February 27, 2011

Vernon: Less Than 1 Percent Increase In 2010 Vernon Grand List - Courant.com

Vernon: Less Than 1 Percent Increase In 2010 Vernon Grand List - Courant.com

By JOSEPH A. O'BRIEN JR., Special to The Courant
The Hartford Courant
9:12 PM EST, February 26, 2011

VERNON —A less than 1 percent increase in the assessed value of all taxable property in town last year is another reason local officials will be looking to hold the line on spending in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Mayor Jason L. McCoy said the value of the Oct. 1, 2010, grand list is $1,910,783,339 — an increase of $16.1 million, or 0.85 percent, over the list's value on Oct. 1, 2009.

Residential real estate increased by $8.16 million, but the value of industrial and commercial property went down. Industrial real estate fell in value by $1.29 million in just one year and commercial real estate fell by $127,060.

The total value of apartments and other rental properties increased by $2.01 million.

The value of personal property, which includes machinery and business equipment, also fell last year, by $2.15 million to $72.29 million, a decrease of 0.29 percent.

There are 25,996 motor vehicles listed that account for roughly 8.5 percent, or $163,075,129, of all the taxable property in town. The $9.54 million increase in value of motor vehicles was due primarily to used vehicles, which increased in value by $7.91 million. Vehicles added to the list, new or used, increased the total value of the motor vehicle list by $1.62 million.

The total value of motor vehicles on the list is just under the combined assessed value of property owned by the town's top-10 taxpayers. The total assessed value of property owned by the top 10 is $186,378,330.

The top 10 taxpayers in town are: 
The Mansions, $47,754,460; 
Tri City Improvements LLC, $30,295,590; 
Woodbrook LLC/EKE/EES, $21,516,740; 
Connecticut Water Co., $20,011,880; 
Connecticut Light & Power Co. & Yankee Gas, and Connecticut Natural Gas, $19,022,250; 
CE Vernon LLC $15,571,120; 
Chapman Acres, $9,004,930; BostonVernon/BostonRockville, $8,662,150; Park West Residents Association, $7,684,030; and 
Kerensky, Schneider Trustees, $6,855,180

February 23, 2011

Town Tackles Pothole Woes With New Technology - Connecticut News Story - WFSB Hartford

Town Tackles Pothole Woes With New Technology - Connecticut News Story - WFSB Hartford: "Town Tackles Pothole Woes With New Technology"

"VERNON, Conn. -- Vernon is patching its potholes with a new machine called the Hot Box, which can fill annoying potholes in the half the time and for less money, according to town officials.

The Hot Box is outfitted with a box on its back that heats asphalt to 350 degrees and can hold up to 4 tons of resued asphalt.

Road crews said the Hot Box makes it easier to move around town, and that the asphalt remains hot and lasts much longer than the cold patch.

"The old asphalt we use gets heated the night before we come in,"said Kevin Gardner with the Public Works Department.

Town officials said the machine will save taxpayers money in the long run.

"My constituents know that there's always problems with potholes in Vernon. We like to be a little ahead of everybody else and look for cost savings everyplace we can get them," said Jason McCoy, Vernon's mayor.

The town leased the Hot Box for five years at a cost of $48,000.

Nearby towns are interested in purchasing the machines, officials said"

February 19, 2011

Shoveling roofs a first for local Connecticut National Guard - Journal Inquirer

Shoveling roofs a first for local National Guard: "Shoveling roofs a first for local National Guard"

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, February 7, 2011 10:11 AM EST
A rash of roof collapses has spread like dominoes across the state since last week’s winter storms, but while some towns struggled to clear snow from schools and other buildings with whatever resources they had on hand, others were able to secure help from the National Guard.

“We have never in the past been asked … to shovel snow off of roofs from previous snowstorms. Even when we go back to ’78, storm Larry, the Guard did not go out to clean off roofs,” Lt. Col. John Whitford, spokesman for the National Guard, said Friday.

During the infamous blizzard of 1978, which shut down the state for a week, Gov. Ella T. Grasso utilized the Guard to help clear roads, but Whitford emphasized that, “This is something unique. With the amount of snow that we’ve received since Christmas, it’s just unbelievable.”

Whitford said service members were activated to help clear school roofs in Vernon, Tolland, and Naugatuck, but only after a lengthy request and review process by the state Department of Emergency Management, and Homeland Security, and the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“We in the Guard have two missions: We have a mission from the president for federal call-up where we have soldiers and airmen deployed overseas, and we also have the governor. If he declares a state of emergency and activates the Guard, then we go out. He’s our boss, and we respond to state emergencies, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms,” and the like, he said.

But Whitford stressed that town officials first must declare a state of emergency and prove that they’ve exhausted all of their local resources before the state will step in.

“It’s a very tedious process, it is a very long process they have to go through in order to get an approval,” Whitford said. “We’re the last guys to come out to provide some kind of relief and support because they’ve exhausted everything else at their fingertips prior to us.”

What about us?’Other towns have expressed outrage that some municipalities received assistance while others did not, and Whitford acknowledged that “maybe the towns didn’t know” that requesting help was an option available to them.

“I think there’s a misconception out there by some of the towns that all we need to do is call the Guard and they’ll come. That’s not the case, and we’re hearing it from the other towns. For example, Ellington’s saying, ‘Hey, how come these towns got the OK?’ All of a sudden the other towns have been, ‘What about us, what about us?’”

Whitford said that while many towns have contacted the Guard to ask for help, municipal leaders must coordinate such requests with state officials.

Others have suggested that service members simply begin clearing all school roofs in the state, rather than focusing on specific towns. But with almost 1,700 schools in Connecticut and only 5,000 troops in the Guard, Whitford said, that isn’t an option.

“That’s not the makeup, design, or the role of the National Guard. It may sound great, but there are legal pieces in place and the towns should be aware that when it comes to something like this, they have to justify it,” Whitford said. “And there is a price tag. When all is said and done, the billpayer is the town. It’s not just free labor — there is a price that is associated with us coming.”

That expense is what’s kept some towns from requesting the Guard.

First Selectwoman Christina Mailhos of Willington said her town is pooling its resources to try to take care of the issue without outside help.

“We had closed the schools on Thursday to work on the roofs,” Mailhos said. “We had teachers, custodians, public works crew, the superintendent, and even myself on the roofs trying to clear the snow.”

Mailhos said the Fire Department hauled snow blowers to the rooftops as well as used roof rakes. “Together, it was an amazing effort,” she said.

“We managed to get the snow removed from the major areas of concern on the buildings,” Mailhos said. “Right now, it’s unnecessary to call in the National Guard, but if the weather continues like this for the rest of the season, we might have to.”

Per day: $20,000 to $60,000According to Mailhos, town officials had tried contacting the National Guard early last week, but were informed there was a possible activation fee of $20,000.

Rich Harris, spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said towns must agree in advance to reimburse the National Guard for its services — and it can be costly, depending on the type of work needed.

Shoveling snow from roofs costs municipalities from $20,000 to $60,000 per day, Harris said.

Using the National Guard is really an option of last resort, Harris said.

Deployment is approved by the governor’s office for towns that can’t to do the job on their own and are unable to find a private contractor to do the job for them, he said.

Guardsmen are not to supplant town public works crews or replace town resources, Harris said.

In Manchester, Mayor Louis A. Spadaccini said there has been “constant monitoring” of school and town building roofs, which were being cleared of snow by staff and private contractors. An engineer has inspected several buildings, and officials were taking action, he added.

Snow and ice were removed from the High School and Washington School roof early last week, and on Friday the Botticello garage at the landfill, and the water and sewer treatment plant on Spring Street were cleared, he said.

There are some concerns about the Lutz Children’s Museum, which might also need its roof shoveled, he added.

“We are doing everything to monitor the condition of the roofs and ensure the integrity of the buildings and the safety of the public,” Spadaccini said, adding: “We’re getting rid of the snow and ice where we deem it necessary.”

For now, the National Guard is not being tapped for work. Using private contractors is expensive, at about $100 an hour for labor, he said.

Drifts were 5 to 7 feet tall
Vernon's Mayor Jason McCoy was the first town to request emergency assistance after structural engineer James Silva determined that its schools’ roofs were carrying more than twice the recommended weight limit.

Whitford said the first shift of 85 Army and airmen started shoveling roofs there at 1 a.m. Thursday and worked for about 12 hours. Another shift of 75 troops arrived at 10:30 a.m., so “at one point in time we had 150 people on the ground at one time,” he said, adding that the second shift worked until 9 p.m.

Many of the troops that responded to Vernon’s schools had just returned from Afghanistan in November. A different crew from the 103rd Airlift Wing in East Granby responded to Tolland’s schools Friday morning.

A hundred airmen began work at 6 a.m. and Whitford said he expected the crew to turn cleanup back over to the town around 7 p.m.

“We’re extremely grateful for the assistance they’ve provided — they’ve been moving a tremendous amount of snow,” Tolland Town Manager Steven R. Werbner said Friday.

An engineer who examined the schools told town officials “we shouldn’t have loads in any one area that exceed 22 to 24 inches. We’ve got areas where it’s drifted 5 to 7 feet deep, so you’ve got to disperse that snow into other areas where you’ve already shoveled in order to balance out the load,” Werbner said.

Werbner said officials were left with “a very small window” to clear roofs before even more snow accumulated. He added that the cleanup likely would cost the town more than $20,000, but that figure is a pittance compared with the expense of a collapsed school.

Civilians on roof is ‘calculated risk’Tolland fire officials asked residents to provide their shovels and equipment for the Guard’s efforts, and about 22 people loaned snow blowers, Werbner said. On Thursday night, officials were forced to travel all the way to Norwich to purchase 50 additional shovels because all other local stores have sold out.

Werbner said town employees would pick up work where service members left off, but as for local volunteers, “we couldn’t have any civilians on the roof because of liability.”

In Vernon, however, officials sent reverse 911 calls to residents at noon on Friday and Saturday, and emergency e-mail messages to teachers requesting “the assistance of able-bodied residents with shovels or snow blowers to assist with clearing snow from the roof of Rockville High School.”

At least 45 residents had responded as of Saturday, according to Director of Emergency Management Michael Purcaro.

Town Attorney Harold Cummings said inviting residents onto the roof of a building covered in snow was a calculated risk.

“We’re weighing the risks of what is the potential cost for a school roof collapsing on 100 children, damage to the building, damage to the kids, versus potentially having a compensation claim for somebody that slipped off the roof and broke a leg. We will take care of the broken leg as a fair tradeoff for keeping our kids safe,” Cummings said.

He added that the job of removing thousands of pounds of snow from massive school roofs requires a lot of work, and town employees who have been shoveling and plowing for days on end simply need a break.

Shoveling not glamorous, but an honor
Vernon emergency officials met with the Town Council and Board of Education at a special meeting Saturday, during which Town Finance Officer James Luddecke gave an update on snow removal expenses.

The National Guard charged the town for 88 service members at a unit cost of $200, for a total of $17,600, which Mayor Jason L. McCoy called, “an excellent deal,” adding that he tried to get the Guard to return over the weekend.

Purcaro and other officials said they’ve put in requests for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Rep. Timothy Ackert, R-Vernon, said that, “we’re hoping to hear something this week,” regarding potential funding.

Schools in Tolland and Vernon remained closed today so snow removal could continue.

Whitford said that much of the state’s Guard force consists of part-timers who took time off work from their civilian jobs to help with the cleanup.

He listed some of the other incidents for which the Guard has been called out, including Hurricane Katrina, the flooding last March in Griswold, and the snowstorm a few weeks ago when 20 troops and two wreckers were used to pull Hartford city buses out of snowdrifts.

And while shoveling snow off school roofs may not be as thrilling as rescuing victims of a national crisis like Katrina, “We’re honored to do it,” Whitford said. “We bring another set of expertise to the table when we have a mission like this, because we have a lot of guys who live in the community and work in the community. This is one of the reasons why they joined, to help out the community, so we’re trying to help out and bring some normalcy back.”

Town officials and businesses organized meals for the troops and other workers, and Whitford said that many Guard members have been laughing and enjoying themselves during the last few days’ whirlwind efforts.

“Despite the cold, despite the shoveling, despite all that snow, I think the morale is very high,” he said.

Journal Inquirer staff writer Kym Soper and intern Zachary Perras contributed to this story.

Providing a safe environment - Journal Inquirer > Archives > Letters To The Editor > Feb. 14 Vernon CT

Journal Inquirer > Archives > Letters To The Editor > Feb. 14: "Feb. 14
Published: Monday, February 14, 2011 12:06 PM EST
Providing a safe environment

Providing a safe learning environment for students and staff is a critical piece of the Vernon Board of Education’s mission statement. The winter weather has broken records and has put us in a situation that we have not dealt with in the past.

On behalf of the Board of Education, I would like to thank the mayor, the emergency management director, the superintendent, the director of Public Works and his entire staff, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department and his entire staff, Jim Silva and his structural engineering firm, the Connecticut National Guard, the Vernon Fire Department, the Vernon Youth Service Bureau, the Board of Education maintenance and custodial staff, the Board of Education cafeteria director and her staff, our EMS volunteers, the Cemetery Commission, the WPCA, CERT, our local businesses, the many citizen volunteers, and anyone else I may have missed who helped the Vernon public schools through this unusual event of clearing extreme snow loads from our school roofs."

Once the determination was made by our structural engineer that the snow loads needed to be removed because they were exceeding structural tolerances for our buildings, the mayor was notified. He immediately put the gears in motion to address our predicament. This was an absolutely arduous task for all and one that our school resources could never have undertaken on our own.

A great job was done by all those involved and the Vernon Board of Education thanks everyone. The citizens of Vernon can be proud of the town departments and resources, businesses, and citizens that sprung into action to solve this crisis.

Anne Fischer
Vernon Chairwoman Vernon Board of Education

The writer is chairwoman of the Board of Education.

Town rallies to help re-open schools Article | ReminderNews Vernon CT

Article ReminderNews: "Town rallies to help re-open schools"

Vernon students had an unexpected week of vacation from Feb . 1 to Feb . 7 , as winter storms piled so much snow on the roofs of school buildings that officials wanted to be sure of their safety before allowing students inside .

Before the Board of Education’s special meeting on Feb . 7 to officially approve its budget for 2011-2012 ,  all schools were expected to re-open on Feb . 8 . Despite another snowfall that morning , they all did .

Mayor Jason McCoy sent out emails at approximately the same time , stating that the schools were safe .

“ I am proud to announce that the school buildings no longer face imminent structural danger , as a result of dedicated workers and volunteers from throughout the community , ” McCoy said . “ After a briefing from my staff and the BOE’s structural engineer , I have decided to close down emergency operations and the Emergency Operations Center , as there is no longer an emergency situation or threat from imminent danger . The snow loads on the buildings have been inspected and certified by the engineer and they are within the code limits prescribed by Connecticut Code . ”

Conway said when the emergency had been declared over , the control of the remaining cleanup at the schools was turned back over to her office .
Town workers began clearing the roofs on Feb . 2 . By Feb . 4 , the task had seemed so large that town employees were asked to volunteer , and members of the National Guard were deployed to help , via town requests to the state .
On Feb . 4 , the town also sent automated phone calls asking Vernon residents to volunteer to help , and many did . McCoy said the volume of snow on the schools and town buildings was calculated , as were the man-hours required to remove it all , and it was clear that more people were needed .

An estimated 17 . 4 million pounds of snow were removed from roofs of municipal buildings , McCoy said , calling that estimate conservative .
“ People just showed up with snow shovels at the high school , ” Conway said . “ It was just phenomenal . ”

On Saturday , Feb . 5 , McCoy had convened an emergency meeting of the Town Council to appropriate additional funds for snow-removal efforts . The council approved an amount of $ 90 , 000 .
Of larger concern was Maple Street School , which had received significant water damage to four of its classrooms .

Conway said several options were considered for the remediation of the damage , including possibly having students utilize another school building temporarily , or perhaps the Board of Education building itself .
However , late in the afternoon on Feb . 8 , it was determined that Maple Street School could re-open along with the rest of the district , and students in the four damaged classrooms would learn their lessons in other parts of the building . A reading room , a computer lab , and a boys’ bathroom also were damaged . Conway said the floor in the computer lab was also heavily damaged . Dehumidifiers are being used in the classrooms , and painters were being called to correct the cosmetic damage to ceilings and walls .

“ The roof is cleared , and the building is safe , ” Conway said . “ We are 100 percent in our own schools , and we are delighted with that . We expect the cleanup to be less than three weeks . ”
At Skinner Road School , there was concern over snow on the large canopies at the entrance of the school . Students were entering and exiting from the rear doors of the building until the snow was removed .
McCoy said the impetus for the school closing was that engineers had determined that some roofs were carrying loads upwards of 50 pounds per square foot – well above the general standards of 21 pounds per square foot , although he added that several schools and town buildings are rated higher .

Tests of the weight load on the roof of Vernon Middle School were at or near limits in a few areas as of Feb . 7 , but Conway said cleanup was continuing in the areas of the roof where snow was still heavy , especially since the possibility of more snow could put those areas over the limit .

Conway thanked the district’s custodians , many of whom had worked extra shifts , as well as contractors , who were still continuing the efforts .
Once all the schools are totally cleared of snow , Conway said she hoped such an effort would not be necessary again this winter .
“ I can’t imagine we’re going to get another 80 inches between now and April 1 , ” she said . “ We’re not anticipating having to do this again . We will be talking about roof maintenance , as part of our preventive maintenance , as we go along . ”

As of Feb . 10 , Vernon schools had accumulated nine snow days . At a meeting on Feb . 9 , the Board of Education voted to revise the school year, eliminating the vacation week from Feb . 21-25 . This would allow for school to end on June 23 , with RHS graduation taking place on June 22 . If more than two more snow days occur , the plan is to begin to cut days from April vacation .

February 16, 2011

A tale of two cities: leaders from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities came to praise Malloy's budget, GOP mayors and selectmen came to rip it - Capitol Watch

A tale of two cities: leaders from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities came to praise Malloy's budget, GOP mayors and selectmen came to rip it - Capitol Watch

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Municipal leaders from across the state gathered in one room of the legislative office building to heap praise on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget.

A few feet away and a half hour later, Republican local officials came together to criticize the governor's proposal.

"We certainly want to applaud him for the enhanced revenue options that he's providing in the budget,'' Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said. "We want to thank him for his forthrightness and candor in today's speech. But let's be clear about what's been proposed.''

Boughton and the other Republicans say Malloy's plan to give .10 of the 6.35 sales tax on retail purchases won't offset other potential losses. "While it's nice to say all these different revenue streams may back fill that dollars [lost], we're still not sure about that,' said Boughton, who was his party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010.'

And Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham said Malloy's budget has plenty of pain for the state's residents. "This budget helps ... municipalities but hurts the residents that live in those towns and cities,'' he said."

February 10, 2011

Vernon Fire Station Closed Because of Heavy Snow Load On Roof - CTnow

Vernon Fire Station Closed Because of Heavy Snow Load On Roof - CTnow

Crews were on the firehouse roof earlier this week trying to clear snow, but could not do it safely because of the roof's slant, said Mayor Jason L. McCoy.

The engineer examining the building is also concerned that removing snow in one section at a time could increase the load on the building and damage it, McCoy said. The engineer plans to do computer modeling to develop a snow removal plan, McCoy said.

In the meantime, the fire engines stored at Nye Street have been moved to other firehouses, he said.

February 8, 2011

Fox 61 Vernon CT Snow Removal

Fox 61 On the Roof

Fox 61 Rockville High School Interview at School with Mayor McCoy

Fox 61

New 8 Roof concerns close Vernon schools - National Guard helping to clear snow Mayor-Jason-McCoy