Monroe's offer for Newtown to use the former Chalk Hill School building following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School made national headlines at the tail-end of 2012, but that wasn't Monroe's only major story of note over the past year.
Most of Monroe was blacked out for days when Hurricane Sandy hit New England, but everyone weathered the storm once again. A string of burglaries also hit the town — and the region — hard. Monroe police participated in an investigation with area departments that put two burglars behind bars for a number of the break-ins.
Positive steps forward were made in 2012.
The town made tremendous strides in improving the Monroe Town Hall campus. Work was done to repair the leaky roof and a $4.1 million renovation of the police station with two additions is quickly rounding into shape.
In the business community, many residents were excited about the opening of Monroe Diner on Main Street. It now operates in the same building as the New Colony Diner, a landmark in town that had closed a few years ago.
Faces Change in Monroe's Schools
Monroe Public Schools welcomed some new faces in leadership positions, while saying goodbye to some old ones.
James Agostine was hired as superintendent of Schools, John Battista was promoted from Masuk High School principal to assistant superintendent, Monroe native Joseph Kobza took over as Masuk principal, and fellow Masuk grad Julia Strong was promoted to assistant principal. Jack Zamary is the new director of technology/operations.
St. Jude School also had a change in leadership. Interim Principal Patricia Griffin is striving to shape young leaders at the Catholic school. The former principal there was Katherin Sniffin.
But a sense of loss was also felt in the district when two teachers passed away within a week apart.
Kathy Kuhl of Jockey Hollow Middle School, who taught math for 42 years and was known for her willingness to help anyone in need, died at age 62. David Martin, known for his passion for teaching physics at Masuk, died at age 61. Both were adored by their students and respected by their peers.
The work of Monroe police officers led to some major arrests including an investigation into the massive thefts of watches from Victorinox Swiss Army, resulting in four. Police also arrested two New York men for trying to use a counterfeit credit card at Rite Aid Pharmacy. Those men turned out to be suspects in a string of fraud throughout the country.
Monroe's volunteer firefighters stayed busy fighting house fires and responding to storm related calls, accidents and other incidents in 2012. One thing that really stood out was the generosity of the men and women who serve.
When the Easton Volunteer Fire Department lost a firefighter during Hurricane Sandy, Monroe firefighters helped to cover shifts as members of the neighboring agency mourned their loss. Town firefighters, police officers and EMS volunteers also pitched in to help Newtown during and after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Boot collection drives in front of the Stevenson and Monroe fire stations and Big Y on Route 111 raised over $20,000 for the United Way of Western Connecticut’s Sandy Hook School Relief Fund.
An outpouring of community support was also felt for one of Monroe's Bravest. When Stevenson volunteer firefighter A.J. Rogers was diagnosed with leukemia at age 19, there was no shortage of fundraisers to help him and his family, including a car show and an event where friends had their heads shaved.
After years in the making, the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service now has it's own in-house paramedic.
A notable change in Monroe's emergency services is the establishment of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Two classes of citizens graduated from training and are ready to assist their neighbors during emergencies.
In politics, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th), U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112th) and state senators Anthony Musto (D-22nd) and Kevin Kelly (R-21st) all cruised to Election Day victories.
Monroe's Registrars of Voters handled major work in a year of redistricting and town Democrats appointed a new party chairman. Nick Kapoor, 21, was elected by Democratic Town Committee members in March, replacing Patty Ulatowski.
Monroe's political scene could be interesting to watch over the next few years, because Republicans elected a new chairman just the year before, choosing Jeff Guttman.
A Look Ahead
There are a number of things to watch for out for in 2013.
Voters approved a town operating budget on the first try for the second year in a row and the process for 2013-14 is already well underway. Though the town has avoided multiple referendums, some education advocates believe the school system was short-changed. On the other side, a number of residents say they can't afford another tax increase during difficult economic times.
The Monroe Planning & Zoning Commission is revising and updating town zoning regulations. What it decides could shape commercial and residential development in Monroe for years to come.
Town officials are still scrutinizing a possible agreement with Honeywell, which could result in multi-million-dollar projects for energy efficiency improvements to school and municipal buildings. The costs are supposed to be paid for through savings on utility bills.
Board of Education members have expressed strong support for moving to full-day Kindergarten next school year.
Whenever Sandy Hook Elementary decides it no longer needs to hold classes at Chalk Hill, Monroe must decide the long-term future of the building.
A controversial plan for a five-bay, 10-pump gas station on Route 111, across from Big Y shopping center, has yet to be decided. Plans are also moving forward for a new shopping center on Main Street — across from Clocktower Square.
Approvals are also still needed for a residential/office development/vineyard on 16.7 acres of the Marian Heights property on Route 111, which would save the historic castle on the site.