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Letters to the Editor

December 22, 2006

Hamden Librarians Take Offense

As Hamden library employees, we would like to respond to comments made at a recent Legislative Council meeting regarding the recent arbitration settlement (“Two More Labor Agreements OK’d”).

Councilman Ron Gambardella’s gloating in the story over the library workers’ loss was objectionable and shows how little he values the dedication and commitment that library employees have to education and the pursuit of knowledge, both of which are at the core of democracy.

No one should celebrate the fact that the arbitration award stripped part-time employees -- members of the Hamden community -- ­­ of their health benefits. We have a committed part-time workforce, virtually all female, that deserves better than to be treated as another throwaway part of the economy.

We also disagree with Personnel Director Ken Kelley’s characterization of our previous vacation provisions: “Nobody gets a benefit like that … It was a scheduling nightmare.”

We respect that it is one of Mr. Kelley’s duties to represent town management, but he is not in charge of library scheduling. Compared to other comparably sized libraries in the region, Hamden library employees are among the lowest-paid. Our vacation benefit was not some kind of isolated luxury but a necessary means of recruiting and retaining workers.

We, as Hamden library employees, are proud of the public services we provide to the citizens of Hamden. Yet in recent years, the town has eliminated or failed to fund important staff positions, such as technical services and library technology positions, while reducing library hours and cutting services. This has put our entire library system under great stress.

Elected officials and town management should realize that properly funding our libraries is a critical investment in the future, and that it is in the interest of the entire community to provide library workers with the support and respect they deserve.

Sandra Bartell
Nancy McLaughlin
Co-presidents, Local 1303-115 of Council 4

December 14, 2006

Moose Pizza, Got a Problem With It?

Come on, Maine pizza just isn’t that bad. Maybe the lobster and seaweed toppings are a little over the top, but the mushroom, mustard and moose they serve at Dickies down Eastport way is a corker. The Pizza Hut stuff is about the same here as there, but it burns pretty well if you got some brush to get rid of around the place.

Even here on Hog Bay, a good paddle from Bar Harbor going up Frenchmans Bay, we have some decent pizza. You must have lived down in Portland or in one of them other big city places. Some Maine pizza isn’t great but some Connecticut pizza is not so great either.

And you may ask why on earth would someone from Downeast Maine write to me about pizza in Hamden? My interest in Hamden is natural, having been born there. Went to Church Street School, Whalen Junior High and Hamden High. Lived in a number of places and landed up on Hog Bay some 35 years ago. What links it all together is pizza.

Ben Obermann
Hog Bay
Franklin, Maine

December 13, 2006

’Tis the Season to Be Inclusive

Here's a thought for those who resent being wished "Happy Holidays" and believe that the only appropriate greeting at this time of year is "Happy Christmas."

You might not like wishing people "Happy Holidays" and you might not like being wished "Happy Holidays." However, if you are Christian in spirit (and I don't mean that at all facetiously), can you not understand that those who do not celebrate Christmas appreciate being included in friendly seasonal greetings?

This thought occurred to me today as I was shopping to fill my freezer for the holidays (I shall have a Christmas-celebrator in my Hanukkah-celebrating house for the holidays). It seemed both appropriate and generous of those whom I met to wish me "Happy Holidays" and I was happy to wish them the same, knowing nothing about their personal lives and religious convictions.

Isn't it better to be INCLUSIVE and WARMHEARTED at this time of year than to assume that everyone celebrates the same holidays in the same way?

Best holiday greetings to all.

Ann M. Altman

December 11, 2006

Vol Firefighters Willing to Negotiate

In response to Scott Jackson's letter, he refers to a fiscal responsibility on the part of Mayor Henrici for oversight of the town departments. This is true. Town departments have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely and efficiently.

However, what Mr. Jackson overlooks in regard to the volunteer fire
companies is that each of the three companies is a privately held,
not-for-profit entity. None of the companies are town departments. As
such, they hold no fiscal responsibility to the town or the mayor.

The only fiscal performance measures are due to the members of the company. The fact that the companies share any financial data with the mayor at all is due to a willingness to work cooperatively with the mayor, rather than a legal obligation.

Each building is owned by the individual company, not the town. The
payment, which is due to them, is agreed to as an "arms-length"
transaction between the town and the company for the fair market value
of the property being leased, not as a result of any perceived link "with budgets and performance measures." The fact is that the lease amounts are extremely competitive for the properties, and  the payments have not increased in over three years.

Meanwhile, electric, fuel oil and insurance costs have skyrocketed over 30 percent within the same timeframe. This increased burden rests solely on the ability of the companies to supplement their incomes with fundraising.

The volunteers have shown a willingness and desire to work with the town
to negotiate appropriate compensation for the lease of the buildings. It is time for the town and the mayor to come to the table in an open and honest manner to reach a fair agreement for all parties.

Nate Ravid
Mount Carmel Volunteer Fire Company


Henrici: Lead By Example & Take a Pay Cut

The longer I live in this town the more dumbfounded I become over what mayors do in the name of saving the taxpayers money. What cost savings are there by not funding the annual lease agreements with the volunteer fire companies? Mayors can be pennywise and dollar foolish.

The volunteer firefighters do a great job when they are called into service. Their service to the town helps to lower the cost of our homeowners’ fire insurance. Money spent on lease agreements is money will spent.

It looks to me that the Henrici Administration has a difficult time when it comes to prioritizing what should be funded and what should not be funded.

I know in the past I have said that the town budget should be cut. That would be a fair statement, but there are some things that should not be cut -- the volunteer lease agreements are one of those things.

If the Henrici Administration is looking for things to cut maybe it should be looking at cutting its own paychecks. That would be a very positive first step in lowering the cost of operating this town. And by doing that it would show how earnest and sincere this administration is about saving the taxpayers some money.
Tom Alegi
Benham Street


St. Stephen Needs More Hoop Time

St. Stephen School boys varsity Wildcats basketball team won a tough game against St. Bernadettes on Dec. 8 at Conte West Hills Magnet School. The score was 57-45. The Wildcats played great defense against an aggressive St. Bernadettes offense. Wildcats high scorer was eighth-grader Matt Cotton with 18 points. Eighth-grader Tim Lyons scored 14 and seventh-grader Chris LaVorgna added eight. It was a true team effort with the rest of the team contributing points, rebounds and assists.

It took lots of hard work, and practicing two times at the Ridge Hill School gym helped a lot. I only wish we could afford more time on Friday nights. We can't put all our teams there because we don't have enough time. We have to be out by 6:45 p.m. and can't start until 4:30 p.m. We are paying $67 for two hours and 15 minutes. The Hamden Board of Education said it would cost $60. We could use another hour but would have to pay the custodian and we don't have the money. I would gladly pay the custodian if the town would let us use it for free.
Ann Dombrowski, athletic director
St. Stephens School

December 8, 2006

Mayor’s Office Responds to Sullivan

I am writing to clarify issues relating to the issuance of lease payments to the town's volunteer fire companies referenced in former Fire Chief Timothy S. Sullivan's recent correspondence to the Hamden Daily News.

Chief Sullivan is correct when he references the town's very tight budget. It is Mayor Henrici's responsibility to ensure that our tax dollars are wisely spent, and as part of that drive for fiscal accountability, has requested annual budgets from the volunteer companies to ensure that these lease payments are appropriate at their current levels. To date, two companies have met with Mayor Henrici and only one company has provided any financial data. One company has not responded at all.

Hamden's taxpayers can no longer afford to fund projects without the ability to quantify the “bang for the buck.” All town departments now operate under this new philosophy and are expected to demonstrate efficiency and value for Hamden's residents, businesses and visitors. Linking lease payments with budgets and performance measures allows the town and the fire companies to move forward together, promoting the importance and effectiveness of these programs for all town residents.

Scott D. Jackson
Chief Administrative Officer
Town of Hamden


Ex-Fire Chief Says Mayor Won’t Fund Volunteers

It has been brought to my attention that the Henrici Administration has decided not to honor the annual lease agreements with the volunteer fire companies in Hamden. The volunteer firefighters receive a monthly payment from the town to lease the garages for the fire apparatus.

The money is budgeted for this year, and has been for as long as I can remember. But the fire companies have not received their monthly payment since the beginning of the fiscal year (July, 1, 2006). It is my understanding that the volunteers use these funds to pay utilities and insurance on the buildings. The buildings are privately owned by the respective volunteer fire companies. The volunteers reciprocate by paying taxes to the town on the buildings and land.

No notice was given to the volunteers that these payments were not forthcoming. I spoke with the fire chief, who informed me that the mayor would not authorize him to pay the volunteers. I realize that the town’s finances are in tough shape, but to cut off funding to the volunteers -- without prior notice -- is a disservice to these dedicated individuals. May I remind the administration that these firefighters augment the professional firefighters when called upon? The firefighters have a good working relationship with the career firefighters and provide a service free of charge. They also assist in floods, severe storms and mutual aid incidents. They run food drives and last, but not least, provide the annual Fourth of July fireworks display for all to enjoy.

I hope Mayor Henrici reconsiders his actions and realizes what a valuable service the volunteers provide to the residents of Hamden, for a nominal cost.

Timothy S. Sullivan (retired fire chief)

December 6, 2006

The ‘C’ Word

Americans have embraced the traditions of many different religions over the years; by doing so any person can worship their deity any way they like. In 2006, I have not read about anybody being crucified or whipped to death for believing in their deity. But there is a movement led by the American Civil Liberties Union that is trying to get the courts to remove religious holidays and words from public view in this country, with the word “Christmas” being the first.

The ACLU is saying that not all people are Christians and the word “Christmas” angers and offends non-Christians. I find that hard to believe when Christmas has been with us for hundreds of years, and only now this federal holiday called Christmas is coming under attack by ACLU and others.

A friend e-mailed me the other day saying that the minority is just voicing its views about the uses of the word “Christmas.” I don’t have a problem with that. What concerns me is that the courts are ruling on the minority side of this dispute. The court rulings have taken away some of our religious freedoms one brick at a time. Will our personal freedoms be next to disappear one brick at a time?

If you look at the leadership of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions, you will find that most have worked together in this country to bring moral religious principles to their faithful. On the other hand, the religious radicals don’t want moral religious principles to be taught; they just want distrust and hate taught. Just look at Iraq and see what religious distrust and hate can do to a country.

Here in Hamden we live in a microcosm of what is happening in our society. I wanted to understand how people with different religious backgrounds viewed Christmas, so I turned to my neighbors for help. One is Jewish and the other is Muslim. I asked both men if the word “Christmas” offended or angered them in any way. They both said no. They were going to have Christmas trees in their homes.
Tom Alegi
Benham Street


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