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A look back at 2012 in Darien

Published 9:10 am, Friday, December 28, 2012

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  • Stephen Mather Road in Darien, near Mansfield Avenue, is completely blocked by a fallen tree from the strong winds of Hurricane Sandy, which touched down on Oct. 22, 2012. Photo: Contributed
    Stephen Mather Road in Darien, near Mansfield Avenue, is completely blocked by a fallen tree from the strong winds of Hurricane Sandy, which touched down on Oct. 22, 2012. Photo: Contributed

 

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In 2012, Sandy pummeled Darien and its coastline, residents demanded and received a sidewalk policy and the town said goodbye to a good friend. Here's a look back at what happened in town.

Sandy knocks a punch

Superstorm Sandy rocked the tri-state area in October leaving millions without power, and Darien was no exception with more than 90 percent of Connecticut Light & Power customers powerless the day after the storm.

Darien opened an emergency shelter at the high school for four nights, during which it housed 75 residents and nine pets.

In its wake, the storm left Darien with 146 downed trees, 71 downed trees with utility wires in them, 72 blocked roads (12 of which were inaccessible to emergency vehicles), 17 uninhabitable homes, and 21 homes, two commercial buildings and three town facilities that suffered varying degrees of damage, one of which was the Darien Boat Club.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the storm will cost Darien about $1 million -- four times that of any storm on record in Darien.

Pathway to

sidewalks installed

In January, the possibility of installing more lighting along Hoyt Street re-sparked an ongoing debate about sidewalks in Darien. Forty-one residents of Hoyt Street brought forth a petition urging the town to install sidewalks on there and for First Selectman Jayme Stevenson to contact the state about obtaining an encroachment permit in order to build the sidewalk.

As a result of the debate, and because there were no existing guidelines for sidewalk installation, the Board of Selectmen, in collaboration with Darien Police Department, created a new sidewalk installation policy.

While no sidewalks have been installed yet, Hoyt Street residents are not without hope. In her town update, Stevenson said several outstanding and new sidewalk requests will be evaluated against the new policy criteria during the upcoming budget cycle.

Adding up the numbers

In January, the Board of Education approved an $80.3 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13 after it recommended a decrease from Superintendent Stephen Falcone's $80.59 million request. The budget represented a 5.26 percent, or $4.4 million, increase from 2011-12's $76.3 million.

Not everyone was happy with the number, though. In April, the Board of Finance asked the Board of Education to cut an additional $293,000 to hold the mill rate increase at 4 percent. The finance board already had cut $2.2 million from the municipal budget, but a large portion of that came in the form of additional revenue and savings in health care.

In May, the Representative Town Meeting adopted a $79.983 million budget. In June, however, the Board of Education unanimously passed a recommendation from Falcone to cut $340,000.

Coach suspended

Darien High School girls lacrosse coach Lisa Lindley was suspended earlier in the year for the remainder of the 2012 postseason.

Lindley, who was on paid administrative leave, according to Superintendent Stephen Falcone, became visibly frustrated with her goalie and grabbed her by the helmet while leaning into her during a timeout in the first half of the FCIAC championship game on May 25.

Lindley, who has been a head coach at Darien High since 1994 and has won four CIAC state championships, will resume her coaching duties as Darien's girls lacrosse coach in 2013.

Bag ban bagged

Choose to Reuse brought forth the idea of imposing an ordinance to ban all Darien businesses from using plastic bags in favor of either reusable or paper ones in late 2011. It was the subject of much debate by store owners, town officials, the environmental protection commission and, of course, Choose to Reuse throughout 2012.

In September, a decision on the ban was finally made. The Darien Representative Town Meeting defeated the proposed plastic bag ban 46-36. In her state-of-the-town update, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the lengthy, passionate debate about the ban, while failing in its goal, succeeded in raising awareness about recycling.

Speaking their language

In 2011, the Board of Education approved a proposal for a world language program after years of debate. The program includes a 45-minute Spanish lesson once a week to kindergarten through fifth-grade students in the five elementary schools.

In 2012, when budgeting began, the Board of Education went through a lengthy debate on whether or not to fund the program. In February at a public hearing, parents and students made a plea to keep the world language program in the budget. Some board members felt the program wasn't robust enough to justify spending $344,000 while other members argued there never would be a good time to add the program.

It stayed in the budget, and in October, Judith Pandolfo, assistant superintendent for elementary education, told the board that the implementation of the program was enthusiastically received.

Let's all do `the shuffle'

The shuffle project, which involves moving the Board of Education to 35 Leroy Ave., renovating the Town Hall annex into a senior/community center and leaving the senior center on Edgerton Street to possibly be refurbished later, was approved in late 2011. The project will cost more than $7 million.

Work continued on the shuffle in 2012, including approval by the state Department of Education, advertising for bids and sending out notices to recommend general construction firms. In October, abatement work began, and in September bids went out for construction.

In 2013, the next phase of the shuffle will begin with the renovation of 35 Leroy Ave. and the Board of Education moving into its new home. Despite original plans for the Edgerton street property, the board might be in need of that space for classrooms if the increasing enrollment projections come to fruition.

Housing debate builds

Affordable housing received a lot of attention this year in Darien. In June, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a proposal on turning 30 Edgerton St. into affordable housing. It wasn't approved because the future of the Edgerton Street property is uncertain, but there was still a move forward for affordable housing in town.

In July, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy led state and town officials in the groundbreaking of The Heights at Darien, a redevelopment for 106 affordable housing units on Allen O'Neill Drive. The project has nine units completed; five are in phase two of development and nine others in phase one of development.

Affordable housing was also something heavy on the minds of town officials and state Legislature. Terrie Wood, who won her third term as state representative in November, said she was dedicated to getting statute 8-30g modified. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson shared a similar sentiment during her state-of-the-town address.

Home sweet home

for police

After a long road to get there, the $17.68 million project to expand the Police Department was completed in July despite a few surprises in the old building and a design overhaul of the shooting range. The new police department has been occupied since July, though it hadn't had any kind of formal grand opening.

After hearing of the need of space reports in 2006, it was determined that the Darien Police Headquarters needed an expansion. In spring 2008, the project was approved by the Representative Town Meeting. However, in fall 2008 bidding proved to be not fortuitous so the project went on hiatus until fall 2010.

Construction began in February 2011, and he work was completed "precisely on time," according to George Reilly, chairman of the Police Department Building Committee.

Tighe Sullivan

Tighe Sullivan, the husband of former Selectman Callie Sullivan, was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Mount Pocono, Pa., in October.

Sullivan was returning from a golf outing and heading toward the metro New York area, according to reports from the Pocono Record.

Sullivan was a co-founder, managing partner and chief operating officer of WCAS Fraser Sullivan Investment Management LLC, based in New York City and Darien, according to his profile on the company website. In addition to his wife of 24 years, he is survived by his three children, Jesse, Lila and Tiger.

The year in review was compiled by Megan Davis; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews