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Weather, Planning Top New Canaan's Stories of 2011

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Freaky weather, power outages, financial planning, the image of downtown and a new administration in Town Hall were among the top stories in New Canaan in 2011.

No matter where you went in town, weather was a dominant topic throughout the year. The beginning of 2011 featured heavy snowfalls that kept highway crews on the roads for hours and drivers gripping their steering wheels to stay straight. The storms also caused New Canaan Public Schools to close more than they would have liked, though the 2010-11 school year did finish on time.

New Canaan schools lost the first four days of the 2011-12 academic year after Hurricane Irene blew through Connecticut in late August. The high winds and rain felled trees and power lines, knocking power out for many residents for up to a week. The weather forced many residents to travel to Town Hall or the New Canaan Library to charge their electronics or the New Canaan YMCA to take a warm shower.

A freak early fall snowstorm last October caused more power outages and frustration throughout town. Though the snow melted quickly, more trees fell and more homes lost their power for several days. Gov. Dannel Malloy criticized Connecticut Light and Power for being unprepared for the storms, which caused more than 800,000 homes to lose power. The outrage forced the resignation of CL&P President Jeff Butler.

Change in town administration was also a big story. Robert Mallozzi III, a lifelong resident and town selectman, succeeded Jeb Walker as New Canaan’s first selectman in November, running unopposed in the general election. That victory was all but assured in July when Mallozzi defeated Board of Finance member Paul Giusti in the Republican Town Committee caucus after an intense campaign.

Mallozzi was joined on the town’s top board by former Board of Education president Nick Williams, who won the GOP nomination for selectman, and former town councilor Beth Jones, who ran unopposed in July’s Democratic Town Committee caucus. The only noteworthy race in the Nov. 8 general election pitted veteran Town Treasurer V. Donald Hersam Jr. and Democratic challenger Kathleen Corbet. Hersam, publisher of the New Canaan Advertiser, defeated Corbet by 48 votes.

Much of the treasurer’s contest centered on financial management after town council members voiced their displeasure with not being notified of a $625,000 arbitration award payment the town made to Loureiro Contractors in a dispute for Loureiro’s work on the Lakeview Avenue Bridge.

Walker took responsibility for the council not being aware of the payment, which came from the town’s capital non-recurring fund, which does not have to be approved by the town council. In response, a town council subcommittee held meetings interviewing officials and town attorneys about the process and proposed several recommendations to make sure all officials know about what’s going on in government.

Change also came to New Canaan High School as Tony Pavia , the longtime principal, left the high school after nine years on the job. Though he initially said he was retiring, Pavia later announced he was taking a similar position at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, his alma mater.

Pavia’s departure was met with sadness by many students and parents who came to appreciate Pavia’s demeanor and how he worked with students. Pavia was succeeded by Bryan Luizzi, the former Brookfield High School principal. New Canaan Schools Superintendent David Abbey announced last October that he will retire at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

The future of the town was also in focus all year. A long range planning committee worked to complete a plan for future development. Among the suggestions was the replacement or complete renovation of Town Hall and adding more parking in the downtown business district. The town failed to get a state grant to study the construction of senior housing and decked parking at the Lumberyard Parking Lot, a proposal that was vociferously opposed by residents worried about increasing traffic.

The town also ended a years-long debate about installing sidewalks on the southern end of Main Street. Residents voted down a referendum question that would have reversed a $4 million bond issue for a road construction project that includes the sidewalks. Town officials later approved a contract to have the sidewalks built starting in mid-March.

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