Clock planned as tribute to late town historian

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 31, 2007

NORTH BRANFORD – Former town Historian Janet Gregan rarely left a meeting at Town Hall without saying that “every town needs a town clock,” friend and Totoket Historical Society President Grace Marx said.

Now, Marx and other historical society members are working to fulfill that wish and honor Gregan, who died in October at age 70. The society wants to install a decorative clock in front of Town Hall, which sits on Route 80 at the intersection with Route 22.

“This is one thing she had always wanted,” Marx said. “We wanted to do something special because she was a very special person.”

Gregan had been town historian for more than a decade, Marx said, and was also the secretary and past president of the Totoket Historical Society. Marx said the Historical Society received several donations as a memorial for Gregan after her death, and members are continuing to raise money for the project before choosing a design.

“I would love a three-faced clock so you can see it all around, but it depends how much we can raise,” Marx said, estimating that the clock will cost $5,000 to $10,000.

Marx and Gregan wrote two books on North Branford history together.

“She was really a wonderful, wonderful person, and her knowledge was just superb,” Marx said. “I always called her the backbone of the Historical Society.”

Gregan’s husband, Bob Gregan, said that the couple moved to North Branford in the mid-1960s. They met when both attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. They lived in the Northford section and Janet Gregan worked part-time in the school district after their three children were born.

“I think it’s just an absolutely marvelous tribute and all of my children are just overwhelmed and so are our friends,” Bob Gregan said. “She loved history…(and) she thought she could contribute to the town, and that she did in many, many different ways.”

Gregan said that his wife was also the historian for the North Branford Congregational Church, of which they were members, and “she loved the town and she loved the people in the town.”

He added that he does not remember Janet Gregan expressing an interest in a town clock, but the idea fits her personality.

“My wife always liked to go to meetings early and always to be on time and always early, and she always called me ’10 Minutes Bob’ because I was behind time,” he said.

Marx said she hopes Historical Society members will settle on a design in the next few months and that it will be possible to install the clock in the spring. Town Manager Karl Kilduff said that he has spoken with Town Councilors about the project and they have expressed support for the idea. Once the Historical Society chooses a vendor and design, the town would ask for a formal presentation to the Town Council.

“It would be a nice addition to the community and certainly keep the Town Hall as an integral focal point on Route 80,” Kilduff said. “Certainly a nice amenity.”

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Schools resume extended travel

Students pack for U.K., Caribbean, as terrorism fears diminish

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 30, 2007

The trip that some North Branford High School students will take this spring sounds like many people’s dream British vacation: walking tours of London, a visit to Warwick Castle, seeing Shakespeare’s birthplace and exploring Edinburgh.

The excursion, with a price tag of almost $2,150 per student, goes beyond the usual definition of a school field trip. The group will spend 10 days in England and Scotland during the district’s April vacation.

Superintendent of Schools Robert K. Wolfe said the trip, which the Board of Education approved Thursday, is the first overseas travel the district has planned since Sept. 11, 2001.

While some school systems have long held annual European trips, many of them drastically cut down on the practice after the terrorist attacks.

East Haven’s Board of Education recently decided to stop sanctioning overseas trips for liability reasons, Assistant Superintendent Arthur Martorella said. The board was worried about the liability for the school district if any students were hurt on a trip.

“A trip was proposed, it was a trip to Italy, and it was during the April vacation week, and one of the board members said, ‘If we sanction this, does that mean we’re responsible?'” Martorella said. “The answer is yes.”

Since the change of policy, Martorella said, students and teachers have continued to organize overseas trips, but they no longer receive approval from the school board. The proposed trip to Italy went off as planned, but “it just wasn’t board sanctioned.”

Martorella added that the district has seen a decline in the number of multi-day field trips since 9/11. He was formerly the principal of Joseph Melillo Middle School, which canceled its annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., as a result of the attacks and has not held one since then.

“I think it’s a condition of the world now,” he said. “I know school systems still sponsor those trips – we don’t do it here though.”

The New Haven Public Schools also cut back on long field trips after 9/11, spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo said. Previously, students and faculty took “pretty regular trips overseas,” she said, but in the past six years the number has dropped.

“I wouldn’t call it a policy – it’s been more of a practice in the last few years,” Sullivan- DeCarlo said. “I think probably most school systems really put the kibosh on it right after 9/11 and then eventually loosened up. I know that’s what happened with us.”

This year, she added, students went to Canada and the Caribbean, but there were no European trips.

Wolfe, the superintendent in North Branford, said the number of field trips declined after Sept. 11, but has been increasing again.

“Prior to 9/11 there were more trips proposed out of the country – there was always sort of a Spanish club and an Italian club trip – and beginning with 9/11 that was sort of decreased considerably,” he said. “It’s sort of slowly coming back.”

This semester, North Bran-ford’s Board of Education has approved eight out-of-state trips for middle-and high-school students, including the one to the United Kingdom. Three of them were one-day trips to New York or Boston. Wolfe said that one-day field trips are often requirements as part of the curriculum.

At Board of Education meetings since September, some board members have raised concerns about the trips over issues such as student supervision, the educational value and the interaction between students and parents who might choose to go on the trip as well. Wolfe said the board approved the United Kingdom trip on the condition that it includes two chaperones for the 10 students, although the district’s usual policy is a ratio of one chaperone for every 10 children.

Earlier this year, the board approved a five-day trip to the Grand Canyon for seventh-and eighth-grade students. Some members initially expressed doubts about the trip and put off making a decision on it for a month.

The trip’s itinerary says that the students will spend one day at the Grand Canyon sightseeing and hiking, a day floating on the Colorado River and a day in Las Vegas, among other activities.

Nate Bowers, the seventh-grade science teacher in charge of the trip, wrote in a request to the board that it “exposes middle school students to the wonders of geology, anthropology and evolution.”

Bowers said the class has been studying topics such as plate tectonics and erosion, which will be on display in the Grand Canyon. Even though the trip includes time for shopping and sightseeing in Las Vegas, Bowers estimated that “easily 80 to 85 percent of the time … will be spent doing educationally valuable things.”

“Nontraditional learning settings are sometimes where some of the best and most complete learning takes place,” he said. “I think back to my education – it was those times that were different from the classroom that seemed to make the most impact on my learning. I think this trip and other trips like it are going to be good ways for that to occur.”

Wolfe said that he and the school board have made an effort to tie field trips into the curriculum more closely. He added that he has some concerns about overseas field trips, but “ultimately the board has to make that decision and then parents have to make the individual decisions regarding their children.”

“All the school rules apply, whether it be no drinking or no smoking, all those school rules apply,” he said. “The students on a trip are really in an external classroom, no different. It’s a classroom without walls.”

Guilford weighs RTM form of government

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 27, 2007

GUILFORD – A final public hearing on proposals to revise the town charter drew only a handful of people Wednesday night, but proponents say they hope the changes will result in greater participation in town government.

The biggest change the Charter Revision Commission has proposed is a move to a representative town meeting form of government.

Currently, Guilford holds periodic town meetings – at which any registered voter or taxpayer over the age of 18 can cast a vote – to decide issues such as bonding and the town budget. The commission is proposing a system where residents would elect 25 representatives to serve two-year terms each.

Based on the commission’s proposals, each of Guilford’s five voting districts would elect five representatives and they would not have any party affiliation. One resident who spoke at the public hearing said he agreed with that concept.

“I don’t want it to be a strongly two-party system that the representatives are going to come from,” Joe Newton said.

Frederick Trotta, chairman of the Charter Revision Commission, said that the proposal includes a requirement that anyone interested in running for the representative town meeting obtain 50 signatures from registered voters in his or her district.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said he agrees with that plan, but thinks there might be room for the involvement of the Democratic and Republican town committees as well.

“For a Democrat or Republican, you (could) go the extra step and become the endorsed candidate for your party,” Balestracci said. “I don’t think some of us are ready to set aside the town committees’ role in this process.”

Doug Newman, another resident, said he thinks the Charter Revision Commission should have considered amending the charter to make the Board of Education nonpartisan.

The charter review has been in the works for almost 18 months. Other recommendations include the creation of a public works commission, the elimination of the office of town treasurer and a move to four-year terms for the Board of Selectmen from the current two-year terms.

The charter recommendations will eventually be presented to residents for a referendum. Balestracci said that, after the close of Wednesday’s public hearing, the Board of Selectmen has 15 days to make recommendations to the Charter Revision Commission. After that, the commission has 30 days to present its final proposals back to the Board of Selectmen.

“We’re going to have a major educational project in front of us to educate the voters about the enormity of the change, if in fact we recommend going to an RTM,” Balestracci said. “It is a major step.”

No. Branford government starts period of transition

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 26, 2007

NORTH BRANFORD – Town Manager Karl Kilduff is wrapping up his final weeks on the job and preparing the town government for a transition period that could last several months.

Kilduff announced in November that he had accepted a job in Darien as the town administrator. His last day in North Branford will be Jan. 4.

The Town Council recently appointed Michael Paulhus, the former first selectman of Windham, as the interim town manager. Kilduff said that a new, long-term town manager may not be in place until April or May.

The deadline to apply for the position is Thursday, and the town has already received about a dozen applications. The Town Council could begin conducting interviews in the early part of the year.

Kilduff said he has already delegated some of the usual town manager responsibilities to town department heads. For example, Town Engineer Kurt Weiss will oversee work on a sewer agreement with Branford, North Haven and New Haven.

“The goal is that everything that’s in process does not lose time and can continue to move forward,” Kilduff said. He added that Paulhus has not applied for the permanent position and has indicated that he does not plan to do so.

Paulhus’ pay will be based on a $90,000 a year salary, although he will probably only work for a few months, Kilduff said. The town has advertised the full-time town manager position for a salary range of $100,000 to $130,000 a year.

One of the interim town manager’s main responsibilities will be to lead the budget process, which begins in January. He will also work on the beginning of collective bargaining with the town’s four unions, Kilduff said.

“Some of the other items in town … have been wrapped up or are in such a process that it only requires a slight guidance coming out of the interim manager,” he said, citing the Smith Library construction project as one in which the town manager will not play as active a role.

For the short term, Kilduff will continue to work with the town as a consultant when needed. He has said in the past that he will also remain a North Branford resident.

“The council has agreed to keep me involved on a consultancy basis to provide assistance as appropriate and as necessary,” he said, “so that things continue to make progress and the institutional memory of what I’ve collected since I’ve been here is not necessarily lost.”

Green may soon have ice rink

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
December 24, 2007

GUILFORD – The traditional downtown Green could soon play host to one of New England’s traditional winter pastimes: outdoor ice skating.

The Board of Selectmen this week approved the installation of a temporary ice rink on the northeast corner of the Green.

Parks and Recreation Department officials had hoped to set up the rink by the end of last week, but the layer of icy snow on the Green delayed the process.

The rink measures 50-feet-by- 100 feet, and will be able to accommodate about 30 to 40 skaters, Director of Parks and Recreation Rick Maynard said.

“There’s so much crusty snow right now, I think we’ve got to get underneath that onto the grass to do it,” Maynard said. “It’s very important the rink has to be very level.”

The skating area will consist of a plastic lining bordered by a rectangular frame that installers will fill with water and allow to freeze.

Guilford has two other skating areas that open based on winter weather conditions – at Bittner Park and Mill Pond – but Maynard said the temporary rink will be a good option for families.

“I think it’s going to be something that will be very attractive to parents with real little kids,” he said, adding that hockey playing will not be allowed.”

The town has owned the portable rink for about two years, Maynard said, but the weather has not been cold enough at this point in the season to set it up in the past. The Guilford Savings Bank bought the rink in 2005 and donated it to the town, Senior Branch Manager Renee Pallenberg said.

The bank purchased the rink as part of its 130th anniversary celebration, Pallenberg said. But because that year saw an unusually warm winter, “we decided against putting in a swimming hole and donated the rink to the town for their future use.”

Maynard said that the Bittner Park skating area may open soon, as soon as there is a base of 3 inches of ice. Mill Pond needs 5-to-6 inches of ice to open.

The Parks and Recreation Department is also planning to purchase a small ice resurfacing machine to keep the ice smooth.

3 Madison teens arrested in melee

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Dec. 21, 2007

NORTH BRANFORD — A shouting match involving about 120 attendees at a hockey game between Daniel Hand and Hamden high schools led to the arrest of three Madison teenagers Wednesday night, according to police.

Authorities said they threw about 25 people out of the game after the taunting and swearing at the Northford Ice Pavilion game escalated into a shoving fight between a few fans. Vincent Crisco, 18, and two 17-year-olds, all from Madison, were arrested, police said.

Crisco was charged with breach of peace, one of the juveniles was charged with breach of peace and interfering with or resisting arrest, and the third teen was charged with first-degree criminal trespass after he refused to leave the hockey rink, according to police. The 17-year-olds’ names were not released because of their age.

The fight occurred between fans in the stands arguing over the hockey game, Deputy Police Chief Michael Doody said Thursday. About 300 people were in attendance at the game, which Hamden won 4-0.

North Branford police called in North Haven officers because of the number of people involved in the fracas. One North Branford officer was hit in the back with a bottle, Doody said.

The Northford Ice Pavilion has been the site of several other police incidents involving hockey fans, players and coaches. In March, six people were arrested after a fight outside the facility. Two officials at a January game for 11- to 13-year-olds were also arrested after a brawl.

The police department in February announced a zero-tolerance policy for poor behavior at the rink, saying it would arrest people for crimes such as creating a public disturbance rather than just asking them to leave the building.

“Once in a while, you’ll get maybe one or two people you have to throw out, but (at the game this Wednesday) the Madison fans just got out of control,” Doody said.

Crisco and the two juveniles were released on a promise to appear Jan. 2 in Superior Court in New Haven.

70 towns get cash in CRRA suit

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Dec. 20, 2007

The leaders of 11 area towns are receiving checks totaling nearly $2.6 million following a judge’s ruling to release $27 million to the 70 towns suing the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

Among those receiving the largest checks in Greater New Haven are Old Saybrook, with $584,995; Guilford, $334,175; and Clinton, $348,802. The checks were mailed Tuesday.

“It’s been a long, hard, complicated legal battle, but I’m really pleased that we’ve reached this point and that we get some redress,” Guilford First Selectman Carl Balestracci said. “The money is very important, but the other part of it that I feel is that justice is being done here.”

The 70 municipalities sued CRRA four years ago over a loan the trash authority made to energy company Enron. After Enron went bankrupt, the towns’ attorneys argued, CRRA raised the towns’ trash dumping fees to make up for the lost money.

In June, Superior Court Judge Dennis Eveleigh in Waterbury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered CRRA to pay them $36 million. After a series of motions from CRRA to stay the distribution of the money, the funds were sent out this week, minus $9 million for lawyers’ fees.

“This (money) represents just the increase that our taxpayers have had to pay since the situation,” Balestracci said.

Michael Pace, first selectman in Old Saybrook and chairman of CRRA, said the authority would have stabilized or lowered rates and eventually reimbursed the towns. CRRA’s trash disposal agreement with the municipalities lasts until 2012.

“The towns would have gotten 100 percent of their dollars,” Pace said. “Now, with this court case, it’s less whatever their attorneys’ fees were.”

Pace said that CRRA is continuing to appeal Eveleigh’s decision for the plaintiffs, primarily on the basis of designating the municipalities as part of a class-action suit. Pace said he will put Old Saybrook’s check in a separate account until the final resolution of the suit.

Balestracci said Guilford’s Board of Finance will determine how the money will be distributed among town departments.

David Golub, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the breakup of the $27 million was based on the tonnages of garbage that each town delivers to CRRA. The amounts range from $23,713 for Cornwall to nearly $3.6 million for Hartford.

“The appeal is still pending, and technically (CRRA) could win the appeal and the towns could have to give the money back, but we think that Judge Eveleigh wrote a very strong opinion,” Golub said.

The other towns in Greater New Haven that received checks are: Chester, $60,704; Deep River, $103,339; Essex, $159,118; Killingworth, $84,092; Madison, $278,789; North Branford, $261,878; Oxford, $156,580; and Westbrook, $184,065.