It was another banner year in Southington, complete with an exciting municipal election that shook things up, Southington’s season of festivals, progression on a few major projects, awards, and of course, community service. This week, we took a look back at the second half of the year, from July through December.
Last year’s municipal election had a number of surprises: namely several longstanding officials deciding not to run for reelection. Former board of education chair Brian Goralski (R), former council vice chair Dawn Miceli (D) and former council chair Mike Riccio (R) all chose not to run. While they took with them years of experience and knowledge, their vacancies opened doorways for others to step up to the plate.
Three planning and zoning commission members, Mike DelSanto (R), Paul Chaplinsky Jr. (R), and James Morelli (R) all left behind their positions on the PZC and made a leap for town council—and won. They bring with them years of experience in local government and in Southington’s land usage.
The Republicans celebrated a big win as results rolled in on the night of Election Day. Back in 2017, the Democrats took hold of the town council. In 2019, the Republicans took it back—with a supermajority. They also took a supermajority on the board of education and planning and zoning, and majority on the board of finance.
The following week after Election Day, the town clerk officially swore in all elected officials, and everyone got straight to work.
Of course, the municipal election is just one small piece of what Southington’s politicians accomplish during the year.
Back in July, the council heard a presentation from state officials regarding adding a public transportation bus route to the town of Southington. The conversation has come before the council in the past and not gone far, but in July, a motion was made to “approve further study of a possible route of bus transportation in Southington.” Something official was finally on the books.
All through the summer, construction continued on renovations to the Southington High School roof. The project was approved by voters in the 2018 Election Day as a referendum question. The work was completed on time before school began in August, and finished below the original cost estimate.
Starting Aug. 1, shoppers had to switch up their regular routine and think twice before bagging their items. Plastic bags would now cost 10 cents apiece, as part of the governor’s new budget. Shoppers were encouraged to take reusable shopping bags with them to stores.
In early August, library renovation plans continued to make progress. A planning committee was formed at the library to manage the renovation and expansion project. This year, in 2020, the committee hopes to go to referendum for the costs of the project. The committee selected an architectural company to work on the project. A representative from the company came forward at the December town council meeting to share very early, preliminary plans for the project after having reviewed hundreds of survey responses and conducting some inspections on the current library’s conditions.
At the August public works committee meeting, a detailed presentation was given regarding the downtown Plantsville safety upgrades project. Everything from the color of the benches, to an entire intersection realignment, was covered. As long as everything goes according to plan, the project will be completed in early winter of this year.
In November, after Election Day, the town council—now under Republican leadership—created a search committee for the next town attorney. The committee was formed with Democrats and Republicans, along with town staff. They ultimately selected Attorney Jeremy Taylor for the position.
Towards the end of the year, talk of the upcoming budget season began to ramp up. The board of education starts working on their budget in the fall, but hosts budget workshops for the public to attend in January. The first budget presentation is Jan. 9 at the regular BOE meeting. In late November 2019, the board of finance released their budget workshop schedule. The BOE, BOF and council work towards the final total budget all winter long into spring, and finally come to a close in May.
This year, the BOF decided to try something new. At their first meeting after Election Day, they set a “guidance” for the budget, asking that the board of education and the town government’s total budget not reach over a 1.5% increase to the mill rate.
The second half of the year in Southington means one thing: festival season has begun. This year, the annual Italian American Festival went as smoothly as could be in its 15th year, drawing crowds in to experience the Italian heritage in Southington’s roots through food, music and entertainment.
Just after the Italian American festival comes another food-filled event: A Taste of Southington, hosted by the Barnes Museum. The event showcases dishes from local restaurants and invites families and friends to give something new a try. There are new restaurants featured each year, alongside some longtime favorites.
Then, of course, comes Southington’s most popular event of the year that draws in crowds from across Connecticut and even beyond: the Apple Harvest Festival. The 51st AHF kept up with its now longstanding traditions, and in that, drew thousands of people to the downtown area of town. Delores Hall was crowned as the 2019 Granny Apple after her granddaughter, Kaylee Hall, a DePaolo Middle School sixth grader, wrote the winning essay of why her grandmother should be named Granny Apple. The AHF hosts and hostesses were led by the 2019 Queen Brianna Harris, and the 2019 parade Grand Marshal John Myers held his head up proudly during the parade. There were contests, carnival rides, apple fritters, a laser light show, and more. Popular rock band, the Spin Doctors, held a concert the second weekend on the main stage. The two-weekend event puts Southington on the map each year as a destination-location.
White Christmas in the Community went off without a hitch the first weekend of December drawing hundreds in to both downtown Southington and downtown Plantsville. Exciting holiday events were planned in both locations, and several means of transportation brought families from one destination to the other. There was music, games, giveaways, crafts, horse-drawn carriage rides and so much more. Two lucky children got to light the greens at both locations.
Outside of “festival season,” there are plenty of events that occur in town. in August, the Southington YMCA inducted several new members into the YMCA Hall of Fame during a member appreciation picnic. Camp Sloper photographer Terri Connellan, aquatics director Barbara Glaude, and Bethany and Pat Rosin were inducted. Nicholas Leadbeater was the most frequent “Y-er,” volunteer of the year was Paul Sirois, and the late George Moore was honored for his commitment to the YMCA. The next week, more than 500 youth participated in the annual Race4Chase triathlon at YMCA Camp Sloper.
In November, the local American Legion, Kiltonic Post 72, celebrated 100 years of support for troops and community at a gala at the Aqua Turf Club. The post received a proclamation from the state of Connecticut. The post’s official date of foundation was Dec. 13, 1919.
Also in November, A WWII veteran, Anthony Rosenthal, 97, was presented with medals by officials at LiveWell in Plantsville. He had served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Wichita, CA-45, a heavy cruiser that began WWII on the European coast before being transferred to the Pacific Theater where she remained for the remainder of the war.
The Southington Public School system kept busy this fall. Back in August, Derynoski Elementary School won a new playscape valued at approximately$25,000 through a competitive contest that involved students, parents, teachers and community members alike.
For Veterans Day, students in Southington learned about the meaning of the day straight from the source through several Veterans Day events held across the school system. At Oshana Elementary School, students hosted a breakfast for veterans. Students held various ceremonial activities for the attendees, including songs, poems, and the traditional white table ceremony. They also handed out hand-made thank-you cards.
Two SHS seniors were recognized with the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) student recognition award. Kelly Bergland and Caleb Richert were selected for their leadership service to the school, academic prowess relative to ability, and services to the community.
Southington is known to be a very generous community. here are just a few of the acts of kindness we witnessed this year.
Bread for Life launched a summer lunch program to serve Southington’s youth, who normally are served a free or reduced lunch at school but do not receive that meal over the summer.
In November, The United Way of Southington’s annual Christmas fundraiser, the Festival of Wreathes, rose over $10,000. The money benefits the charitable work of the organization.
Forces gathered to donate gifts and food items for Thanksgiving and Christmas at the Southington Community Services and Bread for Life.
At the end of the year, LISA, Inc. received a generous donation from Bob’s Discount Furniture. The company donated over $35K worth of furniture to the program’s Plainville residential home, which houses young adults transitioning from the foster care system to independent living.
All in all, it was a busy year in town. We can’t wait to see what we accomplish in 2020.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.