North Haven’s year in review: business grows amid state budget woes

North Haven’s year in review: business grows amid state budget woes

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Here’s a look at the news and events that shaped life in North Haven in 2017.

As the impact of the state budget continues to unfold, new businesses are poised to bring in tax revenue and jobs. Topping the news this year was the announcement of an Amazon distribution center and warehouse on the 168-acre former Pratt & Whitney site. 

The proposed 2.6 million-square-foot facility is currently undergoing a redesign. The new building, if approved, will be a prototype for future Amazon facilities worldwide, “the first of its kind,” said First Selectman Michael Freda on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

While the town waits on Amazon, major renovations are underway at the North Haven Shopping Center. The nine current businesses will stay and additional spaces will be available to rent.

Another major story is the fallout from deep cuts to municipal aid in the state budget. Freda said the arrival of Amazon, and the associated tax revenue, couldn't have come too soon.

“What we once thought was all pure, incremental revenue for the town may be needed just to offset the losses in coming years from state subsidizations,” he said.

Even in this bleak financial climate, the town received a AAA rating from Standard & Poor's this year.

“That helped us significantly in terms of bonding interest,” Freda said, “for both the middle school and upcoming renovated police station that we’re embarking upon.”

The $18 million police station renovation begins next month. The project includes a 10,000-square-foot addition on the building’s west side for new sally port, lockup and garage.

The middle school welcomed students this school year to newly renovated areas including the cafeteria, auditorium and gymnasium. Although the project isn’t officially completed, this year they wrapped up construction. 

“Hallelujah,” Middle School Building Committee chairman Gary Johns said on Tuesday, Dec. 26. “It’s been a long and involved process and its gratifying to see the building be a such a success.”

A debate lasted all year on whether to install two artificial turf athletic fields at the middle school. The Middle School Building Committee approved two new synthetic fields on April 3, however community members continued to raise concerns about potential health and safety risks

After a petition signed by 227 residents opposing the installation failed to sway the middle school committee or school board in July, a pro-artificial turf group gathered close to 300 signatures as part of an online petition .

Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen and members of the Board of Education and middle school committee held a joint meeting after another petition request. Much of the discussion was on how the artificial turf fields gained approval.

A middle school open house is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29.

Sustainable energy also ranked high this year. North Haven was rated in the top five communities for energy efficiency by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Hartford Business Journal.

“Over the course of the past few years, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy savings by making the town…more efficient,” Freda said.

The town invested $6 million in future capital expenses to install energy efficient equipment in town buildings, including Town Hall, Board of Education building and North Haven High School. The difference in energy savings is applied to service contract currently.

In the spring, a solar park expansion will increase energy output from about one-third of a megawatt to more than eight-tenths of a megawatt to power the Water Pollution Control Authority, the No. 1 energy user among town facilities, Freda said.

The North Haven Fair celebrated its 75th year in September with food, rides, agricultural displays and contests. The fairgrounds lost the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, announced in July. Event organizers sought a more rustic setting, and event dates would have conflicted with the North Haven Fair.

The North Haven community felt the loss of town leader Howard Luppi, who died on June 12 at age 92. From 1980 to 1990, Luppi served as state representative for the 88th District and was a second selectman in North Haven for 15 years. He served as assistant town treasurer and was a member of the Board of Finance.

Another loss was the North Haven Police Department’s first police dog, a German shepherd named Zeus, died of a cancerous tumor at age 7.


Twitter: @LCTakores


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