Top stories of 2012

It was a year of the “superstorm,” a global innovation win for Shelton students, upheaval in the city finance office, and heartbreak, as we watched our Newtown neighbors suffer a devastating loss.

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on just a few of the stories that stood out and that we won’t soon forget.

Global innovators

Shelton residents had a reason to be proud June 19, when the Shelton Intermediate School Robotic Revolution team was named co-winner of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League’s Global Innovation Award Competition.

The team of seven students won for their “Smart Sticker” invention, to protect consumers from contaminated eggs. Winner of the FLL Global Innovation Award will receive up to $250,000 in product development services from the program sponsor, Edison Nation, to professionally develop, produce and take its invention to market.

The community followed the team’s success from the regional competition in Shelton all the way to the award ceremony at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington D.C.

Revolution team members include Victoria O’Malley, Aravind Ravishankar, Sejal Bhargava, David Dzujna, Keyur Shah, Joseph Niski, and Raj Ganjikunta.

Finance upheaval

Taxpayers were shocked and angered to learn of the upheaval in the city’s finance office back in late August, when the mayor alleged that Assistant Finance Director Sharon Scanlon had stolen more than $300,000 from the city. Scanlon resigned, and while the city said Finance Director Louis Marusic was not involved in the investigation, Marusic was placed on administrative leave. He eventually retired from the position.

The alleged theft goes back to 2009, the mayor said. The city filed a lawsuit against Scanlon to seek restitution, and was granted a lien on her home. Scanlon has not been charged with a crime. The State Police and state’s attorney’s office were called in to conduct a criminal investigation.

Recently, Mayor Mark Lauretti said that some changes are being made in the finance office, in the wake of the allegations.

“There will be more of a checks and balances and more people will be cross-training to do certain functions,” Lauretti said. “Not to suggest that anything was radically wrong, but checks and balances and redundancies can’t hurt.”

Referendum projects

Voters were faced with $11 million in referendum projects on the November ballot and gave a resounding yes to each one.

About 84% of voters approved bonding $5 million for roadwork and bonding another $3.4 million for fire apparatus.

The Shelton Fire Department requested the money in order to buy four new state-of-the-art fire trucks. The new vehicles will replace six trucks that range in age from 23 to 36 years old. Each of the four fire stations will receive one new fire truck.

Shelton’s new animal shelter, costing $1.4 million, was also a popular project, receiving more than 70% approval.

Gerry Craig, chair of the Shelton Animal Building Committee, said at the time that he was ecstatic about the approval of the $1.4 million.

“We’ve given the city a very beautiful building that does a lot of things — serving as a safe haven for lost pets and getting strays off the street, a place for adoption and a place for education,” Craig said.

Construction of the new shelter could start as soon as March 2013.

Voters also approved $1 million for reconstruction of Canal Street, which supporters say will help the area develop, bringing in more tax money.

Superstorm Sandy

As if last year’s Halloween snowstorm wasn’t enough, Mother Nature hit us with Superstorm Sandy just before Halloween, which at its peak left 54% of the city in the dark.

The storm’s high winds knocked down trees around the city, but Huntington, Long Hill Avenue and Booth Hill Road were areas that were particularly hard hit.

An ancient great white oak tree was knocked down on East Village Road, near the intersection with Longfellow Road. Neighbors said the tree was more than 400 years old, and it has been used as a landmark when giving driving directions.

But while Shelton had its share of property damage and residents out of power for more than a week, nearby coastal towns like Milford and Stratford faced even more challenges, with some still recovering.

Newtown

The tragedy in Newtown is still so new, but the impacts of the school shooting have been immediate. The entire state has been in mourning for the 26 children and educators killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

We responded with donations, prayers, acts of kindness, and assessing our own school security.

Superintendent Freeman Burr and the mayor and police and fire officials are assessing our school buildings and coming up with ways to enhance security. As Shelton students went to school last Monday, teachers and staff were using more stringent security measures, like locking classroom doors and running drills with students, while trying not to disrupt the normal school environment.

After the holiday break, police will continue to increase presence at the schools, according to Burr.

The impact of the events in Newtown is likely to carry well into 2013, as schools, cities, the state, and the country examine ways to prevent a similar tragedy.

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