40% of Parents Refuse SBAC Testing For Their Children at the Sherman School

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Susan Zeitler, Mom of Two and a Local Grass Roots Activist, Knows Exactly Why…

The original version was printed in the May 6th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

Article and Photo by Alicia Sakal

Invalid “experimental” testing with extremely high predetermined failure rates. Bill Gates and Microsoft. Pearson Publishing. Google. For-profit, corporate stakeholders set to make billions off education. Data mining. Federal Government control. Labeling children for life.

These powerful, negative words are only some of the reasons why 40% of Sherman School parents have refused their Grades 3 through 8 children from taking the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam. Dr. Michael Pascento, Sherman School Principal, confirmed this updated statistic last week.

For the parents who refused the SBAC test for their children at the Sherman School, they are far from alone in their opposition and are part of a growing movement across the Nation. The exact and current refusal rate percentage in Connecticut, and in other states, is unknown because the testing is not complete. However, several schools, towns and states across America continue to make the headlines with their high, preliminary opt-out numbers.

To illustrate, the New York State Allies for Public Education recently reported that “a record number of parents across the Empire State will again refuse to take part in Grades 3 through 8 testing this spring… The latest 2015 refusal total is 190,836 with 75% of Districts reporting.”

Critics deem that New York’s refusal numbers are much higher than other states, such as Connecticut, because New York is one year ahead with implementing Common Core and aligned testing. They also assert New York parents are more informed and have experienced firsthand the myriad of Common Core’s ill effects and are reacting in unprecedented numbers by refusing the test for their children.

Why is Sherman’s Refusal Rate So High?

Susan Zeitler – a Sherman resident and fulltime professional, wife, and mom of two daughters – can certainly tell you why there is a high 40% opt-out rate for Grades 3 through 8…

At the beginning of the interview she stated “one reason for Sherman’s high refusal rate relative to other Connecticut towns is that Dr. Michael Pascento and Mr. Don Fiftal, Superintendent, recognize and respect the parental right to refuse the test.”

She elaborated “many states and administrations across the country are deceptive about these rights. They have even tried to intimidate parents. This intimidation seems to cause parents to back off because they do not want to be perceived as making waves or they do not want to endure negative ramifications for their children and this can greatly limit refusal rates, unfortunately.”

Regarding Connecticut, Zeitler said “the State, in the form of a letter from the Department of Education, instructed schools to deny parental requests to “opt out”, up to three times, before saying their children can forego the test. Parents have the constitutional right to refuse the SBAC test and I’m grateful for the Sherman School Administration’s upstanding response.”

Another reason, perhaps even the main reason, why the Sherman School has a high refusal rate, might very well have something to do with Zeitler herself…

For someone who does not particularly enjoy the limelight or public speaking, one can hear her voice Common Core concerns at the Sherman Parent Teacher Organization (SPTO) and Board of Education (BoE) meetings. She also organizes educational information sessions and will drop everything in her already hectic schedule to speak with parents about why Common Core is detrimental.

Zeitler also takes pride in “helping to empower parents and communities so they can better advocate for students, teachers, and their public schools.” She shared how she has spent, literally, hundreds of hours researching Common Core and collaborates with a group of other concerned parents from New Fairfield and New Milford. “We are dedicated to bringing awareness about Common Core to the forefront within Sherman and surrounding communities. We have plenty of data to share with other parents about all the negative aspects of Common Core.”

According to Susan, a third reason why Sherman has a 40% refusal rate is because “many parents have taken matters into their own hands and have learned the ‘undisclosed’ truths about Common Core. It appears that the fortunate combination of a respectful Administration, a knowledgeable and persevering group, and a proactive public is the formula to Sherman’s large anti-Common Core / SBAC statement of refusal.”

What is Common Core?

Before trying to understand the particulars of why there is a high SBAC testing refusal rate, one should first understand what Common Core is all about because the premise of the SBAC test is to be “aligned” to the Common Core State Standards.

For starters, the Common Core Standards website defines Common Core as “a set of clear college-and career-ready standards for Kindergarten through Grade 12 in English language arts / literacy and mathematics. Common Core was “designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.”

Investors of Common Core, like Bill Gates who is its biggest financial supporter outside of Pearson, explain that the United States education system is flawed and test scores lag behind other countries. Their solution is a “transformation” of our education system. This means the new Common Core standards with aligned curriculum, and testing.

As for the development of the Common Core Standards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson Publishing Company, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation were, in fact, some of the big non-government and non-education contributors.

Zeitler, and other critics, define Common Core as “a repackaged education agenda that is backed by Corporate America and the Federal Government who do not have the best interests of the American children in mind.” Opponents like Dr. Chris Tienken, Assistant Professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall, disagree with Gates and think that America happens to groom the best innovators in the world, and many countries want to be like us, not the other way around.”

Zeitler elaborated “proponents like to say Common Core is just a set of improved standards. This is not so. Mr. Gates said ‘we’ll only know if this effort has succeeded, when the curriculum and tests align to the standards’. David Coleman, Chief Architect for the Common Core of the English Language Arts Standards (ELA), stated ‘teachers will teach toward the test.’ These proponents seem to want to make Common Core appear to not affect the teacher’s choice in curriculum, but they are misleading. I actually feel it is futile to discuss the standards and whether they are good or not. The standards conversation is a smokescreen as I see it. Common Core is NOT about education at all. Common Core is about Federal Government control, removing our local representation, and Corporate America making billions off our children’s private data, tests, technology, the new aligned curriculum, etc…”

The Awakening

How does one become a local grass roots activist on a mission to stop Common Core? For Susan, she didn’t exactly wake up one morning and say “gee, I want to be an activist.”

In January of 2013, she learned the school was going to get a “very expensive computer testing system” in the coming year, but had no idea what that meant. Then, in June of 2013, she made the Common Core connection with the computer system. “A friend shared with me what Common Core was all about and how detrimental it was to our children’s education and to our country. This is when I made the connection; that very expensive computer testing system was the SBAC test,” she stated.

Zeitler then began to ask leaders in Sherman about Common Core. To her surprise, “nobody really knew much about it, although the schools had been transitioning to Common Core a few years prior. I think that school systems all across Connecticut ‘did what they were supposed to do’ and did not realize the full scope of how Common Core originated, its purpose, and what its outcome would be. Common Core was adopted by the majority of the States before Common Core was even written,” she said.

As Zeitler came across Common Core information online, such as documents and video and audio clips from experts, like Anita Hoge and Jonathan Pelto, she began to share her findings with the BoE and the Administration in the fall of 2013. Ever since, she provides Common Core information and legislative updates via email to Sherman and New Fairfield parents, teachers, and BoE members. In June of 2014, Zeitler and her team also organized a well-attended event that brought in local experts from across the State to speak at a Common Core Informational Presentation, and “this contributed to the larger number of informed citizens and the higher refusal rate percentage in Sherman,” she stated.

Why Refuse SBAC Testing?

When asked, what is the #1 reason why you refused to have your children take the SBAC Exam? Zeitler replied matter-of-factly “there is NO reason to take this experimental test. No research went into designing the test and it was written by non-educators.” To back this statement: Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, stated in her book, Reign of Error that the Common Core standards were never field-tested and that no one knows whether they will improve education.”

Zeitler continued to say “this was a corporate push to develop a compliant workforce and to make billions of dollars off education products and our children’s private data. The problem with education is poverty but there is no money in fixing poverty. However, there is money in testing, technology, the revamping of curriculum materials, etc.”

“There is also a predetermined 60% to 70% SBAC test failure rate and it is even higher; a 90% failure rate, for special education students,” she said. As for the failure rate for English language learners, it is also extremely high. The SmarterBalanced.org website publishes this kind of failure rate field test data. For instance, Grade 6 non-native English speaking children have a 95% failure rate.

“The actual cut scores, or failure rate, were approved by Connecticut and other States at a November 17th SBAC meeting in Olympia, Washington. The predetermined failure rate is obtained by testing the students with age-inappropriate material, questions that have more than one answer, questions that are vague in what they are asking, etc…” she explained.

“No exam in life has such high failure rates, so why do we want to expose our children to this unfairness and stress for an unproven exam that sets up most of them to fail, and thus shows that there is another agenda behind the test?” she said.

Zeitler continued to say “under Common Core, much time gets wasted in the classroom. The students practice for the experimental test, take the test, and miss technology class time because other students are using the computers to take the test. Plus, the teachers need training on how to administer the test, have workshops to learn how to teach Common Core, etc. In other words, this time adds up to more time spent on the test instead of on academic education.”

“Another issue with the test are the delayed results that get returned well into the next school year. This is too late for them to be utilized by the teachers to help the students, which is the main purpose of testing, and further incriminates the purpose of the SBAC.”

Dr. Peg Luksik, a teacher with over 35 years of experience in both special and elementary education, and a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, who has extensive experience in assessments in a classroom setting and has written and evaluated curriculum, explained how the adaptive SBAC test is being manipulated, as it is being taken, so it is not a valid assessment. As an example, in the more philosophical areas, like history, you have to answer a question by complying, before you can move on because the test won’t let you move on unless you do.”

“Teacher evaluations are also tied to the test, which makes no sense whatsoever since a test is not representative of overall student performance. Common Core is harming not just our children but all American children. It’s hurting teachers and schools, too. By refusing the test, you’re protecting your children, but you’re also taking back some control, and making a bigger statement. This is one small step for stopping Common Core in its tracks, she added.”

Why Refuse Common Core?

“For me, refusing the test is not only about my daughters not taking the harmful, unethical test, but it’s also about saying NO to ALL of Common Core, which encompasses much more non-education pieces than one can imagine,” she said with resonance.

“For starters, Bill Gates is the main individual behind the funding of Common Core. There are corporations and Bill Gates. This man has no background in education but he has deep pockets. The way I see it, this is the first time in American history that one person has basically owned an American institution. This is unacceptable.”

“Companies, such as Google, that support Common Core are also setting themselves up to make billions of dollars by rolling out new testing materials, copyrighting a new way of doing math, creating new curriculum that aligns with the test, coming up with new training materials and programs, selling brand-new technology, and data mining the children’s private information, etc. When the schools buy into this they do not always realize they are just setting up the framework / infrastructure for deceptive Common Core,” she stated.

“As for keeping children’s private information private, this will no longer exist. As an example, Common Core data mines 400+ data points of private information from children and their families. The children’s new behavioral, attitudinal, and psychological data; in addition to their academic data, can be accessed by the Federal Government and other third-parties who claim to use the data for ‘educational purposes’ which may label the children for life, and potentially limit their futures.”

“Right now, education technology companies boast 10,000 data points per child, per day, more than Google, Netflix, or Facebook. Common Core uses our children’s mined data in a ‘decision-making’ model to determine our children’s careers for them by Grade 6, similar to what China does. Why do we want to be like China? They have the highest rates of testing, China wants to learn from us, and now we are becoming like them? This decision-making model is clearly abusing children’s private information. This is different from mining adult data because the information is not used to shape the future of adults,” she said.

“To make matters worse, our children’s medical records collected by schools are also non-exempt. Parents often think the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) protects them but it does not because their ‘educational records’, including IEP’s, 504’s, and future school health clinic data, now fall under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), not HIPAA. In other words, FERPA was gutted, so now this data is allowed to be accessed,” she stated.

Another point Zeitler made “Common Core’s plan is to replace public schools with Charter Schools, which have no Boards of Education, local representation, or parental input; and for-profit investors run them. This means parental and local control of education can become obsolete if Charter Schools continue to take-over the Public Schools. The Charters still take public tax dollars for public education and that is hurting public schools.”

Zeitler firmly believes this grand experiment “limits children’s full potential, stifles their growth, and creates unnecessary stress. Common Core is unacceptable. I am spreading awareness to quicken the return to purposeful academic education for our nation’s children, teachers and schools, at a local level” she stated.

What Every Parent Should Know

Zeitler strongly believes that Common Core is not about bettering education. “It is a fact that educators did not advocate for this. Instead, it was a corporate / government initiative. I believe we need to know the full picture, so we know the history, purpose, and outcome of Common Core. It is a repackaged education agenda that was decades in the making,” she stated.

“For parents who don’t know much about Common Core, please research online and find out what is really going on so you can make a difference for our children. There is so much information out there for your review and the information can be overwhelming but extremely eye-opening,” she stated.

How to Refuse the SBAC Test

Available for comment was Dr. Michael Pascento. “The procedure for parents to not have their child take the SBAC Assessment is called a ‘refusal’. Parents submit a letter to the school stating their refusal right and the student is not entered into the assessment system.” As for the students who are not taking part in the assessment they “were / will be assigned to a teacher and an alternative academic lesson takes place during the assessment period,” he stated.

As for other school districts and states, this process varies. Zeitler said “unfortunately not all towns are like Sherman. If there is resistance to exercise your parental rights and constitutional rights then refusal forms are available at ctagainstcommoncore.org and unitedoptout.com.”

When asked about what the consequences are for refusing this assessment test, Zeitler stated “there is no law in existence right now that penalizes these children. There is a fear instilled in parents that the States will withdraw school funding if there is greater than a 5% refusal. This has never happened and experts say it won’t.”

A PARTIAL LIST OF SUSAN’S READING RECOMMENDATIONS:

Connecticut:

Sample Test Rate Failure Results in Connecticut: No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

Jonathan Pelto: Common Core test Opt-Out movement steamrolls across the nation

Jonathan Pelto’s Blog, Connecticut Common Core Headlines: www.jonathanpelto.com

Connecticut’s Student Privacy Bill at Risk: HB 7017 Bill

Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission

New York:

Chalkbeat New York: As opt-out numbers grow, Arne Duncan says feds may have to step in

NY Opt Out Advocacy Group Report: 2015 Refusal Policy and Count

Across America:

Anita Hoge: The End Game of Assessment

The Cost of Common Core: Dr. Tienken: Common Core Unproven Yet Costs $15 Billion +

Jane Robbins on Vimeo: Data-Mining Your Child: Building and Using the Psychological Dossier

Truth in American Education: A Mental Health Professional’s Perspective on the Common Core

Jonathan Carroll: Common Core 101 – The FAQ

Common Core is Unconstitutional and Illegal

Mercedes Schneider Explains: Who Paid for the Common Core Standards

China: Chinese High School Pays for IV Drips for Studying Students

Local Parents and Teachers Speak-Up: Why They Refused SBAC Testing For Their Children…

Printed in the May 13th Edition of the Citizen News.

“One of my biggest concerns is that it appears the tests are written at a level that is three to five grade levels above the child’s academic level (children in the 3rd grade are tested using materials that are at a 6th, 7th or 8th grade level).

In my own research, I also found a sample elementary level question where I could not choose the correct answer choice, even though I knew the actual answer to the question.

Furthermore, it appears that the test designers purposely have created questions with ambiguous answer choices to test the children’s reasoning and critical thinking skills, however I would argue that the depth of knowledge that is required to reason out the answers makes those type of questions all but impossible to answer at the elementary and middle school level.

This is very upsetting to us because it seems to support the notion that the tests were in fact designed for the children to fail. It seems like an unnecessary amount of stress to put the child under for something that doesn’t appear to truly evaluate the child’s mastery of the subject matter. We are all for high standards, critical thinking, and rigorous curriculum, as long as it is presented in a developmentally appropriate way.

In the end, we decided to refuse the test because after reading several articles, we have a lot of concerns about the test design and what it is really measuring (don’t get me started on the whole data mining issue). We have heard nothing from our school, nor any other school, which explains why our child should be taking this test. No one can seem to give us one good reason not to opt out, which leads me to believe that they may not know enough about the test themselves. Until someone can give us some proof that this is a valid and reliable evaluation tool, we will continue to refuse to participate in this testing. There is too much at stake for our children, our teachers, and our school.”

Sincerely,

Stephanie S., Parent and Teacher

“I believe it is very important to support my child’s teachers and my child’s school, by being involved in my child’s education. Local control of public school is slowly eroding. As a parent, it now comes down to, what can I do? So, I write and phone my state representatives and I sign petitions. If I see curriculum that is age inappropriate or wrong- in any sense of the word, I speak up. Most importantly, I REFUSE all computerized Standardized Testing for my child. As Common Core is all about the testing, and is turning K-12 education into a profit generated enterprise, using tax payers dollars to fund it. There is an entire industry built around the copyrighted curriculum, the manufacturing of this curriculum, the cost of each test, and the grading and preparation of these tests. All of which generates millions of dollars in profit.

Let’s not forget the data collection on each and every child, across this nation. Our children are being sold for profit. Our children are being pigeon-holed. Our children are the subject of a nationwide 10 year experiment. As Common Core and the Standardized Testing that goes along with it, has never been proven to elevate education. Common Core violates three federal laws and the 10th Amendment. So it all comes down to the power of the parent. I have an obligation to protect my child and his educational future. The best way to do this is to REFUSE the tests. Cut the money that feeds the beast. We as parents must find the courage to say enough is enough, and, we must take action to make sure our children receive the best education possible, for their individual needs.”

Suzanne R.F., Parent

“I didn’t want to have my son take the test, as I don’t feel it helps HIM.  He is not a native English speaker and is still learning the language, and there doesn’t seem to be a provision for that in the testing. I don’t feel it would be productive for him, and would not reflect what his teachers have done to help him, which is quite a lot.  Also, I am trying to protect his privacy, and that of our family.”

Susanna M., Parent

“It seems the assessors need to be assessed! Standardized tests are created for assessors to assess with the least amount of effort, thus putting the yolk on teachers, and ignoring the peripheral abilities of students.

Smarter Balanced? Isn’t it ridiculous to claim the test is smarter and balanced? If they are going to name the test after a margarine, Promise would be a better name. Next year we’ll call it I Can’t Believe it’s not Better!”

Sincerely,

Parent and Teacher (wishing to remain anonymous)

Building Signature Masterpieces for Over 45 Years, Addison L. Havens Custom Homes & Woodworking

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Need a Local Master Carpenter or Cabinet Maker for your Next Custom Build? Look No Further…

By Alicia Sakal

Originally Published in the May 6th Edition of the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.

If you live in Sherman or New Fairfield, then chances are good that you have at least heard of The Havens Family or know them through professional or social connections. After all, they have multi-generational roots in both Sherman and New Fairfield, and the family has owned successful local businesses in the area that are still around and flourishing today.

Mr. Addison L. Havens is the family patriarch and for 45 years he has owned the highly reputable construction business, Addison L. Havens Custom Homes & Woodworking. His name and reputation within the community is synonymous with fine craftsmanship.

Daniel, Mr. Havens’ son, joined the family business in 2007, and they make quite the father / son team just like Mr. Havens did decades before with his father, Lester E. Havens who was a renowned master builder in New Fairfield since the mid-1940s. To this day, the New Fairfield Shopping Center, built in the 1950s for John Collins, remains a local landmark. The gift to build and create certainly runs in The Havens Family, three generations strong.

Building a Local Landmark

Another Havens who can build a landmark is Mr. Addison L. Havens. Almost every resident or visitor of Sherman knows the landmark that he built. Twenty-three years ago, he constructed the iconic commercial building where the American Pie Company and the Sherman United States Post Office are located, which is at the intersection of Routes 39 and 37. Not only did he build the exterior building, but he also built the interior and finished it off with intricate woodwork and cabinetry in the traditional country style – all of it, every square foot, was his creation. Dave Coffin, was the architect.

Custom Homes Everywhere

One doesn’t have to look far to view and experience the charm of a signature Havens home. Chances are you’ve come across a majority of the homes on a drive through Sherman on Leach Hollow, Orchard Rest Road, Farm Road, and Crawford Lane. Mr. Havens and his son, Dan, have expanded their business into New Fairfield and New Milford as well. One of their more recent masterpieces is The Wilkinson Homestead in New Milford. This father and son team just finished building the entire home in all of its glory, interior and exterior.

What’s especially commendable is that not only did he build the 1973 Sherman house that he and his wife still live in today, but he also built homes for all three of his children: Audrey Day and family of Sherman, Daniel Havens of Sherman, and Alice Wilkinson and family of New Milford. His seven grandchildren also take delight living in homes that Grandpa built. This is just like what Mr. Havens’ father did for his mother, Ruth, when he built the 1936 homestead on 20 Brush Hill Road in New Fairfield, where he grew up.

More Specialties

In addition to Mr. Havens and his son Daniel building custom new homes, buildings, and additions together; they also build big barns, out buildings, and decks, and they remodel or build new kitchen and bath cabinetry, home theater units and built-ins, and custom built furniture, too.

Building the Unusual

Basically, if you can dream it, then Mr. Havens can build it as he is always up for a project that’s different. Some unusual and interesting client requests through the years include building a steeple for The Sherman Playhouse, a skateboarding half pipe, custom cabinetry for home libraries, wooden parts for classic cars and pick-up trucks, and cabinets using re-purposed materials.

More Family History

There’s something really nice about doing business with a close-knit, family-owned and operated business in a small town community, like Sherman or New Fairfield. Rest assured, the reputation for quality, reliability, and custom carpentry is all there, and then some, with The Havens Family.

Mr. Havens’ daughter, Audrey Day, is a co-owner of the American Pie Company where she whips up delicious, out-of-this-world pies and desserts. Her husband Dave, along with their children, Emily, Jack and James, also help out with the business, which is renowned for its tasty comfort food, too.

As for Mr. Havens’ wife of 52 years, Carol, she happens to be Sherman’s Town Clerk for 40 years and works in a Town Hall just like Mr. Havens’ mother did in New Fairfield several decades before. Mrs. Havens has an amazing gardening talent that she puts to good use. She is the artistic gardener responsible for all of the delightful flowers that bloom around the American Pie Company property. Many patrons especially enjoy their outdoor dining experience because they look forward to sitting next to the exotic cherry blossom tree and the colorful flower gardens that she has personally grown and tends to year-after-year.

Where else but in Sherman can you visit a town landmark that’s a bakery and restaurant, and meet the builder’s daughter who is the co-owner? Then, when you go to the Town Hall after a nice lunch at American Pie Company to see the Town Clerk, you find out through casual conversation that she is the gardener responsible for the outdoor environment that you just enjoyed while dining outside on a patio at the restaurant that her daughter co-owns; which is located in a building that her husband created! Now, that’s called a “local” experience.

Patriotic, Too

Also worthy of mention, and with Memorial Day just around the corner, you can find Mr. Havens, along with his son Daniel, firing two three-quarter scale Civil War cannons at the Sherman Memorial Day Parade this year, just like in years past. Mr. Havens built one carriage in 1964, which was used before in New Fairfield on the Fourth of July, and the other was built in 1971. Now, that’s another hidden talent of his and it demonstrates how a master builder and craftsman’s mind and hands work together.

Contact Mr. Havens and Daniel Today for a Complimentary Consultation to Discuss Your Next Custom Project Idea. Call: 860.354.1723 or Email: HavensCustomHomes@gmail.com

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

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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