In Draft Budget with 4.26 percent Increase, Superintendent Emphasizes Technology, Staffing

EAST LYME — Superintendent Jeffrey Newton proposed a $51.3 million operating budget for fiscal year 2020-21 to the Board of Education on Monday night, which would be a 4.26 percent increase over East Lyme Public Schools’ budget for 2019-20. Newton also proposed that the school board request $926,500 to be included in the town’s capital planning to purchase technology for the schools, explaining that an emphasis on technology is critical for preparing students for college and careers in a digital economy. “The story of this year’s budget is a lot around technology,” he told the school board, “and making sure

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Tourism District Leaders Share Plans to Include Small Towns, Maximize Limited Funds

As the Eastern Regional Tourism District moves toward resolving a breach of contract dispute with the state regarding funding, the district will next need to determine what actually to do with the $400,000 or more that it will receive from the state government for marketing campaigns. “If we’re not effectively putting a positive effect on everybody’s bottom line in the region then we’re not doing our job,” said Chris Regan, who represents Stonington on the district board. “We have to look at how we can maximize that $400,000 to help everybody in our region, and that will help the state

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Regional Complexity, Declining Enrollments, Weigh on Region 4 Budget Talks

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Declining student enrollment, shared staff and shortfalls in Regional School District 4’s reserves are expected to be significant topics of discussion as school boards of Chester, Essex, and Deep River craft five interconnected budgets for fiscal year 2020-21.  The district is anticipating a dramatic 5.2 percent drop in student enrollment heading into next year — but that doesn’t necessarily mean the district will be able to save costs as a result — Superintendent Brian White told the Supervision District Committee at a Wednesday night budget workshop. As of October 1, 2019, the district had 1,610 students enrolled in kindergarten through

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Code Variance Brings $268,000 in Savings for East Lyme Public Safety Building Project

EAST LYME — The State Building Inspector granted a code variance for the planned public safety complex, allowing the town to forego about $268,000 of structural reinforcements usually required for police buildings, officials said at a Tuesday night meeting. “It was nice to receive that,” said Selectman Paul Dagle at the Tuesday night meeting of the Public Safety Building Vision Committee, which he chairs. East Lyme voters approved spending $5 million to purchase and renovate the former Honeywell office building at 277 West Main Street as a public safety complex that would host the town’s police, fire marshall, and other

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Old Lyme Selectmen Appoint Affordable Housing Committee, Discuss Annual Town Meeting

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen appointed a special committee on Monday night tasked with researching and making recommendations on affordable housing in Old Lyme. The selectmen voted to appoint seven town residents as regular members of the Affordable Housing Exploratory Committee: John Coughlin, Michael Fogliano, Thomas Ortoleva, Harold Thompson, Tammy Tinnerello, Karen Winters, and John Zaccaro. Two alternate members were also selected: Peter Cable and Jennifer Miller. The committee will meet on a timeline limited to between six months and one year unless extended by the selectmen, according to a charge approved in September.  The idea of forming

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Regional Tourism Board Meets to Resolve Breach of Contract, Secure Future Funding

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NORWICH — The Eastern Regional Tourism District board voted on Friday to overhaul district procedures, and add new leadership, in an effort to resolve a breach of contract with the Connecticut Office of Tourism that threatens access to $400,00 in state funding for fiscal year 2019-20, and $160,000 in funding leftover from 2018-19. “Three years ago we were knocked out of business. Now we’re starting all over again, and nobody knows nothing about what the hell is going to happen,” said former State Senator Pete Connair, who represents East Lyme on the tourism board. “It’ll take more than twelve meetings a

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With Funding and Representation at Stake, State and Local Officials Prepare for Federal Census of Connecticut

State officials have estimated that for each person who goes uncounted in the 2020 Census, Connecticut could lose about $2,900 of federal funding for each of the next ten years. “This is for us to see how the demographics of our country are changing … we have to be prepared for the changes in our lives, and things certainly will change a lot over ten years,” said Elizabeth Porter, who chairs the Town of Groton’s Complete Count Committee in a phone interview on Thursday. “We have to continue to fight to get our piece of the pie,” said Porter. The

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Upcoming Old Lyme Fire Department Audit to Determine Local Insurance Costs

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OLD LYME — The town’s volunteer fire department is preparing paperwork for an evaluation that will affect how much Old Lyme property owners pay for fire insurance. In preparation for the evaluation process, the Board of Finance approved $15,120 for aluminum signs and hoses on December 17. The Insurance Services Office, a subsidiary of insurance data company Verisk Analytics, rates fire departments and their surrounding communities, on their readiness to respond to fire emergencies. Those ratings are based in part on staff size and training, water supply, emergency communications, and public outreach efforts. “It’s there for the people and for their

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Regional Tourism District Seeks to Resolve Breach of Contract, “Loss of Trust” with State Tourism Office

NORWICH — Members of an ad hoc committee of the Eastern Regional Tourism District board are convening in Norwich multiple times over the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Day to meet a January 6 deadline set by the State Office of Tourism, which claims the district breached a contract for a state grant of about $400,000, dispersed in June 2019 for the fiscal year 2018-19. One member of the district board and ad hoc committee, Tony Sheridan of Waterford, said at multiple points during meetings on Monday, December 23, and Thursday, December 26, that there has been a significant

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SCCOG approves $1.1 million budget for 2020-21

IN THE REGION — The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments approved an operating budget of $1.1 million for fiscal year 2020-21 on Wednesday at a meeting of first selectmen, mayors, and other chief operating officers from its 22 member towns and boroughs at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant. This new budget will take effect in just over six months, starting on July 1, 2020.  SCCOG Executive Director James Butler said that this budget is “my best projection of where the SCCOG’s finances will be next fiscal year,” according to a report to the SCCOG executive committee at their December 2 meeting.

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Old Saybrook Renovating North Cove Sheffield Street Dock for Spring 2020

OLD SAYBROOK — The Harbor Management Commission is overseeing a project to renovate the Sheffield Street dock facilities on North Cove by early April, replacing two floating docks, adding a raised landing to avoid flooding during high tides, and new racks for dinghies and kayaks. Harbor Management Commission Chair Robert Murphy said in a Thursday interview that these renovations are intended to make it easier for boaters to move their dinghies up to the dock and make the cove a more attractive destination for resident boaters and visitors. At any time, there are about 150 moorings in Old Saybrook’s North Cove,

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Audit Shows Boon for Old Lyme Reserves

OLD LYME — In 2018-19 fiscal year, Old Lyme took in higher revenues and paid several lower expenses than were expected. This allowed for a $739,152 contribution toward the town’s general fund balance of $11,309,944 on June 30, 2019, according to an annual audit presented to the Board of Finance Tuesday night. Board of Finance Chair Andrew Russell said that this general fund balance — which is equal to over a quarter of Old Lyme’s most recent annual budget — will help to keep a steady mill rate by preparing for unexpected one-time costs, and get a low interest rate if

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Talk Beavers, Sewers, Reviewing Roles of Commissions

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen provided updates at their Monday meeting, on projects planned for the Sound View neighborhood, continuing struggles with beaver dam flooding around Black Hall Pond, and announced plans to review the roles of town committees Beaver flooding Several town boards — including the Open Space Commission and the Flood & Erosion Control Board — have been made aware of problems posed by beaver dams in the area around Black Hall Pond, First Selectman Tim Griswold said. The dams block water flow and cause water levels to rise, which has left one resident unable to

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Crystal Mall Assessments, Taxes, Reflect Change in Retail Environment

WATERFORD — Town leaders say that they’ll be able to weather an expected annual loss of about $374,600 for each of the next several years after a recent settlement with Crystal Mall LLC over its property valuation, but the settlement does draw attention to a drop in value of retail stores and their ability to provide future tax revenue for the town. “We reached a stipulation,” town attorney Rob Avena told the Board of Selectmen at their December 3 meeting. “And it’s moving forward and the big hit, obviously there’s always a hit … their second-half taxes is basically their

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Waterford’s Rob Brule Talks “Customer Service,” Attracting Young Families

WATERFORD — Newly elected First Selectman Robert Brule said Wednesday in an interview with CT Examiner, that his early priorities in office will focus on responsive service for residents, housing and economic development, and new incentives to attract volunteers to the town’s fire services. “My campaign was based on customer service and infrastructure, the things that this town needs to do continuously to be a town that people want to live in,” Brule said in a Wednesday morning interview at Waterford’s Town Hall. “There are high expectations from our residents. We have tremendous leaders and department headers, tremendous employees who

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Finance Board Votes Alberti Chair, Discusses Water, Public Safety

EAST LYME — The Board of Finance, with three new members in its first meeting since the November elections, voted in a new chair, voted on a $5.59 million well filtration project, and discussed their involvement in deciding on renovations to convert the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex. After being unanimously voted in as board chair, Camille Alberti emphasized her belief that the board’s role should be to ask direct questions and to provide a check on government spending “It’s really up to this board to do the due diligence for the tax payers and the

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Report Promotes Diverse Housing for Aging, Changing Demographics, in Waterford

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WATERFORD — The town’s population is expected to shrink over the next two decades, and Waterford will need a range of housing sizes and price points to meet the needs of a changing demographic of residents in a changing world, according to a consultant’s Monday night presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Consultant Glenn Chalder of Avon-based Planimetrics said that the challenge facing the town comes from two distinct age groups: older residents seeking to downsize and young renters, many with significant student debt, seeking affordable rents. “The issue here is that as households age, they get smaller,” Chalder

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Lyme-Old Lyme VFW Post 1467 Honors Work and Volunteers at Annual Banquet

OLD LYME — The local Veterans of Foreign Wars celebrated acts of service in helping veterans in need at their annual awards banquet Friday night at the Old Lyme Country Club. Among VFW posts, Lyme and Old Lyme’s Post 1467 is rare in that it doesn’t own a building, which members say keeps them lean and allows them to devote more of the money they raise directly toward covering essential expenses for veterans in need around southeastern Connecticut, filling in gaps left by the the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and similar social services. “Our motto is ‘No bar,

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East Lyme Selectmen Approve Additional $950,000 to Reduce Iron and Manganese in Water

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday approved a resolution to bond an additional $950,000 to construct and upgrade filtering for two of the town’s wells, one of which has repeatedly shown discolored water with iron and manganese. This would raise the total amount appropriated for the project to $5.59 million. At a January special town meeting, East Lyme voters approved bonding for up to $4.64 million for this project. The additional $950,000 requires approvals by the Board of Finance and at an additional town meeting. “We really need to move forward with this project,” Town Public Works Director

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Library renovations to be completed in April and other selectmen news

OLD LYME — The Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library is expected to begin accessing town funds this month for ongoing renovations once they surpass the $300,000 in costs that the library committed to cover through donations and raised funds, said First Selectman Timothy Griswold at his first meeting of the board since he took office following November’s election. At a July 2018 town meeting, Old Lyme voters approved the town to spend $1.75 million on the construction, with $1.25 million coming through a bank loan and $500,000 from surplus. Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library is also set to receive a $1 million

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Vincitori Apizza Serves up “Neo-Neopolitan” Pies, Chowder by Niantic Boardwalk

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EAST LYME — The region’s newest pizzeria brings New Haven-inspired pies to Niantic’s Main Street, with house-made sausage, and a savory potato pie. Their signature dish, the Vincitori, starts with a naturally-leavened dough, “covered with shredded mozz and with dollops of fresh mozzarella and then we put the sauce on top with fresh basil, which is the best of all the worlds,” said chef Dave Reeves. Reeves opened Vincitori Apizza with Eileen and Norman Birk, his aunt and uncle, in mid-November. It’s located at 294 Main Street, Niantic, the site of the former Eleni’s Pizzeria. Reeves brings 16 years of

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Public-Private Partnership Seeds 100,000 Oysters in Niantic River

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EAST LYME — Shellfish experts deposited about 100,000 juvenile oysters into the Niantic River on Saturday, as part of a $10,000 public-private partnership plan by the Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission to bolster the river’s oyster population in an effort to increase recreational fishing and improve water quality. “This is the first seeding that we’ll do,” said Peter Harris, chair of the shellfish commission. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll be successful.”  Harris said that this could be the first of multiple seeding if successful. “When they grow out to adults they will set seed and repopulate the area if it’s successful,”

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Town Meeting Passes Harbor Authority Ordinance, Adopts Annual Report

OLD SAYBROOK — Voters approved an amendment clarifying the Harbor Management Commission’s authority and adopted the 2019 Annual Report at Monday night’s Annual Town Meeting at Old Saybrook Middle School. Town Attorney Michael Cronin said that the amendment to the Harbor Management Commission language in the Town Code was a matter of “legal housekeeping” about “the jurisdiction of the commission.” The code in its earlier form gave the commission the responsibility to oversee the town’s waterways and related facilities, but the language was ambiguous as to whether the commission had authority over facilities beyond the water’s edge, such as the clothesline

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New 12-town Garbage Contract Stabilizes Costs for Member Towns

The Southeastern Connecticut Regional Resources Recovery Authority (SCRRRA) earlier this year signed a 10-year agreement to dispose of solid waste at the Wheelabrator facility in Lisbon. The agreement will take effect in January 2021 and will stabilize costs for member towns. SCRRRA will pay Wheelabrator $69 per ton of waste — significantly less than the current $84 per ton paid by SCRRRA to the waste-to-energy incinerator facility in Preston, operated by Covanta Energy. That $15 per ton reduction in cost will save SCRRRA over $2 million each year at current levels of waste disposal, keeping municipal costs as low as

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East Lyme Officials Approve Outlines for One-Floor Public Safety Building

EAST LYME — Town officials on Tuesday night approved a schematic design for renovation of the former Honeywell Office building into a police and public safety complex. The architects will next prepare a detailed design to take out for bids in the next few months. The schematic designs from Silver / Petrucelli + Associates divided costs into four sections — a basic plan and three supplemental additions that might not be included in the final plan. The base schematic design is estimated to cost about $1.7 million, funds already approved for the renovation. Selectman Paul Dagle, who chairs the committee

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At Over $50,000, Old Lyme Spending Higher than Comparable Towns for Election

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OLD LYME — Democrats and Republicans together spent more than $50,000 on mailers, digital advertising, consultants, and other campaign expenses leading up to the November 5 election in Old Lyme. That sum is significantly more than comparable elections for several larger towns across the southeast Connecticut. Old Lyme also had the highest turnout for any town in the state, at about 56 percent. According to campaign finance statements filed by each of the parties at the end of October, the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee spent more than $26,500 and the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee spent just over $25,000.

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Sunny Weather in Beach Season Brings Increase in Parks Revenue

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OLD SAYBROOK — Harvey’s Beach and mini golf games showed a hearty increase in gross income of 13 percent during the 2019 beach season compared to last year, which the town’s parks director said was likely due to consistently warm and sunny weather during summer weekends. “I think we had a really good summer. The weather always plays a major factor in what we’re doing in our summer facilities,” said Parks and Recreation Director Raymond Allen. “If you recall this summer every weekend was beautiful and that certainly is a factor. Our weekends tend to be more busy than during

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New First Selectman Underscores Outdoor Recreation for Business in East Haddam

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EAST HADDAM — In a Tuesday morning interview one week after taking office, First Selectman Robert Smith said the town should strengthen and maintain its wealth of hiking trails and emphasize outdoor recreation as an economic driver for the town. “We really need to look at emphasizing and reaching out to companies that would want to work with our recreation potential here,” Smith said. “We have 70 miles of hiking trails in town between the Nature Conservancy, the land trust, the town, and of course the six state parks. We have six state parks here, and the western boundary is

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Finding a Turkey for the Thanksgiving Holiday

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IN THE REGION — Thanksgiving falls late this year, but turkey sales start early, and shops across southeast Connecticut are offering a variety of choices and price points for home cooks preparing for November 28. Walt’s Food Market in Old Saybrook is preparing for the holiday by making over 800 pounds of gravy, starting a full two weeks before Thanksgiving. “It’s nothing, but turkey, we don’t do any of that fake canned turkey gravy,” said Walt’s meat manager Dave Crosby. “We make our own stock from scratch, boil it down and make it that way all from turkey necks and

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Attorneys Offer Timeline, But Few Answers on Region 4 Land Purchase

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DEEP RIVER — Residents and elected officials from Chester, Essex, and Deep River asked questions and offered criticism of the Board of Education for Region 4 schools, and its attorneys, at a special Monday night workshop devoted to a controversial 2017 land purchase for $380,000 that board members later discovered had not been budgeted. “You don’t have much of an answer to anything,” Charlie Barton, a Chester resident, told the board and their attorneys. “That’s one of the problems here. I want to know who said to go ahead with this. That should be forthcoming — either the regional superintendent, the

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