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2013: A Year of Change for Branford

Published 12/31/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/31/2013 02:48 PM

By Pam Johnson
The Sound


The Tabor property debate starts the year off with a bang. On Jan. 5, area residents rally with protest signs near the town-owned parcel on news that Second Selectman Andrew Campbell will walk the site. In October 2012, Campbell and First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos voted 2-1 against Third Selectman Jamie Cosgrove to approve the Public Works Building Committee’s recommendation to construct a new Public Works facility on 10 acres of the tract.

A meeting to form a Community Coalition for Responsible Gun Control packs the Community House main meeting room to capacity, with many specifically responding to news of a gun shop set to open on Main Street. Concerns among citizens have revved up following the December 2012 Sandy Hook School shootings.

A handful of students and former students of fired Branford High School (BHS) teacher Carolyn Lippolis hold an early-afternoon protest outside the school, saying they felt their voices were not heard at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

The BOE continues to review ideas and proposals for needed changes to Walsh Intermediate School (WIS) and the potential for refurbishing or closing Sliney Elementary School.

At a packed Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, resident Jacey Wyatt proposes installing a revenue-generating municipal golf course on the Tabor property. Meanwhile, the BOS is told some 600 residents have signed an online petition against building Public Works at Tabor.

All Branford residents will soon be eligible for a free prescription discount program, using a discount card that will be accepted at area pharmacies.

Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez shares news of improvements to be made to bolster school security following a safety review of all buildings. In addition to measures already in place, better technology, upgrades, and additional practices can improve the margin of safety.


On Feb. 8, Blizzard Nemo pounds New England, hitting Branford hard. The town’s among those in Connecticut buried by the most snowfall, collecting between 28 and 35 inches border to border. Branford opens its emergency shelter at BHS; dozens of municipal workers stay on duty to help keep critical infrastructure open. Many residents are stranded in their homes for one to three days, but other towns, even those with less snow accumulation, are much worse off, scrambling for payloaders. Branford rounded up loaders in advance of Nemo and put them to work digging out hundreds of streets buried in snow that plows can’t move. Schools are canceled for several days.

Branford’s seeking a new Public Works director on news current director Art Baker will move on.

Cosgrove gets the go-ahead to take another look at 20 Elm Street, home to Cherry Hill Glass Company, as a potential new home for Public Works. Public displays of opposition to use of the Tabor property remain steady.

A Representative Town Meeting (RTM) subcommittee takes up the charge of exploring a possible town ordinance restricting firearms and ammunition sales in certain areas of town.

Branford Town Clerk Marianne Kelly is called to U.S. District Court in Hartford to testify in a federal case bringing charges against two Guilford women who led the shoreline gifting table.

A feral cat colony makes headlines as property owners endeavor to remove it from Branford Shoreline Mobile Home Community.

Representatives of two Branford businesses that carry firearms, The Hunter’s Shop and TGS Outdoors, speak out at the first gun sales public hearing, which is lightly attended.


Branford squelches the idea of charging for town services provided during the Branford Festival, Branford Fireworks, and Branford Road Race.

At the March 6 BOS meeting, Cosgrove questions the costs to bring a new Public Works facility to the town’s Tabor property.

Non-profit Legacy Theatre founder Keely Baisden Knudsen invites supporters to attend the “A Legacy for Tomorrow” benefit gala to create a community-centric home for professional theater performance and productions based out of the former Stony Creek Puppet House.

Despite some state lawmakers’ opposition, Branford’s Shelley Marcus earns enough votes on March 6 to become a state Superior Court judge.

Based on TGS Outdoors supporters’ turning out at the
March 14 and 16 public hearings on the proposed gun sales ordinance, the sound and fury accompanying January’s news of a “gun shop” opening on Main Street is gone.

Getting a jump on the pack, Jacey Wyatt announces her bid for first selectman for the November election and her launch of Branford’s new independent political party, the Branford Voters Coalition.

Branford’s townwide emergency call center is now state-of-the art. The $1.65 million upgrade at police headquarters includes three new dispatch consoles, each equipped with a bank of four powerful computers topped by seven monitors.

A $1 million difference between bidders vying for Branford’s refuse-hauling contract is being challenged.

The BOF whittles more than $2.9 million from the proposed 2013-’14 town budget, voting on March 25 to back a $99.45 million bottom line. It includes $51.83 million in education spending and $47.60 million for town departments, creating a 2.73 percent annual budget increase. The request now goes to the RTM.


“Stop Tabor” proponents fill a BOS meeting, coming away with the first selectman’s promise that their concerns will be heard and addressed in a separate, private meeting to be set up soon.

Branford Italian American Club, now in its 75th year, will co-sponsor the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade, making its first-ever Branford appearance in October.

In response to the April 15 Boston Marathon terrorist bombings, soundRunner organizes a successful #BostonStrong solidarity run in the community.

Branford Early Childhood Collaborative (BECC) celebrates the Week of the Young Child with community literacy events kicking off April 8.

It’s only in the conceptual stage, but upgrades to WIS and Sliney School could cost
$120 million, according to a feasibility study completed for the BOE.

BHS Choir makes history performing “The Prayer Cycle” at Yale’s Woolsey Hall on April 28.


DaRos acknowledges the town will review another potential Public Works site that, for now, is only being described as a commercial property on Route 1 with a “willing seller.”

DaRos announces he will not seek re-election in November. Current Second Selectman Andrew Campbell announces his intent to seek the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) as its 2013 first selectman candidate. Current Democratic Town Committee Chair Chris Sullivan steps away from the role as he announces he intends to seek the DTC’s endorsement as first selectman candidate.

Current Third Selectman Jamie Cosgrove announces his intent to seek the Republican Town Committee (RTC)’s endorsement as its 2013 first selectman candidate.

After 44 years with Branford Counseling Center (BCC), director Pat Andriole announces she’s retiring on July 1.

“Stop Tabor” leader Fred Russo delivers a report to DaRos that includes more than 40 reasons not to build a Public Works facility on Tabor property.

Branford adds 22 acres to the town’s open space inventory with the acquisition of the Kaczynski property, located in the Farm River estuary east of Beacon Hill.

A $99.31 million budget passes by an RTM vote split down party lines, leading to a 2.7 percent tax increase for property owners next year.

Shoreline Village CT officially begins offering services to independent seniors in Branford, Guilford, and Madison.

Branford icon photographer Earl Colter is celebrated May 18 with a 100th birthday party at Blackstone Memorial Library.

The BOE wants to see Sliney School moved to a renovated Branford Hills School, but a town-appointed building committee would make the final call.


The RTC nominates Cosgrove as its 2013 first selectman candidate. No running mate is named. Republican Kurt Schwanfelder, currently a BOF member, hopes to be selected for the role during the July caucus.

The DTC nominates Campbell as its November candidate for first selectman, with Dr. Bruce Storm as his running mate. Sullivan hopes to become his party’s choice for first selectman after DTC members vote in the July caucus. The DTC nominating committee also endorses Pam Knapp for town clerk, ending a DTC endorsement of current Town Clerk Marianne Kelley that has spanned the past four elections.

The 29th annual Branford Festival enjoys three days of fine weather and provides a great entertainment lineup for thousands attending the popular event on the Branford Green.

A push to stop local retail establishments, namely Branford’s All Pets Club, from selling any animals found to be generated by “puppy mills” is being led by Lori Fogler Nicholson, chairman of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter Commission.

Planning & Zoning approves a request to bring Zagat-rated Five Guys Burgers and Fries to “Hamburger Hill” on West Main Street.

With work still underway to recoup significant legal costs from three cases tied to Branford’s 2003 eminent domain seizure of Tabor land, a $1 million malpractice settlement stipulated by a judge on June 19 is accepted by the town.

Capping off a school year extended by a hurricane and a blizzard, the 269 graduates of the BHS Class of 2013 didn’t flinch as stormy skies threatened the
June 26 commencement on the Town Green.

All-volunteer Branford Cares launches its second “Summer of Caring” campaign.


Nearly 200 turn out to respond to new request for a “puppy mill” retail ban, listed on the RTM’s Rules and Ordinances July 2 agenda.

A potential new home for Public Works is identified as contiguous commercial parcels at 132 and 142 Ivy Street.

For now, Branford won’t continue considering an ordinance banning puppy mill retail sales. The RTM wants to follow the work of a statewide task force beginning in January 2014.

Gov. Dannel Malloy visits tourist-laden Stony Creek to announce a $500,000 state grant awarded to help Branford install public restrooms in the Stony Creek Post Office.

RTM Moderator Chris Sullivan announces he’s withdrawn his bid to become the 2013 Democratic candidate for first selectman. He returns to his role as chairman of the DTC.

Branford’s GOP picks its election slate at the July caucus, at which Cosgrove is voted the 2013 first selectman candidate, running with Joe Higgins for selectman.

Democrats finalize the 2013 local election slate during the July caucus, backing Campbell for first selectman candidate and Bruce Storm as his running mate. Citing state guidelines, DTC leaders say only DTC members can vote for town-wide candidates. Other towns have not followed that protocol.

As announced in March, Jacey Wyatt will be the Branford Independent Voters Party first selectman candidate.

Kelly intends to primary, seeking to be the Democratic town clerk nominee on the Branford 2013 local election ballot. Kelly will primary against Pam Knapp, who received the DTC’s endorsement in July.

Branford residents enjoy use of an Olympic-sized swimming pool on the shoreline grounds of Connecticut Hospice, thanks to a new arrangement between Hospice and Branford Parks & Recreation Department.

A July 31 walk of the former landfill off Tabor Drive helps Inland Wetlands Agency members and Solid Waste Supervisor Dan McGowan show the need for continuing ongoing work to cap the dump and follow through on plans to turn the space into a passive recreational area with walking trails.


Myers Flower Shop on Main Street celebrates 100 years as a family-owned business.

Kelly announces she won’t primary for her place as the Democratic candidate for town clerk, instead successfully completing paperwork in time to be placed on the ballot on a line separate from Democratic and Republican candidates.

Two young Branford residents, Benjamin Filardi, 21, and Megan Mcauliffe, 28, die as a result of separate motor vehicle accidents between Aug. 17 and 18.

Security enhancements made over the summer break will come online as school gets underway. Items that can be shared publicly include a “double-line” foyer entry process at all schools, requiring visitors to be buzzed in through two sets of doors.

Branford hosts a public meeting for area residents concerning new FEMA flood map changes, which can affect homeowners insurance.

The first annual Woofstock to benefit Cosgrove Animal Shelter takes place on the Town Green Aug. 24.

Branford’s on board with East Shore District Health Department’s efforts to develop a minimal massage business ordinance for the district, which also includes East Haven and North Branford.

Branford kids go back to school on Aug. 28, with the town’s elementary schools experiencing start times and dismissals that are 10 minutes later than last year.

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are detected in Branford in late August.


Branford Police Youth Detective Art Ferris was very visible at the town’s five school buildings during the first weeks of school as the town’s new school-police liaison.

The BOS votes 2-1 against naming “Stop Tabor” organizer Fred Russo to the Public Works Building Committee.

The RTM accepts a long-awaited report on the effectiveness of the town’s Economic Development Commission. The six-page report compares results in other communities and finds Branford’s efforts coming up short.

The BOS disbands the Public Works Building Committee by a vote of 2-1 at its Sept. 18 meeting, with Cosgrove voting against disbanding. Saying the committee “worked hard,” DaRos thanked the committee members, adding, “They, as volunteers, deserve better than the treatment they got.”

On Sept. 18, Campbell announces he no longer supports the idea of putting Public Works at Tabor. First selectman candidates Cosgrove (R) and Wyatt (I) have long been on the record as being opposed to the site.

Business is brisk at the newly renovated I-95 northbound service plaza in Branford when it re-opens Sept. 23.

Kelly ends her bid to run for town clerk in the 2013 election.


Branford’s first Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade provides a massive spectacle on a crisp fall day, drawing thousands of spectators downtown for what seems an endless parade.

Walk Like MADD fans outs from the Branford Green to help Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) CT continue its mission to keep communities safer and ultimately end drunk driving.

Branford Garden Club (BGC) hosts the third annual Scarecrows on the Green, providing a week of whimsical scarecrows representing local businesses, organizations, clubs, and other community members.

Branford Veterans Parade Chairman Frank Whelan passes unexpectedly on Oct. 14, but the longtime parade committee chairman had already completed all necessary organization to once again honor those who serve.

A grassroots group forms “Voices for Branford Seniors” holding a community forum at the Blackstone Library with the message “We Need a New Senior Center Now.”


Led by First Selectman-elect Jamie Cosgrove, Branford Republicans win big on Election Day. From taking the majority in the RTM to leading the BOE and town official posts (including town clerk and town treasurer), a groundswell of support vaults the GOP back into power for the first time in many years.

Branford’s Veterans Day Parade steps off from the Town Green with military participants and local marching units keeping up a tradition that extends back to the Branford’s post-Civil War era. The next day, BHS hosts the 16th annual Bob Bescher Veterans Day program on Veterans Day.

What appears to be some rampant tree-felling and limb-trimming takes place on streets around town, as dozens of crews hired by CL&P begin a new system reliability and power outage prevention program.

Branford Volunteer Services Center is officially re-named the Patricia C. Andriole Volunteer Center on Nov. 14.

Branford bids a fond farewell to First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos, who retires after completing a sixth term in office on Nov. 18. For his work to better the town of Branford, the Stony Creek native receives many honors upon his retirement.

Cosgrove is sworn in for his first term as Branford’s top elected official on Nov. 19. Cosgrove says he plans to “do good” for the town.

On Nov. 20, Cosgrove shuts down the long-held Public Works at Tabor controversy, with a motion to “affirmatively reject” the Tabor property as the site for a new Public Works facility. The motion passes unanimously, 3-0.

Branford gives the okay to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open at an East Main Street building best known as home to Planet Fitness.

An Exit 56 “Big Box” draft plan unexpectedly goes public during the Nov. 21 PZC meeting.

The Branford and Guilford Chambers of Commerce are working toward a possible collaboration that will merge both organizations. Chamber members from both towns will vote in December.

Branford Land Trust (BLT) receives the largest unrestricted gift in its history, $98,000from M. John (Jack) Hamer, who, with his late wife, Annette Hamer, was a longtime BLT supporter.

Branford makes merry on Main Street with the annual Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting on Nov. 30.


Branford Community House celebrates 50 years in its Church Street building, with a ceremony and public Open House on
Dec. 1.

The Branford and Guilford Chambers of Commerce will merge into one Shoreline Chamber organization, following a vote on Dec. 11 at which members showed overwhelming support for the idea.

Branford Community Foundation gives $30,000 for local needs during a critical time of need. On Dec. 16, checks of $10,000 each were presented to the directors of Branford Counseling Center, Branford Food Pantry, and Community Dining Room.

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