With more than a quarter-million dollars remaining unspent in a tax relief fund for qualifying town seniors and those with disabilities, the Legislative Council engaged in a spirited discussion September 3 over setting a statutory asset cap as one of three qualifying criteria for the program. After the council’s Ordinance Committee settled on a $1 million asset cap recommendation, a number of council representatives weighed in during deliberation, some hoping to see the cap increased and others expressing disdain for the measure. But as Council Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary stated as the motion for the $1 million cap was tendered, the ordinance has already been ratified and the council was required to set a cap. He then explained a formula he reviewed with the ordinance committee to try and determine where to set that cap.
Following a discussion among leading town officials about the rollout of a townwide facilities review, the Board of Finance discussed with First Selectman Pat Llodra and school district officials the future capital planning. One of the biggest unanticipated points in the school district’s capital plan review came when school officials revealed that a high school auditorium renovation, which taxpayers already approved for $2.2 million, could cost an additional $1.3 million if officials want to address current code and accessibility violations. At the same time, consultant Charles Boos told finance officials that the town could seek and possibly receive as much as $534,000 or more in state reimbursement because part of the overall improvements will bring the facility up to today’s standards for fire code and handicap accessibility compliance.
The Board of Finance was joined by members of the Boards of Selectmen and Education as well as members of the Legislative Council for the first part of a regular August 28 meeting, which provided an opportunity for officials to learn more about a townwide public facilities analysis that is in the early stages of rollout. Many of the officials on hand also heard from School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, for the first time about plans to supplement the facilities project with details from the latest district enrollment study. First Selectman Pat Llodra told the gathered officials that the facilities analysis, and the appointed committee which would oversee it with consultants’ support, came about because Newtown has so many building projects, needs, and concerns on the horizon, and she was becoming worried that those myriad projects would not align with strategic long-term planning.
Newtown School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, joined US Representative Elizabeth Esty, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and US Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Schools Director David Esquith on a conference call Wednesday announcing the local school district will receive an additional $3.1 million grant under the School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program. When added to the existing funds already received through the program, the funding will deliver to Newtown one of the largest Project SERV grants ever awarded. The new grant awarded through the US Department of Education is focused on students and staff who were directly impacted by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School who need continued monitoring and additional services/support.
The Capitol Region Education Council is taking steps to ensure that love will always win. In an effort to recognize the caring and compassionate nature of 12/14 victim Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, CREC announced on September 2 that it will rename the CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Elementary School. The school, which is located in a temporary facility in Avon, will now be called The CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School. Ana Marquez Greene was the daughter of Nelba Marquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene, alumni of the CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Her parents are both also former CREC teachers.
More than 50 local firefighters responded on the evening of Tuesday, September 2, to a house fire reported at 40 Alpine Circle in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Chief Bill Halstead said there were no injuries in the blaze, which caused “considerable damage” to the Rebecco residence. Chief Halstead was investigating at the scene on Wednesday morning in seeking to determine what caused the fire. Chief Halstead also is the town fire marshal. No damage estimate was immediately available. Volunteer firefighters from Sandy Hook, Botsford, Newtown Hook & Ladder, Dodgingtown and Hawleyville responded to the 6:15 pm incident. Due to the stress caused by the day’s high heat and humidity, firefighting crews worked in rotation at the scene, he said. Two pet dogs which were inside the house when the fire occurred reportedly escaped injury in the blaze.
Two local volunteer fire companies have received approvals for their federal grant applications to acquire firefighting equipment. Botsford Fire Rescue has received approval for $99,988 to buy portable fire radios, and Hawleyville Volunteer Fire Company #1 has received approval for $37,487 to buy firefighters’ breathing apparatus, according to a statement from US Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-5th District). The grants are being awarded to the two fire companies under the terms of the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant program (AFG), which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The announcemtn of the grants for Botsford and Dodgingtown mark the second such announcements for Newtown’s fire companies in less than a month. In mid-August, it was announced that Dodgingtown Volunteer Fire Company had received approval for a FEMA AFG for $107,540. The company will use its grant for 13 air masks and spare air supply equipment for firefighting.
About 45 people attended an August 27 Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) meeting in seeking to learn more about a 23-lot cluster-style residential subdivision proposed for the Dodgingtown section. However, they learned at the IWC meeting that due to a technicality, a public hearing on the proposal, known as The Preserve at Newtown, would not be held that night, as had been initially planned. The public hearing is now slated for 7:30 pm on Wednesday, September 10, at Newtown Municipal Center.