Columbia-Hebron Police Logs February 11-18, Arrests following robbery investigation

February 27, 2011 Local News No Comments

On Friday, February 11, 2011, Timothy Giddix, 21, of 45 Hope Valley Road, Hebron, CT was issued a ticket for failure to keep right at a curve after an accident with a bus driven by Daniel Allen, 39, of Lebanon on Hope Valley Road, Hebron, CT which resulted in minor damage to both vehicles. No injuries were reported.

On Friday, February 11, 2011, police made arrests following the investigation of a robbery on October 19, 2010. On that date, Troop K received a 911 call of a reported robbery in the parking lot of the 7-11 gas station located on Route 6 in Andover, CT. It was reported that a subject wearing a ski-type mask, black gloves and dark clothing opened the driver-side door of a parked vehicle and placed what was reported to be a handgun against the neck of a female occupant stating “give me all you got” several times. It was reported that the subject then grabbed a purse off one of the victims’ laps and fled into an adjacent wooded area. During the investigation it was learned that three people participated in the robbery. Shortly after the incident, an arrest warrant was secured and served on the first subject. After further investigation, two more arrest warrants were secured for the remaining two participants in the robbery. On February 11, 2011 the two remaining participants were placed into custody without incident. Anthony Flemke, 27, 19 Route 6, Columbia, CT was arrested and charged with first-degree accessory to robbery, second-degree accessory to larceny, first-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and second-degree conspiracy to commit larceny. Kelly Danforth, 27, of 19 Route 6, Columbia, CT was arrested and charged with first-degree accessory to robbery, first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree conspiracy to commit larceny.

On Monday, February 14, 2011, Toni Lynn Cyr, 62, of 422 Church St., Hebron, CT was arrested for first-degree larceny and third-degree forgery.

On Monday, February 14, 2011, Kimberly Ann Cyr, 42, of 422 Church St., Hebron CT was arrested for first-degree larceny and third-degree forgery.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, Laura Martin, 38, of Scotland, CT lost control of her vehicle on Route 66 near Loveland Road in Columbia, CT and went off the right side of the road, stiking a snow bank and rolling the vehicle over onto its roof. There were no injuries reported and Ms. Martin was issued a ticket for traveling too fast for conditions.

On Wednesday, February 16, 2011, The Hebron Resident Trooper’s office is investigating a complaint that a contractor fraudulently agreed to conduct home improvements for the victim without a valid Connecticut home improvement license and stole $850 without conducting any of the home improvements agreed upon.

On Thursday, February 17, 2011, Ryan Gilbert, 18, of 157 Route 66, Apt. A, Columbia, CT was arrested for third-degree burglary, sixth-degree larceny, three counts of forgery and illegal use of a credit card.

Posted 2-27-2011

Survey – Homelessness is on the rise in region

February 26, 2011 Areawide, Local News No Comments
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, addresses the audience during an event at the WRCC office in Willimantic on Thursday. Photo: Roxanne Pandolfi

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, addresses the audience during an event at the WRCC office in Willimantic on Thursday. Photo: Roxanne Pandolfi

Like many other areas of the state, the Windham region has been hit hard by the recession, resulting in an increase in the area’s homeless population in recent years.

A study done by the Windham Regional Community Council, a nonprofit agency providing health and social programs to residents, counted 220 homeless people on Jan. 27, an increase of nearly 100 people from the first year of the annual study in 2007.

“The numbers went up so dra­matically,” said WRCC Executive Director Jeffrey Beadle.

The WRCC has outlined a 10-year plan to combat homelessness and will use two federal grants it was recently awarded to fund its efforts. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and total more than $419,000.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, state Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Willimantic, and local officials were at the WRCC office on Main Street Thursday morning (Feb. 24) to cele­brate the two grants.

“It put the spotlight on WRCC in terms of your success,” Courtney said.

Earlier Thursday, Courtney spoke at a Windham Region Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Johnson congratulated the agency for the work it has done addressing homelessness in the region.

“It’s vitally important to keep this up,” Johnson said. “It’s important to put the spotlight on the fact that we have a growing homeless popula­tion.”

Beadle said the funding will be used to support two programs: Pro­ject Home and Project Haven. These programs provide housing subsi­dies, case management and other services for homeless individuals in the region.

The programs, managed by Kim Lindell and Pat Sullivan, are part of the Greater Windham Region 10-Year Plan to end homeless­ness, which began in 2007 and is part of a national movement to combat the issue.

“Through their (Lindell and Sullivan) hard work we contin­ue to get funding (from HUD),” Beadle said.

The plan outlines an agenda of activities the community will implement to address homeless­ness in 20 surrounding communi­ties, including Chaplin, Coventry, Columbia, Lebanon, Hampton, Mansfield, Scotland, Willington and Windham.

A study, known as a “point in time count,” was completed by a group of volunteers as part of the application process for the two grants.

The study, first conducted in 2007, is done statewide with the goal of providing a snap­shot of homelessness in each of Connecticut’s regions.

The WRCC group was sent out to five sites in the region on Jan. 27 to count the number of home­less people they encountered.

One site that was surveyed was the parking lot and field near Wal-Mart in North Windham.

Beadle, who headed the group conducting the survey, said Wal-Mart allows people to stay in cars on their property.

Other surveyed sites include along the Willimantic River and Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum on Bridge Street, behind New Alliance Bank at the East Brook Mall and Big Y, a field on Stearns Road, and a site on Mansfield Avenue.

In addition to surveying sites, the group also collected data from numerous shelters and support programs for the homeless, such as the Holy Family Home and Shelter on Jackson Street, various United Services locations, and the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center on Main Street.

Results of the study were unveiled by Beadle Thursday morning. The study produced good and bad news.

“It’s a mixed report,” Beadle said.

Beadle was pleased to learn that of the 220 homeless people in the Windham region, 101 were in shelters and 115 were in support programs, with only four people outside.

Another piece of good news was that 115 homeless individu­als were counted in assistance programs throughout the region, including programs at United Services, the Holy Family Home and Shelter and WRCC’s Project Home and Project Haven.

One item of bad news, how­ever, was the number of homeless children in the region. The group counted 51 homeless children under the age of 18, an increase of 19 from the first year of the study in 2007.

Windham school administra­tors, including Superintendent Ana Ortiz, are involved in numer­ous programs to help homeless students in the district, Beadle said.

Beadle said it is a “major chal­lenge” to help these students. He said Ortiz is currently working with 96 kids in the district.

“Obviously, there’s a lot more work to do,” Beadle said.

The number of homeless people increased from 128 to 220 from the 2007 to the 2011 study.

According to the Connecticut Coalition for Homelessness, there are approximately 4,154 people without homes on any given day in the state, including: 2,902 single adults, 430 families, 801 children in families and 18 unac­companied youths.

Posted 2-25-2011

Blues & Bluegrass music, Willimantic Orchestra performance & fundraisers among activities this weekend

Saturday Feb. 26

PREPARED CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION CLASS
Windham Community Memorial Hospital offers an all- day, ” mara­thon” childbirth education class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the hospital’s education center. Cost is $65 for families delivering their babies at WCMH and $75 for families delivering elsewhere. Info: (860) 456-6894.

MOVIE, ‘SECRETARIAT’
Willington Public Library Community Room, 7 Ruby Road, Willington, will host a 12:30 p.m. showing of the movie “Secretariat.” All are welcome to attend and visitors are asked to bring their own snacks.

SNOW MOON DINNER DANCE
The Snow Moon Dinner Dance is being sponsored by St. Francis Ladies Guild and Knights of Columbus. It will take place from 6 to 11 p.m. Cost is a $20 donation per person at the Lebanon Fire Safety Complex, Lebanon. Tickets or information available at (860) 642-7049 or (860) 423-8040.

LASAGNA TAKE -OUT DINNER
The Federated Church of Christ, Route 6, Brooklyn, will host a take­-out lasagna dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is $8. Take-out orders only.

SPAGHETTI SUPPER
Hampton Congregational Church, 263 Main St., Hampton, will host a spaghetti dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets $8 adults; $5 children up to 12 years; free for children under 5.

NETWORK INC. FUNDRAISER
The French Club, Club Road, Windham, will host a fundraiser from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets, $25 individual, $40 couple. All proceeds from the event will benefit clients with developmental disabilities served by Network Inc. For tickets, call Bev at (860) 742-1313. For information, call Kathleen McLean (860) 753-2923 or e-mail to kmclean@network­programs.com.

WINTER BLUES FEST
The annual Winter Blues Festival is slated at the Elks Lodge, 198 Pleasant St., Willimantic, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $15. Info: (860) 456-2188.

BLUEGRASS SHOW
A bluegrass show featuring Mike Boulay and The Hope Valley Volunteers, along with Nick Anderson and Shady Creek, will take place at 7 p.m., Killingly Grange Hall, Route 101 at Dog Hill Road, Killingly. $12 donation requested. Info: Call Nick at (860) 564-1018 or e-mail nick.anderson@att.net.

Sunday Feb. 27

BUFFET BREAKFAST
Knights of Columbus Council 14, 41 Club Road, Windham, will host a buffet breakfast from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Children under 5 are free, ages 6-12 $5.50, seniors $6 and adults over 12 $6.50. Take-out available.

SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICES – STORRS
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Storrs will host Sunday worship services at 10:30 a.m. The Rev. David Nelson will present a sermon entitled, “Neither Victims nor Executioners.” Info: (860) 429-6088.

WINTER BUFFET DINNER
Moriah Lodge No. 15, 220 Providence Turnpike, Brooklyn, will host a winter buffet dinner from noon to 2 p m. Cost is $10 person. Indoor yard sale — rent a table for $5. Help support the VA by bringing unused essential apparel. Tour the lodge, which was established in 1790, and learn more about the Freemasons.

WILLIMANTIC ORCHESTRA PERFORMS AT EASTERN
The Willimantic Orchestra will present a concert at 3 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium at Eastern Connecticut State University. Admission free, however, a donation is suggested. Individuals with a disability who need accommodations for this event can contact the Office of University Relations at (860) 465-5735.

VICTORIAN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
The Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association will host a meeting to elect officers at 3:30 p.m., 869 Main St., Willimantic. Guest speaker, Andrew Gutt, owner of Cafemantic, Topic: his vision of Main Street. Potluck to follow at 67 Lewiston Ave., Willimantic.

Posted 2-25-2011

Update – Missing 75-year-old Coventry woman found in Columbia

February 24, 2011 Local News No Comments
Prudence Corson, of Coventry, has been missing since Jan. 7. State Police say she may be suicidal. Photo provided by CT State Police

Prudence Corson, of Coventry, who has been missing since Jan. 7, 2011 has been found. Photo provided by CT State Police

Update: CT State Police Public Information Officer Lt. Vance said today (Feb. 25) that the state Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Prudence Corson’s death a suicide, and any criminal aspect of the case has been ruled out. Corson was reported missing 48 days ago. She was found in her car on someone’s property in Columbia, CT.

State Police are saying that a 75-year-old Coventry woman who was reported missing as of Jan. 7, has been found.

State Police say Prudence Corson was found – in the car in which she was seen driving away from her home at Orchard Hill Estates – on property located in Columbia.

Police have not disclosed whether Corson was found alive.

A neighbor who reported Corson as missing at that time told police Corson was in an agitated state when she left, and that she had been depressed.

What’s known as a “silver alert” was issued on Jan. 21 – a day when the forecast was for heavy snow – when police became increasingly concerned about Corson’s disappearance.

A silver alert is issued by police to broadcast information about missing persons, especially seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other mental disabilities.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Posted Feb. 24, 2011, updated Feb. 24 and Feb. 25, 2011

Dive team explores Coventry Lake with sub

February 23, 2011 Areawide No Comments
Mark Dittrich, a member of the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association and Tolland County Dive Team, center, takes off his scuba fins after coming out from under the ice during a submarine training exercise at Coventry Lake on Tuesday. While he was searching the lake bottom, the Capital Region Emergency Service Team’s submarine was following him as safety personnel monitor and assist Dittrich. Photo: Al Malpa

Mark Dittrich, a member of the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association and Tolland County Dive Team, center, takes off his scuba fins after coming out from under the ice during a submarine training exercise at Coventry Lake on Tuesday. While he was searching the lake bottom, the Capital Region Emergency Service Team’s submarine was following him as safety personnel monitor and assist Dittrich. Photo: Al Malpa

With many bun­dled up indoors, Coventry volunteer firefighters were diving into the frig­id waters of Coventry Lake Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 22).

It was not a matter of life or death and firefighters were not participat­ing in a “Penguin Plunge” fundraiser for Special Olympics.

Rather, the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association was testing out a new piece of equipment they hope never to use.

The CVFA conducted a joint div­ing drill with the Tolland County Dive Team and the Capital Region Emergency Services Team (CREST) at Lisicke Beach to practice rescue techniques using a $90,000 subma­rine robot.

The “submarine,” funded by a fed­eral grant, is owned by CREST, a dive team comprised of police officers from towns including Hartford, East Hartford and Wethersfield.

The tool monitors the depth of the water at which the divers are at and has sonar, radar and global position­ing system capabilities.

It is used to track the activity of the divers as well as individuals they may be rescuing.

“If someone’s been down (in the water) for many hours, it’s a good tool to use,” said CVFA Fire Chief Joe Carilli while standing on the frigid ice tundra of Coventry Lake Tuesday.

Tolland County Dive Team Deputy Commander Mark Dittrich, a Will­ington firefighter and Coventry resi­dent, said his dive team has a differ­ent mission than CREST.

Locally, Dittrich’s team includes firefighters from towns such as An­dover, Columbia, Ashford, Coventry and Mansfield.

The submarine peers up from under 1 ½ feet of ice. Photo: Al Malpa

The submarine peers up from under 1 ½ feet of ice. Photo: Al Malpa

While the Tolland County team is designed to perform rescue missions, CREST is designed to investigate un­derwater crime scenes.

One rescue mission conducted by the Tolland County team in the past happened a few years ago at Diana’s Pool in Chaplin, Dittrich said.

Dittrich said there was a Peapod shopping truck stuck in the water there.

He said the team managed to get the truck out, but realized they should be better prepared for “swift water” situations.

As a result, the team will have swift water drills in the future.

Other locations the dive team has been sent to include Amston Lake and Gay City State Park, both in Hebron.

Carilli said the cold winter weather has made the ice ideal for drills such as the one Tuesday.

“The ice is really thick,” Carilli said.

Dittrich said there was 4 to 5 feet of visibility when he was in the lake. The water temperature, he said, was 39 degrees.

Dittrich said one form of diving his team does is blackwater div­ing. Under these conditions, you could not see your hand if you put it in front of your face.

Dittrich said those conditions aren’t scary for him and he adjusts to the conditions by closing his eyes.

“Guys that do this just turn it off (their fears) and don’t let it bother them,” Dittrich said.

Another individual who braved the cold waters Tuesday was Ron Littell, a CREST trainer.

Littell mentioned various safe­ty measures taken during diving drills.

For example, there is always a diver on standby in case of an emergency.

CREST member and Hartford Police Department detective Zach Kashmanian, left, operates the submarine remotely from an emergency services truck. With him is fellow CREST member and East Hartford police officer Ken Sullivan. Photo: Al Malpa

CREST member and Hartford Police Department detective Zach Kashmanian, left, operates the submarine remotely from an emergency services truck. With him is fellow CREST member and East Hartford police officer Ken Sullivan. Photo: Al Malpa

There are also two communica­tion systems set up to be used between the diver and tender, the person holding the wire attached to the diver and communicating with him or her.

Littell said the diver and tender can communicate with each other normally if lines are “hardwired,” as they were Tuesday.

If hardwired lines go down, the team uses a series of manual signals.

For example, three tugs is an instruction from the diver for the tender to go right and four tugs is an instruction to go left.

Unlike other divers, Littell was outfitted in a wet suit rather than a dry suit.

The difference between the two suits is simple. With the wet suit, individuals stay wet and with the dry suit, individuals stay dry.

Littell said his team has drills once every month and most of the team members have had 40 hours of training.

There are three levels of train­ing, Carilli said. The first level is basic open water, which can be done at a local scuba shack.

In order to be a member of a dive team, members need at least open water training, during which they learn how to use the scuba equipment, Carilli said.

There are also more advanced training levels during which indi­viduals learn how to respond in different situations.

Unlike those diving, CREST members Zach Kashmanian, a Hartford police officer, Ken Sullivan, an East Hartford police officer, and Eric Baumgartner, a Hartford police officer, stayed toasty warm in a fire truck, where they were monitoring the subma­rine’s activities. At one point, the submarine, which can go as deep as 11 feet, was “hovering” at 7.9 feet, Kashmanian said.

In addition to its other capa­bilities, the submarine has a camcorder that can be used at a crime scene and “records every­thing before a diver goes down,” Kashmanian said.

Carilli said this morning the drill “went well.”

CVFA has another dive drill set up with the Tolland County Dive Team March 6 at Lisicke Beach.
Posted 2-23-2011

Columbia-Hebron Police Logs February 1-11, 2011

February 21, 2011 Local News No Comments

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, a Town of Hebron plow truck operated by Robert Taylor, 67, of 29 ½ North Main St., East Hampton, CT backed into traffic on Route 85 while plowing the Hebron Elementary School parking lot hitting a vehicle operated by Steven Constantine, 42, or 443 East St., Hebron, CT. No injuries were reported and Mr. Taylor was issued a verbal warning for failure to grant the right of way from a driveway.

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, Warren Carlone, 36, of 231 Waterhole Road, East Hampton, CT was issued a ticket for traveling to fast for conditions following an accident on Lake Road, Hebron CT when he slid on snow and ice and struck a vehicle operated by Judson Turney, 55, of 8 Namoenee Trail, East Hampton, CT. No injuries were reported.

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, Jordan Russell, 21, of 56 Norwich Ave., Colchester, CT was arrested for reckless burning, breach of peace and second-degree criminal mischief after starting a fire in a microwave at the Route 66 Xtra Mart in Hebron, CT and then leaving the scene.

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, Janice Maloney, 50, of 177 East St., Hebron, CT was arrested for sixth-degree larceny and possession of a controlled substance-narcotics, after police responded to a complaint received of prescription medication being stolen from the front lobby of Ted’s Supermarket in Hebron, CT. Upon further investigation, Ms. Maloney was found to be in possession of the prescription medication at her residence and was subsequently placed under arrest.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, two Carolyn Drive, Hebron, CT residents reported their homes were broken into between 11:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Both reported doors that were pried open. Nothing was reported missing. Police are investigating and anyone with information is asked to contact Trooper Panarello at Troop K at (860) 537-7500.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011 a Jennifer Drive, Hebron, CT resident reported the fraudulent use of a credit card. The case is under investigation.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, Betty Arel, 49, of 106 Wellswood Road, B3, Hebron, CT was issued a warning for following too closely after an accident at the intersection of Route 66 and Millstream Road in Hebron, CT where she collided with a vehicle driven by Timothy Burba, 30, of 15 Wall St., Colchester, CT.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, Shaun Barrett, 21, of 55 Oakwood Lane, Columbia, CT was issued a ticket for traveling to fast for conditions following a one-car accident on Route 6 in Coventry where he stated a deer ran out in the road which caused him to swerve. His vehicle left the road and rolled over several times. Police report he was uninjured in the accident.

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, a Daly Road, Hebron, CT, resident reported when they returned home after a few hours away, they found their rear door ajar. Victim checked the residence and found items disturbed and cash missing. The case remains under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact Trooper Hamel at Troop K, (860) 537-7555, x4027.

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, David J. St.Amand, 21, of 6 Kristen Lane, Hebron, CT was arrested for illegal sale of liquor to a minor.

Posted 2-21-11

Yuck, more snow hits the area

February 21, 2011 Areawide, Local News No Comments
The morning com­mute wasn’t as bad as it could have been this morning because of the Presidents Day holiday. Traffic was light on Main Street in Willimantic as an estimated 3 to 4 inches of snow were expected to fall by noon. Photo: Roxanne Pandolfi

The morning com­mute wasn’t as bad as it could have been this morning because of the Presidents Day holiday. Traffic was light on Main Street in Willimantic as an estimated 3 to 4 inches of snow were expected to fall by noon. Photo: Roxanne Pandolfi

After getting a taste of warmer temperatures and sunnier weather toward the end of last week, area residents were served a harsh reminder this morning that it’s still winter.

“I hope people enjoyed the temperatures in the 60s (Friday), because we’re not going to see that this week,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Tom Kines this morning.

He added the normal high temperature for mid-February is around 40 degrees.

Kines said the storm would likely bring “3, maybe 4 inches” to the Windham area this morning (Feb. 21) before ending around midday.

“You’ll escape the worst of it,” he also said, referring to higher snowfall figures expected for southwestern Connecticut, New York City and Rhode Island.

Along with a reminder of what month remains at the top of the calendar, Willimantic Police Lt. Raymond Evans said the storm should also remind folks about good winter driving habits.

“It’s like we continually have to retrain people,” he said, adding drivers sometimes forget how to handle snowy roads after a few weeks of better weather.

With an exceptionally harsh January in terms of snowfall, Evans said he is also worried people would feel as though they do not need to be as cautious with snowfall totals of 4 inches.

Still, Evans said drivers appeared to be taking their time during the early morning rush hour and added the lighter traffic due to the Presidents Day holiday likely helped.

“Knock on wood, things have been relatively good so far,” he said this morning.

Evans also said Willimantic has been under a standing parking ban, but the police department reissued one Sunday night as a reminder violators will be tick­eted or towed.

Willimantic residents also will need to shovel their walkways and clear out fire hydrants after the snow has stopped.

Kines said temperatures will be near the freezing point with plenty of sun this week during the day, followed by lows in the teens at night.

But sunlight also starts to get stronger this time of year, so even temperatures in the low 30s with plenty of sun will help melt away the fresh supply of snow.

“There is going to be some melt­ing this week,” he said, although he warned the cooler tempera­tures at night could lead to icy conditions.

Kines also said there is another system “way out on the West Coast right now” that could arrive in Connecticut Thursday night or Friday.

He said the storm will likely go to the south plains before heading for the Northeast, and the track will determine what happens in eastern Connecticut.

If the storm heads south of Connecticut, it would put the area “on the cold side of the system” and could result in more snow, Kines said.

Posted 2-21-2011

Several departments respond to Columbia fire

February 18, 2011 Local News No Comments
Bolton Fire Chief James Preuss breaks up a portion of the roof. Photo: Al Malpa

Bolton Fire Chief James Preuss breaks up a portion of the roof. Photo: Al Malpa

Multiple fire depart­ments from surrounding towns pitched in to extinguish a house fire at 79 Erdoni Road Thursday afternoon (Feb. 17).

Those responding included the Co­lumbia Volunteer Fire Department, Hebron Fire Department, Bolton Fire Department, Andover Fire Department and the Willimantic Fire Department.

Others providing assistance included the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association with an ambulance, Lebanon Volunteer Fire Department providing a tanker truck, Mansfield Fire Department pro­viding a rapid intervention team (to assist firefighters in distress, if needed), and the North Windham Fire Department covering Columbia’s fire station, while Colchester provided an ambulance to cover Columbia’s station.

Firemen prepare their oxygen tanks to battle a house fire on Erdoni Road in Columbia Thursday afternoon. Photo: Al Malpa

Firemen prepare their oxygen tanks to battle a house fire on Erdoni Road in Columbia Thursday afternoon. Photo: Al Malpa

Firefighters were called to the scene around 2:20 p.m. Thursday, with the report of a structure fire. No injuries were reported.

Columbia Fire Chief Peter Starkel said upon arrival there was “real heavy fire conditions” and that the rear of the residence was “fully involved.”

He indicated the blaze started in the rear of the residence and had started to spread to the rest of the house – first and second floors.

Starkel said there was one resident home during the time of the fire, but she evacuated the residence upon discover­ing the fire.

“She did the right thing,” he said.

Starkel said two residents live at the house and were making alternative liv­ing arrangements Thursday.

“We made sure they had arrange­ments,” Starkel said, adding that the two were able to find a place to stay.

According to town records, the property is owned by John and Joanne Lowney.

A message seeking comment on the fire and cause was left for Columbia Fire Marshal Leslie Kittle.

Firefighters spray water on the home. Photo: Al Malpa

Firefighters spray water on the home. Photo: Al Malpa

“Everything went extremely well,” Starkel said, adding that firefighters in the department are “pretty aggressive” in attacking the fire. “They always do a great job.”

Starkel also discussed the num­ber of fire departments on scene. “We all work very well together,” he said.

He added that firefighters cleared the scene around 7 p.m.

Posted 2-18-2011

'Pay-as-you-throw' vote change upsets officials

February 17, 2011 Local News 1 Comment
File photo

File photo

Selectmen will still conduct a Feb. 28 town meet­ing to help determine the fate of the still-controversial pay-as-you­-throw program. But some were frustrated over input from the town attorney rec­ommending a change in the legal notice.

One selectman even said it was an “embarrassment” to find out about conflicting town regulations now, as selectmen intended to hold the town meeting when they approved a trial period for the program in April.

Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz said Town Attorney Henry Beck, who was not present Tuesday, cited a town ordinance requiring the board of selectmen – and not residents at a town meeting – to make decisions regarding the transfer station and trash col­lection.

Selectmen unanimously agreed to “abide” by the results of the town meeting.

But Selectman William O’Brien pointed to the town charter, which allows selectmen to send any matter “deemed of importance” to a town meeting. He said he “strongly disagrees” with the town attorney.

Counsel also said a legal notice just warn­ing discussion about pay-as-you-throw was “too vague” and might not meet requirements under the state Freedom of Information Act.

The legal warning now includes recommen­dations for selectmen to make pay-as-you­-throw permanent, reduce the price of trash bags, drop the price of transfer station permits and put all funds from the program into an account to pay for the station.

O’Brien and Selectman Richard Szegda said the town meeting – slated for 7 p.m. at the Horace W. Porter School – is solely for a vote on the pay-as-you-throw program and additional items could be confusing.

But members of the solid waste and recy­cling advisory committee said the recom­mendations are part of its presentation and Luiz said the attorney felt the warning should reflect all possible discussion.

O’Brien and Szegda both voted against the modified wording for the legal notice, which passed with a 3-2 vote, saying the meeting should simply focus on whether the pay-as­-you-throw program should be permanent.

O’Brien also repeatedly called it an “embar­rassment” to find out about the recommended changes 13 days before the meeting, when selectmen had always intended to go to a town meeting.

The six-month trial period for the pay-as-­you-throw program, which charges residents per bag of trash they discard, is over at the end of the month.

Selectmen planned as far back as last April to hold a town meeting to determine the next step.

But First Selectman Carmen Vance said the town does not seek input from the town attor­ney regarding a town meeting until the town is preparing the legal notice.

Selectmen also disagreed on bag prices and, ultimately, voted 2-3 against a request from one of their own to cut the prices in half.

Szegda, who motioned for the change, and O’Brien were the only supporters of the 50 ­percent drop.

The advisory committee recommended a 25 percent reduction in bag prices, bringing the prices down to $1.50 for 30-gallon bags, 75 cents for 14-gallon bags and 40 cents for eight-gallon bags.

The committee said the program would produce slightly less than $85,000 in revenue over the course a full year based on the current rate, and a 25 percent reduction would mean $63,000 in revenue, still enough to cover the program.

They also recommended the town charge $1 per car for sticker permits for the transfer station, with a limit of four permits per home, and all of the money generated from the pro­gram be used to pay for tipping and hauling fees.

The committee credited the program for the town’s recycling rate increasing to 40 percent for the months of September through December, up from 27 percent during the same period in 2009.

When comparing the same two time periods, the committee also said the town’s solid waste production dropped 54 percent.

The drop meant a 49 percent reduction in hauling and tipping fees, a savings of $13,492 over that time.

Szegda said he wanted to drop the prices in half, saying he is worried too many residents are opposed to the program and a larger reduc­tion might be needed to get their approval.

Selectmen and committee members, though, said opponents might oppose a 50 percent drop amid fears that a price increase would immediately follow.

They also said increasing the prices to account for hauling and tipping fee increases in the near future would be difficult if the price is cut now.

Selectmen ultimately agreed not to set a price and said the legal notice should not include specific prices for the bags or permit fees.

Posted 2-17-2011

Columbia refrains from turning off the lights

February 16, 2011 Local News No Comments

light_switch_onConnecticut Light & Power Co. is offering to shut off street lights over­night as a cost-saving measure to towns, but selectmen said they want more information before making a decision.
Selectmen agreed Feb. 2 not to join CL&P’s Optional Midnight Service program, which would allow towns to have the company turn off selected lights overnight.

As part of the program, which started last month, towns would be required to install a programmable photocell on the lights at their own cost.

Streetlights with the photocell would operate from dusk until midnight, instead of remaining on until dawn, CL&P said in a letter to towns across the state.

CL&P also said towns have two options for installing the photocells, including doing it while CL&P is conducting scheduled replace­ments.

Towns installing the photocells during the scheduled “re-lamping” would only need to pay $12.73 per cell, while those opting to install the device at a different time would need to pay $102.31 per cell.

CL&P’s letter does state the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund is offering a rebate that would leave town responsible for half the cost, or $51.16 per unit.

But Columbia is not scheduled for re-lamping until 2014 and Columbia Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz said the town will wait until then to approach CL&P.

Posted 2-16-2011

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