2019: Bristol’s year in review

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TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER and JAMILA YOUNG

STAFF WRITERS

Last year was another busy one in Bristol. Work continued on the development of an art school on Memorial Boulevard, and the courthouse closed down the street. The grand list grew. The town welcomed a new superintendent. State toll discussions were split along party lines. Democrats swept town council and mayor, while Republicans gained control of the school board.

And these are just a few of Bristol’s headlines in 2019. Here is a recap from the Observer newsroom:

January

The board of education announced the hiring of Bristol-based D’Amato Construction Company and Downes Construction Company as the team selected to build the Memorial Boulevard Intra-District Arts Magnet School.

The school board and community gathered at Bristol Eastern to host the first community conversation on equity, inclusiveness, and excellence. The discussion was facilitated by Kerry Lord, program coordinator at the Connecticut Center for School Change, and allowed those gathered to share practices of inclusivity in their global community.

Bristol residents mourned the deaths of Stephen J. Duffy and Beverly Bobroske, long-time civil servants who served Bristol locals and state residents through actions such as Bobroske serving as Bristol’s first BOE member elected as the director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, and Duffy’s tenure in the Connecticut state legislature from 1982 to 1992.

February

The city released the 2019 grand list which saw net increases in real estate, personal property and motor vehicles in addition to an overall increase of $6,158,256. ESPN, CT Light & Power, and Covanta Bristol were the top three taxpayers, contributing approximately $314 million to the city’s tax base.

U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-1) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) visited the Bristol Senior Center to share information about their proposed piece of legislation—the Social Security 2100 Act.

The Bristol Public Library hung a tribute to Bristol resident and World War II veteran, Major Edward Riccio, who was known for his survival of the attack on Pearl Harbor and for flying the B-17 plane known as Calamity Jane.

Scott Rosado was appointed to the city council on Feb. 22 after it was announced that former councilor Joshua Medeiros was hired by the city to serve as the superintendent of parks.

March

The Bristol chapter of the NAACP unveiled their new headquarters, located on South Street.

Carly Fortin the BOE director of teaching and learning shared some of the programming topics for the Boulevard School—creative construction, visual arts, musical arts, television/video and theatrical productions, entertainment and/or sports management, and marketing and communications.

Bristol resident, Vannessa Dorantes, was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

Students from Greene-Hills, West Bristol School, Chippens Hill Middle School, Northeast Middle School, Immanuel Lutheran parochial school, and John F. Kennedy Middle School in Southington, joined the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble for an interactive workshop and performance. Under the direction of ensemble musical director, Richard Theriault, the collective closed the show with a rendition of The Incredibles theme song.

Special Olympics Connecticut held their annual awards gala at the Aqua Turf Club, where city resident Eleni Prtyko, 11, received the Spirit of Life Award.

State Sen. Henri Martin (R-31) and State Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) hosted a forum to discuss alternatives to the proposed tolls. The Republican legislators introduced the party-backed plan “Prioritize Progress.”

April

The Step Saver-Observer and Republican American mourned the death of longtime publisher William J. Pape II. In December 2019, it was reported that his wife, Patricia Moran Pape, also passed.

Connecticut Secretary of State Denis Merrill and State Rep. Christopher Ziogas hosted a forum to discuss a proposal of allowing residents to register to vote at the age of 16, in the hopes of encouraging more young people to become involved in the political process.

Stanley Cardona Toledo was named the Boys and Girls Club of Bristol Family Center 2019 Youth of the Year. Cardona Toledo began his first year of college in the fall, attending Trinity University.

The parishioners of St. Stanislaus celebrated the 100 year anniversary of their parish. The yearlong celebration began with Easter Mass and continued throughout the year.

Elementary school students across the City convened to share their intentions during the 2019 Invention Convention. During the presentation, the students were treated to a visit by Thomas Barnes, chairman of the Barnes Group board of directors who told the students, “Don’t give up: not every idea is going to be practical or make any sense, but just keep thinking of things that you can do that will solve problems and you may hit one that could make you as rich as Bill Gates at Microsoft.”

About 31,000 Stop & Shop union employees went on strike when contract negotiations came to a standstill. As many as 249 stores across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were affected.

May

The beginning of spring brought rain, flowers, ducks, and politicians to the forefront of the City’s mind. Bristol Democrats and Republicans announced who would be seeking seats on the City Council, and who would be gunning for the role of mayor.

City Council and the Board of Finance approved the 2019-20 budget in a total amount of $200,614,740, with a mill rate of 38.05—an overall increase of $194,409,185 to the budget, and a 1.17 mill rate increase.

The Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce hosted the 15th annual Pequabuck River Duck Race. Dave Rackliffe walked away with the top prize—$1,500 sponsored by The Ultimate Companies.

Gov. Ned Lamont made his way to Mum City on May 13, 2019, to speak at the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce Connecticut Outlook event. “The economy is strong but our fiscal house is a mess,” said Lamont. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

June

It was announced in January that long time Bristol superintendent of schools, Dr. Susan Moreau, would be retiring at the conclusion of the school year. Moreau was succeeded by Dr. Catherine Carbone, who was joined by Dr. Michael Dietter in the position of deputy superintendent.

Bristol Health cut the ribbon on the Ambulatory Care Center—the first piece of development on Old Centre Square since the closing of the former mall.

July

The Bristol Democratic and Republican Town Committees hosted their endorsement meetings on July 22 where the slate of candidates was officially endorsed by their respective parties.

Lindiana Frangu, the former Miss Bristol’s Outstanding Teen, went on to win the title of Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen. Over the summer she headed to Orlando, FL, where she competed for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.

During a joint meeting of the city council and board of finance an appropriation of $400,000 was approved and would be used to relocate Bristol Fire Department Engine Co. 3, which at the time, was located at 81 Church Ave. in Forestville.

Thirteen local businesses throughout the city were caught selling liquor to underage buyers. The incidents were uncovered during an alcohol compliance check operation performed by the City’s police department and anti-drug coalition, B.E.S.T-4-Bristol.

August

Effective Aug. 30, the Bristol courthouse at 131 N Main Street would be closing, state officials released. The majority of employees and cases set to be heard in Bristol would be transferred to New Britain courthouse.

As the efforts to bring life back into downtown Bristol continue, husband and wife duo Michael and Rachel Haseltine decided those efforts could use a pinch of hops. The pair opened their brewery and family restaurant, Better Half Brewing, on North Main Street.

City council appointed Thomas Lozier as the city’s new building official. Lozier took over the mantle from Guy Morin, who retired in August.

Earlier in the year the department of public works was awarded a $20,000 from Covanta, and those funds were used to outfit each school in the district with a garden.

September

The 58th annual Bristol Mum Festival kicked off in September and brought with it the crowning of four new Miss Mum Queens.

The festival soft opening highlighted the city’s arts community with a performance by jazz group Sharp 5 Jazz, and painting activities brought to you by The Studio, an art studio owned by Ginger Grant and located in the west end.

During the annual festival it is tradition to announce the Bristol hometown hero, and this year, all of Bristol’s World War II veterans were recognized and saluted for their bravery and service.

The former Clarence A. Bingham elementary school was converted into an apartment building, and city officials came out to celebrate the reuse of a beloved building.

October

October was a month of fall activities, and revitalization in Bristol. The Bristol Armory was an abandoned building, and local coaches, Chris D’Amato, Bunty Ray, and Bobby McMahon had the idea to restore the building, which had its grand opening in November 2019.

Will 2020 be the year that the Memorial Boulevard School re-opens? Debate continued in 2019 as construction and curriculum plans continue to be hammered out.

A new addition came to Bristol with a bike trail opening in Rockwell Park, and discussions continued on the redesign of the Memorial Boulevard School. Both the Indian Rock Nature Preserve and Wojtusik Nursery held their annual Harvest Festival to celebrate the fall.

With Election Day coming up, St. Paul High School held a mock election where juniors and seniors ran for city official positions, and the winners got to job shadow the real elected official. Jay Porrini won the Kiss-A-Pig fundraiser for the second year in a row, raising a total of $6,687.

November

November was all about the municipal election. Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu remained Bristol’s mayor, but changes came when the Democratic Party took over the city council, and the Republican Party took over the Board of Education. Brittany Barney became the newest and youngest addition to the city council, and Jen Dube was named the Board of Education Chairperson.

The Parks & Rec Department announced their merger with the Youth Services Department. The ACE Awards were held at the New England Carousel Museum, and decorated traffic boxes were added to various streets in Bristol, displaying visuals of Bristol’s history.

Imagine Nation celebrated their 15 year anniversary, and lots of non-profit organizations stepped up to provide Thanksgiving meals for people who needed them.

December

December was filled with lots of holiday events. St. Paul Catholic High School held a ‘Showcase of Stars’ musical performance. Herstory Theater came to the Bristol Public Library to perform a live radio version of the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, and Liberty Baptist Church put on their annual Christmas play for the 14 year.

The Salvation Army was busy with their Angel Tag program, and toy drive, making sure Bristol children in need received toys for Christmas. They also received vehicle donations for transportation assistance, and larger than normal donations in their red kettle buckets.

The Bristol Boys & Girls Club celebrated their five year anniversary, and Bristol Parks & Rec. hosted a ‘Children’s Holiday Parade in Reverse’. The city held its annual tree lighting ceremony at Webster Bank, and the Connecticut DOT shared their plans to revamp Routes 69 and 72, adding a sidewalk environment, and making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Contributions were made by Taylor Murchison-Gallagher and Jamila Young. To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jamila Young, email her at JYoung@BristolObserver.com.