Nickerson Suggests Further Cuts, as East Lyme Sends Draft 4.6 Percent Budget Increase to Board of Finance

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday to send a $77.63 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21 to the Board of Finance, but First Selectman Mark Nickerson said the budget will need further cuts before it goes to voters for a referendum in May. That budget represents an increase of about 4.6 percent over the previous year. “Where the budget is today is not passable,” Nickerson said during the selectmen’s meeting with Superintendent Jeffrey Newton. Nickerson said that the budget, in its current form, could require a mill rate increase of roughly 1.5, which he said would

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Needleman, Haines Take Questions on Vaccinations, High School Track, Marijuana, in East Haddam

EAST HADDAM — A state bill that would end the state’s religious exemption for mandated vaccinations was the dominant topic at a Monday forum with East Haddam’s two state legislators.  Amid questions from constituents, Rep. Irene Haines (R-East Haddam) and Sen. Norman Needleman (D-Essex) also touched on 5G infrastructure, medical marijuana, and funding for a track at Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Emily Maxfield, a resident of Portland, said that House Bill 5044 was “icing on the cake for how the state government has been absolutely crushing families. The conversation around the dinner table has now become ‘Why are we here?’

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Old Saybrook to Hold Public Hearing on $47.1 Million Budget Tomorrow

OLD SAYBROOK — The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed budget of $47,173,356 for fiscal year 2020-21, an increase of $653,187, or 1.4 percent over the 2019-20 budget. The hearing will be in Old Saybrook Middle School’s auditorium at 60 Sheffield Street at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3. The Board of Education 2020-21 operating budget proposal, passed by the school board at their January 14 meeting, is for $26,781,023, which is $260,276 or 0.98 percent more than 2019-20. This year’s school board budget includes funds for a plan to phase in reduced tuition

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New Regional Budget For Hazardous Household Waste Cuts Collection Dates

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Essex’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility will have two fewer collection dates than last year for its 10 member towns in its March to October 2020 season, as a result of a new annual budget for the program approved Wednesday by members of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG). Under this budget, a total of 16 RiverCOG towns will split the costs of $73,000 plus the additional costs of disposal for a new vendor, Virginia-based MXI Environmental Services, to operate the program. The cost to each individual town is based on their population according to Department of Public

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Regional Planners Seek Federal Recognition as Connecticut’s County Government Equivalent

Connecticut’s regional councils of government are seeking to be federally recognized as the state’s equivalent of county government in an effort to make better use of federal data, be more competitive for certain federal grants, and streamline application processes. Sam Gold, chair of the Connecticut Association of Councils of Government, said that county lines in Connecticut are a “historical relic” of the 18th and 19th centuries. County governments in Connecticut were abolished by the state legislature in 1960.  Many of the roles filled by county governments in other states are covered instead by nine councils of government (COGs), which are

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Board of Finance Debates Study for Possible Lymes’ Senior Center Expansion

OLD LYME — Members of the Board of Finance said Tuesday night that they were open to paying for part of the costs of a $30,000 study of the Lymes’ Senior Center’s long-term needs, but members raised concerns of the appropriateness of an architect to carry out that study. “To me it almost sounds like a conflict to have an architect doing a feasibility study and say we need this [architectural work],” said Board of Finance chair Andy Russell at Tuesday’s board meeting. “It sounds like there’s probably other organizations out there that come into senior centers, look at the

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East Lyme School Board Approves 4.98% Increase, Cites Years of Deferred Needs

EAST LYME — The Board of Education approved a fiscal year 2020-21 budget of $51,699,974 — a 4.98 percent increase over 2019-20 — after a Monday night public forum where residents aired their thoughts on class sizes, technology in classrooms, costs to taxpayers, and special education support. Board of Education members acknowledged that the increase was larger than in recent years, but said that this was a “catch-up” budget to address needs that had been put off in previous years. “We have to make up for everything that we’ve been cutting all these years,” said school board member Jaime Barr

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Tim Griswold Sketches Out the Big Picture for Old Lyme’s 2020-21 Budget

OLD LYME — In the eight years since he last worked on a budget as first selectman, Tim Griswold said that one of the most dramatic changes he’s seen as he works on the budget for 2020-21 has been a drop in aid from the state. In Old Lyme’s fiscal year 2010-11 budget, revenue from Education Cost Sharing — the biggest single annual infusion of state money for many towns — was about $605,500. In fiscal year 2017-18, that state funding had dropped to about $205,500. The town’s fiscal year 2018-19 audit showed that number grew to about $241,500. “It’s been dwindling,”

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State Officials Push Business Recruitment, Public-Private Partnership at Chamber Breakfast

GROTON — At a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut breakfast in Groton on Thursday, invited leaders from Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development, and nonprofit AdvanceCT, spoke about government partnerships with the private sector. “South Carolina and other states down south have been calling our companies. Why can’t we do the same?” said Peter Denious, president and CEO of AdvanceCT, formerly the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. “Why can’t we go on offense and get on our front foot and work with companies like Pfizer about who in your supply chain should be here. Who do we have a value

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With Aging Population, Lymes’ Senior Seeks Study of Needs, Possible Expansion

OLD LYME — A special building committee for the Lymes’ Senior Center plans to ask the Board of Finance on February 25 to fund a feasibility study of the long-term needs of the area’s seniors and a possible expansion of their facilities. “There’s a lot of us who are 55 and older,” said Jeri Baker, chair of the Lymes’ Senior Center Building Committee. “There’s just a lot of us. And we’re looking for continued opportunities to learn and be active and grow with other people and be social and to be kind for our much older members at the center,

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Old Lyme Selectmen Discuss Haines Park Bathroom, March Projects

OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen discussed updates to several town projects at their Tuesday afternoon meeting. The Haines Park Bathroom Committee is expecting to send the project out to bid in March, with the potential to begin work as early as April, Giswold said. Due to an inadequate well servicing the planned bathroom, the project’s scope has been expanded to include a water system and crawl space where water can be stored, Griswold said. That could increase project costs by more than the $150,000 already appropriated for the project during the regular budget cycle. Griswold said that town

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New London Grand List Grows 2.85 Percent, Waterford Apartments Jump 18.8 Percent

Total property values in New London — calculated by comparing grand lists for 2018 and 2019 — grew by 2.85 percent, or about $41.3 million, outpacing other towns in the region which have so far filed numbers with the state. New London reported $1,492,043,348 of property in October 2019, compared to $1,450,658,923 in October 2018. The 2019 Waterford grand list — at more than twice the value of New London — showed less growth this past year. Waterford’s inventory grew by 0.97 percent, or about $32 million, from $3,300,513,595 in 2018 to $3,332,549,281 in 2019. The 2019 grand list provides

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As Budget Deliberations Begin, Nickerson Emphasizes Public Safety and Redevelopment for East Lyme

EAST LYME — At a meeting on the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development late last month, two residents debated whether or not East Lyme could still be considered a “small town.”  Asked that same question in a Tuesday interview, First Selectman Mark Nickerson agreed that the town had changed significantly in the roughly 35 years that he’s lived here, but he added, “Is it a small town? It’s still got a lot of small town charm. You can walk up and down the boardwalk and walk into the grocery store and know everybody. Yes, we have lots of visitors,

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East Haddam Planning and Zoning Agrees to Draft Denial of Zoning Amendment

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EAST HADDAM — The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Tuesday night to ask the town’s attorney to write a draft denial of a zoning amendment application that would have allowed the owners of the Banner Country Club Estates banquet hall to convert that empty building into an estimated 20 residential units. “I just feel if we’re doing an ordinance change, it should benefit the town in general, and I don’t see this benefiting the town,” said commission member Edmund J. Gubbins, Jr., during the commission’s Tuesday night meeting. “I see this benefiting one developer and that’s all.” In the application,

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Taxable Property Up 1.78 Percent in East Haddam, Modest Growth in Nearby Towns

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Recent filings of grand lists by Chester, Deep River, East Haddam, and Westbrook show modest growth across the region between October 2018 and October 2019. Of the four towns, East Haddam had the largest increase in its overall grand list, at 1.78 percent. The town’s total net assessment grew from $879,144,920 in 2018 to $894,795,125 in 2019. Westbrook grew 1.12 percent, from $1,149,623,949 in 2018 to $1,162,509,264 in 2019.  Chester’s taxable property grew 0.87 percent, from $441,137,583 to $444,985,360 in 2019. Of the four towns, Deep River had the smallest increase, of 0.34 percent, its total net assessment grew from

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Old Lyme Affordable Housing Committee Holds First Meeting, Questions 10 Percent Goal

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OLD LYME — The newly-appointed Affordable Housing Exploratory Committee held its first meeting Monday night, with members sharing that they do not think that the town would necessarily be able to meet the statewide goal of 10 percent affordable housing, but that Old Lyme could do more for teachers, service workers, and longtime residents. The committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen in January, was charged with researching the resources, regulations and issues of affordable housing as they relate to Old Lyme, and to recommend a housing strategy to the town. Committee member Thomas Ortoleva said early in the meeting

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East Haddam Seeks Village Revitalization with Development of Former Goodspeed House and Town Offices

EAST HADDAM — Town officials expect to hear in mid-March a proposal to redevelop a 2.75-acre property containing the former town office building and the one-time residence of William Goodspeed, as part of an effort to revitalize the area around Goodspeed Opera House. “The village is bigger than this particular piece of property, but we’re hoping that this will help make a vibrant village,” said William Gerrish, chair of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee. “One that brings economic development to the town where there’s pedestrian access and it’s a part of something the entire community can enjoy. I think

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Apartments, Commercial Property Values, Jump in Latest Grand Lists — 2.36 Overall Drop in Old Lyme

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The total value of taxable property in Old Lyme decreased by 2.36 percent, or about $37 million — from $1,585,659,738 to $1,548,200,464 — following the once-every-five-year town-wide revaluation. The 2019 grand lists of four other towns in the area — East Lyme, Essex, Lyme, and Old Saybrook — each showed small year-over-year increases compared to 2018. The 2019 grand list — an inventory of assets in town subject to local taxes — will be used during the town budget process to calculate the mill rate for local taxes in fiscal year 2020-21. The value of a property in a town

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Board of Education Floats 5.57 Percent Increase in East Lyme School Budget

EAST LYME — The Board of Education is considering a budget of slightly less than $52 million, with changes to class sizes, added educational coaching for students, spending on technology, and to town taxes in the upcoming fiscal year. East Lyme residents will have an opportunity to comment on the superintendent of school’s 2020-21 budget recommendation at a 6 p.m. February 10 public forum at East Lyme High School. The Board of Education can still alter the budget before it is approved and sent to the Board of Selectmen, but in its current form, as presented by Superintendent Jeffrey Newton,

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State Rep. Holly Cheeseman to Advocate on Domestic Violence, Oppose Tolls and Recreational Marijuana

Holly Cheeseman was part of a wave of Republican state legislators elected in 2016 to the largest minority the party has had in the House in decades. But since starting her second term, Democratic gains have made it harder for her party to take part in the conversation up in Hartford, the East Lyme Republican said in a Thursday afternoon interview in the offices of CT Examiner. “This time there’s such a greater majority that in some ways it’s very frustrating in that it’s hard to have our voices heard,” said Cheeseman, whose district covers East Lyme and Salem. “On

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Business Leaders, Massachusetts and State Regulators, Discuss Legalization of Marijuana

NORWICH — Top state regulators with oversight over marijuana in Connecticut and Massachusetts discussed the challenges of regulating a substance that remains illegal at the federal level, at a Thursday morning meeting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Michelle Seagull, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection, underscored in her talk that since the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation to allow medical marijuana in 2012, her agency has regulated the drug with the same vigor as any medicine. “We, from the very beginning, treated this product as medicine, as something that should be treated like a controlled substance

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East Lyme Residents Voice Concerns About Development and Environmental Protection

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EAST LYME — The many of the participants at a public forum on conservation and development voiced concerns that future business and residential development would negatively impact the quality of life in the town. About 45 people filled the room in Town Hall. “When I think of Niantic and Flanders Four Corners 10 years from now, I see massive traffic jams during the events that we all enjoy, and I see extremely congested driving on a daily basis,” said resident Ed Lilienthal. “It’s easy for anyone here to imagine this because we are beginning to see these conditions now.” Lilienthal

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Old Lyme Poet Laureate Aims to Write Shoreline Chapter of Poetry Society

OLD LYME — Decades before he was appointed the town’s poet laureate last week, Roger Singer struggled in school with an undiagnosed case of dyslexia. Now as a teacher of local poetry workshops, Singer said he encourages other writers to take risks, be heartfelt, and to write every day. “I just want to encourage them to take a chance, stand out, and don’t be afraid of rejection. Even Babe Ruth struck out more than he got on base,” Singer said in a Tuesday phone interview. “Another thing is to encourage people to keep writing, even when the classes are over.

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

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

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Nutmeg Pharmacy to Open in Moodus, February 10

EAST HADDAM — Nutmeg Pharmacy plans to hold a grand opening of its new Moodus village location on February 10 at 9 a.m., the pharmacy’s co-owner said in a Thursday interview. This comes a little more than three months after the Nathan Hale Pharmacy closed in late October, leaving East Haddam without a pharmacy, as independent pharmacies are closing in many parts of the state. The 2,000 square-foot store at 38 William F. Palmer Road will have “all the basic necessities,” said co-owner Greg McKenna, offering prescription medications with specialized packaging, free delivery, immunizations, shampoos, cards, small gifts, first-aid supplies,

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Public Forum in East Lyme Solicits Advice for Updating Plan of Conservation and Development

EAST LYME — Town officials will hold a public forum on Wednesday, January 29, in Town Hall to offer a chance for East Lyme residents, and other stakeholders in the community, to weigh in on updating the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, a document that provides a framework for economic development, growth, sustainability and conservation in the town. “The state requires us to update it, but in practice it’s a great thing to update every 10 years or so anyway. It’s about town services, and it’s also a road map for any given 10-year period of a town,” explained

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Announce Town Meeting Agenda, Make Appointments

OLD LYME — At the Annual Town Meeting on January 27, the Board of Selectmen will ask voters to approve amendments to the town’s Ethics Commission ordinance and to approve a grant to the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts. First Selectman Timothy Griswold said his administration is not yet seeking a vote on easements for sewer connections to the three chartered beach communities. During the meeting, residents will be asked to vote on four items: To approve the annual town report for the fiscal year July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. To approve a request of $8,750 as a

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Votes for 3.8% Budget Increase

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Police Commission voted on Monday to approve the chief of police’s recommendation of a $5,238,272 fiscal year 2020-21 operating budget for the Department of Police Services, a 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. For fiscal year 2019-20, the $5,046,205 police budget accounted for about 10.8 percent of Old Saybrook’s overall budget of $46,520,189, the most for any department in Old Saybrook’s municipal budget, excluding school spending. Police Chief Michael A. Spera said this year’s increase is driven by the contractual obligations of salaries, benefits, insurance, and other staffing costs. “The message that I have this

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Towns to Complete Local and Regional Planning for Natural Disasters

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In 2000, Congress passed the Disaster Mitigation Act to break cycles of destruction and rebuilding caused by natural disasters, the law required local government to plan for possible damage and mitigation long before it actually happens. Hazard mitigation, senior project manager Scott Choquette of Dewberry Engineers told a gathering of Old Lyme commission heads and emergency services professionals at a Wednesday meeting in Town Hall, could include “any action that you take to reduce or mitigate the impacts of disasters over the long term.” That includes structural updates like elevating buildings near to the coastline, adding culverts, repairing bridges or

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Regional Planners Seek $850,000 to Map Muncipal Boundaries in Connecticut

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Officials from Connecticut’s Regional Councils of Government are seeking a state grant of $850,000 to create a statewide municipal boundary dataset that they say would help reduce costs for towns, inform emergency services, enable environmental and economic development studies, and open the door to more cost savings for maintaining mapping data. According Sam Gold, chair of the Connecticut Association of Councils of Government, the project is an effort to address discrepancies of as much as a quarter mile between digital maps used by neighboring towns to locate municipal boundaries “We’re in the 21st century, and we don’t know where the

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