Colchester Board of Ed plans to Eliminate School Resource Officer Position

COLCHESTER — The Board of Education approved a budget Tuesday evening that would eliminate the school resource officer position from local schools. If approved by the town, the position would be shifted to the police department.  Jeffrey Burt, superintendent of Colchester Public Schools, said the district had discontinued programs that the officer previously provided, including the DARE program, opting instead to teach the same information during health classes.  “We’re not seeing the full benefits of the position,” said Burt.   He said that the schools had received grants to increase building security and that district’s four schools were located within a

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Without Delegation Support, Danbury’s $25 Million and Charter Schools in Doubt

DANBURY — A $25 million donation hangs in the balance if Danbury Prospect Charter School remains unfunded by state legislators for a third consecutive year.  In 2018, two Charter Schools — Danbury Prospect and Norwalk Excellence — were granted an initial certificate of approval by the Department of Education, but the schools cannot open until the legislature agrees to provide funding. In February, an anonymous donor pledged $25 million to the construction of Danbury Prospect contingent on annual funding from the state. So far, the chances don’t look good.  “Funding for the charter school was not included in Governor Lamont’s

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Killingworth Officials Announce Public Forums on Water Contamination

KILLINGWORTH — Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, were detected in three wells serving the age 55+ Beechwood Community, but only one of the wells exceeded state guidelines. Officials at Connecticut Water assured residents that the water, once treated, is safe to drink. Three wells registered levels of PFAS greater than 10 parts per trillion. Only one well exceeded the state guidelines of 70 ppt for the total accumulations of five specific PFAS chemicals in drinking water.  Connecticut Water stated in a release that because drinking water is treated, the guidelines “apply only to the treated water and not

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As Advocates Press for an End to High-Priced Prison Calls, State Officials Warn of Budget Costs

After Diane Lewis’ son went to prison at the age of 17, she said, the cost of prison phone calls started to overshadow everything else. “It wasn’t long before the utilities were being cut off, the gas was being cut off, I was late on the rent,” said Lewis, who is also the communications’ director at the Voices of Women of Color, a for-profit political advocacy firm in Hartford. In a public hearing on Monday, Lewis said that she even skipped meals so that she could talk to her son.  Lewis was one of several individuals who submitted testimony on

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With Vernal Pool in Question, Hearing for Halls Rd Gas Station to Continue

OLD LYME — Lack of current data on a vernal pool located near the proposed Big Y Express gas station and convenience store delayed the decision of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission during a public hearing on the project Tuesday night.   A six-bay gas station and 2,100-square-foot convenience store are proposed for connecting properties at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road that total 2.18 acres when combined. Essex Savings Bank, located on an adjacent property at 101 Halls Road, owns both parcels. The commission will decide whether or not the project will have significant impact on the vernal

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Senate Votes 30-3 to Delay and Amend Police Accountability Provisions

The State Senate approved a delay in provisions of last summer’s wide-ranging police accountability bill that would restrict when officers are allowed to use deadly force. The Senate voted 30-3 to pass the legislation, which will delay the starting date of new use-of-force standards implemented in the police accountability bill until Jan. 1, 2022, and amends language in those guidelines to ease some thresholds for action. The bill now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont for his signature. State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, was one of three senators who voted against the bill.  Bradley explained that when the legislature approved the

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Saybrook Point Restaurant Clears First Hurdle, Meets Favorable Response

OLD SAYBROOK — Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the former waterfront site of Dock & Dine, received the first of three necessary regulatory approvals at Monday night’s meeting of the town’s Zoning Commission. The Zoning Commission unanimously approved a zoning text amendment that will allow an outdoor restaurant for a maximum of 180 calendar days in the SP-2 zone, known as Saybrook Point.  The amendment created a regulation that allows the applicant, Jon Kadama, owner of the Dock & Dine parcel at 145 College St., and chef Colt Taylor, to apply for a special exception —

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Former Prisoners, Staff, Activists Testify on Connecticut’s Use of Solitary

As a number of former prisoners, activists, Department of Correction staff and ministers urged the Connecticut legislature to eliminate solitary confinement, Department of Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros asked instead for the time to lead the agency through a shift in culture. In a public hearing on Monday, a number of former prisoners testified on Senate Bill 1059, which would limit the use of isolated confinement and restraints, and would forbid the use of solitary on individuals with a diagnosed mental health condition. Daryl McGraw, who spent 10 years in Connecticut prisons, testified about his experiences in solitary confinement. “I’m very

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Selectmen Vote to Decline Offer of Korn Elementary

DURHAM — The Durham Board of Selectmen declined to take possession of the Korn School building from the Region 13 School District, citing concerns with the cost to renovate and operate the elementary school. Region 13 offered the former Frances E. Korn Elementary School to Durham at no cost, saying that if the town doesn’t take the building, the district would demolish it. The school board made the offer a year ago and set a deadline of March 31 for a decision. First Selectman Laura Francis attempted assemble enough information to bring the question to a referendum: Should the town take

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Two Bills Raise Concerns about Funding for Connecticut’s Magnet Schools

New state legislation could result in a significant loss of funding for regional magnet schools by preventing them from charging tuition to the local school districts.  Two bills currently under consideration in the legislature – “An Act Addressing Education Funding and Racial Equity” and “An Act Concerning the Establishment of a Money-Follows-the-Child Approach to Funding Public Education,” would make charter, magnet, and vocational agriculture and tech program funding dependent on a state formula that is largely based on the number of high-need students in a district rather than the school’s operational costs.   Magnet school directors say that this has the

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State Regulators Announce Limits to Eversource Cost Recovery

Eversource will be prevented from recovering a large portion of the costs of Tropical Storm Isaias, state utility regulators announced Friday evening in a draft decision based on an investigation into widespread and lengthy power outages stemming from the August storm.  The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will still take public comment on the decision before the board can vote on whether to approve the decision, but its investigation concluded that Eversource was not “reasonable or prudent” in managing its municipal liaisons, executing the Make Safe programs, communicating critical information to customers or in securing adequate resources in the first

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5 Ways the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan May Affect Your Finances

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law on March 11. Here’s what Connecticut residents need to know. Direct Payments If you are single and make less than $75,000, you will receive $1,400 from the federal government. That payment will phase out up at $80,000. If you are single and make more than $80,000 you are ineligible. Married couples making less than $150,000 will receive a full payment of $2,800, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent child. Couples with a combined income of between $150,000 and $160,000 will receive a fraction of the payment. Those who make over

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Housing Development in Madison Sparks Opposition, Legal Fight

MADISON — A proposed seven-unit development at 856 Boston Post Road may comply with the town’s new regulations for cluster housing, but a growing number of town residents oppose the project, including some who have hired an attorney to intervene in the process. The project would renovate the interior of The Ledges into two housing units and add a two-car garage for each unit. The 5-bedroom, 5,586-square-foot house was originally built in 1903 on 1.81 acres. Behind the house, two duplexes would be constructed, each with a two-car garage per unit, in addition to a single unit “gatehouse” home that

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Legislators Heard 12 Hours of Testimony on a Bill to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis in Connecticut

Legislators on the Public Health Committee listened to nearly 12 hours of public testimony, primarily focused on a bill to declare racism a public health crisis in the state of Connecticut. The hearing on Wednesday took up a few bills, but mainly centered on Senate Bill 1, An Act Equalizing Comprehensive Access to Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Care in Response to the Pandemic.  The bill declares that in the state of Connecticut, racism is recognized as a public health crisis and, if passed, would establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine racial disparities in public health across state

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Federal Aid Announced to Compensate Connecticut Restaurants for 2020 Losses

A loosening of pandemic restrictions and a large federal aid package could represent a turning point for Connecticut restaurants according to Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. “For us, to get a specific restaurant fund … this is huge, it’s a big deal,” Dolch told CT Examiner at a press conference in Manchester on Thursday. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, includes a “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” of $28.6 billion.   As written, the legislation will compensate restaurants for the full amount of business losses in 2020 when compared to 2019 revenue. 

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An Early Flood of Applications as Federal Aid is Directed Toward Late Rent and Electricity Bills

Since the program was announced on Tuesday, over four thousand households have applied for help paying off overdue electric and rent bills using $235 million of federal COVID aid to Connecticut. The payments are available to landlords of tenants who are earning up to 80 percent of the HUD median area income. The application process requires tenants and landlords to work together to complete designated sections of the application for assistance. They can start the application process online. The program, called UniteCT, can provide landlords up to $10,000 in rental assistance and up to $1,500 in assistance for overdue electric

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A Debate Over Charter Schools that Complicates Partisan Lines

If Senate Bill 949 passes, all taxpayer funded schools – public, charter, vocational and magnet – will receive no less than $11,525 in funding through a combination of state and local monies.  In other words, all publicly-funded schools would receive a “foundation amount” for the first time.  “Charter schools have never received the full foundation amount, we’ve gradually been bringing it up,” said State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the state Appropriations Committee. In total, almost 11,000 students attend charter schools, about 2 percent of the total student population, and this year each charter school received $11,250 per pupil. 

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Courtney Fields Questions on COVID Aid

Congressman Joe Courtney held a tele-town hall Wednesday evening to answer constituent calls about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, took questions on everything from childcare providers and vaccine distribution to special education and PPE manufacturing. Education issues came up throughout the call, with one caller from Mystic, who said his daughter has experienced significant learning loss from not being at school in-person, asking Courtney about whether the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will help mitigate learning loss.  “My heart goes out to you,” responded Courtney, who said the competing demands placed

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A Rundown of Testimony from Local Residents on New Housing and Zoning Rules Proposed by Desegregate CT

Legislators, local officials and members of the public testified in total for more than 24 hours and submitted an additional 365 letters — splitting roughly 60 percent in favor to 40 percent opposed to Senate Bill 1024. The bill represents the platform of Desegregate Connecticut, an affiliate of the Regional Plan Association and self-described coalition of more than 60 organizations focused on an “overall goal of tackling segregation in land use laws.”  Below are excerpts from letters for and against the bill from residents of southeastern Connecticut:  … I strongly believe that the zoning reforms in SB 1024 will positively impact communities across

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Legislators Debate Two Alternatives for Funding Connecticut’s ‘Choice’ Schools

So you have a child who loves insects, airplanes and playing with a toy doctor’s kit. You want to send her to a science-focused magnet school in New London, but you live in Montville.  The way it works today, the state will provide some funding to the magnet school to support your child’s education, but it will also send a portion of the funding to schools in Montville. In 2021, the district of Montville would receive $5,659 — the per-pupil grant determined by the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula — and the magnet school would receive between $3,060 and $8,050

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House Legislators Vote 147-0 to Assert Legislative Oversight of Federal COVID Funds

Connecticut House lawmakers on Tuesday took a step towards asserting legislative oversight over how federal COVID relief funds are spent. State representatives voted 147-0 to advance a bill to the State Senate that would require Gov. Ned Lamont to ask lawmakers to approve his plans to distribute federal COVID aid, using a process similar to how the state sets its budgets. Like in the budget process, Lamont must have his proposal for spending Connecticut’s share of the $1.9 trillion COVID aid package, which Congress approved last week, reviewed by the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee and approved by the General Assembly.

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House Votes 146-0 to Delay and Amend Use of Force Provisions for Connecticut Police

The Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced a bill that would delay and curtail provisions of a wide-ranging police accountability bill approved by lawmakers last July restricting when police officers can use deadly force. The bill, which passed by a vote of 146-0, delays the starting date of new use-of-force standards to Jan. 1, 2022, and amends language in those guidelines to be more accommodating to police officers. The House’s bill will now head to the Senate for approval. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters before the House met that he believes the bill passed

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Courtney to Hold Tele-Town Hall on Wednesday to Answer Questions on $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan

Congressman Joe Courtney will hold a tele-town hall Wednesday, March 17 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM to answer constituent questions about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.  Courtney, a Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, said in a press release that he hopes to shed light on what the newly passed COVID relief bill will mean for the communities he serves.  “Passage of the bill extended Unemployment Insurance, it authorized a new round of funding for local restaurants and small businesses, and it directs support straight to our towns that will fund strained essential services from firehouses and police

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State Warns of Scams Targeting Vaccination Efforts

COVID-19 vaccination scams targeting Connecticut residents are on the rise, Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong said. State leaders are sounding the alarm to raise awareness of the vaccine distribution system, and ensure that residents are not taken advantage of.  The Office of the Attorney General and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection released information about two new scams, one in which people posing as vaccine manufacturers offer rewards for filling out a vaccine survey, but ask for credit card information to ship a reward. In another scam, residents received a fake letter from the governor’s office directing

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Housing Debate in Legislature Stretches into Day Two

As of 6 p.m. Monday, the debate regarding the controversial zoning bill 1024 in the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee had lasted eight hours, with a few brief breaks to discuss other legislation. At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, the debate continued… “It allows towns to focus development around infrastructure where it already exists in our main streets and train stations in those areas representing less than one percent of the state. Local town boards would write the rules in advance and the staff would administer them — that’s what we mean by ‘as of right,’ not a free for all,”

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Lamont Announces a Faster Timeline for COVID Vaccinations

All Connecticut residents aged 16 and older will be eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations starting April 5 — one month earlier than previously scheduled, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at a press conference on Monday. Residents 45 and older will now be able to register beginning Friday — the same day as Connecticut’s reopening of restaurants and other establishments to 100 percent capacity.  “There’ll be a bit of a rush, so if you’re relatively healthy, you maybe don’t have to go to work every day, you can telecommute, perhaps you think you had some sort of a mild infection in the

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MIRA to Close Hartford Recycling Center for Center in Berlin

Unable to find funding to renovate its recycling facility in Hartford, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, or MIRA, agreed instead to send recyclables to a private facility in Berlin.  The authority serves about 70 towns across the region. The MIRA board voted to approve a six-year agreement to have Murphy Road Recycling replace FCR – owned by Republic Services – as MIRA’s contractor for processing recyclables in May. The Hartford facility, which MIRA says is in dire need of upgrades to continue operating, will be “mothballed,” and will serve as a transfer station for the foreseeable future. MIRA President

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‘A lot more moving parts,’ Old Saybrook Official Says of Restaurant Approval

OLD SAYBROOK — A zoning text amendment change is one of three approvals needed for Smoke on the Water, an outdoor restaurant proposed for the former Dock and Dine site at 145 College St.  Christina Costa, zoning enforcement officer for the town, said the text amendment on the Zoning Commission agenda tonight must receive approval and an effective date must be set before the commission can consider the applicant’s request for a special exception for an outdoor restaurant.  “You can’t approve the special exception without the regulation being approved first,” said Costa. The applicant, Jon Kodama, owner of the Dock

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