The mid 70s brought change to the Center

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Photo courtesy of the Salmon Brook Historical Society

Moving the Enders house onto Route 10/202 south from Route 20 (note the islands that were removed about a year later when the intersection was realigned).

Granby’s 1970s growing pains— controversial budgets, development proposals, plans for creating a commercial center in the wedge between Route 189 and Route 20, a school system with growing pains, a failed sewer system and cars lined up for blocks waiting to pump rationed gasoline all shared space on the Drummer’s front page. The hope of a new library, a “fix” for the Center traffic nightmare and the country’s year-long bicentennial celebration that culminated on July 4, 1976, were among the positives that balanced it all. 

In meeting the challenges of that decade-long journey, Granby was able to move into the 1980s and the growth and change that would transform the town. In 1970, the population numbered 6,150. By 1990 that number had grown to 9,369. 

The Drummer survived and grew along with the town and now, celebrating its fiftieth publishing year, it is still the voice of the community and the best source of local news. Thank you, Granby for supporting us.-—Chris Levandowski

Visiting the Granby Drummer archives: What happened in Granby in the mid 70s?

January – December 1974

The Dec. 6 public hearing on the Center Development plan met pushback from owners of 10 Hartford Avenue, the Geissler Plaza, Carl Kevorkian, and strong objections from Shattuck Avenue residents. Subsequent BOS concerns sent the plan back for changes to its scope and eliminating all but commercial and professional park properties from eminent domain or major changes. On Jan. 7, the Redevelopment Agency asked for a defined center development zone; BOS took it under advisement.

Energy conservation was a necessary part of life in the 70s. The BOE stood by its decision to curtail after school activities even when Athletic Director Ken King asked it to allow indoor games with lowered lights and no heat.

BOS accepted land from Roncari Industries that would add 7.5 to 9 years to land fill operations with increased control of dumping at the facility. Later in the year, DEP instituted new land fill regulations that would cost the town $50,000 to implement.

CAO Flannery and gas station owners addressed the chaos of long gas lines created by the world-wide energy crisis. Staggered hours and rationing best served customers and owners. Tanner’s (Food Bag) lines were shortened by the police to ease one-way traffic that also impeded passage of emergency vehicles.

The BOE unanimously approved a $2,074,688 budget with 7.5 percent increases to non-teaching personnel, a 10 percent increase to Superintendent Starble and 6 percent raise for teachers. Rejected by the GEA, it was in negotiations with mediators.

The Salmon Brook Historical Society advised P&Z it would move the Ender’s House from Ender’s Forest to the society grounds and erect it adjacent to the Abijah Rowe house with a connecting walkway, eliminating the problem of two houses on one lot.

The BOS/Sewer Commission accepted a low bid of 5.5 percent for a $73,000 sewer construction project.

The East St bridge replacement and improvements to the Loomis St intersection were approved at a cost of $30,000.

In June, a BOF op-ed questioned the advisability of retaining the mandatory budget referendum citing low voter turnout at referendums and Budget Town Meetings. Selectman appointed a Charter Revision Committee to review the issue.

The Center Plan hit a glitch when the tight financial climate cooled contractor interest in self-financed commercial construction. The Redevelopment Agency considered the town applying for Federal funding to keep the plan going forward.

New home construction made Supt. Starble reverse his earlier projection of a decrease in elementary students; there would be an increase.

SNETCO took title to the old Loomis Brothers Store property in the first move toward the State realigning Rts 189 and 202/10. The building would be razed.

In September, the Limited Charter Study Commission recommended replacing the automatic referendum vote with a secret vote at the Budget Town Meeting but allowing for a referendum if at least 200 residents petitioned for one. A public hearing was set to determine if the question would be on the November ballot.

Opening day of school was attended by 1,834 students, 10 less than projected and included thirty Project Concern students from Hartford. 

Because of center traffic congestion at evening rush hour, the BOS to ask the GPD to assign two traffic control officers there to minimize traffic accidents.

The two-year-old Girls’ Cross-Country team and the Girls’ Field Hockey team each brought home State Titles. Go Bears!

January–December 1975

The specter of repeated budget rejections made the BOS ask for increased public input. An 8-10 percent expenditure increase, with a 5-6 mill increase was expected. Deepening recession and inflation and community feedback led to a BOS request that budget increases not exceed 3 percent.

P&Z approved Robert Levandowski’s request to move his recreational vehicle business from the Loomis Brothers store to a new building north of State Line Oil. It is now part of Granby Commons Plaza.

Calls for police assistance were transferred to the state police dispatcher for radio communication with, and dispatch of GPD patrol officers. GPD installed dispatch equipment in its Town Hall station and manned it 24/7, which eliminated night calls being transferred to Chief Algren’s home.

In May, BOF accepted a combined budget with a 69-mill-rate that reflected a one-mill reduction due to a $32,188 surplus transfer. BOS and BOE had returned $71,000 at the end of the tax year.

A proposal for a gifted program for grades 6–8 was approved in concept by BOE but turned down because of its cost. An enrichment program for gifted students was adopted.

Connecticut DEP ordered Granby to improve or replace its five-year-old, DEP-engineered sewer treatment facility south of the center because it was polluting Salmon Brook. 

Granby’s first-ever municipal primary was held by Republicans to choose two BOS candidates from a field of three: John Avery who had been defeated in the party caucus and GOP-endorsed candidates Dick Sweeton and Roger Hernsdorf.

The Trang Trung family was welcomed to Granby after they fled war-torn Viet Nam in June 1975. The bench outside the entrance to town hall expressed their gratitude. “To the people of Granby … Thank you for giving our flight to freedom a welcome arrival. The Tran family–1981

The old Loomis Brothers Store was eulogized on the drummer’s front page as the DOT prepared to raze it to make way for realignment of Route 189 with Routes 202/10.

In an op-ed, Development Officer Bob Greenwood announced new subdivision regulations; the first hint of regulations for horses and other livestock. He said residents and livestock owners should speak up or “forever hold your peace and temper.”

California Achievement Test scores for grades 2–10 in 1973 and ’74, showed a definite weakness in math and spelling and overall poor scores for grade 5. Third graders’ good reading marks probably resulted from participation in a cooperative Valley town reading project.

In November, a town meeting convened to appropriate $2,700 for a sewer repair feasibility study. The three alternatives were: Modify existing plant, build a new plant of similar type or tie in with Simsbury.

P&Z was surprised by the turnout of 100 livestock owners at the Oct. 14 hearing on proposed zoning regs. Owners were concerned that changes not limit keeping horses as then allowed and zoning horses out of families. 

CAO and First Selectman Neumann appointed a committee consisting of two members from each town board to study the sewer problem and its impact on the town’s future. Robert Greenwood favored the Simsbury connection because it would foster commercial and industrial growth.

The Girls Cross Country team, “The Bear Feet”, won its second state title ending a 16-0 season.

The Loomis Brothers store was demolished to make way for the realignment of Route 189 with Route 10/202.

January–December 1976

The Library Board brought three expansion alternatives to the BOS: Construct 6,000 sq. ft. building for $350,000, add a 2,400 sq. ft. structure to the existing library (FVVNA building) for $100,000, or move the old town hall/center school and add it to the existing library for $135,000. BOS asked for present and projected usage numbers and agreed to revisit the issue in a month.

DEP doubled down on deadlines to fix the sewer problem, wanting construction completed by June 30, 1978. With the work done under DEP orders, state and federal grants would pay 90 percent of the costs. The state favored a trunk line to Simsbury.

Granby’s new Town Seal was commissioned and presented to the town by the Civic Club and the Art League as part of their Bicentennial projects.

CAT scores for grades 2-10 showed problems with math computation. Grade 5, for the second time, measured far below expected scores in math, reading and language. Two other Valley towns had similar grade 5 results. The testing service was asked to recheck its results.

Housing development proposals continued. However, Superintendent Starble noted that enrollment growth was not as high as anticipated because of slow new housing starts. Existing facilities could accommodate 2,100 students for the next five years.

Forty girls, their parents and male track members backed track team Captain Peter deBrruyn Kops’s, request for creating a girls’ track team. Superintendent Starble rejected the idea. Attendees suggested a girls’ donation-backed track club making it apparent the crowd wasn’t leaving without a decision. Starble said he’d try to include it in the budget.

Charles Crane sought approval for a septic system to serve a coffee shop and dinner-only restaurant in his converted barn behind Masonic Hall. Permission was granted. (it’s now @the Barn).

One hundred parents packed a BOE meeting and made a girls’ track team happen. The 26-member team was young, but it fielded seven qualifiers to the Girls State Track meet.

By June of 1976, Bi-Centennial fever was at high pitch. Months of planning by hundreds of volunteers and community organizations was set to kick off. A spring Marquis of Granby muster at Salmon Brook Park had set the tone. The weekend of July 4 was graced with ideal weather for the town-wide events and Granby took advantage.

The Friday evening parade with 29 participating organizations in three units marched from GMHS to Salmon Brook Park. On Saturday the Little League Managers vs Coaches game was touted as “old-fashioned baseball at its best”. Hands down, the gala event of the weekend was the Bicentennial Ball at High Meadow attended by hundreds of folks in their finest and even some in authentic 1776 ball attire. Paul Landerman’s music and special entertainment all for $6 a person. Sunday started with an ecumenical church service at 11 a.m. at the corner of Creamery Hill and North Church roads.

Sunday’s town-wide picnic organized by the Granby Jaycees in Salmon Brook Park was an all-you-can- eat-for-$2 affair from 1 to 6 p.m. Granby did her grand old country and flag proud!

The Public Works Employment Act of 1976 revitalized the long hoped-for center library. A town meeting appropriated $595,000 toward construction. The federal grant would reimburse the town for the proposed 10,500 sq. ft. building. The grant application was rejected, probably because of its higher labor-to-materials ratio. 

A $35,000 budget surplus, state grant increases and a local contractor’s donation of site work, led to the BOF approving construction of a track and field facility at GMHS.

January–December 1977

BOF and BOS favored moving forward with a sewer connection to Simsbury. A town meeting approved engineering costs and a subsequent referendum approved a $650,000 bond issue for construction.

A DOT public hearing on realignment of Route 202/10 with Routes 189 and 20 presented final plans that eliminated the shortest state highway in Connecticut connecting Routes 20 and 189. It became Park Place.

A parent requested that BOE fund a Gifted Program for children who needed more challenge in the middle school. The program had a proposed startup budget of $8 to $10,000, two-thirds of which would be state reimbursed after the first year.

The BOF struggled with, and hotly debated creating a Capital and Non-recurring Expense Fund and putting it into the upcoming budget. The Charter allowed a levy of up to two mills a year and transfer of any portion of end-of-year surplus to the fund. Although the board voted to “approve the concept”, it deferred implementation.

Southern New England Telephone Company announced the initiation of 911 Emergency Service to Granby and Hartland residents whose phone numbers began with 653. Trained dispatchers at GPD answered and ordered appropriate emergency services

Unleashed and roaming dogs—not bears—were the town’s “biggest gripe”. Packs of dogs attacked livestock, killed deer, chased and attacked hikers, and got into garbage. Selectmen and the dog warden asked citizens for help to solve the problem.

UConn announced Tudor and Laura Holcomb’s donation of their 350-acre farm to the university. Holcomb sited their wish to keep it from housing development as one reason for the decision. He also stipulated that if UConn no longer had use for the farm, the land would go to the Town of Granby.

Budget woes: GMHS was at 96 percent capacity. A $17,000 BOF cut to the BOE budget cut seven proposed half-time teaching positions at GMHS. The proposed Gifted Program was also cut. Granby ranked 124 out of 169 in per-pupil spending and accreditation loomed. Many Connecticut towns were awaiting legislative action prompted by the Conn. Supreme Court’s Horton v. Meskill funding decision. The May 16 budget referendum rejected the $3,804,839 budget with 417 voting. The board concluded this “was not indicative of local sentiment” and re-submitted the budget to a May 23 Town Meeting and to referendum on May 31; 1,241 turned out to reject it again. A record crowd of 200 attended the June 6 Town Meeting that resulted cuts of $18,500 each from BOE and BOS. A third referendum drew 1,023 voters who rejected the $3,767,839 revision. A citizen’s exit poll disclosed that the Superintendent of Schools’ salary increase was the main complaint followed by high taxes and “the CAO’s increase should be cut”.Reluctantly, the superintendent’s increase was cut by $700 and the CAO’s by $500, plus $900 in other cuts. The addition of $2,976 from surplus created a new budget of $3,759,639 that carried a 72.4 mill rate. A fourth town meeting on June 20 sent it to referendum. The next issue of the drummer is missing, but as was often the case, a handwritten announcement on the front page, probably added by the printer, indicated that it finally passed with 907 votes; just in time to start the cycle for the coming year.

The town accepted Park Place as a town road and abandoned corners of the Green to the State. Worth it … because the Route 189, Route 20 and Routes 202/10 project would “improve traffic flow and safety.” Over 50 percent of Granby’s auto accidents occurred on 202/10 between 189 and 20 on the west side of the Green.