Nickerson Announces Intention to Leave Office at End of Term

EAST LYME — First Selectman Mark Nickerson announced that he will not run for another term next November and will leave the office after finishing his seventh year. Nickerson, who has served six years as First Selectman of East Lyme after being appointed to the position to replace Paul Formica after he was first elected to the State Senate in 2014, announced his decision in a letter included in the Friday Nov. 27 edition of the monthly East Lyme Parks and Recreation publication EVENTS Magazine. “I have cherished this time as our town’s leader. Being the First Selectman of such

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As Winter Approaches, Connecticut Works Toward Safer Solutions for Homelessness

Connecticut is again looking to increase space available for people without shelter this winter to stay in motels amid fears that church basements and other traditional warming centers aren’t equipped to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When the virus began to spread quickly throughout Connecticut in March, the state contracted with hotels to move people out of crowded, congregate living spaces out of concern for COVID outbreaks among people without housing. In a similar effort, the state is using federal money to contract with hotels to keep warming shelter capacity at pre-pandemic levels this winter. In Middletown, the state has

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Eversource Announces Voluntary Moratorium on Service Disconnections

Eversource Energy announced in a news release on Friday that the energy provider would suspend utility disconnections for nonpayment. The decision comes after a statewide moratorium on utility disconnections expired Oct. 1, and the Public Utilities Regulatory chose not to extend it, despite pleas from both Eversource and United Illuminating. Marissa Gillett, chair of the state’s utilitary regulator PURA, had pressed the companies to “voluntarily extend the moratorium.” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said the company made the decision to suspend disconnections because it was the right thing to do for both its customers and employees with COVID-19 cases rising in

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East Lyme Triples Wetlands Review Area, Raises Questions

EAST LYME — By a vote of 5 to 2 on Monday night, the town’s Inland Wetland Agency tripled its mandatory review area from 100 to 300 feet for projects around inland wetlands and watercourses, giving the agency the broadest blanket oversight in the region. The review area is the distance from an inland wetland or watercourse where the agency reviews all projects that could affect the waters, including moving dirt, cutting trees, modifying the ground, or building on it. The decision came after five months of deliberations, beginning with a July proposal to expand the review area to 500

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A Closer Look at Voter Turnout

A higher percentage of Connecticut voters cast ballots in last week’s election than in 2016, but long lines at the polls were likely due more to COVID precautions, as fewer ballots were cast in-person. More than 1.85 million voters cast ballots in the November general election out of more than 2.33 million eligible voters, according to the unofficial results available Wednesday from the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office.  That equals a statewide voter turnout rate of 79.65 percent, up 2.7 percent from 2016, when more than 1.67 million cast ballots out of more than 2.17 million eligible voters –

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Solar Farm Approved for 75-acre Parcel in Waterford

The Connecticut Siting Council — the state agency tasked with balancing the costs and benefits of locating new infrastructure in Connecticut — voted 3 -1 to approve a scaled back version of a proposal to build a 75-acre solar farm in Waterford previously rejected by the council in 2018. The council will still need to approve a detailed development and management plan before construction can begin. The state regulator found that the project by developer Greenskies Renewable Energy to install 45,976 panels capable of generating 15.3 megawatts of electricity would not cause a “substantial adverse environmental effect.” That conclusion was

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DEEP Launches Low Cost Innovative Program to Monitor Stream Flow

Trail cameras, like those used by hunters, are the latest tool for state water management staff to monitor disruption of Connecticut’s networks of streams. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has installed about 30 trail cameras across Connecticut to identify stream connectivity issues – areas where the flow of water is so low that a section of stream becomes impassable for fish. Stream connectivity is key for migratory fish like the native brook trout, which spawn each fall in shallow riffle pools, and move to deeper waters as they grow, said Chris Bellucci an analyst for the department’s

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Higher Winter Energy Costs, But Smallest Bump Since 2017Sund

Like most years, Eversource and United Illuminating customers will see larger bills in January as the Public Utilities Regulatory approved new rates for the first six months of 2021. PURA approved a “winter” rate of 8.391 cents per kilowatt hour for Eversource – up from the current rate of 7.375 cents – and approved a rate of 9.369 cents for United Illuminating – up from the current rate of 8.667 cents. The new rates will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, and extend through June 30.  The proposed winter price will cause a noticeable increase for customers between December and

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Formica Named Deputy Minority Leader, Lays Out Next Term

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, has been named Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate when lawmakers return to session in January. Formica will join new Minority Leader State Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, as the new leadership of the Senate Republicans, who lost two seats to Democrats in the election on Tuesday and will go into the next session outnumbered 24-12 in the upper chamber. “It’s an absolute, incredible honor,” Formica said of his new role. “I’m very excited about the position, and I look forward to the challenge. We have a great caucus with very good senators who work

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Invasive Lantern Fly Makes Appearance in Fairfield County

Dead grape vines, slick mold, and large-winged, swarming insects have become common sights in southeastern Pennsylvania where the spotted lanternfly has taken over forests, backyards and vineyards.  And with groups of the invasive pest spotted recently in two towns in Fairfield County, the pest could make a significant appearance in Connecticut soon, and researchers haven’t had luck finding a way to stop it once they’ve taken root. Native to China, India and Vietnam, the first sighting of a spotted lanternfly was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. Since then, it has spread and infested most of southeastern Pennsylvania and parts

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Green Party Drops McCormick After Inflammatory Facebook Comments

The Green Party of Connecticut announced on Friday that it had dropped its support for Tom McCormick, the party’s candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson after McCormick posted inflammatory comments on social media. In a statement, the Green Party of Connecticut said it dropped support for McCormick because, in response to a post on the Manchester, CT Crime & Safety Watch Facebook group about a theft of tires from a car, he said, “The thieve (sic) needs a necktie.”  Activists from two Hartford-area groups advocating for racial justice – POWER UP –

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A Round Up of Endorsements

CT Examiner has assembled a round up of major endorsements How they endorsed The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund gives out letter grades to candidates based on their voting records, public statements and their responses to a questionnaire. “Aq” means a candidate received an “A” grade based only on their answers in the questionnaire. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association grades lawmakers by their votes on 10 bills the association considered priorities in the 2019 legislative session, so there are only grades for incumbent candidates. If a candidate takes more votes that CBIA considers pro-business – such as voting

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Melón, Haines Offer Sharp Contrast for Fall Election

Educator and real estate agent Judd Melón, an East Haddam Democrat, is challenging one-term incumbent State Rep. Irene Haines, an East Haddam Republican, for the chance to represent Connecticut’s 34th House district, that includes East Haddam and East Hampton. Melón taught Spanish literature and language in college and public high school for 10 years, and is a licensed real estate agent, but he said that he put teaching on hold to challenge Haines because he disagreed with several votes she’s taken, including votes against the minimum wage increase, expanding paid family and medical leave, and police accountability bills in 2019

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State Budget Forecast Improves From September Estimates

Connecticut’s budget forecast has continued to improve as revenues from sales, income and real estate taxes exceed earlier projections. The Office of Policy and Management, Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget agency, projected a $1.26 billion deficit for fiscal year 2021 in its monthly forecast released Tuesday. It’s much worse than the $166.2 million surplus the state budgeted back in December, but it’s 76 percent less than the $2.02 billion deficit the office was projecting as recently as Sept. 20. The improved budget picture is a combination of better than projected revenues —  $18.5 billion compared to $18.05 billion last month –

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Marino’s Re-opens, Offers a Taste of Middletown’s North End

MIDDLETOWN — The first week Francesca Vitale re-opened Marino’s Pizzeria, all the old customers came back, clamoring for the hamburg pizza her mother made famous. “On the first day, we did like 100 pizzas,” Vitale said. Vitale’s grandfather, Sebastiano Marino immigrated from Sicily in 1898 and opened a bakery on Ferry Street in Middletown’s North End in 1920. Vitale’s mother, Constance Marino-Vitale, opened Marino’s Restaurant in 1941. Both were staples of the Italian-American community in Middletown until the restaurant closed in 1992. When Vitale and her friend Carla Marino opened back up Marino’s in a new location on William Street,

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Hall, Goupil, May Vie for Connecticut House Seat

Three candidates are competing to replace three-term Republican incumbent Jesse MacLachlan, who represents the 35th District — the towns of Clinton Westbrook and Killingworth — in the state legislature. MacLachlan announced that he would not seek re-election in August. In 2018, MacLachlan defeated Clinton Democrat Jason Adler with 52.5 percent of the vote. The Democratic nominee, Christine Goupil, was elected First Selectman of Clinton in 2017, on a platform that included replacing the position with a town manager. By the end of her first term in 2019, the town approved the plan and hired Karl Kilduff to manage the town.

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State Mandate, Dwindling Funds, Has Towns Scrambling to Purchase Police Body Cameras

Funding to reimburse municipal police departments for the purchase of body cameras languished for years unspent until in March the legislature moved $3 million of $3.6 million remaining to fund camera purchases by the State Police. Now a provision in the Police Accountability Bill passed in special session this summer has towns scrambling to secure any of the remaining money. The bill requires municipal police departments to outfit officers with body cameras no later than July 2022. The new police accountability law has renewed interest in the grant program, with municipal departments hoping to claim a share of the approximately

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Sharp Contrast as Weir Faces Osten in Senate Race

Four-time Democratic incumbent Cathy Osten, faces Hebron business owner Steve Weir, the Republican candidate, in the race for the 19th State Senate District, representing Sprague, Hebron, Columbia, Franklin, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville and Norwich. Osten, an Army veteran and long-time corrections officer and supervisor,has been co-chair of the Appropriations Committee — a key state budget committee — since  2017. She also serves as vice-chair of the Labor and Public Employees committee. She said that she is running to make a difference and represent her constituents. In 2019, Osten lost a bid for a 7th term as Sprague’s first selectman. Steve

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Mohegan Gaming Set to Operate First Tribal Casino in Las Vegas History

There is path a clear for the Mohegan Tribe’s gaming operation to enter the largest gaming market in the United States. Nevada regulators on Wednesday gave initial approval for Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment to operate the 60,000 square-foot casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the former site of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a few blocks from the Las Vegas Strip. If the Nevada Gaming Commission approves a recommendation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board made — after a virtual meeting with Mohegan Gaming representatives on Wednesday — it will become the first tribal organization to operate a casino

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Hot Dry Weather Fostered West Nile, Reduced EEE Populations in Southeast Connecticut

A hot dry summer across Connecticut has increased the prevalence of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, but far fewer mosquitos have been identified as carrying the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus than last year. Through Oct. 5, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has trapped 143 mosquitos that have tested positive for the West Nile Virus, compared to 82 it found through the end of its testing on Nov. 7 last year.  Last year, 122 mosquitos the station trapped tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). So far this year, they’ve found two – one trapped at Stonington High School on Aug.

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East Lyme Selectmen Set Aside FEMA Funding As Contingency

The East Lyme Board of Selectmen voted to put the remaining FEMA funds from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in a contingency fund on Wednesday evening, and left open the possibility that some of the funds could go towards purchasing body cameras for the East Lyme Police Department.  There is $327,046.72 from the surprise $1.73 million in FEMA reimbursements East Lyme received in August for infrastructure repairs following the two damaging storms in 2011 and 2012.  The town had already appropriated $203,560.89 of those FEMA funds as part of the $4.4 million Niantic Bay Boardwalk project that was approved in 2014.

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Shoreline Bike Plans Stymied at Eastern Point Road in Groton

GROTON — A state proposal to reconfigure lanes on a road near Electric Boat’s Groton campus could be a key piece of a proposed bike-friendly corridor along the shoreline from Rhode Island to the Connecticut River, but the Connecticut Department of Transportation says there isn’t room on the road for traditional bike lanes. The proposal from CTDOT would reconfigure the lanes on Eastern Point Road between its intersections with Benham Road to Chester Street, eliminating one southbound driving lane so that there would be one lane in either direction, with wider shoulders. That section of road serves the South Yard

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Audit Cites Long-standing Vacancy for Backlog in Discrimination Hearings

HARTFORD — A years-long vacancy in a key position at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities appears to be delaying hearings on some of the most difficult to resolve cases alleging discrimination, a state audit released this week highlighted. State statute requires the commission to have three “human rights referees” who conduct hearings on contested cases alleging discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accommodations. Since June 2014, the commission has had only two referees, with one position sitting vacant.  The state audit released on Tuesday found that, as of April 21, there were 269 cases awaiting a hearing

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Lamont Releases Plan to Tap Rainy Day Fund, Trim Spending and Extend Tax Surcharge

Gov. Ned Lamont proposed using $1.82 billion from the state’s “Rainy Day” reserve fund to offset a project $2 Billion budget deficit in 2021. Lamont’s proposal, released on Thursday, included $200 million in “mitigations,” including projections that the state could save $30 million through a hiring restriction for state jobs, $25.3 million rescinded from the current budget, and using $100 million in federal COVID relief funds to pay for state public health and safety costs. Another $44.8 million in mitigations proposed by Lamont, most significantly maintaining the existing 10 percent corporate tax surcharge for 2021, would require legislative approval. Melissa

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Osten, Formica, Needleman Weigh in on Energy Legislation, as it Passes 35-0

HARTFORD — The State Senate passed a bill aimed at improving accountability for storm response of energy providers, like Eversource and United Illuminating, by a vote of 35-0, sending the bill to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. As key legislators representing southeast Connecticut on the Energy and Technology Committee praised the strides they say the bill made, they admitted there was far more work to be done, and promised to consider deeper reforms in the regular session. “This is an important first step,” said State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the committee. “There will be more, many more.”

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East Lyme Voters Narrowly Approve Additional Public Safety Building Funds

East Lyme voters narrowly approved a plan to bond an additional $985,000 to fund renovations of the former Honeywell office building to use as the police station and emergency services center.  Voters approved the bonding by a vote of 1,184 to 1,112 in a referendum held Thursday. Voters also approved using $1.2 million in delayed FEMA reimbursements from hurricanes Irene and Sandy to fill the funding gap for the public safety building by a vote of 1,254 to 1,058.  East Lyme voters previously approved $5 million in bonding for the project in February 2019.

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House Lawmakers Overwhelmingly Approve Performance-Based Energy Bill

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would direct the state’s utility regulator to establish a rate-making system for energy providers, including Eversource and UI, that would consider the quality of their service to consumers. The House voted 136-4 to approve the bill, which will give the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, called PURA, more power to penalize utilities for poor performance in storm recovery and which will force the companies to reimburse customers who lost food or medicine after lengthy power outages. Lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the legislation, but also called for more action and in-depth reviews

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Deadly ‘Beech Leaf Disease’ Identified Across Connecticut and Rhode Island

A mysterious nematode first identified near Cleveland in 2012 has been spotted in seven Connecticut counties and Rhode Island this summer. The nematode has been tied to the deadly “Beech leaf disease” that has wreaked havoc on beech trees from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. “We’re really concerned because we’re not left with much else in the forest now – oaks and hickories and birches, and then beeches,” said Robert Marra, a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Going back 150 years, there would have been abundant chestnuts, elms, ashes and walnuts, said Marra, but the northeastern forests

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Panel Discusses Barriers to Treating and Preventing ‘Opioid Use Disorders’

A panel of medical professionals met on Wednesday in a virtual roundtable hosted by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce to discuss the added obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to treating and preventing opioid addiction. Opioid overdoses and deaths have increased during the pandemic, and Dr. Michael Kalinowski, a family physician at Middlesex Health, said it’s likely that long-term addictions have increased as well.  According to Kalinowski, COVID-related restrictions have hindered efforts to educate students and parents about opioid use, identify mental health concerns in young people, and eliminate unneeded prescription opioid medication. Kalinowski said that because improving mental

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Connecticut’s Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System Nears Completion

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The final piece of Connecticut’s tracking system for sexual assault forensic evidence kits – a sheet of instructions for survivors to track the progress of their evidence kit as it is sent to the state forensic laboratory for testing — is nearly complete. The tracking system began operating in March 2017 as the state worked to clear a backlog of 1,188 forensic evidence kits that local and state police departments had not submitted to the state laboratory for testing. “This is the last missing piece of the puzzle,”  Kristin Sasinouski, deputy director of forensic biology and DNA at the state

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