By SHERIDAN CYR
The town of Southington saw plenty of action in 2017. There were ups and downs, changes and traditions, gains and losses and everything in between during a municipal election year.
It’s tradition at The Observer to reflect on the year and look back at what was covered from Day 1 to Day 365.
Here’s a look at the biggest stories from 2017:
Southington High School was ranked 1,819th out of nearly 20,000 schools nationally and 38th best school in Connecticut by U.S. News. Some qualities that were considered for that placement included SHS’s 94 percent graduation rate, and a 30.1 College Readiness Level (CRI). Schools needed at least a 20.17 rate to be considered. In addition, 30 percent of students received college credit before graduating from high school, and 78 percent of AP tests were passed.
The Southington-Cheshire YMCA introduced a new sports center for young athletes that offered a long-term development plan for two age groups: 11 to 13 and 14 to 18. The classes see a maximum of 12 people and take place during after-school hours.
State Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Southington, Berlin) was welcomed into the House Chambers as the Speaker of the House on Jan. 4. He offered a speech that centered on bipartisanship.
The town’s first Little Free Library, spearheaded by Mary Sargent, was unveiled on Mt. Vernon Road.
Proposed changes to the town’s code of ethics were first presented to the council.
The YMCA held their annual “Forever Young” meeting honoring active senior citizens ages 80 and above. The meeting recognized Benny Cammuso as Person of the Year.
Bread for Life served their first meal in the new facility, featuring new amenities including industrial-sized freezers, ample storage space, office areas, a full kitchen and more.
The Main Street Community Foundation awarded $42,570 in grants to 15 local organizations.
YMCA’s Camp Sloper Polar Plunge raised $45,000 for camp scholarships.
The Zion Lutheran Church welcomed new pastor Daniel W. Hille.
The Board of Education unanimously passed their 2017-2018 budget “conservatively” and sent it off to seek approval by the Board of Finance.
Southington Community Service gave nearly 300 children Easter baskets complete with toys, candy, books, movie tickets and stuffed animals.
Fire Chief Harold “Buddy” Clark retired after 39 years of service. Eric Heath was appointed as interim chief.
The State of the Town address featured discussion on the waste recycling plant Quantum Biopower, plans to finish the rail trail, solar panels being installed on schools, and commended over 100,000 square feet of economic development aiding to new jobs and revenue for the town.
Peter Stallings came out of retirement to take on the role of Southington’s water pollution control superintendent. Amidst a $57 million project to update the crumbling water treatment facility, the superintendent retired. Stallings jumped into action.
Early construction broke ground at the new Calendar House senior center on Pleasant Street.
Plantsville Elementary School students raised $3,869 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center at their seventh annual Fox-A-Thon.
Volunteers, members of the Police Department, and Home Depot’s national organization donated materials and helped to install some much-needed renovations at the Southington Dog Pound.
DePaolo Middle School celebrated Pi Day by throwing plates of whipped cream at the faces of teachers who incorrectly answered trivia questions. The event was part of a celebration for great results in a school-wide fundraiser.
SHS students sought the help of the local library for a history project. The library digitalized local publications dating back to 1859 for students to study.
Kennedy and DePaolo Middle Schools performed “Beauty and the Beast” during the annual middle school production.
Southington’s Townwide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) kicked off “Good Deeds Week” and asked members of the YMCA, Town Council, Board of Education and other groups to pledge to do an act of kindness during the week.
The BOF adopted the 2017-18 fiscal year budget.
State Sen. Joe Markley (R-16) declared his campaign for lieutenant governor.
Home Depot donated and installed 50 new carpet squares to a third grade classroom at Thalberg Elementary School in response to a well-crafted persuasive essay written by a student.
Locals remembered longtime BOE member Zaya A. Oshana who passed away in early April. He served on the board for 34 years, and taught for over 40 years at a handful of different schools throughout his lifetime.
Flanders Elementary School celebrated 50 years.
Southington Public Schools were awarded with “Best Communities for Music Education” by the National Association of Music Merchants.
Gov. Dannel Malloy reported a graduation rate increase for the sixth year in a row across the state. The national average was 83.2 percent. State average was 87.4 percent. Southington soared over both averages with ease, coming in at a 98 percent graduation average.
Southington UNICO awarded Alphonse D’Angelo with the 2016 Gold Medal Award, the organization’s most prestigious award since 1945.
Lincoln College held their 50th graduation commencement, offering 150 degrees and certificates, and heard from its first female keynote speaker, Rhonda M. Glover.
The council approved changes to the code of ethics, adding financial disclosures for town officials and changing the procedures for ethics appeals.
Witchdoctor brewing company opened on Center Street.
SHS hosted a statewide Olympic event, bringing together athletes from Unified Sports and mainstream SHS athletes.
Plantsville native Steven Szumiesz won over $18,000 in prizes on the Price is Right
Scholarship Night ceremony at SHS presented 163 scholarships to students prepping for college.
Locals made their way downtown for annual Memorial Day celebrations.
Relay for Life raised $100,000 for the American Cancer Society at the annual event on the high school track.
The BOE recognized 27 students for science achievements at state and national levels.
SHS announced valedictorian Nickolina Doran, salutatorian Nathan Simard, and essayist Lauren Furtak to represent the Class of 2017.
BFL and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church partnered to build the “common good garden” to feed BFL clients. Local Boy Scout Connor Lincavicks brought his Eagle Scout project vision to life and built a shed for the garden.
UNICO of Southington honored the top 25 SHS Class of 2016 students at the 72nd annual Top 25 Dinner.
The SHS Class of 2017 graduated 492 seniors during high school commencement festivities at the high school with 22 retirees and a number of community volunteers recognized for their work.
Summer Youth Theater filled up their summer theater openings in just 52 seconds.
Retired Southington Police Department Captain Lowell DePalma was named the Grand Marshal of the 2017 Apple Harvest Festival Parade.
Flanders Elementary School gained a new principal, Katie T. Guerrette.
Town Councilor and retired Southington Police Department Capt. Edward Pocock III was honored as 2017 Alumnus of the Year by Southern Police Institute.
UNICO of Southington announced local builder Ron Ingriselli as their new president.
Lake Compounce permanently closed the SkyRide.
Candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties were endorsed by party leaders and given the go-ahead to run for Town Council, BOE, BOF, Planning and Zoning Commission and Water Commission.
In a partnership with Southington schools and the local Lowe’s, all eight elementary schools received raised garden beds, which were integrated into their science curriculum.
The 13th annual Italian-American Food Festival was a great success.
A former BOF member filed a Freedom of Information complaint in Hartford, citing an illegal meeting between certain members of the council. This became a heated topic during the election season.
Southington’s second-ever Town Manager, Garry Brumback, announced his plans to retire.
The 16th annual Taste of Southington went on despite a torrential downpour at the Barnes Museum.
BOE partnered with a community booster club, Southington Middle School Athletics Association, to raise funds to continue middle school sports after they were cut from the education budget.
Southington schools opened doors to new and returning students for the 2017-18 year on Aug. 31.
Residents gathered in downtown Plantsville for a touching annual Sept. 11 memorial ceremony.
Assistant Town Manager Mark Sciota was voted by the council to take Brumback’s place as Town Manager when he officially leaves office in December.
A second Little Free Library, also spearheaded by Mary Sargent, opened on the Southington rail trail.
SHS student and Apple Harvest Festival hostess Molly Wright was crowned AHF Queen at the annual gala.
The council passed a retainer agreement to join Waterbury and over 20 other towns and cities in the state in a lawsuit against pharmaceutical producers to fight opioid addiction.
Week one of the 49th AHF saw great weather and lots of foot traffic. Pie and fritter eating contests, the Granny Apple contest, parade, fireworks and road races went off without a hitch. Week two continued the fun with a highly successful craft fair and plenty of other amenities.
A multi-year, privately funded project crafted by the hands of several local organizations unveiled a Christopher Columbus commemorative bust on the municipal center’s lawn. The project received criticism, and a group enacted a peaceful protest. Afterwards, both sides of the argument commended the respectfulness of the opposing side.
SHS Key Club and several groups in town took the drug-free pledge at the Red Ribbon Rally.
The Leading Ladies annual luncheon showcased Diana Sheard, better known locally as Valentine the Clown, as this year’s Leading Lady.
The council approved an annual salary of $169,069 for Southington Town Manager Mark Sciota, along with benefits and a $250 monthly vehicle allowance. The contract will take effect on Feb. 1, 2018 and makes Southington’s rookie Town Manager the third highest paid manager in the state.
SHS’s Wall of Honor inducted six new members. Stephen Gasecki, Mark Boxer, Walter Hushak, and Robert Calandra were inducted, along with posthumous inductions for Pfc. Charles Bradley Remer and Lance Cpl. Raymond Arthur Burgess, casualties of the Vietnam War. The Remer and Burgess families were presented posthumous high school diplomas.
Halloween celebrations kicked off at the Village in Plantsville and the Drive-In with record crowds.
Urbin T. Kelley Elementary School celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Democrats regained control of the Town Council in the Nov. 7 elections. Republicans held power of the BOE, BOF, PZC and Water Commission.
The council named Chris Palmieri as chair, Dawn Miceli as vice chair, and Victoria Triano as minority leader.
BOE named Brian Goralski as chair and Terri Carmody as vice chair. BOF named John Leary as chair, and PZC named Michael DelSanto as chair.
American Legion Kiltonic Post 72 held their annual Veterans Day Ceremony.
Brumback served his last day and was honored with the Compass Award at the YMCA’s annual Forever in Blue Jeans fundraiser.
The Drive-In invited Santa Claus to visit Southington youth and hear their wishes.
Lake Compounce opened their annual Holiday Lights park-wide attraction.
White Christmas in the Community saw their most successful year yet, combining Plantsville and downtown Southington’s lighting celebrations and highlighting local businesses. The event drew thousands to the staggered lighting ceremonies.
The council appointed the town’s first female Town Attorney, Carolyn Futtner.
The waste recycling plant Quantum Biopower announced it was now in the energy-producing phase.
The YMCA announced Mark DeFeo as Person of the Year.
The Southington Middle School Athletic Association (SMSAA) reported it successfully funded fall and winter sports, and has a good outlook on spring sports funding.
Follow Southington news throughout the year in the Southington Observer, and read us on-line at www.SouthingtonObserver.com.
To contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.
To contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.