January 31, 2023

Archives for May 2013

Essex Zoning Commission Approves Art Studio for Centerbrook Building

ESSEX— The zoning commission has approved a special permit for an art studio in the commercial building at 61 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. The panel approved the permit for  NairCo LLC of Killingworth after a May 20 public hearing where the proposed use drew no objections.

NairCo LLC also operates the Killingworth Arts Center on North Parker Hill Road in Killingworth. Business owner Barbara Nair purchased the nearly vacant 61 Main St. building last November for $760,000. The art center would offer classes, programs, and workshops for children, teenagers, and adults. The hours of operation would be Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays 12 noon to 6 p.m.

The commission’s only condition for the permit approval was a requirement that signs for the use be consolidated. The 61 Main St. building has been mostly vacant for more than three years. Over the past year, a section of the building has been leased to a pool supply and repair business.

Rep. Miller Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage – Bill Passes the House and Senate

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Phil Miller

State Representative Philip Miller (D- Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Essex) voted in favor of S.B. 387, An Act Increasing The Minimum Fair Wage.  The bill would raise the minimum wage to $8.70 per hour, effective January 1, 2014 and to $9.00 effective January 1, 2015.

“I support this bill because Connecticut’s families are struggling,” remarked Rep Miller. “These full-time employees earn a legal wage that puts them below the poverty line. Connecticut is a very expensive state to live in and raising the minimum wage ensures that Connecticut’s workers can afford to stay in Connecticut.”

According to the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) and the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 10% of those employed in Connecticut earn the minimum wage. 80% of those earning the minimum wage are adults older than 20, 50% of whom have had some college education.

The minimum wage disproportionately affects women; 60% of the 106,000 minimum wage earners in Connecticut are female. One in three women workers in Connecticut earn the minimum wage and 20% of all minimum wage earners are female heads of households, single moms working to provide for their families.

“The National Employment Law Project found that two-thirds of America’s low-wage workers work for companies with more than a hundred employees, such as Walmart and McDonald’s,” argued Miller. “Small business owners know that paying their workers a higher wage makes them work harder and reduces turnover. Most small businesses in Connecticut already pay their workers more than the minimum fair wage required by law.”

Economists on all sides of this argument agree that what the economy needs most are consumers. Low-income workers spend their entire paychecks in their community, unable to afford to accumulate savings. “Our farms and small businesses need consumers therefore giving low-income, full-time employees an extra $936 per year for their labor will help put more money into our local economy.”

The bill passed the House 89-53. The Senate passed the bill on May 23. The bill will now be sent to the Governor, who has indicated his support.

Linares – Why I Voted “No” to Undocumented Immigrant Drivers Licences

LinaresJan9oathI am a proud Cuban-American, and I believe in the American dream.  My father and grandparents immigrated to the United States after the attempt to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro failed. Before they fled, my grandfather was imprisoned for opposing communism.

Here in America, my family was able to realize the American Dream.  They worked hard and achieved success.  I saw their work ethic and emulated it.  That work ethic helped me to co-found a successful business and helped me get elected to the Connecticut State Senate.

It was a proud day just about five months ago when I held up my right hand and took the oath of office in the Senate Chamber.  I was surrounded by my family, and I thanked them for all that they have done for me and for pursuing their dreams here in America.

In America today, our immigration system is broken.  It needs to be fixed. I have followed the immigration debate closely in Washington DC. I once worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.  Sen. Rubio is currently leading the effort to craft workable immigration reform in Congress.

Like Sen Rubio, I believe this country is ready to support immigration reform, as long as it is:

  • pro-economic growth
  • strengthens families
  • fosters assimilation
  • prevents another wave of illegal immigration from happening again.

The immigration bill being taken up in the United States Senate is an important starting point in the effort to improve a failed and broken system.  The federal legislation is not perfect.  Primarily, the complaint seems to be about the size and scope of the bill. But I believe Sen. Rubio proposed it for the right reasons. We can’t leave the system the way it is. The status quo is just as bad.

If Sen. Rubio’s plan passes:

  • People here in this country illegally now who are not paying taxes will be paying income tax and revenue to the government.
  • They will also be given the opportunity to improve themselves, to go up the economic ladder to become net contributors to our economic life in this country as consumers and buyers.
  • Legal immigration, if done right for this country with the proper enforcement mechanisms, should be a net positive for the United States and fuel economic growth.

Passage of immigration reform at the federal level will solve the problem that the State of Connecticut is trying to resolve, and many others as well.

Here at the state level, I am sympathetic to those who note that this is a public safety issue.  I agree that we want every driver in Connecticut to prove that they are a safe driver, regardless of where they came from.   I care about every person in my state senate district, and I agree that something needs to be done to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows.

But when you do something like this, you have to do it right.

A comprehensive study of this concept would seem to be the appropriate, common sense solution.  That study – which could be conducted in a short amount of time  – would get any loose ends and inconsistencies cleared up and better prepare our state to implement this legislation.  But that study idea was rejected.

I would have liked to have seen safeguards inserted into the bill to protect against fraud and abuse.  This bill doesn’t have those safeguards.

Undocumented immigrants seeking licenses should prove they are who they say they are – – just as those of us who are U.S. citizens have to prove we are who we say we are.  For example, U.S. citizens must provide original documentation to verify who they are to get their driver’s license.  Photocopies and non-certified copies are not accepted by the DMV.  Under this bill, that same requirement does not apply for undocumented immigrants.

When I took that oath of office five months ago, surrounded by my family, I thought about all they had gone through to get to this point.  During that ceremony, I also made a vow that I would never vote for a bill – however noble its purpose – if I felt uncomfortable about the consequences of my vote.

I appreciate the concept behind this bill and I give tremendous credit to the many advocates who have worked on it.  As the son and grandson of immigrants, I share their passion to change the system.

But in the bill I voted on today, the unanswered questions it created were too numerous.  The unintended consequences it could create were too vast.

I believe we should take the time to get those questions answered before we set this process in motion.  For these reasons, I voted no.

Sen. Art Linares


Deep River Planning and Zoning Denies Permit for 444 Main Street Property

DEEP RIVER–– The planning and zoning commission has denied a special permit application for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment at a 444 Main Street property after the applicant declined to address issues raised by the town’s zoning enforcement officer and consulting engineer. The panel acted at a May 16 meeting after the applicant, local resident George Bartlett Jr., indicated he would not respond to the zoning enforcement officer and town engineer recommendations.

The 13,340 square-foot former industrial building on the west side of route 154, also known as Main Street, has been the subject of zoning issues over the past year since Bartlett purchased the formerly vacant structure and proposed using most of it for a used car dealership. The zoning board of appeals approved variances related to the used car dealership use last June, drawing objections from the planning and zoning commission over whether one of the variances was a use-related variance that exceeded the authority of the ZBA. The commission maintained a used car dealership was a use not permitted in the Route 154 turnpike industrial zone by a variance.

The ZBA later determined that it had only approved a dimensional variance related to road frontage requirements, leading Bartlett to file a lawsuit against the board late last year. With the lawsuit still pending, Bartlett earlier this year submitted a new special permit application for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment. He had also rented about 8,000 square-feet of the structure to a light manufacturing business.

Unlike the June 2012 ZBA public hearing, nobody spoke against the new permit application at the planning and zoning commission’s May 16 public hearing. But during and after the public hearing, Bartlett told the panel he would not comply with several recommendations from Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson and consulting engineer Joseph Dillon with the Chester firm Nathan Jacobson Associates. The recommendations, and potential conditions for a permit approval, included lighting, a stormwater runoff mediation plan, the location of the proposed display area for the equipment, and a landscaping plan that would include buffer plantings on the north side of the parcel that abuts a residential property.

Based on Bartlett’s comments about the outstanding issues, the commission voted unanimously to deny the special permit application “without prejudice.” He would be allowed to submit a new and revised application for the proposed used construction equipment related use.

Residents Ask For Compromise on Chester Ferry Fare Hike

ferry 2CHESTER— Residents called for compromise Wednesday at an informational meeting on a proposal to double fares for the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, urging state Department of Transportation officials to consider a smaller increase in the fare for crossing the Connecticut River on the historic ferry. About 40 residents, most of them from Chester and Lyme, turned out for the session at the Chester Meeting House.

Two years after a move to close the state’s two seasonal river ferries drew widespread public opposition, DOT has proposed a doubling of the fares for the Chester-Hadlyme and Glastonbury-Rocky Hill ferries from $3 to $6 for vehicles and $1 to $2 for walk-on passengers. Monthly coupon books for frequent users would also double from $40 to $80. Informational meetings on the proposal were held this week in Chester and Rocky Hill.

DOT Commissioner James Redeker told the crowd that while ridership on the two ferries has remained steady since 2011, the operating deficit for the service has increased to about $650,000 per year, and would remain around $500,000 per year even with a doubling of the fares. Redeker said the state has spent $499,000 over the past two years to install new engines in three of the ferry boats. He said fares for the ferries have not increased since August 2003.

But the commissioner also stressed that a final decision to double the fares has not yet been made. “This was really just a stalking horse proposal that was put out to get some feedback,” Redeker said, adding that the department understands the value of the historic seasonal ferries for tourism in Connecticut. “We’re not insisting the ferries should make money,” he said.

At Redeker’s urging, several residents offered suggestions for a smaller increase. Curt Michael, president of the Hadlyme Public Hall Association, suggested starting with a fare of $4 or $4.50 for vehicles, and $2 for walk-on passengers. The Hadlyme Public Hall Association had circulated petitions against the fare increase that garnered more than 900 signatures.

Elected officials also objected to the amount of the increase, while also acknowledging that a smaller fare hike may be needed to sustain the service. Chester First Selectman Edmund Meehan and Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno each said the boards of selectmen in the two towns has approved resolutions opposing the fare increase. Meehan also presented a statement from the 17-town Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments opposing the increase and calling for completion of a “cost benefit analysis” before any fare hikes are implemented.

Meehan said a doubling of the fare to $6 per vehicle “would be counterproductive,” and could lead to a decrease in ridership that would jeopardize the future of the ferries. Eno agreed, declaring “we want to build ridership, not chase them away.”

With the two informational hearings completed, DOT officials are expected to review options and public input before announcing a final decision later this year on any fare hikes for the two river ferries.

Chester Town Meeting Approves Budget, Capital Projects

CHESTER-— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday approved a $12,328,940 for 2013-2014 that includes an unusual one-half mill decrease in the property tax rate. The town meeting, the first to be held in the recently completed second-floor community room at town hall, also authorized funding for several capital projects, and revised a town ordinance on the issuance of permits for properties with unpaid back taxes. About 40 residents turned out for the meeting, with all agenda items approved on unanimous voice votes.

The town/schools spending plan for 2013-2014 includes a $3,516,054 town government budget, a $373,620 capital expenditure plan, and a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester Elementary School. The town’s $4,257,893 share of the Region 4 education budget had already won voter approval in a May 7 referendum.

Due to drops in student enrollment at the elementary school and fewer students from Chester attending the two Region 4 secondary schools, education spending for 2013-2014 dropped by more than $450,000. The drops in enrollment allowed the board of finance to authorize a one-half mill decrease in the tax rate to fund the total town/schools spending plan. The tax rate will drop from the current 22.45 mills to a rate of 21.95 mills. The new rate represents $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

On a series of voice votes, the town meeting authorized $273,580 in transfers from various items in the capital expenditure plan to create a total available capital expenditure fund for 2013-2014 of $647,200. Voters then authorized funding for seven capital projects, including $30,000 for town hall computers, $338,435 for road and sidewalk repairs, $56,200 for emergency electric generators for town buildings,  $50,000 for a fire company vehicle replacement, $100,000 for repairs to the firehouse roof, $54,000 for repairs to the elementary school roof, and $4,000 for administrative expenses for the Main Street Project committee.

Voters also amended a town ordinance on issuance of permits for properties with unpaid back taxes. The existing ordinance barred the issuance of any town permits for improvements to any property where taxes are towed to the town. First Selectman Edmund Meehan said the board of selectmen had decided to “provide some flexibility,” to the permitting ordinance for situations where a property needs emergency repairs, such as after a fire or storm damage, and the owner lacks funds to immediately pay off a tax bill before obtaining a permit.

“It can be a Catch 22 for a property owner,” Meehan said, adding the provision in the amended ordinance would “be used very sparingly.” The amendment allows the board of selectmen to grant relief from the requirements of the permitting ordinance “in cases of exceptional circumstances affecting the welfare of the residents of the property or in the interests of the public health and safety.” The new provision would only apply to residential property,.

“Kid Safety” Lawn Signs Have Been Posted Around Essex, But Some Find Them “Tacky”

Combined image

The Essex lawn signs pictured along Main Street, opposite Champline Square, along Grove Street and next to Book Hill Road.

There is a smoldering controversy about the “kid safety” lawn signs that have been posted along the streets of Essex recently.  All the signs carry the same message, DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE.

The sign postings are the work of the Essex Police Department with the assistance of the Essex Boy Scouts. To date the Police Department has distributed dozens of signs to Essex residents, although a few appear to be coming down because of local protests.

For example, there used to be lawn signs out in front of Essex Town Hall and the Essex Library, but now they have disappeared.

A Sign Enthusiast Speaks Out   

One of the sign posters who is proud of her positing is Luisa Kreis Whiting, who lives on Main Street. “I love the signs,” she says. However, she adds, “Some people in town don’t like them.”

In encouraging the posting of the signs, the Essex Police Department has gone about it very carefully. Signs are only given to a home owner who requests one. It is not like the haphazard postings of campaign signs during election time, or the real estate “open house” signs, which also sometimes go up without permission.

Police lawn signs in Essex with their message, DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE, most likely will be around for awhile.

Deep River Voters Approve $14.77 Million Budget Plan at Meeting Vote

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $14,779,461 town/schools spending plan for 2013-2014. The budget was approved on a 48-12 paper ballot vote in the first town meeting vote on a town budget since 2000.

The budget appeared to win approval on a voice vote only minutes after it was presented, with no questions or discussion from the crowd. But First Selectman Richard Smith asked for a paper ballot vote based on a public commitment made by the selectmen and finance board when the panels decided last month not to schedule a referendum vote on the budget. Some voters said they were not aware the voice vote was the final deciding vote on the spending plan.

Deep River has been voting on budgets by referendum since a contentious budget season in 2001. But declining voter turnouts in the annual referendums led the board of selectmen to decide last month to return to a town meeting vote on the budget.

The budget plan includes a $4,094,439 town government budget that includes $348,060 in debt service and $43,000 for capital expenditures. The total spending package also includes a $5,511,158 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School, and the town’s $5,160,924 share of the Region 4 education budget that was approved in a May 7 referendum. The total spending package will require a 0.40 increase in the  tax rate, for a 2013-2014 tax rate of 25.08 mills. The new rate represents $25.08 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Local Voices Offered, “Selected Readings, Musings and Poetry,” at Ivoryton Library

The LOCAL VOICES at the Ivoryton Library reading event (left to right) State Representative Phillip Miller, Pamela Nomuna, Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker

The LOCAL VOICES at the Ivoryton Library reading event (left to right) State Representative Phillip Miller, Pamela Nomura, Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker

“Why did we pick this Sunday with so much going on?” Ivoryton Library Director Elizabeth Alvord asked herself before last Sunday’s afternoon program at the Ivoryton Congregational Church got underway.

But she did not need to worry.

No less than forty people showed up to hear five readers present their selections of poems and others musings. The topics ranged from the shop worn to the original, and in all it was a literary sweep of life’s joys and adversities, with far greater emphasis on the latter.

The five performers in the program were State Representative Phil Miller, poet/professor Pamela Nomuna, and poet/performers Beverley Taylor, Joan Wyeth and Peter Walker.

The lead off performer was Beverley Taylor, who holds a senior position at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Ms. Taylor read a third person account of the laments of a “been there, done that” kind of woman, who now at fifty years of age, is well hardened by life’s difficulties, but is still soldiering on.

Ms. Taylor’s reading was polished and professional.

Next on the program was Phil Miller, who brought a very different theme to the program. Although the other performers tended to personal, self-revealing selections in their presentations, Miller spoke exclusively about the life style and noises of the Barred Owl.  This particular breed of owl is common in this area, according to Miller, and he estimated that there are no less than eight Barred Owl families in Essex.

Miller characterized the Barred Owl as a “mysterious, nocturnal bird,” which lives primarily on insects rather than small animals. He stressed that the Barred Owls’  “hoots and yowls” in the night were very distinctive, and in a fitting climax to his presentation he gave his own imitation of the Barred Owl’s full throated hoot and howl. The audience loved it.

Next on the program was Joan Wyeth, who was by far the youngest of the performers. She read, somewhat too rapidly, a personal account of the woes and irritations of an American family, with some keen insights in her subject matter. Her entire reading was completely original.

Number four on the program was an established poet, Pamela Nomura. Not only has she taught poetry at Wesleyan University, she is a published poet. One poem of hers that she read was called, “The Rain.”   Two stanzas in the poem tell the story:

I can’t work today, miss.
It’s raining, and it’s 2 years to the day
since your mother has not answered
your calls. And you wonder if it’s raining
in Puerto Rico, if it’s falling through

the shining leaves
and pinging onto the tin roof
of the yellow house
where the phone is ringing.

Concluding the Ivoryton Library program was the well established poet and performer, Peter Walker. Walker in his remarks complained that when it comes to popular music, the people who write the words should be more celebrated  than those who write the melodies.

Walkler then read some of his own poems, mixed with those of others. Also, he spoke of a safari in East Africa that he once went on, where he saw his own face implanted on a Serengeti cloud.

Ivoryton Library Director Alvord appeared to be generally pleased with this “bold” event, and more such programs may be coming up in the future.

About Jains for Folk Who Know Absolutely Nothing About Them

I should have written that headline differently. I should have said, “For folks who should know something about Jains!” I’ll tell you why. Bear with me.

Jains are Indians—meaning India Indians. A small minority but India is one of the most populous countries in the world. So Jains are numerous. And the Jains have influence and power far beyond their numbers. They’re big in business and they are big in government and big in academia.

They have unusual but important beliefs. One is ahimsa. It means non-violence. No violence of any kind, in thought, speech or act.The great Mahatma Gandhi totally changed India by his non-violence. He wasn’t a Jain but he learned what ahimsa could accomplish from Jainism.

Read the rest of the story on John Guy LaPlante’s Blog

Essex Finance Board Sets Tax Rate at 18.99 Mills, up 0.52 Mills

ESSEX— The board of finance Thursday set the property tax rate for 2013-2014 at 18.99 mills, an increase of 0.52 mills from the current tax rate. The new rate represents $18.99 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

The new tax rate funds the total $22,664,150 town/schools spending plan that was approved by voters at the annual budget meeting Monday. The new rate was approved on a unanimous vote, though some members expressed a preference for setting the rate at an even 19 mills. Board member Campbell Hudson, a Democrat, pushed for holding the tax rate below 19 mills.

In setting the new rate, the board made no transfers from the town’s undesignated fund balance, which now totals about $2.62 million, representing more than 13 percent of the town’s total annual operating expenses. Taxes jumped by 0.49 mills last year, when the board set the current tax rate of 18.47 mills.

The town is currently engaged in a full 10-year townwide property revaluation that includes inspections of all residential and commercial properties. In discussing the revaluation at Thursday’s meeting, First Selectman Norman Needleman predicted a 10 percent or greater drop in the grand list of taxable property when the revaluation becomes effective next year. The lower grand list, which would reflect the decline in property values since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, is expected to require a higher mill rate, though many homeowners will likely be paying the higher rate on a lower assessed property value.

Region 4 School District Returns $67,875 to Member Towns

DEEP RIVER, CT – During its most recent meeting, the Region 4 Board of Education voted unanimously to return $67,875 to member towns based on the 2011-2012 financial audit conducted by the accounting firm Grant Thornton, LLP. The Region 4 School District covers John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School.

“The Region 4 School District is entrusted with the resources needed to provide all our students with the opportunity for an excellent education,” said Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of the Region 4 Schools. “Our Board and Administration work diligently throughout the year to meet this obligation while conducting our business in a financially responsible manner at all times.”

Funds are returned based on the number of students enrolled from each town during the 2011-12 school year. The 2011-12 surplus will be refunded as follows:

Town of Chester $18,734
Town of Deep River $19,765
Town of Essex $29,376

TOTAL $67,875

The district continually looks for budgetary efficiencies throughout the year, and has consistently been able to return funds to member towns. The approved budget for the 2011-2012 school year was $17,324,933 and expenditures for the year came within ½% of the appropriation.

Essex Selectmen Consider Single Monthly Meeting

ESSEX— The board of selectmen is considering a change to it’s meeting schedule to establish a single monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. The board currently meets two times a month, at 5 p.m. on the first Wednesday, and at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday.

The idea of a single monthly meeting was raised by First Selectman Norman Needleman at the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting. Needleman, a Democrat elected top job in 2011, said the board’s agendas have been light in recent months, and he “would be OK with having one meeting a month.”  Needleman said the board could call a special meeting if important issues arose that required another meeting.

Selectwoman Stacia Libby and Selectman Joel Marzi each said they were open to a change in the meeting schedule. The board agreed to discuss, and possibly vote, on a change to the meeting schedule at the board’s next meeting on June 5.

The Essex Board of Selectmen has been following a twice monthly meeting schedule for more than two decades. Selectmen in Chester and Deep River currently adhere to a twice monthly meeting schedule.

State Grant Helps Fund Emergency Communications System for Region 4 Schools

DEEP RIVER— An $18,025 grant provided through the state Office of Policy and Management will help pay for a new emergency radio communications system that will link the five Region 4 schools and the district’s administrative office.

Voters at a town meeting Tuesday approved a resolution accepting the grant provided under the Inter-town Capital Equipment Incentive Program (ICE). With Deep River as the host town, selectmen and town meetings in Essex and Chester are also authorizing a joint application to apply the funds to the school district shared by the three towns. Region 4 is expected to provide matching funds to cover the estimated $38,000 to $40,000 cost of the radio system.

The funds will be used to purchase radio repeater equipment that would be attached to an existing 100-foot telecommunications tower at John Winthrop Middle School. The new system will provide direct radio communications between the middle school, central office, Valley Regional High School, and the elementary schools in Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The radio system could be used during any emergency, whether weather-related or as a result of an incident at one of the schools. The new radio system is expected to be installed over the summer to be put in operation during the next school year.

Navy Commander Philip Beckman Awarded Military Professional Employee of the Year

Beckman, Philip_CDR_091407 Navy Commander Philip Beckman of Ivoryton received the Award for Military Professional Employee of the Year from the Rhode Island Federal Executive Council on May 8th.

CDR Beckman, on the faculty of the Naval War College in Newport, is part of the College of Operational and Strategic Leadership and interacts routinely with the U.S. Navy’s maritime operations centers around the globe to improve war-fighting effectiveness at the operational level. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy, a M.S. in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a Masters in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University.

The Rhode Island Federal Executive Council (RIFEC) recognized outstanding federal employees for their work and accomplishments over the past year at a ceremony held at the Radisson Hotel in Warwick, RI.

Essxe Town Meeting Approves $22.68 Million Budget Plan on Voice Vote

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $22,684,150 town/school spending plan for 2013-2014 on a voice vote. About 50 voters turned out for the annual budget meeting, with a motion for approval going directly to a voice vote, without discussion or questions. There were several opposing votes, but no motion from the crowd for a show-of-hands or paper ballot vote on the spending plan.

The spending plan includes a $6,967,461 town government budget, and a $7,634,917 appropriation for Essex Elementary School. The town’s $8,081,772 share of the Region 4 education budget had already been approved by voters in a May 7 referendum. The total spending appropriation of $22,684,150 represents a 2.69 percent increase over the current spending total.

The board of finance will set the tax rate for 2013-2014 at a meeting Thursday. First Selectman Norman Needleman and finance board chairman Jim Francis each said after the vote the tax rate is expected to increase by “about one-half mill” to fund the total spending package. The current tax rate is 18.47 mills, or $18.47 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The property tax rate was increased by 0.49 mills last year to fund the current town and school budgets.

No Changes as Tax Decrease Budget Goes to May 21 Chester Town Meeting

CHESTER— Voters at the May 21 annual budget meeting will consider a proposed $12.32 million spending plan for 2013-2014 that includes an unusual one-half mill decrease in the town’s property tax rate. The meeting convenes at 7:30 p.m. in the new community meeting room on the second floor of town hall.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said there have been no changes to the budget that was presented to a handful of residents at the May 1 public hearing. The total $12,328,940 spending plan, which is $419,141 less than current spending, includes the $3,515,054 town government budget, a $373,620 capital expenditure plan, a $4,182,373 appropriation for Chester Elementary School, and the town’s $4,257,893 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 education budget was approved by voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 7 referendum.

Education spending in the proposed budget is down by $467,000 because a declining enrollment at the elementary school, and fewer students from Chester attending the  two Region 4 secondary schools, Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The decrease in enrollment has led to a $426,084 reduction in the Chester share of the Region 4 budget.

Meehan has described the proposed 2013-2014 budget as “an anomaly” that is unlikely to be repeated in future budget years. The enrollment-driver reduction in education spending has allowed the board of finance to recommend a one-half mill reduction in the tax rate, from the current 22.45 mills to a tax rate of 21.95 mills. The new rate represents $21.95 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Unlike many past years, the board of finance has found no need to transfer funds from the town’s undesignated fund balance as a way to hold down taxes. The fund balance is projected to total $1.57 million when the budget year ends on June 30, 2014.

Giuliano, Ziobron Exploring Options for Ferry Revenue

HARTFORD — With operating expenses exceeding income, a recent Department of Transportation plan to double fees for the two Connecticut River ferries is being met with opposition from residents along the river valley.

The state DOT wants to increase fares from $3 to $6 for vehicles and from $1 to $2 to walk-on passengers. The discount coupon book that currently goes for $40 for 20 tickets would be doubled to $80. With the ferries running at a deficit of about $650,000, the DOT says this plan will help keep both ferries viable and open.

But residents worry such a steep increase will drive ridership down and ultimately lead to the closure of Connecticut’s historic ferries. State Representatives Marilyn Giuliano (R- Old Saybrook) and Melissa Ziobron (R- East Haddam) are working with local and state officials to look for possible alternatives to doubling the fees.

“We have to be careful not to make short-sighted decisions that have the opposite of the intended result,” Giuliano said. “Doubling the fees might make sense on a balance sheet but, in practice, could be harmful to the bottom line- we need to look at all possibilities.”

“People in this region are passionate about the ferries and they play an important role in tourism including for Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam,” Ziobron added. “We have to do our due diligence to make sure we have explored all our options before we simply double the fees. This has to be an ‘all of the above’ approach.”

Giuliano and Ziobron have arranged to speak with local stakeholders and the Department of Transportation Commissioner to discuss various alternatives to the proposed fee increases.

DOT plans to hold hearings on the fare increases this month. On May 20th there is a hearing in the Rocky Hill Community Center and on May 22nd there will be a hearing at the Chester Meeting House. Both begin at 6:30pm. Giuliano and Ziobron said they would like to attend the meeting in Chester but will likely be held up in legislative session in Hartford.

Anyone wishing to speak with them regarding the proposed rate increases can feel free to call their office at 1-800-842-1423 or send an email to Marilyn.Giuliano@housegop.ct.gov or Melissa.Ziobron@housegop.ct.gov

Essex Zoning Commission Sets Public Hearing on Proposed Centerbrook Art Studio

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a May 20 public hearing on a special permit application for an art studio that would occupy most of the vacant space in the commercial building at 61 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. Nairco. LLC of Killingworth is seeking approval of an art studio that would offer arts-related glasses, programs, and workshops for children, teenagers, and adults.

NairCo LLC is a partnership run by Barbara Nair, who operates the Killingworth Arts Center on North Parker Hill Road in Killingworth. The arts center is a non-profit organization in operation since 2003. NairCo. LLC purchased the 61 Main St. property for $760,000 last November.

The commercial building, located near the traffic light in Centerbrook, has been mostly vacant for more than three years, with a pool supply and repair business currently leasing space in a section of the building. In March 2012, the zoning board of appeals denied a variance appeal that would have allowed a coffee and pastries shop in a section of the building. Earlier this spring, the zoning commission approved NairCo’s request to amend zoning regulations to allow art studios as a permitted use in a commercial zone.

The May 20 public hearing agenda also includes a request by the Essex Volunteer Fire Co. to amend zoning regulations to include fire training facilities as a permitted use in the limited industrial zone on Plains Road. The volunteer fire company is hoping to construct a fire training facility on a section of Greider Field, a recreation field on Plains Road that is owned by the fire company. The public hearings convene at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Letter: Senator Linares, Gun Control, and the NRA: More Transparency Needed

To the Editor:

The Valley News Now (April 26) quotes Senator Linares at length in remarks before a recent seniors’ luncheon of the Estuary Council explaining why he voted against the Newtown gun control law.  In my opinion, Mr. Linares’s remarks are unconvincing.  They set a standard of glib analysis that hopefully will not characterize his future votes in office. Equally important, Mr. Linares’s remarks leave me wondering whether he has told us the whole story of his “ no” vote. The News reports that he did not volunteer his explanation, but only responded to questions after having  “consented” to a discussion.  Mr. Linares’s web site does not mention his vote.  Why is that, on an issue of such importance to his constituents?

Mr. Linares is quoted by the News as saying he “did not have a chance to read the bill.”  This is hard to credit.  The new law is largely the work of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety established last January – of which Mr. Linares was a member from the beginning.  The Task Force took extensive testimony, and legislative proposals began to emerge from it as early as the beginning of March.  The members of the Task Force then reportedly met behind closed doors to negotiate the legislation for two months before emerging in early April with a bipartisan proposal. Is it possible that Senator Linares was still clueless after participating in such a process?

The News quotes Mr. Linares as saying that the legislation “could create a black market” in guns. So what?  A black market in heroin “could be” the result of existing laws prohibiting that substance.  Mr. Linares does not, I assume, favor legalizing heroin. Taxes on cigarettes and regulatory restrictions on the production of pharmaceutical products arguably have fostered black markets in those products.  Does Mr. Linares support eliminating cigarette taxes or allowing the production of prescription drugs in substandard facilities? The answer to black markets is to enforce laws against them – not cave in.

Mr. Linares’s thought process in explaining his  “no” vote is so obscure he sometimes seems to speak in riddles.  He is quoted as saying, for example, that his concern was for police officers.  He reasons that taking guns away from common citizens could have the effect of being “dangerous to law enforcement officers.”  What does he mean by this?  How can it be good for the police, let alone the rest of us, to allow every Tom, Dick, and Harry, irrespective of mental instability or terrorist proclivities, to have access to military style weapons?  Mr. Linares does not explain.

Mr. Linares claims that “most guns are used for self defense”. This seems doubtful. I would guess that “most guns” are used for hunting or target practice.  Still, if Mr. Linares is correct that ”most guns are used for self defense,” perhaps it is because folks are returning fire — in which case it might also be true that “most guns are used in violent crime.”  In any event, Mr. Linares’s observation is irrelevant because the legislation does not ban “most guns” in Connecticut, but only a small subset of them, specifically some 100 types of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.

Few would contest Mr. Linares assertion that citizens should have the “right to defend themselves.”  However, that is not the issue presented by the Newtown legislation, which leaves intact an individual’s access to a huge variety of guns.  The issue presented by Newtown is whether we as citizens also have a right to gather in public places without the nagging fear of being attacked by an unstable, violent few bearing arms of such great destructive force that they properly belong in the military for our collective defense.

A few weeks after he voted “no” on the Newtown legislation, Mr. Linares posted a piece on his web site entitled “what I’ve heard in my first 100 days as State Senator.” There is no mention of Newtown.  Instead, Mr. Linares speaks forcefully against fiscal irresponsibility and wasteful government spending.  Is it not wasteful to spend scarce taxpayer dollars on the compensation of elected officials who do not have the  time to read important legislation and yet proceed on the basis of superficial analysis to vote against it?

In the meantime, well over a month after the enactment of the Newtown legislation, Mr. Linares still has not posted on his official website an explanation of his reasons for voting no.  I respectfully call upon him to do so now.  This is important to the transparency of his position.  All of Mr. Linares’s constituents have the right to know his reasoning, not only those who happened to attend the seniors’ luncheon at the Estuary Council.

In the context of such disclosure, it would be helpful if Mr. Linares would also clarify his dealings with the National Rifle Association.  According to the non-partisan voter education organization “Project Vote Smart”( www.votesmart.org), Mr. Linares last year was accorded a 92% approval rating by the political action committee of the National Rifle Association.  This entity, known as the “NRA Political Victory Fund” (NRA PVF), is the campaign finance arm of the NRA.  The 92% approval rating given Mr. Linares apparently was the highest accorded any member of the Connecticut General Assembly (shared with only a distinct minority of his colleagues). The NRA PVF website in turn states that it “ranks political candidates – irrespective of party affiliation – based on voting records, public statements and their responses to an NRA-PVF questionnaire.”

Since Mr. Linares had no voting record on gun control at the time of his 92% ranking in 2012, and his public statements on this issue have in my experience proven elusive, it would be reasonable to assume that Mr. Linares’s stellar NRA ranking was the result of his answers to their questionnaire.  Those answers in turn hold the key to understanding what standard Mr. Linares applied when he told the seniors’ luncheon that the Newtown legislation “ went too far and was too extreme.”

The issue now is whether Mr. Linares will be as forthcoming to his constituents as he apparently has been to the NRA.  Towards this end, I call upon Mr. Linares to publish on his web site his responses to the NRA questionnaire together with any other information he has provided to the NRA that would shed light on his gun control views.  This would help his constituents understand whether it was the Newtown legislation, or Mr. Linares’s own position, which “went too far and was too extreme.”


David Harfst

DR Quiet Budget Hearing, Town/Elementary School Plans go to Town Meeting Vote

DEEP RIVER— A proposed $3.7 million town government budget and a proposed $5.51 million appropriation for Deep River Elementary School go to the voters for approval at a May 20 town meeting after a quiet budget hearing held earlier this week.
First Selectman Richard Smith said about a dozen residents turned out for the May 7 budget hearing, Smith said there were few questions, and no specific calls for any changes to the 2013-2014 budgets that were approved by the board of selectmen and board of finance.

The town government budget of $3,701,379 is combined with a $43,000 capital expenditure plan and $348,060 in debt service for a total town government appropriation of $4,094,439. The proposed $5,511,158 elementary school budget is up by $110,371, or 2.04 percent, over the current appropriation for the elementary school.

The annual budget meeting is set for Monday May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated second floor auditorium at town hall. This will be the first town meeting vote on a town budget since 2000. The town has been holding referendum votes on budgets since 2001, but ever decreasing voter turnouts for the annual referendums led the board of selectmen to hold a town meeting vote on the budget this year. The vote will be conducted by paper ballot.

Essex Elementary School Foundation Hosts India Day for 3rd Graders

Teacher Mrs. Haut models a sari

Teacher Mrs. Haut models a sari

Thanks to the Justus W. Paul World Cultures Program, the Essex Elementary School Foundation recently treated 3rd Graders to a day full of education about India.  Students sampled cuisine, created artwork and learned about authentic clothing during the celebration on Friday, May 3rd. 

This not-for-profit, volunteer organization provides funds for enrichment programs at the school, such as an iPad lab and a historian-in-residence.  For donation information, head to www.essexelementaryschoolfoundation.org.

Hadlyme Meeting Votes to Oppose Doubling Ferry Fares, Launches Petition Drive

ferry 2On Saturday May 4, members attending the annual meeting of the Hadlyme Public Hall Association voted unanimously to oppose the proposal by Connecticut  Department of Transportation (DOT) to double the Connecticut River ferry fares to $6 and agreed to launch a petition drive opposing the fare increase.

The Association immediately initiated the petition drive by creating an on-line petition at SignOn.org.  Click here to add your name to the petition.

Paper petitions will also be circulated throughout the communities served by the two Connecticut River ferries — the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry and the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry.

All the petitions will be presented to the state DOT officials who will be making the decision on whether to raise the fares and by how much.

The position adopted by the members at the meeting states that the Association opposes the state’s proposal to double the fares and instead urges the state to give serious consider to other alternatives that could increase revenues, including:

– Increasing posted fare prices but provide a discount for cars with Connecticut license plates.

– Institute a system of On-peak & Off-peak pricing (similar to that used by commuter railroads) that would charge higher fares on weekends and holidays when there are usually long lines of cars waiting to ride the ferries.

– Increase hours of operation on weekends and holidays to take advantage of generating more fares when ridership demand is the highest.

– In addition to the current discount ticket books, offer a flat “annual pass” fare with a sticker to place on cars to identify those who have purchased the pass.

– Working with state tourism and parks agencies, aggressively promote both Connecticut River ferries to tourists and visitors.

Connecticut DOT will be holding public hearings on the proposed fare increases on May 20 and 22.

Hadlyme Hall Association President Curt Michael urged all those concerned about or affected by the proposed fare increase to sign the petition and to attend the public hearings.

Click here for more info on the fare increase proposal and the public hearings

Hadlyme Public Hall Association is a century-old not-for-profit community organization whose membership is open to all. Its current membership represents more 140 households in Hadlyme and the surrounding area.
For more information about the Association and its historic public hall, visit www.hadlymehall. com

Related article:  Giuliano, Ziobron Exploring Options for Ferry Revenue

Region 4 Education Budget Approved on 274-145 Vote

REGION 4— Voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex approved a $17,776,120 Region 4 education budget for 2013-2014 Tuesday on a 274-145 vote in an eight hour referendum. The budget, which funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School,represents a $269,907, or 1.54 percent, spending increase over the current appropriation. The spending plan won voter approval in all three district towns.

But the result was close in Deep River, where the budget carried on a 68-64 vote. The budget carried in Essex on a 161-69 vote. In Chester, where a decrease in students attending the two secondary schools has set the stage for a one-half mill decrease in the tax rate, the budget carried on a 45-12 vote.

A total of 419 voters from the three towns turned out for the referendum. Voter turnout was down from the 2012 referendum, where 619 voters turned out the approve the budget on a 412-207 vote. A total of 699 voters participated in the 2011 budget referendum.

The low turnout prompted Region 4 Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall to suggest the board should reconsider it’s policy of holding an annual referendum vote on the budget. The annual referendums began in 2001, the last year a Region 4 budget was rejected by voters of the three towns. In previous years, the budget had been considered by voters at a district meeting held on the first Monday in May.

Hall, a veteran board member who has served two six year terms on the panel, said she will not be seeking another term in the November municipal election. But Hall suggested said the board that is seated in December, after the election, should take another look at the annual referendum policy based on the decreasing voter turnouts of recent years. “It’s something that should be brought to the table,” she said. “It’s such a low turnout and it is an expense for the towns.”

Research Lab by TATE+BURNS Architects LLC is LEED-CI Platinum Certified

TATE+BURNS Architects LLC of Essex, Connecticut’s recent design for a 9,600 square foot Laboratory for Comparative Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) Platinum rating from the US Green Building Council. To date, this is the first renovation project at Yale to achieve a LEED-CI Platinum rating. The project located in the Brady Memorial Laboratory Building (originally built in 1916 with additions in 1929 and 1971) continues a tradition of sustainable design by TATE+BURNS. In 2009, a 15,000 square foot laboratory renovation project on the second floor of the same building designed by TATE+BURNS received a LEED-CI Gold rating.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification is an internationally acknowledged standard for environmentally conscious design. Its criteria include sustainable siting and materials, water efficiency, energy savings, indoor air quality, day lighting, consumer waste management and design innovation. Factors that contribute to the sustainability of this project site include its location in a historic urban campus building, ease of pedestrian access, the addition of bicycle racks with affiliated changing/shower facilities and a convenient Zipcar location.

Energy conservation measures include building envelope upgrades such as window replacement and improvements to the existing masonry walls to reduce heat loss through air infiltration, innovative lighting design (lighting energy loads were reduced by more than 25%), active chilled beams for radiant heating, cooling and ventilation, Energy Star appliances and a comprehensive program for commissioning to ensure mechanical systems run as intended. Water fixture upgrades and the use of high efficiency fixtures with sensors and programmable controls yield a 30% reduction in building water use over current EPA standards.
Environmentally preferable and low emitting materials were specified. Materials with high recycled content were used. Brick, steel, wood, gypsum board and furniture were selected from regional sources of extraction and manufacture, reducing energy consumption for transportation of goods and supporting the local economy. Wood doors, millwork and laboratory casework are certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC rated). Interior adhesives, paints and coating meet the strictest standards for emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds. Engineered wood products are all made without use of added urea-formaldehydes (a known carcinogen). In addition 98% of generated waste from demolition and construction was diverted from landfills to recycling agencies.

Sustainable strategies were used in the design and construction to create a 21st century research facility within an early 20th century academic building which had antiquated, inefficient mechanical systems and undersized, dimly lit workspaces. The result is an efficient and aesthetically pleasing research environment successfully marrying modern technology and historic design.

The project included a team of design and construction professionals: Babbidge Facilities Construction provided construction management. Other collaborators included the Yale University School of Medicine Facilities Planning and Construction office, R.G. Vanderweil Engineers (MEPFP), Sage Design and Consulting (LEED), Michael Horton Associates (Structural), Robert Schwartz and Associates (Specifications), Philip R. Sherman, P.E. (Code Consulting), EcoOne Solutions (Waste Management) and other local subcontractors and suppliers.

Deep River Fire Department Seeking New Recruits


The Deep River Fire Department is actively seeking new recruits to join the department. Positions in  fire fighting- both junior division, (14 years and over) and senior division, grant writers, computer specialists and volunteers to help the auxiliary are all welcome.

The ability to serve a community is an honor, sometimes hard work, very fulfilling and always a challenge. Please consider helping us meet that challenge. Interested individuals please stop by the Union Street Station any Wednesday at 6:30.

For additional information visit: deepriverfd.com.

Bus Shelter Dedicated to Local Transit Pioneer


From the late 1800’s until the early 1900’s, shoreline residents could travel by trolley cars throughout the region. But automobiles soon caused the demise of the trolley companies, and regional public transportation became non-existent.

As the population grew in the 1970’s, Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency director Stan Greimann saw a growing need for public transportation. He envisioned a bus system that would not only enable commuting to New Haven, but would provide travel throughout the nine town region.  He worked tirelessly to spread his vision, until in 1981, nine estuary region towns created the Estuary Transit District (ETD).

Thirty-two year later, the transit district Greimann created and led for over two decades has grown to provide nearly 100,000 passenger trips annually servicing the estuary region with thirteen buses connecting to four other regional transit systems under the name 9 Town Transit.

As a tribute to Greimann’s contribution to public transit in the region, the ETD board of directors dedicated the new Old Saybrook bus shelter in his memory.  The dedication ceremony, held on April 25, 2013, was attended by local elected officials and members of his family.

Long time ETD board member Virginia Zawoy of Clinton said of Stan, “He spent countless hours looking for ways that would enhance public transportation in the estuary region.”

A plaque memorializing Greimann and his contributions to public transit was installed on the shelter located on the Boston Post Road across from Staples.  State representative Marilyn Giuliano commented that “Stan’s contributions were many, commendable and deserving of this honor.”

The Estuary Transit District provides public transit service to Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook through its 9 Town Transit service.  Connections are available to New Haven, Middletown, Hartford and New London/Norwich bus services as well as the Shoreline East Commuter Rail.  All services are open to the general public with no age or disability restrictions.

Additional information, route maps and schedules are available online at www.9towntransit.com or by calling 9 Town Transit at 860-510-0429.

Deep River Town Meeting Approves $4 Million Sewer Expansion Project

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Thursday approved a $4 million sewer expansion project that would extend the municipal system to about 130 properties in the River and Kirtland streets neighborhood on the east side of Route 154. The 46-19 show of hands vote of approval came after more than two hours of discussion, and two changes to the resolution authorizing the project.

Much of the discussion focused on the financing for the project , particularly the provision for a benefit assessment fee for properties on the new sewer line. The service area includes about 90 existing homes, with the remainder currently undeveloped parcels.

The initial seven-section resolution included a provision for a “one time benefit assessment fee of $2,000,” that could be paid off by property owners over 20 years. But acting on a recommendation from the bond counsel, Bruce Chadwick with the Hartford firm Shipman & Goodwin, voters amended the resolution to delete the reference to the benefit assessment fee. Chadwick advised removing the provision because the town’s water pollution control authority had not called a separate public hearing before discussing the fee at recent meetings.

The resolution was amended on a voice vote, but more than 90 minutes in to the discussion, Janet Kollmer, a former board of finance member, moved to restore the provision for a benefits assessment fee. While First Selectman Richard  Smith confirmed the WPCA was planning for a benefit assessment fee, Kollmer insisted the fee provision should be locked in to the resolution, and possibly higher than $2,000.

The project would be financed by a $1.2 million grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and a $2.8 million USDA loan. The loan, with a 2.75 percent annual interest rate, would be paid off over 40 years, with the annual payment from the town set at $116,540. Kollmer said a benefit assessment fee should be required as a way to help defray the annual loan expense for taxpayers not served by the expanded system. During discussion  on Kollmer’s motion, it was confirmed the WPCA has discussed a fee that could be as high as $5,000 per property.

On a recommendation from the bond counsel, Kollmer’s amendment was crafted to provide for a benefit assessment fee of an undetermined amount that would be set by the WPCA after a public hearing. The fee would also require separate approval from voters at a town meeting.

Several residents spoke in support of the project, noting the expansion would resolve continuing problems with septic systems that require frequent pump outs due to soil and ledge conditions in the area that had been recommended for sewers, but not included, when the first phase of the municipal system was constructed in the late 1980s.

Smith noted the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection could order the town to provide sewers in the area at a future date when the current grant and loan funding package is not available. The expansion project is expected to be put out to bid next winter, with construction to begin in 2014 for anticipated completion in late 2015.

Pearl Twirl Hits High Note for Community Music School – Raises Over $55,000

Pearl Twirl auctioneer and radio personality Damon Scott generates bidding action  (Photo by Kim Tyler Photography).

Pearl Twirl auctioneer and radio personality Damon Scott generates bidding action (Photo by Kim Tyler Photography).

Centerbrook, CT – The milestone was significant and the support even greater at the Community Music School’s 30th anniversary benefit gala that took place on April 20.  Presented by Landscape Specialties, The Pearl Twirl: A Swellegant Affair turned out more than 150 celebrants while raising over $55,000 to support music scholarships, music therapy services and community outreach programs.

Community Music School instructor Joni Gage with Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult celebrating the school’s 30th anniversary at the Pearl Twirl benefit gala   (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).

Community Music School instructor Joni Gage with Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult celebrating the school’s 30th anniversary at the Pearl Twirl benefit gala (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).


Pearl Twirlers gathered on the lawn of the Lyme Art Association (LAA) to enjoy savory bites, fine wine, Swing era music performed by the school’s faculty, silent auction and a live auction emceed by radio personality and local resident Damon Scott.  Later, an Artful Patron Dinner was served inside the LAA galleries and featured a four-course dinner prepared by Owner/Chef Jonathan Rapp of the River Tavern restaurant with a wine selection from Angelini Wine carefully paired to compliment each course served.

(l-r) Community Music School Trustee Margaret Very, Student Services Coordinator Dawn Swope, and faculty members Adele Huffman and Shari Wilcox get ready to greet Pearl Twirl guests (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).

(l-r) Community Music School Trustee Margaret Very, Student Services Coordinator Dawn Swope, and faculty members Adele Huffman and Shari Wilcox get ready to greet Pearl Twirl guests (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).

In addition to ticket sales and auction bids, funds were also raised through a special appeal to support scholarships for the new summer arts program being launched by the Community Music School in partnership with The Kate in Old Saybrook.  “CMS Sells Seashells by the Seashore for Scholarships” provided donors with an oyster shell that correlated to one of many fun premium gifts.  Of note, was as a commemorative tab belt featuring a CMS logo ribbon custom designed and donated by Leather Man LTD.   A 1930’s style photo booth, where guests donned feather boas, hats and other props and received a photo strip as a keepsake, rounded out the evening’s activities .

(l-r) Dr. Katrina Wall, Sponsor Peter Wallace of Professional Planning Group, John Bauman, and Community Music School Trustee Jennifer Bauman under the tent at the Pearl Twirl benefit gala (Photo by Kim Tyler Photography).

(l-r) Dr. Katrina Wall, Sponsor Peter Wallace of Professional Planning Group, John Bauman, and Community Music School Trustee Jennifer Bauman under the tent at the Pearl Twirl benefit gala (Photo by Kim Tyler Photography).

“We are thankful for the many friends and sponsors who joined us for this celebratory evening. Their extraordinary support provides a firm foundation for us to continue to expand our programs and community outreach so more people can benefit from the arts in their life,” said Robin Andreoli, executive director.

Community Music School Trustee and Event Chair Monique Heller takes a twirl with  Trustee Emeritus  Peter Bierrie at the Community Music School’s  benefit gala (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).

Community Music School Trustee and Event Chair Monique Heller takes a twirl with Trustee Emeritus Peter Bierrie at the Community Music School’s benefit gala (Photo by Joan Levy Hepburn).

Event sponsors included Covenant Kitchens & Baths, Inc.; Essex Savings Bank; Essex Financial Services; Bogaert Construction Co., Inc.; Fusco Corporation; Gowrie Group; Grossman Chevrolet Nissan; Kitchings & Potter LLC; Tower Laboratories, LTD; AJ Shea Construction, LLC; Brewer Pilots Point Marina; Cigna; Clark Group; Dime Bank; Essex Marine Group; Guilford Savings Bank; Leonardo & Associates PC; Lewitz, Balosie, Wollack, Rayner & Giroux, LLC; Madison Veterinary Hospital;  Periodontics  PC; Professional Planning Group; Reynolds’ Garage & Marine; Ring’s End; and Saybrook Ford.  In-kind sponsors included Angelini Wine LTD; Coca Cola Bottling Company of Southeastern Connecticut; Joan Levy Hepburn;  KimTyler Photography; and Leather Man LTD.

Since its inception in 1983, the school has grown from five instructors teaching 40 students to 30 instructors teaching over 500 students of all ages through private and group lessons, instrumental and voice ensembles, orchestras, music therapy, special events and summer programs.  Located on Main Street in Centerbrook, its geographic reach goes beyond the Connecticut shoreline with faculty and students from as far north as Hartford and west to New Haven.   For more information on CMS programs and special events, go to www.community-music-school.org or call (860) 767-0026.

Large Crowd Celebrates Reopening of Deep River Town Hall Auditorium

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

DEEP RIVER— More than 200 residents turned out Wednesday evening to celebrate the reopening of the second floor auditorium at the historic 1893 town hall after a renovation project that was brought to completion over the past year by a committee of volunteers.

Former Selectman Art Thompson, who chaired the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee, welcomed the crowd to an event “that only happens once every 120 years.”  Thompson, who had pushed for completion of a restoration effort, served as master of ceremonies for a program that celebrated the role of the town hall auditorium in the town’s history.

Thompson introduced former First Selectman Joe Miezejeski as “honorary chairperson,” for the event. Miezejeski, who served four terms as first selectman through the 1980s, was a member of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association that began the restoration effort when it incorporated and began collecting donations for the project in 1979.

The association collected about $270,000 in donations and coordinated various improvements over the past 30 years, including installation of an elevator that was funded by the late Emma Marvin, a former selectwoman. But many improvements remained unfinished, including renovations needed to bring the auditorium in to compliance with current building codes to allow full use of the balcony.

 Looking down on it all, the Auditorium's new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Looking down on it all, the Auditorium’s new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

At Thompson’s urging, the board of selectmen in 2011 appointed the new 11-member committee and gained control of the funds amassed by the former restoration association. The committee included four members of the association, Bruce Edgarton, Sally Carlson-Crowell, Frances Strukus and Kenneth Wood Jr. The new members included Claudia Epright, Janice Kmettz, Richard Nagot, Kim Olson, Linalynn Schmelzer, and Dennis Schultz. The committee used the $270,000 in available funds to complete the restoration project over the past 14 months.

Attending the program Wednesday were more than a dozen elderly graduates of the former Deep River High School, which closed when Valley Regional High School opened in 1952. The high school was located in a section of what is now Deep River Elementary School, but it lacked an auditorium. For more than 60 years, students used the town hall auditorium for group events that ranged from dances to the annual graduation ceremony. The construction and April 1893 dedication of the town hall was recounted by Dan Conners, a retired history teacher who was a member of the original faculty at Valley Regional High School and author of a book on the history of Deep River.

Wednesday’s program, which also featured music from the Deep River Junior Ancient Fife and  Drum Corps and the elementary school chorus and clarinet ensemble, opens a period of active use of the 279-seat auditorium. Over the next month there will be concerts, movies, and a May 31 dance. The new chairs on the main floor of the auditorium are movable, allowing for a return of dances to the historic facility.

Deep River Budget Plan With Expected Four-tenths Mill Tax Rate Increase Goes to Public Hearing

DEEP RIVER— A proposed $3,701,379 town government budget and a proposed  $5,511,158 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School goes to a public hearing on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated second floor auditorium at town hall.

The town government budget is combined with a $43,000 capital expenditure plan and $348,060 in debt service for a total town government expense of $4,094,439. The town government and elementary school spending plans are combined with the town’s $5,160,854 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total proposed 2013-2014 spending levy of $14,779,521.

The $3,701,379 town government budget is up by $192,113, or 5.47 percent, from the current appropriation The town budget includes a three percent wage-salary increase for all town employees, including elected officials and part-time employees.. Debt service is up by $155,357, mostly due to new lease payments for a new fire truck and highway department truck, while the capital expenditure plan has been reduced by $291,000.

The $5,511,158 appropriation for the elementary school is up by $110,371, or 2.04 percent.  A shift in student enrollment, with additional students from Deep River attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, contributed to the $281,854, or 5.78 percent, increase in the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget.

The total $14,77 million spending levy, including Region 4, is up by $448,695, or 3.13 percent. The board of selectmen and board of finance has endorsed a plan to increase the tax rate by four tenths of a mill to fund the proposed spending plan for 2013-2014. The increase would bring the tax rate to 25.08 mills, or $25.08 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The proposed tax increase matches a 0.40. tax increase that was required to fund the current budget.

or the first time since 2001, the board of selectmen has decided to hold the budget vote by paper ballot at a May 20 town meeting, rather than by a referendum vote. Extremely low voters turnouts for the budget referendums in recent years led the selectmen to call for a town meeting vote on the budget.. The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 7, the same day as the town budget hearing.