Plainville sees new leaders, environmental challenges

Posted on Dec 28, 2016 by Brian Johnson

PLAINVILLE — It’s been a year of change in Plainville, with the appointment of new educational and legislative leaders, and local leaders attempting to tackle environmental challenges.

In November, Republican Dr. William Petit Jr., a newcomer to politics, was able to defeat Democratic Rep. Betty Boukus, who was running for her 11th two-year term in the 22nd District. The final vote count put Petit ahead 6,106 to 4,057.

Petit, a former doctor, was well known for establishing The Petit Family Foundation in memory of his former wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and daughters Hayley Elizabeth Pettit and Michaela Rose Petit who were killed in a home invasion in 2007. The foundation collects money for those suffering from chronic illness, supporting those affected by violence and encourages young women in the sciences. He said his priorities if elected included reforming the state budget, decreasing excessive taxes and regulations, focusing on small businesses and supporting STEM and vocational technical education.

Boukus and Petit both stuck to the issues during their campaigns and remained civil and courteous to one another. When Boukus missed a debate at the Plainville Public Library due to pneumonia, Petit wished her a speedy recovery. When Petit found himself the target of an online ad which claimed he was “attacking women and families”, Boukus disavowed the ad and called on those who created it to apologize. She also hugged Petit at a press conference in response to the ad. On election night, Boukus visited Petit at his headquarters to congratulate him because, she said, it was the “classy thing to do.”

Boukus died Dec. 2 after a long battle with cancer and was mourned by community and state leaders from both sides of the political aisle. Several people praised her for her pleasant personality and dedication to the community. Her funeral was held Dec. 7 at Our Lady of Mercy Parish and her casket received a police and fire escort. She leaves behind four grandchildren.

New educational leaders

2017 2016 also saw the appointment of a new Plainville High School Principal, a new Superintendent of Schools and a new Assistant Superintendent of Schools. In March, former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Kitching accepted a position as director of Education Connection, a regional service center that serves 30 schools. Dozens of town leaders and teachers gathered at Plainville High School April 4 for a sendoff, thanking Kitching for his five years of service to the district.

Dr. Maureen Brummett, who had previously served as assistant superintendent of schools, took over April 16. Steve LePage, formerly principal at Plainville High School, took over as the new assistant superintendent of schools July 1. At Plainville High School, LePage was succeeded by Roberto Medic, who began his new position the same day. Formerly the assistant principal at Watertown High School, Medic said he was impressed by the amount of technology in the district and vowed to put children first with all of his policies.

Tilcon’s plan

In early spring, officials from Tilcon presented before the Town Council their plan to relocate quarry operations onto land belonging to the New Britain Water Department. The plan, currently in legislative limbo, includes creating a forested buffer around the new site and quarrying for 40 years before remediating the site and creating a reservoir. In exchange, Tilcon would provide 157 acres of open space to Plainville, 95 to New Britain and 75 to Southington.

Town Councilors have declined to endorse or reject the plan pending the results of an environmental impact study. Town Manager Robert E. Lee wrote a letter to the Public Health Committee March 7 calling the proposal a “win-win for the economy, the future water sources of the region, the Town of Plainville and the surrounding neighborhood.” He has criticized environmental groups opposed to the deal for condemning the plan before the study is completed and assured residents that it will not be supported if it is indeed bad for the environment. He also stressed that Tilcon has operated within Plainville for 100 years, that they are the number two taxpayer and employ 300 people. He has said that they are “good corporate citizens” and donate to many local charitable causes.

Not all residents agreed with the town manager. In October, Marilyn Shorette began collecting petition signatures, concerned that mining on the land in question could negatively impact the local water supply. She urged Tilcon to consider an alternate site for the operation.

Paderewski Park

Another topic of environmental concern for many residents was the fish-kill at Paderewski Park last year. This year, a Friends of Paderewski Park committee was created to maintain the area around the pond. Additionally, a study was conducted with the aid of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Loureiro Engineering during the summer months. In early December, George Andrews, vice president of Loureiro Engineering, conducted a presentation which summarized the results and concluded that too much vegetation was causing depleted dissolved oxygen levels.

“In September 2015, more than 1,000 fish died off and there was another fish kill documented by DEEP in 2000 but there was relatively little background and documentation,” he said. “In 2005, the Connecticut Cultural Experiment Station documented that water weed was growing extremely abundantly. We saw that in our study as well. With surface matting, sunlight is blocked and the plants think it is night and consume oxygen rather than producing it.”

Andrews recommended that the town dredge the pond, which he said would solve the problem for 25 to 30 years. Other possible solutions could involve aerating the pond – which may not be effective due to its shallow depth, or chemical treatment to kill the water weed- which could only contribute to long-term problems due to sediment buildup.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or