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

The field’s first moment in the spotlight came after roughly two months of steady construction since the field was approved by town officials earlier this year. Before that, representatives of the local sports teams had advocated for years to replace the grass at the high school. Late last year, a new Turf Committee was formed to explore the issue and ultimately make the final recommendation.

Officials were also pleased that the final cost of the field is expected to come in slightly under-budget. Final details are still being worked out, but a savings between $5,000 and $10,000 is expected.

The Town Council voted unanimously in late August to pay for the construction costs of the impending artificial turf field at Southington High School through bonding, contradicting a recommendation made by the Board of Finance.

Earlier this year, the Council had made a formal motion to bond the approximately $960,000 project. A day later, the Board of Finance proposed an alternative plan to fund the field designed to save the town from various costs associated with bonding. Their plan recommended using $609,642 from the Self-Insurance account (the result of savings) and $310,358 from the town’s contingency fund. The Board of Education was also asked to contribute $40,000, but school officials expressed reluctance about this request.

Although bonding the project will bring interest costs and some fees, the council felt it was ultimately the safer route compared to the other option.

Backers of the turf project are counting on fundraising activities to help the town pay the ongoing costs of the field after it is constructed. These activities would be overseen by an advisory committee. Officials said there would be updated information about this part of the process in the future.

School officials are already fielding offers to use the facility for state playoff games.

North Center opens

Construction work at the new North Center municipal building was still in full swing in August, but several town departments completed the move into the new facility with others joining them the following month.

After a series of delays, the Engineering, Planning, Building and Economic Development departments became the first to migrate from Town Hall to their new home. The wide open offices and hallways were a stark contrast to what the departments had been used to.

Town officials held an official ribbon cutting ceremony in December to commemorate the opening of the building.

The North Center plan involved selling the vacant school to Borghesi Building and Engineering for $1. The company would then renovate the school into a new municipal center and lease it back to the town for eight years. The town would have the option to purchase the building at that time, though it would need to be approved by referendum.

The proposal initially ruffled the feathers of some town politicians, but things seemed to have died down.

The plan allowed the town to vacate both the George Gura Building and the school system’s current headquarters on Beecher Street, which was given back to the town. The future of the Beecher Street property is still being determined by officials.

Arts at the Gura Building

After almost a year of advocacy, Southington Community Cultural Arts (SCCA) was given approval by the Town Council to begin the early stages of their plans for an arts center at the Gura Building in September.

After months of deliberation at the Council level that was often heated, between councilors and audience members alike, a small committee of councilors and SCCA members was convened to work out a compromise. The final plan passed 8-1.

According to a memorandum of understanding read aloud at the meeting, the SCCA was required to perform a feasibility study at their expense within 90 days. This study was completed and the group will have 18 months to raise 80 percent of the estimated costs of renovating the Gura Building once the Council gives its formal approval. If the fundraising does not reach this goal within that time, the agreement will be null and void.

Before being issued a certificate of occupancy for the building, the SCCA will have to document that they have at least $100,000 available to put towards operating costs of the arts center. Then the town will lease the building to the group for 20 years for one dollar each year.

Phosphorous pain

Southington officials are on the verge of a deal with environmental agencies to address phosphorous in the town’s wastewater to an extent that won’t bring about the massive costs they have feared. There is not yet a formal agreement, but councilors remain optimistic.

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