January 31, 2023

Archives for February 2014

Deep River Fire Department Appreciates Community Support


On behalf of the Deep River Fire Department, Fire Chief Tim Lee would like to thank all of those who so generously contributed to this years fund drive. According to Chief Lee, “We appreciate the support shown by the citizens of our community. Funds collected help us to keep current with the ever changing role of a volunteer Fire Department.”

As a result of Operation Save a Life, Chief Lee would like to remind the Deep River community that the Deep River Fire Department has a limited number of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors they will install for free in your home. Please call the Deep River Fire Department at 860-526-6042 and leave a message.

Eagle Watch Boat Cruises Feature Bald Eagles Soaring and Nesting along the Connecticut River Shoreline

Eagle Watch passengers climb on board Enviro-lab III for the cruise

Eagle Watch passengers climb on board Enviro-lab III for the cruise

It would be an exaggeration to say that the Eagle Watch boat cruises, which depart from the steamboat dock of the Connecticut River Museum, get you really “up close and personal” to the bald eagles along the shoreline. Frankly, the eagles that you can see from the boat are pretty far away, at least with naked eye.

Still, the boat cruise does get you close enough to make out bald eagles circling in the sky, as well as female bald eagles sitting in their nests, protecting their young. At times Eagle Watch bird watchers even get a glimpse of a male bald eagle diving down to the nests to deliver food to its mate and their young.

High tech cameras are used by some to take photos of the bald eagles

High tech cameras are used by some to take photos of the bald eagles

Powerful binoculars are provided to passengers to make it easier to make out the details of the bald eagle sightings. Also, telescopic lenses on cameras can help in filming close ups of eagles in their nests.

Well Worth a $40 Boat Ride    

The Eagle Watch boat rides are co-sponsored by the Connecticut River Museum and Project Oceanology. The role of the museum is to sell $40 a person tickets for the boat ride, whereas Project Oceanology’s provides a safe and sturdy, 65 foot research vessel to ferry passengers up and down the cold winter waters of the Connecticut River.

Worth noting is the fact that the boat used on the trips, the Enviro-lab III, is clean and ship shape. It has open bow and stern decks, and very importantly, a large, nicely heated cabin for eagle watchers who want to come in from the cold.

Viewing the bald eagles with binoculars on the front deck of the boat

Viewing the bald eagles with binoculars on the front deck of the boat

The wintry boat cruises take somewhat over an hour and half. This provides boat passengers ample time to get a good glimpse, or a good photo, of the bald eagles that nest along the cold, cold waters of the Connecticut River this time of year.

In addition to the excitement of just going on a boat ride, boat passengers get the pleasure of the viewing the majestic spender of the river this time of year, which at times offer a bright sun shining down on the boat’s decks. You really can’t beat the price, for what you get.

The host-narrators of the boat on a recent Saturday were: (1) Bill Yule, a 15 year veteran narrator of winter boat cruises, and (2) Chris Dodge, a young marine scientist from Project Oceanology. Yule said at the beginning of the cruise that he had a bad cold, and, therefore, could not narrate. However, he would come along for the ride.

Bill Yule and Chris Dodge shared the narration duties on the cruise

Bill Yule and Chris Dodge shared the narration duties on the cruise

This meant that Chris Dodge would be handling the narrating duties of the cruise. Before he started narrating, Dodge explained what might be called the “clock system” for pointing out where the eagles are located in the sky.

This “clock system” meant that when Dodge spotted an eagle in the sky which was dead ahead of the boat, he would call out, “Eagle at 12 o’clock.” Or, if he sighted an eagle in the sky at the stern of the boat, he would call out, “Eagle at “6 o’clock.”

Eagle sightings on the right side of the boat, facing forward, would be at “at 3 o’clock,” and on the left side of the boat would be “at 9 o’clock.” The system worked well, and the passengers on board quickly caught on.

On this clear and sunny day there were a lot of eagles overhead in the sky. The bow and stern decks of the boat were crowded with bald eagle watchers. They changed positions back and forth, depending on “o’clock” positions called out by Dodge.

Viewing the bald eagles from the stern deck of “Enviro-lab III”

Viewing the bald eagles from the stern deck of “Enviro-lab III”

Eagles Up in the Sky, and On Land as Well

Not only were there eagle spotting in the sky above, the bald eagles were on the shoreline land as well. Suddenly, all this was too much for the benched bird spotter, Bill Yule, to take.

Yule soon began calling out as well over the ship’s microphone, the “clock” positions of where eagles could be sighted. It was now a joyful narrative with two, top ranked, eagle spotters, telling the 40 passengers on board, where to see the eagles. There was genuine excitement on board with Yule’s clear voice helping with the narration.

Still, because of the cold outdoors the cruise was beginning to seem a bit long. Increasingly, eagle spotters going into the spacious heated cabin for warmth.

First Up, and Then Down the River

Over the course of the cruse, the “Enviro-lab III,” first cruised north up the river, going as far as Eight Mile Island. The island takes its name from being eight miles up from the mouth of the Connecticut River, we were told.

Then, the boat came around and sailed down the river, passing the steam boat dock of the Connecticut River Museum, where the tour started, and continuing down towards the mouth of the river.

As the boat got closer to the river’s mouth, the waters of the river became more and more salty and warmer. This can mean that sometimes seals, and even a whale, can be spotted, although they did not appear on this trip.

As the boat got continually closer to the mouth of the river, the wind picked up significantly. In fact, it was blowing so hard, that the decision was made to turn the boat around and proceed upriver again.

At one point on the trip home, one of the passengers asked if the Emvio-lab III could safely go into Hamburg Cove, across the river from Essex. Tour leader Dodge said that the boat, which has a four foot draft, theoretically, could safely go into the cove. However, he said the wind in the cove might blow the boat into shallow water, therefore, it was inadvisable to go into the cove.

With more and more passengers sitting in the cabin for warmth, it was time to end the cruise. With a flawless landing, the boat came to rest at the steamboat dock of the Connecticut River Museum. What a day it had been! What a time to remember!

Bald eagle cruises will run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until March 16. Call 860-767-8296 to make reservations. The boats sail from the steamboat dock of the Connecticut River Museum, which is located at the foot of Maine Street in downtown Essex.

Deep River Selectmen Pick Chester Firm as Engineers for Plattwood Park Project

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has selected Nathan Jacobson Associates of Chester as the consulting engineers for the grant-funded improvement project at Plattwood Park. Jacobson Associates was one of three firms that submitted proposals and were interviewed by the selectmen and members of the park and recreation commission earlier this month.

The town was awarded a $400,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant last year for the park located off Route 80. The grant is expected to pay for construction of a baseball field, new hiking trails, and handicapped access improvements at the park.

The engineers have been asked to prepare bid documents for the project by late June, with construction to begin in September. First Selectman Richard Smith said the board picked Jacobson Associates because the firm has performed good work for the town on previous projects, including improvements at the solid waste transfer station and the Village Street bridge replacement. The firm has also been used by the planning and zoning commission for engineering review services. Smith said the firm’s fee would be between eight to ten percent of the total cost of the project.

Take a Trip Back to Sixties London with SHOUT! – Ivoryton Playhouse

1_shout_300x250Ivoryton: A nostalgic nod to London’s Swinging Sixties takes to the Ivoryton Playhouse stage from March 19th to April 6th with SHOUT! The Mod Musical. Since the original production debuted off-Broadway in the mid-noughties, this hip musical comedy revue has sold out all over the US and UK and promises to get us all out of hibernation!

The musical follows five young female subscribers to a fictional magazine called Shout! – “the magazine for the modern woman” – as they come of age during the liberating 1960s that made England swing. From cover to cover, Shout! unfolds like a musical magazine and travels in time through the decade, chronicling the dawn of liberation of women. Just as Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Cilla Black and Lulu were independent women with major careers, English (and indeed American!) women were redefining themselves in the face of changing attitudes about women. Shout! and its all-female cast reflects that change through the unforgettable music of the era.

Described as “a musical episode of Sex and the City”, Shout! contains show stopping new arrangements of classic pop anthems of the decade, including, “Downtown”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “Goldfinger”, “I Only Wanna Be With You”, “To Sir With Love” and of course, the titular “Shout!”. The songs, and each girl’s own unfolding story, are tied together by hilarious sound bytes from the period – from 60s advertisements for anything and everything – to lonely hearts letters answered by Shout! Magazine’s advice columnist, who thinks each girl’s problem can be solved with a “fetching new hairstyle and a new shade of lipstick”.

Though Shout! wears its heart on its sleeve, it also has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The groovy blend of foot-stomping songs, eye-popping fashions, bouffant hairstyles, hilarious stories and mod musings, will make you want to throw your head back…..and SHOUT!

The show is directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, musical director is Kyle Norris and choreographer is Cait Collazzo. Set designed by Dan Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Kari Crowther.

SHOUT! The Mod Musical opens in Ivoryton on March 19th and runs through April 6th. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Generously sponsored by Essex Savings Bank & PCI Medical

Middlesex County Revitalization Commission Offers Small Business Loan Opportunities

Middletown, CT – The Middlesex County Revitalization Commission (MCRC), a Department of Economic and Community Development lending partner, announces a unique loan opportunity for small business owners. The MCRC is offering loans in amounts from $10,000 to $100,000 for a 10 year term, at a fixed 4% interest rate. Applications submitted by April 1st are guaranteed a loan decision by April 30th. To qualify businesses must be located in Middlesex County and be in business for one year or more at the time of the application. Loan proceeds may be used for the purchase of inventory, equipment, building improvements or for employment expansion or working capital.

Why choose the Middlesex County Revitalization Commission as your business lender? The MCRC is not a traditional commercial lender. The MCRC Board of Directors is made up of First Selectmen, Town Managers, and Economic Development Professionals representing each of the 15 towns in Middlesex County with a focus on helping small business to thrive. In addition, a staff of business consultants and mentors from the Small Business Development Center and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce are there to guide and support you throughout the term of your loan and beyond. For more information, contact MCRC Administrator Paul M. Hughes at (860)347-6924.


Middlesex Hospital to Open New Westbrook Medical Center in April

Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook to open in April

Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook to open in April

Middlesex Hospital is on track to open a new emergency and outpatient medical center off Exit 65 of I-95 in Westbrook this coming April.  The new 44,000 square foot medical center is located at 250 Flat Rock Road, which is on the road that leads up to the Tanger Outlet Mall.

As soon as the new Westbrook medical center is completed, Middlesex Hospital will make the transition from its existing Shoreline Medical Center in Essex.  The new Westbrook location will be double the size of the Essex facility.  In addition, it will have the capacity to expand up to 60,000 square feet, if there is a need to do so.

Middlesex Hospital’s new Westbrook facility will have many improvements over the present Essex facility.  They include an expanded emergency center with 24 beds, as well as an urgent care area for non-emergency patients.  Patient privacy will be also be improved at the new center and there will be a separate outside entrance to the adjoining outpatient area.

In addition, the new facility will have a full service laboratory, an infusion therapy suite, expanded radiology services and a designated women’s imaging area.

Chester Company Donates $1 Million to New Center

Whelen Engineering, Inc., which is headquartered in Chester, is donating $1 million towards the building of the new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook.  The new Emergency Department in Westbrook will be aptly named the “Whelen Emergency Center.”

Whelen Engineering previously donated $1 million towards to the construction of a new Emergency Department in Middletown, which the hospital named the “Whelen Emergency Pavilion.”

Middlesex Hospital’s History of Medical Care on the Shoreline

Middlesex Hospital has a history, beginning in 1970, of providing medical care to the shoreline residents of Middlesex County.  The hospital first rented a space in Centerbrook, where it set up a full-service, satellite Emergency Department.

From its first day of operation, this Shoreline Medical Center in Centerbrook experienced phenomenal growth.  In fact, it soon became impossible for the medical center to remain at its Centerbrook location and properly serve an overrun of patients for the size of the facility.

Then,  two Essex residents, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred P. Knapp,  came to the rescue by donating to Middlesex Hospital 10.4 acres of land on which to build a new, permanent, Shoreline Medical Center in Essex.  Today, the facility serves on average 2,000 to 2,500 patients a month in its Emergency Department alone.  In addition, the Medical Center’s Emergency Department has received a number of prestigious awards for its excellence in patient satisfaction.

Shoreline Medical Clinic in Essex, which will close this coming April when Westbrook Medical Center opens

Shoreline Medical Clinic in Essex, which will close this coming April when Westbrook Medical Center opens

Middlesex Hospital to date has not announced its plans for the building in Essex, once it has been closed and replaced by the new Westbrook facility.

Letter From Paris: Monsieur (le President) Hollande Goes to Washington

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

For the first time in 20 years, a French President was invited for a State visit to the United States. François Hollande was greeted with the highest honors, including a colorful pageant on the White House Lawn.

There was no better way to emphasize the historical ties between the two countries than a visit to Monticello, the plantation of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. Jefferson, ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789, was an ardent francophile. But he was also a brilliant statesman — particularly when he bought Louisiana from France in 1808, which probably represented the best real estate deal of all time.

In happier days, French President Francois Hollande and then companion Valérie Trierweiler. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The logistics of the official dinner at The White House were the source of an intense “buzz” as to who would be sitting next to the American president in the absence of a French “First Lady,” after the recent break up of Hollande from his long-time companion, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, shown above together in happier times.

The meeting of the two presidents in Washington had a strong symbolic importance aimed at reinforcing their respective statures on the world scene. France is one of the staunchest allies of the US today. It has an aggressive foreign policy demonstrated by military interventions in Mali and Centrafrique and the essential role it played during the international, ongoing negotiations regarding Syria and Iran.

Last summer the attitude of Obama was widely interpreted a slap in the face for Hollande when the latter was left high and dry after his offer to provide military assistance to the US against Syria. Laying out the red carpet in such a manner on this visit might be interpreted as a form of gratitude toward France.

Most of the difficult questions were asked during the press conference, but both Obama and Hollande chose to avoid contentious topics; criticisms were muted. The resentment felt by France and the rest of Europe about the NSA surveillance was not brought to the forefront. However, Obama did express his discontent about the untimely presence of a group of French businessmen in Iran even before any agreement was signed with that country.

Unlike Sarkozy, Hollande was not invited to speak in front of the US Congress. This is not entirely surprising since the presence of a socialist leader could have ruffled too many conservative feathers.

Since the major press conference Hollande gave at the Elysees palace on Jan. 14, it seems that a government plan to turn around the French economy is developing. The declaration of a “Pact of Responsibility” between the state and the private sector, by waving the obligation to finance social benefits (a reduction of 49% of the cost of labor), constitutes a substantial stimulus for the economy.

This new policy was reaffirmed by Hollande’s remarks made during his stay in California. In fact, many thought he looked as if he were becoming more “Liberal Democrat” by the hour. The exposure to Silicon Valley, dynamic French companies and start-ups, successful young French computer scientists, the stimulating atmosphere of flexible working conditions and the surprising remarks about “crowdfunding” were all, in the minds of many, like fresh air blowing from the West coast.

The French President enjoyed having lunch with the CEOs of giant internet companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Mozilla and Twitter. In 1984, the French President Francois Mitterand similarly enjoyed meeting a certain Stephen Jobs, then 29-years-old.

The stay in California triggered a real “digitalomania” (my own neologism) in France. The media offered multiple talk shows about robotics, artificial intelligence, bio genetics and the like. Analysts pointed out that the information technology was the key to the restructuring of the French economy.

While a major snow storm impacted 49 out of the 50 American states, the French president, flying the northern route, ended his short, but definitely positive, visit to the United States.

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Get the 411 on Community Resources at the Essex Library

Are you looking for information about social services, support groups, mental health, substance abuse issues, or childhood vaccination? The Essex Library’s Community Resource Room is open daily during the Library’s regular hours, and is stocked with information about all of these topics and more, with contact information that can lead you to the help you’re looking for. The free informational pamphlets and booklets available include titles on child care, mental health, elder issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, diabetes, social services, and much more, as well as a computer especially bookmarked for easy access to websites with more information. Support for the renovation was provided by a grant from the Essex Community Fund. 

$100,000 for Essex Elementary School Natural Gas Conversion Goes to Town Meeting

ESSEX— Voters will be asked to approve four special appropriations at a March 5 town meeting, including $100,000 to convert the boiler and other equipment at Essex Elementary School for natural gas heating. The town meeting convenes at 4:30 p.m,. in town hall.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said approval of an appropriation for the natural gas conversion would be a final step that would lead Yankee Gas Co. to begin construction on an extension of an existing natural gas line north from Westbrook to end in the vicinity of the elementary school in the Centerbrook section. The gas line would also be extended east on Bokum Road to provide service to the Lee Company and the Essex Meadows life care complex.

The local board of education last year endorsed the school to carry out a gas conversion from oil-fired hot water. Nedleman said construction of the natural gas line extension is expected to begin this summer.

Voters will also be asked to approve a $21,700 additional appropriation for the elementary school for three other capital improvements, including new fencing, new ceiling fans for the gymnasium and cafeteria, and a walk-in storage cooler for the cafeteria.

Voters will also be asked to authorize a $325,000 special appropriation to pay for engineering design services for two bridge replacement projects, including replacement of the Walnut Street and Ivory Street bridges in the Ivoryton section. The bridges were rated in poor condition last fall after a state Department of Transportation inspection, with the board of selectmen moving to speed up plans to replace the two bridges.

Needleman said both the $100,000 for natural gas conversion at the elementary school and the $325,000 for engineering services would be transferred from the town’s undesignated fund balance, and then reimbursed with the proceeds from a larger bonding authorization for major capital projects that is expected to go to the town’s voters for approval later this year. The bonding plan would also include replacement of sections of the elementary school roof.

The final item on the March 5 agenda is an appropriation of $25,000 from the municipal property sinking fund for renovations to the kitchen that is located off the auditorium on the ground floor of town hall. The town hall auditorium is the town’s polling place for elections and referendums.

Approval of Zoning Variance Allows New Ivoryton Restaurant to Apply for Liquor License

ESSEX— The approval of a zoning variance will allow the Blue Hound Cookery to apply for a state license to sell beer and wine. The zoning board of appeals unanimously approved the variance Tuesday after a brief public hearing.

The restaurant, which has a Cajun-Creole-style menu, opened late last fall in the 107 Main St. space that was occupied for years by Aggie’s Restaurant, a breakfast/lunch establishment that closed last June. A variance was required because the front entrance to the Blue Hound Cookery is 175-feet from the entrance to the Ivoryton Tavern, another full service restaurant on Summit Street. Town zoning regulations require a 200-foot separation distance between establishments selling alcoholic beverages. The zoning commission did not object to the variance request.


Vista and Shoreline Community Women Wrap Up “Boxes for Soldiers” Drive

Pictured above left to right: “Boxes for Soldiers” Chairperson Cindy Stevens, Vista Program Counselor Laurie Pilcher and Vista member Rachel Goodman

Pictured above left to right: “Boxes for Soldiers” Chairperson Cindy Stevens, Vista Program Counselor Laurie Pilcher and Vista member Rachel Goodman

Beginning this past December, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center partnered with the Shoreline Community Women to hold a “Boxes for Soldiers” drive. Overwhelming support and  donations poured in from schools, groups and individuals from all over the shoreline community, totaling over 1,700 items all together. Vista members sorted through the plethora of food, books, hygiene products and other supplies, and were later joined by Cindy Stevens and Lynn Mann of Shoreline Community Women, to box the items into care packages. These care packages will go to a number of American soldiers serving overseas.

The Shoreline Community Women have sent hundreds of care packages each year to soldiers since starting “Boxes for Soldiers” back in 2006. “Boxes for Soldiers” Chairperson Cindy Stevens says that the effort began with a few boxes for soldiers from the local community, but soon expanded into a much larger project. The gratitude expressed from the soldiers receiving these boxes has inspired the Shoreline Community Women, along with many supporters in the area, to keep the project going. They see the project as a way to thank the troops for their service, and as Cindy Stevens stated, “It is the least we can do.”

If you would like to donate directly to “Boxes for Soldiers” year-round or would like more information, you can e-mail Cindy Stevens at snowsblock@aol.com or write to the Shoreline Community Women at P.O. Box 51 Clinton, CT 06413. There are also drop-off locations at the Henry Carter Hull Library and the Clinton Sport Shop in Clinton, Connecticut.

Based in Madison and Westbrook, CT, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center is a 501©3 nonprofit organization.  Vista’s mission is “Providing services and resources to individuals with disabilities to create opportunities for personal success.”

For more information regarding Vista, please visit www.vistavocational.org

Talking Transportation: The Commuter Manifesto

“The Commuter Manifesto”

“Quit your moaning!”  “You’re not a railroad person, what do you know?”  “You don’t like the train, try driving.”

These are the reactions I get, especially from railroad employees, when I have been critical of Metro-North in the last few calamitous months.  They think I’m a “moaner”, though I try just as hard to be positive about the railroad as to criticize its failures.

But it’s not about me.  Mine is not the only voice calling for sweeping changes at the railroad.

So in launching the Commuter Action Group I knew it was important to be specific about riders’ expectations of service… to define a few basics of what Metro-North customers deserve in return for the highest rail fares in the US.

Thus was born, “The Commuter Manifesto” which I ‘nailed’ to the waiting room wall at several train stations:

We, the riders of commuter railroads in Connecticut, are tired of deteriorating service, rising fares and indifference and ineptitude from Metro-North.  As customers and taxpayers we deserve better and expect change.  Our expectations are few, and simple:

Safety First

We expect a clean, safe, on-time, seated ride on trains with heat / AC and lights.  Don’t treat us like cattle making us ride on railcars you wouldn’t ride on yourself.

We want to know that you make our safety your top priority.  Make every employee understand that responsibility.  If they do anything that jeopardizes safety, discipline them or fire them.  There is no excuse for stupid mistakes.

Fast, Accurate and Honest Communication

When things go wrong, immediately tell us what’s happened, why and when it will be fixed.  When you make a mistake, admit it.  Stop making apologies; get things fixed and don’t repeat the same errors over and over again.

Responsive Customer Service

When we see a problem, give us an easy way to report it to you.  Then get it fixed and follow up with us to tell us it’s been resolved. Our complaints shouldn’t fall into a black hole.

Train your employees to be courteous and efficient, treating us like valued customers.  When they don’t meet those standards, train them again.  There should be zero tolerance for rude behavior by employees … or commuters.

Open and Transparent Operations

Let us know how you make decisions that affect us by opening all of your meetings to the public and media.  Share your goals and self-evaluations and ask our opinions as well.  The way you run the railroad affects our lives and we should have input.

Leadership That Listens

Meet with commuters on a regular basis at times and locations convenient to us.  Hear our complaints and suggestions and answer our questions.  We will listen to you if you will listen to us:  we’re in this together.

 That’s it.  A few simple expectations the commuters of Metro-North have of their railroad.

The reaction so far?  Enthusiasm from commuters… back-patting by the pols… but from the CDOT and Metro-North, silence.

Really?  Are we asking for so much?

JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years.  He was a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council for 19 years and still serves on the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com

New Chester Historical Society Unearthed Challenge…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter from Paris: There’s Something About Sochi

Nicole Prévost Logan

Nicole Prévost Logan

xxii-winter-olympics-logoAfter a few weeks of a media coverage of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games saturated with predictions of terrorist attacks, confrontations and unpreparedness, it felt a relief to watch the opening ceremony on Feb. 6 proceed without any significant hitch.  The smiling and happy faces of the athletes parading inside the stadium before the beginning of the show were the promise of two great weeks on TV. (Close to four billion viewers watched the last winter games of Vancouver).

The sheer number and size of the national teams are astounding. Compared to the 250 sportsmen from 16 countries who participated in the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, today more than 3,000 people make up the delegations from 87 countries. Women have come a long way since the 1900 games when their appearances were limited to tennis and golf.

The German president of International Olympic Committee(IOC), Thomas Bach, defused the feared boycott caused by the Russian government’s homophobic position.  He declared that no discrimination would be tolerated toward any group of people.  President Putin of Russia made the shortest -10 second – speech of his career when he declared open the XXII Winter Olympic Games.

The opening ceremony was a grand scale production – Russians have always been good at those – that evoked the nation’s history.  It started with a short film showing Slavic tribesmen in a small vessel.  Actually the scene looked rather like ancient Greeks on their mythical quest to find the Golden Fleece on the distant shores of the Caucasus.

After a romantic 19th century program exalting Russian literature, music and ballet , the post-1917 era was introduced by dozens of young dancers wearing costumes straight out of a Malevich painting. The message was clear: the Russian establishment had reconciled itself with abstract art which had been vilipended for so long.

The host country of the 2014 games had to show its pride in the most glorious event of its history: the orbiting around the earth of the adulated “cosmonaut” Yuri Gagarin.  The patriotism toward the country’s achievement intensified when five heroes of the past walked in, bearing the Olympic flag.

Among them was Valentina Tereshkova , the first woman in space in 1963 (she was a beautiful young woman when I met her at a reception given at the French embassy in Moscow in 1965).  The youthful appearance of tennis champion Maria Sharapova, who trained at the Sochi sport center until the age of seven, was obviously directed at the modern audience.

The Sochi games have been organized at a high human, financial and environmental cost: corruption, expropriation of local population, damage caused to the “Sochi National Park” and to the “Caucasian Biosphere Preserve”- a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Nordmen Firs, which are the tallest trees of Europe (close to 300 feet high) grow in those areas .

Some of the blogs against the Sochi project have been so vitriolic as to be uninformative.  It is better to read well-researched pieces like the one published by David Remnick. Remnick was the Washington Post correspondent in Moscow in the 1980s and now is the editor of the New Yorker.

Soviet and Russian leaders have cherished the sub-tropical coast of the Black Sea. Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov and Yeltsin all had their summer residences in Sochi prior to Putin.  It was on his return from his dacha in Pitsunda, in what is today Abkhazia, that Nikita Khrushchev was overthrown by Brezhnev on Oct. 15, 1965. Gorbachev’s dacha was located west of Yalta in the Crimea (we were boarded by an armed patrol craft for allegedly sailing too close) .

We circumnavigated the Black Sea on our 44-foot ketch in the summer of 1991. We had obtained visas for Sochi.  In retrospect, our visit to Sochi was a preview to the 2014 games.  In an outdoor theater, we happened to watch the production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” by the Rock Opera St Petersburg Theater.  It was the first Russian-staged production of that musical.  There will be a repeat performance during the games.

We stayed at the very busy new marina called coincidentally the Center of Sailing Sports or “Olympic Centre.”  Or was it a premonition on the part of the Russians that there would be Olympic games one day in their town?

HeadshotAbout the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Lyme Academy College Offers Continuing Education; Pre-College Spring Program

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts has announced their Spring 2014 Continuing Education and Pre-College Program with five courses intended to keep the creative winter fires burning. Open to all, the courses are suitable for all levels of artistic experience and also, competitively priced.

For the Pre-College student who is thinking of pursuing a college education in the visual arts, there is Digital Painting (Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Feb. 6 – March 6) and Seasonal Landscape Painting (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 8 – March 22.) Programs, such as Photoshop, will be used in Digital Painting to aid students as they learn to interpret the fundamental relationships of ‘real’ painting in the digital realm. Seasonal Landscape Painting is designed to expose students to the beauty of Old Lyme and the surrounding area as they create paintings from observation, photographs, and collage. Each class is $225 for the full program.

No matter the skill-set, anyone over the age of 14 with an interest in art is eligible for our Continuing Education courses. Presently, one sculpture and two painting classes are scheduled. In the Figure Painting class (Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Feb. 6 – March 6, $300), students will paint the figure from observation in a series of three-hour poses. Emphasis will be placed on using effective drawing, color, value, and paint application in order to create a convincing sense of three dimensional, sculptural forms.

The Pastel Painting class (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 8 – March 22, $225), is an introduction to the basic concepts, methods and materials of dry pastel and painting. Students will work from still life arrangements to examine the affect of light on form, creating multiple small works throughout the course of the class.

In the week-long Introduction to Figure Sculpture class (Feb. 3 through Feb. 7, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., $300), students will experience an abbreviated, in-depth course of study of figurative sculpture in the

Three Engineering Firms Submit Proposals for Deep River Platwood Park Improvement Project

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has interviewed three engineering firms to guide grant-funded improvements at the town’s Plattwood Park. The board is expected to select a firm at its Feb. 25 meeting, with work on the park improvements expected to begin by September.

Joining the selectmen at Tuesday’s meeting were parks and recreation commission chairwoman Tracy Woodcock and commission member Grace Petroka. Firms that submitted proposals are Nathan Jacobson Associates of Chester, which has provided engineering services for the town previously, Malone & McBroom of Cheshire, and Weston & Sampson of Rocky Hill.

The town was awarded a $400,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant last summer for improvements at the 23-acre park located off Route 80. The park, which has been owned by the town since the early 1980s, includes a former sand and gravel quarry pond.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the selectmen and the parks and recreation commission have agreed that priorities for the grant funded improvements would be construction of a new baseball field, improved hiking trails, and various Americans With Disabilities Act handicapped access improvements. Smith said the firms have been asked to be prepared to complete bid documents for the project by June, with work on the improvements at the park to begin by September.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essex Savings Bank Holds Semi-Annual Meeting for its 162nd Year

ESSEX–Essex Savings Bank held its semi-annual Trustees’ Meeting Monday, January 27, 2014 at the Bank’s Plains Road corporate office in Essex.  Bank Chairman, Mr. Douglas Paul, welcomed the attendees and stated that he was proud to preside at the completion of the Bank’s 162nd year.

Mr. Gregory R. Shook, President and CEO, reported on the Bank’s performance for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013 by stating, “I am pleased to report that the Bank posted a net profit of $1.7 million. Bank assets grew by $6.7 million to $331.5 million. While core deposits rose by $12 million, credit quality remained strong with zero foreclosed properties and capital increased by $1.8 million to $40.4 million – far exceeding regulatory requirements.  Our branches continue to attract new relationships and our newest branches in Madison and Chester are operating ahead of our projections. During the year, the Bank generated over $76 million in loans which were comprised of both residential and business loans. We are also proud to report that our Trust Department, led by professionals, Granville Morris and Moira Martin, has brought assets under management to over $300 million.  As part of our Bank’s success, we will again be distributing 10% of our after-tax net income or $224,000 to non-profits in our market area. By year end, we will have contributed back to the community in excess of $3.9 million over the past 18 years that the Community Investment Program has been in existence.”

Mr. Charles Cumello, President & CEO of Essex Financial Services Inc., reported that gross revenue for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013 was $18.7 million, which is up 12%. “This year’s performance is one of the firm’s best, and marks the fourth year in a row with record revenue growth.”  Mr. Cumello informed the trustees of  the  many improvements and investments in technology and infrastructure currently underway that will increase the excellence of the firm’s client service as the firm continues to grow.  He stated that these investments in infrastructure are critical as the addition of new clients to the firm has been very robust and inquiries from potential clients continue to rise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

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

EHS Receives Grant from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County

2014 CFMC grant for Phot Exhibit - EHS

ESSEX — Essex Historical Society has received a $3,194 grant from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County which was funded by the Riverview Cemetery Fund and the Connecticut Humanities Fund.   The grant will be used to develop large graphic panels depicting the development of Essex from the founding of  Saybrook colony in 1636 through the early 20th century. The history photo exhibit will be located in the Pratt House barn.  The Pratt House is open to and free to the public during the summer months.

EHS is a not-for-profit organization whose basic mission is to promote and preserve the awareness of the people, places and things that have shaped the history of Essex which incorporates the villages of Essex, Ivoryton and Centerbrook. EHS owns two historic buildings in Essex, the Pratt House Museum which is open to the public June through September and Hills Academy which houses our collections and where our Archival Angels work to catalog and preserve artifacts given to EHS.  For more information on The Essex Historical Society or how you can support us, write to ehs@essexhistory.net, or visit our website at www.essexhistory.org.

The Community Foundation of Middlesex County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Middlesex County, and to help Good People Do Great Things. Its two-fold mission is: (1) to work with charitably-minded individuals and organizations to build permanent endowments and other charitable funds; and (2) to support local nonprofit organizations through effective grant making, in order to address community needs, as well as Let Good Grow. Since its founding in 1997, the Community Foundation has provided 907 grants, totaling more than $2.8 million, to organizations for the arts, cultural and heritage programs, educational activities, environmental improvements, and for health and human services.

To learn more, contact the Community Foundation at 860.347.0025, or info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Storm Shows Its Bluster, But Then It Will Melt and Melt

Soon the heavy snow will be gone. The afternoon forecast for February 13 is melting snow and temperatures in the 40's. It was fun while it lasted.

Soon the heavy snow will be gone. The afternoon forecast for February 13 is melting snow and temperatures in the 40’s. It was fun while it lasted.

Griswold Inn Hosts Tour of Its Priceless Collection of Pictures of Steamboats


A surfeit of steamboat portraits in the main dining room of Griswold Inn

A surfeit of steamboat portraits in the main dining room of Griswold Inn

On the wintry afternoon of Sunday, February 9, the Griswold Inn hosted a tour for some 50 visitors of its priceless collection of pictures of steamboats. Throughout the 19th century steamboats along the Connecticut River were the commercial lifeblood of the state, and the town of Essex was a favorite port of call.

Leading the tour of the collection of steamboat pictures, was Geoffrey Paul, one of the three Paul brothers who own the Griswold Inn. The three Paul brothers also own the Goods and Curiosity Store across the street from the Inn, as well as Sunset Pond at the entrance to downtown Essex.

In his over two hours of lecturing, Gris owner Paul gave an informative tour of the priceless collection of pictures of steamboats that are on display at the Griswold Inn.  The tour began with Paul’s pointing out the pictures of steamboats that are on display in the new bar room of the Griswold Inn.

Portrait of a sidewinder steamboat after passing under Brooklyn Bridge

Portrait of a sidewinder steamboat after passing under Brooklyn Bridge

A highlight in the new bar room is a newly painted, panoramic portrait of Essex harbor, as it looked in the mid-19th century. Looking at what he called, “a wonderful picture,” Paul let his visitors in on a secret. The secret is that the bartender can flip a switch, which will make the picture behind the bar rock slowly back and forth.

The gentle rocking of the Essex harbor picture is supposed to replicate what it feels like, when a person is on board a gently rocking steamboat, as it comes into Essex harbor in the mid-19th century. However, Paul said that in some cases people might think that the back and forth rocking motion means that they have had too much to drink, and that it is time to go home. (Owner Paul said if a guest wants to make the picture rock, they just have to ask the bartender.)  

During the Gris tour, Paul made much of the fact that the Griswold Inn is the oldest, continuously operating bar room in the United States. The Griswold Inn opened for business in 1776, and it has serving drinks ever since, according to its co-owner.

Other bars in the country may have been opened earlier than, “the Gris,” he said, but they have not been in continuous operation. That means that the bar at the Gris has been serving drinks for 238 years continuously.  

After that factoid had been established, the visiting group moved on to the front room of the Inn to look at some more steamboat pictures, and then thru the old bar room to the picture splendid backroom of the Inn. It a room whose upper walls are covered with steamboat pictures. The profusion of steamboats portraits is staggering.  

Treasured Jacobson Steamship Portraits

The most treasured portraits of the steamboats of the 19th century on display are those painted by a leading American marine artist, Antonio Nicolo Gasparn Jacobson. The Griswold Inn owns five original ship portraits by Jacobson, and many copies are on display as well.

Portrait of late model steamboat by noted marine artist Antonio Jacobson

Portrait of late model steamboat by noted marine artist Antonio Jacobson

In addition to the Jacobson pictures, owner Paul noted that a sketch of a Norman Rockwell picture of a steamboat is on display in the new bar room. In addition to his painstaking tour of the steamboat pictures at the Gris, Paul raised the question as to who was first inventor of the steamboat in America. 

According to Paul, it was not Robert Fulton, who is frequently credited as the inventor of the steamboat, but rather was John Fitch, an American inventor who build the first functioning steamboat in the 1790’s.

Original portrait of a steamboat by Jacobson at Griswold Inn

Original portrait of a steamboat by Jacobson at Griswold Inn

Visitors do not have to book a formal tour to view the museum quality pictures of steamboats that are on display on the walls of the downstairs rooms of at the Griswold Inn. The general public is generally welcome to view the priceless collection of steamboat portrait, most especially the picture-rich in the back room of the Inn.

There is also a “gun room” in the warren of downstairs rooms at the Gris. And don’t forget that upon request the big mural in the back of the new bar room can be made to rock and forth.

Another public tour of the Griswold Inn’s collection of nautical prints and paintings is scheduled for Sunday, March 2 at five p.m. Reservations to join the tour can be made by calling 860-767-1776. The tour is very popular and space is limited, so it is would be a good idea to call early.

Essex Planning Commission Begins 10-Year Update of Town Plan of Conservation and Development With Session Thursday

ESSEX— The planning commission is holding a series of public forums as it begins the process of updating the town plan of conservation and development. The first session, focusing on the Ivoryton village area, is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

Cities and towns are encouraged to update their plan of conservation and development every ten years. The Essex POCD was last revised in 2005. The plan update is expected to address several land use and development issues, with an aim of setting goals and standards for the next ten years. Issues to be addressed in the 10-year update include affordable housing, acquisition of open space land, zoning and subdivision regulations, sidewalk improvements, and possible expansion of public water and/or sewer lines.

The commission is hoping to complete most of the work on the plan update this year. The panel is planning five public information and cviscussion forums focused on five separate sections of town, begging with Ivoryton village and continuing in the coming months with Centerbrook village, Essex village, the Bokum Center area around Westbrook Road (Route 153), and the Route 9 Gateway-Plains Road area.

Letter: In Memory of Neil

Hi Neil,

It has been six months since you made your journey back to your God. Everyone keeps telling me that the pain of missing you will ease with time. I don’t think so Neil. With each day it gets worse. I know that I was in deep denial for months. I just knew you would burst through the back door and call to me as you did so often, “Hey Boo, where are you?” I am beginning to understand that although denial is a very primitive defense, it served me well in the early months.

During those months, I ruminated over your medical care. Did we make the right choices? Did the Oncologists give us false hope? What happened? Why did you start to fail so fast? I can still hear the doctor telling us that there was no cure for your cancer, but because you were so strong, with radiation and chemo, they could give you “two, five and possibly eight more years.” For God’s sake, Neil, you only lived for five more months. I don’t understand what happened.

Several weeks after you died, I dropped my wallet on the floor at Foodworks and everything, including the little pouch that the gypsy gave us at our hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, fell to the floor. Do you remember that night? The gypsy gave each couple in the dining room a “lucky” penny and told us to write down a wish and put it and the penny into that tiny pouch. I don’t know why, because that gypsy gave me the creeps, but I always carried the pouch in my wallet; even when I had a new wallet, I transferred the pouch. When I got home from Old Saybrook, I reread our wishes and was stunned when I read that you asked for “twenty more years of health and happiness with Ali.” The date on your wish was exactly twenty years to the day that you were diagnosed.

Why did you ask for twenty more years? How did you come up with that Neil? Why not thirty? It has me wondering if you knew on an unconscious level why you were here and when you were going to die. Do you remember our conversations about Origen? We talked about him and the other Church Fathers a lot. Origen is the one who believed in the pre-existence of the soul. He taught that this life is like a classroom and the soul chooses to come here to learn certain lessons. In essence, we learn our lesson and then, in a breath, return to God. It always made perfect sense to me. The gem of his thinking was that it takes many lives to become what God wants us to be. I know you were on the fence about that issue as Origen was later condemned as a heretic by the Church. The condemning theologians believed that reincarnation denies our salvation by the death of Jesus. Quite honestly this is all beyond my ken-really.

Wherever the truth is Neil, what I do know is that I want you back here with me. I know, I know, its selfish o f me. You had a long wonderful life while so many are taken so young. Who am I to complain? We had so much together. I want you to know that on those occasions when I think I just can’t stand it anymore and start to climb into my high-chair with “Binky” in hand, I snap out of it by remembering how you were while you were so sick-courageous sums it up pretty well.

Despite that intense pain, you never did the “why me” thing. You never complained and you even managed to joke around a bit. You couldn’t fool us Neil. Despite the meds, we could see the pain etched in your wonderful face. Near the end, when the Hospice nurse gave you a stronger injection for the pain, I knew from my days volunteering at Hospice, that your death was near. At that moment, I didn’t care. I wanted your suffering to stop. It was time to let you die and go home to your God. My regret is that we didn’t call Hospice sooner.

Shortly after you died, several friends told me to look for “signs” such as dragonflies and butterflies. I saw the most notable Dragonfly in Old Saybrook. I was stopped at the light on the Boston Post Road across from Homeworks. It was a hot August day and the dragonfly was trying to land on the hood of my car. I was afraid that if it landed, it would burn its little body. It finally flew away unharmed.

The Monarch butterfly that was performing figure eights outside the kitchen window brought-up memories of your flight training at Williams Air Force Base. Do you remember the day the base commander decided it would be a good idea for the wives of the pilots in training t to visit the observation booth? The point was to see what you guys did in your little T-Thirty Eight fighter jets? Oh my gosh Neil, I wanted to throw-up. You flew by too fast, too low and definitely too loud. That was the first time I worried about your safety, but not the last. You seemed to be hardwired for thrills. By the way, thank-you for agreeing to wear a ski helmet when you raced and “attacked” the Moguls. Why did it take so much arm-twisting?

It was the Mourning Dove that really got to me. For days, it sat on top of one of our bird feeders with its eyes facing towards the water. After several days, it turned toward the house, stayed for awhile and then flew away. How many times did you say to me, “Ali, you know, Mourning Doves mate for life?” I wept for that Dove. Had it lost its mate? I think so.

I have no clue what the signs were all about. They were comforting on some level and did, I think, prevent me from feeling the impact of your death so acutely. I remember the day when I finally got the two by four in the stomach. I was at the Doctor’s office filling out some paperwork that had its origin in Health and Human Services for God’s sake. The second or third question asked if I were married or single. The question provoked so many feelings. I didn’t know how to answer that question and left it blank. It is hard to believe that something like that was the engine for my descent into the reality of your death.

Finally understanding that I am no longer your wife and will never again feel your touch, or hear your gentle words or see your beautiful smile is so painful that I think I might break into a hundred pieces. You are my best friend Neil, my lover, my confidant, my teacher and my pupil-my soul mate. We fell in love when we were so young. In many ways, we helped author each other’s lives. Nothing, not the loss of grandparents, parents, siblings or friends prepared me for the loss of you. I am so frightened that you will forget us. And, will I forget what it was like to be loved by you? Please, no!

Recently, I had lunch with a woman whom you know who lost her husband a year ago last November. She was telling me that someone suggested that she think of three things for which she would thank her husband. If I could only choose three things, the first would be your loving me so completely and so honestly. Even when we were in the middle of a lollapalooza of an argument, I never doubted your love-not for an instant. And we never stayed angry for long. For me, the ice-breaker was a simple glance into your eyes where I saw the intensity of your unconditional love. Your eyes really were a window to your soul Neil.

Secondly, I want to thank-you for our three wonderful sons. I see something of you in each of them. The boys and their families are O.K. They all miss you terribly and are grieving for you-each in their own way. They are in Connecticut frequently and I am beginning to stop protesting. A friend suggested that they probably feel closer to you right here. When they are here, we have some good belly laughs. I feel guilty when I laugh so hard Neil. I ask myself how I can laugh when I am feeling so sad and you’re not here to join us? I do know that you would not judge us and probably are happy that we can laugh.

The puppies also make me laugh. They miss you and, at first, were acting-out all over the place- if you get my drift. We love visiting your grave. I guess that would be a surprise to you as I have never been a “cemetery person.” I feel comforted while I am there; you feel close-by. Jaynie sniffs around a lot and Murphy always pees on your grave. At first, I thought that it was his way of letting you know how angry he is that you left. I know now that it is just his way of saying, “I love you.”

The third thing I want to thank-you for is arranging for the auctioneer to come here, at the appropriate time, to pick-up your amazing antique collection. You knew that I couldn’t deal with all that “stuff.” He took it all-antique hat pins to your beautiful wooden planes. When I go to the basement, it’s a little sad to see it all gone because I know how hard that was for you.

It was hard, but you were thinking of me. And that brings me to your decency. I often think about what it was that I loved and admired the most about you. Yes, you are intelligent and I always loved picking your brain. You could converse in depth on any subject and it constantly amazed me. And your optimism was legend-a glass half-full kind of guy. But, it was your decency, your generosity of spirit, time and treasure that made me love you so much. It animated your life.

I can’t think of one time that you were too busy to help someone in need. Is it any wonder that my sister called you Lance? How many times did I say to you, “You had better put your white horse back in the barn and give it a rest Neil?” Whether family, extended family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, you were always there to help. And it came from your heart-not your ego.

Speaking of ego, I am having a hard time focusing and am experiencing a lot of anxiety. Your sister reminds me to stay focused while driving. She has a friend who lost her husband and became so distracted that she drove into a tree. I guess it was probably a good decision for me to stop listening to Elvis’ Gospel music while driving the car. The news is definitely more grounding.

I suppose lack of focus and anxiety is pretty normal during the grief “process.” But really, is there a normal, or abnormal, or right or wrong way to grieve? I don’t think so. I am finding it bit easier to cope with your death when you make your presence know. I love it when you come to me in my dreams. When you told me you were healed, although I already knew that you were, it warmed my heart to hear it from you. And, I heard you loud and clear to take my friggen keys out of the car. I know these aren’t just grief fantasies or the result of psychic trauma; they are real and beautiful-a bridge from your soul to my heart. Please don’t stop coming Neil. I love you, Ali.


Alison Nichols


New Ivoryton Restaurant Needs Zoning Variance For Sale of Beer and Wine

ESSEX— The zoning board of appeals has scheduled a Feb. 18 public hearing on an appeal that would allow the Blue Hound Cookery in Ivoryton to sell beer and wine with its restaurant menu. The Feb. 18 hearings begin at 7:30 p.m. at town hall, with four other appeals on the board’s agenda that evening.

The Blue Hound Cookery opened late last fall in the 107 Main Street space that was previously occupied by Aggie’s Restaurant, an establishment that usually offered breakfast and lunch only. The restaurant is now open for both lunch and dinner, with a Cajun-Creole-style menu. Owner Matt Carroll is hoping to obtain a liquor license to sell beer and wine in an establishment that is currently BYOB.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Budrow said Friday Carroll needs a variance because his front entrance is 175-feet from the entrance to the Ivoryton Tavern on Summit Street. Zoning regulations call for a 200-foot distance between restaurants selling alcoholic beverages. Budrow said he has no plans to oppose the variance request at the ZBA meeting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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



Essex Selectmen Seek Appropriation for Bridge Projects Engineering Design Work

ESSEX— The board of selectmen will seek a $325,000 appropriation from the town’s undesignated fund balance to pay for engineering design work for two bridge replacement projects in the Ivoryton section.

The board endorsed the appropriation at its meeting Wednesday, with the board of finance expected to consider the requested expenditure at a meeting later this month. The appropriation would also need approval from voters at a town meeting.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said the current estimate for engineering design work is $225,000 for the Walnut Street bridge, and $100,000 for the smaller Ivory Street bridge. Both bridges that span the Falls River were constructed in 1983 as replacements for bridges destroyed in the June 1982 flood.

Selectmen had been planning to fund all costs related to the bridge replacement projects from a capital projects bond issue that is expected to go to the voters for approval later this year. But inspection reports from the state Department of Transportation confirmed that both bridges are in poor condition, leading the board to expedite plans for the replacement projects.

In endorsing the $325,000 appropriation Wednesday, the selectmen recommended the expenditure be reimbursed to the fund balance with proceeds from the larger capital projects bonding authorization. A committee is now working to finalize a list of projects, and cost estimates, for the proposed bonding authorization, with a plan for the projects expected to be presented to voters at a public hearing by this summer.

Needleman said the town would hire an engineering firm for the bridge projects after the requested appropriation is approved, with a goal of putting the bridge projects out to bid later this year.

In other business Wednesday, selectmen accepted the resignation of Chris Pugliuco from the honorary position of town historian. Pugliuco had assumed the position after the death in 2009 of author and longtime town historian Donald Malcarne. Anyone interested in serving as town historian for Essex is urged to contact the selectmen’s office.

No “Butts” About It, CVS Pharmacies Have Stopped Selling Cigarettes; While Rival, Rite Aid, Is Still Selling Them


The nation’s largest pharmacy chain, CVS, recently announced that it would stop selling cigarettes. However, one of its major competitors in the pharmacy business, Rite Aid, has declined not to adopt a similar policy.

Rite Aid’s Bob Neveu, who is in charge of the pharmacy at the Colonial shopping center in Essex, maintains that even though Rite Aid still sell cigarettes, it is still cutting back in selling tobacco products generally. “We used to have a special cigar section in the stores,” he says, and now they have been eliminated.

Rite Aid’s Nevey admits he has always felt that, “it was somewhat incongruous for a health goods store, like Rite Aid, to be selling cigarettes.” However, regardless of the store manager’s personal feelings, cigarettes enjoy a prime spot behind the checkout counter at the front of the store, where Marlboro cigarette packages and other brands are on full display. 

As for the CVS pharmacy chain, in its pharmacy in downtown Old Saybrook on Boston Post Road, it indeed appears that CVS is not selling cigarettes, true to its word. Not a single cigarette package was evident on recent visit. However, it does appear that CVS has not given up selling other tobacco products. On a recent visit right behind the checkout counters, although there were no cigarettes in view, there were clearly other kinds of tobacco products for sale.

CVS pharmacy where they no longer sell cigarettes

CVS pharmacy where they no longer sell cigarettes

When asked what they were, “We sell pipe tobacco and cigars,” said one of the women behind the CVS checkout counter.


Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Overturns Zoning Condition on Grove Street Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals Tuesday overturned a condition on a new industrial building at 16 Grove St. that was included by Zoning enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson as part of the required certificate of zoning compliance for the structure.

The board’s decision came after a nearly two hour public hearing that featured dueling arguments from three attorneys, with Essex lawyer John Bennet representing property owner Raymond Galeotti, Middletown lawyer William Howard representing Jefferson and the planning and zoning commission, and Old Saybrook lawyer David Royston representing the ZBA.

The 8,400 square-foot building was constructed last year after Galeotti received zoning approval in the summer of 2012. Galeotti received a special permit from the planning and zoning commission for what he described as an expansion of his existing business on the site, a jewelry engraving business called Eve’s Addiction. He also received a variance from the ZBA because the planning and zoning commission had adopted new village district regulations for the area, a move that made the existing 50-year-old industrial building on the parcel a non-conforming use.

After the building was completed last summer, Jefferson included a condition on the certificate of zoning compliance noting the structure was for use only as an expansion of the existing business. Jefferson said Tuesday the condition was based on information presented by Galeotti at the July 2012 public hearing on his permit application, and because the more recent village district regulations made the 16 Gove St. parcel non-conforming. Grove Street is a mostly residential street that extends south off Bridge Street to end at the 16 Grove Street parcel.

Bennet, presenting meeting minutes for both the PZC and ZBA, maintained the condition on future use was never included in the July 2012 approvals for the industrial building. He acknowledged that any separate uses in the building would require approval from the PZC, but maintained Jefferson had “no authority” to impose the condition now on the certificate of zoning compliance, which is tied to a required certificate of occupancy.

Bennet said Galeotti needed a “clean” certificate of occupancy from the town, and contended the condition had interfered with his efforts to sell a portion of his business, and lease a portion of the building that is not needed by the business at the present time. In sometimes angry testimony where he threatened a lawsuit against the town, Galeotti said the condition had disrupted his plans to sell a large share of his business to a company that also owns the From You Flowers business in Old Saybrook. Geleotti added that he is now planning to move Eve’s Addictiion, and its 25 employees, to space in Old Saybrook in the spring.

Jefferson and Howard said the use of the new building in December by From You Flowers had led to new complaints from nearby residents, leading Jefferson to stand by the condition during discussions with Bennet in December. Howard said the provision on use by the existing business was “more a statement of fact” based on zoning regulations than a condition.

Priscilla Lerner, of 15 Grove St,, said the pre-holiday use of the building by the flower business led to a sharp increase in traffic and parking on the dead-end street. “The street is too small for it,” Lerner said, adding that she suspects Galeotti had always planned the 8,400 square-foot building for other uses beyond the jewelry engraving business.

The board relied heavily on advice by Royston in it’s deliberations on the appeal. The attorney urged the board to overturn the condition because it had not been specifically included on the ZBA and PZC approvals in July 2012, and to avoid any effort to direct future decisions on use of the property. “I don’t think you have to decide anything more about the property to sustain the appeal,” Royston said..

Letter From Paris: All Things Braque and Beautiful

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The Georges Braque retrospective in Paris – the first in 40 years – just closed its doors after four months at the Grand Palais. Braque is best known for being one of the creators of cubism. But it would be an error to overlook the rest of his creative life, which was in constant metamorphosis from “Fauvism” at age 24 to his art studio and magnificent birds series from the 1930s onwards. He was one of those rare artists to be recognized during his lifetime since honors were lavished on him.

Georges Braque (1882-1963) was a tall, handsome man with a quiet manner. Instead of joining his father as a painting contractor, he left Normandy and moved to Paris to study art. Soon he joins the Fauves (Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck) and his paintings at l’Estaque, or La Ciotat, on the Mediterranean, are an orgy of colors.

Then, after a two-year period, with the same apparent ease, he absorbed the geometrization of nature approach that Cézanne was the first to introduce. The old master had died just one year earlier. Braque turned houses and vegetation into stylized shapes, devoid of any detail. His colors are muted.

In 1907, Braque went to the Bateau Lavoir studio of Picasso in Montmartre. Since 1905, Picasso (two years his junior) had been feverishly working on the “Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Braque sees the preparatory studies Picasso had done, and is stunned.

From that time until the beginning of the Great War, a relationship – unique in the history of art – is formed between the two artists, based on mutual stimulation without any trace of rivalry. They were like mountain climbers roped together, to use Braque’s own words. Braque’s “Le Grand Nu” of a heavy set woman, with a distorted body, the face like a mask, shows the same understanding of African art that Picasso imbued.

In 1908, art critic Louis Vauxelles commented that Braque’s painting were reduced to cubes — thus, the word “cubism” was born. Braque and Picasso were about to create the most important aesthetic revolution of the 20th century.

In the next few years, cubism evolved through several phases: “analytic” with the de-multiplication of the object into facets, absent of perspective. A second phase, called “hermetic”, followed. It is austere, to the point of being illegible, with colors reduced to camayeux (monochromes) shades of grey and ochre. During the final “analytic” phase, the artist introduced clues to help the onlooker: letters from wine bottle labels or newspapers, or parts from a piano, guitar or mandolin (Braque had a passion for music.)

During this period, Braque and Picasso were also to invent totally new techniques to be emulated by many other artists: first the method of “collage ” using a variety of materials like sand, metal shaving, ground glass or dirt. In his key painting titled, “Compotier, Bouteille et Verre, “(fruit dish, bottle and glass) of August 1912, he introduced the method of “papiers collés” (glued papers) serving as “trompe-l’oeil.”

In 1914, Braque is called to the European front. In May 1915, he is seriously wounded in the Artois battle and undergoes brain surgery. After coming out of his “trou noir” (black hole), he begins a long convalescence. Not surprisingly, given his personality, he feels no bitterness, nor anger .

He returned again to cubism, but this time his paintings are vibrant with colors and, in spite of their abstraction, easier to read.

In the 1930s, his series of still life paintings in his art studio setting is so complex as to be called “studio landscapes.” A charming chaos seem to lift fruits and objects and pile them on the ubiquitous “guéridon” (round table.) An exuberant humor replaced the austerity of his pre-war cubism. American collectors, like MOMA or the Phillips gallery, are enthusiastic about his new works.

In the mid 1950s, the artists introduces a new theme : a bird floating above the apparent disorder of the studio. In “Nid dans le Feuillage” (Nest in the foliage), the bird flies over an eerie mountainous landscape toward a nest lit in a frigid light. The emptiness of his very last painting,”Sarcleuse,” is overpowering. Under a black sky, golden wheat undulates in the breeze. The metal wreck of the “sarcleuse” (agricultural machine) left on the beach is a final message of human activity.

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She will write a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also will cover a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

Essex Grand List Drops by 7.72 Percent After Revaluation

ESSEX— Assessor Jessica Sypher has filed an October 2013 grand list of taxable property that totals $1,033,200,611, representing a revaluation-driven decrease of $86,418,685, or 7.72 percent, from the current grand list total.

In the first full revaluation with visual; inspections of all properties since 2003, a sharp decrease in real estate values was only slightly offset by small increases in the assessment totals for personal property and motor vehicles. The town’s 3,407 real estate accounts show an assessment total of $942,519,420, a decrease of $89,567,020, or 8.68 percent, from the current real estate total. The revaluation, conducted last year by Vision Appraisal Government Solutions of Northboro, Mass., captured much of the decline in both residential and commercial property values associated with the nationwide Great Recession that began in the fall of 2008.

The last townwide adjustment of property values was a revaluation update that was completed in 2007. Vision Appraisal handled both the 2003 full revaluation and the 2007 statistical update. Sypher said more than half of the real estate accounts, including most commercial properties, showed a decrease in assessed value.

But some assessments remained roughly the same, and Sypher estimated about 300 residential properties in various neighborhoods show an increase in assessed values. Most of the properties with a higher assessed value are located near the Connecticut River, or the Mill Pond of the Falls River in the Ivoryton and Centerbrook sections.

The town’s 718 personal property accounts show an assessment total of $29,585,631, an increase of $915,055 from the current personal property total. The town’s 7,627 motor vehicle accounts show an assessment total of $61,095,560, an increase of $2,233,280 from the current motor vehicles total.

Sypher estimated the decline in the grand list would represent a loss of about $1.6 million in tax revenue at the current tax rate of 18.99 mills, or $18.99 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The tax rate for 2014-2015 will be determined through the town budget approval process that concludes with a town meeting or referendum vote on a spending plan in May.

Sypher said property owners objecting to their new assessment may file an appeal with the elected board of assessment appeals, which holds hearings in March that could result in adjustments to some assessments. The deadline for applying for a hearing with the board of assessment appeals in Feb. 20.

Essex Top Ten Tax Payers

The town’s list of the top ten tax payers remained largely unchanged from recent years, but with one new addition. SKR Partners LLC, which is handling development of the high value Foxboro Point subdivision near the Connecticut River, took the number four spot on the list. All Waste Inc. slipped out of the top ten. The town’s largest taxpayer remains the Essex Meadows Properties Inc. life care facility on Bokum Road with an assessment total of $22,875,400.

Others in the top ten, with the current assessment totals, are Lee Company-$7,367,350, Connecticut Light and Power Co.-$6,480,780, SKR Partners LLC-$5,413,200, The Griswold Inn LLC-$3,369,800, Essex Savings Bank-$3,340,440, Stepher R. Cline successor trustee-$3,276,600, MacBeth Ventures LLC-$2,759,500, Herbert T. Clark III-$2,742,260, and River Properties Inc.-$2,295,3909.

Deep River Grand List Up 0.47 Percent for 2013

DEEP RIVER— Assessor Robin O’Loughlin has filed an October 2013 grand list of taxable property that totals $490,407,091, an increase of $2,307,140, or 0.47 percent, from the current grand list total.

The list shows small increases for real estate and motor vehicles, and a small decrease in personal property assessments. The town’s 2,182 real estate accounts show an assessment total of $440,646,940, an increase of $2,480,110 from the current real estate total. The town’s 4,874 motor vehicle accounts show an assessment total of $33,015,550, an increase of $839,280 from the current motor vehicles total.

The town’s 441 personal property accounts show an assessment total of $15,905,321, representing a decrease of $1,012,250 from the current personal property total. O’Loughlin said much of the decrease is a result of manufacturing equipment becoming eligible for expanded statewide tax exemptions.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the small increase, which will generate about $60,000 in new tax revenue at the current tax rate of 25.08 mills, is better than a loss. “It’s not as much as I would like, but it’s still going up,” he said. The grand list was up by 1.21 percent in 2012.

The town’s top ten taxpayers was unchanged from recent years. The top ten taxpayers, with the current assessments, are Connecticut Light and Power Co.-$5,279,976, BDRM Inc.-$4,171,936, Mislick Family Limited Partners-$3,175,245, Silgan Plastics Corp.-$2,968,020, Deep River Associates LLC-$2,605,680, Thomas Boyd & K. Dernocoeur-$2,430,610, 180 Main Street Partners LLC-$2,277,450, Goodspeed Leasing Co LLC-$2,145,010, Jerome and Marlene Scharr-$1,923,180, and Virginia B. Linburg-$1,881,950. The Linburg, Scharr and Boyd-Dernocoeur properties are high value residential properties located on or near the Connecticut Rver.