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Old Lyme recognizes Citizen of the Year, conducts town business

Old Lyme — A quick and uncontroversial annual town meeting was capped by what First Selectman Tim Griswold called "one of the most enjoyable parts" of the event held on the fourth Monday of every January: The announcement of Old Lyme's Citizen of the Year.

Roughly 50 people came out to the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium Monday night to vote on a handful of agenda items and recognize volunteer Cheryl Poirier for her service to the community.

Griswold quoted from nominations submitted by numerous people who worked with Poirier in areas related to the arts, tourism, environment and economic development.

A former marketing associate with the Florence Griswold Museum, Poirier is part of the Arts District and American Rescue Plan Committee and serves as chairman of both the Sustainable Old Lyme Team and Economic Development Commission.

Katie Huffman, Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library director and head of the Arts District, said it's a rare person who has exceptional ideas and "the wherewithal and tenacity to make them happen," according to Griswold.

"Cheryl is one such person," Huffman said. "She has amazing ideas, the confidence to share them with others and the can-do attitude to see them through. In my experience, she leaves every project and organization better than she found it: more organized, efficient, communicative and productive."

Cheryl led the sustainability team to Sustainable CT's bronze certification and, late last year, to becoming one of only 26 towns in the state to have earned silver status. The statewide independent organization has not yet created a gold level for its voluntary certification program, which recognizes communities for building partnerships to make communities stronger in a wide array of areas.

Poirier after the meeting described the sustainability team as a good place to put her different interests and skill sets to use. She emphasized the group is not just about the environment.

Being sustainable is also about "having arts and culture, it's having a strong economy, it's having strong planning," she said.

As described by those who nominated Poirier for Citizen of the Year, a focus on sustainability is also about successfully engaging people who are doing good work all over town so they can accomplish even more together.

Poirier described the award as a wonderful recognition. "It's always an honor to serve and volunteer with the other people who are here tonight — the different commissioners and boards — and represent Old Lyme," she said.

Business meeting

Voters unanimously approved a request for up to $50,000 to cover expenses not reimbursable through a $400,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to add sidewalks and a bus stop in the Sound View Beach area on a vacant, town-owned lot across from the police station.

Grant guidelines prevent the state funds from being used for expenses like project design, legal fees and advertising. The total amount of nonreimbursable expenses is estimated at $45,627 by the time the project is completed this spring, according to officials.

The project is overseen by the town's Community Connectivity Grant Committee, which decided to add the bus stop after spending less than anticipated to install sidewalks on the western portion of Hartford Avenue and a portion of Route 156. When the committee saw there was $79,198 left over in the original grant amount, members decided to put phase two into effect.

There were $42,763 in nonreimbursable expenses accrued during phase one, according to a handout at the town meeting. The $50,000 allocation leaves up to $7,000 more for ineligible costs related to the bus stop.

The bus stop includes a shelter donated by regional public transit provider 9 Town Transit, a pavement pad, sidewalk, bicycle repair station, bike rack and 21 trees to provide a barrier for neighbors.

Voters also unanimously approved the sale of a town-owned parcel near Rogers Lake to neighbor Roger Davis for $10,500. Griswold said 11 Alpha Ave. was offered to other neighbors but nobody expressed interest. The move was endorsed by the Board of Finance and the Planning Commission, according to the first selectman.

Griswold described Alpha Avenue as a "paper street" that exists on the map but was never actually built. "Essentially, the parcel is landlocked and would afford no access," he said.

Davis owns several properties in the immediate vicinity, including one abutting lot. He got tired of looking at the junk that's been piling up for decades and his plan is to "just clean it up and make it look good," he said after the meeting.

The American Rescue Plan Committee withdrew its request to spend up to $115,000 of the town's roughly $2.1 million allocation of federal coronavirus pandemic relief aid to cover COVID-19 testing, distribution and communication costs.

Poirier, who serves on the committee, said the request's withdrawal came after the federal government rolled out its own plan to send test kits directly to people's homes. She said the committee may still recommend the Board of Selectmen allocate money for a future supply of test kits or masks as part of the overall priority list it is crafting, but it is no longer considered an emergency authorization at this point.

The committee was established earlier this year with residents and town employees representing areas impacted by the pandemic, including emergency management, social services, arts and tourism, business and public works. Members are using the results from 900 completed surveys to help them decide which funding categories to focus on as they create a set of recommendations for the Board of Selectmen.

e.regan@theday.com

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