April 24, 2018

Essex Town Auditorium Update – Re-opening Feb. 27

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

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

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

Read related article by Charles Stannard


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

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

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

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


Essex Town Hall Auditorium Closed After Partial Ceiling Collapse

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lawsuit Filed Over Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Actions in Proposed Used Car Dealership Case

DEEP RIVER— Actions by the zoning board of appeals last summer on requested variances for a proposed used car dealership at a former industrial building on Route 154 have led to a lawsuit filed against the board. Local resident George Bartlett Jr. filed a lawsuit in November asking the court to direct the board to amend its minutes from a contentious June 19 public hearing, and to approve two variances needed for Bartlett to pursue planning and zoning commission approval of a used car dealership at the 444 Main Street property.

The lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court by Essex lawyer John Bennet contends the board in September improperly rejected a request from Bartlett to amend and correct allegedly inaccurate minutes from the June 19 public hearing and meeting on the variance appeals. The lawsuit contends minutes prepared by long-time zoning board of appeals chairman Donald Grohs did not accurately report Bartlett’s request for two variances at the June 19 session. The suit also notes that Grohs had recused himself from hearing the appeal because he owns nearby property, and that there is no tape recording of the board’s discussion and vote on the variance appeals.

The plan to open a used car dealership at the former Champion Tool & Die Co. building had drawn strong opposition from the planning and zoning commission at the June 19 hearing. Variances were needed to pursue approval of a used car dealership in the parcel because zoning regulations require at least 150 feet of road frontage for businesses in the Turnpike Industrial Zone on the south side of town. The 444 Main Street parcel has only 144.7-feet of road frontage.

The lawyer for the commission, Middletown attorney William Howard, had maintained that Bartlett, who was represented by Essex lawyer and Bennet partner Michael Wells, was seeking both a 5.3-foot dimensional variance, but also an illegal use variance of a separate regulation that required at least 150-feet of road frontage for used car dealerships. The board approved the dimensional variance on a 4-1 vote, but there was also a clear sense after the June 19 meeting that the board had also approved a separate variance of regulation 7B.9.3 that had drawn objections from the planning and zoning commission.

The commission at a June 21 meeting directed Howard to file a court appeal of the ZBA decision, setting up a possible legal battle between the zoning board of appeals and the planning and zoning commission, with town taxpayers paying the legal expenses for both panels. But the commission vs. board lawsuit appeared to have been averted after First Selectman Richard Smith set up a July 2 meeting between members and legal counsel for the board and commission.

Cathy Jefferson, zoning enforcement officer, said Wednesday the commission is not involved in the lawsuit between Bartlett and the zoning board of appeals. Jefferson said Bartlett received approval during the fall to lease a portion of the building to a small manufacturing business, but has not filed any applications for approval of the proposed used car dealership.


Withdrawal of Petition Halts Chester Poultry Regulations Controversy

CHESTER— After two postponements, the public hearing on a requested change to town regulations governing poultry has been cancelled after the petitioners, John and Bonnie Bennet, withdrew their request for a change to the regulations.

Only one day after town officials announced Thursday the planning and zoning commission public hearing was rescheduled for Feb. 4 in the auditorium at Valley Regional High School, the Bennets withdrew the proposal they had submitted last fall. A cancelllation notice for the public hearing was posted on the town’s website Friday by commission secretary Sally Murray.

The Bennets, 0f 23 Story Hill Road, were seeking to amend the regulations governing the keeping of poultry on residential property to prohibit the keeping of roosters and other noisy fowl. The keeping of hens would be allowed, but the Bennets had proposed increasing the minimum lot size and setback requirements from abutting property for properties containing chickens. Bennet, a lawyer with an office in Essex, is the long-time town attorney for Chester and a frequent moderator at town meetings.

The proposed changes generated strong opposition from residents. The public hearing was initially set for Dec. 6 at the Chester Meeting House, the planning and zoning commission’s usual meeting location. But anticipation of a large crowd led to a rescheduling of the hearing for Jan. 10 in the all-purpose room at Chester Elementary School.

The Jan. 10 session was cancelled that evening after more than 350 residents packed the room, with parked vehicles clogging the residential streets around the school off Ridge Road. The resident state trooper had determined the lack of parking and resulting clogged streets would have prevented emergency access to the meeting room.


Deep River P & Z Approves New Uses for Commercial Building at 246 Main Street

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has approved three new uses for the vacant commercial building at 246 Main Street. The panel granted a quick approval for the special permit after an Aug. 16 public hearing where no one objected to the plans.
Local resident Andrea Chiapa has been granted approval to open a dress shop, a flower shop, and a cupcake cafe in the building at the intersection of Main Street (Route 154) and Union Street. The building, which previously housed an Irish gifts shop, has been vacant for more than two years.
Commission Chairman Jonathan Kastner said the only conditions attached to the permit approval are related to traffic flow and the number of curb cuts on Main Street and Union Street. Kastner said the goal is to direct traffic in and out of the new businesses to Main Street, and away from the residential Union Street where there is another entrance to the property.

Town Meeting Set on Essex Volunteer Firefighter Merit Service Plan

ESSEX— Voters will be asked at a Sept. 5 town meeting to approve an enhancement to the town’s existing merit service pension benefit for volunteer firefighters. The change, endorsed by the board of selectmen last week, would increase the  monthly pension stipend for qualifying volunteers from the current $15 per month to $16.65 per month. It would be the first increase in the pension stipend since the plan began in 1992.
Volunteers must have at least 10 years of active service in the Essex Volunteer Fire Company. The plan provides the current $15, or the proposed $16.65, per month for each year of vested service after ten years. The current maximum pension payment is $450 per month. If approved by voters at the town meeting, the maximum payment would increase to $500 per month.
Essex volunteer firefighters may also qualify for a property tax abatement under a separate program offered by the town to attract and retain volunteers for the department. Firefighters earn points for active participation under guidelines established bny the fire company to qualify for an abatement of up to $1,000 deducted off a firefighters annual property tax bill.
Voters at the town meeting will also be asked to approve an amendment to the retirement plan for town employees that designates the appointed retirement committee, and ultimately the elected board of selectmen, as the bodies charged with attempting to resolve any disputes related to an employees retirement benefit.
The Sept. 5  town meeting to vote on the firefighters merit service enhancement and the proposed amendment to the town retirement plan is set for 7 p.m. at town hall. The town meeting will be preceded by a public hearing on both agenda items that begins at 6:30 p.m.

Deep River Planning and Zoning Approves Special Permit for Expansion of Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has approved a special permit for an 8,400-square-foot of the Centerbrook Sales/Eve’s Addiction industrial building at 16 Grove Street in the town’s north end.

The commission approved the permit on a unanimous vote after a public hearing Thursday. Cathy Jefferson, zoning enforcement office, said Monday the conditions on the permit approval are related to completion of recommended fire protection and drainage improvements. The approval will allow company owner Raymond Galeotti to expand the existing 6,600-square-foot building where he has operated the company since 2007. The building is located on a 2.5-acre parcel at the end of Grove Street, a dead-end street extending south off Bridge Street.

Galeotti needed approval from three town land use commissions for the expansion project, including a permit from the inland-wetlands commission and a variance from the zoning board of appeals. A variance was needed because new village district regulations approved by the planning and zoning commission last fall imposed a 2,500-square-foot limit on the size of buildings in the village district, which includes the previous light industrial zone in the north end. The ZBA approved the variance on July 17 after a two-part public hearing than opened on June 19.

Galeotti said Monday construction of the expansion would begin later this year. He said the project would add about five new jobs, with some of the positions to be filled  before construction of the addition begins. The company, which currently employs 20 people, sells jewelry through an internet web site. Light assembly, including setting of stones and engravings, are done at the Grove Street facility.


Deep River ZBA Approves Variance for Expansion of Grove Street Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals Tuesday approved a variance that should pave the way for an 8,400-square-foot expansion of an existing industrial building located at 16 Grove Street in the town’s north end.

The variance approval, on a unanimous vote of the board, will allow Raymond Galeotti, owner of Eve’s Addiction/Centerbrook Sales, to proceed to a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission Thursday on a special permit application for the proposed business expansion. The commission’s public hearing begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

A variance was needed because new village district zoning regulations approved by the commission last November impose a 2,500-square-foot limit on the size of buildings in the village district, which includes the area in the vicinity of Grove Street and Bridge Street that had previously been a light industrial zone.

The ZBA had opened a public hearing on Galeotti’s variance appeal on June 19, but postponed a decision until Tuesday amid questions about the extent of requirements in the new village district regulations. David Royston, the board’s attorney, opened the session by confirming the board had the legal authority to grant a variance on the new building size limit, despite language in the new regulations which implied the requirements were not subject to a variance.

John Bennet, a Chester lawyer representing Galeotti, said Galeotti purchased the industrial building that had been vacant for several years in 2007 with the hope of eventually expanding his business that involves the manufacturing and sales of jewelry items . Bennet said the new regulations with the 2,500-square-foot building size limit impose a legal hardship on a pre-existing non-conforming use. “A few months ago we wouldn’t even have to be here for this,” he said, adding “this is the kind of business that every community would like to have.”

First Selectman Richard Smith, speaking in support of the variance, said he had urged Galeotti to open his business in the 16 Grove St. building five years ago, and last year urged him to pursue a building expansion after neighborhood complaints about tractor trailer trucks that were remaining on the property while waiting to be unloaded. Bennet said the planned expansion would eliminate any need for large delivery trucks to linger on the property.

The expansion project, which has received a required permit from the inland-wetlands commission, calls for an 8,400-square-foot expansion of the existing 6,600-square-foot building on the 2.5-acre parcel at 16 Grove Street, a dead-end street located off Bridge Street.

In approving the variance, the board determined the new regulations imposed a hardship on a legal; non-conforming use, and that the planned expansion conformed with the existing building on the parcel.


Deep River Voters to Consider $550,000 Aerial Ladder Fire Truck Purchase at July 24 Town Meeting

DEEP RIVER-— Voters at a July 24 town meeting will consider a proposed $550,000 appropriation to purchase a reconditioned aerial ladder fire truck for the Deep River volunteer Fire Department. The town meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The proposed appropriation and purchase was approved on June 26 by the board of selectmen and board of finance based on a request from the volunteer fire department. The aerial ladder truck, while previously used, is newer than an existing ladder truck the fire department is expected to attempt to resell.

The truck will be purchased under a five-year lease-purchase arrangement with Sun Trust Leasing Corporation. The annual payment from the town will be $118,000 year, with the interest rate for the five-year agreement fixed at 2.25 per cent per year. The town has used similar lease-purchase agreements previously to purchase fire trucks and other heavy equipment.


Carmela Balducci Replaces Husband on Deep River Board of Finance

DEEP RIVER— Carmela Balducci has been appointed to the board of finance to fill the seat held by her husband, former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci. The board of selectmen appointed Balducci, a Democrat, to the vacant position at a meeting Tuesday.
A former teacher, Carmela Balducci had served previously on the library board of trustees and the inland-wetlands commission. She was recommended for the opening by the Deep River Democratic Town Committee. Richard Balducci resigned from the board last month.

Richard Balducci had served on the finance board for nearly a decade, and was re-elected to a six-year term on the board in 2009. After serving as a longtime state representative from Newington, Balducci was elected speaker of the house in 1989. He ran the chamber until 1993, a period when Republican-turned-independent Lowell P. Weicker Jr. served as governor. The Balduccis moved to Deep River in 1996.

First Selectman Richard Smith said Balducci resigned from the finance board after learning he could not hold a local elected position while also serving on the state  Board of Regents for Higher Education, which governs state colleges and universities. Richard Balducci’s six-year term on the board of finance ends in 2015, but the seat will be on the ballot in the 2013 town election.


Essex Republican Neil Nichols Forms 2012 Campaign Exploratory Committee

Mr. Neil Nichols

Essex Republican Neil Nichols has formed a 2012 campaign exploratory committee, signaling his plans to run again for a legislative seat in the November 6 state election.

Nichols Monday declined to confirm which area legislative seat he would be campaigning for this year, either the 33rd Senate District seat held by ten-term Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook, or the 36th House District held for the past year by Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller, a former Essex first selectman. Nichols said he would probably make a formal announcement of his 2012 campaign plans by the end of April.

But Nichols choice for the treasurer of his exploratory committee, East Haddam Republican Paul Maxwell, would seem to indicate he has set his sights on a rematch with Daily in the 12-town senate district. East Haddam is in the 33rd District, where Nichols challenged Daily in 2010 and lost on a vote of 21,069 to 17,851. Nichols carried Haddam in 2010, with Daily winning in all of the other district towns.

A retired airline pilot who currently serves on the Essex Planning Commission, Nichols ran unsuccessfully in 2006 for the 36th House District seat, losing to former Democratic State Rep. James Spallone of Essex. Nichols also represents the 33rd Senate District on the Republican State Central Committee.

Daily, a former Westbrook first selectwoman, has already signaled her plans to seek a record 12th term in the 33rd District this year, forming a 2012 campaign committee late last year.

Miller, who served as Essex first selectman from 2003 to last November, is expected to seek election to a full term in the 36th District this year, but as of Monday had not registered a 2012 campaign committee with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Miller defeated Republican Janet Peckinpaugh, the former television news anchorwoman, in a special election held last February. Spallone, who was re-elected in 2010, had resigned the seat to take a job as deputy secretary of the state.

The 36th House District includes the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam. Democrats and Republicans will pick 2012 legislative candidates at district nominating conventions in May.


Essex Zoning Sets March 19 Hearing on Request to Remove Age Restriction From Bokum Road Cluster Housing

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a March 19 public hearing on a petition to remove an over-55 age restriction on a planned 55-unit housing complex  on Bokum Road that was approved in 2007 but never built.

Essex Glen LLC, the partnership that was the applicant in 2007, has asked the commission to revise the permit for the project, eliminating the description “active adult community”, and a restriction specifying the units would be sold to buyers age 55 or older. The proposed new language refers to a “targeted adult community,” and specifies the residential community would be “targeted for but not limited to” occupancy by persons age 55 or older.

The zoning commission approved permits in 2007 for the 55-unit complex on an 11-acre parcel located on the south side of Bokum Road, east of the Valley Railroad tracks. The parcel is located in a residential life care district, near the Essex Meadows retirement community and health care complex that was built in the 1980s and is now the town’s largest taxpayer

But just over a year after the Glen at Essex project was approved, the nationwide economic crash and recession that began in the fall of 2008 discouraged the partnership from pursuing development of the complex, though the 2007 approval remains in effect. The March 19 public hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.


Deep River Close to Obtaining Funds of Former Town Hall Restoration Association

DEEP RIVER– The town is close to obtaining control of about $261,000 that was held by the now disbanded Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc.

That was the message last week from former Selectman Arthur Thompson as he briefed the board of selectmen on the activities of the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee. Thompson is on the 11-member volunteer committee that was established in December to replace the restoration association, and complete long-planned improvements to the second-floor auditorium at town hall.

The former restoration association held the $261,000 that was donated over several years by residents to support the renovation of the town hall auditorium. The town meeting resolution that established the new committee included a provision specifying that funds held by the former association would be placed in a separate town fund dedicated to completing work on the town hall auditorium.

Thompson said the funds have been taken out of stock market investment accounts, and placed in a single account at Essex Savings Bank. Thompson also reported the town would not need a probate court ruling to secure control of the funds because the 1979 incorporation documents for the town hall restoration association had specified that any funds held by the association would revert to the town if the association was disbanded.

But the final transfer of the funds to the town requires a review by the state Attorney General’s office, which reviews final disbursements of charitable funds. Thompson said the committee expects a report from the attorney general soon.

Thompson said the funds would then be used to pay for improvements to the town hall auditorium, including work needed to allow full use of the balcony, and create a suitable entrance to the auditorium from a side door to the 1892 town hall building. He said the committee is working to prepare a specific improvement plan for the auditorium, along with cost estimates, to be presented to the selectmen.

Thompson also announced the committee would handle any bookings for use of the town hall auditorium, ending the services of Linalynn Schmelzer, a local resident who was hired last year by the association to coordinate bookings of the auditorium. “There are not a lot of bookings right now and we believe committee members can handle it,” he said.


Chester Planning and Zoning Commission Approves New Downtown Restaurant

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has approved a special permit for a new vegetarian restaurant in the former Chester Savings Bank building at 6 Main St. in the downtown village.

The commission approved the application of Chester Properties LLC of Old Lyme in a unanimous vote at a Feb. 2 meeting. The plans were presented at a two-part public hearing that began in January and continued on Feb. 2. The plans call for a 40 to 50-seat restaurant with a liquor license, along with a separate 857 square-foot retail space and two apartments on the second floor of the building. More than a dozen residents expressed support for the project at the public hearings.

The restaurant, which is expected to open later this year, will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. There will be a parking area with space for 23 vehicles.


Essex to Purchase Used Catch Basin Cleaner Truck

ESSEX, CT— The town of Essex will purchase a used catch basin vacuum cleaner truck from a Newington company that currently rents the equipment to area towns for annual cleaning of roadside catch basins.

Voters at a town meeting last week approved spending up to $39,000 to buy the truck from the Acorn/Thompson Company. The approval came on a 12-5 vote, with some residents questioning the purchase of used equipment. The expenditure had been previously approved by the board of selectmen and board of finance. Before the town meeting vote, First Selectman Norman Needleman agreed to have a group of residents, including an experienced mechanic, inspect the equipment at the company headquarters in Newington.

Needleman said Tuesday the group had inspected the equipment last weekend, and provided a written report that supported the purchase. Needleman said owning the catch basin cleaner would “save us money with a very quick payback,” and give the town highway crew more time to work on the catch basins.

Needleman said the town currently rents the truck from the company for two weeks each year at a cost of $6,000. He said the company is going out of business, and selling much of its equipment. Needleman said annual cleaning of storm water catch basins to remove debris is required to insure proper drainage and prevent ponding and flooding of storm water on town roads.
Needleman said the actual cost of acquiring the equipment would be $33,000, with $6,000 deducted from the $39,000 purchase price for the town’s rental of the equipment last year.


Essex Democrats, Republicans Pick Town Committees for 2012-2014

ESSEX— Town Democrats and Republicans selected new town committees for the 2012-2014 term at party caucuses held over the past week.

Democrats picked a 29 member town committee at a caucus Tuesday. All of the members are incumbents, with the exception of Selectwoman Stacia Libby. A Republican until last July, Libby joined the Democrats when she was picked by Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman as his running-mate for board of selectmen in the 2001 town election Both Needleman and Libby were elected to the board.

The only departure from the 2010-2012 Democratic Town Committee was Anthony Chirico. A former Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the 33rd Senate District seat in 2000 and 2002, Chirico later became a Democrat and joined the town committee in 2004. Chirico had challenged Needleman for the party endorsement for first selectman last summer, but did not force a primary for the nomination after the town committee backed Needleman. Sources said Chirico had declined an opportunity to remain on the town committee.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee for 2012-2014 includes Alvin Wolfgram, Brian Cournayer, Campbell Hudson, former First Selectman Carl Ellison, Cathy Bishop, Claire Tiernan, Earl Fowler, Frederick Vollono, Geraldine Ficarra, James Spallone, James Francis, Jonathan James, Kay Tucker, Lawrence Shipman, Lee Rowley, Lois Ely, Lon Seidman, Louisa Ketron, Mary Ann Plevca, Matthew Cooper, Mark Bombaci, Tax Collector Megan Haskins, Needleman, former first selectman and 36th District State Rep. Phill Miller, Frank Hall, Stan Sheppard, John Stannard, William Doane, and Libby. Vollono is the current Democratic town chairman.

Republicans picked a 27-member town committee at the caucus last week. Committee membership is down from the 31 members that served form 2010-2012, with two new members. Seven incumbents did not continue on the town committee, including George Antone, Gary Baier, former First Selectman Bruce Glowac, Roger Kern, Janet Peckinpaugh, Mark Pratt and Jeff Woods. Peckinpaugh, a former television news anchorwoman, had run unsuccessfully for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2010, and was Miller’s Republican opponent in the 36th House District special election last February.

The Essex Republican Town Committee for 2012-2014 includes John Ackerman, Susie Beckman, Kenneth Bombaci, Herb Clark, Edward Cook, Alexander Daddona, Ann Dixon, Lynn Faulstick, ED. G. Fitton, Adrienne Forrest, John Heiser, James Hill, Donna Hyde, Jerri MacMillian, Selectman Joel Marzi, Republican State Central Committeeman Neil Nichols, Leigh Rankin, Brabara Ryan, Elizabeth Schellens, David Sousa, Terry Stewart, Alice Van Duersen, Gary Van Duersen, and Jane Willson. New members are Peter Decker and Robert Fisher. Cook is the current Republican Town Chairman.


Essex Zoning Commission Sets Dec. 19 Meeting on Accepting Current Connecticut River Gateway Standards

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a Dec. 19 public meeting to discuss whether Essex should accept the current standards of the eight-town Connecticut River Gateway Commission. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Essex joined the Connecticut River Gateway Commission with its inception in the early 1970s. The commission, which also includes the towns of Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook, offers advisory opinions to local zoning authorities for development proposals falling within the ridgelines on both sides of the lower Connecticut River. The panel also administers a fund created in the 1980s to purchase properties or easements in the scenic Gateway Conservation Zone.

But Essex declined to accept new standards that were adopted by the commission and all of the other member towns in 2004. Torrance Downes, staffer for the Gateway Commission, said Wednesday that some Essex residents felt the new standards were too restrictive, particularly an increase from 50-feet to 100-feet in the standard’s setback requirement from the edge of the Connecticut River.

Downes said under the standard accepted by the other Gateway towns, construction activity including home additions would be subject to an advisory review by the Connecticut River Gateway Commission. Downes said the local zoning board of appeals would still retain final regulatory authority over construction within the 100-feet setback, but the regional commission would have the standing to challenge a local ZBA decision in superior court.

The 2004 standards also include a requirement for a special permit from the Connecticut River Gateway Commission for new homes and structures, including additions, within the Gateway Conservation District that exceed 4,000-square-feet. This is the so-called “McMansions rule.”

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said he expects most of the discussion to focus on the proposed expansion of the setback rule to 100-feet, a step that would cover more than 100 additional existing homes in Essex. “It brings a lot more people in to play,” he said.

Budrow said the Dec. 19 session would be for discussion only, with the panel expected to hold a formal public hearing on accepting the latest Gateway standards early next year. The zoning commission holds the sole authority over whether to accept the current standards, with no requirement for town meeting approval.


Deep River Town Meeting Authorizes New Structure for Town Hall Auditiorium Restoration Effort

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday authorized the formation of a new committee to coordinate the ongoing effort to restore the auditorium at town hall.

About 15 residents turned out for the meeting, approving the board of selectmen’s recommendation for a new committee and a special town fund on a unanimous voice vote. The resolution had three parts, beginning with the rescinding of a February 1981 town meeting resolution that gave the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. sole authority to coordinate restoration of the historic 1892 town hall.

In recent years, the restoration effort has focused on upgrading the second-floor auditorium for wider community use. The board of selectmen earlier this fall urged the association to expedite the restoration effort utilizing a fund made up of private donations to complete the fire safety and building code improvements. The funds held by the association total about $250,000.

After meeting with the board of selectmen on Nov. 8, the association directors agreed to disband the organization and support the selectmen’s goal of establishing a new town committee to complete the improvements to the auditorium as soon as possible.

The second part of the town meeting resolution establishes a new 11-member Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee to coordinate the effort to restore the auditorium. A third part of the resolution creates a special town fund, to be called the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund, that would be comprised of the donated funds now held by the restoration association.

Former Selectman Arthur Thompson, who pushed for a revised structure for the restoration effort during the final weeks of his term, said the transfer of the funds to the new town special fund would require approval from the state Attorney General’s office, and the regional probate court in Old Saybrook, because the association was both a non-profit corporation and a charitable organization. Thompson said it could take up to two months to secure the required approvals.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board of selectmen would appoint the new committee during this waiting period, with some members of the association board of directors expected to volunteer to serve on the new committee. Smith said he already has received a list of required fire safety and building code improvements for the auditorium from Building Inspector Richard Leighton.

Smith said the new committee would develop a plan to complete the improvements using the donated monies in the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund. “It should move pretty quick,” he said.

In other business, the town meeting confirmed reappointments to the planning and zoning commission and the zoning board of appeals. Confirmed for a three-year term on the planning and zoning commission were incumbents Janet Edgarton, Nancy Fischbach, and Thomas Walsh. Confirmed for three-year terms on the zoning board of appeals were incumbents Jerome Ackerman, Margot Gamerdinger, and William Harris.

Smith announced there is a new opening on the seven-member planning and zoning commission with the resignation of Angus McDonald Jr., who began his term as the new Democratic selectman this week. McDonald, who replaces Thompson on the board, participated in his first meeting Tuesday. Smith said there is also an alternate vacancy on the commission.



Essex Town Meeting Approves Additional Appropriations, Appointments

ESSEX— Voters quickly approved three additional appropriations and confirmed more than a dozen appointments to town boards and commissions Monday at the annual town meeting.

About 40 residents turned out for the meeting, which also included approval of the annual town report for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The report is dedicated to Lois Ely, a long-time resident and chairwoman of the board of assessment appeals who currently serves as the Democratic registrar of voters.

All of the agenda items were approved on unanimous voice votes. Voters approved a $22,796 appropriation for police services. First Selectman Norman Needleman said the additional expenditure would be offset by a state driving under the influence enforcement grant. “This is really just an accounting thing,” he said.

Voters approved an $11,500 appropriation to install new carpeting in the 1991 addition section of Essex Elementary School. But the town meeting first rescinded a town meeting vote from last July that authorized an expenditure of $24,800 for new flooring and carpeting at the school.

Lon Seidman, chairman of the local board of education, said the board has decided to defer installation of the flooring until next year, but wants to proceed as soon as possible with the new carpeting. Funds for the work will come from an existing capital improvements sinking fund for the school. Voters also approved an additional appropriation of $2,110 for the park and recreation department.

All of the appointments were confirmed together on a single voice vote, with the exception of Gudrun Lelash, who had recently declined reappointment for new terms on the conservation commission and inland-wetlands commission. Most of the appointments were reappointments of incumbent members also serving on the boards and commissions.

Appointments to the zoning commission for three-year terms include Lillian Mosa and Alvin Wolfgram, the current chairman, for the zoning commission, with Robert Connelly and William Reichenbach as zoning commission alternates. Reappointed to the zoning board of appeals for three-year terms were Douglas Demerast and William Ferguson.

Voters also confirmed appointments to the economic development commission, conservation commission, inland-wetlands commission, park and recreation commission, sanitary waste commission/water pollution control authority and the tree committee.


Appointments, Additional Appropriations on Agenda of Essex Annual Town Meeting Monday

ESSEX— Special appropriations and confirmation votes on more than a dozen board and commission appointments are on the agenda of the annual town meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

The meeting, held on the third Monday of November, is called the annual town meeting because the agenda also includes a vote accepting the annual town report. The latest report covers the 2010-2011 fiscal year that ended last June.

Voters will be asked to approve a $22,796 additional appropriation for police services. The other additional appropriation is $11,500 from the Essex Elementary School capital improvement sinking fund for purchase and installation of carpeting in a wing of the school. Both additional appropriations have been approved by the board of finance.

Voters will be asked to confirm several reappointments and appointments to town boards and commissions that were approved by the newly elected board of selectmen at a meeting Wednesday. Most of the members up for confirmation votes Monday are incumbents on the boards and commissions.

The appointments include Lillian Mosa and Alvin Wolfgram for three-year terms on the zoning commission, with Robert Connelly and William Reichenbach as commission alternates, along with Douglas Demarest and William Ferguson for three-year terms on the zoning board of appeals.

Also Lon Seidman, Lee Thompson, and Mark Uihlein for two-year terms on the economic development commission. Walter Weigert and alternate Mark Faulstick are up for reappointment to three-year terms on the harbor management commission.

Appointments to the sanitary waste commission/water pollution control authority for two-year terms are Mark Reeves, Randel Osborne, Robert Van Houten, Leigh Rankin, and Alvin Wolfgram as a commission alternate. Wolfgram is becoming an alternate after serving as a member and chairman of the joint commissions.

Appointments to the park and recreation commission for three-year terms are Anthony Mosa, Robert Russo, Douglas Senn, and Cathy Bishop as a commission alternate. Nancy Hudson and Ann Penniman are up for appointment to three-year terms on the tree committee.

Gudrun Lelash, Claire Tiernan and Barbara Zernike are up for appointment to three- year terms on the inland-wetlands commission. Lelash, Pamela Barnardini, and Maryann Pleva are up for appointment to three-year terms on the conservation commission, with Susan Malan as a commission alternate.



New Essex Board of Selectmen Sets Hearing and Town Meeting on Emergency Management Funding, Discusses Meeting Agenda Rules

ESSEX— The newly elected board of selectmen held its first meeting of the 2011-2013 term Wednesday, setting a Dec. 7 public hearing on proposed $32,528 expenditure for emergency management items and discussing meeting agenda rules for public comment.

It was the first meeting in the top job for Democratic First Selectman Norman Needle, the four term selectman who was elected first selectman last week, and the first meeting for new Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, the first women to serve on the board since the 1980s. Republican Selectman Joel Marzi is back for a second term. It was the first meeting in 12 years without former Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who was on the board from 1999 to 2003, and first selectman from 2003 until Tuesday.

Needleman, who was sworn in to office Wednesday morning by local resident and Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone, noted it is “a new board of selectmen by some measure, adding “I hope we have a good couple of years and get a lot of good work done for the town.”

Needleman announced that he was eliminating one of the two public comment segments from the board meeting agenda. In recent years, the board has had public comment as an agenda item at the beginning and end of each meeting. Needleman, who said he remains “open-minded” about the change, said he would prefer a single public comment, probably at the beginning of each meeting.”I’m not sure it has been helpful to have two,” he said.

Marzi said he favors allowing two public comment periods, noting the bi-weekly meetings are “the only time the public can interface,” with the full three-member board. The board agreed to discuss agenda rules again at a future meeting.

The board scheduled a Dec. 7 public hearing on a proposed $32,528 special appropriation for purchase of emergency management items. The list of items, including signs and new communications equipment, was developed by the board in consultations with town emergency services personnel after Tropical Storm Irene hit the town on Aug. 28. The public hearing is set to convene at 7 p.m. in town hall. A town meeting vote on approving the special appropriation is set for Dec. 21.

In other business, the board agreed to continue with the same meeting schedule that has been in place in recent years. Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m., and the third Wednesday at 7 p.m.


Deep River Selectmen Await Meeting With Town Hall Restoration Association

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen is hoping a joint meeting next month with directors of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. will bring consensus on how to complete a long-running restoration of the town hall auditorium and utilize funds donated to the association.

Selectmen met with members of the association board of directors on Sept. 27, urging the association to assist in drafting an updated town meeting resolution and authorization for the association, which was established under a 1981 town meeting resolution and later became a non-profit corporation. Before the joint meeting was held, the board on Oct. 11 adopted a resolution expressing opposition to placing funds held by the association in an irrevocable endowment fund.

Sally Carlson-Crowell told the selectmen at Tuesday’s meeting the group was “a little bit concerned,” about receiving “demands” from the selectmen before the joint session was held. She said directors of the group, including long-time director Ted Mackenzie, had recently discussed dissolving the association based on concern with the direction of the review process.

Selectman Arthur Thompson said the board is not seeking to disband the association, but needs to clarify the future plans of the association and the use of more than $200,000 in donated funds held by the association. The funds were donated by residents to support the restoration of the town hall auditorium, a project that began in the late 1970s.

Most of the funds have been invested on the stock market, with the value shifting in recent weeks based on gains and declines in the market. Thompson said the funds should be held in safer investments, and used to complete all necessary improvements to the town hall auditorium. “I’m not sure the people who donated that money want it to be played on the stock market,” he said.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board needs to have the association “let us know what you want to do,” to complete all necessary improvements to the auditorium. He suggested the funds held by the association could be combined with some town funding to complete the project. Smith said he has no objections to having a local resident hired by the association continue to coordinate scheduling the use of the auditorium.

Concluding Tuesday’s discussion, Carlson-Crowell said the association directors are “looking forward,” to the joint meeting with the selectmen.



Essex Planning Commission Considers Resubdivision Plan for Toby Hill Road

ESSEX—The planning commission has begun its review of a proposed three-lot resubdivision of a 12-acre parcel off Toby Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Last winter, before a formal application was submitted for the proposed development, the potential need for improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road led the board of selectmen to consider the possible abandonment of the section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton.

Toby Hill Road is an old town roadway that extends from Pond Meadow Road north to cross the town line and intersect with McVeagh Road in Westbrook. While there has been residential development and road improvements on the Westbrook side, much of the road in Ivoryton is an unimproved gravel or dirt road.

The applicant, Paul Vumbaco of Meriden, owns a total of 34.7 acres on both sides of the Essex-Westbrook town line. Vumbaco has already received approval for a seven-lot subdivision of the 22 acres in Westbrook. He is now seeking approval for a three-lot resubdivision of the 12.38-acre parcel in Essex.

The lots in Westbrook are located on Joseph Circle, a new road extending off Toby Hill Road. The three lots in Essex would be located on an extension of Joseph Circle that would end in a cul-de-sac while also connecting to Toby Hill Road on the Essex side.

The section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton currently serves three homes, one in Essex and two located over the town line in Westbrook. The proposed development would also include a dedication of 6.38 acres as open space land. The resubdivision application also seeks a waiver of town regulations to allow one interior lot that would lack road frontage and be accessed from a driveway.

The planning commission opened a public hearing on the proposed three-lot resubdivision on Oct. 13. The commission discussed the need for improvements to the Essex section of Toby Hill Road and the intersection to Pond Meadow Road with representatives of Vumbaco, including an attorney and local engineer Robert Doane. According to minutes from the public hearing, Doane said the width of Toby Hill Road would be increased to 22-feet, and sight lines would be improved on the right side of the intersection to make a right turn.

The commission scheduled a Nov. 5 site walk of the property, with the public hearing continued to the Nov. 10 meeting. As the Westbrook subdivision was under review in that town last winter, the commission had urged the board of selectmen to abandon the 300-foot section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton to avoid the possible need for town-funded improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road. Town Planner John Guszkowski had described the intersection as difficult, with “a steep approach from Toby Hill Road, poor sight lines and unfavorable topography.”

After discussion at a meeting last March, the board of selectmen took no action on the planning commission recommendation to abandon the section of Toby Hill Road.



Architectural Subcommittee of the Essex Planning Commission to Hold Information Meeting

Essex — On Wednesday, November 2, the Architectural Subcommittee of the Planning Commission will hold an information meeting at the Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Neil Nichols, Chairman, explained, “This meeting is the last step in completing the mission of the Architectural Subcommittee. It is an informational meeting for town residents describing our work over the past year. ”

Mr. Nichols will narrate the presentation that was developed on our architectural heritage and the planning options that other towns employ to protect their architectural heritage. Also, the general public will see the results of the focus groups that viewed the presentation and discussed planning options.

This summer we conducted four focus groups for residents of each village and one for commercial landowners. The input from residents and commercial business operators provided the basis for the recommendations that the subcommittee has presented to the Planning Commission. These recommendations will be available to the public on the Town website and at the Land Use Office, Town Hall, prior to the meeting.

Handouts of our Mission Statement, our recommendations and a summary of planning options will also be available at the meeting. Mr. Nichols said, “This has been a long but fruitful process that, we believe, can have a positive impact on preserving our architectural heritage. To arrive at this point, we have contacted over 500 of our citizens and had nearly 90 participate in the groups. We look forward to sharing with you what you have told us over the past year.”

For more information, please contact Mr. Nichols at 860-767-1511.


Chester Selectmen Appoint a Main Street Committee

CHESTER— The board of selectmen has appointed the final members and approved the charge for a Main Street Committee that will coordinate improvements to Main Street in the downtown village as the state Department of Transportation pursues replacement of two bridges in the vicinity.

The board Tuesday approved a formal charge for 11-member committee. Members were appointed last month, with the final member, local realtor Leslie Strauss, appointed earlier this month. All are volunteers for the panel, which is expected to be active at least through 2013.

The committee includes representatives of the planning and zoning commission, the water pollution control authority, the board of selectmen and Main Street business owners, along with individuals with architectural, engineering, and road construction experience. Other members are Michael Joplin, chairman of the planning and zoning commission, Al Bisacky from the WPCA, Virgil Lloyd, Steve Tiezzi, architect John Schroeder, Charles Mueller, James Zanardi, Charlene Janecek, John King, and Bruce Sypher.

Main Street is also known as Route 148, though the town owns a section from the intersection with Route 154 west to the Main Street bridge. The section of road has been paved over several times, leaving areas where the height of the road pavement exceeds the curb to create drainage problems after heavy rain. Beneath the pavement is old and abandoned infrastructure, including water mains, trolley tracks, sewer lines and outdated storm water drainage.

The town project will include reconstructing the road surface and sidewalks, along with inspecting and possibly removing some of the outdated utilities and infrastructure. The project will be done around the same time as state funded replacements of the Water Street bridge over Great Brook, and the Main Street bridge. Work on the Water Street bridge is expected to begin next year, with the replacement of the Main Street bridge expected in 2013 or 2014.

The town has $419,000 set aside for the project, including $219,000 in the capital budget and a $200,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant. The total project is expected to cost about $1 million.

The committee, which has already held its first meeting, has been asked to develop and implement a work schedule and budget for the town-funded project, along with coordinating communications and scheduling with the state Department of Transportation during the bridge replacement projects. The committee will coordinate bidding for the town project, while also holding public information forums to keep residents informed about the project. The committee will be the point of contact for contractors, utility companies, and the state DOT.



Chester Meeting House Balcony Reopened

At the October 4, 2011 Selectman’s Meeting, Chester’s Fire Marshal announced that the balcony level of the Chester Meeting House was officially closed due to a number of Fire Code violations affecting public safety. Immediately touring the facility, the Board of Selectmen agreed to initiate corrective action so upcoming, including the Collomore Series concert 12 days ahead, would be minimally impacted.

Selectman Larry Sypher, with Board of Selectmen approval, immediately sought out and contacted multiple contractors for quotes. The Board of Selectmen agreed to proceed after review of the quotes.

Sypher then contacted Martin Nadel with the Robbie Collomore Music Series and advised him that every effort would be made to complete the work by the 16th. Nadel had suspended their additional ticket sales due to the balcony closing of the Meeting House.

Sypher worked along with Top Notch Electrical Services in Deep River who completed the electrical work and local contractor Jeff Klausen of Klausen Construction Co., who specializes in antique restoration construction for completion of the structural repairs. Indar Stairs, stair and railing specialists, recommended by Klausen, replaced the balcony railings.  Sypher stayed in constant contact over the week with Nadel providing progress reports.

The work was completed by early afternoon on Saturday, October 15, and Fire Marshal Leighton made the final inspection within minutes of the completion and approved the reopening of Meeting House upstairs balcony area.

Nadel was contacted immediately regarding the reopening and the full seating capacity including those 60 balcony seats. Nadel was extremely pleased with Sypher’s hard work and effort and believes the work would never have been completed in time without his diligent supervision and coordination.

Interim Selectman Peter Zanardi agreed and stated, “Sypher’s leadership and efforts were commendable”.


A Message from Chester First Selectman, Tom Englert

And now there are three… The Board of Selectmen is now back to a full board with the appointment of Peter Zanardi to fill the selectman vacancy created when I resigned from that position to fill the vacant first selectman’s position.  As a life-long resident and former selectman for several terms, Peter brings invaluable experience and knowledge to the board.  Selectman Sypher and I welcome Peter to the Board, look forward to his input, and appreciate his willingness to serve Chester in this capacity.

Tom Englert
First Selectman



The Annual Come Home to Chester Days – Friday and Saturday – September 16 – 17, 2011

Most Shops, Restaurants and Galleries in Chester will be open for the Special Event.

I SPY CHESTER….. more than meets the eye! Stop by their booth at the Sunday Market September 18th  Chester Parks and Recreation and the Chester Public Library are teaming up to present a family activity for all ages! It’s a scavenger hunt….. But, wait! There are puzzles and word games. And did we mention that it’s also a walking tour of Chester? Maps and clues are available at the Chester Library and outside the Parks and Recreation office at Town Hall.

Chester Land Trust ‘s Fair and Harvest Dinner September 17th –   the fair will be held on the Meeting House green from 9 am to 4 pm. Local arts and crafts, environmental, sustainable land use, and alternative energy information will be featured. The Harvest Dinner will follow the Fair and will be served from 5-7 pm inside the Chester Meeting House. Please bring your friends and appetizers and enjoy this event. Tickets are on sale at $16.00 per person.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection – Saturday, September 17th, 9 am to 1 pm, located at 5 Dump Road, Essex

Mission: Relief- Saturday, September 17th  Special sounds for a special cause will be made by Maranatha Band at Valley Regional, sponsored by the United Church of Chester Sound and Spirit Committee. Saturday, Sept. 17. The concert begins at 7 pm, with an introductory reading by Regina Mercedes. Actor and lyricist Peter Walker will be the emcee. The popular band Cantico is the lead-in group.. Tickets are $25 for adults; $15 for students and seniors; $30 at the door. The tickets are available at Ceramica and Simons in Chester; Celebrations in Deep River; Provisions in Essex; and Gather in Ivoryton, or by calling 860-526-2697.

Chester High School Graduates and Associates Reunion –  September 17th Chester High School will hold their 80th Annual School Reunion September 17th in the Fellowship Hall at the United Church of Chester. The two Honor Classes this year are the Class of 1936 and the Class of 1951.

Join the CUB SCOUTS Sign Up Program – September 22 Now is the time to join the fun and excitement of America’s foremost youth program for boys—Cub Scouting. Join Cub Scout Pack 13 in Chester, CT.  A sign-up night will be held at 6:30-8:00 pm on Thursday September 22, 2011 at the United Church Of Chester on West Main Street; Chester, CT.  Fliers with additional details will be distributed via the Community Announcements tab on the Region 4 website at www.reg4.k12.ct.us.  Also check www.BeAScout.org for more great videos showing the fun that can be had in Cub Scouts.  For more information please contact Pack 13 Cubmaster Michael Rutty at (860) 526-8011 or mwr90@aol.com.

EVERYBODY KNOWS Leonard Cohen tribute in CHESTER – September 24   An extra show has been added to benefit the Chester Library — The Small Town Concert Series presents a second night of its popular Leonard Cohen tribute. Including featured performers such as Chester’s own Meg Gister, Rachael Aikens, Dana Takaki, and Amalgamated Muck, the show will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 24th, at the Chester Meeting House, 4 Liberty Street, Chester. Tickets are available at the door; for information call 860-526-4777. Ticket price $25 ($15 for members of local houses of worship, Chester Rotary, Friends of Chester Library, Friends of Killingworth Library, Chester Historical Society, Chester Merchants Association, or with any proof of purchase over $20 at Corner Music in Old Saybrook any Chester business on the day of the show.  Also – if you buy a guitar from Acousticmusic.org this week, bring your receipt and admission for 2 is free!).


Come Meet the Chester Common Ground Candidates

The Common Ground Ground fund raiser, previously cancelled due to the hurricane, has been rescheduled for Sunday, September 18, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Those interested are invited to join the group at Peg and Glenn Reyer’s house for an informal gathering.  Their candidate for First Selectman, Andrew Landsman, and many other of the candidates who will be on the November ballot will be there.  This is a great opportunity to meet them in person and discuss issues important to you and the Town of Chester.

This fund raising event will help raise money to enable increased communicate with the town before the November local election.  Light snacks and beverages will be served.  A $10 donation per person is requested.  PLEASE RSVP IF YOU INTEND TO COME.

RSVP: peg@thechestercompany.com

PLACE: 88 Goose Hill Road

DATE: Sunday, September 18, 2011

TIME: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

For more information, and to donate online, please visit www.commongroundct.com.


Essex Selectmen Review Storm Response, Consider Purchase of Needed Items

ESSEX— A detailed review of the town’s response to Tropical Storm Irene has led the board of selectmen to consider expedited purchase of items that were needed in the wake of the August 28 storm, including additional generators and “road closed” signs.

First Selectman Phil Miller announced at Wednesday’s meeting that selectmen had met earlier in the day with more than a dozen emergency responders, Red Cross volunteers and Region 4 school officials for a detailed review of the town response to the storm. Along with ambulance, fire department and police personnel, participants at the review included Public Works Director David Caroline, Emergency Management Director William Buckridge, Region 4 Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and Region 4 Building and Grounds Director Bruce Glowac, and Dennis Welch, operations manager at the Essex Meadows retirement community and health care center on Bokum Road.

Levy and Glowac had worked with representatives of the American Red Cross to run the emergency shelter at John Winthrop Middle School that served residents of the district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex for a week after the storm.

Miller said the review led to a determination of several items that were needed after the storm. Needed items include an electric generator for the solid waste transfer station, new radios for Essex Volunteer Ambulance personnel and the harbor master, additional cell phones for emergency personnel, and additional “road closed” signs. Miller said the town has only four “road closed” signs, while nearly a dozen were needed last week.

Miller said the storm also confirmed the need to relocate the town emergency operations center from the ground floor of town hall to the now vacant former judge of probate office on the west side of the building’s first floor. Selectmen had discussed a possible reuse of the judge of probate office, which has been vacant since January, previously this year. The existing ground floor space for the EOC is plagued by mold and moisture conditions.

Selectman Norman Needleman asked Miller to prepare a “comprehensive list of what we need” for discussion at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 21. Selectman Joel Marzi said he is prepared to support an appropriation from the contingency fund to purchase high priority items as soon as possible. “This was the rainy day that you use a rainy day fund for,” Marzi said.



Essex Republican First Selectman Candidate Bruce MacMillian Invites Community to Join Him at September 11 Observance

Republican candidate for Essex First Selectman, Bruce MacMillian, would like to invite the Essex community to join him in honoring the victims, survivors, and heroes of the September 11 attacks on our great nation. Bruce will be attending the Middlesex Hospital Vocal Chords tribute at 2 p.m. at the Bushnell Center in Hartford on Sunday September 11th.

Bruce urges the community to participate in this, or one of the many other observances and remembrances being held throughout the State. The Essex community came together for the common good after storm Irene, just as our nation did on that horrific day in 2001.

Please join Bruce on Sunday and honor our great nation and its heroes! To learn more about Bruce and his campaign for Essex First Selectman please visit www.BruceforEssex.com.


Hurricane Irene Update Issued by Chester Emergency Management Committee – Saturday 2 p.m.

Chester’s Emergency Management Committee met at 11:00 this morning to participate in a conference call briefing with the State of Connecticut Emergency Operations Center.  The State EOC forecast is as follows:

Hurricane Irene currently has 85 mph sustained winds and is moving NNE at about 15 mph.  Irene is forecast to move up along the New Jersey Coast early Sunday morning and make landfall in the Stamford, CT area around 11:00 AM as a Category I hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph and gusts to 95 mph.  The first effects from Irene are expected to begin this evening with rain and tropical storm force winds up to 73 mph moving into Connecticut between 11:00 PM and Midnight.  Hurricane force winds of 74 to 95 mph are forecast to arrive along the coast beginning 7:00 AM Sunday morning.  The rain is also expected to become heavy at times by midnight.  Very heavy rain at times (especially in Western Connecticut) is expected to continue from midnight tonight through the passage of the center of Irene around mid-day Sunday and into the mid-afternoon.  Rainfall amounts of 6 to 10 inches are expected.  The track of Irene means Eastern Connecticut, including Chester, will see stronger winds but lesser rainfall than areas to the west of the track.

Residents should make every effort to be wherever they need to be by nightfall this evening.  As the storm intensifies overnight, we are anticipating that downed trees and power lines will make roads impassable.

John Winthrop Junior High School in Deep River will be opening as a hurricane shelter at 5:00 p.m. Saturday for those who may wish to utilize this facility.  Please be prepared to bring with you basic items to make your stay more comfortable, especially any medications you may require.

Finally and most importantly, be safe.  Treat all downed power lines as live.  Be aware that fallen trees may conceal power lines within their branches.  Restrict travel as much as possible following the storm to allow public works and utility crews the time to clear roadways.

Call 9-1-1 for all emergencies.

Tom Englert


Chester Hurricane Preparation Message from Tom Englert

The following message was issued Friday by Tom Englert, Interim First Selectman of Chester:

The Town of Chester is readying plans to cope with hurricane Irene.  Chester’s Emergency Management Team held a conference call at 9:00 a.m. this morning to review the Town’s readiness and preparations for Hurricane Irene.  I am confident that all departments are fully prepared to the extent possible at this time.  Our Emergency Operations Center is monitoring the progress of the storm as it advances northward along the east coast and receiving updates from state forecasters.

As of the 11:15 a.m. update, from the State EOC, Irene is forecast to move up along the immediate East Coast and arrive in the Norwalk area around 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning as a Category I hurricane.  The first effects from Irene are expected to begin Saturday afternoon with light rain which is expected to become heavy at times by midnight.  Heavy rain is expected to continue from midnight on Saturday through the passage of the center of Irene by noon Sunday.  Expected rainfall is 7 to 9 inches.  Tropical storm force winds are expected to enter the state by midnight Saturday, increasing to hurricane force winds by daybreak Sunday. The height of the storm is expected to last from daybreak Sunday through noon Sunday.

Are you prepared?  There is an emergency preparedness link on Chester’s website that can help you prepare for this anticipated hurricane www.chesterct.org/safety.php.   The enclosed attachment also offers suggestions and guidelines for hurricane preparedness from the Red Cross.  Also, the State of Connecticut Info Line is available before, during and after the storm by dialing 2-1-1 for assistance. 2-1-1 will have up-to-date information about places to take shelter in the event of power outages, evacuation routes and more.

This link is provided by Chester’s Emergency Management Team and Director Joel Severance.  Be assured that this team has diligently reviewed our town’s emergency plans and are prepared to meet any emergency head on.



Written Objections Delay Highland Hall Demolition in Essex

ESSEX— Two members of the Essex Historical Society have filed written objections that will delay the demolition of the Highland Hall building for at least three months.

The objections were filed with Building Official Keith Nolin by Fred and Mary Ann Pleva and Eve Potts. Pleva is the most recent past president of the historical society, Potts an active member. The objections trigger the town’s 2004 delay of demolition ordinance, preventing Nolin from processing a demolition for 90 days.

Highland Hall is owned by Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, the abutting property owner on Prospect St.
The building was constructed in 1920 as the town’s first centralized elementary school, and is considered a historic structure by many residents. It was converted in to a nursing home in the mid-1950s, but has been vacant for about 20 years. The church had purchased the property in 2004 with plans for a possible church school use that it did not pursue.

The delay of demolition ordinance had been championed by the late Donald Malcarne, an author and former town historian, who had also opposed an initial effort by the church to demolish the structure in 2006. After the society led by Malcarne filed a written objection, the church did not pursue the demolition in 2006.

In letters to ValleyNewsNow.com, Pleva and Potts have suggested the 90 days be used to explore any other possible uses for the building, and also for a historic survey of the structure. The Highland Hall property abuts the Grove St. Park, located behind the town hall.  Nolin said the ordinance would prevent him from processing a demolition permit for the project until Nov. 4.

See related letters:

Highland Hall – A Part of the Town’s Cultural History – Frederick and Mary Ann Pleva

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall – Eve Potts



Republican Selectman Tom Englert Named as Interim Selectman for Chester

CHESTER— Republican Selectman Tom Englert was appointed interim first selectman Tuesday to fill the remaining 13 weeks of the unexpired term of former First Selectman Tom Marsh.

Englert, 49, was sworn in to office Wednesday morning by Town Clerk Debra Calamari. Marsh, a Republican-turned-independent first elected in 2005, resigned Aug. 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Englert was elected with Marsh in 2009, and is on the Nov. 8 election ballot for a second term on the board of selectmen.

Under state statute, the two remaining selectmen, Englert and Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher, had until the end of the month to appoint an interim first selectman to serve until the term ends on Nov. 22. At the board’s Aug. 2 meeting, Englert and Sypher held a closed-door discussion of the vacancy, but made no decision on the appointment.

But Tuesday, Calamari, who has served as town clerk since 1989, and other residents, said it was time to end the uncertainty. In a written statement, Calamari said Chester town government “has not been running efficiently” over the past two weeks with Englert and Sypher “teaming” as part-time managers. She said town employees, including police, and residents “don’t know who is in charge day-to-day.”

“For the good of the town, it’s employees and residents, you need to appoint an interim first selectman”, Calamari said, adding “I ask you to bring this to an end tonight.”

Englert, who had been initially reluctant to commit to filling the interim position, then announced that he was willing to serve the remainder of the unexpired term. Englert said his employer, the local Whelen Engineering Company, is supportive of his decision to accept the interim appointment. Englert moved to appoint himself as interim first selectman.

Sypher, who said he had “mixed emotions” on the appointment process, voted in support of Englert’s appointment. After a brief round of applause from the dozen residents at the meeting, Englert declared “I hope I don’t let anybody down.”

Englert said he would not be in the first selectman’s office full-time during the coming weeks, but would assume the top administrative role, and be the “point of contact” for employees and residents.

Englert must resign as selectman, creating a new vacancy that would be filled under the same process as the first selectman vacancy. Englert and Sypher would have 30 days, or until mid-September, to appoint an interim selectman. If they are unable to reach agreement, the appointment to fill the vacancy through Nov. 22 would fall to a committee of Republican officeholders comprised on Englert and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, who serves as Republican registrar of voters.

The appointment of the interim first selectman would have gone to this committee on Aug. 31 if Englert and Sypher had not reached agreement on an appointment.


No Primaries for Municipal Offices in Chester, Deep River or Essex

Despite caucus contests for some top party nominations, there will be no primaries for positions on the municipal election ballots in Chester, Deep River, or Essex.

Town clerks in the three towns reported Wednesday that no one had filed petitions for the Sept. 13 municipal primary date by the 4 p.m. deadline.  Likewise, no petition candidates emerged for any of the top municipal petitions by the Wednesday deadline.
There were contests for party nominations in Deep River and Essex. In Deep River, former selectman and Democratic Town committee endorsed candidate Russell Marth was edged for the board of selectmen nomination at the July 20 Democratic caucus by planning and zoning commission member Angus McDonald Jr. McDonald defeated Marth at the caucus on an 18-15 paper ballot vote, but Marth, who served a single term on the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election in 2007 as the nominee of the Deep River Independent Party, decided not to contest MacDonald in a primary.

There will be no contests Nov. 8 for the board of selectmen in Deep River, with Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith uncontested for a record 12th term.  Incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria is seeking a second term and McDonald is on the ballot as Smith’s Democratic running-mate.

In Essex, Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman and running-mate Stacia Libby will face off in the Nov. 8 election with Republican nominee Bruce MacMillian and one-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi. Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, in office since 2003, is not seeking re-election.

Needleman and Libby, a former Republican, were challenged at the July 25 Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement session by Anthony Chirico and Linda Savitsky, but Chirico and Savitsky pledged that evening not to wage a primary after Needleman and Libby won the committee endorsement. MacMillian was challenged at the July 20 Republican caucus by Leigh Rankin, but Rankin pledged not to wage a primary after MacMillan won the caucus on a 36-24 paper ballot vote.

In Chester, Democrat Edmund Meehan is competing for the open first selectman seat with Andrew Landsman, running as the nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party. There is a Nov. 8 contest for board of selectmen between Incumbent Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher, incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert, and Glen Ryer, running as the selectman nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party.

Chester Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman to succeed three-term Republican-turned Independent First Selectman Tom Marsh, who resigned Aug. 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Republicans had nominated only a partial Nov. 8 election slate at the July 25 caucus, and indicated they would seek to fill out their slate with additional candidates nominated through a primary petition. But Town Clerk Debra Calamari reported there were no petitions filed for additional Republican candidates by the Wednesday deadline.


Essex Zoning Commission Approves New Plains Road Business Zone

ESSEX– The zoning commission has approved a new business zone for Plains Road that was presented at a series of public hearings beginning in April. The panel approved the zone change on a unanimous vote at its July 18 meeting.

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said the zone change becomes effective on Sept. 1. Budrow said the commission made no significant changes to the zone change plan, which was developed by the panel over the past two years.

The zone change covers about 30 properties on both sides of a one-mile stretch of Plains Road, extending from the Valley Railroad crossing to the intersection with Bokum Road and Westbrook Road, also known as Route 153. Most of the parcels had been zoned for light industrial uses, with some commercial uses that had been created through variances approved by the zoning board of appeals. The language for the zone change would allow for a variety of commercial/business uses, including restaurants, under a special permit approved by the zoning commission.

The new business zone drew support from residents and property owners at the public hearings, with some property owners contending the new zone should also include six parcels located on the east side of Plains Road, between the railroad crossing and the entrance to southbound Route 9.

Budrow said the commission decided to allow the property owners, either individually or as a group, petition for a zone change for their parcels to be included in the new business zone. “The commission indicated it would be open to considering that,” he said.


Church Seeks Permit For Demolition of Highland Hall, Former Elementary School Turned Nursing Home

ESSEX— Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church has applied for a permit to demolish Highland Hall, the 1920 building off Prospect Street that was the town’s first centralized elementary school.

The church, which acquired the abutting 2.5-acre parcel and 6,600-square-foot building for $750,000 in 2004, had previously proposed to demolish the building in 2006. But the parish was divided over the plan, and the proposed demolition drew objections from the Essex Historical Society led by the late Town Historian Donald Malcarne. Until now, the church had taken no steps to pursue demolition of the structure. Malcarne died in 2009.

Highland Hall was constructed in 1920, and served as the town’s first elementary school until Essex Elementary School opened in the Centerbrook section in 1952. It was converted into a nursing home that closed in the early 1990s. The building has been vacant for nearly two decades.

Building Official Keith Nolin said a newspaper legal notice published Wednesday allows 15 days, until Aug. 19, to file a written objection to the demolition. A written objection would invoke the town’s delay of demolition ordinance, approved by a 2004 town meeting at Malcarne’s urging, that would impose a 90-day delay in the demolition process. Nolin said if a written objection is not filed by Aug. 19, demolition could occur whenever the property owner is ready to proceed.

While church members had initially considered using the building for a religious school when the property was purchased in 2004, the parcel is now expected to be used for parking after the demolition.
Mary Ann Pleva, former president of the Essex Historical Society, said Wednesday she is uncertain whether the society will again submit a written objection to the proposed demolition. Pleva said she would like to see the building preserved, and noted that one or more private citizens could invoke the delay of demolition ordinance if the society does not. “It has a lot of history to it,” she said.

See related Letter to Editor:

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall


No Decision on Chester Interim First Selectman Appointment

CHESTER— The town’s two remaining selectmen, Democrat Lawrence Sypher and Republican Tom Englert, met privately for 30 minutes Tuesday on the vacant first selectman position, but made no decision on an interim appointment to serve the remainder of former First Selectman Tom Marsh’s term ending in November.

Marsh, a Republican-turned-independent first elected in 2005, resigned effective Monday to assume the job of town manager in Windsor, Vt. Under state law, Englert and Sypher now have 30 days, until on Aug. 31, to appoint an interim first selectman who would serve the remainder of Marsh’s two-year term ending on Nov. 22.

Despite objections from news reporters at the meeting, Englert and Sypher entered a closed executive session to discuss the interim appointment. Sypher maintained a closed session was appropriate because there are “variables” related to the appointment that could affect other town employees. None of the others four residents at the meeting, Democratic first selectman nominee Edmund Meehan, former Democratic First Selectman Martin Heft, Republican town chairman Mario Gioco, and Republican Region 4 Board of Education member Richard Strauss, participated in the closed session discussion.

After about 30 minutes, Sypher announced there would be no interim appointment Tuesday, with the issue to be discussed further at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 16. Sypher said he and Englert would be “working as a team,” to fill the role of interim first selectman over the next two weeks. Sypher said he and Englert would review the town’s emergency response plan, just in case there is a severe weather event over the next two weeks that led to a prolonged power outage or road closure in Chester.

If the two selectmen do not act on an interim appointment by the end of the month, the appointment goes to a committee of elected Republican officeholders that would be comprised of Englert and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, the town’s Republican registrar of voters ,who is remaining in Chester in to the fall months. Marsh was elected to his third term as a republican in 2009.

Meehan has said he could not accept the interim appointment because of commitments to his job as town planner in Newington, a position he has held for more than 20 years. Meehan is facing a challenge for the first selectman position in the Nov. 8 town election from Andrew Landsman, running on the Chester Common Ground Party ticket.


Chester Planning and Zoning to Hold Public Hearings on Route 154 Market, Industrial Park Propane Storage

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission Thursday will continue the public hearing on the proposed market in a vacant building on Route 154, and open a public hearing on a proposed propane storage facility at the Airport Industrial Park off Route 145. The hearings convene at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

The commission had opened a public hearing July 7 on local resident Peter Kehayias’s year-long effort to win zoning approval to convert the vacant commercial building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154, in to an organic market.

The commission last November rejected a plan for the market that also included a 10-seat cafe area. Kehayias, who was appointed as an alternate on the commission in March, is appealing the panel’s denial in a lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court. Kehayias has recused himself from considering his new application, as has another commission member, Errol Horner.

At the July 7 hearing, Madison lawyer Tom Cronan, representing Kehayias, said the new application is focused on a market offering “deli, bakery, and dairy,” with no seats or tables for onsite consumption of food. Cronan said the proposed use is consistent with past commercial uses of the building, including a service station and a bicycle repair shop. The building has been vacant for several years.

The commission will open public hearings on two special permit applications from DSDM LLC of Danielson for abutting parcels at the Airport Industrial Park located off Route 145 near Chester Airport. DSDM LLC is an affiliate of the Uncas Gas Company.

The company is seeking approval for a 50-foot-by 80-foot single-story steel building that would house office space and an area for assembly and storage of new furnaces, hot water heaters, and other propone appliances. On an abutting parcel at 25 Airport Industrial Park Road, the company is seeking approval for two 30,000 gallon propane storage tanks. The site plan calls for the storage area to be fenced and screened by landscaped shrubs and other plantings.


Smith Uncontested for 12th First Selectman Term, Democratic Caucus Nominates Angus McDonald Jr. Over Russ Marth for Selectman

DEEP RIVER— Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith will be uncontested by town Republicans for a record 12th term, but an upset vote at the July 20 Democratic caucus has set the stage for a possible Democratic primary to determine Smith’s running-mate for board of selectmen.

The caucus nominated Angus McDonald Jr., a member of the planning and zoning commission who was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for first selectman of Westbrook in 1999, over former Selectman Russell Marth on an 18-15 paper ballot vote. Marth, who served on the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election on the Deep River Independent Party ticket that challenged Smith in the 2007 election, had been recommended for the selectman position by the Deep River Democratic Town Committee.

McDonald, who is on the town committee, had also been interviewed by the town committee’s nominating committee. McDonald, who was nominated at the caucus by board of finance vice-chairman and former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci, said he was urged by some town Democrats to bring his candidacy to the caucus. “Some people thought it was appropriate,” he said.

McDonald, a partner and land surveyor in the Old Saybrook-based McDonald-Sharpe Associates engineering firm that was founded by his father, Angus McDonald Sr., moved from Westbrook to Deep River in 2005.

Smith said Thursday he has no objections to McDonald as his Democratic running-mate. Smith and Arthur Thompson, the current Democratic selectman who is also Democratic town chairman, said they do not expect Marth to force a primary for the selectman nomination, while acknowledging he has the right to challenge the caucus endorsement. Marth could not be reached for comment. To force a Sept. 13 Democratic primary, Marth would have to file petitions signed by five percent of the town’s Democratic voters by an Aug. 10 deadline.

The contest at the caucus between McDonald and Marth may be one of the few contests in this year’s town election. Town Republicans, meeting in caucus Monday, did not nominate a challenger for first selectman. Republicans nominated incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria for a second term on the board of selectmen.

Republicans did not nominate a candidate for tax collector to challenge first term Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani. Democratic did not nominate candidates to challenge long-time Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner, or first term Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell. Winchell won the town clerk seat in 2009, defeating Democratic candidate Nancy Talbot by two votes.

Democrats did not nominate candidates for board of finance because the party already holds four of the six seats on the board. Republicans nominated incumbent board Chairman John Bauer for a new six-year term, along with William Ballsieper.
Democrats nominated incumbent Duane Gates for a new term on the Region 4 Board of Education. Gates had been elected in 2005 as an unaffiliated voter with Republican support, but later joined the Democratic Party. Republicans nominated Lauri Wichtowski, a former member of the elementary school board of education, to contest Gates for the Region 4 seat.

Democrats nominated incumbents Christine Daniels and David Berardis and new candidate Miriam Morrissey for the Deep River Board of Education. Republicans nominated incumbent James Olson and Julia Grabowski for the local board of education.

Republicans nominated Darlene Pollock for a new term on the board of assessment appeals. Democrats nominated Patricia Risnit for library board of trustees, with Republicans nominating Louise Cowen and Rolf Peterson for full terms on the library board of trustees, and Donald Routh for a two-year vacancy term.


Developer gives up appeal of Zoning Commission’s rejection of a new Rite Aid super store in Essex

Heavy traffic, Route 153 and Bokum Road

The deep pocket developer, who wanted to build a new Rite Aid superstore on Rte. 153 and Bokum Rd., across from the Colonial Shopping Center in Essex, has given up. Initially, after the Essex Zoning Commission last year rejected permission by a vote of 4 to 1 to build a new 14,673 sq. ft. Rite Aid in Essex, developer Robert Landino had appealed the local zoning commission’s decision in state district court.

Landino, Chief Executive Officer of Centerplan Companies in Middletown, had spent thousands of dollars on attorneys, environmental and traffic consultants and architects in trying to convince the commission to approve the deal.

Now, however, Landino has withdrawn his appeal, which leaves in place the Essex Zoning Commission’s rejection of the project.  Confirming the withdrawal of the appeal, Landino said, “The only location that we are currently committed to is a relocation of the East Hartford [Rite Aid] store, which is approved and will break ground this fall.”

The proposal to build a new Rite Aid superstore in Essex across from the busy Colonial Shopping Plaza sparked much public opposition, when it was first proposed early last year. There were four widely attended public hearings, 100 people at one of them, before the zoning commission under the chairmanship of Alvin Wolfgram strongly rejected the new development. Wolfgram said that the developers did not adequately address the safety concerns of a new pedestrian crossing over Rte. 153, nor the dangers of having a new, two-way vehicular traffic entrance onto Rte. 153 from the giant new store.  Other commission members raised objections to the cookie cutter design of the proposal’s architecture and unimaginative landscaping.

Entrance to the Oliver's Taverne

The effect of the abandonment of the appeal not only leaves in place the Commission’s original decision, but also the present 12,180 sq. ft. Oliver’s Taverne. (The primary owner of the Taverne had spoken out strongly in favor of the Rite Aid proposal during the public hearings.)

In a recent interview, a Taverne spokesman said that there had been some confusion as to whether Oliver’s Taverne was still open. “We are still here,” John Sousa said emphatically, “and doing more business than ever.” He also joked, “You can’t get a prescription filled here, but you can get a great martini.”  The Taverne also offers a “Lobster Madness” special every Wednesday.

A possible question of Zoning Commission Chairman Wolfgram’s “objectivity” in considering the Rite Aid application was also put to rest by the his vote against the Rite Aid proposal. Wolfgram is by occupation a professional engineer, and in this capacity he had worked with Rite Aid developer Landino on the Preserve project in Old Saybrook, a fact acknowledged by Landino.

However, it was clear through Wolfgram’s strong opposition to the proposal at the Essex Zoning Commission that Wolfgram and Landino were not working together on creating a new Rite Aid in Essex.


Republican Candidate for Essex First Selectman Announces Web Site Launch

Bruce MacMillian the republican candidate for First Selectman of Essex is pleased to announce the launch of his campaign web site: www.BruceforEssex.com.

The site went live on Wednesday July 27, 2011 and already has generated a great deal of interest. The intent of the site is for voters to be able to learn more about Bruce; see the issues at hand, and how Bruce and the Republican platform plan to address them.  In addition voters can view an online schedule of events where Bruce will be available to meet them in person, or they can even schedule a one on one meeting time and place if that is more convenient. There is also a tab to become more involved in the campaign either financially or as a volunteer.

Bruce a 30 year resident of Essex seeks the First Selectman’s seat in order to make Essex a safe,comfortable, affordable, business friendly and educational minded town, and strive to promote an environment that embraces a free exchange of ideas. Visit: www.BruceforEssex.com  today!


Chester Democrats Nominate Edmund Meehan for First Selectman, Common Ground Party Nominates Andrew Landsman for Challenge

CHESTER— Democrats gave an enthusiastic endorsement to Edmund Meehan for first selectman at the party nominating caucus Tuesday, with Andrew Landsman emerging as a challenger for the top job on the Chester Common Ground Party ticket. Town Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman at the party caucus Monday.

Meehan, 64, is a 30-year town resident who currently works as town planner for Newington. Meehan, a married father of four, began his career in the 1970s as assistant director for the Old Saybrook-based Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency and staffer for the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission. He began working as a planner for the City of Hartford in 1982 before taking the Newington job in 1987.

Meehan served as a member of the Chester Planning and Zoning Commission from 1984 to 1991, and as chairman of the panel from 1985-1987. He served on the Chester Board of Finance from 1993 to 2002, and as chairman from 1999 to 2002.

Meehan said he decided to run for first selectman earlier this month, after three-term Republican-turned Independent First Selectman Tom Marsh announced in June that he would resign August 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Meehan said he is not in a position to take on the role of interim first selectman next month because of commitments to his 23-year job in Newington.

Meehan said maintaining town services and its quality of life in a difficult national economy would be the main challenge for the 2011-2013 selectmen’s term. Democrats nominated incumbent Selectman Lawrence Sypher for a second term as Meehan’s running-mate for board of selectmen in the Nov. 8 town election.

Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman, with incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert nominated Monday for a second term on the board.

Mario Gioco, Republican town chairman, said party members are “still looking and talking to people,” while acknowledging there would probably not be a Republican nominee to succeed Marsh in the top job this year.

A Republican challenger could still petition to the GOP ballot line by submitting petitions signed by five per cent of the town’s registered Republicans, or 23 signatures, by an Aug. 10 deadline. Gioco said the town committee is planning to petition nominees on to other vacant spots on the GOP slate.

With Republicans lacking a candidate, it initially seemed that Meehan would be uncontested for first selectman this year. But the Common Ground Party, which also held a caucus Monday, nominated Andrew Landsman for first selectman, with party-co-founder Glen Reyer as his running mate for board of selectmen. The Common Ground Party formed in 2009, and currently has a 12-member town committee. The new party nominated candidates for some board and commission seats in 2009, but no challenger for first selectman, a step that secured a ballot line for the party this year.

Landsman, 49, is a former executive with CIGNA Corp. who currently works as facilities manager at the local Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility. A town resident for nearly five years, Landsman currently serves on the inland-wetlands commission, and was initially included on the Democratic slate as nominee for a new term on the IWC. Reyer, 64, is an 11-year resident who served previously on the planning and zoning commission. He and Michael Sanders co-founded the Chester Common Ground Party in 2009.

The nominating sessions have set up a contest for first selectman between Meehan and Landsman, and a contest for the other two seats on the board of selectmen between Sypher, Englert, and Reyer.

Contests have emerged for other positions on the town’s lengthy municipal election ballot. Democrats nominated incumbent Virginia Carmany and  new candidate Robert Gorman for full six-year terms on the board of finance, with Lori Ann Clymas nominated for board of finance alternate. Republicans nominated Charles Park and Reyer for board of finance, creating a possible vacancy on the slate for Reyer’s spot that could be filled by petition. Common Ground nominated Susan Wright, a registered Democrat who had expressed interest in the first selectman nomination, for board of finance and Richard Nygard for board of finance alternate.

Democrats nominated incumbent Elaine Fitzgibbons for a new term on the Region 4 Board of Education, with Common Ground nominating Michael Hotkowski for the seat. Republicans, who hold the town’s other two seats on the Region 4 board, did not nominate a candidate.

Democrats nominated incumbent Laurie Rubionow and David Fitzgibbons for the Chester Board of Education, with Nicole Sypher nominated for a two-year vacancy term. Republicans nominated incumbent board chairwoman Wendy King and Lisa Tollefson for the local board of education, with King, Tollefson and James Gordon nominated for the local school board by the Common Ground Party.

Seats on the planning and zoning commission are contested. Democrats nominated incumbents Jon Mark Lavy, Sally Murray, and Peter Keheyias for full six-year terms, with longtime commission Chairman Michael Joplin nominated for a two-year vacancy term. Republicans nominated incumbent Melvin Seifert for planning and zoning commission, with Doreen Joslow nominated to contest Joplin for the two-year vacancy term. Joslow, who is also endorsed by the Common Ground Party for the vacancy term, was briefly a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 36th House District special election last winter. Common Ground endorsed Murray and Seifert for PZC.

Democrats nominated Henry Krempel for a full-term as planning and zoning commission alternate, with Sarah Jansen nominated for a four-year vacancy as PZC alternate. Common Ground nominated Patricia Visacky for the full term as PZC alternate.

Democrats nominated incumbent Mark Borton and Caryl Horner for full terms on the zoning board of appeals, with Common Ground nominating Al Visacky for a full-term on ZBA and Lisa Tollesfson for ZBA alternate.

Democrats nominated incumbents Sally Sanders and Kim Senay for inland-wetlands commission, with Republicans nominating Kris Seifert for IWC. Common Ground nominated Democratic incumbent Sanders and Al Visacky.

Republican incumbent Bruce Watrous, a former selectman, is uncontested for board of assessment appeals. Incumbent Democrat James Pease is uncontested for a new term on the water pollution control authority. Democrats nominated incumbents Edith Prisloe and Margaret Carter-Ward for library board of trustees, with Matthew Sanders nominated by Common Ground for library board of trustees.


Needleman and Libby Win Essex Democratic Town Committee Endorsement for Board of Selectmen, Challengers Say No Primary

ESSEX— Selectman Norman Needleman and newly-minted Democratic running-mate Stacia Libby Monday won the Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement for first selectman and board of selectman, with challengers Anthony Chirico and Linda Savitsky indicating they would not challenge the nominations in a primary.

Needleman and Libby, who was a member of the Essex Republican Town Committee until earlier this month, received support from about four-fifths of the 25 town committee members present and voting on the endorsements, with Chirico and Savitsky receiving only a handful of votes.

Needleman, a 59-year-old businessman who has lived in Essex since the late 1980s, was first elected in 2003 with Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who is not seeking a new term this year after winning the 36th House District seat in a February special election. Needleman had been widely expected to run for the top job this year. He presented Libby, who has served on the park and recreation commission and the Essex Community Fund Board, as his favored running-mate on July 18, only days after she changed her voter registration from Republican to Democrat.

The challenge from Chirico and Savitsky emerged earlier this month. Chirico, 58, has lived in town since the late 1990s, and was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook in the 33rd Senate District in 2000 and 2002. He became a Democrat in 2004, and later joined the Democratic Town Committee. Chirico, who ran a business related to trade with China, is a former member of the zoning commission and currently serves as the town’s representative on the regional Connecticut River Gateway Commission.

Savitsky also served on the zoning commission, and worked previously as director of municipal finance services for the state Office of Policy and Management. She is married to former Democratic Selectman Alvin Wolfgram, the current chairman of the zoning commission.

The four candidates were allowed to make a brief presentation and answer questions from committee members before the vote, which was conducted by show-of-hands despite a request from Chirico for a secret ballot vote.

Needleman said he has the management and town government experience needed to succeed Miller. Chirico said he became a candidate to offer local Democrats “options”, and pledged to improve communications with residents and develop an economic development plan for the town. Libby said her change of political parties was “not a difficult choice for me” and described herself as a “moderate” ready to support Needleman. Savitsky noted she was a “lifelong Democrat,” and cited her experience in municipal and state government.

But in response to a question from committee member Lon Seidman, all four candidates, including challengers Chirico and Savitsky, said they would not force a Sept. 13 Democratic primary if they did not receive the committee’s nomination. Chirico repeated the no primary pledge after the vote. A prospective challenger would have to file petitions signed by five percent of the town registered Democrats, about 60 signatures, by Aug. 10 to force a primary.

Democrats did not nominate candidates for board of finance because the party currently holds four of the six seats on the board. Acting on a motion from Finance Board Chairman Jim Francis, the committee cross-endorsed incumbent Republicans Keith Crehan and Jeff Woods for new six-year terms on the board.

Democrats renominated incumbent Chris Riley for a new six-year term on the Region 4 Board of Education. Riley has also been cross-endorsed by town Republicans, meaning there will be no contest for the regional school board seat this year. Democrats nominated Loretta McClusky for the Essex Board of Education, and incumbent Richard Helmecki for a new term on the board of assessment appeals.

Barring a challenge that now appears unlikely, the Needleman-Libby ticket will face off with Republican first selectman nominee Bruce MacMillian and his running-mate, Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, in the Nov. 8 town election.