February 28, 2015

Residents Ask For Compromise on Chester Ferry Fare Hike

ferry 2CHESTER— Residents called for compromise Wednesday at an informational meeting on a proposal to double fares for the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, urging state Department of Transportation officials to consider a smaller increase in the fare for crossing the Connecticut River on the historic ferry. About 40 residents, most of them from Chester and Lyme, turned out for the session at the Chester Meeting House.

Two years after a move to close the state’s two seasonal river ferries drew widespread public opposition, DOT has proposed a doubling of the fares for the Chester-Hadlyme and Glastonbury-Rocky Hill ferries from $3 to $6 for vehicles and $1 to $2 for walk-on passengers. Monthly coupon books for frequent users would also double from $40 to $80. Informational meetings on the proposal were held this week in Chester and Rocky Hill.

DOT Commissioner James Redeker told the crowd that while ridership on the two ferries has remained steady since 2011, the operating deficit for the service has increased to about $650,000 per year, and would remain around $500,000 per year even with a doubling of the fares. Redeker said the state has spent $499,000 over the past two years to install new engines in three of the ferry boats. He said fares for the ferries have not increased since August 2003.

But the commissioner also stressed that a final decision to double the fares has not yet been made. “This was really just a stalking horse proposal that was put out to get some feedback,” Redeker said, adding that the department understands the value of the historic seasonal ferries for tourism in Connecticut. “We’re not insisting the ferries should make money,” he said.

At Redeker’s urging, several residents offered suggestions for a smaller increase. Curt Michael, president of the Hadlyme Public Hall Association, suggested starting with a fare of $4 or $4.50 for vehicles, and $2 for walk-on passengers. The Hadlyme Public Hall Association had circulated petitions against the fare increase that garnered more than 900 signatures.

Elected officials also objected to the amount of the increase, while also acknowledging that a smaller fare hike may be needed to sustain the service. Chester First Selectman Edmund Meehan and Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno each said the boards of selectmen in the two towns has approved resolutions opposing the fare increase. Meehan also presented a statement from the 17-town Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments opposing the increase and calling for completion of a “cost benefit analysis” before any fare hikes are implemented.

Meehan said a doubling of the fare to $6 per vehicle “would be counterproductive,” and could lead to a decrease in ridership that would jeopardize the future of the ferries. Eno agreed, declaring “we want to build ridership, not chase them away.”

With the two informational hearings completed, DOT officials are expected to review options and public input before announcing a final decision later this year on any fare hikes for the two river ferries.

Local Men, Former Essex Resident State Trooper Involved in Monday’s Crash and Shootout

AREAWIDE— A Deep River man and a former Essex resident state trooper have been identified as participants in Monday’s police chase, crash, and shooting on Route 153 in Westbrook. The crash and shootout, which occurred Monday around 3:15 prm., followed an armed robbery of a resident at the Day Inn motel on Route One in Old Saybrook.

State police have identified the suspect who was shot and killed in the incident as Jonathan Alvarado, 24, whose last known addresss was in Deep River. Alvarado and another man were fleeing the scene of the Old Saybrook robbery, with police in pursuit, when the suspect’s vehicle crashed into a cruiser operated by Detective Scott Wisner. The crash occurred on Route 153 in Westbrook, near the intersection with Doc’s Hill Road.

In an exchange of gunfire that followed the crash, Wisner suffered a shoulder wound, while Alvarado received fatal gunshot wounds. Also firing his weapon during the exchange was Sgt. Keith Graham, a shift supervisor at the nearby Troop F barracks in Westbrook. The second suspect was injured in the crash and exchange of gunfire, and was transported by LifeStar helicopter from the Shoreline Clinic in Essex to Hartford Hospital.

Wisner, an area resident, was treated at the hospital and is now recovering at home. A 21-year veteran officer, Wisner served as resident state trooper in Essex for several years from the late 1990s until he was promoted to detective. Graham is a 14-year state police officer.

The second suspect had not yet been identified by state police as of Thursday, but he is believed to be an area resident. He remains under police guard at Hartford Hospital, but is expected to survive to face multiple criminal charges stemming from the incident.

33rd District Republican State Senator Art Linares Jr. Assigned to Four Legislative Committees

Art Linares, candidate for State Senate in the 33rd district

State Senator Elect Art Linares

AREAWIDE— Republican State Senator Art Linares Jr. has been assigned to the Legislature’s Banking, Commerce, and Education committees, along with the Select Committee on Children, as he prepares to take office representing the 33rd Senate District when the 2013 legislative session opens Wednesday.

Linares, a 24-year old Westbrook resident, was elected in November to the 33rd District seat held for two decades by former Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. Linares defeated Democrat Jim Crawford and Green Party nominee Melissa Schlag to become the first Republican elected in the district since former State Senator Ed Munster of Haddam held the seat from 1990-1992. The district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook and portions of Old Saybrook.

In the committee assignments announced by Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, Linares was named as ranking Republican member for the Banking Committee and the Select Committee on Children, while receiving a spot on the Commerce and Education committees.

Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily Announces Retirement

Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook

AREAWIDE–  Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook announced Tuesday that she will not seek a new term in the Nov. 6 election, throwing open the race in the 12-town district Daily has represented for ten terms.

Daily’s decision to retire, which comes after she had formed a 2012 candidate committee earlier this year, was confirmed only one week before the Democrats district nominating convention on Monday in Essex. A former first selectwoman of Westbrook, Daily has represented the large district since 1992, defeating a series of Republican challengers by wide margins in each legislative election.

The district currently includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook. During portions of Daily’s tenure, Durham, Killingworth and Marlborough were also in the district.

Lon Seidman, an Essex resident who serves as a Democratic State Central Committee representative for the 33rd  District, said more than one prospective candidate is likely at the nominating convention where he is expected to serve as convention chairman. “We want to make sure it’s a fair and open process,” he said. Seidman, who serves on the Essex Board of Education, said he would not be a candidate for the senate seat.

One likely candidate is 36th District State Representative Phil Miller of Essex. A former first selectman of Essex, Miller won the seat representing Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam, in a February 2011 special election. A longer serving legislator in the district is State Representative Linda Orange of Colchester, who has represented Colchester and abutting towns, including East Haddam, since 1997.

District Republicans have set up a likely Aug. 14 primary contest for the party nomination after Neil Nichols of Essex, the unsuccessful GOP challenger to Daily in 2010, edged 23-year-old newcomer Art Linares of Westbrook on a 24-22 delegate vote at the party nominating convention Monday.  Nichols Tuesday wished Daily well, recalling that he and Daily had each run positive campaigns in their 2010 contest that Daily won by 3,818 votes. “I respected her enough that I concentrated on the issues,” Nichols said.

There will also be a Green Party candidate on the Nov. 6 ballot. Melissa Schlag of Haddam, an opponent of the controversial but now cancelled Connecticut River land swap that Daily supported last year. Schlag has the Green Party ballot line and is currently collecting petition signatures in an effort to qualify for public financing for her third party campaign.

See related Press Release:  Sen. Daily to Retire from Legislature upon Completion of Current Term


State Police Arrest Two Westbrook Men in December Killing of Alpacas at Ivoryton Farm

ESSEX— State police have arrested two Westbrook men in the December stabbing and killing of four alpacas at the Applesauce Acres Farm on Bushy Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Police said Kyle Rossetti, 21, of 114 Meetinghouse Road, and Shawn Malcarne, 23, of 216 East Pond Meadow Road, turned themselves in late Tuesday at the Troop F barracks in Westbrook after learning police held warrants for their arrest. Police had been investigating since the alpacas were discovered dead in a pasture area of the 99 Bushy Hill Road farm on the morning of December 23.

Rossetti was arrested and charged with third degree burglary, conspiracy to commit third degree burglary, fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit fifth degree larceny, animal cruelty, first degree criminal trespass, and first degree criminal mischief. Malcarne was arrested and charged with third degree burglary, conspiracy to commit third degree burglary, fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit fifth degree larceny, conspiracy to commit animal cruelty, and conspiracy to commit first degree criminal mischief.

Both men were held overnight at the Westbrook barracks, Rossetti on a $75,000 bond and Malcarne on a $50,000 bond. After they were presented at Middlesex Superior Court Wednesday, Judge Lisa Morgan released Malcarne on a written promise to appear at a May 18 court date. Rossetti was ordered held on a $75,000 bond for a May 8 appearance at Middlesex Superior Court.

Police said the incident remains under investigation by Essex Resident State Trooper Kerry Taylor, and Detective Scott Wisner and Sgt. Joseph Quilty of the Central District Major Crimes Unit, “with the possibility of more arrests.”

The Ivoryton farm is owned by George MacLaughlin and his daughter, Sara. The MacLaughlins, who at times have had more than a dozen alpacas at the farm, had offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for killing the animals.

Singer-Songwriter Freedy Johnston to Present Jan 14 Show at Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center

Singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston will perform on Saturday Jan. 14 at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center

OLD SAYBROOK— Singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston will perform on Saturday Jan. 14 at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The solo acoustic show begins at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $20.

A Kansas native, the 50-year-old Johnston alternates between an apartment in New York City and Madison Wisconsin, where his girlfriend owns a bar. Johnston described the Midwest-Big Apple split as “the best of both worlds.” Johnston attended the University of Kansas, participating on the local music scene, before moving to New York City in 1985.

By 1990, he had recorded and released his first CD,”Trouble Tree” on the New Jersey-based Bar None label. A second CD, “Can You Fly” in 1992, generated a strong positive response in Rolling Stone magazine and other music publications. This led to a major label deal with Elektra Records, and the release of “This Perfect World,” in 1994.”This Perfect World included one of Johnston’s most popular songs, the single “Bad Reputation” which reached Number 54 on the Billboard top-100 chart.

Three CDs followed on Elektra, “Never Home” in 1997, “Blue Days Black Nights” in 1999, and “Right Between The Promises” in 2001. His most recent CD is “Rain In The City,” released in January 2010 on the Bar None label.

In an interview via email, Johnston said he expects to play songs from all of his CDs at the Old Saybrook show, including a personal favorite, “The Farthest Lights” from the “Blue Days Black Nights” CD. Johnston said he will also be doing some cover songs, including numbers by two songwriters who have done shows at the Kate, Jimmy Webb and Marshall Crenshaw. The writer of many of Glen Campbell’s hits, Webb played a solo show at the Kate in October 2010.

Johnston said the January solo tour is a short one, including dates in Madison, Wisc., Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Johnston said he will have a new CD in 2012 titled “Neon Repairman”. He is also working on a side project, a band called the Hobart Brothers with guitarist Jon Dee Graham and Susan Cowsill, a member of the early-1970s family band.

Essex Planning Commission Considers Resubdivision Plan for Toby Hill Road

ESSEX—The planning commission has begun its review of a proposed three-lot resubdivision of a 12-acre parcel off Toby Hill Road in the Ivoryton section.

Last winter, before a formal application was submitted for the proposed development, the potential need for improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road led the board of selectmen to consider the possible abandonment of the section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton.

Toby Hill Road is an old town roadway that extends from Pond Meadow Road north to cross the town line and intersect with McVeagh Road in Westbrook. While there has been residential development and road improvements on the Westbrook side, much of the road in Ivoryton is an unimproved gravel or dirt road.

The applicant, Paul Vumbaco of Meriden, owns a total of 34.7 acres on both sides of the Essex-Westbrook town line. Vumbaco has already received approval for a seven-lot subdivision of the 22 acres in Westbrook. He is now seeking approval for a three-lot resubdivision of the 12.38-acre parcel in Essex.

The lots in Westbrook are located on Joseph Circle, a new road extending off Toby Hill Road. The three lots in Essex would be located on an extension of Joseph Circle that would end in a cul-de-sac while also connecting to Toby Hill Road on the Essex side.

The section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton currently serves three homes, one in Essex and two located over the town line in Westbrook. The proposed development would also include a dedication of 6.38 acres as open space land. The resubdivision application also seeks a waiver of town regulations to allow one interior lot that would lack road frontage and be accessed from a driveway.

The planning commission opened a public hearing on the proposed three-lot resubdivision on Oct. 13. The commission discussed the need for improvements to the Essex section of Toby Hill Road and the intersection to Pond Meadow Road with representatives of Vumbaco, including an attorney and local engineer Robert Doane. According to minutes from the public hearing, Doane said the width of Toby Hill Road would be increased to 22-feet, and sight lines would be improved on the right side of the intersection to make a right turn.

The commission scheduled a Nov. 5 site walk of the property, with the public hearing continued to the Nov. 10 meeting. As the Westbrook subdivision was under review in that town last winter, the commission had urged the board of selectmen to abandon the 300-foot section of Toby Hill Road in Ivoryton to avoid the possible need for town-funded improvements to the intersection of Toby Hill Road and Pond Meadow Road. Town Planner John Guszkowski had described the intersection as difficult, with “a steep approach from Toby Hill Road, poor sight lines and unfavorable topography.”

After discussion at a meeting last March, the board of selectmen took no action on the planning commission recommendation to abandon the section of Toby Hill Road.


No Decision on Chester Interim First Selectman Appointment

CHESTER— The town’s two remaining selectmen, Democrat Lawrence Sypher and Republican Tom Englert, met privately for 30 minutes Tuesday on the vacant first selectman position, but made no decision on an interim appointment to serve the remainder of former First Selectman Tom Marsh’s term ending in November.

Marsh, a Republican-turned-independent first elected in 2005, resigned effective Monday to assume the job of town manager in Windsor, Vt. Under state law, Englert and Sypher now have 30 days, until on Aug. 31, to appoint an interim first selectman who would serve the remainder of Marsh’s two-year term ending on Nov. 22.

Despite objections from news reporters at the meeting, Englert and Sypher entered a closed executive session to discuss the interim appointment. Sypher maintained a closed session was appropriate because there are “variables” related to the appointment that could affect other town employees. None of the others four residents at the meeting, Democratic first selectman nominee Edmund Meehan, former Democratic First Selectman Martin Heft, Republican town chairman Mario Gioco, and Republican Region 4 Board of Education member Richard Strauss, participated in the closed session discussion.

After about 30 minutes, Sypher announced there would be no interim appointment Tuesday, with the issue to be discussed further at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 16. Sypher said he and Englert would be “working as a team,” to fill the role of interim first selectman over the next two weeks. Sypher said he and Englert would review the town’s emergency response plan, just in case there is a severe weather event over the next two weeks that led to a prolonged power outage or road closure in Chester.

If the two selectmen do not act on an interim appointment by the end of the month, the appointment goes to a committee of elected Republican officeholders that would be comprised of Englert and Marsh’s wife, Kathy, the town’s Republican registrar of voters ,who is remaining in Chester in to the fall months. Marsh was elected to his third term as a republican in 2009.

Meehan has said he could not accept the interim appointment because of commitments to his job as town planner in Newington, a position he has held for more than 20 years. Meehan is facing a challenge for the first selectman position in the Nov. 8 town election from Andrew Landsman, running on the Chester Common Ground Party ticket.

Essex Community Fund Distibutes $42,000 to 37 Local Charities and Organizations

Darwyn Azzinaro, President of the fund board of directors, introduces award recipients

ESSEX— The Essex Community Fund Wednesday distributed $42,000 in donations to 37 local and area charities and non-profit organizations. Funds for the donations were contributed by local residents last year.

For the first time, Essex Community Fund held a public ceremony announcing the donations, awarding checks to representatives of the organizations in the event held at the community room of the Essex Meadows retirement community.

Darwyn Azzinaro, president of the fund board of directors, said the ten-member board of directors reviewed applications for funding and decided how much to contribute to each charity or organization. Though the specific amount of each donation was not announced, Azzinaro said “we try our best to give each of them as much as we can.”

Charities and organizations receiving donations include American Red Cross, Bushy Hill Nature Center, the Chester-based Camp Hazen-YMCA, CDE Cooperative Nursery School, the areawide Child and Family Agency, Community Music School, Connecticut Audubon Society, Connecticut River Museum, and the Early Childhood Council of Essex, Deep River and Chester.

Also  Essex Ambulance Association Inc. Essex Art Association, Essex Boy Scouts Troop 12-Cub Scouts Troop 4, Essex Elementary School Camperships, Essex Elementary School Foundation, Essex Fire Engine Company No. 1, Essex Fuel Assistance program, Essex Historical Society Inc. Essex Housing Authority, Essex Land Trust, Essex Library Association, Essex Police Union Fund, Essex Tree Committee, Essex Veterans Memorial Hall Inc., FISH (Friends In Service Here), Estuary Council of Seniors Inc., and Gilead Community Services.

Also Ivoryton Library Association, Ivoryton Playhouse, Literacy Volunteers, New Horizons Domestic Violence Community Health Center Service, Region 4 Education Foundation Inc. Rushford Foundation, Shoreline Soup Kitchens, Tri-Town Youth Services, Valley Shore YMCA, Visiting Nurses of the Lower Valley, and the Valley Regional High School Safe Graduation Committee.

Board members include Azzinaro, vice president Jacqueline Doane, secretary Stacia Libby, treasurer Jean Schneider, past president Rick Stebbins, Mark Bombaci, Betsy Martinez, Chris Rodriguez, Anthony Chirico, and Cara Palagonia.

The Essex Community Fund, Inc. is organized for the purpose of soliciting and collecting monies through the their annual drive for contributions. The monies collected are used for the benefit of organizations, both local and national, as may be decided upon from time to time by the Board of Governors. Their mission is to assist organizations that are providing services to the villages of Essex, Centerbrook and Ivoryton.

For more details of their activities visit www.essexcommunityfund.com.

Westbrook Health Director Named as Interim Health Director for Essex

First Selectman Phil Miller has appointed Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, a physician who serves as health director in Westbrook, as interim health director for Essex as the town advertises the part-time position with a statewide network.

Miller announced the move at Wednesday’s meeting of the board of selectmen, ending an arrangement with the Connecticut River Area Health District that began in October when he appointed Mary Jane Engle, executive director of the three-town district, as acting health director for Essex on a contractual month-to-month basis. Miller said beginning this week Bernstein would perform duties in Essex on an “as needed” basis, with office hours at town hall on Fridays. Miller also announced the town has advertised a part-time health director position, with an annual stipend of $20,000, with the Connecticut Public Health Network.

After Engle began working in Essex last fall, the board of selectmen reviewed a series of options for providing health related services in town, and were poised to hold another public hearing on the option of joining the Connecticut River Area Health District. The district, formed in 2006, is comprised of the towns of Clinton, Deep River, and Old Saybrook, with offices in Old Saybrook.

But the selectmen cancelled the public hearing last month after the directors of the regional health district requested a meeting to discuss alleged problems with the town’s public health files, including soils tests and permit applications for residential septic systems approved in 2009 and last year.

Miller has maintained concerns about the files, including whether septic permits were approved by a certified sanitarian or a registered sanitarian, were overstated by the directors of the regional health district, a five-member board that includes the first selectmen of Clinton Deep River, and Old Saybrook. Essex selectmen did not meet with directors of the health district, and on Dec. 15 cancelled the public hearing on the district that had been set for Jan. 11.
During public comment at Wednesday’s meeting, Wendy Arnold, a town resident who works for the regional health district, questioned Miller on staffing in the local health office. Arnold contended the office is frequently unstaffed, and also asked about the status of Cheryl Haase, a clerk in the office who was placed on paid administrative leave by Miller on Dec. 10.

Miller said he is “not prepared to answer at this point” about Haase’s status, or how long she would remain on administrative leave. Miller said the health office is currently staffed by Darcy Roper, another town employee who had been working part-time in the building office. “We have a person who is processing things,” he said.

Miller said Brad Chaney, a registered sanitarian who also works in Woodstock in the state’s northeast corner, is working part-time in Essex on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said there is currently no backlog of soils test or septic permit applications.

Democrat Eileen Daily Defeats Republican Neil Nichols to Win Tenth State Senate Term

AREAWIDE— Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook defeated Republican challenger Neil Nichols of Essex Tuesday to win a tenth term in the 12-town 33rd Senate District.

Unofficial results showed Daily defeating Nichols on a vote of  20,030 to 17,590. Colin Bennett of Westbrook, running on the Green Party line, received about 228 votes. Daily’s margin of victory was about 3,240 votes, making this her closest election since a 1998 contest with Robert Poliner of Durham, a town that is no longer in the 33rd District.

Daily awaited the results with family, friends, and supporters at her campaign headquarters in the former Verplex factory building on Westbrook Road in Essex. Nichols, a retired pilot, got his hometown results at Essex Town Hall, and then gathered with supporters at the Griswold Inn.

Daily thanked supporters for the victory. “I look forward to the very challenging times ahead,” she said. Daily carried 11 of the 12 district towns, losing to Nichols only in Haddam

Unofficial results for the district towns are CHESTER—Daily-1,015-Nichols-584, CLINTON—Daily-2,759-Nichols-2,213, COLCHESTER—Daily 3,004-Nichols-2,654, DEEP RIVER—Daily-1,114-Nichols-780, EAST HADDAM—Daily-1,963-Nichols-1,598, EAST HAMPTON—Daily-2,757-Nichols-2,540, ESSEX—Daily-1,689-Nichols-1,538, HADDAM—Daily-1,428-Nichols-1,720, OLD SAYBROOK—Daily-854-Nichols-664, PORTLAND—Daily-2,040-Nichols-1,598, and WESTBROOK—Daily-1,552-Nichols-1,202.

Democrat Lomme Wins Regional Judge of Probate Race

Terrance Lomme

AREAWIDE— Democrat Terrance Lomme of Essex defeated Republican Anselmo Delia of Clinton Tuesday to become the first judge of probate elected for the nine town region.

Lomme, an Essex lawyer, won a close race with 50.8 percent of the vote, defeating Delia, a Clinton lawyer, on a vote of 13,396 to 12,971. The margin of victory in the nine towns was 425 votes.

Lomme carried five of the nine towns, including Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, and Old Saybrook. Delia carried Clinton, Haddam, Killingworth, and Westbrook.

Lomme awaited the results with family and friends at his law office on Plains Road in Essex. Delia gathered with supporters at the Harbor Seal restaurant in Westbrook.

By 9 p.m., Lomme was leading by about 480 votes, but unable to claim victory without the results from Haddam. About 25 minutes later, Lomme claimed victory after Delia’s narrow 56-vote edge in Haddam failed to offset Lomme’s edge in other towns.

Lomme expressed appreciation for the voter support. “I look forward to this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started,” he said.

Delia, who called Lomme to concede the race, said he was disappointed by the result. “I congratulate Terry for running a very good race,” he said.

Unofficial results for the nine towns include CHESTER– Lomme 1,001- Delia–579, CLINTON—Lomme-2,129-Delia 2,802, DEEP RIVER—Lomme 1,132–Delia–745, ESSEX—Lomme 1,884-Delia-1,277, HADDAM— Lomme-1,652-Delia-1,708, KILLINGWORTH—Lomme-1,309-Delia-1,518, LYME—Lomme-592-Delia-538, OLD SAYBROOIK—Lomme,2,347-Delia-2,285, and WESTBROOK—Lomme 1,263-Delia-1,421.

Delia, Lomme Face Off Tuesday in Regional Probate Judge Election

Terrance Lomme

Anslemo Delia

Clinton Republican Anselmo Delia and Essex Democrat Terrance Lomme square off Tuesday for the new nine-town regional probate court judgeship that becomes effective in January, 2011.

Both men are lawyers, Lomme for the past 30 years, Delia for the past 28 years.

Lomme also served for three years as judge of probate in East Haddam before moving to Essex in 1994.

The formation of the new regional probate court, which will have an office in Old Saybrook, marks the culmination of a decade of debate over the future of the state’s probate court system.  Rising costs for local probate courts in each town led the General Assembly to mandate a regionalization of probate courts in 2008.  The new district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.

Delia, 55, had an easy and uncontested path to the GOP nomination.  Lomme, 62, captured the party endorsement from a field of six candidates at a hotly contested nominating convention in May, and then secured the Democratic nomination by defeating Raymond Rigat, the Clinton judge of probate, on a 2,239 – 1,683 vote in an Aug. 10 primary.

The candidates have waged a quiet campaign, using roadside billboards and mailings to boost name recognition.  Lomme has raised and spent more campaign dollars than Delia, including donating or loaning about $20,000 in personal funds for the campaign.  Lomme had raised a total of $23,553 according to the Oct. 10 campaign finance filing.  Delia has raised about $13,000, including about $6,500 in personal funds.  The probate court races are not covered under the state Citizens Election Fund program that provides public funding for statewide and legislative candidates.

Both candidates have pledged to work for a smooth transition toward the opening of the new regional probate court in January.  Each plans to have one full-time chief clerk for the court, while retaining any or all of the current local probate clerks on a part-time basis for cases out of their towns.

Delia has pledged to implement a “roving court as the need arises,” hearing certain cases in the towns where the cases originate.  Lomme said the state’s Probate Court Administration has not authorized satellite courts, though judges are allowed to bring a hearing to the client if the individual is unable to get to the main court office.

Delia, who ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for the 33rd district state senate nomination in 1990, contends he has a broader record of community and volunteer service than Lomme, including elected positions such as Clinton board of education and planning and zoning commission, and volunteer service for the Cub Scouts and Clinton Youth and Family Services.  “That is a significant difference,” he said.

Lomme maintains he has “more experience and more specific experience” in probate law.  Lomme said his legal practice has always been in the Middlesex County towns that comprise the district, while noting that Delia’s practice is based in Branford.  “I have practiced in all of the local courts that make up the district,” he said.

There have been no formal debates during the campaign, though Lomme said he attempted to arrange a public debate in Clinton earlier this month.  The two rivals made a single joint appearance before an audience of senior citizens in Killingworth.  The new regional judge of probate elected Tuesday takes office in January for a four year term ending in 2014.

Lomme Wins Probate Primary

 Terrance Lomme, an Essex lawyer, won the Democratic nomination for judge of probate in the new nine-town area district Tuesday, defeating challenger Raymond Rigat of Clinton by about 550 votes.

Lomme, 62,  had captured the party endorsement over a field of six candidates at the nominating convention in May. Rigat, who has served as judge of probare in Clinton since 1998, was the convention runner-up. The new probate district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.

Nearly complete unofficial results show Lomme with 2,223 votes to 1,666 votes for Rigat. The only precinct missing from these totals is the Haddam Neck section of Haddam, located on the east side of the Connecticut River.

Lomme carried seven of the nine towns, losing to Rigat by a wide margin in Clinton and narrowly in Westbrook. Lomme, who collected the results with wife Bette at his law office on Plains Road in Essex, claimed victory around 9:15 p.m. after receiving the numbers from Westbrook.

Lomme said he is pleased with the primary victory. “Attorney Rigat was a worthy opponent who ran a good race and now we look forward to November,” he said. Rigat could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Unofficial results for the towns are Chester: Lomme-225—Rigat 76, Clinton:– Lomme-148—Rigat-575, Deep River: Lomme–269—Rigat–74. Essex:–Lomme–410–Rigat–170, Haddam: (excluding Haddam Neck) Lomme–302—Rigat–184, Killingworth:Lomme–193—Rigat–144, Lyme: Lomme–105–Rigat–51, Old Saybrook: Lomme–429—Rigat—222, and Westbrook: Lomme–142—Rigat–170.

Lomme will face Republican nominee Anselmo Delia, a Clinton lawyer, in the Nov. 2 election. The new regional judge of probate takes office in January at a court to be located in Old Saybrook.