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Monday, May 28, 2012

Wallingford: ashamed – my letter to the editor regarding the veterans and the Wallingford ShowMobile

As published in the Letters to the Editor section of the Record Journal on Sunday May 27, 2012


Editor: Regarding the recent issue with Mayor Dickinson’s decision to deny the use of the showmobile to the veterans, I came to the Wallingford Town Council meeting expecting this to be solely a cost issue where Dickinson didn’t want to expend additional funds. I came prepared to make that payment to the town as I received pledges of a donation as part of the effort to resolve this issue and get the veterans use of the equipment.

The end result, when I specifically asked the mayor: “if there is a way to remove the additional financial component of using the showmobile for the ceremony, can the vets get the permission to use it?” — was that Dickinson responded “no.” His reason was “he doesn’t believe using the showmobile as a reviewing stand is the proper use for the stage” — but why does that matter? If the vets want to use it, and it is going to otherwise sit in mothballs for the day unused, and we had people willing to make the donation to remove additional monetary burden from the town, then why not let them use it?

The veterans served this country, protected its freedoms, and preserved this way of life we have today. All they asked for extra this day was the use of the showmoblie that is otherwise going unused. At the time they served, they were asked to give their everything — and, if needed, their lives. “All gave some, some gave all,” but Wallingford will not lend them use of a portable stage, now that they are in their 70s, to have them be a little more comfortable on a day we are supposed to be paying thanks to them and remembering the fallen that never returned.

That is not my Wallingford — and I am ashamed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

From the editor page of the Record Journal - Mayor and manager

As published on Monday May 21, 2012

True to personal governing principles, Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. extends his well known brand of fiscal conservatism even to himself — for better or for worse. Over the last decade of his 28-year run in office, he has refused any salary raises. Annually, he earns $73,140, less than $1,000 more than his administrative aide, and half of what many fellow municipal administrators make. At a recent budget hearing, a debate centered on whether Dickinson’s wages represented a bargain, or a long-term detriment.

As mayor, Dickinson is no mere figurehead. His complex responsibilities include those of a town manager: overseeing all municipal departments, both in terms of functions and finances. Thus, an income discrepancy is even more manifest when compared with area civic leaders who perform analogous work. Next year, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback will take in $149,000. Meriden City Manager Lawrence Kendzior is set at $139,027.

In consideration of his manifold duties, Dickinson is unquestionably underpaid. “The bang that we’re getting for our buck should be envied by everyone in the state of Connecticut,” correctly proffered Republican Councilor Robert Parisi (R-J, 5-2). Wallingford’s mayor is more than an under-compensated workforce supervisor, though. He has kept his town on solid budgetary ground, even as recession-era realities necessitate making complicated, taxing monetary decisions. All the more reason to pay him well.

Logic of operating within contemporary economic constraints is essential to Dickinson’s argument in favor of static salary. “In an elected office . . . you become more of a weathervane for what the times require,” he stated, a thought-provoking observation from a seasoned town CEO who leads by example.

One might wonder, however, whether other local municipal officials — many who earn over $100,000 — may feel that their appropriately high salaries radiate a sense of indulgence in comparison. Furthermore, as reasonably suggested by R-J columnist Mike Brodinsky in his May 6 piece, Dickinson’s “unrealistically low” pay could deter potential mayoral-office-seekers from running. Quality candidates might think twice about pursuit of a position where small wages are discordant with extensive responsibilities.

Dickinson certainly has the right to keep his income down should he choose — he sets a benchmark of shared sacrifice in a difficult economic era. But, as also proposed by Brodinsky, town officials must begin contemplating a suitable salary now, because a time will come when the next mayor likely will expect fair compensation. By estimating what a market-level wage would mean for municipal finances — not much in light of the entire budget — leaders can employ Dickinsonian fiscal foresight in preparing properly for Wallingford’s future.

Dickinson denies vets use of ‘showmobile’

As published in the Record Journal, Friday May 25, 2012

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

WALLINGFORD — Some local veterans and town councilors are irked with Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. over his decision to not allow them to use the town’s mobile bandstand stage for Monday’s annual Memorial Day parade.

The town’s Veterans Memorial Committee sent a letter to Dickinson and town councilors this week asking the mayor to reconsider a prior decision to deny them the use of a canopied “showmobile” that the town owns and uses to hold bands and orchestras for municipal events, such as the town fireworks display, instead of an aluminum “reviewing stand,” a smaller platform that the vets have traditionally used.

At the Memorial Day event, the stage is used by local veterans at Doolittle Park during a post-parade military ceremony. The committee said the showmobile stage would be able to hold more people and its shade would keep older veterans out of the sun. The committee had used the showmobile once, in 2010, for this purpose.


File photo / Record-Journal

The portable stage is used for a concert in front of Wallingford Town Hall on July 21, 2010.

“We just thought it was safer for the older people,” said Elise Gallup, secretary of the committee, who sent the letter. “(The mayor) has done a lot for the veterans in town and we felt that to re-appeal to him was the proper thing to do.”

The letter was taken up by the Town Council at the end of Tuesday’s meeting and caused some heated debate between the mayor and councilors, along with veterans in the audience. Republican councilors Craig Fishbein and John Le-Tourneau respectively made and seconded a motion to vote to approve the use as a ceremonial nod of support to the veterans (the council can’t compel the mayor to allow use of the stage) but it never came to a vote.

“These veterans have given everything — I can’t think of a better thing to do, not that they asked for anything in a major way,” said Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri on Thursday. Zandri added the item to Tuesday night’s agenda.

Dickinson said Thursday that he means no disrespect to veterans, but declined the request for two reasons. He said he doesn’t believe using the showmobile as a reviewing stand is the proper use for the stage, and that using it would add significant cost to the event. The reviewing stand can be set up by town workers on Friday and taken down on Tuesday, while the showmobile needs to be set up and removed on Monday, which means double overtime pay for town workers. The town already gives about $3,300 for the event through its public celebrations committee, and that figure doesn’t include labor.

“We’ve always used a reviewing stand,” Dickinson said. “It’s been safe for many years. I just don’t see a need to change what our protocols and procedures are.”

Zandri said he figured it was a cost issue, and came prepared with pledges he’d received from people willing to fund the stage. But he said Dickinson’s statements that the use would be improper stopped him from bringing it up.

“There was nothing I could offer that would let them use it. There’s no solution because the mayor didn’t want a solution,”Zandri said. Vietnam veteran Jerry J. Kennedy has been on the committee since 1973, and said the mayor helped him secure the showmobile in 2010.

“Two years ago, we thought about it — ‘You know, it would be a much better venue to be in,’ ” Kennedy said. “That worked out real nice. It was a hot day. Kids on the field were dropping, but the ones on the stand were cooler.”

Kennedy said the need for a place for older vets to sit has increased — they’re not just talking about World War II veterans.

“You have to realize, your Vietnam vets are in their 60s and 70s now,” Kennedy said.

Pat Lizotte, president of VFW Post 591, was at the Tuesday meeting to see the outcome.

“I’m happy either way,” Lizotte said. “I think everything will go along smoothly.”

Kennedy said he hoped the mayor would reconsider the request someday.

“How much is the overtime compared to the cost of our freedom is what we’re asking. Everybody thinks you can put a price tag on everything,” Kennedy said. “We’re disappointed but not upset. All we can do is keep asking and maybe one day he’ll change his mind.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012







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Monday, May 21, 2012

My follow up email to the Council Chairman regarding the denial of use of the Show Mobile to the Veterans Memorial Committee for the Memorial Day services on May 28th at Doolittle Park

Please see the prior post at Letter to Mayor Dickinson from the Veterans Memorial Committee regarding his decision to not to let the use the Show Mobile for the Memorial Day services on May 28th at Doolittle Park for the details.

I sent the following via email to Council Chairman Parisi:


Mr. Chairman,

It is too late to add this item for discussion to the agenda formally but I believe we can waive rule 5 to add it for discussion.

If I am remembering this correctly then I would like to do this at tomorrow's meeting.

If this cannot be done via rule 5 please let me know and I will speak about it during public question and answer as a resident if necessary.

Thank you

Jason Zandri
Wallingford Town Councilor


We’ll see how I make out.

If this is something that concerns you or that you might support I encourage you to come to the Wallingford Town Hall tomorrow Tuesday May 22nd at 6:30PM for the regular Town Council meeting.

Letter to Mayor Dickinson from the Veterans Memorial Committee regarding his decision to not to let them use the Show Mobile for the Memorial Day services on May 28th at Doolittle Park

This is not an item on the agenda but I will be bringing it up at the Council meeting on Tuesday the 22nd to discuss as the Memorial Day services are less than a week of way.

More lead time would have been nice but I just got this via email tonight and they might not have gotten much lead time on this either.


May 17, 2012

Honorable William W. Dickinson, Jr.
Mayor, Town of Wallingford
45 South Main St.
Wallingford, CT 06492

Dear Mayor Dickinson,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Veterans Memorial Committee. The committee recently had a discussion regarding your decision not to let us use the Show Mobile for our Memorial Day services on May 28th at Doolittle Park.

We used the Show Mobile two years ago for our services. It not only gave our older veterans and members a shady place to sit with a flat, roomier surface to walk on, it lent a more “finished” appearance to the service.

We would ask that you reconsider your decision, as we feel this is a justified use for the Show Mobile, and there is overtime already being paid for chairs and podium to be put out, police services, etc. We appreciate all your support for the veterans over the years in Wallingford, and feel this small investment will produce a better experience for our aging veterans.

Thank you for your consideration.

Elise M. Gallup
303 Bassett Road
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 605-8580

cc: Patricia Lizotte, Chairman, Veterans Memorial Committee
Wallingford Town Council

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cost of website gets candidate’s attention

As published in the Record Journal Thursday May 10, 2012

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

WALLINGFORD — When Greg Bachand heard the state planned to spend up to $180,000 on a website to highlight the route that the French general Rochambeau followed across Connecticut during the American Revolution, he decided to give it a try. Bachand, a Republican candidate for the 85th district state House seat, built a website using that links to the Wikipedia article about Rochambeau’s route. The total cost: $59.05.

“This $180,000 is the epitome of what’s wrong with the Connecticut legislature,” he said.

A bill passed by the state Senate requires the state Department of Economic and Community Development to create the website before January 2013 and include the trail, monuments, an interactive calendar and links to other websites featuring the trail. Half of the money would come from a state manufacturing grant fund and half from a matching grant from the National Park Service.

Bachand acknowledged that his creation – – wasn’t an adequate substitute for a professional website, but said he doesn’t know where the state got such a high dollar amount.

According to the bill, the “actual cost will depend upon the complexity of the website, ranging from a minimal cost for a basic website, up to $180,000 for a complex interactive website.”

Mary Mushinsky, the Democratic incumbent in the 85th district who Bachand is challenging, said that the funding mechanism for the bill was changed on the Senate floor. The House has not yet voted on it.

“It was originally coming from historic preservation money,” she said. “And it was changed to come from manufacturing assistance.”

Mushinsky said she supported the idea behind the legislation, and that the website would help market businesses and restaurants along the route, but opposed using the manufacturing funds. “Tourism money is for tourism, but manufacturing money should be for manufacturing,” she said.

State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, whose district includes Wallingford, was one of four senators to oppose the legislation.

“$180,000 for a website when we’re running a $200 million deficit, it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I respect the history and the legacy, but I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Fasano said he also opposed taking the funds from manufacturing money. Since Bachand announced the creation of his website in a press release Tuesday, he’s gotten a lot of feedback. “I think this hit a nerve with the public,” he said. Bachand is also challenged by fellow Republican Shauna Simon-Glidden. A Republican caucus to elect the party’s nominee for the seat will be held on May 24 at 6 p.m. at Brothers Restaurant, 33 N. Cherry St. It is open to all Republicans who live in the district. Both Simon-Glidden and Bachand are making their first run for elected office. Mushinsky has held the seat since 1981.

The Rochambeau trail begins in Newport, R.I., where the French general and his more than 5,000 troops landed. After crossing Connecticut, it continues south through New York, where the French met up with George Washington and the Continental Army, and then through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland into Virginia, where combined American and French troops forced British General Cornwallis to surrender in October 1781 at the battle of Yorktown.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wallingford Town Council passes budget by 6-3 vote

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 9, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal Staff

WALLINGFORD — After more than a month of sometimes contentious budget workshops, the Town Council passed Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.‘s $145.1 million budget Tuesday night with comparatively little conversation.

The 2012-13 budget reflects an increase of $3,669,201 from that of the current fiscal year and will raise the town’s tax rate to 25.98 mills, up 0.76 mills. When presenting the package in early April, Dickinson said a resident who owns a house assessed at $191,000 will now pay $145 more each year in property taxes.

The mayor blamed the tax increase on an overall poor economy in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting. He said reduced state and federal revenue — along with little growth in the town’s grand list, fewer fees for construction permits and lower interest rates on investments — amounted to significantly less revenue for the town.

“All of those things contribute to not as much money — we’ve had to reduce staff, cut back on a number of areas in expenditures. So far I don’t see a change in that, which is troubling,” Dickinson said. The final vote was 6-3 in favor of the budget. Republican Councilors John LeTourneau, Craig Fishbein, and Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos voted against the budget. Fishbein and Economopoulos had said they planned to reject it due to philosophical differences. LeTourneau, following the meeting, said he had voted no in error during a lengthy list of roll call votes.

Passage of the plan, along with an ordinance the council unanimously approved earlier in the meeting, established an enterprise fund for the town’s ambulance service. The move separates the emergency transport service’s finances from those of the Fire Department, and calls for putting a second town ambulance into service during 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

The measure has been warmly received by town councilors of both parties since Dickinson presented it in April.

“This is a fantastic proposition, setting it up to be as self sustaining as much as possible. It’s absolutely needed when you consider the aging population of the town,” said Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri.

Some residents called into question the new ambulance division’s stated plans to start enlisting a collection agency to retrieve funds from non-paying customers. Currently the Fire Department has only a billing service.

“We’re hitting these people who can least afford it,” said Wes Lubee during a public hearing on the ordinance during the meeting, saying that people who aren’t paying are uninsured, and that insurance companies likely negotiate prices to less than the uninsured pay. “We cannot operate with a system that is based on only billing insurance companies,” Dickinson said. “If we do that, insurance companies will not continue to pay.”

Councilors removed a $1,000 addition that they had previously approved in budget workshops for Internet in the Planning and Zoning Department with an amendment proposed by Republican Tom Laffin. Many said that they believed in providing greater Internet access for town staff, but that $1,000 is not enough for a real effort in that direction.

“This is like shooting a single flare into a cave,” said Republican Councilor Vincent Cervoni. “This isn’t the appropriate way to get technology into Town Hall.”

Asked by Sullivan whether he would allow an earmarked $1,000 to be used for Internet access in Planning and Zoning, Dickinson said he would not.

Several councilors said they planned to pick up the issue later on, citing interest in establishing a five-year plan for technology. The amendment passed 7-2, with LeTourneau and Fishbein as the no votes.

Laffin received strong pushback when making a second amendment to cut the other addition councilors had made to the budget, having the R Band play at the town’s Fourth of July celebration. The performance would cost $5,000 — the money would not be an addition to the budget, but use most of a $6,000 savings provided by a low bid on portable toilets already budgeted at a higher rate for the event.

Councilors voted Laffin and Cervoni down 7-2 to retain the band.

“This is our nation’s birthday,” Fishbein said. “That’s important to me, and a traditional thing that we’ve done for many decades.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

William Tong to drop out of U.S. Senate race

United States Senate candidate William Tong is dropping out of the race, according to an unnamed source.

A press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at Goodwin College in East Hartford.

According to a press release, Tong will join Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, state Rep. Tim Larson and United States Rep. Chris Murphy to discuss the race.

No other information was released.

Town skateboarders

As published in the Record Journal on Friday April 27, 2012

Without a skate park in Wallingford, skateboarders and bikers will continue to ride around town center and other public places. But establishment of one central location for these youths requires municipal dollars not expected to be available anytime soon. Outside fundraising, therefore, is necessary for completion of this worthwhile project.

In 2008, over 125 individuals attended a meeting in support of creating a skate park. People scouted locations and drafted designs, but after cost estimates topped $250,000, town officials applied the brakes to further efforts. However, many locals — including youths, who are also residents deserving of appropriate municipal accommodation — reasonably still want this facility added to Wallingford.

A park would reduce riders in other areas of town, a change which everyone likely would support. Eric Ferrauola, 13, stated that when he takes his bike to Wallingford locations with ramps and other features pertinent to his hobby, he often is met with complaints, or police who instruct him to leave (R-J, 4-17). “It’s hard to ride . . . they think we’re bad kids,” he lamented, a look into the unfair reputation which these youths encounter.

While bikers and skateboarders, overall, do not warrant such stigma, it is reasonable for fellow residents to prefer that riders not zip past them at fast speeds within community areas. Especially for older locals must proceed slowly and carefully, thinking that youths wheeling around rapidly could be a potential safety concern or public disturbance is understandable.

Thus, many people would benefit from a new facility. A town-owned, 6.11-acre Garden Road property is, reportedly, a prime candidate for the site. Onsite flooding issues apparently keep the parcel from containing larger structures, problems which obviously would require consideration before any construction.

But the chief difficulty thwarting a new park is finances, lack thereof. In a town long managed through fiscal conservatism, any project without municipal-government backing will eventually lose momentum. “The money is just not there,” argued Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. about a park.

Which is why this pecuniary obstacle actually could represent an opportunity for youngsters who would frequent a facility. They could band together and fundraise to afford equipment and other costs necessary to open and maintain a park. Moreover, facing an unfair, negative reputation, skateboarders and bikers could demonstrate in this undertaking that they are contributing, helpful members of the town.

We recommend that anyone who wants a skate park built in Wallingford collaborate in fundraising — doing so would display a dedication and community spirit which could get all residents onboard.