February 28, 2014

Bristol's marketing push is 'all heart'

After settling on a heart-shaped B as a key part of a new Bristol marketing push, officials recently agreed they better push for the funding necessary to create what they hope will be a successful branding campaign. Click here for the story.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Chamber proposals for Memorial Boulevard School

Here's a copy of the letter that Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce President Jim Albert sent to the city's Planning Commission recently about the old Memorial Boulevard School:

Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce
Comment for City of Bristol Planning Commission
Re: Disposition of Memorial Boulevard School
February 21, 2014

  1. Recommended Uses of Memorial Boulevard School (MBS):  Consistent with the input received by the City of Bristol Planning Commission at the two public informational sessions held to gather public input for potential use/reuse of MBS, the Chamber recommends that MBS become a “destination” multiple purpose community center to include the following uses within the building:

  1. Theater: Theater to be retained for theatrical productions and other entertainment events and programs.  Furthermore, contiguous space to the Theater should also be made available for management office space, staging, rehearsal space, lobby/reception, ticket office and storage.

  1. Bristol Visitor’s Center and Heritage Museum: Bristol Visitor’s Center and Heritage Museum to include displays and programs highlighting the Memorial “flavor” of the park and Bristol’s past and present (manufacturing, veteran’s, sports, agriculture, etc.) with potential tour and school programs linked to other museums and heritage centers around the City (American Clock and Watch Museum, New England Carousel Museum, Bristol Historical Society and Sports Hall of Fame, Military Museum, Bristol Public Library, Federal Hill Historic Districts, Lake Compounce, etc.).

  1. Art: Art studios and galleries for art-related business, art creation, display, classes and sales.  The vision is to create a section of the building where the public could view, shop and learn about various forms of art such as sculpting, pottery, and painting.  Further the designated section of the building could become a destination where the art community could work together and collaborate on projects, events, sales, classes, innovation, etc.

  1. Conference Center:  Multi-purpose catering kitchen, meeting rooms, reception and configurable event rooms for seminars, meetings, dinners, programs, etc.    Reuse of the MBS gymnasium and/or cafeteria, kitchen, library and other rooms for multi-purpose event and meeting support would allow training seminars, strategic planning off-sites, and meetings and events requiring space for small and large groups, with on-site catering support capabilities.  This space could be in proximity to the Theater and Art Center communities within the building to provide shared reception, rehearsal, concession, and other overlapping uses.

  1. Business Incubator:  To support light office small business start-ups and shared office space such as technology, bio-tech, or communications businesses. A segment of MBS should be set aside for stand-alone businesses and for individuals wanting to share space, amenities, utilize space for meetings, presentations, and potentially share support staff among multiple business entities.  It is envisioned that many “start up” and “home based” companies could be supported in this manner.

  1. Civic Organization office space.  Space could be made available to consolidate related civic and community entities which might be a good fit to manage and/or promote the other activities within the building.
  2. Non- Governmental Organizations: Space could be made available to consolidate related non-governmental entities such as the Army Strong office and the Veteran’s Council.  Other synergistic pairings and combinations of related public and private organizations could free up space in other locations for core functions (such as re-organizing space and functions within City Hall).

  1. Playground space: Potential reuse of a portion of MBS gymnasium for indoor playground for children.

  1. Educational uses: As an existing school MBS presents self-evident opportunities for educational uses.

  1. Fields: The existing fields should be preserved to accentuate the activities of Memorial Boulevard Park, athletic space for the community and specifically in proximity to the downtown area, and as support for activities at the MBS.

  1. Recommended ownership/management of MBS:  Following strong public input and preference, the Chamber recommends the City of Bristol pursue a strategy which considers maintaining ownership of MBS and leasing the building, immediate grounds and parking to a not for-profit entity which could both manage the operations of MBS and the financial management of the building and its uses.  Although further investigation is required, this format should create more opportunities to secure governmental funding and independent grants which could be utilized to support either the renovation, or operations of the MBS.

  1. Other considerations: Other issues raised which should be noted for further consideration were to: (i) investigate the possibility of closing the road between MBS and the neighboring industrial complex to create additional parking. (ii) Place the MBS on the Historic Registry to help insure the integrity of the structure and provide funding opportunities, and (iii) develop restrictive covenants to be placed on the MBS to ensure the integrity of the architectural design and look of the building.

Recommended next steps: The Chamber recommends the following next steps to implement re-use of MBS.  The first step would be that the Planning Commission recommend that the Bristol City Council create a transitional project oversight and management committee (the “Committee”) to work with appropriate City staff, local organizations, stakeholders and private experts (architects, engineering, code/regulatory experts, etc.) to develop a Feasibility Plan for the MBS allocating appropriate space and infrastructural amenities for potential use groups within the building.  The Committee should evaluate the desirability of registering the MBS with the national Historical Registry.  The Committee should do a more detailed evaluation of the availability of private, state and federal funds to redevelop, repair and operate the MBS.  Once these key issues are investigated the Committee can recommend a governance structure for the MBS which may, or may not, be consistent with what we have outlined in Section 2.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 25, 2014

Wright ponders Rowland's possible return to prison

State Rep. Chris Wright took aim last night at former Gov. John Rowland, who's the afternoon radio host on WTIC-AM.
Taking note of a federal criminal investigation into Rowland's role in the 2012 Republican congressional race in the 5th District, the Bristol Democrat said if he ever gets invited back on the ex-governor's show, he has a question for him.
"What I want to ask him is if he goes back to jail is he going to have same prisoner number as before?" Wright told the city's Democratic Town Committee.
Rowland is under scrutiny for using his show to blast opponents of a candidate whose husband paid him $30,000 for work that never appeared on campaign finance documents. It isn't clear what the nature of the work was, but investigators are looking into it.
Wright said Rowland, who served a year in federal prison for corruption a decade ago, criticizes him on his show regularly.
"If John Rowland is saying negative things about me on his show," Wright said, "it makes me wonder who's paying him to say it."

For those who don't know what's going on with Rowland now, see this Hartford Courant story by Edmund H. Mahony and Jon Lender.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 23, 2014

New city GOP chairman in the wings

When the new Republican Town Committee takes office in March, the GOP's city chairman, TJ Barnes, won't be at the helm. He has long vowed to step down this year after leading his party from an era of near total defeat to capture City Hall, the Board of Education and even the city's sole state Senate seat.

Taking his place at the helm, probably, will be former city Councilor Derek Czenzewlewski.

Though he won't confirm it, a few GOP insiders have said he's the one.
Czenczelewski lost a reelection bid last year in the 3rd District, where two Democratic women found victory, but was immediately tapped by Mayor Ken Cockayne to serve on the city's Board of Finance.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 22, 2014

A few thoughts on bettering Bristol

In the golden age of Florence, when some of the men whose names have become legend still walked the streets, its population was probably only a little more than Bristol's is today. Think about that. Those men and women were able to construct fabulous churches and palaces, write lasting works of genius, create art and sculpture that fascinate us half a millenia later. Yet the entire population at any one time was certainly less than the number who live today in Bristol and, say, New Britain.

What it says to me is that we cheat ourselves, that we have more wealth than even Florence in its heyday could have imagined. We have more educated people, more food, more access to information and help, more of everything except for one thing: the ambition to shine, to do something magnificent and memorable.

I understand that many people are struggling, that bills pile up, that jobs are too demanding and too few, that we have needs and concerns that drain our time, our energy and our faith in the future. But so did they.

To soar takes luck, for sure, but it also takes a deep, driving commitment to excellence. We have no better example in front of our eyes than ESPN, which started off in a little trailer on Middle Street and grew, by sheer determination to be the best, into the worldwide leader in sports, to become ubiquitous in a period of time so short that some of its first employees are still on the job.

I don't know if Bristol is "all heart," as the marketing folks are pondering. I only know that it has far more potential than it recognizes, that it can dare to create for itself a future that shines. And I know that failing to grasp for that future is perhaps the surest way to decline and decay. What we do today matters. If we choose to be great, we may be. If we opt to sit back, to shy away from the hard job of making the community stronger and better, we all know what will happen: nothing.

I don't imagine that Bristol will ever be a Florence, a mecca for a couple of million tourists a year to come and see great art or gawk at its architecture. I don't know if it will ever produce a writer like Machiavelli or a poet like Petrarch. But I do have faith that if we tried to foster art and culture, it would rebound to our benefit in ways we can't even imagine.

Bristol was built by dreamers and doers, people who helped to invent and perfect manufacturing, who turned clocks into household necessities and perfected the mechanisms within them. Those skills and inventiveness led to new industries that still make this area a hub for springmaking, for precision products, for aerospace parts and much more. There are still people out there hustling every day to build on that tradition. We need more of them.

One of the big issues in town lately has been blight. Officials talk endlessly of fighting blight, of knocking down crummy old structures and pushing out the crime that so often attaches itself to crumbling housing. But the issue really goes much deeper. The blight that really matters sinks into souls. It's the blight that leaves people who could have done important things instead strung out on drugs or trapped in poverty with babies they can't really handle or just grinding through days in a nonstop struggle to survive. It's that kind of blight that leaves a community reeling. To get ahead, we have to find ways to minimize that waste of talent, that wasted opportunity. We have to recognize that we are all in this together.

Bristol can do so much more than it does.

Think back to one of the many wise things Machiavelli advised: "All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” 

Do bold things. That's where the future lies. It is, after all, far better to fall short our dreams than simply to suffer without them.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 17, 2014

Stortz: Let's get some publicity for Muzzy's 100th

Former Mayor William Stortz sent this along:

Why doesn't the Mayor and the Marketing Committee join together with Mr. Swicklas in trying to get the President to Bristol and Muzzy field? More than likely the Governor will be here. Maybe he can help convince the President to come.
They should also contact our two Senators and all the Representatives, and encourage them to call on the president.
 I would also hope that our "Marketing" Committee, along with Ed, has put together a package containing the legacy, the history, and events that are planned for Muzzy Field this year. Besides helping to convince the President to come, this package should be sent to ALL newspapers in CT, as well as the NY Times and the Boston Globe. 
We need to get the word out there: this certainly would help.
After all, we do have a Marketing Committee and Marketing Company to help do this, don't we?

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 12, 2014

Text of condemnation order city issued to Wah Lung

This is the order issued in relation to this story.

111 North Main Street, Bristol, CT.  06010


February 10, 2014
Chen Xue Q
2 Divinity Street
Bristol, CT 06010

RE: 2 Divinity Street, Tax Assessor map # 49, and Lot # 11-1
Subject: Unsafe and unsanitary building

To Whom It May Concern:

As the owner of the property known as 2 Divinity Street  and 173 West Street in Bristol, Connecticut; I am hereby issuing this condemnation order that the structure be deemed uninhabitable due to unsafe, dangerous and unsanitary conditions and the persistent improper (lack of) property maintenance. On February 10, 2014, I observed numerous violations during my inspection with the Bristol/Burlington Health Department, Bristol Fire Marshal’s Office and the Mechanical Inspector from the Building Department.  I received a referral from the Director of the Health Department who’s employees were concerned that there existed unsafe conditions.
The following unsafe, dangerous and unsanitary conditions must be addressed before the condemnation order can be lifted and the building re-occupied:
1)      All garbage, refuse (rotted wood) and trash must be removed from the exterior of the premises, especially from areas at rear of building blocking rear egress.
2)      All windows and doors and surrounding trim of the building must be restored.
3)      The rear egress covered porch and stairs is unsafe due to failing structural members which must be rebuilt per building code after applying for a building permit.
4)      Heat must be restored.  Do not use portable heaters of any type as a primary heat source.
5)      The restaurant Hood and duct system must be cleaned of heavy grease build up.
6)      Remove damaged flue exhaust pipe from rear of building.
7)      Remove the peeling paint and restore exterior siding and trim where required.
8)      Smoker unit must be vented separately and not through the hood suppression system.
9)      Kitchen freezer condensate drain line must be plumbed to an in-direct waste outside the freezer unit.
10)  Unsanitary conditions in restaurant require that the wall, ceiling and floor coverings be re-placed-NOT RE-PAINTED.
11)  Confirm use of FOG required grease trap with Fran Baehr, Mechanical Inspector at 860-584-6216.
12)  Install code compliant doors and egress hardware to rear exit of kitchen area. Clear all ice and debris to allow safe passage of occupants.
13)  Comply with all requirements of Bristol/Burlington Health District.
14)  Comply with all requirements of the Bristol Fire Marshal’s Office.
15)  The inspection of the basement of the building and the three apartments are required to determine if there is any structural defects and fire hazards which may pose imminent danger to anyone occupying the structure and may result in additional restoration requirements.

Therefore, I am hereby ordering you do not occupy the structure known as, 2 Divinity Street and 173 West Street, Bristol CT except to correct the violations listed in this order. Failure to comply with this order will result in arrest by the Bristol Police Department. This order will not be lifted until all of the violations listed above are corrected and I receive confirmation from all City Departments involved.
Please call me at 860-584-6220 if you have any questions concerning this order.


Guy R. Morin
Chief Building Official
Cc. Richard Lacey, Assistant Corporation Counsel
      Karen Wagner, Housing Inspector
      David Vanwie, Fire Inspector
      Charles Motes, Director of Bristol/Burlington Health District
      Phyllis Amodio, Supervisor, Bristol/Burlington Health District
You are in violation with the following City Property Maintenance Ordinances:
108.1 General. When a structure or equipment is found by the code official to be unsafe, or when a structure is found unfit for human occupancy, or is found unlawful, such structure shall be condemned pursuant to the provisions of this code.
108.1.1 Unsafe structures. An unsafe structure is one that is found to be dangerous to the life, health, property or safety of the public or the occupants of the structure by not providing minimum safeguards to protect or warn occu­pants in the event of fire, or because such structure contains unsafe equipment or is so damaged, decayed, dilapidated, structurally unsafe or of such faulty construction or unstable foundation, that partial or complete collapse is possible.
108.1.2 Unsafe equipment. Unsafe equipment includes any boiler, heating equipment, elevator, moving stairway, electrical wiring or device, flammable liquid containers or other equipment on the premises or within the structure which is in such disrepair or condition that such equipment is a hazard to life, health, property or safety of the public or occupants of the premises or structure.
108.1.3 Structure unfit for human occupancy. A struc­ture is unfit for human occupancy whenever the code offi­cial finds that such structure is unsafe, unlawful or, because of the degree to which the structure is in disrepair or lacks maintenance, is insanitary, vermin or rat infested, contains filth and contamination, or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary or heating facilities or other essential equipment required by this code, or because the location of the struc­ture constitutes a hazard to the occupants of the structure or to the public.
108.5 Prohibited occupancy. Any occupied structure con­demned and placarded by the code official shall be vacated as ordered by the code official. Any person who shall occupy a placarded premises or shall operate placarded equipment, and any owner or any person responsible for the premises who shall let anyone occupy a placarded premises or operate placarded equipment shall be liable for the penalties provided by this code
109.1 Imminent danger. When, in the opinion of the code offi­cial, there is imminent danger of failure or collapse of a build­ing or structure which endangers life, or when any structure or part of a structure has fallen and life is endangered by the occu­pation of the structure, or when there is actual or potential dan­ger to the building occupants or those in the proximity of any structure because of explosives, explosive fumes or vapors or the presence of toxic fumes, gases or materials, or operation of defective or dangerous equipment, the code official is hereby authorized and empowered to order and require the occupants to vacate the premises forthwith. The code official shall cause to be posted at each entrance to such structure a notice reading as follows: "This Structure Is Unsafe and Its Occupancy Has Been Prohibited by the Code Official." It shall be unlawful for any person to enter such structure except for the purpose of securing the structure, making the required repairs, removing the hazardous condition or of demolishing the same.
111.1 Application for appeal. Any person directly affected by a decision of the code official or a notice or order issued under this code shall have the right to appeal to the Bristol Building Code Board of Appeals, provided that a written application for appeal is filed within 20 days after the day the decision, notice or order was served. An application for appeal shall be based on a claim that the true intent of this code or the rules legally adopted thereunder have been incorrectly interpreted, the provisions of this code do not fully apply, or the requirements of this code are adequately sat­isfied by other means.
302.1 Sanitation. All exterior property and premises shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition. The occu­pant shall keep that part of the exterior property which such occupant occupies or controls in a clean and sanitary condition.
302.3 Sidewalks and driveways. All sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces and similar areas shall be kept in a proper state of repair, and maintained free from hazardous conditions
304.2 Protective treatment. All exterior surfaces, including but not limited to, doors, door and window frames, cornices, porches, trim, balconies, decks and fences shall be maintained in good condition. Exterior wood surfaces, other than decay­resistant woods, shall be protected from the elements and decay by painting or other protective covering or treatment. Paint on the exposed
surfaces of the exterior shall not be cracked, chipped, blistered, flaking, loose or peeling so as to constitute a health hazard.  All siding and masonry joints as well as those between the building envelope and the perimeter of windows, doors, and skylights shall be maintained weather resistant and water tight. All metal surfaces subject to rust or corrosion shall be coated to inhibit such rust and corrosion and all surfaces with rust or corrosion shall be stabilized and coated to inhibit future rust and corrosion. Oxidation stains shall be removed from exterior surfaces. Surfaces designed for stabilization by oxidation are exempt from this requirement
304.4 Structural members. All structural members shall be maintained free from deterioration, and shall be capable of safely supporting the imposed dead and live loads.
304.5 Foundation walls. All foundation walls shall be main­tained plumb and free from open cracks and breaks and shall be kept in such condition so as to prevent the entry of rodents and other pests.
304.6 Exterior walls. All exterior walls shall be free from holes, breaks, and loose or rotting materials; and maintained weatherproof and properly surface coated where required to prevent deterioration.
304.7 Roofs and drainage. The roof and flashing shall be sound, tight and not have defects that admit rain. Roof drainage shall be adequate to prevent dampness or deterioration in the walls or interior portion of the structure. Roof drains, gutters and downspouts shall be maintained in good repair and free from obstructions. Roof water shall not be discharged in a man­ner that creates a public nuisance.
304.10 Stairways, decks, porches and balconies. Every exte­rior stairway, deck, porch and balcony, and all appurtenances attached thereto, shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair, with proper anchorage and capable of supporting the imposed loads.
304.11 Chimneys and towers. All chimneys, cooling towers, smoke stacks, and similar appurtenances shall be maintained structurally safe and sound, and in good repair. All exposed surfaces of metal or wood shall be protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather­coating materials, such as paint or similar surface treatment.
304.12 Handrails and guards. Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normally imposed loads and shall be maintained in good condition.
304.13 Window, skylight and door frames. Every window, skylight, door and frame shall be kept in sound condition, good repair and weather tight.
304.13.1 Glazing. All glazing materials shall be maintained free from cracks and holes.
304.13.2 Openable windows. Every window, other than a fixed window, shall be easily openable and capable of being held in position by window hardware.
304.15 Doors. All exterior doors, door assemblies and hard­ware shall be maintained in good condition. Locks at all en­trances to dwelling units and sleeping units shall tightly secure the door. Locks on means of egress doors shall be in accordance with Section 702.3
305.1 General. The interior of a structure and equipment therein shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and in a sanitary condition. Occupants shall keep that part of the structure which they occupy or control in a clean and sani­tary condition. Every owner of a structure containing a room­ing house, housekeeping units, a hotel, a dormitory, two or more dwelling units or two or more nonresidential occupan­cies, shall maintain, in a clean and sanitary condition, the shared or public areas of the structure and exterior property.
305.3 Interior surfaces. All interior surfaces, including win­dows and doors, shall be maintained in good, clean and sanitary condition. Paint on the exposed surfaces of the interior shall not be cracked, chipped, blistered, flaking, loose or peeling so as to constitute a health hazard.  Cracked or loose plaster, decayed wood and other defective surface conditions shall be corrected.
305.4 Stairs and walking surfaces. Every stair, ramp, landing, balcony, porch, deck or other walking surface shall be main­tained in sound condition and good repair.
305.6 Interior doors. Every interior door shall fit reasonably well within its frame and shall be capable of being opened and closed by being properly and securely attached to jambs, head­ers or tracks as intended by the manufacturer of the attachment hardware.
307.1 Accumulation of rubbish, garbage and litter. All exterior property and premises, and the interior of every structure, shall be free from any accumulation of rubbish, garbage and litter.
602.3 Heat supply. Every owner and operator of any building who rents, leases or lets one or more dwelling units or sleeping units on terms, either expressed or implied, to furnish heat to the occupants thereof shall supply heat to maintain a temperature of 65° in all habitable rooms, bathrooms, and toilet rooms.
603.1 Mechanical appliances. All mechanical appliances, fireplaces, solid fuel-burning appliances, cooking appliances and water heating appliances shall be properly installed and maintained in a safe working condition, and shall be capable of performing the intended function.
603.2 Removal of combustion products. All fuel-burning equipment and appliances shall be connected to an approved chimney or vent.
701.2 Responsibility. The owner of the premises shall provide and maintain such fire safety facilities and equipment in com­pliance with these requirements. A person shall not occupy as owner-occupant or permit another person to occupy any pre­mises that do not comply with the requirements of this chapter.
702.1 General. A safe, continuous and unobstructed path of travel shall be provided from any point in a building or structure to the public way. Means of egress shall comply with the codes and standards referenced in chapter 8 of this code.
702.3 Locked doors. All means of egress doors shall be readily openable from the side from which egress is to be made without the need for keys, special knowledge or effort, except where the door hardware conforms to that permitted by the International Building Code
704.1 General. All systems, devices and equipment to detect a fire, actuate an alarm, or suppress or control a fire or any com­bination thereof shall be maintained in an operable condition at all times in accordance with the codes and standards referenced in chapter 8 of this code. Single or multiple-station smoke alarms shall be installed in other groups in accordance with the codes and standards referenced in chapter 8 of this code. The provisions of this section shall be enforced retroactively to all existing residential structures.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Henri Martin jumps into State Senate race

City Councilor Henri Martin filed paperwork Tuesday to enter the race to succeed 31st District state Sen. Jason Welch.
Martin, a Republican, is in his second term on the council.
Welch, also a Republican, said this month he was going to step down after his term ends so he could spend more with his family and his full-time job.
Martin's decision to enter the race was expected.
Democrat Dave Roche is likely to run as well. He came close to knocking off Welch two years ago.
Plainville Republican Justin Bernier is also eyeing the race but hasn't filed any papers with the state.
The 31st District includes Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston and much of Harwinton.

Update: Martin said he plans to make a formal announcement at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and United Way office on Main Street.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 10, 2014

Differing takes on the minimum wage

Opinions vary in Central Connecticut on whether to require employers to increase pay for low wage workers, as Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed.
“This is good public policy. It’s good economic policy. And it’s the right thing to do,” Malloy said in his address to the General Assembly that urged an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2017.
Some argue, though, that increasing the minimum wage will reduce the number of jobs and force consumers to pay more for goods and services.
The owner of New Britain’s East Side Restaurant, Nick Augustino, said everyone he hires gets more than the $8.25-an-hour minimum wage so the change wouldn’t matter to his bottom line.
“I really would like to know the businesses that pay their staffs minimum wage and get away with it,” Augustino said.
He said, though, that he likes the idea of having a minimum wage for entry level employees who are just learning their jobs. But after three months, Augustino said, it should go up.
Cary Gagnon, who owns 20 Dunkin’ Donuts in central Connecticut, said the minimum wage hike to $9-an-hour already slated to take effect next January “will probably have little effect on hiring.”
But, he said, the $10.10 rate sought by Malloy could have a negative impact on hiring at his stores.
The president of the Bristol-based Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce said the state is already raising the minimum wage by 9.1 percent this year and next year.
“That is fair and most businesses are able to absorb the increased expense into their future strategies without too much effect on growth,” Jim Albert said.
He said that going forward from there, hikes in the minimum wage “should be pegged to annual increases in the Consumer Price Index or some other standard measure of inflation, adjusted for our region.”
“This would take the issue out of the hands of politicians, reducing the amount of divisive energy and class warfare that goes into a lengthy political debate over minimum wage increases,” Albert said. “It would also free up our political leadership to focus on other important topics such as reducing our debt,” promoting good jobs and “career opportunities that could help make Connecticut more competitive and attractive in the global marketplace. “
Albert said that tying the increases to inflation would also “allow Connecticut businesses to predict their cost of doing business more accurately so they can build better strategies to grow our economy and improve our quality of life.”
Mike Petosa, president of the Bristol Labor Council, said that bringing people “to up to a good living wage” would be “a win-win” for businesses and employees.
He said the minimum wage “has been too low for too many years” and hiking it will give people more money to spend, pumping more cash into the economy.
“Earning power equals buying power,” Petosa said.
The head of the state’s largest AFL-CIO union, Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, also strongly backed Malloy’s proposal.
The union’s executive director, Sal Luciano, said, “This is important both to reduce our state’s income gap — the second largest in the nation — and to retain young workers who are on the verge of leaving the state because wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living.”
The president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, Tim Stewart, said there is “no argument people deserve a living wage, no question about it.”
But, he said, “politicians who just pander to folks” shouldn’t be the ones to deliver it. Business owners “should have control” of how much they can pay their employees, he said.
Stewart said the ramifications of hiking the minimum wage “can be quite substantial,” especially for service-oriented businesses, and will result in “an increased cost to the consumer.”
“In the end, we end up paying for it,” Stewart said.
Robert Perry, the owner of Fastsigns, a Bristol company, said he would like to see an increase in the minimum wage at the national level.
Perry said he’s found that those who earn minimum wage wind up with subsidized medical care, Food Stamps and other government help that taxpayers have to cover. It would be better, he said, to hike their pay so there would be less need for the extra help from the government.
“We pay for it up front” with higher prices or “we pay for it later with subsidized cost,” Perry said, but “either way we’re paying for it.”
Perry, whose own company pays “far more than minimum wage,” said his reservation about Malloy’s proposal is that it would encourage consumers to buy out-of-state because Connecticut costs would be higher. He said a national hike makes more sense.
The owner of the Zen Bar in Plainville, Giancarlo Garcia-Zimmitti, said he favors Malloy’s plan for hiking the minimum wage over time.
He said his restaurant has “already been progressive” about staying ahead of the minimum, but he knows there are other businesses that need some time to adjust.
Malloy’s proposal would increase the minimum wage to $9.15 an hour next January, then to $9.60 an hour in 2016 and then to $10.10 an hour in 2017. Whether the legislature will go along is uncertain.
Hiking the minimum more quickly than Malloy proposed would “the kiss of death” for some companies, Garcia-Zimmitti said, but easing into it should give businesses time to adjust.
A Quinnipiac University poll last spring found Connecticut residents backed an increase in the state minimum wage hike by a 75-22 margin.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Welsh weighs in on Malloy's agenda

Sen. Welch: We need to be realistic. There is a disconnect to what middle class and working poor families are going through.

February 10, 2014
Senator Jason Welch (R-Bristol) (4th from the left) in the senate chamber on the opening day of the 2014 legislative session listening to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney speak.
Senator Jason Welch (R-Bristol) (4th from the left) in the senate chamber on the opening day of the 2014 legislative session listening to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney speak.
Hartford, CT – State Senator Jason Welch (R-Bristol) released the following statement today re: Governor Malloy’s State of the State speech on opening day of the 2014 Legislative session.
“The governor’s theme seemed to be moving Connecticut forward which I agree we need to do. However, we need to be realistic about where we are today. There is a disconnect to what middle class and working poor families are going through. The governor has proposed moving $3 billion in Medicaid spending off the books. This means we are ignoring some huge bills. He also is suggesting borrowing more money and putting it on the state credit card in order to pay for new initiatives. This is risky and shows a lack of understanding to the current economic situation in our state.
“23,000 fewer people are working today in Connecticut since Governor Malloy took office. Connecticut’s unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation. Our cost of living in the state remains a burden to the average family. Gas prices are one of the highest in the nation, electricity costs are up and taxes are overwhelming.
“I am open to some of the Governor’s ideas including: ending homelessness among our veterans by 2015. But the reality is we have open beds at the State Veterans facility in Rocky Hill because of the administration’s failure to act. Another concept I am open to is one I have been fighting for in Hartford; reducing taxes. Not charging a sales tax on clothing under $50 is good policy. But there are many other areas where we can ease the burdens of our middle class, working poor families and our small businesses.
“We need to be realistic about where we are. At this point the recovery is stagnant and too many of our neighbors are still not working.
“I am confident that over the next 90 days lawmakers will have solid discussions about what our core commitments are and whether more restraint is needed.”
The 2014 legislative session ends in May.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 9, 2014

Stortz suggests new "Bristol Pride Week"

Note from former Mayor William Stortz re a possible "Bristol Pride Week::
Last year I mentioned to Bill Englert and Tom LaPorte the idea of having a “Bristol Pride Week:
Bill liked the idea, but being quite ill at the time, didn’t feel he could take it on at that time.
I bring it up again, hoping that maybe the Chamber and Team Bristol might pick up on it and even consider doing it in Bill’s honor, acknowledging all he did for Bristol.
This would be a 7-10 day period with a number of Bristol events that would among other things, show off Bristol
I thought June might be a good time with two church festivals and the Car Show usually scheduled around then. We also have the dinner for those High School graduates going the service. . I am sure that there are many other activities around the same time. With a little effort, some organizations might schedule their events during this period. With Muzzy Field having a Birthday, this would be a good time to put the spotlight on it too.
This would help facilitate advertising and promotion, especially outside Bristol, thereby bringing people into Bristol. A map of events and a schedule would help also
Museums might reprice admission, restaurants might have specials etc. etc.
I have attached a copy of a letter I sent a while back, which might be helpful.
B glad to discuss it further if you are interested.
Would be good for Bristol and a wonderful way to honor Bill Englert.
Bill Stortz
Copy sent to media, in case something gets done.
Letter to the Editor
In reading various newspapers and magazines, I noticed that many Connecticut towns and cities have their own “Pride Day” .I thought, why doesn’t Bristol do that, and actually go one step better and have a “Bristol Pride Week”. I know that in the fall, we proudly celebrate Mum Festival with many activities that bring our community together and attracts out of town visitors.
However,   this time of year offers many other individual community activities over a 10-15 day period, such as the Zorba Festival, St Anthony’s Festival, the Soap Box Derby, the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble Concert, the Car Show, the Fiddlers Concert. With some slight adjustments, maybe the Veterans Council could recognize the graduating seniors that are going in the service; the Elks could have their Flag Day if it fit into this 10 day period... An open house tour of Muzzy Field might be arranged. Museums could provide special pricing. The Library has its Book Sale, and maybe some special programs could be arranged at the Libraries. Those organizations that regularly have Sunday Breakfasts could coordinate one each weekend. Adding a few other events, if possible, and publicizing them, would certainly make for a successful “Bristol Pride Week!”
With a little help, there could be an ad in the Press, and some of the major papers in the state, listing the events, and the schedule. If we ever get the portable information Kiosk, it could be brought to the various events, not only for the benefit of visitors from out of town, but also for local people. Brochures of interesting places to visit, Menus, Maps and schedules of future events would be very informative and helpful.
Badges touting Bristol Pride Week could be distributed, even days before the event.
All events would collectively receive more publicity than they would individually; Bristol would receive greater exposure, certainly regionally, even statewide. Businesses would benefit with the added interest, hopefully that week, but also over an extended period of time.
We don’t need a consultant to do something like this; Bristol has many interested and capable people.
Certainly there are many other ideas for events, and I am sure that good minds will come up with them, and also resolve any of the questions and challenges that might arise.
As I see it, something like this would certainly be a benefit to Bristol as we try to market our self, instill and display our pride, and create an even better Bristol.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

Letizia, family narrowly escape serious injury

Former city Board of Finance Chairman John Letizia and 11 members of his family escaped serious injury Saturday when a driver smashed into a restaurant in Farmington where they were having dinner.
Letizia said that he and his wife, Barbara, along with their children, spouses and grandchildren were celebrating a youngster's birthday when a truck "crashed through the window and right into our table."
He said Saturday night that an old man mistakenly hit the gas instead of his brake.
Police said the truck smashed through the front window of the Galleria Restaurant at 2 Spring St.
Some family members had minor cuts from the flying glass, but none were hurt enough to require treatment.
Letizia said it is "a miracle that nobody got hurt."

Here's a piece by NBC30 about the incident.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 7, 2014

Renaissance's new target: finance plan by March

The project manager for the Depot Square project pushed by the Long Island-based Renaissance Downtowns said Friday he's still working to put together a comprehensive financing package for the $39 million first phase of the development eyed for the former mall site in the city center.
Ryan Porter, the project manager, said the company's goal is to have a financing plan in place by March.
The Bristol Downtown Development Corp. and the City Council have to review and approve the financing before the sale of the first parcel can go through. By contract, that's supposed to happen no later than May 26.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

February 6, 2014

McKinney talks guns to Bristol Republicans

More than a year after the Newtown massacre, children are still feeling its impact in the town's classrooms.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican who represents the town, said that when a door is slammed or a book dropped hard on the floor, "kids are in tears" because it brings back memories of the shootings that claimed the lives of 20 classmates and six educators.
Defending his vote in favor of last year's gun control measure before the Bristol GOP recently, McKinney said he spent that entire day in the Sandy Hook fire station with parents who lost their children, some of whom he already knew.
"It had a huge impact on me," he said.
He said he knows many Republicans oppose the measure approved  by the General Assembly, but he is sure his district backed it.
"I've always believed that my obligation is to represent my constituents," said McKinney, who is running for governor.
He said that if he and other Republicans hadn't gotten behind the bill, the Democrats would have pushed through one with even tougher rules on guns, including an insurance requirement, annual registration and the confiscation of magazines holding more than 10 bullets.
McKinney said Democrats also wanted everyone who purchased a gun to get a permit, subject to the same "suitability" standard police use in determining whether someone should be eligible to carry a hidden gun.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com