All Newtown Public Schools will be closed Friday, January 9, due to deteriorating weather conditions. The decision was announced around 7:30 am following an earlier announcement that all schools would run on a two hour delayed schedule.
Bids for the construction phase of the Sandy Hook Elementary School project have been opened and appear to address the full scope of work required to complete the new building, and they are $500,000 to $1 million under budget. Public Building and Site Commission Chairman Robert Mitchell that on January 6 he was pleased to learn upon opening bids for the largest and final phase of the construction project, that they were within budget. At the same time, Geralyn Hoerauf, the school’s senior project manager from Diversified Project Management, notified The Newtown Bee that site work ahead of a formal groundbreaking and the beginning of construction is continuing.
To Newtowners, it’s snow, sleet, and slush. But to local officials and Highway Department crews slogging through it with plows, sand, and salt, these passing winter fronts are classified as “events.” So with six winter season events under their belt, the Board of Selectmen received a report from the Highway Department through First Selectman Pat Llodra January 5, detailing where the winter storm budget and related supplies of materials stand as Newtown moves into the most storm-prone period of midwinter.
Newtown’s Charter Revision Commission was still busily working through the holidays and into the New Year, but most of the commissioners’ efforts were focused in subcommittees, according to Chairman Jeff Capeci. “We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, but I’m hoping by about a month from now we can get closure on the committee work and get moving on our main charge,” he told The Newtown Bee January 7. “”We’ve actually been doing a lot of work at the committee levels.” One committee is working on refining and modifying charter language related to appointed boards and commissions. Another group is working on reorganizing the physical layout of the document.
Under pressure to have an approved capital improvement plan (CIP) to present to ratings agencies ahead of a bond refunding next week, and despite early speculation that officials would not complete deliberation this week, the Legislative Council approved Newtown’s five-year CIP following nearly two hours of discussions focusing on road work, Fairfield Hills, and a new community center development.After indicating to freshman council member Eva Bermudez — who had to depart for a previously scheduled commitment — that the vote would likely not happen until a subsequent meeting, Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob learned later in the meeting that rating agencies would be expecting a completed capital plan as part of the town’s prebonding presentations January 12. The first hour of the session was dominated by Finance Director Robert Tait’s review of last fiscal year’s financial statements and discussions between the council, First Selectman Pat Llodra, and Public Works Director Fred Hurley, who reviewed expenditures to cover winter storm response by his department (see separate story).
During its second workshop for the 2015-16 budget, held on Thursday, January 8, the Board of Education continued to hear from school district leaders regarding individual aspects of the superintendent’s proposed spending plan.
The workshop came after Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, presented his proposed budget to the school board on Tuesday, January 6. Dr Erardi presented a $72,399,186, proposed operating budget, a 1.48 percent increase over this year’s budget on Tuesday. It was the first meeting of multiple budget sessions for the board to deliberate and make possible changes to the budget before it is passed on through the budget process. The budget is set for adoption by the school board at a planned February 5 meeting.
Visible from Old Castle Drive is a panoramic view looking down on the flagpole, church steeples. and rooflines along Main Street. Sitting just off the curb and facing this iconic scene is a small bench perched at the top of a rise that was once a sweeping meadow, but in more recent years has become overgrown and filled with invasives. Newtown Forest Association, which owns the property, has begun a large reclamation project to restore the meadows and fruit tree orchard, trails, and natural beauty once found there.
Town officials this week again tackled the thorny issue of traffic problems at the flagpole intersection, the five-legged intersection in the town center that holds the 100-foot-tall landmark flagpole where Main Street, Church Hill Road, and West Street meet. The flagpole, which is not shielded by barriers, stands squarely in the intersection. The massive pole holds several round yellow-and-black traffic signs, informing motorists to “Go Right” around the pole while negotiating the intersection, which has a high accident rate. Long a historic focal point and an enduring symbol of the town, public discussion of traffic safety at the flagpole occasionally resurfaces at public meetings.