Looking back at the first half of 2012

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Thu., Dec. 20, 2012
The Rail Trail bridge makes its way down Center Street. File photo by Wally Robinson.
The Rail Trail bridge makes its way down Center Street. File photo by Wally Robinson.

On Jan. 27, state Sen. Edith Prague (D-19) returned to the State Capitol, a little more than a month after suffering a stroke, to help introduce a statewide information clearinghouse on home health care options. Prague and other members of the Home Health Services Legislative Work Group introduced an informational brochure they developed, aimed at helping patients and their families navigate the many types of state-funded home health resources available and match them with individual patient needs.

“Among all those who require home care, senior citizens comprise the fastest-growing segment of Connecticut’s population, so it follows that we must fortify and then publicize the necessary services to address their needs at home, where they overwhelmingly prefer to be, where they are most comfortable, and where it is usually the most cost-effective way to care for them,” Prague said. “With this in mind, each family faces heart-wrenching decisions about how to best serve the needs of their loved ones, so this clearinghouse of information regarding home care will be invaluable to residents statewide.”

The Home Health Services Legislative Work Group was formed last January to aid the implementation of the state’s long-term care and “right-sizing” plan.

Prague, 86, was hospitalized on Christmas Day and was later transferred to a rehabilitation facility to continue her recuperation. Her return to the Capitol occurred well in advance of the Feb. 8 start of the new legislative session.

On March 10 and 11, the Maple Fest brought huge crowds to the town of Hebron. According to Wenzel Sugar House owner Ron Wenzel, this year’s sugaring season had been about average, with warm weather allowing for early sap collection and a steady flow throughout the season.

A few miles away from Wenzel, some of the newest additions to the Hebron Maple Fest line-up were wrapping up their own successful weekend. Greg and Kim Hills reopened their farm, which has been in Greg’s family for generations, last summer. They are currently milking a small herd, and saw the Maple Fest as an opportunity to re-introduce the farm to their community. Hills Farm offered a number of attractions for Maple Fest visitors, including watercolor art, calves for children to pet, chickens, milking parlor tours, and live music courtesy of Toad Eckert and “The Flyswatters.”  Also available were fried cheese curds made with Hills Farm milk. The event was staffed by family and friends of the couple.

“It was awesome,” said Kim, adding that 150 families had come through the farm on Saturday, and it was approaching the same number for Sunday. Visitors had been very enthusiastic about the rebirth of the farm, according to Hills. “It was kind of re-inspiring,” she said. “People get excited about the farm, and then we get excited all over again.”

After years of red tape delays, the massive 80-ton Rail Trail covered bridge was lifted onto its abutments over Route 316 at the intersection of Route 6 in Andover at the end of March. In the works for some 12 years since the old railroad bridge was removed to facilitate the new traffic configuration at the intersection, the new bridge closed the gap in the Rail Trail, which runs from Willimantic to Vernon, and will eventually connect with other walking trails all along the east coast.

On April 25, local teachers joined an estimated 800 educators from all over the state at the Connecticut State Capitol building to protest the original version of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform bill, and to urge legislators to get reform done right. A similar rally on April 24 drew an estimated 1,000 teachers.

David Telep, a teacher at Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School in East Haddam, said that he was there to support the Education Committee’s alternate bill and to “stand against Gov. Malloy’s original bill.” Private interests stand to profit hugely from the original proposal, he said. While agreeing that teacher evaluation systems need to be amended, Telep said that standardized tests were not the best way to do it. “I think some of the best stuff that goes on at schools can’t be measured by standardized tests,” he said.

“Never, ever have I been so proud of all of you,” said Connecticut Education Association President Phil Apruzzese, noting that in 20 years of leadership he has never seen a more definitive, larger stand for “what is right” from teachers. “All of us want great schools,” said Apruzzese, noting that there are many different kinds of reform. “But reform done right means keeping the public in public schools,” said Apruzzese.

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