Archive for August, 2009

August 14th, 2009

Beach Rd. Traffic Light Now Turns Left

by LonSeidman

Electricians took the bulk of Friday installing a new traffic light at the Rt. 69 and Beach Rd. intersection. The new light will have a turn arrow allowing traffic to turn left from Beach Rd. north onto Rt. 69. A similar turn signal already exists from Center St. to turn left onto southbound Wolcott Rd.

Rt. 69’s turn signals will stay the same. Turning left onto Beach Rd. will still be allow with the turn signal. There will not be a turn signal from southbound Rt. 69 onto Center St.

This light was the result of requests by Councilman Fran Masi that have finally come to fruition. He has made sure that the progress towards making the intersection safer have progressed to the installment of the new light. Rep. Mazurek worked on making the state level request with the DOT.

Another project in town may be dependent on the state budget. A public hearing was held this past spring to reconform the intersection of Woodtick Rd. with Wolcott Rd. in the north end. That intersection currently comes at an angle which was improved a few years ago, but sometimes it is still dificult to pull into Wolcott Rd. it is a busy intersection, particularly when Alcott School is released at 3 pm. School busses must make wide turns here. It is currently unclear when this project will be completed pending future state funding.

August 13th, 2009

AARP: What’s Their Stance?

by LonSeidman

Last night (Wednesday) the CBS Evening News presented a fact vs. fiction segment on the healthcare debate. They examined the three draft bills that have passed House Congressional committees to see if abortion would be federally funded, if the debt would increase, etc. The answers to me were surpising and quite balanced. Actually, some of the answers were unclear baased on the bills passed, but the viewe could tell that there was a possibility that the concerns addressed could be true.

Finally, the CBS news reported how Barrack Obama noted that healthcare reform had been endorsed by AARP. They noted that AARP apparently has officially taken “no stand” on healthcare reform.

I found this surprising since there is YouTube video of a AARP town hall forum – which was abuptly cut off after attendees questioned the potential changes. Oh well, maybe they decided to change their stance from endorsing it to not because of the backlash. Fair enough.

In fact, their media director told Fox News that their “Listening Tour” forums will continue across the country and they “want to hear dissent”.

Then I turned on the TV this morning. An ad caught my attention – mainly because it had an ambulance driving down the street with cars cutting it off and performing maneuvers in front of it. Gosh… the scene is actually very realistic! In fact, quite accurate!! (at last, my job has been accurately portrayed on TV!!)

The ad continued explaining that the ambulance has some place to go – your emergency destination at a hospital. But the health insurance companies – the cars – re getting in the way. Cars cut in front of it, back in front of it, cut it off, tailgate closely, weave almost striking the sides of the ambulance… anything they can do to cut off the ambulance with its siren screaming.

Guess who sponsored the ad? Yep. AARP.

August 13th, 2009

November’s Ballot Just Got Crowded

by LonSeidman

In addition to the Democratic and Republican slates this year, there will be 16 petitioning candidates throwing their hats into the ring besides incumbant mayor Thomas G. Dunn. Those names will be spread across two lines for petitioning candidates, giving higher possibility that independents could dominate Wolcott’s Town Government this year. Currently, only two elected officials are unnafillated. They are Mayor Thomas G. Dunn and Town Councilman Mike Bokon. Bokon serves from the 1st voting district.

The following candidates will appear on the petitioning candidates’ line:

Mayor: Thomas G. Dunn

Tax Collector: Vanessa Malena

Town Council
1st District: Roy Balkus, Michael Bokon
2nd District: Anna Marie Ficeto, Randy Thomas Petroniro Sr., Joseph Scaglione
3rd District: Gale Mastrofrancesco, Steven Olmstead

Board of Education:
Tammy Bastenbeck
Monica Morgan

Board of Assessment Appeals
Gerald Greco

Zoning Board of Appeals
Steven Duva
Joseph Membrino Jr.

Constable
Chris Champagne
Vito Santarsiero
Roland Dupre

August 11th, 2009

Miss Wolcott Info Meeting Tonight

by LonSeidman

The Miss Wolcott Scholarship Committee will be having an informational session tonight.

Are you between the ages of 13 and 24? Ever thought of becoming Miss Teen Wolcott or Miss Wolcott? Anyone thinking about competing for the 2010 scholarship programs are welcome to attend an informational meeting tonight at the Congregational Chuch. The session will begin at 7 pm.

The Miss Outstanding Teen program is open to any girl aged 13-17 and Miss Wolcott for 17-24.

August 10th, 2009

Crowd Attends Chief’s Swearing In

by LonSeidman

** The Swearing in can be viewed on Cable Channel 96 until 10 am on Tuesday morning. It lasts about 7 minutes.**

There’s a new chief in town.

A crowd of about 150 residents endured 90 degree heat as Neil O’Leary raised his right hand in taking the oath of office on the front steps of the police department Monday afternoon. Mayor Thomas G. Dunn and the new Acting Chief vowed to confront the police department’s troubles head on. “It is no secret that we have many problems within the Police Department. Many of these problems are old and have developed over time. The fact is that the nature of these problems have caused people to lose confidence in this department and when you lose confidence, you start to lose respect. And without respect, we undermine the affectiveness of the police department.” The Mayor then noted the new direction he wants the depatment and introduced the new Chief to the Crowd. Town Attorney Bryan Tynan officiated the oath.

“We have identified those issues, and if there’s more out there, we will identify them. But more importantly, we will fix the poblems. We will acknowledge the problem, we will get to the root of the problems, and then identify the measures necessary to fix the problems,” said Neil O’Leary.

Flanked by officers from Wolcott, Waterbury, Watertown and other area departments, O’Leary noted the ties he wants to bind the department to the community. As Chief in Waterbury, O’Leary put heavy emphasis on a concept called community policing. This often involves officers meeting with local neighborhood and community groups on a regular basis. It involves police visibility and approachability. One of his legacies in Waterbury was the enhancement of the Police Athletic League. He grew the organization from a couple hundred yongersters to more than a couple thousand with dozens of volunteers. PAL acquired a gymnasium on Division St. and a old school building which will be used as an academic facility. During the month of August, officers in Waterbury are going door-to-door asking residents about quality of life issues.

Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura noted the cooperation leaders between towns when dealing with public safety. “Whatever we can do… we’re in partnership as one whenever anyone tries to harm someone -we’re there to back each other up. I know you will be well served just as we were well served with Chief O’Leary.” Jarjura worked with O’Leary for years until O’Leary retired three months ago from Waterbury’s Department.

After taking the oath of office, O’Leary faced the Wolcott officers before him, noting their loyalty to the town they work in. “There are many dedicated and proffessional officers in this department. I believe that these officers have the motivation and ability to bring the department in the direction that the mayor and I would like to take it.”

He concluded by reminding the crowd of a vision he shares with Mayor Dunn in moving the Department forward. “There is a perception – that there is a disconnect between the Police Department and the community. I will promise you one thing – there will be NO disconnect between the department and this community in the future. My first and foremost goal is to reconnect the Department with the community. To earn the respect it so deserves and to serve the community which these officers are so willing to do. ”

Chiefs from the Fire Department, Ambulance, Town Councilmen, Board of Education leaders, Superintendant Macary, Rep. Mazurek, former mayor Ed Wilensky, and other community leaders past and present were in attendance.

Many Waterbury officers, including Acting Superintendant Gugliotti were in attendance to see their old boss off to his new job. Most of the crowd and officers then walked to Frisbee School to meet the Chief personally over refreshements.

August 8th, 2009

O’Leary Chosen As Acting Chief

by LonSeidman

Waterbury’s recently retired police chief has been chosen by Mayor Tom Dunn to head Wolcott’s Police Department while the selection of a new chief commences. Neil O’Leary, who retired just a few months ago will be sworn in at the Police Department on Monday August 10th at 12 noon.

O’Leary spent his tenure as Waterbury Police Chief emphasizing community policing and buffing up falling enrollment in the Police Athletic League. The PAL had only a couple hundred youths enrolled in its ahtletic programs when he began its revitalization. Today the program – which now includes after school academic instruction – boasts a couple thousand participants with dozens of adult volunteers, including officers. The program now includes a gymnasium at the former St. Lucy School on Division St. as well as an academic center down the street.

In additon to PAL, O’Leary is credited with connecting the police department as an arm of City government to the neighborhoods. Currently, officers are knocking on doors in various Waterbury neighborhoods asking residents about quality of life problems.

It remains to be seen what O’Leary’s plan will be in Wolcott, though his leadeship throughout the area is well respected. Wolcott’s Police Department has been beleagured by a number of internal complaints over the past year. The officers still do an excellent job responding to calls and recently received a state wide accreditation.

At its July meeting, the Town Council authorized the Mayor to sign an agreement with the Connecticut Police Chief’s Association to begin the search for a new chief. Mayor Dunn believes it may be a year until a permanent chief is chosen. O’Leary has committed to serve during that transition period.

What is your opinion of Chief O’Leary?
What should he do to get acquainted with Wolcott?
click on “Leave a Comment” above!

August 5th, 2009

Chief Scirpo Gives Retirement Date

by LonSeidman

Chief Scirpo has announced that he will retire effective Sept. 1, 2009. His last day of work will be Friday, August 7th.

He will be on vacation from August 10- August 31 and pursuant to his contract will be entitled to 80 sick days, 4 vacation days and 1 personal day which all will be converted into cash. His pension will begin on Sept. 1st.

Chief Scirpo has served Wolcott for 43 years as a police officer.

Mayor Dunn will name an interim Police Chief by the end of the week. That person will serve while a search for a new Chief is undertaken.

August 5th, 2009

Calling WWII Veterans

by LonSeidman

If you or someone you know is a resident of Wolcott and served in the Armed Forces during World War II, there will be a Veteran’s Appreciation ceremony on Thursday August 13th at 10:30 at Wolcott High School. Please call the Mayor’s office (203) 879-8100. if your name is not on the list which is on page 3 of the July issue of the Wolcott Community News. We would like to recognize those survivors who served our town and our Country.

August 5th, 2009

Council Highlights: Rain, Fire, and Garbage

by LonSeidman

The Town Council takes it easy over the summer with only two meetings. The following are highlights from the Conucil’s July 21st meeting. The next meeting will take place August 18th.

Summary minutes can be viewed here.

Chris O’Brien spoke with Wethersfield Town Manager Bonnie Therian who conveyed her thanks to the Town of Wolcott for sending two tree trimming trucks after a tornado struck the town. Wolcott was one of 9 towns that sent help. “We didn’t have enough tree crews. I want to thank Wolcott very much – the crews were a big help,” she said. O’Brien noted that Wethersfield is the oldest town in Connecticut (275 years old) and that when the tornado tore through its old green, many large trees fell, leaving the younger ones intact. Some trees shattered through houses and after he toured the town two weeks later, some areas were still cleaning up. On July 3,1996, Wolcott had a tornado that went down Beach Rd. and Spring St. causing damage to houses and pools. Hopefully we’ll never have another disaster like it, but if we do other towns will be generous to help.

Mayor Dunn noted that the crews were back in town that evening when heavy rains threatened to wash out Woodtick Rd. and overran other areas.

Mike Perrone asked about the stream at the base of Longmeadow Dr. The stream there washed sediment into the parking lot of neighboring businesses, including Tom’s Vending and the Liquor Outlet. Mayor Dunn said that a culvert could be placed under the road in the future, but it would be expensive – costing about $60,000 just for the culvert box.

Mike Santagotta noted how development sometimes impacts the flow of water, such as the stream at the base of Longmeadow Dr. He said he recalls fish being in the stream years ago and encroachment on the banks of streams impacts how the water washes off. In the future, planning commissions need to have a watchful eye on watershed areas.

interesting note: Environmental classes often talk about “channelling” when development occurs. This means that a stream or river often becomes narrower when buildings are built on its sides. Even improving an adjacent lawn can cause this. Also, channelling occurs when a waterway goes under a road or highway through a culvert, tunnel, or bridge in a certain path – even though a waterway naturally would be inclined to change its course naturally over time. Instead, it is forced to take a path which forces the stream to drop its sediment in areas it normally wouldn’t and cause a fast-rising stream to back up and flood behind those deposits – sometimes at the edge of a bridge abutment. Similarly, logs and brush debris can get stuck in underpasses, which is what occurred under Woodtick Rd causing a flood behind it to overrun the road.

Mayor Dunn noted that a company to add a turn signal on the light at Rt. 69 and Beach Rd. has been selected by the State DOT. The work has to be completed by September.
The arrow will allow traffic coming down Beach Rd. to turn north on Rt. 69. There will also be a feature on the light that will turn green if an emergency vehicle approaches it, allowing that vehicle to pass and traffic from the other streets to stop. This arrow has been requested by Rep. Mazurek and Mr. Masi in the past.

Mayor Dunn further noted that the Fire Department made an “excellent stop” of a fire in the wall between two condo units at Arrowhead Condominums on Spindle Hill Rd. A lightning bolt struck the building and went down the common wall, causing a fire within it. Waterbury Fire Department provided mutual aid and also noted the quick work Wolcott’s volunteers performed.

Later in the meeting, the Town Council renewed the contract with Gaudiosi Hauling for garbage and recycling pickup. One new addition to the contract is that Gaudiosi will pickup garbage on roads that are not yet approved as long as the road is passable. There have been relatively few complaints about the garbage collector in the past. The current pick-up schedule will remain the same. The contract had been bidded upon and it was approved by the Council 9-0.

At the next meeting, the following items will likely be discussed:

1) Request from Tax Collector and State Marshal regarding Tax Liens
2) Assessor’s Contract
3) Michael Bruce Video Service Agreement for 2009-2010

August 5th, 2009

Babcock Tells O’Brien Not To Criticize Leaders

by LonSeidman

Pages 8 and 9 of July’s issue of the Wolcott Community News has three letters pertaining to the library, and another three involving or written by George Babcock. While the responses to the library stem from anonymous letters in June’s edition, the articles surrounding Democratic Mayoral candidate George Babcock are quite interesting.

First, Steve Hicock gives his opinion on Babcock’s softball coaching style. Below this, the five members of the Farmingbury Hills Golf Course Commission respond to rumors Babcock published as an advertisement on June’s edition. In response, Chairman Robert Larson, et all… writes that the five man bipartisian commission has done its job in being fiscally wise and “has been headed by both Democrats and Republicans. The Commission follows the Town Charter in reporting to the Mayor and Town Council and they have worked with Babcock himself when he was Council Chairman.”

To Babcock’s criticisisms that the Commission does not have an immediate use for land adjacent to the course approved by voters a few years ago, Larson responds:

“NOT TRUE! The Commission would be more than happy to move this project along. However we are very much aware of the current economic conditions facing this town and the country. We have not come before the Mayor and Board of Finance with any proposal until we feel that the economic climate has improved sufficiently to warrant the expense of this project.”

In the lower right corner of page 8 is a letter by George Babcock towards Town Councilman Chris O’Brien. “Mr. O’Brien shows his lack of knowledge and experience in attacking Mr. Pape, Mrs. Najarian and Mr. Gugliotti of the Wolcott Board of Education. Combined they have over 50 years of experience on the Board. His continued request of the Board to ask the teachers for a pay freeze further verifies his lack of knowledge in this area.” – Wolcott Community News, page 8; July 2009.

Let me provide some context: First, O’Brien only requested that the BOE request pay freezes from their bargaining units to match the pay freezes agreed to by other town employees. He stopped asking when the budget was approved on June 2nd. It was a dead issue after that. Secondly, it should be noted that during the 2008 budget process, Mrs. Najarian herself thanked Mr. O’Brien publicly during a Council meeting for the questions and extra research he did at the time.

Throughout his letter, Babcock praises the Education Department with profusely adoring adjectives on every other line:

“Kudos … absolutely fantastic… admirable… marvelous… remarkable…”

He then describes Councilman O’Brien’s efforts to keep the mill rate down and prevent 8.6 teachers from losing their jobs:

“baffling… lack of knowledge… absurd remark… politic(al)”

While Mr. Babcock noted the disagreement between Mr. O’Brien and three members of the Board of Education after O’Brien wrote an e-mail suggesting ways to make the budget leaner during the economic downturn, Babcock’s criticism is misplaced. Mr. Babcock’s comments are entirely selective where he ignored remarks by O’Brien and other Councilman when they praised the Board of Education for reducing a potential $1.1 million increase in their budget to a $191,000 increase. He neglected to mention that O’Brien and the Council unanimously approved the Education Department’s budget.

It’s curious though that after the Board got exactly the monetary allocation they requested, they then directed the Board of Education’s attorney to continue the political debate by demanding O’Brien remove a copy of his e-mail from his Facebook account. They threatened O’Brien with a lawsuit for suggesting ways to reduce the budget and for repeating Board members’ opinions. That lawsuit was threatened by using YOUR tax dollars.

Before writing his letter, Mr. Babcock could have pointed out to these members that taking this action was a gross violation of Wolcott’s Code of Ethics. In early August, all candidates for office are required to sign a statement that they have read Town Ordinance #91, the Code of Ethics. Apparently Babcock skipped Section 4. Sections B and C of that section read:

Section 4 – Gifts and Favors
(B) Use of Town Property

No Public Official or Public Employee shall request or permit the use of town-owned vehicles, equipment, materials or property for personal convenience or profit, except when such services are availaable to the public generally or are provided as municipal policy for the use of such Public Official or Public Employee in the conduct of official business.

(C) All Citizens To be Treated Equal No Public Official or Public Employee shall grant any special consideration, treatment, or advantage to any citizen beyond that which is available to every other citizen.

A town funded lawyer should be treated the same as a taxpayer bought dump truck, leased police cruiser, fax machine, open land, or other resource. You wouldn’t as the tax collector to do your income taxes on town time, right? These items cannot be used for presonal business, and certainly not to improve one’s political status.

Mr. O’Brien engaged in political speech, attempted to convey information and guide a public discussion. The members of the BOE that Babcock mentions accused O’Brien of defamation of their character by misquoting them. You can only defame an individual person, not an entire Board of Education. Similarly, a citizen cannot defame a town, Congress, the state legislature, or any other governmental body. If we were unable to criticize our government or elected leaders, our free speech rights would be severely repressed. It is no wonder that some in town have expressed fear of backlash if they criticize certain leaders in town.

Only through criticism and constructive debate can our sytem of government become more responsive and efficient. Yes, there should be fairness in making sure we accurately portray someone else’s opinion. This is why I apologized to Anthony Gugliotti for quoting him through hearsay. I also made a good-faith effort to correct James Pape’s quote to its exact wording even though he didn’t change the meaning. Hopefully with time Pat Najarian and I can work things out. But, I take exception to Babcock’s assertion that I shouldn’t “attack” elected officials because “(c)ombined they have over 50 years of experience”. Those members had reasons why they held their opinions. Their reasons were well thought and I respected them even though I disagreed. But, God help us if an elected leader is never questioned, particularly because they have served so long!

I wish Mr. Babcock luck for his upcoming mayoral campaign. I hope he will focus his efforts on the future of Wolcott, instead of digging up issues from months ago. If he is elected mayor, I hope he will be more forthcoming in promoting good and honest debate and being respectful to those who disagree. If he needs assistance or information I can give to him, I will assist him just as I would any other resident. Hopefully lawyers and misuse of town resources will not occur as had in this instance when I aired my questions. Sometimes giving the full truth is more helpful than hearing just one side of an issue. We can agree to disagree, and then know that we are not shutting out potentially better ideas that we might all embrace. And always looking forward, we will work for the future of the Town and citizens of Wolcott.

Source: Wolcott Community News, July 2009 edition; Published by Wolcott Community News LLC