Local Headlines

New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department to purchase new boat

The New Fairfield Board of Finance has approved the purchase of a new boat for the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department. Replacement of Marine 1 had been planned for later, but an agreement was made to donate the old boat to the Candlewood Lake Authority. 

$106,250 from town contributions to the fire department’s apparatus reserve fund will be used, with the Fire Department footing the balance, about $39,000. 

Ball Pond Volunteer Fire Company 1st Lt Chris Gardner says the current boat, which was gifted to the police department before being donated to the fire department, is useful for getting on the lake and transporting personnel and equipment.  But he says it's not practical for rescues.  The new boat will allow on-the-water medical attention to be provided while transporting patients back to land. 

New Fairfield responds to the most lake-related calls of all the five surrounding towns.

Three bids were submitted, but two were over budget and the boat was too big.  Connor Industries, also known as Stanley Boats, was selected.  The new Marine 1 will have a roll-up door, lighting and other equipment. 

Gardner says COVID-related supply chain problems drove prices up 15 to 20 percent, and there's a long wait.

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Danbury COVID-19 case rates start to decline

Danbury has reported 2,450 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks.  The case rate as of January 15th is 206.6, down from 241.8 per 100,000 population last week.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 34.9 percent, about equal to last week. 

All but one of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the red zone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Just Canaan again is not showing 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks.  That town is in the grey with fewer than 5 cases.  

According to data, COVID-19 test positivity rates across the Greater Danbury area remain about the same as the previous week.  The latest data is for the two weeks ending January 15th.  Officials expect the test positivity rate to decline starting in next week's report, in part because of at-home test kits being more widely available and in part because of the sharp fall off of Omicron variant infections. 

The COVID-19 case rates in the Greater Danbury area have started to drop in this week's reporting period, though they are still elevated compared to previous waves of the pandemic.

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Danbury opens several Warming Centers

Danbury has opened several Warming Centers as the temperatures plunge back into single digits.  The shelter at New Street is open today and tomorrow 8am to 6pm.  The War Memorial is open today until 10pm, tomorrow 7am to 10pm and Sunday 7am to 5pm.  Danbury Library is open 10am to 5pm today, and 10 to 2 tomorrow.  Anyone in need of shelter is urged to call 2-1-1 to get connected to these services. Safety measures have been enacted at shelters throughout the state to adhere to the needs of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Governor Lamont extended Connecticut’s Severe Cold Weather Protocol  through noon on Wednesday.

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Danbury to host virtual workshop about housing affordability

The City of Danbury is hosting a virtual workshop about housing affordability.  The City is in the process of preparing an Affordable Housing Plan and want community input in developing policies that will guide Danbury in meeting the affordable housing needs.  Residents are urged to attend the virtual workshop on Monday via Zoom from 6pm to 8pm to discuss thoughts and concerns.  City residents can also weigh in by taking an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DanburyAHP

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Supply chain issues delay completion of New Milford Library

Supply chain disruptions that have been sweeping the country have had a serious effect on the timing of the New Milford Library building project. Mayor Pete Bass says despite the fact that crews are working hard every day and much progress has been made, the originally planned completion date at the end of January can no longer be achieved.  The anticipated date of project completion will now be June.  As the summer approaches, Bass says he and the Library Board of Trustees will be sharing official information on an opening date and events as the project progresses. The library continues to operate in a hybrid model.

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Conn. finds new lab partners for COVID-19 testing in Danbury, Kent

State officials say they have found replacements for the lab company that handles most of Connecticut’s state-run coronavirus testing, including the sites in Danbury at Pat Waldron Hall and at the Kent Transfer Station.  Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Josh Geballe says some final details are being worked out. SEMA4 processes tests from 16 of the roughly two dozen state sites.  The Stamford-based company told investors and state officials last month that it would stop COVID-19 testing in mid-January and return its focus to genomic testing, its core business. Sema4 later agreed to continue the coronavirus testing through the end of this month.

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Flag flown over Bethel Fire Dept. headed to the Olympics

Bethel Fire & EMS, along with the help of the Bethel Police Department, say they had the unique honor of flying an American Flag that will be heading to Beijing with Team USA.  This flag was one of four taking part in a special relay, flying above first responder agencies in 19 states.  The flag is now on its way to meet up with the Olympic athletes of USA Bobsled & Skeleton.  Should Team USA win, the flag will be raised on the podium next month.

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Sledding behind New Fairfield High School banned due to construction

Due to construction activity behind New Fairfield High School, effective immediately, there will be no sledding or other recreational activity allowed in that area. The work itself and the location of construction equipment pose a safety hazard to those in the area. New Fairfield officials expect the work to be completed within the next 3 weeks.  New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is offering some reminders about ice safety.  They caution that the strength of ice cannot be determined just by its appearance, age, thickness, or the temperature.  New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly-formed ice may support one person, while a foot or more of old, partially-thawed ice may not.  Ice also seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.

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Sherman firefighters call for driveways, sidewalks to be cleared

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department is calling on residents to make sure driveways and walkways are cleared after the storm, and check with neighbors to see if they need help.  With winter finally here, fire officials says getting access to driveways and houses has been difficult in the past week due to ice and snow. This can cause safety issues for EMS crew and patients, as well as time delays in emergent transports.

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Chimney fire in Brookfield extinguished

A chimney fire in Brookfield was quickly extinguished last night.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to Shores Hill Road and doused the fire.  Residents are being reminded to clean chimneys before use, annually at a minimum, and have a dry chem extinguisher on hand in case a fire in the chimney does occur.

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Newtown investigating robbery

The Newtown Police Detective Bureau is looking for help in locating a vehicle involved in a robbery.  The crime happened in the area of Huntingtown Road between midnight and 5am yesterday.  The vehicle is described as a champagne or gold colored 2 door sedan.  The vehicle was occupied by two individuals, a Hispanic male with dark colored hair and a white male with red hair and a long red beard.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Harold at 203 270-4255.

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Candlewood Lake Authority issues warning about ice safety

The Candlewood Lake Authority is cautioning residents that ice is never completely safe.  When the water level underneath a layer of ice changes, it can destabilize the ice and present a hazard.  The annual drawdown is underway and FirstLight expects the level to continue to fall in the coming weeks. 

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Public hearing held in Danbury on selling City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury

A public hearing has been held in Danbury on plans to sell a City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury.  The City Council is looking to put 3 Post Office Street, the former Tuxedo Junction building, back on the tax rolls.  

Only three people spoke during the hearing.  Mayor Dean Esposito backs the plans.  Developer Joe DaSilva says he wanted to purchase the former nightclub when the City did to ensure it would never be another nightclub.  He supports the bank's plans as it will not be detrimental to the quality of life of residents in his nearby apartment building.  Another neighboring property owner also spoke in support. 

Savings Bank of Danbury wants to construct a 35,000 square foot office building at the corner of Main and White Streets by demolishing the former nightclub and the former Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Escape to the Arts facility.  The new building would house the bank’s non-branch, back office operations. 

3 Post Office Street, which has been vacant since 2015, was purchased by the City in 2017 for $395,000. According to Vision Appraisal, it's worth $606,000. Negotiations on the sale price are expected after an official appraisal is completed.

Councilman Ben Chianese opposed the sale, but supports the corner of White and Main Streets being developed by Savings Bank of Danbury. He wants the City to put the municipally-owned parcel out to bid again.  But Danbury officials say the building has fallen into disrepair since the City took ownership and needs $600,000 to $1 million worth of work in order for it to be occupied by a tenant. 

Former Mayor Mark Boughton is providing free consulting services to Savings Bank of Danbury.

Savings Bank of Danbury will continue to use its location at 220 Main Street as its headquarters. CEO Martin Morgado says the new location will enable them to consolidate operations and provide dynamic meeting space and operations facilities.  Morgado hopes to gain all necessary approvals and have the new building opened by the end of 2023. 

Savings Bank of Danbury is the oldest continuously operating business in the City, dating back to 1849. The last significant building project in Danbury for the bank was in 1999 with the construction of their location at 35 West Street. At that time, the Bank had 65 employees and $362 million in assets. Today, Savings Bank of Danbury has over 200 employees and $1.4 billion in assets.

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Kent seeks input on spending federal pandemic relief dollars

The Town of Kent was awarded over $800,000 in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide residents, businesses, and community organizations with financial help to recover from the impact of the COVID19 pandemic. The Kent Board of Selectmen created the ARPA Needs Assessment Committee to conduct a community needs assessment and make recommendations on the potential uses.  The committee is asking residents to weigh in, by taking an online survey, on the best way to spend the money. 

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DEEP investigating illegal shooting of red-tailed hawk in Oxford

State Environmental Conservation Police are investigating the illegal shooting of a red-tailed hawk in Oxford.  The bird was observed to be impaled with an arrow in the vicinity of Thorson  Road and North Mark Drive in late December.  The hawk was successfully captured and is being treated by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who also found embedded BBs and an air rifle pellet.  Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Environmental Conservation Police 24-hour tip line at 860-424-3333.  Under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to take, injure, or harass any bird of prey. Property owners may not kill birds of prey in defense of livestock without proper permission.

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Candlewood Lake drawdown underway

The annual Candlewood Lake drawdown has started following some repairs at the generating station. As of yesterday morning, the lake has dropped roughly 2 to 3 feet, and FirstLight expects the level to continue to fall in the coming weeks.  This year is an intermediate drawdown, in-between the normal shallow and deep patterns of past drawdowns.  The level will likely drop an additional 3.5 to 5.5 feet.

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WCSU Spring semester starts, boosters recommended

Today was the first day of the West Conn Spring semester.  Classes are being held in person.  Boosters are highly recommended for all those eligible, but are not being required.  Proof of that vaccination must be filed with West Conn Health Services online, though students who were fully vaccinated last semester, and turned in their paperwork, do not need to re-submit their information.  Students with exemptions will be required to wear masks, socially distance on campus, and submit the results of weekly COVID-19 PCR tests to Health Services.  Weekly PCR testing will begin on campus next week.

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Founding principal of Danbury's ACE has die

The founding principal of Danbury’s alternative high school, the Alternative Center for Excellence, has died.  Joe Pepin passed away January 14th at age 85.  He also taught math, and was named Teacher of the Year in 1996.  Pepin served on community groups, including Danbury Common Council, Exchange Club of Danbury, Catholic War Veterans Post and Beaver Brook Volunteer Fire Company, among others. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He will be laid to rest today.  ACE was created after the race riots at Danbury High School in the 1970s to better support the individual needs of students who face challenges or trauma that prevents them from succeeding at the traditional high school. The school opened in 1977.

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School budget hearings in New Milford started

A series of budget hearings has started in New Milford.  School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo is seeking a 3.58 percent increase over this year's budget, for a total of $68.2 million.  The budgets for grades K through 5 were discussed last night.  6th through 12th will be heard at 7 o'clock tonight via Zoom.  A district-wide budget discussion will be held on Tuesday.  The New Milford Board of Education plans to adopt a budget at their meeting a week from tonight.  The proposal will then be sent to the New Milford Town Council.  DiCorpo is proposing a 6 percent increase in professional services, which includes legal, technological, curriculum development, medical, and substitute services.  A 6.5 percent increase has been proposed in other services, including transportation and communications.

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Danbury COVID-19 test site sees significant drop in attendees

There's been a significant decrease in the number of people looking for free COVID-19 testing in Danbury at the state-sponsored site.  Testing this week moved back to the Pat Waldron building on Memorial Drive.  700 PCR tests are available each day.  Testing during the week is done from 3pm to 7pm and on weekends from 9am to 3pm. 

There's a new traffic pattern, and police are guiding cars to the site.  Electronic portable signs will also be used to alert motorists if testing capacity has been reached before the scheduled closing time. 

Health Director Kara Prunty says they were doing 700 to 800 tests a day around the holidays, but it's since dropped to about 100 to 200 tests daily. 

SEMA4 is only running testing through the end of the month.  State officials are still working to replace the lab company, but don't anticipate any sites shutting down.  

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Danbury man arrested on variety of drug offenses

A Danbury man has been arrested for a variety of drug offenses.  An investigation was launched into multiple neighbor complaints about 24-year old Anthony "Pablo" Abrahams selling illicit drugs throughout the City.  Police say he was seen on many occasions meeting with suspected drug buyers. 

Search warrants were granted by the courts and carried out yesterday evening at his Morton Street home. 

Abrahams was stopped after parking in a private parking lot located several miles away. He briefly resisted, but was taken into custody.  Abrahams was found in possession of a substantial quantity of narcotics packaged for sale.  At his house, police found several ounces of crack cocaine and fentanyl, drug paraphernalia and several thousand dollars cash.

Abrahams was charged with two counts each of possession of a controlled substance and with intent to sell.  He was also charged with risk of injury to a child and possession of drug paraphernalia.  He held on $250,000 bond.

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Hearing tonight on Danbury's plan to sell city-owned former Tuxedo Junction building

A public hearing is being held tonight in Danbury on plans to sell a City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury.  The City Council is looking to put 3 Post Office Street, the former Tuxedo Junction building, back on the Grand List.  Tonight's hearing is at 7pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.  Savings Bank of Danbury wants to construct a 35,000 square foot office building at the corner of Main and White Streets by demolishing the former nightclub and the former Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Escape to the Arts facility.  The new building would house the bank’s non-branch, back office operations.  3 Post Office Street, which has been vacant since 2015, was purchased by the City in 2017 for $395,000. According to Vision Appraisal, it's worth $606,000. Negotiations on the sale price are expected after an official appraisal is completed.

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Newtown Charter Revision Commission recommends Board of Finance be eliminated

The Newtown Charter Revision Commission is recommending that the Board of Finance be eliminated.  Initial discussions were that Finance become an appointed advisory board, but members were divided.  There was a larger consensus around eliminating the board. 

A Charter Revision Commission member, who is a former Legislative Councilman, noted that the Council, as the town’s fiscal authority, can ignore the Board of Finance and often does.  A bipartisan financial advisory board could be set up by the Legislative Council if the proposed revision is approved. 

The Commission's next meeting will be virtual and is set for Monday at 7pm. 

The Board of Finance was the town’s original fiscal authority and eliminated in 1975 with the creation of the Legislative Council. It was re-created as a fiscal authority in the 2001 Charter revision, with changes to some of the duties of the Legislative Council so that they did not conflict or overlap. 

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said during a Board of Finance meeting recently that the Board should set financial policy in town, such as debt service and budget growth, and it should have teeth in setting that policy, with the council needing a supermajority to override those policy decisions.  But he says the Board of Finance should not be involved in budget transfers or even in the budget process.

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Federal Gov't. making COVID-19 tests, masks available for free

The COVID-19 numbers have continued to rise throughout Connecticut. The average daily case rate in Redding has jumped over the last 4 weeks from 30 cases per 100,000 population to 143.  The test positivity rate in Redding increased during the last 4 weeks from 6.9 percent to 26.1 percent. 

Health Officer Doug Hartline says getting fully vaccinated, masking, distancing, and staying home when sick is imperative. 

The public can begin ordering free home-test kits through a new government website.  Orders at https://www.covidtests.gov/ are limited to 4 per residential address. Tests will ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

People with private insurance will also be able to get over-the-counter tests reimbursed when purchased at pharmacies or retailers. There’s a limit of 8 tests a month per individual.

The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week. The step comes after federal officials emphasized the masks' better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings. The White House said Wednesday the masks will come from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. The White House says the masks will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week.

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Putnam County modifies COVID-19 testing schedule

Putnam County has modified their COVID-19 testing schedule.  The Carmel location, at the Paladin Center, is now open 7 days a week from 9am to 7pm.  This is for Putnam County residents only and appointments are required.  Putnam County vaccination clinics are being held at the former Dressbarn in Putnam Plaza in Carmel.  Moderna and Pfizer boosters are being provided, as well as first and second dose pediatric Pfizer vaccines for kids 5 to 11.  This service is also by appointment only.  No walk-ins will be accepted.

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