August 22, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Old Saybrook Town Officials Says First Priority is Re-Employment of Fortune Plastics Employees

To the Editor:

The announcement by Fortune Plastics of their intended closure in April has left the Old Saybrook and Shoreline Community concerned and disappointed.  Our concern is first and foremost for the over 90 employees of the company who will be losing their employment.  It is also disheartening to see what was once a locally-owned family business leave the State.

Upon hearing the news, our offices began marshaling state and regional resources to work with the company in finding new employment for the workers.  Within a week, the Connecticut Department of Labor Rapid Response Unit organized a Job Fair at Fortune Plastics on March 4.  We also contacted local and regional manufacturers, many with positions to fill.  We will continue to partner with Fortune Plastics to make available any and all human resources in the coming months. 

Fortune Plastic’s 75,000 sf manufacturing facility will also be available for repurpose.  The Town and the Economic Development Commission plan to market the availability of this and other industrial properties so they will be put to back into full and productive use. 

While this is indeed difficult news for all affected employees and the Town, we will continue to be a town that seeks out new business opportunities to benefit workers and residents.

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr. and Susie Beckman
Old Saybrook.

Editor’s Note:  The writers are respectively the First Selectman of Town of Old Saybrook and the
Economic Development Director of the Town of Old Saybrook.

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Town of Old Saybrook Hosts Second Public Meeting Tonight on Mariner’s Way Discovery + Action Plan

OLD SAYBROOK — The Town of Old Saybrook is working on a “Brownfields Area-Wide Revitalization (BAR) Plan” for Mariner’s Way (Rte. 1 East between Saybrook Junction’s Town Center and Ferry Point’s Marina District) that builds on the Town’s 2014 Mariner’s Way Plan. This effort, the Mariner’s Way Discovery + Action Plan, will identify ways to support a new identity for Mariner’s Way and create action steps to revitalize the area and better connect this corridor from Town Center to the Connecticut River.

There will be a second public meeting on Thursday, March 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Hunter Ambulance, 309 Boston Post Rd., at which CivicMoxie, the Town’s consultants, will share and discuss preliminary ideas for streetscape, pedestrian/bicycle connections, and land use concepts.

Come and be a part of the conversation to help make this part of Mariner’s Way a more appealing place to live, work, shop, and play.

For future news and notifications of meetings, Sign Up for Mariner’s Way updates: www.oldsaybrookct.org/Pages/OldSaybrookCT_EconomicDev/index.

Questions can be directed to: Susan Beckman, Economic Development Director: susan.beckman@oldsaybrookct.gov or (860) 395-3139.

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Solarize Chester/Deep River Participation Deadline Extended to March 31


CHESTER & DEEP RIVER: 
The deadline has been extended to March 31 for homeowners who live, work, and/or worship in Chester and Deep River to receive discounted rates for residential solar installations through the Solarize Chester/Deep River program.

The Chester Energy Team and the Towns of Chester and Deep River have worked with a single installer, C-TEC Solar, over the past 18 weeks doing solar education and outreach, as well as offering discounted pricing for residents.

Due to high recent interest in the program, the Solarize Chester/Deep River deadline has been extended and the reduced pricing will be held for residents who participate by March 31.

The Solarize Chester/Deep River offer saves residents an average of $4,032 or 20 percent off what they would pay for a system at market pricing. The Solarize Chester/Deep River program offers residents quality equipment with a reputable company for a lower investment than what is typically available due to the aggregated savings of residents going solar together in the community.

People who are interested in finding out more about the program or if their home is right for solar can stop by can sign up to have an evaluation of their home for solar at no cost when they sign up at solarizect.com/Chester.

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$491K STEAP Grant Awarded for Centerbrook Village Main Street Improvements, Enhancements

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman

ESSEX — Essex First Selectman Norman M. Needleman has announced that Connecticut’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) awarded $491,887 for Centerbrook Village Main Street improvements and enhancements.  The project will focus on sidewalk improvement and replacement on the south side of Main Street, where there are currently continuous sidewalks in various stages of deterioration. 

This project will benefit the local community by enhancing the multi-modal, complete-streets setting that the town seeks to establish while having a positive impact on the economic, commercial and social environment of the historic village.

Needleman stated that the Town appreciates being awarded this grant, and is grateful that STEAP was funded in this difficult budget year.  This program helps small towns perform work that improves the economic vitality of our community.

Needleman offered special thanks to the Town’s Economic Development Consultant Susan Malan, the Town Planner John Guszkowski, State Representative Philip J. Miller, and the Centerbrook Visioning Group for their efforts in pulling this grant application together. 

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Essex First Selectman Opposes State Takeover of Local Health Departments, Denounces New Cost to Small Towns

Democratic candidate for the 33rd State Senate District, Norman Needleman

Democratic candidate for the 33rd State Senate District, Norman Needleman.

ESSEX — Earlier this week, State Senate candidate and local businessman Norm Needleman spoke out against the yet-to-be-announced state takeover of local health departments. Needleman opposes the top-down, behind-the-scenes process which includes the elimination of local health departments, the loss of local control, and increased cost to towns in what amounts to a regional property tax.

The draft changes in Connecticut state statutes were distributed to town Health Directors as “draft Local Health Consolidation Statutes” by the Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Public Health Raul Pino.

“This secret state takeover plan is yet another example of the state barreling down the wrong path without input from towns,” said Needleman. “Forced regionalization is terrible policy and causes more unnecessary over-regulation of towns without any proven cost savings. This is a canary in the coal mine for more state and county control.”

Lyme Republican First Selectman Ralph Eno agreed with Needleman.

“I appreciate Norm’s attention to this key issue,” said Eno. “I agree with his position that this is an administrative overreach without any kind of formal hearing process. This is part of what is wrong with state government.”

The changes propose eliminating local health departments and consolidating them under one board and director for each county.

“In Essex we have an efficient and effective Health Department,” said Needleman. “In what world does it make any sense to turn a well managed town office over to the mess in Hartford?”

In addition, the changes propose that each town pay 1.5% of their budget to the new county health department. The draft legislation states: “towns, cities and boroughs of such district appropriate for the maintenance of the health district not less than one and one half percent of their previous fiscal year’s annual operating budgets.”

“As First Selectman of Essex I have kept our Health Department well under 1.5% of our annual town budget with a professionally managed team,” said Needleman. “This proposal will cost more for towns all across the region and amounts to a county tax. If elected State Senator I will fight foolish state overreach like this takeover.”

“The cost is a percentage of the town budget,” said Eno. “So this is a regional property tax to feed the state bureaucracy. Thanks to Norm for being out ahead on this issue and looking forward to his leadership in the State Senate.”

Norm Needleman is the founder and CEO of Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing business. As CEO, he has built the business over the past 37 years to become a leader in its segment, employing over 225 people. Needleman is in his 3rd term as First Selectman of Essex and was first elected as a Selectman in 2003.

“Norm understands the importance of local control as an experienced town leader,” said Campaign Manager Kevin Coughlin. “That is why he has been endorsed by both Republican and Democratic First Selectmen right here in the 33rd district.”

Needleman is the Democratic candidate for the 33rd State Senate District which consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and part of Old Saybrook.

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Essex Harbor Management Commission Seeks Bids for Annual Servicing of Anchorage Markers, Dock Floats

All bids submitted to the Essex Harbor Management Commission for consideration must include the following:

  1. A Certificate of Insurance must be attached to the bid;
  2. The location where the items of property will be stored must be identified and if not the property of the applicant that the relationship be disclosed (the cost of the storage, if any, must be included in the bid);
  3. The type of the equipment, boat, float and capacity must be included;
  4. The response bid must include a provision that a representative of the HMC may be present at the time of installation.

The Commission hereby notifies all response bidders that payment is made one-half after pulling and one-half after the reinstallation.

Payment will be made within 30 days of receipt of the invoice.

SCOPE OF WORK

The bid is to remove, store and re-set and to provide an inspection report with needed repairs and estimate of cost to implement those repairs:

Markers: 

9 markers (A-J, excluding C) from the main anchorage;

2 markers (A & B) from the Meadows anchorage;

Rock obstruction markers.

Floats:

The float connected to the Main Street Dock;

The float and ramp from the Town Park site in Middle Cove;

The float and ramp from the Mack Lane site in Middle Cove;

Removal of markers and floats to be accomplished after November 15, 2016.  Re-setting must be accomplished prior to April 15, 2017, but not earlier than March 15, 2017.  Dates to be adjusted in concert with the HMC and the Harbor Master.  Marker position in accordance with GPS points maintained by HMC.

All bids are due to HMC no later than 4:00 p.m. on September 22, 2016 at the First Selectman’s office.

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Latest Beautification Phase of Bushnell St. Access Point Now Complete

View of the tree plantings.

View of the tree plantings at Bushnell Street Access Point.

ESSEX — The Essex Harbor Management Commission recently completed its latest phase for the beautification of the Bushnell Street Access Point.  The current project removed an older, overgrown hedge row and replaced it with Arborvitae plantings. The old hedge proved to be problematic aesthetically and hindered keeping the area properly manicured.

The Commission wishes to thank the Town’s Tree Warden Augie Pampel, the Town’s Maintenance Department, and Acer Gardens for their assistance.

Over the past five years, the Commission has managed numerous improvements to the Bushnell Street Access Point, including the removal of older, diseased trees, strategic plantings to provide added privacy for its neighbors, the removal of abandoned small boats, an observation deck, and storage racks for the highly successful Small Vessel Storage Program.

These improvements have been made possible through Grants and Permits Fees from the Small Vessel Storage Program.

The Bushnell Street facility has become a popular launching area for kayakers and canoeists who utilize the protected waters of North Cove.  The Access Point is available for all to use and provides ample parking.

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Essex Zoning Commission Approves New Restaurant in Centerbrook Section of Town

30 Main Street, Centerbrook

30 Main Street, Centerbrook

ESSEX — The zoning commission Monday approved a special permit for a new restaurant to be located on the first floor of a partially vacant commercial building at 30 Main St. in the Centerbrook section.

The application of ECC Realty and Colt Taylor was unanimously approved after a brief public hearing where several residents spoke in support of the plans. Taylor told the panel he was raised in Essex,  has been involved with restaurants in both New York and California,and wants to return to open a restaurant in his hometown.

The three-story building at 30 Main St. once housed a restaurant for a few years in the late 1980s, but has housed mostly office uses in recent years. The plans call for a 130-seat restaurant and bar.
In approving the permit, the commission specified that use of the second floor would be limited to a small office for the business and storage. Taylor said he hopes to open the restaurant, which would offer “progressive New England comfort food,” before the end of the year.
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Essex Zoning Commission Approves 52-Unit Apartment Complex on Plains Rd.

The Plains Road property where the Iron Chef restaurant has been long empty has been approved for apartments.

The Plains Road property where the Iron Chef restaurant has been vacant for many years has been approved for the Essex Station apartments.

 

ESSEX — The zoning commission Monday approved plans for a three-building 52-unit apartment complex with an affordable housing component at a 3.7-acre parcel on Plains Road that includes the long-vacant former Iron Chef restaurant property.

The special permit for the Essex Station apartments at 21, 27 and 29 Plains Road was approved o a 4-1 vote, with commission Chairman Larry Shipman and members Alvin Wolfgram, Jim Hill and Susan Uihlein  voting to approve the permit and member William Reichenbach opposed. The application from Signature Contracting Group LLC was submitted under state statute 8-30g, a law intended to promote additional affordable housing in Connecticut.

The statute limits the jurisdiction of municipal land use commissions to issues of public health and safety, while requiring that at least 30 percent of the dwelling units in a development be designated affordable housing and reserved for people or families with incomes at or less than 80 percent of the median income for the municipality. At least 16 of the Essex Station units would be designated as moderate income housing with monthly rents expected to be about $1,800.

The plans were presented at a series of public hearings that began in February, and appeared to generate increasing objections from some residents as the review process continued. Many of the objections focused on the proximity of the site to the Valley Railroad tourist excursion line.

In more than 90 minutes of discussion Monday, the panel considered two draft motions prepared by longtime commission counsel Peter Sipples, one to approve the permit with conditions, and another to deny the application. In the end, the motion of approval included several conditions, most of which had been accepted by the applicant during the public hearing process.

The major conditions include a strict prohibition on any expansion or condominium conversion of the units, construction of a six-foot high security fence around the perimeter of the property,  installing sound barriers if needed between the residential units and the railroad, and construction of a walking-bicycle path on Plains Rd. that would extend east to connect with existing sidewalks on Rte. 154. There would also be a requirement for elevators in the buildings, particularly the single three-story building, and a provision in future leases that would note the proximity to other uses, including the tourist railroad and a nearby wood-processing facility. The development site is located in a business and industrial zone.

During the discussion, Shipman noted the apartments would be a better residential use near the railroad than owned condominiums, and suggested the requirements of the affordable housing statute limited the panel’s ability to control some aspects of the project, including density and building height. The sewage disposal system for the three building complex must be approved by the state Department of Public Health.
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Democrat Angus McDonald Jr. Takes Office as Interim First Selectman for Deep River

A new Interim First Selectman for Deep River was sworn in April 21.

A new Interim First Selectman for Deep River was sworn in April 21.

DEEP RIVER — Democrat Angus McDonald Jr. was sworn into office as interim first selectman Thursday after he and Republican Selectman David Olveria voted for his appointment to serve the remainder of the unexpired term of the late Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith.

McDonald, 58, becomes the town’s first new first selectman since November 1989, when Smith was first elected for what would become more than 13 two-year terms in the top job.  McDonald will serve the remainder of the unexpired term ending on Nov. 22, 2017.
The two remaining selectmen had 30 days from Smith’s unexpected death on March 25 to appoint a successor, a period that was expected to expire Monday.  McDonald and Oliveria had discussed the appointment in two closed session special meetings held on April 7 and April 18.

Oliveria, in making a motion to appoint McDonald, said, “We have considered all options in front of us and feel that this is the right choice for Deep River at this time.”  McDonald said he looks forward to working in the best interests of the town over the next 20 months.  “It’s an honor to be in this position and to be asked to do it,” he said, adding that he and Oliveria’s agreement on the appointment is, “A good example of how a small town can pull together.”

The co-owner of an Old Saybrook-based engineering firm, McDonald moved to Deep River in 2005 after living previously in Old Saybrook and Westbrook.  He was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for first selectman of Westbrook in 1999, and served on the Westbrook Board of Selectmen.  McDonald was first elected to the Deep River Board of Selectmen as Smith’s running-mate in 2011.  He is married to Andrea Isaacs, and the couple own the Lace Factory building near the town’s riverfront landing.

Minutes after the appointment vote, McDonald received the oath of office from Town Clerk Amy Winchell.  McDonald’s appointment creates a new vacancy ion the board of selectmen, an opening that McDonald and Oliveria now have 30 days, or until about May 20, to fill by appointment.

McDonald said any resident interested in serving as selectman through November 2017 should send a letter of intent and qualifications to his office as soon as possible. McDonald said the interim selectman does not have to be a Democrat, with Oliveria saying qualifications and “a cooperative board” would be factors in the appointment decision.

The interim appointments could be forced to special elections with petitions signed by five percent of the town’s total voter registration, or about 158 signatures.  Petitions must be filed within 15 days of an appointment.
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Essex Zoning Commission Approves Centerbrook Cumberland Farms Rebuild, Expansion

ESSEX — The zoning commission has approved a special permit for a demolition/rebuild and expansion of the Cumberland Farms store in Centerbrook section. The permit was approved on a unanimous vote Monday night after the panel closed a three session public heating on the project.

The permit will allow a 4,250 square-foot store that would double the size of the existing building, along with a third gasoline pumping station. The new building would also have public restrooms, a first for the Centerbrook section.

The project had drawn opposition from some residents over the three public hearings, with most objections focused on the size of the canopy over the six gasoline fueling stations. Some residents questioned the need for a third pump, though attorney Joseph Williams, representing Cumberland Farms, said the company would not pursue the expansion and improvement project without a third gasoline pump.

The commission imposed several conditions on the permit approval, setting the length of the canopy at 74 feet, and requiring a fire suppression system as part of the structure. The panel required a 24-foot distance between fueling stations, while also calling for the pumps to be set at an angle unless engineers for the applicant convince town engineers that this would interfere with traffic flow on the property. The panel also required two additional parking spaces, raising the total number of designated spaces to 24, with an area for eight reserve parking spaces to be designated on the site plan.

Another key condition requires the applicant to present a more detailed drawing of the south sight line along Westbrook Rd. (Rte. 153), particularly the abutting residential property on Westbrook Rd. that is owned by Town Clerk Joel Marzi. Marzi had asked for more information on the sight lines at Monday’s session, with commission member Alvin Wolfgram noting the issue is important because Marzi has the right to erect a fence on his property that could block sight line for motorists exiting on to Westbrook Rd.

The commission has continued a separate public hearing on site plan approval for a 52-unit apartment complex on Plains Rd. to a special meeting scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in town hall. The multi-family housing development would be located on a 3.7-acre parcel that would be created by combining parcels at 21, 27, and 29 Plains Rd., including the site of the long vacant former Iron Chef restaurant property. The apartments would be constructed in three separate buildings, with 16 units designated as affordable housing under a state law intended to encourage development of more affordable housing in Connecticut.

The plans for the Essex Station Luxury Apartments were first presented at a Feb. 22 public hearing that has been continued two times, on March 21 and Monday. Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the panel intends to close the public hearing Monday, and would then have 65 days, or until late June, to vote on the site plan approval.

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Essex First Selectman Needleman Has Strong Admiration, Fond Memories of his “Friend and Mentor” Dick Smith

Two friends -- the late Dick Smith, First Selectman of Deep River (left) and Norman Needleman, First Selectman of Essex. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

Two friends — the late Dick Smith, First Selectman of Deep River (left) and Norman Needleman, First Selectman of Essex. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

ESSEX — Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman paid tribute to the late Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith in a statement sent to ValleyNewsNow.com.  Needleman said, “Dick was a wonderful guy. He frequently told me how much he loved his family and his job. They were the lights in his life. He managed Deep River as a family, from the staff that worked for him to the residents he loved.”

Needleman continued, “He was an amazing First Selectman (26 years, I think) and an outstanding police officer (44 years) who dedicated his life to making Deep River and the entire Connecticut River Valley the wonderful place that it is. He was a friend and mentor who listened well and made whoever he was with feel special. His love of people made him the ultimate type of public servant.”

Finally, expressing the opinion likely shared by many, he said, “I am going to really miss him.”

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Essex Zoning Commission Resumes Public Hearings Monday on Apartment Complex and Centerbrook Cumberland Farms Rebuild

ESSEX — The zoning commission will resume public hearings Monday on two large-scale development proposals, a proposed 52-unit apartment complex on Plains Rd., and a rebuild and expansion of the Cumberland Farms store at 82 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. The hearings reconvene at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

Public hearings on both proposals opened on Feb. 22. Signature Contracting Group LLC of Westport is seeking site plan approval for 52 apartment units in three buildings on a 3.7-acre parcel that would combine properties at 21, 27, and 29 Plains Road. The parcel at 21 Plains Rd. was the site of the former Iron Chef restaurant, and was previously the location of a bowling alley and the Essex Junction restaurant and movie theatre. Now owned by Treuhold Essex LLC of Scarsdale, N.Y. it has been vacant for about nine years. The properties at 27 and 29 Plains Rd. are residential properties owned by the local Costa family.

The plans for the Essex Station Luxury Apartments call for 52 units in three buildings, including two buildings with three floors and one two-story structure. Thirty percent of the units, or16 units, would be designated as moderate income housing under state statute 8-30g, which was adopted more than a decade ago to promote low and moderate income housing in Connecticut. The maximum rent for these units would be about $1,800 per month.

Because the site plan review application is filed as a proposed 8-30g project, the commission faces some limits on its authority to reject or demand major changes in the plans. Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the panel has been advised by legal counsel that it could only reject the project for reasons directly related to safety and public health. Budrow said the plans drew a generally mild reaction at the Feb. 22 hearing , with “questions but not a lot of vocal opposition.”

The Cumberland Farms project calls for demolition of the 1,800-square-foot existing store that opened in the 1990s, replacing it with a 4,200-square-foot store with three gasoline pump islands, one more than the two currently on site. The pumping stations would be under a 24-foot by 55-foot canopy. The plan drew some objections at the Feb. 22 hearing, mostly focused on traffic flow and the size of the canopy.

Budrow said legal timelines require the commission to close the public hearing on the Plains Rd. apartment complex, and vote on the application Monday, unless the applicant approves an extension that would push the deadline for a decision to April 18. He said the panel also faces an April deadline for action on the Cumberland Farms project.

Another public hearing on a new application scheduled to open Monday is for a proposed take-out pizza shop in a section of the former Ivoryton Store building at 104 Main St. in the Ivoryton section. The applicant is Paul Cappazone.

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Essex Has New, More Readable Street Signs

Essex street sign
ESSEX — The old and largely unreadable street signs in Essex have now been almost completely replaced. The new street signs have larger letters and are more readable than were the old ones. To date 250 new street signs have been delivered, and most have now been installed. The new signs are nine inches high, and can accommodate street names with letters six inches high. The total cost of the new street signs is approximately $13,330.

Essex Street sign

According to the office of Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman, the main reason for installing the new street signs is safety. Also, the old signs were barely readable under limited light conditions, and they posed a particular problem for visitors to Essex. In addition the old signs received numerous complaints from Essex residents. Also, one of the most urgent needs for the new Essex street signs was to assist the vehicles of emergency responders, such as hospital ambulances and fire trucks, trying to find street addresses in Essex.

Essex Street sign

The new signs conform to new traffic code requirements, which specify the letter size of road signs, based on an individual road’s speed limits. Also, there are new retro reflective backgrounds on the new street signs, making them easier to read under limited light conditions. The roll out of the new street signs started with state roads, then next came the town roads in Ivoryton and Centerbrook, then the town roads surrounding Essex Village, and finally the town roads in the village itself. The final instillation of the new roads should be finished in the next few weeks.

A spokesperson in Needleman office noted, “The new road signs have been very well received.” As for what to do with the town’s old street signs, a charity auction of some kind is under discussion at Essex Town Hall. .

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Chester Grand List Registers Small Increase

CHESTER – The grand list of taxable property in Chester showed little growth last year. Assessor Loreta Zdanys filed an October 2015 grand list that totals $443,781,440, an increase of $7,954,680, or 0.18 percent, over the 2014 grand list total. The increase would generate about $201,000 in new revenue at the current property tax rate of 25.32 mills.

The increase was smaller than 2014, when the grand list increased by a full one percent after dropping almost 12 percent the previous year with the townwide property revaluation that was completed in 2013. The 2015 list shows small increases in all three categories.

The net real estate total of $400,628,690 is up by $7,579,130 from the 2014 real estate total. The personal property total of $14,842,130 is up by $366,403 from the 2014 personal property total. The motor vehicles total of $28,310,620 is up by a tiny $9,167 from the previous year.

The list of the Chester’s top ten taxpayers is unchanged from recent years. Here are the top ten taxpayers with 2015 assessment totals.

  1. Chester Woods Inc. (Chester Village West) – $14,845,590
  2. Whelen Engineering Co,. Inc. – $6,760,220
  3. Connecticut Water Company – $5,211,140
  4. Eversource Energy Service Company – $4,652,850
  5. Whelen Aviation LLC (Chester Airport) – $3,843,340
  6. The Eastern Corp. – $3,648,140
  7. Roto Frank of America Inc. – $2,467,370
  8. Margaret & Robert Spriglio (Aaron Manor) – $2,237,320
  9. Chester Point Real Estate LLC – $2,079,830
  10. Arthur & Judith Schaller (residential) – $2,045,890
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Chester Selectwoman Invites Residents to Informal Morning Chats

First Selectwoman Lauren Gister chatted with Mark Russell about the Main Street bridge construction at The Villager on Feb. 10 after answering questions from residents. This was the first of the occasional “chats” Gister is holding to give residents a chance to talk with her.

First Selectwoman Lauren Gister chatted with Mark Russell about the Main Street bridge construction at The Villager on Feb. 10 after answering questions from residents. This was the first of the occasional “chats” Gister is holding to give residents a chance to talk with her.

CHESTER – First Selectwoman Lauren Gister is inviting residents to share with her their concerns, ask questions and give ideas at informal gatherings.

Gister said, “This will become a weekly or biweekly occurrence, at different times of day and at various venues over the next few months, but I need a name for this event, so I am holding a contest.  The resident who comes up with the best title for this new tradition will get a free breakfast or lunch at the Villager.”

The next “chat” will be on Thursday, Feb. 18, between 8 and 9 a.m. at Simon’s Marketplace. Gister has invited people to “grab a coffee or breakfast and bring ideas and questions.”

 

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Essex Grand List Shows Slight Increase

ESSEX — The grand list of taxable property remained flat in 2015, showing only a slight 0.38 percent increase that was nearly identical to a similar tiny rise in 2014. Assessor Jessica Sypher has filed an October 2015 grand list that totals $1,040,877,591, a net increase of $3,950,411, or 0.38 percent, from the 2014 grand list total.

Sypher said a small decrease in the real estate assessment total was offset by modest increases in the assessment totals for personal property and motor vehicles. The $3,950,411 increase would generate about $83,000 in new tax revenue at the current property tax rate of 21.08 mills. The 0.38 percent increase for 2015 was nearly identical to the slight 0.36 percent rise in the 2014 grand list.

The net assessment total for real estate was $942,723,310, representing a decrease of $523,140 from the 2014 real estate assessment total.  Sypher said nearly all of the decrease resulted from a property owner’s decision to combine two building lots in the high value Foxboro Point subdivision on the Connecticut River.

The net assessment total for motor vehicles was $63,713,960, representing an increase of  $832,790 from the 2014 real estate total. The net assessment total for personal property was $34,440,321, representing an increase of $3,640,761 from the 2014 personal property total. Sypher said nearly all of the increase resulted from the new Southern Connecticut Gas Company natural gas line that was installed in sections of town last year.

The town’s top ten taxpayers showed one change from recent years. Solid waste hauler All Waste Inc. edged local businessman Herbert Clark III, who owns various residential, commercial and industrial properties. Following are the top ten taxpayers with current assessment totals:

  1. Essex Meadows Inc. — $22,875,400
  2. Lee Company — $15,633,120
  3. Connecticut Light & Power — $7,185,030
  4. SKR Partners LLC — $4,315,000
  5. All Waste Inc. — $4,147,560
  6. River Properties Inc. — $3,624,190
  7. Griswold Inn LLC — $3,377,680
  8. Stephen R. Cline Successor Trustee — $3,322,800
  9. Essex Savings Bank — $3,305,820
  10. MacBeth Ventures LLC — $2,759,500
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Revaluation Leads to $9 Million Decrease in Deep River Grand List

DEEP RIVER — A townwide property revaluation update completed last year has resulted in a 1.81 percent decrease in the grand list of taxable property.  Assessor Robin O’Loughlin has filed an October 2015 grand list that totals $490,476,253, a decrease of $9,076,156, or 1.81 percent, from the 2014 grand list total.  Small increases in assessment totals for motor vehicles and personal property were offset by an $11.96 million decrease in the real estate assessment total.

The revaluation update, required every five years under state law, was completed last year by O’Loughlin with assistance from Vision Appraisal of Northboro, Mass.  The town had used Vision Appraisal for the full property revaluation, including visual inspections of properties, that was done in 2010.

O’Loughlin said the decrease was less than expected, and smaller than the drop that had occurred with the 2010 revaluation.  The $9 million decrease would represent a loss of about $238,500 in tax revenue at the current property  tax rate of 26.28 mills, or $26.28 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.  The real estate assessment total was $430,864,720, a decrease of $11,960,340, or about 2.6 percent, from the 2014 real estate total.

The assessment total for motor vehicles was $35,876,260, representing an increase of $1,732,036. The personal property assessment total was $423,735,273, representing an increase of $1,152,148.

First Selectman Richard Smith said assessments for commercial and industrial properties in Deep River increased, despite the drop in assessed values for residential properties.  “We knew it was going to come,” Smith said of the grand list decrease, adding that effect on tax bills would vary between properties.  O’Loughlin said the revaluation was a “smooth process” that has generated few objections from property owners.  “It’s a market adjustment over five years,” she said.

The list of the town’s top ten taxpayers was largely unchanged from recent years.  Following are the top ten taxpayers with assessment totals.  The Boyd-Dernocoeur and Matalaniec accounts are for high value residential properties.

  • Connecticut Light & Power Co. — $5,649,517
  • BDRM Inc. — $4,197,840
  • Mislick Family Limited Partnership — $3,300,150
  • Silgan Plastics Corp. — $3,079,637
  • Deep River Associates LLC — $2,695,770
  • Connecticut Water co. — $2,587,473
  • 180 Main St. Partners LLC — $2,314,620
  • Thomas Boyd & K. Dernocoeur — $2,269,930
  • Goodspeed Lasng Co. LLC — $2,218,790
  • Zbigniew Matulaniec — $2,159,290
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Essex Civic Campus Project Recognized as First STEAP Grant Success Story

Photos of the Essex Civic Campus reproduced from the Office and Policy of Management page on the State of CT website.

Photos of the Essex Civic Campus reproduced from the Office of Policy and Management page on the State of CT website at www.ct.gov/opm.

ESSEX — The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has announced that its first STEAP Grant Success Story is the Town of Essex Civic Campus Enhancement Project.

Essex was awarded a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) in the amount of $471,500 in 2013 for the Essex Civic Campus Enhancement Project which funded the expansion, repair, and improvements to the “Essex Civic Campus” located at 29 West Ave.  The Civic Campus is a gateway to Essex and a center of municipal activity, including the Town Hall, Police Station, Essex Community Library, and Grove Street Park.

The project included the installation and replacement of the Grove Street Park Playscape to improve compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards; the renovation and expansion of the Town Hall parking area; renovations to the Town tennis courts, and improved pedestrian connectivity between the Town Hall and Library.

Essex First Selectman, Norman Needleman

Essex First Selectman, Norman Needleman

This grant provided much-needed improvements to ensure that the Essex Civic Campus is a vibrant and welcoming center of community activity, whether for recreation, public meetings, conducting business, or visiting the library.

A delighted Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman commented, “The people of the Town of Essex are deeply grateful to Governor Malloy, Senator Linares, Representative Miller, and our partners at DECD, for the investments that the state has made, via STEAP grants, in our community. The Town continually strives to be a friendlier and more welcoming place to live, work, learn, and play. The State’s investment of STEAP funds helps us get to that next level.”

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Essex Grand List Shows Small 0.33 Percent Increase

ESSEX — The grand list of taxable property has remained nearly flat after a revaluation-driven drop in 2013, with the October 2014 total showing an increase of only $3.72 million or 0.33 percent.

Assessor Jessica Sypher has filed an October 2014 grand list that totals $944,905,200, up by $3,726,569 from the 2013 total. There were small increases in each of the categories of real estate, personal property, and motor vehicles. The increase is expected to generate only about $60,000 in new tax revenue at the current tax rate of 20.99 mills.

The grand list, which previously had totaled over $1 billion, dropped by 7.72 percent after the full townwide property revaluation that was completed in 2013. The 2012 grand list was also down very slightly, dropping by about six one-hundredths of a percent.

Sypher said a court settlement for two of about a dozen appeals that followed the revaluation had resulted in a loss of about $700,000 in assessed value, or about $21,000 in tax revenue.

Brewer’s Marina appealed the revised assessments for marinas it owns on Ferry Street and Chandler Street. Sypher said attorneys for the town recommended a settlement that would split the difference between the revised assessments and the values claimed by the marina company. The compromise that was approved by a superior court judge last month dropped the assessed value for the two marinas from about $5 million to $4.3 million.

The town’s 3,253 real estate accounts have an assessment total of $943,246,673, up by only $727,030 from the 2013 real estate total.The town’s 722 personal property accounts have an assessment total of  $41,873,673, up by $1,213,929 from the 2013 personal property total.

The town’s 7,697 motor vehicle accounts have an assessment total of $62,881,170, up by $1,785,610 from the 2013 motor vehicles total.

Following are the town’s top 10 taxpayers with current assessment totals

1) Essex Meadows Inc. — $22,875,400
2) Lee Company — $14,820,920
3) Connecticut Light & Power Co. — $6,875,610
4) SLK Partners LLC — $5,708,900
5) River Properties Inc. — $3,597,210
6) Griswold Inn LLC — $3,378,640
7) Essex Savings Bank — $3,355,950
8) Stephen R. Cline Successor Trustee — $3,319,200
9) Herbert T. Clark III — $2,760,140
10) Macbeth Ventures LLC — $2,759,500

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$499.5 Million Deep River Grand List up by $9.14 Million From 2013 Total, Largest Increase in Years

DEEP RIVER — The 2014 grand list of taxable property is up by $9.14 million, a larger than expected increase that will generate about $236,000 in new tax revenue. Assessor Robin O’Loughlin has filed an October 2014 grant list that totals $499,552,409, an increase of $9,145,804, or 1.86 percent, over the 2013 total.

O’Loughlin said the increase, by far the largest since the last property revaluation in 2010, would generate $236,700 in new tax revenue at the current tax rate of 25.88 mills. Last year, the 2013 grand list was up by only 0.47 percent after a 2012 grand list jump of only 1.2 percent.

There were increases in each of the three categories, real estate, personal property and motor vehicles, with the largest increase coming in the personal property total. The town’s 658 personal property accounts totaled $22,583,125, an increase of $6,677,804 from the 2013 personal property total.O’Loughlin said a 2014 sale and relocation of Tri-Town Precision Plastics to Massachusetts-based Smith and Wesson Co., and a new local subsidiary, Deep River Plastics, had resulted in 224 new personal property accounts for machinery and equipment. But the assessor cautioned that many of these accounts would be eligible for tax deferrals under the state’s Manufacturing Machinery Program, which could lead to some reductions in the higher personal property totals in 2015.

The town’s 2,186 real estate accounts have an assessment total of $442,825,060, an increase of $2,1778,120 from the 2013 real estate total. O’Loughlin said there were four new homes completed in 2014, along with several renovations and expansions of existing dwellings. The town’s 4,800 motor vehicle accounts have an assessment total of $34,144,224, an increased of $289,394 from the 2013 total.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the increase was higher than he anticipated, and good news for the town. “It’s the best increase we’ve had in several years,” he said, adding, “it’s going to help an awful lot with the budgets this year.” The town is conducting a statistical revaluation update of all real estate properties this year, with any changes to be reflected on the October 2015 grand list.

Following are the town’s top 10 taxpayers, along with the assessment totals. The Boyd-Dernocoeur, Olson, and Cribiore accounts are for high value residential properties.

1) Connecticut Light & Power Co. — $5,576,999
2) BDRM Inc. — $4,171,277
3) Mislick Family Limited partnership — $3,173,870
4) Silgan Plastics Corp. — $2,917,775
5) Deep River Associates LLC — $2,917,600
6) Thomas Boyd & K. Dernocoeur — $2,430,610
7) 180 Main Street Partners LLC — $2,277,450
8) Goodspeed Leasing Co. LLC — $2,145,010
9) John & Jane Olson — $2,075,080
10) Alberto Cribiore — $1,934,590
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Revitalizing Historic Main Streets and Village Centers – Essex Town Presentation

The Town of Essex invites you to a presentation & discussion by  Connecticut Main Street Center on Tuesday, October 29 at 7 p.m. at the Essex Elementary School Cafeteria.

The most successful downtowns and village centers encourage citizens to be engaged in helping to determine the future of their communities.  Over 2,000 communities throughout the United States utilize the Main Street Approach™ to create revitalization strategies – engaging citizens in creating and implementing their visions.

CT Main Street Center staff will present the history of the Main Street program and how it works in Connecticut, and will share common issues encountered by many CT Main Street Communities – as well as success stories from across the state.  A generous Q & A session will follow.  Together, we will learn how to take this proven approach and make it work in our historic Village Centers.

We encourage you to be part of this community conversation!

For more information, contact:

Susan Malan, Essex Economic Development Consultant – smalan@essexct.gov   860-767-4340 x 220

John Guszkowski, Essex Planning Consultant – planner@essexct.gov

Susan Westa, Community Engagement Director, CT Main Street Center – susan.westa@nu.com

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Essex Selectmen to Consider Acquiring Half of Perry Property that Abuts Town Hall

ESSEX— The town will consider a $200,000 purchase of the back section of the Perry property that abuts the town hall property on West Avenue. First Selectman Norman Needleman announced the potential acquisition at the board’s meeting Wednesday, with the selectmen expected to discuss the offer further at a Nov. 6 meeting.

The property at 27 West Avenue is part of the estate of Eileen Perry, a longtime resident who died in June. The front section of the property contains a historic house, while the back section is undeveloped land that abuts the town hall site. Needleman said private discussions with Brad Perry, a son and an executor of the estate, has led to an offer to split the property and sell the town six-to-seven-tenths of an acre from the back section for $200,000. The property also abuts to the east the Pratt House property that is owned by the Essex Historical Society.

The entire property, including the house, is assessed at $623,100 on the current grand list, a figure that represents about 70 percent of fair market value. Needleman said Perry sponsored an appraisal that valued a permanent easement for the back section of the parcel at $200,000.

But Needleman said he was not interested in an easement, and convinced Perry agreed to offer an outright sale of the property for that price. “I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand the town hall property,” he said, while adding there are no immediate plans for use of the parcel..

The purchase would require approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting, along with a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow a split of the property. The selectmen deferred a vote on the acquisition Wednesday after Selectman Joel Marzi suggested the full three-member board should be on hand to vote on any land acquisitions. Selectwoman Stacia Libby was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

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Essex Zoning Board of Appeals Considers Expansion of Essex Court Elderly Housing

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals has scheduled an Oct. 15 public hearing on an appeal for 12 variances needed for a planned 22-unit expansion of the Essex Court elderly housing complex in the Centerbrook section. The board will convene at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

The applicant for the variances is Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a subgroup formed by the Essex Housing Authority to pursue a long-planned expansion of the existing 36 unit elderly housing complex at 16 Main St. The group received a $250,000 state Department of Housing grant over the summer for planning and design of the proposed development that would be located on a one-acre town-owned parcel in the back area of the complex. The plans call for 22 units on three floors, similar to the design of the Kirtland Commons elderly housing in Deep River.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the current design plan would require 12 variances of zoning regulations, beginning with a variance of a height requirement that limits new multi-dwelling structures in Essex to two floors. The project also needs variances for the minimum acreage, minimum unit size, and storage requirements of the regulations, along with variances of setback requirements.

Budrow said the project would also need approval from the zoning commission, though the commission will not schedule a public hearing on a special permit application until after the wastewater disposal system for the development receives approval from the health department.

Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc. is currently seeking federal and state funding for construction of the new units, with local zoning approvals expected to aid in the effort to secure funding. The existing 36-unit Essex Court elderly housing complex opened in 1985, with several grant-funded upgrades and improvements completed at the complex in recent years.

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Essex Town Meeting Approves 2013-2014 Town Projects Building Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Town Meeting Approval Required for New Essex Projects Building Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bids are High for Essex Town Hall Campus Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DR-Selectman-580x435

First Selectman Richard Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chester Democrat and Republican Slates Set Uncontested Fall Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dick Smith by 1905 water fountain in front of Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Selectman Norman Needleman

First Selectman Norman Needleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chester Sets July 23 Town Meeting on Main Street Project Plan

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

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

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

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

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Essex and Deep River Parties Set Nominating Caucuses for November Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex Selectmen Discuss Available Property Abutting Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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Deep River Planning and Zoning Expecting Application for Dunkin Donuts Relocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex Zoning Approves Store Expansion with Dunkin Donuts Relocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Large Crowd Celebrates Reopening of Deep River Town Hall Auditorium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prescription Drug Discount Program Offered by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets Draw Mild Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Split Opinions on Requested Rule Change for Chester Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex Town Auditorium Update – Re-opening Feb. 27

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

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

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

Read related article by Charles Stannard

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

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

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

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

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