Thursday, August 18, 2016

 Cheshire is more of a bedroom suburb these days than a farming community, but in honor of the town being the  "Bedding Plant Capital of Connecticut," I figure there might be some interest in one of U.S, Senator Chris Murphy's stops on Thursday.

Chris Murphy
Besides, Murphy is a  Cheshire guy. But I digress.

Murphy is visiting Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon on Thursday to highlight the newly-awarded $597,598 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to the University of Connecticut.  UConn had to stop offering training programs for new farmers last year because a lack of funding.

The money that Murphy helped secure from the USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program will enable the UConn program to be restarted.

Why travel to eastern Connecticut to highlight the restoration of the training?  Well, it's because Sweet Acre Farm owners Jonathan Janeway and Charlotte Ross founded the farm in 2011 and attended UConn’s training program.
According to Murphy's office, one in four principal farm operators in Connecticut are considered “beginning farmers”, meaning they are operating a farm with less than 10 years of experience. Between 2007 and 2012, Connecticut experienced a 15.1 percent increase in the number of principal farm operators with less than 10 years of experience – one of the largest increases in the nation.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Honor Fitting Of Mary Fritz

The Wallingford Town Council next week is going to consider renaming Yalesville Elementary School in honor of Mary Fritz, the long-time state rep, who died in July.

Mary Fritz
It would be a fitting tribute for Mary, who at one point in her long life, was a school teacher. And her time as an educator yield one of my favorite stories in the decade or so that I covered Mary for the Register

During on election campaign season, Mary spoke at a meeting of the Democratic Committee. Former Town Councilman Jim Vumbaco was launching a run for Mayor and it was Mary's job to introduce him.

I expected Mary to start out her remarks by extolling his virtues. But instead, she drew on personal anecdote about Vumbaco.

"Ya know, Jimmy, I can remember when I had you in one of my classes," Mary said.

As I recall, the look on Vumbaco's face suggested that he was a tad embarrassed by her recollection.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Lest We Forget What This Holiday Is All About

Cheshire’s annual Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony is Saturday at 10 a.m. on the Town Green.

In addition to the wreath laying, the ceremony will also feature speeches from Army Lt. General Richard Formica, who is a 1973 graduate of Cheshire High School. Formica will be Grand Marshal of Sunday's Memorial Day Parade in Cheshire.

 A parade of color guards that includes veterans, the Police and Fire Departments as well as Girl and Boy Scouts, will open the ceremony, which will last about a half hour.

 Last year's ceremony attracted about 200 people, according to officials with the Cheshire Veterans Council. The group, which consists of American Legion Post 92, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10052, Army Air Force Round Table, Disabled American Veterans, and AmVets is the sponsor for Saturday's ceremony.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Special School Board Meeting Called In Wallingford On Outsourcing Negotiations

The Wallingford Board of Education has called a special meeting for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at its South Turnpike Road offices.

.The meeting was scheduled late Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the board authorized Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo to begin negotiations with an unnamed food service vendor. Menzo (shown at left) said the purpose of the meeting is to give the board an update on the negotiations.
"We want to proceed very carefully with this because it's the first time we're doing it," he said. "I want to keep the board as well informed as possible."

The board's authorization vote came just weeks after current Food Service Director Sharlene Wong informed the district she was leaving to take a similar job with the Bridgeport Public School system. Wong had been on medical leave for several months before her announcement that she was leaving to take another job.

The meeting agenda also includes a notification that the board could take action on what it discusses in the closed door session that is also part of the meeting . Menzo did not indicate whether a vote was likely to take place, saying only that the notification is included on the agenda to give the board the ability to vote based on what it hears during the executive session.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Installation of New Street Lights Starts Next Week in Cheshire

It's out with the old and in with the new on the streets of Cheshire: A $1.2 million project to install nearly  1,770 LED streetlights and floodlights will begin starting April 18.

 Replacing existing streetlight with energy efficient LED lights will result in at least $170,000 in annual energy and maintenance savings for the town. It will reduce energy usage by two-thirds compared to existing streetlights, and provide citizens with clearer lighting conditions to improve visibility and safety.

Part of the cost of the project is expected to be offset by $190,000 in energy efficiency funds from Eversource Energy. The project is expected to be completed sometime in July.

 The new LED fixtures will provide the appropriate amount of lighting for locations across the town and will focus light directly downward on sidewalks and roadways.  The fixtures have a ten-year product warranty, but are anticipated to have a much longer life.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Dawson Launches His Campaign For Cheshire Town Council

It's pretty hard to go some place in Cheshire and not run into S. "Woody" Dawson (shown at left).

Visit the One Stop, a convenience store in the town's South End, and it's a good bet that you will find Woody discussing the affairs of the day with anyone who comes through the door. And every September, when the Cheshire's Fall Festival rolls around, there's a pretty good chance that you will find him giving somebody a warm greeting and slap on the back.

 I mention this, not as an endorsement of his candidacy, just as an illustration that Woody is old school and very well know in the community. And following Friday's announcement that First District Councilman David Schrumm was not going to seek re-election, Dawson is now looking to play a much bigger role in town government by taking his fellow Republican's place on the ballot.
Dawson will face former Councilman Michael Ecke in the First District race.  Like Dawson, Ecke  (who is shown at right) has the name recognition having served on six terms on council.

Dawson has already spent more than 20 years on the Cheshire's Planning & Zoning Commission. And on Monday, his campaign, managed by former Cheshire resident Thomas Pinkham, sent out its first press release. 

The release said all the right things, mentioning how Dawson has lived in Cheshire for his entire life and how much he cares for the community. In addition to serving on the PZC, he has also served on the town's beautification committee, its zoning board of appeals and the economic development.

 "I have always loved Cheshire, and promise to do everything in my power as Councilor to protect Cheshire and nourish it," Dawson said is statement that was part of the press release.

The odd thing about the release is that it is everything that Dawson isn't. He's not much much on artifice and smooth edges. 

Listening to Woody speak at PZC meetings is an adventure because I'm never quite sure what he is going to say.

 Most people filter what they say when they speak in public. That's not Dawson's style and depending on how you like your politicians, he can he either seen as breath of fresh air or someone who needs to be a little less blunt.

And it is that last perception of Dawson that could get him into trouble in the campaign.

Municipal elections don't usually tend to be decided on what those running for office say, unlike state and national campaigns. But this race could be different and should be close.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Apparently There Is A Market For Outlet Shopping, Just Not In Cheshire

If I was a Cheshire public official, I'd be banging my head against a wall in frustration after hearing Tuesday's news that the owner of  the Clinton Crossing outlet center, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, plans to build a similar retail center in Windsor Locks.

Simon's announced Tuesday that it has submitted an application for rezoning land near near the intersection of Route 20 and Interstate 91on Old Country Road in Windsor Locks.

 Simon's announcement comes nearly a month after another retail developer, Massachusetts-base W/S Development, told Cheshire officials they were abandoning plans for a 470,000 square foot outlet center near the intersection of Route 10 and Interstate 691.

The Windsor Locks retail center, which will be called  Hartford Premium Outlets, will consist of 350,000 square feet of retail space, a Market Hall complete with a variety of dining options, and two restaurants on the property's perimeter. Construction of the retail center is expected to start next fall, with the stores scheduled to open late in 2017.

"We are tremendously excited to bring the world's most recognized and popular brand of upscale outlet shopping to the Hartford area," Mark Silvestri, chief operating officer of Simon Premium Outlets, said in a statement. "We are off to a solid start – the Town of Windsor Locks has been very supportive and welcoming. This will be a great development."

All of which begs the question: What has Windsor Locks got that Cheshire doesn't?

The media never got an answer from W/S Development as to why it was abandoning the Outlets at Cheshire. We were told by Cheshire officials that W.S Development executives cited the state of the economy and a difficulty in attracting tenants to the retail center as a reason for their decision.

But now you have to wonder if W/S Development officials were being totally honest with Cheshire officials in the reasons that they gave.

Is the economy that much better in Windsor Locks than in Cheshire? Probably not.

So why was W/S Development having trouble attracting tenants? Was there something about the company or its approach to the Cheshire project that was driving potential tenants away?

We'll probably never know the answer to those questions and even if we did, it wouldn't change the final outcome. But know the answers might give Cheshire officials a better idea going forward of how to market the 104 acre property that W/S Development wanted to build on.

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