A Closer Look at the Latest Plans to Replace the Connecticut River Bridge

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I will cut to the chase. The plan currently on the table to replace the existing historic Connecticut River Railroad Bridge looks to be a good one, but let me break it down to the essentials… Need Why is Amtrak planning to spend an estimated $400 million ($759 million by other estimates) on a new crossing at the mouth of the Connecticut? Well, the existing bridge, which dates to 1907, carries about 56 trains each day on the Northeast Corridor across the Connecticut River — 38 Amtrak intercity trains, 12 Shore Line East commuter trains, and 6 freight trains —

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$400 Million Connecticut River Railroad Bridge Replacement Takes a Step Forward, Design Details Announced

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A significant but relatively little known plan is underway to replace the aging railroad lift bridge that spans the Connecticut River between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. The estimated $400 million project, proposed by Amtrak, would construct a new bascule bridge 52 feet south of the existing structure. The original bridge, which dates back to 1907, is an essential link on the Northeast Rail Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. and would remain operational during construction. The existing structure will be largely removed once the new bridge is completed.  Though few town officials seemed to know about the plan, it resurfaced

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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Clarify Reports of Cost Savings

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This Wednesday, Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education will vote on the first budget decrease in the district’s history. The $34.9 million proposed budget is 1.06 percent less than last year’s regional district budget. The current proposal is $180,000 less than the budget originally proposed in February. “The goal was to have a zero percent increase in payments for both towns,” said Ian Neviaser, superintendent of Lyme-Old Lyme Schools. “Originally, even though Lyme was seeing a reduction in cost, Old Lyme was looking at a $180,000 increase.” The nearly $200,000 in total savings from the 2019-2020 budget come from a refinancing

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Proposed RTP Center Collaboration with the Town of Old Lyme Loses Out on Connecticut Port Authority Funding

OLD LYME — Plans for a new office for the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, which were described in a June 12, 2019 application to the Connecticut Port Authority as a close collaboration with the town, received a setback on Monday when the authority announced that the project had not been recommended for grant funding. The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, part of the statewide Connecticut Audubon Society, had applied for a $1.833 million grant in “round two” of the Small Harbor Improvement Projects Program to build an educational center at 314 Ferry Road. The nonprofit purchased the property for

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$38.96 million Old Lyme Budget Proposal Goes to Monday Night Teleconferenced Hearing

OLD LYME — The Board of Finance will present a fiscal year 2020-21 budget proposal of $38.96 million — a 0.13 percent or $54,217 increase in expenditures over the current fiscal year — at a teleconferenced public hearing on Monday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. Board of Finance Chair Andy Russell credited “conservative spending” for the modest increase, but said that the town’s tax rate will increase more significantly than its expenses due to a drop in assessed value of taxable property on the town’s most recent grand list. The mill rate in the finance board’s 2020-21 proposal is 23.30,

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Canceled Public Comment Sparks Outcry at Sewer Meeting Teleconference in Old Lyme

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OLD LYME — Local residents expressed significant consternation at the close of the Water Pollution Control Authority meeting on Tuesday night when chair Richard Prendergast announced that public comment had not been included on the agenda, a decision that he said would remain until COVID-19 mandates for social distancing had been lifted and meetings could be held in person once again.  “You notice that a lot of times we have public comment. We don’t have public comment on this agenda. We removed it. We are not required to [have it] and I’m not trying to stop people from commenting. I

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Old Lyme Selectmen Seek Clarity Before Responding to Governor’s Lodging Restrictions

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OLD LYME — First Selectman Timothy Griswold said that town government should do more research before acting on Gov. Ned Lamont’s April 2 executive order restricting hotels, short-term rentals, and other lodging for use by first responders, essential workers and special cases, for as long as the coronavirus public health emergency lasts. Griswold, speaking during a teleconferenced meeting of the Board of Selectmen Monday night, said that canceling most short-term and seasonal rentals would be “disastrous” for property owners who depend on that income, and he said that it wasn’t clear from the order who would have to enforce the

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Virtual School Budget Meetings Scheduled Across Lower Connecticut Valley in Wake of Coronavirus

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On March 10, as part of the state’s emergency response to COVID-19, Governor Ned Lamont signed Executive Order 7L, releasing regional boards of education from their statutory obligations to hold in-person meetings and referenda, prior to adopting fiscal year 2020-21 budgets: “[A]ny regional board of education shall adopt a budget for the July I, 2020 – June 30, 2021 fiscal year … without complying with any in-person budget adoption requirements, including but not to limited, annual district budget meetings requiring votes, referendum, and special district meetings.” The change follows a number of other restrictions on social gathering that have been

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Two weeks into State of Emergency, Old Lyme Leaders Focus on Helping the Vulnerable and Isolated

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Almost two week after the Board of Selectmen declared a local state of emergency, Old Lyme has yet to see a confirmed case of the coronavirus, but First Selectman Timothy Griswold said town staff, emergency personnel and volunteers need to move quickly to help residents who could be vulnerable amid state orders for people to social distance and businesses to close Griswold said he’s particularly concerned about town businesses that could struggle, residents who could lose their job or lose hours, and seniors potentially feeling isolated. “We’re obviously concerned about individuals who depend on their jobs to keep going,” Griswold

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Lyme-Old Lyme Relief Fund Established — Rick Stout and Tom Britt to Double Initial Donations

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The Lyme-Old Lyme Coronavirus Relief Fund was established yesterday by both towns and Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau in an effort to help those in need during this unprecedented state of emergency. “We’ve already helped homebound people with groceries, a family with diapers and one resident pay a portion of her rent,” said Mary Seidner, the director of Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau. “This is for residents of both communities and donations are coming in from both communities, it really is a unified effort.” The fund will be jointly managed by Seidner and the Social Services Coordinators in Lyme and Old Lyme.

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Old Lyme Declares State of Emergency Likely to Restrict Town Hall Access by Wednesday

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen on Monday authorized First Selectman Timothy Griswold to declare a local state of emergency and said they plan soon to restrict most public access to Town Hall in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. “The idea is to restrict as much as possible public interaction because that’s how this thing spreads,” Griswold said at the meeting. “We want to keep the doors open for business, so to speak, but not just have the public coming in the way they have.” Old Lyme Director of Emergency Management David Roberge will meet with Griswold tomorrow

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As Southeast Connecticut Adopts “Social Distancing,” Local Businesses, Social Services, Step Up to Help Residents and Elderly

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As efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus get underway across southeast Connecticut, all Meals on Wheels programs are continuing for now, said Stephanie Gould, the director at the Lyme-Old Lyme Senior Center. Many pharmacies, such as CVS, are offering medication delivery for free to anyone who is concerned about going out in public. “And if their pharmacy won’t do it, we can help,” said Cathy Wilson, the director of the East Lyme Senior Center. “Our Meals on Wheels drivers are excellent and could pick up medications.” It isn’t just senior centers and pharmacies that are pitching in to help

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Shore Road Plans Raise Questions at Zoning Hearing

OLD LYME — The addition of a proposed maintenance shop raised questions from the Zoning Commission during a public hearing Monday night for a special application for the construction of four storage buildings at 224 Shore Road. Engineer Robert L. Doane Jr., who represented the applicant, Mar Holding LLC, which is owned by Frank Maratta of Old Lyme, told the commission his client wanted a “shop/office” on the 1.7-acre site where he could keep trucks and equipment used to maintain his other properties. “He has several properties in Old Lyme and he felt that he would like to have a

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Florence Griswold Museum Launches Five-year Planning, Added Space a Possibility

OLD LYME — From her second-floor office, museum director Rebekah Beaulieu can see the banks of the Lieutenant River where the Lyme Art Colony painted in the early 1900s. “This is not an exclusive museum,” Beaulieu explained, “this is a museum about the intersection of art, history and landscape.” That three-part vision, laid out by the museum’s mission statement, is key to planning the next five years for the Florence Griswold Museum, arguably the best-preserved home of American Impressionism and one of just 63 National Historic Landmarks in Connecticut. “It has this unparalleled experience where you can come. You can

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Connecticut Water To Complete Water Main Replacements in Old Lyme

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OLD LYME — The Connecticut Water Company will begin replacing the shallow-depth water main in Sound View Beach during the week of March 9, one of several water projects slated for the spring in Old Lyme. Preliminary construction will begin on March 10 and 11, with excavation scheduled to start on March 13 on Hartford Ave. and during the week of March 16 on Portland Ave, according to a Dan Meaney, director of public affairs and corporate communications for Connecticut Water, by phone on March 5.  The company will replace 5,000 feet of shallow-depth water main with a full-depth water

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Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education Approves Sustainability Committee For Local Schools

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LYME/OLDLYME — After two years of attending meetings, Karen Taylor’s call for a focus on environmental protection has been heard, and a Sustainability Committee was approved by the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education. “It feels so good, I truly feel listened to and heard,” said Taylor who has two children in the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools and works as a substitute teacher. “I really think this committee will allow us to coordinate efforts and make progress toward recycling and reducing waste in the schools.” The committee will advise the Board of Education and include 15 members drawn from teachers, Board of

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Old Lyme Economic Development Commission Discusses Release of August-September Survey

OLD LYME — With the results of last year’s two economic development workshops and a town-wide survey in hand Wednesday, the Economic Development Commission began to plan how the information can be disseminated effectively to the town’s other boards and commissions as well to the public. At the meeting, the commission unanimously approved the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis Results report from AdvanceCT, formerly known as the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, or CERC. The report covers data collected at workshops on August 14 and Sept. 21 that were each attended by 25-30 residents and business owners who shared

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Greg Hunter, Old Lyme’s Resident State Trooper, Retires

After the retirement of State Trooper Greg Hunter, as of last Friday Matt Weber is the new Resident State Trooper supervising policing in Old Lyme. According to Sergeant Mark Devine of State Troop F, Hunter had been planning to retire for several months and the constables at the Old Lyme office have been aware of the impended changeover. The Old Lyme Board of Finance was not aware that a new state trooper would be replacing Hunter until last week. “The other officers have known for a while,” Devine said. “If he chose not to tell the town until this week,

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Renovated Former Lyme Academy Housing Renting Near Historic District in Old Lyme

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OLD LYME — The former housing complex for Lyme Academy of Fine Arts has been renamed Southwick Commons and the renovated townhouses are for rent. The two buildings at 77 Lyme St., just off the historic district in Old Lyme, include 12 two-bedroom townhouses under renovation or recently completed. Rick Weiner, the listing agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, said the rents range from $1,850 to $2,150 per month, which does not include utilities. The units have either two or two and a half bathrooms and one garage space. According to Weiner, the units are renting quickly, with six

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Board of Finance Debates Study for Possible Lymes’ Senior Center Expansion

OLD LYME — Members of the Board of Finance said Tuesday night that they were open to paying for part of the costs of a $30,000 study of the Lymes’ Senior Center’s long-term needs, but members raised concerns of the appropriateness of an architect to carry out that study. “To me it almost sounds like a conflict to have an architect doing a feasibility study and say we need this [architectural work],” said Board of Finance chair Andy Russell at Tuesday’s board meeting. “It sounds like there’s probably other organizations out there that come into senior centers, look at the

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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

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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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