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Local Headlines Archives for 2014-10

Two veteran lawmakers vie for McKinney's open state Senate seat

Two veteran lawmakers are seeking to get out of the state House of Representatives and into the state Senate.  With the retirement of Senate Minority John McKinney from the 28th Senate District, there is an open race.  Republican Tony Hwang and Democrat Kim Fawcett, both from Fairfield, are looking to fill the role, which represents a part of Newtown. 

 

Hwang says an immigrant experience and upbringing in urban schools helped shape the person he has become.  He was first elected to his House seat in 2008.

 

Fawcett was first elected to her House seat in 2006. Fawcett says recent Metro-North failures have propelled both the management of the aging train system and its much needed, long-term investments into the spotlight.  She says she understands the critical need to get Metro-North back on track serving commuters and assuring safe and reliable service, in party because Fairfield has three train stations but also because her husband commutes to New York City.

 

Hwang says during his time in the House he has fought efforts to raid the Special Transportation Fund and supported increased spending to keep trains safe and on time. He wants to empower the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council to require a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding, and make safety and on-time performance top priority.

 

Hwang says from No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Curriculum Standards to the new Teacher Evaluation procedures, educational decisions are not being made where they belong – with  teachers, parents, and administrators.  Hwang says he will support legislation that returns decisions regarding education to those groups, ending what he calls the “one size fits all” mentality of bureaucrats.  He wants to modify the teacher evaluation process to make it more fair and equitable for Connecticut teachers and to ensure that curriculum standards are stringent, yet age appropriate.

 

Fawcett says while the intent of Common Core education standards might have been laudable, the implementation has not lived up to expectations.  She says many dedicated teachers are feeling demoralized and devalued.  Fawcett says part of the problem with the implementation is that it came at the same time that Connecticut put new standardized tests in place and a new teacher evaluation system.

 

Hwang says he is proud to have helped Housatonic Community College obtain a portion of a $17.8 million grant to build a state of the art manufacturing education center.

 

Fawcett says she's proud of legislation passed last session to help children including a new law which allows trained school officials to administer epinephrine to students experiencing severe allergic reactions for the first time.  She co-sponsored a law to improve how colleges respond to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and stalking by creating campus resource teams trained to properly respond to these incidents.  Another bill she has personal experience with is one that deals with properly preventing and treating a concussion.  Her children are both student athletes who have suffered concussions.  The bill requires the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education plan and calls on coaches to provide youth athletes and their parents or guardians with information on concussions.

 

Hwang is touting his work on economic issues while serving in the state House.  He says he helped draft legislation that will eliminate nearly a thousand pages of state regulations identified as obsolete, duplicate, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary.  As Co-Chair of the legislature's bipartisan Bioscience Caucus, Hwang says he was able to spearhead legislation to make Connecticut a world leader in bioscience research. The law strengthens the State’s capacity to create competitive investment tools, attract additional federal and private dollars.

 

He also says he advocated for legislation to empower those with developmental disabilities to achieve a sense of independence and enriched living through work.  He says the legislation will allow community non-profits to support and coordinate employment opportunities for the developmentally disabled.

 

Fawcett is touting her work last year chairing an Affordable Housing Working Group that explored policy initiatives aimed at bringing smart growth, transit-oriented development, and an increase in affordable housing options to the state.

 

When it comes to passage of Connecticut’s comprehensive gun legislation last year, Fawcett says it was a victory for advocates of gun safety.  But she says other less well-known components of the legislation are equally important in curbing gun violence.  She pointed to key provisions that lay the groundwork for improving school security and addressing gaps in youth mental health services.  Fawcett says the ultimate goal must be to do a better job identifying young people who are struggling and to find effective ways to intervene and provide treatment when necessary.

 

Hwang says the gun legislation debate was one of the most emotional and grueling exersize lawmakers could have gone through.  He voted for the bill says he and will not support any repeal effort.  He says it's important to reach a compromise to protect second amendment rights.  He says moving forward, there are pieces that need to be better addressed.  Hwang says that includes mental health, removing the stigma and offering a collaborative support network.  He also wants another look at gun security storage.  When it comes to school security, he says there needs to be a balance of cost to municipalities are not overly burdened.

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Labor Board issues rulings about Danbury, New Milford hospitals workers

The National Labor Relations Board has issued two rulings about employees at Danbury and New Milford hospitals.  A union election has been ordered for the approximately 300 surgical technologists, radiology technologists, licensed practical nurses, and respiratory clinicians employed by Western Connecticut Health Network.  A secret ballot election is expected to be held before November 27th.

 

AFT Connecticut communications coordinator Matt O'Connor says the other deals with the Network engaging illegal labor practices against those employees.

 

Testimony is slated to start on January 13th at the Hartford regional office.

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State backs FuelCell Energy project with $20M

Danbury-based FuelCell Energy is getting some financial help from the state as they expand their Torrington facility.  The first stage of the expansion is to the building, and adds advanced manufacturing equipment to improve efficiencies.  The second stage is to expand production capacity and enhance advanced technology capabilities. 

 

The Department of Economic and Community Development is offering $20 million of low interest long-term loans and up to $10 million of tax credits.  If certain job retention and creation targets are reached, there will be forgiveness of 50 percent of the loan principal.  Total estimated cost for this multi-year project is approximately $23 million for the first stage and $42 million for the second stage. 

 

The final stage of the fuel cell module manufacturing will be relocated to the Torrington facility from its current location at the Danbury headquarters, which the company says will reduce logistics costs.

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Conn. man pleads guilty to stealing checks

A Connecticut man who stole mail across Fairfield County containing blank checks or credit card "convenience checks," which he then used to buy cars, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles for sale online has pleaded guilty.  Federal prosecutors say 26-year-old Dayquan Jackson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bank fraud for the $120,000 crime. 

 

Prosecutors say the Bridgeport man hit homes in Fairfield County, including in Wilton, this year and last, and sold his purchases to unsuspecting victims from out of state. 

 

Jackson faces up to 30 years in prison at sentencing on March 5th.

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Joel Barlow roof replaced early, under budget

The Region 9 Board of Education has gotten an update on the Joel Barlow High School roof restoration project.  The school for Easton and Redding students has a roof that didn't leak in recent rain, being completed last week, ahead of schedule. 

 

At the Board meeting last week, members were told that the 100,000 square foot project was also completed under budget.  The project was completed two weeks early, for $200,000 less than anticipated. 

 

Another section of the roof will be replaced next year.

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Two Wilton residents running for 26th state Senate District seat

The 26th state Senate district includes parts of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield and Wilton.  Two Wilton residents are vying for the post, a three term incumbent, and a businessman.

 

Republican incumbent Toni Boucher was critical of tax increases over the last several years saying the state budget has also used one-time revenues and borrowing for ongoing expenses.  Boucher is calling for comprehensive tax reforms.  She gave the example of Rhode Island state employees being asked to forego cost of living increases until the state could balance the pension account in order to save it.  She notes that state employees contribute 2%, less than any other state.  She said Connecticut should look into raising the retirement age for state workers.

 

Democrat Phil Sharlach has worked as a consultant and accountant in the private sector, including for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte.  He also helped facilitated the break up of AT&T into regulated and non-regulated companies.  Sharlach says he has several priorities if elected.  Among them is increasing Hartford's investment in Fairfield County, optimizing the state budget and bonding and providing support to seniors and veterans.

 

Sharlach says making sure all children have access to a good education is every parent's top priority. That's why he says fixing failing schools is so important, but not when the solution burdens students and teachers who are already doing well.  He calls the implementation of the Common Core curriculum cumbersome and ill planned.  Sharlach says teachers should be teaching to students, not to tests.

 

Boucher is a member of the Education Committee.  She touted the addition of preschool slots in the state, consolidating services into the Office of Early Childhood, a concussion prevention bill dealing with school athletics and a sexual assault on college campus bill that protects students.  She called the college bill a model for the rest of the country.  The Education Committee also dealt with allergies in schools with passage of a bill about Epi pens.  She says a bill was stopped to reduce the drug-free zones around schools.

 

Boucher says if elected to another term she would be interested in researching the possibility of a grade 9-14 school to give students the change to hone their interest and skills set.  They would then graduate with an Associate’s Degree.  She also wants to address the cost of higher education becoming less accessible to more middle-income students.

 

Boucher called Common Core a very controversial program.  She says some school districts find it helpful, but for others it’s not up to the level they are already operating.  She suggest that it be started gradually and not be a one-size fits all program.  Boucher says top down management is not the way to improve education in the state.

 

Sharlach says his 36 years experience as a business executive could help could close a $1.37 billion deficit that the state is facing next fiscal year.  He proposed a change to the conveyance tax, a set of two taxes homeowners face when they sell their property.  One is paid to the state, and the other to the town. 

 

Sharlach proposes a New York-Connecticut Transportation Authority, a non-governmental independent entity funded through open market financing and public funding.  He says it could create a large freight rail system.

 

Boucher is also a member of the Transportation Committee.  She and her colleagues called on federal agencies to intervene and provide technical and financial assistance, which she says worked.  She says the new leadership at Metro North seems to be up to the task of addressing safety issues, mechanical issues, oversight and cultural issues.  She says Connecticut has the opportunity to go out to bid on a train contract in 2015. 

 

During a League of Women Voters debate, Sharlach said funding of mental health programs was too often short-changed, that most of the state's problems are economic. 

 

Boucher says brownfield remediation work has done a great deal to clean up former brass and wire mill sites.  Development of the Georgetown former Gilbert and Bennett site has stalled.  She says the original developer didn’t start to build the housing, office space, train station and retail construction that was slated to go in there.  Then the economy crashed.  There’s a renewed effort to get development moving.  She says the state has invested in making sure the roads through the property are up to code when the development starts.

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Progress on I-84 bridge replacements in Newtown

There were some traffic delays on Interstate 84 overnight in Newtown because of bridge replacement work that's prompting lane shifts.  The work is being done on the bridge that carries the highway over Center Street.  The state Department of Transportation says the work includes relocation of temporary precast barrier, removal of current pavement markings, installation of new pavement markings, and necessary signing modifications. 

 

The traffic shift started at 7pm, with the new alignment in place for 6am. 

 

The bridges being replaced were constructed in the late 1970s.  The total cost of the project is about $5.9 million and is expected to be completed by April.

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Former Easton mom gets rehabilitation on party charges

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) A former Easton mother accused of hosting a party for high school students who were encouraged to drink alcohol and have sex has been granted special probation.

Hearst Connecticut Media Group reports that Eliane Mullen of Greenwich on Tuesday was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time, nonviolent offenders. Mullen did not plead guilty to the 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor pending but instead was placed on two years' probation.

The charges will be dismissed if she commits no other crimes during probation.

Mullen's lawyer said she is happy to finally put the incident behind her.

Mullen had said the April 18 party ``got out of hand,'' but police said she bought vodka, whisky and a six pack of beer. Police also said Mullen supplied a condom to two teens.

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Temporary solution to closed freight rail crossing in New Milford

A temporary solution to a road block in New Milford is being put in place.  The Newstimes reports that a property owner on Waller Road is allowing the town to clear a wooded area and put gravel down to create a large service truck turnaround location. 

 

The property is on the end of the road where Housatonic Railroad closed the rail crossing this summer.  The crossing was closed for repairs by the freight rail company on an emergency order from the state Department of Transportation after a truck reportedly damaged the tracks.  Housatonic Railroad decided then to permanently close the crossing.

 

The New Milford Town Council heard from several residents concerned about trucks and buses going in reverse down the road, creating a dangerous hazard.

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Patrick Waldron, Danbury Veteran's Affairs Director, dies at 81

The Director of Veterans Affairs for Danbury has passed away.  Patrick Waldron died suddenly Tuesday of a heart attack.  He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and Korean War Veterans Association.  Waldron was 81 years old.

 

Former President of Danbury Veterans Council George Smith says a number of veterans were at the VA canteen and were all in shock.  He says there's a million stories from veterans about Pat Waldron.  Smith was told by a fellow veteran about how he was living in a culvert on the side of the road until Waldron took up his cause, and got him VA disability benefits.  Smith called Waldron an incredible guy who was always looking out for veterans.

 

City Councilman Tom Saadi, a member of the Army Reserves, says he was saddened by the news.  He called Waldron a pilar of the community and someone who dedicated his life to serving this country, and serving residents in the Greater Danbury area.  Saadi told a story of how anytime they would see each other, Waldron would always tell him what he was working on to help veterans.  He called that Waldron's mission, one that he carried out with energy, all his soul and his enthusiasm.  Saadi called Waldron's death a great loss for the City and the community.

 

Former City Councilwoman Mary Teicholz, whose son is in the military, says Waldron was always such an advocate for veterans in the area.  She recalled one year asking him to help her organization find a veteran to donate gifts to, and he was right there.  She says Waldron went above and beyond to find more funding to help the veteran out.  Teicholz organizes the Walk of Honor and the Warrior Award presentation each year, along with the new Walkway of Honor.

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Pedestrian struck, injured by car in Danbury

A pedestrian was hit by a car in Danbury Tuesday night.  Police say the accident happened shortly after 9pm on New Street, right by the fire department. 

 

39-year old Julio Rodriguez of Danbury was driving south on New Street when he hit a woman who was in the road, not in a cross walk.  The woman was identified as 42-year old Barbara Mouning of Danbury.  Police say it's not clear when she was stopped in the street, but it's believed to be alcohol related. 

 

Mouning is listed in stable condition at Danbury Hospital, where she is being treated for non-life threatening injuries. 

 

Any witnesses to the accident are urged to call Police Officer Glenn Utter at 203-797-4611.

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Political newcomer looks to unseat freshman lawmaker in Newtown

A freshman lawmaker is being challenged by a political newcomer in the 106th state House District.  Mitch Bolinsky is the Republican incumbent.  He is being challenged by Matt Cole, a recent Western Connecticut State University graduate and social worker.  Bolinsky says there’s still a lot of work that he wants to do in the legislature.  Some of the areas he’s proud of this past session included toughening drunken driving laws and moving funding forward for the rebuilding of Sandy Hook School.  Another initiative he touted was to include private and parochial schools in the state’s program to fund security improvements.

 

During a candidate forum held last week by the Newtown Bee, Cole said he feels there are no constructive conversations taking place in Hartford.  He noted that as a trained social worker, he is adept at working as a consensus.  He interned with former state Representative Chris Lyddy. 

 

Bolinsky says Connecticut has an economy that’s not working the way it should be.  He says something has to be done to attract business, not picking winners and losers like the First Five program.  Bolinsky referring to a program implemented by Governor Malloy that provides funding to companies in exchange for relocating to and within Connecticut.  He says lowering taxes, both on corporations and individuals, will make Connecticut more competitive with other states, and a place that people want to live.  Bolinsky says making Connecticut more affordable to live and do business here is the first step to growing jobs, gaining employment numbers and getting the state’s economy back on the right track.

 

Cole says people are struggling because wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living.  Property taxes for seniors who bought their houses decades ago and aren’t worth what they were, which he says poses a serious burden.  He wants to work with Newtown’s Economic Development Commission to learn what he can do to help the town succeed.  Cole suggested having a so-called Buffet rule in Connecticut where people making seven-figures or more a year pay more taxes to fund programs that serve the people scraping by or are living in extreme poverty.

 

Bolinsky says it’s important to get Common Core right.  He calls implementation a rushed process and he wants more input from parents, teachers and students.  He says it’s very testing intensive and doesn’t have a lot of flexibility for practical learning and creativity in the classroom.

 

Cole says he likes the idea of Common Core, but that the implementation was rushed.  He says there are some pros to it, in that it allows teachers more resources to work with students that are at different levels.  He also touted that Common Core develops critical thinking.  But he says students were left out of the process of what Common Core standards should look like. 

 

Bolinsky says Connecticut ranks 49th or 50th in terms of infrastructure stability.  He wants lawmakers and others to stop raiding the Special Transportation Fund for money to plug holes in the state budget.  He believes transportation money should be used for transportation with investments in infrastructure to replace years of neglect.  Bolinsky says he was discouraged to hear that the state Department of Transportation has tabled a project to expand Interstate 84 between Danbury and Waterbury from two lanes to three.  He says he wants to continue to push for that project to be brought back to life.

 

Cole says roads and bridges need to be repaired in an effort to attract business to the state.  He says people are frustrated with the state of roads in the state.  Cole says expanding the highway would be a priority for him.  He thinks the roadways should be able to hand the population today, not 40 years ago.

 

Bolinsky says open space is important to the character of Newtown.  In the private sector, he helped write a part of the 2009 Clean Energy Act.  It’s now law in California and in Congress to reduce global warming from vehicle air conditioning systems.

 

Bolinsky says in the wake of the legislature’s work in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook School, and in anticipation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s report, there will be more work to address the issues that stemmed from that tragedy.   He says with the so-called gun bill adopted last year, by no means does the state have the solutions to prevent another similar tragedy.   He says there must be a focus on mental health.  He calls early detection key.  He wants to see programs implemented that prevent people from reaching the point where they become a danger to themselves or the community.  He wants to continue to make schools safe, while making them a happy place for them to learn, grow and prosper.

 

Cole says the gun law passed last year should only be strengthened.  He thinks open carry laws in Connecticut need to change.  He also called fore more early intervention for elementary school aged children when it comes to mental health care.  Cole says more community support programs and proper funding for those programs is needed.  He cited Ability Beyond Disability and other similar organizations in the region having to fold into other groups because they don’t have enough resources or funding.  Cole says there is a large underserved population that could benefit from more services.

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'Ben's Lighthouse' holds discussion about community mission

A panel discussion has been held at CH Booth Library in Newtown by Ben's Lighthouse.  The organization was named for Benjamin Wheeler, one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School.  The founders say they want to create a positive impact on this community and beyond.  The panel was made up of participants on a recent trip through Ben's Lighthouse to Loveland, Colorado where they helped with the rebuilding efforts from last fall's flooding.  Last year members travelled to Oklahoma to help with recovery efforts from tornadoes that ripped through the region.

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Site walk being held in Brookfield at Town Park

A site walk is being held in Brookfield for companies interested in making bids for work at Cadigan Park.  The town is currently accepting bids for Phase 2 of the Parks Revitalization Program.  The work proposed is for overall site improvements and new building construction at the Town Beach side of the Park.  The pre-bid site walk is being held from 11am to noon at the Candlewood Lake Road entrance .  The completion goal for this phase of the work is Memorial Day 2015.

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Grant funding coming to three area towns for open space preservation

Three Greater Danbury area towns are among those receiving funding from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to preserve open space.  There are projects in Redding, Newtown and Morris that are receiving grants from the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program. 

 

DEEP Spokesman Dennis Schain says Connecticut has a goal of setting aside 21 percent of land as permanently protected open space.  DEEP prioritizes funding for projects that meet the multiple goals of open space, such as protecting vital habitats, creating and enhancing recreational resources, and protecting our valuable water resources.  These open space grants will help the State of Connecticut achieve its goal of protecting 673,210 acres of land by 2023.  Connecticut now has 496,948 acres designated as state or local open space lands, 73.8% of the goal.

 

The grants provide 40 to 60 percent of the purchase price for the land.

 

The Chestnut Hill Open Space Preserve in the Town of Newtown is receiving a $110,000 grant to purchase the 36.98 acres.  This property is located in the southeast corner of Newtown near the Monroe and Oxford town lines, and will add to existing town-owned open space to create an over 70-acre preserve.

 

The property is within the Halfway River Watershed and contains wetland, vernal pools and deciduous forest floodplains in an undeveloped natural setting. An unnamed tributary to the Halfway River runs through and is likely enjoyed by an Eastern Box Turtle that was recently discovered on the property. The ridgeline topography runs north-south and has a steep slope to the east toward the Halfway River.

 

The Biehn Property in Redding is 30.704 acres and will be paid for in part by a $170,000 state grant.  This undeveloped, mostly wooded property has over 1,600 feet of frontage on Hill Road and about 300 feet on Rail Coach Road.

 

The topography of the property is heavily influenced by wetlands and three watercourses or tributaries that run to the Saugatuck Reservoir. The property abuts Class I watershed land owned by the water supply company Aquarion. The State of Connecticut has designated Redding as a Water Conservation Area, and acquisition and protection of this property meets several water protection goals and objectives in State and Town recognized planning documents.

 

The Morris Land Trust, Inc.is receiving $422,500 for the Farnhan Farm Easement to protect 129.8 acres  historically used for dairy production and other agricultural fields.

 

In addition to 38 acres of prime and 8 acres of statewide important agricultural soils, the property is composed of a heavily forested area to the north, 18 acres of wetlands with associated ponds, brooks (Slab Meadow Brook), streams and vernal pools, and habitat recognized for New England Cottontail. The property shares a common boundary with nearly one mile of Class I and Class II watershed land associated with the Pitch, Morris and Wigwam Reservoirs, and has over one-half mile of the Mattatuck Trail located on it.

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Social Security is issue in House race

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- In Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, where more than one-fourth of residents rely on Social Security, Rep. Elizabeth Esty has moved the issue sensitive to seniors close to the top of her many disputes with Republican challenger Mark Greenberg.

 

Esty, seeking a second term, is raising issues such as economic development, gun ownership and transportation. But her TV ads have focused on Social Security, promising unyielding support while insisting Greenberg would undermine it.

 

"Mark Greenberg in his own words has said repeatedly he considers the system a failure," Esty said in a debate with Greenberg, who responded that he's defending himself against "lies" and believes ways to preserve the program should be debated.

 

Esty said in an interview that 125,000 of the district's 475,000 residents - about 26 percent - receive Social Security benefits. She said she's voted against cuts in Social Security, including a proposal backed by President Barack Obama to calculate inflation more conservatively, known as "chained CPI" that would result in smaller cost-of-living increases in Social Security.

 

Many Democrats in Congress and advocates for seniors dislike the chained CPI, opting instead for a more generous cost-of-living increase they say more accurately reflects price increases faced by older Americans.

 

To Greenberg, the higher proportion of senior citizens is a sign of a lack of jobs and few opportunities for young people to remain. His campaign message, he said, is an "old refrain: jobs and the economy, the inability of young people to stay in Connecticut."

 

Estimates show that in 2033, the Social Security fund will no longer pay out 100 percent to beneficiaries and drop to 75 percent of promised benefits unless Congress and the president act.

 

Esty and Greenberg may agree on a possible solution to ensuring Social Security doesn't run out of money by raising a limit on taxed income to bring in more revenue. The policy, known as lifting the cap, would tax the wealthy who do not pay Social Security tax at certain levels at the same rate as middle-income workers.

 

"I think that is a much fairer way to do it," Esty said.

 

Greenberg, who has advocated for gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security eligibility to 70, said he will listen to proposals to lift the cap.

 

"The bottom line is I'm willing to discuss an increase in the cap as well as an extension from 67 to 70," he said.

 

Other issues in the race focus on the slow economic recovery and gun control in the district where 20 children and six educators were killed in their elementary school in December 2012.

 

Greenberg stresses gun safety and the need to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health problems. Esty supports an expanded federal background check and closing loopholes allowing sales at gun shows intended to evade background checks.

 

Democrats may be optimistic about their prospects in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has canceled its television reservations in the district, instead reserving $500,000 for ads in Iowa for the last two weeks of the election there.

 

For Greenberg, the campaign is his first after failing before to win the Republican nomination.

 

"I'm in unchartered territory," he said. "Someone's got to do the dirty work."

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Permanent Memorial Commission gives update to Newtown leaders

The Newtown Board of Selectmen has received an update from the Newtown Permanent Memorial Commission.  Kyle Lyddy told the Board that they are still in the information gathering stage.  They communicate with the 26 families monthly to keep them informed of the process.  Emergency service groups, parents of children enrolled at Sandy Hook School on 12-14 as well as school staff have been sent a survey. 

 

The Commission has created subcommittees to discuss location, family outreach and communication. 

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra told Lyddy that the Selectmen would not put a deadline on the group because this is meant to be a long and deliberative process.  The Selectmen encouraged the Commission to speak again with Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech and other groups again about what worked for them and what regrets they may have. 

 

"Sacred Soil" from the school site is being held for the Commission.

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Two Sandy Hook parents to travel to Washington to talk gun violence prevention

Two parents of children who were killed at Sandy Hook School are headed to Washington state, the site of the latest school shooting.  Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, whose sons Daniel and Dylan died on 12-14, are travelling to Washington state. 

 

Last week one student shot and wounded five peers, two fatally, and took his own life.  There is a ballot initiative in Washington state expanding background checks on firearm purchases. 

 

The parents formed The Sandy Hook Promise shortly after they lost their sons to share their stories with others and to help put an end to gun violence.  Barden says they will be there to honor children who have had their lives cut short by gun violence, to share their stories and to urge Washington residents to vote for the ballot initiative.

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New Milford man arrested for stabbing a man Saturday

A New Milford man has been arrested for stabbing another person early Saturday morning.  New Milford Police were called to Two River Lane on a report of a man aggressively waving a knife at residents and damaging a vehicle shortly before 3am.  A man was transported to the hospital with wounds to his leg and arm.  Police say 27-year old Joel Aldea Figeroa, who lives on the street, was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and threatening.

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Two twenty-somethings face off for Danbury's 109th District House seat

Two young men are running to represent Danbury's 109th state House District. 

 

Democratic incumbent David Arconti says public service is important to him and he’s made good relationships with representatives on both sides of the aisle, which has allowed him to deliver for Danbury.  He says he’s tried to focus on constituent services, for example offering to meet in person rather than address complicated issues over the phone.  He says that’s a great way to learn first hand what people are going through.

 

Republican Josh Stanley is a 24 year old who graduated from Danbury High School in 2008 and then from Western Connecticut State University with a Small Business Management degree.  He is a contractor and foreman who works for his family’s paving company.

 

Last session, Arconti says he was very proud to help secure $1.2 million for construction of the Healing Hearts program building under the umbrella of Western Connecticut Regional Hospice.  It’s the only program of its kind in Connecticut.  He says this saves the state money in mental health services with these services being provided by a non-profit, at no cost to clients.  They have working groups from 9/11 and from 12/14.  He also touted being able to help bring funding to Danbury to fix the roof of the Danbury War Memorial, which is the City’s emergency shelter, and for infrastructure improvements at the Armory, which is being operated by the Harambe Youth Center.

 

Arconti says a new Education Commissioner coming in next year will be the most important appointment coming up.  He hopes it’s a classroom friendly Commissioner.  He also wants to work to get teach evaluation system right.  He says tying that to standardized tests is not the best route to accomplish that.

 

During a forum sponsored by the PTO, Stanley said travelling across the state, it’s easy to see that each town is different from each other.  He notes that there are also income gaps and it’s not fair for the state to make broad assumptions of how much each school district needs in terms of funding.  To make up shortfalls in the Education Cost Sharing formula, Stanley suggested that students and the community pitch in.  Stanley pointed out that a few years ago, Danbury High School was going to have to cut freshman sports because there wasn’t the funding for it.  He says the athletes went out and held car washes and other fundraisers to save the program.

 

Stanley was also asked about the Common Core initiatives implemented in the state.  He says teachers need to be able to teach, let them decide how best to do what they do.  He gave a personal example of growing up with dyslexia, being in a high math lass and a low reading class.  He credited his sixth grade teacher for working with him and administrators to make sure scheduling conflicts weren’t an impediment to his success.

 

Arconti says the state is slowly but surely making its way out of the recession.  But he says there’s still plenty of work to be done.  He touted some companies coming to Danbury, specifically Eastern College Athletic Conference and New Oak Capital.  He also touted the state funding for Cartus to retain and create jobs over the next few years in Danbury.  He would like to examine the Business to Business tax and Estate Tax.  He predicts next session will be the session for property tax reform.

 

Stanley says Connecticut needs to be a more business-friendly state if more jobs are going to be created here.  He says he knows first hand about the high taxes levied on businesses.  Stanley also said he would like to take on the issue of Danbury generating a lot of revenue for the state, but not getting as big a return as municipalities that send less money to Hartford.

 

Arconti related the story of a constituent who is an occupational therapist and reached out to him.  In 2013, copayments on physical therapy were limited to $30.  He says the constituent told him that their benefits are similar and patients have told her that they can’t afford to continue the necessary outpatient rehab because of the high copayments by insurance companies.  He went to the legislature’s Insurance Committee, made a case and that passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

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Pomperaug High School in Southbury evacuated

Pomperaug High School in Southbury was evacuated due to a mercury spill .It seems a student brought a mercury thermometer into school and it broke.

The student was transported to the hospital as a precaution.

The school will remain evacuated as school officials wait for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to clean up the mercury spill.

State Police are assisting DEEP with the hazardous material situation.

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Ridgefield High School back in session after smoke scare

Dr. Stacey Gross, principal of Ridgefield High School sent out a message to parents saying there  was a light smoke condition in the school library around 7am that resulted in the evacuation of the building. It was due to a malfunction of a heating unit in the library. Power to the unit was shut down and smoke was cleared from the library.

The Ridgefield Fire Department metered the rest of the school for harmful gasses and checked for smoke. The entire building was deemed safe and all clear and students and staff re-entered the building by 7:35am. The principal says there may be some residual odor in the library or adjacent rooms but they  have been assured there is nothing harmful present.

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Danbury attorney challenges two-term inumbent in 2nd House district

A Danbury lawyer is looking to unseat a two-term incumbent in the 2nd House District race.  The district includes parts of Bethel, Danbury, Redding and Newtown. 

 

The Republican incumbent in Dan Carter, who says there’s been a lot done, but a lot left unfinished.  He says the nearly $3 billion deficit needs to be tackled.  Some of the accomplishments he cited from the last session was strengthening protections from domestic violence on college campuses, stopping a bill that would turn gift cards into cash and regulating compounding pharmacies in the state.  He says across the district demographics are pretty similar and people want the same kinds of things, even though there might be disagreement on how to get there.

 

Democrat Candace Fay is a Danbury resident who has an undergrad and law degree from UConn.  She says she is running because she wants other people to have the same opportunities and experiences that she was fortunate enough to have here.  She also wants Connecticut to be a place where people like her parents, who are retirees, can continue to live on a fixed income.

 

When it comes to the budget, Fay says some money could be reallocated to priority items like toward transportation and education.  She wants to increase the frequency of Metro North trains on the Danbury branch.  Fay says if there is more of an investment in the education system, more students will stay in Connecticut and employers will want to move to the state.  Fay says when businesses look to locate in a particular place, they look toward transportation and education.

 

Carter says education reform may be the hallmark of the next session.  He says it’s gotten to a point where the ECS formula needs to be scrapped.  He says it’s being underfunded and created an overreliance on property taxes and municipalities aren’t getting what they need.  He says Common Core has some good concepts, but its implementation has become a heavy-handed checklist.  He says it also cut out teachers in its design.

 

Fay says the Common Core initiative did not go over well with teachers.  She believes the intent is good, but it was not well implemented.  She does not support teaching to a test because what may be an achievement for one child is not the same achievement for another child of the same age.  She wants to get input from educators about how to improve public schools.  Fay would put more money into vocational training noting that it’s not a bad thing that not every student is college bound.  She adds that would add manufacturing jobs to the area. 

 

As for student loans, she thinks it’s important to invest in students so they invest in the state.  She says it could be employers sort of recruiting students in a similar process to the NBA or NFL recruits their athletes and maybe pay a portion of their student debt.  Fay says if there was a job at the end of the tunnel, that would be the most promising future.  Fay says Connecticut has a hard time keeping young people here that the state educates.

 

When it comes to transportation, Carter says aging infrastructure is just part of the problem.  He says the Transportation Fund being tapped for other items is also a problem.  Carter says the MTA might not be the best option to run Metro North in Connecticut in the future, but all options should be on the table.  He wants federal legislators to bring back federal dollars to improve the Danbury branch.

 

Fay is not a proponent of border tolls, but if they did come back she says in-state residents shouldn’t be charged. With electronic tolling, a picture of an out of state license plate could be taken, similar to a system in Florida.  She would want the funding to go toward road maintenance.  She says this would be especially helpful because of the high volume of tractor-trailers using the roads to go between New York City and Boston, creating damage and not being charged.  As for the argument that border tolls would hurt businesses in the region, like the Mall, she says New Yorkers are used to paying tolls and a 50 cent toll would still cost less than New York Sales tax.

 

Carter says the next budget could make or break the state.  In order to recover faster, he says spending needs to get under control. 

 

Fay believes in preserving open space and protecting the water resources in the state.  She thinks education is the key to promoting alternate energy and energy efficiency.  She notes there are tax breaks that many people don’t take advantage of for replacing windows and doors. 

 

There’s a constitutional amendment question on the ballot that carter says would take the constitutional protections out of the constitution and into the hands of the Secretary of the State and the legislature.  He believes in no-excuse absentee balloting, but this would take the state down a path that’s ripe with fraud.

 

Many of the candidates who represent Newtown were asked about the gun bill approved last year.  Carter says the debate was very emotional and done so fast, there were many good things missed.  He says no one really has the appetite to touch it again.  He says gun trafficking is a problem, people with mental illness still have the ability to get guns and he would have liked to have seen those two topics addressed.  He also wants better coordination of care for people with mental illness. 

 

Fay addressed the three areas being discussed by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission: mental health services, school security and gun safety.

 

Fay does pro-bono legal work through the Probate Court system with guardianship of intellectually disabled and conservator applications based on a mental incapacity.  She says there are resources in the area, but not enough available.  She is calling for more home-based mental heath services, pointing out that an inpatient hospital is not always the best setting.  She also says it’s expensive.  She says more field workers, therapists, social workers and psychiatrists so there’s someone working with a person on a more day-to-day basis.  She suggested consulting with clinicians about whether more frequent follow-ups are needed.

 

Fay is a proponent of School Resource Officers.  Her brother was an SRO in New Canaan for several years.  She says funding from the state could make it an easier decision.  She says this creates a nice liaison between children and the police department, almost becoming like another guidance counselor.  With that in mind, she says kids are also being raised that police officers are there for children and the protection the community.

 

When it comes to the gun control legislation passed last year, she supports it fully and says she would not do anything to weaken it or repeal it.  She called it inappropriate that her opponent voted against it, given that part of their district includes Newtown.  She says she has not heard a good argument for why someone would need 30 rounds of ammunition at one time or an AR 15.  As for universal background checks, she cited the case of a Torrington teen who was blocked from being able to purchase a gun.  The teen had discussed plans to shoot students in Danbury and Torrington.   She believes people have the right to bear arms, but that there can be restrictions on that with regard to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have firearms.

 

There was a recent dustup over social media over gun safety.  A woman tweeted about Carter’s answer during a League of Women Voters forum on the topic from 2012, held before the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  He said that education on how to safely handle a firearm is important and suggested working with the NRA to bring the programs into the schools.  Carter tweeted: “Both sides are against reasonable solutions, so they are all accountable for gun deaths-NRA, NAA, CAGV.”  Those groups being the National Rifle Association, the Newtown Action Alliance and Connecticut Against Gun Violence. 

 

Fay issued a statement in response to the tweet: “As the representative of part of Newtown, Rep. Carter’s assertions illustrate his poor judgment, and his lack of respect for the people of Newtown.”

 

Carter says what he meant by the tweet was that the anti gun groups and the NRA are on opposite sides of the debate and won’t come together, blocking lawmakers from getting substantial gun legislation through in Hartford that he says would actually save lives.

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Redding officials asked to consider forming 'Utilities Committee'

The Redding Board of Selectmen is being asked to consider forming a Utilities Committee.  Selectman Leon Karvelis is proposing that a Town Utilities Committee be established to help residents with information about various utility agencies. 

 

He came up with a draft proposal of what the Committee would be tasked with.  His proposal includes that the group be appointed by the Board of Selectmen and have a temporary term of two years. 

 

Karvelis suggest that the Committee meet monthly with interested residents, businesses and utilities to give recommendations to town leaders.  He says they can relate to existing and planned infrastructure, the availability of services, rates, safety and disaster preparedness. 

 

The proposal will be discussed further at a future Board meeting.

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Playground equipment being replaced in Danbury

Danbury is in the process of replacing eight or nine playscapes with repairs being made to additional ones. 

 

During the City Council meeting last week, resident Kevin Haddad questioned when the playgrounds at the schools would be completed.  The jungle gyms at King Street School, Morris Street School and South Street School are being replaced.  The playgrounds were closed just before the start of the new school year. 

 

A study of parks in Danbury as well as school playgrounds was started this spring. During the study, a company came in to assess all of the playareas for risks.  That company provided the City with a roadmap of how to move forward.  The plan was about which ones can be repaired, what sections to eliminate and where to buy new equipment.

 

City officials say they were waiting on some parts to come in and that they are in the home stretch.

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New regional planning agency in Fairfield County approved by state

More than 60-percent of the municipalities in the Western Connecticut Council of Governments have adopted ordinances creating the regional council of governments.  The merger has been certified by the Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management. 

 

The 10 towns in the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials and the eight towns in the South Western Regional Planning Agency have now merged.  The state passed an initiative calling for the 13 planning agencies in the state to merge into no more than eight. 

 

Redding residents approved adoption of the planning agency during a Special Town Meeting held last Monday.  The transition from the two groups into one must be completed by January 1st.

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Artificial turf for community center field being considered

Interest in turning an athletic field in Redding into an artificial turf surface is being gauged.

 

During the latest Redding Board of Selectmen meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commissioner said that even though the Redding Athletics Fields Committee was disbanded, there is still interest in converting Redding Community Center Athletic Field #2 to a turf surface. 

 

A state grant covering about a third of the cost is set ot expire next July.  If private funding could be raised to cover another third of the cost, the Commissioner said Redding could ask residents in a referendum for the balance of the funds needed.  The estimated cost of the project is $900,000 to $1.2 million. 

 

The Redding Athletics Fields Committee previously set up a 501C3 Account to collect donations and has a small balance. 

 

The topic will be discussed further at the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

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Three area legislators running unopposed for state seats

There are three legislative candidates in the Greater Danbury area who are not facing a challenge from a major party candidate.  Among them is Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan.  The Republican recently took part in a forum sponsored by the Danbury PTO.  He was asked about the Education Cost Sharing Formula and says one of the big challenges is that the City is scored in a less favorable fashion for more money.

 

He gave the example of New Britain being a smaller community than Danbury, but receives significantly more money than the City.  He says that's because the demographics of New Britain supposedly demands more money.  But McLachlan pointed out that the 25th most richest person in the United States lives in Danbury and his value in income is averaged in with everyone else's income.

 

McLachlan says that's not an equitable way to calculate funding. 

 

New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith says Danbury and surrounding towns are not receiving the funding they should be.  He says the smaller towns are left out because the theory in the ECS formula is that if the schools are performing well, they don't need more funding.

 

Smith says the formula has been changed every year since 1988.  He calls is a complicated formula that doesn't serve anyone well.  Smith says there are too many unfunded mandates, the formula is also a disincentive for districts to save money.  He says they can't reduce their budget from the prior year unless they get permission from the state Education Commissioner.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban is also running unopposed.

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Two residents bilked of $2,275 in telephone scams

Two Wilton residents have been bilked out of a combined $2,700 by a telephone scam.  The Wilton Hour reports that one caller, supposedly from the Federal Warrants Division" claimed an Olmstead Hill Road resident failed to report for jury duty and needed to send $500 or face arrest.  The woman was told to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid card and phone back with the serial number. 

 

Also this month, Police say a Danbury Road man received a call from someone claiming to be the IRS and that the resident improperly filed his returns.  The man was told to put $2,275 on a Green Dot MoneyPak card or face arrest.  Before the resident had a chance to buy the card police say his phone range with the caller ID saying it was the Wilton Police Department. 

 

Police said in the published report that it's common to spoof a phone number.  Both victims were in their early 50s.

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Three teens arrested for having pot, alcohol, and knife in vehicle

Wilton police arrested three Norwalk teens this week on drug possession charges.  Police say officers observed a vehicle parked on the causeway on Old Huckleberry Road around 2am Tuesday, and when they approached, could smell marijuana.  Pot was seen on the center console as well. 

 

Police say 18-year old Jahtavius Derry, the driver, also had a baggie of marijuana in his pocket, and a baggie with broken prescription pills.  19-year old Joseph Delia was found with marijuana and a controlled substance in his backpack, along with a switchblade knife.  18-year old Benjamin Morales had marijuana, packaging supplies and alcohol in a backpack. 

 

A female teen in the car was not charged.

 

Derry was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.  Delia was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, and possession of a dangerous weapon.  Morales was charged with possession with intent to sell, and possession of marijuana and of alcohol. 

 

All three were released on bond and will be in Norwalk Superior Court October 31st to answer the charges.

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'Apple Crunch' marks National Food Day in Danbury

Friday was National Food Day, a movement to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food.  October 24th was designated by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2011 as Food Day. 

 

In Danbury, the Danbury Farmers' Market Community Collaborative marked the day with a so-called "Apple Crunch".  Participants gathered at Kennedy Park, picked an apple and all took a bite together.  Officials of the Community Collaborative say apples were then handed out throughout the day. 

 

Similar Apple Crunches were held by more than 2,000 members of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Sandy Hook panel considers hearing in Newtown

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A panel created to develop policy recommendations following the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings is looking into a holding a hearing in Newtown, although commission members cautioned Friday against scheduling such a meeting close to the upcoming second anniversary of the tragedy.

 

Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Chairman Scott Jackson said it needs to redouble efforts to communicate with victims' families after some complained that not enough information was reaching them. A subcommittee was asked to look into logistics for holding a Newtown meeting to gather input from victims' families and others.

 

Christopher Lyddy, a commission member and former state representative from Newtown, urged a meeting be held well before the anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre of 20 children and six educators.

 

"We're approaching an anniversary," he said. "For many people in Newtown, that anniversary starts well before 12/14."

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy established the 16-member advisory commission to make recommendations in areas including public safety, mental health and gun violence prevention. It has been meeting since January 2013.

 

While some commission members said victims' relatives may want to avoid the publicity of an open hearing, Jackson said the commission would accept communication in any form.

 

Jackson said his commission is not likely to finalize any recommendations until after the release of a report from the Office of the Child Advocate, which has been reviewing the shooter's schooling records.

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Ex-director of youth program banned from schools

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) A former youth program director accused of using vulgar and threatening language to middle school students received a six-month suspended sentence and is banned from all New Canaan schools.

The Advocate of Stamford reports that Andrew Barer, a former youth director of Outback Teen Center, pleaded guilty to second-degree breach of peace.

Norwalk Superior Court Judge William Wenzel agreed to the plea deal Wednesday and allowed Barer to enter an 18-month accelerated rehabilitation program.

The 52-year-old Barer of Easton was arrested Feb. 27 after a police investigation found he used vulgar language in threats against a group of eight to 10 boys at the school cafeteria if they didn't attend the Outback Teen Center.

Barer initially pleaded not guilty on March 12.

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Freshman lawmaker challenged by New Milford Board of Finance member

Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor was elected in 2012 to the 67th district House seat, having prior experience serving as vice-chair of the New Milford Town Council.  She is a member of the Finance, Environment, and Judiciary committees.  She says there were quite a few bills that were passed last session that's proud of including one dealing with veterans and increasing their employment opportunities.  Buck-Taylor touted her work in bringing grant funding to New Milford for brownfield remediation.

 

Democrat Gale Alexander has been on the Board of Finance for the past 12 years, has run mayoral and state senate campaigns and holds a teaching certification.

 

He says the municipal tax system is antiquated, assessment methods from the 18th century.  He says with the new economy, there’s still manufacturing and agriculture, but more businesses without a real property for municipalities to tax.  He says that creates an imbalance between businesses that are heavily capitalized and retail businesses.  He says the current system dealing with property tax is based on a property assessment that doesn’t really represent the people.  He gave the example of retired people who own homes equivalent to their neighbors who may be still working.  He is suggesting an alternate income tax based on the Grand List and mil rate.  He would substitute property value numbers with income value numbers.

 

Alexander says that would more equitably spread the tax burden across the base.  He says farmers for example would gain from this.  Agricultural land is taxed at a lower rate, but he says a New Milford resident can’t put a building up for his product because his taxes would go up.  Alexander says farmland preservation plays into his push for a change in taxes.

 

She supported a Task Force being created to review the state's tax structure.  She wants unfunded mandates to be examined as well.  Buck-Taylor says the pension fund is underfunded.  She says the state should live within its means, and that isn't a matter of wanting something and raising taxes in order to get it.  She was also critical of taking money from designated funds to pay for other items and services. 

 

When it comes to education reforms, Buck-Taylor says there is more to be done and some things that should be undone.  She does not support Common Core, in part because there was no public hearing before it was implemented.  She doesn't believe in having one-size fits all.  She hopes another look at Common Core will be made.  She says the Educational Cost Sharing formula is woefully under funded .  She notes that the formula for children with learning disabilities is not done in an equitable manner.  She believes the state should give the towns the support they need to give education to kids in a fashion the town knows is the right way.

 

Alexander says he wants to look at changing how high schools are evaluated.  He says technical education system and community colleges play an integral role in the future of Connecticut.  He says there are jobs in manufacturing that are going unfilled because there are no programs to train new workers.  He says these offer an alternative path to success in life.  Alexander says attending college is sort of expected today, but some students end up leaving after a couple of years and a lot of student loans.  He says that leaves kids with tremendous debt, no degree and no prospect to a good job to pay off that debt because of a push toward four-year colleges.  He says one-size does not fit all and there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

 

Buck-Taylor says she would support an expansion of Metro North's Danbury branch up to New Milford, and would like to see rail service provided all the way to Massachusetts.  She says Connecticut's roads and bridges are rated as some of the worst in the nation, in part because hundreds of millions of dollars are taken out of the Special Transportation Fund and put into the general fund.  Buck-Taylor says when something reaches desperate conditions, the state bonds for it and then residents will have to pay interest on it.  She says businesses aren't happy with the conditions of the roads and trucks having to use local routes to avoid congestion. 

 

Buck-Taylor hopes now that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has had time to review the issues connected to the 2012 shootings in Newtown, she hopes school safety and mental health will be addressed .  Years back the state closed a lot of the mental hospitals in Connecticut and she says people were dumped out onto the streets.  She wants a look taken at that, and also at children who are transferred from one school to another that people know are in trouble.  She was critical of the so-called gun bill being passed by emergency certification with no committee review and public hearing.

 

Alexander touted constituent service as what he would most like to bring to the district.  He says there has to be a concerted effort to be in touch with the people you represent.  He encouraged people to stay involved and voice opinions on what is effecting day to day life.

 

Buck-Taylor wants to increase opportunities in the state for veterans, businesses and seniors.  She also wants to educate and protect children in a fiscally responsible manner so that the state can somehow come up with a tax system that relies less on property taxes.  She wants to continue to work to keep farmlands productive and in a low-tax environment.

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Bethel fire leaves 18 people without housing

An apartment fire in Bethel has left several people without housing.  A fire broke out in the storage area in the basement of 97 Grassy Plain Street shortly before 7:30 Wednesday night.  Bethel Police officers helped evacuate residents and then the fire department put out the blaze.  A smoke detector in the basement alerted residents to the problem. 

 

Fire officials say the basement sustained extensive fire, heat and smoke damage. 

 

18 people from 12 apartments were not allowed back into the building because of smoke damage.  The Red Cross is assisting the families. 

 

The cause of the blaze is being investigated by the Bethel Fire Marshal's office.

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Fuel cell to be installed at Danbury Mall

A fuel cell is being installed at the Danbury Fair Mall.  The Mall's owner, Macerich Corporation, will be gathering with business and city leaders this morning for the announcement.  The 750 kilowatt fuel cell program is being powered by Bloom Energy. 

 

Officials say the project will provide the 1.3 million square foot building with clean, reliable energy while reducing carbon emissions by nearly 3 million pounds each year. 

 

The Mall recently installed LED lighting outside the facility and will be installing solar panels on the roof next year.

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'Real Housewives of New Jersey' reportedly to serve prison term in Danbury

A federal judge announced Wednesday that she was told "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice will be assigned to a prison camp facility in Danbury, and must report there on January 5th.  She was sentenced to 15 months in prison for bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy. Her husband was sentenced to 41 months. 

 

The couple pleaded guilty in March, admitting they hid assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitted phony loan applications to get 5 million dollars in mortgages and construction loans. 

 

Some former infamous Danbury Federal Correctional Facility include Watergate conspirator G Gordon Liddy, hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, singer Lauren Hill and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman.

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This is National Teen Safe Driver Week

This is National Teen Safe Driver Week.  Danbury High School students are part of an anti-districted driving contest to win the school a 25-thousand dollar grant by asking people to pledge to drive safely.  State Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman William Seymour is urging parents to talk with their kids about driving safely.

 

Seymour says they are calling on parents to talk with their kids about not speeding, not to drink and drive, to put the phone down, to buckle up and to only carry one passenger at a time.

 

The DMV notes that fatalities involving 16 and 17 year old drivers were down 71-percent last year compared to 2007, the year before tougher teen driving laws took effect. 

 

The Celebrate My Drive contest ends Friday.  Last year Danbury High School was one of the first place winners, receiving the most safe driving pledges.  They were rewarded with a $100,000 grant.  DHS Principal Gary Bocaccio says while they can't win that top prize two years in a row, the school could still win a $25,000 grant.  Glastonbury HS is currently #5 and Danbury HS is currently #18.  They are among nine schools in Connecticut competing with schools across the country. 

 

The school's safe driving campaign is online at voteDanbury.com.

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Congresswoman to meet with NHS students on gun violence prevention

With little less than two weeks before the election, a member of Congress is coming to Newtown to talk about gun violence.  5th District Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty will be meeting with students at Newtown High School this afternoon.  The students from the Junior Newtown Action Alliance at the Student Government are hosting a discussion on gun violence prevention. 

 

Esty will be joined by California Congressman Mike Thompson, whom she says is an avid hunter and gun owner, and chairs the U-S House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  They are looking for feedback from students and will discuss federal efforts to prevent gun violence. 

 

Esty is in a contentious race against Republican challenger Mark Greenberg.  During the first debate he said he would support universal background checks, something he thought would take his NRA "A" rating down to an "F".  The NRA has now done just that. 

 

The "A" rating was based on a 2012 survey when Greenberg was making a run for the seat, but he says the shootings at Sandy Hook School changed his views and he never filled out the 2014 NRA questionnaire.

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Former bus driver arraigned on sexual assault charges

A former school bus driver has been arraigned on charges of sexually abusing a child and possessing child pornography.  68-year old Michael Cunningham of Brewster was arrested in July following an investigation of abuse of a 6-year old child. 

 

Cunningham has been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault, both felonies and misdemeanors, as well as one count of endangering the welfare of a child.  When his Brewster home was searched, police found child pornography and 5 additional charges were filed. 

 

Cunningham was arraigned last Wednesday and is being held on $100,000 bail.  A restraining order has also been issued to protect the victim and the victim’s family.

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Political newcomer challenges 6-term incumbent in 138th district

State House and Senate positions are on the ballot in November.  WLAD is profiling the candidates running in the 138th state House District of Danbury, Ridgefield and New Fairfield.  Six-term Republican incumbent Jan Giegler is seeking reelection.  She is being challenged by Democrat Henry Hall. 

 

Giegler says she has a leadership role in the GOP caucus, has worked in a bipartisan manner and worked with constituents to cut through the red tape of state bureaucracy .  She says during the last session, it was a challenge being in the minority.  But she thinks a lot was accomplished by working across the aisle on the Public Safety Committee.  Giegler says she has always tried to be an advocate for fiscal responsibility and to keep Connecticut a place that people want to call home.  But she says the state has been going in the wrong direction when it comes to creating jobs and being a competitive business environment.

 

Hall is a 30 year Danbury resident who worked for GE Capital, and United Health among other companies.  Hall says he decided to run to giveback to the community and try to make a difference.

 

Jobs, transportation and public safety are his key platforms.  He says historically the biggest industries in Connecticut have been insurance, finance, precision manufacturing and defense.  He notes that they are not hiring as fast as they used to, and he would like to expand what the state is known for.  Hall says more must be done to bring in jobs in the biosciences, digital media and renewable energy.

 

Giegler says the Transportation Committee has dealt with a number of issues in the past year.  One was the issue of border tolls.  She says they are not the answer and the Danbury area would be unfairly impacted by their implementation.  Metro North has been a big issue.  She says there is no representation from Connecticut on the Metro North board, so there is no local control of decision that are made in New York.  But she says with the new President of Metro North, there’s been a more open dialog.

 

Hall says the problem with Metro North is that it’s run out of New York and Connecticut doesn’t really have a say in what is being done.  He would like to see other contracts looked into.  There are things that can be done about congestion, he says including ridesharing, shuttle services and opening the existing railway that runs into Brewster.  He says transportation dollars need to be brought to this side of the state because I-84 is well above capacity.  He says the wear and tear on the roads caused by truck traffic can be reduced by increasing freight rail.

 

The 138th is a multi-town district stretching from Ridgefield through Danbury up to New Fairfield.  Giegler says having the district redrawn two years ago, she’s working with a priority school district in Danbury and other schools that aren’t.  When it comes to funding for the communities, Danbury as a city is entitled to certain bond money where Ridgefield and New Fairfield can use Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants.  She says there are different concerns when it comes to policing as well because New Fairfield has a Resident State Trooper office.

 

Giegler says there’s been a push for regionalization at the state capital, including the attempted closing of the Southbury State Troopers Barracks on weekends.  She fought against that.  But she touted the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials regional planning group in their efforts working together.

 

Regionalization has a lot of advantages including for many services.  He says it can help reduce costs when it comes to road salt, dispatch services and the like.  But he notes it’s not a panacea.

 

Hall says every Connecticut resident needs to be provided with the opportunity for quality affordable education from pre-k through the workforce years.  He says the forecast for the economy over the next 25 years predicts that people will have two or three careers.  He says that shows a need for continuing education.  He calls education one of the cornerstones of a prosperous Connecticut.  Hall would like to see scholarship programs increased.  He also suggests low-interest loans would be helpful to reduce the cost of a college education.

 

She is interested in tackling some broad priorities if elected to another term.  One is to reduce the state’s deficit.  Another is getting businesses in the state on track to growth again.  In a wrap up message, she asked that constituents understand the issues and how people vote on a particular bill.  She notes that there are bills that have pieces she would like to vote on, but other parts that would be detrimental to the community.  She cited budget bills, in order to implement them, there are a lot of last minute add-ons that unnecessarily inflate spending.

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New daytime shelter opening for Danbury homeless

A new “day shelter” for the city’s homeless will conduct an open house to introduce downtown Danbury business, nonprofit and community leaders to the program.


The Good Samaritan Center’s overnight seasonal shelter will be open year round once it opens next month. The shelter provides beds for 14 men amd previously was operated during the winter by the Jericho Partnership.  This new daytime shelter is housed in the seasonal overnight shelter on Maple Avenue in Danbury, across the street from the Good Samaritan Mission. 

 

Executive Director Mark Grasso says it provides a place for the homeless to connect with community providers, activities and housing, along with faith-based counseling. 

 

The open house is November 5th from 4 to 6 pm.

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Danbury High School student now stable

A 16-year-old Danbury High School student who jumped off a parking garage last week remains at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but her condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.

The girl sustained multiple fractures after jumping from the top of Danbury Hospital's four-story garage. She was treated for those injuries at the hospital, but also suffered less obvious internal injuries that required further treatment at Yale-New Haven.

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New Sandy Hook School site work has begun

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Site work has begun for construction of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School replacing the building where 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot nearly two years ago.

Consigli Construction Co. officially received the job and a Newtown building permit on Tuesday.

Architect Bob Mitchell said an official groundbreaking was not scheduled partly to protect the privacy of the Sandy Hook community. He expects the community will be invited to visit the site.

Construction will begin in March.

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Fatal accident in Danbury

A Norwalk man was killed Tuesday in a one-car collision that occurred at the intersection of Eagle Road and Executive Drive after the vehicle he was driving was found off the shoulder on the embankment.

Police found the driver.. 66 year old Thomas Proulx slumped behind the wheel. the accident ocurred around 2:30 pm.

At the scene, Proulx was determined to be in critical condition and was taken by ambulance to Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced dead soon after his arrival.

Police ask  any witnesses to contact the department traffic investigation division. 

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Ridgefield police to investigate High School hazing

A police investigation has been launched into alleged hazing incidents last week involving Ridgefield High School students.

Principal Stacey Gross said the alleged hazing involved a small number of athletes and non-athletes last Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The incidents did not occur on school grounds. The incidents occurred during Ridgefield's Spirit Week, a series of themed days held at the high school to boost and express school pride.

Gross read a letter Thursday to students over the intercom, stating she had learned that "a number of incidents of hazing, bullying and intimidation have taken place in association with some of  the  athletic teams involving athletes and non-athletes." The letter was also sent home to parents.

 

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'Row of Honor' display to return to Carmel

An annual display to honor veterans will be opened soon in Putnam County.  The opening date for this year’s Veterans Day Row of Honor in Putnam County will be announced in the afternoon.  The display recognizes those who have served in the military. 

 

The Row of Honor installation consists of American-made flags that border Gleneida Avenue on the shores of Lake Gleneida in Carmel.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says it's assembled each year to give residents the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank those who have served their country.

 

Funds are also raised to support programs run by the Joint Veterans Council.

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Candidates forum being held in Newtown

Candidates looking to represent Newtown in the state House are gathering Tuesday night for a forum.


The annual candidate forum is being hosted by The Newtown Bee.  Like many other towns in the region, several state house districts represent parts of town.  The 2nd district is currently represented by Republican Dan Carter.  He is being challenged by Danbury attorney Candace Fay. 

 

The 106th District seat is currently held by Republican Mitch Bolinsky.  His challenger is recent West Conn grad Matt Cole. 

 

The 112th district is an open race with the retirement of longtime representative DebraLee Hovey.  Republican JP Sredkinski, a Monroe Town Council member is looking to fill the vacancy.  Democrat Jen Aguilar, a Monroe Youth Commission member. 

 

The forum at Edmond Town Hall is at 7:30pm.

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4th Congressional District candidates meet for debates

The first two debates between 4th Congressional District Representative Jim Himes and Republican challenger Dan Debicella have been held.  The first was a telephone town hall sponsored by the AARP.  The next was held in Wilton Sunday. 

 

Debicella, who ran for the position in 2010, says safety and transportation are key issues.  He wants to invest in smart maintenance to make sure roads and rails are safe.  He says that will go a long way in making sure commuters stay safe.

 

Himes says he's worked hard on Metro North issues.  He and others in the Connecticut delegation pushed for new leadership at the railroad, who has met the demand to install "positive train control" devices on all trains.  Himes says those devices will sense if there is an impending derailment or crash coming up regardless of the conductor's attentiveness.

 

They also addressed Social Security.  Himes says in about 30 years Social Security will begin to pay out more than it brings in, if nothing is done.  He says some equitable and fair reforms will need to be made, but not privatization proposals made by the Republican party.

 

Debicella says he would not vote to raise the retirement age to support Social Security solvency.  He advocated for a plan to have Social Security increases attached to prices not wage, which he says will lower benefits to wealthier people who don't need it.

 

Another of the topics covered was economic recovery.  Himes says there is a long way yet to go, but there has been progress.  He cited 10 million private sector jobs added, an economy growing at about 3-percent and a declining deficit.

 

But Debicella says Connecticut is 50th out of 50 in terms of job creation and people can't save for retirement unless the economy robust.  He proposes closing loopholes for special interest groups and lowering tax rates for the middle class and small businesses, paid for with the loophole closures.

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Annual college and vocational fair being held at Danbury Mall

High School students and their parents are being called on to attend Danbury High School's annual College and Vocational Fair tonight at the Mall.  More than 230 two-year and four-year schools, vocational, trade and technical schools, the military and the college board are participating in the event. 

 

Chairwoman Valerie DeRubertis says college fairs can be very informative but they can also be overwhelming, but the guidance counselors will be there as well to provide information and direction.  DeRubertis says it's easy to get caught up in the crowds and confusion, criss-crossing the room, stopping at any booth that seems popular.

 

Students are urged to write up a short list of questions to ask admission representatives, including what the two or three most popular majors are.  That  can give a good idea of the main interests of the majority of the students.  Students who are undecided should ask about what services and support are available to help them explore various majors. 

 

Freshmen and sophomores are urged to ask admission representatives what they should do to strengthen their transcripts and activities.  Juniors who attend are urged to start making a list of colleges they are interested in to learn more about heading into senior year.  Seniors can make another contact with a school they're interested in or find a school they weren't aware of before the fair. 

 

She says students with access to computers might want to to print up a few sheets of self-stick address labels with contact information, high school, year of graduation, intended major(s), and any extracurricular activities of interest.  At the fair, that can then be placed on information cards to save time in filling out the same information over and over at each college’s table.

 

The College and Vocational Fair is from 5 to 8:30pm at the Danbury Fair Mall.

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Residents urged to test wells for arsenic, uranium

The state Department of Public Health is urging residents with private wells to get them tested for arsenic and uranium.  Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, leading to liver and kidney cancer.  Epidemiologist Brian Toal says Uranium is a heavy metal that's toxic to the kidneys.  He says if people drink high enough levels for a long enough time, there could be decreased kidney functions.

 

Toal says the state had gotten reports from a town like Weston, where over 10-percent of the wells had elevated levels of arsenic.  Other towns around Connecticut had very high rates of uranium.

 

Toal says arsenic and uranium are easily treatable at a reasonable price.  A list of the recommended labs can be found on the state DPH website.

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Ridgefield schools investigating reports of hazing among athletes

Ridgefield School officials are investigating what it says are possible incidents of "hazing, bullying and intimidation" among sports teams at the High School.  NBC reports that Principal Stacey Gross sent a letter home to parents yesterday with their concerns over events that happened Wednesday, though she did not elaborate in the letter. 

 

She did say that she was disappointed that in spite of efforts of everyone, some students chose to place themselves and others in jeopardy of injury and exposed their fellow students to ridicule and humiliation.  The letter said those involved, both athletes and non-athletes in association with the teams, will receive serious consequences.

 

Ridgefield Superintendent Dr Deborah Lowe said given how ad advisory program is in place and appropriate behavior is discussed with athletic teams, she is surprised and disappointed.

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2 Conn. men admit to bribery scheme involving former FBI agent

Two Connecticut men have pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges for a scheme to get confidential internal law enforcement documents from a former FBI Special Agent.  The New York U-S Attorney's office reports that 35-year old Rizve "Caesar" Ahmed of Danbury and 51-year old Johannes Thaler of New Fairfield admitted to participating in the scheme with Robert Lustyik, who worked on the counterintelligence squad. 

 

Thaler and Lustyik, who were friends, solicited bribes from Ahmed in exchange for the confidential information.  Ahmed is a native of Bangladesh who was acquainted with Thaler.  Ahmed wanted a "Suspicious Activity Report" about a Bangladeshi political figure who opposed Ahmed's views in order to harm the person and other associated with th victim.  The Danbury man also wanted help in having criminal charges against a different Bangladeshi political figure dismissed. 

 

Text messages were sent about a “contract” that would require Ahmed to pay a $40,000 “retainer” and $30,000 “monthly.” 

 

Thaler and Lustyik also exchanged text messages about how to pressure Ahmed to pay them additional money in exchange for confidential information.  For example, in text messages, Lustyik told Thaler, “we need to push [Ahmed] for this meeting and get that 40 gs quick . . . . I will talk us into getting the cash . . . . I will work my magic . . . . We r sooooooo close.”  Thaler responded, “I know.  It’s all right there in front of us.  Pretty soon we’ll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant . . . .”

 

Additionally, in late January 2012, Lustyik learned that Ahmed was considering using a different source to obtain confidential information.  As a result, Lustyik sent a text message to Thaler stating, “I want to kill [Ahmed] . . . . I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing? . . . . Tell [Ahmed], I’ve got [the victim’s] number and I’m pissed. . . . I will put a wire on n get [Ahmed and his associates] to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to the victim].”  Lustyik further stated, “So bottom line.  I need ten gs asap.  We gotta squeeze C.”

 

Sentencing hearings for Thaler and Ahmed are scheduled for January 23rd.  Lustyik is scheduled for trial on November 17th.

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Metro North credit card pilot program launched on Danbury branch

Metro North is introducing on-board credit card payment capability on the Danbury branch.  This is a limited pilot program to test new Ticket Issuing Machines.  The credit card payments on board will begin Monday the 27th.  Conductors will be able to print out customer receipts from the upgraded machines.  But Metro North is reminding customers that purchasing a ticket on board the train is always more expensive than purchasing tickets from machines located at the stations.

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Danbury Fire Department honors civilians, firefighters for contributions

A number of Danbury area residents and firefighters have been honored for going above and beyond the call of duty.  An awards ceremony was held earlier this week to recognize the contributions to public safety.  Danbury Fire Department Spokesman Steven Rogers says they truly appreciate the work done by community members and firefighters each day.

 

Six civilian recipients and 22 career firefighters were recognized.

 

One of the Civilian Awards of Merit was presented to a young boy, Josh Ennis, who saved his friends life.  The boys were playing video games when another boy leaned over a candle, igniting his shirt.  Josh told his friend to remove the shirt, got water and doused the flames.  The boy sustained minor burns , but fire officials say Josh's quick actions helped save him from further harm.

 

Another of the Civilian Awards of Merit was presented to a garbage man who spotted a car in the brook by Wooster School.  Jim Main is a Bethel volunteer fireman who called 911 and alerted authorities to the car in the water, not visible from the road.  Main got the elderly man to the bank of the water and stayed with him until an ambulance arrived. 

 

Department Certificates of Merit were presented to 13 members of the fire department for their work on Christmas Eve.  A group was dispatched to a reported accident on the highway near Exit 2, caused by melted snow re-freezing.  They found several more accidents on both sides of the road, so the highway was closed from the New York border through exit 4.  Several patients were treated for minor injuries and 15 vehicles had to be towed from the area.

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Bethel Police hold open house events to show need for new station

The Bethel Police Department is holding a series of open houses so residents can see the current police station.  This comes on the heels of an informational meeting about plans for a larger station nearby. 

 

Plans for the new police station call for an 18,000 square foot building, which is more than double the size of the current facility at 49 Plumtrees Road.  The architect firm that designed the Danbury Police Department has been tapped for the Bethel project. 

 

The proposed project cost is $13.7 million.  Bethel officials proposed the new police station in 2004, but then the project sat dormant until 2013.

 

Officers will be on hand, when they are not on duty, to leads tours of the facility and answer questions.  The first of the open house events is today from 10am to 2pm.

 

The other dates and times are :

 

Thursday October 23rd 5pm-7pm

 

Thursday November 6th 5pm-7pm

 

Saturday November 15th 10am-2pm

 

Thursday November 20th, 5pm-7pm

 

Saturday November 29th, 10am-2pm

 

Wednesday December 3rd, 6pm-8pm

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Police rescue man from car submerged in Candlewood Lake

Danbury police rescue a man from his submerged car in Candlewood Lake.  Police were called shortly before 11pm Thursday night by witnesses who said a car went out of control and crashed through the fence near the intersection of Hayestown Road and East Hayestown Road. 

 

Witnesses pointed out where the vehicle was in Candlewood Lake, about 50 feet off shore.  The car was submerged up to its roof. 

 

Officers could see a hand sticking out of the driver side window.  They dove into the water and made contact with 59-year old Matthew Branche of Carmel.  He was in the driver's seat with water up to his neck.  Branche told police he wasn't able to get himself out of the car.  Officers were able to open the door and brought Branche to shore. 

 

The man was transported to the hospital for evaluation.

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Western Connecticut State University receives $3 million donation

Western Connecticut State university has received its largest donation to date.  $3 million from the Macricostas Family Fund has been contributed by Brookfield businessman Constantine “Deno” Macricostas.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says the gift will support the university's travel-abroad program and additional scholarships.  The gift will also support a lecture series intended to bring renowned speakers to the university for the benefit of students and the community.

 

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education acknowledged the gift and approved renaming Western's largest school to The Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. 

 

West Conn President Dr James Schmotter says Macricostas represents the classic American immigrant success story and provides an inspiration to the university community.

 

Macricostas emigrated to the U.S. from Greece in search of a better life. While attending college he earned extra money as a fry cook at a local diner on weekends. He saved enough money to start his own company in 1969, Photronics, Inc., which manufactures photomasks, a component in the creation of silicon computer chips. The company remains headquartered in Brookfield with additional operations in Idaho, Texas, Taiwan, Korea and Europe.

 

Macricostas explained why he and his family decided to support WCSU with this gift.  “We live in a competitive and challenging world that requires growing our knowledge and increasing exposure from each generation. Our family takes pride in helping to support the great work of Western Connecticut State University in preparing students for active participation in our global society.”

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Healing Hearts Center to benefit from Ridgefield Playhouse film screening

A film is being screened tonight in Ridgefield with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Danbury-based “Healing Hearts Center For Grief and Loss”.  "A fish story" is based on a true story about the Canadian family of actor/writer/producer Sam Roberts and the death of his father.  Roberts says it's also a story about letting go.

 

The film then focuses on how the family deals with grief.  It starts with his father's ongoing promise to build a fishing cabin for his kids.  Roberts says the film then detours to his father being in limbo because of the family's turmoil.  He says making ‘a fish story’ was his catharsis. 

 

"It has also become a story for everyone who has lost a love one.  In some magical and beautiful way, this film lifts you up, it gives you hope, and it inspires you to heal.”

 

The screening, part of the Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society "Family Film Series", will be followed by a Question & Answer session with the Bedford, New York resident.  Patrick Collins, a Katonah resident who also appears in the film, will be part of the panel.  The film starts at 7:30pm.

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Walk of Honor to be held Sunday in Danbury

The 7th annual Walk of Honor is being held this weekend in Danbury.  In addition to the walk, this year's Warrior Award recipient will be presented with the recognition.  Organizer Mary Teicholz says the event will begin at noon on Sunday and will also include the dedication of additional bricks to the Veterans Walkway of Honor, followed by the one-mile walk.

 

This year's Warrior Award recipient is John "Buzz" Hogan, a Vietnam veteran who is a two-time Purple Heart recipient.  He's been diagnosed with cancer because of Agent Orange exposure while in combat theater in Vietnam.  Hogan also started a scholarship fund recently for Bethel High School seniors that are the children or grandchildren of combat veterans.

 

For his service in the Marine Corps, Hogan was presented with the Combat Action Ribbon and a Distinguished Service Medal among other honors.  She called his story is one of bravery, heroism and community. 

 

Teicholz says this year is paying tribute to those who not only gave their lives at war, but also those who have given of their lives after they’ve retuned home.

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New Fairfield man sentenced for $6 million embezzlement scheme

A New Fairfield man has been sentenced for a nearly $6 million embezzlement scheme.  New York prosecutors say 59-year old Gregg Pierleoni pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and will serve six years in prison, pay more than $4.8 million in restitution to his employer, $1 million to their insurance company and $1.4 million to the IRS. 

 

Court documents say the New Fairfield man was Chief Financial Officer of a Westchester -based moving company and moved nearly $6 million from their account into other company accounts and that of a related entity.  Authorities say he then wrote checks from those accounts to pay for personal expenses. 

 

Pierleoni allegedly used the money for collectible coins, artwork, jewelery , hotels, airline tickets, clothing, food and main services.

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New Milford woman charged in Danbury with prostitution

A New Milford woman has been arrested on prostitution charges.  Danbury Police received a number of complaints in the area of Stevens and Montgomery Streets about women waiving down passing vehicles.  Surveillance was set up by police, who observed 24-year old Sarah Martinez of New Milford speaking with a driver briefly before getting into the vehicle Wednesday afternoon. 

 

Police followed the car to a condo complex on South Street where the pair was seen getting into the back seat of the car. 

 

Martinez was charged with prostitution.  The driver, 69-year old Frederick Ortner of Dover Plains New York was charged with patronizing a prostitute.  She was held on bond.  He was released on a written promise to appear in court.

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With foxes scarce, hunting clubs target coyotes

BRIDGEWATER, Conn. (AP) — American fox-hunting is a sport so steeped in tradition that riders still wear ties and blazers and cry out "Tally ho!" at the sight of prey. But it is adapting to one dramatic change: Coyotes have displaced foxes in the wild and become the hunters' new quarry.

 

The bigger, stronger animals pose challenges to the existence of some of the clubs carrying on the hunts introduced from England in the 1600s.

 

The coyotes that have overtaken much of the country in recent decades run so much farther that they enter areas where hounds and riders on horseback cannot follow. It is a strain particularly on the few remaining fox-hunting clubs in the densely populated area surrounding New York City, where encroaching development is leaving hunters with less room to roam.

 

"Those territories are mapped out or delegated. What the coyote has done is made it more difficult because the fox didn't run into other areas," said Dennis Foster, executive director of the Virginia-based Masters of Foxhounds Association, which oversees some 155 clubs in 37 U.S. states and Canada.

 

It has been three years since the last fox sighting for Fairfield County Hounds, a hunting club in Bridgewater, 75 miles north of New York, that is the last fox-hunting club in Connecticut.

 

The coyotes receive mixed reviews as substitute targets. Club members say the coyotes have not changed the essence of the experience — the braying of the hounds, the vistas seen from horseback — but they are less sly and playful. The coyotes also run so fast and through such rugged terrain they are effectively impossible to catch.

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"When you do find one, the chase is so fast you've really got to hang on," said Mary Huribal, a 51-year-old former show rider and nurse from Easton.

 

A hunt began with the blast of a horn last week on a Bridgewater field as 18 American foxhounds were released from the back of a truck, fed treats and directed toward the woods. As the hounds followed a scent up and over Wolf Pit Mountain, the riders, who are not armed, gave chase by circling around on a more manageable path for the horses. The hunts are faster with coyotes and within three hours the riders had returned in time for lunch — without catching their prey.

 

Coyotes moved into Connecticut around the middle of the last century and have outcompeted foxes for territory, according to Paul Rego, a state wildlife biologist. There are still some foxes in the area, he said, but state officials receive a large number of complaints about coyotes attacking pets and livestock.

 

The hunts require vast expanses of undeveloped land — meaning property owners must give hunters permission to pass through. The Bridgewater club, which was founded 90 years ago, relocated from nearby Newtown in the 1980s as rural property changed hands and some new owners refused to allow access. Several other clubs in the Northeast have closed over the last couple decades due to development.

 

John Lemay, who was the master of foxhounds at Litchfield County Hounds in Bethlehem, said coyotes were plentiful by 2002 when the club had to close as farmland was sold.

 

"Somebody comes in from Bridgeport or New York and they say, 'No, don't go over it.' So you have to stop," he said. "'It's progress.' That's what they say."

 

With territory becoming scarcer, some clubs have embraced drag hunting — in which there is no animal to be chased and a scent is laid down along a particular path, ensuring the hounds will not stray.

 

To purists like Bill Stuart, the leader of Fairfield County Hounds, that can hardly be considered hunting.

 

"Once the hounds find a coyote, and they start producing a lot of music, that's exciting," Stuart said. "That's what I'm out there for."

 

The sport has come under attack from animal rights activists in the U.S. and Britain, which in 2005 outlawed traditional fox hunting in which dogs kill prey. But Stuart says the club is not out to kill animals and, even if they wanted to, the hunters can't catch them. Some club members say it has faced less opposition since they began chasing coyotes, which are considered more of a nuisance.

 

Stuart, a farmer, said he owns 50 acres and leases another 1,000 and natural barriers including Lake Lillinonah generally keep coyotes from straying from the club's hunting area. A club member, Paul Brainard of Bloomfield, said that members also have bought adjoining property when it's come up for sale to keep it from being developed.

 

At Golden's Bridge Hounds, a hunting club in North Salem, New York, treasurer Elizabeth Almeyda said the arrival of coyotes has added to concerns about the effects of development. Already, the club deploys assistants with radios in cars to help guide the hounds if they get too close to roads.

 

"We are very concerned about development," she said.

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Mariano Rivera comes to Danbury to benefit Champion All Star Cheerleading

A big name in baseball came to Danbury to support some special needs athletes.  Former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera visited the PAL Center in Danbury for an event on Thursday benefiting Champion All Star Gym's special needs teams. 

 

More than 100 people turned out for the benefit event.  The proceeds from tickets, silent auctions and raffles are being used for uniforms and a scholarship fund.  Champion owner Michele Mastrianni made a moving speech to open the night, thanking people for attending and explaining about the facility.  She says they want to make sure that anyone who came through the door could participate, regardless of special needs or finances.

 

The evening started with an exhibition performance by Champion’s special needs team.  The program was started six years ago with one girl with Down Syndrome.  There are now 9 members of the team.  They compete locally, regionally and nationally. 

 

Tuition is paid for by the gym and there are no competition fees.  The coaches and student helpers are all volunteers.  Special needs coach Joeli Mastrianni says the girls are able to finish their routine and walk away with the same sense of pride and accomplishment.  She was overwhelmed by the support from the community Thursday night and the great attendance.

 

While Rivera garnered a big applause, there was a nearly equal applause for the Country All Stars team and their supporters.  The special needs team and the adult Radio All Stars performed tumbling and stunts.

 

Following the performances, some ticket holders had the chance to meet the former New York Yankees closer and take photos with him.  Rivera then joined the entire crowd for a question and answer session. 

 

 

He fielded questions about his career with the Yankees, tips for being a great athlete and how hard it was to be away from his children for long stretches of time.  He also talked about leaving Panama and the differences between playing baseball there and playing here.  One of the most intriguing questions was about athletes who announce their retirement, but then play again.  He answered that with a resounding “no”.  Rivera says there is no baseball left in him.  He was asked about coaching.  He says he hadn't really thought about it.  Rivera says he is enjoying time with his children, but might like to coach in the minor leagues.

 

When asked about what he thought of his career with the Yankees, Rivera was very humble and asked the crowd what they thought instead.  He also described the different feelings of old Yankee Stadium and the new stadium.

 

One of the featured athletes is a 16-year old named Judy Adams.  She decided to help her mom Kim, who founded the non-profit Gifts From the Heart for Downs, raise money for the wishes.  She started a campaign called “Dimes for Downs”.  To date, she has collected 304,350 dimes to grant wishes to children and adults who have Down Syndrome.  The wishes have ranged from an iPad to strollers.  Judy, with the backing of her follow athletes at Champion All Star held an event this summer at Kenosia Park called “Dump Your Dimes for Downs”.  The day included games, cheering performances and a banker to convert all cash to dimes.  All activities were paid for with dimes.

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Danbury High School students want safe driving pledges from community

Danbury High School students in various leadership clubs are once again actively working to raise awareness of the dangers of reckless and distracted driving.  It's part of the Celebrate My Drive campaign. 

 

Last year Danbury High School was one of the first place winners, receiving the most safe driving pledges.  They were rewarded with a $100,000 grant.  DHS Principal Gary Bocaccio says while they can't win that top prize two years in a row, the school could still win a $25,000 grant.

 

Students will be out in the community through October 24th asking people to pledge to drive safely. 

 

You can take the safe driving pledge at votedanbury.com.

 

The students used a large chunk of the 2013 grant funding for an electronic sign outside of the school. 

 

A committee of students, teachers, parents and administrators decided to order 36 Chrome books for the library, which will enable classes to sign them out. 10 tables with benches were installed in the courtyard for the students to use at lunchtime.  About $10,000 is being donated to a program allowing teachers to apply for funding.  

 

Some seed money was put away for this year because they hope to win another grant through the contest.  The Peer Leadership Group and DECA were reimbursed about $3,000 for what they spent on the contest last year.

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Heart of Women Award to be presented to SCOTTY Fund founder

A woman who turned personal tragedy into hope for others is being recognized today by the Women's Business Council.  The Heart of Women Award is being presented to Linda Anderson, who founded and is the President of The SCOTTY Fund.  Council Director JoAnn Cueva says the SCOTTY Fund was established in 1996 in memory of Scott Anderson, Linda and husband Mark’s three year old son, who lost his life to pancreatic cancer.  

 

Cueva says Linda is an amazing woman who set out to give back to others who helped her.  This year’s recipient was selected from a diverse group of 24 nominees.

 

Since the Fund's creation, it's raised over $830,000 to help ease the financial burden associated with a critical illness and to help families cope with the day-to-day necessities of everyday life, ranging from grocery shopping to child care.

 

Past Award recipients include Jane Martellino, Founder & President of Yes! Grace Rocks, LouAnn Bloomer, Founder/CEO & President of TBICO, Marie Hatcher, Founder of Matthew’s Hearts of Hope and Wilda Hayes, former President & CEO of Ann’s Place.  Honorary Awards were presented to Pat Llodra and Janet Robinson of Newtown in 2013.

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Another GOP vacancy on Ridgefield Board of Ed

The Ridgefield Board of Education is looking to fill a vacancy on the board.  Republican John Palermo, who served on the Board of Ed from 2008, has submitted his letter of resignation because he is moving out of state.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the vacancy comes shortly after Richard Steinhard resigned for work-related reasons.  Palermo's term ends in November 2017.  The Board of Ed has until the end of this month to fill the Republican seat.  If they don't come up with a candidate, the job falls to the Board of Selectmen to fill the post.

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Newtown dad joins gun-control publicity campaign

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) A man whose son was killed in the 2012 Newtown school shootings is joining a publicity campaign by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

David Wheeler's son Ben was among 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School by the gunman who also killed six educators in December 2012.

The Brady Center says the campaign launched on Tuesday is intended to help parents understand the risks of having a gun in the home.

Wheeler is featured in the digital advertisements along with Ann Marie Crowell of Saugus, Massachusetts, whose son died in an accidental shooting at a friend's house. The campaign also includes television advertisements.

The Brady Center says studies have shown that most school shootings involve a gun from a home.

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Alleged drunk driver has court case continued

A Danbury man was in court Tuesday to answer charges that he drove drunk in New Milford earlier this month.  52-year old Robert Sperry Jr was arrested October 5th by police who responded to a 911 call of an erratic driver.  Officers followed Sperry's vehicle, observing the erratic driving, before pulling him over. 

 

The man was charged with driving under the influence, failure to drive in the proper lane and operating an unregistered vehicle. 

 

He was released on bond for his court appearance Tuesday.  Court records indicate Sperry will be back in Bantam to answer the charges on November 5th.

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Teen jumps from parking garage ledge, now in critical condition

A Danbury teen is in critical condition after jumping off the top level of the Danbury Hospital parking garage.  Danbury Police received a call from the High School saying that some students received text messages from a 16-year-old female student who was threatening to kill herself. 

 

Police responded to the teen's home and later located her at the Locust Avenue parking garage.  She was standing on the ledge and as officers attempted to talk her down, she jumped off the 4th level of the parking structure. 

 

The teen was treated in the emergency room and then transported to Yale New Haven Hospital for further treatment.

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Informational meeting about new Bethel Police Station plans

An informational meeting is being held tonight in Bethel about the new police station.

 

Bethel is looking to construct a new police station on Judd Avenue.  There will be an informational meeting about the project tonight at 7 o'clock in the Bethel High School auditorium. 

 

Plans for the new police station call for an 18,000 square foot building, which is more than double the size of the current police station on Plumtrees Road.  The driveway would be on Judd Avenue with an emergency entrance on Route 302. 

 

The architect firm that designed the Danbury Police Department has been tapped for the Bethel project. The two story building plans call for locker rooms, a physical therapy room, six holding cells and rooms for processing arrestees.  The main floor could include the dispatch center, records department, a classroom and offices.

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Local couple dies in car found running in a New Haven parking garage

Two people found dead in a running vehicle in a New Haven parking garage over the weekend were local residents.  28-year old Michael Long of Monroe and 20-year old Amy Nickerson of New Fairfield were found unresponsive Sunday morning by a police officer doing a routine check of the garage. 

 

New Haven Police say they are still awaiting a final report from the Medical Examiner's office, but that it appears their deaths were accidental, most likely caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.  Medical crews called to the scene were unable to revive the pair. 

 

Police say one of the tires was blown out and a line connecting the engine to the exhaust system was damaged.  Long was found in the front seat.  Nickerson was found in the back seat.

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WestConn 'Entrepreneur of the Year' award given today

Western Connecticut State University is recognizing their 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year today.  The award is being presented to John Royce and Thomas Montague.  They own and operate four catering halls in the region.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says they invite a lot of students to the luncheon and find they walk away inspired by the recipients stories.

 

The pair started in the international shipping business.  Royce was a broker and Montague as a ship operator. They worked together on deals that helped open markets in Brazil and China in the 1970s and 1980s and then formed their own shipping business.  They then bought the Fox Hill Inn as a real estate investment.

 

They also founded and operate The Candlewood Inn in Brookfield, The Waterview in Monroe and The Riverview in Simsbury. 

 

A key to their success, they say, is their ability to bring business discipline to an industry where much of the competition consists of people who are excellent chefs or event planners but who do not have experience running a complex enterprise.

 

They also extend their services to several nonprofits, offering their venues and services at no charge to Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, and Interval House, a domestic abuse prevention facility in Hartford.  Royce also volunteers with Men Make a Difference, Men Against Domestic Violence.

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Man who took plane on drunken flight now gets road DUI

A former Bethel man who once stole an airplane and flew while intoxicated, has now been charged with driving under the influence.  30-year old Philippe Patricio was pulled over by Danbury Police early yesterday morning when officers saw him swerving along Newtown Road.  He does not have a driver's license and initially gave police a fake name. 

 

Patricio served 9 months in jail in New York on charges that he jumped a fence at Danbury Airport in 2005, stole a single-engine Cessna and drunkenly flew the plane for three hours before landing at Westchester County Airport.  He had two 16 year olds on board at the time. 

 

He is now being held on charges of criminal impersonation, DUI, interfering with officers and reckless driving.

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Giffords to begin 9-state tour on women, guns

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Gabby Giffords has launched a nine-state tour to promote tougher gun laws that she says will help protect women and families.

The former Arizona congresswoman urged law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates in Maine on Tuesday to help her bring about change, saying ``We can lead the way.''

Giffords, who was severely wounded by a gunman in 2011, spoke haltingly but clearly, telling the group, ``We can win elections. Please join your voice with mine.''

Giffords' advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, calls guns and domestic violence ``a lethal mix,'' noting that abuse victims are more than five times more likely to be killed if the aggressor has access to a gun.

Next, Giffords travels to New Hampshire, followed by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Minnesota, Iowa, Oregon and Washington state.

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Danbury, Whalers reach agreement on back payments owed and future payments

The Danbury Whalers and City officials have reached an agreement for the security and public safety policies for the 2014-15 hockey season.

 

The Danbury Whalers will pay in advance of each game for fire watch and police presence. The Whalers have put a sizeable downpayment on the debt owed, and will take part in a payment plan to pay off the back monies owed to the City.  The Fire Marshals will not have to be present at every game based on attendance and other circumstances.  That will be determined on a game-by-game basis.

 

Police officers and a fire marshal are at each of the 30 home games, but for the past three seasons the team has not paid in full for those services.  As of the stand off in February, the Police Department was owed more than $73,000. More than $24,000 was owed to the Fire Marshal's office.

 

The Whalers said during the stalemate, that the decision about public safety protection is being applied selectively to the team.  There was a question on if state statute actually left the staffing numbers to police and fire chiefs.  Statutes say the amount of protection necessary should be determined by the Chief or Superintendent of a police department.

 

In March, Fire Marshal James Russell told a Council committee that fire watch is needed at all games to look for locked or broken doors, which he says have been found routinely.  The watchmen are also trained to address other public safety issues.  If attendance is less than 500, the event only requires one Fire Marshal. Police Chief Al Baker told the ad hoc committee that events like hockey games require four police officers and one supervisor, due to the size of crowds, past activity and the potential for firearms.

 

The Luxury Box area is operating under a temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

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Redding woman has animal cruelty case continued

The trial of a 75-year old Redding woman, accused of animal cruelty, has been continued to next month.  Lisa Lind-Larsen received a continuance last month when she filed a motion getting rid of her attorney and saying that new counsel would be retained. 

 

The Redding Pilot reports that she appeared in court without representation though and the case was continued to November 4th.  Lind-Larsen is petitioning for accelerated rehabilitation program, which if granted, the charges would be dropped after a probation period with no offenses or infractions. 

 

Two horses were seized from the woman's Redding property after being found emaciated and housed in unsanitary conditions.

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Oxford man charged for operating a Ponzi scheme

An Oxford resident has been charged with operating a Ponzi scheme.  The U.S. Attorney's office reports that 50-year old Robert Lee was charged Friday with 5 counts of wire fraud for the alleged scheme.  Lee was a broker and financial advisor for various financial investment firms when he was fired by Rockwell Global Capital in 2013. 

 

He allegedly defrauded people by claiming he was investing their money, when in reality he was putting the money in his own bank account.  He used the money to make payments to other investors or for personal expenses.  In order to hide the scheme, he faked account statements and other documents, which he gave to his victims. 

 

Lee will be arraigned today. 

 

The indictment seeks forfeiture of more than $358,000 that Lee had in an online trading account when he was arrested.

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Hazard, navigation buoys removed from lake

Boaters who take to Candlewood Lake this fall are urged to use caution.  The Candlewood Lake Authority has started to remove the hazard, speed and navigation buoys from the water.  They started picking them up yesterday, so officials are asking that boaters use extra caution and know all of the hazards in the area of the water that they are navigating. 

 

Around 75 hazard, speed and navigation buoys are deployed each year. 

 

The CLA recommends that boaters  use of a depth finder and good map to help navigate the lake more safely. 

 

The CLA has also teamed up with a Connecticut buoy provider to purchase floating devices that have a larger diameter and should be more visible.  CLA officials say they are made of a higher quality material and they anticipate that the buoys will have increased durability and a longer lifespan.  Each year the CLA has to replace a number of buoys that are old or were damaged during the summer, and they hope to reduce those expenses.

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Candlewood Marine Patrol gets new radar gun

The owner of Candlewood Lake has made a donation aimed at enhancing safety on the water.  FirstLight Power Resources has donated money to the Candlewood Lake Authority so their radar gun can be replaced. 

 

The new radar gun, which meets new state regulations, allows the Lake Authority to resume enforcement of the 45 mile an hour daytime speed limit on Candlewood.  The Marine Patrol enforces a 25 mile an hour speed limit at night. 

 

CLA officials say even though summer is over there are still plenty of people out on the water, mostly those out looking at the fall foliage.

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Mariano Rivera coming to Danbury Thursday

A big name in baseball is coming to Danbury to support some special needs athletes.  Former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera will be in Danbury for an event on Thursday benefitting Champion All Star Gym's special needs teams.  Special needs coach Joeli Mastrianni says the evening will start with an exhibition performance by Champion’s special needs team.  The program was started 6 years ago with one girl with Down Syndrome.  There are now 9 members of the team, which competes locally, regionally and nationally. 

 

Tuition is paid for by the gym and there are no competition fees.  The coaches and student helpers are all volunteers.  Proceeds from the event this week will go toward uniforms and a scholarship fund.  Mastrianni says the girls are able to finish their routine and walk away with the same sense of pride and accomplishment. 

 

A silent auction, raffles, autographed items, concessions and more will be available. The doors at the PAL building on Hayestown Avenue open at 5pm and the event will begin at 6pm. Bleacher seats are $42 and VIP box seats are $84.  

 

More information can be found through Champion's website.

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Lawyer for ousted schools chief vows lawsuit

BROOKFIELD, Conn. (AP) Brookfield's former Superintendent of Schools Tony Bivona will sue the school board over its unanimous decision to terminate his contract.

Anthony Bivona was placed on administrative leave in May and was the subject of five termination hearings. Complaints stemmed from the district's $1.2 million overspending and the admitted mishandling of bill payments.

His lawyer, Richard Padykula, said the board will have to explain itself to a jury.

Padykula criticized the board's actions to terminate Bivona's contract that did not expire until June 30, 2016. He said auditors never informed his client of overspending problems.

The district's former business manager, Art Colley, resigned over audit disclosures that showed overspending and other problems.

The board held Bivona responsible for not properly supervising Colley and recognizing the budget irregularities.

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Patrons dine during fire at NY diner

MAHOPAC, N.Y. (AP) Firefighters responding to a report of a blaze inside the Olympic Diner found about two dozen patrons eating their meals and employees working despite the smoke.

According to the Journal News, the diner's owner said he thought the smoke was the heating system that he had turned on earlier because of the chilly Saturday morning.

But firefighters walked through the restaurant and the air grew thicker with smoke, the paper reported, and they heard a sound in the walls near the stove. It turned out to be a real blaze inside the walls. The patrons were evacuated. Crews battled the fire for more than an hour and no injuries were reported.

The diner owner says he'll repair and rebuild. The Mahopac restaurant has been open about 35 years.

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Annual Columbus Day Parade in Bethel

Bethel is holding it's annual Columbus Day Parade today.  The event was started in the early 1980s by the late Ed Mills, a former First Selectman.

 

Each year speakers talk about the history of Italian Americans and what they've accomplished in this country and in Bethel.

 

The parade starts around 8:45 and runs along Greenwood Avenue.  Billy Michael says the parade is made up of a couple of vehicles and a motorboat carrying the costumed characters of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus.  Michael called is the smallest Columbus Day Parade, with the biggest heart. 

 

It's the only organized parade in Connecticut.

 

The parade ends at PT Barnum Square, where the Italian Flag is raised.  Michael says after the flag raising and speeches, people will be headed over to the Sycamore restaurant for more revelry.

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Danbury's Promise for Children Partnership receives grant to operate for another year

There are 52 Discovery Programs in the state, including in Danbury, that aim to improve children's health and social development.  In Danbury, it's referred to as Danbury's Promise for Children Partnership.  Director Caroline LaFleur says they received grant funding for the fifth year in a row from the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund.

 

LaFleur says the Partnership will use the money to help with the healthy development of children from birth to age eight and to encourage parents to be involved with their child’s early education experiences.

 

The Partnership has brought in funds for home visitation services for at-risk families, preschool teacher training, and parent outreach on child growth and development.  LaFleur says the funding and the Partnership will help to ensure that children of all races and income levels in Danbury are ready for school by age five and prepared to be successful learners by age nine.

 

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Discovery communities and help them integrate early childhood health and mental health into settings where young children live, learn and play,”said Judith Meyers, President and CEO of the Children’s Fund of Connecticut and its subsidiary, the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI). “Our recent early childhood data initiative harnesses untapped local data on children’s health and development to inform community planning and improve communication between a child’s physician, day care or preschool provider and family.”

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Final day for 'Friends of Danbury Library' book fair

This is the final day for the annual book sale hosted by the Friends of the Danbury Library.  Rob Feinson says they started with around 100,000 books, CDs, DVDs and records.

 

Proceeds from the book sale this weekend will benefit the Danbury Library to pay for programs, equipment and speakers not covered by their annual operating budget.

 

There are 60 categories of books including collectibles, first editions and signed books.  Feinson says if some of the books don't sell, there's an organization that buys left over books to distribute.  Some of the collectibles are held for the next year's sale.

 

The sale is being held at the PAL building on Hayestown Road.  Monday from 9am to 1pm, $6/bag (supplied by Friends).

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5th Congressional District candidates square off in debate

The 5th Congressional District candidates gathered in Danbury Thursday night for a debate. 

 

When it comes to firearms, both Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty and Republican challenger Mark Greenberg said they support universal background checks for gun purchases.  They did however spar over being forthright on the issue and NRA ratings, with Esty leading off.
 
"I do wonder if you've been sought and received the support of the National Rifle Association, an 'A' rating, which is tough to get these days.  So I am surprised by that answer, but pleased to welcome you to those who understand that we can protect the 2nd Amendment and can protect children." 
 
Greenberg responded:
 
"I wish Congresswoman Esty had asked my opinion about it, because I have never said that I was against it.  As a matter of fact I was as shocked as everybody was to get the 'A' rating from the NRA since I didn't seek it.  I didn't even fill out their questionnaire .  Maybe I'll be downgraded to an 'F' after tonight, I don’t really know.”
 
The pair also said there needs to be stronger funding, more services and better screenings for mental health conditions.

 

One topic they addressed was immigration.  Esty says she is co-sponsoring a bill that's already been approved by the Senate.

 

"It has an earned path to citizenship, it deals with security at the borders, unified families, ensures people pay taxes and get in line."

 

Greenberg says two things need to happen, and then the undocumented immigration situation can be addressed.

 

"Streamline the process so folks who want to come into this country, can come in without much delay, legally.  We also have to make sure our borders are secured.  For many reasons.  We have to make sure diseases don't find their way over our borders, we're dealing with this right now."

 

The candidates were asked about accountability.  Esty brought up Greenberg's testimony in former Governor John Rowland's recent corruption trial where he was approached by Rowland for campaign consulting in 2010 disguised in a business deal, which he turned down.

 

"For someone who would describe themselves as essentially 'gutless', I think goes to the heart of the questions about whether an elected official will stand up and do the right thing, even if it's political peril for themselves.  Even if they might lose the election."

 

Greenberg said having principals means not airing a false commercial about Social Security, and quoted the Hartford Courant. 

 

"All of Greenberg's words have been presented in dramatically misleading fashion in support of an overall claim that Greenberg wants to end Social Security's guarantee.  That is unsubstantiated by the facts.  Accordingly, we rate this ad: False."

 

Greenberg also said he believes members of Congress should only run for reelection once.

 

The candidates also discussed transportation issues.  Greenberg noted that he was one of the people stranded on Metro North a few months ago when the Walk Bridge in Norwalk got stuck in the open position.
 
"Connecticut is beautifully located between Boston and New York, we have to make sure that our infrastructure is operating properly so we can stay competitive .  We have to make sure our roads are working, we have to make sure that they are safe for the public.”
 
Esty called Metro North a lifeline, but one that can’t run on 1950s infrastructure.
 
"It needs to be faster than it was in the 1940s.  We are a great enough country that we can aspire to speed and safety.  I am a cosponsor of a rail safety bill that will put additional funds in and ensure we have positive train controls, which would have prevented the fatal accident that occurred last year.”
 
One of the questions that the candidates were asked was if they are better off now with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, or worse off.  Esty gets her insurance through her husband’s job.
 
"I don't participate in the government subsidized health care.  I get it through my spouse, and it is largely the same as it was before.”
 
Greenberg, who has 5 children with his wife, says he is paying more and getting the same coverage by going from a group plan to an individual plan.
 
"My insurance premium for a family of 7 was $2,000 a month with a very small deductible.  I was forced to go into a plan where the insurance premium is $1,650 per month, but the total of the co-pays and deductibles are $6,000 a year.”

 

 

The debate turned to foreign affairs.  Greenberg says he warned about ISIS two years ago and says they need to be stopped through whatever means possible, including airstrike and arming moderates in Syria.

 

"I think to a large extent, we're dealing with a problem that shouldn't have been the problem had we acted properly two years ago, had we not created a vacuum by evacuating out of Iraq."

 

Esty says she supports air strikes, but is wary about putting boots on the ground without a clear military objective, calling for Congress to vote on that.

 

"I don not support the arming and the training of Syrian moderates.  I voted against that request from the President, and I did so because our experience has not been good with those efforts."

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Bullet found in Nonnewaug High School

A bullet has been found inside Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury.  The Principal said in a letter to parents posted on the Region 14 school district website that a single round of a small caliber bullet was found Friday morning on the stairs leading to the cafeteria. 

 

The School Resource Office contacted Woodbury and State Police. 

 

Principal Andy O'Brien said they believe there is no immediate threat at Nonnewaug, but students were dismissed early so an investigation could be done.

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New Fire Chief, Assistant Chief sworn in for Danbury department

New leadership has been sworn in to office this week at the Danbury Fire Department.  The confirmation of the new Chief and Assistant Chief were made Tuesday with the oath of office taken Wednesday.  Mayor Mark Boughton spoke about Training Officer Mark Omasta's promotion to Assistant Chief.  He says Omasta was one of the best, if not the best, training officers the City has ever had.

 

 

Boughton told the City Council this week that Chief TJ Wiedl has done exemplary work. 

 

 

Former Fire Chief Geoff Herald spokes during the City Council meeting and said with these two promotions, the City will have professionals with a true understanding of what the fire service means to Danbury.  He said these two men will step up and serve the City in an exemplary fashion.

 

Boughton says no one wants to see a fire truck pull up to their house, but if it has to happen, Danbury has the best.  He noted that TJ Wiedl and Omasta have weighed in on budgeting issues, getting grant money and finding efficiencies within the Department.

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Brookfield speed data device destroyed

Brookfield police are looking for the vandal or vandals who destroyed a new speed monitoring device.  Police placed the Traffic StatTrak Data Collector on Cove Road last Thursday, about 8 feet up in a tree. 

 

Residents in the area had been complaining of excessive speed.  Police say the device was found on the ground and destroyed, with the lock cut by what appears to be bolt cutters. 

 

The device was valued at $2,800 and purchased through grant funding.  The Brookfield Police Department is likely not going to replace the device because it's outside of their budget.  Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Captain Kevin Brooks at 203-775-2575.

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4 people injured in serious crash in Danbury

Four people have been injured in an accident in Danbury early Friday morning.  Police responded to a report of a serious crash on Aunt Hack Road shortly after 1am Friday.  Officers determined that Eugene Orsher of Wilton was driving northbound when his car ran off the road, striking a stone wall and a large tree. 

 

The 22-year old had to be extricated from the vehicle.  He was transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the collision.

 

Passengers, 25-year old Andrew Gillies of Ridgefield, 40-year old Anthony Kipikasha of North Salem NY, and 40-year old Jason Matts of Patterson NY, were also transported by ambulance to Danbury Hospital for treatment of injuries.

 

The accident remains under investigation.  Any witnesses are asked to contact Sgt. Rory DeRocco at (203) 797-2157

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Malloy, Foley clash over Newtown school shooting

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley on Thursday exchanged some of the strongest words yet in their continuing debate over Connecticut's response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, with the candidates accusing one another of grandstanding on issues that arose from the massacre.

 

Foley reiterated his complaints that the legislation passed in response to the December 2012 shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead, would not prevent a similar massacre. Foley argued the state should have focused on improving access to mental health services, rather than taking rights from gun owners.

 

An incredulous Malloy remarked how the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, had access to mental health care. He blamed Lanza's introduction to an "arsenal" of weapons his mother had bought and did not lock up.

 

"Sometimes I can't believe the things you say Tom," Malloy said. "The young man who used these unbelievable weapons, that could get hundreds of bullets off in just a few moments, had all the access he ever needed to mental health. His parents were wealthy. They had great insurance plans."

 

Foley, who often speaks about his personal experiences of seeking care for a sister with psychiatric issues, said Malloy was wrong and Lanza's mother had attempted to find appropriate services for her son. He said other parents, including those with insurance, face challenges finding the appropriate care for their troubled children.

 

"I know from my personal experience, I think it's rather insulting for you to say as the governor of this state - and I know it isn't true - that families have access to the mental support that they need," Foley said. "You're grandstanding sir. You are grandstanding. You know nothing about what you're talking about."

 

Malloy fired back that he hadn't offended families with his remarks, saying it would have been "a good idea" if Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, had locked up her guns.

 

"Somehow you want to pretend that it was his mental health problem that was totally responsible and it had nothing to do with those weapons, those magazines that carried over 30 shots, which he changed, and changed and changed again as he killed children," said Malloy, later adding: "Don't show-boat this Tom. You have your beliefs, and I have mine."

 

Connecticut's wide-ranging law expanded the state's ban on assault weapons and now includes the type of gun Lanza used. It also banned large-capacity ammunition magazines. Malloy also pointed out how a person's mental condition can now prevent them from buying a gun in Connecticut.

 

"That's in the law Tom. That's in the law," Malloy said.

 

The hourlong debate, sponsored by the Connecticut Broadcasters Association, was aired live on several state TV and radio stations. It highlighted the animosity that has grown between the two men, who also faced one another during the 2010 race for governor.

 

Malloy rebuffed Foley's proposed truce against "negative and false attacks," claiming the Greenwich businessman has spent two years attacking his integrity. Malloy said Foley only wants to call a truce now that a new Quinnipiac University Poll shows he no longer has a lead in the race. A survey released Wednesday indicates the race is dead even.

 

"You're like that bully in the play yard who wants to call peace now," Malloy said.

 

Foley called Malloy's TV ads targeting him "insulting," taking issue with the one that questions his business record and claims he put profits before people at the companies he owned.

 

"Listen, I think negative attacks reflect the personality of the candidate and what people will and won't do," he said. "It tells you something about the values and principles and underlying personality and temperament of the candidate. I think what Governor Malloy has done here is cheapen the debate."

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Area restaurant looks to encourage reading, academic achievement

An area business is working to promote reading in the community.  After participating with the Danbury Fire Department in a re-grand opening, Applebee's in Danbury is encouraging teachers and school officials to participate in community events.

 

Danbury store manger Michael Musante says wether it's student groups raising money for a trip or equipment, they can set up a Flapjack Fundraiser.  He says they provide the space, the food and staff for the event.  Most groups choose to sell tickets for $5, with Applebee’s getting $1.50 from each redeemed ticket to offset costs. 

 

Musante says they also have a Bookworm Reading Club.  It's an early childhood education program for students 10 and younger at participating schools.  Each student receives a car and for every 10 books they read, they can get a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult meal.  There is also an achievement program for students aged 13 to 18.  Participating schools can reward deserving students with a free appetizer at Applebee’s based on their own criteria.  Musante says the Cool Credit Achievement Program is for anything from leadership and academics to sportsmanship and attendance.

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Car crashes into Stew Leonard's petting zoo

A car drove into the petting zoo area of Stew Leonard's this afternoon.  Danbury Police say there were no children in the area when the accident happened.  Reportedly, the driver suffered a stroke.  No word on other injuries to the driver.  Police say one animal sustained injuries in the crash.  No charges are being filed.

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Former WLAD Personality dies

Former WLAD Personality Vinnie James Melillo has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Melillo  is best remembered as the Host of the "Vinnie James Bargain Express" where listeners called in to banter with him and to sell or trade used items.  WLAD's CEO and General Manager Irv Goldstein says he was a huge personality and a real larger than life character.

 

Melillo also had a long career on the sales side of the sanitation business. 

 

Funeral details are not yet available.  Vinnie James Melillo dead at the age of 74. 

 

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Brookfield School Superintendant fired

The town of Brookfield has fired its school superintendent.

A  panel of the Board of Education voted 6-0 last night  to terminate Anthony Bivona's $228,000 a year contract.

Bivona had been on administrative leave since May. An audit last year showed district overspent its budget by $1.2 million in the prior two years.

Bivona had argued that he wasn't responsible for the shortfall and pinned the blame on former business manager, Art Colley, for improper accounting and financial management practices he did not disclose.

Colley resigned after the auditors found improper overspending and unauthorized use of town money.

The board found Bivona was ultimately responsible for the district's finances.

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Bethel school evacuated over smoke in building

Berry Elementary School in Bethel was evacuated Thursday afternoon because of smoke conditions.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the problem was with a circuit board in an air handler on the roof of the building.  Smoke was seen blowing into the Circle of Friends area of Berry School because of the overheated circuit board. 

 

All students were moved across the street to the High School.  Circle of Friends morning program students were dismissed from there and the afternoon session was cancelled. 

 

The Bethel Fire Department responded to the School and were using industrial fans to clear the smoke from the building.

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Residents camp out at new Chick-fil-A in hopes of free food

Brookfield area residents camped out at the former Burger King parking lot on Federal Road last night to be the first in line for the new Chick-fil-A restaurant.  The First 100 celebration, the chain's signature grand opening event, awards the first 100 people in line with free meals for a year. 

 

The new restaurant is bringing 80 jobs to Brookfield. 

 

The operator of the franchise collected children's books at the site yesterday to donate to the Brookfield Public School District.  Chick-fil-A's "The Book House" program makes a nearly 3-foot structure out of reclaimed wood to serve as a free library exchange.  People are able to leave one of their books and take a different one from the shelves.

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Driver of serious summer crash in Newtown charged

Newtown police have charged the driver of a car that went down a ravine in June, injuring herself and two other people.  According to court records, 24-year old Carissa Ashley Russo of Danbury was charged last Friday with two felony counts of assault with a motor vehicle and also driving under the influence, travelling too fast for conditions and failure to drive in the proper lane.  She was released on $15,000 bail for arraignment in Danbury Superior Court on October 17th. 

 

In June police said the SUV drove off Route 34 near the Monroe line, went down a ravine, hit several trees and came to rest near a stream. 

 

Russo and one passenger, 24-year old Nina Leventon of Danbury, were treated at St Vincent's Hospital and released several days later.  The other passenger, 24-year old Lindsay Hornyak of Danbury, was transported to Yale New Haven Hospital in critical condition.

 

The Newtown Bee reports that the SUV drove off Berkshire Road near a turnoff where there is an intentional gap in the flex-beam style metal guardrailing. The Audi apparently drove straight through the guardrail gap before tumbling down the ravine.

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Fundraiser to benefit family of man who died of brain cancer

An area business is paying it forward.  There's a benefit today in honor of a well known Brookfield man who has ties to Danbury.  Benjamin Badoud passed away in June at the age of 39 from brain cancer.  Dawns Pizzazz owner Dawn Blom says he was one of her employee's cousin and always came out to their fundraisers.  Badoud is survived by his wife Pan DiNardo Badoud and a two-year old son. 

 

The money raised through today's cut-a-thon will go into a trust fund for his future.  Blom says she is hosting the cut-a-thon because it's important to give back to the community and the people who support you.

 

Blom says Badoud's passing was very quick from the time of diagnosis, just a year. 

 

There's a $25 minimum donation for a haircut or mini-spa service or $10 donation for a manicure at the benefit today from 3 to 7pm at DPZ West.

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Lawsuit shines new light on old sex abuse scandal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A federal lawsuit has reopened a decades-old sex abuse scandal at the exclusive Indian Mountain School in Connecticut.

The suit was filed this week by former student William Brewster Brownville. It provides graphic details of what he says was routine abuse of students in the 1970s and `80s at the hands of staff.

The school in Salisbury was investigated in the 1990s, but police determined the statute of limitations for criminal charges had expired. The school later settled five other lawsuits.

Brownville attorney Anthony Ponvert says his client came forward in part out of frustration that no one was ever held accountable.

Headmaster Mark Devey says school officials are shocked and disheartened by the latest allegations, but are looking into them and taking them seriously.

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Newtown teen named National Student Poet

A Newtown High School junior has started her year as a youth ambassador for poetry and the art of language.  15-year old Ashley Gong was introduced as part of the newest class of National Student Poets by First Lady Michelle Obama during a White House ceremony last month.  Each student read original poems for the first lady and guests.

 

Ashley won a gold medal for her free verse poem at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and as one of 35 semi-finalists she then submitted more poems to go on to become a finalist.  The five young poets were appointed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

 

As youth ambassador for poetry and the art of language, the National Student Poet will lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums and schools throughout the Northeast region. The five 15- to 18-year-olds participated in readings at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in addition to their White House reception. 

 

First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2014 National Student Poets (from left: Cameron Messinides, Madeleine LeCesne, Ashley Gong, Julia Falkner and Weston Clark) in the Blue Room of the White House, Sept. 18, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse for the National Student Poets Program)

 

Ashley grew up surrounded by language, as her parents, first generation immigrants, would often read Chinese poems to her when she was a toddler. Despite this early exposure to poetry, it wasn’t until more recently that Ashley discovered her passion for poetry, which is currently her go-to medium for creative expression.

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Man arrested for stealing thousands of dollars of jewelry from home

A Danbury man has been arrested for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars in jewelry from a city home. 

 

Danbury Police launched an investigation into a robbery from a Crows Nest Lane home in August and arrested a City resident on Monday.  36-year old Terrell Lewis has been charged with 1st degree larceny. 

 

Police report that Lewis was living at the Crows Nest Lane home when he stole the gold jewelry.  He then pawned it at a store on Newtown Road.  Police report that employees were told by Lewis that the jewelry belonged to his deceased mother. 

 

Lewis is scheduled to appear in Danbury Superior Court next Thursday.

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5th Congressional District debate tonight in Danbury

This is the season for debates as candidates look to get some name recognition and face time with voters before election day.  The League of Women Voters is holding a 5th Congressional Debate tonight.  Incumbent freshman Democrat Elizabeth Esty is looking to be elected to a second term.  Republican challenger Mark Greenberg is looking to unseat her.  Greenberg lost primaries in 2010 and 2012 for the same position.  

 

The two have already sparred over trivia things such as campaign contribution buttons on websites and emails about serious topics and also the number of debates that they would participate in.  Their campaign commercials have focused on Social Security, veterans and the in-fighting in Congress. 

 

The debate tonight is at the Portuguese Cultural Center at 7pm.  The panelists will include reporters from WLAD, the Newstimes and the Tribuna.

 

There is also a petitioning candidate in the race, John Pistone of Brookfield.

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Region 9 superintendent announces retirement

The Region 9 school district will soon be looking for a new Superintendent of Schools.  Dr Bernard Josefsberg said in a letter to parents and the Boards of Education that he will be retiring at the end of the academic year.  He was hired to lead Easton, Redding and Region 9 in 2011.  Josefsberg said in the letter that making the announcement in October gives the Boards time to act on future leadership.  He also said that he continues to be honored to lead the school system.

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Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly talk recovery, guns

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband were finally starting to settle into normal routine in their Tucson home by the middle of 2012, making strides in her rehabilitation, decorating their house and watching hour after hour of the TV show "Glee."

 

Then came the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead and many more injured. Months later, 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

 

"Newtown moved us from words to action," Giffords and husband Mark Kelly write in their book "Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence."

 

The book chronicles the couple's lives from survivors to advocates, detailing the trepidation Kelly had about plunging himself into the politics of gun control. It delves into the history of the National Rifle Association while telling of Giffords' recovery efforts and the couple's political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

 

The book and an Associated Press interview with Kelly this week provide a behind-the-scenes look at the couple as they moved past the shooting and took a greater role on the national stage:

 

GIFFORDS' RECOVERY

 

Giffords and Kelly describe ways in which their gun-control advocacy has helped the former congresswoman move forward and regain her speech skills after she was wounded in the January 2011 shooting outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six people.

 

They detail the difficulty Giffords had in articulating the lines in a speech at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2013. But the complexity of the issue "motivated her to work even harder," they wrote.

 

The former lawmaker is even back to shooting, picking up a gun for the first time at a Nevada range in the summer of 2013.

 

Giffords had to use her left hand to fire because her right hand is paralyzed. She's not left-handed, so Kelly worried.

But was Giffords nervous?

 

"No, she wasn't. At all," Kelly said.

 

ON JARED LOUGHNER

 

As Jared Loughner was sentenced in November 2012 after being convicted of carrying out the shooting, Kelly and Giffords told him that was the last time they'd ever think of him.

 

"There's what you say in a statement and what actually happens and, as you know, those are two different things," Kelly said.

 

Kelly says the couple had every intention of erasing Loughner, who received seven life sentences, from their minds.

 

The Aurora and Newtown shootings halted that plan.

 

ON THE POLITICAL FIGHT FOR STRICTER GUN LAW

 

Even after Giffords nearly died when she was shot in the head, she and Kelly say they kept their firearms and remained staunch supporters of the Second Amendment.

 

While Giffords was a seasoned politician, Kelly had concerns about taking on politics.

 

"There was risk involved that we wouldn't be able to meet that ambitious goal, and then what does that say? That says we're not effective in what we want to do," Kelly said in the interview. "You have people who start to think about you differently. But Gabby's a politician, and I'm not that sensitive about things."

 

FRIENDSHIPS ARE TESTED

 

A long-lasting friendship between Giffords and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake was tested when he voted against a background-check bill that the couple rallied for.

 

"I had such complicated feelings about our old friend that morning," Kelly wrote.

 

Kelly believes Flake was under huge pressure from the NRA to vote against the bill.

 

Flake, meanwhile, said in a statement to The Associated Press: "I have a great deal of respect and affection for Gabby and Mark. They have been very effective in advocating for a cause that they deeply believe in."

 

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

 

The couple now lives in Tucson, where Giffords works on her speech and physical therapy. They like to go to Giffords' mother's rural home to shoot guns, Kelly says.

 

But they don't have much free time, travelling and speaking in support of legislative candidates.

 

"We're gonna be really effective here in November," Kelly said. "We're gonna move ahead, and we're not going anywhere. What this country really needs is a balanced debate on this issue. And it's been really out of balance, so our job is to try to fix that."

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Former preschool aide pleads not guilty to child porn charges

A former Wilton preschool aid has made a court appearance in his child pornography possession case. 

 

33-year old Eric Von Kohorn resigned as a paraprofessional at the Miller Driscoll School in June when district officials learned of the police investigation.  The Fairfield man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of child pornography possession and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. 

 

Police were searching a file sharing network when they found his IP address.  State Police say Von Kohorn 120 video files on his laptop computer depicting boys and girls ages 2 to 14 engaged in sexual activity. 

 

He was released on bond last month and his case was continued Tuesday to December 2nd.

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Danbury man charged with assaulting a boy who has Autism

A Danbury man has been charged with assaulting a boy who has Autism.  Danbury Police have charged a City man with assault and risk of injury to a child for the September incident. 

 

An investigation was launched after an 11-year old, who was not named because of age, told a school social worker that 43-year old Joao Fieschi hit him with a belt for refusing to shower.  The school alerted police after seeing a bruise on the boy's leg. 

 

Fieschi lives with the child and his mother and told police that he gets frustrated when the boy doesn't listen when asked to do something.  The boy's mother told police that she heard the pair fighting, but did not see him hit the child. 

 

Fieschi was released on a written promise to appear in court later this month.

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Assistant Fire Chief named, Chief confirmed in Danbury

The next Assistant Fire Chief in Danbury will be Mark Omasta.  He is currently the Training Officer for the Department.  Mayor Mark Boughton made the announcement Tuesday, the same day the City Council approved the appointment to Fire Chief and promotion from that role of TJ Wiedl. 

 

Recently retired Fire Chief Geoff Herald says TJ is one of the most able and competent fire officers he has met.  Both Omasta and Wiedl are being sworn in this afternoon.

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New hours at Redding Center Post Office

New hours at the Redding Center Post Office are now in effect.  Certain post offices have been subject to review, including the Redding Center Post Office. The United States Postal Service sent out a survey to residents, presenting them with four alternatives to closing the Lonetown Road facility.  The alternative to is to have new weekday service hours, based on workload.  Saturday service would not change, but the weekday hours would be cut in half.  The window is open from 9am to 1pm with the lobby open from 7:30am to 5:30pm.

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'1,000 Books Before Kindergarten' launched in Danbury

There's a kickoff today for the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program in Danbury.  The goal is to help Danbury parents foster their child’s love of reading at a very early age that will eventually help prepare their child for kindergarten.  Danbury Library Children's Programmer Cindy Lappala says they have partnered with the nonprofit and will give information to parents about it.  A list of recommended books will also be handed out.

 

Lappala says 1,000 books sounds like a lot, but it's only 10 books a week for two years or three books a day for one year.

 

After 1,000 books are read they will be added to the Wall of Fame.  The children will receive stickers when certain benchmarks are met.  Children who read 25 books to a younger sibling can get their picture on the Wall of Fame. 

 

Parents will also be given information about registering for Imagination Library.  It's a free program that mails a free children’s book to each child in the family until age five. Drawings will be held for books provided by “Reading is Fundamental”. 

 

The kickoff of the program will be held at the Danbury Library from 10am to 11am in the Junior Department.

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Edmond Town Hall no longer a Newtown polling location

Edmond Town Hall in Newtown has been deactivated as a polling location.  The Newtown bee reports that while the building is ADA compliant as a public gathering space, it does not meet the stricter ADA standards as a place for residents to cast ballots.  District 3-2 will be voting at the Reed Intermediate School's cafetorium.  That is the current polling location for the Second District.  The Registrar of Voters office will send out notices by mail to voters effected by the change.

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Ridgfield officials narrown down bids fo Schlumberger land

Two of the five bids for 10 acres of the Schlumberger site in Ridgefield have been eliminated by town officials, according to the Ridgefield Press.  Meetings were held last week by the Board of Selectmen with the developers interested in buying the site off Sunset Lane, which is zoned for multifamily housing. 

 

The remaining possibilities include Quarry Park Properties of Ridgefield which came in with the highest bid on a plan for 21 condos and 19 townhouses.  Charter Group Partners of Brookfield proposed 59 condo units while Toll Brothers of Newtown proposed 23 townhouses and 17 condo units. 

 

Each of those bids came in at about $4 million.

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Special meeting in Ridgefield on environmental remediation

A Special Town Meeting is being held Wednesday in Ridgefield about funding for environmental clean up at part of the Schlumberger site.  Town officials are asking residents for authority to spend $385,000 for environmental demolition, abatement, remediation and monitoring at 36 Old Quarry Road.  The meeting notice says residents will also be asked to allow town officials to enter into contracts with the state for the funding.  The meeting is at 7:30 Wednesday in the Town Hall large conference room just prior to the Board of Selectmen meeting.

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Marketing Week being held by students for students

The Marketing Club at Western Connecticut State University is holding a series of events this week to call attention to the marketing profession.  During Marketing Week, there was a kickoff lecture by an entrepreneur who founded a minority-owned and operated agency focused on growing multicultural markets. 

 

The  purpose of the third annual “Your Big Idea” Competition was to inspire students to think creatively and develop innovation talents and entrepreneurship skills. Semi-finalists presented their ideas to the judges and the audience.  The winner also received seed money for their idea.


A "brand challenge" is being held today. Western mascot “Colonial Chuck” was the source of inspiration as student groups developed a history and future goals for the character. The workshop was meant to provide insight into how brand imaging is developed.


An alumni panel is being held tomorrow.  The alumni are coming from Western's Ancell School of Business to share stories about their lives after college and also to network with students. The panel will be in the Westside Campus Center Ballroom at 5:30 pm.

The events last through Thursday.

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WCSU to host 'Compassion Conference'

A Compassion conference is being held this weekend at Western Connecticut State University.  The annual event is being held Saturday by the WCSU Center for Compassion, Creativity & Innovation.  The title of the conference this year is Compassionate Strategies for Mental Wellness.

 

Those in attendance will choose three workshops or discussions in which to participate for each of three sessions.  A panel discussion will be led by mental health experts.  The keynote speaker will be the program director of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. 

 

West Conn professor Dr Chris Kukk says the mission of the conference is to address issues of mental wellness and illness through practical means.

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Man arrested in New Milford on DUI charge

A Danbury man has been arrested for drunk driving following a weekend incident in New Milford.  Police say 52-year old Robert Sperry Junior of Danbury was driving erratically and someone called 911 early Sunday morning to report it.  Police reportedly followed the man's pick up truck on Poplar Street and Grove Street before pulling Sperry over.  He was charged by New Milford police with driving under the influence, failure to drive in the proper lane and operating an unregistered motor vehicle.  Sperry was released on bond for a court appearance next Tuesday in Bantam.

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Final playground in honor of Newtown victims opens

WATERTOWN, Conn. (AP) The 26th and final playground built in memory of the Newtown school shooting victims has opened in Connecticut.

Volunteers and relatives of Dawn Hochsprung gathered in Watertown on Sunday to dedicate the playground in her honor. Hochsprung was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she, 20 first-graders and five other educators were shot to death in December 2012.

There are now playgrounds for each of the 26 victims. They were built under the Sandy Ground Project, which constructed them in areas of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Hochsprung's daughter Erica Smegielski tells WFSB-TV the playground is a fitting tribute to her mother and her grandchildren live only minutes away.

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Danbury Library cafe, Innovation Center update

The Innovation Center in Danbury is up and running in a building adjoining the Library.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the final touches for a cafe to operate there are being taken.  A contract has been signed with Rymackees Cafe and Caterer out of Norwalk. 

 

The first year in the contract, the operator of the cafe will pay $600 a month, the lease will double in the second year and triple to $1,800 in the 3rd, 4th and 5th year of the license agreement.

 

Boughton says the City has started getting weekly updates from the Innovation Center about usage, programs and the like.  The Danbury Hackerspace will require membership for 24-7 access, but is open to the public on Tuesday nights and for certain events.  The facility has 3D printers, prototyping tools, a mockup studio, common work area, program space, the Western Connecticut SCORE office and the cafe.

 

The next step is to renovate the old bank drive through as a drive through book return.  Boughton says they are going in phases with these additions because it takes time for Library staff to make those adjustments.

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Gold Star Mothers honored in Putnam County

The Putnam County Joint Veterans Council and others have gathered to honor Gold Star Mothers. 

 

Gold Star Mothers was loosely organized in 1925 by a Washington, D.C. woman who lost her son during World War I.  She named the organization for the Gold Star that families of deceased veterans hung in their windows.  Today, there are approximately 1,000 Gold Star Mothers across the nation. 

 

Gold Star Mothers' Day was held in Kent, New York last Sunday and featured members from West Point. 

 

County Executive MaryEllen Odell says these women reach out to others who've lost a child while in service to their country and dedicated their lives to visiting and caring for all veterans.

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Putnam County designated as 'High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area'

Putnam County has been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

 

The Acting Director of the National Drug Control Policy made the designation last Monday.  Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy says it's no secret that heroin and prescription drug abuse, in particular, are having devastating impacts on the community and the nation.  But he says this designation means the County will be able to move more quickly and more effectively to stem the tide of drug sales and related crimes in the region. 

 

Putnam’s heroin-related arrests have increased dramatically in the past two years, although overdose deaths have diminished slightly from their peak of 20 in 2012. 

 

Levy says this designation will help law enforcement to better go after dealers directly, by focusing on drug production, transportation, distribution and money laundering.

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Firefighters battle blaze in Ridgefield

The Ridgefield Fire Department has responded to a structure fire on Old Mill Road.  Mutual aid tanker trucks from Danbury also responded to the scene.  Ridgefield Fire officials say it was a fully involved structure fire that broke out around 5:30 this morning.  Firefighters were on the scene for several hours.

 

Old Mill Road is near the Danbury town-line by the airport.

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Brookfield processing facility gets FDA warning letter

A seafood processing facility in Brookfield has received a warning letter from the FDA.  Japanese Specialty Food Distributors was inspected by the FDA five times in July and August, with inspectors finding some violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations.  

 

The owner of the Sand Cut Road facility was told in the letter that there must be evidence that all fish and fishery products offered for entry into the United States have been processed under conditions equivalent to those required of domestic processors.  The company's frozen vacuum packaged raw salmon and frozen vacuum packaged raw tuna products were found to have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions.

 

The FDA letter said the firm did not monitor the safety of water that comes into contact with food or food contact surfaces, including water used to manufacture ice.  It also said the firm has no written import verification procedures that include product specifications and an affirmative step for imported frozen raw tuna.

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Attempted copper theft in Newtown home break in

Newtown police are investigating a residential burglary. Police report that a home in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook was broken into late Sunday or early Monday. 

 

Police report that a white male drove up to the home in a work van, forced his way in and turned off the circuit breaker.  Police say the man went to the basement in search of copper pipes, but didn't find any.  Power tools were reported stolen. 

 

The only other description of the suspect given was that the white man had a scruffy beard.  Anyone with information about the burglary are asked to contact Newtown police at 203-426-5841.

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Magnet school in Danbury to be recognized by Board of Ed for statewide designation

The Connecticut Association of Schools has named the Western Connecticut Academy for Internationals Studies as their elementary school of the year.  The Danbury Board of Education will be hosting a reception for the school before their next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday.  During the Board meeting there will also be recognition of the achievement by the magnet school. 

 

Nominations may be made by any present or former member of the school staff or by district central office personnel.   A copy of the strategic school profile and handbook are examined as part of the application. 

 

At the middle school level, New Fairfield Middle School was given the designation for the 204-2015 school year.

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Absentee ballots now available for Nov. 4 election

Absentee ballots are now available at town clerks offices across the state.  In addition to electing legislative candidates and leaders of the state, several Greater Danbury area towns are asking residents to decide on charter revisions.  Bethel and Ridgefield area among the towns with several questions about changes to Charters.

 

In Ridgefield, residents will also be asked about a land sale. 

 

Part of the town-owned Schlumberger site totalling 12 acres would be sold to an art collector.  Several of the buildings currently on the site will be torn down.  Ridgefield will be the entity demolishing the buildings and cleaning up ant pollution that comes with the demolition.

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First Light announces drawdowns for area lakes

FirstLight Power  will begin its annual deep drawdown of Candlewood Lake on November 1st.  The lake water will be lowered 10 feet.  Eurasian Milfoil was found once again in large quantities.  The water is dropped substantially in hopes of a cooperative winter to kill the root crowns of the milfoil.  Snow pack, temperature, wind and length of exposure all have an impact on how much of the milfoil survives into the next summer.

 

There will be a drawdown Lake Zoar for 9 days beginning on November 1st, with water levels dropped 5 feet.  Beginning on November 10 FirstLight will begin its annual drawdown of Lake Lillinonah at the Shepaug Dam power station to conduct maintenance and inspection activities.  The drawdown will lower lake levels by 10 feet.

 

The drawdown allows lake residents to repair their docks and the seawalls.

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Ridgefield officials approve controlled deer hunt

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen have approved the properties for the annual deer hunt to cull the herd.  The hunt is done in an effort to reduce the number of deer ticks, which are carriers of Lyme Disease. 

 

This is the 9th year for the controlled hunt, where the participants are screened and the type of hunting is pre-determined.  11 parcels of land will be hunted on. 

 

According to the Ridgefield Press, a neighbor of the Spectacle Swamp has written to the town for several years about the hunt particularly where people park.  There were also reportedly aesthetic concerns with where the signs are posted, but Deer Committee Chairman Tom Belote says that won't be changed for safety reasons.

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Brewster students participating in Special Olympics World Games

Brewster High School and is one of two schools in the region chosen to represent the United States at the Special Olympics World Games this coming summer in Los Angeles.  The students from Brewster and also Sleepy Hollow High School left for Team USA Training Camp in Indianapolis Thursday and will get to meet all Team USA athletes and coaches. 

 

A combined Unified Male Basketball Team consisting of a total of ten players from both schools will compete at the games.  There will be 7,000 athletes representing more than 177 countries.  This is the only U.S. Male Unified Team going. 

 

There will be 3,000 coaches, 30,000 volunteers, and an anticipated 500,000 spectators.

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Candidates for legislative seats representing Ridgefield gather for forum

6 candidates who represent parts of Ridgefield have gathered for a debate.  The League of Women Voters hosted the forum for the candidates in the 26th State Senate District, 111th and 138th state House races. 

 

The Senate district also includes Bethel, Redding, Weston and Wilton.  Incumbent Republican Toni Boucher is being challenged by Democrat Phil Sharlach. 

 

Republican Representative John Frey faces a challenge by Zoning Board of Appeals member Sky Cole. 

 

Republican incumbent Jan Giegler is being challenged by Henry Hall.

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Danbury Firefighter of the Year honored by Exchange Club

The Exchange Club of Danbury has honored their 2014 Danbury Firefighter of the Year.  The award was presented to Gabe Rivera last night.  Committee chairman Joe DaSilva says Rivera has worked as a firefighter and trained as an apparatus operator.

 

Fire Department spokesman Steven Rogers says when the need arose, Rivera transferred into the Dispatch Center as an Emergency Telecommunicator.

 

Rivera was raised in the Bronx, Pound Ridge and Bedford, New York.  After High School in 1995, he joined the United States Marine Corps, serving in Signal Intelligence in places such as Italy, Spain and Turkey, assisting with the enforcement of the No-Fly Zone in Northern Iraq.  Prior to his work in Danbury, Rivera joined the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department in 2000.  He served administratively as President of the Department, and operationally as a Captain.  He also served as a project manager for building a new Mahopac Fire Headquarters at a cost of $5.7 million. 

 

He still volunteers with the Mahopac Department.

 

Rivera was instrumental in assisting the department in the implementation of three new software platforms, as well as preparing the department in its transition to a consolidation dispatch center at the police department.

 

The awards banquet was held at Anthony's Lake Club.

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Deputy fire chief appointment pushed back

Several firefighters have applied to become the next Deputy Chief of the Danbury Fire Department.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the application period has just been closed and the City will be conducting interviews in the next several weeks.  A nomination won't be on the City Council's agenda next week, but they will be called on to approve an appointment next month.

 

Boughton says the group who applied were well qualified and excellent candidates.

 

The position was left vacant when TJ Wiedl was promoted to Fire Chief after the retirement of Geoff Herald.

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Conn. to invest $3.8million for Community Center at former YMCA

The newly formed Danbury Community Facility Collaboration is looking to purchased the recently closed Boughton Street YMCA branch in Danbury.  The group of non-profits is getting the backing of the state.  Governor Dannel Malloy says Connecticut will commit nearly $3.8 million to the project, if the group can raise the remaining $1.2 million needed.  The alliance expects to raise that money from private sources. 

 

Some of the state funding in this project will be used for significant renovations to the War Memorial, which also serves as a recreational and educational facility.  Funding is also being set aside for renovations to a building affiliated with the alliance on Park Avenue that will house the Head Start early childhood education program.

 

 

There is no official contract with the YMCA of Western Connecticut to purchase the building, but state and local officials say Wednesday's announcement is the first step.  The building remains on the market.

 

Malloy says this will help create more opportunities for adults and senior citizens to enjoy recreational activities while providing Danbury’s youth a support system outside of school and opportunities for a brighter, more successful future.

 

Connecticut Institute for Communities is leading the effort.  CEO Jim Maloney says Danbury is the largest city in the state without a Boys and Girls Club.  The Danbury branch of the regional YMCA closed last summer and had been home to the city’s only public recreational pool.  Members of the Danbury War Memorial, which also serves as a recreational and educational facility, will be allowed to use the pool at the new Boys and Girls Club.

 

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says the City has been working with the state and nonprofit partners to pay tribute to our veterans by making necessary renovations to the War Memorial and get this community center up and running.

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Attorney General files comments on rule changes for tribal recognition

Formal comments have been filed by state Attorney General George Jepsen with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs opposing rule changes that would make it easier for some Indian tribes to gain coveted federal recognition, including one faction of the Kent-based Scaghticokes. 

 

Jepsen claims proposals would have a grave and unfair impact on Connecticut.  Land claim arguments would likely lead to negotiations granting any newly recognized tribes some property to be used for casino development. 

 

Jepsen says whatever the BIA decides will likely be challenged in court.

 

Three tribes in Connecticut have been denied recognition in the past because they didn't meet requirements for "continuous community" dating back to colonial times.  They could be effected by the rules change which would grant recognition if a tribe has had a state reservation since 1934.  Jepsen says the propose rule changes are too loose and that recognition should be based on more than a few people claiming they are descendants of a historic tribe.

 

Kevin Washburn, an assistant secretary with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the new rules are intended to make the process more transparent and efficient. He said the standards are no less rigorous.

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Department of Energy awards contract to Danbury company

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding a $3.2 million contract to Danbury-based FuelCell Energy.  The contract is for advanced material development to enhance power density and performance of the newest version of the company's Direct FuelCell products. 

 

UConn and the Illinois Institute of Technology have been tapped to support research aspects of the three year project. 

 

UConn's Dean of the School of Engineering says they welcome this continued collaboration with FuelCell Energy, which validates UConn's focus on sustainable energy engineering.  The Dean said that is critical for the global competitiveness of American businesses.

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Cadigan Town Park improvements complete, beach side up next

Improvements to Cadigan Park in Brookfield have been completed and the park is open.  There were two new artificial playing fields designed for football, soccer and lacrosse.  The park also now features a tennis court, basketball court and a new irrigated natural turf softball field. 

 

Walking and jogging paths have also been completed. 

 

The Candlewood Lake side of the area will now be fixed up with the town beach being rebuilt with a retaining wall, new landscaping and erosion controls.  There will also be a new multipurpose services building. 

 

Brookfield officials say all of that work should be completed by Memorial Day weekend.

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Fair employee from New Milford killed in North Carolina

LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) A Connecticut man working at the Robeson County fair has been shot and killed in Lumberton.

Multiple media outlets reported that police said 53-year-old Edward M. Reiner of New Milford, Connecticut, was shot after a fight behind a convenience store across the street from the fair Monday night.

Reiner worked for Dreamland Amusements featured at the fair that is set to open later this week.

They say Reiner was shot several times. He was pronounced dead at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.

 

A 19-year old local man, Terrance Bedon Paige was arrested by North Carolina police on Tuesday night. He has been charged with murder and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. He is being held in lieu of bond.

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Sandy Hook School evacuated over bomb threat to Monroe building

Students at Sandy Hook School in Monroe had early dismissal today after being evacuated because of a threatening phone call.  Newtown Superintendent Dr Joseph Erardi say the bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday morning and everyone was evacuated from the building to another school on the campus around 10:45am.  They were dismissed at noon.

 

Police searched the building and the surrounding area, finding no evidence of a threat.  The investigation into who placed the call in ongoing.

 

Erardi issued the following statement Wednesday night:

 

“Although there was little to no danger at any time with the alleged threat, the decision was made to make sure that every precautionary step had been taken for the safety of the Sandy Hook staff members and students. This same decision would have been made for all other  Newtown schools. I would like to personally thank both the Newtown and Monroe Police Departments for their unyielding support throughout the evacuation. I would also like to thank the Sandy Hook administration and staff for their full cooperation as they did an exceptional job with this evacuation event."

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Informational meeting about natural gas pipeline expansion

An informational meeting is being held tonight in Danbury about a natural gas pipeline expansion proposal.  Spectra Energy subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission has been holding land owner information meetings in Connecticut about the so-called Atlantic Bridge Expansion.  Spectra Energy Director of Stakeholder Outreach Marylee Hanley says so far people have had questions about the environmental and permitting processes, construction, operation and land acquisition.

 

Spectra Energy says the project is needed to bring additional natural gas to the region, as the New England states look to expand supply and usage.

 

 

The Project would run from the Brewster area, through Danbury and Oxford and eventually headed into Massachusetts.  The target in-service date is November 2017.

 

 

Hanley say the additional supply will keep natural gas prices lower overall, while also dampening future natural gas and electricity price volatility.  As a result, she says homeowners, manufacturers and businesses will realize energy savings.

 

The meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel on Old Ridgebury Road tonight is from 5:30 to 7:30pm.

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Ridgefield man previously arrested in NY, facing Conn. charges

A Ridgefield man arrested in New York last month has pleaded guilty in Connecticut to filing a false tax return.  54-year old Timothy Griffin was in court Tuesday. 

 

The Bronxville, New York attorney received a letter from the IRS in 2006 about not filing income tax returns for the 2002 through 2004 tax years.  Griffin then submitted false tax returns for those years.  He is scheduled to be sentenced in December in Connecticut. 

 

Griffin was arraigned on September 25th for allegedly stealing more than a million dollars from clients.  According to the New York State Attorney General's office, Griffin made the thefts between 2009 and this February.  He will be back in court on the New York charges on October 7th. 

 

The attorney was previously accused of embezzling almost $2 million from a New York cemetery.  Those alleged thefts occurred while Griffin was president of the non-profit United Hebrew Cemetery.

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Women's Center receives grant for shelter program

An annual Shelter Grant program is sending $20,000 in funding to the Women's Center in Danbury.  The grant program is run by the Mary Kay Foundation to maintain critical services. 

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and while recent events have increased awareness, officials say there remains a need for housing, resources and support programs for women and children as they flee abusive situations and work to rebuild their lives. 

 

Mary Kay Foundation officials say it's been a bigger challenge than ever for shelters to keep their doors open and anything they can do to help those on the front lines, like the Women's Center, they will try to provide financial backing.

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Bridge inspection prompts I-84 lane closures in Newtown

The state Department of Transportation is inspecting bridges overpasses on the highways in Connecticut over the next few days.  There were inspections done Tuesday in Newtown, which will continue today.  There will be alternating right and left lane closures westbound on 84 between exits 12 and 11 from 10am to 2pm. 

 

There will also be alternating right and left lane closures on the ramp from Route 34 in Newtown to I-84 westbound.  That is taking place on Thursday from 9am to 3pm.

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Ridgefield officials to meet on Schlumberger land sale

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is meeting this afternoon about a possible sale of town-owned land. 

 

The Board met Monday with some of the bidders for the 10 acres of the former Schlumberger land that's up for sale.  During the budget referendum, voters rejected a plan to sell the parcel to Toll Brothers for $4 million to develop 30 luxury condos on the site. 

 

A request for proposals was sent out and five presentations were made for the site.  The developers are being asked back to this afternoon's meeting.  The bids came in between $3 million and $4.1 million.  The parcel of land is zoned for multi-family housing.  Density concerns, questions about the price of housing units and possible age restrictions are all factors being considered. 

 

One of the bids is from Stephen Zemo, who purchased another parcel of the Schlumberger land.  He proposed 14 condos with 32 units.  Another Ridgefield developer, Sturges Brothers, came in with the lowest bid on a plan for about 20 single family homes.  Quarry Park Properties of Ridgefield was the highest bid on a plan for 21 condos and 19 townhouses.  Charter Group Partners of Brookfield proposed 59 condo units while Toll Brothers of Newtown proposed 23 townhouses and 17 condo units.

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Final 'Sandy Ground' playground being built

The final of the Sandy Ground playgrounds is now being built. 

 

26 playgrounds in all are taking shape around the region, showcasing the likes and interests of each of the 20 children and 6 educators killed at Sandy Hook School.  The Sandy Ground Project, an effort spearheaded by the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association of New Jersey, have playgrounds in communities in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, linking the two tragedies that have a name in common. 

 

The final playground is being dedicated to Principal Dawn Hochsprung.  It's at Veterans Park in Watertown Connecticut.  The ribbon will be cut this weekend. 

 

Each playground takes about a week to build. They are all handicapped-accessible and have similar swings, slides, balance beams and monkey bars.

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