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April 29, 2006

Introduction to Cyber School

Working on my grammar.

By Betsy Driebeek

Over the last six weeks, I took a class with a teacher whom I could only see from the neck up and who never made a sound. My 312 fellow students were invisible. I had enrolled in an online course, my first.

Hamden Adult Education started offering these cyber classes last July. "All you need is an Internet connection and keyboard skills," said Ellen Thompson, adult ed director. She said just four or five students enrolled at first, but now there are 125 and the numbers increase each month.

I had been skeptical about taking such a course, worried I'd have to sit in front of the computer for hours a day and say adios to my family. I have a friend who seemed to disappear when she attempted an online graduate course through Southern Connecticut State University two years ago. Besides being glued to her screen, she also complained that the teacher was nowhere to be found for feedback, leaving her floundering. She booked out of the course early on.

Anyway, I decided to do it. I chose "grammar refresher" for a number of reasons: it would help with my HDN writing; my elementary-age children will need help on their English homework and it has been years since I learned all the rules; and I like puzzles. I figured the quizzes would be fun.

My class did not start until two weeks after I registered at ed2go, but orientation with my teacher, Ellen Feld, came immediately in a seven-page document. She also enclosed a photo introducing herself. She gave me the course description and syllabus, told me about the quizzes, final exam and the importance of the additional assignments.

There is an online discussion area for students to post questions for the teacher or other students to answer. "Since I can't see that puzzled look on your face, it's going to be up to you to ask questions when you get stuck," wrote Feld.

Our first lesson was on homophones -- words that sound the same but have different meanings. Our first example gave me a chuckle:

"The honor of your presents is requested at my dinner party. RSVP to let me know you are able to except my invitation."

I was happy to get some help with my pet homophones, effect and affect. It was a fun lesson and I finished in 20 minutes and then shouted out a few happy noises. The quiz took me another four.

I want to note that I had been skeptical of the course fee -- $79, $25 of which goes to adult ed. I wondered if I could just read a $3.95 book on the subject instead. My appreciation of the fee, however, changed during lesson three.

Meeting the Classmates

After lesson one I peeked into the discussion section, not planning to participate because I rarely communicate with folks in cyberspace. There was Joelle from Canada, who's working on training manuals; Sharon from Pennsylvania, a teacher's assistant; and 47-year-old Kenny who went back to school because of a back injury.

Hmm, I could say "hello," I thought. And so I posted a message telling everyone I was from Connecticut and why I was enrolled in a grammar refresher class. By evening, my teacher had responded. "Hello, Betsy. It's a pleasure to meet you. I hope I may get to read your article when it's published." (The article being this one.)

Over the first week, 83 people from across the country taking the grammar refresher posted hello to me. This is one of the cool things about ed2go -- you can take a course with your friend in Osh Kosh, Wis., if you want to.

By lesson three it became apparent to me how closely Feld was monitoring the discussions and responding to every question or comment posted. I literally had an "ah ha" moment when I realized the value of the course fee.

Feld never let anyone go more than a day without a reply. She even responded to this simple entry from one of my classmates: "Thank you, this [lesson] was very helpful to me." "You're welcome, let me know if you have any questions," the teacher wrote back.

There were concepts and exercises that required time and concentration and I always "went to school" when there was nobody home, or late at night when I was the only one awake. After all, I never used to bring family to lectures when attending college.

I thought I already knew how to correctly use apostrophes, such as it's and its. However, I caught myself adding apostrophes where they did not belong or leaving them out when they were needed. Had I always been making these mistakes and am just now more aware?

Each lesson had a supplemental, non-mandatory assignment to strengthen the skills we had just learned. Once Feld had us become editorial detectives looking for misuse of the English language in our daily readings.

I was actually sad the day of my last class. I'd gotten used to logging in every Wednesday and Friday to learn concepts, take quizzes, look at my classmates' questions -- helping where I could -- and attempting the additional assignments when time allowed.

Our final exam consisted of 35 questions. We were allowed to print it out and research the answers. I could answer some questions off the bat, but there are a lot of words for the parts of the English language and I couldn't memorize them all or remember their concepts. For instance, here are the simple pronouns: I, you, she, he, it, we and they. But do you remember that pronouns fall into these categories: subject, complement, object, interrogative, indefinite, reflexive, intensive, demonstrative and reciprocal?

I'm definitely going to take another course. There are four topics that interest me -- computers, personal growth, health and child rearing. The nice thing is, most courses begin monthly and when I am ready to do it again, I'll just log on to www.ed2go.com/hamden.

April 27, 2006

Saving the Earth, One Booth at a Time

Middle school students -- and dedicated recyclers -- back face.

Words and pictures by Sharon Bass

Monique came running up to this reporter. "You have to come down here," the Hamden Middle School student said with great urgency in her voice.

"Down here" was a booth Monique and a handful of other students set up yesterday afternoon inside Thornton Wilder Hall, to participate in Hamden's celebration of the 36th annual Earth Day.

"I'm trying to convince people around the world that it's safe to recycle," Monique said. (She and the other students who were interviewed are under 18 and did not have parental approval, so their last names could not be printed.) "When you reuse it's better for the environment and for people because they're living in better conditions."

The kids' booth was all about recycling. One wore a T-shirt with an empty, flattened Poland Spring water bottle, an empty cereal box and a square of aluminum foil attached to the front.

"Our teacher is a recycling freak," said Molly.

"We're here to save our Earth because we need to live here," said Caitlin. "There's litter all over the side of the road."

Curt Johnson is a lawyer with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and president of the Hamden Land Trust.

Grownups were also touting the message yesterday. About 30 environmental and community groups and town commissions set up displays. United Illuminating was there to promote its "clean energy" option to standard electricity. Former Mayor John Carusone represented the East Side Civic Association. He covered his booth with newspaper clips about Joe Farricielli, the State Street property owner who owes millions to the state and town for environmental infractions.

Zinn with his energy-saving pickup.

Giovanni Zinn, a member of the town's Energy Use and Climate Change Commission, came with his 1986 diesel Chevy pickup. He said he runs it on either bio-diesel or vegetable oil. The savings are not only reportedly phenomenal, but he's doing the air a huge favor.

He said it costs him 50 cents to 60 cents a gallon to make his own bio-diesel, and gets about 20 miles to the gallon. When he uses veggie oil, it basically costs him zip. Zinn collects used oil from restaurants and filters it at home. He said he also gets 20 miles on oil.

Pretty Women

Donna Planeta dressed for a casual summer day.

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

The 10th annual "Swing Into Spring" fashion show was the highlight of the Miller Association of Seniors' monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon. Dress Barn supplied the clothing and the models were ready-made -- all members of the association.

President Laura Carlson promised "wonderful models and beautiful clothes" as the fashion show at Thornton Wilder Hall began.

Helen Clifford ready for a Sunday party.

Dress Barn store manager Tracy Adelkopf described the fashions as she introduced each of the eight models, who appeared in three different outfits -- casual, office and evening wear.

One at a time, the women casually or elegantly -- depending on their dress -- walked across the stage, descended the stairs aided by Bill DeMarsilis and Ken Delaney, and brushed by the audience to give it a closer look and, in many cases, a feel of the material.

April 26, 2006

'I Am a Survivor'

Auerbach recalls the Holocaust. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

Auschwitz survivor Mark Auerbach's words were hard to hear. The 79-year-old spoke softly and painfully of his harrowing years as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust.

"Yes, I am a survivor," he told Jews and gentiles, high school students and the elderly, who huddled inside the Memorial Town Hall rotunda yesterday at noon to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Before Auerbach was a table with seven candles. Six represented the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust and the seventh was for the homosexuals, gypsies and others who perished.

Since 1979, Auerbach of New Haven has been recounting his story of living under the Nazi regime and being imprisoned in concentration camps. "I'm very strong," he said. "I always say somebody was watching over me."

Throwing in occasional German and Yiddish words, he talked about the armbands, the number tattoos, the body lice, the ovens. The deaths.

"When we arrived [at the camp], we saw the big chimney," Auerbach said of a crematorium. Initially he was with his father and brother, but was then sent to another camp alone. His parents and brother survived, but he said he lost his grandparents to the camps.

Hamden High senior Ginger Cline also came to speak. She is the president of the school's human relations club.

"Sadly, ethnic cleansing is not an evil of the past," she said. "Together we can break the silence of history repeating itself."

Rabbi Menachem Piekarski of Chabad of Hamden and Mayor Craig Henrici made opening and closing remarks.

April 25, 2006

An Evening with Ned

Lamont at the Miller Senior Center. Photo/Marilyn Bonomi

By Marilyn Bonomi

Saying "this is what grassroots politics is all about; this is how we take back our party," Democratic Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont greeted a crowd of roughly 100 folks inside the Miller Senior Center Monday night. They came to meet the man who wants to snatch the Democratic Party nomination from U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) on May 20. If he does, the two men would face each other at the August primary election.

"Joe has betrayed us," said Tom Morrisey, a Hamden supporter of Lamont's. "He's left us because he doesn't think we have the power to do anything about it." At the same time, he said, Lamont has "courage, determination and concern for" the citizens of Connecticut.

Lamont initially distinguished himself from Lieberman over his stance on the war in Iraq. "Staying the course is not a winning strategy," Lamont said. U.S. forces have been put "in an impossible situation, in the middle of a civil war."

Mocking the repeated claim from Washington that "we're turning the corner," he drew a laugh from the crowd when he pointed out that those corners are simply inside a square. Lamont said he advocates immediately moving U.S. troops out of the center of the Sunni Triangle to the perimeter of the conflict area. "It's time for the Iraqis to take control," he said. However, he said the United States needs to provide support and assistance for things like infrastructure rebuilding.

Citing the $250 million a day the United States is spending in Iraq, Lamont suggested better places for that money, such as improving U.S. infrastructure and providing universal preschool. Education spending "is the best investment we can make," he said.

Lamont said the country missed the "extraordinary opportunity" post-9/11 to deal with energy issues on a global basis while the goodwill of the world was at its peak. Instead, he said, the United States got Vice President Cheney's energy bill, which he called "wrong for Americans." Lamont noted that almost every New England legislator from both major parties opposed the bill. Lieberman, however, supported it.

The multi-millionaire said he challenged Lieberman to debate and noted that the state party brass "don't really like primaries; they like incumbency, not change." He said he's been told, "Don't rock the boat; don't jeopardize a safe seat."

Connecticut "is not gonna lose a senator. It's gonna gain a Democrat," said Lamont.

Following his stump speech, Lamont took questions from the audience before leaving to meet with the Bristol Democratic Town Committee.

Audience members questioned him about the Iraq war, urging him to take a stand to bring the troops home immediately. Lamont said we need "an honorable exit strategy," beginning with bringing the troops out of the Sunni Triangle into the Shia desert, providing a training and logistical role with the Iraqi forces and involving other nations and the Arab League in supporting the Iraqi army. He said Iraqis are not going to step forward until the United States steps back.

A Vietnam-era Marine urged Lamont to stay on point against the war, which drew applause from the crowd.

Regarding Iran, Lamont said he would "stop rattling sabers" because that merely plays into the hands of the radicals. Instead, he said, he advocates working with nations like China and Russia, which have a significant stake in the outcome to use direct diplomacy to resolve issues. "Accenting military options only makes the situation worse," Lieberman's wannabe contender said.

On health care, Lamont said a single-payer system is the way to go and his "hunch is we will get there but not as fast as you'd like." He said employers should be forced to provide health benefits, and also be allowed to buy into a pool that includes big systems like government, to lower the cost. He said the government would have to also pitch in.

Regarding No Child Left Behind, Lamont said it is failing. He said the federal educational mandate is not a fair way to test how schools are performing, that it's unfunded, that it's "all sticks and no carrots" and does not serve to educate and inspire all students.

"At best it's irrelevant and in many cases wrong," he said.

The man from Greenwich attacked Supreme Court Justice Alito for "fundamentally tilting the Supreme Court" and said he'd have led the fight against Alito's confirmation, unlike Lieberman who refused to support a filibuster.

April 22, 2006

Thanks for Minding the Books

Thursday's volunteer-award ceremony. Photo/Betsy Driebeek

By Betsy Driebeek

Library Director Bob Gualtieri and Mayor Craig Henrici recognized 106 volunteers Thursday afternoon for their service to the Miller Library.

The mayor read a proclamation recognizing April 20, 2006, as "Hamden Public Library's Volunteer Recognition Day." He presented volunteers with certificates, and gave Barbara Emanuelson the volunteer of the year award. Emanuelson retired from the library in 2003, and now helps out for free.

Gualtieri said he and the senior library staff chose Emanuelson for the award because she is "very much involved." She works in the bookstore, is a member of the Friends of the Library, processes donated books and helps with special programs.

The volunteer Friends group primarily raises money through the library's secondhand bookstore in the lower level. "They support the cultural programs, summer reading programs and enhance services up and above what the monies allotted by the town can do," said Gualtieri.

Other volunteers recognized included the library board -- citizens appointed by the mayor -- who oversee the operation of the library; Quinnipiac University law students who help low-income residents prepare tax returns; and the Spring Glen Garden Club and Lucian's Green House for recently repairing and replanting the indoor garden in the rotunda.

Gualtieri thanked the mayor for his support of the library, and remarked that the '06-'07 proposed budget is now in the Legislative Council's hands.

April 20, 2006

Business Show & Tell

Chris Gavin, of Waddell & Reed, and his fish tank of loot.

Words and pictures by Sharon Bass

When you first walked into the business expo yesterday at Hamden High, you were faced with a fish tank full of $1 bills and asked to guess the number of George Washingtons. (The HDN guessed 250.) The tank was at a booth manned by Chris Gavin of Waddell & Reed financial services.

Waddell was one of 110 businesses, large and small, to set up promotional shop in the high school gym for the Hamden Chamber of Commerce's Annual Business & Community Expo.

The lineup included physical therapists, assisted living facilities, ice cream shops, restaurants, Quinnipiac University, town departments, car dealers, the Hamden YMCA and Laurel View Country Club.

And there was food -- such as Eli's popularly attended chocolate fountain and marshmallows -- lots of contests and raffles, tons of little freebies (particularly pens -- perfect for the round-the-clock journalist) and safety booths for kids.

At around 3 p.m. the gym was busy but not packed. Ira Kuzma, chair of the chamber's ambassador committee, said it had been that way since the fair began at 1 p.m. "It's bigger than last year," he boasted.

Two of Hamden's finest were sitting behind a table topped with pamphlets entitled, "Safety on the Web" and "Let's Look at Bullies." There were also some nice blue pens.

"It's been steady all day, so it's been good," said officer Scott Levenduski. Fellow officer Stephen Rossacci was at his side.

Nearby was the Hamden Rotary Club's Amber Alert setup. Volunteers were getting pertinent information from children's parents and guardians to print on ID cards, to be used in case the child is missing. Kids got weighed and measured.

"It's going beautifully," said Betsy Gorman of the club. "Every child that comes by has registered. And the parents give kudos for the free service and safety of their children."

Smokey cools off with some ice cream.

Smokey was there to promote the planned animal shelter for Hamden. The 11-year-old German shepherd belongs to animal control officer Jean Murray. A huge basket filled with edible and inedible canine treats was being raffled.

Ah, yes, there were free neck and shoulder massages offered by those in the biz. (The HDN got more pens, but the massage line was too long.)

April 19, 2006

2,348 Mattresses

QU tells P&Z what it's gonna be doing over the next five years

Story by Sharon Bass, photo by Betsy Driebeek

Quinnipiac University plans to spend $200 million on 2,348 student beds by 2008. Officials say the number of undergrad kids living off campus would then plummet from the current 2,600 to about 250.

Put another way -- QU attorney Bernie Pellegrino said to about 60 people who attended a special Planning & Zoning Commission meeting last night -- the number of students who live on campus would swell from 3,000 to 5,350. And put yet another way, 95 percent of undergrads would call campus home.

Pellegrino and university officials came to present the school's five-year plan. It predominately focuses on building parking lots and dorms to get students back on campus -- the reason dozens from the public showed up. They want to see their northern Hamden streets revert to what they were before the student invasion.

"It is a Herculean task that [university and town officials] have accomplished in short order," Pellegrino said in his opening remarks.

Driveway to the new Sherman Avenue campus.

He described the five-year master plan via a power-point presentation. At the new Sherman Avenue (Rocky Top) campus, 1,867 beds and 2,226 parking spots are planned, as well as a graduate medical education center and dining hall. All but the medical ed building (August 2009) are scheduled to be completed by August 2008.

Over on the main campus, 336 beds are expected to be added by August 2007. WQUN will be relocated to 3085 Whitney Ave., and the polling institute will be housed at 60 West Woods Road.

Then there's Whitney Village, an existing 145-bed apartment house at 3075 Whitney Ave. Quinnipiac plans to purchase the building, where some students already live, and turn it into dorm-only by this August.

Commissioners said they liked what they heard. But they had questions. The most common was how Quinnipiac would attract students to live on campus.

"Frankly, we don't think we'll have to do much," said Pellegrino. "Their parents are anxious for the return of on-campus housing." He said the variety of campus housing offered and the expansion of the shuttle bus service will help.

"We think having the athletic center will also be a draw," the lawyer continued. "Skate night, all those types of things."

P&Z Commissioner Peter Pappas asked, "If students are not lured back on campus, will student enrollment rise to fill the beds?"

"It's a good question," said Pellegrino. "The only way to answer is a) we don't expect that, and b) we're willing to put $200 million on the table they will." He said the 30 QU-owned off-campus houses, where undergrads live, would be instead filled with grad students, used for non-residential purposes and/or sold.

Commissioner Ed Grant questioned the likelihood of the housing projects getting done on time.

"It can happen," said Pellegrino. "Depends on the [town] approval process. From a construction standpoint, we do have experience doing this. The answer is, it is aggressive but we think it's doable."

"Everything boils down to money," said Commissioner Ann Altman. "It's become a culture for Quinnipiac parents to buy houses" and rent them out to students, sometimes turning a profit. "You will have to be very persuasive to get them to live on campus," she said, because it might be less expensive to live in the community.

"Rent isn't cheap," said Pellegrino.

Altman said the people had come to the meeting to hear about how off-campus housing problems will be remedied. She wanted to know what measures will be taken between now and when the dorms are all built.

Pellegrino said two of the housing projects could be completed earlier, and students who live off campus are given advice such as checking with potential landlords that the house is properly permitted.

"Students are noisy," said Altman. "I know you're not going to play nanny, but …"

Chair Joe McDonagh doubted whether 95 percent of undergrad students would live on campus. "It seems high to me," he said. "My son is a student at Fordham and is moving off campus next year," so the 22-year-old isn't restricted to on-campus rules.

Pellegrino was asked a few times whether the school plans to buy more Hamden real estate. The answer is probably.

"We do not envision a continued plan to acquire houses to put students in -- at least not undergraduates," the attorney said. But, he said, property might be purchased for grad students and faculty.

Though the meeting was billed as having no public participation, Chair McDonagh invited residents to come to the podium.

"I'm really excited about what I heard tonight," said Al Dobie of West Woods Road. But he said he's worried there will be traffic problems when the Rocky Top campus opens. Dobie also suggested changing the zoning law to allow a max of three instead of four unrelated people to live in a single-family house. "It would make it less lucrative to live off campus," he said.

Assistant Town Attorney Tim Lee said such a change might be unconstitutional.

Another from the public said it's insane that anyone can get a permit for student housing and the neighbors aren't notified.

Pappas suggested the school require all undergrads to live on campus.

"We've got to take a look at that a little harder," said Pellegrino. "But parents continue to ask us for a [housing] guarantee. I don't think we'll have a hard time filling those beds."

April 13, 2006

Pedestrian Killed, Hamden Teacher Arrested

According to Hamden Police:

On April 11 at 11:20 p.m., a woman was run over and killed on Newhall Street. Alyce Chapman was struck by an Acura Integra while crossing Newhall by foot. The driver of the car had failed to heed the stop sign on Newhall Street near Goodrich Street and hit Chapman. The Integra then fled the scene but was located a few hours later with the help of bystanders who had witnessed the accident. The operator of the Integra was identified as Heath Smith, 18, of 123 Goodrich St., who was charged with misconduct with a motor vehicle and evading responsibility. Smith is due in Meriden court April 26 and is being held on $100,000 bond. Anyone with information on this accident is asked to contact Officer Stephen Degrand at 230.4036.

On April 11, the Hamden street crime unit executed a search and seizure warrant at 117 Goodrich St., where they seized marijuana, crack-cocaine, money and ammunition. Marquise Pitts, 24, of 117 Goodrich St. and Charles Bellino, 20, of Goodrich Street were arrested and charged with possession of narcotics, marijuana and drug paraphernalia and possession with the intent to sell. Both are to appear in Meriden Superior Court on April 25, and are being held on $20,000 bond.

On April 10, Kevin Dwyer, 34, of 2405 Whitney Ave. turned himself into the Hamden police on an outstanding arrest warrant. Dwyer, a teacher at the Wintergreen Magnet School, was charged with disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a minor. Dwyer was arrested for allegedly pushing a student at the magnet school. He is scheduled to be in Meriden Superior Court on April 24, and was released with a promise to appear.

April 11, 2006

Repairing Tonino's

Mason Michael Harris working on the Whitney
Avenue pizza joint. Photo/Betsy Driebeek

By Betsy Driebeek

A lot of work was going on at Tonino's restaurant yesterday. But nothing was cooking. The eatery at 3480 Whitney Ave. had suffered quite a bit of damage after a Jeep crashed through its front windows Saturday night. So Monday was repair day.

Building owner John Ferraro and New Haven mason Michael Harris said they dropped all other work to fix Tonino's. "We're going to work until dark and try to get the front door open by tomorrow afternoon," Ferraro said yesterday.

"Harris had set the same bricks [he was now resetting] about 10-15 years ago during a renovation of the building," he said.

According to the town Building Department, inspector Robert Labulis visited the site over the weekend and gave Tonino's the go-ahead to operate as long as customers use the back entrance while the front undergoes repair.

Messages left for police Lt. Tim Wydra for comment about last Saturday's accident were not returned.

The Quilt

Words and pictures by Betsy Driebeek

Five of the approximately 46,000 panels of the international Aids Memorial Quilt are lying peacefully on the floor of Alumni Hall at Quinnipiac University through April 12.

Each 12-foot-by-12-foot colorful panel contains about eight patches in memory of family members and friends. The hall was quiet yesterday, except for the reading of names of people who have died due to complications from AIDS.

Many of the panels are dedicated to people born in the late 1950s to early 1960s and who died in the mid '80s. The quilt pieces are not only made of fabric, but also include photos, stuffed animals, Pez dispensers, etc.

According to the Names Project Foundation, the quilt represents more than 83,440 people throughout the world. If all the 3-foot-by-6-foot panels were laid out end to end, they would measure 51.92 miles.

The panels can be viewed today and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

April 10, 2006

Jeep Barrels Right Through Tonino's

Tonino's is still open for business.

Story and photos by Betsy Driebeek

Tonino's owner Anthony Improta and two employees were in the kitchen of the 3480 Whitney Ave. restaurant Saturday when they heard a loud crash around 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

"I was afraid to come out front," Improta said. When he did, he found a Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in his small takeout area. It had crashed through one large window, and was resting just in front of another.

Improta said he thinks the driver was a Quinnipiac University student with passengers in his car. Reportedly, the student had hit something while driving down West Woods Road, which ripped off his front tires. Improta said the driver told him he was unable to use his brakes and turned into Tonino's rather than cross into Whitney Avenue traffic.

"No one was hurt; no customers were in here at the time. If they had been …" said Improta, breaking off his sentence. "The driver immediately rushed in to see if everyone was OK.

"The [soda refrigerators] were moved 4.5 feet. The chip rack was crushed to nothing. All the bricks piled in front of the store came from inside, both windows smashed," he said of the damage to his restaurant.

Improta put large plywood boards over his broken front windows, with words telling customers to drive to the back. The restaurant is still open for business. Yesterday, the restaurateur was cleaning up the mess while his crew served customers.

Hamden police verified there was an accident at Tonino's Saturday, but would not give further information yesterday afternoon.

The building Tonino's is in is slated for an eventual wrecker's ball. The state Department of Transportation plans to raze the building to realign West Woods Road with Mount Carmel Avenue. West Woods Road will be directed straight through that property, owned by John Ferraro. When that happens -- could be a few years -- Tonino's and the two other businesses that lease at 3480 Whitney Ave. will be relocated almost next door. Ferraro will get town-owned land just south of the current structure to rebuild.

April 8, 2006

Bye, Bye Blues

Former Police Chief Bob Nolan was one of 10
retired cops honored last night at Laurel View.

Story and photos by Sharon Bass

The former chief said it still doesn't feel like he's left the Hamden police force. "So far, it feels like an extended vacation," said Bob Nolan. He retired last November, and just returned last week after wintering for three months in his Florida home.

"It was the longest time I've ever been away from Hamden, Conn., except for the time I spent in the military," he said, gazing over a sea of 200 fellow cops and their families who paid $25 a head to attend the police retirement party at Laurel View Country Club last night. It was organized by the Hamden Police Benevolent Association.

Nolan was one of 10 honored (there were two other retirees on the list but they didn't show up). And one of a dozen who have just entered the town's very shaky pension system.

From 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., people juiced up at the open bar. There were meat and pasta dishes, salads, bread, cake. And lots of free booze.

"I'm having a good time," said animal control officer Gina Cahill, wife of Deputy Chief Stephen Cahill, who appeared to be having himself a particularly good time last night. "It's always bittersweet to come out and see the guys move on to other things in their life," she said.

Gina Cahill with Chief Kennelly. Gina with Police Commissioner Marty Ruff. Gina with detective Consorte.

"It's a great time. It's a great turnout," said police Detective Mark Consorte.

Gina with hubby.

"I'm happy to be here for all my brother officers and I'll be joining the ranks May 31," said Deputy Chief Cahill who plans to retire then.

"I think it's an absolutely wonderful turnout," said Police Chief Jack Kennelly. "It's great to see such camaraderie between the retired police officers and the present officers."

At around 8 p.m., the crowd settled down as the show was to begin. Deputy Chief Tom Wydra played his role as MC flawlessly and respectfully.

He told the room about the good stuff the retired cops had done during their service to the town. Wydra also read a mayoral declaration to each officer. (Mayor Craig Henrici had stopped in at the party earlier, but was also requested at the Goldenbells event last night.) Retirees included Nolan, Danny Blue with 27 years, David Ciarlelli with 22, Richard Dunham, James Foley with 21, Gus Gertz, James Kalkowski with 17, Allen Keyes with 23, Peter Massey with 20, Anthony Natale with 21, John Oneto with 16, and Richard Reutenauer with 32.

"I'm here not to say goodbye … " Gertz said to the room, choking on tears, unable to finish his thank you speech.

April 3, 2006

You Talkin' To Me?

Words and pictures by Sharon Bass

Yup, we were. With budget season upon us, the HDN hit the magic mile and the Miller Library to randomly ask people what they think of the mayor's budget. Most knew nothing about it, but when told Craig Henrici is proposing a town/school budget of $166.8 million -- a $13.8 million hike over last year -- they found a few words. (The public can speak its mind at the upcoming 7 p.m. budget meetings -- April 10 is the Board of Ed; April 11 is the municipal side -- in Council Chambers, Memorial Town Hall.)

"We all got revaluated. The mil rate went down and my tax bill is going up by $700 or $800. Why do they need that much money? It doesn't make sense. Politicians keep raising taxes." Fred Watson, Loller Road

"$14 million more than last year? That will mean quite an increase in taxes again." Jeanine DeLucia, Westminster, mother of almost two

"He can't pass much more. I would like to see them break it down and see what we're paying for. And when they spend it, I want to see the receipts." Sid Jones, Mix Avenue, charter bus driver

"I really don't know what's going on with local politics." Rebecca Frick, Mix Avenue, college student
"We're in a different world. Our concerns are different." "Jax," Mix Avenue, college student

"Paying the teachers more, that's great. But there are a lot of streets in Hamden that are bumpy. It seems nothing has been improved. I mean you got the Hamden cops. Most of them just stand there while Public Works people are working on the road. They're not directing traffic or anything." Glenda Santos, home health aide

April Fool's Day

Hamden 4th in Nation
According to Nag, this town is nearly tops

By Sharon Bass

We may not be numbers one through three, but we sure are four.

That is according to Nag, the highly acclaimed national monthly news tabloid known for its slogan, "If it's real, we make it surreal."

In Nag's March edition, Hamden was placed right after Bullhead City, Ariz., Bossier City, La., and Crazy Horse, S.D., as having the fourth highest in the United States. That distinction puts this Connecticut town of nearly 60 grand higher up the food chain when it comes to competing for arbitrarily disbursed federal grants.

"Yeah, it's a great honor," said Lucas Rapplier, who's lived on Augur Street for nearly one year. "I guess that makes me feel better about moving here."

Asked for comment, the mayor said he would abstain until he sees the grant money.

"Where's the money?" he said late yesterday afternoon from his third-floor office suite.

Nag officials said they plan to put together a national committee -- comprised of four reps from each of the top 10 winning communities -- to brainstorm ways to improve one's ranking. Only Bullhead City refused to participate.

"Why should we?" said City Clerk Rhonda Basher. "We're No. 1 and that's where we all tend to stay."

Asked why she thinks Bullhead was rated the highest, Basher said, "It's really none of your business. How we got here is why we got here and if I tell you how we got here then y'all could get here, too. We just want to be left alone in our No. 1 position. It suits us just fine. Now you run along, honey."

If interested in serving on Nag's new committee, click here.

Rail-to-Trail Info Center to Roll into Duchess Site

This historic building is going uptown.

Story and photos by Betsy Driebeek

Enthusiasts of the town's highly touted walking and biking trail will soon have a visitor's center. Negotiations are underway between the Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association, the Connecticut Historical Commission, the town of Hamden and the landlord of the former Duchess Restaurant on Dixwell Avenue.

Some townspeople are still mourning the loss of Duchess.

If all goes as planned, the town will buy the Duchess property -- which parallels a strip of the Farmington trail -- with a state grant. The restaurant will be demolished and in its place will be the authentic 1828 Farmington Canal Lockkeeper's House, currently situated on Whitney Avenue near Shepard. The project is to be completed in early July.

A deteriorating placard on the house -- inscribed with former Gov. Rowland's name and the date he was sentenced to prison -- says the house is under rehabilitation. But plans to fix up the old building never materialized. The house will be shored up and moved along Shepard Avenue to the Duchess site. While some feel that Whitney to Dixwell is a more obvious route for the trek, ironically the house would not fit under the trail overpass near Tommy K's -- the very same trail the visitor's center will represent.

Rail to Trail Association members will manage the visitor center where guests will learn about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which runs 60 miles from New Haven to the Massachusetts border. Other Hamden tourist information will be available as well as a small picnic-type snack bar.


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