Looking back at 2012, part 1

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Thu., Dec. 27, 2012
Dawn Maselek became Vernon's new assistant town administrator. File photos.
Dawn Maselek became Vernon's new assistant town administrator. File photos.

Although the area escaped the winter of 2012 without any major storms, there was still some fallout from the October 2011 snowstorm that had to be dealt with. For one, the town of Tolland had to appropriate more than $600,000 for cleanup, in the hopes of receiving FEMA funds to cover most of that.

Tolland got off relatively cheaply, utilizing town employees, as well as local volunteers for the cleanup, while many other towns hired contractors. “I don’t know any other town that did what we did,” said Werbner, adding that many towns spent millions on cleanup costs.

State Sen. Gary LeBeau (D-3) was moved by the 200 letters he received from Ellington Middle School students, and visited the school, where he faced some tough questions from eighth-graders at a forum on Jan. 18, including questions about his proposal to down-size the state legislature. “I was impressed by the letters,” LeBeau said. “I could see the good thinking and I could tell that the writing was affected by the good thinking.”

Student Kylie Papineau said she intended to discuss what she learned with her family. “I will probably talk to my parents,” she said. “Before, I told them that I didn't think [LeBeau's bill] was a good idea. Now I will tell them I think it's a better idea, and tell them why, based on his information.”

In February, state legislators Tim Ackert (R-8), Pam Saywer (R-55), Claire Janowski (D-56), Christopher Davis (R-57) and Gregory Haddad (D-54) sat down with local educators for a breakfast at Rockville High School to discuss legislation affecting local schools, and magnet school tuition was one of the bigger topics. Vernon Board of Education Chair Dean Houle said his district currently budgets around $450,000 for magnet school tuition. “Just think of how much more we'd be doing in our district with that $450,000,” Houle said.

“Please do nothing,” Ellington Superintendent Stephen Cullinan said to the legislators. “Because, in effect, what happens is that most of the legislation that has happened has had unintended consequences.”

Many local volunteers were honored with awards from the Vernon Parks and Recreation Department. Among them was Rockville High School baseball coach Art Wheelock for his work with pee-wee baseball, which started in 1986. “He has worked with many kids throughout town,” said director Bruce Dinnie, “and the staff he uses are Rockville High School students. He goes above and beyond being a supervisor. He teaches them life skills.”

A February referendum in Ellington netted support for a school construction plan and a new senior center. The $23.5 million total was approved for re-construction of a large portion of Crystal Lake School, as well as a brand new senior center building.

Board of Education Chairman Dan Keune's reaction was that saying he is pleased is a gross understatement, but awaiting the results was stressful. “To have that many people put that many hours over these many years, and have it all come down to one day made it the most difficult day that you could imagine,” Keune said.

Vernon's Board of Education learned that it would be taking part in Gov. Dannell Malloy's education reform program, and would have to make some changes in accordance with guidelines from the state Board of Education, after it was identified as one of the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state.

“I don't believe that about Vernon,” said Superintendent Dr. Mary Conway, adding that several new plans and initiatives would be started. “I believe that we have a lot of work to do. I think we have a lot of change to do, and we are up to that task.”

The first-ever Miss Greater Rockville pageant was held on March 17 at Rockville High School. Katlyn Lewicke, a Smith College grad and Milford resident, earned the title. “It’s an amazing honor,” Lewicke said, “especially to be the first.”

Some winter sports teams in the area made it to the state tourneys. The Tolland and Ellington boys' basketball teams each made first-round showings.

The Rockville/Manchester/Stafford hockey team took a second-round, overtime loss to Newington-Berlin on the chin.

The Ellington girls' basketball team had a fantastic run, all the way to the semi-finals, where they lost to neighboring Tolland. Then, the Eagles went onto the Mohegan Sun Arena and lost a heartbreaking Class M final match to Weaver.

“I’m proud of this whole season,” said Tolland coach Rocco Sansone. “I would have loved to have seen them win it. When we really sit down and breathe, they’ll realize that everybody at the school is proud of them, they got this far, and it was really a great year.”

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