Local Headlines

Appliance cord suspected of igniting cardboard box in Bethel Middle School fire

Bethel Middle School reopened today, a day after because closed due to a weekend fire in a custodial storage room.  District officials say they next have to figure out when the last day of class will be for middle schoolers.  The decision will be made within the week. 

The Fire Inspector determined that a cord to an appliance may have overheated, igniting a cardboard box. The sprinkler system was activated, which kept the damage to a minimum.  The flames and water damaged two electrical panels, which are being repaired. 

School officials thanked  volunteer firefighters and the Fire Marshall for their quick responses.  

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Annual Brookfield Strawberry Festival to benefit Brookfield Museum coming up

The Annual Brookfield Strawberry Festival will take place on Sunday, May 26th outside the Brookfield Museum at the intersection of Routes 25 and 133.  The Memorial Day parade ends near the museum parking lot where strawberry shortcake and soft drinks will be sold to support future public programs of the Society.  The Billy Michaels’ Jazz for Juniors band will be in the park behind the Historical Society building.  A display of antique and vintage automobiles will also featured in the parking lot.  The event is from 12:30 to 3PM.

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Vacancies on Newtown Commissions need filling

There are some openings on local boards and commissions in Newtown.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal is looking for residents to volunteer to fill a vacancy on the Public Building & Site Commission.  The alternate position is available to a Republican or an unaffiliated voter.  The Commission on Aging has an alternate position available to a Democrat or unaffiliated voter.  Candidate recommendations are due by June 3.

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Local lawmaker critical of minimum wage increase bill

A local lawmaker is critical of the minimum wage bill headed to the Governor's desk.  Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says there will be significant negative effects on small and mid-sized businesses, municipalities and nonprofits.  He says raising people out of poverty through a livable wage is a noble goal, but forcing employers to increase wages is not a responsible way to do so.  Hwang says it ignores market realities and called it counterproductive.  Hwang says the cost of doing business in this state is already too high and believes this bill won't put more money in people’s pockets.  Instead, he says it will increase unemployment, increase prices, and hinder growth in an already fragile economy.

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Boehringer Ingelheim launches first US Primary Care Patient Registry to Improve COPD Care

RIDGEFIELD, Conn., May 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Boehringer Ingelheim and Optimum Patient Care today announced the creation of a new patient registry, APEX COPD (Advancing the Patient Experience in COPD), to better understand COPD and how it can be typically treated in primary care offices. This registry will be the first-of-its-kind, specifically designed to improve the management of patients with COPD, all in the primary care setting, which reflects the reality of the COPD patient experience.

This new registry will report findings and insights to be shared in academic journals and medical congresses. In addition, the registry will provide real-time, patient-reported information as well as relevant information from the electronic medical record (EMR) in a structured format to physicians at the point-of-care. This information will aid physicians in making a clinical judgment.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death, affecting more than 1 in 20 adults in the United States.1,2 Despite its high prevalence, only a fraction of people with COPD have been diagnosed and some diagnosed patients may not be getting the treatment they need.3 Primary care physicians treat the majority of COPD patients - more than pulmonologists or any other type of health care provider. However, recent research suggests greater awareness is needed among primary care physicians to ensure a more timely diagnosis and appropriate management of this chronic condition.

The registry, which will eventually enroll 3,000 COPD patients who are being treated by a primary care physician, will retrospectively and prospectively collect EMR data for patients and supplement these data through patient-reported information.

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Delegation introduces DEBRIS Act to try to get FEMA funding for individuals

The one year anniversary of the devastating macroburst was just last week, and some Greater Danbury area families still cleaning up. 

Members of Connecticut's federal delegation are trying once again to get FEMA funding for individuals.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and Senators Murphy and Blumenthal have introduced the Diversifying Emergency Benchmarks for the Recovery of Individuals after Storms Act. 

The DEBRIS Act would end the ban on federal disaster relief aid to homeowners for fallen trees and debris.  The bill would be retroactive to May 1, 2018. 

Clearing fallen trees from a major disaster can be costly and homeowners insurance does not typically cover removal of trees and debris that has not caused damage to a structure. While Connecticut is receiving federal disaster aid to cover public expenses in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, individual property owners have been left to fend for their own. 

Murphy met with homeowners impacted by the supercell storms and saw firsthand the devastation.  He says the federal government should be stepping in to make sure families have the tools they need to respond to a natural disasters.

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Small fire extinguished as building destroyed by blaze Sunday

There was a small flare up in Bethel at Clarke Business Park yesterday afternoon in the building gutted by a fire on Sunday.  Bethel Volunteer Fire Department officials say black smoke was seen coming from the side of the building, and firefighters were able to extinguish the flames in about 10 minutes. 

On Sunday, firefighters from across the region spent more than 8 hours battling a fire in the commercial building.  

3 firefighters were transported to Danbury Hospital for evaluation.  The Bethel and State Fire Marshals are actively investigating the fire. 

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company says crews attempted an interior attack but were forced out by the extreme heat.  The water system in the immediate area wasn’t supplying enough water to battle the fire.  A regional tanker strike team was activated and tankers brought water to the scene from a remote source. 

Responding departments included: Brookfield, Danbury, Newtown, Monroe, Shelton, Trumbull, Weston, Redding, West Redding, Georgetown, Ridgefield, Southbury, Middlebury, Wolcott, Prospect, Beacon Falls, and Roxbury.

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Brookfield budget vote today

Brookfield residents are voting on a budget today. The plan for the coming fiscal year is $70-million. Residents will be asked to decide on $44 million for the schools, $26 million on the municipal side. It's a 5 percent spending increase over the current year and would raise taxes by 2.87 percent if approved. There is a $3.5 million capital budget. The funding would go toward paving at the schools and replacing various department vehicles. Polls are open until 8pm.

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New Milford budget referendum today

New Milford residents are voting on a budget today. 

A slight increase in spending is being proposed for the coming fiscal year.  The plan calls for $103 million, about $1.4 million more than the current year.  Municipal spending is pegged at $39 million.  Health costs are lower, but New Milford will add a police officer and a civil engineer.  

The school portion of the plan is $64-million.  The overall budget represents a 1.35 percent increase over the current year.  The tax rate would go up by about 2 percent.

Bass is restoring the town's contribution to the fire department’s capital fund, which was cut in half this year.  New Milford will also allocate more for tree removal, chip sealing, and stormwater and drainage projects to address icing.

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Proposed LGBTQ health organization clears Connecticut House

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Legislation aimed at better matching members of Connecticut's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community with health and other services has cleared a key vote.

The House of Representatives voted 130-6 Monday in favor of a bill that creates a new organization to recommend to state officials ways to build a safer and healthier environment for the LGBTQ community. The Department of Public Health would provide funds to help the network develop a statewide needs assessment and ultimately help coordinate care with nonprofit agencies.

Democratic Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan of Bethel says "this is a population that hasn't been served well."

The Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition supports the bill. Executive Director Diana Lombardi recently told lawmakers how not all Connecticut primary care physicians will treat transgender patients.

The bill awaits Senate action.

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Danbury Police Chief addresses overtime questions during recent budget talks

A big part of the Danbury Police Department budget is for overtime.  Chief Patrick Ridenhour says staffing shortages can drive overtime, but there is also contractual minimums on the number of cars on the road.  He says regardless of how many officers are available, there's always going to be the minimum number of cars on the streets.  Ridenhour recently changed the overtime slips to get a better idea of if the hours are contractual or discretionary.

Danbury has three officers in the academy right now, scheduled to graduate in June.  They then have to go through 10 weeks of field training.  The one retirement in March will be replaced by an officer coming from another department.  But that candidate needs to go through three to six weeks of field training.

Ridenhour told a committee of the City Council that he is looking for other ways to train candidates, not on the city's dime.  He's talked with other chiefs about getting candidates through the education portion of their training, at no cost to the municipality.  But he says there's some resistance because smaller departments only hire one or two officers a decade.

The Danbury Fire Department lowered the salary of probationary firefighters, adding a new step to the contract during negotiations.  People going through the academy are paid less that firefighters on the job.  There's also a new 1-year probationary period, from the time firefighters first go on shift, at the lower pay rate.  In the event they don't work out during that year, they are terminated. 

Chief TJ Wiedl says there are still people not qualified to be firefighters for the City of Danbury, even though they pass tests and make it through the academy.  Unlike the Police Department, there is no lateral transfer from one municipality to another for fire departments. 

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Reports of inappropriate behavior in Rogers Park investigated by Danbury Police

There were reports of inappropriate behavior in Rogers Park on Saturday.  17 calls came into police over the weekend from that area.  The Deputy Police Chief was made aware of the issue and more police were assigned to enforce Danbury's noise ordinance. 

There were complaints of loud music, double parking, drag racing and drinking in public. 

Mayor Mark Boughton cautioned people to turn the music down, and not to speed.  He notes that people are supposed to gather at public spaces, but to be respectful to those living in the neighborhood.  There was little league game going on in one corner, tennis being played in another and softball league games going on where umpires and coaches needed to hear each other. 

Boughton says there's been a challenge at the park between 5pm and 9pm when the weather is nice.  The City is hiring another noise enforcement officer.  Violators first are issued a warning.  Then it's a $75 fine, which escalates to $150 next.  If someone refuses to turn down their music, at some point the violation turns into a breach of peace charge.

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Danbury drops lawsuit against Tails of Courage

Danbury has dropped its lawsuit against Tails of Courage.  A resolution agreement was reached with the company operating its property as a dog kennel/animal rescue site.  The litigation was pending in Danbury Superior Court. 

The owner of 39 Smith Street agreed to the revocation of planning and zoning approvals for use of the property as a shelter, and to not resume operations there.  Tails of Courage has also agreed to not re-apply for planning or zoning approvals as a dog kennel/animal rescue site or shelter. 

The suit was filed in July 2018 for violations found by city health inspectors on three separate occasions.  According to the lawsuit, dozens of dogs were found living in cramped, feces-covered cages.  A flooded and rat-infested basement was also found.  In one case, a dog was sold without proper immunizations and then diagnosed with the highly contagious canine parvovirus, which can be transmitted to humans. 

A Danbury woman pleaded not guilty this Spring to Animal Cruelty charges in two separate incidents of sick animals being housed at Tails of Courage. 

The state Department of Agriculture and Danbury Zoning officials issued cease and desist orders last year.

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Easton firefighters rescue kitten trapped in wall

Easton Volunteer Fire Department had a busy day Friday, including rescuing a kitten trapped in a wall.  After locating the vocal feline, firefighters were able to take apart a portion of the wall and rescue a cold and hungry kitten. Easton police and animal control were on scene and assisted. The kitten is currently with a vet and doing well.  Firefighters also responded to a residential alarm and made a fire safety presentation at an elementary school.

(Photo: Easton Volunteer Fire Department)

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Bethel Fire officials thank colleagues, residents and neighbors while fighting massive fire

Bethel Fire Department Chief Scott Murphy thanked members of other fire companies who provided mutual aid at the scene of a massive fire in Clarke Business Park.  He also thanked Danbury for help with water as they severely taxed the water system in Bethel.  Murphy specifically noted the help of Danbury Deputy Chief Bernie Meehan and Brookfield Assistant Chief Andy Ellis for coordinating the effort, and others for putting the task force and strike teams together.  He also thanked Bethel residents who brought water and food to firefighters during the more than 8 hour operation. 

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Volunteers pull pedal boat from lake during annual clean up event

The Candlewood Lake Authority’s Annual Lake Clean Up took place this weekend.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company participated in this event once again and says this year they picked up the biggest piece of debris yet.  A pedal boat was pulled from the water.  Firefighters used their auxiliary boat to tie-up and tow the boat to the awaiting dumpster in New Fairfield. Using a front loader,  firefighters were able to dispose of the boat and the various other debris picked up throughout the morning.

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Members of Congress vote for Equality Act

5th District Congresswoman Hayes is touting House passage of the Equality Act. The legislation extends full anti-discrimination protections under the landmark Civil Rights Act to LGBTQ+ Americans. She says only 21 states have explicit laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and only 20 states have such protections for gender identity. The measure also includes protection in education, credit, Federal jury service, and the use of Federal funds.  4th District Congressman Jim Himes says this fills the gaps in existing law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.  He says in many states someone could be legally fired for being gay or evicted for being trans. 

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Wilton Police investigating pickpocket incident

A pickpocket incident is being investigated by Wilton Police.  The Detective Division says a larceny happened at a local store on May 2nd.  An Hispanic male and female distracted a female shopper with a question, while another suspect took the victim's wallet from her purse, which was sitting in the shopping cart.  The credit cards were later used at a Walmart to purchase over $900 in electronics.  They were seen driving a red Chrysler or Dodge minivan.  Photos of the car and suspects can be viewed on the Wilton Police Facebook page.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Wilton Police.

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Newtown Community Center cafe to be staffed by the Newtown High School Transitions Program

The Newtown Community Center is expected to open in early July.  Center Director Matt Ariniello says cafe will be staffed by the Newtown High School Transitions Program.  It's for special needs high school students 18 to 21 years old who have succeeded in all requirements to graduate high school.  The objective is to give students life and vocational skills. 

A $15,000 grant from the Gloria Gray Foundation, plus a $5,000 donation, will allow the business to start up. 

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says this really speaks to the goals of the community center.  He added that this program will make the space inviting and adds incentive for people to patronize the cafe.  Rosenthal says the middle school had a similar successful program for a time. 

There are hours which won't be covered by the students.  Ariniello met with Bethel-based Ability Beyond to see if their clients could cover those hours.  He compared it to the model of the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, which employs individuals through a training program.  If the cafe takes off, they could put together a cart to take through the Senior Center and Municipal Center. 

A resident reached out to create a logo and working with the students in creating a name for the cafe.  He says the kids will feel they have an ownership in the business they're helping to start from the ground up.

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Send off ceremony held for detachment of Danbury-based  411th Civil Affairs Battalion

A detachment of the Danbury-based  411th Civil Affairs Battalion has been mobilized for year long deployment to Africa.  A send off ceremony was held yesterday at the Veterans Memorial Armed Forces Reserve Center in Danbury. 

Officials commended the battalion for supporting ongoing military operations and wished the deploying soldiers well in their mission.  Major Tom Saadi led the ceremony for family members and area veterans.

The Danbury fire Department displayed a large American flag in support of the soldiers.  Cadets of the 399th Composite Civil Air Patrol Squadron provided logistical support for the ceremony.  Following the ceremony the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 149 in Danbury hosted a lunch for the deploying soldiers and their families. 

Remarks were delivered by Brigadier General Robert Cooley, Commander of the 353rd Civil Affairs Command and Colonel Jeffrey Farris, Commander of the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade.  

Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Piazza, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion Commander, who also commands the deploying company, addressed the formation and extolled the virtues of family support of the deploying soldiers and the support of the broader family of the 411th who are there for their fellow soldiers and their families.

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Hayes backs bill to strengthening health care and lower prescription drug costs

An amendment offered by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes was included in a bill passed by the House aimed at Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs. 

The amendment calls for $25 million for navigator programs within state-based health care exchanges, like Connecticut.  Navigators raise awareness about available health care plans, educate consumers about available premium tax credits, and provide technical enrollment assistance to consumers looking to buy health insurance. 

Hayes says they are a vital part of the blueprint to increase health care coverage.  She says overall bill defends critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would make skyrocketing drug prices more affordable.

This bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

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Former attorney sentenced for stealing more than $400k from clients

A Watertown, Connecticut man has been sentenced to prison for stealing nearly half a million dollars from his law clients.  The U.S. Attorney's Office say 46-year old Alan Giacomi was ordered to 41 months behind bars for stealing more than $400,000. 

Giacomi practiced real estate and family law and bilked clients and family members out of their money.  In one case, he represented a couple selling their home and  stole approximately $154,000 in proceeds, nearly $146,000 of which was owed to Giacomi’s clients.  In 2014 represented an elderly woman when assets from her late brother were being distributed.  He reportedly stole nearly $18,000 from the estate.  He then stole  more than $26,000 in proceeds from his great aunt’s life insurance annuity instead of using the funds to pay her nursing home bill.   

In April 2017, a Connecticut Superior Court judge suspended Giacomi from the practice of law.

He was ordered to report to prison on July 26. 

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New Milford collecting to help families displaced by Housatonic Ave fire

New Milford's Mayor has given an update on last week's house fire on Housatonic Avenue, which displaced 10 people and sent several to the hospital with burns and smoke inhalation.  Pete Bass had been asked if there is anything that can be done for the displaced families. 

His office and the town's Social services Director will be accepting monetary donations.  Anyone writing a check is asked to make it out to New Milford Social Services and in the memo please put Housatonic Fire so they can properly account for it.

Arrangements for other donations, such as supplies, should be made by calling New Milford social services.

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Brookfield Police dive team conducts training at Candlewood Shores

Members of the Brookfield Police Department emergency dive team conducted their monthly training exercise at the Candlewood Shores Beach Friday.  The dive team focused on conducting a roped, systematic search, of the swim area located in the Candlewood Shores.

Without using their wireless communication system, divers were tasked with completing a search of this area and communicating their pattern using only rope signals. 

The dive team will respond to emergencies on Candlewood Lake, Lake Lillinonah, and any other body of water, in Brookfield or beyond.  They train each month at a different location, and with different objectives.  They can locate submerged items by using side imaging sonar technology, or with an underwater metal detector. 

In past years, the police dive team has responded to boating and swimming accidents, and acted as a water rescue and/or recovery team.

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Firefighters battle large blaze at Clarke Park in Bethel

A large fire broke out in an industrial building at Clarke Business Park in Bethel this afternoon.  The blaze was reported around 1pm in a building housing a business that makes tape adhesive and another that makes non-toxic cleaning products.

Initial reports are that no one was in the building, but officials say it won't officially be known until firefighters can get into the building.

Mutual aid is being provided by Danbury, Brookfield, Weston, Trumbull, Shelton, Roxbury, Redding and Monroe firefighters.  An estimated 100 firefighters were still working to fight the flames five hours after arriving on scene. 

(Photo: Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department)

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company says it was still an active scene at 6:30pm.  Firefighters were awaiting an excavator to help open up the building.

(Photo: Stony Hill volunteer Fire Company)

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sampled the air and water and found no hazards.

Earlier in the day there was a fire in a custodial area of Bethel Middle School.  Firefighters responded quickly and the flames were extinguished.  School officials say the electrical panels must be examined for damage.  Bethel Middle School will be closed Monday.  Other schools in the district will be in session as scheduled.  The Cyberbullying & Internet Safety Community Conversation scheduled at Bethel Middle School for tomorrow has been postponed. A new date has yet to be determined.

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