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Local Headlines Archives for 2017-02

Hearing in Bethel about solar farm installation

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing tonight about the town installing a solar farm on Sympaug Road.  The solar array would take up about 3.5 acres of a 17 acre property, in an industrial zone. 

 

Bethel is working with a subsidiary of Ameresco, which would sell the power back to the town and First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker say that will lead to a small reduction in costs.  The 948-kilowatt solar array, if approved, is expected to begin producing energy in July.  The 2,916 panels could generate nearly 1 million kilowatts a year. 

 

It's been a long road to get to the point of a public hearing locally.  Knickerbocker says state law prohibited municipalities from partnering with a third party, but after lobbying efforts the law was changed.  Municipalities also lobbied the state to lift a cap on the number of solar arrays built in Connecticut, which was pushed for by power companies. 

 

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission amended town laws to allow solar farms in Industrial and Industrial Park zones.

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NSSF releases report about economic impact of Conn. gun laws

The Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation is out with a new report showing that the state's 2013 gun control laws have cost the industry about 3,000 jobs in Connecticut.  The annual economic impact report shows a decrease of approximately $50 million in taxes in the last three years.  The report shows an increase in both statistics elsewhere in the country.  Governor Malloy's spokesman says they are reviewing the report's data.

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Traffic violations lead to more serious charges against some drivers stopped in NY

A Danbury man is due in a New York court tonight on charges stemming from a traffic stop earlier this month.  21-year old Julio Paida-Morquecho was pulled over early on the 19th on Route 6 for not having a license plate on his car, and a forged temporary plate in the rear of the window.  Paida-Morquecho was determined to be intoxicated, and had a 16-year old passenger in the car.  He was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, DWI and possession of a forged instrument. 

 

A Brookfield woman who has two prior convictions has been charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.  New York State Police arrested 48-year old Stacey Bencivengo after she failed to maintain her lane of travel on Interstate 84 on Friday.  Her Blood Alcohol Content was nearly three times the legal limit.  She was charged with felony DWI because of the two related convictions from 2008 and 2010.  Bencivengo is due in court this afternoon.

 

A New York woman who had to be physically removed from the road during a traffic stop is due in court next month.  New York State Police say a driver, later determined to be 64-year old Debra Saraceno of Southeast, was operating erratically on Route 22 last Wedensday.  An investigation revealed that she was intoxicated.  While handcuffed, she refused to enter the patrol vehicle.  Saraceno was issued appearance tickets and a March 30th court date was set.

 

A Brookfield man who doesn't have a drivers license was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and was found in possession of a billy club.  New York State Police stopped 57-year old Robert Vosburgh on Friday for not having a lighted license plate.  An investigation revealed that he was intoxicated and unlawfully possessed a weapon.  He was charged with DWI and criminal possession of a weapon.  Vosburgh is due in Southeast Town Court on March 7th.

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NY Lawmakers to review plan to close nuclear plant

Some New York lawmakers are demanding more information about plans to close Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County by 2021.

Today's legislative hearing will focus on the environmental and health implications of shuttering the facility, which sits along the lower Hudson River, 30 miles from Ridgefield.

While it is unlikely lawmakers could prevent Indian Point from closing, some have expressed worries about the state's ability to make up for the lost power. Putnam County currently sources a portion of its power from Indian Point’s nuclear generators.

 

County Executive MaryEllen Odell says union workers and their families will be particularly affected as they are employed by Entergy.

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Routine traffic stop leads to drug bust in Danbury

State Police conducting speed enforcement operations on Interstate 84 in Danbury pulled over a vehicle clocked at 86 miles an hour.  The driver, 26-year old Danielle Keith of Maine, was found in possession of a large amount of pot-infused edible items. 

 

Keith's license was under suspension in Pennsylvania and she was issued an infraction for the traffic violations. 

 

State Police K9 Favor searched the vehicle and turned up THC lollipops, THC rock candy, THC cookies, THC WAX and 13 grams of actual marijuana.  Keith was charged with possession of a controlled substance. 

 

 

A passenger that claimed ownership of the narcotics was taken into custody and charged.  State Police did not immediately have an identity for that person.

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Special election today for 32nd state Senate district

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Informational forum in Ridgefield about Main Street redesign

An informal gathering is being held tonight in Ridgefield about improving Main Street.  The state Department of Transportation plan is still under development.  Tonight's session is not a public hearing, rather a feedback session about improving traffic flow while keeping the look of Main Street similar to what it is now.  Initial plans call for turning lanes on Main Street, realigning the Prospect Street intersection, changing the timing of some traffic lights and possibly reducing parking spaces elsewhere.  The meeting at Ridgefield Town Hall is at 5:30pm.

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Municipal officials testify in Hartford on toll proposals

Connecticut lawmakers heard testimony on a new round of bills calling for electronic tolls to be installed on state highways, including one that would create a congestion pricing system. 

 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the state can't cut its way out of the deficit.  He supports border tolls, but doesn't believe that should be the only place they be located.  In particular, Marconi suggested north of Newtown by the Housatonic.

 

Marconi proposed a number of ways to raise revenue.

 

He suggested getting rid of the gas tax and just having tolls as a source of revenue.  He acknowledged that there are a number of Ridgefield residents who commute to New York City.  They don't want to pay a toll, but he says they would rather be charged that way than have a hike in property taxes.

 

In response to people who say border tolls are unfair, he suggested that the state implement an income tax credit for people employed in a neighboring state.

 

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says many people he's talked with distrustful that if a discount was able to be offered that it would remain in place long term.  He called tolls a matter of fairness and equality.

 

Knickerbocker says Bethel is a more diverse community than the other small towns in lower Litchfield County and Fairfield County.  He says there are an estimated 2,000 commuters in Bethel, who are not big corporate CEOs.  He says tolls would be a disproportionate tax that will hit working people and young families.

 

Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle said most of the constituents she's heard from don't want tolls.  She says they are wary of spending any more and not getting any more.

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher, a committee co-chair, has been an outspoken opponent of tolls.  Boucher calls tolls "just another tax on drivers".  Among her biggest concerns is that drivers trying to avoid tolls will increase congestion and wear-and-tear on local roads.  Boucher is also concerned with the bills because the funds are not guaranteed to be spent on transportation.  She also noted that tolls don't guarantee a reduction or elimination of the gas tax.

 

The Committee was told Friday that declining gas tax revenue will place the Transportation Fund in deficit by 2019-2020.

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New Fairfield teacher who zip-tied student to desk resigns

A New Fairfield Middle School teacher who used zip-ties to restrain a student in the fall has resigned.  The Newstimes reports that the 7th grade math teacher confined one student to his desk.  School District officials have not identified the teacher or said when the resignation happened.

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Man charged with killing his parents has case continued to March

A former Easton man has had his murder case continued to next month.  28-year old Kyle Navin, charged for the deaths of his parents, Jeffrey and Jeanette Navin, will next be in court March 16th.  At his latest hearing, the judge ruled that a truck seized as evidence by the state can be returned to J&J Refuse, the company the Navin's owned.

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Two men arrested for weekend assault in Danbury

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Brookfield Police plan 2nd 'Coffee with a Cop' event

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Brookfield man arrested for Bethel gas station robbery

A Brookfield man has been charged with robbery for an incident last week at the new Wheels gas station on Stony Hill Road in Bethel.  32-year old Maxwell Mulligan was also charged Friday with larceny. 

 

Bethel Police responded to Wheels last Wednesday on a report of a man jumping across the counter pushing the clerk’s hands from the cash register drawer and stealing money.  Mulligan was identified as the suspect in the video surveillance footage. He was then located by Wilton Police.  He was held on bond for arraignment today. 

 

Bethel Police say the investigation is still active.

 

Even though the man was wearing a blue PETRO Oil sweatshirt, authorities say suspect was not an employee of Petro or affiliated with the company in anyway.

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Special elections planned for 3 open legislative seats

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Special elections are being held to fill three Connecticut General Assembly seats vacated by sitting lawmakers who decided to take other state jobs.

Elections are planned for Tuesday in the 2nd Senatorial District, 32nd Senatorial District and the 115th Assembly District. The special election could change control of the Senate, which currently has an even number of Republican and Democratic senators.

In the 2nd Senate District, veteran Hartford Rep. Douglas McCrory, a Democrat, is facing Republican Windsor Town Councilman Mike McDonald.

 

In the 32nd Senate District, second-term Republican state Rep. Eric Berthel of Watertown is facing Roxbury attorney and Democrat Gregory Cava.  The sprawling district covers Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Middlebury, Oxford, Roxbury, Seymour, Southbury, Washington, Watertown and Woodbury.

In the 115th Assembly District, West Haven Democrat and management consultant Dorinda Kennan Borer is running against West Haven Republican Edward Granfield, who runs an oil delivery business.

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Immigrants becoming political presence at state Capitol

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - National division over the immigration issue appears to be fueling an unusually sensitive atmosphere at the Connecticut state Capitol.

Immigrants and supporters packed a legislative hearing last week, outraged over legislation that would end "drive-only" licenses for people who can't prove they're living in the U.S. legally. They voiced strong concerns, despite assurances the bill likely won't make it out of committee.

Carolina Bortelleto of Danbury, co-founder of Connecticut Students for a Dream, says the "anti-immigrant rhetoric" on the national level has motivated immigrants to "come out of the shadows."

Wolcott Republican Rep. Rob Sampson has opposed drive-only licenses since 2013 for public safety reasons and filed this year's bill before President Donald Trump took office. He says he feels badly that immigrants think he's "some horrible guy who is after them."

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Music concert to benefit Sandy Hook victim's foundation

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - The principal cellist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra is organizing a concert to benefit a foundation set up by the family of a child killedon 12-14.

Carter Brey and other orchestra members will perform at the "Chasing the Music" event June 4 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut.

The concert will benefit CMAK Foundation, which runs the Race4Chase kids triathlon program.

The foundation was set up by the family of 7-year-old Chase Kowalski.

The triathlon program serves 650 children in three states. Its summer camp program trains children to run, ride bicycles and swim, and culminates in a triathlon.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission recommends not accepting 'Rock of Angels'

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission has met to make a recommendation to the Newtown Board of Selectmen about whether or not to accept a land donation from St John's Episcopal Church where the  "Rock of Angels" memorial stands.  The facility was recently closed by church officials and the property will be sold as a commercial structure.

 

The town would likely not accept the four-tenths of an acre unless there is a place for the memorial to be moved to.

 

Commission chairman Kyle Lyddy recommended that the town not accept the Rock of Angels as part of the permanent memorial site.  They said it's too early in the planning process to decide if it would be an appropriate part of the memorial and noted that it goes against the Commission's recommendation to have one memorial. 

 

The Commission talked about integrating the tribute into the memorial site as part of the pathway to the site, but deferred to the families.  Some parents were not in favor of the memorial when it was gifted to Newtown in 2013.  The families were never consulted about the Rock of Angels, and some members believe the families were left with negative feelings about it. 

 

The commission suggested that it could possibly be resurfaced and redone if there are names represented in a way not agreeable to the families, or it could be modified to be more neutral.  While they said the church was noble in accepting the rock because it has served as a place of reflection, the Commission prides itself on communication with the 26 families most impacted by 12-14.

 

The one positive they outlined for keeping the tribute is that people have connected to the piece.

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Legislative panel hears testimony Monday on toll bills

The legislature's Transportation Committee is holding a public hearing today on bills proposing tolls and congestion pricing on Connecticut highways.  Wilton Senator Toni Boucher calls tolls "just another tax on drivers".  She says residents are taxed enough already.

 

As Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee, Boucher cannot testify or submit written testimony on bills that come before the panel so she is urging constituents to submit their opinions.  She says a lot of people have reached out already saying that tolls are a bad idea for Connecticut.

 

The public hearing is at 11am.  Written testimony can be emailed to tratestimony@cga.ct.gov and Boucher is asking those opposed to “Say No to Tolls” in the subject line.

 

Among her biggest concerns are that drivers trying to avoid tolls will increase congestion and wear-and-tear on local roads, federal funding could be jeopardized, and that funds are not guaranteed to be spent on transportation.  She also noted that tolls don't guarantee a reduction or elimination of the gas tax.

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Trial delayed for woman in Sandy Hook parent death threat

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Trial has been delayed until April for a Florida woman accused of threatening the parent of a boy killed in the 2012 mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, because she thought it was a hoax.

The attorney for 57-year-old Lucy Richards said in court papers she has been hospitalized recently and unable to work on her case, which had been set for trial Monday. A Fort Lauderdale federal judge postponed the trial until April 3.

Richards has pleaded not guilty to charges of transmitting threats to Lenny Pozner, father of 6-year-old Noah Pozner who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Others linked to the Sandy Hook massacre have reported harassment by conspiracy theorists who argue it was staged to erode support for Second Amendment gun rights.

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4 Conn. schools, including Danbury, in the 'national school funding hall of shame'

A new report has been released by The Education Law Center about the country's most fiscally disadvantaged schools, and Danbury is included on that list.  The report identifies school districts with higher than average student need and lower than average funding. 

 

The report says this is a national hall of shame of leaving behind thousands of vulnerable children.  Three other Connecticut cities are on the list: Bridgeport, New Britain and Waterbury. 

 

The Education Law Center concludes that governors and legislators in far too many states stubbornly resist investing in K – 12 education so all children have the resources needed to succeed in school.

 

The report is a companion to their "Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card".  The NRC evaluates and compares the extent to which state finance systems ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children, regardless of background, family income, place of residence, or school location.

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Danbury company touts proposal to expand fuel cell power plants

Danbury-based FuelCell Energy is applauding a bill being considered by the state legislature will allow electric utilities to acquire fuel cell power plants to enhance system reliability.  The proposal also includes provisions that seek to make efficient use of existing infrastructure and sites, such as urban brownfields. FuelCell Energy applauded the proposal saying this will result in utilities avoiding or being able to defer expensive distribution system upgrades.

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New Milford Mayor pulls plans for Pettibone

Plans to turn the former Pettibone School in New Milford into a community center have been withdrawn by Mayor David Gronbach.  The Zoning Commission was going to hear the plan Tuesday.  A lawsuit about funding for the project will be in court next month.  Opponents say the money was misappropriated.  The Board of Education last week reversed plans to move administrators to Pettibone after Gronbach changed the Memorandum of Understanding to have the Board pay for the renovations up front.

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Rotary Club awards funds to charities

The Rotary Club of Patterson has presented 20 Putnam County and area charities with cash donations totaling almost $17,000.  This was one of two semi-annual Community Awards Giveaways, held in February and June, by the Rotary Club of Patterson.  Different groups will be selected to receive donations in June.

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Two cases of erratic behavior investigated in Putnam County

Putnam County Sheriff Deputies responded to two cases of erratic behavior this weekend. 

 

A Patterson woman was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation after she threatened to kill a neighbor on Saturday.  A person called 911 reporting that a friend was “out of control” at a Patterson residence.  When deputies responded, they saw the woman talking to herself and still making threats.  The woman's name was not released. 

 

On Sunday, the program director of a Carmel group home reported an emotionally disturbed person exhibiting violent behavior.  Deputies determined that the 27-year-old man potentially posed a threat to himself of others.  The man requested that he be taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.

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Local Prevention Council raises awareness of substance abuse addiction

A local lawmaker recently learned what a volunteer group is doing to combat substance abuse and addiction.  State Representative Arthur O'Neill recently attended a meeting of the Prevention Council of Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington.  The group runs programs designed to educate the public about the epidemic and to create a drug-free environment for youths and families.  Their programs include Prom Buses, Opioid Forums and Positive Incentive Scholarships.

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Seized pot growing equipment repurposed for New Milford Youth Agency greenhouse

$10,000 worth of indoor agricultural growing equipment seized from a New Milford home during an investigation into an elaborate illegal indoor hydroponic Marijuana growing operation, has been repurposed and donated to the New Milford Youth Agency. 

 

That organization will use the equipment at the recently expanded Sullivan Farm greenhouse operation. 

 

 

The equipment was seized in January, 2015 from a Chapin Road home.  When the accused's case was disposed of by the Superior Court, the specialized equipment was requested by the lead investigating officer in lieu of destruction. 

 

New Milford Police Chief Boyne, with the judicial authority of the Litchfield Superior Court, members of the Connecticut State Police Statewide Narcotics Task Force Northwest Office repurposed the equipment.

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Bethel Police Officer successfully revives suspected overdose victim

A Bethel Police Officer successfully revived an unconscious man Wednesday night who appeared to be suffering from an opiate overdose.  Officer McKinney recognized the symptoms and administered Narcan. All Bethel Police vehicles are equipped with Narcan and all Officers are trained in its use.  Officer McKinney is the first officer to use Narcan since its agency wide deployment.  Department officials say Officer McKinney's actions may well have saved the man's life.

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Brookfield makes sightline improvements on Route 133

The Brookfield Public Works Department is making sightline improvements on Route 133 at Obtuse Road South.  Crews are breaking up ledge along the south shoulder of Route 133 and regrading so motorists can see farther west when entering the intersection.  Travel along Route 133 were restricted at times for this work.  The state Department of Transportation will be making signage improvements in the near future.

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Bethel Police search for strong arm robbery suspect

Bethel Police are searching for a suspect wanted for a strong arm robbery.  Officers responded to the new Wheel’s Sunoco Station on Route 6, across from Big Y, late Wednesday night.  The white male lunged over the counter, forced the employee away and stole several hundred dollars from the cash register.  The suspect was wearing a blue PETRO Oil sweatshirt, black winter hat and boots. The suspect's left arm appeared to be recently injured and was wrapped in an ace bandage.  Anyone with information is requested to contact Bethel Police at 203 744-7900.

 

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Lawmakers back bill to improve Danbury Branch line

There's a public hearing at the state capital today about a bill that would move money around to provide for electrification and upgrades on the Danbury Branch line of Metro North.  Previous bills to accomplish that have failed, but Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle believes this measure has a chance.  She says it would reallocate already authorized bond money for transportation infrastructure projects.  Lawmakers from districts along the Danbury Branch are all backing the bill.  The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will hear testimony on the bill on Friday at 11am.

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Phone scam targeting nail salons in Danbury

The Danbury Police Department has received several reports of a person posing as a "health inspector" for the city of Danbury and charging business for inspections. The male caller has contacted unsuspecting businesses and demand credit card prepayments over the phone for an inspection that will be performed the following day.  The caller is targeting nail salons.

 

All City of Danbury Health Inspectors have official city of Danbury ID Badges. They will also provide official written documentation of all inspections.  Danbury Health Inspectors do not call ahead to schedule an inspection because they are all done unannounced.  City of Danbury Health Inspectors do not take cash or credit/debit cards.  The business owner would be contacted via certified mail of any fees assessed or due.  Letters for license renewal are always sent out only in the month of May.

 

If in doubt, Danbury Police say you can verify health inspector status by contacting the Danbury Health & Human Services Department at 203-797-4625.

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Danbury Mayor reacts to student protest over on-campus harassment incident

Some Danbury High School students staged a walk out Thursday morning.  It was done because of what they see as a weak response to harassment on school grounds.  

 

An allegedly intoxicated man, who was a passenger in a car picking up a student after school on inauguration day, waved a Trump campaign sign and yelled at students about being kicked out of the country.  There was no arrest made after the courts rejected an arrest warrant application. 

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says students belong in class, but he understands and respects their passion for this issue.  The court decided that there wasn't enough evidence to issue a warrant to arrest the man.  He says it's time to accept the court decision and move on.  Boughton says some steps have been taken by the Danbury High School administration to make sure the campus is safe and secure. 

 

He reiterated that he understands the frustration of some students, but at the end of the day the prosecutor declined to issue a warrant.

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Danbury school official weighs in on student protest

Some 300 Danbury High School students walked out of class Thursday morning in protest of what they see as a weak response to harassment on school grounds on Inauguration Day.  Danbury Police were dispatched to the school shortly after 9:30am and say the walk-out and sit-in were non-eventful.  The protest was contained to the football field and bleachers.  After about 30 minutes, most of the crowd dispersed.  Patrol units remained at Danbury High School until about 11:45am when things had calmed down. 

 

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bill Glass says they heard rumblings Wednesday night that there might be a protest Thursday.  As a precaution, the district contacted the Danbury Police Department to have an extra presence on campus. 

 

Glass called it a peaceful, organized protest that moved from the front of the school to the football field.  Between 50 and 100 students sat on the bleachers while the rest returned to class.  The Principal and the rest of the administration listened to the concerns of a handful of students who spoke on behalf of the student body.  They met for almost an hour.  Glass says their voices were heard.  He says the administration handled the situation well, but noted that there are still some bad feelings among some students and their families over the January incident.

 

Glass says they were impressed with how respectful students were on Thursday.  He added that they would have rather had the students in class, but the protest happened in the best possible way.  There were no arrests and no injuries reported.

 

The only disciplinary action being taken by the school is to mark the students absent for classes they missed.

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New Milford woman, two NY men arrested for burglarizing a home

A New Milford woman and two New York men have been arrested for burglarizing a Dutchess County home.  On Monday, New York State Police arrested 25 year old Dwayne Robbins, 25 year old James Moore, and 23 year old Kelsey Vincent for their involvement in a Dover Burglary.

A resident reported seeing suspicious activity.  People entering a residence, two males removing items and placing them into a vehicle.

While enroute to the call, Troopers saw a vehicle matching the description. The three occupants were known to Police. The suspects had salvaged the proceeds from the burglary at Southeast Auto Recycling where they were all taken into custody. 

 

  

(Vincent, Robbins, Moore)

 

The vehicle, operated by Vincent, had a forged inspection sticker, the wrong license plates and no insurance.  Vincent was operating with a suspended New York State Driver’s license.

Moore, Robbins and Vincent were all charged with felony burglary and and felony criminal possession of stolen property.  Vincent was also charged with possession of a forged Instrument. 

The three are scheduled to appear in Court on March 13th.

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Public hearing held about repealing 'drive-only' license law

A public hearing was held by a state legislative committee yesterday on a proposal to repeal the 2013 law allowing undocumented Connecticut residents to get drive-only licenses.  The Department of Motor Vehicles has estimated that nearly 28,000 drive-only licenses have been issued, more than 1-percent of all registered Connecticut drivers.  The DMV says the law has made the roads safer.  Danbury organizers from Connecticut Students for a Dream say the law has allowed them to go to work to raise money for school tuition.

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Boughton: DPD works with ICE, will continue to work with ICE

In wake of President Trump's executive order on immigration, Governor Dannel Malloy has issued recommendations to Connecticut school superintendents and police chiefs about how they should deal with requests from Homeland Security and ICE.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton was critical of that move.  He called the directives nothing more than political grandstanding, and fear mongering.

 

Boughton says the City already helps ICE and will continue to do so.  If further orders from the federal government, circumstances could change in Danbury.  He noted that federal law superceds state law.

 

Danbury Police officials say they will work with ICE if requested, but that they don't make the first call under a 2014 state law called the TRUST Act.

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DHS students stage walk out over Inauguration Day harassment incident

Some Danbury High School students have staged a walk out.  It's being done because of what they see as a weak response to harassment on school grounds.  Several students have posted video on social media of the activity, which now includes a protest outside the school. 

 

District officials say the Deputy Superintendent and others are responding to the high school. 

 

There were some 300 students participating.  They were protesting in front of the school, but were told to go inside.  They then moved to the football field instead.

 

(Hatters Herald, DHS student news paper, Twitter)

 

An allegedly intoxicated man, who was a passenger in a car picking up a student after school dismissal on inauguration day, waved a Trump campaign sign and yelled at students about being kicked out of the country. 

 

There was no arrest made after the courts rejected an arrest warrant application.  Three students were suspended at the time for allegedly fighting with the man.

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Immigration guidance provided to Connecticut police, schools

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other Connecticut officials are providing police chiefs and school superintendents with guidance on how to respond to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration matters and subsequent memos from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

 

Law enforcement officials are being told they should not take action solely to enforce federal immigration law, noting how the federal government cannot mandate states to investigate or enforce actions that have no connection to the enforcement of Connecticut laws.

For schools, officials are suggesting any requests from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer for student information or access to a student should be referred to the district's superintendent's office.

 

Connecticut Students for a Dream Campaign and Policy Manager Camila Bortolleto, of Danbury, says Governor Malloy's memo to Police Departments makes it clear - state and local law enforcement agencies are not required to enforce federal immigration law. If local law enforcement agencies choose to enforce federal immigration law, she says it will undermine community safety.

 

Bortolleto says the group will continue organizing to win sanctuary spaces and build deportation defense networks so people brought to this country as children can live a life without fear.

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National popular vote bill gets hearing in Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman are throwing support to legislation that would require Connecticut to join a group of states wanting to pool their Electoral College votes for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote.

Both argue every American's vote should be counted equally.

Wednesday's announcement by Malloy and Wyman comes as lawmakers hear testimony on numerous bills that would have Connecticut join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which 11 states have signed onto since 2006. There's also a bill that would endorse the current Electoral College system.

 

Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan called it troubling and says the bill interferes with the constitution.  He said if advocates want to change how the Constitution operates, they should propose a constitutional amendment.

 

McLachlan introduced a bill to protect the sanctity of the electroal  college process as is.

Some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, have voiced frustration with seeing another candidate secure the presidency without winning the popular vote.  Wolcott Republican Representative Rob Sampson says he worries candidates would only focus on large population centers.

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Ridgefield residents approve Schlumberger leases

Two leases for portions of the former Schlumberger property in Ridgefield have been approved by Ridgefield residents.  A Special Town Meeting was held last night on the leases for the Philip Johnson Building and the structure known as the auditorium, and more than 100 people were in attendance. 

 

The lease for the Philip Johnson Building is with New Canaan-based design firm BassamFellows.  It's $1 a year for 13 years, with the tenant paying a $600 a month common area maintenance fee.  There are two renewal options, through 2046, with rent rising from $8,495 a month to $10,780 per month. 

 

The Schlumberger theater lease is also for $1 a year, and is with ACT of Connecticut.  The non-profit theater group was founded by four Ridgefield residents: Katie and Bill Diamond, Daniel Levine, and Bryan Perri.  The lease calls for a $400 a month common area maintenance fee.  ACT of Connecticut's lease is for five years, and renewable in five year increments for up to 20 years.  The rent would increase to $2,000 a month for the final five year renewal option.  The tenants would each be responsible for their own utility costs and liability insurance. 

 

Ridgefield officials say the tenants could invest $1 million in renovations. 

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Danbury ranks high in new analysis of culturally diverse U.S. cities

WalletHub has conducted an in-depth analysis of 2017’s Most & Least Culturally Diverse Cities.  Danbury ranks 39th overall and 10th among small cities in terms of cultural diversity.

 

The personal-finance website's data team took a snapshot of America's current cultural profile, comparing 501 of the largest U.S. cities across three key indicators of cultural diversity.  The data was used to determine the most multifaceted of the group.   Each city was examined based on ethnicity and race, language and birthplace.

 

Analyst Jill Gonzalez says the U.S. today is a melting pot of cultures, thanks to rapid ethnic and racial diversification of the past four decades.  If the trend continues, she says America will be more colorful than ever by 2044, at which point no single ethnic group will constitute the majority in the U.S. for the first time.

 

Danbury's cultural diversity was scored in three categories, where 1 is the most diverse and 250 is the average:

117th – Ethnoracial Diversity
15th – Linguistic Diversity
128th – Birthplace Diversity

 

Ethnoracial Diversity includes indicators from linguistics to ethnicity to where the population was born.

 

About 26-percent of Danbury's population is Spanish-speaking, 15-percent speak other indo-European languages and 4-percent are Asian or Pacific Islander language speakers.

 

20-percent of the population of Danbury was born in the Northeast and 3-percent born in the South.  Another 3-percent of the population was born outside the United States, but in a territory like Puerto Rico.  32-percent of the population was foreign-born.

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Man being held in New Milford jail cell charged for urinating on floor

A New Milford man arrested after a well-being check is facing new charges for urinating in his prison cell.  New Milford Police responded to Michael Bennett's home last Monday and tried to make contact with the 29-year old during the welfare check. 

 

Officers could see a bullet on the floor of the home, and because Bennett is a previously convicted felon, he is not allowed to have a gun.  He was charged with criminal possession of a firearm and held on bond. 

 

While being held at the New Milford Police Department, Bennett urinated on his cell floor and stuffed garbage into the toilet in an attempt to clog it.  Bennett was charged with criminal mischief.  He remains held on bond for court appearances on March 8th. 

 

Bennett was sentenced in November for evading responsibility and larceny, and ordered to three years probation for the April and July incidents.  Bennett was also arrested last month for operating with a suspended license.  He was released on a written promise to appear in court on March 15.

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Bethel schools put turf field project on hold

The state's financial woes are putting a project on hold in Bethel.  Plans to install a turf field at Bethel High School, the only high school in Fairfield County without access to a turf field, have stalled because school officials are unsure how much of a cut in funding the district faces. 

 

43,500 dollars has already been spend for designs and related work.  Bid specs were completed as the Governor announced his intention to restructure how the state allocates funding to schools across Connecticut.  While the preliminary work could be used in the future, the project might have to go out to bid again. 

 

Bethel planned this project, in part, because the district has had to rent facilities and buses for indoor practices.  Other games and practices have had to be cancelled because of weather.  Bethel also can not host state championship games on a grass field.

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Eversource to conduct aerial inspections of equipment

Beginning this week, Eversource will be conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment on rights-of-way throughout Connecticut.  The work involves the use of a helicopter equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology which can detect potential equipment issues before they occur.  Spokesman Frank Poirot says this semi-annual inspection is part of how the utility tries to provide reliable electric service and reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.

 

Weather-permitting, the aerial inspections will continue through March 1st. They will take place from 8:30am until 4pm.  A blue and silver helicopter with tail # N1431W or a blue and white helicopter with tail # N411DD will be flying low over the region.

 

The inspections will cover 98 municipalities including Bethel, Bethlehem, Brookfield, Danbury, Monroe, New Milford, Newtown, Oxford, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Salisbury, Washington, Watertown, Wilton and Woodbury.

 

Some of the transmission lines and equipment are located upwards of 100 feet in the air.  Poirot says aerial inspections help engineers detect potential problems in advance, allowing the company to schedule necessary maintenance and upgrades before reliability issues arise.

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Man admits role in defrauding homeowners facing foreclosure

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A Maryland man has pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a scheme to bilk Connecticut homeowners facing foreclosure out of thousands of dollars by falsely promising to buy their homes and pay off their mortgages.

Bradford Barneys, of Odenton, Maryland, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He faces up to two decades in prison when he's sentenced in June.

Federal prosecutors say Barneys and Timothy Burke, formerly of Easton, Connecticut gained control of the homes and rented them out to tenants. Many of the properties were ultimately foreclosed upon.

Prosecutors say Barneys participated in dozens of meetings with Burke and homeowners at Barney's law office in Bridgeport, Connecticut from about 2011 to 2014.

Burke pleaded guilty last month and awaits sentencing.

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Ridgefield residents to decide on Schlumberger leases tonight

Two leases for portions of the former Schlumberger property in Ridgefield will be voted on tonight by Ridgefield residents.  A Special Town Meeting is being held on the leases for the Philip Johnson Building and the structure known as the auditorium. 

 

The lease for the Philip Johnson Building is with New Canaan-based design firm BassamFellows.  It's $1 a year for 13 years, with the tenant paying a $600 a month common area maintenance fee.  There are two renewal options, through 2046, with rent rising from $8,495 a month to $10,780 per month. 

 

The Schlumberger theater lease is also for $1 a year, and is with ACT of Connecticut.  The non-profit theater group was founded by four Ridgefield residents: Katie and Bill Diamond, Daniel Levine, and Bryan Perri.  The lease calls for a $400 a month common area maintenance fee.  ACT of Connecticut's lease is for five years, and renewable in five year increments for up to 20 years.  The rent would increase to $2,000 a month for the final five year renewal option.  The tenants would each be responsible for their own utility costs and liability insurance. 

 

Ridgefield officials say the tenants could invest $1 million in renovations. 

 

The town bought the 45-acre property in 2012 for $7 million.

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Popeyes, Texas Roadhouse, medical office buildings under construction in Danbury

A Popeyes location is currently under construction in Danbury.  The restaurant will be going into one of three buildings going up on Newtown Road, next to Stop & Shop.  Restaurant Brands International says it's buying Popeyes for $1.8 billion, bringing the chicken chain under the same corporate umbrella as Burger King and Tim Hortons. 

 

The second building under construction on Newtown Road is for a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.  The last building will be home to a dental office and an urgent care facility.

 

Popeyes has more than 2,600 locations globally.

 

Restaurant Brands was created after Burger King, controlled by Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, bought Tim Hortons in 2014. Since then, the company has been striking deals with local operators to open additional locations around the world. 

 

Restaurant Brands has more than 20,000 locations globally.

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Himes hosts packed 'Coffee with Your Congressman' event in Ridgefield

4th District Congressman Jim Himes held a "Coffee with Your Congressman" event in Ridgefield yesterday afternoon.  There was a standing room only crowd at Founders Hall, and many in attendance urged Himes to bring their messages back to Washington. 

 

 

Himes then went on to hold a Town Hall style meeting in Norwalk. 

 

While acknowledging problems with the Affordable Care Act, Himes said it has brought insurance to 20 million Americans, including persons with pre-existing conditions.  He expressed his disappointment in the election result, but reiterated a willingness to work with President Trump on infrastructure improvement projects in Connecticut, including rebuilding bridges and enhancing rail service. 

 

Himes said he represents a "purple district" and hopes he represents his constituents in a fairly moderate way.  Some people expressed concerns over women's rights protections and issues around immigration.

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Eversource to invest $75 million in tree trimming operations this year

Working with community leaders and tree wardens throughout Connecticut, Eversource’s team of licensed arborists has developed a tree trimming plan for 2017.  Spokesman Mitch Gross says the plan carefully balances the need for electric reliability while maintaining community aesthetics.   It was created by community leaders, tree wardens and Eversource's licensed arborists. 

 

In an effort to reduce tree-related power outages, Gross says Eversource will invest $75 million this year pruning trees that threaten the electric system.

 

Identifying and removing drought-stressed trees remains a priority for Eversource arborists this year due to  the lasting effects of the recent drought continuing to plague the region.  Eversource will be trimming trees along more than 4,200 miles of overhead lines around the state.

 

Among the 131 communities where tree trimming will be performed this year, some of the most extensive work will be done in Wilton along 132 miles of electric lines.  Pruning will be completed in Ridgefield and four other municipalities.  Eversource notifies customers in advance if trimming is necessary on their property.

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New Milford man in court for shoplifting incident

A New Milford man is due in court today in connection to a shoplifting incident.  New Milford Police responded to Kohl's Department store on February 6th on a report of a larceny.  21-year old Brody Dalessio of New Milford was identified as the suspect.  He was also charged with having narcotics not in their prescription container, possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.  Dalessio was released on bond for today's appearance in Bantam Superior Court.

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Lost hiker rescued from Paugussett State Forest

A lost hiker was rescued from the Paugussett State Forest in Newtown this weekend.  The elderly male didn't know where he was and unable to provide rescuers with accurate information.  Officers Schoen and Harold started their search at the state boat launch.  They spent over two hours in the woods, in snowy and icy conditions, looking for the man before locating him.  Officer Lorancaitis went to the police station to disseminate GPS location data to help the officers on the scene.  Sandy Hook Fire, Newtown Hook and Ladder, and Newtown Ambulance also responded to the scene and assisted.

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Bethel firefighters free child stuck in shopping cart

The Bethel Fire Department responded to two calls in the past two days with an unusual response. 

 

On Sunday, a child needed to be extricated from a shopping cart.  A firefighter cut the child from the cart with a set of bolt cutters.  The child was unharmed. 

 

Yesterday afternoon, both Bethel and the Stony Hill fire departments responded to a report of a stove fire on Elizabeth Street.  The fire was extinguished using a water can.

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School district teams with Sandy Hook mom to teach empathy

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) -- Nelba Marquez-Greene believes the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which killed her 6-year-old daughter, could have been avoided if more had been done years earlier to address the social isolation and mental health problems of the shooter, Adam Lanza.

To help other vulnerable youths, Marquez-Greene, a family therapist, is working with a Connecticut school system on a program to help students connect with one another.

"I want people to remember that Adam, the person who did this, was also once 6 and in a first-grade classroom, and that if we had reached out earlier then maybe this could have changed," Marquez-Greene said.

Marquez-Greene's Ana Grace Project foundation, named for her slain daughter, is working with four elementary schools in New Britain, a city just west of Hartford, to teach empathy, combat bullying and help socially isolated children. Her Love Wins campaign, created with a local teacher, builds on the existing curriculum and also brings therapists into the schools.

She is one of several people touched by the December 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook who have become involved in the broader movement to incorporate social and emotional learning in American schools.

Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was among the 20 children killed, was involved in pushing for a 2015 law that allows federal funds to be used by schools for such things as recognizing the early signs of mental illness and crisis-intervention training. She has a foundation that has developed its own social-emotional learning curriculum and is being used on a pilot basis in four schools: Rippowam Middle School in Stamford; Ka'elepulu Elementary School in Kailua, Hawaii; Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Mission Achievement and Success Charter School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"I believe this is an urgent matter," Lewis said. "I believe it would have saved my son's life, as well as the lives of other victims across the United States and reduce bullying."

In the years before the 20-year-old Lanza carried out the massacre, he spent long stretches of time isolated in his mother's home and had psychiatric ailments that went without treatment, according to investigators, who never pinpointed a motive for the shooting.

Marquez-Greene connected with the New Britain school district after she received a letter of condolence from Craig Muzzy, a teacher at Chamberlain Elementary School in New Britain.

Marquez-Greene and Muzzy together developed the program for city schools. Muzzy already had been taking pointers from the Ana Grace Project's website, making a reading-comprehension assignment, for example, about a student who moves into the area from a different country, and leading discussions about how to make people feel welcome.

On Valentine's Day, Muzzy's students took part in "Friendship Day" activities, which included making bracelets and cards for exchange. Marquez-Greene attended and helped introduce a new student, Jaden Garcia, to Muzzy's class. She showed students how to get to know him better by asking about his favorite food (pizza), his pets (he has a cat) and his favorite sports (soccer).

Araceli Buchko, 10, made a bracelet for a friend by using similar conversation starters.

"I wanted to try it out and see if they would like me," she said. "I tried one person and it was good. We found out we had a lot in common, and she became my best friend."

A federal grant covers the $48,000 that New Britain schools spend annually on the Love Wins campaign in the four elementary schools.

The New Britain school district spends $48,000 per year to implement the Love Wins campaign in the four elementary schools. That money comes from a federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant. The Ana Grace Project and a private nonprofit agency provide another $40,000 per year.

School officials say they believe the Love Wins campaign is helping. They say there are fewer reports of bullying, and fewer office referrals for fights.

"But you really know it's working when you see the children interacting with one another, when they spontaneously go over to a classmate and say, 'How are you feeling? You look sad today,'" said Jane Perez, the Chamberlain principal. "You see it in how they work with each other now and collaborate with each other."

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Pedestrian struck by car in New Milford remains hospitalized

A pedestrian remains in critical condition after being struck by a car in New Milford this weekend.  New Milford Police say the man, 45-year old David Antonio Ramirez, was crossing Route 7 near the Big Y plaza around 8pm Sunday.  He was struck by a car in the southbound lane, driven by 23-year old Melanie Fay.  Ramirez was transported to Danbury Hospital.  The road was closed for several hours while police investigated.  Anyone who saw the accident is asked to call New Milford Police at 860-355-3133.

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Danbury official raises concern about drones near airport

There was a scare at Danbury Municipal Airport recently with a drone being flown in the landing path.  City Councilman Fred Visconti thanked the Airport Administrator and Danbury Police for taking care of what he called a dangerous situation.

 

They found the drone in a tree in Tarrywile Park.

 

Drone operators are required to notify the airport or air traffic control tower prior to using the unmanned craft. Danbury Municipal Airport is within five miles of most of Danbury and parts of many surrounding towns.

 

All drones weighing more than about a half-pound need to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, even if only used a toy.  Drones over 55 pounds need to be registered as a different class of aircraft.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton offered an apology in jest, saying he got the great little gift on Amazon for Christmas.

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Lake preservation bill gets mixed reviews during public hearing

A lake preservation bill got mixed reviews public hearing at the state capitol.  The bill, proposed by Brookfield state Representative Stephen Harding and Danbury Representative David Arconti, asks that Connecticut lake authorities receive financial assistance to fund efforts for combatting invasive plant and animal species.  Harding says this bill could benefit both Candlewood and Lillinonah.  The bill would distribute the funds from the Community Investment Account.  That account already funds grants to lake authorities to maintain water quality and native species of aquatic flora and fauna.

 

Connecticut Land Conservation Council Executive Director Amy Blaymore Patterson opposed taking money from that Account, calling it an already strained funding stream.  She says invasive species proliferation is a very serious problem, but urged lawmakers find other money for the cause.

 

She called stewardship and management is a critical element of land conservation, and a priority for CLCC.

 

Patterson said they are concerned about the slippery slope of adding a new program to the Community Investment Account.  She says the effectiveness of the Account would be diluted the point where it won't work any more.

 

One option Patterson suggested is allowing municipalities to institute a program, using a conveyance fee on buyers, to be used for stewardship.  There was an appropriation created by former state Senator Clark Chapin to battle invasives that could be used as a model, but recognizing the significant budget issues facing the state Patterson says it might not be feasible this year.

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Brookfield Police warn of impersonation phone scam

Brookfield Police are warning of a telephone scam.  Some residents have received phone solicitations from people claiming to be affiliated with the Brookfield Police Department, asking for donations. 

 

Brookfield Police never make phone calls asking for money. 

 

If someone has questions about those representing themselves as Brookfield Officers on the phone, hang up and call the non-emergency number (203-775-2575) for verification. 

 

Some residents have also reported receiving calls from people purporting to be from the Danbury Police Department and Bethel Fire Department.  Police say the sam advice applies, call non-emergency numbers of those agencies to verify.

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Bethel designated as 'Heart Safe Community'

Bethel has once again been designated as a "Heart Safe Community".  The Office of Emergency Management thanked various organizations for their work to provide improved cardiac response and care to the residents and visitors.  Many town and School employees are trained in CPR, and  most town buildings and schools have automatic defibrillators available in the event of an emergency.  The Office thanked Bethel Fire & EMS , Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company, Bethel Police Department Bethel Parks and Recreation, WCHN/Bethel Paramedics, Bethel Public Schools and private agencies.

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AAA reminds drivers to move over for emergency vehicles

Since early January, there have been at least a half dozen near-hits or actual collisions with emergency vehicles on Connecticut’s interstates, including on Route 7 in Brookfield.  The latest coming last night.  In the wake of these incidents, AAA Northeast is urging motorists to be aware of Connecticut’s Slow Down, Move Over law, that requires drivers to slow down and, if possible, move over, when they see emergency vehicles parked on the road’s shoulder. 

 

Fines range up to $2,500 if injuries are caused; up to $10,000 if deaths result. 

 

A public hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee is scheduled Wednesday to hear three bills calling for the strengthening and expanding of the state’s existing Slow Down, Move Over law.

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Bethel woman arrested for alleged shoplifting from Target

A Bethel woman has been arrested for shoplifting from Target and fighting with security personnel.  Bethel Police responded to the Stony Hill Road store Friday afternoon by security who was attempting to detain a female shoplifter. 

 

The woman, later identified as Rocchina Pasqualone, left the scene in a car that was traced to a home in the neighborhood.  Police stopped the vehicle and tried to speak with the 60-year old, but she was uncooperative. 

 

She attempted to drive away from the officers who had to break the vehicle's window to stop her.  The stolen items were located in the car. 

 

Pasqualone was charged with larceny, disorderly conduct and interfering with police.  She was released on a written promise to appear in court on the 28th.

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Danbury Police warning of IRS phone scam

The Danbury Police Department has seen an increase of victims reporting phone calls from the “IRS”. The callers are informing victims that the “IRS” has a warrant for their arrest and that if the victim pays the “IRS” that it will remove the warrant. 

 

But Danbury Police are reminding residents that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment and never call about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill.  The IRS will never demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. 

 

The IRS will also never require a specific payment such as a prepaid debit card or I-Tunes Gift Cards. 

 

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS--do not give out any personal information.

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Area legislator wants to change retirement, health care benefits for state employees

A local lawmaker has proposed budgetary changes that start with the General Assembly.  Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher has introduced a bill about retirement and health care benefits for certain state employees, including the Governor and all state legislators. 

 

The bill realigns non-union state employee benefits to private sector levels. 

 

Boucher says employee compensation makes up almost 40 percent of state spending.  Under the existing defined benefit plans and retiree health care plans, the state faces more than $50 billion in future unfunded liabilities because taxpayers must assume the risks of actuarial underperformance.  If the General Assembly is serious about solving the state’s fiscal crisis, she says her colleagues must recognize that the state can no longer afford these generous benefit packages. 

 

The bill would require non-union state employees to convert to 401K style pension plans and participate in a high-deductible health care plan.  Unionized state employees and retirees would continue receiving the benefits spelled out in their pre-existing union contracts.

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Route 133 in Bridgewater to be closed again for road work

A detour is being put in place for work on the Route 133 DOT project in Bridgewater.  Route 133 will be closed from Route 67 in New Milford to Route 25 in Brookfield starting March 13th.  The detour will be in place for about four months. 

 

Route 133 will reopen at the end of July. 

 

The detour will follow Route 202/7 south to Route 25 in Brookfield.  Northrup Street is closed to all truck traffic except local delivery. 

 

5,200 feet of roadway will be resurfaced.  3,300 feet of roadway will be realigned, along with other safety improvements. A new 750 foot retaining wall will be built on the west side of Route 133.  Richards Corporation was awarded the project last August, at a cost of $5,681,777.  It's scheduled to be completed in August 2017.

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Newtown-based NSSF speaks out against proposed pistol permit fee hike

The Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation is meeting with the Connecticut Citizens Defense League this afternoon to speak out against Governor Malloy's proposal to quadruple the pistol permit renewal fee.  The groups say this would hurt Connecticut's 250,000 gun owners.  They claim this is an imposition on law abiding citizens trying to exercise their constitutional rights. 

 

State Senator Cathy Osten, a co-chair of the Appropriations Committee believes that targeting one fee over another is inappropriate.  She says there are other ways to derive revenue that doesn't target one fee over another.

 

The proposed $300 renewal fee for a five year permit would make Connecticut the second most expensive in the nation, only behind New York City.

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Esty introduces bill to aid Gold Star Families

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has introduced the Support the Families of Fallen Heroes Act to honor service members who lose their lives serving in uniform and to provide assistance to their families. 

 

In 2014, Esty met with families who lost loved ones where she spoke with Joe Nolan, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who lost his son in Iraq in 2004.  Nolan, who also initiated the Gold Star Family License Plate in Connecticut, suggested creating a postal stamp in honor of the families of the fallen.  

 

Esty has introduced legislation to do so during each of her three terms in Congress. 

 

Nolan said the stamp would not only keep their memories alive, but it would also spread awareness to those who may not be familiar with the Gold Star symbol. 

 

The proceeds from sales of the stamp would go to the Families of the Fallen Support program, which supports families at Dover Air Base when they witness the return of their fallen loved ones.  It also includes peer-based support groups and camps for children to connect with others coping with a similar loss. 

 

Esty previously introduced the Gold Star Fathers Act, which extends formal hiring preference for federal jobs to fathers of disabled and deceased veterans.  The bill was signed into law in October 2015.

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Planning started for Gurski Homestead master plan

The Brookfield Conservation Commission has received a grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, a private non-profit group, to develop a master plan for the Gurski Homestead.  An Ad-Hoc Committee has been formed and  Fitzgerald & Halliday has been retained to assist in creating a plan. There will be an opportunity for the public to get involved in the planning process towards the end of April.

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No asbestos, lead paint found in work area at Pettibone

A final report on asbestos testing at the former John Pettibone School in New Milford has come back.  No asbestos was detected in the walls or drop ceilings where renovation was being done.  The report also found that there was no toxic levels in lead paint that was tested. 

 

Mayor David Gronbach says they knew already that floor tiles and some insulation contained asbestos, but noted that it's common in buildings constructed around the same time.  He says the contractor will either avoid disturbing such areas or will rely on certified contractors to address any issues.  While some low lead levels were identified, Gronbach says the work will not create any airborne concentrations over the acceptable level.

 

Documents and updates about the work being done to turn Pettibone into a community center will be posted on a new page of the New Milford town website.

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Easton Police report uptick in car break-ins

Easton Police are investigating car break ins.  Police say there's been an uptick of cars being entered, late at night, and items being stolen from them.  Easton Police are reminding drivers to lock their vehicles at all times and take their belongings with them when they leave their cars.  Anyone seeing suspicious activity is asked to call Easton Police at 203-268-4111.

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New Milford Board of Ed rejects changes to MOU on moving to Pettibone

The New Milford Board of Education has voted no to changes in a memorandum of Understanding about moving administrative offices from the East Street building to the former Pettibone School.  The Board voted unanimously this week to not fund the renovation costs from Board's reserve account.  Mayor David Gronbach said in a statement that he was disappointed with the decision.  He said the 250-thousand dollars would be reimbursed when the East Street building was sold.  The sale is estimated are more than $1.5 million.

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PeaceJam event being held at WCSU

A PeaceJam event is being held at West Conn next Friday night.  A Novel Peace Laureate who is a Liberian peace activist and trained social worker will be the featured speaker.  The event at Ives Concert Hall on the the midtown campus is at 6:30pm next Friday. 

 

Women’s rights advocate Leymah Gbowee was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to lead a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. She is founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, a nonprofit organization that provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls, women and youth in West Africa. Gbowee also is the co-founder of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, which promotes cross-national peace-building efforts and transforms women from victims in the crucible of war to mobilized armies for peace. 

 

Gbowee has been a member of PeaceJam since 2012.

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Businesses close, people rally in Danbury for 'Day without Immigrants'

Nearly 60 businesses in Danbury were closed yesterday as part of a nationwide protest being called "A Day without Immigrants.  Some 500 people rallied at City Hall last night, with police closing down part of Deer Hill Avenue for the event.  Organizers thanked the police department for their help. 

 

The day was intended to demonstrate the importance of immigrants to the U-S economy.  The Latino owned businesses closed their doors in solidarity with immigrants--documented and undocumented. 

 

While there were supporters of the protest and rally, others said legal immigrant should be supported.  Critics also said they didn't think children should skip school. 

 

There doesn't seem to be a single organizer of the nationwide strike, but rather coming from a social media movement.

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Conn. man sentenced in connection to Newtown heroin overdose death

A Connecticut man has been sentenced in connection to the heroin overdose death of a Newtown woman.  38-year old Ronald Weaver was ordered to 52 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release. As part of his sentenced, Weaver was ordered to forfeit two vehicles and more than $1,900 in cash seized from him at the time of his arrest.  Newtown police had responded to a home last March on a report of a 30-year old in cardiac arrest.  The woman later died at the hospital.  Her family turned over several wax folds of heroin, several empty folds and other drug paraphernalia.  An investigation revealed that she bought heroin from a man who worked as a runner conducting drug sales for Weaver.

 

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WCSU students call on state lawmakers not to cut funding

Students and administrators from colleges in Connecticut have testified before the legislature's Appropriations Committee about the effect of proposed state budget cuts. 

 

In total, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system President Mark Ojakian said he is preparing for a single-year cut of as much as $81 million.  He told lawmakers that the system might even consider declaring financial exigency, which would allow it to circumvent union contracts, spend reserve funds and sell off some assets.  All options would be considered, including campus consolidations and additional tuition increases. 

 

Tuition has increased by 17.8 percent at the four regional state universities over the past five years. 

 

Western Connecticut State University graduate Allison Vas knew she was paying for college on her own, and WestConn offered an equally competitive program to private universities at a fraction of the cost.  She is in consideration as a Fulbright semifinalist.  Vas said without WestConn she wouldn't be a competitor in that program. 

 

WCSU student Zach Rubin told lawmakers he's was underprepared socially, academically, and personally for college and failed out of school.  He later chose WestConn for its affordability and it's business school reputation.  He says the system isn't design just for high overachievers, but for kids who slacked in high school and now want to make something of themselves.

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Danbury Police to host 'Coffee with a Cop' event Friday

The Danbury Police Department is hosting a "Coffee with a Cop" event on Friday. The community event is designed to have the patrol cop who responds to calls for service to interact with the public they serve in order to break down barriers. Spokesman Lt Christian Carroccio says they hope residents will see that they are regular people, just like the community they serve. Danbury Police hopes this event will remove agendas and give residents an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the Officers. The Coffee with a Cop event is from 7:30am to 10:30am at Mothership Bakery on Main Street.

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Newtown liquor store owner charged with arson for Jan. fire, spray-painted swastika

The owner of the Newtown liquor store allegedly robbed, set on fire and found with anti-Semitic graffiti has been arrested.  Newtown Police charged 39-year old Scott Young Thursday for the January 21st incident at Rooster Wine and Liquor Store.   

 

Young was charged with arson, insurance fraud, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, interfering with an officer, and three counts of providing a false statement. 

 

Newtown Police said in a statement the fact that Young used racial epithets and symbolism to cover up a crime was extremely disturbing to not only the community, but all of the agencies involved.   Police continued by saying that such an incident unnerves the community and they are thankful they could bring the incident to a successful resolution to put everyone’s concern at ease. 

 

Newtown Police Chief James Viadero commended the officers and agencies involved for a thorough and quick conclusion to such a disturbing crime.  State Police, including the Fire and Explosion Investigations Unit, and the Newtown Fire Marshal’s Office assisted in the investigation.

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Tinted windows lead to traffic stop, drug discovery

A routine traffic stop turned up drugs.  Danbury Police Traffic Enforcement Officers saw a vehicle on Maple Avenue Wednesday afternoon with extremely dark tinted windows, which prevent them from seeing the driver.  The car was pulled over on North Street and officers could smell burnt marijuana coming from inside.  Danbury Police K9 Zeke alerted on the vehicle, where officers then found heroin, pills and marijuana.  The driver, 25-year old Rafael Veras-molina was charged with possession of narcotics, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  He was released for a court appearance next month.

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Agreement approved to advance solar panel installation in New Milford

The New Milford Town Council has approved an agreement that moves plans forward for Ameresco Solar to install a development on Candlewood Mountain.  The Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement is for 20 megawatts of solar panels on 80 acres of land leased from Commercial Services Realty.  Ameresco will pay New Milford a total of $2.7 million over 20 years.  The location, about 600 feet up on Candlewood Mountain, has been criticized by a number of people.  It requires tree removal.  The project does require approval of the Connecticut Siting Council.  A local zoning change was made, which officials say reduces the scale of residential building--eliminating the possibility of a condo project.

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Monroe Police K9 outfitted with bullet protective vest

Monroe's Police K9 has been outfitted with a bullet and stab protective vest.  For every 15 vests purchased through the non-profit organization "Vested Interest in K9s", one free vest is awarded.  K9 Murphy's new vest has a five-year warranty, and weighs 4 to 5 pounds.  The non-profit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers.  "Vested Interest in K9s" has provided over 2,300 protective vests, in 50 states at a cost of over $1.9 million.  All vests are custom made in Michigan.

 

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New Milford man sentenced for federal firearms offense

A New Milford man has been sentenced on a firearms related charge. 61-year old Leonard Sikorski transported three rifles, two shotguns and 1,561 live rounds of ammunition to a pair of storage lockers he rented in Danbury in September 2015. That October, Sikorski admitted to federal agents that one of the shotguns had an obliterated serial number.

 

He was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison followed by a year of supervised release for possessing that shotgun.

 

Sikorski agreed to forfeit the firearms and ammunition seized from the storage lockers based on federal laws barring unlawful users of controlled substances from possessing firearms. He also agreed to forfeit five handguns and two rifles seized by New Milford and Naugatuck police during separate motor vehicle stops.

 

Sikorski is currently in state custody for an unrelated charge of illegal possession of explosives. His federal sentenced will run concurrently with the state sentence.

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New Fairfield official critical of proposal to push full Resident State Trooper costs onto municipalities

Some small towns in the Greater Danbury area are concerned about a part of Governor Dannel Malloy's proposed budget that would end state contribution for Resident State Troopers.  Connecticut currently pays 15-percent for the first two resident troopers in each town.  Town leaders say they'll be faced with a choice of having to increase taxes or cut services in order to pick up that part of the tab. 

 

Kent, New Fairfield, Sherman, Southbury, Bridgewater, Roxbury, and Washington employ residents state troopers. 

 

New Fairfield employs 7 resident state troopers and 6 police officers.  First Selectman Susan Chapman says the state is unfairly pushing its fiscal woes onto small towns.  It's a $66,000 hit to the municipal budget. 

 

She noted that the state already cut it's contribution in half two years ago. 

 

Chapman says this is an excellent program that's served small towns well over the years.  She added that the difference in cost between a state trooper and a police officer is not significant, but it's the benefit from having troopers in town that is the real difference in this program.

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Gov. budget chief questioned by local lawmakers

Concerned members of the General Assembly's Finance Committee are grilling Governor Malloy's budget chief. 

 

Brookfield Representative Stephen Harding, whose district also includes the Stony Hill section of Bethel, says his towns will lose out.  While he appreciates that the state is trying to mitigate a large deficit and rightly restructure the Education Cost Sharing formula, doing it on the back of children is wrong. 

 

Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle says municipalities will raise local taxes to make up for proposed state cuts.  She says many community leaders are reeling from the sheer amount of state aid cuts being proposed.

 

Moving some teacher pension costs off onto municipalities was a concern Redding Representative Adam Dunsby, who also serves as Easton First Selectman said one-third is an arbitrary number and questioned why it's not 25 percent.  He wanted to know if the municipal contribution would stay at one-third, or go up to 50 percent.  Budget chief Benjamin Barnes said the number was what the administration thought was a tolerable amount for municipalities, given their significant involvement in setting teacher salaries and hiring teachers.

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Man assaulted 3 Danbury Police officers, threatened to 'shoot up police station'

A Danbury man who police were investigating for a noise complaint, threatened to "get an assault rifle and shoot up the Danbury Police Department". 

 

Officers were dispatched to Samuels Court on Scuppo Road early Wednesday morning on a report than an intoxicated man was pounding on an apartment floor.  Responding officers were told that the man, 51-year old Gary Mayone, was issued an infraction Tuesday for creating a public disturbance.  While speaking with the neighbor, officers heard several loud bangs. 

 

Mayone was taken into custody and as he was being walked to the police cruiser, he attempted to headbutt an officer.  A struggle ensued.  While being processed at the police station, Mayone kicked an officer in the leg.  He then made the threatening statement. 

 

Mayone kicked another officer while being evaluated at Danbury Hospital. 

 

He was charged with breach of peace, attempted assault on an officer, failure to be fingerprinted, two counts of interfering with an officer, two counts of assault on an officer and one act of terrorism.  He was held on $50,000 bond. 

 

Two of the three officers sustained injuries.

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Weston firefighters calling on residents to clear driveways, sidewalks of snow and ice

Weston residents are being reminded to shovel their driveways and make sure private roads are properly cleared of snow.  The Weston Volunteer Fire Department is also asking that residents put down ice melter on sidewalks because some members have slipped on icy driveways and sidewalks. 

 

Fortunately, they say say no one has been injured. 

 

The Department is pointing to an incident in nearby New Canaan where a fire department vehicle became stuck in a long, shared driveway and blocked all other vehicles from being able to access a house fire Monday.  Weston fire officials are reminding residents that fire trucks and ambulances need more room than personal vehicles. 

 

The fire, just over the Wilton town line, was small and firefighters were able to hand carry the appropriate gear to the house.  The fire was caused by embers falling down a crack between the hearth and an extension of the fireplace, reaching a wood structure below.  Mutual aid responded from Wilton, Norwalk, Stamford, Pound Ridge and Vista, New York.

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Stony Hill firefighters dig out fire hydrants from snow

Stony Hill Volunteer firefighters spent most of Monday afternoon shoveling out fire hydrants.  While some were worse than others, members of the fire company say they were were pleasantly surprised to see how many had been shoveled out already by the community.  They thanked the public for their help.

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No arrests in DHS incident involving man with Trump sign verbally harassing students

There will be no arrests in the Inauguration Day incident at the Danbury High School parking lot involving an allegedly intoxicated man waving a Trump campaign sign yelling at students.  Danbury Police say the investigating officer applied for a warrant for the man’s arrest but was unable to get it approved by the court.  The man declined to press charges against any of the youths involved in a physical altercation with him. 

 

Police say the investigation is now closed.

 

 

Witness statements and video evidence showed the man as a passenger in a car that pulled into the school parking lot January 20th.  The man came to pick up a student, exited the vehicle and several youths, believed to be students, took exception to the sign.  The man made reference to “(expletive) illegals” being kicked out of the country.  Police say as the man went to get back into the car, youths approached him and there was a physical altercation. 

 

Danbury police officers at the scene did not have access to the video evidence at the time of the incident, but later reviewed the footage posted on social media.

 

Danbury school officials worked cooperatively with Danbury Police in this investigation.

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Connecticut: Tribe can't sue state for $600M for land grab

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) State officials are claiming government immunity in response to a lawsuit by a Native American tribe seeking more than $600 million for land it says the state seized from 1801 to 1918.

The state attorney general's office asked a state judge in Hartford on Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit filed in October by the Kent-based Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. The motion includes the state's first public response to the lawsuit.

The tribe alleges the state took 2,000 of the 2,400 acres in the tribe's reservation in western Connecticut and sold the land, but never compensated the tribe.

The state says it's immune from the lawsuit. It also questions the Tribal Nation's standing to file the lawsuit because at least two other factions of the tribe claim leadership authority.

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Brookfield awarded brownfield remediation assessment grant

Brookfield has been awarded a $145,000 state grant to investigate chemical contamination at a former dry cleaner property.   The grant for 20 Station Road will allow Brookfield to assess the property and determine what needs to be done to get it in saleable or useable condition. 

 

When applying for the grant, First Selectman Steve Dunn said there is a bloom going out under Station Road.  The assessment will determine what exactly is there, the level of contamination and the extent of the contamination.  Dunn noted that the town is not doing remediation, just an assessment.  He says that will help the property owner, the town and future development. 

 

The grant is one of 14 awarded by the state Tuesday.  The grants will help put 424 acres of blighted land back into productive use.  Governor Malloy says that will ultimately become an economic win for Connecticut.

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New Milford lawmaker backs rail expansion bill

A bill about expanding train service north to New Milford has been discussed by the legislature's Transportation Committee.  The bill was introduced by freshman Republican Representative Bill Buckbee.

 

The infrastructure is there, because of freight rail service.

 

He notes that many residents hold jobs in Fairfield County and already use trains to get to those jobs, but have to drive to get to the train station.  Buckbee says expanding rail service to New Milford will benefit the health of the environment, the economy and personal health of would-be drivers.

 

Buckbee also said this could increase tourism to people looking to get away to the Litchfield Hills.

 

He talked with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty about the possibility of finding federal funds to help with the expansion project.

 

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Brookfield library committee meets about new facility

The Brookfield Library Location Ad Hoc Committee met last night. 

 

The Board of Selectmen last month approved $61,000 from the current year's budget to hire the architectural firm Doyle Coffin for pre-referendum services. 

 

Selectman Marty Flynn oppose spending the money saying he would like to see an infrastructure priority list first.  He noted that residents recently approved spending money for the streetscape projects and there are more big projects on the horizon that will need funding.  He pointed to recently possible underground electricity at the Four Corners, a possible new police station and whether to renovate or knock down Huckleberry Hill School. 

 

First Selectman Steve Dunn says they can't get people to get behind something without a clear plan and an estimate.  This expenditure is to plan for a new library, regardless of when the project is actually done.

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Juvenile arrested for assaulting woman at Danbury hotel

A woman was assaulted in Danbury, and a minor is now under arrest.  Danbury Police were called to the Maron Hotel on Lake Avenue early Friday morning on a report of a robbery in progress.  The youth fled the scene, but there was fresh snow on the ground and tracked by officers.  The juvenile was charged with assault and ordered to appear in court on the 27th.  The name of the minor was not released because of his age.

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Metro North being called on for improvements on Danbury branch line

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is calling on Metro North to provide better service on the branch lines.  Esty, along with Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, sent a letter to the railroad’s leadership in response to a report that ridership on the branch lines has declined.  The Congressional delegation cited examples of when service improvements along the Danbury branch line led to increased ridership, and when lapses in service have led to decreased ridership.  They emphasized the importance of reliable train service to Connecticut residents and argued that upgraded train service along the three branch lines will increase ridership.

 

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New Milford Mayor makes budget presentation to Town Council

New Milford Mayor David Gronbach has presented his municipal budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.  The $102.5 million  plan is an increase of $2.67 million over last year's budget. 

 

Like other municipalities in the state, New Milford will have to pick up the slack from potential state aid cuts, including in the Education Cost Sharing formula.  Gronbach says the lost of some ECS funding and the new teacher pension contributions will mean a total loss of $6 million in revenue.  He says this is part of the reason why he's been pushing the Board of Education for the sale of the East Street building.

 

Gronbach has worked in some savings, including by not hiring an Executive Secretary, not seeking mileage reimbursement and identifying general insurance savings of more than $109,000.  He says locked in utility costs and consolidating past debt could also result in a savings. 

 

Contractual obligations remain a large piece of the budget.  Gronbach says the increase in salaries remains a reasonable rate.  But he notes that health insurance for town employees continues to put pressure on the budget.  The increase is pegged at about $929,000.  He was criticized in the past for removing Children's Center employees from town insurance, but says restricting insurance to town employees will ease some budgetary pressures.

 

Gronbach says he looks forward to discussing budget revisions with town officials to present to the town for a vote.

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Windshield damaged by ice flying off car in Newtown

Snow and ice flying off a car in Newtown has damaged the windshield of another vehicle.  Newtown Police say the incident happened on Toddy Hill Road yesterday.  A chunk of ice and snow flew off a southbound car and struck the windshield of a northbound car.  The other driver did not stop.  Newtown Police say they have ticketed drivers in the past for not clearing snow off their cars.

 

(Photo: Newtown Police)

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National Shooting Sports Foundation opposes gun permit fee hike

There's more criticism being voiced about Governor Malloy's budget proposal to significantly hike pistol permit fees.  Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation says many permit holders don't have the economic means to afford a quadrupled fee.  The organization says such a large increase will serve as a de facto limitation of law-abiding citizens’ ability to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

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Roll over crash in Bethel under investigation

Two cars collided on Stony Hill Road in Bethel yesterday afternoon.  Stony Hill Fire & EMS responded to the area of Old Hawleyville Road and had to extricate a driver from one vehicle, which rolled over onto its roof.  That driver was transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.  The other vehicle sustained significant front end damage in the crash, and that driver was reportedly uninjured.

 

(Photo: Stony Hill Fire & EMS)

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Public hearing tonight in Bethel on proposed police station design

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing tonight about the proposed police station for Judd Avenue.  The project went back to the drawing board after cost design estimates came back above the approved $13.5 million.  The 26,000 square foot building will be significantly bigger than the current facility on Plumtrees Road, which was built in 1974 and prone to flooding.  The most notable change in the plans is that the building will be constructed with masonry clapboard rather than brick.  Tonight's public hearing is 7pm at the Bethel Municipal Center.

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Danbury police investigating car break-ins

Danbury Police are investigating a handful of car break ins.  Police received reports from homeowners in the Timber Oaks and neighboring Spring Ridge communities.  The break-ins happened Sunday night into Monday.  The suspects didn't damage any of the vehicles and targeted vehicles that were left unlocked.  Police are reminding residents to remove valuables from cars and ensure they are locked at all times.  Anyone who sees suspicious activity is encouraged to call Danbury Police at 203-797-4614.

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Talks continuing on merged homeless shelter proposal in Danbury

It will likely take up to a year and a half to have a new homeless shelter up and running in Danbury.  Mayor Mark Boughton proposed in his December "State of the City" address that the City's shelter and the shelter at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House be combined.  While no location has been selected, Boughton says negotiations are moving forward.  The conversation with the Spring Street community about neighborhood improvements is also ongoing.

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NY woman arrested for stealing from house where she was living

A Carmel woman has been arrested for allegedly stealing from a woman whose home she was staying at.  New York State Police Troopers were contacted by a woman who said 29-year old Rachel Salgado had stolen several items from her.  An investigation revealed that Salgado stole clothing, DVDs and other household items. 

 

She was arrested on Friday for petit larceny.  She was also charged with possession a gravity knife.  Salgado was released on a written promise to appear in court on the 22nd. 

 

She was then turned over to State Police Cortland barracks on an outstanding warrant for petit larceny and unlawful possession of marijuana.

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Neighbors fundraising to help Roxbury family displaced by fire

Neighbors are coming together to help a Roxbury family who lost their home and all of the belongings in a fire early Friday morning.  The Bevan family's East Woods Road home was destroyed by the blaze, and now a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with their immediate needs.  The two adults and two teen girls escaped unharmed.  While their family dog was able to make it out of the home, their cats did not.  17 tanker trucks responded with mutual aid.

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New York State Police make DWI arrests during weekend patrols

New York State Police troopers were out in force over the weekend to patrol the roads during the snow storm.  They were also on the look out fro drunk drivers.  Troopers pulled over a driver around 2am yesterday for a routine traffic violation, which ended with a DWI arrest.  Police logs show that 38-year old Adrienne Kiss of Brewster crossed the center line on Route 312 in Southeast and failed field sobriety test.

 

A routine traffic violation has led to bigger problems for a Brewster man.  31-year old Gavin Warren was pulled over around 3am yesterday for failing to signal on Route 22, and Troopers discovered that he didn't have a valid license.  Warren was also charged with driving while intoxicated.

 

A Danbury man with no license has been charged in New York for driving while intoxicated.  31-year old Victor Tenezaca Corte was stopped around 4am yesterday for a routine traffic violation.  Troopers discovered he was unlicensed and intoxicated.

 

A 21-year old Danbury man has also been charged.  Police stopped Xavier Bishop around 4am Saturday for having a tail light out and other routine violations.  Troopers discovered that the man didn't have a license and was under the influence.

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Heart health month at Brookfield YMCA

February is Heart Health Month.  The Greenknoll Branch of the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut in Brookfield is hosting a Take Heart event tomorrow.  Free blood pressure screenings will be offered following a talk by a Western Connecticut Health Network nurse about high blood pressure and heart disease.  The event at the Regional YMCA is from 1:30 to 2:30pm.

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Danbury PAL raises funds, launches new program

The Danbury Police Activities League raised over $14,000 in a fundraiser last month.  PAL hosted Holiday Hoops, their annual middle school basketball tournament for boys and girls, with more than 32 teams participating.  PAL thanked their volunteers who worked the concession stand and refereed the games. 

 

A new after school fitness program is being launched by Danbury PAL. 

 

PAL is partnering with the Danbury Schools Family Resource Center to offer the "Get Fit" program.  The pilot program will be available at Morris Street School, and if it's a success will be expanded to South Street School next fall.

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Tree limb falls on Wilton house

Wind gusts from yesterday's storm took down a tree limb, damaging a Wilton house. Police say there was no one at the Drum Hill Road home at the time. The house is undergoing renovations and there were no injuries reported.

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Special election coming up for 32nd State Senate District

There is a special election coming up for the 32nd state Senate district which includes Bridgewater, Roxbury and Southbury.  The seat was left vacant by Republican Rob Kane, who was recently confirmed to be a state auditor.  There are three men looking to fill the role in the February 28th election.  They are Republican state Representative Eric Berthel of Watertown, Democrat Greg Cava of Roxbury and petitioning candidate Daniel Lynch of Middlebury.  Lynch is the only candidate so far to confirm his participation in a League of Women Voters debate scheduled for the 23rd at Southbury Town Hall.

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Tax prep help available for Greater Danbury area residents

As you get ready to file federal and state income tax returns, you could have them prepared for free.  Danbury State Senator Michael McLachlan says the AARP and IRS have a free tax assistance program for the elderly and low-income individuals. 

 

Through mid-April, professionally-trained volunteers throughout the state are available to help qualified residents prepare their state and federal income tax returns and can even help set up direct deposit of the refund payments.  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly program train volunteers, who are former accountants and college accounting students, on the latest income tax returns and latest changes for resident income tax filers.  

 

McLachlan says by calling Infoline 211, residents can find a location, schedule an appointment, and learn what information they must bring in order to have their returns prepared correctly.

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Skier killed after collided with another skier

CORNWALL, Conn. (AP) - A skier has been killed after colliding with another skier in Connecticut.

State police say the two skiers crashed into each other Saturday night at Mohawk Mountain Ski Area in Cornwall.

Authorities say 46-year-old Lisa Kelly, of Brookfield, was taken to a hospital, where she later died.

No other information was immediately available.

State police continue to investigate.

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Redding lawmaker disappointed with proposed state budget

A freshman lawmaker is disappointed with Governor Dannel Malloy's proposed budget.  Redding Representative Adam Dunsby, who also serves as Easton First Selectman, says putting teacher retirement costs on towns is untenable--noting that by statute, towns could have no say in the design or management of this plan.  Dunsby was also critical of the near zeroing out of Education Cost Sharing aid for Easton, Weston and Redding.  He added that the legislature is still a long way off from crafting, debating, and voting on a final budget plan.

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Proposed bill would regulate 'sober homes'

A state legislative committee is considering a bill that would regulate so-called sober houses.  The facilities are meant to help drug addicts transition from rehab back into the community.  There is no current state oversight because they are not considered treatment centers under state law.  Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey is a co-sponsor of the bill, which will be up for a public hearing before the Public Health Committee at a later date.  The legislation calls for sober houses to register as a business and to have Narcan on site.  Employees would also have to be trained on how to use the opioid overdose reversal treatment.

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Monroe road reopens following Jan. oil spill

A street in Monroe which had been closed since January 30th because of an oil spill has been reopened.  Judd Road at the Easton town line reopened Thursday afternoon.  The fuel spilled after a tanker truck went off Judd Road and struck a tree, which ruptured the tank.  Crews working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection dug a ditch to protect the nearby Pootatuck River.  DEEP says no oil migrated to the interceptor trench.  Samples from nearby drinking wells were collected to further monitor well water quality.

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ARC hosts interfaith community event in Danbury Sunday

An interfaith program is planned in Danbury this weekend, hosted by the Association of Religious Communities.  ARC executive director Reverend PJ Leopold says Sunday's rally is meant to build and reinforce positive bridges in Danbury and surrounding towns. 

 

Following the rally at 2pm, a social justice community fair and connecting will be held.  The event is at Central Christian Church on West Street.  The program at the rally will include speakers from diverse backgrounds including a Rabbi, a Muslim, a high school student, a state lawmaker and a local businessman and member of the Ecuadorian Civic Society. 

 

Leopold explained why this event was organized.  She says the family of a friend of ARC was recently detained at the airport, swastikas were painted on buildings in Danbury and surrounding towns, and there's been a general break down of a sense of community. 

 

ARC Board member Joe Walkovich says this is the time to rally together and focus on how Danbury can be stronger as a community.  ARC officials say another objectives of the rally is for congregations to get to know each other and possibly have pulpit exchanges, share ideas about social justice and involve youth groups in shared experiences and programs from one congregation to another.

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Several cars reported stolen in Brookfield

Several cars were reported stolen in Brookfield Wednesday night into Thursday.  Brookfield Police say there were also items stolen from a vehicle in the Candlewood Shores area. 

 

Police are reminding residents to lock their cars, not to leave keys in the vehicles and keep valuables out of sight. 

 

The area targeted in the recent events was the Candlewood Shores, but Brookfield officials say they have had numerous incidents reported throughout town.  They pointed out sidestreets off Candlewood Lake Road, Federal Road and Route 25. 

 

Anyone with information about the incidents that occurred this week are asked to contact Brookfield Police at 203-775-2576.

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Danbury schools applauded for anti-bullying programs

Shelter Rock School in Danbury participated in ‘Starts with Hello’ week this week.  The anti-isolation program was started by Sandy Hook Promise.  On Wednesday, the students learned something new about someone they don’t know.  Today is national “No One Eats Alone” day.

 

The Danbury Board of Education says schools throughout the district have made “Start with Hello” a part of their daily routine.  This program teaches students in grades two through 12 skills necessary to reach out and include those who may be dealing with chronic isolation. It empowers students to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school.

 

Last year Pembroke School was one of eight schools to earn an honorable mention award from Sandy Hook Promise, selected from nearly 600 schools nationwide participating in the “Call-to-Action” week.  Broadview Middle School was awarded $10,000 for being named the top school in the nationwide initiative.

 

Sandy Hook Promise co-founder Mark Barden applauded Broadview for having great success with the program, saying the school is reporting that bullying has gone to almost zero now.  He says the students have embraced the program by starting clubs and awareness days.

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New law prohibits snow being plowed into streets from private property

Bethel officials have issued a reminder about a new ordinance that will affect residents this winter.  The town passed an ordinance last fall making it illegal to push snow from private property onto any public roadway. Officials say highway crews came across a few instances where contract snowplow operators have left very large mounds of heavily compacted snow in travel lanes.  While it may not look serious, the town says this snow is heavy and once compacted--is strong enough to snap the plow blade from its frame.  Under the ordinance, property owners could be subject to fines and are encouraged to supervise their contract plow operators.

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Bethel reminding residents of winter street parking ban

Bethel's winter street parking ban is in effect and officials are reminding residents of the hours.  The parking ban takes effect in mid-November every year and remains in place until April 15th of the following year.  Street parking is prohibited in Bethel between 2am and 6am so that if snowplowing is required, operations will not be impeded. 

 

Parking warnings are issued during the first week, and then parking tickets may be issued.  The tickets carry a $10 fine. 

 

Bethel officials say Police will knock on doors to ask people to move, if necessary, and plow operators will call the police when illegally parked cars are blocking a roadway.

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Bethel firefighters respond to plow fire

Bethel Fire & EMS responded to a vehicle fire during the snow storm yesterday afternoon.  A plow truck was fully engulfed in flames in a cul de sac near the Redding town line.  Bethel fire officials say units responded to Daniska Drive off Chestnut Ridge Road and extinguished the blaze.  There was no immediate word of any injuries. 

 

(Bethel Fire & EMS)

 

There was also a big fire in Roxbury overnight.  Multiple mutual aid units assisted the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department at the home on Eastwood Road.

 

(Fairfield County Fire & EMS, Facebook)

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Lawmakers react to Gov. budget address

A few local lawmakers are weighing in on proposals they heard yesterday in Governor Malloy's budget address.

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says Governor Malloy's budget fails to provide a vision for the type of come from behind strategy the state needs.  She did agree that all residents need the opportunity for success and that, so far, state government has failed to build a good educational or transportation system.  But Boucher says the governor's playbook doesn't lay out how to achieve those things.  When it comes to changes to the education cost sharing formula, Boucher noted that money alone does not equal educational opportunity.  She wants to find out why the money currently going to cities isn’t getting to children.

 

Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan says Malloy's proposed budget a shell game.  He added that it lays a trap for municipalities that will likely have to raise property taxes to deal with state cuts and new expenses.  McLachlan was critical of the governor's proposal to reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit received by low-income workers.  He says the main theme of this budget seems to be finding more ways to generate tax revenue, the opposite of what should be done.

 

Fairfield Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says the governor's budget address was meant to give taxpayers, communities, and businesses more predictability, but his plan does not back that up.  Hwang says the budget is balanced on the backs of towns and every local property taxpayer in Connecticut.  But he notes that the budget address is just the first step in the process, and he is hopeful changes can be made.

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Wilton student charged with threatening violence at school

A Wilton High School student who allegedly threatened to "shoot you all up" has been arrested.  18-year old Victoria Flowers turned herself in on Friday and was released on bond this week.  She allegedly poured a cup of coffee in a random student's locker January 24thand was confronted about it by school officials.  She allegedly made the comment after being told to stop bouncing a ball and being disruptive to other students.  Flowers also allegedly posted on Snapchat that "Part 3" would take place January 30th.  Flowers was suspended from school and is due in court at the end of the month on charges of threatening and breach of peace.

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Danbury Fire officials call for help clearing snow from hydrants

With large snow fall comes certain responsibilities.  Danbury residents and business owners are being reminded to shovel the sidewalks in front of their properties. 

 

There are over 2,000 fire hydrants in Danbury, and Assistant Fire Chief Mark Omasta says they can't get to them all after a storm to clear snow from around them.  He asked residents to pitch in an make hydrants on their property accessible.

 

Omasta says sidewalks should also be cleared to make it easier for firefighters to respond to an emergency.  Fire officials are also asking that if drivers have to be out on the roads, to be aware of emergency vehicles and let the units pass.

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Parking bans in effect for snow clearing operations

New Milford has declared a snow emergency with a parking ban in effect for the duration of the storm.  Parking is available behind New Milford Town Hall, the Patriots Way lot and the Richmond Center.

 

In order to get ahead of the storm, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton declared Level 1 Snow Emergency from yesterday.  Cars must be moved off of the street so that public works crews can conduct snow removal operations. 

 

During the last two small storms some residents and visitors didn't know about the ban and complained to Boughton on social media about their cars being towed.

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Danbury considers purchase of former Tuxedo Junction building

The Danbury City Council met in executive session Tuesday night about buying the former Tuxedo Junction building.  City officials are looking to turn the one-story, 7,000 square foot space into a community theater.  The nightclub closed after 21-year old operator Ian Bick was sentenced to prison for an investment fraud scheme.  The building on Post Office Street, the walkway off Main Street, is listed for sale for $400,000.  The adjoining bar on Ives Street is not part of the proposal.

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Four Winds Hospital worker charged in sex abuse investigation

A Carmel man who works for a hospital that provides inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment services has been arrested for sexually abusing a patient.  New York State Police said in a press release yesterday that 31-year old Dominic Sbordone was arraigned and ordered held without bail. 

 

His arrest Friday stemmed from an investigation into a report that Sbordone, an employee of Four Winds Hospital, had engaged in sexual contact with a 19-year-old patient.  An Order of Protection was issued directing the defendant to refrain from all contact with the victim.

 

The investigation is continuing.  The New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is asking that anyone with information about Sbordone or this investigation contact them by calling (914) 769-2600.

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Bethel Train Station parking lot expansion begins

Construction to expand the Bethel train station parking lot has begun.  Bethel officials say Daily Fare bakery will remain open during construction.  Temporary parking is available for visitors.  The north side of the existing lot is being expanded, and the entire lot will then be repaved.  The project also includes new sidewalk ramps, landscaped islands, and better drainage and lighting.  The proposal included adding eight handicap spaces and a pedestrian pickup/drop off area in front of the station for cars and buses. New sidewalk would be installed along Durant Avenue to close the gap where the existing sidewalk ends.

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Newtown Police search for suspect who stole credit cards from NYA

Newtown Police are searching for a person they say took two credit cards from the Newtown Youth Academy building last month and used them at Danbury Mall.  Police posted surveillance photos form NYA on their Facebook page yesterday asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect.  The person took the cards from the men's locker room on January 23rd.  Newtown Police officials say they are looking to see if the suspect was caught on camera at the mall, and note that the investigation is still active.

 

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Starbucks starts approval process for new Danbury location

A new Starbucks could soon be coming to Danbury.  The coffee chain is eying Berkshire Shopping Center on Newtown Road.  Starbucks is looking to put up a 2,000 square foot building with a drive thru where a former coffee hut structure now stands.  The City Council last night considered approval of a sanitary sewer extension for the area.  The Planning Commission tabled the item at their December meeting because the special exception/site plan was still under review.

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Immigrant students seek access to state financial aid

Immigrant students without legal status rallied behind Connecticut legislation that would make them eligible for financial aid at state schools.  The legislature's higher education committee took testimony Tuesday. 

 

United Autoworkers Union regional director Julie Kushner, whose members include teaching assistants, spoke about the bill's defeat last year.  She said Danbury-based Connecticut Students for a Dream made a compelling case, speaking for hours.  Kushner said she was appalled that too many lawmakers said they believed that if more DREAMERS were eligible to draw on this pot of money, it would take money away from "our kids".

 

Under state law such students already are eligible for in-state tuition.

 

Advocates say the students already pay into the pool of money through tuition, but don't have access to institutional aid.

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Region 12 Board of Ed approves funding for Ag-STEM Academy plans

$532,000 has been approved by the Region 12 Board of Education for some work on an Agriscience-STEM academy at Shepaug Valley School.  The money will pay for architects to get the project shovel ready to present to the state for bond money.  The Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington school district has seen declining enrollment, but this Ag-STEM academy would add more than 100 students from other towns to the school rolls.  The project is estimated to cost $29 million, but the $23 million in requested state bond money is in question because of a large deficit facing Connecticut.  Region 12 has already spent about $370,000 for project plans.

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Brookfield residents approve Four Corners project funding

Brookfield residents have approved bond money for Phase 1 of the Four Corners streetscape project.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says developers have been working with the town in anticipation of this work moving forward.  Dunn says they have a unique chance to build a new town center from scratch, and the town shouldn't squander the opportunity.

 

The referendum question was approved by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

 

Residents reconfirmed the original $250,000 approved in 2014, and an additional $1.7 million to finish this phase of the project.  The total budget for Phase One of the Town District Revitalization Master Plan is $3.5 million.  That includes grants totaling $2.2 million.

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Newtown lawmaker backs bill requiring back seat passengers buckle up

A bill which would require all backseat passengers to buckle up received a public hearing before the legislature's Transportation Committee yesterday.  Newtown Representative Mitch Bolisnky advocated for the bill.  He says having an unrestrained backseat passenger, that increases the chance of death for front seat riders by 20 percent.  While about 89 percent drivers and front passengers use seat belts, Connecticut is 1 of 22 states without a law requiring all backseat passengers to do that same.

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New Milford River Trail Association advocates for state grant funding restoration

Some environmental advocates in New Milford are concerned about a reduction in funding to a state grant program.  The New Milford River Trail Association says the Connecticut Recreation Trails Program was recently de-authorized, leaving about $400,000 of unobligated funding for requests of nearly $10 million.  The Association is calling for funding for the grant program to be restored before the next budget round.

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Danbury blight teams clean up graffiti, send order to suspected junk business

An investigation is underway to find vandals who have been spray painting graffiti around Danbury.  Dumpsters, walls, signs and bridges were recently tagged in the Mill Plain Road area.  Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team members also removed markings from a wall behind a Main Street property along the river, which became more noticeable with the the brush and overgrowth gone. 

 

 

UNIT has it's eye on cleaning up a commercial area to reshape how the property and business owners currently maintain their properties.  Jansen Street, off Shelter Rock Road near the DMV, is experiencing extensive blight conditions and UNIT says it may take longer than usual to see an improvement. 

 

There are vehicles, car parts, scrap metal and bulky garbage items on some properties.  UNIT issued an order for one parcel to eliminate a suspected junk business. 

 

An order has been issued for 9 Jansen Street, which UNIT says is in a deplorable condition.  Inoperable vehicles, discarded furniture, abandoned mobile homes and variety of metal have been accumulating on the vacant property for years.

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Conn. man arrested for kidnapping woman, forcing her to withdraw money at Southbury bank

A Connecticut man who allegedly kidnapped a woman and forced her to withdraw money from her bank account then led police on a high speed chase through Southbury Monday morning.  State Police were called by Chase Bank in Southbury about the incident shortly before 11am.  25-year old Claude Williams was waiting for the woman in his vehicle, but fled when Troopers arrived. 

 

State Police say the pair are known to one another. 

 

The pursuit lasted about 9 minutes and took place on both local roads in Southbury and I-84.  The Waterbury man crashed at the bottom of the Interstate 84 eastbound exit 15 off-ramp.  No injuries were reported after Williams failed to negotiate the right turn and struck the concrete curbing of the center median.

 

Williams was taken into custody without further incident, and was found in possession of narcotics.

 

He is facing charges of reckless driving, engaging police in pursuit, operating with a suspended license, illegal possession of narcotics, larceny, robbery, reckless endangerment, unlawful restraint and kidnapping.

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Personal chef injured in fall down stairs settles lawsuit

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) A personal chef severely injured when he tripped on a plastic runner and fell down the stairs in a Connecticut home has settled his lawsuit for $1.5 million.

David Lambo, of Easton, sued the contractor doing work at the Greenwich home, alleging it had installed dangerous material that made the stairs unsafe, and failed to provide warning signs or cordon off the area.

Lambo's lawyer tells The Greenwich Time the settlement was reached Monday.

The contractor did not return calls for comment.

Lambo said he tumbled head first down the stairs at the home in April 2014, suffering a concussion, torn rotator cuff and herniated discs. The suit said the injuries make it impossible for him to carry boxes of food and kitchen supplies necessary to work as a personal chef.

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Ridgefield Police investigate thefts from cars, two vehicles stolen

In just a few days span, Ridgefield Police received nearly two dozen reports from residents of cars being rummaged through, with some owners reporting items stolen from the vehicles.  There were also two cars stolen during the same time, Friday night through Monday. 

 

Friday night into Saturday, Ridgefield Police received reports from five people along Route 7.  All of their cars were unlocked. 

 

On Saturday afternoon, a Chevy Suburban, with the keys inside, was stolen from the Branchville Train Station.  The vehicle was located Sunday in the West Redding Train Station parking lot. 

 

Yesterday, Ridgefield Police received over a dozen reports of parked vehicles being entered and rummaged through.  This happened on Old Stagecoach Road, Bob Hill Road, Todds Road, Aspen Ledges Drive, Great Hill Road, Douglas Lane, Mountain Road and Lakeview Drive.  All of the incidents happened overnight, and the cars were all unlocked at the time. 

 

Yesterday afternoon police received a report of a Sabb 93 stolen from the driveway of a Lakeview Drive home.  The keys were in it at the time. 

 

Police are reminding residents to lock their cars and remove all valuables.  Any suspicious activity should be reported to the Ridgefield Police Department at 203-438-6531.

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Streetscape project up for referendum in Brookfield

Brookfield residents are at the polls today to vote on bond money for the Four Corners streetscape project.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says they are striving to make the Four Corners a thriving, pedestrian-friendly business district.

 

The referendum is to reconfirm the original $250,000 approved by Brookfield residents in 2014, and an additional $1.7 million to finish this phase of the project.  The total budget for Phase One of the Town District Revitalization Master Plan is $3.5 million.  That includes grants totaling $2.2 million. 

 

If the bonding is approved, construction for Phase I, which includes sidewalks, street lighting, cross walk enhancements and street parking), will begin this spring.

 

Voting is from 6am to 8pm.

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Unique economic development bill proposed in Hartford

A unique idea to spur economic development at restaurants and to revitalize downtowns has been proposed by a Danbury state lawmaker.  City Center Director PJ Prunty testified in Hartford about a piece of legislation he hopes will help draw people to businesses.  It would allow for an automated liquor-dispensing machine in businesses already licensed to sell alcoholic beverages on premises.

 

He called it a progressive idea to spur economic development. He says unique ideas, like the self-pouring machines, can add to the vibrancy of wherever they open and encourage a more social atmosphere through a unique attraction.  Many of the machines have 30 to 60 taps, and he encouraged lawmakers to think of it also as a tasting room.

 

Prunty says there are several companies that install and maintain this type of equipment.  He notes that there are measures in place because the card someone would have to get from a restaurant employee to use the machine has limits.

 

One Committee member asked if restaurants would save on labor costs with these machines. Prunty said bartenders or waiters would still be needed to deliver food, and to vet that someone is of age and acting responsibly. 

 

There was also concern about the possibility that the only one benefitting from this bill is the person making and selling these machines.

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Ridgefield Board of Ed signs off on bus efficiency studies

The Ridgefield Board of Education has hired a consultant to work on making school bus routes more efficient.  At their last meeting, the group approved a total $10,000 allocation to hire Education Logistics for transportation studies.  The Ridgefield Board of Ed hopes that this spending now will lead to savings in the future.

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New traffic light on Church Hill Rd in Newtown

A new traffic light is now functioning in Newtown.  Drivers at the four-way intersection of Church Hill Road, The Boulevard, and the main driveway for The Village at Lexington Gardens had experienced yellow flashing lights for about a week leading up to the traditional signals.  The intersection was also widened to create left turn lanes on Church Hill Road.  There is also a crosswalk and pedestrian signals.  The Newtown Bee reports that the Lexington Gardens developer paid for the new traffic signals.

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Judd Rd in Monroe remains closed for oil spill clean up

A Monroe road closed last week after a tanker truck hit a tree and spilled 1,700 gallons of oil will be closed a few more days.  The clean up continues on Judd Road, off Hattertown Road, near the Easton town line.  Judd Road is expected to be closed until the middle of this week.  Officials say the driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer, and the tree ruptured the oil tank.  The oil company had a plan in place and responded quickly, which environmental officials say helped mitigate the spill.  The site is near the Pootatuck River, but none of the oil made it into the water.

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Death of homeless man in Southeast investigated

A homeless man was found dead in the Town of Southeast on Friday.  Putnam County Sheriff Deputies responded to a wooded area near the Brewster line on a report from the man's acquaintance.  An initial investigation has revealed that the man was believed to be homeless and living in a makeshift encampment in the woods.  There were no immediate indications of foul play.  Authorities suspect that exposure to the cold and elements may have factored in the man’s death.  An autopsy was ordered to determine the cause of death.  The man is believed to be about 40 years old.  His name is being withheld, pending verification of his identity and notification of his next of kin.

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'Starts with Hello' Week kicks off today

This is "Start With Hello Week".  It's a program developed by Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  One of the creators is Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed on 12-14.

 

Students who feel lonely, ignored or invisible at school are at an increased risk of becoming victims of bullying and depression or even harm themselves or others.

 

That's why Sandy Hook Promise created the no-cost Start With Hello program.  It teaches students in grades 2 through 12 the skills to reach out to those dealing with social isolation and help prevent violence before it happens.  Start With Hello helps raise awareness about social isolation and empowers students to reach out, say hello and create a culture of inclusion and kindness around them. 

 

Sandy Hook Promise provided all the materials needed to participate in the program, including the training.  The organization's goal is to bring the lifesaving program to 2,500 schools or youth organizations across the country.

 

With so many kids on social media, Barden says it's more important than ever to foster community connections.

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Danbury School Superintendent testified about state budget cuts

Mid-year state budget cuts to schools was discussed by Danbury School Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella in Hartford Thursday night.  He co-chairs the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents.  CAUS is made up of 21 urban school superintendents, serving 200,000 students.  Pascarella was among those testifying about legislative priorities.  He says catastrophic results will come from these cuts.

 

Pascarella is concerned that mid-year budget cuts could be indicative of additional similar cuts to come. He says a large portion of Danbury's students have greater learning needs than their suburban peers, and it takes additional funds to ensure their needs are met.

 

Pascarella is also calling for a new school funding formula that takes in account the specific challenges of urban school districts. Pascarella testified in 2015 on behalf of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding after the state slashed funding to the Danbury schools. The court ruled, in part, that the state did not fulfill its duty with respect to struggling school schools and in distributing education aid.

 

Pascarella says they have serious concerns that the state will fail to provide appropriate resources, in fact they already have.  Two days after Christmas, mid-year cuts were announced.  He says the timing was damaging.  He noted that a lot of urban students come in with greater learning needs and it takes additional funds to meet those needs.  He notes that's why Alliance District Program was created 5 years ago.  Pascarella says people are walking away from their responsibility.  He called for equity and access, saying sustainability in best practice programs is missing when these types of cuts are made.

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New Milford Police search for liquor store burglary suspects

New Milford Police are asking for the public's help in solving a recent burglary.  New Milford Police officers responded to The Country Package Store around 5:30am Tuesday for a reported burglary.  Police posted pictures from surveillance photos to their Facebook page saying the suspects smashed a window to gain entry and steal liquor. 

 

 

The vehicle that the subjects used was parked adjacent to George Washington Plaza on the edge of Route 7.  Anyone who has any information about the vehicle or the subjects is asked to contact Officer Tozzi at 860-355-3133 or call the anonymous TIPS Line at 860-355-2000 or email/text TIPS@newmilfordpolice.org.

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Ridgefield lawmaker wants to make changes to pensions for state employees

Ridgefield State Representative John Frey wants to change how state employee pensions are calculated.  He says they should be based only on stated income, just like most other private sector workers.  Frey doesn't want longevity pay, mileage reimbursements and overtime pay be counted toward pension calculations. 

 

Pensions are currently calculated based on the three years state employees made the most income total.

 

He has also introduced a bill to eliminate state pensions for elected officials in Connecticut.  He says it doesn't make sense for the part-time employees to participate in a pension program.  Frey added that it also makes no sense for their years of service in the legislature to count towards a pension if they eventually go on to hold a full-time state job. 

 

This bill is unlikely to be popular among some of his colleagues, but Frey says it's the right thing to do.  He notes that this would help relieve Connecticut of a massive burden to its state budget by addressing the massive costs of state employee pensions without raising taxes.

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Man charged for failing to update address for CT sex offender registry

A Connecticut man has been charged with violating conditions of the state's sex offender registry .  39-year old Ivan Butts was placed on the registry after being convicted in 2007 of trying to entice a Newtown teen through a website to have sex with him.  Authorities say the Stratford man failed to provide sex offender address verification on a monthly basis.  He was charged Wednesday and released for a future court appearance.  Police say Butts tried to arrange a meeting with the Newtown teen, sending her a nude photograph of himself.  Butts was sentenced on the original charge to 20 months in prison followed by 10 years probation.

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Unsealed affidavit reveals new details in Bridgewater home invasion case

An affidavit has been unsealed detailing what led to the August Bridgewater home invasion and wounding of the homeowner.  20-year old Dustin Holst-Grubbe of New York had been released from addiction crisis center August 3rd and stole a BMW.  Court documents revealed that he drove to Waterbury and exchanged the car for crack cocaine.  He reportedly had the keys for another stolen vehicle, which he picked up with the two drug dealers who offered him more drugs. 

 

The dealers drove back to Waterbury in the BMW while Holst-Grubbe headed down Route 7 in New Milford in the stolen Subaru.  New Milford Police started a pursuit, but gave up when they topped more than 100 miles per hour. 

 

The newly release affidavit shows that the Subaru died in Bridgewater, where Holst-Grubbe saw an unlocked garage.  While trying to get the keys, he shot homeowner Victor Compe in the shoulder with the man's own shotgun.  The affidavit says Holst-Grubbe thought he killed Compe, hid in a greenhouse, and did hits of crack cocaine.  He then found a van with keys in the ignition and drove to Waterbury, where he tried to trade the van for more drugs. 

 

One of the dealers allegedly threatened to kill him because of how the incident played out. 

 

Holst-Grubbe is due in court Tuesday on 18 criminal charges.

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Danbury makes strides in reducing chronic homelessness

A collaboration between the City of Danbury and the Danbury Housing Partnership made significant strides to end chronic homelessness last year.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the Partnership managed successful outcomes through a collaborative process that included the active participation of more than 30 local and regional partners and stakeholders, including nonprofit organizations, government agencies, advocates, and representatives from the business and faith communities.

 

Since a strategic plan to end homelessness was developed in 2014, Danbury has increased its affordable housing portfolio by 50 units.  During this time period, the Association of Religious Communities housed 100 families and individuals.  The plan identifies three strategic goals: increased income & economic security, improved health & effective use of health services, and increased supply of supportive housing.

 

Health and Housing Department Director Scott LeRoy says they must not only help people get a home, but help them stay in their home.

 

A Community Care Team, created through the Danbury Hospital and 40 community organizations, has developed care plans for more than 110 greater Danbury residents aged 22-83 that are chronically homeless and suffering from a disability.

 

The Greater Danbury Continuum of Care is providing services to people who are homeless or facing threat of homelessness. Last year, the consortium of private, non-profit, and public agencies housed 30 new-housing chronically homeless families.  The Housing Authority was also able to leverage Federal, State and City funds to acquire 12 permanent housing units in the City.

 

Boughton says all of these efforts have resulted in a 29% reduction of required services to homeless from 2015 to 2016.

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Lake preservation bill gets public hearing in Hartford

A lake preservation bill is up for a public hearing today at the state capitol.  The bill, proposed by Brookfield state Representative Stephen Harding, asks that Connecticut lake authorities receive financial assistance to fund efforts for combatting invasive plant and animal species.  Harding says this bill would benefit both Candlewood and Lillinonah. 

 

The Environment Committee will accept public comment on this bill to distribute the funds from the Community Investment Account.  The account already funds grants to lake authorities to maintain water quality and native species of aquatic flora and fauna.

 

Those unable to attend today's hearing can submit written written testimony about bill #5503 in PDF or Word format via email.  Harding asks that the testimony be sent to both ENVtestimony@cga.ct.gov and Stephen.Harding@housegop.ct.gov so that he receives a copy directly.

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Danbury students talk with astronaut on International Space Station

Some Danbury students had an out of this world experience Thursday.  20 students from two schools talked live with Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a West Point graduate who served in Iraq before becoming a scientists, who is orbiting the earth on board the International Space Station. 

 

50 organizations around the world, including professionals, are selected each year to participate in this opportunity. Westside Middle School Academy was 1 of the 10 groups from the United States to be selected for this round of contact with the International Space Station. Some of the students will now go on to get their HAM radio licenses.

 

 

NASA and the Amateur Radio on the ISS coordinated this rare opportunity for Westside Middle School Academy and South Street Primary School.  The students wrote their own questions about experiments done in space, personal needs, mental health issues and what happens if there's an emergency. NASA had to vet the questions three weeks in advance of Thursday's event.  The ISS was traveling more than 17,000 miles per hour, and connected through an amateur radio ground station in Belgium. 

 

Students in the rest of the school listened in from their classrooms.

 

Danbury parent, Gary Dahlstrom, made the proposal to NASA and worked with Westside teacher Jon Neuhausel to coordinate the event.  Neuhausel is the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Theme Coach.  Neuhausel says the students studied robotics, the future of space exploration and the uses for HAM radio in every day life to prepare for the talk with Kimbrough.

 

ARISS is an arm of the Amateur Radio Relay League, which is the governing body of ham radio operators in the U.S., and is the standard method of radio communication in space.

 

Some of their questions included:

What types of microorganisms are dangerous in space?
What type of medical testing is required of an astronaut to be fit for duty?
How are you able to get the internet in space and send information back and forth to Earth?
How do you handle medical emergencies?

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Rule on guns and mentally ill people faces a GOP rollback

A local lawmaker is weighing in on a rule aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of some mentally disabled people on its way to being scrapped by Congress.  Under the rule, the Social Security Administration must provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work or handle their own benefit checks. 

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty denounced the vote in the U.S. House.  The rule was put into place near the end of the Obama administration.

 

Republican lawmakers and gun advocates criticize the regulation for reinforcing a negative stereotype that people with a mental disorder are dangerous.

 

Esty says instead of a bipartisan process that balanced both public safety and the rights of individuals with disabilities, the House charged ahead with a hastily written, one-sided measure that would make people less safe.  Esty says the only winners are the gun lobby and those opposed to bipartisan efforts to forge consensus and solve gun violence.

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NY man damages cars, violates protective order

A North Salem man has been arrested for damaging two vehicles parked at a Peach Lake Drive home.  New York State Police Troopers responded to the house on a reported domestic dispute on Monday.  The victim told Troopers that 29-year old Matthew Hagan damaged the cars.  He was charged with both a felony and misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief.  Hagan was also charged with felony criminal contempt for violating a court order of protection banning him from having contact with the protected party.  He was arraigned and ordered held at Westchester County Jail.  He is due to appear in North Salem Court at a later date and time.

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Ridgefield Police announce dates for next Citizen Police Academy

The Ridgefield Police Department is taking applications for their Citizen Police Academy. 

 

The educational seminars are aimed at giving residents insight into how the police department works.  Crime Scene Investigation, Firearms, TASER, Speed Enforcement, D.U.I. Enforcement, Search and Seizure and Department History are some of the aspects of police work that will be taught at the Ridgefield Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy. 

 

The Academy will begin March 28 and meet every Tuesday from 6 pm to 9 pm, for 8 weeks. Classes will be held at police headquarters located on East Ridge Rd. 

 

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and should live or work in Ridgefield. Applications can be found on the town’s website at www.ridgefieldct.org.

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Wilton Police Commission names new Department Chief

Wilton Police have named a new Chief.  Captain John Lynch will be promoted to Chief of Police when  Chief Robert Crosby retires this Spring.  Lynch has been a Wilton police officer since 1985, climbed the ranks, and has been the Executive Officer for the department since Chief Crosby's tenure.  The Wilton Police Commission says Lynch will be sworn in as Chief of Police in April.

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State bond funding approved for Danbury, Redding

Redding and Danbury are among the municipalities receiving state funding for various projects.  The Bond Commission met yesterday. 

 

11 police departments, including Redding, will be reimbursed for the purchase of body cameras and video storage devices.  Redding was approved to receive $28,830. 

 

The Danbury Housing Authority will receive $2.1 million for renovations to the Fairfield Ridge apartments.  58 units will be rehabilitated.  State Representative Bob Godfrey says this is a step in the right direction to make sure the public housing development can serve working families for years to come. 

 

Fairfield Ridge was Danbury’s first public housing project, built after World War II. The bonding will provide for substantial renovations to the interior of apartment units.  The moderate-rent apartment rehabilitation is being done as part of Connecticut’s State-Sponsored Housing Portfolio Revitalization Initiative.

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Bill to expand train service to New Milford gets hearing in Hartford

A bill about expanding train service north to New Milford has been discussed by the legislature's Transportation Committee.  The bill was introduced by freshman Republican Representative Bill Buckbee.

 

New Milford resident Bill Devlin, an intrastate rail commuter, says the infrastructure is there, because of freight rail service.

 

Train service would not only link lower Litchfield County residents to New York City, but to the stops along the way.  He notes that many residents hold jobs in Fairfield County and already use trains to get to those jobs.  He would drive to Bethel to catch the train when he worked as a Darien High School teacher, switching at South Norwalk.

 

The train enabled him to keep his job by giving him a one hour commute in each direction to get work done.

 

He says historically where a train line has a stop, a cluster of small businesses pop up around the station.  Devlin also pointed out that a New Milford train stop would be in the position of potentially serving weekenders who are going up to towns north of there.  He also noted that train service would benefit parents, students and teachers at Canterbury School and other private schools in the region.

 

Devlin says there are disincentives to train travel in Connecticut, but nothing that can't be overcome.  He specifically mentioned parking issues, train schedules based on New York City commuter needs, aging equipment and service interruptions due to bad weather.

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Regional planning agency surveys businesses to better serve their needs

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments has created a survey to assess the business climate in the region. They are particularly interested in the barriers businesses in the region face and what can be improved to help businesses.  The survey takes about 15 minutes to finish.

 

WestCOG will hold a series of focus group meetings to further the conversation.

 

Responses from the survey and the focus groups will be used in the creation of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.  The strategy will facilitate continued economic development in the region for the next five years.  The mayors and first selectmen of the WestCOG communities want to also include businesses in the planning process.

 

WestCOG serves Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Sherman, Stamford, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

 

The survey can be accessed in English.  A version can also be accessed in Spanish.

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Ridgefield students shelter in place as police search for suspect wanted in NY

Ridgefield Police helped search for a 22-year old man yesterday who was in a dispute in Bedford, New York and was tracked to Ridgefield school property.  Around 1:30pm, Scotts Ridge Middle School and Ridgefield High School students were told to shelter in place as police searched the area. 

 

The man's car was found abandoned on O'Neil Court.  The suspect was found around 2:30pm on Craigmoor Road.  He was transported to Danbury Hospital for medical attention. 

 

Bedford Police continued the investigation from there.  The man had been involved in a domestic incident.

 

Ridgefield Police say there was no threat of violence to students and staff, but the department felt a shelter in place order was necessary because of the police activity on school grounds.

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Shelter Rock rearranges classrooms to accommodate growing student population

Some Danbury elementary school teachers moved into new portable classrooms over the weekend.  Shelter Rock School 4th graders moved into four new portables while 2nd grade teachers moved into the newly empty classrooms .  The second-grade classes were doubled up in one classroom – with 43 students in one room with two teachers. Now there are groups of 21 and 22 students, each in its own classroom.  Danbury School officials say enrollment at Shelter Rock School grew by about 550 students over the past few years, and despite five new classrooms being added two years ago, more space was needed this year.  The portables are connected to the school building through an enclosed hallway off the gym.

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Hit and run driver in New Milford identified by police

New Milford Police thanked the public for helping to catch suspects wanted for a hit-and-run accident.  Police said yesterday that 19-year old Tory Sullivan of Danbury was charged with evading responsibility for a crash at the Connecticut Sports Arena.  Sullivan was released on a written promise to appear in Bantam Superior Court on Friday.

 

 

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North East, NY man charged with sexual assault

Sexual assault charges have been brought against a New York man.  State Police started an investigation into a report that 21-year old Kristian Murtagh of the Town of North East, on the Connecticut border, had engaged in sexual contact with a 16-year-old student of that town.  He was a volunteer coach at the  High School in the Town of North East.  Murtagh was arraigned Monday on 2 sex abuse charges and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.  He was released on a promise to appear in court on the 28th.  A protection order was also issued by the judge ordering him to refrain from all contact with the victim and the school.

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City official reacts to Danbury Police Officer's arrest

Unnecessary force used on a handcuffed suspect has led to a breach of peace charge being filed against a  Danbury Police Officer.  Officer David Williams, a 15-year veteran of the department, turned himself in after learning there was a warrant for his arrest in connection to the July incident.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the Danbury Police Department holds every officer to the highest standards and City officials take these allegations seriously.

 

Boughton says 99.9-percent of the Department is doing the right thing for residents, and from time to time and officer does stray.

 

The suspect, Pierre Elhayek had been arrested for ambushing and violently assaulting Officer Joe Pooler. 

 

Boughton notes that tensions were running high and the officers were understandably upset.  He said Williams unfortunately took matters into his own hands, which he shouldn't have done.  Boughton says that's why there is a criminal justice system.

 

The suspect was not injured and did not file a complaint.

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260 gallons of oil recovered from ground water at Monroe accident site

About 260 gallons of home heating oil was recovered from ground water in Monroe.  The fuel spilled after a tanker truck went off Judd Road and struck a tree, which ruptured the tank.  Part of Judd Road in Monroe between Hattertown Road and the Easton town line is expected to be closed until the area is restored. 

 

(Photos: DEEP)

 

Crews working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection dug a ditch to protect the Pootatuck River.  DEEP says no oil migrated to the interceptor trench.  The excavation produced approximately 140 cubic yards of contaminated soil. 

 

 

Samples from nearby drinking wells were collected yesterday and monitoring wells were installed to further monitor well water quality.

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Lawmaker wants General Assembly to control rail fare changes, not DOT

Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle has introduced a bill that would give final say over Metro North fare increases to the General Assembly.  There was an unpopular 6-percent increase last year, approved by the state Department of Transportation, despite hundreds who spoke out in opposition to the increase during public hearings.  During a Transportation Committee meeting on Monday, Lavielle says it's distressing when fares go up and up, but the DOT is controlling all of the decisions.  Thousands of petition signatures were submitted last year against the 6-percent hike.  Lavielle says fare increases are taken into the DOT general budget and do not directly benefit Metro-North service.

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Businessman wants to turn New Milford into an entrepreneurial hub

A new concept in office space recently opened in New Milford.

 

Local businessman Tony Vengrove created Makery Coworking, where he says “makers, creators and entrepreneurs” will be able to rent space for anywhere from a day to a year. 

 

The two-story, 5,000 square-foot space at 20 Bank Street is meant to attract entrepreneurs, freelancers and other creative types who have been working out of their homes but who understand the benefit of being around a diverse group of business people. They might also need a more professional space to meet a client.

 

The building was outfitted to offer small rooms for private phone conversations, a conference room for large groups, and collections of tables and sofas where collaborative conversations can take place.

 

Vengrove says the value of coworking is what drives his business model.  He wants to turn New Milford into an entrepreneurial hub in Litchfield County, and help attract other startup businesses to the greater New Milford area.

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Conn. Congressional delegation weighs in on SCOTUS nominee

4th District Congressman Jim Himes is taking a hard line on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee.  Himes said fairness demands that the Senate not confirm Judge Gorsuch unless he is as qualified and as moderate a jurist as Judge Merrick Garland. 

 

He added that Garland, by any standard of decency, should occupy this Supreme Court seat.  Himes took his colleagues on the other side of the aisle to task in a written statement saying that their cynical and unprecedented ploy denied President Obama his constitutional right to appoint a Justice.

 

Connecticut's two U.S. Senators say they want to carefully study President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. 

 

Senator Chris Murphy says he wants a Justice who is not an ideological partisan.  He added that he will make his decision based on whether Gorsuch meets the straightforward expectation that he will fairly interpret the law, uphold the Constitution, and keep politics out of the courtroom. 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal says Congress should strive to insulate the Court from partisan politics.  He will support a hearing and a vote, but if he concludes that Gorsuch is out of the mainstream, Blumenthal says he will pursue every legal tool available to block his nomination.

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Hit and run driver on I-84 found, charged with DWI

A man wanted for a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 84 was later found and charged with driving while intoxicated.  New York State Police Troopers monitoring traffic Monday night searched for the suspect vehicle and saw one matching the description speeding more than 85 miles an hour.  The driver, later identified as 24-year old Alexander King of Southeast, was intoxicated.  The accident happened when King drove aggressively and started tailgating another driver.  King hit the back of the other man's car and fled.  He was ordered to appear in court on the 9th.

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