THURSDAY EVENING UPDATE

BILDA ADMITS DERBY TRIPS WERE DUMB

John Bilda

The trips to the Kentucky Derby were a stupid idea, and now it’s time to move on. Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda offers those comments this morning, as the so-called Derbygate controversy appears to be reaching its final resolution. Bilda, along with other city utility and government officials, went on an 2016 all-expense paid trip to the horse race, courtesy of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, which NPU belongs to. Bilda and other officials had described the Derby trip, as well as similar ones the previous three years, as strategic retreats, despite the lack of any formal business meetings or conferences. Bilda says he realizes the excursions shouldn’t have happened, but says NPU’s efforts are focused on the future and some big development opportunities for the city and NPU. Norwich’s Board of Public Utilities Commissioners is awaiting a legal review before deciding whether to agree with the Ethics Commission to have Bilda and NPU Division Manager Steve Sinko fully repay the city for their 2016 trip expenses. The review should be ready in September. Bilda was a guest on Thursday’s Stu Bryer talk show on WICH.

FIRE CEREMONY

Members of the public are being invited to view a ceremonial fire that’s burning on the grounds of the former state hospital in Preston. The fire was lit during a so-called cleansing and healing ceremony held on Thursday by the Mohegan Tribe, which is planning a large-scale development on the site. Mohegan Tribal Elder and ceremonial Lodge Keeper Charlie Strickland says he’s hoping the fire will mark the start of a new chapter for the hospital property. The fire will be kept burning until Monday morning. Chief Lynn Malerba conducted a formal blessing as the fire was being lit. It’s the first of four cleansing and healing ceremonies at the hospital site, one for each season.

CT JOINING SUIT AGAINST EDUCATION CHIEF

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Democratic attorneys general in 18 states, including Connecticut, and the District of Columbia are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her decision to suspend rules meant to protect students from abuses by for-profit colleges. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington and demands implementation of borrower defense to repayment rules. The rules aim to make schools financially responsible for fraud and forbid them from forcing students to resolve complaints outside court.   They were created under President Barack Obama’s administration and were to take effect July 1. On June 14, DeVos announced the rules would be delayed and rewritten, saying they created “a muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading the lawsuit and says DeVos’ decision is “a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law.”

HEARING SET FOR GROTON ZONING CHANGE

A public hearing is set next month in Groton regarding a possible zoning change near the former Seely School property. The zoning map amendment, proposed by the town’s Zoning Commission, would allow multi-family housing and commercial development at 91 and 105 Walker Hill Road, and at 55 Seely School Drive. The land is currently zoned residential. Town officials want to market the properties, as well as a nearby Route 12 piece of land owned by Gretchen Chipperini. Previous efforts to develop the properties have stalled. The hearing takes place August 2nd at the Groton Town Hall Annex.

STONINGTON MAN DEAD, FAILS TO REACH BOAT

A Stonington man was swept away in New York waters after he dove off his boat near Plum Island. Southold Police say 63-year-old Harold Calkins died after getting caught in a current Tuesday afternoon. His wife told police she called the Coast Guard after she noticed Calkins was having trouble making it back to the boat. He was taken to Eastern Long Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Calkins worked at Electric Boat.

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