The Year Newtown Nearly Lost The Horse Guard
The Year Newtown Nearly Lost The Horse Guard
By Kendra Bobowick
With their belongings packed away in the bay of a semi, in August, members of the Second Company Governorâs Horse Guard (2GHG) awaited final orders to vacate the sprawling horse facility at Wildlife Drive along Wasserman Way. However, local support on both a grass roots and state level managed to save the more than 200-year-old militia that was on the verge of closing due to state budget constraints in 2011.
The threat of shutdown began in March, when word came from the state that it would close the Newtown facility, which sparked an urgent response form local legislators. âThis is not going to happen,â said State Representative DebraLee Hovey, regarding plans to potentially consolidate the stateâs two horse guard units for financial reasons. âThis isnât kosher with us,â she said. The stateâs other unit of the Governorâs Horse Guard is based in Avon. Plans at the time aimed to relocate the Newtown guardâs ten remaining horses to Avon.
Immediately looking for solutions were Newtownâs state representatives, Ms Hovey and Christopher Lyddy, representatives from Avon and the governorâs office, Senator John McKinney, and former horse guard members. The group was âbrainstorming for substantial ways to save money if the military will just work with us,â Ms Hovey said.
She said, âWe donât have a solution. Itâs complex.â She and others considered ways the state might save money and resources ârather than eliminate the horse guard.â
The site was budgeted for two-and-a-half employees, and an annual cost of less than $78,000 to staff and run. Ms Hovey said, âWeâre asking the governorâs office for more informationâ as her team continues to âthink of everything we canâ as they âput together scenarios and go to the governorâs office with it.â
Â By April 13, Ms Hovey and Mr Lyddy and others met with the governorâs staff with her proposal âfor a compromise,â according to Ms Hovey.
â[Governor Dannel Malloy] says heâll look at it, but there are no guarantees,â Ms Hovey said. Her suggestions were ânot a done deal,â but she was pleased to be discussing what she felt was a âpretty valid proposal.â
In July, the guardâs future was still uncertain, spurring a grass-roots support to raise funds. Supporters set up booths to receive financial contributions and signatures on a petition during the horse guardâs horse annual show, following a rally days earlier to jump start efforts on a community level.
Horse Guard proponent Ken Fay sent word via e-mail to a host of supporters stating the guardâs dire position: âThe troop has very little time to address this situation.â Without the horse guard, he stressed, âThis will eliminate any programs currently offered by the Second Horse Guard and will require the dispersal of horses with some possibly going to auction.â
Resident Chris McCormick spearheaded the local fundraising and support effort âto see what we can doâ before deadlines arrived to relocate the horses on the Fairfield Hills property and lock the facilityâs doors.
By early August guard members were packing their things, ready to leave the premises, but received the news they had been waiting for just days later. On August 19, in a hastily typed e-mail from his cellphone Mr Lyddy said: âI am happy to announce that in a call with the Speaker of the Houseâs office late today, the Governorâs Chief of Staff, Tim Bannon, stated they do not plan to move forward with the Military Departmentâs proposal to close the Second Company Governorâs Horse Guard in Newtown.â
In his e-mail, Mr Lyddy thanked Governor Dannel Malloy for his continued interest in this issue as well as his commitment and desire to ensure that the needs of the community were heard and respected. He said through a bipartisan effort on both the state and local levels, as well as through a high-energy grassroots effort, âwe were able to ensure that Newtownâs voice was heard loud and clear.
âI appreciate the attention that our local First Selectman Pat Llodra and the Board of Selectmen have given this issue,âÂ Mr Lyddy continued. âPatâs continued support has been instrumental in keeping this issue alive. Iâd also like to thank my two colleagues and friends Representative [DebraLee] Hovey and Senator [John] McKinney for ensuring that this issue continues to be one that we all could get behind, regardless of political ideology or party affiliation. This is exactly the type of teamwork that our community respects and deserves from its public officials.â
Ms Hovey told The Bee that the ultimate authority over the horse guardsâ fate rested with the governor.
âHe waited until the eleventh hour, but Iâll take it,â she said.