Shoreline Schools Plan Language Learning Partnership

Several school districts along the shoreline are discussing a potential partnership to offer world languages courses in a remote learning form to students across the region.  Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme Schools, said at a board of education meeting yesterday that the districts wanted to take advantage of the remote learning capabilities they had acquired through the pandemic and use it to offer remote classes to students throughout the region. “Obviously from everything you try to take a little bit away from it and learn from those experiences,” Neviaser said. “One of the things we think we can benefit

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Eversource Facing $30 Million Fine for Storm Efforts, and UI $2.1 Million

Eversource and United Illuminating were warned today that each could pay millions of dollars in fines for what regulators say are failures to respond appropriately to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. On Thursday, both companies were issued notices of violations for what regulators at PURA say are failures to comply with performance standards and accident reporting requirements set by state law.  Eversource faces fines totaling $30 million and United Illuminating faces fines of $2.1 million. The authorities can request a hearing to dispute PURA’s findings.  The fines can be implemented in multiple ways, including as a customer bill credit, according

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$460,000 Stamp Proceeds Fund 21 Local Projects Battling Aquatic Invasives

A new registration fee on boats is giving groups that work to combat invasive aquatic species a steady source of state funding for the first time, providing some help to the uphill battle of fending off fast-spreading plants like hydrilla and water chestnut. Beginning in 2020, all Connecticut boat owners were required to purchase a $5 invasive species stamp to operate a boat, and out-of-state boaters had to pay $25 for the stamp. As of December 2020, the boaters had purchased $460,000 worth of stamps, of which $360,000 was issued as grants.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection used

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As Unemployment Remains Double Pre-Pandemic Levels, Businesses Struggle to Hire Workers

“I’ve never seen so many ‘We’re Hiring’ signs,” said Mel Goggin, owner of Mel’s Downtown Creamery, which has locations in Pawcatuck and Colchester.  Her ice cream shops should be rearing up for a busy, eventful summer, but they’ve run into a roadblock reported by many Connecticut small businesses: hiring. Goggin said she’s struggled to hire enough workers to operate her creameries, with job postings languishing online getting few relevant responses. Even their ice cream supplier is struggling to find workers, leaving “a lot of flavors out of stock” in her creameries. While Goggin said she’d love to offer higher wages

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Salt Business Files Objection to State Pier Permitting

The owner of a road salt distributor forced off of the New London State Pier to make way for offshore wind developers filed an objection with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, to permit approvals failing to accommodate his business. Steve Farrelly, owner of the road salt distributor DRVN, which has rented about 3.5 acres on the pier since 2014, said in a formal objection filed with the department that he had been given to understand that existing tenants on the pier would be able to stay through the redevelopment and beyond. Instead, DRVN was told to leave or

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In Vote, Durham Opts for Multiyear Redevelopment of Korn School

DURHAM – In March, the Korn School appeared to be heading towards demolition, but after a successful petition and referendum, the Town of Durham has decided to take over the empty school after all, with the intention of converting the closed building into a multi-purpose community center over the coming years. Durham residents voted 708-546 to have the town take the school from the Region 13 School District for $1 on Tuesday. They also voted 630-606 to approve drawing $1 million from the town’s building reserve fund for the initial project costs, according to unofficial results that include absentee ballots.

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Senate Votes to Change Count of Prisoners for Legislative Redistricting

The State Senate approved a bill on Wednesday 35 to 1 that will change the way that incarcerated individuals are counted when determining state legislative districts.  Using the current formula, Connecticut counts prisoners in the district where they are incarcerated. The bill will change this practice so that prisoners are instead counted in their last place of residence before being incarcerated.  This bill is particularly timely as the state prepares to redraw its legislative districts this year. The next time the districts will be redrawn is in 2031.  Individuals who are serving a life sentence in the prisons will be

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Democrats Announce Intention to Extend Executive Orders — For How Long, is the Question

House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they expected to vote to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders beyond the current expiration date of May 20.  “The Governor, relating to COVID, whether it’s around testing, vaccination, things like that — even beyond May 20, will need some flexibility,” said State Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, in a press conference on Tuesday.  On Monday, Lamont said that Paul Mounds, his chief of staff, and Nora Dannehy, his general counsel, had reviewed executive orders still in effect to determine which would need to be extended after May 20 for public health reasons.  “There is

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Middletown Council Tables Effort to Withdraw From Power Plant Agreement

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MIDDLETOWN – Despite council members’ objections to plans to build a new natural gas-fired turbine at a Middletown power plant, efforts to end a tax agreement with the plant’s owner have been put temporarily on hold. Mayor Ben Florsheim said during the Common Council meeting Monday night that Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG is open to pursuing a “mutual withdrawal or termination” from a tax stabilization agreement for the company’s power plant on the Connecticut River in south Middletown, which the council approved in 2019. The council voted to table the motion to end the agreement, and to take the measure

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As Health Information Exchange Launches, Patient Advocates Warn of ‘Subscriptions’ to Private Data

After 15 years of false starts and $43 million dollars spent, Connecticut’s long-awaited health information exchange is finally “open for business,” state officials announced on Monday. The exchange is expected to collect and share patient data between healthcare providers across the state, which officials say will improve care, reduce redundant testing and lower healthcare costs through efficiency.  But a funding strategy that charges “subscriptions” for access to that health data has raised privacy concerns for patient advocates who warn of a lack of clarity regarding who will have access to that data. Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health

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Zoning Commission Denies ‘Smoke on the Water’ Application as Incomplete

OLD SAYBROOK — The Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny without prejudice the application of Smoke on the Water for a 300-seat outdoor restaurant at the former Dock & Dine, citing an incomplete application for the project at a virtual public hearing Monday night. Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said the commission had the choice to continue the public hearing or to deny the application without prejudice. The latter would allow Jon Kodama, who owns the property, and his business partner, Chef Colt Taylor, to reapply.  Kodama and Taylor were required to submit a complete application 14 days prior to the

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Budget Outlook Brightens for UConn as Plans for $70 Million Hockey Arena Advance

The University of Connecticut is directing $5.5 million of its operating funds toward paying for the construction of a new hockey arena. The decision comes in the context of cuts to the university’s athletic programs and an operating budget that remains $12.6 million in the red, but with a significantly brighter funding outlook for the university in the legislature. The total cost of the ice hockey arena is expected to reach $70 million — with the university contributing $17 million of that amount. Last June, the university cut the annual budget for athletics by $10 million — a 15 percent

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Lawmakers Poised to Establish Office of Pandemic Preparedness, Buck Advice of State Health Officials

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wane, Connecticut lawmakers say they want to make sure the state is prepared for the next one.  Legislators are poised to pass a bill establishing a state Office of Pandemic and Public Health Preparedness, which would manage inventories for personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, and vaccine storage. The office would also help connect businesses to local providers of PPE, and work to improve the state’s medical supply chain. The Appropriations Committee budget released last week allocated $300,000 to the Office of Pandemic Preparedness for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.  “If we’d had

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Madison the Site of a Rally for Local Control of Housing and Zoning

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MADISON — In front of Town Hall Saturday, about 45 people, including local and state legislators and members of CT169Strong, rallied against several proposed housing and zoning bills that they said will transfer local control to Hartford.  “The issues that really resonate in Madison are local control — we’re a very engaged community here, people come out and they have opinions. We are really good at problem solving in a way that works for Madison, so I can’t support anything that takes local control away from us,” said Madison Selectman Bruce Wilson, who was among the speakers at the rally. 

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Woodson Weighs in on Gun Violence, Supporting Solutions Within the Community

Robert Woodson, a civil rights activist, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and founder of national nonprofit the Woodson Center, says that the problems a community faces — violence, need for housing, financial illiteracy — have to be solved by members of the same community.  “The solutions are in the same zip code as the problem, but we’re not investing there,” he said.  The Woodson Center provides funding to community leaders who have already spent time making themselves available to the community, but don’t have the resources to do their work on a larger scale.  Woodson’s idea of investing in grassroots organizations

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Salim Furth Takes 5 Questions on Zoning and Housing

Salim Furth, who is the director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, recently spoke with CT Examiner about housing and zoning issues in Connecticut. He is a senior researcher specializing in macroeconomic trends and policies. With economist Emily Hamilton, he recently published an op-ed on housing affordability in Connecticut.  This is the second in a series of interviews on housing and zoning in Connecticut. The first is available here. 1. What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? There is a supply side and a demand side — the demand

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Cultured Studios Opens Shades of Melanin in New London

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NEW LONDON — Artist Kern Bruce began painting a mural at the pop-up show, “Shades of Melanin,” at Cultured Studios Friday night.  “Over time the mural is going to grow and I’m going to be incorporating people that are in the gallery tonight writing different messages about what they’re grateful for and people that they’ve lost,” he said. “So, it’s a living, breathing testimony of life, purpose and perseverance despite the odds.  Bruce, 38, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, said he wanted to make a piece in honor of Black history month and Women’s history month, which were

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Therapists Relate Patient Struggles Toward Normalcy as COVID Subsides

All signs point to what should be a summer of reuniting with loved ones, reentering society, and to some degree, returning to normalcy for Connecticut residents. But in a series of interviews, therapists told CT Examiner that many of their clients with clinical anxiety may not be ready to go back out into the world just yet.  “My clients with anxiety are freaking out right now,” said Chantel Herron Elliott, a licensed clinical social worker in Danbury. “I would love to say that they’re happy to go out into the world, but for a lot of them, no. I’ll be

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Mobile Clinics Organized to Vaccinate Farm Workers for COVID-19

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Connecticut farms will have the opportunity to host mobile clinics for farm workers who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a press release by the Department of Agriculture.   The program is being run through a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Labor. Joan Nichols, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, said she had received phone calls from farms asking if there was a way they could get their workers vaccinated on-site.  Nichols said that some of the associations’ member farms will host between 200 and 400 seasonal

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Spending, Equity, Health Outcomes at Heart of TCI Debate

Dr. Mark Mitchell was taking his daily walk around Hartford – the city where he had lived and worked for over a decade – when he felt a pain in his chest. Mitchell was leading a relatively active and healthy lifestyle, but all four of the main blood vessels of his heart were partially clogged.  Mitchell said he is the first person in his family to have coronary artery disease, and the first to have asthma. He is also the first person in his family to live in Hartford – he grew up in an outer suburb of St. Louis,

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Staffing a Hurdle as Lamont Proposes Expanded Childcare and Early Education

Expanding access to early education and childcare is a linchpin of Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan to shore up the state economy using federal aid dollars, but advocates on the issue say that a longer-term approach will be needed to address statewide shortages of workers and affordable childcare — problems that predate the pandemic.  Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, says he supports a legislative proposal that would provide student loan forgiveness for individuals who have spent four years working in childcare and a tax credit of between $500 and $1,500 for individuals who work in childcare

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Regulators Condemn Eversource and UI Storm Response, Cut Fixed Rates of Return

In uncharacteristically strong language, state utility regulators condemned Eversource and United Illuminating and ordered changes and financial penalties for their responses to Tropical Storm Isaias last August. The board of PURA — the state’s regulator of utilities — on Wednesday unanimously affirmed the findings of the authority’s investigation into the utilities’ responses to the damaging storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without power, some for over a week, last summer. The authority found that Eversource failed to sufficiently prepare to respond to the storm, in particular failing to secure enough outside help in the early days of the

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Discusses Private Donations, Off-budget Accounts

OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s police commissioners raised concerns at a meeting on Monday about the Old Saybrook Police Department’s policies governing private donations and off-budget accounts.  Police Commissioner Alfred “Chubb” Wilcox asked that the commission form a subcommittee to speak with the finance director, First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Chief Michael Spera, the union and other communities, to better understand the donations to the department.  Wilcox questioned whether the police department should accept cash donations, and said that donations that came with requirements or “strings attached” should need commission approval.  Spera said that prohibiting cash donations to the department would

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Federal Aid to Be Directed Toward Temporary Attorney Hires, Reducing Court Backlogs

When jury trials were halted across Connecticut to limit the spread of COVID-19, the result was a significant backlog of cases. Now with jury trials set to begin, Dan Barrett, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, estimates that this backlog could take four years to work through.  In an effort to address the issue, Gov. Ned Lamont aims to use some of Connecticut’s federal COVID-19 aid funding to reduce this backlog more quickly, directing $12 million to increasing staff and expanding community services. The plan allocates $7 million — split between fiscal year 2022 and 2023 — toward hiring

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Officials Warn UI Settlement Would Delay ‘Take Back Our Grid’ Reforms

Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced a settlement agreement six weeks ago that they said would give needed relief to customers of United Illuminating by returning money the company has been over-collecting since the federal corporate tax rate was reduced from 35 to 21 percent in 2017. On Monday, the merits of that settlement were sharply questioned by state regulators, who warned that the deal could lock customers into a higher rate for the next two years than might be necessary without the settlement, and could frustrate performance-based reforms the state legislature ordered last year. In the

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As Vaccination Rates Sag, Connecticut Opens No-Appointment Walk-in Clinics

Vaccination clinics across the state are allowing people to receive vaccinations without having an appointment, according to an announcement from Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday.  In Middlesex and New London Counties, vaccine clinics offering walk-in appointments include  The Yale New Haven Health Clinic at Mitchell College in New London Greenville Drug Store in Norwich The Yale New Haven Health Clinic at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville The Middlesex Health Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook The Community Health Center Clinic at Wesleyan University in Middletown Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown  Middletown Housing Authority locations at Maplewood Terrace and Traverse Square

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Lamont Lays Out Spending Priorities for $900 Million of Federal Aid

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Gov. Ned Lamont presented a plan today to direct federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to increase spending on early childcare, provide premium pay for “frontline” public-sector workers and funding for economic recovery grants.  The state has received $2.6 billion in direct funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. In February, Lamont announced a state budget using $1.75 billion of those funds. Today, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw outlined the governor’s priorities for the remaining $900 million, which she said would not be used to add to the budget, but would instead be spent on programs spanning

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Gateway Approves Outdoor Restaurant Application, Outlines Further Issues for Old Saybrook Zoning

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The Connecticut River Gateway Commission approved Smoke on the Water, a proposed 300-seat outdoor restaurant in Old Saybrook, but agreed to send a letter to the Old Saybrook Zoning Commission outlining a number of concerns outside of Gateway’s jurisdiction. The Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider the project at a public hearing on May 3. Torrance Downes, who serves as senior planner at Gateway, explained in an email to CT Examiner that such issues as ambient smoke, days and hours of operation, noise levels, traffic and the other details are under the jurisdiction of the town’s Zoning Commission rather than

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Staffing a Concern for Connecticut’s Expanded Summer Enrichment Programs

Gov. Lamont announced $11 million in federal funding will be directed toward expanding summer enrichment and recreation programs for Connecticut students.   Summer enrichment providers will be able to apply for two types of grants to support their programming this summer. Expansion grants of up to $25,000 are geared towards local organizations to subsidize enrollment costs or expand the population of children they serve.  Regional or statewide organizations can apply for innovation grants of up to $250,000 to create new programming or implement programs on a broader scale. The state Department of Education anticipates that 25,000 students will benefit from the

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