April 30, 2016

Old Lyme Historic District Commission to Hear Bee & Thistle’s Application for Outdoor Seating, May 2

The Old Lyme Historic District Commission (HDC) will hold a Public Hearing on Monday, May 2, at 9:45 a.m. in the upstairs conference room at the Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall when members will hear and act on a Certificate of Appropriateness application from the Bee and Thistle Inn at 100 Lyme Street. The application is to install a patio on the south side of inn.

The public is invited to attend and express its views. Letters may be sent to the Historic District Commission at 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme CT 06371.

Supporting material will be available at the May 2 Public Hearing.

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Old Lyme’s Open Space Commission Hosts Talk on Sea Level Rise, Salt Marsh Advance

The Town of Old Lyme’s Open Space Commission invites all interested parties to a workshop by Adam Whelchel, PhD, Director of Science at The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter.  The workshop will be held on Friday, March 11, at 9 a.m. in the Old Lyme Town Hall.

The title of Whelchel’s workshop will be, “Salt Marsh Advancement and Sea Level Rise in Old Lyme Parcel by Parcel — Introducing the New Coastal Resilience Online Tool.”

The workshop will review:

  • Where and how much conflict will there likely be in the future between the existing built environment (roads, schools, churches, neighborhoods, businesses) and daily tides?
  • Where and how much salt marsh advancement will there be?
  • Where and how much salt marsh advancement occurs on existing protected and unprotected open space?
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Lyme P & Z Hosts Public Hearing on Zoning Regulation Amendments

Grape-picking at Sunset Hill Vineyard. On Monday evening, Lyme's Planning and Zoning Commission will consider amendments to its zoning regulations addressing wineries, along with farms and agriculture.

Grape-picking at Sunset Hill Vineyard in Lyme. On Monday evening, Lyme’s Planning and Zoning Commission will consider amendments to its zoning regulations addressing wineries, along with farms and agriculture. Photos by Frank Cabb.

Next Monday, Feb. 29, Lyme Planning and Zoning (P & Z) Commission will host the Public Hearing/Regular Meeting that was previously scheduled for Feb. 8, but had to be cancelled due to the snowstorm that day.  The Feb. 29 meeting will be held at Lyme Consolidated School starting at 7:30 p.m.

The agenda opens with an application by Richard and Kathleen Pfannenstiel for a special permit to construct a boat dock at 65 Cove Rd. in Outer Hamburg Cove, for which there will be first a Public Hearing, and then the application will be considered in the Commission’s Regular Meeting.

But the part of the meeting almost guaranteed to draw a large crowd comes in the next agenda item when the P & Z Commission considers, “Proposed changes to the Lyme Zoning and Subdivision Regulations, which address principally farms, agriculture and farm wineries.” These have been published on the Town’s website at this link.

Lyme’s Zoning Enforcement Officer Bernie Gigliotti explained to LymeLine.com that the Commission has been talking about updating the regulations for a couple of years.  He noted that some two years ago the Town of Lebanon had introduced new regulations to protect and enhance farms and farming, and consequently the Town of Lyme “had been talking about making changes [to its own] regulations ever since.”

Gigliotti commented, however, that the event which really “triggered the action” was the application by the owners of Sunset Hill Vineyard in Lyme for a Special Exception Permit to offer tastings and sell wine at its Elys Ferry Rd. farm.  When the P & Z Commission discussed the application back in November last year, more than 175 residents attended the hearing, but the Commission did not end up rendering a decision on the vineyard’s application.  Gigliotti explained that the reason no decision was taken was many of the speakers — both for and against the proposal —  contended that the Town’s zoning regulations needed to be updated before the application could be considered.

Gigliotti, who freely admitted, “Our regulations were very deficient in how we treated vineyards,” described the combination of circumstances as “A Perfect Storm” in terms of providing a catalyst to move forward with the process of updating the regulations. When the P & Z Commission agreed at the end of the November Public Hearing that the update should be done as soon as possible, vineyard owners Matt Caruso and Donna Moore withdrew their application to await the revision.

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At Monday night’s P & Z meeting, the Commission will first host a Public Hearing on the proposed amendments to the Town’s zoning regulations.  Speakers for and against the proposal can again be expected since Laura and Kieran Mooney, who live immediately opposite Sunset Hill Vineyard, had issued a statement on behalf of the Lyme Rural Protection Group (LRPG) prior to the postponed Feb. 8 meeting.  The statement said in part, “We do not encourage the re-zoning of residential areas to permit commercial and retail enterprises nor do we support tourism … the group opposes several of the proposed changes and additions to the Town of Lyme Zoning Regulations as they have been currently drafted because we believe that they will fundamentally change the character of the town.”

Gigliotti commented to LymeLine.com that if the changes to the regulations are approved by the Commission Monday evening, Sunset Hill Vineyard will then be able to re-apply for a Special Exception Permit.  He noted the regulations will then be in a much improved form to deal with the application and that the issue seemed to have come down to the sale of wine on the premises. Gigliotti said, “People don’t seem to have a problem with them making wine.”

Those objecting to the proposal contend that it will be allowing a retail business in a part of town that is now solely residential and farming in character, while vineyard supporters have argued that Lyme has successfully retained its rural identity in part precisely because it has encouraged farming enterprises.

Caruso, who moved to Lyme in 1974, told LymeLine.com that selling wine has always been part of the business plan to make the vineyard viable.  He stressed the vineyard would not be hosting weddings, accommodating buses nor opening a café and that tastings will be restricted to ‘Appointment Only’ events from May to October and occasional holidays.

One of the vineyard’s most vocal supporters and a farm owner himself is Chip Dahlke of Ashlawn Farm on Bill Hill Rd. in Lyme. He wrote in a Facebook post prior to the cancelled Feb. 8 meeting, “The Town of Lyme has rewritten its regulations to allow vineyards to operate within the town.  I urge everyone to attend this meeting and support the change of regulations.”  Dahlke continued, “[It] is important to keep the town open for agriculture and maintain its character, not simply to be another elitist community along the shoreline.”

Gigliotti noted that an “overwhelming” number — 91 percent — of respondents to the survey related to the 2014 Lyme Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) were “in favor of promoting and enhancing farms and farming in Lyme.”  He commented that operating a farm requires generation of income and is not something done for “altruistic value.”

The LRPG also cited the POCD in their statement saying, “We would encourage the town to maintain those regulations that currently support farming, agriculture and open spaces,” but points out, “[The POCD] discourages tourism and the development of commercialism, including retail, outside the existing commercially zoned areas in Hamburg and Hadlyme such as those proposed by the change in regulations.”

Gigliotti said he did not know whether the Commission would hold a vote on whether to approve the regulations at next Monday’s meeting.  He said the Commission could vote, but that decision would likely depend on members’ reactions to comments from the public.

 

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Encouraging Signs Detected for Old Lyme Regarding High-Speed Railroad Proposal

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

It might seem that things have gone quiet since we published an Op-Ed by Dr. Gregory Stroud on Jan. 29 about the proposals made by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding possible routes for a new high-speed rail track in the Northeast Corridor. 

Alternative 1 of the three presented by the FRA stirred a riot of emotions in the residents of Old Lyme when they found out that the plan called for a route through the center of Old Lyme’s Historic District — one that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder succinctly described as a route that, “would kill our community.”

But while on the surface everything seemed quiet, underneath that veneer of passivity, a flurry of activity — led by Reemsnyder — has been taking place. 

In a phone conversation Saturday afternoon, she told LymeLine about the numerous avenues being pursued to ensure Old Lyme’s opinions regarding Alternative 1 are heard, “loud and clear,” noting that she has focused her efforts on reaching officials, “who can advocate for us.”  And the results of those efforts are looking, at this point, decidedly positive.

Reemsnyder reported that a meeting of all the major stakeholders impacted by the proposal took place last week.  These stakeholders included the Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Old Lyme Open Space Commission, Old Lyme Conservation Trust, Connecticut River Museum, Connecticut Audubon Society, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, Old Lyme Historic District Commission, Old Lyme Historical Society and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation with one representative from each organization present, along with town leaders. Reemsnyder said the group is currently working on a joint statement forcefully expressing their shared concerns about Alternative 1, adding that the statement is near to completion and will be released early this coming week.

Reemsnyder said she has also reached out to state and federal congressmen.  State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) had already issued a statement declaring their opposition to the proposed route.  At the federal level, after Reemsnyder had a conversation with local US Representative Joe Courtney, he and his colleagues  US Senator Chris Murphy and US Senator Richard Blumenthal drafted a letter to the Administrator of the FRA, which fundamentally questioned the process that FRA had followed in the development of its alternative railroad routes.  The letter also urged the FRA to provide opportunities to allow communities being impacted by the FRA proposals to express their views … and then listen carefully to them.

Reemsnyder also told LymeLine that she contacted Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, who is also currently chair of the board which is overseeing the whole FRA project.  She said that Redeker confirmed to her that the board had asked the FRA to improve the existing train track rather than develop a new route and moreover, he intended to remind the FRA of that point.

Finally, and in an extremely important move, Reemsnyder managed to connect with the Senior Vice President of the FRA project, who works for a private company. He not only gave reassurances to Reemsnyder that the concerns of the Old Lyme community were being clearly heard but also offered to come and meet with Reemsnyder “to allay the community’s concerns.”  This meeting has not yet been set up but is in the works.

Most significantly for all town residents, Reemsnyder told LymeLine that she heard from the project manager that, “This [Alternative 1] is not going to happen.”  Stressing that “This doesn’t mean that I will stop making sure it doesn’t happen,” Reemsnyder is clearly encouraged at the general direction of the discussion and stated, “People who have influence are taking note.”

Finally, she noted that a press conference is being organized at a date and time yet to be determined in the coming week to bring the public up to speed with developments.  

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Old Lyme Selectmen Express Strong Opposition to Proposed Rail Project

Updated 02/01, 17:37 — We are trying to keep up to date with all the commentary occurring regarding the NEC high-speed railtrack proposals.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder submitted the following letter dated Jan. 13, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To Whom it May Concern,

My name is Bonnie Reemsnyder, First Selectwoman of the Town of Old Lyme. I have come here today to express my concern with and opposition to the Alternative 1 of the draft EIS for the NEC plan to improve rail service.

First and foremost, this plan would decimate the heart of our community. The path of the railroad would completely change according to this plan, cutting through the heart of our community. We are a small town with very little “central community” area, and what we do have is extremely important to our history, economy, character and sense of community. This plan would impact our only commercial area, which houses our grocery store, pharmacy and many small businesses. Our village center, which is directly off of the commercial area, houses the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the famous Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyme Art Association. All are sites of historic significance and the individual organizations have worked diligently to continue with their legacy and maintain the physical structures. It is beyond comprehension that these buildings would be considered of little importance as this project moves forward.

But the plan also impacts many properties along the way, as it is an entirely new track, cutting through several neighborhoods, not to mention wetlands, open space and areas of archaeological significance. Our community maintains our character through strict zoning regulations, considerate planning, and support of our historic treasures, including the museums, colleges, library and various art organizations.

I am equally concerned that the Federal Rail Administration did not contact the First Selectman’s office personally to solicit feedback and comment. Hearing about plans that have a major impact on our community through the grapevine is unacceptable.

I am vehemently opposed to Alternative 1 of this plan and urge you to look at other, more reasonable solutions for reducing time travel between major cities. Thank you for your time.”

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal submitted the following letter also dated Jan. 13, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To Whom it May Concern,

My name is Mary Jo Nosal, Selectwoman from Old Lyme, CT. It is with great concern, anxiety and in total opposition to the Tier 1 draft EIS for NEC, Alternative 1 that I comment.

It appears that this Alternative focuses on meeting some of the regional goals of the NEC by addressing the chokeholds along the southern part of the existing route. However, by adding new track through the heart of our town our local needs are not addressed and therefore the objectives of the Tier are not met.

Specifically, the proposed section of new track from Old Saybrook to East Lyme, CT will adversely affect our entire community, will cut-off the established tourism lifeline of our region and will not provide a meaningful improvement in efficient rail service.

No data was provided in the EIE to demonstrate that our local commercial, residential and environmental concerns were considered.

A new track through Old Lyme provides no local economic benefit or advantage to local commuters or residents, while the extreme destruction it will cause to an environmentally sensitive area is irreversible.

As proposed, Alternative 1 will be strongly opposed by the community.”

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Sibley

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley submitted the following letter dated Feb. 1, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To whom it may concern,

My name is Skip Sibley and I’m writing to you both as a citizen and an Old Lyme Selectman. I echo the comments already submitted by my two fellow BOS colleagues: Ms. Bonnie Reemsnyder & Ms. Mary Jo Nosal. I strongly object to the proposal as outlined in “Alternative 1”, in which the current train tracks would be relocated through the center of Old Lyme.

Additionally I find it incredible that a $30 million study using taxpayer dollars was already conducted producing a 1000 page report without any correspondence to the impacted towns. It was only a “tip” given by an outsider that Old Lyme even became aware of this initiative by the NEC corridor agency. I’m glad that an extension was given for folks to post their comments.

The rail path for Alternate option # 1 cuts through the heart of our historic district, potentially causing a devastating impact to residents, businesses, museums and schools. And I can’t imagine the damaging impact it would have on our environmentally sensitive areas.

Before moving forward in your plan and spending more dollars, I strongly encourage that a public hearing be scheduled so that other concerned citizens could voice their opinions as well. Please keep me informed on my request.”

 

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Dredging Update From Old Lyme Harbor Management Commission

Dredging in progress on the Four Mile River upstream of the railroad bridge.

Dredging in progress on the Four Mile River upstream of the railroad bridge.

Steven A. Ross, Old Lyme’s Harbor Management Commission (HMC) Chairman and Ned Farman, HMC Vice-Chairman, sent us the following update regarding the dredging on the Four Mile and Black Hall Rivers:

The Town of Old Lyme’s waterway dredging project shifted in late January from the Four Mile River to the Black Hall River.

The dredge company, Patriot Marine of Boston, plans to employ two dredge units at a time on the Black Hall in order to make up for work days lost due to high winds and waves.

Due to the low-lying Amtrak rail bridge, the Four Mile project was unusually challenging and labor-intensive. The general contractor for the dredge operations, working on behalf of the Town of Old Lyme and its Harbor Management Commission, is Coastline Consulting of Branford.

Permitted by Connecticut DEEP (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the dredge projects are designed for environmental protection– improved water flow prevents stagnation and collapse of the salt marshes– and safer navigation at all tidal levels.

It is expected that users from all over the state — boaters, kayakers, those that fish and crab and bird — and the three marina owners will benefit from these infrastructure improvements.

With 100 percent grant financing from the Connecticut Deptartment of Transportation, the dredging of the two rivers is taking place at no cost to the Town of Old Lyme.

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Old Lyme WPCA Requests Well, Septic Info from Sound View, Hawks Nest Property Owners

The Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) is asking property owners in the Sound View and Hawks Nest Beach areas of Old Lyme to assist in the Town’s wastewater study by supplying information that might be relevant.

Four hundred and eighty six letters are being mailed to these property owners and were expected to go out last Friday or today.  The letter read:

The Town of Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority and the Town of Old Lyme Health Department are requesting copies of any information or records on your well or septic systems on your property.  The information is being collected to submit to the State of Connecticut DEEP in reference to the sewer study completed by the Town of Old Lyme engineering consultants Woodard & Curran.  Our town agencies would like to request you drop off copies of your information to:
1.  Town of Old Lyme, Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut  06371
2.  Bring the information to the Town of Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut to be photocopied by Town staff.
3.  Email information to John T. Sieviec, M.S.R.S., Sanitarian, Town of Old Lyme, Connecticut Health Department at jsieviec@oldlyme-ct.gov4.         Fax the information to the Town of Old Lyme Health Department at 860-434-4135.

The WPCA requests that property owners submit their information by Jan. 31.

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Unchanged; Griswold In As Treasurer, Fuchs Fails in BOE Re-election Bid

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (left) and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal celebrate their respective re-elections to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (left) and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal celebrate their respective re-elections to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

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 Tim Griswold is all smiles after his convincing win as Old Lyme Town Treasurer.

Former First Selectman Tim Griswold is all smiles after his convincing win as Old Lyme Town Treasurer.

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.

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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.

Click here to read a report of the debate by Kimberly Drelich of The Day.

Click here to see a video of the debate recorded by The Day.

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Peck Receives Positive Feedback from Boathouse Committee to New Design Concept for Hains Park

Members of the Hains Park Boathouse Improvement Committee consider the new design proposal.

Members of the Hains Park Boathouse Improvement Committee consider the new design proposal.

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.

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Architect’s Fee for Second Round of Boathouse Designs Approved, Drawings Expected Within Four Weeks

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.

Editor’s Note: Click to read an article covering the previous May 14 meeting of the HPBIC titled Boathouse Proposal Draws Sharply Differing Opinions, Slowly Advances
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Lyme Dedicates New Buldings, Passes Town Budget

Townspeople gather to celebrate the dedication of the new Lyme Town Hall and Library.

Townspeople gather to celebrate the dedication of the new Lyme Town Hall and Library.

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.

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Use of $600K From Surplus Account Keeps Old Lyme’s Mill Rate Increase to Less Than 5 Percent

Old Lyme Board of Finance Chairman and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder address the audience at the April 20 Budget Hearing

Old Lyme Board of Finance Chairman Andy Russell and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder address the audience at the April 20 Financial Year 2016 Budget Hearing

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.

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Tree Trimming in Old Lyme This Week

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
Hillside Road
Saunders Hollow Road
Sill Lane
Whippoorwill 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.

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Lynn Fairfield-Sonn Named Old Lyme’s 2014 Citizen of the Year

Old Lyme's 2014 Citizen of the Year Lynn Fairfield-Sonn stands with Selectman Arthur "Skip" Sibley at yesterday's Town Meeting immediately after the award was announced. All photos by Nigel Logan.

Old Lyme’s 2014 Citizen of the Year Lynn Fairfield-Sonn stands with Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley at yesterday’s Town Meeting immediately after the award was announced. All photos by Nigel Logan.

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.

The moment of truth -- a thrilled Lynn Fairfield-Sonn shows her surprise  at the announcement while husband Jim Fairfield-Sonn (right - who was in on the secret) leaps to his feet in delight.

The moment of truth — a thrilled Lynn Fairfield-Sonn shows her surprise at the announcement while her husband Jim Fairfield-Sonn (right – who was in on the secret) leaps to his feet in delight.

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.”

A view of the Meeting Room.

Former Citizens of the Year gather at the front of the Meeting Room to congratulate Lynn Fairfield-Sonn.

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.”

Former Old Lyme Citizens of the Year assemble for a group photo.  From left to right, Lynn Fairfield-Sonn (2014), Peter Cable (2013), (2011), George James (2010) and Bob Pearson (2012)

Former Old Lyme Citizens of the Year assemble for a group photo. From left to right, Lynn Fairfield-Sonn (2014), Peter Cable (2013), Jeff Sturges (2011), George James (2010) and Bob Pearson (2012)

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.”

Lynn's husband Jim congratulates his wife and all the former recipients of the award since 2010.

Lynn’s husband Jim Fairfield-Sonn congratulates his wife and all the former recipients of the award since 2010.

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.

Refreshments followed the award presentation to celebrate and congratulate Old Lyme's 2014 Citizen of the Year.

Refreshments followed the award presentation to celebrate and congratulate Old Lyme’s 2014 Citizen of the Year.

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.”

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Xmas Tree Collection in Old Lyme Continues Through Jan. 30

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.

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MLK Day Closings in Lyme, Old Lyme

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.

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Approves Appointments to Boards, Commissions

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

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Five Towns, Including Old Lyme, Proclaim Feb. 15, 2015, as ‘Loving Parting’ Day

Mark Lander holds 'The Loving Parting Day' proclamation.

Mark Lander holds the ‘Loving Parting Day’ proclamation.

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.

Old Lyme Historical Society Co-Chair Mark Lander (left) explains the history of 'The Loving Parting' to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

Old Lyme Historical Society Co-Chair Mark Lander (left) explains the history of the ‘Loving Parting’ to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

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.”

Proclamation

The ‘Loving Parting Day’ Proclamation with Bonnie Reemsnyder and Ralph Eno’s signatures.

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!

 

 

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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.

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