Local Headlines Archives for 2015-08

Danbury UNIT cracks down on errant shopping carts

A&P Supermarket on Padanaram Road has been sent a notice of violation from the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team.  UNIT officials say the notice was to the Danbury store to alert them of dozens of shopping carts that are in their possession as a result of collecting them off of the streetside, sidewalks and various properties.

 

UNIT officials say the inventory continues to grow with no response from the store. 

 

Danbury adopted a shopping cart ordinance several years ago when a number of carts were found in public parks and city streets. 

 

The notice says that the carts will be discarded unless the UNIT hears from A&P to arrange for the carts to be retrieved.  Shopping carts taken off city streets and elsewhere are stored at the Public Works Department, and can be picked up after paying a storage and retrieval fee.  The storage fee is $2 per week, not exceeding $50.  There is a $10 retrieval fee per cart.

 

(March 2013 photo from UNIT)

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Danbury accepts state grant for evening program at Emergency Shelter

Danbury recently received a grant for the City's Emergency Shelter Program.  Director of Health and Human Services Scott LeRoy told the City Council that the yearly grant of $116,000 pays for the Evening Shelter Program workers, giving them a place for them to stay.  The program also houses the Homeless Veterans at the shelter.  LeRoy says what this grant can't pay for, one from the VA does.

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Early College Opportunity program begins at Danbury High School

The first group of Danbury High School students who will simultaneously be working toward their Associate Degree have started their "school within a school" program.  The new initiative is being called the Early College Opportunity program.  Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says Danbury High School has partnered with Naugutuck Valley Community College for this program.

 

Freshmen will begin accelerating their high school requirements so that by sophomore or junior year they can start incorporating college-level courses.  There is no cost to complete the program while at DHS, through there is some attendance at NVCC required after graduation.

 

The Associate Degree would be in Information Technology.

 

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

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Praxair seeks tax deferral for improvements on new HQ in Danbury

Praxair is looking for a tax break from Danbury on the company's proposed new headquarters.  Praxair, which is currently headquartered at Matrix Corporate Center in Danbury, purchased the former GE building at Berkshire Corporate Park on Riverview Drive for $20 million. 

 

The estimated cost of new construction and improvements that would be subject to the tax deferral is $33 million. 

 

Planning Director Dennis Elpern wrote to the City Council in a memo to be considered at their meeting Tuesday that he received the application for tax deferral from Praxair.  While it appear to conform to all requirements, he hasn't received a copy of plans for the proposed office building. 

 

The company is seeking a seven year deferral on 100 percent of the assessment increase.  The assessed property value is $14.35 million. 

 

Earlier this year, Praxair ditched plans to build a completely new building with the help of state funding.

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Improvements planned for Federal Road in Brookfield

Improvements to Federal Road in Brookfield are being planned.  The designs for southern Federal Road from White Turkey Road to Route 133 call for 11-foot travel lanes, 5-foot shoulders, 5-foot sidewalks, pedestrian cross walks, new signals and bicycle detection at signalized intersections. 

 

Brookfield First Selectman Bill Tinsley says the top priority addresses the need for north and southbound turn lanes and traffic signals at the ShopRite/Chick-fil-A traffic signal. 

 

Since Federal Road is technically Route 202, a state road, Department of Transportation funds will be used for the work.  The improvements are planned over the next five years.

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Summer fading fast, so are the number of lifeguards at state parks

With the last summer days of swimming fast approaching, the number of lifeguards at state park swim areas will be significantly reduced.  This weekend and Labor Day weekend, there will only be lifeguards on duty at Squantz Pond in New Fairfield and Hammonasset in Madison. 

 

Parks Director Tom Tyler says many lifeguards are leaving their positions to return to school.

 

Most of the state park swimming areas are unguarded weekdays from now through Labor Day. Swim areas will be posted with signs where there are no lifeguards on duty.

 

Tyler encourages visitors to enjoy the outdoors, but use sound judgment when swimming at Connecticut's state park beaches.  He asks that visitors stay within designated swimming areas, reminds parents to watch children, and don't drink alcohol then swim.

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CT United Ride to benefit 9/11 charities taking place Sunday

A massive motorcycle ride is taking place tomorrow in the Greater Danbury area.  The 15th annual CT United Ride on Sunday features thousands of motorcyclists riding to remember 9/11.  The event begins in Norwalk with a ceremony at 10:30 tomorrow morning.  The riders start off at 11:30 and end at Seaside Park in Bridgeport.  Riders will drive down Route 58 in Bethel under a huge 50-foot flag at Sunset Hill, placed by Bethel’s volunteer fire departments. 

 

The motorcyclists will have a police escort and they do not stop for lights. Various intersections will be blocked off for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. 

 

Ride Information courtesy of CT United Ride’s Website:

 

  • Motorcade from Norden Park to Rte 136
  • to Rte 33 through Westport
  • to Wilton Rte 7
  • to Rte 107 Georgetown
  • to Rte 58N Redding
  • to Rte 302 Bethel
  • to Newtown Rte 25 through Monroe
  • to Main Street Trumbull
  • to Old Town Rd
  • to Park Ave in Fairfield
  • continuing into Bridgeport and straight down to Seaside Park with Bpt’s Fire Rescue 5 leading the Motorcade.

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Weston Board of Ed approves agreement to hire SRO

The Weston Board of Education has approved a Memorandum of Understanding to hire a School Resource Officer.  The Weston Police Commission must next vote to approve the 3-year agreement.  The School Resource Officer will be for Weston High School and will be a current Weston patrol officer, who carries a firearm.  Whichever officer is selected, they will have to go through a training course to become a School Resource Officer.  A new patrol officer will then be hired.  The School Resource Officer position was not included in the current fiscal year's budget.

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Danbury Fire Department receives FEMA grant to purchase portable radios

The Danbury Fire Department has been awarded federal grant money to purchase portable radios.  The nearly $337,000 from FEMA is part of the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program. 

 

Senator Chris Murphy says firefighters work diligently to keep the community safe, putting their lives on the line and these funds will help improve communications.  Senator Richard Blumenthal says this grant will help ensure that members of the Danbury Fire Department can continue to do their jobs effectively and safely.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says the Assistance to Firefighter Grant has helped firefighters and other first responders since 2001 to obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources. 

 

Fire Chief TJ Wiedl called the funding much needed.  He says replacement of aging equipment will allow firefighters to focus on emergency situations at hand with renewed confidence in their radios, their lifeline.

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WCSU students move in this weekend, 'Welcome Week' events planned

There will be a lot more traffic on Lake Avenue and White Street in Danbury today and this weekend.  Students are moving into their dorms at Western Connecticut State University.  Dean of Students Walter Cramer says Welcome Week activities kick off at 1:30 this afternoon with their annual Entering the Gates Ceremony.

 

Cramer says it's symbolic as well as a physical entering of the university.  It starts off the academic year as new students are ushered through the picturesque wrought-iron main gates by alumni, faculty and returning students.

 

In addition to orientation events geared toward helping freshmen adjust to college live, there are workshops for parents about the transition of sending their children to college.

 

Cramer says this weekend is a chance for freshmen to get to know other new students and upperclassmen.  The big event is Clubs Carnival on the quad of the Midtown campus.  Students can get a sense of what's available in campus life for them.

 

With the opening of the Honors House in the old Alumni Hall, the University is looking to renovate the basement of the Midtown Student center to create a performance space.  The Coffee House and other events will be moved there.  he says that will be a great place for commuter students to hang out as well.

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Workshops to be held about Branchville study

A study about the future of Branchville is underway.  The Branchville section of town runs along Route 7, has a train station, and has been called a second town center.  The study is being paid for by a $356,000 state grant.  Fitzgerald and Halliday Inc. of Hartford, a transportation planning firm, is looking for resident input on the vision for Branchville. 

 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi says Branchville is the future for the community.  It represents a quaint village, an opportunity to develop it in a way that serves the people in that area.  He called it a "golden opportunity" that they want to make sure it done right.  The First Selectman, Planning Director, Town Engineer and representatives from the Branchville area are part of a small committee studying the issue.

 

The committee has reviewed the scope of work and come up with an outline that involves an opportunity for people to look at the conceptual drawings and plans, and how it exists today.

 

There are some obstacles in developing the area, including that it is a low-lying area prone to flooding.  There are also no sewer lines there.  One proposal is to allocate an area for a small building that would process the sewage, and have septic fields.  He compared it to a residential home not on town sewers.

 

An online survey has also been added to the study.  It is available until September 18th.  Some of the survey questions include how much parking there should be, both on-street and off-street parking, as well as how tall buildings should be.

 

A workshop is being held on September 16th in the Main Function Room of Ridgefield Library.

 

Fitzgerald and Halliday will conduct the workshop in coordination with the Town of Ridgefield and the Western Connecticut Council of Governments.  The workshop on September 16th is for residents to share thoughts about what improvements are needed in the Branchville area and what type of development the Town should consider for the future of Branchville.

 

An open house is also scheduled for September 17th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.  On September 18th, a second open house is scheduled for 10am to 4pm.  That will be followed by a presentation from 4pm to 5pm.

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First stages of Fire Training School construction underway in Danbury

A state of the art training classroom is being built in Danbury for the Fire Department.  Training Officer Steve Rogers says the career Fire Department, the 12 volunteer companies and those from surrounding towns will be able to do their classroom work and specialized training in a new building, hopefully by the coming Spring.  He says this won't be specifically just for the Fire Department, it could be opened up to local police departments as well.  Ground was broken Thursday.

 

(Photo Courtesy: Captain Bernie Meehan)

 

Rogers says there will be two classrooms, a computer room, conference room and offices.  Smart board and other technology will also be included.  The optimum class size for firefighter training is about 25, but right now the Danbury Fire Department classroom can only accommodate about 10 people. 

 

Rogers says there are National Fire Protection Association and OSHA requirements, with mandatory classes.  Some of those happen annually, others are as frequently as each month.

 

Hawley Construction is building the exterior of the facility.  A request for proposals is going out for the interior work.  Bids for Phase 2 of the project will be accepted through September 10th.

 

 

Rogers says this new classroom will help the Department to stay proficient in all skills.  He notes that firefighting is a small part of what the Department does.  They also respond to emergency medical situations, car accidents, special rescues and other incidents requiring specialized skills.  Rogers says these specialized skills have to be kept fresh, otherwise they start to degrade over time.

 

While no equipment will be housed at the site, there will be two bays.  One will be for a fire engine, one for a tanker truck.  The bays will face the burn tower so firefighters can practice getting their gear on and out the door headed toward an emergency situation.

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Route 25 in Newtown to be repaved

Route 25 in Newtown is getting a facelift.  The state Department of Transportation has announced that the road will be milled and repaved during the evening hours.  The four mile stretch of Route 25 will be resurfaced between Mile HIll Road and the Monroe Town Line.  Drivers should expect various lane closures on Route 25 from 8pm to 5am on Sundays through Fridays.  The project is starting tonight and is expected to be wrapped up by September 21st.

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State Park in Southbury remains closed due to algae concerns

The beach and swim area at Kettletown State Park in Southbury and at Indian Wells in Shelton remain closed due to blue green algae.  The algae can emit toxins possibly harmful to people and dogs.  The effects from exposure include a skin rash, nausea or even liver or nervous system effects if large amounts of the algae are ingested.  The swim area at Kettletown has been closed for 9 days.  Blue green algae has been spotted in several other water bodies in the Greater Danbury area over the past two months, but the beach closures haven't been as long as the one at Kettletown.

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State Police to crackdown on drunk drivers this weekend

State Police are setting up roving DUI patrols and checkpoint during this second to last weekend of summer.  State Police say they decided to add an extra weekend of patrols because of an anticipated increase in drivers.  With many classes back in session and final vacations, Troopers want to keep the summer driving season a safe one.  There will be roving patrols on I-84 and Route 7 in the Greater Brookfield and Danbury areas today through next Wednesday.  There will also be a Sobriety Checkpoint set up on Lake Avenue tomorrow by the highway ramps.  This is being done in conjunction with the Breath Alcohol Testing Mobile Unit.

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Danbury breaks ground on Fire Training School

Ground has been broken on a new Fire Training Classroom building in Danbury.  The 6,500 square foot facility on Plumtrees Road is costing about $1 million.  It will be on the same property as the Department's burn tower, which was rebuilt in 1992.  The tower has had some upgrades and renovations since that time. 

 

 

Classroom training is currently run out of a single-wide trailer.  It can only accommodate 15 firefighters.  Most of the state certification courses and the classes held by the Department require classroom time.

 

 

The new building will have two classrooms, a computer room, conference room and offices for the Training Division in the new building.  Infrastructure for training activities around the building will also be installed.  While no fire engines will be housed at the site, there will be two bays.  One will be for a fire engine, one for a tanker truck.  The bays will face the burn tower so firefighters can practice getting their gear on and out the door headed toward an emergency situation.

 

12 volunteer fire companies in Danbury also train at this site.

 

 

Hawley Construction is building the exterior of the facility.  A request for proposals is going out for the interior work.  Bids for Phase 2 of the project will be accepted through September 10th.

 

(Chief TJ Wiedl, Mayor Boughton, Drill Master Steve Rogers, former Chief Geoff Herald, Deputy Chief Mark Omasta)

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says this is not only about better training and providing better public safety services, but also about being aregional leader in training.  While he hopes they never get called, Boughton says when the Fire Department does get called to an incident, they'll be prepared.

 

Chief TJ Wiedl says this is something that they've been looking forward to for a long time.  He notes that this is a City wide effort.  He says this will be state of the art classrooms by Spring of next year.

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Blighted Post Office property a headache for Ridgefield

The federal government is claiming to be exempt from Ridgefield blight ordinances when it comes to a dilapidated property on Catoonah Street owned by the Post Office. 

 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi says this property is a prime example of why a blight ordinance was adopted.  The town's attorney agrees with the interpretation that the post office is exempt from zoning ordinances.  The landlord's attorney says the Post Office's immunity has transferred to the landlord. 

 

Marconi says the town will continue to pursue a solution. 

 

He says it's disappointing that the government would leave this house to fall into a state of disrepair.  The windows are boarded up, the grass is high, it's only 10 feet from the abutting homeowner's dwelling and is a fire hazard. 

 

One proposal was to sublease the property, but the Post Office is opposed to that option saying they will never get the property back.  Another idea discussed by the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is to make it a historic property, offer to take the structure down and then see who would be willing to buy the land. 

 

The demolition estimate, including cleaning up the property, is $52,000.  Some of the neighbors have offered to help offset the cost.

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YMCA shows off early childhood programs

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty paid a visit to the YMCA of Western Connecticut Children's Center in Bethel on Wednesday.  She says nonprofits are under stress and strain, so she wanted to find out what she can do to help.

 

Esty says YMCAs are the number one child care provider in the country.  She says they provide critical social services in a variety of ways.  She also noted their commitment around fitness, an issue vitally important to long term health and vitality of all people.

 

There are about 150 kids at the Bethel preschool center.

 

YMCA President and CEO Marie Miszewski says there was one aspect in particular they wanted to show off.  The work they're doing to close the achievement gap in the Greater Danbury area.  While the Y is generally known for swimming, gym, and fitness Miszewski says they're doing a lot of work to combat diabetes and youth obesity.

 

The achievement gap work stems from school readiness programs, which are federally funded.  Miszewski says it makes a huge difference in those kids lives, and the lives of their parents.  Because of their success in school readiness, the YMCA has gotten some grants.  Miszewski says the grants allow them to follow through with students all the way through first grade.

 

Miszewski cited research showing that if kids have a solid foundation through second grade, the odds of graduating from high school improve dramatically.

 

Miszewski says they also have a technology room with smart boards, iPads and computers.  The YMCA afterschool program is one of two Kahn Academy sites in the state.

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Danbury apartment complex to receive state funding for rehabilitation

The Fairfield Ridge Apartment complex in Danbury is receiving some state funding for rehabilitation efforts. 

 

The State has awarded nearly $18 million in loans and grants to ten affordable housing developments.  Department of Housing Deputy Commissioner Nick Lundgren says the grants are part of a 10-year state-sponsored Housing Portfolio Revitalization Initiative.  The portfolio is made up of over 340 properties at which approximately 19,000 people reside.

 

Fairfield Ridge Housing Associates is receiving $2.5 million, paired with $6.3 million from the Connecticut Housing Financing Authority and the Low-Income Housing Tax-Credit Program.

 

 

Fairfield Ridge Apartments is moderate rental family housing with a mix of 45 two-bedroom units and 13 three-bedroom units in duplex and ranch style homes.

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Community Resource Fair to be held at WCSU

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is hosting her 2nd annual Community Resources Fair today in Danbury.  The event last year was held at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury.  Representatives from over 30 federal and state agencies will be at Western Connecticut State University this afternoon. 

 

The gathering is aimed at giving residents the opportunity to address individual issues – such as delayed Social Security payments, veterans’ benefits, tax refunds, or immigration services – with federal, state, and local agencies.

 

The event is being held at the Westside Campus Center, in The Grand Ballroom from 2pm to 5pm.

 

In the Greater Danbury area, Esty says more than 470 households have helped by her office since she was elected.  She says 3,100 people have contacted her office for help, with over $5.8 million returned to people through Social Security benefits, disability benefits for veterans, medicare, IRS refunds or small business loans.

 

Below is a complete list of attending agencies:

 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Connecticut Fair Housing Authority

Connecticut Passport Agency

CT Housing Finance Authority

Danbury Vet Center

Department Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS)

Department of Banking

Department of Children and Families (DCF)

Department of Consumer Protection (DCP)

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Department of Insurance

Department of Labor Office of Veterans Workforce Development

Department of Social Services (DSS)

Department of Transportation - CT Rides

Department of Veterans Affairs, Hartford Regional Office (VBA)

Department on Aging

Department Public Health (DPH)

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

IRS Taxpayer Advocate Office

Office of Higher Education

Office of Protection & Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities

Office of the Health Care Advocate

Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA)

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Social Security Assistance Program

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Homeland Security -FEMA Region I

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Small Business Administration

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

VA Connecticut Health Care System (VHA)

Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging

Workers’ Compensation Commission

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New artificial turf field opens in Danbury

An oversized soccer field has opened in Danbury.  It allows for three games going the short way on the field, or one game the long way.  The field is also lined for field hockey, lacrosse and football. 

 

There is a scoreboard and grandstand installed.  Parking around the field has been paved and lined.  

 

Lights were donated by Danbury Youth Soccer Club, a value of $200,000.  The lights extend the use of the field to 9pm.  The lights will be turned off promptly at 9pm, so as not to disturb area residents in the evenings.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton called it a great asset for the City and a first class facility.

 

(Photos: Mayor Mark Boughton)

 

This is a replacement for the field that has been used on 13 acres of land off Old Ridgebury Road sold last fall to Subway co-founder Peter Buck.  Boughton says Buck has been very generous in letting the City use the field as long as people want.  When the sale was made, Danbury Youth Soccer and others questioned where the displaced kids would be able to play in the future.  Boughton says DYS is growing and has over 1,000 children participating. 

 

He notes that this new field enhances the new Westside Middle School and the recently renovated Mill Ridge Elementary School because kids can use the new field for gym and activities.

 

The $1.3 million field is being paid for with surplus money from the school bond project that came in about $5 million under budget.  The rest of that money will be reprogrammed and targeted toward Danbury High School to save taxpayers some money on the DHS2020 addition project.

 

Besides Danbury High School, this is the only lighted artificial turf field in the City.

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Danbury crafts plan for Hearthstone Castle use

An engineering study on Hearthstone Castle in Danbury is almost complete.  There are several possible uses in the City's master plan, but Mayor Mark Boughton says the City is leaning toward stabilizing the walls and putting in a floor so that the structure could be used for small gatherings. 

 

It won't be a fully rebuilt castle.  That's a $6 million to $10 million project, because there are no utilities at the site.  Boughton says the time to renovate the castle was 30 years ago.  But the price tag, given all of the other priorities in the City, is something that Boughton says it just not affordable. 

 

He notes that the City can't leave the structure the way it is because someone is going to get hurt.  He previously called the site an attractive nuisance.

 

(Courtesy: Mayor Mark Boughton, taken via drone)

 

After years of neglect, the outer walls are all that remain.  The roof and internal structure have collapse into the basement.  Boughton says the idea is to clean up the interior, so the iconic building can be used.

 

(Courtesy: Mayor Mark Boughton, taken via drone)

 

Mark Nolan of the Friends of Tarrywile Park told the City Council last year that the retaining wall on the lower side was deteriorating.  If that is allowed to go, he cautioned that more damage will de done to what is left of the structure. 

 

Hearthstone Castle was built in 1897 for E. Starr Sanford by New York architect Earnest George Washington Dietrich.  The land was bought in 1902 by New York financial mogul Victor Buck, who sold the castle in 1918 to Charles Darling Parks.  His oldest daughter occupied the castle until her death in 1983.  The City purchased it as part of the acquisition of the Tarrywile property in 1985.

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Renovations progressing at New Fairfield Library

Renovations are nearing completion at New Fairfield Free Public Library.  The changes are aimed at bringing the Library into compliance with the American Disabilities Act.  First Selectman Susan Chapman says an elevator is now being installed.

 

The library has remained open during the renovation, with entry available only through the front doors.  A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in April. 

 

The Children's Library was temporarily located in the upper level community room.  Last month, there was a grand re-opening for the Children's Library.  It has new flooring, lighting and a program room.  Chapman says everything looks to be on track for a full re-opening in early fall.

 

A competitive state library grant is helping to pay for the project, which includes improved walkways.  Energy-efficiency improvements are also being made.

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Ground broken for new sprayscape at Kenosia Park in Danbury

Ground has been broken on a new sprayscape in Danbury at Kenosia Park.  This would be the third spray park in Danbury, with ones already located at Highland Avenue and Rogers Park.  It's an interactive water park where kids hit a button or the spray is activated from the ground by touch, so there's minimal water usage.  This spray park will be about 5,800 square feet.  The project is costing about $170,000.

 

 

Designs started in 2008, but the City ran into permitting issues with the state.  The property technically is owned by a water company.  Lake Kenosia is considered a reservoir, and the state would not allow additional recreational opportunities there.   Several years ago the state Department of Public Health asked that the City stop allowing swimming at the lake off the public beaches.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says the other two sprayscapes have been very popular.  There have been no injuries at those facilities.  He anticipates having the concession stand back open next summer.  Boughton also wants to add other recreational opportunities at the  park.

 

But the project is now fully compliant, with the state issuing a permit about three weeks ago.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says it should take about two to three months to complete.

 

Iadarola says the equipment was purchased in 2008, anticipating a permit.  It just needs to be taken out of storage, and it's ready to be installed.

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AAA warning drivers to be extra vigilant with school back in session

Danbury and New Milford are among the schools in the region that started class today.  The AAA is reminding motorists to be extra diligent in watching out for students who are coming to and going to school. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 13-percent of students nationwide typically walk or bike to classes; and the remainder waiting on street corners for the local school bus. 

AAA warns the afternoon hours are particularly dangerous  because of the last decade, nearly one-third child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drivers should also look out for children who may dart out into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops, and in neighborhoods.

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Wilton receives state grant for document preservation

The town of Wilton is using a state grant to preserve some records.  The Wilton Board of Finance has signed off on accepting a $3,000 Historic Preservation Program Grant to preserve permanent records.  Minutes will be put into organized books, making it easier for people to look through them.  Wilton Town Clerk Lori Kaback also told the Board of Finance that, by law, the town is required to keep copies of all records.  That includes land records.  There were questions about the possibility of switching from microfilm to PDFs, but that still needs to be researched.

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Monroe Volunteer Firefighters warning of fundraising phone scam

The Monroe Volunteer Fire Department is warning about a telephone scam circulating town.  The Department told The Courier that several residents have report getting telephone calls from a person claiming to be raising funds for the volunteer firefighters.  Residents are being advised to be skeptical of phone solicitors, with the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department saying that their annual fundraising drive takes place in the fall and is done via the mail.  That mailer asks that checks be sent to the department via a Monroe Post Office box.  The reported phone calls have come from a California area code 925.

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Schlumberger Citizen's Committee set to meet

The 9 member Schlumberger Citizen’s Committee will be meeting tonight. 


Ridgefield purchased the 45 acre Schlumberger property in 2012 for $7 million.  15 acres have since been sold to two developers.  The Citizen’s Committee was formed after residents voted down two proposals for separate pieces of the property.  The committee will help steer the future of the remaining town owned land. 

 

At tonight's meeting, the group plans to review their activities to date, confirm their timeline and finalize a survey about site.  They will also talk about what their next steps should be.  At previous meetings, the Committee said they hope to have final recommendations ready to present to Ridgefield officials by the end of March. 

 

Tonight's meeting is 7:30 at Ridgefield Town Hall.

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Bethel Police Department accreditation reviewed

Bethel residents are getting a chance to weigh in on the Police Department's accreditation during a review of the agency.  The Bethel Police Department is scheduled for an on-site assessment as part of a program to achieve accreditation by verifying it meets professional standards. 

 

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies requires agencies to comply with state-of-the-art standards in four basic areas: policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services. 

 

As part of the on-site assessment, agency employees and members of the community can comment at a public information session being held in the Muncipal Center at 5:30 PM.  Agency employees and the public are also invited to offer comments by calling 203-744-7900 between the 2PM and 4PM. Comments will be taken by the Assessment Team.  Comments must address the agency’s ability to comply with CALEA’s standards.

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New Milford students return for new school year

New Milford students are back in school today for the start of a new year. 

 

A lot of work went into getting school buildings ready for a new year.  Floor to ceiling cleanings, the gym floors were re-sealed and all fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and the like were inspected and repaired as needed.  Work didn't just happen inside New Milford schools, crews replenished all of the playgrounds’ bark mulch to meet safety standards. 

 

In addition to routine summer maintenance, the district moved all furniture, equipment and other materials from John Pettibone School to other schools for current and future use.  The John Pettibone playground equipment was being dismantled and moved to Hill and Plain School, Northville Elementary and Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

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Danbury schools to implement programs aimed at building connections

A program, which Danbury officials hope to bring to the entire state, will help kids make connections with each other in school.  This fall at Danbury High School, the new initiative will be launched to improve school culture and reduce bullying incidents.  Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says the goal is to make DHS more welcoming to all students.

 

“No One Eats Alone” is a nationwide effort that encourages students to include those who are shy or isolated. Students are encouraged to reach out and make new friends and ask others to join them in eating lunch. The companion component of the initiative is “Say Something,” which takes it a step further by encouraging students to take a stand against social media bullying and isolating students.

 

The program grew out of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and has no cost.

 

Pascarella serves as President of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents and is encouraging all municipalities to implement this to improve school climates.  Through these programs, Pascarella hopes to create a more nurturing, compassionate environment where students can thrive.

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Landfill searched in investigation into missing Easton couple

As State Police continue to investigate the missing persons case of Jeffrey and Jeanette Navin of Easton, Detectives conducted a search of the Putnam Ash Residue Landfill.  The search has revealed no human remains at this point.  Police spokeswoman Trooper Kelly Grant says the Putnam Ash Residue Landfill was searched in an effort to rule it out as a possible location.  

 

The Navins haven't been seen since August 4th.  State

 

Police Detectives are conducting searches, gathering evidence, and following leads to determine the whereabouts of the Navin’s.  

 

State police searched their son's Bridgeport home this week.  Kyle Navin was the last person to talk to his parents, and neighbors have told reporters that he packed up his car and hasn't been seen in a few days.  

 

 

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Jeffrey and Jeanette Navin, or has any information, is asked to contact State Police at 860-685-8190.  All calls will be kept confidential.

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State, New Fairfield square off over safety at Squantz Pond

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is acknowledging that it makes sense to turn walkers away when the parking lot is full at Squantz Pond State Park.  New Fairfield officials raised concerns last week over pedestrian safety and swim safety. 

 

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain says right now they don't have any legal authority to stop people from walking in.  The agency would have to go to the standing Committee on Regulations and Review to get that approved. But he says it would be physically difficult to police the whole border area of the park to prevent people from walking in. 

 

There's a history of drownings at the park, 14 people in the last two decades, and First Selectman Susan Chapman says the previous administration worked hard to reverse that.  DEEP implemented a 250 car limit.  She believes that allowing unlimited walk-ins undermines the safety of the park.  She wants to keep the swim area safe.

 

Schain acknowledged that the parking was limited in order to have a manageable crowd, and walk-ins means there will be more people than planned for.

 

Another concern is pedestrian safety.  Route 39 is narrow, and there are no real shoulders on either side of the road.  People have been parking in local business lots and neighborhoods along the way, even walking about two miles from the Town Park to Squantz Pond.  In an effort to prevent that, New Fairfield has raised the parking fee at the Town Park for non-residents from $25 to $40.

 

Chapman was told that DEEP would be putting a new fulltime ranger in place this fall, but she notes that that doesn't help during the busiest season of the year.  Chapman says the person she spoke to at DEEP, whom she did not name, told her they cause this type of problem in other towns too, which she sees as the agency being out of touch with the problems they create.

 

Chapman has reached out to the state's legislative delegation.  They are in the process of setting up a meeting between officials to hash out the problems and potential solutions.  There was some help offered after the July 4th weekend, but Chapman says she hasn't seen the support back from DEEP like she did that weekend.

 

Another reason DEEP might want to try to prevent people parking elsewhere is that the fee charged at the park is only for vehicles, not walk-ins.  It's $13 for state residents on weekends and $9 on weekdays, plus tax.  Out of the state residents parking at the park pay $22 on weekends and $15 on weekdays, plus tax.

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Ground broken for Eureka Water Storage Tank in Bethel

After a six year stalemate between Bethel and Danbury, ground has been broken for a water tank near Long Ridge Road.  Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says a water storage tank is needed on town-owned land within Danbury city limits at Eureka Lake.  He says it's needed to handle what the state health department says is a water shortage in the downtown district.  The plans date back 10 years, but even as early as the 1960s there were plans to put a tank by the reservoir, but it never materialized.

 

The City's Planning Commission time and again denied the request saying the area is designated as scenic.   Bethel filed a lawsuit, but agreed to drop it last year when Danbury approved new plans to build the 750,000 gallon tank further into the woods.  Knickerbocker says that option is more costly than the original design, but less costly than going to an alternative site. That would have involved underground mains being moved and elevated tanks being constructed that could be seen for many miles.

 

Actual construction will begin in early September, and with a winter break, will be completed in the spring.  The tank will be fully operational by mid-summer 2016.  There will be no disruption to residents in the area because the water mains are already in place.  The lines will have to be extended to the tank, but that's on Bethel property.

 

Knickerbocker says this project will benefit Danbury residents because plans call for installing an active fire hydrant there.  He says the current nearest one is about a mile away.

 

No new industrial development can take place in Clarke Park because of the storage issue. It's a fragile system, sensitive to any kind of disruption. Knickerbocker says any kind of pressure change causes rust to dislodge.

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Malloy's chief of staff to temporarily oversee Regents board

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's outgoing chief of staff was appointed Friday to head Connecticut's Board of Regents for Higher Education, promising he'll listen to the concerns of college presidents, faculty, students and legislators around the state.

 

The panel voted unanimously to appoint Mark Ojakian as the temporary president of the board, for a term of up to two years. Created several years ago, the Board of Regents oversees four state universities, 12 community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College, which serve about 90,000 students. Ojakian will become the system's fourth president.

 

He is scheduled to begin his new job Sept. 28.

 

Ojakian's appointment comes a week after the current president, Gregory Gray, announced he was resigning, ending a rocky two-year tenure marked by no-confidence votes from faculty at many of the system's campuses.

 

Ojakian, who announced last month he planned to leave his job as Malloy's chief of state at the end of 2015, will earn up to $335,000 a year.

 

"I intend to go around the state, make myself known and listen, quite honestly," he said Friday. "I want to hear what the issues are that presidents, faculty and students have. And I want to work closely with members of the General Assembly to move, I think, that relationship forward."

 

State Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Kent, co-chairwoman of the legislature's Higher Education Committee, said Ojakian's lack of an education background may be a problem for some. But she said he has strong administrative expertise. Besides working as Malloy's chief of staff, Ojakian served 16 years as deputy state comptroller.

 

"The key to success here may not rest with traditional academic credentials and experience, but policy and administrative experience - which he has," she said.

 

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, the leading Republican on the legislature's Education Committee, said more needs to be done besides appointing Ojakian. She has questioned whether the Board of Regents concept still makes sense, contending major changes are needed regarding the system's organization and the board's role and authority.

 

"I hope that the Board of Regents does not consider today's decision to be the ultimate solution to the serious problems it has experienced," she said. "That would be unfair to Mr. Ojakian or to anyone whom the members might have appointed."

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Newtown Town Meeting leads to approval of funding for 3 items

Newtown residents have approved funding for a number of items.  $975,000 was approved to purchase new equipment for the fire department.  $400,000 of that would come from the capital nonrecurring fund with the balance being bonded.  $1.5 million to help complete the new Newtown Hook and Ladder fire headquarters was approved.  $5 million for remediation and demolition of some buildings on the Fairfield Hills campus also gained approval.  Those buildings include a greenhouse, a duplex known as 2 and 4 Washington Circle and also Canaan House--which was used for municipal offices until 2005.

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Danbury schools prepare for students return on Monday

Classes for Danbury students start on Monday.  Teachers have already been back at work, and Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says a convocation for all staff is being held today.  There are 70 new teachers in the Danbury district due to enrollment increases and some retirements. 

 

He says the district staff has been working diligently on repairs and improvements.  There was some working going on in various parking lots, interior painting being done and there are some walls going up because of added programs.  Pascarella says the High School entrance had some work done as well. 

 

Pascarella touted the integration of the newest sixth- to eighth-grade school, the Westside Middle School.  Entering it's second year, he says hands-on-learning is being integrated elsewhere to unify the three middle schools.  Pascarella says the district’s three middle schools are taking on projects that will prepare them for the rigors of high school, and there is now full day kindergarten running at all of the elementary schools.

 

A few buses have been added to accommodate full-day kindergarten programs and the increased enrollment.  With that has also come some redistricting and rerouting.

 

Pascarella says he is pleased that the city approved a $53 million plan to expand the high school by adding classrooms and conducting a facilities study of the Alternative Center for Excellence.  Pascarella says an addition at DHS will enable the district to handle growing enrollment, while being able to offer some of most progressive and challenging programs in the area.  The district is currently going through the process of choosing an architect for the DHS addition.

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Application period ends for Newtown Police Chief candidates

10 people have applied to be Police Chief in Newtown.  Chief Michael Kehoe announced earlier this summer that he plans to retire after nearly four decades with the department.  The Newtown Bee reports that the application period closed on Friday and nearly a dozen candidates will be vetted. 

 

The Police Commission and the First Selectman will be involved in the search committee process. 

 

There are several qualification requirements of the next chief including at least 15 years of law enforcement experience, some of which as a commander, and certification by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council.  The Bee reports that Newtown residency after appointment is preferred, a master's degree is recommended and FBI National Academy or equivalent training is desired.

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State lawmaker wants to run for Congress

A state lawmaker is setting his sights on Washington DC.  Redding state Representative John Shaban wants to be the Republican candidate for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by 4-term incumbent Democrat Jim Himes. 

 

Shaban made the announcement on his Facebook page by linking to a campaign contribution website. 

 

The Redding Representative says the federal government has become too involved in state issues, and sending only pennies on the dollar back to Connecticut.  He says during his time in Hartford, he's been able to demonstrate his ability to build consensus when needed, hold the line when necessary and holding on to his core beliefs.

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Eversource to use helicopter for aerial inspections

Eversource Energy will be conducting aerial inspections of its transmission lines.  Spokesman Frank Poirot says the twice-a-year inspection conducted with a helicopter helps to identify issues before they become problems which effect customers. 

 

Eversource’s infrared inspections will take place next week in Fairfield and Litchfield counties, weather permitting, between 7am and 5pm.  A blue Jet Ranger helicopter with a silver stripe will be used.

 

Poirot says overhead inspections of equipment, often located upwards of 100 feet in the air, help engineers detect potential problems in advance.  He says that allows the company to schedule necessary maintenance and upgrades before reliability issues arise.

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NY Gov courting GE to move to Westchester

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is courting Fairfield-based General Electric in an effort to persuade the company to move to Westchester County.  GE President Jeff Immelt said in an email to employees in June that as a result of the Connecticut 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. 

 

Cuomo met with top GE officials at the end of July to talk about possible incentives from his state.

 

Fairfield state Senator Tony Hwang says poor public policies have real life consequences.  Hwang says Connecticut needs to dramatically change its policies in order to be effective and conducive to business growth.

 

Hwang says this is not a partisan conversation, it's about economic reality.  He says there needs to be a dramatic change in policy at the state capital to stop the losing battle.

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State Police to take over search for missing Easton couple

State Police are taking over the missing persons case an the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of an Easton couple last seen on August 4th.  Easton Police say there is no indication foul play in the case of 55-year old Jeanette Navin and 56-year old Jeffrey Navin, who were reported missing by their family on August 7th. 

 

The couple lives on Staples Road in Easton, though one of their cars was found by State police on August 9th in a Westport commuter lot off Exit 42 of the Merritt Parkway.  Connecticut State Troopers secured the vehicle.  Easton Police requested the following day that detectives from the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad assist in the investigation.  On Wednesday, the Bridgeport States Attorney’s Office requested that the unit assume the missing persons investigation.

 

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detectives at 860-685-8190.  All calls will be kept confidential.

 

Jeannette Navin has worked for the Weston school district for nearly two decades, most recently as a paraprofessional in the Weston Intermediate School library.  Jeffrey Navin is president of J & J Refuse in Westport. 

 

Navin was taken to court by the former Connecticut Light & Power over a $138,000 debt.  An 8-year old foreclosure court case over a million dollar home in Guilford is still open.  According to the report, HSBC Bank filed foreclosure against Navin in 2007 over alleged failure to pay a $1.3 million mortgage.  The latest court action was filed in July when a judge denied Navin's attempt to reopen the case, and the debt stood at $2.2 million at the end of last year.

 

Easton Police Chief Tim Shaw said he couldn’t comment on their finances, although officers will be looking into that.  Shaw says the couple often travels, but it's unusual for them to be gone this long without notifying anyone.

 

The family addressed media reports about the couple's debt in a statement released last week saying authorities told them that funds in the couple's bank accounts haven't been touched.  The family denies the couple's disappearance is related to their more than $2 million in debt.

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Danbury Library erases fines in exchange for school supplies

During fine amnesty week last week at Danbury Library, more than 50 lost items were returned.  That means over $2,000 in fines were erased from people's accounts.  In exchange for waiving the fines, the Library asked that patrons bring in a school supply for each overdue item. 

 

All of the school supplies were donated to the United Way of Western Connecticut’s “Back to School Program”.  Three bins worth of school supplies were collected. 

 

(Photo: Danbury Library, Facebook)

 

This is the second year Danbury Library offered such a program.  Some people who didn't have fines also brought in donations.

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Top 500 high schools in USA ranked by Newsweek

The top 500 high schools in the country have been ranked by Newsweek.  15 Connecticut high schools are on that list.  It took into account average SAT scores, AP scores, graduation rates and college bound percentages among other criteria. 

 

Ranking highest in Connecticut is Weston High School at number 47 nationwide.  Weston has a 1784 average SAT score and 97.2 percent of students bound for college.

 

Ridgefield High School ranked 119 on the nationwide list.  Ridgefield has a 1754 average SAT score and 92.8 percent of students bound for college.

 

Newtown High School is listed at 308.  Newtown has a 1648 average SAT score and 90 percent of students bound for college.

 

Pomperaug High School in Southbury is ranked 374 by Newsweek.  Pomperaug has a 1622 average SAT score and 89.2 percent of students bound for college.

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Ridgefield Parking Authority to issue fewer 'all-day permits'

There are fewer all-day parking permits being issued by Ridgefield.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Parking Authority is only issuing 44 permits for the CVS parking lot instead of 60 so that more than a dozen spots are open for use by shoppers.  Property owners and merchants downtown requested the change to increase customer traffic.  Most of the all-day permits sold by the Ridgefield Parking Authority are reportedly used by employees of stores, offices and restaurants.  There is free parking at a municipal lot on Governor Street.

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UPDATED: 'Graffiti Bridge' Sandy Hook tribute painted over

The so-called Graffiti Bridge in Brookfield has been painted over.  The overpass at Junction Road and Route 133 hadn't been touched since shortly after 12-14 when the Brookfield High School Peer Counseling group painted a tribute to Sandy Hook. 

 

Brookfield Patch received a statement Housatonic Railroad Company saying that the company did not painted over the tribute on their infrastructure. 

 

“The last time Housatonic forces painted any part of this structure was approximately five years ago when we were called to paint over some offensive graffiti at the request of the town. We are honored to be a part of the communities through which we operate and we were saddened to learn that someone painted over this tribute.”

 

The bridge has traditionally been a place where Brookfield students have spray painted sports accomplishments, graduation messages and the like.  For nearly three years it reminded drivers to "Never Forget S.H.E.S.", with hearts and initials painted along the wall.

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Easton and Redding approve Barlow roof replacement, again

A second referendum about replacing the roof at Joel Barlow High School has been approved.  Funding for the project was approved in Redding by a vote of 329 to 82.  In Easton it was approved 131 to 20.  The vote on little more than a $1 million is the same amount approved by voters in Easton and Redding on May 5th, but due to technical errors, the vote was declared invalid by the Region 9 bond counsel.  

 

The Redding and Easton Town Clerks say the Region 9 Board of Education didn't submit the legal notice paperwork to them. 

 

Redding's share is about $555,000, while Easton is responsible for $486,000.  The 53 percent 47 percent break down is based on student population from each town.  

 

Work on the roof restoration has already begun. 

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Significant progress reported on improvements to Brookfield Town Park

A lot of progress has been made at Brookfield Town Beach on Candlewood Lake.  A major renovation is nearly completed.  The sand area is now three times larger.  There's also a new building with restrooms, changing areas and concessions. 

 

First Selectman Bill Tinsley says work does continue, with the basketball court being put in today.  Landscape work is almost finished.  The handicap-accessible walk is finished and all other walkways are in place.

 

Tinsley says there is some work to do at the end of the season.  The town plans to remove and replace the sand.  It's going to be about 50 truck loads of sand, so the service road will not be finished until that's done.  Tinsley says they don't want to put the road in and immediately ruin it.

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Brookfield Town Beach to reopen Wednesday, Sherman and New Fairfield closed

Brookfield Town Beach on Candlewood Lake is closed until Wednesday.  A statement on the Parks and Rec Department website says that a small area containing what is believed to be blue green algae required further testing before the local Health Department would allow swimming. 

 

First Selectman Bill Tinsley says the Health Director got word from the state Department of Public Health that the beach can reopen Wednesday.

 

The Candlewood Lake Authority tested the water at all five town beaches Tuesday.  Sherman and New Fairfield Town Beaches were closed pending results on algae blooms found in the water.  

 

(CLA Samples Water at Brookfield Town Park)

 

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says Kettletown State Park's swim area was closed Tuesday due to blue green algae.  Earlier this year, the swim area at Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield was closed for about a while laboratory tests were conducted to determine if there was any risk of toxic exposure to blue-green algae. 

 

The algae can emit toxins possibly harmful to people and dogs. 

 

The effects from exposure include a skin rash, nausea or even liver or nervous system effects if large amounts of the algae are ingested.  Algae exist naturally in Candlewood Lake, Squantz Pond and in other water bodies.  Not all algae are harmful, and typically occur naturally in lakes, rivers and ponds in mid-to-late summer.  

 

The Candlewood Lake Authority says it's difficult for those on the lake to determine which algae blooms are safe and which are harmful.  The only way to know for sure is through lab testing.

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Ex-Connecticut governor: prosecutors withheld evidence

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland's lawyer has filed a brief with a federal appeals court saying Rowland's convictions in political consulting schemes should be overturned, including an allegation that prosecutors withheld evidence favorable to the defense.

Attorney Andrew Fish filed the document Tuesday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. Fish previously disclosed the appellate arguments in court earlier this year.

Rowland was sentenced in March to 2.5 years in prison after being convicted of charges including conspiring to hide payments for work he did on the failed 2012 5th Congressional District campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley.

Fish says prosecutors failed tell the defense that Wilson-Foley said she believed Rowland was hired to do legitimate consulting work for her husband's health care company. Prosecutors deny withholding the information.

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Former Newtown state Rep. passes away at 91

Former Newtown State Representative Julia Wasserman has died at the age of 91.  The nine-term Republican state Representative passed away this morning. 

 

Wasserman was born in Germany and escaped the Nazis as a girl, eventually moving to the United States in 1957.  Wasserman served a decade on the Newtown Legislative Council, 13 years as an appointed to the state DEP Resource Conservation and Development Project and 10 years on the Newtown Conservation Commission.  She was appointed to the state Board of Pardons and Parole after retiring from the legislature.

 

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra says she is saddened by the news of Wasserman's passing, but notes that she was struggling with health issues over the past month.  Llodra is grateful the town had the opportunity to recognize her while she was still alive, with a celebration held in June. 

 

Listening to the many people who wanted to speak at the event, Llodra learned many things about Wasserman's extraordinary life of service.  She says Newtown has benefitted tremendously, from the very humble woman.  Wasserman's passion for conservation causes was highlighted during the tribute.  Beyond the "public Julia", Llodra says there were so many other pieces of her story.  She unofficially adopted a son from Uganda, sending him to UConn, giving him a better life. 

 

Wasserman is said to have lived a life of personal conviction to do good.

 

Llodra says there are many contributions that Wasserman made to Newtown, and to the state, so much so that a state road in Newtown has been named after her.  "Wasserman Way" leads to the Fairfield Hills Campus.  She has been cited as the architect and creator of the pact between the state and the town in acquiring the property.  She had input in developing the Master Plan, and Llodra says if it had not been for Wasserman's leadership, the town probably would not have the property as it exists today.

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal has released a statement about Wasserman's passing.  He called Wasserman an original.  An original thinker, rejecting stereotypes and partisanship seeking effective solutions with energy and insight.  Blumenthal says Wasserman was tireless in her dedication to public service and led an extraordinary life of caring, friendship and service to the community.

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Tree Removal draft ordinance tabled by New Milford Town Council

The Tree Warden made a presentation at the New Milford Town Council meeting last week.  The proposal would create a $250 per day fine for property owners who don't remove trees in town right-of-ways that have been deemed a danger.  Some Council members expressed concern with the fines, calling the amount punitive in nature. 

 

Mayor Pat Murphy suggested having a pamphlet or handbook on how to identify tree health, while a Council member suggested links on the town website. 

 

The Tree Warden told the New Milford Town Council that if he thinks the tree is a danger, he asks the Department of Public Works to take it down immediately, but this ordinance would put the burden of the cost on the property owner.

 

The ordinance was proposed when the Emerald Ash Borer was found in New Milford.  The beetle is a foreign pest that attacks native trees.  The tree warden told the council last month that the age of trees, new pests and the severity of recent weather events has created the perfect storm for the declining health of large trees.

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Connecticut's Board of Regents concept questioned

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The viability of Connecticut's Board of Regents for Higher Education is being questioned as its second leader in about four years announces plans to step down.

Wilton Rep. Gail Lavielle, the leading House Republican on the General Assembly's Education Committee, said Monday that lawmakers should be reassessing the board's role overseeing four state universities, 12 community colleges and the online Charter Oak State College.

Lavielle, who proposed a bill last session to scrap the board, said there's been ``one scandal after another'' and this marks a ``great opportunity to take a very serious look at the whole structure.''

Kent Rep. Roberta Willis, the Higher Education Committee co-chairman, said she understands Lavielle's frustration. However, she's hopeful a new president with Connecticut ties will put the system ``back on track.''

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Town Meeting, Public Hearing to be held in Newtown

Newtown is holding a special town meeting tonight prior to a public hearing and a Board of Selectmen meeting. 

 

Newtown residents are being asked to authorize $975,000 to purchase new equipment for the fire department.  $1.5 million is also on the Town Meeting agenda.  Residents are being asked to allocate that amount toward a new Newtown Hook and Ladder fire headquarters.  The last item on the agenda is $5 million for remediation and demolition of some buildings on the Fairfield Hills campus. 

 

The Town Meeting is at 7pm, followed by a 7:30pm public hearing about a proposed lease to The Newtown Parent Connection for use of buildings #2 and #4 Washington Circle on the Fairfield Hills property. 

 

The Board of Selectmen meeting will follow immediately after.

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Blumenthal visits Regional Hospice, Ability Beyond on Friday

While Congress is on August recess, Senator Richard Blumenthal has been touring the state.  On Friday he made stops in Danbury and in Bethel.  He visited Regional Hospice and Home Care in Danbury to meet with center leaders about their recent inclusion in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services's Medicare Innovation Model research program.

 

Regional Hospice was the only hospice/palliative care program in Connecticut to be awarded the program, Medicare Choices.  It will allow Medicare recipients to receive concurrent end-of-life and curative care and enable critical research on the impact of simultaneous care on quality of life.  Under the current system, patients can only receive Medicare benefits for separate palliative or curative care services.

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty visited the Danbury Center on July 31st to announce the initiative.

 

Blumenthal on Friday also visited Ability Beyond in Bethel. 

 

He was there to highlight what he says is a need for increased investment in developmental disability councils and programs.  The organization is dedicated to supporting mentally and physically disabled individuals in New York and Connecticut.  Their programs include job training and placement, supported living, and recreational and education opportunities.

 

Blumenthal says Republicans have proposed a $7 million funding cut for federal Developmental Disability programs for the 2016 fiscal year.  Blumenthal co-wrote a letter in March urging his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to support increased funding for Developmental Disability Councils.  He says these organizations provide increased access to housing, transportation, employment and other services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

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Marine sewage disposal projects eligible for grant money

Grant funding is being made available from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for the boat sewage disposal facility operation on Candlewood Lake and those in Long Island Sound.  Clean Vessel Act Program Coordinator Kate Brown says the $1 million is federal funding.  Brown says the program removed almost a million gallons of recreational boat sewage from Long Island Sound and Candlewood Lake in 2014.

 

Brown says DEEP has a partnership with Echo Bay Marina, which plans to install an offloading dock for the pumpout vessel, and a holding tank.  The waste in the holding tank will then be safely transported away by a septic hauler.

 

Up to 75 percent of the cost of an approved project may be reimbursed under the program.  Grant proposals must be received by Thursday afternoon to be considered eligible for this round of grant funding.

 

All recreational pumpout facilities in Connecticut are now offering free service to boaters.

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Danbury Mayor opposes new waste transfer station in City

Danbury officials don't see a waste transfer station proposal coming to fruition.  Even though a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Hearing Officer has recommended that a permit be issued, local approval for the proposal on Plumtrees Road is needed.  The facility is being sought by Joseph Putnam and MSW Associates LLC. 

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says Danbury already hosts one transfer station, and this would have an impact on quality of life in the area.  There is still a lawsuit pending in the court system by MSW against the City of the 2007 rejection by the Planning Commission of a smaller waste transfer station at the same site.  He says it's unlikely they'll change their position. 

 

Danbury, the Housing Authority, Housatonic Resource Recovery Authority and others have 15 days to file exceptions to the DEEP Hearing Officer's proposed decision. 

 

Boughton says part of Danbury's argument is that the City already hosts one such facility, and it's not really fair that other surrounding municipalities don't host waste transfer facilities.  He says a lot of City officials are tired of being dumped on when it comes to having people put their garbage in Danbury. 

 

In addition to that philosophical argument, there's a practical one.  There's no access to rail, the added wear and tear on the streets, increased truck traffic, litter and smell all come with hosting a large-scale waste transfer station.

 

It's estimated that there would be 260 round trips by trucks, and 28 by employees.

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President of Board of Regents college system to resign

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The president of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education has announced that he will resign effective Dec. 31, ending a rocky two-year tenure overseeing the state college and university system.

Gregory Gray submitted a brief resignation letter Friday morning to the Board of Regents president.

Gray said in a statement that the decision was ``purely a personal one'' made after months of consideration and discussions with his family. He didn't elaborate. He said he believes he and his staff have accomplished a ``great deal.''

The Board of Regents oversees the four Connecticut State University campuses, the state's 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College.

Faculty members at many of the system's campuses have voted no confidence in Gray. Complaints included shutting professors and students out of decision-making.

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Dragon Boat Races return to Candlewood Lake

The Candlewood Lake Authority's 7th annual Dragon Boat race is taking place today at Lynn Deming Park in New Milford.  Teams of 21 are competing in fast-paced races as a corporate team builder, renewed lake community rivalries and for sport. 

 

CLA Director of Education and Outreach Mark Howarth says this is the organization's annual fundraiser with proceeds going to lake preservation efforts. 

 

There are 18 races featuring three boats each.  The large boats, paddles and safety vests are all provided by the CLA.  The participants cover a wide range or age and fitness level. 

 

Shuttles are taking participants from the parking lot at New Milford High School to the town park and back. 

 

The opening ceremony is at 9am and the racing lasts through approximately 3pm.  During that time, there is a no-wake zone around the race area, and people can watch from their boats nearby.

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Small plane involved in minor accident at Danbury Airport

A plane made a hard landing at Danbury Airport Friday afternoon.  Assistant Airport Administrator Mike Safranek say a pilot overcompensated on landing and scraped the runway around 3pm.  The pilot was uninjured and able to walk away from the crash.  Emergency personnel responded as a precaution.  The pilot was the only person on board. 

 

The Federal Aviation Administration released the plane to the Airport.  FAA records show that the fixed wing Cessna has a corporate registration.  It's registered to Flying W Aircraft Sales Incorporated out of Lincolndale, New York in Westchester County.

 

Although the accident was minor, the plane sustained significant damage to the propeller, engine and at least one of the wheels.  The pilot's name wasn't released. Airport officials say he's an 83-year old from New York.

 

The runways reopened about 40 minutes after the accident.  Two jets were held on the alternate runway while an inspection was done.

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New security measures at Newtown Schools

New technology will be in place at the visitor desks at each of the Newtown Schools when classes start later this month.  The Raptor Visitor Management System is a web-based software will help track visitors location in the building.  A letter from the Superintendent to parents sent out Monday says this program will help control campus security by tracking visitors and electronically checking them against registered sexual offender databases. 

 

Raptor will replace most paper-based logs, monitor volunteer hours and produce visitor badges.  The old visitor badge was a generic one obtained at the security desk.  The new process will send visitors to the security desk, and their driver's license or ID card will be scanned.  The visitor's name, photo and destination or purpose of visit will be printed on a visitor badge. 

 

The Raptor system is currently in use in New Fairfield and New Britain.  It is also being installed in New Milford Schools.  Newtown School officials say they will continue to refine the new procedure during the school year to make adjustments as needed.

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June storm costs Ridgefield $100,000 in damage repairs

A June storm that knocked out power to about half of Ridgefield because of the severe wind cost the town about $100,000 in damage repair.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Board of Selectmen heard at their most recent meeting that wind of more than 90 miles an hour took down so many trees it took weeks to clean up.  Officials say all of that price tag, except about $3,000 in highway department overtime, went to clean up efforts.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi had declared a State of Emergency during the storm because of the road closures and the power outages.  The $100,000 will come from Ridgefield's General Fund surplus.

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Newtown Planning Commission gives go ahead to Sandy Hook fire house expansion

The Newtown Planning and Zoning Commission has given a stamp of approval to the site development plan of a proposed substation of the Sandy hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company.  During a public hearing last week, a presentation of the plans was made.  The fire company's main location is on Riverside Road, but they've outgrown the substation, located on Route 34.  The building constructed in the 1960s will be more than doubled to about 3,500 square feet.  The two new garage bays would be added to the rear of the building, with a fire engine moving into one bay and the other left open for any future equipment.  The old space in the building would be renovated for offices, bathroom facilities and a storage area.

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Proposed solid waste facility in Danbury gets positive DEEP recommendation

A new solid waste facility proposed for Danbury has cleared one hurdle. 

 

A Hearing Officer at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued a Proposed Final Decision recommending the DEEP Commissioner issue a permit allowing for the construction and operation of a solid waste facility at 14 Plumtrees Road in Danbury.  The Hearing Officer found that the proposed facility will have only minor impacts on traffic and no impact on the health of those living nearby. 

 

It's estimated that there would be 260 round trips by trucks, and 28 by employees.

 

A permit application was sent to DEEP in 2011, and a public hearing was held about it in Danbury in May 2014.  The application was seeking a permit for accepting up to 800 tons per day of household waste, recyclables and construction or demolition debris.  That material would be consolidated and processed on site before being taken away.

 

MSW Associates, LLC, and Joseph Putnam proposed replacing the existing auto-body shop on the 2.5 acre property.

 

MSW is currently suing the City over the Planning Commission's 2007 denial of his application to construct a waste transfer station at that site.  The permit application before DEEP is for a larger facility than the one proposed to local officials.

 

In addressing issues raised during the proceedings on this matter, the Hearing Officer determined there is sufficient room for vehicles waiting to deliver waste to the proposed facility to queue on-site and off the traveled portion of Plumtrees Road.  The Hearing Officer also found that all processing, and most storage, of waste will be indoors, ensuring that vectors such as insects, rodents and birds are not attracted by the proposed facility.  The facility has been designed and proposed to operate in a manner to minimize noises that could disturb neighbors of the proposed facility.   

 

Some modifications were made to the proposal by the Hearing Officer.  One is that trucks delivering waste can not arrive at the facility before 6:45 AM.  Trucks arriving between 6:45 AM and 7:00 AM must queue on-site in the space available on the Facility’s driveway.   No backing by trucks equipped with backing alarms would be permitted before 7:00 AM.

 

This recommended condition of approval will ensure that trucks do not queue on Plumtrees Road in the hours before the proposed facility can begin accepting waste and clarifies that trucks may not being arriving at the proposed facility before 6:45 AM.  If more trucks than can queue on-site arrive before 7:00 AM, it will be the responsibility of the operator of the proposed facility to turn those trucks away. 

 

The City of Danbury, the Housing Authority, Housatonic Resource Recovery Authority and others have 15 days to file exceptions to the proposed decision. 

 

The DEEP Commissioner will then issue the final decision of the Department.

 

The proposed facility is in the Ward that City Councilman Tom Saadi represents.  He says he and area residents will continue to fight this proposal.  He supports responsible businesses and corporate neighbors who create jobs without negatively impacting the area.  From a matter of policy and constituent services, he plans to use all available legal and legislative procedural measures to oppose the project.

 

Over the past eight years, residents have opposed the project and spent hours at public hearings.  Saadi wants to see the area protected, meaning that City officials make sure people follow land use rules and regulations, and that onerous projects are opposed.

 

Saadi says municipal approvals are still required.  Local zoning and land use review will be part of the procedure going forward.

 

Arguments against the proposed facility include that the heavy trucks will cause noise, vibrations and emissions when accessing the site, during loading and unloading of waste, dropping and picking up of containers as well as when queuing or idling at the weight scale.  City officials cited the quality of life of the residential developments located along Payne Road, Plumtrees Road, Shelter  Rock Road as well as the low income housing development that abuts the proposed facility.

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Danbury still working to find vendor to bring free Wi-Fi to downtown

Research is still underway in Danbury about bringing free Wi-Fi to the downtown area.

 

During his State of the City address in December, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton proposed installing free Wi-Fi in the downtown area.  Coupled with that proposal is one to switch out the lights on Main Street to LED bulbs.  Boughton said at the time that it could cost up to $3 million to purchase the light poles from Eversource Energy, formerly Connecticut Light & Power.  He hopes the energy savings from the new bulbs will offset the cost of a new amenity.

 

Boughton noted that it would be too cost prohibitive to offer free Wi-Fi throughout the City, but that in targeted business corridors and the downtown revitalization zone makes sense.  He pointed to students at Naugatuck Valley Community College being able to use the signal, along with people waiting for restaurant reservations.

 

Boughton hopes the amenity will attract businesses to the area and be a draw for residents.

 

He says the City should have more solid information in the next 3 to 4 months.

 

Plainville, Connecticut is in the process of switching to LED and offering free Wi-Fi.

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Town of Orange reconsiders gun show approval

Officials in the Town of Orange are reconsidering approval of a two-day gun show to be held at their Community Center.  The New Haven Register reports that several residents of Orange spoke out at the Board of Selectmen meeting last night questioning the reason behind last month's decision, and expressing concerns. 

 

One woman referenced the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook School saying that the aftermath is still too sharp a memory for many. 

 

The gun show is slated to be a fundraiser for American Legion Post 127.  The issue, which was not on last night's agenda, will be addressed September 9th at Orange Town Hall.

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Health Department responds to lawmaker questions about Planned Parenthood

A series of controversial undercover videos at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country prompted an inquiry from Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan into whether clinics in Connecticut donate tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. 

 

The state Department of Public Health issued a letter to McLachlan saying that based on documentation the agency collected, it found Planned Parenthood clinics in Connecticut do not participate in such donation programs.  The Department said in its letter that all tissue sent from the clinics to outside laboratories for a pathologist to examine it--is in compliance with state regulations. 

 

McLachlan has also called on State Attorney General George Jepson to investigate Planned Parenthood.  Jepsen has responded that purchase or sale of body parts for therapy is a misdemeanor and his office doesn't have the authority to investigate criminal misdemeanors .  He instead referred McLachlan to the Chief State's Attorney and other law enforcement agencies.

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British vet walking USA to raise awareness of PTSD

A British Army veteran is walking across the United States to bring awareness to combat-related post traumatic stress disorder and as a fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Project.  Neil Davis started in Cape Cod and plans to walk all the way to California.  Last night, Davis stopped in Danbury for the night.  He walked 31 miles from Thomaston, through Southbury and Newtown and municipalities in between. 

 

Davis plans to walk mostly along Route 6 and Route 66 for the more than 3,000 mile trek spanning 15 states.  He served two decades in the army and worked as a contractor for the U-S Defense Department in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Davis said on his Facebook page that he's lost many friends along the way--those who never made it home and those who did come home, but had slipped into some dark times.

He cited an organization in the UK called Combat Stress which deals exclusively with veterans mental health. The youngest soldier treated is 19, the oldest is 101. On average, he was told it takes a soldier 13 years to come forward to seek help.

 

Davis joked that he needed to tell the US Embassy in London his route because "they will definitely want to know the route as they can't have some mad Scotsman wandering through their country and not know where he is :-)".

His mission is simple: he wants to help those that need help but maybe too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for it.  He ended by saying that the men and women who did make it home, but still find themselves in combat every day, are not broken - just damaged.

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Rusted water tank in Bethel slated for demolition

An eyesore in Bethel is being dismantled.  Contracts have been signed by Bethel officials to take down an old water tank.  The structure on Hickok Avenue hasn't been used in decades because of an engineering and design flaw.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says it's been sitting on a hill rusting for many years.

 

The tank is on town-owned land and near a property Bethel purchased last fall between Maple and Hickok Avenues.  Knickerbocker says once the tank comes down, the property could be turned into an area for passive recreation.  That nearly 13 acre property is a steep and environmentally sensitive piece of land that Knickerbocker says the town wanted to save from development.

 

Work is expected to start at the end of this month and be wrapped up before winter.

 

Knickerbocker says the Hickok Avenue parcel purchased by the town is steep and environmentally sensitive. 

 

Various developer proposals over the years have been rejected because of the endangered species nearby.  But he says a proposal for affordable housing, which could overrule local zoning regulations, was presented to the town so Bethel took action.  Knickerbocker says it would require a significant amount of blasting, hundreds of trees would be removed and it would create a traffic nightmare for the winding road leading up to the site.

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Conn. Congressional delegation backs funding request for rail improvements

A $12 million request has been made to the Federal Transportation Administration by Connecticut to match the $18 million the state has pledged to make infrastructure upgrades.  Connecticut's two U.S. Senators along with Congress members Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty are backing the request to design and construct a new dock yard in Norwalk for Metro North's Danbury Branch.  Esty says some of the funding will also go toward replacing the 119 year old Walk Bridge, which got stuck in the open position a couple of times recently.

 

Esty says the improvements will provide long-term benefits of operational flexibility, on-time performance and increased capacity on the Danbury Branch.  She says this core capacity improvement project will add sidings and extended electrification on the southern end of the Danbury branch.

 

Esty notes that as a member of the Transportation Committee, she will make the case directly to the Secretary of Transportation.

 

The state Department of Transportation says if funding is approved, the project could be completed by August, 2017.

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Schlumberger Committee doesn't want restricted access to the site

The Schlumberger Citizens Committee continues its work to determine what the remaining town-owned property in Ridgefield should be used for.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the police commissioners have recommended that access to the property off Sunset Lane be restricted to only emergency vehicles, but the Committee says that would diminish the utility and the value of the 30 acres. 

 

The Planning and Zoning Commission told The Press a decision on access can wait until a use of the property has been decided. 

 

The concern by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Police Commission is the intersection of Sunset Lane and Prospect Street, and the potential volume of traffic that would cut through a residential neighborhood.

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Bethel authorizes $182,000 tax refund to Redding, Region 9 in bus dispute

An issue between Bethel and the Redding and Region 9 Boards of Education dating back to 2011 has been resolved.  The Bethel Tax Assessor was charging the Boards $55,000 for parking 45 buses at the depot on Durant Avenue.  At the Bethel Board of Selectmen meeting last week, members approved the Tax Collector's request for a tax refund totalling $182,733 dollars to the Region 9 and Redding Boards of Education for three years worth of vehicle property tax and interest.

 

School official said when they used First Student, the fleet was leased.  Bethel taxed the leasing company.  The Boards switched to DATTCO, bought the fleet, and Bethel taxed the Boards.  But they argued they are tax exempt.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says this form of lease-ownership hadn't been tried before, and will probably cause towns across the state to restructure their school buses leases. 

 

The Bethel Board of Assessment Appeals denied their exemption request.  The matter then went to Superior Court.  A judge did not rule in Bethel's favor. 

 

Under the decision issued June 26th, the judge considered two issues.  Who owned the school buses garaged in Bethel, and whether the Boards of Education were exempt from personal property tax. 

 

Bethel argued that the buses were owned by DATTCO or TD Equipment Financing Incorporated based on interpretation of a Lease Purchase Agreement.  The Boards countered that it was a financing agreement in order to purchase the buses.  The Judge said that Bethel couldn't point to any document that would show the buses were purchased by TDEF from the vendors, and since Bethel was not a party to the Lease Agreement, couldn't speak about the intent.

 

Knickerbocker says by changing the language on the registration documents, the Boards thought they would escape the local tax.  Knickerbocker says the Assessor did the right thing, but this changes leasing for municipal purposes across the state.

 

The ruling says a tax exemption applies to Boards of Education since they fulfill a public purpose required by state statute to transport children to and from school regardless of where the buses are garaged.

 

Knickerbocker called it a landmark case.

 

He says the General Fund balance is healthy, and this won't create a problem.  But he notes that this will have to be reconciled within the overall budget at the end of the year.

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Bridgewater awarded grant for pilot program

Several area communities are receiving state grant money from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for recycling programs.  In total, $45,000 in state grant money is being awarded.  The funding is being used to enhance local waste reduction, reuse, and recycling programs. 

 

Bridgewater is receiving about $3,000 for a pilot program.  The town is the first municipality to have a curbside organics collection program.  DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain says the pilot program has been running for 16 months.

 

Residents can put out food and yard waste in containers that get picked up separately from trash and recyclable materials.  Schain says organic materials make up about a third of the waste stream, and could be used for other purposes so it doesn't pay to be treated like solid waste.

 

The towns of Salisbury and Sharon are sharing a nearly $7,000 grant for a school recycling and composting program. 

 

DEEP has a goal of reducing the volume of trash that must be disposed of by doubling the state’s recycling rate to 60% by 2024.  The agency also wants to reclaim more materials of value from the waste stream.

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Danbury Library offers patrons chance to erase fines

Danbury Library is offering patrons with late fees a chance to get them off their record.  Through Saturday, Danbury Library is allowing patrons to “Erase Away Your Fines”.  Library customers who have accumulated overdue fines for 1 day, 10 days or 10 years are able to return items and bring along a school supply for each overdue item. 

 

The fines will then be “erased” from the account.  The program does not apply to items that have been lost or damaged. 

 

All of the school supplies will be donated to the United Way of Western Connecticut’s “Back to School Program”. 

 

This is the second year Danbury Library is offering such a program.  Officials say this benefits the community and helps get materials returned.  Last year, people who didn't have fines also brought in donations.

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Blumenthal, WCSU professor discuss social and emotional learning concept

Senator Richard Blumenthal is hosting a discussion on the importance of social and emotional learning within schools.  Western Connecticut State University Professor Dr Chris Kukk and child development agencies are participating in the series of discussions, the first held today in Norwalk. 

 

The concept was introduced in a bill in Congress in April named for one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School.  The idea was brought to Blumenthal by Scarlett Lewis, in honor of her son Jesse, to address how children learn to recognize and manage emotions, make responsible decisions and handle interpersonal situations effectively.

 

The Every Child Achieves Act, which passed both the House and the Senate earlier this summer and is now in conference.

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Easton couple reported missing, car found abandoned

Easton police are searching for a missing couple who recently moved to town from Weston.  55-year old Jeanette Navin and 56-year old Jeffrey Navin were reported missing by their family on Friday, having last been seen on August 4th.  The couple lives on Staples Road in Easton, though one of their cars was found by State police Sunday in Westport off Exit 42 of the Merritt Parkway.  Jeannette Navin has worked for the Weston school district for nearly two decades, most recently as a paraprofessional in the Weston Intermediate School library.  Anyone with information about the missing couple is asked to call Easton Police at 203-268-4111.

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Sandy Hook School construction forges ahead

More progress is being made on constructing the new Sandy Hook School.  Work that's slated to be done this month on the new Sandy Hook School includes completing the roof of Wing A and begin roofing Wing B.  Interior masonry walls in Wings C and D are also slated to start going up. 

 

 

The work is being done in six phases, with actual construction, playgrounds and fixtures and furnishing still on the schedule.  Photos of the construction show significant progress on the gymnasium and the roof deck for Wing D.

 

 

The building is on target to be open and ready for use for the 2016-2017 school year.

 

(Photos: sandyhook2016.com)

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Republican primary to be held in Bethel First Selectman race

Petition signatures have been presented to Bethel officials by Republican Town Committee Chairman Will Duff in his effort to force a Republican Primary for First Selectman.  Duff, a former Selectman and the First Selectman candidate two years ago, is a current member of the Board of Education.  149 petition signatures were needed in order for a primary to be held, and Duff says he's submitted more than 200.

 

The party-endorsed candidate is Planning & Zoning Chair Pat Rist.  The primary will be held September 16th.  Typically votes are held on Tuesdays, but because of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, the vote will be held on a Wednesday. 

 

Either Duff or Rist will then face off against three-term Democratic incumbent First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker.

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New Milford considers tax deferral, tree removal ordinance

A public hearing is being held in New Milford tonight about a proposed tax deferral ordinance revision.  It's for abatement of assessment increases.  The property must be outside the village center and used for manufacturing or distribution, or retail, restaurant or mixed use building in the village center district, or one of the following businesses: IT, digital media, health care, biotechnology or clean energy business.  The property must be a qualified brownfield. 

 

There is a standard offer currently in the ordinance, and the proposal is to change the language so that in all cases, the New Milford Town Council will be able to set the abatement level and the duration based on qualifying factors.  Those factors are also outlined in the current ordinance language.

 

The public hearing is at 7pm in Town Hall, and will be followed by the Town Council regular meeting.

 

The New Milford Town Council is taking up a number items tonight.  One is how to pay for the replacement of the Schaghticoke Middle School roof.  The issue goes back almost a year when it was found that the insulation in the roof was wet and could lead to decay.  PCBs were found in caulking around a skylight, and determined not to be an issue until disturbed through construction. 

 

The New Milford Board of Education voted earlier this year to pass the item to the Town Council. 

 

A new ordinance about trees will also be discussed by the Tree Warden.  The original proposal would create a $250 per day fine for property owners who don't remove trees in town right-of-ways that have been deemed a danger.  The ordinance was proposed because the Emerald Ash Borer beetle is now being found in New Milford.  It's a foreign pest that attacks native trees.  The tree warden told the council last month that the age of trees, new pests and the severity of weather events has created the perfect storm for the declining health of large trees. 

 

Some New Milford Town Council members expressed concern with the fines at the last meeting and tabled the issue to tonight. 

 

The meeting is set for 7:30 in Town Hall.

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Danbury continues to pursue state designation for regional fire training school

Most of the state-designated regional fire training schools in Connecticut are being renovated through a state bond project.  That means Danbury is the only school in this part of the state with an operating burn building at the moment.  Assistant Fire Chief Mark Omasta says even though about 30 departments use the Plumtrees Road facility, Danbury still doesn't have the state designation.

 

A bill was signed by the Governor in 2011 clearing the way to have Danbury become the 10th regional fire training school.  The process is ongoing.

 

At that time, state Representative Jan Giegler said having a consistent, uniform training curriculum will benefit all area towns during mutual aid responses during an emergency.  The Danbury delegation also argued that the designation will meet the training needs of many area towns, providing communities with the highly trained fire protection personnel they deserve. 

 

Many required programs could be presented locally, saving travel costs and time.  The city renovated the Plumtrees Road building in 2005, and another renovation is underway to expand the classroom facility.

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Brookfield residents approve grant acceptance, more funding for greenway

Brookfield residents have accepted little more than $798,000 in state grant money for roadway and streetscape improvements at the Four Corners.  The handful of residents at a Town Meeting last week voted in favor of the work at the intersection of Routes 202 and 25. 

 

First Selectman Bill Tinsley says pedestrian and bicycle improvements will be made, as well as traffic signaling and roadway geometry.  He says the work hasn't started yet.  Despite the state granting the money to do the project, Brookfield isn't able to start until the Department of Transportation approves the plans.  Those plans have been in front of the DOT since last September.  Tinsley says they are in the fourth pass of the review process, and a local group will meet with the DOT this week to push the approval. 

 

No local match is required.

 

Additional funding for an 8,500 foot multi-use trail was also approved.  The Still River Greenway project is being paid for, in part, through state and federal grants.  The planning for this project started 14 years ago. 

 

Last June, a referendum led to approval of $2.47 million.  The state DOT is paying $1.9 million of that, with the $481,400 balance coming from the Town of Brookfield.  The number was based on a DOT estimate.  Final contracts exceeded the estimates, and 80% will still be funded by the state.  An additional $396,000 was approved at the Town Meeting.  Total bonding for the project is set at about $560,000.

 

The pedestrian trail will run from Route 133 at Juntion Road stretching to Route 202 at the Four Corners.  Tinsley says the construction has started on the road bed.  In just one week, they've done from the northern terminus to the point where a bridge will go across the river by the police station. 

 

One man at the Town Meeting spoke in opposition to the funding, saying that the trail amounts to a glorified sidewalk.  Having just built the Fund Balance back up, the resident said bonding has to stop, doing only what the town can afford.

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'Tax free' week exemptions on clothing, footwear lower than previous years

“Tax Free Week,” is coming up, just as parents get ready for back to school shopping. Between August 16th through the 22nd, clothing and footwear costing less than $100 per item will not be subject to  Connecticut’s 6.35 percent sales tax.  Unlike previous years, the exemption has been substantially reduced from items costing less than $300.  Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher blames massive tax hikes included in the budget approved at the end of June.

 

Sales tax is calculated after the use of any coupons or discounts, so if the final price is less than $100, the sale is exempt from taxes. Clothing or footwear under $100 put on layaway is also tax-free.

 

Boucher says this is a significant savings considering that families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend, on average, $630 on back-to-school shopping.  The average college student and their families, on the other hand, plan to spend approximately $899.

 

Goods not covered under the program include, but are not limited to, clothing or footwear specifically designed for athletic activities and accessories. Football cleats, specialty boots for fishing, hiking, skiing and other activities, as well as wet suits, helmets and headbands, etc are NOT exempt.  Accessories like jewelry, handbags, luggage, umbrellas, wallets, watches and more are also still subject to sales tax.

 

People can also donate school supplies to those in need. 42 locations in the state, including two in the Greater Danbury area, participate in the school supply donation program.  The Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut in Brookfield accepts donations of new children's books, office equipment/supplies, recreational equipment, school supplies and toys.  The Harambee Center for Youth and Community Services accepts donations of building materials, office equipment, recreational equipment, school supplies, and toys.

 

30 schools in the Bridgeport, Danbury, Derby, Middletown, New Haven, and Stratford school districts currently offer services through the Connecticut Food Bank's Kids' BackPack Program to provide children in need with nutritious, kid-friendly, shelf-stable and ready to eat with little or no cooking that is distributed discreetly at school at the end of each week.  School staff is responsible for identifying students in need and for determining the best method of distributing the food to eligible children.

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General Assembly leaders reject idea of so-called mileage tax

Leaders of the General Assembly's majority party have rejected the idea of a so-called mileage tax.  Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, both Democrats, say the idea discussed by the Governor's Transportation Finance Panel is a non-starter.  The panel was tasked by Governor Malloy of coming up with ways to pay for his $100 billion, 30 year transportation improvement plan. 

 

Both Wilton Senator Toni Boucher and Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan spoke out last week in opposition to the idea of taxing people based on how many miles they drive. 

 

Boucher called it even more of an an invasion of a person's privacy than an EZpass, which records where you pay a toll.  She compared the proposal to the gas tax, a consumption-based tax, which she says is already a double tax since there are two taxes levied on each gallon of gasoline sold in the state.

 

McLachlan says Connecticut should "stop spending money foolishly" so that there is money for repair roads.  He says he'd prefer ideas to better allocate the money that's already coming in to the state.

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Lion King Jr being staged in Newtown this weekend

Today and tomorrow are the final days to catch the regional premier of Disney's The Lion King Junior, being staged at Newtown High School.  NewArts: Newtown Musicals Artistic Director Michael Unger says the theme of this year's show selection is everyone makes a difference. 

 

Unger says Disney has "junior versions" of their popular titles, geared to middle and high schools.  Some scenes and songs have been cut so the show is an hour long, rather than two hours. 

 

The cast features 120 Newtown area students between the ages of 5 and 13.  30 additional Newtown students worked on the set, prop and costume construction, are running the lighting and sound, as well as the orchestra. 

 

Performances are Saturday at 2 and 7pm, and Sunday at noon and 5pm.

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Emergency management official backs HeadStart expansion into War Memorial

Danbury officials this week authorized a public hearing to be held about accepting $498,000 from the state for improvements to the War Memorial and to lease some of the interior space to the Connecticut Institute for Communities for three new HeadStart classrooms.  War Memorial Board of Trustees member Chick Volpe says this would be a financial aid to the organization, because they are operating at a deficit.

 

A date for the hearing has not yet been scheduled.

 

The facility is currently operated as a gym, emergency shelter and gathering space for veterans.  Director of the Office of Emergency Management for Danbury, Paul Estefan says the shelter would not be effected by the HeadStart proposal.  The shelter is run from the gym.  If more room is needed, they use space upstairs.

 

Estefan says this is the only building in Danbury that will withstand winds in excess of 100 mph.  The roof is all concrete, and the state just issued a grant to the War Memorial for repair work.

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Weston Library to be upgraded, state grant approved

More than a quarter million dollars in state funding is coming to Weston for renovations the town's library.  A $25,000 state grant will be used to resolve some handicap accessibility issues at the facility, and also to bring some features up to code.  The state Bond Commission approved the funding at their most recent meeting.  The entire renovation project at Weston Library is costing about $1 million.  Most of the balance is being paid for by money left to the Library in the will of a Weston resident.  The work is scheduled to begin in the spring.

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Southbury awarded FEMA funds for 9 flood-prone properties

Little more than a million dollars is coming to Southbury to buy land and homes in a flood-prone area of town.  A grant award, made through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, will pay for the acquisition and demolition of nine properties in a flood-prone area of Southbury. The properties were damaged in 2011 by three major flooding events in just half a year's time. Each house suffered flooding above the first floor elevation, resulting in property damage, ground erosion, loss of personal belongings, and structural damage to the houses. The grant will allow the area to be designated as open space along the Pomperaug River.

 

The first flooding event happened in March 2011 when the Pomperaug River overflowed from snow melting, rains and the spring thaw.  The second event, Tropical Storm Irene, occurred in August, followed a month later by Tropical Storm Lee. First responders had to help evacuate residents from the rising flood waters.

 

Of the $1,086,546, $415,007 was already awarded by FEMA to the town in March 2015 for four of the properties on Flood Bridge Road. The town has already begun the work with respect to the four properties.  The remaining five properties were tied up in FEMA’s environmental/historic preservation review, which  was recently completed.  FEMA funding is paying for 75% of the project.

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal says removing the homes is the best course of action for public safety, the environment, and for taxpayers.  He applauded Southbury officials for their proactive leadership.

 

First Selectman Ed Edelson says this grant will enable the town to help homeowners and the environment at the same time while saving the Federal Government money in the long run due by removing these houses from the Flood Plain.

 

Once the properties are acquired and razed, the land will be designated as open space and will become part of the Pomperaug River Greenway. One of the properties is adjacent to Cedarland Park, a small “pocket park” in the neighborhood.

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Sherman family hosts blood drive to honor daughter

A Sherman family is hosting a blood drive Saturday in honor of their 13-year old daughter who died of complications from Aplastic Anemia.  Julia's Wings Foundation is named for Julia Malsin, who passed away three years ago.  Her grandmother, Doris Clark says scientists still don't know what the cause of Aplastic Anemia is, but it affects the bone marrow.  Those diagnosed with the disease can no longer make blood cells or platelets.  

 

Julia's Wings Foundation and The Holiday Point Association are hosting the blood drive.  Holy Trinity Church is located at the intersection of Routes 37 and 39 in Sherman.  The blood drive is from 8am to 12:45pm.

 

The organization helps families financially by making mortgage payments or paying electric bills so they can stay with the child while they're in the hospital and not have to worry about missing work.  She says Julia was adamant that everyone have someone at the hospital with them.  He mother stopped work for a year to be with Julia.

 

The Foundation has helped 11 families with children with Aplastic Anemia.  There is also a fund going for research into the disease.

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Newtown Police Commission supports body cameras for officers

The Newtown Police Commission is backing the idea of using body cameras.  The Newtown Bee reports that at the Commission meeting on Tuesday night, members said that equipping the department would be a good idea and would likely exonerate police in the vast majority of contested cases. 

 

Some issues that have come up for other departments using the cameras include the lens being blocked, depth perception challenges and privacy concerns. 

 

Newtown currently has dashboard cameras in police cruisers.  The Department has 45 officers, 43 of whom are represented by the Newtown Police Union, which opposes the use of body cameras. 

 

The state General Assembly took up the matter during the recently completed session and will offer grants to local departments to purchase body cameras.

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Ridgefield Parks & Rec says Martin Park beach safe

After some Ridgefield residents said their children fell in following visits to Martin Park Beach, the Ridgefield Parks and Recreation Department issued a statement on their website that says the swim area is safe. 

 

Aqua Environmental Lab conducted three tests on three different days and it has tested negative for E. coli bacteria.  The last test was done on Tuesday.  The Parks Department continued by saying that the Health Department alerted them there is a virus going around in the area, but is not related to Martin Park beach. 

 

The Ridgefield Press reports about two dozen children fell ill last Wednesday, running fevers and vomiting.  No adults or lifeguards reported becoming sick.

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Chief: Danbury Police going through time of transition, down about 20 members

The length of timer police officers are off the streets due to a variety of reasons has been questioned by a Danbury City Council member.  One Tuesday night, Tom Saadi said it seems in the report to City officials this month that there is a a larger than usual differential of sworn personnel and the department's effective strength.

 

The Danbury Police Department has 144 sworn personnel and an effective strength of 124.

 

The 20 members are out on injury leave, light duty or military leave, some are at the Training Academy and others are participating in field training.  Police Chief Al Baker told the City Council Tuesday night that the injury leave depends on the amount of rehab needed.

 

The training is a longer absence, as many as 24 weeks.  Field training then takes 15 weeks.

 

There are two groups of people going through the academy now, one is a group of five people who are ready to graduate.  The other group started the academy about a month ago.

 

Baker says the agency is also going through a time of transition right now.  Every month they've come before the Council with promotions.  There have been seven retirements so far this year.

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Major policy shift implemented by Dorothy Day House

As discussion about the Dorothy Day Hospitality House continues in Danbury, and the appropriateness of it on Spring Street, the no-questions asked charity is working to resolve land use issues and make other changes.  Mayor Mark Boughton received a communication from Dorothy Day on Monday about how the organization that helps the homeless will improve their community relations. 

 

The soup kitchen and emergency shelter has room for meals to be served to 30 people, and beds for 16. 

 

They agreed to temporarily hire a security agency for out front of the facility from 6pm to 10pm.  Dorothy Day has also agreed to a system of pledge cards that each guest will sign relating to behavior inside and outside the facility.  Their name and photograph will be included on the pledge card.

 

Boughton calls it a major shift in policy.  He says they have heard the concerns, and in the short term this should help calm some of the behaviors that raised those concerns.  Boughton acknowledged that they still have more work to do, especially when it comes to the permitting process.

 

Dorothy Day is in the process of applying to the Danbury Planning Commission for a special permit to keep operating after it was discovered last month that there is currently no valid permit.  The 30-year old issue was uncovered amid neighbor complaints and concerns. 

 

The Danbury Planning Commission gave Dorothy Day permission to operate in 1983, but only for a year.  A one year renewal was then granted, but they stopped updating the permit in 1985.  Since then, fire and health department inspections were conducted, but there wasn't a permit in place.

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Newtown Planning and Zoning Commission to address several items

A public hearing is being held in Newtown Thursday night about a proposed expansion of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company's substation on Route 34.  The fire substation proposal is to expand the current facility on Berkshire Road from about 1,500 square feet to more than 3,500 square feet.  The substation was built in the 1960s, and is no longer large enough for the unit. 

 

The expansion of two garage bays is planned for the back of the building on the nearly 2.5 acre property.  The current facility would then be retrofitted.  The Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company's main facility is located on Riverside Road. 

 

$375,000 in town funding would pay for the expansion, subject to voter approval at a town meeting.

 

Aquarion Water Company has proposed a water pumping station on a half acre lot the utility owns at 350 South Main Street.  The property is located near the Monroe town line.  The company says in their special permit application that the water pumping station would transfer water from the supply system in Monroe to the system in Newtown on an "as needed" basis. 

 

The Newtown Board of Selectmen has referred three items to the Planning and Zoning Commission.  There are two special appropriations, each in the amount of $300,000, for the planning, design and construction of improvements to the Edmond Town Hall building and to CH Booth Library. 

 

The other referral is a special appropriation in the amount of $3.6 million for the planning, design and construction of improvements of Newtown High School auditorium.

 

The meeting  is at 7:30pm at the Newtown Municipal Center.

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Avielle Foundation to run Spark Project pilot program in Newtown schools

The Newtown Board of Education has signed off on a pilot program run by the Avielle Foundation known as Spark Project.  The Newtown Bee reports that approval was given at the Board meeting last Thursday for the Spark Project  to be run during the upcoming school year in the 3rd and 4th grades. 

 

The initiative is aimed at developing social-emotional learning, leadership and compassion skills.

 

The Avielle Foundation is named for Avielle Richman, one of the children killed on 12-14.  Her parents, Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are both scientists and created the Foundation to figure out why violent events happen and how they can be stopped. 

 

The Foundation has partnered with groups including 3C Institute and Personalized Learning Games to create a "Train the Trainer" model to ensure the effort is cost effective and sustainable.

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Women's Center awarded grant from Fairfield County Community Foundation

A $20,000 grant has been awarded to the Women's Center of Greater Danbury.  The money will be used for the free and confidential services offered by the center for domestic violence services, sexual assault services and other resources. 

 

The funding comes from the Fairfield County Community Foundation's Fund for Women and Girls. 

 

The Women's Center served nearly 26,000 residents during fiscal year 2014.  CEO Pat Zachman says as the fiscal climate continues to challenge non-profits to do more with less, this grant will help them to meet increased demand for services.  Those services include two 24-hour hotlines, emergency response to area hospitals and police departments, emergency shelter for domestic and sexual assault victims, and counseling among others.

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Classroom training facility to be built for Danbury Fire Department

A new 6,500 square foot building is being constructed at the Danbury Fire Training School on Plumtrees Road.  A request for proposals is going out for the interior work.  Bids for Phase 2 of the project will be accepted through September 10th.  Danbury Assistant Fire Chief Mark Omasta says the facility will have a 30 seat classroom and a 20 seat classroom along with a conference room, offices for the Training Division, and a couple of engine bays.

 

Omasta called it a needed improvement to the current facility.  Classroom training is run out of a single-wide trailer.  It can only accommodate 15 firefighters.  He notes that is a very crowded situation.

 

Most of the state certification courses and the classes held by the Department require classroom time.

 

Construction will start at the end of this month on the exterior of the building.  Fire officials hope the building will be completed by the end of this year.

 

A mandatory pre-bid conference is being held on August 26th at 1pm at Danbury City Hall.

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Danbury looking into adding new HeadStart classrooms

The Danbury War Memorial Association and the Connecticut Institute for Communities are looking for the City of Danbury to sign off on two agreements.  One is to accept $498,000 from the state for improvements to the War Memorial.  The War Memorial is currently operating at a $50,000 deficit.

 

The other is a lease for interior space of the War Memorial to be turned into three HeadStart classrooms.  The three classrooms would accommodate about 60 pre-school aged kids. 

 

There would also be an approximate 4,500 square foot playground area outside for early childhood program.  CIFC can't get a license for the classrooms unless there is a playground/outdoor area.  The City needs to be involved because Danbury owns the land where the playground would go.  By state law, the lease requires a public hearing. 

CIFC would construct and maintain the playground.  It would not be open to the general public, and would be fenced in.  City Council members looking into the contracts says there is likely adequate parking, but would like to see design specs for the location of the playground.

 

CIFC officials hope to be in operation at the War Memorial by January 1, 2016.  The lease would be for about 90-percent of fair market value, which is approximately $1,800 per month, per classroom.

 

CIFC CEO Jim Maloney says there is a pressing need for more HeadStart classrooms in Danbury.  They are also converting the old Cadillac dealership into a nursery school.

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New Fairfield holds town meeting about donation to senior center

New Fairfield residents are being called on to attend a Special Town meeting Wednesday night.  The town meeting is being held to seek New Fairfield resident's approval for accepting a donation to the senior center. 

 

The donation of a home theater system and its installation is valued at nearly $13,500.  The surround sound speakers and big screen are being donated by the Esposito family, led by their recent high school graduate.  Mike Esposito raised money as part of a service project while in his senior year at New Fairfield High School. 

 

The Town Meeting is being held at 7pm in the community room.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission seeks private land donations

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission is continuing the process of finding the best parcel of land for whatever memorial may be built in Newtown to honor the 26 lives lost on 12-14.  The Commission has looked at some town and state owned property, but is also seeking private land donation offers as well. 

 

The Newtown Bee reports that a subcommittee of the Commission has set a deadline of August 28th for the donation intent. 

 

The Commission previously laid out some criteria for the land.  It includes being secluded but accessible to infrastructure, a natural setting and close to Sandy Hook.  The group is looking to create a short list of possibilities and hopes to chose one by the end of the year.

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Proposal: Families of Newtown victims would split $1.5M

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The families of more than a dozen victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting would split $1.5 million under proposed settlements of lawsuits against the estate of the gunman's mother.

The lawsuits accuse Nancy Lanza of failing to properly secure her legally owned Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Her son, 20-year-old Adam, used the rifle to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 after fatally shooting his mother.

The settlement proposals were disclosed in probate court documents filed Monday and first reported by The Hartford Courant. Lawyer Joshua Koskoff represents several families and told The Associated Press that about 16 families suing Nancy Lanza's estate would evenly split the $1.5 million if a judge approves the plan.

The families also are suing gun maker Bushmaster.

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Congresswoman calls on retailers to beef up background check practices

Gun control advocates are calling on major U.S. gun retailers to voluntarily follow a background check process on gun sales they say could prevent tragedies such as the Charleston Church Shootings.  Cabellas, EZPawn and Bass Pro Shops are being urged to follow Wal-Mart's lead and refuse to sell a gun to anyone until a background check is complete.  

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says a federal law loophole allows a sale to proceed if a check is not completed in three days.  Even though the Charleston shooter had a criminal record that should have been flagged, the sale was allowed to go through because of the three day rule.

 

Connecticut already requires a completed background check, no 3 day time limit.

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Danbury to honor living WWII veterans

World War II veterans are being recognized in a special ceremony this month in Danbury.  The Danbury Council of Veterans' 70th Anniversary and Remembrance Ceremony is being held at the Danbury War Memorial Rose Garden on August 15th.  The ceremony is at 10am.

 

The Catholic War Veterans is hosting the event.  Organizer Tom Saadi says they want to honor the living World War II veterans of Greater Danbury area, 55 have come forward so far.  A large number of those service members will be attending the event.

 

The names of the 103 servicemen from Danbury who lost their lives during World War II will be read aloud.

 

Certificates will be presented to living World War II veterans who are a member of a Danbury veterans post, a resident of New Fairfield, Brookfield, Bethel, Redding or Ridgefield, or were born in Danbury.  The deadline to submit a name is Wednesday. 

 

The CWV WWII Host Committee Members are Commander Richard Raymond, and members Al Mead and Saadi. 

 

Name, branch of service, dates of service, email address and phone number can be sent via email tomsaadi@aol.com or called in to 203-797-1797.

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Connecticut police target drivers talking, texting on phones

The second phase of a Distracted Driving Enforcement began today and continues through Sunday, August 16th.  During this time frame, dedicated patrols will be deployed on Brookfield roads and elsewhere in participating towns to enforce distracted driving laws.  Brookfield Police are using enhanced spotter patrol enforcement units. 

 

Statewide, the state Department of Transportation reported an 8 percent decline in drivers using cell phones while on the road following an effort in April cracking down on the illegal use.  Officials say this shows that there is a need for sustain enforcement to remind drivers of the rules of the road. 

 

The Brookfield Police Department said in a statement that they are committed to the tactic of high visibility enforcement, of distracted driving laws, as a way to reduce roadway crashes due to distracted driving.  Many of these distracted driving related crashes result in serious injury and property damage and any effort to reduce their frequency and severity will benefit all motorists in town.  

 

This $18,075.00 grant to Brookfield provides money to support officer overtime, for targeted special enforcement of distracted driving laws on Town Roads.

 

Several other area towns are also participating in this enforcement effort.  State Police Troopers will also be patrolling the highways looking for distracted drivers.

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Region 12 schools looking into adding 'Agriscience STEM Academy'

The Region 12 school district is looking to apply for grant money to create a new Agriscience STEM Academy.  Washington State Representative Arthur O'Neill says the grant would be for 95-percent of the cost to create the Academy at Shepaug Valley High School. 

 

This academy will add 50 to 60 students per year, with up to 240 students by the 4th year of the program being in operation.  He says that would create a more stable school population for Region 12 going forward.  While other nearby Agriscience STEM Academies have reached their capacity, this would allow students from the Greater Danbury and New Milford areas to study in the field.

 

Students from Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Sherman and Washington could pursue studies in this field.  Sending districts would also pay tuition and provide transportation for the students they select. 

 

Additionally, all agriscience students, including Washington students, would be subsidized by the state to cover part of the costs involved.  Yearly grants provided by the state would be used to cover operating expenses and materials needed going forward.

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Proposal: Families of Newtown victims would split $1.5M

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The families of more than a dozen victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting would split $1.5 million under proposed settlements of lawsuits against the estate of the gunman's mother.

 

The lawsuits accuse Nancy Lanza of failing to properly secure her legally owned Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Her son, 20-year-old Adam, used the rifle to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 after fatally shooting his mother.

 

The settlement proposals were disclosed in probate court documents filed Monday and first reported by The Hartford Courant. Lawyer Joshua Koskoff represents several families and told The Associated Press that about 16 families suing Nancy Lanza's estate would evenly split the $1.5 million if a judge approves the plan.

 

The families also are suing gun maker Bushmaster.

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Special Town Meeting being held in Brookfield

Two items are up for a vote in Brookfield tonight at a Special Town Meeting. 

 

Brookfield officials are asking residents for more money to complete the Still River Greenway project.  $396,000 is being sought, in addition to the $2.4 million approved last year.  Total bonding for the project will be about $560,000 if the remaining amount is approved tonight.  The balance of the project is being paid for through state and federal grants. 

 

The cost covers both design nand construction of the 8,500 foot multi-use trail. 

 

The other item being decided on tonight is accepting little more than $798,000 in state grant money.  The LOCIP funds are for roadway and streetscape improvements at the intersection of Routes 202 and 25. 

 

The Special Town Meeting will be held at 7pm in Meeting Room 133 of Brookfield Town Hall.

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Danbury Library begins loaning out Wi-Fi hotspots

Danbury Library cardholders can now “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, and are being paid for by the FRIENDS of the Danbury Library.  They can be checked out for two week spans.

 

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.

 

The library does distribute a policy about the use, late fees and replacement costs.  Patrons must be 18 years or older to check them out, so parents will be responsible for the device.  The late fine is $10 a day, and the replacement cost is about $200

 

 

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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Regional Hospice selected for national Medicare pilot program

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty was in Danbury Friday to celebrate a Medicare expansion that she says will allow patients to gain access to hospice services while continuing to undergo treatment.  She discussed the expansion at Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut.  It's one of only 140 hospice centers nationwide, and the only one in Connecticut, to be chosen to be part of this initiative.  Esty says the facility was selected from 6,000 applicants to be part of this initiative.

 

Regional Hospice is also one of only 70 facilities across the country that will be accepting patients and participating in the program for the full five year pilot program.

 

Medicare enacted a hospice benefit in the 1980s for 180 days of hospice care, but it was with a requirement that a hospice patient couldn't also be receiving active treatment.  Esty says chemo and radiation therapy for example, was even more grueling and brutal than it is today. She called it a horrible choice for families and patients of getting the support of hospice around end of life and giving up all treatment, or continuing treatment without support services.  Psychologically and emotionally, Esty says that's not acceptable.

 

Esty says there are more frequent medical discoveries and a lot of interest by people who are very sick, that something could transform their chances of survival.

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Another lawmaker blasts mileage fee as way to pay for transportation improvements

Another area lawmaker is speaking out against an idea being discussed by the panel created by Governor Dannel Malloy to come up with ways to fund his 30-year transportation improvement plan. A so-called mileage fee has drawn criticism from Wilton Senator Toni Boucher. 

 

The fee would be assessed based on the number of miles driven per year, as determined by a car's GPS system. 

 

Boucher says the administration should look at how money currently coming in is spent.  She thinks residents have reached a tipping point with decisions being made by state officials.  She specifically pointed to the decision giving 12% raises to some employees, along with generous benefits to all others, and then turning around and taxing residents more.

 

Boucher says the Republican minority in the General Assembly has proposed ways Connecticut could achieve $500 million more in investments by reprioritizing and reallocating the current bonding capacity the state has for transportation infrastructure improvements.

 

Boucher called this mileage fee even more of an an intrusive invasion of a person's privacy than an EZpass which records where you pay a toll.  She asked those proposing the fee to imaging a device in the car that records every single location, saying it's like having someone following you every single day.

 

Boucher says one of the real problems with even discussing putting another fee on drivers, is that Connecticut motorists currently pay some of the highest fees in the nation.  Gas is already doubled taxed in Connecticut.  Not only is there an excise tax, but she notes there is also 8% more on that same gallon of gas.  She compared this proposal to the gas tax, a consumption-based tax, and said each mile driven would be double or tripled taxed.

 

Boucher says if the panel wanted to be truly honest about it, they could suggest raising the gas tax even further than where it already is.

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Esty tours fuel cell array installed at Danbury Mall

While Congress is on a five week recess from Washington, 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is using the time to tour the region.  She stopped in Danbury yesterday where she visited the Danbury Mall to see how the fuel cell site installed there recently is working.

 

The 750 kilowatt fuel cell array is providing the mall with more than a third of the electricity used by the 1.3 million square foot shopping center.  The fuel cell project was installed by California-based Bloom Energy.

 

The project was financed in partnership with Washington Gas Energy Services and the Connecticut Low-emission Renewable Energy Certificate Program.  The gas company paid for the fuel cells, and the mall is paying the gas company for the electricity generated from the units.

 

More than 400 solar panels are planned for the central roof of the mall.  The shopping center installed energy efficient exterior LED lighting and a thermoplastic white reflective roof.  In addition to recycling cardboard and plastic, the mall is now composting food waste.

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