Community News

Finance Board Wants Schools Agreement

The Board of Finance Tuesday night agreed that Chairman Michael Sconyers should write a letter to Botelle Superintendent Mary Beth Iacobelli and Board of Education Chairman Ann DeCerbo requesting that they begin negotiations with Colebrook to establish a cooperative education agreement. Such agreements are legal under State Statute 10-158a.

“We’re going to look into different plans going forward,” said First Selectman Matt Riiska following the meeting. “We have 64 students at Botelle now and next year’s projections are in the upper 50s. Is it advantageous to operate a school with just 56 kids? It’s even more than economics—it’s our job to provide the best education we can to get them ready for Region 7.”

An attempt to actually consolidate the Colebrook and Norfolk schools failed several years ago but Riiska said the statute allows a town to send students to another community on a tuition basis.

“Obviously, the best thing would be a consolidation because we have the facility, but if that doesn’t work, we have to look at other options,” Riiska said, adding that conversations have already started amongst town officials. “But it’s a Board of Education thing,” he concluded. “It’s their call.”

How to Pay Less for Electricity

Concerned about your electricity bill? Eversource’s rate just shot up to 24.17 cents per kilowatt hour for most residential accounts, but you can switch any time to another supplier with lower rates. Two websites, EnergizeCT and PowerSetter, offer comparative listings from which to choose and sign-up forms to use if and when you decide to switch. Rates vary by length of contract, but most companies offer several options and you can opt to be notified of an impending price decrease. If prices do change, there is no penalty for switching to another supplier with a better rate.

Information Meeting Reveals Gas Spill Frustration

An otherwise orderly recitation of test and remediation results following the massive Nov. 5 gas spill on Route 44 was punctuated Tuesday night by an angry tirade by a man whose house lay directly in the path of the cascading gas.

Brian Quinones, who rented 97 Greenwoods Road West and who has since been housed in another rental home, became incensed when Zoning Enforcement Officer Michael Halloran urged residents living in the spill’s pathway to allow testing and remediation on their properties. “We all want this cleaned up,” Halloran said. “Everyone should be working together. Let these people on your property. … It’s ridiculous, we keep going ‘round and around about it.”

Quinones boiled over, asserting that his family was sent back into its house the day of the spill, before it was safe, and was subjected to prolonged exposure to benzene, a chemical linked to cancer. He charged that Halloran, who lives in another section of town, did not “have a god-damned clue what any of these people are going through” and suggested that Halloran should trying living in a motel room “with no place to go.” 

Until the contretemps, the meeting had been a recitation of progress made in the cleanup. Jeff King and Zach Smith, representatives of Verdantas, the firm charged with monitoring the spill and overseeing cleanup, reported general improvement in contamination levels in ground water and soils. Testing will continue until clean results are registered in four quarterly samplings. The men said there are pockets of contamination, however, particularly near Pettibone Street, that need extensive remediation.

No pollution has been detected in Wood Creek or the Blackberry River, although some product found its way to the water pollution control facility, probably by infiltrating lateral sewer lines.

Neighbors along Route 44 argued that they still see gasoline forming in small pools even following excavation of saturated soils near their homes. One woman insinuated that the positive test results are because Verdantas collects samples only after heavy rains, when the gasoline would be diluted, a statement refuted by Verdantas.

Quinones demanded to know about residual effects when trees pull moisture from the soil. “The trees will soak up everything around them,” he said. “It will go into their fruit, into the animals and will transfer to humans. It’s going to poison everything.”

King said Verdantas delineates impacts through borings. “We do borings to determine the lateral extent and depth,” he said. “The initial excavation went down 10 feet. Since then, we have drilled to 40 feet to see if any gas has migrated into the ground water.” No ground water contamination was found. 

More excavation will be needed in the area this spring and summer and residents may have to relocate temporarily if the soil is disturbed for prolonged periods. Air quality will be monitored during the process. The town is working with those who may be displaced.

Industrial Hygienist Bob Brown tested home air quality in the region of the initial spill, both beneath the structures and inside. Houses to the east and west of the spill had results well within state standards. Ironically, a house 200 yards away tested high for benzene. It was later discovered that the readings were affected by open gas cans in the garage. “Our instruments are so sensitive, even a gas-soaked rag can affect the readings,” Brown said.

First Selectman Matt Riiska laid to rest a rumor that houses are to be torn down. “I’ve never heard that,” he said. “It’s a rumor being spread.”

Another meeting will be held in February.

Raise the Steeple Receives Major Grant

The Raise the Steeple committee has announced that the Church of Christ has been offered a $200,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). This is the largest of the grants that SHPO offers.

The church has raised more than $575,000 in its campaign to put restore and replace the steeple, which currently sits on a specially made scaffold beside the venerable church. In addition to renovating the steeple, the church plans to repair the clock face and chimes.

The original estimate for the repairs and refurbishment of the clock has doubled but generous donations put the church in a good position to complete the work.

The Steeple Committee will present details about the grant to the congregation at an all-church meeting after an attorney reviews the contract. For more information about the Steeple Restoration Project click here.

In the meantime, the Granville Dawgs will present “Rock Around the Clock,” at Battell Chapel, Saturday, January 14, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. There will be a musical tour through time and a chance to learn a dance from each decade from the 1950s through the ’90s. A $20 suggested donation raises funds for the steeple’s restoration.

What Does Norfolk Mean to You?

Announcing the “My Norfolk” photo contest. Celebrate the beauty of our town by participating in our photo contest! The town website committee is looking for photos that best capture what Norfolk means to you…images that you find to be beautiful, interesting and unique to our town. See the rules and entry form, and send us as many entries as you like. Contest runs January 1 through March 31, 2023. Winners will be announced May 1.

Neither Snow, nor Sleet Stay Firefighters’ Journey

Four firefighters flew to Luverne, Minn., this week to bring home the town’s new tanker truck, which replaces a 23-year-old vehicle with a leaking tank. The men inspected the new truck at the Midwest Fire factory, before three of them drove 1,400 miles back to Norfolk, taking shifts at the wheel to stay ahead of the massive winter storm sweeping across the country.

They arrived at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday after 22 hours on the road.

The $328,000 tanker was paid for with a combination of fire department funds and town ARPA dollars. The previous tanker has been turned over to the Department of Public Works to be converted to a plow truck.

Frontier May Boost Internet Service

NORFOLK—Town officials are talking to Frontier about the future of fiber optics in the town.

Frontier has offered to cover 70 to 80 percent of Norfolk. First Selectman Matt Riiska said, however, that much depends on bringing service to remote sections of town.

“They are going to do so much, but their position is they can’t string wire everywhere on rural roads. They are making an offer that for ‘x’ amount, they’ll make sure everyone is covered. Our position is, if we put any money in at all, everyone needs to be covered. We can’t expect some taxpayers to pay for others.”

The improved service would be for Internet only and is not 5G. 

“There are still a lot of questions,” Riiska said, “and there will be a lot more discussions over the next three months or so.”

New Page for Gas Spill Updates

We have added a new page to this website for news, updates and resources on the November 5 gas spill. The link’s on the top navigation bar, but you can also click here.

Embrace the Season with Caroling, Tree Lighting

Norfolk will be merry and bright Saturday evening following the annual carol sing in the great room at Norfolk Library and the tree lighting on the Village Green. The carol sing, with seasonal refreshments, begins at 5:00 p.m. For those who choose not to sing, the Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department will be passing out cups of hot coco and munchkins free to all on the Green, starting at 5:45 p.m. At 6:00 o’clock sharp, Santa arrives on his fire engine sleigh-of-lights, passing out candy canes to children then lighting the Towns tree. Hope to see everyone there!

“Raise the Steeple” Effort Nears Bid Phase

The “Raise the Steeple” committee has announced that the community’s support and generous donations have allowed the steeple restoration project to move forward. More than $575,000 has been raised, some of which has been spent to lower the steeple to the ground for repairs (approximately $100,000) and about $35,000 on the engineering work. In addition to renovating the steeple, the Church of Christ plans to repair the clock face and chimes. The original estimate for repairs and refurbishment of the clock doubled but because of the generous community support, the church is in a good position to complete the work.

Soon architectural and engineering plans will be completed and the project will go out to bid. Once quotes are received, future expenditures will become clearer. Even with uncertain building costs, the Committee is confident that the work will be done with the support of the community.

“We do want to thank all who have contributed so much to this effort. We are lucky to be part of our community that cares so much for our church and its place in Norfolk,” committee members said. “We truly appreciate donations of all sizes. Every donation helps brings us closer to our goal of raising the steeple.”

Click here to visit “steeple campaign” on ( to learn more.