South Lyme Marina, a ‘Diamond in the Rough’

SOUTH LYME — “This place used to be cool. Even five or six years ago there were 48 boats here and this past year there were only six and a lot of it is due to the conditions — it’s not in the best of shape,” said Michael Barnes, who gestured to the wooden docks and sprawling gravel parking lot of the marina he bought on Nov. 9. “It’s a diamond in the rough,” he said. “There’s good fishing in the river and Long Island Sound is right there.”  Located at 8 Bank St., the 2.2-acre property — which Barnes

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By Building Community, Natusch Guides New London Preservation

NEW LONDON — For Laura Natusch, historic preservation and building community go hand-in-hand.  “It’s very important to me that the history that we are preserving reflects our community – that people who grew up here feel like their lives mattered,” said Natusch. Natusch is the executive director of New London Landmarks, a non-profit in New London that teaches people about the area’s history through walking tours, narrative projects and the renovation of historic buildings.  Natusch said that preservation creates a kind of “community genealogy.”  Her goal is to highlight a history that reflects the entire community, not just a single

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As Winter Approaches, Connecticut Works Toward Safer Solutions for Homelessness

Connecticut is again looking to increase space available for people without shelter this winter to stay in motels amid fears that church basements and other traditional warming centers aren’t equipped to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When the virus began to spread quickly throughout Connecticut in March, the state contracted with hotels to move people out of crowded, congregate living spaces out of concern for COVID outbreaks among people without housing. In a similar effort, the state is using federal money to contract with hotels to keep warming shelter capacity at pre-pandemic levels this winter. In Middletown, the state has

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Steep Fines Met with Mixed Response Before the Holidays in Connecticut

Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order yesterday increasing fines from $500 to $10,000 for COVID-related violations which include exceeding capacity limits, failing to wear masks and operating after the 10 p.m curfew. The steeper fines — which go into effect at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow — were met with a mixed response from local leaders contacted by CT Examiner. “We want to do everything we can to mitigate the further spread of this virus while avoiding the implementation of more restrictions or lockdowns on our already hard-hit economy and small businesses,” the Governor explained in a press release. According to

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It’s All in the Details: Connecticut Moves Toward Legalizing Marijuana

Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey all voted to legalize recreational marijuana on November 3, joining eleven other states and the District of Columbia. Just 15 states still outlaw marijuana in any form, and Connecticut is not one of them, having decriminalized possession in 2011 and legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2012.  New Jersey joins three other states in the region, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, which already legalized cannabis products. New York and Rhode Island are also mulling over the issue, and Connecticut’s state leadership has made it clear that marijuana legalization is a priority for the upcoming

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Teachers’ Unions Press as State Resists Move Away from Classrooms

As teachers’ unions call for public schools across Connecticut to transition to remote learning amid rising cases of COVID-19, state leaders maintain that in-person learning remains the best option for students and that the choice of learning formats is a decision best left to local leaders. The Board of Education Coalition – a coalition of unions representing teachers and school employees in Connecticut – released a report on Monday calling for remote learning during the holidays unless the state strengthens guidelines for reporting cases of COVID-19 in schools. In his Monday afternoon briefing, Gov. Ned Lamont said schools have done

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Region 4 Walks Back Request for King to Resign

A joint statement released on Monday by Valley Regional High football coach Tim King and Superintendent Brian White announced that the school district was withdrawing its request for King to resign. “We both understand and accept that as educators and professionals we have a special responsibility to our students, staff and community during a pandemic and that we must place safety above all else. It is in this spirit that the request for Coach King to resign from the position of head football coach has been rescinded,” read the statement. Community members have been in an uproar since White requested

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Eversource Announces Voluntary Moratorium on Service Disconnections

Eversource Energy announced in a news release on Friday that the energy provider would suspend utility disconnections for nonpayment. The decision comes after a statewide moratorium on utility disconnections expired Oct. 1, and the Public Utilities Regulatory chose not to extend it, despite pleas from both Eversource and United Illuminating. Marissa Gillett, chair of the state’s utilitary regulator PURA, had pressed the companies to “voluntarily extend the moratorium.” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said the company made the decision to suspend disconnections because it was the right thing to do for both its customers and employees with COVID-19 cases rising in

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Sewer Agreements an Obstacle for Hatchetts Hill Development

OLD LYME — Sewage capacity — how it’s shared, and who apportions it — could become an obstacle for developers of a proposed 224-unit housing development off Hatchetts Hill Road. The complex is expected to include 67 units of affordable housing under state statute 8-30g. The 11-building complex will require a capacity of 50,000 gallons per day, said Mark Diebolt, who, with his two partners, plans to build the project on a 20.6-acre site at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road. Currently, the town has negotiated for 300,000 gallons of sewage outflow to a treatment plant in New London each day. That

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Program Sends College Students to Public Schools to Relieve COVID Absences

Central Connecticut State University has agreed to send education majors to work in Connecticut’s K-12 public schools as a means of relieving pressure on districts experiencing COVID-related staffing shortages.  The partnership between the state’s public university and its public schools has been facilitated by the Office of the Governor through a project called Next Generation Ed.  The program is open to sophomores and juniors enrolled in the university’s early education program. Designed as a clinical placement, students will be assigned to their schools for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. They will be able to lead small group discussions,

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Isolation, Pepper Spray, Restraints Raise Concerns for Youth at York Correctional

A report released Tuesday revealed the use of chemical agents, restraints and extended periods of isolation on young women with significant mental health needs housed in York Correctional Institute in Niantic. The report, which came from the Office of the Child Advocate, said that the agency was “deeply concerned” about these methods of control and recommended “immediate cessation” of the practices and a review by independent mental health experts.  Officers at the facility used chemical agents five times on young women between the ages of 18 and 21; three of those incidents occurred in the mental health unit. In one

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East Lyme Triples Wetlands Review Area, Raises Questions

EAST LYME — By a vote of 5 to 2 on Monday night, the town’s Inland Wetland Agency tripled its mandatory review area from 100 to 300 feet for projects around inland wetlands and watercourses, giving the agency the broadest blanket oversight in the region. The review area is the distance from an inland wetland or watercourse where the agency reviews all projects that could affect the waters, including moving dirt, cutting trees, modifying the ground, or building on it. The decision came after five months of deliberations, beginning with a July proposal to expand the review area to 500

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As COVID Cases Surge, Connecticut Resists Rollback

The state reported today that 145 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities have been classified as “high alert” zones, turning Connecticut’s latest COVID map nearly solid red. Gov. Ned Lamont referred to the numbers as “disturbing.” He said that Connecticut had conducted 36,000 tests this week and added 60 additional testing sites.  The state reported a 6.5 percent positivity rate, with a seven-day rolling average of 5.8 percent. Hospitalizations and deaths have also increased. Twenty-four more hospitalizations and 21 deaths were reported today. “A lot of people think, this time around, it’s safer,” said Lamont. “No. Twenty-one fatalities in the last day

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Committee Votes to Adopt New Governance Model for Lyme

LYME — The Town of Lyme Succession Planning Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Selectmen that the town adopt a governance model that would retain the Board of Selectmen but include additional paid staffing positions. In previous meetings, the committee had narrowed down their choices to two models: a Board of Selectmen with additional paid staff and a shift to a town council with a town manager. Steve Mattsen, the first selectman, said at the meeting that the town was in no position to form a town council, since that would require a change in the town

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A 3 – 2 – 1 Pie Pastry

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So you want to make a pie for Thanksgiving… Here’s an exceptionally easy recipe that reaches back to French pastry technique, using just a fraction more butter than a typical American pie to achieve a more forgiving pastry and a classic tender-flaky result. The recipe itself is a simple proportion: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part cold water (by weight). And the idea is to sidestep a few basic problems of pastry that begin when you add water to flour by first ‘waterproofing’ the dough with a little bit of extra butter. A basic two crust 9-inch

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All Winter Sports Postponed Until January 19

The Connecticut Interstate Athletic Conference today decided to postpone the start dates of all winter sports until January 19, 2021.  This decision was very different from the conference’s initial proposal, which would have prohibited all high-risk sports but allowed some medium-risk sports, such as girls and boys basketball and boys swimming, to begin practices as early as December 5 and competitions as early as December 17.  Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the CIAC, which has 186 member schools, said that the board made this decision in light of the fact that more and more schools are moving to distance learning

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The ‘Secular Religion’ of Jennifer Grotz

STONINGTON — “What I say instead of ‘I write’ every day is ‘I scribble,’ which to me lowers the stakes,” said poet Jennifer Grotz.  Grotz has published three books of poetry and is at work on her fourth. “I like to just scribble to just slowly accrue language. If I have a phrase that pops into my head, I might literally just write down those three words or if I’m at a bar and I’m eavesdropping and somebody says something funny, I write that down, or a memory. I collect all of that,” said Grotz (pronounced (Grōtz), the James Merrill

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Data Suggests Few Absentee Ballots Late or Rejected in 2020

Despite the unusually large number of absentee ballots sent through the mail for the 2020 election, data shows that the percentage of rejected ballots across Connecticut was consistent with the prior 2016 elections.  The Connecticut Examiner analyzed absentee ballot data from seven cities in Connecticut — New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, Hartford, Middletown, Danbury and Waterbury — in part to make this comparison. In one example, out of the 8,659 absentee ballots that Middletown received, 99 were rejected. This represents 1.1 percent of the total number of absentee ballots received. Ashley Flynn-Natale, the town clerk, said that 20 of those

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Public Access Television Shines With Pandemic Shutdowns

As virtual town halls and public hearings via Zoom become commonplace during the pandemic, public access television may be taking on a heightened role within local communities.   Chris Morgan, the Public Access Coordinator at Valley Shore Community Television, which serves nine towns in lower Middlesex County, said that the pandemic has created an increase in demand for programs. “We have never been busier in seven years,” he said. Morgan estimates that the station which reaches from Durham and Haddam in the north down to Old Saybrook and Westbrook, has produced 30 percent more content this year in comparison to 2019.

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John-Michael Parker Talks Housing, Education and Regionalization

For John-Michael Parker, the newly elected state representative for the towns of Madison and Durham, art and music have always offered a critical means of connecting with others.   It was true when he was growing up in Madison, and it is true again since he moved back to the area in 2018 after a decade of living and working in New York City. “The arts had been the place where — and right here in this community — I got to grow and develop and learn a lot,” said Parker. So perhaps it is no surprise that music found a

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The Future of Connecticut Farming

“We started out as a dairy. We will always be a dairy,” said Kies Orr, 27, who co-owns and operates Fort Hill Farms in Thompson where she has 210 milking cows and just under 500 cows total.  Orr is a fourth generation farmer but before her parents fully bought the dairy farm from her grandparents, they bought land adjacent to the dairy farm and started a nursery.  “My mother does lavender. My mother does plants. She has over 72 gardens that you can walk through and she’s gotten into offering exercise classes and giving nature walks. She’s trying to diversify

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Somers Pushes for Quicker COVID Tests for Volunteer Firefighters

GROTON — State Sen. Heather Somers is pushing for Gov. Ned Lamont to allow trained EMTs to test firefighters at local fire stations once a week for COVID-19 as a proactive measure against the spread of the virus. “So many of these firehouses are volunteers. They’re taking time off to fight the fires and go on the emergency calls,” said Somers noting that 10 firefighters were reported testing positive at the New London Fire Department four days ago.  There are 315 fire departments with a total of about 26,800 firefighters in Connecticut, of that number about 22,350 are volunteers, according

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Courtney Sketches Out Agenda Under a Biden Administration

CT Examiner spoke with Joe Courtney, Connecticut’s 2nd District representative, about his legislative priorities heading into the lame duck session and the next administration.  The following transcript has been edited for clarity and condensed.  Stimulus and the Lame Duck CT EX: What are the prospects for a stimulus package and COVID relief bill in the new Congress?  COURTNEY: First off, we’re still seeking to get a COVID relief bill done in the lame duck session. No one’s given up on that, and Plan A is still to get relief out as soon as possible. COVID is picking up speed, and

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Shoreline Food Pantry Opens Food Drive For Thanksgiving

Gatherings this year may be smaller and travel limited, but there’s one Thanksgiving tradition that communities are keeping alive.   Amy Hollis, executive director of Shoreline Soup Kitchens and Pantries, said that she’s been getting requests almost daily from people who want to host Thanksgiving food drives for the nonprofit.  “Every day, it seems like there’s another phone call, another email, another effort,” she said. Hollis said that since the start of the pandemic, Shoreline has been consistently serving 50 percent more people than last year. By the end of October, the nonprofit’s locations in Clinton, Westbrook, Chester, Deep River, Old

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Halda Therapeutics Joins Redevelopment of Winchester Arms in New Haven

Halda Therapeutics, a Branford-based biotech company founded by Yale professor Craig Crews, is returning to New Haven.  The drug discovery startup signed a lease on a 9,800 square foot lab and office space in Science Park, located just west of Yale’s Science Hill campus at the former Winchester Arms factory. Halda recently completed a $25 million round of Series A financing. The move was announced Wednesday in a press release from Winchester Partners, a joint venture of Twining Properties, L+M Development Partners and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which owns the former factory, a 145,000 square-foot building at 115

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Schools Voice Reluctance to Repurposing Snow Days for Remote Learning

Last month, officials at the Connecticut Department of Education drafted regulations to allow school districts to convert snow days into remote learning days. But several school districts contacted by CT Examiner aren’t quite ready to let go of yet another staple of New England childhood. “A snow day is joyful and exciting,” said Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser at a recent board of education meeting. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to take away one more thing from the students right now,” explained Neviaser. “Philosophically, I don’t agree.”  Neviaser said that having snow days was something he considered part

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As COVID Reduces School Demand, Farmers in Southeast Connecticut Learn to Adjust

In a normal year, Rick Whittle, owner of Whittle’s Willow Spring Farm in Mystic, would be transporting his apples, yellow squash, watermelon and string beans to school cafeterias around Groton.  Since March, however, distance learning has created a significant reduction in the number of children receiving breakfasts and lunches at school. This has impacted not only the school districts, which depend on the meal program to fund their cafeterias, but also the local farmers, like Whittle, who sell their produce to the schools.   Despite the shutdown in the spring, Whittle said he grew his crops assuming that things would be

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An Investor and Self-Described “Do-er” Takes a Crack at New London

NEW LONDON — “One thing about New London is there are quite a few investors — and they’re called investors for a reason — but it doesn’t mean they’re doers,” said contractor David Preka. “Buying a piece of property and letting it stay as is just because you’re an investor and you’re waiting for an opportunity — that really hurts the city,” he complained. “It hurts the people around it, not just in New London, anywhere around. Unfortunately New London seems to be held a little bit hostage with a few of those.” Preka, 38, owns Advanced Group, a residential

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