Towns say weekly pa­per is lit­ter prob­lem

Lyme, Old Lyme among those ask­ing Shore­Line Times for new de­liv­ery method

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By KIM­BERLY DRELICH Day Staff Writer

Of­fi­cials from seven towns have com­plained in a let­ter to the Shore­Line Times that the de­liv­ery method of the free weekly news­pa­per is caus­ing “lit­ter” in their com­mu­ni­ties.

The first se­lect men of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, West­brook, Es­sex, Ch­ester and Deep River said they have “re­ceived nu­mer­ous com­plaints” from home­own­ers that the news­pa­pers, de­liv­ered in plas­tic bags by courier in their com­mu­ni­ties, end up in streets or re­main on pri­vate prop­erty.

“As the mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for main­te­nance and up­keep of lo­cal road­ways we con­sider those bags and news­pa­pers, which end up and re­main in the lo­cal road­way, as lit­ter,” reads the Feb. 22 let­ter to ex­ec­u­tives of the Shore­Line Times, a pub­li­ca­tion of the New Haven Reg­is­ter.

Un­der state law, “there are mon­e­tary fines for throw­ing or oth­er­wise dis­pos­ing of lit­ter,” the let­ter con­tin­ues. The of­fi­cials add that they con­sider the news­pa­per’s cur­rent dis­tri­bu­tion method “to non-sub­scribers of a news­pa­per” to be a “pub­lic nui­sance” and re­quest that this pro­ce­dure stop.

Mark Brack­en­bury, the ex- ec­u­tive editor of Dig­i­tal First Me­dia/ Con­necti­cut, which in­cludes the New Haven Reg­is­ter, said: “We are look­ing into the con­cerns raised by the first select­men.”

Com­plaints

Old Saybrook First Se­lect­man Carl For­tuna said he be­gan get­ting com­plaints from

res­i­dents about two to three months ago, about the time he be­lieves the news­pa­per switched from de­liv­er­ing the news­pa­per by mail to de­liv­er­ing it by courier.

He said the news­pa­pers are usu­ally thrown on drive­ways but some­times end up on lawns and roads in­stead. When it rains, the pa­pers are washed far­ther afield.

“It’s just not an op­ti­mal sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

Lyme First Se­lect­man Ralph Eno said sev­eral res­i­dents com­plained to the Board of Select­men, prompt­ing the select­men to di­rect the town at­tor­ney to send a let­ter to the news­pa­per.

The let­ter says the de­liv­ery of news­pa­pers wrapped in plas­tic on drive­ways and lawns is “not only un­sightly, but also creates se­cu­rity con­cerns due to ac­cu­mu­la­tion on the prop­erty of many part­time res­i­dents. Com­plaints to the Cir­cu­la­tion Depart­ment have ap­par­ently gone un­heeded.”

“The Select­men re­quest you take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to al­le­vi­ate this sit­u­a­tion through an al­ter­na­tive form of de­liv­ery,” the let­ter of Dec. 11, 2015 con­cludes. “The Times is too valu­able a news re­source to be re­duced to lit­ter on drive­ways and lawns.”

Old Lyme First Se­lect­woman Bon­nie Reem­sny­der, who said sev­eral res­i­dents ap­proached her, said a ma­jor is­sue is pub­lic safety.

An el­derly per­son may not be able to leave the house and the pa­pers could pile up, thus in­di­cat­ing there is no one at home, she pointed out.

She added that the de­liv­ery method is par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing for an un­so­licited news­pa­per, be­cause peo­ple don’t ex­pect it to be de­liv­ered, un­like a news­pa­per to which they sub­scribe.

“I think they need to stop throw­ing them in drive­ways, as far as we are con­cerned,” she said. “We are sen­si­tive to the fact that they are try­ing to find a de­liv­ery sys­tem, but when it comes to the pub­lic safety of our res­i­dents, it’s just not ac­cept­able.”

Some res­i­dents said the pub­li­ca­tion should be mailed through the postal ser­vice.

Chris Roo­sevelt, a res­i­dent of Lyme, said by email that the Shore­Line Times “is in­dis­crim­i­nately thrown around neigh­bor­hoods on pub­lic road­ways and pri­vate drive­ways, caus­ing a trash blight in those neigh­bor­hoods and of­fer­ing no way to get rid of the trash — or any op­tion to stop such dis­tri­bu­tion (de­spite nu­mer­ous com­plaints and ob­jec­tions).”

Brack­en­bury de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Leg­is­la­tion

Mean­while, Rep. Devin Car­ney, R-Old Saybrook, and Rep. Jay Case, R-Winch­ester, have raised a bill in the House’s Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee to re­quire free, un­so­licited news­pa­pers to in­clude a no­tice — ei­ther on the first or se­cond page, or at­tached or de­liv­ered with the news­pa­per — on how to stop de­liv­ery. Fail­ure to com­ply “shall be deemed an un­fair or de­cep­tive trade prac­tice.”

But news­pa­per ex­ec­u­tives have pushed back, say­ing the bill is dis­crim­i­na­tory to news­pa­pers, since it ap­plies to un­so­licited news­pa­pers, re­gard­less of how they are de­liv­ered, but not all un­so­licited mail.

Car­ney said con­stituents and lo­cal first select­men con­tacted him with com­plaints that the news­pa­pers ended up in the streets and also posed a se­cu­rity is­sue when they pile up in front of homes that are sea­sonal, aban­doned or up for sale.

He said Case was hear­ing sim­i­lar com­plaints about a dif­fer­ent pub­li­ca­tion than the Shore­Line Times in his part of the state.

Car­ney said in his tes­ti­mony that he re­spects the hard work of the staff of lo­cal news­pa­pers and that the bill “is not dis­crim­i­na­tion against news­pa­pers, but rather a re­quest from my con­stituents that their prop­erty be re­spected.”

“The Shore­line Times piles up and lines the streets of my district, which creates both pol­lu­tion and a pub­lic safety [is­sue] that can­not be ig­nored sim­ply be­cause it’s due to a news­pa­per,” his writ­ten tes­ti­mony stated. “... In the very least, th­ese com­pa­nies should al­low peo­ple an easy way out as this bill sug­gests.”

But Pa­trice Cros­bie, the pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut Daily News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion, tes­ti­fied last Fri­day that the pro­posed bill is un­nec­es­sary — since peo­ple can call to ask to be taken off de­liv­ery lists — and threat­ens lo­cal, free pub­li­ca­tions across the state.

She said the bill would re­duce cir­cu­la­tion for news­pa­pers, lead­ing to lower ad­ver­tis­ing rates.

“The rev­enue loss at most of th­ese pa­pers would surely be the last straw to forc­ing clo­sure,” she said in her writ­ten tes­ti­mony. “Th­ese pa­pers not only pro­vide jobs, but also are a cost ef­fec­tive medium for small, lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ers to reach a greater num­ber of po­ten­tial cus­tomers at an af­ford­able rate.”

“The pro­posed bill is mis­guided and tram­ples all over the First Amend­ment,” Gary Far­ru­gia, the pub­lisher of The Day, said in an email in­ter­view. “The leg­is­la­tion makes no dis­tinc­tion be­tween news­pa­pers that are dropped in drive­ways and those that are dis­trib­uted through the mail. The Day pub­lishes 15 weekly news­pa­pers that are mailed to more than 150,000 South­east Con­necti­cut house­holds from the Rhode Is­land bor­der to East Haven.

“If the aim of the leg­is­la­tion is to res­cue cit­i­zens from the in­con­ve­nience of re­ceiv­ing un­so­licited mail, why dis­crim­i­nate against news­pa­pers only by tar­get­ing them for an optout rule?” Far­ru­gia added. “Why not im­pose an opt-out regulation on all un­so­licited mail, in­clud­ing political cam­paign ad­ver­tis­ing?”

The Day Pub­lish­ing Co. mails free news­pa­pers, such as The Lyme Times and The Water­ford Times. Shore Pub­lish­ing Co., owned by The Day, also mails free news­pa­pers, like the Val­ley Courier and the Har­bor News.

Th­ese news­pa­pers, as well as the Shore­Line Times, list con­tact in­for­ma­tion within the pub­li­ca­tions.

Robyn Collins, the pub­lisher of Shore Pub­lish­ing Co., said at least 50 per­cent of re­cip­i­ents specif­i­cally af­firm they want news­pa­per de­liv­ery, a re­quire­ment for its de­liv­ery sta­tus clas­si­fi­ca­tion through the U.S. Postal Ser­vice.

But since the news­pa­per only runs one ver­sion for both “so­licited” and “un­so­licited,” the news­pa­per would likely be af­fected by the bill.

She said the com­pany in­cludes cir­cu­la­tion change in­for­ma­tion on the third page of its pub­li­ca­tions, so the bill would dic­tate the page to list in­for­ma­tion.

Car­ney said that he un­der­stands con­cerns and that it may be pos­si­ble to reach a so­lu­tion with­out leg­is­la­tion, but the bill’s in­tent is to stop the cur­rent de­liv­ery sys­tem or to at least al­low re­cip­i­ents an easy way to opt out of de­liv­ery.

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