Outdoor Dining Proposed for Dock & Dine Property by Local Restauranteurs

OLD SAYBROOK — Two restauranteurs are proposing to open a seasonal outdoor restaurant using towable food trailers at the former Dock & Dine property at 145 College St near the mouth of the Connecticut River. “Essentially they’re like trailers, like a food truck hall, but the new ones are very sleek looking they’re very modernized,” said Colt Taylor, chef of The Essex and Los Charros Cantina in Essex, who is working on the project with Jon Kodama, owner of the property since 1987 and managing partner of JTK Management Restaurants, the group that owns the former Dock & Dine as

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Letter and Closed-door Discussion Spark Call for Closer Look at Police Claims

OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s police commission has decided not to take action on a complaint from a former sergeant in the Old Saybrook Police Department who requested in a letter that the commission investigate what he called a “toxic and hostile work environment.”  The commission voted 5-2 to not take action on the complaint, with commissioners Renee Shippee and Alfred Wilcox providing the dissenting votes. Officer William Bergantino, who authored the letter, began working at the Old Saybrook Police Department in 1997, and remained there for 23 years. In 2019, Bergantino moved to another department, taking a reduction in

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Police Commission Approves Budget, After Discussing Contracts and New Initiatives

OLD SAYBROOK — The Old Saybrook Police Commission voted 5-2 to approve a budget of $5,333,360 for the town’s police department on Monday night — an increase of $95,088 over last year. The draft budget will next be sent to the town’s board of selectmen for a final vote. The budget includes a 2.25 percent raise in salaries, an increase in workman’s compensation and an increase in retirement benefits for officers as negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement with the police union. Dispatchers will also receive a two percent salary increase.  Other increases in the budget came from unfunded mandates

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Officers Say Toxic Environment Drives Departures from Old Saybrook Police

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OLD SAYBROOK — Since 2009, staff and officer turnover at the Old Saybrook Police Department has far outstripped other departments in the region — a fact that former officers attribute to a toxic work environment within the department.  Although the Old Saybrook Police Department has not provided CT Examiner with employment data requested in a Nov. 12 Freedom of Information request, a number of former officers, as well as past and present members of the town’s police commission, provided documents and spoke on the record to explain and confirm the unusual employment data. A document compiled by a former officer

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Old Saybrook’s Police Commission Opts Out of Active Oversight

OLD SAYBROOK — Last month, the Old Saybrook Police Commission codified the town’s approach to handling civilian complaints, which gives the chief of police direct oversight and effective control of letters addressed to the commission and commission members regarding personnel matters. That approach was called into question earlier this year, after a letter of complaint postmarked March 2nd  was not circulated to commission members until September, according to commission member Renee Shippee. The complaint was from a man who was pulled over in Old Saybrook in February along with his 13-year-old daughter. The man asked that his name not be

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Historic District Plans Preservation of Hand-painted Signs in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — The Old Saybrook Historic District Commission is raising funds to preserve and restore three historic advertisements hand-painted on the side of the Sheffield building at the corner of Main and Sheffield Street.  The red brick-and-mortar building, a historic landmark constructed by Amos Sheffield in 1853, is the oldest brick commercial building in town. From 1907-1945, it was the Stokes Brothers’ Grocery Store. The store was a place where locals would pick up their mail, sit around on pickle barrels and hear the latest news. They could have fresh vegetables, groceries, hardware and paint delivered in a Ford

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‘Living Shoreline’ off Fenwick Approved, Includes Granite, Dune and Tidal Marsh

More than a year after the waters of the Long Island Sound breached a sand dune offshore of Fenwick, the Lynde Point Land Trust living shoreline project was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the local zoning commission. The project will span 450 feet of coastline and include granite sills, new fill, tidal marsh creation, a restored dune with native plantings and a cobble beach in front of the property. The project will also relocate Crab Creek within the marsh in an attempt to prevent future damage to the dunes. “The

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Beach Access Activists Protest Private Fence Abutting the Old Saybrook Town Beach

OLD SAYBROOK — An illegal fence, the town line, the mean high water mark and the broader issue of public access to beaches and Long Island Sound were the focus of a second “sit-in” protest next to the town beach Thursday. “This has been a long-time problem for years — that fence comes and goes but it’s here every year. This year it seems to have gotten bigger and it’s farther out,” said Vicki Taccardi, who grew up in Old Saybrook.  Taccardi was one of a dozen protesters gathered inside a fence erected by the homeowner of 99 Plum Bank

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The Kate Announces High School Winners of the Inaugural Kate Scholarship for 2020

The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center has announced Old Saybrook High School seniors Maggie Maselli and Timothy Thomas as the recipients of the inaugural Kate Scholarship for 2020. The scholarship was created in honor of The Kate’s 10th anniversary and recognizes high school seniors who live in Old Saybrook and demonstrate a passion and participation in the arts. Maselli, who will be pursing a double major in physics and music at Hamilton College in the fall, said that winning the scholarship was recognition of the hard work she had put in over the years for a variety of groups and

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Inland Wetlands Considers Complex off Spencer Plains Road

The Old Saybrook Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission agreed to move forward with an area electrical contractor’s application to build an office and warehouse building off of Interstate 95. The commission unanimously voted to accept and consider John Muir’s application for approval to build a 12,000 square foot building to serve as office and warehouse space, and a parking lot within 100 feet of wetlands on property he has contracted to buy at the corner of Spencer Plains and Buck Hill roads, just north of I-95 at exit 66. Muir said that he will use some of the space for

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Nursing Home Deaths in Old Saybrook Point to Deeper Policy and Care Concerns Across Connecticut

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OLD SAYBROOK — Over the last three weeks, 69 residents have tested positive and 19 have died from COVID-19 at Apple Rehab, a 120-bed care facility. That’s 74 percent of the total cases and 95 percent of the deaths in Old Saybrook as of June 9, according to the Connecticut River Area Health District.  Although the results of a recent inspection, part of the state’s effort to inspect all nursing homes for deficiencies in health and safety standards during the COVID epidemic, are still pending, the facility has been cited and fined a number of times in the past. In

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Penny Lane Pub Owner Alex Foulkes Receives Architectural Approval for Post Road Restaurant “Maple & Main”

OLD SAYBROOK — The Town of Old Saybrook Architectural Review Board approved the design proposal for a new restaurant, “Maple & Main” on Boston Post Road. Alex Foulkes, owner of the Penny Lane Pub on Main Street, has proposed converting an existing one-story commercial office building, located at 813 Boston Post Road, into a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch with occasional banquet services after normal business hours, according to the application materials. Foulkes requested approval for 75 seats, including 63 seats in the main interior dining room, seven seats under the front covered porch and five additional outdoor seats. The

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Old Saybrook to Purchase 20 Adirondack Chairs for the Town Green

The Town of Old Saybrook announced the Economic Development Commission will be purchasing 20 Adirondack chairs to “provide support for restaurants and provide additional seating,” according to Susie Beckman, economic development director for Old Saybrook. The chairs will be placed on the town green. “This is a concept that I had seen a couple of years ago that worked in another town where they were just doing some placemaking,” said Beckman. “By just adding some conversational areas with Adirondack chairs, it encouraged people to come and sit.” To start, the commission will arrange 20 chairs in four groups of five

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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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Women’s Business Development Council Reaches out to Small Businesses in Need

OLD SAYBROOK — The one mile stretch of Main Street is peppered with women-owned businesses getting hammered by the health — turned economic — pandemic and the Women’s Business Development Council wants to help. “If the women-owned businesses in our town, along Main Street and Boston Post Road, were to go away, it would drastically change the town,” said Old Saybrook Economic Development Director Susan Beckman. “These small businesses are incredibly important to not only our town character, but also the local economy.” Main Street is a microcosm within a macrocosm, according to Beckman. Much like the rest of the

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Old Saybrook to Hold Public Hearing on $47.1 Million Budget Tomorrow

OLD SAYBROOK — The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed budget of $47,173,356 for fiscal year 2020-21, an increase of $653,187, or 1.4 percent over the 2019-20 budget. The hearing will be in Old Saybrook Middle School’s auditorium at 60 Sheffield Street at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3. The Board of Education 2020-21 operating budget proposal, passed by the school board at their January 14 meeting, is for $26,781,023, which is $260,276 or 0.98 percent more than 2019-20. This year’s school board budget includes funds for a plan to phase in reduced tuition

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Tea Kettle Takes Top Honors at 24th Annual Old Saybrook Chili Fest

OLD SAYBROOK — More than 1,500 people filled Old Saybrook’s Main Street on Saturday for the 24th annual Chili Fest sponsored by the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce. “It’s only our third year participating, but it’s already become one of our favorite annual events,” said Kerri Chapps from The Little Pub. “We get to see everyone out and about and lots of familiar faces that frequent Little Pub.” The first table on Main Street, last year’s Judge’s pick was the Smoky Jack Daniels BBQ chili made by the Tea Kettle Restaurant in Westbrook. “We smoke the beef first and the

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Regional Planners Seek Federal Recognition as Connecticut’s County Government Equivalent

Connecticut’s regional councils of government are seeking to be federally recognized as the state’s equivalent of county government in an effort to make better use of federal data, be more competitive for certain federal grants, and streamline application processes. Sam Gold, chair of the Connecticut Association of Councils of Government, said that county lines in Connecticut are a “historical relic” of the 18th and 19th centuries. County governments in Connecticut were abolished by the state legislature in 1960.  Many of the roles filled by county governments in other states are covered instead by nine councils of government (COGs), which are

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Atlas Outdoor Fence Begins Site Work in Old Saybrook

Adjacent to Pasta Vita, Michael Picard – the owner of Atlas Outdoor Fence Company and the soon-to-be-built Hanford Commons – is constructing an outdoor business and contractor’s storage yard. The application from his new LLC – 215 Elm Street Associates – was approved by the Zoning Commission on February 19. Picard wasted no time and construction on the project began this Monday. Picard “plans to construct phase one of a commercial development that will provide contractor business storage, warehousing and manufacturing space,” according to Mike Ott, a civil engineer working for Picard. “Phase one improvements will include excavation and grading

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Art Emporium Moves, Esty’s Closes with Purchase of Main Street Location in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — The Art Emporium of Old Saybrook has moved and Esty’s Lamps has closed its doors after the purchase of 288-292 Main Street in January of 2020. “The building needs a lot of repair and it needs restoration, the new owners are going to repurpose it and we didn’t fit their vision,” said Robert Jerome, the owner of the Art Emporium. “It’s been a positive change for us, our new space is about two times the size so we can be more efficient and we have a more visible presence in town now.” Jerome, who moved recently to

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Old Saybrook Moves to Allow Lighted Playing Field, Studies Installation at High School

OLD SAYBROOK — Illuminated playing fields are no longer prohibited in Old Saybrook after February 18. If granted a special exception, lights up to 80 feet high could be erected on any property greater than 11 acres, owned by the town or Fire Company #1 and located in a Residence A or Industrial I district. Although no project has officially been proposed, this change could allow for lights to be built surrounding the Old Saybrook High School football field. “We certainly think there would be benefits [to adding lighting] for our students and, we hope, for the community,” said Old

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After Study Recommends Sewering into Connecticut River, 840 Parcels Pose Quandary for Old Saybrook

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OLD SAYBROOK — According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the town has only two options to resolve a water pollution issue dating to the 1970s: either install a water treatment and community septic system, or install sewers and a sewage treatment facility that would drain into the Connecticut River. “The final combination will mean some properties can be upgraded conventionally [with septic systems], but the majority of properties will likely funnel waste to another property in town or the river,” said Carlos Esquerra, a sanitary engineer at DEEP. “This is a tough choice for the town,

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Brownfields Survey in Old Saybrook Inches Forward Mariner’s Way Redevelopment

OLD SAYBROOK — In collaboration with the University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Brownfields Initiative, Old Saybrook will survey and determine which of 40 properties located on Route 1 East, from Saybrook Junction to Ferry Point Marina, are environmentally contaminated. “We have some suspicions, and there is a state list of potentially contaminated sites, but we don’t know for sure, because the research hasn’t been done,” said Susie Beckman, the economic development director for Old Saybrook. “We want the research done so we have a concrete list and know how to market them.” The survey is funded entirely by the Brownfields Initiative,

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Social Service Days in Old Saybrook Offer Local Opportunities for Area Families in Need

OLD SAYBROOK — The line for food stretched nearly the length of the parking lot. Young families, single adults and the elderly, holding cloth shopping bags, waiting outside of Grace Church on a chilly Thursday afternoon in Old Saybrook.  Inside, American Job Center and the U.S. Census Bureau had set up for recruiting, tables were filled with second-hand clothes, and a town nurse was checking residents for high blood pressure. “When I got here the line was already down the stairs and around the corner, filling the sidewalk to get inside,” said Sue Consoli, the director of Social Services in

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Old Saybrook Votes to Approve $49,000 for Parks and Rec Strategic Plan

OLD SAYBROOK — After a debate and vote before a packed room, the Town of Old Saybrook approved $49,000 from the capital non-recurring fund to hire a consultant to develop a strategic plan for the Parks and Recreation Commission focusing on four town parks. “We feel strongly that we need to improve our beaches, fields, parks and facilities that were mostly designed in the 50s. There are other towns that are better,” said Kevin Lane, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. “We need to put some tax dollars into planning what to do.” The hope, according to Lane

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Votes for 3.8% Budget Increase

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Police Commission voted on Monday to approve the chief of police’s recommendation of a $5,238,272 fiscal year 2020-21 operating budget for the Department of Police Services, a 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. For fiscal year 2019-20, the $5,046,205 police budget accounted for about 10.8 percent of Old Saybrook’s overall budget of $46,520,189, the most for any department in Old Saybrook’s municipal budget, excluding school spending. Police Chief Michael A. Spera said this year’s increase is driven by the contractual obligations of salaries, benefits, insurance, and other staffing costs. “The message that I have this

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12-and-Over Library Policy Raises Concern in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — At the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook, all children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. “It’s been our policy since at least 2004, but it was not enforced,” said Amanda Bouwer, the library director. “We aren’t here to act instead of the parent, so we ask parents with those under 12 to come with them. We just want to make sure everyone is safe and comfortable.” The child safety policy was reviewed, discussed and reapproved by the library’s board of directors this past November as part of the board’s efforts to

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Old Saybrook Board of Education to Phase-in Universal Pre-School

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Board of Education voted unanimously to authorize the superintendent to proceed with a phased-in approach to adding universal preschool for 4-year-olds in the Old Saybrook. “We move very deliberately in this district,” said Jan Perruccio, superintendent of Old Saybrook schools. “It is a safe way to pilot this that allows us to expand this without stretching it so far that it runs the risk of failing.” The phase-in will begin next school year, reducing preschool tuition from $4,300 to $3,450  for non-special education students, and increasing non-special education enrollment of 4-year-olds from 35 to 45 students.

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Old Saybrook Renovating North Cove Sheffield Street Dock for Spring 2020

OLD SAYBROOK — The Harbor Management Commission is overseeing a project to renovate the Sheffield Street dock facilities on North Cove by early April, replacing two floating docks, adding a raised landing to avoid flooding during high tides, and new racks for dinghies and kayaks. Harbor Management Commission Chair Robert Murphy said in a Thursday interview that these renovations are intended to make it easier for boaters to move their dinghies up to the dock and make the cove a more attractive destination for resident boaters and visitors. At any time, there are about 150 moorings in Old Saybrook’s North Cove,

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Town Meeting Passes Harbor Authority Ordinance, Adopts Annual Report

OLD SAYBROOK — Voters approved an amendment clarifying the Harbor Management Commission’s authority and adopted the 2019 Annual Report at Monday night’s Annual Town Meeting at Old Saybrook Middle School. Town Attorney Michael Cronin said that the amendment to the Harbor Management Commission language in the Town Code was a matter of “legal housekeeping” about “the jurisdiction of the commission.” The code in its earlier form gave the commission the responsibility to oversee the town’s waterways and related facilities, but the language was ambiguous as to whether the commission had authority over facilities beyond the water’s edge, such as the clothesline

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