February 22, 2017

Valley Shore YMCA’s 25th Annual Golf Classic Raises Funds for Annual Campaign

A smiling group of YMCA golf tournament winners.

A smiling group of YMCA golf tournament winners.

The Valley Shore YMCA’s 25th Annual Golf Classic drew a crowd of nearly 100 golfers Monday, July 18th to the Clinton Country Club for a day of “Golfing for a Cause”. The event raised over $45,000 for the Valley Shore YMCA’s Annual Campaign, which funds scholarships for local families and community health initiatives.

The majority raised came from sponsorships, including the Tournament sponsorships of Brown and Knapp Group Benefits; Mr. & Mrs. Leighton Lee IV; Art Linares and Family; Guilford Savings Bank; L.H. Brenner, Inc./Thompson & Peck Insurance; Pat Munger Construction; Wacker Wealth Management; and Whelen Engineering. Supporting sponsors included East Commerce Solutions and Kyocera.

The day of the tournament was a beautiful summer day, sunny with slight breezes in support of the golfers. Additional fun games were held throughout the course to enhance the fun factor, including Longest Drive, Closet to the Pin, Putting and Hole in One contests. Former Y Board President David Brown and Y Board Member Leighton Lee IV co-chaired the event and rallied sponsors, volunteers and prizes.

Committee members and volunteers included Marc Brodeur, Hal Dolan, Lisa LeMonte, Elizabeth McCall, Susan Norton, Melissa Ozols, Matt Sullivan, Tony Sharillo, Marcus Wacker and Jacquelyn Waddock.

No golfer made a hole-in-one for the prized Subaru generously provided by Reynolds’ Garage and Marine.

First Net Score winners were Jeff Knapp, Steph Brodeur, Justin Urbano and Scott Wiley; second place went to Casey Quinn, Paddy Quinn, Chick Quinn and Ryan Quinn.

First Gross winners were the team of David Brown, Jeff Dow, Mike Satti and Shane O’Brien; second place  went to Bob Brady, Geoff Gregory, John Brady and Bobby Edgil.

Chris Pallatto, YMCA CEO, thanked all the golfers and local organizations who came together to make this event possible. “Once again, we had another successful event, made possible by all of our supporters here today.  They all make it possible for the Y to continue to make an impact in our community.”

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Essex Zoning Commission Asked to Reconsider Three Conditions for Approval of Plains Rd. Apartment Complex

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

The Plains Road property where the Iron Chef restaurant has been vacant for many years has been approved for the Essex Station apartments. Now the applicant has filed a resubmission to revise or rescind three conditions.

ESSEX — Weeks after the zoning commission’s approval of a special permit for the three-building 52-unit Essex Station apartment complex on Plains Road, the applicant has filed  a resubmission that asks the commission to revise or rescind three of the 10 conditions that were part of the panel’s 4-1 vote of approval on June 20.

The commission has scheduled an Aug. 15 public hearing on the resubmission from Signature Contracting Group LLC for a review of the three conditions. The project, approved after a series of public hearings that began in February, calls for 52 units in three separate buildings on a 3.7-acre parcel at 21,27 and 29 Plains Road. The parcel includes the long vacant site of the former Iron Chef restaurant. and two abutting residential parcels.

The project includes an affordable housing component, and was submitted under state statute 8-30g, which is intended to promote additional affordable housing in Connecticut. The statute, in place for more than a decade, limits the jurisdiction of local zoning authorities to issues of public health and safety, and provides for waiver of some local zoning regulations. At least 16 units in the Essex Station complex would be designated as affordable moderate income housing, with a monthly rent of about $1,000.

In a July 6 letter to the commission, Timothy Hollister, lawyer for the applicants, contended three of the conditions ” materially impact the viability of the development plan, are infeasible, legally impermissible, or are unnecessary.”

One disputed condition is the requirement for a six-foot security fence around the perimeter of the property. Hollister contended in the letter a six-foot fence would have to be a chain-link fence, which he maintained would be unsightly and unnecessary. He suggested a nearby property owner, Essex Savings Bank, was uncomfortable with the idea of six-foot fencing on the southwest corner of the property. As an alternative, Hollister suggested a four-foot picket fence around most or the property boundary, including the street frontage.

Hollister also contended a requirement for elevators in the three buildings was “impractical and unnecessary” and would make the current floor plans infeasible. He noted the project is not age-restricted housing, adding that elevators have not been a requirement for many similar projects in Connecticut, including an apartment complex with affordable housing now under construction in Old Saybrook.

The third disputed condition involves the height of the three buildings. The commission had imposed a height limit of 35 feet for all three buildings, a condition that Hollister maintained would require an unattractive, institutional-style flat roof. He suggested a maximum height limit of 42-feet for the three buildings.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said this week the resubmission requires a new public hearing, but also allows for some negotiation between the commission and the applicant on the disputed conditions. The review must be concluded within 65 days, including a public hearing and decision, with no provision for any extensions.

The panel has also scheduled an Aug. 15 public hearing on a new and separate special permit application for an eight-unit condominium-style active adult community development on a 10-acre parcel on Bokum Road. The proposed Cobblestone Court development would be comprised of four duplex buildings The applicant is local resident and property owner Mark Bombaci under the name Bokum One LLC. The property abuts a little used section of the Valley Railroad line.
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​Community Foundation of Middlesex County Honors Local Volunteers

'Local leaders' gather July 27 at Wadsworth Mansion. Front Row: Sarah Cody (Fox61), Rosario “Riz” Rizzo, Liz Shulman, Gail Morris, Cindy McNeil-Sola, Lynda Hunnicutt, Bernadette Jones, Laura Pedersen, Linda Bradshaw, Sharon Griffin, Deb Moore. Second Row: George “Sonny” Whelen, Dave Shulman, Bob Shulman, Andy Morris, David Director, Marc Levin, John Biddiscombe, John Bradshaw, Biff Shaw.

‘Local leaders’ gather July 27 at Wadsworth Mansion. Front Row: Sarah Cody (Fox61), Rosario “Riz” Rizzo, Liz Shulman, Gail Morris, Cindy McNeil-Sola, Lynda Hunnicutt, Bernadette Jones, Laura Pedersen, Linda Bradshaw, Sharon Griffin, Deb Moore. Second Row: George “Sonny” Whelen, Dave Shulman, Bob Shulman, Andy Morris, David Director, Marc Levin, John Biddiscombe, John Bradshaw, Biff Shaw.

They are everywhere – in the house next door, behind the counter at the business down the street, at the board of directors table of your favorite nonprofit – volunteers and leaders who give their time and talents to our community. The Community Foundation of Middlesex County is fortunate to be surrounded by “Good People Doing Great Things”.  Every day the Community Foundation is reminded that everyone in the region truly cares about their friends and neighbors and where they live, work and play.

Late last year the Community Foundation inaugurated its first Local Leaders, Local Legends recognition program, awarding the Sherry and Herb Clark Beacon of Philanthropy Award to two individuals, Arthur Director and the late Willard McRae. Both men have been exceptional legendary leaders in the community, supporting the county’s local nonprofits and CFMC itself in a myriad of ways to make Middlesex County a better place for all.

This spring the Community Foundation rolled out the full Local Leaders, Local Legends program:  to highlight individuals and organizations who make a difference every day. The Community Foundation enlisted the help of the community, putting a call out for nominations of those individuals, organizations, or businesses who should be recognized and thanked.  The Community Foundation asked members of the community to think about those they believe go above what would be expected – our community’s Local Leaders, Local Legends.

On Wednesday, July 27, the Community Foundation joined friends and honorees at the Wadsworth Mansion to honor some very special neighbors. Special guest Sarah Cody of Fox61 hosted the evening’s event. The Community Foundation is proud to announce the following honorees:

The Unsung Heroes award recognizes individuals whose role has been “behind the scenes” and not the face of the organization, but their contribution has made the local nonprofits or CFMC stronger by their support. This award was given to the following individuals:

Linda and John Bradshaw, Moodus

Sharon Griffin, Durham

Bernadette Jones, Westbrook

Gail and Andy Morris, Old Saybrook

Ralph “Biff” Shaw, Essex

George “Sonny” Whelen, IV, Lyme                                                                     

The Outstanding Volunteer award recognizes excellence in volunteer service, leading to significant improvements in the quality of life in our community. This award given to the following individuals:

Lynda Hunnicutt, Westbrook

Cindy McNeil-Sola, Higganum

Deborah Moore, Killingworth

The Leadership award recognizes exceptional leadership in recruiting, motivating and coordinating volunteers, and providing clear direction by example. Two individuals were recognized with this award.

John Biddiscombe, Durham

David Director, Cromwell

The Corporate Supporter award recognizes outstanding, sustained commitment to building a culture of civic and charitable engagement through financial and in-kind support, as well as creating a corporate culture that encourages employees to take leadership roles in philanthropy and community service. This award was presented to the Council of Business Partners and its members.

Council of Business Partners:        A & A Office Systems, A.R. Mazzotta Employment Specialists, Brown & Brown of CT, Inc.,  Belltown Motors,  BEST Cleaners, Connecticut Lighting Centers, Direct Energy, Essex Printing/Events Magazines, Interfaith Golf Open Tournament, LiveKind, M & J Bus Company, Mahoney Sabol & Co., Malloves Jewelers,  Paulson Training Programs, Nancy Raczka, Attorney,  Elizabeth Schulman, LMFT,  Suburban Stationers,  The Black Seal, The Rossi Group

Community Foundation of Middlesex County congratulates the Local Leaders, Local Legend Honorees and extends a heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone who submitted a nomination for their special Local Leader, Local Legend. Middlesex County is fortunate to have so many great people working together to make our community the best place to live, work and play.

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The Blue Oar: Enjoy a Tropical Feel at River Eatery in Haddam

Looking across the vibrant patio of 'The Blue Oar' towards the Connecticut River.

Looking across the vibrant patio of ‘The Blue Oar’ towards the Connecticut River.

The soft sunlight of a warm summer evening glistens off the gently flowing river as you sip wine at a pastel-colored picnic table while awaiting your Cajun catfish dinner. No, you’re not in Louisiana; you’re alongside the Connecticut River at the Blue Oar Restaurant in Haddam.

Now enjoying its 20th summer, the Blue Oar resembles more of a summer camp than a restaurant. Built on stilts to protect the kitchen from river floods, the yellow and white wooden structure resembles a children’s treetop playhouse. A trademark of the expansive dining grounds is the colored chairs and tables – pastels of lime green, melon, sky blue, tangerine and creamy yellow.  “It reminds people of the Caribbean or Florida,” says co-owner Jody Reilly. “There’s a relaxed vibe.” 

You can bring your own wine or beer, have a cheeseburger or hot dog with kraut, but your options go far beyond that.  The most popular sandwich is “the chicken, roasted pepper and cheddar,” says Reilly. “They seem to fly out of here. And also the ribs, chowder, and lobster rolls.”

A staple of fixed offerings is supplemented by a number of daily specials. Dinner entrees range from grilled salmon to Jamaican jerk BBQ pork loin. A recent Saturday night featured grilled Cajun catfish with black bean salsa and strips of grilled summer squash. The large fillet was just spicy enough and sat on a generous bed of cool black bean salsa that blended perfectly on the palate. A chilled Italian pinot grigio was the perfect accompaniment.

Appetizers are plentiful and varied. Sautéed mussels, seared scallops and fresh guacamole with house-made tortilla chips are just a few examples. If you’re looking for fried seafood, this isn’t your spot.

A view of 'The Blue Oar' from the Connecticut River.

A view of ‘The Blue Oar’ from the Connecticut River.

With docks along the river, arriving by boat is an option. “We’re a destination,” says Reilly. “A lot of people on boat trips for the day pull in from Sag Harbor or Greenport.”

On a bright, sunny evening, the Blue Oar has a distinct tropical feel. A good weather weekend can bring in up to 600 diners a day, says Reilly. There may be a line, but it moves along and provides conversation and entertainment. As waiters exit the tight kitchen, it resembles a bumper car arcade as they bob and weave through the order line that meanders out the door.

The Blue Oar is open seven days a week from Mother’s Day weekend through September, serving lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Water and soda is available but all alcohol is BYOB.

Note: it is cash only. Credit and debit cards are not accepted. The Blue Oar is located off Rte. 154 about a mile-and-a-half north of exit 7 off Rte. 9. Look for the turn sign.

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Volunteer to Help Those Who Cannot Read

If you have some time to volunteer to build a stronger community and help a local non-profit in tutoring area residents to read, write and speak English, you can start helping almost immediately! Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore is looking for Board Members, a Treasurer for the organization, Tutor Trainees and volunteers at our offices at 61 Goodspeed Drive, Westbrook.

Please contact us at info@vsliteracy.org or call 860-399-0280 for more details and thank you in advance for helping.

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In US Senate, Blumenthal Presses Amtrak VP to Ditch Any Plans to Build High Speed Train Route Through SE CT, Mentioning Specifically Old Lyme

Senator Richard Blumenthal (File photo)

Senator Richard Blumenthal (File photo)

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pressed Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner to ditch any plans to build a route through Southeastern Connecticut, such as Old Lyme, at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing yesterday afternoon.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has started a massive, multi-million dollar undertaking called “NEC FUTURE” to develop a vision that will meet the passenger rail needs of the Northeast in 2040. Some of the ideas included in the plan include rerouting Amtrak straight through Old Lyme.

“Unfortunately, some of the ideas the FRA has proposed are frankly half-baked, hare-brained notions that will never come to fruition – including rerouting Amtrak straight through the community of Old Lyme, Connecticut and other shoreline communities where there is strong, understandable, and well merited opposition, ” Blumenthal said.

He continued, “The FRA’s time and money in my view would be better spent improving rail rather than on plans that have no realistic notion. I hope you will agree with me that the tracks of Amtrak would never go through Old Lyme, Connecticut.”

The proposed rail line realignment outlined in Alternative 1 of the NEC FUTURE Plan would shift the main rail line northward ahead of the Old Saybrook Station and run through several Connecticut and Rhode Island shoreline communities before reconnecting to the existing segment in Kenyon, RI. Blumenthal has been a vocal advocate against this idea.

He sent a letter with Senator Murphy and Representative Courtney in February calling on the FRA to meet with Connecticut citizens along the shoreline to hear local concerns about how this proposal would impact their communities.

A clip of the Senator’s remarks are available here, and broadcast-quality video of his remarks can be downloaded here.

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Eversource Offers Service to Identify Where Cooled Air May Leak From Your Home

air-leak-in-house-wasted-energyAREAWIDE — With summer underway, many of us are trying to wrap up home improvement projects so that we can kick back and relax when we have time off. However, as you are finishing up these projects, don’t forget about making sure that the cool air you’ll be paying for this summer stays in your home.

We all know that air can escape under a door and through leaky windows. But did you know that it can also leak through less obvious places like ductwork, outlets, attic entrances, recessed lights and moldings?

Beyond driving up energy costs, air leaks can affect your home’s durability, comfort and overall indoor environment. According to the Department of Energy, air movement is the reason most water vapor problems appear within a home or building. From mold growth and poor air quality to structural damage, we all probably have or know someone who has experienced the negative effects of moisture in a home.

One of the most effective ways residents of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook can check this off their to-do list is to sign up for Home Energy Solutions℠ (HES) and address those areas where conditioned air is leaking out of your home head-on. For $99.00, an Eversource-authorized contractor will come to your home or apartment, identify the areas that need caulk and foam and make the repairs on the spot.  While every home has different needs, the professional air sealing alone is worth an average of about $600.

The expert will also evaluate your home’s overall efficiency performance and fix additional problems, like inefficient lighting, hot water pipe insulation and water flow from faucets and showerheads. Then they will provide you with a customized plan with other efficiency recommendations, valuable rebates and financing options to help you save energy, money and keep your home comfortable.

HES is an easy process that will not only help you save energy and money long-term, but will help your community be greener and also stay warmer this winter.

Between 2012 and 2015, all four towns took the pledge and have been active participants in Clean Energy Communities (CEC), the nationally-recognized Energize Connecticut program that help cities and towns save energy and increase the installation of renewable energy. Eversource is currently working with each one to reach CEC program goals and reduce municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent by 2018.

In each town, homeowners and renters that participate in HES can help earn a grant, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. These “Bright Idea Grants” can be used on a community-selected energy saving project, like the installation of an electric car charging station at town hall or new LED lighting for a school.

To sign up for HES, visit EnergizeCT.com or call 877-WISE-USE (877-947-3873).

Editor’s Note: This column was submitted by Eversource and written by Eversource’s energy efficiency expert, Enoch Lenge.

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Closed-Door Meeting on High Speed Rail Proposal Held July 7 in Old Lyme; Update From SECoast

The following was posted July 10 on the SECoast (the non-profit fighting the high-speed rail proposal that impacts Old Lyme) Facebook page:

Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker

Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker (Photo from ConnDOT)

“Thursday, July 7th, from 1:30 to 4:00 pm, Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker held a closed-door meeting at the Old Lyme Town Hall. The invitation list included: First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, State Rep. Devin Carney, State Sen. Paul Formica, Rod Haramut for RiverCOG, Gregory Stroud for SECoast, James Redeker, Pam Sucato, Legislative Director at the Connecticut DOT; Tom Allen, for Sen. Blumenthal’s office; Emily Boushee for Senator Murphy; John Forbis and BJ Bernblum. Despite requests by SECoast, statewide partner Daniel Mackay of Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation was not invited to attend. Officials from the Federal Railroad Administration, and project consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff did not attend.

Prior to the meeting, Stroud circulated a series of questions for Commissioner Redeker and a request for a public meeting to be held in Old Lyme. These questions are included below.

In over two hours of talks, Commissioner Redeker claimed little knowledge of current FRA planning. Redeker declined to explain mid-February internal emails between Redeker and aides, uncovered through Freedom of Information laws, indicating knowledge of such plans in mid-February. Redeker also declined to host or request a public meeting in New London County, and referred such requests to the FRA.

Asked by SECoast if he would agree to provide responses or follow-up answers to the submitted questions, Redeker replied, “Nope.” Asked whether this refusal was a matter of willingness or a matter of ability, Redeker suggested both. Asked whether he could answer any of the questions, Redeker responded yes to only Question 9.

During discussion, Redeker did indicate a slightly more accelerated decision-making process at FRA. He suggested a mid-August announcement of FRA plans, and a Record of Decision that would formalize plans by the end of 2016. Redeker also emphasized the importance of FRA plans, including the coastal bypass, to insure funding and to maximize future flexibility for state and federal officials. Redeker held out the possibility of significantly expanded commuter rail service, but when given the opportunity, made no assurances that an aerial structure through the historic district in Old Lyme was off the table.

Tom Allen, representing Senator Blumenthal’s office, gave a formal statement. Allen explained that the evidence uncovered in mid-February email came as “a surprise,” and promised to “push” for a public meeting by the end of the month, and if not, by the end of the year.

Earlier in the day, Redeker attended a large gathering of state and local officials in New London in recognition of the newly-created Connecticut Port Authority. This gathering carried over into the smaller closed-door meeting in Old Lyme, referenced above.

Questions:

1. In response to the release of internal Conn DOT emails, Spokesman Judd Everhart stated that “the DOT still is awaiting a decision from the FRA on a ‘preferred alternative’ for an upgrade of the corridor.” Should we conclude from this statement that the SECoast press release is incorrect? To your knowledge, has Parsons Brinckerhoff or the FRA either formally or informally “selected a vision, or even potential routes, for the Northeast Corridor”? And if so, when?

2. What is the current time frame for selecting a preferred alternative, preparing the Tier 1 Final EIS, the formal announcement and securing a ROD? And where are we, as of 7/7, on this time line?

3. If a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass is selected as part of the preferred alternative, and subsequent study concludes that a tunnel is infeasible, will the FRA and Conn DOT rule out any possible reversion to a bridge or aerial structure at or near Old Lyme?

4. Given that the Kenyon to Old Saybrook bypass is usually understood as the defining feature of Alternative 1, what is the significance of placing this bypass instead into an Alternative 2 framework? To your knowledge, has Parsons Brinckerhoff or the FRA, either formally or informally, selected Alternative 2 with modifications as the preferred alternative?

5. To your knowledge, does Parsons Brinckerhoff, the FRA or Conn DOT have more detailed maps of the proposed Kenyon to Saybrook bypass? And are you willing to provide them to us?

6. In your discussion of “4 track capacity to Boston,” should we understand this to mean a 2 track bypass in addition to the 2 lines existing along the shoreline?

7. Given that the Kenyon to Saybrook bypass was a relatively late addition to the NEC Planning process, do you feel comfortable that the bypass has received sufficient public and professional scrutiny to be included as part of a preferred alternative? Can you explain the genesis and inclusion of the bypass after the original 98 plans had been pared down to 3 action alternatives?

8. Conn DOT email released as part of a FOI request suggests a lack of formal and informal outreach to Old Lyme and RiverCog prior to the close of the initial comment deadline, when compared to formal and informal outreach statewide to nonprofits, mayors and Cogs. Please clarify the timing and extent of outreach to the region impacted by the proposed bypass, and to Old Lyme in particular.

9. What can we do to help you in the ongoing NEC Future process in southeastern Connecticut and to prevent these sorts of difficulties from cropping up in the future?”

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House Approves Courtney-Sponsored Amendment Restricting Sale of Plum Island

Representative Joe Courtney

Representative Joe Courtney

Local Congressional Representative Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced yesterday, Thursday, July 7, that a bipartisan amendment he had led, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), to prohibit the sale of Plum Island was passed by the House of Representatives.

The amendment, which will prohibit the General Services Administration (GSA) from using any of its operational funding to process or complete a sale of Plum Island, was made to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017..

In a joint statement, the Representatives said, “Our amendment passed today is a big step toward permanently protecting Plum Island as a natural area. Plum Island is a scenic and biological treasure located right in the middle of Long Island Sound. It is home to a rich assortment of rare plant and animal species that need to be walled off from human interference.”

The statement continued, “Nearly everyone involved in this issue agrees that it should be preserved as a natural sanctuary – not sold off to the highest bidder for development.”  Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump had shown interest in the property at one time.

plum_is_01a

In 2008, the federal government announced plans to close the research facility on Plum Island and relocate to Manhattan, Kansas. Current law states that Plum Island must be sold publicly to help finance the new research facility.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

Aerial view of Plum Island.

The lawmakers  joint statement explained, “The amendment will prevent the federal agency in charge of the island from moving forward with a sale by prohibiting it from using any of its operational funding provided by Congress for that purpose,” concluding, ” This will not be the end of the fight to preserve Plum Island, but this will provide us with more time to find a permanent solution for protecting the Island for generations to come.”

For several years, members from both sides of Long Island Sound have been working in a bipartisan manner to delay and, ultimately, repeal the mandated sale of this ecological treasure. Earlier this year, the representatives, along with the whole Connecticut delegation, cosponsored legislation that passed the House unanimously to delay the sale of Plum Island.

 

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Chester Library Says Goodbye to Linda Fox, Hello to Stephanie Romano

A reception for outgoing Library Director Linda Fox and incoming Director Stephanie Romano will be held at Chester Library on July 7. (Skip Hubbard photo)

A reception for outgoing Library Director Linda Fox and incoming Director Stephanie Romano will be held at Chester Library on July 7. (Skip Hubbard photo)

CHESTER – After 13-plus years of being the Director of Chester Public Library, Linda Fox retires from her position on Thursday, July 7, and Stephanie Romano stepped into Linda’s position full-time on July 6.

Linda wrote the Library Board of Trustees in February, to tell them of her plan to leave the library this summer. She said, “Being a Public Library Director is a job that I never expected to love, but love it I have for more than a decade.  It has been challenging, rewarding and a great pleasure to work for and with you, the library staff, the Friends, and the people of Chester.  We’ve accomplished good things together, haven’t we?  The library is more technologically current, staff and service hours have been expanded, and the community is more engaged with the library, not to mention that we are closer than ever to creating an accessible, 21st-century library building for the community.  The thought of not being around for the opening of those doors brings with it a true sense of disappointment.”

Longtime Library Friends member Sally Murray said, “Linda has consistently given her all, and then some, for the people of Chester; her tireless efforts have brightened our town in ways most people will never recognize but which benefit all of us.”

Longtime Library Board of Trustees Chairman Terry Schreiber, who hired Linda in 2002 and Stephanie this spring, added, “We feel Stephanie will be a perfect match for our library. She is enthusiastic and willing to reach out to people to continue to make Chester Library a warm, friendly, welcoming place.  We will miss Linda very very much – she was the face of the library for so many years – but we wish her well and know she looks forward to new  adventures.”

Stephanie Romano comes to Chester from the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library, where she worked since May 2007, most recently as Access Services Manager (see separate article on LymeLine.com here). Describing herself, Stephanie wrote, “My path to being a librarian has not been a direct one! I worked at Research Books (a book distributor for corporate libraries) in Madison for about eight years before deciding to go back to school. The work I was involved in with Research Books involved interaction with librarians on all different levels and was the reason I chose to pursue a degree in Library Science.  I loved the fact that every librarian I spoke with, no matter which field they were in, loved their job.  I knew that I also wanted a job that I was going to love after 25 years.”

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Emails Confirm High Speed Rail Through Old Lyme

We received the following as a press release from SECoast on June 29. It has been published on the organization’s Facebook page and website with the supporting documentation, which for technical reasons, we are currently unable to publish.

Emails obtained by SECoast as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, indicate that the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) decided four months ago to route the next generation of high speed rail infrastructure on a new bypass through Old Lyme and eastern coastal Connecticut. They have yet to announce this decision publicly.

Gregory Stroud, executive director of SECoast, a nonprofit collaborative on issues of preservation in Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley, obtained internal Connecticut Department of Transportation emails from Commissioner James Redeker to Public Transportation Chief James Andreski which appear to confirm FRA   plans for a Kenyon, Rhode Island to Old Saybrook, Conn., high speed rail bypass through Old Lyme in or adjacent to the I-95 corridor. These plans would also include a separate New Haven to Springfield, Mass., route as part of a newly “modified” NEC Future: Alternative 2 proposal.

Within two days of the close of public comment, agency emails indicate that the FRA had committed to a coastal bypass route through Connecticut. Redeker writes on Feb. 18, 2016, that “after spending a few hours with the team, David Carol tells me the NEC Future team … will be leaving the Kenyon bypass for the spine to Boston, because they are completely focused on delivering four-track capacity to Boston.”

Carol, a former Old Lyme resident, is heading efforts by Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop high speed rail between Boston and Washington, DC. The multinational engineering and design firm, a veteran of such projects as the Big Dig in Boston, and the Raymond E. Baldwin bridge at the mouth of the Connecticut river, is leading a state and federal project, dubbed NEC Future, to modernize high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.

The possibility of a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass, a surprise late addition to past evaluations of high speed rail, has provoked widespread concern and opposition from citizens and organizations in the region, and prompted roughly 1200 public comments to the Federal Railroad Administration out of 3000 from across the United States.

Old Lyme is internationally recognized as the home of American Impressionism, and the FRA’s initial proposal called for a new rail bridge and elevated tracks through the picturesque marshes and heart of the town’s National Register Historic District.

Further emails, after a Feb. 26, 2016 Northeast Corridor Commission meeting of private, state, and federal officials at Parsons Brinckerhoff headquarters in Manhattan, appear to confirm a long-standing decision to route the rail project through Old Lyme in modified form as a tunnel. Andreski informed Redeker and other state transportation officials, that the FRA project manager in charge, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea,“explained the various adjustment [sic] they were making in response to public comments. For example the Old Lyme Kenyon Bypass concept is being modified. Hartford Line [sic] will be included as an additional feeder spine …. Rebecca stated they recognize more work is need on the alternative concepts …. Still I believe they are pressing forward on Alternative 2 with the mods decribed [sic] above.”

“This routing decision will have a major impact on the historic, cultural and environmental resources of Connecticut’s eastern seacoast communities,” said Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. “The FRA and its consultants settled on a preferred route four months ago – it’s long past time they meet the residents of the region face to face to address numerous concerns about where and how they propose to build this industrial-scale transportation infrastructure, and how they will protect the resources that make these Connecticut communities unique.”

Stroud called on the FRA and Parsons Brinckerhoff to delay the decision on a preferred route until after the project had passed public and environmental scrutiny. “Due diligence can’t follow decision-making in a multi-billion dollar project such as this,” Stroud stated. “These plans for a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass were not part of the original 98 alternatives announced by the federal government in 2012. They have not undergone the same level of agency or public scrutiny as other routes.”

He added, “not one single environmental study has been conducted to determine the feasibility or impact of a tunnel under the Connecticut River estuary or under Old Lyme’s National Register Historic District. Plans for crossing the Thames River are undefined. Not one public meeting on this project has been held in New London or Middlesex counties or southern Rhode Island.”

The state and federal-level conversations captured in these emails occurred several weeks prior to a private March 11, 2016 meeting between David Carol and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, aides and other local officials. These emails obtained by SECoast as part of a May 22, 2016 Freedom of Information Act request, funded in part by donations from the local community, are the first public confirmation of FRA plans for high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.

Two additional Freedom of Information Act requests filed earlier with the Federal Railroad Administration on April 4, 2016 remain unfilled.

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Pettipaug Sailing Academy on “Day One”

Getting the boats in the water at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Preparing the boats for entry into the water at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

ESSEX — Monday, June 27, was the opening day of the sailing classes at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy in Essex. When the sailing classes began, there was no waiting around for talks on dry land. Rather almost immediately the student sailors were ordered to get in their boats, and start sailing around on the Connecticut River.

The weather was perfect for the young, and many inexperienced sailors. There was a steady breeze over the water, but a not too heavy one. Also, the sometimes blazing sun was hidden behind thick clouds. It was perfect sailing weather for the 55 sailing students to take a three-hour class to learn how to sail.

And then, the crews of three to a boat students climb on board,

And then, the crews of three to a boat students climbed on board …

And everything was set and ready to go,

Then everything was set and ready to go …

... for sailing out on the waters of the Connecticut River.

… for sailing out on the waters of the Connecticut River.

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Essex Zoning Commission Approves New Restaurant in Centerbrook Section of Town

30 Main Street, Centerbrook

30 Main Street, Centerbrook

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

During the discussion, Shipman noted the apartments would be a better residential use near the railroad than owned condominiums, and suggested the requirements of the affordable housing statute limited the panel’s ability to control some aspects of the project, including density and building height. The sewage disposal system for the three building complex must be approved by the state Department of Public Health.
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Essex Rotary Recognizes Scholarship Recipients at Annual Awards Dinner

Essex Rotary Scholarship winners (left to right) Claire Halloran, Annie Brown, Kaleigh Caulfield, Scott Nelson, Tina Mitchell, Emily LeBlanc and Morgan Hines. Photo by Dick Levene)

Essex Rotary Scholarship winners (left to right) Claire Halloran, Annie Brown, Kaleigh Caulfield, Rotarian Scott Nelson, Tina Mitchell, Emily LeBlanc and Morgan Hines. Photo by Dick Levene

ESSEX – Each year Rotarians gather at the Essex Yacht Club under the leadership of current club President Jordan Welles and Essex Rotary Scholarship Foundation Chairman Scott Nelson to meet and honor our scholars both past and present.  The Rotary Club of Essex has been supporting the college dreams of Essex residents for the past 49 years, having awarded the first scholarship back in 1966.  The club has a legacy that began with stellar Rotarians including Dr. Donald Buebendorf, Doug Jones, Chet Kitchings and Dr. Peter Pool.  That legacy continues under the leadership of a second generation of Rotarians including Don’s son Jeff Buebendorf.  Two of the 2016 recipients share that legacy.

Rotarian Dr. Bill McCann’s granddaughter Annie Brown enters the University of Vermont this fall where she plans to major in education and environmental studies.  Annie is the recipient of the 2016 Dr. Donald M. Buebendorf Scholarship.  Annie plans to spend her summer working with children at the Valley Shore YMCA and at Bushy Hill Nature Center where she hopes to help children connect with each other and with nature.

Tina Mitchell has been awarded a new and unique scholarship this year honoring the club’s 60th anniversary.  Tina will study Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cornell following a gap year abroad in Hungary as part of the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program.  Tina’s grandfather was an active Rotarian and inventor of the famed shad bake coffee brewer lovingly known as the rocket.

The third 2016 recipient is Kaleigh Caulfield.  Kaleigh is entering the pre-teaching program at UConn Avery Point and eventually plans to work in the field of special education.  This scholarship is a collaborative partnership between the Rotary Club of Essex and the trustees of the Riverview Cemetery.  Board members Peter Decker, Dick Mather and Hank McInerney were on hand for the presentation.

Also in attendance were past recipients from 2013-15.  Emily Le Grand is a finance major at the University of Maryland.  Emily has a strong interest in the non-profit sector and has interned at United Way as well as volunteered with a hunger and homeless project in the DC area this past semester.  Harrison Taylor continues his studies at Connecticut College and has discovered a passion for working with immigrants in the New London area providing education and support navigating the immigration process.  Claire Halloran finished her freshman year at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU studying film and television production.  Claire’s early projects have already garnered awards and her studies confirm her dedication to this industry and a newfound interest in post-production sound.  Morgan Hines just finished a semester in Prague and now returns to Georgetown for her final year majoring in history and journalism.  Morgan is interning with the Hartford Courant this summer and starts the process of applying to graduate schools in the fall.

Mason King was unable to attend, but continues his studies at Union College.  Allyson Clark was also unable to attend but sent a written update, which Scott Nelson shared with the audience.  Allyson has been working with NFP programs in Brazil including BRAYCE and has also embarked on an entrepreneurial venture to educate tourists on the negative impact that tourism has on poverty-stricken areas such as Rio.  Allyson made the critical decision to transfer to Rhine-Waal University in Germany this past year and has successfully integrated her studies and her tourism project into this new culture.  She is enjoying the diversity and the challenges of cultural immersion and has gained a unique understanding of international migration.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Essex, please visit  www.rotaryclubofessex.com.
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Letter to the Editor from New Essex Library Friends President

The Friends of Essex Library new Board for 2016 (L-R): Genie Devine, Secretary; Linda Levene, Past President; Jo Kelly, President; Judy Taylor, Catharine Wagner, Susan Hosack (not shown), Members at Large; Pat Mather, Treasurer; Judy Fish, Ivoryton Library Liaison; Peggy Tuttle, Book Sales Coordinator.

The Friends of Essex Library new Board for 2016 (L-R): Genie Devine, Secretary; Linda Levene, Past President; Jo Kelly, President; Judy Taylor, Catharine Wagner, Susan Hosack (not shown), Members at Large; Pat Mather, Treasurer; Judy Fish, Ivoryton Library Liaison; Peggy Tuttle, Book Sales Coordinator.

To the Editor:

I am very pleased to be on the Board of the Friends of the Essex Library as their new President.  I look forward to working with my new Board, the Essex Library Association board, and the Essex community.

Libraries across the country are going through a transformation.  The library many of you, as well as myself, grew up with no longer exists.  Essex Library is becoming an ever expanding multimedia community resource hub; striving to meet the needs and requirements of a changing community.

My goals are to aid and support Essex Library Association in its efforts to meet the challenges of a changing community.  And, with your community involvement in our library system, we will accomplish and surpass these goals.

Thank you for your continued support and involvement.

Sincerely,

Jo Kelly
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Essex Garden Club Donates $500 to The Farm at John Winthrop

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Pictured are the advisors, Mark Gostkeiwicz and John Woitovich, along with Elizabeth Bartlett from Essex Garden Club.

The Essex Garden Club recently donated $500 to the Farm at John Winthrop School.   Their after-school program  has grown fruits and vegetables to support classroom learning such as cooking and propagation. The produce is also made available to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens.

 

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Old Saybrook Seeks to Upgrade Rte. 1 East with Clean-Up as a First Step

Blighted property on “Mariner’s Way.” Investigation of clean-up is underway. Photo by J. Wilson.

Blighted property on “Mariner’s Way” in Old Saybrook. Investigation of clean-up is currently underway. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

On Sept. 22, 2014, the Town of Old Saybrook received a $155,000 “brownfield assessment grant” from Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development. The grant was designed “to support an investigation of potential pollutants on nine properties centrally located on Route 1 (Boston Post Rd.), also known as Mariner’s Way.”

This area of Rte. 1, between the town center and Ferry Point, presently contains a mix of active land use, including gasoline stations, car washes, boat sales and automotive dealers, as well as the overgrown, vacant and abandoned properties subject to the 2014 grant for investigation.

On the receipt of the State grant, Old Saybrook’s First Selectman, Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., said, “We will use this grant to identify any existing contamination in the soils, or in existing buildings, and, if needed, create a remedial action plan.” The investigation of what need there may be for eventual clean-up of the sites, under this second grant, is in progress. The grant specified that the results from the investigation would be expected in the spring of 2017.

Second Grant on May 11, 2016

On May 11, 2016, the Town received a second grant of $220,000, this one for the purpose of the greater “brownfield areawide revitalization” effort for this eastern portion of the Rte. 1 corridor.

The Town’s plan for redevelopment of Mariner’s Way. Photo by J. Wilson.

The Town’s plan for redevelopment of Mariner’s Way. Photo by J. Wilson.

In 2014, the Town adopted a study by a special committee of Rte. 1 East as a section of its Town Plan and now distributes it for the purpose of informing the public as to the necessity of these grants. The full-color, 24-page booklet is entitled, “Mariner’s Way – Gateway to Connecticut River Recreation.” The booklet was subtitled, “A vision to improve Route 1 East connector in Old Saybrook between Saybrook Junction’s Town Center, and Ferry Point’s Marina District.”

The goal of the work under this second grant is to hone the design details of the physical aspects of the Mariner’s Way planning project “to redevelop the easternmost corridor of Route 1 (Mariner’s Way) into a boulevard of reinvigorated marine and recreation uses.”  The Town hopes to further its “branding” of the area as Mariner’s Way.

Adding the two state grants together, the Town of Old Saybrook has received a total of $375,000 for implementing the “Mariner’s Way” plan of development.

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Comment Period on Draft NE Regional Ocean Plan Open Through July 26

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 7.00.37 AM
AREAWIDE — The Northeast Regional Planning Body (RPB) has released the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan for public review and comment. The only public comment meeting in Connecticut was held June 8 in Old Lyme, but other meetings in northeastern states are scheduled as detailed in this link.

Several years of public engagement, scientific study and data analysis, and collaboration have led to this draft, and the RPB looks forward to hearing the feedback of everyone who is interested in the future of New England’s ocean and its resources.

The RPB is seeking feedback on this draft Plan. The public comment deadline is July 25, 2016, and you can comment on each chapter electronically at each chapter landing page, in-person at any of the upcoming public comment meetings, through the comment form below, or by submitting written comments to:

Betsy Nicholson, NE RPB Federal Co-lead
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Regional Office
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2276.

You may also provide comments by sending an e-mail to:
comment@neoceanplanning.org.

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Hambor’s School-to-Career Program at VRHS Celebrates 10 Successful Years

The 10th Annual Partnership Celebration brought interns and their mentors together to enjoy food and farewells.

The 10th Annual Partnership Celebration brought interns and their mentors together for food and farewells.

AREAWIDE — Ten years ago Valley Regional High School (VRHS) School-to-Career Consultant Mary Hambor started a program for students at the school interested in finding out more about jobs in the real world with five internships.  On May 26 this year, at the 10th Annual Partnership Celebration, she described how during the 2015-16 academic year, she had placed 95 seniors and seven juniors in a total of 102 internships.

Poster boards listed all the businesses and organizations which had taken interns during the 2015-16 academic year.

Poster boards listed all the businesses and organizations which had taken interns during the 2015-16 academic year.

Describing the success of the program as “very rewarding,” a delighted Hambor noted that she felt its “goal [had been] achieved” in that it had now become, “a comprehensive internship program … offering invaluable hands-on experience.”  She expressed her appreciation to all those who had taken on interns during the year and the VRHS administration saying, “I continually feel blessed to be part of such a supportive community.”

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital stands with Mary Hambor, VRHS School-to-Career Cordinator.

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital stands with Mary Hambor, VRHS School-to-Career Cordinator.

Many of the student interns spoke about their experiences during the celebration.  Katie Amara and Maddy Ball described how at Deep River Animal Hospital, they had “everyday learned something new,” including “holding a few snakes” and “how to draw blood,” summing up the internship as one in which they, “had learned a lot more than we expected.”

Anastasia Cusack-Mercedez explained that as a direct result of her internship with Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) in New Haven she now knew that she “would like to work for a non-profit.”

Sevigny Fortin said he had been, “very fortunate” to work in the State Prosecutor’s office at New London Superior Court with Attorney Paul Narducci and had even been involved with work on a murder trial. He believed he had benefited from “an opportunity not many high schoolers have,” noting, “I have been very fortunate to work with a mentor so passionate and helpful.”

Mary Hambor (right) stands with Ibby Carothers of iCRV Radio and the students who interned at the radio station.

Mary Hambor (right) stands with Ibby Carothers of iCRV Radio and the students who interned at the radio station.

Hannah Halsey spoke about the experience that she and several of her peers had enjoyed interning at iCRV Radio in Chester and then Ivoryton. She said it was, “a really great learning experience during which she and her friends had “learned about marketing” and acquired many new skills, such as “how to operate a database.”  The interns had actually hosted a radio show at one point!

Sometimes the students explained that the internships had caused them to experience a change in their planned careers.  Tina Mitchell, who had worked at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, had gone into her internship believing she was “interested in politics,” but during her time working with a policy analyst in the House Speaker’s office, determined that she had “found a home in policy.”

Other students like Elizabeth Forsythe freely declared, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” but went on to say that her internship at Aaron Manor with Karyn Cotrona had taught her “what HR is all about.”  She thanked her mentors for giving her “the experience to explore what she wanted to do.”

Our very own wonderful ValleyNewsNow.com intern, Maggie Klin.

Our very own ValleyNewsNow.com wonderful intern, Maggie Klin!

Several of the mentors took the opportunity to say publicly how the internship had gone from their angle.  Rebecca Foley from IRIS said, “Anastasia did an incredible job” and noted that she had gone far beyond the call of her internship and raised $827 for the organization in her own time.

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital commented that when he had first been asked to take an intern, he just said, “No.”  Then he met with the students and was “so impressed” to the extent that — speaking of this year’s interns — , “I would hire both of these young ladies today,” adding in words that seemed to sum up the universal experience of the mentors, “Every student from this high school has achieved the bar … and gone beyond it.”

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Deep River Historical Society Receives Humanities Grant; Rep. Joe Courtney Visits Stone House

Rep. Joe Courtney talks to Deep River Historical Society curator, Rhonda Forristall. in Stone House on June 1.

Rep. Joe Courtney talks to Deep River Historical Society curator, Rhonda Forristall. in Stone House on June 1.

DEEP RIVER – U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney, 2nd District, visited the Deep River Historical Society’s Stone House at 245 Main Street, on June 1.

The Society recently received a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the amount of $1,500.

The Society applied for the grant following its first year of involvement with the StEPs-program, offered through Connecticut Humanities. According to their website (CTHumanities.org), the organization “helps local museums and historical societies build professionalism and ensure their programs and collections remain vibrant community resources through StEPs-CT – a two-year program created with the Connecticut League of History Organizations, and run in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society, that guides them towards excellence in six areas of organizational practice.”

Rhonda Forristall, Deep River Historical Society curator, said, “We chose to write a grant for upgrading our technology. Currently DRHS has a single phone line coming into the building with no Internet connection. We have one computer with only XP capabilities (which was an upgrade from the computer with 3-inch disks that was there when I arrived), and a printer, so we can write letters and input data but really can’t get any data out. This $1500 matching grant will allow us to connect to the Internet and purchase a new laptop computer with Word and Excel programs, external storage unit and extenders so that we can have WiFi in the Carriage House to make us more appealing to renters. The grant also allows for an improvement to our website, which will be accessible to mobile devices.

“The outcome we are looking for,” said Rhonda, “will be to grow awareness of our mission at DRHS, to grow our membership and interact with a younger and more mobile generation who only communicate through their phones. We have talked to Valley Regional about having students access information and research online once we get things up and running. The potential is huge for us and we are excited to begin.

“As part of the grant funding, we are asked to thank our congressmen for their support of the Humanities and Joe responded to his letter by saying he wanted to visit. We had a great visit with him, showing off our collection and thanking him for his support and telling him what it means to us as an all-volunteer organization.”

For more information about the Deep River Historical Society, go to www.deepriverhistoricalsociety.org.

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Courcy Assumes Leadership of Pettipaug Sailing Academy from the Late Paul Risseeuw

Ann Courcy, Director, Pettipaug Sailing Academy, in front of club house.

Ann Courcy, Director, Pettipaug Sailing Academy, in front of club house.

Ann Courcy, the new Director of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, has now officially taken the place of the long serving Paul Risseeuw, who passed away last fall. In taking the helm of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, Courcy will be in full charge of the club’s 2016 sailing program for young sailors.

As is the custom, the Pettipaug Sailing Academy this summer will have two sessions. The first session will run from June 27 to July 15, and the second from July 25 to Aug. 12. Each session will also have morning and afternoon programs for differing age groups.

In assuming the leadership of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, Courcy emphasized that she could not do the job without the help of the half dozen sailing instructors, who will assist her. Courcy also promised that she was, “going to build a team that would keep in place the sailing instruction practices, as when Paul was in charge.”

Courcy also pointed out that, “Learning to sail can have a positive impact on the lives of young sailors.” Furthermore, she said that it is her intention to know the names of each of the young sailors, who are attending this year’s sessions at the Academy.

As for the boats that will be used this year at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, they will include a new 12 foot Bauer sloop, as well as traditional 420s, Blue Jays, Optis and windsurfers. Added this year as well will be Opti rowboats.

STEM Education Series to Be Taught

Courcy also said that students at the Academy will receive guidance from the   U.S. Science Technology and Engineering Math materials, which she said were, “very much in line with those of Paul’s in the blending of instructors with the playing by the kids.”

Importantly, Courcy also noted that even in this modern world of communication, Academy students cannot take their “I phones” during instruction periods, while sailing on the waters off the Pettipaug Yacht Club. (This may cause withdrawal systems for some of the Academy students.)

A special event at this year’s Sailing Academy season will be the, “Paul Risseeuw Memorial Race.” Also, there will be movie nights for sailors and their families during the Sailing Academy season at the clubhouse. Then, finally when the sailing season ends for the young sailors, there will be a final grand picnic on a downriver island in the Connecticut River for all of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy student sailors to attend.

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Senator Formica Honored by AARP for Protecting Seniors

formica pic

Left to right: AARP State Advocacy Director John Erlingheuser, Sen. Formica, and AARP Volunteer Joanne Davis of Waterford.

On May 20 at the East Lyme Senior Center, Sen. Paul Formica was presented with a Legislative Achievement Award from the Connecticut AARP.  The award recognized Sen. Formica’s advocacy in protecting consumers from unaffordable expenses for essential energy services. Formica represents Bozrah, East Lyme, a portion of Montville, New London, Old Lyme, a portion of Old Saybrook, Salem and Waterford. For more information, go to www.aarp.org or www.senatorformica.com.
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Women’s Sailing Group at Pettipaug Yacht Club Begins Sailing Season June 14

The launching pier for the sailboats of the Women’s Sailing Group

The launching pier for the sailboats of the Women’s Sailing Group

The Women’s Sailing Group of the Pettipaug Yacht Club will begin its sailing season on Tuesday, June 14, between 5:30 and 6 p.m. at the club house on the Connecticut River in Essex. Since there will be actual sailing races in the waters off the club house at this time, those participating should bring with them: a PDF floating vest, a bottle of drinking water, high quality boat shoes and a dish of good food that can be to be shared with others.

It should be noted as well that women of all ages and all degrees of sailing skills are welcome to participate in the sailing races of the Women’s Sailing Group of the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

This sign welcomes Pettipaug Yacht Club members and visitors to the site of Woman’s Sailing Group.

This sign welcomes members and visitors to the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

To participate in the Women’s Sailing Group races, it is necessary to be a member of the Pettipaug Yacht Club. The club’s Membership Chairperson, Laura Nunno, will be on hand on June 14 to sign up new club members.

Also, non-members of the club can participate in the races on a one time basis, provided they sign a waiver to the effect that the club will not be responsible for any injuries that they might incur at the club’s races.

There is a $25 fee for participating in the races of the Women’s Sailing Group. Men are not allowed to participate except as spectators.

Further questions about the Women’s Sailing Group races can be sent by e-mail to probinson02@snet.net or by calling 860-526-2775.

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Democrats Nominate Essex First Selectman Needleman for 33rd Senate District Seat

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman (file photo)

AREAWIDE — Democrats Monday nominated Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman to challenge two-term Republican State Senator Art Linares of Westbrook in the 12-town 33rd Senate District.

Needleman, now in a third term as first selectman of Essex, was the unanimous choice of about 50 delegates gathered for the party nominating convention held at Angelico’s Lakehouse in East Hampton. The district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland , Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.

Linares was first elected in 2012 to the seat, which was held for two decades by the late former State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook.  He won a second term in 2014, defeating Democrat Emily Bjornberg of Lyme on a 22,762-17,326 vote.

Needleman, 64, is a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who has lived in Essex since 1984. He is a founder and owner of Tower Labs, a company that manufactures effervescent products at plants in Clinton and the Centerbrook section of Essex. Needleman was elected to the Essex Board of Selectmen in 2003, and to the position of first selectman in 2011.

Needleman was nominated by Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield, who described Needleman as a “special friend,” who offers voters “three in one, a good person, a good businessperson, and a great local town leader.” Bransfield said getting more municipal leaders elected to the General Assembly would “help save Connecticut” friom its current fiscal problems.

There were seconding remarks from Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in a Democratic primary in 2012, former State Rep. Brian O’Connor of Clinton, and 36th District State Representative Phil Miller of Essex, who picked Needleman as his running mate when he served as Essex first selectman from 2003-2011. Miller, who is seeking a third full term this year, described Needleman as “a person who cares for other people and follows through.”

In remarks to the convention, Needleman said small towns like most in the 33rd District are getting hurt as a result of the state’s fiscal problems. Needleman described himself as a “problem solver”, and contended Linares has been “an ineffective legislator who is working on building his own resume and not representing the 33rd District.”

Another candidate who recently expressed interest in the nomination, former Green Party nominee Colin Bennet of Westbrook, was present at the convention, but was not nominated and made no request to address the delegates. Bennet, who garnered 527 votes districtwide as the Green Party nominee in 2014, said he may pursue his campaign as a petition candidate in the Nov. 8 election.
Bennet said the Connecticut Green Party is expected to nominate a different candidate for the 33rd District seat this year.
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VRHS Students Finish Strong at State’s Robotics Competition

Valley robotics Relaxing after their second competition

Valley robotics relaxing after their second place finish

REGION 4 – Valley Regional High School was among 40 teams from Connecticut and Massachusetts that convened at two weekend-long First Robotics’ Competitions (FRC) New England held in March and April of this year. The April event took place at Hartford Public High School, April 1-3, and officials of the school said it was the biggest event in the state related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education.

In only their second year with a robotics team, Valley Regional High School’s “Human Error” took second place at the March competition held in Waterbury, beating out nearly 30 other teams. Then, on day one of the Hartford event, Human Error placed second overall but ultimately dropped in rank on the final day just missing the cut to advance.  Last year Valley’s team was awarded Rookie of the Year.

“It’s a little disappointing that we didn’t get picked for an alliance in order to advance, but we accomplished every one of our goals set for the robot we built and we all feel really good about that,” said Valley sophomore Rocket Otte.

Being Otte’s first time with the Valley team, he described the competition experience as “electric” and “exciting” and like no other. He explained he really appreciated the spirit of cooperation among all the teams.

“I really like how FRC organizes their events. They have this term called ‘gracious professionalism’ where they encourage all the teams to cooperate with each other in alliances and helping out with tools and equipment. If you’re missing a part you can post it and other teams will help out regardless. That’s really cool.”

Valley’s team Human Error, made up of about 30 students, spent more than 200 hours working after school and on weekends to build and refine the robot’s functionality. Each member or specific group works on a particular aspect of the robot, from sensors, to gears, to bumpers to programming, using math, science, logic and other educational disciplines. But the key is teamwork.

“Working collaboratively and coordinating skills and talents is what happens in this space; students determine themselves who does what to get the robot working, they organize themselves; the other teachers, mentors and myself are on the sidelines offering guidance and support when needed,” explained Valley Biology teacher Dr. Peano.

Another key element to the team is programming skills. This year that effort was led by rookie member and sophomore Sam Paulson, who worked in the Java programming language to accomplish the task of instructing the robot’s functions, programming it to drive and move its metal arm.

“Programming is something I learned myself with online sites and it’s something that interests me, so when I joined the team I offered to work on that. I learned programming the robot to drive is easier than programming the arm to move,” said Paulson.

He added, “I learned a lot this year and I’ll be able to do a lot more next year like make the robot do more complex tasks. But for this year I was content with what our team did and how the robot worked.”

In the end the competition was more than winning or losing. It was about brainpower, creativity, collaboration and having fun, all done in an environment outside the usual classroom setting.

Valley Regional High School team roster:
Alexandro Adamson, Tanner Aikens, Samantha Bartlett, Ian Bott, Matt Caron, Allie Champion, Gavin Collins, Jaedyn Correa, Jared Dompier, Meagan Gephart, Samuel Griswold, Michael Johnson, Nate Luscomb, Patrick Myslik, Nicholas Otte, Samuel Paulson, Cooper Robbins, Francis Stino, Sam Swap, Nolan Tackett, Ethan West
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Duane Gates Appointed to Open Deep River Selectman Seat

DEEP RIVER — Eight weeks after the unexpected March 25 death of 26-year Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith, the board of selectmen returned to a full complement of members Friday with the appointment of Duane Gates to fill an unexpired term ending in November 2017.

Gates, a Democrat, was appointed at a special meeting by interim First Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., also a Democrat, and Republican Selectman Dave Oliveria to fill the vacancy created last month when McDonald, with Oliveria’s support, was appointed as interim first selectman. Gates was sworn in to office immediately by Town Clerk Amy Winchell.

McDonald said six residents had submitted letters of intent and qualifications since the vacancy was created after his appointment as first selectman on April 21. McDonald said he and Oliveria had met with all of the interested individuals, holding closed door special meetings with prospective candidates on May 14 and last Monday. “It came down to a very difficult decision,” he said.

Gates 52, is a lifelong Deep River resident with a background in the construction industry. Gates currently works as a union representative and recording secretary for the Hamden-based Operating Engineers Union Local 478. He is the married father of a 22-year-old daughter.

Gates has served previously on the local board of education, to which he was first elected as a Republican, and the Region 4 Board of Education, where he served eight years from 2005-2013. Gates was elected to a full six-year term as a Democrat in 2005, and for a two-year vacancy term from 2011-2013.

Gates said he has been interested in serving on the board of selectmen, and had expressed his interest in conversations with Smith. “I am honored to serve the remainder of the term and I look forward to working with Angus and Dave,” he said.

The appointment Friday completes the transition that was forced by Smith’s unexpected death. The Gates appointment could be forced to a special election with a petition signed by at least 158 town voters that must be submitted to the town clerk within 15 days of the appointment. There was no petition for special election with McDonald’s appointment as interim first selectman.

The current terms expire on November 21, 2017, two weeks after the next municipal election on Nov. 7, 2017

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Community Music School Names New Executive Director

CENTERBROOK – Community Music School has named Abigail Nickell as its new Executive Director, where she will be responsible for the leadership and management of the active school and its outreach programs.  She replaces Robin Andreoli, who left the organization in March.

Abigail Nickell is a seasoned non-profit executive with more than a decade of experience in the social sector.  She took the helm at the Community Music School in April.  She most recently served as the Executive Director of MADD Hawaii, overseeing their statewide operations and fundraising.  Prior to that, she served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, a statewide grantmaking agency, and Executive Director of Save the Food Basket, an AIDS service organization.

Nickell began her career as the Assistant Director of the Northampton Community Music Center and is thrilled to be working in arts administration again.  Her undergraduate degree is in music and dance from Smith College and she received her MBA from Chaminade University’s Non-Profit Management program.

“I’m so pleased to join the staff and our incredible faculty at CMS in our mission to make music education accessible to all,” said Nickell.  “I look forward to working with our dedicated board of trustees to develop innovate strategies that will allow us to operate efficiently while engaging new audiences in support of our efforts.”

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. CMS programs cultivate musical ability and creativity and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.  Learn more at visit www.community-music-school.org or call (860)767-0026.

 

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New Thrift Shop Opens in Essex

The idea of Susan Christopher of Essex (far right), a new thrift shop, "Treasures On The Hill" is being created by Susan Nilsen (left) and Connie Connor (center) of Essex at the First Congregational Church in Essex.

The idea of Susan Christopher of Essex (far right), a new thrift shop, “Treasures On The Hill” is being created by Susan Nilsen (left) and Connie Connor (center) of Essex at the First Congregational Church in Essex.

ESSEX – The useful, the unusual, the wearable and the collectible can all be found at “Treasures On The Hill,” a new thrift Shop that opened May 21 at the First Congregational Church in Essex, 6 Methodist Hill in Essex Village. The shop will be open year-round every first and third Saturday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

Shoppers will find bargains on better women’s and men’s clothing, children’s items, books, household goods, cookware and an antiques/boutique selection. Proceeds from the store will go to support the missions of the church.

For more information or to donate items for “Treasures On The Hill,” call the church at 860-767-8097.

 

 

 

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Samuel Magaziner of Essex Graduates with Honors from Columbia

Sam Magaziner

Sam Magaziner

ESSEX —  Samuel James Magaziner of Essex graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biochemistry from Columbia University in the City of New York’s commencement ceremony, held on May 18.  Magaziner received departmental honors in Chemistry and was inducted into the Columbia chapter of the New York Delta Phi Beta Kappa.

While at Columbia, Magaziner conducted independent research and served as a research assistant with the Wang and Cornish Labs of Columbia University and was appointed a Research Team Leader and Co-founder for Columbia’s first International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM). He served as a Clinical Research Assistant in the Sinai Research Associates Program at New York Mt. Sinai St. Lukes’s and Roosevelt Hospitals. Magaziner participated in The Charles Drew High School Pipeline Program, where he served as a mentor to underrepresented and economically disadvantaged high school students seeking to enter into health and science professions by providing guidance and a strong support network among fellow Columbia students and faculty.

Magaziner has been recognized as a Guthikonda Fellow of the Columbia University Chemistry Department and is a member of the The Charles Drew Premedical Society and Chandler Chemistry Society of Columbia University. He serves as an executive member of the Nu Nu Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.

Magaziner will attend the University of Cambridge in England in the fall to pursue an advanced degree.

Magaziner is a 2012 graduate of Xavier High School and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James R. Magaziner of Essex, and Rumson, NJ.
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Colin Bennett Announces Run for State Senate as Democrat

Colin Bennett (file photo)

Colin Bennett (file photo)

WESTBROOK — Longtime area resident and small business owner Colin Bennett has announced his candidacy for state senate in the 33rd District – as a Democrat. Bennett has run for the seat multiple times, always as a Green, so this will be his first foray into the Democratic Party.

“I’ve been impressed with the popularity and success of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and have taken inspiration from his campaign,” Bennett explains. “Bernie and I agree on almost every major issue, so it makes sense that I would follow in his footsteps, especially since he carried nine of the twelve towns in the 33rd District,” he says.

“The thing is, this election is about more than me. It’s about more than any of the individual candidates or the parties they represent. Elected officials should be accountable to the people, not corporate lobbyists, but that’s no longer the reality – the people of Connecticut, and this country, have been sold out. I’m running because I want to help change that.”

In this election Bennett will take part in the Connecticut Citizens’ Election Program for the first time. According to Bennett, “The ability to fundraise has very little to do with the ability to be an effective legislator, especially when so many campaign contributions come from corporations, PACs and other special interest groups that are trying (successfully) to buy influence with candidates. Fortunately, the CEP is a big step in the correct direction.”

Bennett concludes, “People in the country are ready for and demanding change – Bernie and Trump have proven that. Given the (long overdue) anti-establishment political climate and with the support of the Citizens’ Election Program, the Bennett for Senate campaign is going all the way this year.”

For more information about Bennett, visit www.facebook.com/Bennett.for.Senate.

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Chester Republican Committee Endorses Linares and Siegrist

CHESTER – The Chester Republican Town Committee (CRTC), at its monthly meeting, unanimously endorsed candidates State Senator Art Linares, the incumbent from Connecticut’s 33rd Senate District, and Bob Siegrist, the challenger in Connecticut’s 36th House District, for the upcoming election in November.

“These candidates bring essential experience and knowledge of the issues facing our district and thoughtful innovative solutions critical to resolving the current budget crisis in Connecticut,” said CRTC Chairman Carolyn Linn. “It is time for us to elect a legislature committed to once again making our state a desirable place to live, work, and be viable for business and industry growth.”

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Essex Native Assumes Command of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron in San Diego

sailor pix 1ESSEX – The Navy Office of Community Outreach has announced that Essex native Cmdr. Robert Barr Kimnach, III assumed command of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 in San Diego, California, on April 22.

A 1998 graduate of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Cmdr. Kimnach joined the Scorpions of HSM-49 in January of 2014 as executive officer. He was designated a Naval Aviator in October 1999 and has accumulated over 2,500 flight hours.

HSM-49 is made up of over 250 Sailors and ten MH-60R aircraft. The Scorpions source two aircraft MH-60R detachments for the Navy’s Cruiser and Destroyer warships.  Currently HSM-49 is supporting USS Momsen and USS Spruance as part of a Surface Action Group.

Cmdr. Kimnach’s personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and numerous campaign, unit and service awards.

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Is it a Tunnel? An Aerial Structure? Learning the Latest on the Proposed High Speed Railroad Through Old Lyme

A large crowd gathered at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme to hear the latest on the proposed high speed railroad track.

A large crowd gathered at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme to hear the latest on the proposed high speed railroad track.

More than 80 people gathered in Gil Boro’s Studio 80 on Lyme Street in Old Lyme Sunday afternoon to hear a variety of speakers give updates on the latest developments in the saga involving the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) NEC Future’s proposals for an upgraded high speed railroad track from Washington DC to Boston. The event had a lighter side with musical performances from Ramblin’ Dan Stevens, Clayton Allen and friends, and the Localmotives with Eleanor Robinson, the Shrivers and friends. But the main thrust of the program was to educate and inform the attendees about the status of FRA’s plans … and what to do about them.

Greg Stroud, who has spearheaded the movement to fight Alternative 1 –- the route that travels through the center of Old Lyme – spoke first explaining that in spring 2012, when the FRA first announced a plan to invest in and modernize high speed rail in the northeast corridor, they began with 98 alternatives. He pointed out that back then, “I don’t think you’ll find a single complaint from Old Lyme, “Because not one of these alternatives included plans for running a railroad through the historical district of Old Lyme.”

Greg Stroud makes a point during his presentation in Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds.

Greg Stroud makes a point during his presentation in Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds.

It was only in November 2015 when the FRA issued their Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that “Old Lyme was mentioned for the first time” in the proposals and by that time, the original 98 alternatives had been narrowed down to just three. Moreover, the route through Old Lyme – the 50-mile bypass running from Old Saybrook to Kenyon, R.I. known as Alternative 1 – featured an “aerial structure’ traversing Lyme Street some 40 ft. above street level. He commented calmly, “This was kind of disturbing.”

The initial comment period for the Tier 1 study closed at the end of January. It was then extended to Feb. 15 and after an extraordinary number of comments from the residents of Old Lyme (1,200 out of a total of 3,000 according to Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder), the FRA introduced the idea of a tunnel going from Old Saybrook and Stroud said, “coming out around Whippoorwill [Rd.]”

Stroud pointed out that although “a tunnel sounds better … we’re a community of marshes .. this Historic District is built on soil and groundwater,” and suggested the audience should Google the word “dewatering.” He said that in order to build a tunnel, “You have to pump the water out of the soil,” noting soil tends to settle, “when you pump out groundwater,” adding, “There really isn’t a nice way to build a tunnel,” and then the comment, “It’s troubling.”

Stressing that he could not say definitively this would happen, Stroud noted that the FRA is unable to do so either. He mentioned that the FRA is “pretty friendly” and in numerous conversations with involved parties in Old Lyme, the FRA has said consistently that it, “will do the studies afterwards.”

Stroud’s point, however, is that the FRA is currently determining its preferred route for the track based on the feedback it has received to date. It will announce that route in September and then undertake the necessary studies. But, Stroud emphasized, “Once that route is drawn on the map, and if that route runs under, over, or through Old Lyme, it’s going to be enormously difficult and expensive, to erase.”

State Senator Paul Formica (R- 20th, center) and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd, right) listen carefully to an attendee's point.

State Senator Paul Formica (R- 20th, center) and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd, right) listen carefully to an attendee’s point.

Stroud continued that it was important to know where town government and state officials stood on the proposal, noting, “I know where our First Selectwoman [Bonnie Reemsnyder] stands on this,” and adding that from the start, State Representative Devin Carney (R), “took me seriously” and State Senator Paul Formica (R), “was very supportive,” drawing laughter when he confessed, “ And I’m a Democrat!”

But Stroud noted despite the fact, “We’ve back-channeled and we’ve front-channeled … it’s been pretty quiet,” and there has been “Little from [Congressman Joe] Courtney,” and with regard to Senator Richard Blumenthal, Stroud stated emphatically, “We don’t know if he’s with us or against us.” He urged the audience to “get our public representatives to take a stand,” by calling and/or writing to Senator Blumenthal’s office asking him to take a stand in order to, “Get this off the table.”

Pre-addressed postcards were available at the event for attendees to write a personal note to Senator Blumenthal, who Stroud noted is “the most active supporter of high-speed rail in Congress” and the ranking member of the Senate committee in charge of the rail planning process. Stroud said Blumenthal could therefore be enormously influential in the final route decision.

BJ Bernblum reads Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder's statement to the audience.

BJ Bernblum reads Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder’s statement to the audience.

BJ Bernblum then read a statement on behalf of Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who was unable to attend the event. It opened with Reemsnyder thanking all the people who had written to the FRA during the Tier 1 comment period, noting that at a subsequent meeting with the NEC Futures team, “ I believe that our concerns were taken seriously,” adding, “Of those concerns, we were effective in the most important one, and that is the removal of the plan for an aerial structure going through the heart of Old Lyme.”

Reemsnyder noted in her statement, however, “While this is good news, I acknowledge that the idea of a tunnel across the Connecticut River comes with its own set of concerns, which we also addressed in our meeting. The Connecticut River and its estuary are of such vital importance that we must assure that valid research and extreme caution are used in planning this type of work.” She stressed that a team of people from the regional government council (RiverCOG) and some Old Lyme residents “are gathering important data on the Connecticut River to be used if and when the time comes to thoroughly discuss the impact of a tunnel.”

In conclusion, Reemsnyder’s statement said, “We are continuing to keep the communication open with the FRA, our state officials, our Connecticut Delegation and state representatives to advocate for our community and protect our future,” adding, “You can see our summary of our meeting in a letter to the FRA on the town website, along with their response to that summary.”

Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, discusses a point after his presentation.

Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, discusses a point after his presentation.

The third speaker was Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. He commented that from both his perspective in his current position and his prior experience as a municipal government member in the Town of New Scotland, N.Y. that Old Lyme’s town government “was doing the right things,” but stressed, “They need you [the audience],” explaining, “Their effectiveness is bolstered by a grassroots movement.”

He described the positive relationship between the Old Lyme town government and the local environmental, cultural and historical organizations as, “a potent mix” that he felt could be effective in conveying the message that “there are other ways to deliver high speed rail … without the wreckage of going through Old Lyme.”

In similar vein to Stroud, he reflected that, “While the process has been silent (while the FRA considers which option to select as its preferred route), I want to encourage you not to be silent,” adding, “You need to keep pressing home the point that this is not the place for high speed rail.”

Greg Stroud addresses the audience from the mezzanine level where the musicians played during Sunday's event.

Greg Stroud addresses the audience from the mezzanine level where the musicians played during Sunday’s event.

He explained that the Trust has “taken on fiscal responsibility” for the project known as ‘SECoast,’ which is described on its Facebook page as, “An independent nonprofit, partnered with the Connecticut Trust and currently focused on the topic of high-speed rail in Southeastern Connecticut,” with a mission of, “Organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley.”

Mackay said the Trust will be “picking up costs” associated with the project and donations to the group can now be accepted. He said information on how to donate to support the project is on the SECoast website and 100 percent of any donation will go to the project and is tax-deductible.

Mackay then cited what he described as a “visionary” Statement of Significance written in 1971 by Margaret Crosby Brown of Old Lyme when the town was applying to establish an historic district. Crosby Brown mentioned, “The town’s long awareness of the necessity for strong stewardship for both the historical and environmental aspects of Old Lyme,” noting at that time, “This is especially so when the destructive forces of accelerated change are all too apparent.”

Concurring with Crosby Brown’s opinion about the “necessity for strong stewardship,” he concluded with the words, “You have something very special here,” adding emphatically, “Let’s press that point.”

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Essex Foundation Underwrites Material Costs for Essex Gateway Bridge Painting

EssexBridgePaintingCloseup_4-20-16

ESSEX – For 46 years, the Essex Foundation has been quietly tending to the unique and special needs of the Essex community, answering calls for assistance when fast action is needed.

Most recently, the nonprofit group lent financial support to the highway bridge painting project at the Route 9, exit 3 section of town. The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s tree and shrub removal along state highway barriers had further exposed the patched-paint and rusted appearance of the bridge and left the landscape bare. Public outcry over the “tacky” condition of what is considered the gateway to Essex was fierce, with local residents asking town officials to find a solution.

That solution came in the form of a collaboration between Essex residents Steve and Susan Bogan, owners of Blast-All Construction, who provided the in-kind donation of project planning, supervision, equipment, and labor services; the Town of Essex who provided police supervision and traffic re-routing services; and the Essex Foundation, the Essex Rotary Club and many individual donors, who together provided a total of $18,000 for the purchase of the paint.

The initiative started in 2015 when the Bogans approached the Essex Foundation with a plan for painting the bridge at no cost to taxpayers. As a contractor for state and federal bridge work, Blast-All worked with the CT D.O.T. and the Union Apprenticeship program to have the Essex gateway bridge serve as a training site. The Bogans also met with town officials to secure local police assistance for traffic re-routing and worker safety, while the Essex Foundation, the Essex Rotary Club and many individual donors provided financial support for the paint and material costs. In less than a year, with an entire community behind the effort, the bridge painting work is complete with the exception of the end panels, which are soon to be repaired by the D.O.T. and then painted by Blast-All.

The Essex Foundation is now in the planning stages of a grounds beautification project that will include plantings for the area around the gateway bridge.

Founded in 1970, the Essex Foundation is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Essex citizens by providing medical, educational, social, welfare, cultural, recreational and civic support. From the start, the foundation board wanted to make it possible for funds to be made available for special projects that are not typically supported by other non-profits and that required fast local action. In 1982, many local citizens were devastated by heavy flooding that destroyed homes and left people without food, clothing, refrigeration and heat. Because of the structure of the fund, the Essex Foundation was able, on an ad hoc basis, to help many people get back on their feet quickly. Other past projects supported by the Essex Foundation fund, along with individual donations, include the removal of the half-sunken barge in the Middle Cove, pond weed control for the Falls River neighborhood, repair and maintenance of the Town Clock in the tower of the Baptist Church, and the operation and maintenance of the Bumpy Warner Youth House on Bushnell Street used by the Boy Scouts. More information can be found at www.theessexfoundation.org or by emailing contact@theessexfoundation.org.

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Ancient Order of Essex Weeders Honors Sam Rogers

WeedersParty3411

ESSEX – The Ancient Order of Essex Weeders is a group of men who maintain the landscaping in Essex on Rte. 154 at the intersection of Rte. 153. It was founded in 1981 by Bob Swain, who became “Lead Weed,” and was succeeded by Erl Nord.

The group is also a social organization that gets together for coffee weekly and includes a book club that meets monthly.

The group recently had a retirement party for Sam Rogers. In the photo above, party attendees are shown with new “Lead Weed” Ray Coyle presenting Sam his retirement gift.

More information at http://essexweeders.weebly.com/.

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Chester Walking Song Video Wins Gold Hermes Award

Peter Good and Janet Cummings created a Walking Town decal and pewter ornament.

Peter Good and Janet Cummings created a Walking Town decal and pewter ornament.

CHESTER – For years, the town of Chester knew the state was requiring that the Main Street Bridge be rebuilt, and this caused a lot of angst among merchants, selectmen, and residents. How would we cope with keeping the town center viable and reachable? Would the shops, restaurants and galleries continue to attract customers? Where would people park?

The selectmen required that the state do the reconstruction from the beginning of January 2016 until Memorial Day, to get it over with before summertime shopping and the Chester Sunday Market began. The town’s Economic Development Commission created a “Survival Guide” and held several planning meetings in an effort to minimize the impact on the business district.

Then, last fall the Chester merchants decided to meet the challenge head on. With a small group of creative merchants, Leslie Strauss wrote and recorded “The Chester Walking Song,” saying, “We are all so busy getting in shape on treadmills that we forget how much more enjoyable it is to get out there and ‘walk about.’ Chester Village shops, galleries and restaurants are, and will continue to be, more easily accessed than the average mall store. With parking lots within 70 steps, you can ‘walk right in and come hang out.’”

Annalisa Russell-Smith, of Chester-based Local Plant Productions, then volunteered to create a video of Chester Center with the song in the background.

As Leslie says, “Annalisa’s enchanting minute-long video reinforces the vibrancy of the village, and how accessible everything is to anyone willing to ‘walk right in, come hang out.’ The shops, galleries, restaurants and street scenes entice visitors of all ages to be sure to make Chester one of their New England favorites.”

This month, Annalisa’s video was selected for a Gold Award by the Hermes Creative Awards, an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional materials and programs, and emerging technologies. Hermes Creative Awards is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

Watch the video about Chester here:  https://vimeo.com/157448900. For more information about Annalisa Russell-Smith, go to http://www.localplanetproductions.com.  More information about the Hermes Creative Awards here: www.hermesawards.com.

Annalisa Russell-Smith shooting the Chester video in Chester Center. Photo by Al Malpa

Annalisa Russell-Smith shooting the Chester video in Chester Center. Photo by Al Malpa

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Historical Weddings Featured at Deep River Tea

Sue Pire, Essex, with her mother Georgiana Czaplicki of Clinton. The dress was modeled by Katherine “Kat” Irena of Chester. Photo by Susanne Wisner

Sue Pire, Essex, with her mother, Georgiana Czaplicki of Clinton. The dress was modeled by Katherine “Kat” Irena of Chester. Photo by Susanne Wisner

 

DEEP RIVER – The Deep River Historical Society held their third annual Tea on April 9 at the Carriage House on the grounds of the Stone House. This event featured not only delicious food but also a special program that highlighted “Wedding Traditions through Time.”

This was a multi-generational presentation where several granddaughters modeled gowns of their grandmothers or mothers, along with other models. Several vintage gowns that dated back to the 1800s were also on display.

A slide presentation and raffle were also part of the sold-out event.

 

 

 

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Essex Garden Club Offers Scholarship

ESSEX – The Essex Garden Club is offering a $1,000 scholarship for the school year 2016-2017. To be considered for this scholarship, applicants must be

  1. a resident of Essex, Centerbrook or Ivoryton, CT

2. a high school senior or undergraduate/graduate college student

3. have a “B” or better GPA

4.  be planning to pursue studies related to the environment in an accredited two-year or four-year institute of higher learning. Fields of study may include: Agriculture, Biology, Ecology, Horticulture, Forestry, Environmental Science and Engineering.  Closely related subjects may also apply: Land Conservation, Landscape Design, Nursery Management.

Application forms are available from Guidance Counselors, or go to essexgardenclubct.org. The deadline for receipt of applications is April 25, 2016. For more information call 860-581-8206.

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Essex’s Medical Center Closed Almost Two Years Ago, Plans for Empty Building Not Yet Determined

Middlesex Hospital closed its medical facility in Essex on April 28, 2014, and the property has been vacant ever since.

Middlesex Hospital closed its medical facility in Essex on April 28, 2014, and the property has been vacant ever since.  Photo by Jerome Wilson.

It has now been almost two years — April 28, 2014 to be precise — since Middlesex Hospital closed its medical center in Essex. For the present, however, according to Middlesex Hospital’s Director of Public Relations, Peg Arico, there are no specific plans by the hospital regarding the future of the shuttered facility.

Signs threatening prosecution for trespassers stand on the grounds of Middlesex Hospital’s former medical center in Essex.

Signs threatening prosecution for trespassers stand on the grounds of Middlesex Hospital’s former medical center in Essex.  Photo by Jerome Wilson.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said in a separate interview that he had learned that Middlesex Hospital had retained an “outside consultant” to explore options for its unused hospital facility in Essex where ‘No Trespassing’ signs stand at the perimeter of the site.       

Some Essex residents have expressed the hope that Middlesex Hospital will soon decide what to do with the unused property noting that the “No Trespassing” signs on Westbrook Rd. are not an especially pleasant way to welcome visitors entering historic Essex.

At the same time, Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center patient care facilities in Westbrook, which replaced the Essex clinic, have, in general, been very well received by Essex residents.

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Registration Now Open for High Hopes Summer Equestrian Camp for Ages 3-12

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding’s summer camp in Old Lyme begins July 11 for children ages 3 to 12. No previous riding experience is needed.

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding’s summer camp in Old Lyme begins July 11 for children ages 3 to 12. No previous riding experience is needed.

OLD LYME – High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Inc., is once again hosting a youth equestrian summer camp for area children ages 3 to 12, on its beautiful 120-acre campus in Old Lyme. High Hopes offers summer campers equine-related educational opportunities in partnership with its herd of more than 20 horses and ponies. Each camp session is designed to meet the needs of participant groups by age and/or riding skill level, and offers children diverse equine-based activities conducted by a certified therapeutic riding instructor.

Campers build and/or develop horsemanship skills both on and off the horse by grooming and tacking their horse each morning in addition to a daily riding lesson. Other activities include gymnastics on horseback, carriage driving, inclusive team-building games and equine arts and crafts. No previous riding experience is necessary. During the school year, High Hopes provides therapeutic horseback riding and other equine-assisted activities for people with cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities.

Four weekly sessions are scheduled beginning the week of July 11. Each session is limited to 16 participants and is Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration deadline is June 10. Contact Carrina Echeandia, cecheandia@highhopestr.org, 860-434-1974 ext. 118 for more information.

Editor’s note: High Hopes is one of the oldest and largest therapeutic riding centers in the United States, operating since 1974 and accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH Intl.) since 1979. High Hopes is committed to providing the highest quality service to all who might benefit, regardless of their financial means.  www.highhopestr.org

 

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Linares Welcomes Essex Historical Society to Capitol

Senator em

Essex Historical Society Director Melissa Josefiak and Sen. Art Linares

ESSEX – Historical societies and preservationists from across the state gathered at the State Capitol on March 23 to raise awareness about their organizations’ dedication to promoting Connecticut’s heritage for present and future generations.

The Essex Historical Society (www.essexhistory.org) was among the groups that traveled to Hartford to speak with Sen. Art Linares and other state lawmakers.

Sen. Linares (www.senatorlinares.com) represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

 

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Photo Gallery by Kim Tyler of Monday Night’s Vigil for Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith

DEEP RIVER — Deep River resident and professional photographer Kim Tyler, who graciously supplied all of the photos published with Charles Stannard’s story on ValleyNewsNow.com, has also generously agreed to make many of the photos that she took at the vigil available to our readers at no charge.

We applaud her wonderful act of public service and the photos are now published below.

For more information about Kim Tyler Photography, visit ktphoto.net

 

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Essex’s Popular Village Provision Store Closes Doors, March 31

 Village Provision co-proprietor, Claudia Odekerken, stands outside the store.

Village Provision co-proprietor, Claudia Odekerken, stands outside the store. Photos by Jerome Wilson.

Essex’s popular Village Provision store closed its doors on Thursday, March 31. Village Provision has been operating at 6 Main Street in the heart of downtown Essex for the past fifteen and a half years, according to Claudia Odekerken, who with her husband, Jeff, has managed the unique and popular store. 

A regular customer of Village Provision for many years, Barry Fulford, said that the closing of the store was, “Absolutely dreadful.” Fulford like many of the store’s customers begins his day with a coffee, and perhaps a bagel on the side. The store also carries a full line of daily newspapers.

Village Provision’s owners in a written statement wrote, “It is with deep sadness that we announce the closing of Village Provision Company this Thursday, March 31, 2016. Due to the owner’s desire to sell the property, our lease was not renewed this year. We have been asked to vacate the property by April 1 in order for the new owner to take possession. This development has been very hard on our family, after more than 15 years of service and growth in the community, and with little time we must pack our little store and move on to a new adventure.”

The statement continued, “We would like to thank you all for your continued support through the years and for becoming more than just customers but friends. We will truly miss seeing you all every day, but our time here is not forgotten and we will look back to it with happiness, and at the many memories that we have share with you all. We will still be at Marley’s Café this summer, and we hope to see you there.”

We would also like to invite you to join us for a farewell lunch on Thursday March 31 at the Provision Store. Sincerely, Jeff, Claudia, Dylan, Michele, Patrick, Katherine and Milkey.” 

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Owner Claudia Odekerken relaxes briefly inside the store.

As to what Claudia and Jeff are going to do after the closing of Marley’s, Claudia said in an interview that she and her husband would continue to operate Marley’s restaurant on the island of the Essex Island Marina. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner from May to September. “After that,” Claudia said, “we are just going to have to figure it out.”

Claudia also noted that she and her husband were still, “going to cater weddings, funerals and birthday parties.” Claudia noted that they also will continued to do, “plates for special occasions.” As for the rest of their future, Claudia and Jeff, remain undecided.

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CT Legislators Support Study to Preserve Plum Island From Commercial Development

Aerial voew of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

Aerial view of Plum Island lighthouse. (From Preserve Plum Island website)

OLD SAYBROOK — Last Thursday, March 24, at a press conference in Old Saybrook, a triumvirate of Congressional legislators from Connecticut, State Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Representatives Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) and Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd District) confirmed their support for a study to determine the future of Plum Island located in Long Island Sound.

Members of the Plum Island Coalition — which has some 65 member organizations all dedicated to preserving the island — were in attendance to hear the good news.

The island still houses a high-security, federal animal disease research facility, but the decision has already been taken to move the facility to a new location in Kansas with an opening slated for 2022. The current facility takes up only a small percentage of the land on the island and significantly for environmentalists, the remainder of the island has for years been left to nature in the wild.

In supporting a federal study on the future of Plum Island, Sen. Blumenthal said, “This study is a step towards saving a precious, irreplaceable national treasure from developers and polluters. It will provide the science and fact-based evidence to make our case for stopping the current Congressional plan to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder.”

He continued, “The stark truth is the sale of Plum Island is no longer necessary to build a new bioresearch facility because Congress has fully appropriated the funds. There is no need for this sale – and in fact, Congress needs to rescind the sale.”

Congress, however, still has a law on the books that authorizes the sale of Plum Island land to the highest bidder. Therefore, opponents of the sale will have the burden of convincing Congress to change a law that is currently in place.

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Areawide Firehouse Food Drive to Benefit Shoreline Soup Kitchens

SSKP_FHFD_image_2016AREAWIDE – For the fifth year, local fire departments hosted an areawide food drive to collect non-perishable food for area residents in need. The fire stations received donations on Saturday, April 2, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The donations will go to local food pantries run by the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP).

SSKP hopes to include as many fire departments as possible in the 11 shoreline towns they serve. So far, the Old Saybrook, Chester, Essex, Clinton and Westbrook fire departments have committed to the event. All fire departments are welcome to participate.

At a time of year when food donations are low, this food will help to restock the pantries and ensure that everyone in our communities will have a place at the table. Last year’s drive raised 5,200 pounds of food.

The most needed items are:

Canned meats (tuna, chicken, salmon)

Canned fruits & vegetables

Peanut butter

Canned & boxed meals

Canned or dried beans

Pasta & rice

Cereal

Items not accepted:

Rusty or unlabeled cans

Perishable items

Homemade ttems

Noncommercial packaged or canned items

Alcoholic beverages & mixes

Open or used items

For more information, call (860) 388-1988, email cbellerjeau@shorelinesoupkitchens.org or visit www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org.

Editor’s Note: 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 27 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 one million meals to shoreline neighbors in need.

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Town of Deep River Announces Death of First Selectman Dick Smith

A file photo of Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith, who passed away Friday, March 25. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

A file photo of Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith, who passed away Friday, March 25. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

DEEP RIVER — The Town of Deep River has announced the passing yesterday afternoon (Friday, March 25) of Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith. An announcement on the town’s website states, “The Town of Deep River has suffered a terrible loss in the passing of Dick Smith. The town has lost a leader of over 26 years, the community has lost a friend, and we are saddened beyond words, but its immediate thoughts are with Dick’s family, who has lost a father and a grandfather.” The statement adds, “Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Details of services have not yet been announced.

Our reporter Charles Stannard wrote in an article published July 28, 2015, on ValleyNewsNow.com that Smith, then 64, was, “one of the longest serving municipal elected officials in Connecticut.”  The article also noted that Smith said he, “never considered stepping aside this year,” adding, “I love what I do, it’s like my extended family.” Smith told Stannard during the interview that his priorities for the next two years were, “Keeping taxes down as much as we can,” along with a firehouse renovation and expansion project.

Stannard also reported, “Smith’s last challenge for the top job came in 2007 from the now defunct Deep River Independent Party. He was uncontested for re-election in 2009, 2011, and 2013. Town Republicans have not nominated a candidate for first selectman since 2005.”

We extend our sincere condolences to Mr. Smith’s family.

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Essex Zoning Commission Continues Hearings on Cumberland Farms Rebuild, Plains Rd. Apartments to April 18

ESSEX — The zoning commission has continued to April 18 the public hearings on separate applications for a rebuild and expansion of the Cumberland Farms store at 82 Main St. in the Centerbrook section, and a 52-unit apartment complex with an affordable housing component on Plains Rd.

Both applicants agreed at public hearings Monday to extend the legal deadline for closure of the public hearings on the two applications.  Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said the extensions will require the commission to vote on April 18 on the site plan review application from Signature Contracting Group LLC of Westport for the apartments, while the panel will have until June to act on the Cumberland Farms application.

The Cumberland Farms application includes a demolition, rebuild, and expansion of the existing store to include three gasoline pumping stations under an canopy.  The new 4,250-square-foot store would include a public restroom, a new septic system, and lighting.  The size of the canopy, along with the need for a third pumping station, generated the most discussion, and some objections, Monday.

Nearby residents  Robert and Laurie Hernandez objected to the size of the canopy, which would be about 80-feet long, and the third pumping station.  Laurie Hernandez said the applicants were ‘trying to jam and prototype onto a very small lot,” to build “something that would be at an I-95 off ramp.”

Joel Marzi, the town clerk who is an abutting property owner at 21 Westbrook Rd., said he has concerns about the size of the canopy, but would also appreciate an upgrade of the site.

Joan Wallace, who lives on the opposite side of Westbrook Rd., said she has concerns about the canopy, lighting, and also traffic flow, contending there are already traffic backups for vehicles heading north to the Centerbrook traffic light.  Wallace asked if Cumberland Farms would be willing to proceed with an expansion and upgrade of the store without a third fuel pumping station.

Joseph Williams, an attorney for Cumberland Farms with the firm of Shipman & Goodwin, said an additional fueling station was key to the company’s plan to pursue an estimated $3 million expansion and upgrade of the store.  Two residents, Kenneth Bombaci and Strickland Hyde, spoke in support of the project.

With several issues still under discussion, and approval of the new septic system still pending from the town health department, Williams agreed to continue the hearing to April 18.

The site plan for the apartment complex on a 3.7-acre parcel that would combine parcels at 21, 27, and 29 Plains Rd., including the long vacant Iron Chef restaurant property, has been filed under state statute 8-30g, which is intended to encourage additional affordable housing in Connecticut.  The proposed 52 units in three separate buildings would include 16 units designated as moderate income housing.  Each building would have a septic system, which requires approval from the state Department of Public Health.

One new development Monday came when lawyer John Bennet announced that he has been designated an intervener in the application process for Northbound 9 LLC, which owns the commercial building on the opposite side of Plains Rd.  The building contains the office of Bennet’s law firm, and a local construction company.

Bennet said the objections to the project focus on the potential for “environmental damage.”  Under the 8-30g law, the commission could reject the application only for public health and safety reasons.

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What’s the Latest on That Proposed High Speed Train Track Through Southeast CT?

Many readers have contacted us to inquire what has happened — as well as a sea of other questions — to the Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) proposal to route a high speed rail track through the center of Old Lyme bifurcating Lyme Street just to the south of the I-95 bridge. The ‘comment period’ closed Feb. 15 and so we feel the questions raised by our readers — many of whom submitted comments — are entirely justified.

We turned to Gregory Stroud to seek some answers.

Stroud, an Old Lyme resident, has taken a deep and enduring interest in the FRA’s proposal and has, in the process, become extremely knowledgeable on the complexities of the project. For regular readers, you will recall that Stroud wrote the original editorial on LymeLine.com that sparked an avalanche of interest in and concern about the FRA’s proposal. He graciously agreed to respond to our questions and we are planning to publish his responses — question by question — in a series starting today.

Stroud has also created a Facebook page titled SECoast at Old Lyme where readers can glean a plethora of information about the project and be kept current on developments.

And if you ready to be shocked, take a look at the rendering below to get a sense of how the railroad will intrude into our quiet, relatively reclusive life in Old Lyme … and we stress, this image is to scale.

Rendering by Robin Breeding of the high-speed train in Old Lyme drawn/created to scale.

Rendering by Robin Breeding of the high-speed train in Old Lyme drawn/created to scale.

Here’s our first question:

Question (LymeLine.com ): What has happened since the “Comment” period was closed?

Answer (Gregory Stroud): Great question. But first, let me offer a little background. The Federal Railroad Administration actually outsources the planning process to a contractor, a huge multinational based out of Montreal, called Parsons Brinckerhoff. They specialize in this sort of project. They worked on The Big Dig up in Boston. They are same people who planned the Baldwin Bridge, and who electrified the rail lines to our east a few years ago. Parsons Brinckerhoff knows Old Lyme. They’ve faced local community activists before. And they’ve won.

So … with two weeks to go before the comment deadline, Parsons Brinckerhoff was reading a lazy stream of public comment, averaging just a comment every other day for a few years, and suddenly all heck breaks loose. Comments start pouring in from Old Lyme—1,200 comments out of 3,000 received from every town and city from Washington to Boston. Those numbers pretty much guarantee that more people cared enough to comment in Old Lyme, than in Manhattan, or Boston, or even Baltimore, which has its own contentious tunnel project. Add in the outreach to Hartford and Washington, and suddenly Old Lyme is on the map.

The good news is that the contractor has actually reached out to Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, to Daniel Mackay at Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and others. Parsons Brinckerhoff is making cordial, if maybe grudging, efforts to respond to the local outcry. You have to understand, as a contractor, they are in a tough place. They need to get this done by the end of the summer. They want to make their bosses at the Federal Railroad Administration happy. They have to make the people funding this in the Senate and Congress happy. It has to be something that Hartford can swallow.

In this grand balancing act, Old Lyme is a bit of a nuisance. I don’t get the sense that Stamford or New Haven or Hartford are somehow secretly plotting to send high-speed rail through Old Lyme. It’s not malicious. From what I understand, nearly everyone in-state would actually prefer Alternative 2, connecting Hartford to Boston. Parsons Brinckerhoff just wants to get this done. Right now they are busy with their statutory obligation of weighing every one of those 1200 comments.

That said, no one really wants a small town at the mouth of the Connecticut river to upset the tea cart. If at the end of the day, Washington and Hartford decide that a train has to run through Old Lyme, then they plan to run a train through Old Lyme. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone wants us to pipe down and behave.

So, of course, they start telling us what they think we want to hear. Most importantly, for the first time the idea of tunnel is floated, privately, details to be determined at some uncertain date, perhaps 2 billion dollars added the price tag—quite an accomplishment for a few weeks work! But don’t believe it for a second.

At Tier 1, the current planning stage, these vague promises mean almost nothing. Sure, they can relabel the purple line running through Old Lyme, and call it a tunnel. But it’s the purple line that really matters. In two years they can just decide that a tunnel is too expensive or impractical, and it’s a bridge all over again. To be clear, no one has actually carried out engineering or environmental studies on a tunnel. In this planning process, the decisions are coming before the studies. The cart before the horse.

So, where are we now in the process? Everyone should understand that the Federal Railroad Administration is replacing their master plan for the Northeast. The current plan dates back to 1978. The next plan will reshape rail in the Northeast for the next 25 years.

A decision will be made, probably in August. The choice will be announced around September 1. And if the Federal Railroad Administration chooses Alternative 1, and Alternative 1 still has a purple line running through Old Lyme, then we are in for the fight of a lifetime. We have a once-a-generation chance to shape federal plans for Old Lyme, and we need to get this right.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Gregory Stroud.

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Land Trusts’ Photo Contest Winners Announced

Hank Golet Mitchell Award a

Winner of the top prize, the John G. Mitchell Environmental Conservation Award – Hank Golet

The 10th Annual Land Trusts’ Photo Contest winners were announced at a March 11 reception highlighting the winning photos and displaying all entered photos. Land trusts in Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem, Essex and East Haddam jointly sponsor the annual amateur photo contest to celebrate the scenic countryside and diverse wildlife and plants in these towns. The ages of the photographers ranged from children to senior citizens.

Hank Golet won the top prize, the John G. Mitchell Environmental Conservation Award, with his beautiful photograph of a juvenile yellow crowned night heron in the Black Hall River in Old Lyme. Alison Mitchell personally presented the award, created in memory of her late husband John G. Mitchell, an editor at National Geographic, who championed the cause of the environment.

William Burt, a naturalist and acclaimed wildlife photographer, who has been a contest judge for ten years, received a special mention. Judges Burt; Amy Kurtz Lansing, an accomplished art historian and curator at the Florence Griswold Museum; and Skip Broom, a respected, award-winning local photographer and antique house restoration housewright, chose the winning photographs from 219 entries.

The sponsoring land trusts – Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Essex Land Trust, the Old Lyme Land Trust, Salem Land Trust, and East Haddam Land Trust – thank the judges as well as generous supporters RiverQuest/ CT River Expeditions, Lorensen Auto Group, the Oakley Wing Group at Morgan Stanley, Evan Griswold at Coldwell Banker, Ballek’s Garden Center, Essex Savings Bank, Chelsea Groton Bank, and Alison Mitchell in honor of her late husband John G. Mitchell. Big Y and Fromage Fine Foods & Coffee provided support for the reception.

The winning photographers are:

John G. Mitchell Environmental Award, Hank Golet, Old Lyme

Youth
1st: Patrick Burns, East Haddam
2nd: Judah Waldo, Old Lyme
3rd: James Beckman, Ivoryton
Honorable Mention Gabriel Waldo, Old Lyme
Honorable Mention Sarah Gada, East Haddam
Honorable Mention Shawn Parent, East Haddam

Cultural/Historic
1st: Marcus Maronne, Mystic
2nd: Normand L. Charlette, Manchester
3rd:  Tammy Marseli, Rocky Hill
Honorable Mention  Jud Perkins, Salem
Honorable Mention Pat Duncan, Norwalk
Honorable Mention John Kolb, Essex

Landscapes/Waterscapes
1st: Cheryl Philopena, Salem
2nd: Marian Morrissette, New London
3rd:  Harcourt Davis, Old Lyme
Honorable Mention Cynthia Kovak, Old Lyme
Honorable Mention Bopha Smith, Salem
Honorable Mention  Pat Duncan, Norwalk

Plants
1st: Mary Waldron, Old Lyme
2nd: Courtney Briggs, Old Saybrook
3rd: Linda Waters, Salem
Honorable Mention Pete Govert, East Haddam
Honorable Mention Marcus Maronne, Mystic
Honorable Mention Marian Morrissette, New London

Wildlife
1st: Chris Pimley, Essex
2nd: Harcourt Davis, Old Lyme
3rd: Linda Waters, Salem
Honorable Mention Thomas Nemeth, Salem
Honorable Mention Jeri Duefrene, Niantic
Honorable Mention Elizabeth Gentile, Old Lyme

First place winner of Wildlife category - Chris Pimley

First place winner of Wildlife category – Chris Pimley

The winning photos will be on display at the Lymes’ Senior Center for the month of March and Lyme Public Library in April. For more information go to lymelandtrust.org.

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