Top 10 stories of 2017

The following articles were the 10 most popular news stories of 2017 published in The Shelton Herald.

  1. Republicans win big

Parkins loses spot on P&Z

In arguably the most anticipated race in the 2017 election, the Planning and Zoning chairman of eight years, Ruth Parkins, lost her spot on the commission to Save Our Shelton representative Mark Widomski.

“The voters have spoken,” was the phrase most frequently used to describe the results of the 2017 election in Shelton.

With Mayor Mark Lauretti running unopposed, which guaranteed him a 14th term in office, some residents were concerned about a possible negative effect on voter turnout leading up to the election.

Ultimately, the total voter turnout decreased from 2015’s 41%, when the city had a mayoral race, to this year’s approximately 31% voter turnout.

With the help of residents who also support “responsible development,” Republican candidate Widomski was elected to the P&Z commission after receiving 5,111 votes. Both incumbent Commissioners Jimmy Tickey (D) and Tony Pogoda (R) were also re-elected to the P&Z after receiving 3,828 and 4,822 votes.

Chairman Parkins, although she received 3,991 total votes, lost her seat to Widomski because of the rule that no more than two candidates from the same party may be elected.

“It’s time to move on,” said Parkins.

Widomski agreed.

“The residents of Shelton have spoken up for what they wanted and now we’re going to move forward,” Widomski said.

According to Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Widomski’s winning the race gained him support from the Republican Town Committee.

“He sure did,” said Anglace. “He’s going to be working with everybody and try to make things go in the best direction for the city.”

Since the new P&Z members were announced, Commissioner Virginia Harger was named as the new chair.

For the full story on the results of the 2017 election, visit SheltonHerald.com and search “Republicans win big.”

2) Potential burlesque-themed cafe causes uproar among residents

Despite never having appeared before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, a burlesque-themed cafe announced its plans to open for business near a residential neighborhood in Shelton via Facebook earlier this year.

Some residents were upset and concerned to hear the business’s plans to take over the space below Hunan Pan, located at 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue, and potentially feature adult entertainment.

P&Z Administrator Rick Schultz issued a letter to Hush It Up LLC Owner Randi England in November notifying her that her application, as presented, had been denied due to conflicts with her proposed usage of the property.

Schultz’s letter read as follows:

“I have reviewed your Application for Certificate of Zoning Compliance #2304 for approval of a cafe with entertainment located at 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT.

“Based on this review and consultation with the Assistant Corporation Counsel, I have made a determination that your Statement of Use indicates that a Speakeasy activity is proposed at this location which is a prohibited use.

“Accordingly, your Application for Certificate of Zoning Compliance #2304 has been determined not to comply with the Shelton Zoning Regulations and is hereby rejected.”

England resubmitted her application for the business after modifying or clarifying its intended use for the property.

To view the full story with the outcome of the latest discussion of the application from the P&Z’s Dec. 19 meeting, click here.

3) Man charged with attempted murder for throwing victim off bridge

Shelton police arrested and charged three individuals for their connection to an incident in which a man was thrown off the Shelton/Derby Bridge into the Housatonic River on Thanksgiving.

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Shelton police arrested and charged Gregory Rottjer, 25, of Derby with criminal attempted murder, first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment.

Police also arrested and charged Matthew Dorso, 27, of Ansonia with third-degree assault and released him on a promise to appear in court.

Jennifer Hannum, 22, of Derby was also arrested and charged with Interfering with an officer and was released on a $1,000 bond.

Both Hannum and Dorso are scheduled to appear in Derby Superior Court on Dec. 22.

According to police, an extensive investigation revealed that the incident began when Rottjer was having a verbal argument with Jennifer Hannum, his girlfriend, while walking over the bridge. The victim and his brother tried to see if the female was OK and then attempted to walk away, police said. Rottjer and his friend, Dorso, then allegedly started a physical fight with the victim and his brother. Police said that during the fight, Rottjer intentionally threw the victim over the bridge. The victim fell approximately 45 feet below into the icy water.

According to Detective Richard Bango of the Shelton police, Rottjer and Dorso then fled the scene with Hannum.

Police also said that during the investigation, Hannum was determined to be untruthful with detectives.

The victim is still recovering from injuries sustained from the fall. Bango said credit is due to the police, fire, and EMS personnel who acted swiftly and courageously to assist the victim.

4) Waterbury man arrested for reclaiming cocaine at police department

Police arrested a Waterbury man when he entered the Shelton Police Department to reclaim a bag of his that contained a “moderate amount” of crack cocaine.

On Sept. 25, Shelton police arrested Davie McMillian, 23, of Waterbury when he entered the police station to reclaim a bag that he claimed he left behind at a scene that police had visited earlier that day.

Earlier on Sept. 25, Shelton police units responded to an incident involving McMillian in Shelton. The incident that initially involved McMillian was not disclosed by police.

Hours after the incident took place, Shelton police were contacted and informed that McMillian had left a bag behind and the caller wanted to turn it over to the police. The caller informed the police that “it appeared to contain some type of drugs inside it.”

Shelton police responded to the scene and retrieved the bag, which officers confirmed contained a crack cocaine. The bag and drugs were transported back to the Shelton Police Department.

A short period of time later, McMillian arrived at the Police Department to reclaim the bag, which he admitted to leaving behind earlier in the day.

He entered the police department lobby with a female who was identified as a victim that, according to police, had a full no-contact protective order against McMillian. The order prevents McMillian from having any contact with the female victim.

McMillian was processed and charged with illegal possession of narcotics and violation of a protective order. He was placed on a $11,000 bond and was transported to Derby Superior Court on Sept. 26.

5) Sunnyside boat ramp flooded with trash

The Sunnyside boat ramp in Shelton overflowed with trash and debris following a power failure in Waterbury that led to 5 million gallons of sewage funneling into the Naugatuck River on Oct. 9.

The general manager of the Waterbury Pollution Control Department told news media outlets that a contractor’s mistake at the city’s sewage treatment plant caused the electrical breakers to blow.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection confirmed that the sewage spill killed dozens of fish in the river.

Leon Sylvester, who has been in charge of running the river cleanup for nearly 15 years, attributed some of what was seen to the spill in Waterbury, but not all of it.

“Some of what you see is from the spill and some is from just humans being pigs and the heavy rains,” said Sylvester. “This is nothing new, unfortunately. But the raw sewage aspect is awful.”

6) Lauretti announces he’ll announce run for governor, again

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti announced his third run for governor of Connecticut during a live HAN Network broadcast in March 2017.

Since his announcement earlier this year, Lauretti has raised the $250,000 required to earn public financing from the state.

Facing arguably the worst budget crisis in the state’s history, Lauretti said, addressing its deficit will be a challenge that requires work in more than one area.

Lauretti addressed some of the state’s concerns in two separate Letters to the Editor back in March. The following is an excerpt from Lauretti’s letter titled, “No Money – No Mandates.”

“Everyone, including the Governor, knows Connecticut is in serious financial crisis and the revenue side of the budget is not going to solve the problems without major private investment which has been discouraged instead of encouraged by Connecticut.

“Yet, the Governor and the Democratic controlled legislature refuse to address non-essential mandated spending issues. Instead, they continue to heap unnecessary added costs onto our municipalities, continue to give away that which we cannot afford and place more financial burden upon municipalities.”

For a full timeline of Lauretti’s gubernatorial campaign, click here.

7) Wiffle ball inducted into Toy Hall of Fame

The second time was the charm and now Shelton residents can officially say their city is the home of a Hall of Fame toy.

Over the course of the past 64 years, millions of people all over the world have played with a toy that was created by a family that spent most of their lives right here in Shelton.

After being named a runner-up in 2015, the Wiffle ball, was announced as one of three toys to be inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. This latest class of inductees also included the board game Clue and the paper airplane.

The third-generation owners of the business located at 275 Bridgeport Avenue, Stephen A. and David J. Mullany, said the achievement evoked feelings of joy for their family.

“I’m more satisfied to see my father get the chance to witness this milestone. It makes me wish my grandfather could see this, because this is something that he was around for since the very start,” said Stephen.

According to David, he and his father attended the awards ceremony earlier this month in New York, where the three latest toys inducted were honored.

“Our dad is a low-key guy but really enjoyed seeing his product be alongside all of the other great toys that had been inducted in the past two decades since the inaugural group of toys were in 1998,” said David. “It’s been a lot of fun and my dad seemed very satisfied and proud.

“When all of this Hall of Fame talk began a few years back, one of the most impressive things we noticed was the support we received from people in the Valley,” said David.

According to both brothers, they’ve seen and heard from classmates with whom they attended grammar school about their family achievement.

8) Local artist sells painting to famous musician Lil Yachty

Just weeks after revealing the portrait he had painted of Grammy-nominated artist Lil Yachty via Twitter, one local creative decided to deliver the creation himself to the musician at a meet-and-greet in New York City.

On June 15, when Flahn Manly, the founder of ICD studios, located at 132 Center Street in Shelton, revealed one of his latest pieces of work on the Internet, it went viral.

Yachty,19, was nominated for a Grammy in 2017 in the category of best rap collaboration on a song called Broccoli with another artist, named DRAM.

Yachty’s first studio album, called Teenage Emotions, sold 48,000 copies in its first week of being released in May 2017.

Less than a day after Manly shared a photo of himself standing beside a colorful portrait he had painted of the young musician via Twitter, the tweet had collected nearly 11,000 likes and almost 2,000 retweets.

In awe of the response his painting had been receiving, Manly’s level of happiness skyrocketed when Yachty responded to the photo and confirmed that he saw the artwork.

“Amazing my friend,” Yachty tweeted to Manly. “I must meet you, I must have this.”

At that moment Manly, who also designs clothes for men, women and children, made up his mind that rather than shipping out the piece, as he would normally do, he would hand-deliver it instead.

On Friday, June 30, Manly learned that Yachty was scheduled to appear at a meet-and-greet in a New York Macy’s department store later that day.

Shortly after learning about the meet-and-greet, Manly decided to take the two-hour trip to the Macy’s store.

He was greeted by a lengthy line of fans waiting to meet the young artist, but Manly said he was determined to deliver his package and ended up being able to skip the line with the help of Yachty’s security and with the painting in his hands.

When he handed Yachty the painting, he said, it looked even better in person, according to Manly.

Being a firm believer in chasing dreams, Manly advised all artists and young people to pursue their passions.

“Just keep working — you have to start as soon as possible on whatever it is that you want to do,” said Manly. “Whatever you’re doing probably won’t work on the first try. So try it, fail and try it again. It’s going to suck, but you have to keep trying.”

The Shelton-based artist and clothing designer said he was planning to hold bimonthly art shows at his Center Street storefront and was also working on a collection for which he hadn’t yet set a release date.

9) Spanish club meets, delivers donations to Puerto Rican mayor

After completing a successful relief drive to help those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, eighth grade students at Shelton Intermediate School learned a lesson about what can be accomplished when people work together to achieve a common goal.

When SIS science teacher/Spanish club adviser Ernestina Genova learned that one of Puerto Rico’s mayors would be visiting the school in time to see what her students had collected to help those affected by Hurricane Maria, she was excited, to say the least.

Genova said the visit to Shelton by Pedro Garcia, mayor of Hormigueros for the past 13 years, arose from a conversation she had with his daughter, an electrical engineer who lives in Shelton.

“Tania and I were out eating at a Mexican restaurant when the conversation of Puerto Rico came up,” said Genova. “She told me of an organization she had created with a few other people called CTBPT United for Puerto Rico. I told her about the relief drive we were doing at school, and then she told me that her father was planning to visit.”

Garcia’s daughter, Tania Shannon-Garcia, said that after Hurricane Maria destroyed a large part of the island, she, like many others, was unable to get in contact with her father for nearly 12 days and contemplated catching a spontaneous flight to Puerto Rico in hope of finding him.

After regaining contact with her father, Shannon-Garcia learned of the harsh conditions on the island and wanted to help. She and several of her colleagues created CTBPT United for Puerto Rico in order to provide some relief. To date, the organization has raised nearly $49,000 to aid those affected by the hurricane, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Mayors Association and Federation to aid all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Upon his arrival at SIS, Mayor Garcia met with the students of the Spanish club, El Coqui, to participate in a Q&A session. According to Genova, students prepared for the mayor’s arrival by selecting one question they would like to ask him.

Garcia said that despite all the physical damage done to the island, his job hasn’t changed much, and some positives came from the tragedy.

“Before Maria, Puerto Rico was divided by politics,” said Garcia. “Now we are united and working together to be stronger than ever.”

Shannon-Garcia told the students that her father, before arriving in Shelton, had been working hard to help his community of nearly 20,000 people rebuild.

Garcia said that despite the majority of the island’s people being overcome with sadness due to the destruction caused by the storm, they are still doing their best to be in the holiday spirit.

To donate to CTBPT United for Puerto Rico, visit https://www.youcaring.com/ctbptunitedforpr-968871.

10) Shelton students participate in eclipse research

Three local students were granted the opportunity of a lifetime when they were permitted to tag along with engineers from the University of Bridgeport (UB) on a trip to Paducah, Ky., to conduct a study with members of the Discovery Museum on the eclipse that took place Aug. 21.

Ryan Gay, 16, of Shelton, Hritish Bhargava,15, of Shelton, and Ryan Dang, 16, of Stratford were a part of the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium research team that live-streamed and collected data from the Aug. 21 eclipse.

The three Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School students said they were surprised by the opportunity, and couldn’t pass it up.

The opportunity stemmed from one of Gay’s Fairchild Wheeler teachers asking him about the possibility of starting an astronomy club at school earlier this year.

Not long after Gay and his classmates created the club, its members were taken to UB to listen to a lecture regarding this year’s eclipse. That lecture took place in March and that’s when the three students were selected to be involved in the university’s research team.

“It was exciting to hear that we would be a part of something that we had previously no knowledge of,” said Gay. “We’re hoping to learn more about what happens during an eclipse. More specifically, how quickly the temperature drops and how it looks from above the clouds.”

On Saturday, Aug. 19, the students boarded a bus to their Kentucky destination in anticipation of witnessing something many people will go their lifetime without seeing.

According to Bhargava, the experience was unlike anything else he had ever seen.

“The next eclipse isn’t until 2024, so my advice to anyone that didn’t get to see it this time around is to not miss it next time,” said Bhargava before explaining the process of the experiment.

Eclipse “viewing parties” took place all over the country, where people wore special protective glasses that allowed them to view the eclipse without injuring their eyes.

Shelton Board of Education Chair Mark Holden took a road trip to Niota, Tenn., to view and photograph the eclipse. He and his family paid to be stationed on someone’s property to view the eclipse.

If you missed the eclipse this time around, unless you have pictures, you’ll have to wait seven years until you can see another. According to NASA, on April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will stretch diagonally across the United States from Texas through the Northeast

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