Bravo! The Sherman Playhouse Renovators Deserve a Standing Ovation

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Story and Photo by Alicia Sakal

March 6 commemorates the official completion date for the much anticipated round of renovations at The Sherman Playhouse. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, especially with The Sherman Playhouse’s 2015 season starting up on the opening night of April 10 with the classic onstage sci-fi thriller, “1984”.

After walking into the newly renovated areas with Robin Frome, President of The Sherman Playhouse and project liaison, it’s easy to see why the theater community and many of their local supporters are enthusiastic about all of the latest improvements and additions made to this town-owned property.

The playhouse tour with Mr. Frome began by entering the foyer, which was completely rebuilt and remodeled. The “ladies and gents” rooms, last renovated in 1960 / 1961, were the next stops. Not only do they look classy with many dramatic improvements made, but the two bathrooms are now also completely up to code.

As for The Green Room that offers a bar and congregation area for many theatergoers to socialize in, this section was repainted and touched up. Patrons will have more of a seating / waiting area, and the familiar mural of The Sherman Theater on the barn doors in this room was preserved.

In addition, “Hawley Construction from Danbury took half of the theater office away so the cast could finally have a bathroom of their own, which is a novelty in theaters, and the office also has new walls,” Mr. Frome pointed out.

A “slop sink” was another new amenity. “This was on the theater’s wish list for over 80 years and it will be extremely helpful when painting the sets,” he said. Another enhancement was new tile flooring in all of the newly renovated areas. The washer / dryer hookup with a new laundry room, along with a theater storage closet, are also brand new.

As for decorating these spaces, this is a work in progress. Mr. Frome shared some of the “history on the walls” of the theater. He is starting to rehang all kinds of theater memorabilia saved over the better part of the century, and it is quite an impressive and extensive collection for theater enthusiasts to appreciate.

A Collaborative Effort

While sitting down with Mr. Frome and First Selectman Clay Cope after the theater tour, they discussed how this latest renovation came about and shared in more detail how the Theater and the Town worked seamlessly together to make this renovation project happen.

Mr. Frome was the theater’s main go-to person for this renovation because he is also responsible for the theater building. He recalled how “the actual project began last February of 2014. This is when First Selectman Cope got the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) Grant. There were a lot of things going on at the time like changing the plans, going back and forth between the State and the Town for compliancy, etc.”

He said “what’s great is that we got the Town of Sherman behind this renovation project. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened. Clay was very instrumental. Projects like these give me such a good feeling about what the Town will do for us. It’s extremely gratifying. For this whole project, we worked well as a team.”

Al Chiappetta, The Sherman Playhouse’s Vice President and Technical Director, was also involved. Mr. Frome said “he made it possible for the plumbing to happen and was the facilitator with the construction company.”

Mr. Frome shared “we had to get a niche for the construction company we really liked and chose Hawley Construction. When the place was gutted, we worked around it, and the area really looked like the catacombs. The actors were extremely malleable and patient during the renovation. The Town, too, was very accommodating. The opening night party for “It’s a Wonderful Life” was in the Town Hall.”

“The renovation went beyond my expectations; from the tile flooring throughout, down to the smallest details that were included, like the electric towel dispensers. I am amazed that everything came out so well. Hawley Construction was great to work with. Everything was ‘of course’ and not ‘we’ll see’ with them. They were a pleasure to work with as well.”

I can’t wait to celebrate in style at our opening night party, which we will also celebrate the opening of our new season and our renovations,” he said with enthusiasm.

Project Funding

First Selectman Cope recalled how he noticed in 2012 the conditions of the building and knew that “Sherman needed to maintain the buildings we own rather than building new projects.” This project that he initiated “started out as a code issue because of the plumbing and American Disabilities Act (ADA) non-compliancy, and that’s why I thought it needed attention. This project seemed to take forever to get the funding and it was the longest planning project I was ever involved with. Former Sherman Playhouse President, John Taylor, was also involved in the early stages of this renovation project.”

The Grand Total for this latest renovation project was $90,000 and it will be 100% paid for by two different STEAP Grants once the State makes the final payment. The Board of Selectmen (BoS) was unanimous with supporting this project.

First Selectman Cope said “originally, the STEAP Grant awarded was for $69,000. I wrote the grant application with estimates from a local contractor and I fought for the money. When it went to bid, the lowest qualifying bid came in higher at $79,000.”

“The extra costs for the project added up to a total of $21,000 and it was covered by a previous STEAP Grant from the playhouse windows project that came in under budget. First Selectman Andrea O’Connor should get credit for writing this windows project because she secured the funding. I only supervised the installation of this earlier windows renovation project,” he added.

Regarding these residual funds, First Selectman Cope said he received permission from the State, the Office of Policy Management who administers grants, to apply the remaining unused funds from the windows project. $10,000 paid for what the new STEAP Grant did not cover and $11,000 paid for the Change Orders for this latest renovation project. When asked “what did the Change Orders include?” He gave examples like replacing the baseboard heaters, changing the door handles, extra tiling for The Green Room floor, and adding a slop sink, which expanded the project scope.

Future Wish List

When asked “what would you like to see improved for the next phase of theater renovations?” Mr. Frome said “we’d like to see new cushions for the seating and more electrical power capacity for stage lighting. Basically, we will need more power to enhance our capabilities for more technically demanding performances in our future productions.”

After walking in a mess of mud after “The Great Thaw” from winter, First Selectman Cope shared how he believes the next improvement project for the theater should be to have the theater road paved. “This would replace the existing dirt and gravel road that gets muddy and messy every time it rains or snows. People track in all of this dirt and grime into both the theater and the new Emergency Services Facility (ESF) because the buildings share the road,” he said.

In a separate dialogue with Betsy Scholze, Treasurer of The Sherman Playhouse and granddaughter of the theater’s founders, she said “yes, making the pews more comfortable with new cushions” is top on her list for the next theater improvement. Ms. Scholze is appreciative and added “we all are thrilled that this grant finally came to fruition, a much needed upgrade.”

This article originally appeared in the April 1st Edition of the Citizen News and is featured on the Sherman Players website: Bravo! The Sherman Playhouse Renovators Deserve a Standing Ovation

Proposed Septic Walkover Ordinance and Religious and Secular Displays on Town Property Moving Ahead at the BoS Meeting

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By Alicia Sakal

Printed in the April 1st Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

SHERMAN – At the monthly Board of Selectmen (BoS) Meeting last week, the proposed ordinance for the septic tank visual inspection / walkover program gained momentum. The possibility of a newly proposed town ordinance that will allow for temporary religious and secular displays and symbols on town-owned property also received consideration.

In addition, there was a call-to-action from the BoS for Sherman residents to fill vacancies on several boards and commissions. Plus, residents in Southern Sherman without cellphone service will soon have the opportunity to attend a Special Meeting that’s “in the works” with the BoS.

Proposed Septic Tank Visual Inspection / Walkover Program and Ordinance:

At the beginning of the BoS meeting, First Selectman Clay Cope stated “we received dozens of letters of support for the septic walkover program.”

Resident, advocate, and Lake Advisory Committee Waterfront Delegate, Scott Randall, reiterated key points from the two public forums and why residents should support the proposed septic tank walkover program and ordinance. He also provided the BoS with hardcopies of the proposed changes to the proposed ordinance, a list of all the people involved in the well-researched Action Plan for Preserving Candlewood Lake report, and a supplement to this report – Recommendations for Sherman, Connecticut.

After Mr. Randall spoke, residents Doug Cushnie and Monte Clark also showed support and said why they are in favor of this proposed ordinance and program.

The BoS unanimously agreed to have the revised draft ordinance go to Town Meeting before going to referendum. The reason being, as Selectman Bob Ostrosky articulated, the changes were significant enough to warrant discussing them in more detail.

In a follow up conversation, First Selectman Cope said this proposed ordinance will be part of the Town Meeting’s agenda on Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the Emergency Services Facility (ESF). This proposed ordinance will also be included on the referendum. The Budget Referendum will be on Saturday, May 2. The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the ESF.

Religious and Secular Displays on Town Property:

The preliminary discussion about a proposed town ordinance possibility became a New Business agenda item at this BoS meeting.

First Selectman Cope said he looked into the Walpole, Massachusetts ordinance that resident Gary Albert shared, which allows for temporary religious displays on public property. First Selectman Cope also said he reached out to The Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WCCOG) members from all 18 towns to see what they think and to ask them if they can share any information and research on this topic. Next, he will reach out to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) for ordinance information.

Selectman Andrea O’Connor stated how she thinks the Town attorney gave all of them the wrong advice and she has been researching, and will continue to research, Supreme Court decisions on this matter.

Selectman Ostrosky added how passionate this subject is due to the recent non-illumination of the cross at Happy Acres Farm, which is now on town-owned property. They agreed to research this more and will keep it active on the agenda.

Related to this, Treasurer Eric Holub asked the BoS if they asked the farmers about their preference for the cross being illuminated on the silo this year. The reason being, if they want it up, then it’s an easy solution. First Selectman Cope said “I asked them to consider it.” Mr. Holub brought up another question: If they do not want it up then can the Town force them to put it up if there is an ordinance?

A New Appointment

For the Commission on Aging, the BoS appointed Ed Hayes to a three-year term.

A Resignation

Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Dale Baird, resigned and First Selectman Cope read her resignation letter aloud. Ms. Baird will be leaving the area to start a new job. She enjoyed serving and hopes to return to Sherman in a few years once she retires.

Board and Commission Vacancies

The BoS discussed in detail the numerous board and commission vacancies that have become available. Selectman O’Connor suggested that Citizen News should announce what all of the vacancies are. First Selectman Cope provided a post meeting update.

List of Openings:

Zoning Board of Appeals – 2 vacancies, Conservation Commission – 2 vacancies, Housing Commission – 1 vacancy, Board of Education – 1 vacancy, Commission on Aging – 3 to 5 vacancies, Land Acquisition Advisory Board – 1 vacancy (to be filled by a member on the Inland Wetlands Commission), Planning & Zoning Commission – 2 vacancies for Alternate Commissioners, Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission – 2 vacancies for Alternate Commissioners.

Residents are encouraged to contact the BoS, or the board or commission chairperson, if they are interested in any of these openings.

Old Business Updates

Closed Sherman School Kindergarten Wing: Chairman of the Maintenance Committee for the Board of Education (BoE), Joseph Keneally, provided Sherman School updates. Regarding the special taskforce the newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Education, Rowland Hanley, is spearheading, he is planning on meeting soon with the newly formed group to debrief them about what’s going on with the Kindergarten Wing, to-date. This meeting will be mostly organizational.

Sherman School Boiler Replacement: The first bid package was only for the engineering phase. The next bid package will be for the actual installation of the boilers. First Selectman Cope believes this bid package will be ready by May 30.

Regarding the 2015 / 2016 Municipal Budget, Mr. Keneally voiced how he wants the Town to reconsider cutting the shared expense for the Facilities Manager position with the School.

Happy Acres Farm: First Selectman Cope read a progress report email from John Motsinger of Full Circle Farming. “We have 10 new calves so far… we could still have up to 20 more calves on the way this spring into summer. The baby chicks are growing fast… and a baby goat was added.” Sara Burns, a farmer from Shelton, will be growing a vegetable garden at the farm when the weather gets warmer. Full Circle Farming also thanked the Sherman residents who ordered their homegrown beef.

Happy Acres Farm Committee: First Selectman Cope reported that he and members, Sue Moga and Ralph Goreman, will be meeting again with the farmers shortly.

Monthly Financial Summary: First Selectman Cope highlighted where the overage is in the budget, as indicated in the Monthly Financial Statement. There is an increase of $1,890.28 for network support in Town Hall for technology expenses. Building Maintenance is over by $3,531.51 due to three unexpected boiler repairs this winter in Mallory Town Hall, the Public Works Garage, and the Old Town Hall Senior Center.

The Resident State Trooper’s Public Safety Supplies line item is over budget by $2,001 because of a new laser speed gun, but grant money will reimburse the Town. ESF Maintenance is over $1,403.65 due to janitorial cleaning. Road Maintenance, that includes the Briarwood Road bridge and Spring Lake Road repairs, “will be reimbursed by a list of funds [from the Local Capital Improvement Program (LOCIP) Grant],” said First Selectman Cope.

The Public Works Department is over budget due to $2,700 in overtime because of the storms, and Winter Maintenance is over by $9,120 which paid for more salt deliveries.

State of the Roads: The BoS discussed in detail the “State of the Roads”. First Selectman Cope said the Town will be “using funds mostly for road repair this year.” He will evaluate the conditions of the Town roads with the Sherman Traffic Safety Group about some sightline issues and will also evaluate the State roads with a member from the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Selectman O’Connor questioned what the status was for 37 East because, at one point, there was a plan for the DOT to reconstruct and repave part of the road that’s near the traffic light. First Selectman Cope said he would follow up with this safety concern. The BoS agreed this area of the road is in really bad condition.

Disbursement Controls Policy: Selectman Ostrosky said he is working on six recommendations for disbursement controls, and he will present them at the next BoS meeting.

Department of Public Works Improvement Strategies: Selectman Ostrosky said he still needs to talk with Public Works Supervisor, Don Borkowski. First Selectman Cope confirmed he received a list of assets from Mr. Borkowski, and now they need to get authorization to sell town property.

Public Works Wash Station Open Bid Announcement: First Selectman Cope said the Town is continuing to modify the document because architectural plans will now have to be included. The Town is using the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) Grant of $205,000 to fund this project.

HVMPO (formerly HVCEO) / SWPRA / WCCOG: First Selectman Cope said he still sees value in joining the new COG and wants to “go back to Town Meeting and vote on joining WCCOG.”

Communications Update

Emergency Radio Communications: “No word yet from the Governor,” stated First Selectman Cope regarding the application for the STEAP Grant of $500,000. In the meantime, $33,000 is in the capital plan for 2015 / 2016 as a Plan B. This will pay for a much needed repeater, which is Phase 1 of the radio communications plan.

Completed Town Projects

Spring Lake Road: First Selectman Cope said this longstanding project is complete and the final payment was made.

Briarwood Road Bridge Replacement: Although this town project was recently finished, First Selectman Cope said he is still waiting on a letter from the DOT to give the official seal of approval. “I am anticipating a letter and I am planning on the final inspection by April 10.”

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department: First Selectman Cope said the new Belardinelli tires were ordered and paid for.

Emergency Services Facility: Acting Fire Department Chief, Dave Raines, gave an update, and he confirmed the air drops are in, hung, and tested. “We are just waiting for the plumber [to hook them up]…” He continued to say the original bill was for around $3,800 but they got it down to about $1,200 by doing the installation / labor themselves.

As for an update on the exhaust system, Mr. Raines said they applied for a grant that would help to pay for the majority of the cost for changing a system that passed inspection but is not ideal. The estimated cost is around $70,000.

Regarding the painted floor in the bay, there was some initial peeling and the floor is now sealed. “We’ll wait and see if the peeling stopped and reevaluate the floor in a few years,” said Mr. Raines.

He also addressed how the department is looking into ways to save 30% of their energy costs by automating what they can. $20,000 a year is the cost for keeping the lights on, for instance.

Related to this, Sherman’s Democratic Town Committee (DTC) Chairman, Joel Bruzinski, questioned the completion status of the ESF project. He also mentioned a quote First Selectman Cope said in another newspaper about the status of the project.

First Selectman Cope’s post meeting reply: “It is complete. The Town has a CO, Certificate of Occupancy. The three items that Mr. Raines brought up in the meeting are for replacing existing equipment.”

Future Agenda Item

Lack of Cellphone Coverage in Southern Sherman:

Residents for Reliable Cell Service in Sherman (RRCSS), formerly known as Southern Sherman Cell Tower Committee (SSCTC), will soon get their Special Meeting with the BoS, which will be open to the public.

First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky said they will coordinate and consider possible dates to have this meeting – TBD. Selectman O’Connor pointed out that it should be right after the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays.

Miscellaneous

Connecticut State Library for a Historic Document Preservation Grant, as requested by the Town Clerk: The BoS agreed to authorize First Selectman Cope to go into contract with the library. This is for the Town Clerk’s documents.

Public Correspondence

First Selectman Cope said that six residents sent emails and they “expressed enthusiastic support for the Triploid Grass Carp Program, as implemented by the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA).” This milfoil is the main water pollutant in Squantz Pond and Candlewood Lake.

First Selectman Cope shared two public announcements:

The Month of April is Autism Awareness Month. Show support for this cause by changing out your outside lightbulbs to “Light it up Blue”.

The Month of May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) Awareness Month. There will be a 3K and 5K run / walk options on Saturday, May 23 to benefit this cause. Jackie Stager, a 14-year-old Sherman resident and freshman at Marvelwood High School in Kent, suffers from this debilitating disease. The race will begin 9 a.m. at Veteran’s Field in Sherman. For more information visit: http://fasttracktiming.com/races/5232015-run-for-ehlers-danlos-syndrome-and-chiari/ or to donate a silent auction item contact Eloise Stager, elstager@gmail.com

Mohegan Sun Casinos plans to hire 1,000 new employees

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By Alicia Sakal

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) – Office of Research, released their Business and Employment Changes Announced in the Media report. The only Connecticut-based company on the CT DOL’s list that reported long-term hiring plans in the Month of March, who did not receive a government loan, was Mohegan Sun Casinos.

This popular Indian resort and casino destination attracts visitors globally. Located in Uncasville, Mohegan Sun will be building a new hotel tower in the fall of 2016 and their expansion plans will include the hiring of 1,000 employees.

As for the nine companies in Connecticut who received aid in the form of State loans that announced plans to hire, two-to-six years out, they are…

Novitex Enterprise of Windsor, 200 new jobs; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Branford, 145 new jobs; Praxair Corporation of Danbury, 120 new jobs; GKN Aerospace Service Structure Corp. of Cromwell, 100 new jobs; S&S Worldwide of Colchester, 40 new jobs; R&D Dynamics Corporation of Bloomfield, 38 new jobs; HABCO Industries of Glastonbury, 37 new jobs; Windsor Marketing Group of Suffield, 27 new jobs; and Leipold Inc. of Windsor, 20 new jobs.

The grand total of new jobs to be created: 727

As for the layoffs reported in March, UTC Aerospace Systems of Windsor Locks laid off 90 employees, United Airlines of Windsor Locks will lay-off 69 employees in May, and RBS Securities Inc. of Stamford will lay-off 42 employees.

The grand total of layoffs: 201

This original article appears on Examiner.com: Mohegan Sun Casinos plans to hire 1,000 new employees

Photo by thisisbossi, flickr.com

Kindergarten Wing is Closed, Budget Discussions, New Appointments and Updates at the Selectmen’s Meeting

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Originally published in the March 4th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

By Alicia Sakal

SHERMAN – Last week at the monthly Board of Selectmen (BoS) Meeting there were some important New Business items added to the agenda along with new appointments and several recurring business and town project updates announced.

New Business

Sherman School Kindergarten Wing

In summation, there were reports of a mysterious musty, basement-like odor in the Kindergarten Wing of the building and this is not a new issue. Over the past few decades, this problem resurfaces from time-to-time. The Board of Education (BoE), the School Administration, the BoS, and some concerned parents want to definitively find out what is causing this problem so they can permanently resolve whatever it is and get answers.

Acting Chairman of the Board of Education (BoE), Rowland Hanley, detailed why the children in the Kindergarten Wing at the Sherman School are now in other areas within the school, what is being done in this closed off area, and proposed ways the BoE, the School Administration, and the BoS can work together.

In essence, The Town’s Risk Management professional spoke with Mr. Hanley and First Selectman Cope. Health Director, Tim Simpkins, wanted to see the children moved out of the Kindergarten Wing. The BoE Majority then voted to move the affected children out of the Kindergarten Wing on February 12 as a precautionary measure.

Mr. Hanley said that “both CIHs [Certified Industrial Hygienists] and everyone else that weighed-in on this agreed that the HVAC system that was installed in 2011 is the principle focus of our current issue.” He continued to say “there was no observable, or measurable, threat found in the classrooms but it was confirmed that the HVAC system was inadvertently pulling air from unintended places including those parts of the building that had been the focus of remediation in the past.” He then described in more detail allergen examples like mold, pollen, and dust.

Mr. Hanley stressed how there needs to be accountability and a special taskforce. He said “this issue became much bigger than any one person or one committee could handle.” He also requested that the BoE and the School Administration need the BoS to support them and work together as one team. They also need to bring in the experts. First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky agreed to support the BoE and the School Administration in this capacity.

In the meantime, a CIH and a Mechanical Engineer will be onsite this week at the Sherman School for more air quality / ventilation testing. The Preschool and Kindergarten students will remain in their new locations within the school until further notice.

Resident State Trooper Budget Discussion

First Selectman Cope brought to light the financial impact it will have on the Town if Governor Malloy’s proposal goes through that will cut 100% of the subsidized funding to the Resident State Trooper Program throughout the State of Connecticut. In other words, it could cost the Town up to $50,000 more to pay for Sherman’s Resident State Trooper because the State helps to pay for part of his salary. First Selectman Cope said “as a placeholder, I will put down what we are paying now” at the Budget Meeting. First Selectman Cope also filled out a questionnaire, along with other small Connecticut towns that participate in the program, and they collectively feel this “cut” would be a hardship if it passes.

Selectmen’s Proposed Budget Discussion

The Budget Workshops are now in full force and have begun as of February 28. The hearing on the proposed budget will be on March 31. At the BoS meeting on April 23, the BoS will move the proposed budget to Annual Meeting on Friday, April 24. Then, on May 2, the Town Budget will go to referendum.

New Appointments

For the Board of Assessment Appeals, Elizabeth Beatty is filling a vacancy and will serve for the March and September 2015 meetings. As for the Commission on Aging, both Dr. Juan Garcia and Jeanne McRoberts will serve three-year terms. First Selectman Clay Cope and Selectman Bob Ostrosky appointed them.

Old Business Updates

Sherman School Boiler Replacement: Mr. Hanley thinks the engineering-only phase of this project can come out of the school operating budget. He also stressed how important it is to have longer term goals and to look at the project holistically; meaning, the entire heating system in the school. He believes there needs to be project oversight and accountability and wants both the Town and the BoE to make the process seamless.

Chairman of the Maintenance Committee for the Board of Education, Joseph Keneally, said they received five qualified bids and “we chose BL Companies out of Meriden, Connecticut. They are a nationwide outfit and are an employee-owned firm. We went through their references… the proposal was clean… and they were responsive to our needs.” Mr. Keneally was also impressed with how they broke down all of the steps in their Engineering Services RFP. The fixed fee cost for this 16 week project is $16,080 and it includes four monthly site visits. BL Companies wants to start on March 2 with their work. The actual project will run from June through September.

Proposed Ordinance and Septic Tank Visual Inspection / Walk-over Program: First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky discussed the results from the two public forums. They both agreed to meet with Health Director Tim Simpkins to regroup and go over all of the options. They want to include Selectman O’Connor in this meeting to discuss it as a full BoS. She did not attend this meeting.

Related to this was a written correspondence that came from Jim McAlister, a New Fairfield resident, who supports this ordinance. He is part of the Candlewood Watershed Initiative.

Happy Acres Farm Committee: First Selectman Cope reported that he and committee member Sue Moga, who is also a resident and Director of Muscoot Farm, met with Full Circle Farming (FCF) last Sunday. FCF is impressed with Ms. Moga and her enthusiasm she has for the farm. They will also meet soon with committee member Ralph Goreman, who is also a resident and Owner of White Silo Barn and Winery.

Happy Acres Farm: First Selectman Cope read a progress report email from Adam Mantzaris of Full Circle Farming. “The calf count now stands at seven, and two of which we assisted with,” he wrote. They also received the first 50 laying chicks. In this same correspondence, Mr. Mantzaris provided First Selectman Cope with a Five Year Capital Plan for Happy Acres Farm. First Selectman Cope discussed this in more detail with Treasurer Eric Holub at the meeting. First Selectman Cope reiterated how there is $5,740.10 in pending farm expenses the Town needs to pay, which accrued prior to the new tenants moving in.

Related to this is the Special Town Meeting that will take place on March 4 at 6:30 p.m. The agenda is to appropriate the sum of $10,000 (adjusted from $15,000) to pay for miscellaneous operating, maintenance, and legal expenses associated with Happy Acres Farm assets. Only revenue from the cell tower and the Happy Acres Farm lease would pay for these expenses. Previously, at the January 22 meeting, the BoS unanimously agreed to propose setting up a separate operating fund.

Happy Acres Farm / Tony Hapanowich Trust: There is new correspondence from the Town attorney who addressed Treasurer Holub’s main inquiry about how to go about legally authorizing the Town to reinvest the gift of $1,852,510 that is sitting in a money market account. Treasurer Holub proposed that the BoS “should look into getting an outside party to do it [reinvest this gift],” and “there needs to be a risk tolerance discussion [with the BoS].”

Monthly Financial Summary:

First Selectman Cope reported on the finances of the Town. He said, “Public Works is over budget and it’s due to two things… Spring Lake Road and Briarwood Bridge and it’s not due to our town’s Public Works Road Maintenance line.” All other expenditures are tracking accordingly.

Parks and Recreation (P&R) Audit: Selectman Ostrosky said “I looked at the 2013 / 2014 tax statements at Webster Bank. In summary, there was limited disbursement activity… and nothing out of the ordinary.” After going through their existing process, he will make some recommendations to P&R at the Budget Meeting to discuss this in more detail with them then.

Wash Station Open Bid Announcement: First Selectman Cope announced the Public Works Wash Station bid documents will soon be available for the engineering phase of this project. The Town is modifying the document so the wording is “geared towards a Construction Manager instead of a General Contractor.” First Selectman Cope used the success of the library expansion as an example to model after. The Town is using the STEAP Grant of $275,000 to fund this project.

HVMPO (formerly HVCEO) / SWPRA / WCCOG: First Selectman Cope said that “the WCCOG Executive Director, Mr. Francis Pickering, wants the Town to be aware of a Regional GIS Service funded by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. These maps are generated through that service and they are going to be even more high-definition, more hi-tech.”

First Selectman Cope said he wants to see a disclaimer on every map due to potential privacy concerns since the maps are better than Google Maps and are much higher resolution. First Selectman Cope now has authorization to sign the necessary agreement in order to have the region mapped, including Sherman, by this service. There is no cost to the Town for these expensive maps.

Communications Update

Emergency Radio Communications: The budget for $33,000 for Phase 1 is going to be a discussion point at the Budget Meeting. First Selectman Cope is hoping the Town will receive the STEAP Grant of $500,000 so this lower cost solution will not be necessary.

Completed Town Projects

Briarwood Road Bridge Replacement: First Selectman Cope shared the great news how the Department of Transportation Inspector, Dan Stanchen, has determined that the repairs done by the Department of Public Works were sufficient and that the bridge does not require replacement. “We dodged a $375,000 bullet on that one!” declared First Selectman Cope.

Playhouse Bathrooms: First Selectman Cope reported that the carpets are the last step, along with a few minor add-ons. This project will be finished early this week.

Recurring Town Projects Update

Spring Lake Road: First Selectman Cope expressed continued frustration with how much this project, which began before his term, has cost the Town to-date. “Just for the record, and for the public, this project now stands at $818,210 for a two-mile stretch of road.” The latest email update: Joe Wren, the engineer of the road, thinks the final payment should be $2,500 less because Public Works did some of the work in-house. Final payment is in the works.

Emergency Services Facility: First Selectman Cope said the new air drops for the fire department are in and they need to install them now.

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department: First Selectman Cope said that Chief Chris Pitcher is writing the PO for $7,300 for the tires from Belardinelli Tire Company.

Miscellaneous

DOT Master Municipal Agreement for Rights of Way Projects, Authorization: First Selectman Cope put this on the agenda and said that it’s just a housekeeping item to authorize him to sign-off on approving construction projects. Selectman Ostrosky agreed to this formality.

Public Comments

Terri Hahn, resident and President of the Timber Trails Property Owners Association, voiced her continued concerns about having no cellphone service coverage in Southern Sherman. She shared with the BoS recent vehicle traffic statistics obtained from the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding the north / south corridor of Route 37. She said “approximately 2,600 people are at risk each day due to the lack of any cellular service being available on major portions of the roads.” This is because they cannot call 911. She wants the BoS to take action.

Regarding the recent non-illumination of the cross at Happy Acres Farm, Gary Albert provided the BoS with contact information regarding a Walpole, Massachusetts ordinance that allows for temporary displays of religious and holiday symbols on public property. First Selectman Cope said he would follow-up and call the Selectman there.

Public Correspondence

First Selectman Cope read two public announcements. The first was from the Candlewood Lake Authority. They are hosting their second annual informational event at the Candlewood Lake Club in Brookfield on March 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Online registration is required.

The second public announcement was from the Julia’s Wings Foundation. Tie a red bow to your mailbox this week to show your support for raising awareness of Aplastic Anemia.

Attend the Danbury Career Fair in Connecticut on Friday, March 6

Connecticut Job Fair
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By Alicia Sakal

Kicking off the job fair season this spring is the much anticipated Danbury Career Fair in Danbury, Connecticut. This event is the first in a series of five events geared towards jobseekers with all different kinds of skill levels, and across a wide range of industries. This career fair will take place on Friday, March 6, 2015 at the Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury, Connecticut. The hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Danbury Career Fair is a well-established event. The Connecticut Department of Labor, the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, Townsquare Media and the city of Danbury are the sponsors. This is a great opportunity for jobseekers to meet, in-person, company representatives from all over Connecticut that are hiring for many different kinds of positions.

A partial list of employers that will be recruiting at the Danbury Career Fair: Ability Beyond, Belimo Americas, Big Y Foods, Click Bond, Inc., Dental Associates of Connecticut, Green Chimneys, Holo-krome, Power Home Remodeling Group, Stamford Tent & Event Services, and Underground Surveying, LLC.

For more details, visit: Attend the Danbury Career Fair in Connecticut on Friday, March 6

Photo by Peggy Stewart, Flickr.com

Home Depot is hiring 900 seasonal workers across Connecticut

Photo by Mike Mozart, flickr.com
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By Alicia Sakal

On Wednesday, The Connecticut Department of Labor released their monthly Business and Employment Changes Announced in the Media report. This particular report is just one indicator of how the Connecticut job market is fairing.

For the Month of February, the Connecticut Department of Labor, Office of Research reported that Home Depot announced they are ramping up for their spring season and they plan on hiring 900 seasonal workers statewide.

Also, Chick-fil-A will be hiring 85 new employees for their Enfield location, and Frontier Communications will be creating 50 jobs at their New London location. The total reported amount of new hires in the State is 1,035.

As for layoffs and staff reductions in the State of Connecticut, two retailers announced several major store closings. Due to bankruptcy, Radio Shack announced they will be closing 24 store locations throughout Connecticut. Xpect Discounts announced they will be closing their remaining locations in Cromwell, Milford, and East Haven, Connecticut before the end of this year. The layoff totals for both of these companies were not announced.

Sensor Switch of Wallingford, Connecticut also announced layoffs. They will be laying off 93 workers in April.

This original article appears on Examiner.

Photo by Mike Mozart, Flickr.com

Snowstorm #20, But Who’s Counting in this Rural New England Town?

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This original interview with the Sherman, Connecticut Public Works Supervisor just appeared in the Citizen News on February 11th. Six more snowstorms added to the count in just 10 days.Talk about a tough job!

Article & Photo by Alicia Sakal

How Many Snowstorms Are We Up To? Sherman’s Public Works Department Sure Knows!

In light of the seemingly never-ending amount of snowstorms we’ve been experiencing lately, some residents may have lost track of the official count by now. However, there’s one reliable source in town that knows all too well how many snowstorms we have had to-date and it’s none other than the reliable Public Works Department (PWD).

Don Borkowski, Sherman’s seasoned supervisor of fifteen years, and his team of dedicated drivers and operators, Ken Grant, Matt Heinz, Adam Miller; and his mechanic / operator pro, Cliff Palmer know the answer to this question with quite certainty because they “live it” firsthand.

Fourteen and counting… and anticipating the fifteenth snowstorm was the answer at the time of this interview. As the Citizen News went to press, the fifteenth snowstorm was already over, with the sixteenth storm already forecasted.

Getting in touch with Mr. Borkowski in between snowstorms for this interview was a bit challenging because you can never find him or his crew staying in one place for very long. After all, they have much work to do in order to prepare for the next snowstorm, regardless if it’s expected to be “the big one” or “just another small one.”

One of the first questions posed to Mr. Borkowski was “what weather station or website do you rely on to get accurate weather information?” His reply, and he wasn’t kidding either, “I look outside the window of my shop. This is the most reliable way to see what’s going on with the weather and you can’t go by anybody’s report. I listen to the Channel Four weather guy and he doesn’t usually get it right… same with the other meteorologists out there.”

He continued to say that areas in Sherman can vary in weather patterns because “the center of the Town is much different than the mountainous areas of Sherman where there can be a two-to-four degree difference in temperature.” In other words, there can be ice in one area and snow building up in a higher elevation area.

When asked if he thinks this year could be one of the worst years when it comes to the severity of snowstorms, he rated this season as “slightly above average to-date, just because of the frequency we’re dealing with.”

The Protocol

Whenever a snowstorm is about to hit the area, Mr. Borkowski stated that “all of the primary and secondary town roads are sanded and salted first before they are even plowed, and this includes the school bus routes.”  As for the Town’s dirt roads, they are personally plowed by him. Once the town roads are done, then the emergency buildings, school, and town parking lots and sidewalks are done.

Mr. Borkowski said that if a storm hits right before school hours then he and Dr. Pascento, the Sherman School Principal, talk about the school delay while he is out doing the roads. He also said that “if New Milford closes their schools then Sherman will close, too.”

He then shared his #1 safety tip urging residents to first and foremost “stay off the roads if you do not have to be on them.”

The Logistics

Whenever a storm hits, each of the five drivers / operators is responsible for seven miles of town roads, and this involves sanding, salting, and plowing the area. Mr. Borkowski said each person covers an impressive 100+ miles of plowing per route, per truck in any given storm. That’s 500+ miles, total, because the crew makes several roundtrips going back-and-forth and up-and-down the roads, and they also frequently make trips back-and-forth to the Public Works Yard to get supplies. The PWD crew typically goes out three-to-four times per storm and plows once or twice in the morning, at noon, and once or twice in the evening.

To illustrate the extensiveness of what they routinely do, it took his team of five fulltime town employees, including himself, 17 hours from start-to-finish because they went out three different times to sand, salt, and plow during the last snowstorm. Not included in this total, he sometimes hires seasonal temporary workers to manually shovel areas that the plows can’t get to.

As for what the PWD has in its inventory to get Sherman back to normal during and after a snowstorm, they have six plow trucks, total, and the one backup truck needs to be replaced because it is completely rotted. Mr. Borkowski is hoping that the Town comes up with a purchasing plan / replacement program soon because, right now, it can take several years to replace an old truck, a piece of outdated equipment, or a communications system.

The Aftermath and Planning

Naturally, the aftermath of a snowstorm can make for a very messy cleanup. Mr. Borkowski is anticipating that he and his crew will make much use out of the new Public Works Wash Station that will be under construction soon, thanks to the recently awarded STEAP Grant the Town received. Why he is enthusiastic is “because it’s a great investment and we will get longevity out of them [the Town trucks]. Salt rots everything and it’s mainly due to the tons of salt being used on the State routes.” He added, “we typically use a sand and salt mix with a 2-to-1 ratio; one bucket of salt to two buckets of sand.” This PWD “recipe” can vary because it depends on the temperature.

“How much salt and sand does the PWD exactly go through, on average?” was the next question. The answer… “The PWD uses around 600 tons of salt a year, and each storm is at least a two-day event from start to finish for us,” said Mr. Borkowski. “Right now, we are still in decent shape. The sand pile is at 50% and I can always call Morton Salt whenever we need it.”

As for how much it costs the Town each winter season, on average, Mr. Borkowski said that each year varies because it depends on the storms. “$60,000 is in the winter budget for sand and salt. The PWD stocks up with any leftover. So far, 400 tons of salt has been used this season and there is another 75 tons coming of raw Morton Salt, which makes us good for a three-day storm.”

When asked about prep-time and what’s involved before each anticipated snowstorm, Mr. Borkowski said that “we are prepared and ready to go every day.  Everything is checked and monitored weekly. I also report on a weekly basis to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).”

Helping Out the PWD

As for how Sherman residents can help the PWD to do their jobs better, Mr. Borkowski replied “please keep your cars off the roads. Vehicles in the road while we are trying to plow and clear the roads is the biggest problem we have because it impairs us from clearing the roads for you and the rest of your neighbors. Doing this also prevents emergency vehicles from getting through if there is a sudden disaster. Don’t push snow in the roads either and tell your contractors not to do this as well.”

Mr. Borkowski then stated “it would be wise for the Town of Sherman to come up with a town ordinance to get the cars off the road and off the turnarounds because, for the most part, every driver / operator encounters the problem of people parking on the roads, and pushing and blowing snow on the roads, during any given storm.” He also pointed out “this is another potential liability situation for the Town because if emergency vehicles can’t gain access to a road then it’s a serious problem if anything bad should happen.”

Now that’s Interesting…

“Whenever there is a big snowstorm coming, do you and your team ever stay overnight at the garage and sleep in shifts?” was the next question. “I don’t keep the guys overnight. There’s not enough traffic in the Town so I don’t need to have them do that. The primary routes are always open, sanded, and salted. We get to work by 2 a.m. in the morning. Then, we go home to eat and come back to the garage. We are also out before or during rush hour and we won’t leave until everything is salted, sanded, and plowed. I will not let them go if it’s a huge problem,” Mr. Borkowski said.

He then added, “I really appreciate the hard work my guys do and they are always there for me whenever I need them. I can’t ask for much more. My guys know that long hours are part of the job and they have to be here.”

“How long does it take you to get to the PWD garage during a snowstorm?” Mr. Borkowski replied “not long at all because I live practically down the street and can walk to work. It’s an easy commute.”

For the Fun of It

As a bonus, the PWD clears the town’s playground areas and parks of snow, too, which is a town amenity. Mr. Borkowski is especially “surprised by how many joggers use the school track and how many dog walkers use Veteran’s Park during the winter months.”

When asked “do you enjoy any winter sports?” Mr. Borkowski shared, “I used to enjoy my snowmobile but not anymore… that was a long time ago. Even if I wanted to now, “there’s no downtime [for winter sports] anymore because I always work when it’s snowing.”

Just as the meeting was finishing up, the Town’s “unofficial” weatherman, a.k.a. Don Borkowski, suddenly switched into weather reporter mode. Midsentence, he looked out the window and said assuredly “look, it’s snowing now, but there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a snow shower and it will pass.” A few hours later, he was absolutely right.

One thing is certain, it’s a relief to know that “the guys”… Adam (truck #2), Cliff (truck #5), Don (truck #12), Ken (truck #3), and Matt (truck #6) will plow Sherman out and “save the day” whenever Mother Nature isn’t exactly cooperating.

Thank you Public Works Department of Sherman for making sure residents get back to their normal routines as quickly as possible like driving to school, work, and the IGA grocery store. As for Sherman’s ski enthusiasts, they should be happy, too, because they can easily drive “to the slopes”.