December 31, 2007

Recycling going well in Bristol

A public works press release, just issued:

The City of Bristol has two on-going recycle pilots. The first, implemented in May in the Burlington Avenue area, is designed to use new recycle barrels for all paper products. The new barrels are emptied using automated tipper trucks. Recycle bins are still used for glass, plastic and metal food and beverage containers. Current results show that this area has reduced rubbish volumes by 3% and increases recycling volume by 60.2%.

The second pilot, which has had 2 bi-weekly collections since its inception in the Redstone Hill Road area, is for “single stream” recycling, which allows residents to place all recyclable materials (paper products, plastics, glass and cans) into a large recycle barrel. After two collections, this area has decreased rubbish volume by 9.1% and increased recycling volumes by 112%.

These pilots are showing a significant cost savings for Bristol, the new barrels are collected using less equipment and staff, and is helping Bristol to achieve our goal of meeting state mandates for recycle volumes. The City of Bristol pays $65.50 per ton to dispose of rubbish, and only $33.50 per ton to deliver recyclable materials.

Public Works would like to remind residents in the pilot areas that plastic garbage bags should not be placed in the recycle barrels. Plastic bags are not an acceptable recyclable material, and can lead to fines from our recycle processor.

The City would like to thank all the residents of Bristol for their efforts to increase recycling. Residents not in the pilot program areas are also recycling more, and helping us to achieve cost reductions.

If you have any questions, please call the Public Works Department at (860) 584-6125.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

New year's greetings from the mayor

A note sent out to the city's email list by Mayor Art Ward this morning:

As we embark on 2008, our hope is for this New Year to be the healthiest,
the safest, the most prosperous in relationship with family and friends, and
the most glorious in being able to realize the success of all of our goals for 2008.

Individually, and as a community, we all have hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow;
TOGETHER, we can make these hopes and dreams become reality.

I wish you and your families a safe, relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Happy New Year!

Art Ward

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

School budget strained by kids with special needs

Soaring costs for educating children with severe special needs are expected to cost the Board of Education about $650,000 more than it anticipated this year.
This marks the third straight year that the school budget, which totals $94 million, is likely to run short of money to educate and bus rising numbers of students with special needs, according to a report by William Smyth, the assistant superintendent for business.
Despite the bleak fiscal outlook for special education, school leaders are hoping they’ll manage to finish the year without running short of money overall. But Smyth said officials will have “a very difficult time” pulling it off.
Because of a number of teacher retirements and turnover, Smyth said, there ought to be a surplus in the salary accounts.
“We’re going to try to get as close to being in the black as possible,” said Superintendent Philip Streifer. “It’s our responsibility to manage this budget.”
But it didn’t help to wind up with 25 students more than anticipated who need costly special services.
The state Department of Children and Families is placing many of the extra children in Bristol, said Tom O’Brien, a Board of Education member.
He said the choice by DCF to put more students in town that cost taxpayers big money is unfair. He said lawmakers ought to find a way to make it so that host municipalities don’t get socked for extra costs to educate students placed there from somewhere else.
O’Brien said the problem needs greater exposure so that Bristol “is not taken advantage of” any longer.
Streifer said that it is a growing issue among officials throughout the state.
“It’s completely beyond our control,” he said, but something must be done “to get control” of the soaring expenses involved.
Smyth said the special education tab “varies wildly throughout the year” and it’s possible the numbers will turn out better than expected.
Even so, he recommended that educators “include a significant increase” in the amount allocated for tuition for students who need to be bused to special schools outside the district.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Plan for new schools likely to race ahead in 2008

A $115 million plan to build two schools will likely move forward swiftly in the new year.
An architect could be hired in as soon as February to design the proposed kindergarten to eighth grade school in Forestville, said Tom O’Brien, the Board of Education member spearheading the project.
By mid-year, he said, “serious design work” could be underway.
The companion school eyed for the West End, which would also serve 900 students in a K-8 setting, remains mired in controversy, but officials say that a decision has to be made soon.
The schools got a preliminary green light from the City Council and Board of Education last June, but the west Bristol school site has yet to be chosen and the Forestville site next door to Greene-Hills School is still in private hands.
Mayor Art Ward said that negotiations with Ken Crowley to buy the former auto dealership on Pine Street will begin in earnest soon.
The school board plans to open the two new schools within the next four or five years and to close four of the city’s oldest schools: Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three primary schools – Greene-Hills, O’Connell and Bingham.
A massive redistricting scheme would, of course, accompany the shift in buildings.
Though there has been some strident opposition to the proposal, every incumbent school board member who sought reelection was returned to office in November. They all backed the project, and so did the three newcomers chosen for the panel.
O’Brien said that the Forestville School Building Committee will likely advertise for an architect in January and hire one the following month.
“Three or four years from now, we may actually see a school there,” O’Brien said.
Officials said they’d like the west Bristol school to remain on roughly the same timetable because opening them at the same time might reduce costs and would allow for only a single large, probably painful redistricting effort.
But the initial site picked for the school in the western part of the city, in a Scalia Construction sand pit off Barlow Street, was turned down by the council.
Other potential locations include the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill, another sand pit and the former grocery store property between Divinity and Park streets, across from Rockwell Park.
O’Brien said he still hopes the Divinity Street site will emerge on top because it would help the neighborhood and bolster a troubled section of town. It would require purchasing about 35 private homes and businesses, many of them rental properties.
The West Bristol School Building Committee is waiting for the council to approve new members this month and then will again tackle the issue of where to put the new school.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 30, 2007

Let's talk presidential politics for a bit

With the Iowa caucuses only days away, the tiny fraction of America that cares about politics is becoming utterly absorbed with the outcome of each party's internal slugfest to capture the presidential endorsement.
I claim no special insight, having met only a few of the candidates, none of them enough to afford me any more than a glimpse.
Though I've spent a fair amount of time in Iowa during the past 15 years, I can't even say I have much a clue what its voters might do this week.
On the Republican side, I've met Ron Paul a couple of times in Washington years ago. Back then, he was a Democratic congressman considered a whack job by almost everyone. He struck me as a more than a little looney, but perhaps he's changed.
I spoke on the phone once with Rudy Giuliani when he was a U.S. attorney. He was an insufferable jerk.
Among the Democrats, I know Chris Dodd the most, having covered him for the past 13 years. He's certainly smart and seemingly genial. But there's no reason to think he's going to get lucky and prove the polls wrong.
I met Hillary Clinton in Iowa last summer when she was campaigning with Bill in Cedar Rapids. They were both pleasant and neither of them seemed self-important. I was kind of surprised that I liked her as much as I did, since she'd always left me cold in the past.
I've never laid eyes on Barak Obama or John Edwards, and I only dimly recall Joe Biden giving a speech years ago that I attended.
That's kind of a long-winded way of saying I don't have any idea what's going to happen.
So who's going to pull it off?

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 28, 2007

Politics in Bristol next year

Though the race for the White House will naturally overshadow the rest of the political world, voters will have to pick more than just a president in 2008.
Topping the list of political contests in Bristol are a handful of state legislative races, some of which have proven hotly contested in recent years.
But rapid change in recent years has led to changes in the power base of both parties.
“For the Republicans in town I believe that the party will build around [state Rep.] Ron Burns, [city Councilor] Ken Cockayne and [state Rep.] Bill Hamzy,” said Art Mocabee, the GOP’s city chairman.
He said the Democrats “will obviously try to build around” Mayor Art Ward, the newly elected Democratic leader.
At this point, neither state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat representing the 31st District, nor any of the state House incumbents has mentioned plans for seeking reelection.
But there’s been no sign that any of them are ready to step down voluntarily yet.
Two of Bristol’s House members – Democrat Frank Nicastro in the 79th District and Republican Ron Burns in the 77th District – are freshmen and perhaps more vulnerable than incumbents with longer track records. Burns, whose district leans Democrat, is likely to face the toughest challenge.
In two other House districts that include portions of Bristol, the incumbents have been in office since 1994. Democrat Betty Boukus in the 22nd District and Republican Bill Hamzy in the 78th District are both pretty entrenched.
Colapietro, a former factory worker and union official who won the office in 1992, has faced bitter campaigns the past two elections. Nicastro and Burns defeated incumbents in 2006 to capture their seats.
Connecticut’s presidential primary in the coming year may prove more important and interesting than it has in years.
Hoping to grab more attention from candidates, the state moved its presidential primary to February 5, early compared to previous years but not this time around.
On primary day, candidates will be competing in primaries in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah. There are caucuses the same day in Colorado and North Dakota.
At this point, Connecticut’s Democratic primary may not generate much competition because the state’s senior senator, Chris Dodd, is among those in the running. Dodd has considerable support in his home state, but lags badly in national polls.
But the GOP field is wide open so Republican voters may have an array of choices at what could prove a critical time in the race.
Mocabee said he sees “today's front runner being the last to finish in the end.”
With no incumbents in the race, Mocabee said, he thinks “the Republican nomination will come down for president and vice president between [former New York City Mayor Rudolph] Gulianni, [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney, [former U.S. Sen. Fred] Thompson and maybe Ron Paul.”
“Mr. Paul's popularity is rising fast,” Mocabee said. “People need to read about this man, I think they will be pleasantly surprised.”
Connecticut’s junior senator, independent Joe Lieberman, has endorsed the presidential bid of U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican. Whether that will help McCain in Connecticut is uncertain, particularly given Lieberman’s long history in the Democratic Party.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

GOP, Democratic committees picked soon

Members of both the Republican and Democratic town committees will be picked at caucuses to be held soon.
The GOP caucuses, which will pick 42 members to serve two-year terms on the volunteer panel, will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 9.
The Democratic caucuses are scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10.
There is no snow day for the Republicans, but the Democrats may postpone their caucus until 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 14 if the weather is bad.
In the case both parties, registered voters who are members of the party are eligible to participate and to serve on the town committee. Those elected at the caucuses will take office in March and the newcomers will select party leaders.

For the GOP, the caucus locations are:
Council District One:
Birchwood Community Hall, Birchwood Drive
Contact District Chairman Gary Klyemkk Jr at 881-6454 for more information.
Council District Two:
City Hall, Staff Lounge, 2nd Floor, 111 North Main Street
Contact District Chairman Mike Saman at 583-4602 for more information.
Council District Three:
City Hall, Meeting Room,1st Floor, 111 North Main Street
Contact District Chairman Tim Lodge at 940-9331 for more information.

For the Democrats, the caucus locations are:
Council District One:

Northeast School, 530 Stevens Street
Council District Two:
South Side School, 21 Tuttle Road
Council District Three:
Greene Hills School, 718 Pine Street

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

"Script" case dismissed by state FOI Commission

An open government complaint that may have helped sway the outcome of the Democratic mayoral primary was dismissed this month by the state Freedom of Information Commission.
The panel ruled that the “script” that former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo wrote to guide Mayor William Stortz and most of her colleagues through a crucial meeting about downtown almost a year ago did not violate open government laws.
There was never a secret session “to plan how to manipulate discussion” at the January 4 public meeting or to dictate its outcome, the commission ruled.
The state’s decision clears Zoppo of wrongdoing in the case brought by resident Jay Meisinger.
Zoppo, the Democrat’s endorsed mayoral candidate, lost a September 11 primary to challenger Art Ward, a longtime city councilor who went on to win the general election in November. She no longer holds a political position.
The case arose because of an Ordinance Committee meeting in January that Zoppo chaired.
Zoppo wrote out a detailed “script” for the meeting that gave the City Council’s approval to the new downtown corporation. She later called it “talking points” and expressed the wish that she’d never used the word script.
In its ruling, the FOI Commission said that Zoppo’s “use of the term ‘script’ and the level of detail that the script contains reasonably gave rise to the complainant’s suspicion of a secretly manipulated meeting and pre-determined decisions.”
But the panel determined that Zoppo and other city leaders did not actually orchestrate the session improperly.
However, the commission advised Zoppo and the city “to re-evaluate such use of scripted procedure and discussion in public meetings” in the future.
The panel said that it believed Zoppo “prepared the script in an effort to keep the January 4, 2007 meeting ‘on topic’ and to make sure that council members would have an opportunity to express their views on the agenda topics in an orderly manner” rather than to dictate the outcome.
Zoppo gave copies of the script to Stortz and to every city councilor except Ward, who was deliberately iced out.
The commission determined that Zoppo “did not share the script” with Ward “because she believed it would be counter-productive, in light of her experience that he had behaved with hostility toward her” and other city leaders.
It said that Zoppo “testified that she wanted to avoid ‘another verbal barrage’ by” Ward so she kept the script secret from him.
The incident came to light in June when the Press received, in response to a Freedom of Information request, copies of emails between Stortz and Zoppo that discussed the script. Zoppo readily provided copies of the script when the Press asked her about it.
Here is the link to the state's ruling.

For background, check out these earlier Bristol Blog posts:
Is Ward behind the FOI complaint? (Aug. 10, 2007)
Mocabee speaks out on FOI complaint (Aug. 10, 2007)
FOI complaint lodged against Zoppo, Stortz, city (Aug. 10, 2007, includes text of FOI complaint)
Council hopeful Rich Kilby weighs in on script controversy (June 10, 2007)
McCauley defends Zoppo (June 8, 2007)
Zoppo stands by scripted meetings (June 6, 2007)
What do you think about scripting city meetings? (June 5, 2007)
Scripting city meetings (June 5, 2007, includes the script used for the January meeting)

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 27, 2007

New downtown business regs proposed

Just sent in by City Planner Alan Weiner:

On behalf of the Bristol Zoning Commission, I'm pleased to advise you that the latest draft (v.3.0) of proposed amendments to the Downtown Business (BD) zone provisions of the Bristol Zoning Regulations and a map of proposed changes to the Downtown Business zone on the city's Zoning Map are now available for public review. You can view and download these documents - along with other supporting materials - at the following Web page:

These proposed text amendments and map changes were developed by the Zoning Commission and its staff over the course of many months at numerous work sessions; they represent the Commission's best thinking to date on changes designed to make the BD zoning regulations more flexible and user-friendly, while at the same time maintaining the development principles for downtown Bristol articulated in the city's 2000 Plan of Conservation and Development. At this stage in the process, both the proposed text and map amendments are subject to further revisions by the Commission as a result of public comment and feedback.

To that end, the Zoning Commission will hold a public information session to discuss these proposals on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, in the City Council Chambers in City Hall, beginning at 6:30 PM. At this meeting, the Commission will explain the proposed amendments, answer any questions that citizens might have about them, and solicit comments from all interested parties in an "informal" setting (i.e., not in the context of a formal public hearing). Depending upon the nature and extent of the public feedback that the Commission receives at this meeting, the proposed amendments may be revised further, after which the Commission will either hold another public information session (if deemed necessary or desirable) or schedule a formal public hearing on the draft amendments.

We encourage you to print out and share these drafts with other individuals and groups who you feel might have an interest in these proposed amendments. Similarly, we encourage you to forward the Weblink specified above to all interested parties.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact the Land Use Office by telephone at 860/584-6225 or by e-mail at Thanks in advance for your interest and participation in this important process.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 23, 2007

New year's resolutions

You can post your own resolutions here, of course, but you're also welcome to post the resolutions that our leaders ought to make. Give them some ideas.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Merry Christmas, everyone

I'm off until after Christmas so I won't be posting much, but I do want to extend to everyone here a merry Christmas (or happy holidays!). May the peace and joy of the season carry over into the new year.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 21, 2007

Poverty on the rise in Bristol

The number of children living in poverty in Bristol has increased more than 50 percent in the past decade.
Slightly less than a third of the city’s students now qualify for a free or reduced price lunch based on their family income. It was a bit over 20 percent a decade ago.
That amounts more than 1,000 extra students coming from impoverished backgrounds, said Tom O’Brien, a Board of Education member.
“This is not the Bristol of 10 or 20 years ago,” he said.
What’s more, the rate of increase is rising, with the number of poor students up 8 percent in just the past year, school lunch statistics show.
O’Brien called it “a tremendous increase” in the past year.
“I was pretty taken aback,” O’Brien said.
He pointed out that it is particularly alarming because the poverty rates are highest among grade school students, which could mean that the overall figures will keep on rising.
“The percentage of children in poverty is going up,” said Philip Streifer, the school superintendent.
There are “very large” numbers of students who qualify for lunch aid “in every school now” rather than having them concentrated in a few elementary schools as in the past, O’Brien said..
At the same time that poverty rates have risen, school statistics show that the percentage of students who come from homes where English is not the main language is up 20 percent over the past 10 years. A bit less than 8 percent of students don’t speak English at home.
The number of minority students is also way up.
A decade ago, they made up 13.6 percent of the student population, or about 1,000 students in all.
During the last school year, minority students constituted 23 percent of the student body as a whole, or 2,078 students. That’s twice as many minority students.
O’Brien said that educating students from poor homes is tougher – as a rule – than teaching children from more affluent homes. It takes more money and more effort, he said.
O’Brien said that the increase in poverty is directly tied to the changing housing stock in town, where more and more rental properties are owned by out-of-state investors who may not have much interest in the impact their renters have on the community.
O’Brien said the school board can only work out the best way to educate the students who walk in the door.
But, he said, City Hall had better begin to address seriously the reasons that the city’s population is growing increasingly impoverished.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Nicastro and Mocabee call for more unity at City Hall

Amidst signs that the Democratic administration at City Hall is in danger of splintering, both a former mayor and the Republican Party chairman say they’re eager to help officials patch things up.
The problem that cropped up between Mayor Art Ward and a majority of the Democrats on the City Council “needs to be nipped in the bud right away,” said Art Mocabee, the GOP chairman.
Both Mocabee and city Councilor Frank Nicastro, a former mayor, said that Bristol’s residents want to see progress from their public officials, not more feuding.
“The voters want to see the council go forward. They don’t want to see outright bickering,” Nicastro said. “They want to see action.”
Nicastro said he intends “to try to work with the council individually” and to continue talking with Ward about the nature of the mayor’s role, which requires a willingness to compromise.
Mocabee said that relying on Nicastro to serve as a mediator between Ward and the council “is like expecting Joe Lieberman to endorse Sen. Dodd for president.”
Lieberman, elected last year as an independent from Connecticut, recently threw his support behind the presidential ambitions of U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican. Chris Dodd, Connecticut’s senior senator, is vying for the Democratic presidential nod.
Mocabee said he speaks with Ward and other officials regularly.
“We’re all on the same page when we talk with one another, Mocabee said, “but not in the real world.”
The split came to the public’s attention at the last council meeting when three Democratic councilors and freshman Councilor Ken Cockayne, a Republican, refused the mayor’s request to reappoint three park commissioners because Ward hadn’t created a new Park Revitalization Committee.
Cockayne changed his vote later after receiving assurances from Ward that the new panel would be created in January.
Mocabee said the four councilors “sort of blindsided” Ward so it’s understandable that the mayor “got miffed.”
He said, though, that Cockayne “made all the right decisions” in the flap.
Moreover, Mocabee said, Ward created some of the problem by saying he wanted to bring in new blood at City Hall and then moving to reappoint three veteran park commissioners who were Ward supporters during the campaign.
Nicastro said that flare-ups are inevitable, but officials have to put the common good first.
Nicastro said that during his decade as mayor, “we weren’t hugging and kissing every day,” but both he and the councilors he worked with understood they had to pull together to find a common agenda that would benefit Bristol.Everyone involved, he said, recognized he couldn’t get everything he wanted.Nicastro said that Ward has to realize he can’t always get his way and the council today has to recognize that it needs to work with the mayor, not quarrel with him in public.He said that a mayor “can’t hold grudges” and can’t let disagreements derail his administration from larger goals.Nicastro said that the city expects its leaders to pull together, no matter which party they’re from, and to seek the common good.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Reycling pilot project working well

Recently issued press release from the city's Public Works Department:

The City of Bristol implemented a new recycling pilot program earlier this month. The new pilot is for “single stream” recycling, which allows residents to place all recyclable materials (paper products, plastics, glass and cans) into a large recycle barrel. This makes recycling easier, increases recyclable material capacity, and encourages residents to recycle more. The new barrels are emptied using automated collection trucks.

The area participating in the single stream recycle pilot is in the Redstone Hill Road vicinity. Approximately 900 residences received the new recycle barrels in November. The first collection using this method was on December 11, 2007. The second collection will be on December 26th.

Results from the first collection are impressive. The first collection showed a 129% increase in recycle tonnage as compared to the previous collection in the pilot area using recycle bins and source separation. This also reflects an 98% increase over the average tonnage for the 2006 calendar year. Rubbish volumes also decreased 14% with the first collection.

These results show positive cost savings for the City. Two recycle routes that had been collected manually have been combined into one route that is collected with an automated collection truck. Increased recycling also saves tax-payer dollars, as disposal costs for recycling are almost half the cost of disposal for rubbish.

Public Works would like to thank the residents in the recycle pilot area. Their participation and dedication to recycling has made this pilot successful, and we look forward to continuing this encouraging trend.

If you have any questions, please call the Public Works Department at (860) 584-6125.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Staggered terms for Board of Ed?

I'll leave it to the Charter Revision Commission to decide whether an appointed or elected Board of Education is a good idea. If it backs a return to an appointed panel, that's fine.

But if it wants to retain an elected school board, one change it ought to consider is to stagger the election of the panel's members.

A big part of the reason that 13 people could run almost invisibily for the school board this year -- each of them hoping to claim one of nine seats -- is that they were all running simultaneously at the same time as a hard-fought mayoral contest as well as City Council elections.

Since people get their information about candidates, for the most part, from the media, it's crazy to ignore the reality that in a year like this, very little attention is going to be focused on the school board race.

On the other hand, if school board members had three-year terms, with three seats up each year, there would be an honest chance for reporters, political parties, candidates, bloggers, voters and everyone else to get at least some glimmer about who's on the ballot.

It would be decidedly more democratic -- small "D" -- because voters would have the possibility of being informed before they have to fill in some bubbles at the polls.

While part of the answer is for the parties to try harder to find quality candidates who are eager to run, another crucial ingredient is to make it possible for people to make decisions among the school board candidates.

Otherwise, they just vote for those they've heard about -- incumbents, usually -- or those from the party they tend to like best.

But most everyone would rather know who they're voting for and what they can expect from that person.

It's kind of funny to say that electing a school board isn't quite open government, but it really isn't when the system is stacked against the possibility of learning much of anything about the candidates.

Let's at least make an effort to shine some light on the people who want to serve on this crucial, often overlooked board.

There's lots of time to fix this, since those who were elected this year are going to serve until 2011, but let's do something to make it right.

Democracy doesn't thrive when the candidates are all unknown to voters.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 20, 2007

Bristol's councilors stretched thinner than most

If Bristol’s six city councilors sometimes seem as if they’re stretched thin, it’s probably because they are.
Divide the population of the city by the number of council members and each of them serves a little more than 10,000 residents.
That’s more than twice as many residents per representative as they have in New Britain, Meriden, New Haven and Southington. It’s three times as many as they have in Stamford.
In fact, Bristol has one of the highest ratio of council members to residents in the state. Only Greenwich, which has three council members for its 62,077 residents has a higher ratio among Connecticut’s larger municipalities.
“We just don’t have enough bodies,” said Ken Johnson, the Republican’s unsuccessful mayor candidate this year, who compiled the statistics.
He said it’s no wonder that council members “feel overwhelmed” with all the assignments and responsibilities they must perform.
A majority of the charter Revision Commission has stated that if it doesn’t propose a change to a city manager form of government, expanding the number of councilors would be wise. Most said they’d like to see a 9-person council, perhaps representing three districts or maybe running citywide.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, a former mayor, said that he doesn’t want to see more people on the council.
The more councilors there are, Nicastro said, “the more snarled” it gets trying to get anything done.
He said that if people are concerned the job is too demanding, they shouldn’t run for it.

Population per city councilor
Bristol – 10,010
Waterbury – 7,151
West Hartford – 7,065
Bridgeport - 6,664
Norwalk – 5,530
New Britain – 4,769
Meriden – 4,480
Southington – 4,414
New Haven -4,121
Danbury – 3,564
Stamford – 2,927

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Finance board skeptical of buying house

An effort by city leaders to buy an old three-decker house next door to Muzzy Field is being greeted with skepticism by the Board of Finance.
Fiscal overseers recently refused to approve a $205,000 proposal to buy the house at 262 Park Street, but reserved the right to reconsider the move later.
Finance board members said they didn't have enough information about the Park Board's plans for the property or its vision for the area surrounding Muzzy Field and Rockwell Park.
"What's the overall plan?" asked Janet Moylan, a finance commissioner.
Mayor Art Ward said the purchase is part of a long-term effort to snap up the private property between Muzzy Field and Park Street when it's available for sale. He said several other parcels have already been purchased over the years.
"The goal is to open up that whole frontage," Ward said, to make the historic ballpark easier to see and appreciate from the road.
In addition, park officials have said they would like to build a small sports museum outside the gates to the ballpark someday.
The city's Real Estate Committee agreed in March to ask the mayor to negotiate with the three-decker house's owner, Richard Ferrucci, who is seeking $200,000 for the house. Finance officials were asked to tack on another $5,000 to pay for closing costs.
Both the Park Board and the City Council have given their blessing to the proposal.
Mark Peterson, a finance commissioner, said that more money will be needed to knock down the house and make the lot attractive.
Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said the city could pay for the purchase with interest that has piled up in a capital improvements fund, but that once that's tapped out, there isn't money for "any other large items."
He said that if the finance board backs the purchase, every other significant request for cash will have to go through the budget process for possible inclusion in the city's spending plan that takes effect each July.
John Smith, who also serves on the finance board, said that there's an opportunity to buy the house now. Doing so would keep it from landing in the hands of another out-of-town landlord, a growing problem in town.
But skeptics carried the day, with Peterson, Ron Messier, Moylan and Finance Vice Chair Roald Erling voting no to match the four votes in favor. One member was absent at the session.
However, Messier revised his vote to table rather than kill the proposal, which allows the board to reconsider it more easily.
Another house the city is eyeing beside Rockwell Park, at 15 Dutton Avenue, is back in the hands of the Real Estate Committee, Ward said.
A family feud and court fight has made officials skittish of pushing forward with its purchase.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

To shave costs, school hours cut short for most Bristol students

One reason that Bristol’s students may be falling behind when they hit middle school is that they’re in class 82 hours a year less than their cohorts in most other Connecticut school districts. Add it all up and that means they are shorted the equivalent of more than two weeks in every academic year – or almost a couple of months during their time in middle school.
Board of Education member Tom O’Brien said they receive “significantly less” hours of instruction than their peers in other school districts.
Jane Anastasio, another school board member, said that middle school is a big issue in Bristol.
She said that the middle schools are not challenging top students enough.
The city’s grade schools are doing a little better. They’re educating students 46 hours a year less than the state average, according to statistics compiled by Bristol administrators.
The high schools, on the other hand, are teaching 13 hours a year more than the state average.
On a daily basis, educators said, the elementary school day should be 18 minutes a day longer to match the state average while middle schoolers need another 33 minutes a day in the classroom to match their contemporaries in other towns.
School Superintendent Philip Streifer said that extending the hours would require revising the contract the district has with the teachers’ union.
In a related issue, if the district wanted to meet the state average for the number of students per teacher, it would need to hire another 59 teachers. It has two fewer administrators per student than the state average.
It has only half the computers per student that it would need to meet the state average.
It comes down to money, officials said.
While Streifer said he’s not looking for significant increases in cash from taxpayers, the numbers show clearly that Bristol isn’t spending what everyone else is.
To match the state average per pupil, it would need to shell out an additional $12 million annually, the district’s statistics show.
“We’re not getting as much as everyone else,” Streifer said, but are still getting solid educational results. He said that Bristol is seeing an “excellent” return on its investment.
O’Brien said that building the two kindergarten through eighth grade schools that have been proposed would make a difference.
“The sooner we get there, the better we will be,” O’Brien said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

December 19, 2007

Two new names emerge for West Bristol school panel

Reporter Jackie Majerus filed this story about the names picked for the West Bristol School Building Committee:

Two insurance agents – Melanie Dumont and Bud O’Neill – are the latest nominees for the city committee charged with planning a new 900-student K-8 school in the West End.
A sub-committee made up of school board member Chris Wilson, city Councilor Ken Cockayne and Don Soucy of the finance board met early Wednesday and agreed to nominate Dumont and O’Neill.
Mayor Art Ward said Wednesday that he will submit the names to city councilors for approval next month.
Committee members have said they want the two vacancies filled before January 28, when they make what is likely to be a controversial decision on a site for the school.
Soucy said the two help fill out “the business end” of the school committee, where he said there was a “void.” He said the committee needed a Bingham parent, too.
Cockayne, who put forth Dumont’s name, said she is “a great pick.”
He’s known Dumont “for years,” Cockayne said, describing her as dedicated and thorough.
“She’ll be a great asset to the West End School Building Committee,” said Cockayne.
The two new nominees replace the names of former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo and former Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson. Zoppo, a Democrat, ran against Ward in a bitter primary this fall. After beating Zoppo, Ward beat Johnson in the general election.
Wilson, Cockayne and Soucy had put forth Zoppo and Johnson’s names, but Ward refused to pass them along to the council, a move that rankled the three.
They had “the skill set, the knowledge and the vision” needed to serve on the new school committee, said Wilson, and should have been considered.
But both Zoppo and Johnson sent emails to the sub-committee asking that their name be withdrawn from consideration, committee members said.
On Wednesday, Wilson put forth O’Neill’s name. He said O’Neill sells insurance for him but is also a parent with two children at Bingham School.
“We identified him as a parent that we thought would be an asset on the board,” said Wilson.
Dumont doesn’t live in the West End, Wilson said, but her name was put forth by Cockayne to fill a city-wide vacancy on the committee.
Wilson said the potential addition of two insurance agents is “incidental,” and not deliberate.
But Wilson said, “I think they understand risk management.”
Wilson said he didn’t want to comment on the situation with Zoppo and Johnson.
“Enough has been said about that,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the approval of the new names isn’t up to Ward.
“The city council votes up or down,” said Wilson.
But Soucy said that Ward can block the nominations by not adding them to the council agenda.
“The mayor controls the agenda,” said Soucy. “That’s frankly what happened with Johnson and Zoppo.”
Soucy said he was prepared to put Zoppo’s name forward again Wednesday – until she withdrew her name. She was right for the job because of her experience on the library building committee, Soucy said, as well as because she has children at Bingham and knows the West End.
The committee could have used Zoppo, said Soucy, who said he is the only one on it who has served on a school building committee in the past.
“It’s not fun,” said Soucy. “It’s a daunting task.”
But out of respect for her decision to withdraw, Soucy said, he didn’t nominate her again.
Soucy said city councilors need to deal with a “separation of powers” so a mayor couldn’t block appointments by leaving them off the council agenda.
“It’s a conflict,” said Soucy.
Wilson said he didn’t want to predict whether Dumont and O’Neill would be approved.“I’m not a very good forecaster of how the political winds blow,” said Wilson. “I didn’t think we’d have any trouble with the first set of names, quite frankly.”
Cockayne said he also thought Johnson and Zoppo would have been good choices, but said it was “becoming too political.”
“I’m just trying to keep this project moving,” said Cockayne. “I don’t want to see it get bogged down with politics.”
If approved, the two newcomers would join the five men and two women already on committee.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Nicastro plans to push for compromise

Former Mayor Frank Nicastro said he would like to try to help get the City Council and Mayor Art Ward working together better.
“The voters want to see the council go forward. They don’t want to see outright bickering,” he said. “They want to see action.”
Nicastro said that during his decade as mayor, “we weren’t hugging and kissing every day,” but both he and the councilors he worked with understood they had to pull together to find a common agenda that would benefit Bristol.
Everyone involved, he said, recognized he couldn’t get everything he wanted.
Nicastro said that Ward has to realize he can’t always get his way and the council today has to recognize that it needs to work with the mayor, not quarrel with him in public.
“My intention is to try to work with the council individually,” Nicastro said, and to continue talking with Ward about the nature of the mayor’s role.
He said that a mayor “can’t hold grudges” and can’t let disagreements derail his administration from larger goals.
Nicastro said that the city expects its leaders to pull together, no matter which party they’re from, and to seek the common good.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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December 18, 2007

West Bristol School Committee meets at 8 a.m. Wednesday

The West Bristol School Building Committee is meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Little League complex on Mix Street to try again, this time legally, to pick two names to recommend to the City Council to fill vacancies.
The last time it met, without proper legal posting, its members urged the appointment of former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo and the Republican's unsuccessful mayoral candidate, Ken Johnson.
If anyone goes to the meeting, let me know who they pick. I'm off Wednesday.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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City manager idea remains on the table, appears to gain support

For resident Mike Petosa, there’s no reason to overturn City Hall by putting a professional city manager in charge instead of a mayor.
“The city is not broke, so you don’t have to fix it,” Petosa told the Charter Revision Commission Tuesday. “Our city is thriving.”
But Craig Yarde, a businessman, sees things quite differently.
“Our community’s organizational structure is kind of broke, if not completely broken,” Yarde told the seven-member that’s weighing whether to recommend one of the biggest changes since the charter’s adoption in 1911.
Members of the committee haven’t decided whether to plunge ahead wholeheartedly with the revision, but a majority expressed support for the idea on Tuesday. They scheduled a special session January 7 to make a decision about whether to proceed with the shakeup plan.
For city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who served as mayor for 10 years until he stepped down in 2003, moving ahead with the proposal would be a mistake.
“Don’t take something that’s worked so well for almost 100 years and throw it out the window,” Nicastro said.
“We have a great system. It isn’t failing. It hasn’t failed,” Nicastro said.
But Ken Johnson, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for mayor this year and has already said he intends to try again in 2009, told the panel to seize the concept.
“Ignore the politicians,” Johnson told the committee. “It’s critically important that you put the earmuffs on and tune out all the politicians.”
He said the issue is so important that it deserves “a really objective, fact-based review” before the commission completes its report on recommended charter changes, which is due in April.
Supporters argue that putting a professional manager at the helm would improve the city government’s efficiency, provide far more oversight of department heads, allow for longer term planning, ensure continuity at the top and ensure expertise in municipal administration.
Detractors say that a manager only has to satisfy a majority of the City Council, not the entire community, and doesn’t have the lifelong commitment to Bristol that its mayors have typically shown.
“You’ve got to eat, sleep and drink the job,” said Nicastro, who hailed all 19 of Bristol’s mayors through the years for making honest efforts to improve the city. He pointed out that none of them were ever charged with any form of graft because they put Bristol’s needs first.
But committee members said they can see the need for more professional administration at City Hall, whether in the form of a manager or an expert who would work for the mayor to handle operations.
Gail Hartmann, one of the charter commissioners, said it would be irresponsible for the panel to drop the issue when it’s so clear that the city’s many professional supervisors need reviews and recognition for the jobs they do.
A manager would be able to provide constructive criticism, said Maria Pirro, who also serves on the commission.
“There is no real management in city government today,” said Dick Prindle, another commissioner.
Tim Furey, chairman of the charter panel, said he sees “a lot of little mini-fiefdoms” within city government that would act more efficiently if they were coordinated by someone with the training to oversee them.
“It’s worth exploring,” Furey said.
The charter commission’s recommendations are slated to reach the council in April. Councilors can accept them, reject them or ask the panel to revise them. Any proposals the council backs would go on the November general election ballot because voters get the last word on any changes to the charter.
The members of the charter panel Furey, Hartmann, Prindle, Al Marko, Pirro, Hal Kilby and Harley Graham.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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December 17, 2007

John Leone retiring as chamber prez

Former Mayor John Leone's 17-year tenure as the head of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce is coming to an end. He said he notified the chamber's board that he's going to retire at the end of 2008.

Here's what Leone had to say:
I recently informed the Chamber Board of Director’s of my decision to retire as President of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce effective at the end of 2008.
I will have served in the position of Executive Director/President of the Chamber for over 17 years.
My decision to retire allows the Board and Officer’s the opportunity to select my replacement over the next year and give them adequate time to do a search.
Chairman of the Chamber, Jeff Sonenstein, has taken the lead, along with the Officer’s in identifying and interviewing candidates.
A Connecticut firm, Decision Point, will assist Jeff and the other officer’s with the task.
Over my tenure as President and Executive Director, I have been assisted with a dedicated staff, great Chamber Chairpersons of the Board, Officer’s, and Board members who have supported the organization and our community with their time, monetary support and ideas making our Chamber one of the largest in Connecticut.
We also have a tremendous group of members who understand by working together we can make a difference in our community and the region.
Over the last 16 years, we have seen many changes in our community, some were good, and others could have been devastating.
Together City and State elected and appointed officials worked with the Chamber to partner on improving our City and dealing with enormous changes we could not have predicted or controlled.
Over the last twenty years we have seen the erosion of our manufacturing base and the building of our service industries.
We have seen the majority of our retail move onto Rt. 6, with some big box stores added to the mix, including Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
We have become a tourist destination with Lake Compounce attracting 700,000 visitors a year and our city’s museums including the Carousel Museum of New England, American Clock and Watch Museum, Museum of Fire History, Imagine Nation Museum, Bristol Historical Society and the Plymouth Lock Museum adding an additional 100,000 patrons a year.
I have worked with four different Mayors, Frank Nicastro, Gerry Couture, Bill Stortz, and Art Ward and all have worked hard to grow our economy and make a difference.
I’ve worked with hundreds of Federal, State, and Local elected and appointed officials, including Governor Weicker, Governor Rowland, and Governor Rell.
Also, I have developed many friends in the Chamber world, and include the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh as a mentor and friend.
What I have learned leading our Chamber is there are a tremendous number of individuals who love our City and volunteer to make a difference.
Our Chamber members continue to make a financial commitment along with volunteering to support this community we call home.
They make a difference and do their part to improve the quality of life in Bristol.
Over the next year, we will focus on the downtown revitalization and economic development, with the Rt. 72 completion being a great catalyst for both.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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December 16, 2007

Let's tone it down for the holidays

Just a little notice to let all of you know that I won't allow any comments through for at least a couple of weeks that contain harsh or irrelevant comments about anyone. It's fine to criticize a public official -- and former city Councilor Ellen Zoppo is not one anymore -- but you must do it in a decent, respectful way or your comments won't appear.
Backhanded efforts such as "Mayor Ward seems to have his drinking under control because he hasn't been arrested for DWI recently" won't make the cut either. Let's play nice, guys and gals.
If something slips by me, and it probably will, just send me a note and tell me where the offending comment is and I'll likely kill it.
I would also add for those of you who shake your heads at the comments, you always have the option of not reading them. You can read this blog just fine without every dipping into the comments that other people post.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Brass and Wind Christmas concert KO'd by snow

The Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble's concert this afternoon is canceled. It hopes to reschedule the concert for February.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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December 15, 2007

Hoping for cooperative spirit, but...

Mayor Art Ward said he hoped that city leaders would show the sort of bipartisanship "that I demonstrated in the appointment process," when plum assignments were handed out to councilors from both parties and to members who squabbled with Ward during the past two years.
This week's fight over committee assignments left the mayor disappointed but, he said, he still has hope that everyone will get along.
Ward said that he doesn't mind disagreement as long as it's done respectfully and to push a different idea about how best to serve the city.
The mayor doesn't believe that's what happened when city Councilor Craig Minor led a revolt against three park commissioners' reappointment in order to try to force Ward's hand into remaking the Park Revitalization Committee.
A week before the council meeting, Ward said, he met with Minor and Councilor Kevin McCauley and explained to them that he intended to appoint a new Park Revitalization panel at the council's January session. Neither of them objected, the mayor said.
On the Friday before the council meeting, Ward said, he spoke with McCauley and, again, no objections were raised to the plan.
Not until theTuesday afternoon of the council meeting did Minor express his wishes that a Park Revitalization Committee be created before the three park commissioners would get his vote for reappointment, Ward said.
By that time, he said, it was too late to name a new committee, particularly since councilors have made clear for a long time that they will only back appointments when they've had the names for a few days so they can consider them with care.
Ward said the move -- for which Minor had support from McCauley and Councilors Cliff Block and Ken Cockayne -- effectively turned three good volunteers into "pawns" in a political power play.
"We're crying out for volunteers" to serve city government, Ward said, and the council treated them as pawns. He called it "disheartening."
The three park commissioners were given a thumbs-up later in the council meeting when Cockayne switched sides after Ward vowed publicly to pick a Park Revitalization panel next month.
Ward said that if the rebels mean what they said later about not wanting to put volunteer board picks on the spot, he's sure the same standard will apply when he names appointees to the new Park Revitalization panel.
Though he would not say who might be in line for the panel, it's pretty clear that its membership won't match the lineup the committee had during Mayor William Stortz's administration.
Ward said he was particularly concerned to see that two of the councilors who initially opposed his park panel choices were freshen: Cockayne and Block.
He said the two never asked him anything about the three commissioners and never gave any indication they wouldn't support the trio of veteran volunteers.
"I'd be thinking about my conscience" if he were one of them, Ward said, because they had no knowledge of the job done by the people they turned into pawns.
Ward said that he hopes everyone will consider what they're doing more carefully.
"It all goes back to what I tried to do in the first meeting, to establish the need for mutual respect," Ward said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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December 14, 2007

Another "do nothing" administration?

"Enough is enough with the politics," City Councilor Ken Cockayne said a few minutes ago.
He said that if Mayor Art Ward wants to remove him from the West Bristol School Building Committee, that's his right.
But, Cockayne said, it won't prevent him from speaking out for his district and the city, on the school site, the committee's membership and more.
He said, though, that he's worried about what's happening in city government.
Ward "is very quickly turning this into another Stortz administration, where the councilmen are blocking the mayor," Cockayne said.
Cockayne, a freshman Republican, said he's not going to take sides or play politics.
"I will not personally be involved in any shenanigans the mayor has with Craig Minor and Kevin McCauley," Cockayne said.
He also said that he doesn't understand where Ward is coming from on appointments to city boards.
Three days ago, Cockayne said, Ward pushed for the reappointment of three "same old, same old" park commissioners while today maintaining that the school site panel needs new blood.
"He's talking out of two sides of his mouth," Cockayne said.
"This is starting to become politics as usual," he added.
Cockayne said he won't join in.
"I am my own person. I am nothing to anyone. I will put Bristol first," Cockayne said. "I will not be part of any political games."

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Cockayne may get dumped

Mayor Art Ward said Friday he may have made a mistake in picking a Republican city councilor to serve as the council's representative on the West Bristol School Building Committee.
He said that he may replace Councilor Ken Cockayne and install a Democrat in order to ensure that the school panel's mandated three-person subcommittee won't consist entirely of GOP members.
The law requires that the subcommittee recommend names to fill vacancies on the full school site committee. The subcommittee's members are the Board of Finance, City Council and Board of Education representatives.
As it is, all three of them are Republicans.
Ward said that he doesn't think either party should hold all three of those positions.
Since the mayor can only affect the council choice, Ward said he might need to replace Cockayne.
He said he wouldn't be doing it as punishment for the freshman councilor's participation in an illegal subcommittee meeting recently or to slap him down for backing both of Ward's former mayoral foes, Democrat Ellen Zoppo and Republican Ken Jhnson, to fill vacancies on the panel.
The mayor said he just wants to ensure that there are diverse views considered by the subcommittee.
Ward said he hasn't talked about the issue with Cockayne yet.

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Mall has no more than a month to live

By mid-January, cranes should be ripping apart the decrepit old mall that has long been a blot on Bristol’s downtown.
“Everybody’s optimistic,” Mayor Art Ward said Friday. “I’m just looking forward to seeing that come down.”
Ward said that he’s confident there will be interest in the city-owned, 17-acre site once the mall is gone and a game plan worked out for its future.
He said he has received inquiries about the property from five developers already, three of them from Connecticut and two from New York.
But before Ward can do much more than thank them for their interest, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. needs to finish its work on a plan for the property.
The city’s purchasing agent, Roger Rousseau, said that a demolition contractor is “making a great deal of progress over there” in ripping out the hazardous materials in preparation for the razing of the building.
He said that it would likely be the first or second week of January before the building begins to come down.
Rousseau said a fence will be erected around the building soon and the Laurel Street entrance to the site, across from City Hall, will be closed off.
That’s being done to ensure the safety of residents, officials said.
The BDDC is looking to develop a community consensus about how best to redevelop the key downtown parcel, which the city purchased for $5.3 million in 2005.
It appears likely the nonprofit agency will endorse some kind of scheme that includes retail shops, offices and perhaps housing.
But fleshing out the proposal is likely to take time.
Ward said he anticipates that by the time the corporation solicits solid plans from developers it will have a “quite extensive” amount of information “as to what we’re looking for.”
A Trumbull company, Standard Demolition Services, got the contract to raze the mall and cart off the concrete pad on which it sits. The company’s $988,000 bid was the lowest of 13 received by the city this fall.

Another downtown hearing
The Bristol Downtown Development Corp. is holding a “stakeholders” hearing about the mall property on January 7 that will focus mostly on what city supervisors and commissioners have to say.
“We’re trying to get everybody on board collectively,” Mayor Art Ward said.
The meeting, slated for 6 p.m. at Bristol Eastern High School, is being touted as a chance for the nonprofit downtown company’s officials to hear directly from city councilors, land use commissioners, the Bristol Development Authority, the police, finance commissioners and other municipal decision-makers.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Rosenthal deal may be in works

The long-awaited vote on economic development director Jonathan Rosenthal may never happen.
"I'm hoping that between now and the next City Council meeting, we can come to some sort of resolve," Mayor Art Ward said Friday.
He said that Personnel Director Diane Ferguson is "organizing the effort" to work something out with Rosenthal.
Ferguson, who seemed surprised when a reporter asked her about it, said she had no comment.
Ward said that he would like everyone involved to "be mindful it's regarding the future of a profession" who needs to continue to make a living and who has a family at home that deserves to be considered.
Several city councilors have said privately that rather than voting down a reappointment for Rosenthal, they'd be willing to cut a deal that would more or less pay him to give up the high-profile city position he's held since 1994.
Part of their motivation is the uncertainty about the impact of voting against Rosenthal's reappointment. Because Rosenthal, who could not be reached for comment, is in a union, it is unclear at best whether his job depends on the council's support.
But even Rosenthal's backers say that he would be hard-pressed to do a good job with economic development if there's been a public vote by city leaders to, essentially, dump him.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Mayor wants "new people," not Zoppo and Johnson

Calling for “new people” rather than old hands, Mayor Art Ward is pushing for two newcomers to join the West Bristol School Building Committee rather than filling vacant slots with two mayoral also-rans.
Ward said he would like to see the vacancies filled by a Bingham School parent recommended by its principal and by resident Jody Trestman.
“There’s been a cry out there for the inclusion of new people,” Ward said.
He said he “will not bring forward” the two names requested by three panel members: losing Republican mayoral candidate Ken Johnson and Democrat Ellen Zoppo, who lost to Ward in a bitter primary this year.
Ward said that Trestman and Tricia Theriault, the Bingham parent, would be less political and more objective in their assessment of the proper site for a new kindergarten to eighth grade school in the western part of the city.
The mayor’s picks raise the possibility of a showdown with the three committee members charged with making recommendations to fill vacant seats.
On Nov. 30, the three committee members who are mandated to make a recommendation – city Councilor Ken Cockayne, Board of Education member Chris Wilson and Board of Finance representative Don Soucy – unanimously backed Zoppo and Johnson for the slots.
Since then, Cockayne said, they’ve realized the meeting they held to pick the names wasn’t legal because it wasn’t posted and the public had no opportunity to participate.
Consquently, he said, the three will have to meet again.
“That’s where we stand,” Cockayne said, with no picks truly made and no decisions firmed up.Cockayne said the trio who get to nominate school building panel members are “going to wait until after the holidays” to hold meeting that will be posted properly in order to make picks that have legal meaning.
Though Soucy wrote in a December 3 letter to Ward that both Johnson and Zoppo are interested in serving, Cockayne said he’s since that Zoppo isn’t willing any longer because she decided it could conflict with her new position at the Family Center. He said Johnson is still interested, however.After hearing that Zoppo wasn’t in the running any longer, Cockayne said he phoned Mayor Art Ward to let the mayor know he would back Trestman, one of the two people Ward wants on the panel.Ward said that both Zoppo and Johnson would be inappropriate picks because they have already stated preferences on sites during the election campaign. Moreover, he said, Johnson has declared he’s running for mayor again in 2009 so anything he does could be construed as purely political.
The West Bristol committee recommended putting a new kindergarten to eighth grade school on a former sand pit owned by Scalia Construction off Barlow Street this fall. But the council shot down the proposal this fall and sent it back to committee.
Other sites in the mix include the former Roberts property on Chippens Hill and a former grocery store between Divinity and Park streets, which would also require buying dozens of homes.
The school board plans to open two new schools within the next four or five years and to shutter four older ones: Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three elementary schools: Bingham, O’Connell and Greene-Hills.The other new school is tentatively slated to be built on the former Crowley auto dealership on Pine Street, next door to the existing Greene-Hills School. The old school would be torn down when the new one is finished.Ward said he plans to begin negotiating to buy the Crowley site within weeks.

Who are Ward’s choices?
Tricia Theriault was recommended as a parent representative by the principal of Bingham School.
Her name was forwarded to former Mayor William Stortz by Michael Audette, the West Bristol School Building Committee chairman and principal of O’Connell School.
Stortz passed on the name to Ward, who agreed to back her because of the principal’s endorsement.
Jody Trestman is working on her real estate license.
She’s a former restaurant manager for both Carmen Anthony Fish House in Avon and Wethersfield and Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.
Ward said Trestman, whose resume lists as her objective “to further my career in Democratic politics,” was the only person to request a seat on the school panel.
Ward said there were no political considerations in his support for the pair.
“They were the only names I had,” Ward said.
Ward said he doesn't know either woman.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Holiday concert slated for Sunday may be KO'd by snow

Reporter Jackie Majerus just sent this along:

A holiday concert by the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble planned for Sunday afternoon will likely be postponed because of the storm, said Dave Carpenter, conductor.
Carpenter said Friday that the concert, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Prospect United Methodist Church on Summer Street, will probably not happen as planned.
A nor’easter is expected to bring snow, sleet, rain and freezing rain throughout the day Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
If the weather is as yucky as forecasted, Carpenter said, the concert won’t be held.
However, if luck prevails and the storm misses the area, the show will go on, Carpenter said.
Common sense will dictate whether the show will go on as planned, he said.
“We will definitely reschedule,” said Carpenter. “We’ll do a winter concert. We’ll make it work.”
The Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble is an all-volunteer community band that provides free concerts periodically throughout the year.
The Sunday concert is to be the group’s Christmas show. If it is rescheduled, some of the selections will remain on the program, but others won’t since a new date won’t take place until after the holiday.

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December 13, 2007

Minor says he is seeking to defend taxpayers

City Councilor Craig Minor sheds more light on the appointments confrontation at this week's City Council meeting:

We explained to the Mayor prior to the council meeting that Park Revitalization is a major concern for us. For some reason (either he wasn't listening, or he did not take our concerns seriously) he chose to disregard the importance of this issue to us. It is unfortunate that this resulted in our having to take a stand to protect the taxpayers' investment in Rockwell Park. Hopefully in the future we can agree to disagree about what is in the best interest of Bristol and keep moving in the right direction.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Bristol schools closed today

Taking no chances with a storm predicted to hit later, school administrators made the call early: Bristol schools are closed today, along with most others.

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December 12, 2007

Rosenthal's fate

If what I hear is true, and I can't be sure, Jonathan Rosenthal is likely to get a firm push out the door.
Had the vote on his appointment taken place last night, he would likely have lost 5-2, which is pretty bad.
There seems to be an unofficial consensus among the council, though, that the best solution for the Rosenthal dilemma is to cut a deal with him to move on in return for a generous settlement of any potential claims he may have against the city.
Of course, figuring out a payout may prove impossible. And it isn't clear to me that Mayor Art Ward is wholly on board with the effort.
Rosenthal's appointment has been in limbo since April 2006 when his last formal term in the office ended. Former Mayor William Stortz never sought to dump him or to reappoint him, preferring to leave him in limbo, apparently in the hope that Rosenthal would simply go.
But Rosenthal, who isn't happy about the way he's been treated, wasn't about to back down with Stortz at the helm. He might prove less willing to keep getting batted around if Ward and the new council also indicate they'd like him to leave.
I'm not even sure that a majority of the council believes Rosenthal hasn't done the job well. Some think he's just been bruised by the last mayor and is no longer at the top of his game in Bristol, though somewhere else he could perhaps shine.
Anyway, there does seem to be a consensus that whether Rosenthal deserves replacement or not, it might be best to bring in new blood that the entire council and the mayor can support.
We'll see what happens.

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Breaking the tie

City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he changed his vote on the reappointment of three park commissioners last night after receiving assurances from Mayor Art Ward that a new Park Revitalization Committee would be named in January.
Once he had that assurance, Cockayne said, "I was fine with going ahead with the appointments."
"The mayor's word is good as gold with me," Cockayne said.
He said that he feels strongly the park revitalization panel should be put in place again because of its importance in overseeing the multi-million dollar park project.
Cockayne said he recognizes that he is likely to be a swing vote between two factions on the council, but he won't play politics.
"I owe nobody nothing," Cockayne said, adding that when he walks into the council chambers, he's going to do whatever he thinks is best for Bristol and its citizens, not what politicians might want from him.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Cockayne explains where school site panel picks stand

City Councilor Ken Cockayne just told me the session he held with Board of Education member Chris Wilson and Board of Finance member Don Soucy to come up with names to fill vacancies on the West Bristol School Building Committee wasn’t done properly.
He said that because the meeting wasn’t posted at City Hall, its action are invalid.
“That’s why we need to hold another meeting,” the freshman city councilor said.
So the names the three men selected, Ellen Zoppo and Ken Johnson, are no longer officially on the table.
Besides, Cockayne said, he’s heard that Zoppo isn’t ready to serve because she decided it could conflict with her new position at the Family Center. He said Johnson is still interested, however.
After hearing that Zoppo wasn’t interested, Cockayne said he phoned Mayor Art Ward to let the mayor know he would back Jody Trestman, one of the two people Ward wants on the panel.
“That’s where we stand,” Cockayne said, with no picks truly made and no decisions firmed up.
He said the trio who get to nominate school building panel members are “going to wait until after the holidays” to hold meeting that will be posted properly in order to make picks that have legal meaning.

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DeFillippi speaks out on Park Board appointments

Mayor & Council members,
It has always been with a sense of pride and dedication that I have served as a member of the Bristol Board of Park Commissioners; to the members of the Bristol City Council who supported my reappointment at last evening's City Council meeting, I say "thank you" for affording me the privilege of continuing as a member of the Bristol Board of Park Commissioners; for those council members who opted not to support my reappointment, I would only request, in your future decisions regarding (re)appointments, that you display the decency to obtain adequate information on the contributions of volunteers to city boards and/or commissions before deciding to use these individuals as "political pawns" for your own self-serving agendas, as you did with the me and the other two members of the Board of Park Commissioners last evening. Elected officials should not hinder volunteers from wanting to serve their community by such public displays.

Lori DeFillippi
Park Commissioner

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Panel asked Ward to tap Zoppo and Ken Johnson

A December 3 letter, written by Board of Finance member Don Soucy, and provided by Mayor Art Ward:

Dear Mr. Mayor.

I hope all is well with you and you enjoyed your visit to the Breakfast with Santa at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Center this past Saturday. It was a record turnout and we will be able to help many more children in the Secret Santa Society. Thanks for being there.

As you know, the West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee needs two additional members and the current committee members do not wish to vote on a school site until we are at full strength. Therefore, the three (3) committee members (Chris Wilson, Ken Cockayne and I) who are responsible to submit names to you and the Council for appointment to the Building Committee have met and decided on two names for an up/down vote.

The committee of three met on Friday, November 30, 2007 at 8 AM in my office and we unanimously agreed to submit to the City Council the names of Ellen Zoppo and Ken Johnson. Ellen’s children attend Bingham School, is active in parent / teacher groups, is familiar with the West End and its socio-economic issues, is knowledgeable with code enforcement and served on various building committees, one of which is arguably the finest city owned structure built in many years, the Bristol Public Library addition and renovation.

Ken Johnson has a good deal of experience in areas that the current Building Committee would find very helpful. He is an engineer, has extensive experience in working with architects, utility companies and is familiar with energy efficient construction. His children attended Bristol Public Schools including Bingham and Ken’s parents were educators in West Hartford and Bristol.

Both Ken and Ellen have been contacted and both have indicated that if approved by the Council, they are willing to serve. The West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee is far more than choosing a site for construction, although we realize that this is the hot button issue for the moment. However, building committees are not for the moment but must have staying power. These two individuals will help insure that the process moves forward in an expeditious manner.

Art, thank you for your consideration in this matter and I do believe that the timing of this request will be sufficient so that approvals can be forthcoming at the December Council meeting. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Chris, Ken or me.


Donald R. Soucy
Board of Finance
West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee

Ken Cockayne, Councilman
Chris Wilson, BOE Commissioner

Ward, however, is backing two different people, about whom I'll write later.
Cockayne, meanwhile, called the mayor's office Monday morning to let Ward know that "he has removed Ellen's name from West End School Building Committee" and instead supports one of Ward's choices for that slot, according to phone message left for the mayor.
It is unclear whether Zoppo or Johnson is interested in the appointment. I'll send them each a note momentarily to ask.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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School boss responds to history class flap

Press Release:

Educating Bristol’s Students in their History - A Global Task

Philip A. Streifer, Ph.D.
Bristol Public Schools
December 12, 2007

In a recent article the Bristol Press criticized the School Department for its policy regarding the number of high school American history credits required for graduation. The fact is that most students graduating from Bristol high schools exceed the state and district credit requirement in social studies. Through the offering of both required and elective courses, Bristol students have the opportunity to learn about both history and the social sciences during their high school experience.

Prior to the realignment of the social studies curriculum in the summer of 2006, Bristol students received overlapping instruction in United States history during grades 8 and 10. Changes in our curriculum provide students with a greater depth of understanding of Early American History from the settlement of Jamestown through the Civil War in grade 8 and from Reconstruction to the present-day in grade ten. These changes strengthened the curriculum allowing for in-depth learning of 20th century United States history and world events.

The Connecticut State Statutes require students to successfully complete 3 credits of social studies for high school graduation. Among those credits, students must complete a course in United States history, including United States government at the local, state and national levels, and in the duties, rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the United States. The Bristol Public Schools provide courses to meet these requirements through the offering of United States History (1 credit) and Civics (.5 credits). Students may additionally enroll in Advanced Placement classes in American Government and/or United States History for which they can earn college credit.

The State Curriculum Standards in Social Studies also require students to understand history, political systems, economics systems, culture, international relations and geography of the United States and other regions of the world. Students must successfully complete a course in World History to meet this performance standard (1 credit). The remaining half credit required to meet the state graduation requirement may be taken in economics, law & justice, sociology, psychology, global issues, geography and culture or through the Advanced Placement program.

While we could always add more high school credit requirements to a single subject area, doing so crowds out other fields of study for student exploration. We believe a correct balance has been achieved with the recently modified high school curriculum.

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Law needs revision before COLAs can be OK'd

The 393 city retirees who hoped to secure cost-of-living hikes in their monthly pension checks are going to have to wait awhile.
Edward Krawiecki, Jr, the city attorney, hit the brakes on the plan this week after outside counsel determined that handing out the hikes would violate existing city law.
So instead of giving a green light to the planned increases, which would provide some retired workers as much as $4,200 extra each year, city councilors agreed to ask the Ordinance Committee to revise the statute.
At least 25 retirees showed up at Tuesday’s City Council to lend their support to the proposed increase, which has the backing of the Retirement Board, Salary Committee and others.
Mayor Art Ward apologized to them for the delay. He said the legal opinion calling for an ordinance change didn’t come in until late in the day, leaving no time to let people know the plan wouldn’t be approved this week.
Ward said that he would make sure the public knows when the matter comes before the Ordinance Committee.
There doesn’t appear to be much opposition to tapping the $565 million pension funds to provide the cost-of-living increases, which will cost about $5 million total.
If anything were to derail the proposal as it exists now, it would likely be to lower the maximum hikes or raise the minimum increase, ideas that some officials and residents have expressed.
Resident Al Cianchetti said that he favors granting cost-of-living hikes to city retirees, but not those whose pension checks total more than $40,000-a-year already.
He said there are 30 city retirees eligible for a cost-of-living increase who are raking in more than $50,000 annually, but many other pensioners whose earnings are far lower.
The proposed hikes would add 75 percent of the annual cost-of-living increase to pension funds for each year back to 2002, the first time any pension hikes were given, apparently in violation of city law.
What the change means is that workers who were retired before 2002 could get up to 16 percent more money each month if the council endorses the idea. More recent retirees would get less.
Twenty two of the 393 retirees affected by the proposed change would receive the $350 maximum monthly increase while five will get $10 a month more, the minimum level set by officials.
The city has no obligation to give cost-of-living hikes to city retirees. But its pension funds are so flush that it can do it without much risk of running out of money for future payments.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Leaf collection ends soon

Press release from public works:

As a reminder, Bristol curbside leaf and yard waste collection service ends for the season on December 14, 2007.
Residents may bring leaves and other yard waste, year round, to the City of Bristol Transfer Station at 685 Lake Avenue. A permit is required to access the Transfer Station, which can be purchased Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Public Works in City Hall (ground floor) or at the Transfer Station on Saturday mornings.
If you have any questions, please contact Public Works at (860) 584-6125.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Rimcoski's take on the council battle

City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said this morning that he was surprised at the turn of events last night.

"Craig shot himself in the foot," said the Republican veteran, for pushing to delay the appointment of three park commissioners allied with Mayor Art Ward.

He said Ward is angry, which is no surprise.

"I'm sure this battle isn't over," Rimcoski added.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Singing in Forestville

The free and fabulous Forestville Village Association annual carol sing will be held at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 19 at the Central Square, where people can enjoy the new clock tower beside the old train station.
Santa will appear, assuming he can get away from the North Pole, and hand out candy canes.
"We got hot chocolate" said Dave Pasqualiccio, the unofficial mayor of Forestville. The Salvation Army will provide the hot chocolate and coffee, he said.
Mary Lynn Gagnon is the director. Painter Peter Roberge is hosting the event.
A special Forestville Christmas ornament, made of pewter and featuring the clock tower, will be available for $10.
Go and sing! And be grateful they're not holding it at 7 a.m.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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It's 7 a.m., why aren't you at the Industrial Committee meeting?

Well, it's certainly not dark at 7 a.m.
But, then again, it's not light either.
The streetlights are still on and it's a bit murky.
In any case, it's no time for a municipal meeting like this morning's Industrial Committee on-site session at the new industrial park beside the former Superior Electric.
You can't shine a light on government in the murk before sunrise.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Lake Compounce sold along with Kennywood

The Press website was down overnight so it never got updated. Here is what reporter Jackie Majerus wrote about the Lake Compounce sale for today's paper:

Lake Compounce, the nation's oldest amusement park, is changing hands again.
Parques Reunidos, the largest European-based amusement park company, is buying out Lake Compounce's parent company, Pittsburgh's Kennywood Entertainment Co.
The Madrid-based Parques Reunidos has vowed to "continue what we've already started," said Gerry Brick, general manager at Lake Compounce.
"They do like what we do. They're going to keep us going," said Brick. "Our goal is the same. It's still going to start with the guest service."
Lake Compounce , which was founded and run by the Norton family from 1846 until 1985, had a series of owners between the Nortons and Kennywood, which bought the mortgage notes in 1996.
After the Nortons sold the park to car dealer Stephen Barberino Sr. and other partners in 1985, the Barberino partnership sold controlling interest that year to the Pennsylvania-based Hershey company, which held it until 1988, when Milwaukee concert promoter Joseph Entertainment took it over. The promoter went bankrupt and bills went unpaid. Boston Concessions briefly ran the park and the Barberinos bought the mortgage.
Ownership lawsuits and tax problems plagued the park and in 1994, Funtime Parks of Ohio signed on before Funtime was bought up the next year by another firm. Court battles continued, Funtime managed Lake Compounce and the Barberinos, who owned the park completely, kept looking for a new partner until they found Kennywood.
The deal between Kennywood and Parques Reunidos includes Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, Idlewild and SoakZone in Ligonier, Penn., Sandcastle Waterpark in Pittsburgh Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire and Lake Compounce.
The sale is expected to close in March and the parties have not disclosed the purchase price.
Brick said the European buyers like what they've seen at Lake Compounce, which is focusing on expanding its water attractions.
"They're excited," said Brick.
Now that the deal has been announced, Brick said he hopes construction can begin in the spring on the waterpark expansion.
Starting in the spring, said Brick, was his goal all along, but until the pending sale was announced, moving ahead on the expansion early next year was less than certain.
"I wasn't quite sure we were going to start it in the spring," said Brick, adding that he now feels confident that the expansion will move ahead.
The Madrid firm has more money than Kennywood, said Brick, and is excited about the plans for Lake Compounce and thinks the sale will be good for the park and the region because an expanded park will bring more people to the area. Buyout talks began in the fall, according to Brick.
"It started just after the season ended," said Brick.
The 48 full-time workers at Lake Compounce will stay on under the new ownership, said Brick.
"At all the parks, they're keeping the management team in place," said Brick.
He said the park had 1,300 season workers last summer.
"This is a good team. We want to keep the whole team intact," said Brick.
In a prepared release from Kennywood, company Chairman Harry Henninger said the "Kennywood experience" would continue and "nothing will seem different," even to park workers.
"In recent years, we've had talks with other operators wishing to acquire us, but Parques Reunidos is the first one to share our vision and philosophy," Henninger said.
In the same release, Richard Golding, chief executive officer of Parques Reunidos, said the Madrid company has "tremendous respect for the work of the Kennywood management team and are delighted to acquire such a quality organization."
Golding added, "They've built Kennywood Entertainment into an industry leader in family entertainment. We are anxious to continue the gold standard of entertainment they have established."
Parques Reunidos manages 61 amusement, animal and water parks in the U.S. and Europe, with total annual visitors exceeding 22 million and revenues exceeding $570 million, according to information released by Kennywood. With the "financial backing of the Candover investment fund, a private equity investor in London," the Madrid firm "approached Kennywood with a purchase offer as part of their plan to consolidate family entertainment venues around the globe," the information from Kennywood said.
Brick said he favors "slow growth." He said growing too fast isn't the best for customers because unexpected problems crop up, like not enough parking or not enough bathrooms.
"If you grow slow, you can take care of those while you're growing," said Brick. "I've pushed that our commitment to slow growth is the best route."
Lake Compounce drew nearly 700,000 visitors last season, said Brick. He said more than 30,000 people bought a season pass, with the average pass holder visiting the park three times over the summer.

Foreign firms buying up nation's oldest parks
The planned sale of Kennywood Entertainment Co. to Madrid-based Parques Reunidos next spring will put two of America's three oldest historic parks into foreign control.
Besides Lake Compounce, Pittsburgh-based Kennywood owns historic Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Penn. – the nation's third oldest park – and historic Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, which ranks 17 th oldest nationally, according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association.
Kennywood also owns the 55-year-old Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire as well SoakZone, a waterpark companion to Idlewild in Ligonier, and Sandcastle Waterpark in Pittsburgh.
"I've got concerns about it being owned by a foreign entity," said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who serves on the city council and is a former mayor. "I know nothing of this corporation."
Nicastro said he was sorry to hear that Kennywood, the Pittsburgh-based amusement park firm that owns Lake Compounce, was being sold to the Madrid-based Parques Reunidos.
But Nicastro said he wasn't going to make a snap judgment. Many companies are owned by overseas interests, he said.
"We have to see what happens," said Nicastro. "I'm not going to jump to conclusions."
A $3.5 million state grant to pay for moving Mount Vernon Road to make way for a Lake Compounce waterpark expansion isn't yet approved, Nicastro said, but is on track.
"It's part of the bonding package," said Nicastro, who supported the grant when Kennywood sought the help.Nicastro said having the state spend money to move the road was a worthy investment when Kennywood promised a $15 million waterpark expansion. Now that the company is changing hands, Nicastro said, he wants to make sure the expansion is still in the works before the state makes final approval on the money.
"We need to know for sure," said Nicastro. "It was an agreement."
Parques Reunidos already owns Palace Entertainment Holding Inc., an American operator of water parks and family entertainment centers.

Hard to keep an old park in the family
When an amusement park is family-owned, it can be hard to resist a tempting buyout offer, according to Stretch Norton, whose family owned and operated Lake Compounce for more than a century.
Norton said he understands how it might have been tough for the Henninger or McSwigan family members, who own the privately held Kennywood Entertainment Co. to resist a buyout offer from Madrid-based Parques Reunidos, "You can't get a consensus of what to do," said Norton, when multiple family members are involved in making a decision.
Norton family members lived in California, Florida and New York in addition to Connecticut. "With our case, it was a lot of widows and they were concerned about finances," said Norton.Still, Norton said, "We lasted four generations at least."
Gerry Brick, general manager of Lake Compounce, said the sale originated with Parques Reunidos.
"They actually sought Kennywood out," Brick said, "Kennywood wasn't really in the market to be sold."
But Brick said the members of the Henninger and McSwigan families who own the privately-held Kennywood Entertainment Co. are largely removed from the park operations.
"Very few of the family members are involved with the park anymore," said Brick.
According to information released by Kennywood on Tuesday, the company has been a "closely held family business since F.W. Henninger and Andrew McSwigan purchased Kennywood Park from the Monongahela Railway Company in 1906."
The Henninger and McSwigan families, now in fourth and fifth generation, have remained owners for over 100 years, the company said.
"This has been a very difficult decision for members of the founding families, now numbering over 100 and residing all over the country," said Kennywood Chairman Harry Henninger in a prepared statement released Tuesday.
Henninger called the family's experience of managing Kennywood, expanding Idlewild and Lake Compounce and creating Sandcastle "a magical ride."
Norton's ancestor Gad Norton, a former state lawmaker, first opened Lake Compounce on the Bristol and Southington town line in 1846, making it the oldest amusement park in America.
The Norton family, sometimes alone and sometimes in partnership with another family, owned and operated Lake Compounce until they finally sold it in 1985 to the Barberino family, a local family with a car dealership empire.
After it was acquired by the Barberinos, the park went through a series of owners, many from out of state and some better than others. For a time, it was primarily a venue for rock concerts.
Many of the owners shirked their property tax obligations and some failed to make mortgage payments. Norton described it as "a lumpy few years."
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who was mayor when Kennywood bought into Lake Compounce in 1996, said he had a "fantastic working relationship with Harry Henninger," who was then president of Kennywood.
Early in his tenure as mayor, Nicastro said, he was forced with the choice of either foreclosing on the nation's oldest amusement park or figuring out how to collect more than $1 million in back taxes on the shuttered park. "That was a heck of a thing hanging over a new mayor," said Nicastro.
Nicastro said he collected some payments from a previous owner, but negotiated with Henninger to settle the bill. Henninger was as good as his word, Nicastro said, and a check arrived as promised.
"From that point on, there was never a problem," said Nicastro. "Their taxes were always paid on time. Ever since then, they've been a great corporate citizen. I can only hope that it continues that way."
Norton was happy, too, when Kennywood entered the Lake Compounce picture.
"They were park people," said Norton. He said the first thing Kennywood did was rip out the amphitheater, which had caused a lot of problems with neighbors. "That was just ruining the park," said Norton.
When he learned Tuesday that his beloved Lake Compounce was sold yet again, Norton said, "I'm surprised and I'm not surprised. I could see it happening."
Norton said all of the Kennywood owners might not be as dedicated to the amusement industry to the same degree.
"I just don't think their heart is really in it, has been in it, for awhile anyway," Norton said. The boom years of the amusement park business are in the past, according to Norton.
He said waterparks are cheaper to build, insure and operate than rollercoasters and other thrill rides.
The liability insurance to cover the thrill rides, Norton said, is "tough to handle."

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