by Shirley Murtha
Prior to the Board of Selectmen meeting on June 6, several Granby residents were recognized for outstanding service to the town. First up were the Community Service Awards, which are based on nominations by residents and selected by a committee of representatives from the Drummer, GCTV and Selectman Mark Neumann.
This year, there were two outstanding individuals who received the award. Cheryl Wickham was recognized for her contributions as a hospice volunteer for the Farmington Valley Visiting Nurse Association where she assembles welcome bags for new patients, makes bereavement baskets for families who have suffered a loss, and heads up the hospice program's Tree of Life fundraiser. She is especially well known for her attention to Christmas decorating when she makes and delivers personalized ornaments for her patients and others. She also decorates the tree at the Granby branch of Simsbury Bank.
Sandy Flagg was recognized for her continued commitment to the Waste Not Want Not Community Kitchen. Around 200 people arrive at South Congregational Church every Wednesday to enjoy the hearty meals that the kitchen provides. A resident at Stony Hill Village, she keeps a helpful eye on residents who might be lonely, or who need transportation or food. Flagg previously received the Community Service Award in 2014, but received many nominations again this year. It was generally agreed that her level of devotion to the people of Granby merited a second recognition.
Next on the agenda were the Employee Service Awards, given this year to Lauren Stuck and Fran Armentano. Glowing references from her previous employers and ongoing kudos from the Hartford County Tax Collectors Association and the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association attest to the proficiency with which Stuck has performed her job as Granby's tax collector for the past 20 years. She manages 18,000 tax accounts and 636 sewer-use accounts and somehow manages to collect over 100 percent taxes each year, according to Town Manager Bill Smith. "I don't know how she does that," said Smith, eliciting a round of laughter from the audience.
Smith went on to note that most town managers receive many complaints about the tax office, but that is not the case in Granby. In addition to being proficient in her own office, Stuck has taken the initiative to learn about assessments, resulting in her being able to resolve conflicts in that area, as well.
Stuck received a summa cum laude bachelor's degree in psychology from Bethany College in West Virginia, where she minored in English. Since becoming a certified Connecticut tax collector, she has taken numerous continuing education units of training as well as the cross training with the assessor's office.
It was 30 years ago when Fran Armentano began working for the Town of Granby. The Director of Community Development, he is the go-to person when anyone has a question about the town's infrastructure. In addition to his wide range of knowledge, he has the ability and patience to work with people in helping to solve a wide variety of problems. His formal education includes a BA in political science from the University of Connecticut, where his minor included economics, geography and communications, but also many certificates and graduate courses in areas such as administrative law, analysis of population methodologies, landscape architecture and site design. He also has a certificate in traffic management, which is proving very useful in working with the DOT in re-structuring the difficult intersections in Granby.
As development director, Armentano reviews proposals, weighs the pluses and minuses and formulates a development strategy if the project seems feasible. Smith described him as the town's "right-hand man," monitoring engineering and fire marshal services and writing grants. He has secured millions of dollars in state and federal grants for town projects. He also provides technical assistance to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Development Commission.
Kuhnly read a list of Armentano's accomplishments that include fair housing, roadway improvements and improvements to the center involving the placement of underground utilities, appropriate street lights and improvements to the sidewalk situation. Kuhnly added, "Granby is a better place since you've come on board.