Local Headlines

Redding residents petition Selectmen for new playground

Some Redding residents have sent a petition to the Board of Selectmen, calling for a new playground in town.  The petition asks for an exploratory committee be formed to look into the idea of allocating unspent funds from 2020 toward a playground project to be approved by town vote in May.  The committee seeks to include members of parks and recreation, zoning, and the community.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says talk of where funding would come from is premature, but believes looking into the community needs is appropriate.

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Putnam County continues COVID vaccinations for essential personnel

The Putnam County Department of Health vaccinated another 203 essential workers on Thursday.  The County has about 6000 residents who work in education, and another 2600 residents work in law enforcement, firefighting or other protective service occupations eligible for vaccination. 

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Metro North improved on-time performance in 2020

With far fewer commuters, Metro-North crews were able to get a lot of infrastructure work done.  They installed more than 49,700 new cross ties, 1600 bridge timbers and 36 new switches.  Metro North officials say they cut the number of delays caused by signal or switch failures by two thirds. Metro North has expanded a program that shuts down continuous segments of track to allow multiple work groups uninterrupted access to maintain and improve the system. Productivity increased and officials say as a result, 97.9 percent of trains to operate on time in 2020.  That's the highest level since Metro-North was founded in 1983.

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Parent information forum to be held for DHS community ahead of return to classrooms

A Parent Information Session is being held next week in preparation for welcoming back 2000 Danbury High school students.  The information night on Monday is geared toward those students coming into the building for hybrid learning.  A Zoom link will be provided via email on Monday, ahead of the 7pm forum.  In order to cover as many topics of interest, the Danbury Public School District posted a form on their Facebook page for parents to fill out.  Any general information question can also be entered there.

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Ridgefield to set up hotline to help navigate VMAS

A number of people have said they are finding the COVID-19 vaccine sign up portal through the CDC Vaccine Administration Management System, which the state Department of Public Health is using in most cases, difficult to navigate.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says a video outlining a step by step process for VAMS signups will be posted on the town website by early next week.  The state has also set up a hotline to have volunteers make appointments in VAMS for people over the phone.  The 211 call center can also help answer questions about vaccine appointments.

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Recommendations for waste management made to state lawmakers

The Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management, a joint initiative between 74 municipalities and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has finalized recommendations for local and statewide waste reduction options to address the state’s waste crisis.   

The committee was tasked with finding ways to reduce and manage the amount of in-state waste produced to provide system reliability, environmental sustainability, and fiscal predictability, in a manner that lessens impacts on environmental justice communities that host a disproportionate share of the state’s waste disposal infrastructure. 

Co-chair Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says these forward-looking initiatives will reduce the costs of disposal now borne by taxpayers, improve recycling efficiencies and help protect our environment.

He says these recommendations and action items come at a critical time in Connecticut’s waste management sector, with the MIRA Resource Recovery facility facing potential closure and regional landfill capacity forecasted to decline by 40% by the mid-2020s.  If nothing is done, DEEP says residents and municipal leaders can expect tipping fees to increase at the remaining in-state waste-to-energy facilities, along with rates for out-of-state landfilling.  Landfilling also exposes business and towns to unpredictable cost increases as they compete for transportation and landfill capacity as well as potential long-term liability if a landfill has a release or is otherwise a source of pollution in the future.

CCSMM recommendations include:

Supporting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs for packaging and difficult-to-recycle materials such as tires and gas cylinders, which would relieve municipalities’ cost burdens for collecting and managing these products.
Implementing Unit-Based Pricing (UBP), a policy that meters trash similar to that of a utility and reduces waste drastically and immediately upon implementation.  
Supporting collection of food waste and other organic waste by strengthening the commercial organics diversion law, municipality hosted anaerobic digester, establishing community compost sites, and implementing residential food scrap collection programs.
Modernizing the bottle bill.
Requiring that products be made from a certain percentage of recyclables to boost markets for recycling commodities, and lower municipal recycling costs over time.
Banning food serviceware with PFAS from being sold in Connecticut.
Creating and promoting recycling at public spaces and municipal buildings.

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Municipal leaders look into municipal-owned fiber

Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says she and other area town leaders are looking into municipal-owned fiber.  They are meeting with municipalities and counties across the country that offer this type of internet or provide municipal-owned fiber to service providers.  After learning more, Vanderslice says they hope to engage state leaders.  While the idea previously seemed like a long shot, she says the collective experience of residents during the pandemic put the concept in a new light.

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Congresswoman votes against waiver for Secretary of Defense nominee

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes voted against a waiver to appoint General Lloyd Austin as President Biden’s Secretary of Defense.  The position must be filled by a civilian, or someone out of active duty service for at least 7 years.  Hayes says while she has tremendous respect for General Austin’s lifetime of service to the country, experience and qualifications, she was wary of waiving the requirement.  Austin retired from the military in 2016. Only two exceptions have been previously granted, the most recent in 2017 to James Mattis.  Hayes says she would be open to considering amending the rule, but believes Congress should refrain from making these types of exceptions.

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Ridgefield Town Tree Committee has vacancies

The Ridgefield Town Tree Committee has some vacancies.  The Conservation Commission may appoint four of the members and the Board of Selectman appoints three members. Tree Committee meetings take place on the third Wednesday of the month.  Their mission is to encourage Ridgefield to commit community effort and resources to preserving and improving trees and greenscape. The Tree Committee advises and consults with the Tree Warden on matters pertaining to alterations or revisions to the Forestry Management Plan; policies concerning selection, planting, maintenance, and removal of trees, shrubs and other plants within town; and the development of community education programs.

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20 Wilton high schoolers exposed to COVID at weekend parties

20 Wilton High School students were directly exposed to the COVID-19 Virus at several parties and gatherings over the weekend of January 15th. 

The Wilton Health Department received an alert Tuesday night that there was a confirmed cases and staff began contact tracing.  The town's Health Director says some contact tracers are facing resistance from various persons affiliated with these gatherings, slowing efforts to identify all persons involved. 

Given the size of these groups, and the ongoing tracing, Wilton High School building is being closed for all activities for 14 days.  The building will reopen on February 3rd. 

People identified as close contacts have been ordered to quarantine.  Parents are also advised to quarantine for 14 days from the date of the gathering.

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New Fairfield vaccination clinic expected to open Feb. 2

Over the course of the past week there have been 30 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Fairfield.  The infection rate is currently 65 cases per 100,000 people.

New Fairfield’s vaccination clinic is expected to be open on February 2, contingent on vaccine availability. Clinic appointments will become available on VAMS next week.  At this time only those individuals over the age of 75 are eligible for COVID vaccination. 

Vaccine is in short supply, and the New Fairfield Health Director has been informed that the State’s weekly allocation of 46,000 doses from the federal government will be less than expected for the foreseeable future.

The town is still enrolling licensed medical professionals to volunteer in upcoming clinics.  Anyone eligible is asked to  email nfvolunteers@newfairfield.org with name, credentials and availability.

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New Fairfield school goes remote amid staff shortage

Meeting House Hill School in New Fairfield will be closed today and Monday due to staff absences and a substitute shortage.  Students will participate in remote learning, with the elementary school slated to reopen on Tuesday.  Superintendent Pat Cosentino says all other schools will be open fully in-person.  In a letter to parents, Cosentino said members of Meeting House and the middle and high schools tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

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New Milford officials call on Gov. to end executive order on referendum voting

New Milford state Representative Bill Buckbee has sent a letter to Governor Ned Lamont urging him to amend an executive order preventing local town hall meeting votes.  The executive order suspended referendums ahead of municipal budget votes last May due to the pandemic.  It may be a moot point as the executive authority is set to expire on February 9th.  It's unclear if the legislature would vote a second time to empower his ability to extend old or issue new executive orders related to the public health emergency. Residents were able to cast ballots in person for the primary and November election, but haven't been able to gather in larger scale to vote on other matters.  Mayor Pete Bass asked Buckbee to advocate for the order to be ended, noting that residents will again not have the ability to weigh in in person on a budget.

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Two people charged for alleged defacing of Sandy Hook tribute mural

Two people who allegedly defaced a mural that paid tribute to the 26 children and educators killed at Sandy Hook School have been arrested.  Southington police say the back of a detached garage on Summer Street was vandalized.  A mural is painted there in remembrance of the victims. 

21-year-old Gina Lombardi confessed to partially vandalizing the memorial, confirming 20-year-old Lorenzo Cavallo was also responsible for adding additional graffiti.  They were charged with criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief. 

The cost to repair the mural was estimated at $2,500.

WTNH reports that Lombardi was apologetic when being interviewed by police, stating she did not know the significance of the mural and was not intentionally defacing the memorial. Lombardi stated that she was frustrated with law enforcement over an incident in Plainville, felt helpless and had a bad knee jerk reaction.

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Redding police investigating attempted motor vehicle, residential break-ins

The Redding Police Department is attempting to identify a suspect for attempted motor vehicle and residential break-ins.  The incidents were reported overnight Saturday into Sunday.  A surveillance photo of the suspect appears to show a male pointing to himself.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Vadas at the Redding Police Department (203) 938-3400, Case Numbers 21-695 and 21-712.

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Bethel official to lead panel on reducing waste, increasing recycling

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says Connecticut is facing a "silent crisis" in waste management and recycling. The state's waste-to-energy incinerator plants, which currently burn close to 88% of all trash in the state, are aging out.  Knickerbocker says that's leaving towns and cities with rising costs of trucking materials to out-of-state land fills. 

In 2018, China stopped accepting plastics and other recyclable materials from the U.S., causing the market for recycled materials to plummet. Unless this state takes action, Knickerbocker says costs to taxpayers will continue to rise, and more trash will again end up in landfills, adding that that would be very bad for the environment. 

Earlier this summer, Bethel signed on to the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management, along with over 70 other municipalities.  The task force is researching new ideas on reducing waste and increasing recycling. Bethel has taken a leadership role in the group's work.

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Danbury Police seek motorist who fled scene after crash into bank building

Danbury Police are asking for the public's help in identifying the driver of a truck who crashed into a bank building earlier this month.  On January 7th, around 10pm, an older model white pickup truck struck the rear of Webster Bank at 301 Main Street.  The vehicle crashed through the building causing extensive damage, then left the scene before being reported. Still images captured the accident which are posted to the Department's Facebook page. Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Daniel.

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Local lawmaker to hold virtual COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall

A virtual COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall is being hosted by Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang tonight.  He says there are many confusing aspects of changing eligibility so members of Governor Lamont’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force will share the current guidelines.  They'll also discuss the science behind the two different approved vaccine formulas and estimates on when the inoculation rate will change Connecticut’s reopening plans.  The informational forum will be live streamed on Hwang's Facebook page starting at 7pm.  

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Ridgefield sets up hotline for COVID-19 vaccine related questions

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Yanity Gym is limited and Ridgefield residents are urged to take available appointments at nearby locations such as Nuvance-Danbury Hospital, when they are offered.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says Danbury Hospital receives many more doses and can handle a greater number of vaccinations. 

When the town can hold a clinic, appointments for the week will be released on Monday afternoons to be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.  They are subject to the number of doses received.  Clinic times and dates may vary depending on vaccine doses available and weather conditions.

The town of Ridgefield has set up a Help Line to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines.  Marconi says it's currently open for messages only at 203-431-2718. Someone will call back with answers. He notes that the line will be answered live soon, but asked for patience as Ridgefield trains volunteers.

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Stadium stands being reopened in Wilton

The Stadium stands are being reopened in Wilton this week.  First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice is reminding residents though that the stands were not designed to maintain the vibration associated with individuals running on the steps.  The vibration causes the screws to loosen and possibly create a dangerous situation.  Residents are encouraged to walk the stairs, but not run on them.

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Man charged with pinning officer during US Capitol attack

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man seen in a widely viewed video pinning an officer into a doorway during the attack on the U.S. Capitol has been charged with assaulting police officers, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Patrick McCaughey III, 23, of Ridgefield, was arrested Tuesday in South Salem, New York, on charges including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, violent entry or disorderly conduct, and entering a restricted building or grounds.

A federal magistrate judge in New York ordered McCaughey detained without bail Wednesday afternoon, saying his actions were disturbing and he presented a threat to the community. McCaughey’s case is being transferred to Washington and he is detained pending proceedings there early next month.

Federal authorities said McCaughey struck several police officers with a clear, plastic riot shield inside the Capitol. Authorities said he also used the shield to pin Officer Daniel Hodges of the Metropolitan Police Department against a doorway; a video shows Hodges writhing in pain and another rioter beating Hodges after ripping off the officer’s gas mask. Hodges survived.

Police asked for the public’s help in identifying the attackers and released photos of a man later identified as McCaughey seen in the Capitol during the violence on Jan. 6. A witness came forward identifying McCaughey as the person in the photos.

“What this case is really about is a man who on Jan. 6 of this year struck at the heart of American Democracy, that is the U.S. Capitol, both literally and figuratively, as part of a mob that was apparently attempting to overturn a legitimate election,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforte said during Wednesday’s court hearing, which was held by video conference.

In a statement, acting District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin called the attack on Hodges vicious and “quintessentially un-American.”

McCaughey’s public defender, Jason Ser, asked for bail to be set at $150,000, saying his client was not as “maniacal and dangerous” as federal prosecutors were portraying him. Ser said other people were pushing McCaughey, and other parts of the video show McCaughey trying to help Hodges by lowering the officer’s face shield and telling another officer that Hodges was injured.

McCaughey, who has both U.S. and German citizenship, is unemployed and lives with his mother in Ridgefield, an affluent town along the New York border, Ser said. He was arrested at his father’s second home, where he was quarantining.

“The image I think that’s being fostered here, created here, by focusing only on parts of the video certainly I think do a disservice to Mr. McCaughey,” Ser said. “The government is emphasizing two and a half minutes of out of essentially 23 years of Mr. McCaughey’s life.”

McCaughey is a high school graduate who got good grades, made the honor roll and has no criminal record, Ser said.

More than 150 rioters at the U.S. Capitol have been arrested. The attack came as Congress met to certify the results of the presidential election. But an angry mob coming from President Donald Trump’s rally near the White House broke into the Capitol, forcing members of Congress to flee. Five people died during the riot, including one Capitol Police officer.

Federal authorities said McCaughey and other rioters pushed officers defending the Capitol back. A deputy U.S. marshal said in arrest documents that McCaughey pushed Hodges in a doorway with the riot shield as other rioters shoved McCaughey forward, putting a lot of force on Hodges. McCaughey told Hodges to “just go home dude,” the marshal said.

After another rioter assaulted Hodges, McCaughey motioned to other officers that Hodges was injured, the deputy said, and McCaughey later started hitting other officers with the plastic shield.

At one point during the Capitol attack, McCaughey told another person, “I’m not doing anything. I’m just a regular person like everybody else,” the marshal said, citing a cellphone video. McCaughey then said, “This is our building.”

Another man arrested in New York City early Wednesday as part of the riot roundup was ordered held without bail after prosecutors argued he is a danger to the community.

The government cited a photo on social media that suggested Samuel Fisher had stashed firearms in a vehicle he took to Washington for the pro-Trump protest. Court papers said he also posted a photo of himself at the Capitol entrance and later wrote online, “seeing cops literally run . . . was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.”

At a bail hearing, a prosecutor said that firearms, bullet-proof vests and ammunition were found at the Manhattan residence where he was arrested on Wednesday. Fisher’s lawyer said there was no proof he ever took weapons to Washington and that he was ever actually inside the Capitol.

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Trump pardons Connecticut man convicted of health care fraud

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man who pleaded guilty in a 1998 health care fraud case was granted a full pardon by Donald Trump, the White House announced early Wednesday.

Glen Moss was among dozens of people Trump pardoned during the final hours of his administration.

In a statement, the Trump White House said Moss has become a “vital member of his community” and has been “committed to numerous philanthropic efforts at the national level, including St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Breast Cancer Awareness, and the Colon Cancer Foundation. Within his community, he has contributed to Danbury Hospital and Ann’s Place, a community-based cancer support center.”

But Shannon Cobb, the president and chief executive officer of Ann’s Place, said they have no record of Moss’ contribution.

“We have no Glen Moss in our system at all,” she said. “I don’t know where they got that information.”

Moss pleaded guilty to a tax charge after he acknowledged conspiring to pay kickbacks to obtain referrals for his employer, Analytical Diagnostics Lab of Brooklyn, N.Y. He admitted that he earned close to $500,000 in 1992, but claimed a taxable income of just over $2,000.

The arrest was part of “Operation Overdraw,” a three-year federal investigation into medical fraud among doctors and medical supply companies.

Attempts to reach Moss were not successful. Phone numbers listed for him in Brookfield, Connecticut, were no longer in service.

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Car strikes tree, rolls over in Bethel driveway

A car hit a tree and rolled over in a driveway in Bethel Tuesday evening, sending two people to the hospital.  Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company responded to Old Hawleyville Road just after 5pm on a report of a vehicle going off the roadway.  The occupants were able to self extricate.  Both were transported to Danbury Hospital, one with a traumatic arm injury. The accident remains under investigation by Bethel Police.  Anyone who witnessed the crash, or the actions of the involved blue BMW M6 prior to the crash, is asked to contact Officer Iadarola.

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Hearing tonight on proposed Route 37 improvement study

A virtual public meeting is being held tonight about improving Route 37 from Danbury into New Fairfield.  The City of Danbury and Town of New Fairfield are developing a corridor study with the help of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, the regional planning agency for the Greater Danbury area.  The study is about the length of Route 37 between I-84 Exit 6 in Danbury to just north of Route 39 in New Fairfield.  It aims to find solutions to alleviate traffic congestion, improve pedestrian mobility, and to promote healthy and environmentally friendly modes of transportation.  The purpose of tonight's meeting is to introduce and update the public about the study recommendations and gather feedback on proposed design concepts for the corridor.  The meeting is from 6:30pm to 8pm.  https://westcog.org/transportation/studies/dnfcs/

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Putnam County leader decries lack of vaccine doses

More than 30,700 Putnam County residents are eligible under New York state rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the state has allocated just 200 vaccines to the health department this week for essential workers and 200 doses to a pharmacy to administer to senior citizens. 

Odell says it should be easier and faster to get COVID-19 vaccine, but the hard truth is that a lot of the most vulnerable residents are having to wait too long to be vaccinated. 

Right now, there are only three options for vaccination in Putnam County, one through Department of Health, which is running clinics in Carmel and Philipstown but only for eligible essential workers.  Putnam Hospital Center is only authorized to vaccinate healthcare professionals.  A pharmacy in Cold Spring is authorized for senior citizen vaccinations only.

Putnam County has almost 18,000 residents aged 65 or older, and an estimated 2,600 residents work in law enforcement, firefighting or other protective service occupations.  Another 6,200 or so residents work in education and libraries, which the Census lumps together. Then there are 3,900 healthcare practitioners, technologists and technicians.  There's also nursing home and group home staff and residents. 

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