The Cleanup Continues in Irene's Aftermath

Niantic residents Adam Rand, left, and Terry Mitchell unload brush from trees damaged in Tropical Storm Irene at the dump site at Veterans Field in Niantic on Sept. 14.

Nearly a month after Tropical Storm Irene knocked out power, closed schools as well as scattering tree limbs across lawns, Public Works Director Michael Giannattasio said last week, crews are still picking up debris from the storm curbside in neighborhoods throughout the town.

"We expected to be done (last week) but it's taking longer than we expected," Giannattasio said.

Residents are still bringing downed branches to Veterans Field, the collection site established in the days after the storm.

Giannattasio said the state will be loaning the town a wood chipper to dispose of the branches and limbs.

The resulting mulch will be distributed to town residents for use in gardens and lawns.

Giannattasio said the town would then restore Veterans Field to its pre-storm condition.

"It wasn't damanged and it's just a grass and gravel field," Giannattasio said.

First Selectman Paul Formica said last week inspectors from FEMA and the town are still investigating the Niantic Bay Boardwalk, which was washed out by the storm.

According to preliminary estimates the storm cost the town $1.6 million in damage and workers salaries. Formica said that number could rise.

The East Lyme school board said last Tuesday it plans to vote its Sept. 26 meeting to alter its schedule of class days.

Board member Kevin Seery suggested holding half sessions of school on the day before the Thanksgiving and Christmas break to make up class time.

East Lyme Superintendent of Schools James Lombardo said the school administration has received more than 80 emails from parents and staff with suggestions about how to make up the lost days.

"There is a desire to eliminate the February break," Lombardo said.

Unlike most school districts in the region, East Lyme has full week off in February following the Presidents' Day holiday.

The board is unlikely to change any of the staff development days due to regional commitments.

Julie Horner, a teacher in East Lyme, urged the board not to cut the April vacation, when families often make out-of-town travel plans.

"I think we would see a high rate of absenteeism," Horner said.


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