May 24, 2022

Essex Town Meeting to Act on Funding for Elementary Improvements and Joining Regional Council of Governments

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday will act on authorizing an already spent appropriation to fund improvements at  Essex Elementary School, including replacement of an oil burner ,replacing the 20+ year old carpeting in the school’s B-wing with rubber flooring, and upgrading the security system.  There also be a vote on joining the planned Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments.

The town meeting convenes Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in town hall, but it will be preceded by a continued public hearing at 6 p.m. on the proposed entry in to the planned council of governments. First Selectman Norman Needleman said this week there were questions  from some residents about the newly forming COG at an initial hearing held on April 4, with the board of selectmen deciding to continue the hearing to gather all available information about the plan before a town meeting vote on a resolution to join the COG.

At the urging of top state legislative leaders, regional planning agencies around the state have begun a consolidation. To avoid the possibility that some area towns could be placed in more distant planning regions, the chief municipal elected officials from Middlesex County and some adjoining shoreline towns decided last year to support a merger of the Old Saybrook-based Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency with the Middletown-based Midstate Regional Planning Agency. The combined regional planning agency would be supervised by a new Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments that would replace the existing, but more informal, Connecticut River Valley Council of Elected Officials.

The prospective member of towns for the proposed new council of governments would be the CRERPA towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, and the mid-state towns of Cromwell, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Middlefield, Middletown, and Portland.

The new council of governments would be established after at least nine of the prospective member towns approve joining the council. As of early this month, resolutions to join the COG had been approved by town meetings in Deep River, Cromwell, East Haddam, Haddam, Killingworth and Portland. An Old Lyme town meeting is expected to consider a resolution to join later this month.

Needleman said Essex could be left without regional planning services if the COG is established, and Essex does not join. “CRERPA does not tell us to do anything, but it does provide a lot of services to the town,” he said.

The $109,711 appropriation for the elementary school was already spent to replace an oil boiler at the school that failed last month. The town meeting is asked to formally authorize the expenditure from the capital reserve fund in the current budget for the elementary school.