Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ways of God to Man Justified in Epic Poem

Popcorn presented by The Colonel #23 (guest aggregator Sherlock Combs)

*****From the University of Minnesota Oral History Archives (Davis Logsdon, curator), concerning the start of World War II in 1939: "I'll always remember that weekend war broke out. I was at a house party at Cliveden with the Astors, and we sat around listening to the moving broadcast by Mr. Churchill, or Mr. Chamberlain, as he then was.

From 1937: B.B. Fall Wins Middletown Turkey Hunt

The following is an excerpt from article is from approximately 75 years ago, published in The Hartford Courant on December 26, 1937. It was written by Theodore Buell.

The Saddle and Spur was a regular column in the Courant that highlighted equestrian news in the area. This particular article was nearly a half page of the paper. Other stories in it were about a free Polo match at the Armory in Hartford, the Miss Vera Steele's victory at the Brooklyn Winter Horse Show, and the charity visit to the Municipal Nursery and Isolation Hospital by the Nomad Riders club.

The L.B. Riding Club was on Arbutus Street. It was founded in the early 1930s and seems to have been functional at least into the 1970s.

L.B. Riding Club
Note to society editor: The Burton B. Falls of Middletown enjoyed turkey on Christmas Day.

Explanation: Mr. Fall, the most recent of the L.B. Riding Club's ex-presidents, won the Yule Log Hunt after, according to reports, being lost for two hours in the woods. Still, says Mr. Fall, being lost has its compensation ... In this case a 12-pound turkey. (Editor's note: was it just a mediocre turkey or did Colleague Fred Clark furnish it?)

The hunt was its usual success. After the log was dragged back to the Johnson Lane Lyceum it was burned on Monday night on the occasion of the club's annual Christmas Party. Another feature of the party was the mystifying work of "Milrod," the magician. (If "Milrod" is really a good magician perhaps he can do his tricks elsewhere, showing other leading horsemen how to organize such enthusiastic groups, of all ages, in other communities.)

Elliot V. Kidney, Louis Wetherbee and John Lucy were in charge of the hunt, while Mrs. Florence Green was the annual party's chairman. The club now recesses until January 3 as far as social events are concerned. However, over the present week-end it is probable that the members will be out on the trails en masse.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tonight's Show at The Buttonwood Tree Postponed

Jeremiah Birnbaum will not be driving in from Woodstock for his concert tonight. The show has been rescheduled to January 26, 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

DJ NEB to Middletown: Don't Turn Your Back on Hip Hop

Hey Middletown, don't turn your back on Hip Hop!

In recent days I've found myself wondering if the numerous Hip Hop artists in Middletown even have a chance at getting heard in Middletown. Event after event seems to pass by Hip Hop this year and some of them funded by the city.

 I recently ran into a person who asked me how "things are going?" So I responded "great!" This person, whom I respect a lot, asked me about how the art I do around town was going and I said " I don't get hired in Middletown, most of my gigs are out-of-town." I have to admit I'm a bit let down by this fact lately, I wonder if it is because I'm a Hip Hop artist and perhaps this came through in my tone. But to this the person said something like, "well are you going to move?" I really didn't know how to take it. On one hand it might have been meant to encourage me, "yeah it's time to leave and grow," on the other, "get the heck outta here we don't want yah here anyway if you don't want to be here!" I'm still not sure but I think it's time for someone to break the ice and say it... "Hey Middletown, don't turn your back on Hip Hop!!" 

I struggle as a local turntablist/DJ getting my own art out to the masses and a part of me feels that there could be more support in town. Personally I have a bit of fools pride I guess, is that so wrong to have pride in one's community. I don't want to move. Middletown has a rich history of Hip Hop artists and movements which I have been lucky enough to play a very small part. Unfortunately, lately Hip Hop in Middletown this year has been largely reduced to pop rap artists at local clubs and bars. 

So Middletown with all you have to offer, when you plan your multi-genre art events, which are really cool, can you please try to include a few Hip Hop artist that have been trying to get recognition in this town. And so I stand here as a Middletown resident and ask my community to support me when I say... "Hey Middletown don't turn your back on Hip Hop! "

signed DJ NEB

VIDEO: Christmas Dinner at First Church

Christmas took on a special significance this year from me this year. It was the first time I volunteered to help make Christmas dinner at First Church of Middletown.

The works start on the morning of December 24th. Coordinated by Julie, people dropped off cooked hams and turkeys. The volunteers took to preparing the meals in trays to ready to heat up on Christmas morning. We also set the tables and chairs, bringing out the fine china for the table settings.

We got the church at 8AM Christmas morning to fire up the ovens and start cooking. We had a team of volunteers ready to clean dishes along with servers bringing plates of ham and stuffing out to the folks arriving at noon to eat.

We had volunteers from as far as West Hartford and people came from other faiths and churches. This was not only a First Church event, it was a Middletown Community event.

Nearly 100 meals were delivered by volunteers to folks who couldn't make it out to the dinner. We estimate over 300 people came to share in the spirit of Christmas and giving. We even started an impromptu sing-a-long that keep the crowd and volunteers spirits up.

It was great to be a part of this event. I look forward to volunteering more and seeing more people take part in giving and not just as part of Christmas but all through the year.


Christopher Polack is a Middletown resident who loves his town and all the people in it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ag Center Winter Lecture Series

From the Middletown Agricultural Science and Technology Center.

The Middletown Agriculture Science and Technology program is pleased to offer a winter lecture series to provide continuing education opportunities. These classes are intended for area residents interested in learning more about agriculture, sustainability, home gardening, animal science and other related topics. There are no fees for any of the classes. Classes will be held on Monday and Tuesday nights from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Agriculture Science and Technology Center located at Middletown High School, 200 LaRosa Lane, Middletown.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Wildness For Christmas, From 1909

The Eye wishes all a Merry Christmas, with a reprint of an article published in the Hartford Courant on December 27, 1909 (long-time Eye readers might recall this as a "This Date in History piece in in 2009). This is a glorious description of a wild and beautiful landscape which still today has pockets of primeval character, it would make a wonderful afternoon hike today or on New Year's Day.

Unfortunately, the article's author is not identified; if I didn't know better I might attribute it to John Muir, as it has the same breathless worship of a desolate wilderness characteristic of so much of his writing about the Sierra Nevada.

The magnificent photographs are all by Barrie Robbins-Pianka.

Enjoyment from a Day's Tramp Down River

Wild country to be found South of Middletown
Long Walk a Panacea for many troubles

An open winter has its own particular joys, and among them are the true delights of the woods, for strange to say, the latter make a better tramping ground than in the months when the foliage is thick. The woodsy places up and down the Connecticut River are veritable delights for those who love a tramp in the open. The true joy in living is only for those who are willing to get into the
open, the further away from the haunts of man the better, and if possible to reach a place where an occasional woodchopper's ax is the only discord in nature's harmony of breeze and underbrush.

The air has a crispness and tinkle and smells clean and wholesome and, what is more, there is a call in itself in the short noon sunshine. Really one is very responsive to the various moods of nature during this season of the winter. It is true there is more fun going to the square inch in the woods at this time, with the leaves under foot, and the sapless branches crackling and the frost crunching and the thick moss and groundpine yielding under boot like a thick carpet, minus the dust and the steam pipes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Popcorn by The Colonel #22

Christmas Popcorn

Epigraph: "If I could say just a few words ... I'd be a better public speaker." --Homer Simpson

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Arts Gets $119,000 In State Funding

From a Press Release from Matt Lesser.

Representative Matt Lesser, who represents Middletown in State Legislature, announced last week that city artists and arts programs would receive $119,000 in state funding.

"Middletown has a vibrant arts community," Rep. Lesser said. "I am so pleased the state is investing in our thriving arts scene."

The state Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) awarded grants from its Connecticut Artist in Every Community program and Arts Leadership program funded by appropriations approved by the General Assembly and federal dollars received from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Community Investment Act.

The grants include:

DECD's Connecticut Artist in Every Community and Arts Leadership programs issues grants to promote teaching and learning through high quality arts engagement and arts integration. The program provides opportunities for residents of all ages, in every community, to interact with practicing artists in ways that will advance Connecticut cities, towns and villages as meaningful communities in which to live, work, learn and play.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Community Health Center Gets Grant Under Affordable Care Act

Modified from a press release by Congresswoman DeLauro, who represents Middletown in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rosa DeLauro announced today that the Community Health Center has been awarded a $451,370 grant by the Health and Human Services Department. With the grants, the Community Health Center, Inc. will be better able to provide comprehensive physical and mental health care to students, in schools, where the care is easily accessible.

“These grants will go a long way towards making health services more readily available for children and adolescents. Unfortunately Connecticut needs no reminder of how critical it is to make sure young people can access mental, as well as physical health care services. I am proud the Affordable Care Act created this grant program and that we are continuing to support programs that make our communities healthier. Even in tough fiscal times, we have to put people’s health and safety first.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is required to award grants to support school-based health centers that provide comprehensive physical and mental health services to children and adolescents. DeLauro announced that Fair Haven Community Health Clinic, in New Haven, and the Griffin Hospital/Griffin Health Services Corporation in Derby also received grants.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spring Events include World, U.S. & New England Premieres

Gallim Dance performs February 8 & 9, 2013
as part of the Performing Arts Series.
This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello--what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves' quarters--where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller's Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams' women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.

In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta's Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world's most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha's scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.

Spring is also when you have the chance to put your finger on the pulse of the next generation of contemporary artists: an evening of work by seniors in dance, three theater thesis productions, four weeks of thesis exhibitions in Zilkha, and two solid months of music recitals will give audiences an overview of the art that is being generated at Wesleyan.

So please join us! We look forward to welcoming you.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

VIDEO: Middletown Caroling Flash Mob

For the past three years,  members of the Greater Middletown Chorale along with local community friends have gotten together to share some holiday cheer.

The informal group of carolers lead by GMC member Michael O'Herron sang Christmas, Chanukah and other seasonal tunes to the residents of South Green Apartments and Water's Edge in Middletown. Seasoned singers along with amateurs sang their hearts out.

I joined along with my group of friends to carry a tune and sing along to favorites like "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls". It was great to see all the smiling faces lighting up at the recognition of the classic holiday songs. We even sang a variation of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" that included Chanukah and Kwanza references. It was a whole bunch of fun.

 Watch this video and share in the join of the holiday season.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deadly Washington Street Accident

From The Middletown Police
There was a motor vehicle collision near the intersection of Washington Street and Camp Street this afternoon, leading to the death of a truck driver.

Mr. Charles Marshall, age: 53, of Bethlehem Ct, was driving a 2001 Kenworth dump truck, eastward down the hill on Washington Street. Ms. Jane Opalacz, age: 92, of Middletown, was driving A 2002 Jaguar x-type north on Camp Street and crossed Washington Street.

The two vehicles collided, the dump truck traveled off the road, and came to rest on its left side down an embankment.

Mrs. Opalacz was uninjured. Mr. Marshall was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation is continuing, witnesses to the collision are asked to contact Officer David Godwin of the Traffic Unit (860) 344-3264.

Monday, December 17, 2012

VIDEO: The Buttonwood Tree Events for Dec. 17th - 23rd

To find out more about the Buttonwood Tree, visit

Westfield Fire Raises Over $7000 For Sandy Hook

Drivers donated over $7,000 to a fundraiser for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The money was donated in a "Stuff a Helmet" event organized by The Westfield Volunteer Fire Department on East Street.

Firefighters and their family members set up signs and several pieces of apparatus outside the firehouse and placed cones down the center line of East Street. Volunteers held out helmets for contributions. Many of those donating were emotional. Some had tears in their eyes - a reflection of the magnitude and brutal rawness of what happened two days earlier and miles away. Darrell Ponzio said it was a meaningful experience for everyone at the WFD, "We were quite proud to say that we live in a community of such caring and generosity."

The Westfield firemen are going to connect with the Sandy Hook fire chief to ask him for his recommendation for a charity in Newtown that will make the most effective use of the money raised.

VIDEO: Cypress Grill Wednesday Open Mic

 The Great Wednesday night jam at the Cypress Grill.

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 These two videos showcase the open mic jam that takes place every Wedenesday night at the Cypress Grill out on 1265 South Main Street on Route 17, hosts a great open mic. The jam starts around 8pm.

People from all around the state come with their guitars, basses an percussion instruments to jam out to tunes. It's been particularly great to see freinds like Trevor Davis get up on the drums and play on. Last week, my own brother Mark Polack came out to play on the drums.

Every week is has been a great experience. I'm not a musician, but I've even grabbed a shaker to join in with the jam. It's a lot of fun and great outlet for people who enjoy live music, either as a performer and a spectator.

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← Replay

The Wednesday night jam at the Cypress Grill. I hope you enjoy these two video samples of the jam. 


 Christopher Polack is a Middletown resident who loves his town and the people in it.

Vigil On South Green Tonight For Newtown Children

There will be a vigil held on the South Green on Main Street tonight, at 7PM, in memory of the children and teachers killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Common Council Passes Retirement Incentive Program in Effort to Cut Costs

The Common Council voted to pass a resolution approving the city’s Retirement Incentive Program Thursday night at a special meeting following the regularly scheduled Community Public Meeting. The program, which was arranged with members of Teamsters Local 671, passed by a vote of 8-2. Its passing is meant to help Middletown save money and prepare for planned department consolidations.

The early retirement incentive will be offered to members of Middletown’s manager union as well as other nonunion managers who have completed 25 or more years of service to the city or are 50 or older as of December 31st. Under the agreement, members of Teamsters Local 671 will be able to obtain up to two years of credit towards their pensions restricted at the number of years it would take them to reach retirement eligibility, or a $40,000 payout over two years. The first $20,000 of this payout will be given one month after the employee stopped working for the city or when the funds became available, while the second $20,000 will be made within one year after the first payment.

Mayor Daniel Drew stated that sixteen managers have expressed interest in accepting the retirement incentive, but did not state their names or what branches they served in. The Hartford Courant reported earlier that the group includes four managers in the school central office, one from the sanitation department, one from the fire department, and 11 in city hall. It is possible that some of them could leave before the end of the fiscal year.

Drew announced that the Retirement Incentive Program would produce estimated total savings of $584,512 over the next two fiscal years, and then estimated net annual savings of $133,874 beginning in 2014. It was estimated that the incentive would cost the city roughly $1600,000 in the current fiscal year.

These estimations were produced by the bipartisan Mayor’s Task Force for Efficiency in Government, led by Councilman Gerald Daley (D). “This program is about making the city work better and smarter,” Drew stated shortly before the resolution was passed. “It will positively impact the city for decades to come.”

At the same time, Drew and his task force are proposing a merger of Middletown’s legal and personal departments, which would lead to labor relations duties going to one of the deputy city attorneys. Earlier this year, the task force recommended that several departments be merged and that the city not fill open positions whenever possible.

Carl Erlacher, the city’s Director of Finance & Revenue, made a presentation at the meeting and answered questions from council members about the estimated cost and savings of the Retirement Incentive Program. Earlacher spoke about why he believed the program is fiscally responsible.

“This program will provide significant savings if the council and mayor follow the pan and stay diligent and leave a number of positions open,” Erlacher said. “I am confident that it will be financially sound and legally sound. This program is on sound ground.”

A number of council members spoke about why they supported the program before the final vote. “The cost-benefit of this program has been shown to be at a reasonable level,” Ronald Klattenberg (D) said. “It provides a great possibility for streamlining in government. We should all focus on the savings it will provide.”

“I applaud the effort of the mayor’s task force,” Todd Berch (D) said. “This streamlining will provide better sources and services for the city.” “These incentives are not golden handshakes,” Thomas J. Serra (D) said. “They can provide a positive impact, but the onus is on us to make sure reorganization works. We need to make sure that the city can still successfully provide services.”

Linda Salafia and Deborah Kleckowski, both Republicans, were the two no votes and were powerful voices against the resolution. Both spoke before the final vote. “I don’t think this is a good deal for the city,” Salifia stated. “We are still going to have to replace these people eventually. Who is going to pick up the slack of the supervisors who leave? I just don’t see where the savings are going to come from.”

“I am worried that these departments will be dysfunctional,” said Kleckowski. “I am very concerned about the intellectual talent that is leaving the government. I want to see a cost analysis of the managers leaving from the mayor,” she said, echoing the statements of several other council members. Drew said that such information would be forthcoming.

After the meeting, Salafia further clarified her concerns. “We haven’t seen a list from the task force of those who are leaving or a cost analysis of leaving these positions. The city is doing this process backward.”

“I have a problem with how they did the math. The city will have to fill these positions eventually. We are not going to save money. My constituents will be outraged by this program. Many of them already have a negative view of the pensions our city employees have.”

Private Idaho, Meet Digital Switzerland

Popcorn by The Colonel #21

# “The notion that sanctity can ‘penetrate the full extent of mundane life’ is, according to [the philosopher Charles] Taylor, essentially a Protestant notion involving a rejection

From 1987: Preservation Group Receives 20-Acre Gift

The following article is from 25 years ago today, published the Hartford Courant on December 16, 1987.

Middlesex Land Trust remains a vibrant force for preserving land in Middlesex County.

A local land preservation group has received its first real estate donation, 20 acres off Forest Street, organization officials said Tuesday.

The Middlesex Land Trust, which was formed in May, received the tract last week, said Andrew Zepp, president of the trust.

"In addition to being our first gift property, it's really a sizable wetlands area," Zepp said. "Its main value is as a wildlife habitat."

The tract, which borders the Coginchaug River, is a home for ducks, geese and other waterfowls, Zepp said.

The land was donated by John Pearson, a lawyer in Hartford, and George Leaska, a developer in Bloomfield.

"It's a great spot for possums, raccoons, ducks and birds of all kinds," Pearson said. "We wanted to see that use continued."

Zepp said the property will require "little active management on our part."

"Basically, we will leave this one alone," he said.

The trust, which has about 80 members, is a non-profit group dedicated to protecting unique natural areas in northern Middlesex County, Zepp said.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Agriculture Students Win FFA Contest

The Regional Agriculture Science & Technology Program at Middletown High

A team of four Middletown High Agriculture Science and Technology students won first place at the 2012-2013 Connecticut FFA Forestry Career Development Event contest held at the Lockwood Farm campus of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, CT on December 6th.

Maria Cherry and Stephanie Vopelak, both of Middletown, were joined by Liam Mellaly of Clinton, and Kyle Amtmanis of East Hampton. The Forestry Career Development Event evaluates students’ knowledge of forest management practices, tree identification and measurement, and industry safety standards. The city team will represent the state in regional and national competitions this fall, at the 2013 Big E Eastern States Exposition and National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY.

All agriculture students are members of the Mattabeset FFA Chapter, the youth leadership organization associated with the Middletown Agriculture Science and Technology program based at the High School.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Superintendent presents 2013-2014 School Budget

Superintendent Patricia Charles presented her 2013-2014 budget to the Board of Education Tuesday evening, asking for increases in almost every part of the budget.  Five major price increases are driving the overall budget increase:
  1. Contractual increases in salaries (asking for 7% increase)
  2. Increased cost of benefits (assuming a 20% increase in costs)
  3. A need to purchase critical technology infrastructure & hardware (asking for 23% increase)
  4. State mandates for the new Common Core State Standards, professional development, assessments, and reform efforts 
  5. Tuition for out of district students (33% increase asked for - covers both special ed services and magnet school participation)
The combined sum of requested increases totals almost $8.5 million; however, there currently is no bottom line request for the new budget because of additional negotiations still underway with the City.  Superintendent Charles has a meeting next week with Mayor Dan Drew about the possibility of combining redundant services, and this may drastically change what the BOE budget looks like.  For example, the City and the BOE both maintain grounds-keeping personnel.  If this function could be assumed by the City for school grounds, the BOE would not have to spend this money.

Once the City and the Superintendent agree on what services can be combined, the Superintendent's budget can be finalized.  A bottom line budget number is expected at the January BOE meeting.

In the mean time, Dr. Charles has to deal with the current budget deficit for the 2012-2013 budget.  The BOE approved immediate cuts in the following areas:

Athletics trainer ($5000)
Activities ($20, 548)
21st Century After School ($15, 000)
Cell phone reduced ($3000)
1 custodian - unfilled position ($40, 000)
All City Arts Show cut back ($2000)
Adult Ed benefits ($40, 000)
BOE salary/benefits reduction ($2000)
Facility use (Hall House) ($9, 621)
Increase cafeteria prices ($15, 000)
Consultant fee reduction ($2, 500)
15% hold on supply funds ($142, 969)
long term sub ($31, 889)
city return of unexpended utility balance ($70, 381)
EAP RFP ($5, 400)

Total - $455,308

These immediate reductions really only cover approximately 1/2 the actual deficit amount.  As the school year continues, there are several unknowns that may exaggerate the deficit: winter weather, the out-placement of special ed students, unexpected facilities issues/repairs, state funding reductions, maternity leave, and magnet school participation.  Furthermore, approximately 75% of the budget is salaries and benefits, so any significant budgetary savings would have to include cutting teaching positions.

BOE member Sheila Daniels praised the Superintendent, thanking her for a thorough presentation that was eye-opening and daunting: "I think you presented a budget that will move us forward."

BOE Budget Committee member Ed McKeon thanked Dr. Charles for her hard work and analysis for savings, noting that he intended to personally support her budget requests.  "We have to work hard to make sure the budget is realistic, but we have been skating on thin ice for 5 years.  We have been working on budgets that have sent us backwards, and we can no longer accept budgets that push us backwards.  We will continue to see erosion to magnet schools."  McKeon went to on say that the "Public has to understand the position that the state put us in - without any proof in the pudding - that this problem is foisted upon BOEs without legislators addressing how to fund education system.  The poorest communities have the biggest problems and the wealthiest communities have no problems.  It is unacceptable for the governor to say he's cutting education and expecting us to do more.  Our schools can't perform at the level expected if resources are taken away."

Budget Chairman Ted Raczka seemed stunned at the proposed budget, and he raised several potential issues of concern:
  1. How could a new budget get put together if staff contracts had not yet been approved by the Common Council?
  2. Several of the budget object codes were not clear or transparent for Raczka to understand what the budgeted funds would be used for.
Raczka seemed to be the only BOE member who verbalized doubts about the proposed budget: "An 11% budget increase?  Almost 8 million dollars?  This is breathtaking given the realities in our community...this would be a fundamental change in how city funds everything.  The community can't afford that kind of budget increase unless other things are let go."

In contrast, BOE Chairman Dr. Gene Nocera commented, "we have a clear understanding of what the district needs, it took a considerable amount of time to present this, and our responsibility to present this in as clear a way as possible.  The next 30-60 days are critical to move the district forward."

Besides approving budget reductions, the BOE also acted to approve the 2013-14 School Calendar (yes, February break is included!) and it increased breakfast and lunch prices by $.15 and $.25 respectively.  The cafeteria price increase will begin January 2, 2013.  For more information, read Dr. Charles' letter to parents here. (click on the Cafeteria Menu Prices Increase as of January 1, 2013 link)

The next regular BOE meeting is Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 7pm in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.

They say It's in the Water...but to be sure -- don't miss out!

ARTFARM'S Circus for a Fragile Planet presents SUBMERGED!
Friday, December 14 at 7 pm
at Green Street Arts Center in Middletown.
$12 for adults; $8 for children & students; $30 family price

This hour-long, five-performer circus will excite and inspire adults and young people alike. Join Professor Offli Varminhere and the four Fossil Fools on a circus journey about WATER that starts in our own backyard and travels to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with stops all along the interconnected way. Find out more about the show at or watch a four minute highlight video HERE. 

ARTFARM is introducing a new circus cast member with this performance -- Nettie Lane of Brattleboro, VT. Nettie is a graduate of the Professional Track Training Program at the New England Center for Circus Arts and founder of Pie Productions. She joins local artists Dic Wheeler and Maegan Fuller of Middletown, Megan Berritta of Haddam, and Joel Melendez of Harwinton.
Seating is limited. Please email or call (860) 346-4390 to reserve your place.

“This is a great show for families, for activists, for circus lovers, for scientists,” says SUBMERGED! director Dic Wheeler, “anyone who cares about our precious planet and is willing to laugh, clap and say ‘wow’  while being reminded how pressing the current environmental challenges are.”

Circus for a Fragile Planet has performed at over 120 schools, colleges, museums, arts centers and festivals over the past four years. Dr. Charles Button, professor of Geography at Central Connecticut State University and Chair of the Global Environmental Sustainability Action Coalition at the College says “ARTFARM’s Circus For A Fragile Planet – Submerged! uses circus, poetry, and science as it entertains and brings attention to the impact humans are having on Earth’s life giving circulatory system of rivers, streams, oceans, and aquifers.  A must see!”  
Adults and children alike are captivated and moved by the show. One local elementary school teacher recently shared this comment: “The SUBMERGED show is full of surprises.  The audience simply cannot predict what will come from behind the curtain next!  The children were giggling, cheering, and thinking the entire time.  As a result, learning occurs while the students are completely engaged in a content rich, entertaining performance.” 

Council To Consider Retirement Incentive Resolution

The Common Council will vote tonight on a program to entice managers to retire early from the City. According to The Hartford Courant, there are 16 managers who have expressed interest in the program, which would provide "up to five years of credit towards their pension, ... or a $40,000 payout over two years".

Resolution: Approving the Retirement Incentive program offered by the City to the Defined Non-bargaining Employees and members of the Teamsters Local 671 and approving the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Middletown and Teamsters Local 671 concerning the Retirement Incentive.

There is a period on the agenda for public comments. The meeting will start immediately after a (typically very brief) Community Public Meeting at 7PM.

River Front Presentation Concerns

There is a presentation on the riverfront development possibilities tonight at First Church (the South Cove presentation by Bill Warner, sponsored by the Jonah Center).

Several people who have participated in riverfront discussions are concerned that this might be the end of the planning period, that the forces in favor of quick and easy development might claim this First Church presentation is all that is needed for the involvement of the public and elected officials.

Below is the text of a letter to the Director of Planning, Bill Warner, from Molly Salafia, Planning and Zoning Commissioner. She applauds tonight's Jonah Center presentation, but suggests that it would be wise to hold another presentation in a public space, at a time when the public, as well as members of elected boards and commissions, including the Common Council, can more easily attend.

I appreciate the Jonah's Center and First Church making available space for a presentation on the Planning & Zoning Department's suggested changes to the zoning code, and subsequent plans for Middletown's river front that will be taking place tonight. I also appreciate the Department's efforts to inform citizens. I also realize this is not the first time this presentation has been held.

I would like to ask that this evening's presentation be repeated on public property- such as a school, the library, or council chambers as an official event posted with the Town Clerk so that the public is ensured prior notification and more have the opportunity to attend who may otherwise feel uncomfortable at a private location. I feel a public location will further give opportunity for commissioners to become educated on this issue. Also, if it is an official presentation or special meeting, commissioners like myself do not have to worry about collusion issues if we all were to attend.

If it could be at a time when other concerned committees such as Design Review and Citizen's Advisory meet this would be most beneficial; I am especially concerned that the Common Council will not be able to attend at its current time. I myself work outside of Middletown and leave work at 5;30 pm and cannot attend a meeting beginning at this time, like many other working citizens for example. I strongly encourage this presentation to be repeated at the Mayor's & Common Council's mandate of meetings being held after 7 pm on a weekday in a public space for the public's benefit.

Thank you,

Molly Salafia
PZ Commissioner

Family Dispute Aired At Planning And Zoning

An application for a special exception revealed a sad split in the Armetta family, between the father, Phil, and his 5 children. A dispute over land and the Dainty Rubbish company complicates the children's application to consolidate all of Dainty's operations on a 2.5 acre parcel owned by the children. In addition to the Armetta family, the dispute drew in Bill Corvo, a partner with Phil Armetta in the Kleen Energy power plant.

Phil Armetta was the owner and operator of Dainty Rubbish, he also owned the two lots on which Dainty Rubbish operated, 80 and 90 Industrial Park Road in Westfield. Shortly before being sentenced to jail for concealing knowledge of a felony, Armetta turned ownership of Dainty Rubbish to his children. The children also were given the front of the two lots on which Dainty Rubbish operates (80 Industrial Park). Phil Armetta retained ownership of the rear lot (90 Industrial Park).

Since the ownership change, the Dainty Rubbish Company has been leasing land from the two property owners to continue its operation. The application before Planning and Zoning was for a special exception that would allow Dainty Rubbish to conduct all operations solely on the front lot (owned by the children). The company would move the truck scale to the front lot and build a scale house and a maintenance garage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Local Groups Receive Grants

The directors of four local nonprofits were surprised to learn last week that they would receive an unrestricted – and completely unsolicited – grant. The news came via an email from a Wesleyan student advising that they had been selected by a group of students participating in a class titled “Money and Social Change: Innovative Paradigms and Strategies.”

The grants, funded through the Learning byGiving Foundation, were awarded to the Rockfall Foundation ($7,000), the Buttonwood Tree ($1,000), N.E.A.T. ($1,000) and the Multicultural Leadership Institute ($1,000).

Led by Adjunct Professor Joy Anderson, the 16 students were quickly given the principal challenge of their class: from a pool of 400 area nonprofits, select four that would put their pool of money to the best uses to effect social change.

The students, according to class spokespersons Jacob Eichengreen and Hannah Lewis, winnowed the pool of potential grantees over the course of marathon sessions on successive Tuesdays until just seven remained. Students then advocated for their choices until the final four were selected.

Wesleyan University is one of thirty-five colleges and universities selected to offer this program of the Learning by Giving Foundation, established by Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett. 

Three of the four groups have previously partnered with Wesleyan students on various projects, although that was not a requirement for receiving a grant. The Buttonwood Tree is a grassroots performing arts and cultural center located on Main Street. The Rockfall Foundation, located in the historic deKoven House, has a 75-year history of environmental education and grant-making. N.E.A.T. , also located on Main Street, provides a multitude of neighborhood services, including a seasonal farmers’ market. TheMulticultural Leadership Institute supports multicultural and diversity awareness, education, advocacy and research.

Dr. Anderson (Wesleyan Class of ’89) is the founder and president of the Criterion Institute, which seeks to shape markets for social change. She was recognized on Fast Company’s 2011 list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.

Middletown's 27th Annual Holiday on Main Street

Daniel Ostrow, Chairman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Central Business Bureau, announced Holiday On Main Street will conclude on Saturday, December 15, 2012 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in downtown Middletown.  There will be family-oriented events throughout the day including free hayrides along Main Street and an ornament decorating workshop.

The schedule of events for Saturday, December 15, 2012 is as follows:

Hip Hop Saturday

Community Music Saturday Event: Hip Hop! 

CMI is proud to announce our upcoming Saturday Music Event: Self Suffice the RapOet presents the rapOetry workshop featuring DJ NEB!!

This is the Hip-Hop event we've all been waiting for. Two of the areas most talented artists, Self Suffice and DJ NEB will introduce our group to the basics of freestyle rapping, with some breakdance moves thrown in. Beats will be supplied by DJ NEB.

We're lucky to have these two as guests- don't miss out on this free event!! All ages welcome! (kids under 12 must be accompanied by someone over 15).

 It's all taking place on Saturday, December 15th at the Green Street Arts Center from 11am-1pm.

Immediately following the workshop, we'll share a community potluck lunch and then practice our new moves during our classic CMI dance party. Bring something for the potluck if you can, but if you can't, don't let that stop you from coming. See you this Saturday! For more information, please contact program coordinator Carolyn Reeves at: or, call the NEAT office at 860-346-4845

Discuss South Cove Thursday 12/13 @ 7 p.m.

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art invites the public to an informational meeting and discussion on the future of South Cove, on Thursday, December 13, at 7 p.m., in the Memorial Room at First Church of Christ, Congregational, 190 Court Street, in Middletown.

William Warner, the Director of Planning, Conservation, and Development, will make a presentation on a variety of issues and the decision-making process that will affect this key area of Middletown’s waterfront property. Redevelopment of South Cove is now possible following recent passage of a voter referendum that allows the decommissioning of the sewage treatment plant, probably by the year 2015.
For more information, go to

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mayor Announces New Public Safety Addition

Standing at his official lectern in a fine drizzle, flanked by visiting dignitaries and a phalanx of firefighters in dress blues, Mayor Daniel Drew today announced the transfer of the abandoned Army Reserve Training Center on Mile Lane to the City of Middletown.

Unused since the Base Realignment and Closure Commission created the new Maurice Rose Armed Forces Reserve Center on Smith Street, the old center will qualify for State funds to be renovated into a regional firefighting training center.

Expressing his gratitude to U.S. Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro and Senator-Elect Christopher Murphy, (both in attendance) as well as to Senator Richard Blumenthal and Governor Dannel Malloy, Mayor Drew described a seven-year process that eventually brought the 20+ acre site under the City's ownership.

Although the actual property conveyance occurred near the end of October, the official announcement was made exactly one year after the opening of the new Reserve Center. Moving the training center from its current East Main Street site will permit a vastly better training experience, and may eventually allow additional uses, such as a dispatch center or a fire substation.

Describing the importance of a state-of-the-art firefighting training center, Mayor Drew spoke of attending a Fire Ops Training class in September, gaining first-hand exposure to the dangers firefighters can experience at any moment. Echoing the Mayor's comments, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro thanked the firefighters present for their bravery and dedication as first responders. She spoke of meeting a firefighter's wife, who expressed her constant hope that her husband could do his job and come home to her at the end of his shift.

Senator-elect Murphy spoke of the lengthy bureaucratic process, which Congresswoman DeLauro spearheaded successfully, and he congratulated her and Mayor Drew on the project. Not all base closings led to such outcomes, he said. He joined in thanking the firefighters present, and talked of how the job has changed in the past twenty years, with greater risk and greater responsibilities.

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger, President of the Middlesex County Fire Chiefs' Association, said that the property transfer actually marks the conclusion of a twelve-year process for the Fire Department, since that is the length of time they have been seeking a new training site.

Sited on a hilltop adjacent to Middletown High School property, the abandoned Reserve Center was originally built as a Nike Missile Center during the Cold War. 
Mayor Drew described the property's value at $1.5 million. Asked if the building will be renovated or removed, Mayor Drew said that the architectural review had not been completed as to the suitability of the building, but that he was confident the building is structurally sound. 

A further question about site contamination brought the response that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has confirmed some slight contamination, and that some amount of soil will need to be removed, primarily because of petroleum spillage. The D.E.E.P. will not, however, permit residential development on the site because of the contamination.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Beautiful Christmas Concert at First Church

The audience applauded the performances at First Church's Christmas Concert this Sunday.

There were sing-a-longs, the choir, hand bells and and a live band. The music and spirit of the holidays was definitely in the air.

What I found remarkable was there were people from different churches and the community in attendance. People coming together for an afternoon of music. I am continually impressed by how our Middletown community comes together.

VIDEO: Buttonwood Tree Events Dec 10-16th

Here is a video describing the different events happening at the Buttonwood Tree from Monday December 10th through Sunday December 16th.

 From belly dancing, live music, writer's workshops, open mics and more - There's something for everyone at the Buttonwood Tree next week.  To find out more about the Buttonwood Tree, visit

Sorry about the re-posts.  We are learning about embedding videos on the blog.

From 1987: Middletown Groups Want Tougher Subdivision Law

The following article is from 25 years ago today, published in the Hartford Courant on December 8th, 1987. It was written by Mark Cheater.

One of the groups mentioned in the article is still active, Westfield Residents for Rational Development of Middletown is now called the Westfield Residents Association. Bob Fusari has built many large developments, most notably Riverbend.

Our current zoning code includes a provision under which developers can apply for a "Cluster design to produce open space subdivisions purpose," section 44.08.35. The minimum lot size is 10 acres, and it generally allows developers to build a few more houses in exchange for putting them closer together and leaving larger tracts of open space.

Neighborhood groups are seeking changes in a proposed amendment to city subdivision regulations that would establish more options for cluster housing, a leader of one of the groups said Monday.

The groups want to fine-tune the amendment to prevent overdevelopment of the clustered "designer environmental subdivisions" and lessen their effect on surrounding neighborhoods, said Shirley Harris, co-chairwoman of Zone Watch.

"I like the idea of clustering. In many ways it could have less impact on the land," Harris said. "But I think there's too many dangers of it being misused."

But developers say that if the regulation is too restrictive, it may discourage them from choosing the designer subdivision option.

"It has to have incentives to encourage a developer to use it," said Robert Fusari, president of Real Estate Service of Connecticut, who helped to draft the designer subdivision regulations. "You want to make sure you don't create something that nobody uses."

The amendment is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday by the planning and zoning commission.

The five-page amendment is part of an effort to re-establish a hierarchy of residential zones that was declared void by a Superior Court judge in July. The judge ruled that the planning commission failed to follow proper procedures in adopting a citywide rezoning in 1985.

The clustered housing category is intended to encourage developers to abandon the cookie-cutter approach to subdivisions, city Plan Director George Reif said.

It allows developers with tracts of at least 25 acres to subdivide the property into lots that are smaller than the zone allows in order to cluster homes. Developers who choose this option must hire a landscape architect to help design the subdivision and leave at least 25 percent of the tract as open space.

The proposed amendment would also establish a complicated formula to determine the maximum number of building lots allowable in the designer subdivision.

Zone Watch and three other groups--Westfield Residents for Rational Development of Middletown [this group is still active, as the Westfield Residents Association], the South Middletown Association and Your Neighborhood Friends--are worried the formula may be "too lax," Harris said.

The groups want the formula revised so that hte nubmer of building lots is kept to levels comparable to those allowed under standard subdivsion regulations, Harris said.

"We don't want [the developers] to get an extraordinary bonus by getting more lots than are normally allowed under standard zoning."

The groups also want to require 10-foot, landscaped buffer strips between the designer subdivisions and surrounding areas "to try to stop any destabilizing factor in any neighborhood," Harris said.

A local developer said the adoption of such requirements may discourage use of the designer subdivision option.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Normal Guy Has Supermodel Girlfriend

Popcorn by The Colonel #20: Don't overlook item 9 below.

This reporter cannot say his own last name without moving his head.

2/ Frederick's Law: "Progress is moving forward." Fusari's Exception to Frederick's Law: "Sometimes progress is moving backward more slowly than before."

3/ Chanukah has become the "Jewish Christmas," just as Confirmation has become the "Christian Bar Mitzvah."

4/ In Hebrew, "bar" means "son" and "bat" means "daughter."  "Bat mitzvah" has nothing to do with baseball, or with "The Dark Knight Becomes a Man."

VIDEO: Buttonwood Tree Events Dec 10-16th

Here is a video describing the different events happening at the Buttonwood Tree from Monday December 10th through Sunday December 16th.

 From belly dancing, live music, writer's workshops, open mics and more - There's something for everyone at the Buttonwood Tree next week. To find out more about the Buttonwood Tree, visit

Great night of comedy happened last night

We want to thank the great audience who came out to First Church's Parish Hall for a night of improv comedy last night.

Thanks go out to Sea Tea Improv and BenTopher and Friends for pouring their hearts out with some great comedy made up on the spot based on audience suggestions.

Special thanks to NoRA Cupcake and Klekolo World Coffee for offering up some terrific treats to the audience.

The improv comedy shows will return in 2013 with more fun and laughter. Keep your eye on the Middletown Eye for more details.

Pedestrian Killed By Car In Hit And Run

From the Middletown Police:

On Friday December 07, 2012 at approximately 5:45 p.m. a pedestrian versus motor vehicle collision occurred in the area of Saybrook Road and Coe Avenue.

Preliminary investigation indicates that Cailyn Bassett, age 15, of Clinton, was walking on Saybrook Road, when she was struck and killed by a motor vehicle which then fled the scene.

The investigation is continuing, witnesses to the accident are asked to contact the Middletown Police Department’s Traffic Unit at (860) 344-3264.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Isra-Aliens Land at The Buttonwood!

(Author's note - this post also appears on my blog, Step Tempest.)

Chanukah commences at sundown this Saturday (December 8) - while not the religious celebration that Christmas is, the holiday celebrates a military victory as well as the the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 nights (read more here.)  Usually the holiday falls near the winter solstice and the light coming from the menorah is always a welcome site.

Not sure if Anne-Marie of The Buttonwood Tree had Chanukah in mind when she booked Isra-Alien for this Saturday but the acoustic guitar duo of Oren Neiman and Gilad Ben-Zvi will definitely light up the performance space at 605 Main Street in Middletown. The duo, both natives of Israel, met during their compulsory military service in the Israeli army and have been friends ever since.  After moving to New York City in 2005, they formed this ensemble with Neiman on nylon-string guitar and Ben-Zvi on steel string.  They released their self-titled, self-produced and self-released debut CD in 2009 and their latest, "Somewhere Is Here" just a few months ago. Their music is a joyous blend of Middle-Eastern melodies, Eastern European klezmer tunes, jazz, and world music - one can hear the influence of Belgian guitar genius Django Reinhardt as well as tango in the duo's eclectic mix.  

Isra-Alien will be in The Buttonwood's spotlight at 8 p.m. - for more information, go to  To learn more about the duo and hear selections of their infectious music, go to