February 22, 2017

New Housing Site Cleared on Rte. 154 South in Essex

Demolition complete: the Chinese restaurant on Rte. 154 South was leveled by this machine. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

ESSEX — Not too long ago, the area pictured in the image above was the site of an active business — a Chinese restaurant — and many, many years before that, the site of a movie theater.  Now, after being completely leveled by a huge machine (pictured above), the empty site awaits the construction of a new apartment complex.

The new building site is just to the north of the Valley Railroad station.

Read a related article by Jerome Wilson titled, “Plains Rd. Development of 52 New Homes in Essex Scheduled to Begin … Finally,” published Jan. 12, 2017, on ValleyNewsNow.com.

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9 Town Transit Partners with Google Maps for Online Trip Planning

AREAWIDE — Finding local bus route information just got a whole lot easier.  In fact, you probably already have it available on your smartphone.  Google Maps now includes local bus routes and schedules in its directions feature.

Riders no longer have to read timetables.  They simply enter the date and time that they hope to arrive at their destination and the trip planner will provide three options, showing the amount of time and number of transfers for each option, letting you easily select the most convenient trip.

Google Maps can even provide walking directions, so you can find out exactly how to get to the nearest transit stop or station, and how to get to your destination once you leave the train/bus.  For extra convenience, Google Maps has most locations already stored, so you only need the location name or just a category, such as fast food.

“We are pleased to welcome 9 Town Transit to Google Maps.”, says Ryan Poscharsky, Strategic Partner Manager at Google.  “This partnership shows 9 Town Transit’s commitment to innovating, as well as serving and attracting new riders. Together we can provide useful and accurate information to help people quickly get to where they want to go.”

Another important feature is the ability to plan trips across agencies and modes.  CT Transit New Haven and Hartford, CT Transit Express, Shoreline East and Metro North are all available in Google Maps, so it is easy to plan your trip from Old Saybrook to Hartford, from Manhattan to the outlet malls, or from your Clinton to downtown New Haven.  Google Maps tells you all transfers required along with the connecting agency name and contact information.

“We hope this tool makes it easier than ever to plan your trip by bus or train in our region”, says Joseph Comerford, Executive Director of 9 Town Transit.

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Siegrist Requests Changes to House Bill to Allow Chester to Receive Funds to Combat Invasive Species

Rep. Bob Siegrist testifies during a Public Hearing about invasive species.

HARTFORD – State Rep. Bob Siegrist (R-36) recently testified during a public hearing regarding a proposal that he co-sponsored, namely House Bill 5503, An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Siegrist asked that the legislation be amended to assist local towns like Chester.

Under current law, 25 percent of Community Investment Account funds within the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can be used for municipal open space grants. House Bill 5503 would provide grants to lake authorities for the control of invasive species.

Rep. Siegrist is in full support of House Bill 5503, but suggests that the bill be amended to allow municipalities access to the grants to combat invasive species.

“Current law states that two or more towns that have a body of water of state water within their territory can establish a lake authority. Cedar Lake in Chester is wholly within the Town of Chester. The problem in Cedar Lake is similar to what many lakes are dealing with — invasive species,” Siegrist said.

“Mitigation of this problem can be very expensive and requires ongoing maintenance, approximately every two years depending on the aggressive nature of the species. Cedar Lake is a 70-acre-lake fully owned by Chester, whose residents enjoy it for passive and active recreation. This legislation as it is currently written, would not allow such towns to have access to this grant. It is my hope the legislature’s Environment Committee would consider my language to make it fair for those towns like Chester.”

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Letter From Paris: A European in Washington

Nicole Prévost Logan

On Jan. 27,  Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit the White House during Donald Trump’s era.  The prime minister’s red dress matched the US president’s red tie and they both seemed  determined to cheer each other for the wonderful things they were about to accomplish together.

On the eve of Brexit, it was crucial  for the British visitor to obtain US support. For Trump,  it was a chance to welcome the UK as a “privileged” partner, to stress how the latter will benefit from Brexit and become a model for Europe in freeing itself from the “Brussels consortium.”

Actually, at this point, the US is not in a position to be much help for England. It is a matter that will have to be worked out directly between the UK and the European Union (EU.)   Beyond the posturing, the British prime minister was trying to reconcile her vision of a “global England” open to the world with the protectionism policies launched by Trump.

The task for May is incredibly complex since she has made clear her intention not to sever all ties with the continent while implementing  the “hard Brexit”and also to avoid a “cliff edge” situation.  She will need all her political acumen to surmount the obstacles coming from all sides and negotiate the best deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets US President Donald Trump.

The “divorce” process has not even started and already dissenting opinions are being heard, even in her own camp.  On Jan. 3, Sir Ivan Rogers, the permanent British representative to the EU,  resigned after sending warning signals, and was immediately replaced  by “euro-skeptic” Tim Barrow, former ambassador to Moscow.  On Jan. 11, the Minister of Immigration, Robert Goodwill, proposed to impose a tax of 1,000 British pounds on EU workers. The business circles protested and the government backed down.  Andrea Leadson, Minister of Agriculture,  had to reassure farmers that the hiring of seasonal labor would not come to a stop.  Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer disagreed  with the minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson and proposed a departure “a la carte” from Europe. 

On Jan. 24, the British High Court voted by eight to three to route the Brexit process through parliament.  This decision created another hurdle for the prime minister. The House of Commons passed the text overwhelmingly.  The House of Lords will be next.    

The worst enemy of the UK in the Brexit process is the timetable.  Once triggered, Article 50 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon will take two years to be implemented and, of course, will have to be approved by all the EU members.  After that, it will take five or possibly 10 years for Britain to be legally able to conclude free trade bilateral agreements with other countries.

On Jan. 17, May gave a major speech at Lancaster House in which she spelled out the main points of her program.  This was followed a few days later by the publication of a White Paper containing a road map.  Control of immigration is a central preoccupation for the UK government.  It is understandable,  given the fact that that, from 2015 to 2016, 650,000 immigrants entered the country  (including 284,000 coming from the EU).  Britain had opted out long ago of the Schengen Zone, which allows for free circulation of goods, people, services and capital .

Right now Britain is a member of the European Customs Union and of the European single market. * Being a member of a single market like the EU, created by the 1957 founding treaty of Rome, comes with many constraints such as the harmonization of regulations, compliance with certain standards and the required contributions to the EU budget (Britain has already  committed 40 billion euros for the period 2016-2020.)  The European Court of Justice (based in Luxembourg) enforces those regulations and this explains May’s particular dislike for that institution.

In case of the departure of Britain from the EU,  there are alternatives to its present trade arrangements such as the ones used by  Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, which are not part of the European Customs Union.  Three of them are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which puts them close to the single market. Another example is Turkey, which is not part of the EU single market, but benefits from a special free trade agreement with Europe.  After her visit to Washington, May met with President Erdogan in Ankara to discuss these matters as well as a post-Brexit trade and military partnership.

One  of the most contentious issues of the Brexit is the future of The City.  For 30 years, it has been the financial hub of activities for the huge European market of 500 million people.  By leaving the single market, The City will lose its  “European passport”  and its say over the new regulations issued by Brussels every year.

Guy Verhofstadt, called “Mr. Brexit” at the European parliament, denounced the “illusion that it is possible to leave the EU while retaining its advantages.”

Michel Barnier has been appointed by Jean Claude Yunker, president of the European Commission, to head the negotiations with Britain.  This was a good choice.  Barnier is a man of consensus, experienced and pragmatic, according to The Telegraph.   Economist by training, he has held several posts as European Commissioner of various departments including finance, banking and defense. Interestingly, it was Barnier who supported the adhesion of Britain into Europe in 1972.

*for more on Cameron’s negotiations with the EU, which led to the June 23 referendum, see Logan’s article published by VNN on March 5, 2016.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout 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.

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Local Lawmakers Urge State to Support ‘The Kate’ with Tourism Signage on Rte. 9 and I-95

Rep. Carney (left), The Kate’s Director of Development Dana Foster (center), and Paul Formica (right) at the Jan. 29 public hearing on the proposal to install signs for The Kate on local highways.

OLD SAYBROOK -– Old Saybrook lawmakers are urging the state legislature to help support the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (‘The Kate’) by passing legislation that would allow tourism signage for the center to be placed on Rte. 9 and I-95.

Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th), Sen. Art Linares (R-33rd) and Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) submitted testimony in favor of House Bill 5574 and spoke before the Transportation Committee to urge fellow lawmakers to support the local theater. ‘The Kate’ is a theater in the Town of Old Saybrook that provides entertainment for the region and is named for Connecticut Hall-of-Famer, multiple Academy Award winner, and former Old Saybrook resident Katharine Hepburn.

“We believe that ‘The Kate’ deserves to have signage along both I-95 and Rte. 9 because it will attract tourists to the theater and create an interest for those passing by the signs,” the lawmakers said in their written testimony, adding, “Similar theaters have signage along various highways throughout the state due to their importance and popularity and ‘The Kate’ is no different.”

They continued, “It is a cultural hub with entertainment that draws people from across the state and the country. It is an economic engine, not only for Old Saybrook, but for the region as a whole and helps nearby businesses like the many restaurants and shops in town. Signage along the highway will only improve the number of tourists to town and we believe it is in the state’s best interest to promote this important theater with the signage suggested.”

Sen. Formica and Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations at The Kate, testify before the Transportation Committee in favor of House Bill 5574 An Act Concerning Signs Indication the Location of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

Sen. Formica testified in person with Dana Foster, Director of Development and External Relations, at ‘The Kate,’ on Jan. 31, before the Transportation Committee on which Rep. Carney is a ranking member.

Foster explained the importance of signage along the highways, saying, “Signage would help our growing audiences navigate the multiple exits to Old Saybrook and help to further attract additional tourists and others to our historical building, great exhibit, and incredible arts and programming.”

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Festival of Women’s Plays Opens 2017 Season at Ivoryton Playhouse, March 3 & 4

IVORYTON:  The Ivoryton Playhouse announces the 2017 inaugural festival of the Women Playwrights Initiative –  Four One Acts by Four Fabulous Women Playwrights. Two evenings of staged readings will take place on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4, at The Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT, followed by discussions with playwrights, actors and directors.

Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m.

There will be two readings presented:

Guenevere by Susan Cinoman. Teenagers, Guenevere and Arthur, are best friends–a fierce competitor, she always bests him in sword fights. What will be the outcome when confronted with Excalibur in the stone?

Apple Season by Ellen Lewis. To make arrangements for her father’s funeral, Lissie returns to the family farm she and her brother fled 26 years before. Billy, a neighbor and school friend, comes by with an offer to buy the farm. As memories, needs, and passions are stirred, we learn what happened to the siblings as children, and of Lissie’s startling price for the farm.

Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m.

There will be a further two readings presented:

Buck Naked by Gloria Bond Clunie. Two daughters are thrown into a tizzy when they discover Lily, their 60-plus-year-old mother, has decided to spice up life by tending her back yard garden – “au naturel”!

Intake by Margo Lasher. An arrogant young psychiatrist meets an 80-year-old woman for what he assumes will be a routine examination. During the course of their relationship, he comes to realize how little he knows, and as she reveals her deep love and understanding of her two aging dogs, both doctor and patient learn about life, love, and hope.

Before the performance on Saturday at 5 p.m., the League of Professional Theatre Women will host a panel discussion with the playwrights, moderated by Shellen Lubin, followed by refreshments before the 7 p.m. readings.  If you would like to attend the pre-reading discussion, you must register by Feb. 26, at this link.

To purchase tickets for the Friday, March 3, or Saturday, March 4, readings – each starts at 7 p.m. – call 860.767.7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Tickets:  $20 adult each night; $15 senior each night; $10 student and LPTW members.

A special two-day pass (tickets for Friday and Saturday night performances for $30) is being offered.  Call the box office at 860.767.7318 to reserve your two-day pass.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT  06442.

For more information about the Women Playwrights Initiative, contact Laura Copland, Director of New Play Development, at laurac@ivorytonplayhouse.org.

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Annual Pancake Supper, Feb. 28, at All Saint’s, Ivoryton, Benefits Refugee/Immigrant Organization

ESSEX — Because of the extraordinary challenges faced by refugees in the present climate, All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Ivoryton plans to dedicate the proceeds of its annual pancake supper, to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services of Connecticut (IRIS). This event is open to the general public and will take place at the Deep River Congregational Church, at 1 Church Street, Deep River, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Ashley Makar, the Director of Community Co-Sponsorship at IRIS and a graduate of Yale Divinity School, will speak about the organization’s work and the plight of refugees, from 6 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a pancake supper from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are $10.00 and can be obtained from area churches, Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe
Zedek, at the door, and online at https://pancakesuppertobenefitiris.eventbrite.com.

If you have questions about the event or would like to volunteer services, contact John Yrchik, chair of this event, at jyrchik@comcast.net.

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A la Carte: Craving a Crunch? Enjoy These Cashew Butterscotch Bars

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

It has been a while since we had a one-two-almost-three punch snowstorm. On the Wednesday before the storm, I had a meeting at 6 p.m. and then another at 6:30 (I was about 15 minutes late for the second one). In the first, my condo board meeting, we talked about the fact that snow was on its way.

We tried to figure out whether it was really going to be a tough one, or not. I felt it might be a real one, and I was prepared. Plenty of food for the cats (because, after all, they could not care less as long as they had a few warm velour throws, a clean litter box and cans of Fancy Feast to go with their dry food).

I do have a freezer full of people food, but that freezer is in the garage, a good walk easy when the weather is good but possibly not so if it really does snow for hours and hours. As it turned out, it snowed for around 10 hours and I couldn‘t get out of my condo for another half a day (except to shovel a path from my back door to the bird feeders).

But I had decided I wanted to cook.

It is actually my therapy, whether the weather is too hot or too cold, or too snowy. I had gotten chicken thighs from the freezer the day before and bought a big chunk of beef chuck and some ground meat for chili. For two of the recipes I used my slow cooker. I bought my first just  after my first marriage dissolved; my new one I have had for about eight years; I love my slow cooker although I usually sear the meat that will go into the crock pot these days.

The chicken thigh recipe was more work than it was worth  The pot roast was amazing (I added almost everything except the kitchen sink including half a can of Campbell’s tomato bisque from the fridge.) The chili, for which I used a package of Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Fire Chili, was yummy.

But a few days later, I wanted something sweet. Not chocolate, though. I found this recipe I had saved from the New York Times years ago. Boy, are these addictive.

Cashew Butterscotch Bars

From the food section of The New York Times, sometime within the past ten or so years

Yield: 36 bars*

Ingredients:

Two sticks plus 5 and one-half tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus butter for greasing pan
Three-quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons (packed) light-brown sugar
1 and three-quarters teaspoons kosher salt
2 and one-half cups all-purpose flour
10 ounces butterscotch chips
One-half cup plus 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 and one-half teaspoons water
2 one-half cups salted cashew pieces

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll pan, including sides.

2. To make the crust: in a mixer with a paddle or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, best ½ (one-half) plus 2 tablespoons butter and all the brown sugar together until smooth. Stir salt into flour, then add flour to butter and sugar mixture. Mix until dough is well combined but still crumbly; if dough is mixed until a ball forms, crust will be tough.

3. Pat the dough evenly along bottom of buttered pan, taking care not to pack the dough down. Place pan in oven and bake 5 minutes. With a fork, prick dough deeply all over. Return pan to oven and bake until sough is lightly browned, dry and no longer soft to the touch, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack; do not turn off the oven.

4. To make butterscotch topping: In a large saucepan, combine remaining 3 ½ (three and one-half) tablespoons, butterscotch chips, corn syrup and 1 tablespoon plus 2 ½ (two and one-half) teaspoons water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and butterscotch chips are melted, about 5 minutes. Pour topping over crust, using a spatula to spread, evenly all the way to the corners. Sprinkle cashew pieces on top, pressing down light.

5. Bake until topping is bubbly and cashews are lightly browned, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before cutting into two-by-three-inch bars.

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Find Out the Facts About Marijuana Legalization at Two, Free Workshops, March 8 & 15

AREAWIDE — A new generation of children may soon grow up with both alcohol and psychotropic drugs as adult recreation.  If you have an opinion about this, it’s time to get involved.

Tri-Town Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition invites local residents to attend two important workshops about marijuana legalization in Connecticut.  Learn about marijuana and its impact on youth, health and society, and hear the latest information from states that have already legalized it.

The Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council (MCSAAC) is hosting a two-part workshop series to provide facts, hear citizens’ concerns and help participants strengthen their political voices.  Participants will prepare talking points and persuasive testimony to share with legislators in Hartford.  Become knowledgeable and practice talking to others about this critical issue.

Workshop 1: Wednesday, March 8. 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Valley Shore YMCA

Workshop 2;  Wednesday, March 15, 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Valley Shore YMCA

Save your space in this free workshop by calling MCSAAC at 860-347-5959 or email betsey@mcsaac.org.

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Letter to the Editor: Valley Shore Clergy Association Stands in Solidarity with Immigrants, Refugees

To the Editor:

We, a group of interfaith clergy from many religious streams and beliefs, feel called to express our support for refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, and others who wish to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our sacred texts provide the lens through which we view the world around us; these teachings affirm the following shared values across faith traditions:

• Every single human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:28), and we support the integrity and sanctity of every individual.
• We heed the teaching of Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
• We are instructed to “Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18),” and thus to treat others how we wish to be treated.
• We are obligated to follow the prophetic call: “And what does the Eternal require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
• We are reminded of basic human kindness and compassion: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)

We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. We have all known what it is to be the stranger. Safety and security of all is critical, and we understand the importance of appropriate and thorough vetting of all those who wish to be part of America. However, fear cannot dictate our values. Rather, we are reminded again and again that, when we reach out in love and righteousness, we are most secure.

We know all too well what religious bigotry has wrought in the past. History is filled with many reminders of the horrific destruction caused by hatred, persecution, and intolerance. Instead, we share a message of solidarity, understanding, and dialogue.

We denounce any laws or orders based on xenophobia, discrimination, or fear which run counter to our national interests. We are proud Americans, and we hold dear our country’s core beliefs in religious diversity, ideological diversity, and cultural diversity.

We call upon people of faith to represent moral conscience, compassion for all, and an overarching sense of justice and righteousness.

Sincerely,
Valley Shore Clergy Association

Rev. Martha Bays
The Congregational Church in Killingworth, UCC

Rabbi Marci Bellows
Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, Chester, CT

Rev. Robin Blundon, Interim Pastor
Northford Congregational Church

The Rev. Dr. M. Craig Fitzsimmons
United Methodist Church of Clinton

Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager, Pastor
First Church, East Haddam

The Rev. Dr. Jonathan H. Folts
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Dr. Jan Gregory-Charpentier, Pastor
First Congregational Church of Westbrook, CT

Brett Hertzog Betkoski
Trinity Lutheran Church – Centerbrook, CT

Reverend Amy Hollis
Winthrop Baptist Church

Rev. Lee A. Ireland
Interim Pastor, United Church of Chester

Rev Charlotte LaForest
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Essex, CT

Rev. Joy Perkett
First Baptist Church of Essex

Rev. Suzanne Personette
Middlefield Federated Church

Rev. Kenneth Peterkin
First Congregational Church, UCC, Essex, CT

Rev. Geoff Sinibaldo, Pastor

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT

Pastor Les Swenson
St. Mark Lutheran Church, Norwich, CT

Rev. John Van Epps, Pastor
North Guilford Congregational Church UCC

Rev. Cynthia C. Willauer
First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, UCC

Pastor Ryan Young
Living Rock Church of Killingworth

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March Madness is Almost Here! ‘First Friday’ Starts March 3, Offers $500+ Shopping Spree Prize Drawing

Suzie Woodward of ‘Lark’ prepares for First Friday in Chester.

CHESTER – Visitors who come to Chester’s downtown between Friday, March 3, and Friday, April 7, have a chance at winning a March Madness shopping spree worth more than $500.

Kicking off on First Friday in March and ending First Friday in April, shoppers, diners and gallery-goers can pick up a special “Chester” card at any business and each time they buy something their card will be validated.

Once they’ve made purchases at seven different locations, their card is eligible for the drawing April 7 when the winner will receive $25 gift certificates from each of the eight restaurants and 13 merchants participating.

Every store, gallery and restaurant in town is on board, and the cards will be available at each of them beginning on First Friday, March 3.

These customers of “Strut Your Mutt” are ready for First Friday.

Completed cards should be turned in to The Perfect Pear at 51 Main Street no later than 5 p.m. April 7 for the grand-prize drawing at 6 p.m. Players can complete more than one card for entry. The winner need not be present to win.

The participating restaurants are: The Good Elephant, Otto, Pattaconk 1850 Bar and Grille, River Tavern, Simon’s Marketplace, Thai Riverside, The Villager and The Wheatmarket.

The eligible retail shops and galleries are Black Kat Leather, Dina Varano, Elle Design Studio, The French Hen, Lark, Lori Warner Gallery and Swoon and Maple & Main Gallery, Also: The Perfect Pear, R.J Vickers Herbery, the Chester Bottle Shop, Strut Your Mutt, Matt Austin Studio and Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery.

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Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Depart Weekend Days from CT River Museum

RiverQuest start Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises Saturday, Feb. 4.

ESSEX  – Connecticut River Expeditions of Haddam offers cruises on the lower Connecticut River this February and March for the 14th year of Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises. This year they have teamed up with the Connecticut River Museum and will be departing from the Museum’s dock in Essex. With this partnership, passengers enjoy both the river and its wildlife from the water and also the entire Museum including their special “Eagles of Essex” exhibit.

A magnificent Bald Eagle.

As the river, lakes and ponds to our north freeze, eagles and other wildlife make their way to the lower Connecticut River for their favorite food – fish. Eagles have made a major comeback over the past few decades and more eagles are being sighted in this area. On past cruises, up to 41 Bald Eagles, three types of grebe and swan and merganser, golden eagle, many different gull and hawk species, loons, coyote, fox, deer, three types of seal, and even a bobcat have been spotted.
“Winter is such a special time on the river, it is serene and scenic and there is a sense of tranquility. With no leaves on the trees, the river’s edge offers a much different view, making it easier to find and see our winter wildlife.  On this cruise we will search for the majestic Bald Eagle and other winter species,”notes Mindy, Captain Mark’s wife, crew and co-owner of RiverQuest, pointing out, “Each cruise is different and you never know what we will find.”

Winter Wildlife Eagle Boat Cruises include more than just big birds. Passengers often site beautiful winter ducks and even harbor seals. Photo by: Bill Yule.

RiverQuest has a heated cabin, but it is suggested that you dress in warm layers since the best views will be from the open decks. Bring your own camera and binoculars, but if you forget –or don’t have — them, there are plenty on board to borrow during the cruise. 

“We are excited to be working with the Connecticut River Museum. We feel that our mutual interest in the river is a perfect match,” comments Captain Mark of the eco-tour vessel, adding, “RiverQuest is already docked in Essex at the Museum and we are ready to go. We are hopeful that relocating RiverQuest from her home berth in Haddam further south this winter will increase our chances of running every trip.”
 
“There are few places as breathtaking or as tranquil as the Connecticut River in winter. We look forward to working with RiverQuest and sharing this experience with visitors,” says Chris Dobbs, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Museum.
In the Museum you can brush up on your Bald Eagle facts and field identification. With life size comparisons of local raptors you will get a close up idea of how large these birds really are. You can also try your nest building skills and enjoy all the other exhibits the Connecticut River Museum has to offer.   Additional eagle related public programs will be offered at the Museum during the Winter Wildlife Cruise season.

Cruises will be Feb. 4 through March 19. Departures on Fridays are at 10am and 12:30pm. Departures on Saturday and Sunday at 9am, 11:30am and 2pm.  Cost is $40 per person.

For more information visit www.ctriverquest.com  or www.ctrivermuseum.org
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Letter From Paris: How France is Coping With the Ongoing Terrorism Threat

Nicole Prévost Logan

Two years after the “Je suis Charlie” massacre, how does it feel to be in France today with the threat of terrorism?  

Numbers seem to speak for themselves: France, which is the most visited European country, saw a decrease last year of almost 50 percent – equivalent to 84 million – tourists last year while website commentaries lament empty hotels, restaurants and museums.

This observation is not quite accurate and, besides, does not take into account the complexity of the situation. In the first place, France has not become a dangerous war zone and people here still enjoy themselves: restaurants are full at lunch time, the new Paris Philarmonie orchestra is booked solid for months and there are more fantastic art exhibits – such as the Shchukin collection – than ever.

For the French, the threat of terrorism is not measured primarily by the dollar amount lost through a decrease in mass tourism (which is not the country’s vocation in any case.) There are many other serious considerations relating to the effects of terrorism on French politics and society, or the measures taken by authorities to protect the citizens.    

The cover of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ two years after the horrific attack on the magazine’s office in Paris.

In recent years, the French have been deeply marked by terrorist attacks with 237 people killed between January 2015 and July 2016. These range tragically from the murder of cartoonists; the bombing of the Bataclan night club, several bistros and restaurants; a truck plowing through the crowd on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Bastille Day; to the gory assassination of 85-year-old  father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit on the altar of his small Normandie church in front of two elderly nuns.

The impact on France’s national consciousness of the November 2015 terrorist attacks was enormous. As the two chambers of the parliament met in a joint session in Versailles, every single deputy stood up and sang the national anthem, La Marseillaise, a solemn event not seen since 1918.

François Hollande has been literally traumatized by the terrorist bombings. The president was immediately on the scenes of the attacks, even before the areas were made secure. For him, the defense against terrorism was a brutal awakening and a priority. The political price he had to pay was very high.

Under the intense pressure of the moment, he proposed a law on the déchéance de la nationalité (loss of nationality) for terrorists. This proposal caused havoc among the leftist segment of the French population. The president never recovered politically. Recently, when he announced his decision not to run again for another five years, Hollande declared, “I was wrong to make that proposal”.

The terrorist threat has become part of French people’s daily life. Alain Bauer, a professor of criminology, recently published a book titled, “How to Live in the Terrorist Era,” in which he gives practical advice on what to do in case of attack. Defense against terrorism is a major topic for the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections. .

France has come a long way since the affaire Merah in March 2012. The young Mohammed Merah had appeared all smiles on TV screens after killing seven civilians and military in the Toulouse area. At first believed to have acted as a “lone wolf,” he  turned out to be part of a whole network of siblings, relatives and friends. During the past five years, the French authorities – Intelligence, police,  judiciary and military both inside France and abroad – have made spectacular efforts to adjust to the terrorist threat, which is changing its modus operandi almost daily. 

Today the police wear bulletproof vests, carry attack weapons, and not only have the right, but also the duty, to intervene in the case of a terrorist threat.  The Direction Générale de Securiéte Interieure or DGSI (equivalent to the FBI) has stepped up its action, thwarting  90 percent of bombing attempts every year. In the past few months, it has dismantled sleeping terrorist cells in Marseille and Strasbourg.

France is the European country with the largest Moslem population. The latter is overwhelmingly considered to have nothing to do with radical Islam.  However, subjects which used to be taboo before, such as the relationship between extremism and religion, are now openly debated. Recent books also contribute to the change in thinking.

Gilles Kepel, an authority on the Arab world and Islam, demonstrates in his book, La Fracture, (‘The Divide’) that the only way to understand extreme Islamists is to analyze in depth their ideology. One should make an effort to understand  their strategy, which is to divide society, by teaching from a very young age, hatred against non-believers and the West, through brainwashing and conversion of an increasing number of people in both mosques and also in prisons. Keppel writes, “Prisons have become the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration or French elite school ) for Jihadists.” 

In the fall, journalist David Thomson  published “Les Revenants” (those who returned) about the young men – and women – who joined ISIS or Islamist State in 2012 at the outset of the Syrian civil war. They would announce their plans openly on You Tube  and traveled freely through Turkey toward their final destination of Rakka. In 2013 -14 their number grew exponentially. With the loss of territory in The Levant , ISIS has changed its strategy and many of the “revenants” have gone underground and become “Jihadists of the keyboard,” to use Thomson’s expression.

Is it the end of the tunnel ? Probably not and the threat remains, the experts concur. We can be thankful, however, that the Intelligence services and police have become more successful in cracking down on radical Islam.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout 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.

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Parent-Toddler Play & Support Groups Offered at Tri-Town Youth Services

AREAWIDE — Tri-Town Youth Services, 56 High St., Deep River will host weekly support groups for parents of young children.  Parents have opportunity to socialize and talk about family challenges while toddlers play.

The Parent Resource Coordinator will present a new parenting theme each week and invite parents to browse the extensive Parent Resource Library.  Toddlers will enjoy free play and art exploration.  Each session will include a seasonal circle with songs, yoga and finger-plays, followed by a shared snack.

“Outstanding Ones” for children under two, will meet Tuesdays from Feb. 7 to April 4.  The group gathers from 10:30 to 11 a.m. and the program costs $45 for Tri-Town residents.

“Terrific Twos” for children 24-36 months, will meet Wednesdays from Feb. 8 to April 5 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs $60 for Tri-Town residents.  Call 860-526-3600 to reserve your spot or register and pay securely online at www.tritownys.org.

Tri-Town Youth Services supports and advances the families, youth and communities of Chester, Deep River and Essex.  They coordinate and provide resources needed to make positive choices, reduce substance abuse, and strengthen the relationships that matter most.

Discover more programs and information for families at www.tritownys.org.

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Literacy Volunteers Seeks Tutors, Registration Open Now for Next Training Program

AREAWIDE — Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore (LVVS), CT, Inc. is a private non-profit organization.  Its mission is to train tutors to help residents of the Valley Shore area who wish to improve their reading, writing or speaking English to improve their life and work skills.  This one-to-one instruction is held confidential and is completely without charge to the student.

Tutor training is a 14-hour program conducted over seven sessions held each spring and again in the fall of every year.  The next training session begins March 23 and runs through May 9. Literacy Volunteers Workshop Leaders have developed a comprehensive program that provides prospective tutors the skills and resources to help them succeed. A background in education is not necessary – just a desire to tutor and a commitment to helping a student improve their skill in basic literacy or English as a Second Language over the period of one year after the completion of training.

If you are interested in becoming a tutor, contact the LVVS office in the basement of Westbrook’s Public Library by phone at (860) 399-0280 or by e-mail at jferrara@vsliteracy.org . Literacy Volunteers are registering for the spring session now and the deadline for applications is March 2, but only a few more slots are available.

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Region 4 Returns 2015-16 Surplus to Towns, Sinking Fund

AREAWIDE — On Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, the Region 4 Board of Education approved a report from the accounting firm of Mahoney and Sabol that reflects a surplus of $157,046 from the 2015-2016 academic year. “This audit is a great endorsement of our continued focus on meeting the needs of our students while keeping a very close eye on the bottom line …” said Chris Riley, Region 4 Board of Education Chairman.

Per the Region 4 Board of Education policy, the surplus is split with 50 percent returned to member towns, and 50 percent deposited in the Region’s Sinking Fund accounts. Accordingly, member towns will receive refunds as follows:

  • Chester $18,838
  • Deep River $24,876
  • Essex $34,809

In addition, $78,523 will be deposited in the Region 4 Sinking Funds allocated as follows:

  • Paving $26,175
  • Flooring $26,174
  • Field and Repair $26,174
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Gowrie Group Raises a Record $172,919 to Benefit The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries

From left to right, the Gowrie Group team of Whitney Peterson, Lindas Dillon, and Carter Gowrie present the donation check to Patty Dowling and Claire Bellerjeau of The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.

AREAWIDE — The 2016 Gowrie Group Challenge raised more funds for The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) than ever before – a record breaking $172,919!

The Gowrie Group Challenge is an annual fundraising initiative where Gowrie Group announces a dollar for dollar match to benefit The SSKP. This approach doubles the impact of generous donations from local businesses and individuals. This year, over 400 individuals and companies donated to the challenge which ran two months, from Nov. 15, 2016 to Jan. 15, 2017.

The contributions from this campaign are used to fill the shelves of the SSKP’s five pantries and serve meals to those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families at the SSKP’s eight meal sites along the Connecticut shoreline. Since Gowrie Group began this challenge 13 years ago, over 4 million meals in total have been provided for those in need through the Gowrie Group Challenge.

Gowrie Group kicked off this year’s challenge with their largest gift to date – a $30,000 dollar for dollar matching donation to the SSKP.  Five companies stepped forward as Partner Sponsors to provide additional matching funds: The Safety Zone, LC Doane Company, Tower LabsLenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, and BrandTech Scientific.

Spreading the word about joining this effort is vital.  Morning radio personality, Bob Muscatel of WLIS/WMRD, once again generously updated the community throughout the Challenge from his radio station. In addition, Shore Publishing provided a series of print advertisements in local papers across the shoreline.

Carter Gowrie, CEO and Founder of Gowrie Group said “We are very proud that over the past 13 years our community of clients, local business and friends have come together to raise more than a million dollars – $1,322,000 to be exact – to benefit the SSKP through our annual Gowrie Group Challenge.  We look forward to continuing to work together to support those in need along our shoreline.”

Lindas Dillon, a past SSKP board member, volunteer and longtime Gowrie Group employee shared, “It is personally rewarding to be part of this basic needs initiative.  It makes me so thankful to share energy and hope with all our clients, colleagues, neighbors, and friends who support the Gowrie Group Challenge.  I am proud that the success of the Gowrie Challenge brings food, hope, and community to our neighbors in need.”

Gowrie Group was thankful to be the recipient of proceeds from two exciting events.  The “Black Friday Benefit Concert” at The Kate held in November raised $4,767 and the ballet performance of “Ahavah: The Story of Christmas” performed by the Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet and Christian Academy of Dance raised $6,500. Both event proceeds were matched by the Gowrie Group Challenge.

Many Gowrie Group employees not only donate money to the challenge each year, but also donate time and services to soup kitchens across New England year round. Gowrie Group employees host and serve a lunch at the SSKP’s Old Saybrook meal-site each summer.  Additionally, employees work together to host Food-Drives every holiday season at many of Gowrie Group’s other locations including Westbrook CT, Darien CT, Newport RI, Marshfield MA, and Manchester NH.

Patty Dowling, Executive Director of the SSKP shared, “The Gowrie Challenge produces so much positivity – so many in the community come together to benefit something greater than themselves; feeding their neighbors – and with the match that gift becomes even greater.  I am so thankful for the many years of commitment from the leadership and employees at Gowrie Group – SSKP is grateful!”

Gowrie Group and the SSKP are proud of all that they have accomplished in the past 13 years of partnership, and look forward to continuing the annual Gowrie Group Challenges in future years.

Editor’s Notes: i) As one of the nation’s Top-50 independent insurance agencies, Gowrie Group provides total risk management services to individuals and organizations with complex insurance needs. Gowrie Group offers comprehensive insurance solutions matched with trusted advice and a commitment to service excellence. Gowrie Group’s portfolio of offerings includes commercial, home/auto, equine, and yacht insurance, as well as employee benefits solutions and safety services. The company’s 175+ professionals service clients across the US from offices in Westbrook CT, Darien CT, Newport RI, North Kingstown RI, Annapolis MD, Boston MA, and Marshfield, MA. www.gowrie.com or 800.262.8911.  

ii) Since 1989, the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries have been providing food and fellowship to those in need in the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, East Lyme, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Madison, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org

iii) 2016 Gowrie Challenge partners and media sponsors were The Safety Zone, LC Doane Company, Tower Labs, Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, and BrandTech Scientific. Media Sponsors: Shore Publishing and WLIS/WMRD.

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Old Saybrook ‘Sister March’ Draws Almost 1,000 Peaceful Protesters

Baby’s first march — we suspect not Grandma’s!

AREAWIDE — The march may only have been registered late last week, but almost 1,000 people still turned out Saturday morning in Old Saybrook to join the movement that inspired around three million people across the globe to publicly express their opinions on the rights of women and other minority groups, and in many ways on the new Trump presidency as a whole.

More than 500 people had gathered by 10 a.m. on the Old Saybrook Town Green unsure whether they were just going to simply stand in front of the Town Hall or whether they were actually going to march.

They came from towns all along the shoreline — Guilford, Clinton, Old Lyme, Lyme, East Lyme, and Old Saybrook were all mentioned — and they spanned in age from a few months to others well into their 80s and many wore what had become the signature pink “Pussy Hats.” Many people brought signs ranging from hand-written words painted on pieces of cardboard to an elaborately embroidered banner bearing the words “Not My President.”

Others like Alison Mitchell of Old Lyme fearlessly sat in her wheelchair strongly and stoically making her point.

Around 10:30 a.m., it became apparent that a march was beginning going north up Main St. on the east side towards Boston Post Rd. then crossing over and returning to the Green going south on the west side.  By this time the crowd had swelled by several hundred more and as the demonstrators marched, more and more people joined.

Women were definitely in the majority but there were plenty of men marching too.  There were some chants, “Love Trumps Hate” was a popular one, and songs,”We Shall Overcome” rang out at one point, and overall, it was a cheerful, friendly occasion.  When the clouds cleared and the sun finally broke through on the return leg, marcher Rosemary Barclay of Old Lyme said with a chuckle, “It’s certainly not going to rain on our parade!”

From left to right, some Old Lyme marchers share a smile.

But once wasn’t enough for these intrepid marchers.  Almost as soon as they found themselves back at ‘The Kate,’ they started re-tracing their steps and ultimately completed a second loop. The Old Saybrook Police did a wonderful job stopping the patient traffic so that the marchers could cross Main Street whenever necessary.

By the time of the second circuit, the line of marchers was so long that it snaked down one side of Main St., across the road and then up the other side.  Passengers were getting out of cars to join the march, horns were being sounded regularly — and loudly — in support of the marchers and only one lone pick-up truck with “Trump’ flags was spotted.

At the end of it all, the marchers happily gathered in front of the Town Hall and in communion with all the other marchers across the nation and the world, observed a meaningful moment of silence before peacefully dispersing.

More signs …

… and another …

… and another …

… and another …

David Brown with coffee and a sign …

A previous presidential campaign slogan refocused …

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Nibbles: Sample ‘Scotch Blondies’ Soon

For me it is tough to read headlines in the New York Times these days. Maybe that is why I don’t get that newspaper every day—just Wednesdays (for the food section) and Sunday. (In truth, it’s so amazingly expensive and who has time to read it every day?)

On Sunday, first I read the book review, with my Kindle next to me so I can order a sample. But what’s that on the first page? A book about sugar, and how it is the source of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and strokes? Maybe, too, the problems in the middle east, racism, nuclear winter, glaciers coming to Fishers Island? Well, anyone who knows me knows I rarely joke about any of those things, but an entire book reviewed by Dan Barber, one of America’s best chefs, demonizing sugar?

So, why am I writing today about sugar? Because we all like sweets, sometimes. And when my friend Lisa asked me to make whoopee pies for her 50th birthday party, what could I do? Make spanakopita?

I made two different kinds of whoopee pies—one spice cake with a cream cheese filling infused with maple flavoring. and the other red velvet filled with a vanilla cream. It was fun, but certainly messed up the kitchen. For your information, you do not need to use three one-ounce bottles of red-dye coloring. One is fine. For those I used a cookie recipe. For the spice cake, I used a cake recipe. Both worked well. I tasted each and they were yummy.

So why was it necessary to make a bar cookie recipe? I guess I just don’t like rules, and reading that book review made me angry. The recipe I am writing below not only needs sugar, but butter and Scotch. They were easy to make and absolutely delicious. I ate one and shared with friends. The rest are in the freezer. Don’t eat too much sugar or butter or alcohol. But don’t deprive yourself of something special once in a while.

Scotch Blondies

From Fine Cooking, February, 2017

1 and one-half sticks unsalted butter
2 and one-half cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Three-quarter teaspoon baking powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-half teaspoon salt
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
One-half cup Scotch whiskey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups mini chocolate chips

Scotch blondies

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, line the bottom with parchment and then butter the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Let cool briefly. Add brown sugar and stir until combined. Add Scotch, eggs and vanilla and stir until combined.

Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in chips.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter once or twice to break any air bubbles. Bake until top is golden brown and just starting to pull away from the edges of the pan, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the blondies, invert onto a cutting board, remove the pan and parchment and flip right side up. Cut into 16 pieces.*

You can store the blondies covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

*I cut the blondies into about 32 pieces.

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Talking Transportation: Why Metro-North’s ‘Quiet Cars’ Aren’t Quiet

What happens when a good idea goes bad?  Consider Metro-North’s ‘Quiet Car’ initiative.

Sixteen years ago a group of regular commuters on Amtrak’s early morning train to DC had an idea:  why not designate one car on the train as a ‘Quiet Car‘, free from cell phone chatter and loud conversations.  The railroad agreed and the experiment proved a great success.

Now all Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor have a ‘Quiet Car’.  They are a major selling point for taking the train … the chance to nap or read in a quiet environment.

But as early as 2006 when I suggested the same idea to Metro-North, it was rejected outright.  Then serving on the CT Rail Commuter Council, I persisted and finally, in 2011 the railroad agreed to a trial with one car on each rush hour train dedicated to what it called a ‘Quiet CALMmute.’

Almost immediately the plan ran into trouble.  Not because it wasn’t wanted but because it wasn’t enforced.

There were no signs designating which were the ‘quiet’ cars and only occasional PA announcements before departure reminding folks who sat there of the quiet, library-like environment that was expected.  Most of all, many conductors refused to enforce the new rules.  But why?

Conductors seem to have no trouble reminding passengers to keep their feet off the seats, put luggage in the overhead racks or refrain from smoking.  But all that the railroad gave conductors to enforce the ‘Quiet Car’ rules were bilingual “Shhh cards” to give to gabby violators.

It seemed left to passengers to remind fellow riders what a ‘Quiet Car’ was for and confrontations resulted.

This spring the railroad surprised even me by announcing an expansion of the program:  every weekday train, peak and off-peak, would now have two ‘Quiet Cars’!  Two ‘Quiet Cars’ on a 10-car train gives everyone a choice.  That sounds great, but still without signage, education or enforcement, the battles continued.

A commuter recently emailed me about an evening train from Grand Central with a group of rowdy drunks in the ‘Quiet Car’.  When commuters asked the offending passengers to chill out or move their seat, the tipsy  group told the complainer, “screw you.”  The quiet-seeking commuters then asked the conductor for help but he simply declared the train was too crowded and the ‘Quiet Car’ was being eliminated on that run.  “Have fun” he told the drunks.  Really?

On Amtrak trains those violating Quiet Car rules have been thrown off the train and arrested.  Even NJ Governor Chris Christie had to move his seat on an Acela once for yabbering with his staff in the wrong car.

Nobody wants these kinds of altercations on Metro-North.  So why initiate and then expand such a passenger amenity as ‘Quiet CALMmute’ without proper education and enforcement?  A few signs and friendly reminders from conductors should make passengers aware that “train time may be your own time” (as the railroad’s old marketing slogan used to say), but it’s also shared time.

Commuters want ‘Quiet Cars.’  The railroad gave them to us, but until they can get their staff to enforce the rules, consistently, they might as well not exist.

If you’re in a ‘Quiet Car’ and the rules are not enforced, report it to Metro-North on their website complaint form.  If we all raise our voices, we can get some peace a quiet.

Republished with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron


About the author:
 Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Wayne Eisenbaum Charitable Foundation Donates $20,000 to Operation Fuel

OLD SAYBROOK — The Wayne Eisenbaum Charitable Foundation (previously called IRMAR) of Old Saybrook, has donated $20,000 to Operation Fuel for its energy programs.

Now in its 40th year, Operation Fuel is a statewide nonprofit program that provides emergency energy assistance year-round to lower-income working families and individuals, the elderly, and disabled individuals who are in financial crisis.

Individuals who need energy assistance should call 211.

For more information on Operation Fuel or to make a donation, go towww.operationfuel.org

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FRA Extends Deadline for Comments on High Speed Rail Proposal

AREAWIDE — SECoast.org made the following announcement at 6:09 p.m. this evening: Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island has just issued a press release announcing that the Federal Railroad Administration has agreed to an extension of “at least several weeks.”  SECoast.org quotes Sen. Reed directly from his press release as follows,

” I am pleased the FRA is extending the deadline to help ensure that all voices are heard and all options are considered.  This must be an open, transparent process.  This extension will give citizens more time to offer input and it will give the FRA more time to carefully study the data and make informed decisions.  I am glad the FRA is not trying to rush the process, and I hope the incoming Trump Administration will honor that commitment,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development”

More information is available at here, at the Charlestown Citizens Alliance Webpage. 

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Plains Rd. Development of 52 New Homes in Essex Scheduled to Begin … Finally

Building site for 52 new homes on Plains Rd., just out of downtown Essex. Photo by Jerome Wilson.

ESSEX — It has been a long time coming, but the “green light” is finally turned on for the construction of 52 new housing units known as Essex Station. The units, which comprise a three-building apartment complex with an affordable housing component, will be constructed on a 3.7-acre parcel on Plains Rd. that includes the long-vacant former Iron Chef restaurant property and previously, a movie theater. Heading out of town from the town center of Essex, the new building site is on right hand side of Plains Rd., just past the tracks of the Valley Steam Train.

The application from Signature Contracting Group LLC was submitted under state statute 8-30g, a law intended to promote additional affordable housing in Connecticut.  It was originally approved by the Essex Zoning Commission on June 20, 2016.

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

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

One disputed condition related to the requirement for a six-foot security fence around the perimeter of the property. The second related to a requirement for elevators in the three buildings, which was described as, “impractical and unnecessary,” making the floor plans infeasible. The third disputed condition involved the height of the three buildings.

The issues related to all three conditions were resolved at a Sept. 19 Essex Zoning Commission meeting and construction by the Signature Contracting Group LLC  is now scheduled to begin as early as February.

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Linares Chairs CT Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee

Sen. Heather Somers and Sen. Art Linares at the January meeting.

AREAWIDE — On Jan. 11, Sen. Heather Somers (R-18th) and Sen. Art Linares (R-33rd) attended the first 2017 meeting of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.  The panel has oversight of all matters relating to the Board of Regents for Higher Education, public and independent institutions of higher education, private occupational schools, post‑secondary education, job training institutions and programs, apprenticeship training programs and adult job training programs offered to the public by any state agency or that receives funding from the state.

Somers, who serves as the committee’s Vice-Chair, represents Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, and Voluntown.

Linares, the committee’s Co-Chair, represents Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

Somers (www.SenatorSomers.com) can be reached atHeather.Somers@cga.ct.gov and at 800-842-1421.  Linares (www.SenatorLinares.com) can be reached at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov and at 800-842-1421.

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Greenskies to Build Solar Array on Whelen Rooftop

CHESTER –- Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC has signed an agreement to build a 339 kilowatt (DC) solar array on the roof of The Whelen Engineering Co. Inc.’s main facility in Chester, Conn.

The array, which will consist of 1,062 solar photovoltaic panels, will produce 398 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity annually. It is expected to be completed and operational by October.

Greenskies has already begun the design phase of the project. The construction phase is expected to begin this spring.

Under terms of the solar installation agreement between the two companies, Greenskies – one of the nation’s leading solar energy providers in the commercial, industrial and municipal segments of the industry – will design, engineer and construct the array on the roof of the 185,000-square-foot main building on Whelen’s Chester campus and then sell the completed array to the engineering firm.

Whelen Engineering designs and manufactures audio and visual warning equipment for the automotive, aviation, and mass notification industries worldwide. Founded in 1952, Whelen has become a leading provider of sirens, warning lights, white illumination lighting, and controllers. With facilities in Chester and Charlestown, N.H., Whelen products are designed, manufactured, and assembled in the United States.

“We are very excited to be working with Whelen Engineering to help them take a big step towards their energy and sustainability goals,” said Bryan Fitzgerald, a business development associate at
Greenskies.

Greenskies designs, builds and maintains solar photovoltaic systems for commercial and industrial clients, municipalities and government agencies, educational institutions and utilities throughout the United States.  Sen. Art Linares (R- 20th) is owner and co-founder of Greenskies according to the company’s website.

For more information about Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC, visit www.greenskies.com.

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Community Civic Group Brings Welcoming Signs to Lower CT River Valley Towns

These welcoming signs are available for purchase from ‘The Valley Stands Up’ local civic organization.

CHESTER — Inspired by a sign created by a Mennonite church in Virginia in the aftermath of the divisive 2016 elections, a local civic group is distributing lawn signs to make it clear that our communities are welcoming and inclusive of all neighbors, regardless of background or origin.

The sign reads, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish, and Arabic.

The Valley Stands Up, a group formed by community members across the lower Connecticut River Valley to “support the dignity and human rights of all,” is bringing this affirming message of community inclusion and cohesion to our neighboring towns.

Members hope the signs will signal ongoing support for all community members (both longstanding residents and new neighbors) and will affirm a sense of place and belonging for those feeling unwelcome, threatened, or marginalized.

Communities across North America, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, Virginia to Canada, have also adopted the lawn signs.

The signs are available for purchase for $10 each at The Valley Stands Up Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration, Sunday, Jan. 15, at 4 p.m. at Deep River Congregational Church.

While supplies last, they will also be sold at the weekly vigil outside of Two Wrasslin’ Cats Café (Saturdays, 10 to 11 a.m.) in East Haddam, or may be ordered by contacting thevalleystandsup@gmail.com.

For more information about The Valley Stands Up, visit the group’s Facebook page or contact thevalleystandsup@gmail.com.

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‘Kate’s Camp for Kids’ Presents ‘ARF!’, Rehearsals Begin March 15

AREAWIDE – The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Community Music School are partnering again under the umbrella of their performing arts summer camp, Kate’s Camp for Kids, to present a spring program and show entitled “ARF: A Canine Musical of Kindness, Courage and Calamity!”

This exciting program takes place at The Kate, 300 Main Street in Old Saybrook, and runs for six weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 5 p.m. beginning March 15.  Launched in 2013, Kate’s Camp for Kids is a performing arts camp for children in grades K-5 incorporating music, dance, theater, and visual art.

Directed by Martha Herrle, a 15-year-member of the Community Music School faculty and certified Kindermusik educator, this year’s camp theme will be “ARF!”  Students will be acting out the personalities of their favorite canine characters from Doggie Town including General German Shepherd, the singing Dalmatians, and Rover the mutt. Featuring five original songs and easy-to-learn rhyming dialog, the program culminates in a lively performance for friends and family.

Tuition for this camp is $125 and scholarships are available for families with a financial need.

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

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

Learn more at visit www.community-music-school.org or call (860)767-0026.

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State Legislators Encourage Constituents to Help Retired H-K Coach Needing Bone Marrow Transplant

AREAWIDE — State Senator Art Linares (R-33), and State Representatives Jesse MacLachlan (R-35) and Robert Siegrist (R-36) have called for eligible residents to visit the Be the Match website to see if they can help a local field hockey coach.

Longtime Haddam-Killingworth field hockey coach Patsy Kamercia was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. She needs a bone marrow transplant to treat her Myelodysplastic/Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Unclassifiable Disorder.

Sen. Linares said, “I’ve been told that Ms. Kamercia has been a selfless volunteer, who started the Haddam-Killingworth High School Field Hockey Team 40 years ago and continues to coach the team in her retirement. When I learned about her illness, I knew we needed to get the word out to encourage as many people as we can to get tested as a possible match for her.”

A bone marrow drive was held for Kamercia at Haddam-Killingworth High School last week, but people can visit Be the Match to get a testing kit sent to their house. All that is required is a cheek swab to test for a DNA match.

Rep. MacLachlan said, “As a teacher and coach, Ms. Kamercia had a tremendous impact on her students and the young women she coached. The website describes the donation process, which generally is uncomfortable and has minor side effects. It’s not as dramatic or traumatic as Hollywood makes it seem.”

Be the Match says most donations are taken from the arm, but some may be taken from a donor’s pelvic bone, which involves giving the donor anesthesia.

Rep. Siegrist said, “For people with Ms. Kamercia’s disease, receiving healthy stem cells from a donor is the only treatment. Even if you are not a genetic match for her, you may be the match that saves someone else’s life. Also, as an alumnus of Haddam-Killingworth High School, I am proud to support Ms. Kamercia and this great organization.”

The legislators said they hope a match for Kamercia can be found soon so she can get on the road to recovery.

Visit Be the Match for more information about marrow donation and other ways to help.

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Old Saybrook Library’s Annual Poetry Contest is Now Open

OLD SAYBROOK — The Acton Public Library, 60 Old Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook, announces its 23rd Annual Poetry Competition. Submissions will be accepted from Jan. 17 through Feb. 21, 2017 at the Library.

The rules for participants are as follows:

  • Poems must be original and unpublished.
  • One poem per letter size page.
  • No more than 40 lines per poem.
  • All poems must have a title.
  • Author’s name, address, and phone number should appear on the back (not submitted to judges), students please add grade level.
  • Author must be a resident of Connecticut.
  • No more than three entries per person.
  • Open to all ages First Grade through adult.
  • The divisions are: Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, and Adult.

Winning poets will read their poems and receive their awards during the Library’s annual Poetry Night, Wednesday April 26, 2017. The public is invited to attend.

Following Poetry Night, all entries will be on display in the Library through May.

Pick up an entry form at the Library or on our website, www.actonlibrary.org or call for more information.

The Library is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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‘The Chester Show’ at Maple & Main Benefits Town’s Emergency Fuel Fund, on View Through Jan. 22

‘Yellow Chester Barn’ by Rachel Carson of Deep River is one of the signature paintings of ‘The Chester Show.’

CHESTER — ‘The Chester Show,’ an exhibition devoted to paintings of Chester, is currently on view at Maple and Main Gallery through Sunday, Jan. 22. The show, depicting paintings of the downtown as well as creeks, barns, the riverfront and houses, is in the Stone Gallery.

A portion of all the sales will be given to Chester’s Emergency Fuel Fund, which is dependent on donations and which helps cover heating costs for residents who are unable to meet their fuel bills.

 

Maple and Main Gallery, at One Maple Street, is open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit mapleandmaingallery.com; 860-526-6065; visit the gallery on Facebook and Instagram.

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Talking Transportation: All Tickets Please!

Imagine you’re in a store and you see somebody shoplifting.  You’re embarrassed to say anything or to make a scene, but inside you’re pissed-off.  You pay for your merchandise, so why should that guy get it for free?  And if he’s ripping off the store, doesn’t the merchant actually make you pay more to make up for that loss?

It’s morally wrong and it’s just not fair.

Yet this is what happens every single day on Metro-North when conductors don’t collect all riders’ tickets.

Here’s a typical scene:  your train leaves Grand Central and the conductor makes his way through the train collecting tickets.  Sometimes he leaves a colored seat check, punched to show your destination, but not always. Why?

Your train makes some intermediate stop (New Rochelle, Greenwich or Stamford) to discharge some passengers and take on new ones.  You know who the new riders are, but does the conductor?

So when the conductor comes through again saying “All Stamford tickets, please” and you see that new rider not responding, you know the railroad got ripped off and that cheater just got a free ride.

Now, if the conductor had issued a seat check he’d know who got off, who got on and who owes him a new ticket.  Simple enough, but not for Metro-North which for years has not enforced their use.  Conductors who are too busy or too lazy, don’t use seat checks and we all end up paying more.

Metro-North acknowledges this problem and admits it loses millions of dollars a year to uncollected tickets.  But they’ve crunched the numbers and say that staffing trains with more conductors to be sure all tickets are collected would cost even more.

Hey!  Here’s a concept: make the existing conductors do their jobs instead of hiding out in their little compartments.  From Grand Central to Stamford you’ve got 45 minutes without stops to collect everyone’s ticket, give ‘em a seat check, say “thank you” and still have time for a cat-nap.  And there’s still time to ask people to keep their feet off the seats and to stop yapping in the designated Quiet Cars.

Back in the good ol’ days before the TVM’s (Ticket Vending Machines) came along, conductors collected cash fares to the tune of $50 million a year.  They had a money room at Grand Central that looked like a casino.  Now most fares are bought from the machines or on your smart-phone.  That means conductors should have a lot more time to make sure all tickets are collected.

Conductors on Metro-North make good money.  And they do a very important job keeping passengers safe, operating the doors, answering questions.  They’re the face of the railroad and most passengers give them high marks.

So what can you do if you see someone getting a free ride due to uncollected tickets?  Try this, which always work for me.

When I see a conductor miss a passenger’s ticket, I’ll wait until the conductor comes back and say something like “Excuse me, conductor.  I think you missed collecting that gentleman’s ticket,” and then smile innocently at the conductor and the chagrined would-be thief.

If I see the same conductor always missing ticket collections, day after day, I report it on the Metro-North website complaints page, detailing the incident by name, date, train number, etc.  That allows the railroad to “re-train” the offending staffer.

So if you’re tired of all these fare increases, let’s stop the shoplifters.  Make sure everybody pays for their ride by having conductors collect all tickets.

Please!

Republished with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron


About the author:
 Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Letter to the Editor: Thanks to Many From Literacy Volunteers & Retiring LVVS Executive Director

To the Editor:

Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore (LVVS) celebrates a successful year with its Holiday Social each year. During the course of the festivities the organization recognizes one volunteer who, through their efforts embodies the values of the agency and who has made an impact on the success of the organization each year. This year LVVS recognized Barbara Erni of Deep River as its “Unsung Hero.”

We are especially grateful to Alex Foulkes and Wilson Castaneda of the Penny Lane Pub for hosting the event, their generosity in providing the facilities, food and servers and for making our guests feel at home for the holidays.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Steffen who again provided a bounty of delicious desserts along with her helper Paula Ferrara. Special gratitude to Joanne Argersinger, the LVVS Board of Directors, our tutors and all those who made the evening special and who helped celebrate my upcoming retirement. I am so grateful and feel privileged to have been the recipient of their guidance, help and good wishes over the years. I am also humbled by their heartfelt gift and recognition.   

Finally, thanks to State Representative Devin Carney, and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna for taking their time out to share the evening with us. And special thanks to State Senators Art Linares and Paul Formica and to the Connecticut Legislature for their recognition and steadfast support for the cause of literacy.   

John J. Ferrara

Editor’s Note: The author is the Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore, CT, Inc.

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Letter From Paris: Like UK’s Cameron, Italian PM Matteo Renzi Gambles His Future on a Referendum … and Loses

Nicole Prévost Logan

On Dec. 4, 2016, 60 percent of Italians responded “No” to the referendum question on constitutional reforms posed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. His aim was to modify the electoral laws, thus reducing the role of both the Senate and regions, and thereby enhancing his own power. This was a dangerous attempt at undoing the safeguards built into the 1948 constitution and intended to erase all traces of Mussolini’s fascist regime.

To better understand Renzi’s action, one should remember the omnipresent Italian dislike for a strong, centralized government. It was only in 1871 that the Risorgimento (meaning ‘rising again’) led to the unification of the country with Rome as its capital.

Beppe Grillo – the comedian turned populist – was quick to seize the opportunity and had his “Five Stars” party join the coalition opposing the referendum .

After the long “reign” of Silvio Berlusconi, who stepped down as prime minister in his 80s and the two-year-government of Mario Prodi, aged 70 and a long-time European Union (EU) economic commissioner, the Italian population must have found the arrival of 41-year-old former mayor of Florence as quite refreshing. Pleasant, laughing a lot and described as, “a young man in a hurry,” by a French diplomat, Renzi got along well with all the world leaders (too much so for my taste as he became close to President Erdogan of Turkey and supported that country’s accession into Europe.)

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.  (Photo from Press-TV.)

Renzi’s resignation may trigger political instability given the state of financial crisis in the country. Italy is one of EU’s founding members and its third largest economy, but the Italian economy is lethargic and in a state of stagnation. The public debt is 120 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, well above the level of 60 percent allowed by Brussels. In fact, Italy is called the mauvais elève (flunking student) of Europe.

After the Greek debt crisis, a number of financial mechanisms have been put in place in Brussels under the respective leaderships of Germany and France. They include a Banking Union to assure the safety of the private sector and more stringent requirements imposed on the banks under the “single rule” book.

Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank (ECB), supervises the 6,000 main European banks. In order to boost the growth of Europe, the ECB has been pouring 80 billion Euros per month into the monetary market, buying back poor quality obligations. Renzi has often been in disagreement with these new rules and refused to be tied by institutional constraints, particularly when they come from Brussels.

The specific problem with Italy is that its banks are undercapitalized and hold about 360 billion of “toxic” loans comparable to the US sub-primes in 2007-08. Several of the largest banks are on the verge of collapse. The Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) – the oldest bank in the world, founded before Christopher Columbus – is in the worst shape and on Dec. 9, the ECB forbade Renzi to ask his government for a 20-day-prolongation of a four billion Euro financial assistance package.

Renzi’s relations with Brussels have been tense and he frequently refused to go along with its policies, blocking negotiations. For instance on Nov. 11, he did not agree with the decision made by the other EU members to protect themselves from cheap imports from China.

He also deemed insufficient the funds granted Italy to cope with the flow of refugees. (that request was justified though, since 500,000 refugees have entered the country in the past two years, and 171,000 since the beginning of 2016.) He was criticized by the other EU members for “sabotaging” the Brastislava talks last September about the European response to Brexit.

Referenda can be dangerous, particularly when the initiator bets his or her future on them.  In the case of Italy, however, it might have been a good thing. The departure of Renzi will likely bring more cohesion in the EU to face the many problems ahead.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole LoganAbout 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.

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SECoast, CT Trust for Historic Preservation Request 60-Day Extension to NRA Waiting Period

We have just received the text of a letter sent by SECoast and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to the Federal Railroad Administration requesting an extension of the 30-day waiting period to 60 days. It reads as follows::

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast, our regional partner on high-speed rail planning issues, are writing to ask for your assistance to extend the current 30-day waiting period for the NEC Future Final Environmental Impact Statement by 60 days. Given the enormous size of the planning document, its release just one week before end-of-year holidays and the extreme concern for the preferred alternative route now expressed in communities throughout Connecticut (and additionally Rhode Island) we believe there is a strong argument that such an extension is in the public interest.

The current deadline of January 31, 2016 marks the end of the Tier 1 planning process for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), an early but critical step in the overall implementation of a master plan for the corridor. Finalization of this document will commit the plan to a single corridor through Connecticut rather than from the three corridors under study in the DEIS. Finalization of this document will replace the corridor’s current master plan, dating to 1978,  for rail travel and investment along the Northeast Corridor with a new Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (P-EIS) with a 25-year horizon of 2040.

To be clear, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. Both the public and the NEC Future plan deserve the benefit of a thorough final public review and opportunity to comment. We believe an extended comment period would also offer the best opportunity to avoid unnecessary legal action by providing the Federal Railroad Administration an opportunity to correct evident errors in the planning process and resulting NEC Future plan.

Such an extension is both a commonsense and commonplace. Indeed, a similar extension was granted to review much less extensive plans for the “All Aboard Florida” high speed rail planning initiative in Florida. The Federal Railroad Administration has enjoyed flexible deadlines throughout the planning process, most recently missing an intended late summer/early fall release date of the Preferred Alternative and FEIS documentation. Surely, the people of Connecticut deserve an equivalent opportunity to provide informed and meaningful comment before this critical document is finalized.

We appreciate, in advance, your continuing efforts to advocate for communities in the state of Connecticut and for our joint efforts to develop rail-travel along the Northeast Corridor in a way that recognizes and respects the unique historical, cultural and environmental attributes of Connecticut communities.

More to come.

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9 Town Transit Announces Bus Fare Increase From Jan. 2 

AREAWIDE — 9 Town Transit will increase its fares on all services beginning January 2, 2017.  The increase will up the regular cash fare to $1.75 on bus routes and $3.50 on the Dial-A-Ride services and off-route trips.

9 Town Transit officials say the increase is necessary to help offset a decrease in funding from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.  The fares were last increased in 2012.

The increase will be offset by the introduction of a senior and disabled fare.  It will allow seniors 65 or over and people with disabilities to ride any bus route for $.85, or $31 for unlimited trips with a monthly pass.  To qualify, a Medicare card or a Connecticut reduced fare I.D. must be shown on boarding.  I.D.’s can be obtained by visiting www.9towntransit.com.  Seniors 60 and over residing in the region will still be able to obtain and utilize 9 Town Transit Senior Fare Cards.

For a full listing of the new fare schedule or to purchase passes and tickets, visit www.9towntransit.com.

For more information, call 9 Town Transit at 860-510-0429.

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FRA Endorses High Speed Rail Route Through Old Lyme, But With a Tunnel; Courtney, Malloy, Blumenthal, Murphy Express Strong Opposition to Plan

AREAWIDE — The Federal Rail Authority (FRA) today released the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (Tier 1 Final EIS) for NEC FUTURE and it is now available for download at www.necfuture.com.

The preferred route includes the controversial Old Saybrook to Kenyon, R.I., by-pass which runs through Old Lyme, and a tunnel in the same area.

Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released the following statement after the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released their Tier 1 final environmental impact statement for the Northeast Corridors FUTURE plan:

“The FRA’s report released today continues to ignore strong and consistent concerns expressed by the State of Connecticut and local citizens about the eastern shoreline realignment plans. We specifically asked FRA to limit the NEC Future Tier 1 EIS to identify a service and investment strategy to achieve state-of- good repair and maximize the capacity, frequency and speed of existing rail lines.

By continuing to include plans to bypass the current route, the FRA has enflamed impacted communities stretching from Fairfield County to Stonington where the proposed alignment will eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and real estate values.

As the FRA itself has confirmed, this new proposed alignment cannot ultimately receive the permits, rights of way and other critical elements without the support and approval of the State of Connecticut.

To this end, we will continue to do all we can to remove this bypass from the final FRA plan in order to provide our communities with the certainty they deserve. Should the FRA continue in its pursuit of its proposed alignment, we will work to ensure that Connecticut exercises every tool at its disposal at the state and federal levels to stop any effort to move forward with this misguided plan.”

A press conference will be held at 2 p.m. this afternoon at which Rep. Joe Courtney, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, and Old Lyme First Seletwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder will discuss the announcement by the FRA.

Greg Stroud, Executive Director of SECoast.org, has released the following statement:

“We have been working full-time on this issue since January, and we have yet to find a single resident, local, state or federal representative, or group, actively supporting the idea of a tunnel under the Connecticut river and Old Lyme.

Why? Even if a tunnel could better preserve the immediate historic downtown of Old Lyme,  it would no doubt be much worse for the environment, and would simply shift the historic and economic impacts onto the communities to the east, whether East Lyme, New London, Mystic, Stonington or Westerly. We find that unacceptable.

A tunnel does nothing to remedy the impacts to the broader region. And as was obvious at the August 31 meeting in Old Lyme, the entire region really is adamantly opposed to the Kenyon to Old Saybrook bypass. Every single town official from Old Saybrook to Westerly, Rhode Island is on record opposing the plan. That doesn’t happen very often.

At some point, you would hope that the federal government would realize this isn’t NIMBY, this is roughly 1/4 of a state, for good reason, refusing to bear the burdens of plan, without the benefits (if there are any to speak of). In the case of Old Lyme, this is a question of survival, and I believe that Mayor Passero in New London, feels almost as strongly.

On an environmental level, a tunnel would very likely require extensive “dewatering” given the routing, the extensive marshes, the lack of bedrock, and a local geology characterized by glacial drift.  In a community of wells, surrounded by marshes, at the mouth of the Connecticut river — one of the only major rivers in the hemisphere lacking an industrialized mouth and port — we believe a tunnel is a nonstarter.

And frankly, given past history, and private discussions with transportation officials, I’d go further and question the seriousness of the offer. When pressed in public and by the press, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has repeatedly refused to rule out a return to a much-less-expensive bridge option through Old Lyme.

If you recall, the FRA was forced to issue three or so clarifications and retractions when questioned by the press on this issue just after the meeting on August 31 —
ctmirror.org/2016/08/31/federal-rail-official-no-elevated-track-in-old-lyme-spokesman-backpedals/

The FRA still hasn’t responded to straightforward Freedom of Information requests filed on April 4, 2016. The FRA claims that these requests are filled on a “first come first served” basis, and refuses to explain the delay. That’s no way to win support in the region for a tunnel, or any other plan.”

Don Stacom of The Hartford Courant published a piece titled, “Railroad Officials Full Speed Ahead on Controversial New Amtrak Northeast Corridor Bypass“a short time ago, in which he states, “Old Lyme is the center of opposition: Critics fear hulking, industrial-looking elevated tracks ruining the New England charm of their village. Museums, schools, environmentalists and historic preservationists all denounced the idea this summer.”

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Reynolds Subaru Presents NADA ‘Ambassadors Grant’ to Estuary’s MOW Program in Memory of Gary Reynolds

Kathryn Wayland, Owner Reynolds Subaru, is pictured presenting Paul Doyle, Estuary Council Executive Director, with a check for $1,000. Standing to the left is G. Hayden Reynolds, Owner Reynolds Subaru.

Kathryn Wayland, Reynolds Subaru owner, is pictured presenting Paul Doyle, Estuary Council Executive Director, with a check for $1,000. Standing to the left is G. Hayden Reynolds, Reynolds Subaru owner.

AREAWIDE — The Estuary Council of Seniors recently received, through Reynolds Subaru, the Ambassadors Grant from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) in memory of Gary Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Garage & Marine Inc. in Lyme, CT.  Gary Reynolds was well known for his distinguished career in the automotive retail industry and his generosity in our local communities.  He served on the board of directors of the NADA, representing franchised new car and truck dealers in Connecticut until his passing in 2013.

The Reynolds family designated the Estuary Council of Seniors to be the recipient of the Ambassadors Grant in memory of Gary and in addition to the award of $500, the Reynolds family matched the grant with an additional $500.

The Estuary is pleased to accept this wonderful grant from the NADA and gift from the Reynolds family in memory of Gary Reynolds in continuing support of the Estuary’s Meals on Wheels program.  This past fiscal year the Estuary delivered over 70,000 meals to Meals on Wheels recipients in the nine town Estuary region including Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook & Westbrook.

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Dogs on the Docks Proceeds Benefit Local Rescue, Homeward Bound CT

Pictured in the photo are, left to right: Joan Meek, CRM business manager and her dog Lyddie, Sue Hotkowski of Homeward Bound CT, Connie Connors, Essex Board of Trade, Jennifer White-Dobbs, CRM Education Director, Chris Dobbs, CRM Executive Director and Toby.  Both dogs are Homeward Bound CT rescues.

Pictured in the photo are, left to right: Joan Meek, CRM business manager and her dog Lyddie, Sue Hotkowski of Homeward Bound CT, Connie Connors, Essex Board of Trade, Jennifer White-Dobbs, CRM Education Director, Chris Dobbs, CRM Executive Director and Toby.  Both dogs are Homeward Bound CT rescues.

ESSEX — The Connecticut River Museum and Essex Board of Trade are pleased to award Homeward Bound CT $100. The money was raised from the proceeds of the 2016 Dogs on the Dock event.  Each year the proceeds from the event are donated to a local shelter or rescue organization.

The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call 860.767.8269 or go to www.ctrivermuseum.org.

For more information about Homeward Bound CT,

visit www.homewardboundct.org. The Essex Board of Trade supports area businesses and events at http://essexct.com.

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Essex, Old Lyme Churches State Clearly That All Parishioners are Welcome

sign

 ESSEX and OLD LYME — A new sign (see above) in front of the First Congregational Church of Essex, a member church of the United Church of Christ, includes the usual notation for the church with its name, year of formation — in this case — 1852, and then these words, “An Open and Affirming Church.”

The final words on the church’s new sign indicate that the church welcomes all parishioners, regardless of their age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme goes a little further in its signage, as can be seen in the photo below right.affirming_sign

Our unscientific poll suggests there have been a few objections in both churches to the signs, but most parishioners seem comfortable with them.

It is interesting that both churches have chosen to present their respective new signs at a similar time.

We can only speculate on the catalyst for the timing since we have not investigated it.

Whether or not these “open and affirming” statements made by two Congregational churches in relatively close proximity with one another will now be adopted by other Congregational churches across the country remains to seen.

Dear readers, as always, we welcome your thoughts …

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Essex Garden Club Decorates the Town for the Holidays

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ESSEX — In preparation for the holidays, the Essex Garden club members decorated merchant window boxes, the “silent Policeman” and  tubs of the villages of Essex .  Using a variety of evergreen cuttings from members and other generous donors from the community, the Garden Club helped the town put on a festive face for the “Trees in the Rigging” held Nov. 27,  and the Holiday Stroll, Dec. 9 and  10.

Thanks to both Liz Fowler and Suzanne Tweed for their efforts in coordinating the day of decorating.

Finally, The Essex Garden Club would like to thank the Essex community for its continued support, especially during our spring May Market and extends best wishes to all the resident of Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton for a Healthy and Happy New Year.

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See ‘The Bells of Dublin Part III’ at Ivoryton Through Dec. 18

bellsofdublin2016

Michael Hotkowski and Maggie McGlone Jennings in “The Bells of Dublin Part III” Photo by Anne Hudson.

If you have loved following the escapades and adventures of Paddy Bell and his family in The Bells of Dublin at the Ivoryton Playhouse, then you won’t want to miss the third play in the trilogy. And even if you are new to the story, you will enjoy their exploits as Paddy brings the whole family to New York for Christmas. Carols and Irish songs and even a little vaudeville to warm your heart and get you in the spirit of the season.

It’s Christmas Eve in O’Lunney’s Pub in New York. Maggie, the bag lady who roams the neighborhood around 50th and Broadway, settles into O’Lunney’s doorway to weave a story with a cast of characters from here and across the ocean. The Bells of Dublin has become an Ivoryton tradition and has garnered rave reviews from our patrons. Here is one of the many comments received –

“The Bells of Dublin – Part II is truly one of Ivoryton’s most entertaining, fun, and meaningful Christmas play we’ve seen in a long time!  It had every facet and emotions of Life and Family!  Laughter galore, yet moving and truthful. I can’t wait for Part III!”

The Bells of Dublin, Parts I, II & III  were conceived and directed by Playhouse Executive/Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard. “For 345 days a year, we work around the clock here – maintaining this beautiful building and producing 7 amazing professional shows. The holiday show is our chance to have some fun! I wanted to put together a show with some great music – traditional Irish and American – a little bit of magic and a lot of laughs. So – here ‘tis!”

This funny and fantastic tale is filled with songs you know and songs you wish you did – with a wonderful band of local musicians beautifully directed by Melanie Guerin, who also arranged much of the music. Cast includes many Playhouse favorites – R. Bruce Connelly*, Michael McDermott*, Maggie McGlone Jennings, Vanessa Vradenburgh, Ted Philips and Norm Rutty from the local band Save the Train, Jenna Berloni, Nancy and David Cardone, Emma Hunt, Olivia Harry, Alec Bandzes, Vickie Blake, Larry Lewis, Michael Hotkowski, Dylan Vallier and Celeste Cumming. The set for this production is designed by Dan Nischan, costumes by Elizabeth Cipollina and lights by Marcus Abbott.

Come and experience the true magic of the season Ivoryton style with this original Christmas musical – for two weeks only.

The Bells of Dublin Part III: A New York Fairytale runs through Dec. 18, for two weeks. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Evening performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There is also a Wednesday matinee on Dec. 14.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

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Essex Rotary Club Donates $5,000 to Meals on Wheels

From left to right, Essex Rotary President, Jordan Welles, presents a check to Estuary Council Executive Director, Paul Doyle.

Essex Rotary President, Jordan Welles (left), presents a check to Estuary Council Executive Director, Paul Doyle.

The Essex Rotary Club generously donated $5,000 to the Estuary Council of Seniors Meals on Wheels program at their Oct. 4 Rotary dinner meeting in Essex. The $5,000 donation will help to ensure that Meals on Wheels will continue without any interruption of service to those in need along the shoreline. The Estuary Council, like many providers in the country, has had cuts to their funding.

While other providers have created waiting lists for seniors requesting meals, the Estuary has remained committed to getting meals to anyone from their service area who calls. The Estuary Council of Seniors serves both Meals on Wheels and congregate meals in the nine-town Estuary Region. During the fiscal year October 2015 – September 2016, the Estuary will have served approximately 80,000 home delivered and congregate meals to area seniors in the nine towns that they serve, including Essex.

The Estuary Council expresses their sincerest thanks to the Essex Rotary for their support.

For more information about the many services provided by the Estuary Council of Seniors, please call 860-388-1611.

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Literacy Volunteers Announce Graduation of Fall Training Class of Tutuors

AREAWIDE — Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore is pleased to announce the graduation of the Fall training class of tutors.  Tutors are trained through comprehensive nationally accredited workshop sessions held by Literacy Volunteers. On completion of workshop sessions, trainees receive certification as a tutor and are assigned a mentor for support and guidance.

Trained volunteer tutors are matched with students in English as a Second Language or Basic Reading. Tutors carry out our mission of providing one-on-one tutoring to anyone seeking to improve their English skills.

Through our services, students become acclimated to our culture and language resulting in becoming productive, happy, members of our community. There is no cost to the student.

The 2016 Fall class of tutors consisted of Joseph Hines of Branford, Sara Davis and Peg Reyer of Chester, Muriel Moore and Dr. Susan Seider of Clinton, Chip Lowery, Michele Millham and Ron Repetti of Guilford, Susan Hosack of Essex, Sheila Meyers of Ivoryton, Jeanette Kehoe Allen, Beth Baird, Paul Diwik, Dan Mulvey and Susan Graves of Madison, Kathy Lee of Old Saybrook and Brian Clampet of Westbrook.

Tutor training is underwritten by grants from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and the Westbrook Foundation.

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Estuary Senior Center Seeks Volunteer ‘Meals on Wheels’ Drivers

AREAWIDE — The Estuary Council of Seniors Regional Senior Center provides Meals on Wheels to seniors living along the shoreline.  The Estuary delivers meals to Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.

The Estuary Senior Center is looking for volunteer drivers to help deliver meals to homebound seniors. Set schedules can be arranged. Training will be provided. A valid driver’s license and reliable car is required.

Contact Carol Andanti at 860-388-1611 x217.

The Estuary thanks you for making a difference in your community.

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VRHS’s Ginny King Honored as Connecticut’s “PE Teacher of the Year”

On Nov. 17, Ginny King of Valley Regional High School was honored with the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

On Nov. 17, Ginny King of Valley Regional High School was honored with the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

REGION 4 — The Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) held the Annual Fall Conference on Nov. 17 and 18 and Awards Banquet on Nov. 17, at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell, Conn.

Among the honorees was Virginia King, Physical Education teacher at Valley Regional High School (VRHS) in Deep River, who received the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

A graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University with a B.S. degree in Physical Education with a Health minor, King continued her Education at the University of Connecticut with a M.S. degree in Sport Management and Leisure Studies. She has 24 years of teaching experience at VRHS in Deep River. In addition to her teaching duties, King is the Regional School District #4 Health and Physical Education Department Coordinator for Grades 7-12.

King has deep content knowledge, a fine repertoire of pedagogical skills, and contagious enthusiasm for teaching and learning. She has spearheaded a transformation in curriculum and course offerings that has created a more personalized approach for high school students.

The primary focus of the curriculum is lifelong fitness through lessons that embrace standards in an atmosphere that is fun, engaging and supportive. PE Fit is an elective course characterized by goal setting by students, exposure to a variety of fitness activities, guest instructors, and field trips to local fitness centers. A Recreation and Leisure unit was developed to include lifelong leisure activities that promote 21st century learning skills to help the students better meet academic, social and civic expectations within physical education.

Students are encouraged to participate in and then teach these activities to friends and family outside of school hours to promote a better sense of community. Seniors may take an additional physical education course as a Physical Education Assistant/Student Leader. These students assist with such teaching duties as taking attendance, setting up and distributing equipment, officiate, disseminate handouts and reading materials, run round robin tournaments, and work one on one with students that need help with game skills or weight room techniques. This modern curriculum has fostered a transformation in student attitude.

Since becoming a certified Zumba Fitness and Zumba Toning instructor, King introduced the group exercise program into the Wednesday Cardio Workout Sessions for every block of the day at VRHS. Students are enthusiastically engaged through her excellent presentation skills, sense of humor and abundant energy. She has expanded the Zumba instruction into a cross curricular unit with the Spanish class and held Zumba sessions during halftime at home football games.

King has contributed to the school community in many ways: she was a BEST Portfolio scorer; Assistant Girls’ Basketball Coach; Head Volleyball Coach; Athletic Director; is a TEAM mentor teacher, cooperating teacher; intramural Spring sports director; intramural weight room director; member of NEASC sub-committee; Team Handball Tournament Director for VRHS Heart of a PE Warrior Scholarship.

Her service to the greater community includes: free Zumba session for Camp Hazen’s YMCA Women’s Wellness Weekend Retreat; guest lecturer at CCSU; charity Zumba session Chester Fire Hose Company for a VRHS scholarship fundraiser; Zumbathon for Chester Elementary School PTO; Zumbathon for breast cancer at Ifoundfitness; and community projects with the Tri-Town Youth Services Bureau.

Committed to excellence and developing herself as a professional, she is fully committed to providing students with a rigorous and relevant learning experience. CTAHPERD is highly honored to recognize Virginia “Ginny” Mislick King as High School Teacher of the Year for 2016.

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Letter to the Editor: Many Thanks in This Season of Giving

To the Editor:

The Essex Community Fund recently joined together with the Essex Police Department for our annual Stuff-a-Cruiser event to benefit the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Colonial Market shoppers were asked for their help to Stuff-a-Cruiser by purchasing a few extra items with their regular groceries. As always, people in our community were extremely generous with almost 1,700 pounds of food collected. Special thanks to the Essex Boy Scouts and Shoreline Soup Kitchen volunteers who helped with the off-loading and sorting of it all at the Congregational Church in Old Saybrook site that evening.

Thank you to everyone for their generosity in this season of giving. If you didn’t get a chance to participate or if you’d like to give again, join us at our next Stuff-a-Cruiser event – Friday, December 16, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Colonial Market. The John Winthrop Middle School Choir will be singing carols as we aim to collect 2,000 pounds of food!

Jean Schneider,
Essex.

Editor’s Note:
The writer is President of the Essex Community Fund.

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Women Playwright’s Initiative Taking Shape at Ivoryton Playhouse, Director Submissions Now Sought

IVORYTON:  In February 2016, Laura Copland, Director of Play Development, and Jacqui Hubbard, Executive/Artistic Director of The Ivoryton Playhouse, began talks about creating a safe environment for women playwrights to workshop their plays with professional actors and directors. The Ivoryton Playhouse is excited to announce the 2017 inaugural festival of the Women Playwright’s Initiative. The workshopping festival runs from Feb. 26 to March 4, 2017. Staged readings of the winning scripts will take place on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4, 2017 at The Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT, followed by discussions with playwrights, actors and directors.

A call for one act plays went out on the League of Professional Theatre Women’s website and was picked up across the country. By the submission deadline of Sept. 15, the Initiative received 183 scripts. The scripts hailed from all over the United States and Canada, even Israel.

For Ms. Copland, who read all of the plays, this experience has been humbling and inspiring. “All these women!  All these women expressing in dialogue and conflict, their passion, intelligence, yearning, anger, hurt, love, and humor. Women are a force! It has been my honor to read their work.”

The time constraints of one week rehearsal and two nights of staged readings permitted no more than two hour-long plays, and two shorter plays. After wrenching deliberation, thirteen plays were under consideration. Many fascinating plays with potential had to be eliminated. The small committee included Ms. Copland, Ms. Hubbard, Susan McCann, Box Office Manager at The Ivoryton Playhouse, Margaret McGlone Jennings, director, teacher and actor and Brooks Appelbaum, director and theatre critic.

Four terrific plays were selected. The committee is proud of the choices and looks forward to working with the playwrights, cast, and directors in what we hope will be a successful inaugural season of the Ivoryton Playhouse’s Women Playwright’s Initiative.

The Playhouse is now seeking submissions from local directors. The deadline for resume submissions is Nov. 30, 2016. Submit to Laura Copland at laurac@ivorytonplayhouse.org. (Calls for local actors will be in January, 2017.)

For more information about the Women’s Playwright Initiative, contact Jacqueline Hubbard, Executive Director, The Ivoryton Playhouse, at 860-767-9502 or jhubbard@ivorytonplayhouse.org

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Letter to the Editor: Thoughts on the Day After Election Day

To the Editor:

I did not vote for Sec. Clinton or now President Elect Trump. Neither made me feel hopeful. I voted Libertarian; not because I fully believe in their platform, but because if enough people voted for them, their candidate for President in 2020 would get a podium in the National Debates. Didn’t happen. Oh well. I got up Wednesday morning, looked outside and hoped for a little rain. Turned on the local news. Scott Haney still makes me laugh. Took my shoes to my repair shop, but they can’t be fixed. They had a little life left, so I asked if there was charity that might take them. He said homeless men hang around and he would give my shoes to one of them. I felt good. The young women at Dunkin called me young man as she gave me the senior discount. Yes, I gave her a tip. I went to the office where half the workers are women with many in upper management and we’re all on the same pay scale. I saw my co-worker with incomplete quadriplegia in his motorized wheel chair approaching and we had a chance to chat. We don’t see each other since he changed departments. This is what the morning after a change in power in America looks like. And thank God for that.

Sincerely,

Mel Seifert,
Chester.

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Letter to the Editor: Ivoryton Library Board of Trustees Thanks Community for Tremendous Support of Pumpkin Chase

To the Editor:

The Ivoryton Library Board of Trustees would like to sincerely thank the so many people of the Valley/Shore community who attended the Ivoryton Pumpkin Chase this past weekend. Even the rainy Saturday morning could not dull the fun spirit of our athletes or the beauty of Ivoryton in autumn.

Our library is equally grateful for the generosity of so many of our community groups who helped make this important fundraiser possible including Phil Shaller of Signs and Digital Graphics of Deep River for our new logo and signage, Box Bistro for our apple pie awards, as well as Norm Needleman and Jacqui Hubbard for their steadfast financial
support. There were also numerous local businesses we would like to acknowledge including Kohls, SNAP Fitness, the Clark Group, Guilford Savings Bank, the Ivoryton Playhouse, Essex Savings Bank, the Law Office of Christopher Morano, Essex Hardware, and Polito and Associates.

Collaboration between the Essex Parks and Recreation, the Essex Land Trust, the Ivoryton Alliance, Officer Tretter and the Essex Police Department and the Valley Shore YMCA all helped to make the lovely fall weekend a model for community at its best.

Our Library Board and volunteers worked tirelessly to efficiently and warmly host our patrons from near and far. Please be on the lookout for news of exciting changes and enhancements to our race next year!

Sincerely,

Chris Pagliuco,
Ivoryton.

Editor’s Note: The author served as Race Director of the Ivoryton Pumpkin Chase.

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Letter to the Editor: Sen. Art Linares Thanks Area Voters

To the Editor:

Representing the people of the 33rd State Senate District at the State Capitol is an incredible honor.

I consider myself so fortunate to be a voice at the State Capitol for the people of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

I will work with anyone from any political party to restore business confidence and hope, to revive Connecticut’s economy, and to make Connecticut the place where families and seniors and retirees want to invest their futures.

I love this state, and I know you do too.  That’s why I am so energized to improve our state’s policies.

Thank you for your continued support, and I encourage you to never hesitate to contact me with your ideas, comments and concerns at Art.Linares@cga.ct.gov or at 800 842-1421.

Sincerely,

Art Linares
Westbrook

Editor’s Note: The author was reelected for a third term to the position of State Senator for the 33rd District on Tuesday.

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