Monthly Archives: February 2013

City Says It’s Prepared For Possible Second Snow Storm

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

City officials said Thursday that they’re prepared for a snow storm that could drop three to six inches on the northern half of Connecticut beginning Saturday afternoon.

Mayor Pedro Segarra will open the city’s emergency operations center (located in the new public safety complex on High Street) if Hartford is expected to receive eight or more inches of snow, his spokeswoman, Maribel La Luz, said.

“All contractors will be contacted and placed on stand-by,” she said.

La Luz said that crews would continue to work to clear streets still partially obscured by snow that fell during a blizzard two weeks ago. The heavy snow buildup left many city streets hard to navigate after the blizzard.

“Crews will continue to work on problem areas throughout the city over the next several days and for the foreseeable future,” La Luz said.

Weather models show the bulk of the snow falling on northern Connecticut and Massachusetts Saturday, with less snow falling at the Connecticut coast. North of the Massachusetts Turnpike snowfall totals could reach 12 inches or more, forecasters said.

Fox CT Meteorologist Rachel Frank said the storm will have an inch or more of liquid, so depending on the temperature it could drop up to 12 inches of snow in some places.

City Schools Reopen Thursday; Gun Control Rally At Capitol

by Categorized: Hartford Public Library, Schools Date:

The sun is shining. It is Valentine’s Day. And there is lots happening today in the city of Hartford.

First, you may have noticed that school buses carrying children were back on the streets this morning after the extended blizzard break. Yesterday I spent time at Milner School, where free lunches were offered to city students and their families. One teacher, Dawn Renfrew, was so ready for school to reopen. She missed her “babies.”

If you went anywhere near the state Capitol today, you probably saw more than 5,000 people rallying for gun control an hour ago. Today is the two-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre that devastated us all.

We’ve also just heard that there was a flash mob at the Legislative Office Building, which included dozens of people dancing in the atrium, wearing pink.

Finally, if you visit Hartford Public Library or the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, make sure to give the employees a high-five. Officials announced that both are finalists for the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, a big deal in the arts world. The Institute of Museum and Library Services will reveal the 10 winners in April.

Hartford Public Library won the honor in 2002 but this is the first time that Wadsworth has been a finalist.

UPDATE: Here’s my full story on the library and Wadsworth being finalists.

Snow Removal Efforts Continue Into Wednesday

by Categorized: Pedro Segarra, Uncategorized Date:

Crews worked in shifts through the night Tuesday into Wednesday, widening main arterial streets downtown and hauling large amounts of snow out of neighborhood streets, city officials said.

On Tuesday evening, officials said that 100 percent of city streets were “passable”–meaning cars could get through–but they acknowledged that many of the streets were still narrow, with snow blocking portions of at least one lane.

The parking ban will be lifted on downtown streets beginning at noon Wednesday. It will be lifted citywide at midnight.

Mayor Pedro Segarra said schools will resume operation Thursday. There was concern about snow drifts and unplowed sidewalks posing a danger to children, he said. City offices were open Wednesday.

The city has used 24 outside contractors, 22 plows, 35 “tri-axles,” 26 payloaders and 200 employees to clear snow from the streets, Segarra said. Hartford’s $602,000 snow budget has been spent and city officials will depend on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse 75 percent of expenditures.

Carlos Barrera clears a snow bank from his brother's business entrance on Capitol Avenue in Hartford Wednesday morning. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

Carlos Barrera clears a snow bank from his brother’s business entrance on Capitol Avenue in Hartford Wednesday morning. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

City Schools To Remain Closed Wednesday

by Categorized: Neighborhoods, Schools Date:

We just heard from schools spokesman David Medina and he confirmed that all Hartford public schools will remain closed Wednesday.

“We have schools that are ready to go but access getting to schools is very difficult,” Medina said. Some factors include neighborhood sidewalks still blocked with snow, he said, and the challenge of buses picking up and dropping off students on streets lined with snow banks.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Medina said. School officials will reassess conditions tomorrow.

UPDATE: Milner, Moylan and Burns schools will provide free lunches to all Hartford public school students and their families from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Medina.

Mayor Pedro Segarra said this evening that he believes city schools will reopen Thursday.

Earlier Tuesday, Medina sent a press release stating that 12 city schools had “the potential” of opening Wednesday. But a drive around Hartford showed yet again how difficult it would be for some schools — even those with immaculately plowed parking lots — to welcome students back. I saw many pedestrians walking in the streets because of sidewalks that were not shoveled.

Patrick Raycraft took this photo Monday but it’s still an accurate portrayal of today’s conditions, minus the freezing rain.

"My feet are all wet but I have to go to work." says Isela Valladares, 26, as she hops out of the way of puddles and traffic on Sigourney Street in Hartford on her to work to a Park Street grocery store on Monday afternoon. Most sidewalks throughout the state remain unplowed and many pedestrians are forced to walk in the street to get around. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

“My feet are all wet but I have to go to work.” says Isela Valladares, 26, as she hops out of the way of puddles and traffic on Sigourney Street in Hartford. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

 

Segarra To Update Storm Cleanup Efforts

by Categorized: Pedro Segarra, Schools, Uncategorized Tagged: , Date:

Hartford public schools spokesman David Medina said Tuesday afternoon that after “careful consideration” the city’s public schools will remain closed Wednesday.

Mayor Pedro Segarra is set to update city residents and the media on the storm cleanup efforts at 5 p.m.  at the public safety complex, 253 High St.  The citywide parking ban remains in effect, the mayor’s office said.

Mayor Segarra: Stay Off The Roads

by Categorized: Pedro Segarra Date:

Mayor Pedro Segarra is telling residents Saturday to keep off the streets and for good reason. Yes, there is a statewide ban on travel. But on a practical note, do you want your car stuck on Broad Street and likely towed as plows try to clear the way?

Cars were left abandoned on Broad Street in Hartford Saturday. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

A car abandoned on Broad Street in Hartford Saturday. PATRICK RAYCRAFT photo.

Roads are impassable throughout much of the city and state today after the Blizzard of ’13. Some of our colleagues have tweeted photos that show cars stuck on main Hartford roads. Streets are looking like dense snow fields, and it’ll take much effort for schools to even consider opening their doors Monday. Look out your window: Can you imagine school bus drivers trying to negotiate streets in less than 48 hours?

By the way, the mayor’s office reports that city shelters were filled to capacity overnight Friday. No word yet on totals for the emergency shelters. (Update: No one stayed in the emergency shelters.) Also, 44 plow trucks have been out since this morning trying to clear main Hartford streets and hospital routes.

Please follow Hartford Cityline on Twitter for the latest updates.

UPDATE: Segarra has asked for the state’s help in plowing city streets. “We’re going to need additional resources to ensure the capital city is up and running on Monday,” he said in a statement late Saturday afternoon.

Snow Falls As City Prepares For Storm

by Categorized: Pedro Segarra, Schools Date:

Let it be known: At about 8:45 a.m., the first snowflakes of Blizzard 2013 began to fall in the capital city.

By now, you probably heard that city schools are closed today. The parks are closed. Hartford Public Library also announced that its locations will be closed today and Saturday, reopening on Sunday with its regular hours.

And not to forget, in the urgent words of Mayor Pedro Segarra’s office, “ALL PARKING ON CITY STREETS IS BANNED.”

UPDATE: No, really. The city is serious. David Owens reports that “police and a more than two dozen tow trucks will begin enforcing a parking ban in Hartford at 11 a.m.”

At that time, Segarra will hold a press briefing at the city’s Emergency Operations Center in the new public safety complex on High Street. The center will open in a few minutes as city officials monitor the storm. We’ll bring you updates as they come in.

UPDATE: Segarra has declared a state of emergency in Hartford. Jenna Carlesso reports that “public works crews have begun spreading brine — a salt and water solution — across hills, bridges and overpasses, the mayor said.  The city has 22 plows available and officials have contacted outside companies in case more are needed.”

In addition, there are three emergency shelters open and stocked with sleeping cots, food and water: the Pope Park Recreation Center at 30 Pope Park Drive, the Parker Memorial Community Center on Main Street and the South End Wellness Senior Center, 830 Maple Ave.

Also, it’s no longer a good time to be on the roads. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has issued a travel ban for the state’s major highways, but aside from that, streets are getting coated with slush. Stay inside if you can.

Obit: Former Hartford Cop Billy Kearns, 86

by Categorized: Police Date:

Billy Kearns

William “Billy” Kearns, a 32-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department, died Sunday at Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center in East Hartford. He was 86.

Our colleague Steven Goode wrote about the man nicknamed “2412 Kearns,” a reference to the state statute on DUIs. By 1959, Kearns had made more than 250 DUI arrests as a cop, Goode reported. He also captured convicted rapist Raymond Leblanc in 1957.

Before that, however, Kearns was a young welterweight in Hartford who fought more than 100 professional bouts, Goode wrote. “Kearns took his combative skills to the police job in 1952 and quickly earned a reputation for sniffing out trouble and bad guys.”

Kearns’ funeral services are set to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at the John F. Tierney Funeral Home in Manchester. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Kearns’ memory to the Connecticut Humane Society, 701 Russell Road, Newington, CT 06111.

UPDATE: Here is the Courant editorial board’s remembrance of Kearns, “the kind of cop they make movies about.” It’s worth a read.

Malloy’s Budget: Cities and Towns

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Cities and towns would receive more money for capital improvement projects and education, but lose out on funding for other government operations under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget, unveiled Wednesday.

Malloy’s budget seems to dictate how towns and cities should use state money more-so than previous budgets. For example: the proposal eliminates reimbursements to cities and towns — payments in lieu of taxes — for state-owned property that the municipalities can’t collect taxes on. The budget redistributes that money — $73.6 million — into the state’s education cost sharing program, which pays for cities’ and towns’ education initiatives.

In addition, video slot revenue from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Grant — about $56.4 million — would be redistributed to towns and cities through the local capital improvement program, to be used for road, bridge or public building construction projects.

Malloy’s proposal also doubles funding for the town aid road program, to $60 million, up from $30 million.

So while the emphasis has been put on education and capital improvement, where does that leave municipalities when it comes to general operations?

I ran into Mayor Pedro Segarra at the Capitol yesterday after Malloy’s budget speech. He said he was particularly concerned about the loss of the PILOT reimbursements for state-owned property. Fifty-one percent of properties in Hartford are tax exempt; state property makes up about half of that, he said.

City officials said the PILOT reimbursement for state-owned property in Hartford (for this current fiscal year) is $13.57 million.

“We have to be very strategic as to how … we crop the budget to balance that out,” Segarra said. “If we’re being held harmless, I would assume that money [is] being made up elsewhere.”

Malloy on Wednesday also announced a new property tax exemption that helps motor vehicle owners but would cost local governments hundreds of millions of dollars.

Residents with cars at a market value of less than $28,571 would not pay taxes on their vehicles. Under the plan, cities and towns stand to lose a large portion of the $560 million raised each year through motor vehicles taxes.

The tax exemption is optional for cities and towns in 2013, and mandatory beginning in 2014.

It’s worth noting that Malloy also made a $92.4 million cut to municipal aid by eliminating the cities’ and towns’ portion of the state sales tax and real estate conveyance tax revenues.

Ben Barnes, the governor’s budget director, said Wednesday that the municipalities were being “held harmless” and that any new money needed to go toward education.

But mayors of several cities and towns appeared to worry about how they would craft their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year with a shortage of funds for general operations.

“I can’t tell policemen and firemen I have to lay them off because the governor moved money to different pots,” Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury, said after the governor’s budget speech Wednesday. “Moving money from PILOT to [education cost sharing] and saying you increase our grants is insulting. It’s really, really disturbing.”

Ryan Bingham, the mayor of Torrington and president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, called the budget proposal “a good attempt at a high-five — and then a punch in the gut.”

He noted that although some taxpayers were getting a break, cities and towns would likely be forced to make cuts down the road.

“I don’t see there being an ability to absorb the cuts that are going to need to be made” on the local level, Bingham said. “It’s shifting the burden from property taxes on vehicles to property taxes on homes.”