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Old Saybrook 2013: The Year in Review

Published 12/31/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/31/2013 10:47 AM

By Becky Coffey
Harbor News

January

Town Architect Brian Humes presents the results of his space needs study for the town's police department to the Police Station Building Committee. The study finds there should be 13,100 square feet of office space and 4,770 square feet of storage spaces. The new station would see the department move out of the rented headquarters it has been occupying on Custom Drive since a 2010 flood destroyed the Main Street police Station.

The town's Pavilion meeting and activity space at Saybrook Point re-opens after closing in October 2012 after sustaining damage in Superstorm Sandy.

More than 100 people at a Police Commission meeting protest the body's decision not to add to the budget the two new police officers Police Chief Michael Spera requested to provide more school time as school resource officers.

Attorney Bill Childress in an official ceremony donates to the Acton Library a large shore scene mural painted by his father, Robert Childress.

February

After the Ethics Commission rules he cannot both serve on the Board of Finance and get a stipend for town work, Grant Westerson resigns from the Board of Finance.

The police station building committee votes to adopt architect Brian Humes's space needs study as a design guide for a new police station at 36 Lynde Street and votes to ask the selectmen to hire a project architect to develop a schematic design.

Town Assessor Norm Wood reports that the town's 2012 Grand List of Taxable Property is up $8.26 million over the 2011 Grand List values.

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 town's Zoning Commission adopts new sign regulations designed to give town businesses more flexibility.

March

Events this month include the Chamber of Commerce's annual Chili Fest and Restaurant Week and the 14th annual Community Treasures Variety Show sponsored by the Youth & Family Services agency's Healthy Community Health Youth initiative.

The town's voters authorize $1.6 million in bonding to buy the 3.8-acre parcel at 36 Lynde Street and pay for professional design services for a new police station at the site.

Town architect Brian Humes presents his schematic design for a new police station at 36 Lynde Street to the Police Station Building Committee this month.

Tractor Supply's application to build a 19,097-square-foot store at 401 Middlesex Turnpike gains approval by the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Commission.

The Board of Selectmen's adopted budget restores two new patrolmen positions not supported by the Police Commission's adopted budget. Police Chief Michael Spera says the new positions would put more school resource officer coverage in town schools.

A Water Pollution Control Authority public hearing on benefit assessment is met with anger and confusion by Saybrook Acres's residents over planned billing for soft costs.

April

The town's Board Selectmen and Water Pollution Control Authority Board agree that a WPCA program administrator should be hired.

The Office of Emergency Management issues a request for proposals for firms interested in rebuilding the Superstorm Sandy-damaged town mini-golf course at Saybrook Point.

Town contractor Old Colony Construction with a bid of $335,000 is awarded the contract to repair the town's Ferry Road dock. Work begins this month.

Events this month include the annual Healthy Kids Day at the Valley-Shore YMCA.

May

After a long search process, the Old Saybrook Board of Education chooses Jan G. Perruccio to be the district's next superintendent of schools.

The Board of Selectmen accepts the Parks & Recreation Commission recommendation to hire MGC Developers to design and build a replacement mini-golf course at Saybrook Point. The bid was $451,000 with up to 75 percent eligible for storm aid reimbursement.

The Zoning Commission votes to approve a site plan modification for the Max's Place retail development on Spencer Plains Road, allowing construction to start. The new plan adjusts the size and arrangement of several of the planned retail buildings.

The Old Saybrook Garden Club holds its annual Gardener's Market on the Town Green, with the proceeds to support purchase of supplies for public gardens the club maintains.

The Board of Selectmen votes to award a contract for design of the new police station to Brian Humes of Jacunski Humes and a contract to Downes Construction to be the station's design-build contractor with which Humes will work.

In light voter turnout, both the town and the school budget proposals pass by significant margins. The new mill rate is 0.58 mills higher than last year's 14.62 mill rate.

A Town Meeting vote approves $475,000 to rebuild the town's mini-golf course and soon after, MGC Development begins demolition of the old facility.

Fundraising led by Nick Sunby plus a grant from the town's Law Enforcement Fund leads to the construction of a new pole vault pit at the Old Saybrook High School track.

June

Old Saybrook Middle School Principal Michael Rafferty retires and former Associate Principal Mandy Ryan is appointed to fill the slot. Matt Walton is then appointed as associate principal.

A construction team of Amish heritage from Pennsylvania raises a new town garage for the town Public Works Department in less than two weeks for a cost of $89,850.

The Board of Selectmen approves $91,065 to install energy efficiency improvements at Town Hall and the Recreation Center. The upfront cost is $91,065, with a CL&P rebate of $46,000 and project investment payback of fewer than three years.

With preliminary bills for homeowners' septic upgrades still in dispute, the Water Pollution Control Authority agrees not to send bills (i.e., Benefit Assessments) charging soft cost shares until May 2014.

Town property bills for the first time can be paid online this month and the Main Street Business Association again holds its Summer Stroll.

July

Both the school district's new superintendent of schools, Jan Perruccio, and the town's new information technology manager, Larry Hayden, start working in town this month.

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 Board of Selectmen adopts a new policy to set priorities for groups and agencies that want to post messages on the town's two electronic signs. The selectmen also vote to renew Finance Director Lisa Carver's contract and to award a contract for Town Garage electric work worth $30,000 to Majestic Electric.

The Chamber of Commerce's 50th annual Arts and Crafts show on the Town Green once again attracts visitors and residents alike.

August

The Dock & Dine restaurant owners return to the town the former town Visitor Center, a 15-foot-high structure most recently used as an ice cream stand.

Ron Lyman of Max's Place breaks ground on the planned retail development on Spencer Plains Road that will include a Kohl's Department Store and a Big Y.

New Old Saybrook High School Principal Sheila Riffle starts work this month. She fills the slot left open when former principal Oliver Barton retired.

Events in town this month include a fundraiser by the Friends of Sgt. David Tupper at Firemen's Field to support the injured veteran and his family, and Opera in the Park sponsored by the Salt Marsh Opera.

The Police Station Building Committee adopts a $9.925 million police station plan and design to recommend to the Board of Selectmen and the town.

Schools open this month, 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.

A town meeting vote authorizes spending $593,745 to rebuild town seawalls, staircases, and safety fences damaged by Storm Sandy; $56,828.81 for electrical work to fit out the new Town Garage building; and $91,065.90 for energy-efficiency improvements at Town Hall.

The Board of Selectmen adopts and forwards to a town vote the Town Charter changes recommended by the Charter Review Commission.

The town Ethics Commission rules that Water Pollution Control Authority employee Robbie Marshall cannot be paid for town website hosting services while also being an employee.

September

The Old Saybrook Youth & Family Services agency holds a successful Family Day on the Town Green and the Chamber of Commerce a successful Business Showcase this month.

The Board of Finance votes to send $15.1 million in capital spending requests to the voters. The spending is divided into three question: $9.925 million for a new police station; $3.9 million for major school capital maintenance projects including replacement of the middle school roof, elementary school windows, and the high school track and tennis courts; and $1.2 million for a new artificial turf field at the high school.

The new town mini-golf course at Saybrook Point as well as the new Ferry Road Athletic Field open this month to much fanfare.

The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection's Dennis Greci tells the town he will no longer approve payments from Clean Water Funds to pay Mike Evangelisti's WPCA site manager salary. Conflict of interest between his private and public work was cited. The Board of Selectmen adopts a new policy to prevent other employee conflicts.

October

Town voters approve all three capital spending questions, thereby authorizing the town to sell $15.1 million in new bonds to finance them.

Johanna Jodi Endrich, a former kindergarten teacher at Goodwin Elementary School for 35 years, gives a bequest of $108,390 to the school to support children with needs.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation holds a public meeting to discuss its plan to develop a parking lot for the train station with 200 spaces on land now owned by David Mack. The new lot could be completed within a year or by December 2014.

The Zoning Commission approves a text change for developable land within an incentive housing zone. The change allows Eastpointe Development to submit a site plan for a multi-family development on North Main Street with 186 units rather than 280 units.

The iconic Dock & Dine Restaurant at Saybrook Point opens for its final week before proceeding with a plan to demolish it and rebuild above the flood lines at an elevation 14 feet higher.

November

With no opposition, the three incumbent members of the Board of Selectmen win re-election. Re-elected are First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Jr., Selectman Scott Giegerich, and Selectman Steve Gernhardt. The town charter changes are also adopted.

Two new hires become town employees this month: Susan Beckman, the town's new part-time economic development director, and Stephen Mongillo, the new Water Pollution Control Authority program administrator.

The Zoning Commission approves a non-profit group's application to build 15 new affordable housing units at the Sheffield Street senior housing complex.

Both the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education vote to form a building subcommittee to oversee the design, bidding, and construction process for the projects to replace the tennis courts, track, and build a new artificial turf field.

In this month's sale of $15.1 million in municipal bonds, the town has to pay investors just 3.23 percent interest instead of the 3.5 to 3.75 percent that was predicted. Over the life of the bonds, the town's debt payments will now be $300,000 less than projected.

Parks & Recreation Director Vicki Duffy is honored at the annual Town Meeting at which it's announced that this year's Annual Report will be dedicated to her.

December

Property owners receive official letters this month notifying them of the new values that this year's full inspection re-valuation set. Informal hearings begin this month for residents seeking to clarify or dispute the new values.

Despite a snowstorm, the town's annual Torchlight Parade marches on. The annual Winter Stroll of the Main Street Business Association has better weather. The Wreaths Across America convoy stops in Old Saybrook on its way to Arlington Cemetery.

The Point, LLC, receives approval from the Zoning Commission this month for its plan to rebuild a 13,500-square-foot Dock & Dine restaurant at an elevation 14 feet above the flood lines. Demolition of the existing structure will likely occur in January.

The annual Department of Public Works Toy Run at the Torchlight Parade and the Police Department's annual toy collection at Walmart collect many toys and gifts for the annual family holiday giving program of the Youth & Family Services agency.

Former selectman Velma Thomas, 53, a selectman for 10 years, passes away this month.

Old Saybrook High School teachers Gretchen Bushnell and Fred Frese are honored by the Connecticut Association of Schools for the Submarine Team program they run.

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