In a Split Vote, PURA Approves Reduced Penalty for Eversource Response to Isaias

In a settlement with Eversource that was narrowly approved by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority on Wednesday, the company will give its Connecticut electric customers about $35 each in bill credits in exchange for a reduced penalty for its response to Tropical Storm Isaias.  But the state’s chief utility regulator, PURA Chair Marissa Gillette, warned the deal could result in higher costs for customers and make it more difficult for PURA to achieve the goals lawmakers have set for utility regulation in the long run.  The settlement, brokered by Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong, finally resolves the

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Candidates for Middletown P&Z Sound off

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MIDDLETOWN —  Given that voters will be asked to choose between seven candidates running to fill three open seats on the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission next week, CT Examiner reached out to get a better sense of why they are running, what they would bring to the commission, and what they picture for the riverfront redevelopment – a project they all said would be the major development to tackle during their terms, and maybe in their lifetimes. Three Republicans and three Democrats are competing for full seats on the commission. The Republicans are current Vice Chair Nick Fazzino, former

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DeVoto Run Could Give De Facto Supermajority to Democrats on P&Z

MIDDLETOWN — In a risky bid that could alter the shape of the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission, current Chair Stephen DeVoto – until recently a Democrat – is running for re-election as an unaffiliated candidate. If DeVoto succeeds in retaining his seat on the commission without the support of the Middletown Democratic Town Committee, Democrats could have a de facto 5-2 supermajority on the commission – a situation one town Republican leader says would skirt minority representation rules that allow no more than four representatives from one party on the commission. DeVoto, a professor of biology at Wesleyan University,

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100-Unit Apartment Complex Planned in Guilford Under State’s Affordable Housing Statute

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GUILFORD — A plan to build a two-building apartment complex with 100 units in Guilford has been filed under the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g. Connecticut Affordable Housing Initiative, a company registered to James McMahon, plans to build the apartments on Hubbard Road, near Interstate 95 in Guilford. The project would include 30 units designated for people making 80 percent or less of the state median income. Town Planner George Kral said the project was the first application the town had received under 8-30g, and that the project would be much bigger than any multi-family housing currently in Guilford. McMahon

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Hearing Tonight for a 52,000 Square-Foot Gun and Archery ‘Destination’ in Portland

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PORTLAND – A Portland gun store owner is planning a major expansion and is seeking approval to move from his current 1,000 square foot space, to a new, nearly 52,000 square foot “destination” – complete with a gun and archery store, firing ranges, axe throwing and a cafe. Rob Pizzi, Jr., has run Central Connecticut Arms on State Route 66 in Portland since 2017, growing it into one of the top-selling gun stores in the state, and outgrowing the small store. He said he wants his new store proposed for the corner of Main Street and Route 17 in Portland

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Blewett Files Court Challenge to Attorney Opinion in Killingworth

KILLINGWORTH – Killingworth Board of Selectmen and Region 17 Board of Education member Eileen Blewett has filed a lawsuit to challenge the town attorney’s opinion that she cannot continue to hold both seats, even if she is re-elected to both positions on Nov. 2. A complaint filed in Middlesex Superior Court this week called on the court to issue an order to allow Blewett to be sworn in and continue to serve in both positions if she is re-elected.  Blewett was elected to the school board in 2017, and was re-elected to that position in 2019. That year, the Republican

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Alberti, Seery Talk Marijuana before Tonight’s Hearing in East Lyme

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EAST LYME – Both candidates for First Selectman of East Lyme agree that the voters should decide in a referendum whether to allow marijuana dispensaries in town, but Democratic candidate Camille Alberti said she doesn’t believe the town needs to impose a moratorium in the meantime. Selectman Kevin Seery, who is running as the Republican candidate to replace outgoing First Selectman Mark Nickerson, said the “pause” on marijuana dispensaries that the Board of Selectmen is considering would give the town a chance to take a good look at how the town wants to handle the new businesses.  “We understand marijuana

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State Pier Wind Project Seeks Second Deadline Extension

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NEW LONDON — On Friday, the Connecticut Port Authority missed its extended contractual deadline to have federal permits in hand for the redevelopment of State Pier in New London. A clause in the agreement between the port authority and the offshore wind  partnership of Eversource and Ørsted allows the companies to pull back a portion of their $75 million contribution to the $235 million redevelopment project, if permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are delayed. Justin May, spokesman for the partnership, said there are no ongoing negotiations between Ørsted – Eversource and the state that would be affected

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Debate Over Federal Aid Threatens to Delay Water Project in East Lyme

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EAST LYME — A well on one of the town’s most pristine drinking water sources has deteriorated to the point where it is providing just a fraction of the water it once produced, and will require a new drilled well. It’s a $920,000 project that could be funded with federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act, but a recent vote by the Board of Finance has delayed the allocation of that money as town officials debate when and how the money will be spent. Well 5 – located off of Wagon Wheel Road, near Pattagansett Lake – was drilled

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East Lyme Board of Finance Votes to Table Federal Aid Distributions

EAST LYME – A request by the East Lyme Board of Selectmen to distribute $1.014 million of the town’s federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act may have to wait until after municipal elections in November after the Board of Finance voted 4-2 to postpone a vote on the proposed spending on Wednesday night. Board of Finance Chair Camille Alberti – who is running as the Democratic candidate for First Selectman – pushed for the board to hold off on voting  on the proposal to appropriate over $1 million of the $5.4 million in federal ARPA money East Lyme

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Killingworth Elections Roiled by Legal Opinion on Selectman Race

KILLINGWORTH — Eileen Blewett has been a member of the Region 17 Board of Education since she was elected in 2017. She has also been Killingworth’s only Republican selectman since she was elected to the Board of Selectman in 2019. Blewett earned the votes for both seats in 2019, and this year she is running again for re-election to both seats – hoping to keep her seat on the Board of Education and join a presumptive Republican First Selectwoman in a 2-1 majority on the Board of Selectmen.  But this time, if she wins both elections, say Blewett can only

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East Haddam Pharmacist Envisions a Bigger Building — and a Broader Healthcare Role

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Greg McKenna has already outgrown the Moodus location of the Nutmeg Pharmacy he opened in February 2020. Now he’s seeking approval to build a brand new Nutmeg Pharmacy down the road — a location he hopes will not only continue to serve the East Haddam community but will help expand the role of pharmacists across Connecticut.  The proposed pharmacy at the corner of Rae Palmer and William F. Palmer Roads would have a drive-thru pickup window – an important feature that McKenna said he hoped would make it easier for older patients with limited mobility to get their medications.  But

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Amidst Criticism and Funding Cuts, State Board Continues Investigation of Port Authority

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The State Contracting Standards Board has struggled under budget constraints to adjust to its newly-defined authority over the Connecticut Port Authority – but members of the board are pushing back against criticism that they don’t need to exist, and are defending the importance of their role in reviewing how state contracts are awarded. At a Sept. 21 Connecticut Port Authority Finance Committee meeting, Jeff Beckham, a member of the port authority board, said that the contracting standards board was “looking for a reason to exist” by renewing its investigation into the port authority, and said that members of that board

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‘We were lucky,’ Plenty of Mosquitoes, But Little EEE

Though prolonged hot, wet weather led to a high number of mosquitoes in Connecticut this year, residents have been spared an outbreak of the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus — possibly because the virus didn’t reach the state until too late in the season to become widespread in the mosquito population. “I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from people about how bad the mosquitos have been this year, and that’s not a figment of your imagination. It was a bad year in terms of just the sheer number of mosquitoes,”  said Phil Armstrong, director of the Mosquito Monitoring Program

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Essex Approves Horses on 4-Acre Properties in the Town’s Village District

ESSEX — The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted on Tuesday to allow horses on properties four acres or larger in the town’s village residential zone, paving the way for at least one couple to bring their horses to Ivoryton. The change in zoning would apply to six properties in town, including 2 Main Street, Ivoryton, where Deep River-based engineer Thomas Metcalf and his wife are interested in purchasing part of a 10-acre property to build a house and keep their two horses. Metcalf said he increased setbacks for stables in his proposed regulations to at least 75 feet from

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Port Authority Chair Throws Cold Water on Speculation Regarding Quick Departure

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Connecticut Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris told CT Examiner he is not resigning from the board any time soon, despite comments he made at a recent meeting that drove speculation he was setting the table for his departure. “On the one hand, yeah I’ve been planning since I took the position as a volunteer two years ago that at some point I would leave, sure,” Kooris told CT Examiner by phone on Wednesday. “But the more important point is, I’m not resigning. There’s nothing imminent. I haven’t announced or selected a date. This is all a bizarre extrapolation from

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Unwanted Route 9 Development, a Concern for Essex Planning and Zoning

ESSEX — In the first public hearing on a proposal to give businesses additional flexibility to develop a variety of new projects around exit 3 on Route 9, members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission raised concerns that the change in zoning could pave the way for development which they felt was wrong for the area. According to consulting planner John Guszkowski, the proposal includes a list of allowable uses that align with what is already allowed in the mix of existing zones that surround the exit, but aren’t necessarily allowed across the entire area. Guszkowski said that the

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Connecticut Towns Take Different Approaches to Allowing Marijuana Businesses

As many Connecticut towns take a wait-and-see approach to recreational marijuana — passing a moratorium to allow 6 months to a year to evaluate the situation — other towns are moving more quickly in an effort to provide clarity and allow preparations for potential applicants to enter the state lottery for growing and retail licenses next year. Laurie Zrenda, the former owner of the medical marijuana dispensary Thames Valley Relief in Uncasville, has taken a pro-active approach in hopes of securing a state permit to operate a recreational marijuana dispensary in her hometown of East Lyme. Zrenda said she bought

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Across New York and Connecticut, MTA Issues 18 Summonses in Mask ‘Blitz’

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority issued 18 summonses between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29 — nearly half as many as were issued since the start of the pandemic — for passengers failing to wear masks on public transportation.   In response to a request for data specific to Metro-North, MTA spokesman Michael Cortez told CT Examiner that the transit authority was able only to provide aggregate numbers across the entire system. The stepped-up enforcement is part of a recent campaign to ensure that riders abide by a federal order by Centers of Disease Control that riders must wear masks on public transportation

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Middletown Developer Pitches Big Plans for Mixed-Use, Business and Events Space

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MIDDLETOWN – Stripped down to its brick walls and steel beams, the inside of 545 Main Street is almost a blank canvas for new owner, JR Hargreaves. A lifelong resident of Middletown, who first lived on Ferry Street just a few hundred feet away from the building – Hargreaves has plans to transform a space that for decades was home to an indoor roller skating rink into a mixed-use development combining apartments, office and retail space for small businesses, and a community event space. After months of teardown, the back of the building that housed the roller rink is now

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Few Objections to 11-Acre Solar Project Planned for Durham Farmland

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DURHAM — An 11-acre proposed solar project under consideration by the state’s Siting Council has not so far drawn significant objections from its neighbors — or from state agencies, which have primarily criticized the project’s use of about eight acres of farmland and its proximity to wetlands. Proposed by Suffield-based solar developer Louth Callan Renewables, the solar project slated for Haddam Quarter Road in Durham is among the smallest that the siting council will review. With a capacity of 2.8 megawatts, it is just above the 2 MW threshold where the siting council has authority over solar projects. The proposed

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WPCA Chair Presents a $2.7 Million Sewer Project For Developing Ledyard Center

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LEDYARD – Town officials last week presented a plan that would open up Ledyard Center to multi-family housing developments by using state and federal money to extend a sewer line to the area. At its meeting last Wednesday, the Town Council heard the proposal to complete the $2.7 million project without using any town funds – instead using federal money given to towns from the American Rescue Plan act and a new state matching grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development. Water Pollution Control Authority Chairman Ed Lynch said the plan still needs to be finalized before it

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Oversight of Assisted Living Puts Patients at Risk, Says Audit

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As more Connecticut residents have waited until later in life to move into assisted living, these facilities have become more similar to nursing homes. But, a recent report from state auditors found that oversight of assisted living facilities has been far less stringent than nursing homes, raising concerns about patient care and safety.  Today, an estimated 8,000 Connecticut residents living in these communities average between 84 and 86 years old, and suffer from a higher percentage of chronic illnesses or more severe medical conditions, according to the auditors. Assisted living facilities serve people 55 and older and provide nursing services

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Middletown Area and 9 Town Transit Near Agreement, Plan Expanded Service

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After more than two years of deliberation and negotiation, a plan is nearly in place to combine Middletown Area Transit with 9 Town Transit into a single district. The agreement is intended to provide the separate, smaller transit districts with additional financial stability. A combined district also feeds hopes of expanded bus service across Middlesex County connecting rail and bus lines in southeastern Connecticut with the Hartford and New Haven areas. Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, who serves on the boards of both transit districts, said the consolidation addresses the reality that small transit districts are not sustainable in the

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Middletown Common Council Approves Hiring Erik Costa as Chief of Police

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MIDDLETOWN — After an hour of questions on Monday night, Middletown Common Council voted unanimously to approve hiring Erik Costa as the city’s next chief of police. Costa will become the next chief of the Middletown Police Department following the completion of a background check. Mayor Ben Florsheim said that the city’s human resources department is working with a “trusted third party” to complete the process.  Costa will bring 26 years law enforcement experience to the department, from his first job as a seasonal officer on Martha’s Vineyard, and serving as the commander of the Connecticut State Police Troop F

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Colchester Approves Budget on Third Try

COLCHESTER – On their third opportunity to vote on a budget for the 2022 fiscal year, Colchester voters approved the town’s budget by a vote of 1,119 in favor and 628 opposed. The approval comes nearly two months after voters rejected a budget for a second time this year by a margin of six votes, with 873 in favor and 879 opposed.  The mill rate for the year will be 33.05, an increase of 0.21 mills over last year’s budget. That increase is an entirely due to the Board of Education budget, approved by voters at a referendum on June

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Essex Puts Ferry Street Flood Plan to a Vote on Wednesday

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ESSEX – In an effort to lessen recurring flooding on Ferry Street, First Selectman Norm Needleman told CT Examiner that the town is asking residents at a special town meeting on Wednesday to approve an appropriation of $100,000 to raise the roadbed about a foot and install a sidewalk on the west side of the street. Needleman said that he believes the town can complete the project for that amount, and that he will be looking for possible matching grants to help pay for the work. The base of the street runs along the edge of the river and floods

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State Regulators Set to Cut Eversource Profits, Trim Customer Rates

In a draft decision this week, state regulators signaled that they would require Eversource to drop its electrical rates starting in November, but also limited the time frame during which the utility would be penalized for what the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority found was an inadequate response in 2020 to Tropical Storm Isaias. Those penalties reportedly played a part in Moody’s downgrading the company’s credit rating outlook to “negative” in June.  After Isaias, state lawmakers asked that PURA consider temporarily trimming Eversource rates by cutting the company’s allowed return on equity. While not going as far as an earlier proposal,

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As Residents Pile Up $280 Million in Utility Bills, Aid Organizations Scramble to Help

Connecticut’s moratorium preventing utility shut offs officially ended on Wednesday, and customers with unpaid balances could soon be receiving notices in the mail that their electricity could be shut off. The state’s largest electric utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating, have reported a total of nearly 900,000 customers with some unpaid electric bills, though a large proportion of those are overdue by less than a month. Data from the utilities for customers already enrolled in payment plans show that the average overdue bill is over $1,000 – as some customers had bills pile up during the moratorium that prevented utility disconnections for

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After Excavating Roads 15 Times in 4 Years for Aging Pipes, Ledyard Warns of the Inevitable

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GALES FERRY – Since 2017, roads in the Christy Hill neighborhood have been excavated 15 times to repair aging water pipes that town officials say are too expensive to replace. Ahead of Ledyard’s $650,000 re-paving of the subdivision, Public Works Director Steve Masalin sent the usual notice to the neighbors – but with the caveat that the new pavement could soon be dug up again to repair the pipes. Masalin said that the pipes have been repaired 6 times since 2020, and 3 times this year.  According to Masalin, the breaks have been particularly frequent along Ledgewood Drive. “The whole

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