SOUTHINGTON - The Town Council is planning a community conversation about tolerance after controversy caused by a racist video posted by a student in December.
At the start of Monday’s meeting, the council rose as one as council Chairman Chris Palmieri read a proclamation stating that the council opposes racism and that the video isn’t what the community is about.
“To me, it’s clear that we’re a community that’s inclusive of all of our residents,” said Palmieri. “I know we are certainly on the right track.”
Councilor Victoria Triano, who is also a local pastor and a member of many interfaith organizations, said she aims to spearhead the community conversation initiative, which she said would meet more than once. She is also working with Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan, Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski and other groups.
“Our focus will be to make a good town a better town,” she said.
Triano said she was in Italy when she received a call and emails from Town Manager Mark Sciota about the incident in which a 17-year-old student posted a video on social media threatening black students. He was charged with breach of peace and his case was then sealed.
“We were all very troubled by it,” said Triano. “I felt it was very powerful Monday when Chris read his proclamation. It went beyond politics. We are all united on this issue.”
The council also recognized an “unsung hero” at Monday’s meeting, commending David Baillargeon, a mechanic and electrician at the Water Pollution Control Facility, for “exceeding expectations.”
Baillargeon was presented with a certificate of appreciation, which said that he was being recognized for his “hard work, dedication and positive influence on others.”
Palmieri said the “exceeding expectations” segment is a “brand new” recognition by the town intended to honor town staff who “go beyond the call of duty.”
Michelle Passamano, the town’s human resources manager, said that there were 11 nominees for the first award.
She introduced Kiari Williams, the assistant superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Facility, who nominated Baillargeon.
Williams said Keith Hayden, the town engineer, described Baillargeon as “self-motivated” and “always having a positive demeanor” and employing “out of the box thinking.”
Hayden also said Baillargeon “singlehandedly” brought the electronics in the water pollution control facility “into the 21st century.”
“Dave has been in the field for 35 years now and he has a wealth of wisdom,” said Williams. “He is very patient and always working to help his co-workers. He is always thinking about how we can get our equipment to run at 110 percent, tweaking it to work even better than the manufacturers expected.”
Baillargeon said he has worked for the town for three years. Before that, he worked for 32 years in Bristol at the waste water treatment plant. He said that this gives him a lot of experience in his field.
“I like doing what I’m doing. It’s a team effort,” he said. “We all work together, strategize and solve the problems together. This award should really go to everyone.”
David Zoni, who heads the Sewer Committee, praised Baillargeon as a “very good selection.”
“This is a great program,” he said. “I’m glad the town instituted it. They recognized an outstanding town employee.”
Repairs at high school
The Town Council also approved an architect for the planned repairs to Southington High School’s roof: Hibbard & Rosa, of Middletown. Town Council Chairman Chris Palmieri said that they were the low bidder at $14,000, which was $2,000 less than the next lowest bidder.
Triano said the section of roof over the foyer at the school is old and needs to be replaced. Ssolar panels may also be added to the roof, but this is the first stage of upgrades.
Apple Harvest Festival
Additionally, the Town Council voted to approve that coordination for the fall’s Apple Harvest Festival will be conducted by Dave Laprey, recreation director. He was awarded a $15,000 stipend for the town to organize the event. Additionally, Town Secretary Julia Berordinelli has been awarded a $5,000 stipend to assist him.
“We’re keeping it run by the town this year rather than hiring a separate coordinator,” said Palmieri. “We’re trying something new and coordinating with the Parks and Recreation Department.”
Greenhouse grant approved
The town also approved $30,138.50 to match a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain that will help Mark Ramsay of Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm to build a greenhouse that will allow him to continue growing during the winter.
“This will not only allow him to continue his educational programming for kids during the winter months, but it will also allow him to turn a profit during the winter,” said Triano.
Triano said Ramsay is expected to begin building the greenhouse as soon as the materials arrive.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.