Old Lyme’s Transfer Station will be open on Saturday for its regular hours.
UPDATED 10:17pm: In a tight race with an above average total of 2,321 voters, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (D) was reelected over her Republican opponent Cathy Carter by 269 votes – Reemsnyder garnered 1,278 votes to Carter’s 1,009. Selectmen Arthur “Skip” Sibley and Mary Jo Nosal also both outpolled Carter with 1,150 and 1,120 votes respectively, leaving them both as selectmen, but reversed in roles with Sibley now as Second Selectman and Nosal as Third.
A beaming Reemsnyder told LymeLine after the results had been announced, “I’m delighted,” saying she was not surprised by them, but that she “did not take it [her re-election] for granted.” She commented that “when people run against each other … it’s good for the community” because people “get to talk about things.” She reiterated her delight at being re-elected concluding, “We’ve got to finish the work.”
Nosal added, “I’m pleased so many people came out to vote and I look forward to continuing working with Bonnie and Skip. I thank all the candidates who ran a good, fair campaign.”
Former First Selectman Timothy Griswold (R) handily defeated Democrat Gil Soucie for the position of Town Treasurer with 1,267 votes over 982. He commented, “I’m very pleased that the town has shown confidence in my abilities … I’m honored to be elected and following in the footsteps of (incumbent) John Bysko, who has done a superb job.”
In the Tax Collector race, Judy Tooker defeated Ruth Roach by an even greater margin with 1,385 votes over 876.
Perhaps the greatest surprise in view of the Democrat success on the board of selectmen was the Region 18 Board of Education result in which two of the three Democrats failed in their election bids, including incumbent Paul Fuchs. Republicans Stacy Winchell and Erick Cushman were both elected with 1,184 and 1,138 votes respectively along with incumbent Michelle “Mimi” Roche, who polled the highest number of votes of all the board of education candidates at 1,255. Fuchs and newcomer Peter Hunt, neither of whom was elected, garnered 1,088 and 1,059 votes respectively.
Old Lyme Selectmen Candidates Spar Over Sound View, Boathouse, Police Grievances and More — Video Link Added
Last night the candidates for the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen gathered to debate a variety of issues selected and presented by moderators Olwen Logan, publisher and editor of LymeLine.com and Paul Choiniere, Editorial Page Editor of The Day.
Architect Nina Cuccio Peck presented her updated designs to the Hains Park Boathouse Improvement Committee (HPBIC) at a meeting held last Thursday, June 11, in the Old Lyme Town Hall. Although the committee had voted (albeit not unanimously) at its last meeting to discard the idea of retaining the current boathouse as a storage facility and adding a second building to provide bathrooms, flex-space and more, Peck nevertheless included a design featuring those concepts.
Explaining that she had decided that the, “best way,” to move the, “dysfunctional [HPBIC] committee,” forward was, “to listen between the lines and try to please everyone,” she offered a new design ‘E’ in addition to the four (A to D) already previously considered. Moreover, she stated that this new design allowed, “the town to enjoy some of its money,” and was her “personal favorite,” adding that the two buildings would, “relate to each other architecturally.”
Noting that she “really liked the elevation of the building,” Peck said that this proposal offered, “attractive buildings that would benefit everyone,” and could be, “useful in a multitude of ways.” She emphasized the need for the committee, “to come together,” pointing out that, in her opinion, the various options, “are all going to cost the same … [and] at least this way, the town gets something out of it.”
Apparently pleased with the presentation of the new “E” option, the small audience broke into applause at this point and, in some cases, gave vocal support to the concept.
Peck summarized the five options under consideration all of which eliminate the originally proposed second floor and the first four of which expand the current boathouse to include new bathrooms and a flex-space. The fifth (new) design removes the bathrooms and flex-space into a new “mini” multi-purpose building with a cathedral ceiling and beams leaving the current boathouse to be upgraded using primarily the existing foundation.
Paul Fuchs, co-chairman of the HPBIC, wondered if Peck’s A-D proposals could be modified to leave the flex-space inside the boathouse and just move out the bathrooms. Peck agreed that would represent another viable option.
Region 18 Facilities Director John Rhodes asked, “If there’s a separate building, how would we manage it … clean it?” clarifying his question as, “How are we going to manage this thing?” First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder responded, “The costs of cleaning the parks must be included in the cost of running the parks.”
Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Robert Dunn commented enthusiastically on Peck’s new proposal, “[It} sounds wonderful,” noting, “This way maximizes storage,” in the boathouse. The HPBIC Secretary Brian Schuch was similarly supportive saying, “I really like what Nina did,” adding a particular note of appreciation for “the handsome building in the center,” but expressed again his concerns regarding the safety of the driveway in respect of both vehicles and pedestrians, the latter of whom frequently cross Rte. 1 to reach businesses located opposite the park.
Reemsnyder agreed saying she hoped the opportunity would be taken to try and resolve these traffic issues in Hains Park, which relate in part to the fact that there are currently two park entrances both of which are two-way, rather than one being an entrance and the other an exit. Reemsnyder hoped a traffic expert might be engaged to help develop a solution.
Ex-officio HPBIC member and Old Lyme Building Inspector John Flower agreed to explore building code issues with the state regarding the new two-building concept to determine if and how they might impact the proposal
Similarly, Rhodes offered to discuss the viability of the two-building proposal as opposed to the single building with the Region 18 rowing coaches.
The committee voted unanimously to request Peck to proceed with developing plans from which estimates can be prepared for Option A (an expanded boathouse including flex-space and locker rooms plus upgraded bathrooms in the existing bathhouse facility) and Option E (a boathouse used solely for boat storage plus construction of a smaller building to include bathrooms, locker rooms and flex-space.)
Peck is expected to present her revised plans at the next HPBIC meeting.
The Hains Park Boathouse Improvement Committee (HPBIC) met Thursday evening in Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall with a single agenda item to review the architect’s fee for designing Options 2A and 3A. Six committee members were present along with Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley, who is an ex-officio member.
Option 2A involves use of the existing foundation combined with construction of a new building while Option 3A also uses the existing foundation, but retains the existing building with a new addition. Both options call for improvements to toilets and consideration of new pavilion.
Architect Nina Cuccio Peck’s proposed fee was a discounted rate (for this phase only) not to exceed $7,000 to create drawings for both options in sufficient detail that they could then be handed to a professional estimator to develop two firm quotes. The plans would not be a “full bid set,” but Fuchs noted, “Nina will be creating the same level of detail for both options so an estimator will be able to create an apples to apples comparison of the costs.”
The expectation is that Peck will have these plans ready within four weeks, at which point the committee will select an estimator and send out the plans for estimation. The motion (to approve Peck to proceed with the work) passed unanimously with the only significant discussion being about how accurately it would be possible to estimate costs given that the plans would fall short of the “full bid set” standard. Paul Gianquinto, HPBIC Co-Chairman, estimated that the margin of error would be around 15 percent but also pointed out that the variance should be roughly the same for both options.
The sun broke through the clouds Tuesday evening as the residents of Lyme gathered in front of the Lyme Public Library to dedicate the new library building and the renovated town hall. First Selectman, Ralph Eno thanked the donors, the building committee, and all those who supported the project.
Dan Hagan, Building Committee chair, echoed his message and specifically thanked the architect Bruce Tuthill for working closely with the town to create buildings that should serve the community for the next 30 years.
At the end of the dedication, a group accompanied Selectman Steve Mattson to town hall to ring the town bell. The bell dates back to the 1860s when the building was a Baptist church.
Most of the crowd stayed for the annual town meeting which was held for the first time in the new town hall meeting room. Previous town meetings had been held in the school gymnasium, the firehouse or the public hall.
A payment of $25,000 from the open space fund was approved to help purchase a parcel of land on Selden Road which will allow limited public water access. The remainder of the purchase price has been pledged by private donors.
The residents approved the 2015-2016 town budget of $10,065,892, an increase of 1.16%. Most of the increase was for capital expenditures on equipment needed by the town crew and for servicing the debt on the new building. After the meeting the Finance Committee set the new tax rate at 17.75 mills, up from the current rate of 17 mills.
Last Monday evening, April 20, some 15 residents turned out to hear the Old Lyme Board of Finance present their proposed town budget for the 2015-16 financial year. Board of Finance Chairman Andrew Russell opened by explaining that the budget process had begun back in December and continued through to the present with meetings between members of the board and department heads, committee chairs, commission heads, the board of selectmen and representatives from a variety of non-profits.
He summarized the status of the proposed budget noting that in total the budget of $34,756,641 shows an increase of 3.67 percent over the previous year, but that the categories within the budget — although all show an increase — by no means show consistency in terms of the size of their increases. For example, the Capital Outlay request is up 44.01 percent while the Total General Government has only increased by 6.84 percent.
Russell then proceeded to highlight the areas of significant change across all the various sectors of the budget.
With regard to the Parks and Recreation budget, he noted that the board was requesting a 0.8 percent reduction over the previous year, “due to the installation of the kiosks at Sound View.” This, in turn, had caused the number of seasonal town employees for the Sound View area to be reduced enabling some $15,000 in savings to be gained by the Town.
One area where Russell said he was not entirely confident of the current budget numbers was the Public Safety segment of the budget. The board had requested an increase of $11,600 to cover the State Trooper’s contract at the 80 percent level rather than the current 70 percent, as required by the state. Russell pointed out, however, that there are indications, “Hartford wants the town to fund 100 percent of the trooper’s salary,” which would require a further increase in the budget.
Under the category of Social Services and Senior Citizens, the board had included an additional $3,000 for Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau. This was due to a possible reduction in state aid since, Russell noted , “All youth service bureaus have lost funding from the state.”
Capital Project Funds showed a major increase of 126.3 percent, which incorporated a single line item of $400,000 for road improvement. Russell justified this dramatic increase noting, “We’re finding out we’ve been underfunding our roads,” adding in a later discussion, “We’re probably going to have to be more aggressive with our roads in the immediate future.”
The Private Beach Associations category showed a decrease of almost $30,000 ($29,600) primarily due to implementation of the new calculation recently drawn up by a Town Committee and agreed by the board of selectmen regarding funding for the Private Beach Associations by the Town. The proposed reduced funding total paid by the town to the Private Beach Associations is $71,700.
A decrease of 1.6 percent ($5,844) is reflected in Debt Service ($357,719) due to the fall in interest as the Town repays the principal on the loan for the Town Hall renovations.
Russell noted that the budget called for a total of $600,000 to be taken from the town’s surplus to fund removal of oil tanks ($200,000) and $400,000 to fund the additional funds needed for the boathouse on top of the $454,000 awarded under a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) state grant.
Other significant expenses in the budget are $160,000 for a new dump truck with plow, $100,000 for the engineering segment of the Mile Creek Rd. bridge (final costs are unknown at this stage but a STEAP grant application is being prepared), $85,000 for a fire/police boat, $35,000 for the Emergency Management Phase 2 Communications Project, $25,000 for the Cross Lane firehouse boiler, $20,000 for weed eradication at Rogers Lake, $17,000 for the Lymes’ Senior Center roof and carpet, and $12,000 for repairs to the Cross Lane tennis courts.
An additional $125,000 was originally in the Public Works operating budget but has since been transferred to the capital budget.
Russell noted the new mill rate required to support this budget would be 20.62 reflecting an increase of 4.88 percent. He pointed out that if the $600,000 were not taken from the budget surplus, then the resultant mill rate would be 21.00 reflecting a 6.8 percent increase.
Russell gave three examples of the projected cost to homeowners showing that owners of a house valued at $347,200 would pay $5,011 in taxes at the new mill rate as opposed to $4,777 at the current rate. A property valued at $540,200 would incur $7,796 in taxes compared to a current amount of $7,433, while a $1.25 million home would be levied $18,104 in contrast the current amount of $17,261.
When the floor was opened for public comment, Steve Cinami questioned Russell about the transfer of monies from the town’s surplus account to fund projects, asking, “What is a number that the town feels is a responsible number [to retain in the surplus account]?” Russell responded that the number used to be 7 or 8 percent but that the surplus account currently stands at around 20 percent. Cinami quizzed Russell as to why the excess should not be returned to taxpayers, suggesting, “Why not get it down to 12 percent and fund new projects from taxes?”
Russell noted in response that the Town had, “Put $1.2 million back into the surplus,” and also that the Town needs $25,000 to $30,000 for each blizzard. He added that he personally would like to see the surplus at around 15 percent while First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder mentioned, “The auditors want 12 to 15 percent.” Russell used the Mile Creek bridge as an a example of something that contributed to the need to keep a robust surplus. He pointed out that the Town wanted to fix the bridge, but at the time of writing the budget, it was unclear whether it, “… would get any money from Hartford.”
Former First Selectman Timothy Griswold asked why the approximately $400,000 being used from the surplus to fund the new boathouse in Hains Park did not appear in the budget. Russell agreed in principle that Griswold was correct, noting to rippled laughter that the purpose of a hearing such as the one being held was to identify any omissions of this type before the final budget was submitted.
Russell closed the meeting by reminding the audience that, assuming the Region 18 budget vote passes successfully on May 6, the vote on the town budget will be held on Monday, May 18, in a town meeting.
Eversource, formally CL&P, has contracted with Lucas Tree to perform tree trimming within several sections of Old Lyme this spring. According to Eversource, the tree trimming is vital to reducing the number of tree-related power outages, and will improve electrical service reliability.
Trimming is scheduled to take place the week of April 27 on the following streets in Old Lyme:
Boggy Hole Road
Saunders Hollow Road
In addition, representatives from Lucas Tree continue to go door to door to notify residents about the planned trimming on behalf of Eversource.
All Lucas Tree employees will have proper identification.
Despite bitterly cold temperatures last night, more than 75 people packed into Old Lyme’s Meeting Room at the Town Hall to hear who would be named the 2014 Citizen of the Year. The Board of Selectmen always keeps the name of the recipient a closely-guarded secret until the announcement is made, but this year that practice was made especially challenging with the cancellation of the first two scheduled dates for the meeting due to the weather.
After all the postponements, the time finally came at yesterday’s Annual Town Meeting to make the eagerly anticipated announcement. There were loud cheers and clapping when First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder announced the name of community leader and perennial volunteer Lynn-Fairfield-Sonn.
Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal then read from the citation detailing the rationale behind the award saying Fairfield-Sonn’s, “volunteer commitments are testament to her steadfast loyalty and dedication,” and that, “Through her efforts both locally and regionally, our 2014 Citizen of the Year has demonstrated those values time and time again.”
Quoting from the citation, Nosal continued, “Jim and Lynn Fairfield-Sonn searched for over a year before moving to Old Lyme in 1984. They chose their Lyme Street location so that the children they would raise here — Anne, Jimmy, and John — could walk to school and get involved.”
Nosal then stated the root cause of why Fairfield-Sonn was so deserving of the award, “Lynn wasted no time getting involved herself.”
Going on to list Fairfield-Sonn’s numerous volunteer commitments, Nosal detailed, “She has served as president of the Junior League of Greater New Haven as well as the Old Lyme Day Care (now Children’s Learning) Center, and served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce of Southeastern Connecticut, the Coordinating Council for Children in Crisis, Janus House, and New Haven Habitat for Humanity. Lynn was a Board of Selectmen appointee to the Historic District Commission for eight years.”
Nosal continued, “To support her children’s interests, Lynn was co-president of District 18’s Friends of Music for four years, and President of the Football Booster club for six. She has twice served the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Board as its Treasurer,” and in perhaps what was her most visible role in the local community, “served as Chair of our Board of Education for eight years.”
The citation notes, “Fairfield-Sonn’s values have been imprinted on multiple community organizations,” but highlights the Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut as the one on which her involvement has made an especially indelible mark. Fairfield-Sonn first volunteered for Child and Family in 1989 and currently serves as its Director of Development and Community Relations.
Nosal summed up the board of selectmen’s reasoning for naming Fairfield-Sonn the 2014 Citizen of the Year in these words, taken from the citation, saying the board, “Honors Lynn Fairfield-Sonn for the loyalty and dedication that have defined her impact on our community.”
Old Lyme Public Works will be picking up Christmas trees from Tuesday, Jan. 20, through Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Residents are asked to place their Christmas trees at the curbside prior to Jan. 20 for pick-up and disposal.
Lyme and Old Lyme Town Hall offices are closed today, Monday, Jan. 19, which is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The Lyme landfill is closed Monday for the holiday, and the Old Lyme Transfer Station is normally closed on Mondays.
The trash and recycling pick-up schedule in Old Lyme is not changing for this holiday.
At Monday evening’s Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder introduced the agenda item on Appointments by saying that, although the board was about to confirm many appointments to town boards and commissions, “Lots of vacancies,” remain. She noted, “Small towns like Old Lyme depend on volunteerism,” and then commended all those who have stepped up to serve the town, several of whom were in attendance.
Reemsnyder presented a slate of volunteers for appointment to a variety of town boards and commissions. Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal alternated in proposing each candidate for appointment and, in each case, the appointment was approved unanimously.
The appointments made were as follows:
Doris Rand (D) – Commission on Aging – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Lynn Philomen N/A – Animal Control Officer – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
Walter Kent N/A – Assessor – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
Catherine Frank (R) – Cable Advisory – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017 Tim Devlin (R) – Cable Advisory – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
George James (R) – Conservation Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018 Maureen Plumleigh (U) – Conservation Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
John Stratton (R) – Economic Development Commission – 5 yr. term exp. Jan. 2020 David Roberge N/A – Emergency Management Director – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
Steve Martino (D) – Flood & Erosion Commission – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017 Ellie Czarnowski (U) – Flood & Erosion Commission – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
Donald Willis (R) – Flood & Erosion Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Lewis DiCamillo (R) – Inland Wetlands Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018 Robert DePianta (D) – Inland Wetlands Hearing Panel – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 William Dunbar (R) – Open Space Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Mary Ellen Garbarino (R) – Park & Rec Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018 John Flower (U) – Park & Rec Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Gil Soucie (D) – Pension Committee – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Donald Willis (R) – Planning Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Barbara Gaudio (U) – Planning Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Todd Machnik (R) – Planning Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016
Elizabeth Rubitski (U) – Regional Mental Health Board – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017 Robert Recor (U) – Rogers Lake Authority – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Mervin F. Roberts (R) – Shellfish Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018 John Seckla (U) – Shellfish Commission – 3 yr. term exp. Jan. 2018
Valerie Goncalves N/A – Social Services Coordinator – 2 yr. term exp. Jan. 2017
Frank Maratta (R) – Sound View Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Sandra Ziemba (U) – Sound View Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016
Joan Flynn, MD (U) – Tree Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Tom Degnan N/A – Tree Warden – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016
Anthony Vallombroso N/A – Veteran’s Rep – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016 Ernest Lorda (U) – WPCA – 4 yr. term exp. Jan. 2019
Kurt Zemba (R) – WPCA – 4 yr. term exp. Jan. 2019
Stacey Winchell (R) – Zoning Commission, alternate – 1 yr. term exp. Jan. 2016
Mark Lander, Co-Chairman of the Old Lyme Historical Society (OLHS), came to Monday night’s Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting seeking First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder’s signature on a proclamation announcing Feb. 13, 2015 as ‘Loving Parting Day.’ Reemsnyder duly signed the proclamation following on from Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno, who had signed earlier in the day.
In a few short weeks, the respective signatures of the First Selectmen of East Lyme, Salem and Old Saybrook will join those of Reemsnyder and Eno on the document and the proclamation will be official.
Lander was invited by Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley to explain the history of the five towns that are celebrating the 350th anniversary of the ‘Loving Parting.’ According to the OLHS website, “Initially, Lyme was part of the Saybrook (“Saye-Brooke”) settlement centered on the west bank of the mouth of the Connecticut River. It was established by the Earl of Warwick in 1631, occupied in 1635, and settled and named in 1636.”
Lander noted that the ‘Loving Parting’ was signed on Feb. 13, 1665 as the formal acknowledgement of the separation of the lands on the east bank of the river, which were named after Lyme Regis in England, from the parent Saybrook colony. He commented that the creation of Lyme marked the first time in the state’s history that a town had been formed by splitting it off from another settlement.
The Connecticut General Court named the new plantation “Lyme” on May 9, 1667. Lyme set off the Town of East Lyme in 1839 subsequent to the latter town forming its own church, known as a ‘society.’ It seems likely that East Lyme’s church – the second ‘Society’ – was located on what is now Society Rd. in East Lyme. The first – and original – ‘Society’ in Lyme was what is now The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.
After East Lyme had formed its own ‘Society,’ Salem followed suit and was also declared a town in its own right. Ironically, the final – and therefore youngest – town of the five to be created out of the lands originally identified in the ‘Loving Parting’ was the one called Old Lyme.
Lander said that in 1854-1855, the town of South Lyme on the shoreline at the mouth of the river was separated from part of the original settlement of Lyme to the north. Noting that there must have been, “Some sort of a disagreement between Lyme and Old Lyme,” Lander said that the residents of the southern area had petitioned for the separation and because the Town of Lyme was the aggrieved party, it was allowed to retain the name of ‘Lyme.’
Although the residents of the new southern portion originally accepted the name of South Lyme for their town, they soon felt, in Lander’s words, that, “It didn’t seem quite right,” and requested – and were approved to make – a change of town name to Old Lyme.
Some local folklore sources say that the choice of the ‘Old Lyme’ name by its residents was a final act of spite against their neighbors to the north in Lyme, who unquestionably lived in the older town! But in 2015, all five towns will come together again as friends to celebrate the ‘Loving Parting.’ The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme will also be hosting a series of events to celebrate 350 years of continuous worship on its site this year.
All in all, 2015 promises to be quite a year for Lyme and Old Lyme!
Reemsnyder Clarifies Two Old Lyme Beach Associations, Not Town, to Receive $300K From State for Storm Sandy Restoration Project
01/07/15 Update: At last night’s Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder clarified that the $300,000 grant announced by the state as apparently payable to the Town of Old Lyme is, in fact, funds payable to two private beach associations, Old Lyme Shores and Old Lyme Colony Beach. Reemsnyder reported at the meeting that the associations had, in fact, applied for the grant rather than the Town and the associations, “Will be working [directly] with the state government,” on the Sheffield Brook Outfall Resiliency project. Reemsnyder said she had become aware there was some confusion regarding the grant due to the information presented by the state..
12/30/14: Governor Dannel P. Malloy, alongside Department of Housing (DOH) Commissioner Evonne Klein, has announced $30 million in grants for the restoration and resiliency to existing infrastructure in municipalities impacted by Super Storm Sandy.
Included in the allocation to 21 projects in 11 communities is Old Lyme, which will receive $300,000 for the Sheffield Brook Outfall Resiliency. This project involves designing and constructing a new culvert and outlet to prevent extreme high tides from entering the culvert and damaging upstream structures. The project will control future shoaling at the outlet so the structure can drain.
Other communities receiving grants include Bridgeport, East Haven, Fairfield, Milford, New London, Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford and West Haven. The largest single grant of $4 million will improve stormwater volumes and drainage on New Haven’s Union Avenue.
“The damaging effects of storms along Connecticut’s shoreline are just a reality these communities must face,” said Governor Malloy. “With these grants, however, we can assist these municipalities and their cleanup efforts from the devastation of one of the most severe storms in Connecticut’s history, and help them to establish resiliency plans so they can be better prepared in the years ahead.”
Last year, the state was awarded a second tranche of funds in the amount of $66 million through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG–DR) program. The CDBG-DR program, administered by the Department of Housing, was established to assist the most impacted and distressed areas recover from Super Storm Sandy.
“Earlier this year, DOH disbursed nearly $32 million in several communities ravaged by recent storms. This second round of federal funding will build on the momentum started in rebuilding infrastructure projects,” said Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein. “It’s also helping these same cities and towns take measures that will diminish the impacts of future storms.”
The primary goal in allocating funding for the rehabilitation and resiliency of infrastructure is to restore a suitable living environment in disaster impacted communities by rehabilitating or reconstructing existing infrastructure and adding resiliency to minimize damage from future storm events.
The Town of Old Lyme has been selected to participate in a cutting-edge solar program that makes going solar easy and affordable. ‘Solarize Old Lyme’ is part of the ground breaking residential solar program administered by the Connecticut Green Bank (formerly known as the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority) through a partnership with SmartPower.
In addition to a robust on-the-ground outreach campaign, ‘Solarize Old Lyme’ will also incorporate a unique on-line “solar marketplace.” Similar to various travel web sites such as Kayak or Expedia, www.solarizect.com/OldLyme will become a valuable tool for residents to receive bids from local pre-screened solar installers and request site visits from installers that offer the best prices for their homes.
The ‘Solarize Old Lyme’ program will kick off with a workshop on Thursday, Dec. 4, in the Memorial Town Hall at 7 p.m., where residents can learn about the program and be introduced to the new online solar marketplace that makes going solar convenient and affordable.
During the kick off workshop, residents will also have a chance to learn about the many flexible financing options available, including a no-money-down option. The Town of Old Lyme will join 14 other communities in Phase 5 of Solarize ConnecticutSM with a goal to more than double the amount of solar currently in Old Lyme over the 18-week program. Over 40 communities have already participated in Solarize campaigns, resulting in over 2,000 homeowners signing contracts for solar.
Solarize is an increasingly popular program that increases residential solar through a proven formula. It relies on an on-the-ground outreach campaign that helps educate consumers while at the same time creating awareness and walks the consumer all the way from awareness about solar to actually purchasing it.
Old Lyme’s First Selectman, Bonnie Reemsnyder comments, “I’m very excited that Old Lyme will be participating in such a worthwhile program as Solarize Connecticut. It’s a great opportunity for all our residents, but especially those who have always wanted to “go solar”. The online portal allows easy access to information and estimates for individual homes. Old Lyme has a proud tradition of taking advantage of environmentally friendly programs and I look forward a great partnership with Solarize CT.”
“CT Green Bank is extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve through the Solarize program. We continue to see our financing tools and the Solarize model bringing down the cost of solar and making it affordable for more and more homeowners throughout Connecticut,” stated Bryan Garcia, President and CEO of the CT Green Bank. “We expect to achieve similar success as we begin the next phase of this innovative program with the participation of Old Lyme’s leaders and their dedicated volunteers.”
Residents who are interested in learning more about ‘Solarize Old Lyme’ are urged to attend the solar workshop on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in Memorial Town Hall in the large Meeting Hall. In order to participate in the benefits offered through the program, residents must sign a contract by April 10, 2015.
Old Lyme’s Solarize campaign has a dedicated group of volunteers led by Jean Dailey (firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.439.2912) and her team comprising John L. Forbis, Suzanne Colten-Carey and George James. Contact any of the team members to find out more about ‘Solarize Old Lyme’ or to be put in touch with other Old Lyme residents, who have already installed solar on their houses.
More information about Solarize Old Lyme can be found by visiting www.solarizect.com/OldLyme.
The Regular Meeting of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen scheduled for this evening, Monday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 p.m. has been cancelled.
A Special Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting will be held Thursday, Dec. 4, at 5:30 p.m. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
Old Lyme Town Hall offices and the Transfer Station will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 27 and 28, for the Thanskgiving holiday.
The Transfer Station on Four Mile River Rd. will be open on Saturday.
Thursday’s trash and recycling will be picked up on Friday, Nov. 28.
A number of vacancies for volunteers exist on the Town of Old Lyme’s Boards and Commissions.
If you are interested in serving, complete a Request for Appointment form and return it to the Selectman’s Office (selectmansoffice@oldlyme-ct.
The Town’s Boards and Commissions are established and regulated by State Statute and/or Town Ordinance. In most cases, members must be electors in the Town of Old Lyme. Balanced representation from major political parties on each board is also required.
Boards with current vacancies include:
Economic Development Commission
Flood & Erosion Control Board
Inland Wetlands Commission
Inland Wetlands Hearing Panel
Open Space Commission
At Monday night’s Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder introduced the agenda item of an update on the Hains Park Boathouse project by describing it as a “pretty big week.” It transpired that the plans for the new boathouse went out to bid at the start of the week, but by the end of the week had been withdrawn.
Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley explained that the problems had arisen at a meeting held last Thursday between Town representatives including the First Selectwoman, the Building Inspector and Fire Marshal, the architect Nina Cuccio Peck, members of the Boathouse and Hains Park Improvements Committee (BHPIC) and representatives of Regional School District 18. Sibley noted, “The big thing that happened was the building [the boathouse] being an educational facility.” It states on the BHPIC page on the Town’s website that the, “Need to comply with educational occupancy requirements was identified for the first time in the design process,” at this meeting.
When Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal later asked, “What makes it educational?” Reemsnyder noted that the building will be leased by District 18 from the Town and, “The students will be under the supervision of the Athletic Department,” and so, “District 18 has to meet the requirements of an educational building.” These requirements include making the second storey accessible to all, which, in turn, requires the installation of an elevator.
Sibley described the elevator as a, “Not inexpensive,” item, which took the project financially beyond the scope of the already increased funding for the project. The BHPIC therefore decided to, in Sibley’s words, “pull the bidding process.” Members contacted the builders who had attended the Oct. 25 site meeting, refunded their $50 document fees where appropriate and advised them they would be notified when the bid process was restarted.
Sibley stressed that, despite the bidding setback, there was, “Good collaboration between the Town and the schools” on the project and that he was, “Very pleased with the progress being made.” He added, “I’m very confident we’re going to end up in a better place.” Reemsnyder commented that these changes meant the boathouse would not now be ready for the spring 2015 rowing season, which had the advantage that it gave time to, “Tighten up the whole management part of it.” In another new development, District 18 is now looking, “To have an agreement with the Old Lyme Rowing Association (OLRA) to manage the building as a sub-contractor.” This requires drawing up a Memorandum of Agreement between the two organizations — something on which the respective attorneys are currently working. Reemsnyder stated she had hoped it would be ready for last night’s meeting, but it was not due to, “All the developments,” making it, “A little bit complicated.” She is now hopeful to receive the Memorandum by December.
Reemsnyder acknowledged that District 18’s position, “Had changed the whole thing,” and said the Selectmen’s response demonstrated, “We do listen, we pay attention,” noting all parties will now benefit from, “A cleaner relationship between District 18 and the OLRA covering liabilities and risks.” Nosal added positively, “We are moving forward in a collaborative fashion.”
The revised plans for the boathouse, Sibley explained, will incorporate, “The elimination of the second floor and lower the overall height by up to four feet.” Cuccio Peck is currently working on these plans and, in anticipation of their content, Sibley stated, “I don’t think you’re going to see a drastic change in the building.”
Nosal asked what the position was regarding the Town Meeting at which funds were approved for a building, which is now being changed in design. Reemsnyder responded that, with the delay in construction, the Town has time to host a number of Public Information Sessions before building begins. She said that only if the funds approved at the Town Meeting “Will be spent on anything else [other than the boathouse project] will the Selectmen go back to another Town Meeting.”
During public comment, Nancy Hutchinson made an impassioned plea for the membership of the BHPIC to be expanded, noting, “Almost every single one is a rowing coach,” and adding, “We need people that aren’t just rowing experts.” Urging the board of selectmen to engender, “A win/win situation for the entire community,” she said, “I implore the board of selectmen to restructure the committee.” Commenting that, “A lot of people support this project,” she suggested if the committee were expanded, the knowledge of both existing and new members could be leveraged — “Let’s help them,” she urged.
Reemsnyder agreed to discuss the suggestion at the board’s next meeting, but Sibley challenged Hutchinson’s contention that the BHPIC was lacking in experience. He said one member was from the construction company O & G and another also worked in the construction business. Hutchinson responded, “It’s sometimes helpful to refresh a committee,” adding, “My concern is that they go out to bid before they’re ready.” Reemsnyder said firmly, “No contract is going to be awarded without it being to code.”
Timothy Griswold first suggested the Town should be using a specialist attorney for the project as the Town has done previously for such projects as the School Bus Barn. He then commented on the overall changes of the project saying townspeople needed more information since what was being built had changed allegorically, “From a Lexus to a Ford.” He told the board of selectmen, “I do encourage another Town Meeting so people know what they’re getting.” Reemsnyder replied, “We don’t have the need for another Town Meeting, but we will have Information Sessions,” and stressed, “We don’t want to misrepresent to the town what we’re doing.”
In 2013 the Old Lyme community was excited to learn that it had been granted a $478,000 Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (CT STEAP) grant to expand the Boathouse and improve Hains Park. This grant was made possible by hard-working individuals involved with the District 18 rowing teams and the local Old Lyme Rowing Club (OLRA), which includes rowers from multiple towns in southeast Connecticut.
To oversee the project, the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen established the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvement Committee (BHPIC), with many of the same individuals involved in applying for the STEAP grant. Initially the $478,000 CT STEAP grant was intended to cover all the costs of the project, so most of the community was happy to let them take the lead. However, the BHPIC subsequently decided to demolish, rather than renovate, the existing Boathouse, while also removing/reducing other aspects of the project scope (removal of docks and improvement to the public restrooms, and multiple attempts to remove or reduce the size of the replacement basketball court).
These BHPIC decisions had several effects: nearly doubling the project cost (from $478,000 to almost $900,000); reducing the benefit to the broader Old Lyme community; and potentially putting STEAP grant funds at risk by changing scope without obtaining written agreement from the state. The BHPIC also proposed the Town of Old Lyme bear the full cost of the budget over-runs, raising the planned cost to Old Lyme taxpayers from $0 to $405,000.
Then, prior to providing the board of finance an opportunity to fully vet the project plans/costs or to prioritize this project versus other potential town expenditures, the Old Lyme Selectmen voted to rapidly push the project through to a Town Meeting to approve the use of $405,000 of the Town’s rainy-day fund to cover this large, unplanned capital expenditure. The fact that the Town Meeting (Mon, Oct. 6) was scheduled less than one week from first public information session (Wed, Oct 1), and less than one full business day from the second informational session (Sat, Oct. 4) meant that adequate public review and input could not occur.
Prior to the Town Meeting, many community members (including those supportive of improving the boathouse) requested the Selectmen give the community more time for review/input, and to enable key questions/issues to be addressed. However, the board of selectmen stated that the priority was to allow the BHPIC to begin construction in November, so the project would not impinge on the start of spring rowing season in March. This rationale did not appear to align with the fiduciary responsibility of the Selectmen to put the best interests of the broader community first, nor did it appear justified since the existing Boathouse is functional (albeit not ideal), and that delaying the project until the following year would not have prevented the rowing teams/clubs from continuing all of their existing programs. However, the Selectmen rushed forward with the Town vote anyway.
Following the Oct 6 town vote (100-73 in favor of appropriating $405,000 to cover the proposed project cost increase), many in the community asked that time be taken to address the many outstanding questions/issues/risks before going out to bid – after which it may be too late to address them without incurring additional costs/town liabilities. Some of the issues included:
- Lack of written agreement with the state on change in scope, to avoid risk of losing STEAP funds.
- Lack of completed written agreements with District 18 on the transfer of ownership of the Boathouse to the Town of Old Lyme, and for future financial commitments to pay for insurance, operation and maintenance for the new Boathouse. Without these in place before going to bid, the Town of Old Lyme takes on significant additional risk.
- Significant code issues have been raised by both the Old Lyme Fire Marshal and Building Official. Addressing these after the bidding process will result in expensive change orders.
- Lack of plan reviews and safety assessments by District 18 to get buy-in and address potential issues with the configuration of the Boathouse (particularly bathrooms and locker rooms). They are to be used by students and maintained by District 18, but do not align with safety guidelines for school construction design prepared by the US Dept. of Education and Dept. of Justice.
- Last minute efforts to correct the size of the replacement basketball court, and lack of finalization (and broad community input) into a Hains Park Master Plan. Ideally this should precede finalizing the Boathouse phase, to ensure that all community needs are met and related costs fully understood.
- Rushing finalization of construction plans/documents, which will not leave adequate time for stakeholder review, and may result in errors that may also lead to costly change orders.
The fact that the Old Lyme Selectmen and BHPIC have initiated the construction bidding process without first adequately addressing these issues is very concerning in itself. However, after release of the Old Lyme Public Notice Wed, Oct 22, 2014, there may be yet another serious issue: lack of compliance with state requirements for the contract bidding process. This must be addressed immediately to avoid potential loss of our CT STEAP grant funding.
Please! It is time to stop rushing forward recklessly; we need take some time and work together to adequately address the many valid issues/questions raised. We also need other community members/stakeholders to work with the BHPIC and rowing advocates. This will be critical to ensuring that the project is most successful, that all of the community needs are met, and that town/state funds are not wasted or lost.
While I am sure everyone involved in the project has acted with good intentions, good intentions are not enough: “The road to disaster is paved with good intentions.”
Let’s take a step back, and make this a truly inclusive Town project. Let’s leverage our combined experience and allocated funds to deliver a project that is completed successfully and with the broadest possible community support.