Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eye M - Dining Out

As you know Middletown has lots of great places to dine out, but we found an especially good deal this week. Having heard about the "Global Blanc with Chinese Cooking" dinner being offered by Forbidden City, my husband and I checked it out last night. This special wine pairing dinner, being offered through July 5, includes a first course of sesame cold noodles with chicken, paired with Cuarto Rayas Verdejo. Honey roasted pork on a steamed bun paired with Saint M Reisling was up second and the third course was Almond Crusted Lemon Sole, paired with Castel Banfi Pino Grigio. All of the menu items were beautifully presented and the portions were more than ample. The Noodles were pleasantly spiced and we enjoyed the unexpected texture of the cucumber on the slightly sweet steamed pork sandwich. The third course of fish was perfectly cooked, coated in crunchy toasted almonds and served over steamed baby choi sum (Asian vegetable). Looking back on dinner, I wish I had had the discipline to save some of the first and second wines to see how they would match up to the later dishes. If you decide to go have this meal, you might even want to ask for all the wines at the beginning of the meal, tasting each wine with each of the courses.

This delightful menu is available for lunch or dinner and can be had for the bargain price of $29.99 only if you make your reservations online and have the promotion code. Walk in or phone reservation can still get this special meal, but the cost goes up by $10.

To be on Forbidden City's mailing list and get the promotion code emailed to you, visit www.forbiddencitybistro.com. Forbidden City has been offering these special wine-pairing dinners about two times a month.

Middletown Economy Outperforms State

The city released economic statistics in early June, showing that while Middletown has been affected by the economic downturn, we are much better off than other communities in Connecticut and the rest of the nation.

Construction and Home Sales
In the first 4 months of 2009, 22 building permits were issued, compared to 47 in the same months of 2008. The city's report notes, however, that Middletown ranks 5th out of the 127 CT communities, "the bright side is that Middletown's construction market is better than at least 122 other communities."

Home sales also declined, with condominiums hit the hardest. There were 26 condo sales in January to April 2009, compared to 61 a year ago. The current supply of condos for sale is a "staggering" 33 months, compared to the average of a 6 month supply. In comparison, Single-Family home sales dropped from 71 to 62, with a 10.5 month supply (average 7 months).

Employment and income
Middletown's employment figures are much better than those of both the state and the nation. The unemployment rate for April was 7.2%, up from 4.2% a year ago, but significantly less than the 7.9% of the state and 8.9% of the nation. The April 2008 unemployment rate was considered "full employment", Middletown would need to add 228 jobs to return to that condition.

The median income for Middletown in 2008 was $60,542, compared to $58,174 in 2007. The report notes that the drop in interest rates means that there is a substantial rise in the maximum house price that a family with the median income can afford. With 3% down, and spending 30% of gross income, the current maximum house price is $207,000, compared to $175,000 a year ago.

The report provides a moderately gloomy forecast for the next few months of our local economy, "Unemployment continues to grow. Trade name registration has slowed from previous April and March. Rumors of another Pratt and Whitney round of layoffs. Expect unemployment to go over 8% in June or July."

The full report is available.

Plan of Conservation and Development Meeting Tuesday

Tuesday June 30, 6:30 to 8 pm Hubbard Room, Russell Library.
A survey will be taken about what people value

You are invited to the 4th PUBLIC INPUT SESSION for the city Plan of
Conservation & Development. The primary focus of this LAST session will be
to determine what qualities people value and want to see realized in our
city in terms of development and land preservation.

On Tuesday, a survey will be taken asking you about your opinion on
development, land conservation and transportation. Your answers will
provide guidance and inform land use decisions, both in policy and
practice, for years to come. Because we rarely get together as a city to
chat about The Big Picture, this survey is one of the few ways to see how
people feel about what’s going on and where we should go.

We realize many of these topics might be things you do not think about
every day nor possibly have ever thought about, but we hope that won’t keep
you from participating. We want the opinions of people who live here and
know how things work. The more voices that contribute, the most inclusive
the Plan can be, instead of the work of only a handful of people.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Celebrate New Citizens

One of the nicer events of Independence Day Week is the yearly Naturalization Ceremony that takes place this Thursday July 2 at 1 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Middletown's City Hall. The people who become US citizens come from all over the world and it's fascinating to watch them as they become Americans. Even in this crazy economic climate, men and women of all ages still come to this country t live, work, raise families and become part of this amazing tapestry.

"The Honorable Stefan R. Underhill, United States Federal Judge, will conduct a Naturalization Ceremony for new citizens from all over the world. Russell Library coordinates this event with other local organizations and agencies every July, and it is inspiring to attend."

Commissions have vacancies

Many of Middletown's leading elected officials began their public service after being appointed to one of the many Boards and Commissions which play an advisory role to the Mayor and Common Council. Democratic Majority Leader Tom Serra told me that his public service in Middletown began when he was appointed to serve on the Pension Board in the early 1970s.

These boards and commissions are established by ordinances passed by the Common Council. Anybody registered to vote in Middletown is eligible to serve on these commissions, however, state law requires a minimum representation from the minority (Republican) party. Serra said that it is not necessary to have expertise on a particular issue, because that can be acquired while serving.

A full list of these Boards and Commissions can be found on the Common Council's web page (scroll all the way to the bottom). The following commissions have vacancies:
  • Cable Advisory Board, can be either Party
  • Citizen Advisory Board, (at-Large, Banking/Insurance seat) can be either Party
  • Connecticut River Assembly
  • Long Hill Estate Authority, 3 open positions can be either Party
  • Senior Services, 2 vacancies, at least one must be Republican (or un-affiliated)
  • CVH Advisory Committee, one vacancy
  • Redevelopment Agency, one vacancy
  • Youth Services Bureau, to fill a vacancy until 9/09
All vacancies are filled by appointment by Mayor Giuliano, and confirmation by the Common Council. People interested in serving on a Commission should contact the Mayor's office (Mayor@cityofmiddletown.com, 344-3400). Republican councilman David Bauer told me that people interested in getting involved in government can also contact him (dvauer@sbcglobal.net or 860-301-2244), or any other member of Common Council (Council Contact Information).

Real Estate Market Update Thursday

From the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce

the Chamber, along with Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano and Trevor Davis Commercial Real Estate, will hold a press conference to discuss the 2009 First Quarter Greater Middletown Real Estate Report. The press conference will take place on Thursday, July 2 at 3:00 p.m. at the Mayor’s Office, 245 DeKoven Drive, Middletown.

A slower pace has come to the commercial real estate market in Middletown and Cromwell due to the national and international recession, but there is still a healthy balance of supply and demand. Availability rates have risen in general only slightly, but in some cases have indeed gone down. The commercial markets are clearly healthier than the residential, although the unavailability of attractive lending terms is beginning to have a chilling effect on new and existing commercial sales.

Notably, Downtown Middletown Class A vacancy is only 7.1%. This is usually a sign that there is an undersupply, almost astonishing given that Downtown Middletown is probably the only city in Connecticut where there have been two new competitive buildings built, albeit small. Both of these are mixed use with retail on the street level and office space on the upper floors. Class B and C rates are understandably somewhat higher, but the overall availability rate in Downtown Middletown is only 9.1%.

The Renaissance continues in the Downtown with the addition of live music to the restaurant mix. The new projects are occupied as the newest one is announced, a new, ‘green’ building in the North end of Main St. for the Community Health Center.

Suburban office space is closer to, but still lower than the larger Hartford and New Haven markets. Middletown is measured at 11.4% and Cromwell 15.2 % compared to the larger cities rates measured by different firms between 15% and 19%.

The industrial availability rates of Middletown are slightly higher than we measured previously, but still quite healthy at 8.5% compared to Hartford and New Haven’s 9% to 13%. For this Report we removed a Cromwell building that has been unavailable for occupancy for over 5 years due to the environmental liability, thereby bringing the vacancy rate for industrial buildings in Cromwell down below 3%.

Due to the economy and the perceived distress in the market, rental rates and sales prices per square foot are being challenged by tenants and buyers. So far, the landlords and sellers have had little justification to lower them, but continued pressure will force the most motivated to lower their rates.

We should note that, because of its size, we have treated the Aetna health insurance building as an owner occupied structure, even though it technically isn’t. They intend to vacate this 1.4 million sq. ft. office complex sometime in 2010. The owners are currently evaluating the reuse potential, although it is unlikely to become a multi-tenant building.

This is the first time we have made public the historical rates for our Reports. Due to the evolution of the research data, the only group that presents a true and interesting perspective is the Middletown and Cromwell office market. Most of the noticeable jumps occur when a building is classified differently, such as the hospital purchasing a competitive building that would therefore be removed from our calculations.

However, the trend lines clearly follow the economy of our State and nation. Although upper Middlesex County is relatively small there is a vibrancy that visitors notice in Downtown Middletown. A return to the cities is a global trend, but Middletown far surpasses most cities. This attractive Downtown has blossomed from fruits of long efforts by the City, the Chamber, Downtown Business District, Wesleyan University and many businesses and individuals.

PDF with full data available at:


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Season Starts (Tuesday - Thursday)

Summer Days, a series of lectures and performances sponsored by Wesleyan's Center for the Arts, begins its 4-Tuesday run this week (June 30.) Scheduled to speak at 12:10 p.m. in the CFA Cinema (the older one, not the Goldsmith Family Cinema) is Marilyn Nelson. Nelson, who was the CT State Poet Laureate from 2001-06, is the author or translator of twelve books and three chapbooks. Her latest, "The Freedom Business", is a poetic look at the life of Venture Smith, an 18th Century slave who purchased his own freedom (and that of his family) - in fact, her poetry sits on the opposite page from selections from Smith's memoirs. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go to www.blueflowerarts.com/marilyn-nelson.

It's a busy week for the Middletown Symphonic Band. The ensemble, led by Marco Gaylord, plays the first of Middletown's Summer Sounds Series this Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the South Green. The following day (July 1), ,the MSB inaugurates Cromwell's Summer Sounds Series, the concert taking place at 7 p.m. in Pierson Park, West Street. The Band comes back to Middletown the very next day to perform at 8:30 p.m. on the lawn of the City Hall, right before the Fireworks Display.

The Music at the Mansion Series, held on the back lawn of the Wadsworth Mansion/ Long Hill Estate, begins its 4-week run this Wednesday. Perennial favorite Eight to the Bar plays its sweet sounds of swing at 6:30 p.m. The grounds open at 5:30 for those who wish to bring a picnic dinner. For more information, call 347-1064 or go to www.wadsworthmansion.com.

Speaking of the Fireworks Display, the Middletown Common Council put money back into the city's budget and the entertainment returned to the event. Musical guests include Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng & Band (5 p.m. at Riverview Plaza), the Middletown High Jazz Band at 6:30 at City Hall followed by the r'n'b/soul sounds of Mass-Conn-Fusion (7:30 p.m.at City Hall) and the afore-mentioned Middletown Symphonic Band. Food vendors and restaurants will be open and, who knows, maybe the weather will finally cooperate. In case of rain, the event will take place on July 9.

The opening concert of Wesleyan's CFA Summer Nights series is, sadly, scheduled for the same time as the events down by City Hall. Nevertheless, the free concert, to be held at 7 p.m. in the CFA Courtyard (off High Street) looks to be a winner. Nation Beat, a sextet that melds Brazilian rhythms with American "roots" music, will absolutely get you off the blanket and dancing around. In case of rain, the concert moves indoors to Crowell Concert Hall. To find out more about the band, go to www.nationbeat.com/.

How they voted

The State Legislature voted on three bills dealing with elections in the session just concluded.  Here is how the Middletown delegation to the state senate and legislature voted on them.

This act requires a special election to fill U.S. Senate vacancies under most circumstances. It was passed 33-17 in the Senate, and 107-37 in the House.

  • Paul Doyle (Senate, D, 9th district): YES
  • Thomas Gaffey (Senate, D, 13th district): ABSENT

  • James O'Rourke (House, D, 32nd district): YES
  • Joseph Serra (House, D, 33rd district): YES
  • Gail Hamm (House, D, 34th district): YES
  • Matt Lesser (House, D, 100th district): YES

This bill makes it easier for a qualified elector to register on the day of election. It was passed 81-65 in the House, and was not voted on in the Senate.

  • James O'Rourke (House, D, 32nd district): YES
  • Joseph Serra (House, D, 33rd district): NO
  • Gail Hamm (House, D, 34th district): YES
  • Matt Lesser (House, D, 100th district): YES

This bill adopts the interstate compact entitled “The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote,” under which Connecticut would commit its presidential electors to the national popular vote winner in a presidential election. If enough states join the compact, it would effectively lead to direct election of the president (avoiding the electoral college). It was passed 76-69 in the House and was not voted on in the Senate.  

  • James O'Rourke (House, D, 32nd district): YES
  • Joseph Serra (House, D, 33rd district): ABSENT
  • Gail Hamm (House, D, 34th district): NO
  • Matt Lesser (House, D, 100th district): YES

Shakespare in the Grove: Taming of the Shrew

(Photo: Pearse Pinch. Actress Jackie Coleman as Bianca and actor Ken O'Brien as Lucentio.)

ARTFARM’s Free Shakespeare in the Grove 2009 presents The Taming of the Shrew

July 16 – 19 and 23 – 26 at Middlesex Community College, Middletown, CT

Contact: Dic Wheeler, (860) 346-4390, dic@art-farm.org

ARTFARM’s Shakespeare in the Grove 2009 presents The Taming of the Shrew at 7 pm on July 16 – 19 and 23 – 26, 2009 at Middlesex Community College, 100 Training Hill Road, Middletown, CT. Free professional outdoor Shakespeare preceded by live music starting at 6 pm. Bring a picnic and enjoy great entertainment in a stunning location overlooking the Connecticut River Valley.

A family-oriented EcoFestival precedes the Sunday performances from 4 – 6:30 pm on July 19 & 26.

Suggested donation $20.

For info contact (860) 346-4390 or info@art-farm.org. Website www.art-farm.org

From 1909: Vacation Plans of Wesleyan Faculty

This is from the Hartford Courant of June 28, 1909.

In looking at the Hartford Courant in the spring and early summer of 1909, it has struck me that 100 years ago, virtually all of the news which the Hartford Courant printed about Middletown was about Wesleyan. Every day during the spring there seem to have been 3-6 stories about Wesleyan events (mostly baseball, track, and tennis matches, but some literary, scientific, or other events on campus). I have avoided those so far, mostly because they seemed to my 21st century sensibilities a bit, dare I say, "Shallow and Insular." However, the article below takes "Shallow and Insular" to such an extreme that I could not resist reprinting it in its entirety.

I have added the pictures, many of which are from a History of Sciences at Wesleyan, 1831 - 1942, by Burton H. Camp.


Professor to Mingle Work with Recreation

Wesleyan's chapel bell has rung its last summons to chapel for the college year 'o8-'o9. The commencement activities bring to a close all university affairs, and vacation will begin. While the undergraduates scatter themselves around the country, indulging in all kinds of occupations, more or less mysterious except to the understanding of members of a college community, the Wesleyan professors will likewise regulate their day's activities in somewhat different fashion with the beginning of July.

This is the professors' side of vacation:
President-elect William A. Shanklin will assume control of university affairs the moment Acting President William N. Rice "pronounces benediction at commencement." He will consequently remain in Middletown practically the entire summer--planning for that "greater and better Wesleyan." Acting-President Rice will indulge in as much rest as his desire to "keep active" allows him. For the first few weeks he will rest at Waterville, N.H., in the White Mountains, doing at the same time work on the bulletin of the State Geology and Natural History Society. Later in the summer he will attend the meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Sciences at Winnipeg, Canada. While with the members of the association he will take some of the excursions into the Canadian Rockies and other geological points of interest in the Dominion.

Professor C.T. Winchester has not fully laid his plans. The month of July he will spend in Middletown, but in August he will take a short trip, probably about New England, but not very extended. Professor M.B. Crawford will leave the city about the middle of August to join the summer colony at Waterville, N.H., in the White Mountains.

Professor W.E. Mead will spend the summer abroad. Together with his wife, he will leave America on the North German Lloyd line on July 17 for Northern Italy, where the time remaining before college opens will be spent. The party will tour the mountain country of the region. Professor W.J. James will spend half of July and the whole of September in Middletown, but will be at Martha's Vineyard with his family the remainder of the time.

Professor F.W. Nicolson will spend July in Middletown and will cruise in his boat in August, with Lake Champlain as the objective point, most probably. In September he will go to Canada, where his family will have been from the middle of July. Professor L.O. Kuhns will spend the first part of the summer in Middletown, finishing some of his literary works. The remainder of the summer will be spent at Martha's Vineyard.

Professors W.C. Fisher and William A. Heidel have not laid their plans yet, but Professor Dodge and family will sail on the Rheinland of the Holland-American line to Amsterdam on July 5. He will spend most of the summer in France, but will probably tour England later. While abroad he will do research work on the psychological subject of "Fatigue."

Professor W.G. Cady will spend the month of July at work in the Wesleyan physics laboratory. For the remainder of the summer he will be at Kennebunk Beach, Me., where the family will occupy a cottage. Professor R. H. Fife will spend July at Wellsburg, Va. In September he will finish editing two new books concerned with the German department of the university. Professor B.H. Camp has not laid his plans yet, while Professor A.C. Armstrong's are "not ready to be announced."

Professor W.P. Bradley will spend three weeks of July with his family at Bridge Hampton, L.I., and the remainder of the month with Dr. Benedict at Machinsport, Me. In August he will be on the water and will spend September at Whitefield, N.H.

Professor H.W. Conn will work in the state biological laboratory in July and will lecture during the month at Round Lake, N.Y. In mid-August he will take up his summer home at North Woodstock, N.H. Professor K.P. Harrington also has a summer home at Woodstock.

Professor L.H. Howland will spend the summer at his mother's home in New Bedford, Mass. Professor J.M. VanVleck will summer at Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Coach "Rose" Reiter will teach at the Harvard Summer School of Football during the summer, but will commute to and from West Newton, Mass., where his family will summer.
N.B. As a Wesleyan professor, I can say with some confidence that few of the 2009 faculty see summer as a vacation, or go to the mountains or abroad for "the summer". Most are carrying out scholarly work; in the sciences this occurs in the labs on Church Street, where we are joined by many students. There are, however, a few who keep the spirit of 1909 alive and well by going to a "summer colony" in Nova Scotia; perhaps The Eye should resurrect the tradition of reporting the holiday departures of such local notables.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Major Motion in Middletown – Rising Stars in Training at MXCC

For the first four weeks of June, more than a dozen of Hollywood and New York’s finest motion picture professionals shared their experience and talents with 50 ambitious film trainees in the Connecticut Film Industry Training Program (FITP), presented for the second year at Middlesex Community College. FITP is part of the state’s initiative to attract feature film and episodic television production to Connecticut. The program trains people to work as crew members in various departments, including Assistant Directing, Camera, Lighting and Camera Grip, Script Supervision, Location Management, Production Office Coordination and Sound.

FITP is a four-week intensive program, resulting in the production of a short film, Down to the Wire. The film began shooting June 19 on the MxCC campus. Production wrapped on June 26, with a screening of the first cut of the film for all participants. The film is directed by Lewis Gould, Producer of Law and Order, and Director of Medium and Judging Amy. Middletown resident and Emmy award winning producer/director Lisa Simmons and MxCC professors John Shafer and Rich Lenoce coordinate FITP and are producing the film. MxCC alum Giovanna Vecchitto wrote the screenplay.

During filming the 50 trainees acted as crew under the 10 professionals while on the set. Students trained on and used cinema-quality equipment including 35mm Panavision film and Panasonic digital-cinema video cameras, professional sound equipment, lighting and grip trucks and the computer hardware and software necessary to make a film.

Competition for entry into this year’s program was stiff, with hundreds of people applying for only 50 available slots. Trainees range in age from 19-55. Though they come from all different backgrounds, each participant shares a passion for working in the film industry.

According to one graduate of last year’s program, “FITP teaches you all of the things they don’t teach you in film school.” Many of those 2008 graduates are now working on feature films and network television programs as these productions are attracted to Connecticut due to the state’s tax credits.

The program ran through June 26. FITP is funded by a grant from the Office of Workforce Competitiveness.

Photos of the set in action can be found here and here. (It works for Facebook users... another more public portfolio may happen eventually...)

Popcorn and Capra-corn

The Wesleyan Center for Film has announced the theme and films for it's annual summer series, with films being shown, free-of-charge, in the "Frank Capra Directs Hollywood's Leading Men." As in year's past, the Cine-Fare program encourages audiences to dine in Middletown at a discount rate, and receive free transportation to the Goldsmith Family Cinema on the Wesleyan campus.

Center for Film Studies
301 Washington Terrace
Middletown, CT

Tuesday, July 7
Speaker: Marc Longenecker, Programming and Technical Manager of Center for Film Studies
will introduce this film and showcase materials from the Frank Capra Archive Collection

Tuesday, July 14
Speaker: Ed Herrmann, Star of Stage, Screen and Television - Most Recently on Gilmore Girls

Tuesday, July 21
Speaker: Steve Collins, Assistant Professor of Film Studies

Tuesday, July 28
A HOLE IN THE HEAD - Frank Sinatra
Speaker: Tom Santopietro, Author of Sinatra In Hollyood

This program is made possible with support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, The City of Middletown, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, The Downtown Business District, and Wesleyan University - Center for Film Studies.

CineFare in Middletown

July 7, 14, 21, 28, 2009
Enjoy fine food at the following restaurants from 5:00 to 7:00
(Diners will receive a 10% discount on their meals; alcoholic beverages excluded.)

Firehouse Steakhouse and Halligan Tap Room
412 Main Street � 860-347-4440

Fishbone Cafe
106 Court Street � 860-346-6000

Forbidden City Bistro
335 Main Street � 860-343-8288

Nikita�s Bar and Bistro
484 Main Street � 860-344-9378

Osaka Japanese Steakhouse
130 Main Street - 860-6291

Tavern at the Armory (Inn at Middletown)
70 Main Street - 860-854-6323

Tuscany Grill
120 College Street � 860-346-7096

360 Main Street � 860-344-9667

After dinner, catch a free MTA shuttle in front of the restaurants to the Center for Film Studies at Wesleyan for the free screening of a classic film.

For more information on restaurants or MTA shuttle, please call Cathy Duncan (860)347-6924), Marie Kalita Leary (860-347-1424), or Frank Kuan (860-685-2245).

Friday, June 26, 2009

ECRRA Considers Bale-To-Rail Trash Plant For City

At a Wednesday meeting of the Eastern Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, of which the City of Middletown is the sole municipal, Stephen Lynch, the ECRRA administrator proposed exploration of a "bale-to-rail" trash system for the system.

ECRRA currently operates a successful trash to energy plant in Lisbon CT which affords Middletown very low tipping rates compared to those of other Central Connecticut towns which use the CRRA plant in Hartford. Currently, ECRRA charges 67 cents a ton for administrative costs, while CRRA charges $13 a ton.

Lynch indicated that he has been receiving requests for information from several Central Connecticut municipalities which now use the CRRA plant, and a the contracts come to term over the next 3 years, are considering other resources.

"Consultants are recommending that they seek a non-CRRA option," Lynch said. He also noted that Middletown has the "best financial arrangement in the industry."

"The question is are there opportunities to expand this and share it with other Connecticut communities," Lynch asked.

With the inquiries he's received Lynch began exploring a technology in which Municipal Solid Waste is accumulated at a processing plant, baled with equipment similar to that used for hay-baling, and wrapped in impermeable, linear, low-density polyethelene for transport or storage.

Lynch began discussion with TransLoad America, a company which specializes in trash baling facilities, and trash transportation and found that Middletown resident, trash-hauler and developer Phil Armetta was also engaged in talks with TransLoad. At that point, the preliminary discussion became a three-way talk because Armetta has a Middletown site adjacent to rail access which he is considering as a trash baling station. Armetta, built a career as a trash entrepreneur with his Middletown company Dainty Rubbish.

TransLoad VP of operations, Rob Ludin, and technical director of waste operations, Wes Whitehead described the baling operation and process. Waste is collected, mixed, and baled in lightproof, leakproof, ultra-violet inhibiting, airtight bales which prevents putrescence. According to the TransLoad representatives, these bales of 3 and 4 tons the odor, bird attraction and degredation of the trash enclosed inside. The bales can be stored at trash-to-energy sites to avoid the seasonal dips in trash fuel availability, or they can be shipped by flatbed (as they are from the Stamford site), or by rail, at a much reduced rate, to "superdumps" owned, or contracted by TransLoad in Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama and Utah.

Along with a proposed expansion of the Lisbon waste-to-energy plant, the development of a bale-to-rail site would allow ECRRA to consider accepting trash from other Central Connecticut municipalities.

The ECRRA board (Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, Common Council members Gerry Daley and David Bauer) voted unanimously to allow ECRRA to accept inquiries about accepting trash from Capitol Region Council of Government municipalities, and to explore the expansion of the Lisbon operation and the development of a bale-to-rale operation.

Oddfellows Seeks Circus Musicians

From Oddfellows Playhouse

The Children’s Circus of Middletown, run by Oddfellows Playhouse as part of the Middletown Commission on the Arts’ Kids Arts program, is, once again, looking for musicians to play in its circus band. The band is open to all adult and teenage musicians willing to make the commitment to rehearsals and the performance on Friday, July 31, at 5:00 pm. Band director is well-known local musician, Dirck Westervelt.

Percussion, horns, woodwinds, strings (electric or acoustic) are all needed. There will be an organizational meeting on Thursday, June 25 from 6-9 pm at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street, Middletown, but it is not necessary to attend this meeting in order to participate. Rehearsals will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 pm, beginning July 7. Although attendance at all rehearsals is not compulsory, band members are expected to have consistent attendance and must be available for the dress rehearsal on July 30 and the performance at Spencer School in Middletown on July 31. Professional or highly experienced musicians are often able to “sit in” by coming to a few rehearsals before the show.

This is the 2st annual Children’s Circus, a 5-week program for Middletown youngsters ages 8 to 14. Over 200 young people learn such skills as juggling, stilt-walking, clowning, unicycling, acrobatics, and dance and present the results in a stupendous outdoor show, accompanied by live music by the circus band. The show annually attracts an audience of about 1,000.

To sign up for the circus band, please call Oddfellows Playhouse at (860) 347-6143 or contact Dirck Westervelt at (203) 577-7548 or dirckwestervelt@earthlink.net.

Countdown from 98

Some may think that summer begins on the 21st of June. Others, looking at our soggy weather, may think it will never arrive. But Middletown families know that the first true day of summer is the morning that you wake up to summer vacation.

That's today.

Back in September, I wrote about the first day of school. Yesterday, we spent the morning at Macdonough doing some last minute PTA fundraising (book fair!) and watching 5th grade graduation. It was great to see all the kids and their extended families gathered in the gym - many of them carrying balloons or bouquets for their graduates.

It's been a good year.

Now on to the business of celebrating the lazy days of summer -- all 98 of them until September 2nd. Let the sprinklers begin (on second thought, maybe we've had enough sprinkling for a bit!).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Flinter Named Fellow of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

From the Community Health Center

Margaret Flinter was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) on June 20 during the AANP national conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Flinter serves as the Vice President and Clinical Director of the Community Health Center, Inc., and is the Director of its Weitzman Center for Innovation in Community Health and Primary Care.

The FAANP program was established in 2000 to recognize nurse practitioner leaders who have made outstanding contributions to health care through nurse practitioner clinical practice, research, education, or policy. Priority initiatives of FAANP are the development of leadership and mentorship programs for nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner students.

Fellows of the AANP are visionaries committed to the global advancement of nursing through the development of imaginative and creative future nurse practitioner leaders, and as such, hold an annual think tank to strategize about the future of nurse practitioners and health care outside the confines of traditional thinking. A limited number of nurse practitioners are selected for this highly coveted distinction each year.

Flinter will continue the tradition of contributing to the mission of the AANP and
promoting the role of the nurse practitioner.

AANP was founded in 1985 and is the oldest, largest, and only full-service national professional organization for nurse practitioners of all specialties. AANP represents the interests of the approximate 125,000 nurse practitioners around the country. AANP continually advocates for the active role of nurse practitioners as providers of high-quality, cost-effective and personalized healthcare.

For more information about AANP, visit www.aanp.org.


(click here to see pictures of May tournament)

Friday, June 26th at 6:oo pm

This Friday, June 26th, we will be hosting a very fun, very informal basketball tournament at Donovan Park, next to Macdonough School between Spring and Stack Streets. This isn't about impressing people with your skill, it's about having fun with your neighbors. So, bring a friend, a kid, a spouse. This time, we'll have a DJ, as well.

Walk on down to the park. Play some b-ball. Eat a hot dog, we'll be cooking out. Bring a blanket and just lie out in the grass. This is a time for fun. At last month's event, there were roughly 200 people!

No need to sign up in advance, just show up with one or two friends or come alone and we'll put you on a team.

C'mon everyone, we need to start enjoying this amazing space in the middle of our city!

call 346-4845 or email neat@neatmiddletown.org for more information.

A Day & Night Filled With Words (and More)

The 2nd Annual Riverwood Poetry Festival runs from June 24 - 28 (see here for full schedule.) 3 of the events take place in Middletown this Saturday (June 27.)

From 1 - 4 p.m., Broad Street Books hosts Artemis Rising, a group of women writers and poets formed in 1997. Among those scheduled to read are Eileen Albrizio (pictured above), Priscilla Herrington, Suzy Lamson, Mary Elizabeth Lang, Suzanne Niedzielska, Paula Panzarella, Victoria Rivas, and Linda Yuhas. Many, if not all, of these writers have read in this town and all are impressive. To find out more about the group, go to www.yeolde.org/artemis/. For more information about the event, call 685-7323.

The scene shifts to The Buttonwood Tree for a 6:30 p.m. reading of Antrim House Press Poets. Hosted by Press owner and editor Rennie McQuillken, poets include Steve Foley, Jen Gates, Jim Kelleher, Norah Pollard and Ginny Lowe Connors (pictured.) In existence since 1990, the Press (in its own words) "is devoted to the cause of bringing poetry into the mainstream of American life and to promoting the work of poets who are unfashionably clear and interested in edifying rather than mystifying their readers and audiences." Susan Allison's new collection, "Down by the Riverside Ways", was issued earlier this year by Antrim House. To find out more about the Press and its catalog, go to www.antrimhousebooks.com.

The final event of the day takes place from 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. at Gatekeepers Tavern, 73 Ferry Street, and is titled "Outlaw Poetry Night." Hosted by Yvon Cormier, readers come from all around the country and include Puma Perl (pictured, New York City), David Smith and S.A. Griffin (California), Dan Kellett (Virginia), Rob Plath (Long Island), Karl Koweski (Alabama), James Darman (Pennsylvania), Scott Wannberg (Oregon), Zach King-Smith and James Crafford (Connecticut.) There will also be music at the event provided by guitarist/vocalist Freddy Moses and guitarist Mick Bolduc. And, there's more - there will be time allotted for an "Open Mic." For more information about this event and the entire festival, go to www.riverwoodpoetry.org and follow the links.

Unpopular Poplar Road Plans at Planning and Zoning

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved two small subdivisions at their biweekly meeting yesterday, and tabled the discussion of a third, much larger and more controversial subdivision application.  City Planner Bill Warner also discussed a recent Connecticut Supreme Court ruling which restricts the power of the Planning and Zoning Commission to require developers to build sidewalks and plant street trees.  

"Off-site improvements"
Developers frequently ask Planning and Zoning for a waiver of the requirement to build sidewalks. While this may occasionally be motivated by a desire to save construction costs, it usually seems to be driven by a desire to attract home buyers who do not want to shovel snow or see people walking in front of their house.  In fact, I've heard neighbors of a proposed subdivision support the developer's request for a sidewalk waiver for the same reasons, expressing concern that sidewalks will "ruin the rural character of our neighborhood."  

Despite this, many towns ask developers to construct sidewalks, deciding that the quality of life for both existing and future residents is increased by providing safe routes for children and adults to walk, and that sidewalks also reduce the cost of school transportation, as students can safely walk to neighborhood bus stops instead of being picked up at each and every house on a street.  

Bill Warner reported about a recent CT Supreme Court decision in the case of Buttermilk Farms, LLC versus the Planning and Zoning Commission of the town of Plymouth.  Buttermilk Farms appealed a decision in Plymouth that required them to put sidewalks on a street which did not have them.  In their appeal they argued that the relevant statute "does not grant authority to the commission to regulate general health and safety, but, instead, it provides specific grants of authority to regulate health and welfare with respect to the land to be subdivided and the proposed streets within the subdivision."

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Buttermilk Farms.  Bill Warner said that the Middletown City attorney interpreted the ruling to mean that Planning and Zoning has no authority to require a developer to put in sidewalks on an existing street. This also applies to requirements for planting street trees. Current P&Z regulations would apparently not hold up in court if challenged.  

Two minor subdivisions approved
A two lot subdivision on Flynn Lane, off of East Street, was approved without any controversy. Planning Department staff requested street trees and sidewalks, which the developer had no objections to.  A second two-lot subdivision, on Ballfall Road and Sisk Street was also approved, but only after the developer informed the Planning and Zoning Commission that he did not want to put in sidewalks on Ballfall Road.  In light of the Supreme Court ruling, there was very little discussion about the developer's request for a sidewalk waiver.  

Poplar Road subdivision is of concern to neighbors
Madeline Cerretelli, who has lived 37 years in a
 mansion off of Flynn road, is proposing to develop her property and put 14 houses on about two-thirds of her 15 acres, reserving a large lot for her house.  The development would be served by a new cul de sac called Cerretelli Drive.  She has asked for a waiver of the sidewalk construction requirement; in this case since the proposed street is entirely within a new subdivision, the Planning and Zoning Commission is not required to grant such a waiver.  

Residents of a previously constructed cul de sac, Goodman Drive, which abuts to the proposed subdivision, expressed their concerns about the Cerretelli Drive project.  They pointed to the absence of a "Site analysis" and a "Landscape Plan", and objected to the lack of genuine open space being set aside. Residents in this neighborhood adamantly objected to any waiver of
 sidewalk requirements, writing in a letter to the Planning and Zoning:
Anyone who lives in this neighborhood knows full well that the sidewalks in the area provide safe passage for young children and families. Each day, evening, weekend you can see neighbors come to Goodman Drive to walk safely. In fact, we would strongly recommend that the developer extend the new development sidewalks to connect to Goodman Drive as to provide a more "family friendly" environment.
Several neighbors spoke about traffic safety, citing Poplar Road as a dangerous thoroughfare between East Street and Ridgewood Road.   Neighbors were also concerned about the extent of blasting that would need to be done for the development, and the potential it has for damaging wells and foundations. There was extensive discussion about the impact of this development on the forests and wildlife which currently inhabit the lot.  

Mrs. Cerretelli addressed her neighbors' concerns.  She reassured them about the blasting,  "Blasting can be noisy, but if the person knows what they're doing it's not a problem."  She agreed that there was a lot of wildlife on her property, saying that with all the developments in the area, including Goodman Drive, and Ted Bysiewicz' developments, all of it has come to her property, but then protested, "I can't keep their play yard, they'll just have to find another place."  

Summing up, Cerretelli said, "I know nobody likes change.  But like anything else you get used to it."

Several of the Commissioners expressed their opposition to the sidewalk waiver request, pointing out that children usually liked to go down one side of the street and back the other.  Commissioners Catherine Johnson and Carl Bolz expressed their opposition to some of the lots, which were contorted into bizarre and untypical lot shapes to conform to the minimum acreage and frontage requirements.  Johnson called one of the lots, "the most ridiculous lot I've ever seen."

The Commissioners voted to close the public hearing, and then voted to table the discussion of the application, in order to have more time to study the materials provided by the developer.  

Commission Affairs
Catherine Johnson reminded the other commissioners that there would be public meeting on the Plan of Conservation and Development on June 3oth, 6:00PM in the Hubbard Room of Russell Library.  She said that she would be giving both a written survey and a visual survey to all members of the public who show up, "People will be surveyed."  

The Commissioners again failed to elect a chair, with Pelletier receiving 3 votes and Kleckowski receiving 4 votes.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Live Music in Town 6/25 & 26

The Russell Library Courtyard Concert Series presents Just Harmony, 5 voices and musicians, makes music for a better world Thursday June 25 at 7 p.m. Composed of Amy, Steve, Sarah, and Rebecca Eppler-Epstein along with guitarist/vocalist Rick Calvert, the quintet blends guitar, keyboard, banjo, flute, quena, and plenty of percussion with their excellent voices into an uplifting program. If it rains, the concert moves indoors to the Hubbard Room. The show is free and open music-lovers of all ages.

Friday, The Buttonwood Tree welcomes The Sophisticats, a quartet from the Northeast corner of the state whose blend of jazz, blues and "gypsy-swing" is quite charming and fun. Led by guitarist Bill Liswell and his vocalist wife Lorraine, the ..Cats play a program that spans the decades of popular music, from the "swing era" to The British Invasion to country music (and beyond.) Filling out the sound is bassist Louis Chatey and drummer Steve Hodgetts. All 4 of them sing and their harmonies can be disarming. They start at 7:30. To find out more, go to www.bandlmusic.com.

Boney's Music Lounge, 106 Court Street, brings back the Liviu Pop Group for an 8:30 p.m. start on Friday. This time, the fine drummer has enlisted guitarist Burt Teague and bassist Frank Varela (who can double on guitar) for his musical mission and the trio will rock the Lounge with its energetic blend of funk, soul and a touch of blues.

Out of town, it's the weekend of the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, held Friday through Sunday of the Essex Steam Train, directly off Exit 3 of Route 9. All the proceeds from the 4 sets of traditional, Dixieland and Swing music goes to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a summer experience for children with cancer or serious blood diseases. I won't list the entire lineup but returning favorites include saxophonist Dan Levinson, the great boogie-woogie pianist Bob Seeley and Connecticut's own Galvanized Jazz Band. To find out more (including all the performers and the showtimes), call 1-800-348-0003 or go to www.hotsteamedjazz.com. The shows go on rain-or-shine (2 big tents) and it's always a fun time.

Pipefitters Donate Fence and Labor for Harbor Park North

In the past few weeks in an effort spearheaded by Elizabeth Santangelo, and aided by the Jonah Center, the City of Middletown, the Lions, the Connection and individual volunteers, years of undergrowth (and over-growth), had been cleared from a hundred yards of Connecticut Riverfront at Harbor Park North.

A section of the park which was overgrown, dark, secluded and habituated by intimidating individuals, was cleared and the view to the river is unobstructed for the first time in decades.

When Santangelo asked Local 777 Pipefitters and Plumbers out of Meriden to help repair a chain link fence which had been bent out of shape by the invasive trees and vines, she got more than she bargained for. The union workers, who saw that the trees had enveloped sections of the fence, pulled the old fence out, and constructed a shiny new one.

The newly-cleared land will be a perfect place from which to watch July 2 fireworks on the river.

Dems Show Support for Mental Health and Developmental Education

The symbolism was irresistible.

On the one hand, our Republican governor, desperate to deliver a balanced budget in the face of a $8 billion deficit, expresses the need to cut funding for Family Resource Centers at elementary schools in Connecticut, and to close Riverview Hospital, the only Connecticut State Hospital which treats children and teens with severe mental health issues.

On the other hand, Democratic legislators anxious to pass their own version of a budget which replaces draconian cuts with new taxes on millionaires, coming to the rescue of the children and families who use Family Resource Centers and the families whose children suffer from debilitating mental health issues.

On Wednesday, Democratic legislators, including Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, and State Representatives Joe Serra and Matt Lesser met with doctors, staff and administrators of Riverview Hospital, then caravaned across town to Farm Hill Elementary School and addressed a roomful of parents, kids, teachers, Family Resource Center staff and school administrators.

The rallies were designed to show Democratic support for these two programs and institutions, both conveniently represented in Middletown.

At Farm Hill, Matt Lesser introduced his colleagues.

"The governor has proposed cutting the Family Resource Centers," Lesser said. "And we think it's a terrible mistake."

"I come from a family of educators," Joe Serra added. "So I know the value of starting education early."

Family Resource Center advocates and participants explained how the centers act as a transitional program for families and children, especially for those individuals who might not otherwise develop a mutually-supportive relationship with schools.

After the meeting Lesser explained that valuable programs like these should not be on the chopping block, even though the legislator and the governor are locked in a protracted, and difficult set of budget negotiations.

"At the end of the day, we'll have to raise taxes," Lesser admitted. "But I think it's unconscionable that the governor asked us to close the Family Resource Centers. If you say we'll have to raise taxes for Connecticut residents who make more than a million dollars to keep the Family Resource Centers open, then that's how it will have to be. We've made our own set of cuts, and have gotten $70 million in concessions from state unions. But some cuts just don't work."

South Fire District Hires Three new Firefighters

The South Fire District of the City of Middletown has hired three new candidates for the the position of firefighter and has made history in doing so.

The three new candidates , Christopher Bodie, Kori Kelly and Cody Soule are scheduled to start on July 6, 2009 and expected to be on shift sometime by the end of July.

Kori Kelly is the first female firefighter to be hired by the District making history. This most recent hire shows the willingness and diversity of the District as we move forward in this rapidly growing department.

The Commission has been plagued with constant concern from a select group of taxpayers regarding the overtime that is being paid out to the current staff of firefighters and that they would like it to be addressed. In response to this the Commission offered up a plan of hiring additional personnel to reduce overtime and meet the obligation of minimum staffing.

The current staffing consists of four platoons with five firefighters and one lieutenant on duty at all times as well as a full time day shift firefighter and lieutenant, this staffing is well below the NFPA recommendations for fire ground staffing and safety but along with mutual aid from surrounding communities the District has made due. The addition of the three new hires will increase each platoon by one firefighter and in turn reduce the overtime by not having to replace when someone is out.

In some other unrelated but updated news the District has adorned their apparatus with their new Motto " Pride of the South Side" along with a banner posted on the sides reading , "Desire - Courage - Ability" , The desire to serve, The courage to act, The ability to perform.

Democratic Budget Road Show To Roll Through Middletown Today

From the office of the House Speaker

Speaker Donovan House Majority Leader Denise Merrill, Rep. Lesser Will Visit Middletown Sites Where Cuts Will Be Felt: Children’s Hospital & School

WHO: House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), House Majority Leader Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield), State Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown), local and community leaders

WHAT: News conference and tour highlighting impacts of Governor’s proposed budget cuts on Riverview Hospital and Farm Hill School

WHERE: Middletown, Riverview Hospital

WHEN: Wednesday, June 24

11:00 a.m. Riverview Hospital 915 River Road

12:00 p.m. Farm Hill School 390 Ridge Road

Thomas Edison students graduate

The eighth grade promotion at Thomas Edison Middle School (TEMS) in Meriden featured two Middletown students as speakers last night.  Drew Cietek and Amanda Balch were selected by TEMS administrators, based on their grades and an interview, to give the Scholar Leaders' Address.   

TEMS is a magnet school which takes about 40 students each year from Middletown, as well as students from Wallingford, Durham, and Middlefield.   The Middletown schools pay tuition for each student to the Area Cooperation Educational Services (ACES), which operates the school.  TEMS emphasizes technology; during the past few years, every student has been given a school laptop and extensive instruction and use of software for writing, web authoring, graphics, audio production, and computer animation.  

Drew and Amanda both spoke of their excitement, but also some of their regrets in leaving Middletown to go the interdistrict school. Both will be attending Middletown High this fall. 

Village District Summer Potluck

Members of the Village District gathered for a beginning-of-summer pot luck, and while the while the conversations were largely of the, "where are you going on vacation," and "what are the kids doing" variety, Wednesday's Planning and Zoning meeting continued to surface as a focal point of discussion. At that meeting, the P&Z will consider allowing an exception for a house on College Street which seeks to rent offices in a home which currently doesn't have them. Most of the village district group is opposed to the exception since the group was formed around the concept of encouraging owner-occupied homes in a downtown district which was experiencing many residences being transformed into law offices, medical offices and academic offices. Some members are willing to consider an exception if the office is occupied by the homeowner, and the homeowner lives in the house.

The notice for tonight's P&Z public hearing reads:

1. Proposed Special Exception for an historic adaptive reuse of the property located at 196 College
Street to convert the second and third floors to an office use. Applicant/agent Venture One
Properties, LLC/David Kennedy SE2009-6

NOTE: This item has been tabled and will not be on the public hearing agenda Wednesday night because of unresolved current zoning violations at the address.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rally at Farm Hill in Support of Family Resource Centers

Parents, teachers and school administrators will meet with State Representative Matt Lesser and other officials at noon on Wednesday June 24 at Farm Hill School in support of Family Resource Centers at local schools.

The Family Resource Centers are on the chopping block in Governor Jodi Rell's proposed budget.

Family Resource Centers at Macdonough and Farm Hill Schools have several goals aimed at fostering a healthy relationship between schools and families. Those goals include

• To provide a supportive environment at school where parent involvement is encouraged.
• To build and nurture school-home partnerships that support family literacy possibilities
• To articulate strategies designed to expand upon a family's strengths in creating language and literacy rich environments for their young children.
• To increase children's readiness for school entrance.
• To provide Information and Referral that help parents know where to turn in the community to find specific help.
• To provide parenting workshops and specific meetings on topics requested by parents and/or teachers.
• Offer to students a range of recreational and educational opportunities that support positive relationships with peers and adults.
• To increase availability of high-quality child -care (preschool and /or school-age before-and-after school).
• To enhance student achievement