The New Britain City Journal is looking back at the top highlights in the City in 2014
10. Rose Garden Festival – It was the first time it was held and no one knew exactly what to expect. By the time it was done, it was one of the best events the City held all year.
People across the City and state came out for the festival on Saturday, June 14. The weather could not have been more perfect as more than 1,000 people attended the festival presented by Stanley Black and Decker and sponsored by the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce.
The top of Walnut Hill Park was decorated with tables and chairs as a number of restaurants offered a variety of dishes and a bar area was open for business.
The over 21 crowd listened, sang and danced to the music of Shaded Soul and Soul Sound Review.
“It was incredible. For its first year we are so proud. Everybody had such a good time and there were no problems,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “The restaurants ran out of food four times. They had to get more food. I never thought in a million years I would be dancing underneath the World War Monument.”
The rose garden, atop the park near the World War I Monument, is the largest volunteer maintained Rose Garden in the state, led by the efforts of Kate McCue and the Friends of Walnut Hill Rose Garden.
9. Go Ape Comes to the City – A new high ropes aerial adventure course at AW Stanley Park will be coming to New Britain in the Spring.
Go Ape LLC entered an agreement to run the course for 10 years paying the City $20,000 a year. The amount could increase depending on gross revenue.
Go Ape will construct and break down the course with the highest priority being the protection of the natural features of AW Stanley Park while providing visitors with access and educational opportunities that are compatible with common resource protection goals. Go ape currently has courses all across the country and world with all reference checks stating a very positive relationship with the vendor with minimal disruption to the natural habitat.
It will go from tree top to tree top with very little environmental impact and the City believes this adventure course will bring tourism to the City of New Britain from all over the State of Connecticut and New England.
8. Incumbents Win – The Democrats in New Britain kept their positions at the state level.
Republican incumbent Theresa Gerratana, 6th District, who ran unopposed on the ballot won. Todd Cheney did qualify as a write-in ballot.
In a race many predicted would be close the 24th District Democratic incumbent Rick Lopes beat Gennaro Bizzarro 2,323-1,872 in New Britain.
Democratic incumbent in the 25th District Robert Sanchez had little difficulty beating three candidates running against him. Sanchez garnered 2,198 votes while his opponents Republican Ed Colon had 697, unaffiliated Al Mayo finished with 97 and Green Party Candidate Paul Gobell had 55.
Democratic incumbent in the 26th District Peter Tercyak defeated Republican challenger Piotr Ceglarz 2,480-1,681.
7. $4 million boo-boo – Former Mayor Tim O’Brien apparently made a mistake of $4 million that put the City in quite a quandary. O’Brien gave the Board of Education $4.4 million extra in the 2013-14 budget that Councilmen were told were from state funds. O’Brien claimed it was done on purpose.
Because it was placed under the City budget, the City was responsible to give the board the $4.4 million.
The City is still in the hole for the mistake putting it in a deficit for the present budget.
6. Costco Approval – After waiting for four years to see the Costco project break ground, it finally happened in September.
Officials touted that 220 new jobs would occur thanks to the project during groundbreaking ceremonies at the Red Nine of Stanley Golf Course.
“I can’t believe we are finally here,” said Mayor Stewart. “As Mayor of the great City of New Britain I could not be happier. The most important part is 220 jobs. A community where the unemployment rate is higher than the state average needs jobs and needs them now. Costco is going to be able to provide it to them.”
The project was delayed for several reasons including failure to agree with the owners of the property where Target was located for a shared entrance.
The City also gave Costco tax abatements due to the extended process.
Costco will build the store on 15.49 parcels of land on Hartford Ave. Three holes on the Stanley Golf Course would be moved to a part of Newington that the City purchased.
Residents in the area fought against the destruction of the golf course land throughout the project.
5. President Barack O’Bama Visits City – President Barack Obama came to New Britain in February to Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to speak on raising the minimum wage.
After a quick stop at Café Beauregard on Main St. for lunch, where he ordered a Korean beef sandwich and chili, Obama spoke to a large crowd at Detrick Gymnasium for about 35 minutes.
He was introduced by Governor Dannel Malloy who said Obama “has done an outstanding job for all of us in Connecticut.”
His first words were, “Go Blue Devils”, which sparked the students. This was the first time in 11 years that a president has visited New Britain. The last one was President George W. Bush in June of 2003.
This was Obama’s first visit to Connecticut this year.
4. Rock Cats Moving to Hartford – Fans across New Britain were angered and disappointed in June after hearing news that the New Britain Rock Cats plan to leave the City in 2016.
The brand new stadium in Hartford is said to seat over 9,000 people and is expected to be built on two parcels of land near Capital Preparatory Magnet School and near Radisson Hotel at 1214 Main St. The stadium will be over 220,000 square feet.
The stadium would open in April 2016 and the team would sign a 25 year lease.
In documents received under a freedom of information request by the New Britain City Journal, The New Britain Rock Cats management threatened to leave New Britain several times in 2013 if stadium improvements and parking operations were denied under former Mayor O’Brien.
Rock Cat Owner Josh Solomon said the team was leaving New Britain due to “problems with the field.” Following the 2013 complaints to O’Brien about the field issues, no emails exist in the freedom of information request regarding field conditions between Stewart and the Rock Cats.
In October, Hartford finally approved the move, but many are not convinced a field can be built for 2016. The Rock Cats also changed their affiliation to the Colorado Rockies. New Britain is now looking for another team to replace them and has had several clubs interested.
3. City Nearly Goes Bankrupt – In March it was found out that New Britain was $13 million from the debt ceiling and $23.5 million in the hole for this year. The rating agencies were on the verge of downgrading New Britain to the point it could no longer borrow money.
Last budget season many of the Aldermen voted for $90 million in bonding and an unrealistic budget under O’Brien. Former Mayor Pro Tem Michael Trueworthy said “it is a darn good budget”. And most Democratic Councilman said their greatest moment was voting for that budget.
In March the Council rescinded about $17 million in bonding along with approving $25 million in Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN) that insured the City would pay current expenses and obligations of the City if needed. Democrats Trueworthy, David DeFronzo and Adam Platosz voted against allowing this to happen which could have resulted in a state takeover of New Britain.
“This one vote is the most important one we made in this Council,” said Alderman Don Naples.
2. Commission Votes to Remove Bielinski – After hearing testimony for over a month, the Civil Service Commission recommended that Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Bielinski be removed from her position on the Council, fined $2,500 and the position of Council Secretary reposted. Alderman Lou Salvio filed a complaint against Bielinski accusing her of hiring her niece by marriage – Jessica Gerratana – to the position. Bielinski is the sister of State Sen. Theresa Gerratana.
A decision on whether this can actually be done was supposed to be made by City Attorney’s by Dec. 1. City Attorney’s hired another firm to represent it and make a final decision.
No decision was made and one is expected to be made at a January meeting. Attorneys for both Gerratana and Bielinski are expected to file appeals if the decision is withheld.
1. Trueworthy’s Drunken Rampage – The biggest event of the year happened as Alderman Trueworthy went on a drunken spree July 22 that started at City Hall calling Mayor Erin Stewart vulgar names and ended at the West Side Tavern using anti-gay slurs.
According to a police report the event was reported around 12:15 p.m. but started earlier in the day as Trueworthy, 36, sent multiple emails to Stewart that she deemed “out of character”. He then called her several times “slurring his words” and called her “P***Y” three to four times because he was upset with her handling of the Costco situation.
Stewart said in the police report she suspected Trueworthy to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Later in the night Trueworthy went to West Side Tavern and asked for triple shots of Jack Daniels and a beer. He was told they could not serve that as it was illegal, said Issac Silva, owner of West Side Tavern.
Trueworthy was soon told by the waitress that he could not be served any longer.
Trueworthy, then asked the waitress, who it was that told her that he was cut off. She said the owner. Then, according to Silva, Trueworthy used an anti-gay slur and said “he would take care of him”. Silva heard this and then told Trueworthy to leave.
“He then grabbed a beer from somebody else’s table and drank it down before leaving,” said Silva.
Neither Silva or Stewart filed charges. Several Aldermen who caucus with the Republicans called for his resignation and attempted to remove him, but fellow Democrats voted against hearing the complaint.
Trueworthy is still on the Council.