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The City of Danbury’s mission is to ensure a superior quality of life for its citizens by providing the most cost effective municipal services while preserving the cultural, historical and natural resources of the city. We are committed to working with citizens to enhance Danbury’s position as a premier place to live, work, and raise a family in a traditional yet progressive community.
Julia Perkins | June 17, 2021 - Updated: June 17, 2021 9:33 p.m.
Danbury's Palace theater reopens after restoration and 15-month COVID shutdown
The Palace Danbury theatre will be reopen on Saturday for the first time since March 2020. It is undergoing a minor restoration. Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Danbury, Conn.
A shadow hung over The Palace theater’s last show.
On Saturday, March 7, 2020 — the day after the first Danbury and Connecticut connection to the coronavirus was reported — and a comedian performed at the downtown theater as an early St. Patrick’s Day event.
“It was a really funny show … but something didn’t feel quite right,” said Carol Freud Spiegel, managing director for The Palace. “The staff and audience were all talking about ‘that virus.’”
Shortly after, the Palace and other venues across the state and nation closed.
Fifteen months later, the theater is reopening its doors Saturday night, featuring comedian Julia Scotti.
With reopening has come increased cleaning and a minor restoration to the marquee.
Theater officials had considered opening earlier, but will open now without the COVID-19 restrictions the state was under until a month ago.
“I’m glad we waited until now to open,” Spiegel said.
The reopening comes as new COVID-19 cases in Danbury are at among the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic.
The city reported eight positive tests taken June 8 through June 13, according to Danbury’s latest report. That’s the lowest weekly number since seven cases were reported the week of March 9, 2020, and a big improvement from several months ago, Mayor Joe Cavo said.
“I’m excited to see businesses start to be able to reopen,” he said. “It’s nice to be at this point in time.”
He said he still wants to move forward “cautiously,” but has seen more people in restaurants and businesses.
“It’s a sign of encouragement,” Cavo said.
Patrons at The Palace will not be required to wear masks, although staff will, Spiegel said. The theater brought in an outside service to clean and sanitize the building from “head to toe,” she said. The air filtration system was upgraded.
The theater has 400 seats, but only 200 tickets will be sold to Saturday’s show. All tickets are general admission, so patrons may seat themselves away from others.
“This will be a self social-distanced show,” Spiegel said. **“**There are some seats that will be closed off. I don't anticipate us to be at capacity this weekend.”
Ahead of the opening, the theater is returning to its roots. The marquee has been painted with the historic colors the theater’s opening in 1928, she said. LED lights were installed on the marquee.
“The space and the time has given us time to reflect on what we want to see and what we want our public to see,” Spiegel said. “It's pretty exciting.”
The theater plans to continue with interior restoration, she said.
Saturday’s show begins at 8 p.m. with opener Anita Wise, a stand-up comedian who has been featured at the “Just for Laughs Festival” in Montreal and has appeared on “Seinfield” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.
The main act is Julia Scotti, who has been named one of the Top Five Transgender Comedians in the country by The Advocate magazine. She was a finalist on Season 11 of “America’s Got Talent” and is known as the “crazy old lady of comedy.”
She has a comedy special on Showtime called “More Women of a Certain Age” and a new documentary film, “Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.”
Scotti said she appeals to all generations.
“Young kids laugh at me because I'm like a crazy grandmother,” she said in a statement. “Middle-aged people say I remind them of their grandmother, and my age people say it's so true what I say.”
Julia Perkins | June 28, 2021Updated: June 28, 2021 4:41 p.m.
Interim superintendent named in Danbury ahead of Pascarella's retirement
DANBURY — Assistant Superintendent Kevin Walston will temporarily lead the district until a permanent school chief is named.
Sal Pascarella, who has served as superintendent for 15 years, is set to retire after Wednesday, and the school board has narrowed down a list of candidates to replace him.
“It’s an honor to have been in this district,” Pascarella said after the board voted Wednesday to name Walston as interim superintendent. “It’s a labor of love. It’s a wonderful, wonderful community to be in and to retire from for me, wonderful memories. And I know you’ll continue to do good work. I’m really proud of the district.”
The school board plans to interview the top five candidates for permanent superintendent on Tuesday and Wednesday over Zoom, said Gladys Cooper, chair of the education board. Members will narrow down the list to two to three candidates, who will then be interviewed in-person, she said.
The board has eyed July 7 as the date to pick the new leader, but the decision could be pushed if board members aren’t satisfied with the candidates, Cooper said.
“We just don’t want to rush the process,” she said.
The new superintendent is expected to be announced sometime after the week of July 5, according to a timeline on the district’s website.
Walston is expected to serve until the new superintendent takes over or “until the board otherwise takes further action,” according to the motion the board members approved. His new role begins July 1.
“Obviously I’m honored to be filling for Dr. Sal and supporting the district in this role in the interim,” he said.
Other new positions
The district has a new interim finance director, Frank Connolly, with experience in schools and municipal governance. Connolly has served as town manager in North Branford, Newington and Coventry and as school business manager in Stonington.
He has been interim school finance director for various districts, including North Haven and Monroe, where he and the superintendent were put on leave in January 2020 due to budgetary shortfall problems that investigators later determined started before they were hired.
Connolly is the author of “Hidden Agendas: Inside Town Hall,” a book about small-town politics in a fictional Connecticut community.
He is taking over for Courtney LeBorious, who is leaving Danbury for another position. She became finance director in November 2019.
Three new principals were hired, too.
Michelle Tarsi will lead Mill Ridge Primary School, while Ellen Paolino will head Hayestown Elementary School beginning July 1. Janet Sayegh will be interim principal of the Danbury Primary Center, the new kindergarten school opening in Brookfield under the COVID-19 return-to-school plan.
Since 2009, Sayegh has been a fifth-grade teacher at Pembroke Elementary School, where she is seen as the “right-hand person,” said Kara Casimiro, director of teaching and learning. Sayegh is one of three summer school directors.
Tarsi has been Mill Ridge’s interim principal for the past year and previously served as assistant principal at Park Avenue Elementary School, where she taught for 15 years. She has worked as a district numeracy coach and summer school administrator.
“Michelle is committed to ensuring that all students learn to their maximum potential and to fostering innovation through collaboration with teachers, staff, students and families,” Walston said in a statement. “She is familiar with the traditions and successful practices at Mill Ridge Primary and will diligently continue in her official capacity as its principal.”
Paolino has been principal of Walsh School in Waterbury for seven years and served as interim principal for Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury.
“Ms. Paolino impressed all of our interview committees with her education, her experience, her knowledge and her passion, and we believe that she is poised to lead Hayestown forward in the strongest way,” Walston said.
Hearthstone Castle: Hazardous Building Materials Abatement Phase-1
The Hearthstone Castle Abatement project included the removal of asbestos and lead contaminated building materials from inside the castle structure and disposal of said materials. Additionally, the project included stabilizing the building and making it safe for the environment. As of September 2020, the walls have been stabilized, the basement filled in, and an observation tower constructed inside the castle. Eventually, it will become a destination on hiking trails at Tarrywile Park in Danbury in 2021.
Middle River Road Box Culvert
The Middle River Road Bridge was a replacement and drainage improvement project. The existing structure was replaced with a new box culvert, parapets and a new guide rail system.
As of November 2020, the Middle River Road Bridge/Culvert was awarded to Hemlock Construction through our CROOG/Gordian Contract. Hemlock Construction has demobilized the detour, and signage has been removed and the road is open. Hemlock completed the project on schedule within budget. Final Inspection was held attended by the designer Stantec Engineering, City of Danbury Engineering, Construction Services and Hemlock Construction. The structure was accepted with zero items on the punch list. The project was inspected and administrated by Construction Services Division
Crosby Street Connector Bridge
This project consisted of the removal and replacement of the Crosby Street Connector Bridge Superstructure over the Still River.
The bridge superstructure replacement project was submitted to Conn DOT’s Local Bridge Program by the City Engineering Division qualifying us for a 50% reimbursement of our contract costs. The project was at Substantial Completion as of June 2020 and completed several weeks ahead of schedule and within budget.
The bridge semifinal inspection was performed by RHS Consulting Design, LLC, ConnDot Francisco Fadul, P.E. Local Bridge Program Project Engineer, Danbury Engineering Division, Construction Services and Nagy Brothers. Nagy Brothers bridge rail subcontractor completed the one item on the punch list. This project has been administrated and inspected in-house by the City of Danbury's Construction Services.
Ellen Levy Animal Control Facility
This new, larger and more modern facility replaced the older Animal Control facility opened in December 2020. The Animal Control project consisted of the construction of the new 24-kennel Animal Control Facility and the demolition of the existing facility built in the early 70's. The new Ellen Levy Animal Control Facility boasts heated floors inside and outside to keep the animals' paws warm during winter months. Additionally, a cleaning station and adoption room was added for potential new adopters to get to know their new animals. The construction of the Ellen Levy Animal Control Facility was successfully administered and managed and was successfully completed on schedule and within budget. The new, state-of-the-art building was made possible by the generosity of the late Ellen Levy and Councilman Warren Levy.