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Committee agrees on new House and Senate district boundaries

December 2, 2011 Areawide, Local News No Comments
Members of the Connecticut General Assembly's Reapportionment Committee. Photo Nov. 30, 2011 by Christine Stuart | CTNewsJunkie.com used with permission.

Members of the Connecticut General Assembly's Reapportionment Committee. Photo Nov. 30, 2011 by Christine Stuart | CTNewsJunkie.com used with permission.

The General Assembly’s nine-member bipartisan Reapportionment Committee has agreed on new boundaries for the state’s 151 House and 36 Senate seats.

This kind of reshuffling is a result of constitutionally mandated legislative redistricting based on population changes reported by the 2010 U.S. Census.

The state grew by nearly 5 percent since the last Census in 2002 to 3.5 million, so some House districts will now be smaller in geographic area but denser in population.

The new districts will first be used in the August 2012 primaries and the November 2012 state elections.

About the U.S. Congressional map

An amicable tenor of bipartisan cooperation quickly evaporated following the Wednesday (Nov. 30) Reapportionment Committee meeting when, after patting themselves on the back for drawing the lines for the House and Senate districts, Republicans and Democrats accused each other of political motivations when it came to the U.S. Congressional map.

And since the nine-member panel did not met its Wednesday deadline for one-third of its task, it now must ask for an extension from the state Supreme Court, possibly 30 days… but will this be enough time for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground?

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero released the proposed Republican Congressional map to reporters after Wednesday’s meeting adjourned, in response to criticism from Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney earlier in the week.

Rep. Cafero said both parties had promised to remain silent about the Congressional district maps until a vote.

While it is “unfortunate” the Democrats broke that promise, Rep. Cafero said, it is now necessary for the Republicans also to share their map in order to clarify their proposals and defend themselves against criticisms.

A bone of contention concerns the 4th and 5th Congressional districts.

Rep. Cafero said that by putting Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3th District, the Republican proposal honors a legal obligation to try to create a minority-influenced district.

“It will be the first minority-influenced district in the state of Connecticut and if you were at the public hearing as we all were, you heard over and over again, representatives of the minority community in this state saying ‘we deserve to have as many minority-influenced or as many minority-majority districts as possible,’” Rep. Cafero said.

GOP Party Chair Jerry Labriola, Jr. said he thinks combining Bridgeport and New Haven into the 3rd District balances many interests.

But, said Sen. Looney, taking Bridgeport out of the 4th District creates a district that no Democrat could win.

Sen. Looney contends that the 4th District, even with Bridgeport, is a competitive district, which was held by Republicans in three out of the last five elections until in 2008 a Democrat was elected, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said the proposal his party drafted is not about drawing the lines for incumbents and individuals; it is about meeting constitutional obligations.

Five Congressional Districts compacted

The five Congressional Districts were compacted in the map Rep. Cafero produced, which he said achieves a zero-deviation from the required 714,819 residents.

Sen. President Donald Williams released the map Democrats proposed more than two weeks ago, which made far fewer changes to the current lines. The changes were mostly of minor shifts to account for population changes, he said.

“We do that because we believe that the Congressional Districts in the state of Connecticut are competitive,” Sen. Williams said.

He noted that Connecticut dropped down to five districts a decade ago and over the last 10 years, three out of the five have been won by Republicans.

Sen. Williams said Democrats feel it is their responsibility to balance the population shifts rather than make redistricting a political process.

Sen. Williams also said the Democrats’ proposal follows civil rights and communities-of-interest laws, while it appears the Republicans did the opposite.

“We should take a closer look at what they (Republicans) have done, to determine if (their) ultimate purpose… is to dilute the influence of minority populations in multiple Congressional Districts,” he said.

He said that by concentrating the minority population in one district, the Republican map may dilute minority influence in the rest of the state.

Only two more weeks?

Still, both sides seem to believe an agreement can be reached within the next couple weeks.

Rep. Cafero said that the committee has agreed on where to place 139 of the state’s 169 towns.

“We’re 82 percent in agreement and 18 percent disagreement. If the court gives us a couple weeks, to say that we can’t resolve 18 percent of the issue, I think is wrong,” he said.

The committee as originally constituted was supposed to complete its work in September. In October, it was reappointed with a ninth “tie-breaker” member, former lawmaker, Democrat Kevin Johnston of Pomfret,

However, Sen. McKinney reportedly has said it’s possible committee members could declare a stalemate on the congressional map and ask the Supreme Court to take over the task.

Editor’s Note: This story is a combination of reporting by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan and by Hugh McQuaid for CTNewsJunkie.com. Portions of McQuaid’s story are included with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com

To read McQuaid’s original story, click here

For maps showing the new district lines for State House and State Senate, click here

For maps showing shifts in race and ethnic populations in Connecticut based on the 2010 U.S. Census data, click here

Posted Dec. 2, 2011

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NU now offering $100 credit for those who suffered prolonged power outages in October

November 30, 2011 Areawide, Business, Local News No Comments
dollar-sign-inside-a-quote-bubble

In addition, NU will make donations of up to $5 million to the Connecticut Food Bank, Foodshare and Operation Fuel to help them address community needs for this approaching winter season.

Northeast Utilities President Charles W. Shivery Tuesday (Nov. 29) announced in a prepared statement that the company has increased the post-storm fund established on Nov. 9 by up to $30 million.

“As we heard from our customers and had discussions with Gov. Malloy and his staff, it became clear that the original sum we proposed, $10 million, was insufficient,” said Shivery. “While this storm was unprecedented, we set very high expectations for the performance of Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P). Clearly, we did not meet a number of those expectations.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates our sincere desire to keep faith with our CL&P customers by assisting those who were without power the longest, as well as organizations that provide food and warmth to those most in need,” Shivery added.

The freak snowstorm that hit Connecticut the evening of Oct. 29, dumped as much as 20 inches of snow in some parts of the state. In addition, the storm arrived before leaves had fallen from most trees, resulting in widespread damage from broken limbs tearing down power lines and smashing into buildings.

Due to a number of problems with the clean-up process, including a delay in calling in crews from other states, some Connecticut residents, businesses and agencies were without power for nine days or more.

The prolonged outages had a significant economic impact not only on businesses but on households where families had to find shelter in hotels and eat meals at restaurants, as well as towns that provided emergency shelters with costs that may or may not be reimbursed by federal emergency funds.

The NU press release also states that the company has sought the assistance of Kenneth Feinberg, the claim fund administrator who designed and administered the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, for distributing these “rebates.”

Feinberg agreed to help NU administer this post-storm fund at the request of Gov. Malloy, the press release states.

The company announced that any residential customer who was still without power after noon on Saturday, Nov. 5 as a result of the storm, will be eligible for credit applied to their CL&P bill – ranging from a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $200 – depending on how many eligible customers apply for the credit.

In addition, NU will make donations of up to $5 million to the Connecticut Food Bank, Foodshare and Operation Fuel to help them address community needs for this approaching winter season.

Each organization will initially receive $1 million. Whether they will receive additional dollars depends on how much of the fund remains when it is closed down at the end of January, the release states.

“The unprecedented storm created substantial hardships for many people, despite the extraordinary efforts of our employees and contractors. Having the confidence of our customers is important to us and, in addition to establishing this fund, we have taken a series of steps to improve performance at CL&P,” Shivery said.

Those steps include:

  • providing tree crews to communities to help with debris removal,
  • appointment of a new President of CL&P,
  • creation of a new position of Senior Vice President for Emergency Preparedness
  • and an external review of CL&P preparation and response to the storm.

“With the benefit of the various reviews under way, we will have a more complete picture and will take all appropriate actions to ensure that we are able to deliver under even extreme conditions, like those we experienced in the October storm,” Shivery said, alluding to other reviews besides its own, including Gov. Malloy’s appointed Two Storm Committee.

Customers can begin applying for their rebate on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011.

“On that date, CL&P will begin contacting qualified residential customers to inform them of their eligibility to apply for the credit,” the release states. Customers also can begin applying on their own online at www.cl-p.com or call 888-566-9257 for more information.

All applications must be received by 5 p.m. Jan. 31, 2012.

Credits will begin to be applied to the customer’s February 2012 billing statement.

No release of legal claims will be necessary in order to receive compensation from the fund, the release states.

“Those customers who filed information through 211 for claims associated with the storm after the initial fund was announced will receive a credit on their bill without further application required if they are eligible,” the release states.

Posted Nov. 30, 2011

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Tour the studios of more than 70 artists

This is an opportunity to experience the incredible variety of artists working in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, to talk with them about their work, to help support their work financially – what a wonderful gift is an original piece of art – and to talk to them about their inspiration and creative process. Seen here is an example of weaving by artist Camille Benjamin, who is part of the 2011 tour. The tour web site has information about each artist and a link to their web sites.

More than 70 artists open their studios on Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend in December for the Artists Open Studios, Northeast Connecticut. (Nov. 25, 26, 27 and December 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

The self-guided tour includes sculptors, fiber artists, photographers, potters, jewelers, glass artists, metal smiths, wood-turners and more.

This is an opportunity to experience the incredible variety of artists working in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, to talk with them about their work, to help support their work financially – what a wonderful gift is an original piece of art – and to talk to them about their inspiration and creative process. Some studios will offer demonstrations.

The tour encompasses many of the beautiful towns that make up this part of the state – Ashford, Brooklyn, Canterbury, Chaplin, Columbia, Coventry, Danielson, Eastford, Ellington, Lebanon, Mansfield/Storrs, Pomfret, Thompson, Tolland, Windham/Willimantic and Willington.

To print a brochure/guide to the tour in PDF format, visit http://www.aosct.org The web site also provides information about the artists, a map of their locations, and a GOOGLE MAP for directions. The artists will be glad to assist you in getting from one studio to another during the tour.

And click here for the Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Artists-Open-Studios-of-Northeastern-CT/169213556464485

Posted Nov. 27, 2011

Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to editor@htnp.com and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. To keep up-to-date on local news, “like” us (HTNP News) on Facebook and follow us ( @HTNP) on Twitter!

Panel may miss Connecticut reapportionment deadline

November 25, 2011 Areawide, Local News No Comments
Map of current Connecticut Congressional Districts. Source: www.govtrak.us

Map of current Connecticut Congressional Districts. Source: www.govtrak.us

With its final deadline of midnight Nov. 30 looming, it’s likely the state’s Reapportionment Committee may gamble on sending the redrawing of Connecticut’s political map to state Superior Court.

But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday (Nov. 22) said it is important for the committee to conclude its work on time. “I think failure to do this is a gigantic mistake. There is a process set up that allows this decision to be made. It should be made by that group and they should get their job done,” he said.

If not, the likely scenario would be a court-ordered, month-long deadline extension, similar to 2001, after the 2000 U.S. Census.

That would give lawmakers time to settle on new congressional lines, in which parts of the 2nd Congressional District, which takes up the eastern half of the state, would lose about 16,000 constituents to western districts.

Read more at http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Carving-state-five-ways-by-Thanksgiving-2174346.php#ixzz1eW2UQCJd

Posted Nov. 25, 2011

Related link: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd?state=CT

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Laws make gift cards less restrictive, limit fees, but buyer beware!

November 25, 2011 Areawide, Business, Local News No Comments
Federal rules that took effect in August of 2010 are designed to protect consumers by restricting fees and changing conditions regarding gift card expiration dates.

Federal rules that took effect in August of 2010 are designed to protect consumers by restricting fees and changing conditions regarding gift card expiration dates.

As the holiday shopping season kicks off with Black Friday, many shoppers are avoiding the crowds and saving on gas by buying gift cards – the one-size-fits-all kind of gift.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), however, cautions consumers to do their homework, first. Not all gift cards are created equal.

“While the majority of vendors are honest, there is a degree of risk associated with buying gift cards from some online sites and over-the-counter displays at convenience stores and gas stations,” warns Connecticut BBB President Paulette Scarpetti.

Since January 2011, the BBB has received more than 440 complaints against the gift card industry, a huge increase from the 33 complaints received in 2010.

In some cases, consumers are disgruntled because they received an expired gift card that was loaded with cash, but the cards were not usable until the expiration date was corrected.

After sending their expired cards for replacement, updated cards were never returned, leaving the recipients empty-handed.

Connecticut’s Gift Card Law prohibits the sale of cards with expiration dates or inactivity fees.

The BBB has these tips for both gift card givers and recipients:

1. Know your rights

Federal rules that took effect in August of 2010 are designed to protect consumers by restricting fees and changing conditions regarding gift card expiration dates.

These new rules apply to two types of cards: retail gift cards, which can only be redeemed at retailers and restaurants that sell them, and bank gift cards, which carry the logo of a payment card network such as American Express, Visa, or MasterCard and may be used wherever those brands are accepted.

More information on the new rules is available from the Federal Reserve website at http://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo/wyntk_giftcards.htm

2. Know the seller

Make sure you are buying from a known and trusted source. You can look for information about a business at www.bbb.org

And avoid online auction sites that promise ‘full value guaranteed’ gift cards. Some sites of this type have been reported to sell cards that are valueless, counterfeit, expired or obtained fraudulently.

3. Inspect the packaging and the card

Be on the lookout for gift cards that appear to have been removed from their packaging, are approaching their expiration date or are already are expired. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed and that the protective layer on the back of the card hasn’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards on display to the seller.

4. Read the fine print before buying

Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it is purchased?

5. Provide the card’s recipient with back up

Give the recipient the original receipt in case the card is later lost or stolen. Also, before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial situation of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a business that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worthless.

[Editor's note: I was given a $50 gift certificate to a children's bookstore that went out of business a week later and filed for bankruptcy. I was told by a state official that it is up to the now-closed business whether to refund or otherwise honor their gift cards. The bookstore owner chose not to.]

The BBB says if a business closes a store near the recipient [Blockbuster is a recent example], it may be hard to find another location where the card can be used.

A business that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the business or its competitor to find out if they are redeeming the cards, or will do so at a later date.

6. Treat the gift card like cash!

For recipients, it’s important to immediately report lost or stolen cards to the issuer. Some issuers may not replace them, while others will, for a fee. Make sure to use gift cards as soon as possible; it’s not unusual to misplace or forget about them.

Founded in 1928, the Connecticut BBB is an unbiased, non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior.

The BBB helps consumers find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust, offers objective advice and a wide range of education on topics affecting marketplace trust. The BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses.

Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than three million local and national businesses and charities.

Posted Nov. 25, 2011

Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to editor@htnp.com and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. To keep up-to-date on local news, “like” us (HTNP News) on Facebook and follow us ( @HTNP) on Twitter!

CL-P President Jeff Butler resigns in aftermath of Storm Alfred outage outrage

CL&P is currently under scrutiny by a the Two Storm Panel created by Gov. Malloy to address issues over restoring power both after Tropical Storm Irene in August and Storm Alfred in October.

CL&P is currently under scrutiny by a Two Storm Panel created by Gov. Malloy to address issues over restoring power both after Tropical Storm Irene in August and Storm Alfred in October.

The man who took the brunt of the criticism for the prolonged power outages following the freak October snowstorm – that left hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses without electricity for as long as nine days – will no longer be in the spotlight.

CL&P President Jeffrey D. Butler has resigned.

His resignation was announced via a press release issued today (Nov. 17) by Northeast Utilities, the parent company for Connecticut Light and Power.

As Butler leaves his position, he also takes with him any input he might have given into why some of the things that went wrong did so, and why some things did get done correctly, as he often pointed out in press conferences.

As the power outages stretched into day nine, after the Oct. 29 storm, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy began leaving Butler on his own at the podium during the twice-daily updates from the Emergency Operations Center televised by news stations.

Reacting to the news of Butler’s resignation, Gov. Malloy issued the following brief statement this afternoon, through a member of his staff, Senior Advisor Roy Occhiogrosso:

“Gov. Malloy made clear that he thought Northeast Utilities needed to address CL&P’s management issues, and it’s clear that process has begun. It’s also likely that there will be other changes on other fronts as a result of CL&P’s performance in the lead-up to and aftermath of the storm.”

CL&P is currently under scrutiny by a Two Storm Panel created by Gov. Malloy to address issues over restoring power both after Tropical Storm Irene in August and Storm Alfred.

The historic October storm dumped as much as 20 inches of snow in parts of the state. The main problem created by Storm Alfred was that the snow fell on trees that still had their leaves, which caused widespread damage from broken trees and tree limbs falling onto power lines.

Gov. Malloy has also called in a private company, Witt Associates to investigate what went wrong, and they are expected to produce a report by Dec. 1, 2011.

In the statement issued today, Northeast Utilities Chair, President and CEO Charles W. Shivery announced that “changes in senior leadership and in the emergency preparedness organization of its Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) operating company,” would be taking place, including accepting Butler’s resignation “effective immediately.”

Butler holds a degree in electrical and electronic engineering. He previously worked for Pacific Gas and Electric, and then for an energy consulting firm. He was hired as president by CL&P in 2009.

“We reluctantly accepted Jeff’s resignation,” Shivery said. “His commitment and dedication on behalf of our company, employees and customers have been exceptional. We thank him for his important contribution to NU, CL&P and the community. We wish him all the best.”

“I am proud of our employees and their hard work in response to these historic storms,” said Shivery. “Today’s changes are major steps to help CL&P and our employees better meet future challenges. There are still things to learn, but with winter coming these were changes I knew we should and could make right now.”

Northeast Utilities will now begin searching for Butler’s replacement. In the interim, James A. Muntz, NU president – Transmission, will take over Butler’s duties.

“Muntz currently has overall leadership and management responsibility for NU’s Transmission business… as Vice President – Customer Operations, responsible for the operation and maintenance of CL&P’s electric power distribution system,” the press release states.

Muntz will report to Lee Olivier, who is Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer for NU and CEO of CL&P.

Other steps NU will take in response to the issues surrounding Storm Irene and Storm Alfred outlined in the press release:

- the company has retained a consulting firm, Davies Consulting, Inc., “to perform a thorough evaluation of CL&P’s preparedness and response to recent unprecedented storms,” with a preliminary report due the first week of January and the final report due in early February.

- CL&P has created a new position to lead emergency preparedness, to be filled by CL&P Senior VP – Emergency Preparedness William J. Quinlan. “Quinlan will lead the consolidation and integration of all CL&P emergency preparedness. He will work with state and town officials to put protocols in place to allow CL&P to partner effectively in any type of emergency,” the release states. He also will coordinate the company’s participation in the current post-storm reviews. “Quinlan has worked closely with the towns and the state following Tropical Storm Irene,” the release states.

CL&P Vice President – Asset Strategy Dana Louth has been named to the new position of Vice President – CL&P Infrastructure “He will report to Quinlan. “Louth is a 35-year CL&P veteran with extensive experience in the design and maintenance of electric systems,” the release states. In his new role, Louth will be responsible for “reviewing and making recommendations on how the company can improve the resiliency of its electric system. He will look at such things as tree cutting/trimming, structural “hardening” (making the electric system more resilient under harsh weather conditions), and issues related to underground utilities.

Posted Nov. 17, 2011

Editor’s note: CT-N’s tapings of the Two Storm Panel proceedings can be viewed live online and previous tapings are archived. The next meeting is at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, when the panel will hear testimony from first responders, including police and firefighters, as well as union representatives. Click here for more information http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/press.asp

Related link: “Former FEMA director hired by Gov. Malloy to review response to power outages. http://windham.htnp.com/2011/11/04/former-fema-director-hired-by-gov-malloy-to-review-response-to-power-outages/

Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to editor@htnp.com and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. To keep up-to-date on local news, “like” us (HTNP News) on Facebook and follow us ( @HTNP) on Twitter!

How to register for CLP reimbursement fund for Storm Alfred damages

November 16, 2011 Areawide, Business, Local News No Comments
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suggests that people save receipts for expenses attributable to loss of power from the October 2011 Storm Alfred. United Way 2-1-1 is in the process of gathering information from residents.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suggests that people save receipts for expenses attributable to loss of power from the October 2011 Storm Alfred. United Way 2-1-1 is in the process of gathering information from residents.

Connecticut Light and Power is collecting information from its customers who lost power as a result of the October snowstorm.

CL&P is in the process of establishing a fund that may reimburse customers for some losses.

It has yet to be determined how that money will be distributed.

Governor Dannel Malloy is currently working to determine the best way to set up a system that is fair and timely when it comes to disbursing the money.

He expects to make an announcement within two weeks.

He suggests that people save receipts for expenses attributable to loss of power from the storm.

United Way 2-1-1 is in the process of gathering information from Connecticut residents who sustained losses caused by the October Snowstorm.

To access information about reimbursements, visit www.211ct.org and click on CL&P in the upper right corner of the page.

When you visit the CL&P part of the site, you will fill out a survey that asks for contact information, how many days you were without power, and what kinds of losses you are claiming, such as:

  • food loss and costs of eating meals at restaurants
  • costs of staying at a hotel
  • cost of gas for a power generator, as well as cost of flashlights, batteries and candles

lost wages

  • damage to property from fallen trees, tree limbs and branches
  • water damage caused by flooding
  • fire damage
  • and “other”

You also will have to include an estimate of total costs and indicate whether you have receipts for the expenses you are claiming.

Because so many people are registering their losses, there have been longer than usual call wait times and occasional delays in accessing 2-1-1 online.

Since 2-1-1 began this work earlier this month, more than 5,500 Connecticut residents have reported losses associated with the power outages by visiting www.211ct.org or calling 2-1-1.

If you wish to speak with a 2-1-1 call specialist to leave your storm-related information, dial 2-1-1 and staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Posted Nov. 16, 2011

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US Postal Service would like its stuff back, please

November 16, 2011 Areawide, Business, Local News No Comments
“The Postal Service spent nearly $50 million this past fiscal year to replace equipment that was never returned,” said Vice President of Network Operations David Williams. “This is a serious issue. We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense. The equipment is federal property and we want it back.”  Photo source: USPS

“The Postal Service spent nearly $50 million this past fiscal year to replace equipment that was never returned,” said Vice President of Network Operations David Williams. “This is a serious issue. We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense. The equipment is federal property and we want it back.” Photo source: USPS

It’s kind of like those occasional free passes your local library gives – return your books now and all overdue fines are forgiven. These “amnesty” periods tend to be very effective in bringing back a ton of books and it is cheaper than sending the local sheriff to knock on doors (yes, that does happen).

Well, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has announced a two-week amnesty period to encourage the “rapid return” of postal-owned equipment, especially pallets and mail tubs. This announcement comes on the heels of recent equipment recoveries made by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (click here to learn more. )

“The Postal Service spent nearly $50 million this past fiscal year to replace equipment that was never returned,” said Vice President of Network Operations David Williams. “This is a serious issue. We are in a financial crisis and simply cannot afford this type of unnecessary expense. The equipment is federal property and we want it back.”

The USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

The USPS has already closed many post offices around the country, in some cases replaced them with kiosks, or contracted with drug stores and other businesses to handle some postal services. And there are deeper cuts to come.

The USPS recently reported a $5 billion loss for fiscal 2011.

Interestingly, the Internet may be partly responsible for cutting down on mail volume as more people rely on email, texting and other electronic means of communicating but at the same time, the increasing use of the Internet for shopping has boosted US Postal Service revenue in other areas.

According to the USPS Nov. 15, 2011 press release, “Shipping Services revenue, which includes Priority Mail and Express Mail, increased $530 million in 2011 (6.3 percent). The increase in Shipping Services revenue was driven by strong growth in the Parcel Select and Parcel Return Services, due to increased mailings of packages, as customers continued to use the Internet more often to purchase products.”

Caught re-selling USPS property

While some people may be guilty of “borrowing” a USPS mail bucket or two, sometimes the abuses are at the criminal level. Here are some examples from the USPS Postal Inspection Service web site:

  • A Georgia man, who worked for a major mailer, was arrested for stealing and selling almost 10,000 USPS pallets to a pallet supply company. The company provided pallets to freight companies doing business in South America. The suspect made restitution of $10,129 to the USPS.
  • A woman who was an employee of an air-express transportation subcontractor for major mailers was arrested for selling 3,520 pallets to a pallet consultant company.
  • The owner of a Florida pallet company that sold more than 21,000 pallets belonging to the USPS was arrested by Postal Inspectors in Florida. The USPS says the man was aware the pallets belonged to the Postal Service and that the sale of those pallets was illegal. He and his company pleaded guilty, he was sentenced in federal court to five months in prison and was ordered to make $419,206 in restitution to the Postal Service. An additional 16,000 pallets were also returned.
  • An investigation in California by Postal Inspectors found approximately 7,500 pallets, valued at more than $200,000, at a recycling company,

No questions asked

The amnesty period to return mail transport equipment, or MTE, is from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26, 2011. Anyone possessing Postal Service MTE is strongly encouraged to return it during this time period and no questions will be asked.

During the amnesty period, small amounts of equipment can be dropped off at local Post Offices or nearby mail processing and distribution centers.

Arrangements also can be made for the Postal Service to pick up large amounts of equipment and/or pallets by sending an email to hqmte@usps.gov, and including “Equipment Pickup Request” in the subject line (if applicable, your company name), the address where the equipment is located, type of mail transport equipment and quantity, and contact information in the message.

There also is a mail transport equipment recovery hotline – 866.330.3404 – that can be used to report the misuse of equipment, such as hoarding or recycling.

The following message is printed clearly on all U.S. Postal Service equipment:

WARNING: Maximum penalty for theft or misuse of postal property, $1,000 fine and 3 years imprisonment (Title 18 USC 1707).

Chapter 58 of the Postal Operations Manual and Title 18 Section 1707 of the Federal Criminal Code detail the policy and laws regulating use of all mail transport equipment.

Posted Nov. 16, 2011

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Connecticut Water refutes criticisms of UConn water plan

Connecticut Water Eric Thornburg from Town Talk

Connecticut Water is well positioned to provide the water necessary to meet the needs identified for the University and the community over the 50 year planning horizon. The EIE considered the projected demands for the University’s Tech Park and the Next Generation initiative, as well as the Town of Mansfield’s plans for redevelopment of the Four Corners, the proposed managed care facility, and other potential development in the community consistent with their local plans.

Future of local water supply is topic of public forum July 29

water - drinking water - water faucet

Questions about water sources, usage and quality have come into focus recently in light of the Storrs Center development, UConn’s plans to bring in water to support a new Tech Park and the concurrent needs of the towns in this region, particularly in terms of their own development plans.

Coventry Farmers Market invites you to a ‘wellness’ swap

SWAPPERS logo Coventry Farmers Market 2013

As always, anything handmade, handcrafted or homegrown is swappable. But remember – you must sign up and bring something to get something in return!

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