City Notes
Rossi announces deal to sell vacant schools to developer

Rossi announces deal to sell vacant schools to Indianapolis developer

WEST HAVEN, May 13, 2019 — Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced that her team, headed by Planning and Development Commissioner Fred A. Messore, has negotiated the sale of the long-vacant Edgar C. Stiles and Clarence E. Thompson elementary schools to an Indiana real estate developer for $852,000.

The city recently issued a request for proposals for both properties, with Indianapolis-based KCG Development LLC submitting the highest offer with the best plan for the sites, Messore said.

“Our entire team is honored to have been chosen to collaborate with the city of West Haven on these important projects,” said Joel Silver, vice president of KCG, a nationally respected developer that operates in 21 states and specializes in adaptive reuse projects. “We look forward to bringing new life to these schools and adjacent property by creating a vibrant mixed-income and mixed-use community.”

Messore said the Thompson building, 165 Richards St., would be a mixed-use approach that would include commercial and business incubator spaces and about 71 market-rate housing units.

The Stiles building, located at 575 Main St. in the Transit-oriented Development District around the train station, would be composed of about 50 market-rate housing and studio units that would be marketed to millennials because of their proximity to the station and Interstate 95, Messore said.

Rossi said the former schools have been vacant for years with no real plans for development.

Stiles closed in 2004 and Thompson in 2010.

In 2016, former Mayor Ed O’Brien’s administration sold the Thompson building to the West Haven Housing Authority for $10, but the financing for senior housing fell through and the property reverted back to the city.

“These buildings have been vacant, quickly deteriorating and off the tax rolls,” Rossi said. “This agreement would generate needed tax revenue and would be promoted to commuting millennials and others because of their location with easy access to public transportation and I-95. Neither one of these properties includes any tax abatements, which will make them fully taxable on day one.”

The mayor added, “I will be submitting a package and all the details to the City Council shortly, so they can set up a public hearing and vote on the proposal.”

According to city officials, the estimated value of the renovated Stiles building will be about $13 million, with an assessment for taxation of about $9.1 million that will generate an estimated $330,000 in annual tax revenue for West Haven. The renovated Thompson building will be valued around $10 million, with an assessment of $7 million that will produce about $254,000 in annual tax revenue for the city.

“The one-time influx of cash from the sales will further improve the city’s fiscal health, but beyond the short term, these properties will generate about $584,000 in tax revenue a year,” Rossi said. “With this transaction, we will be growing our grand list, relieving the burden of ownership on the city’s taxpayers, and anticipating the improvements that come with restoration and modernization.”

The mayor continued: “The developer has agreed to retain some of the historic features of both buildings, as they have been part of the character of those neighborhoods for a long time. We are looking forward to working with KCG Development and welcome them to West Haven.”

Dedication of brick Veterans Walk of Honor on May 25

(City Photo/Michael P. Walsh, File)

Dedication of brick Veterans Walk of Honor at 5 p.m. May 25 at Bradley Pt.

WEST HAVEN, May 13, 2019 — Members of the West Haven Veterans Council and city officials will dedicate the 12th phase of the brick Veterans Walk of Honor at 5 p.m. May 25 in Bradley Point Park.

All veterans are invited to participate in the seaside ceremony, which will feature a presentation of the colors, an invocation and taps, as well as remarks from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and Veterans Council President Dave Ricci.

Rossi’s executive assistant, Lou Esposito, will serve as the master of ceremonies.

In November 2006, the Veterans Council began the first of 12 campaigns selling bricks to memorialize vets on the 100-yard Walk of Honor between the William A. Soderman and Vietnam Veterans memorials.

The bricks, which cost $75, have charcoal lettering for personalized messages.

More than 2,700 bricks have been installed so far, including 51 for the 12th phase and 56 for the 11th phase, which was dedicated last May.

In May 2015, the dedication of the eighth phase included the dedication of a granite stone in memory of Lorelee “Lori” Grenfell, longtime president of the Veterans Council, who died Feb. 19, 2015, at age 60. The memorial was crafted by Giordano Bros. Monuments of Derby Avenue.

The Walk of Honor’s first phase and the city’s Korean War Memorial were dedicated in May 2007.

In May 2008, the walkway’s second phase and a memorial in honor of World War II Army Pfc. William A. Soderman were dedicated.

Soderman received the Medal of Honor after he distinguished himself in December 1944 while defending an important road junction near Rocherath, Belgium.

Four years after his death, on July 1, 1984, the flagpole in Bradley Point Park was dedicated in Soderman’s memory.

City Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo has overseen the construction of all phases of the walkway, which was built by City Point Construction Co. of Fresh Meadow Road.

Sabo has also supervised the design and placement of the granite Korean War and Soderman memorials, which were made by Shelley Bros. Monuments of Guilford.

Also in 2008, 14 grave markers signifying every war in U.S. history and peacetime were dedicated. The markers are mounted on granite posts.

Subsequent dedications have been held amid much fanfare, attracting swells of veterans and their families from all corners of the state and beyond.

Plant pickup

Menunkatuck Audubon plant sale pickup set for May 18 at Sandy Pt.

WEST HAVEN, May 13, 2019 — The Menunkatuck Audubon Society’s spring plant sale offered a selection of native plants that serve as important resources for native birds, including hummingbirds and finches, and native insects, such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Although the sale has closed, people who have ordered can pick up their plants from 9 a.m.-noon May 18 in the Sandy Point municipal parking lot on Beach Street.

This year’s plant pickup will include presentations and information from local and national organizations aimed at educating the public on creating yards and gardens that support a wide variety of native pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.

Informational and demonstrative materials on the following topics will be available:

— The Monarch Waystation Program: How to plant a monarch-friendly garden and register as a certified Monarch Waystation.

— Native insect pollinators (Xerxes Society): How to plant gardens that support native insect pollinators.

— The Pollinator Pathway Project: How to help create a continuous path of resources for pollinators and contribute to the health of ecologically important habitats for native wildlife.

— Lists of trees, shrubs and flowering plants native to southern New England and where to get them.

— Invasive plants: How to recognize and safely and effectively remove nonnative invasive plants.

All are welcome to attend, even if they have not ordered plants.

Water safety

Free water safety event Thursday

WEST HAVEN, May 10, 2019 — In conjunction with the Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association, the American Red Cross and the Pool Safety Campaign, the Department of Parks and Recreation will hold its first water safety event from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Carrigan Intermediate School pool, 2 Tetlow St.

The free event, open to the public, will feature games and activities focused on water safety; compression-only CPR instruction; how to use an automated external defibrillator; basic first aid; and basic rescue skills that can be done as a bystander.

Attendees will receive instruction on water safety and how to help someone in trouble. Participants will be encouraged to sign pledge cards promising their safety around water and designating a “water watcher” during activities involving water.

There will be light refreshments and fun giveaways. There will also be a free open swim for children and a free Aqua Zumba demonstration, as well as information about the Park-Rec swim team, the Wizards.

Registration is required for the event so the department can plan accordingly. Register for free at Park-RecParents must accompany their children; this is not a drop-off program.

Vietnam vet leading Memorial Day parade as grand marshal

William “Bill” Benson, a longtime member and former president of West Haven Vietnam Veterans, stands behind the granite U.S. Army insignia marker May 6 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bradley Point Park. Benson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, was instrumental in raising funds to build the memorial, dedicated in 2003, which includes the granite wall of “Those Who Served.” He will lead the city’s Memorial Day parade as grand marshal when it steps off at 10:30 a.m. May 27 along Campbell Avenue. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)

Benson leading Memorial Day parade as grand marshal

WEST HAVEN, May 10, 2019 — Vietnam veteran William “Bill” Benson will lead the city’s Memorial Day parade when it steps off at 10:30 a.m. May 27.

Benson, 71, will guide the 53-unit procession of veterans, dignitaries and bands along the 1 ½-mile parade course, which follows Campbell Avenue from Captain Thomas Boulevard to Center Street.

An Army veteran who served a tour of duty in the Vietnam War, he embraced the honor with typical grace and humility.

“I love West Haven, and this is a very great honor,” Benson said of being named grand marshal. “The honor is not only important to me but to all Vietnam veterans.”

Benson was tapped by the West Haven Veterans Council, which helps the city organize the annual parade, for his years of service to the Army, his fellow vets and his community, the latter of which is perhaps the cornerstone of the qualifications for grand marshal, council President Dave Ricci said.

“I am very pleased with the selection of Bill Benson as this year’s grand marshal,” Mayor Nancy R. Rossi said. “On behalf of the people of West Haven, we honor Bill’s wartime service and his commitment to all veterans.”

Rossi continued: “On this occasion, it is appropriate to remember those who did not return from Vietnam and other wars while also recognizing the many veterans, like Bill Benson, who live and work among us. Thank you for your service, Bill, and welcome home!”

Benson’s contributions to the Veterans Council, the governing body of the city’s veterans organizations, are well known.

He is a longtime member of West Haven Vietnam Veterans, formerly Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 647, and served as president in the early 2000s. Before and during that time, he was instrumental in raising funds to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bradley Point Park.

To this day, Benson helps maintain the grounds of the memorial, which includes a black granite wall inscribed with the names of those from West Haven who served or gave their lives in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975 and three white flagpoles draped with the American, state and prisoner-of-war flags.

The memorial, dedicated Nov. 12, 2003, also includes a black granite map of the four battle districts of Vietnam bearing the inscription, “All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” and five bronze insignia markers atop black granite posts representing each branch of the U.S. armed forces.

Benson is a former member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9422 and has volunteered for the past four years at the West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center, 30 Hood Terrace, where he gives tours to seniors, schoolchildren and veterans.

A living history of America at war, the 9,000-square-foot museum displays collections from the 102nd Infantry Regiment and the New Haven Grays, a protective force formed after the War of 1812. It also shows relics from each conflict since the U.S. fought for independence, allowing visitors to walk a timeline around the camouflage-clad warehouse off Sawmill Road.

This year’s edition of southern Connecticut’s oldest and largest parade of its kind has no rain date and will feature three marching divisions and a military division, as well as special accommodations for disabled veterans.

The procession will include an eight-seat golf cart carrying former grand marshals that is bedecked with a star gracing the names of those deceased. Other veterans will ride on a float.

It will also include a flyover by a C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft operated by the Connecticut Air National Guard. Benson will steer the procession from a two-seat golf cart flanked by the West Haven Police Color Guard.

The hourlong parade, in memory of the deceased members of the U.S. armed forces of all wars, will showcase the city’s legion of veterans groups.

For the first time in recent memory, the procession will consist of nine marching bands, including five from West Haven — Bailey Middle School, Carrigan Intermediate School, Notre Dame High School, the Stylettes Drill Team and Drum Corps and West Haven High School — and four from New Haven: Bishop Woods Architecture and Design Magnet School, Celentano Biotech, Health and Medical Magnet School, Clemente Leadership Academy and the Nathan Hale Marching Patriots.

It will also spotlight the traditional contingent of youth organizations and sports leagues, dance troupes and Scout troops, fraternal organizations and service clubs, local and state leaders, police officers and firefighters.

Benson, the oldest of four siblings, was born in New Haven. He grew up on Legion Avenue near Greenwood Street and attended Hillhouse High School.

In November 1966, Benson was drafted by the Army at age 18. He completed basic training eight weeks later at Fort Gordon, Georgia, followed by advanced training in heavy weapons, demolitions and booby traps in preparation for Vietnam.

In November 1967, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard, in Vietnam. He was an infantryman and later a squad leader who conducted search-and-destroy missions.

Benson fought in battles in the Mekong Delta, pushing through rice paddies and bamboo trees, heat and monsoon in southwestern Vietnam. He also saw action during the Tet Offensive, a campaign of surprise attacks launched in January 1968 by forces of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese against forces of the South Vietnamese, the United States and their allies.

He was wounded by shrapnel on three occasions and received the Purple Heart for his injuries in combat. He also received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Helicopter Assault Badge.

“I was lucky to hold myself together to get out of Vietnam,” said Benson, whose father served in the Army in World War II and grandfather served in the Army in World War I.

From la Drang to Hue, U.S. troops won every major battle of the Vietnam War. Through more than a decade of combat over air, land and sea, they upheld the highest traditions of the armed forces. And more than 58,000 sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know in service to their country.

After his tour of Vietnam ended in November 1968, Benson was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division for riot control training at Fort Hood, Texas.

He praised his four years in the Army, including three years of active duty.

“It was an honor to serve this country anyway I possibly could,” said Benson, who was honorably discharged as a specialist E-4 in November 1970.

After the Army, Benson moved to West Haven and earned his GED diploma from Hillhouse while working as a driver for The Amerling Co., an automotive supply distributor at 170 Boston Post Road. He later worked as a driver for Latella Carting Co. of Orange.

From January 2002 to September 2017, he was a laborer and later a driver for the West Haven Department of Public Works.

Benson lives on Eaton Street in Allingtown with his wife of 40 years, Alice.

Members of UNH Mayor’s Advisory Commission feted

Members of UNH Mayor’s Advisory Commission feted

WEST HAVEN, May 10, 2019 — At City Hall on May 6, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi congratulates UNH Mayor’s Advisory Commission Chairman Marcin Stankevitch, right, and member Andrea McIntosh on being honored at the Political Science Awards & Senior Banquet at the University of New Haven on May 5.

Joining Stankevitch and McIntosh, who are junior political science majors, is their adviser, Chris Haynes, assistant professor of political science.

Stankevitch and McIntosh are recipients of the Award for Excellence in Leadership and the Joshua Sandman Award for Excellence in American Politics, respectively.

The MAC is a collaborative, student-driven task force founded in March 2015 to strengthen town-gown relations.

(Contributed Photo)

Applications available for summer youth jobs

Applications available for Summer Youth Employment Program

WEST HAVEN, May 3, 2019 — Applications for the Summer Youth Employment Program are available through May 31 in the athletic director’s office at West Haven High School and the main office at Bailey Middle School.

The summer program, which runs July 8-Aug. 2, is aimed at funding positions for low-income residents ages 14-21.

Students must pick up and drop off applications at their school office.

Drop off applications with all required documents from 9-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the high school and from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Bailey. No applications will be processed after noon May 31.

Students who attend other schools must pick up applications in the Department of Human Resources on the second floor of City Hall, 355 Main St., where the completed forms must be returned from 9-11 a.m. weekdays.

Students must also include copies of information, such as a birth certificate and Social Security card, as well as documentation of household income.

Family income is based on the number of people per household and is required to be within 185 percent of state poverty income levels.

Applicants will be notified by mail or phone if more information is needed.

Fireworks ad book

Ad book supports overtime costs for Savin Rock Fireworks Spectacular

WEST HAVEN, May 3, 2019 — For the second year, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi has rolled out an ad book fundraising campaign to help cover overtime costs for the Savin Rock Fireworks Spectacular, which is set for 9:15 p.m. July 3.

Rossi said the ad book proceeds will specifically pay for police and public works overtime during the annual fireworks display, which is launched off Bradley Point and presented by the Savin Rock Fireworks Committee.

“Your support of this ad book will directly impact the overtime costs that come along with the city holding the fireworks,” Rossi said.

Ad book forms are available in the mayor’s office at City Hall, 355 Main St., or download an ad book form at July 3 Fireworks.

Four ad sizes are offered: $45 for a business card, $75 for a quarter page, $100 for a half page and $185 for a full page. Checks are payable to City of West Haven.

Send ads by June 14 to the Office of the Mayor, 355 Main St., West Haven, CT 06516. Or send a business card, letterhead or other information to the mayor’s office, and the office can create an ad. Send PDF files to

Corporate sponsorships are also offered: $1,000 for red level, $750 for white level and $500 for blue level. For details, call the mayor’s office at 203-937-3510.

Rossi said the city will charge both residents and nonresidents for parking on July 3. The fee is $5 for vehicles with a valid beach sticker and $10 for vehicles without a valid beach sticker. All parking proceeds will also support overtime costs, she said.

The fireworks display, billed as “the region’s largest Independence Day fireworks show,” draws an estimated 100,000 people of all ages to the city’s 3 ½-mile shoreline each year. The rain date is July 5.

Before the patriotic event, partygoers can shake, rattle and roll to live music at the Savin Rock bandstand from 6:30-9 p.m.

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