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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joint Workshop scheduled regarding the Incentive Housing Zone

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

REMINDER – WALLINGFORD ORDINANCE COMMITTEE (AGENDA)

TOWN OF WALLINGFORD, CONNECTICUT

SPECIAL TOWN COUNCIL MEETING

ORDINANCE COMMITTEE

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ROOM 315, TOWN HALL

6:30 p.m.

1. Call to Order.

2. Pledge of Allegiance.

3. Discussion and possible action on revision(s) to Chapter 156 regarding "Blighted Properties," as submitted by the Law Department.

4. Discussion and possible action with regard to Chapter 43 Purchasing Local Business Preference of the Code of the Town of Wallingford, as submitted by Councilor Parisi.

5. Discussion and possible action on repealing Chapter 75 (Bicycles), as submitted by Councilor Fishbein.

6. Discussion and possible action with respect to purchase, reporting, transfer, sale, methods of sale and disposal of supplies, as submitted by Councilor Zandri.

7. Adjournment.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

AGENDA – WALLINGFORD ORDINANCE COMMITTEE

TOWN OF WALLINGFORD, CONNECTICUT

SPECIAL TOWN COUNCIL MEETING

ORDINANCE COMMITTEE

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ROOM 315, TOWN HALL

6:30 p.m.

1. Call to Order.

2. Pledge of Allegiance.

3. Discussion and possible action on revision(s) to Chapter 156 regarding "Blighted Properties," as submitted by the Law Department.

4. Discussion and possible action with regard to Chapter 43 Purchasing Local Business Preference of the Code of the Town of Wallingford, as submitted by Councilor Parisi.

5. Discussion and possible action on repealing Chapter 75 (Bicycles), as submitted by Councilor Fishbein.

6. Discussion and possible action with respect to purchase, reporting, transfer, sale, methods of sale and disposal of supplies, as submitted by Councilor Zandri.

7. Adjournment.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gouveia may run for Town Council

Wallingford Democrat last served in ’90s

As published in the Record Journal, Monday December 10, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD — Caught up in a wave of enthusiasm over Town Councilor Jason Zandri’s mayoral bid, fellow Democrat Peter Gouveia last week told the Record-Journal that he is considering running again for the Town Council in 2013.

The 64-year-old retired teacher was last on the council in 1998, when he was appointed to finish the term of Democrat David Doherty, who died in office. He was appointed after he was elected to three non-consecutive terms as town councilor between 1986 through 1995 He’s also the man who nearly beat current incumbent William W. Dickinson, Jr. for mayor —twice — losing by 33 votes in 1987 and 31 votes in 1991.

“I’ve always had it in back of my mind but never really took it seriously about running again,” Gouveia said. He’s been rethinking a run since Zandri announced his interest in being Democrats’ candidate for mayor in 2013. As for why he bowed out of public office in the 1990s, he said he felt he wasn’t having an impact.

“After a while you get frustrated. ... Like Jason, I’m a doer. I like to see things done.”

Gouveia repeatedly emphasized in a phone interview late last week that the decision to run was by no means final because family health issues may prevent him from running. He said he probably won’t make his decision final until the Democratic Town Committee’s nominating convention in early summer 2013.

Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone said Gouveia would be a boon for the party.

“Have anybody like that on your ticket bolsters your entire ticket ... and helps attract other candidates,” Avallone said.

Gouveia was known as a vocal councilor. He often focused on topics of energy, the town’s trash plant and environmental issues, working on hazardous waste collection days in the mid 1980s and publicly faulting the state Department of Environmental Protection at the time for not finding the source of contamination of private wells near Grieb Road and East Main Street. Though he entered the council after the decision to construct the town’s waste-to energy plant, he often expressed opposition.

Gouveia also addressed social issues, calling for state funded AIDS literature to be mailed out to residents in 1987, and opposing town pension investments in companies with South African connections in the midst of apartheid.

“Our town money should not in any way help prop up a regime that promotes racial discrimination,” Gouveia said in a 1986 article in the Record-Journal.

His positions were diligently researched, former councilors of both parties say.

“I don’t think he and I would necessarily see eye-to-eye,” said former Councilor Stephen Knight, a Republican, whose terms overlapped with Gouveia’s in the 1990’s, but “I always found him to be well-prepared for the meetings, that his opinions were based on solid research and thorough study.”

Former Councilor Geno Zandri, a Democrat and Jason’s father, agreed.

“I think he has a pulse for the community,” Geno Zandri said.

Gouveia said he’d be able to devote much more time to research these days. “This time it would be even better — because I have a lot of time on my hands,” he said.

Gouveia retired from teaching in 2008 after 34 years in the Trumbull schools.

Since then he has remained involved on the Democratic Town Committee as its vice president, and is also vice president of the Center Street Cemetery under former Republican Councilor Jerry Farrell Jr. Farrell said Gouveia’s involvement at the cemetery and Holy Trinity Church could help him in a run.

“When you run for office certainly past exposure in these settings (is helpful) you want to know the person more than the party label, all of that is helpful,” Farrell said.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Zandri’s lamppost probe cut short

As published in the Record Journal Friday December 7, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democratic mayoral candidate, said he would drop his inquest into the Electric Department’s recent scrapping of 39 ornamental lampposts after this week’s memorandum from Town Attorney Gerald Farrell Sr. Farrell wrote that the disposal did not violate town ordinances.

“There’s no point in continuing this effort. There’s nothing more to be gained. There’s no way to go back and undo it,”Zandri said, adding that he did not believe Farrell’s report addressed the issue he brought up, but that he didn’t want to pursue a “witch hunt.”

Zandri said though he was abandoning the issue for the moment, he would keep a close eye on how departments dispose of assets.

Farrell’s memorandum was dated Dec. 3 and sent to Zandri, the Town Council and Mayor William W. Dickinson this week in response to Zandri’s request at a Nov. 27 council meeting for a review of how the town’s Electric Division disposed of 39 20-plus-year old ornamental lampposts.

The division sent the old lampposts to a scrap metal dealer with which it has a contract after replacing them with newer poles.

Zandri has said he believes that proper disposal procedure was not followed, and that the poles could have been sold intact for a significantly higher price than the less than $2,000 received by scrapping them. The town has disputed both claims.

In the memorandum, Farrell says the Electric Division did not notify the Purchasing Department before getting rid of the lampposts, but reported afterward that that they had been scrapped. He said that was in line with rules in the Town Charter and in the Purchasing Department.

Farrell cited the Town Charter, which says the purchasing agent has the duty to transfer or sell town assets that are “surplus, obsolete or unused,” with the approval of the mayor. But Farrell indicated that the light poles are none of these, instead saying they are “nonfunctioning equipment,” which “would not fall within these categories.“ He goes on to call the items scrap and lists the town’s purchasing ordinance references for “obsolete, worn out or scrapped” items, which allows the department to simply report items they’ve scrapped, but not field requests for disposal through the Purchasing Department.

But Zandri takes issue with the lights being depicted as “non-functioning” as they were working on the streets before being replaced this fall. The Electric Division characterized the poles as having deteriorating electrical connections, being unsafe to work on, and having bases that had been damaged, but did say they were operational prior to being removed.

“The ruling basically defined what could be done with scrap. It didn’t really answer my question of what should be done with ornamental streetlights,” Zandri said.

When asked about the nonfunctioning designation, Farrell said that the department believed they were scrap.

“In the opinion of the Director of Utilities they were scrap — part of what department heads have is the discretion,” to determine the state of their own materials, Farrell said. “Too often people put things on the surplus list that are total scrap and he wishes they would use more discretion in putting it as scrap — all these broken chairs, and no one really wants them.”

A presentation Zandri made at the Nov. 27 meeting listed the broken furniture from various departments that had made its way onto the town’s surplus list, saying he was surprised that if broken chairs were listed as viable assets to be sold by the town, that working lampposts were not.

Democratic Councilor Nick Econompoulos also took issue Thursday with the designation of the lights as non-functioning.

“The lawyer who is an officer of the court is telling us that the lights are not functional when we’ve already been told by (Public Utilities Director George) Adair that they were functioning,” Econompoulos said. He said that little stock should be put into the opinion on an issue where the town could be in the wrong, by an attorney employed by the town.

Republican Councilor Vincent Cervoni disagreed.

“I think it was pretty soundly written. I think it takes into account all the facts and the reality,” Cervoni said. “I think there’s a bit of an acknowledgement that the entire process wasn’t’ followed perfectly. I think in the end the process was ratified.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hand count audits vote scans in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal Monday December 3, 2012

By Kimberly Primicerio
Record-Journal staff
kprimicerio@record-journal.com 
(203) 317-2279
Twitter:@KPrimicerioRJ

WALLINGFORD

Ten residents spent Sunday afternoon counting election ballots as part of an annual audit to check whether optical scan machines recorded the vote correctly.

Each year, the secretary of the state’s office randomly chooses 10 percent of the 747 polling precincts in the state that use optical scan voting machines for an audit. District 8 in Wallingford, the Wallingford Senior Center, was one of those selected.

“This isn’t a recount,” said Chet Miller, Republican registrar of voters. “We’re not trying to determine voter intention. We’re trying to determine whether the machine counted the ballot or not.”

Miller said the optical scan voting machines used throughout Connecticut on Nov. 6 have sensor lights. If someone didn’t fill in the circle on the ballot enough, the machine might not have counted the vote. The audit makes sure the machines are accurate and record information properly, Miller said.

On Sunday, eight paid helpers, Miller and Democratic Registrar of Voters Samuel Carmody gathered in a meeting room on the third floor in Town Hall. The volunteers, four Democrats and four Republicans who were paid $10 per hour, paired up. Miller handed each group hundreds of ballots cast at the Wallingford Senior Center on Nov. 6.

“We had a remarkably smooth presidential election on November 6th, especially given our state of recovery from Hurricane Sandy,” Denise Merrill, secretary of the state and Connecticut’s chief elections official, said in a written statement. “Now, it is our duty to audit the machine totals from the election to ensure the accuracy of our optical scanners.”

Pairs were first tasked with counting the ballots. As they did this, the room was quiet. Partners concentrated on counting and then recounted their partner’s stack of ballots.

Carmody said for the past several years a Wallingford voting district has been audited. He said no remarkable difference between hand counting and the optical scan machines has been discovered.

After each group counted ballots, they went through each ballot to see if any of its markings looked questionable. If voters checked a bubble on the ballot for their candidate instead of coloring in the bubble, it is likely the ballot was never counted. Counters looked through hundreds of ballots and picked out the questionable ones.

“Auditing election results isn’t just a good idea, it’s absolutely essential in order to guarantee the integrity of our elections,” Merrill said.

No one in the group was bothered by spending their afternoon counting ballots.

“I’ve been working at the polls since my boys were in elementary school,” said Betty Torre. Her sons are now in their 40s.

She even recruited her neighbors Genevieve and Thomas Gersz to help.

Torre and her counting partner Noma Beaumont, were sorting through the ballots and double-checking each other. Nearby, Noma Beaumont’s daughter, Cate Beaumont, was paired with Genevieve Gersz.

“I’ve been around elections since I was born,” Cate Beaumont said. Her mother brought her to a polling place when she was one month old, she explained.

After questionable ballots were located and set aside, partners then sorted ballots by the presidential choice. Those numbers were compared with official machine-recorded numbers. The same was done for congressional candidates and registrars of voters candidates.

Once all the counting was complete, some conclusions were reached.

“There were a few ballots where the ovals were not filled out completely, and therefore, a couple of votes were not cast as the voter had intended,” Carmody said. “The voting machines are smart, but they are not smart enough to decide voter intent if the ballot was improperly filled out.”

While the voting machines did their job, voters need to be reminded to fill in the ovals on their ballots completed in order for their votes to be accurately counted, Carmody said.

Carmody said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have picked up one additional vote. Congressional candidate Wayne Wins-ley, a Republican, would have picked up one additional vote in the 3rd District race. Miller would have gained one vote for registrar of voters race and Carmody would have tallied four more votes.

“There is no impact on the outcome of any of the races,” Carmody said.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Zandri vs. Dickinson: ‘Unstoppable’ taking on the ‘immovable’?

As published in the Record Journal Monday December 3, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD — Many have tried, and a few have even come close. But since 1984, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has been the unbeatable man — or in Democrat Jason Zandri’s terms, “an immovable object” in the mayor’s office.

Zandri is the latest in a long line of Democrats—including his own father, Geno Zandri — in three decades to announce he would take on Dickinson, a Republican. As the 43-year-old town councilor declared his intentions at a Democratic Town Committee meeting Wednesday, he posited himself as the “unstoppable force,” referring to the classic physics paradox, to take on the 64 year-old mayor in 2013.

Local Democratic officials believe he’s the first candidate in a while to have the goods to do so, but Republicans think Zandri is banging an old drum with his focus on bringing the Internet to Town Hall. Democrats counter that his ideas go well beyond just technology, and his energy is unflagging.

“I am so excited about Jason’s campaign and candidacy for mayor that for the first time since I left the council in the 1990s the thought has occurred to me to run for that position again,” Peter Gouveia, the Democratic Town Committee vice chairman, said Friday. Gouveia is a former town councilman and was narrowly defeated in two runs for mayor against Dickinson, in 1987 and 1991.

Gouveia said he was impressed by Zandri’s dedication and drive, as did Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone, using the example of Zandri’s push to raise tens of thousands of dollars each year to put on the town fireworks after Dickinson cut them from the town’s Fourth of July celebration.

“I think a perfect example is the fireworks. Nobody thought that anybody could raise $30,000 — and he did it,” Avallone said.

Avallone said that same drive is what has been pushing Zandri to question town department practices in replacing ornamental streetlights in town. Zandri has said he doesn’t believe town protocol was followed when the Electric Division sent 39 streetlights to a scrap metal contractor. The town could have refurbished and kept the lights or recouped much more from selling them, but officials didn’t check to see what all their options were, he said.

Zandri did that check and presented a PowerPoint and video presentation at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting that juxtaposed statements utilities officials had made at a prior meeting about there not being replacement parts for the lights with those of a staff member from Penn Globe, a company in North Branford that manufactures and refurbishes lights, who said there indeed were parts available.

“It wasn’t to embarrass anybody. The reason was to show that the town could be run more efficiently,” Avallone said. “He’s not comfortable with the status quo.”

Republican Town Chairman Bob Prentice echoed other town Republicans in characterizing Zandri’s interest as micro-managing the town departments.

“I’m not sure where Jason’s coming from with this electric pole thing, whether he’s trying to be an expert with everything that happens in town. That’s why we hire people to do the job. It’d be like the governor coming to run the projects that I do,” said Prentice, who is a project manager with the state.

Though it was not his sole focus, Zandri did address technology in his announcement Wednesday, saying he’d bring the Internet, email and affiliated services to all departments in Town Hall for less than $20,000 a year and institute direct deposit for employee paychecks.

Though prior Democratic candidates, like Vincent Testa, who lost to Dickinson for the second time in 2011, have talked about bringing Internet access to Town Hall— the difference this time is that Zandri, a systems analyst at Bloomberg in New York City, is an information technology professional, Avallone said.

“What Jason’s going to concentrate on is giving specific examples of what technology’s going to do,” Avallone said Friday.

Prentice said the focus by Democrats on technology in Town Hall is old news.

“For at least 10 or 15 years everybody’s talked about new technology — and guess what, we’ve gotten by without added technology,” Prentice said.

Town Councilor John Le-Tourneau, a Republican, agreed that Dickinson is often painted as less computer friendly than he really is, and he said the mayor’s lean approach to technology is often a cost-saving measure.

“It’s not like there’s no technology. There is. Can there be more? Yes, I agree with that, but not every employee needs a screen on their desk,” said LeTourneau. “The mayor — it’s not like he just shuts it down completely, it’s where he thinks it should be.”

As for Zandri’s prospects, the fellow councilor said he thought Dickinson — though he hasn’t yet announced his own bid for the seat — would likely stay in Town Hall after the 2013 election.

“I’m just pretty confident that the mayor will be mayor again. Jason’s a nice guy, he’s a good councilor, but I think he’s more of a fit for the council,” LeTourneau said.

Avallone believes Zandri has a real shot.

“Everybody knows it’s not an easy task, quite frankly,” Avallone said. “This is not a battle against the mayor to defeat Mayor Dickinson. This is not like a personal thing. Jason feels that he’s got better ideas — and I concur — that will make this town better.”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

REMINDER TODAY - Season of Celebrations - SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

As originally provided on the Town of Wallingford Website

Saturday, December 1
1:00 PM – 6:00 PM


Wallingford Town Hall
45 South Main Street
Wallingford, CT 06492
Driving Directions

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Location: Town Hall

Visits with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus

1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Toy Collection
by Yalesville Volunteer Fire Department
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Petting Zoo
with Adorable Animals
1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Hot Cocoa and Cookies

1:30 p.m. (While They Last)

Photo Booth Pictures
by Show Stopper Entertainment
Sponsored by Wallingford Center, Inc.
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Horse and Carriage Rides

Rides originate in front of Town Hall.
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Yankee Chorus Sings Holiday Carols

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Chestnuts Roasted on an Open Fire

Little Portion Acres
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Frosty Parade

Led by DJ Lou Ferraro, Frosty and Rudolph, the parade will proceed from Town Hall down Center Street to Johanna Fishbein Park. 5:15 p.m.



SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Location: Johanna Fishbein Park

Holiday Carols at the Gazebo
by the Wallingford Chorus

Reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
by Mayor William Dickinson, Jr. 5:30 p.m.

Lighting of the Tree

Led by Mr. Joseph Archer and Children, generous donors of the tree. 5:50 p.m.

Free to Children of All Ages


Sponsored by Wallingford Public Celebrations Committee and Wallingford Center, Inc.

Thanks to the Department of Police Services, Department of Public Works, Edson Sea Cadets, Lyman Hall High School Key Club, Choate Rosemary Hall School, White Way Laundry, Mark Gingras, McDonald’s Restaurant and our elves and soldiers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Secretary Merrill Certifies 2012 Election Results; Releases Statewide Voter Turnout Figure of 74% of Registered Voters; Wallingford registers in at nearly 82% turnout

Wallingford

25,759 Names on the active voter list

21,105 Number checked as having voted

81.93% Percentage checked as having voted

2,025  Number of absentee ballots received by the Wallingford Town Clerk

35     Number of absentee ballots rejected

1,990  Number of absentee ballots voted

Hartford: Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today officially certified the results of the 2012 General Election on November 6th for Presidential electors and the offices of United States Senator, Representative in Congress, and Connecticut General Assembly. According to Connecticut General Statute 9-315, the Secretary of the State, together with the State Treasurer and the State Comptroller, must “declare what persons are elected” on the last Wednesday of the month of election.  A complete list of those election results is attached to this news release.  Secretary Merrill is also reporting that the 2012 general election saw a participation in the form of turnout by nearly 74% of registered voters in Connecticut(73.77%).  The figure is slightly lower than the 2008 presidential election turnout figure of 78.14% in the state, but places Connecticut at 7th highest state in the nation for voter turnout among registered voters in 2012. 

“Despite the challenges we faced following Hurricane Sandy, Connecticut voters came to the polls with a very strong turnout on Election Day,” said Secretary Merrill.  “By certifying these election results, we are officially putting into the record books the final word on one of the more exciting and historic elections in the history of our state.  Overall, I commend the hard work done by local election administrators and poll workers to make sure the election ran as smoothly as it did.”

Overall, Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden won the Presidential vote in Connecticut and Democrat Christopher Murphy was elected to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate.  Democrats John Larson(CT-1), Joe Courtney(CT-2), Rosa DeLauro(CT-3), Jim Himes(CT-4), and Elizabeth Esty(CT-5) were also elected to the 113th Congress of the United States.  In the Connecticut General Assembly, Democratic candidates were elected to 99 seats in the State House of Representatives and 22 seats in the State Senate.  Republican candidates were elected to 52 seats in the House of Representatives and 14 seats in the State Senate. 

A full Statement of the Vote including final vote tallies for candidates for President of the United States, U.S. Senator, Members of Congress, General Assembly, and Registrars of Voters by town, county, Congressional District and Legislative District will be published by the beginning of the General Assembly’s 2013 legislative session in January. 

In Connecticut, 74% of registered voters cast ballots on November 6, 2012.  That includes more than 1,524,339 Connecticut voters who cast ballots on Election Day out of 2,066,260 registered voters.  This statewide turnout figure does not include voter turnout results from the town of Prospect, which as of today has still not reported voter turnout figures as part of their 2012 election returns to the Secretary of the State’s office as required by state law.

Secretary Merrill today also launched an unprecedented voter feedback line and is asking voters for their impressions of elections in Connecticut by email to the address: vote@ct.gov

Top 10 municipalities in CT for Voter Turnout in 2012 (as a percentage of registered voters):

  1. Bridgewater – 94.75%
  2. Middletown – 89.86%
  3. Ridgefield – 89.42%
  4. Washington – 88.35%
  5. Woodbridge – 86.94%
  6. Granby – 86.22%
  7. Bolton – 86.20%
  8. Roxbury – 85.92%
  9. Wilton – 85.57%
  10. Killingworth – 85.35%

State                       2012 Voter Turnout % *

1. Minnesota                   88.62%

2. Wisconsin                    83.14%

3. New Hampshire          78.14%

4. Washington                 77.13%

5. Oregon                        76.25%

6. Maine                          74.31%

7. Connecticut              73.77%

8. Iowa                             71.67%

9. Massachusetts            70.88%

10.  Florida                      70.04%

*estimated based on state and media reports

Wallingford Democratic Town Committee Meeting

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Wallingford Democratic Town Committee Meeting

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time: 7:00pm 
350 Center Street
Wallingford, CT

Meeting Agenda

    • Roll Call
    • Acceptance of Meeting Minutes
    • Treasurer's Report
    • Chairman's Report
    • Local Government Reports
    • Announcements / Open Discussion
    •          Jason Zandri will address the DTC Members
    • Adjournment

Season of Celebrations - SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

As originally provided on the Town of Wallingford Website

Saturday, December 1
1:00 PM – 6:00 PM


Wallingford Town Hall
45 South Main Street 
Wallingford, CT 06492
Driving Directions

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Location: Town Hall

Visits with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus

1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Toy Collection
by Yalesville Volunteer Fire Department
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Petting Zoo
with Adorable Animals
1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Hot Cocoa and Cookies

1:30 p.m. (While They Last)

Photo Booth Pictures
by Show Stopper Entertainment
Sponsored by Wallingford Center, Inc.
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Horse and Carriage Rides

Rides originate in front of Town Hall.
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Yankee Chorus Sings Holiday Carols

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Chestnuts Roasted on an Open Fire

Little Portion Acres
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Frosty Parade

Led by DJ Lou Ferraro, Frosty and Rudolph, the parade will proceed from Town Hall down Center Street to Johanna Fishbein Park. 5:15 p.m.



SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Location: Johanna Fishbein Park

Holiday Carols at the Gazebo
by the Wallingford Chorus

Reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
by Mayor William Dickinson, Jr. 5:30 p.m.

Lighting of the Tree

Led by Mr. Joseph Archer and Children, generous donors of the tree. 5:50 p.m.

Free to Children of All Ages


Sponsored by Wallingford Public Celebrations Committee and Wallingford Center, Inc.

Thanks to the Department of Police Services, Department of Public Works, Edson Sea Cadets, Lyman Hall High School Key Club, Choate Rosemary Hall School, White Way Laundry, Mark Gingras, McDonald’s Restaurant and our elves and soldiers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AGENDA WALLINGFORD REGULAR TOWN COUNCIL MEETING – NOVEMBER 27, 2012

TOWN OF WALLINGFORD, CONNECTICUT
REGULAR TOWN COUNCIL MEETING
Town Council Chambers
TUESDAY
November 27, 2012
6:30 P.M
AGENDA 

Opening Prayer – Reverend Dean O. Warburton, First Congregational Church of Wallingford

1. Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call

Presentation of Certificates to:
Wallingford Nitro U-12 Boys Soccer Team Fall 2012 South Central District Comp “A” League Champions and Connecticut Cup State Champions 

2. Correspondence 

3. Consent Agenda
3a. Consider and Approve Tax Refunds totaling $15,534.73 (#368 - #425)Acct. # 001-1000-010-1170 - Tax Collector
3b. Acceptance of Donation and Appropriation in the Amount of $5.00 (five dollars) for Youth and Social Services Special Fund to Donations Acct # 2134002-47152 and to Expenditures Acct # 21340100-58830 – Youth and Social Services
3c. Acceptance of Donation and Appropriation in the Amount of $2,500 for Youth and Social Services Special Fund to Donations Acct # 2134002-47152 and to Expenditures Acct # 21340100-58830 – Youth and Social Services
3d. Acceptance of Town Council Calendar of Meetings for 2013
3e. Approve minutes of Regular Town Council meeting of November 13, 2012

3f. Consider and Approve submission of a grant application for the Department of Justice Grant and appropriate $40,320 to DOJ Grants Acct # 100-002-2002-45214 and to the following: Video Equipment $14,875 Acct to be Established PSDN Router/Switch $5,015 Acct to be Established Firearms $20,430 Acct to be Established - Police Department 

4. Items Removed from the Consent Agenda 

5. PUBLIC QUESTION & ANSWER PERIOD

6. Conduct a Public Hearing on the possible sale of 41 South Main Street 

7. Report out on the New Haven Hartford Springfield (NHHS) Commuter Rail Project – Town Engineer 

8. Discussion and possible action regarding a formal purchasing procedure and policy to be   created, formed from the Code of Wallingford and the Town Charter of Wallingford – Councilor Jason Zandri 

9. Discussion and possible action regarding a formal procedure and project plan to be created regarding the current and future repair and/or replacement of ornamental street lighting in Wallingford Center – Councilor Jason Zandri 

10. Executive Session pursuant to §1-200 (6)(D) of the Connecticut General Statutes with respect to the purchase, sale and/or leasing of property – Mayor 

11. Executive Session pursuant to §1-225(f) and §1-200(6)(B) of the Connecticut General Statutes regarding strategy and negotiations with respect to the pending tax appeal matter of CHREF v. Town of Wallingford- Law Department 

12. Motion to consider and approve the settlement of CHREF v. Town of Wallingford tax appeal matter as discussed in Executive Session – Law Department

Report will explore creation of municipal utilities

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday November 27, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
rblair@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2225
Twitter:@RussellBlairRJ

WALLINGFORD — Time and again the town-owned Electric Division has outperformed larger utility companies when it comes to limiting outages during storms and restoring power afterward, and state legislators have taken notice.

At the request of lawmakers, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will issue a report by Jan. 1 examining the procedures for creating and expanding municipal electric utilities in the state. In addition to Wallingford, six other cities and towns run their own electric companies.

“We will put everything on the table, what communities would need if they want to start their own utility,” said Rep. Laura Hoydick, the ranking House Republican on the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee.

Wallingford and other municipal utilities have developed a reputation for keeping the lights on during storms that knock power out in neighboring towns for days. Democratic state Rep. Mary G. Fritz, who represents the 90th House District, said the Cheshire portion of her district loses power at a higher clip than the part of Wallingford she represents.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said of the report. “I think people feel a strong support for their electric division when they are working directly for them.”

Public Utilities Director George Adair attributes the Electric Division’s success to a consistent tree-trimming program and the type of wires the department has in place. The division uses a wire that is “more tolerant of incidental contact,” he said.

“Having said that, we’re not infallible,” Adair said in an interview earlier this year. “I don’t ever want to create a sense of infallibility. A major storm will produce power outages,” he said. A serious hurricane that brings down trees would be an issue, he said.

The state’s two largest electric utilities, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, have concerns about expanding or creating new municipal electric divisions. UI representatives said expansion would be costly and complex.

“Municipalities would need to raise billions of dollars, in aggregate, to pay fair market value to acquire electric distribution company systems,” the company said in testimony before the Energy and Technology Committee. “This would burden, or overburden, the available bonding authority of municipalities and mean tax increases to the resident-customers.”

Costs were substantially lower when the Wallingford Electric Division was launched in 1899. Startup costs were $50,000, or about $1.3 million in today’s dollars. While the major utility companies pay taxes on the infrastructure they own in towns, municipal utilities return a portion of their proceeds to town budgets.

Stephen Gilbelli — associate general counsel of Northeast Utilities, CL&P’s parent company — said a municipality acquiring the electrical infrastructure within its borders could disrupt service to other towns.

“Utility facilities do not end at each municipality’s border,” he said in testimony. “A distribution system is composed of an elaborate, intertwined electric grid that serves the entire state. Facilities in one town often are a critical piece of another town’s electric supply system.”

State Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, a Republican representing the 86th House District, said he hasn’t received a complaint about Wallingford Electric in his six years representing the district, which includes southeastern Wallingford, North Branford and portions of Durham and Guilford, but has had constituent concerns about other utilities. The district is serviced by Wallingford Electric, UI and CL&P.

Candelora admitted that it would take “significant capital investment” for new municipality utilities to be formed, but thinks it’s possible the current ones could expand their service areas. Regardless, Candelora said legislators want to learn more about the municipality utilities. “They did so well in storm response, it certainly made it easy for us to take a look at what they are doing and what the for-profit utilities are not doing,” he said.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Connecticut / US - Blumenthal push for gift card protection

HARTFORD — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is set to unveil legislation that would expand protections offered to gift card consumers, taking a crusade he launched as Connecticut attorney general to the upper chamber of Congress.

Blumenthal on Monday will introduce a bill that would ban gift cards with expiration dates and those that carry fees for failing to use them after one year. The Democrat says the Gift Card Consumer Protection Act would strengthen laws permitting cards to expire after five years and nonuse fees.

The bill would also prevent companies that file for bankruptcy from selling gift cards and require them to accept and honor unredeemed gift cards.

Blumenthal says the measure will eliminate “exploitative expiration dates and petty, underhanded junk fees” that confiscate cash from consumers.

The bill would also prevent loyalty, promotion and award cards from expiring.

Friday, November 23, 2012

State regulators look into expanding municipal utilities

As published in the Record Journal Friday November 23, 2012

By Stephen Singer

Associated Press

HARTFORD — For decades, conventional wisdom has held that when it comes to electric utilities, bigger is better. But after the widely criticized response to two major storms last year, Connecticut is exploring whether small, municipal utilities should take on more of the work done by investor- owned companies.

Regulators are drafting a report as required by the legislature to find out how towns and cities can establish or expand municipal utilities. The state’s largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power, was harshly criticized for restoring power too slowly after Hurricane Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, CL&P and United Illuminating won approval from state officials for responding more quickly than last year. Still, a review of how to expand or establish municipal utilities is part of a broad response by the legislature and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy demanding greater oversight of utilities, better storm planning, quicker response and fines for performance failures.

“We will put everything on the table, what communities would need if they want to start their own utility,” said Rep. Laura Hoydick, the ranking House Republican on the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee.

Seven municipal utilities operate in Connecticut: Bozrah, East Norwalk, Groton, Jewett, Norwich, South Norwalk and Wallingford. After last year’s storms, municipal utilities say power outages in their service areas were brief and limited. Their rates are comparable to the larger utilities.

The largest difference between the two sources of power, say supporters of municipal utilities, is that the local companies respond more quickly because they operate close to home and work with hometown emergency workers to keep systems running and restore power quickly.

The debate is the most recent in a fight over public vs. private ownership of power reaching back to the days of Thomas Edison, said Ashley Brown, executive director of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, a think tank for electricity issues.

Investor-owned utilities began with Edison and municipal power was established as an alternative in the first decade of the 20th century, followed by New Deal public power projects to electrify rural America, he said.

“The fact is the debate has been there since the beginning of the industry,” Brown said.

In Connecticut, the intent now is to improve response time in emergencies.

At the peak of the outages last year’s autumn snowstorm, 830,000 CL&P customers — two-thirds of its customers — were without electricity. Many were in the dark for a week to 11 days.

During Hurricane Irene, 11,500 customers of Norwich Public Utilities — about half of the utility’s base — lost power at the peak of the outages, said spokesman Mike Hughes. The utility restored power to all its customers in three days, and half got it back on in one day, he said.

Hughes said quick restoration is the result of aggressive tree-trimming every four years and strong cooperation among all workers at Norwich’s gas, electric, water and wastewater departments.

“In an emergency, we’re kind of cross-trained,” he said. Hoydick credited a unified municipal approach to quick restoration of power.

“Police, fire and public works are in sync,” she said. “It’s part of the town infrastructure.”

Connecticut’s two large utilities see their industry differently. CL&P told utility regulators that big can be better.

“CL&P believes that there are certain ‘economies of scale’ present when a system is large enough to leverage the experience of its employees and employ sophisticated equipment to operate and maintain its system and spread the costs of operations among customers so that each customer’s share is smaller than it might otherwise be,” the utility said in comments to state regulators.

UI said municipalities would need to raise billions of dollars to pay fair market value for electric distribution systems, which could place too heavy a burden on a municipality’s bonding authority.

The utilities also say they pay state and local taxes and contribute to the state’s energy efficiency fund.

In response, municipal utilities note they return a portion of what they make to the town or city.

Brown said investor-owned utilities can advocate that large operations work more efficiently and municipal utilities can make the case that their operations are more nimble.

“There’s no pattern that defines them,” he said. “It’s a mixed bag.”

The high price for purchasing the assets of investor owned utilities such as equipment and property is among the biggest hurdles to municipal utilities seeking to expand.

“There’s a trend in the discussion,” he said. “Whether there’s a trend in doing anything is another issue.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

WALLINGFORD - Panel: Fitzgerald Field needs complete overhaul

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday November 14, 2012

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224
aragali@record-journal.com
Twitter:@AndyRagz  




WALLINGFORD — A committee formed to assess the Lyman Hall High School track informed the Board of Education Operations Committee Tuesday night that the entire athletic facility at Fitzgerald Field needs to be overhauled.

The update would include the immediate installation of a new turf football field, six-lane track, handicap accessible bathrooms and lights, with a new concessions building and another building that would include a weight room and training room scheduled for construction further down the road.

Board of Education member Kathy Castelli, who served on the committee, said initially it was all about getting the track redone.

“We can get by this year, but that’s pushing it,” she said.

After a presentation by Lyman Hall Athletic Director Amy Labas on Tuesday night, the Operations Committee — consisting of five board members, with only four present Tuesday night — unanimously decided the project would move forward to the regular Board of Education for action during their Friday meeting.

“We’re at a point where it’s necessary to switch to all-season turf,” Labas said.

Labas said the initial project — including the turf field, track, bathroom and lights — is estimated to cost $1.2 million. With the addition of a concession stand, the project is estimated at $1.5 million. The school district already has $300,000 secured for the project for track funds.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo asked that the board allow the project to move forward so the school district could pursue time-sensitive grant opportunities, specifically the Whorrel Grant. Fred Balsimo, a member of the committee asked to look at the track, said the grant could pay for a certain percentage of the project that was put at just over $100,000 with current estimates.

The committee decided to hire an independent consultant for the project, and the district must go out to bid for the consultant before it can apply for the competitive national grant. Balsimo said only two of eight schools in the state have been approved for the grant.

Balsimo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, said “I’m here to help because I live in Wallingford.”

Mary Fritz, who represents the 90th General Assembly district, said that she and Balsimo both helped find grant money for the Sheehan High School turf field, but didn’t remain active in the process. This time, they both said they are in for the long haul.

Fritz said she has tentatively secured $525,000 for the project that was previously allocated through bonding for a project in Wallingford about 10 years ago that she refused to name. She said that she called the state Office of Fiscal Analysis on Tuesday and found that the bond funds were still leftover.

“All I have to do is change the title of the bond to Lyman Hall, and we have $525,000,” Fritz said.
This was news to Menzo, who asked “who are you taking it from?”

“It’s not your concern,” Fritz replied. “It’s not new money. It was already approved.”

With funding tentatively in place, the project only needs about $275,000. Along with the Whorrel Grant and the money Fritz found, the school district plans to look into a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant, which can provide up to $500,000. Fritz said that Cheshire has received money for several projects through STEAP money. The caveat, said Fritz, is that the grant can only be applied for by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.

Menzo asked Fritz if the money could be split, so the school district received $275,000 and the town could receive the rest.

“You’re going down the wrong track,” Fritz said. “(Dickinson) is not going to do that.”

Menzo replied, “I’d give it a shot.”

If the project moves forward on Friday, Labas said ground will be broken on July 1, 2013, with hopes the field and track will be done by the time school starts. Labas has lined up several fundraisers for the project; including an April 1 5K at Lyman Hall that will become an annual event. In a survey of about 70 parents of athletes at the school performed by Labas, 59 percent said they don’t think Lyman Hall athletic facilities measure up to competition.

The project, she said, “is something that will enhance the program.”

FROM WALLINGFORD - Proposed pet projects

This "FROM WALLINGFORD" column was written by Mike Brodinsky, former town councilor, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee and host of public access show “Citizen Mike.” It is re-posted here as published in the Record Journal Sunday November 18, 2012

On July 1, 2005, General Motors announced that it had its best month in 19 years. What was good news for General Motors back then maybe was good news for America. Also on July 1, 2005, when money was more plentiful in Connecticut, the General Assembly approved Special Act 05-01. That should have been good news for Wallingford, too because it was a first step in getting a grant.

Special Act 05-01 approved up to $228,614,110 in bonding for various nonprofits, state agencies, and towns in Connecticut. The act lists all the potential recipients of possible grants funded by bonding and it’s a very long list. Included in this lengthy legislation was an “earmark” entitled “Grant-in-aid to the town of Wallingford, for renovations to the baseball field at Sheehan High School, not exceeding $525,000.”

This amount, however, remains unspent to this day and still appears to be available, even though the work at Mark T. Sheehan High School was never done and will not be done. Even more curious, however, is the fact that the authorization has gone unnoticed in Wallingford for more than 7 years. What happened and why?

Although a clarification would be welcome, the story is not as strange as it seemed when I first read about it. Let’s start with the basics. The legislation in 2005 is better understood as a wish list, rather than real money in the bank. Special Act 05-01 is after all merely a compilation of projects submitted by legislators from all around the state. The legislators approve each other’s pet projects — every one of which is important to somebody in their jurisdiction. The legislation authorizes the state bond commission to fundthe projects but it cannot require it. Wallingford’s wish, $525,000 for work at Sheehan High School, was included in the list, which did pass an important procedural hurdle when the General Assembly approved Special Act 05-01. But the legislation was still just a wish with a price tag attached. It was not real money available to be spent.

An obvious question is why the state still designates the baseball field at Sheehan as an approved project. The answer is that the Sheehan project will not be on the wish list forever as the state does have eyes looking for old projects to take down. It’s just a matter of time, and that is why Councilor John Sullivan said that the money would be lost if it wasn’t used soon.

Before a project is funded, it must go through additional procedures which cull the low priority projects from the wish list. A full description of that process is beyond the scope of this column. In thatprocess, however, top government leaders and their staff pare down the broad wish list based upon what the state can afford now and the importance of the project. Proposed projects, like high school tracks, that might have been funded in 2005 might not be funded in a year like 2012. The biggest hurdle for a local project, therefore, is to clear administrative and political review so that it gets on the bonding commission agenda. In these tough times, that will be a trick, and beyond the power of any single legislator or group of them.

The final spigot that determines how much of the wish list gets funded, therefore, is the state bonding commission. It is under no obligation to fund everything that the general assembly wants. Given the state of the budget and the economy, many if not most of the projects on the wish list will never make it on the bonding commission’s agenda. In view of the fiscal stresses the state is experiencing today, no one should be encouraged to believe that the state will fund a new track for Lyman Hall High School.

Nevertheless, our representatives will try their hardest to save the $525,000, but we can’t expect miracles.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zandri to town: Don’t be so quick to scrap

As published in the Record Journal Thursday November 15, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD - Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, would like to see changes made in how town departments dispose of supplies. In a sometimes heated Town Council meeting Tuesday, Zandri pressed Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., Comptroller Jim Bose and Public Utilities Director George Adair on the procedures followed.

He used the Electric Division’s recent replacement of 39 ornamental streetlights as an example. Zandri said the department sent the poles directly to a scrap metal dealer with which it has a standing contract rather than reselling them. He said that he believes that, under town ordinances, Adair should have gone to the mayor, comptroller or purchasing agent Sal Amadeo for resale opportunities before choosing to scrap them.

“I thought that the procedure in town was when any asset is to be retired in town it has to go through the Purchasing Department,” Zandri said.

Zandri quoted a town ordinance that says the town’s purchasing agent is required to, “with the approval of the mayor, to transfer to or between departments or agencies or to sell supplies and equipment determined, after consultation with the head of the department, office or agency concerned, to be surplus, obsolete, or unused.”

Adair said the items were not viable assets and did not need to go through that process.

“Given their status, I don’t view these old, taken-out-of-service streetlight posts as supplies, materials or equipment, nor do they really qualify as surplus obsolete or unused. They’re damaged, unsafe to maintain, undesirable and appropriately viewed as scrap,” Adair said. “I don’t think the question quite fits.”

Most of the 39 lights, installed in 1991 in a first wave of streetscaping, were operational, but Adair said they were valueless, with poor wiring and damage to the poles from general wear and tear and snowplows, and were made in a way that wiring at the base could only be accessed in a clumsy and sometimes dangerous fashion. Electric workers had to lift and hold the 50-pound base rather than simply take off a panel, which is the way the replacement streetlights are accessed. “You’re determining that these had no value, I’m just trying to figure out the procedure here. Is it the purview of the department?” Zandri asked, saying he still feels Amadeo should make that call according to the ordinance. And the ordinance should be changed if it’s not viable, he said.

Dickinson agreed.

“The purchasing office doesn’t’ have the expertise to determine a lot of things like that ... You have to rely on the department,” Dickinson said. “We’re talking about something that does not have a functioning value here. We could not do business if everything — all scrap that’s determined to be trash —has to first be discussed with the mayor and purchasing agent. It was never meant to be that.”

Bose acknowledged that there should be more of a paper trail to such discussions by department heads and the Purchasing Department. He said he knew there had been discussions between Adair and Amadeo, but they weren’t documented.

“It’s probably something we’re going to have to improve upon,” Bose said, saying would follow up with department heads. “There’s just got to be something to see if we can document about how we go about the process. ... It could just be a form; we’ll toss something around.” Zandri said Wednesday that he would continue his push to get the process codified, and was planning to move that council recommend the mayor formalize the procedure for these things around the rules in the charter,” Zandri said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vote OKs Legion sale to Gouveia

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday November 14, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD - The fourth time’s the charm for Joe Gouveia.

The Town Council voted 5-4 Tuesday night to sell the town-owned American Legion building to the local winery owner for $75,000.

“I think it’s great, it’s great they made a decision,” Gouveia said after the meeting. Gouveia was the only bidder for the building when the Town Council invited sale or lease offers this fall.

Gouveia’s three previous offers for the building were unsuccessful. In 2008, he bid $65,000 for the 6,875- square foot structure. In 2011, he submitted two different plans, one for $100,000 and one for $45,000. The council decided in 2011 to accept an offer of $125,000, but the deal fell through. The council chose another offer of $125,000, and that sale also fell through. On Tuesday, Gouveia and local architect Daniel Lyon presented the same plan that Lyon had designed and the council had approved in 2011 for Rick Termini, who decided not to go through with the sale later that year. Gouveia’s plans call for an office on the first floor of the 41 S. Main St. building, one two-bedroom apartment on the second floor, and another apartment on the third floor. The architect said he was not yet certain of the number of bedrooms of the third-floor apartment.

Plans also call for a six-foot porch to be built on the front of the structure, which would encroach 4 feet into the town’s parade ground, as Termini’s plan did.

The plans also call for a back portion added in the 1950s to be taken down. That section appeared to be in great disrepair during a tour of the property in the fall, with pieces of the ceiling having fallen to the floor. Four parking spaces will be created in the space. Gouveia will have to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission to seek approval for another four spaces. Some councilors initially wanted to delay the vote to confirm that Gouveia could remove the addition, in light of a court ruling that disallowed destruction of the building. But Gouveia said he would change the plans if need be.

“The plan has been approved already for someone else. It’s not like we’re looking at this all over again,” said Councilor John LeTourneau, urging councilors to vote on the plan. LeTourneau, a Republican, was part of the initial fight for the building to be saved from demolition.

As for the council’s choosing a bid that was $50,000 less than a 2011 proposal, Gouveia said he offered what the market would bear. He talked in a previous interview about the amount of damage major storms had done to the building in the year since the previous bids were taken.

“It’s a little bit less than they had hoped to get, the problem is it’s only worth what people are willing to pay,” Gouveia said, noting that there was no one else who bid to purchase or lease the building in this recent round of bidding.

The building has been vacant since the town purchased it in 1994 at a foreclosure auction. Gouveia said he wants to start construction, replacing the roof, before winter weather sets in.

“It’s only going to get worse, not better,” Gouveia said.

The council vote allowed the town’s law department to draw up a contract for sale. The councilors will still have to vote on the final contract after a public hearing. Town Attorney Gerry Farrell said he was not sure when the contract would be complete.

Democrats Nick Economopoulos, Jason Zandri, and John Sullivan voted to approve the sale, along with Republicans Tom Laffin and John LeTourneau. Republicans Bob Parisi, Craig Fishbein, Rosemary Rascati and Vincent Cervoni voted not to sell, with Rascati and Cervoni saying they opposed selling town land next to Town Hall.

As per new bidding requirements approved by the councilors, for the first time the approved bidder, Gouveia, will have to submit a 10 percent deposit of the purchase price, or $7,500.

lsalerno@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235

Twitter: @LaurieSalernoRJ

File photo courtesy of the Record-Journal

The former American Legion building at 41 S. Main St., Wallingford.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

‘Most people like what the two Marys are doing’ - Mushinsky and Fritz are in for the long haul

As published in the Record Journal Saturday November 10, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD - Democrat Mary Mushinsky is poised to tie for longest-serving state representative in the records of the Connecticut State Library.

If she completes the two-year term in the 85th District that she was elected to Tuesday, she will have served in the house for 34 years — as long as Richard O. Belden, a Republican who represented Shelton from 1975 until his death in 2007 at age 73. The library’s database goes back to 1849 for House members.

“I don’t go looking that stuff up, but I know I’ve been there a long time,” Mushinsky, 60, said last week after being told about the record.

“It’s interesting; I never would’ve thought it — I didn’t get into politics intentionally,” said Mushinsky, a former activist who one day decided she might make more of an impact as a legislator.

Apparently a town of steady habits, Wallingford has a couple more high profile, longtime incumbents in 28 year state Rep. Mary Fritz, 74, a fellow Democrat who also won re-election in her 90th District this week, and Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., 64, the Republican who has been in power for 31 years and is the second-longest serving mayor in the state now in the role. Prospect’s Mayor Bob Chatfield, who was first elected in 1978, is the only mayor now in office who has served longer.

The analysts and those involved in town politics who were interviewed say they don’t think the interest in reelecting incumbents necessarily has to do with the community; rather, it’s the strength of the candidates themselves.

“If they do a good job, and people like the job they’re doing, they’ll get re-elected,” said Republican Town Chairman Bob Prentice, whose two Republican candidates, Greg Bachand and Guy Darter, were beaten Tuesday by Mushinsky and Fritz. “Most people like what the two Marys are doing. I don’t always agree with what they do — but I’ve only got one vote.”

His counterpart, Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone, credited Fritz and Mushinsky’s repeated wins to their hard work in office.

“They’re just what representatives should be. They’re in touch with their constituents, they return phone calls — they help to solve problems and they’re sincere,” he said. About Dickinson and the Republican majority on the Town Council, he said, “It’s been very hard to defeat the mayor — he has a coattail effect.” But Avallone said he believes his party is strengthening in local elections.

Sacred Heart University government and politics professor Gary Rose, who lives in Cheshire, said incumbents often have an advantage on Election Day.

“Once these people get in office ... and they have their staffs up in Hartford, they know who all the voters are,” Rose said. “They are almost like little machines. They really are part of the community — they know exactly how to work the community.”

Though there’s an inherent advantage, Rose, too, credits the work and attitude of individual politicians with their own career longevity. As for why these politicians, despite their success, would not seek higher office, he said these people tend to believe the adage that all politics is local and would like to stay where they are.

“The people that run for higher office tend to be of a different type of ilk — more money, higher aspirations,” Rose said, whereas long-term incumbents find themselves with seniority and clout in the legislature. “It’s a gamble when you start to do that.”

Fritz said she never sought to move up because she liked the close contact with her constituents as a state representative and wanted to be around for her family.

“It’s because I really like what I do — and because it’s a (population) of about 22,000. I’m not that far removed from them. And at the same time, we raised six children ...” Fritz said.

Mushinsky, who has two sons with her husband, Martin J. Waters, said she has been asked, but the timing to run for a higher role was never right for her family.

“If you lose ... and you don’t have something else lined up and you’re not independently wealthy — and I’m not — it’s a big gamble,” Mushinsky said. “I think that what I work at now is what I’m good at.”

As for new blood bringing fresh ideas, something Bachand hammered away at in his campaign, the incumbents interviewed said their years of experience were invaluable.

“Experience is important. Government is becoming ever more complex, experience does play a role,” Dickinson said. “Having a feel for what’s needed, what the laws provide, what changes in law may be having an effect.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

This week in Wallingford – November 12, 2012

As published in the Record Journal Monday November 12, 2012

Monday : No meetings scheduled.

Tuesday : Public Celebrations Committee , 5:30 p.m., Town Hall, Room 205, 45 S. Main St.;
Town Council ,
6:30 p.m., Town Hall, Auditorium.

Wednesday :
Parks and Recreation Commission ,
8 a.m., Doherty Municipal Bldg., 6 Fairfield Boulevard;
Planning and Zoning Commission ,
7 p.m., Town Hall, Auditorium.

Thursday : School Roof Building Committee , 6:30 p.m., Sheehan High School, 142 Hope Hill Road, Board of Education Conference Room.

Friday : Committee on Aging , noon, Senior Center, 238 Washington St.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Officials question design of grade crossing

As published in the Record Journal Friday November 9, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
rblair@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2225
Twitter:@RussellBlairRJ

WALLINGFORD — Town officials have questions about preliminary designs for rail crossings that include median dividers that would limit or eliminate access to some commercial driveways.

Town Engineer John Thompson said Thursday that he had reviewed plans from the state Department of Transportation for seven redesigned rail crossings as part of the New Haven-to-Springfield high-speed rail line and wrote a letter this week expressing his concerns.

State plans call for “non mountable curb islands” down the middle of several streets as they approach the tracks. Thompson said he understands the reasoning behind the curb islands — to prevent drivers from using the opposite lane to get around the crossing gates — but he’s worried they could slow down emergency vehicles.

“Even when the gates go up, it takes time for traffic to dissipate,” Thompson said. “Emergency vehicles can use the opposing lane with lights and siren. The median would have a negative impact. They would be trapped behind the waiting vehicles.”

The medians are not large, concrete Jersey barriers, but are similar to a raised curb, according to DOT Project Manager John Bernick. Plans for one of the crossings call for a 60-foot-long center island.

“They’re high enough to bottom out a passenger car, but I believe an emergency vehicle with high enough clearance could get over it if they had to,” he said.

In his letter Thompson said that the Fire Department had come up with two suggestions for alleviating the problem, including an emergency vehicle sequence that would use traffic lights to open up Hall Avenue for passage or the inclusion of an emergency vehicle travel lane on Hall Avenue that could be used to bypass traffic. The state has also proposed closing some commercial driveways along the rail route. Other businesses could be affected because the medians would prevent patrons from making a left-hand turn.

“Part of my job as town engineer is to make sure the proposals are not adversely affecting local businesses,” Thompson said.

One of the affected businesses would be the Dairy Queen at the corner of Ward Street and Route 5. The preliminary plans call for a median divider running along Ward Street between Route 5 and the railroad tracks. The barrier means drivers couldn’t make a left-hand turn out of Dairy Queen’s rear parking lot.

“It would be detrimental to business,” said Dairy Queen owner Ron Sotere. “I’m absolutely against it. I’ve been here 50 years and we’ve never had a problem.”

Bernick said the medians were part of an increase in safety measures along the upgraded rail line. Municipalities can apply for a quiet zone waiver, which means trains won’t blow the horn each time they approach a crossing. In lieu of the horn, additional safety measures, such as the median curb islands, are required.

“The additional safety measures make up for the fact that the train horn wouldn’t sound,” Bernick said. “The safety remains the same or better.”

Bernick said the plans are preliminary, not final, and there will be opportunity for public comment this winter or next spring.

Thompson said he looks forward to discussions with the state.

“We’ll continue to work with them so we’re all on the same page,” he said. “This project is a big deal. It’s going to be around for a long time.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Presidential Vote totals (as I have them) on 11/8 (includes battleground state information).

image

WALLINGFORD - Officials plan to resume discussions about Incentive Housing Zone

As published in the Record Journal Sunday November 4, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
lsalerno@record-journal.com
(203) 317-2235
Twitter:@LaurieSalernoRJ

WALLINGFORD - Though a November meeting on the topic was canceled, the Town Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission still plan to revisit the creation of an Incentive Housing Zone that could spur redevelopment in downtown Wallingford.

The Council announced at its Oct. 23 meeting that it had set a workshop with the Commission for Nov. 20, but it was canceled due to conflicts. The two groups are still working on a date, anticipating a meeting either late this year or just after the holidays.

Some town councilors are interested in discussing a plan, with some saying they were frustrated that the meeting was taking so long to put together.

Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat, said he would like to discuss the plan quickly.

“I want what’s best for the town — that area right now probably needs a facelift,” Sullivan said. “I think we have a great opportunity here with the transportation systems already in place and with high speed rail coming in as well.”

Proposals for the Incentive Housing Zone have been around since early 2008, when former Town Planner Linda Bush presented the idea of creating an overlay zone for a 23.3-acre swath of downtown Wallingford that would allow the development of mixed-use commercial and high-density residential properties. Plans called for the zone to include Quinnipiac Street, North Cherry Street, Hall Avenue, Meadow Street, North Colony and Center streets.

The zone would fall under an Office of Policy and Management program called Home Connecticut, which was approved in 2007 by the state legislature and would require the area to be 20 percent comprised of affordable housing. The state would pay $2,000 for each potential housing unit — 361 in Wallingford — and then another $2,000 for each unit that eventually is constructed.

Though the plans were initially approved by the Town Council in 2009 and submitted to OPM four times between April 2009 and July 2010, according to Acting Town Planner Kacie Costello, OPM did not have funding available for the program until the fall of 2010 — after a new council had been elected. That new council needed to reapprove the plan for it to be submitted, but instead deadlocked 4-4, and the Planning and Zoning Commission took the plan back for revision.

Though it has taken two years, Costello and commission members say the plan has never been off the table, and that they’ve been working on the project.

James Fitzsimmons, a Planning and Zoning commissioner, is a proponent of the plan — anything that brings affordable housing to downtown,he said. Fitzsimmons said he thought the zone could have the same effect as the Yalesville Limited Business District, which the town created through zoning about 20 years ago.

“I would compare it to what happened in Yalesville … it allowed more residential development, higher density. In the Yalesville area, you’ve seen an explosion over the years of condominiums and development,” Fitzsimmons said.

Some town councilors were more tentative in their interest in the plan.

“I like the concept,” said Councilor Vincent Cervoni, a Republican, but he added that he didn’t think the amount of money offered to the town would make a vast difference. He’d also like to see the town have more control over what is put there. Rather than a zone in which people can build by just complying with set-down regulations, he’d like builders to come to the town with projects and ask for permits.

“I’d like to see an overlay by special exception — because I think we should retain a little bit of control down there,” Cervoni said. “I’d hate to see it go the wrong way.”

Costello said the plans they’ll be presenting include changes from the original in an effort to address some of the concerns that have been voiced, such as Cervoni’s interest in having town approval over projects.

Though the requirements of the Home Program say there cannot be such a permitting process, Costello said the staff has spent time closely examining regulations so that they can put regulations in place “in a way that pre-addresses those issues.” Plans now also reflect a change in the accepted height of buildings — from four stories to three. Costello said the department was looking at the North Main Street and Center Street intersection, where “there are a number of three or even four-story buildings. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

She said that although the town has approved a different site for its new train station to be built — on Parker Street, north of the current site between Quinnipiac and Hall Avenues — the planned zone at this juncture will not move.

File photos courtesy of the Record-Journal

The lot at 63 N. Cherry St., top, and the site of the old T-Bonz Bar & Grill at 28 Quinnipiac St., bottom, are properties being eyed in a proposed Incentive Housing Zone to aid the development of downtown Wallingford. Both photographs were taken on Jan. 29, 2008.