The Newtown government beat was a busy one throughout 2014, with developments like the new community center competing with continued recovery and resiliency efforts as the community moved through its second year post-12/14. It was a year that also saw several parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, as well as government officials, step into the public eye, offering informative, courageous, candid, and often heart-wrenching testimony to Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Commission. The year also brought the planned departure of three critical General Electric loaned executives who had been supporting the community, the first selectman’s office, and the Board of Education since shortly after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A new Charter Revision Commission was also seated in 2014, charged with one of the most comprehensive overhauls of Newtown’s constitutional document since it was first framed. And the year saw a couple of new faces elected to represent Newtown in Hartford, along with the reelection of a couple of familiar incumbents.
Waterworks heralded the arrival of 2014 at C.H. Booth Library, when sprinkler pipes above the second floor froze and burst on Saturday, January 4, causing the ceiling to collapse in the director’s office and tech services area of the second floor, as well as in the first floor Children’s Department. The building was occupied at the time of the emergency, but all were safely evacuated. Newtown Bee Features Reporter Nancy K. Crevier offers a look back at that, and other notable moments that filled the chapters of Newtown's 2014 history.
In the same space and in the same spirit of FunSpace, a playground at Dickinson Memorial Park that was falling into disrepair and which the town tore down in October 2013, is the new FunSpace II. During that same month, ground was broken for a new playscape, and the new construction was completed and opened to children by August 2014. The nearly $800,000 park was made possible though Capital Improvement Plan funds from the town, bonding, and donations, many of which were received in the wake of 12/14.
The lineup of Newtown’s administrative team changed in 2014. At the start of the year, the Board of Education was conducting a search for a new superintendent of schools. On January 10, five members of the school board were ready to head to Southington to conduct a site visit with that district’s then-superintendent, Joseph V. Erardi, Jr. The visit was part of the interview process, as BOE Vice Chair Laura Roche told The Bee. The district had been engaged in a nationwide superintendent search since the departure of former superintendent of schools Janet Robinson, who took up the superintendent position in Stratford in the spring of 2013. Former Newtown superintendent John Reed returned to serve as interim superintendent following Dr Robinson’s departure in June 2013.
In early 2014, the updated Town Plan of Conservation and Development, as well as the updated Fairfield Hills Master Plan, took effect, providing the town with a set of planning guidelines for the coming years on local growth and resource conservation, both in the town at large and at the town-owned 185-acre Fairfield Hills core campus. The town plan is updated decennially. The Fairfield Hills plan is updated as needed. These projects were two of a number of land use related stories that were covered during the past year by The Newtown Bee.
2014 was a positive planning year for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School. Consigli Construction oversaw the demolition of the old Sandy Hook School in the fall of 2013, and by 2014 plans for the new building were taking shape, following community input and work between the town and design team, led by Svigals + Partners. By autumn, ground had been broken. Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck offers a look at the past 12 months of this major project.
Newtown Boy Scout Troop 270 will be picking up Christmas trees from residences again this year as a fundraiser. Members will be doing pickups Saturdays and Sundays, January 4-5 and 17-18; and Saturday, January 10. A $10 donation per tree is requested.
First Selectman Pat Llodra is seeking residents to fill several opening on local appointed boards and commissions. In some cases the appointments are required to be affiliated with a specific political party, while in other cases unaffiliated voters are encouraged to consider serving. Inquiries should be made through Sue Marcinek, Executive Assistant, Office of the First Selectman, 3 Primrose Street, or call 203-270-4203.
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) says it is considering modifications to key provisions of proposed new permit requirements for the management and oversight of municipal stormwater systems — while still allowing the agency to achieve important environmental objectives. The announcement came following testimony and correspondence from numerous public officials from across the state, including Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra. DEEP officials said they are already discussing with local leaders changes to language now in the draft permit and will circulate a revised version of that draft permit by January 26.