Despite Pushback from Eversource, PURA Considers Cut to Company’s Rate of Return

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PURA’s Office of Education, Outreach and Enforcement is proposing a significant cut to Eversource’s allowed rate of return on equity, saying the cut would save residential Eversource customers about $93 million a year.  Based on the testimony of Aaron Rothschild, a Ridgefield-based financial consultant who has testified on utility rates of return since 2002, the proposal to cut Eversource’s rate of return from 8.95 percent to about 7.17 percent has drawn support from Attorney General William Tong, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Industrial Energy Consumers.  But Eversource says what customers save now, they’ll lose in

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Legislators Say ‘Aye’ to Sports Betting and Online Gambling Using Emergency Regs

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Connecticut lawmakers approved emergency regulations on Tuesday allowing sports betting and online gambling – over objections from some Republican lawmakers that rushing to beat the kickoff of the NFL season was not a good reason to authorize a massive emergency expansion of gambling in the state. The emergency regulations, which will allow for online gambling and sports betting to begin before Sept. 9, passed the Legislative Regulation Review Committee by a vote of 9-4 – with four Republican lawmakers voting “no” over what they say are concerns regarding a hurried process timed to the beginning of football. A number of

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Officials Downplay Missed Permit Deadline for Redeveloping State Pier

NEW LONDON — Representatives of the Connecticut Port Authority and the wind energy partnership between Eversource and Ørsted downplayed the significance of a delay in the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redevelop State Pier.  A dredging permit was expected before the end of August, but that timeline appears unlikely – raising the possibility that the project could exceed a budget that is already being tightly scrutinized by state lawmakers. Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw said officials “remain hopeful” the permit will be approved shortly — if so, Henshaw said authority officials “remain confident that

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North Stonington Solar Project Wins Provisional Approval

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NORTH STONINGTON — Despite concerns from some council members and town officials about the environmental impact, Connecticut Siting Council members indicated they would narrowly approve a proposed solar project in North Stonington. In an informal straw poll taken during their Thursday meeting, three council members indicated support for a proposal by Nashville-based Silicon Ranch to clear cut about 44 acres around an abandoned gravel quarry in North Stonington to develop the site into a 9.9 megawatt solar farm.  Two council members said they would not support the project given the close proximity of property boundaries, and its potential to disrupt

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Storm Prep Pumps Countless Invasive Water Chestnuts Down the Connecticut River

Steve Gebhart has been pulling invasive water chestnuts for years, but said he had never seen anything like the mats of vegetarian he saw floating down the Connecticut River last week. From the mouth of the Salmon River in East Haddam, down to the Middlesex Yacht Club in Chester the mats of water chestnut were so wide, Gebhart said he could hardly maneuver his small motorboat between them. Kelsey Wentling, the Connecticut River Conservancy’s riverkeeper for Connecticut, told CT Examiner that she had heard reports up and down the river of these floating carpets of water chestnut. Wentling said she

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East Haddam Amends Regulations to Ease Limits on Hobby Farms, 4-H

EAST HADDAM – Town Planner James Ventres said that under East Haddam’s current regulations, he had to tell several families that they couldn’t keep a farm animal for a 4-H project because they didn’t have enough space to meet the town’s setback requirements for animal shelters. On Wednesday night, the town Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to loosen those setbacks for small “hobby farms,” including 4-H students. The commission also agreed to tighten setback regulations for new, larger animal operations – an effort to prevent a repeat of an incident several years ago when someone tried to move thousands of

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After a Near Miss by Henri, State and Local Officials Assess Eversource’s Response

As Connecticut residents avoided the worst of the predicted storm damage from Henri, state and local officials generally praised preparations by Eversource, though the added cost to customers for the additional out-of-state crews remains unclear. For State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the legislature’s Energy and Technology committee, Tropical Storm Henri looked like a sort of “fire drill” for Eversource to respond to major storms in the future. Despite forecasts late last week predicting that Connecticut would be hit head-on by hurricane-force winds, and that Eversource customers could lose power for as much as 21 days, sending residents to

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Seaport Scrambles to Fit In Boats Seeking Shelter From Hurricane Henri

As forecasts Friday morning started to show Hurricane Henri heading toward a landfall in Connecticut, Chris Gasoriek’s phone at Mystic Seaport was ringing off the hook with people looking for safe harbor at the seaport’s docks. But the seaport’s docks were already filled with boats in town for the annual WoodenBoat Show, which was postponed from its usual weekend in June. The show was still going on as normal on a hot, sunny day on Friday, but Gasiorek said he’s been working to accommodate the people who often seek shelter for their boats at the seaport. He said he can’t

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Small Town Connecticut Re-thinks the Drive-Thru

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Frank D’Andrea, who owns a Dunkin Donuts on Route 81 in Killingworth, and several others along the shoreline and New Haven area, applied to the Killingworth Planning and Zoning Commission last year to allow drive-thru windows in the town’s commercial areas. Last October, the commission unanimously approved the application, making drive-thru windows an accessory use in the town’s commercial district, so that now property owners can apply for a special exception, and Planning and Zoning can review and approve any plans to add a drive thru. Commission chair Thomas Lentz said that drive-thru lanes had been opposed in Killingworth for

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Two Decades Later, Coach Curt Miller Still Stands Alone

When Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller was a young college assistant basketball coach, there were no openly gay, male coaches in the highest levels of basketball for him to look up to. “As I was moving through the assistant ranks, that was my biggest question: Could I be authentically myself and be hired as a head coach?” Miller said.  For Miller, the answer was “yes.” Since Bowling Green State University hired him as the head coach of its women’s basketball team in 2001, Miller has been successful at every level he’s coached.  But two decades after he became the

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Metro-North to Require Vaccination or Weekly Testing by Sept. 7

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All Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees must be vaccinated or participate in weekly COVID testing beginning Sept. 7, according to a spokesman on Thursday. MTA operates bus, rail and subway transit in the New York metropolitan area, including Metro-North, which serves coastal Connecticut.  MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told CT Examiner in an email that 3,547 of Metro-North’s 6,069 employees – 59 percent – had received at least one dose of vaccine at MTA-run sites, or had added their vaccination details in the authority’s database.  According to the MTA, surveys of employees also show that an additional 15 and 20 percent have

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Crash Involving Montville Police Officer Sends Seven to Area Hospitals

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Seven people, including three children, an infant and a Montville Police Officer, were taken to area hospitals after the officer collided with two cars pulled over to the side of Route 32 in Montville on Wednesday afternoon. According to an accident summary report by Connecticut State Trooper Timothy Wengloski, Montville Police Sgt. Addison Saffioti crashed into the rear driver’s side of a vehicle owned by Norwich resident Valerie Davis, which was pulled over along the side of northbound Route 32, just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Davis was helping Waterford resident Katlyn Martinez put gasoline in her vehicle, both pulled

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Middletown Approves Rules Allowing Marijuana Cultivation and Sale

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MIDDLETOWN – The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday approved regulations that would allow the cultivation and sale of marijuana in Middletown, without taking action on the commission chair’s proposal to allow cultivation in residential zones that currently allow farming. The regulations approved by the commission allow “micro-cultivation” in three of the city’s four industrial zones – not including the I-3 zone that sits along the Connecticut River – its Interstate Trade zone along I-91, and its transitional development and industrial redevelopment zones. The commission also approved allowing marijuana retail sales in the city’s general business district – which

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Middletown Eases Restrictions on Small Farm Businesses

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MIDDLETOWN – In an effort to give local farmers more opportunities for additional revenue, on Wednesday night the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission approved easing restrictions on small farms looking to open a farm stand – and the commission is considering regulations for on-farm wineries and breweries. Under Middletown’s existing regulations, permanent, year-round farmers markets were permitted in residential areas by special exception, but only on properties of at least 20 acres that abut a state highway. The change made Wednesday would allow farmers markets by special exception on properties of at least 5 acres, and would not require an

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Essex Plans First Step Toward Flexibility, Discretion for Development

ESSEX — Town officials are proposing a change in zoning around exit 3 on Route 9 – an idea that could be replicated in other parts of town, including Essex Village, if approved. The change is meant to give developers more flexibility to develop a variety of new projects in the area. Essex Town Planner John Guszkowski said any developer interested in using the development zone would start by presenting a conceptual master plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission to convince it to change the zone to allow for their project. If the zone change was approved, they would

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Housing Formula Changes Calculus for Building Affordable Housing in the Region

Despite concerns that a new funding formula would limit investment in affordable housing in the eastern portion of the state, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority approved a plan to change how the agency scores applications for a highly sought after tax credit program. The new formula, based on census tract data rather than town borders, scores areas where lower-income housing is most needed, based on criteria like the availability of jobs and school outcomes. Stonington, for example, was listed as a very high opportunity town under the old “opportunity map” — a designation that gave affordable housing projects a high

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Colchester’s Board of Finance Debates Cuts Before Heading to a Third Budget Vote

COLCHESTER – In an effort to trim a tax increase from the latest budget proposal, the town’s Board of Finance debated $75,000 of spending cuts ahead of a third referendum planned for Sept. 21. In their first meeting since Colchester’s second failed budget referendum this year, board members agreed that cutting the town budget enough to fully eliminate a tax increase for local residents was not possible given that the school budget had already been approved with a tax increase. But they also agreed that voters should not be asked a third time to approve an additional position for a

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East Lyme Residents Approve $200,000 for Public Safety Building Roof Replacement

EAST LYME – Town residents in a voice vote approved $200,000 of the town’s federal COVID relief money to replace the roof on the new public safety building during a town meeting on Wednesday night. It was the third time East Lyme residents have approved funding to renovate the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex. Town voters first approved bonding $5 million in 2019. Last October, they approved bonding another $985,000 and $1.2 million in delayed FEMA payments to cover a $2.2 million gap in funding for the project. The $200,000 to replace a roof that has

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Essex Officials Debate Zoning Amendment to Allow for Horses

ESSEX — A local engineer has his eye on buying a Main Street property in Ivoryton to keep two horses, and he’s asking the Essex Planning and Zoning Commission to decide whether horses belong in residential parts of town, or if they should be restricted to rural areas. Thomas Metcalf is asking the Essex Planning and Zoning Commission to amend the Village Residential zone to allow for properties with 2 or more acres to keep horses for personal use. Metcalf told the commission that, if the amendment was approved, he and his wife would buy about 3 acres of a

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Connecticut Towns Prep for $1.5 billion in Federal Aid

As towns across Connecticut begin receiving the first portion of $1.5 billion in federal aid directed toward local governments, they are debating how to balance their short- and long-term needs — spending money to help residents and businesses still struggling under the burden of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, and on capital projects that will help their communities for years to come. Haddam – which is set to receive $2.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA – has its eye on capital projects, including a community septic system in the Higganum Center business district. The

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State Pier Wins DEEP Approval for Wind Energy Hub in New London

Over objections from a road salt distributor pushed off the New London State Pier, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection approved a permit for the Connecticut Port Authority to fill the area around the pier as part of its redevelopment into a hub for offshore wind construction. DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes issued a final decision on Tuesday approving the port authority’s permit to fill about seven cubic acres between the two existing piers to facilitate the pier’s redevelopment. Dykes ruled the port authority’s application was complete, despite claims from the salt distributor DRVN that it was not. DRVN,

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Durham Nears End of a Three-Decade-Old Effort to Address Water Pollution

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DURHAM — A decades-long effort to bring clean water to local residents with wells contaminated by two former metal box manufacturers on Main Street is expected to be completed this fall, bringing a life-changing and long-needed supply of clean water to the area, and leaving the town to manage an expanded water company. The $24 million project ran nearly six miles of water main pipes to connect about 120 homes and businesses in the Durham Meadows Superfund site to the Middletown water supply – more than doubling the customer base of Durham’s small municipal-owned water company of about 80 customers,

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Colchester Votes Down Budget for Second Time in a Nailbiter

COLCHESTER — For the second time this year, voters have rejected their town’s budget proposal, voting down the second proposal by a margin of six votes on Tuesday – 873 in favor and 879 opposed. Colchester First Selectman Mary Bylone said on Wednesday that the budget will go back to the Board of Finance for the third time, and they will come up with a plan to bring another proposal before voters. “It’s a well-oiled machine at this point, because we’ve been practicing quite a bit this year,” Bylone said. In June, Colchester voters rejected the first budget proposal that

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State Regulators Approved Tiered Pricing, Small Rate Increase for Connecticut Water

State regulators approved tiered pricing and a small rate increase for customers of Connecticut Water on Wednesday. The water utility has acquired 60 smaller water systems in the last 25 years and now serves nearly 350,000 customers across 60 Connecticut towns.  The average residential Connecticut Water customer will pay about $40 more each year, after state regulators partially approved a rate increase requested by the company. The decision represents a middle ground between a stark 20 percent increase the company requested, and a draft decision from the Public Utility Regulatory Authority that would have allowed for an increase of less

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Colchester Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Fire Department Bonding

COLCHESTER — Voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.5 million bond issue to replace aging equipment for the fire department on Tuesday night. The town will use the funds to replace three fire engine tanks, one tanker and one tower ladder, replacements First Selectman Mary Bylone said are long overdue. Three of the trucks, including two engine tanks, were purchased in the 1980s, according to the town. “We have men and women who put their lives on the line every day to make sure we have a safe community, and they deserve to be riding in safe equipment, and to show up

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East Haddam Narrowly Approves Budget

EAST HADDAM — After soundly rejecting a town budget proposal in June, East Haddam voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a $36.37 million budget that had been trimmed down to a zero mill rate increase – by a vote of 885-834. The original budget proposal included an increase of $2.49 million over last year’s spending, and would have raised the mill rate by 0.62 mills to 31.06 mills. Residents voiced frustration with several line items in that budget, and also concern with the transparency of the budget process – especially with how information was presented in an online tool the town

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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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