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Week in Review: Crime Spree, Budget Cuts and a Big Blaze

A recap of the week's stories on Stonington-Mystic Patch.

The week started on a down note when police identified a Pawcatuck man who fatally shot himself during a stand-off Saturday night as 52-year-old Paul M. Menard of 16 Palmer St., Pawcatuck. According to Stonington Police Capt. Jerry Desmond, the department received a call about an accident on White Rock Road at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday. A witness told police that the man driving the vehicle, which appeared to be a gray compact truck, had discharged a firearm after the accident. After a standoff, Menard retreated to his truck and killed himself with the gun.

On Tuesday, Stonington-Mystic Patch talked to a frustrated Sean McGill, owner of McGill Chevrolet, after a man was arrested for breaking into the dealership and going on a petty crime spree in Pawcatuck. Police followed a trail of blood spatter to make the arrest. The incident raised questions that have arisen recently about safety in Pawcatuck — in January there was a rash of home break-ins in the same area that had residents on edge. Arrests were made in those cases. The question: What is going on in Pawcatuck?

First Selectman Ed Haberek Jr. started looking for answers to that question Wednesday when he requested a meeting with the Police Commission and Police Chief Darren Stewart. Haberek said Pawcatuck "should be a welcoming place" and vowed to forge "a collective approach" to solve the problem.

At Wednesday's Board of Finance meeting, more cuts were made to the 2013-14 town budget. The board reluctantly levied a $250,000 cut to the Board of Education budget, then voted to take $1.2 million from its "rainy day" fund to cushion the tax-rate hit. After making hundreds of thousands of dollars in other cuts, the board sent a budget that represents a .35-mill tax-rate increase to the Board of Selectmen. 

Friday, we started the day with good news — Stonington High School student Destiny Hartmann advanced to the final round of the annual Rotary Club Four-Way Test speech contest. Later, though, a massive fire erupted just across the Pawcatuck River in downtown Westerly, gutting a building that was home to dozens of residents on the upper floors and an eatery and antiques store on the bottom floor. No cause has been announced as of Saturday night.

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