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Local Headlines Archives for 2015-03

Newtown Commnuity Center info meetings cancelled

Planned informational sessions about the proposed Communtiy Center project have been called off.  At the latest info session, residents were critical of the plans for Phase 1 to be a senior center and aquatics center, saying children and other sectors of the community were left out. 


Newtown's attorney says the $15 million donation from GE doesn't need voter approval from residents.  Newtown Patch reports that there's no technical requirement for the acceptance of the gift, except that a financial contract statement be filed. 


David Grogins said in the report that the only required step is for the town to enter into a donor agreement, which was done last November. 

Improvements to Newtown Road in Danbury proposed by DOT

Proposed improvements to Newtown Road in Danbury have been discussed during an informational meeting.  The state Department of Transportation gathered public input last night on the proposals to widen Newtown Road and to realign some intersections among other work. 


The project is in the preliminary design phase and would not be started until 2017. 


Project Manager Michael Calabrese says the four lane section that ends at Plumtrees Road would be continued to Old Newtown Road.  The shoulder would also be widened by the Public Works Complex to allow drivers to bypass people waiting to make a left turn there.  A new driveway providing access to the Public Works Complex and future commercial development is proposed on its south side. 


A raised median is planned for a section of Newtown Road running from Old Newtown Road to Industrial Plaza Drive. 


Designated left turn lanes would be added at a realigned Old Shelter Road Road.  The intersection would form a "T"-shape.  Traffic signals would also be installed.


The estimated construction cost for these projects is approximately $11.3 million.  This project is anticipated to be undertaken with 80% federal funds and 20% state funds.  The targeted start time will be based on funding availability.

Projects in Brookfield, New Milford receive state Department of Housing grants

More than $60 million in state funding is being distributed to 14 affordable housing projects across the state.


One is the Brookfield Village project at Route 202 and Station Road.  Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein says a 48-unit mixed-use, mixed-income development will be created with 43 of the units restricted as affordable housing.  The project will consist of two three-story buildings.  The site is also adjacent to a local HARTransit bus stop with service to New Milford and Danbury.


The Department will provide up to $4.5 million and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority will provide $4.6 million in tax exempt bond financing to Brookfield Village, LLC.  43 of the 48 units will be restricted as affordable housing in this community and will be targeted to families with 25%, 50%, and 60% of the area median income. 


New construction and renovations at East Street Apartments in New Milford will receive some funding.  Dakota Partners will work with National Park Service historic guidelines to create 38 apartments.  30 of the units will be available to people with incomes less than 60-percent of the area median income.  Sustainable design features include measures to reduce impact on the town's storm drains and make use of new natural gas infrastructure. 


The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority has awarded $6.2 million in 9% LIHTC equity and the Department of Housing will provide up to $4.2 million in state capital funds.


After 15 years, the development will be converted to condominiums and tenants will have rights of first refusal to purchase their units.  Relocation assistance will be provided for tenants who choose not to purchase.

Ridgefield lawmakers gather for meeting with constituents

Ridgefield lawmakers are getting together for a meeting with town residents Tuesday.  The meet your legislators event is being held at Ridgefield Library. 


State Representative John Frey and Senator Toni Boucher will be in attendance.  The lawmakers say this is their chance to hear what's happening locally.  They often hear a variety of issues from residents during these get togethers and also about resident's concerns.  The lawmakers will also tell residents about what's happening at the Capital. 


Tuesday night's event at the Ridgefield Library is from 7 to 9pm.

United Way starting social service grant review process

Volunteers are being sought by the United Way to serve on a grant allocation committee.  The committee run by the United Way of Western Connecticut is for Danbury's social services grant review process. 


There is a lump sum of funding in the Danbury budget each year for social service agencies and the committee vets which organizations receive how much funding.  The volunteers must be over age 18, a Danbury resident and willing to volunteer approximately 20 to 25 hours from the beginning of April through early June. 


Presentations are made by various groups, agency proposals are reviewed, and then discussions are held about funding recommendations.  There will be a Volunteer Training/Orientation held on April 6th from 9am–10:30am at United Way of Western Connecticut's conference room on West Street in Danbury.


The recommendations are also approved by Danbury officials. 


Contact Melissa Hannequin at for more information on how to become a volunteer for this process.

Regional Hospice launching Veterans program, seeks volunteers

Regional Hospice and Home Care is looking for volunteers.  The nonprofit agency is hosting Training Sessions for New Volunteers this week and next.  Regional Hospice is starting a new program called We Honor Veterans, which will match the Veteran volunteers with Veterans in the care of the hospice.


Some positions are located in the new Center; others include visiting some patients in their homes or other residences, such as assisted-living facilities and hospitals. 


Some of the attributes the organization says suit the candidates are being a good listener, the capability to brighten someone's day and enjoys being around people.  Training includes information on the hospice philosophy in general, as well as the specific services provided by the Regional Hospice team. The death and dying process is also reviewed in detail.


Volunteers are needed in a number of capacities, including Family Support, Pet Partners, Pet Peace of Mind, Lobby Greeters at the new Center, Community Bereavement Volunteers, Children’s Bereavement Volunteers, Kitchen Volunteers, Administrative Volunteers and Fundraising/Chapter Volunteers.


Anyone interested should contact Mary Beth Hickey, volunteer manager, at 203-702-7415 or by email at for an interview and to fill out an application.

Zero tolerance for school threats legislation advances

A legislative committee has advanced a bill to increase the penalties for threatening when the threat involves a preschool, school or an institution of higher education.  The legislation was introduced by Newtown Representative JP Sredzinski, Wilton Senator Toni Boucher and freshman State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes a part of Newtown.


Hwang says he understands the long-term effects the Sandy Hook tragedy had on the community, and he wants certain school threats treated as felonies.


Hwang says they are trying to ensure that post-traumatic fallout from the Sandy Hook shootings is not continually exacerbated by individuals who initiate threats resulting in lock-ins, evacuations, and other disruptive reactions at local schools, as well as in other school districts across the state.


The Judiciary Committee on Friday voted 35 to 7 to send the bill to the next step.  Among those voting in opposition was New Milford Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor.  Greater Danbury area lawmakers on the committee voting in favor of the measure include Boucher, Danbury Representative Bob Godfrey, Brookfield Representative Steve Harding, Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan, Redding Representative John Shaban and New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith. 


Sredzinski says this bill will send a powerful message to those who seek to traumatize Connecticut children.  Representative Mitch Bolinsky says each threat represents a serious setback to his community's healing.  He says not only is there an emotional toll, but each one hits the municipal and school budgets.


Testimony was submitted to the Committee by Newtown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Erardi.  He says there's been an uptick in frequency and intensity in threats over the past several years.  Erardi has been a Superintendent in Connecticut for the last 16 years.  He feels the perpetrators have a "catch me if you can" attitude.


Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said in written testimony that because of the hypervigilance of school communities, these threats activate security plans, notification and response.  He says that activation has caused fear, anxiety and disruption that lasts long after it's determined to be a threat or not an actual event. 


MacNamara added that as the threats continue, it makes it more difficult for first responders and teachers to discern what is a real event, and overtime the doubt will slow their ability to react appropriately to identify when a true emergency is happening.

Police body camera bill clears Connecticut committee

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A bill that could lead to Connecticut police officers wearing body cameras is moving through the General Assembly.

The Judiciary Committee on Friday narrowly passed a bill, 22-to-19, requiring various police officials to determine when body-worn recording equipment should be used by officers and in what manner. The bill awaits further action in the Senate.

Sen. Gary Winfield of New Haven said having such a law on the books will help build trust between public and police departments, especially in Connecticut's cities.

But Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor of New Milford said mandating body cameras across the state would be ``an overreach of the state.'' She said it should be left up to individual municipalities.

Some lawmakers also raised concerns about people's privacy rights potentially being violated if they're caught on camera.


Among the 19 on the committee voting against the bill were Buck-Taylor, Wilton Senator Toni Boucher, Brookfield Representative Steve Harding, Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan, Redding Representative John Shaban, and New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith.  Among the 22 in support of the bill was Danbury Representative Bob Godfrey.

Connecticut bill protects people who rescue kids in cars

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are considering new legal protections for people who try to rescue children from hot or cold vehicles.

The legislature's Judiciary Committee on Friday approved a bill unanimously providing civil and criminal immunity to people who forcefully enter vehicles to remove children from imminent danger. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.

Cromwell Rep. Christie Carpino says there was a case in February when a child was left unattended inside a car in freezing temperatures. The incident was reported by employees of a business, but the child remained inside the vehicle until authorities arrived. She says the bill would help avoid such situations.

A 15-month-old Ridgefield boy died last summer after being left alone in a hot car. His father took a plea deal and awaits sentencing.

Danbury officials to study ACE school improvements

There are many challenges at the Alternative Center for Excellence on Locust Avenue in Danbury, one of which is a constant waiting list.


Mayor Mark Boughton's proposed bond package initially included $12 million to $15 million to construct a new building for ACE at the High School campus.  Several school officials felt ACE would be better separated off the grounds of DHS, that's part of the reason the kids enroll in ACE.  It's so they're not in a big building.  There is money in the new proposed bond package to study ACE and how to accommodate the 30 or so kids on the waiting list.


Boughton says ACE currently represents a transportation challenge.  All of the students go to DHS and there's a second bus that then transports them to ACE.  If an ACE student wants to take a program at DHS, they have to be transported up to Clapboard Ridge somehow.  Boughton says they want to encourage students to take programs that can't be offered at ACE because of computers and other logistics.


If DHS sends a staff member to ACE to teach one period, they have to be offered a travel period to do that.  He says there are efficiencies created if ACE was located 50 feet from DHS.  Just that piece of the puzzle is $70,000 to $80,000 a year.


Boughton says there are also some issues with the Locust Avenue building itself,  It burns a lot of oil and takes a lot of maintenance.  It's also on the National Historic Registry so there are some restrictions on improvements.


When moving ACE from Locust Avenue up to DHS was taken off the table, the plan changed to turn the current autoshop area into a blackbox theater.  Boughton says the small performance and digital arts space will better serve the one person plays, poetry readings and small recitals.  Currently the whole High School has to be opened up no matter the scale of the performance because that's the only stage that's really available.  The autoshop program would move to a new building to be constructed at the High School.

Team 26 bikes from Newtown to D.C. for gun control reforms

Team 26 is riding from Newtown to Washington DC to call attention to the need for federal gun violence reform.  They are leaving from Newtown on Saturday at 8am.  The kickoff point is Edmond Town Hall.  There are stops in Ridgefield and elsewhere in Connecticut.  The event, now in it's 3rd year, is organized by Newtown resident and avid cyclist Monte Frank. 


He says they will ride until Congress passes stronger gun safety legislation.


4th District Congressman Jim Himes again rides with the group from Newtown down to a rally in Greenwich.


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

Construction project slated for I-84 exits 5 and 6 in Danbury

Signs will be going up next week along the highway saying that a construction project will be starting soon in Danbury.  The work is scheduled both east and westbound on I-84 by exits 5 and 6, on North Street and Second Avenue.


Eastbound, the bridge over Kohanza Street will be widened so the exit 5 off ramp can be lengthened.  Expanding the bridge over Tamarak Avenue will allow the exit 6 on ramp to be lengthened before merging into highway traffic.


Westbound at exit 6, the off ramp will be lengthened.  State Department of Transportation Supervising Engineer Matthew Cleary says the whole design of that intersection will be realigned.  I-84 will also be widened headed into the exit 5 off ramp.


Route 37, North Street, will be widened so there will be two through lanes in each direction.  Various exclusive turning lanes will also be added.  Two retaining walls will be built along the North Street Shopping Center and the traffic signals will be re-timed.


Utility work and drainage on Second Avenue will be done.


Construction schedule:

  • Exit 5 eastbound off-ramp 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Exit 6 westbound off-ramp 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to  6 a.m. 
  • Exit 5 westbound off-ramp and exit 6 eastbound on-ramp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. 
  • Route 37 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • On Saturdays and Sundays, work will be limited to 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. on all project roadways.


State Regents raise tuition, fees at colleges, universities

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The state Board of Regents has increased tuition and fees by 4.8 percent at Connecticut's community colleges and regional state universities.

Gregory Gray, president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, said Thursday his staff discussed ``40 or 50 scenarios'' to grapple with a $48.6 million budget gap next year before agreeing on a tuition increase he called ``appropriate and necessary.''

The Hartford Courant reports that for Connecticut residents, the average increase will be $186 more for community college students and $440 more for university students.

A group of students protested the increase, urging Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature to increase funding.

On average, state residents pay $3,786 in tuition and fees annually at the state's 12 community colleges and $9,169 in tuition at the four state regional universities.

Danbury High School improvements discussed by City officials

A bond package totalling $53.5 million is being considered in Danbury for a new wing at the High School.  A committee of the City Council met this week to talk about the plan to accommodate an increase in enrollment.  The full City Council takes up the idea on April 7th.


The proposed design would essentially give the 9th grade their own building, creating the Freshmen Academy.  Part of the plan calls for enclosing the current canopy at the cafeteria to accommodate the increased student population.  A redesigned front entrance along with parking and bus expansions are also planned.  The bond proposal also includes a new roof, which will be outfitted with solar panels.


The cost covers the addition, reconstruction of the current autoshop building and construction of a new facility to house the autoshop program.  62-percent of the project will be paid for by the state.


Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the proposed autoshop replacement building would include enhanced equipment.  He says the existing building and equipment are antiquated based on what's currently being taught based on some of the electronics cars today have.


Alternative proposals to accommodate increased enrollment were more costly.  One option was split sessions, similar to those held in the 70s, but that required a lot of buses and more logistics to organize.  Another option was to bus students to other towns where there is declining enrollment, but no one district could take 100 to 150 students in one grade level without having to hire more staff.


Vision 2020 Committee Phase One work was to renovate the elementary schools and open the new middle school.  The next phase is to accommodate increased enrollment at the high school level.  There are 3,000 students currently enrolled at DHS, and that's anticipated to grow to about 3,450 over the next five years.

Lawmakers urge more study of US tribal recognition changes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Several congressional members called on the U.S. Interior Department Thursday to slow down an overhaul of the rules for granting federal recognition to American Indian tribes, saying more study is needed of problems that could result from lowering the bar for the coveted status.


U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who recently became chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter with four other lawmakers outlining their concerns to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.


"We do not support the sweeping changes that have been proposed to the criteria," the lawmakers wrote.


Federal recognition has been granted to 566 American tribes, and is sought because it brings increased health and education benefits to tribal members in addition to land protections and opportunities for commercial development.

Tribes have been pushing for years for Congress or the Interior Department to revise the process. The overhaul would be the first in two decades.


In Connecticut, the governor and the entire congressional delegation have spoken out against the rule changes, which could make it easier for three small tribes to win recognition and revive long-simmering land claims. Two Connecticut Democrats, Rep. Joe Courtney and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, are among the lawmakers who signed the letter.  The Kent-based Schaghticoke Indian Tribe has been seeking federal recognition for years.


The lawmakers say other states may not grasp the significance of the changes proposed for the recognition process that has been criticized as slow, inconsistent and overly susceptible to political influence.


"We are concerned that the Department's proposed rules fail to address many of the issues that have been identified and could create new problems that lead to unintended and unjustifiable outcomes," the lawmakers wrote.


One of the more controversial changes is a new requirement that tribes demonstrate political authority since 1934, where they previously had to show continuity from "historical times."


Supporters of the rule change say it helps to remove unfair burdens. Advocates say that some tribes have been denied recognition because records were lost or burned over hundreds of years, and any tribe that was still together by 1934 had overcome histories of mistreatment.


The letter urges the Interior Department to hold off on putting out final regulations until issues with recognition can be evaluated more thoroughly. The other congressional members who signed the letter are Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, and Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat.


A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said the agency is reviewing the letter.


The Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed the new rules in 2013 to make tribal acknowledgment more transparent and the process more efficient. The department, which has held hearings around the country and received hundreds of comments from the public, proposed formal changes last May that were expected to be finalized soon.

Local lawmaker fights for more Alzheimer's services in Connecticut

A bill to allow more state residents to participate in Alzheimer's respite care program services is moving through the legislative process. 


Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky voted in the Aging committee to approve the bill.  It would increase the annual income limit for participants in the Respite Care Program, which provides respite for caregivers who care for people with Alzheimer's disease or related disorders.  The annual income limit for participants in the Respite Care Program would increase from $43,846 to $50,000.


The Legislature's Appropriations Committee, another committee on which  Bolinsky serves, will be the next to consider the measure.


The asset limit is $116,567. Current income and asset limits are set by Department of Aging policy. The law requires the department to annually increase these limits to reflect social security cost of living adjustments.


Last year, the Connecticut Statewide Alzheimer's Respite Program provided direct services for 713 Alzheimer's patients. Services included nursing, home health aides, companions, Adult Day Centers and Meals on Wheels. Sometimes, a family caregiver was not available.  Almost 1,000 families received information, referrals and counseling to help them with the difficult job of family caregiving.

Newtown Community Center meeting draws opposition

Another informational session has been held in Newtown about the proposed Community Center.  GE donated $15 million  to the town, with a proposal that $10 million be spent to build a facility and $5 million be used to operate it for several years after completion. 


There was some strong opposition voiced during the meeting on Tuesday.  Several residents objected to the idea that it would basically be a senior center and aquatics center, feeling the rest of the community was left out.  Several people spoke about kids not being served by the center. 


A vote is slated for April 28th on accepting the donation.  There are now questions on if the item will remain on the ballot.

State plans roundabout in Monroe at Routes 110, 111

An informational hearing was held last night in Monroe about a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Route 110 and Route 111.  The state Department of Transportation made a presentation about the project to address operation and safety concerns at Shelton Road and Monroe Turnpike. 


The proposed project includes removing the existing flashing light and constructing a roundabout.  Hurd Avenue would be turned into a cul-de-sac and sidewalks would be installed in the area. 


Construction on the estimated $4.1 million dollars project could begin in the spring of 2017.  80-percent of the construction would be covered by federal funds.

Brookfield Finance Board backs Meadowbrook Manor flood relief plan

The Brookfield Boards of Selectmen and Finance are recommending that the town appropriate $2 million to fund a drainage and flooding mitigation plan in the Meadowbrook Manor neighborhood.  The proposed project was reviewed by the Board of Finance last week as part of a capital items to be funding in the coming fiscal year. 


The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has approved a request to divert the brook in order to alleviate flooding conditions in the 128 home neighborhood. 


There were back-to-back 100-year level floods in 2011, which prompted homeowner Jean Hartnett to push for a solution to the problem that's existed for decades.  In the meantime, Public Works crews have cleaned catch basins to reduce some of the flooding.  Neighbors have waded out in water up to their knees, many have had flooded basements in the last several years.


A number of other capital items were approved by the Board of Finance for the budget referendum. 


They including roof replacement at the town library and at town hall, road paving and money for the volunteer fire companies.  Also among the items is acquisition of a dump truck, fuel storage tank replacement at the Highway Garage and miscellaneous repairs to Brookfield High School and Whisconier Middle School.

Belimo holds grand opening of new Danbury headquarters

A grand opening is set for today for Belimo Air Controls.  The U.S. headquarters of the Switzerland-based company is now located on Turner Road in Danbury.  The company produces control valves used by the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry in the United States, Canada and Latin America.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says a seven year tax deferral was offered to Belimo.


Belimo moved from Old Ridgebury Road.  The new, energy-efficient 200,000 square foot building is located on 34 acres at the former Novo Laboratories property. 


The building features a space for hands-on training for Belimo University courses and an improved space for employees from Ability Beyond.  Company officials say this new building has expanded production capabilities.  Belimo says this new building has one of North America's largest H-VAC control valve design and testing labs.


Boughton says 85-percent of the employees live in Danbury.

Newtown home of Sandy Hook school shooter is demolished

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) The Newtown home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school has been demolished.

Several neighbors had asked that the 3,100-square-foot Yogananda Street house be taken down, saying it was a constant reminder of the tragedy in Newtown.

The home was demolished Monday, and plans call for leaving the property as open space.

Newtown took ownership of the home last year when the deed was turned over at no cost to the town by the bank that held the mortgage.

Lottery open for DHS Early College Opportunity program

The lottery is open for Danbury High School students interested in the Associate Degree program.  The Early College Opportunity program begins this fall.  Freshmen could start earning an Associate Degree in Information Technology simultaneously with their high school diploma.  


The degree would be from Naugatuck Valley Community College.  Freshmen will begin accelerating their high school requirements so that by sophomore or junior year they can begin incorporating college-level courses. 

The lottery is open until April 10th. 


There is no cost to complete the program while at DHS, through there is some attendance at NVCC required after graduation. 


Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says every students will be paired with an industry mentor from New Oak Capital or Pitney Bowes.  They will have in person and over-the-internet meetings.  Students will discuss concepts learned during “Workplace Learning,” a class period during their day.  The students can also see strategies in action during one-on-one meetings with their mentor in the workplace. 


To apply to the program, visit and click the link for Danbury Early College Opportunity.

Metro North announces schedule changes effective next month

Metro North service on the Danbury branch will be changed next month.  The state Department of Transportation has announced that the 4:29pm direct train from Grand Central Terminal to Danbury will be eliminated.  The service was added last May to replace a shuttle train that ran from Stamford to Danbury.  But the DOT and Metro North says very few customers are using the service. 


Of the 220 customers boarding in New York, 200 get off at Stamford and only 20 customers on average travel east of there.  The train will go back to being a shuttle and customers will leave on the 4:33 New Haven Line train. 

Metro North will be adding a through train to Danbury leaving Grand Central at 8:01pm, replacing the 9:18pm shuttle from South Norwalk.


Metro North is announcing more upcoming schedule changes to the trains on the Harlem line.  A new train from Grand Central to Southeast will be added and five trains that currently begin or end at Mount Kisko will be extended to Southeast. 


In an effort to reduce crowding , the 6:51am train from Southeast will now originate at Goldens Bridge.  Approximately 220 customers normally board at Southeast, Brewster, Croton Falls or Purdys.  The 7:01 train from Southeast will make fewer stops, including getting rid of the stop at White Plains, and will get in to Grand Central two minutes after the 6:51am train.  The 6am from Wassaic will depart eleven minutes earlier, at 5:49am.


Metro North's new train schedules will be effective Sunday, April 26.

Danbury High School renovations considered by City officials

A committee of the Danbury City Council leadership is meeting tonight to vet a proposal for a Danbury High School redesign.


Mayor Mark Boughton submitted the $61 million proposal for a Danbury High School redesign, along with program and facility upgrades to the Alternative Center for Excellence (ACE).  A new wing at the High School would be created to accommodate the projected increase in the high school population in the coming years according to a presentation made by Boughton during his State of the City address. 


A summary of the projects will be provided to a committee of the Council and during a public hearing session.  Boughton expects greater than a majority of the cost to be reimbursed by state or federal dollars. 


Boughton says he's been in around the clock meetings with Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella, staff at ACE and students.  There's not a strong consensus on whether building a new building is the right way to go.  The staff has pointed out some intangibles about the current facility, the feel of the building, and he wants to take more time to consider those issues. 


The ACE side of the bond package has been tabled for now.  There's a waiting list every year for ACE of about 25 students.  The faculty had some concerns about relocating up to the high school, so he wants to look at whether the space on Locust Avenue can be reconfigured.  Some renovations inside the building would be required.


He anticipates a June 2nd referendum.


The matter will next be placed on the Council agenda for the April 7th meeting.  During the budget hearing, a public hearing about the High School will also be on the agenda.  A special meeting for the high school project will be held after the hearing in order to meet statutory deadlines for the vote in June.


The proposed high school project would include the new Freshman academy, a solar power farm, new entrance and a reconfigured cafeteria.  If ACE does move to the High School campus, it would replace the current free-standing auto shop.


The DHS principal, students, staff, Pascarella, the Board of Education, and the 2020 Committee have seen the concept of the plans and signed off on them.

Public hearing in Bethel tonight on budget proposals

There is a public hearing in Bethel tonight about the municipal and education budget proposals.  Combined, it's about $70.9 million.  There will also be a question on the budget ballot about 14 capital items totalling just shy of $2 million.  The budget process is starting about a month earlier this year because of Charter changes. 


There's also a new state statute in place that says if a public notification system is used to contact people about a referendum date, all taxpayers, not just a subset, must be notified.  The Board of Ed recently sent out notice to those who subscribe to their system about a change in venue and a date reminder for the hearing.  Bethel Action Committee Chairman Cynthia McCorkindale says while it's not technically a violation, it is going down a slippery slope.


There are some signs up around town with the information, it's on the town's website and also the Bethel Town Clerk official Facebook page. 


The town and school spending is voted on separately.  The proposed municipal budget is $27.6 million.  The proposed education spending is $43.28 million.


Tonight's public hearing is at 7:30 at Bethel Middle School.


The capital items are as follows:

$50,000 for the 2017 revaluation work

$30,000 for a new air compressor for the Bethel Fire Department

$52,000 in structural repairs to the Highway Garage

$285,000 for an emergency generator for Bethel High School

$35,000 for a Building Department vehicle replacement

$20,000 for a fuel maintenance system

$118,000 for a backhoe/loader replacement

$170,000 for a Highway Department vehicle replacement

$15,000 for two funnel plows

$12,000 for a trailer for the Parks and Recreation Department

$18,000 for a top dresser for the Parks and Recreation Department

$30,000 for construction of Rubino Property Fields

$50,000 toward the 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development

$1 million in road reconstruction


Library at former Schlumberger site slated for demolition

The library at the former Schlumberger site is slated for demolition.  The Board of Finance and Selectmen have approved using $221,000 for the work.  The matter will now be sent to residents for a vote at a Town Meeting. 


The date for that has not yet been set. 


The building has fallen into disrepair and there is asbestos that needs removing.  A proposal from an art collector to buy the land that includes the library was rejected by voters last November.  Since there is no longer that interest, town officials decided it's not worth fixing up and preserving.

Free concert in Danbury Sunday by U.S. Air Force Heritage Brass Band

There's a time change to the free concert being performed in Danbury Sunday by the United States Air Force Heritage Brass Band.  The show at the Palace Theater Danbury has been bumped back an hour to 3pm, to accommodate the St Patrick's Day Parade in the same area that afternoon. 


Technical Sgt Mark Nixon is part of the 11 member brass group who are all full time musicians within the Air Force.  They play patriotic music,  jazz standards, and new compositions.


The free concert Sunday is at 3pm at the Palace Danbury.

U.S. Senator blasts First Light for Candlewood Lake Authority funding cut

Another person is joining the fight to get First Light Power Resources to continue funding the Candlewood Lake Authority at historical amounts.  Senator Chris Murphy has written to First Light's parent company, GDF Suez Energy North America, blasting the 80-percent reduction in funding.  Murphy says finding a way to preserve the historical, collaborative nature of the relationship between the owner of the lake and the Candlewood Lake Authority will help bolster and improve goodwill.


The lake's owner wants to more equitably distribute the funds it contributes in the 23-town Housatonic River region. 


Murphy says while he appreciates First Light's effort to more broadly and equitably distribute the funds, this should not come at the expense of the equally worthy safety, shoreline, and lake management activities on Candlewood.


Murphy called Candlewood a regional treasure and said the local caretakers need to be able to rely on consistent partnership with First Light in order to adequately manage the mutual benefit.  He added that the total funding, less than $100,000, is a pittance compared to the revenue GDF Suez generates from this asset.


CLA Executive Director Larry Marsicano says what was $50,000 is now $10,000 annually.

Lawmakers share personal stories about assisted suicide bill

Past and present Connecticut legislators are sharing personal stories about how their loved ones dealt with the final days of their lives as the Judiciary Committee considers a bill allowing physicians to prescribe medication to help terminally ill patients end their lives.  One of the emotional accounts came from former Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who represented a district that includes Newtown.


McKinney says he doesn't like to talk about his private life, but he felt he had to after his mother's death in May.  Her bladder cancer metastasized into other organs and she was also diagnosed in February with breast cancer.  McKinney's mother declined surgery and tried one round of chemo.


McKinney says he understands her need for control over medical treatment.  He touted the hospice and palliative care his mother received .  He urged the lawmaker to make sure that type of care is available to anyone who may need or want it.


The Director of Nursing at Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut submitted testimony in opposition to the bill.  Robin Viklund has been a nurse for more than 30 years, the latest 10 in palliative care.  She says hospice care is available to patients so they can lead the rest of their natural life as comfortable as possible with dignity.  She says hospice and palliative care support's the patients right to participate in all decisions, expert symptom management and emotional support.  Viklund also pointed out that hospice care provides bereavement services for the family.


Danbury resident Lynn Taborsak submitted written testimony in support of the bill.  She talked about modifying her house so that she can age in place, but says that life-sustaining measures are not something she would want in the case of a terminal disease.  At it's core, Taborsak called the bill a way to give terminally ill patients a choice between suffering end to life or a peaceful death. Taborsak says the bill is loaded with definitions, safeguards and requirements to prevent abuse.  She called the Oregon bill it's modelled after, one that has been abuse-free for 17 years.


Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill citing statistics in Oregon.  That state passed an assisted suicide bill in 1997 and McLachlan says the rate of suicide among Oregon residents has increased each year since 2000.  In 2012, the suicide rate was 41-percent higher than the national average.  McLachlan worries that this bill would open the door to abuse of the elderly and disabled.  He said in written comments that those around them could influence the decision to commit suicide for personal gain.  McLachlan says a weakness in the bill is that there are no safeguards to know if the lethal drugs were administered voluntarily.


State Attorney General George Jepsen emailed testimony to the committee.  Five states currently allow terminally ill patients to seek aid in dying.  His testimony pointed to specific safeguards in the bill: a person must be mentally competent, have a defined terminal illness and a diagnosis of less than 6 months to live.  He pointed to the Oregon law and said 59-percent of those who obtain prescriptions, don't end up taking the lethal drugs.  Jepsen says aid in dying is not a replacement for continued treatment, hospice or other services. 


Other provisions of the proposal include that there must be two independent diagnose made.  His testimony detailed that written requests must be witnessed by two people and sent to the primary physician in the case.  Witnesses can't have a familial or financial connection to the patient and must not by the owner, operator or employee of a health care facility providing care to the patient.


The public hearing drew so much interest an overflow room had to be set up at the state capitol to accommodate everyone.

Ex-Connecticut Gov. Rowland sentenced to prison a 2nd time

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to hide payments for his work on a congressional campaign.

The 57-year-old Rowland was sentenced in New Haven federal court on Wednesday, 10 years to the day after he was sent to prison on a previous conviction for accepting illegal gifts as governor. That scandal led Rowland to resign from office and serve 10 months in prison.

A jury convicted Rowland in September. He was also fined $35,000.

Prosecutors say Rowland was paid $35,000 to work on the failed 2012 campaign of Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and conspired to hide those payments through a consulting contract with her husband's company.

They say he knew his role would bring unwelcome publicity.

Rowland is expected to appeal his conviction.


Rowland, wearing a dark gray suit with a purple tie, declined to comment during the sentencing hearing and as he left the federal courthouse in New Haven on a sunny but cold and windy day. He hugged his wife and daughter in the courtroom after they testified about his good deeds and commitment to public and community service, but he showed little emotion for the most part.


Federal prosecutor Liam Brennan argued that Rowland's sentence needed to send a strong message, especially with this being his second conviction. Rowland was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in 2005 for taking illegal gifts when he was governor, including trips and improvements to his lakeside cottage in northwestern Connecticut.


U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed with Brennan, saying Rowland's crimes threatened to undermine the integrity of America's election system and its laws.


"What is striking and disturbing is Mr. Rowland's total contempt for those laws," Arterton said. "It is really not clear ... what his motivation was to ... be involved in this sort of activity. Perhaps it's lust for influence, but it nonetheless cannot be tolerated."


Wilson-Foley and her husband pleaded guilty in the case. Wilson-Foley awaits sentencing, while Foley was sentenced to three years of probation.


Rowland, a Waterbury native, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1980 at the age of 23, then won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984 at the age of 27 and served six years. He served as governor from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned amid his corruption scandal.


Rowland was chairman of the Republican Governors Association from 2001 to 2002 and was mentioned in political circles as a possible vice presidential candidate and cabinet member.


But while he was governor, Rowland was fined $2,000 and ordered to donate $1,919 to charity in a 1997 ethics case for taking concert tickets from subordinates. He also was fined $9,000 in 2003 for accepting cut-rate or free vacation lodging from state contractors.


Rowland's wife, Patricia, and his daughter, Julianne, testified at the sentencing hearing that Rowland was a caring husband and father who selflessly volunteered for numerous community causes and helped people in need. Patricia Rowland said her husband had lost everything he had worked for, and they lost all their life savings over the past two years, suggesting that was punishment enough.


"He is a loyal and kind friend and he treats people equally and he is respectful to everyone," Patricia Rowland said. "He has never shied away from a request for help."


Danbury's St. Patricks Day Parade March 22nd

In Danbury .. the 17th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade winds its way through the city on Sunday. .

The Parade steps off from St. Peter Church on Main Street at 2 p.m.  Bands, floats and marchers will make their way up West Street and on to the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center at 6 Lake Ave.

Four bands, a variety of floats and Irish step dancers will be among those participating in the parade.

Public hearing on 'physician assisted suicide' bill

The legislature is once again considering a so-called physician assisted suicide bill, with a public hearing being held Wednesday.  The Judiciary is holding a hearing on the bill which would permit doctors to legally prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients with less than six months to live. 


Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan called it a dangerous precedentfor the way life is treated in Connecticut, saying the bill would essentially make assisted suicide legal in Connecticut.


He says residents who want to voice their opinion on the matter can testify in person at the state capital, or submit written testimony.  The email subject line should contain Bill 7015.  Comments can be sent to


A Quinnipiac Poll out last week showed those surveyed support allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives.  It was a 63 - 31 percent margin.  All party, age and gender groups support the idea, including voters over 55 years old, who support it 59 - 34 percent.

Informational meeting in Danbury on Early College Opportunity program

An informational session is being held tonight in Danbury about an Associate Degree program. 


Freshmen entering Danbury High School next fall and their parents are being called on to attend the session on the Early College Opportunity program.  Beginning next fall, freshmen entering DHS could earn an Associate Degree in Information Technology simultaneously with their high school diploma. 


The degree would be from Naugatuck Valley Community College.  DHS Freshmen who register for the program in the 2015-16 school year will begin accelerating their high school requirements so that by sophomore or junior year they can begin incorporating college-level courses. 


DHS assistant principal Dan Donovan, who also serves as administrator of the Freshman Academy, is helping orchestrate the program.  He calls the initiative a game-changing idea in high school education. 


Tonight's informational session is at 6:30 in the DHS auditorium.

Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut seeks volunteers, students

Junior Achievement strives to teach young people about how to succeed in a global economy.  The Western Connecticut branch of the group held a High School Business Challenge at Fairfield University on Friday where students from 16 high schools from the Danbury-Bridgeport-Valley regions competed to win scholarships.  Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut President Bernadine Venditto says another part of the program involves companies going into the classroom to teach financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.


Junior Achievement also have after school and outside activities to provide a deeper impact experience for kids.  The programs run from Kindergarten through 12th grade. and address personal finances and budgeting in practical, fun and age-appropriate ways.


Volunteers from local businesses are needed to positively impact the future financial success of area youth.  Those interested can contact the organization by calling 203-382-0180.

New School-Based Health Center opens in Newtown

The newest School-Based Health Center in the Greater Danbury region has opened in Newtown.  A ribbon cutting was held Friday at Newtown Middle School by the Connecticut Institute For Communities.  The center is funded by a grant award from the state Department of Public Health.  There are more than 90 DPH-funded health centers statewide.  The SBHC is staffed by a licensed nurse practitioner, licensed clinical social worker and medical assistant.



A Newtown community planning group determined that the middle school would be the best place for the new location.  The group says this takes a long-term approach to addressing the need for medical and behavioral health services.


Their decision was based on an increase in student visits to the nurse's office, and a reported waiting list of mental health services requested by middle school aged children in Newtown.  It's projected that the grant funding for a variety of services available in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook school will diminish or end over time, but the need for services will continue. 


The new services will not replace existing nursing or social work services currently offered by the school system.


The SBHCs in Danbury are located at Henry Abbott technical School, Danbury High School, Broadview Middle School and Rogers Park Middle School.

Boost in retirement age considered for Governor's Horse Guard volunteers

Members of the Newtown delegation have introduced a bill that would extend the retirement age for the horse guard commandants.  The Second Company Governor's Horse Guard has been based in Newtown since 1808 and is one of the last active-duty cavalry militia units in the United States.  State Representative JP Sredzinski says this measure will help the Horse Guard continue the good work it has been doing under their current leadership.


The current retirement age is 64.  Sredzinski says if the bill is approved, the Unit can continue under the command of Major Gordon Johnson.


Troopers perform mounted military drill and ceremonial musical rides, in addition to State forest mounted patrols, search and rescue, special needs riding programs.  Sredzinski says the unit is a part of Newtown's rich history and does a tremendous amount of work to keep that history alive.


Former Major Commandant of the First Company Governor’s Horse Guard Michael Downes in written testimony said he believes this proposed change is one that will have a positive impact on the volunteer service rendered to the state by its horse guard companies. He continued to say that this change will help preserve the institutional knowledge and capacity of these companies, and will ultimately improve morale and volunteer retention.

Brookfield receives state grant for Four Corners improvements

Brookfield has received a state grant for streetscaping in the Four Corners area.  First Selectman Bill Tinsley says the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program funding totals $798,000.  Intersection improvements at the corner of Routes 25 and 202 will also be done with this state Department of Transportation grant.  Construction is anticipated to begin this year.  Tinsley says the grant will significantly help the town start to transform the Four Corners into a Town center District.

Local lawmaker concerned with Malloy's 'second chance' bill

Governor Malloy's so-called "Second Chance Society" bill to lower the prison population was the subject of a public hearing yesterday by the legislature's Judiciary Committee.  The plan would lower the penalty for simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor and a chance to change their lives for the better rather than to be saddled with a felony conviction. 


Wilton Senator Toni Boucher is concerned that this would be applied to all drugs.


The bill also eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.  Some lawmakers questioned whether adequate treatment is available for these offenders and whether drug-addicted offenders are truly non-violent.

Lawmaker, emergency responder, backs PTSD worker's comp bill

The Connecticut General Assembly is again debating whether to require workers' compensation insurance to cover post-traumatic stress for first responders.  Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski is currently a 911 center Dispatch Supervisor, has been in the field since 1999 and previously worked as a volunteer on the ambulance. 


The police officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker would have had to witness the death of a person or the immediate aftermath of such a death while in the line of duty.  Sredzinski says the diagnosis would have to be certified, and made by a Board approved mental health professional. 


The Public Safety Committee has approved a version of the bill.


A similar bill is being considered in the Labor and Public Employees Committee.  Committee leaders say there will likely be negotiations in the coming weeks about which employees to ultimately cover under such legislation and whether the state and municipalities will pick up the tab.


Organizations representing municipalities are opposing the bill, arguing claims could range from thousands of dollars to more than a million dollars, depending on the duration and scope of treatment.


Last year, Newtown police Officer Thomas Bean appeared before lawmakers and spoke about experiencing depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since responding to Sandy Hook School on 12-14.  He said he couldn't return to work and was receiving about half his base pay through Newtown's long-term disability insurance plan. If he were receiving workers' compensation benefits for his PTSD, he'd receive more than 66 percent of his net pay, including an average of overtime pay, tax-free.


The issue of workers' compensation coverage for PTSD also came up in 2010 when a police officer who responded to a brutal chimpanzee attack in Stamford described experiencing "a depression beyond depression." Frank Chiafari told lawmakers his supervisors filed a workers' compensation claim on his behalf for post-traumatic stress the night of the attack. But five days later, he was notified the claim had been denied because state law only applies to police shootings of people.


Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, the committee's co-chairman, said he will support the legislation "no matter what the cost is to our municipalities." He spoke about working as a first responder and having to pull a friend's dead son from a car that had struck a telephone pole.


"I still see that in my mind, years later," he said.

Families of 9 Newtown victims sue estate of shooter's mother

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) The families of nine of the people killed in the Newtown school shooting have filed lawsuits against the estate of the gunman's mother.

The Connecticut Post reports the lawsuits contend that Nancy Lanza failed to properly secure the rifle that her troubled adult son, Adam Lanza, used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. The lawsuits seek to collect on Nancy Lanza's homeowner's insurance.

Eight of the suits were filed in Superior Court in Bridgeport and one was filed in Danbury.

Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother before carrying out the school massacre and committing suicide.

Newtown officials voted in January to raze the Lanzas' home after the town was able to purchase it from the Lanza estate for $1.

Tribe weighs options for gambling on Kent reservation

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- With his tribe left behind by a plan for up to three more casinos in Connecticut, the leader of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe says it may pursue a gambling hall on its small, nearly empty reservation alongside the Appalachian Trail.


The Schaghticokes are among several Connecticut tribes that for years have been pursuing federal recognition, and a shot at casinos of their own, in the face of opposition from the state.


Some of them saw hypocrisy in the announcement this week that legislative leaders want to authorize new casinos to be operated by the tribes behind Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Alan Russell, the Schaghticoke chief, said he may take up investors on proposals to bring a bingo hall to the state reservation in the Berkshire Mountains town of Kent.


"This is war now," Russell said in an interview. "It surely is."


Connecticut's two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, would jointly run the new, smaller facilities under the proposed legislation. Elected leaders have cast the proposal as a way to protect jobs - and the state's share of gambling revenue - as competition in neighboring states hurts Connecticut's existing casinos.


For the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the new casinos could also be a way to undercut the ambitions of tribes seeking federal recognition. On a Washington visit last month, Malloy lobbied Vice President Joe Biden in a private, 45-minute meeting on rule changes proposed by the Interior Department that he opposes because they could make it easier for more Connecticut tribes to win recognition. Malloy and other officials have argued that recognition would legitimize tribal land claims and bring about more Connecticut casinos.


The chairman of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, Dennis Jenkins, said state Sen. Cathy Osten, a supporter of the new casino plan, appeared before his tribal council several months ago and said she would support their recognition bid as long as they were not planning to open a casino.


"She stated that she was adamantly opposed to any new casinos in the state and those were not the kind of jobs we needed," said Jenkins, who described the new proposal as hypocritical.


Osten said Thursday that she still has doubts about whether another casino is needed.


"The issue today is about Massachusetts stealing our jobs," she said.


The Schaghticokes could face significant obstacles, including the state compact that gives the Mohegans and Pequots exclusive rights to operate slot machines and commercial casinos in Connecticut in exchange for the 25 percent of slot revenue it gives to the state. The office of Connecticut's attorney general declined to offer an opinion on whether the Schaghticokes could offer gambling on their reservation.


Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said it is "entirely inappropriate" to consider such a facility for his small Litchfield County community.


Russell, who lives on the wooded Schaghticoke reservation, said he felt blindsided by this week's announcement. He said the tribe has some autonomy on the reservation that now has little more than a few dilapidated homes and there is nothing stopping them from building a small-scale gambling hall to provide for members.


Bill Buchanan, a business consultant for the tribe, said the new casino proposal is like "putting a hot stick in our eye." He said the tribe would prefer to build a casino in an urban area along a highway, which would be more realistic if it could gain recognition and swap some land, but in the meantime it could pursue a bingo hall.

Danbury Mayor wants residents to phone in pothole reports

It's been a rough winter on the roads.  Potholes are opening every day and Danbury's Public Works Department is following them with a temporary fix of Cold Patch.  Asphalt plants open next month, and in the mean time Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is asking resident to report potholes to the City’s 311 Information Line.


Boughton says crews try to get to all of the complaints on the same day they are reported.  The potholes are prioritized on the busiest roads and then crews continue down the list.  Boughton says drivers can also help by being extra cautious. 


Motorists are being cautioned that when driving over a puddle of water, it might be a particularly deep pothole in hiding.  If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down before you hit it. But don’t brake directly over a pothole, which can actually cause more damage.  Leave plenty of room in front of your vehicle so you can avoid potholes without getting into an accident.


Residents can click on the CityLine 311 icon on the City's website or by calling 203-744-4311.

Connecticut revisits comp for first responders with PTSD

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The Connecticut General Assembly is again debating whether to require workers' compensation insurance to cover post-traumatic stress for first responders.

Recent tragedies have prompted the legislation, including the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The legislature's Public Safety Committee on Thursday forwarded a more limited bill that would only provide coverage for a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical worker diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the death of a person or the immediate aftermath of such a death while in the line of duty.

The bill passed 22-3 and awaits further action in the state Senate.

Some lawmakers voiced concern about the bill's potential financial implications for cities and towns.

The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association supports the bill, saying PTSD can be long-lasting and devastating for officers.

Connecticut panel delays adding medical marijuana ailments

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A panel of doctors is waiting to decide whether to add more ailments to the list currently eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Connecticut.

The state's Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians is weighing whether to add ALS, Fabry disease and ulcerative colitis to the list of 11 diseases and afflictions that can be treated with the drug. The panel decided Wednesday to keep the record open until March 25, providing time for additional written testimony to be submitted.


The group agreed to reconvene April 15 to vote on the three conditions.


There are six medical marijuana dispensaries licensed in the state.  One is in the Stony Hill neighborhood of Bethel.

In January, the group voted to add sickle cell disease, a condition known as failed back syndrome, and severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to the current list, which includes afflictions such as cancer and Parkinson's disease.

Official: State police probe missing $1.8M donated to town

OXFORD, Conn. (AP) Oxford's top elected officer says Connecticut State Police are investigating a Woodbury attorney after the disappearance of $1.8 million left to the town for scholarships, a new library and acquisition of open space.

The Republican-American reports that First Selectman George R. Temple said Wednesday much of the money is gone and the town is trying to recoup it. It was left to the town by resident Miriam Strong, who died in 2010 at age 85.

He says attorney Peter Clark, one of the executors of Strong's estate, is being investigated.

Clark's lawyer, William Stevens, says his client self-reported an incident of impropriety to the probate court. He said he could not discuss the matter because it's being investigated.

A retired probate court judge has been appointed executor and directed to determine how much money is left.

Information meeting on proposed Newtown Community Center

An information session is being held in Newtown tonight about the proposed Community Center.  The proposed facility has a senior center and an aquatics center.  The funding comes from a $15 million grant donated by General Election last year.  $10 million of the grant is for development and construction of a community center, with the balance to be spread out over five years for operational programming. 


An April 28th referendum is being held to gain taxpayer approval to spend the grant.  The April referendum coincides with the annual budget referendum. 


Tonight’s information session is at 6 pm, in the lower conference room at Town Hall South.


The aquatics center would have a multi-lane pool with a diving component .  The other pool would be for lessons, therapy and a play area for kids.  The pools would be different temperatures.  Men's and women's locker rooms and separate family facilities would be built into the center.  A room for team meetings and events, a cafe, vending machines and lobby are also in the plans.


First Selectman Pat Llodra said at the meeting that projected revenue would go up even though there is no plan to increase the fee to belong to the senior center, based on new programming and more members.

Flooding concerns latest Winter woe as Spring takes hold

It's going to take a while for the snow to disappear, but as the temperatures warm up the concern turns to flooding.  New Milford officials will be keeping an eye on street flooding and also how high the Housatonic River rises. 


Until that melting happens, area fire departments continue to ask residents that if there is a fire hydrant located on your property, to dig out a 3-foot radius around the hydrant. 


(Photo Courtesty: @IAFF801 Twitter)


Homeowners and businesses are also required in many municipalities to clear the sidewalk along their property.


In Danbury, City Councilman Paul Rotello praised the public works crews for their work this winter.  Rotello notes that at the first signs of snow flakes, smaller plow trucks have been out and keeping even dead-end streets clear.  He says they even found places to dump the snow.


Rotello also commended police for their efforts to get cars off the streets so plowing could happen during storms.  He says police went door to door, at least to his tenant's door, asking them to move their cars off the streets, rather than just towing vehicles.

Regulators to police: Issue more tickets at rail crossings

Spurred by fatal accidents last month in Valhalla and in California, the Federal Railroad Administration is starting a safety campaign and asking police departments to issue more tickets to drivers who ignore warnings at crossings.  The Federal Railroad Administration says it's the first step in a safety campaign, though it is not providing any new funding. 


Senator Richard Blumenthal previously called for more information from the National Transportation Safety Board about the Metro North Valhalla crash, which killed 6 people including a Danbury man.   The train was on the Harlem Line headed to Brewster.  These types of grade crossings are also along the Danbury branch.


The FRA is also calling for greater police presence at grade crossings. 


FRA spokesman Kevin Thompson said his agency will provide materials to groups to pass on to their members.  They include the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.


The MTA, which oversees Metro North, issued fines to two drivers in as many days last week to drivers who were injured in collisions with Long Island Rail Road trains.  One motorist drove onto the grade crossing while warning lights were flashing and bells were ringing.  The other drove around a downed crossing gate.

Congresswoman introduces bill to close background check loopholes

New legislation has been introduced by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty that would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.  Esty notes that she's been pressing for gun control legislation since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


She says the background check legislation closes loopholes of allowing people to purchase weapons at gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.  The bill provides exceptions for family and friend transfers. 


It also strengthens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by incentivizing states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grant funds toward better record-sharing systems.  The bill will reduce federal funds to states that do not comply. 


Esty says it's time for Congress to listen to the voices of over 90 percent of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, and expand background checks to cover every commercial gun sale.


Esty quoted studies showing that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. However, she says there's no system in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from going online or to gun shows.


The bill, officially known as the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, was also touted Wednesday by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, co-founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Sandy Hook Advisory Commission delivers final report

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has released its final report on the school shooting that happened on December 14th 2012.  Governor Dannel Malloy commended the group and said their report can change lives, and that some of the recommendations have already saved lives.  Malloy says he doesn't believe there's an appetite in the General Assembly to pass more significant gun control, beyond the sweeping legislation approved in 2013.


Malloy says this should not be seen as a starting point, it's a continuation for the state where millions of dollars in school safety grants have been allocated to 1,000 schools.


He says this is not about who, what, when, where and why things happened.  He called it a report about the future, something that is a better honoring of the lives of those lost than any report on what transpired could possibly be.  He says there's a lot of common sense in the recommendations, and common ground can be found on so many of the changes proposed. 


Former Newtown state Representative Chris Lyddy hopes state lawmakers and others across the country take time to read the information.  He says this is a thoughtful , meaningful, and impactful report that keeps communities and children safer.  Lyddy also had a message for the General Assembly.


"Determine what recommendations you can get behind, and then get behind them."


Lyddy said yesterday that change must happen.  He says Connecticut and every other state must start thinking much differently and more boldly about systemic and complex issues.  He called status quo unacceptable, saying that the report challenges that status quo.


Commission chairman Scott Jackson says Connecticut can do something different and can do something better.  He knows there are controversial recommendations, and ones that will achieve universal accord.  The panel's final report includes recommendations that every firearm be registered in Connecticut and serial numbers be etched on shell casings for ammunition.


Jackson says there is no singular solution to violence in community spaces.  He says their recommendations weave themselves into a tapestry in which a combination of threads offer the best opportunity for systemic and lasting improvements for the safety of schools.  Jackson says schools should be sanctified places, but are not. 


"Not when once a week shots ring out somewhere in a school somewhere across the country."


One of the recommendations is that an enhanced focus on the mental health implications of crisis events be incorporated into all disaster preparedness and response protocols.


To help victims regain a sense of control, the Commission recommends communication and engagement with victims of crisis events not follow a one-size-fits-all approach but instead should be calculated to enhance each individual's capacity to control his or her own recovery process.


A central clearing house for information relevant to disaster response and recovery is also called for in the report.  The recommendation is that there by clearly identified channels of access ti help mitigate the sorts of communication barriers that can impede recovery and risk re-traumatizing vulnerable members of the community.

Area lawmaker calls for Transportation Lockbox

Several transportation improvement bills are currently being considered by the state legislature.  Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan supports a bill that would guarantee funding meant for those projects, goes to those projects.


He says the so-called lock box must be tight and not "pickable".  He recommended restricting all of the spending to capital improvements, not salaries and not the DMV.


The bills are still in the committee vetting phase.

Danbury City Council approves nomination of new member

The Danbury City Council has approved the nomination for an at-large Council member.  The position was vacated by Republican Colleen Stanley who is moving out of the City and therefore no longer able to serve. 


The Danbury Republican Town Committee nominated Christina Chieffalo to fill the vacancy. 


She is currently a member of the Zoning Commission, a brand manager at Boehringer Ingelheim and holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from Western Connecticut State University.  The Council approved her appointment at their meeting on Wednesday.

Winter taking a toll on Greater Danbury area towns

The super-freezing weather has done a number on the roads and there are new potholes opening up every time the temperature fluctuates.  Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says a product called Cold Patch can be put down, but it's only a temporary solution until the asphalt plants open in April.


New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy says they are paying attention to the snow load on municipal and school roofs.  She says it doesn't appear to be a threat.


Murphy says sand and salt supplies are good, but there is a request for more money in the overtime account for snow clearing.  She called the Public Works employees a dedicated group who take pride in their work and have put in a lot of hours.


Danbury's 311 info line in February had more than 50 reports sidewalks not being cleared.  There were more than two dozen calls about snow removal.

Danbury City Council considers school bond proposal

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has submitted a proposal to the City Council that contains about 61 million dollars for a Danbury High School redesign, along with program and facility upgrades to the Alternative Center for Excellence (ACE).  A new wing at the High School would be created to accommodate the projected increase in the high school population in the coming years according to a presentation made by Boughton during his State of the City address. 


A summary of the projects will be provided to a committee of the Council and during a public hearing session.  Boughton expects greater than a majority of the cost to be reimbursed by state or federal dollars. 


For the past week or so, Boughton says he's been in around the clock meetings with Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella, staff at ACE and students.  There's not a strong consensus on whether building a new building is the right way to go.  The staff has pointed out some intangibles about the current facility, the feel of the building, and he wants to take more time to consider those issues. 


The ACE side of the bond package has been tabled for now.  There's a waiting list every year for ACE of about 25 students.  The faculty had some concerns about relocating up to the high school, so he wants to look at whether the space on Locust Avenue can be reconfigured.  Some renovations inside the building would be required.


He anticipates a June 2nd referendum.


Boughton hopes that the leadership committee looking into the bonding will meet this month, and that most members of the Council will attend.  The matter will then be placed on the Council agenda for the April 7th meeting.  During the budget hearing, a public hearing about the High School will also be on the agenda.  A special meeting for the high school project will be held after the hearing in order to meet statutory deadlines for the vote in June.


The proposed high school project would include the new Freshman academy, a solar power farm, new entrance and a reconfigured cafeteria.  If ACE does move to the High School campus, it would replace the current free-standing auto shop.


The DHS principal, students, staff, Pascarella, the Board of Education, and the 2020 Committee have seen the concept of the plans and signed off on them.

Ethan Allen CEO donates $1 million to WCSU

Western Connecticut State University has received a $1 million donation from a local CEO.  Farooq Kathwari of Ethan Allen Interiors, and his wife, Farida, gave the gift to create an endowment that will support the University’s Honors Program. 


Western President Dr James Schmotter says the program will be renamed the Kathwari Honors Program.  The building that will house the program, formerly Alumni Hall, will be named the Irfan Kathwari Honors House, in memory of the Kathwaris’ son.  Alumni functions, along with development, communications and related departments, will be relocated to another building on campus.


Kathwari said he decided to support WCSU with this gift in part because Ethan Allen has been involved with the university ever since Nathan Ancell moved the company headquarters to Danbury in 1972. The Ancell School of Business is named for the former Ethan Allen CEO.


The Board of Regents for Higher Education acknowledged the gift and approved renaming the program the Kathwari Honors Program.  The Honors Program serves more than 200 high-performing students with extra instruction and service opportunities. With this gift, the program is expected to grow to 500 students.


A celebration of the gift and a building dedication is planned for the spring.


Kathwari emigrated to the United States at age 21 to attend graduate school, at night, at New York University, where he earned his MBA.  While working on Wall Street for Rothschild Inc., where he became CFO at the age of 27, he met Ancell, and they agreed Kathwari would join Ethan Allen, which today has annual sales exceeding $750 million.


Kathwari is a member of the WCSU Foundation Board of Directors.  His first gift to the university in the 1990s was put to use to help students who intended to teach in inner-city schools.

Cardinal Egan, retired archbishop, dies at age 82

Cardinal Edward Egan, former head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and of Bridgeport, died at a hospital today at the age of 82.  Egan was pronounced dead after going into cardiac arrest.  In 1988, he was appointed the Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport by Pope John Paul II.  That Dioces oversees parishes in Fairfield County.


He was appointed Archbishop of New York in 2000 and made a cardinal in 2001.


Egan was archbishop during the Sept. 11 terror attacks during which he anointed the dead at a lower Manhattan hospital and presided over many funerals for victims.

He was a scholar of church law and spoke Latin fluently. John Paul chose him to help with the massive job of reviewing a revised canon law code for the global church.

A native of Illinois, Egan retired as New York archbishop in 2009.

Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation makes 'sunset plan'

A sunset plan has been announced by the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation.  The organization was formed after 12-14 as a place to receive and distribute donations from the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.  The foundation has come up with a timeline that would close the group down in 10 years. 


There is a 13 year mark in their sunset plans which corresponds with the high school graduation of the youngest children enrolled at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.  Part of the plan is to partner with various other organizations to sustain long-term recovery needs. 


The Foundation also announced three new board members, including Christopher McDonnell.  His daughter was among the children killed on 12-14.  Isabel Almeida, a Sandy Hook resident who works at the United Way, and Gavin Arneth, a Newtown soccer coach and VP at People's United Bank, were also named to the board.

Danbury police reporting spike in fake tax returns being filed

The Danbury Police Department has seen an increase of fraudulent tax filing being reported.  Spokesman Lt Christian Carroccio says it's been at least 10 a day since the filing season started. 


Police are offering some reminders to residents if they suspect they are a victim, in addition to filing a report with them.  The steps include going to the IRS in Danbury to file an identity theft affidavit, filing a Paper Tax Return and contacting the FTC to file a complaint.  Another step that should be taken is contacting one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. 


The company that is contacted will then alert the other two.

Municipal advocate agency spots flaw in state aid formula in new budget

Governor Malloy's overall proposed budget holds towns harmless, but The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities says there's a shift in some grant distributions that could cause 70 municipalities to get less state aide.  CCM spokesman Kevin Maloney says this is an issue for both small and large towns.  Newtown could lose about $45,000.  Redding stands to lose $11,000 while Sherman could miss out on $1,200 the town receives in the current formula.  CCM is calling on state lawmakers to address the issue.

Feds approve Spectra pipeline expansion

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a natural gas pipeline expansion project in the region.  Spectra Energy received approval Tuesday and opponents have a month to file an appeal. 


Spectra plans to replace a pipeline segment with a larger one, starting at the Southeast Compressor Station and extending into Danbury near the Still River and Mill Plain Road.  It would end at an existing Algonquin site located east of Clapboard Ridge Road. 


The proposed construction work area would be located within 50 feet of 337 residential structures and 95 non-residential structure.


Danbury Public Works asks for more money for snow response

The Danbury City Council is set to act on an emergency appropriation request by the Public Works Department.  Mayor Boughton says the City is racking up overtime in snow response because of the timing and duration of the storms.  The Department needs $160,000 from the contingency account.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the storms have taken a toll on vehicles, completely depleting several vehicle maintenance line items. 


Additional funds that are required for snow and ice related line items will come out of a state of Connecticut road grant.  Boughton says the below zero temperatures followed by above freezing has caused a lot of  ice control materials to be used.


Boughton adds that the timing of the storms has not been good.  Most of the snow has been on weekends and overnights. 


A balance of more than $280,000 would be left in the Contingency Fund after this appropriation.


Iadarola says because of the bitter cold, the schools and public buildings HVAC equipment has been impacted, $45,000 of the request would go toward that.  $90,000 of the request will be to maintain and repair snow removal equipment, $13,000 is for tires, $10,000 for lubrication and $2,000 for equipment communication.

Newtown lawmaker hopes to add highway signs to quiet trucks

A bill is being considered by the state legislature that would allow the Department of Transportation to install signs along portions of the highway in an effort to alleviate a noise and vibration problems.  Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky introduced the bill on behalf of a neighborhood with no sound barriers.


Bolinsky says two bridges in the last three years were recently replaced in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook creating loud construction noise.  He's also been trying to put sound barriers in that area for years, but there's no state or federal program right now to do that.


Bolinsky's bill would give the DOT the authority to place yellow warning signs in downhill stretches of the highway that display a message such as “Residential Area - Do Not Engine Brake".  "Jake-Braking” is a common transportation term for the use of a supplemental brake retarder which Bolinsky says can be quite loud and accompanied by heavy compression-wave vibrations.  


Bolinsky called it a quality of life issue.


"Jake Brake" is a genericized trademark of Jacobs Vehicle Systems, used to describe many such truck braking systems.


DOT Commissioner James Redecker testified that the company has told him the noise often associated with so-called Jake Braking results when trucks have modified and often illegal exhaust systems.  He expressed concerns with a ban and suggested better enforcement of existing state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and state Department of Motor Vehicles regulations.

U.S. Senate honors cop who prevented Metro North tragedy on Danbury branch

The young Norwalk police officer who prevented a tragedy involving a Danbury branch Metro North train and a car caught between the crossing gates last week, has been presented with a citation from the U.S. Senate.  Officer Neil Robertson was recognized by Senator Richard Blumenthal on Sunday for rushing to cars stopped in traffic to have them move forward so the SUV could get off the tracks. 


Blumenthal says there are over 2,000 accidents at grade crossings each year, with over 200 people killed annually nationwide.


Following the fatal Metro-North collision at the Valhalla grade crossing last month, Blumenthal introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015.  The legislation focuses on engineering, education and enforcement.  He says those are the factors that experts have identified as the most effective means of reducing such collisions.


Blumenthal says the bill provides new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings. It would also provide grant funding to strengthen education and public awareness of grade crossing dangers, and for law enforcement to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings.

Redding state lawmakers to hold town hall office hours

Redding state lawmakers are holding office hours in the district tonight.  The Town Hall meeting will feature Representatives John Shaban and Dan Carter along with state Senator Toni Boucher.  Carter says they often hear a variety of issues from residents during these get togethers.


Carter gave the example of a bill proposed by a Redding resident that's working its way through the committee process.  It would ban products with microbeads from the state to prevent the small pieces of plastic from ending up in streams and rivers. 


The office hours at Redding Town Hall are from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

100,000 free books sent to Danbury children since 2008

100,000 free books have been mailed to Danbury children in the past 6 years.  The United Way of Western Connecticut's  Imagination Library program has sent out a new book per month to each enrolled child from birth to age five at no cost to families.  Program coordinator Monet Chartier says this gives families the opportunity to own children’s books, many for the first time.  She notes that this eliminates the financial barrier of book ownership that low-income families often face.


The United Way brought Imagination Library to the state in 2008.


There are now 10 towns in the Greater Danbury area that participate in the program, which has an overall enrollment of more than 8,600 children.  About 2,000 children receive a book each month in Danbury alone.  4,100 books are sent across Connecticut each month.  The additional communities are: Bethel, Bridgewater, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Stamford, Warren, and Washington.


Connecticut has the widest education achievement gap in the country. Currently, 46% of children do not have the skills they need to start kindergarten.  Chartier says programs like Imagination Library can help fight the educational achievement gap before it starts by ensuring that children have access to quality reading materials and cultivate critical reading skills.


Although there is no cost to a family to enroll, every $33 donation sponsors an annual 12-volume set of high-quality, age-appropriate books delivered to each child by name.  A $165 gift sustains a child from birth until their fifth birthday. To enroll or sponsor a child, please visit  Children can also be enrolled at local libraries.

Newtown panel to finalize recommendations to Malloy, some parents upset

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The panel of experts reviewing the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown is officially wrapping up its work after two years.

Members of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission were scheduled to finalize their report to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday. The group of experts released a 256-page draft report in early February, calling for new gun control measures, detailed school building standards and a new approach to mental health care.

Malloy created the panel following the shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.

Malloy said he is unsure sure which recommendations might be considered this during this legislative session. The timing is awkward, considering the General Assembly has already been meeting for two months and the deadline to submit bills has passed.


Some Connecticut parents who home-school their children believe some recommendations from the Commission could infringe on their parental rights.

They're particularly worried about language that references individual education programs, or IEPs, for home-schooled kids.

The parents believe the proposal could lead to mandatory IEPs for all home-schooled children. But commission members said they're only recommending that such plans for students needing special education services be followed for home-schooled students if they previously had an IEP in public school.

Various parents' rights organizations recently joined forces to form the new Parental Rights Coalition. They oppose other measures, including proposals for mandatory mental health screenings of schoolchildren.

Brookfield budget proposal holds taxes even

A proposed budget has been sent to the Brookfield Board of Finance from First Selectman Bill Tinsley.  The combined education and municipal budget is proposed at $61.3 million, a 1.8 percent increase in spending.  But Tinsley says the budget holds property tax rates at the current level. 


The $39.5 million for education, a year over year increase of 2.4 percent, takes into account a declining school-aged population.  The $21.98 million for municipal operations is a year over year increase of .75 percent.  Tinsley says the plan replenishing the fund balance for the 1-point-2 million dollars overspent by the Board of Education in 2012 and 2013.


There are still some questions on state funding.


Tinsley hopes that Capital projects can be voted on during the budget referendum.  There's funding for roads and reserves for fire/ambulance.  The four year proposal calls for replacing some Highway Department trucks, converting the Board of Education financial system to MUNIS, and a police vehicle replacement program.  The long term debt is for school roofs, the Town Hall roof, a library room and flood abatement fixes in the Meadowbrook Manor neighborhood.

Two public hearings scheduled tongiht in Brookfield

The Brookfield Board of Selectmen is meeting tonight to set a date for the budget vote.  One of the items on the agenda tonight is to schedule a Town Meeting and referendum on the budget for the coming fiscal year. 


The Board has proposed holding a Special Town Meeting on April 1st in anticipation of the Board of Finance taking action on the 2015-2016 Capital Projects.  That meeting would be when a referendum date is set. 


Also on the agenda tonight in Brookfield is a public hearing about the 2015 Community Development Block Grant Program, and about creating a post-Employment Benefits Trust Ordinance.  The hearings start at 6:45pm with the Selectmen's meeting scheduled to start at 7:30.

Civilians now in charge of 911 dispatching in Danbury

A group of civilians have moved into the Danbury Police station. 


Today is the first day that dispatching at the 911 center will be handled by someone who is not a police officer or firefighter.  Danbury Police spokesman Lt Christian Carroccio says the civilians have all been trained by the state of Connecticut Emergency Medical Dispatching, so there will be a smooth transition.  A certified dispatcher and certified police supervisor will be monitoring things for the first two weeks.


Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says civilian dispatching represents a $1 million-per-year increase of proactive policing for the community. He says residents will see quicker response times by police, more traffic enforcement, and a greater emphasis on quality-of-life enforcement.  Danbury Police foot patrols on Main Street are also making a comeback because of this change.


(Photo Courtesy: @MayorMark)


Financially, after an initial two-to three-year up-front investment, Boughton says taxpayers will see a significant savings.  That will be driven by a reduction in overtime, and a reduction of staffing through attrition.


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