December 8, 2022

No Primaries for Municipal Offices in Chester, Deep River or Essex

Despite caucus contests for some top party nominations, there will be no primaries for positions on the municipal election ballots in Chester, Deep River, or Essex.

Town clerks in the three towns reported Wednesday that no one had filed petitions for the Sept. 13 municipal primary date by the 4 p.m. deadline.  Likewise, no petition candidates emerged for any of the top municipal petitions by the Wednesday deadline.
There were contests for party nominations in Deep River and Essex. In Deep River, former selectman and Democratic Town committee endorsed candidate Russell Marth was edged for the board of selectmen nomination at the July 20 Democratic caucus by planning and zoning commission member Angus McDonald Jr. McDonald defeated Marth at the caucus on an 18-15 paper ballot vote, but Marth, who served a single term on the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election in 2007 as the nominee of the Deep River Independent Party, decided not to contest MacDonald in a primary.

There will be no contests Nov. 8 for the board of selectmen in Deep River, with Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith uncontested for a record 12th term.  Incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria is seeking a second term and McDonald is on the ballot as Smith’s Democratic running-mate.

In Essex, Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman and running-mate Stacia Libby will face off in the Nov. 8 election with Republican nominee Bruce MacMillian and one-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi. Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, in office since 2003, is not seeking re-election.

Needleman and Libby, a former Republican, were challenged at the July 25 Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement session by Anthony Chirico and Linda Savitsky, but Chirico and Savitsky pledged that evening not to wage a primary after Needleman and Libby won the committee endorsement. MacMillian was challenged at the July 20 Republican caucus by Leigh Rankin, but Rankin pledged not to wage a primary after MacMillan won the caucus on a 36-24 paper ballot vote.

In Chester, Democrat Edmund Meehan is competing for the open first selectman seat with Andrew Landsman, running as the nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party. There is a Nov. 8 contest for board of selectmen between Incumbent Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher, incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert, and Glen Ryer, running as the selectman nominee of the Chester Common Ground Party.

Chester Republicans did not nominate a candidate for first selectman to succeed three-term Republican-turned Independent First Selectman Tom Marsh, who resigned Aug. 1 to become town manager in Windsor, Vt. Republicans had nominated only a partial Nov. 8 election slate at the July 25 caucus, and indicated they would seek to fill out their slate with additional candidates nominated through a primary petition. But Town Clerk Debra Calamari reported there were no petitions filed for additional Republican candidates by the Wednesday deadline.

Highland Hall – A Part of the Town’s Cultural History

To The Editor:

We recently learned that the former Essex Elementary School (aka Highland Hall) is again slated for demolition. After a hiatus of almost five years its owner, Our Ladies of Sorrows Catholic Church, has again requested a demolition permit from the Town. The building is located behind the Church on Prospect St. and abuts and overlooks the Grove St. Park and Town Hall properties. It was constructed in 1920 and served as the Town’s elementary school until 1954, when it was sold and used as a convalescent home until its acquisition by the Church in 2004. The building has been vacant and unused for several years, thus one can presume that its condition has deteriorated, however the reason for demolition and future plans for the property have not been announced.  The Church has been asked to delay demolition in accordance with the Town’s delay of demolition ordinance, which gives interested parties the opportunity to explore and discuss ways to save the building.

Essex has lost many of its historic buildings to the wrecking ball over the past several years, a trend which is both alarming and likely to continue unless measures are taken to curb this trend. Each time a historic building is destroyed, a part of the Town’s culture and history is destroyed with it. The Town’s many wonderful old buildings are essential to the charm and character of Essex; they are, in a sense, its heart and soul and have drawn many of us to this community. Historic preservation is desirable because it enriches our lives and makes us proud. The Town has established an Architectural Design Review Subcommittee to study and recommend ways to preserve the integrity of the Town’s heritage, however its work is not yet complete.

We believe the School holds fond memories for many townspeople and is significant in terms of Town history; it is a “soul” worth saving and should not be hastily eradicated without exploring other alternatives. Surely there are many uses for this centrally located historic building that are far superior to alternatives involving demolition. However preservation requires commitment, imagination, time, effort, and money, all of which are scarce commodities. Whether or not the School can be preserved remains to be seen, however at the very least it deserves a thoughtful and meaningful discussion on preservation and reuse possibilities and  we urge the Church, all  interested parties, and the public at large to explore realistic options  for reuse and preservation, in accordance with the delay of demolition ordinance.


Frederick and Mary Ann Pleva
Essex, CT


Essex Zoning Commission Approves New Plains Road Business Zone

ESSEX– The zoning commission has approved a new business zone for Plains Road that was presented at a series of public hearings beginning in April. The panel approved the zone change on a unanimous vote at its July 18 meeting.

Joseph Budrow, zoning enforcement officer, said the zone change becomes effective on Sept. 1. Budrow said the commission made no significant changes to the zone change plan, which was developed by the panel over the past two years.

The zone change covers about 30 properties on both sides of a one-mile stretch of Plains Road, extending from the Valley Railroad crossing to the intersection with Bokum Road and Westbrook Road, also known as Route 153. Most of the parcels had been zoned for light industrial uses, with some commercial uses that had been created through variances approved by the zoning board of appeals. The language for the zone change would allow for a variety of commercial/business uses, including restaurants, under a special permit approved by the zoning commission.

The new business zone drew support from residents and property owners at the public hearings, with some property owners contending the new zone should also include six parcels located on the east side of Plains Road, between the railroad crossing and the entrance to southbound Route 9.

Budrow said the commission decided to allow the property owners, either individually or as a group, petition for a zone change for their parcels to be included in the new business zone. “The commission indicated it would be open to considering that,” he said.

Essex Park & Rec Youth Sports Programs Starting Soon!

Essex Park and Recreation is excited to bring our community the following Youth Sport Programs. Registration will be available on line Aug. 4 at or you may register by mail using a program waiver form. The deadline for Running Rams & Slamma Jamma is September 1 the other program deadline is Wed. Sept. 7.  Register Early as there are a limited number of available spots for each program. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Park and Recreation OfficeTown of EssexPark and Recreation29 West Ave. Essex, CT  860-767-4340 x110 or 14

Look for the New Fall Program Brochure coming to your mailbox soon! The expanded Fall Programs  include: More Preschool & Adult Programs along with MORE EES After Hours Programs: Irish Step Dancing, Gymnastics, Ceramics, Group Guitar Workshops, Nature Exploration Mad Science, Computer Explorers, Creative Art, Karate, Children’s Music & American Red Cross.

Running Rams-Ready Set Run!: Coach Cap is back! This 5 week program will introduce children to the fun and satisfaction of running. Peter Capezzone is an Ivoryton resident, the Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Old Saybrook High School and the founder of Running Rams LLC, providing spring and summer track programs to shoreline area youths for over 10 years. Who: Gr.  1-6 Meets: Wednesdays (*Tuesday Sept. 20) Session I: Sept. 7, 14, 20*, 28, Oct. 12Time: 5:30p-6:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: John Winthrop Junior High Field

Youth Tennis-Session 1:  Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volleys, serves, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades K-8Meets: Mondays Time: 3:45p-4:45Dates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5Location:  Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky

Youth Tennis-Session 2: Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volley, serve, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades 2—8th ***See BelowMeets: Mondays Time: 5p-6pDates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5 Max 10 Location: Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky***Participants in grades K & 1 may enroll in our 3:45pm clinic only

Boys Lacrosse Clinic: Our instructors will help work on all aspects of lacrosse. Every player will be given individual and group instruction with an emphasis on basic fundaments skills (limited contact). Learn the latest techniques of the game, refine skills to improve your level of play and strengthen team concepts and strategies. This program is ideal for the beginning or intermediate player.  Must bring own LAX equipment. Equipment List: Helmet, Mouth Piece, Shoulder Pads, Arms Pads, Gloves, Cup, Cleats, & StickWho: Boys Gr.1-6 Meets: Saturdays Session I: September 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15 Time: 4:00p-5:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: Essex Elementary School FieldInstructor: Graham Rider, CT River Ticks Boys Lacrosse Coach.

Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic: Clinic is for girls in grades 1-6 who have never played lacrosse before or who have limited experience.  This is the ideal clinic for beginning players to learn the skills and techniques in a fun, no pressure, and positive environment. Girls will have a great time at this fun and action packed week. Open to girls in the towns of Essex, Deep River, Chester, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook All gear will be provided by the Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic (except mouth guard, which is mandatory to participate). This includes stick and eye gear! Every participant will receive a Shoreline Girls Lacrosse T-Shirt. The clinic will include, cradling, passing catching, stick handling, ground ball shooting, dodging and mobility on the field.  However, there will be no goalkeeper training at this clinic.  The girls will enjoy small sided and skill games along with contests awards and an end of the week raffle. Who: Girls Gr.1-6Meets: Sundays Session I: September 11, 18, 25, Oct. 2, 9, 16Time: TBA Cost: $75.00 Location: Essex Elementary School Field Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Greg Ruel, Phys Ed. Teacher and CT River Ticks Girls Lacrosse Coach. US Lacrosse certified.

NEW!!! Slamma Jamma Fall Basketball!! Our fall clinics take certain elements from both our summer camps and individual instruction programs to create a positive learning environment. Skill development is the primary focus. These clinics are a great way to prepare young athletes for their upcoming recreation, travel and school season. Each session is independent of the other so that all aspects of the game are covered. The clinics are tailored to meet the needs of the beginner to the advanced player. Players are broken up into smaller groups within the whole. If you are interested in having Coach Leary and his coaching staff gets you ready for your season, join us at our fall clinics!  Tentative information is below. It is subject change.  Who: Boys & Girls Gr.1-6Meets: WednesdaysSession I: September 7,14,21,28, Oct. 5, 12Time: 3p-4:30pFee: 70.00Location: Essex Elementary School Gym Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Slamma Jamma Basketball Coaching Staff

Essex Savings Bank Recycles Income to Non-profits

Essex — Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO of Essex Savings Bank announced that non-profit community organizations will receive $97,341 from the Directors’ portion of the Bank’s Community Investment Program.  The Bank annually commits 10% of its after tax net income to qualifying organizations.  In April 2011, the Bank donated $73,127 to 83 non-profits who participated in the customer preference balloting at the Bank.  By year end 2011, $243,740 will have been allocated to over 200 organizations bringing the total distribution since the inception of the program in 1996 to $3,159,887.

The Directors’ portion of the fund will be donated to the following:

Adopt A Library Program (Assessment Area)          $6,341

– Allows nine libraries within eight of the Bank’s assessment area towns to subscribe to eight new magazines of their choice

Camp Hazen YMCA (Chester)         $5,000

-2012 Healthy Kids Day Sponsor

The Chester Historical Society, Inc. (Chester) $2,000

-Help underwrite the cost of three newsletters

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. (Essex)            $1,250

-Sponsor Lyme/Old Lyme Garden Tour & Essex Holiday House Tour Gala (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $2,250)

Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Inc. (Essex)            $5,000

-Toward funding of newsletter and Annual Report

Connecticut Audubon Society (Essex)                            $1,000

-Eagle Watch 2011/Eagle Boats Program (Boat Cruises)

The Deep River Historical Society (Deep River)                        $800

-Toward mailing of Society’s newsletters and flyers for special activities

Essex Land Trust (Essex)                                $2,500

-Fund three newsletters (2012 edition of “Essex Woods & Waters”)

Essex Library Association (Essex)                            $2,000

-Help offset the cost of producing the print version of “Ex Libris” newsletter

Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc. (Old Saybrook)                        $2,500

-Underwrite a portion of the mailing expenses for monthly newsletter, “The Estuary Gazette”

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)                            $1,750

-Co-Sponsor “Major Donor” Reception (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $3,500)

Florence Griswold Museum (Old Lyme)                            $5,00

-Co-Sponsor “The Magic of Christmas” in 2011  (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

Goodspeed Musicals (Chester/East Haddam)                        $5,000

-2011 Show Sponsorship of “Cutman” at The Norma Terris Theater, Chester

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme)                    $5,000

-2011 Co-Sponsor “Here Comes the Mummies” (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, Inc. (Old Lyme)                    $2,500

-Help underwrite the cost of producing both the printed and electronic newsletters and maintaining and developing the website during 2011-2012 fiscal/academic year

Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center & Theatre (Old Saybrook)            $5,000

-Taste of Old Saybrook/Eileen Ivers Festival

Literacy Volunteers – Valley Shore, CT, Inc. (Westbrook)                $2,000

-Publishing and mailing the quarterly newsletter, “Tutor”

Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (Old Lyme)                    $3,250

-Co-Sponsor the 2011 Scholarship Party (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $6,500)

Lyme Art Association (Old Lyme)                            $1,75

-Presenting Sponsor of the 2011 New England Landscape Invitational Exhibition, Primary Sponsor of the Weekly E-blasts (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $3,500)

The Lyme Public Library, Incorporated (Lyme)                        $1,200

-Fund annual cost of Library’s newsletter

Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) (Old Lyme)                    $5,000

-Fund newsletter, “Youth Connections” both printed and online

MacCurdy Salisbury Educational Foundation, Inc. (Old Lyme)                $2,000

-Fund newsletter, “Evelyn’s Wishes”

The Madison Historical Society (Madison)                        $5,000

-Toward underwriting the costs of publishing the Society’s quarterly newsletter

Middlesex County Community Foundation, Inc. (MCCF)  (Middletown)            $5,000

-Reception and “Showboat” Co-Sponsor (Becky Thatcher Riverboat cruise followed by the musical, “Showboat” at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam on September 7, 2011) (Co-Sponsor with Essex Financial Services, Inc., Total cost of $10,000)

Middlesex County Community Foundation, Inc. (MCCF)  (Middletown)            $4,000

-John A. Barr, Jr. Fund, Sponsor MCCF’s two printed newsletters and multiple e-newsletter for 2011

The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Association, Inc. (Old Lyme)        $2,500

-Costs associated with two printed and electronic newsletters for 2012

Tri-Town Youth Service Bureau, Inc. (Deep River)                    $5,000

-Toward printing and distribution of three issues of Agency newsletter

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook)                            $5,000

-Exclusive naming rights for “Healthy Kids Day” 2012

Valley-Shore YMCA (Westbrook)                            $2,500

-Lead funder of the “Afterschool Enrichment Program” for the 2011-2012 school year

Westbrook Youth and Family Services, Inc. (Westbrook)                    $500

-Toward printing and mailing of two Bureau newsletters

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

Norman Needleman Declares for Democratic First Selectman Nomination with Stacia Libby, Former Republican, as Running-Mate

ESSEX— Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman formally declared as a candidate for the open first selectman nomination Monday, announcing Stacia Rice Libby, a former Republican, as his running-mate for board of selectmen.

About 35 Democrats turned out for the announcement on the front steps of town hall. Needleman was introduced by Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who has served on the board with Needleman since their first election in 2003. Miller, who was elected state representative for the 36th House District in a February special election, said Needleman and Libby would be a “strong team” for the town.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee will hold an endorsement session for the 2011 election slate Monday at 6:30 p.m. in town hall. The Needleman-Libby ticket is facing a challenge for the party nominations from Anthony Chirico, running for first selectman, and Linda Savitsky, running for board of selectmen. Chirico, a former Republican, was the unsuccessful GOP challenger to Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook in 2000 and 2002. Chirico, who became a Democrat in 2004, served previously on the zoning commission with Savitsky, a former employee of the state Office of Policy and Management.

Needleman, 59, moved to Essex in 1987, founding Tower Laboratories, a manufacturing company located at the Essex Industrial Park. Before running with Miller in 2003, he served on the zoning board of appeals and the economic development commission. Needleman said he asked Libby, who currently serves on the park and recreation commission, to change her party registration and become his running-mate.

Libby, 38, is a 14-year town resident who has also been active on the board of the Essex Community Fund. Until last week, Libby was a member of the Essex Republican Town Committee. Town Republicans accepted her letter of resignation from the committee on July 13, and Libby changed her registration from Republican to Democrat the following day. She is married and the mother of two children.

Needleman said he has the experience needed for the position of first selectman. Needleman said “the role of first selectman would be the first priority to me,” noting that he has “an experienced, capable management team in place,” to run his company.

Needleman said he is prepared for a possible challenge from Chirico, which could lead to a Sept. 13 Democratic primary to determine the party nominees. “I am going to work very hard to get us elected as a team,” he said.

Candidates who do not receive the town committee endorsement could force a primary by submitting petition signatures signed by five percent of the town’s registered Democratic voters, or about 60 signatures, by an early August deadline. Town Republicans are expected to nominate Bruce MacMillian, a former member of the Essex Housing Authority, for first selectman, and incumbent Republican Selectman Joel Marzi as the running-mate at the party caucus Wednesday evening.

Essex Selectmen Delay Public Hearing on Regional Health District

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has again delayed scheduling a public hearing on the option of joining the Connecticut River Area Regional Health District.

First Selectman Phil Miller said Thursday the board, which held a workshop on the health district Wednesday, has decided to discuss the issue further at its Dec. 1 meeting before setting the date for a public hearing on the option of joining the regional health district. Miller said the board wanted to review the estimated cost per year of one additional configuration of health services related personnel. This would involve having the town hire a full-time director of health, who would also be qualified as a sanitarian, with a part-time assistant.

During the workshop with Mary Jane Engle, director of the Connecticut River Area Regional Health District, the board received cost comparisons for five configurations of health services related personnel, and later dropped the two most costly options from consideration. Joining the regional health district that was established in July 2006 by the towns of Clinton, Deep River, and Old Saybrook, was the least costly option, with the district providing all health-related services, from septic system inspections to restaurant inspections and public health clinics, for $88,192 per fiscal year.

The town’s current configuration for health-related personnel, including a part-time health director, a full-time environmental analyst, with a contracted sanitarian and food inspector, is costing $113,198 in the current fiscal year. The option of having a contracted director of health, with a full-time sanitarian and full-time environmental analyst, would cost $167,209 per year.

Miller had appointed Engle as the town’s part-time health director on a month-to-month basis in October after Dr. William McCann, a local physician, resigned from the position. The selectmen later agreed to conduct a full review of health services options for the town, and hold another public hearing on the option of joining the regional health district.

Engle told the selectmen Wednesday the regional health district, which has its office in Old Saybrook, employs three sanitarians, and strives for a two-day response for most permit applications and services such as soils testing for residential septic systems. Engle is also a sanitarian, and held the job in Westbrook before the regional health district was established.

Essex selectmen held an initial public hearing on the regional health district in June 2006, before the district went in to operation, and later decided not to join the district based on a generally negative reaction at the public hearing. A second public hearing held last February drew a mixed response, with more expressions of support for joining the regional health district.

Miller said he anticipates the public hearing on the regional health district would be held in January, after the approaching Christmas holidays. The selectmen would then decide whether to bring the issue of joining the regional health district to a final vote at a town meeting.

Essex Town Meeting Approves Appropriations and Appointments

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Monday unanimously approved six appropriations and more than two dozen reappointments to towns and board and commissions.

About 15 residents turned out for the town meeting, called the annual town meeting because the agenda also includes approval of the annual town report. The town report for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is dedicated to Josephine Bombaci, a longtime resident and member of the Essex Democratic Town Committee who died in September.

Four of the appropriations, including $33,796 for the town clerk’s office, $32,815 for the grants and special appropriations account, $16,408 for a wastewater management study for the Ivoryton village area, and $3,450 for parks and recreation, were already covered or offset by grants, fees, or revenue and required no new appropriations of town funds. Most of the discussion focused on two additional appropriations that were not offset by grants, revenue or fees, $41,646 for legal services and $68,462 for police services.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Francis said the overrun for legal services, which required an appropriation of additional funds, was partly caused by court appeals of new property assessments established under the last revaluation, and negotiations on a new contract for the union representing town highway workers.

The $68,462 additional appropriation for police services was partly offset by a drunk driving enforcement grant of about $50,000. The grant, which requires a 25 percent match of town funds, is used to pay police overtime for enhanced drunk driving enforcement, including police check points, at certain times of the year.

But about $18,000 of the budget overrun resulted from additional overtime for town police officers. First Selectman Phil Miller noted that two of the town’s four full-time officers have been out at various times over the past year, one for a medical leave and another for an approved leave of absence while the officer attends the Connecticut Police Academy to train for a possible job as a state trooper.

All of the reappointments to boards and commissions were approved on unanimous voice votes without discussion. Reappointments for three-year terms ending in December 2013 include  Douglas Demarest and Jeffrey Lovelace for the conservation commission, Charles Corson, Dan Lapman and alternate Stephen Knauth for the inland wetlands commission, Jeffrey Going, Joseph Zaraschi and alternate Earl Fowler for the harbor management commission, Michael Holmes, James Rawn, Jack Spangler and alternate Edward Burleson for the park and recreation commission, Stuart Ingersoll and Alix Walmsley for the zoning board of appeals, Hope Proctor and alternate Jim Hill for the zoning commission, and Adrienne Brochu and Mark Pratt for the tree committee.

Reappointed for two year terms ending in December 2012 were John Beveridge, William Foster, Alan Kerr, and David Winstead for the economic development commission, and Alvin Wolfgram for the sanitary waste commission and the water pollution control authority. Reappointed for five-year terms on the planning commission ending in December 2015 were Carla Feroni and commission alternates Robert Laundy, Neil Nichols, and Claire Tiernan.

Appointments to the retirement committee, which supervises the pension funds for town employees, were made by First Selectman Phil Miller, and did not require confirmation by voters at a town meeting. Reappointed for five year terms on the retirement committee were Carl Ellison, Jim Francis, Paul Fazzino, and Ellen Wexler, with Selectman Norman Needleman appointed to a spot on the committee that had been held by Linda Savitsky, who had been serving as chairwoman of the committee in recent years.

Charles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex, and has covered various Middlesex County towns for two daily newspapers over the past 30 years.  He worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995 and the Hartford Courant from 1997 through last summer, and covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade.  Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.

13 Apply for Vacant Essex Zoning Enforcement Officer Position

ESSEX— A total of 13 people have applied for the job of zoning enforcement officer, a position that has been vacant since May. Maria Lucarelli , assistant to the board of selectmen, said Monday 13 applications were received by an end-of-August deadline.

Lucarelli said a selection committee, including members of the zoning and inland-wetlands commissions, along with Selectman Joel Marzi, is expected to meet this week to pick five finalists for possible interviews.

The zoning enforcement officer job, which also includes enforcement duties for the inland-wetlands commission, has been vacant since the departure of Deep River resident Marian Staye from the position in mid-May. Staye, who held the job for nearly eight uyears, has been working part-time in the position at least one day each week during the interim period.

In late July, the board of selectmen accepted a recommendation from the selection committee and offered the job to Robert Flanagan, a Thomaston resident who was working as zoning enforcement officer in Redding. After a final intwerview with the selectmen, Flanagan declined to accept the job offer.

Essex to Pursue Ivoryton Village Wastewater Management Study

ESSEX— The town is expected to use its own funds to complete a preliminary study of wastewater disposal options in the Ivoryton village area.
The board of selectmen last week endorsed an expenditure of up to $7,000 to pay for a study by engineers with Fuss & O’Neill of Manchester to analyze options, including potential sites, for a community septic system that would serve several properties in Ivoryton village. The funding appropriation, which goes to the board of finance for final approval at it’s Sept. 16 meeting, was requested by the water pollution control authority, with support form the planning commission.
A separate study coordinated by the planning commission  last year had determined that wastewater disposal was a major factor limiting economic development in the Ivoryton village area.
Cheryl Haase, staff clerk for the WPCA, said the total cost of the study is $15,800. The panel had expected state funds to cover most of the cost of the study, but learned earlier this year that state funding was not available. Haase said the town had $9,408 remaining in an account that was created in the 1990s for wastewater management issues in the downtown Essex village area.
Haase said the town also has $38,408 remaining from funding that was set aside for the now completed closure of the town’s former septic lagoons off Dump Road. She suggested a portion of that money could be transferred for the Ivoryton Village study.
Haase said the study would analyze water usage and soils testing data to develop a “short list” of properties that could be potential feasible sites for a possible future community septic system that would serve several commercial and residential properties in the Ivoryton village area. The study would not pay for extensive onsite testing of specific properties, a step that could occur in the future.

Essex Selectmen Set September 20 Hearing and Vote on Anti-Blight Ordinance

ESSEX— After months of on and off discussion, the board of selectmen has scheduled a Sept. 20 public hearing and town meeting vote on a local anti-blight ordinance.

The public hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.  First Selectman Phil Miller said the current plan is to open the town meeting and vote on the ordinance immediately after the conclusion of the public hearing.
 Miller said the vote could be deferred to another date if comments at the public hearing indicate residents are not comfortable with any aspect of the proposed ordinance. “They could send us back to the drawing board and there would be no vote that night,” he said.

The board began discussing a possible anti-blight ordinance last winter after complaints from property owners about three houses that have remained standing for months after sustaining severe damage from fires.The proposed ordinance was drafted by town attorney David Royston after a review of anti-blight ordinances in other Connecticut municipalities.

The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to “prevent or eliminate blighted premises” in Essex. It defines a blighted structure as one the town building official determines poses “a serious threat to public health and safety,” and contains “violations of the Connecticut Public Health Code” as determined by the town’s health director. A blighted structure could also be “a fire hazard as determined by the fire marshall or documentsed by fire department records.” The ordinance would prohibit blighted structures as a “public nuisance.”

Formal complaints about a blighted structure must be presented in writing to the first selectman, building official, fire marshall, health director or zoning enforcement officer.

If there is a determination that blighted conditions exist at a structure, town officials would then issue a notice of violation to the property owner. The notice of violation would include a description of the violations, and a deadline of no more than 15 days after the notice of violation is issued for correction of the blighted conditions. The deadline for compliance could be extended for up to 60 days by the first selectman or his or her designee.

Property owners would have an opportunity to appeal a notice of violation to the board of selectmen. The board of selectmen is authorized “but under no circumstances is required” to take remedial action to correct a blighted structure, including initiation of legal proceedings in superior court to recover all costs incurred by the town, “including reasonable attorney’s fees,” to correct a blighted structure situation.

The ordinance provides for fines of $100 per day for violations, and authorizes the town to impose liens on properties to recover costs incurred in resolving a blighted structure violation.

During discussion of the proposed ordinance earlier this year. Royston had cautioned the selectmen that the town could be unable to recover all costs incurred in correcting a blighted structure situation if a property owner lacks the assets to cover the costs. The provision for leins on parcels could allow the town to recover expenses if and when the property is sold.

Essex Pratt House Nears End of Season

ESSEX – The historic Pratt House Museum will be open a few more weekends for tours, giving visitors a glimpse at how a prominent Essex family lived in the 1700s.

This is a chance to view some of the museum’s collections including “courting mirrors,” small mirrors with painted borders of leaves and flowers given by men to the women they were courting, and redware – a type of earthenware owned by the earliest English settlers.

The house, at 19 West Ave., was home to seven generations of the Pratt family from 1701 to 1915. The gambrel-roofed house is furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques including a fine collection of chairs.

The house is operated by the Essex Historical Society and is open Saturdays and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. through September. Admission is free but donations are accepted. For more information about the house, go to

Essex Finance Board Sends Town Clerk Request Back to the Selectmen

ESSEX— The board of finance Thursday declined to act on Town Clerk Frances Nolin’s request for additional hours for her office assistant, sending the issue back to the board of selectmen.

Nolin, represented by Chester lawyer John Bennet, asked the board to approve about $10,000 in additional funding to bring her assistant, Dana Novorio, back to a 30-hour work week. First Selectman Phil Miller had reduced the assistant’s hours to 20 hours-per-week in March 2009 as a cost saving measure. Five hours, to a 25-hour-week, were restored in the current town budget that became effective July 1.

Nolin, represented by Bennet, had appeared before the board of selectmen on July 7 to seek approval for a restortation of the 30-hour-week. Bennet said Nolin has had difficulty in performing all of the duties of the office without the additional hours for an assistant. He said Nolin could be forced to reduce the hours for the office, which is currently open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, if the hours were not restored.

A 30-hour-week for Novorio would also recover her some fringe benefits as a full-time employee. Before the reduction in hours, she had received a $3,000 payment in lieu of health insurance, which Novorio has through her husband’s coverage.

Bennet said Nolin is seeking additional funding of $9,933, including the $3,000 payment in lieu of coverage, $5,933 in salary, and an additional $1,000 for other part-time help if needed during the 2010-2011 fiscal year. He said Nolin does not want to reduce hours for the office, but could be forced to without additional hours for the assistant.

James Francis, finance board chairman since 2003, said Nolin’s request was the first the board had received without a prior approval of the expenditure by the board of selectmen. “This is the first time someone has come to us directly,” he said.

Board member Campbell Hudson also questioned whether the board should act on a funding request that had not been approved by the selectmen. Hudson added that budget appropriations for town offices should only be changed in the “most extreme cases,” particularly less than two months in to a fiscal year.

First Selectman Phil Miller said he had offered to restore Novorio to a 28-hour week, three additional hours, though the selectmen did not vote on the additional hours on July 7 because Nolin had indicated she would not accept the compromise suggestion. Miller acknowledged the town clerk is an elected official “with a certain degree of autonomy,” adding “she can close on Fridays if she wants and then explain it to our citizens.”

Bennet said Nolin would bring her request back to the board of selectmen, and seek a formal vote on a specific additional appropriation. “We’re not going to try to upset that procedural applecart,” he said.

Connecticut River Museum Starts Fire Damage Cleanup, Establishes Donation Fund, Plans Reopening

A fire that began on the steamboat dock damaged the Connecticut River Museum

Essex, CT — After a fire broke out late Wednesday evening and caused severe damage to the Connecticut River Museum’s historic 1878 Steamboat Warehouse building and dock, museum officials have begun cleanup efforts and established a fund for financial donations for repair and restoration expenses.

While the prompt response and preparedness of volunteer fire crews from Essex and surrounding towns saved the building and all of the invaluable artifacts and treasures inside, heavy smoke and water damage did occur. The Connecticut River Museum Fire Fund has been established to help rebuild, restore and return the museum and dock to full operation. Donations may be mailed to: Connecticut River Museum Fire Fund, 67 Main Street, Essex, CT, 06426 or made online by going to

River cruises aboard the Schooner Mary E have been operating on a regular schedule without interruption and will continue through the Fall foliage season with daily sails at 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 6:00 pm.

The exhibit galleries, now temporarily closed, will open over a staggered timeline. The Museum gift shop and the main floor gallery exhibit On the Great River, which showcases the Turtle submarine and the 1814 British Raid on Essex, should be open to the public within a week.

The Boathouse Gallery and Education Center is scheduled to reopen by mid-September while the second floor gallery boasting a brand new exhibit opening is planned for sometime in October. The third floor exhibit space, which experienced the most damage, will be the last to open with the 17th Annual Holiday Train Show on November 19.

The Museum’s annual Family Maritime Festival has been postponed to Saturday, August 21 and will now include a special tribute to all of the firefighters who battled the blaze and minimized the damage. The public is invited to an afternoon of free maritime games, sea chanteys, schooner deck tours, rope making and more on the Museum’s lawn from 1:00 pm- 4:30 pm. At 5 pm, a free concert featuring sea chanteys by Freemen of the Sea and folk rock by Amalgamated Muck will take place and include a special presentation to honor members of area fire departments.

For more information or to reserve a schooner cruise ticket, call (860)767-8269. The Connecticut River Museum, located at 67 Main Street on the historic Essex waterfront, is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the natural beauty and cultural heritage of New England’s Great River.

Quick Reaction Saves CT River Museum from Wednesday Evening Fire

A quick response and a used ladder truck purchased by the Essex Volunteer Fire Dept. last year saved the historic Connecticut River Museum from a fast moving fire Wednesday night.

The fire in the riverfront museum at the foot of Main Street was reported by boaters around 9:20 p.m. Essex volunteer firefighters, already gathered at the nearby firehouse for a training session, arrived on the scene within minutes to find the east side of the three-story building that faces the river ablaze. Essex firefighters were quickly joined by volunteers from Deep River, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. About 75 firefighters and a dozen fire trucks and emergency vehicles responded to the blaze.

Susan Daniels, marketing director for the museum, said firefighters inside the building were able to cover and save all of the museum’s artifacts and exhibits while other firefighters battled the fire that was burning on the exterior east side of the building. The museum has about 75 exhibits on the history of the lower Connecticut River, including a painting of the British raid on Essex in 1814 and a replica of the Turtle, a small submarine that was used during the American Revolution.

Essex firefighters deployed a ladder truck to extinguish fre that had begun to burn through the roof on the east side of the building. The Essex Volunteer Fire Department purchased the 1994 Sutphen Corp. ladder truck from the Palm Beach, Florida Fire Department for $234,000. The truck arrived in Essex last November.

Selectman Joel Marzi, who was in the downtown village when the fire began, said the ladder truck and the skills of the volunteer firefighters saved the building. “I think that truck paid for itself last night,” he said.

Fire Marshall Keith Nolin agreed the ladder truck was very helpful in allowing firefighters to douse the blaze from above. Nolin said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, though he has determined it started under the dock that abuts the east side of the building.

Nolin said firefighters had the blaze under control by 11 p.m. and remained on the scene until around 1 a.m. He said the fire does not appear to be of suspicious origin.

Daniels said crews from Bogaert Construction of Essex have already begun securing the damaged area and repairing the roof. She said exhibits have been moved  to allow crews to clean the interior of the building from smoke and water damage.

“It could have been much worse,” she said. “The fire department responded quickly and they came prepared to put out a museum fire. We are very grateful for their phenominal response.”

Daniels said insurance is expected to cover most of the cost of repairs, with the museum expected to reopen in September. She said schooner cruises on the Mary E and other outdoor activities will continue while repairs are underway.

The Connecticut River Museum was founded in 1974 by a group of area residents who obtained a loan that allowed the purchase of the Steamboat Dock building for $200,000. The building was constructed as a warehouse for steamboats in 1878, and later operated as a restaurant called the Upper Deck in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The museum formally opened in May 1982, though some areas of the building had opened to the public for exhibits in the late 1970s. The museum attracts about 10,000 visitors each year and has a staff of 12 full and part-time employees.