Year in Review: Trumbull's top stories of 2014
Trumbull once again produced its share of compelling news in 2014. Sometimes controversial, tragic or uplifting, the news in town is always interesting. And so, without further ado, we present our picks for the top stories of the year, in no particular order.
Emotions were running high in spring 2014, when Trumbull’s Board of Education announced a need to redistrict, due to overcrowding at Frenchtown Elementary. Consultants recommended two plans, each moving students from Frenchtown to Middlebrook.
Parents came out in force to board meetings, voicing concerns and doubts about the logic of both proposals. Many also felt the Board of Education was snubbing parent input by not holding a scheduled public hearing on the issue.
In the end, the decision to take roughly 75 students, living in The Eaves housing complex, out of the Frenchtown district and into Middlebrook passed with a unanimous vote. Board members said it would have the least overall impact, allow special needs students to stay in place, help classroom size, and allow the district to stop using portable classrooms.
In August the school board said it was happy to see that redistricting was having a positive impact on enrollment, accomplishing the goals set.
To market, to market
Many Trumbull residents were upset to find out in early July that their quaint farmers’ market on the Long Hill Green would not be coming back for the season.
Market master Nancy Moore decided to call it quits in 2014. A big reason behind the decision, according to Moore, was tough regulations placed on vendors by the Trumbull Monroe Farmers’ Market.
Trumbull’s health district director, Patrice Sulik, denied that claim, saying that regulations were in place to keep the public safe.
State Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R-123) and First Selectman Tim Herbst were among the Trumbull officials upset by the closing. Rutigliano and Herbst said the state Department of Agriculture, in discussions, agreed some of the regulations enforced were strict for such a venue.
Herbst’s chief of staff, Lynn Arnow, is among those working to get the market in back in 2015.
In December, Trumbull’s Town Council voted to leave the Trumbull Monroe Health District and form its own health department. The farmers’ market came up in council discussion. The decision was not without controversy, but Herbst said the proposal was based on financial savings and more local control. He said the issues were “much bigger than a farmers’ market.”
The community was reeling following the June death of 15-year-old Abby Anderson, a sophomore at Trumbull High School. The way Trumbull banded together after the tragedy made headlines, more than once.
Before her death, the energetic cheerleader had been diagnosed with clinical depression. Despite Abby and her family taking the right steps with therapy, medication and strong support, she took her own life.
Trumbull school officials acted quickly, providing counseling for students. As the town mourned, many grew closer, using the social media message #TrumbullStrong.
One of Abby’s goals in life was to “help others in a big way,” her family said. In September, her friends and family began organizing Team Abby to walk in the Fairfield County Out of Darkness Walk, to raise awareness about suicide and mental illness. Roughly 300 people joined the team and have raised more than $41,000 for the cause.
Her family has started a scholarship fund in Abby’s name and hopes to spread awareness by sharing her story.
Busy week of crime
Bank robberies, a break in a counterfeit case, a missing teen, sexual assault, and armed carjacking all happened within a short period of time in late September.
“I’ve never experienced a week like that in 40 years,” police Chief Thomas Kiely said of the cases, which kept detectives busy.
The armed carjacking, armed bank robbery and arson were all connected, according to police. A car taken by gunpoint at the Trumbull Marriott was later used in a robbery on Madison Avenue, then set on fire. One suspect, George Bratsenis, 65, was arrested and charged for the robbery, while police were continuing to investigate. Police also made another arrest for a second bank robbery that happened that week, all while working on other major cases.
Kiely, who retires at the end of 2014, said the unusually busy week was an aberration and not a “new normal” for the town.
Herbst around the state
Trumbull’s first selectman wasn’t just making headlines in town. Tim Herbst ran a tireless campaign for state treasurer, against incumbent Denise Nappier.
On the night of the election, the two were locked in a race too close to call. It wasn’t until the next day when Herbst conceded, losing by about 9,000 votes. Despite losing, Herbst gained name recognition and endorsements from around the state.
“The people of Trumbull have been incredibly good to me,” Herbst said when he conceded. “I wouldn’t have had this opportunity but for their confidence and trust. While it’s hard to lose a close race, the good news is I still lead the best town in America.”
The first selectman has not said publicly if he will run again for statewide office but said he is eager to help reinvigorate the state GOP.
Death of a hero
A loss for the nation hit close to home in August.
Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene was killed in Afghanistan Tuesday, Aug. 5. He was the brother of Trumbullite Jon Greene.
“I’m 52 years old and he’s still my hero,” Jon Greene told The Times in August.
The Associated Press reported that Maj. Gen. Greene, 55, was shot to death in one of the bloodiest insider attacks of the Afghanistan war.
“A gunman dressed as an Afghan soldier turned on allied troops, wounding about 14, including a German general and two Afghan generals,” the AP reported. The shooter was also killed in the attack near Kabul.
As the news broke, condolences began pouring out on social media to Jon Greene, an active local Democrat in town.
“The entire town of Trumbull mourns the loss of this great patriot and may God grant their family strength in the days ahead,” a statement from Town Hall read.
Hail to the chiefs
The new year is bringing big changes to the Trumbull Police Department. In 2014, Chief Thomas Kiely announced he was retiring at the end of December, after 40 years with the department. Deputy Chief Michael Harry, who has served about 41 years, also announced his retirement.
Chief Kiely recently reflected on his long career with The Times and gave advice for officers new to the job.
“I just tell officers that the littlest thing you do, people will remember it,” Kiely said. “A lot of these people, this will be the only time they have an experience with the police department, so try to make it a good one.”
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, the announcement was made that Trumbull resident Michael Lombardo will be the new chief, starting Jan. 1. Lombardo is the police chief in Wilton. He will officially be sworn-in on Wednesday, Jan. 7.
Cheesecake at the mall
Never underestimate the power of a food. In Trumbull, few things capture reader excitement quite like a new restaurant opening up.
Cheesecake Factory coming to Westfield Trumbull got a lot of people talking. Excitement began growing when Planning and Zoning approved the restaurant in March. After months of construction, the popular chain opened in the summer. It is one of three in the state, featuring 250 menu items.