August 5, 2020

Letter to the Editor: State Rep. Palm Displays “Enduring Commitment to Healthcare Issues”

To the Editor:

In State Representative Christine Palm, we in the 36th Assembly District have a strong leader active in our best interests. We are represented by someone who is consistently caring in thought, word, and deed.

In a recent Op-Ed (Seven Ways We Can Come Out of the Coronavirus Crisis Stronger, Hartford Courant, April 15, 2020), Representative Palm indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the inequities of access and quality of healthcare. She also alerted us to the needs of essential workers who have given so much and who need our support. Ms. Palm recommended how public policy can serve us collectively in this current public health crisis. Representative Palm truly listens to the needs of her constituents and builds effective legislative networks to achieve solutions.
Her contribution to passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act is another example of her advocacy for constituents and her leadership.

As a Family Physician, I appreciate her enduring commitment to healthcare issues and her efforts to secure a more equitable healthcare system for all.

Sincerely
,
Kate Wessling, M.D.
Higganum, CT 06441

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Incumbent State Sen. Needleman Nominated Unanimously to Run Again for 33rd Senate District Seat

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — (Based on a Press Release released by Sen. Needleman’s office) On May 22, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) was unanimously endorsed for re-election to the 33rd State Senate District by Democratic delegates.

First elected to the State Senate seat in 2018, Sen. Needleman represents the towns of  Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Essex, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Portland.

Needleman will be challenged by Republican Brendan Saunders, who is running for the Senate for the first time, although he has been involved in numerous Republican campaigns. Saunders received unanimous endorsement for his candidacy at the Republican District Convention, May 18,

“The need for strong, effective leadership in the State Senate has never been more important than now, due to the crisis created by COVID-19,” says Sen. Needleman in the press release announcing his endorsement, noting, “In my time at the General Assembly, I’ve worked in a bipartisan manner to tackle our most difficult challenges. More now than ever, I believe that inclusive, non-partisan dialogue is what’s needed to solve tough problems. This ‘makes sense perspective characterizes my approach to representing our district in the State Senate.”

He continues, “That’s why I’m anxious to continue my service at the Capitol to help our state recover from this once-in-a-century crisis.  Doing so requires knowledge of town operating procedures, experience in managing local resources and skill in business planning. As your State Senator, I’m utilizing my expertise in those areas to help constituents and small businesses navigate state and federal assistance programs, as well as connect people with the resources they need to sustain their livelihoods and support their health during the pandemic.”

Sen. Needleman serves as Deputy President Pro Tempore, Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, Vice-Chair of the Planning & Development Committee, and is a member of the Commerce, Finance Revenue & Bonding, and Transportation Committees.

He also serves as First Selectman of the Town of Essex.

Sen. Needleman has been instrumental in the passage of a bill bringing wind energy generation to Connecticut. This legislation enables up to 40 percent of future energy needs to come from carbon-free renewable energy and creates a new industry for Connecticut. Needleman states it could add as much as $2 billion to the state’s economy, bringing with it thousands of skilled, well-paying jobs.

Citing other successes benefiting the 33rd District that he has supported, Needleman mentions allowing first responders, police officers, and firefighters to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and assisting passage of a bill raising the age of access for tobacco products from 18 to 21, protecting youths from addiction.

Needleman also sponsored and enacted legislation holding energy companies accountable for prompt responses to power outages and formulated policy solutions to protect rivers and lakes from invasive species.

As founder and CEO of Connecticut-based Tower Laboratories, Needleman has created over 100 well-paying manufacturing jobs directly in the 33rd Senate District.

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Brendan Saunders Endorsed by Republicans to Run Against Incumbent Needleman in November

Brendan Saunders is the endorsed Republican candidate to challenge incumbent Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat.

AREAWIDE — At their district convention held Monday, May 18, Republicans confirmed first-time Senate candidate Brendan Saunders will challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat in November.

In his acceptance speech, Saunders said, “Ronald Reagan once said, ‘the greatness of our nation lies within its people.’ I believe that the greatness of this state lies within its residents. As your senator, I will fight to reverse the trend of raising taxes and fees. I will work to let you keep more of your hard-earned money. I will fight to make living and operating a business in this state less onerous. ”

“Saunders has the ‘get up and go’ and enthusiasm I love to see in a candidate,” said Ed Munster of Haddam’s Republican Town Committee (RTC). Munster, who nominated Saunders, said Monday, “He is a good speaker and someone who listens and is interested in what you have to say. Something voters want in people they elect to public office.”

Saunders and Munster have a history of campaigning together. He helped Munster run for Congress in 1992. While this is Saunders’ first time running for office, he has also helped Westbrook candidate State Representative Jesse MacLachlan, and State Senator Art Linares. Saunders “knows what he is getting into,” said Munster.

Carolyn Kane of Chester RTC, seconded Saunders’ nomination Monday. Kane proclaimed Saunders as both dynamic and grounded with a lifetime of ties to his community. She also said that Saunders has an “approachable demeanor and commanding confidence. He came out of the gate ready to share his plan, vision, and how he would work in Hartford to ensure the 33rd district would be his priority.”

Noting, “In the wake of COVID-19, Saunders retooled his campaign to include an active online presence, strategically using his District tour to highlight his technological savvy and command of communication avenues,” Kane added, “Brendan demonstrates new ways to connect on a personal level and proves his commitment to building lasting relationships with every interaction.”

She said, “His ability to build partnerships is one of the most important skills sets a State Senator must have.”

To support Saunders’ campaign with a donation and to learn more, visit Saunders4Senate.com.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Receives Endorsement of 36th District Republican Convention

Bob Siegrist III received the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the 33rd Congressional seat.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III (R-36) received the unanimous endorsement at the virtual 36th District Republican convention held tonight throughout the district.

Siegrist thanked the delegates after securing the nomination to seek the 36th House district seat in November. “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and fight for them when it comes to such critically important issues as taxes and state spending, unfunded state mandates and transportation and tolls to name a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I am greatly encouraged by the groundswell of support from residents across the four-town district who are willing to work on my campaign and support my return to the General Assembly on their behalf.”

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard in the coming months to earn your vote and bring back common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th District”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Find Out About ‘A Sailor’s Life,’ Join this Virtual Program at Deep River Public Library, June 25

DEEP RIVER — What was life like for sailor in the 1800’s? Find out in this virtual history lesson presented by the Mystic Seaport!. Join Deep River Library on Zoom on Thursday, June 25, at 10:30 a.m. as a sailor’s chest is unpacked in this interactive history lesson.

Using artifacts, from Mystic Seaport’s collections, a Museum educator will guide participants  through the clues, piecing together a picture of what a sailor’s life would have been like more than 150 years ago.

All are welcome to attend this event. Visit the library’s website calendar or Facebook Event page for Zoom meeting information, or email the library at deepriverpubliclibrary@gmail.com for the meeting codes.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 1 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Announces His Candidacy for 36th House District Seat

Bob Siegrist III intends to seek the Republican nomination to be a candidate for State Representative for the 36th House District.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III (R-36) has announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for State Representative of the 36th House District, May 19.

“The 36th District residents sorely need a Representative who fights for them when it comes to such important issues as taxes and state spending, transportation and tolls, our kids’ education and veteran’s issues just to mention a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and always fight for common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th district”.

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard to earn your vote and would be honored to return to the General Assembly on your behalf”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Estuary Regional Senior Center Closed, But Still Providing Critical Meals on Wheels Service

estuary councilOLD SAYBROOK/AREAWIDE — Following the State of Connecticut guidelines, the Estuary Council’s Senior Center building will be closed until March 31, but will continue providing Meals on Wheels uninterrupted. Staff will also be available, by phone only, to help answer questions. The Estuary Council’s phone message, website, and Facebook page will be updated as they continue to monitor this unprecedented situation.

Stan Mingione, Executive Director, says “We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in regards to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 virus. We respect the seriousness of the situation and have decided to close our Senior Center beginning March 17, until the end of the month. Our concern is for those in our organization, our staff, volunteers, clients and the communities in which they live. Our vital Meals on Wheels service will continue uninterrupted.”

He stresses, “Our phones will be open for anyone seeking information or a friendly voice. We appreciate your patience and we will keep you updated as to when we will be resuming operations. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. I will be available by phone or email during this time so do not hesitate to reach out. Keep yourselves healthy and continue to be positive. We will get through this.”

The following changes in services have been announced:

Meals on Wheels
Meals are still being delivered to homebound clients. Be patient as the usual time of your delivery may change.

Café Lunches
A take-out option is being tried for café lunches. All lunch reservations made for dates after March 16 have been cancelled. Call 860-388-1611 and dial 216 to listen to take-out options and make new reservations.

Medical Transportation
Medical transportation service has been suspended at this time. No new medical reservations will be taken until it has been determined when this service will resume.

Thrift Shop
The Estuary Thrift Shop is closed at this time and donations are NOT being accepted until further notice. Please do not leave items outside the building.

Programs/Activities
All Estuary programs, activities, and clubs – including the gym and AARP Tax services, are suspended at this time. No appointments are being taken until it has been determined when these services will resume.

Call 860-388-1611 and listen closely to the message for updates as these services may continue to change daily.

Check the Estuary website and Facebook Page @ Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. for posted updates.

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Essex Winter Series Presents LINÜ Guitar Duo, March 8

LINÜ Guitar Duo comprises Jiji (left in photo above) and Gulli Bjornsson.

DEEP RIVER/ESSEX Essex Winter Series (EWS) presents its Fenton Brown Emerging Artists Concert, featuring LINÜ, a vibrant and talented guitar duo comprised of Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji, on Sunday, March 8 at 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. 

Gulli Bjornsson and Jiji are two aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. Both virtuosic and versatile, they have received multiple accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Their diverse backgrounds, classical training and contemporary influences all come to fruition as Bjornsson and Jiji present unique programs of classical music, improvisations, arrangements and new compositions on classical and electric guitars. In recital, they have performed in a wide array of venues, including: Le Poisson Rouge, National Sawdust, Dominican Guest Concert Series, Morse Recital Hall, Mengi, Hannesarholt, Yale British Art Gallery, East Meadow Public Library and Yale Cabaret.

Bjornsson and Jiji met at Yale School of Music in 2015 and have been performing together and creating music ever since. Their primary teacher was Benjamin Verdery.

The EWS season will continue on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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Eversource Conducts Statewide Infrared Helicopter Inspections Through Feb. 28


TRI-TOWN & OLD SAYBROOK — Rights of way in Chester, Dep River, Essex and Old Saybrook are included on the list over which Eversource is currently conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment. This semiannual inspection, which takes place at locations throughout Connecticut, is an important part of the company’s ongoing commitment to providing reliable electric service.

The work involves the use of a helicopter (pictured above) equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology, which can detect potential equipment issues before they occur.

Inspecting images taken from the Eversource helicopter and looking for potential equipment issues.

The aerial inspections continue through Feb. 28. Weather permitting, flights will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Essex Winter Series Continues with Concert by Classical Guitar Duo, LINÜ, March 8

ESSEX – The Essex Winter Series (EWS) continues its 2020 season Sunday, March 8, with the classical guitar duo, LINÜ, performing at John Winthrop Middle School, Deep River. The virtuosic and versatile Gulli Bjornsson and JIJI are aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. They have received many accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

Essex Winter Series’ 43rd season concludes on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th with seven world-renowned artists: David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank and BrandTech Scientific.

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A View From My Porch: Remembering Connecticut Icon William Gillette

Gillette Castle, former home of the iconic movie star and playwright, Connecticut-born William Gillette, who died in 1937.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 12 is the 90th anniversary of William Gillette’s final performance as Sherlock Holmes, given Feb. 12, 1930 at the popular Parsons Theatre in downtown Hartford.

I am going a few miles upstream in this essay towards East Haddam and its medieval gothic castle to consider William Gillette’s impact on how Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in movies and television. My goal in these essays is to cover the subject thoroughly enough to either satisfy your curiosity, or to pique your interest to pursue some additional research.

Assuming the editor’s forbearance, I will also review, in a subsequent essay, several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson to judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Gillette was born to a progressive political family in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood where authors Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, and Charles Dudley Warner each once resided. His mother was a Hooker, that is a direct descendant of Connecticut Colony co-founder Thomas Hooker. Gillette is most recognized for his on-stage interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. He may have been America’s first matinée idol or to put it another way, the era’s rock star.

The Sherlockian Literature

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. See below for photo credit.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories and four novels between the 1880s and the early 20th century that comprise the “canon” of Sherlock Holmes. The stories were first published in Strand Magazine and two of the novels were serialized in that same periodical. 

Holmes defined himself as the world’s first and only “consulting detective.” He shared rooms at 221B Baker Street in London with Dr. John H. Watson, who was a former army surgeon wounded in the Second Afghan War. 

Holmes referred to Watson as his “Boswell” because he chronicled his life and the investigations that they jointly pursued as did 18th century biographer, James Boswell, of Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Watson was described as a typical Victorian-era gentleman and also served as first-person narrator for nearly all of the stories.

Holmes was known for his incredible skills of observation and deduction, and forensic science and logic, all of which he used when investigating cases for his myriad clients, which often included Scotland Yard. He played the violin well and was an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman. He summarized his investigative skills for Watson this way, “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and, “It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

However, Holmes had shortcomings. He was a very heavy smoker of black shag pipe tobacco, which he kept in the toe of a Persian slipper on the fireplace mantel at 221B. He also smoked cigars and cigarettes. A very difficult problem was called a “three pipe problem.” 

He used cocaine and morphine to provide “stimulation for his overactive brain” during periods when he did not have an interesting case or as an escape from “the dull routine of existence.” This was not really unusual in that period because the sale of opium, laudanum, cocaine, and morphine was legal and often used to self-medicate or for recreation. This habit was worrisome for Dr. Watson, although he once said of Holmes, “He was the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.”

The Holmes stories were immensely popular and Doyle’s last publication in Strand, “The Final Problem,” elicited such public (and Royal Family) outrage, that there were mass subscriber cancellations bringing the magazine to the brink of failure.

William Gillette. See below for photo credit.

Doyle decided to write a stage play about Holmes, set earlier in the detective’s career. He was probably compelled to do so because there already were several Sherlock Holmes on-stage productions, which provided him no income, and were of such poor quality that he felt the need to both protect his character’s legacy and improve his own income stream. 

He drafted the play and shared it with his literary agent, who sent it on to Broadway producer and impresario, Charles Frohman. Frohman reviewed it and said it needed substantial work before anyone would consider production. He suggested that William Gillette be offered the rewriting task. 

At that time, Gillette was already well-known as a talented actor and a successful and prolific playwright. His approach was a significant change from the melodramatic standards in the American theater of the time. He stressed realism in sets, lighting, and sound effects. Holmes Scholar Susan Dahlinger described Gillette’s acting style this way, “He could be thrilling without bombast, or infinitely touching without descending to sentimentality.” 

So, Doyle agreed with Frohman, and Gillette began the project by reading the entire “canon” of Holmes stories and novels. He began drafting the new manuscript while touring in California with the stage production of “Secret Service,” which he had also written.  He exchanged frequent telegrams with Doyle during the process and, with Doyle’s blessing, borrowed some plots and detail from the canon in adapting Doyle’s original manuscript into a four-act play. 

Unfortunately, neither Gillette’s first draft nor Doyle’s original script ever reached stage production. A fire broke out at Gillette’s San Francisco hotel and both manuscripts were lost. So, Gillette began a complete redraft of his lost script, and Doyle was finally able to present a play before the century’s end that he deemed worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

It is worth noting that Frohman perished on the Lusitania in May, 1915, after it had been torpedoed by a German submarine.

In 1899, Gillette was “predictably” cast for the lead role in “Sherlock Holmes A Drama in Four Acts.” Initially presented in previews at the Star Theatre in Buffalo, NY, it opened that November at the Garrick Theatre in New York City, and ran there for more than 260 performances before beginning a tour of the United States and then on to a long run in London, where it received great critical and public acclaim.

He starred in that role for more than 30 years, and about 1,500 productions in the United States and Great Britain. He also starred in the 1916 silent film, “Sherlock Holmes,” which film-historians have called, “the most elaborate of the early movies.”

Playing a role for so many years was not unusual at that time in American Theater. For example, James O’Neill, father of playwright Eugene, played Edmond Dantès, The Count of Monte Cristo, more than 6000 times between 1875 and 1920.

Some Key Elements of Gillette’s Sherlock

Although William Gillette is really no longer a “household name” — except perhaps,here in Southeastern Connecticut, where much of how we imagine Holmes today is still due to his stage portrayal of the great consulting detective. 

Gillette actually bore some resemblance to the Holmes described by Dr. Watson in “A Study in Scarlet.” Watson notes, “His [Holmes’s] very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.” 

Gillette’s Holmes appeared in deerstalker cap and Inverness cape. He smoked a curve-stemmed briar pipe, and carried a magnifying glass.  He crafted a phrase that eventually evolved into one of the most recognized lines in popular culture: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Gillette’s direct style was said to lend a bit of arrogance to Holmes beyond that which Doyle had depicted —  that arrogance has become a hallmark of Holmes’ portrayal in contemporary movies and television.

And finally, Gillette introduced the page, “Billie,” who had actually been played by a certain 13-year-old Charles Spencer Chaplin during the London engagement. At the end of the run, Chaplin began his career as a Vaudeville comedian, which ultimately took him to the United States and movie stardom as the incomparable Charlie Chaplin. 

Some Final Thoughts

I first learned of William Gillette a few summers ago when I visited his remarkable home, “Gillette Castle” built high above the eastern bank of the Connecticut River. I left that visit impressed with Gillette’s creativity in his design of the doors, light switches, and some of the furniture; wondering about his secret multi-mirror “spying” system, and with the assumption that he was just an eccentric artist who liked trains. 

However, I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes literature; and began reading the “canon” at age twelve. I have certainly re-read many of the stories a few more times. Over the past several years, I began to read several authors who write Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels “in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Some of these “pastiches,” as they are called, are quite accurate in style and continuity of Doyle’s themes. 

In researching this essay, I was surprised with the breadth of scholarly work that is currently available regarding Sherlock and Gillette. There are several national and international literary organizations that have also developed around Doyle’s work.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth offers a “Study of Sherlock” course, wherein students engage in critical reading, thinking, and writing by studying the iconic detective.

Our local expert on Holmes is Danna Mancini of Niantic. He has lectured and conducted seminars on The World of “Sherlock Holmes.” He is active in at least two Holmes literary organizations: The Baker Street Irregulars (NYC) and the Speckled Band of Boston.

Of some note, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) tasked by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze” during World War II, had its headquarters at 64 Baker Street and was often called, “The Baker Street Irregulars.”

So, the ‘consulting detective’ continues to inspire novels, movies, and television.

As noted above, I will review several of the actors who played Holmes or Watson in these media in my next essay, and judge how true they were to either Gillette’s or Arthur Conan Doyle’s artistic vision.

Photo credit for the photo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is as follows: By Arnold Genthe – PD image from http://www.sru.edu/depts/cisba/compsci/dailey/217students/sgm8660/Final/They got it from: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/photodraw/portraits/,where the source was given as: Current History of the War v.I (December 1914 – March 1915). New York: New York Times Company., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=240887

Photo credit for the photo of William Gillette is as follows: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. William Gillette Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-e15c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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K-3 Students Can Enjoy ‘Book Bites’ at Deep River Public Library, Feb. 20

DEEP RIVER — The Deep River Library will hold a special after-school program for book lovers in grades K-3 on Feb. 20 at 3:45 p.m. The classic story, Stone Soup, will be read and then attendees can try a sample of the soup made famous by this traditional French folk tale.

Registration is required for this program. Visit the library’s website calendar or Facebook Events page for the link to sign up.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on our monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 1 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

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State Sen. Needleman Announces Candidacy for Re-election in 33rd District

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

ESSEX — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) announced his candidacy yesterday for re-election to the 33rd State Senate District. First elected to his seat in 2018, Senator Needleman represents the town of Lyme along with those of Colchester, Chester, Clinton, Essex, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Portland.

“It is an honor to be able to represent the 33rd Senatorial District, and I’m excited to continue serving my constituents,” said Sen. Needleman. “My time in the General Assembly has been an incredible experience, and I truly enjoy fighting for my district to ensure we build a stronger future for them and all the citizens of Connecticut. I humbly ask my constituents for the opportunity to do so for another term.”

Needleman serves as Senate Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, Vice Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, and is a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Transportation, and Commerce Committees.

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Are You Eligible for Earned Income Tax Credit? Find Out With Free Tax Help From VITA

HARTFORD/ TRI-TOWN — Workers may get a larger tax refund this year because of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). But to get it, you must file a tax return and claim it.

Today, Jan. 31, 2020, marks the 14th anniversary of EITC Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free tax preparation sites. This year, IRS is promoting EITC and providing information on other refundable tax credits for which you may be eligible. This includes the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), the Credit for Other Dependents (ODC) and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). These differ for tax credit earned or reimbursed in the form of lender or borrower fees for parent and child type loan payments, especially in countries like Finland; speak to experts such as Sambla OY for more on the topic.

If your 2019 income is up to $56,000, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Connecticut provides free tax preparation services, including filing for the EITC and other credits for individuals and families with 2019 incomes up to $56,000, persons with disabilities and limited-English-speaking taxpayers. Appointments at VITA locations across the state are now open.

The Village for Families & ChildrenUnited Way of Central and Northeastern ConnecticutHuman Resources Agency of New Britain and the Connecticut Association for Human Services have opened tax filing sites in Litchfield, Hartford, Tolland, Windham, Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London Counties.

To schedule an appointment at a VITA location, visit 211CT.org and click on “Tax Help” or dial 2-1-1 and press 3 then 6.

Experienced VITA volunteers are ready to help you with tax preparation in numerous locations across Connecticut. File photo.

VITA volunteers – trained by the Internal Revenue Service – ask you the needed questions to find out if you qualify for EITC and other refundable tax credits. They also prepare and e-file (electronically file) your tax return at no cost to you.

“Our community volunteers help you get EITC and the maximum refund you’re due. Our goal is to help you get it and get it right. This is money you can save or use to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or make a down payment on a home. Let us help make your life a little easier,“ said Laura O’Keefe, director of family financial stability at The Village for Families and Children.

EITC can mean up to a $6,431 refund when you file a return if you have qualifying children. Workers without a qualifying child could be eligible for a smaller credit up to $519. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average amount credited for 2019 was $2,476.

In 2019, 25 million workers received more than $63 billion in EITC refunds. In Connecticut, 216,000 workers received $485 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, averaging $2,243 per person.

The IRS estimates four of five eligible taxpayers claim and get the EITC. EITC and other income tax credits lifted an estimated 9 million people out of poverty last year, including 5 million or more than half of them children. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Policy Basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit, June 21, 2019)

Bring the following to make sure VITA volunteers get you the right amount of credit you deserve:

  • A valid driver’s license or other photo id card
  • Social security cards, a social security number verification letter for all persons listed on the return
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on return
  • All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment, and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld
  • All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes
  • Copies of last year’s state and federal tax returns, if you have
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund
  • Dependent child care information: name and address of who you paid and either the caretaker’s SSN or other tax identification number
  • If you purchased coverage through the Health Insurance MarketplaceForm 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement
  • Both spouses to sign forms to e-file a joint tax return

In addition to face-to-face tax assistance, free online self-preparation and tax help is available for people who make up to $66,000 at www.myfreetaxes.com.

For more than a decade, VITA coalitions have been helping working families become financially secure. Free tax preparation is one way for hard-working families to keep more money in their wallets by obtaining the tax refunds and credits they have earned.

Last year, volunteers at 175 VITA locations across Connecticut brought $73,222.366.00 in total refunds and credits to filers.

The 2019-2020 VITA and MyFreeTaxes program partners are: CT Association for Human Services; Human Resources Agency of New Britain; Internal Revenue Service; The Village for Families & Children; and Connecticut United Ways.

Editor’s Note: This article is taken from a Press Release. For further information, contact one of the following:
Laura O’Keefe, Director of Family Financial Stability, The Village for Families & Childrenlokeefe@thevillage.org, 860-236-4511 ext. 3836
Maura Cook, Director of Community Engagement and Marketing, United Way of Central and Northeastern CTmcook@unitedwayinc.org; 860-493-1131
Juan Berrios, Community and Financial Services Program Manager, HRA of New Britainjberrios@hranbct.org; 860-225-8601
Takima Robinson, VITA/Asset Building Program Manager, CT Association for Human Servicestrobinson@cahs.org, 860-951-2212 x229

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Needleman Appointed Senate Vice Chair of Planning & Development Committee

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

HARTFORD — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), whose District includes the Town of Lyme, has been appointed Senate Vice Chair of the Planning & Development Committee in the Connecticut General Assembly by Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). As a condition of this appointment,  which as announced Tuesday, Sen. Needleman will step down from his position as Senate Vice Chair of the Banking Committee.

Sen. Needleman’s appointment to this committee is in addition to his existing roles as Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee and membership in the Commerce Committee, Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee and Transportation Committee.

“I look forward to starting work on the Planning & Development Committee, working to improve and streamline processes to assist our state’s municipalities and support further development in Connecticut,” said Sen. Needleman. “I would like to thank Senator Looney for his appointment and am excited to continue my work in the upcoming Legislative Session.”

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2020 Women’s March Sister Vigil Scheduled in East Haddam This Morning

EAST HADDAM — Together We Rise CT  – Building Bridges for Justice has announced that East Haddam, Conn., is again registered as an Official Sister Event location for the Lower  Connecticut River Valley for the Jan. 18, Women Rising 2020 – Women’s March, which is taking place in Washington DC.

Together We Rise will join sister events/marches throughout the world with an outdoor gathering and vigil from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café, which is located at 374 Town St. in East Haddam, Conn., at the junction of Routes 82 and 151.

The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events.

Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.

To help with planning, those interested in participating in the Together We Rise Jan. 18 Sister Event vigil should register at this link. All are welcome from all towns — including Lyme and Old Lyme — in the Lower Connecticut River Valley and beyond.

Participants are encouraged to arrive early. Parking Monitors will be on site to direct participants to parking venues near Two Wrasslin’ Cats.

Parking in Two Wrasslin’ Cats parking lot is available only to those with disabilities.

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2020 Essex Winter Series Season Offers a Plethora of Sounds

Essex Winter Series Artistic Director Mihae Lee.

DEEP RIVER – Essex Winter Series’ (EWS) 43rd season marks a milestone for Artistic Director and pianist, Mihae Lee, who celebrates her 10th year of programming for EWS.

The 2020 EWS season opened Jan. 12, and continues on Feb. 16 with the Stu Ingersoll Jazz Concert at Valley Regional High School in Deep River featuring the Jeff Barnhart/Jim Fryer International All-Star Jazz Band performing music of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The band of seven seasoned players includes Grammy-winning, New York jazz icon Vince Giordano.

On March 8, the classical guitar duo LINÜ performs at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. Gulli Bjornsson and JIJI are two aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. Both virtuosic and versatile, Gulli and Jiyeon have received multiple accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

The final concert of the season is BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with seven world-renowned artists. Performing Serenade for String Trio in D Major and Septet in E-Flat Major are David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets, call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.

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Essex Winter Series Presents Classical Guitar Duo LINÜ, March 8

DEEP RIVER – Essex Winter Series’ (EWS) 43rd season continues March 8, the classical guitar duo LINÜ performs at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. Gulli Bjornsson and JIJI are two aspiring young artists searching for new ways to promote classical music. Both virtuosic and versatile, Gulli and Jiyeon have received multiple accolades for their guitar playing and have backgrounds in composition, film, electronic music, visual arts and theater.

The final concert of the season is BeethovenFest, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary on March 29 at Valley Regional High School with seven world-renowned artists. Performing Serenade for String Trio in D Major and Septet in E-Flat Major are David Shiffrin, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; Marc Goldberg, bassoon; Ida Kavafian, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; and Timothy Cobb, double bass.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. and are general admission. For tickets, call 860-272-4572 or visit www.essexwinterseries.com.

The 2020 season is generously sponsored by Masonicare at Chester Village with co-sponsors The Clark Group, Essex Meadows, Essex Savings Bank, Jeffrey N. Mehler CFP LLC, Tower Laboratories, and hospitality sponsors Guilford Savings Bank, and BrandTech Scientific.

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Birds, Fish, People and Water: Learn More About CT Audubon’s ‘State of The Birds’ Report on ‘CT Outdoors’ This Weekend

CT Audubon Society’s Executive Director Patrick Comins pauses for a photo with ‘CT Outdoors’ host Suzanne Thompson prior to his interview on her show, which is being broadcast this weekend.

TRI-TOWN– Are coastal Connecticut communities and Long Island Sound ready for unpredictable environmental changes? Find out on this week’s CT Outdoors radio show, which is hosted by Suzanne Thompson.

Thompson’s guest this week is Patrick Comins, CT Audubon Society’s Executive Director, who discusses with Thompson the findings of the organization’s most recent State of the Birds report that focuses on Long Island Sound. The focus of the report is the varying impacts of sea level rise and changing climatic conditions on wildlife and people.

Listen Saturday, Jan. 11, fro 1 to1:30 p.m. or Sunday, Jan. 12, from 7 t 7:30 am, on WLIS 1420 AM/Old Saybrook and WMRD 1150 AM/Middletown, or streaming at www.wliswmrd.net. Play back on your PC or Mac anytime from http://www.wliswmrd.net, click the On Demand icon, look for pop-up screen from radiosecurenetsystems.net, and scroll to  CT-Outdoors-10720—CT-Audubon-Society

This 14th annual report includes articles on newly-emerging technologies to obtain accurate counts of Old Lyme’s migrating tree swallows, the improving health of the Connecticut River and challenges facing salt marshes and coastal bird species. A full copy of the report is at https://www.ctaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CT-AUDUBON-2019StateOfBirds_Final.pdf

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center in Old Lyme is one of seven nature centers of the statewide CT Audubon Society, which also manages 20 wildlife sanctuaries constituting almost 3,300 acres of open space in the state.

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Legal News You Can Use: Do You Know the True Purpose of Alimony?

Alimony is an important protection for some divorcees. If you are divorcing, it might be something you’re looking into seeking, too. Do you know how it’s determined? Do you have any idea about how much you need?

Here’s a little more about alimony, so you can understand what to expect.

1. Alimony is decided by the courts unless you and your spouse agree on an amount

Alimony is decided by the courts, but you and your spouse can decide on an amount yourselves in advance if you’d like. If you want to make up your own mind about how much you need, then you should sit down and budget. Find out how much you need in alimony to make ends meet, and then you and your spouse can talk about an amount that is feasible and how long it should be paid.

2. Alimony is designed to help a lesser-earning spouse and to “pay them back” for their support

Alimony has a few purposes. One purpose may be to help spouses who gave up their careers or who earn less and need time to make up the financial differences caused by moving out. Alimony can also be used as a way to pay them back for financial support while one spouse went to school.

3. Lump-sum alimony helps you avoid long-term obligations

Lump-sum alimony is a good way to avoid long-term obligations. With lump-sum alimony, the payer doles out the whole amount versus monthly installments. With lump-sum alimony, the recipient doesn’t have to worry about payments not being made, and neither the recipient nor payer have to stay in touch (unless for other reasons).

Attorneys at Suisman Shapiro can speak with you more about alimony and answer your questions on the subect. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

Sponsored post on behalf of Suisman Shapiro.

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It’s Small Business Saturday, so Shop Local Today!

Launched by American Express in 2010, when small businesses were suffering from an economy in a recession, Small Business Saturday was created to encourage people to Shop Small and take more holiday shopping to all the local businesses that make our communities strong.

Our friends at the-e-list have prepared a list of local businesses offering special deals for Small Business Saturday, which you can find at this link.

We “stole” the image at left from our friends at Dina Varano in Chester, who are offering a complimentary $20 gift card when you purchase a $100 gift certificate through tomorrow (Dec. 1) in celebration of Small Business Saturday.

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Safety Improvements in Deep River, Essex to Impact December Traffic

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER — State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) has announced that the Department of Transportation plans to conduct a safety improvement project on State Rte. 602, Warsaw St. and Main St., in Deep River and Essex in December. New guiderails will be installed on those streets beginning Monday, Dec. 2 running through Monday, Dec. 23.

Motorists can expect lane closures on Rte. 602 from Rte. 154 in Deep River to Rte. 80 in Essex during the planned work. Traffic control personnel and signing patterns will assist motorists through the work zone, which has a regular schedule of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Motorists should be aware the work schedule could be modified or extended due to weather delays or other conditions. Drivers should maintain safe speeds while driving in the area.

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Eversource Manager Cataudella Raises “At-Risk” Monarch Caterpillars, Butterflies in Spare Time

Donna Cataudella at home with the monarch butterflies, which she is raising.

DEEP RIVER — Luann Cataudella spends her days as the Emergency Preparedness Training Manager at Eversource but in her free time, she’s raising monarch butterflies at her Deep River home.

It’s a hobby and passion she stumbled upon when she was clearing milkweed from her yard and discovered caterpillars on the leaves.

“I found little caterpillars on the milkweed and was fascinated.  When I went back to check on them a few days later, I watched six caterpillars get eaten by assassin bugs and it was terrible,” Luann explained. “I knew I had to do something to help, so I started doing some research.”

Luann learned that monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, which is scarce these days because of urban development and residents removing the weed from their garden. That and their many predators is why the monarchs are disappearing – their survival rate is only five percent.

So, Luann got some butterfly enclosures to keep the caterpillars and eggs safe from their predators.

“I started with less than 10 caterpillars. Now I have more than 300 eggs and caterpillars in various stages of development and I’ve released 110 butterflies.”

Luann keeps the eggs and caterpillars in the enclosures until they become butterflies and are able to fly, so they can escape the predator insects.

It’s cool that I’m helping them survive, I just love caring for them.  It’s peaceful and relaxing and I really enjoy it.”

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is currently assessing the monarch’s status to determine if the species’ declining population is severe enough to put the monarch on the Endangered Species list.  That decision is expected in December 2020.

In the meantime, Luann is anticipating the monarch caterpillars and butterflies returning next summer and she’ll be there, ready to help with their survival, once again.

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Kinship & Respite Fund Grants Available to Help Guardians With School Expenses

Saybrook Probate Judge Jeannine Lewis

AREAWIDE — With adults already thinking back-to-school, District of Saybrook Probate Judge Jeannine Lewis reminds court-appointed guardians to apply for grants for school supplies. The State of Connecticut Saybrook District Court includes the Towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Old Saybrook along with Clinton, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, and Westbrook.  

Probate Courts have been awarding grants from the state Kinship Fund and Respite Fund to court-appointed guardians for more than a decade.  As of last October, eligibility for the grants was expanded beyond relatives serving as guardians to all those appointed by the Probate Courts who meet low-income guidelines.

A guardianship case typically arises in the Saybrook District Probate Court when parents are unable to care for their children due to mental illness, substance abuse or incarceration. In most cases, Probate Courts appoint a grandparent or other relative to care for the children. In some cases, courts appoint a close family friend, who has a long-standing relationship with the child. While foster parents receive funds from the state, court-appointed guardians do not; guardians who meet eligibility requirements can receive some assistance through the Kinship and Respite Fund grants.

“Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors, who keep children in their familiar environments instead of going to foster care, offer an enhanced quality of life to the children in their care and simultaneously save the state tens of millions of dollars. In many cases, the guardians don’t really have extra money to spend on a child’s basic needs,” said Judge Lewis. “Kinship and Respite Grants are there to help bridge the gap and make a huge difference to the households who apply for, and receive them.” 

The Kinship Fund assists guardians in paying for necessities such as school supplies, clothing, eyeglasses, school trips and sports fees. Often such expenses are paid directly to the providers. Kinship grants are capped at $500 per child or $2000 per family per year.

The Respite Fund helps guardians with the cost of child care, housing, transportation and food. These grants are capped at $2000 per year.

Guardians who meet income requirements can apply to both funds. Previous recipients must reapply to receive funds each year. Applications are posted at ctprobate.gov under the Children’s Matters tab.

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Kenny Peterson is Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13’s Newest Eagle Scout

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Kenneth Peterson. Photo by Michael Rutty

CHESTER/DEEP RIVER — Troop 13 – Scouts BSA congratulates Kenneth Andrew Peterson for earning the rank of Eagle Scout.  An Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held for Kenny on June 9, 2019 at the Deep Valley Regional High School Cafeteria.

To become an Eagle Scout, Peterson earned 43 merit badges and advanced through the seven scout ranks by learning Scout and Life skills while simultaneously providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community.  One of the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the scouts’s community, school, or religious institution.  

While a Boy Scout in Troop 13, Peterson attended the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree, National Youth Leadership Training, and is a Brotherhood member in the Order of the Arrow.

Peterson showed leadership over others by developing and implementing a plan to clear away over grown brush, assemble three metal benches, and then install them in a concrete base near the Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts.  The benches provide an aesthetically pleasing seating option alongside the tennis courts.  The completed project enhances the community and benefits guests who utilize the tennis courts at the high school.

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 about joining Troop 13, contact Scoutmaster, Steven Merola at 860-526-9262

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Deep River Congregational Church Hosts 59th Annual Rummage Sale, Flea Market Today

The popular Flea Market at Deep River Congregational Church is being held this year, Saturday, Aug. 17.

DEEP RIVER — The 59th Annual Flea Market will be held at the Deep River Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The Market will be held on the church lawn and on Marvin Field, located on Rte. 154, just as you enter Deep River from the South.

Spaces are 20 x 20 ft. and are available for $30, and you can reserve yours by contacting Kris, in the church office as soon as possible, as the 80 spaces go quickly.  Call 860-526-5045 or office.drcc@snet.net.  Registration forms and a map of the spaces can also be found on our web site, www.deeprivercc.org.

The 59th Annual Rummage Sale will be held inside at the Deep River Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a Preview sale on Friday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Donations for the event are currently being collected.  Note that the following items cannot be accepted:  large furniture, TVs and large appliances, car seats, cribs, books, clothing, shoes, VHS tapes or items that are in disrepair.

Contact the Rummage Sale Co-Chairs:  Margaret Paulsen, margaretpaulsen@comcast.net, 912-655-3621 (cell); Celeste Dionne Denne, celeste.dionne@gmail.com, 203-671-4174 (cell); or the Church Office @ 860-526-5045 or office.drcc@snet.net with questions.

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Summer Sing “Rutter’s ‘Magnificat’ in Old Saybrook, Monday; All Welcome

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash.

OLD SAYBROOK — Summer Sing “Rutter’s “Magnificat”on Monday, Aug. 12. Registration is at 7 p.m. and the sing begins at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 56 Great Hammock Road, Old Saybrook.

This session will be conducted by Russ Hammond of The Shoreline Chorale.

All singers are welcome to perform in this read-through of a great choral work. Professional soloists often participate.

The event is co-sponsored by Cappella Cantorum and Con Brio.

A $10 fee covers the costs of the event. Scores will be available, and the church is air-conditioned.

For more information call (860) 767-9409 or (203)530-0002 or visit www.cappellacantorum.org or www.conbrio.org

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Op-Ed: Rein In the Quasi-Publics, Break the Culture of Entitlement

Teryy Cowgill

Enough Is Enough. The scandals and mismanagement have got to stop. No, I’m not talking about the Trump administration, though there is some merit to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s broken promise to “drain the swamp” on the national level. I say let’s start right here in Connecticut.

In setting about reforming state government, there is an easy place to start …

Thus begins Terry Cowgill’s op-ed on ethics reform in state government published Aug. 5 on CTNewsJunkie.com. Read the full article at this link.

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High Hopes Needs You! Organization Has Urgent Need for Volunteers; Next Training Session, Aug. 13

High Hopes depends on volunteers for all its programs and events.

AREAWIDE — High Hopes is an oasis in Old Lyme, where people of all ages come together with a very special herd of therapeutic horses to improve the lives of people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities. The organization currently has an urgent need for more volunteers with a wide range of opportunities available. Everyone is invited to get involved, regardless of gender or age (14 or older).

“Although we hold programs all year round,” says Executive Director, Kitty Stalsburg, “summer is one of our busiest times when we open High Hopes to the wider community through five weeks of all-inclusive horse camp as well as providing our regular programs. We are looking for volunteers of all ages but would particularly encourage middle and high school students, seasonal residents, and active retirees in particular. Just one hour a week, or one week during summer camp can make all the difference to one of our campers.”

One of the many tasks that volunteers undertake at High Hopes is to side-walk horses while program participants ride.

“No experience with horses is needed,” says Lesson Manager, Marie Manero, “we provide general orientation and side-walker training for all of our volunteers, and those that want to do more work with the horses can do additional training in horse-handling and barn activities.”

Manero continues, “

Over the course of a year High Hopes, an internationally recognized therapeutic riding and horsemanship center, relies on the help of over 650 volunteers to supplement its small staff and provide programs for a wide range of individuals and groups as well as support it’s fundraising activities.”

Participants at High Hopes include children and adults with physical disabilities, veterans living with PTSD, children grieving the loss of a parent, families recovering from domestic violence and individuals and their families supporting a loved one with a life-long cognitive disability.

All volunteers must attend a General Orientation prior to volunteering.  The General Orientation begins in the classroom with an overview of High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, who we serve, our horses, and our policies and procedures.  It also includes a tour of the facility.

At the General Orientation, volunteers will choose a role(s) they are interested in and will be scheduled for additional training specific to that role. Roles may include sidewalker, horse leader (experience required), feeder, office volunteer, etc.

Sidewalker training includes more in-depth information about providing service to the High Hopes participants and an opportunity to practice hands-on sidewalking techniques that will prepare new volunteers to begin working with riders.

Two Volunteer General Orientation and Sidewalker Training sessions will be held on the following dates and times:

Tuesday, July 23,  4 to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 4 to 7 p.m.

For those with horse experience interested in becoming horse leaders, additional training opportunities will be available to learn and practice our leading techniques.

For more information, to meet a few of our volunteers, and to express your interest in this event, register at https://highhopestr.org/volunteers/prospective-volunteers/

If your organization supports community volunteering and you would like to bring a group of volunteers to High Hopes for the day, the High Hopes team would also like to talk to you.

For further information about volunteering or to discuss any questions, e-mail Rachel Butler, Volunteer Coordinator, at rbutler@highhopestr.org

High Hopes is located at 36 Town Woods Rd., Old Lyme CT 06371. For further information, visit their website or call 860-434-1974.

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Talking Transportation: After Tolls Fail, What’s Plan B?

It seems pretty clear that Governor Lamont’s tolling idea is dead.  The Republicans say “no way, ever” and his own Democrats can’t muster the guts to take an up or down vote because they’re so afraid of public reaction.

Oh, everyone in Hartford is still doing the usual square dance, posturing and politicking, but I doubt a special session to vote on tolls will ever happen:  tolls are dead.

But lest the anti-toll forces should start to rejoice, they may have won this battle but the war is far from over.  Because when tolls go down to defeat, there are still plenty of “Plan B” options, none of which you (or they) will like.

Our bridges are still corroding, our highways are still potholed and our trains are running slower than ever.  Transportation is grinding to a halt, and with it our state’s economy.  Something must be done. The money must be found.

As one senior Lamont staffer told me, “The Governor refuses to preside over another Mianus River bridge collapse.  We cannot put politics ahead of peoples’ safety.”

It is clear that the Special Transportation Fund (STF) is headed into the red unless additional funding can be found.  And if the STF is going to be insolvent, the state won’t be able to borrow anything on Wall Street for anything, transportation or otherwise.  Our bond ratings will rival a third-world nation.

So, if not tolls, where do we find the money?

STOP WASTING MONEY AT CDOT:  The Reason Foundation’s claim that Connecticut’s DOT ranks 46th in the nation in spending efficiency is bogus and has been widely debunked. Even if we could save a few million by cutting CDOT waste, we still need billions to repair our roads and rails.

RAISE THE GAS TAX:  It hasn’t changed a penny since 1997, not even adjusting for inflation. Like tolling, the gas tax would be a “user fee”… though not paid by those driving electric cars nor by out-of-staters who don’t buy gasoline here.

RAISE THE SALES TAX:  Easily done but fairly regressive as it would hit everyone in the state, even those who never drive on our highways.  And again, out-of-staters get a free ride assuming they don’t stop to buy anything passing through.

RAISE THE INCOME TAX:  Another easy revenue source, but even less popular than tolling and just as politically dangerous.

RAISE FARES and CUT SERVICE: This is what I call the Doomsday Scenario … worsening train and bus service, driving more people back to their cars.  It’s a sure way to save money, but at the expense of those using mass transit and adding to traffic.

PARTIAL TOLLING:  Maybe go back to the trucks-only option, not everywhere but just on bridges most needing repairs?  Makes sense, but the toll cynics won’t believe it will be so limited.

VEHICLE MILES TAX:  It works in Oregon, California and progressive EU countries, but when the idea was floated years ago by Malloy’s Transportation Finance panel it was immediately rejected.  Democrats pushed through a law stopping CDOT from even studying the concept.  Paranoids fear “big brother” would be following where they drive, forgetting that their iPhones and Google (not to mention the NSA and FBI) can do so already.

Money for transportation will be found.  If you’re not a fan of users paying their share (via tolling), get ready for the ugly alternatives.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Famed Deep River Ancient Muster Takes Place Today

The Moodus Fife and Drum Corps proudly marched in the Muster in a prior year. (File photo)

DEEP RIVER — The largest gathering of Fife and Drum Corps is almost upon us.

The annual Deep River Ancient Muster (DRAM) is the third weekend of July at Devitt’s field in Deep River Center. This year the DRAM has been designated as the United States National Muster! The event consists of a “tattoo” on Friday evening at 7 p.m., which showcases selected corps. The tattoo will feature the Deep River Juniors Fife and Drum Corps, The Company of Fifers and Drummers Junior Camp –featuring the Music of Roy Watrous. Other notable corps will also be showcased that evening.

Beginning on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., the 50+ corps will parade through downtown Deep River. The parade will start at Kurtland Street and proceed down Main Street commencing at Devitt’s Field. At the conclusion of the parade each corps will march onto the muster field and perform a selection of their choice. The corps performances will take the remainder of the day.

All are welcome to come down to the muster field, check out the vendors, listen to music, enjoy some great food. The event is open to the public.

Find more information at: deepriverancientmuster.com

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Sen. Needleman Joins Gov. Lamont for Signing of Invasive Species Bill

State Senator Norm Needleman (standing, fifth from right) joins a coalition of political and regional leaders as Governor Ned Lamont signs legislation into effect better protecting Connecticut waterways from invasive species.

AREAWIDE – Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) joined Governor Ned Lamont for the signing of legislation designed to fight invasive species and preserve Connecticut’s lakes, ponds and rivers. This step is intended to protect Connecticut’s natural wildlife and environment while also benefitting the beautiful bodies of water that draw so many from the state and beyond.

“Too many bodies of water around Connecticut experience significant environmental damage by invasive species. A simple weed or piece of algae stuck to a boat’s hull can, in time, create a massive threat to a lake or river’s ecosystem, rapidly multiplying. That can harm fishing and recreation, even making the body of water unusable,” said Sen. Needleman. “There’s a reason this legislation received overwhelming support from both environmental groups and lake and boating associations – it will help protect our state against these dangerous threats, keeping our waterways clear. It’s great to see this issue receive the attention it deserves.”

The legislation in question will create a boat stamp, with proceeds helping to fund removal of invasive species from state waterways. Connecticut residents will be charged $5, while out-of-state residents will be charged $25. The collected funds will be deposited into the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers and Ponds Preservation Fund to support programming on eradicating invasive species, education and public outreach programs to better educate the public, and grants to study better management of bodies of water.

The bill passed the House and Senate on bipartisan votes of 131-10 and 34-2, and in March, dozens of residents supported it at a public hearing. Towns in the 33rd District including East Hampton, Lyme and Old Lyme have experienced growth of invasive weeds and algae in their waterways and bodies of water. The new law takes effect January 1, 2020.

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CT Valley Camera Club Hosts Renowned Photographer George Fellner Tomorrow: All Welcome

George Fellner will give a talk titled “Pictures at an Exhibition: A Mindset for Creative Photography” on June 3 at the CT Valley Camera Club

AREAWIDE — The guest speaker at the Monday, June 3, meeting of the Connecticut Valley Camera Club (CVCC) will be professional photographer George Fellner, who will give a talk titled, “ Pictures at an Exhibition: A Mindset for Creative Photography.” The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lymes’ Senior Center, 26 Town Woods Rd., Old Lyme, Conn. All are welcome. There is no admission charge.

This program explores the characteristics and attributes that make a photograph successful.  While there are numerous categories and genres of subject material, there are nonetheless certain common denominators that can be implemented for making a good photograph.  One can determine a preferred genre as well as a theme that relates to a personal frame of reference for creating a body of work.

Specifically, there is a set of criteria that can be defined as objectives.  For example, an image should have impact and possess a certain attraction that is both compelling as well as captivating for the viewer.  A creative expression that is unique and imaginative, helping to convey a message is paramount for a photograph that is intended to leave a lasting impression.

Furthermore, drama and emotion have the propensity to affect the viewer’s experience.  The elements of composition certainly are a part of the equation, as well as the technical understanding of proper lighting, color balance, resolution, detail, contrast, tonal gradation, among other specific aspects.

Through a discussion of concepts, strategies, and process, George Fellner presents a mindset for creative photography.  His use of visual examples helps to illustrate the positive and negative aspects of a photograph in a descriptive and revealing manner.  The intent is to provide an understanding of what makes a photograph creative and what is involved in judging images in a photo show.  Ultimately, as photographers, we all strive to learn what works for Pictures at an Exhibition.

George Fellner

As a photographer and architect, Fellner is committed to a dual life-path involving visual discovery and design, relating to both the natural and built environments.  He has been presenting photography programs to camera clubs, art guilds, professional organizations, historical societies, community groups, and schools since 2004.  His subjects include landscape, architecture, travel, and elements of nature.

Fellner received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Florida.  Now, with over 30 years as principal of Fellner Architects, he continues to utilize his design sensitivities for creative photography.

Fellner’s photographs have been published in books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and travel guides.  INK Publications magazine (Feb 2013) featured the article Photographer George Fellner: Architect for Body and Spirit.  The book Artists’ Homes and Studios (2015) by E. Ashley Rooney features Fellner’s studio, art, and creative process.  He wrote and published his first book Imaginary Realms: The Visual Language of Stones and Crystals (2016).

His latest book Essence of Architecture in East Haddam: Expressions of a Connecticut River Town is being published in May of 2019.

Fellner’s work has been exhibited in art galleries and museums, both in group shows and solo shows.  A series of his images are exhibited in permanent art collections at the Yale School of Medicine, the Jackson Laboratory at the University of Connecticut, and the NYC offices for Nature Genetics, an international science journal.

The CVCC is dedicated to offering its membership the opportunity to become better photographers. The group offers a variety of presentations and interactive workshops to help members expand their technical and creative skills. Photographers of all levels of experience are welcomed.  The club draws members from up and down the river, from Middletown to Old Saybrook; from East Hampton to Old Lyme; and along the shoreline from Guilford to Gales Ferry.

For more information, visit the club’s website at https://ctvalleycameraclub.smugmug.com/ . CVCC meeting dates, speakers/topics, and other notices are also published on the club’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CTValleyCameraClubPage .

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Needleman Leads Senate Legislation to Hold Utility Companies Accountable, Improve Power Outage Response Time

State Senator Norm Needleman leads Senate passage of legislation Thursday on the Senate floor.

AREAWIDE — Yesterday, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) led the Senate’s passage of legislation designed to hold utility companies accountable and improve their responses to power outages. It spurs the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to establish a docket containing standards for acceptable performance from utility companies and standards for minimum staffing and equipment levels for electric distribution companies.

“In recent years, response times to repair our electrical systems after weather incidents have risen sharply,” said Sen. Needleman. “Families, residents and businesses all rely on consistent power to live their daily lives, and the longer these delays stretch, the worse they become. As a business owner, I know that for many people, every second of a power outage means lost money, and an unstable electrical system  We need to review and set new standards for utilities today so that tomorrow’s storms don’t leave as large of an impact. As the Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, I am proud to have guided this legislation to the Senate floor.”

Senate Bill No. 469, “An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to Establish Performance Standards and Minimum Staffing and Equipment Levels for Electric Distribution Companies,” tasks the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority with establishing industry-specific standards for acceptable performance by electric utility companies in emergencies. This is designed to protect public health and safety and minimize the number of service outages and disruptions that could occur.

In setting those standards, PURA will study the adequacy of electric distribution companies’ infrastructure, utilities and equipment, current policies and procedures for coordination between stakeholders before emergencies, and staffing and equipment levels companies currently employ, including their minimum staffing levels.

This legislation is intended to address delays in service restoration after power outages and comes as Connecticut electricity customers face the most expensive costs in the continental United States. Earlier this year, Eversource received approval for a rate increase from PURA that will see customers’ electricity bills grow more than $20 annually. Based on that increase, the company would be expected to increase staffing, improve response times after inclement weather and bolster its current resources.

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The Movie Man: ‘Game of Thrones’ Has Ended — What Did YOU Think of the Finale? And Will You Sign the Petition??

Kevin Ganey

“What is dead may never die.”

In spring of 2011 I saw advertisements for an upcoming fantasy show on IMDb, Game of Thrones. I did not pay much attention to it, but it did not take long for me to see its effect on everybody else. It became a phenomenon.

Two years later, South Park aired an episode parodying the affairs of Westeros with the imminent Black Friday as retail’s version of “winter is coming.” I was intrigued and asked around if this show was all that it was hyped up to be. My Christmas list that year included the DVD for the available seasons.

But I did not catch on.

I made it to the third episode and got distracted. This paralleled my fitness life, “I should get back to it, but I’ll need some motivation.”

So, the next several years passed by, and I was always out of the loop when it came to references such as “You know nothing, Jon Snow” and “Hold the door.” I even accompanied a friend to a tattoo parlor as he had the phrase “Valar Morghulis” (All men must die) permanently inked into his body. My other attempts of getting into the series proved to be fruitless, as well. But I was aware that nobody was safe, as George R. R. Martin killed off his characters like it was a bodily function.

Then in 2017, I happened to meet the actor Pedro Pascal through my job, and I had to confess I did not know who he was, and he proceeded to fill me in on his role as Oberyn Martell, but I informed him I had only made it three episodes in. Pascal consoled me saying that I would need to get into the second or third season to get that “hook” that everybody experienced. The next year, I tried watching again, and I made it past the first season, but was distracted (again).

Finally, after taking a position in the night shift, I decided to give it my full attention, and by the end of March 2019, I got “the hook.” After finishing one episode, I would instinctively start the next one, without thinking.

I finally understood what everyone was talking about when they repeated those iconic phrases, and the memes that would perfectly allude to real life events. I would spend hours watching interviews with the cast, particularly Emilia Clarke (her interviews prove that she is a phenomenal actress, nothing like the steadfastly ambitious Daenerys, but someone so silly and adorable that you feel the need to hug her.)

And above all, I was finally ready for the end of the series. HBO opted not to air the eighth and final season in 2018, but rather delayed it another year. Perhaps I can be naïve and think it was cosmically arranged for me to get caught up? But whatever. I had my computer ready to screen each episode after my work was done.

I enjoyed the first three episodes, tearing up when Jamie knighted Brienne, and clenching my grip on the chair as the North battled the armies of the Night King. I was already speculating on how the series would end. It was revealed in the previous season that the supposed bastard Jon Snow was the true heir to the Iron Throne, not Daenerys, the girl we were rooting for the entire time, so how would things turn out?

Would he abdicate in favor of the Mother of Dragons?

Would there be a conflict between the two of them?

And what would become of the malevolent and self-centered Cersei?

Nearly a third of my text messages in the last six weeks dealt with me trading theories with friends and commenting on whether they would work or not. It had to be good, since the show had so many satisfying moments in their conflicts, particularly when Sansa imprisoned the poster boy of sadism, Ramsay Bolton, who tormented her and several others, and had him fed to his own hounds (I was grinning ear to ear and pumping my fists when I watched this transpire.)

But when the last three episodes aired, I did not get the fulfillment I anticipated. To be frank, it was the weakest conclusion to the most intense series I had ever watched. It was almost as if one of Daenerys’ dragons gathered in as much air as he could, cocking his head back, and then thrusting forward to reveal, not a firestorm, but rather a mouth full of sparklers that had replaced his teeth.

Really?

I put so much priority over the course of five years to get myself hooked on the show that had taken the world by storm, and I finally caught on for the lamest conclusion ever. They had us on the hook for over eight years, and they could not provide a fitting conclusion. I sat before my computer, often wondering to myself out loud “How much longer is this?” It’s almost as if their creativity ran dry, and they thought to themselves, “How else are we going to get paid?”

Without giving away any spoilers, I can say, even if it seems arrogant, that this is not the ending we fans deserve. In fact, this is not the ending that the show, in itself, deserves (particularly the actors who have been there since the beginning!)

Yes, this is probably what was bound to happen when George R. R. Martin neglected to publish his final books as the series took the world by storm, having nothing to work with at the end of season five … but David Benioff and D. B. Weiss did manage to make the two following seasons without the use of Martin’s base material.

There is already a petition circulating the internet of fans demanding that the eighth season be tossed away, and a replacement season made in its place. A piece of retroactive continuity (similar to how Halloween’s sequels were done away with, and the 2018 installment is now a direct sequel.) Here is a link to the petition, and should a reader reach a similar conclusion as this review, I would urge them to sign it.

“And now our watch has ended.”

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Region 4 Budget Referendum is Today

TRI-TOWN — The Region 4 Budget Referendum on the 2019-2020 Budget is being held today, Tuesday, May 7, from 12 noon until 8 p.m.

Vote at the following locations:

Chester: Chester Town Hall Community Room

Deep River:Community Meeting Room of the Public Library, 150 Main Street

Essex: Essex Town Hall auditorium

 

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With Season Start of Essex Steam Train, Important Reminders About Railroad Crossing Safety

AREAWIDE — With the Essex Steam Train season about to begin, motorists are asked to refresh their sense of caution at the many railroad crossings in the lower valley.

At crossings with STOP signs, motorists are required by law to come to a complete stop before the white STOP line, and yield to approaching rail traffic.  At crossings with flashing lights and/or gates, motorists are required to come to a full stop before the white STOP line and wait until rail traffic passes and lights/gates shut off.

Vehicles carrying passengers for hire, as well as vehicles carrying hazardous materials, are required by Federal Law to stop at all railroad crossings at all times, and yield to approaching rail traffic regardless of signs, lights, or gates.

The Valley Railroad will be working in conjunction with law enforcement to reduce a recent increase in unsafe motorist behavior at the Rte. 153/Plains Rd. railroad crossing in Essex. This will entail police surveillance, and may include written warnings and/or fines for motorists failing to heed crossing signals. Fines can start at $129, and points can be assessed against a CT Driver’s License.

Railroad crossings, signals, and train operations are inspected and maintained to strict standards as promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The final piece of the safety puzzle at crossings is attentiveness and safe action by motorists using the crossings.

Any questions may be directed to Robert Bradway, V.P. Track and Property, The Valley Railroad Company at (860) 964-3422.

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CT Shoreline Fire Departments Host Food Drive Today; Benefits Shoreline Soup Kitchens

AREAWIDE — For the eighth year in succession, Connecticut shoreline fire departments will host a one-day food drive on Saturday, April 27, to collect non-perishable food for shoreline residents in need.

The local fire stations will be open to receive donations of non-perishable food on April 27, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All donations will go to local food pantries run by the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP). This year’s annual food drive will feature NEWS8 WTNH as a new media sponsor and also marks the 30th anniversary of the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.

The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, which is proudly celebrating its three decades of service since it opened its doors to those in need in 1989, hopes to include all fire departments in the 11 shoreline towns they serve. Fire departments already committed to the event to receive donations at their stations include:

  • Old Saybrook Fire Department, 310 Main Street (and also OSFD food drop-offs at the Stop & Shop in Old Saybrook and the Big Y in Old Saybrook)
  • Westbrook Fire Department, 15 South Main Street
  • Essex Fire Department & Colonia Market, 11 Saybrook Road
  • Clinton Fire Department, 35 East Main Street and Stop & Shop, Clinton
  • North Madison Fire Department & Roberts Food Market, 864 Opening Hill Road
  • Chester Fire Department, 6 High Street 
  • Deep River Fire Department, 58 Union Street

Several other fire departments are expected to participate, as well. Watch for announcements on the Shoreline Soup Kitchens’ website at www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org. All area fire departments are encouraged to participate.

In addition, the Essex Savings Bank on Main Street in Old Saybrook is joining the food drive this year and is accepting food during regular business hours until noon on Saturday, April 27.

At a time of year when food donations are low, this food drive will help to restock the pantries and ensure that everyone in our local communities will have a place at the table. The Soup Kitchens’ five pantries distributed over 1 million pounds of food last year to needy residents. Only 40 percent of this food comes from the Connecticut Food Bank; the remainder must be either purchased or donated, so every item is appreciated.

Last year’s Shoreline Food Drive brought in almost 4,000 pounds of food and more than $700 in donations. This year’s Shoreline Food Drive’s goal is 6,000 pounds of non-perishable food to help those in need.

Join the effort by donating food, or by holding a food drive in your neighborhood, workplace, or club, and then bringing it to a participating shoreline firehouse. Participating fire departments ask those donating food to only drop off food on April 27. Do not drop off food before that date.

The most needed food items are: 

  • canned tuna
  • soup
  • fruits
  • juice and vegetables
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • pasta, sauce and rice
  • breakfast cereal and oatmeal

This year for your convenience, checks made payable to SSKP (with “FD Drive” in the memo field) can be dropped off, as well, on April 27.

Those items not accepted for the food drive include:

  • rusty or unlabeled cans
  • perishable items
  • homemade items
  • non-commercial packaged or canned items
  • alcoholic beverages and mixes
  • open or used items

This year’s food drive will feature local TV and radio personalities, including Gil Simmons, Chief Meteorologist for WTNH News Channel 8, and talk-show host Lee Elci, the morning personality on his popular Lee Elci Show on 94.9FM News Now-Stimulating Talk. Both Simmons and Elci will be joining firefighters and volunteers on Saturday morning collecting food items at Old Saybrook Fire Headquarters at 310 Main Street. Elci will host a live broadcast from Old Saybrook Fire Department Headquarters at 310 Main St. during this year’s annual food drive.

The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, as well as the shoreline fire departments, extend their thanks to Stop & Shop of Old Saybrook and Big Y in Old Saybrook, along with Mirsina’s Restaurant on Main Street in Old Saybrook, for their generous donations to this year’s food drive.

In addition to WTNH News Channel 8 as the food drive’s newest media partner, other media partners include 94.9FM News Now-Stimulating Talk, Soft Rock WBMW 106.5, and Jammin’ 107.7 FM. 

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Gov. Lamont, Local Legislators Visit Dominion to Commend Millstone Agreement to Keep Nuclear Facility Open for Another 10 Years

State Senator Norm Needleman (left) and Governor Ned Lamont tour the Millstone Power Station.

AREAWIDE – On Monday, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, joined Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and leaders from Dominion Energy to visit Waterford’s Millstone nuclear facility. While there, Sen. Needleman and others commended a March agreement between Dominion and state electric facilities to keep the nuclear energy facility open for another decade, as well as a regional cooperative agreement between Lamont and five other New England governors to evaluate further use of nuclear energy generation.

On March 15, Lamont and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes announced that Dominion Energy and Connecticut utility companies Eversource and United Illuminating would retain Millstone’s operations for at least the next ten years. Had the plant closed, the New England region could have seen up to a 25 percent increase in carbon emissions as well as the loss of 1,500 jobs, billions of dollars in power replacement costs and increased risk of rolling blackouts. Millstone’s energy output meets more than half of Connecticut’s electricity output needs.

“If we had lost Millstone, it would have done irreparable damage to the state’s power supply and the effects would have been felt not only across Connecticut but throughout New England,” said Sen. Needleman. “As a valuable, efficient and carbon free resource, Millstone’s continued operation will provide significant benefits for the health of Connecticut’s economy and environment. Due to the hard work of Governor Lamont, Lt. Governor Bysiewicz and Commissioner Dykes, among many others, I’m sure this will be just the first of many great achievements in state energy policy to come.”

“The premature loss of Millstone would have been awful for our state and region, spiking energy prices, reversing our progress on cutting carbon emissions, and endangering the reliability of the grid,” Governor Lamont said. “I want to thank the utilities for coming to the table to advance a better deal for Millstone’s power, cutting in half the incremental cost to Connecticut ratepayers of keeping the plant open for the next decade. I want to acknowledge all of the New England governors who have committed to working with us to look at ways we can value these types of facilities in the future. And I especially thank the women and men that make Millstone run safely and efficiently every day.”

“It is a great honor to work for a governor and a lieutenant governor whose leadership on climate and energy – in just the first 100 days – brings ambitious, bold policies that will have impacts for generations to come,” Department of Energy and Public Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Connecticut has a requirement for economy-wide greenhouse gas reductions of 45 percent below 2001 levels, and this administration is taking even more urgent action, with the goal of a carbon-free grid. Securing Millstone’s power for the next decade will protect grid reliability and climate progress as we work to develop new clean energy sources like solar, offshore wind, and energy efficiency.”

“On behalf of all my colleagues at Millstone Power Station, we thank Governor Lamont and the bipartisan coalition of legislators who allowed Millstone to compete successfully to provide affordable, carbon free electricity to power Connecticut for many years to come,” Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman, President, and CEO, of Dominion Energy, said.

The contracts between Dominion and the utilities are under PURA review.

Captions for attached photos: State Senator Norm Needleman and Governor Ned Lamont tour the Millstone Power Station; Legislators and energy leaders pose after touring the Millstone Power Station.

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Legislators, Superintendents, Residents Express Universal Opposition to Forced School Regionalization

Special to ValleyNewsNow.com

Sitting in the front row of the audience at Monday night’s forum on school regionalization were local school superintendents (from right to left) Ian Neviaser (Lyme-Old Lyme), Pat Ciccone (Westbrook) and Jan Perruccio (Old Saybrook.)

Over 100 people turned out for an Education and Regionalization Forum at Old Saybrook Middle School on Thursday, April 11. The event was hosted by Rep. Devin Carney, (R-23rd), with Senators Paul Formica, (R-20th), and Norm Needleman, (D-33rd).

While the two parties differ on Connecticut road tolls, all three local officials said they are against forced regionalization of school district bills proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, Senators Bob Duff and Cathy Osten, Deputy President Pro Tempore, and by Governor Ned Lamont.

Rep. Carney said there was an enormous public outcry by small towns and school districts, thousands of pieces of testimony received and hundreds of people, including students from Region 18 schools, who testified in March hearings.  While this probably means that the idea of aligning school districts with recently consolidated probate districts is not advancing, the matter of reducing and reallocating education costs is very much still alive, and pieces of proposed legislation could still become law.

“Nothing is truly ever dead until we gavel out at midnight on June 5,” Rep. Carney said, explaining the state legislative process and timelines of the ongoing session in Hartford. 

State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) addresses the audience Monday night while (left) State Sen. Paul Formica (R-20th) awaits his turn to speak. Almost hidden from view, State Sen. Norm Needleman (D-33rd) stands to Rep. Carney’s right.

Of the six bills introduced that address regionalization of schools or services, three have been passed by the Education Committee and further action could be taken on them:

  • Governors Bill 874 establishes an appointed Commission on Shared School Services that is charged with developing shared school services recommendations, requires boards of education (BOEs) to report on currently shared school services and requires regional BOEs to post online monthly current and projected expenditures and to submit information to their town’s legislative body. The commission would issue a report in December 2020, recommendations could be binding on towns and districts. Because of costs of setting up a commission, the bill has been referred to Appropriations Committee;
  • HB 7350 requires regional education service centers (RESCs) to distribute an inventory of goods and services to member BOEs, and the Department of Education (DOE) shall develop a report of best practices by RESCs for regional cooperation. (LEARN, at 44 Hatchetts Hill Road in Old Lyme, is a RESC);
  • SB 1069, proposed by Sen. Needleman, which allows the DOE to study the effects of towns working together as Local Education Agencies, is intended to encourage voluntary regional cooperation and maximize efficiencies and cost savings without being mandated to become regional school districts.

Superintendents Ian Neviaser (Lyme-Old Lyme), Jan Perruccio (Old Saybrook), and Pat Ciccone (Westbrook) addressed how their districts have been sharing services and resources to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of curriculum along with educational, extracurricular and sports activities and programs.  Standard practices include health and dental insurance, energy, financial software, food service and supplies, plus student transportation for specialized programs.

Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Region 4 (Chester, Deep River and Essex plus the three elementary schools for each of those towns, which are not part of Region 4) school districts already share staff, Perruccio said, in an arrangement that has the flexibility to change yearly based on each districts’ demographic needs.

Perruccio said she was alarmed that the forced regionalization bills showed a lack of regard and understanding of how school districts are already sharing resources with a focus on quality of education.

Ciccone cited how the districts are coordinating to provide professional development for their teachers, and how Westbrook’s school facilities, sports programs and fields are utilized by the Town Parks and Recreation Department and local YMCA. The schools and town share legal and financial services support, as well. 

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser stands at the podium during Monday evening’s forum.

“There is a money issue here, we need to be frank about it,” said Neviaser, pointing out that significant redistribution of wealth from school districts with higher property values and tax base already occurs. 

Fifty-one percent of New London’s school budget is paid by the state, he said., as is over 60 percent of Norwich’s, 33 percent of Montville’s and 14 percent of East Lyme’s school budgets. Meanwhile, Lyme-Old Lyme Schools receive less than one percent of operating expenses from the state.

“There was no mention of improving educational outcomes in these regionalization proposals,” commented Tina Gilbert of Lyme. “It is because of our school district’s focus on that, we are in the top four in the country in education.  There is no discussion of parent involvement in schools; we are not wealthy or privileged people, we chose to live in this school district for our children.  What it takes to build [highly performing schools] is parent involvement, working with parents.”

When asked if they moved to their town because of the quality of the schools, a high number of people in the audience raised their hands.

While the majority of questions and comments addressed specifics of proposed legislation, the overarching issue of state fiscal problems and how to address government spending arose. Lyme and Old Lyme residents were some of the most vocal about the impact of proposed legislation on property values, taxes and the quality of local school districts.

“The majority of the state doesn’t have a problem, town government works in Connecticut, but Hartford is not responsible,” said Curt Deane of Lyme, pointing out a seven-page summary of education service-sharing produced by LEARN in February.  “The initial [regionalization] proposals would have raised my property taxes by 50 percent overnight. Taxes go up, property values go down. People have to understand, this is going to hit our property taxes and hit hard. This isn’t going to go away.” 

“We can’t be a state with only great little towns and not great cities,” Sen. Needleman said, citing imbalances of health care outcomes and school performance between wealthier communities and the state’s large cities. He continued, “While we don’t want to mess up what we have, we can’t turn our backs on the disparities.”

The legislators encouraged voters to speak up, write letters, follow grassroots organizations such as Hands Off Our Schools or form their own group to express concerns to elected officials.

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Alan James Holds Watercolor Workshop Tonight at Deep River Library

‘Wildflowers in the Meadow’ is a recent class demo painting by Alan James.

DEEP RIVER — Award winning watercolor artist Alan James, will hold a one-day workshop at Deep River Library, Monday, April 15, that is designed for those who want to learn the process of how to capture the essence of a scene.  The workshop will run from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m.

In this class, James will share all of the secrets of what he calls “Capturing the Essence,” which is the process of simplifying the subject by eliminating superficial details. Through step-by-step demonstrations and one-on-one guidance, he will show you how to take your initial inspiration through his process in creating an expressive painting that is strong in both composition and content.

Registration is required for this program. You may register on the website or find the link on our Facebook Events page. The class is free, but participants must provide their own art supplies. A list of materials needed are on Alan James’ website.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 1 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

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Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ to be Performed This Afternoon by Cappella Cantorum

The conductor for Cappella Cantorum’s April concert will be Simon Holt.

DEEP RIVER — This spring brings a treat to area concert-goers: Cappella Cantorum Masterworks Chorus will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” Sunday, April 14, 3 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School, 1 Winthrop Rd., Deep River.

Simon Holt of the Salt Marsh Opera will direct the chorus and professional soloists and orchestra.

Audiences will enjoy Mendelssohn’s lyricism and use of orchestral color in this Romantic oratorio that depicts the events in the life of the prophet Elijah. Chorus selections include the well-known anthems, “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains” and “He, Watching Over Israel.”

A reception will follow the concert.

Tickets are $30 purchased in advance, $35 at the door. They may be purchased from chorus members or on-line at www.CappellaCantorum.org.

For more information, visit the website or call 860-941-8243.

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Rep. Carney, Local School Superintendents Host Forum Tomorrow on School Regionalization, Education

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) in conjunction with the School Superintendents from Lyme-Old Lyme (Ian Neviaser), Old Saybrook (Jan Perruccio) and Westbrook (Pat Ciccone) invite the public to attend an informational forum regarding education and school regionalization Thursday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Old Saybrook Middle School Auditorium, 60 Sheffield St., Old Saybrook.

This event, which is free and open to the public, will provide an update on the status of state legislation affecting local public education, including forced regionalization. School regionalization has been a major topic of discussion during the 2019 legislative session, and this event will allow area residents to share their concerns, get their questions answered, and discuss potential alternatives.

For further information and any other concerns regarding state government, email State Rep. Carney at Devin.Carney@housegop.ct.gov or call 800-842-1423.

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Shoreline Arts Alliance Now Accepting Applications for ‘Scholarships in the Arts: Top Talent’

Kayla Bryan, who was last year’s Instrumental Music Scholarship winner, is shown above performing in the 2018 Top Talent Showcase. Photo © Judith L. Barbosa.

AREAWIDE — Shoreline Arts Alliance announces the opening of applications for the 39th annual Scholarships in the Arts: Top Talent. This program is open to juniors and seniors residing within Shoreline Arts Alliance’s 24 town region and who want to pursue an education in the arts. Applicants can apply in seven different categories of study. The winner in each category will receive a $1,000 scholarship for continuing education and/or supplies as well as a mentorship from a professional artist in the winners chosen field. Applications are now available on the website and will be open until April 24, which will be followed by in-person auditions, interviews, and portfolio reviews on May 3 and 4.

Applications for the scholarships can be found on the Shoreline Arts Alliance website. Applications can be submitted online or through a mail-in form. An in-person audition, interview, and/or portfolio review is required for each application and will take place at the ACES Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, CT on May 3 and 4, 2019. These in person auditions/interviews/portfolio reviews give the students the opportunity to learn about presenting themselves and their art before a jury of professionals.

Students who reside in the 24-town-region (region includes all of Middlesex County, Madison, Guilford, North Branford, Branford, East Haven, Lyme, East Lyme, Old Lyme, and Salem) and are interested in the arts are encouraged to apply. The categories are, Theatre, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Creative Writing, Dance, Visual Art, and, our newest category, the Jeffrey Dobbs Scholarship for Excellence in Painting.

These seven categories are judged by professional, working artists in each field of study. These professionals pay special attention to detail, to the students commitment to the art form of their choosing, and give valuable feedback to each student. Judges choose a winner in each category and they may also choose a special recognition in any given category. Winners and special recognition winners will be asked to participate in a showcase on May 14 at Evergreen Woods.

The Scholarship in the Arts program is meant to educate, encourage, enrich, and engage the students through audition practice, interview practice, and valuable feedback from professional artists. Students who are serious about their careers in the arts will be given important lessons on interviewing, preparing a portfolio for review, and auditioning. This preparation, in a safe and judgement free environment, will allow the students to feel comfortable in future interviewing/auditioning/portfolio review processes.

Visit www.shorelinearts.org/top-talent to learn more about this program, find submission information, and to download the application or apply online. A $25 non-refundable fee is required for each application. Contact Shoreline Arts Alliance for further information by emailing office@shorelinearts.org or calling 203.453.3890.

Editor’s Note: Shoreline Arts Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 based in Guilford, CT. Shoreline Arts Alliance is the state appointed arts council for a 24 town region including all of Middlesex County, East Haven, Guilford, Madison, Branford, North Branford, Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem, and East Lyme. Shoreline Arts Alliance’s mission is to Transform Lives through the Arts and we do so by educating students, encouraging artists, engaging the community, and enriching the cultural landscape of the Shoreline and beyond. Shoreline Arts Alliance offers free programs and services across the State of Connecticut. To learn more about these programs, visit www.shorelinearts.org or contact office@shorelinearts.org or 203.453.3890

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Sen. Needleman, Rep. Carney and Mclachlan Host Community Conversation in Westbrook

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

AREAWIDE – State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd) and State Representatives Devin Carney (R-23rd) and Jesse MacLachlan (R-) will hold a Community Conversation event with the public this evening,  Wednesday, April 3. The event is scheduled to be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Westbrook Town Hall’s Multimedia Room, located at 866 Boston Post Rd. in Westbrook.

Sen. Needleman’s 33rd District includes Lyme, and State Rep. Carney’s 23rd District includes Lyme and Old Lyme.

Sen. Needleman and Reps. MacLachlan and Carney will discuss the state budget with members of the public, among a number of other important legislative issues.

“Getting out into the community is so important, as I can hear from the public first-hand about what issues impact them the most,” said Sen. Needleman. “There are a number of significant topics this legislative session, including bills dealing with school regionalization, which deserve our attention. I’m looking forward to sitting with Representatives MacLachlan and Carney to hear directly from Westbrook.”

“The 2019 legislative session is well underway and many people have been asking about topics ranging from the budget, taxes, tolls and school regionalization,” said Rep. Carney. “I am grateful that residents continue to take advantage of these types of events, am looking forward to discussing these and many other issues with folks in Westbrook on April 3 alongside Senator Needleman and Representative MacLachlan. I encourage all residents to attend this event or to reach out to my office with any legislative concerns.”

“I look forward to hearing from residents about some of the hot button issues including tolls, the forced regionalization of schools and the several tax increase proposals,” said Rep. MacLachlan. “It’s important for residents to have the opportunity to share their thoughts about legislation that will have a significant impact on their daily lives.”

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Douglas is Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13’s Newest Eagle Scout

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13’s newest Eagle Scout Ryan Douglas. Photo by Michael Rutty.

CHESTER/DEEP  RIVER — Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 has proudly announced that Ryan David Douglas of Deep River has earned the rank of Eagle Scout.  An Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held for Ryan on Jan. 20, 2019 at the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium.

To become an Eagle Scout, Douglas earned 36 merit badges and advanced through the seven scout ranks by learning Scout and Life skills while simultaneously providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community. 

One of the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in the scout’s community, school, or religious institution and and complete a service project that benefits that same broad community.  While a Scout in Troop 13, Douglas attended National Youth Leadership Training and served as the Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 13.

Douglas showed leadership over others by designing and implementing a plan that resulted in the construction of a gate guard booth replacing a simple chair at the entrance to the Deep River Landing site. Specifically the booth is of a new stick-built construction providing a fully-enclosed, aesthetically-pleasing, weather-proofed structure for park attendants transactions with users of the landing area. Completing this project entailed working with municipal offices and committees, securing donations for supplies and designing and overseeing volunteers through the construction and installation of said gate guard booth.

The completed project provides an important service to the Deep River community and guests who utilize the riverfront park by providing an official looking sheltered guard booth necessary to prevent overuse and illegal parking at the popular landing area.

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young people develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these youth to develop into strong, healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scouts of America 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 Boy Scout Troop 13, contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola at 860-526-9262

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Gov. Lamont Amends Education Proposal on Shared Services; Encourages School Collaboration, Reallocation of Resources to Classroom

Governor Ned Lamont (D)

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR NED LAMONT– Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he is submitting revised language to the General Assembly on his proposal encouraging shared services in Connecticut schools. The new proposal, which was developed in collaboration with stakeholders, addresses concerns raised by members of the community while continuing to encourage collaboration and shared services among schools. The governor said that he agrees with many constituents who do not want their school districts to be forced to consolidate operations and is hopeful that the modifications to his proposal address those concerns.

Unlike other proposals, Governor Lamont’s legislation does not force school consolidation. Rather, his bill uses school construction bonds and other funds to incentivize communities to explore cost savings, but does not force regionalization.

“The truth is that our students and teachers are not getting the adequate resources they need in the classroom,” Governor Lamont said. “Sharing certain back-office administrative services and purchasing costs is more efficient for certain schools, and my bill is intended to highlight and incentivize those efficiencies. I’ve also heard the concern that school districts need independence to make the decisions they feel are best. My revised proposal seeks to strike that balance through a collaborative process that preserves the feisty independence of our towns while providing them the tools they need to accomplish our shared vision of focusing resources on the classroom.”

As an example, North Carolina uses one contract for school software throughout the entire state, however in Connecticut there are 170 different contracts and the state is paying a premium. The governor’s proposal creates a bipartisan commission on shared school services, made up of education stakeholders from across the state including parents, teachers, superintendents, and school board members. That commission has no power to force the adoption of its recommendations, but will look around and outside the state to issue advisory reports on how districts can best share services and prioritize money for students and teachers. The towns and the people’s elected representatives will be able to draw on the recommendations that make sense in their local contexts.

The revised language in governor’s proposal:

  • Ensures regional diversity by requiring each of the governor’s six appointees come from a different RESC service area
  • Underscores the non-binding nature of the commission’s recommendations
  • Eliminates requirements that the commission consider redistricting and regionalization in its reports

The legislation, SB 874 – An Act Concerning Education Initiatives and Services in Connecticut, is currently pending in the education committee. The same language is included in HB 7192 – An Act Concerning Municipal and Regional Opportunities and Efficiencies, which is pending in the planning and development committee.

**DownloadProposed revised language to SB 874

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Needleman Proposes New School Regionalization Plan

State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd)

AREAWIDE — Yesterday State Senator Norm Needleman (D-33rd) proposed a new plan for school regionalization. His proposal would create legislation tailored to help school districts and municipalities cooperate to share services and resources on their own terms, in contrast to recent legislation that would mandate school changes.

Needleman appeared with East Haddam Selectman Robert Smith, Chester First Selectman Laurent Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Essex Board of Education member Lon Seidman, Portland First Selectman Susan Bransfield and CABE Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy.

Watch this news clip from NBC to see a summary of what Needleman proposed.

The 33rd Senatorial District includes the Town of Lyme.

Today a public hearing will be held at 11 a.m. in Hartford on HB 7192, AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EFFICIENCIES, a Governor’s Bill dealing generally with regionalization and shared services for local governments

Sections 7-10 of the bill are the same as Sections 1-4 of SB 874, the Governor’s Bill on school regionalization and shared services. If you have already submitted testimony to the Education Committee on school regionalization bills, this is an opportunity to comment before a different committee specifically on SB 874.

– Make sure to read the four sections of HB 7192 (again) and comment on them specifically (of course, you may also comment on any other sections you choose).

– Include only HB 7192 (same as first sections of SB 874) in your testimony, as this is the only language from the three school regionalization bills that is before Planning & Development.

Written testimony should be submitted by 9 a.m. to PDtestimony@cga.ct.gov

Sign-up to speak between 9 and 10 a.m. (lottery) in Room 1D.

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Musical Masterworks Modern Presents ‘Quince Ensemble’ at Lyme Art Association Tonight

Quince Ensemble performs at the Lyme Art Association, March 1. Photo by Aleksandr Karjaka at Karjaka Studios.

AREAWIDE — Musical Masterworks Modern (MMModern) presents the Quince Ensemble,Friday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lyme Art Association.

Experience contemporary chamber music featuring Quince Ensemble with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s love fail, a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from the story of Tristan and Isolde.

Singing with the precision and flexibility of modern chamber musicians, Quince Ensemble is changing the paradigm of contemporary vocal music.  Described as “the Anonymous 4 of new music” by Opera News, the ensemble continually pushes the boundaries of vocal ensemble literature.

Admission is $35; student admission is $5.  Admission includes a reception prior to the concert at 5:30 p.m; the concert begins at 6:30 p.m. 

After the performance concludes, end your evening with a Three-Course Prix Fixe dinner for two with a bottle of wine for $100 at the Bee & Thistle, only available to MMModern concertgoers.  Make your dinner reservation by calling Bee & Thistle at 860.434.1667.

This special performance has been generously sponsored by The Howard Gilman Foundation and James B. and Alden R. Murphy.

For full details and to purchase tickets, visit Masterworks at www.musicalmasterworks.org or call 860.434.2252. 

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Op-Ed: Forced Regionalization of Our Schools Will be a Disaster For Our Communities

This op-ed was submitted by Tina C. Gilbert of Lyme. It was also sent as a letter to State Senators Paul Formica  (R-20th) and Norman Needleman (D-33rd), and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd.) Gilbert has children in Lyme-Old Lyme Schools and is Vice-President of LCN USA located in Deep River, Conn.  

I am seriously concerned about the lack of awareness and sense of urgency in the Lyme-Old Lyme communities regarding the proposed Bills to force school regionalization, specifically Bill 454 (SB 738). It is a grave mistake for any tax payer in Lyme or Old Lyme  to think this doesn’t affect them just because they don’t have children attending the schools. We know the chances of this getting approved are strong, if not, at this point, unavoidable.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recent BOE meeting where I would have addressed my concerns. At the BOE meeting I understand that it was said that Region 18 had “good representation” at last Friday’s hearings on the proposed bills. We had, from my count, 5 children and 5 adults (2 without their children) at the hearing. The town of Wilton, conversely, had well over 100 – if not 150 constituents there. That is good representation. The hearing required three overflow rooms apart from the primary hearing room. Each of them packed with floors occupied by children. I could be mistaken, but I believe that is a very rare occurrence.

Next week, the Committee will vote on whether these Bills move forward. If they vote to move forward, the consequences to our two communities will be devastating and irrevocable. Our local BOE is concerned about the attrition rate of students in Region 18. However, imagine if you will the entire school population coming from the Town of Lyme no longer attending the Middle School or High School. No amount of marketing for out-of-region students or pre-K applicants is going to fill that void. What then are the effects? Jobs gone. Shared programs gone (LYSB). Culture, history, community …. compromised. Taxes increased. Residents leaving. Property values tanking. Parents putting themselves into debt to send their children to whatever private school they can find.
The Town of Old Lyme will follow the Probate system and will be regionalized with East Lyme, Salem and Montville. There will be a regionalized BOE and one Superintendent (that means 3 lose their jobs.) Governor Lamont specifically called out wanting to reduce the number of Superintendents. East Lyme is a large and powerful school. I don’t think it takes a deep thinker to figure out who is going to have more power in the new regionalized district.
We live in the Town of Lyme. We moved here from Deep River so that our children would be in the Region 18 schools. With this forced Regionalization, Lyme will join Deep River, Chester, Essex, Haddam and Killingworth. Children from the farthest reaches of Lyme will be bussed across the river to attend schools there. Bus rides will be well over an hour. Parents who want to be active in their children’s schooling will be challenged with having to follow suit and drive either over the bridge to Rt 9 (and soon pay tolls to do so) or over the bridge in Haddam.  My husband and I recently moved our business to Deep River, so we know how time consuming it is to come back to Lyme Consolidated in the middle of the day for a school event. This is the first year of the last seven that our children have been in the school that we’ve missed nearly every program. Frankly it would be easier for us to have our kids going to school on the other side of the river. But we don’t want that – we moved here for the quality of the education.
From the hearing and follow up discussion, it has become clear that the Forced Regionalization concept is in fact not about the state saving money. The Committee members supporting the legislation made their opinions on that clear. And a Bill supporter who has the ears of these members (including the Chair) put it succinctly as follows:
“Connecticut has too many school districts, and the richest ones are fortresses that have pulled all the ladders up after them while the poorest sink deeper and deeper. Town-based school districts drive wealth inequality and force towns to compete against one another instead of cooperating. Worst of all, they embody institutionalized and systemic racism. They enforce de facto segregation, which is the toxic legacy of redlining and exclusionary zoning, and we will never be able to move forward until that changes.”
In summary, this infers that we residents of Lyme and Old Lyme are a bunch of privileged racists who only want the best for their children and none for others. This tired tactic is offensive and reprehensible.
I am happy that there is broad bipartisan support against these Bills. But that’s not enough. If these Bills fail, the Governor has proposed his own Bill SB 874 with 32 pages of detail on a very powerful school consolidation commission that will make decisions that may or may not have to be put to vote by the legislators. The Governor stated he will sign it into law. There is also discussion of a new Regional Tax layer – to add to our Federal, State and Local taxes – to support all of this.

In the end, Forced Regionalization equals Forced Equalization equals Forced Marginalization. The sum is Disaster to our communities.
The word needs to get out to our communities, so at the very least they are educated on the subject and not blind-sided when they learn of the fate of their children’s education or are shocked when they see their future tax bills.
How can we make this happen? How can we get the word out? We have very little time.
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