State Lawmakers Signal Common Ground on Proposals to Tackle Fentanyl Overdoses

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HARTFORD — Senator GOP Leader Kevin Kelly, and Deputy Leader Paul Formica, called a press conference on Thursday to announce a three-part proposal intended to target fentanyl overdoses. The proposal includes increased law enforcement penalties for selling fentanyl, allowing access to Narcan in schools, and spending a portion of an anticipated $300 million settlement with pharmaceutical companies to create a public awareness campaign. Speaking at the Capitol at noon on Thursday, Kelly said the opioid epidemic is a public health and safety crisis in Connecticut and that illicit manufactured fentanyl has caused the crisis to explode even further.  “Fentanyl is a

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Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Ed Narrows School Options, Requests Detailed Costs

LYME/OLD LYME — The Board of Education voted on Wednesday to ask Rusty Malik of QA+M Architecture to provide more detailed estimates for three options — one that includes only basic upgrades and HVAC renovations, one that would move the district’s kindergarten to Center School, and one that would build additions onto Mile Creek Elementary School.  The most basic project, at a a cost of $42 million, will include renovations at Mile Creek, Lyme Consolidated, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School and Center School, including HVAC upgrades. “Our HVAC systems are, at best, 20 years old … at worst, some of them

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Just 21 of 152 Beds Filled — Workers Claim De Facto Closure of State Detox Programs

Hundreds of people with the most desperate cases of alcohol and opioid addiction have been shut out of Connecticut’s state-run in-patient programs for nearly a month, according to union officials representing workers at the facilities. On Dec. 28, the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services stopped admitting patients to the only two state-run medically-managed detox and intensive residential addiction care programs at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown and Blue Hills Hospital in Hartford, according to officials with the Service Employees International Union Local 1199. According to Mary Kate Mason, spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction

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Republicans Take Aim at Connecticut’s ‘Disjointed’ Mental Health Services

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HARTFORD – In a press conference on Wednesday, Republican lawmakers announced several proposals to expand access to mental health care for children and new mothers, from mental health liaisons in schools to greater awareness of postpartum mental health to increased support for nonprofits in the face of looming state workforce retirements.    State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, called the lack of mental health services a system-wide problem in the state of Connecticut.   “We have a disjointed, disconnected system of care here,” said Somers. “There’s no continuum of care. People search for days to try to find help. We don’t have enough

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East Haddam Officials Push to Prohibit Marijuana Businesses, Vote to Deny Application for Retail Store

EAST HADDAM – Marijuana may be legal in Connecticut, but elected officials here are moving on two fronts that could potentially prevent it from ever being sold commercially in town. Tuesday, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied an application from a local developer to open what would be the town’s first retail marijuana store at one of its busiest intersections – citing concerns that the shop would bring even more traffic to the area.  At the same time, the new First Selectman is pushing for a public vote that could not only prohibit retail sale of marijuana, but ban

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Old Saybrook Police Commission to Seek Legal Advice on Powers, Add Email Contacts

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OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s police commission voted on Monday night to hire an attorney to provide a legal opinion on the extent of the commission’s authority in overseeing the police department. Alfred Wilcox, who chairs the commission, said that the idea to hire a lawyer was the suggestion of former chair Frank Keeney. According to Wilcox, Keeney said that the question of authority was an issue that he felt divided the commission along party lines. “Many of the Republicans thought that the police commission’s authority was limited to hiring, firing, promoting and disciplining,” said Wilcox. “And many of the

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Not a Year to Cut Staff, Says Clinton School Superintendent Despite Drop in Numbers

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CLINTON — Despite declining enrollment numbers in the district, Superintendent Maryann O’Donnell said that this was not the year to reduce staffing.  In a meeting of the Finance and Facilities Committee on January 18, O’Donnell said that despite expecting a decrease of 57 students next year, the majority from the middle school enrollment, she did not want to reduce the number of teachers at Eliot, which would increase in average class sizes from 18 to 22 students per class.    O’Donnell said that the pandemic was still preventing teachers from running their classrooms the way that they would normally. She also

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160 Additional Apartments Proposed for Jerome Rd. Development in Montville

MONTVILLE – The developer of Village Apartments in Uncasville is proposing to nearly quadruple the number of units in the apartment complex – three new buildings with 160 apartments and 268 new parking spaces. The proposal to expand the apartment complex on Jerome Rd. from 54 apartments and 108 bedrooms to 214 apartments and 407 bedrooms was submitted by Village Apartments, LLC, registered to Tomas Haendler of Stamford; and Connecticut Multifamily Equities II, registered to Louis Tallarini of White Plains, New York. The plans will need site plan approval from the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission, and approval from the

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People, Planet, Profit Top Philosophy Obiocha Brings to CTNext

For Onyeka Obiocha, a 21st-century business should be based on three words: People. Planet. Profit. Sometimes called the “triple bottom line,” it’s a model that emphasizes business and corporations as having responsibilities not only to their customers, but also to the environment, to their communities and to their workers.   “You can have X amount of revenue and be on the Inc 500 list, but are your employees happy?” he said. “Are people being cultivated? Are you being a good steward of your resources? What is your plan long-term?” This is the philosophy that Obiocha brings to his role as the

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Stefanowski Runs to Change ‘Reckless’ Capitol Culture, Spending

MADISON – Beyond core issues of the economy and taxes and crime, what Republican Bob Stefanowski wants to change most about state government if he’s elected Governor is what he calls a culture of privilege at the state Capitol that pervades decision-making on every level.  “I think there’s a sense of entitlement and privilege up there and a sense that they work for the government, not for the people,” Stefanowski said during an hour-long interview at his home with a view of Long Island Sound. “You see it in everything from the reckless spending to legislators drinking on the job.

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Delays Implementing Dyslexia Legislation, Staffing, Leave Advocates Irate

After passing legislation between 2014 and 2017 mandating education standards for public school students with dyslexia, the state legislature revisited the issue in 2021 to pass a further bill requiring the Department of Education to enforce those standards. Unlike other legislative mandates, lawmakers in this case also appropriated $480,000 to create an Office of Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities with oversight of the department’s handling of dyslexia.  The money became available on July 1, 2021, the start of the fiscal year, and the intention, according to State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a strong proponent of the bill, was for five new employees

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A Second Try for a Big Y Gas Station and Convenience Store in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK – A proposal that would allow a Big Y gas station to be built near the corner of Boston Post and Spencer Plain roads is heading back to the Zoning Commission with changes aimed at addressing the concerns that led to its unanimous rejection earlier this month. The proposal to allow gas stations in Old Saybrook’s B-4 zone had already been approved by the Planning Commission by a 4-1 vote in December, but was then voted down unanimously by the Zoning Commission on Jan. 3.  Zoning Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said at the time that he believed gas

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Labor and State Officials Offer Contrasting Views of Public Employee Retirements

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State officials and labor leaders offered contrasting views on a possible wave of state employee retirements this summer, with union officials warning that the already overburdened workforce would be stretched thin, while human resource officers for the State of Connecticut described the expected departures as “relatively manageable.”  At a Dec. 7 meeting of the Task Force to Study the State Workforce and Retiring Employees, Nick Hermes, the chief human resources officer and deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, reassured legislators and the committee that the number of retirements so far from state agencies overseen by the department were

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Burst Pipe Causes Major Water Damage to Los Charros Cantina in Essex

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ESSEX – Cascades of water from a burst fire-sprinkler pipe were still raining down through all four floors of his Los Charros Cantina when chef and owner Colt Taylor arrived Sunday morning after getting a pre-dawn call from state police. “I saw a bunch of fire trucks and I went in the door with them and the water was just pouring down,” a despondent Taylor recalled Wednesday as he supervised clean-up of what he estimates could be $1 million in damage that will close the popular 3-year-old Mexican restaurant for at least a month. “It was heartbreaking.” A cold snap

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Afghan Family, U.S. Army Driver, Find Safety and New Home in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — The Popal family readied their house for guests on Monday night to the happy noises of children playing and the aromas of chicken, meatballs and kabuli pulao — a rice dish garnished with carrots and raisins. In the dining room, tablecloths were spread across the center of a rug. Visitors were invited to sit on floor cushions while husband and wife Hayatullah and Bibi Nebiah Popal, both in their late 20s, set out the feast. “Have some food,” said Hayatullah, as he handed plates piled high for each guest.  From the kitchen he brought more food — a

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Stefanowski Announces Candidacy, Willingness to ‘Ruffle a Few Feathers’

Calling himself a political outsider who will “ruffle a few feathers,” Madison Republican Bob Stefanowski on Wednesday declared his candidacy for the Governor in a possible rematch of the race that he lost to Democrat Ned Lamont in 2018.  “People in Connecticut are not asking for a lot,” Stefanowski said in a long-expected announcement that sets up a potential rematch between the wealthy, self-funded businessmen. “They want to be safe, to trust that state government is being open and accountable, and to be able to afford to live, work, and retire here. Unfortunately, these are not the priorities of the

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Investigation of Montville Crash that Sent 7 to Hospital Still Pending Since August

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MONTVILLE – An investigation into a crash last summer involving a Montville Police Officer that sent seven people to area hospitals for treatment remains unfinished nearly five months later according to Connecticut State Police. The police officer collided with two cars pulled over to the side of Route 32 on Aug. 12, 2021. CT Examiner requested a copy of the full accident report from the State Police headquarters in Middletown on Aug. 25 to confirm details in a preliminary report on the crash. That report has not been provided, and CT Examiner has been told on a number of occasions

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Connecticut Aims Big Subsidies at Home and Business Energy Storage Plan

As batteries large enough to temporarily power homes and businesses have become more widespread in the United States, Connecticut is launching a program to heavily subsidize them, aiming to take a significant step toward reaching storage goals that state lawmakers set last year. The Energy Storage Solutions program, approved by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in December and accepting applications this month, comes with promises to provide a reliable source of backup power to homes, and a way to curb high energy bills for industry – providing large subsidies to help cover some of the costs of installing battery storage systems

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Private Road Nixes Open Space Deal in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — “It simply got down to the point where the restrictions on the road and the properties were obstacles that we could not overcome,” said Evan Griswold, co-chair of the Open Space Commission, on Tuesday, about the end of a deal to purchase two parcels of the Ames property for town open space.  Last year the commission signed a $400,000 contract with owner Steven Ames for two lots on Whippoorwill Road. The properties, totaling 35 acres, would have connected with the town’s 195-acre Ames Open Space and provided space for a parking area and access points to the

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Ledyard Opts for Hosted Short Term Rentals with Stronger Regulations

LEDYARD — After extensive discussion at a public hearing, the Zoning Commission unanimously approved a zoning regulation for short term rentals that will require the owner of the building to live on the premises, a practice known as hosting. “We didn’t think the ordinance was terrible, it just didn’t have the teeth necessary in zoning,” said Juliet Hodge, town planner at the commission’s Jan. 13 meeting.  She said the new zoning regulation is more specific than the ordinance and will give the town opportunities to stop nuisance short term rentals using faster methods than taking legal action.  “You can always

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Solnit Youth Psychiatric Center Struggles with Staffing Shortages, Downsizing

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MIDDLETOWN — When Akashdeep Aujla, a psychiatrist at the Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center in Middletown, began working at the center 20 years ago, he said that the center had 100 hospital beds. Now, he said the facility has a maximum inpatient capacity of 44, and it is struggling to bring in workers.  “The last psychiatrist we recruited at Solnit was 17 years ago,” Aujla said during a virtual panel discussion on the availability of mental health services to children in Connecticut.  Solnit, the only state-run long-term psychiatric facility in Connecticut, houses children between 12 and 18 years old with

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Haddam First Selectman Pitches Redevelopment Plans for Higganum Center

HADDAM – A $1.8 million state grant to clean up a late-19th-century manufacturing site in Higganum Center for redevelopment is just the start of plans for the area, according to Haddam First Selectman Robert McGarry, if the town can secure another grant for a diverse list of projects along Saybrook Road. Haddam secured the Brownfield remediation grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development last Friday to clean up the Scovil Hoe Company complex at 11 Candlewood Rd., to allow a developer to repurpose the two long, brick buildings on site. McGarry said the town has lined up

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Draft Guilford School Budget Calls for 6 Percent Hike

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GUILFORD — School Superintendent Paul Freeman is requesting a nearly six percent increase for next year’s budget, a rise which he said was driven mainly by a spike in the cost of staff medical benefits.  The increase of six percent, or $3.6 million, would bring the district’s total budget to $66,076,234.  Freeman said in a board meeting on Monday that the cost of medical benefits are increasing from $8.5 million in 2021-22 to $10 million in 2022-23. This alone, he said, would constitute a 2.4 percent increase to the budget.  Freeman told CT Examiner he believed the increase was in

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University of Connecticut Interim President Andrew Agwunobi to Step Down

University of Connecticut Interim President and CEO of UConn Health Andrew Agwunobi is leaving the university for a job at Humana, a Kentucky-based health insurance company.  Agwunobi, who has been interim president of UConn since July of last year and CEO of UConn Health since 2014, will step down effective February 20.  “While I am excited about this new opportunity, the decision to leave UConn and UConn Health was extremely difficult. This is an amazing university and special place. It has truly been an honor to serve as a leader here and to work with all of you,” Agwunobi said

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Policing on the Rebound, Legislators Say After ‘Data-Driven’ Meeting

HARTFORD – The easing of a state police directive to limit trooper interaction with the public during the pandemic appears to have returned traffic enforcement, which had cratered in 2020, to typical levels, the head of the state police told a panel of legislators on Thursday. According to State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, police Commissioner James Rovella told legislators “that things are starting to get back to normal,” and had the numbers to back it up. Osten is co-chair of the legislature’s Committee on  Public Safety and Security. Rovella and other state police brass met with the panel to discuss

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Winery Plans Meet with Questions, Opposition at Middletown Hearing

MIDDLETOWN – At a public hearing Wednesday night, neighbors of the first proposed farm winery in Middletown questioned why a commercial business, and the traffic and noise that would come with it, would be allowed in their quiet, residential neighborhood. Joe DeFrancesco – who is proposing to turn his 7.3 acre property on Miner Street in the Westfield neighborhood of Middletown into a farm winery that he said could host small events – said he was willing to work to address the concerns raised by his neighbors and members of the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission.  But his promises did

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Anger, Aggression on the Rise, as Patients Face Long Waits, Limited Hospital Visits

“It is now unusual to not have at least one employee reported to occupational health because they have been assaulted by patients at every morning rounds across our health system,” said Marna Borgstrum, chief executive officer of Yale-New Haven Health System.  Borgstrum told CT Examiner that on top of the expected incidents of aggression from patients hospitalized with dementia, every other area of the health system has been coping with public misbehavior rising to the level of assault during the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the last few weeks Borgstrum said that a fist fight had broken out

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Madison Multifamily Housing Raises Concerns at Inland Wetland Hearing

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MADISON –  An environmental scientist hired by a neighboring condo association warned that a proposed 18-unit apartment building near Hammonasset State Park would likely pollute a pond on the property without enough trees to filter out nitrogen from septic tanks. The proposal for Cottage and Mill Apartments at 35 Cottage Rd. has drawn opposition from neighboring residents, who say the 7,800 square foot, 18-unit building would harm the wildlife in a pond on the site – which is home to frogs, salamanders, and neighbors say hosts migratory birds. The developers behind the proposal – 35 Cottage LLC, registered to Michael

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UConn Agreement in Doubt as Officials Plan New Dorm and Dining Hall

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MANSFIELD — A loophole in a 40-page agreement may allow the University of Connecticut to demolish one of the last architectural links to the college’s beginnings as the first state-supported agricultural school in the United States. The agreement, which was signed in 2017 after a lengthy fight that drew support from preservationists across the state, committed the university to maintaining two of nine faculty houses dating to between 1912 and 1920 that were part of a campus plan by noted landscape architect Charles Lowrie.  “We came to the table and signed it in good faith that it was an agreement.

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$7.5 Million Borrowing up for Vote After Durham-Middlefield Opts ‘No’ on Closure

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MIDDLEFIELD/DURHAM — After rejecting the closure of John Lyman Elementary school in November, residents of Middlefield and Durham will be asked to return to the polls in February to vote on $7.5 million in bonding for renovations to the school.  After the Nov. 2, 2021 referendum to close the school failed despite gaining majority support in Durham, the district contracted the firm Silver Petrucelli to produce an up-to-date report on what upgrades and repairs needed to be made in order to keep the school functioning.  The report broke down the upgrades into four priority levels. The most urgent changes, levels

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