Local Headlines Archives for 2015-06

Metro North makes schedule changes for Independence Day weekend

Metro-North will provide additional early-afternoon service from New York on Thursday for customers planning an early getaway for the start of the Independence Day holiday.  Between noon and 4 pm, 18 extra trains will depart Grand Central Terminal.  On Thursday, the 5:27pm train to Brewster will not operate. 

 

On Friday, July 3rd Metro-North will operate on a Saturday schedule. 

 

Saturday July 4th will also be a Saturday schedule, but with an extra 11:13pm train on the New Haven line to get people home from the Macy's Fireworks display.  Sunday will be a typical Sunday schedule.  A complete list of added trains or those not operating, can be found on the MTA website.

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Southbury lawmaker critical of state budget changes

Connecticut's House has approved business-friendly tweaks of the state's new budget after tax increases in the spending plan drew criticism from major employers in the state. The House voted to approve the changes early this morning. 

 

Southbury Republican state Representative Arthur O'Neill says the adjustments have been modest – hardly the ‘rollback’ the GOP was assured would be on the table.  He says this budget continues to deal a massive and sustained blow to middle class families, employers, and taxpayers. 

 

O’Neill says despite the massive tax increase, budget deficits are very likely to continue materializing because the state's economy cannot support the staggering tax increases and ballooning government spending that have been the hallmark of the Malloy administration. 

 

The Senate passed the budget-related bill last night.

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Connecticut officials praise changes on tribal recognition

Connecticut's top elected leaders are declaring victory in their efforts to see that it does not become easier for local American Indian tribes to obtain federal recognition.

The Obama administration on Monday is announcing changes to regulations that have been criticized as cumbersome and lacking transparency.

Proposed new rules that were first issued in draft form two years ago were seen by officials in Connecticut as clearing the way for three groups that previously had been denied federal recognition to win the prized status.

 

That includes the Kent-based Schagticokes.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut's two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that recent revisions will prevent those groups from winning recognition and pressing claims for surrounding lands.

Connecticut has two federally recognized tribes, the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots.

 

Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan says Western Connecticut property owners can breathe a sigh of relief that a casino won't come to Danbury or Kent.  He wrote to the BIA nine months ago, warning that allowing other Connecticut tribes to seek recognition could potentially jeopardize the state's agreements with the Mohegans and Pequots.

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Federal Hockey League to bring team to Danbury

The Federal Hockey League has approved a team for Danbury.  Hockey will be back at the Danbury Ice Arena next season with a yet-to-be named team co-owned by Bruce Bennett.  The Danbury resident, who owner Bruce Bennett Nissan in Wilton, has signed a six year lease with Eagle Ice Sports. 

 

There will be six teams in the Federal Hockey League including the recently announced Stateline Whalers in Brewster.  The future of hockey in Danbury was uncertain after the owner of the Danbury Ice Arena and the now inactive Danbury Whalers failed to reach agreement on the second half of a lease. 

 

The new Danbury team will be coached by Phil Esposito, who resigned as head coach of the Danbury Whalers during that dispute.  The other owners of the Danbury team are a Brookfield insurance agency owner, Edward Crowe, and the owner of the former Berkshire Battalion, William Dadds.

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Topping off ceremony planned for new Sandy Hook School

A "topping off" ceremony is planned at the new Sandy Hook School Tuesday.  The Newtown Bee reports that the final steel beam will be placed on the structure of the building.  It will be signed by the construction team and marks a milestone in the building process. 

 

The latest photos of the construction site have been posted to the Sandy Hook 2016 website showing exterior and interior progress on the various wings. 

 

 

The Public Building and Site Commission's meeting this month gave approval to two playgrounds for the site.  The construction project is being paid for with a $50 million grant from the state.

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Animal-assisted therapy bill awaiting Gov. Malloy's signature

A bill about animal-assisted therapy services made it through the legislative session which ended this month and was sent to Governor Malloy last week for his signature.  The bill requires the Department of Children and Families commissioner to develop a protocol to identify and mobilize animal-assisted critical incident response teams statewide.  That's a change from just a canine crisis response team. The bill extends the deadline for this requirement to January 1st 2016.

 

It requires the teams to be available to provide animal-assisted activities, not just animal-assisted therapy. As under current law, the teams must operate on a volunteer basis and be available on 24 hours' notice.  The team is defined in the bill's new language as a team of registered handlers and therapy animals that has been identified by DCF and can provide animal-assisted activities to individuals during and after traumatic events.

 

State Representative Diana Urban says this bill stemmed, in part, from the response to Newtown on 12-14.  She says Allen's Angels, Canine First Responders, Soul Friends and Tails of Joy among others. 

 

The bill also requires the DCF commissioner to develop a protocol by that deadline to identify and credential animal-assisted activity organizations and animal-assisted therapy providers in the state.  The bill does not specify how DCF will credential the organizations and providers.

 

The DCF Commissioner must also develop and implement training for certain department employees and healthcare providers on the healing value of the human-animal bond for children, value of therapy animals in dealing with traumatic situations, and benefits of animal-assisted activities and therapy.

 

The measure passed the Senate unanimously. 

 

There were just 9 votes in opposition in the state House.  Several of those voters came from Greater Danbury area lawmakers.  They are Newtown Representative Mitch Bolisnky, Cecilia Buck-Taylor of New Milford, Danbury Representative Dan Carter, Richard Smith of New Fairfield and Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski.

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Student Assistance Fund established at WCSU in honor of retiring President

Retiring Western Connecticut State University President James Schmotter was celebrated at an event Friday night in Danbury.  Mayor Mark Boughton and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal issued proclamations in recognition of Schmotter's work.  Western also made a presentation.  The James W. Schmotter Student Assistance Fund is being created with proceeds from the event.

 

The fund is being developed as a resource for seniors on the cusp of graduating, who may not be able to do so because of unexpected costs. 

 

University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says students who run into some kind of financial trouble during the semester will be able to look to this fund to help them out.  He gave the example of if they need last minute money for books.  There is nothing like this currently at Western.  Schmotter specifically wanted to direct the money from Friday's event to this concept.

 

Steinmetz says a lot of students also work and there's not a lot of margin for error if something bad happens, like if their car breaks down, and they need financial help or they drop out of school.  That's something that Western is trying to address with this fund.

 

Schmotter joined Western from Western Michigan University, where he was dean of Haworth College of Business and professor of management. His teaching career started at Northwestern University and he first became an administrator at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He also served at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management and was dean of the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University.

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Local lamwaker critical of budget changes negotiated in private

State lawmakers are headed back to the capital for a special session.  The two-year, $40 billion Democratic budget narrowly passed the General Assembly on the final day of the legislative session, and included controversial business tax increases.  Southbury Republican state Senator Rob Kane thinks the budget should be vetoed by Governor Malloy.

 

Kane says Republicans and others have the votes to back the Governor up if he decides a complete overhaul is needed.

 

Kane says he will carefully watch the budget implementors, and go line by line, to ensure "there's no funny business taking place".  He wants to make sure there's no pet projects added in at the last minute, considering how close the budget vote was and how late in the session it came. 

 

Those bills will be acted on during a special session next week.

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Danbury Town Park fireworks on Candlewood Lake postponed

Due to the inclement weather, the Danbury Town Park Fireworks have been postponed to a date to be determined. The Sunday forecast calls for the possibility of afternoon showers with a 40 to 60% chance of rain in the evening.

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Sterile Grass Carp stocked in Candlewood Lake to combat milfoil

Candlewood Lake, the largest lake in Connecticut, has been stocked with nearly 4,000 sterile grass carp.  This is the single largest stocking of its kind in the history of the state.  A ceremony to mark the occasion was held Friday morning at the New Fairfield Town Beach by the Candlewood Lake Authority, with representatives of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and elected officials.

 

The grass carp are being used to better control Eurasian watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive species that has plagued the shoreline for years.  Milfoil can clog boat engines and be hazardous to swimmers, who can become entangled in the plant. 

 

It was a day-long stocking event of the sterile grass carp, which can live up to 20 years.

 

The Authority, with the backing of the five municipalities surrounding the Lake, applied for and was awarded a grant from the state for the program.  CLA Executive Director Larry Marsicano says the amount of carp that can be stocked depends on how much acreage of milfoil is on the lake. 

 

(Allen's Cove)

 

The program also includes water quality monitoring, weed mapping and analysis.

 

In years when there is a shallow drawdown of the water, there can be as much as 500 acres of milfoil, and during a deep drawdown it's about half that amount.  Marsicano hopes that these carp will help keep every year in that lower range.

 

The CLA is not stocking so many that they will eat everything, but hoping it's enough to keep milfoil at a management level.  Grass carp have been successfully used in other water bodies across the country, including Ball Pond in New Fairfield.

 

(Turtle Bay Aerial)

 

Marsicano says it could have a profound impact for many different groups, not just recreational users but for Lake owner, First Light Power, as well.  If this stocking program is successful, the question may come up in the future of if there is a need for a deep drawdown any more.

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Lawmaker calls for investigation of Eversource's response to storm

A local lawmaker is calling for state agencies to review Eversource Energy's performance in getting power restored in Redding after Tuesday's storm.  More than half of the town was left without electricity, and 12 sections of primary high voltage lines along with several damaged utility poles had to be repaired. 

 

16 electric crews and 16 tree crews responded. 

 

Redding State Representative John Shaban says the response time and coordination from Eversource could have and should have been better.  He says that's expecially in light of the lessons learned and reforms put in place following the last two October storms.

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Danbury considers several proposals to beef up noise law enforcement

A number of proposals are being discussed in Danbury to preserve quality of life amid numerous complaints of noise.  Danbury has been inundated with phone calls about loud noise particularly at Rogers Park and Hatters Park.  Mayor Mark Boughton asked the City Council this month to strengthen the noise ordinance already on the books with extra enforcement options.

 

A committee of the City Council met last week about the matter. 

 

Currently, Danbury doesn't have decibel meters, and officials note that the ordinance is hard to enforce because violators often turn down the music when they see police coming.  He wants the Police Chief to look into the cost of purchasing a dozen decibel meters.  Boughton also asked that officers in the traffic division be more proactive in their enforcement.

 

Another proposal is to increase the fine from $25, which hasn't been looked at since the ordinance was enacted more than a decade ago.

 

Boughton wants a so-called Park Ranger, maybe a retired police officer or firefighter, to staff Rogers Park and Hatters Park during the summer in an effort to ensure the people who sign the field out are the ones who are using it.  They would also act as the first line of defense to against the noise issues.  He says it could cost about $30,000 for two part timers during the summer months.  Another proposal is that when people sign out fields, they also sign a document saying they understand the noise ordinance and quiet hours, and agree to abide by it.

 

The Mayor also wants the Council to look at allowing UNIT, the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team, to be able to issue a summons similar to other quality of life complaints. 

 

Boughton cited several specific incidents that prompted his request to toughen the law.  There was also an issue last year during the Memorial Day service where the music was so loud, the speakers at the Rose Garden ceremony couldn't be heard.  He recently had to tell people to turn down their music because people couldn't hear the announcements at the Westerner's game in Rogers Park.  Boughton also cited one cafe that they've been out to a dozen times in the last few years in the Park Avenue area.  UNIT and others have talked with the proprietor, who agrees to turn the music down, but then goes out and does it again the following weekend.

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WCSU to celebrate retiring president during gala event

An event celebrating the accomplishments of outgoing Western Connecticut State University President Dr James Schmotter is being held tonight.  Proceeds from the event will establish the James W Schmotter Student Assistance Fund.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says Schmotter is being recognized for his leadership and lifelong commitment to excellence in education. 

 

Schmotter, who led Western for little more than a decade, announced in November that he would be retiring as of July 1st. 

 

At that time he said that it's been an honor and a joy to work with everyone in the University community over the past decade.  He touted the accomplishments and enthusiasm of the staff and students.  He also thanked external stakeholders for their support.

 

Under his leadership, the new Visual and Performing Arts Center was built on the west side campus.  Other improvement projects were also seen to completion during his tenure.  Steinmetz says the overall tone of the campus, and administration, is probably his greatest accomplishment.  Schmotter connected Western to the surrounding community.  He often went out and talked about what Western does.  Steinmetz says Schmotter has really changed the way people in the community viewed Western in that it's a good option for any student. 

 

The speakers at tonight's event will include the chairman of the Board of Regents and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and former Governor Jodi Rell will be in attendance.

 

Schmotter joined Western from Western Michigan University, where he was dean of Haworth College of Business and professor of management. His teaching career started at Northwestern University and he first became an administrator at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He also served at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management and was dean of the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University.

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Ridgefield to move forward with walking, running, bike path

Ridgefield is moving forward on creating a walking, running and bike path.  Voters approved spending the money in May during the budget referendum vote. 

 

While the entire proposal costs about $1.25 million, Ridgefield taxpayers will only be footing about $150,000 of the bill.  The rest of the cost for planning ,design, acquisition and construction of the Farmingville walk/bike path is being covered by a state grant. 

 

The project will connect The Copps Hill and village areas and the Branchville section of town.  There is an existing rail trail, and a walk/bike path is already in place around the Recreation Center in the Copps Hill area.

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Newtown Board of Ed votes against closing an elementary school

The Newtown Board of Education has taken up the matter of closing an elementary school due to declining enrollment.  After an outcry from parents, the Board decided unanimously last night that Hawley School will remain open for the 2016-2017 school year.

 

A closure would have saved millions of dollars for the district.  Enrollment projections from a private consultant last fall projected the town will lose about 200 students per year for the next several years.

 

Most of the students would have been transferred to Sandy Hook School.  Some parents argued that their children weren't emotionally ready for that. 

 

A $50 million state grant was accepted by Newtown for the new school is replacing the one demolished in the wake of December 2012 shootings.  Some residents speaking out against the closing of Hawley School said it was an odd decision given the ongoing construction of a replacement for Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

No decision was made about Hawley School's future after 2017.

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Sen. Murphy critical of Congressional inaction on gun violence

Congress is being called on once again to take meaningful action on to curb gun violence plaguing the nation.  Senator Chris Murphy took to the floor yesterday to talk about the killings of nine people in a church last week in South Carolina.  Murphy says those hanging on the edge of reason and contemplating the unthinkable, take a cue that Congress doesn't really mean it when they condemn mass violence. 

 

"If we did, we would at the very least try to do something, anything, to stop it.  And we don't."

 

Murphy attended the inaugural Sandy Hook Promise dinner Tuesday night and spoke about the event on the Senate floor.  Mark Barden talked with Murphy about how his son Daniel, who was killed on 12-14, would have finished 3rd grade last week.  Barden has often told the story of how his son would go sit with a peer he saw was alone.  Murphy related that to the Reverend who was killed at a church in South Carolina last week, as also being from a family of action.

 

Murphy says Reverend Pinckney and Daniel knew the difference between words and actions.  They understood that actions are what really counts.  He notes that the U.S. gun homicide rate is 20 times higher than that of America's 22 peer nations.

 

Murphy said removing the Confederate Flag is a necessary, but completely insufficient response.  He says removing one flag from one building doesn't cut it, and neither does a handful of retailers ceasing to sell Confederate Flag paraphernalia.  He does acknowledge that the tidal wave of sentiment to remove the symbol is significant. 

 

Murphy says Walmart should be congratulated on the move.  But they still advertise an assault weapon online that even their descriptions concedes is designed for use by law enforcement and the military.  He said last year there were at least 92 shootings in Walmarts, 42 people were injured by guns in Walmart, and 16 people died in Walmarts.

 

Murphy said it's about a culture of hate and violence we've become immune to, it's about guns, it's about mental health.

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Ridgefield has big clean up job from Tuesday's storm

The clean up continues in Ridgefield and elsewhere after Tuesday afternoon's storm.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says sustained winds of at least 80 miles per hour blew threw. Trees fell on three houses, but Marconi says it's likely more reports will come in of substantial damage. 

 

A tree limb crushed a car on Grove Street, trapping a woman and her dog.  She was pulled out by people in the area and generally speaking is in good shape.  Marconi says if you saw the car, you would wonder if anyone survived and the woman walked away with a broken arm.

 

Ridgefield will probably hire some outside crews to come in and help clean up.  Dozens of roads were blocked Tuesday afternoon after the wind blew in. 

 

Marconi says it was unbelievable how quickly it came.  Marconi's Assistant Director of Emergency Management called 10 minutes before, saying that he was tracking it and noticed like there could be severe winds.  Marconi called that an understatement, with gusts measured at over 90 miles an hour.  He likened it to the people in the midwest when a tornado hits with little warning.  Though he does say the town was spared, relatively speaking. 

 

There were 27 fire related calls and a few EMS storm related calls Tuesday in Ridgefield. 

 

Eversource Energy spokesman Mitch Gross says there were heavy rains and wind that took down lines, but also broken poles and lightning strikes.

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FERC approves permitting non-conforming docks, seawalls on Candlewood

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an order approving non-conforming structures on Candlewood Lake be grandfathered in.  First Light Power Resources, which owns the lake, was required to file a comprehensive report identifying each structure along the shoreline.  There were little more than 7,100 structures located on the water and 11,200 structures on land within their property boundary.  The structures ranged from boat docks and storage sheds to seawalls. 

 

First Light is looking to permit the majority of the non-project uses of the lands and water to comply with the Shoreline Management Plan's permitting guidelines. 

 

222 residences or portions of residences are partially or entirely constructed on land First Light owns in fees, or controls by flowage easement.  They were not constructed with First Light's or their predecessor's permission.  All 222 meet the grandfathering provisions approved in the Shoreline Management Plan.  The provisions include that there is no concern about danger to life, health or property and that they do not interfere with project operations. 

 

Final site inspections will be made and permit tags issued for all unpermitted non-project uses. 

 

FERC said in their report that they agree with First Light's reasons for not altering its grandfathering policy to be dependent on the presence of a vegetated buffer.  Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy along with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty lobbied for these structures to be allowed, and that buffer plans be applied to new shoreline uses.  The officials also said it would be acceptable to require vegetated buffers when existing structures are modified or where a transfer of ownership occurs.

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Bethel state lawmakers to hold Town Hall Meeting

A Town Hall Meeting is being held tonight by Bethel's two state Senators and two state Representatives.  Toni Boucher, Mike McLachlan, Stephen Harding and Dan Carter will be at Bethel Library from 6 to 8pm to discuss the recently completed legislative session.  Carter says this is coming at a good time, with the General Assembly set to meet in Special Session next week.  The gathering tonight is in the Bethel Library Community Room.

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Ridgefield declares 'State of Emergency' in response to storm

First Selectman Rudy Marconi has declared a State of Emergency due to the significant damage sustained from Tuesday afternoon's storm.   About half of the Town was without power in the immediate aftermath of the storm.  There are many downed trees with wires.  Ridgefield police and fire officials remind residents not to touch the wires because they could be charged.  

 

Eversource Energy, the former CL&P, has crews in Ridgefield.  Officials are awaiting word from Eversource with the number of extra crews expected to respond.  Day crews were held over in anticipation of the storm.  

 

The Ridgefield Parks & Recreation building at 195 Danbury Road is open regular hours for showers and charging (until 10 pm Tuesday), and opening at 6 am Wednesday.  

 

The Ridgefield Press reports that Eversource responded to Gilbert Street where people were trapped in car by downed wires. They instructed fire department personnel not to let the people out of the car until they arrived.  Farmingville Road was closed due to a pole fire.  Another pole fire reported on Ligi's Way.  There was also a report of a tree hitting a house on Norrans Ridge. 

 

Ridgefield Playhouse Executive Director Allison Stockel tweeted a photo of a tree that fell on a car on Grove Street around 4:30pm.  Other roads closed due to downed trees included West Lane and High Ridge.  There was a tree down on Route 7 at Stonehenge, one on Old Quarry Road and Main Street.  

 

(Photo: Allison Stockel, Twitter)

 

Newtown was also hard hit.  About about 40-percent of residents had no power after the storm.  At least a dozen roads were closed due to wires down in Newtown.  Some major intersections were without traffic signals. 

 

The Police Department, Newtown Emergency Management, and other officials worked with Eversource Energy workers in prioritizing restoration efforts.  A warning also went out to be careful with any use of home generators.

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Local lawmaker weighs in on report about major bills to come from legislative session

A new report has been released by the non-partisan state Office of Legislative Research.  It's a summary of the major public acts for 2015 that came out of the General Assembly session, which ended earlier this month. 

 

New Fairfield state Representative Richard Smith says there were a number of bills he's pleased made it through both the House and Senate during the short session.  He cited toughening laws on sexual assaults and strengthening criminal penalties in other areas.

 

Smith says there was a lot of debate about the Governor's proposed Second Chance Society legislation, but ultimately they did not act on it.  It's unclear if the Special Session set to be held next week would be expanded from budget-related bills to also including taking up the Second Chance bill again.

 

One bill included in the report deals with security freeze fees.  A new law prohibits credit rating agencies from charging certain fees related to credit freezes to an identity theft victim or his or her spouse who submits a copy of a police report to the credit rating agency or anyone under age 18 or at least 62.

 

A new law imposes restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in certain establishments and public areas that are similar to existing restrictions on smoking in these areas. For example, it bans the use of e-cigarettes in state buildings, restaurants, places serving alcohol, schools, and child and health care facilities, among others.  It makes exceptions for e-cigarette use in certain areas and facilities, including designated smoking areas, tobacco bars, and outdoor areas in establishments that serve alcohol

 

A new law reduces, from four years to two, the number of years of high school education that students without legal immigration status must complete in Connecticut to receive in-state tuition benefits at the state's public higher education institutions. The law also extends in-state tuition eligibility to nonimmigrant aliens who are human trafficking victims or have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of certain criminal activity.

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Voter apathy examined in survey of Ridgefield residents

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen has received the results of an analysis of voter apathy, which comes on the heels of an approximate 10-percent participation rate in the latest budget referendum.  Two interns from Ridgefield High School conducted the study through an online survey. 

 

There are 16,400 registered voters in Ridgefield, they received over 300 responses. 

 

The three most recent elections were looked at, and age of the respondents was a primary factor in who turned out to vote.  Being affiliated with a party also played a significant role.  The common responses of people who did not vote were people who were not aware that a vote was occurring, people did not have a strong understanding of the issues, and people found the date, time, and location inconvenient.

 

A three-prong plan was proposed to increase voter turnout.  It includes raising awareness, more accessible voting and showing the importance of local government.

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Bridgeport wants to examine existing medical marijuana businesses

Businesses considering applying for new medical marijuana permits in Connecticut's largest city may have to wait a while.

Bridgeport's zoning commission wants to extend its one-year moratorium on medical marijuana business permits by another year.  They more time to decide where the city might allow medical marijuana farms and dispensaries. 

 

The commission wants to form a subcommittee to research how it's going in other towns.  The closest dispensary is located in the Stony Hill section of Bethel.

 

The first moratorium expired June 3. An extension is on the Bridgeport zoning commission's June 29 agenda.

 

The state Department of Consumer Protection is opening an application period for three additional licenses to run medical marijuana dispensary facilities in Connecticut.  There are currently six dispensaries in the state, including the one in Bethel run by D&B Wellness. 

 

There are 980 registered patients in Fairfield County, and more than 1,100 in New Haven County.  DCP Commissioner Jonathan Harris says there are a lot patients in the Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport corridor, but the closest dispensary currently is the one in Stony Hill.  Harris notes that that is not really convenient.

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Newtown teens find healing in disaster relief service

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) A group of 20 teenagers from Newtown is heading to Colorado next month to help rebuild homes devastated in last year's flooding.

It's the third annual service trip run by Ben's Lighthouse, a nonprofit founded to help Newtown's children recover from the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The organization is named after 6-year-old victim Ben Wheeler.

The first group traveled to Oklahoma in 2013 to help with cleanup following a string of destructive tornadoes. A second group visited Colorado last summer.

Ben's Lighthouse Chairman Rick Haylon says the trips are designed to give the teenagers perspective and to empower them to help others during a time when many feel helpless.

The teens also plan to meet with survivors of the Columbine High School shooting and visit the memorial to its victims.

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Route 37 improvements in Danbury at two intersections proposed

A public information meeting is being held in Danbury tonight by the State Department of Transportation.  A project has been proposed to make improvements on Route 37 at Stacey Road and Barnum Road.  DOT Project Manager Andreas Fesenmeyer says one part of the project is to put a left turn lane on 37 southbound at Stacey Road.

 

The Stacey Road intersection would be changed from a Y shape to a T intersection.  Route 37 will be realigned to have a gentle curve through the intersection and an exclusive left-turn lane on the southbound side.  Safety and capacity will be improved by providing left-turn lanes sheltered from through traffic.  Sight distances to queued traffic will be improved.

 

Barnum Road would be widened to allow cars turning right to bypass those making a left.  Route 37 would also be widened in that area to allow the same bypass.  No additional signalization is proposed.

 

Additionally, the sidewalk fronting the Stetson Place property will be extended north to the intersection at Barnum Road in keeping with the City of Danbury’s long term plan to provide a pedestrian connection along this corridor.  At least one existing storm drain will require relocation and additional drainage structures will be installed along the new curb line at the west shoulder of Route 37.

 

Construction for both projects is anticipated to begin in spring of 2017 and anticipated to last twenty months.  Two lanes of traffic will be maintained during this period, as Route 37 will be temporarily widened to accommodate this activity.  The total cost is estimated at $5 million.

 

Plans of the proposed project will be on display for public review.  Department personnel will be available during the meeting to discuss this project.  Plans are also available for review at Danbury City Hall.

 

Tonight's meeting is at 6pm at Danbury City Hall.

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Local lawmaker renews call for Gov. to veto budget before July 1

The legislature's minority Republicans were not included in the closed-door talks on Friday between Democratic legislative leaders and Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, where they discussed possible 11th-hour changes to the state budget. 

 

Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says if changes are needed to the budget, it shouldn't be allowed to take effect July 1st.  He says some constituents have called the Governor's Office telling him to veto the budget.  McLachlan hopes to be able to fix the budget, or at least minimize the damage, in the upcoming Special Session.  The session is set for June 29th and 30th. 

 

House Democrats are scheduled to meet privately on Tuesday to discuss the budget situation.

 

Democratic Senate President Martin Looney says while the governor has identified some problems on the revenue side, he thinks some spending cuts and perhaps some alternative revenues need to be looked at to try to close the gap.  Looney did not elaborate on whether "alternate revenues" could mean other tax increases or an untapped pool of money.

 

Democratic state House Speaker Brendan Sharkey says Malloy's proposal to roll back some business tax increases won't be the "final word" on what rank-and-file lawmakers consider when they return to the state Capitol for the special session to vote on the last-minute budget changes and other unfinished bills. 

 

Meanwhile, more corporate criticism of the budget came to light on Friday. A letter to Malloy from the CEO of Connecticut-based Stanley Black and Decker warned how the state appears to be QUOTE "determined to become inhospitable for corporate operations."

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STEM education among girls, minorities promoted in bill from local lawmaker

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and a counterpart from Ohio have introduced legislation that would empower school districts to better engage girls and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math. The 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act would eliminate barriers in the early stages of their education.

 

Esty says this country cannot compete effectively when this many children are being left behind.  She says this legislation will help level the playing field to make sure that all children have the skills they need to excel in high-demand careers.

 

The legislation would provide funding for local educators to create the necessary infrastructure for enhanced STEM learning.  These increased resources would be used to improve professional development for teachers, strengthen outreach to parents, provide mentoring and tutoring programs, expand access to afterschool and summer programs that provide additional enrichment opportunities in STEM, and promote academic advice and assistance in high school course selection that encourages participation in advanced STEM classes.

 

Esty says recent research suggests that an alarming underrepresentation of women and minorities currently exists in STEM employment fields in the United States.  She says this piece of legislation would give school districts the tools they need to help reverse this trend, bolstering the diversity and effectiveness of the STEM workforce.

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Workers at 2 Conn. hosptials vote against unionizing

About 800 nursing assistants and other workers at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals voted last night NOT to establish a union.  Workers had said inadequate staffing, pay and better treatment were top concerns in the drive to unionize.  Vote tallies were not available late Friday, but a spokesman for AFT Connecticut, which led the organizing drive, said in an emailed statement that the vote was decided by a narrow margin.

 

AFT Connecticut has accused hospital managers of interference in the unionizing process.  The National Labor Relations Board is investigating.

 

Spokesman Matt O'Connor said even before the vote, these healthcare workers had already built their union by raising their voices together.  AFT Connecticut remains committed to justice for these workers.

 

The president of the two hospitals said in an emailed statement that he was pleased with the vote, saying Western Connecticut Health Network remains committed to continuing to build an environment of respect and open communication with employees--calling the employees the heart and soul of the organization.

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Woman nearly hits police car, cited for DUI

Danbury officers responding to a report of a fight in the streets early Thursday morning instead found a drunk driver who nearly drove straight into the police cruiser.  Officers were headed to Foster Street near Bank Street and saw two women sitting in a suspicious vehicle. 

 

Police spokesman Lt Christian Carroccio says the car's headlights were turned on and the driver, later determined to be 25-year old Tiffany Fitzgerald, sped toward the cruiser.  When officers turned on their flashing lights, the Danbury woman put her car in reverse. 

 

Carroccio says the woman stumbled when she got out of the car and refused to be fingerprinted.  Fitzgerald has been charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license, interfering with an officer and refusal to be fingerprinted. 

 

The disturbance turned out to be unfounded.

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Sunday os declared 'ASK Day' in Newtown

Newtown's First Selectman has issued a proclamation as part of the "Ask Campaign".  Working in partnership with the Newtown Board of Education and other mayors and first selectmen across the state, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra has proclaimed June 21st 2015 to be ASK DAY. 

 

ASK stands for Asking Saves Kids. 

 

It's part of a national effort to encourage parents to add one more safety question before their child visits another home: Is there an unlocked gun in your house? 

 

Llodra said she issued the proclamation as a wish that every child has a safe and happy summer respite.  She called the small action on the part of parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches something that can help secure that promise of safety.

 

TOWN OF NEWTOWN

Office of the First Selectman

PROCLAMATION

 

WHEREAS, The epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation’s children claims seven lives a day; and

 

WHEREAS, Children in the United States are more likely to die of gun violence than from cancer and heart disease; and

 

WHEREAS, One in three American homes with children have guns, and 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun; and

 

WHEREAS, Asking Saves Kids (ASK) encourages parents to add one more safety question before their child visits another  home, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?”; and

 

WHEREAS, Asking this simple question before sending your child to another home could save your child’s life; and

 

WHEREAS, The hope is that asking will become a common health and safety question offering a real, immediate solution which all Americans can adopt to help protect their families and children from injury and death; and

 

WHEREAS,  the ASK Campaign brings together all Americans, including gun owners, concerned with the welfare of children, and makes the solution to gun violence a discussion about public safety and good parenting; and

 

WHEREAS, The first day of summer, the season when kids typically spend more time at the homes of friends and family, is designated as National ASK Day.

 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, I, E. Patricia Llodra, hereby proclaim

 June 21, 2015 to be

“ASK DAY”

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Redding official gives update on STEAP grant for field improvements

The Redding Board of Selectmen has been told that a state grant which was set to expire this year, could be extended for use for another three years.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton spoke with the Board at their meeting this week about the $400,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant awarded in 2008 for an artificial turf field at the Redding Community Center. 

 

The idea was rejected by residents earlier this year in a vote. 

 

The STEAP grant is not specific to the Community Center and could be used for other fields and improvements.  Pemberton said this week it's very likely the grant will be expanded so the town doesn't lose it.

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Date set for reopening of Brookfield Town Park beach

The Brookfield Parks and Recreation Department has issued an update about the opening of Town Park Beach.  The area off Candlewood Lake is scheduled to open Saturday July 4th.  Officials say the park is essentially unrecognizable.  The sand beach area is about three times larger now than this time last year. 

 

The finishing touches are underway on the new building which features a family changing room, mens and womens restrooms with changing areas, concession and common room. 

 

As grass is established at the park, foot traffic may be limited to the building and beach areas.  As work is finished, the playground and swings, volleyball court and picnic areas will be opened.

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Danbury schools seek more bilingual teachers for ELL program

More funding in the state budget coupled with new legislation is giving a boost to Danbury's effort to attract more bilingual teachers to the district.  Deputy School Superintendent William Glass says the state budget for the coming year includes about $1 million more for bilingual education than is set aside in the current budget.  The funding will rise to $3.5 million in the following fiscal year.

 

Glass says there are about 2,400 English Language Learners in the district, up from about 600 in the late 90s.  He notes that the number is growing as enrollment goes up.  Danbury currently has about 11,000 students in the district, and ELL students from Spanish and Portuguese speaking homes make up about 43 percent.

 

50-percent of instruction is in the native language, with the other half of instruction in English by January, when it transitions to more English by the end of the school year.  Glass says it takes a very specialized teacher to do that and they are in very short supply.

 

Danbury recently created a partnership with Western Connecticut State University to train and recruit bilingual teachers.

 

The new legislation approved by the General Assembly this session, which still awaits Governor Malloy's signature to take effect, would allow applicants where there are shortages to receive a 90-day temporary teacher certificate.  The bill also requires the state Department of Education to create or join interstate agreements.  The agreements could include a reduction in the number of years of experience that out-of-state teachers need to earn Connecticut credentials.  Teachers would only need two years experience instead of the current three years.

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Congresswoman to address Chamber of Commerce annual meeting

The Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce is holding their annual meeting and leaders luncheon this afternoon.  Directors will be elected at the gathering in Danbury.  The keynote speaker will be 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.

 

She says she is looking forward to filling business leaders in on what she's been doing in Washington on behalf of the district.  But Esty says more importantly, she wants to hear from business leaders about what their top concerns are.  She says that's the key to her being able to do her job effectively for the region. 

 

Esty serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.  She is also Vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

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Metro North launches railroad crossing safety campaign

A safety campaign has been launched by Metro North to promote awareness about railroad crossing dangers.  The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has partnered with Operation Lifesaver, national organization devoted to reducing injuries and collisions at railroad crossings, in an effort to promote safety. 

 

MTA CEO Tom Prendergast says the best way to prevent needless tragedies is to observe the so-called Three E’s of crossing safety: education, engineering and enforcement.  One of the ideas being promoted on outdoor signs asks: "Isn't Your Life Worth the Wait?". 

 

Metro North officials compared the force of a train hitting your car as being similar to the force of your car crushing a soda can.  A Metro-North train traveling at 55 mph can take 600 feet or more to stop.

 

There was a fatal accident in Valhalla this year in which a woman's SUV was stopped on the tracks when the crossing gates came down around her.  The driver and five train passengers were killed.  One of the victims as 41-year old Aditya Tomar of Danbury.

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Library in Redding closed for parking lot improvements

Mark Twain Library in Redding is closed today through Monday so the parking lot can be expanded and repaved.  Library officials say there cannot be book returns while the work is being done so late fines would be forgiven as appropriate for overdue items.  The paving work is being paid for through a $342,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant awarded last year.  Drainage and septic system improvements are also being made.

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OBIT: James B. Lee Jr., Wall Street Banker, WLAD Board Chairman

A major Wall Street Banker with ties to the local community has died. James B. Lee Jr. who served as chairman of the board of directors of the Berkshire Broadcasting Corporation, parent of WLAD, passed away of a heart attack while exercising at his home in Darien Wednesday morning. 

 

Lee, who pioneered syndicated lending in the global financial community, was a vice chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase.  Companies like Facebook, United Airlines, Alibaba, General Motors and AIG all benefited from his advice and counsel.  "Jimmy", as he was known on Wall Street, was handling the GE Capital sell off of assets at the time of his death. 

 

Lee, who grew up in Ridgefield, graduated from Canterbury School in New Milford and his beloved Williams College.  He was the grandson of Frank. H. Lee and son of James B. Lee, who were both Hatters when it was the leading industry in Danbury.

 

James B. Lee Jr. was 62.

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Danbury High School Class of 2015 graduates

The Danbury High School class of 2015 has graduated.  A ceremony was held last night at the state's largest high school.  Principal Gary Bocaccio was among the speakers to address the 631 graduates.  He commended them on their achievements, offered some advice and encouraged them to continue their education.

 

Athletic championships, educational competition wins and charity fundraising by the Class of 2015 were some of the accomplishments detailed by Bocaccio.  The class raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Smile Train, Muscular Dystrophy, Military Heroes.

 

The DHS 2015 valedictorian is Steven Anthony Schwab.

 

Danbury High School's Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program took home the "Best Project Team" award at the  2015 National Rube Goldberg Machine contest in April.  High school teams from all over the country competed at the national event.  The contest challenges teams to build a machine to do a very simple task in a complicated way.

 

A group from Danbury High School took first place in Sikorsky STEM challenge, the second consecutive year that DHS students have taken first place in the contest.  The 2015 Innovation Convention saw the team complete a humanitarian task while paired with Sikorsky engineers to solve the engineering design challenge.  In this year’s challenge, students created a plan to deliver as much potable water as possible in a 72-hour period using the Corsair F4U-4.  Officials say completing the task required an understanding of flight plans and FAA rules and regulations, forces acting on the plane both on the ground and in their air, as well as a complete risk analysis and a final report to summarize the research and solution.

 

The DHS Vex Robotics Team 5150 qualified three of its four robots for the final world championship in April.  School officials say the 22- member team took tournament finalist with two robots and semifinalist with one robot at the Southern New England Regional Championships. One robot, the 5150D, came in second place for robot skills, scoring as many points as possible in one minute.

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Auditors raise issues with Connecticut disability payments

Connecticut's auditors say "significant amounts" of money may have been paid in disability retirement benefits to state retirees no longer eligible to receive them.  Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan called the findings in the auditors' report shameful, and says it adds insult to injury of the current budget crisis.

 

He also called it a colossal failure to safeguard Connecticut taxpayer dollars.

 

According to the report, 500 retirees have received disability retirement benefits for more than two years, but have not had the required review.  That figure includes 164 state retirees who have been receiving benefits for more than four years without a review and two retirees who've been receiving them for more than eight years without a review.

 

A whistleblower complaint prompted the investigation. 

 

McLachlan called the auditors' report released Wednesday "Exhibit A' of why the state is going broke.  he says it's painfully obvious that the system needs top-to-bottom reforms.

 

McLachlan says the probe also revealed that there was no follow through by the State Comptroller's Retirement Services Division to scrutinize the disability status of retirees who didn't respond to an annual survey.  He says taxpayers’ money is flying out the door with no oversight. 

 

The auditors recommend a series of changes to state law to tighten the benefits system.  McLachlan plans to put the suggested changes forward in the form of legislation next session.  In the meantime, he says an explanation is needed as to why this has happened, how it continued on for so long, and who will be held accountable.  One recommendation is to allow the retirement commission to refer suspected instances of fraud to the Chief States Attorney.  There is currently no process for that.

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Connecticut student loan agency drops rate to 4.95 percent

Connecticut's college financing authority says it's offering a lower fixed rate on supplemental student loans following the recent passage of a bill aimed at addressing student debt.

The Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority announced Wednesday it has put forward a fixed interest rate of 4.95 percent for new loans, the lowest in the authority's history. That's a drop from 6.75 percent.

CHESLA also agreed to increase the maximum allowed debt-to-income ratio, from 40 percent to 43 percent.

 

Kent state Representative Roberta Willis is co-chair of the legislature's Higher Education Committee.  She says this could attract more out of state students, who would also be eligible.  She hopes when they come to college in Connecticut, they'll plan to stay in state after graduation.  Willis says this puts Connecticut at one of the lowest rates in the United States, and says she couldn't be more pleased about that.

Created in 1982, CHESLA has been a supplemental loan source for students who need to borrow more than the maximum amounts provided by other loan programs.

The recent legislation, which still awaits the governor's signature, clarified that CHESLA could use funds from the Connecticut State Loan Foundation to help finance its bonds.

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Kent residents respond to survey about STEAP grant alternatives

Survey results have been released by the town of Kent for what to do with a $500,000 grant awarded to the town last year.  The Small Town Economic Assistance Program funding was originally designated to purchase a property on Main Street for a visitors center and restrooms, but the land was sold to an independent developer. 

 

Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams sent out a survey with several alternate options.  The Newstimes reports that about 340 Kent residents responded to the survey.  A majority said the town should purchase a portion of the old railroad station on Main Street. 

 

Adams will be make a presentation to the Board of Selectmen at their meeting next month about how to move forward.

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Local lawmaker calls on Gov. Malloy to veto budget

Wilton state Senator Toni Boucher says more than 14,000 people have signed a No New Connecticut Tax Petition.  She says the Governor's policies are impacting the real estate market in Connecticut and the job market.  Boucher is calling on Governor Dannel Malloy to veto the budget. 

 

She says the financial structure of the state remains unsteady.  Boucher says the budget does nothing to fix the government addiction of spending too much and borrowing for operating expenses. 

 

She cautioned that the state will continue to have deficits if these structural changes are not fixed.

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Workers at 2 Connecticut hospitals to vote on forming union

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) About 800 nursing assistants and other workers at two hospitals are set to vote Friday on whether to establish a union in the latest large private sector organizing drive in Connecticut.

Workers at Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital say inadequate staffing and better treatment are top concerns. Pay also is an issue. The union says it ranges between $12 and $20 an hour.

AFT Connecticut is organizing service, environmental, administrative and maintenance workers and patient care providers. It's accused hospital managers of interfering in the organizing drive and the National Labor Relations Board is investigating.

A spokeswoman says Western Connecticut Health Network values each employee and complies with all laws and regulations.

The NLRB says the last large union drive was by electrical workers at the Millstone nuclear power plant last year.

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Construction starting for health center at site of former Danbury Police Station

Construction is starting at the site of the former police station in Danbury.  The Connecticut Institute for Communities has obtained a building permit for a four story, 36,000 square foot building to house the Greater Danbury Community Health Center.  The new building will be located at 120 Main Street in Danbury, the site of the former police station.  Connecticut Institute CEO Jim Maloney says this is a major step forward in expanding their services.

 

Maloney says the new building means 50 permanent new jobs for downtown Danbury.

 

 

Maloney says some of their current services are in rented space, but will move to this location once it's completed.  The building will house pediatric and adolescent medical and behavioral health services, comprehensive women's health services, an on site-blood sample suite, a full service pharmacy, administrative offices for the health center and headquarters for the Connecticut Institute. 

 

The Connecticut Institute recently secured the $15 million in financing needed for this project.  The financing package involves a mix of public and private funding.  The state is providing a $4 million dollar, there's private commercial mortgage financing totalling $6 million and $5 million from three federal New Market Tax Credit program investors.

 

Maloney says the completion goal is mid-2016.

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Solar panels to be added to DHS roof

As Danbury looks for new ways to save money in the cost of doing business, solar cells are helping to reduce budget needs.  The new wing of Danbury High School, which residents approved paying for last week, will be solarized.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the City is looking at using solar cells on other parts of the building, where possible.  But he says the mechanicals on the roof cast a lot of shadows.

 

But Boughton cautioned that solar cells can't be put on every municipal roof.  That's because they shouldn't be placed on a roof that's 15 or 16 years old.  As the City replaces roofs, officials consider whether solar cells will provide enough benefit to offset their cost.

 

Several other buildings have solar cells on their roofs.  Park Avenue School in Danbury almost has a zero electric bill because of the amount of power generated by the solar cells recently installed there.

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Children helping children at Danbury Hospital

Children are helping children being treated at Danbury Hospital.  The 2015 graduating class of the Children’s Leadership Training Institute presented handmade cards and a collection of new toys, books and activities to Danbury Hospital recently. 

 

Over the course of the year, as part of their leadership training, the 52 children raised money through recycling deposit bottles and independent fundraisers to purchase items for the children who are being treated at Danbury Hospital.  The cards will be distributed on hospital meal trays. 

 

The children who participate in the Children’s Leadership Training Institute are the sons and daughters of the participants of the Parent Leadership Training Institute program, with a goal of discovering and developing leadership skills within their community at an early age.

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Route 53 closures planned in Weston for road work

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is set to begin replacing the retaining wall on Route 53 in Weston near the Weston Racquet Club.  The project is scheduled to start on Thursday and is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.  The state DOT says there will be alternating one-way traffic at the wall location.  A temporary traffic signal will be used to direct motorists.  Drivers are urged to plan accordingly for delays.

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Wilton First Selectman to retire at end of term

After a decade in office, Wilton First Selectman William Brennan will be retiring.  He said at the Wilton Board of Selectman meeting Monday night that his retirement will be effective November 30th, the end of his 4th term leading the town.  Brennan previously served on the Wilton Boards of Assessment Appeals and Finance among other positions.

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Four State Park swim areas closed due to poor water quality

Four areas at state parks are closed to swimmers today due to increased bacteria in the water.  Kettletown State Park in Southbury and Indian Wells State Park in Shelton are closed for swimming.  The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has now added Silver Sands in Milford and Sherwood Island in Westport to the closure list. 

 

Water retesting is being scheduled by DEEP to determine when it is safe to reopen. 

 

After heavy rain, storm water runoff can increase the amount of bacteria in the water.  Water quality testing is done on a regular basis by DEEP at swim areas at state parks.

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Report critical of 'crisis pregnancy centers'

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut has released an investigative report critical of crisis pregnancy centers in Connecticut, including two in Danbury.  According to the report, the two-year investigation included 22 in-person visits, website analyses of crisis pregnancy centers’ web pages and telephone surveys.

 

One of the center's sited in the report was Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center, which has a location in Danbury.  Birthright of Danbury is the other center mentioned in the report. 

 

Foundation Board Chair Stacy Missari says the report found "a consistent patter of misinformation, deceptive advertising and blatant lies about reproductive health".

 

But Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut disagrees.  With CPC's outnumbering abortion clinics, Wolfgang says the report is aimed at taking out the competition.

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Danbury Library to soon loan out wifi hotspot devices

Danbury Library cardholders will soon be able to “check out” the internet.  Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots will allow more patrons to check out an iPad or Roku box.  Digital Services Librarian Katharine Chung says the two hotspots have a two year contract, being paid for by the FRIENDS of the Danbury Library.  Once available, they can be checked out for a week.

 

Chung says this will give library customers home access to the library’s digital resources such as eBooks, streaming music, and movies.  She hopes this initiative will help bridge the digital gap in the community so students can do homework and projects, and employees can travel with reliable internet access to meetings and presentations.

 

Danbury Library's technology lending program is expanding elsewhere as well.  The Library will be adding more iPads to its collection, including some Early Literacy iPads, some in Spanish, and Long-Loan iPads that can be checked out for a longer period of time.

 

Amazon Kindles will begin circulating soon, pre-loaded with popular titles and as well as selections from the Danbury High School summer reading list.  Kindles will be available for checkout by students under 18 with a signed parental permission form.

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Actor Ed Asner to appear at Ridgefield Playhouse for film screening

Ed Asner will be in Ridgefield Wednesday night.  He will be part of a question and answer session after the screening of his film "Let Go" during the Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society's "Lost and Found Film Series".  Also on hand for the night will be Director Brian Jett.  Jett also wrote Let Go, a comedy that follows a parole officer and three ex-convicts placed under his supervision.

 

Jett says using the afflictions of modern love as a common thread, the stories build to a poignant climax as each of the characters struggle to free themselves from both literal and figurative bonds. 

 

The melancholy parole officer (David Denman), struggling with the doldrums of married life, has three eccentric ex-convicts placed under his supervision. Daria DeMint (Gillian Jacobs), is a sultry femme fatale on the run from a psychological ex-boyfriend that she stole from and whose heart she’s broken. Multiple EMMY Award winning actor Ed Asner plays Artie Satz, a cranky geriatric criminal. Satz feebly attempts to resume his career of crime but is continually thwarted when nobody will take him seriously. Nearing rock bottom after his criminal conviction for insurance fraud and the breakup of his marriage. Kris Styles (Kevin Hart), an Ivy League educated African-American doctor, is forced to take the most menial jobs imaginable to satisfy the conditions of his parole.

 

The screening is at 7:30 Wednesday night at the Ridgefield Playhouse.

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End Hunger Connecticut to launch summer meal program

Some 150,000 Connecticut students get free or reduced prices meals during the school year.  As classes are winding down, End Hunger Connecticut is reminding state residents about the federally funded summer meals program.  Summer participation is substantially lower, and the organization says it's vitally important as food pantry supplies are stretched thin at this time of year.

 

The meals are available at over 500 locations throughout the state for anyone 18 and younger.  2015 sites are coming soon.  In 2014, summer meals were give at Danbury Public Library, South Street School, Rogers Park Middle School, Broadview Middle School, Hayestown School and Shelter Rock School.  At Danbury Library, lunch is served in the lower level Meeting Room from 1pm to 2pm.

 

There are no forms to fill out and IDs will not be checked.

 

To find a location where meals are served, call the state's info line at 211 or log onto ctsummermeals.org.

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Danbury employers to take part in Wednesday job fair

A job fair featuring several Danbury area employers is being held in Connecticut on Wednesday.  It's being hosted by RecruitCT.com.  Event chair David Lewis says the job fair is dedicated to recent college grads and pairing them up with area businesses. 

 

Lewis says it's mostly entry level positions aimed at recent college graduates. 

 

Some of the companies that will be on hand include Danbury-based Pitney Bowes and Masonicare in Newtown.  Danbury-based Belimo and Branson Ultrasonics are also among the 70 employers looking to fill over 700 positions in Connecticut.  Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute in Danbury will also be there.

 

The jobs fair is Wednesday from 10:30am to 2:30pm at the Trumbull Marriott.

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New 'Accessible Art Series' exhibit to open in Bethel

The next exhibit in the Accessible Art Series hosted by The Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut is coming to a Bethel Restaurant starting this evening.  The title of the series is "Candlewood Kiss: An Alternative View of a Beloved Lake". 

 

The work is done by Fairfield County-based Artist Elisabeth J Levy. When she lived on Candlewood Lake, the home had a lot of windows and glass doors to take advantage of the view.  The photos were taken on the last winter Levy lived on the Lake. 

 

Levy took the photos says she feels Candlewood Lake is under-appreciated for its natural beauty during the “in-between time” as she calls it, after the boats and swimmers are gone.

 

 

The exhibit will be up at Portofino Restaurant and Wine Bar on Greenwood Avenue in Bethel through August 13th.  An opening reception is set for Saturday afternoon.

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Hockey team coming to Brewster NY named State Line Whalers

The name of the new hockey team that will be located at the Brewster Ice Arena will be known as The State Line Whalers.  The Federal Hockey League team held a press conference yesterday morning with General Manager Herm Sorcher.  He is also managing partner of the Danbury Whalers--an inactive member of the league in good standing. 

 

The new State Line Whalers is owned by Barry Soskin of Chicago, who owns two other teams in the six-team League.  The Brewster Ice Arena is located just a stone's throw from the Danbury Ice Arena, where the Danbury Whalers played last season.  They are in a legal battle with Eagle Ice Sports over the team's lease at their building. 

 

Danbury resident Bruce Bennett, a Wilton Nissan dealership owner, has expressed interest in bringing a hockey team back to the Danbury Ice Arena.

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Squantz Pond swim area, beach reopen

The beach and swim area at Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield reopened Friday, nearly a week ahead of predicted.  Lifeguards at the park alerted the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection last Thursday to blue-green algae that can emit toxins possibly harmful to people and dogs.  A DEEP spokesman Dennis says they monitored the water quality to assess conditions.

 

None of the scum associated with the algae remains in the area. 

 

Potential health effects to exposure of the blue green algae toxins could include skin irritation, vomiting, and even liver or nervous system effects if large amounts of the algae are ingested.

 

This is different than the typical short closings after heavy rain when storm water runoff can increase the amount of bacteria in the water.  That can clear up in a matter of a day or two.

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Bear sightings reported in Danbury, Ridgefield

Bear sightings have been made in the last couple of days in Ridgefield and in Danbury.  There was a reported sighting behind Mill Ridge Primary School in Danbury, and also in the area of Candlewood Lake on Friday. 

 

Thursday's sightings were made in the area of Golden Hill and the High School.  In Ridgefield, a bear was reported off Seth Low Mountain Road. 

 

State Environmental officials say this is the time of year bears are foraging for food and also out looking for a mate.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission releases survey results

Survey responses have been posted to the Newtown website by the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission.  Despite working for nearly two years now, the group is still in the early stages of deciding what the memorial should look like and where it should be located. 

 

A second question-and-answer document has also been released by the group.  One of the items notes that there is $130,000 set aside for a memorial.  The Commission says they've been in constant contact with survivors and the families of the 26 educators and children killed on 12-14. 

 

The Newtown Board of Selectmen has been informed that the 26 families would have the final work once recommendations are ready.

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Prescription Drug Take Back Day Saturday in Danbury

In an effort to protect the environment and kids, the Danbury Police Department is hosting a Prescription Drug Take Back Day Saturday. 

 

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration says over half of teens abusing prescription medication get them from a family member or friend, including the home medicine cabinet without permission.  The DEA says most people flushed their unused prescription drugs down the toilet, threw them in the trash, or kept them in the household medicine cabinet.  They can be accidentally ingested, stolen, misused, and abused. 

 

While the number of Americans who currently abuse prescription drugs dropped in 2013 to 6.5 million, that is still more than double the number of those using heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens like LSD and Ecstasy combined, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 22,000 Americans died in 2011 from overdoses of prescription medications, including 16,600 from narcotic painkillers. 

 

Danbury Spokesman Lt. Christian Carroccio says items not accepted including sharps, needles or syringes, radioactive medications including tracers, and chemotherapeutic medications.

 

Saturday's collection is from 10am to 2pm at Danbury Police Headquarters on Main Street.

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Local lawmaker speaks out about lack of GOP involvement in budget talks

It's been a week since the General Assembly reached final adjournment on its 2015 regular legislative session, but many items were left undone due to the hurried agenda of the final days.  That includes budget implementation bills and bonding. 

 

Republican leaders say it's wrong that they are again being shut out of negotiations on potential tax changes and other items in the special session.  But Democrats say GOP lawmakers voted against the budget so why should they be included.  Southbury Senator Rob Kane says the reverse.  He questioned why the GOP should have voted for a budget they were not included on, and the largest tax increase in the state's history for the second time in a row.

 

Corporate leaders are asking the Governor and lawmakers to change business tax hikes at that time, claiming they're harmful enough to push companies out of state.  Kane says there will likely be a great deal of flight if no changes are made.  Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey says the true impact is far less than has been claimed, and perhaps helpful clarifications would be enough to remedy the problem.

 

Democratic leaders are not sure when the Special Session will be held, but it needs to happen before the new fiscal year begins July 1st.

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Danbury Hospital named a Primary Stroke Center

Danbury Hospital and Norwalk Hospital have each earned Advanced Certification for Primary Strokes Centers.  The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark represent symbols of quality from their respective organizations.

 

Danbury Hospital Stroke Program Coordinator Heather Duggan says Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  On average, Duggan says someone suffers a stroke in the United States every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes.

 

Duggan says people don't recognize the symptoms of a stroke and it really needs to be treated as a medical emergency.  People should use the acronym is FAST.  Look for FACIAL weakness by having someone smile, ARM weakness by extending their arms, see if they have slurred SPEECH and, if any of those are found, it's TIME to call 911.

 

Danbury Hospital and Norwalk Hospital were evaluated for compliance with stroke-related standards and requirements, including program management, the delivery of clinical care and performance improvement.

 

Danbury Hospital is a Joint Commission Center of Excellence in four additional Disease-Specific areas - Palliative Care, Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, and Spine Surgery.

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'Imagination Library' set to deliver 200,000th free book to Danbury area kids

A milestone has been reached in the Greater Danbury area in the effort to close the achievement gap before it starts.  Imagination Library, a program that sends free books to children, will soon deliver its 200,000th. 

 

The program is run by the United Way of Western Connecticut.  Children aged birth through 5 years who live in 10 towns can receive a new book a month in the mail at no cost.  The program is available in Bethel, Bridgewater, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Stamford, Warren, and Washington.

 

Director of Community Impact Karen Mello says Connecticut has the widest education achievement gap in the country between children from poor and minority families and their peers.  The program was started in 2008 in an effort to close that gap by ensuring that all children have access to quality reading materials.

 

Mello says the early literacy programs like Imagination Library can help combat the achievement gap before it starts, can cultivate critical reading skills and encourage parents/caregivers to read aloud with their children.

 

Research by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University indicates that 90% of a child’s brain development happens before the age of 5.

 

More than 9,000 children from ten local towns are enrolled in the program.

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Conn. opens medical marijuana dispensary application period

The number of patients registered in Connecticut's medical marijuana program has more than doubled since last fall when dispensaries began selling medical marijuana.  Now the state Department of Consumer Protection is looking to add three new dispensaries to the six currently operating, including the one in Bethel. 

 

Commissioner Jonathan Harris says applications must be submitted by September 18th in order to be considered.

 

As of this month, there are 4,097 registered patients.

 

Harris says as a result, more dispensary facilities are needed, particularly in Fairfield and New Haven counties.  There are 980 registered patients in Fairfield County, and more than 1,100 in New Haven County.  Harris says there are a lot patients in the Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport corridor but the closest dispensary currently is the one in Stony Hill.  Harris says is not really convenient

 

But several municipalities have decided to adopted a moratorium on medical marijuana production or dispensary facilities.

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Four Corners development continues in Brookfield

Improvements are being made to the Four Corners area of Brookfield.  First Selectman Bill Tinsley says progress within the village business district continues. 

 

The apartments on Laurel Hill Road are nearing completion and he says the first residents are expected to move in soon. The 72 apartments, owned by Dakota Partners, are being marketed toward young professionals and seniors who are looking to down-size. 

 

Tinsley says the Brookfield Village LLC project, just south of the traffic light at the Four Corners, still plans initial demolition work of existing buildings by the end of this month or early next month. 

 

Roadway, traffic signal, pedestrian crosswalks, and streetscape plans are still being reviewed by the state Department of Transportation and Tinsley says the town can't begin work in the Route 202 right-of-way until the D-O-T approves the plans and issues a permit to the Town.

 

Meanwhile, Tinsley says the last phase of the window replacement project at town hall is underway and should be completed this month.  Paving at the Library and Town Hall is also underway.

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Town Park improvements nearing completion in Brookfield

By the end of this month, Brookfield Town Park on Candlewood Lake should be reopened.  Brookfield First Selectman Bill Tinsley says the finishing touches are in-progress on the new multi-use facility for the Town Park on Candlewood Lake. 

 

The facility will house restrooms, changing areas, a first aid station, a concession area with service kitchen, and a common room. The exterior of the building that faces the lake will have a covered porch.  There will also be an outdoor shower. 

 

The landscape and beach area is are also being improved. 

 

There will be a ribbon cutting at Cadigan Park in Brookfield on September 12th.  Tinsley says the community celebration will mark completion of all work at the Town Park and Cadigan Fields.

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Newtown Horse Guard funding preserved in state budget

The historic Second Company Governor's Horse Guard will remain in Newtown, for at least the next two years.  Proposed state budget cuts were restored to the final package that still await's Governor Malloy's signature.  It works out to $90,000 for the two years of the budget.

 

The all volunteer Horse Guard has been in Newtown since 1808.  The First Company Horse Guard is located in Avon and also funded in the budget.

 

The money was on the chopping block, but state Representative Mitch Bolisnky says the entire delegation ended up making personal appeals to save the money.

 

The 29-member horse guard trains each week, hosts camp programs, provides services to people with disabilities and equestrian therapy among other services.  In the aftermath of 12/14, the unit hosted equine and family events that used the horses therapeutically.  The volunteers care for the 10 horses and the barns.

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Newtown officials consider school closure

No decision was made Tuesday night during a meeting in Newtown about closing a school, likely Hawley Elementary School.  Selectman James Gaston presented a cost-benefit analysis. 

 

The Newtown Bee reports that Gaston has a number of concerns and can counter district arguments that closing the school will save taxpayers money immediately and in the long run.  Gaston claims that closing Hawley School will cost $40 annually per taxpayer because of property value declines. 

 

Some people expressed concerns about the state providing $50 million in bond money to build a new Sandy Hook School, while at the same time closing an existing elementary facility due to declining enrollment in the district.  The emotional well-being of Hawley students who would then attend Sandy Hook School is also a concern that's been discussed.

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Public Hearing on Ability Beyond Disability lease in Ridgefield

A public hearing and Special Town Meeting are being held tonight in Ridgefield about a proposed lease with Ability Beyond Disability.  The $1 a year land lease is for about half an acre on Halpin Lane at the corner with Prospect Ridge Road. 

 

Ability Beyond has run a group home for the disabled for more than two decades in Ridgefield, and operates several more in Connecticut and New York.  The new proposed group home would accommodate six people and is in walking distance from the center of town.  It would be staffed 24-hours a day. 

 

The Bethel-based organization also provides job counseling and other employment services. 

 

Tonight's public hearing and Special Town meeting start at 7:30pm at Ridgefield Town Hall.  It will be followed immediately by the Board of Selectmen meeting.

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Danbury to add lighting to new soccer field being constructed

The Danbury City Council has voted to spend $50,000 to help offset the cost of a lighting system for the new turf field being constructed at the West Side Middle School.  At their meeting last week, the group also touted the generosity of Danbury Youth Soccer Club for donating $200,000 to the cost.  Council President Joe Cavo says the $1.3 million field is being paid for with surplus money from the school bond project that came in under budget.  The $50,000 will also come from that bond.

 

The field will primarily be used for soccer, but could be converted to almost any other use including field hockey, lacrosse and football.  It is wider than a standard field so that the youngest soccer players could use the short length as their field.  It should be opened by mid-August.

 

When the City approved selling 13 acres off Old Ridgebury Road last fall to Subway co-founder Peter Buck, Youth Soccer and others questioned where the displaced kids would be able to play in the future.  Buck has allowed children to play on the land since the sale went through.  This new field was the solution to finding a spot for youth soccer and other recreational opportunities.

 

Buck proposed building an 18,000 to 20,000 square foot building, not visible from the street, for warehouse storage of cars.  There will also be incidental parking.

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Danbury residents approve High School bond package

A Danbury High School bond package has been approved by City residents.  The vote was 997 in favor, 860 opposed.  There was a less than 6% voter turnout. 

 

Danbury is expecting 330 new students enrolling in the high school over the next couple of years.  Mayor Mark Boughton says there really is not enough space in the current facility to accommodate that type of growth. 

 

He says the school construction portion of the state budget has remained the same.  The state is expected to make an approximate 63-percent reimbursement on the $53.5 million price tag. 

 

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 cost covers the addition, reconstruction of the current autoshop building and construction of a new facility to house the autoshop program. 

 

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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Despite state deficits, Danbury Mayor confident of school project reimbursement

A proposed Danbury High School bond package is being voted on by City residents today.  Danbury is expecting 330 new students enrolling in the high school over the next couple of years.  Mayor Mark Boughton says there really is not enough space in the current facility to accommodate that type of growth. 

 

He says the school construction portion of the state budget has remained the same, so he expects about 63-percent reimbursement.  Boughton says the City needs to get the application in by June 30th to make sure the reimbursement comes through.  Otherwise, he says there's a lot of money on the line.

 

Boughton says for the short term, that state reimbursement program will stay in place.  But a couple of years from now, he thinks the state probably won't be reimbursing at the same rate.

 

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 cost covers the addition, reconstruction of the current autoshop building and construction of a new facility to house the autoshop program. 

 

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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Public Hearing by New Milford Zoning Commission on 3 items

The New Milford Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing Tuesday night about three items.  One is a special permit and site plan application by Loaves and Fishes Hospitality.  They are considering whether to allow the charity institution to convert an existing 4-family dwelling into a 3-family dwelling to be run as a limited use hospitality house, along with associated parking on Bridge Street. 

 

Another item up for public hearing is an application to amend regulations to make the planning residential development chapter consistent with Connecticut General Statutes. 

 

The other item is a special permit and site plan application by Aldridge Road Properties LLC.  They are looking to place an outdoor manufacturing and processing facility for the production of sand products on Aldrich Road.  That property is in a flood plain of the Still River. 

 

Tuesday night's meeting is at 7pm at New Milford Town Hall.

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Referendum to be held on Danbury High School improvement plan

A referendum is being held Tuesday in Danbury about whether $53.5 million in bonding should be allocated for the planning, design, and construction of additions, renovations and improvements to Danbury High School.  More than half of the cost will be paid for by the state.

 

The design would essentially give the 9th grade their own building, creating the Freshmen Academy.  The project includes a two story gym, an academic floor and a science and computer lab level.  The bond proposal also includes a new roof, which will be outfitted with solar panels. 

 

Enrollment is projected to increase for the next several years.  City Councilman Irv Fox, a former Board of Education member, says it's been several years that there's been a need for more space. 

 

Fox says room needs to be made immediately in the operating budget three to four years from now, to staff the building when the project is complete.  He says that needs to be accomplished without decimating the rest of the school budget.

 

Fox says financial planning for the operational budget needs to start now so it's ready to go when the building is complete.

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Study ordered into electronic Connecticut military record database

Governor Dannel Malloy has signed a bill into law that was approved by both the state House and Senate have unanimously.  It creates a searchable electronic Internet database of historic Connecticut military records.  Bethel Representative Dan Carter expressed some concerns over private information being made public, but was told 75 years would have to pass before they are digitized and released.

 

The State Librarian will be required to conduct a study about creating the database, what documents would be included and what personal information should be redacted. 

 

Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky co-sponsored the legislation, which was voted on unanimously in both the House and the Senate.  The study must be completed and reported back to a legislative committee by January 15, 2016.

 

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Michael Zacchea, a combat veteran from Brookfield wounded in Iraq in 2004, submitted written testimony to the legislature on behalf of the Connecticut Veterans Chamber.  He said the digitalization will result in more efficiencies in the form of improved services for veterans.  He recommended that steps be taken to protect the records and identifiable information, citing concerns about potential financial exploitation or identity theft via hacking. 

 

He recommended bank-level security for these records because for national security reasons.  Zacchea said ISIS has targeted civilians and there's a concern that if the digitized records are hacked that the information could be matched with social media profiles of post-9/11 veterans, making them vulnerable to threats of and actual violence.

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Local lawmaker critical of state budget over hits to hospitals

Corporations aren't the only ones critical of the newly adopted state budget.  Hospitals say they are taking a heavy hit.

 

Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan called the underlying budget a disaster for hospitals.  He says not just the hospital tax, but the reimbursements.  He says non-profit hospitals are spending a lot of money in the community in unreimbursed care and on educational programs, and nobody is paying for the service.  McLachlan says they have to take that out of whatever limited profits the Hospitals generate.  He says that means jobs, and cutting back on the community activities that happen in Western Connecticut.

 

McLachlan says the reduced reimbursements from the federal government for government funded health care, the strains of inflation that has occurred in the cost of medicine and technology related to health care seemed to have created a perfect storm.

 

McLachlan compared the hospital tax to dynamite.  He says Connecticut threw that into this perfect storm.

 

The new budget also imposes a new provider tax on ambulatory service centers, collecting $35 million from them over the next two years.

 

Already paying $350 million per year through a provider tax based upon their earnings, that levy will be adjusted to reflect more recent industry revenues.  Hospitals used to recieve the money back from the state. 

 

McLachlan says the original tax idea was creative, because it took advantage of a federal program, but the intercept idea was grabbing a good chunk of the money.  McLachlan asked how much state government intercepted of the hospital tax that was intended to be for the hospitals.  He was told it's about $85 million.

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Gov. recognized by Regional Hospice & Home Care

Regional Hospice & Home Care has recognized Governor Dannel Malloy.  He was presented with a crystal recognition award during a gathering last night in Danbury.  Malloy is the chair of the state Bond Commission, which provided Hospice with $1.2 million for the Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss. 

 

A 3,200 square foot expansion to the plans for the Hospice Center allowed Healing Hearts to be housed there.  

 

A paver etched with his name was also installed on the pathway of the Healing Hearts Garden. 

 

Hospice CEO Cynthia Roy says Malloy and other officials recognized the needs of dying patients and the community members who are grieving the loss of loved ones.  Roy says they are grateful for the bonding support for the new hospice and bereavement centers.

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EverWonder Children's Museum hosts grand opening

The EverWonder Children's Museum in Newtown is holding a Grand Opening celebration today.  The facility offers STEM based exhibits and activities to promote creative learning in the science, technology , engineering and math fields.  The Museum is located on Pecks Lane in Newtown and a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for 10am.  There will be free admission from 10am to 11am, followed by half-price admission until closing time at 5pm.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty will be making a stop at the museum this afternoon.

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Butterfly party to honor Sandy Hook victim

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty will be in Newtown this afternoon.  She will deliver remarks at Catherine's Butterfly Party.  The 6-year old, who had a passion for helping animals, was killed on 12-14. 

 

State owned land has been donated to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation to be converted into an animal sanctuary and wildlife preserve in Catherine's honor. 

 

The butterfly party is from noon to 4pm at the Fairfield Hills Campus.  An adoption event with the ASPCA and others will also be held.  The Audubon Center at Bent of the River, Magic Wings Butterfly Conservancy, the Exceptional Pet, and UConn Department of Invasive Plants, among others will host educational exhibits and demonstrations.

 

Mobil Pie pizza truck, local vendors, face painting, tattoos, balloon twisters, and live music are also part of the day.

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Hot car death prevention awareness campaign launched

There were a number of incidents last summer in Connecticut and elsewhere in which kids were left alone in hot cars.  A 15-month old Ridgefield boy died last July.  Connecticut's two U.S. Senators have launched an awareness campaign ahead of this summer's hot weather. 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal says 38 kids die each year in the U.S.  He says a car can reach 110 degrees even when it's only 60 degrees outside.

 

Senator Chris Murphy says there is a device that can be installed in every car sold in this country that will alert parents to when they leave a child locked in a car.  They are looking at legislation to help implement the technology.

 

Safe Kids Connecticut Program Coordinator Meg McCabe says the acronym ACT can save lives.  AVOID these injuries and deaths by never leaving a child alone for even a minute.  CREATE reminders for yourself by leaving items you need at your destination in the backseat of the car.  TAKE action if you see a child alone in a vehicle by calling 911.

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Potentially harmful algae closes Squantz Pond swim area

The beach and swim area at Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield is closed, and expected to remain close through at least the weekend.  Lifeguards at the park alerted the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Thursday to blue-green algae that can emit toxins possibly harmful to people and dogs. 

 

DEEP Analyst Charles Lee says they are monitoring the water quality to assess conditions.  Lee says the scum has since blown away from the swimming area, but because of the potential health effects the area remains closed. 

 

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, occur naturally in lakes and ponds. The microscopic organisms often go unnoticed and cause no harm but when temperatures are high and high levels of phosphorus are carried into water from storm runoff, blue-green algae blooms may be produced and release toxins.

 

Potential health effects to such exposure could include:

 

Irritation of the skin, nose, eyes and respiratory tract.

 

Gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea upon ingestion.

 

Liver or nervous system effects, if relatively large amounts of the algae are ingested.

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Municipalities to receive less from Conn. for Resident State Trooper program

A portion of the newly approved two year $40 billion state budget cuts funding to the resident state trooper program.  The original proposal was to shift the burden on to the towns in an effort to save $4.6 million a year. 

 

This current fiscal year, the state is funding 30-percent of the cost for resident state troopers.  The new budget will only provide 15-percent of the funding and for up to two troopers. 

 

56 municipalities in the state have resident state troopers as their police force, including several in the Greater Danbury area.  Those towns include New Fairfield, Sherman, Kent, Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington among others.

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Local lawmakers critical of state budget approved late Wednesday night

The budget approved by the legislature shortly before the midnight Wednesday adjournment deadline included $9 million for 50 unionized nursing homes and $3 million to 180 non-union nursing homes to increase wages and benefits.  It also adds 135 new state employees to the current ranks of approximately 45,600 workers. 

 

Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan says he heard from a lot of constituents about the budget.  He says there are literally hundreds of people who called or emailed him to say "stop spending money".

 

The budget reduces property tax credit against the income tax from $300 to $200 beginning with income year 2016.

 

McLachlan was also critical of the budget extending the 20 percent surcharge on corporate income tax for two more years.  He cited Danbury-based Praxair's decision not to build a new world headquarters in the City as an example of the poor business climate of the state.

 

The cigarette tax is increased in two steps, from 3.40 to $3.65 per pack in October and up to $3.90 per pack in mid-2016. 

 

The budget imposes the state sales tax on car washing services, and increases various state license renewal fees.

 

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Senate leader says GE may be using budget as layoff cover, GE denies claim

General Electric President Jeff Immelt said in an email to employees today that as a result of the budget's passage, he has assembled an exploratory team to look into the company's options to relocate corporate headquarters to another state with a more pro-business environment.  Immelt said this will be a thoughtful process which will take many factors, especially employee impact, into consideration. 

 

Immelt cited GE's purchase of $14 billion in goods and services from Connecticut companies, and being a major employer in the state.  He continued by saying that after a lot of thought, and in context of the company's ability to be competitive, this step is being considered. 

 

Immelt encouraged employees to express their concerns to state lawmakers with a link included in his email to a legislator finder tool.

 

The Fairfield-based corporation took the rare step of criticizing a state budget proposalTuesday calling the proposed tax increase "truly discouraging." 

 

The company employs 5,700 in Connecticut, and says retroactively raising taxes makes businesses and residents "seriously consider whether it makes any sense" to stay.

 

Ridgefield Representative John Frey recalled a phone conversation about whether the Office of Fiscal Analysis factored in if there will be less jobs in Connecticut.  The CFO of GE is one of Frey's constituents, who called Sunday, saying the Fairfield-based company might reconsider calling Connecticut home.

 

Frey says New York officials were in touch with GE on Monday.

 

General Electric says the idea that it has been planning layoffs in Connecticut and plans to use the state's just-passed budget as "cover" is completely untrue.

 

State Senate President Martin Looney made that assertion Thursday morning, hours after the Legislature passed a two-year, $40 billion budget that had been criticized by Connecticut-based employers including General Electric Co. and Aetna Inc.  Looney, says state business taxes are quite moderate and that companies are likely to benefit from some of the budget's provisions, including a reduction in car taxes.

 

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Himes announces backing of `fast-track' trade power to Obama

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) Rep. Jim Himes has announced his support for legislation giving President Barack Obama authority to negotiate trade agreements approved or rejected by Congress without amendments.

The Connecticut Democrat said Wednesday the trade promotion authority has been granted to nearly every president for 50 years. He said it would be almost historically unprecedented if Congress failed to do so for Obama.

Himes said Connecticut benefits from exports that depend on expanding global trade. He said the legislation will be a start as lawmakers consider a proposed trade agreement with Asian nations. He said it offers the potential for ``rich export opportunities'' and high-paying export jobs

Lori Pelletier, executive secretary treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said Himes' decision is a ``major disappointment.'' Organized labor says previous trade deals have cost the U.S. jobs.

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Sunday hunting bill headed to Gov.'s desk

Final legislative approval has been given to allow Sunday deer hunting with some restrictions. 

 

It could only be conducted with a bow and arrow, and on certain private land located in overpopulated deer management zones.  The Department of Energy and Environmental has identified 13 such zones throughout the state. The agency estimates 11 are currently overpopulated, which means they have at least 20 deer per square mile.

 

New Milford Senator Clark Chapin voted for the bill noting that it could help control the state's deer population.

 

Other supports say this could also help combat Lyme Disease which comes from the deer tick. 

 

Hunting could not take place within 40 yards of a clearly marked hiking trail and the hunter must have the landowner's written permission.

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Newtown school officials weigh options in school closure

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Newtown Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, Jr. says the Facility and Enrollment Study Committee endorses the closure of an elementary school in the district.

Hawley Elementary School was the focus of Erardi's presentation Tuesday to the Board of Education, but cost estimates were also provided if Newtown Middle School were closed.

Erardi says a recent downturn in enrollment was projected for years, even before the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

A study presented to the Board of Education listed seven possible configurations for the district. Closing an elementary school was outlined in four configurations. Three outlined closing Newtown Middle School.

Erardi says he expects the school board will continue looking at the option of closing a school in the district over the coming months.

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Federal Hockey League to bring new team to Brewster

The Federal Hockey League is expected to announce soon that a team will be playing at The Brewster Ice Arena this fall.

 

The Danbury Whalers, who could not reach an agreement with the Danbury Ice Arena in April, still exists but is inactive.  Brewster Ice Arena owner Steve Santini says the owner of the unnamed team is from Chicago and has indicated that Danbury Whalers CEO and Managing Partner Herm Sorcher will serve as the general manager of the new Brewster team.

 

A fourth rink was added to The Brewster Ice Arena two years ago.  28 youth hockey teams play at the facility.  Santini says there won't be any displacement of current programs.  He says this will be a nice fit for the community and existing customers.  He hopes this will attract new people to Brewster, saying it will be a great thing for the town and the facility.

 

The main arena was built in 1998 and seats 850 people.  That will be the occupancy for the first season.  Depending on how that goes, Santini says he will go to the town for approvals to increase that capacity.

 

Eagle Ice Sports, which owns the Danbury Ice Arena, sent the Whalers owners a letter about not renewing their second five-year term of a lease signed five years ago.  Among the complaints listed in the letter was the team paying invoices for rent and other expenses late.  The arena also cited the team allowing customers to bring in outside food, drinks and alcoholic beverages.

 

Despite this announcement, rumors continue that a local businessman is attempting to put a new hockey team into the Danbury Ice Arena this fall.

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Newtown Police Chief set to retire in 2016

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- The police chief who led Newtown's response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 26 people dead is retiring.

 

The Newtown Police Commission accepted a letter of retirement Tuesday night from Police Chief Michael Kehoe, who has led the Connecticut department for 14 years.  Kehoe plans to retire in January.

 

The 60-year-old Kehoe was among those who responded to the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting.  A review of the response by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association found the department responded quickly and appropriately to the shooting.

 

Two members of the department, Sgt. Steven Santucci and dispatcher Jason Chiklos, were charged last month with distributing steroids inside the police station.

 

Kehoe told the Newtown Bee that his decision to retire had nothing to do with those arrests.

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Another business says budget could force reduced investments

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. (AP) Another company has criticized tax increases proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic-run legislature, saying the state budget plan could force a halt to investments in Connecticut.

Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Tuesday the ``short-sighted tax proposals will stifle innovation,'' particularly in medical research and development. The company, based in Germany, said the proposed budget ``will undermine the financial feasibility of continued capital investments'' at its Ridgefield-Danbury site.

General Electric Co., Aetna Inc. and the Travelers Companies Inc. criticized the tax-and-spending proposal on Monday. GE and Aetna questioned whether businesses and individuals should stay in Connecticut if proposed business taxes become law.

Malloy says part of the increased revenue is for needed transportation upgrades that would make Connecticut more competitive.

Legislative leaders were revising the budget and delayed a vote.

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Fast food restaurant, dental office proposed for Newtown Road in Danbury

The Danbury Planning Commission is holding a public hearing tonight on a proposed development on Newtown Road.  The Planning Commission is meeting to discuss special exceptions.  Those are for a medical facility, a drive-thru and the anticipated trip generation from the three buildings planned for the former car dealership site next to Stop & Shop. 

 

SG Newtown Road Partners LLC has proposed the plans to spread to what is currently part of the Holiday Inn property as well.  One 7,500 square foot building is proposed to be a Texas Roadhouse restaurant.  The closest Texas Roadhouse restaurants are in Waterbury, West Haven & New Rochelle. 

 

A 3,100 square feet Hardee's with a drive thru is also proposed.  Hardee's has several locations, none in Connecticut, but in the PA, DE, DC area.

 

A 12,000 square foot multi office building with retail, medical, a salon and restaurant is also proposed.  The multi-use building is proposed to have an auto store, Aspen Dental, and a Jersey Mikes sub shop, which are already in Brookfield and Ridgefield.

 

Tonight's public hearing on the special exceptions is being held at 7:30 at Danbury City Hall.

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Prospector gains local approval for alcohol sale at cafe

A revision to a special permit has been approved in Ridgefield to allow the Prospector Theater to sell alcohol at its cafe.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Planning and Zoning Commission gave the approval at its May 19th meeting.  The state Department of Consumer Protection still needs to grant approval.  The Star Bar located inside the Prospector is permitted to sell alcohol, this revision locally opens the door to sell liquor at the Heads Up Cafe.  The Prospector is run by a non-profit organization that employs adults with developmental disabilities.

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River Walk project in Sandy Hook gains keep approval

The Newtown Inland Wetlands Commission has approved a protection permit for a condo complex proposal in Sandy Hook.  Three public hearings were held on the proposal for Washington Avenue.  According to the Commission's minutes, six buildings with 74 condo units would be constructed by applicant Michael Burton. 

 

The Inland Wetlands Commission kept the hearing open last week to review revised maps of the nearly 12 acre site.  More approvals are still needed from various Newtown agencies.  The project known as The River Walk at Sandy Hook Village gained approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this year. 

 

A previous proposal was for fewer units, which is why the various Commissions and Departments are reviewing the proposal.

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Newtown considers whether to close a school

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Newtown officials are discussing the possibility of closing one of the town's seven schools, despite the ongoing construction of a replacement for the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Newtown has accepted a $50 million state grant for the new Sandy Hook school, which will replace the one demolished in the wake of December 2012 shooting that killed 26 people.

Superintendent Joseph Erardi is scheduled to present a study on the future of the district Tuesday night to the Board of Education.

He told parents at a recent forum that only two schools are exempt from being considered as closing targets, Newtown High School and the Sandy Hook school.

Enrollment projections from a private consultant last fall projected the town will lose about 200 students per year for the next several years.

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GE raps Connecticut budget proposing spending, tax increases

Fairfield-based General Electric has taken the rare step of criticizing a state budget proposal that boosts spending and taxes and questions whether businesses and individuals should stay in Connecticut.  The industrial conglomerate called the proposed tax increase "truly discouraging." 

 

The company employs 5,700 in Connecticut, says retroactively raising taxes makes businesses and residents "seriously consider whether it makes any sense" to stay.

 

Ridgefield Representative John Frey recalled a phone conversation about whether the Office of Fiscal Analysis factored in if there will be less jobs in Connecticut.  The CFO of GE is one of Frey's constituents, who called Sunday, saying the Fairfield-based company might reconsider calling Connecticut home.

 

Frey says that reminded him of 2010 when United Technologies said "anywhere but Connecticut" for doing business.

 

Frey says New York officials were in touch with GE on Monday.  The company says other states offer more opportunities and a better environment for business growth.

 

Hartford-based Aetna said in a statement Monday that they are also looking to reconsider the viability of continuing major operations in the state.

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Betsy Palmer, dies; was killer cook in `Friday the 13th'

LOS ANGELES (AP) Betsy Palmer, the veteran character actress who obtained lasting if not necessarily sought-after fame as the murderous camp cook in ``Friday the 13th,'' has died. She was 88.

Palmer's longtime manager, Brad Lemack, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Palmer died Friday in a Connecticut hospice care center near her Danbury home.

Palmer had appeared in films and TV shows for decades, several of them classics, before she took the role of Mrs. Voorhees in the cheesy 1980 horror film.

She would say afterward that she accepted the role mainly because she wanted the money to buy a new car.

Other credits included roles in such Golden Age of Television shows as ``Kraft Theatre'' and ``Playhouse 90,'' as well as the Henry Fonda film ``Mr. Roberts.''

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Public hearing in Bethel on proposed cell tower

There's a public hearing Tuesday night in Bethel about a proposed cell tower off Codfish Hill Road.  The Connecticut Citing Council will be in Bethel to hear concerns, questions and comments.  The tower is proposed at 150 feet tall near the intersection with Twin Maple Drive.  The proposed site is also located less than two miles from the Rock Ridge Country Club and Huntington State Park.

 

The cellular tower is for the primary use of AT&T, but will accommodate three other wireless carriers.  In addition, its equipment shelter and generator would be located within a 5,625 square foot compound near the base of the tower.

 

Longtime resident Geraldine Mills opposes the idea.  Her main concerns, the same about power lines that eventually were buries, is electromagnetic fields.  She cited a study by the British Medical Study on the dangers of EMF zones when it comes to a link to some childhood cancers.

 

An alternative location, 700 feet further away from Twin Maple Drive, has also been discussed.  That tower would be 170 feet.

 

Bethel state Representative Dan Carter says the tower company is out of Florida, and the homeowner would get paid to have it in their yard.  While he hasn't weighed in from an official position, he does live in the area.  Carter hopes the Siting Council will find somewhere else to put the cell tower.  Some of the concerns he's heard from neighbors include about property values and aesthetics.

 

Tuesday's hearing is at 7pm in the Bethel Municipal Center.

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Sen. Murphy takes walking tour of downtown New Milford

A walking tour of New Milford has been taken by Senator Chris Murphy.  He was joined by Mayor Pat Murphy and the town's Economic Development Director to talk about businesses downtown.  Murphy says he wanted to learn Wednesday about the transit needs and economic priorities. 

 

(Photo: Twitter, @ChrisMurphyCT)

 

Murphy says the downtown is doing well, with lots of restaurants and new businesses.  But he says the town could be doing even better if rail service was extended from Danbury.  He notes that 1971 was the last time passenger rail service went to New Milford.

 

More people are using train service in Connecticut each year, and there's a renewed interest in extending the Metro North Danbury branch line into New Milford and beyond.

 

Murphy says the trains work both ways.  More people be able to live in New Milford and commute to Danbury, the Stamford-Norwalk region or even New York City.  Murphy says tourists could spend weekends and holidays in New Milford. 

 

The town bills itself as the Gateway to Litchfield County.

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Bill exempts Connecticut juniors from controversial test

11th-graders from having to take may no longer have to take the controversial Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.  The Senate on Thursday voted 33-3 to relieve high school juniors from that requirement, replacing it with a nationally recognized college readiness exam, such as the SAT.  Wilton state Senator Toni Boucher called this a bipartisan breakthrough.  She says it's an opportunity to open doors for so many of Connecticut's schoolchildren.

 

About 85 percent of Connecticut students take the SAT. Lawmakers said they hope this bill might inspire the other 15 percent to pursue college. 

 

Southbury state Senator Rob Kane was among the 3 votes in opposition. 

 

There are currently about 40,000 11th-grade students in Connecticut.  The bill awaits action by the House.

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