The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission is inviting the greater Newtown community to participate in two open forums this month on the topic of a permanent memorial to honor the 26 lives lost on 12/14. The open forums will take place at the Newtown High School lecture hall on Tuesday, January 20, and Thursday, January 29. Both will begin at 7 pm. The commission has completed the first two phases of information gathering, which included initial and ongoing outreach to the 26 families who lost loved ones on 12/14. The commission has heard from 18 of these families through open forums, in person meetings, and surveys.
UPDATED 4:50 pm: First Selectman Pat Llodra and the town’s Emergency Management Office are urging residents to be prepared for severe cold weather, reminding residents of local warming centers, and asking that residents keep an eye on each other. || Governor Dannel P. Malloy has activated the state’s Severe Cold Weather Protocol in anticipation of temperatures in the teens and single digits and wind chills below zero over the next few days and nights. The protocol is effective beginning today, January 6, and will remain in effect through Saturday, January 10. “We must continue to protect the most vulnerable during these severe cold weather outbreaks,” said Gov Malloy. “I urge anyone in need of shelter to call 211 and encourage local communities to consider opening warming centers or other facilities to assist people in need.” While Newtown is not expected to have extended periods of extremely cold temperatures, First Selectman Pat Llodra said the local health department is preparing for this week's weather.
Projected state budget deficits and an aging transportation infrastructure are among the key challenges Connecticut lawmakers are expected tackle when they convene the new legislative session. Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who will be sworn into office Wednesday for a second term, has said he plans to make transportation a major issue for the session. In addition, the 16-member Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is expected to release its final recommendations soon on ways to improve school safety, gun violence prevention and mental health services.
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.
People and places moving Newtown forward through 2014 included a number of local organizations that presented special collaborations and celebrated milestone anniversaries this year. The Newtown chapter of Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut celebrated its 25th anniversary in June, Newtown Youth & Family Services reached its 30th anniversary, Newtown Meals On Wheels reached the 40-year mark in November, and Newtown Congregational Church celebrated its tercentennial with a number of special events for the congregation and the community at large. Newtown Bee Features Reporter Nancy K. Crevier offers a look at these and other events that took place in Newtown during the past 12 months in this year in review offering.
Newtown welcomed a new ambulance facility to Fairfield Hills in 2014. The building, with its classic design, matches the 1930s-era architecture at the campus, and sits close to duplexes that once served the former state hospital. After a groundbreaking in 2013, the early months of 2014 saw its new construction steadily materialize into a six-bay garage and new working space for the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps. And by the close of 2014, the new building was in service for all Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps activity. The build was steady and incremental, and followed through each step by Newtown Bee Reporter Kendra Bobowick.
Gone from the horizon is one of Newtown’s highly visible, but long empty relics at Fairfield Hills. Danbury Hall, once home to psychiatric hospital staff, is gone. By late September, heavy machinery was waiting to chew and dismantled the old brick structure located near the corner of the campus’s main entrance off Wasserman Way. Danbury Hall’s time was dwindling.
A new addition to Newtown’s outdoor recreation has dogs and owners filling the new Park and Bark dog park. The off-leash facility celebrated its grand opening in May. Following many months of planning and fundraising, the park on May 3 held its ribbon cutting at the recently constructed facility on Old Farm Road. Since then, dogs and owners have enjoyed exercising, agility equipment, and water features at the site. Based on feedback she had heard from the community prior to the opening, Assistant Director of Recreation RoseAnn Reggiano said, “People can’t wait. Cannot wait.”
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.