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Thursday, June 20, 2013

State: Town dumped material without permits

As published in the Record Journal Thursday June 20, 2013

By Eric Heredia
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2243
Twitter: @EHerediaRJ

WALLINGFORD - The state filed a notice of violations with the town last week over the dumping of waste in April at the Department of Public Works storage area on North Turnpike Road. The area is in an aquifer protection zone, and the waste, which included some oily substances, raised concerns about potential effects on ground water and nearby wetlands.

The notice says that the Emergency Incident Field Report confirms that a town truck transported solid waste that was dumped at 91 North Turnpike Road, a town storage area also known as “the dog pit.” The DEEP said in late April that the material, including the oily substances, tested as nonhazardous, according to state standards.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Dennis Schain said Wallingford Public Works crews were moving materials collected during various cleanup and maintenance activities and stockpiling them at 91 North Turnpike Road, which is a solid waste permitting violation.

“They don’t have proper permits and authority to bring those materials to that address,” Schain said. Dumping activities have since been shut down.

He said DEEP has already discussed the issue with town officials. The town is now required to put the material into containers and send it to a commercial landfill.

Though the material was ruled nonhazardous, Wallingford’s aquifer regulations identify hazardous materials as “any oil or petroleum” as identified by state statute. The level of Extractable Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons in the material was 1,682 milligrams per kilograms, higher than the reporting level of 50.

State statute requires anyone who unloads oil, petroleum or chemical liquids to report the spill or unloading. Any person who fails to make a report may be fined up to $1,000, and the employer maybe fined up to $5,000. The town has 30 days to respond to DEEP in writing about compliance, Schain said. A civil penalty up to $25,000 is applicable to the violation, however, Schain said that if municipalities work with DEEP, fines normally aren’t imposed.

Wallingford resident William Comerford noticed the material at 91 North Turnpike Road on April 8 and reported it to Environmental Planner Erin O’Hare. Comerford said he took a video of what he found that day.

Comerford brought the video to the attention of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission during its meeting June 5. Commissioner Jim Heilman wanted to see the video, but Chairman Jim Vitale thought the video should go to DEEP and chose not to show it.

“The gentleman had information I felt was important ... he was describing a situation of potentially significant impact to wetlands and the public water supply, possibly an intentional release,” Heilman said.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the only issue that’s important about the spill is that the material was nonhazardous.

Comerford filed another complaint over 91 North Turnpike Road with O’Hare on May 30, saying that he saw a sheen at the base of the wetlands. O’Hare went to the site that day and again June 4. She saw what DEEP determined to be a naturally-occurring bacteria common in wetlands and landfills.

She saw no obvious evidence of release and saw no dead vegetation, which would have been a clear sign of contamination.

Joseph Mrowzowski of the Water Division also went to the site, and O’Hare said he determined that there was no contamination in the wetlands and no need to test the water levels. Water Division General Manager Roger Dann confirmed that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wallingford residents with polluted wells may get town water soon

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday June 18, 2013

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

WALLINGFORD - The State Bond Commission is expected to approve a $225,000 grant for the town on Friday, said state Rep. Mary Fritz. The money will pay for extending public water to five houses in a South Broad Street neighborhood.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection tested residents’ wells between 1171 and 1179 S. Broad St. in December 2011 and found dangerous levels of trichloroethylene in five of them. Commonly used as an industrial solvent, the chemical can damage the central nervous system when inhaled. The agency installed filters on the wells to clean the water of contaminants, and residents have been working to get access to the town water supply.

“I knew how serious it was,” Fritz, D-Wallingford, said of the contamination issue.

For the past few months, Fritz said, she has stayed in contact with residents in the area, assuring them that she would try her best to secure funding. Harold Lincoln, of 1175 S. Broad St., and Nicholas Sherwood, of 1179 S. Broad St.,have been the most outspoken of the residents with contaminated wells. Both have said they would like the source of the contamination to be investigated. But DEEP officials have said there are too many potential sources to warrant further investigation.

“This whole area was once all silver businesses, and that’s what you have,” Fritz said of water and soil contamination in the neighborhood.

Lincoln and Sherwood, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, have said they’d like a connection to the public water supply. But “getting town water will only solve part of the issues at hand,” Sherwood said via email in early May. “I still won’t know if our soil is polluted. And our home values are still going to suffer from all of these issues, whether they are fixed or not.”

It was Sherwood’s explanation of his family’s situation, expressed through emails, that Fritz said kept her committed to helping residents in the neighborhood.

Fritz said she invited several town officials to the Bond Commission meeting, to be held Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Fritz said that once an item is put on the commission’s agenda, there is little doubt it will be approved. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. could not be reached for comment on Monday.

But Roger Dann, general manager of the town’s Water Division, said Monday, “This is not a done deal by any stretch.”

Of the $225,000, Dann said,“We would need to see what strings, if any, come attached to that” before proceeding with construction plans.

The closest water main is in the condominium complex behind the houses, Dann said.

Fritz said the grant amount comes from an estimate put together by the town and is intended to cover the total cost of construction. The entire project can be performed by the DEEP, Fritz said, adding that she is working to make sure a crew will come to Wallingford once the funding is approved on Friday.

“I think they should be happy,” Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said of the residents who may now be hooked into town water if the grant money is approved.

“I guess it’s not surprising what priorities government chooses to use our tax dollars for,” Fishbein said.

“I am so thrilled,” Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos said when informed of the potential funding on Monday. Economopoulos and Town Councilor Jason Zandri have both advocated for families in the South Broad Street neighborhood.

“Obviously I’m thrilled that (Fritz) has been able to get those funds for the families,” Zandri said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I think (Fritz) did an outstanding job,” said Town Councilor John Sullivan. “She stuck with it even though sometimes residents displayed concern.”

“It’s always hard getting money, especially in these times,” said Fritz.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I received this very good news today as a part of the follow up from my original post "Special Request regarding child exploitation / missing child investigation" and I wanted to share it with everyone
Good Afternoon,

We wanted to update everyone that assisted us during the course of our search for a missing boy from 2002. We are very happy to say that we found the boy yesterday! We very much appreciate all the help that you provided, although we cannot offer any details of the boys identity we can tell you that the boy is fine.

This does highlight the importance of the work that was done and for your contributions we are most thankful.

Thank you again, your assistance was very helpful and we value our relationship with you.

Special Agent in Charge
Department of Homeland Security
Homeland Security Investigations
10 Causeway St, Suite 722
Boston, MA

Monday, June 3, 2013


Comptroller Kevin Lembo today announced that the state’s financial outlook has improved and the Fiscal Year 2013 will likely end with a surplus of approximately $164.8 million, based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

The surplus would reach approximately $212.3 million on a modified cash basis accounting.
In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lembo said this projection shows a slower overall rate of General-Fund spending growth of about 2 percent over last fiscal year. General Fund revenues for Fiscal Year 2013 are estimated to increase at a 3.6 percent rate over last year.
Lembo cautioned that the surplus is good news for the current fiscal year, but is largely attributed to unreliable revenue sources that the state may be unable to count on in the following years.
The surplus results from an improved revenue outlook and spending restraint,” Lembo said. “Deficit mitigation efforts, constraints on payroll growth, and fringe benefit budget reductions have contributed to the slower overall rate of spending growth.
“Double-digit growth in the estimated and final payment components of the income tax associated with strong capital markets and tax changes, as well as windfalls in the inheritance and estate tax, are driving the gains in receipts.”
As Lembo cautioned last month, “These revenue gains are welcome, but have the potential to be one-time windfalls. The slow rate of the economic recovery continues to present budget challenges.”


Economic data from federal and state Departments of Labor and other sources show:

  • The state added 6,300 payroll jobs in April. Over the 12-month period ending in April, the state has had six months of job gains and six months of job losses. The net result over that period has been a gain of 10,800 jobs.

  • According to the Department of Labor, Connecticut has recovered 57,500 positions or 47.4 percent of the 121,200 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs that were lost in the state in the March 2008-February 2010 recession. The jobs recovery is now 38 months underway. A recession in the 1990s resulted in a state job loss of almost 160,000 payroll positions. It took 84 months to recover the jobs lost to that recession.
  • The strongest job sectors on a year-to-year basis have been leisure and hospitality (+5,900), education and health services (+5,700) and construction (+4,000). The sectors experiencing the largest job losses are manufacturing (-2,500), government (-1,400), and financial activities (-2,200).
  • Connecticut’s unemployment rate in April remained fixed at 8.0 percent; the national rate was 7.5 percent that month. Average weekly claims for unemployment rose in April, but remain well below the 2009 peak level.

  • In 2012, Connecticut personal income advanced 2 percent, ranking the state 49th nationally in income growth.
  • The strongest growth in the New England region was in Vermont with growth of 3.4 percent. Nationally, income grew at a 3.5-percent rate in 2012. Quarterly personal income in Connecticut performed better in the first half of 2012 than the second half (the income figures for the 1st quarter of 2013 will be available in June).
  • According to the Department of Labor, average hourly earnings at $28.15, not seasonally adjusted, were down thirty-five cents, or -1.2 percent from the April 2012 hourly pay estimate. The resulting average private sector weekly pay was estimated at $943.03, down $34.52, or -3.5 percent over the year.
  • The slow rate of job and income growth has had a significant impact on the payroll withholding component of the income tax.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers was advancing at a 1.1-percent rate in April.
  • Housing permits in Connecticut have continued to post strong gains coming into 2013. For the 12-month period ending in April, housing permits were close to 60 percent from the same period last year. This is almost double the national growth for the period.
  • According to the Census Bureau, U.S. new home sales increased 29 percent from last March. Sales in the Northeast were up 3.4 percent from April of last year. Nationally sales in April were above March levels; in the Northeast sales declined in April.
  • Results for the larger existing home sales market, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), were: Nationally, April sales were up 0.6 percent from the previous month, and sales were up 9.7 percent from April of last year. Home prices were up a solid 11 percent from one year ago. Prices have increased for 14 consecutive months for the first time since the 2005-2006 market acceleration. The median time a home was on the market was 46 days based on April data, down from 83 days a year ago. Existing home sales in the Northeast were up 1.6 percent on a month-over-month basis in April. Sales were up 4.9 percent from April of last year. Home prices in the Northeast were up 5.1 percent for the year to a median price of $245,100.
  • At this writing, major equity markets are up over 100 percent since January 2009. Stocks are still trading close to historical medians of price to earnings at around 18 times earnings.


Dow Industrial Average


  • April advance retail sales were up 3.7 percent from the same month one year ago. The strongest gains were in automobiles, and non-store retailers.
  • The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index hit a five-year high in May. Consumers were considerably more optimistic about the short-term outlook. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.2 percent from 17.2 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 12.1 percent from 14.8 percent.
  • According to the Federal Reserve, consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5-3/4 percent during the first quarter. Revolving credit was little changed, while non-revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 8 percent. In March, consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 3-1/2 percent.


Business and Economic Growth

  • Based on advance estimates, real Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the 1st quarter of 2013. This follows 4th quarter growth of just 0.4 percent.
  • First quarter corporate profit data will be released on June 26. Corporate profits advanced 6.8 percent in 2012 after growth of 7.3 percent in 2011. Net dividend distributions in the 4th quarter of 2012 were up 23.2 percent from the same quarter a year ago.
  • With respect to corporate financial reporting and related transparency issues, many investors are concerned with recent SEC rules that relax the reporting standards for subsidiary activity. At a time that investors and policy makers are seeking a more complete understanding of complex corporate structures and offshore activity, the new disclosure rules are moving in the opposite direction. This makes the work of institutional investors like state pension plans and federal and state tax policy analysts more difficult.


The SEC rules were discussed in a May 22 Wall Street Journal article. The Journal reported that some of the biggest U.S. companies have quietly removed hundreds of offshore subsidiaries from their public financial disclosures over the past several years. Software maker Oracle Corp., for instance, disclosed more than 400 subsidiaries in its 2010 annual report. By 2012 the list had been whittled to eight—five of which were located in Ireland. Oracle declined comment. Google went from over 100 subsidiaries reported in 2009 to zero. Microsoft, FedEx and Raytheon also shed hundreds of subsidiaries from their reporting.

The reporting change stems from SEC rules that demand disclosure only when the subsidiary activity is deemed “significant”. One result of the change is that companies limit information about offshore operations, in particular units operating in countries regarded as tax havens. For many investors, even small disclosures matter. Information about a company's subsidiaries can indicate whether its operations have diversified, how complex the company’s financial transactions may be, and how global income is moving. The lists of subsidiaries have been a reliable source for such information.

Tara Downes
Director of Communications
Office of the State Comptroller


VIDEO – Segment of the June 12, 2012 Town Council Meeting regarding the new Wallingford railroad station

With all the discussion recently regarding the location choice for the new Wallingford railroad station as part of the state Department of Transportation’s $650 million New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project I wanted to post that segment of the June 12, 2012 meeting.

That agenda item (number 11 for that night) Discussion and Possible Action to Adopt the endorsement of the Town’s recommendation for a new rail station location – Engineering was discussed for about an hour and ten minutes or so and the entire segment is below.

I was not in attendance for that meeting (I was away for a technical conference for work that week and it was the first of two absences I have had on the Council in total since my term began in 2012; the other was for a vacation with my kids).

It’s a long segment to watch but given the desire to get all of the information on the subject from that meeting it is a “must see” as it ties into the
most recent Council meeting (as written up and reported by the Record Journal).

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Location ‘set in stone,’ but much uncertain about new railroad station in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal Sunday June 2, 2013

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

The youths of the country believe in having everything at their fingertips, said John Bernick, who is managing the state Department of Transportation’s $650 million New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project.

“The generation coming in now doesn’t necessarily want to be tied to a car,” said Bernick, a Wallingford resident. “They want to come out from their front door and have everything at their fingertips.”

That’s the point of the commuter rail project, and the reason why a new railroad station is being built in Wallingford, he said. “That’s transit oriented development.”

With the construction of a new station and the addition of a commuter rail line, there is potential for development and growth in the lower portion of downtown Wallingford, Bernick said.

“Depending on what the usage is with the rail, anything’s possible,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said of the development potential around the new station, to be located at the intersection of North Cherry and Parker streets. “This is what has created a lot of the discussion and planning concerning incentive housing zone.”

The proposed housing zone will create favorable zoning regulations for developers in the downtown area, including along portions of North Colony and North Cherry streets. It has yet to be adopted by the town.

“We probably wouldn’t be having those discussions regarding the housing zone except for the rail potential,” Dickinson said.

Construction of the new station will begin at this time next year, Bernick said. The station will be the equivalent of three stories tall with 500-foot platforms on each side of the double tracks, he said. The main station will be located along North Cherry Street, and a smaller kiosk-like enclosure will be located on the opposite platform, according to designs. A glass-paned pedestrian bridge will span the tracks, connecting the platforms.

Bernick said two parking lots will provide about 220 spaces. Parking will be plentiful for the 17 round trips planned when the station is finished in 2016, Bernick said, because the lots were designed to handle the eventuality of 25 round trips when the rail is complete years later. The smaller of the two parking lots will be at the corner of North Cherry and Parker streets, while the larger parking lot will be built at what is now Cerrito’s Auto Sales, at 180 N. Colony St.

Bernick said last week that the location of Wallingford’s new station is “set in stone.”

The location

That the station site is “set in stone” didn’t stop its neighbors and town councilors from voicing their displeasure about its location and design plans during a public input session last Tuesday.

About 10 state DOT employees, including Bernick, attended the session and presented updated design plans. Most of the outcry came from residents of North Cherry Street. Concerns were mostly about traffic and security, though complaints about lighting and the type of shrubbery that will be used as a natural fence were also voiced.

“It’s just the nature,” Bernick said of residential complaints. “It’s important we understand clearly what their concerns and priorities are.”

On Tuesday, Bernick told concerned residents that he was open to personal meetings on site so that he could better explain designs. “I’m sensitive that this thing is landing in their front yard,” he said.

Town Councilor Jason Zandri said Friday that he’s worried about the new station being located in a residential area.

“I think they’ve underestimated the amount of road space they need,” he said, referring to traffic issues brought up during the Tuesday meeting.

The state DOT will look to acquire land to create easements and potentially widen roads, Bernick said. The only property that will be purchased as a whole is Cerrito’s Auto Sales. If those with property necessary to the project aren’t willing sellers, residents were notified Tuesday that eminent domain will be used. Bernick said the owner of Cerrito’s Auto Sales “isn’t a willing seller.”

The crux of traffic concerns came in regard to a commuter bus. According to current designs, a commuter bus will run down North Cherry Street and into the parking lot next to the station. Town Engineer John Thompson said North Cherry Street is narrow, and heading north, there is a bad sight line when turning left on Parker Street. A house on the corner blocks the sight line, Thompson said.

“It’s a tight intersection from a geometric standpoint,” Thompson said. “I’ve been very sensitive to these things.”

A traffic study performed by the state will help address some of these issues, Thompson said. He said he speaks regularly with Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio about traffic issues to make sure “what is proposed meets with our needs.”

Thompson also said that it’s not certain a bus will travel down North Cherry Street. The bus, he said, is a part of the design he supports to create a transportation hub.

Bernick said the original plan was for a bus pull-up on Old Colony Street to loop in and out of the station, but he was then asked by the town to add the stop on North Cherry Street.

“We can just do away with that,” Bernick said.

Town Councilor John Sullivan said “the first concerns I have are towards the residents in the area. The second concern is certainly safety. It seems to me they’re not committed to having someone on patrol down there. They’re going to use cameras rather than a person.”

Town Councilor Craig Fishbein said that the project’s design to dim lights at night and provide shrubbery to block the view into parking lots creates “a darkened roadway that is just calling for crime.”

Bernick said only the town of Westport has any form of security provided by the state or Amtrak, patrolling day and night. “Anywhere else, there’s no cop,” he said.

The station is designed for routine patrol, so police cruisers can easily drive through and see if the station is safe, Bernick said. That’s why, he said, the station is designed with plenty of glass paneling.

“You want to be able to see what you’re walking into before you get into it,” he said.

Cameras will be installed to watch for trouble, such as vandalism. Bernick said video will help give police a chance to catch perpetrators. Town councilors Tuesday night complained that they do not want to have to rely on the already short-staffed Wallingford Police Department to provide constant security in the area. Bernick said that in Meriden and Waterbury, police cruisers will be equipped with video feeds from cameras in their train stations. Bernick said emergency phones will be installed in the parking lots and station in Wallingford.

“There’s so much that I disagree with this,” Town Councilor John LeTourneau said of the new station. “This is going to be an absolute nightmare. Anyone who lives in that area will tell you, they’re so off-base on this, it’s really unbelievable.”

“The location is not the end of the world,” Town Councilor Tom Laffin said Friday. “The way they’re doing it is wrong.”

Fishbein said that he’s been against the rail project from its very beginning. Bernick told Fishbein Tuesday that between 250 and 300 people will board the train from Wallingford per day. With 17 round trips, Fishbein said that’s only about 10 people from Wallingford on every train.

“I see it to be an ultimate waste of our tax dollars,” Fishbein said.

The decision

While a majority of town councilors voiced their concern over the location of the new station Tuesday night, on June 12, 2012, the same council voted 5-2 to approve the location.

Zandri and Town Councilor Rosemary Rascati were absent from the meeting. LeTourneau and Sullivan cast the dissenting votes.

Several councilors were upset Tuesday night when Bernick said that it was the Town Council’s choice to build the station where it’s currently slated. “For them to say they really didn’t vote on this, I was troubled by that,” Thompson said of the council. That night in June, Thompson said, he made a three-hour presentation on two options: either the North Cherry Street location, or an alternate originally proposed by LeTourneau at Judd Square.

Thompson said he went through the issues for both locations. A working group formed by the mayor — including the fire and police chiefs and employees from the planning and zoning and engineering departments — felt that the Judd Square location presented safety issues, Thompson said. The main issue, he said, was that because the location was in an area of congestion, there could be problems with emergency vehicles. Due to design standards, gates at crossings would remain lowered for a longer period of time if the train station were built at Judd Square. This brought about concerns for fire and police personnel trying to respond to emergencies, Thompson said. Also, the Cerrito’s site offers more parking, so a parking garage isn’t required, and half the land to be developed for the station on North Cherry Street is already owned by Amtrak.

“We did present both options,” Bernick said.

Thompson said that if Judd Square were the council’s preference, the state DOT “would have gone with that.”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Zandri said. Sullivan also didn’t agree; nor did Fishbein, Le-Tourneau and Laffin.

Laffin said that all seven councilors attending last June’s meeting have the same memory of what happened: that no matter the vote, it was only a suggestion the state DOT would take into consideration.

“No matter what we voted, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference,” LeTourneau said. “At the end, they would have gotten what they wanted.”

“The state asked for our suggestion,” Dickinson said. “Technically, the town did suggest the site. Ultimately, the state had to decide where it has to go.

“I suppose the council could have gone another direction ... I understand there’s desires for different locations for different reasons,” he said.

While Thompson said no location is perfect, the properties around the new station will eventually be some of the most valuable in Wallingford.

Bernick said last week that he could envision street-front properties being built near the station on Old Colony Street, possibly creating “another Main Street.”

“It’s a monster,” Bernick said of the project. “It’s going to feel good when it goes into service.”


Courtesy of Connecticut Department of Transportation

Site plan shows new railroad station, parking lots, and existing structures in Wallingford.

Courtesy of Connecticut Department of Transportation

Artist’s rendering shows the North Cherry Street side of the proposed railroad station in Wallingford.

Photos by Christopher Zajac courtesy of the Record-Journal