Restaurants, Microbreweries, Adjust to the New Normal of Take Out and Delivery in Wake of Coronavirus Shutdown

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Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. It was also the first full day of a state-ordered shutdown of eat-in dining and bars for the foreseeable future in an effort to curb the COVID-19 outbreak. The phone started to ring at 11:20 a.m. with takeout orders, but business was down compared to a normal day, said Deb Corning, a family owner of the Monkey Farm Cafe in Old Saybrook. “St. Patrick’s Day is a big day for us. Normally we’d be full right now,” said Corning. “We’re not allowed to serve alcohol. Fortunately we have a lot of people who love it

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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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New London Adjusts to Coronavirus, Debates Help for Vulnerable Populations

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NEW LONDON — Several boxes of blue disposable latex gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer were placed prominently on a table that sat midway between the City Council and a few members of the public who attended the council meeting Monday night in the Congregate Room at the Senior Center. That afternoon, Mayor Mike Passero had issued an executive order that outlined public meeting protocols for city departments, agencies, boards and commissions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We want all boards and commissions to continue functioning. That’s the heart of our city, that’s our community but we’re all to provide

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East Lyme Declares State of Emergency, Closes Town Hall to Public, in Face of Viral Pandemic

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EAST LYME — All town buildings are closed to the public until further notice effective Monday night, after the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to uphold First Selectman Mark Nickerson’s declaration of a local state of emergency in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Nickerson told the selectmen at a Monday night emergency meeting that this declaration was about “being flexible and being prepared to change on the fly as appropriate.” Nickerson used his power to declare the emergency at 1 p.m. and the selectmen voted to uphold it at their 7 p.m. meeting. Town staff will continue to work,

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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 Town Halls Close, Residents Asked to Call Ahead Across Southeast Connecticut

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Many of southeastern Connecticut’s local governments are restricting public access to town halls and asking residents to call or email rather than show up in person in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. As of Monday, Waterford, Stonington, and Lyme have closed their town halls to the public, although staff continues to work and will offer services if contacted by phone or email. Libraries and public works facilities in those towns have also closed. Transfer stations in Waterford and Stonington will remain open but staff may be limited in how much they’re able to help the public,

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Connecticut Inches Toward Foreign-Trade Zone Business Opportunities

Foreign-trade zones are an underused economic tool in Connecticut, but that could change as more companies begin to understand how they work and become aware of their potential benefits.  The zones operate under the supervision of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and allow companies to manage the tariff or duty that is charged on imported materials or goods. Foreign-trade zones were once tied to a geographical area, usually next to a U.S. Port of Entry, such as the location for Connecticut’s four foreign-trade zones — Bridgeport, New Haven, New London and Windsor Locks, which are all ports of entry. But

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Deadlines for Proposed Waterford Solar Array Canceled

The Siting Council has canceled the March 31 public hearing for a solar project on Oil Mill Road in Waterford due to statewide measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  In a March 12 memo to parties and intervenors, Melanie Bachman, executive director of the council, said a new public hearing date for petition 1347A has not been chosen but the schedule will be posted on the project webpage. The March 24 deadline to file questions and testimony is no longer valid and will be revised when a new date has been determined for the public hearing. All other

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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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Declining Populations, Enrollments, Call into Question Viability of Elementary Schools in Essex, Chester and Deep River

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The proposed Deep River Elementary School budget jumps by 5.08 percent this year compared with just 3.28 percent for Essex and 2.01 percent for Chester. The increase for all three towns is driven primarily by the 5.5 to 8.5 percent increase in employee benefits, in particular the long-underfunded health insurance reserve. Re-negotiated union salaries and a town energy efficiency project loan are also contributing factors in the budget growth. Yet, despite this large increase, Deep River’s $5.53 million budget brings the projected cost per pupil to $23,538 — that’s more than $3,000 less per pupil than Chester’s projected cost. Essex,

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Clinton’s First Appointed Town Manager Talks Budget Planning, Sewers

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Karl Kilduff said that his first three months on the job have felt like drinking water from a firehose, but luckily as Clinton’s first appointed town manager, it’s not a process that he will have to repeat anytime soon. “In recent history there has been a lot of turnover, so by the time the selectman was up to speed on the issues they were running for re-election,” Kilduff said. According to Kilduff, the driving force behind the transition to a managerial form of government was to reduce turnover and hopefully foster a better functioning government.  In recent years Clinton has

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Testimony Due by March 24 for Hearing on 75-Acre Solar Array in Waterford

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NEW BRITAIN — The Siting Council has set March 31 for a field review, hearing and public comment concerning a reopened application for a 15.3-megawatt, 75-acre solar array project on 117 Oil Mill Road in Waterford.  Melanie Bachman, executive director of the council, led a pre-hearing conference at the Siting Council offices on Tuesday for a revised proposal by GRE Gacrux LLC, an affiliate of Middletown-based Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC. In 2018, the council rejected a larger version of the project, a 16-megawatt, 98-acre array with 55,692 panels. The revised proposal is to construct 45,976 panels on the site. The council

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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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Local Farms Are Planning Crops, Signing up CSA Shareholders for Summer Season

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The New England landscape may appear cold and desolate, but small farmers across the region are growing seedlings in hoop houses and planning summer harvests.  As a means of obtaining “seed” money, many of these farms set up CSA –Community Supported Agriculture — programs that allow customers to invest in a share of the business in advance of the growing season. Farmers then use the invested money in the winter and early spring months to buy seeds, supplies and equipment. In exchange for sharing the upfront costs, shareholders later receive produce during the summer and fall months.  Now is the

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In an Era of Cyber Threats, Tight budgets and a Shortage of Trained Professionals Challenge Town Defenses

In the early morning hours of January 10, the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments in Essex was hit with a ransomware attack that left their files encrypted with a demand to pay a foreign attacker. The agency’s work was “severely impeded,” according to Executive Director Sam Gold, because computers left on at the time were rendered inoperable and staff access to email was lost. Gold said that his agency does not currently have an estimate on the total costs of the attack, but said he “would not be surprised if the ultimate costs are close to $100,000” after

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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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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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As Labor Leaders Gather on Friday in Hartford, Faculty and Administrators Debate Consolidation of Community Colleges Across Connecticut

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In the hopes of improving student outcomes and reducing costs for state taxpayers, Connecticut’s twelve community colleges are expected to be consolidated into a single accredited institution in 2023. “Students First will help improve the success rate of our community college students which is not good at all right now, the lowest in New England actually,” said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. “It will address the equity gap that exists and thirdly put our community colleges on a sustainable financial path for the future.” According to Leigh Appleby, director of communications for the school

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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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Nickerson Suggests Further Cuts, as East Lyme Sends Draft 4.6 Percent Budget Increase to Board of Finance

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday to send a $77.63 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21 to the Board of Finance, but First Selectman Mark Nickerson said the budget will need further cuts before it goes to voters for a referendum in May. That budget represents an increase of about 4.6 percent over the previous year. “Where the budget is today is not passable,” Nickerson said during the selectmen’s meeting with Superintendent Jeffrey Newton. Nickerson said that the budget, in its current form, could require a mill rate increase of roughly 1.5, which he said would

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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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Delamar Hotel Approved for Mystic Seaport Waterfront

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STONINGTON — In a series of close votes Tuesday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved Mystic Seaport Museum’s plan to demolish the Latitude 41° restaurant and build a three-story, 27-room boutique hotel and restaurant on the same parcel. The museum owns and leases the 1.36-acre site at 105 Greenmanville Ave. where Latitude 41° Restaurant & Tavern is located. The new building, named the Delamar, was designed by architect Bruce Beinfielld of Norwalk, Conn. The proposed hotel will be set closer to the Mystic River than Latitude 41°, leaving space for a circular driveway in front with valet parking. The

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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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Letter: “Plowing forward,” on Chester Main Street Project Puts Businesses at Risk

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As a commercial property owner, concerned for the downtown and its merchants, I write to express my ever growing concern that the Main Street project is “plowing forward” to be completed this year in spite of the mountain of uncertainties. To move ahead without detailed plans for all possible uncertainties is irresponsible. It risks intolerable delays, including the discouragement and elimination of traffic on Main Street for extended periods and forcing small business to close for lack of business. In anticipation, several businesses have already announced they are shutting their doors. Sadly, once people are forced to go elsewhere to

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Board of Education Debates Funding, Equity, of Cooperatives, School Sports

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ESSEX/DEEP RIVER/CHESTER — Region 4’s Board of Education debated sharp disparities in budgeting for regional cooperative school sports at a Monday night meeting In one instance, members of the boys and girls hockey team pay $900 and $1,100 each, while athletes in 28 other sports offered by Valley Regional High School don’t pay to participate. “We have a responsibility to make sure it is equitable and correct this,” said Rick Daniels, a board of education member and Deep River resident. The boys co-op with East Haven began in 2018 and the girls’ program began this year with Daniel Hand High

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Needleman, Haines Take Questions on Vaccinations, High School Track, Marijuana, in East Haddam

EAST HADDAM — A state bill that would end the state’s religious exemption for mandated vaccinations was the dominant topic at a Monday forum with East Haddam’s two state legislators.  Amid questions from constituents, Rep. Irene Haines (R-East Haddam) and Sen. Norman Needleman (D-Essex) also touched on 5G infrastructure, medical marijuana, and funding for a track at Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Emily Maxfield, a resident of Portland, said that House Bill 5044 was “icing on the cake for how the state government has been absolutely crushing families. The conversation around the dinner table has now become ‘Why are we here?’

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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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Delayed Main Street Construction Raises Concerns in Chester, Merchants to Remain Open for Business

CHESTER — While bids are due on March 2 for the downtown area of the Main Street Project, delays have contributed an uncertain construction schedule that has left business owners and residents unable to plan ahead for spring and summer.  “Our merchants and property owners downtown are very nervous, understandably so. This is going to be a major disruption in the streetscape — sidewalks, drainage, paving, street — it’s a big project and it’s right in the heart of our village so they are looking for knowledge of exactly what is going to happen and we can’t give them that

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