CHESHIRE – New buildings were begun, a popular teacher’s loss was mourned and a late winter storm knocked out power to much of the town. Here are some of the top stories from the past year.
Town planners approved a Hartford HealthCare medical office building just north of downtown. The 50,000 square foot building replaces a 7-Eleven and fills a long-vacant property that used to be home to the Cheshire Cinema. Services such as primary care, dermatology, endocrinology, neuroscience, rehabilitation, cardiology and full-service imaging will be available.
Heritage Canal Linear Trail users were told to be on the lookout for ATV riders by police. Some users reported seeing two ATVs on the trail. Police said they patrol the trail but don’t chase ATV violators because they feel it would pose too great a danger to walkers, runners and bikers.
In early March, a slow-moving storm dumped several inches of snow per hour on the town. There were 5,600 power outages in Cheshire, which had about 10 inches of snow. The storm closed schools and businesses as residents dug out and cleared downed trees.
A local teen was charged in April after police say she and two men kidnapped, robbed, and assaulted a 19-year-old she met on social media earlier in the month. Seventeen-year-old Audrey Bennett was accused of luring the 19-year-old to her home where he was ambushed by the two men who then drove him to various locations to withdraw cash. Bennett’s case is in pre-trial.
A severe thunderstorm in downed many trees causing significant damage to at least 11 homes. "We're all lucky to be alive," Bellamy Road resident Heather Meyerjack told the Record-Journal after the storm sent a large tree crashing through her house. Fearing for her family’s safety, Meyerjack shouted for everyone to go in the basement. The tree slammed through the roof and destroyed much of the second floor.
Former library director Ramona Burkey left after 13 years in town to take a job as director of the Russell Library in Middletown, her hometown. When Burkey was hired, her goal was to foster community, provide a forum for civic engagement and provide access to knowledge. Library and town officials said she was instrumental in boosting library programs and making it a hub of the community.
Former Town Manager Michael Milone retired after a decades-long career in public service that included positions in Cheshire. He was praised by town leaders for his skill with public finances and his dedication to the town’s well-being. Sean Kimball took over for Milone in December.
A local man was charged with firing shots at police officers during a standoff on Fairway Drive. According to police, Cameron Pernin barricaded himself in his residence during a domestic violence incident. Police returned fire, wounding Pernin who later surrendered. The officers and dispatchers involved in the incident were honored by the Police Department and the Town Council.
A Meriden man pleaded guilty to running a cocaine ring while imprisoned at Cheshire Correctional Institution. Westley Northrup, 30, of Meriden, also known as "Piff," pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Hartford.
Police Chief Neil Dryfe held a community forum in August on a rash of car thefts and break-ins. He said the suspects were usually youths looking for unlocked cars. If keys were in the vehicle, the youths would take the car as well. Dryfe urged people to lock their cars and keep valuables inside their homes.
Two police officers were named as school resource officers for Cheshire High School and Dodd Middle School. Officers Gretchen Ovesny and David Maliar, both town residents, completed training for their new role shortly before the school year. During public forums on school safety, town residents requested more school resource officers. The Town Council decided to add a second school resource officer based at Dodd.
The town celebrated the opening of the newest section of the Farmington Heritage Canal Trail, which now encompasses 34 uninterrupted miles with the unveiling of the completed 0.8 mile gap.
Colleagues, parents and students mourned the loss of Megumi Yamamoto, a Cheshire High School teacher who died in October. Officials ruled her death accidental. Yamamoto taught English and was English department chairwoman during her two-decade career at the high school. Yamamoto was teacher of the year in 2011.
Still in his prison uniform, an escaped inmate from Cheshire Correctional Institution convinced a passerby for a ride and a change of clothes Halloween night saying he’d been at a costume party. Luis Clarke was caught after using a phone stolen from a pizza delivery driver to call his former girlfriend.
In November, Cheshire police released a lip sync challenge video following a red carpet premiere at Cheshire High School. The video was produced and directed by officer Tracy Gonzalez, and features theme songs from hit films such as “The Greatest Showman” and “Dirty Dancing.” Scenes were filmed at the police department and local schools, as well as popular local businesses, including Blackie’s Hot Dogs, Bagelicious, and Viron Rondo Osteria.
Builders in December planned to tear down the Colorama building on South Main Street to make way for a medical building, the latest investment in the area. There’s also a building permit for a Chase bank at 944 S. Main St., the shuttered Dragon Buffet location.
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