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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U.S. News Ranks Groton Magnet 10th in State, Lyme-Old Lyme 17th, Old Saybrook 22nd

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Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton ranks 10th in the state and 532nd nationally of public high schools according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings. “LEARN’s Marine Science Magnet High School is a special community of intensely committed educators, students, and families,” said LEARN Associate Executive Director Dr. Ryan Donlon. “It is an honor to have the hard work and partnership of these three groups be recognized by U.S. News & World Report.” In Connecticut, 207 high schools were analyzed for the report and nationally 17,792 schools were included. The report highlighted Marine Science Magnet’s 100%

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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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Poignant Show by Singer-Songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan at Old Saybrook’s Kate

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Irish-American singer-songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan summons all the whirring, humming, soaring, straining sounds of the cosmos in her latest solo project, Bull Frogs Croon (And Other Songs). The swoop and plumb of the strings, the poetry in the lyrics, left palpable vibrations in the air in her live performance at The Kate in Old Saybrook on a mid-March Wednesday night, in a set that drew from European classical repertoire, through bluegrass, through O’Donovan’s own compositions. It was a poignant show. The first event of O’Donovan’s U.S. and world tour, the audience responded enthusiastically to a generous set of songs. It could

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Old Saybrook High School Drama Club Stages “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Opening March 12

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OLD SAYBROOK — Old Saybrook Senior High School students have been practicing their tap dancing and hair bobs for a production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a musical set in the Jazz Age, opening March 12. “The story itself is pretty traditional musical theater… naive young girl comes to New York hoping to find a man and her goal is to marry the boss,” said director Lenore Grunko, an adjunct theater lecturer at Eastern Connecticut State University. “And then there’s a subplot that gets very convoluted where she’s staying in a hotel with a hotel owner who’s running a white slavery ring

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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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With Stores Opening in Darien and South Windsor, Pasta Vita Feeds Families, Fosters Community

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OLD SAYBROOK — In 1992, Rich Cersosimo, a new IBM retiree, and Lou Castanho , a chef just four years out of culinary school decided to work together to make and sell wholesale ravioli. They named their venture Pasta Vita. Four years later, they began catering to the retail market and Cersosimo and Castanho haven’t looked back. “We were producing all this pasta in Old Saybrook and yet loading it on trucks, shipping it away and we couldn’t feed any of the people here,” Castanho said. “We had people coming to the back door and asking for dishes to take

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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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Dagmar’s Stollen and German-style Sweets a Favorite for the Holidays

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OLD SAYBROOK — “Of course Christmas is the time of the stollen but it’s such a good pastry, why not offer it throughout the year,” said owner Dagmar Ratensperger at her shop on Saturday morning where a stream of pastry lovers bustled in and out. “My customers know it and they buy it all year long but if you’re someone coming from Germany, they say it’s a little funny.”  The traditional fruit bread is eaten during the Christmas season in Germany, but at Dagmar’s Desserts it became so popular now it’s available all year round. This time of year, the

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Max Creek Brings Joyous Jams to The Kate

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The Connecticut-based group known for an eclectic musical style mixing rock, jazz, soul, country and Calypso with jams in the vein of the Grateful Dead and Phish is playing The Kate Friday, December 6, 2019 at 8:00 pm. The 250-seat venue is located on the Main Street of Old Saybrook.  With a steady grouping since the mid-1970s of guitarist Scott Murawski, keyboardist Mark Mercier and bassist John Rider, Max Fish got its start almost a half-century ago in Hartford before current drummer percussionists Bill Carbone and Jamemurrell Stanley were born. According to Rider, the band was started to “give people

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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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No Gateway Approvals for “Living Shoreline” Project off Fenwick

OLD SAYBROOK — The living shoreline planned by the Connecticut River Conservancy and Lynde Point Land Trust for Fenwick will be the second public project of its kind, but three other living shoreline projects have been constructed successfully by private landowners since the 2012 legislation permitting them was passed.   “In 1980 a law was passed limiting the use of hard flood and erosion control structures, but in 2012 an exception was passed,” said Brian Thompson, director of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection land and water resources division. “A living shoreline is an example of that exception with structural

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Sunny Weather in Beach Season Brings Increase in Parks Revenue

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OLD SAYBROOK — Harvey’s Beach and mini golf games showed a hearty increase in gross income of 13 percent during the 2019 beach season compared to last year, which the town’s parks director said was likely due to consistently warm and sunny weather during summer weekends. “I think we had a really good summer. The weather always plays a major factor in what we’re doing in our summer facilities,” said Parks and Recreation Director Raymond Allen. “If you recall this summer every weekend was beautiful and that certainly is a factor. Our weekends tend to be more busy than during

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Fenwick is Site of Second Living Shoreline Project in Connecticut

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Last winter, after years of increasing erosion exacerbated by sea level rise, Long Island Sound breached a protective sand dune offshore of Fenwick leaving a recently restored marsh behind it vulnerable. “There is concern that there is going to be more flooding, especially during large storm events,” said Juliana Barrett, an extension educator for the Connecticut Sea Grant project at the University of Connecticut who has been working in Fenwick for more than a decade. “The other thing is the sociological aspect of it. There is an informal walking path around the beaches of Fenwick. This is where you would

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Courtney Boosts Job Training to Old Saybrook Rotary

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OLD SAYBROOK — Congressman Joe Courtney said Wednesday that Electric Boat is expected to add jobs in the coming years but that schools and governments will need to support workforce training programs to ensure that there are enough workers with the technical skills. Courtney took questions and had lunch with the Rotary Club of Old Saybrook at Luigi’s Restaurant that afternoon. EB and the U.S. Navy are currently working on a contract — which Courtney said was worth roughly $20 billion — that would have the Groton-based manufacturer building at least nine Virginia-class submarines between fiscal years 2019 and 2023.

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Four Candidates Vie for Three Seats on Old Saybrook Harbor Management Commission

OLD SAYBROOK — Four candidates are competing for three seats on the town’s Harbor Management Commission in this Tuesday’s elections. The harbor commission is responsible for managing Old Saybrook’s harbors and waterside facilities, as well as public access to the town’s waterways. The commission also oversees a harbormaster, who handles day-to-day operations for the town. The commission has a total of five seats with staggered elections and four-year terms. The candidates in this election are an equal mix of incumbents and newcomers. According to commission chair Robert Murphy, during the next term the commission will likely update the Harbor Management Plan.

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Recapping Board of Selectmen, Old Saybrook Considers Harbor Commission Jurisdiction

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Board of Selectmen reviewed a proposed ordinance revision that would clarify that the harbor commission has jurisdiction over Old Saybrook’s waterways and all waterfront facilities as assigned by the selectmen. Town attorney Michael Cronin Jr. and Harbor Management Commission Secretary Paul Connolly explained at the meeting that the current ordinance is not completely clear whether the commission has that power. Earlier this year, orne commission member had questioned whether the commission had power over facilities located above the high tide line. “We were reviewing things and it became clear that it was unclear,” Connolly said. Cronin

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