Mounds Explains New Approach to Quasi-Publics

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In July, when the Connecticut Port Authority’s financial and administrative problems surfaced, the CEOs of the state’s 17 quasi-public agencies convened their first monthly meeting to exchange ideas about how best to run their organizations and avoid the pitfalls of port authority.  “One of the things that I realized very quickly at the first meeting was they’ve never been in room and talked about shared experiences, talked about the role of quasis in the state of Connecticut or talked about how their entity fits into the fabric of the state, but also the overall agenda of the governor and the

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School-based Health Centers Expand into Elementary Schools, Open Center For Navy Children

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Last week, the 94th school-based health center funded by the Department of Public Health, and the 15th in New London County, opened in Mary Morrison Elementary School in Groton. “When the folks from Family & Child Agency approached us about the possibility of having another center we were thrilled to put it mildly,” said Michael Graner, superintendent of schools in Groton. This is not Groton’s first school-based health center. There is one at the high school, one at each middle school, and at Title 1 elementary schools serving disadvantaged students. All are operated by Family & Child Agency and funded

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Talk Beavers, Sewers, Reviewing Roles of Commissions

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen provided updates at their Monday meeting, on projects planned for the Sound View neighborhood, continuing struggles with beaver dam flooding around Black Hall Pond, and announced plans to review the roles of town committees Beaver flooding Several town boards — including the Open Space Commission and the Flood & Erosion Control Board — have been made aware of problems posed by beaver dams in the area around Black Hall Pond, First Selectman Tim Griswold said. The dams block water flow and cause water levels to rise, which has left one resident unable to

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6th Annual Jingle Bell 5k Supports Healing After Loss to Suicide

EAST LYME — Nearly 700 people, decked out in Santa hats and holiday costumes, crowded into MacCook Point Park on Saturday morning. It was drizzling, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirit as a line formed for pre-race photos in front of the Brian Dagle Foundation banner. It was the start of the sixth annual Niantic Jingle Bell 5k, nearly seven years since the foundation began and eight years after Brian Dagle died from suicide on November 12, 2011. “I lost my son Brian in 2011, and at the time there were very few resources for us as parents

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Proposed Subdivision Sparks Debate Over Open Space

OLD LYME — A 3-lot, 45-acre subdivision is proposed for 19-1 Great Oak Road, off Short Hills Road, in Old Lyme by Ron Pelletier of CAWIAMCA LLC. The project, called “The Oaks – Phase 2,” would extend Great Oak Road and construct three single-family homes set back from the road, in addition to providing open space located near to the road. The open space comprised mostly of wetlands – called the Joseph Parcel – make up less than the 15 percent contribution recommended in Old Lyme’s planning and zoning regulations as a guide to developers, a point of contention at

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Crystal Mall Assessments, Taxes, Reflect Change in Retail Environment

WATERFORD — Town leaders say that they’ll be able to weather an expected annual loss of about $374,600 for each of the next several years after a recent settlement with Crystal Mall LLC over its property valuation, but the settlement does draw attention to a drop in value of retail stores and their ability to provide future tax revenue for the town. “We reached a stipulation,” town attorney Rob Avena told the Board of Selectmen at their December 3 meeting. “And it’s moving forward and the big hit, obviously there’s always a hit … their second-half taxes is basically their

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Waterford’s Rob Brule Talks “Customer Service,” Attracting Young Families

WATERFORD — Newly elected First Selectman Robert Brule said Wednesday in an interview with CT Examiner, that his early priorities in office will focus on responsive service for residents, housing and economic development, and new incentives to attract volunteers to the town’s fire services. “My campaign was based on customer service and infrastructure, the things that this town needs to do continuously to be a town that people want to live in,” Brule said in a Wednesday morning interview at Waterford’s Town Hall. “There are high expectations from our residents. We have tremendous leaders and department headers, tremendous employees who

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Few Rules, Little Oversight For $11 Million Open Choice Program

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Each year the state writes a check for more than $11 million that is shared among 13 school districts as compensation for accepting 2,242 students from Hartford into their schools. That money – called the Open Choice grant – arrives after local school budgets are finalized and comes with no specific guidelines for its use, according to the State Department of Education. “Open choice is essentially an entitlement grant. We don’t track the district’s expenditures,” said Peter Yazbak, the director of communications for the State Department of Education. “Open choice grants go to districts in the form of revenue like

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Finance Board Votes Alberti Chair, Discusses Water, Public Safety

EAST LYME — The Board of Finance, with three new members in its first meeting since the November elections, voted in a new chair, voted on a $5.59 million well filtration project, and discussed their involvement in deciding on renovations to convert the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex. After being unanimously voted in as board chair, Camille Alberti emphasized her belief that the board’s role should be to ask direct questions and to provide a check on government spending “It’s really up to this board to do the due diligence for the tax payers and the

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WPCA Discusses a State-Mandated Revision to Old Lyme’s Sewer Ordinance and Cost Sharing

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OLD LYME — In part due to the town’s recent re-evaluation, the Water Pollution Control Authority plans to hire attorneys and consultants to determine property values in Sound View Beach as the town’s sewer project moves forward.  At Tuesday’s WPCA meeting, Douglas Wilkinson, treasurer, said next year’s budget includes $10,000 for a land use lawyer and about $15,000 for an appraisal consultant to evaluate properties, especially since the town is going through a re-evaluation this year.  In an August 13 referendum, residents voted 883 to 565 to bond $9.5 million for sewer construction in Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town

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Report Promotes Diverse Housing for Aging, Changing Demographics, in Waterford

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WATERFORD — The town’s population is expected to shrink over the next two decades, and Waterford will need a range of housing sizes and price points to meet the needs of a changing demographic of residents in a changing world, according to a consultant’s Monday night presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Consultant Glenn Chalder of Avon-based Planimetrics said that the challenge facing the town comes from two distinct age groups: older residents seeking to downsize and young renters, many with significant student debt, seeking affordable rents. “The issue here is that as households age, they get smaller,” Chalder

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Region 4 Schools Draft New Finance Rules, Tackle Unanswered Questions

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Earlier at a November 4 special meeting of the Region 4 Board of Education, board members and members of the public peppered the district’s attorneys with questions about the $380,000 purchase of the Mislick property in 2017. Last week, superintendent Brian White reported back with some – but not all – of the answers. Although the district did pay $14,295 in legal fees for the 13-acre property prior to the official purchase, according to Shipman and Goodwin, the district did not pay any of the nearly $20,000 of legal fees incurred after the closing, as some members of the public

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EF Watermelon Celebrates 40 Years

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Jewelry, geodes, objets d’art are specialties of EF Watermelon, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend. Jim Elliott and Richard Freeman are the “E” and “F” of EF Watermelon. They met in graduate school, but after Jim discovered gemstones, the two began traveling the world to look for interesting stones and materials.  The duo became enamored with tourmalines, especially the striking watermelon variety, which can range in color from white to green to pink. And, inspired by the 1970’s ad that began with, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” the name EF Watermelon was born.  Spouses Cathy Elliott and

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Lyme-Old Lyme VFW Post 1467 Honors Work and Volunteers at Annual Banquet

OLD LYME — The local Veterans of Foreign Wars celebrated acts of service in helping veterans in need at their annual awards banquet Friday night at the Old Lyme Country Club. Among VFW posts, Lyme and Old Lyme’s Post 1467 is rare in that it doesn’t own a building, which members say keeps them lean and allows them to devote more of the money they raise directly toward covering essential expenses for veterans in need around southeastern Connecticut, filling in gaps left by the the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and similar social services. “Our motto is ‘No bar,

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Turf Field Compatible with Existing Geothermal Wells, Board of Education Assured

LYME-OLD LYME — 250 geothermal wells located six feet beneath the proposed site for Lyme-Old Lyme’s artificial turf field would not pose a threat to the project, according to the Connecticut Geothermal Association. “Typically, geothermal wells never have to be accessed. There is nothing mechanical in the well, just pipe,” said Guy Wanegar, the president at A&B Cooling and Heating Corporation. “On a big system like that, wells would all be connected to a vault. You do need to get to the vault occasionally, so as long as that isn’t under the field you should be okay.” Superintendent Ian Neviaser

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State Rep. Devin Carney on Hartford, Party Lines, and His View of the Coming Session

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OLD LYME — With deep roots in the region, Rep. Devin Carney is in his third term serving in Hartford with his own combination of dedication and service that has attracted the support of voters across party lines. “When I decided to run, I really wasn’t thrilled with Dan Malloy — it was more on the economic stuff. I’m definitely fiscally conservative. Socially I’m definitely more on the liberal side. So I think that fits that Rockefeller New England Style Republican — like Chris Shea and Rob Simmons … or even Olympia Snow and Susan Collins,” said Carney, 35, in

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East Lyme Selectmen Approve Additional $950,000 to Reduce Iron and Manganese in Water

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday approved a resolution to bond an additional $950,000 to construct and upgrade filtering for two of the town’s wells, one of which has repeatedly shown discolored water with iron and manganese. This would raise the total amount appropriated for the project to $5.59 million. At a January special town meeting, East Lyme voters approved bonding for up to $4.64 million for this project. The additional $950,000 requires approvals by the Board of Finance and at an additional town meeting. “We really need to move forward with this project,” Town Public Works Director

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Deep River Taxes Still Accruing on Region 4 School Property

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When the Mislick Property was purchased in 2017, the first selectman of Deep River – the town hosting all of the Region 4 school properties — broached the topic of the district paying taxes to the town. “The reality is I believe and Deep River believes that there should be some sort of compensation for the schools that are all located in our town,” said First Selectman Angus McDonald. At the Wednesday night meeting, after an executive session discussion with legal advisors from Shipman and Goodwin, the Region 4 Board of Education said they would be working with the three

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Computer science education expanding in k-12

By July 2020, all teacher preparation programs in Connecticut must include computer science instruction as part of the curriculum. In addition, as of July 2019, all school districts must incorporate some form of computer science as part of their kindergarten through high school curriculum. Despite a 2015 law that required computer programming as a part of course offerings in every school district in the state, as of 2018 a just over half of high schools offered a computer science course, said Shannon Marimon, the executive director at ReadyCT, a nonprofit aimed at advocating for educational policy reform. “Just 52 percent

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Library renovations to be completed in April and other selectmen news

OLD LYME — The Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library is expected to begin accessing town funds this month for ongoing renovations once they surpass the $300,000 in costs that the library committed to cover through donations and raised funds, said First Selectman Timothy Griswold at his first meeting of the board since he took office following November’s election. At a July 2018 town meeting, Old Lyme voters approved the town to spend $1.75 million on the construction, with $1.25 million coming through a bank loan and $500,000 from surplus. Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library is also set to receive a $1 million

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Advocates Consider Changes to Connecticut’s Special Education Burden of Proof and Funding

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In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parents, not school districts, are required to prove that an Individualized Education Plan is unsatisfactory to a child’s needs. This federal ruling does not overturn state statutes where they exist, however, and Connecticut is currently one of just five states to place the burden of proof on the school district during an appeals process of a special education determination. In 2005, twice as many states and the District of Columbia had similar regulations. “A bill to change that is submitted every year, but it hardly ever makes it out of committee,” said

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Connecticut River Conservancy Hires River Steward, Promoting Conservation, Environmental Justice

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“For good or bad, we are the mouth of the Connecticut river. So everything that is happening upstream is going to impact us,” said Kelsey Wentling, the new Connecticut-based river steward for the Connecticut River Conservancy. “We need to be engaged with groups and communities all throughout the watershed in order to make an impact. It’s a challenge and an opportunity.” Wentling moved to Middletown in September to take on the river steward role. “Personally, I am really interested in figuring out how CRC can participate in opening up access to the river, not just physically, but inviting more different

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Public-Private Partnership Seeds 100,000 Oysters in Niantic River

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EAST LYME — Shellfish experts deposited about 100,000 juvenile oysters into the Niantic River on Saturday, as part of a $10,000 public-private partnership plan by the Waterford-East Lyme Shellfish Commission to bolster the river’s oyster population in an effort to increase recreational fishing and improve water quality. “This is the first seeding that we’ll do,” said Peter Harris, chair of the shellfish commission. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll be successful.”  Harris said that this could be the first of multiple seeding if successful. “When they grow out to adults they will set seed and repopulate the area if it’s successful,”

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Town Meeting Passes Harbor Authority Ordinance, Adopts Annual Report

OLD SAYBROOK — Voters approved an amendment clarifying the Harbor Management Commission’s authority and adopted the 2019 Annual Report at Monday night’s Annual Town Meeting at Old Saybrook Middle School. Town Attorney Michael Cronin said that the amendment to the Harbor Management Commission language in the Town Code was a matter of “legal housekeeping” about “the jurisdiction of the commission.” The code in its earlier form gave the commission the responsibility to oversee the town’s waterways and related facilities, but the language was ambiguous as to whether the commission had authority over facilities beyond the water’s edge, such as the clothesline

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Nonprofit Guides Board of Education Policy Across Connecticut

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Bob Rader has spent almost 25 years as executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (or CABE) encouraging elected board of education members across the state to follow a common set of best practices when working with fellow board members, the public and media. “We have no authority to police or regulate our districts,” Rader said. “Instead, we rely on them learning best practices and working with their superintendent to effectively lead.” This fall, hundreds of newly-elected board of education members will attend a full-day conference led by the registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, drawing from about 150 member

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Essex Loses Rural Grant Eligibility with Shift to Suburban Designation

ESSEX — At the start of the 2018-19 school year, Essex lost its annual Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program funding when the town was reclassified as a suburban community by the State Department of Education. The previous year, that funding totaled $34,432 – or about 3 percent of the district budget, the largest grant received by the school district. “The grant used to fund the Bridges program, which helped bring our math instruction to the next level, but thankfully has been fully implemented now,” said Kristina Martineau, assistant superintendent for Region 4, at the most recent Essex Board of

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Economic Development Commission Looks to Improve Approval Process in Chester

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CHESTER — The Economic Development Commission is pursuing the formation of a “New Applications Group” that would provide businesses and developers with a pre-application process for vetting ideas and plans prior to submitting a formal application.  “It is a best practice among communities that do economic development well,” said Patricia Bandzes, EDC member. “In Portland [CT], they call it the ‘development team’ and their motto is ‘don’t spend a dollar until you come see us first.’” The idea has been discussed at April, May and August meetings of the EDC, but has not yet gained traction with town officials and

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East Lyme Officials Approve Outlines for One-Floor Public Safety Building

EAST LYME — Town officials on Tuesday night approved a schematic design for renovation of the former Honeywell Office building into a police and public safety complex. The architects will next prepare a detailed design to take out for bids in the next few months. The schematic designs from Silver / Petrucelli + Associates divided costs into four sections — a basic plan and three supplemental additions that might not be included in the final plan. The base schematic design is estimated to cost about $1.7 million, funds already approved for the renovation. Selectman Paul Dagle, who chairs the committee

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Editorial: Local Oversight and Regional Budgets

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It’s simply unimaginable as part of the budget, anywhere in Connecticut, that a town employee could propose a $2.5 million project, with significant, ongoing and uncertain maintenance costs, as well as ten year replacement costs, and expect to plan and approve the project without early and broad public engagement, and without the promise of a townwide vote. Whether or not a synthetic turf field is a good or bad idea for Lyme-Old Lyme schools, we’ll set aside for a moment. But let’s be clear — a good idea or not — everything about the decision-making process so far gives the

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At Over $50,000, Old Lyme Spending Higher than Comparable Towns for Election

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OLD LYME — Democrats and Republicans together spent more than $50,000 on mailers, digital advertising, consultants, and other campaign expenses leading up to the November 5 election in Old Lyme. That sum is significantly more than comparable elections for several larger towns across the southeast Connecticut. Old Lyme also had the highest turnout for any town in the state, at about 56 percent. According to campaign finance statements filed by each of the parties at the end of October, the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee spent more than $26,500 and the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee spent just over $25,000.

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