Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force Kicks off Funding Campaign and HeatSmart Program

The City of Middletown, through its Clean Energy Task Force (CETF) and its CHEER Middletown program, has partnered with SustainableCT’s Matching Grant program and People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) to provide important energy-related programming in the City of Middletown.

CHEER is CETF’s program helping local residents address health and safety barriers in their homes in order to facilitate energy efficiency improvements and improve access to lower cost renewable energy. The HeatSmart program helps residents explore ways to improve how they heat and cool their homes by using efficient, electric heat pump systems.  Together, the programs provide information and resources including educational events, home energy assessments, and connections with energy and remediation experts as well as local heat pump installers. Continue reading

City Implements Complete Streets Improvements on Spring Street

Congratulations to Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim and the Public Works Department for supporting and implementing the Complete Streets Committee’s recommendation to reduce cut-through traffic on  Spring Street by making it one-way eastbound between High Street and Rome Avenue.

The Complete Streets Committee pushed to include a westbound bike lane in the one-way section, since Spring Street is included in the Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Connector Route and is important for bicyclists riding from Portland into Middletown. The City decided to include bike lanes in both eastbound and westbound directions, which will reduce illegal parking that narrows the travel lane. In a WTNH News 8 interview, the Mayor supported the development of off-street parking in the area to address the need for resident parking. Continue reading

Trees Planted In Portland

As of today (late June 2021) the Jonah Center has been successful in planting 17 trees in “high public benefit” areas in Portland. 8 trees were planted in the Quarry Heights and Chatham Court neighborhoods of the Portland Housing Authority (see above); 3 trees were planted in the Quarry View Brownstone Park; 3 trees were planted on East Main; 2 trees were planted on Main Street; and 1 was planted on Waverly Avenue.  We thank all the Portland donors to the Jonah Center Tree Fund who made these new trees possible. Pictured above are: Milca Santiago; Bonita Brockers and her son Cartier Brockers; Jesslyn Jordan her daughter Savannah LaFountain and son Travis LaFountain.

Shown above is one of the red maples planted at Quarry View Park.  Pictured are Darlene Rice (co-owner of the park) and John Hall. Photo credit: Dean Soucy, the other co-owner and park developer.

The Quarry View Park assumed 1/2 of the cost by delivering and planting the trees themselves, and Portland Housing Authority paid 3/5 of the cost of the ornamental trees they received. Most of the 17 trees were larger-growing shade trees such as red maple, oak, London plane, and linden.

Below are the 2 red maples and 1 pin oak on East Main Street near Fairview.

 

 

Cinder+Salt Community Service Events

Middletown clothing store Ciinder + Salt at 195 Main Street organizes clean-up events throughout the season.  Below is a list, with links for registration.

cinder + salt River Paddle & Clean-up with Time of Day Band

Saturday, August 14, 2021 | 8:30am-10:30am

Grab your kayak or paddleboard & meet cinder + salt at Harbor Park in Middletown for a river clean-up and paddle with our official tour guide, Dave from Time of Day Band.

Event registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cinder-salt-paddle-river-clean-up-with-time-of-day-band-tickets-141878623783?utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-term=listing&utm-source=cp&aff=escb

Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/Opk1IRda

cinder + salt Beach Clean-Up & Yoga Practice with Starr Mill Yoga

Saturday, September 4, 2021 | 8:30am-11:30am

cinder + salt is partnering with friends at Starr Mill Yoga for a seaside yoga practice and clean-up at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.

Event registration and Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/NIvGKQVB

cinder + salt Trail Clean-Up with The Rockfall Foundation 

Saturday, September 25, 2021 | 9am-11am 

Immerse yourself in beautiful fall foliage for cinder + salt’s final clean-up of the year with The Rockfall Foundation at Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown.

Event registration and Facebook event page: https://fb.me/e/2ehJuH8pd

Paddle With A Purpose — Water Chestnut Removal

Paddlers will continue to go out into the Floating Meadows (the freshwater tidal marshland formed by the Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers) each Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., to remove invasive water chestnut plants.  This invasive species endangers our local waterways by blocking sunlight and oxygen, thereby damaging the habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

Another invasive aquatic plant, hydrilla, has become a major threat to local waterways. Managing hydrilla is trickier because it spreads by fragmentation. How the spread of hydrilla will affect our efforts to control water chestnut has not been determined, but we will keep our paddlers informed.  Hydrilla is now tangled up with water chestnut, so both plants are  removed simultaneously, resulting in a higher volume of plant material to be transported out of the watershed.

The Jonah Center is grateful to our partner, the Connecticut River Conservancy for staffing this work party and covering the event with their insurance policy. All participants will need to sign CRC’s liability waivers and paddle at their own risk.

The starting point is the canoe and kayak launch adjacent to Middletown’s recycling and transfer station. Here is a link to the location. For information on possible last minute cancellation, check back on this post or call 860-398-3771.

 

Earth Week Rant 2021: Last Call

As time runs out for action on a collection of environmental ailments, measures not yet taken must be scaled to the ever-increasing demands of the situation.  But we have to keep our eyes open and not fall prey to convenient but ineffectual “solutions” offered from all sides.

Forewarned may be forearmed, but what are we arming ourselves for?  The impacts multiply, and yet life goes on more or less as usual for most of us, at least for now.  What else can we do?  I have a few suggestions….  Brian Stewart

April 22, 11:50 AM – 1:10 PM at https://wesleyan.zoom.us/j/869541729

 

Upcoming Middletown Events

A downtown Middletown clean-up event is being sponsored by Cinder + Salt and Councilman Ed Ford this Saturday, April 17, 10 a.m. to noon. The meeting place is Cinder + Salt at 195 Main Street, near Thai Gardens. Please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cinder-salt-earth-day-street-clean-up-with-the-city-of-middletown-tickets-141877652879. If you can’t make this event, another is coming up in May.

For Middletown residents, the Recycling Commission is sponsoring its annual Earth Day paper-shredding event on Saturday, April 24 from 9 to 11 at Vets’ Park off Newfield St. Confidential papers only (no junk mail!), and a limit of five boxes or bags per car.

Middletown’s Arbor Day ceremony honoring local legislators and John Hall will take place on April 30 at 2 p.m. in the garden of the Middlesex County Historical Society, 151 Main St. Enter through the gate off Spear Park.

Tree Fund Gift Supports Spring Tree Planting

Middletown’s Public Works Department and Urban Forestry Commission will soon be planting more trees, with support of the Jonah Center’s Tree Fund. In the coming weeks, you will see water bags on the trees planted last fall along Church Street near the Traverse Square apartments (with cost sharing by the Middletown Housing Authority) and along 3 sides of the YMCA. These 22 new trees added to the approximately 130 trees planted by the Urban Forestry program, funded by the city budget.

Recently, the Jonah Center Tree Fund received an unsolicited $500 donation from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County/Sally Ann McGee D’Aquila & Salvatore D’Aquila, Jr. Fund. We hope this timely example will inspire others to support the Jonah Center’s ongoing Replace Our Trees program. Gifts received will continue to supplement plantings by the Urban Forestry Commission in Middletown. In the past decade or so, Middletown has lost over 100 trees per year, and that is just counting the trees on city property.

Even though the city’s tree maintenance budget was dramatically increased last year, those funds are strained by the need to catch up on the large number of tree removals that are required for public safety, often at a cost of over $1000 per tree. The Jonah Center’s Tree Fund is a way that local residents can help stop the rapid disappearance of trees from the urban landscape due to age, climate change, and pests.  Arborist Jane Harris chooses species for new trees that promise to be more resilient and resistant to such threats. Food and habitat for wildlife, the need to avoid too many trees of a single species in a given location, and a species’ ability to withstand urban conditions such as road salt and root confinement are also considered in these decisions.

To assist in the effort, you may donate by check payable to The Jonah Center, PO Box 854, Middletown 06457 or by credit card/PayPal here. Indicate “Tree Fund” in the memo line or using the online donation form.

In Portland, the Jonah Center is still seeking permission and planting sites for new trees after a disappointing season in 2020, when we obtained permission to plant only 3 trees, and those were on private property. We are looking for sites in or near the town center area where trees will improve a streetscape, shade a sidewalk or other pavement to mitigate “heat islands” in summer, and where the property owner or tenant can take responsibility for watering. If you know of such a site, send us a message here.

Volunteers Sought for Air Line Trail Clean-up Day

Air Line Trail eastbound approaching overpass at Middle Haddam Road.

The Portland Air Line Trail Committee will host a trail maintenance day on Saturday, April 24TH (rain date May 1ST) starting at 10:00 a.m. gathering at the trailhead parking lot at 82 Middle Haddam Road. We will be trimming back invasive plants and branches along the trail, picking up litter and sticks, and sweeping the asphalt approaches at the intersections at Breezy Corners Rd and Middle Haddam Rd.

We are planning for a minimum 2-hour event. Please bring your own work gloves, masks and any equipment you have available, i.e. pruners, trimmers, etc. We will maintain social distancing while working (family members may work together). Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

If you can possibly assist, please email your name(s), email address and contact phone number to:  chantal.foster@comcast.net

Elisabeth Holder’s Garden in Spring

Our Alive Outside initiative features articles, stories, and artwork that help us connect with the world outside. Thanks to Jim Fellows for arranging this piece by local gardener and environmental advocate, Elisabeth Holder.

 

When I was in high school, I worked for an Englishman named Mr. Follet who’d retired from running a nursery in my hometown. My main job was helping this 86 year old man keep up with the weeding, but he took some time every day to teach me something. Some of the lessons that I’ve retained for the last 5 decades were to “know the weed” before you pull it, always take good care of your tools, and sharpen them frequently so they cut easily and cleanly.

 

I plant most of my vegetables in raised beds, but grow onions, garlic, and rhubarb in well-mulched areas at ground level. They seem particular about having good juicy soil and lots of mulch, but they don’t need as much care as some of the others.

 

I divided 4 of my mother’s spindly rhubarb plants in 1992, expecting to get about 8-10 new plants. I ended up with 20 and have been dividing and replenishing them ever since. There must be over 100 progeny planted now, from upstate New York to Massachusetts. This shows the refurbishment of the bed around 2014, involving the dividing and replanting of the plants with spindly stalks, adding lots of compost, but leaving the strongest plants alone. Vigilant 60-pound hound dog for scale.

 

Tend your compost piles, treasure your autumn leaves, and hope for a good snow cover to insulate the precious roots. And, most of all, enjoy the company of the creatures all around — the catbird that watches intently to see what I will dig up, the  chipmunk that dashes away with a giant June bug grub in its mouth, and the bluebird that just seems to find me amusing.

 

NRG Raises the White Flag on Power Plant Expansion

A resolution to terminate the tax agreement between the City of Middletown and NRG, owner of the power plant on River Road, will be tabled at the Council meeting on April 5. It appears that NRG is waving the white flag and has requested a one-month delay of Council action in order to terminate the tax agreement by mutual consent with the City. 

Pending such a mutual consent agreement, that will presumably be ratified at the May 3 Council meeting, below are the details of the tax agreement for reader information.

So, public testimony at the April 5 meeting will not be needed, though it will be allowed as the item remains on the agenda. 

Many thanks to all who participated in and supported our campaign.

 

NRG Middletown Power Plant — site of proposed new 375 MW generator

The tax agreement with NRG is unfavorable to Middletown. Until the proposed turbine is built and becomes operational— something that could not possibly happen before 2024, at the earliest—property taxes paid to the city are frozen at the 2019 level of $1.78 million per year. The city is losing over $200,000 per year in taxes while the agreement remains in effect for a project that is not getting built anytime soon.

But it the proposed turbine should ever be built — an increasingly unlikely outcome, due to market conditions — the tax agreement represents an unconscionable giveaway to NRG. Why would Middletown give a tax break to a company that is going to pollute our air more and stand in the way of meeting the state’s climate goals?

What would the actual tax revenue from the project be?

Under the terms of the agreement, taxes paid to the city would depend on the “forward capacity market price” for each year. You don’t need to understand what that means. Simply stated, the taxes paid to the city each year would vary between $2.36 million to $3.41 million per year, but would most likely be at the lower end of that range. Over a 25-year period, the total paid to the city would be somewhere between a minimum of $59 million and a maximum of $85.25 million. Assuming the forward capacity market rises over the next five years and NRG or its successor built the plant, we estimate total tax revenue over 25 years of no more than $65 million — and that’s being optimistic and contrary to current trends and predicted future trends in the capacity market.

But with no tax agreement, the taxes paid would depend on different factors — namely, the rate of depreciation assigned by the assessor’s office and the tax mill rate for each year. Assume for our purpose here a constant mill rate of .0358 for 25 years. The depreciation could be 75% of initial value over 25 years, or it could be an accelerated depreciation of 75% of initial value over 17 years. So, without this tax agreement, the total taxes received by the city over 25 years would be between $82.5 million and $123 million.

Summary — Financial impact of the Tax Agreement.

Prior to turbine operation: $200,000 tax loss per year

After turbine operation: $700,000 – $2.3 million tax loss per year (depending on depreciated rate applied by the assessor’s office.)

 Let the Common Council know you support termination of the tax agreement with NRG

Email all Common Council members here council@middletownct.gov

For more details on the tax agreement and the calculations cited above, read more below: Continue reading

Update on Proposed New Boathouse

Plans for a new boathouse on Middletown’s riverfront are progressing. DiBattisto Associates LLC and Christina Wasch, Associate AIA, recently presented renderings (shown above) of a proposed new Middletown High School boathouse at the March meeting of the city’s Economic Development Commission. (Right click on the image to open and enlarge it in a new tab.)

The Boathouse Building Committee has recommended the least expensive option of the three it originally considered. This proposal retains the Wesleyan boathouse (left) and the current Middletown High School  boathouse (center) which would be refurbished for the community rowing program. The additional proposed building (right) would serve the MHS rowing program that has been so successful in recent years.

The next step is for the professional design team to present a quote to develop the plans more fully — to approximately 40% of what would be needed for construction.

Shown below is an aerial rendering of the proposed new building’s footprint (in white) next to the existing boathouses. To the far right is the restaurant located in Harbor Park. To the far left is the area know as Columbus Point, bordered by Sumner Brook.