February 1, 2023

Archives for December 2011

Deep River Selectmen Approve Contract for Replacement of the Village Street Bridge

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has awarded a contract for the replacement of the Village Street bridge, picking Brunalli Construction Company of Southington for the job on a bid of $1,119,241.

First Selectman Richard Smith said at Tuesday’s meeting that Brunalli Construction was one of 16 bidders for the bridge project. Smith said the company was the second low bidder, picked after the low bidding firm was disqualified because the company had not completed a required prequalification with the state Department of Transportation.

Replacement of the bridge, located on Village Street behind the Deep River Public Library, will be funded under the Local Bridge Program, with 80 percent of the project cost covered by federal funds. The town is responsible for 20 percent of the total cost. Smith said work on the bridge replacement is expected to begin in the summer of 2012, with most of the town share of the cost included in the 2012-2013 town budget.

In other business Tuesday, the board formally appointed nine members of the new Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee. Voters at a Nov. 22 town meeting had authorized the new committee to coordinate ongoing efforts to restore the second-floor auditorium at the historic 1892 town hall. The new committee replaces the now disbanded Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc., which had directed town hall restoration efforts since the early 1980s.

The members include Sally Carlson-Crowell, Bruce Edgarton, Carol Jones, Janice Kmetz, Dennis Schultz, Richard Nagot, Kim Olson, Frances Strukus, and former Selectman Arthur Thompson. Carlson-Crowell and Strukus had served previously as directors of the restoration association. The ordinance creating the new committee called for up to 11 members, leaving two openings for any other volunteers interested in serving on the committee.

Singer-Songwriter Freedy Johnston to Present Jan 14 Show at Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center

Singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston will perform on Saturday Jan. 14 at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center

OLD SAYBROOK— Singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston will perform on Saturday Jan. 14 at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The solo acoustic show begins at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $20.

A Kansas native, the 50-year-old Johnston alternates between an apartment in New York City and Madison Wisconsin, where his girlfriend owns a bar. Johnston described the Midwest-Big Apple split as “the best of both worlds.” Johnston attended the University of Kansas, participating on the local music scene, before moving to New York City in 1985.

By 1990, he had recorded and released his first CD,”Trouble Tree” on the New Jersey-based Bar None label. A second CD, “Can You Fly” in 1992, generated a strong positive response in Rolling Stone magazine and other music publications. This led to a major label deal with Elektra Records, and the release of “This Perfect World,” in 1994.”This Perfect World included one of Johnston’s most popular songs, the single “Bad Reputation” which reached Number 54 on the Billboard top-100 chart.

Three CDs followed on Elektra, “Never Home” in 1997, “Blue Days Black Nights” in 1999, and “Right Between The Promises” in 2001. His most recent CD is “Rain In The City,” released in January 2010 on the Bar None label.

In an interview via email, Johnston said he expects to play songs from all of his CDs at the Old Saybrook show, including a personal favorite, “The Farthest Lights” from the “Blue Days Black Nights” CD. Johnston said he will also be doing some cover songs, including numbers by two songwriters who have done shows at the Kate, Jimmy Webb and Marshall Crenshaw. The writer of many of Glen Campbell’s hits, Webb played a solo show at the Kate in October 2010.

Johnston said the January solo tour is a short one, including dates in Madison, Wisc., Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Johnston said he will have a new CD in 2012 titled “Neon Repairman”. He is also working on a side project, a band called the Hobart Brothers with guitarist Jon Dee Graham and Susan Cowsill, a member of the early-1970s family band.

The strangest New Year’s Day I’ve ever had…and I never expect another like it

John Guy LaPlante

All my life, like you probably, I have celebrated New Year’s Day in winter—most often in a cold, icy, snowy winter. Not a Florida winter.

Winter arrives on Dec. 21, of course, and New Year’s Day 11 days later, on Jan. 1. My saying this seems silly, I know, but I say it for a reason.

My seeing the New Year in, as for you, has often meant stepping outside into freezing  cold air that takes my breath away and then suffering in my frigid car until the engine begins to blow in wonderful hot air.

For many decades this was always the way  I experienced New Year’s Day. With just one exception!

That exception came eight years ago when I traveled around the world for five months. Yes, nearly all of it alone—147 days, 20 countries, 36,750 miles by plane, train, and for only $83 per day, with everything included, right down to every snack and phone call and all the visas required.  That trip was my present to myself for my then approaching 75th birthday.

It was a grand adventure. More than that, an odyssey. It led to my book, “Around the World at 75. Alone, Dammit!” It’s a book still selling, and in fact, one that got to be published in China in Chinese—well, Mandarin, which is the principal language.

As New Year’s Day approached, I arrived in Durban, South Africa. That’s nearly as far south in Africa as you can go, and I had come a long way, all the way from Cairo near the Mediterranean in the far north.

I arrived on Dec. 28, I think it was, just seven days after the start of winter and three days before the new year dawned. However, I had crossed the Equator to get here and in fact was far south of it.

But the seasons are opposite on the other side of the Equator. Yes, it was December, but it was not winter. Summer had just started here and it was summertime, with long daylight, short nights, shirtsleeve temperatures, even bathing suit temperatures. How remarkable. How wonderful.

Durban is a big city. An impressive city. And I was here to enjoy it. I was lucky. I was staying in a nice hostel right downtown, the Banana Backpackers. Not hotel. Hostel. I was using hostels because they were cheaper (hotels for five months can get expensive) and I got an experience more true to my purpose.

Don’t ask me why that name. I never found out. And I was making friends. And I was making the most of the city, taking in everything I could—its bustling downtown,  its historic and tourist attractions, its museums.  It’s all in my book.

New Year’s Day was a great celebration here, too. It’s a big day all over the world.  I  read everything I could in the big Durban daily about activities coming up. English is the official language. There would be all the usual merry-making.  I was looking forward to it. Planned to enjoy it as much as I could.

New Year’s Day rose, bright and sunny and warm and beautiful. But none of my senses told me that this was New Year’s Day. This was so dramatically different. But my brain did.

Durban is right on the Indian Ocean, just north of where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans merge  below Capetown.  Durban has great beaches. I had not glimpsed them yet, but I knew they were gorgeous. I intended to get to them today. They were not far,  at the end of a broad avenue that nosed right into them. A cinch! I could get to them in just a few blocks.

But imagine my surprise. My stupefaction.  Thousands of people were planning to do the same thing. I noticed that the minute I stepped out of Banana Backpackers. People jammed the street, walking in from various directions.

So many! Amazing. The boulevard was closed to vehicles for the day. People were heading south on it in a broad torrent. They took up the whole width of the street. All going the same way, toward the salt water. Some on bikes but most hoofing it. Carrying all the usual stuff—towels, picnic baskets, folding chairs, parasols, toys. Many with children in hand.

Instantly I saw they were all black. Durban is a typical South African city. It has the usual mix of blacks and whites, but the blacks were there first and predominate. In fact, apartheid had been the law of the land until quite recently. Apartheid mandated the enforced separation of the races, the same as in many places  in our U.S.A. when I was young, but even more severely, I’ve read.

Right away I saw this was a black crowd. I could not see any whites. Of course, white people like nice, warm, sunny, summer beaches, too. Why this river of people was all black, I don’t know. And I didn’t find out. I still don’t know. But right away I decided, This is just too much! No way can I walk with them!

I gulped hard. I was so disappointed. But then I braced up. A main reason for this big and crazy adventure of mine–I knew some thought this–was to visit other countries, and the more different the better. I wanted to see what they were really like.   I was deliberately staying clear of the heavy tourist areas. I wanted to see the real people in their real everyday  life. So how could I chicken out now?

Uptight I was, but I stepped forward and slipped in among them.  I saw dark eyes studying me but I looked straight ahead and walked on.  I was uncomfortable. Nervous. Apprehensive. I admit it and am embarrassed to say so.  I was tempted to drop out and head back to Banana Backpackers.  What I was experiencing, of course, was plain, classic culture shock.

My head was battling with my emotions.  My head was telling me that 99 percent of these people were good, fine, no-problem people.  I knew that this was true of people all over the world. Yellow, brown, red, black, white, mixed. In every country the bad ones—the malicious ones—are a tiny minority. True, too, in  our U.S.A.

The only thing these folks had in mind was getting to the beach for a fine New Year’s outing.

My heart made me fearful, insecure, borderline panicky.  But I walked on.  I was feeling this way because they were so many and they were all black and I wasn’t used to this and there was no other white person around.  But on I went.

I wasn’t going to the beach to sun myself or swim.  I did like these things back home.  I was going because I wanted to see the Indian Ocean and smell the sea air and be part of the festivities and observe everything going on and get some exercise and see what a New Year’s Day was like in this country and how folks enjoyed it.

We got to the beach.  A great big, broad stretch of sand. The Indian Ocean stretched out ahead, clear to the horizon, with not even a tiny island in between.  A few pleasure boats, yes.

But know what?  The Indian Ocean didn’t look a bit different than many other stretches of salt water I have gotten to see.  The only reason I knew that this was the Indian Ocean was because I was told it was, period.

What I noticed was the great numbers of people.  Right away I thought of Coney Island. Who isn’t familiar with Coney Island?  I’ve never been to Coney Island.  But I’ve seen the photos of the  packed crowds on the Fourth of July.

For sure this huge turn-out would rival Coney Island in the Guinness Book of World Records. And of course all these people were black. But they were behaving just like white people would.

I became more relaxed.  I began walking around.  I roamed the beach.  I made my way between all these people.  Families in tight clusters. Kids frolicking and romping and tossing balls. Couples making out. People reading, snacking, applying suntan lotion, snoozing.

Not easy to walk in that loose sand. I made my way down close to the beach and walked along the shore on the packed sand, moist from the outgoing tide. Some people were in the water, swimming, splashing, floating, but quite few. Which is typical on any beach anywhere.

I walked a long way to the left, then a long way back and to the right.  Some people looked at me and followed me with their eyes.  Most people were too busy.  I had my camera and I began sneaking pictures.  I learned long ago it was not smart at times to face whoever I wanted to photograph and snap a picture.

I had developed a different way.  I would spot someone I wanted to focus on.  Then I would turn 90 degrees and face in this new direction.  But slowly I would turn my camera back 90 degrees. Very stealthily, all while gazing straight ahead. And click the shutter. Sometimes I missed the shot.  But often I got the good candid shot I hoped for.  Rarely did anybody catch on.

Now I got bolder. I even walked up to some people. Made sure I smiled. And asked if I could take their picture.  Nobody said no.

It was all pleasant. I was happy to be part of this. But this was a film camera.  And of course my roll of film got used up.

In all this, I did not come upon another white person. How come?  Maybe this was a traditionally black beach. Maybe there was a traditional white beach elsewhere.  But I thought of this much later.

Satisfied and content, I walked back to the Banana Backpackers.  I quit long before the others did.  There were just a few of us heading back. I was happy I had not caved in to my apprehensions and had had what turned out to be a most pleasant experience.

Back at the hostel, I found practically nobody around. That evening I ran into a couple of people and mentioned what I had done.  But they were foreign tourists, too. They were interested. But they had nothing to say that enlightened me.

Later I had another thought.  It was about black people in the U.S.A.  Men and women of all ages born there and grown up there. Like me. Just as much an American citizen as I.

And I thought of the many times when for sure they must find themselves alone among whites.  At times they must feel as alone and isolated and apprehensive as I on this New Year’s Day.  This is probably a common experience for them in our section of Connecticut where blacks are still a small minority,  although the situation is changing a bit. And surely they get used to it, adapt to it, and develop a certain comfort.

I felt these disturbing emotions just for a few hours on just one day.  I’m sure some of our blacks back home must feel it frequently, on and on, all their lives.

That New Year’s Day in Durban made me more understanding. More sympathetic.  I learned a powerful lesson. And the lesson has stuck. We’re all much alike. Little reason to be nervous among strangers.

I’d like to include some of the photos I took that day but they’re not at hand. Sorry.

Happy New Year to you, one and all!

Deep River Library takes part in Library Science Film Festival

This January, Deep River Library will be participating in the Library Science Film Festival. The films selected all have the library playing a central role.

They will be showing Desk Set on Jan 16, Fahrenheit 451 on Jan 14, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear on Jan. 15, and Soylent Green on Jan. 19.

All in the evening at 7:30 p.m. Please call for more information the library at 860-526-6039 for more information.

Chester Planning and Zoning Sets Jan. 5 Public Hearing on Proposed New Main Street Restaurant

CHESTER— The planning and zoning commission has scheduled a Jan. 5 public hearing on a special permit application for a new restaurant at 6 Main Street in the downtown village. The hearing convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the Chester Meeting House on Liberty Street.

Chester Properties LLC, which has an address at 102 Sill Lane in Old Lyme, is seeking approval for a full service restaurant in the former Chester Savings Bank building at 6 Main Street. The restaurant would have 40 to 50 seats, with a liquor license and bar. There would be 8 to 15 full and part-time employees.

The site plan for the property also calls for a “small retail space with a separate entrance,” and two residential apartments on the second floor of the building. The proposed restaurant would be open seven days a week.

Essex Elementary School Foundation Funds New iPad Lab, Kicks Off Annual Appeal

Students at Essex Elementary School work on math application using the new iPad lab funded by the Essex Elementary School Foundation this fall.

Centerbrook, CT –The Essex Elementary School Foundation, a not-for-profit, volunteer organization that provides independent financial resources for worthy enrichment  projects and  programs at Essex Elementary School, has granted $23,480 to fund various programs during the 2011-2012 academic year.  Specific programs receiving grant money this year include an iPad Lab enrichment program with $13,000 given for the purchase of 19 iPads, 19 smart covers, 19 Apple care protection plans and iPad Applications in the math and science areas for all grade levels; the Justus W. Paul World Cultures Program with $5,000 granted for the development of a new Haitian culture program and for  the implementation of previously developed programs on China and India; Grade Level Grants of $1000 per grade awarded to three grades each year on a three year rotating schedule; the Art Spot: Artist-in-Residence with $1480 to help fund a student wall mural inside the school; and the Historian-in-Residence Program with $1000 given to fund program implementation costs.

On Tuesday, November 30, EESF board members met at the school’s media center to launch the Foundation’s annual direct mail campaign to Essex area residents and businesses.   Last year’s campaign netted over $35,000 with increased participation from the community at large.  Continued growth in financial support will allow the Foundation to expand the enrichment programs and projects now underwritten by the organization. In October, the Foundation announced grant awards totaling $13,300 for the development and implementation of several programs during the 2010-2011 school year.  $5,000 was approved to fund the Justus W. Paul World Cultures Program, $2300 to fund the Historian-in-Residence Program, $2,000 to fund the Artist-in-Residence Program, and $4000 to underwrite the purchase of one SMART Board.  Additional grant requests will be considered when the Board convenes again in April 2011.

Since its inception in 1996, the Essex Elementary School Foundation’s primary goal has been to create a significant endowment that can support the school’s strategic vision to be a world-class educational institution.  Each year, 5% of the EESF endowment is allocated for programs and projects proposed by Essex Elementary School administration and staff.  Past grants have also funded a Scientist-in-Residence program, literacy support materials, equipment for musical and physical education, playground improvements, logical thinking games, and audio/visual equipment.

For more information about the Essex Elementary School Foundation or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to www.essexelementaryschoolfoundation.org or make checks payable to “Essex Elementary School Foundation” and mail to Essex Elementary School Foundation, PO Box 882, Essex, CT 06426.

State Police Investigate Killing of Four Alpacas at Ivoryton Farm

ESSEX— State police are investigating the apparent killing of four alpacas on the Applesauce Acres farm at 99 Bushy Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Police were called to the farm, located near the Incarnation Center camp complex, Friday around 7:50 a.m. The alpacas, which are related to camels, were found dead in a pasture area at the farm.

Police and officials with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reported the animals had been stabbed. The farm, which is owned by George MacLauchan and his daughter, Sara, has had more than two dozen alpacas on site at one time. At least a dozen alpacas remained at the farm after Friday’s incident. The incident is under investigation by Resident State Trooper Kerry Taylor and state police at the Westbrook Barracks.

Chester Selectmen Approve 15-Year Contract for Solid Waste Disposal

CHESTER— The board of selectmen has approved a new 15-year contract with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority for disposal of solid waste and recyclables.

Meeting after Tuesday’s town meeting, the board approved a new contract that will replace the current CRRA contract that expires in November 2012. Chester has been a member of CRRA since it was established in the mid-1980s, and is one of 13 area towns that dispose of solid waste and recyclables at the CRRA regional transfer station located off Route 154 in Essex. Solid waste is compacted and trucked to the CRRA Mid-Connecticut incinerator in Hartford.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said Chester would be paying a tipping fee of $59.50 per ton under the new contract, less than the $70 per ton fee the town is currently paying. Meehan said Chester has one of the highest number of residences and businesses served by commercial trash haulers of any of the towns using the regional transfer station, with nearly 99 percent of the properties in town served by paid haulers that collect trash at the curbside. Chester becomes the third area town to approve new disposal contracts with CRRA, following Deep River and Lyme.

In other business, the board appointed Melvin Seifert to fill an alternate vacancy on the planning and zoning commission. Seifert, a lawyer, had served on the commission in a vacancy appointment since last year, but failed to win election running on the Republican and Common Ground Party ballot lines in the Nov. 8 town election.

When the board appointed Democratic commission alternate Henry Krempel to fill a regular member vacancy on Dec. 6, Seifert asked to be considered for the regular member opening. Republican Doreen Joslow, who was elected to a two-year regular member vacancy term on Nov. 8 actually offered to resign to open up a spot for Seifert.

Meehan said Joslow has decided to remain a regular member, with Seifert stepping in to the alternate seat. There remains one alternate member vacancy on the commission, a spot that was not filled in last month’s election.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Funding for Emergency Purchases – Date set for Emergency Management Center Move

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday quickly approved a $32,528 special appropriation to purchase various emergency management items that were lacking during the response to Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.

About 30 residents, many of them volunteer firefighters, turned out to approve the special appropriation on a unanimous voice vote. Many of the items are radio communications equipment, along with various signs. Emergency Management Director William Buckridge said the new radios would provide additional frequencies, and coverage in all sections of towns. The radios would remain operational even when cellular communications towers are knocked out of service.

The list of needed items was developed after town emergency services personnel reviewed the local response to the tropical storm last August. First Selectman Norman Needleman said town emergency responders were “looking at Irene as a fire drill for a worse event.”

Needleman said the funding approved Wednesday is the first of three funding requests intended to upgrade the town’s emergency management operations. The second step is a relocation of the town emergency management center from a damp ground floor room at town hall to the former judge of probate office on the west side of the building.

Meeting after the close of the town meeting, the board of selectmen scheduled a Jan. 4 public hearing and town meeting vote on a proposed $38,000 special appropriation to pay for relocation of the EOC. The expenditure was approved by the board of finance last week. The total cost of the EOC relocation is $71,880. The town’s insurance carrier has agreed to cover about $34,000 of the expense for damage and water problems at town hall related to the tropical storm.

The public hearing on the EOC relocation expenditure is set for Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m. in town hall. A town meeting vote on approving the expenditure will follow at 7:30 p.m. Needleman said a third and final funding request for emergency management upgrades would be discussed by the board of selectmen in January.

Congressman Courtney Goes Shopping for Holiday Gifts in Deep River

Joe Courtney and Dick Smith with Amy Fowler directing

Eastern Connecticut’s Congressman Joe Courtney put his money where his mouth is, when he visited Deep River on December 21, and bought a not inconsiderable number of holiday gifts. He made his holiday purchases at the town’s Deep River Toy Company, rather than shopping for gifts at one of the big box stores at the mall.

The Deep River Toy Company is located at 202 Main Street, just a little ways down from Walgreen’s, if you are going out of town towards Route 9. At the time of the Congressman’s visit, it was literally packed with people, not especially to see the Congressman, but rather to buy presents for friends and loved ones.

There was also a children’s choir on hand to greet the Congressman, directed with considerable animation by Deep River’s Amy Fowler. Ms Fowler is also the Director of the Tree House Players, a local performing group.

The owner of the Deep River Toy Company is the “super friendly” Janet Gessner.  By the time the Congressman had left her shop, he was carrying very respectable bundle of the store’s holiday gifts.

Shop owner Janet Gessner helps Joe Courtney shop

In an interview, after the children’s choir had stopped singing, and the Congressman had finished buying his presents, he was asked why he felt it was important during this holiday season “to buy local.”

In response the Congressman said, “I think that small businesses, just like the Deep River Toy Company, will lead the way to the recovery of the national economy.” “These small businesses,” he said, “have the connections with the local communities, not the big box stores in the malls.”

The Congressman, noting that Deep River First Selectman Dick Smith was also on hand, said of the First Selectman, “Dick Smith is the best. He really knows how important small business is.”

Republican Mario Gioco and Democrat Ann Monaghan Elected to Chester Region 4 School Board Vacancies

CHESTER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday elected two new members of the Region 4 Board of Education, with Republican Mario Gioco and Democrat Ann Monaghan picked to fill vacant seats through the November 2013 town election.

The vacancies were created by the resignations of two Republican members, Richard Strauss, who had served as the board’s treasurer, resigned in October. Pamela Christman, the board’s vice-chairwoman, resigned effective Dec. 6.

Three candidates were nominated for the first vacancy, a six-year term that expires in November 2013. Nominated were Gioco, the longtime chairman of the zoning board of appeals who is also chairman of the Chester Republican Town Committee, Monaghan, a lawyer with three children attending Region 4 schools, and Michael Hotkowski, a graduate of Valley Regional High School. Hotkowski had been an unsuccessful candidate for the regional school board on the Chester Common Ground Party line in the Nov. 8 election, losing to incumbent Democrat Elaine Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons is the town’s third representative on the nine member regional school board that also includes three members each from Deep River and Essex.

Gioco won the seat on a paper ballot vote with 28 votes to 18 votes for Monaghan and eight votes for Hotkowski. The second vacancy was for a six-year term ending in November 2015, but town attorney and meeting moderator John Bennet announced the seat would also be on the town’s November 2013 election ballot for the final two years of the term.

Monaghan was nominated again, along with James Gordon, a former member of the Chester Board of Education who was nominated by Glen Reyer, a founder of the Chester Common Ground Party. Monaghan was elected on a voice vote, with a handful of votes for Gordon.

Gioco and Monaghan were sworn in to office by Town Clerk Debra Calamari immediately after the town meeting. Their first regular meeting is Jan. 5, when the board is scheduled to elect a chairman and other officers for 2012-2013.


The “Nays” had it at a Recent Gateway Conservation Meeting in Essex

The “nays” appeared to be in the majority at an Essex Town Hall meeting convened to discuss new environmental policies for Essex that would affect the owners of property next to the Connecticut River, for the overall protection of the river and its shores. The “informational” meeting was convened by the Essex Zoning Commission at Town Hall on December 19.

Essex is a member of an eight town Gateway Conservation District. Seven of the eight towns in the district, which are located at the southern base of the Connecticut River, approved these environmental standards years ago, but Essex has been holding out adopting them.

The new rules at issue would do the following: (1) the present 50 foot limit on building next to the shoreline would be extended to 100 feet, (2) new restrictions on “clear cutting” trees along the river’s shoreline would be adopted by creating a “no cut” riparian buffer, (3) an additional  procedural step, by requiring a Special Permit, would be required before new structures of 4,000 square feet or more can be build, and (4) measuring the height of a new structure from its “existing natural grade” rather than from a built-up platform would be put in place.

Among those attending the meeting were recently re-elected Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, as well as the defeated Republican candidate for First Selectman Bruce MacMillian. Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman and Selectwoman Stacia Rice-Libby did not attend.

The vast majority of speakers at the meeting opposed the proposed Gateway rules for Essex. “We don’t need Gateway,” said one. Another questioned whether home owners, who lived right next to the river’s edge, could even cut the grass on their properties. “Essex as a town would not exist, if we had had these rules in effect,” said another critic.

A member of the town’s Wetlands Commission also spoke in opposition to applying the Gateway rules to Essex, saying that all the perceived problems addressed by the proposed Gateway District rules for Essex could be addressed by the town’s Wetland Commission.

A few speakers at the meeting supported Essex’s adoption of the proposed Gateway rules, but they were decidedly in the minority. One said, “It is an embarrassment for Essex,” not to adopt the Gateway rules, like the other seven Gateway towns have done.

The Gateway Conservation district consists of eight towns. They are: Haddam, East Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Lyme, Old Lyme, Essex and Old Saybrook. As noted, Essex is the only town in the district that has not approved the Gateway rules.




Study Committee Recommends Two Options for Deep River Firehouse

Deep River Firehouse - options proposed for upgrade

DEEP RIVER— A town study committee has recommended two options for upgrading the fifty-year-old town firehouse, with both calling for construction of a new and larger firehouse.

In a final report submitted to the board of selectmen and board of finance at the end of November, the Firehouse Study Committee advised the volunteer fire department needs a structure of at least 9,000 square feet to house four fire trucks and other vehicles while also providing a meeting/training room of about 1,600 square feet. In the concluding recommendations, the committee proposes the options of constructing a new firehouse at the site of the existing firehouse on the corner of Union and Elm streets, or building a new firehouse on a 14-acre parcel at the intersection of Route 80 and Bahr Road, across from the Plattwood Park recreation area. The second option would require a land purchase.

The board of selectmen established the eight-member committee, comprised of department members and other volunteers, at the end of last year to determine the space needs of the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department, and research options for a firehouse building project. The move came after a proposed $2.4 million bond authorization for a 7,000-square-foot expansion of the existing firehouse failed on a 347-312 referendum vote in July 2010. A larger and more costly renovation and expansion project failed by a wide margin in a November 2007 bonding referendum.

The committee estimates the cost of building a new 12,000-square-foot single-story firehouse at about $1.8 million, a figure that does not include the expense of any possible land purchase. The existing firehouse, built in 1961, is 5,084 square feet. The department also maintains a satellite fire station in a 2,484-foot structure located on Route 80 in the rural winthrop section.

In outlining the option of building a new firehouse at the site of the existing firehouse, the committee noted that construction would have to be phased “to take place without impacting operations of the existing firehouse.” The new firehouse would be built first, followed by demolition of the existing firehouse.

The new building on site option would also require demolition of a two-story house on an abutting parcel at 57 Union St., and use of the quarter-acre parcel as part of the building project. The fire department acquired the 57 Union St. property in August 2007 for $275,000 to provide space for the firehouse renovation and expansion.

The second option forwarded to town officials calls for construction of a new firehouse on the 14-acre parcel at the corner of Route 80 and Bahr Road. Under this option, the existing firehouse would become a satellite station, and the Winthrop site of the existing satellite station would be sold. The property at Route 80 and Bahr Road is owned by the estate of Warren Diffendal. It is appraised at $184,600.

First Selectman Richard Smith said he was hoping the study committee would make a single specific recommendation for a firehouse building project. He said the board of selectmen and board of finance would discuss the committee report, and the two building options, at a future meeting. The selectmen would appoint a firehouse building committee if the board decides to pursue a firehouse building project in 2012.


New Sweet Shoppe in Essex Makes You Forget the Sour Economy

Friend Connie Connor; owner Celene Sweck, and customer Judy Heiser

“She’s an entrepreneur,” says one of her friends about Selene Sweck, who has just opened Selene’s Sweet Shoppe in downtown Essex. Not only has Sweck launched a bright new Sweet Shoppe on Main Street, she also has a number other businesses.

For one, Sweck owns Porky Pete’s BBQ out on Westbrook Road. (“Pete” is the name of Sweck’s husband.) This extremely successful business has its tenth anniversary coming up soon.

Sweck also owns an extensive catering business, which she used to run out of Porky Pete’s. However, she felt that wedding planning was a bit incongruous in the middle of a barbeque operation, so she moved her catering consultations to the room right next to the Sweet Shoppe.

This new room is tastefully decorated, and just perfect for wedding planning and other special events. As for planning a wedding, Sweck says that her Event Planner, Lori Blair, “can handle the whole thing.”

Cake in the window of new Sweet Shoppe

In addition to organizing weddings and special events, Sweck’s catering operation provides corporate lunches on weekdays for four cafeterias of a major local cooperation.

Completing the reach of Sweck’s businesses is the outdoor food station that she and her husband run at the Clinton Crossing Shopping Mall. Open from Spring until November, the menu is hot dogs and grilled meats, which they sell to hungry shoppers.

A sweet spot for the Sweet Shoppe

Still, among all her ventures, Sweck clearly takes great pride in her new Sweet Shoppe. The staff members at the shop are all personal friends, and sometimes there appears to be more chattering going on among sales people and customers, than there is about selling the sweet stuff.

People who are shopping at the new Sweet Shoppe give it rave reviews. “It’s wonderful,” said Judy Heiser of Essex the other day; “It bubbles. It’s gorgeous, and it’s just what you need for Christmas.”

Children's candy on the Honor System

The Sweet Shoppe also is the kind of place where it is perfectly appropriate to buy just one piece of candy. However, be warned that some of the candies can be so intensely sweet that they should be eaten only in small bites. Otherwise the taster may end up with “sugar shock,” at least for awhile.

Another tantalizing specialty at the Sweet Shoppe is a collection of chocolate turtles of varying sizes. The turtles have a pecan base, a caramel inside, with the whole encased in chocolate. If you want to buy a little turtle, they are a reasonable ninety cents, with a larger turtle costing $3.95, and they can be addictive.

The Sweet Shoppe sells four kinds of special breads. They are: (1) a French baguette, (2) an Asiago cheese bread, (3) a multi-grain baguette and (4) a black cranberry and walnut bread. In addition, of course, the Sweet Shoppe sells a wide variety of cakes with thick, thick frosting.

Children on the honor system

Another highlight of the Sweet Shoppe is that one whole side of the shop is now dedicated to offering tempting delicacies for children. The children can select whatever candies they wish, and they pay for them strictly under the honor system. Small piggy banks are among the candies, so that the children can insert the proper number of coins for their purchases.

The new sweet shop appears to be on its way to becoming a great success, if the number of people visiting it the other day is any indication.  Also, very importantly, the existence of this evidently successful new business on Essex’s Main Street is a healthy sign of a better local economy.

Right next door to the Sweet Shoppe is another new business that has just opened its doors on Main Street. It is a new interior and decorating business, which offers professional decorating consultations by its co-owners, Jessica Whelen and Dennis Pough. Also on the premises is an extensive line of home accessories including, pillows, candles, faux floral arrangements and hand blown glass creations.

Giving even further evidence that new, good things are happening on Main Street, is the new ownership of the “Silkworm of Essex Village” just down the way. The new Proprietor, Raeann Groves, notes that the new Silkworm offers a variety of high end women’s clothing that cannot be found in ordinary department stores. She mentions, specifically, the Gerard Darel and the Sitamurt clothing brands that the store carries.

Also, there is presently a 20% off sale on select items at the Silkworm.

The "Silkworm" on Main Street under new ownership - has 20% off sale

However, downtown Essex still has perhaps an overabundance of real estate sales offices on Main Street. There were no less than six of them by last count. However, one cannot gainsay that when tourists come to Essex, looking at the realtors’ photographs of houses for sale, is a favorite pastime.

Finally, on the down side of Essex having a truly vibrant Main Street is the still empty, former Left Bank Gallery space. This property is owned by the Paul family, who also own what is truly an Essex landmark, the Griswold Inn.

Still vacant, former Left Bank Gallery

Reportedly, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman will be discussing with the owners of the old gallery property new strategies on how to get this most attractive downtown property bustling again.

One possibility that ever the entrepreneurial Sweck tossed out in a recent conversation, is that the old gallery space might be converted into an entertainment venue for wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations and the like. If this were to happen, you can be assured that Sweck would be delighted to do the catering.

Essex Savings Bank Employees Know How to Donate!

Not only is the Bank generous with its donations to over 200 charities, but the Bank’s employees understand the importance of giving as well.  Each year during the holiday season, Bank employees rally together as a team to support a worthy cause.  This year, each employee donated an entire grocery bag filled with non-perishable items for those less fortunate.  Recipients included the Shoreline Soup Kitchen, the Westbrook Soup Kitchen, and the Madison Food Pantry.  Bank officers transported almost 70 bags of food to these organizations.

Pictured by the donated goods are Senior Vice President Lynn Giroux and Loan Servicing Representative Kathy MacArthur.


 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 five offices in Essex (2), Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

Coldwall Banker Realtor Apologizes for Posting Sign at Essex’s Main Street Roundabout

Holiday branches decorate the Essex roundabout

Coldwell Banker real estate agent Laurel Peters has personally apologized to Essex Zoning Enforcement officer Joseph Budrow for placing an “Open House” real estate sign in the middle of the Essex roundabout at the top of Main Street. Budrow said that Peters came up to his Town Hall office a short while ago just to deliver her apology.

Budrow had send Coldwell Banker a Notice of Violation for Peters’ earlier signage posting stating, “The location of the signage in the middle of the roundabout in Essex square must cease.” He also said that Peters’ posting of Coldwell Banker signage had been “placed in a public right-of-way from time to time to promote Open Houses.”

As authority for his Notice of Violation, Budrow cited Town of Essex Zoning regulation, paragraph 111A.6, which provides that no sign may be designed in a way, “which may be confused with a traffic control sign or signal.” He cited two other paragraphs in the zoning regulations which might apply as well.

In a separate interview Budrow also said that by March of next year the Essex Zoning Enforcement office was going to promulgate new zoning regulations that were going to apply specifically to real estate signage.

Presently, there is no reference to real estate signage in Essex’s Town zoning regulations, nor are real estate signs referred as an exception to the blanket prohibition of all signs found under Essex Town regulation, 111C. “Political signs,” on the other hand have a specific exception from this regulatory prohibition.

For her part Coldwell Banker real estate agent Laurel Peters confirmed that she had met with Zoning Enforcement Officer Budrow, and that she herself had initiated the meeting with him.

Coldwall Banker office on Main Street in Essex

According to her, she told Budrow that the practice of posting real estate signs in the middle of the Essex roundabout was a common practice, and that she had no idea that it violated Essex Zoning regulations. She also assured Budrow that in the future she would refrain from putting up signs next to the “silent policeman” in the center of the roundabout.

Deep River Congregati​onal Church Christmas Services

Deep River Congregational Church, would like to extend an an invitation to all to attend their special Christmas services listed below.  Please see the church website www.deepriverchurch.org or call the church office at 860-526-5045 for further information.

Christmas Eve in Deep River  

The annual Christmas Pageant, “Thy Light Is Come” (presented by the youth and children of the church) will take place on Christmas Eve at 5:30 p.m.

There will also be a Candlelight Communion Service beginning at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  All are welcome.

Christmas Day         

On Sunday, December 25, there will be only one worship service at 10:00 a.m.  It will be a family service, featuring carols and a Christmas story by our Seminary Intern, Ally Glass instead of a sermon.  Everyone is invited to bring some kind of bell or bells to ring during the final hymn of the day, making a glorious noise in celebration of Christ’s birth!

New Year’s Day       

On Sunday, January 1, there will be only one worship service at 10:00 a.m.  It will be a family service, featuring Carols, Communion, and our annual pageant performance of Good King Wenceslas!  After the service, we will join in the spectacle of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” aerobic style!  Come and enjoy these wonderful traditions.

Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessne​ss Annual Appeal

The Middlesex County Collation on Housing and Homelessness is working hard to prevent and end homelessness in our county and we need your help. We are in the middle of our annual appeal and we’re inspired by the amount of support we have received through our mail campaign. We’ve been blessed with many generous donors, whose support helps us every day as we work to end homelessness in Middlesex County. Our donors have helped so many, and we are thankful-but we aren’t there yet.

During the first two years of implementing our Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, we saw a dramatic decline in the number of homeless.  However, due to the ongoing pressures of the poor economy, homelessness is increasing again in Middlesex County.

Please make an online donation today at www.AnEndInTen.org. or mail  a donation to:

100 Riverview Center Suite 230
Middletown, CT 06457

Checks can be made payable to: MCCHH/MUW

We all know someone affected by a job loss…an illness…a foreclosure. Perhaps they have reached out to the Coalition and its partners for help.

Because of support from donors like you, we have been there:

  • With over $125,000 in assistance that prevented 170 families from becoming homeless-including over 200 children
  • Creating an additional 56 units of supportive housing for the chronically homeless
  • Supporting and encouraging people who have experienced homelessness to advocate and educate community leaders about the plight of the homeless
  • Assisting people who are homeless find jobs

This success would not be possible without the help of over 250 dedicated donors and volunteers. Your donation is essential to reaching our goal of ending homelessness in Middlesex County. With your help, we can end homelessness!

Local Man Buys Vacant Ivoryton Car Dealership Site

Vacant car dealership site at 7 Main Street, Ivoryton (photo courtsey of Jerome Wilson)

ESSEX— A local man has purchased the vacant car dealership site at 7 Main Street in the Ivoryton section. In a property transfer filed with the town Wednesday, the 1.5-acre parcel was sold by the Grand Pacific Holding Company of Flushing, N.Y. to Little Village Construction LLC of 19 Little Point St., Essex  for $250,000.

Richard Ayotte confirmed Thursday that he had purchased the property, and that Little Village Construction LLC is his company. Ayotte, who has lived in Essex for about 15 years, has been on the property since Nov. 29. Over the past week he had crews on the site removing the asphalt blacktop where vehicles were displayed.

Site after crews have removed the asphalt blacktop (photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

The parcel, which fronts on the widest section of the Mill Pond of the Falls River, is the site of one of the first car dealerships in Middlesex County dating back about 100 years. It was operated for decades as the Behrens & Bushnell Buick dealership, and since 2005 as a Crest Mazda dealership. The site has been vacant since July 2010. The parcel had been assessed at $777,000 on the 2009 grand list of taxable property.

Ayotte said Thursday he has not decided on an exact use for the property, which contains one large garage-style building. “I just don’t know yet,” Ayotte said, adding that he may have more to say about the future use of the property next week.

But town Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said last week Ayotte had told him he plans to use the property for a private car club. Budrow said a private car club could operate on the parcel without the need for a special permit and public hearing before the zoning commission.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said he is pleased the parcel was sold to a local resident. Needleman said he plans to have lunch with Ayotte soon to discuss potential future uses of the property.

Meet the Dogans – Proud New Americans To-Be

Izzet (left) and his wife Nuray have packed their store inside and outside

Izzet and Nuray Dogan, man and wife, left beautiful Istanbul, Turkey, to start a new life here. That was a few years ago. I know that sounds vague and there’s a reason. Now they live in Westbrook and work in Old Saybrook. Not an unfamiliar story so far.

But their details are interesting. Amazing. They were good citizens and not fleeing for political reasons. Educated, middle-class, and successful. Not desperate for the next dollar. Close to middle-aged with three children. Not young and unschooled and not sneaking into the U.S.

For 21 months, since March 22, 2010, they have been nurturing a small business right across from Johnny Ad’s Drive-in on Boston Post Road in Old Saybrook. Truly a Mom and Pop business. People drop in also from  neighboring towns…Deep River, Old Lyme, Essex.

They both work at it seven days a week, from 9 to 6. They thought it had a name until I pointed out that it really wasn’t a name. All it says out front basically is Thrift Shop. They’re trying hard but their English is still less than fluent.

They sell all kinds of stuff. Clothes and shoes. Housewares. Books. Furniture. Pictures and decorative items. Jewelry and watches. Tools.  They take in some stuff on consignment. Whatever is sell-able. In a sense, it’s a small, private Goodwill, but operated for profit. Their way of making a living in a strange new land.

In fact, they have two signs up on the front window saying “We Buy Gold.” That takes a bit of expertise, it seems to me.

They arrived with two common problems.  Scant English.  And they knew hardly a soul.

Their store is jammed with thousands of offerings. But the remarkable thing is that everything is so well organized. So clean and tidy. You get the impression every item has been washed, cleaned, dusted. This is not a dump. Lots of heavy labor going on here.

These are hard times, as we all know, and they are struggling. Fewer people are out buying, even for used stuff priced to sell.  But they are catching attention. They caught mine.  Especially because I kept noticing all the odds and ends they put out in front outside, in the fresh air, every day. Dozens of things. Furniture. Clothes. Knickknacks. This attracts quite a few.


They do everything that needs doing. They’re a team

I’ve gotten to know them. The mom, Nuray Dogan, is 47. Attractive. Outgoing. Energetic. Smart. She flew over on July 17,  2000. She came alone with their three children. Just for a two-week vacation.

How come? Her daughter, Damla, now 27, was a student at the prestigious. English School in Istanbul. So was her older son, Cemre, 21. Damla kept begging, “Mama, let’s go to America!” Mama gave in. Younger son San was only two and a half back then.

They flew to a friend’s in Brooklyn. Somehow Nuray became dazzled by America. She made phone calls back to Izzet. She—they—made the huge decision. They would both start anew, together, in America. They had much to settle, at both ends. They would work out the many details and unanswered questions later.

Meanwhile, husband Izzet, who is 50 now, stayed home working.  As a young salesmanselling textiles, he had started a factory making children’s clothes. He was 26 then. It had prospered. He took in his two older brothers. They had 200 employees. He was plenty busy.

She went to the Turkish consulate for advice. They told her: “New York City is not a good choice. Go to a nice small community somewhere.” She knew another friend, in Westbrook.

She says that in one week she found an apartment, got a driver’s license (the fact that she had an international license made it easier), enrolled the children in school, and found the best stores for food and other necessities. She started the immigration process. And before long she was a full-time student at Middlesex Community College.  She wanted to learn English. Learn other things, too.

She says, “At the supermarket at first it was so hard. Even to find bread.”

How to make a living? She wanted to be her own boss. Her difficulty with English was a problem. She had discovered something: yard sales. She began buying stuff at yard sales and holding her own. She discovered the Westbrook Flea Market. Began buying and even selling stuff there.

She got the idea of her own shop someday. She began buying stuff with that in mind– cleaning and washing it, putting it away for the day when.

She got the children started in school. Daughter Damla and older son Cemre graduated from Westbrook High School. Son San is a freshman there.  Daughter Damla went on to get a bachelor’s in psychology from Southern Connecticut State University. Cemre is finishing at Middlesex Community College. He is passionate about music, plays drums and piano, and is finding gigs here and there.

Meanwhile husband Izzet carried on in Istanbul. Things there had become difficult.  The big recession hit. Business fell off.  He had friction with the two brothers he had invited in.

All along, Nuray and Izzet looked at their separation as temporary.  She would fly back regularly for a visit. He would fly here for a visit. Then they decided: he would settle things in Istanbul and fly here, too. Permanently. They would make a new life together and strive to become Americans!

I stop in now and then for a little chat. Have gotten to know them. Have seen how they have been struggling and slowly succeeding.

One day last summer near their shop, I spotted a huge yard sale in an empty lot.  Izzet and his son Cemre were presiding there. The yard sale was Izzet’s idea of a way to expand the business. They were toying with the idea.

The  strip block they’re in has several little businesses. They are at one end. One day, I noticed a new used furniture store near the opposite end.  I went in. Loaded with beds and bureaus and chairs and tables.  Cemre was manning the place. Another try. Not successful. They shut it down.

Today Izzet and Nuray are a true team. They roll up their sleeves and do whatever has to be done.

Both Nuray and Izzet learned a few words of English in school back home. Nuray has made great gains and is doing her best to get better.  Izzet is trying, too, but she got a six-year jump on him here. He throws in some good words now and then.

I stopped in at 4 p.m. a couple of days ago with this interview in mind. They were eager to tell me their story. I sat with them in their neat office at the back. Nuray was at her desk with her computer on.

There was a video of a pretty young woman on. She was playing with her tiny son.  This was not a video. It was her daughter in Istanbul. And her new grandson Toprak. Mother and daughter were on Skype and carrying on a conversation. Daughter could see Mama on her own computer monitor.

I chatted with Damla 5,000 miles away. She speaks beautiful English, so it was a pleasure. She operates an English school for pre-schoolers.  Her husband is in sales and marketing.  He came to the United States to study and that’s how they met. They met and married and Istanbul is now home. She explained her husband has a good career started there.

A happy, free-wheeling conversation like this takes place every day.

A  Turkish friend of theirs stopped in. He sat with us in the office. He was Ihsan (Ben) Akin of Old Saybrook. A few years older perhaps. Excellent English—he eased our conversation. Came to the U.S. 40 years ago, after mandatory service as a young officer in the Turkish army and university studies to become an architect. He is now the staff architect at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

Husband Izzet was participating in our talk also. But before long he walked away. Later I saw why. He was outside, moving in all the stuff that was weather-vulnerable for the night. Not a small job. He puts it out every morning, takes it in every evening.

Christmas will be here soon. The Christmas sales have been okay, but not as good as hoped.  Both are philosophical. They are learning every day. The recession will end. The children are doing fine. They are all together. They are enjoying their own home, a split-level ranch, in Westbrook.

Nuray has only one course left at Middlesex for her associate’s degree—an English conversation course! They are making more and more friends. Slowly the two of them are proceeding toward  citizenship in the great United States of America. Surprising how much they have accomplished.

And I have suggested a name for the store. “Treasures and Surprises.”

Rep. Phil Miller Named to Vice Chair of Environment Committee

State Representative Phil Miller has been named Vice-Chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden).

“The Environment Committee’s work is vital—from protecting Connecticut’s natural resources and open space to improving the quality of our air and water,” said Miller. “I’m truly honored to have been appointed to the leadership of such an important committee in my first year at the legislature.”

The committee conducts public hearings, issues reports of its findings and originates legislation  concerning the environment, including conservation, recreation, pollution control, fisheries and game, state parks and forests, water resources and flood and erosion control. The committee also has oversight over all agricultural matters, including farming, dairy products and domestic animals.

“Agriculture is important to Connecticut—and to our economy. It contributes $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs to the state’s economy.” said Miller. “Protecting and preserving Connecticut’s farms is a top priority for me.”

Since being elected in a special election last winter, Miller has been a strong voice at the capitol on environmental issues. The Essex Democrat was one of only 29 state representatives to earn a 100 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters this year.

In addition to the Environment Committee, Miller will continue to serve on the legislature’s Human Services, and Public Health Committees.

Deep River Selectmen Announce First Members of the New Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen Tuesday announced five prospective appointments to the new town hall auditorium restoration committee, but is holding off the formal appointment until additional volunteers step forward to serve on the 11-member committee.

The new Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee was created under a resolution approved at a Nov. 22 town meeting, taking the place of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. that had coordinated restoration work at the historic 1892 town hall since the early 1980s. The association has previously decided to disband and transfer its donated fund for the restoration work to the town.

First Selectman Richard Smith said five residents had volunteered to serve on the new committee, including former Selectman Arthur Thompson, Carol Jones, Janice Kemetz, Dennis Schultz, and Richard Nagot. Thompson had pushed for formation of a new committee to complete the auditorium restoration during his term on the board of selectmen that ended last month.

Smith said three members of the former restoration association board of directors are expected to volunteer to serve on the new committee, leaving three openings for additional volunteers. The board is expected to formally appoint the 11-member committee at its Dec. 27 meeting. Smith said Building Official Richard Leighton has already prepared a list of improvements needed to meet all current fire safety and building codes for the second floor auditorium, and would meet with the new committee to discuss the project early in 2012.

In other action Tuesday, a handful of residents at a town meeting approved a 15-year contract with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority for disposal of solid waste and recyclables. The contract, which provides for a tipping fee of $59.50 per ton, was approved on a unanimous vote.

Deep River has been a member of CRRA since the regional trash authority was established in the late 1980s. It is one of 13 area towns that send solid waste to the authority’s regional transfer station in Essex, where it is compacted and trucked to the authority’s Mid-Connecticut incinerator in Hartford. Contracts for 70 Connecticut cities and towns served by CRRA expire in November 2012.

Smith said a long-term contract with CRRA was the town’s most cost effective option for disposal of solid waste and recyclables based on both the tipping fee, and the close proximity of the regional transfer station.


2011 Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit Concludes with Turkey Romp and Plunge


Hikers enjoy the Turkey Tromp and Plunge at Viney Hill Brook Park

The 2011 Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit, sponsored by the Rockfall Foundation, wrapped up this year’s program after Thanksgiving  with the Turkey Tromp and Plunge at Viney Hill Brook Park, when half a dozen brave swimmers took to the freezing water.  Organizers say they will be hoping for more turkeys to participate next year.


The 2012 Essex Great Outdoor Pursuit calendar is shown below.  Please join them for these great outdoor events.

2012 Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit

The Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit is a cooperative effort between Essex Land Trust and Essex Park and Recreation Department. Our mission is to bring the families of Essex together through positive and healthy outdoor endeavors, while increasing the presence and awareness of our local parks, open spaces, and preserves. For more information, please visit the Park and Recreation website: http://essexct.recdesk.com/recdeskportal/

How to Play!

  1. All families who participate will receive a Great Outdoors Pursuit passport. With each event you complete, your passport will be stamped. For a family to officially complete the event, at least one parent and one child must participate (except for Turkey Tromp and Plunge). You may pick up your passport at any event or in the Park & Recreation office. Participants will receive a small prize for attending an event.
  2. Families must turn in their stamped passports to the Park and Recreation office no later than December 7, 2012.
  3. At the conclusion of our program, we will hold a drawing for a really cool grand prize valued at $250. Each family will have their name placed into the drawing the same amount of times for each event they officially completed. For example, if a family did 2 events they will have 2 tickets in the drawing, or for all 8 events, you will have 8 tickets in the drawing. The greater number of events a family completes, the greater the chance of winning the grand prize!

2012 Essex Great Outdoors Pursuit Program – List of Events

Winter Walk at Falls River Preserve and Jean’s Island 2/4/12
Arbor Day Event 4/28/12
Birding Seminar / Spring Migrants 5/5/12
Fishing Clinic 5/11, 5/12/12
Great Meadows Hike & Tremendous Turtle Program 6/27/12
Kayaking Program 8/9/12
Mountain Bike Ride 8/25/12
Ivoryton 5k Run/Walk/Road and Trail Race and Pumpkin Run 10/20/12
Family Turkey Tromp and Plunge 11/17/12

Where the Winter Wild Things Are – National Wildlife Refuge System and How to Track Wildlife

Join wildlife biologist Kris Vagos at the Deep River Library on Saturday January 21 from 1-2 p.m. to learn about your National Wildlife Refuge System and how to track wildlife.   Also you will have the opportunity to participate in activities related to habitat loss.

Holiday Concert at The Ivoryton Playhouse presented by Madhatters Broadway Show Choir

On December 21 at 7 p.m., Madhatters Broadway Show Choir will present Holiday Concert at The Ivoryton Playhouse.

General Admission tickets $5.00.  To reserve tickets call (860) 395-1861..also available at the door.  www.ctkidsonstage.com/madhatterstheatrecompany

Chester to Elect Two Region 4 Board of Education Members at Dec. 20 Town Meeting

CHESTER– Voters will elect two new members of the Region 4 Board of Education for vacancy terms at a Dec. 20 town meeting. The town meeting will convene at 7 p.m. at the Chester Meeting House.

The vacancies were created by the recent resignations of two Republicans on the board. Richard Strauss, who had served as board treasurer, resigned in October. Pamela Christman, who served as vice-chairwoman, resigned effective Dec. 6.

The board of selectmen was preparing to fill the two vacancies by appoint, but First Selectman Edmund Meehan announced last week that he was advised by town attorney John Bennet that a town meeting vote was required to fill a vacancy on the regional school board.

The town meeting has a single agenda item, to fill two vacancies on the Region 4 board through the November 2013 town election. The Chester Republican Town Committee has recommended Mario Gioco, the chairman of the town’s zoning board of appeals, to fill one of the openings.

Meehan said last week that at least two other residents had expressed interest in serving on the board. Nominations will be made from the floor of the town meeting, with the top two vote-getters elected to fill the vacant seats.


Remembering Summer Days at Essex’s Pettipaug Yacht Club

Pettipaug Yacht Club clubhouse and grounds in winter

It is all quiet now. The Pettipaug Yacht Club, located on 12 acres of land on the Connecticut River, has been put to bed for the winter. The heavy docks are stacked. The anchors and their chains for the sailboats are out of the water, their mooring balls resting beside them.

Also, the club’s office in the clubhouse is locked up tight, and the clubhouse deck is now a jumble of stored picnic tables. On the club’s grounds, there are still many boats scattered about. Although the club-owned powerboats are fully accounted for, according to the club’s ever present Paul Risseeuw, “We just don’t know who many of the other boats belong to.”

The cold stillness at the club is starkly different from the way it was last summer. Then in the bright, hot days of July and August, over 150 young people were actively participating in the sailing courses of Pettipaug Sailing Academy. Under the watchful eye and careful supervision of the Academy’s instructors, the club’s grounds were literally teeming with activity. Boats were being launched, sails hoisted, and races getting underway, amidst the happy voices of the young participants.

 Sailing Academy Director Paul Risseeuw

Paul Risseeuw, who is the Director of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, is a retired naval architect and engineer, who spent his career at Electric Boat, designing and constructing atomic submarines for the U.S. Navy. Now during the summer he spends literally seven days a week, every week, working at the club’s Sailing Academy, among other activities.

Paul Risseeuw among the boats at the club

The Sailing Academy’s program is divided into two sessions, and both sessions run for three and a half weeks. The first session takes place in July, and the second session runs from the latter part of July into the month of August.

Each of the two sessions is in turn divided into a morning program and an afternoon program. The morning programs offer sailing lessons to children, ages 8 to 11 years old; and the afternoon programs are designed for more advanced, young sailors, ages 12 to 16.

There are 41 students in each of the morning programs and 55 students in each of the afternoon programs.  Tuition to attend the Sailing Academy costs $375 to attend a single program, and $600 for a student who takes both of the morning programs, or both of the afternoon programs.

105 students at a Sailing Academy picnic on Nott Island last summer. (Photo courtesy of Paul Risseeuw)

It is never permissible, under Academy’s rules, for a student to mix morning and afternoon programs. If they are morning program sailors, they stay in that category. If they are afternoon program sailors, they stay in their category as well.

In directing the Sailing Academy Risseeuw supervises a faculty of seven sailing instructors. Each of the instructors is out on the water in his or her own powerboat, while the students are sailing in the waters off the club. Also, it is a strict rule at the Academy that all students wear lifejackets, while they are on the dock or sailing.

One factor in learning to sail is that it is a fairly common occurrence for young novice sailors to be hit by a sailboat’s boom. The boom is not particularly heavy on a 7’ 6” Opti sailboat, which is used in the morning programs, but it can still hurt. All of the sailing instructors are First Aid and CPR trained, and know how to handle these and other mishaps.

Boys and girl sailors, there’s a difference

After directing the Sailing Academy for many years, Risseeuw has made a number of observations about the different ways boys and girls approach learning to sail. For one, whereas the number of boys and girls taking sailing lessons is about fifty-fifty in the morning programs; in the afternoon programs the ratio is about seventy percent boys and thirty percent girls.

“The older they get, the fewer the number of girls there are in classes,” Risseeuw says. Also, he observes, “Boys like the racing; they like the competition.” As for the girls, “Girls generally are less competitive sailors. Girls like to be together. They prefer socializing.” Also, he says that sometimes in the afternoon programs, “Some of the girls show up in bikinis, at an age when boys don’t know where they are.”

Also, Risseeuw observes that as a general rule the younger sailors in the morning programs are easier to manage than the teenagers in the afternoon.

A singular treat for teenage sailors in the afternoon programs is that every Monday they hold races with the junior sailors of other yacht clubs. Sometimes these races are held at Pettipaug, and other times at other clubs. When they travel, Pettipaug sailors and their boats are transported with the help of parents.

Generally, when Pettipaug sailors race other clubs they engage in what is called “team racing,” which is a very popular and competitive type of racing. The goal in team racing is to have the team win the race, and not a single individual sailor, as is the case with traditional “regatta” racing.

Boats engaged in team races make extensive use of the priority of the starboard tack while sailing, and other right of way rules, so as to clear the way for the members of their team to advance.

The club's Opti sailboats on the river last summer (photo courtesy of Vic Hoehnebart)

Clubs which compete with Pettipaug’s sailing teams are all members of the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association, who’s Commodore just happens to be Pettipaug’s Paul Risseeuw.

Something for adults as well at Pettipaug

In addition to running the Sailing Academy, Risseeuw oversaw the running of twelve U.S. Powerboat courses last summer. The courses consist of one full day of training, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a guaranteed six hours on the water.

The tuition for taking the course was $170, and the U.S. Sailing Association contributed $10,600 to support the program.

There are also many traditional yacht club programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club run by other club members. Specifically, there were ten sailing races and regattas for members of the club throughout the summer sailing season. They include the traditional Charles Birch Memorial Race, won this year by veteran sailors, Ed Birch and Jeff Going. Charles Birch was the father of Ed Birch.

Also, last summer the club conducted a two-evening windsurfing course for adults.

Organizationally, there are three commodores at the club, which presently include Commodore Cameron Taylor, Vice Commodore Chris Manero and Rear Commodore Vic Hoehnebart, as well as a Board of Governors.

If they ever need help in running the club, they can always call on club member “extraordinaire,” Paul Risseeuw.

Deep River Rotary Club provides Dictionaries to Elementary School Students

Deep River Elementary School 3rd graders are overwhelmed with excitement at receiving their own dictionaries from local Rotary Club of Deep River.

Last month Deep River Rotary Club provided dictionaries to all the 3rd grade students at Deep River Elementary School as part of their involvement with The Dictionary Project.  DR Rotary enjoys providing all students with a dictionary of their own given to them as a gift for use in school and later taken home.  Gail Onofrio of Tri-Town Youth Services and Past President of Deep River Rotary Club is head of the committee for the Dictionary Project.  Gail stated, “The kids are absolutely rapt with the dictionaries as you can see in the photo”.   Rotarian, Jimmy DeLano, was stopped at Deep River Elementary School’s PTO BINGO event by another 3rd grade girl and she told him, ” Thank you for giving me a dictionary, I love it!”.

For more information on Deep River Rotary Club please see our website, www.deepriverrotary.com or call Jimmy DeLano (860)227-1159

Nutcracker Magic Comes to Essex Library

The Sugarplum Fairy passes out treats to her fans at the Essex Library’s holiday Nutcracker event, featuring dancers from the Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s company (Photo courtesy of Jessica Branciforte)

The Essex Library welcomed a visit from Clara, the Sugarplum Fairy, and the Nutcracker Prince last week, when members of the Eastern Connecticut Ballet appeared for an enchanted evening of music, dance, and story-telling. An enraptured audience of children and parents listened to a reading of “The Nutcracker”, then got to watch real, live dancers demonstrate ballet, and even join in themselves.

This program was a gift from Eastern Connecticut Ballet to the community, who are marking their 10th Anniversary Nutcracker at The Garde Arts Center in New London. Performances are December 10 at 1:30 and 7:00 p.m. and December 11 at 1:30 p.m., an ideal holiday treat for families. Sets and costumes transport you to 1850 New London while the legendary music of Tchaikovsky is performed by the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. For tickets: call 860 444-7373 or online at www.gardearts.org.

Essex Selectmen Approve $38,000 Appropriation to Relocate Emergency Operations Center at Town Hall

ESSEX— The board of selectmen Wednesday approved a $38,000 special appropriation to pay for relocating the town’s emergency operations center in to the former judge of probate office at town hall.

The board’s vote is the first step in a process that includes review of the proposed appropriation by the board of finance at a Dec. 15 meeting, followed by a public hearing and town meeting vote on the expenditure early next year. The emergency operations center would be relocated from a ground floor room that has been plagued by water leakage and mold problems to the former judge of probate office on the second floor, which has been vacant since the regional probate court in Old Saybrook was established last January. The board began discussing the proposed relocation after the water problems in the existing EOC were worsened by Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said the town insurance carrier has agreed to pay $34,000 to repair damage caused by the tropical storm. Needleman said the total cost of the relocation, and improvements intended to remediate water leakage in the ground floor room, is estimated at $71,880.

The total includes $48,000 for construction and basic electrical work, about $10,000 to hook up all radio communications equipment in the new EOC, $1,500 for removal of asbestos in the ground floor room, and a contingency of $6,500. The total also includes about $5,000 for installation of a sump pump, dehumidifier, and exterior drainage improvements intended to remediate the water problem in the former EOC area.

Needleman said the net new expense for the town would be $38,000. He said the work would be completed by spring if voters approve the special appropriation.

The EOC relocation is the second special appropriation for emergency management and response items to be approved by the selectmen this fall. A proposed special appropriation of $32,538 to purchase emergency response related items, including new radios and road signs, will be presented to voters for approval at a Dec. 21 town meeting.

In other business, Needleman said he would retain two public comment periods on the board’s regular meeting agenda. The first, at the beginning of the meeting, would be for public announcements and general comments, the second, at the close of the meeting, would be dedicated to further public comment on issues that were discussed on the meeting agenda.


Monday Afternoon at the Opera Takes a Bow at the Essex Library

December 19 at 3 p.m.,  Essex Library’s Monday Afternoons at the Opera begin with a quintessential holiday classic, the 1955 broadcast version of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Sung in English, this Gian Carlo Menotti  piece was written for television, and is beautifully performed by a cast including Rosemary Kuhlmann, Bill McIver, and Andrew McKinley. Bring the kids – it’s the perfect family-friendly introduction to this rich art form.  Make it part of your holiday tradition. Cookies and eggnog will be served.

Superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann lights up the screen with Caterina Antonacci in Carmen, Monday January 16 at the Essex Library

Next, we heat things up with opera’s reigning tenor heartthrob, Jonas Kaufmann, in a sizzling, sexy Carmen, co-starring Caterina Antonacci as the gypsy temptress.  Kaufmann’s more than a world-class singer, with acting skills as impressive as his smoky voice. See it Monday, January 16 at 3 p.m.  February 20 at 3 p.m., Strauss’s spine-chilling Salome takes center stage, starring Teresa Stratas at the peak of her impressive vocal powers, in one of the most highly acclaimed opera films ever made.  And we’ll be showing an encore presentation of the documentary, The Audition, March 19 at 3 p.m.  Watch as a talented group of tomorrow’s opera superstars compete in this most prestigious of vocal competitions, The Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions; it’s got all of the tension, the heartbreak, and the triumphs of a great sports movie – but with singing! Even if you’re not a fan, we guarantee that this film will move and inspire you.

Call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560 to register for any or all of these free films, and we’ll see you at the opera.

Chester Selectmen Learn Town Meeting Vote Required to Fill Region 4 Board Vacancies

CHESTER— The board of selectmen decided Tuesday that a town meeting vote is required to fill the town’s two vacancies on the Region 4 Board of Education.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan, at his first meeting of the board since assuming the top job on Nov. 22, said he had learned Monday that a town meeting vote would be needed to fill the two vacancies on the regional school board. Chester selectmen, along with the boards of selectmen in the other district towns of Deep River and Essex, had been operating on the assumption that vacancies on the Region 4 board could be filled with appointments by the board of selectmen. “This is a new wrinkle in this process,” Meehan said.

Meehan said he was advised of a state statute that requires vacancies on regional school boards to be filled through a town meeting vote, even though the Region 4 towns have 1950s ordinances that call for an appointment of the board of selectmen to fill vacancies. Town meeting votes have been used to fill vacancies on the board of other regional school districts in the area, including Region 17 (Haddam-Killingworth) and Region 13 (Durham-Middlefield). Meehan said Town Attorney John Bennet had advised that the state statute on the vacancy process would supersede any local town ordinance.

Chester has two vacancies on the Region 4 board in seats that were held by Republicans. Richard Strauss, the board’s treasurer, resigned in October, while board vice-chairwoman Pamela Christman resigned effective Tuesday. Meehan said three residents have expressed interest in serving on the school board, including Mario Gioco, an accountant and chairman of the zoning board of appeals who has been recommended for one of the vacancies by the Chester Republican Town Committee.

The board agreed to schedule a town meeting to vote on filling the vacancies, and made no recommendations of candidates at Tuesday’s meeting. Meehan said he would schedule the town meeting as soon as possible, probably before the end of the month. Nominations would be made from the floor of the town meeting, with the winning candidates serving on the Region 4 board through the next town election in 2013.

The board also appointed a new member of the planning and zoning commission while offering support to a possible post-election switch among Republicans on the commission.

There were four residents interested in filling the vacancy created by the recent resignation of long-time member Janet Good, a Democrat. The interested residents include current commission alternate Henry Krempel, a Democrat, former Republican member Melvin Seifert, who failed to win election in the Nov. 8 town election after serving as an appointed member of the commission, former member Steve Tiezzi, and Patricia Bisacky, an unsuccessful candidate for the commission in last month’s election on the Chester Common Ground Party line.

Meehan said he favored appointing Krempel for the vacancy, following an informal tradition of appointing an active alternate when a regular member seat is opened up by a resignation. Seifert asked to be considered for the appointment, contending his background as a lawyer had been helpful to the panel over the past year.

After Democratic Selectman Larry Sypher indicated he also favored Krempel for the appointment, newly elected Republican member Doreen Joslow made an unusual offer. Joslow had won election to a two-year vacancy term on the commission in the Nov. 8 vote, defeating long-time commission chairman Michael Joplin, a Democrat, in the major upset of the 2011 election.

Joslow said she would be willing to resign her regular member seat, possibly stepping in to an alternate position, if the board of selectmen would agree to appoint Seifert to fill the two-year vacancy seat she won on Nov. 8. Joslow said she believes Seifert would bring valuable experience in filling a regular member seat on the panel.

Meehan and Sypher said they would be willing to support a possible switch of the two Republicans. Krempel’s appointment leaves two alternate openings on the commission, along with the regular member opening that could be created if Joslow resigns the seat.

In other business, the board reappointed Bennet as town attorney for the 2011-2013 term. The appointment comes despite a pending increase in the firm’s fee, from the current $140 per hour to $175 per hour next July.

Deep River Town Meeting to Vote on 15-Year Contract with Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority

DEEP RIVER— Residents will vote at a town meeting Tuesday on a proposed 15-year contract with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority for disposal of solid waste and recyclables. The Dec. 13 town meeting begins at 7 p.m. in town hall.

The contract would require the town to send all solid waste and recyclables to the CRRA’s Mid-Connecticut incinerator and collection facility in Hartford. The solid waste is compacted first at the regional transfer station off Route 154 in Essex, just south of the Deep River-Essex town line. The contract, which would expire in 2027, calls for a tipping fee of $59.50 per ton, with some provisions for a higher fee if there is a sharp increase in fuel oil costs.

Deep River was one of the first towns to join the regional trash authority when it was established in the mid-1980s. Currently 13 area towns compact solid waste at the regional transfer station in Essex for trucking to the Hartford facility.

CRRA contracts with 70 Connecticut cities and towns expire on Nov. 15, 2012. Area towns have been asked by the authority to act on new long-term contracts by town meeting votes in the coming weeks. Lyme has already approved the new contract with CRRA.


Courtney Claims New Federal Prescription Drug Plan Helps Eastern Connecticut Seniors

Congressman Joe Courtney

Eastern Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, citing new data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a recent press release from Washington, that eastern Connecticut seniors saved $3.388 million on prescription drugs from January through October of this year. These savings were as a result of new improvements in the federal Affordable Care Act. These improvements meant that Medicare beneficiaries now automatically receive a 50-percent discount on covered brand-name drugs in the Part D coverage gap, or “donut hole.” “The amount of this discount will continue to grow until the Part D donut hole is completely phased out in 2020,” the Courtney said.

“This newest data confirms that the Affordable Care Act is making a significant positive difference in people’s lives across our country,” he continued. “Not only are seniors taking advantage of no-cost wellness screenings, but they are getting critical assistance in paying for life-saving prescription drugs. Fewer young people are uninsured today thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and, as more people take advantage of preventive care services and the annual wellness benefit, medical problems will be discovered and treated earlier, improving the chance of recovery and reducing overall treatment costs.”

According to the Congressman, CMS data shows that approximately 5,560 eastern Connecticut beneficiaries received prescription drug assistance between January 1st and October 31st this year. According to their statistics, the three towns with the most beneficiaries that received Part D assistance are Enfield (405 beneficiaries), Vernon Rockville (279 beneficiaries), and Madison (219 beneficiaries). “These numbers, as well those in other Eastern Connecticut towns will continue to increase as the calendar year ends and two additional months of assistance reach other seniors as they hit their deductible,” the Congressman said.

Essex Winter Series Begins with Frederica von Stade with pianist Laurana Mitchelmore

Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano

The Essex Winter Series 2012 will be holding their first concert of the year on January 8 at 3 p.m. at Valley Regional High School, when they will present mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade with pianist Laurana Mitchelmore.

Recognized as one of today’s most beloved musical figures, Frederica von Stade has enriched the classical music world for three decades with appearances in opera, concert and recital, and on PBS specials and Live from Lincoln telecasts. Her achievements include more than 60 recordings, six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, theDeutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy’s Premio della Critica Discografica, “Best of Year” citations by Stereo Review and Opera News, appointment to France’s L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and an award from President Reagan and the White House for her significant contribution to the arts.

World-class pianist and long-time collaborator Laurana Mitchelmore will accompany Miss von Stade, who has described this moving concert as a “musical autobiography.”

All concerts are at Valley Regional High School in Deep River Ct. and begin at 3 p.m.

Ticket information is available at www.essexwinterseries.com

Essex Savings Bank Joins Team to Help Madison Town Field and Coach Ciotti

Left to Right: Standing – Allen Jackson, Robert Paolucci Essex Financial Services, financial advisor, Duo Dickinson Architect, Ed Cull Essex Savings Bank Vice President and commercial loan officer, Jonathan Mayhew. Sitting – Rose McLaughlin, Essex Savings Bank, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager, Greg Shook, Essex Savings Bank, President & CEO, Chairman Larry Ciotti.

The Strong Center Field at the Surf ClubCommittee, Madison,  is planning a mailing to communicate their plans to get even stronger with the help of  Essex Savings Bank.  “We noticed the groundswell of this nonprofit group of local residents who started an initiative to overhaul and renovate the field, the structures and the entrance to the area. It is our pleasure to join in and help promote and underwrite a portion of the costs to deliver information, raise funds and requests for assistance for the town treasure known to us as the ‘Surf Club’,” noted Greg Shook, President and CEO of the Bank. Customers of the Bank will be able to vote to direct funds to the surf club in the annual community investment program from February to March.

The field is used by boys and girls soccer, football and lacrosse teams, in addition to recreational teams, such as the adult softball league.

“The town is in no position to put a great deal of money into the field in terms of renovating and beautifying it,” said Ciotti.

“We have made excellent progress so far, but we need to solicit more private donors and look into other areas of fund-raising,” said Ciotti.

The group has $1 million so far, one third of what they hope to have by the end of the fundraising initiative. The project will cost about $3.2 million, and the group is aiming for completion by Sept. 1, 2012.

For questions or for an opportunity to help with the project, call Ciotti at 203-671-9805.  http://www.strongcentersurfclub.org/vision.html

Since 1851, Essex Savings Bank has been a “safe financial harbor” for individuals, families, and businesses along the Connecticut shoreline. Today, the bank provides checking, savings, loans, trust and wealth management services, along with a full range of investment services through it’s subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc.  Its five branches are located in Essex, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

There’s no Place Like…Home for the Holidays – At The Ivoryton Playhouse

Carson Waldron, Addison Marchese, Kearney Capuano, Kaitlyn Vitelli, Carolina Read and Michael McDermott* (Photo courtesy of Anne Hudson).

Ivoryton:  Why not stay close to home this holiday season? If you are looking for festive entertainment that won’t blow your budget and has something for the whole family, then head on down to Ivoryton. Home for the Holidays, written and directed by Playhouse Executive/Artistic Director is a new old fashioned Christmas story with the music and songs you love to hear.

Take an unexpected blizzard, add a sprinkling of the Nutcracker, a pinch of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, stir in a little romance and festive song, top it all off with holiday magic and you get a new family tradition called Home for the Holidays premiering at the Ivoryton Playhouse on December 8. “This has been such an important year for the Ivoryton Playhouse,’ says Hubbard.  “Not only did we reach our 100th birthday but we weathered a hurricane that tore down our beautiful spruce and narrowly missed the building. I feel as though something was watching over us on that day and that was the inspiration for this story.”

This heart warming family story is filled with carols, new and old, and many faces familiar to Playhouse audiences. Cast includes Playhouse favorites –  Beverley Taylor, Norm Rutty, Michael McDermott*, John DeNicola, Maggie McGlone Jennings, Celeste Cumming, Caroline Read, Alanna Burke, Gayle LaBrec, Jason Naylor, Brandon Clark and Addison Marchese. And some new local talent will be making their Playhouse debut in this show – Erica LuBonta, Liz Pester, Will Schneider, Kaitlyn Vitelli, Kearney Capuano and Carson Waldron. The set for this production is designed by Jo Nazro and lights by Doug Harry.

Come and experience the true magic of the season with this original Connecticut Christmas story – for two weeks only.

Home for the Holidays opens on Thursday, December 8 and runs thru December 18 for 2 weeks. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.)

The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

*member of Actors Equity

Three Cruisers, Three Hours, Over 2300 Pounds of Food Collected: A New Record

Resident Trooper TFC Kerry Taylor and Officer Russell Gingras of the Essex Police Department with Mark Bombaci and Chris Rodriguez of the Essex Community Fund. Please help them beat their current record at the next Stuff-A-Cruser event at the Colonial Market on December 16 from 4 - 7 pm.

The Essex Community Fund and the Essex Police Department joined together once again to Stuff-A-Cruiser for the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.  On November 18 volunteers were stationed outside the IGA at Bokum Center to gather food that will help prepare hundreds of meals.  They collected over 2,300 lbs of donated food, which beat the previous record by over 100 lbs.

Please come by again on December 16 between 4 and 7 p.m. and help beat the 2,300 lb record.  Canned, boxed or jarred non-perishable food items are requested.  (Pasta, rice, sauces, cereals, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, peanut butter, jelly, etc.)  If you can’t stop by during the events, you can also drop your donations in the Soup Kitchen Box by the exit door of the IGA.  For further information call 860-767-1633.

Essex Sends Coldwell Banker “Notice of Violation” for Real Estate Advertising Sign at Roundabout

Coldwell Banker signage at the Essex roundabout, Nov. 13

Essex’s Zoning Enforcement Agent Joseph Budrow has sent a “Notice of Violation” to the Essex office of the real estate firm of Coldwell Banker after a finding “that [Coldwell Banker] signage is being placed in a public right-of-way from time to time to promote Open Houses.” “The location of the signage in the in the middle of the roundabout in Essex Square must cease,” the Enforcement Officer wrote in the Notice of Violation, dated December 1.

The Notice was sent to Coldwell Banker’s Essex office on Main Street, c/o Laurel Peters.

The Coldwell Banker signage that triggered the Notice of Violation took place on Sunday, November 13, when one of its brokerage signs was placed next to Essex’s “silent policeman” in the middle of the roundabout at the top of Essex’s Main Street. The sign advertised an Open House by Coldwell Banker real estate agent Laurel Peters, and gave a contact telephone number.

In an interview on November 13, when the sign was in place, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent at the firm’s Essex office, who declined to give her name, said that the posting of real estate signs in the Essex roundabout was a common practice. “Everybody does it,” she said, “particularly on Sundays, when real estate brokers hold open houses at the properties that they are selling.”

Sign on roundabout said to violate Zoning regulations

 Zoning Agent Budrow’s letter to Coldwell Banker said, “The signage appears to violate the Town of Essex’s zoning regulations,” and he cited three regulations.

1) 111A.6, which provides that no sign may be designed in a way “which may be confused with a traffic control sign or signal.”  Budrow said in an interview that this regulation was particularly relevant to the Coldwell Banker sign placed in the roundabout.

2) 111A.9, which provides that a posted sign must be necessary to the same use as the premises on which it is located. (This could mean, for example, that Coldwell Banker can clearly place signs at its office on Main Street, as they are necessary to the business on the premises.)

3) 111C, which lists exceptions to the requirement that signs must be necessary to the use of the premises. The listed exceptions include off premises signs for church and charity events, political signs, signs of civic and fraternal organizations, and museums signs, among others. Real estate signs are not mentioned in any of the exceptions found in regulation 111C.

Permissible signage at Coldwell Banker offices on Main Street

In his Notice of Violation Zoning Enforcement Agent Budrow also wrote, “The Zoning Commission will soon undergo a revision of our current signage regulations, and real estate signs will be addressed as they are currently not listed as allowed at all.”

This appears to mean that off premises real estate advertising signs, unless they are related to the necessary use of the premises under regulation 111A.9, such as a broker’s “for sale” sign on the premises, are currently not permitted in the town of Essex.

Attempts to reach real estate agent Laurel Peters, whose name appeared on the Caldwell Banker sign at the Essex roundabout, were unsuccessful.

Child & Family Agency Essex Holiday House Tour

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern CT announces its 11th biennial Essex Holiday House Tour on Saturday, December 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The tour will feature seven beautiful village homes, including a landmark house, all decorated for the holidays and within walking distance from the Town Hall for easy access to village shops and restaurants as well.  Essex Historical Society’s Pratt House and  the Connecticut River Museum will also be open free to ticket holders.

Enticing boutique wares for everyone’s shopping list and a small café at Town Hall will also merit exploring.

Tickets will be available at $25 each in advance from The Griswold Inn Store (Essex), Stoneware (Essex), Gather (Ivoryton), Saybrook Country Barn (Old Saybrook, The Bowerbird (Old Lyme),

Celebrations (Deep River), Ceramica (Chester), and Walker & Loden (Madison).  Tickets on the day of the tour will be sold at the Essex Town Hall for $30 each, and tickets ordered after December 5 will be held there.  For groups of 15 or more, tickets may be ordered in advance at $20 each.  When ordering by mail, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and send your check to:  Child & Family Agency, Holiday House Tour, 168 River Road, Essex 06426.  For more information about the tour or the Agency, please visit the  website at www.cfapress.org.

Our Mission

Since its founding in 1809, the mission of Child & Family Agency has been to promote the well-being and development of all children and their families.  Priority is given to the unmet needs of children lacking physical, emotional, and intellectual care and nurturing.

Programs deal with child abuse prevention, the treatment of family violence, teen pregnancy, children’s health care, childcare, parent education, and child guidance.  Last year, over 16,000 children were served in 79 towns in New Haven, Middlesex, and New London Counties.  Child & Family has 172 staff – social workers, teachers, psychologists, nurse practitioners, physicians, administrators, and support staff – dedicated to helping children at 27 service centers.

As a non-profit, with a budget of over $10 million, Child & Family Agency’s funding comes from private, state, United Way, and federal sources.  Fees for service reflect costs, and a sliding scale assures that no one will be refused service for financial reasons.

Much private support of the Agency is derived from six auxiliaries, located in Essex, Lyme/Old Lyme, East Lyme/Niantic, New London/Waterford/Groton, and Mystic/Noank/Stonington.   Auxiliary members are a diverse group, who give generously of their time and talent through caring for children, fundraising events, and educational services to further the mission of the Agency.  New members and donors are always welcome.

Those who participate in the  tour  are helping to strengthen families in communities in Southeastern Connecticut.

Letters: Essex Blood Drive Thanks

To The Editor:

We are writing to thank the many donors and volunteers who supported the blood drive at Essex Town Hall on December 2.  The goal was to collect 80 pints. Eighty-four pints were successfully donated.  We are fortunate that so many people in the area are personally dedicated to donating.  One person achieved the one-gallon mark; another received an 8 gallon pin. Eileen Patrie donated her 100th pint!  And there was one first-time donor.

Blood is always in short supply.  We are extremely gratified that so many recognize the ongoing need and are able to donate so that blood is available to transfuse those who are ill.

You may be surprised to learn that 19 volunteers were involved in this drive.  This includes friends who prepare the homemade goodies for the hospitality table as well as workers at the event.  In addition, we are very appreciative of the contributions made by local merchants.  Riggio’s Flower Shop donates roses for each of the drives, which we give to first-time donors and those who reach new “gallon” benchmarks.  IGA and the Knights of Columbus provide some of the food used to make sandwiches for the hospitality table.

We will be in touch for the next drive in Essex scheduled for February 3.


Dick and Linda Levene

Chili, Cheap and Chilly Art Sale

Essex Art Association will be hosting a Chili, Cheap and Chilly art sale on December 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the unheated gallery building at 10 North Main Street, Essex.

This is a fun one day art sale in their unheated gallery. They will have steaming pots of complimentary chili and cider to help browsers stay warm and happy while they’re looking at original artwork for under $200.


Estuary Council of Seniors Open House Dec. 9

The Estuary Council of Seniors Cordially Invites You to Our OPEN HOUSE on Friday, December 9, 2011from 2:30 – 4:00 pm. Come to the Tom Farrell Game Room in the M. Monica Eggert Senior Center 220 Main Street Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Please join us as we celebrate the reopening of the lower level of our building. Tour our renovated Tom Farrell Game Room, our new exercise room, and our expanded Thrift Shop. The Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. is a nine-town community resource providing services, programs, education, and advocacy while promoting independent living for seniors.  Refreshments will be served.

Food for Fines at the Library

Children's Librarian Jessica Branciforte and the Food For Fines canned food drive

From December 1 through 30, 2011 Essex Library be accepting non-perishable food items in exchange for your Library fines.  All items collected will be brought to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries.

Please be sure that any item you donate has not reached its expiration date.  Glass jars and bottles will not be accepted, but we will gladly accept canned goods and anything contained in plastic or a cardboard box.  Up to $1.00 will be forgiven for each item you donate.

Start the New Year off right with a clean Essex Library record, while simultaneously helping your neighbors in need!

Stone Deaf, But Still They Manage a Fine Conversation

Who knows what each day will bring?

I was returning from New London. It was 4 p.m. and I needed my coffee pick-up. I swung into a Burger King, bought a cup, sat down and opened a Newsweek I had brought in.

Quiet in there.  Just two men in a booth a dozen feet away. About 35. Engaged in a very lively conversation. But I couldn’t make out a word. There were no words! No sounds! They were talking in sign language. Were deaf. Not a problem.

They were enjoying their “talk.” Their “words” were flying back and forth. They were talking by making signs. Using their hands. Their fingers. Their arms. Amazing. And facial expressions. Frowning. Smiling. Raising their eyebrows. Expressing surprise. So many emotions. I kept glancing at them. Couldn’t stop watching. They didn’t seem handicapped.

One noticed me. It didn’t bother him. He kept right on with his buddy. He was used to curious people like me.

They left. They were still signing as they walked away. I left, too, my Newsweek unread. What I had just observed was more fascinating than anything I could have found in the magazine.

Now flash forward a few days. I’m at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook. I love libraries, stop in one wherever I am. Spend half an hour, more often an hour. Always a delight. I measure a community by its library.

This was my big find. An eye-opener

On the way out, I pause by the front door. There’s a bookcase there. It’s loaded with books the library no longer wants. Perhaps donations from somebody. Take one. Take two. They’re free. I always look. Often take one. Sometimes I read it, maybe just bits of it, then take it back for somebody else. Books have a long and strange life. Some I keep.

I spot a big thick one. “The American Sign Language Dictionary.” What an amazing coincidence!

I had no idea such a dictionary existed.

The cover shows four close-up photos of a woman. She’s signing, just like the men I had watched. I thumb through. 512 pages!  Loaded with words and definitions. Even synonyms and references to other words. From “abandon” all the way to “zipper.” Incredible.

But each word also has a small drawing of a man. Just the outline of a man. He’s making a sign for that word. For “devil.” Or “important.” Or “revenge.” Very clear, very explicit. Little arrows show the direction of his moves, even how he repeats the moves. Even what expression he uses with this sign or that one. Fascinating.

The cover claims the book has more than 4,400 signs and 6,60 illustrations! Imagine that! Featuring 1,100 new signs and 1,750 illustrations. And this is an “abridged edition”! “From “the most comprehensive and clearly written dictionary of sign language ever published,” according to a cover blurb by the Los Angeles Times.

I check. It was published in 1994 by Harper Perennial. A fine outfit. Written by one Martin L.A. Sternberg. A blurb identifies him as a professor at Hofstra University and Adelphi University, with a doctorate in education.

Martin L. Sternberg Sign Language became his life’s work.

The blurb says, “Deaf since the age of seven. Dr. Sternberg has spent most of his career working with deaf people.” Impressive. So, for six years he could hear—I suspect that’s harder to take than coming into the world deaf.

The price back then was $18, $25 in Canada. (Those poor Canadians!) It looks hardly used. I take it home. It’s mine for the taking. Who disposed of this—it was not a library discard. No idea.

Why do I want it? Well, a simple answer. I love dictionaries. I have a number of them. Conventional dictionaries. Pictorial dictionaries. Dictionaries of slang and idioms. Even a “thematic” dictionary, which lists words by subject, such as “medicine.”  In English and French and Spanish and Russian. Which may seem strange to you. Even a Latin dictionary that I used every day eons ago. As a kid I never thought I would develop such an interest. I look forward to poking into this one.

Long ago, I wrote a magazine article about a dictionary. In fact, exactly 50 years ago. A wonderful experience for me.

It was Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. Completely new. Commonly known as the Merriam-Webster Third. Published by G.&C. Merriam. That’s a very fine name. That was back in 1961—yes, just half a century ago.

That dictionary made big headlines. It was a historic event. It was the first American dictionary that did not tell people whether a word was good or less good. It simply reported the various definitions a word could have. Sometimes they were many. A huge dictionary—three hefty volumes.

Merriam  achieved this by building a huge, amazing file of how words were actually being used.  M-W had a big staff of lexicographers and editors. They read an enormous variety of things and saved what they called “citations” from books and newspapers and other publications showing a word used this way or that way. And they paid experts out in the field to send in unusual examples. Words are like people. They change as they grow older.

Thousands of signs. All carefully illustrated.

A few minutes ago I went online to wikipedia.org and this is what I found. I include it because it’s so interesting.

After about a decade of preparation, G. & C. Merriam issued the entirely new Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language in 1961. Unabridged  It was edited by Philip Babcock Gove and a team of lexicographers who spent 757 editor-years and $3.5 million.

It contained more than 450,000 entries, including over 100,000 new entries and as many new senses for entries carried over from previous editions.

The final definitio, “zyzzogeton,” was written on October 17, 1960; the final etymology was recorded on October 26; and the final pronunciation was transcribed on November 9. The final copy went to the typesetters, R.R. Donnelley, on December 2. The book was printed by the Riverdale Press in Cambridge, Mass.

The first edition had 2,726 pages (measuring 9 in wide by 13 in  tall by 3 in , weighed 13½ lbs and originally sold for $47.50 (about $350 in 2010 dollars). The changes were the most radical in the history of the Unabridged.

Although it was an unprecedented masterwork of scholarship, it was met with considerable criticism for its descriptive (rather than prescriptive) approach. It told how the language was used, not how it ought to be used.

It was big news. Newspapers everywhere carried at least a few words about it. I was excited to read all this. I admit I had a personal interest. In September, 1943, on my first day as a fresham at Assumption Prep in Worcester, at age 13, I walked with my new classmates to the school bookstore. We were handed our books for the year. My stack included The Merriam-Webster Abridged Dictionary—Webster’s Collegiate. I used it for eight years (I moved on to Assumption College from Assumption Prep). I still have it. More than a thousand pages, and well-thumbed.

Right away I pitched writing a piece about the Webster’s Third New to my editor as a full feature piece and he gave me a “Go!”

Merriam’s office was in nearby Springfield. Still is.  I drove there and met Dr. Gove. Philip Babcock Gove was a distinguished-looking man in a double-breasted suit with a fine necktie. He spent a lot of time showing me around and explaining their procedures and introducing me to two or three of his many experts.   Later I returned with a photographer. This was a standard procedure on our magazine. He would take shots to illustrate my article. I would take along a draft I had written and  would double-check this or that.

(An interesting aside. On my first trip to any assignment, I would always be paid my expenses. On the second trip, the photographer always got the check.)

I uncovered something extraordinaty about the scholarly Dr. Gove. He had a small farm in nearby Ware. And he kept half a dozen cows and milked them morning and night.

We had to show that! He smiled and agreed. We met him there out in the country in his farmhouse. But now he had his bib overalls on and was out in the smelly barn sitting on a stool by one of his cows. This lexicographer with a famous reputation!

“My hobby!” he told me. He’d feed them their hay, clean out the muck, do it all. It turned out to be a great article. People can be so fascinating.

But back to my sign-language dictionary. Extraordinary, as I said. It was put together with the help of a dozen specialists in various fields. Some gathering business signs, some children’s signs, some Catholic or Jewish, on and on.

It turns out there is a specific finger sign for every letter of our alphabet. D, K, P, V. So you use these signs to spell out a word.

Then there are signs for a whole word—a whole concept. “Carrot,” say, or “rash” or “secret.”  Wonderful to see the imagination that inspired each and every one of these signs.

I thought to myself, “Who used this sign or that one for the very first time? Surely different signs came up for the same word or thought. Which ones fell into use along the way?”

Many words have sharply different meanings. “Opportunity,” for instance. The book shows four meanings, each with its own sign.

I checked for certain words, as I thought of them. Bankrupt. God. Idiom. Mail. Pollute. Round. Urinate. I found them all.

I looked for others but did not find them. But the book was published in 1994, and some of those words did not exist.

I also found phrases. A sign for “Go to bed.” Another for “Go off the track.” Another for “Go as a group.” Another for “Go by car” or “Go by train.”  But I did not find one for “Go by plane,” which I found strange. I’ll bet it’s in a newer edition.

I also checked for some sex words.  I remember doing that with my new dictionary when I was 13. In this one I found “intercourse” and “lesbian” and “masturbate’ and I am sure there were others.

Also naughty words, “four-letter” words, as I did back then. (Didn’t you?) None in this dictionary.

But remember, this sign dicitionary I had picked up was also an abbreviated edition. And it was the first one in the Computer Age. Dr. Sternberg explained this at the very front.

How were all these drawings created? What an enormous effort. Well,  the latest technology was used—a first. Here’s how Dr. Sternberg explained it:

“It involved making videotapes of the signs using different models and then time-freezing appropriate poses. These poses in turn produced computer-generated drawings—rapidly and accurately.”

Oh, I just stumbled on this: A CD-ROM edition of this book was also created. Not included in my book.

This specialized work became Dr. Sternberg’s career, it seems. The original Unabridged Edition took him 19 years to produce! Between that one and this one he produced two other editions. He had a career that was as daunting and meaningful as Dr. Gove’s.

I wondered about some things.  Deafness is a world-wide affliction, of course. So, such dictionaries must exist in other advanced countries. France, let’s  say. Germany. Russia. China. Well, I found out this dictionary is for American Sign Language.

I  think a scholar would have a ball checking the signs for words in those languages.  “Baby,” for instance. Or “Wheel.” Wouldn’t it be interesting to check for similarities and differences in signs in these different languages and cultures? Do deaf Chinese use the same sign for baby as Americans do? Do Russians use the same sign for wheel that we do?

I’m sure that originally each sign was the spontaneous creation of a deaf person who had an inspiration…an insight…a flash of imagination. As a person got older, he would use more and more signs of his own devise. As well as signs picked up from other deaf persons. Deaf persons must pass on signs to one another and the best signs survive.  I’m speculating, of course.

I think of a scenario: suddenly a family with normal hearing has a baby that is deaf. They are alone in their situtation; they don’t know any other family with a deaf child.  As the child grows, the family develops signs for  this and for that. So does the child. These signs do the job of communicating between them. These signs are unique to them.  So, there must be thousands and thousands of such unique signs out there. Think of the task of collecting them all and standardizing them.

This was the job that Dr. Sternberg took on. To me, his achievement is as monumental as Dr.Gove’s. Think of how meaningful it must be to anyone who is deaf.

I kept poking into the book, finding all kinds of interesting tidbits. On the back cover I found a local angle. Some glowing testimonials are printed there. One is from David Hays. Right from our own Chester. He opened the National Theatre for the Deaf there in 1983. Now it’s in West Hartford.

He wrote, “Four thumbs up. Martin Sternberg’s intelligence and passion for his subject gleams in this monumental work.”

Martin Sternberg was a giant, without a doubt. He did for the deaf what Louis Braille did for the blind. He was the blind French church organist who in 1825 devised the raised system of  dots permitting them to read and write.

I feel lucky indeed that I don’t need Dr. Sternberg’s precious book. But countless people do. And how lucky they are indeed to have it.

I’m so curious: did those two men who were “talking” so fluently back at Burger King pick up some of their marvelous signs from this dictionary?

And did the person who gave up my copy ever have to use it?

Bushy Hill Nature Center Invites You to Celebrate the Winter Season

Ivoryton, CT – The Bushy Hill Nature Center will be hosting its annual Winterfest on Saturday, December 10 at 6 p.m. Join the Bushy Hill staff for an evening of pot luck delights and winter fun for the whole family. There will be arts and crafts for the kids and other seasonal activities. The event is open to the public and there is a suggested minimum donation of $10, all proceeds will go towards some much needed improvements to the Nature Center.

Bushy Hill is a non-sectarian part of Incarnation Center located on 700 beautifully wooded acres surrounding a mile long private lake.  We provide several types of programs throughout the year, many of which are geared toward school-aged children.  We specialize, however, in helping people of all ages develop a strong connection to and reverence for our natural world.

Please call Bushy Hill at 860-767-0848 if you have any questions. Winterfest will take place right at the Bushy Hill Nature Center, which is located at 253 Bushy Hill Road in Ivoryton.

Area Legislative Districts Remain Intact After 10-Year Redistricting

AREAWIDE— The state House and Senate districts that cover Chester, Deep River, and Essex have remained largely unchanged by the 10-year legislative redistricting. Redistricting of the state 151 House districts and 36 Senate districts is required every ten years after completion of the national census.

In maps released Thursday by the General Assembly redistricting panel, the 36th House District will remain comprised of the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Haddam. The four Connecticut River valley towns have been together in a single House district since 2002, though from 1992 to 2002 Chester, Deep River, and Essex were in district that also included Lyme and portions of Old Saybrook. The district is currently represented by Democratic State Rep. Phil Miller, the former Essex first selectman who won the seat in a special election held last February.

Chester, Deep River and Essex will also remain in a largely unchanged 33rd Senate district. The 33rd Senate District will remain comprised of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook. The district, with some changes after the 2001 redistricting, has been represented since 1992 by Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook.