March 31, 2009

Another intersection slated for overhaul

A congested intersection at the base of Union Street is likely to get a multi-million dollar makeover in a few years.

The city recently approved a $350,000 redesign of the jagged junction of South, Church and Union streets.

“It’s really a quagmire there, especially at rush hour,” Mayor Art Ward said Tuesday.

The project should get underway in about three years, Public Works Director Walter Veselka said.

Veselka said the federal government will pay 80 percent of the cost of the work, with the state and the city each picking up 10 percent of the total tab.

The proposed work is part of a long-term effort to fix troubled intersections across town, including the ongoing reconstruction of the south end of Union Street.

Other projects that are already finished include remaking the junction of Brook and Mix streets with Farmington Avenue and redoing the intersection of Stafford Avenue and Washington Street.

Ward said the problems at the South, Church and Union streets intersection remind him of the tie-ups on Farmington Avenue where Stafford Avenue crosses it.

“People get hung up at that intersection” just like the one at the end of Union Street, the mayor said.

The city set aside $200,000 for the design work last year. Board of Finance commissioners recently agreed to chip in another $155,000 to pay the rest of the tab.

Once the project is done, Ward said, traffic ought to “flow more freely” on South and Union Streets.

The worst time of day now, Ward said, is about 4:45 or 5 p.m. when commuters get backed up across the intersection and wind up blocking Union and Church streets, too.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Come out and talk to our publisher and editor

There's a meeting at the Main Library this evening from 6 to 7:30 or so where anyone who wants to ask questions or offer ideas can speak directly with the editor and the publisher of The Bristol Press. The meeting rooms are on the ground floor, for those who haven't been there yet. It's a nice setup.
I'm sure lots of you will want to attend to urge them to give me a fat raise.
Oh, and you folks who want me fired? You can go to the library in East Haddam. ;)

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Hey kids, sign the petition if you want

My Bristol Press colleague Bob Montgomery is a sweet man, but he doesn't know a thing about petitioning the government.
In his column yesterday, he raised the unnecessary question about whether people who are not registered voters in Bristol can sign the petition calling for the Park Board to name the new skatepark at Rockwell Park after Henry Waye, Jr.
The answer, of course, is that they sure can.
There are complicated -- unnecessarily complicated -- rules for signing petitions related to candidates and referenda. But there's no reason in the world that a petition asking for a skatepark to be named after someone has to follow those same ridiculously complex regulations.
In fact, there is a constitutional right for the people to petition their government. It doesn't say a word in there that would preclude young people from partaking of that fundamental right of any U.S. citizen.
Connecticut's Constition, too, mandates that citizens have a right to offer "by petition" their thoughts and grievances to the government.
Citizens are not just registered voters. They are all us, including kids.
So if you want to sign the petition, do it. They're available in a number of shops around town now. There's also an online petition.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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March 30, 2009

Another blow to the Courant

A television guy just took over as publisher of The Hartford Courant. His first move? To combine the Courant's dwindling newsroom with those of two TV stations owned by Tribune Co.
This can't be good for journalism or the Courant.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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New GOP contender for 2nd District City Council seat

Here's something from Richard Scarola, a Republican who is running for a 2nd District City Council seat: 

I believe that government owes its existence to the very people it serves. It exists to serve the people, not the other way around.  Over the course of the last few administrations I fear that our leaders have lost site of this fact.  Taxes in Bristol seem to go up every year with no end in sight and I believe we are dangerously close to the “point of no return.” Frustration and resentment towards elected officials has built across this nation and in our own town too and people are losing faith.  Elected officials are no longer respected, they are distrusted.  I am hoping to be a leader who changes that. 

I am a proponent of disciplined budget management and fiscal restraint. By being disciplined and providing a fair and just tax code that the hard working citizens of this city deserve I believe we can maintain the outstanding municipal services citizens have come to expect while balancing the budget.

I also believe we should actively recruit and retain “technology ready” companies to this town to bolster our employment rate and lower our tax base. “Technology ready” is planning for the future. “Shovel ready” is not. In order for Bristol to excel into the future, we must be ready to lead with bold new ideas and to embrace positive change as it comes.  

We must offer the best education we can provide for our children. Outstanding education equips our children with the tools that they need to achieve their share of the American Dream.  A superior educational system not only helps our children and the future of this country, but it also has practical and immediate impact on the value of properties and the reputation of our town. 

I am running for city council because I want to make a difference.  I am proud to be from Bristol and I hope to be a part of an administration that the people of this town can have faith in and be proud of too.  This is why I am announcing my candidacy for Bristol City Council, 2nd District.

Work Experience:

8 years United States Marine, Corps Camp Lejuene, N.C.

  • 3 years Army National Guard, Brainard Field, Hartford, Ct.
  • 5 years General Manager of Sbarro’s Pizzeria, Richardson Mall, Hartford, Ct.
  • 3 years President of the Business for downtown Hartford. (Richardson Mall representative.)
  • 5 years Federal Corrections Officer, US. Dept. of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Danbury, Ct.
  • 2 years Home Improvement Contractor, self-employed, Bristol, Ct.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Bristol lawmakers differ on budget crisis

Since state Rep. Bill Hamzy took office 15 years ago, the state budget has nearly tripled while Connecticut’s population has barely grown.

And now that it’s facing at least a $7 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year, the Plymouth Republican said, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly only wants to raise taxes again and “not cut one dime” in spending.

But Bristol’s Democrats say that’s not true.

State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a 79th District Democrat, said he’s gotten “hundreds and hundreds of emails” urging him not to cut state services.

“But we can’t avoid cuts,” he said, “or taxation will be unbelievable.”

But Democrats admit they’re ready to consider tax hikes.

“We can’t be cutting all over the place,” state Rep. Betty Boukus, a 22nd District Democrat said.

Another Bristol Democrat, the 77th District’s Chris Wright, said that lawmakers are going through the budget line by line to figure out if there are tax breaks they can toss out or revise to secure more money.

Scaling back sales tax exemptions, which cost the state $5 billion a year, is one possibility, Wright said.

“For some reason, we don’t tax yarn,” said state House Speaker Chris Donovan, a Meriden Democrat. “We also don’t tax yachts.”

“So we’re looking for some more Y things,” he joked.

State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who has represented the 31st District since 1992, said that resolving the budget crisis is not a partisan issue.

“We’re all in this boat together,” Colapietro said.

The senator said the goal is “to hurt the least amount of people possible.”

Colapietro said the Democrats “don’t disagree with what” Gov. Jodi Rell “has to say about the pain” that’s going to be necessary.

“We’d just allocate it differently,” said Colapietro, whose district includes Plymouth, Plainville, Bristol and part of Harwinton.

He said the trick is to use a scalpel, not a meat cleaver, to pare the state’s spending.

Nicastro said that Democrats understand they can’t “drive business away” or the economy won’t recover.

Wright said that “a more progressive income tax” is certainly one possible source of extra revenue.

There’s a chance, too, that the state might hike the sale tax generally, Wright said.

Boukus said that taxes will rise for sure. “But there will be cuts, too,” she said.

Hamzy said the Democrats have to drop their arrogance and make a serious effort to deal with the budget crisis.

He said he thinks that people “are waking up” to what’s been happening in Hartford for years.

The Democrats plan to present an initial state budget plan this week. It is likely to diverge from Rell’s proposal in a number of areas, they said.

“It’s a challenge,” Donovan said. “But, hey, it’s Connecticut. We’ll get through it.”

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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March 29, 2009

Broken by the bottle? An ex-wife talks and a camera may have captured Park at a key moment

Two more stories about the hit-and-run suspect to round out this weekend's offerings:
First off, Jackie Majerus writes about what Robert Park's ex-wife has to say in this story.

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Twitter feed for The Bristol Press

If I did it right, there's now a Twitter feed for Bristol Press stories. Just add BristolPress as a source on Twitter and, with luck, you'll get a feed for it.
No doubt I'll be tweaking it later, but I promised to get it going and I think I have.

Update on Monday morning -- Yup, it's working. :)

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Hit-and-run driver's history of drinking

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this terrific story, from his son's perspective, about the man behind the wheel in the fatal hit-and-run that left 14-year-old Henry Waye, Jr dead this month.
I chipped in this one, which makes it clear that Robert Park's drinking hasn't gotten better in recent years.
And don't miss Jim Smith's column today taking the police to task for undue secrecy.
I haven't seen the paper itself so I don't know if a couple of other stories are in print today or waiting for tomorrow's issue (or later, depending on how things go).
I would ask that if anyone who knows Park -- friends, family, coworkers, etc. -- would like to offer a different perspective on the man, we are eager to hear from you. We'd very much like to offer more balance, but with Park and his wife passing up the chance to talk to us, it's hard.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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March 27, 2009

Route 72 extension delayed another year

When Gov. Jodi Rell cut the ribbon on the $63.5 million Route 72 extension project in 2007, she said Bristol has “been waiting for years” for it.
It turns out they’ll have to wait a little longer.
The massive new roadway that construction crews are cutting through Forestville to create was supposed to open in June.
Instead, the state Department of Transportation now anticipates the long-anticipated roadway won’t be done until the fall of 2010.
That’s an extra 16 months of disruption and delay, if the current timetable holds up.
The department said in a statement this month that “significant progress has been made” on the road construction itself, but work on secondary streets and utilities has lagged behind.
According to the department’s monthly report for March, AT&T’s work on conduits is “lagging significantly” and CL&P hasn’t done what’s required either.
The power company apparently had to send some of its crews to Kentucky and New Hampshire over the winter to deal with emergencies there, reducing its ability to focus on the work connected to Route 72.
The new road will run between the end of the expressway in Plainville to Riverside Avenue just south of the railroad bridge on Middle Street.
The New Britain-based Manafort Brothers got the construction contract in August 2007 to carry out the work for nearly $40 million.
Finishing by the late spring of 2009 would require "a pretty aggressive schedule," the former state transportation commissioner, Ralph Carpenter, said at the groundbreaking in the fall of 2007. But, he promised, it would be done.
The new road will feature a sunken, boulevard-type street slicing through a residential section between Route 372 in Plainville and Yarde's Pond. Parts of it will be as much as 17 feet beneath the surrounding terrain.
After that section, the four-lane road will follow the existing right of way on Pine Street before crossing a new Pequabuck River bridge in order to align directly with Riverside Avenue.
Ten intersections with traffic lights are included along the new road.

Here's the DOT's overview page on the project.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Anybody want to meet Bruce Springsteen?

Note sent out by Hartford Food System, which is auctioning some tickets to Springsteeen's concert in Hartford next month:

Bruce Springsteen is coming to Hartford on April 24, 2009 for what promises to be another amazing concert.  "The Boss" has a long history of concern with social justice issues, and has over his 30+ years of superstardom had a special emphasis on issues related to hunger and food.  Bruce has regularly supported the Hartford Food System ( on his swings through Hartford, and 2009 is no exception.  

The Hartford Food System has been given four excellent seats to the April 24 XL Center show to auction off to the highest bidder.  But the really big deal is that if the bidding for a pair of tickets goes over $10,000, Bruce will do a "meet and greet" with the winners after the show!  He has also generously agreed to match the winning bidder’s donation up to $50,000.  Time
is short, so we are putting together this auction quickly.

The auction itself will be held Friday, April 17, 2009 from 5 pm to 6 pm at the offices of Murtha Cullina, LLP, CityPlace I, 185 Asylum Street, Hartford, Connecticut, directly across from the XL Center.  People who cannot make it in person can participate by phone or by sending a bid in advance.  Refreshments will be served and Jerry Jones, Executive Director of the Hartford Food System, will say a few words about the many projects of the Food System before the bidding begins.  So that we have an accurate estimate of the number of people
who will attend, please let us know if you will attend by e-mailing

And for those fans who want to guarantee attendance at the "meet and greet," the Food System will give a pair of tickets (with the meet & greet) to the first bidder to e-mail a bid of $10,500 or more prior to Noon on April 14 (winner to be determined by the time the e-mail is received).  The second set of tickets will be reserved for the live auction.

In these economic times, the mission of the Hartford Food System is more important than ever.  Please combine a once in a lifetime chance to meet Springsteen with the opportunity to help those in your community by doing your part to make this auction a success.  Please let as many people as possible know about this auction so that we can get as much money into the programs for sustainable and healthy food systems as possible.
  Hugh F. Murray, III 

  Murtha Cullina LLP
  CityPlace I, 185 Asylum Street
  Hartford, CT 06103-3469
  Direct: 860-240-6077
  Direct Fax: 860-240-5877

If anybody wants to donate $50,000 or so and give me the tickets, I'd be fine with that. It's a good cause, after all. ;)

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Another hospital feuding with another insurance company

Bristol Hospital isn't the only Connecticut institution that can't reach deals with insurance companies. See this morning's release from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield:

Contract Termination with Middlesex Hospital

A Message from David R. Fusco, President, 
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut 
Please note the following important information related to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's ("Anthem's") participating provider networks in Connecticut. 
Middlesex Hospital has terminated its participating hospital contract with Anthem. If we are unable to reach agreement on its renewal, then effective May 1, 2009, Middlesex Hospital will no longer be a participating hospital in Anthem's networks.  
Within the next two weeks, we will send letters to your customers and then their employees who have recently received services from Middlesex Hospital or live within fifteen (15) miles from the hospital to ensure that employees are aware of their options going forward. Our most important concern is that employees and their covered family members have access to the care that they need and, fortunately, we have other participating hospitals that are available to meet their health care needs.  
Please be assured that we will continue to try to reach an agreement with Middlesex Hospital that provides our members with access to its services.  
David R. Fusco 
President, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut 

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Ex-GOP state House candidate jailed

Missed this story in yesterday's Hartford Courant, but I'm sure I'm not alone in finding it interesting: Chuck DiBiaso, who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic state Rep. Roger Michele in 2004 has been tossed in prison for at least 27 months for trying to arrange a sexual romp with a 15-year-old girl who turned out to be a Bloomfield police officer.

PS: To the guy who accused me of covering up the crime because I'm so fond of Republicans, please, get a life. Do you think I check the arrest dockets in Bloomfield or wherever? How the heck would I know about this thing? I don't possess a crystal ball that automatically serves up every potential story 24/7.
Along that same vein, readers, if you know about a story that you haven't seen on here or in the paper, let me know about it! In the end, we rely on the community to tell us what's going on. We are a tiny handful of journalists scrambling every day, not an omniscent army. We need your help.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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March 26, 2009

House speaker calls for courthouse to remain open

It doesn’t look like the gavel is going to come on Bristol’s courthouse anytime soon.
House Speaker Chris Donovan, a Meriden Democrat, said Thursday that “it doesn’t make sense” for lawmakers to go along with Gov. Jodi Rell’s proposal to shut down courthouses in Bristol and his hometown.
The closures probably won’t happen now, said state Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat. “The speaker holds a lot of weight.”
Closing the Meriden and Bristol courthouses, as the governor proposes, would save $2.1 million annually by eliminating funding for 29 positions and associated costs, according to Rell's budget.
Another $438,000 would be saved by axing five public defenders who work at the two courthouses.
Though Donovan’s support for the two courthouses is crucial, it’s not the last word.
“We’re hopeful” the courts will stay open, said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat.
“It appears we’re going to be able to save it, but I can’t take that to the bank,” Nicastro said.
Donovan said that both courts are busy places that serve important roles in their communities.
Without them, he asked, “Where are people going to go?”
State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said that shutting down the courthouses would “hurt Bristol” by cutting into downtown business.
“There’s more and more leaving the downtown area,” the senator said, and adding to the exodus wouldn’t help.
A state law requires the Bristol courthouse remain open at least 40 weeks a year, a measure written into the statute book more than 15 years ago when former House Minority Leader Edward Krawiecki, Jr took the initiative to block earlier talk of shutting the Bristol institution.
However, the law doesn’t specifically require a superior court locally so it’s always possible the state could stick a traffic or small claims court in the space and comply with the law's wording without leaving much of a judicial footprint in town.
The state tried most recently in 2001 to close the courthouse. The effort was beaten back by the city's legislators and Nicastro, who was mayor at the time.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Firehouse chimney tilting dangerously

A 45-foot tall brick chimney beside the central firehouse is beginning to tilt.
Though it’s got a long way to go before it matches the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s leaning far enough to worry city officials who are racing to have it knocked down before it comes down on its own.
“It could be dangerous,” said city Councilor Cliff Block.
Fire Chief Jon Pose said that he noticed several weeks ago that “a distinct tilt” had afflicted the half century old chimney on the north side of the firehouse.
The freestanding chimney is connected by a single metal pipe to the firehouse itself. An emergency generator sits right beside it.
At this point, Pose said, the chimney is 8 inches off center, but there’s concern that it could creep further sideways.
“The base of the chimney is crumbling,” Pose said.
The city’s purchasing agent, Roger Rousseau, is soliciting bids to take down the chimney.
“Before it falls down, we’re going to tear it down,” Pose said.
It will likely be replaced by a power vent on the side of the firehouse that can serve the same function for a fraction of the cost of building a new chimney.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said that when the chimney is removed this spring, the city will try to preserve as many bricks from it as possible to use for future renovations of the firehouse.
That way, Pose said, any bricks that have to be replaced can match the ones that have been there since the 1960s.
Veselka said that saving bricks will add a little bit to the cost, but it’s worth it.
The fire board and the city’s building committee each agreed this week to proceed with the chimney’s removal.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Report on the asbestos at City Hall

For those who want to know more, you can read a seven page PDF of Public Works Director Walter Veselka's report by clicking here.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

March 25, 2009

Farmington's Justin Bernier is taking on U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy

Press release from state GOP boss Chris Healy:

MEDIA ADVISORY: Justin Bernier, former Governor Rell Appointee, to announce his run for 5th Congressional District Seat
FARMINGTON - The former director of Connecticut's Office of Military Affairs, Justin Bernier (R), will officially announce his candidacy for the Fifth Congressional District on Thursday, March 26, 2009, at 9:45 am.
All members of the Connecticut media are invited to join Bernier and his supporters at the Farmington Community & Senior Center, for the announcement.
WHO: Justin Bernier
WHAT: Bernier to officially announce candidacy with a brief statement and key platform points
WHERE: Farmington Community & Senior Center, Room A/B, 321 New Britain Avenue, Unionville, CT
WHEN: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:45 am
NOTE: Email for a copy of the statement and press release.
About Justin Bernier Bernier, 33, is an Intelligence Officer with the U.S. Navy reserve, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and a former member of Second District Congressman Rob Simmons' staff. He played an instrumental role in saving Submarine Base New London in 2005. Justin is a native of Farmington. He and his wife, Jennie, live in Plainville.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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UConn violated recruiting rules?

Yahoo! Sports is reporting that UConn's men's team violated NCAA recuiting rules when it tried to land a promising young basketball awhile back. Read about it here.

Update: Just learned that one of the reporters on that story, Adrian Wognarowski, is from Bristol. Kudos, Adrian!

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Waye case remains under investigation

City police are still working on their investigation into the hit-and-run death of 14-year-old Henry Waye, Jr this month.
Lt. Edward Spyros said Tuesday there is nothing new to report on the case as officers continue to piece together evidence as part of “a thorough and deliberate investigation” into the March 5 accident on George Street.
Spyros said police can’t disclose the name of the suspect. He said they don’t know if he has a lawyer.
A statement issued by Spyros recently said that police located a suspect and his white Chevrolet pickup truck follwing the accident and that the suspect “was hospitalized shortly after.”
Police are waiting for the final report from the medical examiner’s office, the state’s forensic laboratory, a mechanic’s report on the vehicle and more, according to Spyros.
The goal is for police to “prepare a detailed arrest warrant and present it to the prosecutor’s office” for review as soon as possible, he said. If there is probable cause, a judge would later issue an arrest warrant.
Spyros said that as soon as an arrest warrant is issued, the case details will be made public.
“The decision to make an arrest can sometimes be difficult for police,” Spyros said in his written statement. “Police have to balance the rights of victims, suspects, court rulings and what the public expects from its law enforcement officers.”
He said the result will be a “thorough and fair” investigation that will protect everyone’s rights.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Indoor pool closed by heater meltdown

The city's indoor pool besidethe Mix Street Little League complex is closed until about April 11 because a heater flamed out Sunday.
Park Director Ed Swicklas said the pool was shut down last week to replace drains.
When it was refilled and the heater turned on to warm up the water to the normal 81 or 82 degrees, it melted down instead.
Swicklas said that the chlorine and humidity in the Malone Aquatic Center likely contributed to the corrosion that caused it to fail.
At this point, it appears that replacing it will take about three weeks. Swicklas said he hopes to reopen the pool on April 11, but it could take longer.
The current temperature of the water is about 66 degrees and falling.
"It would be like swimming in the ocean," Swicklas said.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Explosion at City Hall

Shortly after 4 p.m. last Friday, one of the city's two heating boilers blew up, sending smoke and asbestos fibers through the ducts and knocking the door off the ground floor mechanical room.
Air tests done on Saturday morning showed that asbestos fibers were hanging in the air at unsafe levels in at least a couple locations at City Hall, which forced the complete closure of the building while experts dealt with the problem, officials said.
What they did was to run high-powered fans with lots of filters on ever floor for a day to replace all of the air in the building several times over.
Tests on Sunday determined that the asbestos was gone, except from the mechanical room where the boiler is located. It is completely sealed off now.
What happens next is that a cleanup firm is going to go in to the sealed off room wearing those spaceman-type suits and take care of the mess.
I'll have the details later about what seems to have happened, but it appears the city may have to replace one or both of its half century-old boilers at City Hall, a potentially costly necessity.
In the meantime, city officials say the building is safe for employees and the public.
More to come on all of this later. I only heard it about late yesterday but I've got a lot to pass on now.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Matthews seeks 3rd District City Council seat

A 29-year-old lawyer hopes to capture one of two open City Council seats in this fall’s municipal election to win the right to represent Forestville and south Bristol for the next two years.

Kate Matthews said the revitalization of the center of Forestville would be one of her top priorities.

Matthews, a Democrat, also said that she’d like to crack the all-male council because “it would be great to get a woman’s voice” on the six-person panel again.

Both incumbents in the 3rd District, Democrats Frank Nicastro and Craig Minor, have said they won’t seek re-election in November.

Until Matthews announced her intention this week, Republican newcomer Derek Czenczelewski was the only contender to take their place for the part-time, $10,000-a-year post.

One other potential candidate, Democrat Terry Parker, said he plans to declare his intention to run next month.

Mathews, who has a 2-year-old daughter named Anna, said she wants to “help my neighbors” and bring her problem-solving skills to bear on critical city issues.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said Matthews “reminds me of me” as she enters the political arena with a young daughter at her side. She told Matthews this week that she can run a successful campaign and raise her family, too.

Matthews hasn’t run for office before, but knows her way around politics. She also knows the town.

A 1998 Bristol Eastern High School graduate, Matthews earned her bachelor’s degree from Simmons College in philosophy and political science four years later.

In 2005, she graduated from the University of Connecticut Law School, got married to Peter Matthews and passed the bar to become an attorney.

“I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” Matthews said.

She currently practices construction litigation for a firm in Hartford.

“I’m almost a lifelong Bristol resident,” Matthews said, because she moved away during her college years. But she moved back to town after her marriage, she said, and now lives just nine houses up the block from her parents.

“We moved back because there’s a lot about Bristol that I love,” Matthews said.

The 3rd District spans the southern third of Bristol. It is one of three council districts in town, each with two representatives. They serve two-year terms. The election is Nov. 3.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Stortz raises GASB 45 issue

Email sent from former Mayor William Stortz to city officials yesterday:

Dear Mayor Ward,

From what I hear, the GASB 45 Issue is not dead, at least yet, supposedly the Council can and will vote on it.

I know that many people still have questions, and while some answers may have been given, the information has not been widely or adequately disseminated, and in some cases is still being questioned.

I would like to suggest, like to ask, that the city make this issue part of their Web Site, until it is resolved or closed. I would like to see the public have the opportunity to ask questions, have them posted, along with answers. This way the questions will be public and the answers documented for all to see.

Perhaps the questions could be submitted on line and be filtered through your office so as to eliminate the extraneous and irrelevant or self-serving ones, and maybe some questions can even be combined. You, your office, would assign the questions to the appropriate department, who would provide your office with responses to be posted. That way you, and the council would also be aware of the public interest and concerns.

There may be variations to this that might make it more effective, but providing for a forum for questions, AND answers, may help bring this issue to a successful conclusion. Since it could amount to a possible half mill impact, I am sure that the public would have a real interest. By making the public more a part of the process, prompt closure might be achieved.

Hopefully you will consider this, and implement it, or at least some version of it.

As usual, I will try to answer any questions, and expand on this if you are interested.


William T. Stortz

PS: Bill, you should include me on these things!
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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March 24, 2009

Speaker of the state House to appear in Bristol

The speaker of the House, Democrat Chris Donovan of Meriden, is slated to appear at the legislative forum at Bristol's City Hall on Thursday, according to party leaders and state Rep. Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat.
Donovan will likely be there at the start of the two hour forum that begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, they said. He's due in New Britain at 6:30 so he won't be around long.
State Sen. Tom Colapietro, the Bristol Democrat who put the forum together, expects to have Donovan and the Democrats who represent Bristol. There may be others as well.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, the Plymouth Republican who represents the 78th District that includes northwestern Bristol, wasn't invited.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Ward says these times 'call for leadership'

 Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat elected in 2007, plans to seek re-election this year.

Ward said Tuesday that since taking office, “the economy has changed and I’d like to see it through to the point where we’re back on track” as a community, state and nation.

Ward said he’s enjoying the job despite the hardships caused by the massive recession that has crippled many businesses, clobbered revenues and made it difficult to balance the books at City Hall.

“These are the types of times that call for leadership,” Ward said. “They basically test your abilities.”

Ward said the voters will decide how he’s doing come November.

So far, there is only declared challenger, Republican Ken Johnson, the man that Ward narrowly defeated to win the city’s top job 16 months ago.

But two former mayors may be interested in running: Republican William Stortz and Democrat Frank Nicastro, who is stepping down from a City Council seat this year while continuing to serve as the 79th District’s state representative. Nicastro hasn’t ruled out a mayoral run.

The parties will nominate candidates this summer.

Ward plans a formal announcement of his intention to run on April 30 at a fundraiser at Nuchies. But he filed papers recently that made his plans clear.

Ward, who served on the council for seven terms before seeking the mayor’s job, said that he’s been able to “work in a bipartisan fashion for the most part” and has managed to patch up the obvious rift with some Democrats after  a tough primary in 2007.

Ward said that Democrats “have all come to the realization” that in the face of such hard times “we have to put our personal differences aside” and do what’s best for Bristol.

“It’s been a challenge” to serve during a recession, the mayor said, but he’s convinced he’s done the job well .

The highlights of his term as mayor, he said, were the city’s recent bond upgrade, the success in attracting new businesses and helping existing ones expand.

“I enjoy the job. I enjoy working with people. I thoroughly enjoy working with the community” in many ways, from giving recognition to civic groups to reading to schoolchildren, Ward said.

Ward is a former state veterans counselor who served in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam Ward.

Mayors serve two-year terms for about $101,000 annually. The election is Nov. 3.


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Ward is running again

To nobody's surprise, Mayor Art Ward is going to seek reelection.
The first-term Democrat said he filed paperwork recently indicating his intention to run. Party officials said the mayor intends to make a formal announcement on April 30 at Nuchies.
There is one Republican in the race already, Ken Johnson, the man Ward defeated in 2007 to win the city's top job.
But there is plenty of speculation that former Mayor William Stortz, who has served two different stints in the mayor's office, might try again this year.
There doesn't appear to be any opposition within Democratic ranks despite grumbling about Ward by some party stalwarts.

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March 23, 2009

Tall grass, smoking proposals on ordinance agenda Wednesday

The city is moving ahead with proposed laws that would require most property owners to keep their grass cut and open the door to smoking bans on city streets and sidewalks.

The controversial measures are both slated for public hearings before the city’s Ordinance Committee beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the meeting room at City Hall.

“This would be the opportunity for peole to give their views,” said Dale Clift, the city attorney, in order to give committee members information to mull over as they try to figure what, if anything, to do with the measures.

The tall grass proposal would require property owners keep grass no higher than 8 inches within 25 feet of a city street or a side yard, which would effectively require most people to cut their grass except perhaps in the back of a home lot.

The other law that the three-member ordinance panel is eyeing would allow property owners to request the city establish “tobacco-free zones” on adjoining public streets and sidewalks.

Pushing for the change is Bristol Hospital, which would like to make it illegal to smoke on Newell Road outside the hospital.

As the draft law is currently written, the city’s hearings and assessments panel would field requests for tobacco-free zones. If it approves, city councilors would have the final say.

Because of the bureaucratic steps required, it’s unlikely that many homeowners or non-institutional property owners would try to win bans for public land next door. But it’s possible that parks or schools might follow the hospital’s lead in a bid to keep smoking away.

Clift said the smoking ban that’s on the table includes language to ensure that Bristol doesn’t impose prohibitions in areas that state law specifically allows smoking, such as outside some restaurants.

He said that merely asking for a smoking ban might not be convincing to the city’s hearing panel, should the ordinance win approval.

“People will have to make a case” that convinces  it, he said, and also sways the City Council if the hearings panel recommends the ban.

There doesn’t appear to be much opposition to letting the hospital secure a tobacco-free designation for the walkways and streets beside it,  since Mayor Art Ward and several city councilors have already said they like the idea.

It isn’t clear if the hearing Wednesday will bring out opponents to either the smoking ban proposal or the effort to keep grass shorter.

The city used to have a provision against tall grass, but in the course of rewriting its codes in recent years, the provision accidentally got erased from the statute book.

State law already prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars in Connecticut as well as public buildings.


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March 21, 2009

Online petition to name skatepark after Henry Waye, Jr

The folks organizing the petition drive to name the new city skatepark after hit-and-run victim Henry Waye, Jr now have a way for people to sign online here.
There are also petitions around town at a number of businesses.

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March 20, 2009

911 call from Henry Waye's friend alerts police

Here's a story about the 911 call that police received from Logan Costante, the boy who was walking with 14-year-old Henry Waye, Jr when a pickup truck slammed into Waye on the evening of March 5. It's heartbreaking to hear.
And here is another about the Freedom of Information requests we've made seeking from the police as much information about the fatal accident as possible.

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Simmons takes aim at Dodd in Bristol speech

A former congressman who is taking aim at U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd told Bristol Republicans Friday that his opponent “used his office for personal gain.”

Rob Simmons, the likely GOP candidate in 2010 for the Senate seat held by Dodd, said that Connecticut’s senior senator has taken sweetheart deals from mortgage companies he regulates, made money off an Irish cottage deal he made with a former felon and failed to oversee the housing and financial markets that his banking committee has responsibility for keeping an eye on.

Dodd “flip-flopped” this week on the question of whether he approved a bill that allowed AIG executives to receive large bonuses after receiving billions in taxpayer aid, Simmons said, and ultimately said he merely took orders from the treasury secretary.

 “Since when does the powerful chairman of the Senate banking and housing committee take secret orders from the administration to protect millions of dollars of bonuses for bailed out executives?” Simmons asked.

Dodd said in a statement this week that “reports that I changed my position on this issue are simply untrue” and that he has always been a leader in fighting against excessive executive compensation.

Simmons is the only declared Republican senatorial candidate. He announced his intention to run on Sunday, making his foray to Bristol one of his first campaign stops.

Among the other potential Republican contenders is state Sen. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury.

Simmons told about 60 GOP leaders at Nuchies that he is “proud to be a Republican” and that he is determined to help bring “real change” to Washington.

Emphasizing his commitment to free enterprise and small business, Simmons said that government’s role is to help those who can’t help themselves, not “a way of helping ourselves.”

“We need more good private sector jobs, not public sector bureaucrats,” he said. “We need to grow the economy, not the government.”

Pointing to his background as a U.S. Army officer, Simmons said, “I did not spend four years in Vietnam fighting socialism only to see it promoted here in America.”

Bristol Republicans at the annual Lincoln Day dinner said they were impressed with the former congressman who served southeastern Connecticut from 2000 until 2006.

“He’s spot on,” said former state House Minority Leader Edward Krawiecki, Jr who once recruited Simmons to run for the state legislature.

Simmons “is a great guy with a wealth of knowledge. He’s bright. He’s talented. He understands how America works,” Krawiecki said.

Bristol city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said the “biggest problem” that Simmons faces is that Dodd might not run for reelection.

“I think I could beat Dodd,” said Rimcoski, a veteran Republican councilor.

Republicans honored candidates

As part of their yearly Lincoln Day dinner, the city’s GOP honored its candidates for 2008, including state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes part of Bristol.

They also honored unsuccessful 77th District contender Jill Fitzgerald and had a moment of silence for both men who ran in the 79th District, Derek Jerome and David Norton, each of whom died.

The party added former city Republican Chairman Whit Betts to its auxiliary to honor his long record of support for the GOP in Bristol.

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Bristol Hospital rejects health insurer for being too stingy

Bristol Hospital is taking a stand. United Healthcare is, too.
And who loses? The thousands in Bristol who have United Healthcare insurance and now pretty much can't use Bristol Hospital except perhaps in an emergency. Wonderful.

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March 19, 2009

Legislative forum at City Hall next Thursday

State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who represents the 31st District, sent this out a few minutes ago:


Hartford – The co-chair of the General Assembly’s General Law Committee, Senator Thomas Colapietro (D-Bristol) will be holding a Town Hall Forum to provide an overview on Connecticut’s budget and give an update on the issues considered by the General Law Committee during the current legislative session. Representatives Betty Boukus (D-Plainville), Frank Nicastro (D-Bristol) and Christopher Wright (D-Bristol) are also planning to attend.

The Town Hall Forum will be held Thursday, March 26th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at Bristol City Hall, 111 North Main Street, Bristol.

The forum will provide constituents will a chance to gain insight into the state budget and legislative process. There will be a brief presentation and time for the public to ask questions and give feedback to the members of the Bristol legislative delegation.

“The first part of the forum will be to talk about the budget and to take any ideas our constituents may have back to our leadership,” said Senator Colapietro. “This is my 17th session in the legislature and this is the most difficult budget process I’ve ever seen. Hopefully, the public will provide us with some ideas. I also have to praise my leadership for trying to get a fair budget for everybody.”

“I also want people to better understand the role of the General Law Committee and how important it is to them,” said Senator Colapietro. “Our committee has everything to do with consumers. We can draw that fine line and protect the consumers and the businesses as well.”


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Wright talkes about ConnPACE program

Press release from state Rep. Chris Wright, a Democrat from northeastern Bristol's 77th District:




State Representative Christopher Wright (D-Bristol) says Bristol enrollees will benefit from a new program called ConnPACE Plus which provides $4.6 million in state savings that was included in the deficit mitigation plan approved by the General Assembly last month and was signed into law by the Governor.


Legislative leaders have called for the state Department of Social Services to implement the program as soon as possible.


According to the state Department of Social Services, there were 813 Bristol enrollees in the program during February 2009.


“Once the state Department of Social Services has the program up and working Bristol enrollees on the state’s ConnPACE program will see an increase over $1,000 in their Social Security checks per year and they will also pay less for their drugs and other Medicare co-pays,” Rep. Wright said. “This is a significant helping hand for the program’s enrollees.”


Rep. Wright credited one of his colleagues, Rep. Linda Schofield of Simsbury, with proposing the plan that was unanimously supported in the House.


The following is a summary of the program:


ConnPACE members, who are all seniors and disabled persons with limited incomes, will qualify for the following new benefits:

  • their Medicare part B premiums will be paid for, saving them $96.40/month, $1,156.80/year;
  • their prescription copays will be lowered from the ConnPACE copay of $16.25 to $2.25 for generics and $5.60 for brand drugs;
  • and some people with very low incomes will get other Medicare cost sharing covered, such as the deductibles and copays for physician and hospital services.


Rep. Wright explained, “ConnPACE is funded with state money.  “ We’ll now give ConnPACE enrollees the opportunity to become eligible for largely federally funded programs.  So we’ll be substituting state dollars with federal dollars.”


The legislation gives senior citizens and disabled persons on ConnPACE  the chance to be eligible for the Medicare Savings Program(MSP).  Under federal law, persons eligible for the MSP program are automatically also eligible for federal “extra help” under Medicare Part D, in addition to the benefits available in the MSP programs.  


The savings in ConnPACE will be $35 million, because the federal “extra help” benefits will substitute for ConnPACE benefits.  These savings in ConnPACE are off-set by the state share of costs for the MSP benefits, which will be $30.4 million.  Thus, the net fiscal impact on the State is a savings of $4.6 million per year.


In addition to the savings for the State, the improved benefits will put an estimated $47 million per year into the pockets of low-income disabled and senior citizens in Connecticut.

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