Search This Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Democrat gets jump on Town Council race

As published in the Record Journal Thursday May 30, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff (203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORDMore than a year ago, a town councilor asked local resident Dana Camp to attend a meeting so he could publicly state his views on a certain topic. When Camp attended the meeting, his first, in January 2012, he was disappointed by how quickly an issue he felt strongly about was dismissed.

Since then, Camp has become a regular at Town Council meetings, keeping an eye on issues.
“I like to stay informed,” Camp said. “I want to know what’s happening in the community.”
But Camp said he hopes to be more than an informed citizen in the near future. Camp, a Democrat running for Town Council, hopes to become an informed decision-maker.
“I decided to dive into it,” Camp said about his run for Town Council. “I see there’s room for more improvement.”
At 28, Camp is younger than any current Town Council member. A lifelong Wallingford resident, he graduated from Southern Connecticut State University eight years ago with the goal of becoming a math teacher. A unique opportunity, hesaid, led him, instead, to start his own business. For the past seven years, Camp has owned and operated Business Integrated Technology Solutions. The business, at 350 Center St., specializes in consulting for the information technology industry.
“I’m definitely an advocate for technology,” Camp said. “But I understand that’s not the only thing that will make a difference in this town.”
To improve Wallingford, Camp said he believes in creating a culture of accountability,“from the mayor and department heads on down.”
“People want to call it micromanaging,” Camp said. “I think it’s managing properly.”
Town Clerk Barbara Thompson said Camp filed paperwork with her office on April 10, officially launching his candidacy. Thus far, he is the only candidate to file with the town. Candidates must have all paperwork into the Town Clerk’s office by July 10, in time for Republican and Democratic electoral caucuses to be held on the evening of July 17.
By filing early, Thompson said,Camp is not waiting for Democrats to endorse him at their caucus.
“He’s looking to fundraise ahead of time,” she said.
“I decided it was important to get an early start,” Camp said. “If we wait till the caucus, we only have a few months left to get mobilized.”
Camp said he also understands he’s “the new kid on the block,” and needs to start his campaigning early if he wants to be successful. To begin garnering name recognition, Camp said he plans to knock on a lot of doors. He also has started handing out small water bottles at public events. He said he handed out about 100 water bottles with a label that contains his website,, during the Memorial Day parade last weekend.
Thompson said Camp filed his candidacy with an exemption, meaning he can raise a maximum of $1,000. Thompson said a candidate who files with an exemption can re-file after reaching the fundraising limit in order to collect more money. According to Camp’s last filing in April, he hasn’t yet raised any money for his campaign. He doesn’t have to file his fundraising efforts again until July 10.
Camp said he hasn’t yet held any fundraising events, but hopes to.
“What that takes is getting outthere and introducing myself to people,” he said.
If Camp is not endorsed by the Democratic Party on July 17, he can petition onto its ballot or run as an unaffiliated candidate, Thompson said.
“He’s the kind of people that we really need to be involved in the political system and government,” said Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone, citing Camp’s youth, intelligence and passion.
“And at this age, to want to be involved to make your town better; I really like Dana a lot.”
Avallone said Camp has a lot of potential as a future politician in Wallingford, but said currently he is not well known around town.
Republican Town Chairman Bob Prentice said he will learn more about Camp when campaigning begins.
"I don’t know anything about him at this point,” Prentice said.
Camp shows commitment to the town by showing up at almost every Town Council meeting, Avallone said. He also stays up to date on Board of Education activity.
“It really is encouraging,” Avallone said.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

DOT’s train station plans bring out detractors

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 29, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

During a public information session Tuesday night, residents and town councilors showed displeasure with plans for a new train station proposed by the state Department of Transportation.

As part of Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, John Bernick, project manager for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail, presented designs for the new station, which will be near the corner of Parker and North Colony streets, about a half mile away from its current location between Hall Avenue and Quinnipiac Street.

“I’m not really agreeable to the location,” Town Councilor John Sullivan said. “I like the design of the station.”

Six residents of North Cherry Street, adjacent to the proposed station, and some residents of the surrounding area told the eight state officials present Tuesday that oppose the location.

Those who spoke said they were concerned about traffic issues on North Cherry Street. Commuter buses will shuttle rail users to and from parking lots. Residents said they felt the buses would struggle to navigate the narrow street.

They also expressed concern over lighting from the station. Plans call for the widening of a portion of North Cherry Street, as well as the planting of mature trees to help mitigate lighting issues for residents. Plans also call for the purchase of several properties in the area, including one that currently houses a business. Residents were told that properties can be taken by eminent domain.

Bernick told concerned residents that he was willing to schedule personal meetings.

“I know they probably won’t sleep soundly tonight with all this new information, but at least it’s information they have,” Sullivan said.

Construction of the three-story station will begin early next year, Bernick said. The design calls for two parking lots with about 220 parking spots. Also, a 500-foot platform will be built, as well as a pedestrian walkway to cross the tracks.

Service will launch in late 2016, with 45 minute peak-hour and hourly midday service between New Haven and Springfield, Mass. The railway will provide 17 round trips daily, with the potential for 25 round trips in the near future, Bernick said. Estimates show, Bernick said, that 250 to 300 Wallingford residents will ride the commuter trains daily.

“This is the worst place for this,” Town Councilor John LeTourneau said. “This is a mistake for Wallingford that will affect us for the next 50 to 100 years. It’s a mistake.”

“I think the train concept is a boon to the town,” Town Councilor Jason Zandri said, adding that he, too, has concerns with the stations location. “I probably would have liked to see this farther down in Judd Square.”

A station at Judd Square was one of the alternate proposals brought before the town, Bernick said, adding that it had been a decision of the Town Council to build a station at the new location.

Councilor Craig Fishbein took offense to the statement by Bernick, arguing that “we were not presented with Judd Square” the last time town councilors met with DOT officials about the project.

Bernick disagreed, and said both site plans were presented. Fishbein said he would give Bernick the benefit of the doubt, but would look back at the video from the meeting.

Security issues at the new station were also discussed. Phones that dial 911 directly are to be installed in parking lots and at the station, according to the plans. Cameras will also be installed, but Bernick said it’s impossible to stop all crime.

“Crime could happen, yes, correct,” Bernick said in response to questions from Town Council Chairman Bob Parisi. “I want to portray this as realistically as possible.”

“There should be more money put into safety,” Parisi said.

“It’s a done deal no matter what? It’s a done deal?” LeTourneau asked Bernick on the location of the station.

“Yes,” Bernick responded.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meriden City officials happy with ‘cloud’ email

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 22, 2013

By Dan Brechlin
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2266
Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

MERIDEN — The city made a move last year that an increasing number of municipalities and even state governments are making when it changed the way its email system is run.

The city switched its email platform to Google Apps, said Management Information Systems Director Steve Montemurro. The switch has been beneficial in time and fiscal management, Montemurro said, noting that the previous system was used primarily for email.

“We are always evaluating (information technology) infrastructure in order to increase efficiencies and to make everything more effective and reduce costs,” Montemurro said. “If I look at all of the features and weigh them, we made a smart decision using Google.”

In addition to allowing city employees to send emails, as the old Lotus Notes platform did, Google allows employees to share documents and files as needed. Specific employees can view and edit documents in the “cloud,” a system of shared computer resources accessed remotely over the Internet or through a computer network.

City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said retaining documents is important because of the city’s role as a government entity. He added that Google Apps makes it easier to keep records and documents in one shared location.

The email system was put out to bid more than a year ago, with the city hearing back from three systems: Lotus SmartCloud, Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange, Montemurro said. While there was not much of a difference in price, Montemurro said significant savings accrue when members of his department do not have to spend time dealing with technical issues.

“It definitely helps people become more efficient workers, as well as smarter workers,” he said.

Montemurro used the example of Personnel Director Caroline Beitman, who often has several meetings a week. Workers in her office can schedule meetings through one calendar and Beitman can access the calendar from her computer or smart phone.

The Personnel Department could soon use another feature on Google Apps: video conferencing for the interviewing of job applicants from out of state.

Forty-five state governments are now using Google Apps, according to Google. Numerous municipalities have also made the transition, including Boston, which announced its decision two weeks ago.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wallingford Town Planner hopes for part-time help soon

As published in the Record Journal Friday May 17, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

Town Planner Kacie Costello said Thursday that she hopes a part-time assistant town planner/ zoning enforcement officer can be hired as soon as possible, as she is looking for someone to help her with her responsibilities in the Planning and Zoning Department.

Costello, previously the assistant town planner, was promoted to acting town planner when Linda Bush retired in March 2012. Costello was hired as town planner in December 2012. Costello explained that the assistant town planner “has always done the majority of the town’s zoning enforcement,” while the town planner concentrates on larger projects, such as the proposal to create the Incentive Housing Zone downtown and the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, due to the state in 2015.

In the department’s budget request this year, Costello asked that the position of assistant town planner be fully funded, at $63,309. Due to budget cuts and the lack of development, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. decided not to fund the position and instead created a part-time position for $25,000 a year. Dickinson said the primary task would be zoning enforcement.

“There’s just not the kind of action in town for development,” Dickinson said. Most town departments, including police, fire and public works, are understaffed, he said. “The list is considerable,” he said, so reducing staff in the Planning and Zoning Department isn’t unusual.

“It’s more and more difficult to get money to pay for full staffing,” he said.

Costello said she is “doing all the assistant and town planner responsibilities, including zoning enforcement.”

Costello said she is looking forward to preparing a job description with the Personnel Department and mayor’s office as soon as possible. While she said building applications are down, “the office is still pretty busy.”

Without an assistant town planner, Costello is serving as the zoning enforcement officer, pursuing signage, building and property violations. For Costello, this leaves “less time for larger planning activities.”

“Because of the decrease in the amount of staff, I do have to spend more time answering questions at the counter,” Costello said. “We’ve had to make some big decisions in what our priorities are and how time is spent.”

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, a Republican, said the Planning and Zoning Department’s lack of staff has been an issue.

“It’s nothing against Kacie; I love Kacie,” Fishbein said. “There’s just only so much one-person can do.”

During budget deliberations Tuesday night, Fishbein proposed an amendment that would have eliminated the part-time position and restored the full-time assistant position, but it was voted down. Councilors opposed to the amendment reasoned that the position would add about $40,000 to an already tight budget.

Fishbein said he was concerned that “there’s not a lot of people who have a planning and zoning background able to be a zoning enforcement officer,” making it difficult to fill the part-time position.

Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat who has announced plans to run for mayor in November, said staffing in the department needs to be increased if downtown improvement plans are to be successful. Zandri said people expect downtown to explode with development and popularity, but “it will not explode if we don’t do all the right things,” he said.

Zandri said the town needs staff to put time into future projects, such as the high-speed commuter rail proposed to stop in Wallingford, or the Incentive Housing Zone.

But Dickinson said he doesn’t feel the department is overloaded with long-term projects.

Regarding the high-speed rail plan, Dickinson said “there’s not a lot for the town to do on that, frankly.”

Since the town has been working on the Incentive Housing Zone for more than five years, further work is “more of a fine-tuning,” Dickinson said. “The basics are already there.”

To the point that the Planning and Zoning Department is understaffed, “nothing is ideal,” Dickinson said. “But let’s face it, nothing is ideal.”

“It’s obviously a tough decision,” Town Councilor Tom Laffin, a Republican, said of Dickinson’s not funding a fulltime position this year. “I’ve been in a position where I’ve been overwhelmed and just wanted some more help.”

Laffin said the “prudent way to really get a handle” on how much staffing is needed is to try a part-time position. If the position can’t be filled or doesn’t work out, Laffin said, he would understand the need for a full-time position, but “until then, things need to be prioritized.”

Costello said in future budgets, “I would hope we’d budget for a full-time position instead,” but stressed that she understood the budgetary decisions Dickinson had to make this year due to the lack of state aid.

Dickinson said the position could possibly become fulltime again if there is an increase in workload. “Anything can be potentially adjusted,” he said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Downtown rezoning recommended for Meriden

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 22, 2013

By Dan Brechlin
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2266
Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

MERIDEN — A plan that city leaders hope attracts residents, businesses and development downtown was recommended by the City Council’s Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee Tuesday night.

The committee voted 4-1 during a 3½-hour meeting in favor of changing zoning regulations in the city’s center. The modifications will create five zoning sub districts to streamline the approvals process for development and create a more pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented area.

“What we’re trying to do is put this ordinance in place to encourage development going forward for just before or just after the rail service opens,” City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said, alluding to an improved rail line scheduled to open in 2016. “A lot of things are actually happening.”

City Councilor Dan Brunet was also the only dissenter to the overall plan.

The state Department of Transportation has made a significant investment in the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line. With Meriden a stop along the way, officials have coordinated a downtown improvement plan that includes a new park at the Hub site, upgrades to traffic flow and improved housing.

In order for development to occur, city officials targeted zoning as an issue because it inhibits construction and delays the process of opening some businesses. It has also created a parking issue, with too many spaces required per unit being constructed.

In many cases, the new zoning regulations decrease parking requirements and hasten the approval process through the city planner. It also conforms the five districts to ensure that buildings appear to fit in the area, and that only certain types of businesses and operations are in the same areas.

A key discussion involved the razing of Mills Memorial Apartments, a 140-unit, five-building, low-income housing development. The Meriden Housing Authority has been looking at redeveloping the property for several years and is seeking the financing to do so. The MHA would be responsible for coming up with a plan that explains how it would relocate all 140 units within the city.

In order to ensure financing could be secured, MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti encouraged the committee to amend a specific requirement in the Historic- Commercial sub-district along West Main and Colony streets. As written, developments that include replacement units would require 80 percent of the units to be affordable housing and 20 percent to be rented at market rate. Cappelletti requested it be shifted to a 90-10 percent split.

“This is critical for the success of our ability to develop these construction projects and critical to the redevelopment of the Mills,” Cappelletti said.

Brunet was the lone dissenter in the committee’s 4-1 vote to recommend a change to 90-10 percent. Brunet said he doesn’t want any more affordable housing units downtown, because it could affect public perception of the area. Kendzior also disagreed with changing the percentages, stating he thought financing could be secured without it.

Councilor Brian Daniels noted that the MHA is proposing an 80unit development at the corner of Colony and Church streets as part of the redevelopment plan. Shifting the percentage by 10 points would mean only eight more affordable housing units. He added that the plan could also lead to the DOT funding a 200-plus-vehicle parking garage.

“If we miss this opportunity because we are worried about eight units ... when this opportunity is lost, the people of Meriden are going to look at downtown and see the same downtown people have been looking at since 1999,” Daniels said.

Some minor changes were made to the zoning regulations, which included an amendment that would allow mortuaries in any of the zoning sub-districts. Another amendment approved Tuesday exempts Rockfall Business Park, at 29 Cooper St. and 80 Cherry St., from the zoning regulations. The Rockfall owners said they did not believe their industrial business fit in the guidelines and the committee agreed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wallingford budget passes with additional cuts

As published in the Record Journal Thursday May 16, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — In adopting Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s $147.4 million budget Tuesday night, the Town Council approved additional cuts to an already tight Board of Education budget.
Dickinson revised his initial spending proposal last week, cutting expenditures by $531,411 from his initial $147.94 million request in early April. Spending cuts were made by Dickinson to counteract a reduction in state aid by the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. Of the cuts made to the budget, the largest was $279,411 in funding to the Board of Education.
“Is this something I’d hope we’d be doing right now? Absolutely not,” School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said on Wednesday. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Menzo prefaced comments about his concerns by saying he has the “utmost respect for the mayor and the tough position he’s in.” Menzo said that while his job and that of theBoard of Education is to secure as much funding as possible for the school system, “we have to balance that with the realization we are a member of a community.”
If Dickinson needs to reduce funding to the Board of Education to create a balanced budget, “we’re going to make that happen,” Menzo said. “I have to trust his decision is the right decision.”
The Town Council passed the 2013-14 budget just before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday after a six-hour meeting. It reflects an increase of $2.27 million over the current fiscal year and will raise the tax rate to 26.22 mills, up 0.24 mills. Dickinson said that the owner of the average residential property, assessed at $191,000, will pay $5,008 in property taxes, compared to $4,962 under the current rate, an increase of $46. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in taxable property value.
Besides the Board of Education budget, Dickinson, a Republican, also cut seven projects in the Public Works and Engineering Department budgets in order to adjust forreduced state aid. The second largest cut was $110,000 necessary for the comptroller’s office to perform revaluation.
“Very little of anything here is not something that is needed,” Dickinson said of the revised cuts made to the budget. “None of these things are easily thrown away. It’s under the pressure of finding $500,000 to balance a budget.”
Due to the budget cut and increased expenditures, Menzo said the Board of Education needs to make up about $550,000 in its budget.
“My goal is not to stir up alarm,” Menzo told councilors Tuesday night. “There will be most likely some initiativesthat won’t be able to move forward and we will have to reduce the things we’re doing at present.”
Menzo said Wednesday that the board may consider reducing the purchase of technology by $400,000 and development of curriculum by $150,000 to balance its budget.
Town Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat, was opposed to cutting the Board of Education budget any further and proposed an amendment to reappropriate money to the board.
“What’s important to us in this town? Education,” Sullivan said. “Next to public safety, it’s education.”
Sullivan said he would rather see the tax rate increased to offset reductions in state aid than cut money for education. But Sullivan’s amendment failed because a majority of councilors couldn’t support an additional tax increase.
“I think the tax increase here is too much as it is,” said Fishbein, a Republican. “I can’t support expenditure without an offset in the revenue.”
Fishbein proposed five budget amendments to offset reductions in state aid through different avenues than the mayor, the largest of which would have reduced the library’s budget by $200,000.Fishbein reasoned that the library has accumulated a $500,000 surplus and could afford the cut. None of Fishbein’s amendments passed.
“I’m just not comfortable supporting any additions to the budget” due to the fluid situation with state funding, said Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, a Republican.
Town Councilor Jason Zandri, who supported Sullivan’s amendment, said increasing the tax rate to balance the budget instead of cutting education money would only mean an additional $5 a month for the average household.
“The lesser of the two evils here is to charge a little more in taxes,” said Zandri, a Democrat.
Town Councilor John Le-Tourneau, a Republican, suggested the town use reserve funds in order to restore the Board of Education budget, but Bowes said using reserves would not be prudent since the town already used $4.3 million in reserves to balance the mayor’s original budget proposal.
“We’ve got to get ourselves off that reliance,” Bowes said.
“Now is the time to use it,” LeTourneau responded, referring to the reserve, or “rainy day” fund. “It can’t pour any more than it is right now.”
Responding to LeTourneau’s point, Dickinson said “inevitably I’m going to disagree,” reasoning that the state’s tendency to spend is what caused cuts in aid to the town in the first place, and “we shouldn’t repeat it here.”
The council took two separate votes to approve the budget. On the revenue side, the budget passed 7-2, with Economopoulos and Zandri voting no. On the expenditure side, the budget passed 5-4, with Economopoulos, Fishbein, Sullivan and Zandri voting no.
Dickinson said that he was told by the town’s legislative delegation an additional $1.2 million in state aid to the town “is still under discussion.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wallingford Budget to be decided upon at the 5/14 Town Council Meeting

This is your last chance to speak on any items that come up for change on the budget; I will post the full agenda but I can tell you right now it will be a long meeting.

Please see the below information regarding the changes being proposed due to an expected $531,411.00 shortfall from state funding.

The proposal is to make changes to nine general fund expenditures, the largest of which is expected of the Board of Education budget. This is being done to prevent a further increase in taxes.

Before this shortfall of funding from the state, taxes were proposed to go up approximately $46.00 per household on an median assessed home ($191,000.00). If your property is less than this, you could have expected a smaller increase and if it was larger then it would be more.

If these changes are not made or some other changes are not proposed and adopted then the only way to gap the $531,411.00 would be to raise taxes further. To do that the tax increase would need to go up by about an additional $26.00 so the total change for this year would be about $72.00 as listed above rather than the current $46.00




Sunday, May 12, 2013

Special Request regarding child exploitation / missing child investigation

This has nothing to do with Wallingford directly nor is the following political but this is my largest blog with the biggest following so I am posting it here and making a mass push.

I am also asking my readers and Facebook, Google+ and Twitter followers to push this far and wide via this link: 

I received an email this AM from the Wallingford Little League from a forward note from Daniel P. Kirby, Vice President, Risk Management, Little League International who was being asked for help regarding an ongoing investigation.

In the note it said it was from “Gregory D Squire, Special Agent Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations”.

Being in the Information Technology field for over 15 years I have seen way too many of these types of emails, sent with the sole intent and as a hoax, just to see how much it will perpetuate.

However, I hate the idea of not helping, even remotely if I can so I did a BING search on Gregory D Squire and came up with the following Boston Globe story 

So then I decided to email the agent to see if there was any follow up and he responded within an hour:

Good Morning Jason,

Thanks for reaching out, yes this is an active investigation and we are thankful for your assistance. We are seeking the help of the public in CT, MA, ME, and RI. Any insight or information you may have can be sent directly to me.


Thanks again,


Gregory D Squire
Special Agent
Homeland Security Investigations
10 Causeway St, Suite 722
Boston, MA


So that’s good enough for me to want to help and push this near and far.

Please read the article; they are still searching for the boy and many other children like them.

The specific request in the current investigation is as follows (as forwarded from Daniel P. Kirby, Vice President, Risk Management, Little League International):

We have been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security requesting assistance in a child exploitation/missing child investigation that dates back to 2002.  Please review the information below from Special Agent Gregory Squire. It contains specific information pertaining to the investigation. The photograph included shows an area located in the home where the exploitation was/is taking place. 

One of the trophies, if you zoom in, has a red "faceplate" on the marble base. This was noted as unusual by the trophy industry folks we talked to and they thought it might be helpful as it was unique

If you recognize this photo or have any additional information, please contact Agent Squire at

If you have any relative knowledge of the above photo please contact Agent Squire at

Sunday, May 5, 2013

WALLINGFORD Paying the piper

As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 5, 2013



Kevin Markowski’s above-placed editorial cartoon hits the nail on the head (or, if you prefer, delivers “shattering” news).

Echoing Wednesday’s news story (R-J, 5-1), Wallingford Town Council voted unanimously to increase its annual mayoral salary by $12,000 at a budget workshop, April 30. In Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s $147.94 million budget proposal for the next fiscal year, he perpetuated his salary at a figure that has been static since at least 2002: namely, $73,140.

If this increase comes to full fruition (pending final approval hurdles while surviving potential flaming budgetary veto hoops), Wallingford’s mayor would eventually be paid $85,140 annually. Whether Dickinson wants it or not doesn’t change the fact that he deserves salary improvement. Moreover, the chief administrative post itself is worthy of a salary realignment.

In our editorial of April 8, Dickinson received a nod for reserve through self-denial. His is a disciplined, unselfish response to budgeting during adverse economic fiscal seasons.

Still, compensation of $85,140 (though a distinct betterment) keeps Wallingford in a stubbornly noncompetitive zone among municipal peers. Whether in the fullness of time or more immediately, salary adjustments should be made to keep remuneration commensurate with posts held. Whether city manager, town manager or, say,superintendent of schools, municipal salaries would do well to have reasonable basis of comparison.

Thus, it’s gratifying that councilors would also like to see the mayor’s pay incrementally increased to about $130,000 over time.


We’ve noted that the overarching consideration extends to a time when this mayor is no longer officeholder, whether by his choice or future election results. To attract top quality candidates, Wallingford may need to up its ante by around $60,000 annually, give or take. An eventual new chief executive must not be “compared” in a pejorative light of requisite salary differential (i.e. what “used to be acceptable” vs. what no longer cuts fiscal mustard).

It’s said that comparisons are odious but inevitable. Here, then, are a sobering few: As of 2011, the following annual salaries were paid — Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback, $149,000; Meriden City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior, $139,000; Michael Milone, Cheshire Town Manager, $131,350.

At this budget-planning juncture, Wallingford seems poised to advance in the right direction, even if by relative baby steps vis-à-vis municipal apples-for-apples salaried counterparts. Paying the piper for a quality tune represents prudent investment in the town’s future.

Mayor’s barring of town councilor from meeting stirs discussion

As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 5, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos believes he should have been allowed to attend an April 29 meeting at which Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and leaders of the town’s health and water departments met with state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials.

Dickinson said the meeting was held to discuss the status of contaminated wells at five homes on South Broad Street. It enabled DEEP officials to explain the process of obtaining state funding to extend public water to the area, he said.

On April 24, Dickinson sent a letter to Economopoulos, a Democrat, explaining why he would not be allowed into the meeting.

“The meeting scheduled for Monday involves personnel from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Wallingford Health Department and Wallingford Water Division,” wrote Dickinson, a Republican. “It is an administrative meeting and as such attendance is limited to those parties.”

“Something leads me to believe they don’t want us to know what’s going on,” said Economopoulos, who has advocated for two of the five families dealing with contaminated wells — the Sherwoods at 1179 S. Broad St., and the Lincolns at 1175 S. Broad St.

Nicholas Sherwood and Harold Lincoln also attempted to attend the meeting but were not allowed in. Several fellow councilors said they understood the mayor’s position.

“I’ve been on the council for 30 plus years, and the mayor’s policy has consistently been that councilors don’t normally go to these meetings unless initiated,” said Town Council Chairman Bob Parisi, a Republican. “I have absolutely no problem” with Dickinson’s decision.

Town Councilor John LeTourneau, a Republican, said “I agree with the mayor.”

“He handled that right,” Le-Tourneau said. “It’s not a councilors’ place to be. It’s not a function for us. We don’t get into the micromanaging of things.”

Because town councilors are not members of the administration, they are “not entitled” to attend administrative meetings unless invited, said Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, a Republican.

In agreement with his fellow Republican council members was Tom Laffin, who said the efforts of Economopoulos are “usually for good.” Laffin said he just doesn’t always “agree with the strategy.”

Because the meeting was administrative, Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, doesn’t think Dickinson was wrong in not permitting Economopoulos to attend.

But Zandri, who said he is also “very sensitive” to the issues of the Sherwood and Lincoln families, understands why it would have made sense for Economopoulos to attend the meeting as a “watchdog in the room.” Zandri said the Sherwood and Lincoln families feel “they’ve gotten the runaround” from the town after they found their wells to be contaminated with trichloroethylene 18 months ago and asked the town to hook them up to the public water supply. Zandri said he understands why the families “would have felt more comfortable if a councilor was present to represent them.”

“I don’t see the problem with the families inviting one watchdog of their choice to these meetings,” Zandri said. “Just to listen and not interject.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

Wallingford Town councilors plan to raise mayor’s salary gradually

As published in the Record Journal Friday May 3, 2013

By Andrew Ragali
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — While town councilors successfully voted to increase the mayor’s salary Tuesday night, some believe the position’s salary still needs to be increased more in coming years.

A unanimous vote cast by the Town Council Tuesday night brought the mayor’s annual pay to $85,140. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., a Republican, kept his salary at$73,140 in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year — a figure that has not changed in about 12 years.

Councilors voted to increase the mayor’s salary by $12,000. The increase will go into effect after Dickinson’s current term ends because, under the Town Charter, an incumbent mayor’s compensation cannot be changed during his or her term.

Councilors would like to see the mayor’s pay incrementally increased to about $130,000,which they see as more in line with similar positions in similar municipalities. Democrats argue that they need to be able to attract qualified candidates to run against Dickinson, while Republicans want to attract qualified candidates once Dickinson decides to step down.

“I’m content with what occurred if the plan is to continue to do so until it’s brought up to a reasonable number,” Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democrat, said Thursday. Zandri is a candidate in the upcoming mayoral race. Dickinson has yet to announce his candidacy.

Zandri said the “smart way to do it” would be to gradually raise the mayor’s salary over the next four or five terms. A term lasts two years. A smart salary range for the position is between $135,000 and $140,000, Zandri said.

As of 2011, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback was paid $149,000 per year; Meriden City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior was paid $139,000 annually and Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone earned $131,350 per year.

Zandri said the Town Council is hampered by the fact that past councils haven’t voted to change the mayor’s salary over the previous 12 years.

Town Council Vice Chairman Vincent Cervoni, a Republican, said he had a brief conversation with Dickinson urging him to accept the raise.

“We’d like to gradually bring it to more-competitive pay,” Cervoni said.

Dickinson has argued that accepting raises sets a bad example. Cervoni said Dickinson acknowledged that the raise wasn’t for him personally, but for the position. Reached by phone on Thursday, Dickinson declined to comment.

With leaders in similar-size towns being paid almost twice as much as Dickinson, Town Councilor Tom Laffin, a Republican, said, “We’ve got to do something to incrementally raise the mayor’s salary.”

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, a Republican, said that the mayor’s salary needs to be increased incrementally instead of all at once because “we don’t want a shock to the system.”

“The position deserves a raise,” Fishbein said, adding that in 2004 the Town Council attempted to raise the mayor’s pay but Dickinson vetoed the budget, voiding the increase.