December 7, 2022

Archives for April 2013

Chester Budget With Unusual Tax Decrease Goes to May 1 Public Hearing

CHESTER— A proposed $3,852,474 town government budget and a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester  Elementary School go to a public hearing Wednesday in the newly finished community room at town hall. The session begins at 7:30 p.m.

In what First Selectman Edmund Meehan describes as “a one-time anomaly,” reduced spending for both the elementary school and the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget will allow a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate with no transfers from the undesignated fund balance. The planned reduction, from the current tax rate of 22.45 mills to  21.95 mills, would represent a property tax cut of about $150 on a house assessed at $300,000. The planned tax rate for 2013-2014 would represent $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Last year, the selectmen and finance board approved a transfer of $174,641 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to hold the tax rate at 22.45 mills.  Meehan said no transfers from the fund balance were needed to cover this year’s one-half mill cut in the tax rate, with the undesignated fund balance expected to total about $1.57 million in June 2014.

The net spending decrease of about $420,000 includes a $41,527 decrease in the elementary school budget, and a $426,084 decrease in the town’s share of the Region 4 budget. The reduced spending for education results from decreased enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.
The town government budget is up by about $47,000 from the current appropriation. The $3.85 million town government budget includes a 2.25 percent wage/salary increase for union and non-union town employees, including elected officials, and additional spending for medical insurance and the town employee pension fund. There is also an additional $6,500 for winter snow removal expenses.

Wednesday’s public hearing will be the first major municipal meeting in the community meeting room at town hall that was part of the second floor renovations that Meehan describes as “95 percent complete.”

The town hall second floor renovation project that began in February was funded by the insurance settlement from the February 2011 collapse of the former community center building on Route 154. The new community room at town hall will now host most town meetings that were previously held at the historic Chester Meeting House on Liberty St.

The annual budget meeting vote on a town/elementary school spending plan for 2013-2014 is set for Tuesday May 21 at the town hall community room. The Region 4 education budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in an eight-hour referendum on May 7.

My First Week on my Long Ride Home to Connecticut

My first overnight at a Walmart’s, in Claremont, CA. That’s “Chateau,” my 13-year-old, 180,000-mile blue and silver beauty

My first overnight at a Walmart’s, in Claremont, CA. That’s “Chateau,” my 13-year-old, 180,000-mile blue and silver beauty

Blythe, Arizona – Here I was, approaching this tiny town. Blythe is as far east in California as can be. It was Day 5 of my solo transcontinental ride home to Connecticut.The sun was setting on one of my finest days so far as I approached Blythe on I-10—my destination for this day. I saw it coming up. It’s what I call a ”one-story town.” I didn’t spot one building any higher than that.

I kept right on at 60 miles an hour with all the other traffic, waiting for the main exit to Blythe to announce itself. Surprise! I found myself suddenly crossing the Colorado River—which is a modest stream here—and confronting a big sign, “Welcome To Arizona!” What?!

I had overshot Blythe. That’s how small it is.

It was another mistake, plain and simple. Mistakes, errors, call them whatever you like, are inevitable in the kind of travel I’m doing. I experience them every day. I don’t go nuts over them any more. The only solution is to “Grin and Bear It!” Plus, “Maybe something good will come of this!”

Oh, I know what you smarties are thinking. “John, if you had GPS, this would never have happened.”

Well, I do have it. Brand-new, too. A Gamin Novi 401. Finally I got it hooked up and going. But it’s not calibrated right. That anonymous tenor persists in giving me one wrong direction after another. I’ve unhooked the darn thing. I’m hoping to run into a geek soon who will get it going right for me.

Besides, for these many decades of doing nutty trips like this, I’ve done fine with my trusty road atlas. This mistake was all Blythe’s fault! They should have a big sign up at the exit, “Stop! This Is Blythe!”

My intention was to “camp” in Blythe for the night. My definition of “camping” in my old age is sleeping in my van and eating most of my meals in it.

One reason I chose Blythe is there’s a 24-hour Walmart here. I’ve camped at a Walmart every night on this trip so far. It’s perfect.

This way, I don’t have to drive miles out of my way to find a campground, then drive miles back in the morning. Walmart is safe! And so convenient. Its 24-hour superstores—that’s what they usually are–offer everything I can possibly spend money on except gas. Plus clean bathrooms! And Walmart is free! And welcoming!

I wish they had been around on all those big past trips I’ve taken. And the many trips I took my wife and kids on.

I’ll be delighted if I can find a Walmart every single night on my 3,500-mile route home. We now have 3,000 Walmart super-centers in the U.S., which never close. I stand a pretty good chance.

~ ~ ~

As usual this trip isn’t a picnic. It’s hard work. I didn’t expect it to be easy. It never is. It keeps me busy from early morn till 10 or 11 p.m. With naps as needed, I admit. You’d be surprised at everything that’s required to do it right.

So far my ride is as good as I hoped it would be. I love the challenge of it. And I enjoy its many rewards. One is running into interesting folks. So far. I’ve struck it lucky again. and this is one of my major goals. And not a bad apple yet.

Another is to see—really, really see, with my own eyes—how our country is doing and changing. And experiencing the sights, natural and man made, at times beautiful and inspiring, at times ugly and regrettable, and too often very dull and skip-able.

Important to remind you I’m driving an 11-year-old van with more than 180.000 miles on it. Yes, that’s right, 180,000 plus.. She’s running like a top. I feel it’s just broken in. Honest! Maybe I’m setting myself up for a gigantic disappointment. But it couldn’t be sweeter running. I’m delighted.

It’s a Ford 7-passenger Econoline van. The model name is Chateau, which is—maybe was–Ford’s top of the line in vans. It’s loaded with amenities, some I love. The tinted windows (people can’t see in). The comfortable seats. The electric this and that. Other features, too.

My first little camper years ago—a VW “bus”— was Dandelion. That’s what I dubbed her. She was that color of beautiful yellow. Notice, I said “she.” After all, if we can give our boats feminine monickers, why can’t I do it for my lovely camper?

I deliberated and finally settled on Chateau as the name for this one. It’s so appropriate. This really is a wonderful and lovely little chateau, on four wheels, of course. So from now on Chateau is “she,” too. My poetic license! You’ll get used to it fast.

She does have a few bugs. The worst is the obstacle course I face to get from my driver’s seat to the back. You have to be as agile as a monkey, but I’m no monkey. And there’s no way to fix that.

The next is that I can’t stand in her. I may get home permanently hunched over. It’s made me think of the advantages of being a midget.

She has six ceiling lights. I think if I go over a bump, they all go on. Sometimes even when I’m stopped for a while.On my second day I had a dead battery. Not a promising start. But I have a AAA Classic membership—they’ll tow me up to 100 miles. A tech guy showed up in 35 minutes, gave me a jump, and pointed out the troublesome lights. Still they go on. I’m thinking of duck-taping them OFF.

I’m allowed only four road calls a year, and my year is just starting. On my next night at Walmart I bought jumper cables. Cheap insurance.

I have two keys to Chateau. They look identical. One works much better than the other. The bad one will not open the doors every time. Makes me very nervous. I’m afraid of locking the good key inside, and what then? Methinks I need see a locksmith.

It takes a mighty flick of my wrist with the ignition key to start the engine. Sometimes I have to flick hard twice, even three times. If this keeps up, I’ll be buying a brace for my wrist soon. Walmart stocks those, too.

I told you in my previous report she has a fancy, super-sophisticated entertainment system. Even a TV screen in the ceiling in back to watch DVDs. The system included GPS, too. But I discovered it was dead and the dealer that sold me Chateau, FamVans, gave me that portable Gain Navi instrument.

Well, now I find that the CD player is broke, too. So now I can’t enjoy the dozen music CDs I brought along. Got to do something about this, too.

The radio is fine. But it’s a pain to search and search and not find a station I really enjoy. Silence is golden.

Turns our that Chateau’s tires are oversize. If I try a tight turn left or right, the front tires rub on the body. Not good! So tight turns are impossible. Sometimes I can turn around 180 degrees only with two or three tries. You wouldn’t like that, either.

She gulps gasoline like a monster. California is a $4-a-gallon gas state. Maybe a few cents over, a few cents under here or there. At one stop high in the San Gabriel Mountains on Day 2, $4.14! I find that very painful.

I’m stopping for refills whenever I need $40 worth or so. That happens more often than I thought it would. Why stop so often? I like frequent breaks. And I try to work in as much exercise as I can. It’s a big step up into Chateau, and a big step down.

Besides, If I bought a maximum fill, the tab would be well over $100, and that makes me shudder. Just consider, I remember a gas war when the price dropped to 17.9 cents a gallon! I’d like a price war like that at least once a week Sob!. Such price wars are history. How come?

But I’m delighted with the many changes and improvements I made to convert her into a mini camper. My bunk with the best mattress. The clothes hooks I screwed in. The drawers and shelves I put in. How I planned the whole interior lay-out. The whole list of little things I’ve done. Chateau is tiny, but wonderfully efficient and comfy.

I’m still making changes every day. One little improvement after another. I call them my Robinson Crusoe moments. Remember how shipwrecked Robinson used his wits to solve all kinds of problems and make his shipwreck life easier? Well, that’s me in Chateau. Each Robinson Crusoe moment, as simple as it is, gives me a glow of pleasure.

~ ~ ~

Here are some of the highlights of my trip so far. I’ll sketch them out briefly. I found them so interesting that I hope to write them up for you one by one as I go along. Patience, please.

Day 1. A symposium on three “isms” that I attended at Claremont-Lincoln School of Theology in Claremont, CA. The three are Buddhism, Sikkism, and Janism. The Jainism segment was the one that drew me. It’s a strange and impressive religion in India. I am not a Jain, but I’ve had close Jain friends for 30 years and I’ve learned abut it through them.

Day 2. My day resting and exploring Claremont. What a charming and delightful small community. With seven colleges, mind you. To me it’s THE small town to live in.

Day 3. My ride high up into the awesome San Gabriel Mountains for a white-knuckle ride along its famous Rim of the World road. But so exciting, too. A ride I won’t forget soon.

Day 4. My visit to Palm Springs, the man-made oasis out in the desert a couple of hours east of L.A. Palm Springs is a small place but who hasn’t heard of it? So many movie stars have bought fancy second homes there. I’ve been to Palm Springs several times, thanks to Annabelle. I much prefer the newer small communities that have sprung up around Palm Springs.

Day 5. As you know by now, I think, I’m not fond of Interstate Highways. Of course I appreciate their practicality. They’re great to get somewhere fast. But they bypass so many interesting things and they are so dull. I much prefer the far more interesting lesser roads. I’ve been lucky at finding some dandy ones. But I got lost! Three times!

Day 6. How I find myself in tiny Mecca. Strange name for a town here in California. A town with a heavy population of Mexicans. How I’m impressed by them. And the library that serves them and the others in Mecca as well, of course.

Day 7. I knew that the next 100 miles to Blythe would be a tedious and taxing ride. But I managed to find an alternate route and then went and messed it up again. But I got some nice rewards.


As always, I’ve met some interesting people along the way. Including some truly Good Samaritans. How lucky I’ve been. I can’t wait to tell you about some of them.

I’ve wondered whether I’ve become too old to enjoy this kind of travel. I’ve done a lot of it over the years and it’s been so much fun. Well, I have good news. It’s hard. Yes, it is. No denying that. But so far I am rejoicing. It is shaping up as the grand adventure I hoped for.

Long ago I realized that Mark Twain was right. That smart guy is the one who said that often it is better to travel than to arrive. My whole point is not just to get home. It’s to squeeze in as much pleasure out of every mile as I can. And it’s working out that way.

Know what? So far I’ve been on the road seven days and have traveled barely 500 miles. That’s very little–only about one-seventh of the mileage I expect to run up before I roll into Deep River. And the best parts of the route are still ahead.

So I’ve found myself wondering, When the heck will I finally be getting home?! Labor Day? Thanksgiving? Christmas? I leave it all to Serendipity!

~ ~ ~

A Post Script. Just a few days ago I turned 84. Yes, 84. Which means that was  tip-toeing into my 85th year on Earth!!!

You have no idea how surprised I am to have made it this far.

I remember when I was 8 or 9 I wasn’t doing well and my mother had our family doctor come to the house and examine me.

I remember how he finally put his stethoscope back in his black bag and looked at my mom and said, “Madame, I am sad to tell you I don’t think this little boy will live to see his 30th birthday.”

Gosh, did he shake her up! And my father when he came home! As for me, 30 seemed a long, long time away.

Gosh, have I fooled him!

I’m going to be alone on the road for this birthday. Not a problem. I’m just looking forward to another nice day, my eyes filling, I’m sure, with one wonderful sight after another, as always. It won’t be perfect. Nothing ever is. But it will be great.

I don’t need a birthday cake. I’d be embarrassed to try to blow out all those candles. How huge a cake would it take to hold them all?

Besides, I know I’ve got a lot of people cheering for me. How lucky I am! How really lucky!


Letter: In Defense of W

To the Editor:

On behalf of those Americans who did not cheer the departure of President Bush, I would like to thank and defend him for his honorable service to America.

There are legions of us who recognize his decency, his many accomplishments (CAFTA, Medicare reform, tax cuts, democracy in Iraq, missile defense, unprecedented aid to Africa and Asia, denuclearizing of Libya, taking the lessons learned from Katrina to reform the emergency response system) and his unwavering commitment to keep America safe.

I and those like me respect and honor President Bush because after America was brutally attacked on 9/11, he never lost his will and sense of urgency to keep Americans safe. Despite nauseating teeth-clacking from the left, President Bush put policies and programs in place that protected America for the next seven and one-half years.

We honor George Bush for sending a strong signal to the enemies of peace and freedom that he believes in peace through strength and that he understands that talk-therapy is out of the question when dealing with the pathological hatred felt by those who want to destroy the infidels- us. He had the leadership to ignore the anti-war agitators, hand-wringers, and naysayers. He and our brave heroes have kept us safe. Although he has been cruelly, dangerously, and unjustly maligned, Georg Bush will be judged an extremely consequential president.


Alison Nichols, M.Div.

Local Library Directors Celebrate World Book Night at the Adams Shopping Center

world book night

Susan Rooney (right), the new Deep River Library Director, and Linda Fox, the Chester Library Director, represented their respective libraries at the Adams Shopping Center on April 23 as part of World Book Night. They gave away free copies of The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light readers and non-readers. Not only is World Book Night about giving books. It’s also about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

DR Selectmen Choose Town Meeting Vote, No Automatic Referendum This Year

DEEP RIVER-— For the first time in 11 years, voters will decide on a town/elementary school budget plan by a town meeting vote without a referendum.  The town meeting vote on a spending plan that is still being finalized will be held on Monday May 20 in the newly renovated town hall auditorium. The annual budget hearing is set for May 7.

The board of selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday not to hold a referendum vote on the budget plan for 2013-2014. First Selectman Richard Smith said Wednesday he had consulted with members of the Deep River Taxpayers Association before making the decision, and pledged that the vote at the May 20 town meeting would be by paper ballot. “There will not be a referendum this year unless we’re petitioned for one,” he said.

Smith said most residents, and elected officials such as members of the board of finance, had advised that a referendum vote on the budget should be skipped this year after extremely low vote turnouts for the budget referendums held in recent years.

Last May, a total of 190 voters turned out to approve a $14.3 million town/elementary school budget plan on a 147-46 vote. A total of 361 voters turned out for the budget referendum in May 2011. “It’s just too costly based on the turnout,” Smith said, noting that with a budget referendum costing the town about $1,800, the 2012 turnout amounted to an expense for the town of almost $100 per vote.

The town began holding annual referendums on the town government/elementary school budgets in 2001, when a depleted fund balance and steep tax increase led to controversy, and three votes before a spending plan was approved by voters. The taxpayers association formed that year, and indicated to the selectmen that they would seek a referendum vote on future budgets.

Rather than allowing a petition process to delay the budget vote, the board of selectmen, led by Smith, agreed to send the annual budget directly to a referendum vote. But turnout for the referendum that is usually held in the last week of May has decreased in recent years.

Referendum voting will continue on the Region 4 education budget, which is subject to approval by voters of the three district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The Region 4 Board of Education had adopted a policy of referendum voting on the budget in 2001, after spending plans were rejected twice before wining voter approval in a third referendum. The Region 4 budget referendum will be conducted on May 7 from 12 noon to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling places for the three towns.

Pettipaug Yacht Club Excels in Small Boat Sailing Programs for Young Sailors

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

The Pettipaug Yacht Club will offer a truly impressive roster of small boat, sailing programs for young people during the soon-to-be-upon-us summer sailing season. The club is located in Essex off River Road, directly on the Connecticut River, making it an ideal small sailing boat location. Among the club’s sailing programs for young sailors this summer are those at the club’s prestigious Pettipaug Sailing Academy.

The guiding spirit behind the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is retired Electric Boat engineer and club Board member, Paul Risseew. Risseew not only directs the Sailing Academy, he runs virtually all of the sailing and boating programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Learning to Sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy

The aim of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, which was founded in 1950, is to teach young sailors in Risseew’s words, “the pleasure of sailing in small boats and also the racing in small sailboats.”

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

155 young sailors have enrolled this coming summer for the sailing classes at the Academy. Courses at the Academy are divided into two sessions. The first session begins on July 1 and ends July 23, and the second session begins on July 25 and ends on August 16. Some students take both sessions for seven full weeks. Others opt for a single session of three and a half weeks.

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds await them

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds awaits them

Academy days are also broken up into morning classes and afternoon classes.  Morning classes, which are for children, ages 8 to 11, are held from nine o’clock until noon. Afternoon classes, which are for students, ages 12 to 16, are held from one o’clock until four o’clock.

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

The curriculum of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy includes lessons in teamwork, rigging, capsize recovery, tacking, gibing, reaching, running, sailing to windward and tying knots. Upon their graduation from the Sailing Academy, students are givens ranks that reflect their respective sailing skills. The rank of progressions as they are called are; Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Boatswain, Skipper, and Racing Skipper.

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

This year the enrollment at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy was completely filled by March 30. However, sometimes there are drop outs, just before classes begin. When this happens, new students are taken off the waiting list. The tuition at the Academy for both sessions is $700 and $400 for a single session.

A Sailboat “Race Clinic” to Precede Academy Classes

 Prior to the instructional sailing classes of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club will hold an intensive, five-day “Race Clinic” for small boat, racing sailors. Classes for the clinic will be held from Monday, June 24, to Friday, June 28. The “Race Clinic” is designed to teach students how to win sailboat races, and it is expected to attract some 25 students, ages 12 to 15.

All eight fulltime sailing instructors at the club will serve on the faculty of “Race Clinic.” The clinic’s curriculum will include; in getting a good start in a race, reading the wind to attain the fastest speed, as well as learning what are sometimes not so nice, but permitted, racing tactics. Tuition for the intense, five day “Race Clinic” is $200.

Other Summer Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Another program featured this summer at the Pettipaug Yacht Club will be Powerboat Courses designed by the U.S. Powerboating Association. There will be eleven, one day, Powerboat Courses held throughout the summer sailing season. The first course will be held on Sunday, April 28, and the other course dates will be posted on the club’s web site at and on the club’s bulletin board.

The Powerboat Courses are for students of all ages, and the one-day course begins at 8:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. The tuition is $180. For further details contact Paul Risseew at 860-767-1995, or at .

Teaching Sailors to Teach the Art of Sailing

As if the above programs were not enough, there will also be two courses at the club on teaching sailors how to teach the art of sailing.  A Level 1 Instruction Course for would-be sailing teachers will be held over the two weekends of June 8-9 and June 15-16. A more advanced Level 2 Instruction Course for sailing teachers will be held over three consecutive days, June 17, 18 and 19.  The tuition for the Level 1 course is $350, and $300 for the Level 2 course.

In addition, there will be Windsurfing Courses, mostly for the young, throughout the summer, for which there could be a small charge.

Club’s Hosting of High School Racing Teams

Finally, during the months of March and April of this year, the club has been hosting sailboat races for three local, high school sailing teams. (Photos of a recent race of these teams are pictured with this article.) The teams are students from; Valley Regional High School, which has nine sailors; Xavier High School, which has 16 sailors; and Daniel Hand High School, which as 28 sailors.

Fifteen of the sailboats used in this pre-season sailing program are owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and twelve are owned by Xavier High School. Although it is understood that all of the sailors participating in this program are members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, there is no financial cost involved for the racing participants.

Paul Risseew’s Philosophy of Teaching Young Sailors to Sail 

 In teaching young sailors Risseew said, “Our priorities at Pettipaug are Safety, Fun and Learning, in that order.” He also noted, “If the students are not having fun, they won’t pay attention to the learning.”

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

“The majority of students return year after year, because they are spending the warm summer days with friends and playing on, and in, the water,” he continued. “Pettipaug is able to provide expert racing coaching to those who want to go in that direction. We send Optimist and 420 race teams to over a dozen regattas at other clubs in Connecticut.”

Putting it all in perspective, Risseew said, “As Rat said to Mole, in Wind in the Willows:  “‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 

Prescription Drug Discount Program Offered by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

The Town of Essex, through its association with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the statewide association of towns and cities, is now providing a new prescription discount card that will provide uninsured and underinsured residents steep savings on prescription medicines. Essex is a member of CCM and this new program is only available to CCM member-communities.

In Connecticut, over 10 percent of Connecticut residents – nearly 360,000 people – currently lack health insurance and prescription plans and another 800,000 residents are under-insured. There are over 50 million uninsured individuals living in the United States.

The “Town of Essex Prescription Drug Discount Card” helps residents save money on their prescription medications any time their prescription is not covered by insurance.  This new prescription discount card will provide immediate fiscal relief at the pharmacy counter for uninsured and under-insured residents and offers the following features and benefits:

  • Anyone can participate regardless of age or income;
  • All prescription medications are covered including pet prescriptions that can be filled at a pharmacy;
  • There is no cost to the municipality or to participating residents;
  • Cost savings average 45% ;
  • There are over 63,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, including CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Stop and Shop, and Big Y, and many independent pharmacies;
  • Discounts are also offered on other medical services including vision, hearing and Lasik services.

Norman Needleman, First Selectman of Essex, said, “CCM really came through for our town residents. It should have a positive benefit for residents and property taxpayers across Essex.”

“CCM is pleased to offer this valuable community service to Essex,” said CCM Executive Director and CEO Jim Finley. “Many families are struggling and even some families with health insurance may not have all their prescriptions covered. This program will help them save money on any medicines not covered by their insurance.”

Each residence in Essex will receive a “Town of Essex Prescription Discount Card” by direct mail which they may use at any participating retail pharmacy.  Cards may be used by all town residents regardless of age, income or existing health coverage.  There are no enrollment forms, membership fees, restrictions or limits on frequency of use for residents.  Cardholders and their family members are encouraged to use the cards any time their prescriptions are not covered by insurance.  Cards can also be printed by visiting, and selecting Essex from the drop-down menu.

Letter: Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets Draw Mild Response at Annual Hearing

To The Editor,

The statement in the subject article: “There were no calls for specific reductions or other changes to the budget plan …” is absolutely NOT TRUE.  I attended the meeting and made specific line item recommendations to reduce about $13,000 in the budget.  These reductions, in my opinion, would have had no impact on the services provided by the town.


Phil Beckman
Ivoryton, CT

Essex Town Government, Elementary School Budgets Draw Mild Response

ESSEX— A proposed $6,967,461 town government budget and a proposed $7,634,917 appropriation for Essex Elementary School drew a generally quiet response Monday from residents at the annual budget hearing. About 45 residents turned out for the public hearing on the two spending plans.

The town government budget, which represents a $113,821, or 1.66 percent, increase over the current budget, and the elementary school budget, which is up by 100,326, or 1.33 percent, over the current appropriation, are combined with the town’s $8,081,772 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total $22.62 million spending plan for 2013-2014. The Region 4 education budget, which funds John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 7.

First Selectman Norman Needleman described both the town government and elementary school budgets as “reasonable” spending plans that maintain current services while limiting the proposed spending increase. The largest portion of the total proposed $594,000 in new spending is a $379,885 jump in the Essex share of the Region 4 budget that results from 31 additional students from Essex attending the district’s two secondary schools. The elementary school budget includes a reduction of two teaching positions in  response to a drop in enrollment at the school.

There were no calls for specific reductions or other changes to the budget plan during the nearly two-hour hearing. But one resident, Wally Schieferdecker, offered a specific suggestion for what should be done with a one-time $229,721 payment the town received earlier this year from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

The payment from the regional trash disposal authority was to cover more than 20 years of unpaid rent and promised host town benefits for the regional solid waste transfer station located off Route 154. The Essex facility compacts trash and collects recyclables from nine area towns for transport to the CRRA incinerator and collection site in Hartford.

Schieferdecker said the $229,721 should be used to help limit any increase in the tax rate needed to fund the combined town government and school spending plans. “This is a windfall and it’s money the taxpayers have already paid over the years,” he said, adding “the taxpayers deserve a little benefit from our good fortune.”

Needleman, who negotiated the settlement with CRRA officials before accepting a new long-term contract for solid waste disposal through CRRA, agreed the one-time payment was “found money.” Needleman said he hopes the board of finance would consider the windfall when it sets the tax rate for 2013-2014 after the budgets are approved by voters. “It should ultimately have an impact with the mill rate,” he said.

Town Treasurer Robert Dixon told the crowd the town should end the current fiscal year on June 30 without any significant spending overruns. He said the town currently has about $2.6 million in its unappropriated fund balance.

The current tax rate of 18.47 mills, or $18.47 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value, represented a tax increase of .49 mills when it was set after the budget approval last May. With a mill generating about $1.1 million in tax revenue, a similar increase in the tax rate is likely for 2013-2014 to fund the total combined town/school spending plans. The annual budget meeting vote on the town government and elementary school budgets is set for Monday May 13 at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

Editor’s Note:  The following letter was received today (4/24/2013) after publication of this report challenging the statement that there were “no calls for specific reductions.”  Link to letter.


John White Jr. Honored for 50 Years Service to the Deep River Fire Department

Fire Chief Tim Lee presents Chief Engineer Jack White with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the Deep River Fire Department.

Fire Chief Tim Lee presents Chief Engineer Jack White with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the Deep River Fire Department.

The Deep River Fire Department presented John White Jr. (Jack) with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service, while First Selectman Dick Smith presented White with a citation from the State of Connecticut commending his service to the Fire Department and to the town of Deep River.

White joined the Department at the age of 21, inspired by his father, John White Sr. who served the Department for over 25 years as Secretary. White, the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department is responsible for the upkeep of all the fire engines and equipment used by the department.

A Message from the Chester Resident Trooper

Subsequent to the Boston Marathon bombing, more than 100 websites were created to make people believe the site could have a legitimate charitable purpose to help those affected by the bombing.

It is believed many of the sites will instead, be used to solicit money fraudulently.  Those wishing to help should channel their gifts through reputable organizations, and verify new charities that claim to be set up to help victims of the Boston bombings.

As always, I can be contacted at (860) 526-3605 if anyone needs further assistance.


TFC Matt Ewing
Chester Resident Trooper

Vote for Essex Historical Society 2013 Preservation Award

Centerbrook Meeting House, the winner of 2nd Annual Preservation Award of Essex Historical Society

Centerbrook Meeting House, the winner of 2012 Annual Preservation Award of Essex Historical Society

Essex Historical Society is devoted to the preservation of buildings, especially in the interest of protecting our town’s unique historical nature. EHS is looking for this year’s Preservation Award winner and we need your help!

If you know of a building that has been renovated or preserved you can nominate it for the Preservation Award. Past years’ winners have been the Ivoryton Library (2011) and the Centerbrook Meetinghouse (2012). Do you know the building that should be honored this year? Please, cast your vote!

The building can be either commercial or residential. The building needs to have been erected prior to 1936. The historic character of the original structure has to have been preserved in keeping with the period it was initially constructed.

From May 1 to May 31 all residents can submit votes for the structure of their choosing at the post offices in Essex, Ivoryton and Centerbrook. The votes will be tallied and the award will be presented  the Essex Historical Society’s Annual Strawberry Social on June 23, 2013 at 1 pm, at Pratt House in Essex.

Frame Finished at New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook; April 2014 Opening


Hoisting the final steel girders for the frame of the Westbrook medical center

In an informal “Topping Off” ceremony last Thursday morning, the steel-girded frame of the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook was declared complete. Or, as one observer put it, “The steel skeleton is now finished.”

Huge crane that put in place the steel girders for the new Westbrook medical center

Huge crane that put in place the steel girders for the new Westbrook medical center

There now remains the task of covering the frame, completely, with new surface materials, as well as constructing the entire interior of the new medical center building.

Workers precariously perched on narrow steel girders at construction site

Workers precariously perched on narrow steel girders at construction site

Also, according to an official of Middlesex Hospital, which is building the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook, the project is still on track to open its doors for new patients in April 2014.

New Westbrook Center Will Be Off Exit 65 of I-95

The new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook will be located on Flat Rock Road at Exit 65 off I-95. The new 40,000 square, emergency medical facility will be twice as large as the present Shoreline Medical Center in Essex, which it will replace.

A Middlesex Hospital spokesperson said that there are still no plans as what to do with the Essex Shoreline Medical Center, once the Westbrook center takes its place.  Further dwarfing the size of the present Essex Shoreline center, the new Westbrook Shoreline Medical Center can be expanded from 40,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet, if necessity demands it.

Although Middlesex Hospital’s publicity materials stress that the new Shoreline center in Westbrook is only three miles away from the present Shoreline center  in Essex, in the minds of many Essex residents, it feels like their emergency center is gone forever, regardless of the new improvements in care promised at the new Westbrook facility.

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Read related article by Jerome Wilson:

New Emergency Medical Center to Replace Essex’s Medical Center in April 2014

Deep River Planning and Zoning Hearing on 444 Main Street Property Postponed

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission public hearing on the special permit application of resident George Bartlett Jr. for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment at a former industrial building at 444 Main St. has been postponed until the panel’s May 17 meeting.  Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson said the public hearing, which had been scheduled for Thursday, was postponed at the request of the applicant.

Bartlett’s previous plan for the former Champion Tool and Dye property on the west side of Route 154, also known as Main Street, had generated controversy last year and eventually led to a lawsuit filed by Bartlett against the zoning board of appeals. The initial plan called for a used car dealership, a use that would have required two variances from the zoning board of appeals.

One variance was dimensional, because the parcel was 5.3-feet short of the 150 feet of road frontage required for uses in the Turnpike Industrial Zone. But a second variance related to the used car dealership use drew strong opposition from Jefferson, representing the planning and zoning commission, at a June 19 public hearing.

The ZBA approved the dimensional variance, but there was dispute over whether the board had also approved the use variance that drew objections from the planning and zoning commission. The ZBA last September declined a request to amend it’s minutes of the June 19 session to reflect approval of both variances. The refusal led Bartlett, represented by Essex lawyer John Bennet, to file a lawsuit against the ZBA late last year.

The lawsuit that is still pending in Middlesex Superior Court does not prevent the planning and zoning commission from considering the new proposal for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment. The public hearing on the new application is expected to convene May 16 at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Letter: Senator Linares’s Vote Against Gun Control, Contrary to Majority of Constituent’s Wishes, Requires Explanation

To The Editor:

I write to thank ValleyNewsNow for its coverage of Senator Linares’s recent vote against the gun control law enacted by the Connecticut Legislature with broad bipartisan support following the Newtown massacre.

Mr. Linares’s constituents have a right to know the reasons for his opposition, given the undeniable support in his district for child safety, the strong endorsement of the bill across party lines, and the uncertainty as to what credible alternative Mr. Linares is offering.

However, while the ValleyNewsNow coverage of Senator Linares’s “no” vote is helpful, it was not altogether satisfying.  The article reports that Mr. Linares issued a statement which “concluded the bill does not address the most important problems”.  But it does not tell us how Mr. Linares reached that conclusion or what measures he would advocate instead.

Senator Linares reportedly said that he decided to vote against the gun law “after talking to many residents of the 33rd district”.  If Mr. Linares means to suggest that his vote reflects the majority of his constituents’ views, I would guess that claim is almost certainly preposterous. To my knowledge, Mr. Linares never conducted a hearing on the issue in his district, and the extensive testimony he heard as a member of the Newtown Task Force led other legislators to broad bipartisan support for the measure.  The true basis of Mr. Linares’s position remains a mystery.

Mr. Linares’s official website sheds no light on the matter either.  As of today, April 19 – over two weeks after the bill’s enactment – Mr. Linares’s web site does not even mention his vote, let alone carry the statement described by the Valley News.  Instead, when one consults the web site’s “in the news” section, one learns that in the aftermath of the legislation, Mr. Linares spent his time commending kindergartners for helping others, extolling the Haddam Shad Museum, and “high fiving” intermediate school students on tour of the State capitol.

One need not begrudge Senator Linares his “feel good” press releases or his energetic attempts to have them covered in the  local press, no matter how modest the content. (See, for example, the 10 or so articles appearing in the Valley News since mid January extensively covering among other things Mr. Linares participation in various meetings, his tours of local factories, and even his attendance at someone else’s press conference)  But they are not a substitute for keeping his district informed of what he is actually doing in Hartford and why.

The public’s right to know our representatives positions is not a partisan issue.  It applies left, right and center. Again, the  Newtown legislation is being cited as a model of bipartisan cooperation worthy of emulation at the national level. Residents of the 33rd District, whether they be Republican, Democrats, or Independents, deserve to understand why Mr. Linares took an outlier position on this historic legislation


David Harfst,  

Essex Savings Bank Announces Community Investment Program Results

Essex– Results of the recent voting by Essex Savings Bank customers who participated in the Bank’s Community Investment Program were announced at a meeting of employees, directors and trustees at the Bank’s Plains Road Office on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.  The Top Ten Winners in attendance received special recognition.

The customer balloting portion of Essex Savings Bank’s 2013 Community Investment Program, began on February 1 and concluded on March 15.  During the first phase of the program, the Bank’s customers were asked to select from a list of 71 qualified non-profit organizations that made application to the bank.

Gregory R. Shook, President and Chief Executive Officer of Essex Savings Bank stated, “Our Community Investment Program is designed to provide vital financial support and visibility to these dedicated organizations and their people who enhance the quality of life in our communities.”

Each year the bank donates 10% of its after tax net income to non-profit organizations within the immediate market area consisting of Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Madison, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.   According to Thomas Lindner, Vice President and Community Relations Officer for Essex Savings Bank, 7,180 votes were cast this year.  Mr. Lindner stated that $77,400 is to be disbursed during the month of April based on ballot results.  The remaining $180,591 will be distributed over the year by the Director’s, Senior Management and Branch Managers.  By year end 2013, $257,991 will have been allocated to over 200 organizations bringing the total distribution since the inception of the program in 1996 to $3,673,544.

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




# Votes




The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries




Valley Shore Animal Welfare League




Forgotten Felines, Inc.




Old Saybrook Fire Company Number One, Inc.




Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. – Meals on Wheels




Tait’s Every Animal Matters (TEAM)




Pet Connections, Inc.




Essex Library Association




Bikes For Kids, Inc.




The Lyme Fire Company, Inc.




Camp Hazen YMCA




Old Lyme Fire Department, Inc.




Bushy Hill Nature Center




Lyme Ambulance Association, Inc.




Ivoryton Library Association




Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc.




Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation, Inc.




Tri-Town Youth Services Bureau, Inc.




Essex Community Fund, Inc.




Friends of the Acton Public Library




Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc.




Deep River Ambulance Association, Inc.




Graduation Night, Inc. – Old Saybrook




Old Saybrook Education Foundation




Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association




The Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock




Chester Historical Society




Old Lyme Land Trust, Inc.




Old Lyme Visiting Nurse Association, Inc.




Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc.




Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau




Community Music School




Westbrook Youth and Family Services, Inc.




Lyme Public Library, Inc.




Deep River Junior Ancient Fife & Drum Corps, Inc.




Friends of the Chester Public Library, Inc.




Essex Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, Inc.




Essex Historical Society, Inc.




Old Saybrook Historical Society




Essex Garden Club, Inc.




Florence Griswold Museum




Friends of Hammonasset, Inc.




Common Good Gardens, Inc.




Maritime Education Network, Inc.




Old Lyme South End Volunteer Association, Inc.




Friends of the Deep River Public Library, Inc.




Lyme Art Association, Inc.





# Votes




Lyme Public Hall Association, Inc.




Scranton Library, Madison (E.C. Scranton Memorial Library)




Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, Inc.




Westbrook Project Graduation, Inc.




Madison Ambulance Association, Inc.




Friends In Service Here (F.I.S.H.)




Lyme-Old Lyme Education Foundation




Hope Partnership, Inc.




Cappella Cantorum




Camp Claire, Inc.




Con Brio Choral Society, Inc.




Lyme Consolidated School Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO)




Ruth Ann Heller Music Foundation




Old Lyme Historical Society, Inc.




Friends of the Valley Railroad, Inc.




The Country School, Inc.




Friends of Madison Youth, Inc.




Old Saybrook Community Foundation, Inc.




Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts




Act II Thrift Shop, Inc.




Madison Historical Society, Inc.




Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club (LOLJWC)




Tracy Art Center, Inc.




Connecticut Audubon Society Eco Travel



Essex Printing Winner In New England Regional Awards of Excellence Competition

The announcement was made on April 4 during the Printing Industry of New England (PINE) Industry Awards Gala with hundreds of industry professionals in attendance. PINE’S Awards of Excellence Competition attracts over 200 entries from 41 printing and imaging companies across New England competing in a variety of printing and graphic communications categories.

Essex Printing won Awards of Recognition for the printing of Essex Savings Bank’s 2013 calendar. A panel of judges with extensive experience in printing and print production examined a wide range of work submitted. Each entry was judged anonymously on its own merit in a category with similar printed pieces.

“We are very proud to have won this competition because it confirms our commitment to our clients that we provide an outstanding level of quality printing, William McMinn, President”.

For more information please contact Essex Printing at 860-767-9087

Chester, Deep River Elementary School Budgets Reduce Teaching Positions

CHESTER/DEEP RIVER— The 2013-2014 spending plans for Chester Elementary School and Deep River Elementary School include reductions in teaching positions in response to drops in student enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade schools. The budget plans were approved by the local school boards late last month.

The proposed budget for Chester Elementary School totals $4,182,373, a decrease of .98 percent, or $41,527, from the current budget. An enrollment at Chester Elementary School of 251 students this year is expected to drop to about 236 students in the 2013-2014 school year. The spending plan eliminates two teacher positions, for a savings of $94,000, and one seven-tenths para-educator position for a savings of $16,000. But an anticipated increase in special education students led the school board to accept Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy’s recommendation to fund a new special education para-educator position at a cost of $26,147.

The proposed budget for Deep River Elementary School totals $5,561,158, an increase of 2.97 percent, or $160,371, over the current budget. With enrollment at the elementary school expected to drop from the current 347 students to 326 students in the 2013-2014 school year, the budget eliminates one teaching position for a savings of $46,907.

The elementary school budgets are now subject to review by the finance boards in each town. The elementary school spending plans will be presented at the annual budget hearing for each town, and sent to the voters in May for approval with the general government budgets for each town.

New York City Developer Clears Away the Trees at His Foxboro Point Development Site

The pile of trees which once grew on the Foxboro Point site

The pile of trees which once grew on the Foxboro Point site

In an early step of his development of eleven acres of Foxboro Point’s shoreline property along North Cove in Essex, a New York City developer has now cleared away the trees at the development site. Last December the Essex Planning Commission, after a contentious review process, granted developer Frank J. Sciami, Jr., permission to develop seven new home sites, including the restoration of the historic Croft mansion on the property.

Part of the Foxboro Point development site, recently cleared of trees

Part of the Foxboro Point development site, recently cleared of trees

A major point of contention in the review process was whether or not the public should have access to the waters of North Cove by means of a pathway, running down through the development from Foxboro Road to North Cove. Initially, the Essex Planning Commission directed the developer to create such a pathway running from the road to the waters.

However, after the developer brought a lawsuit against the Commission protesting such public access, the Planning Commission consented to the developer’s objections, and worked out a settlement which junked the pedestrian walkway to water proposal. In its place the Commission created a view easement, which would give visitors along Foxboro Road a pubic perch to look down to the waters of North Cove, but not walk down to it.

The Foxboro Point development site is being built on one of the last remaining open spaces along the Connecticut River in the Town of Essex. The trees that have been cut down are now loosely piled in a stack to the right of the Croft Mansion. They will undoubtedly be removed as the development of the site continues.

Home I Go, and Very Slowly – John LaPlante

Happy Ending: Mike, me, and Antonio as I prepare to drive off. In back is  my blue and silver beauty–van turned camper!

Happy Ending: Mike, me, and Antonio as I prepare to drive off. In back is my blue and silver beauty–van turned camper!

Newport Beach, CA — This morning at 9:30—after the massive freeways here have been relieved of their crushing commuter traffic—I’ll climb behind the wheel of my new little camper van and start the long ride home to Deep River.

I’ve been here far longer than usual on my annual get-away from the ice and snow of Connecticut. This has been my 18th winter here with milady Annabelle, lucky me. It happens that she has lived in this warm and sunny place all her life. (If some really icy place were her home, I suspect I’d make it up there to be with her.)

Anyway, tomorrow is when I get going. A kiss and embrace and I’ll start the engine, and with a final wave and toot, begin another long solo trip. One of many I’ve racked up.

The most direct route home is about 3,200 miles. No way will that be how I’ll go. I plan to zig and zag. Take as few Interstates as possible. Stop here and stop there, Look at this and that. See famous sites and little-known ones. Avoid the very big cities—I’ve seen many of them. Don’t want to put up with all the traffic and headaches getting in and out of them.

I’ll be camping most of the way. I expect to stay at a motel now and then. More to my liking would be a hostel, For a rest, a chance to soak my body and do my laundry and  hang out with some interesting folks.

I have no specific “must-sees” in mind. But I’ll visit parks big and small, and museums, I hope, and factories that welcome visitors, and for sure, senior centers and libraries and universities. And get to meet people. That’s a priority.

I’ll be driving on a California permit that gives me two months to get home. If it gets tough and isn’t fun, I’ll be home in two weeks. But I hope to make the most of the trip and get home on the last day of my permit. Why not? There’s no rush. I’m looking at is as maybe my last hurrah. And I’m leaving it up to serendipity.

I flew here in late December, which has been my routine for some years. And I expected to fly home, as usual. What the heck happened?

~ ~ ~ ~

I have to go back about seven years to explain. Annabelle and I did a house swap in France.  I got the idea deep in Chile while on my solo trip around the world. I met a French couple down there. He was an M.D. with a specialty in psychiatry. She was a professor of nursing. They were there for some light mountain climbing.

When he told me they came from Poitiers, I got excited. It’s a small city about two hours southwest of Paris. Famous for an ancient university. But more important than anything else for me is that the Poitiers area is where  my ancestor LaPlante came from—my great, great, great, great, great grandfather, I think.  He was a soldier in New France–the present Quebec. He was one of about 1,100 who arrived in June 1665. Their mission was to protect the colonists from the nasty Iroquois from what is now up-state New York.

The soldiers beat the Iroquois back and restored peace. After thee years the king recalled the regiment home. But there were only 2,500 or so colonists in New France—most living in what is now Quebec City. The troops were given the choice of staying—more strong Frenchmen were essential to get this tiny settlement going. My ancestor was one of the third who stayed in that harsh but welcoming new land.

But his name was not LaPlante then. It was Savignac. A strange thing happened. For some reason still debated. Many of those guys decided to take on new names. To symbolize a new life? Maybe.

He chose LaPlante. All it means is ‘the plant.” So, nothing romantic. Others chose other common words like that as their name—words starting with “La” or “Le.” But I know his name was Savignac because church records were meticulous—the records of baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and deaths. That’s why I also know he came from the Poitiers corner of France, and that his outfit was the Regiment Carignan-Salieres. Those were the names of two colonels.

My two new French friends in Chile laughed off the idea of a house swap when I first mentioned it. “Risky!” they said. “How can you be sure what kind of people will be moving into your house?”

Back in Deep River, I kept up an email correspondence with them. Sent them photos of our pretty town. And my nice little condo, And news about typical events. And we made the swap happen.

We swapped residences, of course—their home and my condo. And everything in them, of course—the kitchen stuff, the books, the computers, the TVs and other electronics, the whole works. Also their big VW wagon and my Buick sedan.  Plus their network of relatives of friends and mine—how important that turned out to be.  I joke now—everything except the ladies! We agreed on a six-week swap. I wanted 12 weeks. “Impossible!” he said. “I’m still practicing.”

It worked out fine in every way. They drove my Buick to Niagara Falls. We drove their VW to Paris—had a picnic lunch in it under the Eiffel Tower—and down through the rich wine country to the Med.

Oh, I was a Rotarian. So in Poitiers I went to the weekly meetings of the big Rotary Club there. Four times the size of our Deep River club. Annabelle came along. And that was marvelous.  I had a ball speaking French and really getting to know what life over there was really like. Annabelle had studied French long ago and was a good sport about it all.

~ ~ ~ ~

 A bit of background. I was born in the U.S.  My parents were immigrants from Quebec. I’ve been there often. Still have a few relatives there. So I have a great interest in Quebec..

I speak French well and enjoy using it. You have to use a language or you’ll lose it.  One thing I do is listen to Quebec radio via the computer. Streaming radio, it’s called. I listen to two fm stations, one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. They offer light classical music, and their announcers speak good French—contemporary French, with current idioms and slang. Wonderful.

So! I got the idea not of a house swap up there, but of a home stay. With a Quebec family for a month or so. To talk the language, enjoy the culture, experience their life.  I’d gladly pay. I wrote to the two stations, then to a big Rotary Club, then to a university. Didn’t get a single bite.

What to do? I decided I’d go on my own. It was now late October, and the weather was getting cold and the days short. I’d go for two weeks. Drive up. Annabelle chose to stay behind in California and I understood that.

Not long ago, I would have started on a trip like this without hesitation. But bad things have happened to me of late.  Nothing calamitous. But challenging enough to make me feel my age.

On the morning that I got into my Hyundai Sonata to start out, I looked in the mirror and spoke to myself.  “Is this wise? To go with no companion?  What if something goes wrong? Something could.”

And I spoke back to myself. “I really want to do this. Time is running out. I’d getter do it while I can. Something bad could happen at home. I’m going!”

And I turned started my car and headed north. I traveled some 1,500 miles in all.  Crossed into Quebec at a small custom station in Vermont.  Just a mile or two into Quebec I made out big Mount Sutton. It rises beside the small town of Sutton.

That’s where my grandparents lived. My grandfather Michel LaPlante had a maple operation on the flank of Mount Sutton. Tapped trees and made maple syrup every early spring.  On the rise on the opposite side of the village was his farm–an old-fashioned self-sufficiency homestead.  Thirty milk cows. Sunday was the day of rest but they still had to milk the cows twice that day, too. A vegetable garden and small orchard.

My grandma had a big cast-iron stove…baked a huge pot of beans every Saturday for the week. Served her large brood  21 hearty meals a week. She had a handpump for water in the kitchen. Every fall they filled the cellar with firewood they had sawed and split. There was an outhouse in the backyard.

On Sunday mornings my grandfather hitched the family horse to their Sunday carriage. The horse that pulled his plow and hay wagon. And drove them to the little Catholic church they could see in the valley below. They sat through Mass and then lingered on the church steps to greet and chat with their friends. It was their big outing of the week.

Yes, that little church where they had attended so many weddings and baptisms and funerals. I did that when I went with my dad and mom. And later as a grown man visiting up there.

So on this trip, Sutton was my fist stop. I had a nice visit with Tante Rosanne, the last of my aunts. She was so surprised and pleased! I visited  the church, then the church  cemetery. Saw a whole row of my kin resting side by side. Visited the farm, of course. The house had been knocked down and a beautiful expensive country home stood in its place. Sutton has become a famous ski resort, and this was the country home of a wealthy Montreal family. The barn still stood. It had never looked so good. But now it housed riding horses instead of cows.

I visited in the village and got into little talks. Sutton has been transformed. It’s a tourist town with cafes and art galleries and pricy restaurants. If my grandparents and parents could have seen this!

I went on to Montreal and Quebec City and half a dozen small cities. All familiar to me.  Stopped and looked and talked time and again. Stopped at mom-and-pop motels on most nights. But it was just me and the TV set. That’s not my favorite thing, even in French. But found three cozy hostels to stay in. I was so old I wondered whether they’d let me in. They did. Nobody looked at me crossways and I had fun. I spoke French all day.

On Quebec highways, tourist information stations are indicated by a big question mark. Yes, just a huge ?. I stopped at every one I spotted. For tourist advice, but that was my excuse. What I wanted was a little chat. It was magic when I mentioned I was of Quebecois descent. They made me feel like a prince.

I finally made it home to Connecticut with not a single bad thing happening to me. And guess what? I felt  20 years younger.

~ ~ ~ ~

 Here at Annabelle’s two months ago I began thinking of my return flight to Connecticut. And remembered my splendid road trip to Quebec. I wondered, why not drive home? Yes, why not? In the same casual and  relaxed way. And that’s how I got the idea of making the long ride home to Connecticut in a little camper.

I chose a good moment to mention it to Annabelle. She’s certainly chalked up a lot of adventures of her own. But she’s getting along in years, too. She declined. Understandable. She didn’t have the same interests of language and family

Then I spread the word to family and friends. Nobody was ecstatic. They advised caution.  Great caution. I’m sure some considered me nuts. That didn’t surprise me. But as I’ve said, doing it is important to me. And here I am, ready to go.

Oh, I had to find a camper.  A must was a rig that I could park in a single parking spot. So many are so huge! Offer nice amenities but what a challenge driving them around.

I started searching while I was in Morro Bay with my daughter Monique and her hubby David at Christmas. No big argument from them. Just “Caution!”

David was a big help in feeding me leads about promising vehicles. When I moved down here to Annabelle’s, he continued to send me leads. He made a hundred-mile round trip to check one out for me. He was disappointed.

A friend up there named Martha also steered me to a couple of possibilities. They didn’t pan out.

I searched here at Annabelle’s. Looked at this one and that one. Studied Craig’s List time and again. With Annabelle, I made a 120-mile trip up to the city of Riverside to check one rig that sounded perfect. Disappointing.

One day online I read of a 2002 Ford van called the Chateau. It wasn’t a camper. It was a seven-passenger van. It was loaded with nice features. Even a ceiling drop-down screen to watch DVDs. There were photos of the van. It looked terrific. The price was $4,900. Definitely in my budget.

It was for sale at an outfit called FamVans.  Just a 25-minute ride away. I called and spoke to a salesman named Mike Malvey.

He told me the Chateau model was the top of the line. Was in excellent condition. Had 180,000 miles on it.  Wow! That’s something to think about! But I went and looked. The photos had not exaggerated. It had a tiny scrape on one side. And a small ding in the front bumper, and another at the back. It was better than I expected.  I was excited.

I told him about my cross-country plan. He looked dubious. I understood that. I’m no kid. But I gave him details about some of my long-distance travels and her perked up.

“Tell me,” I said to him. “What’s wrong with this van?”

“There’s nothing wrong with it.”

That’s not a surprising thing to hear from a used-car salesman.

“Let  me explain how we do business,” he continued. “We have a complete staff here, including good mechanics. We check every vehicle. We sell 20 per week, week in and week out. More than a thousand a year. Have been in business more than 20 years. But I want you to check us out.”

He smiled. “Look! I understand your concern. Take it for a day. A weekend. Take it to any mechanic of your choice. Have it checked thoroughly. We’ll pay for that. Then show us his written report. We’ll take it from there.”

“Sounds good. But I don’t know any mechanic here.”

“No problem. We’ll take it to a Ford agency near you. They’ll do the checking. Give you their report. We’ll pay for it. Then you decide.”

Very fair, I thought. He did that. I got the report. The form had some 30 items on the check-off list. Every single one got checked off as “Good.”  Remarkable, I thought..

At my next meeting with Mike—yes, we were using our first names now—I asked about the whopping 183,000 miles. Who wouldn’t?

“That’s really much for a van of that age.  We got one in the other day. A Ford. Owned by an airport shuttle service. Its odometer said 900,000 miles. And still in service.”

I whistled at that.

I was curious about one thing. How come the Chateau looked so good. I put the question to him.

He turned to his computer. Looked up the Chateau. “This is the second time we sell it. The first time was when it was about 18 months old. We chose it to a Japanese man for family use. He traded it in for another. That’s the story. Not that unusual.”

“A Japanese man, you say. Well, I’ve been to Japan. I know how people over there take care of things.”

He nodded. “You’re probably right.”

“Well, I’ll pay $4,500.”

He smiled. “Sorry. The price is the price.”

“How about at least a senior discount?’

He smiled again. And shook his head. “Sorry. No.”

I test-drove it, of course. I used to drive a van of this size routinely at Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, Conn., when I was the director of its Elderhostel program. Often filled with passengers. That kind of driving all came back to me now.

I had searched for a high-rise model, with more headroom. In this one I couldn’t stand fully.  But adapting wouldn’t be difficult.

Mike and I discussed some details. I had no place to keep the van till departure time. I had to make modifications. Could I keep it at FamVans? I had no tools. I might need a hand on some jobs.

“Not a problem.  Keep it here. Just ask and we’ll let you borrow whatever you need. And we’ll help you find a young guy to help you as needed.”

One more question. Did I have to register it in California? I’d register it in Connecticut when I got home. It would be crazy to have to register it in one state, then the other.”

“We know the law. There is a simple solution. I’ll give you a document. You’ll have a permit on the windshield. You will be able to drive it to Connecticut with the previous owner’s plates. They’re on the van now. You’ll be allowed to make that single trip home. Nothing for you to do here. No California sales tax to pay. You’ll register and pay the tax in Connecticut. That’s all there is to it.”

There was considerable discussion, but that was the essence of it. We shook hands on the deal. I paid a deposit. It worked out just as he said. I kept the Chateau at FamVans for more than a month. He let me use his dealer’s plate to do errands with the van.

He introduced me to one of his workers, Antonio—Tony. Mexican. Born there. About 35. Working at FamVans for 13 years. Took a liking to him. He was talented and enthusiastic.  He called me “Senor John.” I liked that.

Nearly all the employees were Mexicans. They impressed me. And I liked the culture of the place. They worked hard. Seemed to enjoy their day. Were friendly.

One small detail. I spotted a popcorn machine in the office. It was filled fresh every morning. I love popcorn.

Mike was one of three brothers. His older brother was president. He was the sales manager. A younger brother ran the huge parts department.

FamVans had 200 vans and cargo trucks on the lot. Very busy. This was really a full-service place. Twenty workers doing everything from A to Z, including complete engine changes and rebuilds. Every vehicle got scrubbed and washed when it arrived. And spiffed up for delivery.

Antonio said “Yes, senor” to everything I asked.

Here are some of my changes to the van.  I removed one of the two big seats in the second row. I had the second one turned around, so it faced backward. I was going to remove the 3-passenger back seat. But I moved it back 18 inches and adapted it into a bunk. Got a 4-inch foam mattress custom cut for it.

Installed two three-drawer cabinets. Built a shelf along one side. Put in a one-burner propane stove and an ice chest. Even a homemade potty, for emergencies only. The carpeting was very clean. I put in carpet runners to keep it clean. Built a wooden step to rest on the ground by the big sliding door. Made it much easier for me to get in and out. Did this and did that.

Oh, important. Behind the back bench I installed a big plywood shelf. It was the width of the van and  two-feet wide. I could store suitcases and boxes under it. I had lots to take home. And loads of  everyday stuff on it. I am delighted with it.

The Chateau had tinted windshields. I liked that. People couldn’t see in. But the tint on the window by the driver gave a distorted view when I looked out at an oblique angle. That was a problem..

Antonio used a razor to make a crescent-shape cut and peel off that corner of the film. Excellent. Then did the same thing on the other side.  I asked why he bothered. “Not good if they look different, senor!”

Oh, I forgot to mention that the van had a gps navigation system. At the last minute it was discovered it had a problem. Not fixable. Mike gave me a new Garmin instrument. I’ve set it up.

Antonio made even more small changes that I requested when I picked it up. He installed two brackets for me. I’ll hang my clothes neatly on them.

I had one final request.  I asked him to drive the Chateau to the front of the lot and park it there, with the big FamVans’ sign showing right behind. And had Luis, the foreman, to

take a photo of Mike and Antonio and me side by side. They were busy but good sports about it. I wanted it as a souvenir of this very nice experience.

We shook hands.  I was glad I had tipped Antonio. He deserved it. Mike had kept his word in every way. We shook hands and promised to keep in touch. They were waving to me as I drove off.

I would be departing in three days. They knew that. Mike said, “If something comes up, don’t hesitate to call me.” This was a no-warranty deal. But his words made me feel good.

Well, tomorrow morning is the big moment. I’ll get home to Deep River when I get home. Maybe in a few days. Maybe in several weeks. We’ll see.

I’ve never lived in a chateau. But now I have a nice little one on wheels to live in.

Gosh, I’ve written a lot of words to tell you all this.  God bless you if you’ve reached this last paragraph!

Deep River Man Identifed and Charges in April 8 Police Chase and Shooting

AREAWIDE— State police have announced the arrest of the second suspect in the April 8 chase and shootout on Route 153 in Westbrook, Sebastian P. Award, 24, of 257 West Elm St. in Deep River.  Another suspect, 24-year-old Jonathan Alvarado of Deep River was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire with police that left Detective Scott Wisner with a shoulder wound.

Award and Alvarado were fleeing the scene of an armed robbery at the Days Inn motel on Route One in Old Saybrook, with police in pursuit, when their vehicle crashed into a vehicle operated by Wisner on Route 153 near Doc’s Hill Road in Westbrook. Award was injured in the crash and shooting, and has been under treatment and police guard at Hartford Hospital for the past week. Wisner is a former resident state trooper for Essex.

Award has been arrested and charged with two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder, two counts of first degree kidnapping, two counts of first degree robbery, three counts of second degree larceny, and assault on a police officer. He was expected to be arraigned Monday at Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown.

Essex Winter Series Receives Community Foundation of Middlesex County Grant

The Board of Trustees of Essex Winter Series is honored to announce their receipt of a grant from the Elizabeth Swaim Arts Enrichment Fund of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.  This grant will underwrite a day of community outreach music programming in the Middletown Public Schools on April 30, 2013.

Essex Winter Series President, Peter Amos, said of this award, “Essex Winter Series is delighted to receive generous support from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County for outreach to the Middletown schools. We all hear recorded music, constantly, but the special quality of live performances given by young emerging artists is so different and can be truly inspirational to students.  Essex Winter Series is a vibrant concert series, with a history of 35 years of excellence, but we realize the importance of bringing music to new audiences. For many students these outreach concerts in Middletown may be their first opportunity to be exposed to instrumental music of this quality and genre.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mihae Lee, Essex Winter Series Artistic Director, who added that, “we are fortunate to have loyal and generous supporters who believe in our community outreach program. I am especially grateful to Cynthia Clegg and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County for extending our program to Middletown students.”

Three of Essex Winter Series’ 2012 and 2013 Fenton Brown Emerging Artists will perform in two different schools on this outreach day: Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet, Carl Oswald, oboe and Adrian Morejon, bassoon.  Marco Gaylord, Director of Fine Arts for the Middletown School District, responded enthusiastically about this new outreach program, “It’s great to have these talented young musicians come to our High Schools and present a master class and interactive performance for our instrumental students.  We are planning for this to be in a classroom setting, which provides a wonderful intimate experience. This is a unique opportunity for our students to have a chance to ask questions that are pertinent to their instrument from professional musicians not too much older than themselves.”

This Middletown outreach day is a first-time addition to the annual community outreach offerings provided by the Essex Winter Series’ Fenton Brown Emerging Artists.  On April 29 the above-mentioned trio of musicians will perform and conduct master classes at Essex Elementary School, Essex Meadows, Apple Rehab Saybrook, and Community Music School in Centerbrook.  The master class at Community Music School, scheduled at 4:00pm, is FREE and open to the public.

The Elizabeth Swaim Arts Enrichment Fund of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County provides grants to enrich minds and expand the horizons of Middletown K through 12 public school students with arts programming.  This is the first year Essex Winter Series has received this grant.


Essex Winter Series’ mission is to bring the finest music, in live performance, to the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline Region during the winter months and to cultivate its appreciation to the widest audience.


More information, including details for the 2013-2014 season, can be found at or calling (860) 272-4572.

Senate Republican Staff Attorney Prepares Summary of Provisions of New Gun Law

A summary of the provisions of Connecticut’s new “Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety” law has been prepared by Mike Cronin, Esq., a Staff Attorney of the Senate Republicans.  The summary, dated April 5, 2013, is available on the Connecticut Senate Republican’s website.

Using a question and answer format, the summary is a guide as how to obey the new gun control law. Typical questions posed in the summary include:

Do I have to give up any of my presently owned guns? How does the new law affect the sale of assault style rifles? Hand guns? Shot guns? What are the new registration requirements for assault style guns, and what are the new limits on ammunition purchases?

Private Guns Sales Covered by New Law

Also, the summary notes that the new gun control law requires a background check for firearm sales, including private transactions.

Here is one of the twenty-four questions asked and answered in Attorney Cronin’s guide:

Q. If I already own a large capacity magazine, can I still use it?

A. Yes. If you legally possess large capacity magazines prior to the passage of this bill you can still use it in your gun. If you are at home or at a target range or shooting clubs, you can load as many bullets as the magazine can hold. Anywhere else, you can only load 10 bullets in the magazine.


Talking Transportation: Cruise Ships: The Devils on The Deep Blue Sea

Jim CameronIn the eight years I’ve been writing this column I’ve never found a reason to write about cruise ships, one of my favorite ways to travel.

Since my Dad took me as a passenger on freighters through the Caribbean when I was a kid right up to our now-annual cruises to the same area, I’ve always loved the high seas.  There’s nothing easier than driving to the pier in New York City, hopping on board and kicking back for a week.

A few years ago my fascination with cruising brought me to a great book, “Devils on the Deep Blue Sea” by Kristoffer Garin which detailed the formative years of the cruise industry, especially the start-up of Carnival Cruise Lines in 1972.  It was a rough start, but today Carnival owns 10 cruise lines (almost half the cruise ships in the world) including Cunard, Holland America, Costa, P&O, Princess and Seabourn.  At one point they even had their own airline ferrying passengers to Miami and San Juan, their biggest embarkation ports.

By segmenting the cruise market, just as hotels do, they offer everything from singles-filled party cruises to upscale trans-Atlantic “crossings” on the Queen Mary 2 (which is where I was while reading Garin’s book in 2006).

But more recently Carnival’s had some very bad PR.  Last year it was crash of the Costa Concordia in Italy (whose Captain abandoned ship).  Then, the February stranding of the 4,000-person Triumph for days in the Gulf of Mexico (without power, food or sanitation) was just the latest in a series of engineering problems.  Last week another ship, Fascination, failed a Center for Disease Control (CDC) health inspection, the fourth of their ships to do so this year alone.

Last week demand for cabins was so low that Carnival was offering cruises for $38 a night per person … less than the cost at Motel 6.   And that price includes all meals (assuming those CDC inspections don’t hurt your appetite).

Admittedly, this is a weak time of year for cruising, but Carnival knows it’s always best to sail with a full ship and make money on the booze and ship excursions.

In my view, the real problem isn’t Carnival or its ships’ safety, but the fact that they pay no taxes … and yet, depend on the US Coast Guard for their numerous rescues.

Micky Arison, son of the founder of Carnival (and owner of the Miami Heat), is the richest man in Florida.  Last year Carnival brought in $15.3 billion in revenues.  But they paid just 0.6% in US, state, local and international taxes last year while socking taxpayers for millions in US Coast Guard expenses for 90 different rescue missions in the last five years.

Senator Jay Rockefeller says Arison is a “cheater… treacherous and wrong” and wrote him asking to do the right thing and pay-up.  Carnival declined the invitation, prompting Rockefeller (the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee) to call their response “shameful”.

Shameful, perhaps.  But perfectly legal and the result, even Rockefeller admits, of sloppiness by Congress.  So, expect some grandstanding, a few hearings and maybe some face-saving philanthropy by Arison.   But don’t expect many changes in the cruise industry, especially in higher fares that reflect the true cost of being a “devil on the deep blue seas.”

JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 22 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  You can reach him at or .  For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see

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Chester Planning & Zoning Denies Seating Request for Route 154 Market

Chester's Organon Market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue.  (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Chester’s Organon Market, located at 56 Middlesex Avenue. (photo by Jerome Wilson)

CHESTER— A divided planning and zoning commission Thursday denied a request to amend a 2011 special permit approval to allow limited seating at the Organon Market on Route 154. The request to remove a special permit condition prohibiting seating and on site consumption of food was rejected on a 5-4 vote.

Local resident Peter Kehayias, who is a member of the commission, had petitioned the panel to amend it’s September 2011 special permit approval for the market to eliminate the restriction on seating and on-site consumption of food and allow either 12 chairs or two benches for market customers. Kehayias, operating under the name 56 Middlesex Avenue LLC, had acquired the property and won commission approval to open a retail market in 2011. Kehayias had recused himself from participating in the commission’s review of his own zoning petition.

The building at 56 Middlesex Avenue, also known as Route 154, was previously used as a gasoline station, and most recently as a bicycle repair shop. It had been vacant for several years before the market opened late last summer. The property is a non-conforming commercial use in a residential zone, with the commercial use predating the town’s approval of zoning regulations in the 1960s.

Kehayias, through Deep River lawyer Jane Marsh, had asked the commission at a March 14 public hearing to allow the limited seating as a convenience to customers. Marsh noted that many customers are already consuming items brought at the market on the property, including the parking lot. There would be no table service, with Kehayias maintaining he has no plans to attempt to turn the market in to a restaurant-style operation.

The request to allow limited seating drew support from some residents at the March 14 hearing, but also strong opposition from several nearby residential property owners. Many of the nearby residents had also opposed the original special permit application for the market in 2011.

After receiving a legal opinion from commission attorney David Royston advising that the panel has the authority to amend special permit conditions, commission members took sharply diverging positions on the request during more than an hour of discussion at Thursday’s meeting. Commission alternate Mel Seifert contended removing the permit condition would represent an illegal expansion of the non-conforming use “to a fast food restaurant or deli.”

Seifert also maintained removing the condition would set a precedent that would open the door to possible future expansions of the non-conforming use in to a possible restaurant if Kehayias were to sell the property. “If we grant this petition we create a new non-conforming use which others in the future could use to continue this illegal expansion,” he said.

But commission member Errol Horner maintained it was a stretch to suggest that allowing two benches in the market would create a fast food restaurant. “I don’t know why we can’t do it,” he said, adding the change could give a small boost to a new local business.

Voting to deny the request were Seifert, members Doreen Joslow and Michael Sanders, alternate Sarah Janson, and commission Chairman Jon Lavy. Voting to approve the request were Horner, and members Henry Krempel, Stephen Merola, and Keith Scherber.

Sen. Art Linares Tours Chester-based Roto-Frank, Inc.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou (left) and Sen. Art Linares (right) chat during Linares’ April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou (left) and Sen. Art Linares (right) chat during Linares’ April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares on April 11 toured Chester-based Roto-Frank, Inc. ( and spoke with the manufacturer’s 50 employees.

Roto-Frank President and CEO Chris Dimou led Sen. Linares on the tour, introducing Sen. Linares to employees and discussing the company’s future goals. The company creates worldwide leading hardware technology for windows and doors.

Sen. Linares’ tour coincided with National Window Safety Week, which is observed annually during the first full week in April.  The designation aims to heighten public awareness of what can be done to help keep families safe from the risk of accidental falls or injuries in the home.

Sen. Art Linares speaks with Roto-Frank employees during his April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

Sen. Art Linares speaks with Roto-Frank employees during his April 11 tour of the Chester-based manufacturer.

“Windows play a vital role in home safety, serving as a secondary escape route in the event of a fire or other emergency, but they can also pose a risk for a fall if safety measures are not followed,” Sen. Linares said.  “I was a pleasure to tour Roto-Frank to see firsthand the great work being done in this area.”

Sen. Linares, who serves on the legislature’s Commerce Committee and the bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus, has been visiting with area manufacturers to discuss their concerns and to learn how state government can help them grow and retain jobs.

“By listening to area manufacturers, I can take their concerns and ideas directly to Hartford,” Sen. Linares said. “My goal is to pass policies at the State Capitol which help our local businesses thrive.”

Sen. Linares is supporting a bill to eliminate the state’s business entity tax and a proposal which aims to establish a “Learn Here, Live Here” program to provide an incentive for students who graduate from Connecticut colleges or technical schools to establish a new business in the state.

Sen. Linares ( can be reached at or at 800-842 1421. Sen. Linares represents the 33rd Senate District, which encompasses Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

Local Men, Former Essex State Trooper Involved in Monday’s Crash and Shootout

One of the gunmen involved is air-lifted from Middlesex Hospital, Essex to Hartford Hospital (photo by Jerome Wilson).

One of the gunmen involved is air-lifted to Hartford Hospital (photo by Jerome Wilson).

AREAWIDE— A Deep River man and a former Essex resident state trooper have been identified as participants in Monday’s police chase, crash, and shooting on Route 153 in Westbrook. The crash and shootout, which occurred Monday around 3:15 prm., followed an armed robbery of a resident at the Day Inn motel on Route One in Old Saybrook.

State police have identified the suspect who was shot and killed in the incident as Jonathan Alvarado, 24, whose last known addresss was in Deep River. Alvarado and another man were fleeing the scene of the Old Saybrook robbery, with police in pursuit, when the suspect’s vehicle crashed into a cruiser operated by Detective Scott Wisner. The crash occurred on Route 153 in Westbrook, near the intersection with Doc’s Hill Road.

In an exchange of gunfire that followed the crash, Wisner suffered a shoulder wound, while Alvarado received fatal gunshot wounds. Also firing his weapon during the exchange was Sgt. Keith Graham, a shift supervisor at the nearby Troop F barracks in Westbrook. The second suspect was injured in the crash and exchange of gunfire, and was transported by LifeStar helicopter from the Shoreline Clinic in Essex to Hartford Hospital.

Wisner, an area resident, was treated at the hospital and is now recovering at home. A 21-year veteran officer, Wisner served as resident state trooper in Essex for several years from the late 1990s until he was promoted to detective. Graham is a 14-year state police officer.

The second suspect had not yet been identified by state police as of Thursday, but he is believed to be an area resident. He remains under police guard at Hartford Hospital, but is expected to survive to face multiple criminal charges stemming from the incident.

Tri-Town Youth Services Announces Three Mini-Grant Recipients

In the photo, L-R:  Calley Beckwith and Denise Learned of Camp Hazen YMCA, Carol Jones and her son, Peter, from Valley Baseball Boosters.

In the photo, L-R: Calley Beckwith and Denise Learned of Camp Hazen YMCA, Carol Jones and her son, Peter, from Valley Baseball Boosters.

Through funding from Middlesex United Way for Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth of Chester, Deep River, and Essex, Tri-Town Youth Services recently awarded mini-grants to Camp Hazen YMCA, Valley Baseball Boosters, and Deep River Congregational Church South Dakota Mission Trip.

All three programs will take place over the summer and all three are designed to build youth developmental assets.  For further information about Healthy Communities ● Healthy Youth, contact Gail Onofrio at 860-526-3600.

For additional information about developmental assets, visit:

Valley Regional High School Hosts Blood Drive

 (left to right): Elsbeth Kane, Valley Regional student, and Cathy Poulin, Bob’s public relations director

(left to right): Elsbeth Kane, Valley Regional student, and Cathy Poulin, Bob’s public relations director

Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Conn. hosted a blood drive on March 28. Students at Valley Regional High School are coordinating blood drives throughout the school year with the American Red Cross as part of the Bob’s Discount Furniture $100,000 High School Heroes Scholarship Program.

This annual program recognizes outstanding high school seniors in Massachusetts and Connecticut who have made exceptional contributions to their schools’ volunteer blood programs by awarding $100,000 in college scholarships each year. 

For more information, please visit

Region 4 Continues Study on Moving Sixth Graders to John Winthrop Middle School

REGION 4— School officials will spend another year studying the option of moving sixth graders from the three elementary schools to John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River, a step that would probably require referendum approval from voters in Chester, Deep River, and Essex of a change in the agreements establishing the regional school district.

The combined district school boards, including the Region 4 Board of Education and local school boards governing the three elementary schools, last week received a preliminary report from a study committee established last fall to analyze the option of relocating sixth grades to the middle school.  Bill Duffey, the first year principal at the middle school who presented the report, said most middle schools in Connecticut now include grades 6-8, with the state’s new common core standards also focusing on a grades 6-8 middle school program. Duffey said the committee that includes teachers, parents, and administrators has “nearly unanimous support” for pursuing a move of the sixth grades to the middle school.

Duffey said the 42-year old middle school, which underwent a renovation and expansion that was completed in 2005, has 26 classrooms and could accommodate sixth grades from the three elementary schools without any need for new renovations or construction. He said the committee determined that transportation of sixth graders to the middle school could be done without a need for additional buses.

But any relocation of the sixth grades would also require “governance” changes, particularly a change in the current regionalization agreement between the towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex that refers to a regional school district serving students in grades 7-12. It is this agreement which provides for an elected Region 4 school board that manages the middle school and Valley Regional High School, and elected local school boards that run the elementary schools in the three towns.

A change to this agreement would be expected to require referendum approval from voters in each of the three district towns. District schools boards have been studying options for governance changes for several years, but have not yet presented a specific proposal for changes to the towns. There has been reluctance to propose a full regionalization of the school district to include the elementary schools, creating a full regional school district like Region 17 (Haddam-Killingworth), and Region 18 (Lyme-Old Lyme).

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Monday the need for governance changes that could require referendums is one of the issues the committee would continue to study in to the 2013-2014 school year. Other issues include more details on transportation and any other costs, and the possible need for some of the current nine sixth grade teachers to update their state certifications to allow them to teach a middle school curriculum. Levy said there is currently “no end point” for the sixth grade study committee’s work, though another report to the school boards is expected in the spring of 2014.

State Senator Art Linares Voted “No” on New “Gun Violence Prevention” Legislation

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares

State Senator Art Linares voted “no” on the recently enacted, new Connecticut state law, entitled, “An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety.” Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy signed the bill into law on April 4.

In explaining his “no” vote the Senator said in a written statement, “Having witnessed the emotional accounts of parents, teachers and citizens after the Newtown tragedy, I am more committed than ever to help create a safer Connecticut.”

He continued, “After much consideration and talking with many residents of the 33rd district, I decided to vote no on the bill. While I support some of the individual elements such as criminal background checks and discontinuing the early release program for violent felons, I concluded that [the bill] did not correctly address the most important issues of safe neighborhoods, school security, and most importantly, mental health.”

Following three more paragraphs of explaining the reasons for his “no” vote, the Senator concluded, “Now that [the bill] has passed, I will continue moving forward, working with our school superintendents to address school safety issues, with our mental health experts to get access to needed resources, and with gun owners to help them understand the new regulations.”

Sen. Linares represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, and Westbrook.

New Emergency Medical Center to Replace Essex’s Medical Center in April 2014

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

Artist rendering of finished Shoreline Emergency Medical Center in Westbrook

A new $28 million Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, which is presently under construction in Westbrook, is slated to replace the hospital’s present Shoreline Medical Center in Essex as early as next April. According to Middlesex Hospital’s Harry Evert, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Operations, the new Westbrook Shoreline Medical Center, “will double the number of rooms and bring a higher level of efficiency,” than exists at the present Essex facility.

Billboards Promise New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook next year

Billboards Promise New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook next year

The hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook will be located on Flat Rock Place, just off Exit 65 of Interstate I-95. The Center will be just down the road from the Tanger Outlet shopping mall. The frame of the new two story medical center is in the process of construction at the Westbrook location.

Construction workers busy at Flat Rock Place site, near Exit 65 of I-95

Construction workers busy at Flat Rock Place site, near Exit 65 of I-95

Essex’s “Shoreline Clinic” Served Area for 40 Years

The existing Shoreline Medical Center in Essex will be closed down as soon as the new Westbrook center is ready to accept patients. The Essex Shoreline Medical Center has provided emergency medical services to shoreline residents for the past 40 years, according to Middlesex Hospital materials.

What will happen to the Essex shoreline center, once it is phased out, however, has yet to be decided, according to Evert.

Some Essex residents are deeply concerned about closing of the present Shoreline medical center in their town. At the same time they can look forward to using a new larger and better equipped medical facility, when it comes on line neighboring Westbrook.

Essex Shoreline Center Was First of Its Kind  

According to a Middlesex Hospital sources, the shoreline facility in Essex was, “the first freestanding hospital-based emergency center in the country, and it became a model for other hospitals to follow.” In building a new medical center in Westbrook, the hospital notes, “We are moving three miles down the road from the current facility on Route 153 in Essex to Westbrook.” An advantage of the Westbrook location is that it “will provide easy access from I-95 as well as local roads.”

Middlesex Hospital’s Senior Vice President Evert also pointed out that the new Westbrook facility would be able to serve, more easily, the emergency medical needs of a number of towns along the I-95 corridor. For example, persons living in towns to the west of the new facility on I-95, such as Madison and Clinton, would have direct access to the new Westbrook center.

Also, towns to the east on the I-95 corridor, such as Old Saybrook, Old Lyme and Lyme, could be served by the new Westbrook center as well. The new Westbrook center could also serve the towns of Essex, Deep River and Chester, as well as Haddam and Killingworth without difficulty. In addition, accident victims on I-95 could be treated more easily from the Westbrook center.

Middlesex Hospital’s Evert estimated that the increase in the number of patients at the new Westbrook facility over those at the Essex facility would be in the ten to fifteen percent range. However, when pressed he said that this might be a “low ball” figure, and that he “just wanted to be conservative.”

New Westbrook Center Twice the Size of Essex’s   

The new 40,000 square foot emergency and outpatient facility in Westbrook will be double the size of the present Essex medical center. Furthermore, according to Middlesex Hospital materials, “Should we need even more space we have the option to add a second level, which would increase the Shoreline Medical Center space to 60,000 square feet.”

Until the use of this additional 20,000 square feet becomes necessary, it will remain undeveloped on the second floor of the new medical center building.

A two story frame is in place for the new emergency medical center in Westbrook

A two story frame is in place for the new emergency medical center in Westbrook

The new 40,000 square foot facility, presently being built, on the first floor will have, “an expanded emergency center with an express care area for minor illnesses and injuries.” Also, the new 40,000 square feet facility will allow, “a separate ambulance entrance,” as well as a “covered drop-off area, and improved patient privacy.”

Outpatients at the new Westbrook emergency center will also have their own entrance, and at the center there will be, “a whole host of diagnostic and treatment services.” In addition at the new center, “Radiology services will expand to include a new MRI testing area, and designated women imaging area.” In addition, “Other offerings would include lab services, pre-surgical testing and chronic care management.”

In summary Middlesex Hospital released this summary of services at the new Westbrook emergency center:

  • Emergency: 24/7 care, Helipad, Paramedic service
  • Other Services: Pre-surgical testing, chronic care management programs.
  • Outpatient Diagnostics: X-ray, MRI, CT, Ultrasound, Mammography, Laboratory services

As for the staff at the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook, it will consist of:

  • Physicians, board certified in Emergency Medicine, providing coverage 24/7,
  •  Magnet nurses with a reputation for the highest quality care,
  • Laboratory and radiology clinicians credentialed in their areas of specialty.

Middlesex Hospital summarized by noting that, “Hospital emergency departments are the healthcare safety net for all in the community, any hour, day or night, seven days a week. All patients who come to the facility, regardless of their ability to pay receive care.”

The hospital also noted, “Each year, more than 23,000 people rely on the Shoreline Medical Center for emergency care.”

Exchange Program Seeks Host Families for International Students

ASSE International Student Exchange Programs (ASSE) is seeking local host families for boys and girls from a variety of countries around the world. These students are 15 to 18 years of age, and are coming to this area for the upcoming high school year or semester.  These personable and academically select exchange students have good English, are bright, curious and anxious to learn about the USA by living as part of a family, attending high school and sharing their own culture and language.

The exchange students arrive from their home country shortly before school begins and return at the end of the school year or semester.  Each ASSE student is fully insured, brings his or her own personal spending money and expects to bear his or her share of household responsibilities, as well as being included in normal family activities and lifestyles.

The students are well screened and qualified by ASSE.  Families may select the youngster of their choice from extensive student applications, family photos and biographical essays.

To become a host family or find out more about ASSE and its programs, call Joyce 207-737-4666 or 1-800-677-2773 or visit  There are many students from which to choose — Area Representatives also sought.

 Editor’s Note: ASSE International is a nonprofit 501.c.3 educational and cultural exchange organization headquartered in Laguna Beach, California.  ASSE promotes global learning and leadership by offering a unique, richly personal experience for students, volunteer families, host high schools and local communities. ASSE reaches across interpersonal and international borders, celebrating worldwide community through the spirit, character and promise of our youth.

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Helicopter Air Lifts Wounded Gunman to Hartford Hospital After Gun Incident


A Life-Star helicopter is loaded with injured gunman at emergency medical center in Essex

A “Life Star” helicopter air lifted a wounded gunman at Middlesex Hospital’s Emergency Medical Center in Essex for a trip to Hartford Hospital around four o’clock Monday afternoon.

Reportedly, the gunman engaged in a gun battle with a state trooper after a car chase and car crash on Route 153 near the Westbrook Essex line. A state trooper was also wounded in the gun battle, but not seriously.  In addition, a second gunman was killed in the exchange of gun fire.


After incident State Police troopers gather outside Middlesex Hospital's medical center in Essex

After incident State Police troopers gather outside Middlesex Hospital’s medical center in Essex


DOT Plans to Double CT River Ferry Fares, Announces Meetings to Discuss Proposals

ferry 2The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) announced yesterday (April 5) that it will be holding two public meetings regarding plans to raise the fares on the two Connecticut River Ferries starting July 1, 2013.  The ferries affected are the Chester-Hadlyme and Rocky Hill-Glastonbury routes.
DOT says in a press release that the increases are necessary to offset the rising operating costs that have occurred over the years.  Fares have not been raised since 2003.
Under the proposal, effective July 1, vehicle fares will be increased from the current $3 per crossing to $6.   Fares for walk-on passengers and bicyclists will be increased from $1 per crossing to $2.  The price of the Discount Coupon Book that now costs $40 for a book of 20 coupon tickets (a 33 percent savings) will be increased to $80 (also a 33 percent savings).

“We are committed to maintaining the ferry operations serving tourists, commuters, pedestrians and bicyclists alike,” stated Commissioner James P. Redeker.  “Raising the fares has been carefully considered.  Fare increases are never popular, but costs for operating the ferries have consistently been significantly greater than passenger revenues, resulting in a state subsidy of $651,000 in the most recent fiscal year.”

The two public meetings on the fare increases will be held:

  • May 20, 6:30 pm – 9:00 p.m., Rocky Hill Community Center, Room 1
  • May 22, 6:30 pm – 9:00 p.m., Chester Meeting House

Commissioner Redeker noted that a Strategic Business Plan was developed in consultation with the Connecticut River Ferry Task Force, a group of concerned citizens.  Several of the recommendations from that effort have been implemented.  The Department is installing new road signs that will direct the public to the “Historic Connecticut River Ferry.”  Significantly, new environmentally compliant engines were installed in both the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry and the -Hadlyme Ferry during the 2012-2013 winter maintenance period.

The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry began its season on Monday, April 1, and will run through Nov. 30.  The Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry season is from May 1 to Oct. 31.

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Essex Selectmen Approve $27,500 for Municipal Property Improvements

ESSEX— The board of selectmen Wednesday endorsed a $27,500 expenditure for municipal property improvements at a meeting where First Selectman Norman Needleman also announced the pending retirement of 18-year Dog Warden Joseph Heller.

Needleman announced that Heller, a former town constable who was appointed as dog warden/animal control officer in December 1994, is preparing to retire, but would continue in the part-time position until a replacement is appointed by the selectmen. Needleman said the town would advertise for a paid position at around 12 hours per week. Unless the new dog warden is already working in that job in another town, he or she would also be required to complete eight hours of state training for the position. “We want somebody who is going to be conscientious about it and it does require someone who loves dogs,” he said.

The proposed $27,500 expenditure from an existing municipal properties budget sinking fund would pay for three small projects at town hall, and a change for the public restrooms at the Main Street Park in the downtown village. Needleman said the town is currently paying someone to unlock and lock the park restrooms each morning and evening. He said $6,000 would buy a new timed electronic lock that would open and close the restrooms at designated times to eliminate the need for an ongoing expense.

The town hall improvements include $14,600 for removal of asbestos at five locations in the building. Most of the asbestos is located under floor tiles in the building, which was the town’s Pratt High School until it was converted in to the town hall in the early 1950s. The low bidder for the work was American Vets Abatement of Vernon.

The other parts of the proposed expenditure include $4,400 to remove carpeting and improve the floor in the building official’s office, and $2,500 for a sprinkler in the lower level boiler room. With approval from the board of finance at a meeting later this month, the proposed $27,500 expenditure would be presented to voters at a May 1 town meeting for final approval.

Dedication of Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Kicks Off Community Events

Former Deep River Selectman Art Thompson supervising the improvements

Former Deep River Selectman Art Thompson supervising the Auditorium improvements (photo by Jerome Wilson)

The May 1 re-dedication of the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium will kick off a series of free diverse community activities, permitting residents of Deep River and surrounding towns to experience the restored auditorium as spectators and performers. The Restoration Committee is arranging free programs that will include a variety of showcases in music, dance, theatre, and community activities.  Face Arts Music, Marjorie Warner, Michel Harris, Amy Forbes, the Meadows Brothers, SayWhat and Park and Recreation will all be offering free events.  The restoration committee will close the month of celebration with a community social dance on May 31at 7p.m. with the live music from the Dizzy River Band and Ryan Hartt & the Blue Hearts.

If your music, dance or theater group wants to participate in the celebration contact Restoration Committee member, Linalynn Schmelzer, through email at, by April 12.

Dates and events will be announced in the following weeks.  Look for updates via mailings, or follow us on Facebook at Deep River Town Hall.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Resumes Operations for 244th Year

Engine room_640

John Marshall, captain of the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, shows off one of two new John Deere 205-HP engines installed in the 60-year-old Selden III ferry over the winter by CT Department of Transportation.

The historic Chester-Hadlyme Ferry resumed service Monday for its 244th year with a “First Sailing” party organized by the Hadlyme Public Hall Association, which spearheaded a campaign two years ago to save the ferry service from state budget cuts.

A number of Department of Transport officials from Hartford attended the event to help celebrate the installation of the engines.

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Essex Steam Train Railroad Crossing Safety Message

Essex Steam Train #40 at Chester

Essex Steam Train #40 at Chester

ESSEX — The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat would like to make all local residents aware that seasonal train operations have begun today, April 4, 2013. The Valley Railroad Company is looking forward to an active and exciting season, and would like to remind all to be aware of railroad crossing safety.

We advise all motorists and pedestrians in Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River, Chester, Haddam and Middletown to be aware of the trains and railroad crossings now in operation. Please renew your sense of caution and alertness when traversing the crossings of the railroad. All Railroad STOP signs, flashing lights, and gates carry the full weight of the law. Pedestrians are also not permitted, by law, to walk along the tracks of an active railroad.

Thank you for your attention. Please find more information about our upcoming season on and follow us for updates on Twitter @essexsteamtrain and on Facebook at

 About the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley. The railroad has transported people across Connecticut since 1868, and the Valley Railroad Company has operated today’s well-known train and riverboat for over 40 years. The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat takes people on exciting excursions through the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley, a placed designated as “one of the last great places on earth” by the Nature Conservancy. The steam locomotive pulls vintage coaches through the quintessential New England towns of Deep River and Chester, and the Becky Thatcher Riverboat takes visits to the undeveloped Selden Neck State Park. The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers various eco-excursions and family themed events throughout the year. For more information visit  or connect with the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat on social media: and

Spring 2014 Earliest Start for Chester Main Street Project

CHESTER—  The long-planned reconstruction of Main Street could begin in the spring of 2014 in an initial phase that would focus on the section of road from the intersection with Route 154 west to the entrance to the Laurel Hill Cemetery.

That was a highlight of the timeline for the project presented by First Selectman Edmund Meehan last week at an informational meeting held by the Main Street Project Committee, the volunteer committee that is coordinating the project. About 30 residents turned out March 26 at the Chester Meeting House to review and discuss a master plan for the downtown improvements prepared by the Ken & Frost consulting firm.

Meehan said the town is still working to put together full funding for the project, which is expected to cost at least $1.3 million. The town currently has about $450,000 available, including a $200,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant awarded in 2009, and $250,000 in town funds set aside in a capital fund in recent annual town budgets. Meehan said he is seeking state approval to transfer about $340,000 remaining from a separate STEAP grant for an expanded water line along Route 154 to the Main Street project. A low bid left funds unexpended from the water line project.

Meehan said the Main Street project remains linked to a separate state Department of Transportation project to replace the Main Street bridge over Pattaconk Brook, near the area where Main Street intersects with Water Street and continues west as Route 148. The state bridge project, which will require some traffic detours, is expected to begin the the spring of 2015.

Meehan said the town could complete the first phase of the Main Street Project in 2014, and then focus work on the area around the bridge later in 2015. Other elements of the project include paving the Maple Street parking lot, and improvements to the town parking lot on Water Street.

Meehan said the board of selectmen would present the master plan for the project prepared by the engineering consultants to a town meeting for approval in June. Town meeting approval of the plan would allow the town to apply for additional grants, including any STEAP funding that could be available in 2014.

No Residents Attend Hearing on Proposed $17.77 Million Region 4 Education Budget

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education Monday approved a proposed $17,776,907 education budget for 2013-2014 that goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 7.

The board made no changes to the budget plan it adopted on March 7 after no residents from the three towns attended the annual budget hearing Monday evening. The board and school administrators came equipped with plenty of information, including a comparison between the latest Region 4 teacher contract and other teacher contracts negotiated in recent months around the state, but there were no residents on hand to question or comment on the budget.

The total budget represents a $269,907, or 1.54 percent, increase over the current appropriation that funds Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The gross budget is reduced by $275,532 in anticipated income to a net budget of $17,500,589 that is assessed the taxpayers Chester, Deep River, and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. The net budget represents a $235,655, or 1.36 percent, increase over the current net billings to the towns.

Based on the current average daily membership of 973 students, Chester, with 245 students will pay a 24.33 percent share of the budget. Deep River, with 297 students, will pay a 29.49 percent share of the budget. Essex, with 465 students, will pay a 46.18 percent share of the budget.

The Chester assessment, $4,257,893, is down by $426,084, or 9.1 percent, from the town’s current expenditure for Region 4. The Deep River share, $5,160,924, is up by $281,854, or 5.78 percent, from the current amount. The Essex assessment totals  $8,081,772, an increase of $379,885, or 4.93 percent, from the current amount.

After closing the public hearing, the seven of the nine elected board members approved the spending plan, with member Mario Gioco of Chester abstaining. Gioco had voted against the budget at the March 7 meeting, contending he had not received sufficient detail on the number of students in the various classroom sections, including half-credit courses, at the high school. Member Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River was absent Monday.

Obituary: Margaret (Peg) Oldroyd Hyde – 12 March, 2013

Margaret Hyde_cropped (1)Essex, CT—Margaret (Peg) Oldroyd Hyde passed away at age 96 on March 12, 2013 at Essex Meadows following a long battle with cancer. She leaves her loving family and many friends who will miss her and are grateful to have known her. She lived a life filled with passion for people, for writing, for teaching and for learning.

Peg was born in Philadelphia on February 18, 1917 to Gerald and Helen (Lerch) Oldroyd. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Arcadia university in Philadelphia, a Master’s Degree in teaching from  Columbia University and an honorary Doctorate from Arcadia.

Peg had a passion for science at an early age and was a pioneer for women in the field. She taught Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, graduate level science courses at Temple University and was head of the Science Department at the Shipley School in Philadelphia. She wrote scripts for science based television programs for what was then known as Educational Television, the forerunner to PBS.

But her greatest success came as the author of over 90 books published by a number of major publishing houses including McGraw-Hill, Franklin Watts and Learner. In 1946 she co-authored a 6th grade science textbook called New Ideas in Science which lead to a 60 year career as an author. Her books won several awards the first being the Thomas Alva Edison award for the best children’s science book of 1961. At age 85 she won an award with her co-author for her book targeted to adolescents, Sex 101. She was still writing at age 90 when illness forced her to retire.

Peg was not one to relax. She traveled extensively throughout the world, was a member of many volunteer groups and organizations dedicated to the written word, and spectated at countless swim meets, sailing regattas, soccer and Little League games.  She started skiing at age 40 and playing golf at age 60.

She is survived by a son, Bruce Hyde and his wife, Barbara Goodrich of New London, grandchildren Emily Hyde and her husband Daniel Witsil of Qunicy, MA, Molly Hyde and her partner Stephen LaChance of Baltimore, MD and Benjamin Hyde of  Brooklyn, New York. She is also survived by her great granddaughter, Maya Elizabeth Witsil whose pictures and videos always made her smile.

She was predeceased by Edwin Y. Hyde, her husband of more than 50 years and her son, Lawrence Hyde.

A private family service will be held at St. John’s Church in Essex. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name may be made to The Smile Train.


Let’s Slow Down – Drive Like Your Kids Live Here!

Drvive like v2A message from Essex Police Union and Essex Boy Scouts:

You know that split second panicked feeling you get when you’re suddenly startled when you’re driving. It leaves you with a racing heart and is usually accompanied by a colorful expletive.

It happens when we least expect it, and for a little while we notice the world around us just a little more. We continue on our way, talking aloud to ourselves about what just happened, and before we know it that “close call” becomes a distant memory.

Now imagine if someone got hurt. We in law enforcement can tell you from personal experience it can be life changing. Not just for those directly involved, but for those close to them as well. Now imagine if it involved a child.

The Essex Police Union and the Essex Boy Scouts ask, that as we go about your ever increasingly busy day, when you see a “DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE” sign posted throughout our community you take a moment to look at your speedometer.

We also encourage parents to speak to their children about bicycle safety, how and where to stay safe while playing outside, and to remember to always “Look Both Ways” when crossing the street.

Speeding is the most regularly reported motor vehicle offense in our community. We as residents of the community are most likely to find ourselves “going a little fast” as we continue through our busy day.

Our hope is that these stand-out signs will inspire drivers in our community to take a moment, slow down, and “DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE”.

Thank you,
Essex Police Union / Essex Boy Scouts

Please contact CPL Russ Gingras with any sign requests, questions, or comments: (860)767-1054 or

Road and Bench at Essex Court Dedicated to Mary Beth Stebbins

Mary Beth Stebbins

Mary Beth Stebbins

ESSEX— More than 60 residents turned out Saturday at the Essex court elderly housing complex to watch a dedication of the access road and a new granite bench to the former Essex Housing Authority board chairwoman Mary Beth Stebbins. A nurse with the Centerbrook-based Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley, Stebbins died on April 2, 2012.

It was the residents of the 36-unit elderly housing complex off Main Street that requested the road naming, setting the stage for Saturday’s official dedication ceremony. Tammy Mesite, the local resident who serves as site manager, unveiled the new street sign proclaiming the access road to the complex “Mary Beth Way,”.

The crowd then proceeded the complex’s community room, which was upgraded under Stebbins’ leadership, where current Essex Housing Authority Board of  Commissioners Chairwoman Janice Atkeson unveiled the new granite bench near the entrance that is inscribed “in gratitude for the leadership and contributions of Mary Beth Stebbins.”  Atkeson said the inscription on the bench would keep the memories of Mary Beth Stebbins alive for future residents. “We know her and now those who didn’t know her will ask and be informed,” she said.

Stebbins was appointed to the housing authority board in 2004, soon after an East Hartford firm, now called Faith Assets Management, was hired to run the complex. She served as chairwoman of the board from 2006 until she was sidelined by illness late in 2011. Rick Stebbins, a lifelong resident who had served as member and chairman of the local and Region 4 school boards, was appointed to the board of commissioners to fill the vacancy created by her death.

Stebbins told the crowd his late wife would be “humbled and a little embarrassed” by the honors, including the road naming that was approved by the board of selectmen. First Selectman Norman Needleman said Stebbins was an outstanding community volunteer. “She was a steady rock and constant source of stability and inspiration for the residents,” he said, adding “nobody deserves it more.”

Kimalee Williams, the Director of Faith Asset Management LLC, said the name of the road was appropriate. “Mary Beth’s way was compassion and finding a way for everyone to get along with each other,” she said.

Talking Transportation: TSA – The Toughest Job in Transportation

Jim CameronWho do you think has the toughest job in transportation?  Airline pilots?  Long-haul truck drivers?  Metro-North conductors?    To my thinking, the toughest job is being an airport TSA agent.

Forget the recent furor over revised Transportation Security Administration rules soon to allow small knives in carry-on luggage.  The plastic knives the flight attendants distribute in snack packs in-flight are already sharp enough to slit a throat.  By not worrying about every pen-knife and nail clipper, TSA agents should have more time to concentrate on truly lethal weapons.

A far bigger threat to aviation security is liquid explosives and non-metal knives.  Ceramic knives are undetectable on magnetometers, which is why the TSA brought in those full-body scanners we love so much.

But I think the biggest threat to aviation safety is the public’s anger at the TSA agents who are just doing their job.  After a thorough TSA screening at an airport last month I saw an angry passenger literally curse at the agent.  That passenger wasn’t pulled aside and given a retaliatory body cavity search. To her credit the agent kept her cool and didn’t get into even a verbal fight.  Could you be so thick-skinned?

It’s been 12 years since 9/11.  Have we forgotten what can happen when determined, armed terrorists take over a plane?  The TSA screens 1.8 million passengers a day.  If just one of those fliers got an undetected weapon onto a plane and blew it up, imagine the uproar.

Remember the holy triad of service:  fast, good and cheap.  You can achieve any two of those, but not all three.  Clearly, the top priority is “good” security.  So in this age of sequestration we’re unlikely to see quality compromised for speed.

If you want to fly, put up and shut up:  put up with the long lines while the agents do their jobs properly to keep you safe and keep your mouth shut.

Passenger protests have brought some TSA screening changes which seem arbitrary.  Like the recent rule allowing passengers over age 75 to keep their shoes on.  Terrorists can’t be that old?

And what passes for the rare TSA inspection of Amtrak passengers is more for show than real security. Unless every bag is opened, the rare and random briefcase examination or quick dog-walk through a moving train seems to be just “showing the colors”.

What do all these TSA inspections do, aside from create long lines and frustrated fliers?  They turn up an amazing amount of weapons.  The TSA’s weekly blog makes for fascinating reading.

In one recent week alone the TSA intercepted 32 firearms, 27 of them loaded, and ten stun guns. There were clips of ammo, brass knuckles and (no surprise) sheer stupidity:  a passenger flying out of San Juan told the ticket agent that her bag contained a bomb and she was going to blow up the plane. After an inspection by the TSA, her bag didn’t have a bomb. But as a result of her threat, the ticket counter, checkpoint and terminal were closed for nearly an hour, inconveniencing thousands.

And there were, as the TSA blog put it, “consequences” for the flier.

JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 22 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  You can reach him at or .  For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see