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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.