Tim Griswold Sketches Out the Big Picture for Old Lyme’s 2020-21 Budget

OLD LYME — In the eight years since he last worked on a budget as first selectman, Tim Griswold said that one of the most dramatic changes he’s seen as he works on the budget for 2020-21 has been a drop in aid from the state. In Old Lyme’s fiscal year 2010-11 budget, revenue from Education Cost Sharing — the biggest single annual infusion of state money for many towns — was about $605,500. In fiscal year 2017-18, that state funding had dropped to about $205,500. The town’s fiscal year 2018-19 audit showed that number grew to about $241,500. “It’s been dwindling,”

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Benny Benack Plays for Love at the Side Door

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OLD LYME — Benny Benack III sang all the sweetheart songs you could wish for on a Valentine’s Day engagement at the Side Door in Old Lyme. He announced, “We’ll fit in as much Great American Songbook as we can here tonight!” With Sinatra-inspired vocals and a great band of friends and contemporaries, he delivered standards like “My Funny Valentine,” “Unforgettable” and “Home is Where the Heart Is” to an audience of Valentine’s couples. Several of his own song compositions followed this swinging nostalgic mode – “Irrepressible,” as well as the up-tempo “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” the title

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With Aging Population, Lymes’ Senior Seeks Study of Needs, Possible Expansion

OLD LYME — A special building committee for the Lymes’ Senior Center plans to ask the Board of Finance on February 25 to fund a feasibility study of the long-term needs of the area’s seniors and a possible expansion of their facilities. “There’s a lot of us who are 55 and older,” said Jeri Baker, chair of the Lymes’ Senior Center Building Committee. “There’s just a lot of us. And we’re looking for continued opportunities to learn and be active and grow with other people and be social and to be kind for our much older members at the center,

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Old Lyme Selectmen Discuss Haines Park Bathroom, March Projects

OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen discussed updates to several town projects at their Tuesday afternoon meeting. The Haines Park Bathroom Committee is expecting to send the project out to bid in March, with the potential to begin work as early as April, Giswold said. Due to an inadequate well servicing the planned bathroom, the project’s scope has been expanded to include a water system and crawl space where water can be stored, Griswold said. That could increase project costs by more than the $150,000 already appropriated for the project during the regular budget cycle. Griswold said that town

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Old Lyme Land Trust Chair, Lawyer, Meet with Berggren on Beaver Flooding

OLD LYME — After nearly two years of asking neighbors to help locate and remove a beaver dam flooding his home and property on Black Hall Pond, Dave Berggren met today with Old Lyme Land Trust Board Chair Mike Kiernan and trust lawyer Thor Holt. Contrary to numerous statements by trapper Robert Comtois, former Flood and Erosion Board chair Todd Machnik and others, that there is a beaver dam on the Land Trust’s Jericho Preserve that is responsible for the flooding, Holt said the first step will be determining if that dam exists. “We don’t know how many dams there

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Old Lyme Affordable Housing Committee Holds First Meeting, Questions 10 Percent Goal

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OLD LYME — The newly-appointed Affordable Housing Exploratory Committee held its first meeting Monday night, with members sharing that they do not think that the town would necessarily be able to meet the statewide goal of 10 percent affordable housing, but that Old Lyme could do more for teachers, service workers, and longtime residents. The committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen in January, was charged with researching the resources, regulations and issues of affordable housing as they relate to Old Lyme, and to recommend a housing strategy to the town. Committee member Thomas Ortoleva said early in the meeting

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Debt Service, Retirements, Spur First Ever Decrease in Lyme-Old Lyme School Budget

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LYME-OLD LYME — For the first time ever, the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education approved a budget with a 0.05 percent decrease compared to the previous year. The total budget decreased by $18,651 to a total of $35.07 million. “No programs were reduced, no staff members were cut, no facilities projects were shortcut,” said Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “In large part, the decrease is due to a significant decrease in debt service.” Because Lyme-Old Lyme owns the lands and buildings it uses, unlike a municipal district, it also carries its own debt service, allowing the regional district to reduce the overall

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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Deny Claim for Overtime Compensation for Custodial and Maintenance Employees

LYME-OLD LYME — The Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education denied the grievances presented by union representatives claiming 25 hours of unpaid overtime to custodial and maintenance staff. The two grievances were brought by the employees representing a group of nine custodial and maintenance workers. The union — led by custodian Phil Fazzino — argued that any time non-certified staff are called in for, or informed about, overtime work after the end of their previously-scheduled shift, they should be paid a minimum of three hours. The contract between the union and the administration states: “When a full time non-certified employee is

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Budget Hike for Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Lowest Ever at .39 Percent

The proposed 2020-21 budget for Lyme-Old Lyme schools calls for an increase of just 0.39 percent, or less than $140,000, the lowest budget increase in the history of the district. “It’s the lowest budget increase on record,” said Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “We are still discussing and are still making a few revisions, so it might go down even more.” Compared to neighboring school districts, the modest increase is all the more striking — the draft budget for East Lyme schools includes an increase of 4.26 percent, Old Saybrook of 0.98 percent and Guilford of 2.14 percent. According to Neviaser, the

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Town Meeting OKs Ethics Amendment, $8,750 for Lyme Academy

OLD LYME — In a brief Annual Town Meeting on Monday night, local residents approved the Annual Town Report, an $8,750 grant to the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, and an amendment to the town’s Ethics Commission ordinance. All the items were approved by voice vote without dissent. About 50 people sat in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School’s auditorium for the meeting, which lasted less than 40 minutes. Griswold explained that the ethics amendment was introduced because commission members had inadvertently failed to appoint members, allowing all but one member appointment to lapse. “The amendment here… the principal thing will be

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Caution, Leverage, Deadline, Weigh on Delayed Vote for Easements in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — The decision to delay a town-wide vote on securing easements through Sound View came as surprise to local leaders of the three chartered beach communities hoping to break ground on sewer construction in the fall. “The bidding process is about a six-month process and we can’t go out to bid until we have these easements. We want to start construction in September or October of this year, so we need to go out to bid next month,” said Frank Noe, Water Pollution Control Authority chair of the Old Colony Beach Association, by phone Thursday.  The town’s decision

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Announce Town Meeting Agenda, Make Appointments

OLD LYME — At the Annual Town Meeting on January 27, the Board of Selectmen will ask voters to approve amendments to the town’s Ethics Commission ordinance and to approve a grant to the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts. First Selectman Timothy Griswold said his administration is not yet seeking a vote on easements for sewer connections to the three chartered beach communities. During the meeting, residents will be asked to vote on four items: To approve the annual town report for the fiscal year July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. To approve a request of $8,750 as a

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A Tale of Two Projects

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When the Connecticut legislature passed a ban on most pesticides for athletic fields used by kindergarten through 8th-grade students in 2010, who knew (not an entirely rhetorical question) that a common alternative — even for towns less wealthy than Old Lyme — would be to construct playing surfaces out of countless tons of tires recycled into pelletized rubber? Before we agree to Milone & MacBroom’s May 2017 estimate of $990,000, or Milone & MacBroom’s December 2019 estimate of $2.3 million or Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell’s (presumably) more conservative number of “up to $4 million,” for an artificial turf

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Old Lyme WPCA Hires Consultant, Debates Sewer Funding and Tests

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OLD LYME — The Water Pollution Control Authority made incremental progress Tuesday night, approving a contract to hire a benefit assessment consultant, discussing a potential agreement with the three private beach communities, as well as considering an independent expert to evaluate water testing at Hawk’s Nest.  WPCA Chair Richard Prendergast said that hiring a assessement consultant will help define variables in the town’s Sound View Beach neighborhood which is slated for sewer installation, but has a wide range of commercial and residential properties. In a referendum on August 13, town voters approved a $9.5 million sewer construction bond for Sound

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Old Lyme Zoning Commission Tables Setback Rules, Proposes Study

OLD LYME — The Zoning Commission voted Monday night to table a controversial proposed amendment to the Tidal Waters Protection regulation the would have doubled the current 50-foot setback to 100 feet for new construction along the town’s coastal and riverfront properties.  Jane Marsh, secretary of the commission, who introduced the amendment on September 9, recommended that the town consider first commissioning a coastal resilience study similar to Old Saybrook’s 2018 Coastal Resilience & Adaptation Study.  “Probably what we should do is have a study for ourselves to identify … the areas that will be highly affected so when we

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82-Year-Old Old Lyme Resident Faces Loss of Home as Local Officials Consider Response to Flooding

OLD LYME — For more than a year David Berggren’s house has been sinking, and Black Hall Pond has been steadily rising due to beaver activity downstream, flooding his lawn, and dock, causing his plumbing to fail and mold to grow, and shifting the foundation underneath his home on Boughton Road. “I’ve known about Mr. Berggren’s problems for a long time,” said Todd Machnik, who served as chair of the Flood and Erosion Board for the town of Old Lyme for 25 years before retiring on January 1. “I talked to Bonnie [Reemsnyder] when she was around and I went

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The New and the Old of It

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If you read the newspapers in America in 1780 or so – just as the modern familiar incarnation of the Christmas holiday is taking shape – you might be surprised to find that already critics and observers are fretting the loss of the true meaning, the spirit, of Christmas, much as they do today – because loss is not a defect or corruption of the winter holiday, but instead has always been a defining feature of modern Christmas feeling and expression. And it is much the same, the historian Peter Fritzsche explained, with New England. “It is New England and

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Tim Griswold Sketches Out a Two-year Agenda for Old Lyme

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OLD LYME — After an eight-year hiatus, First Selectman Tim Griswold looked comfortable sitting at his desk in Town Hall on Friday afternoon.  “I would say there’s a lot on the plate and I would say we want to maintain the good quality of the schools. I think part of the message I got from the election is people like the rural character of the town. We want to move ahead, but not go ahead aggressively… keep it kind of the way it is,” said Griswold. Griswold, a Republican, served as First Selectman from 1997 to 2011 when he lost

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Borden Bankruptcy Stirs Memories of Old Lyme’s Elsie the Cow

OLD LYME — “My father had a cow that he had actually purchased off the island of Jersey, off the coast of France, and brought it back here. He was a little [smitten] because of how beautiful she was and her face just called to him,” said Old Lyme resident Jane Marsh of her father, Edward Marsh, a lawyer and prominent state legislator, and who raised dairy cows on the family’s farm in Old Lyme. In 1964, that face won the title of Elsie the Cow, the longtime mascot for the Borden Dairy Company, and represented the company for two

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Lyme Academy Approaches Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Regarding Possible Land Purchase

LYME-OLD LYME — The Lyme Academy of Fine Arts approached the Lyme-Old Lyme school district concerning the possibility of selling a portion of abutting property just north of the main high school and middle school campus. “I will review the proposal and look for input from the board as to how you would like to proceed. This does not require board action,” said Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme schools, at Wednesday evening’s board of education meeting. The board will await a report back from Neviaser after more details about the possible purchase are available. The land is part of

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Old Lyme Economic Development Commission Voices Disappointment with CERC Analysis

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OLD LYME — At its Wednesday night meeting, members of the Economic Development Commission voiced disappointment in the analytical report drafted by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center of last summer’s town-wide survey and requested a more in-depth and organized summary of the data. “What we have so far is what anybody could do, but what we hired CERC and the PhDs to do is to connect the data. What I see here I could have done on my own,” complained Commission Co-Chair Justin Fuller.. “When we look at the executive summary of the survey, my feeling is CERC has it

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Old Lyme Selectmen Appoint Affordable Housing Committee, Discuss Annual Town Meeting

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen appointed a special committee on Monday night tasked with researching and making recommendations on affordable housing in Old Lyme. The selectmen voted to appoint seven town residents as regular members of the Affordable Housing Exploratory Committee: John Coughlin, Michael Fogliano, Thomas Ortoleva, Harold Thompson, Tammy Tinnerello, Karen Winters, and John Zaccaro. Two alternate members were also selected: Peter Cable and Jennifer Miller. The committee will meet on a timeline limited to between six months and one year unless extended by the selectmen, according to a charge approved in September.  The idea of forming

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Upcoming Old Lyme Fire Department Audit to Determine Local Insurance Costs

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OLD LYME — The town’s volunteer fire department is preparing paperwork for an evaluation that will affect how much Old Lyme property owners pay for fire insurance. In preparation for the evaluation process, the Board of Finance approved $15,120 for aluminum signs and hoses on December 17. The Insurance Services Office, a subsidiary of insurance data company Verisk Analytics, rates fire departments and their surrounding communities, on their readiness to respond to fire emergencies. Those ratings are based in part on staff size and training, water supply, emergency communications, and public outreach efforts. “It’s there for the people and for their

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New London Opts to Renegotiate Regional Sewer Agreement

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NEW LONDON — At its December 19 meeting, the New London Water and Water Pollution Control Authority voted to renegotiate the 30-year-old sewage agreement with the towns of Waterford and East Lyme.  The tri-town agreement would have automatically renewed on January 10, 2021 for a ten-year period unless one or more member municipalities gave formal notice to the other parties to change or terminate the agreement.  The three towns share the use of the Thomas E. Piacenti Regional Water Pollution Control Facility in New London. The plant can process 10 millions gallons per day. New London is allocated 55 percent

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Sneak Peak at Phoebe Griffin Noyes Renovation

The first phase of the $3.05 million renovation of the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library, the historic and upstairs portion of the building, is almost complete. “This piece will be open in January or early February. It will move the staff offices to the historic back of the building and turn the upstairs into staff workspace,” said Katie Huffman, the library director. The upstairs of the library has not been in use since before Huffman took on the job of director of the library. Previously, the space was used by the Old Lyme Historical Society, but more recently has remained unused

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Audit Shows Boon for Old Lyme Reserves

OLD LYME — In 2018-19 fiscal year, Old Lyme took in higher revenues and paid several lower expenses than were expected. This allowed for a $739,152 contribution toward the town’s general fund balance of $11,309,944 on June 30, 2019, according to an annual audit presented to the Board of Finance Tuesday night. Board of Finance Chair Andrew Russell said that this general fund balance — which is equal to over a quarter of Old Lyme’s most recent annual budget — will help to keep a steady mill rate by preparing for unexpected one-time costs, and get a low interest rate if

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Talk Beavers, Sewers, Reviewing Roles of Commissions

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen provided updates at their Monday meeting, on projects planned for the Sound View neighborhood, continuing struggles with beaver dam flooding around Black Hall Pond, and announced plans to review the roles of town committees Beaver flooding Several town boards — including the Open Space Commission and the Flood & Erosion Control Board — have been made aware of problems posed by beaver dams in the area around Black Hall Pond, First Selectman Tim Griswold said. The dams block water flow and cause water levels to rise, which has left one resident unable to

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Proposed Subdivision Sparks Debate Over Open Space

OLD LYME — A 3-lot, 45-acre subdivision is proposed for 19-1 Great Oak Road, off Short Hills Road, in Old Lyme by Ron Pelletier of CAWIAMCA LLC. The project, called “The Oaks – Phase 2,” would extend Great Oak Road and construct three single-family homes set back from the road, in addition to providing open space located near to the road. The open space comprised mostly of wetlands – called the Joseph Parcel – make up less than the 15 percent contribution recommended in Old Lyme’s planning and zoning regulations as a guide to developers, a point of contention at

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WPCA Discusses a State-Mandated Revision to Old Lyme’s Sewer Ordinance and Cost Sharing

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OLD LYME — In part due to the town’s recent re-evaluation, the Water Pollution Control Authority plans to hire attorneys and consultants to determine property values in Sound View Beach as the town’s sewer project moves forward.  At Tuesday’s WPCA meeting, Douglas Wilkinson, treasurer, said next year’s budget includes $10,000 for a land use lawyer and about $15,000 for an appraisal consultant to evaluate properties, especially since the town is going through a re-evaluation this year.  In an August 13 referendum, residents voted 883 to 565 to bond $9.5 million for sewer construction in Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town

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EF Watermelon Celebrates 40 Years

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Jewelry, geodes, objets d’art are specialties of EF Watermelon, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend. Jim Elliott and Richard Freeman are the “E” and “F” of EF Watermelon. They met in graduate school, but after Jim discovered gemstones, the two began traveling the world to look for interesting stones and materials.  The duo became enamored with tourmalines, especially the striking watermelon variety, which can range in color from white to green to pink. And, inspired by the 1970’s ad that began with, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” the name EF Watermelon was born.  Spouses Cathy Elliott and

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