Legislature Passes $137 Million Fix for PILOT with Bipartisan Support But No Funding as of Yet

A still unfunded plan to revise and increase state reimbursements to local governments for tax-exempt property, at an estimated cost of $137 million, received significant bipartisan support from Connecticut’s first selectmen and mayors before passing 125-24 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate.  The bill also included the elimination of welfare liens and provisions against double taxation for commuters Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven said he was grateful that first selectmen and mayors from across the state — rural communities and urban ones, small and large, Democratic and Republican — have come out in support of funding the

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Clinton Reports Better than Expected Revenues, Smooth Transition for New Town Manager

CLINTON — It’s been a year since the town hired Karl Kilduff as town manager to oversee the municipal budget, and members of the town council say that they can already see the benefits of having a professional in charge of the town’s finances. “Having him in place has had a huge impact on the town,” said Chris Aniskovich, chair of the town council.  On Nov. 19, 2019, Clinton transitioned from a board of selectmen form of governance — with a first selectman as “town CEO”— to an appointed town manager overseen by a seven-member elected town council. Aniskovich said

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New Jersey-based NRG to Sell Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon Plants

MIDDLETOWN — NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company, announced on Monday that it was selling 4.8 gigawatts worth of “non-core fossil assets” to a subsidiary of Boston-based ArcLight Capital Partners for $760 million. An NRG spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the sale includes all four of the company’s power plants in Connecticut: 1,548 megawatts worth of natural gas, oil and jet fuel-fired plants in Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon. NRG Spokesman Dave Schrader said the company is constantly reviewing the makeup of its portfolio, assessing the location, type and mix of assets to ensure they are suited to its customers’

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Mike France on the Race for Connecticut’s Second Congressional District Against Joe Courtney

State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, announced on Feb. 23 that he is challenging Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney, who represents Connecticut’s second congressional district, covering most of the eastern half of the state. Courtney unseated former Congressman Rob Simmons, a Republican, fifteen years ago, winning that election by just 83 votes. Since then, Courtney has comfortably won reelection each cycle, including last November with nearly 60 percent of the vote. France is a retired U.S. Navy officer who has served in the statehouse since 2015. In a conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, France shared how he would represent eastern Connecticut differently

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Lawmakers Look for Stopgap as Home Solar Projects Hit Year-end Reimbursement Caps in March

The solar industry has high hopes for a new home solar program set to start next year, but there’s concern the existing program won’t bridge the gap until then. Connecticut’s program for compensating owners of home solar systems for the power they provide the grid will be replaced in early 2022, and solar industry representatives say that could speed up solar development.  The existing program, the Residential Solar Incentive Program (RSIP) has reached a statutory cap with nearly a full year still to go before the new solar tariffs take effect. If lawmakers don’t raise the cap, solar developers say

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Legislation and Lawsuit Take Aim At Solitary Confinement in Connecticut Prisons

Correction Officers say that they need tools like solitary confinement to maintain their control over inmates — and there are cases where Kevnesha Boyd agrees this is true — but only, she says, because the culture of the state’s Department of Correction emphasizes the use of force over rehabilitation.  Boyd, a counselor who worked in the state’s Department of Correction for four years, says the things she witnessed handling intake at New Haven Correctional Center ultimately drove her to leave her job. “It started to eat me up, because it’s just like traumatic event after traumatic event,” she said.  Boyd,

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Florsheim Announces Sale of NRG Plant, Possible Energy Storage Plan

MIDDLETOWN — A gas-fired power plant that drew controversy over plans to build a new turbine was among the fossil fuel plants NRG Energy is selling, Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim said Monday night. NRG announced Monday that it was selling 4.8 GW of fossil fuel generating assets to Generation Bridge, an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners, for $760 million. Florsheim said the company announced in a meeting on Monday morning these assets include the Middletown power plant, as well as plants in New York and California. The announcement comes just over two weeks after NRG failed to secure funding in

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After a Year of Protests a Debate About the Place of Police in Connecticut’s Schools

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Since last summer’s protests against police brutality, school districts in Connecticut have been debating whether to continue the use of school resource officers.  Police officers say the benefits of the position include increased school safety and opportunities to form positive relationships within the community. However, some community members and officials argue that a police presence in the schools increases juvenile arrest rates and creates a military presence within the school system.  “It doesn’t send the right message to have a police officer with a gun in school,” said Curtis Goodwin, a New London city councilman and chair of the town’s

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From East Lyme to Cambridge and Back, Ostfeld Promotes Sustainable Farming

EAST LYME — After studying geothermal and hydro energy in Iceland, palm oil in Borneo and climate change and renewable energy in Scotland, Rosemary Ostfeld, who holds a PhD in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge, decided that her next adventure would be to promote sustainable farming in her hometown. Three years ago, after returning to East Lyme, where she worked at White Gate Farm during her first summer out of college, Ostfeld launched Healthy PlanEat, a start-up connecting local farmers with consumers.  “The most powerful thing that you can do to actually have a positive impact on the

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Two Mass Clinics to Open for Vaccinations of Educators and Childcare Workers in Southeast Connecticut

Two mass vaccine clinics will soon be operating for educators and childcare providers in southeastern Connecticut, through a partnership between the local health districts, the tribal nations and the hospitals.  School district employees in the Uncas Health District will be able to receive vaccines through a clinic operated by Yale-New Haven Health at Mohegan Sun. Local residents in the Ledge Light Health District will be vaccinated at a new clinic being run at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in partnership with Hartford HealthCare.  Ledge Light Director Steve Mansfield said his organization hadn’t yet determined how they would be prioritizing districts,

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Five Changes for Nursing Homes That Are Here To Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the long-term care industry on its head after causing the death of 3,856 residents — more than half of the total number of deaths statewide, according to the state Department of Public Health figures. It’s unlikely that nursing homes will be the same. Here are five changes that are likely here to stay. 1. Lower occupancy, more competition, better care On average, nursing home occupancy declined 15 percent across Connecticut from January to September 2020, according to data reported by the state. That decline does not come from deaths alone.  “Consumers confidence in the model of

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New London Wins 10-Year Commitment For Northeast Offshore Deal on State Pier

HARTFORD — State officials announced today the signing of a Host City Agreement between New London and a joint venture of Ørsted and Eversource that includes a 10-year commitment paying the city an average of at least $1 million each year during offshore wind operations at State Pier. “Today’s agreement makes Connecticut’s role as a leader in the offshore wind industry official, with New London now poised to become the premier commercial east coast hub for this sector and our state set to become a leader in the transition to renewable energy and the fight against climate change,” Gov. Ned Lamont

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Budget Adds State Troopers, Reduces Overtime and Decline in Ranks

Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal calls for training 255 new state troopers over the next two years to make up for a wave of expected retirements at a department that has seen its ranks decline almost 20 percent over the last five years. The draft calls for state police to end the budget cycle in June 2023 with 1,093 state troopers. Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella told the Appropriations Committee last week that the State Police now have 913 troopers, with 50-60 typically on leave and a total of 216 becoming eligible to retire by

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State Officials Switch Gears, Ask for Halt to Water Shutoffs

Aquarion, a subsidiary of Eversource that provides water to about 700,000 people in 57 cities and towns in Connecticut, began disconnecting customers with the largest unpaid bills in early February.  Aquarion’s plans to resume disconnections were approved by PURA, the state’s energy regulator, on Jan.12, without filed objections from any state agency or official.  That silence from state agencies broke on Thursday, when the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed a letter with PURA requesting a halt to additional water disconnections.  The letter was filed about 7 hours after CT Examiner asked department officials why the state had not

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Largest Solar Farm in the Northeastern United States Approved for East Windsor

EAST WINDSOR — The Connecticut Siting Council on Thursday gave approval for the largest solar farm in the northeastern United States to be built in East Windsor. The council voted unanimously to approve Gravel Pit Solar, a proposed 120 megawatt solar project – enough to power about 23,000 homes – that will be built over a 485-acre site that includes tobacco fields, woods, and sand and gravel quarries. D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, the New York hedge fund behind the project, told the council in filings that it plans to begin construction as soon as the third quarter of this year,

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Why Members of Lamont’s Cannabis Equity Group See His Bill as a Betrayal

Late last year, as Gov. Ned Lamont prepared his push for legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana in the upcoming legislative session, his office gathered dozens of predominantly nonwhite activists, legislators and community leaders to form a cannabis equity discussion group, which met weekly via Zoom for two months.  The group discussed everything from equitable revenue allocation, and processes for expunging criminal records, to licensing that would be inclusive of Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Dozens of hours of work culminated in a set of recommendations delivered to the governor, all centered around how best to legalize cannabis in an equitable fashion,

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Costs and Benefits Debated as Connecticut Approves New Plan for Home Solar Payments

Connecticut regulators this month approved a new method of reimbursing residential producers of solar energy – an issue that has in the past divided Eversource and the solar industry — but leaves unresolved key questions of the cost and benefit of residential solar to the state’s energy consumers. In 2018, lawmakers directed the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to revise the formula for reimbursements, in part in response to criticism by Eversource and others that the state’s net metering program was an overly expensive attempt to promote solar development. Connecticut has historically used net metering to pay homeowners for any

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House Approves Bill With Aid for Commuters, Families on Public Assistance and Tax-Exempt Properties

HARTFORD — On Wednesday, the State House passed Senate Bill 873, three-part legislation to give tax credits to former commuters, remove liens from the property of recipients of public assistance and to modify the state’s PILOT program for reimbursing towns for tax-exempt property. The bill passed with a vote of 125-24 with one member abstaining.  This vote came despite assurances that each part of the bill would receive a separate vote.  A number of legislators expressed concerns about the combination of three apparently disparate issues into one bill. “All of [the items] deserve our attention. But are they critical to

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Cottage Road Housing Development in Madison to Break Ground in 2022

MADISON — The 1808 home of Henry Josiah Meigs at 131 Cottage Road is slated to become part of Wellington at Madison, a 31-unit housing complex with 24 affordable and 7 market rate units situated on 2.6 acres.  The project is a collaboration between HOPE Partnership, a Connecticut nonprofit that develops affordable housing, and the Caleb Group, a nonprofit that has created affordable housing communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.  “The way it’s designed is smaller buildings that really actually do give you that community and village kind of feel to it. It isn’t a five-story building. It

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Unpaid Electric Bills May Leave Eversource Customers on the Hook for Further Rate Hikes

Residential electric customers owe $276 million to Eversource for bills that haven’t been paid in over a month – a 20 percent increase since last spring when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong ordered energy providers to maintain service to customers in an effort to cushion the fallout of the pandemic. That debt amounts to about $250 for each of Eversource’s 1.1 million residential customers across Connecticut, and the company has told shareholders that it expects state regulators will approve rate increases to compensate for the unpaid bills. In its annual report, Eversource told shareholders last week that the company has

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Neighboring Businesses Raise Sharp Questions About Proposed Gas Station on Halls Road

OLD LYME — Two longtime business owners on Halls Road are concerned about the potential consequences of a proposed Big Y Express gas station and convenience store slated for connecting properties at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road. The application for the project is on the agenda of tonight’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission special meeting at 5:30 via Webex. The commission will decide whether or not the project will have significant impact on the wetlands and vernal pool on the properties. If the commission decides the project will have significant impact then a public hearing is required no

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Target Dates Announced for Vaccinations; Provisions for School Employees and ‘Vulnerable Communities’

The next phases of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine will be based on age — but with school employees and childcare workers given special priority and efforts made to reach “vulnerable communities” — according to the Office of the Governor. Gov. Ned Lamont announced today that individuals between the age of 55 and 64 could begin to register for the vaccine on March 1. People aged 45 to 54 will be able to register beginning on March 22, those aged 35 to 44 beginning on April 12, and all remaining individuals will be able to register starting on May 3. 

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Bill to Allow Medical Assistants to Perform Vaccinations Draws Mixed Response

A bill that would allow medical assistants to perform vaccinations has received a mixed response, with physicians hoping that the provision will lighten their workload and nurses questioning whether medical assistants are qualified to perform the task.  The legislature has considered the legislation a number of times over the past five years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given the issue a new relevance, as private practices and physicians say that the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations has left them without adequate staffing to administer the shots.  Supporters of the bill include the Fairfield County Medical Association, the Community Medical Group and

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Wednesday Webinar on Benefits of Foreign Trade Zone for New London County Businesses

New London’s Foreign Trade Zone #208, which now covers all of New London County, will hold an introductory webinar on Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. covering benefits and features of the foreign trade zone program.  Dan Carstens, a trade and logistics specialist accredited by the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones will lead the webinar, which is geared toward leaders in business, real estate, municipalities and economic development.  This follows the announcement on Dec. 20, that the region had received federal approval as an Alternative Site Framework, allowing the foreign-trade zone to include the entire county. This new designation means

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CSCU Faculty Voice Accreditation Concerns in Negotiations with Board of Regents

A number of faculty and staff working for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities have voiced concerns that the Board of Regents’ contract proposals could threaten their schools’ continuing accreditation.  Dr. Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, an associate professor of political science at Southern Connecticut State University, who is also the co-manager for the university’s New England Commission of Higher Education accreditation, warned this week that the Board of Regents had deleted many provisions that she has used as evidence of meeting the standards for accreditation. Marchant-Shapiro claims that the Board of Regents’ most recent contract proposals are at odds with the commission’s standards

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Strong Revenues in Connecticut Boost $1.2 Billion Profit for Eversource

In a year that Eversource faced near constant public criticism over high customer bills, and perceived failures in its response to Tropical Storm Isaias — leading Connecticut lawmakers to tie future electric rates to measures of performance — the New England energy provider nevertheless made a considerable amount of money for its shareholders as its profits grew to $1.2 billion. In its annual report to shareholders and regulators issued Wednesday, Eversource boasted a profit of $1.2 billion across its subsidiaries, an increase of $304.3 million – or 34 percent over 2019.  The company attributed the gains mainly to electric rate increases, recovering

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6 Connecticut Mayors React to Gov. Lamont’s Plan for Legal Marijuana

On Feb. 10, Gov. Ned Lamont released a plan to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut, saying that he anticipates the state will start to see revenue from cannabis sales as early as next year. In the Governor’s proposal, much of that anticipated revenue, including an optional 3 percent local excise tax, would go directly to municipalities. In an effort to better understand local responses to the plan, Connecticut Examiner checked in with six mayors from across the state to ask their thoughts on the proposal and what legal marijuana could mean for their municipalities.  As a former police chief, I

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As the Electrical Grid Collapses in Texas, New England Takes Note

As power grid operators restore power to the millions of Texans who have endured freezing temperatures and no heat or running water for days, experts say that it’s unlikely New England’s relatively hardy grid would fail due to cold weather. With the caveat that much still has to be learned about the root causes of widespread power outages and skyrocketing energy prices across Texas and the Midwest, they also cautioned that electric grids are going to have to prepare for the unexpected as the changing climate makes unlikely weather a reality. New England knows cold Dan Dolan, president of the

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