With 2012 behind us, we want to take a moment to look ahead to 2013. The following is a synopsis of what’s coming in the year ahead.
Borough to take lead on downtown development
At the end of last year the Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted in favor of moving forward with the purchase of the General DataComm property, located at 6 Rubber Ave.
The property was an integral part of developer Alex Conroy’s Renaissance Place before the plan fell through last year.
In the coming months the borough plans on finalizing and executing the contract, which carries a price tag of $2 million, and gaining control over the property.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said that once the borough has moved beyond the General DataComm property contract it will begin seeking requests for proposals.
This means that the borough will solicit developers for ideas and begin to choose the developers whose plans are most inline with the borough’s vision for the future of downtown.
Throughout the entire process, Mezzo has said that the borough would be best served by a downtown that combines residential and retail development.
The borough has hired an outside company to come in and do a full analysis of its government.
The company, Blum Shapiro, will analyze every aspect of the borough’s government and make recommendations for the way that the borough can improve itself and streamline its government processes.
The study, which will begin early this year, will help the borough see the areas that it can improve itself, Mayor Robert Mezzo explained.
Mezzo said that the borough has already made significant changes to how it operates in the past few years, but that it is always helpful to have an outside opinion.
Adjusting to revaluation
The 2013-14 fiscal year’s budget will be a difficult one for the borough.
In 2012 Naugatuck did a revaluation on all of its properties, only to find that property values dropped an average of 20 percent.
This means that during the budget season the borough will need to make adjustments to the mill rate and budget to compensate for that loss of value.
The mill rate will be adjusted to match the decline in the property values, so most residents will not see much of a difference in property tax bills. However, because the mill rate will increase, vehicle taxes will increase.
NHS renovations to get underway
Any Naugatuck High School alumni who wish to take a last look at the high school they graduated from should do it soon.
In March, major renovations to the high school will begin. The $81 million project will completely restore the 53-year-old high school.
The project will with revamping the athletics fields, including a new synthetic field to replace the current football field.
Since the construction on the field will be in full swing as the school year comes to a close, the Class of 2013 will be graduating at The Palace Theater in Waterbury.
The field should be finished by the time school starts in the fall.
A change in leadership
In 2012 the Board of Education announced that Assistant Superintendent of Schools Brigitte Crispino would be retiring at the end of this school year and that Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson would have his contract extended to the end of the 2013-14 school year.
This means the search for a new assistant superintendent has already begun and will continue through this year until they have found a suitable applicant to replace Crispino.
The search for the superintendent position will begin closer to the end of this year, with a decision coming sometime on 2014.
One of the big changes coming to the borough schools is new technology.
According to Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson the schools will be using new online platforms when the students start the 2013-14 school year in August.
These online platforms allow the students a greater access to information whether they are at school, home, or the library.
Tindall-Gibson hopes the new school year will have more teachers and students using the vast array of online information sources that the district makes available to them.
What to do with Tracy Lewis House?
Determining what to do with the town-owned property at 35 Wolfe Ave. is a process that will continue in the new year.
The property is a 19th century home that was once owned by president of the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Co. Tracey Lewis and is now known simply as the Tracy Lewis House.
Some residents feel that the house, which was bought in 2008, has value for future generations beyond the brick-and-mortar costs.
However, other residents are concerned that it would cost the town more to do the necessary repairs to the house than to tear it down and build another one in its place. They feel that a new building would suit the town’s needs better than keeping the old one.
In 2010 the Board of Selectmen voted to raze the Tracy Lewis House, with the plan of building a Community Media Center on the site. However, since the time of that vote, no movement has been made on the house, either for restoration or destruction.
First Selectmen Gerard Smith said the Board of Selectmen will be exploring the options of what to do with the house and what uses the property can be put towards more in-depth this coming year.
Makeover of Toby’s Pond continues
2012 saw some major cleanup work happen at Toby’s Pond. However, the work there is not done yet, First Selectman Gerard Smith said.
O&G Industries donated the 45-acre park to Beacon Falls in 2009 and the town has been trying to make it attractive ever since.
Rich Minnick, the steward of Toby’s Pond, has been working with numerous volunteers to help make the park more accessible to visitors. In 2012 much of the brush was cleared away and a trail had begun to be built around the pond.
Dan Capone of Naugatuck Troop 138 worked on clearing out a trail about a third of a mile long and campsite at the pond
This coming year, the rest of the trail will be completed, so that visitors will be able to walk completely around the pond, Smith said.
The spillways in the pond, which have been choked with bushes and debris, will be cleared as well.
A better view
In 2012 the construction on the town’s streetscape was finished, a ribbon cutting was held, and cyclists rode on it as part of a trip down the 44 mile stretch of the Naugatuck Valley Greenway Project.
While the construction on the project is finished, First Selectman Gerard Smith said that there is still more work to be done to complete the town’s portion of the Greenway.
This year volunteers will clear out the brush along the river so that people who are using the greenway will have an unobstructed view of the river.
Studying waste water facility
The town plans to continue its study of its waste water treatment facility this year.
The study, which was budgeted at $300,000 in the $1.4 million note that the town approved at referendum in 2012, will be the first study ever done on this facility.
The study, which began in July, will take approximately two years. This year the study will look at water flows and help create a flow chart in the spring time.
There will also be cameras installed in the pipes as part of the study this year.
Once this study is complete, the town will be able to fix both the roads and sewer problems at once instead of having to dig up newly paved roads to fix unforeseen problems.
Health district decision to wait
In May Chesprocott Health District sent the towns of Cheshire, Prospect, and Wolcott an additional bill of $1 per resident to cover its budget deficit.
In response to that, the three towns began looking into alternatives to the health district, which included finding a different health district.
Mayor Robert Chatfield said that Chesprocott has since made significant changes to the Board of Directors and the way it does business.
Therefore, the towns will remain in the Chesprocott throughout 2013. However, they will be watching Chesprocott closely to make sure that there are no more problems.
Therefore, 2013 will be a very important year for Chesprocott. If it is unable to remain within its budget again and the towns were to leave it, that would be the end of the health district.
A new face in Hartford
For the first time in 18 years, Prospect will have a new state representative.
Republican Lezlye Zupkus defeated incumbent Democratic Vickie Nardello in the 89th House District race in November. Zupkus will be sworn into office next week.
The 89th district is comprised of Bethany, Cheshire, and Prospect. While Nardello won both Bethany and Cheshire, Zupkus’ win in Prospect was large enough to carry her to an overall victory.
Aria to open
The work on Aria Wedding and Banquet Facility continues into the new year, with the completion of the building slated for this year.
Joe Geloso Sr. and his son Joe Geloso Jr., owners of the former Villa Rosa in Waterbury, are moving their operation to Prospect.
The 30,000-square-foot banquet hall will have two separate large function rooms, each with its own cocktail room, terrace, patio, and garden for outdoor wedding ceremonies.
The family broke ground for Ari last April and expects to have the facility open for business by the end of March.
Construction to begin on school projects
Over the past year, Region 16 school officials have been fine tuning the plans for a new elementary school in Prospect and renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls. This year, shovels will be put into the ground.
Construction of a new, roughly 85,000-sqaure-foot pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school at 75 New Haven Road in Prospect is slated to begin in April or May. The school, once completed, will replace Community and Algonquin schools in Prospect.
As soon as school gets out in June, the renovations to Laurel Ledge are scheduled to begin. The crux of the renovations will be building corridors to connect all of the buildings at the campus-style school.
Voters approved bonding $47.5 million for the project in December of 2011. The project also includes building a new district office on the Algonquin School site once that school is closed.
The Board of Education is planning two meetings this month to update residents on the status of the project. Superintendent of Schools Tim James said the meetings are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29 at Long River Middle School in Prospect and Jan. 30 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.
School safety a top priority
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, school safety has been on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The issue of how to deal with school safety both in the short and long term is one of the biggest matters that Region 16 school district will address in the coming year, according to Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James.
In the short term, James said the district will be doing an assessment of every lock in the schools early this month.
The long term approach will be an analysis and expansion of the district’s school safety guidelines and framework. It will take time, James said, and parents along with staff will be part of the process.
“We really want to have safe and secure schools,” James said.
Continue with innovative initiatives
The district rolled out two innovative programs this school year designed to enhance student learning.
In October the Board of Education approved grants for 13 projects under the innovative grant initiative. The initiative provided funding, a total of $10,000, to fund projects that support instructional activities that fall outside of the current curriculum.
The projects include a Ukulele Lab for music classes at Community School in Prospect and a book making club at Long River Middle school in Prospect.
The district is also piloting an iPad initiative this school year.
Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James in the coming year, the district will look to continue and expand on these and similar programs.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.