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Year In Review: Community Center, Charter Revision, Elections, Continuing 12/14 Recovery Dominated Headlines In 2014



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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.

Charter Commission Seated

In two swift motions with minimal discussion, a new nine-member Charter Revision Commission (CRC) was unanimously seated and charged by the Legislative Council on June 18.

The new charter panel included two former council members — Jeff Capeci and Dan Wiedemann — who both worked with previous charter initiatives in their elected capacities. George Guidera, Kevin Burns, Thomas Long, Eric Paradis, Deborra Zukowski, James Ritchie, and Robert Hall rounded out the list of appointees.

According to Mr Capeci, who was subsequently elected chair, Mr Hall — who was elected vice chair — was the original architect of the charter document.

A subsequent public hearing conducted by the newly seated CRC only took about 12 minutes, but it provided two residents an opportunity to air ideas on changes they would like to see to the community’s constitutional document.

The first, former CRC chairman and member Al Cramer, spoke about the political party makeup of the Board of Education, and his desire to see party affiliation leveled to a more fair playing field for potential minority party members.

The second citizen to come before the commissioners was Michael Scolaris, who asked that the panelists consider changing the annual split or bifurcated budget to a nonbinding vote.

On September 30, Town Attorney David Grogins went before the CRC requesting the panel simplify what he called the currently mandated and “elaborate procedure to acquire or dispose of town-owned property.” He suggested commissioners consider language in other town charters that is effective but much less complicated.

Mr Grogins said based on the relatively few, small public land sales Newtown has administered in recent years, the majority of such actions could likely be accomplished simply and quickly by using either a request for proposal (RFP) or private sale process.

The panel and Chairman Capeci agreed to have Mr Hall draft a new version of that section of the charter.

Commissioner Zukowski said if private sales are being considered, the panel needs to be sure to create language that makes the sale process “as transparent as possible to give people comfort, or to make them more comfortable that it isn’t a sweetheart deal.”

C.H. Booth Library Board President Robert Geckle went before the CRC October 29 requesting several changes to give trustees greater flexibility to adjust their bylaws. He asked the panel to increase the number of trustees appointed by the Board of Selectmen from as many as six to eight of its current 18 members, and the total number of board members reduced from 18 to 16.

The matter of weighing whether to keep constables — appointed but seemingly ceremonial officials — in the charter went before the panel November 12. In addressing the matter, Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico said, “It appears on the surface, that the whole thing should be done away with.”

But he was left questioning if technically, regular constables could utilize their positions as a “training ground” for possible advanced law enforcement positions. After some discussion, it was determined that more information may be needed before charter officials could adequately consider whether constables should be kept or eliminated from the document.

Community Center Development

A half dozen Newtown officials spent about 90 minutes on a visit to Ridgefield on January 6, getting a tour and some advice on that town’s experience with operating its relatively new and extremely popular recreation center.

The Newtown group was on one of several expected field trips to see a number of rec centers across the state, as the town began preparing for a new facility that will incorporate both recreational and senior services. Ridgefield’s Assistant Director of Recreation Robin Matthews told Newtown visitors that during planning stages for the new center, it was important to provide as much multipurpose space for residents as possible.

By late June, the Public Building and Site Commission (PBSC), which is overseeing the new community center development, selected Diversified Project Management (DPM) to provide appropriate support for the new center that will be underwritten by a $10 million grant from General Electric.

In early December, First Selectman Pat Llodra said merging community center ideas within the existing NYA Sports & Fitness complex at Fairfield Hills has been ongoing since before she took office as first selectman in 2009.

“The $10 million [construction grant] from GE releases the town from the financial pressure to accomplish what is now a ten-year-old plan to bring a central recreation facility to the campus,” the first selectman said. “But the discussion has only included possible future involvement with the NYA.”

Mrs Llodra said that such a decision may be years away.

On December 15, during the final Board of Selectmen meeting of the year, a Sandy Hook construction firm and a Farmington architect group — both possessing expertise on senior facilities and swimming pool developments — were unanimously selected to design and complete the first phase of preconstruction services on the new community center complex.

Following an executive session on the matter, Selectman James Gaston moved the town hire Caldwell & Walsh of Sandy Hook to oversee Phase 1 construction management, and Quisenberry Arcari Architects, LLC of Farmington for design services. Mrs Llodra and Selectman Will Rodgers both supported the motion following a brief discussion.

GE Staff Departs

For more than a decade preceding the Sandy Hook tragedy, Easton resident and GE Capital staffer Elizabeth Rallo engaged herself in the business of producing or analyzing numbers, systems, and data.

But those analytical talents translated expertly into the many hands-on skills she brought to bear on behalf of Newtown in the nearly one year she served the community coordinating special projects and facilitating communications among various groups and project managers post-12/14.

On April 7, just a few days before the end of her formal period of service in town, Ms Rallo was honored by Mrs Llodra, the Board of Selectmen, and a number of town department heads and agency representatives who worked beside the GE logistics expert.

She was the first of three key GE representatives who completed their terms of service to the community post-12/14

Two weeks later, Newtown’s Recovery Program leader, General Electric’s Anne Alzapiedi, was similarly feted by colleagues, officials, and staffers who refused to let Ms Alzapiedi go without paying tribute to her expertise, organizational skills, and diplomatic demeanor.

Her colleague Ms Rallo summed it up saying: “Anne brought not only the best that GE had to offer, but she brought her heart.”

Her comments were echoed by Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Parks & Recreation Director Amy Mangold, Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein, volunteer Bob Geckle, and via a letter submitted by Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission Chairman Kyle Lyddy.

Selectmen Rodgers and Gaston also provided warm remarks, and much praise was conveyed by Mrs Llodra, who worked side-by-side with Ms Alzapiedi throughout her year of service.

Then, on June 30 the Board of Education, the first selectman and the Superintendent of Schools Dr Joseph Erardi bid farewell to Joni Capoccitti. Ms Capoccitti was the final member of a four-person team of General Electric specialists to arrive in Newtown weeks after 12/14 to help; Newtown resident Tom Kelleher departed his post in late 2013.

School Board Chair Debbie Leidlein called Ms Capoccitti a “light at the end of the hallway,” who added a spark to the work day.” Mrs Llodra presented Ms Capoccitti with a proclamation and a pewter bowl with the town’s seal on it, similar to gifts bestowed upon Ms Capoccitti’s departed colleagues.

Response, Resiliency, Recovery

New Year 2014 dawned with an early January announcement that would be the first of many for Newtown involving the delivery and/or implementation of major grants supporting post 12/14 recovery initiatives.

The US Department of Education announced it was awarding an additional $1.9 million to the Newtown School District to help with ongoing recovery efforts it had financed eight months earlier.

Newtown had received its first Project SERV award — a $1.3 million grant — in May 2013. The second grant was designed to continue supporting the district as it “strives to restore a safe and healthy environment for teaching and learning in its schools.”

About a month later, Newtown officials were poised to file for approximately $6 million in grants from the US Department of Justice that the town intended to use to fund several new, nongovernment professionals to help deliver sustained and targeted mental health and recovery support in the community.

Mrs Llodra said a seven-member oversight board for the grant implementation would also be created.

She said she, other officials, and GE liaison Elizabeth Rallo had been working with DOJ representatives since shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, and the town had already received funds from the crisis response aspect of the federal grant program. The much larger, secondary distribution was referred to as the “consequence grant.”

In early February, residents who were receiving financial assistance from Newtown Lions Club to help offset out of pocket costs for post 12/14-related mental health and counseling services learned they could continue receiving assistance uninterrupted.

Robert Schmidt, a spokesperson for the local Lions Club, said money in The Sandy Hook Elementary Fund was running out. Fortunately, the Lions teamed with The Rotary Club of Newtown and Newtown Memorial Fund to help ensure residents tapping support services were not forced to stop because of the burden of out of pocket expenses for counseling.

On June 17, US Representative Elizabeth Esty and US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy announced delivery of a $7.1 million grant from the US Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. The grant would support victim services with a portion reserved for school safety efforts; new mental health services, specifically longer-term counseling for families, law enforcement, and first responders; and help reimburse ongoing services for those affected by 12/14.

By mid-August, The Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team (RRT) was installed and ready to work with local recovery providers, community organizations, and town employees in response to continued needs.

The six-member team is led by community outreach liaison Melissa Glaser, LPC, who has a background in community behavioral health and clinical treatment. The other team members consist of project manager Margot Robins; clinical recovery leader Deb Del Vecchio-Scully, LPC; and three case managers — Catherine Gaida, LCSW; Eileen Rondeau, RN; and Suzy DeYoung, MsEd.

RRT is headquartered in the former engineer’s house and security building at the main gate of Fairfield Hills, 28 Trades Lane. These recovery specialists were charged to build community relationships, provide resources, as well as facilitate and foster collaboration between service providers and funding sources while assisting in the ongoing assessment of community needs and strategically planning for present and future needs.

In December, after six months on the front lines, Ms Glaser said heading into the second anniversary of 12/14, she and her colleagues were striving to develop a sustainable range of community and individual support networks to respond to residents’ ongoing recovery and posttraumatic issues for years, if not decades, into the future.

“I hear a lot of people say, ‘Hey, it’s been two years, things should be getting better,’” Ms Glaser said. “But experts tell us from a recovery standpoint, [Newtown is] in its infancy.”

Ms Glaser said one of the many projects on her agenda is to work to find new or alternative funding streams that will replace the $13 million in federal grants from the federal Department of Justice and Education that are both expiring at the end of 2015.

A few days later, on December 12, Sens Blumenthal and Murphy, and Rep Esty announced an additional $775,914 grant from the US Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.

That grant was stipulated to fund continued mental health services and other support services for victims, their families, and the entire community, including enhanced safety and security at the schools and parks. Additionally, the grant partially reimbursed the regional United Way for providing support to victims’ families after 12/14.

12/14 Parents, Officials Testify

As many agencies and groups continued to dissect and receive input regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, January 2014 saw the father of 20-year-old Adam Lanza offering to help provide his late son’s medical records to the state commission reviewing the massacre and attempting to make recommendation on changes to mental health policy.

The Associated Press reported January 10 that the perpetrator’s father would “approve the release of any medical records he has the authority to release” and that he has informed the chairman of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission that “he is willing to meet with him towards reaching that goal.”

Some mental health experts who sit on the commission said they wanted to see Adam Lanza’s records, including any behavioral assessments conducted at schools Lanza attended, to determine if there were any gaps in treatment and to gain insight into the shooter and the state of his mental health.

Testimony to the commission revealed that in the aftermath of the school shooting, communication between town officials and victims’ parents broke down at times, ranging from delayed notification about counseling programs to deciding to remove photos of victims from the school yearbook without telling families.

David Wheeler, whose son Benjamin was one of the children killed, told the commission that he hoped the panel could do something to make information flow better from local government officials to victims after such tragedies.

“There was no central clearinghouse for information for the ... affected families set up in any way,” Wheeler told the commission via Skype, acknowledging the school shooting likely overwhelmed government officials. “There are many times where we don’t know who we should be asking for things.”

The commission also heard via video chat from Michele Gay, whose daughter Josephine was also killed on 12/14. She recommended that schools take a number of steps to try to stop or slow intruders, including installing bulletproof glass and making sure teachers and substitutes can lock their classroom doors.

It was the first time parents of victims addressed the panel. Mr Wheeler said he and his wife did not have any contact with the local school board or school superintendent until a week and a half after the shooting, and only after they complained, despite former Superintendent Janet Robinson saying district officials did not always know what they needed.

“Some we talked to more than others,” Ms Robinson said. She said some families were hard to reach in the immediate aftermath, because they were being overwhelmed with phone calls.

At the commission’s mid-August meeting, Tom Kuroski, president of the Newtown Federation of Teachers, told commission members that some teachers, still struggling with their own emotions, felt ill-prepared to deal with their returning students.

Classes resumed for Newtown students, except those attending Sandy Hook, on December 18, the Tuesday following the shooting.

He said teachers felt they were rushed into returning to the classroom following the mass shooting.

First Selectman Pat Llodra and School Superintendent Joseph Erardi, Jr, appeared before the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission on September 12.

(Dr Erardi had been hired by the Board of Education in January 2014, following a months-long search for a new superintendent in the wake of Dr Robinson’s spring 2013 resignation. Former Superintendent of Schools John Reed stepped in in May 2013 to act as interim superintendent while Dr Robinson’s replacement was found.)

Since Dr Erardi was not working in the community in the weeks and months after the tragedy, his remarks focused on “communication, partnerships, and the present rebuild of what I believe is an extraordinary school system filled with equally extraordinary staff, parents, and students,” he told the panel that morning.

The Newtown school leader said his primary partnerships begin with the Board of Education and through the first selectmen’s office, “as Pat Llodra has worked tirelessly for children.”

Mrs Llodra then related Regional Health District Director Donna Culbert’s call to make mental health support part of standard operating procedures, and not just to address a specific mental health condition or in response to an incident or tragedy.

The first selectman said she shared the health official’s concerns. She then told commissioners that, it felt at times that there was a lot of jockeying for position among the various service and support providers.

While not criticizing anyone who came to Newtown’s aid, Mrs Llodra said there needed to be “a single state agency [among the several dedicated to mental health] to be identified as the right and best agents to take the lead in these circumstances.”

On November 14, one month before the second anniversary of one of the nation’s worst school shootings, the Advisory Commission held one of its final hearings just over a mile from the site of the 2012 shooting.

For nearly two hours, many of its members sat listening intently while Dr Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, parents of 6-year-old victim Avielle Richman, and Nelba Marquez-Greene, the mother of 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene, detailed ways they believe Connecticut could improve response to incidents like the one Newtown faced on that fateful December morning 23 months earlier.

One by one, the parents ticked off observations and concerns, along with providing advice during a session conducted in the meeting room of C.H. Booth Library. They suggested the state employ a rapid response team of highly trained trauma experts that could provide the first line of support behind police and medical responders whose first responsibility is to secure and make mass casualty scenes safe.

Sidewalks, Roads, And Bridges

The first week of 2014 brought the first news regarding the upkeep and addition of new or existing sidewalks, roads, bridges, and trails that serve local residents and those who visit or traverse the community.

Newtown resident Joseph Draper announced to a group of Newtown officials January 7 his plan to guarantee at least $200,000 to fortify a nominal memorial fund and serve as a challenge to others to donate toward completing a sidewalk loop that will eventually link all but one of Newtown’s schools.

Mr Draper’s announcement came just a day or two ahead of the town releasing a request for proposal for design and construction of an approximately 300-foot sidewalk extension that would connect Main Street to sidewalks that resume just west of The Newtown Bee offices on Church Hill Road.

Mr Draper said his contribution will supplement about $4,000 that has been donated to a children’s memorial sidewalk fund being administered by the town through the Parks & Recreation Department.

During spring budget deliberations, there was more discussion regarding the effects of perennial reductions to the capital road account. Years ago, First Selectman Llodra reminded the Board of Finance, it was determined that the Highway Department would require $2 million annually to keep up with required maintenance, repairs, and reconstruction of roads.

But that amount has been halved to $1 million in recent budget cycles. As a result, Mrs Llodra proposed an addition of $250,000 to that line as a way to begin building back to that $2 million annual funding during the next four fiscal cycles.

The first selectman had been warning officials that if something was not done to infuse more revenue into the road repair budget, the town might face going out to bond in 2015 to pay for major road repairs.

By late summer, Newtown’s planning agency announced it will be receiving an unanticipated grant that will underwrite additional sidewalks between Glover Avenue and Mile Hill South.

Director of Planning George Benson told the Board of Selectmen August 18 that a $380,000 grant slated to go to Bridgewater through the regional council of governments had been declined, so it will now go to Newtown, the second ranked community on a priority list for a Connecticut State Transportation Enhancement allocation.

Mr Benson said that when discussing the grant opportunity with the state, he learned that Newtown could possibly qualify for up to $500,000 under the program. If that increase comes to fruition, it could help extend sidewalks even further, from the corner of Mile Hill South to Trades Lane near the entrance to Reed Intermediate School, Mr Benson pointed out.

Deputy Land Use Director Rob Sibley said if the grant is delivered, it will nearly double the amount of public sidewalk installations in Newtown made over the past decade.

During October 23 finance board discussions, officials learned that Public Works Director Fred Hurley was currently rethinking road allocations.

The first selectman told finance officials that Mr Hurley and a growing number of his colleagues across Connecticut are seeing premature degradation of road surfacing.

The public works director suggested it could be because of new winter ice melting chemicals introduced in recent years, or less reliable surfacing materials being supplied through a state consortium.

Until the local highway department can be more confident that road reconstruction projects will sustain an approximately 20-year lifespan, he was wary of committing significant taxpayer dollars to anything but the most dire road projects.

Election Day

The Newtown Republican and Democratic Town Committees both met May 22 and each unanimously endorsed their candidates for Newtown’s 106 District.

At a Republican caucus at Edmond Town Hall, State Representative Mitch Bolinsky received the party’s unequivocal endorsement for a second term. At the same time, local Democrats met and voiced unified support for Matt Cole, a 26-year-old who served as a key intern for former 106th representative Chris Lyddy.

In late June, after Representative DebraLee Hovey announced she would not be seeking reelection, Monroe resident and political newcomer Jen Aguilar announced her candidacy for the seat, facing GOP challenger J.P. Sredzinski.

Only 842 of Newtown’s 5,138 Republicans cast votes in an August GOP gubernatorial primary, the majority supporting candidates who were unsuccessful in races that were expected to draw low numbers at polling places statewide.

Locally, State Senator John McKinney received 520 votes to statewide victor Tom Foley’s 322. Mr Foley was ultimately victorious, however, taking the lead as polls closed.

As a preview to The Newtown Bee’s annual Candidates Forum on Tuesday, October 21, Newtown Action Alliance held a scaled down session that featured four individuals running for state offices in districts that include or overlap the community. The event offered 106th District challenger Mr Cole, and District 2 challenger Candace Fay a good opportunity to introduce themselves and react to impromptu questions, along with the 28th Senate District challengers — veteran State Representatives Tony Hwang and Kim Fawcett.

The Newtown Bee held its annual Candidates Forum Tuesday, October 21, at Edmond Town Hall Theatre. Second District Republican incumbent Dan Carter, 112th District GOP contender J.P. Sredzinski, 28th Senate District challenger Representative Tony Hwang, 106th District incumbent Republican Representative Mitch Bolinsky, and his Democratic challenger Matt Cole each articulated positions on taxation, transportation infrastructure, Common Core standards for state educators, and recently enacted gun legislation. Bee Editor Curtiss Clark served as moderator for the event.

Ms Fay and Ms Aguilar both withdrew several hours before the event because of sudden family health emergencies. With the two vacant seats on the evening’s panel, last-minute invitations to participate were sent to 28th Senatorial District candidates. Rep Hwang was able to participate; Rep Fawcett had a previous commitment.

Like many races across the state and nation, Republicans vying to represent Newtown in Hartford claimed victories in the midterm elections November 4. Incumbent 106th District lawmaker Mitch Bolinsky overcame the enthusiastic challenge mounted by Democrat Matt Cole.

Mr Sredzinski posted a one-word note on his Facebook page: “Elected.” In Newtown the Monroe Republican received 658 votes to Democratic candidate Jen Aguilar’s 483.

Around the same time Tuesday evening, incumbent Rep Carter was claiming victory over his challenger, Ms Fay. And in the 28th Senatorial District, Rep Hwang outpaced his Democratic statehouse colleague to win the open senate seat.

Rep Hwang, who received powerful endorsements from Sen McKinney and former governor Jodi Rell, received 5,219 votes to Rep Fawcett’s 4,536.


A Perfect Score

Just two days after making a case based on Newtown’s adherence to a variety of financial management policies and evidence that new commercial development will be supplementing the community’s grand list in the coming years, officials learned February 12 that Standard & Poor’s awarded the community a AAA bond rating.

After receiving the news late that Wednesday afternoon, Mrs Llodra heralded the community achieving the equivalent of a perfect credit rating based on the strength of its financial practices and the cast of town employees and volunteer elected officials who make, administer, and advise on those practices.

First Budget Passes

Amid cheers from local officials and residents who gathered at Newtown Middle School on April 22, town polling officials revealed totals from a first round budget referendum that overwhelmingly approved both a school district and town spending package, along with debt service on capital borrowing for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The Board of Selectmen’s municipal budget including debt service on bonding passed 2,571 to 738, while the school district request passed 2,421 to 868, Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead confirmed the following day. In all, 3,320 voters cast ballots, according to polling officials, representing a 19.1 percent turnout.

Reached by phone shortly after the tallies were announced, Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob reacted similarly to her elected colleagues.

“Wow — I can’t recall a budget referendum with such a low number of No votes,” Ms Jacob said.

Senior Tax Relief

After many, many hours of work by Legislative Council Ordinance Chair Ryan Knapp and his colleagues concerning an upgraded tax relief program for the town’s senior citizens, several information forums on the proposal, and a sparsely attended public hearing, the full council unanimously approved the program on May 7.

One aspect of the new ordinance took effect immediately, activating a component providing up to $800 in tax relief to several dozen qualifying applicants in a newly established income tier for 2014.

The balance of the ordinance’s new tenants will go into effect beginning with the 2015 round of tax relief applications.

Facilities Study Launched

A June 2 selectmen’s meeting kicked off of what was hoped will be a comprehensive assessment of municipal facilities and will result in a similarly detailed strategic plan for the future of those facilities. Senior Project Manager Geralyn Hoerauf from Diversified Project Management, who has been instrumental in the planning process for the new Sandy Hook School, will be supporting this new townwide project.

Ms Hoerauf has been charged with helping develop a request for proposals from providers for the assessment and analysis portion of the initiative.

First Selectman Llodra told the Board of Finance in late April that Town Hall South, the existing Hook & Ladder headquarters, and the Sandy Hook multipurpose building would be among the priority focal points. She said that once the new community center being underwritten by a $10 million gift from General Electric was established, it would create space to relocate all nonpolice services to either the new center or to other locations.

SHS Staff Activism

A group of Sandy Hook School faculty members launched a plan to take the national tragedy they all experienced firsthand on December 14, 2012, channeling their collective experiences to spread a message about common sense gun law reform and the need for related legislation.

The group was the focus of a special report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and its journalists Jessica Boehm and Sarah Ferris (a Newtown native, now a reporter for The Washington Post, and a former Newtown Bee intern). The group first circulated to colleagues nationwide through the American Federation of Teachers in late August, about 19 months after the shooting at Sandy Hook School, a group of nearly four dozen faculty and staff members united to speak out against gun violence across America.

The group was also a focus of a CBS Sunday Morning segment in early December with veteran journalist Jane Pauley.

Court Cases

In mid December, the estates of nine of 26 people who were killed and one teacher who was injured on 12/14 were named as plaintiffs in a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit lodged against the manufacturer, the distributor, and the seller of the semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which a 20-year-old gunman used in the murders. Among those named as defendants are Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, of North Carolina, which is the manufacturer; Camfour, Inc, of Massachusetts, which is the distributor; and Riverview Sales, Inc, of East Windsor, which is the gun shop where the weapon was purchased; and gun seller David Laguercia.

Named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the estates of students Dylan Hockley, Noah Pozner, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse McCord Lewis, and Daniel Barden; the estates of teacher Victoria Soto, school psychologist Mary Joy Sherlach, teacher Lauren Rousseau, and school therapist Rachel D’Avino, and surviving injured teacher Natalie Hammond.

The 40-page lawsuit, which seeks money damages and injunctive relief, states that on December 14, 2012, in less than five minutes, 20 students and six adults were killed, with two other people wounded, at the hands of the gunman wielding a powerful military-style firearm.

The lawsuit is pending in court.

Also, in December, Wilfrido A. Cardenas Hoffman, 31, of El Hatillo, Venezuela, waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty in federal court in Hartford to making threatening phone calls to residents of Newtown shortly after 12/14.

According to court documents and statements that were made in court, on December 16, 2012, two days after the shooting that claimed 26 lives at the school, Hoffman used a voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) computer application on an iPad tablet computer to make numerous phone calls from his home in Venezuela to Newtown residences. Sentencing is scheduled for February.

12/14 Anniversary Service

As a small choir of children sang to piano accompaniment, more than 150 visitors gathered in the warm and brightly lit Newtown Meeting House on Sunday, December 14, for an hourlong interfaith service recognizing the second anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The event marked the only public ceremony occurring across the community, although most local houses of worship held activities recognizing the anniversary earlier in the day. Save for a few reporters and a news camera crew stationed across the street, the day ended quietly with many in the community spending time with loved ones, or engaging in quiet personal reflection. Many of the clergy who were on hand for a December 16, 2012, service attended by President Barack Obama participated in the service, reciting from sacred tracts, offering blessings for various service groups, and personal observations. Both gatherings had been organized by Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association.

Newtown Bee Reporter Andrew Gorosko contributed the “Court Cases” segment of this story.

Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze addresses one of many forums held to help educate and inform local seniors in 2014. The meetings also provided feedback as the town moved toward initiating additional tax relief benefits for seniors, which eventually passed the Legislative Council later in the year.
With well over a century of service to Newtown between them, Dr Robert Grossman, far right, and Dr Thomas Draper, center, were the subjects of a community celebration and open house on October 27. Among those honoring the two physicians was former first selectman Herb Rosenthal.
Sandy Hook School staffer Mary Ann Jacob stands among a large group of colleagues who gathered November 13 in the Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall, where they discussed a number of gun violence prevention issues. That meeting was filmed for segments of a CBS Sunday Morning report with Jane Pauley set to air December 7. 
From left, Dr Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, parents of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim Avielle Richman, along with Nelba Marquez-Greene, the mother of 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene detailed ways they believe Connecticut could improve response to incidents like Newtown faced on that fateful December morning 23 months before. The parents testified before the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission November 14 in a session held at C.H. Booth Library.
Consultant Geralyn Hoerauf conducted a presentation for the Board of Selectmen in early June as a lead in to forming a committee to study the use and possible future disposition of municipal facilities. The committee was eventually seated and at year’s end, was beginning to collect and formulate data on three key town-owned buildings fast tracked for consideration by town officials — Town Hall South, the multipurpose building that houses Newtown Senior Center and The Children's Adventure Center, and the Hook & Ladder headquarters.
Three General Electric executives who were on loan supporting the community post-12/14, completed their terms of service and were honored for their efforts in ceremonies during the springtime. Those volunteers were Elizabeth Rallo, pictured beside her son, James, and colleague Joni Capoccitti, along with Anne Alzapiedi, pictured below with family members and First Selectman Pat Llodra.
A new Charter Revision Commission was seated in 2014 including, clockwise from upper left, Kevin Burns, Jeff Capeci, Eric Paradis, Dan Wiedemann, Deborra Zukowski, Tom Long, George Guidera, James Ritchie, and Robert Hall. Mr Capeci was subsequently elected commission Chair and Mr Hall was named vice chair.
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