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Friday, April 27, 2012

Unemployment benefits to shrink in Connecticut

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday April 25, 2012

By Mark Pazniokas

© The Connecticut Mirror

This story originally appeared at, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics and public policy in the state.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Tuesday that Connecticut is about to pay a price for its improving unemployment rate: Those claiming unemployment no longer will be eligible for the full extended benefits available in states with higher jobless rates.

By the end of the year, the state is likely to have 75,000 unemployed residents who will have exhausted their unemployment compensation, which is a blend of state and federal benefits, Malloy said.

The unemployed now can collect 93 weeks of compensation: 26 weeks of state benefits, 47 weeks of federal emergency compensation and 20 weeks of federal extended benefits.

As a result of the jobless rate dropping for eight months to 7.7 percent, the extended benefits will shrink from 20 to 13 weeks, taking an estimated $83 million out of the state economy, officials said.

Malloy announced at his monthly commissioners meeting that he has asked the commissioners of Labor and Social Services to prepare to guide the unemployed to other services for which they might be eligible, such as food stamps.

“We want to have people start to plan for the end of their benefits,” Malloy said.

In 2009, as a result of congressional action, the unemployed were eligible for up to 99 weeks of benefits, but the federal share of aid has been shrinking as the economy and jobless rates have improved.

Emergency unemployment compensation, which was reduced last month from 53 to 47 weeks, will disappear completely at the end of December. Starting at the end of May, about 450 will exhaust their benefits every week.

Republicans, meanwhile, used the state's latest jobs figures to make a case against raising the minimum wage. The state actually lost 2,700 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate dipped as residents left the job market.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. said the state’s unemployment rate could appear to improve as recipients lose their benefits.

“The state stops counting those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate has gone down over the past few months because fewer people are actually counted in the overall job market,” Cafero said. A bill before the House would raise the $8.25 minimum wage by 50 cents in each of the next two years.

Wallingford Town Council passes school roof solar panel plan

As published in the Record Journal Friday April 27, 2012

By Jesse Buchanan
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2230

WALLINGFORD — The town’s high schools are planned to have solar panel arrays as part of a two-year roof replacement project following a Town Council vote Thursday.

Councilors voted unanimously chose 25-year roofs for the high schools and middle schools and to put solar panels on the high school roofs. The cost for all five schools with the lowest bidders is $9,174,000.

Michael Brodinsky, chairman of the School Roof Building Committee, said he is pleased with the number and quality of bids, which were opened last week.

“The bids were very favorable, very fair,” he said. “They were good numbers.”

The committee was formed to guide the town in replacing aging roofs on 11 of the town’s 12 schools.

Brodinsky asked the council Thursday to choose between 20 and 25 year roofs for the schools. He also asked the council to decide how many, if any, schools were built with solar panels.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said the panels would be integrated into the curriculum and students could check energy savings online. “Science curriculum at both the middle schools and high schools has a great foundation in the whole concept of energy conservation,” Menzo said.

Councilors questioned the economic feasibility of the solar panels which, if installed on two high schools and two middle schools, would cost several hundred thousand dollars.

The roof project committee provided information on the panels, which have an estimated 33-year payback and a lifespan of between 20 and 30 years.

Town Councilor Thomas Laffin asked Menzo if solar panel kits bought at toy stores would provide the same educational benefit. He said the solar panels would be a poor financial decision which would also send a message to students.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. was also concerned about the financial aspects of the solar panels.

“If this were purely a biz decision, we wouldn’t be discussing this. That troubles me,” Dickinson said.

Menzo said he’d never presented the panels as a moneymaking endeavor for the district, but as a way to put into practice energy-saving principles.

The council discussed adding solar panels to the two high schools, which would add $120,000 to the project after receiving nearly 50 percent reimbursement from the state.

Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos said the cost of the panels is only a small portion of the total project.

Councilor Jason Zandri tried to add solar panels to two middle schools, but the motion failed with only Economopoulos supporting him.

Councilor Craig Fishbein said the town could fund the solar panels through fines levied against Covanta by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Fishbein said the department may give the fines, totaling more than $400,000, to the town for energy conservation projects.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wallingford ethics panel clarifies councilors’ participation in votes

As published in the Record Journal Thursday April 26, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — The Board of Ethics ruled unanimously Wednesday night that two of three town councilors with various ties to town funded agencies could vote on those organizations’ individual budgets during budget workshops.

The board decided that Republican Councilor John Le-Tourneau and Council Chairman Robert Parisi could vote on budgets for organizations while they are on that organization’s board of directors because they do not receive any personal financial gain from the agencies. The board ruled that Republican Councilor Rosemary Rascati needs to recuse herself in decisions on the budget for an organization that employs her daughter.

The ruling was initiated by the three councilors, who sent letters to the board asking for a review of their affiliations in regard to the town’s code of ethics.

“We wanted to get a definitive answer,” LeTourneau said. He and Rascati were both in attendance. In years past, the councilors have recused themselves from certain votes presuming there could be a conflict of interest, but in talking decided that they should get a judgment from the board.

LeTourneau is on Wallingford Center Inc.’s Board of Directors and said he did not vote on the organization’s budget when it was work shopped last year.

“It troubled me for the whole year, whether I did the right thing by recusing,” LeTourneau said.

From now on, he should feel free to vote on that budget, according to the ethics board, as neither he nor family members receive financial gain from it. The same goes for Parisi, who is on the board of directors of the Spanish Community of Wallingford and the Wallingford Girls’ Softball League. The board asked the two to clearly state their roles with the organizations in budget workshop discussions on them.

Two members of the public, Robert and Debbie Gross, questioned this decision, saying that it seems like a conflict of interest for LeTourneau to help create the Wallingford Center Inc. budget as a director and then turn around and approve it as a town councilor. “Conflict of interest isn’t just dollars, it’s perception of the public on a particular item,” Robert Gross said. “I think there should be an arm’s length.”

Dean Warburton, chairman of the Board of Ethics, said that having LeTourneau state his involvement during a hearing would be transparent enough.

“I think for you to say openly ‘I am a member of the Board of Directors of Wallingford Center Inc.’ — that should clear any concerns,” Warburton said.

Rascati must recuse herself from voting on the individual budget of Wallingford Center Inc. during workshops, the board said, because her daughter, Elizabeth Landow, is the executive director. The town prohibits town councilors from voting on matters that have any possible financial benefit for a relative, and Landow’s salary is part of the town allocation.

Rascati, also a board member of the organization, said she abstained from voting on it last year.

Though it wasn’t part of the ruling, LeTourneau said he continues to abstain from votes on personnel decisions for the Electric Division because his wife works there, he said. Rascati can vote on the town budget in May, even though it would contain Wallingford Center’s budget.

Wallingford council OK’s grant pursuit, hears update on housing authority

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday April 25, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — The Town Council gave staff a unanimous green light to pursue a 2012 Small Cities Community Block Development Grant to fix basement flooding issues in about 75 Wallingford Housing Authority units at its Tuesday night meeting — a session that also featured a status report from both the authority’s chairman and new property manager.

The town is seeking $500,000 from the state in what would be its fourth grant of this kind since 2007, Wallingford Program Planner Don Roe said, presenting the resolution.

Wallingford received money to fix the flooding issue in its $700,000 grant award from 2011, which identified three separate projects, including reroofing and emergency alarm systems in Housing Authority properties. Roe said that after the two other projects intended for the award went out to bid, only about $190,000 was left. Alone, that’s not enough to start the project, according to Roe.

“The balance was to be used for basements. This proposal to seeks to continue with that work,” Roe said.

The requested sum,$500,000, is the largest request the town can make this year, as federal money given to states for these grants has shrunk, Roe said.

Most of the units to be worked on are in the Ulbrich Heights “moderate rental” development, Roe said.

Republican Councilor Craig Fishbein asked if there were ways the general government could benefit from this grant other than the flooding mitigation.

Roe said the grant request needs to show a clear benefit for low- and moderate-income residents. His office looked at a streetscape and trail project in the area of the Senior Center, but discovered that they would have to do a census-like project and find out the income data of each home on a block-by-block basis — a project too labor intensive to pursue at this time.

Fishbein also asked if the project would end water issues for the Housing Authority.

“No, I do not think that each and every water problem will be addressed. I do think that this is an effort to take a major step,” Roe said.

Housing Authority Chairman Michael Misiti said, “I can promise we’re going to make the best of every dollar, with Maria on board.”

Misiti and new property manager Maria DeMarco gave a report to the Town Council earlier in the evening, providing updates on how the transition has been now that De-Marco’s firm, DeMarco Management Corp., took the reins for the Housing Authority units in February.

DeMarco talked about updating the department’s waiting list, telling councilors that by calling people on the list she has managed to purge 60 to 70 names because their situations have changed.

She also reported that about 30 units are open. Fifteen of those are renovated and available now; another 15 need renovation. Efficiencies are the most readily available, with one-bedrooms second.

Councilors seemed pleased with the new manager’s progress.

“I think you’ve all done a great job, it shows, not getting the calls and emails I used to get,” Council Chairman Robert Parisi said.

Misiti told councilors that DeMarco’s firm was on a six month trial that ended in July. He said the Housing Authority will address retaining the firm at its next meeting Thursday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Merrill Releases Turnout Figure from 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Primary

Romney Wins All 25 Delegates at Stake

Secretary of the State Reports Turnout of 14.4% Among Registered Republicans; Lowest Percentage Since Current Presidential Preference Primary was First Used in 1980

HartfordSecretary of the State Denise Merrill today released voter turnout figures from yesterday’s 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Primary in Connecticut.  Figures reported by Republican Registrars of Voters show that a total of 59,969 registered Republicans cast ballots out of a total of 415,725 active registered Republicans in the state, for a turnout percentage of 14.4% statewide.  The figure represents the lowest voter turnout for a presidential preference primary in Connecticut since the current system was first established for the 1980 presidential election and a sharp drop from the 2008 turnout figure for Republicans of 36.7%.  Secretary Merrill, who will certify the results to the State Republican party within days, is also reporting that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be awarded all of the 25 delegates at stake in yesterday’s contest, according to party rules. 

“Republicans in Connecticut got to have their say yesterday, as did their counterparts in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island,” said Secretary Merrill, Connecticut’s chief elections official.  “I will be certifying these results shortly, according to our state laws, and notifying the Republican party so the appropriate delegates can be awarded to former Governor Romney.  Now that this primary is behind us, we look forward to an exciting election season this year with a statewide primary in August and a major Presidential Election in November.”

Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the support of 67.5% of the primary voters yesterday, while Ron Paul won 13.5%, Newt Gingrich won 10.3%, and Rick Santorum won 6.8% support.  Some 2% of those voting yesterday chose the uncommitted slot on the ballot.  The town with the highest voter turnout percentage yesterday was Wethersfield, where 41.1% of Registered Republicans voted.  The city of Bridgeport had the lowest voter turnout, saw just 7.7% of registered Republicans cast ballots.  A complete listing of the 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Primary results and a letter explaining the awarding of delegates is attached to this news release. 

Previous Presidential Primary Turnout

2012 Republican               14.4%

2008 Democratic               51.1%

2008 Republican               36.7%

2004 Democratic               20.4% 

2000 Republican               40.8%

2000 Democratic               28.8%

1996 Republican               28.4%

1992 Democratic               26.2%

1992 Republican               21.9%

1988 Democratic               36.8%

1988 Republican               23.8%

1984 Democratic               33.0%

1980 Democratic               33.2%

1980 Republican               43.3%

Av Harris
Director of Communications
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill
(860) 509-6255 ofc
(860) 463-5939 cell

DEEP flexible on phosphorus rules

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday April 25, 2012

By Jesse Buchanan
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2230

Officials say a coalition of cities and towns facing new state phosphorus regulations has gained some ground in their fight to change phosphorus limits proposed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said DEEP has agreed to town-requested phosphorus limits for seven to nine years, although the department wants municipalities to move to more aggressive limits after that time. He said a lobbying firm hired by the towns and work with state legislators have been effective in arguing the case for easing phosphorus limits.

“DEEP is willing to work with us on that,” Brumback said. “The coalition has had its value. Our legislative delegation has had its value.”

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the department was working with municipalities and understood the “need to balance environmental objectives with the financial constraints facing all levels of government.”

Southington, Wallingford, Meriden and Danbury are some of the 45 towns in the state that will face restrictions on the amount of phosphorus that can be discharged from wastewater treatment plants into rivers. Municipal officials say the limits are too stringent, too expensive and haven’t been shown to be necessary.

DEEP officials said the effort to remove phosphorus, which can cause algae blooms and depletion of oxygen in the water when present in excessive amounts, is being led by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Schain said the department is proposing to allow Southington and Wallingford seven years after the issue of the upcoming wastewater treatment plant permit to achieve 0.2 parts per million. Meriden would have nine years after the next wastewater treatment plant permit to achieve 0.1 parts per million. Brumback said Southington is now at 2.8 parts per million. Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said that, while there has been some progress, the main issue of expensive upgrades to water treatment plants hasn’t been resolved. He said the 0.2 parts per million phosphorus limit which could be required by DEEP would cost Wallingford $60 million.

“I continue to have a concern about signing off on something with that kind of a price tag,” he said. “That’s a lot to commit to.”

Dickinson said the lobbying firm, Gara & Markowski Government Relations, of West Hartford, has been instrumental in getting the towns’ message to state officials. The firm was hired jointly by the towns at a cost of $25,000.

“I think that has been a very important piece of this to organize efforts,” he said.

Brumback said he’s hoping DEEP will allow towns to get to the 0.7 phosphorus limit — which would cost Southington $50,000 — and see if that improves water quality before mandating the 0.2 limit. He said the lower limit would cost the town $18 million.

Brumback said he’s concerned with the piecemeal approach to cleaning up the waterways taken by DEEP and the EPA. He said the town has spent money removing nitrogen and in doing so used phosphorus. The town is now faced with removing phosphorus, and the easiest way to do so is by using metal salts. Brumback said those metal salts are next on regulators’ lists of materials to be taken out of the water.

“There’s not an approach there that makes any sense,” Brumback said.

He said the towns are trying to set up a meeting with EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding to talk about what the agency wants.

Brumback said he wants a “science-based strategy that defines what our goals are for our waterways and what are economically feasible ways to achieve those goals.”

“We don’t know what the target is. We don’t even know what they’re contemplating,” Brumback said.

“Wastewater treatment standards have been constantly evolving since the 1960s,” Schain said. “We believe the phosphorus limits we’re talking about will continue to move us forward to achieve water quality standards outlined in the Clean Water Act, and that’s the objective.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wallingford polling places for today’s Republican presidential primary

As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday April 24, 2012

Wallingford Polling places, open from 6AM to 8PM  for today’s Republican presidential primary:

District 1: Pond Hill School, 297 Pond Hill Road.

District 2: Stevens School, 18 Kondracki Lane.

District 3: Moses Y. Beach School, 340 N. Main St.

District 4: Dag Hammarskjold School, 106 Pond Hill Road.

District 5: Cook Hill School, 57 Hall Road.

District 6: Parker Farms School, 30 Parker Farms Road.

District 7: Yalesville School, 415 Church St., Yalesville.

District 8: Wallingford Senior Center, 238 Washington St.

District 9: Rock Hill School, 911 Durham Road.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wallingford proceeding with plan to cut trees

As published in the Record Journal Saturday April 21, 2012

WALLINGFORD — The city’s Public Works Department filed a public notice Thursday that it would proceed with plans to cut down six trees on the town green, or Fishbein Park, as part of an overall landscaping project for the park.

The decision follows a public hearing on the removal Tuesday in which residents voiced their opinions on the proposed removal. If residents are opposed to the decision, they have until April 29 to file an appeal with the state, according to Public Works Director and Tree Warden Henry McCully.

The town plans to plant six new Kwanzan cherry trees in the park and to install flower beds in place of some of the hedges, in addition to other changes.

— Laurie Rich Salerno

Friday, April 20, 2012

Parisi to receive award at GOP dinner for his service to the Republican Party

As published in the Record Journal, Friday April 20, 2012

“When I met him, it was never about him.” Robert Parisi’s main question has always been “What are you doing for Wallingford?”

— State Sen. Leonard Fasano, about Robert Parisi, longtime chairman of the Wallingford Town Council

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff

WALLINGFORD — Veteran Town Councilor Robert Parisi will be honored for his longtime service to the Republican Party by the state GOP Monday at the group’s annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford.

The 14-year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award, one of three major awards presented by the party each year.

“For the award you tend to look for unsung heroes — those that have been working primarily behind the scenes to help the party and help elect Republicans over a long period of time — Bob fit that criteria very well,” said Connecticut GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. by phone from a national Republican National Committee chairman’s meeting in Arizona Wednesday.

Labriola, a Wallingford resident who has been a longtime member of the local party, said Parisi will be honored both for his 34 years as a councilor and other contributions to the town and the party, including work on several campaigns. Parisi has served in various roles including as campaign manager for Republican state Sen. Len Fasano since his first run in 2002.

Fasano, who lives in North Haven, said as soon as he was exploring a run for state Senate, he was told “the guy to meet is Bob Parisi.”

“When I met him, it was never about him,” Fasano said, saying Parisi’s main question has always been “What are you doing for Wallingford?”

The dinner, now in its 34th year, is particularly high-profile this time around. Ann Romney, wife of GOP primary candidate Mitt Romney, will be the keynote speaker on the night before Tuesday’s Republican presidential preference primary election in Connecticut.

“I think it’s phenomenal. It certainly makes it a doubly important occasion for me — to have someone like her there,” Parisi said by phone Wednesday. Parisi said Labriola called him a few weeks ago to let him know of his award.

“I’m very humbled by it — it’s very touching — to be recognized for what you’ve done,” he said.

Parisi, who was born and raised in Wallingford, has been involved with myriad organizations in the town through the last 50 years, including the Elk’s Club, Wallingford Kiwanis, Celebrate Wallingford and the Wallingford Girls’ Softball League.

His first involvement with the town government, he said, was just after college when he held the sometimes unpopular job of sidewalk inspector under Mayor William Bertini.

“I used to have to go around and inspect sidewalks that were cracked ... and issued a citation to the homeowner,” Parisi said. “It caused quite a furor.”

Parisi soon left the job and worked independent of the town — but still, in some capacity served under every mayor since, he said. Parisi is known for founding and heading the residential and commercial cleaning service Cleen-Rite Inc. After he sold the company, Parisi said he worked at Gaylord Hospital directing housekeeping.

Former Democratic Town Councilor Iris Papale spoke fondly of her years on the Town Council with Parisi. Papale retired in 1998, and was the second longest running councilor at the time after Parisi, with 32 years on the council. She and others talked about Parisi’s boots-on-the ground commitment to the community.

“Bobby Parisi does so much for the people in the town of Wallingford that nobody even knows about. If somebody has a problem — even minor things to some people, if their street wasn’t plowed — he’d go out there and check it out,” she said. “He’ll make sure that it’s done.”

The two were friends long before they got into politics, she said, and in her first term she wrote a check for one of his fundraisers.

“The next day I got a call from the Democratic Town Committee, they were very upset with me,” she said. “I looked at them and said — this is exactly what happened — ‘years from now, when I’m not even in politics, will any of you call to ask how I’m feeling? No, but Bobby Parisi will call me forever.’ ”

The Prescott Bush Dinner will be held at the Stamford Mariott and will also honor Ambassador Tom Foley of Greenwich with the top Prescott Bush Sr. Award, and retiring state Rep. Lile Gibbons, of Greenwich, with the Woman’s Leadership Award.

File photo / Record-Journal

Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi speaks to a civics class at Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford about the importance of education on Nov. 14, 2006. The 14year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award at the Connecticut Republicans’ annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford on Monday.

File photos / Record-Journal

Wallingford Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi listens to Connecticut Independent Labor Union President Wayne Gilbert during an arbitration meeting at Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 7, 2000.

Robert Parisi sits in his office in July 1985. The 14-year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award at the Connecticut Republicans’ annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford on Monday. Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, will be the keynote speaker.

Parisi speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at Wallingford Town Hall on Jan. 4, 2010.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wallingford council OKs $1,000 for planning office online access

As posted online on Tuesday April 17, 2012

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:41 pm | Updated: 1:08 pm, Tue Apr 17, 2012.

Russell Blair

WALLINGFORD – The Town Council approved an appropriation of $1,000 to add internet access to the Planning and Zoning office, but whether or not the Internet is set up will be decided by the mayor.

During a budget workshop for the department, Acting Town Planner Kacie Castello said that having the Internet in her office would increase efficiencies.

“Email would be extremely helpful,” Castello said Tuesday. “A lot of state agencies communicate via the Internet.”

Currently, Castello and other town offices without Internet access have to go to the Program Planning office on the third floor of Town Hall to conduct business on the web.

The proposal to add the money passed by a 5-4 vote, with Republican Councilors Craig Fishbein and John LeTourneau joining Democrats John Sullivan, Nick Economopoulos and Jason Zandri to approve the funds. Republicans Robert Parisi, the council chairman, Rosemary Rascati, Thomas Laffin and Vincent Cervoni opposed the funding.

LeTourneau said he was concerned that Castello and Linda Bush, the former town planner, were using home computers and personal email accounts to conduct town business.

“That’s crazy, not in this day and age,” he said.

Wallingford Skate park for teens has to wait

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday April 17, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — The sluggish economy has stalled plans for a town owned skate park, but some local teens say it’s a need that should still be addressed.

In April 2008, more than 125 people came out to a meeting to support creating a local skate park. Locations were scouted and designs were drafted, but when the cost was estimated to be more than $250,000, town officials put the brakes on the project. But some want to see that effort revived and say that demand for a park has grown in the last four years.

“If we had that meeting today, there would be twice as many people in the room,” said Billy DeRoy, 15.

The problem has been exacerbated by the closing of a skate and BMX bike park in neighboring North Haven, according to DeRoy. In October, Haven Skatepark, an indoor facility, shut down due to roof damage caused by storms.

DeRoy said he understands the frustration of business owners and residents who don’t like to see skaters downtown, but said the problem is caused by a lack of places for skaters to gather.

“It’s not intentional,” he said.

But Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said building a park isn’t feasible given the current economic state.

“The money is just not there,” he said.

Dickinson’s proposed 2012-13 capital project budget is made up almost entirely of paving projects, with no new construction planned.

“It’s mainly basic things,” he said. “The economy has had an effect on what we can do.”

Democratic Town Councilor John Sullivan said that the local skaters were “victims of tough economic times.”

“A skate park would be nice, but it’s not happening this year and I don’t know if it will happen next year,” he said. “I hope they remain patient, don’t lose faith and understand the economics behind it.” The town-owned 6.11-acre Garden Road property was considered as a possible location. A misidentified section of the Quinnipiac River flood plain, Garden Road was approved for housing development in 1989 but was plagued by flooding issues. Homeowners sued, and the town settled with occupants of the 15-single- family homes with a partially state-funded $2.5 million buyout in 1998. The property has remained vacant since then.

Eric Ferrauola, 13, a friend of DeRoy’s, said that when he wants to bike in town he’s often met with complaints or police, who tell him to leave.

“It’s hard to ride ... they think we’re bad kids,” he said.

Town ordinance bars skaters from riding on sidewalks near the town center and on municipal property including the parking lots of Town Hall, the Police Department and Simpson Court. Lt. Marc Mikulski, the police spokesman, said officers usually ask skaters to go, and leave it at that unless they are causing other trouble.

Ferrauola said that he and his friends have to travel to the skate park in Cheshire’s Bartlem Park. They often bike from Wallingford along the busy Route 68.

“It’s dangerous on the roads,” he said.

DeRoy said skaters feel they have nowhere to go.

“We’re forced to go to other towns,” he said. “We’ve been pushed out of this town.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wallingford Superintendent Menzo defends lacrosse

As published in the Record Journal, Friday April 13, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff

WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo defended the inclusion of lacrosse in the 2012-13 school budget during a Board of Education budget workshop before the Town Council Thursday.

The school board received $614,000 less than what it had requested in Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s budget proposal, but when it comes to possible cuts, the board has remained firm in its commitment to lacrosse. Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein was critical of adding the sport at the two high schools, at the expense of other items, in tough economic times. “When you get less than you ask for, and you promise that you’re adding lacrosse ... I have a problem,” he said. “The economy stinks. I think sometimes people don’t realize that.”

But Menzo said Wallingford Youth Lacrosse, the town’s youth club program, has shown that a high school program for both girls and boys would be sustainable. Members of the group were in the audience Thursday.

“I’m personally committed to lacrosse,” Menzo said. “They followed the process appropriately. We have a responsible to teach at all levels, some of the best lessons learned outside of the classroom.”

Adding junior varsity lacrosse for boys and girls at Lyman Hall and Sheehan would cost $81,058 in the first year. The second-year cost is expected to be $66,932.

Lyman Hall and Sheehan are the only schools in the Southern Connecticut Conference without lacrosse teams. An estimated140 students would be involved town wide.

Menzo said that the inclusion of lacrosse was not at the expense of staff jobs. The budget does call for the reduction of 11 teaching positions, but those jobs are being cut due to declining enrollment, he said.

Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay, a Republican, said the school board supports the addition of the sport.

“All nine board members support this program,” she said. “There’s a lot of ways that people get educated. This is a component of education.”

McKay said the district is losing local students to private schools that have lacrosse programs.

Earlier Thursday, councilors expressed concern over the cafeteria budget, which projects a deficit of more than $200,000 being covered by a fund balance. The cafeterias are self-sustaining, but may require a subsidy from the school board beginning in the 2013-14 school year. Republican Vincent Cervoni asked Food Service Director Sharlene Wong to explain a trend of deficits in the cafeteria budget.

“Since 2008, we’ve had a downturn in the economy. We’ve had difficult times in terms of balancing revenues and expenditures,” Wong said, adding that state and federal mandates limit what foods can be sold, hurting a la carte sales. After a number of budget workshops, the school board sent Dickinson a proposed budget of $90,188,048, an increase of 3.91 percent, or $3.4 million. Dickinson countered with $89,573,916, a 3.2 percent increase representing $2.8 million in additional funding.

The council will continue budget workshops next week.

Public Hearing with regards to the removal of trees from Johanna Fishbein Park

Public Works Directory Henry McCully informed members of the Town Council through the Town Council secretary that there will be a Public Hearing with regard to the removal of trees from Johanna Fishbein Park on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 3 PM at the Railroad Station.

I am sure there will be some form of public notice as well but I wanted to post it in case there was anyone that wanted to know about it or if they wanted to attend.

If you are unable to make it in the middle of the day because of work or if you’re going to be away next week due to vacations you can write to Public Works Directory Henry McCully directly at 29 Town Farm Road or you can phone his office – (203) 294-2105 

It seems it’s always something in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal Friday April 13, 2012

Jeffery Kurz
(203) 317-2213

They get into some interesting squabbles in Wallingford.

There’s been squabbling about fireworks. There’s been squabbling about trees. There’s been squabbling about squabbling.

In 2010, the town dropped $30,000 from its budget for the July 4 celebration.

Wallingford was hardly alone in making such concessions to the pressures of a struggling economy. But Independence Day is Independence Day, and having set up on the slope that leads to Sheehan High School, and having watched the fireworks celebration, I can understand why it was hard to give up.

Craig Fishbein and Jason Zandri came to the rescue, starting the Wallingford Fireworks Fund, a nonprofit organization that has raised enough money the keep the celebration going for each of the last two years.

Nice story, right?

But this year there’s a catch. The town’s Parks and Recreation Department has been tasked with handling negotiations with vendors and purchases, something that in the past two years was handled by the nonprofit fund. The fund wants to continue to play a role, and that’s where the squabbling is coming from.

Republican Fishbein and Democrat Zandri are town councilors, Zandri having been elected in November, and it seems kind of silly not to let them continue to play a part. They’ve earned it. The question is, how much of a part? And there’s been some squabbling about that.

The situation reflects the tension between the municipal responsibility and liability concerns of Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. versus the grass-roots initiative of the fireworks fund. As Robert Parisi, the Republican Town Council chairman, and Democratic councilor John Sullivan have suggested, the interested parties should get together in the mayor’s office and figure this out.

In other Wallingford squabbling news, the specter of “Wallingford’s chainsaw massacre” was resurrected recently when tree-removal notices were posted near the train station, alerting passersby of the town’s intent to remove six pear trees damaged by storms last year and replace them with cherry trees.

The “chainsaw massacre” was part of a Record-Journal headline for an opinion column in February 1998, not too long after 21 thornless honey locust trees were eradicated from the Town Green by the Public Works Department. The trees had been planted in the mid-1980s on the green and in sections of the sidewalk.

“The last time they did this there was a riot,” Democratic Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos said earlier this week, referring both to the plan to cut down the pear trees and the “chainsaw massacre” of the late 1990s.

Fourteen years ago it was Jason Zandri’s father, Geno Zandri Jr., a Democratic town councilor at the time, who was described as “barking mad” over the tree removal in a Record-Journal article (do I need to point out the pun in that description?). Geno Zandri said recently of the current situation that the trees should be removed, the sidewalk fixed and the new trees planted in the grass. “If that’s not the case, they’ll be hearing from me,” he said.

In the late-1990’s flap, Henry McCully was the target of criticism, and today it appears that McCully, who is the public works director and tree warden, can’t look at a tree without catching some flak. I don’t know much about trees, other than that I like them and am inclined to leave them alone, but isn’t that why you have an expert on hire?

There’s the airing of grievances and there’s squabbling, a distinction that is often hard to make in Wallingford.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

July 4 display again raises controversy

Fishbein balks at town’s different treatment of fireworks and ‘Celebrate’

As published in the Record Journal Thursday April 12, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

Dickinson Fishbein Zandri

Photos courtesy of the Record Journal

WALLINGFORD — One of the town councilors who helped launch a fundraising effort to save the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration claims the town doesn’t treat all nonprofit organizations it works with equally.

Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said that the fireworks are being treated differently from events such as Wallingford Symphony Orchestra concerts and Celebrate Wallingford, which is put on by Wallingford Center Inc., the downtown business advocacy group. The town budget allocates $8,500 for an outdoor summer symphony concert that Fishbein said draws only hundreds of people, while the fireworks celebration draws more than 10,000 and receives no funding. For Celebrate Wallingford, Wallingford Center Inc. is able to contract with vendors, Fishbein said.

Fishbein and Democratic Town Councilor Jason Zandri founded the nonprofit Wallingford Fireworks Fund in 2010 after the town dropped funding for the show from its budget. They’ve butted heads with Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. during the planning for this year’s celebration. Zandri and Fishbein raised several issues during a council meeting Tuesday.

For the last two years, Zandri has negotiated with vendors. He said the arrangement allowed a certain flexibility on costs, through discounts from the vendor, and room to accommodate last-minute donations that could improve the show. But this year that process is being handled by the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The town doesn’t contribute one red cent, yet the mayor feels the (donors) should have no part in the coordination,” Fishbein said. “We don’t want total control ... we’re willing to work with them.”

Liz Landow, executive director of Wallingford Center Inc., said the events are treated differently because the town, not the fireworks fund, ultimately puts on the show, even if the fund provides the money. She said Wallingford Center Inc. wasn’t getting special treatment.

“It’s a Wallingford Center production,” she said of Celebrate Wallingford. “It’s put on by Wallingford Center; we hold the insurance. We have the freedom because of the way it was established.”

Dickinson, a Republican, has maintained that the town must handle the purchasing process for the fireworks, and said that comparisons to Celebrate Wallingford aren’t fair.

“The fireworks are clearly put on by the town,” he said. “For Celebrate Wallingford, Wallingford Center provides insurance; they are the hosts of that. They are a separate entity from the town that provides all the groundwork.”

Several members of the Wallingford Center board have Republican ties, including Republican councilors John Le-Tourneau and Rosemary Rascati and former Republican Councilor Stephen Knight. Landow is Rascati’s daughter. But Zandri said he doesn’t believe politics plays a role in the perceived different treatment of the fireworks and Celebrate Wallingford.

“I like to look above and beyond that ... I think it’s not politically motivated,” Zandri said.

Zandri said that he hasn’t thought about the fund taking total sponsorship of the event, but said that if he is continually denied input, it’s an option he may consider.

“I suppose there’s ways to do it,” he said. “But it’s a manpower issue. Right now it’s just me, my father and Craig (Fishbein). It’s hard to say it, but if I have to go that route someday, maybe I will.” Jason Zandri’s father, Geno Zandri, a former six-term Democratic councilor, helps organize fireworks fundraising.

The fund would have to get permission from the town to use the school grounds and pay directly for the cost of the town services including police, fire and public works, and the fireworks. Currently, the town makes the payments and arrangements after receiving a check from the nonprofit.

Democratic Town Councilor John Sullivan said that he thinks Fishbein, Zandri and Dickinson need to sort out their differences, and not at a council meeting.

“We have two sides working toward a common goal,” he said. “They need to sit down, communicate and work together.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wallingford Town Council to host budget hearings

Posted on the Record Journal Website: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:06 pm | Updated: 1:12 pm, Wed Apr 11, 2012.

Wallingford Town Council to host budget hearings

Mary Ellen Godin

@Record_Journal  #Wallingford @CConnBiz

WALLINGFORD -- The Town Council will host a public hearing tonight on Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.'s $145.1 million budget proposal.

The proposed spending plan is a 3.2 percent increase over last year's total spending and if approved, will come with a 3 percent tax hike.

Wallingford Housing Authority’s biggest critic is ready to focus on its future

As published in the Record Journal on Friday March 16, 2012

By Dan Ivers
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2275

WALLINGFORD – Despite another audit finding significant issues with the Wallingford Housing Authority’s management and accounting practices, the agency’s most vocal critic is finally ready to focus on its future rather than its questionable past.

On Wednesday night, Michael Guyder, of Quincy, Mass.-based auditing firm Hurley, O’Neill & Company, P.C., presented his findings to the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners. An annual audit of the agency’s finances and procedures is required because it receives more than $500,000 annually from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Guyder found that the Housing Authority’s records exposed it to significant risk, but he attributed most of the errors to a lack of understanding of state laws and accounting principles, rather than any calculated attempts to mislead or cover up wrongdoing.

“There was no reason to believe there was any misappropriation of funds, or theft,” he said. “This is an accounting issue and a control issue, and not necessarily something that where there’s malicious intent.”

Among the issues pointed out by Guyder was a pair of bank accounts maintained “off the books.” Records were found indicating balances for the accounts — one for administrative expenses related to the federal Section 8 program and another for proceeds from the sale of the former Ridgeland property — but no related accounting records.

The agency also lacked property records for its Housing Choice Voucher Program (it had been presenting auditors with records provided by Hamden’s housing authority, which administers the program), as well as a system for tracking inventory. Several accounting errors were also uncovered, including $4,400 in security deposit collections that could not be traced to Housing Authority bank accounts and a lack of any record keeping track of extra deposits from tenants who have pets.

The most recent look at the agency’s finances and recordkeeping only adds to a litany of questionable agreements and practices it engaged in under the leadership of former Executive Director Stephen Nere, whose 26-year tenure ended after he accepted a $130,000 buyout in December.

He has admitted that mistakes were made during his time as executive director, but Nere has strongly denied allegations that he intentionally averted state or federal laws and regulations.

Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos, who initiated calls to look into the Housing Authority’s practices in 2007, said the audit was not surprising given the various gaps in accounting and questionable procedures uncovered by past probes. All previous audits, including one designed to detect signs of potential embezzlement or theft, have not uncovered any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

After previous audits, Economopoulos has suggested the board should delve deeper into the agency’s books to uncover the full extent of any potential wrongdoing. However, after Wednesday’s meeting, he said he was ready to join various commissioners in their commitment to focusing on the agency’s future.

“I’m just vindicated. I said that at the least, it would be shoddy record-keeping and bad management. We don’t have the at most, we have the at least,” he said. “The bottom line is we have it, and that’s it. I feel good about what we’ve accomplished.”

Commissioners recently opted not to replace Nere with another full-time director, and hired a full-time property management firm, DeMarco Management Corp., to oversee its finances and 317 units across town. The company has begun reforming many of the agency’s records and procedures, including compiling a master waiting list and implementing specific purchasing policies in line with state and federal laws.

“They instilled a little bit of faith in me, with the way they were running things,” said Economopoulos. “I feel like we’re going in the right direction.”

Wallingford Officials to discuss necessity of uptown police officer post

As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday April 10, 2012

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein believes stationing a police officer at the corner of Center and North Main streets is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and says he will raise the issue at Wednesday’s public hearing on the 2012-13 budget.

Last month, Fishbein requested under the Freedom of Information Act the duties, hours and compensation paid to officers who work at the uptown intersection. Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio said at the time he believed the position was covered under the police union contract, but a letter from Lt. Marc Mikulski to Fishbein says it is not.

“The specifics of this post are not mentioned in the current Wallingford Police Union Local 1570 Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Mikulski wrote in his response to Fishbein’s request.

Dortenzio, chief since 1990, declined to comment on the position Monday, but said last month that an officer working at the corner predated his time on the job and the primary responsibility of the post was to assist school children in crossing the street. The officer is also available to handle service calls.

Dortenzio said he would address the matter further on Wednesday.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Monday that he believed the settlement of a grievance filed by the union many years ago led to an officer maintaining the post. He said the decision to assign an officer there was a judgment for the chief to make, and he heard people say they like seeing an officer uptown.

Fishbein said he thinks that the electronic crossing signs at the intersection are enough, and he didn’t think anybody is needed at the intersection to assist the schoolchildren. He would like to see the officer reassigned until the need for someone at the intersection is established. But Republican Councilor John LeTourneau disagreed.

“I like having the officer there, especially when the kids are crossing,” LeTourneau said. “I think it’s too big for a crossing guard. It’s a main intersection; there’s always a lot going on.”

LeTourneau, who owns Wallingford Lamp and Shade on Center Street, said having an officer there helps keep an eye on what’s happening uptown and downtown.

Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri, who has several young children, said he doesn’t think the “walk/don’t walk” signs are enough.

“I don’t think it’s enough for small children,” he said. “They look both ways, but then they walk out into the street.”

But Zandri that he believes a crossing guard could do the same job for less money. Of the people he’s talked to, he says about half support the officer on the corner and half think it’s a waste of money.

“I think if people understand the cost, we should leave it,” he said.

According to Mikulski’s letter, an officer is at the corner from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The post is filled Monday through Friday, but not during the summer or school holidays. Officers rotate to cover the intersection.

Wednesday’s public hearing on Dickinson’s proposed budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Town Hall, 45 S. Main St.

Councilors want say on fireworks, but they’ll have to meet with mayor

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday April 11, 2012

By Mary Ellen Godin
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2255

WALLINGFORD — They might be from different political parties, but the town councilors who founded the Wallingford Fireworks Fund joined Tuesday in the hopes of getting more say in choosing vendors for the annual Fourth of July display.

Democrat Jason Zandri and Republican Craig Fishbein wouldn’t accept the explanation by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. that only the Parks and Recreation Department could handle vendor negotiation and the purchasing process.

“Without a formal process it could unravel as quickly as it came together,” Dickinson said. “You can’t have multiple people representing the town.”

Dickinson added that he knew of no other organization that allows event planners to negotiate contracts on behalf of the town. Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi, a Republican, said he understood the liability and logistical reasons behind Dickinson’s stand, but he said he could see Zandri’s and Fishbein’s point. Parisi even agreed with Democrat John Sullivan that the interested parties need to meet in the mayor’s office and settle the matter.

“The fund would like to have some input,” Parisi said. “They want to hear the final negotiation and bless it. When you’re into it, you’re taking ownership. You want to have a little bit of yourself in it. I share their passion.”

Zandri and Fishbein started the Wallingford Fireworks Fund in 2010, the year the town dropped funding for the $30,000 celebration from its budget. The nonprofit organization has raised enough money to pay for the show in each of the last two years.

Until this year, Zandri has negotiated quotes with vendors. He said the arrangement allowed certain flexibility on costs, through discounts from the vendor, and room to accommodate last-minute donations that could improve the show.

This year, the town has been seeking quotes without Zandri, who said the price and the quality of the show could suffer if he can’t be at the negotiating table.

“I’m looking for that flexibility,” Zandri said. “I want to try to figure out how to do that.”

Fishbein disagreed with Dickinson that other groups don’t hire vendors, and he pointed to Celebrate Wallingford. He also asked when the town would ever contribute to a fireworks display that draws 10,000 people versus a symphony concert and other events that bring in fewer people.

Zandri also said he wanted to extend the fundraising deadline to allow more contributions to make a better show, but was told by Dickinson that a range on costs could be written into the contract, and that the need for police and fire service demanded a deadline.

Other councilors, including Republican Thomas Laffin and Sullivan, said the Town Council isn’t the proper place for airing the grievances. They said the parties should meet in the mayor’s office to reach a partnership agreement with the Parks and Recreation Department.

In other business, the Town Council approved several appointments to boards and commissions and set a public hearing for April 24 on a 2012 Small Cities Community Block Grant, an ordinance concerning food service establishments, changes to sewer and drain ordinances, and a restriction on employees contracting with the town.




Photos courtesy of the Record Journal

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorum Remains on the Ballot for April 24th Republican Presidential Preference Primary


Denise Merrill

Secretary of the State


- Press Release -

Merrill: Despite Exit from the Race, Santorum Remains on the Ballot for April 24th Republican Presidential Preference Primary

Secretary of the State Reminds Republicans and Unaffiliated Voters that Deadlines to Register to Vote for Presidential Primary are Approaching Soon

Hartford:  Secretary of the State Denise Merrill today informed Connecticut Republican and unaffiliated voters that despite the suspension of his campaign, Republican Rick Santorum will remain on the ballot for the Republican Presidential Preference Primary to take place in Connecticut on Tuesday April 24, 2012 (Santorum can also still receive votes).  Since the deadline to withdraw from the race was March 19th, ballots for the primary have already been printed for every town and there is no legal way to remove any one of the four candidates previously selected for the ballot by Secretary Merrill.  Secretary Merrill is also reminding Republican and unaffiliated voters that the deadlines to register to vote in time for the presidential preference primary are fast approaching, starting with next Thursday April 18, 2012, the deadline to register to vote for the primary by mail.  The final, in-person deadline to register to vote for the presidential preference primary is Monday April 23rd at 12:00 p.m. noon at town or city hall. 

“We are closing in on the day Republicans in Connecticut get to decide who they want to be their presidential candidate,” said Secretary Merrill, Connecticut’s chief elections official.  “Republican voters will be going to the polls in a regional primary on April 24th, along with voters in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island.  Unaffiliated voters can also participate in this primary if enroll with the Republican party by April 23rd at noon.”

Polls will be open on April 24, 2012 from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. for registered Republicans in Connecticut for the Presidential Preference Primary.  Voters can go online at to download voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, and find out where their polling place is located.  The four candidates to appear on the Republican Presidential Preference Primary ballot are: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum.

Av Harris
Director of Communications
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill
(860) 509-6255 ofc
(860) 463-5939 cell


Wallingford Councilors start getting through to mayor on Web’s benefits

As published in the Record Journal on Thursday March 15, 2012

By Dan Ivers
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2275

WALLINGFORD - An influx of technologically-savvy town councilors may be pushing the town closer to embracing the Internet and other advancements.

Last week, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. broke from his usual stance on technology when he allowed the town’s current operating budget to be posted on its website. The move came after public pressure from councilors, including Republican Craig Fishbein, who has advocated for greater transparency in the budget and tax collection processes.

At a Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Fishbein and a bipartisan group of councilors continued the push by asking Dickinson to make his upcoming budget proposal available online after it is released April 1. Dickinson resisted, but promised to weigh the benefits of the posting against the lost time it might create for town employees.

Technology Director Donald Rowe, summoned by the council to explain what posting the budget might require, said it would take about 10 minutes uploading an existing electronic copy.

The embrace of technology, or lack thereof, has long been an issue in town. Dickinson, a Republican in the midst of his 15th term, prefers to keep access to technology at a minimum in Town Hall, where internet access is available in offices only if required by state or federal law.

Dickinson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but admitted at Tuesday’s meeting that he is in the minority on the issue.

“It’s got to meet a useful process. It’s got to meet a useful endeavor for the people,” he said. “I obviously do not march to the step of perhaps the rest of the world on this issue ... We don’t jump just because someone else does it. We take our time and think it through.”

Historically, his position has been divisive in town and on the council, but many current officials agree that support for advancements may be at an all time high, partially due to a group of councilors that openly questions the mayor’s resistance.

Democrat John Sullivan, who joined the council in 2009, said he believes the change is partially due to the addition of Fishbein and other Republicans, who may be more willing to challenge Dickinson than some of their fellow party members.

“I think we’re witnessing a real change in the so-called Republican paradigm,” he said. “We just have some people who are now used to working with technology either at home or through their jobs.”

The current group of Republicans also includes newly elected Thomas Laffin, who is the youngest member of the council at 32 and described himself as in favor of incorporating more technology into the town’s operations. He and Democrat Jason Zandri, a 42year-old information technology worker, replaced veteran councilors Vincent Testa and Jerry Farrell Jr. last year.

“I think there’s a way to advance everything,” said Laffin. “But it’s not going to ever happen at a council meeting. That (discussion) was a waste of time. It has to be done through education of the administration.”

While many councilors agreed that the town should go further with its use of the internet, they praised Dickinson for his willingness to post the operating budget to the town website. While councilors can look to pressure him, the decision is ultimately his, and some believe his cautious approach will be an asset moving forward.

“He’s the mayor, and the town is in great shape,” said Laffin.

Sullivan also praised Dickinson for his relatively favorable response to the latest calls for a change in philosophy.

“We’ve moved the rock up the hill farther than we’ve ever moved it before at this point. At some point we’ve got to be satisfied with the direction we’re moving in,” he said.

Republican John Le-Tourneau said he did not believe that more support for advancements among Republicans would have any major influence over Dickinson’s approach.

“I see this as a bipartisan effort to do what we can to get the information out to the public,” he said. “It really is not politically driven.”

“We’ve moved the rock up the hill farther than we’ve ever moved it before at this point.”
—Town Councilor John Sullivan




Town Council Chambers


APRIL 10, 2012

6:30 P.M


Prayer by the Reverend Dee Ann Dodd, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

1. Pledge of Allegiance and Roll Call

2. Correspondence

3. Consent Agenda

3a. Consider and Approve Tax Refunds (#553 - #562) totaling $3,252.43 Acct. # 001-1000-010-1170 - Tax Collector

3b. Set a Public Hearing for April 24, 2012 at 7:00 P.M. for a 2012 Small Cities Community Block Grant – Grants Administrator

3c. Set a Public Hearing for April 24, 2012 at 7:15 P.M. to act on the repeal and replacement of  Chapter 122, Food Service Establishments, of the Code of the Town of Wallingford - Ordinance Committee Co-Chairmen

3d. Set a Public Hearing for April 24, 2012 at 7:30 P.M. to act the Repeal of Article I. “Drains” of Chapter 177, “Sewers” of the Code of the Town of Wallingford and to act on the adoption of an Ordinance concerning Sources of Inflow and Infiltration into the Sanitary Sewer System - Ordinance Committee Co-Chairmen

3e. Set a Public Hearing for April 24, 2012 at 7:45 P.M. to amend Chapter 43, Purchasing, of the Code of the Town of Wallingford by adding Section H(2)(j) to the Ordinance to address restrictions on employees contracting with the town to provide services - Ordinance Committee Co-Chairmen

3f. Consider and Approve a Transfer in the Amount of $4,725 to Miscellaneous General Expense Acct # 46100930 from Maintenance of Transmission and Collection Mains Acct # 46100673 – Sewer Division

3g. Consider and Approve an Appropriation in the Amount of $2,000 to Revenue- Recovery of Legal Fees – Miscellaneous Acct # 1009052-46300 and to Professional Services-Specialists–Corporation Counsel

3h. Approve Reappointments of John Smith as a Regular Member and Reverend Karen Cook as an Alternate Member to the Board of Ethics for three-year terms, effective immediately, expiring March 1, 2015 - Mayor

3i. Consider and Approve the Appointment of Robert Avery to the Board of Assessment Appeals, effective immediately, for a Term Expiring January 2015 – Robert F. Parisi, Chairman

3j. Consider and Approve the Appointment of Jeffrey Kohan to the Zoning Board of Appeals, effective immediately, for a Term Expiring January 8, 2015 – Robert F. Parisi, Chairman

3k. Consider and Approve the Reappointments of Joseph DaCunto, William Nolan and Timothy Wall as Constables for two-year terms Expiring January 8, 2014 – Robert F. Parisi, Chairman

3l. Consider and Approve a Transfer in the Amount of $1,395 to Promotional Expenses Acct # 10011050-55405from Office Expenses & Supplies Acct # 10011050-56100 - Economic Development Commission

3m. Consider and Approve minutes of Regular Town Council Meeting of February 28, 2012, 2012

4. Items Removed from the Consent Agenda


6. Discussion and Possible Action to establish and adopt a formal process for the selection of a vendor for the Wallingford Fireworks Celebration - Councilor Jason Zandri

7. Consider and Approve a Bid Waiver in the Amount of $12,000 for Preservation Grant with Adkins Printing – Town clerk

8. 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

9. Executive Session pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes §1-225 (f) and §1-200 (6)(B) to discuss the following cases:

1. Jacobowicz v. Scrubbin Bubbles, LLC, et al

2. Bear Industries, LLC v. Town of Wallingford

3. Saldamarco v. Town of Wallingford

10. Possible Action on Jacobowicz v. Scrubbin Bubbles, LLC, et al

11. Possible Action on Bear Industries, LLC v. Town of Wallingford

12. Possible Action on Saldamarco v. Town of Wallingford


Monday, April 9, 2012

Wallingford Housing Authority’s property manager tackles no-contract bill, waiting lists

As published in the Record Journal on Thursday March 15, 2012

By Dan Ivers
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2275

WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford Housing Authority will move to settle an outstanding bill with an architectural firm for work done last year without a written contract.

Maria DeMarco, whose property management firm, DeMarco Management Corp., took over supervision of the Housing Authority’s 317 units last month, updated the agency’s board of commissioners on her work at a meeting Wednesday night. Among the items discussed was $32,000 owed to Newington based J.A. Associates, which De-Marco said was related to repaving work at a WHA complex last year.

DeMarco said representatives of the company recently told her that the design work was performed without a written contract. The WHA’s former executive director, Stephen Nere, reportedly struck an informal agreement to pay the firm $600 a month for the work. There was no competitive bidding.

“I was told it was done at the last minute, all on a handshake. There was no contract, no specifications,” DeMarco said. “He said he was begged to do it quickly because the grant was going to be lost if these plans were not completed.”

DeMarco said that because of the lack of a contract, she was unsure whether the $32,000 bill accurately represented the work that was performed. However, she said that because J.A. Associates is suing another housing authority for back payments, she negotiated to pay a lump sum to settle the bill. The amount of that payment has yet to be determined.

Michael Misiti, chairman of the WHA board of commissioners, said a settlement would avoid a lengthy process of paying for the work at $600 a month.

“It would take over 50 months to pay him off at the rate we’re going,” he said.

DeMarco said she has found no clear policies for purchasing or hiring outside firms since taking over the agency’s operations.

Reached for comment Wednesday night, Nere said he hired J.A. Associates to design projects that would have been covered by a federal Small Cities grant. He admitted that the agency was “very pressed” to meet the deadline and he “may have asked them to do some additional work above and beyond their original contract.”

He denied that the arrangement with the firm was unusual or problematic. “There’s nothing of significance there,” he said.

Nere, who served as executive director for 26 years, retired last year amid persistent questions about the WHA’s accounting and management practices.

Later in Wednesday night’s meeting, DeMarco described her work to compile a waiting list for the Housing Authority, which she described as being “disjointed to say the least” before her arrival. She said many of the lists, such as those for elderly or handicapped housing, had not been updated in years, and she was working to create a master list that could be placed online and monitored by prospective tenants.

The agency has 15 units that will remain vacant until the waiting list problems can be resolved.

“I don’t want to offer an available unit to someone that isn’t next in line,” she said. “I’d love to fill all the units tomorrow, because I know people need them. But I have to follow the process.”

Nere has denied any problems with the waiting lists, saying they would have been detected by annual audits required by the federal government.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rate hikes in electricity, water and sewer bills on tap in Wallingford

As published online at

By Mary Ellen Godin
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2255

WALLINGFORD — Property owners can expect rate hikes in their electricity, water and sewer bills this summer to help pay for operational costs, wages and system improvements.

“We cannot continue to provide the level of services without this increase,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Monday when revealing the town’s 2012-2013 budget.

Electric Division customers will see a 0.6 percent rate increase, which translates into about $1.63 per month for a homeowner using 750 kilowatt hours. The division is also hiring an energy conservation specialist and maintenance electrician.

The Electric Division’s operation expenses increased 0.9 percent. Capital expenses increased 3.9 percent to spend $3.5 million toward a five-year capital improvement plan.

Water customers can expect to see a 3.5 percent rate increase, from $3.21 to $3.34 per 100 cubic feet, that is expected to raise revenues by 6 percent. For the average customer who uses about 5,500 gallons per month, that’s a change of 95 cents per month or $2.86 per quarter, said George Adair, director of public utilities.

According to Dickinson, the increases include some contractual wage increases. The bulk of the $1.6 million capital improvement budget includes $849,306 for transmission and distribution, and water main work on five streets.

Sewer rates will climb 10.3 percent and are expected to increase revenues by 14.2 percent. For an average user of about 5,500 gallons of water per month, that translates to $4.29 per month or $12.87 per quarter. Operating expenses increased 4.1 percent but employee pay raises are not included in this year’s budget.

Roughly half of the increase, or $6.44 per quarter, is the first installment of three to help pay for a $350,000 study that looks at sources of inflow and infiltration into the wastewater treatment plant. If the town reaches more than 90 percent of the 8 million gallon capacity, it is required to do a facility study and the implied purpose is to upgrade or increase the capacity.

“Obviously that’s not good economy,” Adair said. “This is a series of rate changes approved last summer. This is the third in a series of four.”

A preliminary study done three years ago revealed problems with private hookups from a home tap, roof, foundation drain and/or sump pump.

“That’s the sort of unwanted extra flow,” Adair said. “The problem is coming from the private side. We want to address this, we’ve made some investment, sampled some typical basins to characterize the problem. We have a good knowledge of where they are. It’s a proactive approach. But we’re not unique at all.”

Electric users will see the increase in their July bills. Water and sewer increases will show up in June.

Town utilities are user-supported, not taxpayer subsidized, and any rate increase hurts residents during an anemic economy that has seen lost jobs, stagnant wages and rising costs, according to town councilors. But most of them agree they’re justified.

“We can say we don’t like them but if the increase is due to expenditures, there isn’t a lot we can do,” said Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat. “I did notice they made upgrades to the plants.”

Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos, also a Democrat, said rate increases hurt those in the community still facing uncertain times and those living on fixed incomes.

“This is a bad time to have one, with mill rate increases, utility increases,” Economopoulos said. “There are people who are really concerned about this.”

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said that while the increases are unpleasant, they are necessary.

“We have stuff coming down the pike and they’re looking to boost reserves,” Fishbein said.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To balance Wallingford budget, mayor had to dip into rainy day fund

As published online at

By Mary Ellen Godin
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2255

WALLINGFORD — The mayor’s proposed budget for 2012-2013 includes adding $4.3 million from the rainy day fund to maintain services without costing taxpayers more.

“It helps balance the budget,” said Finance Director James Bowes. “It’s considered a tax savings while helping provide services.”

It’s not unusual for Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. to use surplus funds to cover shortfalls in other areas. This year those shortfalls are created by a $5.2-million increase in department requests, fewer state and federal grants and unfunded mandates, Dickinson said at a budget presentation Monday.

Had he not dipped into the fund, it would have meant another 1-mill increase for taxpayers or drastic cuts in services. As proposed, the budget comes with a .76-mill increase to 25.98 mills.

The rainy day or surplus fund now has $14.8 million, or $10.5 million if the budget is approved, Bowes said. The town works to keep more than $9.8 million in reserve to maintain its AAA credit rating, Bowes said.

But town councilors are worried about rebuilding the rainy day fund in 2013-2014 when town employees who did not get raises this year have wage increases negotiated for next year. A large concern is teachers, who are set to receive close to $2 million over the next two years. Three other unions representing managers, clerical staff and police and fire department employees are also in negotiations and could be in line for two-percent wage hikes.

“With eight, nine percent unemployment, you have everyone functioning like everything is normal,” Dickinson said. “Wages should be tied to the private sector.”

Town Councilor Jason Zandri said the rainy day fund can be likened to a personal savings account. If mortgages and utilities increase and a person continues to dip into it, it’s going to wither.

”You’re taking more out of the bank and eventually run out of that savings,” said Zandri, a Democrat. “You need to put it in every day.”

Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos said the fact that the rainy day fund had to be used to pay for existing services shows that this budget challenged Dickinson, a Republican.

“He’s definitely aware of it,” said Economopoulos, a Democrat. “He has his back against the wall. He has a challenge to make it more efficient and accountable. We may have to turn to fire and say, we can’t do it for you,” he said referring to plans to build a new firehouse.

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, a Republican, said the rainy day fund is designed to cover shortfalls in the budget and prevent tax increases, but he’s more worried now.

“As I pointed out last year, that money is dwindling,” Fishbein said. “You don’t have that money next year to pad the budget.”

The most effective way to replenish the rainy day fund is through the town’s grand list, Bowes said. This year’s grand list growth generated $900,000 at the current tax rate. A residential and commercial real estate market that’s slowly stirring back to life could boost revenue, he said. But there is no magic bullet.

“It’s a multi-faceted question and there is no one answer,” Bowes said.

The town’s residential and commercial tax burden doesn’t fluctuate wildly even after revaluations, he said. In 2010 commercial property values dropped from 65.1 percent of the town’s tax burden several years earlier to 64.18 percent. In 2011, it was 64.05. Commercial and industrial property owners picked up slightly more of the burden in 2010 and 2011, but personal property or equipment taxes declined due to depreciation.

“Businesses have to replace those assets with newer assets at a faster clip,” Bowes said. “That’s a large component.”

Businesses moving in and moving up also help that number grow. The town also has to see some return of state and federal grants, instead of one- or two-year programs that evaporate leaving the town to support new hires, or new programs, Dickinson said Monday.

Fishbein said the town needs to take another look at agencies and programs it’s sending checks to and stop paying the state $70,000 a year for bus service, among other changes.

Economopolous said it might be time to say no to large projects such as the fire station, while Zandri said it’s time to review agreements with local non-profits for payments in lieu of taxes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Steve Fontana announced today (Tuesday April 3, 2012) that his State Senate campaign has met the eligibility thresholds for a public campaign finance grant, and that he will be submitting his prequalifying paperwork to the State Elections Enforcement Commission this week.

Under public campaign finance rules, State Senate candidates must raise $15,000 overall, and collect at least 300 contributions from people who live in one of the towns of the district, to qualify for a public campaign finance grant.  The Fontana for State Senate campaign has exceeded both of those thresholds: as of Saturday, March 31, the campaign had raised more than $18,000 overall, and collected more than 340 in-district contributions.

“As a believer in the power of grassroots democracy, I’m really pleased that we’ve met the earliest possible deadline to submit our paperwork for the public campaign finance program,” Fontana added. “When I announced my candidacy a little more than two months ago, I didn’t know whether we could do it.

“I’m heartened and humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received from people who not only want a greater say in our political process, but a better State Senator than they’ve been getting for the last ten years.  The people of all backgrounds and financial means who helped me to reach this goal want a real fighter for the middle class.”

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my campaign so generously,” Fontana concluded.  “I’d also like to thank my campaign treasurer, Sarah Aziz, and her deputies – Tessa Marquis, Pat Brown, and Judith Meyers – for all of the hard work that they put into making this early filing possible.”

Fontana is running for State Senator for the 34th District, which includes all or part of the towns of Wallingford, East Haven, North Haven, and Durham.  He served as North Haven’s State Representative from 1997 to 2011, and is a former member of North Haven’s Conservation Commission, Board of Finance, and Board of Selectmen.  He has a B.A. from Oberlin College, an M.B.A. from Cornell University, and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut.


Paid for by Fontana for State Senate, Sarah Aziz, Treasurer.  Approved by Steve Fontana.

NOTE FROM JASON ZANDRI - As this is a public site and I freely offer the space to all things dealing directly or indirectly with Wallingford and politics that affect Wallingford, no fees were charged or exchanged. I have used the text above in it's original format which included the "paid for by" information.