Formica and Cheeseman Announce Long-Delayed $1.73 Million FEMA Reimbursement for East Lyme

EAST LYME — Nearly eight years after Hurricane Sandy and nine years after Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on the Connecticut shoreline, East Lyme finally received a combined $1.73 million reimbursement check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Those two hurricanes encompassed a lot of my time in the town of East Lyme and my tenure as first selectman,” said State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme. “I pushed FEMA very hard along with now-Representative Holly Cheeseman to qualify and now it’s finally paid off.” Nearly every other shoreline town – including Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, all the way down to

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East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency Delays Decision on Buffer Expansion to 500 Feet

EAST LYME — The East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency held off a decision on a proposed expansion to its review area after accepting several scientific articles and other exhibits into the record at a hearing on Monday night. The agency continued a public hearing on its proposal to extend its upland review area from 100 feet around inland wetlands and watercourses, to 500 feet. Two members of the public spoke in opposition to the change, but most of the new information Monday was brought by members of the agency. During a lengthy first hearing in July, where some critics questioned

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Lyme Forms Working Group to Draft Ordinance on Short-term Rentals

LYME — After receiving complaints about parking violations and noise disturbances at 26 Old Hamburg Road, a property purchased in February for use as an Airbnb, the Planning and Zoning Commission chose to pursue interim measures until its newly-formed working group can craft an ordinance addressing short-term rentals.  The .1-acre property at 26 Old Hamburg Road consists of a 1-bedroom, 704-square-foot house built in 1859 that has a dock and fronts Hamburg Cove. According to the property card, Tower Benson and Eleanor Bianchini of Worcester, Mass. purchased the property on Feb. 6, 2020.  As a short-term measure, the board asked

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Despite Pandemic, Local Schools Expand or Wait-list for Fall Pre-Kindergarten Programs

In the last two years, several school districts in southeast Connecticut have decided to pilot universal pre-kindergarten programs for local three and four-year olds. Now, coronavirus-related concerns of safety, finance and teaching method, pose unforeseen challenges to educating their youngest pupils, even as the programs prove popular. The Westbrook school district, for example, introduced a universal pre-k program last year, transitioning from a half-day model to a full-day model.  The district intended to expand that program this year, before pandemic concerns put those plans on hold, and a combination of financial ramifications from COVID-19 and concerns about overpopulating classrooms meant

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State Audit Again Questions Lack of Guidelines for Special Education Spending

Schools across Connecticut spend 7.2 percent of district budgets on tuition for special education students to attend alternative schools, according to a 2018-19 report released by the state Department of Education. Tuition for these alternative schools makes up $667 million of the $9.2 billion spent on education in the state. Despite that scale of the funding — some of it federal, some state and some local – a recent audit report by the Connecticut State Auditors of Public Accounts noted that it is not possible to determine whether these public dollars are properly spent, given that there are no guidelines

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Energy Committee Members Weigh in with in-depth Critique of Connecticut’s Power Grid and Utilities

As hundreds of thousands of Eversource customers wait into the weekend for the utility to restore electrical service, the company has drawn scrutiny from state lawmakers who promise hearings to investigate its storm preparedness and response. More than 900,000 Eversource customers lost power after Tropical Storm Isaias blew through Connecticut on Tuesday afternoon, downing trees and power lines in every corner of the state. Eversource assured customers on Thursday that an estimated 99 percent of customers will have power on Tuesday, and that additional out-of-state mutual aid crews will help make “significant progress” over the weekend. Already, Gov. Ned Lamont

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As Eversource and United Illuminating Struggle, Smaller Utilities Across Connecticut Shine in Storm Response

Municipal electric utilities with small and compact customer bases — like Norwich Public Utilities and Town of Wallingford Electric Division — have made quick progress restoring power to customers after Tropical Storm Isaias even as hundreds of thousands of customers of Eversource and United Illuminating remain without power on Thursday night. By the end of Wednesday night, Norwich Public Utilities had restored power to 5,500 of the 6,500 affected customers. The utility expects that 99 percent of its customers will have power by the end of Thursday, just two days after about a third of Norwich’s 20,000 customers lost power.

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99% of Old Lyme Loses Electricity — Tops in Connecticut — as Emergency Warning System Goes Silent

Within hours of Tropical Storm Isaias hitting the shoreline of Connecticut on Tuesday more than 99 percent of residents and businesses in Old Lyme had lost power. Two days later, 78 percent are still in the dark. Statewide, Old Lyme was the municipality with the highest percentage of outages and East Lyme had the highest number of customers without power. By 4 p.m. “we lost all our ability to communicate on Tuesday,” said Dave Roberge, the emergency director of Old Lyme, on Thursday morning. “We lost phone, internet, electronic communication and were unable to send out a reverse 911 until

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Break Bulk Cargo to Stay a Part of State Pier Wind Project

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The transformation of State Pier into an offshore wind facility exclusive of other uses has been part of conversations at Connecticut Port Authority meetings for months, but a permit application made public yesterday from the Army Corps of Engineers specifies the continuing support of break bulk cargo operations.  “The purpose of this project is to create infrastructure in Connecticut that will serve as a long-term, regional wind turbine generator (WTG) port facility while at the same time continuing to support other existing long term break bulk operations for steel, coil steel, lumber, copper billets, as well as other cargo,” stated

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Lawyers and Legislators Debate Costs and Benefits as Policing Bill is Signed into Law

On Thursday Governor Ned Lamont signed into law “An Act Concerning Police Accountability,” after two late nights of debate in the House and the Senate. The legislation includes more than 40 substantive changes to policing in Connecticut, from new requirements regarding the use of lethal force to provisions for allowing civilian review boards on the municipal level, but the public debate and politics surrounding the bill has nevertheless focused overwhelmingly on Section 41 of the bill, which addresses the issue of qualified immunity for police officers.  Proponents of the bill, including State Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, and State Sen. Gary

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Test Delays Raise Questions — Spur Efforts to Reduce Wait — for COVID-19 Diagnoses

Whether to go to work, to travel out-of-state, be admitted to a hospital or for some just to visit friends and family, many individuals across Connecticut are required to take a diagnostic test for COVID-19. The test, which is now widely available and reimbursed by insurance companies, indicates whether an individual is carrying the virus at the time of the procedure. But with the results taking on average a week to arrive, they may already be overtaken by new infection and no longer accurate. “Demand for our molecular diagnostic testing remains high as the virus has spread across much of

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Interim Commissioner Describes $21 Million Deficit, Declining Prison Population and Infections

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With increased overtime, sick leave and inmate medical costs, the state Department of Corrections ended fiscal year 2020 with a $21 million deficit. “At the peak time of COVID-19 in April, we were averaging 320 staff members out sick per day for all three shifts,” explained Interim Commissioner Angel Quiros at an Appropriations Committee meeting on Monday afternoon. “In May and June, it started decreasing to 15 percent of our staff, but we saw an increase as soon as the executive order was signed by the governor allowing individuals who used their 14-day COVID leave, but tested positive, to have

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CT Examiner’s Weekend Crossword

This week’s crossword puzzle is “Sound Fountain Orders.” As always, send you completed puzzles to editor@ctexaminer.com You can download a print copy of the puzzle here Last week’s puzzle solution…

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An ‘Elevated Lobster Shack’ Opens on Essex Island

“We fell in love with the island, just the feeling that you get. We felt like when you cross the ferry, you’re actually on vacation as soon as you arrive on the little island,” said Christina Pahis. “You feel almost like you left Connecticut.” For eight years, Essex residents Avni Krasniqi and Pahis have owned and operated Haywire Burger Bar in Westbrook, CT, and on June 8, the couple opened Siren Kitchen & Bar on Essex Island at Safe Harbor Marina. “We saw that the space has become available, and we said, ‘Let’s just kind of satisfy our curiosity and

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Saunders: Needleman’s Energy Plan Places Heavy Burden on Consumers

Like many of the families I seek to represent in the 33rd Senate District, I was shocked and upset by the recent steep Eversource rate hike. I’m concerned that the politicians are now attempting to divert voters’ attention from the real causes for this increase. I believe that Eversource isn’t entirely responsible. Much of the blame goes to incumbent State Senator Norm Needleman, chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee. I consider that his recent demand for the resignation of the company’s CEO is simply smoke and mirrors and that this pointless blustering does nothing to solve aproblem he helped

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Cameron: The City Island Monorail

Looking for a fun day-trip for the family?  Don’t miss City Island, a boat-centric New England style “village” just off the east coast of The Bronx.   In addition to some of the city’s best seafood restaurants, City Island was also home to a monorail over a century ago. The three-mile line from the Bartow train station on what was then the Harlem River branch of the NY, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (near what today is Co-Op City in the Bronx) through Pelham Park, over a rickety bridge and ending at the Island.  It would replace the slow, forty minute

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Blacker: Questions Promise of Multi-use State Pier, Calls for Public Hearing

I appreciated Cate Hewitt’s article on State Pier. CT Examiner continues to showcase exemplary newspaper reporting. According to CPA Chairman David Kooris, State Pier will remain a multi-use port.  I disagree. To quote the good judgement of Congressman Joe Courtney: I have to confess. They say they’re going to accommodate other users but I, uh, every time I look at the plans, it doesn’t really look like there’s any space for them to do that. Courtney expressed the hope that the port authority would instead take the opportunity to modify or at least confirm that other users are going to be

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Blacker: The Weakness of our Freight Planning Program in Southeast Connecticut

I enjoyed Jim Cameron’s Aug. 3 column on a great example of commonsense, innovation, and efficiency: the shipping container. In a recent article Cameron laments that a feeder barge service to move shipping containers from places like Port Elizabeth, NJ to Connecticut  with out clogging I-95 was never established. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has an important meeting tomorrow.   SECCOG Executive Director Jim Butler said that the Federal Highway and Federal Transit are aware of  “the weakness of our freight planning program in Southeastern Connecticut.”  (20:50 on the recording of 7/15/19 SECCOG BOD Meeting).  This will be the

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