September 3, 2014

Sen. Linares: We Can’t Afford a $150/Year Electricity Rate Hike

Sen. Art Linares has submitted testimony to state officials opposing Connecticut Light and Power’s proposed rate hike:

“CL&P has proposed a rate hike request that would increase an individual customer’s bill by an average of $150 a year,” Sen. Linares said. “This rate hike would hurt Connecticut residents.”

Sen. Linares urged residents to email comments to Pura.Executivesecretary@ct.gov .  The email should include “Docket Number 14-05-06” in the subject line.

Sen. Linares urged those who do not have access to email to contact his office at 800 842 1421 so that he can help pass along their concerns to state officials.

Community Music School Hosts Open House Week – Sep. 8-12

CENTERBROOK – Community Music School (CMS), located in the Spencer’s Corner professional complex at 90 Main St. in Centerbrook, is now registering for the Fall semester which begins Sept. 3, and welcomes the general public to visit during Open House Week Sept. 8 through 12.

Children and adults can tour the School’s studios, meet teachers and staff, enjoy a free preview lesson, and learn about a vast array of programs including private and group lessons, jazz and string ensembles, musical theater, the Kindermusik early childhood program, and music therapy services.  Community Music School is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.  Those interested in a 15-minute preview lesson are requested to call 860-767-0026 for scheduling.

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 30-year-tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities.  The School’s programs cultivate musical ability and creativity and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so that they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.

For additional information, visit www.community-music-school.org or call 860-767-0026.

Letter: Bjornberg Shows Genuine Concern for Children’s Safety

To the Editor:

State Senator Linares recently issued a press release calling for hearings on recent infant fatalities in families having dealings with the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  Few would dispute the importance of understanding why these deaths occurred, and whether DCF can be doing a better job.

But where was Linares’ concern for children when he voted against the Newtown gun control bill, saying he hadn’t read it? More recently, where was his concern for children when he used his position – some might say abused his position – to appoint a paid representative of companies that manufacture cadmium-containing jewelry to a panel looking into health issues presented by cadmium in jewelry intended for children?

Linares voted against a ban on known carcinogens in children’s clothes, and opposed efforts to create a watch list of chemicals of high concern to children. He was also one of only two Children’s Committee members to vote against a ban on spraying toxic pesticides at all Connecticut schools.  His concern for the safety of children is not at all obvious given his voting record and appointments.

Senator Linares’ opponent, on the other hand, seems to be genuinely concerned for children’s safety.  Emily Bjornberg is the mother of children ages 4 and 7, and for the past seven years has been the Youth and Family Ministries Director of the Deep River Congregational Church.  Her concerns mirror my own and she will get my vote in the November election for State Senator.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Sund
Essex, CT

Adios Dear Deep River!

John Guy Laplante

John Guy LaPlante

Well, Friends, it’s time for me to say goodbye to the town I love. I never thought this day would come. Never wanted it to come. I have been happy here. Fifteen years ago I chose Deep River as my retirement community– chose it deliberately, mind you.

It’s a strange story: I had my whole career in Massachusetts.  Just retired, I came here to Connecticut for a one-week program at what is now Incarnation Center in Ivoryton.  Well, one thing led to another and I became the director of its big and fine Elderhostel Program.  Spent eight good years there.  And that’s how I got to discover Deep River.  I caught the town at the cusp, it seems.  It was just coming out of a prolonged sleepy period. My instinct told me it was about to flower. How right I was.  What I longed for was real, genuine small town life.

Within a few days I bought a condo at Piano Works—yes, the one I am living in.  It turned out to be perfect for my needs.  Then right away I applied to join the town Rotary Club.  Rotary had long appealed to me but I was always too busy. That was another smart decision.  It was a happy day when the Rotarians swore me in.  I made friends in the club and in town.  I became involved in remarkable programs—Rotary always commits to serving its community however it can.

A big project was the creation of Keyboard Park with its pretty Gazebo and Fountain. Another very meaningful one was our annual Patriotic Fourth celebration on Independence Day right there at Keyboard Park.  Another was the purchase of what is now the Town’s  iconic Elephant Statue in front of Town Hall. That was a big expense for our club but we considered it important.

Here’s a nice memory. On one Deep River Family Day we inflated balloons through the elephant’s trunk! Honest!  Handed them to delighted kids. I admit we had a second motive.  We wanted to prove to everybody that that statue is really a fantastic water fountain. Water shoots out the elephant’s trunk!  I still don’t understand why water hasn’t been connected to it permanently.

Another project was the re-dedication of the Observation Deck at the bottom of Kirtland Street that overlooks the Connecticut.  It’s Rotary that made that deck possible years ago.  We had a beautiful ceremony with speeches, a fife and drum corps, the whole works.  (But know what? Some vandal has destroyed our beautiful brand-new plaque for it!  I’d like to shoot him. Or her.)

I’m happy to tell you that those projects were always accomplished with the full cooperation of the Town and the help of First Selectman Dick Smith.

Yes, Deep River Rotary was wonderful. I’ve lived in numerous places, but emotionally I’ve considered Deep River home. In fact I’ve loved the whole area,  including the delightful neighboring towns and villages on both sides of the Connecticut Estuary.

Oh, I had been a journalist on a big newspaper.  Here from Deep River I found fresh outlets for that passion of my younger days.  And I’m still enjoying creating articles and now blogs … though momentarily I’m slowed down by all the work of selling out and moving to California.

The reason I’m leaving is simple.  I’m old and feel it and show it.  My dear daughter Monique out there in Morro Bay wants me under her wing.

Know what?  Many times over the years, I’ve heard the call,  “Go West, Young Man!”  Well, after all these years, and now far from young, I’m saying yes to that call.

But for sure there will be tears in my eyes when I do go to Bradley to fly off for that big and ultimate chapter in my life.  Living at Piano Works in this gorgeous corner of the world has been great.  Thank goodness I’ll have wonderful memories to sustain me.  And I hope to come back and visit.

Sen. Art Linares Renews Call for Hearings to Address Child Tragedies

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares

HARTFORD - In light of the tragic and unsettling Child Fatality Review Report, released yesterday by the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), State Senator Art Linares (R-Westbrook) is renewing his call for a public hearing to review the recent child fatalities involving children under the care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“This report gives us a closer look into the horrible accounts of child deaths connected to families involved with DCF. The sad and eye opening report also recommends annual public hearings on these fatalities.”

The report identified 24 infant and toddler deaths among families with DCF involvement. The review also discusses recommendations to prevent future fatalities, including a recommendation to hold an annual public hearing on child fatalities along with a focused discussion on infant-toddler deaths.

“A public hearing is needed to improve transparency and open the dialogue between DCF, lawmakers, child advocates and community members. We need to not only recognize the problems, but we must also work together to determine the cause of any system weaknesses and identify the appropriate actions to prevent future tragedies.”

In a letter to the co-chairs of the Children’s Committee Linares again urged the committee to schedule a public hearing considering the report results.

“Everyone needs to have a seat at the table when it comes to the safety of children. Legislators need to understand the short and long term needs of caseworkers and child advocacy officials. Caseworkers need to understand what policies would most benefit families. A hearing would allow us to better understand what is being done and what still needs to be done to put an end to these serious and devastating events,” said Linares.

State Senator Art Linares represents the 33rd senatorial district comprised of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland & Westbrook. He serves as Ranking Member of the Committee on Children.

Essex Town Meeting Gives Unanimous Approval for $200,000 Contribution to Preserve Land Purchase

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday gave unanimous approval for a $200,000 appropriation as the town’s contribution for purchase of the 70-acre portion of the Preserve property in Essex. More than 100 residents turned out for the meeting in the town hall auditorium, with a round of applause following approval of the funding on a voice vote without discussion.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said the $200,000 would come from an open space acquisition sinking fund available in the current town budget. The town meeting vote ends years of debate about the wooded property that includes the Essex acreage off Ingham Hill Road that had been the subject of a subdivision application  in 2011.

Paul Greenberg with the Essex Land Trust, said the non-profit group is expected to at least match the town contribution for purchase of the portion of the property in Essex. Greenberg said the Trust has applied for a state grant of up to $350,000 that is awarded in October. He said the Trust would also use private fundraising for the purchase.

Old Saybrook voters in a July 8 referendum approved $3 million in bonding for purchase of the much larger 930-acre section of the property in their town. State bond funds will also be used for the total $8 million purchase, which is being coordinated by the non-profit Trust For Public Land. The purchase of the total 1,000-acre property for preservation  as public open space is expected to close by the end of the year.

Greenberg said the Essex section of the property would be owned by the Essex Land Trust,  while the larger Old Saybrook portion would be co-owned by that town and the state. Greenberg said access to the property from Essex would be off Ingham Hill Road, with trails in to the property to be improved for greater public access next year.

Selectman Bruce Glowac, who lives on Ingham Hill Road, spoke for the crowd when he expressed appreciation for the public acquisition of the total property. “We look forward to having 1,000 acres in the town next to us and in our town,” he said.

Ballot News Ranks Connecticut’s 33rd Senate Race One of Most Competitive Statewide

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Emily Bjornberg, Democratic candidate for the 33rd Senate Seat

Ballotnews.org ranked the most competitive legislative races in Connecticut on their website today, with the 33rd Senate contest ranked as one of the top four.

The ranking comes a day after Emily Bjornberg, the Democratic candidate for the 33rd Senate Seat, was approved by the State Elections Enforcement Commission for a clean elections fund grant ahead of her incumbent opponent Art Linares.

State grants require the candidate to demonstrate significant support behind their campaign, with small contributions required from at least 300 constituents and at least $15,000 raised in the aggregate.

The 33rd Senate contest is one of only four state senate races statewide held by an incumbent to be ranked as competitive on the Ballotnews.org list.   The full list can be found at:  www.ballotnews.org/ state-legislatures/ legislative-lowdown- identifying-competitive- connecticut-elections-in-2014/ 

Connecticut’s 33rd State Senate District includes the communities of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook as well as Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Lyme, Portland and Westbrook.

 

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa Donates $25,000 to The Preserve

Saybrook Point Inn and Spa, Old SAybrook.

Saybrook Point Inn and Spa, Old Saybrook.

OLD SAYBROOK –– The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, through the Louis F. and Mary A. Tagliatela Family Foundation, has donated $25,000 to “The Preserve,” a swath of 1,000 acres of coastal forest along the towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, Connecticut.  As the largest unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston, this land is rich in natural resources, wildlife and habitat that not only offers residents with outdoor recreational opportunities, but also provides an important coastal buffer against storm waters during natural disasters.  Residents of Connecticut treasure this 1,000-acre coastal forest as a place to connect with nature close to home. Known locally as The Preserve, the woodland plays an important role in maintaining water quality in Trout Brook and the Oyster and Mud rivers, which feed into the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. The partnership to preserve and protect this natural ecosystem in Connecticut consists of the State of Connecticut, neighboring towns (Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook), and The Trust for Public Land.

“On behalf of my family, we are proud to be able to preserve and protect one of Connecticut’s most sacred ecosystems for generations to come,” said Stephen Tagliatela, Innkeeper/Managing Partner, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. “It’s always been a founding principle of our family to care and maintain the environment we live in. It’s through our efforts, in cooperation with the Trust for Public Land, Town of Old Saybrook, and Essex Land Trust, that we will conserve this important coastal forest to forever as a natural asset for our region and our state.”

On Tuesday, July 8th, voters in Old Saybrook overwhelmingly approved the purchase of “The Preserve,” which will now be protected in perpetuity as open space for Connecticut residents for generations to come. As the largest unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston, this 1,000-acre ecosystem will be permanently protected from future development. It will connect to 500 acres of existing town parkland providing expanded opportunities for hiking and viewing a variety of birds and other wildlife.

“We are very grateful that the Tagliatela family has made this very generous gift to support the Campaign to Protect the 1,000 Acre Forest,” said Kate Brown, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land. “This is a wonderful boost that will help us move closer to the fundraising goal and permanent protection of the land.”

The Louis F. and Mary A. Tagliatela Foundation was established in 1997 by North Haven business leader Louis F. Tagliatela. Over the years, the Foundation has donated more than $9 million to support local non-profit organizations including hospitals, schools and churches. In addition, the organization helped establish the Tagliatela School of Engineering at the University of New Haven and the Tagliatela School of Business at Albertus Magnus College.

The Preserve is a 1,000-acre coastal forest located in Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook, Connecticut. It is the largest unprotected coastal forest remaining between New York City and Boston. The dense canopy of forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond act as a refueling stop for many migratory birds, and the many freshwater seeps on the property are home to amphibian species such as the northern dusky salamander, spotted turtles, and box turtles. Bobcats and fisher cats have also been spotted on the property.  The land includes 38 vernal pools, 114 acres of wetlands, headwaters of the Oyster River, and tributaries of the Mud and Trout Brook Rivers. These rivers eventually flow into Long Island Sound.

The property has a fifteen-year history of development proposals, foreclosure, and lawsuits by neighbors and conservationists opposing its development. The land is currently owned by Lehman Brothers Holdings, the holding company that emerged from the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. The holding company has agreed to sell the property to The Trust for Public Land for its fair market value of $8.09 million. If protected, this highly unusual intact coastal forest will be preserved and the public will have passive recreational access to the property via trails.

The Trust for Public Land is working in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environ-mental Protection, the Towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook, the Old Saybrook Land Trust, the Essex Land Trust, The Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the Alliance for Sound Area Planning, Audubon Connecticut, The Nature Conservancy, and others to raise the funding necessary to protect The Preserve. The goal of the fundraising effort is to raise $10 million to cover the purchase price, costs and stewardship. We expect to raise $3 million via a private fundraising campaign, to supplement $7 million in public funding.

Since it opened 25 years ago, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa has adapted and changed. It has taken a decidedly green direction, win­ning numerous awards for its often best-in-class green practices, including the first Connecticut inn to be named a Certified Energy Hotel in 2007. The Inn now features SANNO, a full service European spa, as well as Fresh Salt, a restaurant designed by Peter Niemitz that opened to strong reviews in 2011.  The property employs more than 260 hospitality professionals in the town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, and is among the town’s top employers and economic engines.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa recently opened its new Three Stories guesthouse adjacent to the main Inn. Thiscompletely renovated Italianate home overlooking Long Island Sound was originally built in 1892 as a single-family home for the prominent engineer William Vars. The property has been fully refurbished and revitalized as a seven-room guesthouse with wrap around porches and private gardens, making it the perfect retreat for couples, families and friends to reconnect, rejoice and create lasting memories and experiences. Each individually designed room features a pri­vate balcony, fireplace, fine linens, heated bathroom floors, multiple showerheads, extensive water views, and original artwork by local artists. As a testament to its rich history, each room at Three Stories tells the story of a famed local resident who made sure that the history of the community was well preserved. This includes Katharine Hepburn’s mother, who was a co-founder of Planned Parenthood and leading suffragette, and Anna Louise James, who had the distinction of being one of the first African-American female pharmacists in America and ran the James Pharmacy locally.

About Saybrook Point Inn & Spa

Situated along the picturesque coastal community of historic Old Saybrook, Connecticut in the hamlet of Saybrook Point, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa features 82 elegantly appointed guestrooms, a rejuvenating full-service spa called SANNO, and a casual fine dining restaurant named Fresh Salt. Luxurious spa amenities include 11 treatment rooms, and diverse menu of services including massages, facials, body wraps, manicures and pedicures. SANNO is a latin word meaning to make sound or to heal. The goal at SANNO is to help guests be well, look well, feel well, and eat well. Fresh Salt diners savor fresh, seasonal and local cuisine served in Old Saybrook’s most spectacular setting – the spot where the fresh waters of the Connecticut River meet the salt of Long Island Sound. It’s a treasured and historic place, rich in life, and the restaurant reflects that lively diversity. The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa also features the historic Saybrook Point Marina, a landmark yachting dock conveniently located at the mouth of the Connecticut River with easy access to Long Island Sound. The marina is Connecticut’s first designated Clean Marina, featuring friendly concierge service, award-winning onsite cuisine, AAA Four Diamond accommodations, an indulgent spa, and a community-based member-driven health club. It can accommodate vessels from 12 to 200 feet and has received numerous premier Connecticut marina awards. More information is available at www.saybrook.com.

About the Trust for Public Land

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at www.tpl.org.

 

Old Saybrook Gives Overwhelming Approval for $3 Million Preserve Land Purchase

Polling taking place at the Old Saybrook High School (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Polling taking place at the Old Saybrook High School (photo by Jerome Wilson)

OLD SAYBROOK— Voters Tuesday gave overwhelming approval for $3 million in bonding for the town’s share of a planned $8 million purchase of the Preserve property, described as the “1,000 acre forest.” The bonding for the 930 acres located in Old Saybrook was approved on a 2,002-242 vote in an eight-hour referendum.

About 20 percent of the town’s 7,361 registered voters turned out for the referendum, with 115 property owners who are not registered voters in Old Saybrook also casting ballots. The bonding approval is the key element in a combination of funding sources that is expected to lead to a closing on the property by the end of the year.

First Selectman Carl Fortuna said he was not surprised by the huge margin of support. “This has been a generational issue in this town and it’s finally being put to bed,” Fortuna said, adding that he was aware of no organized opposition to the bonding authorization while “there was certainly organized support.”

The parcel, which includes 70 acres in Essex and four acres in Westbrook, is located off Bokum Road and Ingham Hill Road in Old Saybrook and Ingham Hill Road in Essex. The property had been the subject of development proposals dating back to 1999 that once called for over 200 homes and a golf course. It is currently owned by River Sound Development/Lehman Brothers, with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers setting the stage for negotiations that led to a purchase plan earlier this year. The purchase negotiations were coordinated by the non-profit Trust For Public Land.

Along with the Old Saybrook contribution, the plan calls for about $3.3 million in state funding and about $1.9 million from the Trust For Public Land. Essex voters will be asked at a July 16 town meeting to approve a $200,000 town funding contribution, with the Essex Land Conservation Trust also contributing through private fund raising. The Essex town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.at town hall.

Fortuna said the acreage in Old Saybrook would be co-owned by the town and the state. The Essex Land Conservation Trust will own the section of the property in Essex. Fortuna said trails through the vast property should be improved and ready for public use by the summer of 2015.

Supporters of the referendum near the polling station (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Supporters of the referendum near the polling station (photo by Jerome Wilson)

 

Blumenthal Urges “Yes” Vote for $3 Million Towards Purchase of ‘The Preserve’

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U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal at July 7 rally for a “yes vote” at July 8 referendum

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal came to the Old Saybrook Green on Monday, July 7, to urge Old Saybrook voters to vote “Yes” in a referendum to grant $3 million of town monies to help purchase 930 undeveloped acres in the open land known as The Preserve. The referendum for Old Saybrook voters will be held on Tuesday, July 8, at the Old Saybrook High School gymnasium, and the polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

Other public officials urging a “Yes” vote on the July 8 town referendum were: Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, State Representative Phil Miller; and Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Fortuna said in his prepared remarks, “This property has been at the center of attention, good and bad, for 20 years. It is now time for resolution. We are optimistic that enough private and public funds can be raised to purchase the property and preserve The Preserve in its natural state. The Town will work cooperatively with all parties in this effort, including DEEP. Most importantly, I will work for and listen to Old Saybrook’s residents as they decide the future of this parcel.”

State Representative Miller said in his prepared remarks, “We’re grateful to the citizens of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, and our allies, the Trust for Public Land, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Governor Malloy, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, Congressman Courtney, First Selectmen Fortuna and Needleman and the Connecticut legislature. A thousand acres forever preserved. What a rightful thing.”

Essex First Selectman Urges “Yes Vote”

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said in his prepared remarks, “Over in Essex, we’re excited about the proposition for acquiring this majestic property. Essex will hold a public hearing and town meeting to approve a $200,000 appropriation for the purchase on July 16 and look forward to joining our neighbors in Old Saybrook in support of this wonderful project.”

The Essex town meeting to consider approval of the town’s $200,000 appropriation to The Preserve’s acquisition will be held at 6:45 p.m. on July 16 at Essex Town Hall.

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Senator Blumenthal takes time to chat with Democratic State Senate candidate, Emily Bjornberg, at referendum rally

Other Supporters of Acquisition

Other remarks for the occasion were offered by Chris Cryder, Special Projects Coordinator of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, who said, “Coming off July Fourth weekend, this is an exciting time for Old Saybrook to exercise their patriotic rights and vote to protect this important piece of land here in town.”

Also, Alicia Sullivan, Connecticut State Director of the Trust for Public Land said, “We commend Governor Malloy and the General Assembly for the state’s early funding commitment to this significant landscape. Also, we are grateful to Senator Blumenthal and our congressional delegation for supporting federal conservation programs that the state will use for this acquisition.”

An audience of some 30 to 40 persons attended the pre-vote July 7 rally.

Deep River Historical Society Exhibit Marks World War I Centennial

Arthur Winschel and Alice Johnson. Winschel's father was the parent of World War I veteran, William Winschel

Arthur Winschel and Alice Johnson stand in the new World War I exhibition at the Stone House Museum in Deep River. Winschel and Johnson’s father was World War I veteran, Pte. William Winschel. (Photos by Jerome Wilson.)

DEEP RIVER— The Deep River Historical Society is hosting an exhibit highlighting the role of town residents in World War I, which began as a conflict among the great powers of Europe in August 1914. The exhibit, at the society’s Stone House Museum on Main Street, opens Saturday and continues through the end of October.

America entered the war in May 1917 in the wake of German submarine attacks on ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Records show a total of 112 Deep River residents served during the 18 months of United States involvement in the conflict that ended with the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. The date that is now marked as the Veteran’s Day holiday.

Kathy Schultz, assistant curator at the Stone House, said the society reviewed its collection, and received several new donations and loans to prepare for the exhibit. The exhibit has uniforms and equipment, including helmets and gas masks, used by town residents during the war. There are also photographs and century-old postcards brought home from France, where most of the town residents served.

Uniform of World War I Sergeant Harry Mavin, who war the first Commander of American Legion Post 61 in Deep River

Uniform of World War I Sergeant Harry Mavin, who war the first Commander of American Legion Post 61 in Deep River

While the last of the town’s World War I veterans died in the 1970s and 1980s, there are several residents whose fathers served in the war that some called “the war to end all wars.” Siblings Arthur Winschel and Alice Johnson are the children of Private Willam Winschel, who entered the war at age 21 in the fall of 1917 as part of the New York-based 305th Infantry regiment. Winschel was wounded during fighting in France in November 1918, and returned to Deep River several months later.

Arthur Winschel said his father survived a German mustard gas attack that damaged his lungs. Despite the injury, William Winschel later worked at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and died in 1974 at age 77. The Winschel siblings, who were not yet born when their father was in the war, have donated several items to the exhibit, including his uniform.

Schultz said society members are hoping other residents from Deep River or nearby towns with relatives who served in World War I will visit the exhibit, and possibly provide information or photographs of area residents that served in the war. “We want it to be an ongoing exhibit,” she said.

The Stone House hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., with the exception of Saturday, July 19, when Main Street hosts the annual Deep River Fife and Drum Muster.

Nominating Conventions Set Up Contest Between Democrat Emily Bjornbergand Republican Art Linares in 33rd District

AREAWIDE— Democrats Monday nominated political newcomer Emily Bjornberg of Lyme to challenge one-term incumbent Republican State Senator Art Linares of Westbrook in the 12-town 33rd Senate district.

Bjornberg, 33, was the unanimous choice of the 45 delegates gathered for the Democratic convention at the Old Town Hall in Haddam. Linares, 25, was nominated by delegates at the May 12 Republican convention at the Riverhouse in Haddam.

Linares, cofounder of a Middletown-based solar energy company, was elected in a three-way contest in 2012, succeeding a 20-year Democratic incumbent, former Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook. Ljnares defeated Jim Crawford of Westbrook, who was then serving as a state representative, on a 23,915-21,251 vote in a race where an active Green Party candidate, Melissa Schlag of Haddam, garnered 4,317 votes. Schlag later rejoined the Democratic Party was elected last year as first selectwoman of Haddam, She was present at the convention Monday to support Bjornberg.

Also offering support at the convention was Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, telling delegates “we’re finally going to get someone who will replace Eileen Daily.” Bjornberg was nominated by Crawford, with seconding remarks from Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam, who competed with Crawford for the party nomination at an August 2012 Democratic primary, and Daily.

Bjornberg, the married mother of two grown children, contended Linares’s views and votes over the part 18 months are “clearly out of step with the majority of his constituents.” She cited Linares vote against raising the minimum wage, and opposition to bills that included grant funding for local projects in the district.

Bjornberg said Linares would often vote against total funding bills, and then claim credit for grants that are awarded for projects in district towns. “I will be a strong voice for our district inside the majority caucus,” she said.

Linares was nominated last week by former state representative and environmental protection commissioner Sidney Holbrook of Westbrook, with seconding remarks by Carl Chuznik of Portland. Linares told the delegates he would continue efforts to improve the business climate in Connecticut and support policies that provide more flexibility and local control in education.

The 33rd Senate District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex,, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and sections of Old Saybrook.

Democrats Nominate Terrance Lomme as for Second Term as regional Judge of Probate

AREAWIDE— Democrats Thursday nominated incumbent Judge Terrance Lomme of Essex for a second four-year term as judge of probate for the nine-town region. Lomme was the unanimous choice of the 31 delegates gathered for the nominating convention at Essex Town Hall.
The nine-town region, which was established under the statewide consolidation of probate courts in 2010, includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. The court is located in Old Saybrook.
Lomme was nominated by Bruce Edgarton of Deep River, with seconding remarks from Larry Oullette of Clinton. Edgarton said Lomme has “invaluable experience,” as a practicing lawyer for 30 years and former local judge of probate in East Haddam during the early 1990s. He said Lomme had successfully implemented the consolidation of the nine local probate courts during the eight weeks between election day 2010 and the start of the new judge term in January 2011.
Lomme, in brief remarks to the convention, recalled his initial endorsement for the judge of probate position at a May 2010 party nominating convention where six candidates competed through six ballots before he secured a majority of the delegates. “What a difference four years makes,” he said, adding that “compassion and understanding” are requirements for the regional judge position..
Lomme won the party nomination in 2010 after an August primary with Raymond Rigat of Clinton, who was serving as that town’s local probate judge at the time. Lomme later defeated the Republican nominee, Clinton lawyer Anselmo Delia, by a 419 vote margin in the general election. Lomme faces a rematch contest with Delia in the Nov. 4 election. Delia was nominated for a second run for the regional judge position by delegates at the Republican convention on May 8.

Letters: Pleased with Sen. Linares’ Voting Record

To the Editor:

I’m sorry to read Mr. Harfst (letter May 13, 2014) is unsatisfied with Sen. Linares’ voting record.  I am quite pleased with it myself.

Senator Linares understands what raising the minimum wage does to small businesses.  He understands in this abysmal economy, forcing small business owners to pay a higher minimum wage can mean forcing them to cut low-wage jobs in order to stay afloat.  Otherwise the businesses go under, and then who does that help?  If Mr. Harfst believes those in menial jobs deserve higher pay, why stop at $10.10?  Why not go to $15?  How about $25 as the Swiss have proposed?  Low skill jobs were never intended to be the highlight of one’s career.  They were to be rungs in the ladder to help them achieve a higher ambition.  My own children did unpaid internships, worked for less than minimum wage in jobs during the summers, and now, as adults, they all have careers they busted their tushes to attain.  That’s the way our system is supposed to work.  People get rewarded for hard work done well.

Absentee ballots have been abused over the years.  With all the volunteers who are willing to drive people to the polls and the long hours the polls are open, it’s hard to believe people can’t get themselves to the polls one way or another.  It’s called personal responsibility.

Gun safety laws (i.e., gun control) after a tragedy like Sandy Hook help the population feel as though they’re doing something good after such a horrific event, however all the laws already on the books at the time of the tragedy didn’t prevent it.  Maybe if people at the school had been armed, someone may have been able to stop the perpetrator before he killed so many innocents.  We don’t read of the crimes stopped and people saved by armed citizens with concealed carry permits because those kinds of reports don’t fit the liberal narrative.  Personally, I feel safer thinking there might be someone in the shopping mall, theater, or restaurant who, at a moment’s notice, could fend off a madman.

And, speaking of the Constitution, I assume Mr. Harfst is for it.  I assume he enjoys the freedoms it assures.  If he is, then he is a Tea Partier.  Welcome!  Tea Party members, like me, believe in protecting the document that has been the envy of people all over the world, hence the reason so many want to become Americans.

As far as Sen. Linares voting “no” to certain legislation, I’m sure his reasons were as valid for his no vote as Mr. Harfst’s party’s reasons for voting for it.  As Justice Antonin Scalia says, and I’m paraphrasing, “Our system is set up to have roadblocks when it comes to legislation.  It helps prevent bad bills from being passed.  If both sides finally agree on a bill, it’s probably a good bill.”  I trust Sen. Linares to represent his constituents by using his judgment as to whether a bill is good or bad.  I also find it sad Mr. Harfst considers Sen. Linares’ “exploits” like supporting toy drives and hosting flag collections as unworthy endeavors.  I doubt the children who receive the toys or the patriots who know their tattered flags will be disposed of properly consider these events a waste of time.  And for him to vote “no” on even higher gas prices, I say “YAY”!  They’re already some of the highest taxes in the country and any increase hurts most the aforementioned low-wage earners Mr. Harfst presumes to want to help.

Senator Linares is continuously meeting, speaking to, and most of all, listening to his constituents so he can do the work they want him to do.  In other words, he’s doing exactly what he was elected to do.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Forrest
Essex

Republicans Nominate Anselmo Delia of Clinton for Second Run for Judgeship

Anselmo Delia

Anselmo Delia

ESSEX— Republicans Thursday nominated Clinton lawyer Anselmo Delia for a second run for the judgeship in the nine-town Saybrook Probate Court District. Delia was the unanimous choice of the 33 delegates gathered for the GOP district convention at Old Saybrook Town Hall.

Delia, 59, will challenge incumbent Democratic Judge of Probate Terrance Lomme of Essex in a rematch of their 2010 election contest for the position, the first election after a state-mandated consolidation of local probate courts in each town. Lomme defeated Delia by 419 votes out of a total district-wide vote of about 26,300.
Delia carried the district towns of Clinton, Haddam, Killingworth and Westbrook, while Lomme carried the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, and Old Saybrook. Lomme is expected to be renominated for a second term by district Democrats at a May 21 convention.
Delia, the married father of two grown children, cited his 27 years of volunteer service in Clinton as a key qualification for the position, along with 32 years of experience as a general practice attorney. Along with leadership positions on the Clinton Republican Town Committee, Delia has served on the town’s board of education, youth and family services board, and economic development commission. He is the current elected chairman of the planning and zoning commission, and has also served on a town charter revision commission, and a new interchange development committee committee that is developing strategies for redevelopment of the Morgan High School property as the town prepares to build a new high school.
“Community service is a very important part of public life”, Delia said in remarks to the delegates. Delia said this service on various town boards, commissions, and committees “is one characteristic where my candidacy is very different from my opponent’s,” adding “to my knowledge he has never serves on any town board or commission.”
Delia said he would serve as a full-time regional judge of probate, “winding down and terminating” his law practice if he is elected,. “This is a high paying job and you deserve an individual that commits to it 100 percent,” he said.
Delia said he is planning an active campaign for the Nov. 4 vote, urging delegates to contribute to his campaign financially if possible, but also through volunteer efforts and spreading information about his candidacy on social media. Delia said he would seek a public debate with Lomme, an event that did not occur during their 2310 race.

Ten Shoreline FDs Collect 6,285 Pounds Food for Shoreline Soup Kitchens

The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries is pleased to announce that the 2014 Firehouse Food Drive held on April 26, 2014 raised 6,285 pounds of food for local residents in need.  With the largest group of participating fire stations ever, volunteers and donors across the shoreline donned their raingear to lend a hand during the stormy Saturdaymorning.

The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) is particularly grateful that this drive was a success, despite the rainy weather, because March and April are traditionally slow donation months.

This is the third year that area fire stations have participated in the drive. Ten towns joined in the effort, including Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, Westbrook, Essex, Killingworth, Chester, Deep River, North Madison, Clinton and Niantic. Firehouses provided staff and publicity, opened their doors as drop off locations and helped to deliver donations to the pantries. Many stations also set up tents and sorting stations, handed out grocery bags, posted social media announcements, distributed lists of most-needed foods, and collected food at other April fire house events.

In addition, the Clinton Shop Rite, Clinton Stop & Shop, Old Saybrook Stop & Shop, and Roberts Food Center of North Madison offered additional donation areas, manned by firehouse volunteers. This year the Old Saybrook firehouse brought in media sponsors, including Shore Publishing, who donated large advertisements in three newspapers. Radio stations Soft Rock 106.5 WBMW, Connecticut’s Hottest Jamz Jammin 107.7, and 94.9 News Now! helped get the word out with a live broadcast from the Old Saybrook firehouse, and AM stations WMRD 1150 and WLIS 1420 made many public service announcements.

“Every day the personnel of the our volunteer fire stations are available to help those effected by fire and emergencies—they never turn down a call for assistance and raise their hearts and hands to help those in need.  On April 26th, once again these amazing men and women gave of their precious time to answer the call of those most needy in our community.  On behalf of SSKP and those we serve, thank you so much for this amazing gift of time and help—not only to our many fire stations, but to all those who dropped off food—you made a real difference in the lives of your neighbors”, said Patty Dowling, SSKP Executive Director.

The need for donated food is on-going throughout the year, and SSKP urges other community groups to consider organizing food drives. The Shoreline Soup Kitchen’s five pantries distributed over 1 million pounds of food in 2013. Only 40% of this food is obtained through food banks; the remainder must be either purchased or donated. Call(860) 388-1988 or visit www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org for more information. All drives, no matter what the size, are greatly appreciated.

The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries provides food and fellowship to people in need and educates the community about hunger and poverty, serving the Connecticut shoreline towns of Essex, Chester, Clinton, Madison, Old Saybrook, East Lyme, Lyme, Old Lyme, Killingworth, Westbrook and Deep River. Founded 25 years ago, in 1989, at the Baptist Church in Essex, the agency continues in its mission to feed the hungry in body and spirit. Last year with a small staff and over 900 dedicated volunteers, SSKP served enough food for over 908,000 meals to shoreline neighbors in need.

 

A Smooth Transition from Essex to Westbrook for Middlesex Hospital

Exterior of new Emergency Whelen Pavilion in Westbrook

Exterior of new Emergency Whelen Pavilion in Westbrook

On Monday morning, April 28, Middlesex Hospital quietly closed its doors to medical patients at its long-term Shoreline Medical Center in Essex, and at the same time, opened its doors to new patients at its new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook. The new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center is located at 250 Flat Rock Place, Westbrook, just off of Interstate 95 at Exit 65 and neighbors to the Tanger Outlets.

Closed down Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Essex

Closed down Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Essex

There were a multitude of road signs posted, announcing that the Shoreline Medical Center in Essex was moving to Westbrook. The move was also widely covered in the media. The new facility opened its doors at 7 a.m. with its first Emergency Department patient arriving at 7:01 a.m.

With 44,000 square feet the new Medical Center in Westbrook is double the size of the old medical center in Essex. In contrast to the building of the old Essex center, the new Medical Center in Westbrook has two, distinct entrances. They are: (1) The Whelen Emergency Pavilion ­– 24/7 emergency services with 24 acute care beds and (2) the Outpatient Center ­– two entrances, registration and waiting area.

The Whelen Emergency Pavilion offers patients true emergency care with its separate, covered entrance for up to five ambulatory vehicles, including a helipad to transport patients from the Emergency Department, and an “Express Care” designated to minor injuries or illness but still considered an emergency visit.

As for the Outpatient Center, it offers patients a wide range of medical services. They are: (1) Radiology Department, including the latest generation MRI, CT scanning, X-ray digital fluoroscopy and more, (2) Women’s Imaging Center, including digital mammography, ultrasound and bone densitometry, (3) Laboratory for emergency and routine blood work, and (4) Infusion – a private area for receiving intravenous (IV) fluids.

 Middlesex Hospital President and CEO On Hand

On hand for the first day of operation of the new Shoreline Medical Center was Middlesex Hospital’s President and CEO, Vincent Capece. Regarding the move from Essex to the new facility, Capece said, “The transition to our new facility has been smooth, and there were no major glitches. This was the result of all the efforts of many employees in planning this transition.”

Opening day -  (left to right) Pat Cozza, volunteer; Vincent Capece, President & CEO, Middlesex Hospital; and Beth Saity, Telecommunications.

Opening day – (left to right) Pat Cozza, volunteer; Vincent Capece, President & CEO, Middlesex Hospital; and Beth Saity, Telecommunications.

Senator Linares Endorses McKinney for Governor

John McKinney

John McKinney

State Senator Art Linares (R-Westbrook) today endorsed State Senate Republican Leader John McKinney to be the next governor of the state of Connecticut.

“Republicans have a great opportunity in this election to take back the governor’s office and win a number of new seats in the legislature, but we will not be successful unless we have a strong candidate at the top of our ticket, Senator John McKinney is that candidate,” Linares said. “Senator McKinney is a dynamic leader capable of taking our Party and our state in a positive new direction.”

Senator Linares represents the 35th State Senate District in the Connecticut General Assembly, which encompasses the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and his hometown of Westbrook. He is ranking member on the Banks Committee. In his private life, Linares, 25, is cofounder of a successful, Middletown-based, commercial solar energy company.

Linares is of Cuban-American descent. His grandparents fled communist Cuba in the 1960’s to start over in America where his father started his own business. Linares, who volunteered for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio before running for office himself, has made it a priority to improve Republican outreach to Latino communities.

“Senator McKinney, can relate Republican values to young voters, female voters and Latino voters – constituencies we must rally to build a strong foundation for the future of our Party,” Linares said.

McKinney thanked Linares for his endorsement. “Senator Linares represents the future of our Party. I marvel at what this young man has accomplished in such a short period of time and what the future may hold for him. I am grateful for his support and for what he has taught me about the issues important to his constituents in southeastern Connecticut.”

University of New Haven and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts Reach Historic Agreement

OLD LYME – The governing bodies of both the University of New Haven and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts have unanimously approved a proposal for Lyme Academy College to become the university’s sixth college.

“The affiliation of these two outstanding institutions is an exciting and historic event,” said University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan. “This will raise the stature of fine arts education in the Northeast and expand the benefits, services and opportunities that the university and Lyme Academy College provide to students, faculty, alumni and all Connecticut residents.”

Robert W. Pratt Jr., chairman of the Board of Trustees of Lyme Academy College, agreed, adding, “The cultural, educational and civic resources of both institutions will become stronger, more exciting and increasingly available to a larger constituency.”

The Board of Trustees of Lyme Academy College and the Board of Governors of the University of New Haven both provided their approvals in early April. The Connecticut Office of Higher Education and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges also approved the affiliation.

“I am grateful for the bold decision of both boards,” Kaplan said. “We will work closely with Lyme Academy College to support and enhance what already is a top-tier fine arts education program that is one of the cultural and educational jewels of the Northeast.”

The affiliation presents many advantages to both institutions. Lyme Academy College will benefit from the operational breadth and depth of the University of New Haven, gaining access to an expanded range of liberal arts courses and complementary UNH art programs, such as design and digital media. The University of New Haven also offers study-abroad opportunities at its campus outside Florence, Italy, where Lyme Academy College students can attend classes. Lyme Academy College students also will gain access to the university’s growing portfolio of new and exciting learning opportunities.

“Very little will change as regards the student experience,” said Lyme Academy College President Scott Colley. “We will retain the acclaimed essence of the college – the small size of our classes, the hands-on experiences and the opportunity to become immersed in representational art. But we will gain access to an expanded reservoir of courses, technologies and academic initiatives that will strengthen the educational experience. Additionally, the opportunity to study abroad in Italy is particularly appealing to our students.

“After 20 years as an academy and almost another 20 as a fully accredited independent college, this affiliation represents a wonderful opportunity for Lyme Academy College to take the next step in its evolution as it becomes part of a much larger university, while retaining all the attributes of a small institution,” Colley continued.

The University of New Haven will add Lyme Academy College’s high-quality Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) program to its curriculum, making it possible for UNH students to study painting, sculpting, drawing and illustration. The university does not currently offer a B.F.A.

“Our university is known for the unique experiential programs it offers to students. The program at Lyme Academy College fits in well with our rapidly expanding offerings at our main campus in West Haven, our new campus in Orange, and our international program in Italy,” Kaplan said.

“We are determined to protect and preserve the mission of Lyme Academy College, retaining the unique qualities that appeal to students seeking an arts degree in an idyllic, rural setting in Old Lyme, Conn., that nurtures creativity,” he added.

The University of New Haven is a private, top-tier comprehensive institution recognized as a national leader in experiential education. The university has 80 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Founded in 1920, the university enrolls approximately 1,800graduate students and more than 4,600 undergraduates.

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts continues the academic tradition of figurative and representational fine art while preparing students for a lifetime of contemporary creative practice. The college offers the bachelor of fine arts degree in drawing, illustration, painting, and sculpture (full- and part-time study); certificates in painting and sculpture; a post-baccalaureate program; continuing education for adults; and a pre-college program for students aged 15-18. The college is located at 84 Lyme St. in Old Lyme.

Emily Bjornberg of Lyme Declares Democratic Candidacy for 33rd State Senate Seat

Emily Bjornberg, State Senate candidate (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Emily Bjornberg, State Senate candidate (photo by Jerome Wilson)

AREAWIDE– With three 2012 election rivals and the district’s former 20-year Democratic senator looking on, Emily Bjornberg of Lyme Monday declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 12-town 33rd State Senate District. Bjornberg will challenge the first term incumbent elected in 2012, Republican State Senator Art Linares of Westbrook.

About 50 friends and supporters turned out for Bjornberg’s announcement at the Deep River Town Landing on the banks of the Connecticut River. Bjornberg, 33, was joined by her husband, Jason, an Iraq War veteran, and children Elliot (age 7), and Anna (age 4).

But it was the other participants at the announcement that signaled district Democrats have united behind Bjornberg in an effort to reclaim the senate seat. There was former ten-term State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook, who had represented the district for two decades before her retirement in 2012, and two former candidates who faced off in an August 2012 primary for the nomination to succeed Daily, former state Rep. James Crawford of Westbrook, and longtime party activist Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam. Crawford won the nomination in the primary.

Also standing near the podium was Haddam First Selectwoman Melissa Schlag. Elected as first selectwoman as a Democrat last November, Schlag had run an aggressive campaign for the senate seat in 2012 as the nominee of the Green Party. Linares, at age 24, won the seat in 2012, defeating Crawford on a 23,915 to 21,251 vote. Schlag received 4,317 votes as the Green Party candidate.

Endorsement of Bjornberg's candidacy by Haddam First Selectman Melissa Schlag, a ranking woman office holder (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Endorsement of Bjornberg’s candidacy by Haddam First Selectman Melissa Schlag, a ranking woman office holder (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Schlag Monday pledged to actively support Bjornberg in the challenge to the incumbent Republican. “We’re all together again,” she said. Klinck said Bjornberg was “a true social justice Democrat,” who would appeal to young people in the campaign. Daily described Bjornberg as “a very sound Democrat with a huge social conscience that we can all be proud of,” while Crawford said Bjornberg would bring the Linares record on various issues “into the daylight.”

Former State Senator Eileen Daily endorsing Bjornberg's candidacy for her former seat (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Former State Senator Eileen Daily endorsing Bjornberg’s candidacy for her former seat (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Bjornberg is from the Reynolds family that owns and operates the Reynolds Subaru dealership in the Hamburg section of Lyme. She has worked for the past eight years as Director of Youth and Family Ministries for the Deep River Congregational Church, and is also active with the Lyme Land Conservation Trust.

Bjornberg pledged an active campaign for the Nov. 4 election, citing education, the environment, and the economy as the three top issues.. “I will be a strong voice for our region in the majority caucus, where important policy and legislative decisions are made,” she said, adding “we can no longer afford to be represented by a senator who did not receive a majority of votes in the last election, and who routinely votes against legislation that will benefit our towns.”

Bjornberg is expected to receive an uncontested endorsement for the Democratic nomination at the district nominating convention on May 19. Linares is expected to be nominated for a second term by district Republicans at a May 12 convention. The 33rd Senate District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.

 

John W. Rafal Ranked 12th in Barron’s Special Report on the Top 100 Financial Advisors

John Rafal, long term resident of Old Lyme and the Founder and current Vice Chair of Essex Financial Services, has been ranked 12th in Barron’s special report of the nation’s Top 100 Financial Advisors.

John Rafal, long term resident of Old Lyme and the Founder and current Vice Chair of Essex Financial Services, has been ranked 12th in Barron’s special report of the nation’s Top 100 Financial Advisors.

Essex – Barron’s, the acclaimed financial and investment newsweekly, has published the 2014 list of America’s Top 100 Financial Advisors, and John W. Rafal of Essex, Connecticut, is ranked number 12. Very few independent advisors, such as John Rafal, were included in the list, which is mostly composed of advisors from the major wire house firms.

Mr. Rafal is the Founder and current Vice Chair of Essex Financial Services, which is owned by Essex Savings Bank. The ranking appears in the April 21 edition of Barron’s
(www.barrons.com).

In the story accompanying the list, Barron’s noted that John Rafal was among a small group of financial advisors who have appeared on the top 100 list every year since inception in 2004.

“I am gratified to Barron’s for the recognition and accept the honor on behalf of the entire team at Essex Financial Services,” said John Rafal. “I want to express my sincere thanks to our clients, many of whom we have represented for over 30 years. It’s a privilege to earn and retain your trust.”

Doug Paul, Chairman of the Board of Essex Savings Bank, which also owns Essex Financial Services, stated, “The Barron’s ranking is a testament to John Rafal and the entire team at Essex Financial Services. On behalf of the entire board and management team, I want to offer our congratulations to John Rafal.”

Essex Financial Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Essex Savings Bank, is one of the leading independent financial advisory firms in the country

Middlesex Hospital Holds Well Attended “Open House” at New Medical Center in Westbrook

Exterior of Emergency Center with helicopter coming in

Exterior of Emergency Center with helicopter coming in

Middlesex Hospital held a very successful preview of its new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook on Saturday, April 19. The new center is located off I-95 at Exit 65 and has a street address of 250 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook. The four-hour preview event on the 19th, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., attracted a flood of visitors to the new 44,000 square foot medical facility.

The new medical center will open its doors for patients on Monday, April 28. Until then, Middlesex Hospital will continue to provide medical services at its present medical center in Essex. Once the new center opens in Westbrook, the Essex center will be closed down permanently. It should be noted that Middlesex Hospital has been providing emergency medical services at various locations in Essex since the 1970’s.

Middlesex Hospital’s new facility on Flat Rock Place in Westbrook is housed in a single long building, which is divided into two discrete sections. The section on the right, when facing the building coming off Flat Rock Road, houses the Emergency Center. The section on the left houses the Outpatient Center. There is a single walk-in entrance to the Emergency Center. There are two entrances to the Outpatient Center, one facing Flat Rock Place, and the other at the left side of the building.

The Emergency Center

The Emergency Department, named the “Whelen Emergency Pavilion,” offers emergency medical treatment, for things such as a heart attack, or a crushed limb. Also, located at the Emergency Center is an “Express Care” treatment center, which offers treatment for injuries of a non-emergency nature, such as a sprained ankle, or for a minor cut.

Laurel Patt, Director, Radiology Services; Paula Howley, radiologic technologist; and Kim Carey, radiologic technologist

Laurel Patt, Director, Radiology Services; Paula Howley, radiologic technologist; and Kim Carey, radiologic technologist

There is also a separate ambulance entrance to the Whelen Emergency Pavilion, with a helipad located just beyond the ambulance area. To give visitors a little extra excitement during the recent open house, the LifeStar helicopter made a special landing on the helipad and allowed visitors to explore it.

The Outpatient Center

The Outpatient Center is the section of the Medical Center which is to the left of the Emergency Center, when entering from Flat Rock Place. The Outpatient Center has two separate entrances, one at the front of the building, and another on the left side of the building. The services offered at the Outpatient Center are extensive. They include: a Radiology Department, which offers state-of-the-art imaging services, including the latest generation MRI, CT scanning, X-ray, digital fluoroscopy, among other services.

Interior of waiting area of the Outpatient Center

Interior of waiting area of the Outpatient Center

A Women’s Imaging Center is also located in the Outpatient Center. It includes private spaces for digital mammography, ultrasound and bone density examinations.  Also in the Outpatient Center has a new MRI unit, which features the most advanced imaging with a wider and shorter opening aperture.

In addition this is the location of the Medical Center’s laboratory, which is accessible to outpatients and for emergency services. Finally, in the Outpatient Center there is an infusion section with a private area for receiving intravenous (IV) fluids.

On an artistic note there is also a Community Gallery featuring rotating works of art by professional, amateur and student artists. There is also an open area stone garden off the left end of the building.

Entertainments for the Day

At the recent Saturday open house, in addition to tours of the Emergency and Outpatient Centers, there were vehicles on display from the Westbrook and Essex Ambulance Associations, the Middlesex Hospital Paramedic service and neighboring commercial car dealers. Also, there were free blood pressure screenings offered to visitors, and a roving magician to entertain the young. In addition, Connecticut State Police officers distributed child fingerprint ID’s, among other amusements for the young and old.

Talking Transportation: The Feds Deep Dive into Metro-North

Jim CameronIt was worse than we’d ever known. Metro-North was almost an accident waiting to happen.

That summarizes the Federal Railway Administration’s “Operation Deep Dive” report issued last week, following 60 days of probing into every aspect of the railroad’s operations. All of this comes on the heels of collisions and derailments in the past year that have taken the lives of four commuters and two railroad workers.

The 28-page report confirms that what was wrong at Metro-North was not just old equipment but a failure of management with very misplaced priorities. “On-time performance” was what mattered most, even at the expense of safety.

Among the report’s findings…

• Half of the personnel who dispatch and monitor the trains have less than three years’ experience, are not properly trained and are so tired they make mistakes

• The railroad’s “safety culture” was “poor”. Safety meetings went unattended.

• Fatigue by train engineers, track workers and dispatchers may have affected performance.

• The trains themselves are in good shape, but the tracks are not.

I’ve been following Metro-North for more than 20 years, so much of this is not news to me but just a substantiation of my worst fears. Still, the report makes for interesting reading because it cites many examples as proof-points for these findings:

Metro-North has known for a decade that they were facing a “retirement cliff” with 20% of its employees, those with the most experience, reaching their 30th anniversary of employment to retire on fat pensions. But the railroad was clearly inadequate in hiring and training their replacements.

Fatigue becomes a factor because soon-to-retire veterans grab all the overtime they can in their final year to increase their income and their railroad pensions. They are among the oldest employees and least resilient.

Metro-North’s management wasn’t even enforcing its own rules. The report says employees were “confused” about cell phone use on the job. Any teenager studying for his driver’s license knows not to use a cell phone while driving, but track workers at Metro-North got away with it.

Additional funding for staff and infrastructure are important and must be found. But turning around a culture of lax enforcement and lip-service to safety is going to take more than money.

Only a month on the job, espousing “safety is our top priority” at every turn, the new President of Metro-North, Joseph Giulietti, recently saw the first fatal accident on his watch: a track worker, 8 years on the job, was struck by a train just outside the Park Avenue tunnel. Why?

There are no quick fixes to this mess. It took years of invisible neglect for Metro-North to slide into this abyss, and it will take years to rebuild the railroad and regain riders’ trust.

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years. He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

 

Middlesex Hospital to Open New Westbrook Medical Center in April

Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook to open in April

Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook to open in April

Middlesex Hospital is on track to open a new emergency and outpatient medical center off Exit 65 of I-95 in Westbrook this coming April.  The new 44,000 square foot medical center is located at 250 Flat Rock Road, which is on the road that leads up to the Tanger Outlet Mall.

As soon as the new Westbrook medical center is completed, Middlesex Hospital will make the transition from its existing Shoreline Medical Center in Essex.  The new Westbrook location will be double the size of the Essex facility.  In addition, it will have the capacity to expand up to 60,000 square feet, if there is a need to do so.

Middlesex Hospital’s new Westbrook facility will have many improvements over the present Essex facility.  They include an expanded emergency center with 24 beds, as well as an urgent care area for non-emergency patients.  Patient privacy will be also be improved at the new center and there will be a separate outside entrance to the adjoining outpatient area.

In addition, the new facility will have a full service laboratory, an infusion therapy suite, expanded radiology services and a designated women’s imaging area.

Chester Company Donates $1 Million to New Center

Whelen Engineering, Inc., which is headquartered in Chester, is donating $1 million towards the building of the new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook.  The new Emergency Department in Westbrook will be aptly named the “Whelen Emergency Center.”

Whelen Engineering previously donated $1 million towards to the construction of a new Emergency Department in Middletown, which the hospital named the “Whelen Emergency Pavilion.”

Middlesex Hospital’s History of Medical Care on the Shoreline

Middlesex Hospital has a history, beginning in 1970, of providing medical care to the shoreline residents of Middlesex County.  The hospital first rented a space in Centerbrook, where it set up a full-service, satellite Emergency Department.

From its first day of operation, this Shoreline Medical Center in Centerbrook experienced phenomenal growth.  In fact, it soon became impossible for the medical center to remain at its Centerbrook location and properly serve an overrun of patients for the size of the facility.

Then,  two Essex residents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred P. Knapp,  came to the rescue by donating to Middlesex Hospital 10.4 acres of land on which to build a new, permanent, Shoreline Medical Center in Essex.  Today, the facility serves on average 2,000 to 2,500 patients a month in its Emergency Department alone.  In addition, the Medical Center’s Emergency Department has received a number of prestigious awards for its excellence in patient satisfaction.

Shoreline Medical Clinic in Essex, which will close this coming April when Westbrook Medical Center opens

Shoreline Medical Clinic in Essex, which will close this coming April when Westbrook Medical Center opens

Middlesex Hospital to date has not announced its plans for the building in Essex, once it has been closed and replaced by the new Westbrook facility.

No “Butts” About It, CVS Pharmacies Have Stopped Selling Cigarettes; While Rival, Rite Aid, Is Still Selling Them

riteaid4

The nation’s largest pharmacy chain, CVS, recently announced that it would stop selling cigarettes. However, one of its major competitors in the pharmacy business, Rite Aid, has declined not to adopt a similar policy.

Rite Aid’s Bob Neveu, who is in charge of the pharmacy at the Colonial shopping center in Essex, maintains that even though Rite Aid still sell cigarettes, it is still cutting back in selling tobacco products generally. “We used to have a special cigar section in the stores,” he says, and now they have been eliminated.

Rite Aid’s Nevey admits he has always felt that, “it was somewhat incongruous for a health goods store, like Rite Aid, to be selling cigarettes.” However, regardless of the store manager’s personal feelings, cigarettes enjoy a prime spot behind the checkout counter at the front of the store, where Marlboro cigarette packages and other brands are on full display. 

As for the CVS pharmacy chain, in its pharmacy in downtown Old Saybrook on Boston Post Road, it indeed appears that CVS is not selling cigarettes, true to its word. Not a single cigarette package was evident on recent visit. However, it does appear that CVS has not given up selling other tobacco products. On a recent visit right behind the checkout counters, although there were no cigarettes in view, there were clearly other kinds of tobacco products for sale.

CVS pharmacy where they no longer sell cigarettes

CVS pharmacy where they no longer sell cigarettes

When asked what they were, “We sell pipe tobacco and cigars,” said one of the women behind the CVS checkout counter.

 

Essex Savings Bank and Essex Financial Services, Inc. to Contribute $223,373 to Charity

 

Essex Savings Bank President & CEO Gregory R. Shook

Essex Savings Bank President & CEO Gregory R. Shook

Essex, CT – Gregory R. Shook, President & Chief Executive Officer of Essex Savings Bank announced January 17, 2014, “We are extremely proud to report available contributions of $223,373 from our Community Investment Program in our 163rd year”.  The Bank annually commits 10% of its after tax net income to qualifying organizations within the immediate market area consisting of  Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Madison, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.  This program provides financial support to over 200 non-profit organizations who offer outstanding services to the ever-increasing needs of our communities.  By year end, a total of $3,896,917 will have been distributed since inception in 1996.  Essex Savings Bank customers determine 30% of the fund allocations each year by voting directly for three of their favorite causes, charities or organizations who have submitted applications to participate.  Ballots will be available at all Essex Savings Bank Offices between February 1 and March 15 to determine an allocation of $67,012.  The Bank’s Directors, Senior Officers, Branch Managers and Essex Financial Services, Inc., the Bank’s subsidiary, will distribute the remaining 70%, or $156,361.

Organizations (85) qualifying to appear on the 2014 ballot includes:

Act II Thrift Shop, Inc. * Bikes for Kids, Inc. * Brazilian and American Youth Cultural Exchange (BRAYCE) * Bushy Hill Nature Center * Camp Claire, Inc. * Camp Hazen YMCA * CDE (Chester, Deep River, Essex) Cooperative Nursery School * Chester Historical Society * Chester Land Trust, Inc. * Common Good Gardens, Inc. * Community Music School * The Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock * The Country School, Inc. * The Deacon John Grave Foundation * Deep River Ambulance Association, Inc. * Deep River Elementary PTO, Inc. * The Deep River Fire Department * Deep River Historical Society, Inc. * Deep River Junior Ancient Fife & Drum Corps, Inc. * Deep River Land Trust, Inc. * Dog Days Adoption Events, Inc. * Essex Ambulance Association, Inc. * The Essex Art Association, Incorporated * Essex Community Fund, Inc. * Essex Elementary School Foundation, Inc. * Essex Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, Inc. * Essex Fire Engine Company #1 * Essex Historical Society, Inc. * Essex Library Association * Essex Winter Series, Inc. * Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. – Meals on Wheels * Florence Griswold Museum * Forgotten Felines, Inc. * Friends In Service Here (F.I.S.H.) * Friends of Hammonasset, Inc. * Friends of the Acton Public Library * Friends of the Chester Public Library, Inc. * Graduation Night, Inc. – Old Saybrook * High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. * Hope Partnership, Inc. * Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation, Inc. * The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Inc. * Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc. * Lyme Ambulance Association, Inc. * Lyme Art Association, Inc. * The Lyme Fire Company, Inc. * Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc. * Lyme-Old Lyme Education Foundation * Lyme-Old Lyme Safe Graduation Party, Inc. * Lyme Public Hall Association, Inc. * Lyme Public Library, Inc. * Lymes’ Elderly Housing, Inc. (Lymewood) * The Madison ABC Program, Incorporated (aka Madison A Better Chance, Inc.) * Madison Ambulance Association, Inc. * Madison Community Services, Inc. * The Madison Foundation, Inc. * Madison Historical Society, Inc. * Madison Land Conservation Trust, Inc. * Maritime Education Network, Inc. * Musical Masterworks, Inc. * Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center, Inc. * Old Lyme Historical Society, Inc. * Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association * Old Saybrook Education Foundation * Old Saybrook Fire Company Number One, Inc. * Old Saybrook Historical Society * Old Saybrook Land Trust, Inc. * Pet Connections, Inc. * Potapaug Audubon Society * The Region 4 Education Foundation, Inc. (R4EF) * Scranton Library, Madison (aka E.C. Scranton Memorial Library) * The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries * Sister Cities Essex Haiti, Inc. * Tait’s Every Animal Matters (TEAM) * The Touchdown Club, Inc. (Valley Regional High School/Old Lyme High School Football) * Tracy Art Center, Inc. * Tri-Town Youth Services Bureau, Inc. * Valley Baseball-Softball Booster Club, Inc. * Valley Shore Animal Welfare League * Valley-Shore YMCA * Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley, Inc. (VNLV) * Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc. * Westbrook Project Graduation, Inc. * Westbrook Youth and Family Services, Inc. * The Woman’s Exchange of Old Lyme.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Lower Connecticut River Valley with six offices in Chester, Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Essex Savings Bank Donates to Local Communities

Old Saybrook 1

Essex – Each year all six branches and the corporate office of Essex Savings Bank hold a holiday contest designed to help those less fortunate in the local communities.  The goal of this year’s event was to collect food and non-perishables for the Shoreline Soup Kitchen as well as the food pantries in Chester and Madison.

The festive displays at each office location centered on a particular food course, and the entries ranged from breakfast selections to desserts.  Although this contest adds to the fun of the season, the deeper goal for all of the Bank employees is to help those in need as that is the true spirit of the season.

All donations were at the employees’ expense and generated by their goodwill.

As a result of everyone’s efforts, on Monday, Dec. 23, Essex Savings Bank employees delivered 845 pounds of food to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.  Additional donations were made to the pantries in Chester and Madison.

Branch Manager/AVP Marla Bogaert serves on the Board of Directors for the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and a team of Bank employees volunteer to prepare and serve dinner throughout the year.  The ingredients for these meals are collected through the generous donations from Bank employees.

Admin-HR

Editor’s Note: Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851. The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc, Member FINRA, SIPC. Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value and are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

 

 

Country School Robotics Team Wins Two Awards at State Robotics Championship

Members of The Country School's Wise Guys Robotics Team at the First Lego League State Championship in December. Pictured, front row, left to right, are: Andre Salkin, Gordie Croce, Robbie Cozean, Ben Iglehart, Aidan Chiaia, and Joseph Coyne. Back row, left to right, are Nate Iglehart, Liam Ber, Emmett Tolis, and Coach Heather Edgecumbe. Missing from the photo is Sarah Platt.

Members of The Country School’s Wise Guys Robotics Team at the First Lego League State Championship in December. Pictured, front row, left to right, are: Andre Salkin, Gordie Croce, Robbie Cozean, Ben Iglehart, Aidan Chiaia, and Joseph Coyne. Back row, left to right, are Nate Iglehart, Liam Ber, Emmett Tolis, and Coach Heather Edgecumbe. Missing from the photo is Sarah Platt.

Madison, CT— Members of The Country School’s Wise Guys Robotics Team won two awards at the First Lego League state championships held at Central Connecticut State University in December. Of the 51 teams participating, the Wise Guys won a First Lego League core value award for Innovation and a second award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the way they worked together to come up with an innovative solution to a problem. The IEEE award was accompanied by a $200 cash prize.

This was the second year that The Country School has fielded a robotics team and the second time a TCS team has qualified for the First Lego League Connecticut state championship. The team qualified during a competition held in Old Lyme in the fall. In addition to the Wise Guys, The Country School also fields a team called the Archimedes Owls. Nineteen students in grades 5- 8 participated on the school’s two robotics teams. The Country School also offers a summer robotics camp and hosts periodic Robotics Nights on campus for the broader community.

According to the First Lego League, the FLL Innovation Award is presented to a team that is “empowered by their FLL experience and displays extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit.” The award from the IEEE was presented to five teams who displayed an innovative solution to a problem caused by nature’s fury. The Country School team chose to focus on how towns can clear roads and clean up after blizzards in a safe and effective way.

The Wise Guys remembered how hard it was for Connecticut towns to recover from last February’s blizzard. Team member Sarah Platt, an 8th Grader, interviewed John Bower, Director of Emergency Management for the town of Madison, to try to identify the biggest issues the town had to deal with during the blizzard. Team members then came up with a plan for a robotic plow which, while plowing, would send snow into a container. There, the snow would be melted down to water, which would later be deposited in a safe area.

The Wise Guys are coached by Country School science teacher Heather Edgecumbe of Madison. In addition to Sarah Platt, a Madison resident, team members include Andre Salkin of Old Lyme (6th Grade), Gordie Croce of Killingworth (6th Grade), Robbie Cozean of Madison (6th Grade), Nate and Ben Iglehart of Guilford (both 6th Grade), Aidan Chiaia of Guilford (6th Grade), Joseph Coyne of Madison (7th Grade), Liam Ber of Westbrook (8th Grade), and Emmett Tolis of Madison (7th Grade).

The Country School, founded in 1955, is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool through Grade 8. At The Country School, a rigorous academic program is accompanied by a commitment to hands-on learning and discovery and a focus on the whole child. The robotics program is part of the school’s commitment to advancing 21st century skills through STEAM, or integrated science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

Learn more about Robotics and other STEAM offerings at The Country School by visiting www.thecountryschool.org/steam. The Country School will also have a special STEAM focus at its Open House on Sunday, January 26, from 1-3:30 p.m. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org/openhouse.

 

 

New Executive Director Has Big Dreams, Plans for Connecticut River Museum

Chris Dobbs, new Executive Director of Connecticut River Museum

Chris Dobbs, new Executive Director of Connecticut River Museum

Imagine if you will, a vintage, side-wheeler steamboat tied up, smartly, at the Steamboat Dock of the Connecticut River Museum. Imagine as well that on given days, this old, classic steamboat carries modern day passengers up and down the Connecticut River on both educational and pleasure cruises.

This is just one of the ambitious dreams held by the Connecticut River Museum’s new Executive Director, Christopher I. Dobbs. (He prefers to be called “Chris.”) Chris Dobbs recently replaced the museum’s former Executive Director, Jerry Roberts.

A resident of Deep River, the 42 year old Dobbs comes to his new post at the Connecticut River Museum after a nine year stint as Executive Director of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society in West Hartford. Prior to that, Dobbs was the Associate Director of Education at the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea. Dobbs has an M.A. in Museum Studies from the State University College of New York, Cooperstown, New York.

To help him get the Connecticut River Museum’s top job, Dobbs submitted to the search committee an impressive, three paged, single space, small type resume, setting forth his previous experience and multiple accomplishments in the museum field. For example, his resume notes that as head of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, he “Developed and completed $1.2 million capital campaign (raised 20% more than goal).”

Also, noted is that in his previous position he “Acted as the chief fundraiser by working with individual donors, foundations, city government, and State of Connecticut legislatures and agencies, and that he “increased endowment 45%.

"Conversational" billboard entrance to the Museum

“Conversational” billboard entrance to the Museum

It is highly likely that the new Executive Director’s fund raising skills did not go unnoticed by the Connecticut River Museum’s search committee for a new Executive Director. Further evidence of Dobbs, successful fund raising was that he managed and fundraised for a 250th Birthday celebration for his previous employer’s namesake, Noah Webster.

The Dream of a Steamboat Tied Up at Steamboat Dock

In a recent interview Dobbs demonstrated that he is a person who can dream big. For example, he suggested that at some future date the Connecticut River Museum might acquire a fully working, side paddling steamboat. With this historical coincidence in mind, the new steamboat would be docked at the Steamboat Dock of the Connecticut River Museum. In the 19th century the Steamboat Dock was a frequent stop for steamboats operating along the river.

As for the present availability of old steamboats, Dobbs said, “There are some of them still around for sale.” Dobbs asks what could be more appropriate than to have a working steamboat tied up at the Steamboat Dock of the Connecticut River Museum.

This does not mean that the museum’s present sailboat, the “Mary E,” which seasonably carries paying passengers on short cruises up and down the Connecticut River, would be replaced immediately. However, the new Executive Director feels that having a working steamboat at the Steamboat Dock would be uniquely consistent with the Connecticut River Museum’s mission and history.

The unadorned entrance of the Connecticut River Museum

The unadorned entrance of the Connecticut River Museum

This talk of steamboats does not mean that Dobbs is not completely on board in commemorating next year’s 200th anniversary of the 2014 burning of the American ships in Essex by British forces during the war of 1812. However, Dobbs clearly feels that this one-time historic event should not be the principal focus of the Connecticut River Museum.

Tying the Museum to the Entire Connecticut River

Rather, the central mission of the museum in Dobbs’s view is that it should focus on the full length of the Connecticut River. As Dobbs puts it, “This is, after all, the Connecticut River Museum, and, therefore, the entire length of the river from the Canadian border down to the rivers mouth on Long Island Sound is what this museum should be all about.” It should be noted that the Connecticut River is 407 miles long, and that it begins just below the Canadian border and runs down to its mouth on Long Island Sound in Connecticut between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.

Artist rendering at the Museum of 1814 British attack on Essex

Artist rendering at the Museum of 1814 British attack on Essex

Activities that the museum could sponsor, could be canoe excursions on the upper Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire. In addition, the new Executive Director envisions joining the fight against pollution in the Connecticut River, as well as children’s programs about animal and aquatic life along the Connecticut River, including teaching young and old how “to hold a fish and touch a crab.”

Dodd also raptures that the Connecticut River is, “America’s First Blue Way.” Also, like many environmentalists, he is grateful that the mouth of the Connecticut River between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme “has not been spoiled by development.”

In sum, Chriss Dobbs, the new Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum, takes a broad and exciting view of his new position. As he puts it, “We are the Connecticut River Museum, and that is the Connecticut River, and that is what we are about.” He continues, “That means that the museum is entwined with the river, every single mile of it.”

 

Literary Volunteers Valley Shore Needs Fundraising Committee Members

In the season of giving, why not give a gift of time in your community? While our attention and thoughts of volunteering are more dominant during the holidays, help is needed year round. LVVS are looking for friendly, outgoing people to populate their fundraising events committee. If you are a creative thinker and can commit some time to serve on a committee, they need you to help develop and facilitate the scheduling of fundraising events.

Meet new people, have fun, and be a part of a worthy organization. LVVS serves 11 CT Valley Shore towns through one-on-one tutoring programs in English as a Second Language(ESL) and Basic Reading(BR).  Fundraisers benefit these much needed programs.  Contact  info@vsliteracy.org or 860-399-0280.

New $28 Million Medical Center in Westbrook Is on Track to Open in April 2014

The new Westbrook medical center under construction

The new Westbrook medical center under construction

Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook is scheduled to open its doors to receive patients, as early as April 2014.

The Whiting-Turner Construction Company of New Haven is in charge of constructing the new Medical Center in Westbrook. The company estimates that the new facility will be finished by March 2014. Then, it will take much of April 2014 for Middlesex Hospital to furnish the new Center and to install medical equipment.

New Center Can Expand to 60,00 Square Feet

The new Medical Center in Westbrook will initially have 44,000 square feet of working space. However, the Center can be expanded to 60,000 square feet, if it becomes necessary. By contrast the Hospital’s present Medical Center in Essex is just over 20,000 square feet. On an historical note, the Essex facility has provided emergency medical care for shoreline residents for over forty years.

There is still work to do

There is still work to do

The new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center will be located on Flat Rock Place, which is just off Exit 65 of Interstate I-95. Flat Rock Place is a four-lane access highway, which has the auto dealerships of Honda and Toyota at the bottom end and the Tanger Outlets shopping mall at the top. The new Medical Center will be located half way up Flat Rock Place on the left hand side.

The present medical center in Essex

The present medical center in Essex

When complete, the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook will have, “a whole host of diagnostic and treatment services,” according to hospital sources.  In addition, “radiological services will expand to include a new MRI testing area, and a designated woman’s imaging area.” Also, the new Center in Westbrook will continue to provide 24/7 medical care, and it will have a helipad for emergency helicopter trips, as well as paramedic services.

Advantages of New Westbrook Location

In addition to a large roster of medical services at the new Westbrook facility, there are significant access advantages as well. The new Westbrook center will be conveniently located, just off I-95 at Exit 65.

Also, the new Westport location will permit patients from towns, such as Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Clinton and Guilford, to have direct I-95 Interstate access to the new facility. In addition, the residents of Deep River, Chester and Haddam, via Route 9, will have I-95 Interstate access to the new Center as well.

Although patients from Essex will no longer have their very own medical center right in town; still it will be only be a few extra miles down Route 153 for Essex residents to reach the new Westbrook Center.

New Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum Appointed

Chris Dobbs will take the helm as Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum on November 18th.

Chris Dobbs will take the helm as Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum on November 18th.

ESSEX, CT — Christopher I. Dobbs has been named Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum. For the past nine years, Dobbs has been the Executive Director of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society in West Hartford. During his tenure, Dobbs led efforts to restore the Webster House, which is a National Landmark building, and reinvigorate its exhibits. He also developed many innovative public programs, including “Tavern Nights”, “Webster’s War of the Words” a word game show featuring Connecticut celebrities, and “West Hartford Hauntings,” a popular historical program that was held in cemeteries. Under his leadership, the Webster House won several awards for its exhibits, and the museum received several significant grants. The museum’s attendance and its number of volunteers increased, and membership grew by 40 percent. Dobbs also helped lead a capital campaign that raised $1.2 million, 20 percent more than its goal.

“Chris Dobbs is a seasoned and innovative museum professional who has a proven track record as a museum leader who can inspire community engagement,” said Peter Prichard, chair of the Connecticut River Museum. “He is also a very versatile and talented manager. We were fortunate to be able to hire him and we expect great things under his leadership.”

Brenda Milkofsky, the founding director of the Museum who has served as interim director since July, said: “Next year is the Museum’s 40th Birthday so this is the perfect time for fresh ideas and renewed energy and Chris Dobbs brings both to this maturing institution. He’s an experienced museum professional, well-grounded in history who will help us recommit to the public service and educational standards of our mission.”

Dobbs said “I am looking forward to taking the helm of the Connecticut River Museum and working with its Board, staff, and community to expand the museum’s reach and cultural impact.” He went on to say that “The museum has a critical mission to preserve, document, and engage thousands of visitors each year with New England’s most significant, and in my opinion, most beautiful inland waterway.”

Dobbs, 42, has a bachelor’s degree in American history from Indiana University and a Master’s Degree in museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, which is a joint project of the State University College of New York and the New York Historical Society. He now serves on the board of the Cooperstown Alumni Association. Dobbs began his career in history museums as an intern when he was still in college in the mid-1990s. In 1998 he joined Mystic Seaport, where he served as Supervisor of Special Interpretative Programs, including the Lantern Light Tours, before being promoted to Associate Director of Education. For the past six years, he has also served as a Peer Advisor to museum and non-profit leaders for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, assisting non-profits around the state with strategic planning, development and program creation.

In his spare time, Dobbs enjoys woodworking and recently restored an antique boat. He is married to Jennifer White-Dobbs, Director of Education of the Connecticut River Museum. The couple has two children and they live in Deep River.

Essex Savings Bank Rated 5 Stars – Eighteen Consecutive Years

Essex -  Essex Savings Bank has once again earned the highest 5-Star rating for strength and stability from BauerFinancial, Inc. of Coral Gables, Florida, the nation’s leading independent bank rating and research firm.  Bauer Financial has been reporting on and analyzing the performance of U.S. banks since 1983.  No institution can pay BauerFinancial to rate it, nor can an institution choose to be excluded.  Essex Savings Bank has proven its commitment to superiority by earning this top rating for 71 consecutive quarters.  Fewer than 10% of the nation’s banks can claim this distinction.  In order to do so, the Bank has excelled in areas of capital adequacy, delinquent loan levels and profitability to name just a few.  Consistently earning BauerFinancial’s highest rating assures customers and the community that Essex Savings Bank is a strong financial institution that will be able to fulfill their banking needs for years to come.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary, Essex Financial Services, Inc, Member FINRA, SIPC. Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value and are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Transportatation: Metro-North Meltdown

Jim CameronFirst of all, despite what some commuters may recently be thinking, the folks who manage and operate Metro-North are not stupid.  Inconsiderate and uncommunicative sometimes, but not stupid.

Metro-North managers and employees are railroad professionals, justifiably proud of the 96+% on-time performance they achieve on one of the busiest commuter line in the US.  They want to run a world class railroad.  But they can only achieve as much as the states of NY and Connecticut fund them to do.

In recent years our legislature gave MNRR $1+ billion to buy badly needed new railcars, a very visible manifestation to commuters that the state was investing in the railroad.  But sufficient funding for inspection and repair of the tracks, the catenary and our 100- year-old bridges is still lacking.

New cars are sexy.  Giving them safe tracks to run on and wires to power them, not so sexy.

What happened when Con Ed’s back-up feeder cable failed at 5:30 am on Wednesday Sept 25th was not an act of God, but human error.  The two agencies knew the main power cable was going to be out of service and calculated, very wrongly, that the single back-up cable would be sufficient.

This raises a number of questions:  Did Con Ed monitor that back-up cable for signs it might fail?  Was it wise to save $1 million by not constructing a back-up for the back-up?  Does Homeland Security know or care that the entire Metro-North and Amtrak Northeast Corridor were depending on this calculation? How many other power sub-stations are in similar danger?

The effects of this outage are many:  the inconvenience to 125,000 daily riders, the economic impact on those commuters’ businesses, and longer-term, the economic recovery of our state and nation.

Governor Malloy quickly called this outage just the latest black eye for our state in his efforts to attract businesses to set up shop in the Nutmeg State.  Even if they can tolerate our high taxes, do relocating CEO’s really want to rely on Metro-North to get their employees to and from work or fight the perpetual rush-hour crawl on I-95?

I fear some individual commuters may be reaching the tipping point.  There are plenty of other New York suburbs with good schools and more reliable transportation.  If fed-up Connecticut commuters decide to vote with their feet and move to Westchester or Long Island, they will take their taxes with them.  Remember that Fairfield County pays 40% of all state taxes in Connecticut, so anything that makes our neighborhoods less attractive, hurts the entire state.

And it hurts our house values too.  People live in the towns served by Metro-North because they need to rely on those trains to get to high-paying jobs in NYC.  When that trust is broken, those towns and their houses become less attractive.

If housing values sag, town taxes will have to go up.  The schools will suffer making our towns even less desirable for those leaving the city for the good life in the ‘burbs.

Reliable train service at an affordable price is what makes Fairfield County thrive.  When you begin to doubt the ability of the railroad to keep operating, let alone be on time, it may be time to rethink where you live.

========

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years.  He is a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council and the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CTRailCommuterCouncil@gmail.com  or www.trainweb.org/ct

Essex Resident Served on Shore Crew of U.S. Winner of Recent America Cup Race

Essex resident Jason Sanstrom holding the American's Cup after the race

Essex resident Jason Sanstrom holding the American’s Cup after the race

Jason Sanstrom, an Essex resident, played an important role in the recent winning of the America Cup by Oracle Team USA. Jason is the son of Sandy Sanstrom, a Member of the Board of Governors of the Pettipaug Yacht Club in Essex.

The younger Sandstrom, 27, is a specialist in the carbon fiber construction of racing sailboats. Because it is lighter and stronger, carbon fiber construction has become the favorite over fiber glass, in the construction racing, sailboat hulls.

The younger Stanstrom worked not only on this year’s American entry in the 34th America Cup Race, he also worked on the American entry in the 33rd America Cup Race. In this year’s final race the America team, Oracle Team USA, beat out the Emirates Team New Zealand by a mere 44 seconds.

To capture the America’s Cup the U.S. team, funded by Larry Ellison, had first to win seven consecutive races in order to catch up with the New Zealand team. In the final race, initially, the New Zealand boat had a 40 meter lead; however, eventually the wind and the tide favored the Americans in going upwind, which enabled them to win.

The entire cup race lasts barely twenty minutes; the boats are so fast in going around the course.

9 Town Transit Welcomes Eight New Buses

First Selectman Carl Fortuna, First Selectman Ralph Eno, First Selectman Dick Smith, Leslie Strauss, First Selectman Noel Bishop, John Forbis and First Selectman Norman Needleman (Photo courtesy of Roland Laine).

First Selectman Carl Fortuna, First Selectman Ralph Eno, First Selectman Dick Smith, Leslie Strauss, First Selectman Noel Bishop, John Forbis and First Selectman Norman Needleman (Photo courtesy of Roland Laine).

Shoreline transit users are getting a more comfortable, and colorful, ride thanks to eight new buses introduced over the past several months.

The new buses rolled out by 9 Town Transit (9TT) include the region’s first two low-floor buses.  These buses have no steps inside, making it easier for passengers to board.   Each bus also offers a ramp for people utilizing wheelchairs or walkers instead of the traditional wheelchair lifts.  With this delivery, the fleet now has five hybrid electric buses.  Hybrid technology saves fuel and emissions, resulting in reduced cost and environmental impact.  The 9TT fleet is now 40% hybrid electric.

9TT does not only rely on hybrid vehicles to save fuel. There are two diesel buses and one mini bus that also service the district. The diesel powered buses consume 40% less fuel than their gasoline counterparts.  The mini bus has improved gas mileage over the traditional 12 passenger buses and is easier to navigate into residential driveways for our dial-a-ride passengers.

The purchase represents the largest single year vehicle investment in 9TT’s history at a total price tag of $873,073.  The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Federal Transit Administration, the Connecticut Clean Fuels Program and the Connecticut Department of Transportation..

9 Town Transit provides service to all parts of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, with connections to New Haven, New London and Middletown. All services are open to the general public.  Additional information, route maps and schedules are available online at www.9towntransit.com or by calling 9 Town Transit at 860-510-0429.

Westbrook Man Sentenced to Six Months in Jail for December 2011 Alpaca Killings

ESSEX— A 23-year-old Westbrook man has been sentenced to six months in jail on charges related to the December 2011 stabbings of four alpacas at the Applesauce Acres farm on Bushy hill Road in the Ivoryton section. Kyle Roscetti received the sentence Thursday at Middletown Superior Court.

Roscetti had pled guilty to a charge of cruelty to animals and violation of probation. Middlesex superior Court Judge David Gold sentenced Roscetti to one year in prison, suspended after six months served, and two years of probation. He will also be required to make restitution to the owners of the alpacas and undergo a mental health evaluation. The judge agreed to delay the start of the sentence for a medical treatment, with Roscetti required to report to the Department of Corrections on Sept. 13.

The alpaca killings that were discovered on Dec. 23, 2011 shocked area animal lovers. A state police investigation in April 2012 resulted in the arrest of Roscetti and Shawn Malcarne, 25, of Deep River. Malcarne was granted accelerated rehabilitation in court last year, receiving two years probation with a requirement that he complete 100 hours of community service.

Chester Historical Society Reprints Classic Children’s Book, Ferryboat

Ferryboat Cover photo

Front cover of the book Ferryboat, reprinted by Chester Historical Society

This spring, as the State of Connecticut debated raising the fares for the historic Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the Chester Historical Society focused on the history of the ferry as it opened its new transportation exhibit, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” After all, the ferry has been an integral part of Chester history since it began in the 1700s.

And now the Historical Society has reprinted the children’s book, Ferryboat, written about that historic ferry by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro and originally published by HarperCollins in 1986.

Ferryboat went out of print several years ago, but the Maestros have permitted the Chester Historical Society to reprint 1000 copies of the book.

“We couldn’t be happier to be bringing this wonderful and colorful book to a whole new generation of readers and their families,” said Society president Skip Hubbard.  “Over the years we have had some requests, so I expect there will be plenty of interest. It’s a pleasure to read it with a child and it makes a great gift.’’

Ferryboat inside photo

The Maestros, who lived for many years in Old Lyme, where they raised their son and daughter, said, “We created the book because we loved the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry and enjoyed riding on it with our children when they were small. The children in the book are loosely based on our own son and daughter. Over the years, it was fun to share the book with other children at schools all over the United States as an example of something unique and scenic near our home in Connecticut.”

The Maestros now live in Arizona, “not far from the red rocks of Sedona,” where they continue to write and illustrate children’s books.

Ferryboat, chosen by Yankee Magazine in 2000 for its list of Classic New England Children’s Books, has also been referenced in Southwest Airlines’ Travel Guide, where the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is described as “a popular means of crossing the river during the summer months. It’s more than a tourist attraction – it’s an educational outing for children and adults into the workings of a modern-day ferry.” (Connecticut DOT, take note!)

Publishers Weekly wrote about Ferryboat, “Their words and pictures are so completely involving that it’s almost like being on the real thing. The author carefully explains the workings of the ferry and takes readers from shore to shore, lovingly describing the sights and sounds of the ride….The double-page spreads, with a deep blue river and lush tree-lined shores, are colorful and appealing.”  School Library Journal called the book “a charming treat,” adding,” How the ferry operates (it never needs to turn around since the front is the same as the back!) is sure to fascinate young armchair mariners.”

The book is available for purchase at the Chester Museum at the Mill in Chester, open weekends 10-4, and also at Century 21 Heritage Real Estate office in Chester. Ferryboat can also be found at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme; Gillette Castle in East Haddam; and the Connecticut River Museum and the Valley Railroad in Essex. It is priced around $12.

The Trust for Public Land Announces Conservation Opportunity for The Preserve

A vernal pool on the Preserve (photo by Jerome Wilson)

A vernal pool on the Preserve (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Its status in flux for fifteen-years, the largest unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston may soon provide hiking, bird watching, and recreational opportunities for public

The Trust for Public Land announced today that it has reached an agreement with River Sound Development, LLC, to purchase 1,000 acres known as The Preserve – the last large unprotected coastal forest between New York City and Boston – for conservation, recreation, and habitat protection.  If the acquisition is successful, the land will be permanently protected from future development and open to the public to enjoy for passive recreational activities such as hiking and wildlife viewing.  The property, which is rich in natural resources and wildlife, will connect to 500 acres of existing town parkland and miles of existing hiking trails.

Alicia Betty, The Trust for Public Land’s Connecticut State Director, said her organization is moving forward with the acquisition and fundraising efforts to raise $10 – $11 million in public and private funds by June, 2014, in order to acquire the property and cover stewardship and costs.

“We are thrilled to be able to present this opportunity to the state of Connecticut’s land conservation community,” Betty said.  “We’ve been able to end 15 years of uncertainty and can now move forward toward protecting this valuable property of regional significance.”

“The work of the Trust for Public Land to secure rights to The Preserve represents a major milestone in our efforts to preserve critical lands in this state,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy.  “We look forward to partnering with the Trust for Public Land and others to make this purchase a reality and protect this property for the future.”

Located in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, CT, The Preserve includes 38 vernal pools and 114 acres of wetlands and more than 3,100 linear feet of watercourses. The dense canopy of forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond act as a refueling stop for many migratory birds, and the many freshwater seeps on the property are home to amphibian species such as the northern dusky salamander, spotted turtles, and box turtles. Bobcats and fisher cats have also been spotted on the property.

In addition to its recreational and habitat resources, The Preserve provides important water quality benefits to residents.  Surface waters on the property drain to 3 different watersheds: the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, as they make their way to Long Island Sound.  The protection of The Preserve will ensure that stormwater on the site is recharged to local aquifers.  An aquifer protection area is located just east of the Preserve and supplies an average of 200,000 gallons per day of drinking water to Old Saybrook and surrounding communities.

The Preserve is located in the area designated by FEMA’s Hurricane Sandy Impact Analysis as having experienced “high impact” from the Superstorm Sandy. Coastal forests like The Preserve have been losing ground for some time as saltwater gradually moves inland as a result of rising tides and sea levels. The Preserve acts act as a sponge for stormwater, releasing it slowly into the tributaries and rivers that lead to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, protecting downstream property owners from flooding.

“This is an immensely positive development, and I commend The Trust for Public Land for their leadership in preserving and protecting this priceless natural resource. As Attorney General, I was proud to fight on behalf of hundreds of Old Saybrook residents and environmental advocates seeking to protect The Preserve from ecologically devastating development. Once lost, forests and habitats such as The Preserve can never be recovered. This is a great day for Old Saybrook, Long Island Sound and Connecticut’s environment,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“This property is the last of its kind–an intact thousand acre maritime forest, the source waters of three separate watersheds,” said Philip Miller, Representative for the 36th district.  “It is said that water will be to the twenty-first century what oil was to the twentieth.  This will help assure a bright future for this region of Connecticut.”

The Preserve was the subject of development proposals dating back to 1998, including plans to build more than 200 homes and an 18-hole golf course. These plans met with strong opposition and lawsuits from conservation groups and residents.  Over the years, multiple attempts were made to acquire the land for conservation, but an agreement was never reached and efforts to develop the property continued.

“Old Saybrook looks forward to working with The Trust for Public Land towards a successful closing on this property, a closing that economically and environmentally favors The Town of Old Saybrook and the region,” said Carl Fortuna, Old Saybrook First Selectman.  “This property has been at the center of attention, good and bad, for 20 years. It is now time for a resolution. We are optimistic that enough private and public funds can be raised to purchase the property and preserve the Preserve in its natural state. The Town will work cooperatively with all parties in this effort, including the DEEP. Most importantly, I will work for and listen to Old Saybrook’s residents as they decide the future of this parcel.”

Many entities and conservation organizations have come together over the years to defend this natural asset for Connecticut and to create this opportunity.  The collaboration will continue and will be essential to a successful outcome next year.  These entities include:  the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), the Towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook, the Old Saybrook Land Trust, the Essex Land Trust, The Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound, The Alliance for Sound Area Planning, Audubon Connecticut, and The Nature Conservancy.

Suellen McCuin, a resident of Essex, neighbor of the Preserve and member of the Alliance for Sound Area Planning, stated, “I am so happy to know that this incredible piece of nature will now be forever available for our family, others in the community and future generations to hike, explore and seek solace.  It is also great news that so many will continue to benefit from the now protected pristine waters that fill our local public and private wells. We are inextricably linked to this forest. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, ‘Forests are the lungs of our land.’”

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at tpl.org.

The Pratt House, A Treasure Trove of Essex History

Pratt House on West Avenue is the third house down from Essex Town Hall

Pratt House on West Avenue is the third house down from Essex Town Hall

Essex residents, as well as other local history buffs, owe it to themselves to visit the Pratt House, an authentic survivor of over 300 years of local history.  Located directly on West Avenue, three doors down from Essex Town Hall, the Pratt House has ample space for parking on its spacious side lawn.

Furthermore, admission to the Pratt House is free, as are the lectures of knowledgeable docents, who are on hand to enhance the visitor’s experience.

Co-Docent Coordinators (l to r), Mary Ann Pleva and Bette Taylor

Co-Docent Coordinators (r to l), Mary Ann Pleva and Bette Taylor

The Pratt House is open to visitors from the months of June to September, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Also, private appointments to see the Pratt House can be arranged by calling 860-767-0681

The Pratt House Through the Years

The Pratt family’s connection with the Town of Essex began in 1648 when William Pratt came down from Hartford to survey vacant land in an area that was called Potapoug. Potapoug at the time encompassed what are now the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester.

William Pratt was born in England, and he came to the American colonies in 1637 to serve as a lieutenant in the Pequot War, which was being waged against the Pequot Indians. After the war William Pratt decided to stay in the colonies, and he, ultimately, moved to the Saybrook Colony and became a farmer.

William Pratt’s genealogy continues with the birth of his son, John Pratt, who when he grew up, became the first in a long line of blacksmiths in the Saybrook colony. John Pratt also bought land that was to become a part of Essex, and he deeded this land on his death to his own son, John Pratt, Jr.

In 1701 John Pratt, Jr., built the first homestead on the property that his father had given him, and this property is now the site of the present day Pratt House.

Additions to the original 1701 structure were made by members of the Pratt family in 1732 and 1750, and the final structure of the Pratt House, as it is today, was completed in 1800.

In 1852 the Town of Essex was jurisdictionally severed from Old Saybrook and  was incorporated as its own town, according to a State of Connecticut plaque in Essex’ Main Street town park. This meant that Essex was no longer under the town government of Old Saybrook.

Pratt Family Had Many Occupations 

Throughout the years the owners of the Pratt House besides being blacksmiths also became, “farmers, soldiers, ship captains and a manufacturer,” according to Essex Historical Society materials.

Old four poster bed, note the chamber pot

Old four poster bed, note the chamber pot

Then in 1915 members of the Pratt family sold the Pratt House to Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Griswold. However, in a sense the house still remained in the Pratt family, because Mrs. Griswold’s maiden name was Susannah Pratt, whose father was Elias Pratt.

An original fireplace at Pratt House that at one time provided the only heat

An original fireplace at Pratt House that at one time provided the only heat

After the Pratt House property had been purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Griswold, the main house was converted into a rental property with individual rooms in the house being rented out to various tenants.

Next in 1953 the Pratt House was willed to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, which turned it into a museum. Then, In 1985 ownership of the property was transferred to the successor organization, the Essex Historical Society.

The Pratt House Today

The furnishings in the present day Pratt House, according to Pratt House materials, “reflect a mixture of styles, including William and Mary, Queen Ann, Chippendale and Hepplewhite. None of the furnishings are original to the house but are similar to items listed in Pratt family inventories.”

Continuing, it is noted that, “Functional furniture would have been kept in the family and handed down from one generation to the next, so it is in keeping with the family’s actions that rooms are furnished in more than one style of furniture.”

In addition to the Pratt House’s museum space, there is a private renter in the back portion of the building. On the property  there is also a  reconstructed barn which holds materials belonging to the Essex Historical Society. Finally, way in the back of the two acre property, there is an old fashioned outhouse building, still standing.

Pratt House visitors, Ann Good, Oakland, CA; Patti Klaje, Hamden, CT; and Kristen Pallord, Houston, TX

Pratt House visitors, Ann Good, Oakland, CA; Patti Klaje, Hamden, CT; and Kristen Pallord, Houston, TX

9 Town Transit Expands Local Bus Service

9 town transit bus2Beginning August 5, 9 Town Transit will offer expanded service on two popular bus routes.  The new schedules will offer new access to medical professional parks in Middletown and East Lyme.

The Mid-Shore Express route, which offers service between Old Saybrook and Middletown, has added a new stop on Saybrook Road.  The stop will be located in front of the Middletown Professional Park to provide access to the medical services and providers housed there.

Service between New London and Old Saybrook will also add a new stop in East Lyme.  The stop will be at the corner of Route 1 and Flanders Road, in close proximity to the Lawrence & Memorial Flanders Health Center, Charter Oak Walk-In Medical Center and many area businesses.  A new stop will also be added in New London near the Thames Valley Council for Community Action office.

The updated schedules are available at many local businesses and government buildings as well as at www.9towntransit.com.

9 Town Transit provides service to all parts of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, and all services are open to the general public.  Additional information, route maps and schedules are available online at www.9towntransit.com or by calling 9 Town Transit at 860-510-0429.

Work Helps Control Damaging Invasive Plant Along Lower Connecticut River

phragmites australis

Phragmites australis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about phragmites and the Lower Connecticut River

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

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

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

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

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

EHS Presents Third Annual Preservation Award to Ivoryton Playhouse!

Town Historian Chris Pagliuco and Ivoryton Playhouse Artistic Director Jaqueline Hubbard with the Preservation Award Photo courtesy of Alison Brinkman)

Town Historian Chris Pagliuco and Ivoryton Playhouse Artistic Director Jaqueline Hubbard with the Preservation Award (Photo courtesy of Alison Brinkman)

Essex On June 23, 2013 at their Annual Strawberry Social, Essex Historical Society presented their Preservation Award to Ivoryton Playhouse.

Held every June, the Annual Strawberry Social always promises a good time, and this year did not disappoint! The weather was in full cooperation for the festivities, which included colonial-themed games, musical entertainment by the Sailing Masters and strawberry shortcake for all.  While attendees were enjoying their dessert, EHS presented the Preservation Award.

Established in 2011, the Preservation Award celebrates a building that has been preserved or restored in accordance with the period in which it was originally constructed. The winner is decided by public vote with the results kept under wraps until the Strawberry Social. Past years’ winners have been Ivoryton Library (2011) and Centerbrook Meetinghouse (2012). Voting was open to the public for the month of May and the tallied votes revealed that Ivoryton Playhouse was the winner by landslide!

Originally built in 1911 as a recreation hall, the Playhouse transitioned to its new role as a summer theater in 1930. The Playhouse suffered ups and downs through the next few decades until 1979, when plans to demolish the building ignited outrage and spurred the creation of the Playhouse Foundation. A non-profit organization, the Foundation is dedicated to preserving the Playhouse and enriching the community.

Over the past 28 years, the preservation and restoration process has completely updated the building, from modern heating and cooling to advanced theatrical technology—but nothing ostentatious or compromising the integrity of its old bones. The Foundation started producing theatre year round in 2006 under Artistic Director Jaqueline Hubbard.

Town Historian Chris Pagliuco and EHS Vice President Susan Malan presented Hubbard with the much-deserved Award at the Strawberry Social. “The Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation is honored to accept this prestigious award from the Essex Historical Society.

Essex Town Historian Chris Pagliuco (right) congratulates a surprised Jaqueline Hubbard (photo courtesy of Alison Brinkman)

Essex Town Historian Chris Pagliuco (right) congratulates a surprised Jaqueline Hubbard (photo courtesy of Alison Brinkman)

Along with providing entertainment and cultural events for the community, a central tenet of our mission is the preservation of the building. It is the primary focus of much of our recent fundraising.” Hubbard said. “We are extremely grateful to the Essex Historical Society for recognizing our work.”

For more information about the Ivoryton Playhouse, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Footloose Is Blowin’ the Roof off The Ivoryton Playhouse!

Willard

Ivoryton:  One of the most explosive movie musicals in recent memory burst onto the Ivoryton Playhouse stage on July 3rd and will be rockin’ the house till July 28th.   The movie was released in 1984 and the soundtrack reached #1 on the Billboard charts and sold over 17 million copies worldwide. Its journey to Broadway began in 1996 when director Walter Bobbie collaborated on a stage adaptation with Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow. FOOTLOOSE finally previewed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1998, and opened on Broadway on October 22nd. The next day, the show broke the box office record for the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where it continued to thrill audiences into July, 2000.

When Ren and his mother move from Chicago to a small farming town, Ren is prepared for the inevitable adjustment period at his new high school. What he isn’t prepared for are the rigorous local edicts, including a ban on dancing instituted by the local preacher, determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth that he cannot command in his own home.  When the reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren’s reputation, with many of the locals eager to believe the worst about the new kid.

The heartfelt story that emerges is of a father longing for the son he lost and of a young man aching for the father who walked out on him.  To the rockin’ rhythm of its Oscar and Tony-nominated top 40 score and augmented with dynamic new songs for the stage musical, FOOTLOOSE celebrates the wisdom of listening to young people, guiding them with a warm heart and an open mind.

The Playhouse is excited to welcome Richard Amelius, Artistic Director of Delaware River Theatre Collective, as director of this production and Michael Morris, Director of Music at the Hartt School, as musical director. Mike brings with him some very talented Hartt School alumni including Patrick H. Dunn* (last seen here in GODSPELL in 2009), Zoe Kassay and Cody Ryan. The set design is by Cully Long, costumes by Kari Crowther and lighting design by Marcus Abbott.

Music by Tom Snow | Lyrics by Dean Pitchford | Stage Adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie | Based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford | Additional Music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman.

FOOTLOOSE  opened in Ivoryton on July 3rd  and runs through July 28th . Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.

Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.)

The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton. Generously sponsored by:  Pasta Vita Footloose is presented through special arrangement with R & H Theatricals.

*member of Actors Equity

Interview with a Piano (and Invitation to a Birthday Party)

Dan Pardo, who will be playing the piano for the evening of the fund raiser, seated at the Mason & Hamlin. (Photo courtesy of  Deborah Rutty.)

Dan Pardo, who will be playing the piano for the evening of the fund raiser, seated at the Mason & Hamlin.  (Photo courtesy of Deborah Rutty.)

My mother was born in 1913, and so was my piano. Helen Bloom is, as we say, of blessed memory. The Mason & Hamlin baby grand remains a tool of blessed memory — allowing me and others to play the songs that my mother loved: Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” the Puccini aria “Un Bel Di” or any of the standards of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

Now that the Mason & Hamlin is about to turn a century old you are invited to something usual — a birthday party for a piano that will honor not the endurance of an instrument but a synagogue community as well, because all the proceeds go to Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester.

In keeping with the spirit of the event, I thought that I would reveal here the conversation I had recently with my old pal. After all, there is a rule in journalism — never let a piano pass the 100-year mark without an interview. And so:

LB: How do you feel at nearly a century old?

M&H: So how should I feel? My middle C is giving me fits, and my hammers have a touch of, what do you call it? — the jimjam jeeters.

LB: Oh you’re a comedian, too?

M&H: I learned from the best — Borscht Belt, you know. I was played on in the Catskills once. You been to the Catskills.

LB: This is not about me.

M&H: What? You play me all these years and now it’s not about you?

LB: Are you trying to be my mother? Stop with the guilt already.

M&H: It’s just that I’m being a little nostalgic.

LB: Yes, tell me about it. What was it like back in 1913?

M&H: An interesting time for music. Not like now. People actually played melodies in those days. Beautiful melodies. Kids. Every kid played, in the parlor.

LB: So, you were a big deal back then?

M&H: Soccer wasn’t invented yet. I mean, it was, but nobody ever heard of it in this country. So every kid played piano. And adults. After dinner families gathered around the old Mason & Hamlin (oh, there were Steinways, too, but that’s my overrated competitor, and I don’t want to talk about them.)

LB: And now?

M&H: Sometimes days, or weeks, go by and you don’t play me. What are you doing, writing books or something?

LB: I’m sorry. I’m trying to make a living.

M&H: You wrote the words to the musical while playing me. Didn’t A Woman of a Certain Age make you a fortune?

LB: It cost me a fortune. But let’s get back to the point. The party. We’ll have birthday cake and bubbly, and we’ll toast you.

M&H: Yes, and I’ll finally have someone who isn’t an amateur play me.

LB: I’m excited about Dan Pardo. Did you hear him play for us last High Holy Days at CBSRZ?

M&H: How would I go to Yom Kippur services? I’m happy here in my little corner of the world. And besides, I have nothing to a-tune for? Get it? Atone. A-tune?

LB: Well, anyway, Dan has put together a great program — music written during your lifetime, from pieces by Scott Joplin to George Gershwin to Samuel Barber to Dave Brubeck.

M&H: And you. Don’t forget something by you. Anyway, I’m excited. Actually. I know about him. He’s maybe the most talented guy ever born in Reading, Pennsylvania. And he’s been on the Goodspeed Opera House staff for three years.

LB: How do you know all this?

M&H: I read the papers. You remember those? Newspapers? Well, anyway he recently music-directed and wrote vocal arrangements for The Fabulous Lipitones, music-directed and accompanied Come From Away.  Did you see City of Angels and Show Boat (oh, do I miss Jerome Kern) — he worked that, too. And others. What a guy.

LB: Wow, you’re more than a bunch of 88 keys, mahogany and strings. You actually have a brain.

M&H: (sings) I would wile away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers, consultin’ with the rain, and my head I’d be scratchin’ while my thoughts were busy hatchin if I only had a brain…

LB: OK, OK, we’ll leave the singing to Dan.

M&H: But when, where, why, when, how?

LB: Ah, you went to journalism school too? Anyway, there are two levels of tickets for the event on Sunday, August, 4, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. As this is your 100th birthday, wouldn’t it make sense to ask for a minimum donation to CBSRZ of $100 per person?

M&H: That’s a lot of money. I remember when a concert cost five bucks, and a coffee a nickel, and a two cents plain cost only…

LB: Let me guess. Two cents.

M&H: Aren’t you brilliant. Well, you really need $100 a ticket?

LB:  It will support all of the great things we do at the shul. You should see the oil bill. And we haven’t had a fundraiser for a long time.

M&H: That’s not my fault. You should have solar. And what if somebody can’t pay a $100?

LB: Well, there’s a second level of tickets. $50.

M&H: What’s the difference?

LB: Well, the house is a house, not a concert hall. So some of the seats will have obstructed views. That is, everyone will see you. But not everyone will have a clear view of Dan. People in those seats will pay a reduced rate.

M&H: What do they need to pay not to see you? A thousand? Oh, just a little joke there.

LB: Yes. Very little. But to the point. Whether people buy $100 tickets or $50 tickets or want to sponsor the event they’ll have a great time, and get their cake, too.

M&H: And how do they sign up to honor me?

LB: Call Wendy, at the office.860.526.8920.  And you look through the closet to see if you have something in ebony and ivory to wear.

M&H: I’m so flattered.

LB: Don’t be. When I was a kid, I had a player piano. It never made me work so hard. I could just turn it on and it would play, “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”

M&H: Are you trying to pull my strings?

(For more information, call Wendy Bayor, 860.526.8920 For the entire transcript of the interview with the Mason & Hamlin, you should live so long.)

Enjoying Old Route 66. Or what’s left of it

Nothing I saw was this beautiful.  But some things I saw along 66 I’ll never forget.

Nothing I saw was this beautiful. But some things I saw along 66 I’ll never forget.

Hello, all. This is my 72nd day on the road and I am in Dayton, Ohio, a city which is a dramatic story in itself but for a later time.

I just  looked at my odometer. I have driven 3,675 miles and I am finally in the Eastern Times Zone!  So, I am getting closer. If I made a mad dash.I could make it home in two days. But I won’t do that. Still have places I want to see. And I’m still having fun.

If I had taken Interstates all the way home in the most direct way, I’d be home by now and would have saved a lot of gas money.
Yes, since the start, I’ve driven some short stretches on Interstates. Not because I prefer them. No, no, no. Only because it would be silly not to.

Whenever it made sense, I’ve chosen state roads–secondary highways. Some four lanes, some two. All in mostly good condition. but some bumpy ones, too. But, believe me, what a relief not to be tailed by a parade of huge trucks, which all choose the Interstates. What a relief to cruise at a calm 50 or 55 rather than frantic 70 or 75.  What a pleasure  to again see occasional houses and people and little businesses and even small towns.

Now, about Route 66

It was a historic highway. Truly historic.

Much of it is gone, yet I’ve traveled hundreds of miles on some of its remaining stretches. Some of it has been dull. But much of it wonderful and very worthwhile.

Familiar with it? Old Route 66 is sometimes called the Mother Road. Sometimes called America’s Highway.  As you may know, Route 66 has been celebrated, in fact immortalized, in countless books and movies and songs and videos. It’s as American as apple pie.

It was our most famous highway in pre-Interstate Highway times. It remains an indelible part of our romantic past.
It was built in the 1920s as our very first paved highway for its whole length–paved  for automobiles,  of course, which were the flivvers of those day. It was not a state highway. It was a U.S. highway. What a huge and important break-through that was.

It was our longest highway by far, more than 2,000 miles in all. It connected Chicago on its eastern end and Santa Monica on the California coast at the other.

Before it was created,  no way could someone in  a flivver attempt even a ride of 50 or 100 miles across that terrain…too many flats and break-downs. Let alone think of  crossing two-thirds of the USA! Which Route 66 made i possible to do, and quite comfortably.

It changed everything. Businesses boomed. Commerce took off between towns and cities and states. Markets opened up. People’s views of life and work and country expanded. We  became bigger. For the first time really, people became Americans instead of just citizens of this town or that county or state.

And a remarkable thing happened. All along Route 66 sprang up gas stations and restaurants and boarding houses and hotels–and then the newfangled motels.

Route 66 was a two-lane road in the beginning, sometimes black-topped, sometimes concrete. What a pleasure it was to drive on a smooth surface, and with no fear of having to ford a little stream or break an axle on holes and ruts.

Route 66 was impressively engineered with reasonable grades up and down. It offered solid bridges with no annoying planks to clatter when you crossed over. Astonishing road cuts in hills to make the going easier and safer.

It was as significant for the dawning Automobile Age as the transcontinental railroad had been half a century earlier.

Of course, Route 66 was imitated by other states for their highways. All built to similar high standards. And before long, all states agreed on common standards for their highways. Finally we had a system of highways making it possible to venture far and wide. What a feat!

Then bad things happened for Route 66.

President Ike Eisenhower came along and began pushing his idea of federal interstate highways. He said they were essential for our national defense, he said,  and, of course, for our expanding economy.

His Interstates would have even higher construction standards than Route 66 and the other state roads like it. The’d have understandable markings-be even-numbered for the stretches east and west, and odd-numbered for those north and south.

And free! Well, except for a few exceptions such as the Massachusetts Turnpike, which charged tolls.  It was my home state then. How Massachusetts  and the others—Connecticut was one–got away with that, I don’t know.

But! What happened is that Route 66 and its many imitators suddenly became painfully quiet.

People flocked to the new Interstates. They loved whizzing along with no traffic lights. Loved the easy on and easy off.  Loved traversing even large cities in  mere minutes, or just skirting around them. What time-savers the Interstates were. And they made road shipments of goods of all kinds so much easier and faster—even faster than the railroads could do the job.

But dire consequences, too. For one thing, countless communities shriveled up.” Out of Business” and “For Sale” signs began appearing.  It was a death sentence for some communities. And for many others, a humbling one—few people stopped by any more.

Some sections of the Interstates replaced sections of Route 66. In other places, the Interstates paralleled it. Route 66 became far less important. Fell into decline. So, after many years, Route 66 was “de-commissioned”! Route 66 is no longer a federal highway. How many times has that happened? Not many.

I got to really sample the old highway

Many sections still exist. I have ridden numerous sections of it. Now and then in deplorable condition—so bad I couldn’t wait to get off it. But in other sections, especially in creative-thinking communities, their sections of the old route were hailed for their promotional value for business in general, and especially tourism.

I’m pleased to tell you Route 66 has been a wonderful treat for me especially in Oklahoma. I’ve traveled it happily for mile after mile. So enjoyable. Through many small towns, some with populations of only one or two thousand.

I’ve stopped at small country stores to buy a few bananas or glance at local newspapers. Any excuse to poke around and stretch my legs. I’ve stopped to walk up and down a quaint main street. Explore antique shops and check thrift stores; what fun. Visit local libraries, of course—some tiny ones with just a room or two, and I’ve been welcomed at all of them.   Yesterday I stopped to enjoy a flock of goats in a small pasture–white bodies with brown heads. So identical they seemed factory-made..

I stopped again this morning, this time to enjoy cows in a lush field. About30 or them. I’ve seen lots and lots of cows. These were different.  Usually they’re all black or all brown or maybe all white. These were mixed, like us Americans!.

I took out my camera. Hollered at them to get their attention. They ignored me. Hollered again. Only one or two looked up, but just for a second. Then they got a signal, I swear. They all turned their tail and started walking away from me. I felt insulted. And I had made a U-turn to come back and be friendly and say hello. How impolite.

Things got different at the Oklahoma line.

Crossing from Texas into Oklahoma was dramatic. It’s the right word. For many days I had been driving over vast stretches of geography often with nothing in sight. No houses, no ranches, no trees, no people, no animals except a bird now and then.  Just a car whizzing by in the opposite direction once in a while.

Several times I stopped to take a picture showing nothing on any side. Nothing. Just endless flat land! That’s a strange experience, believe me.

The chane in Oklahoma was so fast. I began top see grass–green grass. And clumps of trees, small and then bigger. And even a little pond (wow!). Then groves of trees. Then a forest. Hey, it made me think of Connecticut. All in just a few miles! It’s as if somebody had drawn the  Texas-Oklahoma state line right there because they were  struck just as much as I was by the huge contrast.

I’ve crossed practically the whole state on Route 66. Along the road I’ve noticed numerous historic markers about it. It’s surprising how many pamphlets about it I’ve picked up, and about things to see along it.

I just remembered I should tell you this.

It happened at the Motel 6 in Santa Few, New Mexico. I had put up there for a week when I got ill.

I heard unusual noise in the parking lot at 8 a.m. I peered out. Many Harley Davidson motorcycles were parked out there. Unusual.Their riders were getting ready to take off. Men and women in their 40s and 50s in leather—leather helmets, boots, gloves, the works. The men sported beards and tattoos. The women huge earrings and tattoos. Quite a sight.

I opened the door. A big, burly rider was right there. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Where are you going?”

He said something but I didn’t understand. His strange accent. He noticed. Repeated for me.

“From  the Czech Republic! We are riding Route 66!” He smiled at the thought. A great adventure, obviously. He was so happy.Yes, riding Route 66 all the way.  It would take them 21 days.

They were packing their stuff into a big white van–their support van for the whole trip. In minutes, the lead driver gunned his throttle and they all started up. You should have heard the roar! And off they went.

I went online to learn more. Companies offer  motorcycle travel fans, and they advertise them here and abroad. A typical package includes the round-trip air fair, the rental bikes, the motel stays, the support van, and other basics.

But there are many extra costs. Gasoline, and insurance,  many meals, and fees at parks and museums and special amusements.

That 21 days could build up to $10,000 per rider.

I got to see Oklahoma’s two proudest cities

Route 66 took me through huge Oklahoma City and only slightly smaller Tulsa.  I arrived in both around 5:30 p.m. as planned. I wanted to arrive after most folks had gone home. Just to drive around slowly and savor the two cities.

For years, Oklahoma City was a big cattle town and Tulsa a huge oil town. You can still see many signs of this history in them. They have a lot more going for them now.  They are greatly diversified now, and you can tell they are prosperous.

Most Midwest cities have common features and I saw that clearly in these two. Their streets are laid out in grid patterns. In New England our street patterns are so wild and crazy. And Midwest cities have wide streets and keep them very clean. So many of our cities back home do not.  It seems a matter of pride for these cities. And these cities look fresh, safe, wholesome. Can’t say that about some of our cities.

Both have  big, tall buildings. But what big big city does not? Methinks it’s all about keeping up with the cities in your league. The way so many of us do our utmost to keep up with the Joneses.

The tallest buildings are the newest, of course, and they feature lots of glass and aluminum and stainless steel. The big buildings of the previous generation are less tall, and they feature fancy masonry and concrete. They didn’t have today’s technology back then.

It’s fun to speculate what the next generation of big buildings will look like. I’m sure architects are scratching their heads to come up with something different that will be bold and exciting. The temptation is to design buildings taller and taller . To me, such thinking is foolish. Those big buildings de-humanize us. Make us feel insignificant.  And they’re dangerous. I wouldn’t want to work or live way in one of those monsters.

As expected, both cities boast fine museums and shops and parks and restaurants. I would have given both more time and attention a few years back. I’m still interested, but it’s so hard so find parking spots now! Don’t giggle; I think you get my drift.

A day never, never to forget

In Oklahoma City, it was my Day 34. The sky was gray and threatening.  Sure enough, I soon felt a few drops, but coming down faster. My very first rain  in 34 days! It felt good. Then it came  down hard and I was so glad I had packed an umbrella.

Well, tornadoes hit the area, as you know, including a humongous one. It killed 25 men, women, and children or so in tiny Moore. Injured many, many more. Destroyed property in the multi millions of dollars. A huge calamity.

Strangely, I was very close to all that. Just 10 miles or so away. I say strangely because I never saw any tornado. I was totally unaware this big one was raging.. Then I saw two police cars whiz by at 80 miles an hour, red lights and sirens on.  I still didn’t know why. Very soon I got emails from family and friends worried about my safety. Some said they were praying for me. How wonderful. But that’s how I found out!  It was a pleasure to send out word I was fine.

Of course, the risk of so many tornadoes every year is scary. Oklahoma averages more than a hundred, more than any other state.  It’s a big state and tornadoes hit usually just small areas, but still.

I know that sales of pre-built steel Tornado Safety Closets are attracting buyers.They run $5,000 and up. People buy one for their basement and consider it a smart buy. And many people consider tornado insurance a must.

Who thinks of such things in Connecticut? Of course, tornadoes could hit us, too. Imagine what even a small twister would do to little Deep River!

Those poor Okies back during the Dust Bowl

More than once while driving through Oklahoma I thought of the awful Dust Bowl here in the mid-Thirties.That’s what they called that incredible disaster. Long periods of drought, poor agricultural techniques, and record-high temperatures–110 degrees and higher–led to the Dust Bowl–the topsoil got blown away! Massive crop failures. Bankruptcies. Countless families threw in the towel. Packed up what they could and headed west. Left Oklahoma and never looks back. An awful chapter in the state’s history.
Another disaster like that seems ruled out because of numerous improvements, plus the fact modern agriculture is so much smarter.

Now let’s hope the day will come when Oklahomans will say, “Tornadoes are a thing of the past! We know how to control them!”
Meteorology is making great strides. Science has brought us so many wonders that we once thought impossible. Science will triumph again. The question is, when?

Leaving Tulsa, I had to abandon Route 66.  It was heading northeasterly. I had to head east, toward the northwest corner of Arkansas.  I said goodbye to Route 66 with regret.

My impression of Oklahoma all the way across is that it’s a great big beautiful lawn. And that Oklahomans are nice people.
Well, I’m glad  I favored Route 66 . I got a much better look along it and got to enjoy the ride so much. It’s wonderful that Route 66 is being remembered so fondly.

If only we had done as much for our Route 1 from Maine to Key West, Florida! It was historic, too.

Adios!

State Department of Transportation Announces $1 Hike in Fares for Chester and Rocky Hill River Ferries and Another Increase in 2014

ferry 2CHESTER— The state Department of Transportation has announced a $1 increase in fares for the Chester-Hadlyme and Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Connecticut river ferries. Fares will increase July 8 from the current $3 to $4 for vehicles, and from $1 to $2 for walk-on passengers and bicyclists. The fare for vehicles and passengers will be $5 on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays.

The plan announced by DOT Commissioner James Redeker also calls for another fare increase in 2014, when fares for vehicles will increase to $5 on weekdays and $6 on weekends. The cost for a 20-ticket discount coupon book will also increase from the current $40 to $50. In 2014, the cost for a discount coupon book would increase to $60.

The increase, which is the first hike in ferry fares since 2003, is less than a proposed $6 doubling of the fare that was announced by DOT in the spring. The proposed doubling of fares drew objections from area elected officials, including first selectmen and legislators. About 60 residents turned out at the Chester Meeting House for a May 22 informational meeting ion the fare increase, with many residents suggesting they could accept a smaller than the proposed jump to $6.

Talking Transportation: The July Gas Tax Increase

Jim CameronThis week marks the 30th anniversary of the Mianus River Bridge collapse, which killed three people.  That accident on I-95 in Greenwich was attributed to years of neglected inspections and maintenance, the inevitable result of penny-pinching in Hartford.

Will the recent Metro-North crash (which injured 76 passengers) also be tied to long-postponed repairs?

Last week, the CDOT’s Commissioner testified before US Senator Blumenthal that Connecticut has spent $3.2 billion in the last decade on the New Haven rail line, while Amtrak spent just $64 million.  And all that spending still couldn’t prevent the May 17 derailment.

But Commissioner James Redeker also said there’s another $4.5 billion needed to bring the line into a “state of good repair” in the short term.  That includes work on the catenary and replacement of four movable bridges, some of them 100+ years old.  Layer on top of this $130 million to meet the federal mandate for PTC (Positive Train Control), and you can see the problem.

Where’s the money to come from? 

Well, it will come from you and me.  On July 1st we will all start paying an additional 4 cents per gallon for gasoline, tax money that will go into the Special Transportation Fund (STF), supposedly to be spent on rails and roads.

But remember that it was Governor Malloy who (again) balanced this year’s state budget by raiding $110 million from that STF, something that, as a candidate, he swore he would never do.  Voters will decide if that makes Malloy a hypocrite… or just a pragmatist.  Either way, future Governors won’t be able to do it again as the legislature has voted to put the STF into an untouchable “lock box” starting in 2015, after the next election.

Over the past decade various lawmakers and Governors have stolen a billion dollars from the STF.  So not only are we about $4.5 billion short on needed funds for rail repairs, but the STF has been treated like a petty cash box and drained it at will.

How sad it is when we have to balance our state’s budget by taking money targeted for keeping our rails and highways safe… not to mention starting a state-wide Keno game, basically a “tax” on those ignorant enough to play it (with odds of about 9 million to one of winning the jackpot).

Kudos to Senator Blumenthal for pushing safety as a top priority.  Maybe he can also get Amtrak to start paying its fair share for running trains over our (state-owned and maintained) tracks.

But it’s not just our rails that are in bad shape.  This week the group Transportation for America released its annual report on the deterioration of US highway bridges:  one in nine of those bridges is structurally deficient and in need of repair or replacement.  In Connecticut, that number has grown, not declined, since last year.

Yet, our DOT is still moving forward with a half-billion dollar rebuild of the structurally sound Waterbury “mix-master” where Route 8 crosses I-84.  Why?

So, next time you’re filling your tank with the priciest gasoline in the Northeast, pick-up a Keno ticket.  You might have a better chance of winning there than ever seeing your taxes spent on improving transportation safety.

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at jim@mediatrainer.tv  or www.trainweb.org/ct

The Uphill Battle of Convincing Boaters to Rent Boats Rather Than Own Them

It is hardly a contest. The favored way by more than a hundred fold and more, is that boaters along the eastern Connecticut shoreline prefer to own their own boats, rather than rent them.

Take for example the very modest boat rental program at the Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook. Whereas there are literally hundreds slips for boat owners keeping their own boats at this marina, there are only two boats that are available for rent at the marina.

Brewer’s Boat Rental Plans

That’s right, amidst hundreds of boat owners renting slips at the marina, Brewers offers only two boats that are for rent. They are: (1) a 24- foot Key West, center console, motor boat, and (2) a 24-foot Sea Ray Sundeck motor boat.

To rent these boats Brewers has set up a Brewer’s Boating Club, which offers boat renters a number of rental options. The top of the line of these plans are the Skippers Plans, which offer peak season boat usage, and which vary in price from $3,775 to $5,375 depending on boat usage. Next, down the line is the Captain’s Choice Plan for $6,295, which offers “Nearly Limitless membership features,” with “weekend reservation privileges… ”

Then there are the club’s Weekday Plans, including a Windward plan for $4,095 a season, and a Weekday Per Diem Membership Plan, which offers a 5-hour weekday usage for $395.

The complexity of these varying plans is challenging. However, Kit Will, Brewer’s personable, Pilots Point Sailing and Charter Director can explain it all. He can be reached at 860-575-8329, and at kwill@byy.com

One of the points that Kit Will makes is that belonging to the Brewers Boating Club is, “a good stepping stone to boat ownership.” He, himself, is a professional boat captain, who has over 25,000 miles of off-shore racing experience.

Pilots Point Marina's Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

Pilots Point Marina’s Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

A Simpler Boat Renting Option

Certainly, a far less complicated way to rent a motor boat along the Shoreline can be found at the Westbrook Marine Center, located at 533 Boston Post Road in Westbrook. The co-owner of the operation is the affable Tasha Cusson, who owns it with her husband. The advantage of renting a boat here, according to Tasha, “is that you just get in and go.”

The boats offered for rental at the Westbrook Marine Center are: 1) an 18 foot May-Craft Skiff, which has a five person capacity, and which is powered by a 90 horsepower outboard motor with a fuel tank of 42 gallons. 2) The second boat offered for rent at the Westbrook Marine Center is a 20 foot Hydras Sports Vector, which has a passenger capacity of six persons and is powered by a 225 horse power engine with an 85 gallon fuel capacity.

Westbrook Marine Center's 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

Westbrook Marine Center’s 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

The rates for boat rentals at the Marine Center are easy to understand. The 18 foot boat rents for $330 for four hours, and $495 for eight hours. The larger 20 foot boat rents for $365 for four hours, and $560 for eight hours.  Also, on occasion the boats are rented for a longer term at “a special lower rate,” according to Tasha. In addition to the rental charges, boat renters are required to fill up the fuel tanks of their rental boats before returning them.

According to Tasha, “Most people know boats, who rent from us.” As for those who are less familiar with boats, she says that a boat rental “is a fantastic opportunity to try out boating.” Before every boat rental, the renter is briefed from an extensive check list. Furthermore, Tasha says that she does not rent her boats to everyone. “I have turned people away,” she says, adding, “The personal safety of the renter is the key.”

Tasha also notes that possessing a State of Connecticut Safe Boating Certificate is not a necessary qualification for renting a boat in the state. However, her favorable judgment, as to whether or not the Marine Center wants to rent the boat to a particular person, is a necessity.

Tasha also noted that she had a number of rentals over Father’s Day weekend. The number to call for a boat rental is 860-399-8467.

Next week we shall profile three typical boat owners, who pay handsomely for their seasonal boating slips, but are grudgingly happy to do so.

Treasured Items Abound at Estuary Council’s “Thrift Shop,” and They Cost So Little

A large collection of ladies' blouses and slacks

A large collection of ladies’ blouses and slacks

Betsy Cote’ may be slight of build, but she has large responsibilities at the busy Thrift Shop of the Estuary Council in Old Saybrook. The Council’s building is located at 210 Main Street, way in the back of the shopping plaza. The Thrift Shop is on the first floor of the Council building.

Working under Cote’ at the Thrift Shop are 70 volunteers, who work in shifts at the check-out counter and around the store helping others. There are always at least three of the volunteer staff members on the floor, when the shop is open.  By far most of the volunteers are women, although there is a sprinkle of males.

Donations, which come into the Thrift Shop, are first sorted by item. The shop accepts donations of house wear, plates, cups and saucers, silver wear and clothing. When Cote’ was asked to give her definition of house wear, she said, “Anything in the house.”

No Electrical Items Accepted

However, if you have to plug in your donation, be advised the Thrift Shop does not accept electrical items. The most popular item at the Thrift Shop, according to Cote’, is puzzles.  At the shop the puzzles for sale range in size from 1,000 pieces down to 300 pieces. Most popular are 500 piece puzzles, and like the rest, “they go fast,” says Cote’.

The "Dollar rack" is always popular

The “Dollar rack” is always popular

Also, balls of yarn are a popular item among Thrift Shop shoppers, as is the sewing area, which offers a plethora of buttons in jars, and even a collection of zippers.  On hand as well are place mats, napkins, washcloths and towels. There are sheets as well of various sizes.

The motto of the Thrift Shop is, “If you would not buy it, we would not sell it,” Cote’ says. She, herself, is the only paid employee at the Thrift Shop, at a modest salary.

“Everything is really going great here,” Cote’ says. As for the Thrift Shop, “It is very successful.”

One thing that Thrift Shop customers should realize is that, the Thrift Shop does not wash or dry clean any of the items that come in as donations and are for sale.  Cleaning is left up to the customer, who purchased the item.

"But will the fit?" that is the question

“But will the fit?” that is the question

Wacky Wednesdays” for Super Bargains

One thing that brings in lots of customers is “Wacky Wednesday” specials. Kept a secret until the day of the event, on a recent Wednesday all articles of clothing were half price.

The Estuary Council’s Thrift Shop is open on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and Saturdays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays.

Volunteers at the shop on weekdays work in two shifts, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.  All are volunteers.

Cote’ tells the story that once someone donated, literally, a truck load of sheets, and the Thrift Shop sold them all. Customers made table cloths out of the sheets, lining for draperies, and some even made skirts out of the sheets.

Cote’ stressed that that they try to keep the Thrift Shop “neat and clean.” She also says that it is “a fun place to work,” and that “you meet great people.”

As for shop-lifting at the Thrift Shop, it may happen in very rare cases. As for the volunteers at the checkout counter, Coty’ says that she never once doubted their honesty.