Friday, December 29, 2017

Oh, The Things You'll Find in Agendas

In scanning the Common Council agenda for their first meeting of 2018, on January 2, some interesting items will be considered.  Of course, there's the investigation of the Office of the Mayor and the General Counsel, mentioned in another post.  But there's more.

Another Parking Lot for Wesleyan On Williams Street in the Village District

In draft resolution D, the Council will be asked to consider a trade.  The city will grant Wesleyan University a 10-year lease on the property which formerly housed Forest City Cleaners, in exchange for Wesleyan's remediation of the former dry cleaners' site.  Wesleyan plans to use the site for parking.  Despite the fact that the development will remove a eyesore and an environmental hazard, some obvious questions come to mind. 

Why does Wesleyan need another parking lot when it already has two on Williams Street (Red and Black Cafe, in the rear of Public Safety), and when they have an unused parking lot a block away on College Street? 

Why would the city allow another parking lot in what it considers the Downtown Village District? 

Why would Wesleyan want another parking lot on a street it once touted as a gateway street between the city and the university? 

What has the Planning and Zoning Commission said about the demolition and construction of the parking lot?

What has the Complete Street Commission said? 

What is the economic value to the city in the trade (cost of remediation vs. value of lease)? 

Will the trade remove the property from the city's tax roll because Wesleyan has non-profit status?

Sure hope someone asks these questions before the deal is struck.

A New Planning and Zoning Commissioner

Draft resolution A calls for the appointment of alternate Planning and Zoning Commissioner Tyrell Brown as a full member of the P&Z after the vacancy left by the death of Corinne Dorsey.  Tyrell will be a minority party (Republican) member of the commission, if appointed.

Start-Up Money for the New Middle School

The Common Council will also consider the expenditure of $4 million in fees for architectural and project planning for the "Woodrow Wilson Middle School" project in draft resolution L.

Common Council To Consider Resolution to Investigate Office of the Mayor and Counsel

In a draft resolution, printed in the agenda for the Common Council meeting on January 2, the Council will discuss and vote on a resolution to investigate the office of Mayor Dan Drew, and the Office of the General Counsel.

The resolution (K), currently reads:

Approving a waiver of §78-10, Contracts for Professional Services, of Chapter 78 of the Middletown Code of Ordinances to allow for the hiring of an outside law firm or January 2, 2018 COMMON COUNCIL MEETING Page 4 professional organization to assist the Common Council in conducting an investigation of the Office of the Mayor and the Office of the General Counsel as well as in responding to the letters from members of UPSEU Local #6457 Union Executive Board; and approving that a subcommittee, comprised of the Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, and Minority Leader, be appointed and authorized to sign an agreement on behalf of the Common Council to retain such outside law firm or professional organization and that a majority of signatures of said subcommittee shall suffice to authorize such an agreement; and authorizing that such agreement shall provide that a report of findings and recommendations shall be completed by such outside law firm or professional organization within sixty (60) days of execution of the agreement, unless such report date is extended by the Common Council; and authorizing that, in the event the investigation hereby authorized and instituted, discloses the involvement of any other Department, Office, or Agency of the City, the Common Council may amend this Resolution, and the agreement authorized hereunder, to include any such Department, Office, or Agency in the scope of such investigation.

The investigation is in response to formal complaints made by Board of Education Manager of Human Resource, Michele DiMauro that the mayor and the city attorney prevented a fair assessment of her request to have her job status re-evaluated.  She also complained that the mayor made disparaging remarks about her after she filed the complaint.

The mayor and the city attorney have denied the charges.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2nd Annual FIRE OF HOPE Gathering for Peace - December 31, 2-4 PM

This Event will be held INDOORS at The Mattabesett Canoe Club Restaurant! While the Fire will be outside, we will be warm and snug inside, thanks to our good friends, the Cronin family. The restaurant is at 80 Harbor Drive, Middletown CT.

You’re invited to our special  “Fire of Hope” at Harbor Park, where encouraging words, music and peaceful sing-alongs bring us together in releasing the old and affirming all that is beautiful in the New Year.
Now, more than ever, gathering for Peace is crucial. Our collective thoughts are powerful and we must focus on peace and love to create that in our world. Join us as we head to the CT River for a program for peace and spiritual renewal. The event begins and ends with sound healings and includes various speakers, music, dance and the Fire of Hope, concluding at sunset.
Andrew Prue, who created Shaking the Tree Gong and Sound Meditation at TBT, sets the tone for this unifying event. Annaita Gandhy, inspired teacher of the weekly Aligned With Source Interactive Workshop and Meditation at TBT, will talk about the importance of letting go of the past, releasing the negative energies of 2017, and looking forward with hope to a more loving, peaceful, bright 2018, as well as offer a brief guided meditation and blessing. Guests will be invited to write down their burdens of fear, resentment, anger, worry, feelings of unworthiness … to be transmuted into positive energy in the Fire of Hope. We’ll “burn our burdens” in the Fire of Hope together!
Another Buttonwood Tree program, Moments of Gratitude will be led by Anne-Marie McEwen; a community sing-a-long with HannaH’s Field and others, will lead to sunset. Hot apple cider will be provided, and restrooms will be available, courtesy of our good friends at the Mattabesett Canoe Club.
Donations are welcome to support The Buttonwood Tree programming and another charity, Artists for World Peace.
HannaH*s Field brings love, spirit & organic fresh flavor to the people with their gypsy reggae music. Their uplifting acoustic roots and African Earth beats blend together, growing a magical experience for all. Nominated best female vocalist in the Hartford Advocate for many years, this powerful songstress has shared the stage with such great acts as the Average White Band, the Brothers Johnson, Gov’t Mule (members of the Allman Brothers Band), Derek Trucks, Donna Jean (from the Grateful Dead), the Samples, Percy Hill, and Sound Tribe Sector Nine. They have performed at such venues as the Toads Place, Woodstock Reunion, The North West Organic Brewers Festival, Pearl Street Nightclub, Ziontific Music Festival and the Bite of Oregon. HannaH’s Field tours from New England to California.  Their latest musical release is called Revolutionary Soldiers. “There is magic here. There is life here. There is love here. And everything that pulls a human spirit out of the body and shakes it free to dance.” –SoulCat

 Annaita Gandhy, a spiritual and holistic counselor/ healer from India, received her Spiritual and Energy training with mediums Ellaeenah, Sohrab Ardeshir and Khursheed Jeejeebhoy in Bombay and Pune, through whom she received divine guidance and training from various ascended Master energies.  She is also trained & experienced in varied healing modalities including, Meditation with Kamala Tina in Bombay, and Diana Cooper in Pune, Reiki with Sheela Mehta, Nikhil, Patel, & Elba Perez, Foot Reflexology at the Medical Mission in Pune and Numerology with Poonam Ahuja in Bombay.  In addition, Annaita has completed courses in Holistic Healing, & Basic Acu Pressure at the Medical Mission in Pune, India,  Herbal Healing at CHAI in Hyderabad, and Quantum Healing with Barry Elwyn-Jones in Pune.
For several years Annaita offered her services to the very poor in slums and at Sassoon Hospital in Pune, India, which taught her the importance of empowering others.  She moved to Middletown CT in 2009 to be close to family and in 2011 began leading weekly empowerment workshops at The Buttonwood Tree where she shares her wisdom and experience.

This event is presented by North End Arts Rising, Inc, with special thanks to our community sponsors: Mattabesett Canoe Club, Suburban Stationers, McEwen Construction, The Coffeehouse Recording Studio, Lyman's Orchards and David Hall for the split wood.

Visit for more info/reserve seats
Call 860.347.4957
TBT is located next to It's Only Natural Market at 605 Main Street, Middletown

Thursday, December 21, 2017

FM Transmitter Ready to Retire

The wind is harsh, the leaves have turned, and everyone is dreaming of cozying up by the closest
fire and tuning into WESU, it must be time for the the annual WESU Fall Pledge Drive.
As a community radio station, WESU offers a unique mix of talk and free form music
programming that listeners are hard pressed to find elsewhere. The station depends on the
community support to keep it this way. The service WESU provides is made possible by over 150 student and community volunteer broadcasters, two very part-time employees, and one full-time General Manager. The station’s lean budget is funded through financial support from
Wesleyan University as well as listener and community support.

Due to a failing 30 year old FM transmitter, WESU has had intermittent broadcast problems this fall. “Our old faithful transmitter has made it clear that it is ready to retire” says WESU General
Manager, Ben Michael. “We’ve been putting too much money and time into keeping the old transmitter up and running and it’s time to move on.” says Michael. “After negotiating with
several vendors for the best possible deal, a transmitter purchase is imminent.” This purchase will pose a significant financial burden to the listener supported community radio station.
During this season of giving, WESU needs to hear from new donors and is asking past
supporters to consider increasing their contribution to help offset the cost of a new transmitter.
With that said, to sweeten the deal, the station is excited to offer new limited edition long and
short sleeve t-shirt designs as thank you gifts for donors. In addition, all donors get a free WESU
bumper sticker!

The WESU Annual Fall pledge drive is slowly building momentum but there is a long way to go!
To reach the goal of paying this season’s bills and making a large down payment on a new transmitter, WESU is depending on listeners to donate as soon as possible to help make the goal
a reality before the end of this calendar year.

If you value WESU’s offerings of independent media that encourages listeners and broadcasters
to dig deep, ask critical questions, and appreciate diversity, support The Annual Fall Pledge
Drive, today!

Secure donations can be made online at or by sending a check or
money order directly to WESU Radio, 45 Broad Street, 2nd Fl, Middletown, CT 06457 c/o pledge drive.

Thanks and happy holidays,

Jake Margolis

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem perform at Russell Library this Thursday!

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem's songs from their Wintersong CD
will be featured at the concert on December 21.
CD Cover Artwork by Keiji Shinohara. 
Thursday, December 21st at 7:00pm, Russell Library is pleased to present Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem in the Hubbard Room.

The songs featured in the concert will be primarily from their recent CD, Wintersong.
Many of them are original adaptations of traditional songs.

In the song "Yonder Come Day", the percussion stylings of Scott Kessel form the basis of this song recorded by Bessie Jones and the Sea Island Singers for Alan Lomax in 1960. A type of call-and-response, audience members can't help but participate.

No doubt the audience will also be joining in with "Children Go Where I Send Thee",  a counting song from the African American tradition.

In "Maybe This Christmas" by Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, hope for the holiday that seems to carry with it a melancholy of loss:

Maybe this Christmas will mean something more, 
May this year love will appear
Deeper than ever before
And maybe forgiveness will ask us to call 
Someone we love, someone we've lost
For reasons we can't quite recall... 

Rani Arbo's own setting of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1850 poem, "Ring Out, Wild Bells". She states on the liner notes, "It seems to balance an unshakeable grief with a need to articulate hope. In my reading -- and in this musical setting -- the grief is winning, even while it's understood that hope is the only way forward."
This concert promises to be a singular experience for the local fans of Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem
 Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem's Wintersong program is sponsored by the Friends of the Russell Library, and is free to the public, as are all of Russell Library's programs. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reggae Dance Night and Christmas Stories This Weekend at The Buttonwood Tree

Reggae Dance Night w/ Don Minott

Join us at The Buttonwood Tree for a night of high energy with the High Voltage Reggae band. This is sure to be a fun night with happy tunes and lots of dancing! 
Don Minott / High Voltage Reggae Band is based in East Hartford CT. They have toured all of Northeast USA, Germany, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro & Cape Verde Islands. Roots & Lovers Rock recording artist. Originals & Covers.

December 22nd | 8-10pm | $12

A Child's Christmas in Wales

Connecticut Heritage Productions (CHP) is proud to present Dylan Thomas’ holiday classic A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Peter Loffredo brings to life these sometimes amusing, sometimes touching memories of childhood in the early 1900s. Holiday music adds to the nostalgia with songs of the season played on The Buttonwood’s beautifully restored Steinway piano.
This series of warm childhood remembrances not only reflects the Victorian era in Wales, but speaks to the magic of holidays, to the eternal joys of family and friends, and to the human condition in all times. Dylan’s masterful poetic prose as well as his gorgeous use of the English language makes this a holiday show for the whole family. The performance is suitable for adults and children old enough to sit through a live performance.  Each show is just under an hour, but can last in your memory forever.
Start a new family tradition!

Donation is by non-perishable food item for Amazing Grace Food Pantry.

December 23rd | 4-5pm & 7-8pm

Fire of Hope

Now, more than ever, gathering for Peace is crucial. Our collective thoughts are powerful and we must focus on peace and love to create that in our world. Join us as we head to the CT River for a program for peace and spiritual renewal. The event begins and ends with sound healings and includes various speakers, music, dance and the Fire of Hope, concluding at sunset.

Held at Harbor Park.

December  31st | 2-4pm

Visit for more info/reserve seats
Call 860.347.4957
TBT is located next to It's Only Natural Market at 605 Main Street, Middletown

Perpendicular Parking on Pearl

Someone forgot to put on their parking brake.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tribute To The Late Corrine Dorsey

Reader submitted.
My name is William M.Prevatte I am 22 years old and I live in Middletown Connecticut.

I am writing this letter to say a few words on behalf of beloved Planning and Zoning Commissioner Ms. Corrine Dorsey who was well liked by a lot of people and advocates for the city of Middletown Connecticut and our great country. And I also would like to thank Middlesex Hospital Hospice and Palliative Care floor for their efforts on the care of Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dorsey and to Ms. Dorsey’s family I send you guys my deeply profound condolences.

Commissioner Dorsey will be missed by all who she got to know while with the city of Middletown as planning and zoning commissioner with the city of Middletown Connecticut.

And my deeply profound condolences are with the city’s planning and zoning office and with Commissioner Dorsey’s family and her city of Middletown Planning and Zoning family who served the city of Middletown with great pride and dignity. Just like any other city official.

And it is my distinct privilege and honor to be writing this letter on behalf of Commissioner Dorsey’s family and her extended family with the city of Middletown Connecticut Planning and Zoning.

And once again great efforts done by the Middlesex Hospital Hospice and Palliative Care floor by the doctors and nurses and other Middlesex Hospital Personnel who took care of her that day.

And my profound condolences to both her city of Middletown Planning and Zoning family. And other family and extended family and relatives.

And she will be missed but never forgotten by her service to the people of the city of Middletown and our great nation and our great country.

Thank you,
William M.Prevatte- Supporter

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Local Families in Need Received Free Portraits During Global Holiday Event

From Community Health Center.
Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) hosted a Help-Portrait event December 4th, participating in a global initiative to provide holiday portraits to needy families in the community. Sixty-four families were styled by volunteer makeup artists and hair stylists, and sat for professional photographs at no cost to the families.

Many families have never had family or holiday portraits taken, and Help-Portrait has empowered families all over the world by providing free holiday portraits since 2008. Professional photographers, makeup artists and hair stylists donate their talents and time to provide holiday portraits for those who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

“I look forward to this event every year,” said Margaret Flinter, CHC Senior Vice President and Clinical Director. “Many parents don’t have pictures of their family, and it’s important that everyone gets to feel special and beautiful, even if it’s just for this one day with us.”

CHC is dedicated to creating healthy communities by providing events and programs supporting the communities CHC serves. This was CHC’s fifth year hosting Help-Portrait in Middletown, and it has since provided portraits for hundreds of local families.

“We’re so happy at CHC to create an event for families who all are united in their love for their children and community,” said Flinter. “Watching families glow at the event, you can’t help but feel even more inspired to always be striving to create opportunity for their health, education, and success.”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Events: First Church in Middletown

Christmas Eve at the Stable,
Other Christmas Gatherings with First Church


Georges de la Tour, Nativity Scene.
First Church in Middletown
190 Court Street
Middletown, CT

Dec. 24, Christmas Eve at the Stable. Gather at the Stable at Crystal Lake,  5 p.m., for Christmas readings, carol singing, closeness with the animals, stars in the sky, evening in the barn. Windy Ridge Stables, 115 Crystal Lake Rd,
 in Middletown, CT. (map).

Christmas Eve with Candlelight & Song First Church and South Church celebrate together, 10 p.m., at South Congregational Church, 9 Pleasant St, Middletown, CT (map).

Dec. 25, Christmas Day Worship. Gather again at South Church, 10 a.m. First Church and South Church worship together on Christmas morning. (No service at First Church.)

Christmas Day Dinner. Middletown's traditional free Community Christmas Dinner 12 noon-2 p.m. at
First Church, 190 Court Street. To
volunteer or donate
(desserts, canned goods or dollars) please contact
Julie Hurlburt at 860-346-6657, Ext. 15.

Jan. 1,
New Year's Day Worship.
Gather at First Church for joyous and hopeful celebration for the New Year, 2018. 

See First Church online or call our office for more information 860-346-6657 (map).

Comcast Opens Store and Makes Donation To Middlesex United Way

From Elizabeth Walden, Public Relations
Comcast, Western New England
Comcast today held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of its newest Xfinity Store in Middletown and marked the occasion with a donation to the Middlesex United Way. The 4,500-square-foot facility, at 814 Washington Street has a re-designed look and feel focused entirely around the needs of customers. Consumers will have the opportunity to explore, learn about and interact directly with the latest Xfinity products and services, including Xfinity Mobile.

Local officials and community leaders including State Senator Paul Doyle, Representative Joseph Serra, President and CEO of Middlesex United Way Kevin Wilhelm and President of Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Larry McHugh came out to celebrate the opening and tour the new store in Middletown.

“Middletown is a terrific place for businesses to invest and grow.  I applaud Comcast on the opening of their new facility today, adding jobs to our region, and their continued investments in our community”, said State Senator Paul Doyle.

Larry McHugh, president of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, additionally congratulated Comcast and said, “The opening of the new Xfinity store is a great addition to Middletown.”

Michael Parker, senior vice president for Comcast’s Western New England Region, which is headquartered in Connecticut, added, “We’re proud to be a part of the Middletown community and excited to open this store in a convenient location for a greater number of our customers.”

Friday, December 15, 2017

Union Files Additional Complaints Against Mayor

In the past few days, at least three complaints were filed against Mayor Drew and the City of Middletown, alleging he and/or the city took actions prevent city employees from what they consider to be deserved advancements.

In one complaint, detailed in the Hartford Courant Wednesday, Board of Education Manager of Human Resources, Michele DiMauro, who already has a formal grievance issued against the city claiming gender discrimination in job advancement, delivered a letter to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management.  Also receiving copies of the complaint were the majority leader of the Common Council, Tom Serra and the minority leader of the Common Council Seb Giuliano.  A copy of the complaint made this week, and the City of Middletown regulation which forms the basis for the complaint, can be seen below (click to enlarge).

The city, for it's part, is steadfast in it's denial of harassment of any kind, either that cited in the original grievance, or that noted in the more recent complaint.

In an email, City Attorney Brig Smith explained the city's position.

According to Attorney Smith: "The City is defending this grievance vigorously and denies the allegations entirely.  Ms. DiMauro went through the same objective labor-management committee process as the other candidates.  Her position was one of four recommended for review through the Maximus point-factor system, which has been mandated by the City’s and Union’s collective bargaining agreements for years.  Under the system, job duties are run through a matrix to determine whether a position is entitled to a classification or compensation upgrade.  When the duties as presented by Ms. DiMauro were run through the matrix, there was no grade increase recommended. 

After Ms. DiMauro submitted additional information, we re-ran the point-factor analysis, which resulted in a one-grade increase for her position—the same increase that the other positions received.  She demanded, however, at least a two-grade increase and filed a grievance.  This is after already receiving six grade increases over her last two reclassification requests.

Her gender or political affiliation played no part in the reclassification outcome driven by the Maximus system.  Her job duties did.  Period."

Because DiMauro's complaint is against the mayor, and involves the City Attorney's office, DiMauro and her union have requested outside counsel to handle the complaint, and have also requested that the Common Council conduct an independent investigation.

DiMauro's complaint suggests that the mayor inappropriately intervened in the review of her job description and potential salary increase, and then in reaction to her filed grievance.

Another formal grievances was filed Wednesday against Mayor Dan Drew and the city by Local 6457 on behalf of Common Council Clerk, Linda Reed. This grievance claims age and gender discrimination during her time at the city's planning office.  According to the union, Reed claims she was hired at a lower pay grade than a male counterpart, in the City's Planning Office, when she held a position there.  She also contends that another younger colleague was hired at a higher pay grade.

The union has requested that this grievance be handled by the city's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management because the actions at the core of the complaint include the "potential involvement of the Office of General Counsel, the Human Resources Office and the Mayor's Office."

DiMauro also filed a follow-up complaint to her original grievance and harassment complaint.  In a letter filed Wednesday by the UPSEU, the union contends that while investigating the original complaints by DiMauro, they discovered "a year-long, list-serve barrage of campaign solicitations being sent directly to DiMauro's workplace email at the Middletown BOE," from "Drew for Governor" links.  The most recent solicitation was sent this week.  The union claims these solicitations "may have been an effort to entrap, discredit, endanger the employment of, intimidate, discriminate against and/or harass DiMauro based on her political affiliations or associations."

Dan Drew's campaign for governor is currently being investigated by the State Elections Enforcement Commission after a complaint was filed that Drew solicited campaign donations from city employees.  Drew has apologized for the use of those employee home addresses and called their usage an error.

Drew responded to the union, via email, stating that the most recent complaints were an error of his contracted social media and fundraising firm in Oregon, and that intimidation and harassment were not intended.

According to UPSEU vice president Ann Nash, "The mayor said it was a mistake made by a contracted campaign firm who didn't effectively scrub social media contacts from the solicitation list."

Apparently, while contacts with the with top-level domains of ".gov" were removed, others with ".edu" and ".org" may not have been.  Recently, another potential gubernatorial candidate, Hartford's Mayor Luke Bronin ran into a similar problem when sending out solicitations for his exploratory bid for governor.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

City Is First In State To Register For Sustainability Program

From Michael Harris, City Energy Coordinator.
On December 4th, at the request of Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force, the Common Council voted to join SustainableCT, an exciting new initiative to support Connecticut's cities and towns.

Mayor Daniel Drew said, “Middletown is a sustainable leader in environmental policy and we’ve taken another major step forward in creating a cleaner environment.”

SustainableCT, launched on November 28th at the annual convention of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, is a statewide initiative that includes a detailed menu of sustainability best  practices, tools and resources, peer learning, and recognition.

Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force Chair, Jennifer Kleindienst, added “We’re so excited for this opportunity to celebrate Middletown’s great sustainability achievements and help us determine next steps and long-term plans to reduce our environmental impact while building an economically and socially viable community.”

The Sustainable CT platform includes actions such as improving watershed management, supporting arts and creative culture, reducing energy use and increasing renewable energy, implementing “complete streets” (streets that meet the needs of walkers and bikers as well as cars), improving recycling programs, assessing climate vulnerability, supporting local businesses, and providing efficient and diverse housing options. After successful implementation of a variety of actions, municipalities will be eligible for SustainableCT certification.

”In Middletown, sustainability and resiliency provide the larger drivers for the work of our Clean Energy Task Force. SustainableCT offers an integrated framework that addresses this broad scope. It is a powerful tool to organize our efforts.” said Michael Harris, Middletown’s Energy Coordinator.

To connect with Middletown’s sustainability efforts, contact the City’s Energy Coordinator at 860-638- 4854.

Wesleyan's $50M Film Studies Expansion

Wesleyan presented these plans for an expansion of its Film Studies buildings last night at the Design Review and Historic Preservation Board.

The proposed complex would replace two historic homes with parking, buildings, and a pergola.

Wesleyan Proposes Demolition of Historic Washington Terrace Homes for Expansion of Film Studies Building


Wesleyan University plans to demolish (or move, if they can find a willing participant), two historic homes at 319 Washington Terrace and 329 Washington Terrace to expand their film studies facilities.

Both houses are on the Connecticut Historical Society's survey of historic structures in Connecticut.  The house at 319 Washington Terrace is known as the Jackson House.  It was first purchased in 1783 to Francis Sage and later conveyed to Charles Hunter Jackson, a commodore in the US Navy.  It remained in the Jackson family until 1937, and was purchased by Wesleyan in 1958.

319 Washington Terrace

329 Washington Terrace

The house at 329 Washington Terrace is known as the Starr-Rand House.  A house built by Captain John Wetmore was built on the site in 1792.  The current house was built on the original foundation between 1825-1850 by Philip Curtis Rand or his widow.

The demolition of these historic homes by Wesleyan came to the attention of the Middletown Eye after Wesleyan made a presentation about the demolition, and new construction at a meeting of the Middletown Design Review Commission on December 13.

Reports from the meeting are that most members of the commission were opposed to the plans for the new construction, but that the idea of demolition was not addressed.

In 2013 neighbors of properties on Washington Street banded together, and with the support of other Middletown residents opposed the construction of a strip mall on the North side of Washington Street between Pearl and High Streets.  The strip mall was a partnership between local developer Centerplan, Wesleyan University and advocates in the city, including Mayor Dan Drew.

While the city and the Planning and Zoning commission failed to listen to protests, and sided with the developer to change the zoning of the property to allow demolition and construction of commercial buildings, the tenants (reported then as Starbucks and Chipotle), decided against occupying buildings so opposed by the community.  As a result, the developer dropped plans to build.

The lesson to Wesleyan, who was a partner in promoting the strip mall development, seems to have been to keep future such developments as quiet as possible.

And so, despite residents very involved in planning and development matters in the city, Wesleyan has already progressed to the potential demolition of significantly historic properties, and the presentation of building plans to city commissions.

One can only ask, "What is Wesleyan thinking?"

While an expansion of the film studies building may not be as alarming as the construction of a strip mall, the new buildings, and associated parking, would transform a lovely and historic block, across from an important green space, into institutional architecture that would not serve the aesthetic importance of this gateway to Middletown.

Surely, Wesleyan, which has an abundance of land that could be developed along Long Lane, could find a better place to construct a $50 million building.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Give the Gift of Shakespeare for the Holidays!

ARTFARM Artistic Director Marcella Trowbridge has a special knack for opening actors up to Shakespeare's verse, and for using Shakespeare to help actors discover a deeper level of work. Participants in ARTFARM's Shakespeare Acting Laboratory, which starts January 11, will get the opportunity to work with her in an intensive, small-group setting. 
Shakespeare Acting Laboratory is open to experienced and aspiring actors age eighteen and over. The 6 week class will meet Thursdays, 6:30 - 8:30 pm from January 11 through February 15, culminating in an informal public presentation of Shakespeare performance work on February 15. Snow date is February 22. 
Known as both an exceptional performer of Shakespeare and a challenging acting coach, Marcella will lead participants in a focused exploration of Shakespeare from the actors' point of view. The work will involve text analysis, scansion, developing emotional literacy and accessibility, voice and breath, physical training, and play. Students will work with Shakespeare's text as individuals, in small groups and as an ensemble. Special attention will be given to Scene Study.
Marcella is the co-founder of ARTFARM and a classically trained actress who has appeared in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Key West, Sri Lanka and is currently doing work in Germany. Local audiences have seen her in many roles in ARTFARM's Shakespeare in the Grove, including Cordelia in King Lear, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Katharina in Taming of the Shrew, both Hermia and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lady Macbeth and most recently Hamlet.
Tuition for the Shakespeare Acting Laboratory is $200. The course will be held on the campus of Middlesex Community College in Middletown, but is an independent course offered by ARTFARM and not part of the College's course offerings.
ARTFARM is a Middletown based company, founded in 2001, which cultivates high-quality theater with a commitment to simple living, environmental sustainability and social justice. 
For more information, or to register, contact, call (860) 346-4390, or go to

Photos by Bill De Kine of Marcella Trowbridge as Lady Macbeth in ARTFARM's Shakespeare in the Grove production of Macbeth and as Hamlet in Hamlet.

Matching Grants Available, for Historic Preservation

click to enlarge
Submitted by Catherine Johnson
2018 Connecticut Historic Preservation Matching Grants for Private Non-Profit Organizations in cooperation with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation The 1772 Foundation has announced that funding in the form of 1:1 matching grants of up to $15,000 will be made available for the following historic preservation projects:

  • Exterior painting 
  • Finishes and surface restoration
  • Fire detection/lightning protection/security systems
  • Repairs to/ restoration of porches, roofs and windows
  • Repairs to foundations and sills
  • Chimney and masonry repointing. 

To demonstrate the sustainability of historic sites, applicants may be required to submit a cyclical maintenance plan, condition assessment, restoration plan or stewardship plan that has been prepared or updated within the last five years. If an appropriate plan does not exist, the Foundation will consider providing support for development of a plan on a case-by-case basis.

All organizations who wish to be considered should send a one-page letter of inquiry to: and use 1772 Foundation in the subject line.

The letter should include: the amount of your request, the purpose of the grant including the name and address of the historic resource for which project funding will be used, the matching funds you have or plan to have, the time frame for project completion and ownership status (own or lease) for the site. Also, please attach a current photo which best shows site condition, no more than 1.5MB, and provide web address for the site/organization.

Letters of inquiry will be accepted until December 31, 2017. Invited applications will be due March 1, 2018. Not all letters of inquiry will result in invitations to submit full applications. To be eligible to apply, organizations must have a 501(c)(3) IRS designation. Organizations also must have closed any previously awarded matching grant to be eligible to apply. Funding will not be provided for schools or churches.

The Foundation will consider the following: • Matching grants for exterior painting, finishes and surface restoration • Matching grants to install or upgrade fire detection, lightning protection and security systems • Matching grants for repairs to/restoration of porches, roofs and windows • Matching grants for structural foundation and sill repair/replacement • Matching grants for chimney and masonry repointing

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Welcome to Difficult Decision Land

Family Resource Center director Amy Waterman
makes a plea to preserve the school-based
On Tuesday evening the Board of Education voted to cut the Family Resource Center program in half, and approve a mitigation plan to account for a loss of $230,000 in Alliance Grant funding as a result of major cuts in the State of Connecticut budget.

Middletown was viewed as a city that suffered the least of many in the state cuts, but the loss of several hundred thousand dollars in grants for programs that serve the city students and families most in need has proved disastrous for a program which provides school readiness and fights the effects of poverty.

Newly-elected Board member Sean King called it "a terrible pill we're swallowing with this adjustment."

"At this time, the adjustments made by the administration minimize, as much as possible, the impact of those cuts," King said.

"It's one of the most emotional decisions I've had to make in the last two years," Board chair Chris Drake said.  "This is not something we enjoy doing.  When campaigning we always talk about being able to make difficult decisions.  Welcome to difficult decision land."

The Board of Education, by law, had to deliver a finished budget to the city in May.  The city passed the budget shortly thereafter.  However, the State, which should have passed a budget in June, did not actually make a budget decision until the end of October, and that budget was filled with drastic cuts for Connecticut cities and schools.

What's more, the new Superintendent Michael Conner, began his term at the beginning of November just as several new members were elected to the Board, all dealing with an inherited budget based on expectations that proved inaccurate because state legislators refused to make difficult decisions on a timely basis.

The Board passed a financial mitigation plan for the loss of Alliance Grant funds which includes savings by not hiring six classroom interventionists, scratching the Ministerial Alliance, not filling positions for two home visitors and cutting the tenure of twenty-two classroom interventionists who will be asked to leave their positions on May 2 instead of the mid-June end of school.

These cuts allowed the Board of Ed to preserve some of the programs that address the needs of the most at-risk students, but at a curtailed level.

Grants coordinator Natalie Forbes presented options for trimming the Family Resource Center budget.  The two Family Resource Centers provided integral services for students and families at Farm Hill School and Macdonough Elementary.

"The families and children absolutely have a need for these services," Forbes said.  But she indicated that the $100,000 was not enough even to pay for the salary and services at Macdonough.  As a result, program director Amy Waterman will lose her job, and will be offered a position as a classroom teacher in one of the city's schools.

Grants Coordinator Natalie Forbes describes the dire options.
Waterman described the Family Resource program during the public session portion of the meeting.

"It has served as the bridge that so many students need for successful entry to school," Waterman said.  "In a district with so many vulnerable families, this should be one of our priorities."

In the end, the Board of Education voted for a Family Resource Center which would preserve the FRC at Farm Hill school, and would hire a family resource specialist to work part time at a satellite program at Macdonough.  The Macdonough program would be augmented by a home visitor preserved in the Alliance Grant mitigation plan.

No one on the Board offered consideration of petitioning the Common Council and the mayor to backfill the approximately $60,000 needed to preserved the Family Resource Center, or the approximately $400,000 needed to avoid the cuts necessitated by the Alliance Grant cuts.  The city has a $24 million "rainy day" fund.

In fact, Conner warned that the current cuts are only an indication of cuts to come as the state struggles with revenue shortfalls.  With a $400 million dollar shortfall already indicated for this budget year in the state, Conner suggested that more cuts were possible.

"We're probably going to have to come back in 60 to 90 days to come up with another mitigation plan," Conner said.

Vigil at First Church in Middletown: Remember Lost Lives, Stop Gun Violence

VIGIL for Sandy Hook,
Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, 7pm

First Church 
190 Court St. Middletown, CT

First Church in Middletown hosts a Vigil for Sandy Hook at 7pm on Thursday, December 14, at First Church. There we will hold space for grief and light candles, remember the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and ring church bells.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the tragic Newtown shootings, First Church joins a nationwide Gun Violence Memorial event  in partnership with Women Against Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, the Brady Campaign, Violence Prevention Coalition, and many other groups as we remember all victims of gun violence and showing our continued support for sensible gun laws.

Come in support of this vital issue and remember that day in Sandy Hook. First Church in Middletown, 190 Court Street, Middletown, CT, 860-346-6657

Monday, December 11, 2017

Justin Wilkie, Recently Hired United Way Development Director, Dies in Car Accident

Though he was in his post for fewer than six months, Justin Wilkie, the development director for the Middlesex United Way, had made lots of friends, and left a lasting impression on those he met.  Sadly, Wilkie, 30, died tragically in an automobile accident on Saturday.

His funeral will be held Thursday, December 14, in Manchester where he lived and grew up.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Sale at Russell Library this weekend!

The Friends of the Russell Library is offering their last book sale of the season this coming weekend. The hours of the book sale are:

Friday December 8th from 10:00am - 6:00pm;

Saturday December 9th from 10:00am - 2:00pm;

Sunday December 10th from 1:00pm - 4:00pm.

Not only are there wonderful bargains to be found in books, but the prices for CDs and DVDs are too low to pass by. Where else can you buy a movie for $2.00?

This sale also features those titles that did not get sold at the Holiday Book Sale last month, offered at discounted prices lower than the already low prices for which they were priced last month! Come and find last minute gifts for the holidays!

The next Friends Book Sale is not until March 2018. Now is the time to stock up for those long winter evenings when you want to curl up with a nice cuppa cocoa and a book...

Mark your calendars for the next season of Book Sales, beginning in 2018:
  • March 9, 10, and 11
  • April 13, and 14
  • May 11, and 12
  • June 8, and 9
  • September 7, and 8
  • October 12, 13 and 14
  • Holiday Sale: November 16, 17, and 18
  • December 7, 8, and 9

Great bargains are also available online with the Friends of the Russell Library Amazon store!

The Avery Ensemble Performs this Saturday at Russell Library

This Saturday, December 9th, at 1:30pm, The Avery Ensemble will perform in the Hubbard Room of the Russell Library.

First Prize Winner of the 2016 American Prize in Chamber Music,  the Avery Ensemble is a piano quartet joined frequently by guest vocalists and instrumentalists. Avery's performances have been praised by Audiophile Audition as 'marvelous,' and by the Classical Voice of New England as 'committed. . . excellent. . . amazing and persuasive. . . . . simply outstanding.' Recent engagements include appearances as guests of the Chamber Music Society of Central Kentucky, the Rossmoor Music Association in New Jersey, Coe Hall in New York, the Meadow Ridge Concert Series in Connecticut and the Auditório Jurerê Classic in Florianopolis, Brazil. Avery Ensemble was the focus of an article in the Summer 2016 issue of Chamber Music America's Chamber Music Magazine.

The program for this concert includes pieces that would have been heard by audiences during the years of World War I. 

"The tragedy and barbarism of the Great War marked the end of the previous age, and this turbulence was expressed successfully in the explosion of art music produced in that decade-- a 'licking of the bowl,' scraping the last possibilities of what tonal harmony could offer before abandonment. The challenge of exhaustion from the previous age was met in response with unbelievable invention and creativity, exemplified in the following works:
Faure Sonata no. 1 for cello and piano, op. 109 (1917) -- 19 min
Janacek Sonata for violin and piano (1914) -- 16 min
Reger Piano Quartet no. 2, op. 133 (1914) -- 35 min "

This concert, and many other programs, are sponsored by The Friends of the Russell Library. You can support the programs at the library by buying a book at this weekend's Friends' Book Sale.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Teen Circus-Theater Auditions for "As You Wish!"

Circophony Teen Circus announces open auditions for ages 12 to 19 for As You Wish!, an original circus theater response to The Princess Bride.
Auditions are December 12 & 19 at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, and the production will run March 1 – 10, 2018.
Auditions will be held from 6:30 to 9 pm on both Tuesdays – participants should plan to attend just one of the two evenings and stay until 9 pm. Please arrive by 6:15 pm so that you will have your registration completed and be ready to begin at 6:30.
Circophony is an ongoing teen circus program which is run collaboratively by ARTFARM and Oddfellows Playhouse. Auditions are open to anyone regardless of circus or theater experience. Actors, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, singers, circus performers, athletes and other adventurers between the ages of twelve and nineteen are welcome. Everyone who attends the audition and commits to the rehearsal and performance schedule will be cast into the show.  
As You Wish! will combine theater and circus in a unique original performance responding to the iconic film and novel The Princess Bride. Teens auditioning are asked to prepare a short solo (one minute maximum!) showcasing your particular talents. Additionally, the audition will include improvisation, movement, acrobatics and text. Dress to move and be ready to have fun.
Rehearsals begin January 2 and will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 – 9 pm. As You Wish! will run March 1 – 3 & 9 – 10 at Oddfellows Playhouse, which is located at 128 Washington Street, Middletown. Tuition to participate is $250, but some financial aid is available.

As You Wish! is created and directed by ARTFARM Executive Director Dic Wheeler, with Circus Direction by Allison McDermott. Dic is the founder and former director of the Children’s Circus of Middletown – heading into its thirtieth season next summer -- and is a director, performer and teacher of theater, circus and Commedia dell’ Arte who has worked in the United States, Europe and Asia. Allison is a graduate of the New England Center for Circus Arts Pro Track program, and teaches and performs throughout New England.
Please pre-register for one of the two audition evenings by contacting,  calling (860) 347-6143, or going to  
If you have questions about the program or about the auditions, contact