I’ve been lucky enough to have a pretty close look at the demise of this building. Of course, I’m saying that with a ton of sarcasm.
Truth is, the building has a great story. It was a thriving business for such a long period of time. It was a hardware store that met its match shortly after I arrived at the Record-Journal.
The owner could no longer run the operation and the decision was to close it. I remember covering the closing and the auctioning off of every last item that was inside. I remember navigating through the building and watching as boxes of nails, saws, hammers, shelves, signage, everything was sold off.
I watched as the building deteriorated. I followed as the city began the process of buying it. I went in the building when the Fire Department was practicing and training in there.
Being next door to the former Church and Morse building, the Record-Journal got a close look at this. As anyone would agree, it’s unfortunate a business had to fold. The building wasn’t in bad shape, especially when compared to the adjoining buildings. The one furthest up South Colony Street was the worst, I’m told. I never confirmed it, but was told if the section ever caught fire the Fire Department likely wouldn’t be going inside that building to put out the flames.
Once demolition takes place and the bridge behind the building is fixed, there are no real plans for what happens to the parcel. What I do know is some of the private developers interested in the city seemed interested in that property. Logically, it make sense for parking if the parking lot behind the RJ building is built upon.
Fun fact: I started this blog post on Wednesday. I saved it. And then forgot about finishing it. so here I am on Friday writing it up.
Still, no demolition has taken place. But when it is, it will be captured on film from the Record-Journal building. We set up a camera to capture it and then it’ll be turned into a time-lapse. We are doing something similar with the Hub. When transformation happens, it’s important to document it one way or another.
Whenever I write a story about this situation, I never know if people fully get it. My thought process is based on the feedback when the stories are posted to various Facebook pages.
Meriden has been down this road before. They take empty buildings and vacant parcels and try to find a developer that can come in and rehab them or redevelop the property. I walked through the building above, I’ve walked through the old hospital, I see Factory H, I work across from the Hub and I work in the Record-Journal building. I know the properties. I know what condition they are in. I’m not an expert. But it’s clear there are challenges no matter what.
So I get the concern. I know why people are worried. I have read countless articles about people who had grand plans for most of these sites only to have them fall through.
So what has changed?
For one, every article about 116 Cook, the Hub and the hospital - they all seemed as if they were passed off to the first person interested. How much research was done prior, I’m not sure. But if you had a plan or an idea, you can have that property.
116 Cook hasn’t improved. The Hub is undergoing redevelopment paid for by the state and federal government because nobody else could take the project on. The hospital owner fell wayyyy behind on taxes and Factory H was a mess for a longtime. And here in the Record-Journal building, it’s just another city-owned building. The business and industry changed and we have a building too big for the company.
Back to my point.
People are either hesitant to believe there is interest, don’t understand the interest or don’t want the interest in the form it’s coming.
The hesitation comes from the reasons listed above. Why should people believe after years of projects being put off? Why should people care that yet another group of people have some interest. The city has been down this path before, isn’t this the same thing?
Not quite. Yes, it is a developer showing interest. This time, however, there are multiple developers. And they all have qualifications. They all have money and financial backing. And they are all committed.
This isn’t one person, it’s a team of people. They have the financial wherewithal to make something happen. At least, that’s what their qualifications tell me.
Another thing: the developers submitted their qualifications. City officials are being incredibly hesitant to hand these properties off. Some people want these to be handed off ASAP. But it’s in City Manager Larry Kendzior’s nature to go through a careful, thoughtful consideration process. He is at the helm and my guess is that is what is going on here.
If you clicked the link at the top, you’d know a first round of interviews for four firms has been completed. In the end, it’s my guess that two firms will be selected across the five major properties. I have a guess as to which two firms will be selected and which properties they will have. But now is not the time for that. There is still a process to be followed. More in-depth plans will be submitted. More in-depth interviews will happen. And then, at some point, a selection will happen. So I don’t have all of the facts, I just know what can be pieced together through talking to city officials, the firms and reading through their submissions.
There is likely a group of people who just don’t understand what’s going on. And I get that. I understand. This is a complicated process - as are most governmental processes - I’m just working my way through this.
In one way or another, the city acquired these five properties. Purchase, auction, foreclosure, whatever…Now they have to do something with them. It’s not in the city’s best interest to own property. I know that, the public knows that and they know that. Ideally, a private owner owns them and does something productive with them. That was not the case with all of them.
The city’s purchase does a few things. It erases any unpaid taxes. It gets them out of the hands of owners who can’t handle the buildings. It (in the Record-Journal’s case) helps out a business who needs it and keeps them in the downtown where city officials are working to revive the area. It controls the process as things move forward. And it opens up doors for funding to help with environmental remediation/demolition/etc.
Think of what the city did as an advertisement. It posted something in the newspaper (and elsewhere) asking for responses. It said “show us what you’ve done, we want to work with you and we want your help.” So some companies respond, show their work, look through the buildings and interview. They see potential.
The city will review, then ask for specific projects. So the companies go back, draw up their best plans, do some studies on the area and then respond. Then city staff will select which firms they want for specific projects based on what was presented and submitted.
The properties likely won’t be handed off without question from there. Some contract will be worked out. Plans will have to be fine tuned, the city will continue applying for state and federal funds, etc. in order to help with the redevelopment.
But what you’re looking at is a real plan to redevelop these properties. Something much more firm than “I think this would look nice as a medical office building,” which is quite literally what got the buildings off in the past. Not that the buildings were handed from the city to private owners - it was typically private to private - but people were reassured it was a possibility with these grand schemes that never panned out in most cases.
Those who have done their homework, know what this will lead to and many don’t like it. Most of these buildings will have low income housing units in them. They won’t entirely be low income units, but there will be some.
There are 140 units at Mills. In order to take Mills down, you need to replace all 140. Not wanting them all to be in the exact same location, they will be spread out throughout the downtown. About 25 are going to the 24 Colony St. project. The building there will house people of all different incomes, including 7 market rate housing units.
The goal for the rest of the downtown developments is to get more market rate than just 10% of the building (like 24 Colony).
Anything but market rate is not good enough for some people though. I agree, it would be nice to get 100% market rate units in downtown Meriden, which is what Mayor Manny Santos has made a push for.
I’m not sure what it will take. The city hasn’t seen it yet. I’m not sure it will. It certainly would take more business in the city and that’s something still lacking.
But through different funding sources, these private companies can have an easier time building or rehabbing these city-owned buildings. They might even get a tax break when it’s completed. So they use the public funding they are eligible for through low income housing and figure out the rest of the cost.
You can’t blame people for wanting luxurious, market rate rental units. Everybody wants a nice place to live and a thriving downtown. Certainly people will disposable income would bring just that. It’s just a matter of how that happens.
Now that I’ve explained all that - I just wanted to make something clear. I cover each step, whether it’s understood or not, because it’s an important time in the city’s history. Every big project is a story. It can either boom or bust, flop or succeed. Or do much of nothing and remain what it is. Either way, I read old stories and see a lot of nothing. Projects that never occurred and that the time, that was important. It creates a record at the very least. We will see what this record shows.
The average person in Meriden has no idea they exist. If they do, they likely won’t find them.
Thankfully there are some people with great knowledge of these brooks and one of those people is Dwight Needels. Dwight went out with GPS equipment and tracked down these brooks from starting point to end point.
This look above likely means nothing to you. So let me help. The brooks that goes diagonal from the bottom left to the upper right corner is Harbor Brook. The brook that runs mostly parallel to Colony Street in the light blue is Clark Brook. (Light blue means underground, dark is above.) And the brook with an end point near the intersection of Broad and East Main streets is Jordan Brook.
The more you know…
Dwight is responsible for sending me that and for mapping it. So I use the map with his permission.
As you can see, Jordan barely runs above ground at any point. I sent a photographer out to look for it. He couldn’t find it.
The brook runs an interesting path, starting underneath the parking lot of Stop and Shop. When the supermarket was built it had to get inland wetlands approval, which is interesting because it doesn’t strike you as a wetland. But it is.
The brook has a fascinating story. It runs down a long, but steep slope between Broad Street and Pratt Street. You can imagine how much water comes gushing down in a rain storm. It actually used to be wider and it had a waterfall, but that was later filled in.
Jordan Brook runs underneath a house at the corner of Liberty and Hobart streets and then heads back down the slope. Interestingly enough, the city is selling the property behind the house to the house’s owner.
There used to be a water tower on the property. The map above dates back to 1868, but there is actually a better view of the brook on it than anything you can find today.
It’s a fascinating map for plenty of other reasons, but it gives you a better idea where the brooks run.
Jordan Brook gets its name from a church. The church would perform baptisms in the brook and it was named Jordan Brook after the Jordan River where Jesus was once baptized.
Dwight knew a little less about Clark Brook, but things are a little clearer when it comes to Clark.
It remains above ground for longer stretches. It runs along the railroad tracks and Colony Street, which is a well-traveled area.
Like Jordan, the brook stretches into the Hub. When the project at the Hub is finished, people will have a better idea they actually exist.
The plan is to install headwalls on each side of Harbor Brook. The brooks will flow into Harbor Brook and for the first time in decades, people may have an idea they exist.
It won’t be your basic cement, either. There will be some actual design to make it look nicer.
Until then, you’ll just have to go out and look for the brooks yourself.
I realize this is becoming a habit, but here is my latest tour of an empty building/work site: 116 Cook Ave.
A private development firm - POKO Partners - was doing a walk-through of the building a couple of weeks ago and Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski invited me to come along. I took her up on the offer since 1. I was interested in the interested group and 2. I never went to this building.
I was never in this building before. Not that I remember anyway. My wife had been at some point and when she looked through my photos, instantly remembered the inside, the ramp and the way it looked back then being the same as now.
I was in the old hospital many many years ago when I broke my leg. I remember the foyer of the building, but because I was only a few years old, didn’t actual recall it. When I stepped into it a few months ago for the first time in 20+ years, it looked almost the same and the memory came back.
The place was trashed, as you can see. Actually the entrance was much better than most of the building. Ceiling panels were missing everywhere though. There are two reasons: they drop after a certain amount of time if the building isn’t properly heated or air conditioned and if people are ripping out copper wiring.
In this case, it was clearly both. As you can see, the wall is missing in this photo. I believe I took this on the 2nd floor.
We were met by some inviting graffiti.
Some heavy, insightful stuff right there.
And then we went into a room that smelled like urine. It was disgusting. It was also dark, so there are no images.
But you work your way toward the back of the building and we had two choices: left or right. The problem was that left was impossible to get through. There was too much debris.
Right it was.
There was plenty of debris this way, for the record. This area of the building was damaged by a fire that was in Factory H years ago. The buildings were connected through this back hallways. Later it was closed off and this became a medical office building. It was actually a very good idea at the time, but when the hospital was moved, this building fell by the wayside - clearly.
The people with POKO were very nice and I appreciated them letting me go along. They didn’t have to especially since they were inspecting a building they could be looking to invest millions of dollars into. Obviously they talked about some things that they asked me not to write about as a way to not tip their hand to other private investors. These sorts of agreements aren’t unusual in reporting, but they also commented as much as I asked them to on the situation and they were in agreement to that. For what it’s worth, they do seem to be interested in the property and it is clear the property is still in good condition from a structural standpoint.
From an interior standpoint, it could use a few improvements.
It’s always interesting walking through these buildings. You don’t really know what to anticipate. It could be bad, it could be OK. In this case, I thought it was in worse shape than what I expected.
It was clear vagrants and vandals were there at some point. Maybe some homeless people made this their shelter at some point. You never really know when the last time was that they were there. And you never know if they are still there.
There was plenty of light in the building. Other than the stairwells, flashlights really weren’t needed. That’s a big difference from the old hospital where you needed them everywhere you went practically.
It was a strange building though, as they usually are. It was seemingly standing in time, but with the damage all over. It was already an outdated interior, so it gives off the impression it is even older. The fact that it was a medical office building just makes it a little creepier.
We only went on the first three (of 4) floors. And even the third was just a quick peek.
There were a few little kitchen areas like this. And there was a lot of damage laying around like this on the floor:
I’m not sure what will become of this building. People seem to think they can make it work by leaving the building up and rehabbing it. Then again, it was built in the 1800s. If I was the owner, my head says rehab it because demolishing might be more expensive, but my gut says to knock it down and combine it with the Factory H parcel.
And the last photo is presented without comment other than it was found in the main entrance of the building. Politicians.
As you may have read, the City Council met last night to discuss the lawsuit against Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn. If you missed it, here you go.
It’s tough to make this long story short, but the minority party councilors put together a resolution to repeal a decision to have the city fund Quinn’s side of the lawsuit. It failed.
But this thing has been going on for eight months. And each step along the way is nothing but political. It’s a game, but with real tax dollars attached.
The Democrats will go down fighting in this one and contend, no matter what, that the City Council is responsible for appointing the corporation counsel. The mayor will always oppose that as will most of the minority party councilors.
Things changed with a Superior Court judge ruled against Quinn and against what the city has been practicing for 20-plus years. Public opinion took a little bit of a turn. Many people began thinking “maybe the mayor was right all along.” Either way, a decision is a decision.
Tens of thousands of dollars were spent and people seemed comfortable with letting that go. The money was spent, why lose more for a job they could really care less about?
The Democrats wanted to defend Quinn. They lost. Quinn agreed to fund it himself with the help of his law firm for the sake of fighting it. Mike doesn’t need the money - I think that’s clear. He seems to be fighting this because he believes it’s right. And again, he was comfortable fighting this on his own.
The Democrats, however, insisted on fighting this one with a city-hired attorney. And that’s where you lose some of the public. Now the lawsuit is reaching the six figure level. To anybody, that’s a lot of money. And it has added up quickly.
Last night’s meeting was to be expected. Majority party vs. the minority party. No real new arguments and nobody really switching sides. Three councilors not present meant fewer people would speak on the issue, but that’s the only major difference they made.
Truth is, this Supreme Court hearing and a decision cannot come soon enough for the Democrats. Or the people paying taxes. Or even the minority party for that matter. The minority parties, in backing the mayor, look good on this whole thing. But they also want to see this all come to an end to stop paying for the lawsuit, I’m sure.
Either way, more than a month to go and who knows how much longer after that. Maybe it won’t come up at the City Council anymore. Maybe it will. But don’t expect much new on it.
Image courtesy of Derek Torrellas l Record-Journal
Sorry folks, Frontera is as good as gone.
I was talking with local attorney Dennis Ceneviva a few weeks back. Off the top of my head, I’m not even sure why I called him or what for. But he’s the guy to talk to about site plans and land use and things like that in Meriden if you aren’t talking to a city-hired person. He also knows a lot of people and a lot of history, but we will save that part for another day.
The business opened maybe a year and a half ago. In the last 6-8 months, or so, it seemed to be doing pretty well. Cars were there. People couldn’t stop raving about it on the Meriden Facebook forums and even word of mouth was spreading on it.
So what went wrong?
According to Dennis, they weren’t paying their rent. Or had a backlog of it. Either way, they weren’t up-to-date and an the eviction process was started back in May.
On the first day of reporting, I could, at the very least, report there was a site plan submitted for the property. I couldn’t get a hold of the owner or the manager to confirm the restaurant was closing. You always report what you know and what can be confirmed though and it wasn’t hard to confirm a site plan was submitted to demolish the building and put in an Advance Auto Parts.
City Planner Dominick Caruso seemed not too happy by the proposal. And why should he be excited? I business doing well being shut down and a restaurant no less. Meriden already has a shortage of restaurants and one less is a kick in the you know where.
So I Reported The Facts…
And the feedback was crazy. Absolutely crazy. I’m not sure I ever saw this before.
There was a weird mixture of people who were upset and in denial and just P/O’d. Hundreds of comments flooded the story and various Facebook groups. People were angry with the city, angry with the restaurant, angry with me. Just angry to be angry.
How could they be closing? How could they be leaving for somewhere else? How could the city let this happen? Why is the city pushing them out? Why isn’t the RJ reporting this right? The RJ got this totally wrong.
I’ll stand by my reporting until the end on this one.
I wrote a second story. I spoke with Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski about it. She went over to the restaurant and spoke with the manager. He said he was staying. They said they were fighting it.
I went over. He said the same thing.
But there was a problem: He was just the manager, not the owner. The owner apparently already signed a lease termination agreement. He was ready to go months before. He planned to move the business and may not have been too upfront about it with his employees. I’m also told he was surprised when he found out the manager took it upon himself to have the building’s exterior repainted.
Walking through you’d be surprised the building is close to being finished. There’s clearly a lot of work to be done, but the major aspects - the walls, electrical/mechanical systems, the building, really - are all complete.
Walking down the halls you get a lot of what is in the picture above. Interior work being done. Doors and furniture wrapped in plastic. In one room a guy is putting lockers together one by one. In another room they are putting together other furniture. In others it’s ready when the workers are ready.
The Platt and Maloney phases are very different. Maloney is essentially a new building. Platt required some shifting around of the music department during the year so workers could renovate the area and do some new construction.
New construction they did.
The building looks different. I was lost walking through there and I have some experience in the building. It really was like a new world.
The classrooms are what you’d expect. About the same size as the current school, but updated. New furniture. There will be new equipment. The building will function better. Etc.
The science classrooms are more interesting than the others. Math, science, social studies - those classrooms are essentially all the same. Science, picture above and below, has some equipment installed.
Much of the work going on right now is in the school’s freshman academy. As a means to ease students from middle to high school, freshmen academies will be introduced. It will essentially be an area of the school for freshmen to take their core academic classrooms. They will be integrated with the upperclassmen when on their way to classes like gym or on their way to the cafeteria.
This will be one of the entrances into the “new” area. I took a picture and didn’t think about it until I looked again, but it surprised me. There’s a lot of glass in this door.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, you’d just assume there would be less glass at the schools. Even the front door of the school, which is 50+ years old, has less glass. I think most would agree that if someone wants to get in, they will find their way in. But there is plenty of glass in these doors.
Above is the choral room. Both the choral and band rooms have their own rooms like the old school and both are being worked on. I don’t really remember being in the old Platt choral room although I know I was. I can’t say how different or similar it is, but if you compare it to Maloney, which I’ve been in, it’s similar. Big, open room with the side rooms.
There are more than 100 people working on the Platt site. The number would surprise you, until you start walking in and out of rooms. Two people here, one there, a few in another area, a couple down the hall. It’s interesting to see where people are and get an idea what the day is like. Some days you’re working near somebody, another day you’re in a section of the building by yourself.
I’ll give you a series of photos next of the library or media center. It’s its own area. From the outside, it’s a prominent area and that’s been the idea. They wanted to put something clearly visible at the major intersection, which I think they accomplished. On the outside, it looks like the photo above. From the inside, it looks like this…
The media center is an interesting area to be in. It extends 30 feet over the first level, and in a dumbed down explanation, there is basically a support system to make sure the section doesn’t collapse. When you’re walking on it though, it feels like you’re walking in a different space. You’re surrounded by the outdoors and walking out from the building.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Grove said the plan is to put in computers and comfortable furniture to give the room the feel of a college campus.
Back on the outside of the building, this is kind of interesting. All of what is in yellow is a temporary wall. That section will eventually extend to another portion of the building, which hasn’t been built yet.
Inside, you run into a handful of temporary walls. In some cases, like this one, they extend to open space. In others, they are just a barrier between the new and old building.
To the rear of the building near the track, work has started up, as well. The area outlined by the fence will be renovated. There is pink paint that outlines where a new section of the building will extend to. It is shaped similar to the fence and will be the cafeteria area.
And also ongoing in the pool area. It is supposed to be ready for November, but so far most of the work done is the removal of the tile and the replacement of the pool system. Rather than a chlorine pool, it will be treated with saline.
Not pictured but interesting was the number of mechanical rooms or rooms where electrical, HVAC, etc equipment is housed. There are a number of them both on the main level and in the basement of the school.
The project is scheduled to be completed a few years from now, but those new classrooms should be up and running in the next few weeks.
Last week seemed like one tour of a construction site after another. It started with an impromptu hour-long tour of the Hub. Then a group of RJ staffers toured Platt for about an hour the following morning and Maloney was right after that. I’ll save Platt for another day.
There’s such a significant difference between Maloney and Platt and these projects. Platt you drive by and you have to see what’s going on. Maloney you drive by and it’s like “Hey, what’s going on back there?”
You just can’t see what is happening at Maloney. You’d think you can see a 3-4 story building behind the 2-story Maloney school, but you can’t. The new section that stands three stories and four in some areas is just low enough that it’s not obvious.
Not too long from now demolition will occur and things will change.
As you walk toward the building, the first thing that strikes you is how large the building is. Three stories in one building doesn’t translate the same way to the old building. The ceilings are higher so the stories are larger.
Then you notice the glass. There’s a lot of it. And there’s a lot at the old building, but you see terrible blinds everywhere and it’s just not appealing. It’s old, though it still serves its purpose.
At Platt, there is natural light in the classrooms, but it’s not too much. The windows are slightly smaller.
At Maloney, they are much larger but not as much light as you’d expect. The solution was simple, sun shades were installed and they really block out more light than you’d ever expect.
Inside the classrooms thee was light. Enough natural light that electricity is not up and running yet, but things are still bright enough to see. Karrie Kratz explained it, saying you want enough natural light in the building to see, but not too much that it’s making the building too hot and the AC has to be cranked up. Well, she said that in a much more intelligent way with the word ‘sustainable’ used once or twice.
At Platt (and maybe at Maloney) the lights also naturally dim themselves based on the light from outside. So that’s cool.
The hallway in the new area is interesting. It’s curved. Obviously the building is curved, so the hallway being curved makes sense. At the old school, you could essentially see from the cafeteria all the way through the entire school. This is just a different feature. The renovated old section will have long hallways too, I just found this interesting.
Inside and outside, everything looks like a construction site. Inside there are is just equipment all over. Inside is pretty much the same thing.
Also to be noted, most of the classrooms are similar so you see the same thing pretty often. Some are just further along than others.
This will be a science classroom. It’s not too far along from the appearance, but utilities are being installed for science experiments and such.
One thing Maloney has is a nice view. This is from a stairwell on the third floor. You can look out and see the football field. We didn’t hit an classrooms on the other side of the building, but now I wish we did. If you are on the other side, you can look out and see the baseball field. Beyond that though is the highway and then the Hanging Hills.
That thing sticking out of the building at the bottom of the picture (that is outside the glass) is a sunscreen. They look fairly normal, but do quite a bit as far as blocking out light, apparently.
Beyond that you can see where work is going on. You can also see a number of boulders. Interestingly enough, the boulders came from somebody’s backyard. The backyard was part of the property purchase the city made for the project. They began excavating the site and began pulling this out one by one.
The boulders will be re-used as part of a rain garden that will be between the new and old buildings. Over the rain garden will be a bridge connecting the second floor of the building to the ground level floor of the old building that will run straight across. Then there will be a second level of the bridge connecting the third floor to the old building’s second floor. The second level of the bridge will have a slight slope because of grading issues.
Again, this is just a closer look at the building. It’s hard to argue the appearance because it does look nice. Plenty of people will argue it’s also part of a project worth $107.5 million - so keep that in mind.
This section is scheduled to open in November. The whole school will take a few more years. When this opens, almost all of the academic classrooms will be moved to the new section so demolition, construction and renovation can happen on the rest of the building.
The sooner they change the name of the Hub, the better. Then I can stop calling it the Hub and move on to the long-term name and not confuse people 10 years from now.
Now that that’s off my chest, I took a tour of the Hub last week with Public Works Director Bob Bass. Bob, photographer Dave Zajac and I walked around the site and Bob told us a lot about what’s going on.
I’ve heard it said quite a few times, but you really don’t understand how big of a site the 14-acre property is until you’re standing on it. It took us almost an hour to walk around, obviously stopping to chat from time to time.
The picture at the top is somewhat what the channel will look like. Right now Harbor Brook flows through the property underground. It will be unearthed and moved slightly eastward. The water pictured is just rainwater that was collected.
When you’re standing on the site, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much lower you are standing than the street level. Looking south in the picture below, we were probably 5 or six feet below the street and there was still a ways to go. From the street, it’s much harder to tell.
Dave always seems to enjoy these assignment. It gets us outdoors and on a work site and city staff is always pretty good about letting us go where we want for photos.
There are piles of dirt around the site. All over. Obviously excavation is part of the process, but a lot of dirt will be re-used.
With years of history on the property, there’s concrete and brick and rocks, and … the list goes on. It’s really endless what has been found. Glass, piping, you name it…
The soil is sent through a sifter and essentially cleaned out. It really is like a giant sandbox from when you were a kid and sifted out the little rocks and things.
You can see in the above shot the difference in the soil once it’s been run through a sifter. Also, you can see Bob standing on the concrete culvert that the brook runs through.
Some of the piles are smaller, some are enormous. The one pictured below is huge and sits right in the middle of the site.We could see brick and concrete, brownstone, wood, pieces of metal - all of which was just sticking out and piled high.
I remember the day contracting companies were being told about the project and a city staff member said they were unsure what was underground. It could be anything. And that was the case. They dug up a headstone at one point.
The next picture wasn’t something found underground. It’s actually a sample of what will be used on the site for bridges and for the culverts that you will see on the site.
I had to smirk when I saw this photo. The Parks and Rec Dept. is installing a new swing set at Carroll Park. The park is at the corner of Bee Street and Baldwin Avenue.
This was a popular park for me when I was much younger. My grandparents used to live down the street on Bee Street and the park was within walking distance.
But once incident will always stand out - although there was a time I got a pretty good gash in my knee while walking to that park.
No, what I will always remember is the much bigger injury. A broken leg.
I was just 2 years old, almost 3, and my dad took me to the park. I was on the swings and he was pushing me. But rather than from the back, he was pushing me at my feet. Even though I was only 2, I’ve hung onto this memory pretty well.
The next thing I knew I was flying through the air. I think I got scared because I was too high and let go. When I let go I went backwards. I came crashing down and knew something was wrong. I cried.
I remember my dad putting me in his truck with my right leg off to the side. I really couldn’t move it and I remember it sagging.
We went over to my grandmother’s house. She was a nurse. I remember laying there and I remember my great grandmother being there. I have very few memories of her because she died when I was young, but I remember her there.
We went to the hospital and at some point a doctor confirmed it was broken. I only remember flashes, but I’ve been told I was put to sleep because I was freaking out so much. Considering I wasn’t crying most of the time after the break, I’m guessing I was just scared and not actually in pain.
They put a cast on my leg and that was that. My mom tells me I had to learn to walk again. I vaguely remember going to physical therapy. I remember bringing my Ninja Turtles in the “bath tub” at the old hospital.
My sister was born just a few weeks prior to the injury, so I’m sure this was a ton of fun for my parents - a baby and a kid who was about to turn 3 who couldn’t walk or do much of anything.
My leg is better now, obviously. I’ve only had a few injuries since then, but nothing quite as bad. I broke my hand at Columbus Park five years ago. Six years ago - on this day no less - I chipped a good portion of my front left tooth at the YMCA Outdoor Center. I’ve sprained toes, had black eyes, and at one point bit a giant gash into my tongue that is still there.
But the leg will always stick out to me. And I will always push my sons from behind on swings because of that. And probably never bring them to Carroll Park.
People are really excited for this and I’m not surprised. They should be. People have been asking for this for years.
I wrote the story. It was shared on our Facebook page. Then, 259 Liked it. 116 people shared it. Sometimes our stories don’t get shared. Not once. Other times it’s 5, 10, 15 maybe. But 116 is a lot. A real lot.
People love the castle. They love the view. They love the drive or walk up. And they should. It’s something special and unique about the city.
I don’t know why they close the gate for 4:45 pm. It doesn’t make much sense during the summer when the sun is still out. I think long term this will be changed. If you get out of work at 5, you can’t get to the castle after work during the week. Even getting out at 4 is cutting it pretty close.
I’m sure the early closing had to do with vandalism at some point. And dinner being at 5 p.m. But times have changed and I think it makes sense to leave it open. People love the castle, so why not let them have it for a longer period of time?
Strangest thing. OK, there are plenty things stranger, but I felt like I had to share this. And I apologize for the lateness - just some craziness lately.
Last Thursday, July 24, I was driving home from Columbus Field. I had a softball game that night - we lost btw - and I started heading home. It was a little after 10 p.m. and things were pretty quiet in the city as they usually are around that hour.
Columbus to my neighborhood on the south-central area of the city is no easy task. There are a lot of options, none of which are quick. Some nights I take 691 to 15, but that night I took an alternative route.
I drove passed the RJ and went down Crown like I was going home from work. I’ve done this plenty of times. Often, you get people walking in the street, a narrowed road because cars are parked on both sides, and you generally have to just be careful.
Having been ticketed on the street in the past, I tend to drive slowly. I’m traveling south and I begin approaching the Curtis Home area. You go up a small hill and then down slightly. In the distance I saw a figure moving slowly. A dog? Probably.
It was a deer. When I say slow, I mean taking its time. I was more anxious to see it than to take a picture. I didn’t want to startle it, but there it was. In the middle of Crown Street. The inner city area, no less.
I’m looking at Google Maps and really can’t figure this one out.
There’s not a ton of woods in the area. Just slim sections. It would had to have crossed plenty of other streets along the way.
I get it. Deer exist. They walk through nature. People hate that new developments take up their natural habitat. But there are no new developments in the area. This deer was just casually walking across the middle of the city.
Now people are going to read what I just wrote and think 1. why did I just read this or 2. This is really interesting. I’m writing it for those who think #2. I’ve thought about the deer every day though for whatever reason. I was pissed off. My team had just lost and maybe just lost a chance at 1st place for the regular season - something I wanted desperately. Then along comes this deer. I am the only one who saw it on Crown Street. Just walking down the street, across Crown and into a backyard. What are the chances?
I’m not sure. But simple crazy things like this are what make you stop sometimes and realize there might be something more interesting than that softball game. Or it might not be as important as this deer finding its way home.
I am terrible at estimates. I don’t know how big it is. I assumed it was a huge dog only because I never expected it to be a deer. It looked like an adult though. My parents used to get them from time to time in their yard as they live in a somewhat wooded area along Route 15. So I know about how big they are in size and what a baby and adult look like.
It was odd though and something I’ll probably think about for a while headed down Crown Street. When you drive the same street every day you remember things - where I got that ticket, where those two men were shot two years ago, where that person was hit by a car a few years back…etc. It’s nice this memory will be a positive one.
Many weren’t surprised. Some questioned whether it would ever happen.
Things seemed to be sailing smoothly during Scarpati’s first two years on the council. The change of Manny Santos as mayor and councilor Lenny Rich did shake things up in the city though. Scarpati wasn’t completely on board with things at that first council meeting and things have been shaky ever since.
I could rattle off a list of things that irked some committee members. And sometimes it irks a few, sometimes it’s a lot. But if it happens enough, people start getting more and more upset. That was probably the case here.
A vote here, the change of the vote, another vote that upsets the minority party members and it got frustrating. People write in to support Scarpati on a daily basis and they write in not a fan of him on a daily basis. People spoke with him before the City Council meeting last night to say he did a noble thing and others question his vote. He is clearly sick of having to hear all of it though and doesn’t want the spotlight and what comes with that right now.
I’ll clarify. Kevin welcomes the limelight. He sings, he acts, he coaches, he’s involved with politics. But this isn’t the spotlight he wants right now - caught between the two caucuses whether it is intentional or not.
Whether or not it crossed his mind, jumping straight to the Democrats would just put him out there looking like a traitor. Staying on the RTC opens him up to continued bashing from some members of his own party. It isn’t everybody upset with him, however. I spoke with Liz Whitney yesterday who seemed disappointed in the decision, but said they are still on good terms. I spoke with Dan Brunet who seemed disappointed Kevin didn’t speak with him directly beforehand. But I also spoke with Kevin who seemed disappointed more wasn’t being done to unite the party.
So where does he stand? Alone. Without a party.
For the next year, that may not be a bad thing. It gives Scarpati time to separate himself from the drama. He can walk away from the back and forth and vote however he wants without anything in the back of his head.
But a year from now they will be endorsing candidates for City Council. At the age of 25 (now) and only one term in, I doubt Kevin is done with politics. It certainly helps to get a party endorsing him. I don’t know that the Republicans will jump at the opportunity and I doubt We the People will. Then again, I’m not sure what the options at the time will be for the Republicans. Candidate Ron Perry lost by a pretty wide margin last time. John Thorp switched parties and dropped out of the race for health issues. Would they try running somebody else?
As for the Democrats, they remain an open possibility, for now. Last time they opted not to run Thorp despite his interest. He was told he didn’t fall enough in line with what the Dems believe in and had some questionable votes. Kevin, on the other hand, seems to have the support of public safety right now, he has had education support and he is well-known in the community. It might be tough to pass up endorsing him and getting a candidate who may not lean to the far left, but one who might fall toward the middle of the Republicans and Democrats.
He probably put it best when he said he isn’t sure what will happen 6 months from now, let alone a year. I don’t think major changes will happen, but you never know.
Either way, a sitting councilor changing his party is an interesting move. It’s one I anticipated at some point based on the way he was feeling and my interviews with him. But because I assumed something was coming doesn’t mean I expected it. With a mostly quiet summer, I could have easily seen things quieting down and reverting back to what they were.
But then, on a quiet Friday afternoon, Kevin shook that up. That’s politics for ya.
If you haven’t done this yet, I recommend you do it.
Take a quick look at this story and then check out the virtual tour of what the Meriden Hub (name pending) will be. Take your smart phone, use the QR reader, if you don’t have one - get one, then scan the QR code. You can follow the directions from there.
What you get is something pretty cool. It’s a look at the Meriden Hub. Right now, as I poke my head out the door, the Hub is under construction. It’s at all different elevations, but mostly a big dirt pile. It really looks like a giant sand box, but instead of sand it’s dirt and instead of toy trucks there are actual trucks.
But so many people doubt the project. That’s understandable because there is oftentimes a negative perception about downtown, projects Meriden takes on, etc. But you shouldn’t doubt something under construction. It’s happening and that 3D tour is proof. Those are real specifications and real plans.
I spent probably a half hour looking around, looking through the little intricacies and whatnot. I thought it was cool.
You wonder whether people will go to the park or not. On a 2D rendering looking down at the park, it makes sense - you aren’t sure what you’re getting. But in 3D it’s hard to imagine people don’t show up to the park. In the beginning it will likely be just to check it out. And I get it, Meriden has Hubbard Park. It’s a wonderful, magical place - but this won’t be terrible either. I’m sure it will succeed. It would be hard not to. People will go to Hubbard as a destination, but people will naturally walk through this park in downtown. And people will go there, but walkabout the area - that’s the hope anyway.
But let’s stop with the what ifs and ideas and hopes. Just take a few minutes to check out the tour. If you have any interest in Meriden, it’s worth a few minutes just to get the idea.
Mayor Manny Santos spoke openly at a recent City Council meeting about six private developers interested in downtown. He added thoughts and opinions about affordable housing. It turned into a longer discussion.
A few days later, Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn emailed the mayor and the council to say it was not a good idea to have these drawn out conversations. It was not listed on the agenda and it is considered a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Quinn said it was allowable, however, if a two-thirds vote was taken following a motion to discuss something not on the agenda.
Santos said he will ask for a motion and two-thirds vote in the future, but said as mayor there is no statute preventing him from making his remarks. He told me he would continue to do so and if there was a need for a discussion, he would go forward with looking for a motion.
City Attorney Debbie Moore clarified the situation after speaking with Tom Hennick, who is a staff member at the state FOI Commission. Moore reported back to the group, stating that the group should always look for a motion and vote rather than just speaking openly.
I spoke to Tom. Tom told me if Manny or anybody else give a quick update or make an announcement then it is allowable. If it is a discussion, there should be a vote.
I spoke with the mayor yesterday after the story came out. He was disappointed and thought the article was misleading. He made note of it in a comment on the section, which I and an editor here recommended to do if he was not pleased.
I agree with Manny here: It does give the reader the impression that he disagreed with Tom Hennick. Why? Because before he read the article he did disagree. The mayor disagreed with Tom based on the information he got from Debbie Moore. He later agreed with Tom based on the information he got through my story.
So now I’m called out for being misleading. I have another person question my “agenda” and I have Wallingford Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, who is also a lawyer with a prominent Meriden lawsuit right now, “liking” that post about my “agenda.”
Don’t shoot the messenger here. It’s my job to report on the topic and information as it was received and interpreted. I called Tom to verify the conversation between he and Moore took place and to hear firsthand what he had to say. I went a step further and explained the council meeting(s) and he responded with his thoughts.
In the emails obtained between Quinn, Santos, councilors, and Moore, Moore gives a number for Hennick and invites anybody to call.
The last sentence is where Santos seems to be where the mayor’s frustration is coming from. Had he learned the same information I reported through Moore, everything would have been fine. But because it was not, he seemed frustrated with Quinn and the Law Department for “giving inadequate legal (advice).”
If that piece of information was missing, I could see where the frustration is coming from. I also see where Quinn’s concern is coming from. You cannot leave items being discussed off of agendas unless they are brought up with a motion and vote. In talking with some members of the council, it seemed some were open to the mayor updating the city on the interest of developers. But once his opinion about affordable housing was added, they said he should have expected conversation to ensue. Some speculated that it was the mayor’s attempt to get his opinion out there without getting a rebuttal. Of course Brian Daniels did and then it was back and forth.
Either way, the discussion is over. We will see how it goes in the future, but that’s just something I wanted to clear up. I have no agenda, but hopefully you already knew that. I did not mean to mislead, if you did. All I did, was report and simply talk to the person that the city attorney spoke with.
I’ll start by saying the above picture is not exactly what is being proposed anymore. It’s similar, it’ll take up the same amount of space, but in my opinion, it will look a little nicer than that if plans hold true.
What is it? It’s affordable housing. Well, for the most part. The first floor is office/retail/commercial space. Then there are 63 or 64 housing units above that.
What is pictured is very much a real possibility. And while it is real and the financing is going through the appropriate measures, it’s a project that has faced some heat.
Of those units, all but 10 percent will be considered “affordable housing.” The reaction to affordable housing has been interesting. Why? Because most people don’t know what affordable housing is or what it means.
It’s not a quick and simple definition either. I mean, it’s supposed to mean it’s affordable to just about anybody with a full-time job, but it’s more complicated than that. It is affordable to people with varying levels of income and this project is also mixed income so people interested in market rate housing will also have their chance to live there.
Most people in Meriden are used to seeing and hearing about the Mills. This is not the Mills for a number of reasons. But most importantly, it is not the Mills just based on the income levels. Mills is low income housing. Strictly for people with lower incomes.
People in Meriden, however, do not change their minds and opinions very easily. That holds true in a lot of places. But a lot of Meridenites I know won’t change their minds on something until they physically see something to change their minds. People won’t understand affordable housing in downtown aimed at 25-35 year olds until they see it. It may happen. It may never happen. But people tend to not believe until they see.
So I like to give examples, specific examples, about how is eligible here.
First off, me. My wife and I could combine our salaries and be allowed to live here. Would we? No. These are 1-2 bedroom apartments and I have two kids so it’s not happening. I’m comfortable living in my neighborhood and in my house too. At some point, the American dream came to include the suburbs.
But a single me? I’m interested. Give me something to do downtown and I’m more interested.
Who else? Most of my friends. Surprise, we are all 25-35. In fact, I’m 25 and could have been on the younger end of people living downtown if that age ranged filled the area. I know people and have friends in a number of different jobs and work fields. They probably all qualify, if not both.
There are firefighters that qualify for this, people working in the Board of Education, lab technicians, laborers, the list goes on.
If this project is successful and the housing is marketed properly, you wind up with a group of working class people in the affordable housing units. Imagine that.
My advice to the people looking to be running the downtown - if you want those people there, start getting your ducks in a row. People my age like to do things. Give them something to do in downtown very soon. Give them a place to go. Anything to do. Lure them now. Otherwise, who is going to want to live in downtown with no businesses to visit or places to hang out other than the park? Just a thought.
Is there a problem with nepotism in the city of Meriden?
That’s a good place to start. An anti-nepotism policy was drafted and reviewed by the City Council. A second policy has now been written and the council is in the process of reviewing both. What will happen? I’m not sure.
The truth is, like most other municipalities, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. follow in the footsteps of their relatives when it comes to career paths. You often see it happen in the public sector with police officers, firefighters, etc.
There is or shouldn’t be a problem when a kid grows up and wants to become a police officer his like father. But what happens when a relative is a superior?
We know the situation in Meriden in the Police Department, there is no need to rehash that. But the fact is, that is why an anti-nepotism policy is being proposed. It’s very clear and has been said for that matter. It has also come up in the past because of other relationships. Firefighter siblings, the Zebora brothers in the Parks Department…there are others.
It’s easy to see both sides of the issue. It’s great when it works out well and the family members do no wrong. But we’ve seen what can happen when things go wrong, as well.
I’m fascinated to see how this plays out. I know people for this and people against this and both sides are pretty firm where they stand. This will be an interesting split on the City Council as well because it’s far from a party issue. I know party members on both sides who disagree with those from their same party.
I’m not sure how it will play out, but I did have an interesting conversation while I was on vacation with a guy interested in joining the fire department. He is certified. He would come at no additional cost to the city. He’s known around town and likable. But he would be unable to join the FD if a relative works there. It seems unfair that he is impacted by at least one specific situation. Then again, if I’m the city, do I want to go down that route already traveled? There is no easy answer to the situation.
You are taught in journalism not to use the word you in stories. They also tell you not to start stories with quotes or with questions.
So now that that is out of the way…
You guys, I’m back.
Sorry about not providing most with prior notice, but I have been off from work for a week now. Actually, I worked last Thursday, had off Friday, worked Saturday, and then I was off since then. So make of that what you will as to how long I was off.
It’s funny the reaction you get when people find out you’re on vacation. Sources specifically. The question immediately becomes, “well, how do I get this news out there?” “Who is going to write the news now?” and so on. As if there is nobody else at the RJ or something. Do people assume I work 24/7/265? Sometimes it feels that way.
But no, sometimes they let us out of this place. But the thing with technology is that you’re always connected. Always. And when you stop being connected, people begin to wonder. So I still tweeted, but in obvious ways to make people understand I wasn’t at work. In fact, my goal was to only stay somewhat current on the news, but not really read a lot of stories or share stories or participate in the news stuff. I needed a break.
Even during the catastrophic storms the last few years and during my days off and weekends, I have been known to write and fill people in on things. But no, not this week. This week was about my family being off from school and off from work.
I forgot what vacation was like. I don’t use a lot of vacation days. Well, I use them, but not for much vacation. I use them when one of my kids is sick. If you have two kids in different schools/daycares, you know that can be often. And with infants/toddlers it can be even more often.
So I often save those because you never know when they are needed. I do take some days off here and there: birthdays, anniversaries, etc. When I need a day on occasion. But a week? Never. We also have instances where we work on the weekend, so we get a day off during the week. That helps.
The last time I took a full week off was when Ryder was born. He was born March 4, 2013. So it had been more than a year. And that was for the birth of one of my sons.
Before that it was in 2011. In August. And it wasn’t even intended to be a full week. My wife and I were getting married in Miami and I took off almost a full week. Short on money, we didn’t have a real full honeymoon planned, just a few days in Miami and her parents and family ended up taking Xander at the time so we could have some time alone for a couple days. Then Tropical Storm Irene hit and kept us in Miami a little longer than expected. While it’s a great place to be stuck, it’s stressful trying to find flights then paying premium prices.
Funny story about that. We showed up at the airport on the day our flight was scheduled. When we got there, my lovely bride realized our ticket was booked for the day prior. Imagine that. I let her book the tickets. Keep track of the tickets. And the entire time she was convinced we were headed back up to CT on a Wednesday and we were were really headed back on a Tuesday. No worries though because I could just book a couple tickets back. Right? right. I book those then the flight is canceled. We got back up to CT on the next Tuesday, I believe.
Before that time off…well, I was hired at the RJ in mid-2010 and worked at the Citizen weekly papers prior to that. I interned at the RJ in the spring semester that year while going to school and got a week off for spring break. Of course, spring break that year consisted of the birth of Xander. So I haven’t had vacations in a while and it was nice to finally get some time off.
We didn’t have a ton planned for this past week. No big trip. I’m a reporter working on a reporter salary and my wife isn’t paid “the big bucks” yet either, so we kept it simple. Xander just got out of school two weeks ago for the summer and we had Ryder out of school for a week.
I was off with Xander that first Friday and I took him out for the day. I only get so much time with just him and so I like to spoil him when I get the chance, just as I will Ryder when he gets older. I took him to Hubbard Park after grabbing sandwiches from “the blue house” (Spoonshoppe Brooke Deli) in Meriden.
We had a picnic, watched the ducks and geese, fed the ducks and geese, went on the playscape, walked around the park, and headed back to the car before going out for ice cream. We then picked up Ryder from school and spent the day hanging out and playing some more.
Sunday we went to Rocky Neck beach with my brother-in-law and his kids. This is more or less how the beach went.
Ryder had never been to the beach before, so his mind was mostly blown. He loved the water, loved the sand and loved the train going by at the beach.
Monday my wife actually had to work still, so the boys and I were together. We went to Bartlem Park in Cheshire, went grocery shopping and did a few other things. Due to them being wild, I don’t have any photos from that day, but you can imagine.
Tuesday, we went to Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. Xander had been dying to go, but ended up being somewhat scared of the idea. Still, we spent some time there and enjoyed learning about dinosaurs.
The family went out to lunch and then Xander tried out mini golf for the first time. It was surprisingly well for a 4-year-old’s first try. Of course we went to Safari Golf because there are animals everywhere. It only makes sense.
Wednesday was Mystic Aquarium, which was another fun day. Minus a sandal incident (my wife’s sandal broke at the furthest possible distance from the car, we had to leave, buy new sandals, and then come back just in time for the sea lion show) it was a great day.
Thursday was our “off day”. No big trip, just a day to relax, hang out, grab breakfast and enjoy the day.
Friday was back to the beach. Xander insisted on Rocky Neck again.
Saturday was a graduation party and Sunday was a birthday party. At some point during the week I fit three softball games in, all of which my team won, by the way.
So after enjoying a nice “relaxing” week off that kicked my butt, here I am back at work. I’ll have some stuff to catch up on and will be posting as much as I can. So in the mean time, keep yourselves occupied with this.
Kevin Scarpati is in a tough spot, politically. He’s a Republican not leaning far enough to the right for his party and caucus and that has quickly become a problem.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Scarpati was seen as the up-and-comer of the party. There wasn’t a lot to be excited about and in an election where the Republicans and We the People were nearly swept, Scarpati pulled off a stunner and won an at-large council seat.
At the time, members of the party were just happy to have a Republican on the council. When Manny Santos was elected mayor though, it all changed. And you can throw Lenny Rich’s win in there too as one that turned some heads and started the change.
The Republican party now has some power and a good amount of it. But in order to exercise that power, the party is in a position where it needs all members on the same page. So this is where you run into a conundrum: do you vote the way you truly feel or the way the party wants you to feel.
Kevin has run into some instances where he feels differently from the party and then votes against them. The Democrats often vote down party lines, so when Kevin votes with the other seven in party-line votes, it looks like he’s jumping ship.
It doesn’t help his case that he’s butting heads with the mayor here. The mayor, of course, has been praised by his party and when you butt heads with the one being praised, you get the opposite treatment.
Still, Scarpati has supporters in his party, he’s just being put in a tough spot. Vote the way you feel and be prepared to hear about it. Speak out against your party and you hear about it.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Kevin, but it’s pretty clear there is some tension. I didn’t include it in the story, but here’s more or less what he told me: Vote with the caucus and the next caucus meeting is normal. Vote opposite of the caucus and he’s sure to hear about it at the next caucus meeting. At some point you have to get sick of it. At some point you probably start questioning your future with that caucus.
He seemed to have forgotten part of the RTC meeting happened in executive session so he was pretty open about it. Committee members, according to Scarpati, turned on him, called him out and even one suggested he leave the party.
He’s not budging. If they want him off the party, they have to push him off. For now, anyway. If this continues he could always choose to leave.
But then what?
I see a few options. He could choose to stick with the party. Maybe that involves changing his vote here and there. Maybe it means continuing what’s going on and cross his fingers on an endorsement in November 2015. If no endorsement, then maybe he runs independently. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s done, it’s just a rare thing and to then be successful at it.
He could also leave the party. It’s a risky move, but obviously would be done so with talking with another party beforehand. Say, oh I don’t know, the Democrats. It’s not completely ridiculous and it’s been done before. Either way, Scarpati is well known in the community. He’s young and still an up-and-comer so he could be a good tool to have around.
Or he could leave politics. But I don’t see that happening.
I think I’ve used that as a title before, but it’s true. Just when you think things are done and dead, just when you think things are looking “normal,” just when you think people may get along…they go and prove you wrong.
By now you’ve probably read or heard about the City Council voting 8-3 to hire outside counsel. A judge originally said Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn could keep his pay no matter what happened in a lawsuit that questioned whether he should rightfully be the corporation counsel. The judge also said Quinn would not be responsible for any attorney/legal fees.
I was there when the judge was talking about it. He was quick and straightforward, making the argument that Quinn should not have to pay anything back.
Months later, the plaintiffs came back and said they want to keep this thing going and challenge that. So they are. And the council brought forward another resolution over this after it was vetoed last time, although last time it involved Quinn’s appeal of the judge’s decision that Quinn was improperly holding his seat.
If your head is spinning, I’m sorry. Mine is too, if that makes you feel any better.
Maybe I should make this easier?
Mayor Santos is elected and says he no longer will need Quinn. Quinn says it’s up to the council. Santos says he is wrong and cites the City Charter - something that has been debated a few times over the years, but not formally.
Santos said he could take legal action. Fortunately, by some miracle, four people filed a lawsuit against Quinn and five others questioning their appointment to seats. Santos did not have to take action legally (which saves his political career if he ended up being wrong) and instead two Republican Town Committee members, the chairman of the We the People party and the brother-in-law of a Republican councilor file the lawsuit.
Judge Jack W. Fischer rules that Quinn does not have to pay any legal/attorney fees for the plaintiffs nor would other defendants. Quinn also would not have to pay his salary back no matter what.
Fischer finds the four other defendants to be improperly holding their seats.
Fischer finds Quinn to be improperly holding their seats.The council tries to appeal. Santos vetoes. Veto never challenged.
Quinn says ‘don’t worry, I’ll appeal it on my own.’
Issue is dead and will head to an appellate or CT Supreme Court.
Cross-appeal filed about that whole salary/legal fees thing.
Council passes resolution to fund outside counsel on behalf of
Quinn for the cross-appeal.
I think that’s where we stand…but outlined it looks better.
Anyway, after (yet another) contentious meeting Monday night, it spilled over onto Facebook last night. Here you go:
At this point, I don’t know where things stand. I mean, I know where they stand. It’s pretty obvious. Kevin and Manny don’t get along. Kevin is distanced from his caucus and party. The Democrats get to just watch this unfold. The Republicans seem divided on this.
But I’m not sure where you go from here. It’s clear they want things headed in two different directions and neither is going to back down. So while Kevin was seen as an up-and-comer in the party not too long ago, things have clearly changed.
Oh, and more to come on this in the next week or so and in Thursday’s paper.
Was at the Hub today and I’m not getting into too much detail. It’s almost 9 pm on Wednesday and it’s not that I want to get home and see the family, it’s that I want to save the real story for tomorrow. Because it’s a good one, just not posted on our website…yet.
Either way, I was at the Hub today for a little bit. And as impressive as those dirt piles are on the site, it’s cooler to be on the site and seeing what’s going on.
So here are a few pictures I took so you can see things a little closer up.
Above is the new channel that has been dug throughout most of the property. It is almost done, will run north and south between East Main and Mill streets, and they only have a little left to go.
Here’s another spot. It’s natural ground water and rain water there, but it’s a fairly deep hole as you can see. It’s tough to see from the street, being almost smack dab in the middle of the property.
For the record, those piles are enormous. The stuff under the blue tarp is contaminated soil. It’s lumped together and will be hauled off. A lot of the other soil can be re-purposed. It’s actually pretty cool to watch because they sift things out and then concrete goes in one pile, rocks go in another, bricks in another, and so forth.
Just another shot on a grey day. But one thing to note is how big the parcel is when you’re actually on it. It always looks somewhat big, but it’s so open when you’re standing on it.
More holes/channel area.
And lastly, seeing as how the story will post online in 3 hours or so anyway, I’ll drop this right here as a quick teaser. By the time most see it, the story will be up and I’ll have updated this with a link. In the mean time…
According to a lawsuit filed by Gerald Kane, those horses and the “carriage” ran him over after he tried climbing into the area where those two men are. He claims the horse’s owner, the city and the handlers, Bradley and Kimberly Hulbert were negligent, intoxicated and at fault for his injuries.
It’s unclear who the three people are in the photo. To me at least. I haven’t asked because we didn’t run it with the story. But according to the lawsuit anyway, Bradley was managing and steering the horses all day with Kimberly helping out. Gerald was in the area where the man in the photo is steering the horses throughout the day, as well.
In putting the story on Facebook, Richie Rathsack - our digital/online savvy guy - was looking for older CITV photos and found this one. Then saw it was from 2012. Oh, the irony.
CITV (as the local villagers call it, apparently) has been going on for 15 years. Thankfully, there hadn’t been any other incidents where people wound up suing the city.
It’s the city’s position that they aren’t at fault. They say they don’t sponsor the event, they don’t have a hand in it and they aren’t involved. It should be noted the city does lend a hand with Parks and Rec staff though and PD.
The city also claims it does not have an insurance policy covering the event. Hypothetically, if any other injuries took place over the years, somebody could have sued and CITV would not have been covered.
In talking with the organizers, they were under the impression they were always covered. That was apparently not the case, except for the parking lot. The parking lot, it turns out, was insured.
It’s pretty clear the legal situation probably won’t be figured out before December. What that really means is, CITV won’t know who is at fault (if anybody) between now and then and won’t know if they were really covered or not.
Likely not getting an insurance policy between now and then, it’s a struggle to hold the event. You open yourself up to risk and in a day in age when people are sometime sue happy (not saying that is or isn’t the case here) people sue.
It was also pretty clear that those people organizing the event are upset. If you haven’t read it already, here’s a letter to the editor about the event and cancellation from an organizer.
City vs. Christmas
Warning to any organization that helps the city put together any events or festivals: When things are going good the politicians and city like to take the credit, but when there is a problem they run and hide or have amnesia.
The Christmas In The Village committee thought they had insurance because on Oct. 5, 2004 City Councilman Keith Gordon reported to the CITV committee that he had spoken to then-city manager Roger Kemp and it was decided that CITV would become an official city event and would be covered under the city insurance. Then in 2007 we needed to show proof of insurance to use a local business parking lot. Councilman Gordon each year would get a certificate of insurance from the city risk manager.
It was not until Holly Wills and I got subpoenaed in March 2014 that we found out that the city does not consider CITV a city event and it is not covered by city insurance. The certificate of insurance was only good for use of the parking lot.
For 15 years, the city has provided police, parks dept., signs, stage, tents, garbage cans and other equipment. For 15 years, the CITV committee (comprised of South Meriden residents, business owners, councilmen and police officer) have raised money through sponsors and recently have added a car show to bring the community together free of charge.
The city, working with CITV committee to bring many different organizations together to celebrate the holiday season, is what makes this event so well attended. For the city manager to say this is not a city event and has compared it to a block party is very disheartening. Fifteen years without an incident — and now CITV is being thrown under the wagon.
(The writer is co-chairwoman of Christmas in the Village.)
Aprill Ouellette, S. Meriden
It’s clear they aren’t happy and the organizers feel they were thrown under the bus a little. Also unhappy are those involved with the Council of Neighborhoods. CONA (as they are called) got mashed into the lawsuit, but President Holly Wills was pretty clear in talking to me that CONA has no involvement in CITV.
This is turning into alphabet soup, but stay with me.
Wills is involved with CONA and CITV (as are others), but they are two separate entities operating on their own.
We will see if it’s really canceled or if it’s a scare tactic 6 months out. There is a fairly simple solution to this if they want to hold the event, but it creates other issues. The solution: hand CITV over to CONA.
Make CITV a committee or task force within CONA and then there is insurance to cover the event. Why? Because the city added CONA to the insurance policy as a direct result of this. Wait, CONA events like National Night Out weren’t covered by insurance? Whoops.
The potential issue is if CONA and CITV appear to be in cahoots, it makes CITV at risk in the lawsuit. Or CITV. Or both.
You could also ask a non-profit to run it for a year and figure it out the next year. With the CITV committee doing most of the heavy lifting, ask, say, the Meriden Y to sponsor it and cover the insurance.
Just a thought.
It’s unfortunate that seemingly everything needs insurance these days. But when you could sue over just about anything, you apparently need it for everything.
A member of the association could be sued simply for a dog biting another dog. Or a person. Somebody who wasn’t there gets sued because they are trying to do something positive for the community. Wonderful.
Anyway, there was plenty of reaction about the CITV situation so hopefully the issue can be resolved and it can continue on this year. I’ve been a few times and it’s a nice event in South Meriden. Hopefully it continues another year and many more.
I’ll present this without much comment, but as you likely know the NRG power plant has been on its way down. The city and NRG came to an agreement last year that brought down the two buildings, one of which was 82-feet tall, and two storage tanks. Sitting on top of Cathole Mountain the original agreement to locate a power plant up there was controversial, but money won out. The plant never actually happened, but the city walked away with $32 million it didn’t have before.
If you’ve never been up there, it’s hard to get a good view of the cliff, but the sight of the building was impressive. You walk through nature and suddenly hit these massive abandoned buildings. Not anymore though. You’ll still hit that fence, but everything else is gone. What the future holds is somewhat in NRG’s hands, but I doubt it will be a power plant.
Anyway, here are some pictures from atop the mountain. They were taken by Public Works director Bob Bass and sent to the city manager who then sent them to the City Council. Then a city councilor sent them to me. Sending them through public email accounts make them public record either way, but Bob has been nice in the past and allowed me and the paper to use the photos, so here they are.
It was a somewhat surprising turn of events, but one I felt I wanted to reflect on here. Before I get to that though, I need the Meriden hook. So here it goes:
It December 1972 it was announced the Pawtucket Red Sox were coming to Meriden. Of course, that never happened. They went to Bristol instead. They lasted about a decade there before moving to New Britain and later switching their affiliation (from the Red Sox to the Rock Cats) and now they’ll be onward to Hartford.
As we see this minor league team move to Hartford, it brings up the question of will it succeed or not? Will people care? Will people go? Is it a good move? And to be honest, I don’t know.
Malafronte talks about why they have stayed and been successful for so long. They’ve got a great location right off the highway. They have a nice stadium. They can really connect well with the community around the central part of the state and even further.
Of course money is a factor here for the move. A $60 million stadium. A larger market. Etc. Of course Hartford sees it as an opportunity to build up a rundown area, get a new stadium/performance or event venue there, get more people into the city, and to move toward an eventual professional sports team. Like, a major league professional sports team. Most likely, the Whalers. But who knows if that will ever happen.
Back to that Meriden angle.
In December of 1972 Mayor Abe Grossman announced the Red Sox double-A team was considering a Meriden move. On Dec. 29, we (the newspaper) ran a headline announcing “Red Sox are moving to Meriden” after a deal was struck. It wasn’t all that dissimilar from this situation - a least the deal part. The part about the secret negotiations only applies to the Rock Cats - it was known the team was leaving Pawtucket. It was thought the team would move to Bristol, but Grossman swooped in.
The team was coming to Ceppa Field and some “big” improvements were planned. $100,000 for new lights, $65,000 for cement box seats, $20,000 for locker rooms and administrative offices, $100,000 for a roof over the stands„„and it goes on. In total, almost $300,000 was going to be spent. Compare that to the $60 million today and you have a bargain.
Looking back, it makes you wonder if it would’ve worked and if the team would have stayed. My guess is no, they wouldn’t have. You would have had an excellent field, but the Rock Cats had a really nice one in Bristol at Muzzy Field. That field eventually was passed down to so that high school and legion games, etc. could be played there. Likely, it would have been the same in Bristol.
The team played in a field now used by New Britain High School for its games before moving to the stadium. It will be unfortunate if the current stadium goes unused, but my guess is New Britain figures a way to get some other type of minor league team there. Hopefully, anyway.
So what went wrong?
Grossman worked this deal out, but of course he wasn’t the most well-liked mayor in the history of the city. In fact, he’s one of the most notorious. Some council members were upset this would be on the city to pay and not on the baseball franchise. You look to Hartford now and that council might not flinch at the expense.
The council struck the deal down though on an 11-8 vote. They then voted to reconsider it, but wanted to shift the cost to the team still. Seeing Bristol as an alternative, the team went there and the rest is history.
Ceppa is still a baseball field. Maloney and Platt play games there and some other teams use it. It’s a nice field that could be made even nicer if some additional money was thrown at it. Talking to David Salafia a few months back for the election, he wanted to invest money in the field to make it a premier baseball field. I haven’t heard any mention of that from a councilor since.
It would’ve been interesting fitting all of those cars for a minor league game into Ceppa Field. I imagine they’d need some additional parking. Broad Street would be a busy place on game days. The field, similar to this Hartford project, was seen as a possibility for other events to be held.
But the minor league team never came. And it probably wouldn’t have lasted either way, but always an interesting ‘what if?’ question.
Those were the words of Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski. And what she said is the truth. So many government funds have been passed off to Meriden for everything to build up and get to this point.
Close to $15 million just to redevelop the Hub. That doesn’t include previous studies, knocking down the Hub building, etc.
Millions for a train station and improved rail services.
More than $1 million to purchase properties in downtown and put together new zoning regulations.
Over the years, money was used to purchase other buildings or taxes were “eaten” while foreclosing on others.
Tax credits will be used on a Colony Street development along with other money that comes from the state government.
The bottom line, a lot of governmental dollars are being invested in order to send the downtown in a new, better direction. Now it’s time to see if what is going on will interest private developers.
People have been critical for the city not already attracting private developers. The question is: what is here to attract them? Prior to the zoning regulations, it was close to impossible to develop something manageable. You’d need an absurd number of parking spaces in a downtown that doesn’t have the space. So a parking garage would be attached to any project anyway. You have a train system that forces you to board multiple trains - while not completely inconvenient, people HATE the idea of any inconvenience. There still aren’t a ton of shops and such in downtown, but there was also a large area known as the Hub that was completely empty.
Not mentioned earlier, but the flood control has had millions invested in it, as well. If you don’t fix the flooding, the private investors just aren’t coming. Why? Investors and businesses aren’t dying to jump into a place where there is a possibility of flooding that will wipe out what they build or own.
That’s a long way of leading me to this point: the city is now open for business. Nine properties in the downtown are on the open market. The city is requesting qualifications for private developers. That’s a complicated way of saying, “show me what you’ve done, what properties you’re interested and what you might want to do with them and we might consider you.” From there, they will be reviewed, shortlisted and then they will ask for proposals from the developers, basically saying “tell us exactly what your plan is and we will go from there.”
So here’s a list of the nine properties and what to (maybe) expect.
(All photos courtesy of Justin Weekes l Record-Journal)
116 Cook Ave.
It was a former factory turned medical office building. Now it looks like this. It was a heavily criticized purchase by the city because it was so early on in the process of recreating the downtown. By early on, I mean it was voted on in 2009, which wasn’t all that long ago, but still five years ago.
I’m told it’s not in wonderful shape inside, but can be rehabbed if there is interest. Plans have been drawn up to turn it into some type of housing-offices mix, which I could see. Again though, I’ve never been in.
It wouldn’t be as complicated a project as the former hospital, but it wouldn’t be easy either. It could also be demolished, which would be far easier (but still costly) and built from the ground up.
25-33 Colony St.
In some cases city officials just want interest, in other situations they’ve got a pretty good idea. In this case, they’ve got a pretty good idea. I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence the new train station is being built directly across from this empty lot. The station has a bridge that connects over to the lot. This essentially means State Street is now connected to Colony Street. For convenience purposes, it’s great. For expanding the downtown, it’s even better. You know longer have to stand in front of this lot, look over toward Pratt Street, and say “yeah, not gonna happen.”
That’s more or less what happened a few months ago when some elected officials were visiting downtown and opted originally not to go over to Prentis Printing because it was inconveniently located. It would have taken a walk down Colony Street, heading east on East Main, through two major intersections and then over to Prentis. With the bridge (not that everybody is running over to Prentis, but perhaps other businesses will open up in the area) it creates a straight line and allows people to use the train bridge and the Hub bridge. Essentially, it just makes a more walkable downtown.
Back to this lot.
If you have a walkable area and then this lot and a housing development/office space/parking garage across Colony Street, it doesn’t make sense to leave the lot open. You could have people parked at the parking garage and force them to walk through a building to get to the train on any given day. Force them to walk through and then put a cafe in the building and suddenly people need that coffee in that morning or a sandwich at lunch. Why? Because it’s convenient. So create the business downstairs, build up a few floors, and suddenly you’re collecting rent, too.
This one is a little more complicated. Again, government dollars went into the cleanup oft he site and demolition of the building. The problem now will be reusing it.
Preliminary plans called for some type of park on this section and another parcel owned by the city. Along with the park/green area would be townhouses and likely some replacement units for Mills Memorial Apartments.
This plan would not only require Harbor Brook improvements to deal with flood control, but probably for Butler Street o be extended to connect Hanover and Cooper Street. The parcels are mostly boxed in by 116 Cook Ave., apartments to the north, and housing on the east and west. Oh, and train tracks in the northeast.
It’s nice for an interested developer that there is no building to rehab, but it’ll be interesting to see if anybody is interesting in dealing with the challenges of the site.
What a comeback story it would be for the Hub if something is ever rebuilt on this site. For a while there, it seemed like it would forever be a parcel of grass and broken pavement.
But in the northwest corner and along the east side of the property, there stands two sections that will be removed from the flood plain and saved for economic development.
The ideas, again, have been mixed-use for office and housing. It would make sense and overlooking the Hub park would be a real advantage.
This one will take creativity. I’ve worked here four years and am still finding rooms in this building.
It’s built on a slope and the back parking lot is elevated higher than most of the building. So it’s a complicated site. I sit here at my desk sometimes and wonder how you’d even go about doing this.
City Manager Larry Kendzior suggested demolishing part of the building and then building something new. That may be what has to be done.
Groups have come through to look at the building, but it’s got a lot of challenges. Then again, when you come in every day and see it as an office it becomes difficult to see it as anything else. So perhaps some creative minds can figure it out. There’s plenty of space though and the location is pretty good.
Former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital
Again, some creativity (and a good amount of money) needed. This one will be a project. And yet, it has drawn some interest.
Walking through the building, it’s not tough to imagine offices or housing in here. But the building is old. Some of it probably needs to be demolished. A lot of it will need a serious rehab. All of it will need to be abated.
Still, it’s a nice-sized structure and it’s already been a hospital so the offices and rooms are there. And it’s just outside of the real downtown area.
69 E. Main St.
A smaller parcel, this has been empty as long as I can remember. Pretty literally. I was born in 1988, this building came down in 1993. But it’s in a nice spot for a new building.
There’s a parking lot next to it. There are buildings across the street (including that one that’s still not being used) and it’s always an area I’ve liked.
You won’t need a massive developer for this lot, just somebody willing to build a smaller building only a few stories high. Office/housing/business space obviously makes sense.
32 W. Main St.
Kendzior remembered this site pretty well when I mentioned it to him. Grant’s, a former store, was in this site for a long period of time. Back in the 1960s, Kendzior worked here and remembered it well.
Now, it’s just grass and a spillover area during the annual downtown brewfest. I really can’t think of many other reasons this lot is here. Few people walk on it, it stands between an unused property and the police station.
But with some creativity, a new building can be put in place. Of course, it would have to fit the characteristics of the area, but something can be found.
88 Grove St.
If you’re looking at this site, the left was a former bowling alley. The right was a house. Now there’s nothing.
Situated across the street from a parking garage, you’d think some type of office building could be situated here. Or housing. Again, this isn’t a very large property, but it’s empty so it wouldn’t take much to develop on the site.
This property could help expand the downtown just a few feet more, as well.
I don’t have time for a lengthy post having just left three City Council-related meetings and wanting to get home to see my family.
But I wanted to post this story quick on the fire over at Hunter’s Golf Course. It really is an unfortunate fire that appears to have been arson, considering a bridal shower, wedding and the Chamber of Commerce gold event are all scheduled to be held there in the coming days. On top of that, you have your usual events and dining at a nice restaurant. In a city limited with nice restaurants, it’s unfortunate this one now will be out of service for a little while.
I admit I haven’t been there dozens of times. But it does have a little bit of special meaning. When I was much younger, my grandparents lived on Bee Street and you could see the golf course from their house. So I just always remember looking over there where my grandfather played every morning. I remember his surprise birthday party there one year. and I remember last year after his funeral the reception held over there. My parents love the place. And recently, Connecticut Magazine had a quick write up about the course and the restaurant.
The truth is, it’s a nice place and something in Meriden people should be proud to have. Unfortunately, you get something like this and it ruins it. But hopefully it will be back soon and running like normal. Given that it’s June 2, hopefully it will be sooner than later because it is prime golf season.
But that is now the case. The city has purchased 11 Crown St. - the longtime home of the Record-Journal (and the companies that preceded the RJ).
When I was first told the city was buying the building, my immediate thought was “what?” I mean, it makes some sense on both ends. The RJ has been looking for a new home for a while and hadn’t had a ton of interest from other parties. It’s a media company operating in a building far too large for its needs. And to think, there was a time when there were two buildings and now the company has all of its 100 employees in a much smaller space. And even that space sometimes seems to be too much.
As for the city, there were a lot of options, but few willing sellers. Or sellers who wanted to sell at a reasonable price. The final sale of the RJ building was for $495,000 with the idea that the RJ essentially pays for everything a typical building owner would pay for other than snow removal and major structural issues. So that graffiti that was found on the side of the building recently - that’s probably an RJ issue City Manager Larry Kendzior said to me last week. That said, he noted the city has a spray paint removal machine that could probably take care of it too.
In the end though, the building is a gamble for the city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a prime piece of property in that it’s right around the edge of downtown, it’s more than an acre (almost 2) of land. It’s an oddly shaped building though and will need significant repair work.
Then again, all of downtown is a giant gamble, albeit a relatively calculated one, by the city. The gamble is betting on these properties the city has acquired to pay off in the long run. Get them in the hands of the city now and hand them off (for a price) to interested parties later instead of them sitting, neglected, for years on end without full oversight.
So the old hospital, Factory H and the Cook Ave building, the RJ, a parking lot next to the Mills, etc. are all city owned. We will see in the next year whether that holds true and the city’s efforts to “revive” the downtown are headed in the right direction.
The alternative is the gamble doesn’t pay off, developers aren’t interested, and everything fails. Or that’s at least the most negative way of looking at it (I think) and adding some balance to the previous statements.
Back to my reaction. Now journalistically and ethically, it is my job to stay neutral and for the news to remain neutral and objective. When the city is buying the building, it’s a tough thing.
I’ve reported on the RJ in the past. I’ve reported on the city in the past (duh). But reporting on a real estate deal was kind of…weird…odd…different…unusual. We will stick with unusual.
At the end of the day, it didn’t really bother me. It was more surprise at first - a surprise I couldn’t really share with my peers until a company memo went out. But the memo went out shortly after I found out about it and then the reporting began.
I approached it like any other deal, to be honest. If the city bought another building with the money, I’d report it. So I just stuck to how I’ve reported other things. Except this time I was interviewing my boss.
Very few actually raised the question of a perceived conflict of interest, but it was a question worth raising. On the city’s side, it really didn’t matter. They were just buying a building like any other building. For the RJ, it was said that this was like any other business between the city and Record-Journal. The city advertises with the RJ, the city posts legal notices, etc. so it was thought this was the same just on a larger scale.
That’s technically what it was. Except now the city is the company’s landlord. Of course that set off the jokes about the relationship in the office and dealings with City Hall. But that’s what they are, jokes. Chances are, very little will change.
The “business” people here also don’t find themselves in the newsroom much and I don’t find myself dealing with the people who negotiated the deal. Media companies have long histories of having the newsroom staying away from that sort of thing in an effort to remain objective. That said, things are changing and there are of news outlets (websites/blogs) who make money by combining advertisements with stories.
What does this mean for the RJ? Glad you asked. I’m not sure. Like I said, we are pretty separate here in the newsroom. But from those I’ve talked to here, with the city and others - there is a real desire to stay in Meriden. I’m not sure I can picture the RJ elsewhere, but you never know. I mean, the Westerly Sun (which we own) isn’t even technically in Rhode Island. There is space in Meriden, but it will come down to cost. Certainly people would love to stay in the downtown area.
For now, the RJ will remain in its building at least until the end of next year (2015) and then we will see beyond that. They can then go month-to-month, but there would have to be advanced notice if either side was ready to move on.
Shortly after the sale was announced as a possibility, I went through our old photos. That’s what you’ve been looking at in these photos - sorry it took so long to address them. The first one dates back to early 1900, but there are pictures from throughout the century and construction pictures from the 1970s.
It’s always interesting going through the old files and seeing what downtown once looked like and the building I was sitting in while doing that. That said, I’ll leave the last one here and just say thanks for reading.
So here’s the deal: Mayor Manny Santos and City Manager Larry Kendzior got into an argument/spat/exchange/whatever you want to call it last week. As you can see in the above video, it was the Special city council meeting of May 15.
To summarize: Larry gave his opinion of how the council should vote (to override Manny’s reduction of $1,000 on a $5,000 item). Manny paused and then took exception to it. The pause was so long we actually cut it out of the video to make sure we didn’t lose the viewer in the YouTube video. But right before, Larry says “I hope “I hope you will override this veto and the next one.”
I’ve sat through a lot of council meetings. He typically doesn’t have to advocate on a veto issue because there haven’t been a lot of them. On a typical vote though, it’s fairly normal for him to say “I hope” or “I recommend” or “it’s in your best interest” - anything that encourages the council to vote a certain way. It is generally something he does based on opinion.
Manny took exception to that and asked Larry not to urge the council to do something, especially because it was against him. Anticipating that this was possible, Santos clearly had read through something (a code of ethics) about city managers and opinions or something like that.
Anyway, they go back and forth and there are some underlying issues that seem clear between the City Charter and Larry’s comments that appeared in the Record-Journal last week, etc.
Of course this isn’t coming out until a week later. And remember, in the grand scheme of things, it was 5 hours I was in that room (or just about) and this was a 1 minute confrontation.
Over the course of the evening, it became pretty clear the meeting would be lengthy. It would be lengthy enough that I would have to file a story by my print deadline of about 10:30 pm-ish. For those who don’t know, we have to file a story and then it gets read/edited, put on a page and sent to Springfield, Mass. for print. Then the paper is sent down here and delivered with some other steps mixed in. Point is, the deadline was about 10:30.
This meant I needed to write a story while the meeting was going on and file it within our database. The problem there was our database requires internet. The normally wonderful City Hall wi-fi was failing me that night. Or so I thought. Somehow the switch on my laptop that helps searching for internet got flipped and cut off my connection. Being the idiot I am, I never checked it. Not once. I thought of all other issues, but not that one. Whoops.
I had two options: file my story from the office and go back to the meeting OR figure something else out. In the end, I filed my story from City Hall and was able to connect to an internet hard line. Still, I needed to pick my time to leave the meeting.
As the deadline approached, I had a pretty solid window. They were going on-by-one on vetoed items and there was a few in a row that I felt there might be conversation, but weren’t relatively significant in the grand scheme of things. They included two MIS (management information systems dept.) items. Perfect, I thought, here’s my shot.
I ran out, did a couple quick edits, connected to the internet, started our database up, filed, and headed back. Probably took 5-10 minutes.
I walked back into council chambers, sat down, and the guy next to me leans over and says “You missed it.”
He tells me there was a pretty heated back and forth between larry and manny. And I missed it.
So at the end of the meeting I checked with one of the people still present. They said the same thing. In conversations with councilors the next day, they said the same thing. But it’s hard to summarize a situation having not seen it.
In reviewing the video of the tape, which I got my hands on for another purpose later, I decided to search for the moment. When I found it, it I figured it was still worth a story. Most people said they saw no difference in what Larry said. But my reason for the story was to figure out what the code of ethics says vs the City Charter and whether or not Larry is allowed to give his opinion.
The answer appears to be ‘yes,’ but it was an interesting way of getting there. It’s also pretty clear that Larry and Manny have had some difficulties. I get the impression Larry wishes Manny would come to him more for information and to ask questions. It’ll be an interesting relationship to continue to watch, but they may have something to work out here.
There has been discussion for years about expanding the linear trail from South Meriden and Cheshire all the way up to the Suzio Quarry and into Middletown. The plan has come with little resistance. I know. I’ve sat through meetings and hearings about it. Nobody is outspoken about the future of the trail because people love the first two phases.
But when the mayor brought it up for discussion and considered cutting it, suddenly there was a bandwagon of people opposed to it. The council approved a budget that set $170,000 in capital improvement expenditures aside for design and engineering work for the third and fourth phases of the linear trail. Why couldn’t it be done with city staff you ask? Well, last year the city budget cut an associate engineer. And the staff last year was even smaller than when the first phase along the Quinnipiac River was designed. Now there are two associate engineers and one engineer (Bob Bass) who is also head of the Public Works Department.
So for a number of reasons, Mayor Manny Santos proposed removing the $170k for the future trail design. It wasn’t a savings, however. Instead, he proposed moving up projects scheduled to be funded in next year’s budget. Among them was some washer/dryer equipment for the Fire Department and design work for a children’s section of the library.
Santos said he might be in favor of the project in the future, but in the same breath called the project “glorified sidewalks.” He said the trail would be dangerous, he would not allow his kids on there and does not trust drivers.
Wait. Hold on. I’m going to post what the future trail looks like below. Then you can see and judge for yourself.
Now count them with me: there are seven streets that are crossed during these new phases. Right now, between the two phases already completed, there is one. Don’t dismiss that one either. There are more accidents in that area near the intersection of Oregon and River Road than probably anywhere else along this trail. Cars fly up and down Oregon. But no pedestrians have been hit. Helping the cause is the multiple parking lots in the area. If people choose to walk phase one, they might park down by Red Bridge. If they choose to only walk/ride/run phase 2, they park at the QRWA or Platt.
So let’s go street crossing by street crossing here. Right before we do, I’ll mention students from Platt cross many, if not all of these sections EVERY. DAY. Good thing the mayor lives on the east side and his children do not have to walk home.
1. Glen Hills Road - This is a relatively dense neighborhood. But it is a neighborhood. At the end of the road, before turning onto Coe Avenue, there are stop signs. Certainly people would naturally stop there before turning onto Coe because traffic from Coe does not stop. So there are stop signs in place. And there are also terrible sidewalks in place if you are trying to bike the area. So the project would install new sidewalks if the trail continues on the Glen Hills side of Coe.
2 Glen Hills Road - See above. It’s a similar intersection, only there is a street opposite Glen Hills on this one. Still, a stop sign opposite the street there too.
3. Bradley Ave - You have to cross Bradley Avenue from Coe Avenue and then head up the hill, which is like an extension of Coe Avenue. Although a somewhat heavily used area, I see teenagers crossing here regularly. There are crosswalks and crosswalk signals. I imagine they won’t go anywhere if the trail is built.
4. Hanover - This appears to be the most dangerous. I’m sure some type of crosswalk or signal or a combination will be put in. But the area is known for blind corners and people routinely speed in the area.
This is a point where the trail goes away and off the road completely before popping up on Columbus Avenue.
5. Columbus Avenue - I can honestly say I’ve driven on Columbus Avenue only a few times in my life. It’s a road used by people in the area. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who drive through the area, but you have a good view as you drive through if there are people using the trail.
6. Cook Avenue - Cook Avenue is also heavily used. But it’s also a straightaway in this area. Straightaways bring speed, but at intersections they also bring traffic signals. In this case, once again, there is already a traffic signal and there are crosswalks with crosswalk signals. And pretty poor sidewalks that would likely be replaced.
7. Meridian Street/Cooper Street - Let’s be honest. Meridian is barely a street. There are a few houses and it’s a back road. There’s also an abandoned parking lot that lends itself well to the trail. At the end of the street you hit Cooper Street, which would lead to the Factory H site and another future trail. I’m sure, like the others, a crosswalk signal could be put in place. Or something similar to Oregon Road.
While we are on the topic of street crossings, go back up to that map. Perhaps you can click on that button that allows you to see it in a larger map.
Head south and you can check out Wallingford’s trail. It’s also in its infancy stages. They are designing the third phase and will construct after that. It doesn’t cross streets, but it also has the benefit of the Quinnipiac River not running through many main streets or through the center of the city like Meriden.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, head down to New Haven (either in the map or in real life) and follow that trail. also through an urban area, it crosses many streets.
Hamden had the benefit of former railroad bridges and other infrastructure pieces in place where the trail can go over or under streets. But it also has multiple street crossings and those are without flashing signals or anything like that.
Cheshire has a few crossings and proposed crossings for a future trail.
Southington has a nice trail system, which connects to Cheshire and Hamden and New Haven. What makes it nice is that it goes right through the downtown. There are no signals, it’s just a path through the area. And it crosses some pretty main roads without those signals.
So wait, let’s backtrack for a second. There’s this trail that will connect all of these towns together? That’s pretty cool, especially for runners who go long distance, for bikers, for people who want to commute via their bike.
Meriden has all of 2.7 miles built up. It’s a good start, but the trail has to go somewhere and let’s face it: you can’t NOT go onto a street unless you start building tunnels or bridges.
There was also discussion about not wanting the trail in the area of neighborhoods. For those that haven’t gone on the second phase: you walk through people’s backyards. The first phase, the grading is different, but there are neighbors not far off.
What about the urban areas? OK so you don’t want the trail in an urban area. Well, then leave the trail where it is. Meriden is an urban city. Right now, the trail is secluded. If you go much further, the trail kind of has to head into an “urban area.”
Fix the damn sidewalks, as the mayor said. This project does fix sidewalks. And it makes them wider so the trail can be used. There’s a reason people don’t bicycle the route now - you run the risk of getting hit by a car by doing it in the road or wiping out completely on the broken, old sidewalks.
So that’s it for now. The trail will be designed and time will tell if it gets built. It’s just funny how long it took for the opposition of the trail to come out. The trail funds were approved by the council and then all of sudden the mayor vetoes it, as expected, and people want to see it cut out. Many wanted to see it as a spending cut, which wasn’t proposed at all either. Long live the trail, I think, for now.
It’s been five days since the City Council met last Thursday night. It’s been so long that they’ve actually had a meeting since then. And I could have reflected instantly or the next day, but I figured let’s wait this one out to see the fallout.
Even better, let’s figure out the winners and the losers.
Mayor Manny Santos - Here’s why he won: He cut $100,000 out of the budget pretty much on his own. In the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing. But to a lot of taxpayers it looks like a huge sum of money and to many, any cut is a good cut.
People who like festivals and special events - Don’t worry, the overtime to the Parks and Recreation Dept was only cut $5,000 not $45,000. The $45,000 cut would have eliminated the help the Parks and Rec department gives at nighttime and weekend events. Cutting those probably would not have gone over too well in Meriden.
Kevin Scarpati - Because he was that 8th vote for both the linear trail and Housing Department, don’t expect things to get any easier between he and his party. Don’t get me wrong, he voted how he felt and that’s always admirable no matter which side of the line you’re on. But Kevin was already in a rough spot and it didn’t get any easier when Mayor Santos looked at him and said “I’m sorry you feel that way Kevin.” The tone almost made you feel like there was more to that statement.
Mayor Manny Santos - OK, so he lost too. None of his big proposed changes ended up working all too well. The linear trail stayed. The council voted unanimously on the creation of a task force, which he was still mostly opposed to. Large cuts in the budget didn’t take place. In a lot of cases his proposed cuts were overridden because they didn’t make much sense to cut. It was clear he and City Manager Larry Kendzior did not communicate on this budget, which created an issue and a rift.
Most city departments - They will have to figure out a way to do more or the same with less as budgets were slashed for both OT and supplies.
Those left in the audience - There were two of us at the end, I think. Myself and another man, in addition to Abe who was doing the filming. With dozens of people originally, very few made it to the end of a five hour meeting.
It was a long meeting. There have only been a couple instances of me having to file a story for a deadline and not having the final results of the meeting in place. This was one of them.
I filed the story close to 10:30 p.m. and then had to go back for more. I filed a separate story shortly after midnight (the meeting ended at 11:30) that just let people know of the tax rate and final passage of the budget items. I followed up with not one, but 2 stories the next day.
I talked to Brian Daniels the next day who said he had set the over/under of the meeting at 4 hours. It was 5 with the recess included.
Then again, there was a ton of ground to cover. 30 budget items were dealt with individually. Plus the housing, expanded public comment, etc.
There were some contentious moments, as was expected. There were two members of the public asked to go home. One made a weird request to have the chief housing inspector in the basement, naked for 15 minutes. It was kind of normal until naked was thrown in there.
That made another person laugh. I’m told from people in the area he was told to shut his (expletive) mouth by Dom Caruso. That set that person off. And then he was told it was in his best interest to go home.
Later it was contentious between Manny and Larry. I was not there for the conversation as I was filing my story in a separate room, but I’ve now watched the back and forth.
After Larry says he hopes the council will override two vetoes, there is a long pause.
Then, softly, Santos tells Kendzior to please refrain from giving his opinion. Larry can be seen mouthing the word “wow” before Santos says Kendzior is here to advice the council.
They talk over each other multiple times and Santos says to “stay neutral please.”
Larry says “no mr. mayor, I will not say neutral…” and reasons that because he was asked for an opinion, he gave it. He adds that there is nothing unethical about giving his opinion and he will continue to when appropriate.
Manny again tells him that he does not need to voice his opinion, which Larry disagrees with. Manny told Larry to read his code of ethics and Larry suggests he should read the charter, specifically sections he has not already read.
Manny responds and says that he has read the Charter and Larry should know that.
So their relationship will be interesting going forward, especially since Manny wants a strong mayor system and wants more control. They already communicate very little it seems and who knows where this is going.
Sorry for the absence lately. Usually I write these posts in my “down time” while at work. It’s a time where I’m usually waiting for some calls or in between going out to things. Or if I get in early. Or if I have a few minutes at the end of the day.
Not as much free time this week, unfortunately.
I knew Mayor Santos would issue some type of veto of the city budget Monday. I just didn’t know when it would come. So I worked on some other things and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, shortly after 5 pm (toward the end of my work day) it came.
The trouble with a 5 pm veto message? It’s in the evening and the other councilors hadn’t seen it yet. Because they didn’t see it. there wasn’t much reaction in the story.
It was difficult to digest the information as well because I knew what it all meant, but not the specific impact.
I’m not sure I’ve ever talked with City Manager Larry Kendzior or City Planner Dominick Caruso when they were as upset as they were, Tuesday.
Dom was upset about the certificate of compliance program, specifically. Through his veto, Santos was proposing to eliminate the program. The program backers say it’s important to inspect rental units once every 2 years in the city and prevents deterioration of property and the neighborhood. Those opposed say they are unnecessary, there are enough preventative measures in place, and the inspectors are picky about everything.
Those who know Larry know he can be very quiet about things and reserve judgment or opinion. If you get him talking about the downtown, he could talk all day, which I think is a good thing.
But he was clearly upset about the budget and the situation. Reasons were given about each cut, but many were “need to cut everywhere.” And Larry argued that the OT was budgeted specifically for reasons. Take away the OT and suddenly the city parks department isn’t setting up events on nights and weekends. The highway department might not respond to a fallen tree at night. Etc. Etc.
I got another chance to look not only at the certificate of compliance program, but what it meant for the overall budget. By cutting the program, Santos had to make cuts elsewhere because of how the program is budgeted. Salary makes up half of what the program makes in revenue. Cut the program and you run into a problem because it’s not a direct expense cut.
Which makes it even more interesting. Santos is proposing a cut that doesn’t save money. Wouldn’t it make sense to review the program and change it or cut it over an extended period of time rather than over the span of three days, some argued. Santos disagreed, stating he got a better chance to look at it and heard more concerns after the budget was approved last week.
People are questioning that, though. I mean, it’s not like the budget review process was any longer or shorter than previous years. Santos did come in with a learning curve, but that doesn’t mean he has extra time to adapt. So to have since the beginning of March since Kendzior released his budget and then not mention the CofC program until AFTER the budget was passed is interesting. Maybe he missed it or didn’t review it until then, but I doubt it.
Why doubt it? Because we wrote this story back in February. The story details the issues with the CofC program and concerns from Ross Gulino and Steve Iovanna, both outspoken landlords on the issue. Iovanna is also a city councilor.
Talk began then about changing the program, but nothing came of it.
Now it would’ve made sense to put in a council resolution requiring the council to review and take some action within 90 days. Councilor Brian Daniels, in an email yesterday, listed a number of ways to change the program. And while Steve seems to want a change to happen, he wants the program cut for the immediate future.
The resolution was put in now anyway for a review to take place by Daniels and Dan Brunet…two unlikely partners in this. Santos remains optimistic that any change can take place between now and July 1 to make sure there are safeguards in place.
Maybe. Maybe not. The city might soon find out though.
Either way, it was interesting watching/reading all of this play out via email yesterday. I was copied on them all and now you can read them too.
Tonight the council meets. To override any vetoed line item, it will take a two-thirds vote of the members present entire council. That’s eight out of 12 councilors if it’s a full house. *Please note that correction, all.
And there could be some close votes not just on the C of C program, but everything. There have been no hearings on the cuts. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Goose egg. So if councilors aren’t paying much attention, they won’t know the impact of the budget. Am I saying councilors don’t pay attention? Sometimes some don’t. That seemed to be the reason why Dan Brunet and Bob Williams voted in favor of the budget last Monday. They were in a discussion, the vote came up, and they supported it before they knew what had happened. Need proof? Watch the video. Or ask.
On top of the CofC program, the linear trail funding is at stake. Overtime for parks and rec. Office supplies. Event funds. Community Development Block Grant funding. The tax rate. The list goes on.
With the meeting starting at 6:30 pm and the possibility lasting more than just the limited 1/2 hour, it could be a late meeting. Really late. There is a lot to hash out on the meeting. My only hope, other than whether or not I get some sleep tonight, is that the A/C situation is fixed. Yesterday (and IDK if it was prior) the central air of City Hall wasn’t functioning and even sitting in a not-so-packed Planning Commission meting was warm.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Zajac l Record-Journal
That skate park that kids fought so hard for, that was used regularly, that gave kids in the city of Meriden a place to skate - yeah, that place - it’s gone. And it’s not coming back.
Fifteen years ago the idea of a skate park in Meriden was brought up. A lot of locations were discussed. Costs were discussed. It was approved. And the skate park was built.
Then it wasn’t monitored. Equipment was damaged over the years. And now it’s gone.
Before we go forward, let’s go back in time. In December 1999, 222 signatures were presented to the City Council. The signatures were from people in favor of making the skate park happen.
Of course this was at a time when Tony Hawk was popular and the sport was only growing in popularity. There was an increasing number of skaters and they wanted a place to skate.
But you know how it goes with skaters and police and businesses not always wanting skaters around. The sport, practiced on the streets, is seen more as loitering than anything, and will result in skateboarders likely having to relocate.
Bring skateboarding to most of the city parks though and it takes the fun out of it. They can’t do the tricks, grind rails, etc. without potentially causing damage.
So the council, at the time, did a study to figure out about how much it would cost. Later on, another group of kids got involved including Dana Piccirillo who was 14 at the time. Dana impressively fought for the park and was among those to help get it approved, a location picked and to encourage people to go.
The park did pretty well. Kids went there, they skated, they enjoyed it. It was what it was intended to be - a skate park.
Like any park that would only attract teenagers, not everything was perfect. Kids didn’t wear helmets like they were encouraged to. Kids used their bicycles, not all of the rules were followed.
But it did give the kids a place to go.
Of course I say kids. I wasn’t a skater, but I could’ve been one of those kids. I grew up at the same time. Dana was only a couple years older than me. Kids our age watched the peak of skateboarding and other extreme sports and the X-Games. We played Tony Hawk’s skateboarding video game and then the ones that were capable, went out and actually skated.
Over the years, there were complaints about the park. Of course there were injuries without the proper equipment too. While police would sometime go by, the park wasn’t regularly monitored.
The park also wasn’t meant to last. It had a 15-20 year lifespan. In this case it went about 13 or 14 years.
Skating isn’t what it once was. But it’s still popular. Kids still do it. They need a place to go if they want to skate. But the options are limited. I still see kids skating outside of the library or in various plazas around the city.
The number of skate parks in the are is limited. You can go to Cheshire. You can go to Southington, but you have to go to the Southington YMCA outdoor facility, which has certain hours.
It was proposed for this skate park to go to the Meriden YMCA outdoor facility, but Meriden people didn’t want the park to be what Southington’s is.
Now it has nothing.
The park was packed up because of renovations at Platt. In a few years, the former park will be tennis courts and there will be no space for the skate park.
Logic says to relocate the skate park. It was explained to me that the equipment was tough to remove and the way it was taken apart, it wasn’t going to be put back together. In other words, don’t expect to see it any time soon.
I have also heard that there were a number of people not a fan of the skate park in general and they didn’t want to see it last anymore. So getting rid of it wasn’t the worst thing.
It was no secret the skate park needed to be removed, by the way. I remember back in 2011 the School Building Committee was notified. City officials knew. Staff knew. Nothing happened.
Again, over the summer, not much happened. Over the winter, there was no study done. No committee. Nothing. It was known the skate park would be gone.
Other locations were talked about, picked out, but it would cost too much. Cost too much? In a city with a budget over $180 million, you can’t find $50,000 for some new equipment? Maybe double that and put in a new park that will attract people out of town. Now you can pick and choose where you put it, but maybe put the park near an area where you know some kids might use a couple of businesses or facilities.
Just a thought.
Or perhaps don’t and keep them away from the neighborhoods or businesses. Either way, you’re taking something away and not restoring it. Surprised not enough people are getting upset about it? The kids who are upset are ones who probably don’t talk to many city councilors or city staff members.
Maybe it’s just that nobody wants the skate park. Maybe they do. But if they do, they certainly aren’t showing they they do or that they care.
After a night in which I sent out about two dozen tweets, wrote two stories and took notes, I went home, laid in bed, watched some TV and scrolled through Twitter. A lot of my nights wind down with me doing a Twitter scroll through.
I noticed something unusual as I was doing it. My number of followers. I went into the night in the low 790s area. By the time the night was over, I was at 800 even. 800 people are following. 800 people care about what I have to say. 8 freakin hundred. Up until now, I didn’t know 800 people knew my name.
I don’t do this for furthering my name. I don’t do it for the money either. You’d know that if you saw my paycheck. I always said I wanted to go into journalism because I’m a decent writer who likes sports and wanted to make a job out of it. Well, I’m still a decent writer, I guess, and I still like sports, but I never got into sports journalism. Instead I cover the (always interesting) city of Meriden. Along the way I have found I like the job of writing, I love telling stories and telling stories to people, and I like the job of informing the public of the good and bad that comes along with this. Good or bad, people need to know what’s going on. Good or bad, I have always found myself telling stories. I prefer telling stories that make people laugh, but the stories that come with this job can be good, bad, funny, sad, inspirational, etc. I thank my wife for putting up with all of the stories that I tell her based on the job.
But this is a thank you to all 800 of you who follow along on Twitter. Of course, I’m writing this on Tumblr instead, but 140 characters would not suffice.
I’ve never had a huge group of friends. I always keep a handful close to me and then always have others. So 800 seems like a lot even though there are plenty of people out there with more followers than me. And I do it without the “follow back” method where if I follow someone or they follow me then we follow each other back. I don’t believe in it. I personalize my feed so that I get what I need in news, while filling up my own interests, and keeping an eye on what friends and peers are doing.
It’s taken me a little over 3 years to get to 800. It’s no major accomplishment, but I’m proud of it. And I’m grateful for the 800 that follow. As I type I will probably lose one and be knocked down to 799.
Now of course you all use me in some way. You like to read the news I send out. You like my thoughts. You’re interested in some of the stuff I retweet, or whatever the case is. My motto has always been to give people the news they are looking for, but scatter in some personality and some of my interests along the way. It’s considered “sharing” for a reason - because others might be interested in the news too.
There are a lot of people or companies on here that I don’t know personally. In a weird way there are a lot of people I know and have connected with only through Twitter. There are also a lot of people I have met. Some people I keep in contact with just through Twitter. Like I said, it’s weird, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Using Monday as an example, I tend to pick up followers during big events or happenings. Monday it was a council meeting. In the past it has been an election when my phone was on fire, or during some of the recent major storms. As more people learn about this Twitter thing, the more that end up following along. I’ve used it for the purpose of informing people, for answering their questions, for whatever. It’s incredibly useful for connecting on and more personal than Facebook.
As nice as it is to connect on Twitter, it makes in-person contact even more interesting. I’ve had people tell me they are following along to meetings and events. I’ve had compliments. I have had people tell me I’m doing a great job. What do you even say to that? Thank you, obviously, but it does mean a lot more. Doing it in Meriden also means a lot because it is my home and in the process of being a journalist I’m adding to my family name. People now know my name because they read it in the paper or see it on Twitter. I ran into somebody from my high school class the other day who said he always sees my stuff and how that’s cool. What’s cool to me is that old friends read my stuff. Old teachers read my stuff and follow along.
So before I go on for too long, simply, thank you to all of you for following along. I cannot tell you what it means that people read this blog, my Twitter account or the articles that appear in the paper. The fact that it fuels discussion throughout the day is something I never imagined. Like I said, 800 followers isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot to some people and it’s a lot to me and in a “small city” like Meriden where all I do is cover one city and its municipal government, it’s a lot. Hopefully one day we can do this again when I hit 1,000.
Any time there is a boxing match, you get a few fights before the main event. These are called undercards. Though not often, sometimes you get an undercard that ends up being what people talk about rather than the main event. Either the main event was underwhelming or the undercard was just really that good.
Last night, the main event in City Hall was a little underwhelming and the undercard was actually pretty good. In this case, the talk about the city budget went on for close to an hour, but not much came of it. I mean, they passed the budget, but not many changes were made. It was nearly unanimous. And nobody disagreed on pretty much anything other than a few thousand dollars.
Instead, the discussion will continue to focus on the corporation counsel lawsuit. For background: shortly after Mayor Manny Santos was elected in November, he told Michael Quinn he would no longer be needed. Quinn said Santos did not have the power to do that. Santos argues that he does by way of the City Charter. The city hires a law firm to give their legal opinion, which supports Quinn and the practice that has been going on for years. Santos challenges that at his first night after being sworn in. Two people sue Quinn. A Superior Court judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs. Now the City Council is looking to appeal the decision.
And here we are. Hopefully that wasn’t too difficult to follow.
Since the beginning, plenty of people would argue this has been politics. Santos has always said it wasn’t politics, he was just reading the City Charter and noticed something worth pointing out.
This isn’t the first time this argument has come up. It died because of a corporation counsel opinion in the past. I’ve had people contact me saying Santos is right and there has been internal debate on this since. I do believe Santos read the Charter. I also think this debate has been going on for a while and this group of people were finally with enough power to support going forward with it. Is it a coincidence that the (lengthy) Charter was read and the first thing to be corrected is something people have been debating on and off for years? Could be a coincidence. Might not.
Either way, it’s lead to this big debate that has turned political. You can’t say something isn’t political and then have a 7-5 vote where seven Democrats feel one way and five minority party councilors feel differently. Up until last night there had a bit of a split. Scarpati had vote in favor of Quinn because he thought Quinn had done well. He also seemed to think the opinion was valid. Brunet voted against Quinn initially, but later tried to distance himself from the lawsuits.
The lawsuits, by the way, were filed by one person who is politically active - We the People Chairwoman Lois DeMayo - and another who was looking to increase his activity: Jack Biafore. Biafore had been encouraged by Lenny Rich who also had recently gotten involved in politics.
The decision by Judge Jack W. Fischer resulted in shockwaves. Not large ones, but significant ones. What the decision did was give credit to those who had lacked credit just a few years ago. Before Dan Brunet and Bob Williams were elected to the council, it was just Walter Shamock. Everybody knew Shamock, so suddenly the minority parties got a shot in the arm. Then Scarpati came on board. Then Santos and Rich. Suddenly the Republicans and We the People control five out of 12 seats AND have the mayor’s seat for the first time in forever.
It seemed like some were weary of Santos at least in the beginning. People said he should pick and choose his battles and this wasn’t one he should fight. I remember talking to former mayors who said the same thing.
Apparently this was a fight worth fighting. In the end, Santos comes out looking like the smart one. Not only was he right, but it cost a good amount of money (nearly $80k) for the city to be wrong on this one. Spend $1 or spent $80,0000 and people will be upset. Especially if you get it wrong.
Heated. Contentious. Combative.
You pick whatever word you want. The meeting seemed to have it.
Santos was raising his voice. Brunet was calling out Lowell. Battista was asking for personal attacks to stop. Daniels went after Santos going into “lawyer mode” and then accused Brunet of voting on something he never actually voted on.
Much of the council got their say in on this one. Only a few were quiet.
The truth is, Brunet was probably right: 9 out of 10 people don’t care who the corporation counsel is. It makes you question why they went forward with an appeal. David Lowell argued its because the council has that right and the majority of the council still feels what has been done for the last 20 years is the correct procedure.
Time (and a possible appeal) will tell.
That said, Santos will likely veto the appeal. Then Quinn can pursue it on his own or drop it. It’ll be on his own terms and with his own money.
Santos charged that Quinn is simply making this his own “personal crusade.” I’m not sure that’s true, but it is what Santos said.
After an hour or two of arguing, the issue ended. Things went calm. The tension was gone, but Steve Iovanna, you could tell, was in disbelief how quickly things cooled. He laughed talking about the next couple of items because of how it just all stopped and the council essentially had to forget what just happened.
The budget was passed and things carried on like nothing ever happened. Had that been the end of the meeting though, people may have stormed out or been pretty upset. It was a different feeling this time around.
Chances are, Santos will appeal. I doubt there will be enough votes to overturn the appeal. Scarpati and Brunet have both said it’s too much money to keep the lawsuit going so don’t expect changes there.
When the veto is upheld, Quinn will probably appeal and we will go from there. Quinn’s chances of winning rest solely on whether or not the next judge allows minutes from 1992 meetings to be seen and used as evidence. It wasn’t this last time around. If the appeal isn’t heard, then it’s over. If the minutes aren’t used as evidence, it’s probably over.
And at the end of the day, people probably don’t care much either way who is in that seat. What they will care about most is the money. Then, they will care about who won the lawsuit. But this could continue on for some time. Or it could be over soon.
Either way, there are probably some more important things to worry about.
When the first phase of the linear trail was being discussed, there was some negative feedback. People were concerned about noise, about turning the trail into a paved path, about disruption to the environment.
When the second phase was being discussed, nothing. There was very little feedback. The trail actually runs behind a few backyards, but people really weren’t all that upset the second time around. Why? Because that first trail was done pretty damn well.
So now there are two trails. They stretch from Cheshire to Platt High School and are about 2.5 miles long. If you want to get adventurous, you can run all the way one way and all of the way back and do 5 miles. Or bike, or skate, or walk, or whatever.
For some passive recreation, the trails work well. Having gone for a run last week, just before I got this horrendous cold I’m still battling, I really enjoyed running along Hanover Pond, along the grounds of Wilcox and Platt, and through nature.
While it’s great for recreation, the trail system is part of something much larger. The plan is to connect a full trail system from Cheshire to Middletown and in the area of Suzio quarry. Eventually there would be other trails that connect to the main one.
It’s an ambitious plan. The next two phases would include connecting from Platt to Cooper Street in the area of the Factory H site. It’s not exactly the best spot for an ending, but technically it’s not the end.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge cut from one specific year’s budget. You could cut a dump truck, a boiler, or some computers and software and get the same savings for one year or over 20 years. But instead the mayor suggests this one. Why?
He has been vocal about cutting spending or reallocating money toward roads and sidewalks. It may be cutting spending, but it’s not cutting spending by much.
What it might cut or cause a problem with is something much more significant. See, the linear trail system is part of the flood control plan along Harbor Brook. They are literally tied together. On the master plan, a document submitted to FEMA, DEEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it says the flood control project AND linear trail project. They were approved together and therefore have a timeline in which it must be completed. Together. Put one in jeopardy and you could put the other in jeopardy. And if you propose cutting from the flood control plan, you forget the reason why flood control started: to fix the downtown.
Work has been done over the last few years for the downtown and to make it more transit-oriented, better for pedestrians and bicyclists, etc. The plans were made with the assumption that the trail would be there to help. Up until now, there has been no negative feedback about the trail going into downtown either. So the trail plans have gone forward because nobody spoke up in opposition. There were public meetings, but people never seemed concerned.
Or you could cut the funding and put a halt to the project. Manny does make the argument that there are two trails now. They cover 5 miles, which is a good stretch. It is still expensive, so why not cut somewhere?
Others argue cutting the trail is a short-term plan and it is unlikely the money will be restored any time soon.
Councilor Dan Brunet said he had concerns about the trail entering an urban area. Are urban areas not supposed to connect to non urban areas?
Chances are the future trail will make use of roads or sidewalks once it gets to Coe Avenue. Then the trail will probably weave in and out. When they built the second phase though, new sidewalks were installed along Oregon Road. So while the money might not be directly allocated for new sidewalks, you’re probably talking about improved sidewalks somewhere along this trail. If you’re concerned about crime activity once you get to the trail in the urban city, the Meriden PD just bought a bunch of mountain bikes that I’m sure would work well on the trail.
The trail is nowhere near complete. It could be 20-plus years before it’s complete. Without funding this year, they may never bother finishing. But it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they cut the long-term plan over $8,500 a year
This morning, it’s what people were talking about. That’s how social media works. One person tweets about it or links to something on Facebook and suddenly millions are talking about it and sharing it with their own opinions. Not that everybody’s own opinion matters, but many certainly believe theirs do.
For better or for worse, this is what those two social media outlets have become for many. For the media, it’s a gold mine. Sort of. You share your stories, inform people of the news, get people talking about it and quickly they are sharing it with their friends.
It’s great until people begin demanding more information faster and suddenly people are spreading wrong information. It’s great until you ask for opinions and you get back the opinion of people who are so extreme on the issue that they begin to insult you, your company, the subjects of the story, etc. It’s great until you realize you’re now posting things strictly to get that reaction and not always for the quality of a story or post.
I took to Twitter in college, which is when it began hitting the mainstream. My first thought was that it was stupid. Who cared what I was doing in 140 characters or less and what my opinion was about something?
I began following members of the media and, as a journalism study, began to get it’s power. This was well before millions of others had already joined on. It was 2008, maybe. Nobody had 1 million followers. Your parents didn’t know what it was. You couldn’t use the word ‘Twitter’ in a sentence without somebody in the room saying it “sounded stupid.”
Oh, how times have changed.
Because you can pick and choose who you follow, Twitter is great for personalizing what you want to see and read about. I follow 366 people at the time I’m writing this and it’s a mixture of journalists, media outlets, sports journalists, friends, comedians, Meridenites, and local organizations. Or something like that. Obviously there are some I follow for my job and some I follow for my own enjoyment.
My Twitter experience has been pretty strong. There are few things better than interacting with the people interested in what I’m writing. That said, I could see for the more national writers and even some covering larger areas in the state or other states, it could quickly become a problem. Twitter is full of people who type out 140 characters or less before thinking. You get quick opinion after quick opinion filled with either snark or hatred and quickly, you could hate it.
Not for this reason, but for other reasons, I tweet less lately. As somebody who sees Twitter as a branding opportunity, you have to figure out what your followers want. Tweet too much and they’re gone. With less than 1,000 followers, each one is valuable to you. Don’t tweet enough and you’re irrelevant. Tweet too much that isn’t about your beat and people interested only in your beat unfollow. Tweet too much of your beat and others won’t care.
The perfect twitter account…I’ll stop there. There is no such thing. But for my own sake, I like to split it between my beat, sharing content that is interesting to me and people that follow me could find interesting and then some of my own life. You may be a brand, but you’re also a person.
It feels like decades since Twitter started. That’s because when Twitter was invented we weren’t relying on the news to shed some new detail literally every second. With Twitter, people want the information and they want it as it’s happening. When news breaks, a journalist is there taking pictures, tweeting, getting interviews. And then the person next to them is also tweeting their own photos. That random person off the street is suddenly thought of as a credible source of information. And why not? He is standing there, you are standing there, he has a Twitter, you have a Twitter, so why not?
Even thought Twitter has popularized as it has, it doesn’t drive traffic to our website like you’d think. Not everyone is on Twitter. More importantly though, your Tweet represents one moment in time. It’s unlikely people are going to go back, scrolling through your Twitter feed, looking for every piece of information you sent out that day. So unless you tweet one story 20 times a day or it’s shared by dozens of people, it’s going to be missed by a big chunk of your followers probably. I have two screens right now. I’m typing on the one on the left, the one on the right is the Atlantic story. One tab is Tweetdeck, but I’m not looking at it. I won’t ever see the Tweets being sent right now, but my thought is that ‘If I miss something important, somebody else will probably Tweet it at some point later today.’
There was a point where I thought every tweet was important. But it’s not, and that’s what the internet has become. Blogs make money off of “round ups.” They take ‘viral’ stories or interesting stories and simply repost them with catchy headlines or phrases. More media outlets are doing this on Facebook now to spur conversation. It’s an easy way to get clicks and discussions going while the news the outlets actually cover plays out in the mean time. If people are already there talking about something else, they’re more inclined to stay and watch or read about what you’re actually covering.
There has been a lot of discussion about group think killing Twitter too. What about group coverage? When four TV stations and 2-3 newspapers are covering one story, why should I be following accounts for each plus the individual reporters involved? It’s going to clog my timeline. I assume some people are going to cover it better, so I try to follow the ones who have a history of getting it right and still in a timely fashion. If something is RT’d by enough people, then I’ll see that too.
As for group think, the NFL Draft is a good example right now. Every day, guys are bouncing up and down the NFL Draft boards simply because of people’s opinions on Twitter. During the Super Bowl, one amazing play suddenly fills my Twitter feed with “OMGs” followed by a bunch of people making the same joke out of it or laughs about how everybody overreacted slightly.
There used to be a time when I was really good at fantasy baseball because I watched the games, tracked the players myself and thought on my own. I’m still pretty good, but I rely more on the internet, more on social media and more on what large groups of people are thinking. It often doesn’t work as well. Translate this to Twitter and hopefully you get the point: Just because everybody is saying it, doesn’t mean it’s right.
That especially relies to the trolls of Twitter: people who basically live to be jerks to others through social media. Usually it’s people they don’t know, they’ve never met and it’s a former of cyber bullying. Plenty can brush it off, but it gets annoying to read. It happens most often with sports. People display their homer-ism and simply attack others. But it can follow into politics or entertainment or the other divides of Twitter.
Twitter is known for its sarcastic quips, for quick tidbits of information and for a ton of spam. I love that it gives me a personality on the internet away from a place like Facebook, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s me, the RJ, and others trying to funnel people from one location to another in an effort to get people to my own stories and content I have published. At the same time, I enjoy giving myself that personality, sharing things I didn’t publish, talking with people in less than 140 characters to get a discussion going, and seeing what is going on with other people.
I’ll still be on Twitter for the forseeable future. I still love it. I’m less obsessed than what I once was though. As long as I’m not continuously reading tweets telling me to “go die” “go kill yourself” or anything like that that thousands of other tweeters get on a regular basis, I can enjoy it on my own.
Do people even use Facebook anymore? The answer, undeniably, is yes. Plenty of people do. But has it’s tested and reached its limits? some think so.
Deadspin hit a lot of it on the head. How many invites to go see a band, go to an event I could care less about, and to Candy Crush or zombie games do I really need?
And it’s different for me. I have two Facebooks: my original one started in 2006 and my work account. I get more invites on my work account for events (for obvious reasons i.e. people want me to cover them) than my original. But I also get way more Candy Crush and stupid game invites on there than my original account.
It’s been said before, but Facebook is aging. Younger kids don’t use it like I used it when I first got on it. I got on it to link to my friends and meet people from the college I as going to. That’s what Facebook was meant to be, in addition to getting to see pictures of girls, which Deadspin sums up fairly accurately.
On my original account, friends still use it for what they always did. Now there is more sharing of political stuff, interesting articles they read, etc. and it’s now quickly turning into people posting pictures of their babies, about their engagements, etc. If this is what Facebook’s future holds, then is this what everybody wants to be a part of? If it becomes something where the former youths are now all adults and sharing what is going on in their lives, then what does it mean for the future generation? It means those kids are probably looking elsewhere.
I love my family. But Facebook used to be a spot where I could post things to my friends without family butting in or knowing anything about what I was doing. It’s all public now. Are you really going to turn down a friend request from your mom?
While Facebook isn’t dead (you can’t be dead with that many users), it’s in a weird spot. The people who comment on my public, work account are all an older generation of people. They are the ones who probably care most about the stories I post, after all.
Because Facebook is open to anybody with an email account, you just get a weird mesh of people all coming together expressing their opinions. Some people are younger and hip and use Twitter so anything posted 2 days after it happened is irrelevant. Others post old Buzzfeed posts or start spewing their opinions. People reflect on the past. People send out their thoughts in far more than 140 characters. People can get annoying and then you block them without them knowing.
But Facebook still has relevance as I said several paragraphs earlier. Especially for news outlets. More than 20 percent of our traffic comes from Facebook. So, again, post something interesting, get people interested, post other stuff, continue the discussion, and they’ll stay for more. And it works well. For instance, a viral video on Twitter works for a day, maybe. Post the same thing on Facebook 3 days later and a large chunk of people still haven’t seen it. Now, I probably saw it, but did my dad? Nope. The people who didn’t grow up with Facebook and Twitter and the internet, even, are still adapting. I adapt to the internet every day, but those people adapt differently. They aren’t used to being able to YouTube anything imaginable or disappointed when you Google something and can’t find it. I expect everything to be right there, they don’t. So when they use Facebook it differs from how Facebook has been used in the last few years. Facebook will continue to change and not die, but its growth will be interesting to watch when some already consider it dead.
Are they dead? No. Are they in weird spots and probably need to figure out where the future is? Probably. If i knew how to solve the issues, I’d be earning a lot more than I am. The important part of Twitter though is that it is what the people want it to be. There is less advertising dragged in. You can avoid people you don’t want to be around. It’ll work itself out.
Facebook won’t die either. Why? Because too many people use it. Hundreds of mllions aren’t going to suddenly stop using it. It would be a long and slow death with plenty of time to reinvent itself. We saw millions jump ship on MySpace years ago; I don’t think that will happen to Facebook.
To some, the Charter was clear. It was believed (and the judge agreed) that the mayor recommends the corporation counsel seat. To others, it was ambiguous. Ultimately, it was unambiguous the judge ruled.
Now the real question: Has the city been following the Charter inaccurately for 20-plus years? Apparently so. But was it ever intended for the corporation counsel to be recommended by the mayor? According to those around back then, it was not.
So was the Charter written poorly? Was it written inaccurately?
So many questions. And will there be an appeal?
Another good question. I’m told the council is fairly divided on the topic and understandably so. One group is pretty firm they were right all along. Another group is pretty firm that the judge was wrong. And then others say it’s time to just let it go, let the mayor do what he wants for now and move on. Also, don’t continue to spend money on this. While the city has spent close to $26,000, or so, I am also told they haven’t been build for a much larger share that could lead to the city spending closer to $80,000 on this lawsuit.
An appeal could drag the process along and add to that total. So is it worth it? Depends on who you talk to. Depends if you think the lawyer put in that seat will have any form of bias whatsoever. Depends if you think it’s just a “power grab.” The mayor said the council was trying for a “power grab.” Others have accused Mayor Santos of it. Either way, his side prevailed.
Largely, I think the reaction around town for the decision was surprise. I don’t think the majority saw it coming. I wasn’t working that day and received a number of text messages about it from those who were surprised. Funny story: I wasn’t at work the day the lawsuits were served and I wasn’t at work the day the judge made a decision. Disclaimer: Dan Brechlin is in now way connected to either or the listed lawsuits, nor does he claim to have any involvement in either.
There was less surprise about the board and commissions lawsuit, I think. A pretty good case was made that it didn’t make sense for the appointments to go through. The judge seemed favorable to the plaintiffs in this case throughout the hearings. And there was clearly a move made (Santos being sworn in the morning) to prevent these from happening. If these same recommendations came forward a month earlier, which they could have, there would have been no lawsuit. If things happened how they normally do, there would have been no lawsuit. But in the game, and I think game is the right word here, of politics, you have to be ready for anything.
I think the bid for an appeal will be a close vote. Or it should be a closed vote. What happens behind closed doors and any convincing that happens, happens. But I think it will be a close vote for the City Council to proceed. What could also happen is that Mike Quinn chooses to appeal himself. He’s a lawyer, so it could make some sense. Whether or not he will, I’m not sure, but who knows.
But the ones many thought were wrong initially ended up being right in the end. According to one judge, anyway. It makes you wonder.
I won’t put 100 pictures here or even post the video. Most of it is all up online as it is. No, I’ll just talk about it.
I was among those on Sunday saying, ‘well, at least it’s not raining.’ But it was cool, gray, chilly, windy and just not great conditions. I guess that’s the risk you run when you hold a festival in late April. Could get a great year then you might not.
Which is exactly what happened. Last year was perfect weather, perfect atmosphere. Everything was great. People who went Saturday went back Sunday just because the weather was nice.
I guess it’s a good thing I couldn’t immediately remember a day in which both days were kind of crummy. Saturday, I got to the park around 11 am. I was able to park in the park and only had to walk a few hundred feet to the booth where the RJ was located. In those few hundred feet, I was soaked. Soaked enough that I didn’t dry out until late afternoon.
I got to see much of the parade, but quickly realized there were some holes and gaps in the parade. Thinking about it, I’m not sure the last time I watched the parade. I must have been just a few years old. I’ve marched in it a number of times and I usually don’t go to watch. But I give credit to those who marched and those dedicated enough to stand watch and support.
After that, it was weird. The sun started to emerge, then it would go away. Then it would warm a little, then get cold. After a turkey dinner wrap, a steamed cheeseburger, some fried oreos, writing a couple of stories, uploading video, doing some social media work, dealing with a so-so wifi situation, and generally walking around and talking to people, I headed back to the office around 5pm. In talking to Mark Zebora about an hour later, the skies had opened up once again, which is really unfortunate. I’m a big fan of the festival later at night, and it’s a good time for the younger crowd. But no fireworks and a cold, wet nighttime is disappointing. Obviously it can’t be perfect every year, but you don’t want to see almost a full day washed out.
As for Sunday, I went back with the wife and kids for a couple hours. It was cold, so we didn’t stay long. The crowd was much larger, though not nearly what it was the last few years. I didn’t have to wait in line to get a corn dog at the same booth that sells steamed cheeseburgers. Last year, that booth had a huge line. We did have to wait for fried dough, but that happens every year.
It could have been worse for the festival, its organizers and vendors, but it could have been a lot better. It’s unfortunate to have to be so reliant on something that can’t be controlled. If you move the date though, you kind of have to change the name of the event because Daffodils will no longer be in season. I suppose you could name it after a different plant.
I like it being while school is still in session though, I think it makes sense. I like that it kicks off the warmer weather (hopefully) of spring. I like that it’s not in summer where it’s too hot. But if you switch it by a weekend or two, you run into overlapping dozens of other events.
So I don’t expect anything to change, just hope the weather does next year.
It was at some high school age that I learned about Undercliff. Until then, I had no idea about its existence. Why would I? It’s a road nobody is allowed to travel on unless you’re a state employee or have authorization.
Friends had talked about the idea of going up to this former asylum. The stories and tales were numerous. And they weren’t specific to just one event either. I can’t remember anything specific off hand either, but the idea of abuse, torture and some type of testing come to mind of what I’ve heard over the years.
For a while children were sent here when they had Tuberculosis and other diseases. I’m sure plenty never left and died on the site. People walking through the site years after it closed and also workers there long after of children died have said they heard laughing and playing and also children screaming and crying wouldn’t shock someone who believes in that sort of thing.
There were people for years who suffered from mental issues, whether in the hospital or other buildings on the property. I haven’t heard many of those stories. I do know my grandfather was there for a brief period of time for alcohol rehabilitation. There, he helped the nurses on multiple occasions hold patients down and restrain them while they were either acting out or trying to harm workers.
For this reason, people will always remember the property for the possible hauntings and what might have been done there that many feel was swept under the rug.
Putting the story together
I’ve never been in any of the buildings, for the record. I’ve seen and searched for enough photos online and watched enough videos to get the idea. Why risk getting arrested when others can do it for me?
If you haven’t been up there, it’s on a road near Target in Meriden. Bing Maps was incredibly helpful in putting this story together. It gave me an idea of where buildings were, what was being used, what wasn’t and overall idea of the site. Gotta love satellite imagery.
From there, you can zoom much further in and rotate the angle. The older buildings all seem to be unused. In talking with various people for the story though, I got a good feel for what is used and what isn’t. In poking around on the internet, I found inventory of some of the buildings.
Here’s how it started though. Months back I had heard they may be demolishing some buildings. One or two posts on social media hinted toward the same thing. Caught up with some other stories, I didn’t pursue it initially.
More recently, there was another post. I began searching and even Wikipedia said it was demolished. Without recent satellite images, it’s tough to confirm on my own. When a hiker recently posted a photo on Facebook though, there was plenty of visual evidence. Comparing the photo with Bing, it was clear how much was missing.
Photo Courtesy of Eric Cotton l Record-Journal
So I inquired with a few state branches. I started with DDS. The spokesperson was adamant that DDS only oversees a small portion of the site and it’s the lower portion closer to Chamberlain Highway. She was not even sure if there was demolition going on.
I spoke with the spokesman of DAS after that. He said he thought a smokestack was taken down and wasn’t sure if anything more than that. Pretty there was more, I simply asked if he could look further into it.
In the mean time, I checked with local officials. If anything was going on, you’d assume the city manager or city planner knew. Nope. It struck me as odd. I mean, the state doesn’t have to tell the city anything and doesn’t need local permits or approvals. They were surprised.
Photo courtesy of Eric Cotton l Record-Journal
I called state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo to see if she knew anything. She called me back later with information, but it was after she was filled in.
When former state Sen. Gaffey was in office, one of his things was this property. He wanted it to be turned over to the city and asked for it on several occasions.
While Dante was incredibly helpful and the spokesman of DAS came back with more info, it still struck me as odd that nobody from the city knew much.
When a photographer went up there and decided to try and take a picture, somebody appeared out of a building and stopped him. He asked to take a picture, was sort of denied, but told to go see a group of other people on the site. He did and was again denied because “the state is trying to keep this quiet.”
Anyway, there might be some follow up on this. The juvenile court project is going forward pending funding from the state Bond Commission. But soon those buildings will be nothing but memories, photos, YouTube videos, and old tales. Given the state of the building and the fact people constantly were trespassing up there and vandalizing, it’s probably for the best.
As I type this from the comfort of the couch, I’ve got some sore legs, a raspberry in my left knee area my arm has a slight soreness, and I can’t stop thinking about last night.
Before I get to the explanation, let me say that I’m writing this post more about me than about Meriden. But it’s still an important one because hundreds of people are involved.
For the last five years, I’ve spent 20-30 week nights per year taking part in the Meriden Amateur Softball Association, better known as MASA. Last night was the first game of my sixth season and the first of the fifth season for CDL Commercial. CDL Commercial is a team sponsored by my dad. For five years he has agreed to sponsor us and it’s been an interesting few years. No, CDL doesn’t stand for Commercial Driving License, by the way. It’s my dad’s business that he started when I was in high school and it stands for College for Daniel and Lauren (my sister). He does property maintenance through the company in addition to his regular day job.
I was asked to join a team when I was 19, I think. Maybe 20. I can barely remember how old I am, so you get the idea. In year 1, we were bad. It was a combination of some of my friends and another group of guys. Midway through that season I dove into first base and broke my hand, ending my season. It hurt, but it was a pain I could live with, but certainly not swing and make solid contact with a softball with. And it was my dominant right hand. The night I got the soft cast put on my hand was the same night I first hung out with my future wife so I guess not all was lost. And the first game she showed up to to watch me was when I broke my hand. So there’s that.
The next year was maybe the most talent we ever had on the team, but we didn’t do well. You’d think hitting a lobbed pitch is simple, but for a handful of former baseball players and other pretty decent athletes, it’s more complicated than you think. And making the right throws and plays isn’t what you’d think either.
The following year we missed the playoffs by one game with a somewhat different group of guys. We lost a few athletes, but gained some guys that were raw but had strength and the ability to field.
Then we came in first place for the regular season two years ago.
That’s us the night we clinched first place. That’s my dad right in the yellow shirt. He’s always been proud of us win or lose and loves hanging out with the guys when he can.
A few weeks later we ended up winning the championship. I don’t remember the first game of our three-game series very well. I remember getting beat good though and then everybody worrying. We figured we were done the second game. People wanted the lineup to change and I thought the negativity would bring the team down.
In game two it was cold, a little rainy and neither team was scoring. Then someone hit a triple, I followed with a single and we broke it open a little. I think we scored 7 runs that game, which is nothing for a softball game. Especially a win.
In game three we came out with the confidence and pounded them, winning by 12 runs and mercying them in five innings. Why I still remember the small details, I’m not sure. But I do. I remember pinch running one player for another. I remember hitting it just passed the shortstop to end the game. I remember people picking me up. And I remember the happiness on everybody’s face. Personally, I have never won a championship of any sort, so, as the coach, it was special. Even if it was the championship for the lowest division, it didn’t matter.
Last year we hit the ground running. Losses were few and far between in a higher division. We finished the regular season 16-4 and then won another championship against the same team from the previous year. And it came in similar fashion with it going the full three games. But we won the championship by just a single run and the final out came on a foul out.
When you’re watching a championship game on TV, you know who won. You have the outs or the score or the time left on the clock right in front of you so you don’t question it. In both years it seemed only one or two of us were positive we had just won the championship. So the celebration is awkward, but then the crowd figures it out and all is good.
We got new shirts last year. And facial hair. Well, not all can grow it well, but some can.
See, after we won the year before, a few guys opted not to shave for the offseason. Or they chose to grow facial hair at least in the beginning of the season.
Now I have limited facial hair growing experience, but my wife talked me into growing a beard. I started about two weeks before the season started and made a commitment that I’d grow it out until we lost. Of course, we went about two months before a loss. The loss was by all of one run. So I kept it going and then it was a while before the next one. So here I am, still with it on my face and several others the same.
I hang onto all of the trophies we have. Downstairs on my shelf we have two of these big ones, two like you see in the picture before this one and then two smaller ones that each individual player received.
When the trophies travel, they do it with protection.
So last night was game one in another new division and we got beat pretty bad. When we get beat, it eats away at us. We typically respond well and will find out tonight because we have a doubleheader.
I’ve run a little lately, but on a night where it was 40-45 degrees and you rely on sudden bursts of speed and only a handful of throws, it can hurt the next day. I slid into second, so that explains my knee. And I just entered the statistics into a database I keep to track stats. Yeah, we take it seriously.
But it’s a great group of guys. We have a ton of fun. They get there early and often stay late. Last year, we stayed at the field in the dark until midnight. I’ll never forget one of them saying that these will end up being some of our best memories. And as for friends, they probably will be. Winning, having fun, just being friends, it’s all great. The year before, I think we were there until midnight. And that game ended at 6:30 p.m., so it was a good time.
But softball gives you something to look forward to and some time with your friends. My kids come to some games and my wife and my family, team members’ families. Getting that support is special and makes you feel good that people could be doing anything that night, but choose to be watching us.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks. I realize it isn’t a Meriden post per se, but hundreds of guys in the area play. It gets intense. It gets competitive. But it’s fun.
Festivals and fairs have never been my thing. People rave about the Durham Fair, the Big E, all of those things. Well, I think I’ve been to the Big E once, haven’t been to the Durham Fair in years, went to the Apple Harvest Festival for about 10 minutes…you see where this is headed.
In fact, before I started working at the RJ, I hadn’t been to the Daffodil Festival pretty much at all in years and years. I must get my enthusiasm for these things from my mom who also doesn’t get too excited for the Daffodil Festival.
I mean, for those from Meriden, you’ve grown up your entire life with it. Every year it’s fairly similar: the rides, the food, some combination of music, Hubbard Park, Little Miss Daffodil, and so on. If you’ve done it once, you’ve done it a thousand times.
Before I go any further down this road and those who love the Daffodil Festival come and throw rocks at my house, I’ll turn this post around.
See, the fall festivals I’m not big on. I like the fall for like 2 weeks and then it gets too cold for me. I always associated the fall with going back to school and therefore was not a fan. I’m a spring-summer type of person.
So back to the Daffodil Festival, which essentially signals the “real” start of spring. It also signals that things are headed toward summer. Since 2010, I’ve been to the festival each year. Most of those years I went both days either for leisure or for work. This year, it’ll be one day, Saturday for work.
In years past, I’ve covered the business expo, Little Miss Daffodil, the sponsor’s gala, the actual festival, and so on. I probably needed a few years away from the festival to learn how to enjoy it more.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate waiting in lines and having to push through groups of people. But the event altogether? Pretty impressive. You’re talking about thousands and thousands of people who come together for mostly just two days of enjoyment. Hundreds of people bank on just two days for good weather. If they get it, things go right for fundraising. Don’t get it, things go sour. Same for the Daffodils. You need the right conditions or you miss the flowers.
Right now, Weather.com shows 67 degree weather for Saturday, which would be lovely, if not for the chance of rain. A cooler 59 degrees for Sunday. It’s still early, so things could change, but some fingers will be crossed (including my own, having to cover the event).
I wish I had some great Daffodil Festival stories. The truth is, I don’t. I don’t remember many individual festivals, but I’m not sure you’re suppose to. When each year is similar, that’s the way it goes. But you go back every year, or nearly every year, for a reason. It might be the food, the fireworks, the music, the parade, whatever. The real answer is the people. You know you’re going to bump into people you know, live with, work with, hang out with, and that’s a real reason why you show up. Because once you run into your friends, you fried food with them, hang out and enjoy it all together. And few things are better than that.
Having played in the Maloney HS band, I did march in the parade for four years, or however many years the parade was not canceled while in high school due to weather. I’ll say I was there at least three out of four years. It’s a relatively short, easy parade, but then you hop back on the bus and leave. I don’t remember spending much time during high school there.
In middle school I do remember a handful of us getting left behind at the park following the parade. That’s another story, but still somewhat memorable.
But it’s the more recent years that I remember most, whether covering it or going with my wife and kids and simply enjoying the day. It gives you something to do on a Saturday or Sunday, but it’s also pretty well-done by the event planners.
Festivities are this weekend starting Saturday morning and running all weekend. And don’t forget Little Miss Daffodil and the other events throughout the week.
Sometimes you file a story and you know you are going to get feedback, most likely negative. Sometimes you file a story and never expect feedback, but sometimes you get it any - could be positive, could be negative.
I was a bit stunned when I got no feedback on a story about Mayor Manny Santos. The story detailed Santos’ first few months as mayor and some of the incidents since then. I expected people to be happy, I expected people to be upset…I just expected something. Some others in the newsroom were surprised I got nothing.
But, no red light on my phone when I came in on Monday, the day after it ran in the newspaper. It was a Sunday story, meaning more people noticed it than usual.
Editors said they thought it was balanced, as did reporters who read it. Since that’s the ultimate goal, I’m glad they thought so. But you learn quickly in this business that very few ever think that something is fair and balanced no matter how sentences are worded or who is quoted.
Then you let it roll off your back after the criticisms come in. Oh well.
As for the interview with the mayor, he is the first to admit things haven’t gone smoothly. When I asked him about running on a platform to unite the council, he gave a smile because he knows the situation. Things have been contentious as ever. But are they improving?
Some to think so. I mean, those lawsuits are still pending, but I think there is less fear or concern when I walk into City Hall now. Many still see Santos as unpredictable, but some see him as improving.
Things aren’t perfect still. Especially with the council. Brian Daniels is quick to point out Santos hasn’t offered a lot, in his opinion. Plenty will say it’s just rhetoric. Some councilors just don’t communicate with him. Others, have sat down with him and had friendly conversations.
Councilor Steve Iovanna was among that was able to work things out with him this past week, solving the appointments/reappointments issues. Neither side got exactly what they wanted, but they settled, compromised and came to an agreement.
Santos is still getting to know things. His first few months were getting to know the job and as Dan Brunet noted in the story, sometimes people come out “aggressive” in their approach. This was probably an example of that.
I won’t compare Santos to former Mayor Mike Rohde. Rohde knew the city far better when he came in. He got involved in everything. He as a politician, but also somebody who deeply cared. And I think Santos cares, but he was only involved in a few small things and certainly wasn’t a politician or immersed in the community. It’s easy to be critical from where he was standing.
Whether or not Santos’ mayorship works out, time will tell. He seems to be going to more business-type tours and meeting with various groups and attending events. It makes sense, that’s what Meriden mayors do.
So his first few months should not come without criticism, but we will see what the next few months have in store. Either way, I guess we will simply hold the criticism on my story too.
You can somewhat factor out the handful of regulars that showed up and you aren’t left with much. Somebody spoke about the Meals on Wheels program, that’s about it.
So is there no interest in this budget?
“It was definitely the shortest budget hearing I’ve ever been to,” City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said afterward. “It shows that we must not be doing anything too controversial.”
And that is probably true. Last year, several different cuts were being proposed and people showed up. This year, not many programs were being cut and city services weren’t really being changed. Those not in favor of the budget say “you’re spending too much,” but there hasn’t been much of an alternative offered.
The tax increase amounts to about $100 for the average homeowner in the city. This comes a year after they didn’t even increase by $30 for the same group. Two years prior, most of the city didn’t feel anything or may have had their taxes lowered due to a revaluation.
So take that 100, divide it by 12 months, and you’re paying less than $10/month extra in taxes. Obviously taxes are quarterly so it’s a little higher, but, in the long run, are you feeling it? Probably not a whole lot.
To be honest, I went and had my taxes done over the weekend. My jaw dropped when I saw what my wife and I made last year, combined. She was laid off last February and wasn’t hired elsewhere to almost September. Our total income was basically pennies. And right now, I’m not sure how we made it through last year.
But we did. So I’m pretty sure, now, with her job, we can make it through a tax increase.
It is a bit disheartening that only 5 people showed up to say something at a meeting about the city budget. Ya know, the thing that explains where all of the city revenue is coming from and how things get paid for.
But again, nothing controversial, not a lot being cut, so there you go. People will gripe that taxes are too high and they can’t afford an increase. Do people move out? Yup. Do people move here? Yup.
The complaint about taxes is something that goes back quite a while. I remember Managing Editor Eric Cotton coming up to me showing a clip from the very early 1900s in which people were livid about this tax increase of pennies, literally pennies. Of course, nobody knew what specifically to cut, but that’s another story.
Maybe people think the council just won’t listen. Maybe they just don’t care. Maybe they will just accept it. I’m not sure. But five people? Either you doing something really right or something really wrong. For now, I’ll lean to the former.
$350,000 is a lot of money to spend on a project being described in a couple sentences or less, councilor Brian Daniels pointed out. While it’s a natural fit in that area of the city with the architecture there, it’s also expensive. Daniels asked what the alternatives were, but there were few. You could replace/renovate it or your could remove it altogether with the cost not really known. Or you could look for a cheaper solution.
The city spent thousands of dollars on it a little less than 10 years ago, putting gold leaf on the top of the dome. It was real gold from a place in Italy, one of the only places where the gold leaf can be found. That said, it is something done all around New England, Kendzior noted.
Curious, I asked if we could go up there and see it. Pietro Galluzzo, better known as Peter around City Hall, took us up there. He supervises the building maintenance in the City Hall and is quite the handyman and knowledgeable about just about anything maintenance-wise.
I had no idea how to get up to the roof of City Hall. Turns out, it’s not at all complicated. There’s a room in City Hall at the end of a hallway that’s a typical office. The office just so happens to have a door that leads up to another level. Walk up those stairs and there’s an attic-like room with a series of steps that lead to nowhere. But the nowhere is actually a window that Galluzzo easily removed and out we went on a cooler, very rainy, day.
I didn’t initially spot this massive piece of architecture, but there it was. And it really is massive when you see it up close. Also prevalent is the damage to the tower from weather and age.
It’s not an easy thing to take a picture of. You only have so much room between the tower and the white railing that lines the roof. The roof also isn’t flat, which you expect it to be from the street. It’s slanted and has a rubbery-type membrane for weather reasons.
On this day, a rainy one, it was pretty wet.
Of course that didn’t stop Galluzzo and photographer Dave Zajac from taking a walk up there.
Before we went down, I had to get a couple pictures of the area. In addition to rain, it was cloudy and you can’t see the Hanging Hills all too well. It would’ve been great on a sunny day, but no such luck.
You also don’t realize how high off the ground that railing is. At eye level, you have to look through it.
And one more before we headed back inside…
As cool as it was from outside, Galluzzo seemed anxious to show us the inside. It was like stepping into a time warp.
From the room you enter where the window is, there’s a “staircase.” That case of stairs is actually an old wooden ladder with a railing to kind of walk up on. It’s dark and then you head up another ladder. Again, dark, but this is what it’s like looking up.
When you get to this level, you’re met with this:
Every hour, on the hour, that thing rings. We timed it pretty well, meeting up around 10:20 a.m. so we didn’t get stuck in there with the ringing. Galluzzo told us it’s loud and you don’t want to be around for it. I believe it. We actually just missed it by a minute or two.
That previous ladder was steep and it certainly seemed like it was built in 1907. You think it’s going to break, but alas, here I am typing this.
Now the next ladder, that had me nervous. I hate heights and the ladder is constructed OVER the opening of the previous ladder. If this breaks, you have a made-for-movies type-moment where you plummet down a few flights through the wood.
Made it up there again though. At this point, it’s bright. You’re inside the actual clock and it’s translucent. Up here it’s like a whole different world.
All sorts of dates were sketched into the wall to mark when the tower was checked. And apparently there’s a magic switch to turn the clock off.
Then there was another ladder, also built over the opening, that lead to the dome. There was a slight leak with water dripping and the plastic bag diverts it. At the bottom, you can see the other ladder.
With the wind howling and the rain pouring down, it wasn’t in our best interest to go up there. So the three of us stood in this small space and talked about the tower and its history.
One of the most important pieces of the history is the machine that runs the clock. Saved from the 1904 fire that burned down City Hall before the new one was constructed, was a piece of machinery. The machine turns the gears to make the clock run. It’s not electrically run, but still impressive, nonetheless. Galluzzo said that the clock can only spring forward, so when it’s time to “fall back” an hour, it has to go through the entire clock, which means ringing the bell.
There’s no obvious date on there, but it clearly dates back to the early 1900s if not the late 1800s. But it’s still working just fine.
We spent maybe 15 minutes in the room, while Dave took some photos. The light in there was impressive and I can’t imagine what it’s like on a sunny, clear day.
We climbed back down, carefully, and made our way out. As we hit the final steps, the bell chimed marking it as 11 o’clock.
For now, it’s not known what will happen with the tower. It will be renovated or removed. My money is on it being renovated, but something has to happen because the wood is clearly rotted. The money will stay in the CIP fund and either be allocated differently or specifically for the clock tower. We will see, but it was a pretty cool experience and piece of history very few get to see.
There’s probably few less-inviting ways of getting into a city’s downtown than what Meriden has right now for those getting off Interstate 691 West at the State Street exit.
You pull off the exit, head down a ramp and to a stop sign. Depending on the day, the stop sign might be in OK shape, or slanted. The Welcome to Meriden sign had fallen down a few months back and for a long period of time lay in the bushes.
You turn to the left and head under a bridge. The bridge covers four lanes, I believe, and so it’s a pretty good-sized bridge. And it’s dark. You look to the left and for a while there was graffiti that read “End the Fed.”
Before you get there though, at the stop sign, you stare at a little-used rail yard that is more-or-less exactly how you would expect a little-used rail yard to look. Not good.
After the bridge you hit a couple factory-type buildings. Every time I drive by people are on some type of break and hanging out in the area. I don’t have any issue with people being on their break, it’s just not how one envisions entering a downtown.
Then you have to cross Camp Street where traffic stops on the opposite side and left side of you but not on the right side. No, instead, those people come flying over a hill so you are typically inclined to put the pedal to the floor.
Assuming you’ve made it this far (both in my long explanation and in your journey) you get to see Mills Memorial Apartments that mostly anybody would say needs to be ripped down and then the (until now) little-used Hub site.
I won’t do what I just did for what happens if you get off the “downtown” exit on Columbia Street in Meriden off I-691 heading east, but the point is, you won’t hit downtown very easily. In fact, very few in Meriden will say they know what Columbia Street is. But you have to go quite a ways to fine what is typically considered “downtown Meriden” and you don’t see any immediate signs of downtown, either.
A few years back, Meriden had this genius plan of re-working highway exits and getting people right off into downtown. It was called the City Center Initiative and, if you want a Throwback Thursday-type moment on Monday (when I’m writing this), then check out the website. Is the city still paying for the domain name?
Anyway, Bob Bass came up with a simpler, less costly plan: change the highway signs. That’s right. Tell people, “No, this isn’t the downtown exit, this is.” It’s kind of a genius plan. I mean, if you’re coming out of town and wanted to get off in a downtown, wouldn’t you just look for the sign that said “downtown?”
And if there were a bunch of signs after that, which is what is planned, you’d have no problem finding it pretty quickly. Since this plan was suggested a few years back, I often take the suggested Broad Street exit to get into downtown. I follow Pratt street, as suggested, and follow it to downtown.
Confession: I prefer this method. Pratt Street has its issues, of course. You hit a weird jog/turn coming off Broad onto Camp and onto Pratt. It’s more of a turn than you anticipate and you take it with more speed than expected because of the four lanes that could probably fit a fifth or sixth. Associate City Engineer Howard Weissberg once laughed saying you could land a plane on Pratt Street, but I’m pretty sure you could. It’s wide.
But as you come down Pratt Street, the width kind of makes it appealing. And you quickly see the potential. Get rid of that parking lot on the left and put some nice housing or something there. Fix those places up on the right and there you go. Take down the Mills and you can see that new park nearly the entire way down Pratt Street. Put in a boulevard, a shared-use type lane, it could look quite nice.
And this entrance, or gateway, works if you’re heading east or west on 691. The increased traffic could really bring the street back to life, rather than people speeding at 50 mph down it.
What could go wrong?
Obviously money is a factor here and could be an issue. The other? Technology. Go ahead and Google Map/directions anywhere into a downtown Meriden location. It sends you off the State Street/Columbia Street exits. And if people are coming to Meriden who don’t know the area, they are going to Google it. At least, that’s what my generation does: they Google. They are less likely to look at signs in trying to navigate and instead will listen to Siri or whomever else explain where to go.
Right now anybody knows the easy way to go is off State or Columbia if you know how to get to downtown Meriden. It’s generally quicker and puts you down there already. But if you liven Pratt Street, it might send more people who know the area down Pratt Street because they will be more interested in the street. Maybe not. Maybe people will just go with the quicker alternative. Unless, of course, they close off Pratt Street at a certain area. Then does Google Maps make the same suggestion? Can Google Maps be told something else is the best route? There’s probably a process.
The point is, that stuff can be figured out. Technology can likely be beat, after all, we are smarter than computers, I think. But the real point is that improvements are being made little by little, including to this street where you can land a plane. But if you’re going to land a plan: A. let me know first and B. do it soon because changes are coming.