Saturday, August 28, 2010

Signing off from blogging for two weeks

Signing off for a couple weeks. I may stop by and post, but I expect it'll be far from everyday. For the time being I've shut down comments. I intend to open them again after I'm back blogging on a regular basis.

Couple meetings to keep in mind...

August 31 -- 2010 / 2011 capital budget vote
September 7 -- Historic District Commission "open forum"
September 14 -- regular Council meeting


I'm expecting to be posting before the September 14 meeting.

Hope you have a good Labor Day weekend! Mine will certainly be interesting....

Tim White

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some upcoming political events - September 2010

Some upcoming political events...

On Tuesday August 31 @ 6:30pm, Joe Markley is having a fundraising event at The Manor Inn in Southington:Kathy Brown is having a fundraising event on September 8 in Southington:And though I don't have the details, I recently stopped by to see Probate Judge candidate Matt Jalowiec and learned that he's having a fundraiser on Saturday Sept 25 at somebody's home in the Talmadge Road area of Cheshire. Here's a nice pic of dad and daughter:And if you're keeping tabs... I understand that of Cheshire's five GOP legislative candidates, four intend to use the public funding system.

Al Adinolfi (running against Elizabeth Esty) and Len Suzio (running against Tom Gaffey) have already qualified. Richard Abbate (running against Mary Fritz) and Joe Markley (running for Sam Caligiuri's open seat) are still pursuing the fundraising goal requirements. And Kathy Brown (running against Vickie Nardello) is raising money privately.

I'm not sure which Dem candidates are using the public funding program. I'm guessing they all will, but does anyone happen to know with certainty? Also, anyone happen to know if there are any upcoming events for Democratic candidates?

Tim White

Paul Krugman: This is not a recovery

Paul Krugman opines on Ben Bernanke's possible Friday comments:

But we can safely predict what he and other officials will say about where we are right now: that the economy is continuing to recover, albeit more slowly than they would like. Unfortunately, that’s not true: this isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters.

Krugman continues:

...policy makers are in denial.

After its last monetary policy meeting, the Fed released a statement declaring that it “anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization” — Fedspeak for falling unemployment. Nothing in the data supports that kind of optimism. Meanwhile, Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, says that “we’re on the road to recovery.” No, we aren’t.


I disagree with the Nobel-winning economist on the patient's treatment. But I fully agree with his diagnosis.

Tim White

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Broadview / Rosemary "island" and Town Hall

Last year during the vote to extend the TMs contract, I opposed the motion for several reasons. One concern for me is a pattern of driving policy through inaction. One specific example I offered was the roadwork performed on Rosemary Lane and Broadview Road.

You can see my comment at the 0:30 to 0:45 mark in this clip:



I don't think I ever really got into the details publicly though. My point was about a pattern of behavior. The examples I offered were simply to illustrate a larger pattern. And I wanted to keep my comments brief, but Town Hall's poor planning of Rosemary continues to see your tax dollars being spent haphazardly. So I feel compelled to elaborate.

The Rosemary / Broadview area had several issues, but here's a quick before and after depiction of the intersection:So you see that the paving of the island moved the road and the adjacent property was impacted. Yet neighborhood residents were not asked for input -- they were simply informed* -- about the paving of the island.

Then when I heard about this from residents and I started crying foul, Town Hall suggested that this had nothing to do with the Council. Nonsense. While that may be true in a technical sense, changing the character of a neighborhood is a routine concern for the Zoning Board of Appeals. So I reject the notion that the Town Hall's DPW had authority to act with impunity here. Residents should have been included in the decision-making process. The merits should have been discussed openly since it was clearly changing the character of the neighborhood.

Or is it that Town Hall's DPW can simply ignore the rules to which others must adhere? And of course, there's the issue of property ownership.

Ten years from now, will a TM come to the Council and request a quitclaim to transfer the property from the town to the adjacent property owner? I can already hear it. "This is just an administrative oversight... blah, blah, blah."

Anyway, I have more on the Rosemary work. I'll get to the haphazard spending of your tax dollars, but I offer only this for now because this post will become too long.

Tim White

* Many neighborhood residents were not even informed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

RTC meets tomorrow night at the Senior Center

The Cheshire Republican Town Committee will meet tomorrow night at 7:30pm in the Senior Center. It's the first post Primary Day RTC meeting. I hope everyone is coming together. Besides Probate won by Matt Jalowiec, I know there were some contentious feelings in the CT-5 race won by Sam Caligiuri. If you're a registered R, I hope you attend!

Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: SMARTboard discussion

For some reason, Smartboards were not actually discussed with the Superintendent or BOE last night. They were discussed among the Council members, largely in relation to the notion that Smartboards were not purchased last year. However, the Superintendent has clarified the history of the four-year-old Smartboard program:And here are some further details from him in this memo dated 8/24/2006:

What is a SMART Board?

It is an interactive (approximately 4” X 5”) board that mimics the computer to which it is connected. It requires an LCD projector. It is also a touch screen that allows computer commands and actions to be made directly on the board. It allows access to all computer software applications stored on a PC and access to Internet websites and software (if the PC has access). It also is an interactive marker board.

Why SMART Boards in all Classrooms?


A SMART Board provides interactive instructional capabilities at all grade levels. It utilizes technology as a practical tool as well as a tool that engages students in their learning. The practical tool provides video streaming, Internet-based research and information, application software (i.e. Microsoft Office, Inspiration) to an entire class, small groups or individuals. It engages children that are active participants in a mediabased culture in their learning.

Why $1.5 million?


The Cheshire Public Schools has missed opportunities to improve educational technology in schools. Prior to 2003/04 the BOE operating budget supported the maintenance and growth of technology in the schools. With funding reductions since 03/04 the district can only focus on maintenance.

While the initial (early 1990s) vision for classroom PCs was instructional, over the past decade the focus of technology in our buildings has been administrative rather than instructional. Classroom data management (grading, student records, special education) and communication (e-mail, Internet access) has been the focus of technological growth in the schools. While these tools have indirectly impacted instruction, the PC is not the interactive tool it can be in most classrooms.

What is the scope of project?


It includes installation of approximately 300 SMART Boards. This includes the mounting, wiring and purchase of a LCD projector for each instructional space (including electrical), the installation of a SMART Board and wiring to the LCD and classroom PC. All instructional spaces in the schools have a networked PC – no added PCs would need to be purchased. The estimated cost for equipment and installation is $5,000 per location.

Should the purchase be phased in?


Phasing in the technology is certainly possible. There are economies to purchasing in larger quantities, however the greatest savings is in installation. The labor cost per unit would be lower on a larger scale project.

Ideally a phase-in would occur with installations across all school facilities (i.e. one per grade level, one per team or per department), providing greater access to the technology at all grade levels. This determination would be made based on per unit installation costs and the amount of funding available for the project.

What is the lifecycle cost?

LCD PROJECTOR: The standard LCD projector, based on experience with current equipment, can last 6-10 years. The bulbs in the projectors being considered are rated for 3,000 hours. Which should provide 3-4 years of use. The cost for replacement bulbs is $300. It would be anticipated that $25,000-$35,000/ year would be required to maintain the projectors in the 3rd year after installation.

SMARTBOARDS: SMART Boards have been in existence for over 15 years. The oldest boards in the district are 6-7 years old. These boards are as effective as newer models.

UTILITIES: Based on specifications from the manufacturer and estimated hours of operation, each unit would require an increase of between $70-$75 of electricity each year. This will cost approximately $21,000 each year. However there will be some offset in energy cost, as other equipment will no longer be required.

Will the SMART Board become obsolete?


While technology will certainly change, the PC drives the SmartBoard. The software used to run the SmartBoard is based on the PC. As PCs age the district must replace them regardless of whether they are used with a SmartBoard or not.

Who will train the teachers and how much will it cost?


All schools have initiatives that focus on using the existing SMART Boards in our schools. Training that currently takes place is, almost exclusively, provided by teachers training other teachers. The development of lessons and the training of staff are already occurring. Future costs would be part of the existing Professional Development budget.

Status of Technology in Schools:

WAN – Based at Town Hall, Fiber Connection between CHS and Town Hall, soon at Dodd, all other schools connected by T-1 lines to Town Hall.
LAN – School based, Category 5 wire with some Fiber backbones between IDFs. Limited Wireless Networking in some locations.
Classroom – One networked PC in each classroom (general condition – some rooms have more than one PC).


Here's a post from four years ago when I requested the lifecycle costs from the Sptd. I suspect the comments remain the same today.

One other question that's been asked this year relates to the level of actual usage. Are the SMARTboards being used four hours per day or four minutes per day? And is that use related to the technology or is it simply being used as a whiteboard? I really have no idea. But considering we now have experience, it's an appropriate question to ask.

Maybe this will end up being a referendum item this year?

Your thoughts?

Tim White

Heading to Haiti in a few days

As I've already mentioned, the capital budget vote was originally scheduled for tonight... but is now scheduled for August 31. Between the announcement of the planned August 24 vote and the announcement of the delayed August 31 vote, I planned a volunteer trip to Haiti. As such, I've been trying to offer my thoughts on the capital budget along the way. Anyway...

If you have a couple extra bucks to help out with a good cause -- the CT-based Haitian Health Foundation -- please donate a few dollars! It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally got my hands around creating an FB-linked fundraising page. So if you want any help doing the same for your cause, just drop me a line. I'd be happy to help.

And with 9/11 fast-approaching, I mention that I'll be taking a relic with me. A friend gave me a small piece of the lining from a known NYPD baseball cap of Father Mychal Judge. While he's probably remembered most for this tragic image, some are remembering him through prayer.

Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: not in the budget

It appears that the $1,000,000 for open space will not be in the budget. That's fine with me. There's about $1,100,000 in the open space fund already available. And if a large, desirable piece of land -- worth more than that -- becomes available, the Council could call for a special referendum. This doesn't appear to be a contentious issue. I'm fine with this.

With a price tag of $1,005,000, the replacement for the FDs snorkel truck appears to be getting yanked from Year Two of the five-year budget. As for me, I'm not entirely comfortable with this and would vote against the five-year budget (if I was there next week, but I won't be). My view is that we're not even spending money... and we have lots of so-called "placeholders" in the budget... so why remove this? I disagree with David Schrumm on this and would leave it... or maybe push it out a few years... but not remove it. The TM made a personal request that the Budget Chair sit down with him to further discuss the merits of this FD proposal.

$250,000 for Smartboards was removed from the capital budget. I agree with this and note that although last year's budget included Smartboards, the money never got spent at the direction of the Democratic majority. So although this may be a contentious issue during the vote, I don't feel it would be entirely credible.

And the last major contentious item to be removed from the TMs capital budget proposal was the turf for $825,000... or $0. That number depends on the person with whom you're speaking. I agree that it's entirely likely that the initial cost would be covered with no property tax dollars. But considering that a Nobel-winning economist, Paul Krugman, is describing our current situation as a depression... I'm just not comfortable expanding recreational services* and increasing our not-so-distant future costs at this time.

Furthermore, I'm not particularly comfortable with the process-to-date. Although the BOE has officially approved the turf's initial costs, they haven't signed off on the recurring costs. And while the turf committee suggested raising the price of ticket sales, I don't see what authority they have in this situation... presumably either the Sptd or BOE would approve fees. And that discussion should happen as many voters would have to pay the increased fee. But whether or not that happens is IMO putting form over substance. The BOE approved the turf and the Council will ultimately accept that as "law."

Last, but not least, I came to the conclusion tonight that some proponents of the turf are more concerned with getting turf than with having additional field time. That doesn't make any sense to me. It troubles me.

But my bottom line is that I'm not convinced we should be expanding recreational services and increasing costs right now. Regardless, this may come to a Council vote of some sort in the near future as Chairman Slocum informed us during tonight's meeting.

Tim White

* It has been stated numerous times that we could increase the use of the field from 30 to 300 times per year. That's increasing, not maintaining, recreational services.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: five referenda on Nov 2

Based on tonight's discussion, it appears there will be five referenda headed to you -- the voters -- on November 2.

1) Fire - breathing apparatus upgrade @ $425,000

We got these additional details tonight:2) Road repavement @ $1,500,000

3) School roof replacements @ $1,000,000

For this, I made a request of school staff. At the meeting I explained that I had spoken with Celtic Energy today regarding the infrastructure and energy RFP for CHS, Dodd, Town Hall and the PD. I know that much had been done on the RFP since last fall, but I learned our likely next steps:

a) September -- issue the RFP upon legal counsel's approval

b) October -- receive the proposals

c) November -- select a vendor

d) January to June -- vendor could potentially expand the preliminary audit so as to be able to provide improvements beyond the initial four buildings... followed with actual infrastructure and energy improvements to school & town buildings.


Having explained my current understanding to the Council and school staff, I requested that they simply remain aware of the possibility of incorporating roof improvements into a more comprehensive school improvement project.

4) Dodd cafeteria renovations Phase III @ $250,000 (plus prior appropriations of $300,000 and $50,000 for a total of $600,000)

5) CHS track resurfacing @ $325,000 (plus a prior appropriation of $130,000 for a total of $450,000) For some prior discussion on the turf / track combo, see here and here.

Tim White

Monday, August 23, 2010

Referendum & the track / turf / "D" / add-on request

I began explaining the expanding track & field project a few days ago. Now I'm wondering in terms of a referendum... in what way do you feel the Council should handle the project?

Should the Council combine everything into one project -- track, turf, add-on's and the "D" at one time? How about dealing with all the rubberized stuff (track, long jump, pole vault and the "D") at one time, while the turf is handled separately?

Based on the meeting discussions I've heard, the pole vault and long jump areas are not being seriously considered for improvements... unless "the funds allow." And since that's the case, I'm not in favor of spending any money on the add-on's.

That leaves the track, the "D" and the turf. I'm undecided on this, but:

1) I'm not convinced the expansion of turf services* will be privately funded over the next, say, five years; and

2) I believe the track needs improvement...


So I am in favor of moving forward with the track sans turf... and probably in connection with the "D" as one referedum item... along with any drainage improvements that need to be made.

How would you address the track / turf / "D" & various add-on's?Tim White

* By turf services, I mean the stated increase in use from 30 two-hour events to 300 two-hour events / year.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

129 layoffs coming at Pratt & Whitney

From the MRJ:

Jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney will lay off 129 hourly workers at the company's Cheshire engine repair plant. The job cuts are needed, the company said, because there is not enough work....

The International Association of Machinists, which represents the workers, questioned the job cuts, saying in a prepared statement that hourly workers have been putting in 10-hour days, instead of the usual 8-hour shifts, and have been asked to come in on Saturdays.


And here's an interesting Daily Kos youtube clip on America's recent jobs trend:



Tim White

Friday, August 20, 2010

Likely results of ECS or Title I funding distribution

The last-minute school funding bill was discussed at tonight's BOE meeting. According to Dr. Florio, if Governor Rell chooses to use the ECS formula to distribute the $110 million of funds, Cheshire Public Schools would probably receive about $540,000. However if Governor Rell uses Title I to distribute CTs share of the $26 billion package, Cheshire will likely receive less than $100,000.

Tim White

First turf, then track... what else?

The turf discussion has suddenly gotten very muddy. Besides the question that existed last year:

Do we replace the track and deal with the turf simultaneously?

The Council has now been asked to resurface the "D" on the south-end (or left-side) of the track:And here are the cost details that were provided last night:Notice the "add-ons" at the bottom?

And suddenly an $850,000 turf project that's supposed to be "free-of-charge" to Cheshire... and a $280,000 track resurfacing project get coupled with another $100,000 to resurface the D... and we're off to the races! Referendum here we come!

There are a lot of moving pieces and options here that I won't discuss now. At this point, I wanted to put this before you for discussion purposes.

Tim White

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Behrer on funding the turf replacement costs

Last night's Council discussion on the 2010 / 2011 capital budget turf project offered some details on the proposed replacement funding. But tonight's BOE meeting saw more details being offered by Bob Behrer. I'm confident these spreadsheets offered by Bob are self-explanatory... whether you accept them as "conservative" or "realistic" is entirely your opinion:I applaud Bob for his efforts. But I'm still skeptical that the annual fundraising efforts will continue in perpetuity.

In my opinion, this is a question similar to the one I posed regarding the pool:

more services = higher spending

and

fewer services = lower spending

In the midst of The Great Recession, I think people are comfortable with lower spending and relatively fewer services.

Separate from funding the replacement costs, I learned tonight that the BOE did vote on the turf on June 28, 2010. I think it was the annual end-of-year, early-in-the-AM meeting. It was buried in -- perhaps -- a largely undiscussed 4-0 vote (Brittingham, Mrowka, Pavano, Perugini present) on the BOE Planning Committee's recommended capital budget for the schools. Personally, I think the vote was somewhat unfortunate in that it didn't generate much voter participation. But a vote is a vote. And it is now properly on the Council's desk.

Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: turf

The turf is currently in the first year of the capital budget. Tonight's turf discussion focused on three aspects:

1) The estimated initial cost -- $800,000 to $850,000, detailed here:
2) The estimated replacement cost -- $400,000 to $450,000, every 8 to 15 years

3) The estimated replacement funding -- $40,000 / yr x ten years...


Bob Behrer explained the replacement money would come from:

* $13,000 / yr in costs avoided by having artificial turf, instead of natural turf

* $7,500 to $10,000 / yr in tips for turf

* increased ticket sales; 12,000 tickets vs. 10,000 tickets

* $1 service fee / ticket

=

$35,000 to $40,000 / yr x ten years... used to offset the cost of a replacement field.


I wanted to hear this and am skeptical these numbers would come to fruition. On the other hand, Matt Bowman made a good point. Historically, the town has taken donations / state grants... used them... and asked questions later. Thing is for me though... times are tough. The economy is the worst it's been since the 1930s. And frankly, I'm not a big believer that the economy is about to rebound anytime soon. So I just don't see myself supporting this right now.

Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: recap, incl. public hearing

The public hearing on the capital budget was tonight. Basically no one from the public turned out. A few people involved with the turf committee were there, along with WPCA members.

Here's a recap of the 2010 / 2011 capital budget information that I've posted over the past month or so.

The department proposals discussed during the past month included:

Economic Development

Finance

Fire

Library

Parks & Recreation

Planning (including open space)

Police

Public Properties (excl. schools)

Public Works

Schools

Seniors

Water Pollution Control (sewers)

Tim White

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Governor Rell vacationing, school funding delayed?

For those of you wondering about when the $26 billion teachers' bill may move from the state to municipalities, the New Haven Advocate's Greg Hladky is reporting:

Gov. M. Jodi Rell is on her way out of Connecticut for a little vacation, heading to Pennsylvania first and then to the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, according to her staff. The governor is due back in this state on August 29.

Cheshire Public Schools open on August 30. I doubt Governor Rell will act on this before school starts.

Tim White

Rand Paul Money Bomb - August 19

I disagree with him on some stuff, but he'd be a great voice in the US Senate for dealing with The Banksters... unlike the outgoing sellout, Mr. Dodd.

Rand Paul's Money Bomb occurs on August 19:



Tim White

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: police, fire, sewers discussion

The Council discussed the 2010 / 2011 capital budget tonight, including:

Fire

Fire Chief Jack Casner explained the need for $425,000 for new "breathing apparatus." Here are some details:He noted that other top grade equipment would cost more... to the tune of $300,000.

$300,000 for water mains were also discussed. And since water mains seem to have $300,000 being requested every year, I asked for clarification on the need to aggregate multi-year projects in relation to a referendum. I now understand that if a capital budget item is earmarked for a particular project (i.e. water mains for Wyndemere Court or open space for Lot C at the northeast corner of West Johnson and Peck), then it need not be included in the aggregation of a referendum question. But if a project is vague (i.e. water mains or open space), then those numbers must be aggregated to meet referendum requirements. And apparently this may lead to a delay in capital budget vote from August 24 to August 31.

Here are some details on the Chief's water main wish list:As we discussed this list, I noted that we'd be digging up roads. So I reminded everyone about last week's BOE meeting when we learned that the schools are looking for more information about the use of natural gas at Doolittle and Norton... noting that would require roads to be excavated. And then tied together those two town goals with a request I've gotten from some residents regarding the possibility of NG pipelines on their streets, so they can fight the volatile and high prices of heating oil. In other words, the Fire Dept, Schools and some residents want their roads excavated for various reasons. I asked that we try to ensure everyone is aware of these somewhat related interests.

Police

Police Chief Mike Cruess explained the need to continue replacing the PD vehicle fleet. He provided this spreadsheet of the mileage on his fleet:I know this is all public info, but I still covered the make / model of the unmarked cars. And lastly, police car mileage often has greater wear than similar non-police cars. This is because cop cars are often idling and ready to go.

Chief Cruess also explained the benefit of GIS to the PD. My main question here related to speed traps. Thing is, I get calls from constituents for speed traps on their roads. And while I try to help, my preference would be to have an unbiased system in place to determine where speed traps should be located. So I asked if a GIS would be able to track 911 calls, speed limits by road, and other data related to speeding... thus giving the police a tool to determine the best use of their time. That would put it back on the Council to fund (or not fund) an increase in the number of patrolmen on the beat... and reduce the potential for favoritism when residents or elected officials ask the police for a speed trap. And FWIW, I view this as an extension of my 2008 call for the Council to set the criteria used to prioritize Public Works projects.

Last item on the police was that I confirmed that we are not bonding these police cars. I really wasn't sure if that was the plan. And I now know the idea is to pay for them using the CNR account. That's good news. But I still encourage voters to keep an eye on this sort of stuff... shifting operating expenses to the capital budget is too easy and tempting for town officials interested in minimizing tax increases.

Sewers

Dennis Dievert, Sewer Plant Superintendent, and John Atwood, WPCA Chairman, made the case for sewers. They feel that the West Johnson and Cook Hill Pump Stations are on their last legs. As such, they requested the planning money for each be included in this year's capital budget. That's $180k for West Johnson and $120k for Cook Hill. They further explained that although these pump stations were functioning, their continued useful life is uncertain. So they hoped to get the planning money for the two pump stations, in case they flatline. I then asked if it made sense to aggregate the $1,700,000 West Johnson upgrade and $1,200,000 Cook Hill upgrade in with the $30,000,000 sewer plant upgrade. And not to make light of the real need to restrain spending, I questioned if it made sense to send all three to referendum for $32,900,000? I figure:

a) all three projects need to be done;
b) although money is appropriated, the money need not be spent... pump station upgrades could be delayed... but the money would have been approved... or rejected.


So depending on the continued functionality of the pump stations over the next twelve months... it may make sense to aggregate the Plant and Pump Station upgrades. Which, btw, would complete the pump station upgrades that were begun circa 1996. So hopefully, no more would need to be done for several years.

One other interesting point raised by Dennis was this graph:The solid red line is from 2006 and the solid blue line is 2010... and the dotted red line relates to some torrential rain we got before we finally sealed the open sewer pipes. So this graph suggests that Dennis' efforts have been helpful... to say the least.

Planning, Economic Development, Senior Services

We also briefly discussed these department budgets. I'm doubtful you'll see the $1 million for open space get into the budget. We already have $1.1 million (plus the CNR fund) available for open space purchases.

The Economic Development budget related primarily to the sidewalks proposed for the north side of West Main from Grove Street to Rumberg or Waverly:I think that sidewalk is worth it. But I have no interest in spending money on pretty street lamps and decorations at the bottom of the hill right now.

Unrelated to the above mentioned departments, I also learned today that there are a number of reasons why the planned August 24 Capital Budget vote may be delayed until August 31. One of the reasons is IMO illegitimate: the turf. The Turf Investigation Committee is not yet done with their report. But there are other reasons. Regardless, a year ago I voiced my annoyance about the capital budget vote getting delayed. So I say it again. The uncertainty related to the date of the vote is annoying because I won't be in the country that day! And speaking of... if you have a few bucks and you are interested, you can donate to the Haitian Health Foundation by clicking here.

Anyway... the public hearing is on Wednesday, August 18 at 7:30pm in Town Hall. Hope you can make it!

Tim White

N2NEC: initial brainstorming session

Tonight we had the initial brainstorming session of the Neighbor-to-Nieghbor-Energy-Challenge (N2NEC). I previously described the N2NEC here.

Some general info about the N2NEC:

1) Cheshire is one of 14 towns that are participating;
2) It's a $4.2 million energy grant;
3) The 14 towns are aggregated in four clusters;
4) Bethany and Cheshire constitute one of the four clusters;
5) The idea is to get 10% of all households to participate;

6) Those households should reduce their total energy consumption by 20%;
7) Outreach efforts will be measured for success / failure;
8) The successful efforts will hopefully be rolled out across the state;
9) This program is largely a marketing effort intended to increase awareness of the already existing programs available via the CT Energy Efficiency Fund, the CT Clean Energy Fund and other orgs.

If you're interested to learn more, visit the N2NEC FB page here. Or, as we discussed during tonight's brainstorming session, please invite one of us to speak your civic organization. We're hoping to come speak to different groups in town to elaborate on how this program can be used to benefit your organization, such as with fundraising, and your household, such as with reduced energy bills.

Last, but not least, if you know anyone looking for a job... this program has some job postings on this page in the near future for recent college grads who are passionate about energy and the environment.

Tim White

Monday, August 16, 2010

School funding rules convoluted; timing unclear

As many of you are aware, there may be more school funding headed to Connecticut. But both:

1) the distribution method of the funds; and
2) the actual delivery of the funds


are in question.

The CTMirror's Keith Phaneuf and Robert Frahm explain that Governor Rell wants to use the money to fill the budget gap for ECS funding, but it seems that's prohibited.

Aside from the explanation on the funding distribution rules, I learned approximately how many teachers we have in CT from:

Mark Waxenberg, director of government relations for the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, representing about 42,000 classroom teachers.

I have no idea how this will progress. But even if Cheshire gets funding, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the the funds arrive after school starts. Thank you Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid!

Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: recap on several departments

Tuesday night at 7pm is the final scheduled review of the department requests for the proposed 2010 / 2011 capital budget. Then on Wednesday, August 18 @ 7:30pm you'll have your chance to speak at the public hearing. But in the meantime if you're interested in Tuesday's meeting, here's a recap of the proposal's that are to be discussed then:

Fire

Police

Water Pollution Control Department

Economic Development (including West Main)

Planning (including open space)

Senior Services

Tim White

Probate primary done; GOP must unite and move forward

Matt won the primary and has earned the GOP nomination for Probate Judge. I enthusiastically support Matt. But while I now offer him public support, I didn’t do that for either candidate before the primary.

Why?

In a nutshell, by the time I realized there was going to be a race I also realized it was going to be extremely ugly because both candidates had some supporters who were completely irrational and were going to bash and undermine everyone and everything that wasn’t 100% supportive of their cause. And as TWL regulars know, I’m fine with people pushing the envelope here and challenging things. But I also prefer when people stick to the issues and discuss the merits of those issues. My record on monitoring and deleting comments is imperfect, but I clearly wasn’t going to be able to maintain even a remote semblance of civility in this race. So I basically stayed out of it because I didn't have time to deal with the ugly comments that were IMO finding a whole new level of vitriol.

But before I decided to stay out of it, I did ask Matt to assure me that he would support the Republican victor. And that he did, in writing:So I post this here because I want the Republican Party of the 18th Probate District to see that although Matt challenged the party’s endorsed candidate, he was always focused on winning the seat from the incumbent. I believe it’s important that we all know that because defeating the incumbent is important and will require a unified party.

I hope the party can move beyond the primary, join together and work toward victory in November. Go Matt!

I also applaud the GOP Chairman, Adam Grippo, for staying out of the race. I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to help bring the party back together for a strong victory in November!

Tim White

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: economic development

The economic development section of the proposed capital budget includes West Main Street improvements. This is the final portion of the budget:Here's a map of the section of West Main Street being improved. Personally, I think there's real value in adding sidewalks from Rumberg to the top and bottom of West Main (on the north side of the road). But I'm not convinced that the anything beyond basic sidewalks is worth all the government spending at this point.Tim White

Kathy Brown fundraiser at Senor Poncho's

Kathy Brown is running for State Representative in the 89th district. I caught up with her today at Senor Poncho's on the Cheshire / Prospect line.

And here are some cookies that her son's wife made for her:Tim White

Saturday, August 14, 2010

School funding coming to CT

As I mentioned a week ago, Obama / Pelosi / Ried moved on additional money for teachers for this year's budget. And yesterday I got word that the money is moving to Governor Rell.

I understand she has a choice to make for distribution of the funds. She can use one of two formulae:

1) ECS -- Education Cost Sharing; or
2) Title I


While Cheshire receives about $8,000,000 / year in ECS funding and $150,000 / year in Title I money, the more relevant question is the percentage of money received by Cheshire from either of those two funds.

Furthermore, I understand the total funding directed to Connecticut will be $110 million... out of $26 billion bill. If you assume CTs population is approximately 1% of the nation's population (3.6 million out of 300 million), then CT would get a proportionate share of $260 million... not $110 million. So yet again, this funding doesn't make much sense... even if you accept the notion that Nancy Pelosi did not increase the national debt with this increased spending, as she reduced spending elsewhere... including cutting food stamps.

Not sure how this will progress. But I'm going to Haiti to volunteer* for a few days starting on August 29 and I'm not skipping that for a vote because Speaker Pelosi can't get her act together. I'm also not sure how the Superintendent will address this, if the funding even gets to him in the near future. How exactly is he going to get teachers ready to teach in the next two weeks? Speaker Pelosi looks ridiculous.

Tim White

* If you have a few extra dollars, you can donate to the Haitian Health Foundation here.

Capital Budget '10/11: planning, incl. open space

The TMs proposed capital budget includes $1,000,000 for open space. I think the open space fund already includes nearly $2,000,000. So I'm doubtful this will be sent to referendum this year.The open space discussion will occur at the next Council meeting on Tuesday August 17 @ 7pm in Town Hall. Residents can probably ask questions that night. But questions can definitely be asked the following night on Wednesday at the public hearing.

Tim White

Rail trail construction from Southington to Cheshire

The NHRs Luther Turmelle wrote about the DOTs recent approval allowing Cheshire to transfer the use of $320,000 of grant money from the linear trail's proposed Cornwall / West Main section to any other proposed section between West Main and the Southington line.

Luther reports:

Republican Town Councilman David Schrumm, who chairs the budget committee, said this week that he believes there is a consensus among members of the governing body to develop the next portion of the trail from West Main Street to Jarvis Street.

Count me out. And with regard to describing the West Main / Jarvis section as "economic development," I repeat what I said in 2005: It's not economic development. It's a quality of life issue.

Do you prefer lower property taxes and fewer services? Or higher property taxes and more services, such as more miles of linear trail? I prefer lower property taxes.

But if the Budget Chairman insists on moving forward with the linear trail in the near future, I think it would make more sense to start at the Southington line and head south. As such, I visited Southington's rail trail as their construction work approaches Cheshire. Here's a short vid:Here are some fuzzy pix of where the trail apparently reaches the town line:

Here are a couple pix of the rail trail bridge that crosses the Meriden / Waterbury Turnpike:And here is an east-facing view of Route 322 from the bridge:And then back in Cheshire, I took a few shots of the railroad bridge that crosses I-691 in Southington line / West Johnson section of the railbed:And since I was only a kid -- living in the south end of town and "graduating" from Dodd in 1986 -- I didn't pay much attention to this stuff back then and I'm guessing that 1986 is the year that all three bridges (Peck, Dickerman & the railroad bridge) were built to bypass 691:My only memory from that time was that my mom no longer got to Meriden Square exclusively by way of South Meriden Road. The highway gave a second option to go shopping! And I knew that option was available by the time I was in college, but not when I was a kid. So I'm assuming the highway and bridges were all built around 1986.

Any thoughts on extending the rail trail south from Southington? How about revisiting the million dollar mile? I'm pretty sure the voters already spoke on that idea.

Frankly, I don't see the Council moving forward with any section of the rail trail in the foreseeable future. But who knows?

Tim White

P.S. Thanks to JM for the head's up on Southington's progress.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: senior services

The TMs proposed capital budget for senior services doesn't include anything for the next two years:Tim White

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: referenda history & trends

Last week I offered this compilation of all referenda since 2002. But I didn't discuss any trend lines. And I did find a couple of interesting trend lines.

Notice how support for "roads" has decreased from 67% to 54% over the past few years?

I also find it interesting that "school improvements" consistently pass with 57% support... but "school energy improvements" have lost support, dropping from 67% in 2006 to 53% in 2009.With regard to roads, my only thought for decreased support is the economy... and that roads don't need to be repaired immediately... as compared to, perhaps, a leaky school roof which probably has a higher priority. I know I'm more interested in fixing a leak in my roof than in repaving my driveway.

With regard to school energy improvements, the 67% support was in November 2006. We had $4 gasoline during the summer of 2006. Perhaps energy improvements were a higher priority at that time?... yet at the same time, school improvements -- such as leaky roofs -- still need to be addressed.

I don't think there were any other similar referenda items with at least three data points to form any statistically significant trendlines.

Your thoughts?

Tim White

Note: The upper referenda are related to the PW dept. The lower referenda are all related to schools.

Capital Budget '10/11: police, emergency ops

The Council will be discussing the TMs proposed capital budget for police and other emergency services on Tuesday, August 17 @ 7pm in Town Hall. The TM eliminated a proposed additional emergency operations center already, but I still figured I should include it here:Also on the agenda that evening is the police. Routine replacement of the PDs fleet obviously needs to continue. I do have one concern about this though. The Council tries to abide by the rule of thumb that capital items should cost more than $110,000 and have a life expectancy of five years or more. I think that makes sense because it helps us avoid shifting operating budget expenses into the capital budget. And as a taxpayer, that's one thing that irks me -- when I see Washington and Hartford bonding our operating budget. Yet if the Town is capitalizing items that cost relatively small dollars and / or have short lives... are we doing the same?

That may not be happening in Cheshire. I'm not sure at this point because we have the capital non-recurring fund (CNR) which is part of the operating budget. In other words... if the police cars are purchased from the CNR account, then they're not being purchased with bonded money. And that's appropriate IMO. So we'll have to see where this goes. It's just a philosophical viewpoint I have and it's not necessarily a big deal right now. But it is a slippery slope.

And here's the PDs capital budget proposal:
Tim White

Capital Budget '10/11: schools discussion

The Council met with the schools tonight to discuss their proposed capital budget. There was little discussion about the townwide infrastructure and energy RFP, as well as the turf.* But I think the discussion on code compliance issues is worth mentioning.

Council Chair Slocum suggested that the state's "required voluntary corrective action plan" may need a "revolt." I mean... $440,000 for an elevator to the football field press box?! These state & federal mandates are out of control and need to be revisited in a thoughtful manner by reasonable people... not by the current crop of regulators / legislators who are clearly living in some alternate universe. Kinda makes me wish I was running for office this year. And FWIW, at least on the "voluntarily required" elevator there was bipartisan and staff sympathy for Tim's suggestion... which clearly demonstrates how ridiculous some of these mandates are.

Tim White

* The turf is to be discussed by the Council and BOE next week after the Turf Investigation Committee concludes it's work. It was explained that the Turf Committee and the Turf Investigation Committee are two different bodies. And come to think of it, I did make one comment / request on the turf. I stated that I view the turf replacement costs as a long-term liability and that I'm not particularly favorable to any additional long-term liabilities right now. So I requested that the TIC bring forward its plan to avoid any future property tax dollar expenditures for replacing the turf.

Jalowiec headlines the MRJ

In case you missed it, Matt Jalowiec's significant primary victory in the Probate Judge race has been forever enshrined at the Newseum. And if you wanna read the article, click here for Mary Ellen Godin's piece. Cute pic of the obviously, very happy couple. I support Matt and wish him the best of luck in November.

And despite the divisive Cheshire primary, I remain focused on ousting the incumbent. Just read what the Courant's Rick Green is saying about Judge Bryan Meccariello in his week old column entitled:

A Disturbing Picture Of Southington Probate Court

Tim White

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: fire

Here's the overview of the TMs proposed 2010 / 2011 capital budget for the Fire Department:The first big item here is $425,000 for breathing apparatus. I presume this will go to referendum and pass easily.Next up is the installation of water mains. As I've noted before, water mains are important public safety tools. But they have the additional "land development" factor that needs to be considered. That is, both city water and sewers allow for higher density development. So when water mains get installed the Council needs to be aware of where the water lines are being placed in relation to undeveloped land. That's not to say development is bad. It's simply that water mains (and sewers) in undeveloped areas have many consequences that should be considered.As for the north end firehouse... until America expunges itself of the failed Bush / Obama economic policies of Printing Presses and Borrowing from China... I don't expect to see the economy turnaround. I'm not holding my breath. So I'm guessing the proposed Northend Development is in the fast track to nowhere... and so is the fire station.
In our five years together on the Council, David Schrumm has stated numerous times that our aerial truck was a replacement for this snorkel truck... but that when we got our new aeriel in the mid-90s, the snorkel never got retired. I'm not sure what the story is. But maybe before this meeting happens, someone will get the minutes to the budget committee capital budget meeting when this purchase was discussed.The meeting with the FD is next Tuesday, August 17 at 7pm.

Tim White

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Primary Day 2010

Lots of offices were up for grabs today. Here's just a few of the signs:After tonight's Council meeting adjourned, Tim Slocum, Jimmy Sima and I stayed around to see the Cheshire results for the Primary Election. Here's a pic of the votes being tallied:And here's a short vid of our Registrar's counting the votes:Unfortunately, by 10pm the 4th District still hadn't reported. So I didn't get the total vote counts. Nonetheless, I'm confident the trends were representative of the total results for Cheshire. This is who was clearly winning:

On the GOP side:

Governor -- Tom Foley
Lt. Governor -- Lisa Wilson-Foley
Senate -- Linda McMahon
Congress -- Sam Caligiuri
Attorney General -- Martha Dean
Probate Judge -- Matt Jalowiec


On the Dem side:

Governor -- Dan Malloy
Lt. Governor -- Nancy Wyman
Secretary of the State -- Denise Merrill
Comptroller -- Kevin Lembo


Total registered voters in the two parties:

Republicans -- 4300
Democrats -- 4500

And based on the voter turnout in the rest of Cheshire, I'm guessing that about 1650 Rs and 1350 Dems voted. That's about 38% turnout for Rs and 30% turnout for Dems. I'm guessing that Rs turned out for two reasons:

1) more enthusiasm; and
2) Linda's $20 million.


As for whether that's a high or low turnout... my view is that it's low for a strong democracy, but high for reality. I expected a 20% to 25% turnout among affiliated voters. So I think it's pretty good compared to my expectations.

But ignoring for a moment the higher profile races that are getting covered by the MSM tonight and tomorrow, I understand that Matt Jalowiec won both Cheshire and Southington by 2 to 1 margins. I congratulate Matt on his victory! A 2:1 margin is impressive.

After leaving Town Hall, I visited Sam Caligiuri's Victory Party! Here's a clip of him entering victoriously (turn down the volume):Here's a vid of his very magnanimous victory speech:Here's a pic of him answering questions from reporters after his victory speech:And here's a short vid of Sam Caligiuri's Campaign Manager, Greg Cogswell, talking next steps:And that's it for tonight. I think I'm gonna go to bed.

Tim White

Monday, August 09, 2010

I'm going to volunteer in Haiti

We all know what happened in Haiti seven months ago. And regulars here probably know that I wanted to help when it happened... and still want to help. But figuring out a productive way of helping in either a crisis zone or post-crisis zone isn't particularly easy. Regardless, my MBTI is INFJ. And we are a determined lot. So where there's a will there's a way! And Port-au-Prince bound I am...

On August 29th, I'm headed to Haiti with a CT-based non-profit (the Haitian Health Foundation). I'm hoping to raise some money to defray the cost. Anyone care to help? $25? Or maybe $100 for you guys and gals who are rich? Or ten bucks from the not-so-wealthy folks like me?! I hope some of you can donate, if you have the means.

For those of you who follow this stuff, HHF is a top-rated charity* as it puts more than $0.90 on the dollar back into services... and that's a really good record of minimizing overhead and delivering for those in need. So please share this with your friends and click here to donate securely!** My goal is $1,000 by August 29th.

And if you're interested in their post-earthquake work, they're not helping exclusively with healthcare. Here's a photo of a Happy Home that they've erected to provide a number of benefits not afforded by the less sturdy house in the picture.Tim White

* Unless it's a small, local charity, I always look up an NGO on one of the Ratings Agencies for Charities before I donate.
** I logged on through Facebook. If you click on the website, I'm not sure how it'll work if you're not logged onto FB... though I'm confident you'll still be able to donate.