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Courtney meets with Connecticut troops in Iraq

August 5, 2009 Letters to Editor, Local News Comments Off
Congressman Joe Courtney visits Connecticut troops in Iraq and discusses benefits they will be entitled to when they return home. (L-R) Specialist Jonathan Fillion, Army, West Hartford; Sergeant James Alfred, Army, Uncasville; Staff Sergeant John Bellville, Army, Killingly; Rep. Joe Courtney; Specialist Aokusia Terrell, Army, New Britain; Sergeant Michael Barber, 39th Military Police Company, National Guard, Coventry; Specialist Kenneth Froeberg, Army, North Haven; Specialist Carl Beringer III, Army, West Haven. Courtesy photo.

Congressman Joe Courtney visits Connecticut troops in Iraq and discusses benefits they will be entitled to when they return home. (L-R) Specialist Jonathan Fillion, Army, West Hartford; Sergeant James Alfred, Army, Uncasville; Staff Sergeant John Bellville, Army, Killingly; Rep. Joe Courtney; Specialist Aokusia Terrell, Army, New Britain; Sergeant Michael Barber, 39th Military Police Company, National Guard, Coventry; Specialist Kenneth Froeberg, Army, North Haven; Specialist Carl Beringer III, Army, West Haven. Courtesy photo.

To the Editor:

Last week, I traveled to Iraq to meet with U.S. military and civilian officials for a first-hand look at progress in Iraq to draw down U.S. troop levels. This was my third visit to the country in two years.

I also had the fortunate opportunity to meet with Connecticut troops serving with the United States Army and National Guard.

As Iraq begins to fade from the front pages of our newspapers, I want to make sure that we never forget that there are tens of thousands of American men and women serving in Iraq, including many of our family, friends and neighbors from across Connecticut.

I believe that members of Congress must stay up-to-date on the situation in Iraq, as we begin to drawdown our troop level, which is why I wanted another look at the progress in the region.

During the visit, I had the opportunity to meet with the commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Ordierno, to get his take on the progress of the drawdown.

Gen. Ordierno was more optimistic in his assessment than my last visit in December 2008, and indicated that the reduction in force levels was going better than he had anticipated.

There are still many challenges ahead, but his insight will be invaluable as I continue to monitor this issue as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The real honor of the trip, however, was being able to spend some time in Taji with Connecticut’s finest, whose service has taken them far from home and their families. They are a wonderful group of courageous individuals and their bravery and sacrifice is appreciated.

Furthermore, as troops begin returning home, they must receive the benefits to which they are entitled and have earned, including the new GI Bill education benefit.

On Aug. 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs began distributing tuition payments to schools participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program. Returning troops are encouraged to visit http://www.gibill.va.gov to learn more about the program.

I strongly supported the new GI Bill, in order to ensure that our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have the access to a quality education they need to start a new career or further an existing career.

I encourage veterans to also contact my Norwich District Office [860-886-0139] should they have additional questions or concerns, or run into any red tape. [The mailing address is 101 Water Street, Suite 301, Norwich , CT 06360]

Sincerely, Joe Courtney

[Website: http://courtney.house.gov/ ]

Posted Aug. 5, 2009

You don't speak for me…

July 23, 2009 Letters to Editor, Local News Comments Off
Town Manager Matt Hart and Mayor Betsy Paterson. File photo © by Brenda Sullivan.

Town Manager Matt Hart and Mayor Betsy Paterson. File photo © by Brenda Sullivan.

To the Editor:

I attended the Mansfield Town Council meeting July 13 to take stock of how well things were going in our town. What I learned in that nearly three-hour meeting impressed as well as disturbed me.

I was impressed by the professionalism and knowledge of Town Manager Matt Hart, Mayor Betsy Paterson, Councilman Bruce Clouette, Director of Public Works Lon Hultgren and several others. Our town is lucky indeed with the quality of its staff and elected officials.

But I was disturbed to find that our town has acquired a small group of individual citizens who, in my estimation, have crossed the line from helpful gadflies to disruptive cranks.

Unelected, these individuals are attempting to take power away from you and I by throwing a proverbial wrench into the machinery of our elected government. They do this through their confrontational behavior at town meetings and through what I believe is the misuse of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Every informed American supports citizen participation in government, the essence of our democracy. But with this right also comes an obligation to respect the voice of the majority, as well as to interact with government employees and officials using civility and respect.

I, myself, have filed one FOI request and am glad it was there as a tool to use. But when our town staff receives a glut of requests, to the extent that it is possibly taking a part-time position to address them, it is my right to ask those doing the frequent filing to explain their reasons. It is my and your tax dollars paying for our staff members to answer these requests.

Personally, I didn’t elect you and I don’t want you talking to my elected officials like you are their superior. Their bosses are all the citizens of Mansfield and we speak with one polite voice the first Tuesday in November when we elect them. They do not answer to just you and few others who are at any particular town meeting, while the rest of us are back with our families, at work, doing house chores or relaxing from a long day. In doing this, we have confidence and trust in our elected leaders to make good judgments during our absence.

Further, when you can’t comprehend the simple logic our elected officials provide in response to your questions, please don’t drag the meeting on when I’m waiting to speak after you and it is approaching 10:30 p.m.

Your whole affect appeared to me more confrontational and mean-spirited than born of an actual desire to understand an issue.

-        Edmund J. Smith – Mansfield

Posted July 23, 2009

[Editor's note: Letters to the Editor and Editorials are very welcome additions to this publication, and can be submitted at mansfieldeditor@htnp.com Please include your phone number(s) where you can most easily be reached to confirm that you are the author of the letter or editorial. Submissions may occasionally be edited for length. I also ask that you express your opinions with civility, coherently and without profanity or name-calling. You may also submit photos or brief video clips that support the topic of your letter or editorial. ]

Sen. Prague urges Gov. Rell to sign bill on blocking ash landfill

June 15, 2009 Letters to Editor, Opinion Comments Off
Sen. Edith Prague.

Sen. Edith Prague. -----

An Open Letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell regarding Franklin ash dump legislation –

Dear Gov. Rell,

At this writing [June 12, 2009], Senate Bill 3 rests atop your desk awaiting enactment or veto ahead of next week’s deadline.

SB3, if enacted, would prohibit the acquisition or use of a pristine, sensitive parcel of land in Franklin for a colossal ash dump.

I urge you to sign this bill.

To do so would not only preserve that land, but safeguard the drinking water of most Franklin residents, whose wells tap the aquifer beneath.

Likewise you would protect the water quality of the adjacent Shetucket River, from which Sprague residents draw their drinking water.

Outdated methods

As urgent as these environmental issues are, please know this initiative is about so much more.

First, the 21-year-old method through which these dumps are sited is outdated and flawed. I remain incredulous that CRRA has yet to demonstrate its need for a new facility; the process should begin with DEP certification of need.

This is especially true given the estimated 17-year lifespan of an existing, comparable dump in Putnam, only a short distance away, where 400 additional acres are available for expansion thereafter.

Money as a carrot

There is apparently a great deal of money involved, too, because CRRA has offered Franklin $5 per ton of ash it would dump: $1.5 million for the estimated 300,000 tons of ash per year.

Signs like these have been posted along Route 32 leading into Franklin. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.

Signs like this one have been posted along Route 32 leading into Franklin. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.

But town residents voted overwhelmingly to reject the plan and the money, expressing their preference to preserve their quality of life.

In light of all this, your veto of this bill would show complete disregard for the well-being of those it would harm the most and their opinions, voiced almost as one through the ballot box.

Your veto would also be contrary to the vote of all but 4 Republican Senators when our chamber resoundingly approved the bill last month.

Please sign Senate Bill 3 and join all of us who have been working to avoid what would become an irreversible ecological disaster.

Sincerely, Sen. Edith G. Prague – 19th District

[Editor's note: The CRRA, a quasi-governmental agency charged with disposing of the ash generated by burning the state's trash, has been directed to close the existing ash dump in Hartford and has selected a 570-acre site behind the former Franklin Mushroom Farm on Route 32, along the river, as its preferred new dump site. The CRRA has begun testing on the privately-owned property. Current laws give the town of Franklin little or no say in whether the dump will be sited at that location.

SB3 or Public Act 09-112 is entitled, An Act Prohibiting the Acquisition or Use of Certain Parcels of Land as Ash Residue Disposal Areas and Concerning the Operation of a Food-waste-to-energy plant. Its purpose is to "prohibit the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority [CRRA] from purchasing, condemning, accepting title to, using or otherwise acquiring certain parcels of land[ in the town of Franklin, and the town of Windham] for the purpose of establishing an ash residue disposal area.

It also states, “No certificate of environmental compatibility and public need under chapter 277a of the general statutes and no permit under section 22a-208a of the general statutes shall be issued for the construction or operation of a food-waste-to-energy plant in a distressed municipality (1) with a population of more than one hundred thousand, and (2) in which a liquefied natural gas storage facility of not less than ten million and not more than fifteen million gallons and a combustion turbine power plant of less than one hundred megawatts are located, if such food-waste-to-energy plant would be located within two miles of one or more university regional campuses, hospitals, performing arts centers, churches and schools, including magnet schools. For the purposes of this section, “distressed municipality” has the same meaning as in section 32-9p of the general statutes.

The bill was co-sponsored by:

Sen. Edith G. Prague, 19th Dist.

Rep. Kevin Ryan, 139th Dist.

Rep. Susan M. Johnson, 49th Dist.

Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger, 73rd Dist.

Rep. Larry B. Butler, 72nd Dist.

Rep. David Aldarondo, 75th Dist.

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, 3rd Dist.

Rep. Joan A. Lewis, 8th Dist.

Rep. Barbara L. Lambert, 118th Dist.

Rep. Catherine F. Abercrombie, 83rd Dist.

Sen. Mary Ann Handley, 4th Dist.

Sen. Edwin A. Gomes, 23rd Dist.

Sen. Thomas A. Colapietro, 31st Dist.

Ban on trapping threatens safety of dams

A beaver and a gnawed tree that will be used to build a beaver dam

A beaver and a gnawed tree that will be used to build a beaver dam

State legislators may soon be voting on a controversial measure to ban certain kinds of traps in Connecticut, including traps currently used by wildlife professionals to control burrowing animals in the Connecticut River levee system.

The General Assembly’s Environment Committee recently approved a bill, co-sponsored by State Sen. John Fonfara and Rep. Elizabeth “Betty” Boukus to ban foothold and Conibear traps in the state.

State Sen. John Fonfara

State Sen. John Fonfara

The Connecticut Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators Association, Inc. (CTNWCO Assoc., Inc.) is alarmed at this proposal.

Millions of dollars in repairs to the levee system can be attributed to wildlife problems over the past several years.

State Rep. Elizabeth Boukus and Gov. Jodi Rell. Photo from Web site of Rep. Boukus.

State Rep. Elizabeth Boukus and Gov. Jodi Rell. Photo from Web site of Rep. Boukus.

We are deeply concerned about the state’s ability to continue to keep the population levels of these animals in check without these vital tools.

According to Nick Casparino, a Civil Engineer for the town of East Hartford , the town last year alone paid a private contractor $4 million to repair nearly four miles of town-owned dikes that protect it from the Connecticut River .

The town has allocated $25 million to rehabilitating the dike system.

Casparino said that more than $58,000 has been paid to the contractor so far, for controlling and repairing wildlife damage to the dike system, but the project is still ongoing.

Muskrats, beavers and moles

The state lawmakers need to look at the overall picture of this ban on trapping, and look at where these tools can be used effectively to manage wildlife to protect human interests. How will a muskrat or beaver that is burrowing into a levee be caught without these tools being available anymore?

Muskrat

Muskrat

According to Dan Marks, a Civil Engineer and a consultant of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, burrowing animals like muskrats and beavers are the two most common wildlife species to cause structural damage.

Muskrats burrow into the levees and weaken their integrity.

Beavers obstruct spillways, burrow into the levee, and move mud and material to create their own dams.

Mr. Marks says that water level devices are not a good option since they are expensive to install and maintain.

He recalled that last year in June, a muskrat had undermined a repaired water-saturated levee that was holding back the relentless Mississippi River in eastern Missouri .

The town residents had worked for several days to maintain the levee from the rising waters. This only affected about 100 homes, but the levee was protecting an area of about 3,000 acres, and the damage happened when everyone was sleeping.

Muskrats and beaver aren’t the only wildlife causing damage to dikes.

“How can we control moles that are eroding the surface of these levees?” asked Richard Daniotti, owner of Wildlife Control Services of West Hartford. “These lawmakers are supposed to look out for the environment and the people. Yet if they ban the use of traps, they will only cause more poisons to be absorbed into the environment, including our waterways.”

Daniotti also pointed to the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) technical manual for wildlife control professionals to use in managing these animals and said, “FEMA highly recommends these same traps that the state lawmakers are trying to ban.”

DEP Testimony

On March 9, Connecticut DEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette testified in opposition to the trap ban at the environmental lawmakers hearing, citing a detrimental impact on wildlife management.

She testified that if the traps are banned under the proposed legislation, the most effective – and for some species, the only effective tool – will  no longer be available to wildlife control professionals.

Sen. Edward Meyer of Guilford responded to Deputy Commissioner Frechette during the hearing by saying, “I am appalled that the department is condoning the use of these traps.”

Privately-owned dams

Connecticut had 22 deficient dams in 2004, according to a 2005 report on the state’s dams, “Dam Safety in Connecticut,” compiled by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Water Management.

The Connecticut River

The Connecticut River

There are 468 earthen dams in Connecticut, representing 64 percent of the 723 dams in the state, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers’ 2007 report on National Inventory of Dams.

This report also indicated that 62 percent of the dams are privately owned, and 18 percent are owned by local governments.

Wesley Marsh of the bureau of Water Management said, “It will be hard to tell a private levee owner that they need to remedy a wildlife issue, then have the wildlife department tell them that they cannot trap the animal. Especially if they had a trapper previously managing the beaver population for no charge.”

According to USA Today’s December 22, 2008 article, “Most Levee Repairs Lagging,”  the US Army Corps of Engineers indicated that the worst offenders are Washington and California , where levees with “unacceptable maintenance deficiencies” protect densely populated cities like Seattle and Sacramento.

While Connecticut has recently provided $5 million to improve Hartford ‘s levees, no one knows how this trapping ban will affect the cost of repairing the levees in the future.

One has to wonder if it will even be feasible to perform the repairs without being able to use the proper tools, such as traps, to control the burrowing animals causing the damage.

If the repairs are delayed, the US Army Corps of Engineers could bar access to recovery funds, should there be a catastrophe.

- Tom Logan is Vice President and spokesman for the CTNWCO Association

“The Connecticut Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators Association is a non-profit organization to promote general standards and ethics, as well as foster education, research, and knowledge within the nuisance wildlife control industry.”

Posted March 26, 2009

[Edited for length and continuity]

This site is under construction

Brenda Sulllivan | HTNP Editor

Brenda Sulllivan | HTNP Editor

Good day — as you can we see, we are introducing a newly designed Web site. What you are now looking at, however, is not the final appearance – Once up and running, we are sure you will enjoy the new look and features. Until then, your patience is appreciated. — Brenda Sullivan, Editor

Posted March 10, 2009

Please oppose the Employee Free Choice Act

February 6, 2009 Letters to Editor, Opinion Comments Off

no images were found

Under card check, they would have nothing more than a process that is designed to allow pro-union workers and union organizers to intimidate, harass and coerce employees into joining a union.

As manufacturers, we are writing to urge you to vote against the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, and protect our workers’ right to a private ballot, and help keep the workplace in the control of the employers and employees.

The so-called Employee Free Choice Act is a “lose-lose” situation for businesses and employees, and threatens the fundamental rights of the very workers that the unions claim to want to protect.

The erroneously named Employee Free Choice Act would strip employees of the privacy and protection of a private ballot, and replace it with the hostile approach of the “card check recognition system.”

By removing the workers’ privacy, they will be forced to make their decision on whether to unionize in front of co-workers and union organizers. This is undemocratic and frankly, un-American.

My employees have the right to unionize. And they should also have the right to a federally-supervised election process under the National Labor Relations Board.

Under card check, they would have nothing more than a process that is designed to allow pro-union workers and union organizers to intimidate, harass and coerce employees into joining a union.

The U.S. government has denounced this type of process in other countries, and called for honest and private elections to ensure fairness. We should expect nothing less in our own country.

In addition, the ‘card check’ legislation contains a provision that mandates compulsory, binding arbitration on the employer and the employees as part of the collective-bargaining process. This misguided language would have a third party – a government official – making labor contract decisions that are binding upon both parties.

This would mean that the business owner would have no real voice in his own business, nor would the now unionized employees be provided with the opportunity to vote on their new contract.

With the current economic conditions, this is a provision that manufacturers cannot afford.

After reviewing the provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, it’s clear that this legislation hurts our state’s employers and workers. Once again, it’s “lose-lose” for everyone except big labor bosses.

We urge you to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act should it come to the floor of the Senate in the 111th Congress. Private ballot elections are the foundation of our democratic society and America’s workers deserve nothing less.

- John Queen, Chairman of the Board – Highland Mfg. Inc. – Hebron, CT

For more details: http://mansfield.htnp.com/opinion/op-ed/02062009_employee_free_

choice_act.html


The impact of Gov. Rell's proposed budget on the University of Connecticut

February 6, 2009 Letters to Editor, Opinion Comments Off

Gov. Rell has proposed a one-year delay in the UCONN 2000 program – and is proposing legislation that would require public colleges and universities to obtain prior state approval to fill positions.

To Members of the UConn Community,

I am writing to share with you information concerning Gov. Rell’s proposed budget for the next biennium (FY2010 and FY2011) and its impact on the University of Connecticut.

The budget recommendations Gov. Rell released yesterday reflect the extremely severe economic conditions which pervade our nation and our state.

The Storrs-based budget already was directly impacted by the state’s declining revenues, having incurred a 3 percent rescission in the current fiscal year.

Over the next biennium, Gov. Rell proposes funding levels for the Storrs-based budget (which includes funding for the Regional Campuses and Schools of Law and Social Work) that are below this year’s levels.

The proposed appropriations equate to 9.2 percent and 13.1 percent reductions for FY2010 and FY2011, respectively, in state support needed to maintain currently provided services.

For the Health Center, the proposed budgets are above this year’s support level, but are $6.6 million and $12 million below the amounts needed to continue current service levels.

While we have been preparing for the reality of declining state support, we also are compelled to meet the needs of our students, patients and faculty.

UConn is a vital state asset that plays a critical role in addressing our economic crisis in the short-term and ensuring Connecticut’s economic viability in the long-term. Investing in UConn is investing in our state’s future by educating our high-achieving students, providing Connecticut with a highly qualified workforce, and conducting research that serves as a catalyst for innovation, product development and job creation.

As we work through strategies to address these dramatic cuts, to the extent possible, we are committed to protecting financial aid to ensure access to our outstanding programs for those students with the greatest need for assistance.

As a general principle, protecting program quality and accessibility are foremost. Yet, we recognize that cuts of this magnitude would necessitate sacrifices by all.

We are concerned about two additional recommendations.

  • Gov. Rell has proposed a one-year delay in the UCONN 2000 program. It is too early to determine whether the state’s financial savings can be achieved without disrupting our construction program.

  • Gov. Rell also is proposing legislation that would require public colleges and universities to obtain prior state approval to fill positions. For more than 15 years, the University has had the authority to fill positions in accordance with our priorities. A return to this past practice would remove local decision-making, limit our ability to compete for talented faculty and staff, add to the state’s bureaucracy, and impair operating efficiency.

With the release of the Governor’s proposed budget, the General Assembly’s process for adopting the next biennial budget begins. Certainly, the state’s volatile economic conditions will affect the final budgetary decisions our elected leadership will make.

Please be assured we will highlight to our state’s elected leadership how critical UConn is to Connecticut’s future and the value of continued investment – even in these difficult economic times. I will continue to keep you informed as additional information becomes available.

Sincerely,
Michael J. Hogan
President, University of Connecticut

For more details: http://mansfield.htnp.com/opinion/op-ed/02062009_uconn_

pres_hogan_budget_cuts.html


UCONNOMY: Or, UConn's impact on Connecticut's economy

January 21, 2009 Business, Letters to Editor Comments Off

uconnomy-websized

University of Connecticut President Michael J. Hogan:

Today, the University of Connecticut’s value to our state is more important than ever.  UConn’s contributions range from providing quality education to Connecticut students, to graduating Connecticut’s skilled workforce, to promoting the growth of industry across our state.

I want to share with you UCONNOMY, which documents the University of Connecticut’s – including our Health Center’s – unique contributions to the economic health of Connecticut.

Our impact on the economy is profound:

  • UConn generates more than 29,000 jobs across the state;
  • UConn contributes $2.3 billion annually to Connecticut’s gross domestic product; and
  • UConn produces a net financial gain of more than $76 million each year for the state of Connecticut coffers.

Through innovation and outreach, members of the UConn community enrich the everyday lives of our citizens and play a vital role in sustaining and growing the Connecticut economy.

The [UCONNOMY] report substantiates why UConn is a sound and necessary investment in the future of our citizens and our state.

Posted Jan. 21, 2009

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Windham and Storrs microgrid power projects could get additional funding

electric-bolt

Press Release Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Oct. 30 that nine towns that are part of a pilot microgrid program, including Windham and Storrs, are eligible for additional funding. The …

In Mansfield, Get a jump on toy shopping

Over the Rainbow Toys in the East Brook Mall on the Mansfield/Willimantic town line is closing its doors at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, according to an e-blast sent to its customers today.

And between now and Nov. 2, shoppers will receive a 30 percent discount on all in-stock merchandise at the mall location – excluding Lego and Bruder toys.

UConn President responds to accusations school failed to act on sexual assault complaints

UConn President Susan Hebst. File photo.

There are circumstances under which the university should notify a student that another student who may have been suspended or expelled from campus will be returning, if they are returning. It is my understanding that this notification did not take place in a case that occurred three years ago and it should have. This process was corrected. – UConn President Susan Herbst

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