On this, the last day of 2017, a few thoughts about events in our local communities this past year:
MERIDEN: The year ended with a bang when the City Council — which had given City Manager Guy Scaife a raise in October — fired him a week before Christmas, citing discord at City Hall. But that was by far the most dramatic and unexpected news story of the year. Better news included the official reopening of Platt High School and the fact that the city’s downtown revitalization continued to show visible progress, accented by a celebration marking the 150th anniversaries of the YMCA and the Record-Journal.
Unfortunately, the city’s grand list declined a bit. Many Catholics were disappointed when the archdiocese decided to close St. Joseph School and reorganize some other churches. Later in the year, people rallied to the defense of families caught up in the crackdown on undocumented immigrants, and of families displaced by a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. The city even got around to correcting misspelled names on the Broad Street World War II memorial.
WALLINGFORD: The town was put in the national spotlight by a double fatal shooting at the Oakdale Theatre just before the new year (the first homicide in town since 2009) and by documented sexual abuse by teachers at Choate Rosemary Hall that took place from 1963 to 2010. The state cut financial aid to the town by $2 million, which Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. called “outrageous”; and the town’s legal fees for the Electric Division's arbitration with the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative rose to over $2 million.
In more pleasant news, Yalesville School was renamed Mary G. Fritz Elementary School to honor the late state representative; Erin Berthold, of Cook Hill School, was named the 2018 Connecticut Teacher of the Year; and the new train station on North Cherry Street opened.
SOUTHINGTON: Former Fire Chief Harold “Buddy” Clark retired, amid friction between volunteer and career firefighters, and the town adopted a new ethics code for officials, though not without some harsh words being exchanged at Town Hall. There was also controversy over a bust of Christopher Columbus in front of the John WeichselMunicpal Center.
On the other hand, construction began on a new $9.4 million Calendar House senior center, and Bread for Life found a new home on Vermont Avenue after a decades-long search. The Board of Education cut funding for middle school sports — but residents came to the rescue. Town Manager Garry Brumback retired and was smoothly replaced with Town Attorney and Deputy Town Manager Mark Sciota. And the town took a stronger guiding hand toward development on West Street.
CHESHIRE: In a year when uncertainty about state aid has caused most municipalities in Connecticut to budget cautiously, the Town Council voted against a $106.4 million plan for a new middle school, part of the Board of Education’s $423 million master plan for new or upgraded schools. Councilors said it would double the town’s debt. And an education program called the Summit Learning Platform was dropped by the schools after strong criticism from some parents.
But some cards fell Cheshire’s way: A state arbitration decision could save the town more than $850,000 on a four-year teachers’ union contract; and a judge ordered the state Department of Correction to pay the town nearly $1.5 million in its complaint that the state underpaid for sewer costs for the prison complex.
STATEWIDE: The state’s fiscal woes cast a pall over just about everything this past year. The governor made drastic cuts, including to social services and municipal aid — but it was never enough. It took months for the General Assembly to hammer out a budget, and even then it came up short.
But we can still hope that Connecticut will emerge from its financial miasma sometime soon. No matter how long that takes, we all deserve to enjoy a Happy New Year!