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Archives for February 5, 2013

Smyrna Vision: Duck Creek to have utilities by years end – Smyrna

  • With over 10,000 residents, the Town of Smyrna has grown quite a bit in the last decade and continues to do so. Along with all this growing has come planning, planning on where Smyrna is headed in the future.

    One of the biggest projects on the horizon for the town is the infrastructure going north of Duck Creek. This spring the Town of Smyrna will put utilities north of the creek, and it is a project Town Manager Dave Hugg believes will be a catalyst for other things to come.

    “I think it’s long overdue and it’s critical for any rational development of that area north of Duck Creek. What’s constrained that area for decades is it doesn’t have adequate public water, sewer, and electric,” Hugg said. “Now that we’re able to start to say to people ‘it’s 2013, by the end of the year you’re going to have utilities on the east side in front of your door,’ that’s going to make a difference.”

    The project includes putting a water system, sewer system, pump station and eventually a water tower north of Duck Creek. The water system, sewer system, and pump station aspects of the project will go to bid and start construction this spring. Different aspects of the project will finish at varying times, with an expected final completion of November.

    The water system will be paid for through a USDA loan while the sewer work is being done through a DNREC loan.

    Why it matters

    Hugg believes taking utilities up north is the logical extension of Smyrna in terms of growing the community.

    “I think it offers an outstanding opportunity to create another employment center both for retail and for business uses, which is critical to the future of the town,” Hugg said.

    The town hopes that by putting in utilities north of the town, the project will help generate employment, and new investments. And that’s just on the east side of the town where the utilities will be. There are proposed plans for multiple housing developments on the west side of Route 13.

    Mayor Pat Stombaugh said she has mixed emotions about taking the utilities north because it’s a lot of money, but she’s hoping it’ll generate jobs and revitalize the area.

    “Unfortunately the old saying is ‘you have to spend money, to make money,'” Stombaugh said.

    Improving Route 13

    Tied into the utilities projects is a Route 13 Corridor Study the town did with the state and the Dover/Kent County MPO. The study looks into ways the highway can be improved and made to feel a part of the town.

    Duck Creek is considered the northern section of this study, which suggests this area should have a trail and footbridge to improve walkability, improved street lighting, landscaping, and redevelopment of vacant sites into commercial uses; these ideas are in addition to the residential uses on the west and proposed business park.

    Hugg said he can see the area north of town expanding on what’s already up there with Parkview RV and Ronny’s Garden World with the recreation theme. However, he wants the development up north to still feel like Smyrna: “Our objective in this whole corridor initiative is to try and make it all one kind of expanded community and what I’d really like to do is get people off the interchange and on Route 13 and have them come into town because there’s other opportunities for them up and down the corridor.”

    Moreover, Hugg doesn’t just want people to drive through town on Route 13; the town wants to find ways to get people to turn off of the highway and into town. Hugg would want to see the downtown area revitalize so it’ll lure people into Smyrna. One project they’re hoping will help with downtown is the proposed Duck Creek Regional Library off of East Commerce Street.

    Impact on the town

    Not only does Hugg think the utilities will bring development north of the creek, but he feels it will encourage developers to bring business elsewhere to town, including south of Smyrna.

    “I think that some of that momentum and some of the momentum from the corridor study will also spill over to the south because what will happen is not everybody is going to want to build north of Duck Creek,” Hugg said. “But they’re not going to want to miss the opportunity to come to Smyrna.”

    Councilman Jeff Flairty is the chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee, which has spent a lot of time discussing both the potential development north of Duck Creek and the Route 13 Corridor Study.

    Flairty said these two projects can help recreate the feeling of a downtown and give the town a chance to get away from cookie cutter developments. He likes the idea of creating walking spaces and trails within developments, and being able to build an area were a resident can walk from their house to a movie theater, or ride their bike to work.

    “This offers an opportunity for the town to do things with the vision of the town for tomorrow,” Flairty said. “We can make this such a better place and community to live.”

    Email Jennifer Dailey at

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    Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

    ljx130201webPrison1 Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

    ABLE MINDS In facilities (l.– r.) from Rikers Island in New York City to the Garner Correctional Institution
    in Connecticut to Hennepin County, MN, librarians are helping inmates prepare.
    Top photo by Stephn M. Lilienthal; bottom left photos by Darren Wagner Photography

    It’s a Thursday in early June as a cart laden with books is pushed down the corridors of the George R. Vierno Center (GRVC), one of the correctional facilities on New York’s Rikers Island.

    The library may consist only of a small storeroom of books and a cart, attended by Nicholas Higgins, supervising librarian of the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Correctional Services Program (CSP); Luis Torres, a NYPL information assistant; and several volunteers, but library service to the inmates of GRVC is definitely welcome.

    The CSP cart visits two units in GRVC, 17A and 17B. As the B side inmates are served first, an inmate in A admonishes B to hurry up. As B takes its time, the A side’s calls become more insistent.

    After the rounds, as the cart nears the small storage room that holds CSP’s books and magazines, an inmate declares, “Y’all don’t come to my house. This is the only place I can catch you.” The inmate looks forward to obtaining National Geographic.

    In Higgins’s view, providing library service to inmates and those returning from prison is fulfilling the democratic mission of the public library because it allows “a wholly segregated group of people” access to information that most Americans take for granted.

    “There are definitely people there who want to better themselves but have not had the opportunity,” Torres says later. He notes that Rikers does contain inmates who are interested in doing little more than waiting for their day at trial or waiting out a short sentence (Rikers houses some ten separate jails but does not hold longer-term prisoners). However, many inmates, he thinks, have not spent much time in libraries, and CSP’s service provides a chance to start learning what the library can offer.

    CSP can only reach a limited number of inmates, but Higgins says Rikers’s leadership is cooperative. Acknowledging the need for public safety, he and CSP make it a point to be “as flexible as possible” in working with corrections officials.

    Since that day in June, Higgins has become associate director for community outreach for NYPL. Credited with expanding CSP’s service, he wants to move services to prisoners and returning inmates from the “margins” to being an integral part of public library service. Now, he oversees outreach to hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters. He sees an opportunity to reach ex-offenders in shelters, noting the correlation that often exists between homelessness and having been incarcerated.

    Forging public-prison cooperation

    Nearly 1.6 million people were in federal or state prisons in 2011, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. City and county jails are also full of people. Though there are increasingly vocal calls to reevaluate stiff sentencing for less serious crimes, this is unlikely to cause a dramatic decline in prisoners anytime soon. Meanwhile, each day, thousands return to their communities from some form of incarceration.

    What is changing is a growing realization that more public, prison, and jail libraries can better identify and serve the often significant needs of inmates or those prisoners who are returning to their communities. Not only are some libraries providing books, they are providing innovative programs and services, helping inmates and returnees to learn about work and employment opportunities, the arts (see sidebar, “Arts on the Inside“), and to develop job-seeking skills.

    In the view of Daniel Marcou, correctional librarian, Hennepin County Library (HCL), MN, public and prison libraries should be striving to ease the reentry of inmates returning to their communities. “From a community safety perspective, helping people [who are or who had been in prison] make positive changes is important,” Marcou insists.

    ljx130201webPrison21 Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

    FREEDOM TICKET Top: Hennepin County prisoners (l.) get assistance with job skills and literacy from librarian
    Daniel Marcou, while Nicholas Higgins (inset) supervises the library program at Rikers Island (bottom).
    Hennepin photos courtesy of Hennepin County Library; Rikers photos by Stephen M. Lilienthal

    Hennepin County’s Freedom Ticket

    Hennepin, like NYPL’s CSP and many prison libraries, has programs to instruct and help encourage inmates who are parents to read to their children. One goal here is to help prevent the children from following in the footsteps of their parents.

    Likewise, Marcou believes it is important to address employment issues of returning inmates since being able to obtain and hold jobs is a crucial factor in achieving successful reentry, and helping former prisoners improve their literacy and job search skills is crucial to helping them get work.

    A telling aspect of HCL’s program is Marcou’s branding of it as a “freedom ticket.” In part, he based the name on an anecdote in William Miller’s children’s book Richard Wright and the Library Card (1999). Wright, growing up in the segregated South, considered books to be “a ticket to freedom.” But there is more to the selection of the name, Marcou explains: “Freedom is probably the most valued word inside a corrections facility. I wanted to convey to the residents that reading and information can help to free us all from our past or places where we might not want to be in life. And the ticket, of course, is a library card so that you can use the library.”

    This led to Marcou’s initiation of the Freedom Ticket blog, which showcases organizations and services offered by governmental agencies and nonprofits that can help returned inmates. Residents of Hennepin County’s correctional facilities receive a print version of The Freedom Ticket newsletter quarterly.

    A welcoming library

    An online orientation video (also available on DVD) assures returning offenders that they will be “treated with dignity and respect” by library staff. Taking advantage of HCL’s resources and services dealing with education, employment, and health can help returning inmates to “make positive changes” in their lives. A foldout map-like “Going Home” guide lists HCL locations and resources “people leaving corrections facilities” can access to obtain assistance with employment, education, housing, health, and family matters.

    HCL in partnership with Goodwill Easter Seals also offers a program called “World of Work” at its North Regional Library to help ex-offenders with job searches, training location, résumés, and interview skills.

    However, Marcou knows that many people who return from incarceration are interested in developing their own businesses, such as landscaping or cleaning, and raises this issue at the job workshops he delivers at the county and state corrections facilities. He has invited a community librarian to deliver a talk on self-employment resources and programs to residents of the county’s Adult Corrections Facility (ACF).

    Marcou advises prisoners and those who’ve returned from prison to have a steady “day job,” if possible, but suggests that developing self-employment to provide several income sources makes sense in case of a layoff. He also considers self-employment to be “an enormously self-empowering option. Most folks who have hustled on street corners have strong transferable skills in terms of legitimate work and self-employment.”

    Every week, Marcou and his coworker Renée Hasse visit the Hennepin County ACF to provide inmates with requested information and books and magazines as well as manage the collection at the on-site library facilities.

    ACF reentry and education staff and volunteers assist facility residents with the use of the resource room to search for education- or employment-related information. The computers are connected to the library’s network, and filters have been adjusted to create safe Internet access to appropriate websites for reentry information needs. One of the many benefits is the direct exposure to the HCL website and increased awareness for the facility residents of all the online resources it has. HCL plans to provide more digital literacy instruction at the facility in the future.

    San Diego reintegration

    Hildie Kraus, branch manager of the Bonita-Sunnyside branch of the San Diego County Library (SDCL), shares Marcou’s concern about helping inmates and former inmates sharpen their job skills.

    California’s overcrowded prisons are seeking to reduce their populations, which makes “rehabilitation, reentry, and reintegration” of the utmost importance, according to Kraus.

    “A major component of all of these is getting a job,” she explained in a presentation to California librarians about her “Welcome Back: Ex-Offenders Rejoin the Workforce” training sessions held in summer 2011.

    Kraus was working in SDCL’s El Cajon branch when a heavily tattooed man who’d been “inside” admitted he was unable to use a computer to obtain a library card. Inspired in part by that incident, Kraus started attending monthly Parole and Community Team (PACT) meetings sponsored by the California Department of Corrections to inform recent parolees about community services and resources.

    Kraus’s own surveys of PACT attendees showed that they were eager to develop their job search, computer, and interview skills. Obtaining an in-kind contribution from SDCL, a $5,000 Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) grant, and smaller grants from the library friends and the SDCL administration, Kraus established two month-long training sessions in July and August 2011.

    The funds covered payments for flash drives, substitute staffing for Kraus and her assistant instructor, job-readiness trainers, and literature on reentry, résumés, and interview skills.

    Still, the program remains something of a niche service. Expecting over 20 participants, only one person showed up for the first class. Eventually, between four to six people were participating regularly. A total of 22 people attended, some graduating from the first session, then returning for classes during the second session.

    “Most were eager to learn,” says Kraus. “Many were consistent in attendance.”

    Yet many participants would come when they could and Kraus, taking into account their different needs and skill levels, would provide the instruction they needed rather than falling back on her initial, more structured lesson plans. Kraus says “being flexible” in instruction is important.

    Two job-readiness trainers spent hours coaching participants in how to be effective in a job interview. A high school intern videotaped the participants, who found it useful to see their body language and their responses to issues such as gaps in their résumés.

    Participants in post-program surveys showed they all knew more about computers, had developed résumés, and had applied for jobs online. They felt more confident about going employment. Kraus notes the program cost only $11,000; maintaining a single person in a California prison costs nearly $50,000 annually. “So if one person from this program doesn’t go back to prison—you do the math,” she said, closing her ­presentation.

    ljx130201webPrison4 Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

    REENTRY, REENTRY, REENTRY The Colorado State Library’s prison program is all about reintegrating prisoners into society and was cited in Corrections Today for “groundbreaking” initiatives. Photos courtesy of Colorado State Library

    Preparing to measure success

    “It’s all about reentry, reentry, reentry—that’s why we do what we do.” insists Diane Walden, coordinator of institutional library development (ILD) for the Colorado State Library.

    Walden credits Diana Reese, her recently retired predecessor, with focusing on improving quality during her tenure as coordinator of prison libraries. (See also sidebar “Colorado Standards.”)

    Colorado’s prison library program is a unique collaboration between the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), which includes the state library, and the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC), which administers libraries in state correctional institutions. ILD’s coordinator and the two regional librarians who advise state prisons must be trained in CDOC procedures and are actually housed at state prisons and expected to participate in facility operations, such as lockdowns.

    ILD continuously audits prison libraries, whereas the American Correctional Association (ACA) audits the state’s prisons every three years as part of its accreditation process. ILD makes sure CDOC’s librarians are trained to carry out the policies, and its regular presence in prison libraries helps to provide prisons with well-designed libraries and to advance innovation. Adrienne Breznau, CDOC librarian at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF), describes the relationship between CDOC librarians and ILD this way: “I’m the boss of the library, and they are the boss of policy.”

    Colorado’s ILD was credited recently in Corrections Today, the magazine of the ACA, with launching “ground-breaking initiatives” such as intranet training of prison library staff and an online library management system, which provides inmates with access to an online catalog but which is customized to prevent inmates from using features such as email.

    Reese suggests Colorado’s state prison libraries are notable in part for using a “public library model.” (ILD is not involved with the prison law libraries.) As Breznau says, “Our patrons have the same information needs as patrons in public libraries.”

    Walden recalls a review of prison libraries that showed a lack of reentry-related materials such as those addressing job search issues, improving family relations, increasing financial literacy, dealing with addictions—all things that help to curb recidivism. The response designed to meet these needs was branded as “Out for Life.”

    While formal classes at CDOC prisons stress reentry issues, the Colorado State Library’s Walden notes not every prisoner likes or seeks out classroom learning opportunities, but they will use the library and can be reached that way.

    Prison libraries, says Walden, are in a “unique position” to reach inmates through reentry materials and programming.

    Equipping tools for financial literacy

    Alongside the self-improvement tools and preparation these programs offer, there is an important self-protection element as well. DWCF librarian Breznau says many inmates can fall prey to online get-rich-quick scams. “My job is to turn them away from information sources from people trying to scam them.”

    A positive solution is to provide financial literacy programs as Renée Robbins and Janice Chiaro decided to do a few years ago when brainstorming ideas for potential programs at Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (CTCF).

    They arranged for a guest speaker from Wells Fargo Bank to address the inmates. Robbins added the Wells Fargo CD-ROM on financial literacy, called “Hands on Banking,” to the library computer loaded with reference and skill-building ­software.

    At least 30 inmates started the program; approximately half were able to complete it. Inmates averaging 80 percent on all modules received certificates for completing the program. Robbins says some lost interest, but many inmates considered the program valuable.

    “There were offenders who rarely used the library but who came to complete the program because they saw it as something they needed,” Robbins recalls. That provided an opening for library staff to demonstrate how the prison library could help them obtain information that would be useful to prepare for their release. “At every opportunity,” says Robbins, “we encouraged [the inmates] to use their public libraries” upon returning to their communities.

    Robbins insists that a program such as the one implemented on financial literacy at CTCF is a boon to inmates. The prison library, she says, is the best place to offer such sessions because it is “open for anyone to use” and inmates realize their staffs “want to help their patrons succeed” once they leave prison.

    Denver reaching out

    Back in 2008, the Colorado State Library’s Walden had delivered a talk with then-ILD staff member Erica MacCreaigh and two others at a Colorado Association of Libraries conference on “Life After 20-to-Life” that urged greater public library programming aimed at people returned from prison. Melanie Colletti, a student in library science at the University of Denver, heard the presentation and found herself “amazed” at the scarcity of library services available to ex-offenders. She helped to create a resource guide for inmates returning to their communities to find services of use to them.

    Working at the Community Technology Center (CTC) at the Denver Public Library, Colletti and a former supervisor, Megan Kinney, now director of library services at Community College of Aurora who shared the interest in outreach to ex-offenders, developed the “Free To Learn” (FTL) program. The program provides free space for former inmates who are often residents in transitional houses and helps them to learn computer and Internet skills that often are not taught in prisons. The program is staged just for returning inmates in part because some halfway houses require verification of the location of their charges. In such cases, FTL will call the halfway houses to let them know who is attending.

    Colletti, who now oversees CTC, collaborates with librarians at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, delivering regular talks there about the Free To Learn program and other DPL offerings. She visits half-way houses to meet with residents and staff. One participant said, “I’m not comfortable in groups of people.” Colleti tells prison and half-way house residents to ask for her by name to help put them at ease.

    “When I see people face-to-face and tell them it is okay to come to the library and ask for me, that helps to defuse some of that embarrassment.” says Colletti.

    Colletti’s statistics from FTL’s first year show 78 percent of the women completed job applications during their sessions.

    Breznau of DWCF stresses the need for partnerships between prison and public libraries. When inmates are free, she insists, they should be able to obtain “the same quality of help” for their unique information needs from public libraries that they receive from prison libraries and staffs.

    New challenge for libraries

    The Pew Center on the States’ 2011 report, “State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons,” notes that at least 95 percent of prisoners ultimately will be returning to their communities after incarceration. Policymakers are increasingly aware that “aggressive recidivism reduction is a smarter approach to curbing corrections costs and protecting public safety.” It cautions that besides a prison record, people returning from prison often have great needs stemming from poor education and lack of effective life skills.

    Stronger efforts by prison and public libraries to help prisoners and people returning from prison to their communities can help them start to narrow those gaps. Glennor Shirley, retired coordinator for Maryland’s prison libraries, hopes public libraries and prison administrations and their libraries will work in partnership more. More librarians share Shirley’s views. Rhode Island Department of Corrections librarian Loretta M. Cimini in a presentation last year to the Rhode Island Library Association expressed hope that public libraries will better serve one of the most “under the radar” groups—released inmates.

    Shirley declares, “Very few [public libraries] have proactively done outreach or programming in prisons. This is a lost opportunity to help inmates to reenter society successfully. Working in partnership, prison and public libraries can have a positive impact on prisoners, their families, and public safety and help to build stronger communities.”

    Arts on the Inside

    Most librarians know that Hamlet avenges the death of his father, the king, by killing his uncle, Claudius. However, thanks to some surprising interventions, Claudius sometimes avoids this patricidal fate.

    When Laura Bates, professor of English literature at Indiana University, started a program called “Shakespeare in Shackles” for inmates placed in segregation at the state-run Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, she created a small circulating library devoted to the Bard’s works. Prisoners in segregation—because of their violent behavior—have few privileges, according to Bates, including access to general library services.

    Bates details how one inmate in solitary, Larry Newton, benefitted from participating in her classes exploring Shakespeare in a forthcoming book, Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard (Sourcebooks, Apr. 2013).

    ljx130201webPrison31 Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

    ARTS INSPIRATION Top: Professor Laura Bates conducts her “Shakespeare in Shackles” class with Wabash Valley Correctional Facility inmates in “supermax” (i.e., long-term solitary confinement), who participate through the cell doors. Bottom left: At Garner Correctional Institution, Mark Aldrich directs the Garner Players.
    Bottom right: In Massachusetts, inmates make use of the library at Bay State Correctional Center. Bates photo courtesy of Wabash Valley Correctional Facility; Aldrich photo courtesy of Garner Correctional Institution;
    Bay State photo courtesy of Massachusetts Department of Correction

    Prisoners read and discuss the plays. Inmates, many of whom lack strong academic records, often warm up to the challenge of learning the plays written by the intellectually demanding playwright. More than that, Bates asserts, many prisoners discover, sometimes to their surprise, that the questions posed by Shakespeare’s centuries-old plays may be more relevant than many would assume. Newton is quoted in Shakespeare Saved My Life: “The more insight you get into Shakespeare’s characters, the more insight you get into your own character.”

    Frequently, inmates will rewrite the plays to reflect their own changing perspectives. For example, Hamlet may spare Claudius’s life as prisoners reconsider their own thirst for ­vengeance.

    Not every prisoner can be changed via humanities intervention, but Bates has met those who say they have not killed thanks in large part to exposure to works like Shakespeare’s plays. She says there should be a place for arts and literature programs in prisons and jails and their libraries.

    Mark Aldrich, a librarian at Connecticut’s Garner Correctional Institution, a state-run high-security prison, concurs.

    Aldrich coteaches playwriting and performance classes for inmates. When a class ends, inmates write and produce their own plays before audiences that have included the staff of a local literary magazine, prison and school officials, and businesspeople. Plays written by students in Aldrich’s writing classes include one dealing with a discussion between a father who had been incarcerated and his estranged son and another with a job interview between a just-released inmate and a recovering alcoholic.

    As a master’s degree candidate in applied theater at the City University of New York (CUNY), Aldrich also brings fellow classmates to help with the prison theater group, the Garner Players. One session conducted by fellow classmates had inmates consider how maleness should be defined in prison. The games and exercises that occurred led to the inmates improvising short scenes that would later move on to the development of full plays.

    Aldrich delivered a talk on “The Rehabilitation Potential of Applied Theatre” at a conference held earlier this year by ­CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

    In a paper, Aldrich asserted that simply participating in plays or visiting the library will not curb recidivism. “But what I am suggesting,” he wrote, “is that a consistent, steady commitment to a physically and emotionally safe place with institutional support in which individuals are treated fairly and with respect, and are given an opportunity to participate in their own education, is a start.” That applies to his work in Garner’s library and with his playwriting and performance classes.

    Massachusetts’s Department of Correction created a program called Able Minds (Altering Behaviors Through Literary Exploration and Moderated Inquiry-based Discussion Sessions) back in the mid-1990s that is now administered by its prison libraries. State prison librarians in Massachusetts offer all kinds of programming, ranging from poetry groups to regular book discussions. Able Minds is notable for attempting to use literature to inspire inmates to consider making long-term behavioral changes through a ten-step process called Think First that starts by asking participants to assess their situation and ends by having them take action to accomplish self-identified goals.

    Inmates, often judged to be high-risk, read books and plays such as Ben Joravsky’s Hoop Dreams, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Able Minds discussions take place in an eight-week consecutive course. The first seven sessions are one-hour chats. One book is read per week, and librarians link those books with the Think First steps, promoting personal reflection. The eighth week is two hours long, and inmates receive certificates for completing the program and review what they’ve learned.

    Ally Dowds, librarian at Massachusetts’s Bay State Correctional Center, explains that she chooses books based on a balance of readability, literary quality, and content. Often, selections feature “a seriously flawed character” or events and decisions likely to provoke discussion.

    “This often ends in the group taking sides, but it also encourages inmates to demonstrate empathy,” explains Dowds. As with Bates’s program, inmates are often pleasantly surprised to learn they are able to read challenging material.

    Dowds insists on the beneficial effects of the process. Inmates are able to “break down the walls” of the seriously flawed character and then “break down the walls” regarding their own “faults and failures.” Participating in Able Minds can force inmates to realize the destructive choices they made, their toll on themselves and others, and consider making positive changes.

    In an email, Aldrich added that arts and literature programs aimed at inmates can help them to rethink their past lives and what kind of damage they inflicted on their own communities. Arts and literature programming for inmates and those who are reentering the community can create “a connection to community that makes this possible.”

    Colorado Standards

    Diane Walden, coordinator of institutional library development (ILD) for the Colorado State Library, and Diana Reese before her have been interested in ushering Colorado beyond statistical standards measuring output—such as the numbers of inmates participating in the Read to the Children (RTC) program or staff members attending training—to ones measuring outcomes that are more qualitative and partially focused beyond prison walls.

    It matters. ILD’s FY10 report to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) claims that half the inmates released to the community will return to state prisons within three years. Yet, every prisoner who avoids prison saves Colorado taxpayers over $32,000 a year.

    “We want to know whether the library helped inmates to obtain their GED or bachelor’s degree. We want to know whether the RTC program is helping to improve the relationship [among] the offender, caregiver, and the offender’s child. (RTC tapes parents who are inmates reading children’s books, and those tapes are then sent to their child and caregiver.) We want to know whether it has helped offenders to achieve their goals,” Walden stresses.

    ILD’s report to IMLS notes that 70 percent of caregivers participating in RTC had improved their own relationship with the inmate, an important factor in curbing recidivism. Also, two-thirds of caregivers believed the reading ability of the children in their care had improved.

    Walden is intent on developing quantitative research-based, less anecdotal surveys of ex-inmates a few years after their release to determine how the library helped them and if the ex-inmate has avoided reincarceration.

    Stephen M. Lilienthal is a freelance writer living in Washington, DC


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    Huntsville invites retail developers to bid on 25 acres at John Hunt Park

    Huntsville city logo

    HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – For sale to the highest bidder: 25 acres of prime city-owned land at one of Huntsville’s busiest corners.

    Last week, city officials issued a request for proposals from developers interested in buying a slice of John Hunt Park near the Memorial Parkway-Airport Road intersection. Deep pockets are a must, as Mayor Tommy Battle has set a minimum price of $7,623,000.

    “This is a great opportunity to create a signature development in one of the nation’s most vibrant communities,” Battle said in a news release. “We are looking for a developer to create a distinctive and sustainable retail commercial development with buildings in keeping with the importance of this site and location.”

    The land being sold is home to several government buildings, including Huntsville Fire Rescue Station 6, a firefighter training facility and city employee medical clinic. The city says it would build a replacement fire station about a mile away on Drake Avenue.

    Battle envisions 372-acre John Hunt Park becoming the Rocket City’s version of New York’s Central Park, and the land sale would give the city a pot of money to begin bringing that vision to life.

    An updated master plan for the old airport property calls for ripping up runways last used in the 1960s to make room for a 4,000-seat indoor sports arena and lakeside concert amphitheater. The Benton H. Wilcoxon Ice Complex would get a third rink and arena seating for about 1,200, allowing it to host larger hockey and figure skating competitions. The old Jaycees Building would be replaced by a “multi-purpose community activities” facility, and two more championship-caliber soccer fields would be added near the park’s main entrance.

    The improvements would continue on the south side of Airport Road with a new splash fountain, picnic areas, at least eight new tennis courts at the city tennis complex, and miles of tree-lined jogging trails.

    According to the bid document, the city will only consider selling the 25 acres to developers who commit to building “high quality” retail space with sufficient parking and heavy landscaping. Whatever is built will border the popular Kids Space playground.

    Developers have until April 1 to submit their design ideas and top price for the land. The city hopes to select the winning firm and complete all negotiations by Sept. 1 with the goal of closing on the sale in early November.

    Article source:

    Huntsville invites retail developers to bid on 25 acres at John Hunt Park

    Huntsville city logo

    HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – For sale to the highest bidder: 25 acres of prime city-owned land at one of Huntsville’s busiest corners.

    Last week, city officials issued a request for proposals from developers interested in buying a slice of John Hunt Park near the Memorial Parkway-Airport Road intersection. Deep pockets are a must, as Mayor Tommy Battle has set a minimum price of $7,623,000.

    “This is a great opportunity to create a signature development in one of the nation’s most vibrant communities,” Battle said in a news release. “We are looking for a developer to create a distinctive and sustainable retail commercial development with buildings in keeping with the importance of this site and location.”

    The land being sold is home to several government buildings, including Huntsville Fire Rescue Station 6, a firefighter training facility and city employee medical clinic. The city says it would build a replacement fire station about a mile away on Drake Avenue.

    Battle envisions 372-acre John Hunt Park becoming the Rocket City’s version of New York’s Central Park, and the land sale would give the city a pot of money to begin bringing that vision to life.

    An updated master plan for the old airport property calls for ripping up runways last used in the 1960s to make room for a 4,000-seat indoor sports arena and lakeside concert amphitheater. The Benton H. Wilcoxon Ice Complex would get a third rink and arena seating for about 1,200, allowing it to host larger hockey and figure skating competitions. The old Jaycees Building would be replaced by a “multi-purpose community activities” facility, and two more championship-caliber soccer fields would be added near the park’s main entrance.

    The improvements would continue on the south side of Airport Road with a new splash fountain, picnic areas, at least eight new tennis courts at the city tennis complex, and miles of tree-lined jogging trails.

    According to the bid document, the city will only consider selling the 25 acres to developers who commit to building “high quality” retail space with sufficient parking and heavy landscaping. Whatever is built will border the popular Kids Space playground.

    Developers have until April 1 to submit their design ideas and top price for the land. The city hopes to select the winning firm and complete all negotiations by Sept. 1 with the goal of closing on the sale in early November.

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    Benefits of native plants in home landscaping focus of talk in Belfast

    BELFAST – On Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m., Rebecca Jacobs from the Knox-Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District will present a slide show and talk on using native plants in the home landscape in the Abbott Room of the Belfast Fee Library. This program, which is free and open to the public, is the first of three evening presentations co-sponsored by the Belfast Garden Club and the Belfast Free Library on the topic “Water in the Home Landscape for Beauty and Conservation.”

    When choosing plants for your home landscape, native plants and cultivars are well-adapted to the environment, provide habitat for wildlife, and can add something special to your landscape. Jacobs will discuss the native perennials and shrubs that can be found locally as well as which non-natives to avoid. Guests will learn tips and techniques for how to improve their landscape with all of these elements in mind.

    Rebecca Jacobs comes to Knox-Lincoln SWCD with a wide range of experience in the field of conservation. While formally trained as a landscape designer at Springfield Technical Community College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she has brought her knowledge and love of plants to a number of conservation related organizations and locally owned garden centers. Moving to Maine in 2006, Jacobs was able to share her love of horticulture and “all things outdoors” in her role as education coordinator for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. She now divides her time between Gabriella’s Gardens, her own business in landscape design and horticultural services, and as education and outreach coordinator for Knox-Lincoln SWCD.

    The Belfast Garden Club has promoted civic beautification and presented speakers to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening since 1929. The “Water in the Home Landscape” series will continue Tuesday, March 12 with a presentation by Candi Gilpatric from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Service titled, “Pond Construction and Maintenance,” and on Tuesday, April 9, Rebecca Jacobs will return with a program on “Rain Gardens.”

    For more information about these programs, contact the Belfast Free Library at 338-3884, extension 10. For more information about the Belfast Garden Club, visit their website at

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    Meet your Solana Beach Mayor: Involvement on the political landscape followed …

    Solana Beach Mayor Mike Nichols at Fletcher Cove, which he designed as an employee of local landscape architecture firm M.W. Peltz. Courtesy photo

    By Claire Harlin

    You can’t think about Solana Beach without picturing iconic landmarks like the Coastal Rail Trail, Fletcher Cove Park and the newly renovated Community Center. But behind that public-art sprinkled meandering path, mosaic-trimmed beach park and ocean-view gathering space are handfuls of residents whose resources, effort and expertise have made those projects possible over the past decade. And one of the most influential visionaries behind those masterpieces has been Mike Nichols, the local landscape architect who designed them, his passion projects launching him into two fruitful terms on the City Council.

    “Getting involved with government wasn’t my direct route of travel,” said Nichols, 43, who began his second (nonconsecutive) term as Mayor in December. “I never set out to become a council member.”

    But things started falling into place for Nichols just over 10 years ago when he moved to Solana Beach from La Jolla to take a job with landscape architecture firm M. W. Peltz Associates and was assigned to turn the huge parking lot that once stood at Fletcher Cove into the park that is there now — the single most memorable work of design in his portfolio, he said.

    “No doubt, I’m the proudest about that project,” he said, adding that meeting his wife, Heather, at Fletcher Cove makes the landmark even more special. “Being able to live in the same city and enjoy it, I don’t think I will ever have a project more memorable than that.”

    Unlike that project, he was not hired to sketch out the landscaping found along the rail trail and around the Fletcher Cove Community Center. He stepped in voluntarily in 2005 to create a design for the rail trail that lies between Highway 101 and the railroad because he and a group of residents didn’t like a city-commissioned design that had already gained council approval. In the case of the landscaping around the Community Center, which was renovated last year, he was one of many who got involved in both the concept and completion — from sketching designs, to picking out plants to putting shovel to dirt.

    “I like to come up with the ideas and do presentations, but I like to physically get involved too,” said Nichols of his work last year helping the new Community Center come to fruition. “I spent a lot of time up there just because it’s something I like to do.”

    Nichols’ first taste of government involvement went hand-in-hand with one of his first landscape architecture projects — a skate park he both designed and petitioned to have built while he was attending college at the University of Georgia. A skateboarding and BMX enthusiast himself, he said he realized there was no place for kids to practice that type of recreation in Athens, Ga., so he mobilized support and held a presentation for the mayor and city leaders to educate them about the function and benefits a skate park would bring.

    “There were a lot of aspects to it. The report addressed health issues, safety issues and the misperception that these parks would be a liability to the municipality,” he said. “For me, it was also a matter of helping at-risk youth because this was their way of expressing themselves, and because skateboarders were prohibited to ride on the streets they were being classified as outlaws, cast in the light of doing something illegal.”

    While the project was a class requirement, Nichols said bringing awareness to Athens’ city leaders was his priority, and he was happy to see the park actually get built two years later.

    “I was amped to have seen how landscape architects can really make change in communities and people’s quality of life,” Nichols said.

    A native of the small, coastal North Carolina town of Nags Head, which has sand dunes so tall they can be seen from miles out to sea, Nichols is an outdoorsman at heart. Not only did the role outdoor spaces play in a community inspire his career, but his longtime love of surfing and skateboarding fueled the California intrigue that landed him in San Diego after college. He first lived in La Jolla and did projects in the Windansea area before laying his stakes in Solana Beach, where he eventually started his own landscape architecture firm about a year ago.

    It was also his involvement in the community’s outdoor spaces that started turning heads around town. Having majored in parks and recreation in college, Nichols first got involved in the community by serving on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission more than 10 years ago, and his input on public projects slowly started to gain him the trust of city leaders.

    Margaret Schlesinger, who served as the first mayor of Solana Beach when it became a city in 1986, said she started hearing Nichols’ name being suggested as a viable candidate for city council by movers and shakers around town, so she met with him one day before his 2006 candidacy to get an idea of whether their goals were in line.

    “We talked about our visions for the city, and he told me what he hoped to accomplish, and it sounded like he’d be a great candidate,” said Schlesinger, who has been active in the community for decades. “He seemed like he really caught the spirit of what we were trying to do when we became a city, when San Diego was dumping big development on us. I think it was his idea of being protective, keeping Solana Beach the way it is, that really made me confident in him.”

    Schlesinger said Nichols, the youngest resident to ever join the council, has fully understood throughout his two terms the vision that she helped draft in the city’s first General Plan — and Nichols said revisiting that plan this year for the first time in 25 years is a council priority he looks forward to.

    “When you read the plan that was written a quarter century ago and everything they talk about as far as how to develop the city, those forefathers should be applauded,” said Nichols, adding that updating the General Plan will come before the council during the next few months, with an initial workshop tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21. “I hope in 25 years people will be just as inspired as I was when I first read the plan.”

    Schlesinger said she has been impressed that Nichols’ humble influence in the city spans beyond the council chambers.

    “He really helped renew the Plaza area [by Fletcher Cove]. It was his idea to take all those palms trees out and open up that beautiful view from Lomas Santa Fe,” she said. “And look what he did for Fletcher Cove. It was just an asphalt parking lot, not nearly as friendly to the beach as what’s there now.”

    Nichols has taken a passionate interest in the ongoing construction on Highway 101 as well, he said. While employed at M.W. Peltz, he was the project manager and lead designer on developing the Highway 101 Master Plan for the city in 2005, prior to his service on the city council. The document he was responsible for has since become the basis for the design that is being constructed today.

    “As a council member, I continued my focus on this project and dedicated hundreds of hours to continue the development of these plans,” he said. “The result of this project will strengthen the long-term economic sustainability of our community and create a vibrant, energetic business district along the corridor. It will also provide a very pedestrian-and-bicycle friendly environment and have many aesthetic enhancements to complement our community character.”

    On the council’s radar is also the future development of a mixed-use project at the train station property at the corner of Cedros Avenue and Lomas Santa Fe, and Nichols said the project is becoming more and more likely as negotiations with the North County Transit District continue to progress. He said he’d like to see the “next big project” in the city create an “east-to-west streetscape beautification that would create a ‘rail trail-like’ pedestrian and bicycle corridor from Highway 101 up to Highland Drive.”

    Nichols will serve as mayor until December, and his term on the council ends in 2014. For a full biography on Nichols, visit the city’s website at, and information on Nichols’ landscape architecture work is available at

    Related posts:

    1. Solana Beach residents help landscape Fletcher Cove Community Center
    2. Nichols holds mayoral gavel for first time
    3. Nichols’ term as mayor is up
    4. Help Solana Beach celebrate anniversary at festive events
    5. Fletcher Cove Community Center in Solana Beach honored

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    Spring Comes Alive at IX Home & Garden Show: Take A Peek

    More than 650 exhibitors are at this year’s Home Garden Show at the IX Center. The 2013 show also features a Garden Showcase in the South Hall which includes elaborately landscaped exhibits inspired by landmarks, such as Cedar Point, Central Park, Augusta National Golf Club, Wrigley’s Field and Napa Valley.

    Also featured is a fully-constructed, 4,000-square-foot Idea Home sponsored by Sherwin-Williams and Cleveland Magazine, and built by Perrino Builders, will inspire visitors with ways to plan and create their dream house.

    The show, which runs through Feb. 10 includes some new additions as well as some old favorites. Take a look through our slideshow to see some of the attractions.

    New Features and Attractions:

    • The fully constructed, 2,000-square-foot Dream Basement built by Chagrin Falls-based Custom Remodeling and Design.

    • Fine dining at the Cambria Bistro, a full-service, white-tablecloth restaurant.

     “The Good Life” is the theme of the daily cooking sessions presented by local chefs and instructors of the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. (

    Returning Favorites from 2012:

    • The Garden Showcase, sponsored by WKYC, WDOK and WQAL, and located in the South Hall. 

    • The Celebrity Designer Rooms will be custom-designed by a Northeast Ohio design business or exhibitor with the help of a local radio or television personality. 

    • Belgard Hardscapes Inc. will feature outdoor living spaces created by two of the area’s premier landscapers – Rock Bottom Lawn Landscaping and Friberg Landscaping Construction, LLC.

    • At The Petitti Gardening Stage, daily gardening seminars on landscape design, flora and furnishing outdoor rooms will be held by Northeast Ohio landscape experts. 

    • The Plant Sale begins after the show closes on Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. Get great deals on the products and plant material on display in the gardens just in time for spring.

    • Kids can have fun in Playground World’s KidsZone, which features slides, swings, basketball hoops and the world’s safest, fully-enclosed SpringfreeTM Trampoline. 

    Home Improvement and Culinary Celebrities:

    • Known as the de-cluttering and organization guy, Peter Walsh from the hit TLC show Clean Sweep will appear Feb. 2.

    • The show will also feature Ohio native Chris Crary, a season nine participant and fan favorite from Bravo’s popular television series Top Chef, on Feb. 9.

    • Matt Fish, owner and chef of Melt Bar and Grilled will also present on The Main Stage Feb. 3, 8, 9 and 10.

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    Brandt’s of Palatine to Open by March

    The Palatine Village Council Monday approved a liquor license and the transfer of a special use ordinance for what will soon become Brandt’s of Palatine.

    Owners and Palatine residents Jimmy Iurio and Walt Oswald plan a March 1 opening (latest by March 15), in what was formerly known as Brandt’s The Little Café, a restaurant with a long and nostalgic history in the village.

    Previous owner George Grisco had wanted to keep the business afloat, but had gotten serioulsy behind on mortgage payments over the years. 

    “We’re both longtime residents, we love Brandt’s, we have work to do especially on the outside, but it’s a great restaurant,” said Oswald. “We’ve got some great ideas to fix it up. It needs a lot of work.”

    Planned improvements include knocking down a storage shed and a house on the property, in addition to removing two fences and adding landscaping, Iurio said.

    The gravel parking lot also will need to be paved, as well as lighting, screening and storm water management issues handled, according to a village memorandum. 

    On the inside, the bar will be expanded by knocking a wall down between the current bar area and a smaller side room.

    The village also will require interior renovations and upgrades to the kitchen, stabilization of the deck and installation of a fire alarm system, the memorandum said.

    What will remain is the family feel, and the menu, which will be prepared by the cooks formerly of Brandt’s The Little Cafe. Tommy the bartender, who Iurio refers to as the ‘star of the show,’ also will continue to tend bar. 

    Iurio and Oswald purchased the two acres of property on January 30, which was a somewhat harrowing experience.

    “The property was going to auction on January 31, and the money had to be in the bank by 4 p.m. on January 30,” Iurio said. “We got it in by 3:45 p.m.”

    Other future plans to enhance the business include creating an outdoor seating area, and possibly holding some type of festival on the property in late June, Iurio said. 

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    Redondo Union students help create ocean-friendly garden that saves water …

    Some Redondo Union High School students have left a legacy that will last, rain or shine.

    The students helped plant an “ocean-friendly” garden along the campus’s Diamond Street border that will thrive on rainwater that had previously poured off a nearby roof and carried pollutants into storm drains.

    “This is something you can look at and feel proud,” teacher environmental studies and biology teacher Mary Simun told her students gathered at a ribbon cutting last Thursday. “You can say, ‘I did this. I did something to improve the world.’ ”

    The ceremony highlighted the environmental, financial and academic benefits of the $31,000 project, which was funded by the California Department of Water Resources, the California Water Service Company and the Metropolitan Water District.

    The project was coordinated by the West Basin Municipal Water District (West Basin) and the Surfrider Foundation, which have partnered to create the Ocean Friendly Garden program that will result in 11 more gardens in the South Bay and Malibu in the coming months.

    To create the garden, the AP Environmental Science and special education classes helped remove water-wasting turf and installed sheet mulch, drip irrigation, bioswales, and drought tolerant plants.

    Simun said the garden would be an ongoing learning lab, with students monitoring the growth of the drought-tolerant plants and measuring the impact of the garden’s water-saving features.

    Principal Nicole Wesley called the garden a “win-win-win,” with the school district saving money by not having to irrigate the garden, the students advancing their biology and environmental studies and the community benefitting from a prominent example of how landscaping can be both aesthetically pleasing and safe for the ocean.

    “We aren’t just planting a garden and walking away,” she said. “People will drive by and see it and realize that they can plant one too. You are leaving your legacy here.”

    Paul Herzog from the Surfrider Foundation told the audience of students and officials from the partnering organizations that rainwater that into storm drains is the top source of local ocean pollution. “We treat water as a liability, something that we want to get off our property as quickly as possible, he said. By capturing the rain water, Herzog said the district would use save thousands of gallons of water it was previously using to irrigate the strip of land and reduce energy consumption.

    “The number one use of electricity is the moving and cleaning of water,” he said. “When you use less water, you use less electricity.”

    West Basin Board President Carol Kwan also paid tribute to the students’ efforts. “This garden is a great example of the importance that these RUHS students are placing on water reliability for their school and for this surrounding community,” she said.

    Landscaping design for the project was done by Bob Mackie of Habitat Restoration Sciences who also made improvements for drainage, with the help of school district facilities personnel.

    “This is a great partnership,” said City Councilman Bill Brand. “That’s what it takes to get something like this going.”



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    Colorado Garden and Home Show soars

    If you go

    What Colorado Garden and Home Show

    When Saturday through Feb. 17; hours: noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays

    Where Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St. in Denver

    Admission $12 for adults, $10 for senior, children 12 and under free

    Info 303-932-8100;

    You wouldn’t expect a garden of perfumed flowers and lush greenery in the middle of February, but at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, a landscape of beauty is waiting for you just inside the door.

    At the 54th annual Colorado Garden and Home Show, February 9-17, ponds, waterfalls, and foliage celebrate the rarefied air of the Rockies. Soar with the 5,500-square-foot “Flowers and Flight” entry garden, featuring air and space-themed gliders, a Piper J-3 Cub, DK-1 “Der Kricket,” Velocity XL, and Flying Machine courtesy of the Wings Over the Rockies Air Space Museum.

    Visitors to the region’s largest home and landscape show will be treated to lush gardens, do-it-yourself tips, and expert companies ready to help you wade through home improvement projects.

    Garden after garden fill the 400,000-square foot hall, showing off the natural landscapes and urban getaways that are possible for your yard. Landscapes add to home investment, adding between 7 and 12 percent to the value of a home, according to a Michigan State University study.

    But if you’re looking for innovative ways to improve your home’s value, chances are one of the 700 companies from 25 states and Canada can help. They’ll introduce new technologies and trends in landscaping, gardening, energy-efficient heating and cooling products, window treatments, siding, flooring, lighting, indoor and outdoor fireplaces — in short, everything you need for remodeling kitchens, getting new roofing, or redoing a bathroom.

    Headlining the wish list in 2013 is tips for being water-thrifty without compromising gorgeous gardens. And environmentally savvy consumers are clamoring for sustainable products, so exhibitors are showcasing products made from recycled materials, renewable energy sources, or energy conservation.

    Look for the Colorado State University Extension booth, where tips for making the most of a water wise landscape are showcased. From broiling western spots to cool, shady northern yards, the Colorado Master Gardeners are ready to help you with information on plant selection, placement, and irrigation. Leave time to browse the Plant Select portion of the CSU booth; the plants on display are proven best for Front Range gardens.

    In an effort to help area food banks, the Colorado Garden Home Show will offer $2 off admission to attendees who present a nonperishable food item at the ticket window at the Colorado Convention Center. All of the food gathered will be distributed to local area food banks (discount is not good with any other offer).

    For a complete list of the show’s schedule, check out their website at

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