December 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The joy of chocolate in Chester – Dec. 21

“Feste di Cioccolata” will be celebrated at Ceramica on Sunday, Dec. 21. The shop’s free weekly drawing prize is this beautiful gift basket full of chocolate plus ceramiche.   Stop in to leave your name and email address in the gift drawing box.

“Feste di Cioccolata” will be celebrated at Ceramica on Sunday, Dec. 21. The shop’s free weekly drawing prize is this beautiful gift basket full of chocolate plus ceramiche. Stop in to leave your name and email address in the gift drawing box.

Who doesn’t love chocolate?!

Chester celebrates the joy of chocolate at its Chocolate Festival in picturesque Chester Center on Sunday, Dec. 21, the last day of the town’s annual Holiday Market.

You can find chocolate to eat, chocolate to drink, even chocolate to paint at the Chocolate Festival. Enjoy tasting the chocolate fondue at Bell’Oliva, Chester’s longest brownie at Lark, homemade chocolate chip cookies at Al Malpa’s Photography Gallery and Cadbury’s Fudge Bars at Annie Glover’s British Foods & Gifts. Grownups, go sample a sip of Meletti Cioccolato (called a “decadent and intensely rich chocolatey spirit”) at Chester Package Store between noon and 2 p.m.

Celebrate Chester’s Chocolate Festival with River Tavern’s famous chocolate soufflé served (not usually served at lunch), along with chocolate martinis and Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout.

Celebrate Chester’s Chocolate Festival with River Tavern’s famous chocolate soufflé served (not usually served at lunch), along with chocolate martinis and Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout.

And when you get chilly, duck inside The Cupcakery for a luscious chocolate cupcake and then warm up with a cup of hot chocolate from The Villager or a chocolate martini or Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout at River Tavern.

Maple and Main Gallery artist Jan Blencowe will lead a free sketching session of the chocolate display at the gallery from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or till the chocolate is gone). Bring drawing materials to draw along with Jan or just come to watch – and consume!

During  Chester’s Holiday Market Chocolate Festival, Lori Warner Gallery hosts Chef Priscilla Martel, renowned for co-owning the famed Restaurant du Village in Chester and  more recently as a food consultant and cookbook writer. Christine Chesanek of Fromage in Old Saybrook will provide chocolate for tasting. (Photo by Priscilla Martel)

During Chester’s Holiday Market Chocolate Festival, Lori Warner Gallery hosts Chef Priscilla Martel, renowned for co-owning the famed Restaurant du Village in Chester and more recently as a food consultant and cookbook writer. Christine Chesanek of Fromage in Old Saybrook will provide chocolate for tasting. (Photo by Priscilla Martel)

The Chester Holiday Market is all about having fun while shopping in a festive setting. Market hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the shops are open all day. Free parking is available in two public parking lots, an easy walk to town. More info is at http://chestersundaymarket.jimdo.com/, Facebook.com/ChesterHolidayMarket and Facebook.com/VisitChesterCT.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rotary 2014 Thanksgiving Dinner Drive Check Presentation

Rotary 2014 Thanksgiving Dinner Drive Check Presentation

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

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

Letter: Chester – Library, Trees, Roosters and Guns

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Dean Amato
Chester

Sweet Honey in the Rock to Perform in Chester on MLK Weekend

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SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK, photo by Dwight Carter

Luring the Grammy Award nominated and internationally adored African-American singers, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK, to perform during the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend was a dream of Miriam Gardner-Frum, longtime director of the Chester concert series, Music & More.    The concert will be held on Sunday, January 18 at 3:00 pm at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek.

There are of course many ways to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, but one the most meaningful, Miriam thought, would be through the uplifting harmonies of SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK, or as one music critic wrote, “The GOLD STANDARD… Their voices are all fabulous, and they unite to create a sound so pure and smooth and homogeneous that is does not seem humanly possible.”

Over the years, Miriam has brought many remarkable musicians to Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ), and she saw her opportunity with Sweet Honey when she read that the group had received an award from Common Ground, an organization that recognizes exceptional efforts in humanitarian work.

As a supporter of Common Ground’s work, Miriam saw the stars aligned – potentially. “I thought how amazing it would be to have them here in our beautiful synagogue. They combine two exceptional features – great a capella music that lifts hearts even as it calls attention to great injustices of our world. This seemed a natural fit for us at CBSRZ.  Through our Social Action efforts, we do much work along those lines as well.”

But of course theory and practice are not easy to reconcile. For Miriam, there were logistics to address in scheduling and in daunting terms of the performance contract.

“When I first contacted their agent, it didn’t seem possible that we could do this, but we worked with them, and they were very helpful, and here we are!  I am grateful for their flexibility, and that they are eager to come to a synagogue and help spread the message of love that Dr. King expressed.”

Carol Maillard, one of the founding members of the group and still singing with it, says that Sweet Honey has celebrated Dr. King’s birthday in concert many times but never in a synagogue. She says, “We’re very excited about coming and we hope that folks will come with an open mind and heart. We hope they’ll feel uplifted and won’t be afraid to show they’re having a good time.”

The name of the performance group was indeed derived from a song, based on Psalm 81:16, which tells of a land so rich that when rocks were cracked open, honey flowed from them.

SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK is rooted in African American history and culture. The ensemble educates, entertains and empowers its audience and community through the dynamic vehicles of a cappella singing and American Sign Language interpretation for the Deaf and hearing impaired. Sweet Honey’s audience and community comes from diverse backgrounds and cultures throughout the United States and around the world, and includes people of all ages.

Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, spiritual leader of CBSRZ, says this concert is a perfect way to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.  “We honor him every year because of the Jewish People’s historical commitment to the struggle for human rights. But more importantly, we recommit ourselves to the ongoing work of demanding justice and equal treatment for all people living in this country.”

Tickets for the general public are $30 and advance ticket purchases are highly recommended.  For more information, please call CBSRZ at 860.526.8920.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chester Main Street Bridge Reconstruction Expected to Begin 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Glastonbury Firm Buys Assets of Chester Insurance Business

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

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

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

About Smith Brothers Insurance, LLC

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

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

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

Gun Rights Supporters Voice Opposition to Requested Chester Shooting Ordinance

CHESTER— Gun enthusiasts packed the Chester Meeting House Tuesday to express opposition to a requested municipal ordinance that would prohibit target shooting and discharge of a firearm in residential neighborhoods.

But a smaller group of residents expressed support for an ordinance, or some other restrictions, that would regulate the shooting that is frequently occurring on a nine-acre Wig Hill Road parcel that is owned by a Deep River resident. More than 150 residents, including some non-residents, turned out for a public information meeting that was called by the board of selectmen in response to a petition submitted in August by more than a dozen residents living near the Wig Hill Road property. The board of selectmen has taken no position on the requested ordinance.

The undeveloped parcel, owned by Deep River resident Warren Elliot, contains a fixed trap target shoot area that neighbors contend is a heavily used rifle range. John Ratchford, whose 85 Wig Hill Road property abuts the Elliot parcel, said an ordinance would enhance public safety by clarifying what type of shooting is allowed in a residential neighborhood. His wife, Sally, said the frequent sound of gunfire from large rifles has driven her indoors on sunny days.  Marzena Adams said she is concerned for the safety of visitors and children in the neighborhood, noting “it only takes one bullet.” Cynthia Monahan said she is “all for guns but I’m not for shooting in may back yard.”

Other residents, including many gun owners and some who shoot on the Elliott property, said any town ordinance would be unnecessary and could not be tailored to the topographical conditions of Chester. Some said target shooting should be expected in a rural town like Chester, and one resident compared the request for a shooting ordinance to a  controversial 2012 request from one resident for a zoning regulation to prohibit hens and roosters in residential areas.

Jason LaMark, of 62-1 Wig Hill Road, said a small hill separates the shooting area from any nearby homes that he contends are nearly 500 feet away. LaMark said existing state laws already prohibit reckless discharge of a firearms, and noted conditions on the Eilliot property have been monitored by police. He added that no rural towns in Connecticut have a local shooting ordinance.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, who has also inspected the Elliot property, said  he believes the shooting “is being conducted in a safe way,”  based on differences in elevation and distance to nearby homes. Meehan said the board would discuss the shooting issue further at a future meeting, while also noting that any possible ordinance would require approval from voters at a town meeting.

Based on the volume of applause for speakers on both side of the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, a shooting ordinance would be unlikely to win voter approval at a town meeting. But resident Joe Cohen, speaking at a selectmen’s meeting that followed the public information meeting, said the shooting activity on Wig Hill Road is a land use issue. Cohen said selectmen should have investigated regulating the activity through that avenue before calling an information meeting on an ordinance.

Oct. 21 Information Meeting on Shooting Ordinance to be Held at Chester Meeting House

CHESTER— The Oct. 21 public information meeting on a possible municipal ordinance regulating target shooting in residential neighborhoods will be held at the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. The location of the meeting is a change because most town meetings over the 18 months have been held in a second floor meeting room that was constructed after interior renovations to the town hall on Route 154.

The board of selectmen scheduled the session in response to a petition submitted in August signed by about 30 residents requesting consideration of a town ordinance that would limit and regulate target shooting and discharge of a firearm in Chester. Most of the petitioners were from the Wig Hill Road-Baker Road neighborhood, with many objecting to shooting that is occurring at one residential property in the area. First Selectman Edmund Meehan will present information at the meeting on shooting ordinances that are in place at other cities and towns in Connecticut.

November Town Meeting Expected for Funding Votes on Chester Main Street Project

CHESTER— The board of selectmen is expected to schedule a November town meeting for votes on funding components for the Main Street East Project, including votes on accepting state grants for the project and authorizing the use of set aside town capital funds for the project that includes reconstruction of an 1,800-foot section of Main Street east of the downtown village.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan told the board of selectmen Tuesday that project engineers with Kent & Frost Associates of Mystic are expected to have nearly complete design plans for the project ready later this month. The project is scheduled for an advisory review by the planning and zoning commission at aNov. 13 meeting.

The estimated $1 million project calls for reconstructing an 1,800-foot section of Main Street from the intersection with Route 154 west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. The project drew some opposition at an April public information meeting held by the Main Street Project committee, which is coordinating the project along with plans for additional reconstruction and improvements to Main Street in the coming years. Some residents, including one property owner, had objected to plans for a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street that would require removal of some mature trees.

Meehan said project engineers are working with all property owners on the street to reach agreement on final design plans. Officials hope to put the project out to bid during the winter for a start of construction in spring 2015.

Meehan said town meeting approval is required to formally accept two state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants awarded for the project, including a $450,000 grant awarded last April and a $333,000 grant that was redirected from funds left over from a previous grant that paid for construction of a new public water main on a northerly section of Route 154. He said a second vote is required to authorize release and use of $375,000 in town capital improvements funding that had been set aside for the project over several fiscal years.

The board Tuesday deferred setting a specific date for the town meeting, preferring to wait until after the board of finance considers the various funding components at an Oct. 16 meeting. Meehan said he wants to hold the town meeting after the Nov. 13 planning and zoning session, but before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Chester Fair Photo Winners Represent 11 Connecticut Towns

Winner of the 2014 Special Theme - A Child’s Perspective.  The photo is titled ‘Bumper Crop’ and was taken by Stuart Johnson of Chester

Winner of the 2014 Special Theme – A Child’s Perspective. The photo is titled ‘Bumper Crop’ and was taken by Stuart Johnson of Chester

The 135th Annual Chester Fair was again a showcase for amateur photographers from both near and far. A total of 73 adult and youth photographers entered a total of 292 prints at this year’s exhibition and competition.

Photo Superintendent Skip Hubbard said, “We annually attract entries from a wide area.  This year’s top winners alone represented 11 towns.”

For those wishing to look ahead, in addition to the standard categories, ‘Architecture’ will be the Special Theme category for 2015.

The 2014 blue ribbon and special award winners were as follows:

Black & White Photography

People: Lesa Soja (Higganum)

General Interest: Joyce Kjos (Clinton)

Best in Show (B&W): Joyce Kjos

Color Photography

People:  Mary Jane Monahan (Naugatuck)

Animals: Robin Ehle-Meyer ((Centerbrook)

General Interest: William Perrelli (Hamden)

Flowers:  Jonathan Steele (Ivoryton)

Landscapes / Seascapes: Jonathan Steele

Fair:  Diane Lindsay (Chester)

Youth ages 1-12:  Caroline Haskins (Essex)

Youth ages 13-16:  Madeline Gifford (Killingworth)

Theme 1 – Two Colors:  Judy Denberg (Marlborough)

Theme 2 – A Child’s Perspective:  Stuart Johnson (Chester)

Best in Show (Color): Jonathan Steele

Special Awards

Joseph’s Photography Award for Achievement: Dama DeManche (Chester)

Devlin Photography Award: Jonathan Steele

Ken Kells Youth Photo Award: Meaghan Akehurst (Chester)

 

Chester Fair Scholarship Winners

Bailey Baisel receives her scholarship from the Chester Fair.

Bailey Baisel receives her scholarship from the Chester Fair.

The Chester Agricultural and Mechanical Society (Chester Fair) Board of Directors is pleased to announce its 2014 Scholarship winners.  This year there are three recipients, each receiving a $500 scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year.

Bailey Basiel of Durham, participated in the Chester Fair for several years entering her dairy cows.  She will be attending University of New Hampshire in the fall.   Aliza Dube of Deep River is currently enrolled at the University of Maine in Farmington and has completed her freshman year.  She is majoring in elementary education.   The third recipient, Stephanie Groves of Wallingford, is attending Springfield College and studying to be a Physical Therapist.

A portion of the proceeds of the Chester Wine and Beer Tasting Event held in June is applied toward this scholarship fund.  Scholarship applications are accepted though May 15th annually.

Application forms and instructions can be found under ‘About Us’ (Forms and Instructions) at the fair’s website: www.chesterfair.org.

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

Bjornberg1

Emily Bjornberg, Democratic candidate for the 33rd Senate Seat

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

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

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

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

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

 

Master Plan Suggests Library Site for Chester’s North Quarter Park

Chester Library Is Considering an Expansion

Chester Library Is Considering an Expansion (photo by Jerome Wilson)

CHESTER— A proposed master plan has identified a potential site for a new library and other possible improvements for the town’s North Quarter Park. The plan recommended by the town’s North Quarter Park committee was presented to about 25 residents at a public information meeting Wednesday.

The plan for the 22-acre park on the eastern end of Main Street was prepared over the past eight weeks by landscape architects Richter & Cegan Inc. of Avon. A key component of the plan suggests locating a two-story, 8,000-square foot library on the front section of the parcel, with the main entrance from a proposed 50 space parking area in back of the building.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the plan would help guide the efforts of a separate library building committee that is currently working to develop preliminary plans for a new library building in time to meet an August 29 deadline for submitting an application for a state library construction grant of up to $1 million. “The committees are working together to do sufficient work to be positioned well for the grant application,” he said. The library building committee has recommended hiring LLB Architects (Lerner, Lads & Bartells) of Pawtucket, R.I. to prepare preliminary design plans for the library building.

Landscape architect Mike Cegan outlined other possible improvements for the park, including a pavilion and lawn area, a multi-purpose improved recreation field and trails that would provide access to the northern section of the park that has views of tidal wetlands and Chester Creek. The existing children’s playground would be relocated, with the site of the former community center building that has frontage on Route 154 recommended as the location for a parks and recreation storage shed. There would be no improvements in wetlands areas.

The proposed master plan drew a generally positive response from residents at the meeting, though two residents continued to question the decision made earlier this year by the board of selectmen and library board of trustees to abandon plans for a renovation and expansion of the existing 1907 library building on West Main Street (Route 148).

Joe Cohen contended there are “too many moving parts” to the library/park project and a separate plan to reconstruct a section of Main Street from the intersection with Route 154 to the entrance of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. Cohen also questioned the total cost of the library project and possible park improvements.

Meehan said securing the state grant that is awarded in November would be a major step in lining up funding for construction of a new library, though a bonding authorization would also be required to pay for construction of the new building. Meehan said the town could pursue completion of other improvements at the park “over time” by setting aside funds in the annual town budget’s capital improvements plan, and seeking other grant funding.

Local Authors Donate to the Chester Chapter American Legion

From left to right; Art Christensen, Bob Sumner, Todd Curry, Christopher Abbott and Jerry LaMark (Photo taken by Bruce Watrous)

From left to right; Art Christensen, Bob Sumner, Todd Curry, Christopher Abbott and Jerry LaMark (Photo taken by Bruce Watrous)

Authors Todd A. Curry and Christopher D. Abbott have donated a portion of their profits from one of their recently released thrillers, to the Chester Chapter American Legion, Post 97. The donation is to offset the cost of flags that Legion members place on the graves of our fallen soldiers.

For more than 200 years, Old Glory has served as a symbol of our Nation’s freedom and as a source of pride for our citizens. On “Flag-day” we recognize our veterans who served to protect the flag. We honor those many soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice, in the name of Liberty, Unity, and Justice. The members of the American legion, post 97 in Chester, are just a few of the 800,000 members of the National American Legion, who volunteer millions of hours of their time yearly.

Curry and Abbott wanted to recognize the sacrifices these veterans make, and express their gratitude to the Legion members who volunteer their time. They decided to make the donation to the Legion, in order to help offset the cost of the flags. Curry, a veteran himself, said: “The guys here in Chester are all War heroes who never ask for anything themselves. They simply move forward every day volunteering time to help their brother and sister veterans, and their families.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Chester American Legion can do so by Jerry LaMark or mail a contribution to American Legion, PO Box 54, Chester, Ct 06412

Anyone interested in purchasing “Revolting Tales” can find links to it here: www.cdanabbott.com/ buymybooks.html

Chester Town Meeting Approves $12.5 Million Town/Schools Budget Plan for 2014-2015

CHESTER— The spring budget season ended quietly Thursday night as voters at the annual budget meeting approved a $12,507,736 budget plan for 2014-2015. About 40 residents turned out for the meeting, with the budget and a related $350,000 transfer of funds for capital projects approved on unanimous voice votes.

The spending package includes a $3,649,681 town government budget, a $342,670 capital expenditure plan, a $4,150,677 appropriation for Chester Elementary School, and the town’s $4,364,508 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 budget was approved by voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 6 referendum.

The spending plan that won quick approval Thursday will require a property tax rate of 24.82 mills, an increase of 2.87 mills from the current tax rate of 21.95 mills. The new rate represents $24.82 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The hike in the mill rate was driven by a 12 percent decrease in the grand list of taxable property that resulted from the townwide property revaluation completed last year.

But the drop in assessed values for residential property that came with the revaluation is also expected to cover or limit any increase in tax bills resulting from the new and higher mill rate. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said 57 percent of all property owners will have a decrease in their tax bill, while some total bills will remain the same or have a small increase.

Meehan said the selectmen and board of finance endorsed two transfers from the town undesignated fund balance to limit the need for additional tax revenue and calculate the tax rate at 24.82 mills. There was a direct transfer of $13,287, and an additional transfer of $350,000 to prefund capital projects for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 budget years
The transfer for capital projects, which was approved on a unanimous voice vote, includes $300,000 for road and sidewalk repairs, $150,000 in 2014-2015 and $150,000 in 2015-2016, and $50,000 for repairs and code compliance improvements at town buildings. The transfer is expected to leave about $1.8 million in the fund balance on June 30, 2015.

Chester Selectmen Stand by Main Street Project with North Side Sidewalk

CHESTER— The board of selectmen Wednesday approved plans for the Main Street East project that include a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the road that has drawn objections from some residents in recent weeks.

The board accepted the recommendation of the volunteer Main Street Project Committee to direct project engineers to prepare final design plans that would include the north side sidewalk. The decision was unanimous and bipartisan, with Republican Selectman Tom Englert joining Democratic First Selectman Edmund Meehan and Democratic Selectman Larry Sypher in the vote.

The Main Street East Project, the first phase of a long-planned reconstruction of Main Street through the downtown village, calls for reconstructing 1,800 linear feet of Main Street from the entrance to the Laurel Hill Cemetery east to the intersection with Middlesex Avenue (Route 148). The committee’s recommendation for a continuous north side sidewalk, made in March, drew a mixed response from residents at a well-attended April 22 public information meeting

Project engineers with the Mystic firm Kent & Frost Associates presented alternative plans at the session, with most of the discussion focused on the north side sidewalk option that would require some changes to residential properties at 131 and 137 Main Street. Many of the objections focused on the need to remove three mature maple tree in the vicinity of 131 Main St. and the School Lane intersection. But other residents supported the plan for a continuous north side sidewalk and safer and more convenient for pedestrians, particularly with the possibility the town will pursue construction of a new library on a section of North Quarter Park that is located off the north side of the street.

The property owners at 131 Main St., David and Lisa Meade, have expressed a willingness to accept the sidewalk with tree removal and work with the committee and engineers on landscape improvements and replacement of the trees. The property owners at 137 Main St., Jeff and Comer Gates, continue to oppose the project plans.

Comer Gates and three other residents continued to voice objections to the north side sidewalk before the board’s vote Wednesday. Henry Krempel suggested delaying a decision on the north side sidewalk until after plans and funding for a new library at North Quarter park receive approval from town voters.

But Meehan said the Main Street reconstruction is “long overdue,” with the north side sidewalk a much safer long range improvement for pedestrians. He noted all work for the four-foot wide sidewalk would be in the town’s right of way, with no need for taking of any private property for the project. Meehan said the town remains willing to work with both property owners, and pick up the cost for landscaping improvements on their properties.
Englert, who served briefly as acting first selectman in 2011, said he had initial concerns about the north side sidewalk, but was convinced by comments from residents at the April 22 information meeting that it would be a safer long term improvement for the town by reducing the number of crosswalks between the north and south side of the street.

Meehan said there would be no need for a town meeting vote on the project design plans, though a town meeting vote would be required at a future date to transfer any needed town funding for the project. Most of the project would be funded by about $980,000 in state grant funds, though some additional town funding would likely be needed before the project could be put out to bid. Officials hop to being construction of the Main Street East project in the spring of 2015.
In other business Wednesday, selectmen accepted a volunteer committee’s recommendation to hire the Avon firm Richter & Cegan inc. as the consults for drafting a master plan for North Quarter Park that would include a possible library site The other firm interviewed by the committee Wednesday was Kent & Frost.. Officials want the master plan completed by July 15.

Chester Town and Elementary School Budgets Head for May 22 Town Vote After Quiet Public Hearing

CHESTER— A proposed $3.64 million town government budget and a $4.15 appropriation for Chester Elementary School head for a town meeting vote on May 22 after a quiet public hearing Monday.

Barely a dozen residents turned out for the budget hearing, with no calls for changes or reductions to the spending plans. The town government budget is up by $132,627 over the current appropriation, while the requested budget for the elementary school has decreased by $31,696. The total $12,507,736 spending package also includes a $342,870 capital expenditure plan, and the town’s $4,364,508 share of the Region 4 education budget.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan explained that a sharp 12 percent drop in the grand list of taxable property resulting from last year’s townwide property revaluation would require an increase in the tax rate, though decreases in assessed values for nearly all residential properties would mean that nearly all property owners would see either a decrease, or no change, in their current tax bills. The recommended tax rate for 2014-2015 is 24.82 mills, an increase of 3.87 mills from the current rate of 21.95 mills, The proposed rate represents $24.82 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Meehan said calculations by the assessor and tax collector indicate 57 percent of all property owners would have a decrease in their tax bill, even with the higher mill rate. This total includes 60 percent of all homeowners, 65 percent of all owners of vacant land, and 17 percent of all owners of commercial property. Meehan said the finance board has decided to use about $350,000 in surplus funds to “prepay” for key items in the capital expenditure plan for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. He said this would help limit tax increases for 2014-2015 and subsequent years.

The plan recommended by the board of selectmen and finance board would also transfer $13,287 from the town’s unexpended fund balance to cover spending in the next fiscal year, while leaving an estimated $1.83 million in the fund balance on June 30, 2015. The spending plan also includes $20,000 to fund  architectural design work for a possible new library building in North Quarter Park.

The annual budget meeting to vote on the town government and elementary school budgets is set for Thursday May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the second floor meeting room at town hall. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 6.

A Smooth Transition from Essex to Westbrook for Middlesex Hospital

Exterior of new Emergency Whelen Pavilion in Westbrook

Exterior of new Emergency Whelen Pavilion in Westbrook

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

Closed down Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Essex

Closed down Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Essex

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

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

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

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

 Middlesex Hospital President and CEO On Hand

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

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

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

Chester Town Government and Elementary School Budgets go to Public Hearing

CHESTER— A proposed $3.64 million town government budget and a proposed $4.15 million appropriation for Chester Elementary School will be presented at the annual budget hearing Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting room at town hall.

The $3,649,681 town government budget, which includes a 2.75percent wage/salary increase for town employees and elected officials, is up by $133,626 from the current appropriation. The $4,150,677 budget for Chester Elementary School is down by $31,696 from the current appropriation.

The total $12,507,736 spending package for 2014-2015 also includes a $342,870 capital expenditure plan, and the town’s $4,364,508 share of the Region 4 education budget. The capital plan is down by $30,750. After a sharp drop in the town’s share of the region 4 budget last year because of fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, the Chester share of the proposed Region 4 budget is up by $106,915.

Calculations for the property tax rate have been shaped by the ten-year townwide property revaluation that was completed last year. The revaluation resulted in a, 12 percent drop in the grand list of taxable property, reflecting the decline in property values that followed the Great Recession that began in 2008. More than 90 percent of the town’s residential properties had a decrease in assessed values.

The board of selectmen and finance board, in preparing the spending plan over the past two months, had set a goal of avoiding any actual increase in tax bills for homeowners. While the tax rate is recommended to increase by 3.87 mills, to 24.82 mills from the current rate of 21.95 mills, decreases in assessed values are expected to cover the increase and forestall higher tax bills.

The new rate would represent $24.82 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. With help from a lower share of the Region 4 budget, the tax rate was dropped by one-half mill last year.to fund current spending.

The town and elementary school budgets go to voters for approval at the annual budget meeting on May 22. The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 6.

Main Street East Reconstruction Project Draws Mixed Response at Chester Meeting, Location of New Sidewalks an Issue

CHESTER— The Main Street East reconstruction project drew a mixed reaction from residents an a public information meeting Tuesday, with some residents objecting to plans for a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the road.

About 70- residents turned out for the session held by the town’s volunteer Main Street Project Committee, with residents hearing a presentation by project engineer Kent Frost on two options for a segment of the project that has generated some debate in recent weeks. The project is the first phase of a long-planned project that will later include reconstruction of Main Street in the downtown commercial area. It calls for a reconstruction of 1,800-feet of Main Street from the entrance to the Laurel Hill Cemetery east to the intersection with  Middlesex Avenue (Route 154).

The committee last month gave a preliminary endorsement to constructing a four-foot wide sidewalk from the entrance to the cemetery east to Route 154, while also retaining and improving sidewalk that runs along portions of the south side of the street, including the area in the vicinity of the Chesterfields Health Care Center. The committee decided a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street would enhance pedestrian safety by reducing the need for crossing the street to use sidewalk, though existing crosswalks at the intersection with School Lane and in front of Chesterfields would be retained and improved. Another factor in the panel’s recommendation is the possibility the town would built a new library at North Quarter Park on the north side of the street, bringing increased pedestrian traffic to this section of Main Street.

But some residents have objected to a proposed removal of three mature Maple trees in the vicinity of School Lane and the residential property at 131 Main St., and plans for sidewalk in front of a residential property at 137 Main St., where the existing house is closer to the roadway. A second option presented Tuesday would include improvements to the sidewalk on the south side of the street, but no continuous sidewalk on the north side of the road.

Frost said the property owners at 131 Main Street where the three trees are located, David and Lisa Meade, have offered qualified support for the plan, and a willingness to work with the committee on replacing the trees with newer trees and possible fencing. He said the property owners at 137 Main Street, Jeffrey and Mary Gates, have objected to the plans because of the proximity of the sidewalk to their house, and the need to remove a privacy hedge in front of a portion of their property.

Several residents at the meeting, and five who submitted written statements, expressed support for the continuous sidewalk ion the north side of the street. Most of the objections expressed at the meeting focused on the removal of the three trees, which are within the town’s road right-of-way.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the hedge in front of 137 Main St. is also located within the town right-of-way, and is a liability for the town because it blocks sight line views in the area of the crosswalk from a staff parking lot to the Chesterfields facility. He said the hedge must be removed even if there is no Main Street East reconstruction project.

Meehan said Wednesday the committee, in discussion after the public comment portion of the meeting, expressed a consensus to stand by the original recommendation for a continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street. Meehan said the board of selectmen would discuss the committee’s recommendation further at a meeting next month.
But Meehan also confirmed the debate over sidewalks has delayed an initial goal of putting the project out to bid and beginning construction by this fall. He said construction is now expected to begin in the spring of 2015. The estimated $1 million project is funded by a combination of state grants and some town funding.

Chester Selectmen Appoint Committee to Prepare Plans for a New Library for North Quarter State Park

CHESTER— The board of selectmen has appointed a second volunteer committee to prepare preliminary design plans for a new library at North Quarter Park. The board established the committee at its meeting Tuesday, two weeks after appointing a separate volunteer committee to develop a master plan for use of the 22-acre park located off the north side of Main Street.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said Wednesday the committee, which could have up to nine members, would assist in hiring an architectural firm to prepare preliminary design plans for a building that would house the library, and possibly some other secondary municipal use. Meehan said funding for architectural services would be included in the next town budget that takes effect July 1.

Unlike the North Quarter Park Master Plan Study Committee, which included representatives of the board of finance, planning and zoning commission, and Main Street Project Committee, the second committee is comprised mostly of residents involved with the Chester Public Library. Along with Librarian Linda Fox and library board of trustees chairwoman Terry Schreiber, the committee includes Jean Davies, Richard Harrall, Denny Tovie, Lois Nadel, and Patricia Halloway. Davies, Tovie and Nadel are library trustees or were involved with earlier study committees for a library expansion, while Halloway works as a professional librarian in West Hartford.

After two years of considering options for a renovation and expansion of the historic 1907 library building on West Main Street (Route 148), library supporters agreed over the winter to refocus on the option of building a new library at North Quarter Park. Meehan acknowledged the latest committee could evolve in to a building committee if voters approve plans and funding for a new library building.

The North Quarter Park Master Plan Study Committee is expected to hire a consultant by mid-May to complete a master plan for uses of the park by mid-July, while the second committee should be able to hire an architectural firm by July. Library supporters are hoping the town can make a final decision on a library project before a September deadline to apply for available state grant funding for library building projects.

Meehan said meeting the September deadline for making a town decision on a library project “is going to be tough,” while adding that with the two volunteer committees working with the board of selectmen “we’re going to try” to meet the grant application deadline.

Chester Elementary School Budget Proposed at $4.12 Million, a Decrease from Current Amount

CHESTER— The local board of education has approved a proposed $4,122,077 budget for Chester Elementary School for 2014-2015, a total that is $67,021 less than the current budget appropriation for the school.

Declining enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade school is the major reason for the reduced spending. A current enrollment of 214 students is projected to fall to 200 students by the start of the 2-14-2015 school year. The budget includes savings of $60,430 from staffing changes and $11,693 from a reduction in hours for a physical education teacher position.

But the spending plan include $1,635 for a new part-time extra curricular programs mentor position. There is also $18,000 to replace the sidewalk around the back of the school, and $7,647 for new furnishings, including classroom furniture, library tables, and gymnasium mats. The budget funds 33 full and part- time positions; along with three para-educator positions that are funded by grants.

The budget plan for the elementary school has been reviewed by the board of finance, and will be presented with the proposed town government budget at the annual budget hearing later this month. The elementary school and town government budgets for 2014-2015 will be presented for voter approval at the annual budget meeting in May.

April 22 Public Hearing Meeting Set for Chester Main Street Project, Location of Sidewalks an Issue

CHESTER– The Main Street Project Committee has scheduled an April 22 public information meeting on the latest plans for the Main Street East phase of the multi-year project. The session begins at 7 p.m. in the community room at town hall.

The appointed committee is coordinating the long-planned Main Street reconstruction project, with the first phase calling for reconstruction of about 1,800-square-feet of Main Street from the intersection with Middlesex Avenue (Route 154) west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery. The committee is working with Kent & Frost Associates, a Mystic firm hired by the board of selectmen last fall to prepare engineering design plans with bid documents for the initial phase of the project.

The initial design plans, which were first presented at a public information meeting on Jan. 29, have drawn questions and objections from some residents over tree removals and the location and design of sidewalks on both the north and south sides of the street.. There is currently sidewalk on most of the south side of the street, with several gaps in the sidewalk on the north side of the street..

The committee voted at a meeting last month in favor of constructing a continuous sidewalk, with a width of four-feet in most locations, on the north side of Main Street for the entire length of the project area. The idea of a continuous sidewalk along the north side of the street had drawn a mixed response from about two dozen residents at the March meeting.

With most of an estimated $1 million in funding for the initial phase of the project in place, selectmen and the project committee had been hoping to put phase one of the project out to bid this spring, with construction to begin later this year. Subsequent phases of the project, such as a reconstruction of Main Street in the core downtown village commercial area, are tied to state Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct the Main Street bridge that is not expected to begin until 2016.

Chester Library Hosts Spring Book Discussions

“Views from the South:  Looking Forward, Looking Backward”  will be the subject of this spring’s Mark Johnson Book Discussion Series at Chester Public Library, once again led by Charlotte Rea. Dates for the discussions are Wednesdays, April 30 and May 7, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Former Head of School at the Williams School, Rea’s academic background is in English and theater. She explains her choice of these books for this year’s discussion series. “Thomas Wolfe, writing in the 1920s, Eudora Welty, writing in the ‘40s, and Flannery O’Connor, writing in the ‘50s, all portray a vision of life in rural, small-town South as seen from the inside—inside the family, the friendships, and the community.  Strong nets of family and friends and expectations surround the characters with comfort, love, suspicion, jealousy and exclusivity—as well as a sense of superiority for the civility and civilization that is consciously cultivated in the South.” 

How does this strong sense of connectedness interact with Southern warmth and pride to create a world in which outsiders are viewed with suspicion?  Within this tight world, the characters in these stories yearn for the wider world, for more learning, for greater adventures.  The abundant work ethic and risk-taking behaviors shape the characters’ worlds just as their orthodox views of human behavior control their actions.  How does this tension between yearning for stability and comfort war with the drive to experience the outside world?  What role does the strong sense of the past play as characters shape their own and the region’s futures? 

The rhythmic, rich language of the three authors becomes a way of life and brings great rewards for the reader.

On Wednesday, April 30, discussion will center on Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, in which the protagonist seeks to shape his identity in contrast to and in harmony with his family and Southern community.

On Wednesday, May 7, the group will look at the view from two famous women novelists, Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, who in their short stories, “Good Country People” and “Why I Live at the P.O.,” imagine the inner world and outer actions of bright, adventuresome, misfit women living circumscribed lives.

Books on paper and on CD are available at the library. EBook versions of both titles can be downloaded from Overdrive. Please call the library at 860-528-0018 to register. Registration is required for these free discussion programs, which are sponsored by the Friends of Chester Public Library.

 

Chester Selectmen Appoint Planning Committee for North Quarter Park as Potential Library Site

CHESTER— The board of selectmen Tuesday appointed a seven-member North Quarter Park Master Plan committee that will study the park on the west end of Main Street as a potential site for a new public library.

The volunteer committee will work with the selectmen to pick an engineering consultant to prepare a study of the 22-acre park, including analysis of its suitability as the site for a new library. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said a request for proposals for a consultant would be published soon, with a goal of completing the report and site analysis by mid-July. A mid-July completion could allow town officials, including the library board of trustees, to make a decision on a library site in time to meet a September deadline to apply for available state grant funds for library building projects.

After nearly two years of considering options for a renovation and expansion of the historic 1907 library building on West Main Street, library trustees in February agreed to a suggestion from the selectmen for further study of North Quarter Park as a potential site for a new library building.

Meehan noted Tuesday that North Quarter Park has been a subject of previous town-sponsored studies in past years that could be used in the latest analysis of the property. “We want to move this along,” he said.

Members of the new committee include Doreen Joslow,, representing the planning and zoning commission, Robert Gorman, representing the library board of trustees, Matt Sanders, representing the parks and recreation commission, Steve Teizzi, representing the Main Street Committee that is coordinating a long-planned reconstruction of Main Street, Richard Nygard, representing the board of finance, and at-large volunteer Dean Amato. Meehan will represent the board of selectmen on the committee. The committee is expected to hold its first meeting later this month.

Lyme Democrats Endorse Bjornberg, Stone

Emily Bjornberg

Emily Bjornberg

In addition to endorsing those democratic incumbent state office holders who have announced their intent to run for reelection, the Lyme Democratic Caucus endorsed two newcomers to the State scene: Mary Stone for State Representative, and Emily Bjornberg for State Senate.

The chairman of the Caucus, Steven Mattson, commented, “We are extremely pleased to endorse state legislative candidates as well qualified as Mary and Emily,”

Emily Bjornberg is a Lyme resident and is running for the seat once held by Eileen Dailey. “Emily is an exceptionally strong candidate, and we are confident she will be a superior Senator for the 33rd Senate District,” according to Mattson. The 33rd district covers Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook. The seat is currently held by Republican Art Linares.

Mary Stone is an Old Lyme resident, who is running for the 23rd Assembly District consisting of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and part of Westbrook. This is an open seat, due to the decision of Marilyn Giuliani not to seek reelection.

“Mary is the perfect candidate for this district,” according to Claire Sauer, who represented much of this district when she represented the 36th Assembly District.

Stone currently serves on the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals and is a former member of the Region 18 Board of Education.

Chester and Old Saybrook Receive $5K Energy Efficiency Grants

 L-R: Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Richard Holloway from the Chester Conservation Commission; Chester First Selectman Edward Meehan and Tilak Subrahmanian, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at Northeast Utilities.

L-R: Commissioner Robert Klee, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; Richard Holloway from the Chester Conservation Commission; Chester First Selectman Edward Meehan and Tilak Subrahmanian, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at Northeast Utilities.

Chester and Old Saybrook were among twenty-three Connecticut municipalities who were recognized during a ceremony Tuesday at the State Capitol for their participation in the statewide Clean Energy Communities program, an Energize Connecticut initiative that incentivizes cities and towns to support energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Municipal leaders from the communities were joined by their state senators and representatives to celebrate their city or town earning its first “Bright Idea Grant” through the program. These communities earned the grants based on the level of community participation in Energize CT programs. Bright Idea Grants awarded range from $5,000 to $15,000 and can be used toward a community selected energy saving project.

Together these cities and towns have collectively saved more than 277 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 2.8 million Ccf (one Ccf = 100 cubic feet) of natural gas through their energy efficiency efforts. Those savings are equivalent to the amount of power 33,000 homes would typically consume in one year, and result in avoided emissions of approximately 152,500 tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking 26,500 cars off Connecticut’s roads for a year.

“These cities and towns prove that energy efficiency can benefit an entire community, and we hope they encourage every municipality across Connecticut to join this valuable program,” said Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee. “Not only have these communities lowered energy use and costs overall, but have now earned money toward future projects that will help them use energy more efficiently.”

Under the Clean Energy Communities program, municipalities sign a pledge to reduce municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent by 2018, and to attain 20 percent of municipal electricity from renewable sources by 2018. Through community-wide participation in energy-saving and renewable energy programs, including resident and business participation, the community receives points toward rewards. For every 100 points earned through participation in energy efficiency programs, a community is eligible to receive a Bright Idea Grant. Similarly, for every 100 points earned through participation in renewable initiatives, a community can receive a renewable energy system equivalent to a one kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

The nationally recognized Clean Energy Communities program expanded in 2012 to include energy efficiency. To date, 93 Connecticut cities and towns have signed the new pledge to support both renewable and energy efficiency initiatives.

Following the signing of the pledge, Clean Energy Communities program administrators work with municipalities to establish a local Clean Energy Task Force and aid them in developing a plan of action to reduce overall energy consumption, support renewable energy, and earn rewards for their efforts. Program administrators often host workshops at local public libraries and other municipal buildings to educate residents and businesses on available energy-saving and renewable energy programs that can help them earn points for their community.

The following Connecticut municipalities were recognized for earning a Bright Idea Grant during the March 24, 2014 ceremony at the State Capitol in Hartford:

$5,000

Ashford, Bridgewater, Chester, Coventry, Derby, Goshen, Litchfield, Old Saybrook, Sharon and Thomaston

$10,000

Brookfield, Cheshire, Rocky Hill, Suffield, Watertown, Windham and Wolcott

$15,000

Bristol, New Britain, New Haven, Shelton, Waterbury and West Haven

For more information on the Clean Energy Communities program, visit EnergizeCT.com/communities.

About Energize Connecticut

Energize Connecticut helps you save money and use clean energy. It is an initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities, with funding from a charge on customer energy bills. Information on energy-saving programs can be found at EnergizeCT.com or by calling 1.877.WISE.USE.

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 Newest Eagle Scout!

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo  Lianne Rutty).

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo Lianne Rutty).

Troop 13 – Boy Scouts of America would like to congratulate our newest Eagle Scout, Dillon Eriksson of Deep River. Dillon is the 60th Eagle Scout in the history of Troop 13.

To become an Eagle Scout a boy must advance through the seven ranks by learning Scout and Life skills all while providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community. One on the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the boy’s community, school, or religious institution.

Dillon’s project was to show leadership over others by developing and implementing a plan that resulted in the construction of a crush stone base, blue stone slate walkway using historic site pieces on the property of the Deep River Congregational Church. Completing this project entailed working with various private and municipal agencies to meet permitting requirements, securing donations for supplies, designing and overseeing volunteers through the construction and installation of said walkway. The completed project provides an important service to the members and guests of Deep River Congregational Church, in particular the youth members by providing for a more stable ground area connecting the hall to the play yard.

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

Troop 13 Boy Scouts serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young men develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these young men to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scout methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun. To learn more information about joining Troop 13 please contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola @ 860-526-9262

 

Fire Destroys Clubhouse of the Pattaconk Yacht Club in Chester

Remains of burned out Pattaconk Yacht Club House after fire (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson).

Remains of burned out Pattaconk Yacht Club House after fire (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson).

CHESTER— State and local fire marshals are investigating to determine the cause of a Friday night fire that destroyed the clubhouse of the Pattaconk Yacht Club at 61 Dock Road.

The fire, reported by nearby property owners around 9:30 p.m., was full involved, with flames breaking through the roof, when volunteer firefighters from the Chester Hose company arrived on the scene. The clubhouse is located directly on the Connecticut River, with firefighters drawing water from the river to battle the blaze.

Chester firefighters were joined under mutual aid by firefighters from the Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Old Saybrook, and the South District of Middletown. Dozens of firefighters were on the scene for about three hours to extinguish the blaze. There were no injuries to firefighters, but the clubhouse building was completely destroyed.

Chester Planning and Zoning to Hold Thursday Public Hearing on Stone-Cutting Business at Industrial Park

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on two related special permit applications for a decorative stone business on two parcels on Airport Industrial Park Road. The hearing ,which was rescheduled from the February meeting due to snow, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the community meeting room at town hall.

A.I.S Properties LLC of Deep River is seeking permits for two parcels at 25 and 35 Airport Industrial Park Road. The industrial park is located in the western section of town, off Route 145 near the Chester Airport.

The company is seeking a permit for a 50-foot by 80-foot industrial building at 35 Airport Industrial Park Road for the cutting of decorative stone. The business would have four employees, with hours 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. A.I.S. Properties is seeking a second permit for outside storage of raw stone material on a lot at 25 Airport Industrial Park Road.

Six Member Committee to Direct Review of North Quarter Park for Potential Library Site, Other Uses

CHESTER— The board of selectmen will appoint a six-member volunteer committee to direct a review of North Quarter Park as a potential site for a new library and other possible uses.

Acting on a suggestion from First Selectman Edmund Meehan, the board Tuesday endorsed the idea of a coordinating committee, with members expected to be appointed over the next month. Meehan initially suggested a five member committee to be comprised of representatives of the board of selectmen, the planning and zoning commission, parks and recreation commission, library board of trustees, and the main street project committee, but later agreed to a suggestion for one additional at large member of the volunteer panel.

Meehan said the new committee would coordinate the process of hiring a consultant to prepare a master plan for possible future uses of the 22-acre park located on the north side of Main Street near the intersection with Route 154. The site for a new public library would be one of the potential uses for the park, which currently contains only a small children’s playground.

The selectmen and finance board last month approved a $20,000 appropriation to pay for the study of North Quarter Park, a process which would help determine whether the park is a suitable location for a new library building that would replace the existing Chester Library located in a historic 1907 building on West Main Street. Meehan said a consultant should be hired by early April, with park study reported to be completed by June.

Library trustees have been hoping to reach a final decision on a library expansion project by August, in time for a September 1 deadline to apply for available state grant funding for library construction projects. Meehan said making a final decision, and completing the preliminary schematic plans that are required for the grant application, before September 1 is an “optimistic” goal. “It’s something to work toward,” he said.

Meehan said the consultant hired with the new appropriation for the park study may not be the same the firm that prepares any preliminary site plan for a grant application. He said funding for preparation of site plans for a new library would not be available until the start of the town’s next budget year on July 1.

Chester to Receive $450,000 State Grant for Initial Phase of Main Street Project

CHESTER— Town officials received good news last week with an announcement the town will receive a $450,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for the initial phase of the long-planned Main Street reconstruction project.

The funding for Chester was one of six STEAP grants for municipalities announced last week by Gov. Dannel Malloy. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the funding would allow the town to complete the first phase of the Main Street project this year. The initial phase calls for a full reconstruction of Main Street, including new sidewalks from the intersection with Route 154 west to the vicinity of the Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Later phases of the project, covering the commercial area in Chester Village, will be done in 2016 in conjunction with a state Department of Transportation plan to replace the Main Street bridge over Pattaconk Brook. The initial phase of the project is expected to be put out to bid in May, with construction to begin later in the year.

State Rep. Phil Miller, D-Essex, who lobbied for the funding at the capitol, praised Meehan and town public works director John Divas for “doing their homework,” with the application process to make a strong case for the grant funding.

Chester Grand List Drops by 12 Percent After Townwide Property Revaluation

CHESTER— The 2013 grand list of taxable properties is down by 12 percent after the first full townwide property revaluation since 2003, with decreases in all three real estate categories and the personal property total.

Assessor Loreta Zdanys has filed an October 2013 grand list that totals $441,523,635, representing a decrease of $60,354,708, or about 12 percent, from the 2012 grand list total. Motor vehicles was the only category that showed a small increase over the 2012 total.

The townwide property revaluation conducted last year by eQuality Valuation Services of Waterbury was the first full revaluation, with visual inspections of all properties, done in Chester since 2003. The Waterbury firm had also handled the statistical update revaluation that was done in 2008. But the latest revaluation shows the full impact on property values resulting from the national Great Recession that began in the fall of 2008.

The grand list shows a real estate total of $398,423,780 for the town’s 1,858 accounts, a decrease of $60,362,060 from the 2012 real estate total. Along with residential. property, there were also declines in assessed value for the town’s 88 commercial and 14 industrial properties.

There was also a small decrease in the assessment total for the town’s 1,073 personal property accounts, with a 2013 personal property total of $14,434,390, down by $708,450 from the 2012 personal property total. The town’s 4,115 motor vehicle accounts show an assessment total of $28,665,465, up by $705,802 from the 2012 motor vehicles total.

Zdanys said more than 90 percent of the town’s real estate accounts showed a drop in assessed values, though some properties in the vicinity of the downtown village did not show a decrease. In contrast to past revaluation years where property owners were often objecting to higher assessments, Zdanys said there have been some complaints from property owners, particularly those considering selling, that their assessments were too low. Zadanys said the deadline for property owners to file applications to contest their assessments with the elected board of assessment appeals in March 20.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the decrease in the grand list was actually slightly less than he was expecting. “I was expecting closer to a 15 percent drop,” Meehan said, adding “it reflects market conditions.” Meehan said the selectmen and board of finance are prepared to support a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance “to ensure a smooth transition’ ‘in the tax rate for 2014.

The current tax rate is 21.95 mills, or $21,95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. While the tax rate is likely to increase in 2014, most property owners would be paying the higher rate on a lower assessed value for their property. The town’s undesignated fund balance currently totals about $1.8 million.

In recent years, selectmen and the finance board have authorized transfers from the fund balance in the range of $150,000 to $200,000, to limit increase in the tax rate. Lower totals for education spending allowed the town to avoid any transfers from the fund balance for the current 2013 budget.

The town list of top ten taxpayers remained unchanged from 2012. The top ten taxpayers, along with their 2013 assessment totals are Chester Woods Inc. (Chester Village West)-$15,092,330, Whelen Engineering Co. Inc.-$8,400,010, Connecticut Water Co.-$5,181,300, The Eastern Company-$4,065,740, and Connecticut Light and Power Co.-$4,001,560.

Also Whelen Aviation LLC (Chester Airport)-$3,843,340, Roto Frank of America Inc.-$3,620,820, Hayes Properties LLC-$2,248,350, Margaret & Robert Sbriglio (Aaron Manor)-$2,214,990, and Chester Point Real estate LLC-$2,079,830.

Funding Approved to Study North Quarter Park as Potential Chester Library Site

A patron entering the small and historic Chester Public Library (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

A patron entering the small and historic Chester Public Library (Photo by Jerome Wilson)

CHESTER— A special appropriation of $20,000 has been approved for an engineering analysis of North Quarter Park as a potential site for a new Chester library. The board of selectmen and board of finance approved the expenditure last week.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the appropriation would allow the library board of trustees to hire an engineering firm to analyze the 22-acre park located on the north side of Main Street near the intersection with Route 154 as a potential library site. The study would also include preparation of a conceptual master plan for the park, which now contains only a small children’s playground.

The focus on North Quarter Park as a potential library site began earlier this month after the board of selectmen expressed reservations about a proposal for a $2.8 million renovation and expansion of the existing library building on West Main Street that would place most of the new construction underground. It was the second proposal in the last two years from library trustees seeking to upgrade and expanded the historic 1907 library building.

Meehan, in a meeting between the selectmen and library trustees on Feb. 4, had noted that building a new library could be less costly than attempting to renovate and expand the historic building, while also eliminating the expense and inconvenience of relocating the library during more than a year of construction.

Meehan said Monday the trustees would now seek proposals from engineering and architectural firms, with the plan and site analysis expected to be completed by early summer. The trustees are hoping to make a final decision on a library expansion plan, and complete schematic drawings for the building project, by August, a step that would allow the town to apply for an available $1 million state grant for library building projects. The grant application has a September deadline for submission.

New Chester Historical Society Unearthed Challenge…

What might you create with these rusted Es for the Chester Historical Society’s Unearthed Challenge on March 22?   (Photo courtesy of Skip Hubbard).

What might you create with these rusted Es for the Chester Historical Society’s Unearthed Challenge on March 22? (Photo courtesy of Skip Hubbard).

The Chester Historical Society has come up with another fun challenge linking Chester history and art.  This spring, those accepting the 2014 Unearthed Challenge issued by the Historical Society will be working with flat, rusted iron pieces found buried in an early Chester Center property – one of the oldest houses in Chester.

These rusty pieces measure 1 ¼ by 2 inches and look like the capital letter E. We do not know their origin, but they’re a great example of what one might find by digging in their own backyard!

As with the Bishop and Watrous Bone Art Challenge and the Bates Square Roots Challenge offered by the Chester Historical Society in past years, the Unearthed Challenge is for area artists, sculptors, photographers, engineers, jewelry designers, and all others with a creative mind.

Anyone who wants to take the challenge can stop in at the Chester Gallery on Main Street in the center of Chester to pick up their rusty pieces and pay their entrance fee of $30, which includes two tickets to the event. The finished works will be exhibited and sold by silent auction at the Historical Society’s Unearthed Challenge Reception on Saturday, March 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

For more information, call Sosse Baker at Chester Gallery at 860-526-9822.

Chester Historical Society Presents Program on Chester’s Cooks, Food Sales and Kitchens

Chester Center had a good many food stores, including the A&P and Checkers Store, as well as several meat markets and even a fish market.

Chester Center had a good many food stores, including the A&P and Checkers Store, as well as several meat markets and even a fish market.

Chester is famed for its plentiful restaurants. From pizza and vegan to Italian and French, there’s no shortage of food being professionally prepared and savored in Chester today.

There was no shortage of food in the old days either – but it certainly was different!

Squirrel and rabbits. Polenta. Ravioli. Eels and river shad. Home-grown vegetables. Weekly Sunday dinner for the entire family at Grandmother’s. Friday night food sales in front of the bank, and side-by-side supermarkets and meat markets “downstreet.”

Hunting filled an important need for food, especially during the Depression. Shown here are four Chester men who were known for their hunting skills:  Fred Walden, Layton Kelsey, Curt Bishop and Eddie Carlson.

Hunting filled an important need for food, especially during the Depression. Shown here are four Chester men who were known for their hunting skills: Fred Walden, Layton Kelsey, Curt Bishop and Eddie Carlson.

The Chester Historical Society invites you to “Stories from Chester’s Kitchens,” a program featuring tales of Chester’s cooks, food sales and kitchens shared by longtime Chester residents. The program will be Sunday, March 2 at 4:00 p.m. in the Chester Meeting House.

Food sales and townwide banquets hold special memories for many old Chester residents. We’ll be sharing stories at the Historical Society’s Crackerbarrel Program on Sunday, March 2.

Food sales and townwide banquets hold special memories for many old Chester residents. We’ll be sharing stories at the Historical Society’s Crackerbarrel Program on Sunday, March 2.

The program will revolve around the popular crackerbarrel format that has been successful for so many Historical Society programs. Audience participation is encouraged – we want to hear everyone’s memories of Chester’s cooks and kitchens. We’re also planning to show historical photos to whet your appetite for storytelling. This will be a great program for all ages, so children are invited too.

The program is free. Refreshments will feature some tastes of Chester’s past. More information at Facebook.com/chestercthistoricalsociety.

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 Announces Five New Eagle Scouts

Chester/Deep River Boy Scouts Troop 13 Five newest Eagle Scouts (L-R) Samuel Jones,  Tyler Johnson, Iestyn Norton, Gregory Merola, and William Brown

Chester/Deep River Boy Scouts Troop 13 Five newest Eagle Scouts (L-R) Samuel Jones, Tyler Johnson, Iestyn Norton, Gregory Merola, and William Brown

Troop 13 – Boy Scouts of America would like to congratulate our five newest Eagle Scouts: Tyler Johnson and Gregory Merola of Chester and Samuel Jones, Iestyn Norton, and William Brown of Deep River.

To become an Eagle Scout a boy must advance through the seven ranks by learning Scout and Life skills all while providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community.  One on the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the boy’s community, school, or religious institution.

Tyler’s project was at the Bushy Hill Nature Center in Ivoryton where he cleared a hiking trail and replaced a bridge to an island at the camp.  Tyler wanted to give back to the camp where he spent many summers and was a counselor at the camp.

Gregory’s project was to rebuild an amphitheater used by hundreds of campers each summer at Camp Hazen in Chester.  Greg led the Scouts in replacing benches, clearing the access trails, and installing new gateway and sign.

Samuel’s project was to GPS the location of all 701 storm drains in Deep River.  He also supervised the affixing of labels that informs the public that anything put in the storm drain will make its way into rivers and the ocean.

Iestyn’s project was to design and supervise the construction of a snack shack/storage building at Plattwood Park in Deep River for the residents and their guest to enjoy.  He secured many donations for material and labor to keep the cost down for the town.

William’s project was to replace the boardwalk through the historic Cedar Swamp at Bushy Hill Nature Center in Ivoryton. The old walkway had deteriorated over time and was posing a safety risk for campers. The walkway allows campers to walk through the swamp to view ecological diversity at the camp.

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

Troop 13 Boy Scouts serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young men develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these young men to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scout methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun.  To learn more information about joining Troop 13 please contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola @ 860-526-9262

Chester Library Trustees Are Asked to Consider Building a New Library at North Quarter Park

CHESTER— The library board of trustees has agreed to investigate the option of constructing a new library at North Quarter Park in place of expanding the historic existing library building on West Main Street.

The decision comes after a Feb. 4 meeting with the board of selectmen, where the selectmen asked the trustees to more fully explore the option of building a new library at the 22-acre park located on the east end of Main Street, near the intersection with Route 154. The trustees have been focused for the past two years on a building plan that would renovate and expand the historic 1907 library building on West Main Street.

Library trustees in December presented a revised plan for a $2.8 million expansion plan that would focus most of the new construction underground as an extension of the existing lower level of the building. A more costly $3.09 million expansion plan with above-ground extensions of the existing building had received a mixed response from residents when it was presented in 2012.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said this week he, and the other two selectmen, had numerous questions about the plan for an underground expansion. “I have some reservations about spending money on an underground library,” he said.

Meehan said the option of building a new library at North Quarter Park has never been fully explored since the library trustees began considering a building renovation and expansion project more than two years ago. Meehan said building a new library could be less costly than attempting to renovate and expand the existing historic building, while also avoiding the expense, and inconvenience, of relocating the library for more than a year during construction at the existing building.

Terry Schreiber, chairwoman of the elected library board of trustees, said the board, with reluctance among some members, had agreed at a meeting Monday to investigate the option of building a new library at North Quarter Park. Schreiber noted that residents had expressed a preference for retaining the existing library building during surveys and public forums held in 2011. She acknowledged that constructing a new building would avoid some of the problems associated with the existing site, including the need to move the library to an undetermined location for more than a year during construction.

Schreiber said the trustees would request an appropriation to pay for an engineering analysis of the feasibility and potential cost of building a new library at the park. A $20,000 state grant had paid for the preliminary plans that were prepared by a South Windsor architectural firm on the two expansion options for the existing building. Schreiber said the trustees are hoping to make a final decision on a building plan by August to meet a September deadline to apply for a $1 million state grant that will be available for library building projects later this year. The town would need a confirmed site, and preliminary schematic plans for a building project, to apply for the state grant

New Chester Marketing Firm to Focus on Non-Profits and Charitable Organizations

New business partners Michelle Paulson (left)  and Susan Daniels (right) have teamed up to make a difference for their marketing clients and their communities

New business partners Michelle Paulson (left) and Susan Daniels (right) have teamed up to make a difference for their marketing clients and their communities

Chester, CT – New business partners Susan Daniels and Michelle Paulson have a long history of bringing voice to their clients’ stories. Going all the way back to the 1980s and having lived parallel lives for most of their careers, the duo recently teamed up to form PaulsonDaniels llc, a marketing communications firm with a mission to help businesses grow while benefitting non-profit or charitable organizations. The innovative approach is a combination of two tried and true marketing disciplines – lifestyle marketing and cause marketing – where a client’s distinct brand beliefs, attitudes and social conscience are used as the foundation for engaging and communicating to consumers with similar views. “Every business has its own brand personality with foundational values that set it apart from like businesses,” explained Daniels, “We work with those values to create a greater awareness of our clients’ commitment to the customer experience and to the communities that support them.”

Case in point is the highly successful Dinner At The Farm benefit dinner series created by Paulson’s long-time client River Tavern restaurant. Continually sold-out for the past seven years, the project was developed to promote and support Connecticut’s farming community, and has helped earn the State a place in the local food movement and kept the River Tavern’s mission out in front through a multitude of well-placed feature stories including: Time Magazine, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Cooking Channel, Yankee Magazine, Connecticut Magazine and more. “The beauty of this approach is that it creates opportunities for customers and the community at large to make a difference and support a good cause while enjoying a very special dining experience,” commented Paulson, “It’s all good.”

Daniels’ work for Best Cleaner’s COATS FOR CONNECTICUT campaign is another example of the use of marketing to make a difference. The company’s deep-rooted tradition of doing what they do best to better the community was the inspiration for the development of the program where Best collectsgently-used winter coats donated by customers and the general public and then cleans and delivers them to Connecticut Salvation Army centers for distribution to those in need throughout the cold-weather months. Media partnerships with WFSB-TV 3, YZ 92.5, The River 105.9 and Young’s Printing helps get the word out and has resulted in over 20,000 coats collected in just five years.

According to the two partners who have an office in Chester, success has come from a shared passion and enthusiasm for solving problems anchored by a no-nonsense ability to get things done and keep the process simple. The firm offers a full complement of marketing and design services including brand development, strategic planning, website development, advertising, public relations, social media, direct marketing, photography, interior space planning and design.

ABOUT MICHELLE PAULSON

Michelle is a seasoned professional in the areas of public relations, advertising, graphic design and strategic brand management including social media and internet/digital marketing. She served as account manager for Connecticut’s leading advertising and creative agencies including Decker Rickard (now Decker), Mintz & Hoke and Cummings & Good managing corporate, state agencies, arts and non-profit accounts. In establishing her own marketing communications company for small to mid-sized businesses, Michelle has developed and directed communications programs for clients in the manufacturing, restaurant, environmental, and architectural/interior design industries, often wearing multiple hats as writer, designer, photographer, web & social media content developer and more. Michelle also co-founded the award-winning Dinners At The Farm , a summertime benefit event series that helped put Connecticut on the Local Food Movement map. Her efforts garnered local, statewide and national press (including AP, TIME, BusinessWeek, New York Times and the Cooking Channel) and led to her helping develop the State’s first Farm-to-Chef Harvest Celebration Week. For that good work, Michelle earned an invitation to the White House for the launch of Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools campaign, inspiring her to help create Region 4 School’s healthy school lunch initiative, Get Fresh 4 Schools. Michelle’s key operating principal: “Know your passion.” One of hers is photography which often comes in handy for certain client work.

Michelle studied Journalism at American University and has a B.A. in History with a Marketing Minor from Central Connecticut State University.

ABOUT SUSAN DANIELS

Susan is a business strategist who focuses on her client’s bottom-line growth opportunities. Her talent is identifying brand attributes that have real market value and delivering marketing communications plans that are strategically sound and highly actionable. Susan’s background includes both corporate and agency leadership positions within consumer, business-to-business and non-profit organizations, giving her an unusual blend of big-picture savvy and realistic, achievable goal definition. Susan’s experience includes local, regional and national work in the fields of retail, consumer products and services, healthcare, entertainment/leisure,new technology, public service and non-profit. Having served in the role of marketing director, agency account director, media planner, and broadcast producer/writer for a diverse range of companies, she has a comprehensive knowledge of all marketing disciplines with an in-depth understanding of market research, advertising, public relations, direct marketing and interior space planning and design. The end result is a marketing communications that is as efficient as it is effective for each and every client. Prior to establishing her own brand-planning consultancy and marketing company, Susan served as Vice President, Marketing for TJX Companies-Bob’s Stores. She also held the positions of Executive Vice President, Marketing Services for KGA Advertising, a retail marketing firm; Director of Sales and Marketing for the Arrow Prescription Center franchise; Account Supervisor at Maher/Hartford Advertising and Public Relations; and Broadcast Manager for Sage-Allen department stores. A confessed sports nut, she has worked with UCONN Division of Athletics, Hartford Whalers, Red Sox, Patriots, Boston Bruins, and the Greater Hartford Open. Susan’s non-profit work includes the Connecticut River Museum, Community Music School, Essex Elementary School Foundation and Community Foundation of Middlesex County. Susan has a B.A. in Psychology from Trinity College, a M.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Hartford, and a certificate in Interior Design from Rhode Island School of Design.

 

 

Chester Democrats and Republicans Select Town Committees for 2014-2016

CHESTER— Town democrats and republicans selected town committees for the 2014-2016 term at party caucuses held earlier this month. The new two-year terms for town committees begin in March.

Democrats have selected a 25-member town committee that includes four new or returning members. New members include Karen Badger, Marta Daniels, and former Old Saybrook First Selectman Roger Goodnow, who moved to Chester in 2012 after serving previously as the elected judge of probate in Old Saybrook. Returning to the committee is former school board member Lynn Pease. Six members of the current town committee stepped aside, including Robert Bibbiani, Lawrence DeBernardo, Pastelis Kehayias, John Yrchik, Issac Ruiz, and Margaret Meehan.

Incumbents returning to the Democratic town committee include Samuel Chorches,, Lori Ann Clymas, Joe Cohen, David Fitzgibbons, Robert Gorman, Errol Horner, Arthur Heneck, Charlene Jenecek, Henry Krempel, Justin Kronholm, Suzane Levine, First Selectman Edmund Meehan, James Miller, James Ready, Sandra Senior-Dauer, Lynne Stiles, Selectman Lawrence Sypher, Jane Zanardi, former selectman and current committee chairman Peter Zanardi, and Kurt Zeimann.

Republicans have selected a 26-member town committee that includes two new members, Alex Strekel and Virgil Lloyd. Stepping aside from the current committee is Alexa Jamieson.

Incumbents returning to the Republican town committee are current committee chairman Mario Gioco, Laura Gioco, Ashley Marsh, former Selectman Bruce Watrous, Beverly Watrous Joyce Aley, Joel Severance, Selectman Tom Englert, Terri Englert, Karl Ohaus, Tracey Ohaus, joni Malcynsky, David Clark, john Hutson, Kristan Seifert, Melvin Seifert, Carolina Marguez-Sterling, Maria Ruberto, Victor Hoehnebart, Jill Sakidovitch, Brian Sakidovitch, Jamie Grzybowski, Doreen Joslow and Jon Joslow.

Chester Planning and Zoning Rejects Town Plan Changes for Aaron Manor But Opens Option for Sewer Connection

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has rejected changes to the town plan of conservation and development that were requested by the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility, but in a carefully worded decision, gave the facility the option of pursuing a connection to the municipal sewer system.

The commission unanimously approved a motion on the Aaron Manor application after the close of a public hearing on Dec. 12. The nursing facility located off Route 148 is under an order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade its septic system, and opening the option of connecting to the municipal sewer system that serves the downtown village was the major reason the request for the changes to the town plan

Aaron Manor representatives, along with many town officials and commission members, believed a revision to the 2009 town plan was necessary for the planning and zoning commission, and other town commissions, to consider any proposal to connect to the municipal system. This led to three months of discussion on the merits of revising the town plan, including a Sept. 12 informal public hearing, a November town meeting, and the formal public hearing with the PZC on Dec. 12.

But after lengthy discussion, the commission determined that changes to the language of the town plan are not required for the town to consider any sewer connection plan put forward by Aaron Manor. Commission Secretary Sally Murray noted during discussion that the plan includes a phrase “where appropriate” that would allow alternatives to on-site septic systems under certain conditions. The motion approved by the panel specifies that changes to the town plan would be “redundant” because the plan already allows consideration of “numerous possible septage alternatives and designs.”

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, who had supported revising the town plan to provide an option for Aaron Manor, said the commission’s decision would give town agencies the option of considering any sewer connection proposal from Aaron Manor. “They left the door open,” he said.

Engineers for Aaron Manor have said both options, constructing a new and larger on-site sewage disposal system that meets state approval, or constructing a new sewer line more than 1.5 miles east along Route 148 to connect to the municipal system, are very costly. Meehan has said any sewer connection would have to be funded by Aaron Manor, and would require approval from the town’s water pollution control authority and voters at a town meeting.

Essex Savings Bank Donates to Local Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Essex Savings Bank Chester Branch Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Branch Manager/AVP Lisa Berube with the winner, Michael Cressman of Chester.

Branch Manager/AVP Lisa Berube with the winner, Michael Cressman of Chester.

The Chester office of Essex Savings Bank opened its doors on December 14, 2012 and has been embraced by the local community.  The anniversary was marked by a weeklong celebration at the branch.  Customers were treated with appetizers, desserts, beverages, giveaways, and raffles throughout the week of December 9 through 14.   All visitors to the Chester Branch were encouraged to enter their name for the grand prize drawing, an Apple iPAD.  On December 17, President and CEO Gregory R. Shook selected the winning entry.   Bank management is proud of the Chester Branch’s successful first year serving the Connecticut River Valley.

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

Public Information Forum on New Chester Library Expansion Plan

CHESTER—Trustees for the Chester Library have scheduled a Jan. 11 public information forum on a new expansion plan for the library building that would focus most of the new space on an underground lower level. The “community conversation” on the new expansion plan begins at 10 a.m. at the Chester Meeting House, with a snow date set for Saturday Jan. 25.

The trustees and library supporters have been working for nearly two years to develop a plan to expand the historic 1907 library building and make the structure fully accessible for handicapped persons. Using a $20,000 state grant, the trustees hired a South Windsor architectural firm to prepare preliminary expansion plans. A plan for a 2,000 square-foot expansion, with a $3.09 million estimated price, that would double the size of the existing building drew a mixed response from residents at two information forums held early this year.

Architect Ken Best has prepared a new plan for a slightly smaller expansion that would extend the lower level on the west side of the building. The cost of the new, lower level expansion has been estimated at about $2.8 million. In a statement announcing the Jan. 11 session, the trustees noted the new plan would “preserve the façade of the building and its historic main floor while creating a fully accessible facility at a lower level.”

Library representatives presented the new plan to the board of selectmen at a Dec. 3 meeting, and were urged by the selectmen to hold another public forum to test community reaction to the new plan. Based on the public response, there could be a request for town funding for red test borings that would confirm feasibility of the new plan. The goal is to bring an expansion plan to the town’s voters in a bonding referendum sometime in 2014.

Aaron Manor Town Plan Revisions Draw Mixed Comments at Chester P & Z

CHESTER— Revisions to the town plan of conservation and development that would give the Aaron Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center the option of connecting to the town sewer system drew a mixed response from residents and officials Thursday at a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission.

The nursing facility located off Route 148 at the Route 9/Exit 6 interchange has requested amendments to the 2009 plan that would give the facility the option of connecting to the sewer system that serves the downtown village and a section of Route 154. Aaron Manor is under order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to upgrade the on site septic system serving the facility. Earlier this year, the town inland-wetlands commission asked representatives of the facility to investigate the option of connecting to the town sewer system before pursuing an application for a new and larger on-site sewage disposal system.

Changes to the town plan are needed for the facility to begin a detailed analysis of the option of a connection to the municipal system, a costly project that would require installing an underground sewer line along about 1.5 miles of Route 148 east from Aaron Manor to the downtown village area.

About 20 residents, including members of the conservation and economic development commissions, turned out for the public hearing. Several residents, including First Selectman Edmund Meehan, spoke in support of the requested revisions. Meehan, a former municipal planner for Newington, presented a written statement from the board of selectmen endorsing the changes, and also spoke at the hearing. Meehan contended giving the 10-year plan the option of expanding the municipal sewer system would be a “good thing for Chester.”

“If you have it in the plan you can guide it and direct it,” Meehan said, adding that planning and zoning commission oversight and current zoning for minimum one or two acre building lot sizes would limit development and population density along any Route 148 sewer extension. “I don’t think this is going to upset the town’s land use patterns,” he said.

Steve Flett, chairman of the economic development commission, said the revisions represent a request for help from an existing business, not a plan to promote wider economic development. “If Aaron Manor is prepared to pay the bill, you should just let them do it,” he said.

But Michael Prisloe, chairman of the conservation commission, contended the changes to the plan could have “unintended consequences” for future development that would change the environment and character of. the town’s western gateway. The commission presented a statement urging further study before approval of any changes to the town plan. Prisloe also noted the changes to the plan could become effective early next year, long before completion of any sewer line from Aaron Manor.

The commission was expected to close the public hearing Thursday and begin deliberations of the Aaron Manor application at it’s Jan. 9 meeting.