August 1, 2014

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

 

UPCOMING TOWN EVENTS:

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.

www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html 

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.

 

Dick Smith, on his way to a 12th term as Deep River’s First Selectman

Dick Smith by 1905 water fountain in front of Town Hall

Deep River’s Democratic Town Committee made it unanimous the other evening (July 20), when it nominated Dick Smith to serve a 12th term as the town’s First Selectman. Also, rumor has it, that the Deep River Republican Town Committee, when it meets next Tuesday evening, will not even nominate a candidate to run against him.

In simplest terms Richard H. Smith, who has served for 22 years as Deep River’s First Selectman, will add two more years in office, if he is elected again in November.

At the Democrat’s town committee meeting the other evening, as if to demonstrate that there was still a modicum of competition for public office, two candidates vied for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the job of Selectman. After a painfully polite debate by the two candidates, the party nominated Angus McDonald over Russell Marth by a vote of 19 to 15.

After this mini contest, the Democrats got down to a roll call of unanimous nominations for the offices of Tax Collector, members of the Boards of Education of the Deep River Elementary School and of the Region 4 High School and a member of the Board of Directors of the Deep River Library. Leading this list of unanimities was of course the First Selectman nominee, Dick Smith.

New expanded Adams supermarket in Deep River

What makes Deep River so different from other river towns, where the changing of First Selectman is done with regularity? Why does Deep River want the same First Selectman that it has had for the past two decades to serve another two more years?

One hint might be that Smith knows what the first priority of every voter is. It is “keeping taxes stable.” With this singular precept firmly in place, Smith has then gone about encouraging a commercial building spree that has structurally changed the town of Deep River. It has also increased tax revenues.

Although Smith is still tinkering with the town’s appearance by installing new sidewalks and street lamps on Main Street, most of the major developments in this effort have been completed. They include an enormous expansion and modernization of the Adams supermarket across Main Street from Town Hall, as well as a new Walgreens pharmacy superstore that shares its parking lot with neighboring Town Hall.

New Walgreens pharmacy superstore in Deep River

Attempting a visual similarity of Walgreens and Town Hall, the exterior bricks of the new Walgreens “sort of” match the old bricks of Town Hall. Also, both structures, symbolically, share a single bright red sign, which features “Town Hall” and “Walgreens” in equal sized lettering.

A third major downtown commercial development is a rearward facing complex (to permit parking in front of tenant businesses), which has as tenants Dunkin’ Donuts, Deep River Cleaners and a consignment business. From the street the building has been given a New England look.

Next on the roster of Dick Smith’s commercial improvements is Deep River’s Plattwood Industrial Park, which Smith proudly states is “100% occupied.”  In fact, Smith claims that “people are calling all the time,” wanting to move into the town’s industrial park.” “I wish we had more space,” he says, and he is working on ways to expand the facility.

The businesses in the Industrial Park are the kind of small business that fit into small towns, Smith says. Also, tenants at the facility contribute helpfully to the Deep River town revenues. Present tenants in the park include: Interpro, Withrop Tool and a German based company called Colanar, which offers “innovative solutions to the Pharma and Biotech industries, “to quote its mission statement.

New complex with Dunkin' Donuts and other tenants

Then, there is a privately owned group of properties which also bring revenue to the town. These are the impressive string of “McMansions” along the west bank of the Connecticut River within the boundaries of Deep River.

“There are sometimes only two people living in some of these homes,” Smith says. Also, he points out that the residents in these huge houses generally make very little use of the town’s public services, such as sending their children to the town’s elementary school, which saves money for the town.

In addition, Smith takes pride in the fact that his administration has upgraded virtually all of the Town’s public buildings, including the town library and the elementary school. More improvements are underway for Town Hall as well.

“We are doing good,” Smith says with satisfaction, and, “We have no outstanding bond issues that the town has to pay off.”  Also, he feels that the new businesses at the Town Hall core attract foot traffic for the rest of the shops along Main Street, even including the town’s iconic tattoo parlor.

“I am always concerned about the tax base,” says Smith, repeating his mantra. “We keep taxes stable … and try to save money.”

Looking ahead to his next term, Smith says, “There is still plenty to do, but I have built a network of people, and that helps me.”  Also, he has had a lot of on-the-job training as First Selectman over the years.

Essex Republicans Nominate Candidates for Selectmen

Essex Republicans at their July 20 Caucus, endorsed  local businessmen Bruce MacMillian as the republican party’s candidate for First Selectman, and incumbent Joel Marzi for Selectman.

MacMillian, an Essex resident since 1986, has over 40 years of local and international business experience in both large as well as small company settings. MacMillan’s large company and international experience came as the President of Travelers International Operations then following his retirement from the Travelers; he ran a small locally based company CEU.com as its President and CEO. MacMillian is active in the community and has served on the Middlesex Hospital’s Board of Directors since 2005.In addition; MacMillian has served the town as the Vice Chairman of The Essex Housing Authority Board as well as serving as a member of Essex’s Park and Recreation Commission.

Marzi, a small business owner, is a 34 year resident of Essex. Currently he is serving his first term on the Board of Selectman,   previously serving Essex on the Board of Finance, the Inland Wetlands Commission, and as the Chairman of the Zoning Commission as well as the Expansion and Renovations Committee at the Elementary School.

MacMillian and Marzi’s will work 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.

Essex Republicans Expected to Nominate Bruce Macmillian for First Selectman with Joel Marzi as Running-Mate

ESSEX— The Essex Republican Town Committee is recommending Bruce MacMillian, a former business executive and member of the Essex Housing Authority, as the party’s candidate for first selectman. Incumbent Selectman Joel Marzi is seeking a second term as his running-mate for board of selectmen in the Nov. 8 town election.

The MacMillian-Marzi ticket will be presented to town Republicans for approval at the party’s 2011 nominating caucus set for Wednesday July 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the town hall.

MacMillian was presented to the town committee Wednesday as the party’s prospective nominee for the open first selectman seat. MacMillian and one other prospective candidate, former U.S. Coast Guard officer Leigh Rankin, were interviewed in recent weeks by the panel’s nominating committee that was chaired by Terry Stewart, a former chairman of the Region 4 Board of Education. Marzi, who lost to departing Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller by about 400 votes in 2009, had declined a second run for the top spot, choosing instead to seek another term as selectman.

Rankin, who lives in the town’s Centerbrook section, indicated in remarks to the committee that she would accept the nominating committee decision, and not contest MacMillian for the first selectman nomination. Rankin a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, said she would focus on gaining additional experience in town government by serving as an appointed member of the park and recreation commission and water pollution control authority/sanitary waste commission.

MacMillian, 64, is a former executive with the Traveler’s Insurance Company who later founded two smaller companies. He has lived in Essex since 1986. MacMillian was appointed to the Essex Housing Authority by Miller in 2004, serving as vice-chairman and implementing the decision to hire a private management company to run the 36-unit elderly housing complex in the Centerbrook section. MacMillian said he would devote full time to the job of first selectman if elected, and “be at town hall every day.”

Stewart said MacMillian stepped forward as a prospective candidate for first selectman soon after the May 9 annual budget meeting, where a proposed town government budget was defeated by voters for the first time in decades. A reduced budget was later approved in a June 7 referendum.

Other candidates recommended to the July 20 caucus include Keith Crehan and Jeff Wood, both incumbents, for new terms on the board of finance, Judy McCann, a children’s librarian, for a full six-year term on the local board of education, and Adam Conrad for a two-year term on the local board of education. Stewart said the nominating committee is recommending a cross-endorsement of incumbent Democrat Christopher Riley for the Region 4 Board of Education.

No Announcements Yet For Chester First Selectman Vacancy or Fall Municipal Election

CHESTER— While the dates for this month’s party nominating caucuses have been set, there have been no announcements yet of candidates for first selectman or a possible interim replacement for departing First Selectman Tom Marsh.

The board of selectmen discussed Marsh’s pending August 1 resignation briefly at a regular meeting Tuesday, but there has been no announcement from town Republicans on an interim first selectman who would serve through the end of the current two-year term on November 22. Marsh, who has held the town’s top job since 2005, announced last month that he would resign effective August 1 to assume the position of town manager inWindsor,Vermont.

Marsh was elected as a Republican, and changed his voter registration to unaffiliated last year to pursue a long-shot campaign for governor on the Connecticut Independent Party line. But because he was re-elected to a third term as a Republican in 2009, town Republicans hold the advantage on naming an interim replacement.

Under state law, the other two members of the board of selectmen, Republican Tom Englert and Democrat Lawrence Sypher have 30 days from the Aug. 1 resignation date to appoint an interim first selectman for the remainder of the term. Englert and Sypher, each first elected in 2009, have indicated plans to seek re-election to the board of selectmen, but have declined to serve as interim first selectman or run for the top office in the Nov. 8 town election.

Englert and Sypher have said they hope to reach agreement on the appointment of an interim first selectman. But if the two selectmen fail to agree on an appointment by the end of August, the appointment would fall to a committee of Republican town elected officials. The member’s of the committee would be Englert, and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, who serves as Republican registrar of voters.

Mario Gioco, chairman of the Chester Republican Town Committee, said Tuesday he and other committee members have interviewed two potential candidates for the interim appointment, and the Republican first selectman nomination for the fall election. Gioco said neither potential candidate is ready to formally announce, though an announcement could be made before the Republican nominating caucus that is set for July 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

Sypher said at Tuesday’s meeting he was advised that four individuals have “expressed some interest’’ in the Democratic nomination for first selectman. Democrats will nominate a 2011 election slate at a caucus set for July 26 at the Chester Meeting House.

One of the prospective candidates, who was present for Tuesday’s meeting, is Susan Wright . A Democrat, Wright is a 33-year town resident who currently serves on the appointed economic development commission. She works in town as a massage therapist.

Proposed Route 154 Organic Market Back Before Chester Planning and Zoning Commission

CHESTER— A proposed organic market on Route 154 that over the past year has been the subject of a lawsuit and variance requests to the zoning board of appeals goes back to the planning and zoning commission next week.

The commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a special permit application by 56 Middlesex Avenue LLC of Cromwell and local resident Peter Kehayias for a first floor retail market and second floor office in the vacant building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street.

Kehayias, a former owner of the Pattaconk Restaurant who still owns the Main Street building, has been seeking approval for the proposed market for nearly a year. The 56 Middlesex Avenue building, a former service station that most recently was a bicycle repair shop, has been vacant for several years.

The commission last November denied a special permit application for the property that included the market and a 10-seat cafe area for customers. Kehayias appealed the denial in a lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court, and earlier this year also asked the zoning board of appeals to approve variances that would serve to reverse the planning and zoning commission decision. The ZBA in March denied the variance requests that would have authorized the market use, but approved a variance that allows an expansion of the structure to house a walk-in cooler.

The new application set for public hearing next week makes no reference to a cafe seating area, but calls for a retail market that would sell “a range of prepared foods, dry goods, groceries and locally grown fruits and vegetables,” along with some meats, poultry, fish and seafood. The Organic Market would be open seven days a week, with hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and shorter hours on weekends.

Another thing that has changed since the original permit denial last November is that Kehayias is now serving on the commission he has been appearing before over the past year. Kehayias was appointed by the board of selectmen in late March to fill a vacant alternate seat on the panel.

Kehayias has recused himself from participating in commission discussions involving his property or proposed business activities, most recently earlier this month when the panel approved construction of a three-foot deep utility trench crossing the Chester War Memorial site to allow for an upgrade of electrical service to the 56 Middlesex Avenue property. The Chester War Memorial parcel, which has a granite monument listing the names of town veterans, abuts the 56 Middlesex Avenue site. Local veterans did not object to the underground utility connection.

In a second special permit application set for public hearing on July 7, the United Church of Chester and Dawn Miles of Old Saybrook are seeking approval for a day care center/school on church-owned property at 29 West Avenue, also known as Route 148. The center/school would offer a Montessori education program for children ages 3-9, along with before and after school child care services.

Essex Selectmen Back Town Hall Window Replacement

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has approved a plan to install new energy-efficient windows on the north side of town hall. The board acted last week after receiving an update from Frank Hall, a member of the local energy advisory committee.

Hall said the town has $27,832 remaining from a $44,000 state grant awarded previously for energy efficiency improvements at the town hall. Hall said the lowest bid submitted for the window replacement was $30,099.

Hall said reducing the number of windows designated for replacement from 14 to 13 could reduce the cost of the project to the amount of the available grant funds. The selectmen agreed to seek input from the board of finance on how to complete the window replacement using only the grant funds, or whether to consider spending town funds to cover the small difference between the grant amount and the bid price.

Selectmen also discussed the option of converting the former judge of probate office in to an improved emergency operations center for the town. The office with a separate entrance on the west side of town hall has been vacant since the opening of the new regional probate court in Old Saybrook last January.

William Buckridge, the town’s emergency management coordinator, said the town has applied for a $50,342 grant that would cover the most of the expense of converting the office after a $12,585 town match. The board agreed to await word on the grant award before discussing the next step for the office conversion.

Essex Finance Board Sets Tax Rate at 17.98 Mills

ESSEX— The board of finance has set the property tax rate for 2011-2012 at 17.98 mills, up a 0.35 mills from the current tax rate. The board set the new rate on a unanimous vote at a special meeting Thursday.

The approval of the new tax rate, which represents $17.98 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value, follows Tuesday’s referendum approval of the $21,441,753 budget plan. The referendum was held after an initial budget plan was rejected by voters at the annual budget meeting on May 9.

The board discussed mill rate options for nearly an hour, including whether to transfer funds from the undesignated fund balance to defray a portion of any possible tax increase. The fund balance currently contains about $2.4 million, representing about 12 percent of the town’s total annual operating expenses. The current tax rate is 17.63 mills.

Board member Campbell Hudson called for a significant transfer from the fund balance to reduce a tax hike that could have been as much as 0.52 mills with no transfers of surplus funds. Hudson noted the fund balance was well over the ten percent of total operating expenses that is recommended by auditors and bond rating agencies, while residents had shown their concern about a possible tax increase with the initial budget defeat and the 532-438 vote that approved the budget Tuesday. “People did not want any tax increase this year and I think we should do everything we can to keep the increase as low as possible,” he said.

Board chairman Jim Francis cautioned that diverting too much from the fund balance would help “make the spending level structural,” and lead to a much larger tax hike in 2012-2013.

After discussion, the board adopted the 17.98 mill rate that includes a $100,000 transfer from the fund balance, and use of $82,000 in anticipated unexpended surplus funds from the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Town Treasurer Bob Dixon said the transfer would put the fund balance at about 11 percent of total annual operating expenses.

Essex Referendum Approves $21.44 Million Town Budget Plan

ESSEX— Voters approved a $21.44 million town budget plan for 2011-2012 on a 532-438 vote in the eight-hour referendum held Tuesday.  A total of 960 of the town’s 4,540 registered voters, along with ten property owners who are not registered voters in Essex, cast ballots Tuesday.

The turnout, while less than 20 percent of the town’s electorate, was much higher than the turnout in the Region 4 education budget referendum on May 3, when 335 voters cast ballots in Essex.

The board of selectmen called the referendum after the initial budget plan was rejected on a 114-81 ballot vote at the annual budget meeting on May 9. The board of finance approved cuts totaling $155,139 after the budget defeat. The $21,441,753 budget approved Tuesday includes $6,632,019 for town government, a $7,402,790 appropriation for Essex Elementary School, and the town’s $7,406,944 share of the Region 4 education budget.

Board of finance chairman Jim Francis said the board would set the tax rate for 2011-2012 at a special meeting Wednesday. The current tax rate is 17.63 mills, or $17.63 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. In setting the tax rate, the finance board is expected to discuss whether to use a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance to defray a portion of any possible increase in the tax rate. The fund balance currently contains about $2.3 million.

Planning Subcommittee To Assess Essex Residents’ Views on Architectural Heritage

On June 8 & 9, the  Architectural Design Subcommittee of the Essex Planning Commission will hold focus groups for residents from the three villages to assess the Architectural Heritage of the Town of Essex.

In June 2009, the Essex Planning Commission created a subcommittee to study the need for architectural regulations for new construction and significant renovations in order to preserve Essex’s architectural character.  The Architectural Design Review Subcommittee is composed of representatives from the Planning Commission, the Zoning Commission, the Economic Development Commission, the Essex Historical Society, and other interested volunteers and is charged with the following mission:

  1. Determine the architectural heritage of the Town of Essex, including Essex village, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton;
  2. Determine if there has been a significant loss and/or potential for loss of this architectural heritage;
  3. Review what methods and resources have been successfully implemented in other similar communities to protect their architectural heritage; and
  4. Explore ideas and make recommendations and suggestions to the Planning Commission as to what methods and/or resources would be most appropriate and viable to protect the Town’s architectural heritage for existing and new construction in all zones in consultation with the general populace if it is found that there is significant loss and/or potential for loss.

The first three components of their mission statement has been completed. Through state grants, two studies (both available at Town Hall) were conducted, one by an architectural historian to survey architecturally significant areas in the three villages.  The other consulting firm catalogued options for preserving distinctive characteristics in our town.  As our next step, there will be three resident focus groups, one for each village, that will allow the committee to do two things:  share what information we have gathered and get input from members of the focus groups to bring to the public.

Residents have been randomly selected from official Town lists, and those who choose to participate will be part of a small focus group.  The group will be shown a brief power point presentation about the architectural heritage of the three villages and asked their opinion about possible planning options utilized by similar towns.  These meetings are scheduled for June 8 and 9. Time and place are available on the Essex town website:  www.essexct.gov. Members of the public may attend but will not be part of group comment.  In the fall, there will be a public meeting to show the presentation and to share the focus groups responses.

For any questions, please contact Neil Nichols, Chair, Architectural Design Subcommittee, 860-767-0249 or neilnichols@att.net.

Deep River Referendum Approves $13.89 Million Town Budget

DEEP RIVER- Voters approved the $13,896,944 town budget plan for 2011-2012 on a 244-120 vote in a referendum Tuesday.  The board of finance, acting after the result was announced, set the property tax rate for 2011-2012 at 24.28 mills, an increase of 2.55 mills from the current tax rate of 21.73 mills. The new rate represents $24.28 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

A total of 361 of the town’s 3,110 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, along with three property owners who were not registered voters. The turnout, while extremely low, was actually higher than the turnout in Deep River for the Region 4 education budget referendum on May 3, when only 207 town voters cast ballots.

The spending plan includes the town government budget, an appropriation for Deep River Elementary School, and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget. First Selectman Richard Smith said 1.8 mills of the 2.55 mill increase is attributed to the nearly eight percent drop in the grand list of taxable property as a result of the town wide property revaluation that was completed last year. The remaining .75 mills is attributed to increased spending for education.

Budget Votes Pending in Deep River and Essex

DEEP RIVER/ESSEX— Referendum votes are pending over the next week in Deep River and Essex on the town budget plans for 2011-2012.

Deep River votes Tuesday on a proposed $13,896,944 town budget that includes funding for town government, Deep River Elementary School, and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling place, the Deep River Public Library Community Room.

Essex votes June 7 on a revised $21,441,753 spending plan that was approved by the board of finance last week. The board approved a total budget reduction of $155,139 after a higher spending total was rejected on a 114-81 paper ballot vote at the annual budget meeting on May 9.

Essex voters will have a final opportunity to discuss the budget at a town meeting scheduled for May 31 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium at the town hall. Polls will be open at the town hall on June 7 from 12 noon to 8 p.m. for the budget vote.

Essex Finance Board Approves $155,139 in Budget Cuts, June 7 Referendum Set on Revised Spending Plan

ESSEX— The board of finance Thursday approved $155,139 in reductions to the town budget plan for 2011-2012 as the board of selectmen set an eight-hour referendum vote on the revised spending plan for Tuesday June 7.

The finance board held a joint meeting Thursday with the board of selectmen and local board of education to develop a revised budget in the wake of May 9 town meeting rejection of a $21.59 million spending package on a 114-81 paper ballot vote. It was the first rejection of a town budget for Essex in decades.

The revised budget totals $21,441,753, including funding for town government, Essex Elementary School, and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget that was already approved by voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 3 referendum. The revised budget will be presented for discussion at a town meeting set for Tuesday May 31 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the town hall. The referendum vote on the revised spending plan will be held from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on June 7.

Some of the cuts approved by the finance board are items that drew questions or objections from voters at the May 9 town meeting. The hiring of a new full-time employee for the town highway department was cancelled for a savings of $47,441 including pay and benefits. The contingency fund was reduced by $50,000, from $125,000 to $75,000. The board cut $5,000 from legal services, $3,000 in funding for a consulting planner, $10,000 from a fire department sinking fund that is set aside for future equipment purchases and $13,000 by cancelling the purchase or a printer/plotter for use by town offices.

The finance board did not accept two cuts that had been suggested by the board of selectmen after a meeting Wednesday; a $5,000 reduction for the libraries, $4,000 from Essex Library and $1,000 from the Ivoryton Library, and cancellation of a two percent pay raise for all elected officials. The original budget provided election officials, including the selectmen, town clerk, tax collector, town treasurer, and the two registrars of voters, with the same two percent pay raise that was provided to non-union town employees. The pay raise will be cancelled for the first selectman and two members of the board of selectmen, but provided to the other elected positions.

The appropriation for Essex Elementary School was reduced by $5,000, a cut in the account for electricity that was recommended by the local board of education for anticipated savings from greater energy efficiency in the renovated school building.

Despite some calls from residents at the meeting Thursday for a budget that requires no increase in the tax rate, the revised $21.41 million spending plan is still expected to require an increase of about a half-mill in the current property tax rate of 17.63 mills.

But the board of finance could approve a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance to defray or reduce the need for an increase in the tax rate. The undesignated fund balance currently contains about $2.3 million. Finance Board Chairman Jim Francis said the board would not consider any possible transfers from the fund balance until it convenes to set a tax rate for 2011-2012, a meeting that would occur after a budget is approved by the voters.

Chester Voters Approve $12.55 Million Town Budget at 12-Minute Town Meeting

 CHESTER— It took all of 12 minutes at the annual budget meeting Tuesday for voters to approve a $12.55 million town budget plan for 2011-2012 and a dozen other agenda items.

About 25 residents turned out on a rainy night for the town meeting, approving the budget without discussion on a unanimous voice vote. The $12,555,853 spending plan includes a $3,668,718 town government budget and capital expenditure plan, a $4,164,069 appropriation for Chester Elementary School and the town’s $4,723,066 share of the Region 4 education budget.

The board of finance had endorsed a $145,766 transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance to avoid the need for any increase in the tax rate, which will remain at  22.11 mills, or $22.11 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. After the transfer, the fund balance is expected to contain about $1.3 million in June 2012.

Voters also gave unanimous approval to several other items on the town meeting agenda, including a required ten-year update of the harbor management plan, and transfers from the town’s capital expenditure reserve fund for road repairs, a storage shed at the town garage, and a new 4-wheel drive pickup truck for the town’s highway department.

Voters also approved acceptance of two separate $250,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants, that will be used to fund an extension of the public water line on Route 154 to encompass several parcels on Denlar Drive where testing has detected unacceptable levels of arsenic in  the groundwater. The water main extension is expected to be completed by next year at no direct cost to the town.

Essex Finance Board Puts Off Decisions on Budget Reductions

ESSEX— The board of Finance has deferred decisions on reductions to the town budget plan for 2011-2012 to a May 19 meeting with members of the board of selectmen and local board of education.

The finance board held a special meeting Thursday in the wake of Monday’s 114-81 town meeting defeat of a proposed $21.59 million budget. It was the first voter rejection of a proposed town budget for Essex in decades.

Jim Francis, board of finance chairman, said about 70 residents turned out for the meeting, and were given a chance to comment on possible changes and reductions to the budget. But at Thursday’s meeting, Francis said there was also input from residents objecting to any drastic reductions in the budget plan that includes a $$6.78 million town government budget and a $7.4 million appropriation for Essex Elementary School.

Francis said the board’s regular meeting on May 19 would become a joint meeting with members of the board of selectmen and local school board. Francis said the finance board would “ask the selectmen and board of education to find what they can find,” in possible budget reductions, and present recommendations at the joint meeting.”Hopefully we come up with a budget that we all agree we can live with,” he said.

Francis had said after the result was announced at Monday’s meeting, the vote on a revised budget would likely be held by referendum. The board of selectmen must make the final decision on whether to call a referendum, and set the hours of voting. There could be a full day of voting, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., or an eight-hour 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum like the May 3 vote in Chester, Deep River, and Essex that resulted in approval of the Region 4 education budget.

Francis said the second vote on a revised budget would likely be held in early June. “There’s no real tension to the whole thing until we get to the middle of June,” he said. Town officials need a budget approval in June in time to mail the July tax bills to property owners.

Essex Town Budget Defeated on 114-81 Vote

ESSEX— Voters at the annual budget meeting Monday rejected a proposed $21.59 million town budget plan on a 114-81 paper ballot vote, marking the first defeat of a town government budget for Essex in decades.

Residents packed the auditorium at town hall to discuss and vote on a 2011-2012 spending plan that included a $6,782,158 town government budget and a $7,407,790 appropriation for Essex Elementary School. A third component of the spending package, the town’s $7,406,944 share of the Region 4 education budget, had already been approved in a May 3 referendum.

The total $21,596,892 spending plan was expected to require a small increase in the current tax rate of 17.63 mills, though Selectman Norman Needleman told the crowd the board of finance could endorse a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance to further limit the size of any possible tax increase. The fund balance currently contains about $2.2 million.

The town government budget, which represents a 4.37 increase over current spending, generated the most discussion. Strickland Hyde objected to a proposed new full-time position with the town highway department, which currently has five full-time employees. Hyde said 2011 was not the year to establish a new position at a cost of $35,000 plus the expense for medical benefits.

Paul Forrest questioned a $120,000 contingency fund that was included with the appropriation for the board of finance. Board Chairman Jim Francis said the amount was a total contingency fund for all town departments, boards and commissions, with special appropriations from the fund requiring approval from the finance board and voters at a town meeting. Forrest contended contingency funds should be available from past fiscal years if appropriations from the fund totaled between $30,000 to $40,000 in most years.

After about an hour of discussion, voters formed to lines two show proof of identification to the two registrars of voters and receive a paper ballot. After the result was announced, Francis said the finance board would meet later this week to consider targets for reductions in both the town government and elementary school budgets. Francis said a revised budget would be presented for approval in a referendum expected later this month.

Essex Selectmen Seek to Resolve Novelty Lane Issues to Complete Public Access Improvements

ESSEX— The board of selectmen will move to resolve issues involving the public access to the Connecticut River from Novelty Lane in an effort to utilize state funding that was provided to improve the access walkway.

The board Wednesday heard an appeal from Jeff Going, chairman of the harbor management commission, to resolve two outstanding issues related to the small street that extends south near the lower end of Main Street in downtown Essex village. The paved portion of the street ends at a public access walkway that extends to the bulkhead on Middle Cove of the Connecticut River. The town was awarded a $198,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant last year, with a portion of the funds intended to upgrade the public access walkway at Novelty Lane.

Most of the grant funds were directed toward construction of a new boat launch on the river at the end of Main Street. But with the boat launch project completed, about $35,000 remains to pay for the improvements to the Novelty Lane walkway. The town must use the remaining grant funds this year, or return the money to the state.

Going said the unresolved issues involve a determination of clear title to the paved portion of the road that serves several homes and businesses, and a stone retaining wall that was constructed several years ago by an adjoining property owner without permits that extends over about a third of the public access right-of-way. The property owner at 15 Novelty Lane is Terrance Lomme, a local lawyer who now serves as the elected judge of probate for the nine-town region.

Going, by letter and in person at the meeting, advised the selectmen that the commission has already directed a small portion of the grant funds to retain a landscape architect to begin design of the improvements to the public access walkway. He also told the board the retaining wall, and a drainage pipe that was installed with it, “has caused harm to the remaining public access area around it” by eroding soil from the narrow walkway. Going said the public access has been marked by signage and promoted in brochures since 1990.

Going said the “illegal wall” must be removed, whether the town is able to utilize the state grant funds or not. In his letter, Going contended the harbor management commission has the authority to pursue removal of the wall and remediate the drainage and soil erosion problem “regardless of what the board of selectmen does or does not do,” regarding the issues related to Novelty Lane.

Town funds would have to be used for any title research related to Novelty Lane. The grant funds must be directed only for design and construction of the public access improvements.

Tom Marsh, Dick Smith and Noel Bishop Support Mayors for Meals

Mayors for Meals is part of the Meals On Wheels Association of America’s national campaign to bring attention to the need for senior nutrition.  The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. would like to thank First Selectmen Tom Marsh from Chester, Dick Smith from Deep River, and Noel Bishop of Westbrook for participating in the Mayors for Meals program by personally delivering Meals On Wheels to seniors in their towns. 

The Estuary Council of Seniors is the sole provider of Meals On Wheels for the nine town Estuary Region and the Town of Madison.  Nearly 66,000 meals were delivered to homebound seniors last year by dedicated volunteers. Meals on Wheels is a vital service that allows seniors to continue to live independently in their own homes. For more information on this service please contact Diane at 860-388-1611.

Deep River Public Hearing Tuesday on $13.89 Million Budget Plan for 2011-2012

DEEP RIVER—05/02–CORRECTION:  Deep River Elementary School population is predicted to show an increase rather than decrease, as previously reported in this article. The public hearing is Tuesday on a proposed $3.61 million town government budget for 2011-2012 and a proposed $5.19 million appropriation for Deep River Elementary School. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at the elementary school.

The total $13,896,944 spending package includes $3,617,748 for town government, $5,192,900 for the elementary school, the town’s $4,387,300 share of the Region 4 education budget, and $699,000 in town and school related debt service costs.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the spending plan is expected to require an increase in the tax rate of 2.55 mills, despite decreases in the town government budget and the local share of the Region 4 budget. The current tax rate of 21.73 mills, or $21.73 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value, has not increased for the past two years. Smith said the prospective tax rate of 24.28 mills is a “worst case” projection that could be slightly reduced by the board of finance after the budgets are approved by voters.

More than two-thirds of the potential tax hike, specifically 1.8 mills, is a direct result of an eight percent decrease in the October 2010 grand list of taxable property. The sharp drop in the grand list is a result of a required townwide property revaluation that was completed last year amid the slow national economy and a related decline in real estate values. But Smith said a report prepared by Tax Assessor Robin O’Loughlin shows that 808 residential properties will have a varying decrease in the actual tax bill, despite the higher mill rate, while 1,265 residential properties will have a higher tax bill.

The proposed town government budget decreases by about $372,000, with savings resulting from the disbanding last year of the former Deep River Public Health Nurses and changing a full-time building office clerk/park and recreation director position to two separate part time positions. The $3.61 million town government appropriation includes a $235,260 capital expenditure plan.

The proposed $5,192,900 budget for Deep River Elementary School represents a 5.5 percent spending increase over the current appropriation for the school. The proposed budget retains all current teacher positions at the school, despite discussion of the possible elimination of two teacher positions.

Smith said the board of finance would consider any possible adjustments to the town government and elementary school budgets based on input received from residents at the public hearing. He said the town government and elementary school budgets would then go to the voters for approval at a referendum expected in the fourth week of May. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex for approval in an eight-hour referendum Tuesday.

Little Public Comment on No-Tax-Increase Chester Budget

CHESTER— A total $12.55 million town spending plan for 2011-2012 drew a mild reaction Tuesday from a handful of residents at the annual budget hearing. About 20 residents, most currently serving on town boards and commissions, turned out for the hearing at the Chester Meeting House.

The total $12,555,853 spending package includes a $3,668,718 town government budget, a $4,164,069 appropriation for Chester Elementary School, and the town’s $4,723,066 share of the Region 4 education budget.
The town government budget is down by $26,767, or 0.72 percent, from the current appropriation. The town government budget includes a $345,000 capital expenditure fund for 2011-2012, with $270,000 of the amount directed toward road repairs, and $25,000 for roof repairs at the Chester Hose Company Firehouse.

First Selectman Tom Marsh said the town budget maintains all current services, despite the small decrease in total spending. He said the capital expenditure plan, which also includes $50,000 towards the future purchase of a new fire truck later in the decade, “takes care of what we need to take care of” in a year where growth in the grand list of taxable property generated only $33,500 in new tax revenue. “If we had fatter days we could certainly put more money in this account,” he said.

The $4,164,069 budget for Chester Elementary School represents a small $2,824 decrease from current spending for the school. A drop in student enrollment at the K-sixth grade school, from the current 275 students to 266 expected in September, allowed for a reduction of one teacher position, one teacher assistant position, and a part-time para-educator position for a savings of about $110.000.

The budget plan calls for no increase in the current tax rate of 22.11 mills, or $22.11 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Helping for avoid a hike in the tax rate is a transfer of $145,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance. The transfer would leave about $1.31 million in the fund balance in June 2012.

There were no calls for changes in the budget plan at the public hearing. The annual budget meeting vote on a spending package for 2011-2012 is expected to be held on Tuesday May 17 at the Meeting House. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex Tuesday in a 12-noon to 8 p.m. referendum.

Proposed Business Zone Gets Favorable Response at Essex Zoning Hearing

ESSEX— A proposed new business zone on Plains Road received a generally favorable response Monday evening at a public hearing of the zoning commission.

About 30 residents, many of them property owners on Plains Road, turned out for the public hearing on proposed zoning changes the commission has been discussing for more than two years. The proposed change would create a new business zone on both sides of Plains Road from the Valley Railroad crossing south to the intersection with Bokum Road and Westbrook Road (Route 153). The approximate one-mile stretch that includes about 30 properties is currently zoned for limited industrial, though some commercial uses have been permitted over the past decade under variances approved by the zoning board of appeals.

Along with establishing a business zone on both sides of the road, the proposed changes would direct limited industrial uses to sections of parcels set back from the road. The proposed changes, which would not affect any existing uses, also includes the town’s first definition of light manufacturing, the use intended for the light industrial zone.

The proposed new business zone would allow an array of commercial/business uses, most under a special permit that would require a public hearing and approval from the commission. Excluded would be large-scale retail uses, and trash or solid waste disposal facilities. The change would allow restaurants, dropping an existing regulation limiting new restaurants to ten seats, and second-floor apartments for any existing residential uses on the road.

Much of the comment at the hearing was from property owners supporting the proposed new zone, and from a handful of property owners whose parcels had been excluded from the proposed new zone. As proposed by the commission, the new zone would not include six properties on the east side of Plains Road, between the railroad crossing and the entrance to southbound Route 9.

The Connecticut Marine Trades Association, owner of one of the parcels, submitted a letter asking for the zone to be extended. Charles Irving, owner of another of the excluded parcels, also called for extending the business zone to include the six parcels. Irving also suggested the commission consider allowing additional commercial uses in the new zone. “It’s a step but only a small step,” he said.

Commission chairman Alvin Wolfgram said the panel would consider including the six properties on the northeast segment of Plains Road in the new zone, though any expansion of the new zone would require a separate proposal and public hearing. Wolfgram said the commission is also willing to discuss other possible commercial uses for the new zone. “It’s sort of a work in progress and we can amend the uses going down the pike,” he said.

The commission is expected to continue the public hearing on the proposed zoning changes at its May 16 meeting.

Essex Selectmen Set Town Meeting Vote on 2011-2012 Town Budget

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has decided to hold a town meeting vote on the proposed $21.59 million town budget plan for 2011-2012, setting the annual budget meeting for Monday May 9 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium at the town hall.

The agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting provided for a discussion of whether to hold the budget vote by town meeting, or an eight-hour referendum. But there was no discussion as First Selectman Phil Miller and Selectman Norman Needleman moved for a town meeting vote. Selectman Joel Marzi was absent.

The board sent the town budget directly to referendum in 2009, but last year the budget was approved at a town meeting attended by less than 50 residents. Residents could still force a referendum by submitting a petition signed by at least 50 registered voters to the town’s clerk’s office by Friday May 6. Residents turning out for the May 9 meeting may determine the method of voting, either by voice vote, show of hands, or a check list and paper ballot vote.

The spending plan includes $6,782,158 for town government, an increase of 4.37 percent from the current appropriation, and an appropriation of $7,407,913 for Essex Elementary School that represents a 2.94 percent increase from current funding for the school. The total spending amount of $21,597,015 also includes the town’s $7,406,944 share of the Region 4 education budget that goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 3 referendum.

The spending plan is expected to require an increase in the property tax rate that is currently set at 17.63 mills, or $17.63 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property values. Finance board chairman Jim Francis has said the board could decide to reduce the size of any increase in the tax rate with a one-time transfer of funds from the town’s undesignated fund balance that currently contains over $2 million.

Essex Zoning Commission Sets Public Hearing on Proposed Plains Road Business District

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled an April 25 public hearing on the proposed zoning map amendments and regulations for a new business district zone on Plans Road. Monday’s hearing will convene at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

Joseph Burdow, zoning enforcement officer, said the proposed change for parcels on both sides of Plains Road has been under consideration by the panel for more than two years. Most of the properties are currrently in a limited industrial district, though some properties were able to establish a commercial/retail use under variances approved over the past decade by the zoning board of appeals.

Budrow said the proposed business district would encompass about 20 properties on an approximate three-quarters-mile section of Plains Road exstending south from the vicinity of the vacant Iron Chef restaurant parcel to the intersection with Westbrook Road (Route 153). He said one goal of the proposed change is clarify and encourage business development along Plains Road, while directing any future limited industrial uses to the back sections of parcels, not directly on the road. The proposed zone change would not affect existing uses on properties. The proposed business district would allow most commercial uses, though a special permit approval from the commission would be required for some new commercial uses. A public hearing is required for approval of a special permit.

The proposed change would allow new restaurants and food service establishments, while current regulations for commercial zones limit new restaurants to ten seats or less. The proposed changes include a revision of the regulations governing the limited industrial district, eliminating some uses that are currently allowed, such as garbage and trash collection enterprises.

Essex Finance Board Makes No Changes to 2011-2012 Budget After Public Hearing

ESSEX— The board of finance made no changes to the proposed $6.78 million town government budget and proposed $7.4 million appropriation for Essex Elementary School after a relatively quiet budget hearing Monday.

About 25 residents turned out for questions and comments on the proposed spending plans for 2011-2012. The proposed $7,407,913 elementary school budget is up by $211,866, or 2.94 percent, with proposed town government spending of $6,782,158 that is up by $283,912, or 4.37 percent. The town and elementary school budgets are combined with the town’s $7,406,944 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total spending levy of $21,597,015, an amount that is up by $764,285, or 3.67 percent, from the 2010-2011 spending total.

After nearly an hour of presentations and questions, there were only two direct calls for further reductions in the budget. John Ackerman urged the finance board to take a closer look at the town government appropriation with a goal of avoiding a hike in the property tax rate. “Even a small increase could impact a lot to people who are having trouble making ends meet,” he said.

Former Selectman Vince Pacileo, who served the minority Republican selectman from 2003-2009, also urged the finance board to “pare down” the increase in the town government budget.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Francis said Tuesday the board made no changes to the proposed budgets during a special meeting after the hearing. Francis said residents should anticipate a small increase in the tax rate that would be comparable to increases in recent years. The current tax rate is 17.63 mills, or $17.63 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The rate had increased last July by .68 mills to fund spending for the current year.
Francis said the increase in the tax rate could be lower if the board decides to transfer money from the town’s undesignated fund balance to defray a portion of any increase in the mill rate. The fund balance currently contains over $2 million, and has not been tapped for several years to limit any possible increases in the tax rate.
Francis said the finance board has followed a policy goal of keeping the fund balance at about 10 percent of total annual operating expenses. “It is now more than that,” he said, adding that some members may be willing to consider a one-time transfer from the fund balance.

Barring any petition for a referendum vote, the town government and elementary school spending plans go the voters for approval at the annual budget meeting on May 9. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 3 referendum. If the spending plans are approved by voters, the board of finance would set the tax rate for 2011-2012 at its regular meeting on May 19.