March 4, 2015

Essex Garden Club Donates to Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries

Xmas_2014_donation

Pictured packing the food for delivery to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries are Dianne Sexton and Carol Denham.

Essex Garden Club members collected non perishable food items for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) at the club’s annual festivities at Essex Meadows.  Individual members and the club also donated $1,510 to the SSKP, which will be matched by the Gowrie Challenge.

Chester Library Trustees to Seek Appropriation for Design Work on New Library at North Quarter Park

CHESTER— Wasting no time after receiving a  $1 million state grant with a three-year timeline, members of the library board of trustees advised the board of selectmen Tuesday of plans to seek a town funding appropriation to prepare engineering design plans for a proposed new library at North Quarter Park.

Trustee Terry Schreiber said the group, working with a volunteer building committee, would have a specific total for the funding request at the board’s next meeting on Jan. 6. Any appropriation of town funds, which is expected to be in the range of $100,000, would also require approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting. The appropriation would pay for preparation of a site plan and schematic design plans for a new library building at the park.
Schreiber said the trustees have also met with a professional fundraiser to discuss options for a fundraising campaign for a library building project that could cost as much as $4 to $5 million to complete, with the state grant covering only a portion of the total cost. An authorization of town bonding would also be needed to pay for the project

The building committee was established by the selectmen last summer as part of an effort to complete the state grant application by an end of August deadline. The committee, with support from the selectmen, hired Lerners, Lads, & Bartells Architects, a Pawtucket, R. I. firm that has experience with library construction projects.

As part of information required for the grant application, the architects prepared very preliminary plans for a two-story 5,600-square-foot library building that would be located in the front section of the 22-acre park on the east end of Main Street. The $1 million grant was approved by the State Library Board last month

Schreiber said the trustees and building committee have made no final decisions on the size of a new library, whether it should have one or two floors, or whether a community center component should be included in the project. The trustees are planning a public information meeting on the project for Saturday Jan. 10 at the library.

The trustees had spent nearly two years considering options for a renovation and expansion of the 108 year-old existing library building on West Main Street before deciding earlier this year, with encouragement from the selectmen, to focus on the option of a building a new library at North Quarter Park.

Sen. Linares Collects Over 800 Signatures to Protest CL&P Rate Hike

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares (Rep. Westbrook) has collected over 800 signatures from local residents protesting Connecticut Light & Power plans to adopt a rate hike. According to the Senator at its December 17 meeting, the state’s Public Utilities Commission, “is expected to finalize a $7.12 increase in the average monthly bill that Connecticut Light & Power sends out to its residential customers.”

“The $7.12 rate would come on top of a Jan. 1 increase of $18.48, on average, for CL&P residential customers,” Linares said.

Linares continued, “As a state senator, I represent 100,000 people in a region that stretches along the Connecticut River Valley from Portland south to Old Saybrook and Lyme. Hundreds of Connecticut rate payers have signed this petition because they want state regulators to deny CL&P’s proposed service rate hike. We can’t afford more and more and hikes.”

“Regardless of whether rates are hiked on Wednesday, December 17, Sen. Linares urged residents to continue to email state regulators at: PURA.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov to express their concerns about rising costs,” Linares said in a press statement.

Senator Linares also urged residents to sign his online petition at www.senatorlinares.com in opposition to Connecticut Light & Power proposed rate hike, regardless of the Commission’s actions on December 17.

Sen. Linares: “We can’t afford more rate hikes.”

Sen. Art Linares (R-Westbrook) today sent to state regulators a list of nearly 800 people who have signed his online petition at www.senatorlinares.com in opposition to Connecticut Light & Power’s proposed service rate hike.

On Wednesday (Dec. 17), the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is expected to finalize a $7.12 increase in the average monthly bill that Connecticut Light & Power sends out to its residential customers.  The $7.12 hike would come on top of a Jan. 1 increase of $18.48, on average, for CL&P residential customers.

“As state senator, I represent 100,000 people in a region that stretches along the Connecticut River Valley from Portland south to Old Saybrook and Lyme,” Sen. Linares said.  “Hundreds of Connecticut rate payers have signed this petition because they want state regulators to deny CL&P’s proposed service rate hike.  We can’t afford more rate hikes.”

Regardless of whether rates are hiked on Wednesday, Sen. Linares urged residents to continue to email state regulators at PURA.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov if they wish to express their concerns about rising costs.

All Five Essex Bonding Authorizations Approved in Low Turnout Referendum

ESSEX— Voters Monday authorized up to 8.085 million in municipal  bonding, approving five separate ballot questions in a low turnout referendum. A total of 257 of the town’s 4,654 registered voters turned out for the 14-hour referendum, along with two property owners who are not registered voters in Essex.

An authorization of $2,845,000 to replace the Walnut and Ivory street bridges in the Ivoryton section had the widest margin of approval, 221-38. A combination of federal and state funds will reimburse 80 percent of the cost of the Walnut Street bridge project, while the much smaller Ivory Street bridge will be paid for entirely by town bond funds.

A $2,815,000 bonding authorization for improvements at Essex Elementary School was approved on a 193-64 vote. The improvements include replacement of the school roof, which will be eligible for partial state funding reimbursement, along with $600,000 for air conditioning at the 61 year-old school.

Improvements to the town  hall, including renovations to the land use offices, at an estimated cost of $1.3 million won approval of a 175-81 vote.  Improvements at the town public works garage, with an estimated cost of $525,000, won approval of a 178-80 vote. Voters authorized bonding of $600,000 to purchase a new fire truck on a 186-71 vote.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said he is pleased the capital projects initiative won voter approval. ” Thanks to everyone that came out and voted and thanks to the committee that did all of the hard work,” he said.
The capital projects plan was developed over the past year by a building committee chaired by Selectman Bruce Glowac. The first bonds are expected to be issued by 2017 for a pay off over 20 years ending in 2037.

‘Simply Sharing’ Eases Transition from Shelter with Furniture, Household Donations

(l-r): Simply Sharing President and Founder Alison Brinkmann shares a special moment with a client from Gilead Community services after helping her move into her new home.

(l-r): Simply Sharing President and Founder Alison Brinkmann shares a special moment with a client from Gilead Community services after helping her move into her new home.

ESSEX – When Simply Sharing President and Founder Alison Brinkmann decided to dedicate her time to a good cause and create an organization that would have a meaningful and lasting impact, she had no idea where that decision would take her.  She did know that she wanted to create a collaborative effort, one with a simple, single mission.

Through her involvement with the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Brinkmann saw the potential to help homeless individuals and families in local communities by building a network of shared services and resources.  After numerous discussions with leaders from area organizations and agencies, it was evident that there was a great need to secure furnishings and household items for those transitioning from shelters to sustainable and supportive housing.

So with a leg up from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, who provided fiscal oversight and funding, the Essex resident launched ‘Simply Sharing’ in April 2012 and has been on the move ever since.

“When someone first moves out of a shelter, the money they’re earning usually doesn’t go very far, and many can’t afford furnishings,” explained Brinkmann, “ A kitchen table and chairs, beds and sheets, pots, pans and dishes – these are basic household goods many of us take for granted. Yet for individuals and families who have been homeless, these basic necessities are, indeed, luxuries.”

While the concept of collecting donated items for redistribution is not a new one, ‘Simply Sharing’ takes a more collaborative, personal partner approach on both ends of the process. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization welcomes material and financial donations from individuals and businesses and then works solely through other qualified non-profit agencies and organizations to identify clients that are in the most need of those donations.

In addition to the furnishings and funds given by residents throughout Middlesex County, ongoing relationships with Bob’s Discount Furniture, Essex Meadows, Gather, and Realty 3 CT have built a solid foundation of additional resources.  Working with Columbus House, Gilead Community Services, The Connection, Inc, Middlesex Hospital and Central Connecticut State University, Simply Sharing has helped well over 50 families get a fresh start in a new home.

That help comes in the well-orchestrated form of Brinkmann and other ‘Simply Sharing’ volunteers making house calls to pick up donations or receiving them at their warehouse space in Essex, cleaning, selecting and organizing goods for the specific needs of identified families, and then delivering and “setting up” the items in the new living space. “It’s the most gratifying part of our work,” added Brinkmann, “ To be able to meet the people you are helping and see their reaction and appreciation for all the good that’s being given to them – it’s hard to keep a dry eye.”

For more information on ‘Simply Sharing,’ visit simplysharing.org, email info@simplysharing.org or call 860-388-7390.

Champions! Valley/Old Lyme Football Defy Odds to Win State Class S-Large

CIAC Class S-Large Champs!

CIAC Class S-Large Champs!  Photo by W. Visgilio.

Congratulations to coach Tim King and his Warriors on an incredible win!

New Britain – Quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre’s four-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining rallied top-seeded Valley Regional/Old Lyme to a 21-20 victory over No. 2 Ansonia in their Class S-Large state championship football game at Willow Brook Park on Saturday morning. Click here to read the remainder of this full initial report of the game by Ned Griffin, which was published in The Day yesterday

And here’s another link to great article about the game.

And, finally, here’s Tim Devlin’s video of all Saturday’s state game highlights.

Essex Zoning Commission has January Public Hearing on Separate Proposals for Bokum Road Life Care Zone

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a Jan. 26 public hearings on separate proposals to expand and revise regulations for the residential life care zone on Bokum Road. The zone had been established in the 1980s to accommodate the Essex Meadows life care complex that is now the town’s largest taxpayer.

Resident Marc Bombaci has submitted an application for a zone change from rural residential to residential life care for a 35.8-acre parcel that surrounds his 80 Bokum Road residence. Sections of the property on the  west side of Bokum Road abut land owned by Essex Meadows.

Bombaci, represented by local lawyer Campbell Hudson, has also proposed a zoning text amendment that would apply more recent regulations for active adult communities, or cluster-style housing for persons over age 55, to the residential life care zone that refers to housing and services for persons over age 62 The revised regulation would also allow the commission to waive under certain conditions a requirement that 80 percent of all the units in an active adult community must be owned by persons over age 55

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said if the zone change is approved, Bombaci would have to secure special permit and site plan approval from the commission for any future residential life care or active adult community development on his property.

The commission will also hold a public hearing next month on an application by Essex Glen LLC to revise the residential life care and active adult community regulations for a parcel on the opposite side of Bokum Road that was approved for a 55-unit active adult community development in 2007. The partnership never pursued the development plan that was approved in 2007.

Budrow said the partnership, represented by lawyer Terrance Lomme, is preparing to submit a new application and plan for the property that calls for 22 units in separate buildings. Essex Glen LLC is requesting a revision to regulations for an active adult community that would change the setback requirements that are part of the current regulations.

The change would reduce the front setback requirement from 80-feet to 40-feet, and the side and rear setback rule from 80-feet to 30-feet. Budrow said the change would accommodate a revised development proposal for the property with separate buildings. Lomme, who was re-elected last month as judge of probate for a nine-town region, had represented Essex Glen LLC during the 2007 application process.

Chester Town Meeting Approves Accepting State Grant Funds for Main Street Project

CHESTER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday formally authorized acceptance of two state grants totaling $783,088 that will be directed to the revised Main Street East improvement project. Despite some talk of rejecting the grant funding over opposition to a now deferred element of the project plan, voters authorized accepting the funding on a unanimous voice vote.

About 60 voters turned out for the town meeting, acting on the resolution after about 45 minutes of discussion. The vote comes two weeks after the Main Street Project Committee, and the board of selectmen, decided to scale back the project to eliminate plans for a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street that had drawn opposition from some residents and at least one property owner fronting on the proposed sidewalk. There were concerns that opposition to the sidewalk, which would also require removal of two mature trees, would delay the project and lead to a possible loss of the state grant funding.

The town has received two separate Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants, one of $450,000 and the other $333,088. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the grant funds would cover most of the cost of the revised Main Street East Project that is now estimated at about $800,000. The project area is now limited to a 1,000-foot section from the intersection with School Lane west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery.The initial plan, including the north side sidewalks had a cost estimate of about $1.2 million.

Meehan said the revised plan includes five new drainage catch basins in the vicinity of the Chester Post Office, new granite curbing, new sidewalks with a four-foot width that meets Americans With Disabilities Act standards, and additional lighting for the parking area at the entrance to the historic cemetery. Improvements to the street east from School Lane to the intersection with route 154 would be limited to milling and repaving, and possibly some repairs to a decaying state wall along the Chesterfields Health Care Center property on the south side of the street.

Meehan said final details of the revised plan are now under review by the committee and project engineers, with a goal of putting the project out to bid for a start of construction in the spring. Meehan added that further improvements to the eastern section of the street would await future community decisions on whether to building a new library with other improvements to North Quarter Park on the north side of the street. The town was recently awarded a $1 million state grant for construction of a new library at the park, but it would cover only about a quarter of the total cost of a library building project.

Voters also authorized the release of capital improvement funds, including $10,000 for two new police mobile radios and $6,934 for security enhancements at Chester Elementary School. The funds for the elementary school are a town match for a $59,000 state grant awarded to Regional School District 4 for security enhancements at the five district schools. The Chester Elementary School enhancements will include new interior and exterior cameras and a locked gate that would limit access from a wooded area on the west side of the school property.

Essex Tree Committee Awarded America The Beautiful Grant

Essex Tree-ATB grant 2014 (2)In the fall of 2014, the Essex Tree Committee, was awarded an America the Beautiful (ATB)  grant of $1,186 to plant trees in an effort to advance “urban forestry” as outlined by the ATB grant program.  These competitive grants are made available to municipalities and non-profit organizations by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Division of Forestry (DEEP).  The funding comes from the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry Program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection described the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as “a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont to cap and reduce power sector CO2 emissions.”  Because of these efforts by RGGI, DEEP Forestry expanded the grant criteria to focus also on reduction of energy use.  Additionally, as a result of the recent storms, focus was placed on roadside tree management.  Invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle were of great concern to the grant program as well.

Of the seven categories outlined by the ATB grants (see DEEP Forestry website: www.ct.gov/deep/forestry for more information), the Essex Tree Committee concentrated on: planting or maintaining legacy trees, planting or managing trees to reduce energy consumption or increase carbon sequestration, and the management of roadside trees for storm resistance.

Conforming to the 2014 ATB guidelines, the Tree Committee planted 8 non invasive trees at the following locations:

  1. An English Oak at the corner of Melody and Walnut streets in Ivoryton
  2. A White Oak/Swamp Oak at 44 Walnut St., Ivoryton
  3. A Sunset Maple at 46 Comstock Street, Ivoryton
  4. A Sweet Gum at 6 Donald St., Essex
  5. An English Oak at 46 Dennison St., Essex
  6. An American Hornbeam on the West St. strip, Essex
  7. A Sunset Maple on High St. at the corner of Prospect, Essex
  8. A London Plane (sycamore family) at 168 River Road, Essex.

The grant is a 50-50 grant in which the funding through the state program is matched by an equivalent contribution from the grant recipient.  This matched contribution was made by the Town of Essex in the funding of the purchase and planting of the trees.

The Essex Tree Committee under the leadership of Augie Pampel, completed the above plantings by December 2014.  On December 1, Chris Donnelly, Urban Forestry Coordinator for DEEP Forestry, came to Essex to inspect and approve the plantings in order that the monies from the grant could be awarded to the Essex Tree Committee in accordance with the ATB grant guidelines. One of his tasks was checking the root flares and girdled roots to make sure the trees were not planted too deeply and assure the roots would not strangle the tree in the future. (see below)

Essex Tree-ATB grant 2014

The Essex Tree Committee would like to thank Fred Weber and Associates for their help in planting the trees and all the people who worked with the committee to select the appropriate sites for the trees.

If you would like to make a donation to the Essex Tree Committee or discuss a tree memorial, please contact Augie Pampel at: augiepampel@att.net.

CT State Senator and State Representative Join in 35 Year Celebration in Chester

CT Senator Art Linares (33rd District), and CT Representative Philip Miller (36th District), congratulated and honored Roto Frank of America, Inc. at the celebration of their 35-year presence in North America.

CT Senator Art Linares (33rd District), and CT Representative Philip Miller (36th District), congratulate Roto Frank of America, Inc. at the celebration of their 35-year presence in North America.

On Thursday, December 4th, CT Senator Art Linares (33rd District), and CT Representative Phil Miller (36th District), congratulated and honored Roto Frank of America, Inc. of Chester at the celebration of their 35-year presence in North America. They presented Roto with an Official Citation from the General Assembly during the event. The festivities also included a retrospective of the company’s growth and development by Skip Branciforte, an employee who has been with Roto Frank of America since its beginning, as well as a catered luncheon and gifts for all personnel to commemorate the occasion.

The Chester, Connecticut facility houses Roto’s administration, engineering, manufacturing and distribution departments for their North American and European hardware. Roto Frank of America and Roto Fasco Canada combined form Roto North America, with over 120 employees, and are subsidiaries of the world’s largest manufacturer of OEM window hardware, Roto Frank AG.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this significant milestone in our company’s history, and we realize that this achievement would not have been possible without all of the dedicated Roto employees, customers, partners, and shareholders who have helped us along the way with their loyalty, integrity, and commitment,” says Chris Dimou, Roto North America’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

About Roto Frank of America, Inc.: Founded in 1979, Roto Frank of America, Inc. (www.rotohardware.com) has a long tradition of providing manufacturing solutions to OEMs in the window and door industry. The company specializes in window and door hardware, such as Casement/Awning, Single/Double Hung, Tilt & Turn, Sliding/hinged Patio and Euro.

Chester Rotary Participates In the Liberty Bank “Thanksgiving Dinner Drive”

Rotary 2014 Thanksgiving Dinner Drive Check Presentation

Rotary 2014 Thanksgiving Dinner Drive Check Presentation

On November 24, 2014 Gary Torello, the chairman of Chester Rotary’s Liberty Bank Thanks Giving Dinner Drive, presented a check in the amount of $2,407.51 to Rosie Bininger, Director of Human Services for the town of Chester, CT. Torello along with other Chester Rotarians raised funds throughout the month prior to this year’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to feed a growing number of Chester families on Thanksgiving Day. Funds not used to directly provide Thanksgiving dinners to area residents will be used to help stock the Chester Food Pantry in the coming months.

The Chester Rotary was one of 33 Rotary Clubs participating in the annual Liberty Bank/Rotary Club Thanksgiving Dinner Drive. While Liberty Bank had promised matching funds in the amount of 20% of funds collected by Connecticut Rotary Clubs, a last minute surprise by Liberty Bank President and CEO, Chandler Howard, increased it to 25 cents per dollar at the conclusion of the drive. All total, Connecticut Rotary clubs collected $167,476.11 which together with The Liberty Bank Foundation’s $41,869.03 in matching funds makes for a grand total of $209,489.82.

Essex Resident Claims “Frontier” Has Raised Rates, and the Senator Responds

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares

Essex resident Robert Kern has written a letter to State Senator Art Linares, complaining that Essex’s new telephone and Internet carrier, Frontier Communications, has raised rates in Essex, when it promised not to do so, after it had acquired local service from AT&T.

Kern in a letter to the Senator wrote that his, “customer bills have gone up despite the pledge by Frontier to keep them the same.” Kern also sent to the Senator, “my recent bills from AT&T and Frontier as an example.”

Making the Case

Kern continued, “Even though the basic line service charge has remained the same, they eliminate a $6.00 monthly ALL DISTANCE promotional credit and added a bogus ‘Carrier Cost Recovery Surcharge’ of $1.99 per month.” As a result,” Kern wrote, “my bill for the exact same services rose from $30.15 to $39.50, an increase of more than 26%.”

“This is outrageous,” Kern wrote the Senator. “Please check this out, as I’m certain customers within your district and across the state are confronted with these unwanted increases in this most basic of utility services.”

Senator Linares’ Response

Promptly responding to Kern’s complaint, the Senator wrote on December 9, “I am bringing your complaint to the attention of state officials.” Also, the Senator advised Kern that, “A Dec. 22 public meeting has been scheduled with executives of Frontier Communications regarding complaints like yours,” and that the meeting would include a public comment section.

The December 22 public meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m., and it will be held at the offices of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority at 10 Franklin Square in New Britain.

The Senator also wrote, “I have found that many frustrated taxpayers are unaware of how to bring their complaints directly to state officials. If you wish to do so on the Frontier issue email PURA at Pura.Executivesecretary@ct.gov and the Office of Consumer Counsel at occ.info@ct.gov.”

The Senator also wrote to Kern, “To file a complaint about Frontier service with the state Department of Consumer Protection, send an email to dcp.fraud@ct.gov,” that includes your contact information and the particulars of your complaint. .

Letter: Chester – Library, Trees, Roosters and Guns

To the Editor:

I find Chester a very interesting place to live and would live nowhere else. Over the years I have moved away to find myself returning as soon as I can. You are free to raise roosters, shoot a gun and not have your trees cut down (without due course) and if someone tries to change these things there is a huge public outcry.

These things are important to some but what is important to me and should be important to all is that our Library is not able to serve every person. This coming year will be the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Chester has failed to address this issue within our Public Library to conform to this act in the past 25 years! Where is the outcry! We now have the opportunity to address this with the recently acquired grant from the State of the Connecticut that will provide partial funding for a new library.

Fact: The current Chester Library does not address handicap accessibility.

Fact: The Town of Chester does not own the property on which the current library stands, so investing in the current building is not a solution.

Of course there are many other valid reasons why the library needs updating and the need for a community center, but first and foremost the primary issue needs to be addressed. There is no longer the need for any discussion, it’s a simple fact. Unfortunately this means that we as a community must provide the necessary remaining funding either through private donations or tax increases, but not doing anything is no longer an option. It is our social responsibility and the time has come address it once and for all.

Sincerely,

Dean Amato
Chester

Essex Town Meeting on Proposed $8.085 Million Bonding Plan Adjourns to December 15 Referendum Without Discussion

ESSEX— Voters Monday adjourned a town meeting on a proposed $8,085,000 bonding plan without discussion, setting the stage for an all day referendum on Dec. 15 on a plan that is expected to result in an increase in property taxes beginning in 2017.

About 40 residents, nearly half of them volunteer firefighters, turned out for the required town meeting on a plan that was first presented at a public hearing on Nov. 19. But the meeting was quickly adjourned to the referendum without questions or discussion. No one expressed opposition to any of the components of the bonding plan that will be presented for approval as five separate ballot questions in the referendum.

The bonding plan, developed over the past year by a building committee chaired by Selectman Bruce Glowac, was first presented at a Nov. 19 public hearing.. The plan includes two bridge replacement projects in the Ivoryton section and replacement of the roof at Essex Elementary School, which were identified as priorities at the start of the process, along with several other projects. The components, each presented as a separate yes-or-no ballot question, include $2,845,000 for replacement of the Walnut and Ivory street bridges, $2,815,000 for improvements at the elementary school, $1.3 million for improvements at town hall, $535,000 for improvements at the town public works garage, and $600,000 for purchase of a new pumper fire truck.

The two bridge projects and the school roof replacement are eligible for state or federal funding reimbursement of $2,055,000, leaving town tax payers to finance bonding of up to $3,030,000. The elementary school project also includes $600,000 for air conditioning at the school.

The town is expected to use bond anticipation notes to fund some of the initial projects, with the full 20-year bonds expected to be issued in late 2016 or early 2017. The highest year for debt service payments is expected to be 2017-2018, when the bonding plan is expected to require a 0.49 mill increase in the property tax rate that is currently set at 21.99 mills.

Town Finance Director Kelly Sterner said at the Nov. 19 hearing the 0.49 mill increase would represent about $147 in additional tax for a residential property assessed at $300,000. Debt service costs would begin to drop in 2021, falling off more steeply beginning in 2027 for a final pay off of the bonds in 2037. Polls will be open Monday at the town hall auditorium from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

 

Town of Essex Orders Debris Removal by Land Owner

Trailer ordered removed by Town of Essex

Trailer ordered removed by Town of Essex

The Town of Essex has entered a “Cease and Desist Order” against John Molloy, III, the owner of 194 Saybrook Road in Essex, dated November 25. The town charges that Malloy violated Town of Essex Zoning Regulations, section 115A,   for, 1) “The presence of debris and waste material.” and, 2) “The presence of a commercial truck trailer on the property.”

Debris and waste ordered removed at 194 Saybrook Road, Essex

Debris and waste ordered removed at 194 Saybrook Road, Essex

The Town of Essex’s “Order to Discontinue Violations” noted, “This Order follows four Notice of Violations and numerous phone calls since 2011. To this day it has been noticed that a minimal effort has gone into relieving the situation of clearing the property of the commercial vehicle trailer and debris.”

The town further noted, “The property must be cleaned up to a point where this Order may be removed. The trailer must be removed immediately.”

The Order then threatened the owner with “addition actions [if remedial actions are not taken] … that may result in an enforcement action seeking injunctive orders of the Supreme Court, attorney’s fees, costs and civil penalties as authorized by the zoning regulations sections 150D and 150E as well as Connecticut General Statutes Section 8-12.”

Efforts to reach property owner, John Malloy, III, were unsuccessful.

Essex Conservation Commission to Hold Off Lethal Trapping of Beavers

The conservation commission agreed Thursday to defer any possible lethal trapping of beavers in the ponds at Viney Hill Brook Park after hearing objections from dozens of residents at the panel’s regular meeting.

More than 80 residents turned out for the meeting of the commission that supervises the town’s open space lands, with most voicing opposition to the decision at a Nov. 6 meeting to pursue the trapping. The commission in recent months has been discussing damage caused by beavers to trees and trails at the 90 acre park. The commission had authorized some lethal trapping of beaver at the park in March 2011, a decision that drew objections from some residents, but not the public outcry sparked by the latest consideration of the trapping option.

About two dozen residents, including some children and teenagers, spoke in opposition to the option of lethal trapping. Many called the trapping, in which beavers are restrained and held underwater until drowning, as cruel and inhumane. Paul Leach said the method of removal “is unkind and therefore unacceptable,” while Scott Konrad maintained it take the animals several minutes to expire during the trapping. Several residents urged the commission to further investigate options for controlling beaver activity that do not include lethal trapping, with some offering to contribute money to pay for any devices or piping that could control the beaver without trapping.

But some residents, including parks and recreation commission members Jim Rawn and Robert Russo, contended too much beaver activity could impact water quality in the larger of the two ponds that is used as a town swimming area. Rawn said the swimming area was closed for a period in 2001 due to contamination of the water from animal feces, while also suggesting that beaver activity could undermine the man-made dams that help contain the two man-made former sand and gravel quarry ponds.

After hearing more than 90- minutes of public comment, commission members, some reluctant, agreed to hold off any lethal trapping this year to investigate other options for controlling and limiting damage caused by beaver activity. State rules limit beaver trapping to the colder weather months.

First Selectman Norman Needleman, who joined commission members at the table as an ex-officio member, urged the commission to spend additional time exploring other options for beaver control. Needleman also offered the services of the town’s consulting engineer, Robert Doane, to help establish whether the beaver activity truly poses any threat to the structure of the two ponds.

Chester Town Meeting Vote on Accepting Grant Funds for Main St. Project, Tuesday

Voters will be asked at a town meeting Tuesday to formally accept two state grants totaling $783,000 for the Main Street East reconstruction project. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the community room at town hall.

The required town meeting action comes after the board of selectmen and the Main Street Project Committee approved a change in the long-planned project that would limit most improvements to the section of the street from the intersection with School Lane west to the Laurel Hill Cemetery, while eliminating plans for a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street that had drawn opposition from some residents. One factor in the now deferred plans for a north side sidewalk was a preliminary plan to construct a new library in North Quarter Park, a plan for which the town was recently awarded a separate $1 million state grant.

But when the board of selectmen discussed the project at a meeting Tuesday, some residents voiced continuing objections to both the revised Main Street plans, and the idea of building a new library at North Quarter Park. Christopher Moore raised concerns about town costs for both projects, while Caryn Davis questioned the need for a library. “It’s not as if we don’t have services,” she said.

Cary Hull, a library supporter, responded to the comments by noting the award of the state grant, which must be directed to a town approved library building project within three years, is only the first step. ” We realize our work is just beginning for a library that is accessible to everyone in the community,” she said.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said plans for a library project are in the early stages, and would require both private fundraising and possible town bonding because the $1 million grant would cover only a portion of the cost of a new library. But Meehan added that failing Tuesday to accept the two state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants awarded for the Main Street Project would likely mean a loss of the grant funding and leave town taxpayers responsible for all of the expense of any improvements to Main Street. “If we keep delaying this we have a high risk of having that money pulled back,” he said.

Michael Joplin, chairman of the Main Street Project Committee, said the panel needs to complete the revised plans for the Main Street East Project soon to allow the project to be put out to bid for a start of construction by the spring. “We have to move this along,” he said. Joplin, at a Nov. 25 meeting, had urged the committee to scale back the project plans out of concern that controversy over the north side sidewalk would delay the project and lead to a possible loss of the grant funding.

Chester Selectmen Vote to Take No Action on Residential Target Shooting Ordinance

The board of selectmen will take no further action on the issue of a residential target shooting ordinance that was requested by a group of Wig Hill Road residents living near an undeveloped property that is used for target shooting.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday on a motion by Selectman Larry Sypher to take no further action on an issue that had drawn dozens of target shooting enthusiasts and gun rights supporters to an Oct. 21 public information meeting. The issue had been discussed further when more than two dozen residents turned out for the board’s Nov. 18 meeting.

The nine-acre Wig Hill Road property that sparked the public debate on the issue is owned by Deep River resident Warren Elliot and has been used as a private target shooting range for several years. A group of residents living near the property, raising concerns about noise and public safety, had submitted a petition last summer urging the selectmen to consider a town ordinance that would prohibit target shooting on properties in a residential zone.. The idea of an ordinance, which would have required approval from voters at a town meeting, was strongly opposed by most of the residents that turned out for the Oct. 21 information meeting.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said he concluded that any town wide ordinance regulating target shooting would be unworkable, and suggested the issue should be handled on a “case by case basis.” Meehan said he believes concerns about activity on the Wig Hill Road property could be resolved with “the cooperation of the property owner and using law enforcement when necessary.”

Liberty Bank Foundation Donates $5,000 to Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries

From left to right, Leigh-Bette Maynard, manager of Liberty Bank’s Essex and Old Saybrook offices, Patty Dowling, Executive Director of The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, and Skip Marquardt, Raymond James Financial Services and SSKP Board of Trustee member.

From left to right, Leigh-Bette Maynard, manager of Liberty Bank’s Essex and Old Saybrook offices, Patty Dowling, Executive Director of The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, and Skip Marquardt, Raymond James Financial Services and SSKP Board of Trustee member.

The Liberty Bank Foundation has awarded a $5,000 grant to the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) to support the purchase of food from the CT Food Bank.

“SSKP is so grateful for the generous support we receive from the Liberty Bank Foundation. This donation helps assures that people in need on the shoreline have a place to turn for food and fellowship.  With these funds specifically we will be able to distribute enough food at our pantries for over 13,150 meals. On behalf of all those we serve, I thank The Liberty Bank Foundation for supporting our local neighbors in need,” said Patty Dowling, executive director of SSKP.

“The need for services continues to be more critical than ever during the current economic conditions,” said Leigh-Bette Maynard, manager of Liberty Bank’s Essex and Old Saybrook offices.  “A need exists in every community including the Shoreline.  Liberty is proud to be a long-time supporter of Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries.”

Since its inception in 1997, the Liberty Bank Foundation has awarded almost $7.9 million in grants to nonprofit organizations within Liberty Bank’s market area.  The foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for people of low or moderate income by investing in three areas:  education to promote economic success for children and families; affordable housing; and nonprofit capacity building.  Along with its grantmaking, the foundation strives to foster the convening and collaboration of nonprofits, funders, business, and government to address community issues.

Founded in 1989, SSKP 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.

Established in 1825, Liberty Bank is Connecticut’s oldest mutual bank, with almost $3.5 billion in assets and 48 banking offices throughout the central, eastern, and shoreline areas of the state.  As a full-service financial institution, it offers consumer and commercial banking, home mortgages, insurance, and investment services.  Rated outstanding by federal regulators on its community reinvestment efforts, Liberty maintains a longstanding commitment to superior personal service and unparalleled community involvement.

Op-Ed: Let’s Do Something About Essex’s Tacky “Front Door”

Cause for concern:  the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex's "Front Door"

Cause for concern: the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex’s “Front Door”

Look at the “front door” to Essex, Conn.:  Tacky, patch-painted bridges and untamed brush.  Hardly welcoming enticements for visitors, and in sharp contrast to the beautiful center road “gardens” maintained by our beloved, hard working,  Ancient Order of Weeders.

There are two issues here: (1) refurbishment of the bridges themselves and (2) upkeep of the land around the bridges.

(1)   Expense for upkeep of these bridges and surroundings belongs to the Conn. Dept. of Transportation (DOT).  Conversations with the DOT regarding Essex’s tackiness
result in this:  due to budget constraints, repainting these  bridges (lead paint is huge issue) will only happen when the bridge needs major structural rehab.  However, were there grafitti all over the  bridges, the DOT could indeed get out and cover it.  Which is to say, the DOT could make the bridges look good without the necessity of the total overhaul.  But will not.  The solution is simple!  All I need to do is to get out with long-armed spray paint cans (would you join me?) and spell out something gross.  Just kidding.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge -- not a pretty picture.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge — not a pretty picture.

I challenge the so-called “budget constraints.”  While the DOT has no funds to fix the ugly Essex bridges, it does indeed have budget to mow down, — remove — all greenery in a large divider section on Rte. 9 at Exit 2.  You’ve surely noticed it.   Inquiries with State Rep. Phil Miller indicate the reason for the mowing was that there were invasive trees in that area.  So when or why does the DOT study and determine the quality of greenery on public lands?  Connecticut has a Forestry Dept. within the Department of Environmental Protection that studies and has funds to control such problems. The DOT has funds for invasive tree eradication, but not for tidying up ugly bridges.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

As you can see, there is something awry here.  But, as it appears hopeless that such wasteful duplications in our State Government will be fixed soon, if ever, it seems that the only way Essex can get its ‘Front Door’ at Exit 3 spruced up, is by a special allowance to the DOT from State funds specific for “Bridge Beautification.”  I submit that as there are State Small Town Economic Assistance Program ( STEAP) funds granted for upgrades to replace crosswalks, tennis courts and parking lots, there surely are funds available to relieve Essex of its “Tacky Town” appearance.

I-95's Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

I-95’s Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

(2)   In contrast to Essex’s bridges and surrounding areas, look at the expansive, elegant and well-mowed plantings at I-95,  Exit 70, Old Lyme.  I hereby ask of the DOT to give Essex equal treatment.  And I hereby request Essex’s First Selectman Norm Needleman to request a State grant to the DOT to speed along this project.  In addition,  I hereby request our state representatives … Phil Miller and Art Linares … to assist in pushing these projects through.

Essex Elementary School Foundation Hosts Haiti Day

Second grader Lyle Pitman works on his Haitian mask.

Second grader Lyle Pitman works on his Haitian mask.

Second and third grade students at the Essex Elementary School were recently treated to Haiti Day, as part of the Justus W. Paul World Cultures program, funded by the Essex Elementary School Foundation.  They learned about Haitian life and culture by making masks and metal art, as well as listening to music performed by the Carnival Trio.  The children will also study India and China.

In early December, the Essex Elementary School Foundation (EESF) kicked off its annual appeal.  In addition to the World Cultures Program, this not-for-profit, volunteer organization also provides funds for enrichment programs, such as an iPad lab, a talent show and a mathematician-in-residence.

United Church of Christ Seeks Christian Education Director

The United Church of Chester is currently looking for a Christian Education Director.  See the church website at uccchester.org or email unitedchester@sbcglobal.net or call 860-526-2697 for a job description.

The church’s mission states, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here at the United Church of Chester, an Open and Affirming Church, and a member of the United Church of Christ.”  Each member has the undisturbed right to follow the Word of God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

Visit for Sunday morning worship at 10 a.m. or come by the office Tues-Fri 9 a.m.-1 p.m. to find out more about the church.

The mailing address for the church is United Church of Chester Post Office Box 383 29 West Main Street  Chester, Connecticut 06412

Letter: Must Consider the Health Risks the Beavers Present

To the Editor:

It’s distressing to read the several letters about the extermination of the beavers at Vineyard Hill Brook Park. You can be sure the “remedy” chosen to remove the beavers from the park is a last resort, not the first choice, of the park managers. The unfortunate reality is that water in which beaver resides is not healthy, is in fact dangerous, for humans, especially young humans.

Maybe the remedy would be to allow a pond to be developed downstream, somewhere, or some such; there just aren’t a lot of places to which they can be removed any more. The reason Essex has the park is to allow people to swim and play in a potable water body, not just for fun, but also to learn a little about being able to survive in water.

We allow the killing of other animals which are a threat to us, and though it is not my own desire to do this, no one seems to have a better remedy.

Sincerely,

Jonathan James
Essex

Letter from Paris: Gambling on the Impressionists

Nicole Prevost Logan

Nicole Prevost Logan

One could describe the exhibit as intimate.  Only 80 paintings hang in the small rooms of the Musée du Luxembourg, some of them never seen before.  The style is familiar. the colors are soft, the scenes are peaceful — we are in the Impressionists’ world to meet old friends: Monet, Manet, Degas, Sisley, Pissarro, Eugene Boudin, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt.

poster for Musee_de_luxembourg_ExhibitThe title of the exhibit is, “Paul Durand-Ruel. The Impressionist Gamble – Manet, Monet, Renoir,”  and it tells the endearing story of the first art dealer in history … and also one of the most influential.

The artwork is stunning: in “Le Pont à Villeneuve -la-Garenne,”  Sisley creates the fluidity of the water by using multicolor brush strokes and in Renoir’s dance scenes, 1883, couples twirl around happily, women’s eyes bright, their ruffled dresses contrasting with the dark suits of their older escorts.   “Liseuse” by Monet  shows a young woman sitting on the grass, enveloped by vegetation, spots of light dots her pink dress and in “Le Foyer de la Dance,” Degas’ dancers warm up, others are stretching, while, in the foreground, a little old lady, slouching in a chair is reading a newspaper.  Nearby another painting is identical, except for the empty chair — the little old lady is gone.

The story behind the artwork is equally fascinating.  Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) became an art dealer by accident.   Attracted to a military career, he entered Saint Cyr  (equivalent of West Point) but  renounced for medical reasons.  He was struck by the paintings of Eugene Delacroix exhibited at the 1855 Exposition Universelle (World Fair). He became fascinated by the artists who were refused access to the official Salon of the Academy of Fine Arts because of their innovative techniques.

In 1871, Paul met Monet and Pissarro in London where they had taken refuge from the Franco-Prussian war.  After his return to Paris, he visited Manet in his studio, liked his work so much that he bought 23 of his paintings at one go.  The Luxembourg exhibit includes two of Manet ‘s major works:  “Clair de Lune at Boulogne” and “Le Combat du Kearsage et de l’Alabama.”

Left alone after the his wife’s death, he turned his art dealership into a family business with his five children.  He opened galleries in London, Brussels, New York and later, Berlin.

In 1874, a group of young artists – who were given, at that time, the collective term of ‘Impressionists’ – showed their work for the first time together in the studio of   photographer Nadar.

Durand-Ruel fought to help the artists, both morally and financially, and became their friend. He borrowed money to purchase their paintings. He offered his living room on Rue de Rome to a penniless Monet and lent him money to move to Giverny. Years later, when he was rich and famous, Monet wrote, “We would have starved to death without Paul. ”

In 1886, the American Art Association invited him to organize an exhibit in New York.  It was a success and became the first official recognition of the Impressionists.

One cannot help compare the story of such a life to the speculation around art today and to the giant art fairs (like Art Basel) when  intermediaries are commissioned by owners with deep pockets.

The exhibition at the Musée de Luxembourg continues through Feb. 8, 2015.

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter.  She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries.  She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe.  Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents.  Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Chester Committee Drops Plan for Main Street North Side Sidewalk as Town is Awarded $1 Million Grant for Library Project

CHESTER— In an abrupt change of plans, the Main Street Project Committee voted Tuesday to drop plans for a continuous north side sidewalk as part of the Main Street East reconstruction project. The decision came as town officials learned Monday that Chester has been awarded a $1 million state grant for construction of a new library at North Quarter Park, the 22-acre town park that would have been served by the proposed north side sidewalk.

The Main Street Project Committee, working with engineers Kent & Frost Associates of Mystic, last March recommended the continuous north side sidewalk as part of the Main Street East plan to reconstruct 1,800 feet of Main Street from the intersection with Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. The plan drew a mixed response at an April 22 public information meeting, with some residents objecting to removal of two mature maple trees along the section of street, while others agreed a sidewalk was necessary, particularly if the town pursues construction of a new library at North Quarter Park.

The plan also drew strong objections from Jeff and Comer Gates, property owners at 137 Main Street, who contended the sidewalk would be too close to the front of their house. The board of selectmen later endorsed the plan with the north side sidewalk, and directed engineers to prepare design plans that included it. Officials were hoping to put the project out to bid this winter.

But earlier this fall, selectmen learned the total cost of the project would be about $1.3 million, exceeding the approximately $1,154,000 in available funding that included  $780,000 in state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants, and $374,000 in set aside town capital funds. Engineers were reviewing the plans for possible cost savings as the board of selectmen last week scheduled a Dec. 9 town meeting to vote on authorizing a release of the $374,000 in set aside town funds for the project. The Gates’s continued to oppose the plan, posting a large sign on the front of their property calling for removal of the continuous north side sidewalk to save money.The board of finance at a Nov. 20 meeting expressed concerns about the approximate $150,000 funding gap, and tabled a any decision on authorizing release of the town funds.

As the Main Street Project Committee convened Tuesday evening, Chairman Michael Joplin announced that he would recommend scaling back the project to include only the area from the intersection with School Lane west to the parking area at the entrance to Laurel Hill Cemetery, deferring any work east of School Lane including a continuous north side sidewalk. Joplin said the reluctance of the finance board top approve release of the town funding indicated the plan could face opposition, and possible rejection, by voters at the Dec. 9 town meeting. He said a town meeting defeat could jeopardize the state grant funding that is needed for the project.

Other committee members, and First Selectman Edmund Meehan, reluctantly agreed. Meehan said the plans for a continuous north side sidewalk could be “pulled off the shelf,” and revisited when the town is closer to completing final plans for a new library at North Quarter Park. The committee later voted to direct project engineers to revise the plans to focus on the segment west of School Lane, along with some limited, and possibly temporary, improvements to roadway from School Lane east to Route 154.

Meehan said Wednesday the board of selectmen would discuss the Main Street East Project, and the proposed new library, further at its Dec. 2 meeting. The selectmen over the summer appointed a library building committee that has hired a Pawtucket, R.I. firm, Lerner, Lads & Bartells, to prepare preliminary plans for a new 5,600-square-foot library on the front section of North Quarter Park.

Meehan said the terms of the $1 million grant require the town to approve full funding for a library project within three years. He said the grant is only expected to cover about a quarter of the total cost for a new library, with an authorization of town bonding funds and private fundraising expected to be needed for the plan for a new library to move forward.

LVVS Has an Affordable Gift Idea

In the spirit of affordable giving, Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore, CT, Inc. is having a “Fill a Bag for a Buck” December book promotion on specially selected books. The LVVS bookstore has a large variety of hardcover, paperback, and children’s books that include selections by well-known authors and topics such as gardening, crafts, and religion. Buy a bag full and fill a basket or stocking for a special reader or favorite teacher in your life.

LVVS is located on the lower level of the Westbrook Library, 61 Goodspeed Drive.

Book sale hours are Monday-Thursday, 9-2:00 and the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, 10:00AM-Noon.

Visit www.vsliteracy.org or call at 860-399-0280.  All book sales, promotion or otherwise, benefit the LVVS tutoring programs in English as a Second Language or Basic Reading.

Essex Meadows Donates $200,000 to Help Acquire The Preserve

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ESSEX — The Essex Meadows senior living community has recently contributed $200,000 to help acquire for public use a privately owned, 1,000 acre tract of open land, which is known as The Preserve.  The owners of the community, Essex Meadows Properties, Inc., headed by Chairman of the board and CEO, Fred W. Weitz, donated $100,000 and the community’s residents and staff matched the owners’ contribution with another $100,000.  Essex Meadows is a senior retirement community in Essex, Connecticut. The Preserve property is principally located in the Town of Old Saybrook, with seventy of its acres in Essex, and four in Westbrook.

The land for The Preserve is, reportedly, the largest parcel of vacant, “coastal forest” between New York City and Boston. A small portion of The Preserve borders Essex Meadows’ property.

The Land of the Preserve

The Preserve land consists of heavily forested land in some areas and open land in others. The property has 38 vernal pools, and 114 acres of wetlands, within its boundaries. In addition, the land serves as a “rest stop” for migratory birds, making their migratory journeys north and south.

If the present fundraising efforts to purchase the land for The Preserve are successful, 1,000 acres of open, recreational space will be saved for the use of present and future generations.

The purchase price of the land for The Preserve is $10 million. To date, the State of Connecticut has pledged $3 million, the Town of Old Saybrook by referendum has approved $3 million and the Town of Essex has approved a contribution of $200,000. The remaining monies for the purchase of the Preserve property are being raised from private and public donors by the Essex Land Trust and other organizations.

Essex Garden Club Decorates Essex for the Holidays

EGC XMAS 2014 cropped

In preparation for the holidays, the Essex Garden Club members have decorated merchant window boxes and tubs of the villages of Essex as well as the town park gazebo on Main Street.  Using a variety of evergreen cuttings from members and other generous donors from the community, designers helped the town put on a festive face for the upcoming “Trees in the Rigging” on Sunday November 30 as well as the Holiday Stroll on December 6.  The “Silent Policeman” this year was transformed into a tribute to the late Oscar de la Renta, famed haute courtier known for his ruffles and flowing trains.  This year’s creation features an elegant skirt, bodice complete with corsage, topped by a lighted headdress, and was created by Dee Dee Charnok, Gay Thorn, and Sandy Meister, pictured here.

Special thanks go to Goody LeLash and Bette Taylor for organizing the decorating done by the members, and to David Caroline for seeing that the lights were turned on.

The Essex Garden Club extends its best wishes to all the residents of Essex, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton for a healthy, happy holiday.

Essex Republican Town Committee Supports Capital Project Bonding

elephant_party_republicanESSEX – The Essex Republican Town Committee supports the proposed bonding of $8.085 million for needed capital projects in Essex and encourages residents of Essex to vote in favor of the authorization at the referendum on December 15.

“The Essex Republican Town Committee appreciates the work of Capital Projects Building Committee members Bruce Glowac, Leigh Ann Rankin and Kelly Sterner.  We trust and respect their thorough research and reasoning and thank them for their service to the town,” said newly appointed Republican Town Committee Chair, Bruce MacMillian.  “We also feel strongly that the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance consider using some of the $2.9 million in the undesignated fund balance to reduce our bond obligation where appropriate.”

The Republican Town Committee encourages all Essex residents to exercise their rights and participate in town government by voting in the referendum on Monday, December 15 from 6am-8pm at Town Hall.

Essex Conservation Commission Considers Lethal Trapping of Beavers at Town Park – Meeting Dec. 4

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ESSEX— The conservation commission will discuss possible lethal trapping of beavers in a pond at Viney Brook Park at its next regular meeting on Dec. 4. The meeting is set for 7:30. PM at town hall.

The appointed commission, which supervises town open space land, had already voted unanimously at a Nov. 6 meeting to pursue the trapping with a state licensed trapper that had worked with the commission previously. But word of the plan to allow lethal trapping of the beavers has drawn objections from some residents, including several residents who expressed their opposition at the Nov. 19 meeting of the board of selectmen.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said the commission has decided to receive public comment on the plan at the Dec. 4 meeting, and then vote again on whether to authorize the trapping. The panel is concerned that a beaver lodge in one of the ponds in the 90-acre park is leading to damage to trees and a trail. The commission had previously authorized lethal trapping of beavers at the park in March 2011, a decision that also generated objections from some residents.

Chester Main Street Bridge Reconstruction Expected to Begin 2016

CHESTER— State Department of Transportation officials reported Monday that a $3 million reconstruction of the Main Street bridge over Pattaconk Brook is expected to begin in early 2016, with the bridge in the downtown village expected to be closed to vehicular traffic from mid-January to mid-May 2016. About 30 residents turned out at the Chester Meeting House Monday for a public information meeting on a project that is entirely funded by the state.

Project managers Andrew Fesenmeyer and David Stahnke presented the latest plans for replacement of the 1921 bridge that carries up to 3,600 vehicles per day. Town officials and residents were supportive of the project, which is expected to set the stage for completion of the final phase of a town sponsored Main Street improvement project that would begin after the new bridge is completed.

But DOT officials cautioned that any delays in securing permits for the project could delay a start of construction to 2017. Fesenmeyer said the project requires permits from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said the permits must be approved by May to allow the project to be put out to bid for a start of construction late next year that would precede the five month bridge closing in 2016. First Selectman Edmund Meehan, along with several residents, said they want to be notified as soon as possible if the bridge closing is to be delayed until January 2017.

DOT has already accepted a construction schedule requested by the town that would limit any closing of the road and bridge to the winter and spring months to reduce disruption for Main Street businesses and annual events. Under the planned schedule, the bridge and road would reopen no later than May 22, 2016. The plan calls for work to be done between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m,. six days per week, with no night work.

The new bridge would be slightly longer and wider than the existing bridge, with a concrete deck and a roadway width of 37-feet. Plans call for preserving the existing stone abutments while reinforcing the abutments with concrete. There would also be improvements to a small section of Main Street and West Main Street (Route 148) in the vicinity of the bridge, including new sidewalk, granite curbing, a new crosswalk, added street trees, and an improved and wider turning radius from Route 148 on to Main Street.

Dec. 15 Referendum Set for Proposed $8.085 Million Bonding Authorization for Essex Capital Projects

ESSEX– Voters will go to the polls for an all-day referendum on Dec. 15 to act on a proposed $8,085,000 bonding authorization for town capital projects. The board of selectmen approved the bonding resolution question Wednesday after a public hearing where the plan drew general support from residents.

About 60 residents turned out for the public hearing on the capital projects plan that was developed over the past year by a three-member Capital Projects Building Committee led by Selectman Bruce Glowac. While there were several questions, no one spoke in direct opposition to any of the proposed building projects or the proposed $8 million bonding total. The cost estimates for each project were developed by CME Associates Inc. a Woodstock engineering fire retained by the town.
The bonding authorizations would be presented as five separate ballot questions for bridge projects, Essex Elementary School projects, town hall projects, public works garage projects, and a $600,000 authorization to purchase a new pumper fire truck for the volunteer fire department.

The largest projects, which had already been identified as priorities when the committee began its work, include replacement of the Walnut Street and Ivory Street bridges in the Ivoryton section for an estimated cost of  $2,845,000, and replacement of the elementary school roof for an estimated cost of $1.4 million. Four additional projects, including $600,000 for air conditioning the school building, would bring the total estimated cost for elementary school projects to $2,815,000. The Walnut Street bridge replacement and the elementary school roof would be eligible for federal or state grant funding reimbursement of $2,055,000.  The funding reimbursement would reduce the total cost borne by town taxpayers to $6,030,000, though the bonding authorizations must be for the total project cost amounts.

The six improvement projects at town hall have an estimated cost of $1.3 million, including $500,000 to renovate land use offices, $200,000 for roof replacement, and $200,000 for air conditioning the building that was first constructed as a high school in the 1890s. Four projects at the town public works garage have an estimated cost of $525,000 including $109,000 for roof replacement and $264,000 for a two bay addition that would provide space for equipment storage.

Glowac acknowledged the proposed $8 million in bonding is ” a big number,” but maintained all of the projects are “real needs as opposed to wants,” that would address town and elementary school capital improvement issues for the next 20 years, which would also be the term of the bonds. He said all of the cost estimates represent  “worst case” projections with the actual amount to be bonded likely to be less than the requested authorizations. First Selectmen Norman Needleman said selectmen and the finance board may decide to pay for some of the smaller projects with transfers from the town’s $2.9 million undesignated fund balance, without the need for bonding.

Finance Director Kelly Sterner said the town expects to use bond anticipation notes, which have a one-year maturity, for some of the initial projects, such as the bridges. Most of the bonds would be issued in late 2016 or early 2017. The highest year for debt service is expected to be 2017-2018, when debt payments would add about 0.49 mills to the property tax rate that is currently set at 21.99 mills, or $21.99 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Sterner said the 0.49 mills in 2017-2018 would represent about $147 in additional tax for a property assessed at $300,000. Debt service costs would begin dropping in 2020-2021, falling more steeply around 2027 leading to a final pay off in the 2036-2037 fiscal year.

The bonding resolutions will be presented for further discussion, but not amendment from the floor, at a Dec. 3 town meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall. The Dec. 15 referendum would be conducted from 6 a.m.  to 8 p.m.

Region 4 School Employees Union Supports Shoreline Soup Kitchen

l-r: Roberta Price; Coral Rawn; Shirley Rutan; and Kim Johns.

l-r: Roberta Price; Coral Rawn; Shirley Rutan; and Kim Johns.

With the holiday season fast approaching, the members of AFSCME Local 1303-421, representing Region 4 School Employees, donated $500 to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries.

Local 1303-421 President Coral Rawn and Secretary Kim Johns, along with union representative Roberta Price, recently presented the donation to Shirley Rutan, Coordinator for the Deep River Congregational Church meal site.

“We’re very grateful for the generosity of AFSCME Local 1303-421 members,” Rutan said. “Their contribution will go a long way.”

Rawn said union members decided to establish a Good and Welfare Committee for the purpose of making charitable donations. “It’s a good way for our union to give back and to support the communities where we live and work,” she said.

SSKP serves people in need in 11 shoreline communities, including the Region 4 town of Essex, Deep River and Chester. SSKP’s 5 meal pantries distribute groceries to over 500 families per week, giving each family 3.5 days of food per week, and their 8 meal sites serve over 200 meals to individuals per week.

“Hunger is a real issue throughout our communities,” Johns noted. “We’re pleased to be able to help a wonderful organization doing important work.”

Local 1303-421 represents more than 20 school employees, including network technicians, custodians, nurses and secretaries.

Letter: Believe in the Election Process

To the Editor:

It’s been two weeks since the election, and I’m sure most of you are done with politics, so I’ll keep this brief.  I want to first thank everyone for voting on November 4th, it is by far the most important and powerful thing that anyone can do in our lives.

This being my first time running for office, I learned so very much in what was a fairly short period of time.  There is truly quite a bit of work that goes into running for office, but it is worth every minute, every sweat, and every tear.  I met so many great people since jumping in the race in June, all of whom I now consider friends.  Listening to people’s thoughts and concerns, for me, was the best part of this race.  The 36th Assembly District has four beautiful towns, all of which I love.  Everyone that lives in Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam are truly the luckiest residents in Connecticut.

I encourage everyone to run for public office, especially younger people.  I guarantee that it is the best experience you will ever have in your life.  Please know that you can be a landscaper or former bartender and still run.  The most important qualifications that any candidate should have are their ideas, beliefs, and convictions.  This is what makes America such an awesome place to live, the opportunities are endless.

So again I thank all of you, it was the best decision I ever made to run for office and I am so happy that all of you were a part of it.  The best strength that we have is that when we work together, all of our lives become better than the day before.  Believe in the process, it works.

My very best to all of you,

Bob Siegrist
Former Candidate for the Connecticut House of Representatives
36th Assembly District

State Police Investigate Bomb Threat at Valley Regional High School

DEEP RIVER— State police are investigating a bomb threat that was called in Monday to Valley Regional High School. The telephone threat was received around 12:45 p.m., with students and staff evacuated as police with bomb-detecting dogs searched the building. Students were transported to the nearby John Winthrop Middle School.

By 1:15 p.m. students and staff were allowed to return to the building after no explosives were detected. Minutes later, around 1:30 p.m. there was a bomb threat made to East Hampton High School that also prompted an evacuation and police search of the school building. Both incidents remain under investigation by police.

Essex Annual Town Meeting Monday to Act on Board and Commission Appointments

ESSEX— Voters at the annual town meeting Monday will act on 20 board and commission appointments and two additional appropriations, along with acceptance of the annual town report for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The meeting begins at 7 p,m., in the auditorium at town hall.

All of the appointments subject to town meeting confirmation Monday are incumbent members currently serving on the respective panels, with most of the appointments for three year terms. Voters will be asked to confirm  seven appointments to town land use commissions, including Alvin Wolfgram and William Reichenbach for the zoning commission, with Adrienne Forest as commission alternate, Thomas Danyliw for the planning commission, Fred Szufnarowski for the inland-wetlands commission, and William Veillette for zoning board of appeals, with Barbara Sarrantonio and Peter Decker as ZBA alternates

Voters will be asked to confirm appointment of Douglas Senn Robert Russo, and Anthony Mosa for the parks and recreation commission, and Walter Weigert for the harbor management commission, with Terry Stewart as harbor management commission alternate. Voters will be asked to confirm the appointment of David Winstead, Robert Laundy, and Edward Cook for the economic development commission, with Susan Malan and Mark Reeves for the water pollution control authority, with Alvin Wolfgram as WPCA alternate.

Voters will be asked to approve two supplemental appropriations for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that ended on June 30, including $21,431 for the town clerk’s office, and $68,653 for the highway department. The highway department overrun is for snow removal expenses last winter. Voters will also be asked to accept the annual town report for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

State Dept. of Transportation Public Information Meeting on Chester Main Steet Bridge Replacement Project

CHESTER— The state department of Transportation will hold a public information meeting Monday on the latest plans for the replacement of the Main Street Bridge The session begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street.

DOT is planning to replace the Main Street bridge over Pattaconk Brook, with the latest information indicating that construction would begin in the spring of 2016.  DOT staff will be at the meeting to present the latest plans and construction schedule for the bridge project, with interested residents, business owners, and commuters invited to the session to learn about the project.

The town is planning a separate Main Street project for next year, reconstruction of the street from the intersection with Route 154 east to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery  Plans for additional reconstruction of Main Street through the downtown business district are expected to be done after the state completes the Main Street Bridge project.

Something Strange Happened Lately in the Skies of France

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

Something strange happened lately in the skies of France:  drones were spotted over several nuclear plants, including one dangerously close to Paris in Nogent sur Seine. A few days later more drones flew over nuclear complexes.  A wave of anxiety gripped the public opinion.  Who was manipulating those machines?  Was the country under threat?

Greenpeace was immediately suspected of being the one to operate the unmanned contraptions.   As a pro-environmental watchdog this international association has a history of peaceful action against nuclear power.  In 2012 a paraglider had landed on a nuclear installation, to prove that the installation was not well protected.  In July 2013, 29 activists broke into Tricastin nuclear plant, in southern France.   Yannick Rousselet, head of the anti-nuclear Greenpeace campaign, appearing on television, vehemently denied any involvement this time.

If Greenpeace had nothing to do with it.  the question remained, who did?  A few days later , three individuals suspected of operating the drones, were arrested.  So, for now, the fear is defused. But it was a wake up call of a potential danger.

The most advanced drone technologies are found in Israel and the US..  To obtain the most accurate information I interviewed a French engineer who used to work with a German company manufacturing drones .  He told me that ten years ago all of them were built for military use, mostly for reconnaissance and surveillance.  They included the HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance); the MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance); tactical drones; portable drones for use in ground combat.  Israeli  Watchkeeper with sensors and camera can fire missiles and bombs from sometimes thousands of miles away.   To-day drones have become a necessity in wars taking place in huge territories such as Mali.

France is at the cutting-edge of research but lacks funds to develop its ideas.   As an example, Dassault designed the NEURON and produced one model whereas the American PREDATOR, built in 2010, has already flown one million hours.

European countries are catching up with drone technology. On November 5, François Hollande and David Cameron attended the signing of an agreement between Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems (British Aerospace and Marconi electronics Systems) for a new generation of drones.  Germany and Italy will be part of the project in the future.

To-day civilian drones exist in all sizes and degrees of complexity. Drones, called “insects” are so small that they can be held in the palm of the hand.  The  Chinese DJI Fantom , flies like an helicopter with quadrotors,  carries a remote camera and is very popular with the general public. Drones  have become invaluable at times of natural disasters, to test the strength of bridges, in mapping, archaeology and multiple other uses.

But they may be dangerous like causing the crash of commercial airplanes by getting into the reactors.  When a drone fell less than six feet from Angela Merkel, during her political campaign in September 2013 people realized that a drone was anything but a toy.

Commission a Poem to Support ‘Reach Out and Read CT’

Tish Rabe

Tish Rabe

Tish Rabe, the best-selling author of over 160 children’s books including the popular Dr. Seuss, Cat In the Hat Learning Library, is partnering with Reach Out and Read Connecticut in support of their mission – to prepare disadvantaged children for academic success.  Rabe is generously donating her time and her talents to create customized poems that celebrate the special moments in life including anything from the birth of a child to a retirement.

These poems are available for the public to purchase for $50 with 100% of the proceeds going to Reach Out and Read Connecticut.  The poems are called “Magical Milestones” and can be purchased at https://www.crowdrise.com/magicalmilestones.  The partners hope to raise $10,000 during the holiday season.

“I’m having fun creating original poems for families that they can enjoy for years to come.” said Ms. Rabe, a resident of Mystic, CT.  “I am a passionate supporter of early childhood literacy and know how important it is to get a free book into the hands of every low-income child in Connecticut.  I am happy to do whatever I can to make that happen.”

Focusing on low-income families, Reach Out and Read is a national organization that partners with medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children as well as support healthy brain and social/emotional development.  Reach Out and Read is far more than a book give-a-way program.  By leveraging the unique relationship between parents and medical providers, the program is able to positively change parental behavior and increase parent involvement in their children’s lives – a critical lever linked to the educational, emotional, physical, and social health of children.

“The Reach Out and Read model provides parents with personalized, age-appropriate advice about books and reading at every well-child visit from 6 months to 5 years, along with the gift of a new developmentally and culturally appropriate books.  Books are used by the medical provider at the beginning of the visit during developmental surveillance, and as a vehicle to offer concrete guidance to parents.  Armed with this guidance, parents make reading aloud a part of their daily routines,” said Dr. Catherine Wiley, Connecticut Medical Director for Reach Out and Read Connecticut.

She continues, “Among the many anticipatory guidance items medical providers have on their checklist, Reach Out and Read has the best evidence base.  Reach Out and Read is the only anticipatory guidance activity proven to promote child development.  When you participate in Reach Out and Read, you address a critical need with a successful model.  Children served by Reach Out and Read are read to more often, have better expressive and receptive language skills and are better prepared for success in school.”  Dr. Wiley, who practices at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, brought Reach Out and Read to Connecticut in the early 90’s and continues to champion the program.

“We are thrilled to be working with Rabe on this new endeavor and to have her as part of our Connecticut Advisory Board,” said Christine Garber, Connecticut Executive Director for Reach Out and Read.  “Her “Love You, Hug You, Read to You” book is fabulous and has been well received by our medical providers and families.  We are privileged to have such a creative and enthusiastic person supporting our mission.”

There are 70 Reach Out and Read programs throughout Connecticut predominately at community health centers, clinics and hospitals.  Their team of nearly 300 medical providers distribute close to 70,000 new children’s books each year.  Nearly 40,000 children and families receive the Reach Out and Read model in Connecticut.

“Research shows that if you partner with parents and intervene in the first five years of life, you can dramatically improve the early literacy skills of a child, putting them on the track for success in school and in life,” said Garber.  “Childhood development experts tell us that the most important thing that parents can do to prepare their children to succeed in school is to read aloud to them every day. “

The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention.  In a significant milestone earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a policy statement which, for the first time ever, formally recommends that pediatricians incorporate into every well-child visit both books and advice about reading, referencing Reach Out and Read as an effective intervention.  This is a significant step for both the organization and early literacy efforts.

Nationally, Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute over 6.5 million books to more than 4 million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics and health centers in all 50 states.  More than 20,000 medical providers nationwide currently participate in Reach Out and Read.

For more information, visit www.reachoutandread.org/connecticut and www.tishrabe.com.

Glastonbury Firm Buys Assets of Chester Insurance Business

Smith Brothers Insurance, in Glastonbury, announced this week it has bought the assets of Archambault Insurance, Inc. and its related parties, of Chester, Connecticut. Archambault is a multi-generational insurance agency that has insured Connecticut families and businesses for over 100 years. Archambault Insurance will remain in Chester with its current staff.

“Ray and Tom Archambault have a terrific reputation for building long-term relationships with businesses and families in the Chester area, and going the extra mile to provide excellent service for their clients; which matches our way of doing business at Smith Brothers. Chester is a great community and there is a lot we can offer their clients”, stated Joe B. Smith, President & CEO of Smith Brothers.

Ray and Tom Archambault will continue to manage the Chester office and will work with Smith Brothers to expand their service offerings to their clients. “We have already began introducing the additional value that Smith Brothers can bring to our clients. We are excited to continue our tradition in Chester and look forward to working with the people at Smith Brothers” stated Ray Archambault. Tom Archambault added, “the culture at Smith Brothers fits our culture very well, and that was very important to Ray and I as well as our team”.

About Smith Brothers Insurance, LLC

Smith Brothers is one of the largest independently operated insurance and financial service organizations in New England.

For over 40 years their core values remain consistent: develop, nurture and maintain trust and respect with all stakeholders: clients, suppliers, employees, shareholders, and community. Smith Brothers’ guiding principles are to build strong relationships with   well-regarded carriers and provide clients with a level of service higher than industry standards, so clients know that they have an advocate, and their assets are protected.

Smith Brothers provides insurance, surety, risk management, employee benefits, and financial services to individuals and businesses. Smith Brothers is a member of Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, one of the most respected independent agency affiliations.

Letter: Allow the New Beaver Family to Live in Essex

To the Editor:

Beavers. They are back at Viney Brook Park in Essex.  Beavers have been found to provide a number of benefits to an area; they improve water quality, they create critical habitats for plants and animals, and their dams control flooding by slowing water flows.  They mate for life and usually defend their territories from outsiders, keeping their own population under control in accordance with the amount of available food.

The last family of beavers was drowned by order of the Conservation Commission. They were trapped in underwater cages where they held their breath for about ten minutes, unable to escape the cages that held them.  But a new family has moved in.  It’s a beautiful spot, ironically a conservation area.  The beavers like the small pond, quite a distance from the larger pond that is a swimming hole.

Other towns, all over the country, have learned to exist with beaver ponds in their midst. They have learned how to mitigate the damage that beavers might cause to trees.  They have benefited from cleaner water, more bird species, and a healthier environment.

That won’t happen in Essex.  The new family will be drowned. Their pelts will be sold. Two or three years from now, a new family will move in.  It’s a shame we can’t learn from other towns that have figured out how to coexist with these magnificent creatures.

Sincerely,

John Ackermann
Essex

 

See related letter

Fifth Annual CMS Champions Recipients Honored

Burgess.Herrle

CMS Champion Ken Burgess with faculty member and presenter Martha Herrle. Photo courtesy of Joan Levy Hepburn

More than 60 friends and supporters joined Community Music School for the 5th annual CMS Champions Awards and Donor Recognition Breakfast on Wednesday, October 29th at The Copper Beech Inn. This year’s honorees included retiring luthier Kenneth Burgess of Old Saybrook, former CMS Trustee E. Peter Bierrie of Essex, and the TJX Foundation and local TJ Maxx Stores. CMS presents the Champions Awards to those who have supported the School and its mission over the past 31 years and who strive to improve our community through the arts.

Ken Burgess is an amateur violinist who has been keeping CMS violin and viola students in tune for many years, donating his time to provide a free instrument clinic each fall. Peter Bierrie is a retired international CEO and former executive at SCORE who was enlisted in 2007 for help resolving a problem at the Music School. He ended up joining the board and served as finance chair and vice president until completing his term in 2012. The TJX Foundation has provided grant funds to support the Music School’s partnership with Region 4 Public Schools. Additionally, its local store associates have lent their talents as volunteers for the annual CMS gala benefit event.

For the second year, the event was generously sponsored by Essex Savings Bank and Essex Financial Services. “The Community Music School is a very special group of people dedicated to assisting children and adults alike in nurturing their love of music.  As a strong supporter of local organizations dedicated to improving our local communities, it is our pleasure and honor to support such a wonderful group,” stated Charles Cumello, President & CEO of Essex Financial Services.

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 that they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives. For additional information, call 860-767-0026 or visit www.community-music-school.org.

Essex Selectmen Set Nov. 19 Public Hearing on Proposed $8 Million Bonding for Capital Projects

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has scheduled a Nov. 19 public hearing on a plan for $8 million in bonding to fund capital improvement projects for town and school buildings, along with replacement of two bridges in the Ivoryton section. The hearing, which begins at 7 p.m., in the auditorium at town hall, will be followed by a regular meeting where the board may set the dates for a town meeting and subsequent December referendum to vote on the proposed bonding authorization.

The bonding plan was developed over the past year by a capital projects committee chaired by Selectman Bruce Glowac. The board of selectmen gave tentative approval for up to $8,085,000 in bonding last month, with the board of finance also voting preliminary approval after a presentation at an Oct. 16 meeting.

Plans discussed by the board at a Nov. 5 meeting call for the bonding resolution to be presented as five questions, with funding totals that are based on the latest cost estimates provided by engineers. The questions/authorizations include $2,845,000 for replacement of the Walnut and Ivory street bridges in Ivoryton, $2,815,000 for improvements at Essex Elementary School, including roof replacement, $1.3 million for improvements at town hall, $525,000 for improvements at the town public works garage, and $600,000 for a new fire truck.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said selectmen and the finance board could decided not to bond some projects on the list, particularly projects at town hall and the public works garage, even if an $8 million bonding authorization is approved by voters. Needleman said some smaller projects could be funded with surplus or set aside funds without the need for bonding.

Needleman said the bonding plan is still subject to change based on input received from residents at the Nov. 19 hearing.  Selectmen have agreed the top priorities of the capital projects are the two bridge replacement projects, which must be done in 2015, and the roof replacement for the elementary school. The bridge projects and most of the elementary school improvements would be eligible for federal/state funding reimbursement of about $2 million.

Selectmen are considering holding the town meeting on the bonding resolution, which would be for discussion only, on Dec. 3, with a tentative Dec. 15 date for a referendum vote on the bonding authorizations.

Tunisian Election Outcome Offers Remarkable Example to Countries Dealing With Terrorism, Violence

TunisiaTunisia did it again!  This small country in North Africa was the one to start the Arab Spring in December 2010.  On Oct. 26 of this year, the parliamentary elections marked the return to some degree of normalcy after a difficult period of assassinations and violence.

The latest elections revealed a “collective intelligence,” to use the words of a French political scientist – the result of a well established civil society.  Instead of a single party hijacking the political scene, the people voted for several parties.  The liberal party Nidaa Taures won with 38 percent of the votes.  In order to reach a majority of 109 seats in the parliament, it is willing to form a coalition – quite unusual in this part of the world.

The Islamist party Ennahda secured second place with only 28 percent of the votes and 69 seats — or 16 seats less than in the previous election.  Wisely it  conceded defeat.  How to explain the resistance of the population to the Ennahda program?

The answer lies for a large part in the key role played by women.  They spearheaded the resistance against the strict enforcement of the Sharia or moral code, which limits their rights in many areas: inheritance, divorce, veil and regulations on clothing, custody of children, adultery sanctioned by stoning or “honor killing,” right to travel, right to open a bank account, and access to higher education, etc.

In the text of the constitution approved in January 2014,  Ennahda had reluctantly agreed to replace the expression “complementarity of men and women” by “equality for all.”  A journalist had the nerve to make the following extraordinary comment, “This was a small victory for a few Tunisian feminists”.

The “Personal Status Code,” which was installed by president Habib Bourguiba in 1956,  had given empowerment to Tunisian women, thus making them the most emancipated in the Arab world.  This revolution was at the center of his program in order to model his country on Kemal Ataturk’s vision of a secular  and modern country.  Incidentally, it is interesting to note that both Turkey and Tunisia have almost identical flags.  Bourguiba is said to have remarked at one time, “… the veil – that odious rag.”

Tunisia can be considered to-day as a bulwark between a dangerously chaotic Libya and an Algeria unable to control terrorism (on Oct.14, a  Frenchman visiting the rugged mountainous area south of Algiers, in order to train young Algerians to become mountain guides, was taken hostage and  beheaded two days later.)   In other words, Tunis is of great importance not only as a model of democratic process coexisting with a moderate Islam but also, one hopes, as an oasis of stability for the whole area.

HeadshotAbout the author:  Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter.  She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries.  She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe.  Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents.  Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Ivoryton Village Project Draws Support and Some Questions at Public Hearing

ESSEX— A grant-funded improvement project for Main Street in Ivoryton village drew support and some questions from residents at a public hearing Wednesday. About 30 residents turned out to learn details and discuss the project that is funded by a $435,000 state Main Streets Investment Fund grant that was awarded in the summer of 2013.

The plan prepared by Anchor Engineering Services of Glastonbury drew general support, but several residents questioned the inclusion of two raised crosswalks that would be located on the east end of the village, near the intersection with North Main St. (Route 80), and to the west near the intersection of Main and Summit streets.

Project engineer Kevin Brendel said the raised crosswalks would be more accessible for the handicapped and would further a project goal of slowing traffic through the village area. But one resident contended the raised crosswalks would be “gridlock waiting to happen,” particularly when buses are dropping off patrons for the Ivoryton Playhouse. There were also questions about whether the raised crosswalks would hamper winter snow removal.

Selectwoman Stacia Libby, who is chairing a volunteer committee coordinating the project, said public works employees and the town engineer would be consulted to ensure the crosswalks would not interfere with snow removal. Jacqueline Hubbard, executive director of the playhouse, said buses do not discharge passengers on Main Street where the crosswalk would be located, but rather from Summit Street or the private parking lot on the south side of Main Street. But First Selectman Norman Needleman said he is not completely sold on the idea of raised crosswalks as part of the project.

Other elements of the project drew general support, including plans to remove a paved island at the intersection of Main and Summit streets to create a T shaped intersection, new lighting at the back section of the Ivoryton Park, new curbing, and about 400 feet of new sidewalk in front of the playhouse property and around the park,

Libby said the committee and project engineer would consider input received at the hearing and review the plans with a goal of putting the project out do bid in the early spring for a start of construction in May 2015.

Republican Art Linares Takes 57 Percent of Vote in Reelection Win Over Democrat Emily Bjornberg

AREAWIDE– Republican State Sen. Art Linares took 57 percent of the vote to win a second term Tuesday over Democrat Emily Bjornberg in the 12 town 33rd Senate District.Linares had 22,746 votes to 16,482, or 42 percent, for Bjornberg.2 The 6,264 vote margin is more than double the incumbent’s 2,562 vote victory over Democrat Jim Crawford in winning his first election in 2010.

Green Party nominee Colin Bennett had 484 votes, one of his lowest totals in four previous runs for the state senate seat. But the one percent of the total vote preserves the Green Party ballot line in the district for the 2016 election. Linares carried ten towns, with Bjornberg winning only in Chester and her hometown of Lyme.

Unofficial results gathered from town clerks are:

CHESTER— Bjornberg 798-Linares 724
CLINTON– LInares 2,693 Bjornberg 2,328
COLCHESTER– Linares 3,172 Bjornberg 2,312
DEEP RIVER– Linares 990 Bjornberg 915
EAST HADDAM– Linares 2,078 Bjornberg 1,455
EAST HAMPTON– Linares 3,153 Bjornberg 1,939
ESSEX– Linares 1,647 Bjornberg 1,504
HADDAM– Linares 1,946 Bjornberg 1,260
LYME– Bjornberg 636 Linares 539
PORTLAND–Linares 2,198 Bjornberg 1,680
OLD SAYBROOK—Linares 1,508 Bjornberg 1,184
WESTBROOK– Linares 1,687 Bjornberg 1.035

Foley Takes Essex While Malloy Carries Chester and Deep River in Governor Race

AREAWIDE– Republican Tom Foley carried Essex in his unsuccessful run for governor, while Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy carried Chester and Deep River on his way to re-election for a second term

In Essex, the Foley-Sommers ticket led 1,600-1,576.  Malloy carried Deep River 1,003-917, and Chester 907-693. Petition candidate Joe Viosconti, who ran with Haddam Neck resident Chester Harris for lt. governor before withdrawing Sunday, had 30 votes in Essex, 21 in Deep River, and 22 in Chester.

Democratic incumbents carried the three towns in most other state races. Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill led Republican Peter Lumaj 1,588-1,471 in Essex, 994-817 in Deep River, and 919-588 in Chester. Green Party nominee Michael DeRosa had 52 votes in Essex, 61 votes in deep ruiver, and 53 votes in Chester. Democratic Attornmey general George Jepson carried the towns over Republican Kie Westby,1,747-1,300 in Essex, 1,079-726 in Deep River, and 1,010-503 in Chester. Democratic Comptroller Kevin Lembo led Republican Sharon McClaughlin 1,582-1,438 in Essex, 968-821 in Deep River, and 902-594 in Chester.

But in the extremely close race for state treasurer,Republican Tim Herbst carried Essex over incumbent Democratic Treasurer Denise Nappier 1,636-1,470. But Nappier took Deep River 946-916 and Chester 878-691.

Connecticut River Gateway Commission Donates $5,000 To “The Preserve” Fund

Presentation of $5,000 to “The Preserve Fund” – Connecticut River Gateway Commission Chairman Melvin Woody presents a $5,000 contribution to The Preserve Fund to Kate Brown (center), Trust for Public Land Project Manager for “The Preserve” acquisition. On the far left is Commission Vice Chair Nancy Fischbach, and on the right are Commission Secretary Madge Fish & Treasurer Margaret (“Peggy”) Wilson.

Presentation of $5,000 to “The Preserve Fund” – Connecticut River Gateway Commission Chairman Melvin Woody presents a $5,000 contribution to The Preserve Fund to Kate Brown (center), Trust for Public Land Project Manager for “The Preserve” acquisition. On the far left is Commission Vice Chair Nancy Fischbach, and on the right are Commission Secretary Madge Fish & Treasurer Margaret (“Peggy”) Wilson.

The Connecticut River Gateway Commission has contributed $5,000 to the Trust for Public Land Campaign to Preserve the 1,000 Acre Forest.

The donation will help ensure that the parcel known as The Preserve in Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Essex will be permanently protected as forestland and wildlife habitat.

The Gateway Commission was established in 1973 to administer the Connecticut River Gateway Conservation Zone. Eight towns in the lower Connecticut Valley:  Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Lyme, and Old Saybrook joined together in a compact to create the Conservation Zone in order to protect the scenic, historic and environmental resources of the lower Connecticut River.

Although not within the Conservation Zone, The Preserve lies within the lower Connecticut River watershed. It is the last thousand-acre coastal forest between New York and Boston and includes the headwaters of streams that flow into the Connecticut.

The Commission believes that its protection is important to the ecological health of the watershed and the river.

According to Gateway Commission Chairman Melvin Woody “The Gateway Commission is gratified to join in this vital preservation project.”

For more information about the Connecticut River Gateway Commission, go to www.ctrivergateway.org or contact J. H. Torrance Downes at (860) 581-8554, or email him at tdownes@rivercog.org.

Letter: Disturbing Election Tactics

To the Editor:

During this past election cycle, a significant number of Democratic campaign signs disappeared in Essex. I find it disturbing and pathetic that certain persons would attempt to obstruct the political process by removing signs that were placed on private property with permission.  In view of the results of the recent elections, I hope that these persons have learned that removing signs is not an effective way to disrupt the election process.  In addition, I find it very disturbing that a significant number of the registered voters state-wide fail to exercise their right to vote.  For a democracy to work effectively, it is essential for our citizens to participate in the process by voting for their choice of candidates.

Sincerely,

Frank B. Hall
Essex, CT