Selectmen Propose COVID Funds for $200,000 Safety Building Roof Replacement

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen proposed spending $200,000 in federal COVID relief funds to replace a roof on the new public safety building, saying the existing roof is leaking too much to allow for the police to transfer electronic equipment into the building. The unbudgeted repair is the latest in a series of rising costs to renovate the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex, which town voters approved bonding $5 million for in 2019, then approved last October bonding an additional $985,000 and $1.2 million in delayed FEMA payments from hurricanes Sandy and Irene. Residents

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Salt Business Makes its Case Wednesday for Blocking State Pier Dredging

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection held a hearing on objections by DRVN, a road salt business being forced off State Pier, regarding a proposed dredging permit for the Connecticut Port Authority – one of the last approvals needed for the proposed $235 million wind project to move forward. Attorney Keith Anthony presented the case for DRVN, based largely on a notice of insufficiency by the department outlining what elements were still missing from the port authority permit application.  In that notice, the port authority was asked to provide information on “water-dependent” users of the port, asking whether they

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Bond Commission Set to Approve $1.2 Billion of Projects on Friday

On Friday, the State Bond Commission is expected to vote on more than $1.2 billion of borrowing, including the final portion of public funding for the controversial redevelopment of New London’s State Pier, and much smaller amounts for renovations of Three Rivers Community College and other projects around the region. The bond package includes the final $50 million of funding for the $235 million redevelopment of State Pier as a hub for offshore wind projects. At a Bond Commission meeting in April where $55 million of funding was approved for the project State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, questioned the

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Connecticut Water Calls Rate Decision Harshest in Recent Memory

A request by Connecticut Water to raise rates on its residential customers by about $10.50 a month was significantly cut down by regulators to an increase of about 50 cents a month, and the company would also implement a first-of-its-kind discount for low-income customers. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority last week issued a draft decision mostly rejecting the rate hike request from Connecticut Water, which is asking to increase rates by 20 percent to bring in an additional $20.2 million in annual revenue. The authority’s decision would allow an increase of less than 1 percent, adding about $762,000 in revenue. 

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After 12 Years, Cathy Iino Set to Step Aside as Killingworth First Selectwoman

KILLINGWORTH — After 12 years as first selectwoman, Catherine Iino announced on Thursday that she will not be running this November for another term. She is one of several town leaders in the region who have announced they are not running for another term, including Mark Nickerson in East Lyme, Rob Smith in East Haddam and Susan Bransfield in Portland.  “It was a difficult decision, but I’ve been doing this for 12 years, I have a granddaughter I haven’t really seen over the last year and a half, and I just think it’s time to do other things,” Iino told

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New Clause in State Pier Agreement Offers Out for Eversource and Ørsted

If permit approvals or the final $50 million of bonding for State Pier development are delayed much longer, the partnership of Eversource and Ørsted could take back millions of dollars pledged for the project based on a recent change to the development agreement with the Connecticut Port Authority. An amendment added to the harbor development agreement between Eversource-Ørsted and the Connecticut Port Authority on June 29 allows the partnership to take back whatever portion of $55 million that it contributed to the project, but has not yet been spent, if a series of conditions aren’t met by Aug. 31.  Those

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Developers Propose Affordable Housing for Latest Banner Estates Plan

EAST HADDAM – A group of New York developers is back with plans to convert a banquet hall into 20 apartments at Banner Country Club Estates, this time with an affordable component that makes the plan more likely to be approved. Anthony and Frank Longhitano, the owners of Banner Estates, are applying under state statute 8-30g to redevelop an empty 28,000 square-foot banquet hall into 20 one-bedroom apartments – of which six units would be income restricted.  The statute requires municipalities where less than 10 percent of the housing is “affordable” to prove that any rejection of a project is

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Metro-North Reports No Citations Since Masks Were Required in 2020

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In response to a Freedom of Information request by CT Examiner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released information showing that the agency has not issued any citations on Metro-North trains to riders for failing to wear a mask. “When we see someone on a train without a mask, our approach is to hand that person a mask, not a summons,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “As a result, we’ve had tens of thousands of positive interactions with customers, promoting the health and safety of all riders.” Transit workers have issued 38 summons for refusing to wear a mask on public transit

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Four Root and Walden Farms Win Grants to Expand their Farming Operations

Chelsey and Casey Greer put out a farm stand on the honor system about six years ago, and after a few years the business attracted enough traffic that they decided to turn it into a business – Walden Farm of Moodus. Now, the husband and wife pair sell their produce year-round at a stand at the end of their driveway, and at farmers markets in Higganum, Ivoryton and Chester. They’re part-time farmers with full-time day jobs – Chelsey a teacher in Windham and Casey an engineer at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant – but they have their sights on reviving

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Eligibility Shift May Limit New Housing, Upset Plans Across Southeast Connecticut

A proposed change in how the state distributes federal subsidies for low-income housing could limit investment in some eastern Connecticut towns, Democratic lawmakers warn, and reshape established patterns of development for others, like Stonington and East Lyme. The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, which oversees and distributes incentive programs to develop low-income and affordable housing, has proposed changing its “opportunity map” to reflect census tracts rather than municipal-level data to determine eligibility for funding. Projects in areas with higher opportunity scores – based on factors that include school performance and access to jobs – are more likely to receive tax credits,

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A Will But Not a Way for Lamont’s Transportation and Climate Initiative

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A program that would increase gas prices and raise revenue for projects to reduce pollution from fuel-burning vehicles became one of the most contentious issues in Hartford as the legislative session came to a close last month — and while the legislature is signaling the plan has limited support, it’s not a fight the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont is ready to give up. The Transportation and Climate Initiative, or TCI, would force fuel wholesalers to buy allowances for the amount of pollution generated by their fuel, which proponents say would generate a game-changing $1 billion over 10 years for

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Stratford’s Alyssa Naeher Plays Two Matches at Rentschler Field, Next Stop Tokyo Olympics

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EAST HARTFORD — Gearing up for her second Olympic Games – and the first as the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team – a pair of friendly tune-up matches against Mexico at Rentschler Field is the perfect send-off for Stratford native Alyssa Naeher. The team heads to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looking to bring back a gold medal after its run of three straight Olympic gold medals ended with a disappointing quarterfinal loss to Sweden in the 2016 Rio Olympics and a fifth place finish. It was the team’s first Olympic loss since falling to Norway in the

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Lebanon Homeowners Face Big Bills for Small Water System

A small neighborhood in the town of Lebanon has been operating its own water system since the 41 houses were built in 1965. But now faced with the rising cost of meeting state regulations and with maintaining an aging infrastructure, the two remaining board members of the Carefree Homeowners Association are asking state regulators to mandate that Aquarion take over the system. The outcome of the case could in part determine how the state manages all 497 community water systems across Connecticut, including Carefree, serving 2.7 million customers. They range in size from a well system in Andover serving 16

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Optimum Cuts Speeds for Broadband in Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven Counties

New Optimum customers will see dramatically slower options for service in July, when the company will cut the upload speeds for its lowest-cost tier by 86 percent – from 35 megabytes per second to 5. Optimum – the primary service provider in 16 municipalities in Fairfield and New Haven counties, and 8 more around Litchfield – told ARS Technica that the reduced upload speeds on its cable network service will bring the company’s offerings in line with other internet providers. But critics say it’s just a ploy to push customers into higher-cost tiers. Burt Cohen, the state Broadband Policy Coordinator,

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State Preps for Federal Funding, to Run Express Trains for 10 Minute Savings on Metro-North

A promised new four-stop commuter express service from New Haven to Grand Central will take 10 fewer minutes from end to end than the current local service on the New Haven Line. The service is expected to start next year. The particulars of funding and scheduling the new service aren’t yet clear, and the cost will depend on how Metro-North fits the additional trains into its schedule, but the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to run multiple express trains with stops only at New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford and Grand Central during peak commuting times next year, Public Transportation Bureau Chief

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East Haddam Budget Cuts Get a Public Hearing on Tuesday

EAST HADDAM — In response to an overwhelming vote to reject the town budget, the Board of Finance has trimmed its proposal to eliminate an increase in property taxes. The board also promised a more transparent process moving forward. The budget is scheduled for a second referendum on July 27, and a public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, at the Nathan Hale-Ray High School auditorium and streaming on the town YouTube page. David Carbo, who wrote one of the editorials in the East Haddam News opposing the first budget, told the board at a meeting

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Energy Regulators Shift Costs, Change Formula for Small Businesses in Connecticut

In an effort to help small businesses that have struggled to pay significantly higher electricity rates than other customers, state regulators on Wednesday ordered Eversource to lower fixed costs in two of its commercial rate structures. The changes, which resemble formulas that set consumers rates, will go into effect on Nov. 1. More than 103,500 Eversource commercial customers are currently charged what’s called Rate 30, including small businesses and some schools. These customers pay a fixed rate of $44 per month for the first 2 kW of capacity they need. They pay an additional $14.52 per kW of capacity beyond

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Lyme Photographer’s New Book Explores the Waterways of Connecticut

Lyme-based photographer Caryn B. Davis has released her second photography book, Connecticut Waters: Celebrating our Coastline and Waterways – part travel guide, part visual exploration of all the ways the people of Connecticut use our waterways for work and for fun. The book is out now from the Globe Pequot Press. Davis spoke with CT Examiner about what she’s learned on her journeys across the lakes, rivers and sound of Connecticut. Responses have been edited for clarity and length. What made you decide to document the waters of Connecticut? There’s a lot going on here for such a small state.

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Hammerhead Worm, Spotted Locally, No Cause for Concern, Says Scientist

A number of hammerhead worms found in Old Saybrook are not a cause for concern, and may actually be helpful in managing a damaging invasive earthworm in the area, according to a scientist from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Dr. Gale Ridge, an entomologist in the CAES insect inquiry office, said she was still waiting to see one of the worms captured in Old Saybrook. But from what she has seen, she thinks it’s a species called the wandering broadhead planarian that is found in Pennsylvania, and has been seen in Canada. Hammerhead worms – a term that applies to

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Neighboring Towns Hope Federal Dollars Can Ease High Cost of Water Needs

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East Hampton may be best known for Lake Pocotopaug, a nearly square mile freshwater attraction, but that water does little to help town residents struggle to draw water from their wells every summer.  Town Manager David Cox said East Hampton has been trying for decades to figure out a way to expand its water service to bring water to these residents and to provide clean water to others faced with expensive treatment systems to manage pollutants including magnesium and PFAS. Nearby Portland has struggles of its own. Some of the pipes in the town’s 41-mile water system are over a

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Philip Morris Announces Corporate Move to Fairfield County

One of the world’s largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris International announced it was relocating its U.S. corporate headquarters and 200 jobs to Fairfield County next year. The company, which touted its desire to move away from tobacco and even eliminate smoking, will not receive any incentives from the state, and the jobs will be employees relocating from the existing headquarters in New York City. Indra Nooyi and James Smith, co-chairs of Advance CT – a non-profit that works with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development to retain and recruit businesses – touted Connecticut’s “natural strengths”: quality of life,

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Tacos al Pastor Stand Out at Middletown Food Truck Merengue

In the 1990s, Pedro Ramirez had a summer barbecue truck on Main Street in Hartford. When the building sold where he rented space, he ran a coffee shop in West Haven. And when Ramirez couldn’t find any of the food he liked to eat in Middletown, he and his family decided to open a food truck. “I just wanted to give something to the area. Middletown, Portland, Cromwell, Berlin, down to Old Saybrook, and there’s no Hispanic restaurants,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes I want a mofongo. You gotta go to Hartford, you gotta go to New Britain, Meriden. I just want

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Deep River Ice — Ice Cream and Italian Ice Opening in Early July

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Chelsea Fremut said she and her fiance David McDonald love Italian ice, and they wanted to share it with Deep River. And just in time for the summer heat, they are opening Deep River Ice – a new ice cream and Italian ice stand on Main Street. “There’s not really much else anywhere local, the closest italian ice is in Middletown or New Haven,” Fremut said. “We want to enjoy the community that I grew up in and see the kids enjoy it.” The italian ice is coming from Micalizzi’s in Bridgeport, where McDonald grew up and became friends with

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Lamont Strips Oversight of State Contracts, Port Authority Reforms

Funding to staff a board that oversees state contracts and procurements was eliminated in a move the board’s chairman said could be a “fatal blow.” The State Contracting Standards Board was set to see $454,355 to fund five additional staff positions funded in a budget approved by state lawmakers last week, but a bill to implement the budget – which lawmakers convened a special session this week to approve – allowed that funding to lapse back into the general fund. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, said Gov. Ned Lamont removed the funding after lawmakers approved

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UI Settlement on Overcharges Gets Nod, Performance-based Rates to Move Forward

A settlement agreement for United Illuminating to return money it has overbilled customers is moving forward, say state regulators, after the agreement was amended to address concerns that it could stall the introduction of performance-based rates for Connecticut’s energy providers. Under the settlement, United Illuminating would return the $44.7 million it has overbilled customers since a federal corporate tax cut in 2017. The company also agreed to contribute an additional $5 million which will slightly lower customer rates. Residential customers will see their bills drop by about 5.2 percent starting July 1, in part as a result of the settlement,

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North Stonington Solar Project Attempts Balance of Environmental Priorities

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What started off years ago as a relatively uncontroversial proposal to turn an abandoned gravel quarry located in North Stonington into a 9.9 megawatt solar project, has shifted to a plan to  clearcut 44 acres of forestland — North Stonington Solar Park is latest example of friction in Connecticut between two key environmental priorities: renewable energy production and forest preservation.  In 2016, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection set out to meet the legislature’s mandate to contract with developers to build new renewable energy projects to supply the state’s utilities.  The choice of an abandoned quarry was a

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CTDOT Talks Haddam Roundabouts, Accidents, Traffic Headaches

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HADDAM – One of the more notable changes of many slated for Tylerville is a plan by the state to install two roundabouts on Saybrook Road at the intersection of Bridge Road and the Route 9 connector. Turning north onto Saybrook Road from the connector can be a nightmare already – especially in the evening rush – as drivers waiting at the stop sign for free-flowing traffic on Saybrook Road to clear face backups and long delays. Without the change, the situation is only expected to get worse as traffic increases in the area, according to the Connecticut Department of

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Eversource Pushes Back Hard on Penalties in Appeal

Eversource has taken to the courts to challenge penalties imposed by state regulators for what they say were failures in the company’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. The legal challenge is the first that PURA Chair Marissa Gillett has seen since she took over the authority in 2018.  It’s a step the company said it hasn’t taken since 2009.  In a 185-page complaint filed in New Britain Superior Court on Thursday, Eversource asked the court to review whether the Public Utility Regulatory Authority overstepped its authority and failed to provide due process before cutting the company’s guaranteed return

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Rob Smith Explains What’s Next as East Haddam Budget Defeated 274 to 1,242

East Haddam voters overwhelmingly defeated the town’s budget proposal Tuesday night, by a vote of 274 in favor and 1,242 opposed. The budget included $36.95 million in spending – a $2.49 million increase [7.2 percent] over last year – and would have raised the mill rate by 0.62 mills to 31.06 mills.  In a public hearing and on social media, residents raised concerns about several items in the budget, including wage increases for the first selectman and 20 non-union town employees and camera systems in the town office building and at the transfer station. The Board of Finance will hold

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After Failed Attempts at Tolling, Legislators Levy Mileage Fee on Tractor-Trailers

After a number of failing efforts in previous sessions to pass a highway toll, the Connecticut General Assembly succeeded on Wednesday in levying a mileage fee on tractor-trailers.  Supporters of the bill say that the fee will force heavy trucks to pay their fair share for the damage they cause to the state’s roads. Meanwhile opponents warn that the tax will increase the prices of consumer goods and will fall unfairly on Connecticut-based trucking. In the House, where the bill passed 88-59, every Republican and six Democrats voted against the bill. Two Democrats — State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, and

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