November 30, 2007

$14 million sewer fix needed, city told

Several times in recent years, heavy rains have sent the Pequabuck River over its banks and caused sewer water to gush out of manholes.
Without major changes, “there’s nothing we can do” to prevent it, said Brian Fowkes, who heads the city’s sewer division. “It’s very frustrating.”
Now, though, the city knows what it will take to fix the problem: $13.8 million.
The money would pay for two new sewer lines, new pumps and a number of other upgrades to the sewer system that serves eastern Bristol.
The basic goal is to make sure that sewage flows to the treatment plant instead of flowing through the streets and basements of Forestville, a problem that health officials want to see resolved.
A study of the problem by Camp Dresser & McKee, a Wethersfield consultant, found the lesser fixes the city hoped would do the trick won’t suffice.
The problem is twofold: the floodwaters are pouring into a pump station on East Main Street and the pumps there and in the Broad Street pump station can’t keep up with the volume during major storms.
“Pumping the Pequabuck River into our treatment plant doesn’t make any sense,” said Frank Stawski, Jr, a public works commissioner.
Neill Hampton, senior civil engineer for CDM, said the city needs to increase the capacity of the system and increased its reliability. At the same time, he said, it can replace aging equipment with far more efficient pumps that will do more while using less electricity.
Hampton, CDM’s project manager in Bristol, said some of the problem is the result of a botched installation of pumps in 1986, when four large pumps were bolted to the concrete floor of the Broad Street pump station instead of being cushioned from years of vibrations.
The plan proposed by CDM, and approved the city’s Sewer Committee, would also install two new forced mains to carry sewage from the eastern part of town to the treatment plant.
Hampton said it will take about eight months to finish designs for all the needed changes so the project could potentially go out to bid next summer.
The project won’t move forward, though, until it has the blessing of the City Council and the Board of Finance.
The city maintains about 226 miles of sewers, some a century or more old. It also operates the treatment plant, 14 pumping stations and 5,600 manholes in town.

Broad Street Pump Station
Design capacity: 16 million gallons a day
Actual capacity now: 13.5 million gallons a day
After project finished: 20 million gallons a day

East Main Street Pump Station
Design capacity: 2 million gallons a day
Actual capacity now: 1.1 million gallons a day
After project finished: 2 million gallons a day

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 29, 2007

A frightening week

Letter to the editor from Laura Minor:

Every once in a while there is a week that makes you think about things that you take for granted differently. This past week was one of those.

I love living in Bristol. I have been in Bristol for 23 years. My child grew up here and my husband is a city councilman here. I have been involved in many community projects and have many friends. I feel supported and loved in this city.

Except occasionally there are weeks like this that frighten me.

I’m Jewish. I’m not Christian like more than 97% of my neighbors are (as Mr. Huckabee so nicely pointed out at last week’s city council meeting). I’m Jewish. I worship the God of the Jewish Torah. I celebrate Chanukah with friends and family. I celebrate holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot which many of my Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Baha’i and Hindu Bristol friends and neighbors don’t celebrate themselves but sometimes celebrate with me.

I am happy to celebrate with all my friends of different faiths and creeds as they worship the religion that they subscribe to. I attend ceremonies at many houses of worship. I believe that the more we know each other and our traditions and religions, the better we will all get along.

I was trying to do just that when I spoke to Rev. Barker at the reception after the City Council inauguration last week. Rev. Barker’s letter to the editor on Tuesday did not mention me by name, but I am coming forward to try again to clarify the message which he misheard.

After a beautiful invocation by Father Georgia and a lovely inauguration ceremony, Rev. Parker gave a wonderful benediction. I was so pleased and felt that we were all of one mind and spirit until his last few words.

I know that he is a Christian minister and this is a deep part of who he is just as I am a Jew and it defines the way I live and speak. His last few words were “in the name of Jesus Christ”. If he were in a church or at a non-governmental function, I would not have any problem with this closing. However, in a public facility where we have all come together to showcase the best of Bristol, by choosing those words, rather than “in God’s name” or “in the Lord’s name” or “in the spirit of togetherness”, he took my religion off of that stage. I couldn’t say “Amen” to a prayer that I very much wanted to say “Amen” to.

I shared this sentiment with Rev. Barker, quietly during the reception. I complimented him on his benediction. I informed him that my husband and I were Jewish and that I was sure that he didn’t mean to do it, but he had cut us out of the prayer. I suggested alternate endings. I thanked him again sincerely as we parted.

I did not try to take the prayer out of the event. I didn’t try to deny him his beliefs nor did I imply that being a Christian was wrong. I believe fervently in his right to believe as he does. I just wish that he believed that I have that right as well and that my religion and others deserve respect in that kind of venue.

On Friday of last week, I saw one of the finest pieces of high school theater that I’ve ever seen in this city. I attended “The Diary of Anne Frank” at Bristol Central High School. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of the auditorium was filled. By the time the Nazis marched down the aisle in the final scene to take Anne and her family to the concentration camp, I was sobbing. I couldn’t stand for the immediate standing ovation that the actors deserved.

I know that this is America and not Nazi Germany. However, in the last few years as I have experienced more and more anger from some Christians who believe that this is a Christian country and that I don’t have the right to have a separation of “church” and state even during a government function in a public school. I now sadly fear for one of our greatest American rights, the freedom of religion.

For those of you who are Christians, please think about how you would feel if our elected officials started wishing you well only on Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu holidays or only had non-Christian prayers said as benedictions or invocations. After a while you’d wonder what happened to your religion. That’s how many of us in minority religions feel.

Reverend Barker quoted from the Mayflower Compact, which he said was written in “this land”. Actually it was written in a English colony. I would like to quote from a document that was written in this land, the United States of America, a country where many come, fleeing from persecution as my ancestors did, and become part of this great, delicious stew which is big enough for all of us and richer because of what we bring to it.

In 1790, George Washington wrote the following,“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” He wrote this in a letter to the Newport, Rhode Island Jewish congregation.

I am a good citizen. I vote. I try to be a good Jew. I sincerely thank Mayor Art Ward for speaking out against the anti-Semitic remarks made in the Council Chambers last week. I would like to thank the clergy who have organized the interfaith Thanksgiving service this week in Bristol. I would like to thank all of you who have spoken to Craig and me this week about anti-Semitism. Now I ask the rest of you to take one more step: acknowledge the diversity in Bristol and honor it by recognizing it. This doesn't diminish Christianity. It enhances humanity.

May we all be blessed in this season and give thanks for and treasure the freedoms that we have as Americans.

Laura S. Minor

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

No changes on referendum issues, charter panel says

Shunting aside requests from Mayor Art Ward and others, the city's Charter Revision Commission has agreed that it won't pursue changes in the city government blueprint to make it easier to hold a referendum.
"It's not something we need to tackle," said Tim Furey, the panel's chairman.
The only person on the seven-member panel who urged consideration of the idea was Dick Prindle, a Republican stalwart and retired businessman.
The commission said it doesn't want to take up the idea of requiring a referendum for big ticket items. It also doesn't plan to tinker with technical language about what it takes to hold a referedum.
"We have pretty solid mechanisms in place," Furey said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Don't dump cars on the boulevard, city says

Hoping to minimize the number of cars pouring into Memorial Boulevard, city officials are trying to convince state transportation planners to revise a $5 million project that create more traffic on the historic parkway.
The current proposal for reconstruction of the eastern end of the boulevard calls for two lanes of traffic to flow west onto the parkway with a single right lane devoted to vehicles heading further west on Riverside Avenue or turning right onto Blakeslee Street.
That means that two of the three lanes would flow directly onto the boulevard.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said that city experts are seeking to have the plan revised so that only the left lane would be directed west onto the boulevard.
In the city’s view, the middle lane should use Riverside Avenue and the right lane should be for those turning onto Blakesleee, he said.
The City Council backed a state Department of Transportation scheme in 2005 that would replace the bridge across the Pequabuck River at the start of the boulevard and add turning lanes that should speed traffic through the busy junction. It would make Downs Street one way.
That plan remains essentially intact despite pleas from some city officials, particularly Councilor Craig Minor, to spruce up the area at the same time.
The stretch of road between the boulevard and Middle Street is “the most heavily traveled stretch of road in Bristol,” Minor has said, with more than 27,000 cars and trucks passing through each day.
Currently, two-thirds of the cars heading west use the boulevard, Veselka said, and most of the rest use Riverside Avenue, an area the city where the city hopes to make big improvements in coming years.
Veselka said, however, that with the addition of another four-way stop at East Street, which is under construction now, the boulevard will be slower and less desirable for drivers.
In addition, he said, when the Route 72 extension is finished in 2009, many people who now use the boulevard will choose instead to remain on Pine Street and take Mountain Road to South Street.
Veselka said the city would like to see only about half the drivers going west using the boulevard.
Mayor Art Ward said that one reason Downs Street can become a one-way street heading north only is that the Route 72 project makes its use for those going west much less helpful.
Veselka said the plan blocks access to Downs Street from Riverside Avenue except for emergency vehicles that will be able to cross over the curb to get to South Street faster in a pinch.
It is unclear when the project might be finished. At this point, engineers are still working out the details.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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City begged not to buy Dutton Avenue house

A family feud may get in the way of city plans to purchase an old stone house next door to Rockwell Park.
“There is a huge family feud going on right now and unfortunately the city has ended up right smack in the middle of it,” said resident Jan Bevivino.
Bevivino, who lives in the house with her elderly father, said there is a “real family tragedy that has developed over money and the evils that it brings.”
Mayor Art Ward said that councilors won’t take up the proposed deal at the December 11 meeting as the Real Estate Committee recommended.
The real estate panel urged the city to pay $281,000 for the 15 Dutton Ave. house and a lot next door, but to let the elderly man remain in the home until he dies or moves away.Though Bevivino signed a court order in May that called for the sale, she said she was “kind of coerced into offering the adjoining lot” to the city but never agreed to sell the house.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said he would like to see the property added to the park.
But Bevivino said she intends to buy the house in about six months and hopes to avoid getting into a tussle over it with the city.
In an address to the Park Board, Bevivino said she moved from Massachusetts to Bristol in 2004 to help care for her ailing mother, losing her own home and savings as she shelled out for health care for her mother, who died last year.
She said other members of her family, who “live in Burlington in their beautiful homes” didn’t lend a hand.
Bevivino said that other family members, who must “be starving and unable to feed their families,” want to sell the house rather than keep up with the property taxes on it.
Three other members of her family, she said, hired attorney Sal Vitrano, to work out a way to sell the house. The lawyer “doesn’t speak for me,” Bevivino added.
She said that she wants the city to buy the lot, but not the house, so there will be money to pay the taxes.
Bevivino said she wants the city to refuse to buy the house so she will have time to arrange to buy it.
“My family has abandoned us for money,” she told park commissioners. “I can only hope that you will see the light.”

Excerpts from Bevivino's address to the Park Board:
* "The deal is far from signed, sealed and delivered. This property has been in our family since it was built 85 years ago, and I have no intention of letting go easily. Especially when I have no plans to live anywhere else."
* "It is with a heavy heart that I appear before you today to unveil the real family tragedy that has developed over money and the evils that it brings. The other parties in this property live in Burlington in their beautiful homes, and have completely cut themselves off from the responsibility that comes with elderly parents. My brother, who wanted nothing to do with his ailing mother or father, has to pay for his 150-foot yacht for the winter. He must need the cash to pay for the boat. What else could it be?"
* "I can only surmise that my family members are starving and unable to feed their families under the weight of these [property] taxes. My dad and I are the ones who pay for the upkeep and all the expenses of this property."
* "I do not want to sell the house to the park at this time. I would like to buy the house from my family members and remain there even after my dad is gone."
* "I guess the only way to break that court order is for the city to refuse to get involved."

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Special City Council meeting today

While it is almost certain to be fairly humdrum, there is a special City Council session slated for 5:30 p.m. today.
One the agenda are some routine appointments -- nothing too interesting -- and what everyone seems to think are uncontroversial items ranging from fixing something in the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.'s corporate paperwork to approval of a $105,000 change order for the new industrial park taking shape behind the former Superior Electric factory.
Mayor Art Ward said he expects the meeting to be over pretty quickly.
The one appointment that insiders have been wondering about - whether Jonathan Rosenthal will be tapped for another stint as the city's economic development director - is set to come up at the council's regular Dec. 11 meeting.
My understanding is that Rosenthal will be lucky to get the four votes he needs for reappointment.
But even if the council were to vote against his reappointment, he probably stays on given that he's in a union and firing a municipal union worker requires more than just the desire to put someone else in the job.
It takes a lot to prove a city employee is incompetent (or otherwise hopeless) enough to lose his job. Few believe they can make that case against Rosenthal, who has strong support in some quarters.
It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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November 28, 2007

Bristol seeks 2010 American Legion Baseball World Series

City park commissioners are hoping to hit one out of the park.
The Park Board unanimously agreed Wednesday to try to snag the 2010 American Legion World Series for historic Muzzy Field.
“It would showcase Muzzy,” said Lori DeFillippi, a park panel member.
“It would also showcase the city,” added Mayor Art Ward.
Communities interested in hosting the five-day tournament are required to submit an extensive bid package by March 1 and to put up $60,000.
Ward said the money would be raised by the American Legion post on Hooker Court, which has a long history of involvement with American Legion Baseball.
He said there is “not a long time” to get everything together, but it’s worth trying.
The 2007 tournament was held in Bartlesville, Ok. while next year’s tournament is slated for Shelby, N.C.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said the city hosted the Northeast regional tournament for the American Legion about 12 years ago. It was successful, officials said.
The American Legion Baseball website says the 2010 tournament is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13 to Aug. 17, a time that Swicklas said would not pose problems for use of the field.
In its document for cities interested in hosting the tournament, the American Legion says it is looking for “experienced tournament committees with strong community support, as well as excellent ballparks.”
The American Legion World Series brings eight teams together from around the country to compete for the national title.
American Legion Baseball has been around since 1925 and claims that millions of young men have played on its teams over the years.
The last time the tournament was held in New England was in 1999, when Middletown hosted the World Series.
According to the American Legion Baseball website, Bristol’s American Legion teams have won two regional championships, in 1984 and 1997, and 13 Connecticut championships, most recently in 2006.

American Legion Baseball's website

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Return to appointed school board remains possible

The possibility of a return to an appointed Board of Education is growing stronger.
The city’s Charter Revision Commission this week voted 4-3 to pursue the idea despite concerns about a hefty workload and a looming April deadline for completing its recommendations for changes to the city government’s blueprint.
“It’s not that complicated an issue,” said Tim Furey, chairman of the reform panel.
The charter commission plans a Jan. 22 public hearing on the issue and may make a decision on whether to recommend the change the same night. Furey said there’s no reason it couldn’t be dealt with in a single day.
Edward Krawiecki, Jr, the city attorney, said that making the change is relatively simple because the city only needs to return to the charter language used before the decision 15 years ago to shift to an elected school board.
Officials are eyeing the change because some of them are concerned that the school board isn’t responsive enough to the public. Some also argue privately they could appoint a higher caliber board because many qualified people are reluctant to run for elected office.
Hal Kilby, a charter panelist, said that the school board election results this month – where every incumbent on the ballot was reelected – show that perhaps residents weren’t as unhappy with the education overseers as “a vocal minority” who grumbled at city meetings before the election indicated.
Furey said that he considers himself fairly astute about local politics, but when people asked him to vote for in the school board race, he could only come up with a few names of the people running. The rest, he said, were unfamiliar to him.
He said he was bothered by the lack of visibility of the candidates and wondered why the Democratic and Republican town committees passed over potential candidates who were passionate about their interest in education.
Maria Pirro, another charter panel member, said she also didn’t know who the school board candidates were this year.
Those who support a return to an appointed board said that letting the mayor and City Council make the choices would mean that officials with a vested interest in having a good school board would pick wisely. Voters, on the other hand, are stuck with the choices that political parties offer.
Furey said he hopes to hear from the school superintendent and school board members at the hearing. He said he’s interested in knowing their perspective on the issue.
The charter commissioners who didn’t want to pursue the school board change said they prefer to concentrate their limited time on the city manager issue.
Any return to an appointed board would not take effect until the recently elected school panel’s terms of office end in 2011.
The charter commission’s recommendations will go first to the City Council, which can back them, turn them down or ask the commission to revise them. Anything approved by the council would go on the November 2008 general election ballot because no charter changes can occur without voters endorsing them.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Pollution on Crowley property eyed for school

A former auto dealership in Forestville where officials plan to build a $60 million school contains some alarming contamination, according to an environmental report that had been kept under wraps.
The report, prepared in 2005, found chromium, barium, lead, TPH, arsenic, chloroform and other chemicals that have the potential to harm people.
Federal government health information warns that excessive exposure to the chemicals can cause a wide array of health woes.
Though officials have mentioned the possibility that the site beside Greene-Hills School could have some environmental problems, they never specified what those problems might be.
The City Council last month endorsed the site for construction of a new 900-student school to house kindergarten through eighth grade. Only one councilor, Frank Nicastro, opposed the move.
Nicastro said at the time there should have been more opportunity for public input and he expressed unhappiness that Mayor William Stortz failed to share two environmental studies that have been done on the Crowley property.
One of those studies was a May 2005 report by Applied Environmental Control, LLC prepared for Crowley Auto Group, which owns the property.
In the report, Environmental Manager Robert Bertolette details findings on the 2-acre site and recommends more monitoring of the property “that will ultimately facilitate the transfer of this property.”
The report said that firm surveyed the site and drilled test wells to determine what sorts of contaminants might have polluted the ground or water beneath the longtime car dealership, which operated from 1948 to 2005.
Among the “contaminants of concern that could be associated with site activities” is TPH, or total petroleum hydrocarbons, a term that covers several hundred chemical compounds created from crude oil.
“Some chemicals that may be found in TPH are hexane, jet fuels, mineral oils, benzene, toluene, xylenes, naphthalene, and fluorene, as well as other petroleum products and gasoline components,” according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registory.
Samples of TPH typically contain a mixture of the chemicals.
“Some of the TPH compounds can affect your central nervous system,” the agency reports.
“One compound can cause headaches and dizziness at high levels in the air. Another compound can cause a nerve disorder called ‘peripheral neuropathy,’ consisting of numbness in the feet and legs,” it reports. “Other TPH compounds can cause effects on the blood, immune system, lungs, skin, and eyes.”
“Animal studies have shown effects on the lungs, central nervous system, liver, and kidney from exposure to TPH compounds. Some TPH compounds have also been shown to affect reproduction and the developing fetus in animals,” according to the agency.
Water testing at the former Crowley site found elevated levels of “dissolved chromium and lead” in two wells, the study found, though the levels may fluctuate as the groundwater rises and falls at different times of the year.
Chromium and lead are natural elements, but their levels may be elevated on the site.
“At this time, it is our opinion that contaminants of concern (i.e., chromium and lead) detected in groundwater are currently below” the level of groundwater protection criteria, the 2005 environmental report found.
Both chromium and lead can cause health problems.
The site also appears to have an excessive amount of barium, another natural element. It is also produced by burning oil and coal.
“Barium has been found to potentially cause gastrointestinal disturbances and muscular weakness when people are exposed to it at levels above the EPA drinking water standards for relatively short periods of time,” according to the toxic substances agency, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
“Some people who eat or drink amounts of barium above background levels found in food and water for a short period may experience vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, difficulties in breathing, increased or decreased blood pressure, numbness around the face, and muscle weakness,” the agency says.
“Eating or drinking very large amounts of barium compounds that easily dissolve can cause changes in heart rhythm or paralysis and possibly death. Animals that drank barium over long periods had damage to the kidneys, decreases in body weight, and some died,” according to the agency.

Specific site concerns
* An abandoned 3,000 underground tank under the west parking lot.
* “A gasoline [underground storage tank] grave” adjacent to the 3,000 gallon tank.
* A 2,000 heating oil tank beside the building.
* “Former drum storage area and solid waste Dumpsters” beside the building.
* “Tank graves” for motor oil transmission fluid tanks removed in 1986.
* A 1,000 gallon waste oil underground tank beside the building.
* Two catch basins on the east side of the site that may have collected “spills of oils or hazardous liquids.”
* Sub-floor drains in service bays that may have caught contaminated runoff.

Negotiations to start soon
Mayor Art Ward, who said he hasn’t had a chance to review the environmental findings yet, said he plans to meet with Ken Crowley within a couple of weeks to begin talking about the potential sale of the property for a school.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 27, 2007

Ward restores web access to city workers

In a quick policy reversal, Mayor Art Ward said Tuesday that he has relaxed restrictions on internet use imposed by his predecessor.
“I have undone it,” Ward said.
Ward said that he opted to return to the city’s former policy because municipal departments were finding it difficult to do necessary work on the web and learning that most of the abuses found by Mayor William Stortz weren’t quite what they seemed.
“Used in the appropriate manner,” Ward said, the web “is an incredible tool for city business.”
In one of his final acts in office, former Mayor William Stortz ordered “lots of things” blocked so that city workers could not access most internet sites at work.
Stortz said at the time he ordered whole categories of websites, from restaurants to entertainment, blocked to try to improve productivity, save a little money and send the right message to the public that ultimately pays for it all.But Ward said that making it more difficult for municipal workers to do their job isn’t helping taxpayers.
“It was limiting their ability to do their jobs,” Ward said.
A report prepared for Stortz found city workers were looking at an astounding array of questionable websites, including and
But Ward said that city workers didn’t actually see most of those sites.
What actually happened, he said, is that they tried to access the sites but couldn’t, because the city has long had a system to block as many improper sites as possible without hindering access to most of the web.
Ward said he will get regular reports from the city’s computer experts about who is accessing which websites. If somebody abuses the system, he said, he’ll take the appropriate steps to punish him through the personnel office.
But, he said, there’s no point to blocking most of the web when it makes the city government operate less efficiently.
Among the sites blocked by Stortz that are now accessible to city workers is the Bristol Blog, a Bristol Press blog. It was the wide interest by municipal employees in the blog that initially spurred Stortz to limit access to the web.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Take a look at the new Bristol Press website

It's way cooler than the old one and it's online now.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Downtown corp. to meet Thursday

The Bristol Downtown Development Corp. plans an 8:30 a.m. session Thursday at the Main Library on High Street.
The special meeting includes the opportunity to hear from residents who want to speak to the panel in charge of revitalizing the 17-acre downtown mall site.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Tree lighting ceremony at City Hall today

From Mayor Art Ward:

Today at 4:45 pm, the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the Annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony in front of City Hall.
Refreshments will be served outside the Council Chambers.
The All Star Chorus from Memorial Boulevard will perform an array of holiday tunes.
Please join us in the festivities!

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Cassin remembers Gov. O'Neill

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story for today's paper:

In the aftermath of a tragic I-95 bridge collapse in 1983, the late Gov. William O'Neill turned to Don Cassin of Bristol to head the newly created state Department of Public Works.
On Monday, Cassin mourned O'Neill, his longtime friend.
"He was the greatest, greatest man," said Cassin.
Cassin, a former state Senate clerk, said he got to know O'Neill in the Senate.
"He was just a tremendous man to be able to be able to work with other people," said Cassin. "He was one of the guys."
Cassin recalled meeting with O'Neill and a group of friends at the Parma, an Italian restaurant in Glastonbury.
"We were always very good friends, and we still are," said Cassin.
After O'Neill became governor, Cassin said, he named him to a deputy position in the state Department of Administrative Services, which had included public works projects.
But when a section of the Mianus River Bridge collapsed and killed three people, O'Neill responded with a 10-year, $6.5 billion road and bridge repair plan and created the state Department of Public Works.
He made Cassin its first commissioner.
Meetings in O'Neill's office after he became governor weren't formal, said Cassin, but cordial and effective, addressing issues across the state.
O'Neill was great when it came to public works, said Cassin, and education, too.
Their biggest project, said Cassin, was building Gampel Pavilion at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
"That was a difficult thing for Billy and I to get moving," said Cassin.
At the time, Cassin said, the roof had collapsed at the Hartford Civic Center and it was drawing a lot of attention.
But they persevered, and both projects were completed, said Cassin.
Gampel proved a good bet.
"That was a big, big thing," said Cassin. "That was the best thing I ever did."
He and his wife Rosemarie Cassin shared dinners with O'Neill and his wife Nikki O'Neill, said Cassin. More recently, O'Neill wasn't able to get out much, Cassin said, and they shared time together over the phone.
"He was the best," said Cassin.
Information from an Associated Press report is included in this story.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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No West End school decision until next year

Here's reporter Jackie Majerus' story in today's paper:

It will be at least January before the committee charged with finding a site for a 900-student K-8 school in Bristol's West End makes another recommendation.
The committee – which recommended the former Scalia sand pit as the best option only to see it rejected by city councilors before the election – said Monday they would not meet in December and would make no further recommendations on locating the building until they reconvene in January.
The nine-member committee is short two people, and members said Monday that they want new people appointed before they make a decision on what site to recommend.
When they reconvene, they will also consider other sites, committee members said, including the former IGA grocery store property at Park and Divinity, which would require the city to use eminent domain to take dozens of surrounding properties, including many homes and businesses.
As the committee prepared to discuss the various sites, city Councilor Ken Cockayne, who is a new member, asked to put the public comment period first. It had been scheduled for later in the meeting.
"The public might have something to say," said Cockayne, and his fellow members went along with his suggestion.
John Reek Jr. of Wolcott Street spoke up in defense of tenants – especially those in the Park and Divinity neighborhood who would be displaced if the city chooses that site and takes properties through eminent domain.
Reek, who said he rented until recently, said tenants are treated "like they don't exist" and have been left out of the discussion completely.
"Being a renter is not a bad thing," said Reek. "These people do not have a voice."
Reek said his grandfather was a Bristol factory worker and rented all his life. His parents, too, rented, Reek said.
Tenants are "living where they can afford to live. For many people, home ownership is not going to happen and that's okay, too," said Reek. "These are good people who are living within their means."
Reek presented the committee with a petition he said was signed by 48 parents of O'Connell School students who support building the new school in the former Scalia sand pit.
"We believe that the Scalia site is a neighborhood site," said Reek.
William Smyth, the finance chief of the school district, said the committee did take the concerns of the neighborhood residents, including tenants, into account.
"That was one of the reasons they chose the Scalia site," said Smyth.
Retired teacher Tom Doyle, who has spoken out in the past against the district's plan to switch to a K-8 format, said selecting the former Roberts property for a West End school would be "opening up a can of worms." He said the Park and Divinity site would be good for a small school, but not the large complex that school officials are envisioning.
But Smyth said the committee's role isn't to decide the size of the school, but to find a site for the K-8 school that's planned.
O'Connell School Principal Mike Audette, who chairs the committee, said there had been "hours of discussion" on the various sites. He said he's sure that if people had heard it all that many would have agreed with the committee on the Scalia site.
"That one at the time had the least amount of negatives," said Audette.
But Audette said his goal is to find a spot for the new West End school and see it built. He said if his first choice of a site isn't the one used, he's fine with that.
The committee recommended the Scalia property, but that doesn't mean they're "absolutely wedded to that site," said Audette. "There are three very good sites here."
Former Mayor William Stortz, who attended the meeting, said the council didn't think the committee made a good enough case for the Scalia property.
"Not enough justification was provided," said Stortz. "There were not enough convincing arguments."
School board member Chris Wilson said the committee will "have to make a stronger case" next time if they want the council to approve their choice.
Cockayne said the committee shouldn't dismiss the Scalia site.
"I do not want to see a school on the Roberts property," said Cockayne, who said it would mean a busing "nightmare" and the replacement of many acres of open space.
Smyth said he wishes the critics of the Scalia site would have read the feasibility study.
"Chippens Hill [Middle School] was built on a sand pit," said Smyth. "It's not negative."
Audette said he is striving to find a place that works well for both O'Connell and Bingham School families. The Scalia site does that, Audette said.
"This is a site that kind of bridges both districts," said Audette.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 26, 2007

Transfer station permits go on sale next Monday

Press release from public works:

Residential Transfer Station Permits for 2008 will go on sale Monday December 3, 2007. The 2008 permits will be valid until year-end 2008.
Permits to access the Transfer Station can be purchased Monday through Friday in the Public Works Office weekdays from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM. Public Works is located on the ground floor of City Hall, 111 North Main Street. Permits can also be purchased at the Transfer Station, 685 Lake Avenue, on Saturdays only (7:30AM - 1:00PM).
The cost of a residential permit is $20.00 (cash or check only).
Requirements for purchasing a residential permit sticker are:
· Current Driver's License
· Current Registration Certificate of the vehicle to be used(both showing your Bristol address)
Please note:
Permits are for residential Bristol residents/taxpayers, and only for waste generated in Bristol. Business waste will not be accepted at the Transfer Station with a residential permit.

For more information, please visit our web site at: and follow the link for Transfer Station Residential Permits or call Public Works at (860) 584-6125.

Contact Steve Collins at

November 24, 2007

Former Gov. William O'Neill died today

A Connecticut legend, 77-year-old William O'Neill, died this afternoon.
O'Neill took office after the death of Gov. Ella Grasso, then won full terms in 1982 and 1986. He stepped down in 1990, but was active in political circles until illness slowed him this year.
Gov. Jodi Rell, who ordered flags at half staff in his honor, called O'Neill "one of the titans of Connecticut politics."
"No description of him would be complete without the words 'decency' and 'fairness' and he understood that government must take its lead from the people it serves," Rell said in a statement announcing O'Neill's death.
"He served our state in so many ways and was a friend and mentor to many of our current leaders," Rell said. "Governor O'Neill embodied public service, held it in the highest esteem and truly honored it. My thoughts and prayers go out to [O'Neill's wife] Nikki at this time of great loss."

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Tiny Neuman Place eyed for big changes

One of the most persistent headaches for the city’s public works officials has long been a tiny Chippens Hill byway called Neuman Place.
“It’s an ugly kettle of fish,” said Public Works Director Walter Veselka.
Since 1944, when the water department needed a road from Hill Street to a reservoir, the city’s public works department has plowed the street, cleared brush from, paved it at least once and occasionally sent trash trucks to resident James Wargo’s house at its end.
That made sense, officials said, when the water department used the street. But it appears that water crews haven’t needed it for 30 years – developments closer to the reservoir offered better access – yet the city’s help for Wargo continued.
But the long driveway badly needs repair and officials are trying to figure out if there’s a better way to access Wargo’s property now.
Veselka said it would cost taxpayers $80,000 to fix the little-noticed byway that runs just south of Hopmeadow Road. A couple of dozen backyards line its north side.
But it might be possible to do it for much less coming from another direction, he said.
Officials looked into accessing Wargo’s land from Mano Lane, figuring it would cost about $54,000 to build a driveway there. But the configuration makes that option touchy, they said.
So now they’re eyeing the possibility of using a 50-foot section of open space behind Wargo’s house to put in a driveway from Penwood Place instead.
Veselka said he’s not sure if it’s possible because of wetlands issues or other factors that officials can’t tell from looking at maps alone.
He said it may be possible to swap the existing driveway from Hill Street for the land between Penwood Place and Wargo’s property. That would resolve the problem, Veselka said.
Dale Clift, an assistant city attorney, said the property owners are willing to at least consider the idea.
“I want to see this thing move,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the Real Estate Committee that would have to give the plan a green light.
Clift said it may not work out.
“It’s very tentative at this point,” the lawyer said.

Here's a Sept. 25, 2001 story with a lot more background:

The Herald Press
BRISTOL – It isn’t quite true that City Hall wants James Wargo dead, but it’s not entirely untrue either.
Wargo said, with a chuckle, they want him gone within five years.
City officials opted recently to keep taking care of a tiny Chippens Hill byway called Neuman Place – whose legal status is up in the air – until Wargo keels over.
Once he’s dead, they said, they would no longer have anything to do with the third of a mile street that’s been a thorn in the city’s side for decades.
“If I get hit by a bus, what happens?” Wargo asked the city’s Board of Public Works. “It’s all over?”
The answer is: probably.
Since 1944, when the water department needed a road from Hill Street to a reservoir, the city’s public works department has plowed the street, cleared brush from, paved it at least once and occasionally sent trash trucks down to Wargo’s house.
It made sense, officials said, when the water department used the street. But it appears that water crews haven’t needed it for a quarter century – developments closer to the reservoir offered better access – but the city’s help for Wargo continued.
The services Wargo received, said former Mayor Stretch Norton, amounted to “a gift” from a city that was trying to be “congenial and friendly” to someone who would have had a major headache if the city ceased lending a hand.
“Everything they got so far has been gravy,” Norton said.
The city attorney’s office agrees that Neuman Place is not a public street.
But Wargo said that with all the services he’s gotten for so long, the byway does count as a city street and City Hall can’t just drop its care. His daughter, Lisa Ledger, backed him on the claim.
Ledger said the city took care of the street when it had a reason to care and otherwise has sought to wash its hands of the responsibility.
Councilman Gerard Couture said that there might well be a continuing responsibility for City Hall. He said the city could well have accepted the street “by implication,” a legal term that means that at some point the city has done so much to indicate it considers a street public that it becomes a public street.
It’s an issue that may well land in court someday, when Wargo’s heirs inherit the problem.
In the meantime, the city is probably given them some more ammunition for their case.
Neuman Place is falling apart, washed out by rain in sections and paved only in spots, badly in need of regarding and other road-building services.
But not for long.
City overseers decided recently that when Tilcon is fixing nearby Hill Street next month, the taxpayers would cover the tab to have its construction personnel and equipment fix the supposedly private driveway.
Mayor Frank Nicastro said it would be “foolish” to let slip the opportunity to take care of the street’s problems when Tilcon is available for a reasonable price. Passing up the chance, he said, would miss “the perfect opportunity” to spruce up Neuman Place.
At first, city officials said they wouldn’t do the work this year unless Wargo signed a contract relinquishing any claim the street is public. They said they would keep taking care of the byway as long as Wargo and his wife lived but no longer.
Wargo, however, refused to sign.
Councilman Joe Wilson told Wargo the city could not give him “this infinite right” to have the street maintained.
But Wilson also cleared the way for Neuman Place to get repaired soon.
He said the city did not need to have a signed deal to stop providing services for the street.
“We can just do what we want to do,” Wilson said, convincing the public works panel to vote to cut off the road once Wargo and his wife die.
At one point, Norton sought to lock in a Sept. 2006 deadline.
“You’re cutting my life even shorter,” Wargo protested.
Only Norton and Don Padlo, both public works commissioners, supported the deadline. But the entire panel, except for Norton, agreed to care for the street until the current owners die.
Neuman Place is a tiny lane that runs just south of Hopmeadow Road. A couple of dozen backyards line its north side.
What’s at stake in the battle over Neuman Place is relatively little – a few thousand dollars worth of annual maintenance at most – but the mostly forgotten road is just the tip of the iceberg.
Couture said that small streets with questionable status exist all over town.
“These aren’t isolated items,” he said. “These are commonplace.”
Norton said that Neuman Place illustrated the danger City Hall faces when it doesn’t stick to the rules.
“That’s the problem the city gets in when it does favors for people,” Norton said. “We should just cease doing it.”
Couture said he hopes the city can resolve the issue.
After Tilcon fixes the road, he said, “it’s not going to last forever and we just can’t be doing it forever.”

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 23, 2007

Rimcoski seeing red over revaluation

The prospect of revaluation shoving homeowners’ property taxes higher has at least one city councilor seeing red.
“I’m very, very upset,” said city Councilor Mike Rimcoski, a second-term Republican. “People can’t afford to pay any more taxes.”
The recently completed revaluation, done in large part by Massachusetts-based Vision Appraisal, found that home values rose 7 percent faster than the real estate market as a whole. That means the average homeowner will pay about $400 more in real estate property taxes next year even if the city’s budget calls for little or no increase.
On the flip side, those who own some commercial and industrial property will likely benefit from revaluation. So, too, will everyone who pays motor vehicle taxes, which are likely to decline as much as a third with the looming mill rate cut.
Rimcoski said that he plans “to make a big noise” about the way Vision Appraisal did the revaluation and about the likelihood of taxes rising for most people.
Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson “went to jail for what this company did to Bristol,” Rimcoski said. Tyson spent three years in prison for rape in the 1990s.
Rimcoski said the company “did a very inept job” compiling the values of every parcel and building in town.
“They didn’t know what they were doing,” he said.
City Assessor Rich Lasky said he heard of few problems during the assessment process. He said that every homeowner got a copy of the information recorded for their home and had the chance to correct it in the record before officials gave a value to each property.
Lasky said the company did a good job working with the city.
Rimcoski stood alone in opposition when the City Council voted in 2006 to hire Vision Appraisal for $798,000 to conduct the revaluation effort in town even though the tab was $70,000 more than the low bidder, Rhode Island-based Appraisal Resource Co.
Lasky said that Vision Appraisal’s software and experience gave it the edge.
Rimcoski said that events show he has “been proven right” in trying to have another, cheaper firm hired from the start.
“We paid more to get this sort of heat” from residents who are upset at the likelihood they’ll face higher property tax bills next year, Rimcoski said.
Rimcoski said he’s hearing from many constituents who are struggling to pay their taxes already.
One caller, he said, told him the city might has well “take the damn house” if it’s going to keep hiking the taxes.
Property owners should have their revaluation notices by the middle of next week.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

City eyeing Dutton Avenue house

The city is planning to purchase an old stone house next door to Rockwell Park.
City councilors plan next month to approve a $281,000 deal to buy the 15 Dutton Ave. house but to let its elderly owner remain in the home until he dies or moves away.
Officials have been eyeing the property for a couple of years but wanted to make sure that the city wouldn’t land in the middle of a family dispute about the disposition of the property.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the Real Estate Committee, said the property could be a valuable addition to the park.
It appears the city would likely tear down the house once the purchase becomes final.
“It looks like it would come down,” said city Councilor Kevin McCauley.
Jeff Steeg, an assistant city attorney, said a court ruled in May that the family should sell the house and a lot next door. The ruling gave the city the first opportunity to buy it, said Steeg and Salvatore Vitrano, a lawyer for the family.
According to Vitrano, appraisals on the property found that the lot is worth $63,000 while the house is valued at $218,000, for a combined total of $281,000.
Vitrano said the city should purchase the lot and at the same agree to a contract to purchase the house for $218,000 whenever its elderly owner leaves the home for good.
He said that would lock in the price for the city and eliminate any responsibility for taxpayers to maintain the house while the family is still using it.
Vitrano said that the deal would allow the family to use the proceeds from the lot to pay back taxes and keep up the house until it eventually becomes the city’s property.
Nicastro said his concern was that he didn’t want to get in the middle of the family’s arguments about how to handle the property.
Vitrano said the judge’s order resolved the difficulties. He said the city would be on safe ground.
McCauley said the council should endorse the deal at its December 11 meeting. The Planning Commission has already given its blessing to the purchase, Steeg said.
The city is in the middle of a multi-year, $7 million project to remake Rockwell Park by adding more recreational facilities, better parking, a nicer entrance and other amenities aimed at restoring the historic West End park.

Note: The family feud may be worse than Vitrano portrayed it. The city could find itself in the middle of something.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Count your blessings today. There are more of them than you think.
And for those going to the big game, have fun!

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 21, 2007

Keeping an eye on the BDDC

The nonprofit corporation established to oversee the revitalization of the downtown mall property no longer has any elected leaders among its directors.
Under the rules established by the City Council, both the mayor and a council representative who initially served on the panel were automatically booted off this month, leaving control of the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation entirely in the hands of seven appointed directors.
Though there's been no sign that either Mayor Art Ward or the council plans to overturn the agency created last winter, councilors are concerned about it operating entirely outside their view.
The city's Real Estate Committee recently agreed to ask Ward to appoint a council liaison to the downtown company.
The liaison is needed, said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, "so we know what the heck is going on over there."
Nicastro said that without the mayor or a council member sitting on the panel's board, "it would be beneficial" to elected leaders to have someone assigned to keep tabs on what the BDDC is doing so that he can report on its activities.
The downtown corporation, which spent most of the year getting organized, is expected within months to solicit proposals from developers to find out what can be done with the 17-acre, city-owned mall site.
The city plans to take out a demolition permit on Friday as the first step to knocking down the mall.
Razing the mall should be finished before spring, city Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said.
The city bought the mall in 2005 for $5.3 million with the intention of demolishing it to make way for new construction that would include stores, housing and offices. The long-standing goal of the city has been to revitalize the parcel to make it a pedestrian-friendly urban center that could help pump life into surrounding areas as well as attracting residents downtown.
Nicastro said the council needs to be aware of what's happening.
He said that council liaison are already in place for a host of other panels, from the Bristol Housing Authority to the Park Board, and the BDDC should also have someone assigned to monitor it.

Members of the BDDC board of directors
Tom Cosgrove
Jennifer Janelle
Frank Johnson, chairman
Richard Kallenbach
John Leone
John Lodovico
Gardner Wright

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 20, 2007

Giving seniors the bird

Don't miss this story by reporter Jackie Majerus:

The Foodshare turkey distribution at the Bristol Housing Authority got all fowled up this Thanksgiving.
Because they wouldn’t give out their Social Security numbers when signing up for a free turkey, some seniors were shut out of a holiday bird this year.
Instead of getting a turkey as most of them do every year, the seniors instead got a letter from the housing authority saying that since they were “already signed up for a free turkey with the Christian Fellowship Center,” they were not eligible for a turkey through the housing authority.
But the trouble is, the seniors aren’t clients at the Christian Fellowship Center.
“I never signed up at the church on Prospect Street,” said Helen Senical, a Bonnie Acres tenant. “How did my name get up there at that church?”
“We never signed up over there,” said Penny Kalentkowski. “Something’s wrong somewhere. This has never happened before.”
The seniors said they and friends who got the letter are upset and embarrassed at the idea that they’d take charity from the food pantry.
“That’s for families that can’t afford Thanksgiving, not for people like us,” said Senical, who worked at the Bristol Community Organization before she retired. She said she often took clients to the Prospect Street food pantry for help.
“There are families and people up there who need it a lot more than I do,” said Senical. “It’s a little embarrassing.”
Dorothy Ludlum, another Bonnie Acres tenant who was directed to the food pantry through the housing authority letter, said she was really upset about it.
“I was insulted. I thought, Gee, what do they think – I’m trying to steal two turkeys?” said Ludlum.
What happened, according to officials at Foodshare, the housing authority and at Christian Fellowship Center, was that the tenants didn’t put their Social Security numbers on their application for a free turkey.
The housing authority’s Beatrice Nieves, who penned the letter to tenants, said more than 50 households – almost 20 percent of the total number of applications – left off the Social Security number. The housing authority filled in 000-00-0000 on each application that was missing a number, Nieves said.
The turkeys distributed by both the housing authority and the food pantry come through Foodshare.
Foodshare President Gloria McAdam said the agency distributes about 14,600 turkeys at Thanksgiving and has a system to ensure that there isn’t any duplication.
“Our goal is one turkey per household,” said George Lombardo, community program coordinator at Foodshare.
For about the last 10 years, McAdam said, Foodshare hasn’t given out turkeys unless there is a Social Security number on the application.
“We don’t accept anybody that doesn’t give their number,” said McAdam.
Apparently one application that came to Foodshare from the Christian Fellowship Center before the ones from the housing authority arrived, had 000-00-0000 in place of the Social Security number.
That false Social Security number from the food pantry was apparently accepted, but then Foodshare’s computerized system rejected the ones from the housing authority that came after it, deeming them duplicates.
After Foodshare rejected the tenants’ names, Nieves sent them a letter informing them that they were “already signed up” at the Christian Fellowship Center.
The food pantry “has you on their pick up list,” Nieves wrote, adding that tenants could get their turkeys on Prospect Street this morning. She told tenants to direct any questions to the food pantry.
Meanwhile, the food pantry knew nothing about the tenants.
“We didn’t know why people were being referred here,” said Michelle Palmer, promotional director at the Christian Fellowship Center.
Palmer said there appear to be a lot of people who put zeros down on their application.
Nieves said the housing authority was able to come up with turkeys for a number of the tenants who were rejected by Foodshare. The rest, which she said numbered a dozen at Bonnie Acres and a few elsewhere, could get them from the food pantry, Nieves said.
“In essence, everybody’s covered,” said Nieves.
Not so, said some of the Bonnie Acres tenants who were still without a turkey late Tuesday.
Though both Kalentkowski and Senical said they received leftover turkeys from the housing authority when that agency’s distribution ended Saturday, Ludlum and her friend Judy MacDougall weren’t so lucky.
They said they were told they’d get a confirmation letter in the mail to take to the Prospect Street food pantry today that would get them a turkey, but no letter had arrived by Tuesday.
“I’ve never even been up there,” said MacDougall.
Palmer said they expect to have long lines of people standing for hours outside the Prospect Street pantry today, waiting for food.
MacDougall, who has mobility issues and can’t stand a long time, and Ludlum, who is legally blind and cannot drive, won’t be there in line. Both said they’d received turkeys from the housing authority in the past and this year didn’t put down their Social Security numbers.
Oddly, Kalentkowski’s application did include her Social Security number, she said.
“I’m quite sure I did,” said Kalentkowski. “I always do.”
But she got the same letter as Senical and the others, saying she was on the list for the Christian Fellowship Center.
After getting the letter Friday, Senical said, she repeatedly called the food pantry, but never got an answer.
On Tuesday, Senical went to the Prospect Street pantry and asked them to take her name off their list.
Robert Wilk, director of the food pantry, showed Senical that her name wasn’t on the client list.
“If you didn’t put your Social Security number down, what happens is you don’t get a turkey,” said Wilk.
If she has to surrender her Social Security number, Senical said, then Foodshare can keep the turkey. According to Senical, it’s not worth the risk or the hassle.
“This is the last year I’ll ever accept a turkey from housing,” said Senical.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Big money in old apartment buildings

A brick apartment building at 11 Summer St., which has 10 small units for rent, sold in 1996 for $100,000.
In 2003, the 107-year-old building changed hands for $206,000. Two years later, it was sold for $315,000.
In September, the building, which the city has long targeted as a problem, sold for $535,000.
Though the new assessments are not yet available, that’s about the number the city used for to set its value for tax purposes.
City Assessor Rich Lasky said it’s a typical example of the way apartment buildings have soared in value during the past decade, often getting snapped up by out-of-state investors.
Another example exists just behind City Hall, where an 18-unit apartment building at 27 Meadow St. sold this year for $930,000. Five years ago, someone sold it for $345,000.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Revaluation will push tax bills higher for most

Many homeowners in Bristol will face about a $400 increase in their property tax bills next year because of a recently completed revaluation, officials said Tuesday.
But an expected decline in the mill rate should lower motor vehicle tax bills enough to ease the pain for at least some property owners.
Revaluation notices will begin to go out on Monday, city Assessor Rich Lasky said, and nearly everyone will see a large increase in property values since the 2002 figures that have been used to figure municipal taxes for the past five years.
Though Lasky is still putting the final touches on the figures for the Oct. 1 Grand List values, it appears the average single-family home climbed 47 percent in value since 2002, slightly more than the 44 percent average increase in all property value.
Condominium owners will see values up an average of 67 percent while the owners of multi-family homes experienced an 81 percent average hike in assessments, Lasky said.
That means that condo owners and rental property owners are the most likely to see property tax bills shoot up in the coming year.
Commercial property generally rose a little less than residential, but retail space and apartments also saw rapid increases in value, Lasky said.
Industrial property "did a little bit less," Lasky said, as did smaller commercial buildings.
Overall, however, commercial property "really held its own" since 2002, which means that the shift in the tax burden toward homeowners won’t be nearly as severe as it was the last time Bristol did a revaluation.
The assessment for the average Bristol single-family house rose from $103,250 in 2002 to $151,300 this year. Assessments are pegged at no more than 70 percent of market value and typically closer to 67 percent in order to allow for error.
That means the market value of the average Bristol house, as of October 1, was $215,900.
The overall value of property in Bristol won’t be available until the Grand List is finished, probably in late February, but it appears the tally amounts to about $4.5 billion based on preliminary numbers.
The first round of taxes using the new values will be in July 2008.
Massachusetts-based Vision Appraisal is getting nearly $800,000 to handle much of the revaluation work in Bristol. It earned $37 for each property it inspects in town, a crucial step in determining how much every building, store, factory and more is worth.
Revaluation itself doesn't raise or lower property taxes, but updates frequently shift the tax burden between commercial and residential property taxpayers depending on whose property has risen most in value.
Though the shift in 2002 put a greater burden on homeowners, it isn't always that way.
In 1998, for example, most city homeowners saw their taxes shrink because values had gone down relative to commercial property during the previous decade.
Property owners should have their revaluation notices by the middle of next week. But they’ll be able to look up the information online by Tuesday, Lasky said.

Check out your neighbors
For the first time, Bristol property taxpayers will be able to check their assessments against the city’s entire database.
City Assessor Rich Lasky said that when the revaluation notices are printed early next week, the database containing assessment information for every property in town will be made available online for free.
From any computer, people will be able to check their own assessment information as well as that of neighboring and comparable property across town.
To find out more, check out the revaluation contractor’s website at

What if the information is wrong?
Informal hearings to review possible problems will begin on December 3 and last until December 20. Property owners will have the chance to go over their assessments on weekdays, including some evenings.
The revaluation information going out in the mail will include details on how to appeal.
Formal hearings before the Board of Assessment Appeals will begin next year.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 18, 2007

A Hartford County school district?

Though Bristol tends to ignore everything about Hartford except for the occasional basketball game there, people here may want to give a little attention to a proposal made today by Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez in a piece he wrote for The Hartford Courant, linked here.
Perez is advocating the creation of a 29-town, Hartford County school district that would take over responsibility and funding for all of the schools in the county, including Bristol's.
While that's sure to make Farmington and Avon parents feel a little woozy, it's a more interesting issue for Bristol, and one that officials should look into.
I don't think Perez's plan is going anywhere, but it's imporant to recognize that these sorts of ideas are floating around, the sorts of proposals that could eventually be tapped to solve the racial isolation that is helping to keep students in Hartford and New Britain, among other places, from succeeding academically.
Don't make the mistake of ignoring what's going on.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 16, 2007

Downtown hearings illegal? ** Updated 9:45 p.m. **

As best I can tell, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.'s hearings at the Little League complex and Bristol Central High School last Saturday were never posted at City Hall.
That's a violation of open government laws, though, of course, they were publicized. They weren't a secret, but they weren't posted as required.
The same thing is true of the hearing it held at the senior center this afternoon.
And it will be true again for the hearings slated for tomorrow at the two libraries.
That's a pretty big screwup on somebody's part - and perhaps one reason that it's hard for a nonprofit to follow government rules that it may not fully know.
It would seem that the hearings for Saturday should be postponed given that they were not posted in time at City Hall. As for the earlier hearings, well, there's no way to unring a bell.

Please be sure to read the comments for this post because they are, for a change, important.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Arby's coming to Bristol

Bristol’s thinking about Arby’s.
The fast food retailer that specializes in sliced roast beef sandwiches is among the stores slated to move into The Shoppes at Larson Farms on Route 6, opposite Wal-Mart.
Arby’s Restaurants of Piscataway, N.J., the owner, is seeking permission from the city’s Zoning Commission to modify approved plans slightly to improve its proposed drive-through lane and parking.
Arby’s is one of the few widely known fast food franchises that hasn’t yet got an outpost in Bristol, which is already home to two McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, a Taco Bell, two Burger Kings and more.
Arby’s has a number of restaurants in Connecticut, including stores in Waterbury, Plantsville, Berlin, Newington and Cheshire. The closest is 8 miles away.
The former Larson family farm property will house the Arby’s, a bank, an L.A. Fitness Center and a sit-down restaurant.
The Arby’s will need a 2,930-square-foot building while the unidentified other restaurant on the site is more than twice as big. In the past, officials have said it is likely to be a Chili’s Grill & Bar.
City Planer Alan Weiner noted in a public hearing last spring that there is “a certain irony” in having both an Arby’s and a fitness center on the site.
The 1379 Farmington Ave. property is owned by WL Associates, a partnership between the Larson family, which ran a farm there for generations, and Stephen Wasley, who owned a car dealership next door. L.A. Fitness has four other branches in Connecticut. Its fitness center will take up 45,000-square-feet.
Arby’s, an Atlanta-based chain which has been around since 1964, has more than 3,500 restaurants around the world.
It touts itself as “the place for people hungering for a unique, better tasting alternative to traditional fast food.”
“ Serving one-of-a-kind menu items, Arby’s is well known for slow-roasted and freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches, Arby’s Chicken Naturals, and famous Market Fresh sandwiches, wraps and salads, made with wholesome ingredients and served with the convenience of a drive-thru,” according to the company’s website

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Ward raised nearly twice as much money as Johnson

On his way to winning the mayor’s race this month, Democrat Art Ward raised nearly twice as much money as his Republican challenger.
Ward raked in at least $57,314 compared to GOP hopeful Ken Johnson’s $29,195, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city clerk shortly before the election.
The candidates are required to file a complete accounting in mid-December that would include any last-minute or post-election donations.
At least $5,000 of the money raised by Ward came from city workers or unions representing municipal employees, including $3,000 from Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The city’s police union also chipped in $650 to help out Ward.
Among Ward’s other donors were Darlene Coffey, the assistant senior center director, who gave $460; Sean Mowad, a dispatcher, who forked over $145; Democratic Registrar Bob Badal, who gave $150; Police Officer Richard Brown, who forked over $200; and Francis Baehr, an inspector, who chipped in $175.
Among the big donors who also helped Ward was auto dealer Stephen Barberino, who gave $1,000.
Johnson, too, attracted some large donations, including $1,500 from the Realtors Political Action Committee.
The city’s Republican Town Committee helped Johnson out with a $1,200 contribution.
Johnson also got $1,000 from Michael Cucka, a doctor, and Tom Barnes, who heads the Barnes Group.
Detailed reports of the candidates’ fundraising are available at the city clerk’s office.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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New Britain taking a different route to school change

Though I don't quite understand what's on the table in New Britain (here's a link to a story about it), it is clear they're taking a radically different approach than what Bristol is eyeing despite, in the end, a fairly similiar desire to help underachieving students do better.
It's certainly true that the cities are different, but it's hard to comprehend why such widely different responses would emerge to educational issues that aren't so different.
It's worth exploring what's going on that makes each community seek an approach unlike the other's. Anybody have an explanation? For that matter, can anyone find a clear explanation of what they're thinking of doing in New Britain and why?

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
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Leaf collection extended

Though the wind today is trying to knock those leaves off the trees once and for all, there's no doubt that autumn is lingering longer than usual. Hence this morning's press release from public works:

Due to the late fall leaf season, Public Works will be extending the leaf and yard waste collection service period for residents that are eligible for curbside rubbish and recycling services. Leaf bags and yard waste will be collected curbside through December 14th, 2007.
Bagged leaves are only collected in brown (recyclable) paper leaf bags available at most home and garden stores. Residents are asked to bring leaf bags to the curb as soon as they are filled and leave them until collected. Leaf bags are typically collected on the regular rubbish collection day.
Please remember that leaf bags and yard waste barrels must be placed 5 feet away from any other barrel or container. Leaf bags and yard waste barrels can not contain dirt, sand, rocks, or sod. Yard waste barrel contents should be loose enough to allow material to freely exit the barrel when tipped.
Residents are encouraged to clear leaves from the tops of catch basins abutting their property during the fall leaf collection period to help prevent localized flooding conditions during the fall and winter months.
Residents may also 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.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 15, 2007

School building committees meet on Monday, Nov. 26

DATE: November 14, 2007

TO: The West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee

FROM: William Smyth
Assistant to the Superintendent for Business

RE: West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee Regular Meeting

A regular meeting of the West Bristol K-8 School Building Committee has been scheduled for Monday, November 26, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 36 of the Bristol Board of Education Administration Building, 129 Church Street, Bristol, CT 06010.


1. Call to Order
*2. Approval of Minutes
*3. Committee Membership
*4. Discussion of Architect Selection Process
*5. Site Selection
6. Public Participation
7. Any Other Business
8. Adjournment

* Action items


DATE: November 14, 2007

TO: The Forestville K-8 School Building Committee

FROM: William Smyth
Assistant to the Superintendent for Business

RE: Forestville K-8 School Building Committee Regular Meeting

A regular meeting of the Forestville K-8 School Building Committee has been scheduled for Monday, November 26, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 36 at the Bristol Board of Education Administration Building, 129 Church Street, Bristol, CT 06010.


1. Call to Order
*2. Approval of Minutes
*3. Committee Membership
4. Discussion of Architect Selection Process
5. Public Participation
6. Any Other Business
7. Adjournment

* Action Items

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Ban on fireworks sales postponed, or maybe killed

Concerned about an explosion of opposition, city councilors may be afraid to light the fuse on a proposed ban on selling fireworks in town.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro said it "makes no sense whatsoever" to ban fireworks allowed by state law from being sold within Bristol’s borders.
He said he doesn’t see the rationale for taking sparklers away from children when the same fireworks can be purchased legally in every neighboring town and used in Bristol.
The council declined recently to approve the proposed restriction on selling fireworks that former Mayor William Stortz touted. He argued that the police and fire departments shouldn’t have to squander so much time and attention on fireworks every summer.
Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that the proposed ordinance, which was sent back to committee for more research, would basically stop the sale of fireworks.
"We’re shutting down an enterprise" if the council backs the proposed law, Rimcoski said.
He said the city’s public safety personnel have "to try and control" the improper use of fireworks, but preventing their sale won’t help.
Nicastro called the proposed "a little disturbing" because it would cut into traditional fun by youngsters.
The Ordinance Committee that considered Stortz’s request couldn’t make up its mind on the issue, sending the proposed law to the council without making a recommendation one way or another about whether to enact the statute.
Councilor Craig Minor, the new chairman of the panel, said he was troubled by the lack of direction from the panel. He said it should be sent back to the committee for more consideration.
Councilor Kevin McCauley said there is too much abuse of fireworks, but he also agreed that it was best to let the committee look into the issue more deeply.
Stortz raised the idea last summer, after public-safety officials devoted considerable time to checking on the safety of fireworks dealers in Bristol, most of which are temporary businesses. They found a couple of people selling illegal fireworks.
Stortz argued the calls to check on fireworks required the police and fire departments to allocate scarce resources without providing a benefit to the city.
"Sales within the city are not anything where the city benefits economically," Stortz said at the time. "No taxes are levied, and the permit fee for standalone booths is minimal. Restricting sales would reduce the use of fireworks and lead to fewer problems, he said.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Ward vows to end theatrics at City Council meetings

During the past year, residents speaking at City Council meetings have thrown in white towels in a gesture of surrender, handed out failing grades to mayors and cursed officials who didn’t listen to their catcalls from the audience.
Just this week, a former Republican mayoral candidate, Elbert Huckaby, used the public participation portion of a council session to declare that America is a Christian nation, repudiate the Clintons, denounce gays and call city Councilor Craig Minor a whiny know-it-all who’s not standing up for Christ.
That Minor is Jewish was not lost on Huckaby.
Mayor Art Ward immediately told Huckaby that he would not put up with such disrespectful talk at council sessions.Ward said there have been “some problems” with public participation in recent months and that the circus atmosphere is over.
The newly elected mayor said that “we shall have no room for that type of activity” anymore – and those who won’t treat the city’s leaders with respect will get hauled out of the meeting by the police.
Ward said that residents are free to come and express ideas that support what his administration is doing or oppose it. But whichever side they take, he said, they have to speak with the dignity the forum requires.
“Totally and emphatically, I am going to insist that it be done with respect,” Ward said.
Even after Ward threatened Huckaby, who lost a 1997 mayoral race by a wide margin, the Republican said he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights and insisted he had said nothing offensive.
He said Minor should not have opposed a city church’s request last year – and again this year – to put a creche at City Hall.After that, he made some kind of vague threat to Minor.
"You got a free pass this time," Huckaby told the councilor before sitting down, perhaps a reference to the GOP’s failure to field two candidates in Minor’s 3rd District.
Minor said Wednesday he was reluctant to talk about Huckaby’s tirade.
“It’s impossible to have a calm discussion over the issue of church and state with someone like him,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Huckaby has made waves with public pronouncements at council meetings.
In 1999, another Republican mayoral hopeful, Mike Werner, denounced Huckaby for making anti-Semitic slurs against the city’s economic development director and making personal attacks on both Republican and Democratic politicians in town. That year, Huckaby even questioned the sexuality of one of his own party’s candidates.
Huckaby got creamed in his 1997 mayoral race, a 1998 state House contest and a 1999 GOP mayoral primary. He has not run for office since then.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

November 14, 2007

No sex offenders in the parks?

Angry that a convicted sex offender allegedly raped a 13-year-old in Brackett Park in September, city Councilor Frank Nicastro wants to bar anyone on the state’s sex offender registry from entering a municipal park.
“We have to take a strong stand here,” Nicastro said.
City councilors unanimously agreed to send the idea to the Ordinance Committee to work out the language, which is likely to be modeled on a similar statute that Danbury enacted.
“Our parks should be considered safe havens for the youth of our city,” Mayor Art Ward said.
Danbury’s law “prohibits child sex offenders who are required to register in this state from being present in any child safety zone,” according to a June report by the Office of Legislative Research in Hartford.
The report said that Danbury defines a child safety zone as “a public park, playground, recreation center, bathing beach, swimming or wading pool, or sports field or facility and surrounding land.”
Nicastro said he would like Bristol to follow Danbury’s lead.
Nicastro, a state representative and former mayor, said he doesn’t want sex offenders to have access to playgrounds and recreational areas where children gather.
There are currently 97 registered sex offenders living in Bristol. Most were convicted of crimes that did not involve children.
But a particularly awful crime in September convinced Nicastro that action is needed.
According to the police, 26-year-old Bernard “Bernie” Wandlaincourt sexually and physically molested a girl half his age behind some bleachers at 9:30 p.m. on a mid-September Monday at Brackett Park.
Police received a report from a 13-year-old city teen around 9:30 p.m. Monday that a man known to her only as Wandlaincourt was a convicted sex offender recently released from prison, where he served a sentence for a 2001 sexual assault similar to the one he allegedly committed at the park.
At the time of the assault, Wandlaincourt was required to register as a sex offender and was wearing an electronic monitoring ankle-bracelet so that the Department of Probation could monitor him, according to police and court records.
He is charged with risk of injury to a minor, third-degree assault, second-degree threatening, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree kidnapping.In Danbury, Wandlaincourt would face a $100 fine if he entered a city park.
Bristol’s ordinance panel, chaired by city Councilor Craig Minor, will consider the proposed law and could recommend its adoption within a few months.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Huckaby makes an odd return to City Hall

A decade ago, the Republicans nominated Elbert Huckaby as their mayoral candidate. He went on to suffer one of the biggest political defeats in city history.
Since then, he's rarely been seen in political circles.
But last night, he showed at the City Council meeting to declare that America is a Christian nation, that he repudiates the Clintons, and that he doesn't have any use for gay people.
Then he ripped into city Councilor Craig Minor, calling him a whiny know-it-all and tossing in a few other choice words that I didn't quite process in the shock of the moment.
Mayor Art Ward immediately told Huckaby that he would not put up with such disrespectful talk at council sessions.
Huckaby declared he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights and insisted he had said nothing offensive.
He proceeded to say something about how Minor and his people have lowered the standards of our country, though I couldn't quite figure out how. Minor, by the way, is Jewish.
Huckaby finished up with some sort of vague threat to Minor.
"You got a free pass this time," Huckaby told the councilor. What that meant, I don't know.
Perhaps Huckaby is contemplating a council race in 2009 aimed at unseating Minor.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Stortz raises questions about BDA contract awarded to Ken Johnson in 2002

On his last business day in office, former Mayor William Stortz issued this memorandum to the City Council and Board of Finance:

TO: Distribution

FROM: William T. Stortz, Mayor

DATE: November 9, 2007

Political Campaigns are known to open the door to questions that sometimes are overlooked or taken for granted. Sometimes an issue is looked at in a way that is slightly different from the usual. That is not a bad thing. The recent campaign was no different.

One candidate raised the question of the City’s purchasing procedures, a process that presumably was functioning in an acceptable manner.

Based on the public statements made by the candidate, subsequent questions ensued, and to some extent, answers were provided by our Purchasing Agent relative to the original allegation.

At the same time, questions were raised relative to the candidates’ involvement with the City, also dealing with the acquisition and payment for services.

I received a few calls, and some direct questions.

As has been my practice, I took these calls seriously, for I feel very strongly about ensuring that the City conducts its business in a professional, ethical, and above-board manner.

In researching the issue, I found it difficult to get clear and concise answers, for many reasons. While part of that may have been because of my lack of familiarity with some of the policies, it also seems to stem from the fact that many of those that I spoke with had no idea regarding this issue.

Therefore, there may be more information available which might be uncovered as time goes by.

At issue is the manner in which the City “contracts” for certain services, in this case the use of real estate agents. That was the question raised by the candidate. That is the question raised regarding a different situation in mid-summer 2002, when the City was trying to work with the families on the Bugryn property, in an effort to help them relocate.

Apparently this came under the auspices of the Bristol Development Authority, for on August 5, 2002, Jonathan Rosenthal received a FAX from “A Buyers Market” offering to represent the BDA regarding the relocation of the Bugryns.

That FAX included a copy of an agreement, ostensibly developed by “A Buyers Market”, and it was requested that it be signed.

According to the FAX, work had already started back in July, and subsequent documentation indicates that the first payment was then made on September 16, 2002 for $1,000.00, against a purchase order set up for $4,999.00, as requested by Jonathan Rosenthal.

The questions arising from this initial activity, and subsequent activity, are:
1.) How was the representative selected?
A.) Were there bids, proposals?
B.) Was this action approved? There seems to be no documented approvals by BDA, City Council, Board of Finance.
C.) Was there, is there, an “approved list” of agents?

2.) Is there an agreement on file? Requests have been made of various departments, and the responses so far are:
A.) Comptrollers – No record
B.) City Clerk – No record
C.) Corporation Counsel – No record (verbal response)
D.) Purchasing – No record
E.) BDA – Jonathan not available, staff has been unable to find any record of signed agreement

3.) Who negotiated agreement?

4.) Why was the initial purchase order for $4,999.00, and then subsequent ones for $5,000.00? Purchasing guidelines require formal quotes if over $5,000.00, competitive verbal quotes if between $1,000.000 - $4,999.00.

As I indicated, documentation and answers have been difficult to come by.

No mention in minutes (BDA, City Council, Joint Board, Board of Finance) regarding this activity, at least with the research done to date.

No readily available signed copy of agreement. It’s been requested with various responses, no signed agreement provided yet.

No indication of competitive acquisition of services. Don’t know if this was waived and/or documented.

No record or proof of requirements such as insurance, etc., if required.

No record of approval, for form, by Corporation Counsel’s Office. Don’t know if this is/was necessary.

Of concern and interest is the fact that this project may be utilizing funds from other sources, such as state or federal. With that in mind, we must assure that all the proper approvals are required, that all proper policies are adhered to.

The City failed to do so with the Streetscape Project, and when we submitted requests for reimbursement, the inadequacies were discovered. The State allowed us to retroactively approve the various approvals by BDA, the City Council, and in some cases, both. We should not be making the same mistakes over. Also, approvals do serve a purpose; information and control. When ignored, neither need is met.

There is documentation that a formal agreement was discussed/offered back in August, 2002. There is documentation indicating that an agreement was dated January 14, 2003. However, efforts to date have failed to produce copies of such a document. Was an agreement necessary? Should one have been reviewed for form?

There are at least four different purchase orders, plus two more for testimony. The total paid out other than for testimony, $20,650. How does this relate to any bidding procedures? Even after the fact approval would have provided the information and the accountability.

I bring this to light to determine if, as suggested at a political forum, that the City purchasing procedures are not all above-board or if the allegations are without merit.

The allegations came from the outside, from someone seemingly aware of the policies, and someone who did show an interest. Those comments resulted in my receiving calls and comments, which prompted further questioning on my part. As indicated, answers were sparse and vague, and my time was limited. I hope that additional effort will be given to get answers, for the public deserves to know.

Some basic questions:

1.) Why $4,999.00, just under a policy limit?

2.) Why no written agreement available, certainly from four of the five departments that usually get copies?

3.) Why no approval of various levels: BDA Board, City Council, Board of Finance?

4.) In light of one other occasion where it is know that proper approvals were not obtained in a timely fashion, are there any other occasions where this occurred? Are there other situations where policies were, or may not have been followed?

Hopefully, additional review will produce information that explains all of these questions, and that the charges are without merit.

I do not have enough information to definitively say something is wrong or not. On the other hand, the questions do need to be answered.

The taxpayers need to know that we are doing our job, and that their taxes are being utilized properly.

Distribution: City Council
Board of Finance

Attached to the memorandum are a number of memos, purchase orders and payment information. I may scan and post some of them later.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Seating arrangement at City Council

With the advent of a new administration, the seating chart at City Council has been shuffled.
Mayor Art Ward is in the middle seat, as mayors always are. But here's the lineup of councilors as they look from the audience, going left to right: Kevin McCauley, Ken Cockayne, Frank Nicastro, Ward, Mike Rimcoski, Cliff Block, and Craig Minor.
So Nicastro is Ward's right hand man. Rimcoski holds down Ward's left flank.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

313 Main St. Chronology of Events

TO: Bristol City Council

FROM: Guy R. Morin, Chief Building Official

SUBJECT: Order to Demolish

RE: 313 Main Street

DATE: November 13, 2007

The following is a chronology of events leading up to the demolition of the structure on the property known as 313 Main Street, Bristol, CT.

1) The first building permit was issued on 6/14/2004 to “Transport historic structure to new location on Main Street. Building moved on or about June 24, 2004. Completed and closed.
2) A second building permit was issued on 11/15/2004 for: “Foundation for existing 25 X 41 house with a rear 16 X 25 capped addition (no structure above)”. Completed and closed.
3) A third building permit was issued on 8/30/2005 for a 8 X 8 front porch was never constructed, so it expired after 180 days per section 105.5 of the State Building Code.
4) May 21, 2007 - I spoke with Mr. Karl about the status of the structure. Advised him that there wasn’t a valid building permit to allow him to work on the property. He stated that he intended to make a museum.
5) June 4, 2007- Memo to Jeff Steeg regarding conversation with Mr. Karl on the progress of the project.
6) June 25, 2007 – received copy of memo from Jeff Steeg to Mayor Stortz.
7) I’m on vacation from the 4th of July until July 21st.
8) August 3, 2007 – Met Mr. Karl at property advised him again that he needed to “declare” the use of the property and apply for the applicable permits. He said he understood.
9) August 6, 2007 – Sent first warning letter to Mr. Karl re-affirming our conversation on the 3rd.
10) August 14, 2007 – City Council Meeting, Council expresses concern regarding the status of the property.
11) August 23, 2007 – Site inspection of property with Don Angersola (Building Inspector) where we observed numerous structural defects from work performed by Mr. Karl. Warning letter was sent certified and posted on property detailing violations.
12) August 27, 2007 – Memo from Mayor Stortz to Attorney Krawieki regarding the possible demolition of the building.
13) August 28, 2007 – Memo to Corporation Counsel from me detailing that day’s site inspection regarding the temporary safeguards I had installed and my conversation with Mr. Karl.
14) September 12, 2007 – E-Mail from me to Jeff Steeg reporting a conversation with Mr. Karl in this office regarding the submittal of plans prior to the issuance of a Building Permit.
15) September 14, 2007 – E-Mail from me to Jeff Steeg with attached memo requesting a meeting with the Mayor and Corp. Counsel because of my concerns that Mr. Karl did not understand basic construction practices and someone may be injured on the property.
16) Note from Mayor on my September 14th memo expressing his concerns.
17) September 28, 2007 – Memo to Jeff Steeg summarizing the lack of comprehensive building plans and my anxiety about Mr. Karl’s competency.
18) September 29, 2007 – E-Mail from Mayor Stortz directing Jeff Steeg and I to resolve issues.
19) October 3, 2007 – Memo to Mayor from me directing the Demolition of the building.
20) October 3, 2007 – Certified letter to Ken Karl “Notice of Condemnation” along with copy of the memo to the Mayor.
21) October 18, 2007 – Two letters from Ken Karl, one dated October 2nd, the other dated October 15th. The letters do not provide any of the information required to stop the demolition of the building.
22) October 19, 2007 – Letter from me to Mr. Karl, outlining the entire enforcement events which lead up to the order to demolish, and a last opportunity to stop the demolition by taking some valid actions.
23) November 8, 2007 – Re-inspection of the building with Officer Thomas Lavigne present. Rear section of building had partially collapsed, still open to weather from holes in the roof resulting in the failure of large sections of ceiling. Floors dangerously sloped, and there is additional indication that Mr. Karl has removed more structural support members. We find evidence of someone occupying structure, building not secure and there are empty food containers as well as a bed with obvious personal items. I call Greg Laviero of Laviero Construction and we survey the building. We come to a consensus that the structure has had a catastrophic failure and cannot be repaired. I order the building immediately demolished and authorize the work to take place.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at