Year in Review: New Canaan balances new and old town issues
NEW CANAAN — The past year has been transformative for the town.
From a change in representatives at the state level, to a woman being named to the Fire Commission for the first time, New Canaan appears to be in a state of change. The town also continued long-discussed issues like later school start times and cellphone coverage.
Here is a collection of the year’s best and biggest stories:
Town grapples with death of 10-year-old
A fourth-grader at West School died from complications due to the flu in January.
Mallozzi, who was the third of four children, tested positive for Type B flu. The hockey community and town residents alike worked together to help the Mallozzi family. A gofundme effort for the Nico Mallozzi Memorial Fund would go on to raise more than $130,000.
feud reaches resolution
A Snapchat-related feud, which left a New Canaan boy injured and two star Darien football players benched in last year’s Turkey Bowl, reached a resolution earlier this year.
Brian Minicus, a senior wide receiver on Darien’s team and Jack Joyce, the team’s senior starting quarterback, were involved in the incident on Nov. 6, 2017. According to court documents, Minicus allegedly went to a New Canaan home and repeatedly punched a New Canaan boy in the head while other Darien teenagers held him down. Joyce was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer after he allegedly went to the home and yelled at another teenager and then lied to police about his involvement.
Both boys were accepted into accelerated rehabilitation programs, after which their charges would be dropped after completing volunteer work. Both were also barred from having contact with the victim.
Students walk out to protest school shootings
Around 900 New Canaan High School students walked out of class to show solidarity with victims of school shootings on March 14.
The walkout was part of a nationwide movement against gun violence. The demonstration took place exactly one month after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 lives. In honor of those killed, the protest was scheduled to last 17 minutes.
Many adults and town officials supported the students’ exercising their rights.
While some Board of Education members worried the protest would set a precedent, Superintendent Bryan Luizzi said this isn’t anticipated. Around 80 seventh-graders and 100 eighth-graders at Saxe Middle School also participated in the walkout.
Plans for cell tower in town discussed
The lack of adequate cell service continued to be a townwide discussion.
In March, discussions were held about a cell tower being potentially placed on a Soundview Lane property. Keith Richey, of 183 Soundview Lane and chairman of the Parking commission, signed a lease option agreement with Homeland Towers. This could make the plan a reality if a cell carrier signed up to sponsor.
However, several residents opposed the plan with concerns around placing a cell tower on a private property. Some neighbors also felt more conversation should have been held between town officials and residents before initiating the plan. Other neighbors felt the cell tower was a needed acquisition for the town with lack of cell service being dangerous.
High school assistant basketball coach arrested
A New Canaan High School assistant basketball coach was charged with heroin possession in March.
Jose Amor, a 30-year-old Stamford resident, was arrested for allegedly possessing 20 bags of heroin in Stamford. The arrest led to school officials discussing more ways to hone the process of background checks. To narrow down candidates, schools will now include social media history, Google search and more detailed reference checks in their hiring process.
Though candidates are screened by the athletic department, a personal reference check will also be conducted by the Central Office or the high school’s main office to add another layer of clearance.
Westchester teacher embroiled in scandal found dead at New Canaan house
A Westchester County, N.Y., teacher and track coach facing allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a former student was found dead by suicide at his New Canaan home in June.
Matthew Ketterer, 36, had been placed on paid leave by the Chappaqua school district from his job as a teacher and track coach at Horace Greeley High School after allegations he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the cause of death had been “ligature compression of neck/suicide.”
Police confirmed Ketterer was the individual who died at the Old Stamford Road house. No further information was released.
For Sale signs ban almost implemented
“For Sale” signs were almost banned in New Canaan.
Initially, the New Canaan Board of Realtors issued a decision to not allow the signs starting in July 1. However, by the end of June this decision was reversed. According to Town Council Chairman John Engel, the Board of Realtors was cautioned by the state and national organization of Realtors of the potential legal consequences.
Mead Brick Barn slated for demolition
After months of deliberation, a 100-year-old building is slated for demolition.
An application for demolition was filed in town for Mead Brick Barn on Richmond Hill Road in July. Members of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance objected the decision due to the historic and architectural significance of the building. The Preservation Alliance proposed maintaining and possibly leasing the building to prevent the demolition, but town officials still favored a demolition.
In August, the Town Council budgeted $65,000 for the demolition of the garage building. In addition to this the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the abandonment of the building in October.
Newcomer Haskell defeats incumbent Boucher for state Senate seat
In a shocking victory, the young upstart Will Haskell defeated the tenured Toni Boucher for the 26th state Senate seat.
In total, more than 5,092 more people voted for a Democrat to represent District 26 than had in 2016. In comparison, Boucher received 10,106 less votes than in 2016 when she won 60.19 percent of the vote in the district. District 26 hasn’t been represented by a Democrat since 1973. In New Canaan alone, Democratic registration increased 4 percent since last year.
The race was one of many dramatic changes for New Canaan. After the election, New Canaan effectively lost all Republican representatives except Tom O’Dea. In the 142nd House District, Lucy Dathan became the first Democrat to ever hold the seat, defeating Republican incumbent Fred Wilms.
times discussed for schools
Discussions around later school start times were held throughout the year.
Both the positives and negatives of any proposed changes have been outlined as the Board of Education. Parents and students alike have spoke on how later start times could be an educational benefit for students. Focus groups have also been held to discuss the idea of starting school up to 30 minutes later. However, pushing school start time back could be as expensive as $1.3 million.
Discussions continue with the Board of Education hinting at possibly making some form of a decision in late January.
Lunch ladies charged in half-million dollar scam
Two lunch ladies were charged for allegedly stealing nearly half a million dollars in the past five years.
Joanne Pascarelli, 61, of Stratford, and her sister Marie Wilson, 67, of Wilton, turned themselves in to New Canaan police in August after warrants were issued for their arrest. Both were charged with larceny and defrauding a public community for purportedly stealing $478,588 from 2012 to 2017.
Since the news broke, both lunch ladies have entered not guilty pleas and are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 11. Changes have been implemented in the school cafeteria as well. A different method of accounting will be used by the Central Office to keep an eye on staff in all of the schools’ cafeterias. New employee training has also been implemented.
First woman named to
In December, Beth Jones became the first woman on New Canaan’s Fire Commission.
The New Canaan resident has lived in the area all her life and is heavily involved in town. Jones has also previously spent four years on the Town Council and six years on the Board of Selectmen. She currently serves as chairman of the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee.
Town turns to eminent domain to acquire Valley Road property
In November, the Planning and Zoning Commission issued a positive report for the acquisition of a piece of property. The decision could help the town acquire the red house on 1124 Valley Road through eminent domain. The house and four-acre terrain it’s located on is property of the First Taxing District in Norwalk.
The long-alluded-to threat was finally initiated after the town of New Canaan and the taxing district could not reach an agreement on the price of the property.