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2013 in Review: Westbrook

Published 12/31/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/31/2013 03:48 PM

By Becky Coffey
Harbor News

January

State Department of Transportation officials announce that added remediation work at the Norris Avenue site will delay the planned opening of the new expanded Westbrook Shore Line East train station from June to December.

At a Westbrook Town Meeting, electors approves $285,000 in town funds to supplement
$1.2 million in state funds to finance building a new town garage on Route 145 and $50,000 to pay for Superstorm Sandy debris removal and storm repairs to municipal facilities.

The Storm Sandy relief bill that Congress adopts this month approves funds for homeowners and municipalities to make repairs, but cuts $9.8 million planned for storm damage fixes in the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge based in Westbrook.

The combined value of assessed property on Westbrook’s 2012 Grand List is reported on Jan. 31 as $1.134 billion, nearly one percent higher than the 2011 Grand List value.

February

Town human resources consultant Randi Frank completes for the Board of Selectmen (BOS)a municipal salary survey of 10 area towns; the BOS will use it to support contract negotiations with the Town Hall employees union that begin soon.

The BOS appoints law firm Day Pitney, LLP, as bond counsel to work with town bond advisor IBIC to prepare bonding options to pay for needed capital projects.

A major weekend snowstorm dubbed Winter Storm Nemo dumps heavy snow along the shoreline, leading to power outages, closed roads, and closed schools for days.

The Westbrook Board of Education (BOE) votes to adopt the National School Climate Standards as district policy this month.

March

The BOS hires Ron Rose as temporary restaurant inspector to fill in for former inspector Aimee Eberly who left in January. Rose already receives a town stipend as a registered sanitarian to oversee town health agent Dick Leighton.

The BOS adopts for the next fiscal year a $10,511,184 budget, which reflects both general government spending and debt service payments. While the operating budget is up 1.5 percent, debt service payments are down by 5.9 percent.

A revised five-year capital improvement plan is presented to the BOS by Finance Director Andrew Urban. With bond rates for financing low, town leaders discuss the option of getting town bonding approval to fund needed projects.

The Board of Finance’s budget adopted for the schools would increase spending by $594,543 to $15,865,237, an increase of 3.89 percent over the current year.

The Planning Commission adopts new design guidelines for town development and lands a new incentive housing zone (IHZ) on Old Clinton Road next to railroad tracks.

April

The BOS modifies the 2012 Use of Public Property ordinance—the main change turns the ban on dogs walking on town beaches into a seasonal ban. Action by the Town Meeting further modifies it to allow alcohol use without a permit.

The BOS decides to send to all citizens a Voter’s Guide to the Budget. Also the Board of Finance holds the annual budget hearing to discuss operating budgets and $7 million in capital spending planned over the next five years.

High school senior Morgan Wilderman organizes the first-ever Job Fair for Teens at the Westbrook Town Hall this month, while other teens organize the annual Westbrook Prom Expo at Water’s Edge.

Tom ODell, chairman of the Conservation Commission, working with Rick Potvin of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, forms a new group of volunteers, the Friends of Westbrook Islands, to help protect the nesting habitats of these islands.

May

The Zoning Commission opens a public hearing on an affordable housing development application that, if approved, would build the 20-unit Redwood Commons near Old Hammock Road on Old Clinton Road.

Town voters by a two-to-one margin approve the town’s $26,390,660 operating budget for 2013-’14 and $5.1 million in bonding authorization for capital purchases and projects.

The BOS appoints a seven-member school projects building committee, naming Pat Labbadia as chairman. The Capitol Region Education Center is awarded a contract to manage the selection of contractors and installation effort for the committee.

Daisy Ingraham Principal Kit Bishop learns she will receive a $10,000 grant from the Westbrook Foundation to support purchase and installation of a teaching greenhouse at the school.

June

The Zoning Commission approves a 21-unit Redwood Commons residential project to be built in the town’s first-ever Incentive Housing Zone on Old Clinton Road north of Hammock Road.

The BOS approves an appropriation of $5,000 to install a new video camera system at Ted Lane Field to deter vandalism and participates in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new shared Clinton-Westbrook Animal Shelter.

The town’s first Comprehensive Annual Financial Report was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the national Government Finance Officer’s Association of the U.S. and Canada.

Seventy-six Westbrook High School seniors graduated in a ceremony held at the school this month.

July

A Town Meeting weighs approval of appropriations for school security upgrades and engineering studies for bridge replacements. An error in the public notice required that action be postponed until a second Town Meeting could be scheduled later in the month.

The annual Westbrook Firemen’s Carnival entertains residents and visitors alike for four days this month.

The BOS approves the Fire Department request to appropriate $57,000 to buy a new fire safety truck and the town finance director’s request for $14,826 to cover the town’s net Storm Nemo clean-up expense after federal storm aid payments.

Town Democratic and Republican Town committees hold their caucuses this month to assess candidates and vote to endorse a slate of choices for the fall election.

The Town of Westbrook sells $5 million in bonds to fund capital projects and purchases. Moody’s Investors Service report affirms the town’s Aa2 debt risk rating.

August

The 54th annual Westbrook Muster, an event organized by the Westbrook Drum Corps, is a highlight of this month’s activities.

Two capital projects are underway this summer at town school buildings and finished this month: installation of new high-efficiency boilers at Daisy Ingraham Elementary School and replacement of a section of the high school roof. Also completed this month is the installation of the new greenhouse to support the science curriculum at Daisy Ingraham School.

Schools open, bringing full implementation of two new initiatives: a new teacher and administrator performance evaluation model required by state school reform and transition to teaching language arts and math consistent with Common Core State Standards.

The Town of Westbrook is awarded a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to pay to improve the intersection of Knothe Road and Route 1 and to develop town parking at that site.

September

The new Daisy Ingraham Elementary School Greenhouse and teaching garden is dedicated in honor of longtime educator Joanne Murray.

The BOS accepts the Fire Department’s recommendation to award the contract for a new ladder truck to Seagrave/Aerialscope bid for a cost of
$1.284 million.

October

The BOS votes to authorize up to $80,000 for the Town Public Works Department to remove several underground fuel tanks at the Town Garage site and replace them with above ground tanks.

The board also continues to grapple with whether the town’s Health Department has enough man hours to do its mandated tasks. An ad hoc committee is appointed to study the issue. It comes to light in a restaurant inspection log report the BOS received that showed as many as a dozen mandated restaurant inspections were not done.

The Valley-Shore YMCA holds a successful first annual Run of the Dead 5K this month and Save the Sound returns with its annual beach clean-up event. The Westbrook Parks & Recreation Department also starts a new horseshoe league to take advantage of the just-completed pitch at Mulvey.

This month marks the opening of the new Valley Shore Community Television office and studio in the Shops at Water’s Edge.

The Westbrook Garden Club unveils a new garden that members created at the Town Gazebo thanks to volunteer hands and a grant from the Westbrook Foundation.

The State Department of Energy & Environmental Protection announces acquisition this month of the 155-acre Sciongay property in Westbrook and Clinton for open space.

November

The voters in Westbrook return the three incumbent selectmen to their posts: First Selectman Noel Bishop, Selectman John Hall III, and Selectman Chris Ehlert.

At a Town Meeting this month, electors authorize $750,000 to buy the 143-acre Joseph Russo property as open space and $80,000 to remove three underground fuel tanks at the Town Garage site to avoid state fines and penalties.

Westbrook holds another successful Holiday Parade and Tree-Lighting Ceremony on the Town Green, complete with bands, singing, and s’mores.

December

A high school student leadership team travels to New York City and headquarters of the National School Climate Center to film a video guide to conducting a community survey designed by the center. The Westbrook students spent 500 hours pilot-testing the center’s new national survey to help validate it.

The School Projects Building Committee selects DBS Energy to install a series of planned energy efficiency improvements at school buildings. The DBS contract for the work is worth $492,637 and the firm was the low bidder.

A new three-year contract ratified by the town and the Town Hall union will increase employees’ pay by 2.5 percent this year but also increases their co-pays for medical office and emergency room visits.

The new Westbrook Shore Line East train station and the new Westbrook Town Garage on Route 145 are still both on track for completion and opening this month.

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