Unwanted Route 9 Development, a Concern for Essex Planning and Zoning

ESSEX — In the first public hearing on a proposal to give businesses additional flexibility to develop a variety of new projects around exit 3 on Route 9, members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission raised concerns that the change in zoning could pave the way for development which they felt was wrong for the area. According to consulting planner John Guszkowski, the proposal includes a list of allowable uses that align with what is already allowed in the mix of existing zones that surround the exit, but aren’t necessarily allowed across the entire area. Guszkowski said that the

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Stonington Voters Reject Tax Abatement for Affordable Housing Developer, Approve Cannabis

STONINGTON — With heavy voter participation on Tuesday, residents rejected a previously approved fixed tax assessment for an 82-unit affordable housing project slated for the Campbell Grain property in Pawcatuck. Voters also rejected — 2,106 to 1,816 — a cannabis prohibition ordinance, clearing the way for the town to allow one cannabis retailer and one grower in both the Town of Stonington and the Borough of Stonington. Residents voted 2,764 to 1,173 to reject the 10-year $690,748 fixed abatement for developer WinnDevelopment that had been approved by voice vote at a town meeting on August 9. The company would have

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Lyme-Old Lyme to Consider Cost of Renovating Schools to ‘As New’

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LYME-OLD LYME — On Thursday night, the architecture firm QA + M presented the initial findings of its study of the Lyme-Old Lyme Public Schools. In June, the district approved a contract with the Farmington-based firm for $45,850 to evaluate the need for improvements to Mile Creek, Lyme School, Center school, as well as the district middle school. The study was paid for with federal funding.  At the meeting, Rusty Malik, a principal at QA +M and Angela Cahill, an architect for the firm, discussed the current conditions of the buildings and offered suggestions about how the district could address

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Connecticut Towns Take Different Approaches to Allowing Marijuana Businesses

As many Connecticut towns take a wait-and-see approach to recreational marijuana — passing a moratorium to allow 6 months to a year to evaluate the situation — other towns are moving more quickly in an effort to provide clarity and allow preparations for potential applicants to enter the state lottery for growing and retail licenses next year. Laurie Zrenda, the former owner of the medical marijuana dispensary Thames Valley Relief in Uncasville, has taken a pro-active approach in hopes of securing a state permit to operate a recreational marijuana dispensary in her hometown of East Lyme. Zrenda said she bought

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Across New York and Connecticut, MTA Issues 18 Summonses in Mask ‘Blitz’

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority issued 18 summonses between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29 — nearly half as many as were issued since the start of the pandemic — for passengers failing to wear masks on public transportation.   In response to a request for data specific to Metro-North, MTA spokesman Michael Cortez told CT Examiner that the transit authority was able only to provide aggregate numbers across the entire system. The stepped-up enforcement is part of a recent campaign to ensure that riders abide by a federal order by Centers of Disease Control that riders must wear masks on public transportation

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Tax Abatement at Issue as Campbell Grain Moves to Referendum

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STONINGTON — A referendum on Tuesday to stop a previously approved tax abatement for an affordable housing project in Pawcatuck has exposed financial and social rifts in the community that extend into town politics.  At the Aug. 9 town meeting, residents approved by voice vote a $690,748 tax abatement over 10 years for WinnDevelopment, an affordable housing developer that has proposed the construction of 82 apartments — including 65 affordable units— on the long vacant Campbell Grain property, a 1.89-acre parcel at 15 Coggswell St. and 27 W. Broad St. According to the agreement, WinnDevelopment will pay $695,000 in taxes

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Questions Remain as Dept. of Agriculture Moves to Close Investigation of Death

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has made a preliminary decision that cruelty did not play a role in the death of a Lyme show horse at a Marlborough barn last month, but the owner of the horse has questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, saying that she still has not been told the location of the body. “I have not been able to find any evidence of cruelty in the matter,” Tanya Wescovich, the state animal control officer, wrote Dana Ramsey Maxwell, owner of the 7-year-old horse, Beatrix, in an email this week. “Both the state’s veterinarian and Dr. Sears

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Shoreline Schools Report High Staff Vaccination Rates

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Shoreline schools across eastern Connecticut are reporting high rates of compliance with Gov. Ned Lamont’s vaccine mandates, according to numbers provided by the  districts.  Lamont signed an executive order in September requiring that all K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption. School employees are allowed to opt-out of the vaccination, but must undergo weekly testing for the virus.  All the employees listed under the order were required to receive the first dose of a vaccine by September 27,  Of the districts stretching from Waterford to Guilford

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Connecticut Lawmakers Convene Panel on Healthcare Cost Strategies

If the cost of food in the United States had increased since the Second World War at the same rate as healthcare, a dozen oranges would cost $57, a gallon of milk $160. That’s according to Katherine Gudiksen, a senior health policy researcher for The Source on Healthcare Price and Competition, a project of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Gudiksen was one of six researchers, government officials and policy experts who presented to a bipartisan group of Connecticut state legislators on strategies that can be used to lower the cost of healthcare — and, by extension,

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Ed Chmielewski Makes His Case for First Selectman of Salem

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Republican Ed Chmielewski is running for First Selectman of Salem against Democrat Hugh McKenney for an open seat left be departing incumbent Kevin Lyden, who has instead opted to run for the position of selectman. Lyden served six terms, running unopposed in 2019, as a petitioning candidate against Democrat Sue Sprang in 2017, as a Democrat against Chmielewski in 2015, and as a cross-endorsed candidate in 2013. Lyden won handily, with 69 percent of the vote in 2017 and 65 percent of the vote in 2015.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Chmielewski about his campaign and priorities if elected. This

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Middletown Developer Pitches Big Plans for Mixed-Use, Business and Events Space

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MIDDLETOWN – Stripped down to its brick walls and steel beams, the inside of 545 Main Street is almost a blank canvas for new owner, JR Hargreaves. A lifelong resident of Middletown, who first lived on Ferry Street just a few hundred feet away from the building – Hargreaves has plans to transform a space that for decades was home to an indoor roller skating rink into a mixed-use development combining apartments, office and retail space for small businesses, and a community event space. After months of teardown, the back of the building that housed the roller rink is now

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Jennifer Tooker Makes a Case for Westport First Selectwoman

Westport Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, a Republican, is running for the job of First Selectwoman, facing off against Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg for the open seat. Incumbent First Selectman Jim Marpe, who was first elected in 2013 and most recently won reelection in 2017 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to his Democratic opponent’s 45 percent, is not seeking reelection. The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Tooker about her campaign and priorities if elected.  This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for First Selectman of Westport?  My husband and I moved to Westport 13 years

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Child Marijuana Poisonings Expected to Jump, UConn Wants Funding for the Response

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In a phone call with CT Examiner, Dr. Suzanne Doyon, medical director at the Connecticut Poison Control Center, discussed a request to fund two additional positions in an anticipation of a significant rise in child poisonings given the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. Doyon said she was most concerned about an increase in small children ingesting edibles, which she said make up about half the calls the center receives each year.  Even before the legalization, Doyon said, calls had been on the rise.  “I’m just concerned because children being admitted to the ICU… it’s just not fun,” she said.  Doyon

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From Flooding to Charter Revision — Steinberg Sketches Out a Plan for Westport

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State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, is running on the Democratic ticket for First Selectman of Westport. Jim Marpe, the incumbent, is not seeking reelection. Marpe most recently won reelection in 2017 with 50 percent of the vote, compared to his Democratic opponent’s 45 percent.   Steinberg will face off against Republican Jennifer Tooker, who currently serves as selectwoman, for the open seat.   The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Steinberg about his campaign and priorities if elected to the seat. This interview has been edited for clarity. What inspired you to run for First Selectman of Westport?  I’ve had the great blessing of growing

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Few Objections to 11-Acre Solar Project Planned for Durham Farmland

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DURHAM — An 11-acre proposed solar project under consideration by the state’s Siting Council has not so far drawn significant objections from its neighbors — or from state agencies, which have primarily criticized the project’s use of about eight acres of farmland and its proximity to wetlands. Proposed by Suffield-based solar developer Louth Callan Renewables, the solar project slated for Haddam Quarter Road in Durham is among the smallest that the siting council will review. With a capacity of 2.8 megawatts, it is just above the 2 MW threshold where the siting council has authority over solar projects. The proposed

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Republicans and Democrats on Old Saybrook Police Commission Debate Privacy, Oversight

OLD SAYBROOK — Claiming the need to exercise oversight, Democrats on the Old Saybrook Police Commission refused to turn over copies of a complaint against the town’s police department, despite Republican commissioners and Chief of Police Michael Spera insisting that keeping copies of the document violated the right of victims to privacy.    Copies of the complaint were sent to Town Hall addressed to each of the commissioners by name according to commission member Alfred “Chub” Wilcox.  At a meeting of the commission on Monday, Chair Frank Keeney requested that all of the commissioners return their copies of the complaint to

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Local Manufacturers Encourage Robotics Classes in Westbrook Public Schools

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WESTBROOK — At 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, seventeen teenagers huddled around lab tables in the back of a science classroom trying to prompt a half-dozen crablike blinking robots to wake up and move their legs.  Screws and plastic robotic legs are scattered across the table, along with a stray Dunkin Donuts bag and a bottle of Coke. Laptops are open to tutorial videos for robot-building (and the occasional soccer game being watched on the sly). Blue boxes filled with robot parts, user manuals and makeshift cardboard stands are labeled with group names. The Martian Manhunters. The Flying Crab. 

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Hugh McKenney Makes a Case for Salem First Selectman

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With incumbent First Selectman Kevin Lyden opting not to seek an additional term in office, Democrat Hugh McKenney is running for the open seat in a race against Republican Ed Chmielewski. Lyden served for six terms, running unopposed in 2019, as a petitioning candidate against Democrat Sue Sprang in 2017, as a Democrat against Chmielewski in 2015, and as a cross-endorsed candidate in 2013. Lyden won handily in 2017, with 69 percent of the vote, and with 65 percent of the vote in 2015.  McKenney, who is a member of Salem’s Board of Selectmen and formerly chaired the Planning &

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$400,000 Purchase of Open Space Heads Toward a Vote in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — The Open Space Commission has signed a contract for $400,000 to purchase a 35-acre lot on Whippoorwill Road adjacent to the town’s 195-acre Ames Open Space property. In a phone call with CT Examiner, Open Space Co-Chair Amanda Blair said that the commission had approached the owner of the property in December 2020 or the following January. “It’s a beautiful gravel road and we can put a small ‘hammerhead’ turnaround for buses and cars and that splits existing Ames into two,” said Blair. “You turn right to go to the Native American caves or shelters and turn

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Employees Claim a Pattern of Abuse at Groton Utilities

GROTON – According to disciplinary records obtained by CT Examiner, complaints by employees of Groton Utilities suggest a pattern of hostile and abusive behavior including bullying, tantrums and threats, that led to the ongoing suspension of Director Ron Gaudet. A number of attempts to reach Gaudet for comment have been unsuccessful. “You don’t know what you’re doing … I am gonna be your worst f….ng nightmare,” Gaudet threatened one employee as he pounded on his desk, according to one employee complaint. “I will sign your retirement paperwork and walk you out the door right now,’ he screamed at another employee

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In Special Session, House Approves Extending Emergency Powers in 80-60 Vote

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HARTFORD — Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 80 to 60 on Monday to extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency executive powers until February 15, 2022. 10  Democrats joined the Republican caucus in opposing the extension.  In a special session, legislators elected to renew the declaration of public health and civil preparedness emergencies first issued on March 10, 2020. The public emergency declarations would have expired on September 30 without this sixth extension.  The State Senate is expected to vote tomorrow to approve the measure. In a letter to legislators, Lamont argued that given the rise of the delta

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WPCA Chair Presents a $2.7 Million Sewer Project For Developing Ledyard Center

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LEDYARD – Town officials last week presented a plan that would open up Ledyard Center to multi-family housing developments by using state and federal money to extend a sewer line to the area. At its meeting last Wednesday, the Town Council heard the proposal to complete the $2.7 million project without using any town funds – instead using federal money given to towns from the American Rescue Plan act and a new state matching grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development. Water Pollution Control Authority Chairman Ed Lynch said the plan still needs to be finalized before it

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Tara Ochman Makes a Case for Election as First Selectman of Darien

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Given longtime Republican First Selectman Jayme Stevenson’s decision not to run for another term, Democrat Tara Ochman is hoping to turn Darien blue. Stevenson ran for reelection without Democratic opposition in 2019, and garnered 90 percent of the vote against a petitioning candidate. In 2017, she beat out a Democratic challenger with more than 70 percent of the vote.  Ochman, a former chair of Darien’s Board of Education, will face off against Republican Monica McNally, a member of the Board of Selectmen and eight-year veteran of the Representative Town Meeting.  The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Ochman about her campaign and

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Shoemaker and Lampos Make a Case for Selectmen of Old Lyme

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CT Examiner sat down with Old Lyme Democrats Martha Shoemaker, a candidate for First Selectman, and Jim Lampos, a candidate for Selectman, to discuss their campaign for the November election. Shoemaker is a longtime member of the Old Lyme Board of Education. A native of New London, she and her family moved to Old Lyme in 1996. She was a teacher for 35 years and now works for a small business in Old Lyme, FiberQ. Lampos is a member of the Community Connectivity Grant Committee, which has overseen the installation of sidewalks along the upper portion of Hartford Ave. and

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Griswold and Ward Make the Case for Old Lyme Selectmen

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As part of its ongoing coverage of races across the region, CT Examiner spoke with candidates for selectman endorsed by the local Republican and Democratic parties in Old Lyme. We begin with the Republican ticket. CT Examiner met with incumbent Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold, a Republican, who is running for re-election with Matt Ward, who is unaffiliated and has been endorsed by the Republican Town Committee.  Griswold first held the office of First Selectman from 1997 to 2011 and successfully ran against Bonnie Reemsnyder as a petitioning candidate in 2019. Ward retired last year after 20 years as

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Oversight of Assisted Living Puts Patients at Risk, Says Audit

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As more Connecticut residents have waited until later in life to move into assisted living, these facilities have become more similar to nursing homes. But, a recent report from state auditors found that oversight of assisted living facilities has been far less stringent than nursing homes, raising concerns about patient care and safety.  Today, an estimated 8,000 Connecticut residents living in these communities average between 84 and 86 years old, and suffer from a higher percentage of chronic illnesses or more severe medical conditions, according to the auditors. Assisted living facilities serve people 55 and older and provide nursing services

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Monica McNally Makes her Case for Darien First Selectman

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With Darien’s longtime First Selectman Jayme Stevenson deciding not to run for another term in November, Monica McNally has jumped into the race as the Republican candidate. IN 2019, Stevenson ran for reelection without Democratic opposition, and garnered 90 percent of the vote against a petitioning candidate. In 2017, she beat out a Democratic challenger with more than 70 percent of the vote.  McNally, who received the Republican nomination in July, was appointed to the Board of Selectmen earlier this summer and is an eight-year veteran of the Representative Town Meeting. She will face off against Democrat Tara Ochman, a

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Guilford’s New Family Equity Liaison Rydell Harrison Goes On The Record

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Dr. Rydell Harrison, Guilford’s new Family Equity Liaison, has an eclectic taste in music. He’s a pianist and a classically trained singer. He says he likes every musical genre except country.  Harrison, who started his new job with Guilford last Tuesday, began his 22-year education career as a music teacher. He said he found his true passion not only in music itself, but in sharing it with students.  “I’m one of these people who believes that teachers have such an incredible impact on students,” said Harrison.  After receiving a degree in music education at Rutgers University, he went on to

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Middletown Area and 9 Town Transit Near Agreement, Plan Expanded Service

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After more than two years of deliberation and negotiation, a plan is nearly in place to combine Middletown Area Transit with 9 Town Transit into a single district. The agreement is intended to provide the separate, smaller transit districts with additional financial stability. A combined district also feeds hopes of expanded bus service across Middlesex County connecting rail and bus lines in southeastern Connecticut with the Hartford and New Haven areas. Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, who serves on the boards of both transit districts, said the consolidation addresses the reality that small transit districts are not sustainable in the

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Lamont Faces Pressure to Allow Funding for Air Quality in Public Schools

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After receiving $995 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, advocates for towns, school districts, teachers, superintendents and other staff are asking the legislature to include repairs for school ventilation systems in the statewide plan for the additional federal dollars.  “The Connecticut General Assembly’s approval of Governor Lamont’s spending plan for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan must include HVAC repairs needed by local public schools across the state; and HVAC repairs must be included as part of the State Department of Education’s annual bond funding to towns for school construction and repairs,” according to Kevin Maloney of

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