On Jan. 4, students returning to the Grove School from winter break are greeted with a brand new, state-of-the-art dining facility. The space includes an expanded kitchen, a gas fireplace, and flat screen televisions.
VIBE, the Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) competitive show choir, is named the Grand Champion of the Mill City Show Choir Festival at the first competition of the season on Jan. 16 in Lowell, Massachusetts.
The lawsuit filed against the Madison Beach Hotel moves forward. In September 2015, the Connecticut Superior Court ruled that the actions of the Madison Planning & Zoning Commission in creating a West Wharf Zoning District were arbitrary, unreasonable, illegal, and an abuse of its discretion. The town and hotel filed an appeal of that ruling. In January, an appeal of that decision by the town and hotel is denied.
Local hero Amanda Bernier, a North Madison firefighter battling ALS, donates her hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths, a company the makes wigs for individuals battling cancer. Discussing her decision on the Facebook page Amanda’s Angels, Bernier said, “I have been donating my hair every 1 to 1 ½ years for the past 10 years…So there was no reason to stop when I got ALS.”
First Selectman Tom Banisch tackles his first budget season as the town faces a 13 percent increase in health insurance with no matching rise in the town’s Grand List of Taxable Property. The Board of Education (BOE) approves its final 2016-2017 budget request at the board’s Jan. 19. The final number proposed is $55,786,204, an increase of $1,962,881 over last year’s spending, or 3.65 percent.
The Capital Improvement Program (CIP), a long-term planning tool for the town and schools capital needs, is in its inaugural year, and many residents attend a public hearing for the CIP on Jan. 21. Residents put questions to the CIP committee about many projects, including the emergency services communications update, the Downtown Center Project, and the library.
The Academy School Project continues to be a hot-button issue in town. (See “2016: Academy School Outcome Still Uncertain” on page 19.)
Warm winter weather allows construction on the Downtown Center Project to continue. The unusually warm weather and lack of snow and ice means new light fixtures can be installed.
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School in Madison learns it will need a new home for the 2018 school year. The Sisters of Mercy, which owns the school property and adjacent Mercy by the Sea conference center, will not renew the school’s lease after the 2017-’18 session.
Regional emergency response teams rush to Madison on Feb. 8 when a charter bus headed to Mohegan Sun Casino on the snowy afternoon flipped on its side by exit 61 on I-95, resulting in multiple injuries and causing the highway to be shut down for several hours.
The Senior Tax Relief Committee makes its official recommendation to the Board of Finance (BOF) on Feb. 17. An elderly property tax relief program, also known as a senior tax freeze, would help Madison’s seniors in need by protecting them from future tax increases.
A lawsuit filled by a former Madison police officer against the Town of Madison is settled on Feb. 17 after the Board of Selectmen votes to approve a $42,032.84 special appropriation to finalize the settlement agreement.
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) establishes an Ad-Hoc Academy Elementary School Architectural Services Negotiating Committee.
The Town of Madison puts forward its budget recommendation at $24.6 million, an increase of 2.53 percent. Banisch proposes to use an additional $800,000 from the town’s general fund to offset spending increases to maintain a flat mill rate, a proposal that leaves selectmen divided.
The BOS listens to presentations from two different heath districts, the Connecticut River Area Health District and the East Shore District Health Department, at a special meeting on Feb. 24. Following the retirement of Director of Health John Bowers, the town has to decide to hire a new health director or join a health district.
The Source celebrates 20 years of delivering local news to Madison residents. The paper began in March 1996 under the direction of two DHHS students, James Warner and Ryan Duques. While the company has grown from a handful of staffers working from dorm rooms printing a monthly paper into a media company with seven weekly papers, dozens of magazines, and a regional website, the idea that started it remains: Be a part of the community you write about.
Residents pack into Memorial Town Hall on March 1 for a public hearing on the CIP and the proposed budget. Banisch’s proposal for one-year modifications to keep the mill rate down is heavily discussed.
DHHS’s show choir VIBE hosts the first Connecticut Classic Show Choir Festival at the school on March 5. VIBE later sweeps the National Show Choir Championship series in Orlando on March 19.
The BOS and BOE meet March 15 to discuss the results of the bi-annual Search Institutes Developmental Assets and Behavior Survey taken by more than 1,000 Madison students. According to the survey, an alarming 11 percent of students surveyed, approximately 116 kids, have attempted suicide one or more times.
State officials announce the approval of a $500,000 STEAP grant that will allow for the completion of the ongoing Strong Center renovation project at the Surf Club.
The Madison Public Schools fall under fire from the State Department of Education due to low state test participation rates. The state threatens to withhold federal dollars and lower the school’s ranking if participation does not improve.
Republican Noreen Kokoruda announces she is seeking a fourth term as the 101st General Assembly District state representative this November.
Residents join the BOE at a March 30 forum to explore the school facilities options and pose questions at Walter C. Polson Middle School. More than 50 member of the community, ranging from concerned citizens to members of the BOF, come to the meeting to look at the three structural options the BOE is now in the final stages of considering.
In other news, the 24th annual Leprechaun 5-Miler and Fun Run is held March 13 and the Exchange Club of Madison’s annual Easter egg hunt is held March 19.
Buzz Aldrin, one of the first men to walk on the moon, visits R.J. Julia Booksellers on April 6 to sign copies of his latest book.
The battle between the Madison Beach Hotel and local neighbors heats up again after members of the Madison Beach Preservation Association (MBPA) file an amended complaint in the lawsuit against the hotel in Superior Court on April 11, claiming that additional violations have been made.
After Governor Dannel Malloy releases a revised budget on April 12 that includes a significant reduction in state funding for education, Madison officials begin to worry about the state of the municipal budget. Madison is at risk to lose $1,576,061 due to cuts to the Education Cost Sharing Grant (ECS), a program that serves as the state’s primary financial tool to help municipalities run their schools. Hoping for more definitive news from the state before the budget referendum, the town pushes back the referendum date from May 10 to May 24. “It buys us some time,” said BOF Chair Joe MacDougald.
On April 18, the BOS votes to push the brakes on the Academy School Project.
Daniel Hand High School’s VIBE show choir places fifth in the nation at the FAME Show Choir Nationals in Chicago on April 30.
On May 2, the BOS votes not to approve spending $100,000 on further planning studies for the Academy School project.
Trying to prepare for a possible $3 million gap in the budget caused by a possible elimination of the ECS funding and a $1.5 million healthcare cost increase, the BOF asks the town to reduce its proposed operating budget by five percent (a total of $215,003) and the Board of Education (BOE) to reduce its proposed budget by $300,000. As a result, the BOE presses pause on making a decision on a school utilization study, citing concerns over the state of the budget.
With the reductions in place, the final proposed budget is $79,801,034, a 2.58 percent increase. In addition to the operating budget reductions, the board looks to reduce additional requests for Fiscal Year 2016-’17 by $193,333, raise the tax collection rate to 99 percent, freeze all current discretionary funds, and use $750,000 from the fund balance to offset possible increases to the mill rate.
Despite the panic, the 2016-2017 budget is approved by the voters on May 24 by a margin of 1,196 “Yes” votes to 490 “No” votes and the Board of Education budget passed by a margin of 1,169 “Yes” votes to 519 “No” votes. The BOF meets May 25 to set the mill rate at 26.49, a 0.73 mill increase.
E.C. Scranton Memorial Library, preparing for a referendum on a multi-million dollar renovation project, receives an anonymous $500,000 donation. On May 27, Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., (D-12) and State Representative Noreen Kokoruda announce an additional $1 million in state aid for the renovation and expansion of the library. At this time, library officials are planning to ask the town to bond for $10 million for the project.
A draft of the Coastal Resilience Plan is presented at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on May 19. The process of evaluating the town began in June 2014 after the town received a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program as a result of Superstorm Sandy.
Hammonasset Beach State Park unveils its new Meigs Point Nature Center and West Beach Bathhouse on May 26. The new Nature Center, which broke ground last year and cost $3.5 million to construct, includes year-round environmental exhibit space, an observation deck, and hands-on experiences for visitors.
Despite rainy conditions on May 30, Donna Farrell serves as the new Memorial Day parade marshal, taking over for Ed Guenther, who served as marshal for 40 years.
Madison BOS member Bruce Wilson (R) announces he will challenge Democratic incumbent Ted Kennedy, Jr., for the 12th District State Senate seat, representing Madison, Killingworth, Branford, North Branford, Durham, and Guilford, in November.
The BOF holds a special meeting on June 8 to discuss the proposed senior tax freeze. In an effort to move the program forward, the BOF creates a committee comprised of members of the BOF, BOS, and the Tax Relief Committee to clarify details of funding, qualifying occupants, trusts, and other issues.
Six of seven men sued in connection with the sexual assault of a 13 year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party in Madison in 2009, when they were all middle school students, have settled claims against them made in the victim’s lawsuit, according to court documents obtained June 10 by the Associated Press.
On June 10, nearly 300 seniors of the Class of 2016 graduate from DHHS on the Town Green. Seniors attend Nite In Hand—decorated to the theme of “New York Nights”—that evening.
Tragedy strikes as two people are pronounced dead and two others are hospitalized after launching their kayak and paddleboard from Hammonasset Beach State park sometime on the evening of June 12, and encountering conditions that made it impossible for them to turn back. Two men die. A woman and her daughter are washed up in Southold, NY and survive.
On June 27, the BOS votes to extend the letter of intent with Shoreline Arts Alliance (SAA) for 60 days.
Residents and town officials gather on June 30 to celebrate the completion of Phase I of the Downtown Center Project. After a decade of planning, construction began in fall 2015 and included, among other things, renovations of the sidewalks and the center median downtown.
Summer is in full swing but budget cuts are evident. Due to budget reductions within the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), state beaches, including Hammonasset, see a reduction in staff hours. Hammonasset now has a five-day-a-week lifeguard schedule—Wednesday through Sunday—instead of seven days.
The Grassy Strip concerts at the Madison Beach Hotel kick off with a bit of controversy. The hotel arranges an informal fundraiser for a local organization, passing a donation bucket around at each event, but the Madison Foundation elects to pass on accepting the donation, citing concerns over the current lawsuit.
On July 4, more than 200 Vietnam veterans march in Madison’s Fourth of July Parade.
After a trying budget season, the BOF votes on July 20 to bolster various departments’ budgets in the form of a $561,784 special appropriation, a 0.7 percent spending increase outside what was approved in this year’s budget referendum.
On July 21, SAA announces it is walking away from the Academy School Project.
Madison Police investigate an individual accused of trying to lure children into a car to play Pokémon Go. On Aug. 9, a white male driving an older model grey or silver BMW 5 series approached several groups of children in the area of West Wharf Beach parking lot. Madison police say no child got into the car with the individual.
Friends of Hammonasset (FOH), a non-profit group, expresses concerns over how budget cuts within DEEP will affect the new Nature Center. Hammonasset Park Director Bill Mattioli says the park will have to look to volunteers to keep the Nature Center open.
On Aug. 18, the Town of Madison opens up Academy School to the public in an effort to sell off old equipment left in the building.
With the goal of becoming more energy efficient, the BOS approves entering into an agreement with Sunlight Solar Energy for photovoltaic, or solar, systems on several municipal buildings on Aug. 22.
At a special town meeting on Aug. 22, a $561,784 special appropriation designed to bolster various departments’ budgets is passed without a quorum of 75 voters present. The special appropriation is now a part of the adjusted budget, which represents a 3.3 percent spending increase over the previous year. The $561,784 for the special appropriation comes out of the fund balance and is used to return the town and BOE budgets back to their initial requested amounts before adjustments were made for the projected loss in state funding.
Students go back to school on Sept. 6. The school year begins with a new start time for Walter C. Polson Middle School, a new teaching structure at Dr. Robert H. Brown Middle School, a new school lunch program, facilities improvements, and an updated curriculum.
On Sept. 6, the BOE resumes discussions on the school facilities study. The board narrows the decision down to a five-school or four-school model.
At a special Board of Selectman (BOS) meeting on Sept. 19, the board votes to modify the Major Roads 2016-2017 approved Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project list to include up to 15 roads after a procedural misstep forced the town to double the number of roads paved this year. The misstep results in a special appropriation of more than $400,000.
The BOF resume discussions on the senior tax freeze on Sept. 21. Board members debated key elements of the plan, including income levels and medical expenses before passing on the freeze to the BOS.
On Sept. 21, Amanda Bernier, a former North Madison firefighter, passes away after a long battle with ALS. The news is shared through a Facebook post on the page for Amanda’s Angels, a group dedicated to supporting Bernier, her husband Chris Bernier, and their daughter Arabella. “It is with a heavy heart to let you know that Amanda passed away,” the post read. “She is now free from this horrible disease. Amanda fought until the very end and inspired so many.” Friends, family, and community members and leaders gather on Sept. 27 at the North Madison Congregational Church to remember and celebrate her life.
After a nearly 12-hour search that blocked roads and put two schools into lockdown, police capture a potentially dangerous fugitive in North Madison on Oct. 7. The fugitive, Francis Sumner, 51, is apprehended as he emerges from the woods on Route 79 in the area of County Road. Sumner is wanted in connection with a series of robberies, one of them armed, across four states.
The skate park located behind the Madison Arts Barn is taken down on Oct. 5 to make way for a new emergency communications tower. Town officials begin the search for a new home for the park.
On Oct. 13, the town approves the $800,000 purchase of the LeSage property, located at 351 Copse Road and which abuts the current Green Hill Road school campus. The town has leased 4.7 acres of the property for the past 12 years for use as fields, and the BOE requested the town move forward and purchase the land entirely.
The BOE decides to move forward with studies into a five-school model within the school utilization study after an announcement on Oct. 18. BOE Chair Jean Fitzgerald said, “This decision was based on three criteria: parity amongst the elementary schools, project cost, and school location. Within this model we will be also looking at Polson renovations and reviewing the optimal location for our pre-K program.”
Election mayhem comes to an end. In the Nov. 8 presidential election, Madison voters lean toward Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. For District 12 state senator, Madison voters favor incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy, Jr., who is re-elected, over his Republican opponent Bruce Wilson, Jr. State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R), who ran unopposed, is re-elected for the 101st District. For the Madison registrars of voters, William Gowanlock (D) and Peter Metz (R) are re-elected.
After five years on the BOS, on Nov. 14 Joan Walker (D) announces she will step down from the BOS, citing personal reasons.
The plan to renovate E.C. Scranton Memorial library moves forward on Nov. 16 as the BOF approves the project and the $9 million bonding total. The project is estimated to cost $15 million, but the town will only bond for $9 million thanks to library fundraising efforts. The library project is set for a Feb. 7, 2017 referendum.
The East River Reading Room, a landmark in town since the late 1800s, announces it will close its doors. All proceeds from the sale of the building and any additional assets will be donated to the E.C Scranton Memorial Library.
A former Madison high school teacher accused of sexually assaulting a teenage student and having inappropriate contact with another accepts a plea deal in the case. Thirty-nine-year-old Allison Marchese pleads guilty Nov. 28 to charges that include reckless endangerment and threatening. She faces up to three years in prison when she’s sentenced March 3.
In other news, residents participate in the annual Turkey Trot on Nov. 24, following a new route around town. Small Business Saturday is celebrated Nov. 26 in town.
Madison breaks with tradition and spreads the holiday celebrations over two days—festivities kick-off on Dec. 2 with the Christmas Tree Lighting and a downtown holiday celebration on Dec. 4.
The Madison Police Department begins its re-accreditation process on Dec. 11. Initial reports suggest the accreditation for both the law enforcement and communication department went well and the department awaits final word in March 2017. If each division is accredited, the Madison Police Department will be one of 18 accredited departments in the state and one of less than a third of a percent of departments across the country that are dually accredited for law enforcement and communications.
On Dec. 19, longtime resident and volunteer Don Rankin receives the inaugural Town of Madison Community Service Award.
Following Joan Walker’s resignation from the BOS, on Dec. 19 the board accepts Scott Murphy as the new member. Murphy will serve until the term expires on Nov. 1, 2017.
After years in town, the Madison Coffee Shop announces it is closing its doors on Dec. 24.
On Dec. 22, the BOF approves a final language change to the Senior Tax Freeze Ordinance. The ordinance now goes to Town Meeting in January.