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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.