Local Headlines Archives for 2014-03

Access Health CT enrollment deadline, help session in Danbury

One last enrollment help sessions are being held in Danbury by Access Health CT.  The state's online marketplace is hosting these to provide information about Healthcare Reform and explain what financial help is available for residents.  Volunteer Mary Levine of the United Church of Christ Health Care Ministry says counselors will be there to walk people through the enrollment process. 

 

Today's session in Danbury is from 1 to 6pm at Danbury Public Library. 

 

Consumers must sign up for coverage or receive an exemption from coverage by today to avoid a tax penalty.  For those not meeting today's enrollment deadline, the federal government will assess a penalty of 1 percent of gross household income over the federal income tax filing threshold or $95 per individual, whichever amount is greater.

 

After today, residents will only be able to obtain coverage under these plans under special circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or loss of insurance coverage from an employer.

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Family, officials gather at Lou Rell's funeral

BROOKFIELD, Conn. (AP) Friends, family and state officials gathered at the funeral of Lou Rell, the husband of former Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, to celebrate his life and service to the United States and his community.

Rell died March 22 in Florida. He was 73 and had battled cancer.

Mourners gathered at the Brookfield Congregational Church on Saturday to pay tribute to Rell's service as a Navy pilot and president of the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department.

Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia said he first knew Lou Rell not as the governor's husband, but as someone who told reporters to just call him Lou.

Friends and family were joined by officials such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

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Sandy Hook 5K held in Newtown to benefit Memorial Fund

The second annual Sandy Hook 5K to benefit the Newtown Memorial Fund is being held today.  Nearly 1,200 adults and 125 children participated in the race in Newtown; more than 100 others participated virtually in their own communities.  Governor Dannel Malloy was among those who ran the race.

 

Race Director Katie Blake says they were able to raise $438,000 last year.

 

This year's theme is Love Runs Through.

 

The Newtown Memorial Fund was created to provide for the immediate needs of the 26 victim's families, the wounded and the 12 children in the two classrooms as well as others closely affected.  A percent of the amount donated to the Newtown Memorial Fund will go directly to the chosen charities, scholarship funds, or foundations of the 26 families.

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Area lawmakers split over funding to record legislative meetings

A bill that would funnel millions of dollars more in revenue to Connecticut's government affairs television network has cleared a key committee this week.  The funding increase would allow CT-N, created in part by Danbury Representative Bob Godfrey, to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of all official legislative meetings at the state Capitol.  He says the funding will cover equipment to record all activities as well as stream those videos online.

 

The Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee on Tuesday voted 33-17 to increase CT-N's funding from $2.5 million to $6 million. The money would come from a tax on cable television companies. 

 

Representatives John Shaban of Redding, John Frey of Ridgefield and David Scribner of Brookfield were among the no votes.  Senators Mike McLachlan of Danbury and Toni Boucher of Wilton also voted no.

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WCSU students discuss sexual assault prevention

The fifth in a series of roundtable discussions about sexual assault on college campuses has been held at West Conn.  The forum held this week by Senator Richard Blumenthal stemmed from a report by the  White House Council on Women and Girls’ that found that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have been victims of sexual assault.

 

Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Executive Director Laura Cordes says for too many young women and men on college campuses, this issue is one that has remained silent and out of the public view.  Cordes says she is proud of the survivors, students and others who have shared their stories, and recommendations for the Task Force.

 

University President Dr James Schmotter says Western is dedicated to providing the safest possible environment for students, and working to reduce and even eliminate instances of sexual assault on campuses is important work.

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Newtown VFW celebrated on U.S. House floor for 75th anniversary

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 308 in Newtown has marked its 75th anniversary.  Earlier this month a citation was presented to the local VFW group from the National Commander-in-Chief expressing appreciation for the Newtown chapter's service.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty also congratulated the group in a speech on the House floor recently.

 

She said that since 1939, VFW Post 308 has made a remarkable commitment to civic engagement and community service.  That community service ranged from college scholarships awarded to Newtown High School students to assisting Tornado victims in Oklahoma and supporting families effected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

The Newtown Post is the 8th oldest in Connecticut.  The group has nearly 200 members.  Worldwide, there are nearly 2 million VFW and auxiliary members in more than 7,000 posts.

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Squantz Pond upgrades approved by Bond Commission

The state Bond Commission has approved nearly $6 million for improvements at some state parks.  Friday, it was announced that Squantz Pond in New Fairfield would receive some money to resurface the access road to the park, to incorporate a new drainage system during the resurfacing and to improve the parking area at the state boat launch on Candlewood Lake. 

 

The projects will start as soon as weather permits and be completed by early summer. 

 

Governor Malloy says the state parks are a destination for millions each year and the roads are showing signs of that use.  He says in this centennial celebration year it's important to make sure the investments are made so people can safely travel into and around the parks.

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Bethel principal warning of dangerous new game among teens

A new online game is being warned about in Bethel.  Middle School Principal Derek Muharem sent a letter to parents yesterday describing the so-called Eraser Challenge.  He says the dangerous activity among teens has them take an eraser and begin rubbing it on their skin while saying the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter. 

 

Once they get to Z, the kids are comparing their erasing injury to their friends. 

 

Muharem says mist kids, about a dozen so far at BMS, have been using their arms from elbow to wrist, though it can be anywhere.  He is asking parents to talk to their kids about this unsafe activity saying it's especially troubling when kids share erasers if they break skin and draw blood.

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Danbury among Labor Market Areas to add jobs in February

The state Labor Department report on job growth and unemployment for February is out.  There was only modest growth in jobs for February, but that trend shows a sharp decline in January was in fact due to winter weather.  Research Director Andy Condon says Danbury and two other Labor Market Areas showed small gains.

 

Labor officials reported Thursday that the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in February from 7.2 percent in January. It's still higher than the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent in February.

 

The state has recovered 59,500 jobs, or nearly half of the jobs lost in the economic downturn from March 2008 to February 2010.

 

The numbers Thursday come a day after economist Don Klepper-Smith spoke to the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce.  He says while the state is struggling to rebound from the recession, the Danbury area labor market's business climate is outpacing the overall state economy.

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New Milford brownfield on Bond Commission agenda today

The state Bond Commission is meeting today and one of the items likely to be approved is funding to help clean up an industrial site in New Milford.  State Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor says environmental clean up at the Century Brass mill site has been worked on for several years, going back to when she was on the local environment commission.

 

With the assistance of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, New Milford is marketing the property for possible future uses as a distribution center, a large retail complex or as a property for “green” industry.

 

Buck-Taylor says once completed, the 72 acre parcel of land will allow the town to increase its industrial tax base by more than $300,000 a year.  The site is about 15-percent of all industrial zoned land in New Milford.

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Public hearing set for proposed Schlumberger sale

Ridgefield residents will have the chance next month to weigh in on a proposed land sale.  The Board of Selectmen will be presenting the proposal for 10 acres of land on the former Schlumberger site at an April 23rd public hearing.  Ultimately it would go to referendum May 13th when Ridgefield residents vote on a budget. 

 

The proposal is for Toll Brothers to purchase the land for $4-million.  The property has been zoned for multi-family housing and the company has proposed building 30 condos. 

 

This would be the second parcel of the Schlumberger site to be sold off by the town.

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Lawmaker volunteers for Meals on Wheels

The 12th Annual March for Meals campaign has been held by New Opportunities.  Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky served as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels as part of the program that gives area residents an opportunity to support their senior neighbors. 

 

Bolinsky called it a heart-warming experience seeing how volunteers go beyond providing for clients nutritional well being.  He says these volunteers play a critical role in the lives of their clients. 

 

Legislation is pending at the state capital on rate reimbursement to help local Meals on Wheels programs.

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Severed sheep head found at Conn. beach

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) Fairfield officials are investigating a severed sheep head found in the water off a local beach.

Authorities say the animal head was found off Jennings Beach on Wednesday, a year after a headless goat carcass was found at the same beach. A veterinarian is examining the sheep head.

Police told the Connecticut Post that they don't suspect the head is linked to sinister activities.

Fairfield animal control officer Paul Miller says the head appears to have been severed with a butcher's knife and one of the sheep's ears was notched, indicating it was livestock. But there was no identifying tag.

In March of last year, a jogger discovered a goat carcass missing its head and lower legs inside a clear garbage bag that was dumped along the water's edge.

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State House observes moment of silence for Lou Rell

During the state House session Wednesday, Brookfield State Representative David Scribner called for a moment of silence in honor of Lou Rell, the husband of former Governor Jodi Rell, who died Saturday in Florida.

 

Scribner said Lou Rell was probably best known in the state as the proud partner of Governor Jodi Rell.  He said Lou's devotion, strength and unwavering support of her gave the former Governor the reassurance to capably lead the state.  He often avoided the limelight, but was often seen by his wife's side during her tenure

 

Lou Rell was 73 and had battled cancer.  The Rell family said funeral arrangements are being made final, with services to be in Connecticut.

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Texting ban enforcement kicks off today

Starting today, several Greater Danbury area police departments will be stepping up texting violation enforcement.  It's the 3rd time that police have participated in the "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" campaign.  More than 2-thousand tickets were issued in the first two enforcement efforts. 

 

Citations carry fines ranging from 150-dollars to 500-dollar for texting or talking while driving.  The offense is considered a moving violation and can be reported to insurance companies. 

 

The texting ban enforcement effort runs through April 3rd.

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Newtown officials OK open space purchase

A nearly 37 acre parcel of land in Newtown has been purchased by the town to preserve as open space.  The Board of Selectmen held a special meeting Tuesday morning to give final authorization for the $255,000 purchase.  The land on Chestnut Hill Road shares a border with 34 acres of open space the town already owns. 

 

Newtown needed to finish local approvals by the end of the month in order to submit an application for state open space conservation funds.  If the $153,000 grant is not authorized, the Town will bond for additional funds.

 

The Legislative Council and others have also given their approvals.

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Victim privacy bill advanced following close vote

A close vote has been taken by a legislative committee on the public's right to know versus victim privacy.  The Government Administration and Elections Committee has voted 8 to 6 to forward a bill to allow limited review of certain crime scene photos and 911 calls. 

 

The bill would also require families of victims to be notified when people ask to view the photos.  This bill and other similar ones being considered were called for by families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

 

Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan was among the no votes.  He previously said his opposition was to families being contacted each time there is a request from the public to see evidence.

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'Aid in dying' bill shelved by legislative committee

The so-called Aid in Dying Bill, perhaps the most controversial this legislative session, has been short circuited.  The would have allowed terminally ill patients to get a physician-authorized prescription to end their life.  Supporters say they've been told it won't be voted on by the Public Health Committee, meaning it won't be voted on this year. 

 

Tim Appleton of the group Compassion and Choices says advocates will try again.

 

Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan was among those testifying against the bill.  He said there were no protections for the elderly against abuse.  He also claimed the bill would promote a culture of suicide in Connecticut, adding that suicide is not an acceptable solution to life's hardships.

 

But Appleton took great exception to people calling it suicide.  He explained that suicide is the desperate act of a mentally ill otherwise healthy person.  He says "aid in dying" is the measured act of a terminally ill person.

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Grant money for Pitney Bowes considered Fri. by Bond Commission

The state Bond Commission's agenda includes grant-in-aid funding under the First Five Program for Pitney Bowes to help the company with its expansion and efficiency improvement plan.  The 15 million dollar loan will be provided at an interest rate of 2% for ten years with principal deferred for six years.  The company will be eligible for loan forgiveness of $10 million if it meets the job retention and creation goal. 

 

Pitney Bowes is expected to retain 1,600 jobs and create 200 new full-time jobs by 2019. 

 

The investments will be made in the company’s technology center in Danbury, its business operations center in Shelton, and its new headquarters, which will remain in Stamford.

 

A $1 million dollar grant-in-aid for training is also being provided.  The company will also receive a sales and use tax exemption of up to $1 million for capital improvements.  Pitney Bowes is investing about $9 million for capital improvements. 

 

Governor Malloy says Pitney Bowes has been a fixture in Connecticut for over 90 years and has exciting growth plans for its future in areas such as digital commerce and location intelligence.

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Edmond Town Hall gets new projector, no movies for installation

There are no movies being shown at Edmond Town Hall in Newtown this week and into next week.  That's because a new digital projector is being installed.  The $2 movie theater is a favorite among area residents and the projector is one of many upgrades being made. 

 

An upgraded speaker system and lighting have also been installed.  The building now has wifi, which was used while a temporary information desk of CH Booth Library was set up there in recent weeks.

 

Movies will resume after April 4.

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Metro North completes speen enforcement upgrades, works on signal system

Metro North has completed upgrades to its signal system to enable automatic speed enforcement at five critical curves and movable bridges in New York and Connecticut.  That announcement came Monday from the state Department of Transportation.  Senator Richard Blumenthal called it a modest milestone, but a critical safety measure.

 

Blumenthal says commuters have good reason to ask about timelines and deadlines for achieving other safety measures like alterers and cameras.  He says had the technology been in place before last December's fatal derailment, the horrific crash could have been averted.  Blumenthal says Metro North needs to disclose any additional locations that raise similar risks.

 

Metro North has also released a plan to install monitoring equipment that will detect overheated wheels and loads of freight trains to identify faults before they cause problems.

 

This comes as work is being done to replace two grade crossings on the Danbury Branch.  There is now a detour in place at East Liberty Street.  Work is expected to last through Wednesday.  In Danbury, both sides of the street require excavation and the entire crossing will be replaced.

 

Work will start Friday at the South Street crossing in Bethel. 

 

Officials say the work may identify contributing factors to the new technology that's caused gates and lights to activate when no trains are in the area.  Trains are now operating with a so-called Stop And Warn procedure, where the train stops before each crossing to make sure the gates and working.

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Bond money coming to Century Brass site in New Milford

$2.5 million in state funding to help New Milford demolish the former Century Brass mill building will be considered by the Bond Commission when it meets Friday.  State Senator Clark Chapin says this additional investment will help the town transform the former Century Brass property from its idle state to a productive one.

 

The 72-acre Century Enterprise Center still includes a vacant 320,000 square foot brass mill.  Chapin says the building is contaminated with asbestos that must be disposed of properly before the town can move forward with redeveloping and marketing the property.

 

The project will create 50 construction-related jobs. 

 

The former Century Brass fabrication mill has been closed since 1986.  New Milford acquired the site in 1999.  Sewer, water and road infrastructure improvements have already been made near the property.

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All state police troops open 24/7

The new state Police Commissioner has announced that State Police barracks across the state will remain open 24-7, a reversal of some open only during business hours.  Dora Schriro is still evaluating whether to continue the controversial process of consolidated dispatch centers, but she's decided that the public wants the barracks open around the clock.

 

 In the western part of the state, dispatch functions for Troops A and B were moved to Troop L in Litchfield.  Troop A covers the Greater Danbury and New Milford areas while Troop B is from Torrington, north.

 

The union took a vote of no confidence in then-Commissioner Ruben Bradford and Col. Danny Stebbins for consolidating statewide dispatch centers from 12 to 5.  Bradford, who retired last month. Bradford said the consolidation was saving money and putting more troopers on patrol.  The union criticized the consolidation, saying it was resulting in longer response times and people seeking help at closed barracks. Emergency call boxes were installed outside those barracks.

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Redding seeks to preserve Hill Rd property as open space

A grant application is being made by Redding officials to preserve a parcel of land bordering the Centennial Watershed forest as open space.  The grant application to purchase the property on Hill Road is due next Monday.  Redding's First Selectman, the Land Trust and others say the property has long been identified as one the town would want to preserve.  The state could grant a lifetime conservation easement for the property, if it gets approval from the state.

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Architects to present plans for new Newtown school

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Architects designing the new Sandy Hook Elementary School will be presenting their plans to Newtown officials after getting input from more than 200 people.

Svigals + Partners is scheduled to show their concepts to Newtown's Public Building and Site Commission on Tuesday night.

The old Sandy Hook School was torn down because of the December 2012 shootings that killed 20 first-graders and six educators. A new school will be built on the same property.

New Haven-based Svigals + Partners is proposing a two-story building that will have wide, connecting ``Main Street'' boulevards inside, four ``tree houses,'' footbridges, courtyards and many large windows that will provide natural lighting.

Architects say they're designing a school that will be safe without feeling like a fortress.

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MADD wants increased charges for DUI with minors in the vehicle

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Connecticut Chapter is pushing for passage of key legislative proposals this session.  Executive Director Janice Heggie-Margolis says MADD wants lawmakers to approve a proposal that would make Ignition Interlock Devices required for all DUI offenses in the state.

 

In 2012, Brookfield Representative David Scribner co-sponsored a bill signed by the Governor that would allow a drivers license to be reinstated for a third DUI conviction, but that there be lifetime installation of an ignition interlock device. 

 

MADD also wants laws amended so that adults who drive drunk with children under 16 in the vehicle face a class B felony.

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Blumenthal at WCSU to discuss sexual assault prevention

A forum on sexual assault is being held at Western Connecticut State University today.  It's being hosted by Senator Richard Blumenthal as part of a statewide series.  The first roundtable discussion was held in January at Fairfield University. 

 

The discussion with students in Danbury is the 4th. 

 

The roundtable discussion is entitled "Sexual violence is not a women's issue; it's a societal issue".  Blumenthal says while law enforcement must be improved, society as a whole can lead by example.  He is interested in hearing from victim advocates, students and administrators about their experience and views on how to eliminate this type of crime.

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Changes proposed to Danbury's Commission on Aging

The Commission on Aging was created in 1974.  Revisions are needed because of the changes in the way the City delivers services and support to seniors.

 

One of the proposed changes includes that if a regular member of the Commission is absent, an alternate will be designated to act in that person's place.  Another proposed change is that the Commission have the post to adopt bylaws and operating procedures and committees on special subjects, with the approval of the City Council.

 

The purpose of the Commission on Aging is being reworded so that the group can seek opportunities to improve and sustain the quality of life for seniors and then advise the Department of Elderly Services, the City Council and the Mayor on how to implement and coordinate programs.  The scope of the work was expanded to also include education, transportation and safety specifically, rather than leaving those areas as general "other related matters".

 

At their next regular meeting, the City Council will likely refer the proposals to a public hearing.

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Obit: Lou Rell, former Gov. Jodi Rell's husband, dies at age 73

Lou Rell, former Governor Jodi Rell's husband, died Saturday at the age of 73.

 
Lou Rell was a Navy pilot who moved to Brookfield in 1969. He served as a volunteer fireman and as a police commissioner there.  The couple had two children.  Jodi Rell, Connecticut's 87th governor, served from 2004, following former Gov. John G. Rowland's resignation, until 2011.
 
Their son Michael issued a statement today on his passing:
 
"Lou Rell passed away today in a Florida Hospital after a long courageous battle with cancer with his family by his side. Funeral arrangements are currently being finalized. Services will be held in Connecticut."

 

Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman have also released statements. 

 

 

Governor Malloy said, “Cathy and I send our deepest condolences to Governor Rell and her family on the passing of Lou Rell.  Lou was devoted to his family, and their loss is felt by countless people throughout our state.  Governor Rell, her family, and the Brookfield community will remain in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days.”
 
Lt. Governor Wyman said, “I was very fortunate to have known Lou Rell for many years. He was a man of integrity, humor, and commitment, and his passing is a tremendous loss.  Lou was devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and an important source of support to his family and friends.  My deepest sympathy goes out to Governor Rell and her family – we hold them in our thoughts during this difficult time.”
 

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued the following statement:

 

“A man of grace, charm and cheer, his common sense insight added immeasurably to our public life.  He was devoted passionately to his country and community, and to Governor Rell. My heart goes out to his wonderful family.”

 

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. released the following statement:

 

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Lou Rell.  As a pilot in the U.S. Navy and as Connecticut’s first spouse, Lou’s life was dedicated to the support of others. He served our state and our nation with a silent humility that commanded that admiration of all who met him. His humor and his charm will be greatly missed.  Lou Rell's service to our state, our nation, and our party will not soon be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with Governor Rell and her family during this difficult time.”

 

Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo released the following statement:

 

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to Governor Rell for the loss of her husband. Connecticut Democrats join Governor Rell and her family in mourning a great man who served his state and his country.”

 

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CH Booth Library reopens in Newtown after 8 weeks of closure

Newtown residents are being welcomed back to C.H. Booth Library today with a series of events.  The library was closed by burst sprinkler pipe in January.  Acting Library Director Beryl Harrison says reconstruction is finished and the newly improved facility is open for business.

 

Fine amnesty will continue through April 1st for residents to return overdue items.  Patrons were asked to hold onto books, DVDs and other material while the library was closed.  Any item returned after April 1st will be subject to late fees. 

 

For children, there will be music, a juggle, crafts and lego stations.  For adults there will be a book discussion featuring singer/songwriter, Lenny Levine who writes mystery novels and short stories which can be funny, sad, touching and suspenseful all at once. 

 

Today's events take place during normal Library hours of 9:30am to 5pm.

 

Events for children:

11 am. Music Together with Julie Capuano

1-3 pm. Juggler and yo-yo artist, Eric Girardi

1-3 pm.  Christina Dolzal as Tinkerbell

12:30- 3 pm Drop in Crafts and Lego Stations

 

For Adults:

2-3:30 pm Story and Song with Lenny Levine

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Danbury police warn of two phone scams

The so-called grandparent scam warned about this week by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy has been reported as happening in Danbury.  Police have received three complaints in the last several days of two types of scams. 

 

Danbury Police say one type of call victims reported getting is of someone saying their family member is being held hostage and a ransom needs paying.  The other call claims a family member has been in a serious accident and in need of medical treatment, which will be denied unless payment is made up front. 

 

Police say every effort should be made to contact the family member in question and call the police department before any money is sent.

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Train track replacements at two Danbury branch Metro North crossings

Starting today, the state Department of Transportation and Metro North will replace two grade crossings on the Danbury Branch.  There is now a detour in place at East Liberty Street.  Work is expected to last through Wednesday.  In Danbury, both sides of the street require excavation and the entire crossing will be replaced.

 

Work will start next Friday at the South Street crossing in Bethel. 

 

Officials say the work may identify contributing factors to the new technology that's caused gates and lights to activate when no trains are in the area.  Trains are now operating with a so-called Stop And Warn procedure, where the train stops before each crossing to make sure the gates and working.

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Bethel to host workshops to find new Superintendent of Schools

Two workshops are being set up by the Bethel Board of Education for the community to weigh in on characteristics of a new Superintendent of Schools.  The first one, being held Tuesday night, will be for town officials and interested community members.  The next one, set for April 1st, will be for students and teachers. 

 

An online survey asking a series of questions ranging from qualifications and background to specialized training and achievement record is open through April 2nd. 

 

Bethel is one of several school systems in the Greater Danbury area searching for a new leader.  Dr Kevin Smith has accepted the same post in Wilton.

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Whalers and Danbury remain at standstill over debt for services

Talks are still at a standstill over whether the Danbury Whalers will be paying debt owed to the City for fire and police protections at hockey games.  A City Council ad hoc committee found the Whalers in default of financial obligations to the City and recommended that Corporation Counsel, the Finance Director and others do whatever necessary to collect the debt.

 

The representatives of the Whalers proposed at that meeting paying $600 per game going forward and $13,000 toward the nearly $105,000 debt.  The $13,000 was calculated by taking the 90 games at the $600 reimbursement rate, less the $44,000 previously paid.  At the time of the meeting, the Whalers were presented with an invoice of $1,400 per game for two weekends worth of games. 

 

Danbury Whalers CEO Herm Sorcher said the team would not make any payments for current fire and police presence until the City agreed to accept $13,000 for the past debt, not including this year's games.  Committee chairwoman Colleen Stanley told the Whalers that the Committee was willing to negotiate on the past due obligation, though advance payments must be made as a sign of good faith.

 

Fire Marshal James Russell told the ad hoc committee that fire watch is needed at all games to look for locked or broken doors, which he says have been found routinely.  The watchmen are also trained to address other public safety issues such as a shooter and crowd control in an emergency situation.  If attendance is less than 500, the event only requires one Fire Marshal. 

 

Police Chief Al Baker told the ad hoc committee that events like hockey games require four police officers and one supervisor, due to the size of crowds, past activity and the potential for firearms.

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Lawmakers continue push for universal background checks on gun sales

State and federal officials are speaking out on the continuing nationwide campaign for better gun control laws following the shootings at Sandy Hook.

 

Connecticut's two U.S. Senators have held another roundtable discussion about background checks for gun sales.  Richard Blumenthal cited a report that found repeal of Missouri's background check law resulted in 55 to 63 additional gun homicides per year.  The report was by the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy Research.  He said gun control advocates, groups and lawmakers must work hard to gather statistics on how well laws are helping reduce crime.

 

The Senators were joined Thursday by representatives of the Brady Campaign, the head of Connecticut police's special licensing bureau and others.  This 20th anniversary of the Brady law being in effect, the background checks have blocked an average of 343 gun purchases a day, 171 to felons, 48 to domestic abusers and 19 to fugitives, per day.

 

Senator Chris Murphy says it could be a year or more before Congress takes another major vote on gun control.

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Area lawmakers wants to make it easier for military to vote

Delays in absentee ballots being returned by certain voters is being addressed this legislative session.  State Senator Rob Kane, whose district includes Bethlehem and Roxbury, favors a measure to allow military personnel stationed elsewhere to access online voting over a secure website.

 

Kane says billions of dollars of commerce electronically, so why not give military personnel the same option.  He says they are the ones, after all, protecting the right to vote.

 

Kane says voting online or having the data transmitted via fax could violate privacy, so this proposal would give military voters the option to waive that constitutional right to ensure that their vote is counted.

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Bethel Ed Board seeks public help in Superintendent qualifications

The Bethel Board of Education is calling on parents and residents to weigh in on characteristics of a new Superintendent of Schools.  A survey has been posted online asking a series of questions ranging from qualifications and background to specialized training and achievement record. 

 

Bethel is one of several schools in the Greater Danbury area searching for a new leader of their school systems.  Dr Kevin Smith has accepted the same post in Wilton.

 

The survey can be accessed here.

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CH Booth Library to reopen, officially, Saturday

CH Booth Library in Newtown is getting ready for a grand reopening ceremony on Saturday.  Officially the library reopened on the 8th, having been closed by a burst sprinkler pipe in January. 

 

Library officials say in their latest update that flood recovery is still a work in progress, but patrons are welcome to the facility. 

 

Fine amnesty will continue through April 1st for residents to return overdue items.  Patrons were asked to hold onto books, DVDs and other material while the library was closed.  Any item returned after April 1st will be subject to late fees.

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Danbury among the housing authorities receiving federal funds

The Danbury Housing Authority is among those in Connecticut receiving federal funds.  Some 3,100 public housing authorities are sharing nearly $1.8 billion to make large-scale improvements to housing units. 

 

Danbury is receiving nearly $600,000 in funding through the Housing and Urban Development's Capital Fund Program. 

 

The projects can range from roof replacements to energy efficiency upgrades.  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says while this round of funding is not enough to met the tremendous backlog of capital needs, it will go a long way.

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Aquarion to provide refunds to ratepayers

Aquarion Water Company customers will be getting a break on bills.  Starting next year, Aquarion will reduce rates by 5.6 percent for the next three years.  The company says new regulations issued in September by the IRS allows them to adopt an alternative to how capital expenditures are treated for income tax purposes. 

 

The total amount being returned to Aquarion customers is $29 million.  The proposal needs approval from the sate Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. 

 

Aquarion will also be delaying its next general rate case and its planned Water Infrastructure and Conservation Adjustment .  The company says it will continue to investigate Adjustment eligible main replacements though during that time.

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Local official weighs in on PILOT program expansion proposal

Democratic leaders of the state Senate are proposing an increase to the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, which reimburses municipalities for tax exempt college, hospitals, and state-owned properties.  The proposal would be phased in, and would set up a three-tiered system. 

 

Danbury Republican Mayor Mark Boughton says municipalities are thankful for any funding they can get from the state.  Danbury Hospital has a significant amount of square footage in the City and is adding more.

 

But Boughton says he's disappointed the plan exempts state universities, noting that West Conn has a large footprint in Danbury.

 

Boughton says the state has lost it's priorities, but this is something that's a worthwhile investment.  He says he will watch this proposal carefully as it moves through the General Assembly.

 

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney has proposed 50-percent payment for the 20 municipalities with the most PILOT properties, 45-percent for the next 20 and 40-percent for the rest.  Currently reimbursements are about 33-percent.

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Worker's comp law mental health expansion bill advanced

A bill has been advanced by the legislature's Public Health Committee that would have teachers, police, fire and other public employees who witness a traumatic incident have their mental health treatment covered by the state's worker's comp law.  The bill is in response to the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

 

Public Safety Committee co-chair Representative Stephen Dargan says it's getting hard for municipalities to find volunteer emergency responders.  He says people don't want to volunteer if they're not backed up by their employer if they are hurt.

 

Those critical of the bill call it an unfunded mandate on towns and cities.  The bill still needs approval from the full House and Senate.

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ARC collection donations for funeral costs of Danbury homeless man

Donations are being collected by the Association of Religious Communities in Danbury for costs in connection with the death of Francisco Raymundo Perez, who died of hypothermia on a bitterly cold February night.  Reverend PJ Leopold says ARC hopes to raise the $4,500 needed to return the man's body to his family in Guatemala.

 

Perez was about 40 years old, had been sending money home to his family, including 5 children.  No one knows why he left the Dorothy Day shelter on Spring Street in the middle of the night and wound up dead of exposure. 

 

ARC is the regional point of entry for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  A community member asked ARC to be the fiduciary and agreed because they have done so for others. 

 

Donations can be sent to ARC at 325 Main Street in Danbury, CT 06810 until April 22nd.  Checks can be made payable to ARC, with “funeral” indicated in the memo section.  Cash donations will also be accepted at the ARC office, with “funeral” indicated on the envelope.

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Newtown struggles to meet mental health demand

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Newtown officials are applying for a federal grant and charities are pooling their resources in an attempt to ensure that free mental health care remains available to those who need it following the December 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The moves come as some charities begin to run short of money. Officials say they have no real idea of how much they will ultimately need for mental health care in Newtown, and for how many years.

Newtown residents seeking financial help are being directed to the State Office of Victim Services, which is processing applications for a pool of funds created by the Lions Club, Rotary Club and Newtown Memorial Fund.

The town also has asked for a $7 million grant to help pay nonprofits providing mental-health services and link people with those services.

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Conn. assisted suicide bill draws large crowd

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are hearing emotional testimony from those who oppose and support proposed legislation allowing physicians to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

A large crowd was on hand for Monday's public hearing before the Public Health Committee.

Many who testified before lawmakers did so from motorized wheelchairs.

Sara Meyers of Kent, diagnosed with ALS three years ago, said she could ``rest a whole lot easier'' knowing she had the ability to end her life peacefully, with the help of a doctor's prescription, if she chose to end her life.

But many disabilities rights advocates found the legislation offensive. Cathy Ludlum of Manchester said the bill is more about ``disability phobia'' and not personal choice.

It's unclear whether the bill will be voted out of committee.

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Grief Counselors at Ridgefield High School

Ridgefield mourns the loss of a teen. ..

The 15-year-old Ridgefield girl who died after being struck by a car on Ridgebury Road on Friday was a high school sophomore who lived a short distance from the scene of the accident. She was walking with a group of friends.

Emma Sandhu, of Benson Road, was walking with a group of friends Friday night when she was hit just before 9:30 p.m. She died at Danbury Hospital.

Police said Sunday the accident remains under investigation, and they have not yet identified the driver, who remained at the scene. The accident occurred in an unlighted section of Ridgebury Road, where a person familiar with the accident said Sandhu had been attending a gathering with other teens. The teen was reportedly wearing dark clothing. The accident is under investigation .

Emma Sandhu had attended the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance.

Allison Stockel , Exec. Director of  the Ridgefield Playhouse says the teen played the Snow Queen in the Nutcracker at the Playhouse in Dec. She had done so for years.

Counseling services will be available at a variety of locations today , including Ridgefield High School and at the Ridgefield Youth Service Bureau .

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Maintenance scheduled on Danbury railroad crossing

Work being done at a Metro North crossing in Danbury this coming weekend is not related to ongoing signal system issues.

 

Metro-North has been providing off-peak and weekend busing for Danbury Branch customers since March 1st, when a temporary scheduled was put in place to figure out what is causing false activations of crossing gates on the Danbury branch. 

 

Separately, this coming weekend Metro-North track workers will be upgrading the grade crossing at East Liberty Street in Danbury.  They will be replacing wooden ties, running rail and the rubber crossing pads on the roadway to make it a smoother crossing.  The work also involves replacing the ballast--the loose rock between the ties that stabilize the whole track structure. 

 

A detour will be put in place during that work.

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Money moved to pay for plow, HVAC maintenance in Danbury

Almost half of the money left in Danbury's contingency fund has been moved to the Public Works Department to help cover the costs of this winter.  The many winter storms meant plowing equipment took a beating and are in need of more maintenance.  In addition the subzero temperatures means the HVAC systems in many schools are in need of more maintenance. 

 

City Councilman Tom Saadi questioned if there are things that can be anticipated that would need additional funds.  At their meeting earlier this month, the Council approved moving $200,000 to the Public Works Department budget, but the City's Finance Director says it could be a wash. 

 

After last year's City budget was put together, the state changed their structure a bit to include funding for road and bridge maintenance.  Allowed in that is snow removal, salt and sand.  The money is being held in a special fund, which would be moved to cover other operating expenses in the Public Work's budget.

 

St Hilaire says that took a lot of pressure off the Public Work's budget.

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Conn. agency offers advice to gun, magazine owners

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut officials are urging owners of now-illegal assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines to relinquish them to the police or make them permanently inoperable.

The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection announced Friday it had sent a letter to owners who had failed to register the items by a Jan. 1 deadline, part of last year's gun control law. Officials offered advice on what to do now with the weapons and magazines.

The letter says gun owners are in compliance with the new state law if their items are no longer in Connecticut or were sold to an authorized gun dealer.

Those who fail to comply face charges of possessing an unregistered assault weapon and/or high capacity magazine.

Commissioner Dora Schriro denied rumors DESPP is confiscating weapons.

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Conn. jobless rate dipped to 7.2 percent in Jan.

State labor officials say Connecticut's unemployment rate dropped slightly to 7.2 percent in January despite the state losing 10,400 jobs.  All six of the Labor Market Areas posted job losses with the Danbury area the biggest decliner at -1.4 percent.

The state Labor Department released a report Friday saying officials believe poor winter weather was largely responsible for the job losses and they expect job growth trends to return.

The unemployment rate was down from 7.4 percent in December and from 8 percent in January 2013. Labor Department officials say it was the sixth month in a row that the unemployment rate decreased.

The national unemployment rate in January was 6.6 percent, down from 6.7 percent in December.

The department says Connecticut has recovered nearly half the 119,100 jobs it lost in the recession from March 2008 to February 2010.

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$20 million from Nonprofit Grant Program being distributed

Among the 146 projects that have been selected to receive state grant money is five safety projects by Bethel-based Ability Beyond Disability.

 

Governor Dannel Malloy says partnering with organizations like Ability is a smart fiscal investment to ensure the agencies can continue to provide services in an efficient and cost-effective way.  Malloy says this is the largest commitment the state has made to support and invest in community-based organizations that provide critical services to people across the state. 

 

Ability Beyond Disability is receiving a total of $975,000. 

 

Safety projects can include improving program accessibility including compliance with ADA requirements to purchasing generators to prevent service disruption to vulnerable clients with special needs.  The grant money can also be used to address maintainance that's been put off such as roof repairs and other renovations.

 

Another round of grants will be announced when new funding becomes available at the start of the next fiscal year July 1st.  Governor Malloy's budget also proposed adding another $30 million for nonprofit organizations in fiscal year 2015, bringing the total to $50 million.

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Update Danbury transformer blows

Danbury Police are closing off Hospital Avenue at Osborne Street due to the downed wire. The closure will include all of Hospital Avenue to Tamarack Avenue.

 Police and fire crews have responded to a downed wire in the area of Hospital Avenue and Locust Street.

The sparking wire is creating an exposure risk to cars and buildings in the area, which firefighters have ordered evacuated.

A crew from Connecticut Light and Power has been called to respond to the scene. There are over 650 power outages in Danbury .

Firefighters are extinguishing flames on the blacktop caused by the sparking wire and evacuating a building in the area due to smoke from the blacktop.

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Danbury transformer blows downed wire

In  Danbury..Police and fire crews have responded to a downed wire in the area of Hospital Avenue and Locust Street.

The sparking wire is creating an exposure risk to cars and buildings in the area, which firefighters have ordered evacuated.

A crew from Connecticut Light and Power has been called to respond to the scene.

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Danbury Democrats have new Chairman

Danbury has a new chairman of the Democratic Town Committee . He is former State Rep.Joe Walkovich. He replaces Joe DaSilva .

The new party chairman feels this fall will be a strong season for Democrats. Walkovich is also a consultant for Government Relations in Danbury.

Walkovich says there are a lot of new Democrats on the town committee so there is a good mix .

He says they hope to invigorate the Democratic Party in Danbury.

 

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Redding lawmakers participate in informational forum

The forum is being hosted by the Redding League of Women Voters.  State Representatives Dan Carter and John Shaban along with State Senator Toni Boucher will be on hand for the "Ask Your Legislators" event. 

 

They will start by giving a brief overview of what they've been working on during this short General Assembly Session and what they hope to accomplish.  They will also take questions from the audience, moderated by former First Selectman Natalie Ketcham. 

 

The event starts at 7pm with light refreshments followed by the Q&A session at 7:30.  The forum will be held at Redding Town Hall.

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Sandy Hook Action Planning Workshop being held on Wednesday

The Sandy Hook business district is working on an action plan to revitalize the village.  Newtown is partnering with the Connecticut Main Street Center to coordinate an economic recovery consultancy for Sandy Hook Village. 

 

The workshop Wednesday is being hosted by the Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity.  SHOP is investigating how to bring more people to the village district for shopping, dining and gathering.  The area recently completed Phase Two of a streetscape project. 

 

SHOP President Michael Burton said in a statement that the effort is designed to provide a connection from the business district to existing and planned residential neighborhoods.  Two new gathering vistas have ben installed for residents and visitors to relax while strolling through the downtown.  The goal of the marketing effort is to help Sandy Hook Village business and property owners with economic recovery, while creating a vibrant social center. 

 

The meeting Wednesday is from 5:30pm to 8:30 at the Firehouse on Riverside Road.

 

More information on the Sandy Hook Market Study and Community Branding Program can be found here.

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Adam Lanza's father speaks out

The father of Adam Lanza , the gunmen in the Sandy Hook Tragedy , says he is sure his son would have shot him too after killing his mother if he had the chance to.

In his first interview , Peter Lanza tells The New Yorker magazine, “With hindsight, he knows Adam would have killed him in a heartbeat if he’d had the chance.

And Lanza knows why his 20-year-old son fired four bullets into his mother Nancy. He says each one represented a member of his immediate family.

The heartbroken father said he reached out to the families of his son’s victims. Two have taken him up on his offer to meet.

He said its  gut-wrenching,’’ A victim’s family member told him that they forgave Adam after they  spent three hours talking.
He  says he didnt even know how to respond to that .. he said he  would trade places with them in a heartbeat if that could help.’

Lanza says he’s dreamed about his homicidal son every night since the shooting. And he described the worst nightmare of his life. He was walking past a door and saw a figure in whom he could sense “the worst possible evilness.’’ and he realized it was Adam.

 

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'The President and the Madman' presented tonight in Newtown

Less than four months in the Oval Office is the shortest term served by any President.  Tonight, the Newtown Historical Society is looking into President James Garfield's career and the man who shot him.  Former teacher Gordon Williams will present "The President and the Madman". 

 

Garfield served in the military during the Civil War and was first elected to Congress while on active duty.  He served nine terms and was named the Presidential candidate when the Republican Convention came to a stalemate in 1880.

 

Garfield was an active minister of the Disciple of Christ church, and is reported to have said when he resigned his ministry after election as President, "I resign the highest office in the land to become President". 

 

Garfield was shot in the back twice by Charles Guiteau.  He believed he was directed by God to kill Garfield.  Guiteau was a disappointed office seeker who stalked Garfield after the Inauguration.

 

But the shots were not fatal.  Garfield lived for 80 days and many historians believe he died from his medical care.

 

Tonight's presentation at Newtown's Meeting House is at 7:30pm.

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Team 26 bikes from Newtown to Washington DC

Team 26 is riding from Newtown to Washington DC to call attention to the need for federal gun violence reform.  They left from Newtown, with stops in Ridgefield and elsewhere, on Saturday.  The event, now in it's 2nd year, is being organized by Newtown resident and avid bicyclist Monte Frank.  He says they will ride until Congress passes stronger gun safety legislation.

 

The group will be met on Tuesday by 4th District Congressman Jim Himes.  He rode with the group from Newtown down to a rally in Greenwich.  In Pennsylvania, the group will be met by Maura Sherlack Schwartz, the daughter of Sandy Hook School psychologist Mary Sherlach.

 

There are 10 rallies being held along the 400 mile route to the US Capital.  One was held in Harlem.  Franks says they want to to build bridges to the urban environment because gun violence is a problem in inner cities and the suburbs.

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Danbury Fire Department promotions approved

The Danbury City Council has approved four promotions in the Danbury Fire Department.

 

Firefighter Gary Bruce has been promoted to Deputy Fire Marshal.  He joined the Danbury Fire Department in 2006 from the Seymour Fire Department.  Bruce has many certifications and a BA in accounting.  He is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and is the running coach for the Greater YMCA of Waterbury.

 

Firefighter Robert Shea Hanson has been promoted to Fire Lieutenant .  He joined the Danbury Fire Department in 2006 with prior experience from volunteering in Bethel and Brookfield.  He served as a 911 dispatcher at Northwest Public Safety and the Southbury Police Department.  He is a Fire Service Instructor, Rescue Core Technician and EMT.

 

They were sworn in on Wednesday.

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Danbury Police Department swears in new Detectives

The Danbury City Council has approved four promotions in the Danbury Police Department.

 

Police Officer Justin Williams has been promoted to Detective.  He joined the Danbury Police Department in 2004 and has served as Field Training Officer and as a part time Evidence Technician.  He has received the Exceptional Police Service award and the Life Saving Medal.

 

Police Officer Kevin Zaloski has been promoted to Detective.  He joined the Danbury Police Department in 1997.  He has served in a number of positions including in the Community Conditions Unit, as a member of the SWAT Team and a part time Mobile Operations Center Operator.  He has received the Exceptional Police Service award and the Life Saving Medal.

 

They were sworn in on Thursday.

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PURA to meet with energy providers on hefty bills

A hearing with alternative energy providers will be held by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in the coming weeks.  PURA held hearings across the state, including in Brookfield, to learn from consumers about their experiences with alternate electric suppliers and skyrocketing bills. 

 

PURA Chairman Michael Caron previously said the number of complaints has more than doubled from a year ago.

 

Consumer Counsel Elin Katz said previously that complaints from frustrated customers have been pouring in--some saying the companies are using low introductory rates to attract customers and then switching to variable rates without telling them.

 

The State Attorney General is also looking into the issue.

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Property damage at Eichler's Cove investigated

Newtown police are investigating a vandalism case at the town park on Lake Zoar.  Police say they were called on Monday with a report of nine inflatable buoys being cut at Eichler's Cove. 

 

The markers indicate where the swimming area is at the beach.  Police say the buoys are valued at $160 each meaning the person did more than $1,400 in property damage. 

 

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Newtown Police at 203-426-5841.

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Anti-blight law town meeting set in Ridgefield

A Town Meeting will be held in Ridgefield soon on the anti-blight law.  The Board of Selectmen has scheduled the town meeting for Wednesday the 19th. 

 

The ordinance was proposed to give Ridgefield residents a way to express concerns about the condition of rundown properties.  The ordinance provides definitions of what would be considered blight, which includes being dilapidated, having boarded up windows, is a fire hazard or the property is littered with excessive amounts of garbage or abandoned unregistered cars. 

 

It calls for a blight enforcement officer to be part of a Blight Prevention Board and the creation of a Citation Hearing Appeals Board.

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Conn. Senator holds hearing in DC on rail safety

A day after holding his first hearing as chair of a Senate panel on surface transportation, Senator Richard Blumenthal this morning will lay out his rail safety priorities. The Connecticut Democrat already says he plans to draw up legislation mandating that regulators better emphasize improved safety and reliability for commuter and freight rail. 

 

This comes as Metro North is under scrutiny for a series of mishaps, accidents and mechanical failures. 

 

Motorists, not just rail riders, are expressing safety concerns over signal issues at intersections along the Danbury Branch.

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Bethel Charter changes up for public hearing tonight

There is a public hearing tonight in Bethel on proposed changes to the town's Charter.  Among the Charter Revision Commission recommendations is that the Board of Selectmen increase from three members to five and their term of service double from two years to four. 

 

Currently $25,000 allocations or greater have to go to a Town Meeting, the Commission is recommending that the number be increased to $50,000.  The same changes are being recommended for special appropriations and transfers. 

 

Currently the Board of Finance doesn't have line-item authority for the Boards of Education and Library budgets.  The Commission is recommending that they no longer have that authority over other town department budgets and move to a bottom-line basis.  The Commission says the rationale behind the recommendation is that the individual departments are better suited to decide how much for what areas is needed. 

 

Another recommendation is that the Annual Town Meeting be moved from May to April. 

 

Tonight's public hearing is at 7pm at Bethel Municipal Center.

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New Fairfield officials support bill to lower cost of resident trooper program

A bill to reduce the amount of money that towns must reimburse the state for the cost of resident state troopers for overtime and fringe benefits is being co-sponsored by State Senator Mike McLachlan. 

 

New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman submitted testimony to the legislature's Public Safety Committee in favor of the bill, which calls for the reimbursement for overtime and fringe benefits to be reduced from 100-percent to 70-percent.  McLachlan says the proposal aims to help towns, like New Fairfield, make sure that their costs are manageable. 

 

He said the bill will also enhance public safety by helping prevent towns from being forced to reduce their number of resident troopers.

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April vote set for Schlumberger land sale in Ridgefield

Ridgefield residents will be voting next month on whether to sell 10 acres of the Schlumberger site to a developer for condominium-like housing.  The Board of Selectmen last night set the date of the referendum as April 8th. 

 

The selling price of $4-million would be paid by Residential Investments LLC.  The proposal is for 24 free standing units of age-restricted housing.  The Selectmen held an executive session meeting Thursday afternoon on the contract. 

 

There was consideration given to a proposal from Toll Brothers for the same price, but that was pending approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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NY Judge sides with newspaper over pistol permit information

The Westchester Supreme Court has ruled that Putnam County cannot legally prevent the names and addresses of pistol permit holders from being made public in electronic form.  The Judge found in favor of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc., the owner of The Journal News.

 

Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant refused to disclose the information requested by Gannett through a Freedom of Information Law.  The Journal News published similar information from Rockland and Westchester Counties soon after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

 

Sant's denial cited exceptions to the law which protects from an unwarranted invasion of privacy and for withholdings in the case of protecting the life or safety of a person.  That decision was upheld by County Executive MaryEllen Odell.  She said publishing permit holder's addresses would create a dangerous roadmap for those with a criminal intent.

 

In his decision, Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary said the grounds for denial predated the 2013 amendment which would allow permit holders to file for an exemption to keep their information from becoming public record.  The applicants can include active duty or retired police, peace, probation, parole and corrections officers and their spouses, and witnesses or jurors in a criminal proceeding and their spouses.

 

Putnam County officials say they will likely appeal the decision.c

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Ridgefield Library to be completed, open in May

Ridgefield Library has announced their Grand Opening weekend.  May 9th through the 11th has been set as when the new library will be open to the public.  The Library will close for a brief period in April for the move from its temporary quarters on Governor Street back to Main Street. 

 

Board of Directors chairman Peter Coffin said in a blog post that it's been 10 years in the works and has involved 13,00 people--planners, designers, volunteers, staff, donors and others. 

 

The weekend will include a ribbon cutting, games, performances and other events to show off the new site.

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Ridgefield museum hopes to draw in Downton Abbey fans

Friday is Fairfield County Gives day.  It's a 24-hour online giving day sponsored by the Fairfield County Community Foundation for non-profits in the area. 

 

One of those participating in the fund drive is the Keeler Tavern Museum.  They're hoping to attract Downton Abbey fans.  The Ridgefield museum owns the court ensemble worn by architect, Cass Gilbert's wife when the couple was presented to England’s King George V in 1925. 

 

Museum Executive Director Hildi Grob says the gown is in dire need of restoration.

 

The mauve silk brocade dress--mostly sewn by hand--has lace inserts, clusters of beads and rhinestones and a 6 foot train.  The outfit also includes a headdress and fan made with ostrich feathers.  The project, along with a custom mannequin for the display, is going to cost $5,000. 

 

The Museum is also repurposing what is now the dining room into a Cass Gilbert Museum showcasing photos, documents and artifacts that tell the story of his life in Ridgefield.  He designed the Woolworth Building in New York City and the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC and others.

 

160 people giving $25 each means the Museum will meet its goal because the Board of Directors has pledged a matching $1,000.

 

Many non-profits in the Greater Danbury area are participating in this fund drive.  They have links on their websites as well as a place on the fcgives.org site to donate to the organization of choice.

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CH Booth Library to reopen, search for new director

CH Booth Library in Newtown has started looking for its new director.  The search committee has sent out an email to patrons asking for them to fill out an online survey.  The group says one of the first priorities is to have the community involved in the process.  CH Booth officials are looking for an enthusiastic and experienced director to lead the library.  The survey is confidential.

 

A date to reopen CH Booth Library in Newtown has been set.

 

The library is Newtown has been shuttered since a sprinkler pipe burst and caused extensive water damage to the facility.  CH Booth officials say the library is currently projected to re-open Saturday, the 8th.  In an updated posted on their website, officials said the shelving and furniture are mostly back in place. The computers and electronics are being installed. 

 

The Reference Staff is no longer operating a desk at Edmond Town Hall.  They thanked the Board of Managers and staff for their assistance during the library's time at Edmond Town Hall.

 

Librarians say the outside book drops have reopened, but all programs and activities at the Library remain canceled until the site itself reopens.  Late fees will not be charged until the library reopens, and even then there will be an amnesty period.

 

When requesting items online through the Newtown library catalogue, patrons are asked to continue selecting a pick up location other than CH Booth Library.

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Metro-North delivers improvement plan, lawmakers dissatisfied

Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti has given Connecticut's transportation commissioner a preliminary 100-day improvement plan.  Giulietti told Commissioner James Redeker on Monday the first priority is to rebuild a culture of safety.  He says Metro-North's priorities are to operate safely, communicate better and restore performance.

Giulietti said Metro-North will re-establish a department to enforce safety policies, a data analysis unit to identify positive and negative trends, and improve programs to train and test employees on their knowledge of safe operations.

He promised at least six meetings with commuters during the 100 days.

 

Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says the plan lacks substance and falls short.  He's concerned the Federal Railroad Administration is not doing their job when it comes to Metro North oversight.

 

McLachlan questioned the Commissioner yesterday on the Danbury branch problems.  He was told there's a task force working to fix the signal malfunctions at the grade crossings.  But he called that an answer for not giving an answer.  He says there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Governor Malloy said he is disappointed that Metro-North did not provide more specifics. He said Giulietti's letter is a roadmap to better and safer service, riders need to know that there is a plan with benchmarks and deadlines.

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Snow causing more than pothole problems

The Danbury Public Works Department asked the City Council last night for $200,000 from the contingency fund.  Their equipment needed more repairs and upkeep than anticipated because of the amount of use they've gotten so far. 

 

Cars are required to be moved off the streets to help with plowing and the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team reported last night that 9 have been towed since the start of the year.  There were six vehicles unregistered and seemingly abandoned. 

 

Sidewalks not being cleared was another issue.  In the Fairfield Ridge neighborhood, residents had to walk in the streets because sidewalks weren't cleared. 

 

That led to 11 properties receiving a notice that tenants are responsible for clearing snow.  No fines needed to be issued because all of the instances were taken care of.

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Conn. man wanted in FL arrested in New York

A Connecticut man wanted in Florida has been arrested in New York.  While on patrol in Southeast the night of February 23rd, a Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy saw a man acting suspiciously in the parking lot of Brewster Ford on Route 22.  The man was stopped and questioned about why he was walking around the lot at 10:30 in the evening . 

 

46-year old Moises Valentin of Waterbury said that he was a car salesman and was looking at the vehicle. 

 

An investigation revealed that Valentin was wanted in Florida on a warrant.  He was taken into custody and held for further legal action.  Police did not disclose what the out-of-state warrant was for.

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Ash Wednesday taken to the streets in Bethel

Three Bethel churches are teaming up to allow people to take part in Ash Wednesday in non-church locations.  First Congregational Church of Bethel interim Pastor Laura Westby says Ashes To Go was a success last year, that the Houses of Worship are expanding the traditional start of Lent.

 

Westby says in a world that is changing at lightning speed, this fills a need to offer the traditional gifts of faith in non-traditional ways  She hopes to reach those who have lost their connection to a church, have never participated before or are unable to attend a traditional church service.

 

Ashes to Go will be available from 7 to 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Molten Java, 213 Greenwood Avenue.

 

Ashes to Go will also be available from 8 to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Jacqueline’s, 138 Greenwood Avenue.

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Tribal leader blasts Conn. gov. over US rules

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A review that is expected to produce new U.S. rules for recognizing American Indian tribes as early as this summer is stirring heat in Connecticut, where the governor is leading efforts to block changes that could open the door to more tribal casinos.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy argued in a letter he delivered last week to President Barack Obama that proposals under consideration could hurt the state by boosting tribal claims to vast areas of developed land.

Alan Russell, the leader of one faction of the Schaghticoke tribe in Kent, asked in a statement whether Malloy is a ``lapdog'' for wealthy land owners in Litchfield County.

The changes proposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended to streamline the process but are seen by some as watering down standards for recognition.

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Redding town meeting next week on elderly tax benefit

Redding is holding a special town meeting next Monday about proposed changes to the elderly tax benefit.  The Tax Collector and the Board of Selectmen are recommending that the re-application process be done in person or by mail. 

 

The eligibility age has been proposed to rise from 65 years old to 67 years old.  The application is proposed to be available from January 1st through April 15.  Lastly, the proposal calls for eligible residents living in Redding for at least 5 years. 

 

If the vote is NO, the changes will not go in to effect.

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Primary today in New Milford for Democrats

There is a primary today in New Milford.  Registered Democrats will be asked to go to the polls to vote on who will be on the Democratic Town Committee.  A petition was circulated around New Milford and saw more the 300 signatures added to force a primary. 

 

Democratic Town Committee chairman John Lillis and 23 others lost their seats to the New Milford Democrats for Change slate in January.  Only 12 current members of the Committee were re-elected. 

 

All polling places are open from 6am to 8pm tomorrow.

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Another storm, more road salt distributions

Governor Dannel Malloy says 22 additional cities and towns have received road salt under a Connecticut Department of Transportation program that was recently set-up to replenish municipal salt supplies diminished over a harsh 2013-14 winter season.  New Milford was among the municipalities participating in this round of distributions.

 

More than half of Connecticut’s municipalities have now benefitted from ConnDOT’s salt distribution program.  More than 17,000 tons of salt has been delivered to nearly 100 towns and other entities across the state.

 

In addition to local public works garages, salt has also been delivered to several state colleges and universities, rail lines and the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribal nations.

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New timetables, bussing starts on MNR Danbury Branch

New schedules are in effect on the Danbury Branch of Metro North to provide a more accurate time frame of when trains will be arriving and departing stations.  This is all because of the signal problems causing conductors to operate at slower speeds and a "stop and warn" procedure.  Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher says bussing during off peak hours is also being rolled out.

 

She says that's being done so engineers have large uninterrupted periods of time to check the system.  They have yet to find out what the problem is.  It's a brand new system so it's still under warranty. 

 

Boucher says there are  a lot of expectations and hope that the new president of Metro North will quickly rectify these problems.  She thinks the honeymoon will be very short lived because the problems are so numerous.

 

Metro North president Joseph Giulietti told the Transportation Committee on Thursday that he would come back to the Committee in 90 days to report on how his 100 day "turn around" plan went.

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Homecoming held in Ridgefield for teen Olympian

Today is Tucker West Day in Ridgefield.  That was part of a proclamation made at the Ridgefield Community Center last night in honor of the 18-year old Olympic athlete. 

 

The Luge competitor says his family has always supported him and knowing Ridgefield was behind him was a great feeling.  He said the reception was awesome, it felt like he won a medal.  The humble teen also said he felt unworthy of the town rallying together behind him.  He added that he was unbelievably thankful for that support.

 

West says it only sunk in really during the opening ceremonies that he was competing in the Olympics.  He described walking in with Team USA in their gear as honoring and overwhelming.  He said there was a really camaraderie felt in the stadium that night.

 

West says it was nerve-wracking competing in the Olympics for the first time with a lot of people watching, but that he trained his whole life for that moment and he was ready.

 

His dad Brett says his son trained very hard and he's very proud.  No American male singles luge athlete has medaled in the Olympics and says his son wants to be the first.  He's so young, his first Olympics was supposed to be in 2018, but Brett says the experience in Sochi has redoubled his son's mental committment to the sport.

 

Tucker has moved on from his backyard luge track and trains in Lake Placid.  Starting in November he will be in Europe competing in World Cups.

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Official: charitable giving after Newtown chaotic

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut's Department of Consumer Protection commissioner says despite the chaotic and splintered nature of the charitable giving following the Newtown school shooting, there was minimal outright fraud.

Appearing before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission on Friday, William Rubenstein said more than $20 million was raised by numerous groups following the December 2012 massacre, which donations from around the country and the world.

Rubenstein said the shooting was unlike other events that spark charitable giving, such as natural disasters. He said there were few known charities involved with raising money. Rather, new entities popped up to collect money for memorials, scholarships, the victims' families and other causes.

Rubenstein said that prompted his office and the state Attorney General to issue public advisories, warning people to give responsibly.

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Walnut Hill Bridge construction in holding pattern, again

This new cold snap is delaying work on the Walnut Hill Bridge in Bethel.  The next step is installing prefabricated beams, but the temperature needs to be above 40 degrees.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says that is the start of the final phase of construction. 

 

The abutments are in place and drainage has been installed.  After the beams are put in place the bridge deck plates can be installed and the road paved. 

 

Knickerbocker says the bridge could be reopened to traffic in May.

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Danbury area projects receive state bond money

Some of the $50 million package of state bond money being set aside for Newtown to build a new Sandy Hook Elementary School is being allocated Friday.  The State Bond Commission has approved a $3 million dollar allocation to finance the ongoing planning and design costs for the new school.  This grant-in-aid funding joins $3.7 million dollars already allocated to the town.

 

New Fairfield Library is getting some state funding now that the Bond Commission has met.  The allocation was covered in two items totalling $751,000.  The grant-in-aid funding will be used by the town for construction costs including energy conservation projects.  The improvements will include a new elevator, meeting space and other various repairs. 

 

State Senator Mike McLachlan says the substantial commitment from the state is great news for New Fairfield.  He added that the renovations will make the library more accessible and will benefit the community for years to come.

 

The state Bond Commission also approved funding for the Danbury Housing Authority.  The $5.17 million request would go toward the rehabilitation of the Glen Apartments, a senior and disabled apartment complex near Rogers Park.  The project includes converting the heating and cooling systems along with upgraded lighting and insulation. 

 

A "Call for Aid" system would be installed with some of the funding.  Handicap compliance, improvements to the community building and other site improvements would also be covered by the funding.  One of the more immediate needs, an emergency generator, will be paid for as well.

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Area police chiefs testify before Sandy Hook Advisory Commission

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, created to come up with policy recommendations in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, heard presentations Friday from state and local police and fire officials about incident management. 

 

Brookfield Police Chief Robin Montgomery was among the first on the scene December 14th and says a trauma manager would have been helpful to have there.  He says some entity needs to have oversight for the services needed by the community.

 

He says chaos is almost a given when something like this happens.  He says the first people on the scene need to be very well informed and communicate the situation back to others.  Montgomery says one of the biggest challenges was that they didn't know first hand the horrendous element the responders were about to face.  He says relaying that message back to the department is critical.

 

Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe says there could have been better response when it comes to trauma services.  He told the panel that the command post was also a safe zone for the kids so reunification was the priority.  He says logistically that didn't work out as well as he would have liked it to.

 

Kehoe says he couldn't start the command post until some structure was set up in the fire house to make sure children left with the right adult.   He says after neutralizing the threat, going to two crime scenes and making sure the area was safe were challenges coupled with all the kids leaving the building in the cold.

 

The 16-member panel is expected to submit its recommendations sometime early this year.

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