Day: April 16, 2018

Bethel to Celebrate Earth Day

The second annual Bethel Community Earth Day celebration will be held on Saturday, April 21, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on the lawn of the Municipal Center. The non-profit event is co-sponsored by The First Congregational Church of Bethel, the Town of Bethel, and Bethel Parks and Rec.

Fun for all ages, the event will host local vendors, non-profit organizations, community groups, artists, craftspeople, and farmers, all dedicated to environmental awareness and preserving our planet. Food trucks will be on hand, and local musicians will provide entertainment.

Great off-site events will be happening concurrently throughout Bethel’s downtown:

  • The Toy Room: Come and meet dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind and learn more about this organization. The Toy Room will donate 15% of all purchases made during the event to Guiding Eyes.
  • Byrd’s Books: An art table for all ages will be available throughout the day. Special nature-themed books will be available.
  • Bethel Music Center: A free ukulele will be raffled off.
  • Touch of Sedona: Prizes, free gifts, flower planting, gardening, intuitive readings, a raffle, refreshments, and special sale items are all on offer. Kids’ activities include story circle time, prizes, a yard rock hunt, a fairy garden, and bird feeder crafts.
These four Bethel businesses, along with 22 other downtown locations, are all part of the Earth Day local passport. From now through the 21st, visit these participating businesses (identifiable by the Earth Day Flag on display) and ask to have your passport stamped. Your completed passport will qualify you for prizes and raffles at the Earth Day celebration!

On Sunday, April 22 from 2:00-3:30 pm, Bethel Public Library will host a panel discussion called, “Ecotheology: Caring for and Connecting with Our Earth.” Panelists include Geshe Lobsang Dhargey, resident teacher at Do Ngak Kunphen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Redding; Jane Ellingwood, Ph.D., of the First Congregational Church in Bethel; and Ms. Eman Beshtawii, founder and director of the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown.

The speakers will discuss principles and practices from their faith traditions of caring for and respecting Earth, of the interconnectedness of living beings and all aspects of nature, and of the integrity or worth of the non-human world. They will also consider the role of human beings in endangering Earth and its inhabitants on the one hand, and in working to protect Earth and in trying to achieve sustainable human-Earth relationships on the other hand. Questions from attendees will be encouraged.

Registration for the program is required. Register through the Bethel Public Library’s online calendar at www.bethellibrary.org or by calling 203-794-8756 x4.

Hello Bethel: Daniel Hickok House


Bethel’s second-oldest structure is slated for demolition within the next 30 days. Known as the Daniel Hickok house, the structure at 13 Blackman Avenue has been uninhabited and in disrepair since back-to-back fires gutted the structure in December 2014.
While no records exist that indicate the exact date of construction, the house is estimated to have been built around 1769, when Hickok married his wife, Lucy Starr. It is a saltbox style, characterized by a two-story front with a sloping rear roof that creates a single story in the back of the house. The term “saltbox” comes from the literal boxes that were used to hold salt in colonial times. These boxes were typically made of oak and were designed to be hung near a fire or stove. Salt, which easily absorbs moisture, would remain dry from the nearby heat source.

The Hickok house is believed to have played a minor role in the Revolutionary War. On April 25, 1777, British forces landed at Compo Beach (today’s Westport) and began marching toward Danbury, designated by George Washington as a supply depot for the Continental Army. Early the next day, Generals Benedict Arnold, Gold Selleck Silliman, and David Wooster gathered their forces and pursued the British invaders.as far as Bethel, where they spent the night. By that time Hickok had risen to the rank of Army captain, so historians have hypothesized that the three generals met in Hickok’s home to strategize their plan of attack on the British.

According to Beth Cavagna, Town Planner and  head of Bethel’s Land Use Department, the current owners of the Hickok House plan to build a replica of the original structure. It will be a long-anticipated improvement for our downtown district and an important reminder of Bethel’s place in colonial history.

If the Hickok House is Bethel’s second oldest structure, are you curious to know what the oldest building is? Believe it or not, it’s the current location of Gentle Dental on Grassy Plain Road.

Hello Bethel:

At the April 11 referendum, 23% of Bethel’s voters, or 2,873 people, made it to the polls to decide whether or not to pass the annual town, education, and capital budgets. The town budget was voted down, with 1,400 in favor and 1,466 against. The education budget passed, with 1,505 in favor and 1,351 against. The capital plan was voted down, with 1,296 in favor and 1,560 against.
Why did voters reject two of the three budgets? A look back at comments made at the March 20 Pubic Hearing and April 2 Town Meeting may elucidate the question. Some members of the public had voiced concern over the tax increase in the proposed town budget. Although the 2.8% increase was deemed “modest” by both Board of Finance Chair Bob Manfreda and First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker, it was coming on the heels of last year’s revaluation, after which some Bethel property owners were faced with a higher tax burden.

A second factor may have been the addition of the turf field in the capital plan. Although part of the original budget, it was removed before the budgets were presented at the Public Hearing. A large show of support for the turf field at the Hearing motivated the Board of Finance to add it to the capital plan. Dissenting voices at the Town Meeting questioned the need for the field, as well as the cost to taxpayers.

A final factor may have been the news in late March that construction of the new police station is over budget by $889,000, due primarily to electrical and HVAC costs as well as unforeseen site issues.

At this juncture, the education budget has been approved and will not face any changes. The Board of Finance will reconvene on Tuesday, April 17, to reconsider the town budget and capital plan, as mandated by the voters. Those two budgets will go to Referendum again, on a date to be determined.

The Board of Finance will also be discussing the police station construction overage at a later date, and taxpayers will also have the opportunity to vote on those additional funds.