Save the Ville organizers turned in their petition on the New Britain Avenue traffic plan Monday with enough signatures to force a town meeting and plenty to spare.
The group, a close-knit bunch of Unionville residents, had worked tirelessly for the 20 days since the Town Council voted 4-3 to support the project. They were exultant in presenting more than 2,000 signatures, collected through hours of talking to residents in the Parson’s Hardware parking lot and at shops in the area.
They were also proud of their town.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my community for stepping up and saving the ville,” said Linda Gelineau, who lives on Wall Street.
“You’ve got to be proud of the residents of the town,” said Bernie Erickson, who sat on the Unionville Traffic Committee but resigned his position after the council vote. “We were speculating if we could get to 1,600 voters and we gave them over 2,000.”
Erickson said he was also proud of the way the small group had pulled together, some putting their lives on hold to work on the petition.
“These ladies here worked very hard to get these signatures,” Erickson said.
The effort was led by Stephanie Smith and Sue Anne Ward, both of whom live in the area that would be affected by the construction project. Ward spent the past 12 days in front of Parson’s Hardware explaining the project to people from Farmington, Avon and Burlington, as they drove by and stopped to find out what was going on. Most had never heard about the plan, she said.
And the response she got from them encouraged her to keep going.
“There was a man from the West Farms area who came and asked if he could sign. He wasn’t from Unionville, he was from Farmington… and he said ‘I didn’t think you wanted us on the list,” Ward said.
Another man from Farmington pulled up in a Jaguar and signed the petition.
“He said it’s not right for them to tear down these little businesses just because they don’t have as much money.”
And many offered help. Passersby will notice a huge “Save the Ville” sign plastered on the roof of McGillicuddy’s this morning, courtesy of a Farmington resident who manages a sign company.
Companions and Homemakers, on New Britain Avenue, paid for radio advertising spots about the project and brought the Save the Ville literature to Kinkos to make copies.
Asked why "saving the ville" was so important, the group at Town Hall teared up.
“There’s a group of about 2,000 of us … we support each other no matter what it is – a fundraiser, firemen’s parade, benefits – we’re always there for each other… if you go to one of these events you literally have 10 new friends,” Ward said.
Megan Parsons said it was upsetting to hear people say their corner of the village is ugly and needs to be torn down. But it’s not just the buildings that make it what it is.
“Most people know if they need something on a Sunday afternoon, they can get a hold of us,” Parsons said of her husband’s hardware business.
Ward said she was one example. After the storm, her basement was flooded with water, she called Parson’s and told them what she needed.
“He said Sas, what do you need? I told him I need a sump pump so big … and it was on my back step in 10 minutes,” she remembered.
Sharon Bonini said it’s a community where everyone knows each other and knew their grandparents, too.
“This will show people that you can make a difference, even if the odds are stacked against you,” said Linda Gelineau.
The Town Clerk’s office, with a staff of four, will begin certifying the names on the petition are registered Farmington voters. To get a special town meeting, the group must have 10 percent of those registered in town — about 1,700.
The count may be complete by the end of this week.
The meeting, according to town charter, must be held within 20 days of the petition filing. At the meeting, those in attendance can overturn the council vote with a majority, as long as more than 100 registered voters attend.