What Was the Biggest Story of 2012 on Westfield Patch?
What stories will stick with you into 2013?
It's been a roller coaster of a year for Westfield residents.
2012 started with a devastating six-alarm fire that destroyed six businesses on South Avenue West and ended with a superstorm that left many residents without power for as long as two weeks.
In addition to the fire, which began at caterer Clyne & Murphy, a fatal accident on North Avenue that claimed the life of Scotch Plains resident Patricia Currie also occurred in January. Charges were filed against two Westfielders: Charles Casiere, 84, and John Diaz, 74.
In February, pop star Whitney Houston, who died in Beverley Hills at the age of 48, was buried beside her father at Westfield's Fairview Cemetery. Later that month both the Westfield High School boys and girls swim teams celebrated victories, returning to Westfield as number one in their groups at the State Championships at The College of New Jersey in Ewing.
In March it was announced Westfielders would pay their first-ever sewer fees to help offset the more than $3 million bill the Town receives from the Rahway Valley Sewer Authority (RVSA). The fee for a single or multi-family home was set at $170 for the year. Owners of townhomes or condominiums were billed $135 per unit for 2012. Industrial and commercial building owners paid $315 and owners of apartment buildings were charged a fee of $100 per apartment. Fees will remain the same for 2013, the Council recently announced.
In May, a three-alarm fire that began in the kitchen area of a home on Barchester Way in Westfield was extinguished after three hours of work by several Union County Fire Departments. Concerns about manpower on the Westfield Fire Department reached by a fever pitch at the following meeting of the Westfield Town Council. When the three-alarm fire started on Barchester Way, one of the WFD's units was responding to a call for mutual aid from Springfield, leaving only one unit with three members available to respond. Ellen DiIorio, whose Cumberland Street home was destroyed by a fire in 2011, made an impassioned to the Council to increase the number of firefighters in town.
After months of debate, Westfield soundly defeated a $16.9 million bond referendum in late September that would have funded district-wide roof repairs along with a lighted, turf field at WHS. Bundling the two items drew the ire of some Westfielders who viewed the roofs as a necessity and the field as a "nice to have." The Board of Ed said it "heard" voters and put a $13.6 million bond referendum to pay for only roof repairs on the ballot on Dec. 5. The referendum passed 2,700 to 1,503.
In late September, Ferraro's, the landmark Elm Street eatery, reopened its doors and began serving dinner after being closed since May of 2011 when a six-alarm fire gutted the restaurant.
And while October came in like a lamb, it went out like a lion. Hurricane Sandy ripped up the east coast and left a path of destruction in her wake. A dozen homes in Westfield were condemned and 73 were severely damaged. Alicia Weaver shared the story of her family's escape after a tree fell through her master bedroom. Gary McCready created a power outage map to help keep neighbors informed. Residents pulled together to help each other and those beyond the Westfield border. Staff and students at Westfield public schools donated both locally and to Jersey Shore recovery efforts.
In late November, WHS students organized a candlelight vigil for senior Allison Harth, who lost a courageous battle with cancer on Nov. 26. On Dec. 2, hundreds of friends and classmates attended the vigil to pay tribute to a life lived the fullest that ended far too soon.
Residents in Westfield began to look forward to the holidays in December, but tragedy in Connecticut forced families to hug their children a little tighter. On Dec. 14, a 20-year-old gunman shot and killed 28 people, including 20 children in a Newtown elementary school.
The event left schools all over the country reviewing their security measures. In Westfield, the district is working with police to solidify security policies and will continue monthly emergency management team meetings.
On Dec. 20, two Edison Intermediate School students were hit by a car on their way to school when a driver claimed sun glare obscured her vision of both the children and the crossing guard. One child sustained a head injury, while the other's arm was injured. Edison School Principal Matt Bolton sent a message to parents later that day updating them on the students' conditions.
Westfield Patch wants to wish everyone a Happy New Year. As we look back at 2012, we sincerely hope 2013 brings everyone good news and good luck.
Tell us: What story impacted you the most in Westfield?