2020: The Madison Year in Review
Many (or maybe most) people are happy to say goodbye to 2020. It was a year of extreme hardship, with the suffering caused by the pandemic affecting nearly everyone. But Madison also saw plenty of support and love in the community—and some things that might have been considered ordinary in another year in 2020 required special fortitude, bravery, perseverance, and trust.
Here is The Source’s Madison 2020 Year in Review.
The Madison Chamber of Commerce holds its INSIDEwalk Sale in early January.
In early January, the town ends its contract for the much-maligned beach pass system that caused issues for many in 2019.
The Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) award-winning show choir VIBE holds a preview show for residents on Jan. 12.
Former first selectman Tom Banisch resigns from the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 15 to take a job in Hartford. Banisch had lost a re-election bid to Peggy Lyons in November, but remained on the board.
On Jan. 2, Democrat State Senator Christine Cohen announces her intention to seek a second term representing District 12. On Jan. 22, Republican newcomer Joe LaPorta announces his campaign to challenge Cohen.
The annual Souper Bowl featuring the annual chili contest fire department rivalry heats up downtown on Jan. 25.
On Feb. 6, a 47 year-old Madison resident is struck by a train and killed just west of the Madison train station.
On Feb. 7, Democrat John- Michael Parker announces plans to run for the 101st Assembly District seat for the second time.
Dave Mastroianni, head coach of the Daniel Hand football team, resigns as coach on Feb. 11 and is placed on leave as a teacher by the district, with Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice citing health concerns.
The Board of Selectmen names members to two ad-hoc committees: the Government Study Committee, looking at Madison’s charter and form of government, and the Island Avenue Future Use Committee, aiming to find a permanent use for the Island Avenue property.
On Feb. 24, town officials tentatively plan to get referenda questions for the Academy School community center project and a $129 million school renewal plan on a ballot sometime in the fall.
Friends and family of Barbara Hamburg, murdered on Middle Beach in 2010, gather in town on Feb. 29 to pay tribute to her and ask the public for tips.
Hand junior Cameryn Brown wins a state title in fencing, the first individual girls’ title in school history.
On March 7, the Hand boys’ fencing team takes the overall state title, first in school history, and the Hand cheerleading squad wins its first-ever state title with a powerful performance on March 7.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) makes its presence felt in Madison and across the state. (See “Madison Responds to the COVID Crisis” on page 3 for complete COVID-19 reporting.)
In the first week of March, First Selectman Peggy Lyons creates a list of events that might need to be canceled or postponed, as Connecticut reports its first cases of the virus.
On March 10, the CIAC announces the cancellation of winter sports tournaments, ending the season for those athletes. A week later, the spring sports season is postponed indefinitely.
On March 13, Madison Public Schools close, with a plan to reevaluate every two weeks. On March 16, Governor Ned Lamont orders the closures of restaurants and bars as Madison eateries scramble to put together pickup and delivery options. In mid-March, town offices close to the public, with essential functions carried out remotely.
On March 31, Madison suffers its first COVID fatality.
On April 2, Superintendent Tom Scarice announces he will leave the district at the end of the school year to take a job in Westport.
In early April, an early draft of the 2020-’21 budget is released as the town begins laying out a budget approval process that will not include a referendum.
On April 8, a Madison teen is arrested for “Zoom bombing,” working with another teen in New York to disrupt online classes.
The Planning & Zoning Commission approves a marina project on the East River that sparked some controversy due to potential environmental impacts.
The Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives celebrates its 25th anniversary.
In late April, Lyons announces that planned referenda for the Academy School community center and the $129 school renewal project will be placed on hold indefinitely due to the difficulty of meeting during the pandemic.
On May 1, the town begins selling beach passes, and soon limits weekend access to residents only.
On May 2, the Madison Chamber of Commerce holds a “Love Your Local Merchant” event with curbside and outdoor shopping.
On May 5, spring sports are officially canceled statewide.
In early May, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance approve a new lease for local private K-8 school Our Lady of Mercy Preparatory Academy to continue using the Island Avenue school building for at least another year.
The town officially approves a budget with a zero mill rate increase on May 5, cutting capital spending to account for a 2.18 percent overall operating increase.
The schools announces Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote as interim superintendent to lead the district while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement for Scarice.
In late May, the Planning & Zoning Commission approves the demolition and redevelopment of the historical General’s Residence house.
Inspired by a local teen, Temple Beth Tikvah on June 1 announces a year-long program to connect elderly people to youth using technology.
The Madison community joins together on the green around the First Congregational church for a June 7 vigil honoring George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police. Local clergy also join in a statement against racism and violence.
Republican Noreen Kokoruda announces her bid to serve a sixth term representing the 101st Assembly District in the state house.
On June 13, a youth-led rally marches through the town in a more forceful protest against police brutality and racism, culminating in several speeches by local young people calling out racism and inequities in the community.
The E.C Scranton Library announces on June 17 that it will miss its July 1 planned reopening date as staff continue to work to make the building safe.
On June 18, The Daniel Hand High School Class of 2020 graduates at a drive-up ceremony in the high school parking lot, with decorated cars and a parade around the green in place of traditional festivities and celebrations.
In early July, students from The Country School install a marker honoring a local enslaved woman as part of the Witness Stones Project.
On July 12, the town holds its first socially distanced summer concert of the year.
Negotiations with a property owner that would allow the completion of the long-running downtown center project to finish up fall apart, and town officials say the project will likely cost more than had originally been represented.
In late July, the Chamber of Commerce hosts its sidewalk sale, bringing shoppers out to help bolster local businesses still in the process of reopening through the summer.
On Aug. 4, Tropical Storm Isaias knocks out power for thousands of Madison residents. Local and state officials levy harsh criticism against power company Eversource as many people don’t see services restored for days.
Madison residents go to the polls on Aug. 11 for the first time under pandemic conditions as the state primaries serve as a litmus test for how the town will handle absentee ballots.
Madison and regional police officers peacefully conclude an eight-hour standoff on Aug. 27, after a possibly armed 46-year-old resident surrenders after barricading himself in his house.
The Government Studies Committee delivers a final report in late August, offering suggestions without recommending specific changes to the fundamental structure of Madison’s government.
For the first time in nearly seven months, Madison students step back into classrooms on Sept. 8 for hybrid learning as the district seeks to navigate the challenges of pandemic learning.
On Sept. 14, Eileen Banisch resigns from the Republican Town Committee after social media comments appear to conflict with her role as leader of the Madison Chamber of Commerce.
On Sept. 22, the schools announce the hiring of Dr. Craig Cooke, who most recently led Windsor’s school district, to be their new permanent superintendent.
On Oct. 17, the town hosts its first ever Pride event, offering music, speakers, and networking for LGBTQ people in town.
On Oct. 31, the town sponsors a modified drive-through version of its popular Trunk-or-Treat program.
The E.C Scranton Library officially opens its doors to the public on Nov. 2 after previously allowing residents in by appointment or for tours. The downtown location had been closed for nearly two years for significant renovations.
On Nov. 3, residents flock to the polls to make their voices heard as the town sees a high turnout for the presidential election contest. In local races, Democrat John-Michael Parker unseats Noreek Kokoruda for the 101st district, and State Senator Christine Cohen (D-12) wins a second term over Republican challenger Joe LaPorta.
The Daniel Hand boys’ soccer team wins a divisional title on Nov. 14 off the back of an undefeated season.
Light Up Madison, a new initiative to add lights and decorations to downtown and potentially include events focused on local businesses, kicks off with hopes of becoming a yearly tradition.
Murder on Middle Beach, an HBO documentary created by the son of a Madison woman about her unsolved killing, premieres on Nov. 15.
The Madison Turkey Trot annual 5k run is held in a hybrid virtual format over the week of Thanksgiving.
Dr. Craig Cooke officially takes over as Madison’s new superintendent on Dec. 4. Simultaneously, Board of Education Chair Katie Stein steps down from her position, citing family and work commitments, though she continues to serve on the board.
In late December, the town approves a new Charter Review Commission to potentially provide updates, revisions, or changes to Madison’s charter, aiming to get a question to voters sometime in 2022.
The Board of Selectmen approves the creation of a new Affordable Housing Committee in late December, which will seek to create a plan to add more affordable housing to Madison.
Our Lady of Mercy Preparatory Academy officially requests another year’s lease in the Island Avenue building.