Greater New Milford area’s year in review
The towns in the Greater New Milford area — New Milford, Washington, Sherman, Kent, Bridgewater and Roxbury — faced challenges and celebrated successes throughout 2018.
Several big projects finally moved forward in a big way — from the approval of funding for the expansion and revitalization of New Milford Public Library to the start of construction of the Agriscience school in Washington.
Other projects faced controversy in 2018 — like the planned demolition of the Bridgewater Grange and the sale of the New Preston pavilion.
There were also several big changes in top leadership in the towns, from superintendent departures to the appointment of a new police chief in New Milford.
Here is a list of top 10 stories of the year.
Residents voted in November to approve $6.5 million to modernize the library — making the third time the charm for recent efforts to renovate the building.
Weeks later, it was announced that a crucial piece of funding for the project was secured with the awarding of a $1 million state grant.
This will be the first time the building has been renovated since the late 1970s. The library Board of Trustees also committed $1 million for the work. The entire project is expected to cost $8.5 million.
Both public and private schools in the region saw changes this year, including the start of construction of a new agriscience academy, two new superintendents, and renovations and expansions.
In June, The Gunnery in Washington broke ground for the school’s new 32,000-square-foot arts and community center, which will be named for Tony-nominated producer Thomas S. Perakos, who graduated from the school in 1969 and made a multimillion-dollar gift for the center to be built.
Also over the summer, the Marvelwood School in Kent completed its $2 million renovation of its dorms, several common rooms and science lab. The buildings at the top of Skiff Mountain had largely been untouched for 50 years, even after the school moved in about 20 years ago.
Then, in the fall, construction of the long-awaited agriscience academy in Washington began. It is expected to open next fall to teach area students about agriculture with a STEM focus, which includes science, technology, engineering and math.
The project — expected to include 35,750 square feet of new construction at Shepaug Valley School while also using unused space within the school — has been controversial, with some residents questioning if the costs were too high for the towns to absorb. Proponents tout the program though as a way to bolster declining enrollment.
Also, this year both New Milford and Region 12 school districts saw their superintendents leave.
In New Milford, Joshua Smith left to take a position in Region 15 and was replaced by interim superintendent Stephen Tracy, who previously served as superintendent in New Milford. Southington principal Megan Bennett replaced Region 12 Superintendent Patricia Cosentino, who left to become the superintendent in New Fairfield.
After months of planning and construction, in August, motorists began using a new roundabout at the intersection of Still River Drive and Lanesville and Pickett District roads meant to ease congestion at the former four-way stop.
Prior to the roundabout opening, concerned residents took to Facebook, pressing fears about how the new traffic pattern would roll out.
An ice dam that formed in the Housatonic River in early January, flooding Route 7 and forcing evacuation of four homes and endangering more than 20 others, drew attention from residents near and far who wanted to catch a glimpse of the natural formation.
Town and state leaders quickly responded to the emergency, readying resources such as boats and vehicles, aware the dam had the potential to cause damage along the river in neighboring towns as it broke apart.
Finally, by the first week of February and after nearly four miles of Route 7 had been closed for days, authorities reported the dam had thawed significantly and running water was visible.
WCHN and the Hartford-based children’s medical center - the only hospital in the state dedicated solely to children’s care - announced the program that gives the three hospitals round-the-clock access to CCMC’s specialized and subspecialized pediatric services, along with more pediatric consultations in the Danbury and Norwalk emergency departments.
After serving as New Milford police chief for eight years, Shawn Boyne’s contract was not renewed by the town.
He was replaced by Spencer Cerruto, who comes to New Milford after 31 years with the Watertown Police Department, where he served in a variety of posts.