Sunday, February 28, 2010

From 1945: Praise for Saving Elms Given Middletown Club

This article is from exactly 65 years ago today, published in The Hartford Courant on February 28, 1945.
The Middletown Garden Club is commended and Middletown is cited as an example of what communities can accomplish in the fight against Dutch elm disease, in a statement Tuesday by Dr. P.N. Annand, chief of the United States Department of Agriculture bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine.

The Middletown Garden Club, according to the statement, reported an expenditure of several hundred dollars in 1944 for Dutch elm disease work, a portion of the funds being appropriated by the town and the remainder raised by subscription. All elm trees in the town known to be infected and all associated bark beetle material were removed. This involved removing 50 elms, ranging in size from small brush elms to one tree 41 inches in diameter. The Middletown club, according to the statement, is endeavoring to interest other garden clubs in Connecticut to take similar efforts to stop the spread of Dutch elm disease which threatens to destroy the New England elm trees.

Woodpeckers, the statement says, are one of the best guides to infected trees during the winter. Woodpecker feeding on elms is a well-known sign that elms are infested with bark beetles which spread the destructive fungus from diseased elms to healthy trees.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Green Street Spring Calendar

Learn Hip Hop Aerobics, Drawing, Screenwriting and More This Spring!
Middletown, Conn., February 24, 2010—Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center is now accepting registrations for Spring classes, workshops and After School program offerings. Classes include Balinese Dance, Salsa, Drawing, Screenwriting, Acting and Creative Sound.
Spring Session 1 classes begin March 1st. Sign up today!

Wesleyan professors will present new research and cutting-edge information lead the informal Sunday Salon Discussion Series. Green Street will also host a free North End Family Morning this April. The Green Street Arts Center is located at 51 Green Street in Middletown. To register for classes or request more information, visit or call (860) 685-7871. Green Street Members receive 20% off of all classes.
The Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University is a vibrant center for arts education, serving residents of the neighborhood and the region. In partnership with the City of Middletown, the North End Action Team (NEAT), and a variety of local arts groups, Green Street promotes communication through creativity and collaboration.

Dash and Dine to Benefit United Way

From the Middlesex United Way

On Thursday, March 10th between 4:30pm and 6:30pm, Water’s Edge Center for Health & Rehabilitation, located at 111 Church Street, will host a Pasta Dinner Dine & Dash Fundraiser to celebrate the United Way’s 75th Anniversary.  Proceeds will benefit the Middlesex United Way.  The cost is only $5.00 and includes pasta with meatballs and salad.  Call 860.347.7286 by March 5th to place your dinner-to-go order. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those in our community. 

Chamber To Offer Business Seminar

From the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce
The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce announced that the Chamber will hold a seminar titled Get a Business Check-Up on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 in the Chamber conference room, 393 Main Street, Middletown, CT, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
You get an annual check-up when you're healthy, and you go to the doctor when you don't feel well so it doesn't get worse. The Business Check-up is designed to provide business managers and owners across Middlesex County with a checklist of action items that may improve cash flow and lead to more efficient business operations. Doesn't your business deserve a Check-Up?

Attorney Suzanne M. Scibilia from the Law Firm Office of Halloran and & Sage LLP will address a broad array of tasks that businesses often overlook or aren’t aware of that may reduce costs, avoid risks, and better position the company in its marketplace.

Cost is $25 for members and $35 for non-members. For more information contact Jean Crouch at the Chamber at (860) 347-6924.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kleen Energy Site Returned to O&G Industry Control

From the Middletown Police:
On Friday, February 26, 2010 the Middletown Police Department’s Investigative Division, the South Fire District and the State Fire Marshall’s Office concluded the scene portion of the ongoing investigation at the Kleen Energy Power Plant. The search warrant issued for Kleen Energy Power Plant has been completed. That search warrant is not available for release to the public at this time.

The Middletown Police Department’s Investigative Division is continuing their investigation.

At this time no further information is available for release. When the time comes that additional information may be released, the Middletown Police Department will disseminate additional press releases.

As of 4:00pm today the scene will be turned over to Kleen Energy and O and G Industries.

Eye on the Air, February 26

Live on the air at WESU, 881.FM, 1-2 PM.

Host: Ed McKeon

Guest: Larry Kirwin, author, playwright, poet, songwriter and lead singer and founder of Irish American rock group Black 47.  Kirwin is scheduled to read from his novel, Rockin the Bronx, Friday, 6PM at the Mark Twain House in Hartford.  Black 47 is scheduled to play the Half Door on Sisson Avenue in Hartford at 9PM Friday.  Check with venues on potential postponements due to snow.

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A Message From the Mayor About the Census

From the Mayor's office.
Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano announces today that CENSUS 2010 is coming upon us and encourages residents to participate in the count. The Census is an important population count that is distributed to every household every ten years.

The Census determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the redistricting of state legislatures. Also, $300 Billion in federal funds are awarded to states and communities based on census data. Lastly, the Census data helps guide local communities in decision making and where we focus our planning efforts.

“Achieving a complete and accurate 2010 Census is in our hands” Census 2010

In September 2009 the City became a Census Partner and held a meeting with local community leaders, faith based organizations, and education leaders to express the need to participate. To date, the City has collected information on homelessness, the boundary annexation plan, and the New Construction Plan.

Important dates:March 2010: Census Questionnaires are mailed to residents
  • April 2010: Residents fill out and return Questionnaires
  • April - July: Census takers visit residents that did not return the Questionnaire
Job Opportunities are available for census takers!!!

More information regarding CENSUS 2010 can be found at the Russell Library and the YMCA. Also, residents can call their local faith based establishments and/or community groups.

For even more information, please contact the Planning, Conservation, and Development Department at 860-344-3425.

2010 Bond Workshop, Special Common Council Meeting

The Common Council had a workshop meeting tonight with the Water and Sewer Department's Director, Guy Russo explaining to council the need to
Water and Sewer Department Director, Guy Russo
approve bonds for $2Million dollars over the next two years to fund needed infrastructure updates and repairs to the city's aging water system. These bond ordinances will appear on Monday nights Regular Common Council Meeting agenda twice; once to be addressed in the public hearing, and later to be voted on as ordinances. 

The meeting got started with a public hearing on agenda item 6-1 a resolution that would have approved an executive session (closing the meeting to the public) of the Common Council to discuss modifications and upgrades to the City's ITS departments. Ed McKeon of the Middletowneye sent a letter of objection to the council, read into the record, stating that the Freedom of Information Law would be violated if the meeting was conducted per the wording of the resolution.

 geothermal? Will MT be green?
Mr. Russo addressed the Common Council and provided them with an overview of how and why $2million dollars would be spent on infrastructure upgrades to bring water to our homes and business. First and foremost the city is obligated to make some of the upgrades to comply with EPA and DEP  regulations. Russo verged on stating that the city is already out of compliance--and stated clearly that the city really is left with no choice but to pay up, and that one way or another the city would face the costs of properly maintaining and thus assuring the integrity of the water delivery system and noted that the system continues to age and that Middletown has the second oldest water charter in the state, granted in 1867. 

every 20yrs
Mr. Russo upon questioning, was not as clear on what the cost to the citizens would be. His estimate was between a 5 and 10% rise in rates. About half the cost would be a result of the infrastructure updates. The rest of the estimated rise in rates was attributed to an 8% decrease in water sales, plus that promised one time rate adjustment on sewer rates--forget it--due to an income loss attributed to the Kleen Energy disaster. The bottom line, on cost to the consumer was roughly estimated at $22.00 a year.

This is unsafe and has to be replaced!
A common council member questioned the status of ongoing negotiations between Middletown and the Mattabesset Sewer District regarding combining treatment plants. Mr. Russo responded that with the help of the DEP and EPA, a mediator has been summoned to help both parties resolve their differences. The three stalemates; the cost for Middletown's buy-in, the cost of expansion of the plant as it relates to partial ownership of the plant by Middletown, and resolving governance issues. There is some optimism that by April differences will have been resolved, at which point another 4-6 years will pass while work is completed on either A) The two districts become one, and expansion is complete; or B) Middletown builds a new plant as would be required by Federal and State mandate. The cost of this is wide-open, with no indication of what future rate increases might bring when this gets settled out .

Related news is that the plan for Westfield's long needed improvements to water delivery have been sidelined, pending the possibility of a federal subsidy to help cover these costs given the demands the new Military  Training Reserve Base will put on the system in that neighborhood.

8:03 adjournment
At 7:55 the discussion was opened and motions made to pass the 6-1 resolution related to having an executive session. Many expressed an opinion agreeing with Mr. McKeon concerns stated in his letter, thought not everyone weighed in; if there was dissent it was not stated. Some discussion ensued on how to move forward as it was also acknowledged that there would be a small portion of the discussion that would warrant executive session. When the second to the motion was withdrawn, someone quickly said motion to adjourn, then seconded, with all in favor closing out the evenings work of the Common Council.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Complete Statement of Chemical Safety Board on Kleen Energy Explosion

Statement of CSB Investigations Supervisor Don Holmstrom Updating the Public on the CSB’s Investigation of the Catastrophic Accident at Kleen Energy, Middletown, Connecticut
Embargoed Until 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good morning I am CSB Lead Investigator Don Holmstrom; thank you for coming to this CSB news conference. The Chemical Safety Board is an independent federal agency that investigates and reports to the public on the causes of major chemical accidents at industrial sites across the country. The CSB is headed by five board members appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The CSB’s reports and safety recommendations to Congress, federal and state regulators, and industry are widely followed and applied throughout the United States. Our mission is to prevent disastrous accidents of the kind that occurred here less than three weeks ago.

The safety issues raised by this accident are not limited to Connecticut. These issues are larger than any particular company, facility, or individual. The U.S. has embarked an ambitious construction effort for new natural gas power plants. Thousands and thousands of workers across the country will be involved in constructing these plants. The safety of these workers and the nation’s energy independence are at stake as these gas-fired plants are built over the next 20 years.

The CSB has a team of ten here investigating at the Kleen Energy accident site. On behalf of all of us at the CSB, we extend our deepest condolences to the families of Ronald Crabb, Peter Chepulis, Raymond Dobratz, Kenneth Haskell, Christopher Walters and Roy Rushton. The goal of the CSB investigation is that terrible accidents like this will not happen again and that no families will suffer such tremendous losses in the future.

The CSB team arrived at the site on February 8th. Since that time, the CSB team has conducted a large number of interviews, reviewed documents, and closely examined the accident site on numerous occasions. We appreciate the outstanding cooperation from the workers at this facility, who despite living through such a horrible ordeal have provided valuable information to CSB investigators.

This accident occurred during a planned work activity to clean debris from natural gas pipes at the plant. To remove the debris, workers used natural gas at a high pressure of approximately 650 pounds per square inch. The high velocity of the natural gas flow was intended to remove any debris in the new piping. At pre-determined locations, this gas was vented to the atmosphere through open pipe ends which were located less than 20 feet off the ground. These vents were adjacent to the main power generation building and along the south wall. The open pipe ends are visible here in the photographs.

You can actually see the high-pressure gas venting out of one of these open pipe ends in this photograph taken a short time before the accident on February 7.

This cleaning practice is known within the natural gas power industry as a “gas blow.” Industry personnel have indicated to CSB investigators that gas blows are a common practice during the commissioning of new or modified gas pipes at their facilities.

CSB investigators have reviewed gas utility records for the morning of the accident. These records together with written pipe cleaning procedures and witness testimony confirm that the gas blows occurred intermittently over the course of the morning. At the same time that gas blows were underway, there were potential ignition sources present in the surrounding area, including inside the power plant building.   

There were many construction-related activities underway inside the building.
Determining the exact ignition source is not a major focus of our investigation at this point. In most industrial worksites, ignition sources are abundant and efforts at accident prevention focus first and foremost on avoiding or controlling the release of flammable gas or vapor.

Initial calculations by CSB investigators reveal that approximately 400,000 standard cubic feet of gas were released to the atmosphere near the building in the final ten minutes before the blast.

That is enough natural gas to fill the entire volume of a pro-basketball arena with an explosive natural gas-air mixture, from the floor to the ceiling.

This gas was released into a congested area next to the power block building. This congested area likely slowed the dispersion of the gas. The gas built up above the lower explosive limit of approximately 4% in air and was ignited by an undetermined ignition source.

In the days since the accident, companies and safety regulators from around the world have contacted the CSB asking about the circumstances of this devastating accident.

Some companies, including a power plant here in the region, indicated that they themselves have been planning similar gas blows as part of commissioning pipes in the very near future.

A major focus of the CSB investigation is to determine what regulations, codes, and good practices might apply to these gas blows. To this point, no specific codes have been identified, but we are continuing our research.

In the meantime, we strongly caution natural gas power plants and other industries against the venting of high-pressure natural gas in or near work sites. This practice, although common, is inherently unsafe.

The CSB is investigating possible alternatives to this practice, including the use of air, steam, nitrogen, or water or the use of combustion devices to safely destroy the gas. Combustion devices like flares can safely burn up flammable gas or vapor, preventing the possibility of an explosion.
Recommending safer alternatives will be a primary focus of the CSB investigation as we move forward.

Just three days prior to this tragic accident, the Chemical Safety Board recommended changes to the National Fuel Gas Code to prevent disastrous explosions involving gas purging. We note with great appreciation that just yesterday, at a meeting in San Francisco, the NFPA panel responsible for the fuel gas code voted to move forward with the CSB’s recommendations to make purging practices safer at work sites across America. These provisions will apply at hundreds of thousands of facilities, once fully adopted.

The type of purging described in that code is different from the gas blows used in the power industry, and power plants remain exempt from the national fuel gas code. However, gas purging as defined in the code has certain similarities to gas blows, in that gas is applied at one end of a pipe and gas is intentionally vented at the other end to the atmosphere.

There is an underlying common theme among the tragic accidents at Kleen Energy, the ConAgra Slim Jim plant in North Carolina, the Ford River Rouge power plant in Michigan, the Hilton Hotel in San Diego, and many other purging-related accidents. Companies must ensure that flammable gases are not vented into close proximity with ignition sources and workers. That is a vital safety message from all these tragedies.

We encourage the gas power industry to closely study the very positive actions recommended by the NFPA and the American Gas Association committees yesterday. The CSB investigation will focus on determining what permanent changes in standards or practices are needed to prevent future accidents involving gas blows.

Thank you for attending this morning and we will be happy to answer questions from members of the media. Please state your name and affiliation with your questions.

Film & Opera

Thursday February 25:
The Ring Family Israeli Film Series at Wesleyan continues tonight at 8 p.m. with "Eli and Ben", the 2008 debut of director Ori Ravid. The film, describes "the life of the Yassif family turns upside down when the father, Ben, who is the city architect of Herzelya, is charged with taking bribes. At stake is also the relationship between the father, Ben, and his son Eli who adores his father. The film examines their chaotic relations in light of those stormy days."  Starring Lior Ashkenazi as "Ben" and Yuval Shevah as "Eli", the bittersweet comedy has won numerous awards at festivals around the world.  The screening is free and open to the public, taking placed in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, Washington Terrace.  Afterwards, film critic Laura Blum will deliver a talk titled "The End of Innocence: Unmasking Identities in "Eli and Ben." 

Friday February 26:
Wesleyan student Ben Bernstein has created an original opera for his "Senior Recital", an event called "Bad Island."   Based on "The Bad Island", a 1969 book by author/illustrator William Steig, the production uses a chorus of 16 voices, four guitars, a string quartet, a horn section, dance, and colorful costumes, and is stylistically grounded in Baroque, Indonesian, and R&B traditions. The production takes place Friday at 8 p.m. in the Patricelli '92 Theater.  There are 2 shows on Saturday, a 1 p.m. matinee and 8 p.m. benefit for the Matenwa Community Learning Center in Haiti - there is a $5 admission fee for the Saturday evening performance while the other shows are free.  For more information and reservations, call the University Box Office at 860-685-3355.

Oddfellows Playhouse Presents: Behind the Scenes of The Oresteia: Part 1

Oddfellows Playhouse is chronicling the progression of their upcoming production of The Oresteia with a video mini series that goes "Behind the Scenes". Here is the first installment of the series: Behind the Scenes of The Oresteia: Part 1.

The Oresteia, the tale of the Fall of the House of Atreus, is brought to stunning new life by the Teen Repertory Company at Oddfellows. Tragedy unfolds as Agamemnon returns home after 10 years of fighting in the Trojan War. A hero of the war, he is reviled at home for sacrificing his daughter to the gods to obtain a favorable outcome in the war and is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra. His son Orestes is then charged with the task of avenging his death - by the murder of his mother. A tale of vengeance, pride, lust, hubris, and divine intervention, The Oresteia towers as the seminal work outlining the human desire for a world of justice. Performed in two parts and utilizing multi-media, The Oresteia will be like no other play you will see this year.

Thursday April 29 and May 6 at 7:00 pm
Friday April 30 and May 7 at 7:00 pm
Saturday May 1 and May 8 at 7:00 pm

Adults: $15
Seniors: $8

Art Food Music Wine and ................... Closing Party Feb 27

Expressions of Naturalistic Impressionism:
For the pragmatic shopper who prefers art with a function.
Local designer Catherine Epright, AIFD creates one-of-a-kind works from
multiple media, often including found and re-purposed items.

Show runs at The Buttonwood Tree,
605 Main Street, Middletown
through February 27.
A portion of all proceeds are donated back to support
The Buttonwood Tree.
More info and hours of operation can be found at

Planning and Zoning Approves Public Nightclub Expansion and Disapproves of Animal Regulations

After hearing from the Police Chief and Fire Marshall, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special exception for an expansion and modification of The Public nightclub. The Commission also gave a highly negative recommendation of proposed Ordinance changes regarding farm animals, following the testimony of several members of the Farm Bureau.

Public Bar
Tyler DeVecchis, owner of The Public, needed retroactive P&Z approval for an expansion which he did last year. Additionally, concerns about public safety were raised by a disturbance at The Public which led to a large police response on December 27th. As a result of this incident, The Public is now required to hire two off-duty police officers on Friday and Saturday nights. The commissioners had delayed a decision on the expansion at their last meeting, so they could hear from the Police and the Fire Department whether The Public nightclub was safe for downtown Middletown.

Chief McMahon told the commissioners that The Public generates on average about twice the number of police service calls as another popular bar on Main Street, Nikita's. He acknowledged that these service calls cannot be used to evaluate the relative safety of each drinking establishment, because some bars will call the police proactively, to prevent any trouble. McMahon was reluctant to make an evaluation of the effects of The Public on Main Street
safety for the commissioners.

Commissioner Nick Fazzino pressed him, "Shed some light for me on how it's affecting downtown." Chief McMahon responded with a rhetorical question which he then answered, "Does this type of establishment tax our services? Yes, it does." But he went on to say that his department would always take a proactive view towards preventing any problems from occurring.

The Fire Chief and Fire Marshall both testified that the expanded facility met all fire and safety codes.

The Commissioners unanimously approved the DeVecchis application, but not before Chairman Quentin Phipps admonished DeVecchis that he needed to work hard to rebuild the trust of the community as well as his neighbors in the Downtown Business District.

Animal Ordinance
Several members of the public rose to criticize a proposed ordinance change regarding the keeping of farm animals in Middletown. Joan Nichols introduced herself as a Government Relations Specialist with the Connecticut Farm Bureau. She protested the requirement that animals be 25 feet from the property line, calling this setback a government taking of an enormous amount of usable pasture land from farmers, leaving the farmer with an unmanageable strip of land which would be grown over with vines and saplings. She suggested instead that the regulation require fencing sufficient to stop animals from reaching neighboring property.

Nichols also objected to the restriction that animals be kept 75 feet from any body of water. She said that state statutes explicitly permit the grazing of cattle in wetlands, and that many farmers have ponds which they use to water their animals. She likened the 75 feet rule also to a taking of a farmer's land. Two farmers, active in the Middlesex County Farm Bureau, John Paul and Barbara Schukoske, echoed Nichols' concerns. I also spoke, as someone with a few farm animals on about 5 acres, agreeing that a 25 feet set back from the property line would cause enormous practical difficulties for farmers.

The Planning and Zoning commissioners agreed with the farmers' concerns, and voted unanimously to give the proposed ordinance a negative recommendation. In addition, they recommended specific changes in the ordinance, in particular to fix the set-back and wetlands provisions.

Other business.
The Commission approved a Site Plan for a 12,000 square foot commercial office building on Middle Street, near the intersection with Timber Ridge. They approved a lease of a 2400 square foot space in the Remington Rand building to Joseph Labella as warehouse space for his painting business. The rent will be $800 per month ($4 per square foot per year). The Commission approved an application by John Moore for his business, Fat City Customs, to obtain a new car dealership permit from the state. Moore said he needed this to sell his custom built motorcycles.

Poetry Reading from the Harlem School at Middlesex Community College

From Middlesex Community College 

Creative writing students at Middlesex Community College are taking the stage Thursday, with a nod to the Harlem Renaissance.

In an event sponsored by the college’s President’s Committee on Diversity, students will perform original poetry in the style of such pioneers as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. The event is free and open to the public.

Middlesex faculty will also contribute in various forms, including a reprised role by Professor Donna Hylton: a dramatic reading from Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

“This is an opportunity to see our small Middlesex community at its very best,” said Professor Terence McNulty, who organized the event. “For our students, it’s a great opportunity to support their peers.”

The event takes place Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the Student Lounge of Founders Hall, located on Middlesex’s Middletown campus. More information can be found at the Middlesex Community College website:

Erlacher Reports Collections on Schedule

At a meeting of the Finance and Governance Committee on Wednesday evening, Carl Erlacher, Middletown's Finance Director, reported that collections of city fees and taxes are on schedule when compared to last year, with 94.3% collected in 2010 as compared with 94.4% collected in 2009.

Much of the discussion at the meeting centered on a purchase of vehicle repair software which is itemized in the Police Department budget.  Acting Chief Patrick McMahon argued that the expenditure belongs in the IT budget since it is software that serves the entire city.  He said that if the $2500 purchase were not approved by the Common Council, he would likely not make the purchase because it would jeopardize other items in a budget which he describes as underfunded.

McMahon is also asking the Common Council for $150,000 in overtime funds to deal with costs for funding coverage due to early retirements.

Lesser Encourages Use Of Free Dental Clinics

From the office of State Representative Matt Lesser

State Representative Matt Lesser (D-Durham, Middlefield, & Middletown) joined Speaker of the House Chris Donovan (D-Meriden), Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams (D-Brooklyn) and supporters of the Connecticut Mission of Mercy (CTMOM) today to announce that free dental clinics will be held next month in Middletown.
CT MOM is a full-service clinic providing free dental care on a first-come, first-served basis for both children and adults. More than 1,400 volunteers—dentists, oral surgeons, hygienists, dental assistants, and others—will provide dental screenings, cleanings, fillings, x-rays, oral surgery, root canals, extractions, and replacement teeth.
“This clinic is an opportunity for residents who lack insurance or who have inadequate coverage to get quality care,” said Representative Lesser, who sits on the legislature’s Public Health Committee. “Thank you to all the volunteers and organizations who have donated their time and resources to make this possible.”
Representative Lesser added, “You do not have to be a Middletown resident to go to the clinic—anyone may attend. I have constituents from Middlefield and Durham who are going to the clinic.”
The dental clinics will be held on Friday, March 12th and Saturday, March 13th at the Aetna Building on Industrial Park Road in Middletown. The clinic will begin at 8:00 a.m. each day.
Mission of Mercy a national program is operated in Connecticut by the Connecticut Foundation for Dental Outreach in collaboration with the Connecticut State Dental Association. This is the third year that they have held clinics in Connecticut.
For more information about the clinics, please call 866-539-9372 or contact Representative Lesser by email at or by phone at 800.842.8267.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Graffiti Season

It's a reliable harbinger of Spring: downtown has sprouted a new crop of graffiti.

Over the past few weeks I've been snapping photos of the recent graffiti tags on walls, signs and utility boxes. I've been meaning to send them over to Public Works for a clean-up punch list.

But yesterday, I was thrilled to see that some of the graffiti has already been removed! Billy Russo, the City's Director of Public Works, confirmed that his painting crew has been cleaning up on public property as the weather permits (call Public Works at (860) 344-3407 to report graffiti on public property, and don't forget to call the Police and ask them to do a report (860) 347-6941.)

Here's a before and after shot for you, from the corner of Washington & Pearl. The first photo is from February 12th; the second is from the 24th:

Wesleyan has been on top of the clean up too -- here's William Street from the same dates.

Last year I wrote several articles about graffiti, and I learned that there are lots of ways to remove the tags, especially if you act quickly. There's even a product that blocks graffiti. It's a clear barrier which can be used to cover walls that are frequent targets for vandals, so that graffiti can just be hosed off with water -- it's available at National Paint & Wallpaper on Washington St.

I wish that the folks who run Hamlin Court on College Street had been lucky enough to cover their wall before this happened:

So why is this news? Because cleaning graffiti up quickly is one of the best deterrents to repeat offenses. There may be an increase in the short term, but eventually the perpetrators will get caught, or will tire of having their work erased.

The worst thing we can do is just let it sit there. Here's hoping that quick clean-up is the new trend!

Mentor DVD Training Created

From the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce 

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce announced the creation of a new training program for the volunteers of the Middletown Mentor Program.   The new training program is designed to ensure that both current and future volunteers of the Program are properly trained.  Program Coordinator Hal Kaplan contacted long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Susan G. Weinberger, President of Mentor Consulting Group, Norwalk, to administer this new training. 

The new training program consists of an updated training DVD, which was produced by Nils Toledo and Franklin Peralta, Jr., students of teacher Lauren Pszczolkowski’s TV/Video Production class at Middletown High School that utilizes the school’s BlueTube television station. The students worked with Dr. Weinberger to film and edit the DVD using professional-grade equipment.

Nils and six other BlueTube students are currently planning a field trip to Anaheim, California in March to attend the Student Television Network Convention, which is a national contest.  You can visit  for more information about the BlueTube station.

To become a volunteer with the Middletown Mentor Program, please contact Jennifer at the Middlesex Chamber at 860-347-6924 or email her  Hal Kaplan can be contacted at 860-347-3635 or

Rell Visits Keigwin

From the Governor's Office

On February 23, Governor M. Jodi Rell visited the Keigwin Middle School in Middletown to thank students for their fundraising to help relief efforts in Haiti (see attached photo).  The students raised $3,500 through a district-wide campaign called Hearts for Haiti. The school accepted donations of at least $1 to buy a “heart.” The heart, with the donor’s name on it was displayed throughout the school.

In January, Governor M. Jodi Rell and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) announced a special fund-raising appeal from Connecticut schoolchildren and their parents for Haitian relief efforts that will address the needs of Haitian children.  Funds raised will be targeted to help rebuild schools, provide educational supplies as well as medicine and health care for children.

The Governor’s office worked with CAS to set up a special account through the Bank of America in Connecticut to accept monetary donations, checks, cash and even coins. The bank has agreed to sort and roll the coins at no charge. Checks can be made payable to the Connecticut Association of Schools” with a notation on the check memo line identifying “Haitian Relief Fund.” Children, their parents and others who want to help this special effort may bring their monetary donation to participating local schools or to a Bank of America branch.

CAS, which represents 1,100 public and private schools,  and the Governor’s office have worked together in the past for similar school-wide appeals, including a 2005 campaign to raise funds for school supplies for children affected by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states.

Police Obtain New Search Warrant at Kleen Energy Plant

From the Middletown Police Department
Yesterday, February 23, 2010 the Middletown Police Department in conjunction with the Connecticut State Fire Marshal’s office obtained an additional search warrant for the Kleen Energy Plant site. The purpose of this warrant is to allow investigators to seize and analyze evidence located during the original Administrative Cause and Origin search warrant which expired at midnight last night. Cause and origin has yet to be determined definitively. Investigators continue to work diligently yet thoroughly in this endeavor.

All of the involved agencies; local (Middletown Police, South Fire), state (Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Connecticut State Fire Marshals Office, Connecticut State Police), and federal (OSHA, CSB, Connecticut United States Attorney’s Office), continue to work in concert to complete their respective investigations.

All necessary investigative efforts at the Kleen Energy Plant site are ongoing and it is unknown when this site work will be completed.

Farm Animal Regulations at P&Z Tonight

The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing tonight on proposed changes to the ordinances pertaining to the keeping of animals.

The current regulations regarding the keeping of animals, adopted in 1934, are both terse and restrictive:
The keeping of poultry and other species of birds, cattle, horses, swine, goats, and sheep within a distance of 200 feet from a dwelling is prohibited, unless authorized by the board of health.
These regulations would apparently bar even a farmer from having a chicken coop very close to the farm house. This regulation has always been puzzling to me, since many residents throughout the city, including downtown, kept chickens (and perhaps swine and goats as well). Especially during harsh economic times, such as 1934, chickens are the perfect animal: providing eggs, garden fertilizer, meat, all in exchange for eating all the table scraps and food waste. Still today, there are undoubtedly many backyard farmers who are unwittingly violating the 1934 animal ordinance.

The proposed new ordinance is much longer, and is more nuanced, applying different regulations to different types of animals. The Director of Health is given the authority to regulate animals which might pose a nuisance or public health hazard. Persons may keep animals if the following conditions are met:
  • Animals must be at least 25' from a property line, 75' from a well or water supply, and 10' from a public road.
  • Animals must be fenced appropriately.
  • Manure must be stored according to State statutes, must be 75' from a well or water supply, and must be managed to break up reproductive cycle of insects.
  • Each horse or cattle requires a minimum of 1 acre, each additional horse or cattle requires 1/2 and additional 1/2 acre.
The Ordinance Study Committee and the Board of Health have already approved the ordinance. After P&Z reviews the proposed changes, it will pass an advisory opinion to the Common Council.

Planning and Zoning meets at 7PM in Council Chambers. The public hearing is one of the earlier items on the agenda. There will also be a continuation of the Public Hearing on the proposed special exception for The Public nightclub on Main Street.

Kaspers Dedicate Mass to Kleen Workers

Councilwoman Hope Kasper and her husband Jack will dedicate a special Catholic mass Saturday at St. Mary's Church on South Main Street for the workers killed and injured in the Kleen Energy plant explosion.

The service is open to the public and will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 9:30 a.m.

The Public Nightclub Hearing Continues Tonight

The Planning and Zoning Commission will tonight continue to hear public testimony on the application by The Public nightclub for a Special Exception to expand and modify its bar area. This application is for work done by the owner, Tyler DeVecchis, last year.

At the last P&Z meeting, the commission heard from customers and workers associated with the nightclub how important this venue was to the youth of Middletown. Downtown Business District members unanimously voted to oppose the application, and Mayor Giuliano raised concerns about public safety.

The Commission continued the public hearing primarily to hear directly from the Police Department about safety issues.

The commissioners could deny the application and instruct the applicant to dismantle his expansion, or they could approve the application with or without attached conditions. Mr. DeVecchis is represented by attorney Ralph Wilson.

Green Street Raises $23K for After School Programs

From the Green Street Arts Center

Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University held its 5th anniversary celebration and first-ever auction on Thursday, February 18th, raising over $23,000 for the After School Arts and Science Program and its scholarship fund. The magical evening was filled with conversation, laughter, live music and salsa lessons, food from around the world and over 175 unique items and experiences for guests to bid on.

As guests entered Green Street they were greeted by the sounds of Wesleyan students Will Monson and Matt Bernstein playing saxophone and bass guitar. Throughout the evening participants enjoyed performances by hip hop troupe ThoroEnergy, a Carnatic Trio, John Bergeron playing keyboard, The Remainders rocking out on guitars, The Adam Kubota Band playing jazz music, and Jocelyn Pleasant and Friends on African drums. 

Popular items from our auction included an instant wine cellar, handcrafted jewelry and XX, tickets to the Blue Man Group, Hartford Stage and other theatre and entertainment tickets, a ride to school on a fire truck, wine tastings across the state, framed photos and artwork, and family fun events.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Green Street After School Arts & Science Program. Over half the students enrolled in our program reside in the North End; our location is so convenient for them that many are able to walk home after our program. This past year, 98% of all our students receive scholarship awards.

Every child has a creative spark. Our job at Green Street is to ignite that spark, by helping our students identify and nurture their talents. Our after school curriculum includes courses in Sound Recording, Songwriting, Music, Videography, Art and Science, Photojournalism, Creative Writing and Performance, Choreography, Salsa, Breakdancing, Tap, and Visual Arts. Green Street gives young people the chance to explore their creativity, increase their self-esteem, cultivate their appreciation of the arts, and develop practical skills for everyday life.

 For more information about Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center, visit Or call us at 860-685-7871 or email us at  Registration for our evening and weekend classes for spring is on going. Try salsa, yoga, blogging, writing and more. A full catalog and description of class is available at our website.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First Look at a Busy Week (2/24-26)

Wednesday February 24:
The Russell Library presents "The Impact of Impressionism", the latest installment in its fine "Lunch & Learn" series.  Local artist Jackie Peterson will tell the story of the "Impressionist" movement, the group of artists who helped make their paintings popular and influential and display her own paintings.  Bring your lunch and the Library staff will provide beverages.  The event runs from 12noon - 3:30 p.m. and,, like all the Russell Library's arts offerings is free and open to the public.
The Buddhist Faith Fellowship of Connecticut presents Bernardo Bertolucci's 1993 movie, "Little Buddha" at 7 p.m. in The Buttonwood Tree. Starring Bridget Fonda, Keanu Reeves, and Chris Issak, the movie's storyline is described thusly by the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB): Lama Norbu comes to Seattle in search of the reincarnation of his dead teacher, Lama Dorje. His search leads him to young Jesse Conrad, Raju, a waif from Kathmandu, and an upper class Indian girl. Together, they journey to Bhutan where the three children must undergo a test to prove which is the true reincarnation. Interspersed with this, is the story of Siddharta, later known as the Buddha. It traces his spiritual journey from ignorance to true enlightenment. The event is free and donations are welcome.  To find out more, go to

Thursday February 25:
"Unexpected: Voices of Incarcerated Women" is a collaboration between Wesleyan students and inmates of the York Correctional Institute in Niantic.  Directed by Ron Jenkins, the script has been created from the writings of the inmates, many of whom worked with novelist and UCONN professor Wally Lamb (who will read from his latest novel, "I'll Fly Away" during Thursday's show.) Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday amd take place in the CFA Hall (the former CFA Cinema.)  For more information, call the Box Office at 860-685-3355.

Friday February 26:
Professor Neely Bruce presents "Three Sopranos and Three Pianos" at 7 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall. Using the poetry of e.e. cummings as his springboard (it's the final piece of the performance), Bruce has created a program that also utilizes the words of Emily Dickinson, Middletown resident John Basinger and the first public performance of “Five Songs From Fellowship Place”, a community in the New Haven area that works with people recovering from mental illness.  Joining Bruce will be vocalists Phyllis Bruce, Elizabeth Saunders and Laura Cook and pianists Erika Schroth and Nicholas Luby. To purchase tickets, call the Box Office number above or go online to

The Buttonwood Tree presents guitarist Robert Hill & Trio in concert at 8 p.m.  Joining him will be vocalist Joanne Lediger and bassist Mark Murphy for a program of blues, folk and more. To find out more, go to

It will be a night of raucous blues at Boney's Music Lounge when Junior Krauss & The Shakes make their Middletown debut.  Krauss plays blues harp and is the vocalist while Andy MacDonald handles the electric guitar.  You'll hear influences from the heyday of Chicago blues as well as more modern players.  The joint gets "jumpin'" at 9 p.m.  To find out more, go to  

Grand List: Correction

Earlier today I published the top ten grand list, with a mistake in the calculation for what the tax would be, a corrected table is below.

Property owners are charged a tax on 70% of the assessed value of their property. The "Assessment" in the table, is AFTER that 70% has already been calculated. Thus, the tax which property owners would pay (if the mill rate does not increase) is about 1/3 higher than I had in the earlier post.

The tax paid by the Kleen Energy is more complicated because of the 2003 tax deal.

TaxpayerAssessmenttax if NO mill rate increase
1) Aetna Life (Including lessor’s)Insurance$216,341,550$5,516,710
2) United TechnologiesManufacturing$144,349,820$3,680,920
3) Connecticut Light & PowerUtility$67,639,270$1,724,801
4) Middletown Power LLCUtility$45,332,710$1,155,984
5) Kleen Energy Systems LLCUtility$44,997,740It is complicated
6) Northwood Apt Assoc LLCApartments$23,619,040$602,286
7) Chestnut Hill Apt Assoc LLCApartments$21,765,650$555,024
8) Fairfield Midtown Brook LPApartments$21,609,110$551,032
9) Fairfield Midtown Ridge LPApartments$21,337,320$544,102
10) New Boston WindshireApartments$17,959,480$457,967

Kleen Energy and Property Tax
According to Damon Braasch, Assessor for the City, the agreement with Kleen Energy is for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), specifically on the power plant. Other parcels of land, and a water plant, are not part of the PILOT agreement.

The assessment given above includes all of the Kleen Energy property. Braasch said that the assessed value of the plant itself (on October 1) was $40.9M, this would normally generate a tax of $1.04M. However, since the agreement calls for "the lesser of $1 million or the amount determined as if this Agreement were not in effect," the tax will be $1M. Kleen will pay a normal tax rate on the remaining $4.1M assessment, about $100,000.

Just to make things even more complicated, property owners also pay tax to one of the three fire districts. As there is no apparent agreement with the South Fire District, Kleen would pay full fire taxes on the entire assessment. A couple of years ago the South District mill rate was 3.4, this would yield about $150,000 in taxes from Kleen Energy for the South District.

Squabble Preview: Council vs. Mayor

If the draft agenda for Monday's upcoming Common Council meeting is any indication, the ongoing power struggle between the city's executive branch, the mayor, and its legislative branch, the Common Council, will continue in public.

In three draft resolutions, the Common Council challenges the authority mayor Sebastian Giuliano has claimed for the office of the mayor.

In one resolution, the Council demands that the mayor freeze all open positions in the city, only to be "unfrozen" with a request to the Council.  In another resolution, the Council is proposing a 10% reserve on every line item in the General Funding, excluding salaries, contractual obligations, debt service and the Board of Education.  This reserve will stay in place until the end of the fiscal year, and replaces a general 10% operating fund reserve formerly placed by the Common Council, but ignored by the mayor.  Finally, the Common Council proposes advising the mayor to "correct" his actions in approving the creation of positions in the Police Department.

The Council will take up all resolutions at Monday's Common Council meeting.

Local Union to Host Kleen Worker Fundraiser

From the MMPA

Connecticut had one of its worst work related disasters in decades on February 7, 2010, at the “Kleen Energy System” power plant on River Road in Middletown, Connecticut, when a natural gas explosion occurred. Six (6) workers lost their lives in the accident. Three workers were members of the “United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local #777”; two other workers were employees of “Keystone Construction & Maintenance Services”, and oneworker was employed by “Coverflex”. Twelve (12) other men on the job site were seriously injured.

Six hard working men are gone forever. Their families will struggle not only emotionally, but financially as well. Middletown and many other labor organizations are volunteering to hold a fundraiser in honor these fine men. Our objective is to raise money through a dinner, and show our respect to them and their families. Funds generated will go to financially assist the families until they can get back on their feet.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 17, 2010, at Middletown High School, located at 200 LaRosa Lane, Middletown, Connecticut.

An organizational meeting for the fundraiser will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2010, at the Middletown Police Departments “Community Room”, on 222 Main Street, Middletown, Connecticut, at 5:30 p.m.

Anyone wishing to volunteer and assist with the fundraiser should attend this meeting. There is parking in the Court Street parking arcade, behind the Police Station.
Thank you.

Grand List Stable

Note: this article as originally posted, had incorrect values for the projected tax. I have corrected the table below, see Correction for further explanation.
The city's grand list of October 1, 2009, rose by only 0.1% over a year earlier, to $3,506,962,608. The grand list is the sum of all taxable property in the city, largely consisting of real estate, personal property, and motor vehicles.

The 0.1% increase is less than the 0.7% increase of a year ago, reflecting a delayed effect of the recession on property values. Without any increase in the mill rate, the city would receive only $78,000 in added revenue from the 0.1% increase in property value. In June of last year, after appeals and adjustments, the grand list was reduced by approximately 0.1%, so ultimately the city may be able to count on no change at all in property tax revenue in the coming budget.
The top 10 taxpayers in the city remain Aetna, Pratt & Whitney, and CL&P; Kleen Energy is 5th. [According to the tax abatement discussed earlier, in the period between construction commencement and commercial operation, Kleen pays "the lesser of $1 million or the amount determined as if this Agreement were not in effect." If Kleen goes into commercial operation, the taxes as a percentage of its value would be dramatically lower.]

Below is the list of the top tax payers, their October 1, 2009 assessment, and the taxes they would pay in the coming fiscal year if the mill rate is not changed.

Taxpayer Assessment tax if NO mill rate increase
1) Aetna Life (Including lessor’s) Insurance $216,341,550 $5,516,710
2) United Technologies Manufacturing $144,349,820 $3,680,920
3) Connecticut Light & Power Utility $67,639,270 $1,724,801
4) Middletown Power LLC Utility $45,332,710 $1,155,984
5) Kleen Energy Systems LLC Utility $44,997,740 It is complicated
6) Northwood Apt Assoc LLC Apartments $23,619,040 $602,286
7) Chestnut Hill Apt Assoc LLC Apartments $21,765,650 $555,024
8) Fairfield Midtown Brook LP Apartments $21,609,110 $551,032
9) Fairfield Midtown Ridge LP Apartments $21,337,320 $544,102
10) New Boston Windshire Apartments $17,959,480 $457,967

Monday, February 22, 2010

Democratic Candidates in Town Thursday night.

Thursday night the Democratic Town Committee hosted the first of a series of Democratic Candidate forums. During the course of the evening
approximately 50 members of the public, partook in all, or part of the ninety-minute forum. The DTC acknowledged that the light turnout might have been due to family vacations scheduled during the school break. Dan Russo, in fact had heard from some members of the DTC informing him that they would not be able to attend for that reason. Perhaps the television coverage of the Olympic Games was a greater draw for others. The meeting had been advertised, and all members of the public invited to attend through notices on this blog, and in the Middletown Press. Russo stated to me that all meetings of the DTC that are held in council chambers are open to all members of the public. Many democrats from the Common
Brad Spahn and Dan Levine
 Council where present; Daley, Klattenberg, Kasper, Faulkner, Loffredo, and Streeto. Other members of the State democratic "team" sitting in the audience were Representatives Serra, and Lesser, and Senator Doyle, as well as former Mayor Dominique Thornton, and the 2009 democratic candidate for Mayor, Dan Drew. The DTC includes two Wesleyan Students who where in attendance at this meeting.

The forum got of to a late start, with Chair Dan Russo stating apologies all around for the informality of the schedule due to the tight schedules of the candidates in attendance. All of the candidates took time to express their condolences regarding the Kleen Energy explosion, and took a moment to acknowledge the caring way in which Middletown, and the Middletown
Democrats handled themselves in the face of this tragedy on a world stage.
Candidates also thanked the city's DTC for supporting their candidacy.

The images and text follow the order in which candidates spoke.

Ned Lamont, the only officially declared candidate for governor started off the evening of campaigning. He stressed the importance of creating jobs to keep our youth in CT, and his commitment to education. He also stressed his experience as a businessman, and prior to that as a job creator.  He promises an honest budget and a challenge to the status quo.  He waved goodbye with apologies for not taking questions as he campaign manager ushered him out the door in order to make a scheduled meeting with channel 3's Dennis House and "Face the State."
the Honorable Joseph D. Marino

Judge Marino, is on the campaign trail once again and running for a 7th term for Judge of Probate, District 15. Probate Judges serve 4 year terms, Marino's first term started in 1986. The judge explained that Middletown was not effected in the Probate Court's recent redistricting per the reform bill signed into law by the Governor on June 9, 2009, and act that closed 63 of 117 Probate Courts in the state.


Nancy Wyman is also running again for a 5th term as State Comptroller. She has served in this position since 1994 and at that time became the first women to hold the office since it's creation in 1786. Prior to her election as Comptroller, she served as a State Representative for the 53rd District in Tolland.

MARY GLASSMAN on left with Rep. Serra looking on
Mary Glassman of Simsbury is in the exploratory stage of a run for governor. She originally hails from New Britain, and now resides in Simsbury. She served four terms as first selectwoman of the town--from 1991-1991--before stepping down, and then working for eight years in state government; rising to chief of staff in the Lt. Governors office. During that time she also ran for Lt. Governor.  In 2007, and 2007 she was re-elected as first selectwoman in Simsbury . One of the many assets she believes she would bring to the Governors office is a broad perspective on local, state, and legislative workings, given her experience in all levels of CT government.
Dan Malloy

Dan Malloy was the last of the three candidates for governor to address those assembled at the DTC forum. He opened with a statement declaring that  he believes in government and the process of running government as government; stating that he would not run the Governor's office like a business. He spoke in detail and at great length, making clear the differences between the two approaches, across a wide swath of topics-- including education, job creation, what it would take to bring new business to the state, the nets of safety government provides, and statewide economic growth--with a strong command of all the topics.

Kevin Lembo

Kevin Lembo, was the last speaker. He is seeking election to the office of Lt. Governor. Currently he is serving a second, four year appointed term as leader of the Office of Health Care Advocate, an independent state agency, that helps CT residents untangle the complexities of the health care system. When he started they where an office of three, and have since become an office of seven serving the public.
Middletown audience in Council Chambers