Little Rebound from Dramatic COVID Declines for Eastern Connecticut Schools

Public school enrollments along the eastern shoreline of Connecticut aren’t showing the rebounding numbers some expected after dramatic declines during the pandemic. In a review of preliminary enrollment data for districts stretching between Guilford and New London, school officials reported generally disappointing numbers. Last year, Guilford schools lost 154 students — nearly as many as the district lost over the previous five years combined — but gained back just 11 students this year. Old Saybrook similarly reported a gain this year of 14 students, after losing 121 students last year during the pandemic. Waterford, which lost 102 students last year,

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Turmoil at Groton Utilities as Leadership Goes Missing

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GROTON – The head of city-owned Groton Utilities, which serves thousands of customers in southeastern Connecticut, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending an investigation, according to sources at the utility with direct knowledge of the matter. Ronald Gaudet, an Old Lyme resident and former Navy officer, Pfizer engineer and director of facilities at UConn, has not been seen for more than a week at the utility he has led since 2015, these sources say, but the nature of the investigation was unclear Friday. Attempts to reach Gaudet at his office today were directed to the office of Groton

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State Regulators Set to Cut Eversource Profits, Trim Customer Rates

In a draft decision this week, state regulators signaled that they would require Eversource to drop its electrical rates starting in November, but also limited the time frame during which the utility would be penalized for what the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority found was an inadequate response in 2020 to Tropical Storm Isaias. Those penalties reportedly played a part in Moody’s downgrading the company’s credit rating outlook to “negative” in June.  After Isaias, state lawmakers asked that PURA consider temporarily trimming Eversource rates by cutting the company’s allowed return on equity. While not going as far as an earlier proposal,

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Democrat Josh Elliott Makes a Case for Secretary of the State

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In June, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced that she would not be running for election, opening the door for a slew of candidates to express interest in the position.  One of those candidates is Democratic State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden. Three other Democratic candidates, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, State Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden, and New Haven Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees.  A Republican has not served as Secretary of the State since 1995, but two GOP candidates have thrown their hats in the ring: Brock Weber, an aide to

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Madison Releases Plans for New Elementary School

MADISON — School officials released the first draft of a plan for the new Jeffrey Elementary School building at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.  The plan is part of a $85 million building project that includes constructing a new pre-kindergarten to fifth grade elementary school, closing Jeffrey and Ryerson Elementary Schools and the Town Campus Learning Center, converting Brown Intermediate School into a kindergarten to fifth grade school and renovating Polson Middle School. According to the document, the building will include space for 600 Pre-K through fifth grade students. Dan Hansen, an independent educational consultant and former assistant

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As Residents Pile Up $280 Million in Utility Bills, Aid Organizations Scramble to Help

Connecticut’s moratorium preventing utility shut offs officially ended on Wednesday, and customers with unpaid balances could soon be receiving notices in the mail that their electricity could be shut off. The state’s largest electric utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating, have reported a total of nearly 900,000 customers with some unpaid electric bills, though a large proportion of those are overdue by less than a month. Data from the utilities for customers already enrolled in payment plans show that the average overdue bill is over $1,000 – as some customers had bills pile up during the moratorium that prevented utility disconnections for

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CEO Marna Borgstrom to Retire in March after 43 Years at Yale New Haven

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After 43 years at Yale New Haven Hospital and Health System, Chief Executive Officer Marna Borgstrom, announced that she will be retiring on March 25, of 2022.  “I have loved growing the Yale New Haven Health System and being part of this really incredible organization,” Borgstrom said.  The board of Yale New Haven Health voted this morning to appoint Chris O’Connor, the current president of the Health System, to the position upon her retirement.  O’Connor, who was born at Yale New Haven Hospital, also served as the chief operating officer at Yale New Haven Health and the head of Saint

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‘Equity Analysis’ Draws Praise of East Lyme School Officials

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EAST LYME — Superintendent of East Lyme Public Schools Jeffrey Newton praised the results of a district-wide audit by the not-for-profit Equity Institute that solicited feedback from students, parents and staff. The Rhode-Island-based group was hired by the district in April 2021 to perform an “equity analysis” on the district, and presented its results to the town’s Board of Education on Monday. Newton said the district chose the group, which asked $15,000 for their work, based on positive experiences with two other districts in the neighboring state. “We liked what they had to offer and what they were sharing for

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Internal Report Warns of Staffing Shortfalls at Department of Correction

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Connecticut correctional facilities have 406 staffing vacancies — meaning the state Department of Correction only has 89 percent of the “bodies needed” to run the state’s prison systems — according to an internal Department of Correction report shared with CT Examiner.  Across Connecticut, there are currently 406 staffing vacancies, with nearly 400 correctional workers becoming eligible for retirement in 2022, a looming retirement cliff that officers warn could bring the prison system to a breaking point.   “This is a crisis waiting to happen,” said Mike Vargo, president of AFSCME Local 1565, a union representing correctional staff across the state. “Shortages

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Bordelon Earns Spot on Democratic Ballot, Heede Dropped

GROTON — Portia Bordelon, a town councilor who petitioned for a spot on the Democratic primary ballot after she was not nominated for the slate by her party, was the top vote-getter in the primary Tuesday night. “The community spoke tonight, not the Democratic committee. One of the things I ran on is to be the voice of the community and the constituents at large, and they spoke tonight,” said Bordelon, by phone Tuesday night.  While Bordelon came in first, incumbent Town Councilor Conrad Heede, chair of the Democratic Town Committee, earned the lowest number of votes and lost his place

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Slate Opposing Critical Race Theory Sweeps Guilford Primary in Heavy Turnout

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GUILFORD — Candidates running in opposition to Critical Race Theory once again swept the Republican slate in a primary on Tuesday night. As of 7:30 p.m. — thirty minutes before polls closed — 47 percent of 3,511 registered Republicans had come out to vote. Republican Registrar of Voters Gloria Nemczuk called the turnout “incredible.” Four years ago, she said, the turnout for the primary for first selectman was 29 percent. Danielle Scarpellino, Tim Chamberlain, Nick Cusano, Bill Maisano and Aly Passarelli – who formed a campaign called “5 Reasons Why”. – received between 1,275 and 1,265 votes each.  Their opponents

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Convenience Store Plan Draws Opposition at Old Lyme Zoning Hearing

OLD LYME — CPD Properties has applied again for a special exception to allow a convenience store at the gas station at 85 Halls Road, but an attorney for an abutter says the application is untenable because it cannot comply with the town’s zoning regulations.  CPD, also known as CPD Energy Corp. of New Paltz, New York, has proposed the addition of 227 square feet of space to the existing 1,760 sq. building on the .6-acre parcel. The garage bays that were previously used for auto repair would be converted to a retail space. The project would also replace the

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COVID Cases Spike at Conn College, But Without Hospitalizations

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NEW LONDON — Connecticut College reported that 169 of its students tested positive for COVID-19 last week, after several gatherings in crowded spaces that led to a “chain reaction” of viral spread, according to epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health.   The number represents the highest cases reported in a single week at Connecticut College since the college began regularly testing students for COVID-19 in August of 2020. The students are tested twice weekly.  Victor Arcelus, dean of students at the college, said in a message to the community on Saturday that the college was starting to show a downward

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After Excavating Roads 15 Times in 4 Years for Aging Pipes, Ledyard Warns of the Inevitable

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GALES FERRY – Since 2017, roads in the Christy Hill neighborhood have been excavated 15 times to repair aging water pipes that town officials say are too expensive to replace. Ahead of Ledyard’s $650,000 re-paving of the subdivision, Public Works Director Steve Masalin sent the usual notice to the neighbors – but with the caveat that the new pavement could soon be dug up again to repair the pipes. Masalin said that the pipes have been repaired 6 times since 2020, and 3 times this year.  According to Masalin, the breaks have been particularly frequent along Ledgewood Drive. “The whole

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Dominic Rapini Takes up Voter Trust as an Issue in his Bid for Secretary of the State

In June, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced that she would not be running for election, opening the door for a slew of candidates to express interest in the position. A Republican has not served as Secretary of the State since 1995, but two GOP candidates hope to change that next fall. The two declared Republican candidates are Brock Weber, an aide to Mayor Erin Stewart of New Britain, and Dominic Rapini, a senior account manager at Apple.  Four Democratic candidates, State Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, Rep. Hilda Santiago of Meriden,

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State Rep. Hilda Santiago Discusses a Possible Bid for Secretary of the State

In June, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, announced that she would not be running for re-election, opening the door for a slew of candidates to express interest in the position. One of those is Democratic State Rep. Hilda Santiago, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee in late August. Santiago has represented Meriden in the General Assembly since 2012.  Three other possible Democratic candidates, State Sen. Matt Lesser of Middletown, Rep. Josh Elliott of Hamden, and New Haven Alderman Darryl Brackeen Jr., have also formed exploratory committees. A Republican has not served as Secretary of

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Madison Police to Appeal Release of Evidence from Barbara Beach Hamburg Murder

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The Madison Police Department is appealing a court ruling upholing an order by the state’s Freedom of Information Commission that the department release all records — except signed witness statements — related to the unsolved murder of Barbara Beach Hamburg. Her death in 2010 was the subject of an HBO true crime documentary series produced by her son Madison Hamburg.   In a meeting of the town’s Board of Police Commissioners on Thursday evening, Police Chief John Drumm said that if the courts ultimately ruled in favor of releasing the records, it could create a precedent that would affect police

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Connecticut Approves Rate Hikes for Health Insurance

The Connecticut Department of Insurance on Friday approved increases on health insurance premiums of 5.6 percent for individuals and 6.7 percent for small group plans in the year 2022. ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which covers 81,000 people on its on-exchange individual plans, will be allowed to raise premiums an average of 5.5 percent, a decrease from the originally requested 7.4 percent.  In its final filing with the Department of Insurance, ConnectiCare said the company expected increased behavioral health costs in 2022 and ongoing costs of COVID-19 vaccination. It said that a bill passed in the legislature that will cap the cost

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Dutch Designer Ingrid Bergman Awaits Green Light For Return to Essex

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ESSEX — 8 Main Street has stood empty for nearly two years. “I get a lot of questions about when we’re going to open. All is unknown, as we don’t have a clue when Biden is opening the doors again for travelers from out of Europe,” said Ingrid Bergman, a Dutch-born interior designer, who said she has planned since 2019 to open Eric Kuster Metropolitan Luxury by Ingrid Bergman Interiors at the Main Street location. Bergman, who is a resident of the U.S., holds a five-year E2 visa, known as an investor visa, that is set to expire in November

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Hamstrung Contract Standards Board Turns Spotlight on Suspected Port Authority Wrongdoing

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Using new powers granted by Connecticut lawmakers, the State Contract Standards Board will ask the Connecticut Port Authority for unredacted copies of contracts related to its controversial redevelopment of the New London State Pier into a hub for offshore wind energy. Contract Standards Board Executive Director David Guay said at a meeting on Friday that his agency intends to request contracts, memoranda of understanding, and requests for proposals relating to the redevelopment, including an unredacted copy of the agreement with Gateway New London to operate the pier.  Board member Lauren Gauthier said the Standards Board intends to request communications related

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After Decades Under GOP, Democrat Roberto Alves Calls Danbury ‘Stagnant,’ in Run for Mayor

Democrat Roberto Alves is running for Mayor of Danbury, a seat left open for the first time in decades with the retirement of Republican Mark Boughton, who served ten consecutive terms. In 2019, Boughton won reelection with 8,598 votes to his Democratic opponent’s 7,372. Alves, a technical sales engineer and Danbury City Councilman, will face off against Republican Dean Esposito, who serves as chief of staff to the Mayor of Danbury.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Alves about his campaign and policy priorities if elected. This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for mayor of

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Tie Vote Deals Surprise Setback to North Stonington Solar Project

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A proposed solar project in North Stonington that has been through months of adjustments to accommodate wetlands on its site was rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council by a 3-3 vote on Thursday. Nashville-based solar developer Silicon Ranch’s proposal to clear-cut 44 acres of woodland to build a 9.9 megawatt solar farm in North Stonington faced opposition from the town and neighbors of the project, who questioned the wisdom of clearing so many trees to build a project on land pock-marked by wetlands, with construction coming within inches of neighboring properties. In a non-binding straw poll taken at the council’s

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Sean Donlan Talks Pro-Active Leadership in His Run for Haddam First Selectman

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Democrat Sean Donlan is challenging incumbent Republican Robert McGarry in the race for Haddam First Selectman. McGarry was first elected in 2019, with 62 percent of the vote. In the 2020 elections, the town voted for Democrats Joe Biden and Joe Courtney at the national level, and Republicans Brendan Saunders and Robert Siegrist for the state legislature.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Donlan about his priorities if elected. This interview has been edited for clarity. Why did you decide to run for Haddam First Selectman?  I’m very passionate about Haddam. My kids are who they are because they grew up

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Faced with $700,000 Roof Replacement, Middletown Debates Microgrid Offer

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MIDDLETOWN — Faced with the need to replace the roof on the city’s future recreation center sooner than expected, Middletown sought out a creative solution that would not only replace the roof, but create a micro-grid complete with solar generation and battery storage that would allow the city to use the center as a warming/cooling and emergency shelter. As Middletown officials surveyed what remains of the former Woodrow Wilson Middle School – set to become a town recreation center – they realized the roof needed to be replaced sooner than they expected when they sold “phase one” of the building’s

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State Auditors Release a Scathing Report on the State Department of Correction

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The State Department of Correction has paid its employees excessive overtime and union leave while neglecting training requirements and annual performance reviews, according to a recent audit report from the state.  According to the report, which reviewed the activities of the Department of Correction for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, documentation was either missing or not properly approved for 72 of the 124 hours of compensatory time that the auditors reviewed. The auditors also found instances of undocumented medical leave and a lack of documentation and overpayments for workers earning overtime.  In particular, the auditors discovered 122 employees who

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State Official Suggests Slower Rollout for Marijuana, as Businesses Turn Out for Talk

Michelle Seagull, the state’s commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection, told the assembled audience at a business breakfast hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut that the state still has many details to iron out before opening up applications for marijuana licenses.  In comments to CT Examiner, Seagull suggested that a timeline originally anticipated by legislators for sales to begin next summer would likely be delayed until the end of next year.   “We’ve been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we’re still aspiring for that,” Seagull told CT Examiner. “Obviously,

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As Region 4 Retires Debt, School Officials Contemplate Ambitious Borrowing for Athletics

REGION 4 — A turf field, a cross country trail, repairs to tennis courts and renovations of the soccer and baseball fields are a few of the possible middle school and high school athletic projects being considered by the Board of Education that together could cost as much as $11.3 million, though the board is expected to approve significantly less spending. At a meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday, Superintendent Brian White said that the needs of the district’s athletic program should be considered alongside a review of the school facilities. Earlier in May, White suggested that only

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Connecticut Lawmakers Float Reviving TCI Carbon Cap Program in Special Session

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Increased transportation emissions, despite significant progress in reducing greenhouse gases produced by power plants, leave Connecticut still far behind on its goals to reduce the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The findings, part of an annual report by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection concerning the state’s greenhouse emissions, have spurred renewed calls for lawmakers to approve the Transportation and Climate Initiative – a cap-and-trade program that proponents say would generate $1 billion to fund projects that could reduce emissions from transportation, but that opponents say amounts to an unaffordable and regressive gas tax. Carbon

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Fall Lecture Series Kicks off With Acclaimed Journalist of Contemporary Rwanda

On Tuesday, London-based journalist and author Michela Wrong leads off a fall speaker series for the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council with a virtual talk on her latest work, Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad. Cambridge-educated Wrong has spent decades reporting on Africa, including stints with Reuters and the BBC, and with pieces published in the Observer, Financial Times, and Guardian. Paul Nugent, the council’s executive director, described Wrong as a compelling speaker, and a departure from the group’s more Western-oriented discussion of education and aid for Africa.  Do Not Disturb,

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Robert McGarry Makes His Case for Reelection as Haddam First Selectman

Robert McGarry, the Republican First Selectman of Haddam, is running for reelection, and facing a challenge from Democrat Sean Donlan. McGarry was first elected in 2019, with 62 percent of the vote. In the 2020 elections, the town voted for Democrats Joe Biden and Joe Courtney at the national level, and Republicans Brendan Saunders and Robert Siegrist for the state legislature.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with McGarry about his priorities for another term.  This interview has been edited for clarity. Why are you running for reelection?  There are still things I’d like to get done. First Selectman in Haddam is

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