While driving a larger-than-life bright orange chair through New York City recently, Newtown resident Douglas Calderone soon realized that its eye-catching qualities could do more than raise a smile. He is now raffling off the chair with proceeds to benefit Reach Newtown -- an outreach program enhancing children's lives. The raffle ends on October 1.
The small, occasionally boisterous but often hushed group of women gathered around a set of tables one recent afternoon at a Newtown restaurant could have been mistaken for any group of friends or co-workers meeting up for some late day chat and a beverage. But a closer listen would reveal the group to be Sandy Hook School staffers discussing their inspired plan to take a national tragedy they all experienced first hand on December 14, 2012, and channel their collective experiences spreading a message about common sense gun law reform and the need for related legislation. The group has since been the focus of a special report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and its journalists Jessica Boehm and former Newtown Bee intern and town resident Sarah Ferris. And this week, several members of the group were prepping for interviews that will eventually be compiled into a piece by the New York-based news website Buzzfeed.
From the barren, pocked lot where a boxy Shell station once stood greeting residents and visitors exiting Interstate 84 onto Church Hill Road, a new, more aesthetically pleasing Colonial-looking mini mart is about to take shape according to its developers. But to achieve that aesthetic improvement amid a state roadway realignment project, the newest addition to Church Hill Road’s commercial strip is coming with some additional costs. As a result, the owners of the planned Wheels gas station and mini mart — Consumers’ Petroleum of Connecticut, Inc — have begun the process of requesting what is described as a modest, three-year property tax abatement that Economic Development Coordinator Betsy Paynter said will amount to about $10,500.
More than 150 cyclists including injured veterans — men and women from all branches of the Armed Forces — and their supporters will be participating in the Fifth Annual Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) Challenge this month, and for the second year the route will take the group through Newtown. This year’s Challenge begins in Waltham, Mass, and will take riders into New York City. Cyclists are in for a 355-mile ride, covering five states and both rural and city riding with plenty of hill climbing in Connecticut and New York. Bicyclers are expected in Newtown around 2 pm September 9.
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.
Fire officials this week were continuing their probe into the cause of a September 2 Alpine Circle house fire that heavily damaged a two-story Colonial-style home on that road in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook, near Lake Zoar. There were no injuries in the blaze at the Rebecco residence at 40 Alpine Circle where three adults live, said Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company Chief Bill Halstead. No one was home when the fire started, with the blaze having been discovered by one of the residents who returned home at about 6:15 pm, he said. All five of Newtown's fire companies and Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to the scene. Southbury also sent a team, which remained on standby at Sandy Hook's main station.
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.