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OPINION




Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or partners of Litchfield.bz. Letters to the editor must be 300 words or less. We reserve the right to edit and shorten the text. Please avoid CAPS, BOLD and underline for emphasis. We encourage letters providing positive solutions for current issues. Letters should be brief and refer to current or recent local events. Please include your full name, a street address and a daytime telephone number for verification; only the name and town will appear. Letters should be e-mailed to editor@Litchfield.bz 

 
 
 To the Editor:
 
A public walk-through of the little old Bantam School is an excellent idea, especially considering what happened to the highly touted plans to convert the jailhouse and the courthouse to Litchfield town offices after the public walked through those little old buildings . . .
 
Yours faithfully,
Paul Mordecai Rosenberg
 
 
To the Editor:
 
For over thirty-five years I’ve been involved in civic affairs. For ten years I was Democratic chair in Norfolk. Not once have I ever seen a municipal policy issue that could be divided along party lines. Not once. For instance, last year there were many views concerning a new town hall in Litchfield but none of these issues broke along party lines. They never do.   
 
When party politics come to light in municipal matters, it’s invariably because some politician thinks that he or she knows better than anyone else and attempts to control town matters by using party levers. That’s what is now happening in Litchfield.
 
On April 8,, the Board of Finance voted 4-2 to give the Board of Education no increase from its last annual budget. The Republican BOF chair and three of his party members had marched into the meeting having already talked and decided on giving no increase.  During the year, two other members of the Board, Eric Marriot and myself, had attended more meetings of the BOE and its various sub-committees than all of the other members combined.   But the Caucus of Four decided to make our efforts on behalf of the BOF a complete waste of time. Our thoughts and advice were not to be considered.  No need to. The Caucus of Four had already made their decision.
 
Nor did the Chair consider any information from the four Republican members of the BOE who attended the meeting. The Chair did not ask the BOE members even one question as to how a zero increase would impact our students. No need to. The Caucus of Four had already made their decision.
 
Only one week before, the BOF Chair had publicly advised the BOE that an increase of 2-2.5% would be appropriate. Why the sudden reversal? Maybe to punish the BOE because it couldn’t reach an agreement with the Board of Selectmen on town health care. Who knows? For whatever reason, the decision had been made without any public discussion.
 
When asked, none of the Caucus of Four had any idea whether or how many teachers would be losing their jobs.   Did they even care whether they would be punishing the kids because of a riff between the BOS and BOE? I don’t know. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they never even gave it any thought.      
The Caucus of Four are all Republicans, but this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. The BOF Chair’s I-Know-Best attitude affects Republicans even more than it affects Democrats. Republicans on the BOE were ignored more than Eric and I. 
 
Further, the BOF Chair is also Chair of the Republican Party. (Always a terrible idea.) If you think it is arrogant how he treats his fellow town officials, consider how he treats his own party members. Last week he attempted to have the Republican Town Committee pass a resolution restricting town Republicans from fully participating at their party caucuses. He wanted nominations for Republican candidates to be restricted to those nominated by his town committee. No nominations from the floor of the caucus by regular party members.  
 
The entire community is injured when any party official, Democrat or Republican, tries to restrict our citizens from fully participating in town matters via their chosen party. Unbelievable.
 
Last week was not the first time the Caucus of Four have decided beforehand what the BOF would decide. I do hope, however, it is the last time. Our BOF members are too smart and have too much good will for the town to continue this practice, no matter who tries to bully them to do otherwise. Hopefully, they will put an end to it.
 
When one or a couple of people think they know what’s best for everyone else and try to exclude the participation of others, really bad decisions start to be made. Our boards and committees make their best decisions after matters are fully and publicly discussed with open minds by everyone at the table. Our town, Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated, deserves nothing less.
 
James Stedronsky
Board of Finance member
 
 
 
To the Editor:
 
The letter submitted by Kevin DeRoehn expresses the concerns of many Morris residents.  Perhaps Kevin will be pleasantly surprised and receive answers from those who previously pledged a fresh start and transparency. 
 
Bob and Gail Kluge
Morris
  
 
 
To the Editor:

Several taxpayers have asked me, as a candidate for Litchfield's Board of Education, whether it is best to regionalize school districts or, instead, have them work under a collaborative agreement. 
 
Recently, our legislature has been considering several bills which require regionalization.  Now there is a bill that supports collaboration. With the announcement of the resignation of Litchfield's superintendent, Sherri Turner, it is very important that taxpayers understand the difference between the two.

REGIONALIZATION
Regionalization is the merger of two or more school districts into one.   Regionalization must be voted upon and passed by each town in the region.  If one town votes "no", it does not pass.   A new regional district is an independent government authority that has the power to raise money and conduct its affairs without any oversight by a board of finance. The regional school board submits its budget directly to the voters of the district.   This allows small interest groups to heavily affect the budget.

COLLABORATION
A collaborative agreement entails two or more school boards contracting to jointly hire one administration to run the financial and educational affairs of both districts.   Such an agreement does not the need the approval of the voters.  The independent boards remain subject to oversight by existing boards of finance.  The boards can amend the agreement at any time.

An example of such collaboration might be the Litchfield School District and Region 6 hiring one, joint, administrative office to operate one middle school and one high school, but operate the grade schools under the direction of the separate boards.

Here is a summary why a collaborative agreement makes much more sense than regionalization.

  1.  The boards of education can enter a collaborative contract without requiring a town vote and can modify the contract as time and circumstances dictate.

  2.  Under a collaborative agreement, a joint administration can become familiar with each district before unifying the middle and high schools, instead of diving headlong into an arrangement which can't be changed.

  3.  A collaborative agreement can permit each school district to pursue the local needs of its respective primary schools.

  4.  The budget process will include oversight by a town's Board of Finance.

It is in the best interests of the Litchfield School District and Region 6 to pursue immediately a collaborative agreement which could be operating by the summer of 2020 at latest.  At this point the discussion should be public, not behind closed doors, and with the BOE acting as a committee of the whole.

Jim Stedronsky

(Editor’s note: Jim Stedronsky is a member of the Litchfield Board of Finance and has announced his intention to run for a seat on the Board of Education in November.)
 
 
 
To the Editor:
 
It seems that there is never a shortage of questions in the small town of Morris. I post these questions here, as I would not expect any answers from any of our elected officials.
 
1: Now that both First Selectman Tom Weik and Selectman Erica Dorsett-Matthews are both full members of the Morris Fire Company {per the MFC March minutes}, can we, the taxpayers, expect them to abstain or recuse themselves from any voting on MFC issues that are connected to town funding or policies? 
 
I believe this will not be the case and that this will only feed into what appears to be a tainted, self-serving, egotistical administration’s attempt to control more of what goes on in the town. 2019 is after all an election year.
 
2: After listening to MFC Charter member Richard Skilton eagerly urge all Morris residents to help the town and join the MFC, I find it rather discouraging that at the MFC March meeting the membership voted to not accept a certified interior firefighter {per MFC March minutes} who is capable of driving and operating each and every piece of equipment in the MFC firehouse. Has the need for qualified firefighters been filled in Morris, or is the need become something more?
 
Having served on the MVFD for 10 years, I have nothing but respect for the volunteers who put it on the line each and every time the tone goes off. I do not, however, have any respect for the handful of people who continually create situations for their own gain at other’s expense. It is too bad that an organization such as the MFC will ultimately pay for the actions of these few.
 
In the end, everyone in Morris will be left with the bill and still have no answers.
 
Kevin Deroehn
Morris
 
Editor’s note: Kevin Deroehn ran unsuccessfully for first selectman in 2017 and is a former president of the defunct Morris Volunteer Fire Department.
 
 
 
To the Editor:
 
I believe I am the third member of the Board of Finance, after Jim Stedronsky and Sky Post, recently to write to you about school issues. Although none of us necessarily reflects the views of our colleagues on the Board, my views on school regionalization largely do mirror those of Mr. Stedronsky as expressed in his letter. However, I would like to reinforce a few points.
 
School collaboration, consolidation, regionalization or whatever you call it, is not just the only means available to us to sustain our schools economically over the long term, given our ever declining population and the economic conditions of our region and of the state in general.
 
If I believed that continuing with our present school structure (heading toward 50 students in the senior class of the high school) was providing a substantially better education for these students than “regionalization”, I would be inclined to support the status quo as long as possible. However, there is simply no way to get a really good education with tiny classes of students with varying abilities.
 
Right now the high school has very few AP classes with more than 8 or 10 students and very few classes at all with more than 20 students. Critical masses of good students in a class are largely unobtainable and course offerings are necessarily limited. Creating a larger student body by joining with WAMOGO or some other district would certainly help address these and other quality of education issues as well as save money with one administration with fewer personnel and probably fewer teachers.
 
Yes there would be some disadvantages including loss of the “local control” and some longer rides to/from school. (Note, however, that with all the Federal and State mandates, local control has been substantially eroded anyway.) Another disadvantage alluded to above-which is the flipside of greater efficiency-is the loss of some jobs for the school administration and the teachers.
 
One can hardly expect these groups to promote regionalization any more than a company employee would promote a merger of his employer with another company. However, this is where the Board of Education must assert itself. While of course the BOE should be supportive of the administration and the teachers, it has greater responsibilities to do what’s best for the students and to the taxpayers to avoid ever higher property taxes especially given the declining or stagnant property values in the Litchfield area. 
 
As Mr. Stedronsky points out, the present majority of the Board of Education has shown no enthusiasm for any movement toward regionalization. It appears to want to continue with the present structure until the bitter end. And, if we don’t start to control developments now, there will be a bitter end.
 
Either the taxpayers will rebel or the state will require regionalization on its terms, as Mr. Stedronsky stated. Therefore, this November changes in the composition of the BOE are critical to making real progress toward better and more fiscally responsible schools.
 
Richard Quay
 
Editor’s note: Richard Quay is a member of the Litchfield Board of Finance, but his views do not necessarily reflect those of the other members of the board.
 
 
To the Editor: 

The issues that are relevant to our schools should be of interest to all in this town. Refer to the opinion piece “A Tale of Two Districts.”  Change is likely to come on us from many fronts, including the state of Connecticut.

We should make every effort to become informed on this subject including the time horizon.  It is a work in process and is pretty messy with input from many sources.  As a member of the Board of Finance I will make a strong effort to become informed. 

Sky Post
 
 
To the Editor:
 
A Tale of Two Districts……
 
Last Tuesday evening I heard the budget report which Region 6 Superintendent, Chris Leone, gave to Morris.  He informed the Morris taxpayers that there was an operating surplus of over $350,000 from last year, and, for the second year in a row, the operating budget for 2019-2020 will have zero increase on the total assessment to the three towns in the district. 
 
The next night I attended the budget meeting of Litchfield’s Board of Education.   The Litchfield BOE approved a budget with an approximate 5-percent increase.   That’s’ approximately an increase of $1 million. 
 
Leaving, the Litchfield BOE budget meeting, I decided to announce my candidacy for Litchfield’s Board of Education in this fall’s elections. I’ve been thinking about this for several months.
 
Over the past year I have attended, on behalf of the Board of Finance, many of the BOE’s regular meetings along with meetings of its finance, curriculum and school collaboration sub-committees.   Great progress was being made on collaborating with Wamogo.   At the board level negotiations with Wamogo were expertly handled by John Morosani.  At the administrative level, the Litchfield business manager, David Fiorillo was regularly working with his counterpart at Wamogo.  And at the educational level, Superintendent Turner and her staff made real progress coordinating with Wamogo on educational and extra-curricular matters. 
 
Unfortunately, this progress has been slowed down because the Board’s newly appointed Long Range Planning Committee has not yet been charged to continue its work with Wamogo.  Hopefully this will be done at the BOE’s next meeting. Two Board liaisons, David Pavlick and Frank Simone, are attending Region 6 Board meetings to facilitate collaborations between the boards, but, as I’ve been told, not to discuss the merging of schools. Also, as many of you have read, the state is starting a serious campaign to merge school districts. If we don’t start taking action now on our terms, the state will force us to do so on their terms. 
 
Now it is fully time that both districts, Litchfield and Region 6, hire one administrative and business office with one superintendent to run both districts.  First, it is a waste to have two such sets of offices for our small, similar districts.  Second, a joint office can immediately start the important work of merging our middle and high schools.  It should not take more than one year for a joint administrative office to work out the details for such a merger.  This joint office should be open June 1, 2020 at the latest.   We should merge our middle and high schools no later than the fall of 2021.
 
If elected, it will be all but certain that there will a majority of BOE members focused on merging our upper schools.   The job will finally get done:  one great middle and high school offering our students opportunities they now do not have. 
 
As always, please inform me of your thoughts on this important local matter. 
 
James Stedronsky
 
(Editor’s note: James Stedronsky serves on Litchfield’s Board of Finance, but his views on school regionalization do not necessarily reflect those of his colleagues on the board.)
 
 
To the Editor:
Commercial truck parking, ongoing for free at Bantam Annex since last summer, “is a consistent practice” that was allowed at Litchfield Firehouse previously, according to Litchfield selectman Jeff Zullo. First Selectman Leo Paul concurred: “The agreement is the same we have done for years,” i.e. a commercial company featuring heavy trucks is allowed free parking on town-owned property simply because they’re doing work in the area (2/5/19 BOS minutes).
In fact, Bantam Planning & Zoning (P&Z) officials did not receive an application for a required special exception use permit from the trucks’ owners, Eversource contractor LewisTree Service. Instead, Mr. Paul and Public Works Director Raz Alexe were “contacted about the safety and legitimacy of Lewis Tree parking there … There is a non-written agreement with Eversource and Lewis Tree [and] no monetary benefit” (minutes). Why not? Why did town officials approve free commercial parking against our own land use regulations? The BOS needs to provide better answers than *it’s been done that way in the past,* which only serves to shed light on officials’ ongoing financial irresponsibility.
Below is financial information re: Lewis Tree and Eversource:
Lewis is the second largest tree service company in North America. Top executives at such companies earn about $1.5 million per year (Bloomberg Research).
The Eversource CEO earns $9 million annually. Several other executives at Eversource earn well over $2 million per year (salary.com).
The Eversource standard offer rate is increasing almost 19 percent from 8.53 cents to 10.14 cents per kilowatt hour” (WTIC 2019).
Connecticut residents pay the highest electricity rates among all 48 continental states” (U.S. Energy Information Administration)  
Clearly, Eversource charges consumers ever-increasing rates, the highest in the nation, not only to cover the cost of operations but also enough to pay executives million$ per year. Yet Paul, Alexe and BOS allow an Eversource contractor free parking at a time when Litchfield is $26M in debt and scheduled to pay millions more this year to repair the Annex, current town hall and other neglected town buildings. Instead of requiring Lewis Tree to adhere to town regulations and pay the town, officials had taxpayers fully fund repair of Annex potholes, worsened and hastened by Lewis’ heavy trucks. The BOS’ generosity to millionaire executives while sending taxpayers the bill is stunning and needs to be reversed.
Instead of focusing on developing new revenue sources, officials continue to charge the Town Hall Review Committee with making recommendations for a new town hall or renovations/ additions that will only increase the tax burden on residents. The town needs to review the cost of repairing and maintaining all our buildings and decide on consolidation vs. selling vs. demolition, while working to enhance revenue. Such efforts are needed immediately at a time when residents are exiting Litchfield and leaving behind a graying population, half-empty buildings requiring millions of dollars to repair, and lax leadership that refuses to charge millionaire executives for commercial use of town-owned property.
Sincerely,
Betsy Glassman