Monday, April 29, 2019

Learn How to Grow More Of Your Own "Garden Candy" at Russell Library!

Calling all first time gardeners!! On Saturday, May 4, 11 am to 1 pm, come to Russell Library for our second session in the Family Container Gardener Workshop series. At the workshop you will learn how to plant, care for and harvest cherry tomatoes or strawberries. Each family will receive a free pot, soil and a plant. Available to the first 25 families!

This workshop is sponsored by Friends of the Russell Library, Middletown Urban Agriculture Project & Opportunity Knocks Collaborative.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District office at 860-346-3282.

We hope to see you there!

Tonight: Westfield Residents Association Meeting

If you live in the Westfield area of our city, tonight is your chance to gather with nearby friends and
family and catch up on the news of the neighborhood.
Monday, April 29th, 7 pm
Westfield Fire Department, 653 East Street
Special guest tonight is Mark DeVoe, Middletown's City Planner, who will briefly explain the Plan of Conservation and Development and the process by which this plan is being revised. The rest of the time will be a "listening session" for residents to share what's on their minds about how Middletown should look over the next 10 years.

The meeting is open to all residents of Westfield, whether a member of WRA or not.
The Westfield Residents Association is a volunteer neighborhood association founded in 1981 as the Westfield Residents for Rational Development. It promotes responsible development of our city. All who live, own property, or operate a business within the Westfield Fire District are welcome to become members.  For more information, go HERE.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Community Meeting on Police Shooting Range Noise Study

The Police Department is holding a public meeting to present the results of the study on the gunshot noise emanating from the Dingwall-Horan Joint Firearms Training Facility.

April 30, 2019
6:00 PM
Middletown Police Department
Community Room

Thursday, April 25, 2019

MxCC Info Session for Manufacturing, Health, STEM Careers April 27

Come visit Middlesex Community College in Middletown and learn about careers in manufacturing, STEM, and health fields on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. Find out how you can get started in a degree or certificate program offered at MxCC before transferring to a four-year program or advancing in your career. For a list of featured programs, click here.

RSVP to or 860-343-5753. Walk-ins also welcome. The Middletown campus is located at 100 Training Hill Road.

Tough News for Downtown Residents & City Leaders

I'm not going to bury the lede.

Rite Aid on Main Street is closing.

According to an employee we spoke with last night, the pharmacy closes on May 20th and the entire store closes on June 3rd.  Walgreens bought Rite Aid and now they've got too many this one will go.

Why does the closing of a chain store give me such a sinking feeling in my stomach when there are multiple pharmacy options within a mile or two?

Because those options are not within walking distance of downtown.

The presence of Rite Aid on Main Street makes a huge difference to people who live in the downtown neighborhoods, to Wesleyan students, to guests at the's not just a store among many.  It's an anchor of our walkable downtown - and a key factor in our high walkscore, which measures how close you live to the necessities of modern life (a job, a library, a movie theater, a hospital and other conveniences.)   Rite Aid is where downtowners buy a quart of milk, or printer ink, or tylenol after a long city council meeting.

I've had this sinking feeling before.  It's the roller coaster of Main Street, Middletown.  Back in the late '80s, downtown residents relied on the Waldbaum's Supermarket in Metro Square.  When it closed, it was no longer realistic to live downtown without a car.  It meant a bus ride to buy groceries (everybody should try that at least once). The loss of a downtown supermarket was one of the early dominoes that fell; and they kept falling till most of the downtown storefronts had emptied out.

Main Street rode the roller coaster back up in the late '90s - and everyone involved knows that it was only by working together (and sweating the small stuff) that we turned things around and made this renaissance happen on Main Street.  The opening of this Rite Aid, just 10 years ago, was an important step.  We can't afford to take its departure lightly.

We've still got It's Only Natural Market for that quart of till 8 pm.   And Public Market.  And a handful of small bodegas in the North End.  I intend to keep supporting them.

But the losing the convenience of Rite Aid is a blow to our aspirations of being the new housing destination for urbanist millennials and empty nesters, not to mention the quality of life of all the people who already live here.  Our current leadership - and those who are in the running - should be aware that maintaining the infrastructure of downtown living is just as important as announcing big new developments.

With this news - and other turnover in downtown storefronts these days - let's not ignore what we're hearing:  we need to pay attention to Main Street. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Get Outside for an Earth Day Hike Saturday April 27!

Join the Middletown Commission on Conservation and Agriculture for an Earth Day Hike this Saturday, April 27 at 10 AM. Meet at Brooks Road by Asylum Reservoir #2. This will be a 3-4 mile hike around scenic reservoirs with views back toward downtown Middletown. Hikers should wear sturdy shoes and bring water and snacks. Moderate difficulty, no long climbs but some clambering up and down rocks. Well behaved dogs only, and should be leashed.  Rain date is Sunday, April 28 at noon.  We hope to see you there!

Russo Declares for Mayor

Middletown Democrats -

Today I will be filing paperwork to officially begin my campaign to
become Mayor of Middletown.

In recognition of your commitment to the betterment of our community and to
electing Democrats, I wanted to make sure you were among the first to know
that I am taking this step.

As most of you know, I have been Director of Public Works since 2004, having
worked my way up through the ranks.   When I started working for the people
of Middletown over 30 years ago, I never imagined that one day I'd run for
Mayor. But I know this city and how our government works, and I know how to
continue to strengthen our community through the growth we are experiencing.
I was born and raised in Middletown, right on Grand Street, and raised my
two daughters here because I know what a great place this is to live. It
would be an honor to serve the City that has given me so much.

To me, good government and Democratic values are all about making sure
people get their money's worth for the taxes they pay. We need to keep taxes
down while making sure we have great parks, safe roads and streets, solid
infrastructure and strong schools. It takes experience to make that happen,
and I'll put my experience and work ethic up against anyone who wants to run
for this office.

I have witnessed progress and great success on the part of City government.
I have seen our City deal with human tragedies, severe weather events,
financial challenges, and saddest of all - disregard for others in our
community.  I want to be Mayor to champion our successes, celebrate our
diversity, and unite us to overcome our challenges so that we can be the
best City we can be - for all of Middletown.  I will need help from all of
you to do so.

I look forward to engaging our entire community in conversations during the
coming weeks - sharing my ideas, and listening to yours, about how we can
make our City better.   In doing so, I hope to earn your trust and support. 

Very truly yours,
Bill Russo

Paid for by Bill Russo for M

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

MxCC Natural Gas Field Technician Program Open House on April 25

Middlesex Community College partners with Eversource Energy to offer this certificate program

Middlesex Community College and Eversource Energy will again offer the Natural Gas Field Technician Certificate, a program designed to help develop the future workforce in the growing natural gas industry. 

Interested new students are invited to an open house on Thursday, April 25, 2019, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the new five-acre Eversource Training Yard, located at 107 Selden Street in Berlin, Conn. To register for the open house, please email Walk-ins are also welcome. 

Classes for the certificate program will begin on August 13, 2019 at the Eversource state-of-the-art training facility.

“The collaboration between Eversource Energy and Middlesex Community College provides an opportunity for students to learn from industry experts. Anticipating the need for skilled workers in the natural gas industry, we worked together to develop a program that prepares students directly for employment,” said Diane Bordonaro, director of non-credit programs at Middlesex. “It is a point of pride at the college that we can respond to the needs of employers in our community by developing training programs for the workforce.”

The natural gas industry is experiencing tremendous growth in meeting and serving the energy demands of homeowners, businesses, and municipalities across Connecticut. Expanding access to natural gas and accelerated replacement programs have driven a higher demand for skilled resources to construct, maintain, and service the natural gas infrastructure.

“We’re always working to better serve our customers and a well-trained workforce is critical in accomplishing that goal,” said Eversource President of Gas Operations Bill Akley. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with Middlesex Community College to cultivate a new generation of highly skilled and efficient natural gas technicians. Upon successful completion of this program students will have a better understanding of our industry and learn skills that will open employment opportunities for them in the fast-growing natural gas business.”

Students will develop the fundamental skills required to safely and efficiently install and maintain gas distribution facilities, including the proper use of tools and equipment. They will also build a strong working knowledge of approved industry practices. The program can be completed in one semester.

As a selective admissions program, students must follow the application process and meet all deadlines. Applications close on May 15, 2019. Please visit the Middlesex website for details, class schedule, and program requirements

Since 1966, Middlesex Community College has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 70 degree or certificate programs at the 38-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.

Eversource transmits and delivers electricity to 1.2 million customers in 149 cities and towns, provides natural gas to 232,000 customers in 73 communities, and supplies water to approximately 197,000 customers in 51 communities across Connecticut. Recognized as the top U.S. utility for its energy efficiency programs by the sustainability advocacy organization Ceres, Eversource harnesses the commitment of about 8,000 employees across three states to build a single, united company around the mission of safely delivering reliable energy and water with superior customer service.

Buy CT Native Plants and Support Local Conservation!

Did you miss the advance order deadline for our CT Native Plant Sale? Don't can still buy plants at our sale in Westbrook, April 26-28, 2019 at the Westbrook Outlets! Sale hours are Friday and Saturday, April 26-27, 9:30 AM to 3 PM, and Sunday, April 28, 10 AM to 12 PM.

We'll have extras of most plants available on the days of the sale, including additional types of flowering perennials. For information about our sale offerings go to our Plant Sale page,

The annual plant sale is our main fundraising event, and proceeds are used to support our conservation, environmental education and technical assistance programs.

We hope to see you at the sale! Come early for the best selection! 

Questions? Contact us at or 860-346-3282.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Naming the New Middle School

An opinion piece by Board of Education Chairman Chris Drake

The Board of Education voted unanimously to form a naming committee to recommend a name for the new middle school that is scheduled to open in August 2021.  People are upset at the notion that the board would even consider naming the school anything other than Woodrow Wilson Middle School.  While I currently don’t have an opinion as to what the name should be, I disagree with those that suggest it should not even be a matter under consideration. 

First, some facts.  Sixth graders in town currently attend Keigwin Middle School, named for Ida Keigwin, an educator in town during the turn of the 20th Century.  Seventh and Eighth graders attend Woodrow Wilson Middle School, named after the 28th President of the United States.  By 2021, the current Woodrow Wilson Middle School will be demolished and a new school will be opened, which will educate 6, 7 and 8th graders.  We are not, as some have said, “building a new Woodrow Wilson,” but, rather, merging two schools into one.  One thing is for sure, the new school will only have one name. 

Since both the schools merging have names, it struck me that the obvious question was “what are we going to call the new one?”  The Board agreed, so we formed a naming committee to give us a recommendation.  That is, literally, all that happened.  We did not choose a name, we did not name the members of the committee, the committee has no first meeting scheduled and we are not -- as has been repeated much -- “renaming” Woodrow Wilson.  We voted in accordance with long standing board policy to form a naming committee to recommend a name for a brand new 6-8 middle school. 

So why all the fuss?  On the one hand, it is because some people in our community have an emotional attachment to the name “Woodrow Wilson” because they graduated from the former Woodrow Wilson High School.  That’s a fair argument, and one the committee should definitely consider.  While I, myself, have no personal attachment to the high school I graduated from and would not care if the Board of Education there changed the name, I understand that my view of the world is not shared by everyone.  So historic attachment to the name is something the committee should and certainly will consider.

There is also allegedly some “deal” that was cut when the current high school was constructed that said that the new high school would be called “Middletown High School” and the middle school would be called “Woodrow Wilson.”  This one I’m less sympathetic to.  First, the current middle school is called “Woodrow Wilson,” so the terms of the supposed deal have been met.  But by the fall of 2021, that school will no longer exist.  More fundamentally, I just don’t buy in to the typically Middletown notion that some alleged past deal binds the hands of future generations.  By law, the Board of Education has jurisdiction over the operation, control, and maintenance of the schools in town.  The current Board of Education can and should decide the name of the school being constructed under its watch.

I am confident that the committee will hear from many people who feel very strongly that the new school should carry the name of Woodrow Wilson.  I also suspect that the committee will hear from others who think that we should not name a building after Woodrow Wilson, because he was a racist.  Indeed, Princeton University, where he served as President, has removed his name from several buildings.

So the committee will undoubtedly have ample evidence for and against naming the new school after President Wilson.  I have heard less outrage -- in fact it seems to be the running assumption -- over the idea that Ida Keigwin’s name will simply be cast aside.  I hope that is not true, because by all accounts she was a wonderful woman, teacher, and mentor to Middletown’s many immigrant families.  A past Board of Education thought so highly of her that they decided to name a middle school after her.  Maybe the current Board of Education will feel the same.

Anyone interested in serving on the committee should express such interest by filling out the form located here, no later than Friday April 26.  The committee is limited to five community members, so not everyone who expresses an interest can be chosen, but the committee’s meetings will be public and all are encouraged to attend and offer an opinion.