Town Meeting OKs Ethics Amendment, $8,750 for Lyme Academy

Five members of the Old Lyme Historical Society were honored as "Citizens of the Year" for volunteer work on extensive renovations to 55 Lyme Street. They are, left to right, Skip Beebe, Ellis Jewett, Ted Freeman, Kevin Cole, and Steve Joncus. At the far right is First Selectman Timothy Griswold


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OLD LYME — In a brief Annual Town Meeting on Monday night, local residents approved the Annual Town Report, an $8,750 grant to the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, and an amendment to the town’s Ethics Commission ordinance. All the items were approved by voice vote without dissent.

About 50 people sat in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School’s auditorium for the meeting, which lasted less than 40 minutes.

Griswold explained that the ethics amendment was introduced because commission members had inadvertently failed to appoint members, allowing all but one member appointment to lapse.

“The amendment here… the principal thing will be to have the term of any member continue if that person is not properly renewed or replaced,” Griswold told the town meeting. “That way if somebody in the future forgets, or if two-thirds of the members forget to reappoint somebody, the incumbent will stay a commissioner until properly relieved.”

Griswold told the assembled audience that he was assured by town lawyers that by common law in Connecticut, rulings made by a board of expired members would still be valid. But, he added, “it isn’t very good business to not have terms renewed as they should be.”

The Annual Town Meeting was modestly attended (CT Examiner/Clingman)

Members with lapsed terms will remain on the commission and be responsible for appointing members, Griswold said.

“It’s regrettable that this error occurred but we believe that this modification will in the future make it so that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Remarking on the vote to approve a $8,750 payment to the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, Griswold said that the town has typically awarded the academy a grant of a similar size, or more, every year, but that the process this year was complicated when the University of New Haven severed ties with the academy, effective August 2019.

Presenting the Annual Town Report, Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell said that the town’s audit of fiscal year 2018-19 showed that the town had higher revenues and fewer expenses than originally budgeted, allowing Old Lyme to boost its reserves to over $9 million, roughly equal to a quarter of Old Lyme’s annual expenses for town services and its contribution to Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.

This large reserve, Russell said, means that “when we go out to borrow we get the best possible interest rates that we can… It also is our insurance policy if we get hit by a major storm.”

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019, the town collected about $757,500 more than budgeted, with a tax collection rate at 98.85 percent, and spent about $471,500 less than budgeted.

Five Citizens of the Year Chosen

For Old Lyme Citizen of the Year, the Board of Selectmen celebrated five members of the town’s historical society who, Griswold said, have volunteered hundreds of hours repairing the society’s property at 55 Lyme Street: Arthur “Skip” Beebe, Kevin Cole, Ted Freeman, Ellis Jewett, and Steve Joncus.

The five men are sometimes affectionately known as the “Tuesday Morning Work Crew,” Griswold said. In recent years, the five men have worked to create an office space, an archive storage room, to renovate the ceiling, to build displays, and have added a handicap-accessible exterior door and chairlift.

“Often you hear people saying that the volunteer spirit is decreasing or that people just don’t volunteer the way they used to,” Griswold said. “However, when you look at the shining example set by the crew, you can see that the volunteer spirit in Old Lyme is alive and well. And even better, the inspirational contributions of the crew will help to preserve our great history as a town for years to come.”