Top stories of 2012; Taking a look at headlines of the year

The past year in Southington saw change, rebirth, drama and headaches. The former chair of the Town Council stepped down after receiving a promotion within the police department, in an effort to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest. The fire chief found himself under an investigation. The Board of Finance briefly went out of compliance with the town charter due to the mill rate. Preparations for an art center are underway, the turf field was installed and municipal departments have moved into a new center at the old North Center School. A long time state legislator retired and a local girl was named Miss Teen USA.

Below are the top stories of 2012.

Sewer Assessment 34

After two months of back and forth, he Town Council reached a final decision on Sewer Assessment 34 and the town spent $475,000 to offset the massive cost burden on the residents involved.

Sewer Assessment 34 refers to three projects which were completed in 2009. The first project was on a section of West Street. The second project was for a small neighborhood on Williamsburg Drive. The third was for a series of small streets, including Annelise Avenue, Skyline Drive, Cedar Drive and Reussner Road.

The three projects involve 72 sewer customers. During public hearings for these projects, residents in the areas were told they would be assessed between $60 and $80 per foot of street frontage on their property, with a one-time lateral charge of $750. The projects were completed, but the property owners were not billed. In the meantime, assessment and lateral fees doubled, meaning that the bills were up to twice as much as the original estimates.

Pocock resigns

This year saw a change in leadership on the Town Council as Town Council Chairman Edward Pocock, III stepped down from the council and Vice-Chairman John Dobbins assumed his position of leadership in May.

Pocock, a Republican, was a police lieutenant at the time he was elected to the council in 2007. His decision to step down came shortly after his promotion to Captain. Over the years, he recused himself from the council when it made decisions that specifically impacted the police force. During the annual budget deliberations, he would ask the rest of the council to vote on the police department’s funding as a separate item so he could abstain. After the promotion, Pocock felt the only way to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest was to leave the council.

Pocock was named Town Council Chairman after the Republicans won a majority on the council in the 2009 elections. Following this, he introduced a number of new subcommittees to address various local issues and threw his support behind major changes like the hiring of a new town manager and the North Center plan.

Mill rate drama

The town had to wait longer than normal for a new mill rate to be set this year.

The Board of Finance set the new fiscal year’s mill rate at 27.48 during a brief special meeting in June, ending partisan deadlock that briefly brought the board out of compliance with the town charter.

According to the charter, the Board of Finance is required to set a mill rate by the third Monday in May. However, it also specifically states that four affirmative votes are required.

Chairman John Leary was traveling on business during the board’s May 16 meeting (he would later vote in favor of the mill rate), leaving the three remaining Republicans unable to set a new mill rate when the board’s two Democrats were unwilling to support it.

Democrats Sandra Feld and Tony Casale were disappointed with the final budget numbers and said they were representing concerned taxpayers in opposing that budget’s resulting mill rate.

Zeke retires from state legislature

After ten years representing the 81st district in the state legislature, Representative Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski retired earlier this year.

David Zoni, a former Town Councilor and an active community volunteer, will replace Zoni in the legislature, following a win over Republican Cheryl Lounsbury in November.

Zalaski said the recent death of his father led to a desire to spend more time with family.

Zalaski was first elected to represent the district, which is entirely inside Southington, in 2002. An employee at the Associated Spring factory in Bristol, he made the needs of working people a priority while serving in the legislature. Eventually, he was named Chairman of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

Zalaski threw his support behind multiple increases of the state’s minimum wage, access to health care for those without insurance and a bill that made Connecticut the first state in the nation to make sick leave for employees mandatory.

Artificial Turf

The artificial turf field at Southington High School opened with a win on Nov. 1, as the girls field hockey team defeated Maloney High School on the brand new facility.

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