December 13, 2017

Farewell to Fiorelli: The Director Who Made The Library “The Heart and Soul of Old Lyme”

A smiling Mary Fiorelli (center) stands with her siblings.

A smiling Mary Fiorelli (center) stands with her siblings, Skip and Patricia.

It seemed as if almost the whole town had turned out Thursday, Sept. 29, to say farewell to Mary Fiorelli, who was retiring after almost 16 years as director of the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library (OL-PGN) and another three before that as its reference librarian.

crowd

The large crowd, pictured in small part above, which had caused the parked cars outside not only to fill the library’s lot but also to span both sides of the length of Lyme Street, overflowed from the Reading Room at the back of the library into the main area of the library itself.  It was a sad but joyous occasion as the community said goodbye to its much beloved, happily adopted (Fiorelli lives in Mystic) member and wished her well in all her new retirement ventures.

In a typically short but genuine speech — Fiorelli is well-known for avoiding the spotlight whenever possible — she thanked the Old Lyme community, “for giving me the opportunity to do the job I love for almost 16 years.”  She confessed, “For me, the best part of being the director has been developing programs and exhibits. It allowed me to stay in touch with our patrons … I heard all about what they liked or were interested in, which gave me a way to gauge our successes and plan for future programs.”

John Forbis gives his good wishes to Mary at the event.

John Forbis gives his good wishes to Mary at the event.

And it was while planning these programs that Fiorelli found she, “wanted to explore my own need for a creative outlet, which led me to pick up a camera and take photography classes.” Standing in a room filled with an exhibition of photographs she had taken,  Fiorelli commented, “This photographic exhibit is my way to share with you my passion for the outdoors and the many hidden gems we have in our own state parks and preserves.”

From left to right, leslie massa, Chairman of the Friends of the library, Alan Poirier, Library Board of Trustees President and David Winer, past Board President share memories of Mary's tenure.

From left to right, Leslie Massa, Chairman of the Friends of the Library, Alan Poirier, Library Board of Trustees President and David Winer, past Board President share memories of Mary’s tenure.

In a somewhat longer speech, the chairman of the OL-PGN Board of Trustees Alan Poirier noted, “I’m not sure of the math, but I believe Mary is the 19th or 20th director of the library – and we are transferring this great legacy that goes back to the dedication in June 1898.” He said that at the 1898 ceremony, Daniel Gilman, President of the Johns Hopkins University, called the library, “a place for inspiration.”

Famous faces in the crowd: David Handler (back right) and Luanne Rice (extreme right), both Top 10 New York Times authors, joined the celebrations.

Famous faces in the crowd: David Handler (back right) and Luanne Rice (extreme right), both Top 10 New York Times-selling authors, joined the celebrations.

Poirier told the audience, “Mary has kept to that vision with all that she has done for us.  She has helped us deliver the experience we want patrons to have,” which was, “… to be the community’s vibrant hub for engagement, discovery and creativity,” and, “to inspire lifelong learning and discovery in a welcoming place with exceptional resources, programs and services.”  Poirier stressed the fact that Fiorelli had worked diligently to make the library “a welcoming place,” especially in her work setting up and curating art exhibits, thus, “helping to maintain that link to the artist, which goes back to the earliest days of the library.”

Mary Fiorelli stands with former OL-PGN staff member Stephanie Romano, who recently was appointed the Director of Chester Library.

Mary Fiorelli (right) stands with former OL-PGN staff member Stephanie Romano, who recently was appointed the Director of Chester Library.

He also noted that Fiorelli had increased participation in library programs by over 60 percent in recent years, broadened outreach to home-bound patrons and created new partnerships with local schools. Moreover, she kept the Trustees well-informed about operations and about new opportunities and, “… most importantly, she has built a huge reservoir of trust with the patrons.”

Everyone was there: Florence Griswold Museum Director Jeff Andersen chats with the Poiriers.

Everyone was there: Florence Griswold Museum Director Jeff Andersen chats with the Poiriers.

Fiorelli is a keen sailor and Poirier drew on a seafaring metaphor to sum up Fiorelli’s contribution to the library, saying, “calm in a storm” comes to mind when one thinks of her, and adding, “I can say that her calm and steady and knowledgeable approach has taken us very far, and I know these traits will continue to drive what she does from here on.  Mary has continued to make this a place for inspiration – and for that she is a friend forever to the staff, patrons and trustees.”

Former OL-PGN Board President Jack Collins (left) engages with library supporters.

Former OL-PGN Board President Jack Collins (left) engages with library supporters.

A former chairman of the board of trustees, David Winer, noted Fiorelli, who had joined the library in 1997 as its reference librarian, only applied for the director’s position “with great reticence and ambivalence.”  She was appointed Library Director in 2000 and Winer commented that, ironically, after so much persuasion to make her apply, her 16 years of service “now make her tenure one of the longest in the library’s history.”

Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Sibley (left) makes a point.

Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley (left) makes a point.

Winer said, “It didn’t take her long to be the best there is … and she did everything from setting up exhibitions, tearing them down, even cleaning the toilets!”  He concluded, “She’s a true multi-tasker.”  He listed numerous accomplishments that Fiorelli had achieved which included increasing the endowment by over $1 million in three years and leading the library “into the high-tech age,” which he commented to laughter was quite a challenge in Old Lyme.

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) share a moment with a guest at the event.

Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal and State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) share a moment with a guest at the event.

To more and louder laughter he added, “She also learned how to deal with the board of trustees — all 17 members — and became very skilled at exiting them out of her office!”

Friends and volunteers were all on hand to celebrate mary's 16-year tenure as OL-PGN Library Director. From left to right, Mary Jo Nosal, Doug Wilkinson, Julie O'Brien, Marisa Hartmann, Lucy Wilkinson and incoming OL-PGN Director Katie Heffnan.

Friends and volunteers were all on hand to celebrate Mary’s 16-year tenure as OL-PGN Library Director. From left to right, Mary Jo Nosal, Doug Wilkinson, Julie O’Brien, Marisa Hartmann, Lucy Wilkinson and incoming OL-PGN Director Katie Huffman.

Winer concluded, “Under your direction, the library became the heart and soul of Old Lyme and I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the library, for Old Lyme and wish you the best for your retirement … and God speed.”

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If You Oppose the Proposed High-Speed Rail Route, Join SECoast’s Fundraiser This Afternoon at Bee & Thistle

fundraiser-at-bt_oct2016SECoast, the non-profit group actively and constructively opposing the proposed high-speed rail line through Old Lyme and southeast Connecticut, is holding a fundraiser at the Bee and Thistle Inn on Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.

SECoast.org is a locally-directed special project of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Since publicly breaking news of the proposed bypass in January, SECoast.org has been working tirelessly as an effective advocate for Old Lyme and the local area by catalyzing growing regional opposition to the bypass.

Thanks to the generosity of the Bee and Thistle’s owner David Rufo, the Inn’s Executive Chef and acclaimed wildlife photographer Kristofer Rowe and singer/songwriter Dan Stevens who is performing at the event, 100 percent of the funds raised on Sunday will go towards mounting a legal defense to the route, which it is anticipated will be announced next week.  The monies raised will help support staffing, digital media and administrative costs of the campaign.

Once that announcement has been made, there are precisely 30 days by law to respond to the preferred route.  SECoast wants to be ready to react immediately to the announcement.

Tickets for Sunday’s event are $50 and fully tax-deductible.  There is also a Sponsor level at $250 and sponsors will receive an autographed Kristofer Rowe photograph.

Donations in any amount are always at welcome at this account or by mail at CT Trust for Historic Trust Preservation, 940 Whitney Ave., Hamden, CT 06517-4002 (make checks payable to CT Trust with “For SECoast” on the face.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the work that SECoast has been doing.  Without Greg Stroud and his small band of dedicated individuals, the proposed Old Saybrook to Kenyon by-pass would likely have quietly continued along its probable path to becoming part of the FRA’s Tier 2 preferred route.

We are delighted that Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congressman Joe Courtney, State Senator Paul Formica and State Representative Devin Carney are now all vocally opposed to the route and believe that in no small part relates to the efforts of SECoast.  We hope our Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (BOS) will show their support for SECoast because surely the BOS objectives are identical to those of SECoast?

This fundraiser is your chance to show your appreciation for all the work that SECoast has undertaken so far on behalf of the residents of Old Lyme specifically and, in a broader sense, the people of southeastern Connecticut … and all the work it will take on in the future.  If you choose not to support SECoast, then please don’t feel you have a right to complain about the train route down the line … pun intended!

See you on Sunday!

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrates Start of Long-Anticipated Sound View Improvement Project

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Bonnie Reemsnyder, Frank Pappalardo, Jim Lampos, and MaryJo Nosal dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, SVIC members Angelo Faenza, Jim Lampos and Rob Haramut (from RiverCOG), and Old Lyme Selectmen Mary Jo Nosal and Skip Sibley dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

The sun shone brightly as town officials, Sound View Improvements Committee (SVIC) members, design and construction personnel and a handful of Sound View residents cheerfully gathered at the flagpole at the foot of Hartford Ave. for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on the long-awaited project to upgrade the street.

Old Lyme residents originally approved $877,000 for the project back in July of this year but this past Tuesday (Sept. 27) increased the amount approved to $911,100 to allow for the bids having come in higher than expected. The improvements comprise the reinstatement of horizontal parking on Hartford Avenue, sidewalks expanded from 3 ft. to 6 ft., lighting, plantings, bike racks and the addition of curbs and bump-outs.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

The town expects to receive 80 percent reimbursement on the current project and is still exploring ways to fund the reinstatement of a park (named Sound View Green) and upgraded restrooms, which were originally included in the plan but have both now been removed due to budget overruns.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Asked how she felt now that the start of construction is finally imminent, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who also served on the SVIC, responded enthusiastically, “I’m delighted and can’t wait to see everything accomplished.  It’s going to be wonderful and also a great place to walk.”  She commented, “People have been talking about this since I became a Selectwoman in 2003,” adding, “For decades, we’ve talked about this [Sound View] being a ‘diamond in the rough.’ People are tired of talking about it – they want to see some action.”

The theme that the groundbreaking represented the culmination of years of work by many people was echoed repeatedly with Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo saying, “It’s been a long time coming … it’s tremendous that we’re actually starting the project.”  He noted that the project represented, “A lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people.”

From left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design firm The BSC Group, Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC-the project inspection firm.

The design and construction project personnel gathered for a photo, from left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena, Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design BSC Group, and Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC, the project inspection firm.

The project’s designer was the BSC Group of Glastonbury, Conn., and its principal Kurt Prochorena, a civil engineer, also noted the evolution of the project had taken a long time but pointed out, “It’s going to really improve the character of the area.”

Recalling that the eight-member SVIC had started meeting every two weeks back in 2014, SVIC Chairman and Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal said, “I am extremely gratified by all the efforts of the [SVIC] committee, the Sound View Commission, residents, town officials and the BSC Group, who have brought this project to fruition. It’s hopefully the start of other great things in this area.”

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing, who have both lived in Sound View for many years, were on hand to enjoy the celebrations.  Annunziata mentioned that her family has owned in property in Sound View for some 95 years and was the first of Italian descent to buy in the area. Lishing repeated the much used phrase of the day, “This has been a long time coming,” before noting with a broad smile, “I’m so excited. It’s going to be beautiful!”

 

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Lyme-Old Lyme HS Alum’s Work Tracking Only Wild Jaguar in US Featured in Current ‘Smithsonian’ Magazine

Cover of the October issue of The Smithsonian magazine featuring Lyme-Old Lyme High School alumnus Chris Bugbee and his wife Aletris Neils in a story about tracking the only jaguar living wild in the US.

Cover of the October issue of The Smithsonian magazine featuring Lyme-Old Lyme High School alumnus Chris Bugbee and his wife Aletris Neils in a story about tracking the only jaguar living wild in the US.

Chris Bugbee, a member of the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Class of 1997, and his wife Aletris Neils are featured in a major news story published in the current (October) issue of The Smithsonian magazine and on Smithsonian.com at this link. The story by Richard Grant with photographs by Bill Hatcher is titled, “The Return of the Great American Jaguar,” with a sub-title, “The story of tracking a legendary feline named El Jefe through the Arizona mountains.”

Bugbee is the son of Old Lyme’s Parks and Recreation Director Don Bugbee and the Rev. Rebecca Crosby, Minister for Haitian Outreach at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. Chris Bugbee obtained a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Biology at St. Lawrence University and a Master’s degree majoring in Interdisciplinary Ecology at the University of Florida.

The Smithsonian piece makes compelling reading and we urge you to take the time to read it.

We ran an article on Chris Bugbee and Neils on Feb. 4, 2016, which we are pleased to republish below.  It includes a link to a short piece of video showing the elusive jaguar, which is now also featured in The Smithsonian piece.

Lyme-Old Lyme HS Alum Chris Bugbee Captures Video of Only Known Wild Jaguar in US

Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity released new video today of the only known wild jaguar currently in the United States. Captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside Tucson, the dramatic footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature’s most majestic and charismatic creatures. This is the first ever publicly released video of the jaguar, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation.

El Jefe video

The camera project is part of ongoing efforts to monitor mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona for endangered jaguar and ocelot. Chris Bugbee, a graduate of Lyme-Old Lyme High School and now a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, has been collecting data on the Santa Rita jaguar for the past three years (formerly through the University of Arizona).

“Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the U.S. is especially challenging,” said Bugbee. “We use our specially trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts.”

“These glimpses into his behavior offer the keys to unlocking the mysteries of these cryptic cats” said Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst. “We are able to determine he is an adult male jaguar, currently in prime condition. Every new piece of information is important for conserving northern jaguars and we look forward to building upon on these data so that we can collectively make better decisions on how to manage these fascinating and endangered cats.”

“Jaguars have always occurred in Arizona and yet we know so little about them in the northern portion of their range. Arizona should be poised to harbor and protect both jaguars and ocelots as they continue to disperse out from Sonora,” said Bugbee, who now lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Bugbee was featured in an article about the video of the jaguar by William Yardley titled, “He roams alone: El Jefe may be the last wild jaguar in the U.S.” and published in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

“Just knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center. “El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It’s our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive.”

El Jefe, as he has come to be known in Tucson, has been photographed repeatedly by remote sensor cameras in the Santa Ritas over the past few years. He is the only verified jaguar in the United States since Macho B was euthanized as a result of capture-related injuries in March 2009. “Jaguars are solitary cats that only tolerate each other for reproduction,” said Neils.

But a huge conflict is brewing that threatens to destroy El Jefe’s home. A Canadian mining company is pushing to develop a massive open-pit copper mine right in the middle of the big cat’s territory. The mile-wide open pit and 800-foot-high piles of toxic mine waste would permanently destroy thousands of acres of occupied, federally protected jaguar habitat where this jaguar lives.

“Clearly, the Santa Rita Mountains are a vital part of this cat’s home range,” said Bugbee. “This jaguar has been photographed in every month of the year in these mountains — there are more than 100 detections of him in the Santa Ritas since 2013 — how could anyone argue the importance of these mountains?”

“The Rosemont Mine would destroy El Jefe’s home and severely hamstring recovery of jaguars in the United States,” said Serraglio. “At ground zero for the mine is the intersection of three major wildlife corridors that are essential for jaguars moving back into the U.S. to reclaim lost territory. The Santa Rita Mountains are critically important to jaguar recovery in this country, and they must be protected.”

In October the rare cat was named “El Jefe,” which means “the boss” in Spanish, after a vote by Tucson school kids and others. The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity has been working for decades to save jaguars in the United States, with the hope that El Jefe will soon be joined by more jaguars that wander up from Mexico. In 2014 the Center secured more than 750,000 acres of federally protected critical habitat for U.S. jaguar recovery.

Jaguars — the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions — once lived throughout the American Southwest, with historical reports on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the mountains of Southern California and as far east as Louisiana. Jaguars disappeared from their U.S. range over the past 150 years, primarily due to habitat loss and historic government predator control programs intended to protect the livestock industry. The last verified female jaguar in the country was shot by a hunter in 1963 in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim.

This research builds upon a three-year project (2012- 2015) from the University of Arizona surveying jaguars and ocelots throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Editor’s Notes: i) The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

ii) Conservation CATalyst is a Tucson-based nonprofit organization specializing in conducting scientific research on cats that are in conflict with people.

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Farewell to Fiorelli; Long-Serving Old Lyme PGN Library Director Retires Today

Old Lyme PGN Library Director Mary Fiorelli, who retires today.

Old Lyme PGN Library Director Mary Fiorelli, who retires today.

Mary Fiorelli, who has worked at the Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library for over 19 years with 16 of them as Director, enters a new chapter of her life today when she sails away to a well-deserved retirement.  In fact, the retirement party that the library’s board of trustees are hosting this afternoon for the community to say goodbye to Mary is aptly titled, “Smooth Sailing.”

Mary is a keen sailor and looking forward to spending considerably more time on the sailboat that she and her husband own.  She is also an accomplished photographer and the library is currently hosting an exhibition of her photos in the Reading Room, which will be open during the party.

The retirement party will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the library and feature music by Jacob Graham along with light refreshments.  Members of the community are welcome to stop by the library any time today to wish Mary well in her retirement.

The party will also be used as an opportunity to introduce incoming director Katie Huffman.

Here at LymeLine.com, we would like to wish you a wonderful retirement, Mary, and most definitely, “Smooth Sailing!”

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Old Lyme Residents Vote Tonight on Sound View Project Cost Increase, Joining Ledge Light at Special Town Meeting

Updated 09/27: 7:27am: The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen has announced a Special Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School to consider and vote on four items.

The first is to authorize approval of $911,100 for the construction cost of the Rte. 156 Bikeway/Sound View Improvements Project. Although $877,000 was approved by residents for this project in July of this year, according to an article by Kimberly Drelich published today (Sept. 24) on theday.com, “Reemsnyder said the bids for the project came in higher than expected” and an increase in the budgeted amount is now required.

This project has changed significantly since it was first introduced when it included bathrooms and a park (Sound View Green.)  Those items have been eliminated for cost reasons and the bikeway on Rte. 156 has also been dropped from the Sound View project since Rte. 156 is a state road, which means the project falls under the state’s jurisdiction. Editor’s Note: Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal has clarified (see ‘Comment’ below) that, “the DOT’s plans for the bike way, namely stripping and signage, remain the same. The route is currently listed on the CT State wide bicycle map.”  The map to which Nosal refers can be found at this link.

(See Editor’s Note below for related articles on the Sound View project.)

The second agenda item Tuesday is to authorize the Town to join the Ledge Light Health District (LLHD). Steve Mansfield from LLHD gave a presentation Aug. 29 at a Public Hearing attended by around 20 people, who were evenly divided in terms of being for or against the proposal. Mansfield will give another presentation prior to Tuesday’s vote.

Concerns raised by participants at the hearing included not having a Sanitarian readily accessible in Old Lyme thus creating the need to travel to New London to connect with a Sanitarian, a possible increase in wait times for inspections, and an increase in costs to users in some cases. An example of the latter is that in the case of restaurants, LLHD fees are based on classification whereas the Town of Old Lyme’s current fee structure relates to seating capacity.

The board of selectmen, which is supporting the proposal, cites benefits for the town, which include having the current health department employee based in Old Lyme for at least half her time initially to assist with the transition and the provision of a consistent range of services.  The selectmen also note that Ledge Light offers more officials, who individually specialize in different areas of expertise, and can provide the public with information and quality services in a timely manner.

If the motion is approved, the Town will have a two-year commitment to LLHD with the town’s representation on the LLHD Board based on the town’s population.

The third and fourth agenda items relate to the Town granting easements for entry and exit to a number of properties on Boston Post Rd. in the Rogers Lake area.

Editor’s Note:  Articles previously published on LymeLine.com related to the Sound View project include:
All Three Items Approved at Old Lyme Special Town Meeting; Sound View Construction to Start Later This Year   Published 07/18/16
Rte. 156 Bikeway/Sound View Improvements Proposal: The Case For and The Case Against Published 07/18/16
Presentation of Sound View Improvements Draws Praise, Criticism at Lively Meeting Published 04/28/16

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Old Lyme Debate Sees Linares, Needleman Disagree Sharply on Some Issues, Agree on Others

Norm Needleman (left) and Art Linares

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman (left) and Sen. Art Linares answered questions on a variety of topics in last night’s debate.

The candidates vying for the 33rd State Senate District seat met last night in front of a relatively small audience of around 75 in the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS).  Rarefied because not a single resident of Old Lyme can vote for either candidate since Old Lyme is part of the 20th State Senate District currently represented by Republican Paul Formica.

Nevertheless, The Day and the Eastern CT Chamber of Commerce selected LOLHS as the location for the first debate of the season in the high profile 33rd State Senate race.  Two-term incumbent Sen. Art Linares (R) faced off against challenger Norman Needleman (D), who is in his third term as first selectman of Essex, in a gentlemanly debate conducted entirely from seated positions.

Linares was first elected in 2012 to the 33rd State Senate District seat, which was held for two decades by the late former State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. He won a second term in 2014, defeating Democrat Emily Bjornberg of Lyme on a 22,762-17,326 vote. Needleman was first elected as an Essex Selectman in 2003

Linares&Needleman

The Day’s Editorial Page editor Paul Choiniere (center in photo above) moderated the debate assisted by retired Day Deputy Managing  Editor Lisa McGinley and Day Staff Writer Brian Hallenback.

The constant theme of both candidates’ responses was the need for the state to control spending and to increase jobs, but they expressed different routes towards achieving that goal interspersed with regular jabs against their respective opponent.

1609_untitled_018

Linares, pictured above, opened the latter theme by saying, “Desperate people do desperate things,” when asked about charges from Needleman that he (Linares) had used constituent names and addresses inappropriately.  Linares said, “They [his opponents] want us to focus on desperate things,” rather than the state’s real problems such as, “Every day we have businesses leaving the state,” declaring emphatically, “I am ready to stand up and fight for you.”

A question about whether the candidates supported the Citizen’s Election Program (CEP) drew one of the most heated exchanges with Linares saying candidates should be encouraged to fund their own election campaigns because, “the CEP is running a deficit year after year.”  Needleman responded immediately, “That’s an absurd and ridiculous statement,” adding that the CEP has proved to be a “leveling-field.”

The issue of a third casino in Connecticut also showed a sharp difference in the candidate’s positions with Linares supporting the proposal in order to “intercept tourists on their way to [the new MGM casino in] Massachusetts,” which he predicted would otherwise take potentially up to $100 million out of state.  Needleman said unequivocally, “I would not support the expansion of casinos in Connecticut.”

Responding to a question about Linares’s March 2016 vote against a measure to reduce the state’s budget deficit, Needleman declared, “That vote pushed me over the edge to run,” and that he was “perplexed,” when he had determined that Linares was one of the three senators who had voted against the proposal.  Linares countered that he had, “stood up against that budget because I knew the next day it would be in deficit,” adding, “We didn’t make the kinds of structural change needed,” concluding firmly, “I’m proud that I stood up against Dan Malloy’s budget.”

1609_untitled_020

Needleman, pictured above, then accused Linares of being something Needleman confessed he had been described as himself when much younger by a teacher, namely, “A master of the obvious.” Needleman agreed, “We all know now we need structural reform,” but argued, “That stand needed to be taken,” long before the actual vote.

The candidates were in relative harmony regarding the recent Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that education funding needs to be more equitable, both agreeing, in Linares’s words, “The legislature must find a fair and concise way to fund education,” and, in Needleman’s, “The judge should not legislate from the bench.”

Similarly, Needleman and Linares found common ground on the subject of how the state should improve its fiscal position with the former saying that the state needed to “control spending and increase jobs,” while the latter added, “… and end wasteful spending.”

Asked which Presidential candidate they were voting for, Needleman mentioned first, “I’ve never seen an election like this one,” then said, “I support Hilary Clinton … albeit at times, reluctantly.” In turn, Linares stated, “I’m voting for Donald Trump,” adding, “I’m voting Republican down the line this year,” commenting, “Our country and our state needs to change direction.”

1609_untitled_007

The candidates responded to several further questions including ones about the ease with which the state can sell or swap state-owned land, how the state should create jobs and the state’s response to the opioid crisis.

In his closing statement, Linares said his goal was, “to take Connecticut to the top again,” since under six year of Malloy’s leadership, “”I have seen the state move backwards.”  He explained that Connecticut Republicans have a plan to achieve that objective called, “A Confident Future,” and urged the audience to review it.

Taking his turn, Needleman said, “I started as a cab driver in New York – I have paid my dues,” adding, “Relationships mean everything to me. I am always telling the truth and not reverting to scripted talking points.” He concluded, “Glory has no role for me.”

Norm Needleman had a significant crowd of supporters, who stood outside the High School prior to the debate.

Norm Needleman had a significant crowd of supporters, who stood outside the High School prior to the debate.

Editor’s Note: The 33rd State Senate District consists of the Town of Lyme along with the Towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Portland, Westbrook, and part of Old Saybrook.

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Boathouse Construction Hits Early Snags: First Round of Change Orders Totals Almost $100, 000

Members of the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvements Committee gathered in Old Lyme Town Hall's mezzanine conference room for last Monday's meeting.

Members of the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvements Committee gathered in Old Lyme Town Hall’s mezzanine conference room for last Monday’s Special Meeting.

Members of the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvements Committee (BHPIC) clashed repeatedly at a Special Meeting held last Monday (Sept. 12) in the Old Lyme Town Hall.  Tensions were high since work on the boathouse — which had begun in mid-August — had been subject to various delays and cost increases.

The delays had arisen after it was determined that the existing foundation on which it had been planned to construct the new boathouse, was not strong enough for the new building. This, in turn, meant significant additional costs were about to be incurred to demolish and rebuild the foundation.

The old boathouse has been demolished and construction has begun on the boathouse at Hains Park.

The old boathouse has been demolished and construction has begun on the boathouse at Hains Park.

The first item on the agenda was to review a draft project budget, which had been requested some three weeks previously by Old Lyme’s Finance Director Nicole Stajduhar and Old Lyme Town Treasurer Timothy Griswold.

Paul Gianquinto, BHPIC Co-Chairman, had distributed a draft budget dated Sept. 8, to the committee but Old Lyme Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Robert Dunn maintained the document, “… is not a budget.”  He described it as an “expenditure budget” and contended that the committee should not move forward with any further expenditures until a “proper budget” was not only established but also agreed with Stajduhar and Griswold.

Dunn declared unequivocally, “This project has escalated to anything beyond what we thought.”  To support that contention, he noted the original project budget of $883,000, which was approved by the town at an Oct. 6, 2014, meeting (based on numbers agreed by the BHPIC on Sept. 30, 2014) showed $44,000 budgeted for the architect, but he noted that number now stands at over $63,000.

Similarly, Dunn said the estimated (proposed and committed) construction costs for Phase 1 (construction of the boathouse) had risen from the budgeted amount of over $533,000 to over $706,000, representing a 30 percent increase. The original number ($533,900) had been presented to the community in a update by the Old Lyme Selectmen on Jan. 25, 2016.

Construction equipment being used during the project stands on the site in front of Rogers Lake.

Construction equipment being used during the project stands on the site in front of Rogers Lake.

The project is funded by a State of Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant in the amount of $478,000, which was approved in 2013, and an additional $405,000 that was approved at the Oct. 6, 2014, Old Lyme Special Town Meeting.  An additional $50,800 was raised from private donations and added to the funds for the project.  The total available for the project is therefore $933,500.

Dunn explained his major concern regarding the cost overruns relates the fact that as costs rise beyond the original budget for Phase 1 (boathouse construction), the amount remaining for the items that benefit the broader community (Phase 2) diminishes.  That amount related to Phase 2, which the Old Lyme Selectmen noted in their Jan. 25, 2016, update to residents was $219,988, was intended for upgrades to the bathrooms, improvements to the parking lot and a community gazebo.

With the cost overruns to date, Dunn contended that the project was now “ … going up to over one million dollars.” Throughout the meeting, there was general agreement that costs had risen on the project and that, as First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said, “We have to look for savings wherever we can.”

Old Lyme Town Treasurer Tim Griswold (standing) makes a point during the meeting.

Old Lyme Town Treasurer Tim Griswold (standing) makes a point during the meeting.

Dunn made a motion to table all further expenses until the committee had established a budget that was approved by the Town’s Finance Director and Treasurer.  During discussion of the motion, Gianquinto stated, “A budget was never approved or established by the town.”  Griswold, who was in the audience, noted, “After the project was approved at town meeting, [it would be expected] a budget would be prepared that would build in all allocations and expenditures.”

Griswold added that since the project had changed substantially subsequent to the town meeting (the second floor has been removed due to requirements related to the building being considered an “educational facility”) and “the scope of the project became less, [one] would think the committee would prepare a new budget.”

Old Lyme Parks and Recreation Director Don Bugbee, who is a voting member of the BHPIC, commented, “This is a hot-button topic. The committee needs to be fiscally responsible to the town.” He added, “A lot of people ask me questions [about the budget] and I can’t answer them.”  Gianquinto countered firmly, “I believe this is a budget.”

A new foundation must now be laid for the boathouse.

A new foundation must now be laid for the boathouse.

Griswold offered to work with Gianquinto to prepare a budget that included the additional information required to monitor actual expenses against proposed line item budgeted amounts so that, in Griswold’s words, “As costs increase, the budget would say you’re getting close to the maximum budget … [thus ensuring] there is no wolf at the door.”

There was considerable heated discussion about what the cost would be if the project were stopped, which was the predicted result of Dunn’s motion. Dunn said he hoped a budget could be agreed the next day, but Gianquinto was adamant, “The committee needs to make decisions tonight and to move forward.”

Bugbee asked what would happen if there were insufficient funds to “do a bathhouse.” Gianquinto responded that there were three possibilities — to collect additional funds, to reduce cost of the boathouse through value engineering or to place the bathhouse in the capital plan and treat it as a separate project.  Reemsnyder pointed out that a similar situation had arisen with the Sound View project, which had originally included restrooms and a green, but that for cost reasons those items had now been removed from the plans.

When the vote was taken on the motion, it was defeated five to one with BHPIC Co-chairmen Gianquinto and Paul Fuchs voting against it joined by Old Lyme Rowing Association Chairman Gregory Hack along with BHPIC members John Parker and Philip Carney.  Dunn voted in favor of the measure and Bugbee abstained.

hains_pk_sign_292x194After that vote, which enabled the committee to proceed with discussion of the draft budget that Gianquinto had prepared, Griswold commented, “You know a large expense is looming,” pointing out that “This is a snapshot as at right now — there’s no mention of a $100,000 change order.” Gianquinto submitted, “We can add additional lines,” to which Griswold responded, “[To prepare a budget] you will have to tell me… things that might come up.”

The change order Griswold mentioned was to demolish and replace the foundation. When it was discussed at the previous week’s Old Lyme Selectmen’s meeting, an amount of approximately $110,000 was being considered, but Gianquinto had negotiated during the ensuing week with the contractor and achieved a cost reduction to a little over $103, 000.  He stated he was not happy to be paying the amount but did not feel there was much choice.  That change order was approved along with one to delete the cupolas from the boathouse, which saved $5,900, and two others relating to hardware, which both will result in small credits to the budget totaling just over $1,000.

At the end of the meeting, Old Lyme Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal commented it had been, “A very tough meeting.”  She thanked all the members for their patience and Griswold for being there to help explain and resolve the budget matters.  Finally, she concluded, “The community wants this done.  We are a leader in this [type of project.]  Let’s get it done.”

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Old Lyme Inn Owners Offer Unique Opportunity to an Experienced Chef/General Manager

Ken and Chris Kitchings are ready to welcome guests to the Inn's celebratory weekend.

Old Lyme Inn owners Ken and Chris Kitchings are looking for someone to take on the restaurant side of the business. (File photo.)

SIDE DOOR JAZZ CLUB AND INN REMAIN FULLY OPERATIONAL WHILE RESTAURANT OPERATIONS ARE RECONFIGURED 

Almost on a whim, Ken and Chris Kitchings purchased the long-neglected Old Lyme Inn in 2011 and then spent a full year renovating the exterior of the main building while also updating and upgrading all systems and décor.  In April of 2012, they opened the restaurant and eight of the 13 rooms and the following year, they opened the remaining five rooms and The Side Door jazz club.

The property is significant covering almost two acres and, apart from the elegant rooms and the extremely popular jazz club, it also features a variety of dining areas. These include a beautiful patio shaded by a large maple tree (40 seats), a bar room (38 seats), a main dining room primarily used for special events (60+ seats) and a small private room (18 seats).

The Side Door is a 75-seat intimate space that includes a full-service bar and showcases world-class jazz musicians every Friday and Saturday night.  Having rapidly established a national reputation, it was a tremendous honor when Downbeat magazine recognized the club in February 2016 as one of the premier jazz clubs in the world.

The Old Lyme Inn is located just seconds away from the I-95 Exit 70 off-ramp.

The Old Lyme Inn is located just seconds away from the I-95 Exit 70 off-ramp.

The Inn enjoys a prime location  moments away from the foot of the I-95 Exit 70 off-ramp, placing it exactly two hours from both Boston and New York. The 13 guest rooms are sold out most weekends with wedding guests in the warm months and attendees of The Side Door jazz club during the remaining months.

With the club, restaurant and guest rooms — not to mention the outstanding central location — there is unquestionably vast potential in the property.  Moreover, the Inn is located directly across the street from the Florence Griswold Museum, which is recognized as the birthplace of American Impressionism.

This past August Ken and Chris were obliged to curtail restaurant service due to a lack of kitchen staff. Both The Side Door and the Inn remain fully operational — special events are being executed as planned, utilizing a skeleton crew of loyal staff.

Chris notes, “Ceasing normal restaurant operations was a very difficult but very necessary decision.”  She comments, “‘Google’ chef shortage and you will see that Connecticut and Southern New England are not alone in the current chef shortage dilemma. Restaurants here and abroad are experiencing difficulty in staffing their kitchens.”

Explaining how she and Ken are hoping to resolve the current situation, Chris says, “We are actively looking for a chef/general manager to take over management of the property. This could be an ideal opportunity for a chef/ manager from New York, Boston or any metropolitan area who would like to establish him or herself (with family) in a wonderful small community.”

But what makes this a unique opportunity for the right person is the “package” that Chris and Ken are offering.  Ken notes, “We are open to suggestions and creative concepts for utilizing this beautiful property. Ultimately, the Old Lyme Inn might become an establishment that is more than a restaurant and inn. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination.”

He concludes, “Our goal remains the same as when we purchased the property — to utilize and operate the entire property to the benefit of the community. We would like to think that the opportunity and support we can offer someone who is willing to work hard is greater than if they were to start a hospitality business from scratch on their own.”

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See World Premiere of Stunnng Movie About Artist Christian Brechneff at ‘The Kate’, Tonight; Reception Follows at Cooley Gallery

Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff at work in his studio.

Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff at work in his studio.

The world premiere of the documentary, “Like Notes of Music: Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff: The Landscape Painter” will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, ‘The Kate,’ at 300 Main St., Old Saybrook.

The film is a stunning visual portrait of the landscape painter, who now lives in Hadlyme, Conn. with his husband — another artist — Tim Lovejoy. Narrated by Brechneff in his extraordinarily engaging voice, the film offers an intimate insight into both the ‘external’ artist one meets at, say, a reception and the powerful inner forces that have been driving him to paint all his life.

Artwork by Christian Brechneff

Artwork by Christian Brechneff

Born in Africa, raised in the Swiss Alps, educated in England and part-time resident on the Greek island of Sifnos for many years, Brechneff is a fascinating subject who not only speaks several languages but also has lived in a string of beautiful locations.  Apart from those already listed, add New York City, where Brechneff still has a studio, and Basel, Switzerland, where he exhibits regularly.  Escaping the rigors and stresses of city life, Brechneff also spends a few months every year on an island in the Caribbean.

The film takes Brechneff to all his former homes while the artist discusses his style — both in terms of his painting and his life.  Regarding his painting, words and phrases that have been used to describe his style are ‘intense’, ‘boundless’, ‘limitless’, and ‘an amorphous infinity’, while simultaneously, Brechneff’s technical abilities are always applauded.

A classic Brechneff painting.

A classic Brechneff painting.

On the subject of his lifestyle, Brechneff notes that one of the few conditions he imposed on the film’s director was that it included footage of his wedding to Lovejoy.  Brechneff talks frankly and openly about his more than 37-year-relationship with Lovejoy and discusses the issue of homosexuality with a refreshing honesty.

Brechneff’s paintings appear in public and private collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Greece, and the Orange County Museum, Newport Beach, California. He has won numerous awards, including the Swiss Federal Government Scholarship.

In conjunction with the screening, a selection of Brechneff’s oil paintings will be shown from 6:45 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8 at The Cooley Gallery, 25 Lyme Street,Old Lyme, where a reception will be held after the movie.

Tickets for the screening and reception at $40 are available at this link or by calling ‘The Kate,’ at 877.503.1286.

The premiere will benefit the Center for Arts Programming at the University of New Haven’s Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.

Editor’s Note: Brechneff is also the author of ‘The Greek House, The story of a painter’s love affair with the island of Sifnos’ with Tim Lovejoy and published in 2013 by Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York.

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Opinion: Let Your Presence Make a Difference (Since Your Voice Can’t be Heard) — Go to the FRA Meeting

Back in February of this year, we wrote an opinion piece titled, “The Menace in our Midst.”  about the proposed high speed rail route through Old Lyme, about which we as a community had just heard. Surprisingly, not a whole lot has changed since then with the exception that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has finally decided to pay Old Lyme a call. That meeting is this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the Lyme-Old Lyme High School auditorium.

We’re re-publishing most of our editorial from February, but changing the message.  Back then, we urged readers to write to the FRA and say what you thought about Alternative 1 during the official Comment Period.  Today, our message is simply, “Go to this afternoon’s meeting.” You will not be able to speak — at this point it seems public comment is not being allowed, but our numbers will tell a story … so let’s pack that hall!

The saddest thing about all of this is that we all (or most of us) support high speed rail — please read the open letter to the FRA from Alex Twining that we received last night, which discusses some different solutions to Amtrak’s challenges in the northeast.

Here’s our editorial from February:

In the space of just a few short weeks, the residents of Old Lyme have become aware of a menace in their midst. Most unusually for these same residents, their response has been to a man (or woman) identical.  When that happens in this town — unquestionably, a rare event — you can be sure that, ‘Something is rotten (to misquote Hamlet) in the state of Old Lyme.’

The ‘menace’ in this case is Alternative 1 of the four high-speed railtrack routes proposed by the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA) in their Northeast Corridor (NEC) Future plan.

But let’s backtrack for a second — why is the FRA proposing these new routes? Their objective is, “to improve the reliability, capacity, connectivity, performance, and resiliency of future passenger rail service … while promoting environmental sustainability and continued economic growth.”  Let’s say right away that we are fully supportive of this objective — we are huge fans of rail-travel — you cannot grow up in Europe without taking rail travel for granted.  The trains there are fast, clean and efficient … they are a way of life.  We absolutely wish it were the same in the US.

So what is the difference here?  Why has the reaction to Alternative 1 been so strong, so united, so passionate?  In case you are unaware, Alternative 1 calls for the high speed rail track to cross the Connecticut River over a new bridge a little higher up the river than at present and then travel to the center of Old Lyme bisecting Lyme Street by eliminating both the western and eastern campuses of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts before turning north and crossing I-95.  [Note: This has now become a tunnel under the Connecticut River according to the latest information from the FRA.]  The 1817 John Sill House, currently owned by the Academy and situated on its campus, would likely be acquired by the FRA by eminent domain and then demolished.

The impact of a high-speed railtrack through that sector of town would be totally devastating for our community, effectively destroying its very heart.

This editorial could now run for pages to explain the full spectrum of impact to Old Lyme of this proposal.

We could discuss the horrific effects on our incredible local environment — one which has inspired artists for generations including some of the greatest impressionist painters in American history and one officially designated as a “Last Great Place.”

We could talk about the untold damage to the storied structures on Lyme Street and list the irreplaceable buildings that will either be completely destroyed or permanently scarred by this new train track construction, many of which are either National Historic Landmarks or on the National Historic Register.

We could mention that Lyme Street is the joyful, bustling hub of our little town — it has a unique personality and touches every aspect of our community life.  It is home to our town hall, our public schools, our daycare, our youth services, our library, our churches, our village shops, our art college, our art association (the oldest in the country), and the Florence Griswold Museum (a national institution.)  Can you even begin to imagine Lyme Street with a high speed railroad running across it?

And let’s just consider for a minute what this proposal, if implemented, would achieve?  Bearing in mind that you can already travel from London to Paris (286 miles) in 2 hours and 15 minutes, would we be able to hop on a train in Old Saybrook and be in Washington DC (334 miles) roughly two hours and 45 minutes later?  No, the current travel time of six hours would be reduced by a grand total of 30 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes.  Unbelievable.

As we said, we could go on for pages but others have kindly taken care of that for us.  There was a splendid press conference yesterday, which spelled out the craziness of Alternative 1 from every angle — coldly, clinically and objectively.  The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library has a full print copy of the NEC Future tome if you care to read it in its entirety.  There are links galore on the Old Lyme Town website to the statement and attachments submitted yesterday (Feb. 10) on behalf of some 20 local organizations to the FRA.

So please read and educate yourself on Alternative 1, but most importantly, please, please write to the FRA with your thoughts.  There are many questions as to why and how this proposal was able to be presented without a single public hearing being held closer than 30 miles away from a town on which it was having such a major impact.  But that is history now …

Back to today — the FRA is coming this afternoon … will you be there?

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CT Port Authority Chair Tells Lower CT River Local Officials, “We’re All on One Team”

Enjoying a boat ride on the Connecticut River but still deep in discussion are (from left to right) Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Old Lyme First Selectwoman and and Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) Board Member Bonnie Reemsnyder, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr.

Enjoying a boat ride on the Connecticut River, but still finding time for discussions, are (from left to right) Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Old Lyme First Selectwoman and Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) board member Bonnie Reemsnyder, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr.

There was an overarching message both throughout the Connecticut Port Authority’s (CPA) meeting in Old Lyme’s Town Hall Thursday afternoon and during a subsequent boat ride on the MV ‘Victoria’ for members and local officials on the Connecticut River.  It was, in the words of CPA Chairman Scott Bates, that, “We’re absolutely committed to river communities.”

Scott Bates, CPA Chairman, receives input regarding the town's needs from Norm Needleman, Essex First Selectman.

Scott Bates, CPA Chairman, receives input regarding the town’s needs from Norm Needleman, Essex First Selectman.

In addition, while sailing from Essex down to Old Saybrook and then back up to Hamburg Cove on a perfect afternoon, Bates stressed, “Part of our mission is protecting these beautiful waters … and the quality of life we have here while preserving access to the river.”

View of the Connecticut River from the "Victoria."

View of the Connecticut River from the “Victoria.”

Bates noted that to have “five local officials (Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, all of whom were on board, and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna, who was unable to join the trip) “involved” was a really positive sign in terms of  “building a coalition.”  This, Bates explained, was key to the development of a strategic plan for the CPA—something the Authority has been charged with preparing with a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017.

Gathered for a photo are (from left to right) CPA board member John Johnson, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Old Lyme First Selectwoman and CPA board member Bonnie Reemsnyder.

Gathered for a photo are (from left to right) CPA board member John Johnson, Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, CPA Chairman Scott Bates and Old Lyme First Selectwoman and CPA board member Bonnie Reemsnyder.

The  CPA is a relatively new quasi-public agency created in 2014 with board appointments made in 2016.  Bates said the agency was responsible for 35 coastal communities and with this trip, he would now personally have visited 28 of them. Since the CPA has not created a strategic plan previously, Bates said he is determined, “to include everyone,” in the process, adding that he regards part of the Authority’s mission to be “getting small town and big cities together.” and, in turn, “to make great things happen for our state.”

Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr. (left) chats with RiverCOG Executive Director Sam Gold aboard the 'Victoria.'

Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr. (left) chats with RiverCOG Executive Director Sam Gold aboard the ‘Victoria.’

Apart from Bates and the four local First Selectmen and Selectwomen, also on board were Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG) Executive Director Sam Gold, River COG Deputy Director and Principal Planner J.H. Torrance Downes, CPA Board of Directors member John Johnson and Joe Salvatore from the CPA.  Reemsnyder is also a board member of the CPA.

Connecticut Port Authority staff member Joe Salvatore points out a river feature to Reemsnyder and Johnson.

Connecticut Port Authority staff member Joe Salvatore points out a river feature to Reemsnyder, Bates and Johnson.

At the earlier meeting in Old Lyme, Downes had given a presentation to CPA members to introduce them to the Lower Connecticut River during which he had described the geography of the estuary, noting it had, “very little industry and very little commercial development.”  He described it as a “really prime area for bird migration” and highlighted numerous points of scenic beauty.

J.H. Torrance Downe, Deputy Director of River COG, takes in the view of the Connecticut River.

J.H. Torrance Downes, Deputy Director of River COG, takes in the view of the Connecticut River.

Bates noted one of the CPA’s responsibilities is to pursue state and federal funds for dredging and, while sailing under the Baldwin Bridge towards the Connecticut River’s mouth where several tributaries join the main river, Reemsnyder commented that Old Lyme had been a beneficiary of a $1.6 million state grant for dredging two of those tributaries — the Black Hall and Four Mile Rivers.  She noted that it had been a successful exercise thanks in part to Salvatore, who had, “held our hand through the whole project.”

John Johnson, CPA board member (right) checks in with the captain of the 'Victoria.'

John Johnson, CPA board member (right) checks in with the captain of the ‘Victoria.’ Joe Salvatore stands at rear.

Johnson, whose life and business career according to the CPA website, have “a common underlying element: the coastal waters,” also confirmed the benefits of a dredging program, saying, “There is a need for depth of water — both elements, marine and maritime, need depth of water.”  Still on the dredging issue, Bates said he had met separately with Old Saybrook First Selectman Fortuna and told him that he could have “whatever he needs to keep the mouth of the Connecticut River open.”

John Johnson (left) and Bonnie Reemsnyder (right), both CPA board members, chat with the CPA Chairman Scott bates.

John Johnson (left) and Bonnie Reemsnyder (right), both CPA board members, chat with the CPA Chairman Scott bates.

Reemsnyder took a minute to commend Bates for his leadership of the CPA, saying, “Scott has given focus to coastal communities,”  while Johnson added, “We are blessed with our new chairman.”

The quiet, untouched beauty of Hamburg Cove.

The quiet, untouched beauty of Hamburg Cove.

Glancing around at the numerous boats docked both in marinas and on the river itself,  Reemsnyder remarked, “Add up the money in these boats … [they represent] lots of economic drivers.”  On the same theme, Bates noted that the state is marketing its ports for the first time using “national expertise” in some cases with the aim of moving “more people and goods in and out of Connecticut.”  He added, “We have some great assets [in terms of ports in the state] but we could do more.”

Eyes on the Cove -- guests on the 'Victoria' gaze at the view across the calm waters of Hamburg Cove.

Eyes on the Cove — guests on the ‘Victoria’ gaze at the view across the calm waters of Hamburg Cove.

As the “Victoria’ pulled gently back into dock at Essex Yacht Club, Bates summarized the benefits of the boat trip saying that by spending time with these local leaders, he had been able to “see their waterfronts, assess their needs,“ and gain an “appreciation of the vitality of the Lower Connecticut River basin,” emphasizing one more time, “This is really about pulling together as a state … we’re all on one team.”

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Formica, Carney & Reemsnyder Request FRA to Host Public Meeting in Old Lyme

In another development regarding the proposed train route, State Senator Paul Formica (R- 20th) sent a letter dated July 14, co-signed by State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd) and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder to the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Future Program Manager Rebecca Reyes-Alicea asking her to meet with them in Old Lyme to discuss the “many questions and concerns, which we feel have not been properly addressed by the FRA (Federal Rail Administration).”

The letter continues, “There is much worry in Old Lyme and the surrounding communities regarding the potential disruption this plan provides, which is why we would appreciate a conversation as soon as possible.”  Formica then states, “It is our belief that this bypass proposal is the wrong approach and will create a disturbing level of damage, especially for the people, businesses, history, culture and environment of Southeastern Connecticut, specifically Old Lyme.”

Finally, Formica asks Reyes-Alicea to “attend a public meeting in Old Lyme in the near future to provide information to everyone potentially affected and to answer questions from concerned citizens.”

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No Motion at OL Board of Selectmen to Express Formal Opposition to Train Route

There was significant discussion at the Old Lyme Selectmen’s meeting last Monday, July 11, regarding the meeting the previous week on July 7 in Old Lyme, which First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder had attended along with Connecticut Commissioner of Transport James Redeker; State Senator Paul Formica; State Rep. Devin Carney; Pamela Sucato, DOT; Rob Haramut, RiverCOG; Greg Stroud, SECoast; John Forbis; Bennett (BJ) Bernblum; and representatives from Sen. Blumenthal’s, Sen. Murphy’s and Rep. Courtney’s offices.

Neither of the Old Lyme Selectmen had attended and both expressed concern regarding the level of communication to the community. Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley said, “People are starving for information,” that it was time, “To start to make this thing more public,” and that he felt it was, “Better to get as much information out the public as possible.”

Reemsnyder said she would post a full account of the July 7 meeting on the Town website* as soon as it had been agreed by State Senator Formica — State Rep. Carney had already reviewed and agreed it.

Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal suggested they should have a motion to clarify to the public their opposition to the proposed railroad route.  Reemsnyder stated, “I’m opposed to the train going through Old Lyme — aerial or tunnel,” but Sibley noted, “We have a train through Old Lyme currently,” adding, “We shouldn’t have a vote when we don’t know what we’re voting against,” saying again that it was “more important” in his opinion, “to get the information out.”  Reemsnyder agreed, saying, “We have to be careful what we vote against.”  Nosal noted for the record, “I do agree with Senator Blumenthal – the proposal is hare-brained.”

Since the meeting, the letter mentioned above has been sent to the FRA by State Senator Formica, State Rep. Carney and Reemsnyder requesting, in part, a public meeting in Old Lyme.

*Also subsequent to the meeting, the account of the July 7 meeting has been posted on the Town website at this link.

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All Three Items Approved at Old Lyme Special Town Meeting; Sound View Construction to Start Later This Year

From left to right standing, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group, meeting moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder listen attentively to a question from the floor.

From left to right standing, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group, meeting moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder listen attentively to a question from the floor.

More than 200 people crammed into the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium Monday evening for the Old Lyme Special Town Meeting called by the board of selectmen to consider three agenda items. Under presiding moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke, all three were subsequently passed on voice votes, but not without leaving some residents questioning the result of the first motion.

That motion was to authorize approval for the construction cost of Rte. 156 Bikeway/Sound View Improvements Project in the amount of $877,000.  This total comprised $595,000 for construction; $151,000 for a combination of inspection and municipal services, plus a contingency amount; $65,500 for Department of Transport materials testing, administrative costs and audits; and an additional amount of $65,000 as a buffer to allow for higher than expected bids.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder explained that a federal grant being administered by the State Department of Transportation will cover 80 percent of the project construction costs of approximately $701,600, leaving a total cost to the town of $175,400.

In a presentation preceding the vote, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group that served as project designers, noted the project would “employ the ‘complete street’ concept to accommodate all users and enhance safety.” He said it would provide 6 ft. wide sidewalks to the south of the bocce court on Hartford Ave., which are both safe and ADA compliant, adding that it would also allow for improved stormwater drainage and inclusion of “Sharrow BikeWays” for the whole length of Hartford Ave. These latter are lanes on which road markings are used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles, which indicate, in Pinckney’s words, that “a bicycle has the right to be on the road.”

Pinckney said the proposal also provides for bumpouts, landscaping, banner poles, benches and bike racks.

Reemsnyder stressed that if the project were not approved, the Town would then be responsible for reimbursing $108,000 for charges the Town had already incurred for planning and design work on the project.  The Town had received a grant from the state that reimbursed 80 percent of these costs, but it was contingent on the project being passed.  She noted that if the project were approved, construction would begin in the fall of 2016.

When the moderator opened the floor to questions, the first was whether the project still included a bike route on Rte. 156.  Reemsnyder said that was not the case. The second question was how the implementation of sewers would affect the project. Reemsnyder replied that “new technology” would allow sewers to be installed without damaging the upper surface and that the engineer responsible for their implementation would “have to get the road back to how it was.”

Another questioner asked whether bathrooms were included.  Reemsnyder responded, “We thought they were when we started,” but she went on to clarify that it had transpired that the grant did not cover them to the extent originally envisaged.  Reemsnyder confirmed the committee was still “trying to find ways to address the issue,” which included discussions with the private beach associations.

A question was raised as to whether the vote would be by paper ballot or hand-count, to which no response was given. There were further questions regarding speed limits on Rte. 156 and Hartford Ave. and then Barbara Crowley asked, “What is the town going to do to encourage growth [in Sound View]?  Are there going to be any incentives to promote businesses?” Using the example of a recent report in Mystic where changes to sidewalks have promoted business growth, Reemsnyder stated, “I think this is supporting a better environment down there — both business and environmental.”

Some confusion reigned when the moderator took a voice vote on whether to call the question while a resident was indicating she still wished to ask a question.  With the voice vote approved to call the question, Clarke then rapidly moved to a voice vote on the proposal, which she immediately deemed a victory for the “Ayes.”

A significant number of those present left after the first vote, many pleased with the result but some unhappy about how the voting process had been handled.

The other two motions on the agenda — to authorize the acceptance of Queen Anne Court as a Town road and to appropriate an amount not to exceed $60,000 to cover excess costs of the Resident Trooper Department from the already approved municipal police budget — were both passed by voice votes.

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Students Celebrate Smallness of Their Town but Greatness of Their Class in Lyme-Old Lyme High School Commencement Ceremony

Celebrating receipt of their High School Diplomas in traditional fashion, the Class of 2016 tosses their hats high. Photo by K. StGermain.

Celebrating receipt of their High School Diplomas in traditional fashion, the Class of 2016 tosses their hats high. Photo by K. St.Germain.

UPDATED 06/12: In a ceremony held under a warm sun and clear, blue skies, 99 students received their Lyme-Old Lyme High School diplomas Friday evening.

Celebrate!

Celebrate!

Honor Essayist Alex Bellas reminded the class that everything they had done over the past four years “has been leading you right here, to this very moment.”

Class members patiently wait for their names to be called to receive their diplomas.

Class members patiently wait for their names to be called to receive their diplomas.

He went on to mention the extraordinary bond the class had formed, “as we all shared a common experience within these walls.” Noting that, “small schools like ours often receive mixed reviews from students,” because “everyone knows everything about everyone else,” Bellas turned that negative into a positive pointing out, ” When I walk through the halls of this school, I don’t see a sea of strangers,”  but rather, “complete and unique” individuals to whom he can say ‘Hi.’

He encouraged the Class of 2016 always to remember “all the positive memories” they’ve made with their peers and to “know that this bond we’ve formed as a class will not fade away.”

Amber Bowker receives her diploma from Principal James Wygonik.

Amber Bowker receives her diploma from Principal James Wygonik. Photo by K. Bowker.

Salutatorian Ryan Harty told his classmates, whom he described as, “all brilliant,” that, “We’re not perfect, and we’re going to need to keep improving ourselves if we want to keep up in the real world.” He stressed, however, “We share the virtues of honesty, compassion, and self-awareness,” but stated emphatically, “It is critical that we go one step further and translate those qualities into a quantity of action for the greater good.”

Charlie Dahlke shows his delight after receiving his diploma.

Charlie Dahlke shows his delight after receiving his diploma. Photo by Pam Parker.

He elaborated on that comment saying, “Each and every one of you possesses some talent or predilection that cannot be purchased or acquired through other means,” adding firmly, ” I charge you henceforth to express it to the best of your ability.” Ultimately, his clear and simple advice to the class was, “The world needs originality, not assimilation.”

A proud degree recipient.

A proud degree recipient.

Valedictorian Maria Boyle said that although she was, “excited for college, of course …  I also don’t want to forget all of the memories I have made here in high school.” Most of all, she anticipated she would fondly recall, “the everyday life of this school” filled with “school spirit … throughout the school year.”

Using a quote from Ernest Hemngway, she compared her days at Lyme-Old Lyme High School to a journey, saying, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end,” noting that for her “what I have loved most [about high school] is the journey.”

Commencement speaker Emily Macione stands between graduates Sophia Romeo (left) and Samantha Lee.

Commencement speaker Emily Macione stands between graduates Sophia Romeo (left) and Samantha Lee. Photo by L. Romeo.

Commencement speaker Emily Macione, who had been adviser to the Class of 2016 for all four of their high school years, focused on the success of the class, commenting, “What has impressed me the most is your ability to redefine the typical way we see success, and it has revealed itself in many forms over the past four years.”

Lyme-Old Lyme High School baseball coach Randy St. Germain stands with graduating seniors from this year's varsity team.

Lyme-Old Lyme High School baseball coach Randy St. Germain stands with graduating seniors from this year’s varsity team. Photo by W. Visgilio.

She counseled them that, ” the secret to success is pretty simple … Work hard.  Be kind.”  Macione continued, “Showing that you are willing to work hard, and consistently being kind to others are aspects of your character with an importance that cannot be overstated.” She clarified, ” these qualities are not truly communicable through a resume or a cover letter,” urging the graduates to, “Incorporate hard work and kindness into everything you do, every interaction you have, and that is how you will come to be known.”

Hugs were happening everywhere after the ceremony was over. This one was between Sophia Romeo and

Hugs were happening everywhere after the ceremony was over. This one was between Sophia Romeo and Aliza Hackling.  Photo by L. Romeo.

Macione concluded that if the Class of 2016 followed her advice, “Good things will follow. Success, however you choose to define it, will most certainly follow.”

Members of the Region 18 Board of Education gather for a photo with Superintendent of Schools Ian Neviaser (back row, right).

Members of the Region 18 Board of Education gather for a photo with Superintendent of Schools Ian Neviaser (back row, right).

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Summer Sculpture Showcase 2016 at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds Hosts on View Through Sept. 13

Mega-Dandelion by Gints Grinsberg is the signature piece of Summer Sculpture Showcase at Studio 80 +Sculpture Grounds, which has an Opening Reception Friday, June 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Mega-Dandelion by Gints Grinsberg is the signature piece of Summer Sculpture Showcase at Studio 80 +Sculpture Grounds, which has an Opening Reception Friday, June 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Gilbert Boro, owner and sculptor at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme, will host an Opening Reception for Summer Sculpture Showcase 2016 this coming Friday, June 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.  All are welcome to attend the outdoor reception at which light refreshments will be served. Guests will be free to explore the expansive sculpture gardens and view the more than 100 sculptures on display during the event.

This juried exhibition follows on naturally from last year’s extremely successful Summer Sculpture Showcase 2015, which drew large crowds and had to be extended into October to meet public demand. This new exhibition on the grounds adjoining Boro’s studio and inside the Emily Seward Boro (ESB) Gallery on the property features works created by 17 widely acclaimed sculptors interspersed amongst Boro’s own sculptures, along with works by 13 other contributing artists.  More than 30 sculptors from across the country responded to the Call for Entries submitting some 60 works.

Boro’s Sculpture Gardens are located on 4.5 acres of his residence on historic Lyme Street in the heart of Old Lyme, Conn.  The beautifully landscaped grounds slope down toward the Lieutenant River offering a unique plein air experience for the exhibition, which combines both large- and small-scale contemporary sculptures. Many of the works, which are in a variety of media, are for sale.

The sculptors, whose 25 pieces of work are included in the Showcase, are:
Mark Attebery, Diane Barcelo, Ashby Carlisle, Bryan Gorneau, Gints Grinbergs, Lannie Hart, Jay Hoagland, Deborah Hornbake, Conrad Levenson, Elaine Lorenz, David Madasci, Liza Masalimova, Sui Park, Chris Plaisted,
Bill Vollers, Martha Walker and Melanie Zibit.

The signature piece of the exhibition is “Mega-Dandelion” by Gints Grinbergs.  It is a large — 144” in height, 56” in diameter — yet delicate structure that evokes the intricate design of lace in its welded and stainless steel structure.  Grinbergs explains in his artist’s statement that he looks to nature for inspiration with “interests [that] range from the macroscopic to the microscopic – from flowers and their structure to bacteria and viruses – from the giants of outer space to sub atomic particles.”  He continues, “I build sculptures derived from the universal forms of nature.
All of the sculptures in this series are built from recycled materials … I attempt to transform, up-cycle, these manmade materials into the infinitely more complex forms designed by nature.”

Grinbergs’ work has been featured at various museums and galleries and is included in private and corporate collections throughout North America.

'Water Courses' by Elaine Lorenz is another featured piece in the Showcase.

‘Water Courses’ by Elaine Lorenz is another featured piece in the Showcase.

Created out of cement, fiberglass and paint, Elaine Lorenz’s intriguing “Water Course” comprises three pieces. She states that she has made “sculpture in such diverse materials as wood, metal, concrete, encaustic over a wire armature and ceramic, while maintaining an overall view of nature as a dominant source of energy and influence on her work.”  Lorenz explains her approach in creating art as, “abstract, only alluding to things, relationships or emotions and leaving room for the viewer’s interpretation.”

Lorenz has exhibited her work in numerous group exhibitions and sculpture sites throughout the US and her sculptures are in private, public and corporate collections in numerous states including Alabama, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas. She has been the Vice President of Exhibitions for the Sculptors Guild since 2011.

Jay Hoagland charming ‘Mephisto’s Waltz’ features a viola made out of steel and copper with a kinetic element.  When the integral weathervane at the head of the instrument catches the wind, the bow travels across the strings playing an eerie melody. Hoagland explains the motivation behind his sculpture thus, “I work because the sheer joy of seeing thought turned into material is rejuvenating but my approach is more and more obviously the result of where and who I’ve been.”

'Mephisto's Waltz'is an intriguing piece of kinetic sculpture.

‘Mephisto’s Waltz’is an intriguing piece of kinetic sculpture.

He continues, “I’m inspired by natural science with an injection of humor and contradiction. Inspiration also comes from the minutae of life, the shape of a stone, the footprints of giants like da Vinci, Calder, Giacometti, Gabo, Hepworth, Moore, and Noguchi. Hoagland concludes, “I see my work as a catalyst to understand, and a lens to clarify, my place in the world.”

The jurors for the exhibition were acclaimed sculptors Gilbert V. Boro and Lisa Simonds, and painter Julia Pavone.

Boro has enjoyed an extraordinary and distinguished more than 50-year-career as a successful architect, sought-after international design consultant and an inspiring educator.  With a BFA from Duke University and post-graduate degrees from Columbia University, NYC, his work explores the interplay of space, place and scale in a wide range of media including steel, stone, wood, metal, aluminum and fiberglass.

Sculptor Gilbert V. Boro in his studio.

Sculptor Gilbert V. Boro in his studio.

Working in sculpture has been a compulsion rather than a possibility for Gil.  While mastering the rigors of technical competence, he developed a deep-seated passion for three-dimensional art, which continues to be the influential force behind his creations. He is both inspired and motivated by the creative freedom of sculpting, finding that abstract work is the means to fulfill his vision.  Boro’s sculptures can be found in art centers and public art venues across the US and throughout Europe; they have also been purchased by private collectors, corporations and foundations in both the US and internationally.

"Nest' is one of Gil Boro's most recent pieces.

“Nest’ is one of Gil Boro’s most recent pieces.

Simonds is a visual artist with a BFA in Sculpture from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Conn.  She is currently employed as the Exhibitions Coordinator at Lyme Academy and previously worked as an Independent Exhibitions Installer at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Conn., for eight years.

Pavone is the co-founder of the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point Campus, and has served as its Curator/Director for the past 24 years.  During her 29-year career, Pavone, who has a BFA from Long Island University in Westbury, N.Y., and an MEd from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass., has continued her own work as a painter, while variously serving as a teacher, and guest lecturer, juror and curator for numerous exhibitions.

This Summer Sculpture Showcase offers a unique opportunity for established sculptors to exhibit their work in a different location, while also effectively creating a new exhibition within the Sculpture Gardens.  Boro comments, “I’m delighted to be able to open my grounds to these exceptional sculptors whose work intrigues me.  Each one offers original creative thinking resulting in a combination of contrasting conceptual designs in a variety of media.  I think any visitor to the exhibition is going to be thoroughly engaged by what he or she sees – including children.”

Boro is somewhat unusual as a professional sculptor in that he loves to see folk of all ages directly interacting with his sculptures, noting that he has a strong aversion to exhibitions, “… where people can’t touch my work.”  Apart from attracting visitors to see the works on his grounds, Boro is thoroughly invested in the vibrant Old Lyme arts scene and hopes this exhibition will help cement the town as a summer destination for art-loving visitors from near and far, especially during the town’s Midsummer Festival which this year is on Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30.

Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds are located at 80-1 Lyme St., less than a minute from Exit 70 on I-95, the Sculpture Grounds are open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  Admission is free.  Children, field trips and group visits are all welcome.

For further information, contact 860-434-5957, visit www.sculpturegrounds.com or email studio80sculpturegrounds@gmail.com

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Wildcat Lax Girls Storm Into State Semis

Old Lyme on their way to victory against Ellington High School Thursday.

Old Lyme on their way to victory against Ellington High School Thursday.

Playing at home in unseasonably cool temperatures under cloudy skies, the Old Lyme girls took control of their CIAC Class S state quarterfinal game against Ellington High School Thursday afternoon and ultimately claimed a 17-11 victory.

Coach Emily Macione had nothing but praise for her team “across the board,” saying, “I’m really, really proud of the girls from beginning to end.” She noted that each team member had excelled in every way, “from winning draws and taking care of the ball on offense, to pressuring on the ride and in the midfield, and finally making some clutch defensive stops on the other end.”

Macione pointed out that Ellington was “an opponent we didn’t know” since they do not play in the same conference as Lyme-Old Lyme, so “You never know what’s going to happen … but we did know it was going to be a tough game”

After the final whistle, Wildcat goalie Hannah Guenther shares a group with two fellow team members.

After the final whistle, Wildcat goalie Hannah Guenther shares a group with two fellow team members.

Adding, “Our goalie Hannah Guenther made some incredible saves today, and I just felt like from one end of the other, the girls hustled,” Macione concluded, “Their collective hustle made the difference in who earned the victory.”

Asked about the flow of the game, Macione responded, “In the first half, it was back and forth, but in the second half, we were able to pull away a little more because of that commitment, and how the girls were supporting each other in all aspects of play on the field.”

The Wildcats will now meet Canton, who defeated Weston 12-6 today, on Tuesday, June 7, at a time and place to be announced. This is the third year in a row that Old Lyme have reached the semifinals — they were defeated in the previous two and so Macione and her girls must certainly be hoping the ‘third time’s a charm!’

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Old Lyme Middle School Student Wins National Award in C-SPAN Video Contest

Standing with LOLMS eighth grader Daisy Colvin (center) after she was presented her award are C-SPAN RCommunity Relations Representatives Josgh (left( and Doug Bedig (second from right), LOLMS Principal Michelle Dean (right) and Comcast VP of Public Relations & Community Investment Kristen Roberts (Second from left).

Standing with LOLMS eighth grader Daisy Colvin (center) after she was presented her award are C-SPAN Community Relations Representatives Josh Koning (left) and Doug Hemmig (second from right), LOLMS Principal Michelle Dean (right) and Comcast VP, Public Relations & Community Investment, Kristen Roberts (second from left).

C‑SPAN’s award-winning, 45-foot customized bus rolled into Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School’s (LOLMS) parking lot on Friday, May 20, with two C-SPAN Community Relations Representatives on board. They had arrived to participate in a ceremony honoring eighth grader Daisy Colvin for her award-winning entry in C‑SPAN’s annual student video documentary competition, StudentCam.

The C-SPAN bus at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

The C-SPAN bus at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

The contest, now in its 11th year, requires entrants “to think critically about issues that affect our communities and nation.”  This year, students were asked to create a five to seven minute video documentary on the topic “Road to the White House: What’s the issue YOU most want candidates to discuss during the 2016 presidential campaign?” Colvin’s winning entry was a video titled ‘Gun Control Debate,’ which looked objectively at both sides of the issue.

The whole LOLMS eighth grade gathered in the school’s auditorium and watched attentively while the video was played. Colvin’s video featured Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who advocated for increased gun control, and East Lyme gun shop owner Ron Rando, who presented the opposing argument.

Interspersed with video clips from C-Span.org (which was a requirement for any video submitted to the contest) showing images of mass-shooting locations and lawmakers speaking on both sides of the argument, Colvin created a powerful, objective video.  At the end of the video, she presented her own opinion on the topic, which was that gun laws needed to be enforced and some revisions made to gun laws so that “Together we can make a change.”

C-SPAN Representative Doug Hemmig told the audience that Colvin had done “a wonderful job … and her passion for the subject came through clearly in the video.”

Daisy Colvin displays her certificate of Merit while sitting with Comcast VP Kristen Roberts inside the C-SPAN bus.

Daisy Colvin displays her Certificate of Merit while sitting with Comcast VP Kristen Roberts inside the C-SPAN bus.

C‑SPAN had received 2,887 video submissions from almost 6,000 students in 45 states and Washington.  This represented a record number of entries and Colvin received one of only 150 Honorable Mention awards, something that Hemmig described as “an incredible accomplishment.” Kristen Roberts, Vice President, Public Relations & Community Investment, presented Colvin with a StudentCam certificate of merit and check for $250, and commented that she was “so proud of Daisy.”  Roberts noted that in Old Lyme, C-SPAN, which is available locally through Comcast, is “a great partner” for Comcast.

In a press release, Mike Parker, Regional Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Western New England Region, which is headquartered in Connecticut, said, “Comcast is proud to congratulate Daisy on her StudentCam documentary. It’s a rare opportunity to honor students for thinking critically about issues important in our community and across the nation and we are pleased to recognize her locally for her creative achievement.”

Standing outside the C-SPAN bus are (from left to right) Kristen Roberts, Michelle Dean, Daisy Colvin, Bill Eydman (recuperating after knee surgery) and Josh Koning.

Standing outside the C-SPAN bus are (from left to right) Comcast’s Kristen Roberts, LOLMS Principal Michelle Dean, award winner Daisy Colvin, LOLMS Talented & Gifted teacher Bill Eydman (recuperating after knee surgery) and C-SPAN’s Josh Koning.

Josh Koning, the second C-SPAN Representative, particularly commended the teachers who had assisted Colvin to make her video, saying, “We want to thank the teachers,” adding, “This wouldn’t happen without the teachers.”  Colvin explained that her project had been conceived in her Social Studies class and then she had made the video working with the LOLMS Talented and Gifted teacher, William Eydman. Responding to a question from the C-SPAN team as to what she had learned from making the film, she said, “I realized how many gun crimes there are … and learned the other side of the debate.”

The C‑SPAN Bus, now in its 23rd year on the road, partners with local cable providers to visit schools and community events across the country to promote C‑SPAN’s educational and political resources and programming for students, teachers, and the public. Aboard the Bus, teachers and students experience on-board multimedia technology that showcases C‑SPAN’s programming and resources dedicated to showing the American political process.

As part of her award, Daisy Colvin was given the opportunity to tour the C-SPAN bus.

As part of her award, Daisy Colvin was given the opportunity to tour the technology-filled C-SPAN bus.

Through interactive exhibits, visitors learn about the public affairs network’s in-depth coverage of the U.S. Congress, White House, federal courts, and its signature political program, “Road to the White House,” which provides access to all of the Campaign 2016 presidential candidates and their events from the campaign trail, all without editing, commentary, or analysis.

Visit http://www.viddler.com/v/3613162?secret=95288074 to view Colvin’s ‘Gun Control Debate’ video.

Visit www.studentcam.org to watch all the winning videos for 2016.

Editor’s Note: C‑SPAN.org is a searchable, video-rich site that has every C‑SPAN program aired since 1987. The public can access this extensive online collection — over 218,000 hours of political and governmental footage — for free, and share user-generated video clips by email and social media.

Tune in to C‑SPAN’s public affairs programming on the C‑SPAN Networks, C‑SPAN Radio, and c‑span.org. In Old Lyme, C-SPAN can be seen on Comcast channel 15, C-SPAN2 on channel 86 and C-SPAN3 on channel 190. All funding for C‑SPAN operations, including Bus visits, is provided by local TV providers.

Created by the cable TV industry and now in nearly 100 million TV households, C‑SPAN programs three public affairs television networks in both SD and HD; C- SPAN Radio, heard in Washington, DC, at 90.1 FM and available as an App (Android, iPhone, Blackberry); and a video- rich website offering live coverage of government events and access to the vast archive of C‑SPAN programming.

Visit http://www.c-span.org for coverage and schedules; follow C-SPAN on Facebook/cspan and @cspan on Twitter.

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No Parade in Old Lyme, but Ceremony Inside Still Full of Memorial Day Spirit

View_from_back

Despite the wet weather causing the cancellation of Old Lyme’s traditional parade, more than 100 people still turned out for the Memorial Day ceremony held in Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School’s auditorium this morning. William Appleby, Commander of American Legion Post 41 was Master of Ceremonies.

Merv_Roberts_speaks

Old Lyme Fire Department Chaplain Mervin F. Roberts gave a thought-provoking invocation exploring the connections between the Duck River Cemetery, the deceased laid to rest there and their contributions to society in so many ways during their lives.

Salute_while_Select_Singers_sing

Under the leadership of Choral Director Kristine Pekar, Lyme-Old Lyme High School’s Select Singers gave an stirring rendition of the national anthem during which all veterans present saluted.

Andy_Zelek_3rd

The winners of the American Legion/VFW Essay Contest for fifth graders in Lyme and Old Lyme read their essays titled, “What Memorial Day Means to Me.” Andy Zelek, who attends Lyme Consolidated School (pictured above) was awarded the bronze medal as Second Runner-up.

Samantha_Tan_2nd

Samantha Tan, who also attends Lyme Consolidated, was the First Runner-up and received the silver medal from Commander Appleby (left) accompanied by John Cody. (right).

Eli_Brown_1st

Eli Brown, another Lyme Consolidated student, was the gold medal winner.  Each of these students received a medal, a proclamation from the American Legion, a monetary award and will also have a flag flown in their honor over the Congress building in Washington DC.

Braiden_Sunshine_singing

In a special surprise, ‘The Voice’ finalist Braiden Sunshine sang ‘America the Beautiful’ and ‘Amazing Grace,’ for whick he received a standing ovation.

Veteran_of_the_Year

Commander Appleby introduced the 2015-16 Veteran of the Year (center).

Mark_Robinson_Benediction

Wrapping up the proceedings, the Reverend Mark Robinson of Saint Ann’s in Old Lyme gave the Benediction before the flag-bearers filed out of the auditorium.

Marching_out_with_flags

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder connected with, at left, State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) and State Representative Devin Carney (R- 23rd) after the ceremony.

Bonnie_PaulF_DevinC

And finally …

Wreath

‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’

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