August 24, 2019

Reemsnyder Firmly Denies Wrongdoing at CT Port Authority, Explains Absence at Transportation Hearing

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

OLD LYME — As has been widely reported, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder did not appear in person at the state Transportation Committee’s hearing regarding the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) on Tuesday.

She did, however, submit written testimony (published in full at the link below) in which she stated categorically in reference to the purchase by the CPA of photographs from her daughter, “Consistent with the State’s Ethics Code governing conflicts of interest, I had no involvement in any aspect of the sale, including no role in the initial decision, negotiations, payment, bookkeeping, or accounting for the transaction, and I did not benefit in any way financially from the transaction.”

Reemsnyder gave LymeLine.com the following explanation for her absence from the hearing in an e-mail Wednesday evening, in which she said, “I received the “invitation to attend” on Sunday night, as I was away the weekend, and the Town was committing to a bond for the Library. On Tuesday, I had to coordinate the signatures of the Term Sheet to secure the rate that was offered in a bid. So between reviewing the term sheet documents, accepting changes from the bank, and coordinating with the Treasurer for signatures, it tied up my morning.”

She continued, “In addition, I had an afternoon meeting that was already scheduled, and a Board of Finance meeting that night, which I take a considerable time to prepare for,” adding, “I did take the time on Monday, a day that I had a 4 PM Board of Selectmen meeting that I carefully prepare for, to articulate my written testimony.”

Visit this link to read Reemsnyder’s written testimony to the Transportation Committee.

 

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Sound View Sewer Vote in Old Lyme Passes by Over 300 Votes, Pappalardo Says Schism Created: Sound View vs the Town

OLD LYME — The Sound View Sewer Project in Old Lyme passed comfortably by 883 votes to 565, after all votes were double-counted in Tuesday’s referendum. The proposal therefore secured a margin of 318 votes with 61 percent voting in favor of bonding $9.44 million to fund the proposed sewer project and 39 percent voting against.  A total of 1448 residents and/or property owners voted representing less than 30 percent of registered voters.

After the result had been announced, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder commented, “I think the people spoke and it is time to move on to next steps. We made sure that everyone had a chance to vote with a full day of a referendum, absentee ballots available and several public info sessions.”

Sound View Commission Chairman Frank Pappalardo. File photo.

Asked for his reaction to the result, Frank Pappalardo, who is chair of Old Lyme’s Sound View Commission and a director of the Sound View Beach Association, Inc., told LymeLine.com in an email, “Today’s referendum vote in favor of a $9.5 mil bond for sewers is disappointing. I believe that many in Old Lyme were not aware complexities regarding the sewer issue facing Old Lyme and specifically the Sound View area.”

He added, “The cost recovery method of placing the entire burden on a small group of property owners is unprecedented. And to further the concerns are the unrealistic individual property owner costs in excess of $15,000 and reaching over $100,000 for some.”

Pappalardo concluded, “We’ve work so hard to unify the town and beach community and have made great strides. Now with this vote we have created a schism: Sound View vs the Town. And set in motion a number of legal challenges.  There must be a way to find common ground and make this work for all in Old Lyme.”

For a fuller account of the implications of the referendum, read Mary Biekert’s article titled, “Old Lyme voters approve $9.44 million Sound View sewer project,” published this evening on theday.com.

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Opinion: Vote Tuesday in Old Lyme’s Referendum on Sewers, Then Respect the Result

OLD LYME — Tomorrow Old Lyme voters will go the polls to decide whether the Town of Old Lyme should bond $9.44 million to fund the installation of sewers on three streets in Sound View. The facts of the proposal have been widely reported, for example, Mary Biekert of The Day authored a comprehensive article on the subject published Saturday on TheDay.com at this link.

As a community newspaper that cares passionately about the community we serve, we never endorse politicians and rarely choose sides in town referenda. Therefore, we will not be making any recommendation on how you should vote tomorrow, but we will, however, take the opportunity to make a few comments.

This sewer issue has polarized the town with the residents of Sound View understandably not wishing to pay the whole installation cost of sewers saying that is unfair and the cost should be divided between all town residents.  Meanwhile, most townspeople, excluding the Sound View residents, do not see why they should pay for someone else’s sewers when no one would pay to fix their septic system if it failed.

It is important to remember that the Town is under a state mandate to install the sewers and so doing nothing is not an option. The volunteers on the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA)  have dedicated an incredible number of hours to this project and our impression is that they have no political agenda. Rather, they are simply hard-working individuals trying to solve an extremely challenging problem and we salute their efforts. If the referendum fails tomorrow, there seems to be a fairly general consensus that the costs will rise in any subsequent plan.

Some have argued that the Town, that is, all Old Lyme residents, should be paying for the work in the streets since they are town-owned and the Sound View residents should only be paying for the hook-ups to their houses. This sounds logical but does not seem to follow the precedent set elsewhere in the state, nor significantly in the four other beach associations in Old Lyme that have already signed on for sewers to be installed at their own expense.

We have enormous sympathies for the residents of Sound View, who — if the referendum passes — will have to pay a median cost of over $31,000 to pay off the loan that the Town is taking out on their behalf. This can be paid in full right away or financed over 20 years at 2 percent interest. The key question is what is a home worth after sewers have been installed?  The assumption is that the sewers will increase the value of any house by more than the homeowner has paid. No one other than the owner benefits from that increase in value, but we also recognize many of the houses in Sound View are never sold but passed down from one generation to the next.

Finally, we are intensely distressed by the deep rift opening up once again in our community over the sewer issue. We recall the green ribbons of yesteryear when residents publicly displayed their support of the first school building project brought to referendum by Region 18 to the anger of those who were not in favor of the proposal. Those were difficult days with palpable mistrust and resentfulness on both sides. 

But back then, there was no social media to fuel the argument and too much has been said on the sewer issue on this virtual town square, some of it inaccurate and/or laced with political venom. This mounting tension spilled over into last Monday’s Special Town Meeting at which  procedural confusion sparked some most unfortunate behavior.

There is no place for this in our beloved town so, regardless of how you are going to vote tomorrow, let us quietly and respectfully take our differing opinions to the ballot box … and then treat the result in the same manner.

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Old Lyme’s EDC Working on New Economic Development Strategy for Town, Invites All Residents, Business Owners to Complete Survey

Economic Development Commission Co-Chair and Halls Rd. Improvement Committee member Howard Margules discussed ideas for the future of Halls Rd. with visitors at the recent Old Lyme Midsummer Festival. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

OLD LYME — Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) Co-Chair Justin Fuller describes the objective of the commission as being on the one hand, “to ensure the economic condition of our town remains strong.” while, at the same time, “… doing our small part to help maintain the charm and character of Old Lyme, and protect the town’s natural and cultural resources.”

Howard Margules, EDC Co-Chair and a member of the Halls Rd. Improvement Committee, adds that the EDC believes that the town should be pro-active with economic development by attracting new investments and supporting local businesses. He says, “The commission intends to do this by promoting a “smart growth” strategy,” which he explains is focused on the three areas of 1) retaining existing businesses, 2) attracting new investments (especially in available commercial properties that are presently abandoned and/or neglected), and 3) promoting entrepreneurship — since local business owners who live in Old Lyme have a vested interest in the community.

The EDC has identified three activities that will help the town begin the development of a formal economic development strategy, as follows:

  1. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) workshop to obtain input from a variety of stakeholders and determine overarching goals to help guide the prioritization of further collaborative economic development efforts;
  2. Local business survey to learn about their challenges and explore how an economic development strategy could best support their long-term success;
  3. Free informational workshop to help answer questions about economic and community development.

The EDC is working with a nonprofit economic development firm, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) to assist the EDC and the town in implementing these identified goals.

One tool the EDC is using in their efforts is a survey that CERC has developed, which is now being distributed to all Old Lyme residents and/or people who own or operate a business in the town. The survey includes, but is not limited to, input regarding the Halls Road neighborhood.

The objective of the survey, the second of the three activities listed above, is  to encourage local businesses and residents to give their thoughts and feedback on the town’s current and future economic condition.  For example, the EDC would like to understand what attracted both residents and business to Old Lyme in the first place, and what they consider are the most important issues facing the town.

In respect of business owners, the EDC would also like to hear how the town can better support them both now and in the future.

The Old Lyme EDC has asked us here at LymeLine.com to help spread the word about the survey, and we are pleased to do that.

We therefore urge all our readers who either live, work or own a business in Old Lyme to take a few minutes to complete this important online survey by scanning the QR code to the left or visiting www.research.net/r/OldLymeCT

The purpose of the business survey is to 1) gain perspective on how the business community perceives the economic condition of Old Lyme, 2) identify perceived and real challenges that local businesses face, 3) identify companies that are “at-risk” of leaving Old Lyme, and, 4) obtain feedback about how the town can better support businesses to improve business retention and support their long-term success.

The purpose of the resident survey is to obtain feedback about the perceived current economic condition of Old Lyme, and obtain information that will help guide a future economic development strategy for the town.

Asked for his reaction to the increased attention being directed to economic development in Old Lyme, Halls Road Improvement Committee Chairman BJ Bernblum responded, ” “The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen is taking seriously the economic health of the town.  A few years ago it formed the Halls Road Improvements Committee and this year it revitalized the Economic Development Commission.” He continued, “Under the dynamic leadership of co-chairs Howard Margules and Justin Fuller, the EDC is working with the Connecticut Economic Resource Center to analyze the current state of Old Lyme’s economy and to recommend ways to ensure a sound future.”

Bernblum added, “CERC’s first undertaking is a town-wide survey of businesses and residents, critical to getting an accurate understanding of how our taxpayers feel about the status quo and the issues that need to be addressed,” concluding, “I strongly encourage everyone to complete this survey.”

The EDC collaborated with CERC to identify the specific survey questions and CERC will collect the survey results, carry out the analysis, and prepare a summary report.

The survey results, combined with other ongoing initiatives, will help define the town’s economic development strategy. All responses will be kept confidential, and the results will be presented in a final report prepared by the EDC.

 

 

 

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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools SAT Scores Are in Top 12 Statewide in Both Subjects

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser

LYME-OLD LYME — Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) achieved exceptional results in the statewide SAT results published earlier this week by the Connecticut State Department of Education.

The school placed 10th in the Math and 11th in the English Language Arts (ELA) statewide rankings. Moreover, LOLHS was the only school in New London County to feature in Top 12 with almost all the remaining schools in the Top 12 coming from Fairfield County.

A delighted Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser commented exclusively to LymeLine, ““I am so proud of the hard work our students and staff have put in to make us the only school in our region in the top 12 in SAT scores in the entire state.”

He added, “To consistently remain as the highest scoring school in our region shows that our dedication to the success of students through our in-school SAT preparation program is paying dividends.”

The top tier of Math and ELA statewide rankings were as follows:

Math SAT

  1. Darien School District
  2. New Canaan School District
  3. Westport School District
  4. Ridgefield School District
  5. Wilton School District
  6. Avon School District
  7. Weston School District
  8. Regional School District 09
  9. Glastonbury School District
  10. Regional School District 18

English Language Arts SAT

  1. New Canaan School District
  2. Wilton School District
  3. Westport School District
  4. Darien School District
  5. Ridgefield School District
  6. Weston School District
  7. Regional School District 09
  8. Simsbury School District
  9. Avon School District
  10. Greenwich School District
  11. Regional School District 18

 

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Griswold Placed on November Ballot as Republican Old Lyme First Selectman Candidate

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold

Tim Griswold, who served as Old Lyme First Selectman from 1997-2011, was today officially placed on the November ballot as the Republican candidate for Old Lyme First Selectman.

This followed certification earlier this morning of 189 petition signatures by the Republican Old Lyme Town Registrar Cathy Carter, which involved checking each signature for authenticity and confirming the signer’s current membership of the Republican Party.  Tim Griswold and Barbara Crowley then both pledged that they had witnessed the signatures when they were taken.

The final step in the process occurred when Old Lyme Town Clerk Vicki Urbowicz called the Secretary of State’s Office to notify them of the petition and the number of signatures.  That office then checked there was no candidate already endorsed by the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee and since there was none, the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that Urbowicz should place Griswold’s name on the ballot using the State Elections Program. Urbowicz has now completed that task.

This means there will be no Republican Primary in September because no other Old Lyme Republicans submitted petitions and today is the deadline submission day.

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Griswold Gathers Over 200 Signatures on Petition to Run as Republican First Selectman in November, State Requires 84

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold

Old Lyme Republican Registrar Cathy Carter

OLD LYME — Former Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy C. Griswold has collected more than 200 signatures on petitions requesting his name be added to the ballot in September as the Republican candidate for First Selectman. Griswold gave the number to LymeLine in an email conversation Sunday and added that there are more petitions out in the community, which he has not picked up yet.

He said he plans to give all the petitions to the Old Lyme Republican Registrar Cathy Carter this afternoon.  She told LymeLine on Friday by phone that once she has received the petitions, she must review each signature to verify it, checking that the person is a legitimate member of the Republican party.

To demonstrate what sometimes happens when people believe they are registered Republicans but, in fact, turn out not to be, Carter gave the example of someone who may have moved out of Old Lyme, then returned, but forgot to re-register their name with the party.

Carter told LymeLine she must submit the petitions and verified signatures to the state by Wednesday, Aug. 7. According to the state’s rules, Griswold needs signatures from five percent of the approximately 1680 registered Republicans in Old Lyme, so the minimum number of signatures required is around 84.

Carter added that a Republican Primary would not be required in September since the Republicans did not endorse anyone for First Selectman in the slate that they have already submitted.  Chris Kerr was endorsed for a second term as Selectman by the Republicans and Griswold has indicated he will campaign with Kerr if he is successful in his efforts to be on the ballot.

See this article, Griswold Petition to Run on November Ballot as Old Lyme First Selectman Has More Than 80 of 85 Signatures Required, Expects to Meet Goal by Tonight, published on LymeLine Aug. 2, for more information.

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Happy 70th Birthday to Old Lyme’s Volunteer Ambulance Association!

All photos by Doris Coleman.

OLD LYME — Members of Old Lyme’s Volunteer Ambulance Association proudly hold the General Assembly Official Citation with which the organization was presented to celebrate 70 years of service to Old Lyme. The citation was presented by State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and stated, “For the past 70 years you have been answering the call of Old Lyme citizens in need, Dedicated individuals and local support have made these past 70 years a success and ensured that Old Lyme has one of the best volunteer companies in Connecticut.”

The citation concluded, “Here’s to another 70 wonderful years and many more! The entire membership [of the Connecticut Congress] extends its very best wishes on this memorable occasion and expresses hope for continued success.”

A day of festivities for family, friends, and neighbors was held at Cross Lane Park to celebrate the occasion.

There was food …

fun…

and there were things to go up …

things to come down …

things to see — like the contents of an ambulance …

things to jump up and down on …

things to read …

things to view …

tickets to sell …

and smiles …

and more smiles …

and still more smiles — this is the Cody family …

and yet more smiles from all ages  all round!

Many thanks to Doris Coleman, pictured above in action, for all the photos!

And finally, thank you Old Lyme Volunteer Ambulance folks and all Emergency Personnel for your dedicated service to our town.

 

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‘A Farmers’ Market’ Opens Saturdays for the Season at Tiffany Farms

Bill Hurtle and Jen Tiffany are preparing to open ‘The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms’ on June 15.

LYME — It was looking as though Lyme Farmers Market, which has for more than 15 years been a perennially popular destination for both local and regional shoppers, was going to be absent from the landscape this year.

In an exciting turn of events, Jennifer Tiffany and her husband Bill Hurtle have reincarnated the market with a new name and location, and will open for business on June 15.  Tiffany explained in an exclusive interview with LymeLine.com that Bill has fostered the idea of running a farmers market for many years. He hails from Long Island and was used to seeing the numerous farm stands at the side of the road there and longed to do something similar in Lyme.

But there was no inclination to follow through with the plan in any major sense while Lyme Farmers Market was still bustling just up the road on Ashlawn Farm in Lyme.

A view of the iconic Tiffany Farms where the new market is planned.

Their first iteration of Bill’s dream happened last summer when Tiffany started hanging buckets of flowers on the feed bunk by the ‘Ladies in Waiting’ sign at the corner of Sterling City Rd. and Hamburg Rd., where the Holstein cows known as the “Ladies of Lyme” used to congregate. But someone said they thought it was a memorial for the cows which are no longer kept at the farm.

As a result, Tiffany says, they “dragged out“ Tiffany Farm’s old silage cart and placed it on the same corner and Tiffany’s daughter, Lisa Simiola, fashioned a nameplate out of wood calling it “From the Farm.” Tiffany and Hurtle then added farm produce to the flower selection  on the stand, all of which was successfully sold on the honor system.

However, when Tiffany read online that Lyme Farmers Market would not be opening this year, she and Bill saw an opportunity.  Jen is passionate about the current plight of farmers — “they’re a dying breed,” she notes sadly — and wants people to understand that her and Bill’s overarching intent in starting the new farmers market is to help and support farmers.  

Tiffany stresses that this venture is absolutely not a money-making one on their part — they both have full-time jobs so it’s “not their bread and butter,” she explains.  Rather, she sees it a way not only to support farmers, but also to bring life and beauty back to the iconic farm and regenerate the sense of community vibrancy previously associated with Lyme Farmers Market.  Any income from the market will be plowed back into the operation to help fund the overheads.

Opening Day for ‘The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms’ is Saturday, June 15, and the market will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Tiffany stresses, “All Department of Agriculture, Markets, Department of Health and CT Grown guidelines will apply.”  She is “envisaging the same look as [Lyme Farmers Market at] Ashlawn,” which means there will be neither entertainment nor what she describes as “flea-market-type stuff.”  The aim is a “very classy ” market in Tiffany’s words, focused on Connecticut-grown or-produced items such as dairy, beef, vegetables, herbs, jellies and syrups.

Aerial view of Tiffany farms showing where the Farmer’s Market will be located.

The field generously made available for the market by Susan B. Tiffany — the current owner of Tiffany Farms — is a “secluded area where my grandfather kept draft ponies,” notes Tiffany, adding the layout of the market will involve keeping cars and vendors separate. She and Hurtle are hoping to have a minimum of 10 vendors and says they will be “elated” if the number reaches 20.

The list of vendors who have already signed up for Opening Day includes:

  • Four Mile River Farm
  • Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm
  • Upper Pond Farm (also representing Ashlawn Farm)
  • Sweet Pea Cheese and House of Hayes
  • T.A.L.K. Seafood
  • Fat Stone Farm
  • Dondero Orchards
  • Deep River Farm
  • Wave Hill Breads
  • Beaver Brook Bakery
  • From the Farm

Vendors are still welcome to apply for a spot at “The Farmers Market at Tiffany Farms.”  Vendor applications are available by calling Jennifer Tiffany at 860-434-6239 or 860-575-4730 or emailing jtiffany01@msn.com

Editor’s Note: The Farmer’s Market enjoyed a wonderful Opening Day June 15 with more than 500 people visiting the market. Congratulations to Jen and Bill on such a successful and well-deserved start to their new enterprise.  We heartily commend them for having the courage to take on this venture, the total belief in its mission, and the passion to make it happen.

 

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Griswold Petition to Run on November Ballot as Old Lyme First Selectman Has More Than 80 of 85 Signatures Required, Expects to Meet Goal by Tonight

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. File photo.

Former Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold. File photo.

UPDATED 08/02, 3:17pm : see text in bold — After their meeting last week to endorse a slate of candidates for the November election, the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee (RTC) entered “No Endorsement” against the position of First Selectman. Just over a week later, former Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy C. Griswold is petitioning to be the Republican candidate and has almost collected the required number of signatures to submit to the state.

Asked in a phone conversation yesterday why he was running, Griswold told LymeLine, “I didn’t plan to run but when I looked around at the recent landscape, it seemed as if someone should mount a challenge for the position of First Selectman. It appeared wrong that the voters didn’t have a choice on the ballot.” Alluding to his previous 14 years as Old Lyme First Selectman, Griswold added with a chuckle, “I think I can still find the office.”

Although he has already been endorsed by the Old Lyme RTC to run as Town Treasurer  — a position in which he already serves — Griswold noted he would be unable to serve as Town Treasurer if he were elected First Selectman in November.

The “recent landscape,” on which Griswold did not elaborate, is presumed to be the request last week from Governor Ned Lamont for incumbent First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder to resign from the position of Connecticut Port Authority Chairman amid growing concerns about how the quasi-state agency has been operating.

Incumbent First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who has already been endorsed by the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee to run for a fifth term with fellow incumbent Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, shared with LymeLine in an email last night, “Tim and I have worked together on things and run against each other in the past. I will run on my record of accomplishments.”

Christine Gianquinto, Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee Chairman, said in a statement to LymeLine last week, “We believe it is important that she [Reemsnyder] should continue her leadership and the positive progress that has led to significant accomplishments for the benefit of the Town of Old Lyme.”

According to the state’s timeline, Griswold needs signatures from 5 percent (around 85) of the registered Republicans in Old Lyme by Wednesday, Aug. 7.  In order to verify all the signatures for legitimacy, Republican Town Registrar Cathy Carter has requested that signatures be submitted by Monday for her review. She shared with LymeLine today in a phone call that she had also also recommended those collecting signatures should aim at 150 to allow for some signatures being rejected during the review process.

Barbara Crowley, the owner of The Chocolate Shell on Lyme Street, has confirmed to us this morning in a phone call that she collected 54 signatures yesterday while Griswold has confirmed to us in an email shortly after that he has 27, also noting, ” a couple of others also have petitions.”  He added in a further email just an hour ago, “We may hit our goal by the end of today.”

The petition can be signed at The Chocolate Shell today and tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.  The store will be closed on Sunday and Monday.

 

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Old Lyme Joyfully Celebrates the Magic of Midsummer Festival

Smile, please! Ryan Catucci of Old Lyme snaps a photo of his daughter Olivia, age 3, and five-year-old son Jameson, who had seized the opportunity to step inside a classic painting on the grounds of the Lyme Art Association during Saturday’s Midsummer Festival. All photos by Suzanne Thompson.

OLD LYME — Oh, what a day!  The 33rd Old Lyme Midsummer Festival was deemed a roaring success judging by the huge crowds drawn to the town yesterday to celebrate the event.

The day began with LYSB’s 5K run …

…and then moved to vintage cars photographed by the young …

…and the not so young!

The Bohemian Fair at the Florence Griswold Museum sported tents in a variety of shades …

… while the gardens drew scores of admirers.

There were tall folks …

… and smaller folks, here working on the community sculpture at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds …

… and four-legged folks!  This is Boomer, who won the Best Trick contest in the Parading Paws competition, posing for a photo!

Photo by Kim Monson.

Sales of art by alumni at Lyme Academy of Fine Arts were brisk …

Photo by Kim Monson.

… while artists took their time to draw or paint the delightfully-clothed model.

In front of the Lyme Art Association, the Old Lyme Land Trust hosted a wonderful display of native pollinator plants and …

… another of live reptiles!  The latter was presented by the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.

Members of the Halls Road Improvement Committee were on hand to discuss the various proposals that are still in the development stage for making Halls Road an altogether better place.  Howard Margules is seen here hard at work.

Old Lyme Emergency Services Technicians were on hand to answer questions or spring into action …

… as were board members of the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce. From left to right, Jean Wilczynski, President Rich Shriver, Heather Gagnon and Dan Henderson.

Kristen Thornton (right) of the Florence Griswold Museum helped youngsters create all sorts of wonderful arts and crafts. Her ‘customers’ included Faye Casey (left), who, with her father James Casey (center), had come all the way from Brooklyn,NY, to attend the Festival.

Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club was ready to sign up new members …

… and The Moonshiners Trio was one of many bands that entertained as part of the Lymestock Music Festival down on the banks of the Lieutenant River.

Big bubbles were the order of the day at the Children’s Museum booth and Jolee Caldwell of Ivoryton clearly excelled at the task.

The range and quality of vintage cars on display at the Lyme-Old Lions Classic Car Show were nothing short of amazing —

… as were the ladies collecting the fees! Hard at work are, from left to right, Bev Pikna, Lesley Chick at the cash register, and Marianne Szreders.  All funds raised at the Car Show are used to fund scholarships awarded annually to Lyme-Old Lyme High School seniors.

A magician entertained in the Hartmann Education Center …

… and the ladies of Lyme Garden Club had all sorts of goodies for sale!

The Mystic Aquarium stand was a very popular feature and there were so many more.
Day slowly turned into night and then the whole event …

Photo by Katy Klarnet.

…ended with a bang!

So now, to conclude, all we can say is, oh, what a day … and night!

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Newly-Independent Lyme Academy Plans Its Re-Birth With Exciting Schedule of Fall Classes

File photo of the Chandler Academic Center at the now independent and renamed Lyme Academy of Fine Arts.

As of the end of last month, the renamed Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme became an independent entity once again with all ties to the University of New Haven (UNH) severed. Moreover, contrary to a number of rumors circulating around town, the Academy is not about to close, but rather is entering an exciting new phase in its evolution.

On Thursday, the Lyme Academy Board of Trustees Chairman Steven Tagliatela and the newly-appointed Interim Director of the Academy, Frank Burns, met with The Day to discuss the future of the institution. Also present was Kim Monson, an instructor of sculpture, anatomy and drawing at the school, who has been deeply involved in plans to retain the institution as a viable concern.

Lyme Academy College alumna and instructor Kim Monson who has been intimately involved in efforts to keep the Academy as a fully operational institution and is now designing the fall programs.

Monson was authorized to speak to LymeLine.com after the meeting to share an overview of its content. She explained that the overarching message that Tagliatella gave was that the Academy is most definitely not about to shutter its doors, nor to become a generic “Art Center.” She explained that the upcoming academic year is being treated in many ways as a ‘rebuilding’ year during which the Academy will determine the optimum way to move forward. A new program of serious art classes will begin in late September and Monson stressed there is also a strong desire to re-engage the local community in terms of its role as both students and donors.

A vibrant summer program is currently running at the Academy (visit this link for details) and the curriculum is currently being finalized for regular ‘core’ classes to start in late September. These will all adhere firmly to the original mission of the school as defined by its founder, the late Elisabeth Gordon Chandler, who believed passionately in what Monson describes as “observational training.”

Designed by Monson, these core classes comprising six hours per week for six weeks will be offered in Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. They will be modeled on the format followed by the Arts Student’s League in which students work with a model for the first part of the class followed by time with their instructor when he/she gives feedback.  Monson commented that this is the format followed by Lyme Academy College when she studied there as an undergraduate.

There will also be a Portfolio Prep course held over weekends between late September and November for students aged 14 and up.  Classes will include Art of the Cast (Drawing), The Skull- Sculpture), and Shades of Gray (Value Painting.)

Finally, a number of Masterclasses are planned in subjects including Animal Sculpture and Stone Carving.

Publicity postcard for the upcoming 2019 Senior Studio Summer Exhibition, which opens with a reception, July 19.

Marketing will be key to the success of the Academy’s re-birth and an agency is in the process of being hired.  This agency will be responsible for creating a new, engaging website and all ongoing marketing operations related to the fall classes.

Several of the current faculty are being retained by UNH including Randy Melick, Nancy Gladwell and Roland Becerra, who all predate the UNH take-over. The Academy is looking to retain an MFA-qualified faculty in general.

Monson’s enthusiasm for these new programs is palpable — on a personal basis, she said that she is thrilled to see the Academy “return to its roots.” She also mentioned that there are plans to upgrade the academy’s digital studio — a move she feels will enhance the Academy’s already outstanding art teaching spaces even further. Monson added that partnerships with other art colleges are still being explored.

In terms of the wider spectrum of facilities, Monson described the objective as being “how to best utilize the campus … in order to fulfill Elisabeth’s mission.” The townhouses built across the street from the Academy have been returned to the developer with the expiry of the current lease and the administrative space in the Chandler building will be offered for rent.

The Academy’s Board of Trustees will serve as an active board once again rather than in the advisory capacity in which they acted under UNH’s tenure. Monson paraphrased Tagliatella in describing how the board now felt about their task going forward, saying it was as if, “a weight had been lifted.” After a year of uncertainty about where the academy was going, the path forward is now clear, and perhaps more importantly, Monson noted, the message from the meeting was that there is an overwhelming determination to achieve success.

The first event being held under this new administration is the Opening Reception for the 2019 Summer Senior Studio Exhibition next Friday, July 19, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Chauncey Stillman Gallery at the Academy.The public is welcome to attend and view the work of the 29 graduating students, who have completed an accelerated program in order to complete their BFA’s while the College still held its accreditation.

Editor’s Note: Visit this link to read an article by Mary Biekert of The Day, who was present at the meeting with Lyme Academy officials, and describes its content in more detail. The article was published on theday.com yesterday and printed in The Day today.

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Two Lyme-Old Lyme Organizations Combine Their Talents to Build a Beautiful Butterfly Garden

Duck River Garden Club member Fay Wilkman digs deep during Saturday’s event with the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club to plant a butterfly garden at the Cross Lane Playground. Meanwhile, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (standing to rear of photo) takes a break from her digging. Photo by Kimberly Russell Thompson.

A wonderful example of community cooperation took place in Old Lyme last Saturday, which generated not only a great deal of fun and camaraderie at the time, but also a beautiful garden for the future.

It all began with the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club (LOLJWC)’s multi-year campaign to raise funds for new playground equipment at Cross Lane Park, which came to fruition with the official opening of the playground in April 2018.  During the campaign, the Club received a generous sum, to which the donor attached two requests.  The first was that it should remain anonymous and the second that it be used to create a butterfly garden at the renovated playground as a memorial.

Due to the timing of the playground’s installation, it was not possible to plant the butterfly garden last year but this year everything came together.

Sarah Michaelson plants more perennial pollinator bushes.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Petie Reed, owner of Perennial Harmony Garden and Landscape in East Lyme, who is a member of both the LOLJWC and the Duck River Garden Club (DRGC), proposed that the LOLJWC should share development of the project with the DRGC and the DRGC enthusiastically embraced the idea.  Reed was assisted throughout the project by her partner, Rich Oliver.
Reed worked with numerous members of both organizations including Suzanne Thompson of the DRGC and Anna Reiter, outgoing LOLJWC President. The group designed it to be a wildlife garden of native plants well-suited for the shaded, boggy terrain.  The selection of native shrubs and perennials includes aromatic sumacs, viburnum, huchera, black-eyed susans and baptisia will support many pollinator insects and birds.

Reiter explained that during design discussions, Reed, “suggested we allow for a more community feel to the garden, by allowing families to “adopt” a garden plot.” Reiter continued, “For a nominal fee, we supplied some specific native plants that will encourage local wildlife and pollinators for each of the community garden plots, and families were encouraged to bring their own non-invasive plants for their plot.”

From left to right, Kay Reiter stands with long-time DRGC member Mim Beardsley, incoming LOLJWC President Kim Russell Thompson, and Izzy Thompson.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

The finishing touch was that the LOLJWC also supplied a ceramic garden stake, which families can take to Ocean Art Studio in Old Saybrook to customize and then place in their garden.

Reiter noted there are still some plots available for purchase, emphasizing that the owner families and LOLJWC members will be watering the gardens throughout the summer to get them established.  Once settled in, these native plants will need minimal watering and will continue to spread and naturalize the area around the playground.
A large group of DRGC and LOLJWC members of all ages along with spouses, children, relatives and friends turned out Saturday to spend the morning cheerfully planting and watering. Fay Wilkman and Mim Beardsley, both members of the DRGC, also assisted with the installation, and incoming LOLJWC President Kimberly Russell Thompson summed up the universal feeling at the end of the successful event when she said simply, “It was a very fun day!”

Fun and flowers … and smiles! An LOLJWC member and her daughter (in foreground) and incoming LOLJWC Vice President Angela Mock and her daughter Ally all take a well-earned break from their labors.  Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Looking to the future, Reiter commented, “Petie and I hope these beds also will provide inspiration and ideas to families who want to plant more native flowers and shrubs in their own yards,” while Thompson added,  “Next steps are to seek grant funding so we can put up educational signs in the beds, to identify the plants and their benefits to wildlife.”
After expressing sincere thanks to the anonymous donor and all those who had made creation of the butterfly garden a reality, Reiter concluded positively, “We are hoping the community will walk through the gardens and enjoy the beauty of the park and the wildlife — this was a very special gift!”

Editor’s Note: Garden plots are still available for purchase at $30 each.  The purchaser must agree to tend and water their garden throughout this season.  A rain barrel and water cans are available to make watering fun and easy.  If you wish to purchase a plot, visit the LOLJWC website at www.loljwc.com or email Anna Reiter at loljrwomencub@gmail.com. There is a link to purchase a plot on the website. 

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Extensive Summer Program Breathes New Life Into Lyme Academy Campus, While Academy’s Future Still Uncertain

File photo of the Chandler Academic Center at Lyme Academy College prior to its affiliation with the University of New Haven.

The future of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts is one of the big, unanswered questions in Old Lyme at the moment.

In July 2014, the University of New Haven (UNH) announced an “affiliation” with what was then Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in a move that was perceived as likely saving the college from possible closure due its critical financial difficulties.  University of New Haven President Stephen Kaplan said at the time, “We are determined to protect and preserve the mission of Lyme Academy College, retaining the unique qualities that appeal to students seeking an arts degree in an idyllic, rural setting that nurtures creativity,”

Just five short years later, in a move that generated both shock and anger, UNH announced it was pulling out from the college saying it would continue its involvement through the end of the 2018-19 academic year and then divest itself of the institution.  The announcement was made in late August 2018 just as the BFA Class of 2022 was days away from starting their studies, leaving those freshmen students registered at a degree-granting college that would not exist past the end of their first year.

Since that announcement back in August 2018, there has been sparse official communication from either UNH or the Lyme Academy College Board of Trustees as to what is happening to the facility.  This has led to rumor and speculation regarding the future of the academy in Old Lyme and beyond.

Lyme Academy College alumna and teacher Kim Monson, who has led efforts to keep the Academy as a fully operational institution.

But all through this period of uncertainty, a group of alumni led by Kimberly Monson, who is both an alumna of the College and now a teacher there, has been fighting hard to keep the Academy (‘college’ has now been dropped from the name) as a going concern.  Monson is passionate about the mission of the academy to which President Kaplan referred, believing in it with a similar conviction to the academy’s founder, the acclaimed sculptor and musician Elisabeth Gordon Chandler.

Elisabeth Gordon Chandler

Chandler, who was one of Monson’s teachers, founded Lyme Academy of Fine Arts back in 1976 because she was determined to preserve the traditional skills of figurative and representational art, which she felt at that time were in danger of disappearing with the explosion of contemporary art. Chandler’s mission was to educate aspiring artists through a rigorous studio curriculum similar to that followed by the Great Masters.

The Academy became a degree-granting college in 1996 and in 2002 added the word ‘college’ to its name, but, all the while, retained its focus on those traditional skills. The curriculum has always included classes in anatomy and perspective, which have become increasingly rare to find in art schools in the past 40 years.

Monson told LymeLine.com this week that she now finally sees a way forward for Lyme Academy of Fine Arts.  The first part of the plan is to “disentangle” itself from UNH, which is no straightforward task.  The 2014 agreement between the two institutions has not been made public and working out who owns what in terms of the facilities, finances, intellectual property and more is believed to be a both ongoing and complex task. That piece has to be concluded for Lyme Academy to stand proud once again as an independent institution, and timing on when the official ‘separation’ will occur is unclear.

The second piece is the employment of a director for the new institution. The position has been advertised and an announcement on the appointee is expected shortly. Monson believes this will be a major step in re-establishing the academy on a firm footing.

The third and final step is the development of an extensive summer program, which hopefully will provide what Monson describes as “a pathway to sustainability.” Monson and her husband, fellow alumnus and College teacher Michael Viera, have created the program, which kicks off May 29, by working long hours and giving it intense commitment while still fulfilling their current College teaching roles.

There are three segments to the summer program, namely Middle School, Pre-College and Adult.

There will be opportunities to paint ‘en plein air’ for all ages from middle school upwards during Lyme Academy’s Summer Program.

Monson explains that the Middle School Academy is a new venture and something she identified as a real need for that age-group. She points out, “Artists took apprentices of middle school age,” so there is no question that students of that age are ready to learn art fundamentals “in a respectful manner” but laced with fun and physical activity.

Over four weeks, four artists will be studied — one per week — in an exciting, exploratory fashion, which will include learning skills in painting, sculpture, pastels, drawing, collage, and storytelling.  Students can enroll in any or all of the week-long programs, which begin July 8 with Edgar Degas, then follow with Michelangelo (July 15 ), Salvador Dali (July 22) and end with Leonardo da Vinci (July 29.)  Timing for the Monday to Friday program is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the fee for each week is $325.

The Pre-College Academy is an experience in which Monson says, “high school students are treated like college students.” and “immerse themselves in intensive workshops” for a week on each topic.  Students will not only expand their portfolios but also gain a significant advantage over their peers when they enter college.

There are eight programs on offer: sculpture, drawing, oil painting, illustration essentials, world building, animation, toy sculpture, and concept building.  Students can register for any number of classes from one to all eight and fees are $350 or $375 depending on the class.

 

Adult classes range from ‘Open Figure Drawing’ on Saturday mornings to ‘Expanding your Encaustic Horizons’ (July 29-31) to ‘Three Dimensional Forms Meet Wax’ (Aug. 1-2). Other programs include an ‘Etching Workshop’ (June 10-14), ‘Sunset Painting’ (Wednesdays, May 29- June 26) and ‘Watercolor’ (Tuesdays, June 18- July 23).

Master Class Workshops include ‘Walking Tour Townscape Painting Workshop with Michael Viera,’ which Monson describes as a “destination week,” takes place Aug. 19-23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Viera, an accomplished and award-winning artist, will lead his students in the footsteps of the Old Lyme Impressionists and ‘paint the town’ This tour will be enhanced by talks from the Old Lyme Historical Society and a visit to the Florence Griswold Museum.

Sculpture by John O’Reilly, who will teach an Animal Sculpture Master Class Workshop this summer at Lyme Academy.

Two more Master Class Workshops are being offered —  ‘Classical Drawing Boot Camp‘ with Rick Lacey (July 15-19), ‘Printmaking’ with Nancy Friese in June, and ‘Animal Sculpture‘ with John O’Reilly (June 24-28).  Both teachers are extremely talented artists with multiple awards between them. Lacey is a graduate of both Lyme-Old Lyme High School and Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. O’ Reilly has a B.F.A. from Columbus College of Art and Design and an M.F.A. from the New York Academy of Art.

‘Helen’ by Rick Lacey, who is teaching a Classical Drawing Boot Camp this summer at Lyme Academy.

Based on the Atelier model, the week-long Classical Drawing Boot Camp, which starts July 15, concentrates the student in lengthy study through direct, focused observation. The morning session is dedicated to the art of cast drawing. Measurements, comparisons and intense analysis emphasize the structure necessary for drawing. The afternoons are dedicated to the study of figure drawing from a life model in a continued pose. Attention is paid to set up and final execution over the course of a week.

Sculpting animals is a time honored tradition to which the Animal Sculpture Master Class (starting June 24) pays homage. The founder of Lyme Academy, Elisabeth Gordon Chandler, began her art career sculpting her beloved dog to cope with her grief after he passed away. Sculpting an animal from direct observation is an invaluable learning opportunity. Comparative anatomy, overall structure and form variations will be explored while choosing the proper gesture or behavior to suit your vision. Workshop participants will sculpt live from a horse or a dog.

Monson urges people considering applying for classes to enroll soon since classes are filling fast. She says with the deep-seated passion of a life-long artist, “People should take time to invest in themselves. They should come learn about their capabilities … learn about what they can do and didn’t know they could do.”

Stressing that all the teachers of these classes are “really good people,” Monson explains this means that not only are they outstanding, established artists, but also that they are dedicated to the Academy and “will put it in its best light.” Many of the teachers, like Monson and Viera, are alumni of the College, the majority of whom have gone on to obtain an MFA at another college. The Middle School Academy is being taught primarily by 2019 graduates of Lyme Academy College.

Regarding the future, Monson says her immediate goal is “to populate the campus” during the summer programs and thus breathe vitality and enthusiasm back into the Academy.  She does not know details of the post-summer plans, but says with conviction, “We deserve to be here because we have so much to offer.”  She believes talks with other institutions are ongoing to see where Lyme Academy might find a synergistic relationship or determine if credits from Lyme Academy might be transferable into a degree-granting institution. Monson also thinks discussions with the Town of Old Lyme are continuing despite the rejection by the Town of the Academy’s application for $90,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Her unequivocal objective — and that of all the other alumni and board members working hard to find a solution for Lyme Academy once it is separated from UNH — remains “to give it [the Academy] a long-term pathway to success.”

Editor’s Note: Full details of these summer programs including instructors, dates, times, fees, and enrollment information can be found on Lyme Academy’s new website at this link. For further information about these summer programs, contact Kristen Brady by email at kbrady@lymefs.newhaven.edu or telephone at 860-598-5143.

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It’s Sun-Day for Old Lyme! Kaczor’s Boys Play for Div. V State Basketball Championship at 10:30am Today

Coach Kirk Kaczor (center) leads the traditional Old Lyme boy’s basketball team huddle at the start of a game..

There’s nothing like an Old Lyme team participating in a high school state final to stir the sleepy towns of Lyme and Old Lyme to their core.

Extrapolating from past performance when Don Bugbee’s girls played (and won) the Class S State basketball championship in 2009 — the first played at Mohegan Sun — a conservative estimate suggests that at least half of the population of Lyme and Old Lyme will set their alarms early this morning, may even skip church (or perhaps the Catholics among us went yesterday evening …) and head east across the state to the arena at Mohegan Sun.

One assumes that pretty much every self-respecting, current Lyme-Old Lyme High Schooler will make their way to the arena this morning whether on a school bus or under their own steam. The parents of the boys on the Old Lyme varsity basketball team may even go to see the team bus off from the school at some God-forsaken hour …

The basketball game tipping off at 10:30 a.m. in the arena at Mohegan Sun will be the focus of their attention until around noon.

In a packed arena with likely around 5,000 fans present, can Kirk Kavzor’s boys pull off a spectacular win and topple top-seeded Innovation to bring the CIAC Division V trophy home to Old Lyme?

These third-seeded Wildcats have already crushed all previous records by becoming the first team in program history to reach the final. Can they now — urged on by their fervent supporters aged from 1 to 92 — take it one step further and make their tiny hometown the proudest for miles around and win the title?

In an exclusive and extraordinarily revealing email interview with LymeLine.com, Coach Kaczor gave us the inside story on how this exceptional team has reached the point it is at today, saying, “Two years ago we were 6-14 and a program in disarray.  The effort, attitude and culture were not anywhere near what I wanted it to be.  We were selfish and undisciplined, and it reflected poorly on me as well as the school.  We weren’t all that talented, but more importantly our attitude needed to change for our program to be successful.”

He continued, “Last year, we dedicated ourselves to improving both on and off the court.  We made a move to work with a strong group of sophomores and asked the older kids to help bring them along and to provide a fostering culture that valued teamwork and discipline. “

Interestingly he pointed to some small things that have made a big difference in team culture, such as, “We made new rules about tucking in practice jerseys and sprinting to help out teammate or opponent that went down during the game.  (You’ll see that during the game.)”

Kaczor concluded, “We had a great season.  We finished 15-5 but lost in the first round of our league tournament.  We entered the state tournament with a good seed but were beaten at the buzzer in the first round by Capital Prep.  However, during that season we created a culture and brotherhood that carried into the summer, fall and then back to the winter.”

Turning to this season, Kaczor said, “Everything was in place to run for the Sun.  I never said it, but the kids did.  It was the elephant in the room.  We knew we had the talent, effort, and attitude to get there.” He mused, “I just wondered if we could catch a break.  There always seems to be a little luck involved.,” adding, “Things just fell into place for us.”

Commenting on the tournament itself, Kaczor reflected, “We’ve played three excellent and young teams so far.  Beating a good Gilbert team in the second round.  Avenging our only home loss (on senior night) to Morgan in the quarters.  And this week, we beat a 16-4 Somers team that is really good.”

Kaczor ended with the words, “This season has been amazing in so many ways,” noting, “We just recently won the sportsmanship award presented by our Board 8 officials, as well.”

Let’s hope the season becomes a whole lot more amazing this morning! Good luck boys and Coach Kaczor … and GO WILDCATS!

 

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RiverQuest’s ‘Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise’ Offers Remarkable Insight, Views of CT River

This juvenile bald eagle flew alongside the RiverQuest during our recent afternoon cruise. Photo by Michael Pressman.

Oh, what a trip!

The RiverQuest at the Connecticut River Museum dock

RiverQuest hosted several members of the Fourth Estate recently on a wonderful Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruise. Temperatures were distinctly chilly last Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 13), but the heated cabin stayed warm while the boat gently sailed upstream from the Connecticut River Museum.

View from on board the RiverQuest.

The views were stunning throughout the trip and, despite the frigid temperatures, the majority of the 30 or so on board stayed outside most of the time to enjoy the whole experience to the full.

Look hard and you’ll see the mast (slightly right of center) of the sunken luxury yacht in Hamburg Cove.

As we sailed north, apart from all the wildlife on the water and in the sky, we saw the mast of the luxury yacht that has sunk in Hamburg Cove and the always delightful view of Gillette Castle high atop its East Haddam perch overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette Castle commands a stunning of the river.

Naturalist and lecturer Bill Yule shared a vast amount of fascinating facts, figures, history, happenings, and anecdotes about the river and its inhabitants, ably accompanied by naturalist and crew member Cathy Malin.

Naturalist Bill Yule shared a great deal of interesting information with the passengers.

Both were on board for the duration of the trip and, while not busy disseminating information in a lively and engaging manner, they were actively spotting and identifying wildlife of all shapes and sizes on, above and alongside the river and its banks.  They also took great care to ensure the  passengers were at all times warm, comfortable … and supplied with plenty of hot coffee!

Cathy Malin kept her eyes on the prize and was rewarded with sightings of 13 bald eagles on this trip..

Although named an ‘Eagle Cruise,’ the sighting of an eagle cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but we were fortunate to see 13 bald eagles on our trip, one flying immediately alongside the RiverQuest, and also enjoyed numerous sightings of cormorants, black-backed gulls, and common merganser ducks.

An adult bald eagle spotted during our cruise keeps a close watch on everything happening on the river beneath him. Photo by Michael Pressman.

The bald-headed eagle — the national emblem of the United States of America — reaches maturity at around age four when it acquires its signature white head and maximum wingspan of approximately six feet.

All eyes — and binoculars– were on the sky … and water.

Declared an endangered species in 1973 with the passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, bald eagle populations slowly began to recover following the ban on DDT, and by 2007, populations had recovered to such an extent that the species has now been removed from the endangered species list.

There were a number of professional photographers on board sporting rather larger lenses than our cell phone!

The magnificent raptors are, however, still protected on the federal level by the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Spotting eagles was the job of everyone on board.

Every winter a number of bald eagles migrate south looking for open water on which to feed as the lakes and rivers in Canada and northern New England  freeze. Many of these magnificent birds stop in Connecticut and winter along major rivers and large reservoirs, where they can also be seen feeding and sometimes nesting on the banks of the Connecticut River.

A record of all the birds seen during each trip is kept in the Connecticut River Museum.

Counts taken in 2018 indicated there were 80 pairs of nesting bald eagles in Connecticut, which produced a record 68 chicks.

The Connecticut River Museum was the start and end-point of our trip.

The Connecticut River Museum is currently hosting a “Big Birds of Winter” exhibit, which offers an excellent overview of all the birds that might be seen on the river.

This mock-up of an eagle’s nest and the raptor silhouettes are part of the Connecticut River Museum’s “Big Birds of Winter”exhibition.

Your $42 ticket not only gives you two hours on the river aboard the RiverQuest, but also admission to all the exhibits at the Museum.

Our unequivocal opinion of this wonderful trip is simply, “Take it … it deserves two big thumbs up!”

Editor’s Note: For more information on Winter Wildlife Eagle Cruises, visit this link. For more information on RiverQuest and all the trips they offer, visit this link.  For more information on the Connecticut River Museum, visit this link.

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$1.75M Funding for Old Lyme Library Renovations Passes Easily in Packed Meeting

There was standing room only for some residents attending Monday night’s Special Town Meeting in Old Lyme.

UPDATED 7/24: FULL STORY NOW ADDED — More than 140 people packed into the Meeting Hall at Old Lyme Town Hall Monday evening to cast their votes on whether the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library should receive $1.75 million from the town coffers to fund its planned renovations.

Library Director Katie Huffman explained the library needs in part to be renovated due to the dramatic changes that have occurred in the way people gather information in the past 25 years, when the last renovation took place.  The advent of social media and smartphones, the decreasing cost of technology, and a dramatic increase in publishing and the availability of information have changed people’s information needs.

She said, “More and more people are coming in with their devices … more people are studying remotely.” adding, “people need space for Skype interviews and to take exams.”  She pointed out these changes have resulted in a 70 percent increase in reference questions since the new building opened in 1996, a 90 percent increase in library programs, and a 140 percent increase in attendance at those programs.

Library Building Committee Chairman Ken Biega addresses the audience.

Drayton Fair, a principal architect from LLB Architects in Pawtucket, R.I. opened by saying,”Public libraries are reasserting themselves,” noting, “They should be the best place in town, where everyone is welcome.”  He agreed with Huffman that the increase in programming has been exponential and then went on to describe the proposed changes to the library under the renovation, summing them up as “We kept the best and improved the rest.”

He noted the staff would be moved up to the second floor, there would be “areas for tutoring, private study and Skype,” and a new Young Adult Area, which would be “acoustically separate.”  Fair added the plans also called for “opening up the Children’s Room … consolidating the Reference and Circulation functions at a central desk … and the creation of an outdoor reading terrace.”  He concluded enthusiastically, “I hope you’re all as excited about this as we are.”

Library Building Committee Chairman Ken Biega explained the costs of the project saying the total project cost will be $3.05 million.  This cost will include both construction and soft costs, such as furnishings, technology, and shelving.  It also includes a built-in construction contingency fund.

Significantly, the library has secured a $1.0 million construction grant from the Connecticut State Library, thus dramatically reducing the impact of the funding required for the project on Old Lyme taxpayers.  Moreover, the library has committed to raising $300,000 through its own efforts and is requesting $1.75 million from the Town of Old Lyme. Biega raised a ripple of laughter in the audience when he commented, “Everyone has a little bit of skin in this game.”

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder discussed the impact of the project on homeowners in Old Lyme.  She said the owner of a house appraised at $347, 200 would pay conservatively an additional $24 per tax year for the next 15 years.  The respective number for a house appraised at $540,200 would be $38.  Reemsnyder cautioned that the Town was “not definitely borrowing the full amount,” and that, if that were the case, Old Lyme taxpayers would pay less.

Library Board Chairman Lynn Fairfield-Sonn answers questions from the audience..

After a couple of quick questions from the audience answered by Library Board Chairman Lynn Fairfield-Sonn, residents voted first in a hand vote that McGarry called in favor of the Ayes.  One resident, however, wanted to know the exact count and so the vote was repeated with residents holding up cards denoting they had been approved as legitimate Old Lyme taxpayers.  When the hand votes had been counted, McGarry announced to loud applause that the motion had passed by 104 votes to 30.

Harbor Commission Chairman Steve Ross proposes the new ordinance, with First Selectwoman Reemsnyder and Attorney McGarry standing behind him.

The second motion established a new ordinance to amend the Town’s Harbor Management Plan.  Harbor Commission Chairman Steve Ross explained the Town “needed a variance if there is a hardship” and this ordinance will create a procedure for the Harbor Management Commission to recommend variances from the Harbor Use Zone Standards of the Plan to a state or local permitting authority in Old Lyme waters.

After Ross had made a motion to approve the ordinance, McGarry called for a show of hands. There was no call for vote count this time and the motion was carried by a convincing margin.

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New Driver Education School Opens in Old Lyme, ‘APC Driving’ Offers a “Boutique” Approach

Brent and Suzanne Thompson stand outside the doors of the newly-opened APC Driving in the Old Lyme Marketplace. Brent co-founded the business with Chris Robson. Photo submitted.

APC Driving has opened its doors at 19 Halls Rd. in the Old Lyme Marketplace near The Hideaway, offering driver education programs for teens and adults, as well as advanced driver training. Co-founder Brent Thompson, who lives in Old Lyme, explains, “We didn’t want to be like any other driving school … we hope to develop more of a lifestyle approach [to driving.]”

This photo of the exterior of APC Driving in the lower left shows its prime location in the Old Lyme Marketplace next to the Hong Kong II restaurant.

Chris Robson is the other co-founder and he has over 25 years of experience as a professional race car driver and instructor.  Both men share a lifelong passion for all things automotive or in Thompson’s own words, “We’re both ‘Gearheads.'”

A small selection of Chris Robson’s extensive racing trophies and memorabilia decorates the walls.

Thompson grew up in Texas and Colorado and graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  A sales and marketing executive with years of experience leading teams across the U.S., Canada and Australia, Thompson has had a life-long passion for cars.  Working with the Franklin Mint and its die cast car models division in the 1990s, he created, negotiated and executed marketing programs with world-class partners in historic and collectible automotive fields.  He moved on to executive management in the men’s clothing industry.  

When Thompson’s employer was bought out by competitor in 2016, he decided to get off of corporate travel treadmill and see what he could create locally.  He maintains his full competition license with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and is chief motorsports correspondence for the Auto Chat Show podcasts, which has a subscriber base of over 100,000 listeners.

APC Driving co-founders Brent Thompson (left) and Chris Robson stand together on a racetrack in Brazil after Robson had completed a race there. Photo submitted.

Robson, APC Driving’s chief driving instructor, grew up in a racing family in the quiet corner of Connecticut.  A former chief driving instructor at Performance Motorsports Karting School in Columbus, Ohio, he has over 100 U.S. and international podium finishes in recognized racing organizations and over 25 years of professional racing and instructor experience.  Thompson describes Robson affectionately as, “the real deal behind the wheel,” noting, “The kids love him!”

Chris Robson drives through rain in this race. Photo submitted.

Asked how the idea of opening a driving school was conceived, Thompson explains, ” Chris and I met at a business networking event in West Hartford in 2017. Small talk quickly turned to cars and racing, so we set about figuring out how to create a business.”

The spacious teaching area will never accommodate more than 10 students at any one time.

 
He continues, “We’re taking a boutique approach to teaching people how to drive, with small classes of never more than 10, personalized assessments of their skills, abilities and confidence levels, and providing the training they need,” said Thompson, adding, “Whether you’re first learning to drive, want to have a safer commute or simply like to drive, the skills that you can learn at APC Driving will help you achieve your goal.” 

Both men take safe driving seriously.  Robson seeks to teach young drivers precision and control at the wheel, not speed and thrills.  Thompson’s academic approach to driver education focuses on building a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding what it takes to be safe and happy behind the wheel at any level.  The business partners also both have daughters, so Thompson notes sanguinely, “We have a vested interest. We look at safe driving from the perspective of parents, too.”

The driving simulator is a real boon to the business.

The office that APC Driving occupies is spacious and comfortable.  It is divided into a reception area and a teaching space while a driving simulator occupies one corner, retail sales another and advanced driving programs another.  The walls are covered with automobile-associated artwork and maps, and a large display case houses a number of Robson’s trophies and a fascinating selection of his his racing paraphernalia. Thompson comments, “Everything is fluid,” meaning the artwork and memorabilia will change regularly and as retails sales of clothing, equipment and model cars expand, he anticipates increased inventory necessitating more space being given over to them.

Brent Thompson sometimes mans the reception desk when he’s not teaching.

Brent is married to local writer and radio personality Suzanne Thompson, who is assisting APC Driving with their publicity and promotional planning.  Suzanne explains with a smile, “I’m more into kayaking and gardening than cars,” noting she hosts a weekly radio show about gardening and nature on WLIS 1420 AM/Old Saybrook and WMRD 1150 AM/Middletown and writes regularly for The Day and its weekly publications on environmental matters.  Suzanne stepped back from corporate communications in 2005 to raise her family, and since then she has served on Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau board for six years and in June became a board member of Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce.

Suzanne describes herself and her husband as “a couple of misplaced Midwesterners, who enjoy Connecticut’s New England feel and coastal shoreline.”  The Thompsons moved to Old Lyme in 2002 and have two daughters, who both attend Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.

Looking into the APC Driving area, one can see the teaching one on the left and the advanced skills program area at the rear.

 
APC Driving is licensed by the State of Connecticut to teach the eight-hour Teen Drug and Alcohol and 30-hour Full Course classroom sessions for 16-17 year-olds, including the mandatory two-hour Parent Class, as well as classes for 18-year-olds and adults seeking their Connecticut Driver’s License.  These include behind-the-wheel training with a certified APC Driving instructor in an APC car. 
 
The school also offers specialized training for new and licensed drivers to prepare them to drive on today’s roads.  Students can master their parallel and other parking challenges in PARK IT, hone their big-city driving skills in RUSH HOUR, or sign up for additional Individual Driving Hours.  APC Driving also offers PRIMETIME for mature or senior drivers and in-car training for anyone who needs help understanding all of the technologies in today’s cars. The AUTO SELECT program helps people choose and purchase their vehicle.
 
Courses and training are described on APC Driving’s website, www.apcdriving.com, where parents and students can see the class schedule and register online.  Classes are held Monday through Friday and the school offers flexible hours for in-car instruction.  APC Driving is open Monday through Friday10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call for an appointment. 
 
APC Driving is a subsidiary of Accelerated Performance Coaching, LLC.
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Affordable Housing Public Hearing Deadline Extended Again, This Time to Sept. 10


UPDATED 7/20, FULL REPORT NOW ADDED: Around 270 people showed up at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School Tuesday evening for the third Public Hearing held by the Old Lyme Zoning Commission on the 37-unit Affordable Housing development on Neck Rd. proposed by HOPE and the Women’s Institute.  At the end of the almost three-hour sometimes contentious, sometimes rambling meeting, the commission voted at the applicant’s request to continue the Public Hearing to their next regular meeting on Sept. 10.

The meeting opened with commission member Jane Marsh reading from a letter submitted by Old Lyme Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who was unable to attend the meeting. Reemsnyder had requested the letter be read into the zoning commission’s record.

In her letter, Reemsnyder explained the reason she had felt it necessary to write was because, “There are a range of accusations I feel must be directly addressed.”  She said the first was, “A conflict of interest,” and after explaining her position on the Advisory Council of HOPE was non-voting, she stated, “I have no personal stake in this development nor do I serve on any of the boards that must approve this application. By any standard, this does not even qualify as a perceived conflict of interest.”

The second accusation she cited was,“I brought this to our town.”  In answer to that, Reemsnyder wrote, “I support affordable housing for Old Lyme because it is a serious need and statutory mandates. Hence I have supported the mission of HOPE for years, never being secretive about it.”   She elaborated on the process that has been followed and clarified, “It is my longstanding and consistent policy to maintain the independence of our boards and commissions and to refrain from attempting directly to influence their decisions … I provided no comments, discussions or requests to any land use commission members.”

Finally, Reemsnyder noted she had seen an email stating, “The fix is in” suggesting this proposal is “… not going through the proper process.”  She responded in the letter, saying, “I have no idea what this refers to but if it is an allegation that someone is applying pressure to the zoning commission that would surely be news to me.”  Reemsnyder added, “The rumor that there has been an effort by me to “speed things along” with the town is “categorically untrue,” noting, “It is disturbing to see the misinformation going around about the application and the applicants.”

Reemsnyder concluded, “In the end it is you, the commission members, who have to abide by the rules for approving or denying affordable housing … I support each one of you.”

David Royston, who serves as attorney for HOPE and the Women’s Institute, makes a point during his preamble to a request being made by the Women’s Institute for an extension to the Public Hearing through Sept. 10.

Attorney David Royston, who represents the applicant, namely HOPE and the Women’s Institute, then took close to an hour to explain why he would be requesting an extension to the Public Hearing, primarily because several reports, which required responses from the applicants, had only been received in the last few days.  These included reports from the Old Lyme Fire Marshal David Roberge and the Town Engineer, Tom Metcalf.  Royston added he had also hoped to receive comments regarding the septic approval prior to the meeting, but that had not occurred.

Royston emphasized that “the position of the applicant” is not to “object in any fashion to scrutiny regarding health and safety issues” but rather that, “We understand fully the concerns of the community regarding the access driveway and the safety issues regarding emergency vehicles.” He stressed, “We want to assure you [Zoning Commission members] that every item raised will be addressed.”

Noting that an important concern of Metcalf was the entry driveway, Royston explained the applicant needed more time, “to allow these matters to be fully and professionally addressed.”

Kristen Anderson of the Women’s Institute made the official request for the extension on behalf of the applicant noting that continuing the Public Hearing to the zoning commission’s next regular meeting on Sept. 10 retained the application within the required legal timeline.  The Hearing would have to be closed on that date and a decision then given by the commission within 65 days after the meeting.

Land Use Coordinator Keith Rosenfeld (extreme left) listens intently as Zoning Commission Chairwoman Jane Cable (third from left) solicits input from other members of the commission during Tuesday’s Public Hearing.

Asking the audience to “Be kind” and “Don’t repeat,” Commission Chair Jane Cable then opened the floor to public comment.  Pamela Hamilton spoke first commenting initially on, “the bucolic and historic nature of Old Lyme,” and then noting that she had seen too many towns and villages, which had “frittered away their charm.” She stated firmly, “It is not elitist to treasure charm, history and beauty,” which drew spirited applause, adding, “The people of Old Lyme are a generous lot … they do not want to say,’We do not want affordable housing.’” She maintained their message was simply, “Build in some other location,” while adding in a questioning tone, “One wonders what the motivation is [for this site.]

Before calling the next speaker, Cable reminded the audience that the commission can only consider health and safety aspects of the proposal and urged speakers to restrict their comments to those matters.

An Old Lyme resident then went to the podium and questioned, “Have any of you stood on Sands Dr.? [the road almost opposite the Exit 70 exit ramp on Rte. 156/Neck Rd.] This is a public safety issue …  I just don’t see how this project has got this far.” He added, “You cannot do away with the safety problems it {the proposed development] will cause.  There is just no way.”

Old Lyme former First Selectman Tim Griswold, who noted he had served for 14 years, asked if the Zoning Commission had received a formal recommendation [regarding the proposed development] from the Old Lyme Selectmen’s Office or the State Police in Westbrook since the First Selectwoman and/or the Resident State Trooper “have jurisdiction over speeds, Stop signs.” Commission members indicated this was not case to which Griswold responded, “This is a deficiency that should be corrected.”

Hope’s Board of Directors President Tony Lyons, an Old Saybrook resident, said he wanted “to dispel” a couple of the points that were being communicated about the proposed development. First, he stated it is not “profit-motivated’ and second that HOPE” is looking to help people already here” rather than people from outside the area. He surmised, “Everyone in this room knows someone who has a housing issue … the millennial on your couch, the senior who has no senior housing.”

Lyons prompted jeers when he said, “This is not about traffic … traffic will be negligible.” He asked the audience where they have been for the past four years while HOPE has been looking for a site for affordable housing, saying, “We have been an open book.  We are a completely transparent organization.” Lyons also said the audience should think about the alternative if this project is not approved, speculating that “It will not be 37 units but 137 units,” built by a property developer.

In a more conciliatory tone, he said, “We are looking for help from everyone in this room to make this project the best we can.”

A resident of Wolcott Lane wondered whether additional police would be required for the increased town population resulting from the development.

Old Lyme resident Jill Pilgrim read the Fire Marshal’s letter, which had been submitted the previous day, into the record.  The letter raised nine comments, which required attention by the applicant, and its conclusion was, “Based upon its current submitted design(s) and our noted nonconformance to the Connecticut Fire Safety and Fire Prevention Codes, this Office cannot support this project at this time.”

One speaker noted it is possible to rent in Old Lyme and “you can find places to rent,” while a second commented, “There’s plenty of affordable housing in this own … that needs to be explored a little more.” He also suggested that the rents at River Oak Commons sounded high.

Speaker after speaker urged HOPE to reconsider the location of the development with possible sites proposed at the Ryefield Senior Housing and its environs and also on Hartford Ave. in Sound View. Concerns ranged from whether the end of a school bus picking up students would extend to the foot of the Exit 70 off-ramp, how children are going to cross Rte. 156 in order to reach Hall’s Rd., “a catastrophic accident,” and who will pay for the subsequently needed traffic lights and a rotary.  One resident described the locations “dangerous and absurd.”

Tom Ortoleva, a resident  of Old Lyme and a board member of HOPE, spoke passionately in support of the project noting he had never had difficulty turning right from the Exit 70 off-ramp and that, “Families that want to stay local [in Old Lyme] have to go to other towns … college students are moving away.” He surmised that Old Lyme would not be able to support volunteer Fire or Emergency Medical Technician Departments if this situation continued.

Ortoleva also stressed that concerns the development would turn into a “drug haven” were unfounded.  He had explored with the Old Saybrook Police Chief Mike Spera whether the Affordable Housing development at Ferry Crossing in that town had experienced higher crime rates than other parts of the town and the answer had been a definitive “No.”  Spera said there had been “no violent crimes or drug incidents at Ferry Crossing.”

Wes Swanson, another HOPE board member and pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Old Saybrook, urged the audience to consider the aspect of “health” in relation to River Oak Commons in the context of a “healthy community,” that is, one which is diverse and hospitable.  He submitted that “This proposal will enrich and enhance Old Lyme and contribute to the community’s well-being and growth.”

Dominic Pappa, an abutter of the proposed development, drew applause when he summed up many of the concerns of those objecting saying, “Affordable Housing is needed but it’s obvious to everyone in this room that this site has a health and safety issue.” He urged the commission not to extend the public hearing but rather to have a vote and, “make a decision.”

When evaluating the evidence before making their decision, Michael Fogliano recommended the commission should take care only to consider, “objective data.”

Finally, after more than two and a half hours of testimony and some confusion in the final minutes, the commission voted unanimously to extend the hearing to Sept. 10 as requested by the applicant.

Editor’s Note: Links to our stories on previous meetings regarding this Affordable Housing proposal are respectively at Boisterous Crowd Packs Middle School Auditorium to Listen to, Give Opinions on HOPE’s Affordable Housing Proposal published June 8, and At HOPE’s Request, Old Lyme Zoning Extends Affordable Housing Hearing Deadline to July 17 published June 13. There are also numerous Letters to the Editor on the subject in our Letters section and opinions in our Op-Ed’s section. The articles themselves also stimulated a wide variety of comments.

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Sound View Celebrates its 25th Independence Day Parade

Flag-bearer Joann Lishing proudly leads the Sound View Independence Day Parade down Hartford Ave. in Old Lyme, marching immediately ahead of The Silver Cornet Band.  Photos by Lisa Roderick Knepshield.

It started as a small parade meant just for the residents of Sound View.  Twenty-five years later the Independence Day parade held Saturday morning and organized by the Sound View Beach Association is now a sizable event in terms of numbers and again, as in the vast majority of the previous years, was held under cloudless skies on a perfect day.

Joann Lishing, who has been the flag-bearer at the front of the parade for more years than she can remember, notes, “Families have grandchildren visit specifically to participate in this parade.” She points out, however, that despite its ever-increasing size, “It’s still a family parade.”

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (left, rear) marches alongside State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) behind the band.

State Rep. Devin Carney (R- 23rd) joined the throng and cheerfully marched the full length of the parade.  He noted, “The Sound View parade is always a wonderful celebration of our nation’s Independence Day and Old Lyme’s beach community. This year’s parade was no exception and I was honored to participate.”  He added, “The organizers did a remarkable job and it was great seeing so many people marching and enjoying the festivities.”

Judging of the decorated bikes, costumes, and so forth is no easy task.

After the parade had completed its fairly lengthy route of Hartford, Swan, and Portland Avenues, the judging began and then awards were presented for male and female in categories such as best-decorated bike or wagon, most patriotic outfit, best float, funniest outfit, and best-dressed pet.

Smiles and laughter were the order of the day and everyone seemed to share Lishing’s sentiment that, “This parade really pulls the community together.”

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