Six Single-Family Houses Planned for Rental in Madison

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MADISON — A local group of developers is proposing to build six single family houses, each 1,000-square-feet in size, on a little over a half acre of land under a state statute that allows affordable housing developers to bypass local zoning approvals. The proposal has raised considerable concern among neighboring residents. Nearly 50 Madison residents signed a letter urging the Planning and Zoning Commission to oppose the project over concerns with additional traffic and potential hazards of burying six septic systems on the .55-acre property. It’s the latest in a string of proposals for multifamily housing that have drawn neighborhood

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East Lyme Schools to Consider Southern Connecticut State Model For Bias

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EAST LYME — The school district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is considering the usefulness of developing a formal protocol to address issues of hate speech and bias in the district.  The model is based on a document created by Southern Connecticut State University that aims to create a process for students to bring forward complaints of bias to a team of individuals who are trained to handle these incidents.  “This is something I would really like to potentially replicate here in East Lyme,” Superintendent Jeffrey Newton said at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday.  Newton told CT Examiner

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Lawmakers and Chief Regulator Skeptical as Eversource Settlement Yields New Leadership Role

On Wednesday, Eversource named Steve Sullivan, a long-time employee of the company, president of Connecticut operations. The move was part of an agreement with state regulators intended to improve the company’s storm response after Tropical Storm Isaias. But while the company described the move as a commitment  to rebuilding customer confidence, state lawmakers and the state’s chief regulator questioned the need for the new executive position and the wisdom of the settlement that created it. Sullivan, a resident of Connecticut’s northeast corner who has worked for Eversource for more than 30 years, will take on the new role and oversee

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Closing a Season and a Chapter of Life on the Water

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It ended tranquilly, with a gentle bump in the night of boat against wooden pier.  When Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Captain John Marshall nosed the vessel into the Chester landing as 7 p.m. approached Tuesday, it marked not only the boat’s last trip of the season, but was the soon-to-retire Marshall’s final crossing of the Connecticut River that he’d made countless thousands of times in his 22 years at the helm. CT Examiner spent Marshall’s last few hours on the historic ferry with him as he spoke about his unusual career, the boat that became his second home, and his more than

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North Stonington Selectmen Vote to End Fight With Solar Farm Developer

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NORTH STONINGTON – After its proposal to clear-cut 44 acres of woodland for a 9.9 megawatt solar farm was rejected by state officials in a surprise tie vote in September, Nashville-based Silicon Ranch offered the town’s board of selectmen a deal. The company would scale back the project to 8.35 megawatt, constraining it entirely south of the Norwich-New London Turnpike, if the town agreed to drop its opposition to the proposal at the Connecticut Siting Council. If the town didn’t agree, the company said it would go ahead with re-submitting its full 9.9 MW proposal with enough revisions to satisfy

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State Pier Complaint Dismissed by Superior Court

A local road salt distributor’s attempt to reverse a state permit for the redevelopment of the New London State Pier was dismissed by a Superior Court judge on Wednesday. New Britain Superior Court Judge John Cordani ruled that DRVN did not have standing to bring its appeal against the Connecticut Port Authority’s permit to fill about 7 acres of water between the two New London piers as part of its development into an offshore wind hub. DRVN argued that DEEP issuing the permit to the port authority led to State Pier being closed, which erased the company’s ability to import

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New Regulations for Whelk and Horseshoe Crabs a Challenge for Commercial Fisheries

New state regulations intended to rebuild the whelk and horseshoe crab populations in the Long Island Sound could substantially limit the catches of local fisherman.   The proposed regulations would limit whelk fishing to whelks with shells larger than 5.5 inches in length. Justin Davis, assistant director in the Fisheries Division at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the length minimum came from research from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which showed female whelks in the Sound do not produce eggs until their shells reach this size.  Nancy Balcom, the associate director and extension program leader for the

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Developer Pulls Back, Town Moves Ahead on Swing Bridge Landing Vote

EAST HADDAM – The developer of the proposed Swing Bridge Landing has hit the pause button on his $50 million downtown commercial redevelopment, but the town is moving forward with creating a redevelopment agency to oversee any potential transformation of the historic riverfront village. “He’s on hold depending what the town does,” First Selectman Irene Haines said at a Monday night meeting of the East Haddam Village Revitalization Committee of the developer, local architect Jeff Riley and his Centerbridge group of investors.  “I think at this point they’re not ready to pull the plug yet,” she said later of Riley’s

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Salt Business Challenges Port Authority and DEEP in Court Over State Pier Permit

Deciding who is entitled to use the New London State Pier emerged as a key question in a local salt distributor’s ongoing appeal of a state permit needed for the pier’s redevelopment. Attorneys for the Connecticut Port Authority and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection argued during a virtual hearing on Monday that Superior Court Judge John Cordani should dismiss road salt distributor DRVN’s appeal – which seeks to overturn a permit DEEP approved in August that would allow the port authority to fill about seven acres between the two existing piers as part of its redevelopment into an offshore

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Connecticut Schools Face Tricky Balance of Costs, Staff and Services for Special Ed

A decade of rising costs for special education and increased student need are facing a staffing shortage that is frustrating efforts both by parents to provide suitable services for their children and by local districts needing a balanced budget. According to state data, the total number of students in special education has increased from 63,482 in 2010-11 to 79,058 in 2020-21. Also increased is the percentage of students who are in need of special education — from 11.6 percent of the student population to 15.9 percent over the same time period.  One of the most dramatic increases is in diagnoses

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Defense Asks Judge to Acquit Utility Executives in Theft Case

NEW HAVEN – Defense lawyers for five former officials of a public utility cooperative charged with misappropriating public funds to pay for extravagant corporate retreats to the Kentucky Derby and a golf resort filed a motion in court for a dismissal of the charges, claiming that federal prosecutors had failed to present evidence of criminal wrongdoing. “The trial evidence has not lived up to the story the government spun in the indictment,” the lawyers claim in the filing made late last week in U.S. District Court after prosecutors presented their case against the former officials of the Connecticut Municipal Electric

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Nickerson Ready to Step Down, Reflects on East Lyme’s Past and Future

EAST LYME — Dressed in a casual zip-neck pullover and jeans, First Selectman Mark Nickerson sat at the conference table in the town hall office he’s occupied for seven years, talking with CT Examiner about what’s next after he steps down in December.  “When I got here I had the biggest shoes to fill the history of our town because I was coming in with Paul Formica as my predecessor — what an amazing leader. What amazing work he and especially others have done prior. It’s great to list the things we accomplished, but we already had a vibrant town.” Nickerson,

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How Madison Turned Blue

This is the first in a series of reports by CT Examiner on towns across Connecticut changing partisan complexion — some red to blue and others blue to red. Madison, Connecticut was a Republican town. Two decades ago, there were nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, and while a plurality of voters were not affiliated with either party, the town consistently elected Republicans and had a classically conservative sensibility.  “The Democratic party wasn’t even formed in Madison until the early 1960s,” said Al Goldberg, a member of the Madison Board of Selectmen. “There was no opposition party. People

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How Lamont Administration Uses Political Appointees to Shape Loyal Government

It’s a job situation perhaps best described as flying without a net.  Because when you’re one of the hundreds of state political appointees working in virtually every agency and elected office, as the saying among them goes, you can be fired at any moment if the boss doesn’t like the color of your shirt. On the flip side, most appointees got the job because of their political connections and without having to satisfy any formal requirements about their qualifications for it.   What they all share is the daily visceral awareness that state law says they “serve at the pleasure” of

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Massachusetts Company Floats Plan for Dredging Hub on Thames River

GALES FERRY – A Massachusetts-based developer floated preliminary plans to repurpose the former Dow Chemical plant as a hub for its dredging business in Connecticut and New York, and to expand the dock on the site to potentially support ancillary work for offshore wind development out of New London. In a presentation to the Ledyard Planning and Zoning Commission last week, Harry Heller, an attorney representing Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting, said the company is still “a long way away” from closing on the purchase of the property, and that even after that, it takes  years to develop sites like

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Eversource Warns of Credit Card Fees — But Can’t Charge Them

As part of a 2018 settlement, Eversource residential customers cannot be charged a fee for paying a bill by credit card — but you wouldn’t know it, based on misleading warnings on the company’s website. When an Eversource electric customer checks their bill online, they’re met with a prompt letting them know that Eversource provides options to pay: adding their bank account information to the online portal, or setting up autopay or pay-by-text. The site also warns customers they can pay by credit card, but that a “fee applies.” In fact, Eversource agreed to stop charging residential electric customers a

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Madison Selectmen Okay $89.5 Million in Borrowing, Debate Use of Undesignated Fund

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MADISON — The Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to recommend borrowing up to $89.5 million for a school renewal project and $15.9 million for the conversion of the former Academy School building to a community center.  The bonds would be paid off over 25 years. First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons estimated that the cost to the taxpayers would average of $181 per $100,000 of assessed property value per year — $28 for the Academy School bond and $153 for the bonds associated with the school renewal plan — taking into account expected reimbursement from the state.  The cost would be

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New London Police Chief Moves on From Allegations

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NEW LONDON – Back on the job after being cleared of misconduct allegations by one of his own men, police Chief Brian Wright says his only focus is moving the department, and himself, past the turbulence that marked his roller-coaster initial weeks as the city’s first Black chief.  Saying he was “ecstatic” to be back on duty, Wright spoke to CT Examiner on Monday while still settling back into his office after a six-week absence.  “It was difficult, and there was a lot of emotion involved in it,” Wright said of being the subject of a sexual-harassment and retaliation complaint

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Medical Community Encourages Child Vaccinations for COVID

Questions about the safety of child vaccinations and the need for booster shots have taken center stage as the widespread availability of COVD vaccines coincides with a recent statewide increase in COVID-19 cases.   According to data from the state Department of Public Health, approximately 36,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one vaccine — a number amounting to about 13 percent of the children in that age group in the state.  Dr. Tom Balcezak, Chief Clinical Officer at Yale-New Haven Health, said in a Thursday press conference that children have exhibited minimal side effects

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Reopened Connecticut Water Case Draws Warning From Top State Regulator

PURA Chair Marissa Gillett warned that the authority’s decision to allow Connecticut Water to raise rates again because of a mistake the company made in a rate case earlier this year would continue to push the burden of proof onto the regulator, making it more difficult to protect customers from unnecessary rate increases. After having their rate increase approved in July, Connecticut Water went back to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and asked the regulator to allow the company another $2 million in revenue because the company had made an accounting mistake on one specific tax matter in the complex

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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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As Nursing Homes Resume Normal Visitation, Patient Population Remains Down

After 20 months of restrictions, on Nov. 12 family and friends of nursing home residents in Connecticut were once again able to visit at any time, on any day without a prior appointment, a significant step toward normalcy for the population hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This will make a significant difference this week for residents and facilities,” said Mairead Painter, the Long-term Care Ombudsman for the State of Connecticut. “Family members are going to see all the time what is happening inside facilities. It’s not at the building’s convenience anymore.”  Conditions within nursing homes and other long term

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Halls Road Committee Meets to Debate Next Steps, Erred on Zoning Role

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OLD LYME —  The Halls Road Improvements Committee regrouped on Thursday night for the first time since its draft zoning changes to the town’s central business district were withdrawn hours before a Nov. 8 hearing. The proposed zoning changes have been the subject of contentious debate across social media and local newspapers, with advocates for and against the initial proposal alleging variously incompetence, conflict of interest, a lack of transparency, and partisan politics. From the start, Edie Twining, chair of the committee, tried to focus members on steps to advance the project, rather than on rehashing that contentious debate or

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Court Ruling Invalidates Supermajority Rule, Opens Approval to Methadone Clinic

MIDDLETOWN – A recent court ruling could upend the local Planning and Zoning Commission’s requirement that a supermajority approve any application, and would reverse the commission’s recent decision to deny approval to a proposed methadone clinic on Washington Street. The decision from Middletown Superior Court Judge Rupal Shah comes in response to an appeal the Root Center filed after it was denied a zone change to build a methadone treatment clinic where Fine Tunes Auto Repair is on Washington Street.  It was the first application for a methadone clinic made after the commission unanimously ended  Middletown’s prohibition on methadone clinics

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Close, But Not There Yet on East Haddam Village Vote

EAST HADDAM – Under pressure of legal deadlines and holidays and a developer’s building impatience, the joint meeting of the boards of Selectmen and Finance was called this week to move along in redesigning the future of the downtown village. But in the end, that goal was derailed by the boards’ agreement that the process had become a doomed-to-fail example of the cart before the horse — an expression that came up repeatedly during the session. “It seems, in my humble opinion, that the cart is sort of before the horse here,” finance board member Harvey Thomas said less than

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Middletown Board of Education Cancels Planned Closed-Door ‘Retreat’

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MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education walked back a decision to hold a behind-closed-doors retreat on Saturday that would have violated state freedom of information laws. According to the posted agenda, the board planned to discuss five items in an executive session, or behind closed doors. These items included a discussion of the responsibilities of the school board, an overview of the Strategic Operation plan, board goals, the school website, and a discussion of a committee on personnel.  That plan came under fire from one local resident, in a widely distributed letter, who pointed out that such a meeting would

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Zoning Approves Virtual Gun Range as Residents Debate Pros and Cons

EAST LYME – The town’s Zoning Commission voted Thursday night to approve a virtual gun range proposed to fill the vacant former Bob’s Discount Furniture store, after a crowd that spilled out of the chamber spoke both for and against the new business. Residents who spoke in opposition said they were primarily concerned with the impact that the range could have on children, drawing attention to how close the building is to East Lyme’s middle and high schools. Turning shooting into a game isn’t the right message to send to young people, they said, especially considering the prevalence of gun

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Lyme-Old Lyme Parents Voice Concerns at Board of Education Meeting

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LYME-OLD LYME — Local parents voiced concerns on Wednesday evening about a $42 to $52 million facilities project that could potentially change the ways that grade levels are distributed across the different school buildings.   In a presentation to the Board of Education, Rusty Malik, a partner at the architectural firm QA + M, laid out six options for the community to consider. The options ranged from upgrades to HVAC and heating systems and accessibility upgrades to the building of a new school.  Malik said that the most basic of the options — an estimated cost of $42 million to the

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Chief Brian Wright Returns to Head the New London Police Department

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NEW LONDON – Police Chief Brian Wright returned to his job today after an investigation cleared him of a sexual harassment and “retaliation” complaint filed the day he was suspended on Oct. 6, Mayor Michael Passero said in a brief press release. According to the release, the complaint against Wright, the city’s first Black police chief who was suspended after only three months on the job, stemmed from when he was still a captain, and was involved in performing internal investigations that led to discipline against officers. “The independent investigation into the complaint and allegations made against the Chief of

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PURA Chair Credits New Office For Stepped Up Energy Oversight

In a move that Public Utility Regulatory Authority Chair Marissa Gillett said shows the benefits of her restructuring of the state’s utility regulator, the third-party electric supplier Clearview will pay a $500,000 penalty and leave Connecticut’s energy supplier market for six years to settle claims that the company repeatedly violated marketing laws and in several cases, charging customers higher rates than they should have. The Clearview settlement marks the third time the Public Utility Regulatory Authority’s Office of Education, Outreach and Enforcement has settled claims that third-party suppliers violated marketing regulations since PURA Chair Marissa Gillett started the office in

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