August 30, 2011

City to hold 9-11 tribute

Statement from Mayor Art Ward's office:

On Sunday, September 11th  at 7 PM, the City of Bristol will conduct a 10th Anniversary Memorial Tribute in honor of the 9/11 tragedy.

The event will be hosted in one of Bristol’s most beautiful landmarks, St. Joseph Church, located on historic Federal Hill. Come and be inspired by a non-denominational evening filled with music, song and secular readings culminating in a poignant candlelight ceremony involving the entire audience.

Mayor Ward stated, “This will truly be an awe inspiring and memorable gathering, offering each one of us an opportunity to reflect on the effect this tragedy has had on family, friends and country. Plan to attend and become part of yet another page added to our City’s impressive memorial history. “

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Councilors decide today on McDonald's land swap

City councilors may decide today whether to move ahead with a proposed land swap with McDonald’s.
They’re also slated to consider whether to sell 1/6 of an acre to the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts property that would add 30 feet of space along its entire border with the city-owned former mall site.
The council meets at 5 p.m. today to consider both issues, mostly behind closed doors in executive session.
Though details of the proposed deal with McDonald’s are hard to come by, it appears the city intends to swap about an acre of land next door to Dunkin’ Donuts in return for gaining possession of the property where the fast food restaurant is today.
McDonald’s would own the newly exchanged parcel just as it owns the one it has now.
What isn’t clear is whether all the legal hurdles will be overcome in time for the meeting today.
The city’s attorney, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, said legal issues are “percolating fast and furiously” in preparation for the session, but Mayor Art Ward said they may not all be resolved in time.
Once complete, the deal would leave a bit more than 15 acres in the hands of Long Island-based developer Renaissance Downtowns for its planned revitalization of the city center property.
The land sale to add some space to the Dunkin’ Donuts property appears to have support, but councilors are unsure about the price.
An initial assessment of $20,000 to $25,000 as a sale price didn’t factor in the added value to the property owner, George Varnavelias. So councilors are likely to seek more money.
Gary Constant, his attorney, said the extra land “would enhance the planning possibilities” for the site in the future.
Ryan Porter, project manager for Renaissance, said the extra land adds “far more options” for the Dunkin’ Donuts site in the years ahead.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne called it “a huge value” for the property.
The 30-foot buffer the city is willing to sell, he said, “in my eyes is like gold.”
But Tim Furey, the attorney for Bill and Janet Ghio, who own the doughnut shop and have a long-term lease for the site, said they recently poured a lot of money into renovations so the additional land is unlikely to spur major changes any time soon.
“That ship kind of sailed when the renovations were done,” Furey said.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Flooding woes not political issue, Werner says

Former Mayor Mike Werner sent me a note about the flooding problem. Here's what he had to say:

Politics really doesn't play a role in this.  There was a study done back when I was Mayor on the entire watershed.  I forgot who did it.  It was started before me.  I do remember being briefed on it.  Nothing has changed since then; there's no need for a new study.  No one wants to say it, but the problems are too numerous and too costly to address, so they look for another study to tell them the same thing, but it will take everyone's mind off the problem until the next flood. 

Back in the 80's, the Wetlands agency set strict standards for new development, so the fear of any new runoff is unfounded.  They have a zero runnoff policy.  I know because I lost two building lots a few years ago when I subdivided a piece of land on Miller Road.  I had to use the extra land to design an underground detention sytem to keep any additional water from running into the little brook on the property. The upshot is that there really has been no new runoff to any of the waterways in Bristol for several years, at least not as a result of any legal development.

The problems with our waterways are just too expensive to fix, because you have to fix everything to have an impact.  A fix in one area creates a problem in another.  To really fix the problem, you'll have to purchase hundreds of privately owned properties.  Some of the things property owners were allowed to do back in the 50's and 60's would never be allowed today, and they'd have to be remedied at great cost.  Just look at Frederick Street.  No natural brook takes ninety degree turns the way it does behing the body shop and on toward Theiss Steel.  But to fix it, you'd have to buy that property, and several others, and make the brook straight.  Now you create a problem for someone downstream, and you have to fix his problem, and so on.  This is just one example of many.  There are similar problems with every waterway in town and they all interconnect.  Unless you start at the Pequabuck and work your way through every stream that empties into it, you will cause more problems than you started with.  I don't know what the legal liability would be if the City created a flooding problem for someone who never had one before, but I'd guess it would be significant.  They could end up buying dozens of homes and businesses just by the law of unitended consequences.

All along Mine Brook there are areas where homeowners or businesses filled in parts of the brook to keep it from flooding their back yard or to give themselves more property.  I was a kid when St Gregory Church was built.  Their parking lot added a lot of water to Mine Brook where we used to fish.  St Paul's High School, built many years later added even more.  As a result of this and other things, the bridge on Rt 6 by Dunkin Donuts, which used to be adequate, is undersized. Again, most of this was done decades ago.  The same can be said for the brook that flows down from Terryville (can't think of the name now) along Rt 6 and into the Pequabuck down by the intersection of Clarke Ave and Rt 72.  That brook has a few ninety degree turns that aren't natural.  You also have problems with the brook that flows down from Withces Rock Road down Peck Ln and under Divinity Street.  That has a host of problems.  The brook that runs down from East Rd to Union Street also is a problem.  And on and on.  Almost every stream in town has been tampered with over the years by abutting property owners. These brooks and streams all flow into the Pequabuck.  If you make them all flow better, the Pequabuck will get more water faster and will flood more readily.  How do you deal with the inadequate bridge in Forestville?  You have to buy Nuchies and that whole block, and build a proper bridge.  Again, all along the Pequabuck are buildings that were built too close, property owners who filled in parts of the river and made it flow in an unnatural way, etc.   And much of this was done before you or I were born.  A lot of it was done in the 1800's. To correct it would cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. Also, if we get our watershed to run smoothly, what problems will we create for the people of Plainville?

It would be nice to say that there is an easy solution to this.  There is a solution, but the cost is prohibitive.  The city really took some serious steps years ago (after I left office, I can't take any credit) to alleviate runoff.  The Planning Board and Wetlands Agency take this stuff seriously.  Unfortunately, the city learned too late, so they have to do the best they can with what they have. People who live or run businesses in flood prone areas just have to realize that they will get flooded from time to time. 

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Community tackles hurricane cleanup

Tulip Street during the storm
Photo by Ken Cockayne, used with permission
The mess created by Tropical Storm Irene is going to take many days to clean up.
When the gushing water that flowed through low-lying sections of town Sunday dried up, it left behind a sea of sand, piles of debris and one wrecked building that city officials ordered demolished within 48 hours.
Mayor Art Ward said there’s “a little despair” among some drenched homeowners and soaked businesses, “but everybody’s got that can-do attitude” required to tackle the massive cleanup.
“We’ll do what we have to do and put the community back together again,” Ward said Monday. Click here for the rest of the story.

Former Stately Floors building, during the flood
Photo by Ken Cockayne, used with permission.
Also see: The former Stately Floors building must be torn down. Below are a couple of pictures that Christopher MacNeill took of the place, used with permission.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Larson still seeks flood control money for Bristol

U.S. Rep. John Larson, the East Hartford Democrat whose district includes Bristol, explains what happened to his effort to secure federal funding for a study of how best to deal with flooding in Bristol:

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

August 29, 2011

One in 10 still without power in Bristol

BRISTOL -- More than 10 percent of the city's residents are still without electricity in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
Connecticut Light & Power reports this morning that almost 3,200 city residents are still experiencing an outage following the powerful hurricane.
At one point, almost a third of the city was without power so progress is clearly being made.
Mayor Art Ward said city crews and utility company employees have been working diligently to get things back to normal.
"They worked all night," the mayor said.
CL&P has estimated it may take a week to get all of its customers in Connecticut back to full service. But most residents in Bristol can expect to see their electricity back on much sooner.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

City vowed to help with flooding, but didn't

Flooding at Rockwell Park.
Photo by Christopher MacNeill, used with permission.
BRISTOL – There’s a simple reason why there’s so much flooding along the Pequabuck River and Copper Mine Brook whenever a heavy rain hits: there’s no place for all the water to go.
All of the rain that falls on Bristol, much of Burlington and big parts of both Plymouth and Harwinton winds up pouring into those two relatively small streams.
Thanks to unchecked development over many years, which turned open space into pavement, the water that falls tends to flow downhill quickly into already strained streams that soon become raging torrents that flow down city streets and through residents’ basements.
It makes for a costly, discouraging mess every time it happens. This year, it also proved deadly, with Hurricane Irene’s floodwaters carrying one man off to his doom.
But after a spate of four major floods between 2004 and 2007, the city vowed to take action.
Officials discovered that the City Council was responsible for dealing with flooding in Bristol and it moved to hold special sessions monthly to tackle the issue.
But about the time Mayor Art Ward took office in 2007, the momentum stalled for the same reason government often drags to a halt: money.  Click here for the rest of the story.

Also, the missing canoer has been found dead.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

August 28, 2011

Canoe flips in Forestville, one or two missing

Witnesses in Forestville say a canoe flipped and dumped two people into the water. They are missing.

More details soon.
Update: Bristol, CT Fire Dept. page on Facebook has this: "Update-Rescue in progress in Forestville overtuned canoe 2 people swept away 1 person is ok the other is unaccounted for! Bristol Fire is on scene with Plainville fire just happend!"

New update: It appears only one man is missing.
CJ Tyler of Bristol said he saw a canoe slam into the bridge beside Nuchies restaurant in Forestville, dumping the men inside into the raging waters. One apparently dragged himself out while the other is missing.
"It was crazy," Tyler said on his Facebook page.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Bristol Police: Stay home, everybody!

Message from Bristol Police Department:

HURRICANE IRENE REMINDER - Please limit your travels throughout the city. Many intersections are closed, wires & trees down. Many dangerous spots throughout city. Avoid walking in damaged sections taking photos. Chippens Hill Middle School is the designated shelter. Do not drive through standing water. 911 - Emergencies only! Stay Safe.

Farrell Avenue, off Barlow Street
Photo by Michele Woike Zipke, used with permission
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

More Photos of Bristol Flooding

Frederick Street bridge area
Photo by Craig Minor, used with permission.

Laura Minor just sent a brief report from Forestville:
"The Copper Mine Brook has flooded and is covering Frederick and West Washington. Houses are ruined two blocks from us. There is no way to get from our side of town through to downtown Bristol easily. Forestviille Center is flooded also as is Mix St./Rte. 6. I've never seen anything like this. Water is rising and the wind is strong. We watched a big branch go down which luckily didn't hit anything." 

Brenda Martin took photos all over town that really capture some of the flooding woes. Here they are:

Also see this video someone posted on YouTube:

Also see the previous links:
More flooding

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

More flooding in Bristol (updated)

Middle Street at Riverside Avenue.
Photo by Vanessa Larence, used with permission.
BRISTOL -- Much of Bristol is underwater today.
From Muzzy Field to Forestville Center, the Pequabuck River has claimed a new, wider course that takes it down city streets, through buildings and beyond.
The rain falling from Hurricane Irene has swollen the river and inundated dozens of cars, partially destroyed the Stately Floors building at the end of Memorial Boulevard and soaked countless basements.
Copper Mine Brook and other tributaries are also overflowing their banks, creating torrents all over town. Police have closed a number of city streets, making it difficult to get around, and emergency crews are working in many locations to deal with downed wires, stranded residents and the chaos of a major storm.
Please check this link for pictures and video.

Here are some more photos by Vanessa Lawrence:

Flooded Farmington Avenue intersection near Staples.

Memorial Boulevard

Broad Street

TERRYVILLE -- Rising water has breached Preston Dam, as the picture below by Ryan Woike makes clear:

Here are some photos by Aaron Vontell of the area near the west end of Memorial Boulevard:

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at

Hurricane causes major flooding in Bristol

Video of flooding in Forestville Center by Alisha Lee Yard, who shared it on YouTube.
Photo in Forestville by Kim Keegan, used with permission.

To nobody's surprise, the heavy rains caused by Hurricane Irene have caused significant flooding in low-lying parts of Bristol.
Memorial Boulevard "is like a river," said Henry Raymond, and the school playing field there reminds him of a lake.
Forestville Center.
Photo by Joe Mudry, used with permission
East Main Street is under 4 feet of water. Police have ordered residents to evacuate.
Stately Floors, which was getting hammered by water this morning, has partially collapsed. It sits astride the Pequabuck River on the western end of Memorial Boulevard.
One fifth of the city's 29,439 customer of Connecticut Light & Power are without electricity this morning, according to the utility.
Flooding is heavy in all of the areas of town that traditionally experience problems during heavy storms, including Forestville, the area from Brook Street north toward the Little League complex on Mix Street and along the Copper Mine Brook.
But residents report they can still get around.
Raymond managed to get out for breakfast at Crystal's, which he said he was glad to find open.

Water flowing through the parking lot at Staples on Route 6.
Photo by Ashley Elizabeth. Used with permission. 
Sue Roesch said there are lots of branches and leaves down on Federal Hill, but the damage doesn't compare to Hurricane Bob two decades ago.
"This is pretty mild compared to that," Roesch said.
Raymond took a tour of some of the troubled areas. Here are some photographs he took this morning:

The Stately Floors building at the western end of Memorial Boulevard.

A shed on Frederick Street.

Memorial Boulevard area.

The walkway at Napco on Riverside Avenue.

Forestville Center.

Car inundated on Frederick Street. 

Car inundated on Frederick Street. 

Forestville Center

Parking lot between Memorial Boulevard School and the parkway.

Tree down in Bristol. Photo by Jazzya Rivera, used with  permission.

Here's a link to some more flooding video in Bristol. 

Channel 3 days a dam in Terryville has been breached.

For more on the flooding, please see

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at