Looking Back at 2012, part 2
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Thu., Dec. 27, 2012
It was onward and upward in the spring of 2012. The Rockville Public Library received enough funding to begin its $3.3 million expansion project. The new addition and renovations will include an elevator connecting all three floors, a new portico and entranceway, a new young adult section, new computers and a conference room with up-to-date technology.
The Rockville Bank Foundation was among the many contributors. At a reception in March, Rockville Bank President and CEO Bill Crawford said, “I know how important these buildings, and institutions, are. There's something about having a place to come to, where you can be with friends and neighbors, and learn.” The project broke ground in June.
Many neighboring businesses benefited from the Tolland County Chamber of Commerce's annual Business to Business Showcase. While vendors saw some foot traffic from “off-the-street” visitors, the participating businesses made a lot of connections with each other. “This is a win-win,” said Kristi Dougherty, executive director of Vernon Manor. “I am overwhelmed with how many people show up and the types of displays that they have.”
Tolland approved its budget on the first referendum try on May 1. The 1.85-percent increase means taxpayers will pay just .87 percent more over the current mill rate, bringing it to 29.99 mills. “We did not cut anything to bring down the budget,” Rubino said. “We moved some things around. No services were cut. We did not scoop out the guts of the budget. Everything is intact.”
Vernon also saw a slight increase – 1.65-percent – in its budget. Finance Officer James Luddeke explained that taxpayers only saw a .7 mill increase, resulting largely from an increased grand list.
After presenting the idea to parents at elementary schools across Vernon, the Board of Education quashed the notion of reconfiguring schools as a means to complying with the state-mandated education reform measures. Superintendent Mary Conway had been asked to explore the idea and report to the board, but overwhelmingly, families did not favor the idea.
Resident Charles Harlow said neighborhoods would become divided, which would be a disadvantage to residents. “This is kind of a quality of life issue for me and my family,” he said. “In today's world, it's really difficult to meet your neighbors. The way we've been meeting ours is through school. It's easier, if we're grouped together, to help each other.”
Citing tough competition from overseas competitors and challenging economic times, Amerbelle – Rockville's last remaining textile mill – announced in May that it would be closing its doors for good this summer. The building was more than 100 years old.
Lucerne Textiles (parent company of Amerbelle) owner Doug Rimsky said the employees knew the closing was on its way, and were aware of the attempts at keeping the factory running. “We were very open with everybody all along,” Rimsky said. “I think they believed me and trusted me. We did everything we could do to try to improve things.”
Just a couple of miles away, the Vernon Community Arts Center opened its doors, officially, with a ceremony on June 9. “This is a great day for Vernon,” Mayor George Apel said. “We have such a lovely new building here, for the arts.”
“Today is the culmination of more than seven years of vision, planning, design, and operational development,” said VCAC President Paul Shimer, adding that the opening made him feel “incredibly buoyant and very excited.”
Some area sports teams made splashes in spring tournaments. The Rockville baseball team was halted in a qualifying round game, while Tolland's baseball squad made a first-round tourney appearance, and Ellington went as far as the quarterfinals.
In lacrosse, the Tolland boys dropped a first-round game, while the Ellington girls were just edged in a 9-8 quarterfinal game.
The Tolland girls' track team earned top honors at the Class M meet and went on to place seventh in the statewide open.
Ellington's softball team had a first-round exit from the Class M tourney, while Tolland lasted a round further. It was the Rockville softball team that became queens of the hill by winning the Class L state title.
“The girls gave maximum effort on the field,” said Athletic Director Steven Phelps. “The girls had goals for each game this season, and they knew how to change those negative thoughts that creep in once in a while to positive thoughts.”