Essex Debates Fines as 73 Percent of Wetlands Permits are Issued After the Fact

ESSEX – According to Fred Szufnarowski, chair of the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission, 73 percent of wetlands permits in Essex — eight of 11 permits issued by the town in 2020 — were given out after the fact. That’s an increase from 2019, when five of 14 applied late, and from 2016, when three of 19 applied after the fact. “We see the trends there – instead of people coming to the enforcement officer to prepare an application and apply for a permit before the work starts, they go out and do the work, and if they get caught, then

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Connecticut Residents Can Now Renew Driver’s Licenses Online

The Department of Motor Vehicles will process renewals for driver’s licenses online starting February 15, Governor Lamont announced in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.  As long as residents do not need to change any of their license information, they will be able to renew their licenses through a new online portal that is the culmination of two years of efforts to modernize the department and minimize unnecessary in-person office visits, DMV Commissioner Sibongile Magubane said.  Connecticut joins 36 other states in allowing renewals to take place from home, and in those states, roughly 40 percent of renewals take place

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Amtrak Settles ADA Claims For Stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island

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Amtrak riders with disabilities may qualify in certain cases for monetary damages after the passenger rail service settled claims that dozens of stations across the country, including stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island, failed to meet legal standards for accessibility. Three stations in Connecticut — Windsor, Windsor Locks and Old Saybrook — and one in Westerly, Rhode Island were part of the settlement that included 78 stations across the country.  As part of the settlement, Amtrak agreed to fix problems of accessibility, and pay $2.25 million into a fund paying out claims to people with disabilities who were harmed by

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East Haddam Village Redevelopment Draws on Town’s History to Fuel Future Growth

EAST HADDAM – It’s now a barren parking lot surrounded by rusting guardrails and vacant, weathered former municipal buildings. But when local architect Jeff Riley looks at the site of his planned redevelopment of the downtown village, he sees shops, restaurants and apartments, many housed in a replica of the 1838 mansion of William H. Goodspeed, the banker and entrepreneur who built the namesake Goodspeed Opera House directly across the road in 1876. He sees a town green fronting the mansion and other buildings that will host holiday festivals, farmers’ markets and activities for children, a bike shop that will

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East Lyme Hires Consultant to Help Solve Drinking Water Issues

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EAST LYME — The town’s department of public works has contracted Tighe & Bond, an engineering and environmental consulting company, to investigate issues with taste and odor in the East Lyme water supply. Brad Kargl, the town’s utility engineer, said that East Lyme has conducted a number of tests in an effort to get to the bottom of a musty odor evident in the water supply for the southern portion of the town. After receiving about 20 complaints about the odor about 8 months ago – enough to raise concern for Kargl – the town began testing its source water

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Police Commission Votes on Personnel Query

OLD SAYBROOK — The town’s Police Commission voted 6 to 1 on Monday night to ask Chief of Police Michael Spera to compile a public report on the number of officers who have left the police department in the past 11 years.  The request was in response to a Jan. 12 letter from the Old Saybrook Board of Selectmen requesting that Spera produce a document providing the sworn personnel who have left the department, the length of time they remained and the reasons they provided for leaving. The selectmen asked that the document include officers’ exit interviews and any other

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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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Amtrak Adds Clearance to Connecticut River Bridge in Response to Local Concerns

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OLD LYME — In response to concerns from the maritime community concerning vertical waterway clearance, Amtrak has redesigned a portion of a new bridge that will replace the 1907 bascule bridge that extends across the Connecticut River between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.  The vertical clearance underneath the existing bridge is about 17.75 between spans and close to 18 feet under the movable span, according to an email from Craig Rolwood, a rail practice project manager with Hardesty & Hanover LLC, which is a consultant to Amtrak. The new bridge, an $400 million project expected to be completed in 2030,

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Big Y Plans Convenience Mart and Gas Station on Halls Road, Sparks Committee Discussion

OLD LYME — At its Thursday night meeting, the Halls Road Improvements Committee discussed potential plans for a Big Y Express gas station and convenience store on Halls road, sparking a discussion regarding zoning and an effort to walk back committee comments. Edie Twining, committee chair, who shared the information with the committee, said the Big Y company was interested in purchasing 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road (Route 156), both owned by Essex Savings Bank, which is adjacent to the properties.  The two connecting parcels would provide an “easy-in easy-out” traffic flow from Halls Road to Route 156

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Hearing on Thursday for Old Lyme Plan of Conservation and Development

OLD LYME — The Planning Commission will hold a virtual public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 5 p.m. to consider the adoption of the 2020 Plan of Conservation and Development.  To join the meeting, click on the webex link on the meeting agenda. The meeting access code is 179 105 9119 and the password is YsbhfM47Z2A. To join by phone, dial 408-418-9388 and use access code 173 8212293. By law, the town must revise the plan every 10 years and last did so in 2010. The deadline for Old Lyme to complete its revision was December but the state

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Selectmen to Consider Compromise for Public Access to Tantummaheag Landing

OLD LYME — Vehicular access and parking  — with new regulations and signage ––  will continue to be available at the historic town-owned Tantummaheag Landing if the Board of Selectmen approves recommendations from the Harbor Management Commission.  “There is really no solution that I can see that will make everyone 100 percent happy, but I think this is as close to that as I can see us developing,” said Steven Ross, vice chair of the Harbor Management Commission, at Tuesday night’s meeting.  In December, the adjacent property owners of 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road, George Frampton and Carla D’Arista, blocked

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East Lyme Goes to Court to Defend New Inland Wetlands Rule

EAST LYME – The owner of a local real estate company is taking the East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency to court to challenge its November vote to triple the town’s review area. Robert A. Blatt, of Niantic Real Estate, appealed the agency’s decision to expand its upland review area from 100 to 300 feet, a measure approved by a 5-2 vote in November after several months of deliberating over a proposal to increase the review area to as much as 500 feet. In a complaint filed in the Superior Court of New London in December, Blatt argued that the agency

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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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Lyme-Old Lyme Board Approves Turf Field, By a 6 to 3 Vote

OLD LYME — The Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education voted on Wednesday to approve the installation of an artificial turf field, with one modification: swapping the controversial crumb rubber infill for what was described as a more environmentally friendly substance.  Diane Linderman, chair of the Board of Education, said that the Facilities Committee had met in December and changed the plan for crumb rubber infill to a product called Brockfill, which are small organic pellets engineered from southern pine.  Neviaser said he hoped that the change would address some of the concerns that people had raised at previous Board of

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Town Plan Outlines Changes for Housing, Retail, and Coastal Properties in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — A draft of the town’s 2020 Plan of Conservation and Development is scheduled for a public hearing and potential approval by the town’s Planning Commission on Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. via Webex.  The state requires that towns review and update their plans at least once every decade, and the current plan dates to 2010. The draft includes substantive changes to the town’s approach to raising structures along the shoreline, to the town’s housing and zoning, and to the town’s long-standing preference for local shoppers along the commercial district on Halls Road. The plan also reiterates a

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Renewed Investment in Gas-Fired Energy Spurs Debate in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — A major energy company is pitching its replacement of two nearly 70-year old natural gas-fired turbines at a Middletown power plant as environmentally friendly, but local and statewide advocates for renewable energy question why new fossil fuel-fired infrastructure is being built at all. Princeton-based NRG has proposed replacing two gas- and fuel-powered turbines, built in 1958 and 1964, with one turbine that is more efficient and faster to start.  The 375-megawatt turbine will replace the same nameplate amount of megawatts as the two existing turbines, and generate lower emissions per hour, but the new turbine is also expected

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Trade Zone Expanded to Include New London County

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NEW LONDON — The City of New London has received approval to expand its Foreign-Trade Zone to include all of New London County. Foreign-Trade Zone #208, established in 1981 and comprising 138 acres around State Pier in New London, will expand as an Alternative Site Framework, which allows entire counties to be part of the service area under the jurisdiction of the foreign-trade zone.  The new framework will allow the 21 towns and two tribal nations — the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe — to join the zone. The city submitted its application in July and the Foreign-Trade

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Mervin Francis Roberts, 1922 – 2020

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With his wife, the former Edith May Foster, Mervin Francis Roberts first came to Old Lyme in 1960. He and Edith May became active in church, government, fire department and town life. Merv was born in New York City in 1922. He was a Naval Officer during WWII. He served in the Navy for four years, and then in the Reserve. He was awarded 4 campaign medals, two with Combat Stars. After his service, he returned to complete a degree in Ceramic Engineering at Alfred University.  He served as a Merchant Marine Officer, Scout Master and Commissioner, Town Shellfish Commissioner,

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Tourism, Traffic, Migrating Fish and Birds — All Part of Planning the Swing Bridge Overhaul

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EAST HADDAM – The first alert is a loud rapid-fire clang of a warning bell like at a railroad crossing, followed in quick sequence by flashing red lights and the wail of a siren. As the sound fades into the air high above the Connecticut River, vehicle-blocking gates on either side of the East Haddam Swing Bridge drop into place. Foot-high steel barriers rise from the deck as further precaution. In a small room over the bridge with windows on all sides, an operator scans live video monitors to ensure all is clear, then presses a series of buttons on

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Groton Launches Database to Aid Police Interactions with People with Autism and Disabilities

GROTON — The Groton Police Department is launching a new database to aid officers interacting with individuals with autism and disabilities. The Citizens At Risk Database, or CARD system, stores information about individuals who are on the autism spectrum or have handicaps or other disabilities. The system is voluntary – the individuals or their guardians fill out a form listing home address, physical characteristics and emergency contact information.  For people on the autism spectrum, the form includes spaces where people can list an individual’s likes and dislikes, atypical behaviors, things that calm them, and whether they have other risk factors,

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New Homeowner Limits Access to a 319-year-old Public Landing and Sparks Row

OLD LYME — Parking and a historic right of way to a public landing on the Connecticut River dating to 1701 were blocked by an nearby landowner placing boulders to limit access in November. The town-owned landing, parking area and right of way are wedged between two parcels of land — 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road — that were purchased by George Frampton and Carla D’Arista in September. “The issue is not about public access. We love people walking down the lane. We want to maintain public access. But the issue is about the use and parking of vehicles,” said

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Small Gyms and Large Chains Make a Case as Healthy Outlets During the Pandemic

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As the public debates the role that gyms may play in the spread of COVID-19, small local fitness centers are saying that their businesses are fundamentally different than large chains, as large chains assure the safety of their members. “Not all gyms are created equal,” said Sharon Marr, manager at UP Fitness, a privately-owned gym in Stonington.  At the start of the pandemic, Marr said, UP Fitness had to completely change its business model. They relocated to a much smaller facility and reduced their services to private classes of 10-15 people and one-on-one personal training. During the summer, they held

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Did Journalist Report Crimes?

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This reporter claims she was given information about illegal activity on behalf of cops in Old Saybrook. Did she report these crimes to the state’s attorney as she should? Did either of the ex-cops sign an affidavit or contact the state’s attorney as they would legally be required to? Does this report realize she published confessions from those 2 cops where they admitted they did something illegal? Crazy that all this was published without any fact-checking Jim BartellOld Saybrook

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St. Vincent de Paul Place Seeks Donations to Meet Demand; Charter Oak Matches total $400,000

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NORWICH — At St. Vincent de Paul Place in Norwich, 916 families found help at the food pantry this November. Last year, the pantry served 701 families in November, typically the busiest month, according to Tim Hathaway, marketing coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul Place.  The nonprofit, which is a ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Norwich, also distributed an average of 390 meals a day in November through their Community Meals program, which offers breakfast and lunch six days a week. And people made about 172 visits to the food pantry each day in November, up almost 40 percent

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Housing Plans Revived for Halls Road Redevelopment

OLD LYME — According to a real estate consultant hired to work on a masterplan for Halls Road, strong market demand for apartment rentals suggests that multi-family residential construction would be the most desirable option for redeveloping Halls Road. “There’s only one apartment for rent in all of Old Lyme. To get this, I went to realtor.com, Zillow, rent.com, apartments.com, and I interviewed, I think, eight different brokers. There’s one apartment, I mean, talk about a demand,” Maura Cochran, of Bartram & Cochran, told the Halls Road Improvements Committee during a presentation via zoom Monday night.  “There’s only one apartment

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Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center Secures Zoning Approval for Lyme Street Site

OLD LYME — The Zoning Commission has approved a special permit application for the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center to relocate to 100 Lyme Street, the current location of the Bee and Thistle Inn.  At its virtual meeting Monday night, the commission approved a special permit application and municipal coastal site plan review application to permit the use of the property for nonprofit and educational activities.  Claudia Weicker, the center’s board chair, said a condition of the purchase agreement of the inn was approval of the special permit application before the end of the year, which Weicker said was the

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Griswolds Add Solar Array for Tesla Trucks to Deliver Plants Across New England

OLD LYME — Matt and Martin Griswold, two brothers growing outdoor perennials, herbs and vegetables to sell wholesale across southern New England, are installing solar panels capable of generating 100 kilowatts of electricity that they will use to power Tesla electric trucks to carry their shipments. Soon the sun that helps grow the flowers and vegetables on Judge’s Farm will also power the trucks carrying them to buyers from Westchester County to Cape Cod. The farm currently uses a fleet of five diesel-powered trucks to carry shipments, Matt Griswold said, but they run through a lot of expensive fuel, frequently

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Clinton Chamber Raises Money for Small Businesses

CLINTON — The Clinton Chamber of Commerce is offering $200 grants to local small businesses that are struggling to pay their monthly bills.  Paul Orsini, executive director of the Chamber, said that the board decided to start fundraising for a grant program back in October, when they realized they were going to have to cancel all of their major events due to the COVID. He said that while $200 doesn’t seem like much, he knows from experience that it can mean a lot to a small business owner who is just starting out.   Through the support of some anonymous donors,

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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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