Middletown Common Council Approves Hiring Erik Costa as Chief of Police

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MIDDLETOWN — After an hour of questions on Monday night, Middletown Common Council voted unanimously to approve hiring Erik Costa as the city’s next chief of police. Costa will become the next chief of the Middletown Police Department following the completion of a background check. Mayor Ben Florsheim said that the city’s human resources department is working with a “trusted third party” to complete the process.  Costa will bring 26 years law enforcement experience to the department, from his first job as a seasonal officer on Martha’s Vineyard, and serving as the commander of the Connecticut State Police Troop F

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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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Middletown Approves Rules Allowing Marijuana Cultivation and Sale

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MIDDLETOWN – The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday approved regulations that would allow the cultivation and sale of marijuana in Middletown, without taking action on the commission chair’s proposal to allow cultivation in residential zones that currently allow farming. The regulations approved by the commission allow “micro-cultivation” in three of the city’s four industrial zones – not including the I-3 zone that sits along the Connecticut River – its Interstate Trade zone along I-91, and its transitional development and industrial redevelopment zones. The commission also approved allowing marijuana retail sales in the city’s general business district – which

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Middletown Eases Restrictions on Small Farm Businesses

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MIDDLETOWN – In an effort to give local farmers more opportunities for additional revenue, on Wednesday night the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission approved easing restrictions on small farms looking to open a farm stand – and the commission is considering regulations for on-farm wineries and breweries. Under Middletown’s existing regulations, permanent, year-round farmers markets were permitted in residential areas by special exception, but only on properties of at least 20 acres that abut a state highway. The change made Wednesday would allow farmers markets by special exception on properties of at least 5 acres, and would not require an

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11-2 Vote Supports Student Resource Officers in Middletown Schools

MIDDLETOWN — An exploratory committee tasked with evaluating the Student Resource Officer Program in Middletown Public Schools voted 11-2 to keep the current program, but to update the memorandum of understanding between the police department and the district. The current document would be revised to include specific policies related to hiring, removal, training and chain of command structure. The committee was created in March to solicit perspectives from parents, officers, educators and students and to return recommendations to the town’s board of education. The committee includes two members of the board of education, three school principals, two teachers, a social

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Students Urge Committee to End Resource Officer Program in Middletown Schools

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MIDDLETOWN — On Tuesday night, current students and recent graduates of Middletown High School voiced support for ending a program that places police officers in district schools. The public comment was part of a meeting of the Middletown School Resource Officer Exploratory Committee, which was formed in March to evaluate the role of officers in Middletown schools. The committee will advise the Board of Education on how to address the issue moving forward. The committee includes two board of education members, three school principals, two teachers, a social and emotional learning coordinator, four community members, three students, the youth service coordinator,

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Middletown Council Tables Effort to Withdraw From Power Plant Agreement

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MIDDLETOWN – Despite council members’ objections to plans to build a new natural gas-fired turbine at a Middletown power plant, efforts to end a tax agreement with the plant’s owner have been put temporarily on hold. Mayor Ben Florsheim said during the Common Council meeting Monday night that Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG is open to pursuing a “mutual withdrawal or termination” from a tax stabilization agreement for the company’s power plant on the Connecticut River in south Middletown, which the council approved in 2019. The council voted to table the motion to end the agreement, and to take the measure

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Middletown Offers Tax Help for Historic Renovations

MIDDLETOWN —  Soon Middletown property owners willing to complete at least $15,000 of restoration work on a historic structure could qualify for up to 10 years of full or partial property tax abatements.  The Middletown Common Council last week voted unanimously to approve the program. Middletown Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Joe Samolis said he’s wanted to set up this kind of program ever since he started working for the city. Samolis previously worked at the State Historic Preservation Office. “I was well aware of the federal aid programs that were available for the general public to use [for

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Middletown Moves Forward with Plan to Redevelop Waterfront Parcels

The Middletown Common Council voted unanimously on Monday night to purchase four properties as part of its long-term plan to develop the waterfront.  The purchases, which are valued at $2.55 million, are part of a larger $55 million bonded project to develop properties and improve public infrastructure in Middletown’s downtown and riverfront areas. Voters approved the project in a referendum on November 4.  The four properties include the former Jackson Corrugated Container manufacturer at 225 River Road, and three residential properties at 27, 35, and 41 Eastern Drive. The entire land parcel is nine acres, according to Joseph Samolis, Middletown’s

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Lamont in Middletown to Announce Statewide Rollout of Free Public WiFi Sites

MIDDLETOWN — City Hall and Russell Library will provide free, public WiFi networks as part of a statewide initiative to bring reliable internet access to underserved communities, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday morning.  In a press conference in Middletown, Lamont said that these locations will be the first of 200 community sites across Connecticut, spread across 169 towns. A combination of state and federal dollars will fund the initiative, and the Middletown networks are expected to be up and running by the end of the week. State officials did not share a timeline for the statewide rollout.  “This is something

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Middletown Approves Purchase of 40 Acres from Bysiewicz Family for Open Space

MIDDLETOWN — The city’s efforts to preserve open space took a step forward on Monday as the Common Council approved buying 40 acres that could be used to expand walking trails at Smith Park and will preserve a patch of farmland nearly surrounded by houses. The council voted unanimously to allow the city to use $750,000 of bond funds voters approved in 2019 to buy 39.7 acres of land in the Westfield area. Half of the property is wooded and faces the wooded section of Smith park, while the half of the property facing East Street is open space that

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Florsheim Announces Sale of NRG Plant, Possible Energy Storage Plan

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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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Renewed Investment in Gas-Fired Energy Spurs Debate in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — A major energy company is pitching its replacement of two nearly 70-year old natural gas-fired turbines at a Middletown power plant as environmentally friendly, but local and statewide advocates for renewable energy question why new fossil fuel-fired infrastructure is being built at all. Princeton-based NRG has proposed replacing two gas- and fuel-powered turbines, built in 1958 and 1964, with one turbine that is more efficient and faster to start.  The 375-megawatt turbine will replace the same nameplate amount of megawatts as the two existing turbines, and generate lower emissions per hour, but the new turbine is also expected

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Marino’s Re-opens, Offers a Taste of Middletown’s North End

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MIDDLETOWN — The first week Francesca Vitale re-opened Marino’s Pizzeria, all the old customers came back, clamoring for the hamburg pizza her mother made famous. “On the first day, we did like 100 pizzas,” Vitale said. Vitale’s grandfather, Sebastiano Marino immigrated from Sicily in 1898 and opened a bakery on Ferry Street in Middletown’s North End in 1920. Vitale’s mother, Constance Marino-Vitale, opened Marino’s Restaurant in 1941. Both were staples of the Italian-American community in Middletown until the restaurant closed in 1992. When Vitale and her friend Carla Marino opened back up Marino’s in a new location on William Street,

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Advocates, Opponents, Debate Plans to Open the First Methadone Clinic in Middlesex County

Between 2015 and 2019, 73 people from Middletown died of a drug overdose, more deaths per capita than in New Haven or Bridgeport. At least 17 Middletown residents have died so far in 2020. By comparison, New Haven has five clinics that dispense methadone – one of three drugs commonly used in medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders — Bridgeport has three. There are no dispensaries anywhere in Middlesex County and since 1989, zoning regulations have prohibited methadone clinics from operating in Middletown. The Root Center for Advanced Recovery, which offers methadone and other medication-assisted treatment for drug addiction at

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