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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Digital Tool Offers Public a Chance to Comment on Regional Development

RiverCOG has introduced a digital mapping tool that the public can use to provide input to the draft of the Regional Plan of Conservation and Development until Jan. 29.  “This map is just a tool for you and [it will] help us consolidate your thoughts and orient them geographically,” explained Sam Gold, executive director of the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments, known as RiverCOG, to about 35 people who attended the “Regional Workshop: Future Land Use Map, part 2” virtual meeting Monday night.  The interactive map, which includes a tutorial, allows the viewer to drop a pin in

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Conley Reintroduces Bill Increasing Access to Specialists for Medicaid Patients

State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, is reintroducing a bill in the state legislature to make it easier for New London County residents with Medicaid to access medical specialists.  The bill is meant to fill in a gap that exists, said Conley, for individuals who need “a little more care than primary care, but not emergency care.”  She said the bill targeted at, as an example, a person with mild high blood pressure, or a diabetic, or someone needing follow-up care after a surgery more specialized than they can receive at a Community Health Center. And not all private practices or

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ECSU Video Series Proves a Lifeline for Educators During the Pandemic

With nearly 900,000 views over the last year, an online video series from Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education has become a lifeline for instructors in the field whose students no longer have the opportunity to practice teaching skills in a classroom.  “I and so many others would not have been successful in a remote learning environment without these videos,” wrote Carol LaLiberte, the early childhood education coordinator at Asnuntuck Community College, in an email to the center’s director, Julia DeLapp.  “I used them before the pandemic but they were literally the difference between not being able to

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Looney Would Shift Sports Betting, Marijuana, Capital Gains Taxes to Distressed Communities

State reimbursements for tax-exempt properties have steadily declined over the past five years, leaving already distressed municipalities even more strapped for cash.   The PILOT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, program, pays municipalities a percentage of what they would receive for a property if that property were not either state-owned or being used for a tax-exempt purpose, such as a hospital or a community college. The current PILOT program is authorized to reimburse 100 percent of lost property taxes for any towns where more than 50 percent of the town is state-owned property, and at 45 percent for all other

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Republican Legislators See Role in Distribution of Federal COVID Funds

As the state legislature reconvenes amid a continuing pandemic, Connecticut Republican legislators are raising questions over who should be responsible for the allocation of any additional Coronavirus relief funds that may come down from the federal government.  According to State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, some legislators are considering a bill that would place a certain amount of existing and future Coronavirus federal relief money under the control of the state legislature.  State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said that no matter where the funding ends up being spent, the critical point was that the legislature should be able to have

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Cathy Osten Talks Mental Health, Workers Comp and Her Priorities this Session

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, returns remotely to Hartford for her fourth term representing a district that stretches from Marlborough to Ledyard. In a conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, Osten shares her legislative priorities for the upcoming session. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are your top legislative priorities for the upcoming session?  I’ve always been interested in mental health awareness and improvements in the system. I’ve been meeting with people about this throughout the pandemic and even before. The initiatives I’ll be focusing on during this session have been on the forefront of my agenda

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Subsidies a Bone of Contention as Renewable Energy Producers Seek Federal Ruling

Supporters of expanding renewable energy are headed for a showdown with New England’s energy market operator at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over an arcane rule that could have major implications in the near future for how much is invested in solar and offshore wind compared to natural gas. Debate over the true cost of developing solar and offshore wind projects has led to two competing proposals – one from the regional energy market operator ISO-New England and the other from the New England Power Pool, a voluntary organization of stakeholders in the regional market including Eversource, energy producers, and

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Connecticut Health Policy Project Director Weighs in on Needed Reforms

Ellen Andrews has served on over a dozen health policy committees in Connecticut. If it were up to her, they would all be eliminated.  “The best thing Connecticut could do is do away with all its committees and boards and task forces,” said Andrews.  Andrews has been the director of the non-profit Connecticut Health Policy Project, which publishes research and briefs about Connecticut healthcare policy, since it was founded in 1999. She also serves on the state Medical Assistance Program Oversight Council, which advises on Connecticut’s Medicare Program, and the Health Care Cabinet for the state Office of Health Strategy,

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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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Uncertain Supply, Limited Shelf Life Leaves Officials Scrambling to Administer COVID Vaccine

As Connecticut begins vaccinations for COVID-19, state and local officials are coping with the vaccine’s limited shelf life, and an unpredictable supply, as they work to immunize high-risk workers and nursing home residents first. The limited shelf life of the vaccines – six hours once the vial is open – means that health departments left with excess doses must quickly find an alternate or lower-priority person to vaccinate, or let the doses go bad. That’s the position Middletown found itself in when it was left with ten excess doses over two days of administering the vaccine to city firefighters last

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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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A Victory for Plum Island Advocates in latest COVID Relief Bill

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After 12 years, Plum Island is off the auction block because of a provision in the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed on Monday.  It’s been 12 years of fighting to prevent the sale of the island, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, during a public zoom call that included members of Preserve Plum Island Coalition, an alliance of more than 116 organizations  “We fought for years to prevent the sale to a developer. We tried locating it, at first, with the National Park Service then with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Schumer said.  Since 1954, the 840-acre

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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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Epidemiologists See Little Evidence of Classroom Spread of COVID in Connecticut

The Connecticut Examiner analyzed data from the state Department of Education that found that students in Connecticut are nearly as likely to report testing positive for COVID-19 if they study remotely, in person or in a hybrid model.  According to epidemiologists and experts in the state, that data tracks with the lessons they’ve learned over the fall semester, as students have returned to the classroom in some regions and stayed home in others.  Dr. Pedro Mendes, director of the UConn Center for Quantitative Medicine, built a model at the beginning of the pandemic to forecast PPE needs at UConn Health.

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Contrasting Solutions as Pandemic Adds Urgency to High Insurance Costs in Connecticut

Democratic and Republican state legislators are offering very different proposals on how to deal with one of the more pressing issues facing the legislature in January: the rising cost of health insurance.  Their proposals are not new. The cost of health insurance was a topic of debate long before the pandemic hit, but lawmakers from both parties agree that the pandemic has added urgency, and pushed government solutions to the forefront of what some until recently have treated as largely a personal problem. “If your neighbor doesn’t have health insurance, that affects you,” said State Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, who

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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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Groups Press Lamont to Allow Medical Assistants to Administer Vaccinations

The Hartford and Fairfield County Medical Associations are asking Gov. Ned Lamont to draft an executive order that would allow medical assistants to administer vaccinations.  In the letter from the Fairfield County Medical Association, the association’s president, Craig Olin, said that allowing medical assistants to administer vaccinations would help address the anticipated demand for the COVID vaccine.  “We anticipate that medical practices in Fairfield County and across the state will be deluged with requests for the vaccine,” read the letter.   Mark Thompson, executive director of the Hartford and Fairfield County Medical Associations, echoed this, saying that having medical assistants perform

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Lamont Joins Massachusetts, Rhode Island and D.C. in Carbon Cap and Investment Plan

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont and the leaders of two other northeastern states and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to pursue substantial reductions in motor vehicle pollution and invest $300 million per year in modernizing transportation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.  Governors Lamont, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia represent the first states of a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program.  The program, according to a

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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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Change Could Help Regions Compete for Federal Dollars

HARTFORD — A new proposal by the State of Connecticut and the U.S. Census Bureau would adopt Connecticut’s nine planning regions as “county-equivalent” geographical units used for tabulating census data. If approved, the change will increase eligibility for federal grants in the nine regions, which are represented by the Regional Council of Governments (COGs) made up of member municipalities. Many federal grants are designed for and around counties, making cities and towns in Connecticut ineligible. If the state’s planning regions are made equivalent to counties, then municipalities can join together through their COGs and submit for federal grants, said Sam

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Towns offer Health District ‘Verbal Commitments’ to 10 Percent of Announced Aid

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Ledge Light Director of Health Stephen Mansfield told CT Examiner on Saturday that he had secured a “verbal commitment” from nearly all of the 9 municipalities in southeast Connecticut served by the regional health district to share 10 percent of recent federal funding to be distributed among the municipalities. Gov. Ned Lamont had announced, in a Thursday press conference, that the state’s Office of Policy and Management would distribute the $45.5 million of federal CARES funding within the week. The announcement did not direct funding to health districts. Mansfield said that increased staffing costs, and state subsidies amounting to just

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