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Maybe there’s a better way to do it

NORTH CANAAN — A learning experience. That’s how much of 2011 could be summed up for North Canaan. New experiences, new needs and emergency situations were opportunities to take fresh and often better approaches, to evolve.In January, a propane leak at the Specialty Minerals plant prompted an evacuation, which in turn provided a heads-up for many unfamiliar with the new mass notification system used by the town.In the aftermath, the company donated emergency-related equipment, such as gas meters, to the Canaan Fire Company.A train derailment in the center of town in May brought much-needed improvements to the grade crossing there. A town emergency shelter was used overnight for the first time following the Oct. 28 nor’easter. Residents had no complaints, and plenty of volunteers came out to man it.When the storm shut down Halloween trick-or-treating on area streets, the community responded with a huge party at the school the following weekend.The resident state trooper program was debated, again, and renewed for another two years.While the Canaan Fire District budget and approval of paperwork to finalize the latest sewer expansion was not a hot topic, the district’s annual meeting turned into an opportunity, in true small-town style, for residents to advocate for more and better sidewalks.At North Canaan Elementary School, an early kindergarten program, an initiative that came from the teachers, proved highly successful in its first year. And teacher Beth Johnson offered a real-life lesson in civics when she prompted a change in state law to circumvent a certification requirement that was causing more harm than good.Significant effort went into controlling traffic around the school.Looking ahead to the pastThe town’s rich history was celebrated and preserved in many ways, including the beautiful restoration of the Industrial Monument Dam at the Beckley Furnace site.The Canaan Fire Company celebrated its 100th anniversary by giving, as it always does. A muster gave neighboring fire companies a chance to showcase and compete with their specialized firefighting skills.A judged fireman’s parade was a high point of Railroad Days.Becton-Dickinson marked 50 years here. Both Mountainside treatment center and Beckley House senior living made plans to expand.An air quality permit needed for the expansion of the Century Acquisitions plant (in Sheffield but with impacts on North Canaan residences) was denied by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.Healthy retail sceneIn the retail world, several new businesses opened, adding a nail salon, piano store and consignment shop to the center of town. Snack Shack became Caddie Shack with new owners. Stadium Systems moved from the side road by Lindell’s to a more prominent spot, filling the space vacated by the Just a Buck store on Route 7.The Citgo station became a Shell — not a big deal in itself, but the rebranding meant it didn’t take a half hour of travel, and fuel, to redeem Stop & Shop gas points.Mario Sebben retired from the barbering business after 60 years in the center of town. But there was a new barber in town: Bonnie Spadaccini took over the business.Construction of the first Habitat for Humanity home in North Canaan began.There were other low notes and high notes.A fire at Puddle Jumpers Day Care shut down the service — and put the Dillon family out of their home. The community responded with fundraisers to help get them back on their feet.News came from Pat Glennon in Florida that her husband, Tom, had passed away after a long illness. But plans were already underway to celebrate his life with a tree planting outside his North Canaan Elementary School (NCES) classroom. Those plans were a chance for five of his former students to share the story of their amazing, long-ago trip with Glennon to Alaska, and how he and that voyage profoundly affected their lives for the better.Tom Zetterstrom missed Arbor Day at NCES for the first time in 20 years, but only because he was traveling to accept the 2011 Public Awareness of Trees Award from the national Arbor Day Foundation.The year ended with what has been on everyone’s wish list for a decade: Plans for the last of the work needed to reopen Canaan Union Station entered the design phase. An appeal to state officials, who control federal dollars needed for the work, brought an expedited timeline. The depot could reopen as a retail center and museum as early as next summer.

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