Norfolk Hub Offers Recycling for Shipping Bags

Christmas is a season of excess—not only do we buy more with all of the Christmas preparations, but we also discard more as package after package arrives from Amazon and other vendors.

The Wall Street Journal reported that even before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon delivered more than 4.8 billion packages in the U.S. alone and that the Seattle-based e-commerce giant expects to make some 5.9 billion deliveries by the end of 2023.

Even without the holiday surge, online shopping generates massive amounts of packaging waste. It isn’t just cardboard anymore—Amazon has increased its reliance on lightweight plastic mailers. They come in two forms, plastic on the outside with a bubble wrap interior, or flexible plastic bags with no padding inside. The good news is that both can be recycled by bringing them to the Norfolk Hub, which has a plastic bag drop-off program through January. Just remove the paper labels first.

The news is not so good if the package is paper on the outside with bubble wrap on the inside. Because the bags are composed of mixed materials, they cannot be recycled at all. 

Cardboard boxes can be flattened and put it into recycling. The plastic air pillows put inside can be treated like plastic bags—bring them to the Hub through January.

Maple Avenue Cleanup Declared Done

Remediation of Maple Avenue following the disastrous gas spill of last November is complete “to the best of our knowledge,” according to First Selectman Matt Riiska. 

He said Guererra Construction has already done a lot of drainage work in the rehabilitated area and will continue to work on the rest of the street “as long as the weather cooperates.”

Maple Avenue had been slated for improvements even before the gas spill, but that work was put on the back burner during the cleanup. 

“They will be paving the center strip, which should be done Friday (today). They will continue installing drainage on the rest of the street, so there will be disruptions, but it will be smooth for driving,” Riiska said.

Boilers at Botelle Must Be Replaced

First Selectman Matt Riiska predicts that 2023, the year of his discontent, “will go out kicking and screaming.” 

A year that has seen the town struggle to recover from a massive gas spill 13 months ago, a blizzard in the spring and flash floods that did much damage in July is ending with the news that the boilers at Botelle School must be replaced.

“The latest quote we got was for $164,000,” Riiska said. “As they say, when it rains, it pours.”

The boilers recently went down on successive days at the school and administrators were advised that they must be replaced. The Board of Education has been patching up the three-decade-old boilers for several years.

Riiska expressed the hope that the boilers will go through the winter—indeed, they must as there is a 20- to 25-week lead time to deliver new ones. “Right now, I am looking for grants through the school construction program to see if we can get funding,” Riiska said. “I knew this would happen because they have reached their lifespan, but it seemed the repairs were good.”

Norfolk Stands Ready for Winter

The Public Works Department and First Selectman Matt Riiska stand poised and ready for winter in the “Icebox of Connecticut.” To date, winter has only teased its presence in the Northwest Corner, but Riiska says the town crew and its vehicles are ready to tackle the task of keeping roads cleared.

“We start working on the trucks in August,” Riiska said. “In September and October, that is all we do. When winter comes around, we are ready to go.”

This year the town will be in an even better position with the addition of another truck—this one a 24-year-old refurbished truck recently relinquished by the fire department. “It’s in pretty decent shape for public works,” Riiska explained. “It’s a 1999 tanker but with no miles on it. It’s all refurbished with shortened body and a plow. We have six big trucks, a couple of which are close to being on their last legs, so this is good. It will help tremendously.”

Riiska said he may storehouse the “new” truck and use the old ones until “we get every moment of life out of them.” Refurbishing the firetruck cost about $110,000, a savings of at least $120,000 over buying a new plow truck.

Riiska said the town budgeted for the rehab of the truck two years ago when the fire department ordered the tanker delivered last Christmas. “With this truck, we don’t have to look at another for three or four years,” he predicted.

Needed materials have also been stockpiled against the coming season, roughly 1,500 tons of salt and 1,000 tons of sand. The town uses “magic salt”—ordinary rock salt treated with a liquid, agricultural by-product blended with magnesium chloride—to melt ice, usually mixing it with sand to stretch its application. At nearly $100 a ton, it is used “as needed.”

“If it is a snowstorm, we don’t salt until it is all done,” Riiska said. “We don’t want to scrape it off as we plow.” Salt cannot be used on dirt roads because it turns them to mud but is applied to hills and known slippery spots.

Riiska noted that sand is cheaper than the salt but has its own problems. It must be swept off roads in the spring but can’t be used more than once as the individual grains become rounded and lose their grit.

All this material is distributed by six large plow trucks and their drivers. The men clear the roads until midnight and then go home to rest until 4 a.m., when plowing resumes to clear roads for morning traffic and school buses.

“We figure people can drive through four inches of snow,” Riiska explained. “If there is an emergency, we have three or four drivers right in town who can come in. We generally unload the trucks at night to keep the weight off the tires, but we have a couple half-full so they can go out right away.”

Angel Tree, Reverse Calendar Need More Donors

The Church of Christ Congregational’s Angel Tree needs more donors to commit to helping local children have a merry holiday. Click on Angel Tree 2023 Sign-Up and browse the gifts needed. Select any children that you would like to buy gifts for by choosing the corresponding tags.

Make sure to note the number on the tag chosen. In addition to putting the numbered tag on the wrapped gifts, also attach a list of what is being given. This will help the parents know what their children are receiving.

Wrapped gifts with the numbered tag must be delivered to the Church of Christ Congregational by noon on Sunday, December 10.

The church has started another initiative to assist the Food Pantry located in the basement of Battell Chapel. The “Reverse” Advent Calendar calls for families to add a suggested daily item to a box that will be delivered to Battell Chapel Christmas Eve.

Donors can use the calendar to add items such as a box of cereal, stuffing mix, canned meats and vegetables, peanut butter and more. Substitute food items are welcome.

All donations may be delivered during Pantry hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m..

Eversource Announces Maintenance Plan

Eversource will be working on its electrical system in the town center the night of Tuesday, November 28, starting at 9:00 p.m., and continuing through 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 29. The alternate date is November 29 and 30 during the same hours.

During this time, electricity will temporarily be cut off to ensure the safety of workers. This will affect street lighting in the center of town.

While the company expects to complete the work during these hours, unforeseen circumstances such as weather may make it unsafe to work and necessitate rescheduling. If the work schedule changes, customers will be alerted. Customers can also enroll in Outage Alerts to receive information via text, email or phone call. To enroll and update communication preferences, log into your account at

Those planning to use generators during this period are advised to follow manufacturers’ safety instructions. If a manually operated generator is used, be sure the transfer switch is set to prevent electric feedback.

Giving Tree at Immaculate Conception

A Christmas Giving Tree will be in Immaculate Conception Church from November 27 through December 10. This year gift tags will be for diapers and wipes to benefit the Two Hearts Pregnancy Center. There will also be numbered tags for $25 gift cards to grocery stores to assist local seniors. Tags should be attached to the gifts, put in an envelop and placed in the collection basket by December 10.

A mitten donation tree will be in the ICC library. New hats, mittens, gloves, scarves and socks are being collected.

PZC Asks for More Information About Firehouse

The Planning and Zoning Commission has continued its public hearing on a proposed new firehouse until December 12 so additional information can be gathered.

During Tuesday night’s hearing, architectural and site plan presentations were made by David Stein, a principal at Silver Petrucelli and Associates, and Will Walter, an engineer with Alfred Benesch & Company.

The new facility, located on the same Shepard Street lot where the existing firehouse sits, would be pushed to the west side of the parcel so the existing structure can be used during the nine to 10 months of construction. The older building would then be demolished. Click here for links to the application and other information.

The fire department is currently crammed into a building too small to adequately shelter its seven large vehicles.

Stein said firehouses “are public safety buildings and need and functionality ties into their scale,” adding that the trick is to blend them into the architectural landscape of the community.

He noted that firehouses derive from the barns initially used for storage, but that the vehicles have “grown immensely in both size and complexity” necessitating bigger and more complex firehouses.

In keeping with the residential nature of its location on the edge of the village center and opposite a row of houses, efforts were made to minimize this visual impact. Board-and-batten walls would be dark red in color atop a stone base. A white tower—a traditional element in municipal buildings of this type, Stein said—would allow infiltration of light into the building.

The firehouse would be positioned so the lowest elevation is perpendicular to the road, with three bay doors in front and three to the side, giving the firefighters flexibility in determining how to store trucks.

Meeting rooms would be positioned at the back and have “lots of glass,” providing light and solar heat. “We try to find the right balance of scale and color and use,” Stein concluded. 

The meeting room, primarily planned for training, could also be used for assemblies. A commercial kitchen would be suitable for public food preparation.

Stein said lighting would be “dark sky compatible,” with light fixtures being directed downward and away from residences. They would be activated by motion sensors, and required lighting around doors would be on the level of ATM machines. “We would implement a lighting management plan that can be adjusted,” he said. “There is no need to consume energy at 2:00 a.m.” 

The orientation of the building also minimizes light pollution, with the meeting rooms at the rear.

Assistant Fire Chief Matt Ludwig said some lighting is necessary for security, but that the planned lighting would be less obtrusive that the current firehouse.

Will Walter said a tight site with challenging topography created difficulties for the site plan, as did its location next to City Meadow, a wetland extensively landscaped for public use. An underground storm water collection system would prevent excessive runoff and protect the City Meadow wetlands.

Three-quarters of an acre of town-owned City Meadows land would have to be transferred for the firehouse, also town-owned. The town is in the process of merging the lots it owns to meet lot requirements.

Four parking areas are designated for City Meadow users but would also be available for firehouse parking when needed. 

The commission asked for additional information on such things as excavation, turning the trucks and the specifics of building materials. 

GMF Closes Recreational Uses for Three Weeks

Great Mountain Forest will be closed to recreational use from Wednesday, November 15 through Wednesday, December 6, while the deer population is culled. Maintenance of the deer population is necessary to maintain the health of the animals and the forest. Ten to 12 deer per square mile is the ecological capacity of the forest.

The forest will be open to recreation on Sundays through these next three weeks.

Colorful Quilt is First Fruit of Botelle Theme

The first fruit of Botelle Elementary School’s 2023-24 theme, “Celebrating All and Creating Community” has ripened in the form of a colorful paper quilt. 

September’s focus was Celebrating Creativity, with Botelle art teacher Shana Bazelmans initiating a community-wide effort to create a community quilt using paper patches from students, staff members and various people in the greater community—firefighters, EMTs, local shopkeepers, librarians, bankers, municipal employees and town volunteers. 

All were asked to use a small paper triangle in anyway they pleased—drawing a picture or perhaps an abstract design—using any color pen, pencil, colored pencils or markers. Now the quilt is assembled it will be displayed at the library and other locations around town.