August 31, 2009

City eyes restructuring, service cuts

With the economy lagging and the state treasury bare, City Hall is growing increasingly worried about how it can cope with an expected shortfall of more than $8 million heading into the next fiscal year.
“Restructuring is going to be the key,” said Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski.
Officials said they’re left with no choice except to search out ways to pare services and revise the way the city operates in hopes of saving money. The alternative is a massive property tax hike that would squeeze already hard-pressed taxpayers.
The issue is likely to become one of the hot topics on this fall’s campaign trail as candidates lay out their own agendas for reducing spending and holding the line on taxes during the toughest economy the city’s seen in decades.
“These are big numbers,” City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said. “We have a monumental task ahead of us.”
John Smith, a finance commissioner, said the city needs to “get aggressive” about trimming spending on its employee health care tab and utility expenses.
“We have to save every dollar we can,” Smith said.
Cheryl Thibeault, another finance commissioner, said the city also needs to do more to hold down overtime spending.
Though finance officials say the city will likely manage to end up with a small surplus during the fiscal year that ends next June, the following year appears especially dire.
This year, officials drained cash from every available fund, tapped $2.5 million from the rainy day fund and squeezed budget requests to deliver a property tax freeze aimed in part at helping residents who got clobbered by the economy.
Next time around, though, the accounts will have been depleted and there won’t be excess to use in the rainy day fund, officials, creating a $2 million gap right off the top because that source of revenue won’t be available.
Adding to the fiscal hole are expected increases in health care, salaries, utilities and the necessity of buying equipment and material that got shelved during this year’s budget process.
There’s also growing concern that state funding, which covers a large part of the budget, especially in education, may fall short.
“I have no confidence the state’s going to fund us like they should,” Smith said.
Klocko said that departmental budgets this year are “pretty lean” because of the efforts made to hold the line on spending.
That makes it hard to clamp down on them more, he said.
Yet the only way to hold off a major tax hike next year, officials said, is to reduce spending.
“It’s gotta be a restructuring,” Klocko said. “We’ve got to have a long-term strategy.”
For now, at least, there isn’t one.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Libary seeks comments on Career Center

The library has an interesting post on its blog (!) about all the career materials it has to share. Check out the link --
-- and leave comments for the good folks who are trying to do this right. It's a great thing to see the library embracing technology and searching for public input.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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City eyeing more spending cuts

Finance commissioners said they may want to impose spending cuts sooner rather than later in a bid to lessen the fiscal stress they anticipate next year.
Janet Moylan, a Board of Finance member, said departments should probably be asked to supply information detailing what steps they would take to reduce their spending by 5 or 10 percent.
Mayor Art Ward said he agrees on the necessity of eyeing the possible cuts.
“Now would be the time to do it, before we get into the meat of it,” Ward said.
He said he would likely discuss the idea with department heads this week.

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August 30, 2009

Lawton vows to give back $35K a year as mayor

Press release from Gary Lawton, independent mayoral candidate:

Independent Mayoral candidate Gary L. Lawton has said that if elected he will give back 35% of his yearly salary as gesture to show that he is willing to show the unions that he appreciates the concessions the unions have given the city to help it through the current financial crisis. Mr. Lawton also challenges other city officials to voluntarily give back to help the city.
“We are all in this together, if we ask the police and fire,city workers and teachers unions to help us then as elected officials I feel we should set an example and do our part during this difficult time”. Mr. Lawton also says
“It can't be us against them or me against you. We all have to work together to get through this and make and keep our city financially stable.
Gary has also expressed mixed feelings about the buying the Dutton Ave properties. “ I think any major purchases at this time would not benefit the city financially especially after we have asked for so much from the unions in concessions”. While agreeing the Dutton Ave. property would benefit Rockwell park, he would like to see if there is another way to acquire it, “ Let's sit down with all the siblings to see if we can reach some kind of agreement for them to maybe will the property or donate it, or at least let's have an agreement which would give the city first shot at the property when we are in a better financial position, I agree it would greatly enhance Rockwell Park, but we just don't have it”.
“ I was taught just cause we have checks in the checkbook does not mean we have the money in the bank and with a possible deficit looming next year every penny will count”.
Mr. Lawton would also like to announce Ms. Michelle Defosse as his Treasurer and invites anyone and everyone who would like to help in the campiagn or if they have any ideas or want to share their concerns about Bristol to email Mr. Lawton at or visit his web site at

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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August 28, 2009

City braces for possible flooding

Though Danny is faltering over colder water offshore, the weakening tropical storm is still expected to dump a lot of rain on Connecticut before it moves on.
To prepare for the potential flooding, city officials are handing out sandbags, priming pumps and making sure that equipment is ready to roll in case it’s needed.
“Everybody’s going over checklists,” Mayor Art Ward said Friday.
With forecasters predicting periods of heavy rain, residents in flood-prone sections of the city – particularly along Copper Mine Brook – are hoping the water doesn’t rise too much this time.
Officials announced Friday that sandbags were available at firehouses on Mix Street and Vincent P. Kelly Road. The latter also had sand piled outside the neighboring animal shelter.
Some residents were taking advantage the opportunity, officials said. Ward said many just want a few bags to block off doors that can let water flow in if creeks rise outside.
The first bouts of heavy rain began falling Friday. The rain is expected continue into Saturday, making for a potentially soggy end to August.
The threat of rain led officials to cancel a number of events this weekend, including a major community health rally at Rockwell Park.
Though flooding hasn’t been too bad the last couple of years, there were at least four serous floods in Bristol between 2004 and 2007.
The main cause, experts have said, is that open space is vanishing, creating fewer places to sop up the water and speeding its flow downstream into creeks that never had to handle so much flow in decades past.
Ward has asked U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol, to try to secure federal money and help for Bristol’s flooding problems. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already indicated it may be able to help.
Ward said Friday the city is waiting on word about federal funding for a $350,000 study to pinpoint what it needs to do.

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Main Street streetscape project gets green light

A $2 million facelift for Main Street cleared its final obstacle recently and should be done next summer.
The Board of Finance unanimously backed the project recently after eyeing its costs and expressing concern that promised state funding might vanish.
The plan calls for creating new sidewalks, planting trees, adding lights and more in order to make the historic downtown street more attractive and appealing to shoppers and merchants.
Some fiscal overseers said they are worried the state might yank the bulk of the funding in its quest to shave costs as it tries to cope with a budget meltdown.
“It sounds like this is all up in the air,” said Roald Erling, the finance vice chairman.
But Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, said the $1.3 million earmarked for the project by the state “is there. It’s bonded.”
“This is committed money,” Rosenthal said, and won’t vanish.
The project aims to mirror the 2005 overhaul of North Main Street during former Mayor Gerard Couture’s administration, which successfully improved the appearance of the road while calming traffic and making it nicer, and safer, for pedestrians.
Rosenthal said the project is budgeted to cost $2.3 million, but will cost less.
He said the state is paying $1.3 million out of downtown funds the city received years ago. The city will need to spend as much as $500,000 in addition, Rosenthal said.
The plan aims to spruce up the road along the east side from Memorial Boulevard to Center Street and on the west side north of the mall property.
For now, the city is not making changes to the mall site side because of the uncertainty surrounding its possible redevelopment.

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Democratic chair retires as city firefighter

After 27 years on the job, city firefighter Elliott Nelson retired last Saturday.
Nelson, the city's Democratic Party chairman, went out "in a blaze of glory," according to Mayor Art Ward.
Fire Chief Jon Pose and others said that Nelson was among the firefighters who tackled a wild fire that consumed a Burlington Avenue barn last Friday night -- a sweltering, sticky, awful one.
"I earned my money that night," Nelson said.
Nelson retired the next day.

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City has sandbags ready for storm

Press release from the mayor's office:

* * * In anticipation of the forecast of heavy rains, the City has provided access to a sufficient supply of sand and sand bags.* * *

Firehouse #4 [Mix Street] has an ample supply of sand bags;

Firehouse #5 [Vincent P. Kelly Road] has sand bags; and there is an ample supply of sand stockpiled outside the dog pound on Vincent P. Kelly Road.

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August 27, 2009

City to pay too much for Dutton Avenue house?

The price tag for a Dutton Avenue house that city councilors aim to buy next month may be more than $40,000 too high, according to an appraisal done this year.
The city’s Real Estate Committee, which has been eyeing the property for almost two years, recently recommended the city buy the 15 Dutton Ave. house for $218,000, a price set by a state judge in 2007.
But the house is only worth $175,000, according to a March 17 appraisal prepared for Campbell Mortgage of West Haven by Louis Buccini of East Haven’s Style Appraisal Services.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the real estate panel, said the new information will have to be considered. He said the attorney who represents most of the family selling the house needs to talk to his clients.
Mayor Art Ward said the “new knowledge” provided by the appraisal makes sense given that home values have generally declined over the past couple of years.
He said he “would have to conceive” the council wouldn’t pay $43,000 extra for the property unless there was something wrong with the appraisal.
“I see some problems,” said city Councilor Mike Rimcoski. But, he said, he want to talk to city lawyers before taking a stand.
Salvatore Vitrano, who represents three of four Bevivino siblings who own the house, could not be reached Thursday.
The other sibling, Jan Bevivino, secured a mortgage offer based on the new appraisal. She said she would like to buy the house if her siblings acknowledge the city won’t pay the original asking price.
According to the judge’s order that all four Bevivinos agreed with in 2008, the city gets first crack at purchasing the house for $218,000. If it turns down the deal, the house is to be sold like any other real estate.
Ward said the city has good reason to buy the property even in the midst of hard economic times because it is crucial to Rockwell Park.
The city has spent $7 million overhauling the historic park and would like to get the house and an old gasoline station beside it on Park Street “to complete that entire section,” the mayor said.
The council meeting is slated for September 8.

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Rockwell Park event postponed

Rockwell in the Park, Family Fun and Fitness has been postponed due to weather conditions and the uncertainty of this weekends storm. Rescheduled date is Saturday, September 19, beginning at 11:00 a.m. at Rockwell Park. For questions please contact Cindy Scoville at the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce at (860)314-2101 or Linda Mannarino at the Bristol Hospital Wellness Center at (860)314-2087.

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August 26, 2009

Alford says she offers "a new way"

The Republicans turned to a political newcomer Wednesday to run as their mayoral candidate this year.
Mary Alford, a 62-year-old bookkeeper, said she hasn't run for political office before, but she's always had an interest in politics.
Alford steps in as a replacement for the party’s first choice, attorney John Gill, who pulled out of the race two weeks ago. She’s taking on incumbent Democrat Art Ward and independent Gary Lawton.
She said she decided to run after the GOP's city chairman, T.J. Barnes, asked her to consider it following Gill’s departure from the contest.
"There should always be a choice. That's what we do in this country," Alford said.
Barnes said that Alford deserves "big kudos" for having the courage to step into the political arena.
"Mary has a lot of enthusiasm and energy," Barnes said, and can "put a smile on her face through good times and bad."
She said she offers voters someone who can “think in a new way” and offer fresh approaches at City Hall. She also said she’s not afraid to say what she thinks.
Alford grew up in Plymouth and moved to Bristol when her son, Gary, wanted to wrestle for Coach Dennis Seigman at Bristol Central High School.
Alford said she doesn't know incumbent Mayor Art Ward and did not want to criticize him.
Both Ward and Lawton said they welcomed her to the race. They also said they want to campaign on the issues.
Alford said she views economic development "as the lifeblood of a city” and plans to emphasize it.
She said the city’s schools are also crucial.
“Education is really the heart, where the young get trained to take over," she said.
Alford, who lives on West Street, said the police and fire departments as "some of the best anywhere."
Alford also had kind words for public works, which she said does "a terrific job under very difficult circumstances."
Barnes said he first got to know Alford when she switched her political affiliation in 2004 from independent to Republican to reflect her views and so she could help select candidates, not just vote for the ones the parties put on the ballot.
But Alford said she really got involved heavily last year working for her friend Republican Jill Fitzgerald’s 77th District state House campaign, which ended in a Democratic victory.
“To be in it is really exciting stuff,” Alford said, and gave her a chance to meet many “great people.”
Alford knows she’s a long-shot in heavily Democratic Bristol, but she said she’s got a chance.
“That’s what they’re going to decide in November,” she said. “It’s all about choices. It’s all about opportunity.”
A single mother, Alford also has a daughter and two granddaughters in addition to her son.
She attended Terryville High School and took a few semesters of college classes at the Connecticut State Teachers’ College, the old name of Central Connecticut State University.
She said she has worked for all sorts of companies, large and small. She is a bookkeeper for a Thomaston firm.
Her favorite job, she said, was spending seven years taking care of her grandchildren.
Bristol has never had a woman mayor, but the Republicans have had women run for mayor at least twice in the past. Former city Registrar Ellie Klapatch was the first woman to seek the city’s top job more than two decades ago.
The election is November 3. Mayors serve two-year terms for $100,000 annually.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Larson expresses sorrow at Kennedy's death

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol:

Congressman Larson Statement on the Passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Hartford, CT-U.S Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement today on the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy:

“Today, the nation mourns the passing of a sentinel of social and economic justice. Senator Kennedy was a true friend and mentor; a man of integrity, who indelibly left his mark in the United States Senate. He will be missed by many, and remembered by all.

“Ted Kennedy was many things to this nation – a figurehead, a patriarch and a leader – but, his longest surviving legacy will be the contributions he made to the moral and humanitarian development of our country. He taught us to take care of our neediest and deny the civil rights of none. He never turned his back on those who were less fortunate. He made it his purpose in life to spread the promises of a quality education, health care and equal rights, to every American. He left his indelible finger print on the most important issues of our time.

“One of my proudest moments was sharing the stage with Senator Kennedy as we came together with 17,000 people in Hartford to support Barack Obama and his message of hope for America. Senator Kennedy spoke with passion and ambition of the great possibility for this nation and our world with Barack Obama as President. We were equally proud to watch a year later as Barack Obama was sworn in as President.

“He has humbly passed the torch, lit by the legacies of his illustrious brothers and family to President Obama and a new generation of patriots to fulfill the promise of progress to make this nation ‘a more perfect union’.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the entire Kennedy family, particularly my close friend and colleague Congressman Patrick Kennedy. The Kennedy family has lost their husband, father, uncle and brother and this country has lost a guiding force. Ted Kennedy had a vision for the future of our nation and a strong faith in the American people’s potential and ability to achieve that vision. We will not lose sight of his goals. Even with the passing of this great man, we must persevere and believe, ‘the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

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GOP mayoral candidate: Mary Alford

The Republicans plan tonight to nominate Mary Alford, a 62-year-old bookkeeper, as their new mayoral candidate.
Alford hasn't run for political office before, but she's always had an interest.
During a stop at the Press this morning, she said she views economic development "as the lifeblod of a city. Education is really the heart, hwere the young get trained to take over."
She said that public safety is crucial and hailed the police and fire departments as "some of the best anywhere."
Alford even have kind words for public works, which she said does "a terrific job under very difficult circumstances."
Alford said she doesn't know incumbent Mayor Art Ward and did not want to criticize him.
She said she decided to run after the GOP's city chairman, T.J. Barnes, asked her to consider it following John Gill's decision to pull out of the race this month.
"There should always be a choice. That's what we do in this country," Alford said.
Barnes said that Alford deserves "big kudos" for having the courage to step into the political arena.
"Mary has a lot of enthusiasm and energy," Barnes said, and can "put a smile on her face through good times and bad."
The Republican Party plans to endorse Alford in a meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at City Hall.
I'll have more on her later today.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Ted Kennedy dead

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died this morning after a long career in public service.
I met him one time. He served lobster. That seemed pretty good to me.
Here's what President Obama had to say:

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

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August 25, 2009

Democrats: Rell needs to lead

Democratic leaders expressed growing frustration this week with Gov. Jodi Rell for failing to take the lead in resolving a budget impasse that’s beginning to cut into services that people rely on.

“It’s getting very scary,” said city Councilor Cliff Block. “Somebody’s got to take control.”

Among the programs feeling the pinch from the budget standoff in Hartford are Head Start, Dial-a-Ride, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and early childhood education as a whole.

Mayor Art Ward said, “We’re starting to see the ramifications of working without a budget.”

“People are hurting,” said Bob Badal, the city’s Democratic registrar, and they need help.

Democrats pin the blame for the crisis on Rell for her unwillingness to negotiate seriously or to agree to tax hikes on the state’s wealthiest residents.

“Her lack of leadership has been astounding,” said state Sen. Gary LeBeau, an East Hartford Democrat who’s eyeing a gubernatorial run. “It’s disgraceful.”

But Republicans, including state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes Bristol, said Democrats haven’t bargained in good faith yet.

"Governor Rell wants to see the Democrats' proposed cuts,” said Adam Liegeot, one of the governor’s spokesmen. “If the cuts are real, then this represents progress."

“Somebody has to make some bold choices,” said Joella Bouchard Mudry, a Democratic activist.

The lack of state funds caused the Bristol Community Organization to slice its Dial-a-Ride program in half and to lay off a part-time staffer for the RSVP program.

The city also found that it was paid back only 89 percent of the money due for early Ward said the city is already in the hole as a result.

“It’s really, really, really frustrating,” Ward said.

LeBeau said that the cuts that have been made were done entirely by Rell.

“These are her cuts and this is where she wants to go,” he said.

LeBeau said that Rell won’t talk with Democrats about alternatives.

“This has been a giant charade,” LeBeau said, “and it looks terrible for the state.”

“She doesn’t talk to anybody except Lisa Moody,” LeBeau said, referring to the governor’s top aide.

LeBeau said he thought that officials in Hartford would cut a deal before the end of the month in order to avoid tapping rainy day funds that will be needed later.

But now, he said, it appears there won’t be a resolution until the heat reaches a boiling point in October when state educational aid isn’t sent to towns and cities across Connecticut.

City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said that if the city doesn’t get its first installment of Educational Cost Sharing money in October, it would quickly have cash flow problems.

He said Bristol “would try desperately not to borrow” the money if the budget impasse drags on, preferring instead to put off purchases and hope for a resolution.

“It would be delay, delay, delay,” Klocko said.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Schools eye early retirement incentive program

In a bid to shave costs, the Board of Education plans to offer an early retirement program soon that would allow schools to replace higher paid older teachers with cheaper young ones.
School Superintendent Philip Streifer said Tuesday the early retirement plan he intends to announce shortly would be in place for those who retire before next July. He did not disclose details.
The school system, which spends $100 million annually, is taking steps to try to hold down expenses.
Streifer told the Board of Finance he is attempting to “save out of the gate” by holding back 20 percent of all the money in non-salary accounts in hopes that it won’t be needed.
During the last fiscal year, which ended in June, the schools wound up with a $650,000 surplus because of a spending freeze and a successful effort to cut cafeteria costs.
That money will be returned to the city’s general fund soon, officials said.
“There’s a lot we didn’t do,” he said. But, the superintendent said, “We educated the kids.”
Streifer said he’ll ask for the cash back when next year’s budget is prepared because he’ll need it to cope with rising costs.
The school board will likely consider the early retirement program at its next meeting.
The city faces an $8.6 million budget gap for the 2010-11 budget even before school spending is included.
“We have a monumental task ahead of us,” city Comptroller Glenn Klocko said.

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Head Start classes KO'd by state budget impasse

Two Head Start classes slated to get underway Monday -- half the classes in the city -- are getting shut down because the state budget impasse blocked their funding.
Bristol Community Organization director Tom Morrow said Tuesday that two Head Start classes paid for with federal cash will open as planned.
Morrow said that BCO, a nonprofit community service organization, will have to lay off three Head Start staffers and reduce the hours of three others in order to cope with the funding shortage.
Families will learn today whether their children will land in one of the classrooms that stay open or if they’re going to come up short.
Morrow said that parents who have counted on the program could face tough choices.
Because “they count on their kids being in this program for six hours a day,” Morrow said, some parents may have to give up jobs or take other extraordinary measures to cope with the disruption.
“It’s kind of a rippling effect,” Morrow said.
Morrow said that all of the families whose children are enrolled in Head Start were told at the end of July that they might have to pare the enrollment. That’s because federal law requires they get at least 30-day notice before a child is dropped.
Trying to cope with an $8 billion deficit while locked in a stalemate with the legislature over the budget, Gov. Jodi Rell zeroed out the state funding for Bristol’s Head Start. It could be restored as part of a budget deal.
Morrow said that in July, BCO opted to fund its programs on the assumption that a deal would be struck.
But it’s losing $50,000 a month, he said, while the state dithers. That can’t go on, he said, so the organization had to take action.
In addition to slicing the Head Start classes, BCO is also requiring all of its administrative staff take five furlough days before the end of the fiscal year in June.

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LeBeau backs new UConn hospital

Speaking to the city’s Democratic town committee late Monday, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gary LeBeau said a new state hospital in Farmington is needed.
“We need to build a new UConn hospital,” said LeBeau, a state senator from East Hartford.
Bristol Hospital strongly opposes the $500 million plan to erect a new hospital at the University of Connecticut Health Center and have it operated by Hartford Hospital, fearing the expanded, updated facility would hinder its ability to attract patients.
Resident Chris Roberge said that local hospitals believe they “are getting the short end of the stick” in the plan lawmakers are considering.
But LeBeau said that constructing the new hospital is “an important part of our future” and needs to be done even if it upsets some in Bristol.
He said it would be “a major generator of jobs” through spinoff businesses that may include firms devoted to stem cell research, pharmaceuticals and other high-end enterprises that Connecticut must attract.
LeBeau, one of a handful of potential Democratic candidates in next year’s race for the state’s top job, said he is not an expert in health care issues and is willing to listen to arguments.
But, he said, the state can’t go on subsidizing the existing 224-bed John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington every year when it could be a driving force for growth instead.
“There’s a lot to be said” for the proposed partnership with Hartford Hospital, LeBeau said.
He said that UConn’s facility would have better administrative oversight with Hartford Hospital’s involvement.
Bristol Hospital and other regional hospitals that are not connected to Hartford Hospital argue that a larger, more modern facility will undermine community health care in places such as Bristol.
But supporters of the plan argue that a new hospital will help the economy and ensure that UConn can continue to attract top students and staff to its medical school.

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August 24, 2009

Now YOU can develop the mall site

The Bristol Downtown Development Corp. is soliciting proposals for developing the 17-acre downtown mall site. Plans are due by September 11.
You can read all about it here.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Cockayne plans to get married

City Councilor Ken Cockayne, a single dad, got engaged recently to a woman he's known for a long while. I don't think there's a wedding date yet.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Simmons calls for health care reform

With the federal government running up record deficits, people are “really worried” about adding another trillion dollars or more to the red ink in order to create a national health care program, said U.S. Senate hopeful Rob Simmons.
Simmons, a Republican who aims to unseat incumbent Democrat Chris Dodd next year, said the nation’s health care system offers “uniformly high quality” but its costs are too high.
He said that reducing the cost can be done in part through tort reforms that would make it harder for lawyers to win costly judgments for their patients against doctors.
Changing the tort process, Simmons said, would eliminate “the biggest cost driver” in the medical system -- defensive medicine practiced by doctors who don’t want to get sued so they order more tests and procedures than may be necessary.
Simmons said the cost of heath care could decline as much as 30 percent if doctors didn’t have to worry about frivolous lawsuits.
He said the legal system’s handling of cases of alleged malpractice is “very inefficient” and doesn’t even help patients who are harmed as much as it should.
Simmons said that he would like to see a special court devoted to handling the cases that would streamline the process, accelerate payments to injured patients and end the wide variation of payouts that the jury system allows.
In addition, Simmons said, health insurance should be portable and not bound by state lines.
Simmons, a former congressman, also said that electronic records should be done soon so that hospitals and health care providers anywhere can quickly access a patient’s health history.
He said he would like to see electronic records pushed as part of the stimulus effort because it would help patients, doctors and hospitals.
Simmons said that part of the health care solution is to deal with people who are in the country illegally, many of them working but not covered by health insurance. He said he intends to talk about the issue in the future.
Simmons said that “done right,” heath care can be improved if middle of the road officials back a plan that works, leaving out if necessary those on the right and left who won’t go along with it.
He said that when the Congress passed a prescription drug plan for the elderly, it showed the right way to seek a solution -- long negotiations, compromise and careful tailoring of the legislation.
Simmons is the front-runner in a field of GOP hopefuls angling to unseat Dodd in 2010.

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Simmons opposes cap and trade

Instead of turning to a complex system of cap and trade credits to combat global warming, the country should consider a straightforward carbon tax that is “more simple and straightforward” for businesses and consumers, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate said Monday.
“I’m not fooled by cap and trade,” said Rob Simmons, who is angling to unseat U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd in next year’s election.
“It’s really a cap and tax” system that marks “a dangerous way to govern,” said Simmons, who never said whether he favored or opposed a carbon tax. [His campaign manager, Jim Barnett, said Tuesday that Simmons opposes a carbon tax and believes it would be a disaster for the economy.].
The U.S. House approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June -- which would allow the government to gradually lower carbon emissions that are responsible for global warming -- but the measure remains stalled in the Senate.
Under the proposed cap and trade system, companies that emit CO2 could reduce emissions to met lower targets or buy the right to use emission credits from other firms that have managed to cut carbon releases more sharply than mandated.
While some economists argue it is a good way to engage the free market, Simmons said it would create “a serious problem” for America’s energy markets and add a useless layer of complexity.
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes Bristol, said the cap and trade plan was developed by Wall Street investment firms that aim “to make a ton of money” gaming a system only they will truly understand.
Simmons, a former congressman who faces several potential challengers from within the GOP for the right to be the party’s standard bearer against Dodd, said there are a number of “no-brainer kinds of things” that have to be done to tackle global warming.
He said the country needs a wider mix of energy sources that include renewables, more nuclear power, more domestic drilling for natural gas, more reliance on fuel cells and more vehicles that can run on electricity and other sources of energy other than gasoline.
Simmons said that the cap and trade idea that has enthralled so many in Washington would merely create a market for speculators to drive up costs and make a mint for themselves.
He said the government ought to “call it what it is” -- a carbon tax -- and take on the issue directly.
Generally, most of those pushing for a carbon tax instead argue that its simplicity would prevent the need for more bureaucratic oversight, drive out speculators and offer the chance to return any taxes collected through payroll or income tax reductions.
A carbon tax would tax each fossil fuel based on the carbon it emits, making coal more costly and natural gas less, at least in comparison.
During his failed 2008 presidential race, Dodd was the only serious Democratic candidate to tout a carbon tax over cap and trade. Dodd said other candidates dodged it because their pollsters and handlers warned them that favoring a carbon tax could bring trouble.
Simmons, Hamzy and Simmons’ campaign manager, Jim Barnett, spoke during a meeting Monday at The Bristol Press office.

Hamzy backs Simmons
Veteran state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican, added his voice to a growing chorus of endorsements for Rob Simmons’ U.S. Senate bid.
Simmons, a former congressman from Stonington, is “a proven vote-getter” with a solid background that shows he can defeat U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd in next year’s election, Hamzy said.
Hamzy, whose 78th District includes northwestern Bristol, said Dodd “has lost touch with what reality is” after so many years in Washington and could easily lose the support he’s always had from the “realistic Democrats” who live in Bristol.
Dodd “has done Washington,” Simmons said, and lost the trust of Connecticut voters.
Simmons said that Hamzy’s support sends a strong message to Republicans in the region who trust the 15-year veteran lawmaker’s judgment about the best candidate to knock Dodd out of the Senate...
A former state party chairman, Hamzy’s support may help Simmons break from a pack of potential candidates that includes state Sen. Sam Caliguri of Waterbury and former U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley.
“I take his support very seriously,” said Simmons, who lost his 2nd District congressional seat during the 2006 blowout. He served as the state’s business advocate for the next two years.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Hamzy backs Simmons in U.S. Senate race

Press release from Republican Ron Simmons' U.S. Senate campaign:

Former State GOP Chairman and Deputy House GOP Leader
Rep. Bill Hamzy Endorses Rob Simmons

(MYSTIC) - The Simmons for Senate campaign announced today that Deputy House Republican Leader Bill Hamzy, a former Connecticut Republican Party chairman, endorsed Rob Simmons for U.S. Senate.

"Rob Simmons has spent decades supporting the Republican Party and working hard for our local committees and candidates," said Hamzy. "Rob always puts service above self, and his experience, character and vision make him the best choice to be our next U.S. Senator."

"Rep. Hamzy is respected by Republicans and Democrats alike for his integrity and his commitment to service," said Simmons. "He has served our party and state with distinction, and I am honored to welcome him to my growing team."

Rep. Hamzy was first elected to the General Assembly in 1994. He has served as Deputy Republican Leader since 2007, and was Assistant Republican Leader from 2003- 2006. He served as chairman of the Connecticut Republican State Central Committee in 2005. Hamzy is a partner at the law firm Hamzy & Conlin in Bristol.

Hamzy joins House Republican Leader Larry Cafero, Sen. Tony Guglielmo, 20 members of the Republican State Central Committee and former U.S. Senator and GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson (R-TN) among Rob Simmons' growing list of public endorsements.

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A new week, a new candidate?

The suspense is just killing me.
Who will the Republicans find to run for mayor next?
I'm pretty sure on a first name, but have seen four variations on the last name since last Wednesday. I'm holding on to what little I know until I am sure.
Just like me, the whole town, no doubt, is on pins and needles. Maybe today we'll all find out who's going to join the race against Democratic Mayor Art Ward and independent hopeful Gary Lawton.
It's so gosh-darn exciting!

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August 22, 2009

City likely to make $500K deal to host Pocket phone antennas

The city is poised to cut a deal with Pocket Communications that would bring $500,000 to the water department over the next two decades.
Water Superintendent Rob Longo said Friday that in return for letting the cellular phone provider install a half dozen small antennas on a Chippens Hill water tank, the city would rack up $500,000 during the next 20 years
City Councilor Cliff Block said it’s a great opportunity for the city, an opportunity that an administrative hang-up put in jeopardy.
Back in May, the Water Board asked the Planning Commission for its blessing for the contract, a state-mandated requirement before signing a deal. Planners agreed without much hesitation, said Bill Veits, the board’s chairman.
But when the deal came before the City Council, lawyers said there had been a glitch: the council itself had to make the request of the Planning Commission, a formality that had been overlooked.
“We have a chance to lose this money,” Block warned colleagues.
So Veits called a special meeting of the planning panel last Friday that once again gave a green light to the deal.
Now it can get the backing of the council so the mayor can pen his signature on the contract.
Longo said it’s crucial for the city to move fast because Pocket is anxious to install the antennas soon to improve its phone coverage in town.
“Pocket needs to act quick on this,” Longo said.
He said the company plans to install the equipment as soon as the city makes the deal final.
The water tank already has large city antennas on it as well as one for amateur radio. Longo said most people won’t even notice the new ones because they are comparatively small.
Longo said the city has Sprint PCS antennas on its Stevens Street tank.
He said that water companies across the nation are supplementing their ratepayers by renting space for antennas on water towers.
“It’s common practice in the water industry,” Longo said.
City Councilor Craig Minor said the city needs to adopt a policy about planning referrals so that they are done in a timely, correct fashion.
The Planning Commission can’t block a deal, but if it opposes something, the council needs a two-thirds vote to overcome its objection.
Thata scenario that most recently arose when planners blocked a proposed school site in a West End gravel pit . The council’s narrow majority in favor couldn’t muster enough backing to push through the location, requiring officials to find another spot.

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August 20, 2009

Stimulus cash may pay for ex-gas station cleanup

A former gas station at the entrance to Rockwell Park may get a $150,000 environmental cleanup with money allocated by the federal government to stimulate the economy.
The 316 Park St. property needs the costly cleanup to remove wastes that have leaked from underground fuel tanks in years past.
The Valley Council of Governments’ regional brownfields partnership has already helped the city pay for studies to find out what needs to be done to clean up the privately owned site. It is now considering a final allocation to carry out the work, city officials said.
“That’s really good news,” said Edward Krawiecki, Jr, an assistant city attorney.
The city has long eyed the property for inclusion in neighboring Rockwell Park. It’s an eyesore that detracts badly from the newly overhauled entrance to the historic park, officials said.
But efforts to purchase the site have fallen short because the city has repeatedly said it won’t take ownership of the property until it is cleaned up.
The regional brownfields program recently got $1 million in stimulus funds to begin tackling projects on its 26-town list.
Krawiecki said Bristol has a good shot at the money because it has already invested $7 million or more to overhaul Rockwell Park and has been working on the gas station issue for years.
The city has a letter of intent from the property owners to sell the site with any costs absorbed by city taxpayers taken off the selling price.
The property is owned by Vincent Nemeragut of Easton. Its appraised value is $215,200, which doesn’t take into account the necessity of an environmental remediation.
He bought the 1960 gas station a decade ago for $110,000. It closed about five years ago.
The city is spending millions to spruce up Rockwell Park in a bid to pump life back into the West End park that used to serve thousands of working class families. It had fallen into disrepair and was little used until recently, when improvements to its playground and a new skatepark began drawing crowds again.
By purchasing the gas station and a house at 15 Dutton Ave., the city aims to open up the entrance to the park more, to make it more visible and attractive from Park Street.

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City may yet buy the Lepore property on Meadow Street

The city is once again considering whether to buy Meadow Street property behind City Hall that could be used for parking or future expansion.
Though it appears unlikely the city will agree to purchase the property from the Lepore property, the Real Estate Committee recently urged councilors to consider it.
“I still oppose it, but this is a democracy,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the real estate panel.
The Lepore family asked the city to reconsider its opposition to the purchase and Nicastro’s committee agreed to let the council debate the issue.
City councilors agreed in 2004 to pay $309,900 for the 73-75 Meadow St. property, which could provide room for about 23 parking spaces behind City Hall.
But the Board of Finance gunned down the plan when it learned the city would have spend another $150,000 or more to demolish the buildings and construct the lot.
Twice since then, the council has taken up the proposal again, each time rejecting the proposed purchase, the last time on a unanimous 2007 vote.
However, before turning it aside, the council had another vote in which it asked then-Mayor William Stortz to try to negotiate a better deal with the Lepores. Backers said the city may need the property someday.
They argued the city is short of parking,, storage and office space for its workforce.
Nicastro said that the possible closure of the courthouse, located above the police department next door to City Hall, would free up a lot of space the city could use more easily.
Nicastro, who also serves as a state representative, said he hopes to keep the courthouse open as part of the next state budget, but acknowledged the effort could fall short.
The council will likely take up the issue at its September 8 meeting.

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Bristol event Friday to focus on business taxes

Press release from state Rep. Bill Hamzy --

Impact of Business Tax Hikes on Employers, Workers, to be Aired at ‘Real World Round Table’ in Bristol Friday
Fourslide Spring Event Hosted by Pres. Arthur Funk, state House, Senate GOP Leaders Cafero and McKinney, Rep. Hamzy

The impact of proposed business tax increases on Connecticut employers and the state’s workforce will be the focus of discussion at a “Real World Round Table” scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, August 21st at Fourslide Spring and Stamping Inc., at 87 Cross Street in Bristol
Hosting the event will be Fourslide President Arthur “Bud” Funk, state Representative William A. Hamzy, R-78th District; state House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-142nd District, and state Senate Republican Leader John McKinney, R-28th District.
“The super-majority Democrats at the state legislature currently are pushing a two-year state budget plan that includes an increase in the surcharge on corporate profits to 8.625 percent and the elimination of certain tax incentives that originally were implemented to attract new employers to Connecticut and encourage existing companies to expand,” said Representative Hamzy, R-78th District. “If their business tax proposals are put in place, they will make it even more difficult for employers to stay afloat during the current recession, which already is well into its second year.”
“Sales are down 33 percent at Fourslide Spring, which has forced the company to reduce its workforce from 26 to 21 people,” Representative Hamzy said. “Increasing business taxes on companies that are struggling to remain open will force them to make difficult decisions to reduce their costs, and that almost always means layoffs. What troubles me most about the Democrats’ budget plan is that the $1.8 billion overall tax increase they are proposing is completely unnecessary. Republican state legislators earlier this month unveiled an alternative budget plan that shows that we can eliminate the state’s projected $8.5 billion deficit without raising taxes - while keeping aid to municipalities and local school districts at current levels and maintaining funding for essential social and human services programs.”
“I look forward to hearing what Mr. Funk and other area business leaders have to say about how the business tax increases the Democrats are supporting will affect their companies and whether they believe higher taxes will lead to more layoffs and another spike in Connecticut’s overall unemployment rate, which currently stands at about 8 percent,” Representative Hamzy said.
In addition to Mr. Funk, other Greater Bristol business people expected to participate in the round table include Bill Lathrop of Colonial Handee Spring; Scott Kirkpatrick, Radcliff Wire; Mark Divenere, Gemco; Mark Leahy, Connecticut Spring and Stamping; Richard Ray, ERA Wire; and Bill Waseleski, of Century Spring.
Fourslide Spring and Stamping Inc. is a recognized leader in the fabrication of formed metal parts. The company produces precision metal stampings, flat springs, metal clips and wire and ribbon forms for a wide range of medical, electrical, automotive, aerospace, military and general industrial goods applications.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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August 19, 2009

City making money on cattle

A small herd of cattle that’s been grazing on Chippens Hill for years likely won’t need to mooooove on anytime soon.
For the first time in many years, the city is preparing to sign a deal that would let cattle graze on municipal land.
About two dozen head of cattle have been chewing through the field at 256 Matthews St. for a long while, officials said, and their owners would like to let them stay there.
But the property recently changed hands when the city purchased it this summer as part of the site of the proposed kindergarten to eighth grade school for West Bristol.
For the cattle to stay, the city has to offer the farmers, Doug Weigert and Robert Avolt, a license to use the land.
The farmers have been paying $350 in annual rent to cover the cost of the property taxes on the land, according to city officials.
The city’s Real Estate Committee agreed to urge city councilors to back a deal that would let the animals stay at the same price but on a month-to-month agreement so the city could tell them to take a hoof when construction nears.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the panel, said he has no problem letting the cattle stay as long as the farmers have sufficient insurance.
Edward Krawiecki, Jr, an assistant city attorney, said they’ve already shown the insurance paperwork so he anticipates no problems.
The farmers could not be reached for comment.
The city plans to construct one of two planned 900-student schools on the Matthews Street site by 2015 – and perhaps sooner – as part of a $130 million project that would close four older schools and shift half the K-8 students in town to new buildings.
The other school site is next door to the existing Greene-Hills School on Pine Street.
The new buildings would replace Memorial Boulevard Middle School and three aging primary schools O’Connell, Greene-Hills and Bingham.
The project is slated to begin in earnest only in 2013, but there has been talk of pushing the timetable up.

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City to buy Dutton Avenue house

Two years after the city first indicated a desire to buy an old stone house at the entrance to Rockwell Park, councilors are poised to follow through on the $218,000 deal.
The delay was caused by a family dispute over the fate of the 15 Dutton Ave. house – a dispute that’s not completely settled – but officials are no longer willing to wait for a clear resolution.
“My patience on this matter has reached an end,” said city Councilor Mike Rimcoski. “The time has come.”
The Real Estate Committee has asked councilors to approve the purchase of the Bevivino family house at the Sept. 8 City Council meeting. Normally, councilors go along with committee recommendations.
The city would like to buy the Dutton Avenue house where the Bevivino family has lived for decades, tear it down and use the property for the historic park.
It has already bought an adjacent lot from the family for $63,000.
Salvatore Vitrano, the attorney who represents three of the four siblings who jointly own the house, said “a great deal of misinformation” has been spread through the community about the deal.
He said that all four siblings signed an agreement approved by a state judge in February 2008 to sell the house to the city for its assessed value. But one, Jan Bevivino, is living in the house and trying to get a mortgage so she can buy it instead.
Vitrano said the rest of the family would rather sell it to her than the city, but it appears she can’t get a mortgage approved.
Jan Bevivino said that her first application was turned down and another is in the works. She said, though, that money is tight and it’s hard to get approved.
“I’m having a hard time,” she told the real estate panel.
Councilors said they sympathized with her, but the reality of the situation is that if the city doesn’t buy the house, it will be sold on the open market instead.
“We’ve been very patient. We’ve waited and waited and waited,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the panel.
He said if the city doesn’t act “somebody else is going to get” the house instead, which would prevent the city from taking a key property at the gateway to the park.
Rimcoski said that Jan Bevivino has more time to get the financing in place to buy it herself. He said that if she can get a mortgage approved before the council meeting, he’s sure she’ll be able to buy the house.
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 and bolstering its use.
Park Director Ed Swicklas has said the 15 Dutton Ave. property would make a good addition to the park.
If the city buys the house next month, there are only two other pieces of property it has indicated it would like to have to open up the park entrance and enhance neighboring Muzzy Field – a small apartment building and a former gas station.
Officials have said the city’s policy is to try to buy them when they come on the market. The city is already working on the possible purchase of the gas station.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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The Tattoo heads to Afghanistan

We have a hot new issue of The Tattoo for the end of the summer, with Youth Journalism International's Edrees Kakar reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan about Thursday's presidential election. Be sure to read it.
Also featured in our new issue is a review of "A Mighty Heart," the movie about murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Consider it a reminder to catch the film sometime. Pearl's life is a testament to the value of journalism to open hearts and minds -- and the awful price some must pay when narrow hatreds run rampant instead. It's yet another reason to worry about the troubled state of the newspaper business, which employs most of the world's reporters.
The issue also has photographs from a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, where people who fled the fighting between the Taliban and Pakistani Army wound up.
On another note, a new "class" of Youth Journalism International students is forming now. This is an especially good time for young people with an interest in writing or journalism to get involved. It's free to participate and those who have done it are proving every day how valuable the experience can be. Check it out at
We're also eager to get press passes into the hands of our student reporters all over the world. If anyone out there can help defray the costs a little, we'd sure be grateful. It's not cheap making them and mailing them overseas, but we want our young reporters to carry proof of who they are and what they're doing.
Thanks for reading The Tattoo and don't hesitate to offer us ideas, constructive criticism or assistance of any kind.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

August 18, 2009

Gill formally pulls out of mayor's race

Republican mayoral candidate John Gill formally resigned as his party’s candidate Tuesday.

Without citing any reasons, Gill submitted a letter to the city clerk declaring that he was giving up the GOP’s mayoral slot on the November 3 ballot.

Republicans have said in recent days they were waiting for Gill’s resignation before taking public steps to pick a successor.

Gill, a 29-year-old attorney, tsaid this week he is leaving the race but declined to talk about the reason.

Party officials said, however, that Gill told them a health issue arose unexpectedly that precluded him from continuing in the race against Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat, and independent hopeful Gary Lawton.

Party leaders said they are talking to prospective candidates and may be angling to put a woman at the top of the ticket. No solid names have surfaced.

Gill emerged from obscurity last month to leap into the contest for the city’s top job. He was nominated by the Republican Town Committee soon afterward.

Apparently, Gill learned about two weeks later of a health issue that required him to leave the race.

Though Gill didn’t want to talk about the problem, several party officials said Gill had good reason to pull out and could not have known earlier that his campaign would be cut short.

Republicans need at least five days before they can pick a successor candidate in order follow rules about calling the required party meeting.

They could, however, name someone as their likely standard bearer before giving the next mayoral candidate a legal green light to run.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Pastor Eddie Whitehead dead at 89

Paster Eddie Whitehead, 89, died at his home in Bristol on Sunday. A civil rights leader in town and a gentle, decent man who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, as chaplain of the city police and a founding member of the NAACP, Whitehead left the community a better place than he found it.
He was the founder and pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church for many years.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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City plans regular fee updates

The city plans to make sure the fees it charges for permits and services are updated regularly.
A new law enacted by the City Council recently requires officials to review each fee charged at least every three years to make sure it’s adequate.
City Councilor Craig Minor, who heads the ordinance committee, said that neglecting to keep fees current sometimes lead to “rather dramatic” hikes that can seem out of touch.
The move will likely lead to slightly higher revenue for the city, but it’s mostly aimed at eliminating the furor that can arise when residents get socked for a massive increase all at once.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that he began pushing for the policy change after hearing from many residents angry at a 55 percent increase in the tab for participation in the yard waste program.
He said many people dropped the voluntary service when they saw their bill rise so sharply last year.
Rimcoski said the city would be far better off by checking on fees “on a year-to-year basis” so they can be increased slowly rather than holding steady for a long time and then suddenly shooting upward.
The city charges a wide range of fees, for everything from building permits to summer recreation charges. Taken together, they amount to millions of dollars in badly needed revenue for city coffers.
Because the city’s structure requires fee hikes to gain at least the support of oversight boards for most departments, it’s not unusual for fees to remain stagnant for long periods of time before they are increased.
Parking fines, for example, were recently doubled after many years without change.
By putting the requirement that fees are reviewed into the law, officials hope the issue won’t linger on the back burner so often. It should spur more frequent but smaller fee increases, they said.

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August 17, 2009

Replacing Gill may take awhile longer

.Though John Gill remains the Republican mayoral nominee, he plans to resign from the campaign soon.
Once he's handed in a letter of resignation as the candidate, the GOP will call a special committee meeting at least five days later.
Since Gill hasn't yet put in the letter -- though he intends to soon -- the soonest the party could pick a successor is next week.
Party officials are still talking to various potential candidates. So I'm not sure the early word mentioned last week -- that an unidentified woman had the inside track -- is necessarily still true.
When I know more, I'll let you know.
Meanwhile, please respect Gill's privacy and don't speculate on his reasons. All that really needs to be said here is that everyone should wish him well.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Courant's slipping standards on display again

For the past couple of years, The Hartford Courant has proudly called attention to its stellar consumer reporter, George Gombossy, a legendary reporter. It put his picture on posters, stuck him in front of the Channel 61 cameras and otherwise hailed him.
But that was before Gombossy tried to let people know that Sleepy's was under investigation for allegedly selling used mattresses as new.
That got him fired, because Sleepy's is a big advertiser. Read all about it here.
You can keep up with Gombossy online at
(P.S. -- I have no idea if Sleepy's actually did anything wrong.)

Update at 4:10 -- Take a look at the Courant's laughable response.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Councilors ready to lop off some heads

When city councilors endorsed the $159,000 widening of Center Street last week, they thought the state was picking up the tab.
It isn’t.
The money is actually coming entirely from city coffers, part of a 2004 bond package that also included the North Main Street streetscape project, according to David Bertnagel, the city’s chief accountant.
The only councilors to oppose the project, Democrat Kevin McCauley, said that because decision-makers “were erroneously informed at the City Council meeting that this allocation was from the state funds, I have asked the mayor and City Council to bring forth this issue at the next opportunity for reconsideration as we can discuss it openly again.”
Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said he agreed on the need for a special meeting.
“I will come to it with my ax all sharpened, ready to cut off somebody’s head,” Rimcoski said Monday
“There are very few things I cannot tolerate,” Rimcoski said, and one of them “is being outright lied to.
He said that if officials were unsure of the answer, they should have said so rather than misleading the council, even if it wasn’t done deliberately.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka, who told councilors the money was coming from the state, said Monday that he thought it was.
“If I’m proved incorrect, then so be it,” Veselka said.
Several officials who tried to untangle the issue Monday said that money for downtown projects generally comes out of a pool of cash that once included $2 million from the state and $2.2 million from the city. Much of that has been spent already, though, and it can be unclear where any particular allocation originated.
It turned out, though, that the Center Street widening was specifically included in the 2004 bond package so it is entirely city money, not state cash.
Bertnagel said he can understand why officials got confused.
McCauley said “a better expenditure of city funds” would be to cover the cost of some major road projects that had been budgeted but got cut in the city’s rush to save money this year.
Bertnagel said, however, that the bond money can’t be shifted to some other use.
“We can’t just automatically use that money for another project,” Bertnagel said. He said if the city decided not to do the project, it would have to repay the bondholders, not shift the spending to another project.
Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, said the Center Street project was on the list created years ago for necessary downtown improvement.
He said it hasn’t been a priority recently, but does have the backing of the Bristol Development Authority.
Veselka said that when the design was first proposed, the idea was to add a right turn only lane for Center Street traffic turning onto North Main Street. But a traffic study found it would help more to make a left turn only lane instead.
That design was finished this year, Veselka said, and sent out for bids.
The council last week agreed to award the contract to the Vernon-based VMS Construction Co.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Colapietro urges probe of rising gas prices

Press release from state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat:


Argument that pump price it tied to the cost of crude not holding water

Hartford - State Senator Thomas A. Colapietro, Senate chair of the General Assembly’s General Law Committee, today asked Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to investigate why the cost of gasoline at pumps across Connecticut is going up while the price of a barrel of crude oil remains down.

I do not like being at the mercy of the gas pump, and I’m sure there are plenty of folks who feel the same,” Senator Colapietro wrote in a letter to the attorney general today. I cannot explain why a drop in crude prices is not reflected at the pump, and I have concerns that consumers could be facing price gouging when they fill up their tanks.

Senator Colapietro wrote, “The increase in gas prices we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks goes against the logic that we’ve heard over the past few years, that the cost of gas is dependent on the price of a barrel of crude oil. While a comparison of gasoline rack prices and closing costs for a barrel of crude oil seem to be in-line with this logic, it’s been my experience that the drop in crude prices is not being reflected at the pump.”

Crude oil closed at $67.51 on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday, August 14. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Connecticut today is $2.807.

Consumers are being told—not asked—to bear the brunt of this financial crisis,” Senator Colapietro wrote. I personally think it’s unfair that rates are being increased on virtually everything when consumers are having their paychecks held at no increase.”

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August 16, 2009

McCauley: Council given wrong info on Center Street project

Press release from city Councilor Kevin McCauley:


At the August 11, 2009 City Council meeting, I asked my Council colleagues to consider whether the Center Street project was necessary at this time due to the economy and other competing priorities. At that time, we were told that the project was from the Phase I of the State Grant for Downtown with no city dollars. I have since confirmed that the authorization for the Center Street and North Main Street turning lane project does include City funds in the amount of almost $159,000, since one of the stipulations for the State grant proposal requires this local matching funds. As I stated last week, I believe Public Works major road projects that were previously budgeted for where funding was cut and where roadwork was reduced would be a better expenditure of City funds.

Because we were erroneously informed at the City Council meeting that this allocation was from the State funds, I have asked the Mayor and City Council to bring forth this issue at the next opportunity for reconsideration as we can discuss it openly again. On a positive note, also last Tuesday, the Council supported my motion by voting unanimously to have a task force
committee review all of these types of expenditures for any project over $100,000. It is my strong recommendation that we not sign any contracts until we have thoroughly and accurately discussed the facts.

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August 14, 2009

Tech school to stay open under Rell's new budget

Press release from state Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes northwestern Bristol:

Rep. Hamzy, CT BOE's Bobroske: Bristol Technical Education Center to Remain Open Under Gov's New Budget Plan

Funding for the Bristol Technical Education Center has been restored under Governor M. Jodi Rell’s most recent budget plan, making it unlikely that the facility will be closed as part of the effort to eliminate the state’s projected $8.5 billion deficit, said state Representative William A. Hamzy and state Board of Education member Beverly R. Bobroske.

Representative Hamzy and Mrs. Bobroske worked with Bristol Mayor Art Ward, Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce officials, former and current Bristol Tech students, Mike Suchopar of the Bristol Boys and Girls Club, local business people and other area legislators to keep the school open.

“When the Bristol Technical Education Center was threatened with closure as part of the state’s effort to eliminate its budget deficit, I worked with other area legislators, state education officials, and state Board of Education member Beverly Bobroske of Bristol in a bipartisan effort to save the school,” said Representative Hamzy, R-78thDistrict. “I’d like to thank my Democratic colleagues in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate who represent towns that send students to Bristol Tech for the role they played in our successful effort to keep the school open. When we work together in a bipartisan effort on behalf of our towns, good things happen. Saving Bristol Tech was a very good thing.”

“Over the years, the Bristol Technical Education Center has provided a steady stream of well-trained graduates for jobs with area employers. Bristol Tech partners with businesses and industries throughout the Greater Bristol-Plymouth region to make sure its academic programs keep pace with local employers’ current, emerging, and changing global workforce needs and expectations. The Bristol Technical Education Center is located in my district and I have always worked with school and state education officials to ensure its students train on the most up-to-date equipment possible. Bristol Tech makes an important contribution to the regional economy. We could not afford to let it be closed down,” Representative Hamzy said.

“As a member of the state Board of Education, I am totally committed to ensuring Connecticut students not only graduate from our public schools with the skills they need to be accepted at the most academically rigorous colleges and universities or well-prepared to enter the workforce, but also that they have access to a variety of educational options – including technical high schools like the Bristol Technical Education Center, which I strongly support,” Mrs. Bobroske said.

“Bristol Tech plays a major role in educating a substantial number of students in Bristol, Plymouth and 20 other surrounding communities who want to go on to careers in business, manufacturing, or other skilled trades,” Mrs. Bobroske said. “College is not for everyone, and for many years, Bristol Tech has provided an alternative path to success for young people and adults with different career goals. There always has been a steady demand for Bristol Technical Education Center graduates from area businesses, industries and manufacturing firms and that will not change. The school is an integral part of Bristol and Plymouth’s education community and I was pleased to play a role in enabling it to continue serving our young people.”

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Republicans scramble to cope with mayoral candidate vacancy

Republican mayoral candidate John Gill is dropping out of the race for personal reasons, the GOP's party chairman, T. J. Barnes, said Friday.
Barnes said that "something came up suddenly" and Gill, a 29-year-old attorney, could not continue in the contest.
The Republicans scrambled to find an alternative challenger to Democratic Mayor Art Ward over the last few days and have apparently come up with someone – an unidentified woman.
Barnes said the party will introduce its candidate early next week.
Barnes said that GOP leaders were "very disappointed" that Gill had to drop out, but given the circumstances, they understand his decision.
"I'll leave it up to John to explain," Barnes said.
Gill could not be reached Thursday or Friday. He is scheduled, however, to appear with the new mayoral choice.
Ward said that he wishes Gill well, especially if there’s a health issue involved. He said that Gill may well have a future in city politics and deserves credit for getting involved.
The mayoral race also has an independent contender, Gary Lawton.
Lawton said he never had a chance to meet Gill, but “i do wish him the best and hope everything turns out the best for him.”
After Ward’s narrow victory in 2007 over Republican Ken Johnson, it appeared likely the Democrat would face a rematch.
Johnson declared within hours after the polls closed in 2007 that he would run again. For much of the year, it appeared he would.
But in the end, Johnson opted not to run and the GOP was uncertain who would head the Republican ticket until the day before its nominating convention last month, when Gill contacted party leaders about running after seeing a blog entry that questioned whether the party would have anyone.
Gill was a political unknown and even Republican activists admitted they only met him when he expressed a desire to run. But he impressed party leaders quickly with his quick mind and his readiness to jump into the effort to save the senior wellness clinic after it was threatened with closure.
Barnes said that Gill is "a good guy" who has a bright future in the party. He said he fully expects that Gill will be involved for years to come.
Barnes said that Gill is part of the Republican effort to "reinvent ourselves" and bring new, young people into its ranks.
"Our bench isn't that deep," Barnes said, and newcomers such as Gill offer hope for the future.
Republicans are concerned that without a strong mayoral candidate, they could lose the two GOP incumbents on the City Council, Ken Cockayne and Mike Rimcoski, and perhaps blow their chance to pick up a seat in the wide open 3rd District as well.
The Republican Town Committee’s executive committee apparently has the right to pick Gill’s successor as the party’s mayoral candidate.
Republicans last held the mayor’s office from 2005 to 2007 when William Stortz was at the city’s helm. He opted not to seek reelection.
The election is November 3. Mayors serve two-year terms for $100,000 annually.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

Mocabee: Raise the sales tax?

An open letter from Art Mocabee, a Republican Party leader from Bristol:

According to the Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009, the State of Arizona is about to lead the nation in getting out from under years of over spending by it’s legislature.

According to the article, Republican Governor Jan Brewer has put forth a plan that will decrease state’s corporate income tax by nearly 30%, the personal income tax by 6.6% and eliminates entirely a statewide tax on commercial and residential property.

While Connecticut does not have a state wide tax on property, it does have a local tax that is the foundation of municipal revenue.

In place of these taxes Governor Brewer has proposed a temporary increase in the sales tax from 5.6% to 6.6% for 2010 and 2011, then falling to 6.1% in 2012, and in 2013 reverts back to it’s 5.5% rate.

According sources used by the WSJ, “most economic studies agree that states have higher jobs and higher income growth when they tax consumption rather than savings, investments, and business profits”.

These seems to be a good lesson for the Connecticut Legislature which is Democratically controlled and facing over $8 billion dollars in a two year budget gap..

Wake up Connecticut before we end up like New York, California and Arizona before Governor Brewer’s brave new initiatives.

Art Mocabee

2nd Vice Chairman,

1St Congressional District

Connecticut Republicans

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

A radical idea, part 2

Down in the basement of the old Bristol Press building were a bunch of file cabinets that contained decades' worth of records from the former publisher of the paper, the legendary Bart Barnes.
When I had free time, I liked to paw through them, reading these thick files he kept on the creation of an airport where Superior Electric was later built, or the purchase of the Hoppers-Birge Pond area, or a thousand and one other topics in which Barnes played a crucial role.
He managed to be both a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker and the public face of a good many civic improvements.
Why did he do it all? Partly, of course, because a growing, thriving Bristol meant a growing, thriving Press. A community on the move takes its paper to new heights.
But Barnes was also just an old school, civic-minded man who believed strongly in leaving his community a better place than he found it. Fortunately for Bristol, he also had the tools to make a lot of his ideas happen.
There aren't any Bart Barnes' anymore, though the community is still blessed with a number of generous folks of whom Craig Yarde is just one example. They're willing to lend a hand, but they're not out there in quite the same way.
That's OK, too, because the hard work of making the city better doesn't really belong to a handful of self-selected kingpins -- men with money, mostly -- it actually falls on all of us who live and work in Bristol.
The more I've thought about it, and listened to the thoughts of others, the more I recognize there is a genuine desire to take our best ideas and turn them into reality. There's just a sort of disconnect that keeps it from happening most of the time.
Money, of course, plays a role. There's never enough cash to do everything that ought to be done.
But where there's political will and a community pushing for action, things do happen.
The problem that Bristol has in too many instances is that ideas rarely become plans and plans rarely become reality. In part, the reason is that the government isn't set up to focus on the future.
In the best view of City Hall, it's good at fixing potholes. It's even adequate in making sure a street is paved once in awhile so it won't fall apart.
It deals with things the way they are.
But officials rarely focus on the way things ought to be or could be. They don't look into the future and say we should do this or we should do that because we want Bristol to be something distinct. Decisions aren't made to define the future. They're made instead merely to fix a pressing problem.
Bristol has a good planner in Alan Weiner. It has scores of men and women with expertise to burn. It just doesn't use them to their highest potential.
I'm not sure that having the council meet occasionally to talk about the future would really help. After all, they're just politicians.
But I'm more sure than ever that the city ought to establish some kind of mechanism to pull in residents and offer up ideas. The focus needs to be on a simple question: what should Bristol be?
Without an answer, it won't be long before it's like New Britain or Waterbury or some other struggling municipality that is so consumed with trying to keep the public safe and to educate the poor that it can barely breathe, let alone dream.
Bristol still has time to soar. Let's at least try.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at

GOP mayoral candidate dropping out of race

Republican mayoral candidate John Gill is dropping out of the race "for personal reasons," according to the GOP's party chairman, T. J. Barnes.
Barnes said Friday that "something came up suddenly" and Gill, a 29-year-old attorney, could not continue.
The Republicans scrambled to find an alternative challenger to Democratic Mayor Art Ward over the last few days and have apparently come up with someone.
Barnes said the party will introduce its candidate early next week.
Barnes said that GOP leaders were "very disappointed" that Gill had to drop out, but given the circumstances, they understand his decision.
"I'll leave it up to John to explain," Barnes said.
Barnes said that Gill is "a good guy" who has a bright future in the party. He said he fully expects that Gill will be involved for years to come.
Barnes said that Gill is part of the Republican effort to "reinvent ourselves" and bring new, young people into its ranks.
"Our bench isn't that deep," Barnes said, and newcomers such as Gill offer hope for the future.
The mayoral race also has an independent contender, Gary Lawton. The election is November 3.
I'll have more on this story as it develops today, including, I trust, something from Gill.
I do want to say up front, though, that I am aware of the circumstances that caused Gill to make his decision and I won't allow comments speculating about them. It is not something that Gill or the Republicans could have anticipated.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at