Savitsky. A former state Office of Policy and Management employee, Savitsky is married to Alvin Wolfgram, the current chairman of the zoning commission. Wolfgram served on the board of selectmen from 1995 to 1997 before running unsuccessfully against former Republican First Selectman Peter Webster in the 1997 town election.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee will meet on July at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall to nominate candidates for municipal office.  Candidates who are unsuccessful at the endoresement session could force a Sept. 13 Democratic primary for various ballot positions by submitting petitions signed by five percent of the town’s Democratic voters by an early August deadline.

Town Republicans will nominate candidates for the Nov. 8 town election at a party caucus scheduled for July 20 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall. Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, who had been widely expected to run for first selectman this year after losing to Miller by about 400 votes in 2009, is not seeking the party’s nomination for first selectman.


Needleman to Hold Monday Press Conference About Future Plans

Essex’s Second Selectman, Norman Needleman, has scheduled a press conference outside Essex Town Hall on Monday, July 18 at 6 p.m. At the conference it is anticipated that Needleman will announce his candidacy for First Selectman of the Town of Essex. However, Needleman declined give the subject of the press conference.

The office of First Selectman of Essex is presently held by Phillip Miller, who is in his fourth term. At a special election earlier this year, Miller was elected as a State Representative, and since that time he has held both the offices of State Representative and First Selectman of Essex. However, Miller has said that he would not run for re-election as First Selectman, once his term is completed later this year.

“It’s time to move on,” Miller said in a recent interview. Prior to his election as Essex’s First Selectman, Miller served for two terms as Essex’s Third Selectman.


Smith Seeking 12th Term as Deep River First Selectman, Uncontested Race Considered Likely

DEEP RIVER— The dean of the area first selectmen is ready for one more term in the town’s top job. Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith is expected to be nominated for a record 12th term when town Democrats convene at a nominating caucus next week to select candidates for positions in the Nov. 8 town election.

Smith, who was first elected in 1989 and is one of the longest serving municipal chief elected officials in Connecticut, confirmed Tuesday that he would seek a new term this year. Despite some speculation he would step aside after 22 years in the top job, Smith said he never really considered not running again this year.  “I still love the job,” Smith said, “I enjoy talking to people in town and I get so much satisfaction out of being able to resolve issues and help people.”

Smith will have a new Democratic running-mate for board of selectmen this year, but contests may be few and far between when town voters go to the polls in November.

Smith said Russell Marth is expected to receive the Democratic nomination for board of selectmen at the July 20 caucus. Incumbent Selectman Arthur Thompson, who replaced nine-term former Democratic Selectman Richard Daniels in 2009, is not seeking re-election.

Marth had served as minority member of the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election in 2007 under the banner of the Deep River Independent Party. The Deep River Independent Party ran a challenge slate in 2007, with local architect John Kennedy unsuccessfully contesting Smith for first selectman. The independent group waged an aggressive campaign, opposing many of Smith’s Main Street economic development initiatives, particularly the construction of a new and larger Cumberland Farms store with gasoline pumps.

But Smith said he is holding no grudges from 2007, describing Marth as an effective member of the board during the two years he served. “He did what he thought was best for the town,” Smith said, noting that Marth is currently the volunteer chairman of the appointed Deep River Community Health Board that has coordinated the town’s public health and charitable efforts since the Deep River Public Health Nurses Association was disbanded in July 2010.

Thompson, who also serves as chairman of the Deep River Democratic Town committee, said Marth has made peace with town Democrats, and joined the town committee in 2010. He was endorsed by the Democratic town committee for the open board of selectmen nomination last month. “We’re glad to have him,” Thompson said. “We believe he really was an effective selectman during those two years he served.”

Republican Selectman David Olivera, who outpolled Marth to win the minority seat on the board of selectmen in 2009, is expected to seek a second term this year. No Republicans have announced as candidates to challenge Smith this year. Local Republicans did not contest Smith for first selectman in 2009, or in 2007, when the only challenge was waged by Kennedy and the Deep River Independent party.

The Republican nominating caucus is set for July 25 at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Bank office on Main Street. Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell, who won the open seat over Democrat Nancy Talbot by two votes in 2009, is seeking a second term this year.

Thompson said Tuesday town Democrats are not expected to contest Winchell for the town clerk position. The Democratic nominating caucus convenes on July 20 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.



“Save The Ferries” Supporters Develop Fight Strategy

Richard Prowell, a founder and member of the Hadlyme Ferry Historic District Commission, explains how the Historic District was created and that the ferry’s route across the river is included as part of the Historic District.

More than 50 supporters of the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry gathered yesterday evening in Hadlyme Public Hall to map out a strategy to save the Connecticut River ferries from being closed down by the state.

Sponsored by the Hadlyme Public Hall Association, the meeting was called by local organizers, who explained that they had been told by state Department of Transport executives that elimination of ferry service is on the list of budget cuts being considered by Governor Malloy.

Since news of the possible closure leaked out six months ago, the Hadlyme Hall Association has spearheaded local efforts to require the state to a take hard look at the benefits provided by the ferries, including tourism, energy savings, and a route often used by emergency vehicles.

One of the points made yesterday by a number of speakers is that the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is the only way to cross the Connecticut River between Old Saybrook and the East Haddam Bridge.  This latter bridge is often closed to traffic since it is a swing bringe and must frequently be opened to allow boats to pass beneath it.

When the East Haddam Bridge is open for boats and thus blocks traffic attempting to cross the river, the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is the sole means to cross the river between Old Saybrook and Middletown.

At Tuesday’s meeting the attendees mapped out plans to meet with local government officials and business leaders to urge them to express their support for the ferries to state officials.

Jeffery Riley, a resident of the Hadlyme area, shows how the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is a "funnel" for tourism traffic to popular vacation and visitor attractions, such as Gillette Castle, Devil's Hopyard State Park, Fox Hopyard Golf Course, and several summer colonies.

The Hadlyme Public Hall Association has underwritten the expense of developing a mailing list derived from the more 2,000 signers of a petition circulated last December urging the state to continue the ferry service. The Association is currently mailing out postcards that encourage those petition-signers to contact their state legislators.

Anyone who would like to assist in the effort to save the ferries should send an e-mail to or call 518-253-4844.


Renewed Effort to Save the Ferries – Public Meeting June 28

With the renewed prospect of further cuts in state funding, it seems very likely that elimination of the Chester-Hadlyme and Rock Hill ferries will be on Governor Malloy’s list of budget cuts which he will ask the legislature to approve.

In an effort to engage public support to save the ferries there will be a public meeting on Tuesday June 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Hadlyme Public Hall, located at the intersection of Ferry Road (Rt. 146), Day Hill Road and Joshuatown Road in Lyme.

Earlier this year the Hadlyme Public Hall Association paid to have a mailing list compiled of more than 800 names of those who signed petitions to save the ferries last December, and the Association will be sending a postcard appeal to that list urging them to call their state legislators.  The Association has authorized the expenditure of $1,000 to cover any expenses associated with this effort.

Ferry supporters ask that everyone who wishes to assist in this effort should attend this meeting, submitting that this may be the last chance to “Save the Ferries.”


Deputy Secretary of State James Spallone visits Deep River Rotary Club

Members of the Deep River Rotary Club with Mr. Spallone. (1st Row L to R: Jenny Pace, Ken Wood; 2nd Row: Phyllis Haut, Hedy Watrous, Lorianne Panzara, James Spallone, Tinder Baser, Dick Smith, John LaPlante; Back Row: Skip Routh, Kevin Brewer, Tim Haut, Jimmy DeLano, Tom Lindner)


Deep River, CT– On Tuesday May 31, the Deep River Rotary Club hosted a very special lucheon with Mr. James Field Spallone, Deputy Secretary of State, as their guest speaker on Tuesday.

 Spallone spoke on issues about his current office such as voting, business registration and current affairs in our state government.

The Rotary Club meets every Tuesday at the Ivory Restarurant.  If you would like more information on our club please visit us at or call Jimmy DeLano (860)227-1159


Rep. Phil Miller Appointed to National Panel Addressing Nuclear Issues

State Rep. Phil Miller

Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden) has appointed State Representative Phil Miller (D-Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam) to serve on the bipartisan National Council of State Legislature’s (NCSL) Nuclear Legislative Workgroup.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to represent Connecticut,” said Miller. “Our state and our country must find ways to provide cleaner, more efficient, and safer energy options for future generations. There are 102 nuclear power plants in the United States and there are long-term waste storage practices and policies to be resolved.”

The NCSL’s Nuclear Legislative Workgroup is made up of state legislators from states around the country that are dealing with the clean-up of the nation’s nuclear sites, host nuclear facilities, or are affected by the transportation of nuclear materials.

The workgroup which meets twice a year is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. At these meetings, legislators discuss safe practices and policy options, and receive updates on federal policy.

“Although Phil Miller may be new to the legislature, he has a proven track record as a municipal official that make him the ideal candidate to represent Connecticut,” said Donovan. “I am confident that Phil’s expertise will be a welcome addition to the group.”

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves legislators and staff of the nation’s 50 states. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. For more information, visit

State Representative Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He sits on the legislature’s Environment, Human Services, and Public Health Committees.


Deep River Selectmen Set May 24 Referendum on Proposed $13.89 Million Town Budget

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has scheduled a May 24 referendum on the proposed $13,896,944 town budget plan for 2011-2012. At a meeting Tuesday, the board also decided to hold a full day of balloting, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Deep River Public Library community room.

The total spending plan includes a $3,617,748 town government budget, a $5,192,900 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School, $699,000 in town and school related debt service costs, and the town’s $4,387,300 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 total is locked in because the district budget was approved by the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 3 referendum. The town government budget is down from current spending by $372,756, while the elementary school budget increases spending by $272,697.

The spending package is expected to require a tax increase of up to 2.55 mills, with most of the projected increase the direct result of an 8 percent drop in the October 2010 grand list of taxable property because last year’s state-mandated town wide revaluation was done in a weak real estate market. The current tax rate is 21.73 mills, or $21.73 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Despite the pending tax increase, the May 3 public hearing on the town government and elementary school budgets drew a sparse turnout. First Selectman Richard Smith said about 30 residents turned out for the hearing, discussing the spending package for about an hour. While there were some questions about staffing in the elementary school budget, Smith said there were no calls for specific changes or reductions in the budget.

In setting the budget referendum date and voting hours, the board discussed the extremely low turnout in the Region 4 referendum, where only 207 of the town’s 3,110 registered voters cast ballots. Smith said some residents had raised questions to him over the past week about sponsoring a referendum with such a low voter turnout.

But after discussion, the selectmen agreed to continue the annual referendum voting on the town budget that began amid a heated local budget battle in 2001. “It’s not a money thing,” said Selectman Art Thompson.

The budget will be up for discussion a final time at the annual budget meeting set for Monday May 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at Deep River Elementary School. The town meeting will adjourn to the referendum vote on Tuesday May 24.


Rep. Phil Miller’s Bill Improving Seniors’ Access to Affordable Health Care Moving Forward

State Representative Phil Miller (Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam) is pleased that legislation he has sponsored to improve access to healthcare and lower costs for Connecticut’s seniors is moving forward at the legislature.

“This is a win for everyone—seniors and taxpayers,” said Miller. “This gives seniors an option, if they choose, to purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan. Not only will it reduce their out of pocket expenses, but it will lower costs for the state too.”

Miller’s bill (HB 5429) simply modifies state law to permit seniors who are qualified Medicare beneficiaries to access supplemental health insurance and reduce their out of pocket expenses. The state’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis has confirmed a potential cost savings for the state, if the bill is passed.

Miller, the newest member of the state legislature’s Human Services Committee, noted that the committee unanimously passed his bill and that he was optimistic that it would be passed by the full legislature.

The bill, supported by AARP, will make its way to the state house floor for a vote in the coming weeks.

Miller, a Democrat, was elected on February 22 in a special election to represent the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam.

State Representative Phil Miller is serving his first term representing the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. He sits on the legislature’s Environment, Human Services, and Public Health Committees.


Malloy Revises Property Tax Credit, Reduces Middle Class Tax Burden

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (Photo Christine Stuart)

On his 100th day in office on Thursday and after 17 town hall meetings, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that he will modify ever-so-slightly his proposal to eliminate the $500 property tax credit on middle income earners, reducing it instead to $300.

Read the full story by Christine Stuart on CT News


Senator Blumenthal, Congressman Courtney and DEP Commissioner Esty Joined Save the Sound to Kick Off Earth Day Celebration

On Saturday morning, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty joined Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and more than 75 local volunteers to kick off a month long celebration of Earth Day at a planting at the Bride Brook restoration project in Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. Saturday’s planting is the final phase of the restoration project that began in 2009.

Bride Brook is a wholly unique estuarine system that hosts the second largest migratory fish run in the state, bested only by the Connecticut River. As part of the Bride Brook restoration project, Save the Sound coordinated the replacement of the collapsing culvert to allow herring to swim through it on their way to Bride Lake to spawn. Last season, more than 164,000 herring swam passed through the new culvert. Herring have already started to migrate through the culvert in the 2011 spawning run.

The Bride Brook restoration project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which awarded Save the Sound $1.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to support two marsh restoration projects — the Bride Brook culvert replacement and the West River tidal gate replacement in New Haven. NOAA, in conjunction with funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, FishAmerica Foundation, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Restore America’s Estuaries, made the Bride Brook project a reality


Rep. Phil Miller Calls For Labelling of Genetically Modified Food

State Representative Phil Miller (Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam) announced that consumer friendly legislation that would label products containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) passed the state legislature’s Environment Committee.

“Connecticut consumers deserve to know what they are buying,” said Miller. “I have heard from many folks, especially parents, who are concerned because we just don’t know what the long term effects from GMOs might be. This bill simply provides consumers with information so they may make an informed purchase.”

The legislation (SB 1116) would require products containing GMOs to be labeled if sold in Connecticut. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection and Commissioner of Consumer Protection would be responsible for label content and form.

Miller noted that five countries in the European Union currently ban GMOs.

GMOs are products that have been genetically modified at the cellular level to increase yields and resist disease.  DNA molecules from different sources are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified genes.

The bill will make its way to the full legislature for a vote in the coming weeks.

Miller, a Democrat, is the newest member of the Environment Committee. He was elected on February 22nd in a special election to represent the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam.


Deep River Democrats Spring Fling!

The Deep River Democratic Party will be holding its Spring Fling 2011 on Friday April 8, from 6.30 p.m. until 10.00 p.m. at the Carriage House, Deep River Historical Society, 245 Main Street, Deep River.

Music will be provided by the Shiny Lapel Trio and there will be food, cold beer, wine and soft drinks and dancing, as well as a silent auction and raffle.

Tickets are $20 per person.  Call AnnMarie Joy for information at 860-526-1320 or Lisa Bibbiani at 860-526-4589.



Haddam First Selectman Supports Land Transfer Calls on State Lawmakers to Approve the Exchange

Riverhouse Properties has announced the support of Haddam First Selectman Paul DeStefano for the transfer of 17 acres of state-owned land in Haddam in exchange for an 87-acre tract adjacent to the Cockaponset State Forest in Higganum.

“It will result in much needed tourism, which will translate into more jobs and more environmental comprehension and awareness,” DeStefano said, adding, “It will also provide a synergy of opportunity with the neighboring Town of East Haddam and bolster the economy of both towns as we seek to strengthen our infrastructure to deal with the challenges of the future.”

The land exchange with Riverhouse Properties was approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2009.  According to Riverhouse Properties, the 17 acres owned by DEP in Haddam is surrounded by fully developed industrial and commercial land, a sprawling DOT complex and Eagle Landing State Park.  Additionally, Riverhouse Properties claims that the 87-acre forest property is ideal for preservation while the DEP land is better suited for tourism-related economic development, as called for in the Haddam Economic Development Plan for this specific property.

“The land exchange offers Haddam a reason to stimulate its lagging regulation and zoning reform for the Tylerville Village so that our foundation can support the type of future development that will be consistent with the environmental, cultural, and business goals that are a part of our Conservation and Development Plan,” DeStefano said.

A public hearing on the property conveyance bill will be held in the near future by the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee.  First Selectman DeStefano will be testifying in support of the bill.

“Passage will insure that the major parcel of land in Higganum that adjoins the state forest will not be developed in such a manner that would saddle the town with future educational expenses — costs that would only continue to hurt our attempts to survive in this weak, punishing economy,” Destefano noted.


Phil Miller Takes Office at State Capitol

State Rep. Phil Miller being sworn in at the State Capitol

Newly sworn in State Representative Phil Miller officially took office at the State Capitol as a member of the Connecticut General Assembly.

“I am honored that the residents of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam have put their faith in me to represent them in these challenging times,” said Miller. “I’m looking forward to using my experience balancing municipal budgets as we work together to find balanced solutions that make sense for our state.”

Miller, a Democrat, was elected on February 22nd in a special election to represent the 36th Assembly District of Essex, Chester, Deep River and Haddam. James Spallone had represented the district since 2000, but gave up his seat in early January after being named Deputy Secretary of the State.

Miller was named to the Environment, Human Services, and Public Health committees by Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden).

The Environment Committee is responsible for all issues relating to Connecticut’s environment and agriculture. The Human Services Committee oversees all legislation concerning the Department of Social Services (DSS), the state’s largest agency, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The Public Health Committee has authority over all programs and matters relating to health matters, including mental health, emergency medical services,  substance abuse, medical licenses, nursing homes, pure food and drugs, and controlled substances.

“Phil brings a wealth of experience to the Capitol that will be very beneficial as we face the challenges ahead,” said Donovan. “As First Selectman of Essex, Phil provides an important perspective on the relationship between our smaller towns and the state.”


Democrat Courtney decries “a disconnect” with Republicans in Congress

Publisher of, Olwen Logan greets Congressman Joe Courtney at Essex Library

Congressman Joe Courtney (2nd CD – CT) decried what he termed “a disconnect” between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in the last election. Courtney made the observation in an exclusive interview with at the Essex Library on March 6.

Courtney cited as an example of this disconnect, the widely divergent views on President Obama’s proposal to build a national high speed rail network. “There is such a chasm between the two sides on this issue,” he said. Courtney is a strong advocate of the President’s high speed rail proposal, noting that the New York to Boston corridor, which encompasses his district, has a greater need for high speed rail service “than any other region in country.”

Courtney also commented on a number of national issues. As to whether the Democrats should nominate Obama for President for re-election in 2012, Courtney said simply, “He’s our man.”  However, Courtney faulted the President for not shutting down the American prison in Guantanamo for terrorism suspects. He termed it “a big disappointment” that the President had not kept his campaign promise on this issue. “How long would it have taken U.S. civilian courts to try some 170 cases,” he asked rhetorically.

On the other hand, Courtney said that the Obama Administration was on schedule in pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. However, he said that the U.S. pull out  in Afghanistan was being extended to 2016, a different date than the one given in the last campaign.

As for the Tea Party movement that was such a significant factor in the 2010 elections, Courtney felt that the party “had overreached,” and that it would be less of a political factor in the future.

As for his own Committee assignments, Courtney, who is now a Minority Member, said that he was “squeezed out” of his spot on the Education Committee. However, he has been named as a Member of the House Agricultural Committee, an assignment which he feels could be relevant to the agricultural areas in his district and other wider issues as well.


Miller narrowly defeats Peckinpaugh in race for State House seat

It was not supposed to be that way. In the overwhelming Democratic 36th State House district, Democrat Phil Miller was forecast to win in a walk over Republican Janet Peckinpaugh. Instead the final unofficial totals were 2,751 votes for Miller to 2,526 for Peckingpaugh, in percentages 52% to 48%.

With just a shift of just a hundred votes, from Miller to Peckinpaugh, the Republican could have won.  One of the biggest surprises of the vote was that Peckinpaugh carried the traditionally Democrat town of Haddam by close to 200 votes. If Miller had not carried his home town of Essex by over two hundred votes,  the Democrats would have  suffered a surprising defeat.

Miller thanks his winning campaign manager, Lon Seidman of Essex

By towns, the unofficial tallies were: 

   Essex 1,100 to 909 for Miller
   Deep River 509 to 463 for Miller
   Chester 484 to 299 for Miller
   Haddam 658 to 855 for Peckinpaugh.

In victory Miller acknowledged that the race was “pretty close.” He also credited his opponent, Peckinpaugh, with running a “spirited race.”  As to why his victory had been so narrow, he admitted that Governor Dan Malloy’s recent announcement of new state taxes may have helped Peckinpaugh. Peckinpaugh based her campaign on “no new taxes.”

As for his future work in Hartford, Miller said, “We are going to have to under promise and over deliver.” Also, Miller reiterated that he is going to keep his position as First Selectman of Essex, until his term is up in November. After that he said he would be looking for a part time job, as do most legislators, to augment his modest income as a state representative.

Peckinpaugh after here concession speech at Griswold Inn

For her part Peckinpaugh was close to tears, when she addressed supporters at the Griswold Inn after the returns were in. “The reason that I am so emotional,” she said, “is that all of you worked so hard.” “We won Haddam,” she said, “but lost because of a big turnout in Essex.“

She concluded, “I was so ready to go to Hartford. Thank you so much. It was so close.”


Braving the cold Peckingaugh and Miller vote early in today’s House election

It was a cold, cold election day, but that did not stop Republican Janet Peckingpaugh and Democrat Phil Miller from casting their ballots early in their race for State Representative in the 36th House district.

In fact, it was a very cold 15 degrees, when at 8:30 a.m. Peckinpaugh cast her ballot at Essex Town Hall. Miller, who also lives in Essex, said that he had voted at 7:00 a.m.

Number one on Peckinpaugh’s agenda is voting against Governor Dan Malloy’s proposed new taxes. “The first thing that I am going to do is to vote against any new taxes,” she said, “Our people are hurting, and they can’t afford them.”

Miller for his part pointed out that the Governor’s tax proposals are “only a starting point.” “It is up to the legislature,” he said, that ultimately approves new taxes. However, he cautioned, “Everyone is going to feel some discomfort,” when the tax questions are resolved in Hartford.

Peckinpaugh is also opposed to the Governor’s call for new taxes on boaters in the state. She fears that state residents will buy and maintain their boats out of state, if new boat taxes are enacted.

Miller’s response is that the district has “world class nautical merchants,” and he is confident that they will continue to maintain that position. He also called attention to the new system of pump out boats, which was an innovation that began in Essex, he said. 

Peckinpaugh also does not think it is a good idea for Miller to continue to hold his present the job of First Selectman of Essex, if he is elected as a State Representative. “People will get a short shrift,” if he does so, she said.

For his part Miller said that he owed to the people in Essex who elected him to finish his term as First Selectman. That term comes its end this November. 



Democrat Phil Miller and Republican Janet Peckinpaugh Face Off in the 36th District Special Election Tuesday

AREAWIDE— A four-term first selectman and a former television news anchorwoman face off Tuesday in a special election to fill the vacant 36th House District seat representing the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam.

Democrat Phil Miller, Essex first selectman since 2003, and Republican Janet Peckinpaugh, also of Essex, were nominated at party conventions last month for a contest that developed at the end of December, when former Democratic State Rep. James Spallone announced he would give up the legislative seat to become deputy secretary of the state. Spallone, also of Essex, had held the seat since 2000, and was re-elected by a wide margin last year.

Both candidates have waged active campaigns in a six-week race that could be decided by voter turnout, and possibly local reaction to the budget plan, and tax increases, proposed Wednesday by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy. Both candidates quickly qualified for funding under the state’s Citizens Elections Program, raising $3,750 in small contributions to secure a state campaign finance grant of $19,500. The candidates have put up signs, sent district-wide mailings, and participated in debates held on Feb. 11 in Essex and Thursday afternoon in Chester.

Miller, 52, has lived in the Ivoryton section of Essex since the 1980s, directing the Bushy Hill Nature Center in Ivoryton before winning the town’s top job in 2003 after unsuccessful runs in 1999 and 2001 that put him on the board of selectmen.

Peckinpaugh, 60, grew up in Canton, Ohio and arrived in Connecticut in 2004 to begin a 22-year career as a reporter and anchorwoman for all three of the state’s television network affiliates. She moved to Essex in May 2007, opening a media marketing and consulting firm that produces television and internet video advertisements. An unaffiliated voter during her television career, Peckinpaugh became a Republican last year and ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Connecticut.

The candidates differ, by degrees, on the budget and tax plan presented this week by Malloy. Miller said he is pleased that Malloy’s plan preserves state aid to cities and towns, and the education cost sharing grants that help fund public schools. But he has objections to some of the tax increase in Malloy’s plan, particularly the loss of a $500 tax credit intended to offset local property taxes that has been a Democrat supported initiative for more than a decade. Miller describes the local property tax as “a white elephant” that threatens lower income home owners, and points with pride to an elderly tax relief program he initiated in Essex in 2004.

Peckinpaugh contends the governor’s plan relies too much on higher taxes, and suggests tax increases should not be discussed until the there is a full review of all spending, with a focus on consolidations and reductions that could include privatizing some state departments, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Economic and Community Development. She also calls for formation of a “quasi-public transportation authority” that would run Bradley International Airport, ports on Long Island Sound, and the ferries across the Connecticut River in Chester and Glastonbury.

The candidates differ on two hot button issues that are likely to be debated this year, the death penalty and Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Miller said he opposes the death penalty “on moral grounds” and would support any proposal to repeal the state’s ultimate penalty. Miller said he would oppose Sunday sales because he believes a majority of the state’s liquor store owners oppose it.

Peckinpaugh said she favors retaining the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, and leans toward supporting Sunday sales as a way to generate some new revenue without new taxes.

Other issues in the campaign have been Miller’s intent to continue serving as first selectman in Essex if elected as state representative, holding both jobs through the end of the current term in November, and questions raised by Democrats about Peckinpaugh’s qualifications and roots in the district.

Miller maintains he would be able to effectively serve in both jobs through November, when he would not seek a new term as first selectman. Peckinpaugh, who pledges to devote nearly full-time to the legislative seat, said she sees a “conflict of interest” in holding both positions. A supporter of term limits, Peckinpaugh notes “you do not have to spend your life in public service to be a public servant.”

While Miller contends his experience in municipal government gives him broader qualifications and knowledge of the district towns, Peckinpaugh maintains her work experience as a journalist would bring a “new perspective” to the General Assembly. Peckinpaugh said she “loves Connecticut” and views Essex as her hometown. Peckinpaugh said she would not run for U.S. Congress again next year, even if Courtney decides to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

The winner Tuesday will serve until the next state election in November 2012.


Phil Miller: Will Vote No On Any Budget Without Comprehensive Property Tax Reform Plan

ESSEX, CT– Essex First Selectman and 36th District State Representative candidate Phil Miller today responded to Governor Malloy’s budget address, saying he will not vote for any budget proposal until the legislature has a comprehensive plan for property tax reform.

“I’ve balanced budgets here in Essex for the past eight years. I’ve made the painful cuts necessary to fund local programs, and I applaud Governor Malloy for his efforts to cut billions in spending. I know from experience tough decisions aren’t easy.” Miller said, “But we must go further to reduce the tax burden, and the time for real, concrete property tax reform is now. I will go to Hartford and fight for that change next week.”

Miller’s opponent Janet Peckinpaugh was caught off guard when asked about property tax reform at a recent debate in Essex, telling the audience “Wow. That’s something I really haven’t thought about.” A clip of her response to the question can be found here.

“All of my opponent’s talk on taxes rings hollow,” Miller said, “If you haven’t thought about property taxes, how can you fight to reduce them? I think about property taxes every day as the First Selectman of Essex. This archaic system needs a major overhaul to lift the burden of this regressive tax on our citizens.”

“Our state is facing the worst fiscal mess in decades and it will take very difficult choices to balance the budget. It won’t be pleasant—but the hard choices never are. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to go to Hartford and fight for the interests of the people of this District, and have an honest discussion about the needs of our state, starting with reforming the property tax system,” Miller added.

Phil Miller, elected Essex First Selectman in 2003, has an established record passing balanced budgets and reducing the size of local government.

The 36th District includes the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam.


Peckinpaugh Opposes Malloy Tax Plan

Says Passage Would Kill Jobs in CT River Valley.

Janet Peckinpaugh, Republican candidate for state representative for 36th House District

Essex, CT – Janet Peckinpaugh, Republican candidate for state representative for the 36th House District (Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam) said Monday she would vote against the historic tax increase offered by Gov. Dan Malloy, which would raise state income taxes, sales tax and end many tax exemptions for the boating industry, if approved.

“The Malloy tax plan is a disaster for our towns and our state,” Peckinpaugh said. “While we haven’t been given many specifics on spending cuts, we clearly see that Hartford Democrats default to what they know best – raise taxes on the people who are already tapped out.”

The Malloy plan to raise marginal tax rates up to 6.75 percent on incomes will inhibit investment and slow down an already weak economy.  But the Connecticut River Valley would particularly suffer from Malloy’s proposal to end some of the tax exemptions on the boating industry, a local industry that provides jobs and revenue and sustains many small businesses.

“Our boating industry has managed to stay competitive with neighboring states because of these exemptions,” Peckinpaugh said. “This short-sighted plan may sink the industry just like federal tax increases damaged shipyards in 1991.”

Peckinpaugh also reiterated her opposition to allowing cities and towns to generate more tax revenues through special taxes assessed at the local level.

“The last thing we need to do is allow more politicians the power to tax anything that moves,” Peckinpaugh said. “We need to have spending cuts that get to the heart of our deficit and not simply pawn off the problem through higher taxes. How much do the people in Hartford think we have to give for their fiscal mismanagement?”


Meet the Candidates at Chester Village West

Phil Miller

Janet Peckinpaugh

Phillip Miller and Janet Peckinpaugh, candidates running in a special election for State Representative, 36th district, will speak and be available to answer questions at Chester Village West on Thursday, February 17 at 4:30 pm. The 36th district includes Haddam, Chester, Deep River and Essex. The election is on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Janet Peckinpaugh, the Republican candidate, is a former news anchor and local business owner. She ran against Congressman Joe Courtney in the November 2010 election.

Phillip Miller, the Democratic candidate, is currently serving in his fourth term as Essex First Selectman.

The public is welcome to attend. Chester Village West is located at 317 West Main Street, Chester. Please call 860-526-6800 for directions or information.