Local Headlines Archives for 2015-05

Bill bars Connecticut schools from expelling young students

The state House has given final legislative approval to a bill barring out-of-school suspensions and expulsions of students in preschool through second grade.  The bill also requires a school-based mental health program to provide for screenings to identify children with behavioral or disciplinary problems. 

 

Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle supports the goal of the legislation.  She says it clarifies by limiting the instances when you would want to take the child out of school.  While the bill would prohibit out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in pre-school through second grade, there would be certain exceptions.  Those include possession of a firearm and if the conduct is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers other children or themselves.

 

Lavielle says at all costs the child must be kept in the environment where the issues can be dealt with, and hopefully solved.  She says the last thing you want to do if you can avoid it, is to keep a child out of school.  If that happens, she says the behaviors are not going to improve.

 

A recent state Department of Education report determined more than 1,200 children under the age of 7 were suspended during the last school year.

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Debate continues over extending workers comp benefits for police, firefighters

One of the most controversial bills being considered this session has cleared the Senate and awaits action by the House.  It would expand workers compensation benefits to police and firefighters concerning cancer and post traumatic stress disorder. 

 

But cities and towns call it an unfunded mandate.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said this week that it's a benefit that's already available if the police officer or firefighter can draw a nexus to the PTSD or cancer and the job.  He says it's the 11th hour, there haven't been public hearings and push back against something cities and towns can't afford.

 

Boughton called commissions to get rid of mandates a waste of time saying it's never going to happen.  He was specifically referring to the MORE Commission, Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies.  He said that the MORE Commission means less, the more lawmakers talk the less cities and towns get. 

 

Standing with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities this week, Boughton made a plea directly to lawmakers.  He doesn't want costs passed down to the local level that they can't afford at a time that's critical to municipal finances.

 

Various unions representing police and firefighters held a press conference Friday urging state House leaders take up and approve the measure.

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Republicans voice disappointment with park funding bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Republicans in the state House of Representatives are disappointed with a bill originally designed to develop more revenue for Connecticut state parks.

Instead, the legislation requires information be collected about food service facilities, machines and stands at parks, and the revenue they generate. It also requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner to seek information about offering recreational amenities and year-round concessions.

The bill passed the House unanimously Friday and moves to the governor. It also requires park rental fees to increase with the number of attendees.

The original bill would have allowed motorists to voluntarily pay an extra $5 in car registration fees. That money would have gone into a park sustainability account.

Redding Rep. John Shaban called the bill a ``slice'' of what he was seeking.

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Redding officials to help with repairs to one-room schoolhouse

The Redding board of Selectmen has authorized thousands of dollars for a structural analysis of a brick one-room school house.  The Redding Historical Society is seeking to apply for a grant to restore Umpawaug Schoolhouse. 

 

The Board this month approved just shy of $6,000 for some structural repairs.  A historic preservationist who lives in Redding estimated that figure during an engineering evaluation of the 1789 structure. 

 

The Redding Pilot reports that the schoolhouse was first restored in 1938, and again in 1965.  The scope of work includes fixing a leaky roof and bricks starting to separate from the foundation.

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Southbury Training School would close under bill approved by state Senate

The state Senate has approved a bill that would provide an outline for closing Southbury Training School, along with five regional centers for residents with intellectual disabilities.  The Senate voted Wednesday 25 to 10 for the bill to develop a plan by December 15th. 

 

The legislation, which still needs House approval, must also include a detailed financial analysis of costs and savings ni the short and long terms. 

 

State Senator Rob Kane says there's nothing in the measure that says Southbury Training School would be kept open, that it's a plan to close.  He called it unfairly one-sided. 

 

There are 290 residents at the facility built in the 40s on 1,600 acres.  The 47 residential buildings once housed more than 2,000 people.

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Connecticut House votes to change public financing rules

The state House has signed off on a proposal overhauling Connecticut's public campaign financing rules. The measure bars campaign treasurers from paying more than a thousand dollars to candidates' family members or entities they might own.  New Fairfield state Representative Richard Smith says the public has been dissatisfied with campaigns lately and this proposal will promote campaigns that the public can be proud of, and campaigns voters can be happy to support. 

 

It also caps organizational expenses state parties can spend on behalf of participating candidates, eliminates grants for unopposed candidates and reduces grants to candidates including governor by 25 percent.

 

While it gained easy approval in the House, its prospects of clearing the Senate remain uncertain.

 

The Democratic controlled chamber approved the bill on a bipartisan vote of 134-12. Much of the language was included in a proposal offered in January by minority Republicans to close what they called loopholes in the current campaign financing laws.

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WCSU Police officers recognized by MADD for enforcement efforts

Two West Conn Police Department members are being honored by MADD.  Connecticut Mothers Against Drunk Driving have honored two Western Connecticut State University Police officers for their efforts to prevent motorists from driving while intoxicated on or near campus. 

 

Luis DosSantos, of Wolcott, and Trevor Burke, of Waterbury were recognized during the 29th Annual Connecticut MADD Law Enforcement Recognition Ceremony in New Britain last week.  Their use of education, community involvement and training was also cited. 

 

DosSantos is a 10 year member of the West Conn Police Department, and Burke has served on the force for 11 years.

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Ridgefield pharmaceutical gains FDA approval for new COPD medication

Ridgefield-based Boehringer Ingelheim has gained FDA approval or a new drug to treat chronic COPD.  Stiolto Respimat is an inhalation spray that's meant as a long-term, once daily maintenance treatment.  Respiratory Marketing Vice President Clare Burrows says COPD also includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

 

Burrows notes this new drug is not meant to treat asthma or acute deterioration of COPD.

 

Patients are typically diagnosed when lung function is already significantly impaired. COPD symptoms can negatively impact a patient’s ability to breathe especially when performing daily activities. More than 15 million Americans have been told that they have COPD according to Burrows, but as many as 45 percent of the total estimated COPD cases remain undiagnosed. 

 

Burrows says this new drug builds on Boehringer Ingelheim's committment to the company's 40 year history of working in lung health.

 

Burrows says patients may appreciate the benefits of a maintenance medication that improves lung function within five minutes and lasts the entire day.  She says it also reduces the use of rescue inhailers, but is not meant as a replacement for a rescue inhaler.

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Danbury official speaking out against new workers comp bill

A bill already approved by the State Senate that grants more workers comp benefits to first responders drew more criticism Wednesday from cities and towns.  They claim the legislation will greatly increase the cost for municipalities because it extends protections to police and firefighters for various cancer and mental stress, without providing a direct connection to the job.

 

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says the state can't pay for this because if Connecticut could, it would have been in the budget.  He says lawmakers should not pass this type of bill if the state can't take on the cost.  Boughton says many municipalities are at a breaking point. 

 

City and town leaders urged lawmakers to drop the legislation and adopt a full study of the issue with input from all interested parties for action next year. 

 

The legislative session ends in less than a week.

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Connecticut House backs cadmium regulations in kids' jewelry

The state House has overwhelmingly approved legislation regulating the level of cadmium, a toxic substance, in children's jewelry.  The measure requires manufacturers of children's jewelry to register with the state Department of Consumer Protection.  Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky says cadmium-based pigments, used to decorate inexpensive children's jewelry, can cause developmental problems, cancer and bone loss in young children. 

 

Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski co-sponsored the bill and says the new law would be one of the strictest in the nation and goes a long way to protecting the safety of children. 

 

Bethel Representative Dan Carter, who served on the Legislature's Task Force to study cadmium last summer, says the toxic chemical has been known to cause cancer and long term exposure can put children at significant risk.

 

The measure, which now heads to the Senate, would impose civil and criminal penalties for violations. 

 

The measure was approved Tuesday by a vote of 136-8.  Those who voted against the bill say it's because there are no known reported cases of cadmium poisoning in Connecticut.

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Eminent Domain used in Newtown for underground gas pipes

Eminent domain is being used in Newtown to install underground gas utility pipes beneath Crestwood Drive, a private residential road.  The Newtown Bee reports that the town has been unable to reach an acceptable settlement with the road owner adjacent to Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Eminent Domain was used to take an underground right of way.   The move was discussed by the Board of Selectmen last week after negotiations on purchasing the easement failed again.  The work would be performed by town crews and the infrastructure would be Eversource Energy material.

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Greater Danbury leaders hear from DOT official on infrastructure plans

Expanding Interstate 84 from the New York state border all the way through Newtown and bringing Metro North rail service into New Milford and beyond were two of the big items discussed recently with State Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redecker.  He attended the Western Connecticut Council of Governments meeting Thursday to talk with area mayors and first selectmen.

 

Redecker talked about Governor Malloy's proposed $100 billion, 30-year transportation infrastructure improvement plan.  There was some pushback from some chief elected officials to border tolls as a way to fund part of the plan, though others backed the idea.

 

A Branchville Transit Oriented Development study was also discussed during the WCCOG meeting.

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Danbury renames Veterans Hall for longtime City VA Director

Danbury has renamed Veterans Hall at Rogers Park for the former Director of Veterans Affairs.  A ceremony dedicating the building to Pat Waldron was held yesterday after the Memorial Day Parade.  The City Council approved naming the building located on Memorial Drive in December as "Patrick R. Waldron Veterans Hall".  Waldron fought relentlessly to help veterans, their widows and dependents for almost three decades prior to his death in October at the age of 81. 

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says renaming Veterans Hall would serve as a fitting memorial to Patrick and will honor and remember him for for his great service.  Boughton says renaming Veterans Hall represents a lasting tribute and will continue to serve as such for future generations.

 

Council President Joe Cavo says Waldron, a Korean War Veteran, was dedicated to helping others.  He called it a great testament to all Waldron has done for the City.

 

City Councilman Tom Saadi, a Major in the Army Reserves, says Patrick R. Waldron Veterans Hall will be a great way to continue his legacy of his patriotism and service to veterans, and that he could think of no other person more deserving of this honor.

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Judge orders conservator to repay WWII veteran

A story of hope for one World War II veteran this Memorial Day.  97-year old Lou Russo has gotten a judgement in his favor by a Probate Court Judge that he be repaid after claims of mistreatment by a court-appointed conservator.  Veteran advocate Dan Gaita of Bethel became involved in Russo's case after hearing of how the man fell at his home, was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home and held there against his will for 16 months.

 

His conservator, Mark Broadmeyer, allegedly spent Russo's life savings, sold vehicles and rented out his home. 

 

The judge ordered that Russo be repaid $34,000.  He is also contesting his nursing home debt, arguing that he should have instead been placed in a Veteran Affairs facility at no charge.

 

Broadmeyer, who resigned as Russo's conservator in October, has 30 days to appeal the order.  Russo remains under probate court control and his new conservator is arguing for a reverse mortgage to pay off the nursing home debt.

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Local elected officials calls for veterans to be remembered year round

Danbury City Councilman Tom Saadi is leading a memorial ceremony this morning in honor of Memorial Day.  Saadi, a Major in the Army Reserve, was  appointed this month as General Counsel and legislative Director of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.  Saadi says Veterans should be remembered not just on holidays, but year round.

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is reflecting on a roundtable discussion she hosted this month.  It was held at Western Connecticut State University, where she says they have an active veteran group. Esty says she is committed to working towards a smarter, leaner government, and that there is no smarter investment or greater duty than honoring the country's commitment to veterans and military families.

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal is speaking out on this Memorial Day for better service from the Veterans Affairs Department.  He said during a hearing recently that delays in help are unacceptable.  A deal has been reached to keep construction underway on a troubled Veterans Affairs hospital in Colorado, even though it's an estimated $1 billion over budget. 

 

Blumenthal has been a vocal critic of the VA's funding request, saying veterans elsewhere shouldn't be forced to sacrifice for the suburban Denver project.

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Danbury holds wreath laying ceremonies in honor of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is being marked today.  In Danbury, the day started with a service at St. Josephs Church.  There are wreath laying ceremonies taking place at several locations throughout the City.  The parade begins promptly at 9:30 at the corner of Rose and Main Streets.

 

Following the parade, Parachutists will descend into the Baseball Field behind the Review stand in Rogers Park.  A Ceremonial Service will be held at the Rose Memorial to honor veterans who have died in the past year.  All awards will be presented after the services.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says there will be the traditional parade where the community can show off their pride in an ethnicity or organization.  Firefighters and the Public Works Department will also have equipment on display.

 

Veterans Hall will also be renamed in honor of the late Patrick Waldron, Danbury's longtime Director of Veterans Affairs.

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All state parks open for business this long holiday weekend

The summer get away season is off to its unofficial start this Memorial Day weekend.  

 

State Parks Director Tom Tyler says lifeguards are at 10 locations, and they are still looking for some staff members at the designated swim locations.

 

34 camping cabins are located across the state.  The two-room cabins sleep 6 people.  Two of the sites that have cabins are Kettletown State Park in Southbury and Lake Waramaug State Park in New Preston.  Both of those sites also have designated swimming areas.  There is also swim areas at Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield.

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Greater Danbury area towns mark Memorial Day with services, parades

A 5K Raccoon Fun Run and Kids One-mile Run is being held Saturday morning at Redding Elementary School.  The 5K begins at 8:45am, the kids run starts at 10:15.  The annual Memorial Day parade in Redding is from noon to 1 pm.  Participants line up at Redding Elementary School at 11:30am.  A noon ceremony will lead off the parade, which will end at the Memorial Stone in the green at the intersection of Cross Highway and Sanfordtown Road.

 

On Sunday, Monroe will host its 2015 Memorial Day Parade with a theme of “Honoring our Heroes – Past and Present”. The parade will begin at 2pm. with participants travelling north from Elm Street and Route 111 to the Monroe Green.  Local veterans, military groups and the Monroe Police Department will be joined by local and state elected officials and volunteer fire companies.  Immediately following the parade, the town’s Memorial Day Ceremony will take place at the War Memorial in front of Town Hall.  “Taps” and patriotic songs will be played.  There will also be a presentation of the wreaths in honor of fallen heroes.

 

Also on Sunday, the Brookfield Historical Society's Strawberry Shortcake Festival will be held.  The event follows the Town's Memorial Day Parade between 12:30 and 3pm.   It will be held outside the Brookfield Museum located at the intersection of Routes 25 and 133 in Brookfield Center. The parade ends near the museum parking lot where strawberry shortcake and soft drinks will be sold to support future public programs of the Society. 

 

Danbury hosts its 2015 Memorial Day Parade on Monday at 9:30am.  The parade route runs from Kennedy Park to Rogers Park along Main Street.  Following the parade, Parachutists will descend into the Westerner's Baseball field just past the review stand.  A Ceremonial Service will be held at the Rose Memorial Garden to honor deceased veterans.

 

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department is once again participating in the Memorial Day parade on Monday, at 10:45am, with the lineup starting at 9:30.  There will be a brief ceremony at Weston Town Hall immediately after the parade.  As parade sponsor, the Weston Volunteer Fire Department will offer free refreshments at the firehouse after the ceremony.

 

The Ridgefield Memorial Day Parade starts at 11:30am Monday at Jesse Lee United Methodist Church and progresses down Main Street.

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Torn, tattered flag collection underway through Flag Day

Greater Danbury area lawmakers are hosting flag collections this Memorial day weekend.  Torn or tattered flags will be collected at sites throughout the region through June 11th.  Brookfield REpresentative Steve Harding says they are working with the Danbury Council of Veterans and various VFW posts for this effort.

 

Flag retirement codes suggest the tattered flags be burned during a special ceremony.  The Veterans Department of Affairs suggests the flags be folded in a customary triangle and while it burns, individuals at the ceremony should salute or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  A moment of silence is typically held and the ashes are buried.

 

The Danbury Council of Veterans, Catholic War Veterans Post #1042, VFW Bethel Post #935 and Joseph W. Tarrent, Jr. Memorial American Legion Post #100, are working in cooperation with the lawmakers for residents to retire their worn American Flags. 

 

Danbury City Hall, Danbury War Memorial, Bethel Municipal Center, and Brookfield Town Hall are among the collection sites.

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Consumer protection bill moves through state legislature

A bill is being considered by the state legislature to protect consumers by requiring home improvement contractors to obtain liability insurance coverage and pass a written examination or course of study. 

 

The House voted 140-2 in favor of legislation, which awaits Senate action.

 

The course must be consumer protection commissioner approved and based on information the department publishes.  Under the bill, the proof of insurance must be provided to the Department of Consumer Protection and the municipal building department in each municipality where the applicant or contractor submits building permit applications.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban, a commercial litigator, with an emphasis on construction disputes, was told that the insurance would not have to cover work done be subcontractors, just the general contractor.  He says often times that becomes the dispute, who is at fault.  If the subcontractor does sub-par work, Shaban said the fault depends on the contract, what insurance coverage each has, and if the policies are even valid.

 

Shaban says the bill is a step in the right direction in terms of scrutiny.  But he says it could produce a false sense of security.

 

While he likes the concept, he thinks the result could be a step backwards in terms of consumer protection.  Shaban says he doesn't want homeowners to think that they will be covered if a municipal building department signs off on the contractor's insurance.

 

The bill includes exemptions from the examination and course of study requirements for registered contractors who have continuously held a valid registration in Connecticut for five years before the application or renewal or $30,000 or less in gross annual receipts. It also requires the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to conduct a study and report on enforcement and complaint procedures involving registered home improvement contractors.

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Bid notice sent for Century Brass mill building demolition

New Milford has advertised for bid requests to demolish the former Century Brass mill building.  The Town Council earlier this month heard from Mayor Pat Murphy that bids are due June 18th and that she would like to see the 320,000 square foot building torn down by the fall. 

 

All interested bidders are being required to do a walk through of the site on Tuesday. 

 

New Milford received a $2.5 million grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development last year for environmental remediation work and the demolition cost.  Century Brass closed the mill in 1986 and New Milford took ownership of the 72 acre site in 1999 following a tax foreclosure.

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Judge: Connecticut ex-governor can remain free during appeal

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) A federal judge says former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland can remain free on bail while appealing convictions in a political consulting scam that resulted in a 2.5-year prison sentence in March.

Rowland was to report to prison June 16. But federal Judge Janet Bond Arteron in New Haven ruled Thursday that he can remain free while appealing to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.

Arteron said some of Rowland's appeal issues could lead to a reversal of the convictions or a new trial.

The Republican former governor was convicted of charges including conspiring to hide payments for consulting on the failed 2012 5th congressional district campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley.

Rowland resigned as governor in 2004 during a corruption scandal that sent him to prison for 10 months.

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Homelessness declining in Connecticut

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness has released the results of this year's Point in Time Count of the state's homeless, which was conducted on February 18th.  Total homeless population in Connecticut is 4,038 people.  Executive Director Lisa Tepper-Bates says the count is the lowest total since statewide counts started in Connecticut in 2007. 

 

Family homelessness showed a decline of 4 percent in shelters and similar facilities from last year.  The count found only 80 veterans in emergency shelters, most of whom are engaged in VA services.

 

The Point in Time count found Danbury 12 homeless veterans, 5 percent of those counted in the state.  One was reported as chronically homeless and one was unsheltered.  There were 22 unsheltered adults in Danbury on the night of the count.

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Police body camera bills stall in General Assembly

The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in backing a proposed bill to prevent excessive use of force by police in Connecticut.  

 

A legislative committee has stripped a bill of language that would require Connecticut police officers to wear body cameras.  The provision likely wouldn't have passed because of the high cost.  The underlying bill would require better use-of-force training for police. It also would require prosecutors from other districts to investigate acts of deadly force by police.  Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano says it's a needed bill.

 

A second bill that would create a pilot program for police body cameras is still moving through the legislature. That bill would require participating departments to report back to the legislature in 2017. 

 

Neither bill has been voted on, except in committee.

 

New Milford Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor says mandating body cameras 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.

 

The use of body cameras by Ridgefield Police will be discussed by a committee of the Department.  The committee formation was prompted by recent incidents across the country involving use of force by police.  The discussion would include cost, how long to store footage and when the cameras would be used.

 

Danbury Police traffic units use body-style cameras that are attached over the ear at eye level to see exactly what the officer is looking at.  Patrol officers have cameras mounted in the cars that are forward facing. The officers have microphones that are attached to their shirts.

 

Wilton Police recently received a donation to purchase 5 body cameras for patrol officers.  The Department currently has in-car video capability.

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Board of Regents names new President for WCSU

A new president for Western Connecticut State University has been selected.  John Clark will take over from West Conn President James Schmotter who is retiring July 1st after 11 years leading the university. 

 

The Board of Regents for Higher Education made the selection at their meeting this morning. 

 

Clark has been executive director of the City University of New York Office of Business and Industry Relations for the past six years.  Clark was one of three finalists previously announced by the Board of Regents.  He holds a doctorate degree from Columbia University's Teachers College.

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Survey: US schools beef up safety measures

WASHINGTON (AP) A government survey finds that public schools have beefed up school security measures with safety drills and parent notification systems in the years surrounding the massacre at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The uptick comes during a four-year span that saw an overall decrease in violent crime reported by schools, but one that included high-profile incidents such as the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings in December 2012.

The survey found that 88 percent of public schools had a written plan of how to respond to an active shooter, and that 7 out of 10 had drills to practice the plan. About three-quarters of schools reported using security cameras.

The findings come from the National Center for Education Statistics based on a survey of principals in the 2013-2014 school year.

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Wilton to get 911 system that can pinpoint cell call locations

WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) The town of Wolcott has a new 911 system that will allow police to pinpoint the location of emergency calls made from cell phones.

The Republican-American newspaper reports the town today becomes the first in the state to use the next-generation system in a pilot program that eventually will include the New Britain, Wilton, Enfield, Newington, Valley Shore, Fairfield, Middletown, Mashantucket and Shelton police departments .

Under the old system, police could find the location of a wireless 911 call within a quarter-mile radius. The new system shows dispatchers the caller's location within a 50-foot radius.

Police chief Eward Stephens says callers won't notice any difference when making an emergency call.

Officials say about 80 percent of 911 calls come from wireless phones.

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Disaster management plans reviewed

The regional planning agency for Fairfield County is reviewing disaster management plans.  A draft plan to cover 2016 through 2021 has been created to detail risk, preparation, mitigation and response to natural disasters.  The Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan was crafted by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments. 

 

It outlines the response for the towns of Wilton, Weston and 6 other lower Fairfield County towns.  Potential impacts from flooding, blizzards, dam failures and other possible dangers are examined. 

 

The current Hazard Mitigation Plan was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Administration in 2011.  Once the new plan is approved by FEMA, the municipalities will be eligible for various federal funding to help with implementation including for flood control projects, bridge repair and utility protection.

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Transportation chief to address region's leaders

Chief elected officials across the Greater Danbury are getting an update on transportation matters.  The Western Connecticut Council of Governments is holding their monthly meeting Thursday in Newtown.  The featured speaker will be state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redecker. 

 

The agenda for the regional planning agency, which stretches from New Milford down to Stamford calls for discussion of Housatonic Area Regional Transit bus agreements, the Branchville Transit Oriented Development study and overall transportation planning agreements. 

 

Area mayors and First Selectmen are also slated to discuss a legislative update about what's taking place in Hartford as the General Assembly nears their adjournment deadline.  The legislative session is scheduled to end June 3rd.

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Police to increase patrols Memorial Day weekend

Police are cracking down on traffic violations this Memorial Day Weekend.  Connecticut State Police, local police departments and even the Western Connecticut State University Police Department will work to promote safe driving this summer.  Law enforcement agencies will be out on Connecticut's roads enforcing the State Occupant Protection laws and issuing citations to those who are unbuckled. 

 

The West Conn PD will work with Danbury Police this long holiday weekend to help spread the “safety belts save lives” message. 

 

Police are also working to raise awareness of the dangers of not buckling up.  This is part of the overall Click it or Ticket campaign.

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DOT announces road work in Southbury, Weston

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled some bridge rehabilitation work in Southbury and Weston.  The bridges that carry Route 57 over Kettle Creek in Weston and Route 188 over a brook in Southbury will get a face lift .  New culvert installations will take place in Weston and a pipe lining in Southbury will be replaced.  At least one lane of traffic will be kept open on each roadway during the construction .  The work is scheduled to be completed over the next 3 years.

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New diseases considered for treatment with medical marijuana

The Medical Marijuana Board of Physicians has recommended adding new conditions to those that can be treated with medical marijuana.  Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris will draft regulations to add ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Fabry Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis to the list. 

 

Earlier this year sickle cell disease, psoriatic arthritis, and recurring back pain after surgery regulations were drafted.  The Board voted unanimously against adding Tourette's Syndrome.

 

The proposal still needs to be sent to the Attorney General for review, and then moved to a Legislative Committee.  Patients do need to be approved by a participating physician to obtain a prescription. There are only six licensed dispensaries in the state.  One is in Bethel.

 

The original 11 medical conditions set forth in Public Act 12-55 include:

Cancer

Glaucoma

Parkinson's Disease

Multiple Sclerosis

Epilepsy

Cachexia

Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity

Crohn's Disease

Positive status for HIV or AIDS

Wasting Syndrome

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Danbury 10th most expensive rental market in USA

A new national report shows Connecticut is the 8th most expensive state in the country for rental housing.  The Danbury area is 10th most expensive jurisdiction on the list overall.  The Stamford-Norwalk area is the 2nd most expensive in the US, behind only San Francisco. 

 

Connecticut Housing Coalition official Jude Carroll says someone making the $9.15 an hour minimum wage in Connecticut would have to work 84 hours a week to rent a one bedroom or 106 hours for a two bedroom apartment.

 

Carroll says a household needs to earn $24.29 an hour to be able to rent a typical 2 bedroom, or $19.28 an hour for a typical 1 bedroom apartment.

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Human trafficking subject of film screening in Bethel

A film is being screened at Bethel Cinema tonight about human trafficking.  SOLD is based on the international best seller of the same name.  SOLD tells the story of one girl who becomes a victim of human trafficking, and is set in India and Nepal.  There will be a question and answer session with Director Jeffrey Brown.

 

The screening comes as the Connecticut legislature considers a bill that would strengthen protection for victims of human trafficking.  Bethel Representative Dan Carter says the proposal also increases criminal penalties for offenders.  The bill, passed by the House unanimously, also requires the state Department of Public Health to provide human trafficking victims the same services provided to certain sexual assault victims.  The bill is awaiting Senate approval.

 

SOLD stars Gillian Anderson and David Arquette.  Tonight's film screening at Bethel Cinema is at 7pm.

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Brookfield residents approve budget, capital items

Brookfield residents have overwhelmingly approved a budget and the three capital items on the ballot.  Unofficial numbers show the education budget of $39.5 million was approved 1,711 to 506.  The $21.7 million municipal budget was approved 1,700 to 508Residents voted that the education plan was too low and the municipal portion was adequate.

 

There is no proposed tax increase.  There is a less than 1-percent decrease in the municipal budget and a 2.5 percent increased proposed for the schools.

 

Almost 20 different maintenance and repair projects are planned for Brookfield High School and Whisconier Middle School, representing $2.6 million in spending.  Residents voted 1,655 to 524 in favor of the projects.

 

About $2 million for an emergency Flood Drainage Diversion project was approved by a vote of 1,385 to 776.

 

$2.1 million for improvements at Town Hall, the Library and volunteer fire houses along with road reconstruction was approved on a vote of 1,451 to 728.  That funding request also includes equipment purchases for various departments.

 

Brookfield First Selectman Bill Tinsley says there's conservative management of the town's debt.  He says borrowing was done to save some capacity for big projects on the horizon.  There is a likelihood that significant investment will be needed soon for the ageing Huckleberry Hill and Center Elementary Schools.

 

The town's pension obligations are fully funded. 

 

Tinsley says the Fund Balance level is critical to future bond ratings and borrowing costs.  Brookfield ended fiscal year 2013 by uncovering $1.2 million in unauthorized spending by the Board of Education.  The town did a refunding bond last year to lower the debt service cost for the Brookfield High School expansion and renovation project.  As a result of that, the town will receive an $830,000 benefit, which will be used to partially rebuilt the general fund balance.

 

While there is a declining enrollment at Brookfield schools, education spending was increased in the budget by 2.5 percent. 

 

About $1.5 million is needed per year to maintain roads in Brookfield, and a few short years ago there was no money in the operating budget for roads.  Tinsley says about $250,000 has been added annually to the operating budget for road maintenance, and borrowing the rest.  The plan is to continue to add to the operating budget until the $1.5 million mark is reached.

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Bill requires early background checks for school workers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Applicants for public school positions will have to undergo a criminal background check shortly after being hired, under a bill that's moving through the Connecticut General Assembly.

According to the proposed legislation, each person hired by a local or regional school board would have to undergo state and national criminal history records checks no later than five days after the new employee starts working. Currently, the checks must be conducted within 30 days.

The legislation would apply to any person hired on or after July 1.

Wilton Republican Rep. Gail Lavielle supported the bill. She said it speeds up the process so ``there's no real substantial interim'' period when school administrators might be unaware of a worker's criminal history.

The bill cleared the House unanimously Monday and moves to the Senate.

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Budget proposal, capital items being voted on in Brookfield

Brookfield residents are voting on a budget today.  The education budget is proposed at $39.5 million with a proposed $21.7 million municipal budget.  There is no proposed tax increase.  There is a less than 1-percent decrease in the municipal budget and a 2.5 percent increased proposed for the schools. 

 

Residents will also be voting on three capital item questions.  There's $6.7 million for what First Selectman Bill Tinsley called deferred and long overdue maintenance.

 

Almost 20 different maintenance and repair projects are planned for Brookfield High School and Whisconier Middle School, representing $2.6 million in proposed spending.  There's also about $2 million proposed for an emergency Flood Drainage Diversion project. 

 

$2.1 million for improvements at Town Hall, the Library and volunteer fire houses along with road reconstruction is being proposed.  That funding request also includes equipment purchases for various departments.

 

Polls close at 8pm.

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Gov. visits MCCA to promote 'Second Chance Society' initiative

Governor Dannel Malloy spent part of his Monday in Danbury.  He visited the Danbury headquarters of Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism.  MCCA provides substance abuse prevention, evaluation and treatment services in the greater Danbury area.  He heard from someone who is 15 months clean and now gainfully employed.  He discussed with them about what Connecticut needs to do to move toward a Second Chance Society.

 

Malloy says that initiative, in part, redefines simple possession of drugs for personal use as a misdemeanor.  He says that will ensure resources and tools are available to reintegrate into society and lead productive lives.

 

The proposals focus on treatment rather than prison for those with addiction.

 

Malloy says there's 500 people in the criminal justice system on possession charges and it costs the state $120 for each person each night.  He'd rather see that money spent on recovery programs, supportive housing and maintenance of other programs.

 

MCCA, established in 1972, has locations in Danbury, New Milford, Bethel, Ridgefield, Kent and elsewhere.

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Connecticut lawmakers approve ban of powdered alcohol

People would be banned in Connecticut from  knowingly purchasing or selling powdered alcohol under a bill co-sponsored by Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan.  The state House voted 143-2 Monday in favor of the legislation which contains fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. 

 

Eight states have similar laws.  The packets of powder can be added with water to create vodka, rum or other cocktails.

 

Bethel Representative Dane Carter says even though powdered alcohol has been approved by the FDA, he's concern about children obtaining the packets of powder, which resemble Kool-Aid or lemonade packets. 

 

The Senate previously approved the bill unanimously.

 

The bill, which moves to the governor, also allows farm wineries to distill brandy off-site that's made with Connecticut fruit. It also allows cider manufacturers to offer free on-premises samples of cider and apple wine to visitors. 

 

Other provisions require certain manufacturer permittees to offer nonalcoholic beverages, allows package stores to sell cigars and creates a farmers' market beer sales permit.  The hours a bowling establishment permittee may sell alcohol outside of its bar area would be expanded after 11:00 am, rather than after 2:00 pm.

 

The legislation also generally allows those age 16 and 17, rather than age 18, to be employed by businesses holding an alcoholic permit.

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State police dispatch consolidations to be reversed

Connecticut's public safety commissioner plans to reverse all the state police dispatching consolidations put in place by her predecessor, who was criticized by some troopers and state lawmakers who said the consolidations were increasing police response time.

Dora Schriro, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, announced on Monday that she completed a review of the consolidations and planned to reinstate dispatching and call-taking services at all state police barracks.

Shriro announced last year that she was returning 24/7 coverage to all state police barracks that were closing after normal business hours due to the consolidation that began in 2012.

The state police union president, Sgt. Andrew Matthews, says undoing the consolidations will reduce response time and increase safety for troopers and the public.

 

Specifically, Troop A in Southbury will resume operation of its own call center in the Western District.  Troop L in Litchfield, the current consolidated call center location, will resume taking its troop’s calls only.  To create greater surge capacity, Troops L will be designated as the location that would handle an influx in calls caused by a catastrophic event and provide critical back-up in the event of a system failure.

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Nun who kissed Elvis helps answer abbey's prayers

BETHLEHEM, Conn. (AP) The Benedictine nuns at the Abbey of Regina Laudis believe a financial miracle saved the monastery four years ago, helped along by the story of the starlet who kissed Elvis then gave up Hollywood to become one of them.

They are hoping the continued publicity will now help them complete a $9 million project to renovate their abbey for future generations.

Mother Dolores Hart gave the King his first onscreen kiss in the 1957 film ``Loving You.'' She has become a popular speaker since going public with her story in 2011, when the monastery was faced with the possibility of closing because of fire and safey code violations.

The nuns raised enough money to fix those problems and are now $3 million into a fundraising campaign to renovate the abbey for future generations.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission narrows down sites

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission met Thursday night to discuss available property for the memorial.  A subcommittee is working with the Newtown Land Use Department on the effort.  Commission Clerk Lynn Kovack says the biggest challenge the group faces is designing a memorial without making Newtown synonymous with tragedy.  She says they want it to be a place for people to be able to reflect and think about how they feel.

 

The subcommittee ranked the possibilities on accessibility, free from noise, natural setting or view, and proximity to Sandy Hook and to infrastructure including roads, water, parking and other aspects.  Three to five sites are currently under consideration.

 

There is an area on the Fairfield Hills campus the High Meadows or Tech Park, owned by the state and adjacent to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.  Another area looked at is a bridge down Dayton Street and the Edmond Town Hall back lot. 

 

Kovack says they are trying to be respectful to the wishes of those directly impacted by the shootings.  She says many don't want their children pictured on the memorial and that it bothers some of them to see green ribbons everywhere.

 

Once the sight is chosen, then the Commission can get down to the business of selecting a design for the memorial.  The group is also working with the Newtown Forest Association, Fairfield Hills Authority and the state.

 

The Commission is made up of 12 members and the Clerk.  Four of the commissioners are parents of children who were killed on 12/14.

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Brookfield Veteran assisted by Congresswoman to solve $27,000 VA error

An area lawmaker is highlighting a case of mistaken veteran benefits as another issue plaguing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty stepped in and is calling on others who are experiencing issues with obtaining veterans benefits to contact her office.

 

A Brookfield man, who is a Western Connecticut State University student and Army Reserve veteran, was told he was eligible by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  Robert McFarland was awarded the benefit for educational assistance for those who have served on active duty after September 11, 2001.

 

(Photo Courtesy: Congresswoman Esty)

 

After three academic semesters, the VA rescinded their decision.  McFarland was told he would retroactively be held responsible for the three semesters worth of payments totaling nearly $27,000.

 

The VA seized McFarland's tax refund to help offset the debt. 

 

McFarland, unable to pay the balance and under the stress of final exams, reached out to Esty's office.  Esty contacted the VA, and a full review of the case was made.  The VA confirmed that McFarland did not meet the qualifications, but the benefit was erroneously awarded. The VA acknowledged their mistake, cleared the debt, and returned McFarland's tax refund.

 

Esty says she and others need to make it easier, not harder, for veterans to come back home and earn an education.

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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.  In recognition of that, the Danbury Commissioner for Persons with disAbilities has held their annual health fair.  The theme of this year's conference, the ninth annual, was about symptoms and solutions.  Lyme Disease was discovered in Connecticut some 40 years ago. 

 

May was chosen nationally as the time to highlight Lyme Disease because of the start of the outdoor summer season.  The Commission say this is the best time to share information about staying protected from ticks. 

 

Lyme Disease has become one of the fastest growing epidemics, with the number of cases in the United States numbering 300,000 a year.  That figure is the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 

The Connecticut General Assembly is considering a bill this session dealing with prevention and education.  Greater Danbury area officials tout the BLAST model for preventing Lyme Disease.  BLAST is an acronym.  The first step is to BATHE or shower immediately after coming in from outdoors.  Next is to LOOK for ticks and rashes.  The APPLY repellents followed by SPRAY your yard.  Last is TREAT pets to prevent tick bites.

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Consumer protection bill moves through state legislature

A bill is being considered by the state legislature to protect consumers by requiring home improvement contractors to obtain liability insurance coverage and pass a written examination or course of study. 

 

The House voted 140-2 in favor of legislation, which awaits Senate action.

 

The course must be consumer protection commissioner approved and based on information the department publishes.  Under the bill, the proof of insurance must be provided to the Department of Consumer Protection and the municipal building department in each municipality where the applicant or contractor submits building permit applications.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban, a commercial litigator, with an emphasis on construction disputes, was told that the insurance would not have to cover work done be subcontractors, just the general contractor.  He says often times that becomes the dispute, who is at fault.  If the subcontractor does sub-par work, Shaban said the fault depends on the contract, what insurance coverage each has, and if the policies are even valid.

 

Shaban says the bill is a step in the right direction in terms of scrutiny.  But he says it could produce a false sense of security.

 

While he likes the concept, he thinks the result could be a step backwards in terms of consumer protection.  Shaban says he doesn't want homeowners to think that they will be covered if a municipal building department signs off on the contractor's insurance.

 

The bill includes exemptions from the examination and course of study requirements for registered contractors who have continuously held a valid registration in Connecticut for five years before the application or renewal or $30,000 or less in gross annual receipts. It also requires the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to conduct a study and report on enforcement and complaint procedures involving registered home improvement contractors.

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Ridgefield to install solar panels on school roofs

A number of money saving moves were included in the budget approved this week by Ridgefield residents.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says many people are looking at the recession in the rear view mirror, but town government is not looking at it that way.  He notes that house sales have yet to come back to where they were, though he doubts they will fully rebound.  Marconi is hoping they get a little stronger in the near future. 

 

Marconi says some other factors they look at as barometers aren't back to where they were.  Town departments have been advised to remain conservative with their spending for the time being. 

 

Grants are coming to the town to put solar panels on three elementary school roofs in an effort to reduce energy costs.  Marconi says the cost will be reduced to about 7 cents per kilowatt hour over the next 20 years. 

 

Another grant also came in to place panels on the Public Works Garage.  Marconi says they constantly review and look for products that can help reduce energy costs.

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Police Memorial Day marked in Danbury, New Milford

May 15th is Police Memorial Day around that nation, a time to remember those who gave their lives protecting others.  In Danbury, a ceremony was held Friday at police headquarters on Main Street.  There was a moment of silence and a 21 gun salute. 

 

Spokesman Lt Joseph Lerose says officers who went above and beyond the call of duty in the past year were also honored.  44 members of the police department were recognized for their actions. 

 

New Milford Police yesterday recognized an officer from their department who lost his life nearly 51 years ago.  Officer Kenneth Couch died in the line of duty on June 3rd 1964 while attempting a water rescue in the swollen waters of the Housatonic River. 

 

Couch was 61-years old when he responded to a call on June 3rd 1964.  There was a report of a man and teenager whose boat may have capsized near the dam on the Housatonic.  Couch and Officer Ted Adams, who later became Police Chief, capsized and were pulled into an undertow.  Couch, trapped under the dam, drowned.  The original call of a capsize and boaters were never found.

 

A monument and plaque were dedicated yesterday at the New Milford Police Station. 

 

 

(Photos: New Milford Police; Facebook)

 

The American flag and flagpole were donated by Peter Orenski.  The monument, with brass plaque, was designed by Ray Crawford.

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Metro North critics give credit to new leadership for turnaround

Sunday marks the second anniversary of the derailment and collision of two Metro-North trains in Connecticut that resulted in more than 60 injuries.  This week, the railroad's president testified before the legislature's Transportation Committee about what's been done to improve safety and reliability since then. 

 

Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher is a staunch critic of Metro North, but did acknowledge the progress in restoring morale and instilling a culture of safety that seemed missing.  She says Giulietti came into the leadership role at the worst possible time for the railroad.

 

Boucher says a series of catastrophic events that would plague a rail company over a 20 tor 30 year period, nevermind in a less than two year period, was a daunting situation.

 

Commuter Advocate Jim Cameron says Joseph Giulietti credit for starting the railroad on the long, upward climb to restoring a state of good repair.  But as Giulietti cautioned this week, that journey will take another three to four years.  Cameron says that's indicative of just how badly the railroad had been run in recent years.

 

Cameron says there are still areas that need to be address including over crowding, enforcement of quiet car rules, branch service delays or substitute bussing, and ticket collection.  The railroad admits it loses millions of dollars in uncollected tickets each year, but says that amount is less than it would cost to fully staff trains and collect all tickets.

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College to award doctorate posthumously to Newtown principal

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) An upstate New York college is awarding a doctorate degree posthumously to one of the 26 victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.

Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung was one of six educators killed along with 20 first-graders in the 2012 shooting. She was a doctoral candidate at the Esteves School of Education at The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York.

Sage Colleges Dean of Education Lori Quigley says Hochsprung's family, including her husband and daughter, will be attending a commencement ceremony on Saturday to receive the degree.

Hochsprung was pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership. After her death, the college established an education center in her honor.

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Bethel residents approve budget

A budget has been approved by Bethel residents.  There was about a 30-percent voter turnout yesterday.

 

The $27.34 million for the town was approved on a vote of 2,119 to 1,276.  $42.98 million for the schools was approved 2,136 to 1,259.  The tax increase is .21 percent, down from the initial proposal of a 1.13 percent increase.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says that equates to a $1 or $1.25 per month for the average homeowner.

 

The education spending plan was rejected last month by two votes, the municipal budget failed by 29 votes.  Residents answered the advisory questions that both were too high.  The 14 capital items gained approval during the first referendum.

 

The Board of Finance cut $300,000 from the schools.  $240,000 was trimmed from the municipal plan.  $40,000 was cut from the fuel oil and gas account, $15,000 from police overtime, $160,000 to employee benefits and the balance from the VNA.

 

 

It took four votes to gain approval last budget cycle, pushing approval past the start of the new fiscal year.  This is the first year that a vote was held in April, about a month earlier than normal, following a Charter revision.

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Danbury man appointed as General Counsel for Conn. VA

A Danbury man has been appointed to the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.  City Council Minority Leader Tom Saadi will serve as General Counsel and legislative Director.  Saadi, who begins work at the State VA today, served for fifteen years as an Assistant Attorney General and Special Prosecutor with the Office of the Connecticut Attorney General.

 

Saadi is a Major in the Army Reserve serving with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion Danbury.

 

He says he looks forward to applying the skills he learned there and as a Major in the Army Reserve to help veterans and service members statewide.  He says it's been an honor to wear the uniform for the past 10 years and to have seen and heard of the sacrifices from Connecticut men and women across all branches.

 

While at the Attorney General's office Saadi worked in the Consumer Protection division enforcing Connecticut’s Unfair trade Practices  Act,  represented  the  State  on  several  multi-state legal working  groups, prosecuted contractors, and was selected by former Attorney General Blumenthal to Co-Chair the Attorney General's Veterans and Service members Advisory Response Team. 

 

VA Commissioner Sean Connolly is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.  Saadi and Connolly served together last year in the Reserves at Fort Dix.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission visits sites for consideration

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission has held another meeting. 

 

A subcommittee is working with the Newtown Land Use Department to find available property for the memorial.  The Dayton Street area, the Edmond Town Hall back lot and other sites have been visited.  They ranked the possibilities on accessibility, free from noise, natural setting or view, and proximity to Sandy Hook and to infrastructure including roads, water, parking among other aspects. 

 

The committee still needs to meet with the Fairfield Hills Authority and the Forest Association.  There is an area on the Fairfield Hills campus which was designated for a Tech Park that's owned by the state and adjacent to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary. 

 

Outreach about private land was also discussed last night. 

 

The committee is looking to recommend three to five possibilities for consideration.

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Police ordered to release documents in school shooting probe

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The state Freedom of Information Commission has ruled that state police must release personal documents seized from Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza's home during the investigation of the December 2012 rampage that left 20 children and six educators dead.

The agency ruled Wednesday in favor of the Hartford Courant.

Efforts by the Courant to obtain the documents since January 2014 have been blocked by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

The lawyer for the Courant said the documents, including a comic book written by Lanza, were public records partly because of the cost to the state to investigate and significant media coverage.

The attorney representing the state said the items were not public records because they were personal property of the Lanzas seized by warrant during the investigation.

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WCSU leader tells state Board funding cuts need to be reversed

The Board of Regents for Higher Education has heard from the leaders of the universities that they oversee about propose budget cuts from the state.  Western Connecticut State University President James Schmotter spent about half an hour testifying this week.  $3 million is on the chopping block from West Conn's $123 million operating budget. 

 

Three graduate level programs have been cancelled.  They are the Master degrees in Teaching, Health Administration and Justice Administration.  Class sizes are likely to increase across the board as West Conn has been in a hiring freeze.  11 faculty and 8 other positions will go unfilled. 

 

Fall enrollment is projected to be the same or lower than this year.

 

Schmotter warned of shorter hours at the library reference desk and longer wait times for IT assistance. 

 

Tuition is slated to increase 4.8 percent systemwide.

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Local lawmaker critical of legislation dealing with home contractors

A bill is being considered by the state legislature to protect consumers by requiring home improvement contractors to obtain liability insurance coverage and pass a written examination or course of study.  The course must be consumer protection commissioner approved and based on information the department publishes.  Under the bill, the proof of insurance must be provided to the Department of Consumer Protection and the municipal building department in each municipality where the applicant or contractor submits building permit applications.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban, a commercial litigator, with an emphasis on construction disputes, was told that the insurance would not have to cover work done be subcontractors, just the general contractor.  He says often times that becomes the dispute, who is at fault.  If the subcontractor does sub-par work, Shaban said the fault depends on the contract, what insurance coverage each has, and if the policies are even valid.

 

Shaban says the bill is a step in the right direction in terms of scrutiny.  But he says it could produce a false sense of security.

 

While he likes the concept, he thinks the result could be a step backwards in terms of consumer protection.  Shaban says he doesn't want homeowners to think that they will be covered if a municipal building department signs off on the contractor's insurance.

 

The bill includes exemptions from the examination and course of study requirements for registered contractors who have continuously held a valid registration in Connecticut for five years before the application or renewal or $30,000 or less in gross annual receipts. It also requires the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to conduct a study and report on enforcement and complaint procedures involving registered home improvement contractors.

 

The bill was passed temporarily Tuesday by the House, meaning that consideration is temporarily suspended.  No date was immediately set to take up the matter again.

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Hearing continued in Bethel on proposed crematorium

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission has placed a one year moratorium on allowing any new crematorium applications to come before the panel.  The application by Shawn McLoughlin of Monocrete up for a public hearing last night will be up for a continued hearing on May 26th.  The Commission voted 4 to 3 last night to overturn their decision last summer to allow a crematorium as a special permitted use for Clarke Business Park.  The Bethel Economic Development Commission opposed the proposal citing possible declines in property value and environmental concerns.

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Metro North critic questions railroad President on improvements

Local lawmakers have questioned the leader of Metro North about specific issues in the region.  Railroad President Joseph Giulietti appeared before the Transportation Committee Monday and said that the commuter railroad today is a better railroad than it was two years ago. 

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher asked Giulietti about the electrification of the Danbury branch line and getting train cars on that line.  He says the beauty of the diesel cars is that when the electric cars run into problems during major snow storms, the diesel are there as a back up.

 

Boucher suggested that when Metro North is fixing infrastructure and there are known delays, that they be notified in advance.  She says that way when constituents email or call about the delays, they can give a clear answer.  Boucher says in her experience, when people know the reason for the delay, they don't tend to get as upset about it.

 

Giulietti stressed that Metro-North still faces "extensive challenges" that did not develop overnight.

 

Boucher asked Joseph Giulietti about time tables, equipment failures and delays that gave riders the impression that the Danbury Branch was the forgotten ones in the system.  Giulietti notes that Metro North spent the better part of last year working out all of the problems on the Danbury line associated with the grade crossing upgrades.

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Teamsters, Danbury agree to contract extension

Good faith negotiations between Danbury and the Teamsters Local 677 has resulted in a fairly quick agreement for the new fiscal year.  The agreements extend the current language concerning the terms and conditions of employment for members of the Teamsters from July 1st through June 30, 2017.  City Council members asked Mayor Mark Boughton about why these raises will save Danbury significant expense in the next two fiscal years.

 

There are three impacted by this extension.  He says it would take $15,000 to $25,000 to negotiate another three year contract.

 

The agreements reflect a general wage increase of .75 percent in each 2015 and 2016.  There is also an enhanced meal stipend.  One of the three groups was moved to a straight payment rather than meal reimbursement.  Boughton says that also saves the City a lot of paperwork.  The Teamsters have their own health care plan, Danbury only makes premium payments.

 

The raises were already included in the budget the Council was asked to approve when they also accepted the collective bargaining agreement extension.

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Ridgefield residents approve budget, capital items

Ridgefield residents have approved a budget.  The $135 million municipal and education plan represents a zero tax increase.  The $34 million budget for the town was approved 1,1427 to 217 and the $86 million budget for the schools was approved 1,311 to 334.  Combined it's a 1.2 percent increase in spending.  The reason taxes can be held to the current fiscal year's level is because $1.8 million from the fund balance is being used to offset the spending increase. 

 

There are seven other questions on the ballot, all of which gained approval.  They include a vote of 1,536 to 108 in favor of $2.75 million for road work.  That's a nearly 50-percent increase from funding in the current year.  Another question on the budget ballot about $3.7 million to upgrade Ridgefield's emergency radio system was approved 1,265 to 373. 

 

Nearly $500,000 for technology infrastructure replacement at the schools and to reduce energy use at the high school received overwhelming support of 1,310 to 323.  $230,000 to replace a fire department ambulance was approved 1,428 to 204.  $176,000 will be spent for a truck to be used by the highway department for plowing and hauling after receiving a vote of 1,240 to 377.

 

$415,000 for three construction projects was approved 1,265 to 358.  A new roof for the town hall annex, elevator renovations in the Venus building and Lake Mamanasco improvements will be made.  A bike and walking path extension is a $1.25 million allocation approved on a vote of 1,180 to 460.

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Praxair scraps plan to build new headquarters in Danbury

Praixir Corporation is not going ahead with plans to build a new headquarters in Danbury.  The company is currently located at the Matrix Center in Danbury.  The plans reportedly became too expensive, despite a $30 million dollar loan and incentive package from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Praxair planned to build at the Berkshire Corporate Park on the Bethel-town line.

 

DECD Spokesman Jim Watson said in an emailed statement that they are disappointed to learn of Praxair's decision not to move forward with the proposed construction of its world headquarters in Danbury.  But Watson says the Department understands that business decisions must be made that are best for the company, its employees, and it stockholders. 

 

He says they are encouraged that Praxair remains committed to Connecticut, maintaining its headquarters in Danbury and keeping high quality jobs in the state.

 

Company officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

 

Praxair employs more than 27,000 people and operates in 50 countries, supplying atmospheric, process, and specialty gases as well as high-performance coatings and related services to a wide range of industries including metals, health care, food and beverage, energy, aerospace, chemicals, electronics, manufacturing, and others.

 

The DECD package included a $10 million forgivable loan.  Praxair would have also been eligible for up to $20 million in tax credits through the state’s Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credit Program, and up to $2.5 million in Sales and Use Tax Exemptions.

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Progress being made on highway repaving project in Danbury

A construction job on Interstate 84 is scheduled to last through the end of the month, though big progress has been made in the last several days.  The resurfacing being done eastbound between exits 3 and 8 has moved from the milling part of the project into the paving portion.  Once the eastbound side of the project is completed, state Department of Transportation officials can move to the westbound lanes and start milling the road to prepare for paving.  Barring weather delays, the work is slated for completion May 29th.

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Evening road work on Route 7 begins

Nighttime milling and resurfacing of state roads is underway yet again. The state Department of Transportation began a project on a segment of Route 7 in Wilton, Redding and Ridgefield on Sunday.  Motorists can expect lane closures on Route 7 between Route 57 to just shy of Route 35.  The work is being done from 8pm to 5:30am.  Traffic control personnel and signing patterns will guide motorists through the work zone.  The project is scheduled to wrap up June 10th.

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Ridgefield budget referendum Tuesday

Ridgefield residents are being called on to go to the polls Tuesday to vote on a budget.  The $135 million municipal and education plan represents a zero tax increase.  The $35 million budget for the town and $86 million budget for the schools is a combined 1.2 percent increase in spending.  The reason taxes can be held to the current fiscal year's level is because $1.8 million from the fund balance is being used to offset the spending increase. 

 

There are seven other questions on the ballot as well.  They include $2.75 million for road work.  That's a nearly 50-percent increase from funding in the current year.  Another question on the budget ballot is about $3.7 million to upgrade Ridgefield's emergency radio system. 

 

Nearly $500,000 for technology infrastructure replacement at the schools and to reduce energy use at the high school is another item to be voted on.  $230,000 is being requested to replace a fire department ambulance.  $176,000 for a truck to be used by the highway department for plowing and hauling is also proposed. 

 

$415,000 for three construction projects is another question on the ballot.  A new roof for the town hall annex, elevator renovations in the Venus building and Lake Mamanasco improvements would be made with that funding if approved.  A bike and walking path extension is another of the items up for a vote .  It's a $1.25 million allocation.

 

Polls close at 8pm.

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Bill dealing with dementia symptoms advances

The state House has approved a bill requiring hospitals to train direct care staff in the symptoms of dementia as part of their regular training.  Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky says there is no current law or regulation that specifies general training requirements for staff. 

 

Bolinsky says these afflictions tend to mask other medical complications.  His father has Alzheimers and his father-in-law has dementia, so recognition of symptoms is important to him. 

 

Bolinsky says there is no  fiscal impact.  He says while this is not a mandate, it is important for Connecticut's aging population. 

 

The measure was approved 123 to 18 on Thursday.  Among the 18 lawmakers in the House opposed to the bill were New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith and New Milford Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor.

 

It was placed on the Senate calendar Monday.

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Pilot program to prevent invasives at Candlewood Lake launched in Brookfield

Milfoil isn't the only invasive species the Candlewood Lake Authority is concerned about this summer.  In previous years Zebra Mussels were found in other bodies of water along the Housatonic River so the CLA put up signs asking boaters to "clean, drain and dry" their boats. 

 

Now a pilot program is being launched in Brookfield. 

 

There was a training session Saturday in Brookfield for the boat inspection and decontamination pilot program that will take place during the boating season.  Participation by boaters is voluntary and will be carried out in two locations.  The Brookfield town boat launch and the Lattins Cove launch in Danbury will be staffed by the state Department Energy and Environmental Protection Fridays through Sundays starting Memorial Day weekend. 

 

A $25,000 hot-water, high-pressure washer bought by Brookfield decontaminates boats that aren't clean, drained and dry.

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Bond Commission allocates some grant money for new Sandy Hook School

More grant money is coming to Newtown from the state to build a new Sandy Hook School.  The state Bond Commission met this morning.  One of the items on their agenda was to allocate more of the $50 million grant set aside for the town of Newtown to build a new Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The Bond Commission allocated $36 million to Newtown.  The grant is being administered by the Department of Administrative Services, Office of School facilities.  Previous allocations total $11,700,000.  That leaves $2,300,000 million unallocated.

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New Milford Hospital cuts ribbon on new ER

New Milford Hospital has cut the ribbon on it's new Emergency Department.  The Arnhold Emergency Department is 11,000 square feet and is the largest expansion in New Milford Hospital's nearly 100 year history. 

 

The ribbon was cut Friday night.  There were some opening remarks followed by tours of the sustainable eco-friendly design. 

 

There are all private patient rooms, a larger more efficient triage room, a centralized nursing station and specialty care rooms.  There is also a new decontamination area and dedicated consultation areas.  There are outdoor gardens that help blend the Arnhold Emergency Department into the existing hospital buolding and into New Milford's historic district.

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Off-leash dog park approved in Danbury

Danbury officials have approved creation of a dog park.  Four acres of land off Miry Brook Road will be turned into a fenced in area for dogs.  The only restriction is that dogs are licensed, and that a sign be posted saying that aggressive dogs are not allowed. 

 

City Councilman Paul Rotello says there are still some issues he would like to see worked out.  They include whether parking should be just for Danbury residents and if tags that are highly visible be required so people can see that the dogs are licensed. 

 

The park would be fenced in, for daytime use only and have limited parking.

 

A proposal was made during the City Council meeting that dog breeds in the group where homeowners can't be insured or would require a rider on their insurance, not be allowed in parks except the off-leash dog park.  There were some questions about enforceability.

 

Councilman Fred Visconti opposed the idea saying he is aware of lists of so-called vicious dogs, but he has four pitbulls who are friendly. 

 

Councilman Andrew Wetmore also weighed in on that vicious dog rule.  He says it's difficult to say what type of breed tends to be more aggress.  He grew up with a Labrador Retriever.  Wetmore says while it's one of the common friendliest dogs, his mother needed 30 stitches on her face because of one encounter with the pet.

 

The proposal was rejected.  An aggressive or vicious dog ordinance has worked in other places, and has been proposed in Danbury before.  Council members suggested a committee be formed to study the matter.

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WCSU holds commencement ceremonies

Western Connecticut State University has held commencement ceremonies.  Graduate students heard from U.S. Senator Chris Murphy on Friday night.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says many of those students are about Murphy's age.

 

Former Governor Jodi Rell addressed undergraduates yesterday.  She told about her experiences as a leader and a public servant. 

 

Steinmetz says this was the first year the ceremony was held off campus.  Rell spoke to the crowd gathered at Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. The move was made in order to accommodate the  5,000 to 6,000 people who attended the ceremony.  Last year there were also big traffic jams and delays for families making it to the ceremony.

 

Central, Souther and Eastern Connecticut State Universities all hold their undergraduate commencement ceremonies at either the XL Center in Hartford or at Webster Arena.

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Public hearing being held on proposed tax plan at state capital

State House and Senate Republicans frustrated by proposed tax hikes in the budget for the next two years are holding a public hearing today about the proposal.  Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan says there hasn't been a chance for public input on the plan approved recently by the legislature's finance committee that would hike Connecticut taxes by nearly $2.4 billion, retroactive to January 1st. 

 

Services including accounting, veterinary, engineering and dry cleaning would also be subject to the state's sales tax under the measure approved by the committee.  McLachlan says the proposal does lower the sales tax over the next two years.  But he says it's taking from here to give it back there and either way working families are going to pay more in taxes.

 

More than 3,600 people has signed a petition as of Friday morning calling for no new taxes in Connecticut. 

 

The hearing is at 1:30 this afternoon.

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Summer reading challenges issued

State Education Commissioner Diana Wentzell has kicked off this year's version of the Governor's Summer Reading Challenge for kids.  The challenge awards schools with the highest participation rate and highest number of books read per student.  She says it's vital to encourage kids to read when they are not in school because of a loss of reading skills over the summer known as the Summer Slide. 

 

Since the challenge began in 1996, it's estimated that millions of books have been read. 

 

The challenge this summer has a theme of "Every hero has a story".  Governor Dannel Malloy urged students to read biographies and autobiographies to learn more about real life heros.  He says fostering a love of reading at an early age helps kids succeed in grade school and college.

 

Students are able to chose books they find interesting, which Malloy says makes participation increase.

 

For over 20 years, Danbury Library has offered a summer program, along with the Mayor's reading challenge.  Mayor Mark Boughton encourages students in grade 1 through 8 to read a certain amount of hours each week to receive an invitation to a ceremony at City Hall in August.

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'Stamp Out Hunger' postal service food drive today

The 23rd Annual Letter Carrier Food Drive is being held today.

 

The food drive takes place each year on the second Saturday of May because food banks are usually low headed into summer.  Most food drives are held around Thanksgiving and soon, schools will be out for the summer--students won't access to free or reduce priced meals. 

 

Non-perishable food items left in or near mailboxes today will be picked up when mail is dropped off.

 

Danbury, Ridgefield and most other area towns are participating in the food drive.

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Danbury employee appointed to state panel on construction projects

A Danbury employee is part of a state panel looking into how municipalities do construction in the state.  Governor Malloy appointed Danbury Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola to the committee. 

 

Iadarola says he brings a unique perspective to the group because of the way Danbury does business.  Iadarola also cited his history in the city of Stamford as converting all "at risk contracts" into a general contractor bid where the City takes on all the risk. 

 

Iadarola says a "no risk contract" means there is no contingency built in and the municipality will pay for it eventually.  In contrast, he says Danbury has had great success in managing the risk themselves.

 

Iadarola told the City Council on Tuesday that there is contingency funding built into the proposed Danbury High School overhaul bond request in case of unforseen costs.  He says that's worked most recently in Danbury where three school renovations and a school construction came in under budget and on time.

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Lawmakers speak out against bill that stops police from crossing town lines

A bill which would prohibit local police officers from crossing town lines to enforce municipal ordinances has been approved by the state House, and awaits action in the Senate. 

 

The legislation was prompted by an incident involving former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville who was approached by a West Hartford officer while shoveling his own driveway and accused of door-to-door solicitations.  Glanville said he simply met the description of a black male in a dark coat with a shovel, soliciting work.

 

While the offenses don't warrant high-speed pursuit, Bethel Representative Dan Carter says there should be some accountability.  Every police officer in Connecticut has standard training and has the seal of the state of Connecticut on their badge.  Carter says if someone violates the law, there should be some mechanism to enforce that ordinance.  He says it doesn't make sense, for the sake of resources, to have an officer from another department follow up on the inquiry.

 

New Milford state Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor questioned the sponsor of the bill about what he was hoping would come from this.  Representative Matt Ritter told Buck-Taylor the goal is better relationships between police and the community, and that he has growing concerns about where the country is headed.

 

But she says she doesn't believe this bill in any way fosters better relationships between police and certain segments of society.  Buck-Taylor said on the House floor: "I don't think we're being necessarily honest about what's trying to be accomplished".

 

Monroe state Representative JP Sredzinski says it could have a negative impact on law enforcement.

 

Republicans Mitch Bolisnky of Newtown, John Frey of Ridgefield, Steve Harding of Brookfield, and Redding's John Shaban were also among those voting no.

 

 

Danbury Democratic Representatives David Arconti and Bob Godfrey along with Republicans Jan Giegler and Richard Smith of New Fairfield approved the measure. 

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U.S. Attorney General gives update on Danbury FCI construction

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has questioned the new Attorney General about when construction will begin at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.  Loretta Lynch told Murphy, and the Senate panel which oversees the Bureau of Prisons questioning her yesterday, that work is slated to begin this summer. 

 

The construction was prompted by a decision to turn the female lock up back into male quarters.  Murphy and Senator Blumenthal fought to have a satellite camp for female inmates built in Danbury because it's the last women's prison in the region. 

 

The original construction estimated a completion by this month, but an environmental impact statement was needed, holding up the start of the job.

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Ground broken for Kennedy Flats development in downtown Danbury

A ground breaking ceremony has been held for a housing development project being constructed in Danbury.  The Kennedy Place property will have 378 units in three buildings of one, two and three-bedroom luxury apartments.  The prices will range from $1,300 a month to over $2,000.

 

The property was sold to  Virginia-based Greystar Development by BRT, which came under fire from several City Council members when they built the Crosby Street apartments using a tax break meant to bring people downtown, and turned it into student housing for West Conn.  Mayor Mark Boughton was asked if that's a concern here.

 

He says the cost of the apartment would probably prohibit that.  Boughton says West Conn students certainly have a role to play in the economy of Danbury, but Greystar is not marketing this development to them.

 

Boughton says this represent a $70 million investment in Danbury's Main Street.

 

A seven year tax deferral for the project was approved by the City Council last January, though Greystar will continue to pay taxes on the 9-and-a-half acre property.  If the project is converted to condominiums, individual owners will have the opportunity to acquire a tax deferral.

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Bill stops police from enforcing local ordinances elsewhere

Local lawmakers in the state House were split on a bill which would prohibit local police officers from crossing town lines to enforce municipal ordinances.  The House approved the measure this week. 

 

The bill was prompted by an incident last February in which a West Hartford police officer crossed into Hartford to question former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville following complaints about someone doing door to door solicitation. 

 

Monroe state Representative JP Sredzinski says it could have a negative impact on law enforcement.

 

Danbury Democratic Representatives David Arconti and Bob Godfrey along with Republicans Jan Giegler and Richard Smith of New Fairfield approved the measure. 

 

Republicans Mitch Bolisnky of Newtown, New Milford's Cecilia Buck-Taylor, Dan Carter whose district includes Bethel, John Frey of Ridgefield, Steve Harding of Brookfield, and Redding's John Shaban were also among those voting no.

 

The bill was placed on the Senate calendar Thursday.

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FirstLight restores $50K contribution to Candlewood Lake Authority

The $50,000 contribution to the Candlewood Lake Authority by FirstLight Power Resources, the lake owner, has been restored for the coming fiscal year.  First Light's parent company, GDF Suez North America, told Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal about their decision in a phone call. 

 

In making the 80-percent reduction earlier this year, First Light said it wanted to distribute the same amount of funds it contributes to the 23-town Housatonic River region. 

 

New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman says she was pleased with the reversal, but noted that the contribution is voluntary.

 

Murphy called Candlewood a regional treasure, and says its caretakers need to be able to rely on consistent support.  He wants to continue working with the company and the five surrounding communities in the coming months to reach an agreement about future funding.

 

Chapman says it was decided at a recent meeting of the five CEOs that they would meet with the CLA in the fall to talk about their future budgets.  Some area towns did include extra funding in their municipal budgets just in case FirstLight hadn't changed their minds.

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says Candlewood Lake is a stunning natural resource for the region.  She called on FirstLight to continue working with the Candlewood Lake Authority to ensure a closer relationship in the future.

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Widow of Danbury man killed in Metro North crash files suit

A second lawsuit has been filed in connection to the fatal Metro North crash between a train and an SUV in Valhalla. 

 

The widow of a Danbury man killed when a Metro North train headed to Brewster struck an SUV which was stuck on the tracks in February.  The $25 million suit was filed on behalf of 41-year old Aditya Tomar's widow and estate, against the railroad, town and county for negligence. 

 

According to the lawsuit filed last Wednesday, Tomar suffered burns, fractures to his skull, ribs and extremities and lacerations to his brain, heart and lungs.  The damages are for Tomar's injuries, medical and funeral expences and loss of income and support. 

 

Another lawsuit was filed by the family of SUV driver Ellen Brody.

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Danbury officials decide to send Danbury High School project to voters

The proposed Danbury High School bond package has been approved by City officials to head to a vote June 9th.  The design would essentially give the 9th grade their own building, creating the Freshmen Academy.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the cost was estimated with several contingencies and an in-house construction manager.  It's the same process as recent renovations and additions at other schools in recent years.

 

Boughton says he hopes this gains voter approval to get the projectt on the state's cure "before the state implodes".  The estimated cost is $53.5 million.  62-percent of the cost will be paid for by the state.

 

Boughton says in the last 15 years, every project has been brought in under budget and on time.  Boughton cited construction at three elementary schools and the new middle school coming in under budget by about $6 million.  He expects the same with this, but cautioned that you never know what's buried at a site until you start digging.

 

He anticipates construction by November if the weather cooperates, or by the Spring of 2016.

 

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.  An addition to the current building would include a two story gym, an academic floor and a science and computer lab level with the possibility in the future for another level.

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Brookfield sets budget referendum for May 19

Brookfield residents have set a budget referendum date of May 19th.  During a Town Meeting last night, officials said the proposed budget holds the tax rate at the current year's level.  There is a less than 1-percent decrease in the municipal budget and a 2.5 percent increased proposed for the schools. 

 

The education budget is proposed at $39.5 million with a proposed $21.7 million municipal budget.  Acting Superintendent of schools Ralph Iassogna initially asked for a 6-percent increase, and says at least 2.9 percent more was needed to maintain current the level of services due to already negotiated raises.

 

This is the first year that residents are voting on the plans separately.

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New Milford residents approve budget

New Milford residents have approved budget.  There was little more than a 10-percent turnout yesterday on the $99.3 million proposal.  The School budget was approved 875 to 809 while the municipal tax and spending plan passed 966 to 717.

 

The New Milford Board of Finance added money to the municipal spending plan.  The $38.1 million budget includes $29,500 more than requested in order to send an additional $10,000 to the Candlewood Lake Authority, with the balance for capital items. 

 

The $61.2 million education request was unchanged by the Board of Finance.  The Board of Education added new programs to the coming school year as part of the John Pettitbone Elementary School closing plan.   The budget represents a 1.7 percent increase in taxes. 

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Lease, land easement swap to be discussed in Ridgefield

A public hearing and town meeting are being held tonight in Ridgefield.  The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is holding a public hearing about the proposed lease agreement with Ability Beyond Disability.  The lease is for little more than half an acre of land on Halpin Lane. 

 

The special town meeting will be held directly after the hearing.  The meeting is to act on a proposed easement swap between the Town and Wendy and Robert Opotzner on property located at 44 East Farm Lane. 

 

The public hearing starts at 7:30 in the large conference room at Ridgefield Town Hall.  There will also be a Board of Selectmen meeting following both the public hearing and the special town meeting.

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Bill about drone use draws mixed reaction from local lawmakers

A bill regarding the use of drones operated by law enforcement below 400 feet has been sent to the state Senate.  The bill, advanced last Wednesday, requires state and municipal police to obtain a warrant before operating the unmanned aerial vehicles in criminal investigations. 

 

Redding Representative John Shaban says training activities and certain emergencies would be exempt.

 

New Fairfield State Representative Richard Smith says he understands that reasonable suspicion has been clearly defined by the courts, but is concerned that it's not defined in the bill.  The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association requested an increase on the total use of the drone from 24 hours within a 30 day period under reasonable suspicion, to 30 hours in 30 days.

 

Southbury state Representative Arthur O'Neill says use of drones by other state agencies is not addressed in the bill.  He is concerned that the Department of Environmental Protection park rangers, the Department of Motor Vehicles enforcement arm or others could register flights with the state.  The data would be posted on the Office of Policy and Management website so it's available to the public, and O'Neill is concerned with privacy violations.

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Redding residents approve budget, oppose turf field funding

Redding residents have approved $47.79 million budget, including the town's share of the Region 9 school budget.  The vote was 980 to 589.   Redding portion of Region 9's $23.1 million budget was approved 1,022 to 548 by residents.  The school budget was approved by Easton voters on a 537 to 285 vote.  Easton's share is $10.8 million, Redding's is $12.3 million. 

 

$1.95 million allocated for repairs and improvements at Redding Elementary and John Read Middle schools was approved by a vote of 1,136 to 431.  There will be parking lot paving and curb replacement, and HVAC system engineering designs at each school.  Upgraded electrical service in two wings of the elementary school, an added security entrance and new sidewalks and steps would also be done there.  At the middle school, bleachers would be replaced, the gym floor refinished and wall padding replaced.

 

$123,000 to replace the police Communications Tower was approved by a vote of 870 to 681.

 

The last question appropriating a little more than $1 million to replace the roof at Joel Barlow High School gained approval.  Redding residents approved the measure 1,146 to 424.  Easton residents voted 546 to 276.  Redding's share is about $566,000, Easton's is $477,000.  The 54-percent shouldered by Redding and 46-percent by Easton is based on enrollment in the school by each town.

 

The question about $660,000 for converting Redding Community Center Field #2 to turf failed.  The vote was 517 in favor, 1,050 opposed.  Also being defeated was $47,000 for a pavilion at the Redding Community Center Fields.  The vote was 671 in favor, 885 opposed.

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Danbury City Council approves budget on party-line vote

The majority of the City Council has approved a budget for the coming fiscal year.  The plan was opposed by the six Democrats on the Council.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton proposed a $237.7 million budget with a tax increase of 2.4 percent.  Sewer and water rates remain the same. 

 

The municipal side of the budget is heavy on infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and school roof improvements.  Boughton says the last few winters have taken a toll on Danbury's infrastructure.  It's about 30 million dollars in work that will be done around the City this summer and fall.

 

Boughton says spending up 6% from last year, but if it wasn't for the increase to the schools the mill rate could have been reduced.  Part of the increase is due to higher enrollment and more costs to accommodate more students.

 

Boughton also issued a so-called Playbook of steps to take over the next five to 10 years to streamline City government and save taxpayers money.  He wants to create a Project Management Office.  Other cities that have done this and Boughton says they've seen a 30 percent decrease in failed projects and 25 percent increase in projects delivered under budget.

 

The education portion of the budget is lower than what the Board of Education requested.  The Board sought $127.5 million, but the Mayor recommended $124 million.  That smaller number is still a 2.3 percent increase in spending over the current year. 

 

Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says full day kindergarten, a new middle school and increased security are leading to some of the increase.  Special education is a major cost driver in this budget.  Danbury is looking to create a a so-called building brace program to keep kids in the district rather than outplace a student.  Part of the outplacement cost is transportation.

 

Pascarella says the state has flat funded Education Cost Sharing grants to Danbury since 2008, even though the City has seen consistent enrollment increases. 

 

Pascarella says if there are more budget cutbacks there will have to be fewer teachers, less supplies and consolidated administrators.

 

There are two new initiatives included in the budget this year.  The 311 info line is going to become a 24/7 operation.  Starting on July 1st, residents will get a live operator on the phone at all times to discuss a concern, a pothole or something that needs to be fixed.

 

The other initiative is a pilot program with Savings Bank of Danbury.  Residents will be able to go to any of the 5 branches in the City as of July 1st to pay their property taxes with a teller.  Boughton says this will take some of the pressure off City Hall, but also allows Danbury to offer services to residents 6 days a week.

 

$3 million dollars in bonding was unanimously approved by the City Council.  $1.7 million of that will go to road and drainage improvements throughout Danbury.  The balance is for other projects that should last the City 20 years.

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Forest fire danger to remain high throughout May

The showers expected today will only briefly dampen the forest fire danger.  The warning level is expected to remain high throughout the end of this month.  State forester Chris Martin says all brush fires in Connecticut are man-made.  In late April there was a brush fire on Sanfordtown Road in Redding.  An open burn was done by a resident without a permit.  There was also an illegal burn on Indian Head Road in Danbury that got out of control as well.  On Saturday, 11 acres in Kent burned in a brush fire.

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Ridgefield Annual Town and Budget meeting held

The annual town and budget meeting in Ridgefield has been held.  The Ridgefield Boards of Selectmen, Education and Financemade presentations and then took questions from residents. 

 

Several capital items, under $100,000, were approved.  They include interior locks at the schools, tree replacement, and building repairs and improvements at Yannity Gym and the Venus building. 

 

$46.139 million is proposed for the municipal budget, the education plan is proposed at $86.078 million.  Ridgefield residents have set the date for the budget referendum as Tuesday the 12th.

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Family of driver killed in train-car collision plans to sue

VALHALLA, N.Y. (AP) The family of the SUV driver involved in a deadly collision with a Metro-North commuter train plans to sue the railroad.

Ellen Brody's family filed a notice of claim that names the railroad, the MTA, Westchester County, the town of Mount Pleasant and the state as defendants.

The 49-year-old mother of three was killed when a train struck her SUV on Feb. 3 at a grade crossing in Valhalla. The impact sparked an explosion and fire. Five train passengers, including a Danbury man, also were killed.

Brody's family says the collision was caused by a hazardous railroad crossing. Their attorney, Philip Russotti, says a badly designed railroad crossing and poor sight lines were to blame.

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Redding residents voting on budget, capital items

Redding residents are voting on a budget today.  There are seven questions on the ballot. One is the $47.79 million budget, including the town's share of the Region 9 school budget.  The next is about Region 9's budget of $23.1 million.  Easton's share is $10.8 million, Redding's is $12.3 million. 

 

The other questions are about capital items.

 

$1.95 million allocated for repairs and improvements at Redding Elementary and John Read Middle schools is proposed.  There would be parking lot paving and curb replacement, and HVAC system engineering designs at each school.  Upgraded electrical service in two wings of the elementary school, an added security entrance and new sidewalks and steps would also be done there.  At the middle school, bleachers would be replaced, the gym floor refinished and wall padding replaced.

 

The next question is about $660,000 for converting  Redding Community Center Field #2 to turf. 

 

Question 5 is a $123,000 to replace the police Communications Tower.  Question 6 is about $47,000 for a pavilion at the Redding Community Center Fields. 

 

The last question is about appropriating a little more than $1 million to replace the roof at Joel Barlow High School.  Redding's share is about $566,000, Easton's is $477,000.  The 54-percent shouldered by Redding and 46-percent by Easton is based on enrollment in the school by each town.

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Budget vote being held in New Milford

New Milford residents are at the polls today to vote on a budget.  The New Milford Board of Finance has added money to the proposed municipal spending plan.  The $38.1 million proposal includes $29,500 more than requested in order to send an additional $10,000 to the Candlewood Lake Authority, with the balance for capital items. 

 

The $61.2 million education request was unchanged by the Board of Finance.  The Board of Education added new programs to the coming school year as part of the John Pettitbone Elementary School closing plan.   The combined $99.3 million proposal represents a 1.7 percent increase in taxes. 

 

Polls are open until 8pm.

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Esty to spend Tuesday in New Milford, Danbury

Several stops in the region are planned today for 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.  She is starting the afternoon in New Milford with Mayor Pat Murphy.  Esty will attend the weekly New Milford Rotary Club meeting.

 

Esty has a visit planned to the Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, which opened the Center for Comfort Care and Healing in late January.  More than 1,000 patients, many of them children, are expected to come to the new, 36,000 square foot hospice center during the first year.

 

Esty will then lead a roundtable discussion at Western Connecticut State University on sexual assault in the military.  A screening of the documentary called The Invisible War will be held in Route 201 of the midtown campus Student Center.  The screening is at 4:45pm and open to the public.

 

Esty will wrap up the day with a visit to the supper program at Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School in Danbury with End Hunger Connecticut.  The statewide organization works to eliminate hunger.  According to a 2012 USDA study, 13.4% of CT residents are “food insecure.”  Esty says providing supper to students in afterschool programs ensures all students have access to nutritious meals.

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Sherman residents approve budget, reject septic tank ordinance

Sherman residents have approved a budget.  During the referendum on Saturday, residents approved the $5.1 million municipal budget on a vote of 305 to 269.  Voters decided 346 to 228 in favor of the $9.3 million education plan.  The pair represent a 2.3 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year.  A question about $20,000, from cell tower revenue and farm rental income be appropriated for repairs at Happy Acre Farms.  The vote was 414 in favor, 159 opposed.  The proposed septic tank management ordinance was rejected 250 to 308.

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Danbury PAL names new Executive Director

A new executive director has been named for the Danbury Police Activities League.  Maura Keenan has been named to the position.  The Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Vice President of Advancement has extensive experience in marketing, fundraising and organizational development. 

 

She has also been a girls basketball coach, and worked at PAL in the 1990s to raise funds to build the current facility on Hayestown Road.  Keenan will be tasked with helping to develop a strategic plan to move PAL forward and bring the next level of service to area children. 

 

The PAL was founded in 1964 to provide a drug-free, violence-free environment for Greater Danbury area children.

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Merger proposed of Charles Ives Authority, Cultural Arts Commission

A merger of the Charles Ives Authority and the Danbury Cultural Commission has been proposed.

 

The Cultural Commission in Danbury has been run for many years by a group of volunteers.  Mayor Mark Boughton says they've used their budget to seed both performing and visual arts throughout the city.  The Charles Ives Authority, created in partnership with Western Connecticut State University, has been promoting performing arts at the Ives Concert Park since 2007 as a way to strengthen the town-grown relationship between Danbury and the university.

 

The job of the Charles Ives Cultural Authority would be to promote arts and entertainment throughout the city, seed new cultural projects, manage the Ives Concert Park as well as engage the students at Westconn and the new performing arts center at Westconn’s campus in the teaching, appreciation, and promotion of the arts in Danbury. 

 

In an effort to link the Downtown Green with the Ives Concert Park, the new Authority is being called on to host four ticketed events at the Green during the next several summers.  Boughton says that will require an investment and work by the Public Works Department so the Green can accommodate the number of people those events will attract. 

 

He says bringing new people to the downtown during the summer months is another way to enhance the economic vitality of the area.

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Absentee budget ballot session being held by Redding Town Clerk

An absentee balloting session is being held in Redding today for the upcoming budget referendum.  The Town Clerk's Office will be open from 9am to 11am to process absentee ballot applications.  Since the budget referendum is being held with less than three weeks notice, absentee ballots cannot be mailed by the town clerk. 

 

There are 7 questions on the ballot for Tuesday. 

 

One is the $47.79 million budget, including the town's share of the Region 9 school budget.  The next is about Region 9's budget of $23.1 million.  Easton's share is $10.8 million, Redding's is $12.3 million. 

 

The other questions are about capital items.

 

The next Question is if $1.95 million should be allocated for repairs and improvements at Redding Elementary and John Read Middle schools.  There would be parking lot paving and curb replacement, and HVAC system engineering designs at each school.  Upgraded electrical service in two wings of the elementary school, an added security entrance and new sidewalks and steps would also be done there.  At the middle school, bleachers would be replaced, the gym floor refinished and wall padding replaced.

 

The next question is about $660,000 for converting  Redding Community Center Field #2 to turf. 

 

Question 5 is a $123,000 to replace the police Communications Tower.  Question 6 is about $47,000 for a pavilion at the Redding Community Center Fields. 

 

The last question is about appropriating a little more than $1 million to replace the roof at Joel Barlow High School.  Redding's share is about $566,000, Easton's is $477,000.  The 54-percent shouldered by Redding and 46-percent by Easton is based on enrollment in the school by each town.

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Area lawmaker critical of transfers into General Fund

Tax and spending increases have been proposed this week by two state legislative committees.  Wilton state Senator Toni Boucher is a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.  She was critical of the proposals.

 

She specifically addressed concerns with two transfers.  One sends $12 million from the Tobacco Health Trust Fund to the General Fund in each of the next two years.  $25 million is diverted from The Special Transportation Fund, despite efforts to prevent that.

 

Boucher says the lockbox proposals are backed by both parties because the needs are so great, but the transfer jeopardizes that.  She says Connecticut residents desperately need transportation infrastructure to be repaired.

 

Backers of the plan called it a balanced and fair attempt to restore cuts proposed by Governor Malloy.

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Clean City Danbury Day today

Today is Clean City Danbury Day.  The free bulky waste drop off day is held each year to help people dispose of litter and blight.  Mayor Mark Boughton says bulk garbage dumping is limited to residents only, no commercial vehicles will be allowed.  That means vehicles with any business name on them, vehicles with commercial plates and vehicles that can clearly be used for hauling.  Box trucks are also not allowed.

 

Construction debris, electronics, household hazardous waste, grass clippings and yard debris are not permitted.  Scrap metal, tires and appliances containing freon can be disposed of today, but must be kept separate from other garbage and should not be put in the dumpsters. 

 

Nearly a thousand volunteers are participating today.  The volunteers are being supplied with trash bags and safety vests before heading out to clean litter from the streets. 

 

The disposal is from 8am to noon.

 

DROP-OFF LOCATIONS:

City Hall (155 Deer Hill Avenue)

Rogers Park (by tennis courts)

Public Works Building (53 Newtown Rd.)

P.A.L. Building (35 Hayestown Rd.)

New Location: WCSU West Side Campus (43 Lake Avenue Ext)

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Ridgefield, Newtown ranked among top 100 safest towns in America

A security system firm has named several Fairfield County towns as being among the 100 safest cities in America.  SafeWise used FBI crime data from 2013 to rank the municipalities, which have a minimum population of 10,000 people. 

 

At number 4, Ridgefield.  "The local police hold an annual Halloween party and have developed programs like “G.R.A.D.D.” (Government of Ridgefield against Drunk Driving) in order to tackle substance abuse and other safety-related issues."

 

Ranked number 10, Weston. "The city employs technologically-advanced policing features, such as computer forensics and a communication center that can reach thousands of residents in mere seconds during emergencies."

 

Number 23 is Newtown.  "After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Newtown was unfortunately thrust into the national spotlight. The families of the 26 murder victims, other affected community members, and our nation will forever be haunted by the events of December 12, 2012. In the ten years previous to the shooting, only one murder was recorded in Newtown. Likewise, our ranking reflects FBI data from 2013, in which very little violent crime occurred in Newtown."

 

The final Connecticut town ranking in the top 100,at 73, is Wilton.  "Major corporations like Cannondale and Melissa & Doug help provide economic stability in Wilton. To help keep the community stable and safe, police coordinate free initiatives like the “Citizen Police Academy”—a 12-week program that teaches the public about crime detection and prevention."

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Local lawmaker critical of tax plan approved by legislature

The Democratic controlled tax committee has voted out a tax package that increases income tax rates for high-earners, expands Connecticut's sales tax and legalizes keno.  The plan passed the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee Wednesday on a mostly party-line vote. 

 

Freshman Republican state Representative Stephen Harding of Brookfield called it a smoke and mirrors plan.  Even though the sales tax rate is slated to decrease, there are exemptions being lifted.  He says the average Connecticut resident buys goods and services in the state, and this proposal will hurt them.  Services including accounting, veterinary, engineering and dry cleaning would be subject to the state's sales tax under the measure approved this week.

 

Harding says the Business Entity Tax is cut in half under the bill, but the Governor's plan would have eliminated it.  He says $125 every few years may not seem like a lot, but that's money in the hands of middle class and small business owners that's being taken away.

 

Harding says corporate tax changes being made could also significantly impact jobs.

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