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Local Headlines Archives for 2015-10

Newtown teen raises funds for The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp

This is the fifth year that a Newtown girl has held the Great Pumpkin Challenge.  The effort started by Mackenzie Page when she was in 8th grade, to support a family friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Mackenzie, now a Newtown High School senior, has worked with local farmers using pumpkins to raise money for her friend Zoe McMorran and Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.  The summer camp and center serves children and families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses.


(Bridget Moynahan, Mackenzie Page, Zoe McMorran)


Hundreds of people come every year to leave carved pumpkins on Mackenzie's lawn at 14 Main Street, with the goal to remind people of the great work Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is doing, raise money for kids in need and celebrate Halloween.  Each pumpkin is accompanied by a $5 donation.  Each year, her family sees some 3,000 trick-or-treaters.


Her family and friends help plan and set up the scaffolding where the pumpkins are displayed.  She said she never would have guessed four years ago that the effort would have grown to something of this size.  She thanked Newtown residents for supporting the effort over the years.


Camp board member and actress Bridget Moynahan was in Newtown on Friday night to congratulate Mackenzie on her fundraising efforts.  Moynahan says Mackenzie has really inspired the community who have helped turn an act of kindness into a massive fundraiser.  She says the camp gives kids facing these diseases head on, a chance to be kids again and forget all of the heaviness they have in their lives.  Moynahan says one of the great things about the camp is that  they support the entire family. They have a hospital outreach program among others.  One of Moynahan's friends had a daughter who went to the camp and shared how much it changed their lives.  She says she is constantly inspired by stories of how important the camp is, even years after the need for it has passed.


Mackenzie was an honorary chairman of the Travelers Championship this summer.  Connecticut’s PGA tour event donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to charities.  They donated more than $15,000 to the Great Pumpkin Challenge to be given to the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.


Mackenzie visited the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut this year and surprised Zoe at a family day.


The Life is Good Company has donated $5,000 for the challenge and are matching up to an additional $10,000 to remind others how anyone, anywhere can make a difference in the world around them. The lifestyle brand is dedicated to spreading the power of optimism, and donates 10 percent of its net profits to help kids in need.

Daylight Savings Time reminder to test smoke detectors, change batteries

There is a safety reminder from the Danbury Fire Marshal's office for the weekend.  Deputy Fire Marshal Gary Bruce says when you change the clocks for daylight savings time, you should also change the batteries in your smoke detector.  In 2014, across the nation some 3,400 people died due to smoke alarms not working.


Bruce says new smoke detectors are a little different than the traditional 9-volt battery smoke detectors.  The new detectors last 10 years, but they should still be tested monthly.  The batteries are built into the device.  The old style smoke detector batteries should be changed every six months.


Batteries in carbon monoxide detectors should also be checked.


Bruce says there should be smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of the house.

Political newcomer challenges 6-term incumbent for Mayor in New Milford

Incumbent New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy is seeking a seventh term in office.  The Republican is being challenged by political newcomer, Democrat David Gronbach.  He is an attorney by trade. 


Murphy says as a local government, you're never done trying to make sure you are serving the public appropriately.  She wants another term in office to see some upcoming projects through to completion.  Murphy says she is excited about the Century Brass property becoming a tax producer for New Milford.  Murphy says some bike trails, which were designed in 2007, are ready to come on line. 


Gronbach and his family moved to New Milford about eight years ago.  He got involved with the Democratic Town Committee when the issue of closing John Pettibone School came up.  He says as a property owned by the town, it should stay in the town's control and be a benefit to town residents.


Gronbach says New Milford has a great opportunity to improve quality of life by increasing usage of the Housatonic River and Candlewood Lake.  He wants to connect the town to others along the river through bike trails. 


Murphy says the town and the state are still facing some challenging times so it's helpful to have seasoned leadership at the helm.  She says the work is very rewarding, and that everyone on the team works well together.  Headed into another winter season, Murphy says they have weathered a lot of storms together.


When it comes to taxes, Gronbach says the problem is that they keep going up.  He says a lot of people don't understand where their tax dollars are going and what services they're receiving.  He says part of the problem is that the town has bonded a lot of projects and the interest payments take up a chunk of the budget.  He wants to reevaluate town employee positions to see where efficiencies can be found. 


Murphy says she is looking forward to maintaining the town's good financial rating and pursuing a AAA bond rating.  New Milford is currently rated at AA1 and financially sound.  She says the redevelopment of the riverfront and the Century Brass property are projects she would like to see through to completion.  She says the Century Brass Mill project is finally moving forward now that the big factory building is coming down.  She touted programs in the community that help residents: Youth Agency, Senior Center, Social Services and Parks and Rec.


Gronbach says the Century Brass Mill site has been sitting empty, vacant and vandalized for too long.  He doesn't see the progress that's being made there as a victory for the incumbent.  Gronbach says some of these wasted parcels need to earn money for New Milford.  He says the town plan to move the Public Works Department there doesn't generate revenue for New Milford.  He would like to see the site used for clean manufacturing, especially because of access to the freight rail there.  Gronbach says there's a great work force and infrastructure in place in New Milford, and the town needs to attract industry and manufacturing to put that to use.


Murphy says more open space is coming on line including a large donation on the other side of the river, and another farm being preserved. 


Gronbach says New Milford has done a great job in preserving open space and farmland on the Route 202 side of the river.  He wants to also promote farms as something more than museum-like spaces.  He would encourage the farms to produce food for local residents and for high end restaurants.  He says there is a strong Farm to Table program, and he sees the potential of organically grown beef, chicken and pigs as a driving force in the town's economy.


Murphy wants to continue to restore Boardman Bridge.  They are working on a grant for that.  Road projects are coming up.  The bridge repair program, 60 bridges that the town is responsible for, is nearing completion.  There is also a roof restoration project at Schaghticoke Middle School.  A recent town meeting approved two artificial turf and track facility upgrades. 


Gronbach says the roads have become a perpetual problem, in part because residents don't know what the process is for which roads get paved and when.  He proposes a commission involving community leaders to address road maintenance.  He would also put more resources to the problem.  While it may cost more money up front, in the long run he says it would be less expensive to repave rather than repair.


Murphy says the town aggressively seeks to bring new businesses to New Milford, and to make infrastructure improvements.  She notes that some are improvements that can't be seen.  Murphy cited the communications system to make emergency responders lives safer, while also serving the public more efficiently.  There is a new ambulance facility, training and equipment for police have been upgraded, and the capital budget for firefighters was increased.  Murphy also touted a generator installed in the Gaylordsville firehouse, which is used for shelter in case of extreme emergency.  Showers were also put in at Sarah Noble Intermediate School, which is a major shelter facility.  She says training, programs and outreach in public health when it comes to drug addiction and abuse have also been implemented.


As of this week, Murphy says the Police Chief confirmed that all members of the department will go through training and be outfitted with Narcan kits next month.  Murphy is working with other leaders of area towns to have the state declare this drug abuse epidemic as a health emergency.  She says that will be helpful to bring attention to how prevalent it is among all communities.


When it comes to development along Route 7, Gronbach says it's a negative.  He says there is no plan of development, which has led to haphazard and ad hoc building by developers and what some see as a loss of New Milford's character.  He wants to put the breaks on that, and implement smart development.  Gronbach also cited a number of recent pedestrian accidents on Route 7.


When it comes to development, Murphy says property owners have the right to rent to who they want.  The town does have some regulations, but developers base what they do on the economy.  She says the Plan of Conservation and Development was crafted with public input.  Previous to zoning rules being put in place, there were businesses grandfathered in along the Route 7 corridor.  As long as businesses comply with zoning regulations, they can have their project begin.

New stop signs installed in Ridgefield

Two new stop signs have been installed at a Ridgefield intersection creating a three way stop.  Ridgefield Police are alerting motorists to this intersection change at North Street and Copps Hill Road.  The stop signs were added for both north and southbound traffic on North Street.  Police say the change was made at the recommendation of the local traffic authority to improve roadway and traffic safety.  Earlier this month, a stop sign was added for southbound traffic on Grove Street at Sunset Lane making that intersection a three-way stop.

New principal appointed at Danbury High School

A new principal will lead Danbury High School next year.  Dan Donovan, the principal of the DHS Freshman Academy, will start the new position July 1st taking over from Gary Bocaccio.  Donovan has led the Freshman Academy for more than 10 years and has worked in the Danbury School District for nearly 20 years.  District officials are touting the new initiatives that Donovan started for Freshmen including the Early College Opportunity program where students can earn a high school diploma while also earning credits toward an Associate Degree from Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Brookfield Craft Center receives $50,000 grant

The Brookfield Craft Center has received a $50,000 grant.  The grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation will be used to expand the facility.  Officials say the added space along with additional equipment will allow the Brookfield Craft Center to offer more varied programs to more students.  The Woodturning studio was officially reopened this month through a donation from Dr. Henry Spector.  More than 100 people turned out for the celebration and toured the 6 studios on site to talk with instructors about what programming is offered.

C.H. Booth Library parking lot to be repaved

The parking lot at the library in Newtown will be repaved next week.  Due to driveway repaving, the handicap driveway at CH Booth Library in Newtown will be inaccessible on Monday and Tuesday.  Access to the driveway this Friday may be limited as preparation work is done.  The announcement was listed on the Library's home page.  The parking lot behind the building at 25 Main Street will be open for regular use.

Danbury fall leaf pick up program has started

Fall leaf pick up has started in Danbury.  Danbury's fall leaf pick up program will run for 6 weeks through December 4th.  Only leaves bagged in paper leaf bags with no tape should be left curbside for pick up by the Highway Department.  No large debris, grass, rocks or normal waste garbage will collected.  No brush or tree stumps are to be left by the side of the road. 


Branches will be picked up separately, and there are certain requirements.  Limbs must be no longer than 4 feet, no bigger than 4 inches in diameter and all bundled by twine weighing no more than 35 pounds. 


Danbury streets south of I-84 in the 06810 zip code will be picked up this week, streets north of the highway in the 06811 zip code will be collected next week and so on.


Pick up dates are subject to change throughout the program depending on weather and the Highway Department's work schedule.


Ferris Mulch Products at 6 Plumtrees Road is open for Danbury residents who wish to drop off their own bags or tree and yard debris throughout the year for free. The hours are Monday through Friday 7:00 am through 3:30 pm. Saturday from 7:30 am to 12noon. Closed on Sundays.

Kent farm receives federal funding for solar panel installation

In an effort to help reduce energy usage, more than $800,000 is being awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The Food Cycle LLC in Kent is among those receiving funding from the Rural Energy for America Program to help lower operating costs.  $28,936 in funding will be used by The Food Cycle to install a 27.55 kilowatt roof mount solar PV system.  That will help meet 58.5 percent of the farm's operation, equivalent to about three households.

Alternating, one way traffic next week on Rt 35 in Ridgefield

The state Department of Transportation has announced that there will be alternating one-way traffic on Route 35 from Monday through Friday between 9 am and 3 pm from the Fox Hill Condo entrance to the Parks and Rec Center entrance. 


Ridgefield officials are asking that drivers plan ahead and consider alternate routes. 


A temporary roadway and bridge will be constructed as the first phase of the project, and work will last about two months.  The temporary bridge will then allow traffic to continue to move in both directions during the two year, second phase of the project to replace the existing superstructure.

Special Town Meeting in Bethel approves funds for retaining wall at YMCA

Bethel residents have approved funding during a Special Town Meeting last night to reconstruct and repair a retaining wall at the Grassy Plain Street YMCA facility .  The property is owned by the town.  Bethel officials already approved the approximate $87,000 worth of work.  There is a built in $10,000 in contingency funds.  The money from the capital non-recurring account will go toward the site work, structural engineering, site survey and materials.  A handful of people attended the town meeting.

Brookfield First Selectman candidates debate the issues

Republican Bill Tinsley is seeking a second term as Brookfield First Selectman.  Democrat Steve Dunn is looking to unseat him. 


Dunn worked on Wall Street for the last 30 years, primarily with JP Morgan Chase as the group executive for the Western Hemisphere for the Security Services Division.  He managed about $140 million budget and about $2 trillion dollars in assets for clients. 


Dunn said he decided to run when the A Brookfield Party was created because he says the organization is endorsing all Republicans.  He says that creates a false sense of minority representation on Boards and Commissions.  He ran two years ago for the Board of Finance, and did not secure a win.  He says all six seats on the Board of Finance are held by Republicans.


When discussing the A Brookfield Party and minority party representation on boards and commissions, Tinsley pointed out Democratic Board of Education candidate Michael Zacchea.  Tinsley said he was giving the middle finger all night long, something Zacchea denied.  Tinsley also pointed to an email exchange with Zacchea.  Tinsley wrote about the schools in his monthly newsletter in September and received an email back that he said contained "great vocabulary, but not the kind of response you'd want to see from someone who wants to be a Board of Ed member".


Tinsley says controlling property taxes while maintaining the high quality of life is something he is proud of accomplishing.  He says it was done through responsible economic growth and aggressive cost reduction programs without cutting services.  He says this was the first year in a long time that there was no property tax increase in Brookfield.  He says that was also due in part to finding grant money to help with some projects.  He says there will likely be more of the same in the next few years.  When he looks ahead, he says there is a likelihood of another year of no property tax increases.  He says it could even be tweaked down a bit.


Dunn says no one wants a tax increase.  But he says the more important question is whether the services being offered are the services residents need, at a level that meets their needs for a reasonable price.  He says well thought out, zero-base budgets would be delivered if he's elected.  Instead of starting with last budget year's numbers, he would start at zero and then find out what is needed for each program.  Dunn says it's very hard to have budgets that don't increase because of the traditional way that they're crafted.  He was also critical of borrowing for day to day operations.  Dunn says taxpayers will be paying for years that way.


Tinsley says there have been some visible signs of improving the town's quality of life in the last couple of years.  The parks were rehabilitated, construction of the the Still River Greenway is well under way and the Meadowbrook Manor neighborhood flood mitigation plan is being carried out.  He says the Greenway project should be completed by May.  He says the bridge will be placed over the river before shutting down for the winter.


Dunn was critical of the facilities at Cadigan Park not being maintained to the point where he says they had to be torn down.  He says improvements are needed at most schools in Brookfield.  Dunn says some students are still being taught in portables that were put up over 20 years ago, envisioned to only last five years.  He says all of the classrooms at Huckleberry Hill Elementary are electrically heated, the most expensive form of heat.  He wants to go to taxpayers with a reasonable and fiscally conservative plan to maintain the schools.


Tinsley says about $3.3 million worth of long overdue capital projects for the schools are planned.  After the election, he expects a predominately new Board of Education.  The Board of Ed has been bogged down in recent years with a number of issues.  That includes an alleged $1.2 million in budget overspending and several thousand dollars in questionable spending by the former School Finance Director.  Tinsley says taking a look at elementary facility needs will be front and center.  He expects in the next 12 to 18 months that a facilities plan will be presented to voters about what needs to be done in grades K-5.


Dunn says he would support the Board of Education in their funding requests if elected.  He gave the example of the Board of Ed asking the Board of FInance for an additional $400,000, which was turned down.  The Town Clerk and Town Attorney approved a petition being circulated by parents calling for a referendum. But he says the Town Attorney then said it wasn't being approved, and he claims that Tinsley informed the organizers shortly before the deadline that the petition was illegal.


When it come to the schools overspending their budget a couple of years ago, Dunn says it didn't get caught until the Brookfield Town Auditor passed away.  He says every few years, a new auditor should be hired.  Dunn says the Board of Finance is supposed to go out to bid every five years, but that wasn't done.


Tinsley countered that Brookfield has had five auditors in the past 12 years. 


The candidates have a different opinion on where to point the budget for the $1.2 million in overspending.  Tinsley says it was former Finance Director Art Colley and then Superintendent of Schools Anthony Bivonah.  Dunn says it was a Board of Finance repsonsibility to see what was going on.


When it comes to cost reduction in government, Tinsley says the town has been on a multi-phase plan to bring down health insurance costs.  The first phase was to move away from a fully insured plan to a self insured plan.  The next step is implementing a wellness program, and making Brookfield part of a larger group.  Brookfield has about 550 employees on the health insurance plan.  Brookfield only has a $60 million budget.  Over the course of the first two years in office, he's been able to lower the cost of health insurance by $2 million.  He hopes to reduce that by a couple more million dollars while not reducing benefits.  He says it's a matter of being smart on how programs are managed.  Tinsley says a Wellness Program will be a big piece of that.


Tinsley says infrastructure and approvals take a long time, but the Four Corners sewer and water services are in and the state has signed off on improvements along Route 202.  He expects to see some older buildings to come down this winter.  The Brookfield Village project, the first big mixed-use project, should start next spring.  He says there will be retail space on the first floor and apartment living on the middle and top floors.


Dunn says the development of the Four Corners area has gone off the tracks.  He says the town has worked hard over the past decade to develop a plan of development, talking about a new vibrant town center area.  He says despite the plan, there is only multi-family housing going up.  He wants to see restaurants and shops being developed in the area.  About three months ago, he says the Zoning Commission asked to put a moratorium in place on multi-family housing.  Dunn questioned why Tinsley didn't support that.


Tinsley says Brookfield has been very active with the Candlewood Lake Authority to ensure the water quality in the lake.  A pilot program has been launched in Brookfield to keep invasive aquatic species out of the lake.  In the long term, Tinsley says they have to come up with a way to get control over potential for blue green algae.  Tinsley says the Lake is important for the region, the economy, and recreational opportunity to residents.


There are a few issues when it comes to Candlewood Lake that Dunn would like to tackle.  One is how to make sure the invasive Zebra Mussel doesn't find its way into Candlewood.  He says other problems are Milfoil, run-off from people's properties.  He says these long term problems need to be addressed.  He says the sterile grass carp is a good start, if they work.  At the state boat launch , boats are checked for Zebra Mussels , and he wants all boaters to checks for them.  He wants FirstLight Power to maintain its gentleman's agreement to fund their share of the Candlewood Lake Authority.


Tinsley says Brookfield's roads are in pretty decent shape.  He says the town has a good repaving plan that's executed every year.  There is a plan to spend about $1.6 million a year in repaving the approximate 100 miles of roads in Brookfield.  But the harder the winter, the more potholes to fill.  Tinsley says last year was difficult, but compared to area towns, he says Brookfield did fairly well.


Road maintenance was bonded four years ago because budgets kept getting rejected.  Dunn says road repair should be a line item in the budget every year.  He wants a 8, 10 or 12 year cycle to repair roads so that the town doesn't have to borrow to repave.


There were some contentious moments during the closing statements of the debate.  Tinsley held up a campaign mailer issued by Dunn.  It focuses on allegations that Tinsley stole from a Vermont liquor store where he worked in 2013.  Tinsley pleaded no contest to the misdemeanors.  Tinsley called the mailer a libelous attack that spoke loudly about his opponent's campaign integrity.  Dunn said that just because the truth is ugly doesn't mean it should be ignored.

Speed tables put in on Queen Street in Newtown

A speed control tool is now being employed on Queen Street in Newtown.  Five speed tables have been installed on Queen Street.  The Police Commission determined a couple of years ago that these speed tables should be constructed in an effort to address resident concerns about speeding.  


The 25-mile an hour speed limit road was repaved this month.  The Newtown Bee reports that five of these wide speed bumps are being put in on the mile long road, and painted bright yellow.  Signs are also in place alerting motorists to the raised pavement. 


The decision on where to locate the five speed tables was based on traffic engineering studies.

Local lawmaker calls for tougher penalties for those who make threats against schools

The Zero Tolerance Safe School Environment Act will once again be introduced by a local lawmaker when the General Assembly reconvenes next year.  Fairfield Senator Tony Hwang, whose district also includes Newtown, says last week's threats against schools in Fairfield should serve as a reminder that there needs to be tougher penalties against those who make such threats. 


The measure was approved by the State Senate last session, but never came up for a vote in the House.


Hwang's son told him about the uncertainty surrounding them.  The kids were in darkened rooms, lying down near walls, not speaking and not being able to move around for about three hours.  He says the crime is beyond just a simple prank.  It has significant municipal cost and the potential for traumatic emotional impacts.


Hwang hopes the message is sent with this bill that this offense doesn't get you a slap on the wrist, but that the punishment is equal to the havoc that's caused.


Hwang's bill would double the penalty from 5 years to 10 years in prison and the fine from $5,000 to $10,000.

Public hearing held about leasing some Danbury War Memorial space for HeadStart classrooms

A public hearing has been held in Danbury about leasing a portion of the War Memorial to the Connecticut institute for Communities.  The Connecticut Institute for Communities wants to locate three HeadStart classrooms in the War Memorial to 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. 


CIFC would construct and maintain the playground, which would not be open to the general public.  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.

Danbury off-leash dog park to be open summer of 2016

Danbury's off-leash dog park is set to open next summer.  All of the necessary approvals have been secured.  The fenced in park will be on four acres of land off Miry Brook Road.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the only restriction is that dogs are licensed. 


Boughton says they need to hit the spring growing season for the rest of the work, because the plan calls for cleaning out the undergrowth and planting grass seed.  But he says they likely can't get that to grow until springtime. 


The park will be for daytime use only and have limited parking.  No one will be staffing the park. 


A sign will be posted saying that aggressive dogs are not allowed.  An aggressive or vicious dog ordinance is being studied by a committee of the City Council.

State grant awarded to affordable housing project in Kent

An affordable housing development in Kent is receiving some state grant money.  The more than $20 million in Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties funding will help create or rehabilitate 230 affordable units and 52 market-rate units of housing in six different locations in the state. 


The Department of Housing will loan up to $1.5 million to the Stuart Farm Phase II Apartments in Kent. 


The project includes the development of five new apartments: three one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units.  One will be handicap accessible, two will give preference to low-income veterans. 


The project site is located within walking distance of the commercial center of Kent, minimizing travel distances to local employment and providing easy access to local amenities such as banks, restaurants, the town library, shopping, public services, and schools.

Woman reunites with guide dog that saved her

BREWSTER, N.Y. (AP) Lying in a hospital after being hit by a school minibus, Audrey Stone set herself a goal: to get well so she could bring back home the guide dog that had jumped in front of a bus to save her.

Stone, who is legally blind, spent months in a rehabilitation hospital. The golden retriever, Figo, had surgery himself and went back to his trainers to make sure he would be able to work again.

And at last, there was Figo striding up the driveway to greet her Monday at her suburban New York house.

``Oh, my good boy,'' she exclaimed as she petted him, his tail wagging full-force. ``You're home finally!''

Stone and Figo had been together for about 6 years before the June 8 crash as they crossed a street a block from her home in Brewster.

The dog's leap to put himself between her and the oncoming, turning bus and his efforts to stick by her side afterward when both were injured brought cards, calls and dog toys from as far away as England. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is giving Figo its Dog of the Year award.

``Basically, he would have died for me, doing what he did,'' said Stone, who suffered a broken ankle, elbow and ribs and needed stitches in her head. Figo had a serious gash in one of his legs.

The bus driver, who said he didn't see Stone and the dog, was ticketed.

Stone was born with very limited vision, and a photo album of Figo's recovery has 8-by-10 pictures so she can make them out. She used a cane for years before deciding to try a guide dog.

A dog, she says, offers more support and protection, as well as companionship and an easy entree to conversation with passers-by. ``It gets me out more,'' Stone says.

Figo, 8, is her third dog from the Smithtown-based Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, which breeds and trains guides, placing about 85 last year. Overall, there are about 10,000 working guide dogs nationwide, trained by various groups, said Wells Jones, the foundation's executive director.

The dogs are trained to avoid oncoming traffic, but turning vehicles present the most difficultly, he said. The animals also are prepared to place themselves between their handlers and danger in some situations.

``We're tremendously proud of Figo, who really did show a great deal of bravery,'' Jones said.

While Stone was hospitalized and later underwent weeks of outpatient physical therapy, Figo got donor-paid care at Middlebranch Veterinary, then returned to the Guide Dog Foundation to ensure the bus crash hadn't made him too fearful or distracted to do his job. Over the weekend, Lyman, Maine-based trainer Doug Wiggin even took Figo to the accident site but didn't find any signs of trouble.

By noon Monday, Figo was leading Stone down the sidewalk on her block, padding slowly to match her still-recovering pace. They would leave crossing a street for the next day, but it was a good start.

``You feel better,'' Stone said, ``with a dog.''

Local lawmaker recognized as YMCA 'Legislator of the Year'

The Connecticut Alliance of YMCA's has named its Legislator of the Year.  This year's recipient is Wilton Senator Toni Boucher.  She was presented with a plaque honoring her advocacy and leadership last week.  Boucher said that the YMCAs are powerful advocates for the needs of children, families and others in the community.  She is a ranking member of the legislature's Education Committee.  The Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs said that the organization focuses on more than people would think, it covers youth development, health living and social responsibility.

Write-in candidate officially registered in New Milford Mayoral race

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has released the complete list of registered write-in candidates for the November 3rd municipal election.  Write-in candidates do not appear on the ballot but voting machines are programmed to flag ballots marked with votes for write-ins that are later counted by hand, as long as the write-in candidates are registered with the Secretary of the State. 


The final deadline to register to vote by mail or in-person at town or city offices comes up Tuesday. 


In Kent, there is a write in candidate for the Board of Finance: John Mauer. 


The New Milford Mayoral race will also have a write in candidate: Chief Iron Wolf.  The 73 year old officially changed his name from Wilfred Megin in 2011.  At one point he was charged with violating New Milford's zoning regulations by having an illegal junk yard on his property.

Ridgefield reviews Emergency Drill response

A statewide emergency preparedness drill was held last week.  Ridgefield was among the towns participating.  This drill had cities and towns dealing with the effects of a tornado touching down.  First Selectman Rudy says there were directives handed down from the state at various times about specific scenarios, for example a building collapse trapping people.


All of the people on hand had to respond to those situations.  Ridgefield town department heads, school officials, emergency management personnel and volunteers participated in the third annual Emergency Planning and Preparedness Initiative. 


Marconi says it's not good news that towns have to practice these types of exercises.


A review of the exercise was done immediately after the drill reviewing lessons learned.  There were about 30 to 40 people in the room at any given time.  Marconi says that's a little unusual, but was an opportunity for people to see what takes place in the Emergency Operations Center.  The Water Pollution Control Authority was involved, where as in the past they've been on the periphery


The new Superintendent of Schools, Karen Baldwin, and the school IT Director and Director of Facilities were part of the drill.  He commended her work is putting together a good program.  He says Baldwin has spent a lot of hours making sure that the schools are prepared.

Parking to be added at former YMCA building in Danbury

Now that the title to the former YMCA building in downtown Danbury is in the name of the Connecticut Institute For Communities, work can begin to refurbish the facility. The Boughton Street property will be turned into the Danbury Community Center, featuring the new Danbury Boys and Girls Club.  CIFC President James Maloney says the building itself is structurally in good shape, but there are modernizations that need to be done.


The plans calls for reconfiguring the parking lot, and adding more parking.  Interior work will also be done.  There are also parts of the building that aren't currently air conditioned which will be air conditioned after the renovation is complete. 


A state grant paid for the building purchase and will finance the renovations.  The rehabilitation work is expected to take about a year.

More Danbury schools participate in 'Say Something' week

"Say Something Week" in Connecticut has wrapped up.  Danbury High School is the lead school in the Sandy Hook Promise initiative.  The program is aimed at educating students about saying something if they see or hear something that could harm a person or a group of people. 


Hundreds of Broadview Middle School students, all wearing green, gathered on the field Friday to create the symbol of the program.  Their photo was taken from an aerial viewpoint from a Danbury Fire Department ladder truck.


(Photo Courtesty: Danbury Public Schools)


Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sal Pascarella spoke to students during the presentation about how the events of 12-14 unfolded in Danbury. He asked how man had been at Broadview Middle School that day, because it is located near Danbury Hospital.  Pascarella told the students that they weren't going to have the students leave the school because the City was expecting an onslaught of wounded.


Pascarella says unfortunately that's not what happened.


He serves as President of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents and wants to implement the program in all 169 municipalities in Connecticut.


Sandy Hook Promise Founder Mark Barden told the students that this program creates a culture of awareness and empowers students with the knowledge and the tools to recognize the signs of danger.  Barden says he hopes the students will be serious about hope, and that his story is not about tragedy--but about hope. 


He commended the Danbury students for leading the charge to develop a culture of awareness and save lives.

Fitness event in Danbury to help severely wounded service members

The first annual "Hell Day for Heroes" fitness benefit is being held in Danbury Saturday to raise funds for "Help Our Military Heroes".  The Easton-based non-profit organization was founded by in 2009 to provide adaptive minivans  to severely wounded service members to bring them independence and mobility.


The event takes place at the Danbury War Memorial Gymnasium, at 1 Memorial Drive.  An opening ceremony with honorary and special guests begins at 9:30 am. The games start at 10am.


The event is open to the public and all fitness levels are welcome.  People can register by spending an email to, along with their team name, their team’s contact person, and specify if military, police, fire, athlete or civilian (non-competitive).


Gold Star parents Buddy and Sybil Williamson from Louisiana, who honor the loss of their son through fundraising for The Patrick Williamson Memorial Foundation, have “challenged” Hell Day fundraiser Andrew Berman of Mental Grit Fitness-Personal Training, with a donation match of $25,000. A possible $50,000 will be raised in one hour of the event’s Workout Of the Day, Hollander noted.


Help Our Military Heroes has empowered more than 50 severely wounded service members to lead independent lives by providing them with fully equipped, adapted minivans. For more information or to make a donation, reach HOMH at

Voter registration deadline looming

The voter registration deadline is looming.  Eligible Connecticut voters they have until Tuesday to register to vote for the upcoming municipal elections taking place on November 3rd. 


Even though the deadline to register online has already passed, eligible voters can still register by mail or by going in-person to local registrar of voters offices by Tuesday at 8pm.  Absentee ballots are now also available from town clerks offices for registered voters who are not able to vote at polling places on Election Day. Absentee ballots will be available until Monday November 2nd.  Election Day Registration will also be available.


Secretary of the State Denise Merrill encourages voters to go online at to see if they are registered to vote, download an application for an absentee ballot, and look up where your polling place is located.

ShopRite to replace A&P Super Foodmart in Danbury

The grocery store that will be filling the soon to be vacant A&P in Danbury has been confirmed.  ShopRite, which has a location in Brookfield, will be going into the Padanaram Road building being vacated by the A&P Super Foodmart. 


A&P announced this summer that it was filing for bankruptcy.  The Danbury location is closing in November. 


ShopRite's parent company, Wakefern Food Corporation, said that it would take several months to renovate the building before opening.  Wakefern Foods says it has acquired 13 stores from A&P's parent company the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.  Danbury is the only location it purchased in Connecticut.

'Say Something' slogan adopted by Danbury schools

A variation on the adage "If You See Something, Say Something," first introduced in a jittery New York City after 9/11, is being adopted by schools at a time of heightened vigilance for the next classroom shooter.


Governor Dannel Malloy visited Danbury High School Thursday to mark this as "Say Something Week," endorsing a program that Sandy Hook Promise, a violence prevention group in Newtown, is making available to schools around the United States.


Malloy says about 70-percent of the time when someone wants to take their own life, they've already told someone what they're going to do.  He continued by saying that increases to 75-percent of the time when someone commits an act of violence in a public place, they've given signs that they're going to do something just like that.


Mayor Mark Boughton also addressed the students.  He called it an important program and important cultural change.  He says a lot of these threats are shared on social media.  He shared something with the students that he said they might not have known.  Over the last few years, some of their peers have sent him messages they saw online.  He forwarded it to the Detective Bureau, and the officers were able to track down the students before they could hurt themselves or others.  Even if the student thinks the threat was a joke or not serious, everything on the internet needs to be taken seriously.


Mark Barden, the group's managing director, says warning signs of violence are often communicated in advance but not all young people know what to do with the information.  Barden's son Daniel was killed on 12-14.   Barden said young people are the eyes and ears of their schools and community.  He wants to teach them how to properly identify and report threats, keeping themselves, their friends and their family safe.  Barden told the students that they have the power to save lives.


The grassroots Sandy Hook Promise group says hundreds of schools and youth organizations around the U.S. are participating in Say Something Week. It has made available training materials and a planning guide to teach students in grades 6-12 to recognize warning signs, especially in social media, from people who may want to hurt themselves or others and then to contact a trusted adult for help.


Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella, who serves as president of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents, has implemented “Say Something” and “Start with Hello,” programs.  They focus on preventing violence, suicide and fear-inducing threats before they happen.


“Start with Hello” addresses social isolation, a growing epidemic in our schools and across the country and refers to the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely and treated as being invisible.  This program teaches students in grades two through 12 skills necessary to reach out and include those who may be dealing with chronic isolation. It empowers students to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school.


Bethel First Selectman race features rematch of 2013

In Bethel, the November municipal election is featuring a rematch of the 2013 First Selectman race.  Democratic incumbent Matt Knickerbocker was first elected in 2009.  Will Duff is the Republican candidate.  He was the candidate two years ago as well.  He is a Board of Education member, a town Constable and was a Selectman.  He also served on the board now known as the Board of Assessment Appeals.


A bridge reconstruction project was an issue in the last municipal election and it looks like a different bridge reconstruction project in Bethel could be a point of contention.  Last time around it was the Walnut Hill Road Bridge.


Knickerbocker is reassuring residents that the road will not close when the Plumtrees Bridge project is being done.  When the project is completed, after about two years, the intersection will be realigned.  He says when that work is done, there will be less of a tie-up at Whittlesey Drive and Walnut Hill Road.  There will be pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.  Bids were opened on Friday on that project.  All of the needed permits and Army Corps of Engineers requirements have been secured or met.


Duff says if you are continuously pressing on state representatives on issues, such as bridge construction, then they can push those doing to work to get done on time and on budget.  He would make the bridge project a priority.  He says letting the contractors know that you’re there to help them if there’s a need, then you’ll know that the project is getting done.


Duff says taxes are too high.  He wants to expand the commercial base to alleviate that burden.  He says the tax rate is hindering economic growth.  He says the town is spending too much, and hiring too many town employees.  He says the town is at the limit on spending.


Knickerbocker says there’s a lot of legal red tape and a steep learning curve, so no project or initiative moves quickly.  He says one of the things he is most proud of is not visible.  He notes that when he came into office, the town was on the verge of being downgraded from AAa, one step below the best bond rating, to negative watch.  He says the General Fund has been improved in the last several years and the bond rating has been reaffirmed twice to a AAA rating.  He says it’s going to pay dividends long into the future and save millions of dollars in interest rates when something needs to be fixed, renovated or fixed.


As for taxes, Knickerbocker says the mill rate is based on property values so when there’s a big change one way or the other, the mill rate changes.  But he says they’ve heard from residents that they don’t want a tax increase.  He’s proud that there was a nearly zero increase in the past year.  He says some development in town put new revenue into the stream.  He says labor agreements have been negotiated and the same looks likely next year.


Knickerbocker says developers have opened up something in the area of 100,00 square feet of new retail space in the Stony Hill neighborhood in the last several years.


Duff says there are a lot of issues when it comes to the roads.   He would like to see a higher bar of excellence for town services like paving and plowing.  He wants to find ways to get peak performance from town employees.


Knickerbocker says the Road Recovery Project was going to address almost 40-percent of the town’s worst roads, which were neglected for years.  The plan originally called for a four-year project, but the Highway Department ran into bad weather and couldn’t meet the aggressive schedule that had been set.  He is looking forward to completing the project.  He says it’s involved milling the roads, redoing the drainage, and putting down new pavement.  Knickerbocker says this project has repaved more miles of roads than the previous 12 years put together.


Transit Oriented Development is being looked at for the area of the Bethel Train Station.  Duff says one way to draw in businesses would be to offer tax incentives.  He says the empty storefronts on Greenwood Avenue could also benefit from tax breaks as a way to draw in new businesses.  But he is concerned about overdevelopment.  He says there seems to always be new condos being developed.  He cited the property on Plumtrees Road where the old sand and gravel company was.  Duff says the existing infrastructure is being burdened.  He says it would strain the schools, police and fire, and other town resources.  He would prefer to see more commercial development.


Knickerbocker says he supports the Bethel Forward effort to change zoning laws downtown to encourage the type of development that will help the downtown become a more vibrant retail district.  He thinks the Planning and Zoning Commission is doing it the right way, getting as much participating as possible.  He says they’re making sure there’s the right kind of development for the area.  He says the downtown is no different than any other when it comes vacancies.  Knickerbocker notes that 20 years ago it was possible for a family to run a retail shop from one of these small storefronts, but now it’s not economically viable because merchants can’t sell enough of one product to make a living.  Knickerbocker says they also want to make sure that zoning regulation changes don’t inhibit growth in the current storefronts.  He says there is some commercial development happening, but he would like to see some tangible incentives to attract new businesses to Bethel.  He wants to expand Clarke Business Park.


There are several hot button planning and zoning issues in Bethel.  One is the medical marijuana dispensary now operating in the Stony Hill section of town.  With the state looking to add more dispensaries in Fairfield County, and several surrounding towns having moratoriums on such facilities, Duff was asked for his opinion on the matter.  Duff says the buck stops with the First Selectman and he would have liked if there was more public input on such a facility locating in Bethel.  Duff says if elected, he would provide some guidance to the volunteers who serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission as to the type of development that should be in town.


The Plan of Conservation and Development was developed in 2007, and the Planning and Zoning Commission is just now starting the process of coming up with a new one.  Knickerbocker says it’s about a two year process and will help set specific goals of how many acres to preserve as open space.  Knickerbocker says he’s proud of the town’s recent acquisitions, especially the 72-acre Franc property.  He says the Hickok property is also one he’s proud to have protected from development.  Both were purchased for below market rate because the owners wanted to protect the character of Bethel.


As for a proposed new police station, Duff says there are some benefits to the idea.  He says that property is already owned by the town, and that’s a plus.  As long as it meets the needs of the Police Department, he will support it.  But he says Bethel has a history of going into a project and then cutting back to meet a budgetary need.  If aspects of the facility are taken out and it won’t meet that need, he questioned why even build it at all.  He says the current facility was antiquated the minute police put the key in the door.  There are no female restrooms and changing rooms, it was built on a flood plain and it’s not big enough.  He understands there are some concerns on the location from residents, but it is centrally located and helps being virtually on the school campus.


There are a number of public safety issues that Knickerbocker wants to tackle.  He’s concerned about neighborhoods that have become population centers disconnected from each other.  He says now is the time to shift grant money to public safety and connecting neighborhoods with sidewalks.  He wants students to be able to safely walk to school and for people who live near Meckauer Park to be able to get there safely.  Right now there isn’t even a sidewalk at the park.  Over the next 10 years he wants to see sidewalks on both sides of streets, especially by the schools, and more crosswalks.

Former YMCA building officially sold to CIFC

The Connecticut Institute For Communities has closed on the purchase of the former YMCA building on Boughton Street in downtown Danbury.  Over the next year, the building will be comprehensively refurbished.  The plan calls for having the Danbury Community Center as the base of operations for a new Danbury Boys and Girls Club, a chapter of the national Boys and Girls Club organization. 


Connecticut Institute For Communities President & CEO James Maloney says they were able to purchase the building with the help of a $2.5 million state grant.  The building was purchased for $1,175,000 and the balance will be used for renovations.


The Danbury Community Center will have a swimming pool, gymnasium and activity spaces.  Recreational activities will include “senior swim”, swim-safety classes for Danbury school children, basketball and other sports opportunities for local teams and groups.


The building does have a stage, which was decommissioned.  It was next to the gym, and it will be put back in.  There could then be cultural activities and concerts of children through high school age.


Connecticut Institute For Communities has hired Danbury-based Rizzo Corporation as Construction Manager for the rehabilitation work.  It is anticipated that the rehabilitation work will be completed in about 12 months.

Local veterans presented with Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medals

130 Veterans from Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman have received Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medals.  A ceremony was held Tuesday at Danbury High School.  The medals were presented by Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly.  25 were awarded posthumously. 


Connolly called it truly a great honor to be able to recognize veterans.  He's been Commissioner for 7 months and every day he wakes up inspired. 


(Photo Courtesy: State VA, Facebook)


There are more than 200,000 veterans in the state.  Connolly says there's nothing more satisfying than thanking veterans, and being able to pin a medal on them for their service.


The medal was reintroduced in 2005. 


Connolly says it's a way for Connecticut to honor veterans who have served during wartime.  Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Merchant Marines and Coast Guard were among the branches represented by some 80 honorees.  All eras were represented, beginning with World War II.  There were also veterans who served in the Vietnam War, Korean War, the Cold War, the Desert Storm and Desert Shield era and post-9/11 veterans. 


Connolly thanked veterans for their service in the military, and for continuing to give back to their communities.


Area state and local elected officials, as well as family members of honorees, were in attendance.  The ceremony was sponsored by Senator Mike McLachlan and the state Representatives whose districts overlap with his.  The lawmakers reached out to constituents and then worked with VA staff to verify eligibility.


This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.  Connecticut is also commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  Connolly says this was an opportunity to recognize the veterans who weren't honored the way they should have when they came home.


Connolly would like to make November Veterans Month.  He says the United States has the longest enduring constitutional democracy because of the sacrifices of service men and women, and he wants state residents to reflect on that.  He also wants everyone to thank them for providing their service for us.

Canine police officers graduate from training, headed to Putnam County Sheriff's Office

19 canine police officers have graduated from MTA police explosives detection and anti-terrorism training. 


Two of the dogs are headed to work with the Putnam County Sheriff's office.  The dogs and their human handlers trained in Stormville New York.  Construction of a new training academy on the site is almost completed.  The 15 canine officers working with the MTA will inspect suspicious packages and patrol the trains, stations, tracks and related facilities.  The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is a regional partners of the MTA. 


Dogs are approximately one year old when they go through the 12-week training course. They live with their human partners, and can serve in active duty for up to eight or nine years before retiring. 


The two dogs headed to Putnam County are named Satch and Sentinel.


Satch was named in honor of Deputy Putnam County Sheriff Michael Neuner, who as a volunteer firefighter was killed in line of duty on June 22, 1997, when a floor collapsed beneath him inside a burning house.  Sentinel was named in honor of Putnam County War Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ridgefield Police collect 55 pounds of medicine during RX Take Back day

Ridgefield Police collected a total of 55 pounds of unused and unwanted medications this weekend during a prescription drug take back event.  There is a drop box in the lobby of the Ridgefield Police Station that's available to the public 24 hours a day, and it's completely anonymous.  These drug take back days are held no questions asked to prevent drugs from getting into the water system if flushed, or keeping the medicine out of the wrong hands.

First Light to begin lake drawdowns

First Light Power will start water drawdowns later this month and next.  Lake Zoar at the Stevenson Dam power station will be lowered for 9 days starting on Saturday.  The annual Lake Lillinonah drawdown at the Shepaug Dam will start on November 2nd and will return to a normal elevation 7 days later.  The Candlewood Lake drawdown will begin on November 1st.  Some of the drawdowns are to allow for maintenance and inspections.  On Candlewood, the Eurasian Milfoil gets exposed to the freezing winter temperatures killing off some of the invasive aquatic species.

Ridgefield among towns participating in statewide emergency preparedness drill

The state is set for part two of an emergency preparedness drill, with Day one held on Saturday.  In the past, statewide emergency drills have used a hurricane and a winter ice storm as the scenario.  Ridgefield is among the towns participating today.  State Emergency Management spokesman Scott Devico says this time it will be the effects of a tornado touching down in several towns. 


Devico says a post event analysis and report will be done to point out the strengths and weaknesses observed during the drill. 


Ridgefield town department heads, school officials, emergency management personnel and volunteers are participating in the third annual Emergency Planning and Preparedness Initiative.  It's a drill that simulates response to a large-scale, natural or man-made disasters.  Typically, the scenario is a major weather event complicated locally by structural damage, utility outages, trapped persons, closed roads, fires and other challenges.   


First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the drill gives municipalities the chance to see what parts of emergency operations plans work and what needs revision.  Marconi says most of the Emergency Operations Center logistics, planning and staff work is accomplished by specially trained members of the Community Emergency Response Team.


Marconi says these types of drills have helped the town to improve overall response.  He emphasized that Wednesday's events are only a DRILL and no real emergency is taking place.


In Ridgefield this year, school emergency plans, will be exercised along with the overall town plans.

Schlumberger Citizens Committee hosts charette on future uses of the property

A workshop is being held tonight by the Schlumberger Citizens Committee to go through the results of an online survey about the future of the remaning town-owned land.  Ridgefield bought the 45 acre site for $7 million and have since sold 15 acres. Developer Steve Zemo paid $1.25 million for five acres of land for a multi-use proposal.  A closing is expected later this month on 10 acres, sold for $4.3 million to Charter Group Partners for a 54-unit senior housing complex. 


First Selectman Rudy Marconi previously said there is another possible contract in the works.  The Philip Johnson building could be turned into a museum.  That could house works by longtime Ridgefield resident Maurice Sendak.  


An open house is being held at the Parks and Rec building at 6:30pm, and will be followed by a workshop from 7pm to 9pm.


A majority of respondents said they want to keep the property as open space or to increase cultural offerings.  Of those aged 55 and older who responded to the survey, increasing the diversity of Ridgefield's housing stock was identified as an important objective.  That age group preferred more commercial development, while those under age 55 want the town to pursue more retail and restaurant development.

Danbury Mayor calls for municipalities to be part of budget deficit resolution talks

The day after calling for bipartisan legislative talks about state budget problems, Governor Dannel Malloy spoke at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities convention this morning.  


Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says municipal leaders should be at the table.  He says the legislature and Governor need to think about police, fire  and educational services that need to be delivered.  In the past, when municipal leaders are not there Boughton says they've found that state will go down a path that doesn't take into account the important services that municipalities need to deliver.


Malloy says only legislative leaders are invited to the budget talks because it's a legislative issue.  He also cited the size of the table not being able to accommodate the views of each 169 municipalities individually.  But Malloy says he's open to talking to CCM on an ongoing basis. 


Malloy says he doesn't favor cuts to cities and towns to solve the budget issues.  Boughton says the CEOs should be part of the discussion to hold Malloy to that.


CCM executive Director Joe DeLong says they don't want to tell legislators how to do their job, but how their decisions will trickle down to the local level.

Traffic change in Redding at Route 107, Goodsell Hill Rd.

Redding Police have announced a traffic change.  Cars can no longer exit from Goodsell Hill Road onto Route 107.  Redding Police say cars can used Beeholm Road to access Route 107. 


The change is in place for at least six months so officials can determine whether the closure has had a positive effect on the tiny, winding road.  A temporary barrier will block the driving lane near the intersection with 107, though cars will still be able to come in that road.  A sign will be put in place saying that the road is now a "dead end". 


Redding Police say this is similar to the trial period at Newtown Turnpike and Route 58, which was made permanent.

Public Hearing to be held in Newtown on proposed Charter changes

A public hearing is being held in Newtown tomorrow night about proposed Charter revisions.  The Legislative Council was given an overview of the proposed changes earlier this month by the Charter Revision Commission.  Overall, the town's governing document was made more readable and user friendly. 


According to the presentation, which is available on the Newtown website, several changes are being proposed.  Among them is which boards and commissions are detailed in the Charter, how vacancies are filled, and changing the language of the budget advisory questions.  Another proposed change would eliminate the town meeting. 


Tomorrow night's hearing is at 7pm in Council Chambers at the Newtown Municipal Center.

Kent residents approve Railroad Street land purchase

Kent residents have approved buying nearly half an acre of land off Railroad Street.  During a town meeting Thursday night, Kent residents gave approval to the $190,000 land purchase.  First Selectman Bruce Adams says the plan to to construct a visitors center with public restrooms.  The facility would also include showers for people hiking the Appalachian Trail, which runs through Kent. 


Discussions about the design of the facility will be held at a later date.  


The town has a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to cover the costs of the project. 


The need for restrooms was prompted by The Kent Village Barn closing its bathrooms to the public.  Port-a-potties were set up by the town off Maple Avenue behind the Historical Society's Swift House.  The STEAP grant originally was for a parcel of land off North Main Street, but the town lost its bid on that lot.  The state approved changing the terms of the grant for this new proposed parcel.

US appeals court upholds gun laws passed after Newtown shooting

NEW YORK (AP) -- Gun control laws passed in New York and Connecticut to ban possession of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School were mostly upheld Monday by a federal appeals court.


The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan found core parts of the laws did not violate the Second Amendment because there was a substantial relationship between bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines and the "important - indeed, compelling - state interest in controlling crime."


"When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings," according to the ruling written by Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes. "They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers."


The three-judge panel noted that the Newtown shooting in December 2012 occurred when 154 rounds were fired in less than five minutes and renewing a nationwide discussion on the role of guns in America and how to diminish the threat of large-scale shootings.


But the court found Connecticut's ban on a non-semi-automatic Remington 7615 unconstitutional. And it said a seven-round load limit in New York could not be imposed even as it upheld other bans on magazines.


"Like assault weapons, large-capacity magazines result in 'more shots fired, persons wounded, and wounds per victim than do other gun attacks,'" the court said.


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he was pleased by the ruling. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen called the court's decision "deeply gratifying."


"At a time when many Americans have abandoned hope of government's ability to address gun violence in our schools and on our streets, Connecticut's laws - and today's decision - demonstrate that willing states can enact meaningful reform to improve public safety without violating the Second Amendment," he said in a statement.


"Now that the Court has ruled, it is time for everyone involved in the critical debate about how to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and unstable people to come together to work toward sensible solutions that will keep our communities safe."


The plaintiffs in the case were groups supporting gun rights, pistol permit holders and gun sellers. Lawyers for those groups didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.


Jake Palmateer, a spokesman for the gun rights group NY2A Grassroots Coalition, which wasn't a plaintiff, said he was disappointed.


"Just as no American citizen should face felony prosecution in one state for what is seen as free speech in another state, no American citizen should be denied their Second Amendment rights just because they live in New York or Connecticut," he said.


The appeals court addressed several gun rights groups' arguments, including that mass shootings are rare events that would be minimally affected by gun control laws.


"That may be so," the 2nd Circuit said. "But gun-control legislation 'need not strike at all evils at the same time' to be constitutional."


The appeals court said the claim by gun rights groups that the ban on assault weapons will primarily disarm law-abiding citizens was "speculative at best, and certainly not strong enough to overcome the substantial deference we owe to predictive judgments of the legislature on matters of public safety."

Redding First Selectman candidates participate in debates

The candidates for Redding First Selectman have voiced their opinions in two different debates heading into the November election.  One was hosted by the League of Women Voters, the other by Channel 12.  Democratic incumbent Julia Pemberton is seeking a second term.  Prior to public service, Pemberton was in publishing, small business and has an entrepreneurship background.


Republican Eric Witt is looking to unseat Pemberton.  He is a consultant by trade, and is currently a Redding Board of Education member. Witt wants to bring an outside perspective to the office.  He's led security forces, been to firefighting school and helped run emergency management exercises with state police and state agencies.  He has managed a countrywide transition for NATO and Afghanistan, and holds a doctorate in Law and Policy and degrees in engineering, management and finance.  He says taxes are too high, the real estate values aren't high enough and the Georgetown project isn't moving forward.


They discussed their differing views on the future of the Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill site.  The factory went bankrupt in 2002 and owed Redding $1 million in back taxes.  The then-administration sold the tax liens to a developer who had great hopes for the property.  There is a single entity developer, a special taxing district in default of all of its debt obligations and 14 lien holders.  In 2008 with the housing market crash and the bank meltdown, money dried up and the project remained stagnant.


Witt says the property is important for the town's tax base.  He says it's going to take a lot of different skills to move the project forward.  He touted his legal, financial, engineering, negotiation and leadership skills. Witt called for new strategic plans to be put in place for what will happen next.


Pemberton says no one really understood why the project hadn't moved forward, and the position the town was put in with a special taxing district.  Dialogue with the owner and the bond holders has been reignited.  She says the interest of the taxpayers is being protected with a foreclosure action that's been filed.  Pemberton says the 2005 plan is probably not scaled properly for today's economy.


Witt was critical of Redding having the third highest property tax of the 13 most affluent towns in Fairfield County.  He wants to run the town more like a business, going over the budget line item by line item.  He also called for finding programs that aren't effective or efficient, rework them if possible or eliminate them if it's not. 


He also suggested doing more service sharing across town and regionally.  He wants to focus on better road maintenance.  Witt said the old adage 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' should be followed when it comes to roads.


Pemberton says Redding has almost 100 miles of road.  Because of the recession and the pressure to keep spending low, the Board of Finance chose to bond for road maintenance and reconstruction at that time.


Witt noted that the school budget has declined, but the Selectmen budget has increased.


Pemberton says the Board of Education budget is about 70-percent of spending in town, with the Board of Selectmen's budget making up the 30-percent balance.  Within that part of the budget, Pemberton says public safety and debt services are the largest pieces.  She says a police contract that had been open since 2012 was settled allowing for officers to work more hours, with less overtime.  After Sandy Hook, a greater level of security was called for in the schools.  School Security Officers have been implemented at the elementary school and she wants to follow up with a similar model for the middle school.


Witt touted enhancements in the quality of education in Redding.  He cited expansion of the foreign language program, full day Kindergarten, investments in technology and extending learning time at the middle school.  Infrastructure was also invested in.


Pemberton says the Board of Finance unanimously approved the proposed Board of Selectmen budget, whereas the Finance Board sought additional savings from the Board of Ed.  She says the reductions in school spending is largely due to declining enrollment.  Pemberton holds quarterly "realtor coffees".  She touted no tax increases in two years, a mill rate that declined last year and stayed flat this year all while not depleting the unassigned fund balance.

Road closure starts Tuesday for Brookfield water pipeline project

Brookfield Police are alerting motorists to a road closure, which begins Tuesday.  North Mountain Road in Brookfield will be closed to through traffic starting Tuesday to allow for construction of a water pipeline up the hill and through the sharp curves in the roadway.  The closure will be in place from 7am to 5pm on weekdays through the completion of the project.
Police say the length of the closure will depend on how much rock is encountered as the trench is dug.  As work progresses on the straighter sections of roadway, police say every effort will be made to have the road open to alternating one-way traffic.

Signs will be posted about detours. 
Traffic will be blocked at Laurel Hill Road and North Mountain Road on the east side and at Flax Hill/Gereg Glen Roads and North Mountain Road on the west side. Motorists on the west side of the closure should use Candlewood Lake Road to continue to Federal Road at White Turkey Extension or use Elbow Hill Road to access Federal Road at Silvermine Road. Motorists east of the closure should use Federal Road and Elbow Hill Road to access Candlewood Lake Road and the various roads on that side.
Any questions or concerns can be directed to the Brookfield Police Department at 203-775-2575.

Youth leadership programs merge in New Milford, Western Connecticut

The Youth Leadership Program of New Milford is merging with the Youth Volunteer Corps of Western Connecticut effective this fall.  The New Milford program was started more than two decades ago.  Over 465 New Milford High School juniors and seniors have participated in community service and leadership development through the program. 


The Youth Volunteer Corps of Western Connecticut is a service learning volunteer program for youth age 11 to 18 in the Greater Danbury area, engaging more than 575 youth in educational and service programs.  The organization also runs a Summer of Service camp. 


The United Way of Western Connecticut announced that the new organization will incorporate key aspects from each group to develop community service and leadership skills in youths.

'Congress on Your Corner' event to be held in Newtown

A Congress on Your Corner event is being held in Newtown Monday.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty will be hosting her 9th Congress on Your Corner event this year. 


Previous events were held in Canton, Danbury, Farmington, Meriden, New Britain, Thomaston, Waterbury, and Salisbury.


Esty says the event at CH Booth Library will be a chance for constituents to meet with her one-on-one to share their thoughts on issues facing the community and being taken up by Congress.  Esty will be joined by members of her staff, who will be able to help constituents resolve problems with federal agencies. 


She encouraged people needing help with Social Security, Medicare or veteran-related matters among others to attend the event at CH Booth Library from 5:30 to 6:30pm.

Special Voter Registration Sessions to be held by local Registrars

Several area towns are holding voter registration drives.  There are special Saturday hours being held by Registrar's offices.  Offices in New Fairfield Town Hall, the Bethel Municipal Center and Wilton Town Hall among others will be open from 10am to 2pm for the voter registration session.  Bridgewater Town Hall will be open from 10am to noon. 


The deadline for registering to vote in the November 3rd Municipal Election by mail, online and in person is October 27th.

30th annual Danbury College and Vocational Fair is on Monday

The 30th annual Danbury College and Vocational Fair takes place Monday at the Danbury Mall.  Students from approximately 70 high schools have been invited to attend.  Adults interested in further training are also being urged to attend.  Over 225 schools will be represented.  Schools from as far away as Florida, Texas and California are expected to speak to the diverse student population and provide information about their schools.  The Armed Services, trade schools, business schools and the job service will also be at the fair. 


5,000 students and their parents are expected to visit the college and vocational fair.  Chairwoman Valerie DeRubertis says this is one of the largest and most successful college fairs in the country.


Students and adults can talk with school representatives about majors, costs, entrance requirements, student life, sports and scholarship information among other topics.  Tonight, Danbury High School counselors, including Spanish speaking counselors will be in the upper and lower level center courts to help fair attendees. 


The Danbury School District website shows the list of institutions attending, and a map of where their booths will be located.  There are also tips on what to ask college representatives and financial aid information on the Danbury site. 


On both levels of the mall from 5pm to 8:30pm.

'Walk of Honor' to be held Sunday in Danbury

The 8th annual Walk of Honor takes place on Sunday in Danbury. 


A one-mile walk will follow the ceremony and is rain or shine.  It is mapped out around Rogers Park, but will be held indoors if there's inclement weather.


The ceremony will open with the Germantown Ancients Fire and Drum Corps.  An honor guard will be on hand.  The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.  A military mom will sing the National Anthem.  The keynote speaker is Lt Col. Patrick Ford who works with Vet Center. 


A World War II Marine Corps veteran has been named as this year's recipient of the Warrior Award.  90-year old Anthony Yakacki was wounded on Iwo Jima and one of only four survivors out of his group of 30 Marines. 


475 bricks, dedicated to area veterans, now line the walkway leading to the War Memorial.  There are also newly installed pillars.  Local veteran organizations donated money to have these installed to line the walkway.

Kent among the communities receiving state funds to preserve open space

Nearly $6 million in state grant money is being given to 17 municipalities to purchase almost 950 acres of open space.  The towns of Kent, Sharon and Woodbury are among those benefitting from this round of funding.


The Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program helps local governments and land trusts purchase open space using funding from the 2005 Community Investment Act and state bond funds.  This grant program requires a conservation and public recreation easement that will ensure that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment.


Open space protection projects help Connecticut achieve the goal to protect 673,000 acres of land by 2023.  Connecticut has 500,000 acres designated as state or local open space lands, 74-percent of the goal. 


The Kent Land Trust will use $100,000 to purchase 25.3 acres of land for a project known as West Aspetuck Scenic Wetlands.  The property is downstream from North Spectacle Lake and across the street from the 250-acre Camp Francis.  The property features forested land, wetlands and a freshwater aquatic habitat that may include endangered and threatened plant species.  The Kent Land Trust holds a limited conservation easement on the land.  The funding will make it so development rights are non-existent.


The Sharon Land Trust will use $538,687 to purchase 72.1 acres of land for the Benton Hill Preserve.  The property is located next to the New York State line between Route 343 and Benton Hill Road.  This is the first step in a planned greenway along Route 343.  The property hosts a ridge wit scenic vista, wetlands and open fields composed of almost 80-percent prime agricultural soils.  This purchase also protects a large adjacent wetland complex where several plant or animal species of concern have been documented.


Woodbury is receiving $1.5 million to acquire two parcels of land from Aquarion Water Company.  One parcel is more than 180 acres known as the Woodbury Reservoir Property spanning into Southbury.  It contains an inactive reservoir and abuts three town open space properties.  The other parcel is 69 acres of land along Route 64, and adjacent to the Whittemore Sanctuary.  Both properties are undeveloped, have extensive wetlands, and 10 acres of open water.  They are part of the Pomperaug River Greenway and contain the Middlebury Trolley Bed Trail

Newtown Community Center Commission to hold information session Saturday

There is one more public information session being held in Newtown by the Newtown Community Center Commission.  It will take place tomorrow morning at 10am at CH Booth Library. 


During previous question and answer sessions residents talked about what they would like to see housed in a new facility, which would be constructed using a donation from General Electric.  $10 million would be used for construction with $5 million to support operations for the first five years.  The donation was made by GE after 12-14. 


The center would be located on the Fairfield Hills campus near NYA Sports and Fitness Center.  The size of the building and what it will house have yet to be determined.  Some suggestions given to the group include a place for senior activities, a pool, a general meeting room and space for the arts. 

Agreement reached over noise issue at Aquarion-owned shooting range

An agreement has been reached between Aquarion Water Company and some Weston residents who live near a outdoor shooting range it operates at the Saugatuck Reservoir.  The use of the range will be limited under the agreement to just members of the Aquarion police force.  The Weston Forum reports that the agreement also limits usage to six times a year, and no longer than two hours at a time. 


In the past, law enforcement agencies were able to practice at the range. 


Ian and Mari Lewis live across the street and brought Aquarion to court over the noise after the Weston Zoning Board of Appeals failed to gain action.  The Lewises also named the Board and their real estate brokers in the suit, which has now been dropped. 


The shooting range is not open to the public.

New Fairfield First Selectman candidates participate in debate

A debate was held Wednesday night in New Fairfield featuring the candidates for First Selectman and Selectman.  The candidates covered a range of topics including keeping the small town look of New Fairfield in the town’s center, protecting water quality of Candlewood Lake and increasing public safety among other topics.


Republican Susan Chapman is seeking reelection to a second term and touted some accomplishments over the last two years.  Democrat Theda Lambert is looking to unseat Chapman.  She is a political newcomer and an attorney by trade.


Chapman touted several accomplishments in her first term.  She says a budget meeting town needs while keeping taxes low has resulted in New Fairfield maintaining its AAA bond rating.  The Library project is under budget and being completed on time, with a grand reopening on Saturday.  After many years, she says the water system project will be placed on the Bond Commission agenda in December.  The town has added "Google Government" which has saved the town money and improved employee efficiency.  A new website is more user friendly and accessible.  A 24/7 paramedic has been added to the New Fairfield emergency response force, lowering response times.  Two new local officers have been added to the force as well.  All officers have been outfitted with Narcan and laptops.


Lambert says residents have told her that New Fairfield's governance is in need of better economic leadership with better communications and transparency.  She's not a politician, and from what residents tell her, she says that's a good thing.  Lambert says New Fairfield needs an executive manager and not a politician.  She wants the town to be as recession proof as possible, but in order to do that the town must become competitive.  Her family moved to New Fairfield because of the schools and Candlewood Lake.  She wants to support the schools and not take money from them.  Lambert says the town's population is aging faster than those of surrounding towns, and has the slowest growth in housing of the area.


They were asked about the New Fairfield Housing Trust lease proposal of town owned land behind Meeting House Hill School for affordable senior housing.  Chapman says the project is worth bringing forward for a townwide referendum.  She understands that some nearby residents don't like the proposed location, but acknowledged that there is a need for affordable senior housing in town.  Lambert says the marketplace should dictate supply and demand.  If there's a need for it, she says a developer would have come in already and built affordable senior housing.


When it comes to a budget, Lambert says a realistic one needs to be put forward each year.  She says there's been a surplus each year in the last four years, about half a million dollars each year.  She says that's money being collected by government not going back into taxpayers pockets.  She was critical of the excess being used and not going back to residents.  Lambert questioned why there's more money coming in than expected and less than expected being spent. 


Chapman says revenues were up significantly this year and that was a large part of the surplus.  She notes that Department heads tell officials what they need, and the difficult decisions are made about what can be funded.  Often times the Board will say that if there's money left over, those priorities can be taken care of.  Chapman noted that the real estate conveyance tax increased by 60-percent from 2013.


The candidates also answered questions about how best to protect the water quality of Candlewood Lake.  Lambert says she is concerned with the blue-green algae blooms that effected the lake this summer.  She says the properties that surround the lake need to have buffer gardens to prevent runoff into the water.  Lamber says the money that comes from docking boats should go back into making sure the lake is cleaned up.


Chapman touted stocking sterile grass carp in the lake to control invasive Eurasian Milfoil.  She and the other chief elected officials from the towns that surround the lake are working on a comprehensive plan for best practices.  Chapman agreed that buffer gardens around the lake are needed.  But she says the watershed is effected by all properties and more education is needed.


A question about how to keep the small town look of New Fairfield, especially in light of rumors that a developer wanted to bring a Walgreens to town, was also posed to the candidates.  Chapman says the developer told her that the deal fell through.  She says that’s not a viable site for a Walgreens.  The infrastructure of the town and the zoning rules don’t support that type of business.  Chapman told the developer that the residents wouldn’t allow a big business to come in an run the small businesses out of town because those businesses are owned by local residents. 


Lambert says Shop Local initiatives need to be front and center.  She also proposed creation of a Chamber of Commerce so all local small businesses could work together.  Lambert says there are good stores in New Fairfield and more people should be shopping local.  Lambert proposed putting in a sewer system in the town center to help commercial enterprises.  She says they are hampered by the growth issues, citing a Dunkin Donuts proposal that failed because they couldn’t put in a bathroom.  She was also critical of a business being turned away because anything dealing with food would have used too much water and put too much of a strain on the system.


Chapman says the person who purchased the Post Office building will clean up that site and hopes they attract a business there.  She says businesses moving from one location in town to another part of town is not a bad thing.  She says it will likely put pressure on the monopoly one owner has in town with rents that are tough for the small business owners.  She says it will likely promote competition and a downward trend of rents. 


Lambert says when a monopoly occurs, that when the government has to step in.  She doesn’t know who the person being referenced is, but has heard the same stories when she has been out talking with residents.


Selectman candidates, both incumbents, Democrat Mike Gill and Republican Kim Hanson also took questions at the debate.

Sen. Murphy launches online survey to hear about commuting nightmares

Senator Chris Murphy has launched a new campaign and online survey, "Fed Up", to hear directly from Connecticut’s commuters about why they’re ‘fed up’ with Connecticut’s traffic and poor transportation infrastructure.  Murphy is looking to receive feedback on how a shorter, more reliable commute could improve commerce, productivity, and quality of life for Connecticut commuters and residents.


Murphy says he'll relay to his colleagues the challenges Connecticut commuters face getting to work and to school and the valuable time and money lost because of delays.  As a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Murphy will take the feedback and stories he hears back to Washington.  He is hoping to secure federal investments in rail and road improvements that support economic development and job creation in Connecticut.


Murphy says he's heard from commuters all across thestate, and knows first hand, that Connecticut traffic is a nightmare.  Murphy says he knows that traffic means stress, congestion means being late for work and delays mean missing dinner with family night after night.  Whether it's on the roads or the rails, Murphy says commuters don't have to accept the status quo of gridlock.


Murphy says improvements to roads and rails are long overdue.

Ridgefield Library, League of Women Voters host debates

Candidates seeking municipal offices in Ridgefield will debate tonight.  Those running for the Boards of Selectmen and of Education will participate in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters and Ridgefield Library.  The debate at the Library starts at 7pm in the lower level program room. 


First Selectman Rudy Marconi is running unopposed for the town's top position. 


The League of Women Voters also plans to hold a forum for Ridgefield Board of Finance candidates.  That will take place on Tuesday at 3pm at Founders Hall.


OFFICE CANDIDATE (*=incumbent) PARTY            
Treasurer Molly McGeehin Democrat
  Bob Cascella Republican
Board of Finance Jessica Mancini* Democrat
  Dave Ulmer* Democrat
  Paul Sutherland* Democrat
  Michael Raduazzo Republican
  Alex Karsanidi Republican
Planning and Zoning Commission Philip Mische* Democrat
4 open seats for four year term Timothy Dunphy* Democrat
  John Katz* Republican
  Peter Chipouras* Republican
  Mark Zeck Republican
1 open sear for two year term Timothy Dunphy Democrat
Board of Assessment Appeals Jeffrey Lundberg* Democrat
1 open seat for four year term Bob Lavelle* Republican
1 open seat for two year term Jeffrey Lundberg Democrat
Board of Education Karen Sulzinsky* Democrat
5 seats, four year term Frances Walton* Democrat
  Christopher Murray* Republican
  David Cordisco Republican
  James Keidel Republican
  Tracey O’Connor Republican
2 seats, two year term Douglas Silver Democrat
  Sharon D’Orso Republican
Board of Selectmen Barbara Manners* Democrat
4 seats Steve Zemo Democrat
  Maureen Kozlark* Republican
  Andrew Bodner* Republican
  Robert Hebert Republican


New lane design on I-84 in Danbury prompts new signage to be ordered

Drivers on eastbound I-84 likely have noticed a new lane change in the area of exit 7 in Danbury.  When the state Department of Transportation repaved the highway this summer, they also added something called an "option lane".  The new code for this exit configuration requires this option lane be added.  Spokesman Kevin Nursik says the goal is to ease traffic congestion in the area.


The old lane design had a "left lane exit only" and two lanes would continue eastbound.  The center lane now splits so that drivers can bear to the left and be on the exit ramp or continue straight to stay on the highway.


Nursik says this option lane is meant to reduce a so-called "cross over effect" of people riding the exit only lane and crossing over at the last minute, often times causing congestion and sometimes causing crashes.  He says the drivers who stay in left lane once the dashes become dots indicating it's an exit lane and then try to cut over to stay on the highway are cheaters.


New signs are being fabricated that will better reflect the new design.  Nursik says those should be installed within the month.  He says the existing signage works, but the new ones will make it more intuitive for motorists.

'Council of Large Towns' created in Connecticut

A new Council of Large Towns has been created in Connecticut.  Danbury is part of the new Council of Large Towns.  The largest municipalities in the state formed the coalition as a part of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.  Their goal is to discuss issues relevant to large cities including the property tax structure, regionalism, workforce development and quality of life.  The quality of life issues included blight, illegal use of ATVs or dirt bikes on public streets and group homes or sober homes.  The group of cities plan to address specific topic areas rather than forming subcommittees.

2015 Warrior Award recipient is Danbury WWII Veteran

The 2015 Walk of Honor Warrior Award recipient is World War II US Marine Corps Veteran Anthony Yakacki.  Yakacki landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945 on his 19th birthday. Marines in the landing craft sang Happy Birthday to him before they stormed the beaches. Yakacki was on Iwo Jima until March 12, 1945 when he was wounded. He was only one of four survivors out of his group of 30 Marines.


Event founder and organizer Mary Teicholz says he remembers vividly today how he had to collect the dog tags of the fallen Marines and the fierce fighting with an enemy that was dug in well. A piece of metal remains in his back from the attack.  Yakacki says he can still remember the blood soaked sand and seeing the wounded and deceased service members.


He never really talked much with his family about how he was wounded.  His son recently learned more about his father's service and nominated him for this award. 


Anthony Yakacki is 90 years old and still flies the American and USMC flag in front of his Danbury home.  The longtime Danbury resident came home and coached baseball and was a Boy Scout Leader.


Presentation of the Warrior Award will take place at the Walk of Honor on Sunday at the Danbury War Memorial at noon.  Additional bricks for the Veterans Walkway will be dedicated.  Pillars lining the walkway were recently installed there. 


The ceremony is inside the Danbury War Memorial.  A one-mile walk will follow the ceremony and is rain or shine.  It is mapped out around Rogers Park, but will be held indoors if there's inclement weather.

Ridgefield Police alert drivers to new stop sign on Grove Street

There is a new stop sign in Ridgefield.  The stop sign was added for southbound traffic on Grove Street.  There is now a three-way stop at Grove Street and Sunset Lane.  The change was made at the recommendation of the Ridgefield traffic authority to improve roadway and traffic safety.

Bethel officials hear about new proposal for expanded police station

Bethel officials have heard a slightly scaled back proposal for a new Police station.  The Public Site and Building Committee met with the Board of Finance and Selectmen last night to looking at a $13.2 million plan.  Residents rejected a $14.1 million plan in December to move and expand the police station. 


The cuts mostly come from changes in material for the building, and a smaller parking lot.  The proposal is still for a 24,000 square foot building. 


An option to further lower the price tag of the project would be to not include a shooting range, which could save $600,000.  But several people at the meeting spoke against that cut. 


A public hearing needs to be held about the proposal before it goes to a referendum.

Local lawmakers sign petition calling for special session about budget cuts

All 15 Republican state Senators, including Mike McLachlan of Danbury, and 64 GOP state Representatives have signed a petition calling for a Special Session to remedy budget cuts ordered by Governor Malloy to hospitals and social service programs, and to make corrections to the budget before a big deficit builds. 


But leaders of the General Assembly's minority party acknowledged Tuesday they need at least four Democrats in the Senate and 12 Democrats in the House to join all 79 Republicans in signing the petition.


Democratic leaders say the petition is "the GOP continuing to put political grandstanding ahead of serious policy".  House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Democrats plan to announce alternatives to Malloy's cuts, which he called devastating.

Debates to be held in New Fairfield, Redding ahead of November municipal elections

Two debates are being held tonight as municipal candidates gear up for November elections.  In New Fairfield, Republican incumbent Susan Chapman is seeking a second term, and is being challenged by Democratic candidate Theda Lambert.  Lambert is a political newcomer, an attorney by trade. 


Tonight's debate will be held in the Community Room next to the Senior Center from 7:30 to 9:30pm. 


In Redding, candidates for several offices will take the stage.  The debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters will be held at the Redding Community Center at 7:30pm.  The First Selectman candidates are Democratic incumbent Julia Pemberton and Republican challenger Eric Witt. 


Candidates for Selectman and the Board of Finance will also be at the debate.

Ridgefield leader organizing economic summit of business, labor, municipalities

A steering committee with municipal officials from Danbury, Newtown and elsewhere are bringing together organized labor and the state's business community to discuss ways to confront Connecticut's sputtering economy. 


Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says he's optimistic about what can be accomplished in a November summit intended to find ways help boost Connecticut's economy.  He says this summit will help then to start picking the easy issues that can be tackled.  They can also get to know one another, develop respect for each other and start making decisions to lead the state into greater days.


The state AFL-CIO, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is behind the summit to bring the groups, which are often at odds at the state Capitol, together.

Brookfield First Selectman candidate debate postponed

The debate in Brookfield between the First Selectman candidates has been postponed.  The debate held by the Chamber of Commerce was supposed to be on Thursday, but it has been moved back to October 27th.  Republican Bill Tinsley is seeking another term in office.  The Democratic challenger is Steve Dunn. 


Dunn said in a statement that for the past six years his wife has been battling kidney cancer and it had been in remission, but on Friday they received news that the cancer has reemerged.  He said in the statement that unfortunately the appointment with a specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering is unavoidably that same day. 


The debate between Dunn and Tinsley will be on the 27th at 7pm at Whisconier Middle School.

3 Bethel Boards to meet about new police station proposal

A joint meeting is being held in Bethel tonight so three government panels can hear about a revised Police Station proposal.  Residents rejected a $14.1 million plan in December to move and expand the police station.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Public Site & Building Commission will hear the same presentation.


More than $900,000 has been cut in the latest proposal for a new police station at Judd Avenue and Dodgingtown Road.  


This has taken some time because the General Assembly was considering a new law that would have mandated regional dispatch centers.  That legislative proposal did not pass.  The committee went back to work in June with the architects to find a way to lower the cost of the project. 


Tonight's meeting is at 7pm in the Municipal Center.

Local lawmaker calls for Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention

A local lawmaker is calling for a new committee to study gun violence.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty a vice chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  On Thursday, she introduced a resolution to establish a new Select Committee to study and make recommendations to address several related matters.


Esty says there's been a disturbing trend in Congress since 12-14.  By her count, Esty says they have held 16 moments of silence on the House floor to honor those killed by gun violence since the tragedy at Sandy Hook.


Those calling for the committee say no proposal is going to stop every shooting, but that they can come up with solutions that stop some tragedies.


The Select Committee on Gun Violence would study and make recommendations to address several matters.  They include loopholes that allow some domestic abusers continued access to firearms, gun violence's effect on public health and connections between access to firearms and dangerously mentally ill individuals.  The committee would also be tasked with looking into the correlation between State gun violence prevention laws and the incidence of gun violence and federal penalties for trafficking and straw purchasing of firearms.


Esty also called for a vote to bring the bipartisan background check bill to the House floor.

Public hearing to be held in Bridgewater over cafe liquor permit

A public hearing will be held in Bridgewater later this week by the Planning and Zoning Commission about Bridgewater Village Store.  Residents voted last November to no longer be a dry town and Zoning rules were changed in February.  The former bank space would be converted to a cafe, and the owner is looking to become the town's first to serve alcohol.  The application includes an expansion, a parking lot redesign, drainage repairs and a new sewage disposal system.  The public hearing on Thursday will be in the Bridgewater Congregational Church parish house at 7pm.

Newtown Legislative Council approves funding for HS Marching Band

The Newtown Legislative Council has approved a special appropriation for the High School Marching Band.  The little more than $17,500 from the undesignated Sandy Hook Special Revenue Fund would be used to buy a box truck needed to bring equipment to and from competitions.  The Board of Selectmen approved the request from the group's parent board last month.  The Parent Board told the Legislative Council at their meeting last week that they would fundraise for the balance needed to meet the $25,000 cost.  Two Council members voted against the motion.

Labor, business teaming up for Connecticut economic summit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) An unusual coalition is joining forces for the first time to convene a Connecticut economic summit.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Connecticut Business and Industry Association and Connecticut AFL-CIO have scheduled a news conference Tuesday to announce plans for a summit for leaders of business, government, labor, education and social services.

Organizers say it will provide an opportunity for these groups, which are often at odds at the state Capitol, to brainstorm and come up with common ideas for Connecticut's economic future.

CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong, CBIA President Joe Brennan and Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lori Pelletier are scheduled to appear at the event. A steering committee with municipal officials from Bloomfield, Danbury, Fairfield, Newtown, North Haven and Ridgefield, is expected to be on hand.

Kent Town Meeting to be held about Railroad Street land purchase

Kent residents will be deciding this week about a land purchase.  A Town Meeting on Thursday is being held in Kent about a nearly half acre of land off Railroad Street.  The asking price is $190,000. 


First Selectman Bruce Adams says the plan is to construct a visitors center with public restrooms, but the vote at 7pm on Thursday in Town Hall is just the land purchase.  The facility would also include showers for people hiking the Appalachian Trail, which runs through Kent.  Discussions about the design of the facility will be held at a later date.


The town has received a grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to cover the costs.  The $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant would reimburse the town for the project. 


The need for restrooms was prompted by The Kent Village Barn closing its bathrooms to the public.  Port-a-potties were set up by the town off Maple Avenue behind the Historical Society's Swift House.  The STEAP grant originally was for a parcel of land off North Main Street, but the town lost its bid on that lot.  The state approved changing the terms of the grant for this new proposed parcel.

Newtown Community Center Commission to hold two more planning forums

An online survey has been closed out by the Newtown Community Center Commission, which is moving forward on deciding about what should be included in such a center.  Newtown residents had through this weekend to complete a survey about how best to use the $15 million dollar gift from General Electric to create a Community Center to meet the needs of the town.  $10 million of the donation is meant to build the facility with the balance to be used to run it for five years.


There are two more public forums being held about the plans.  They are Tuesday night at the Senior Center at 7pm and on Saturday at 10am at CH Booth Library. 


The Commission was formed by the Board of Selectmen after a committee recommended a 35,000 square foot facility on the Fairfield Hills Campus this spring which many said was essentially a senior center and an aquatics center. 

Danbury official questions use of Open Space Bond for Octagon House study

The Danbury City Council has authorized City officials to apply to the CT Historic Trust Preservation to fund a feasibility study of the Octagon House on Spring Street.  The study would be to assess the condition of the structure, which was built in 1853, and provide schematic designs for its rehabilitation. 


$20,000 for the City's matching share of the study cost would come from the Open Space bond. 


City Councilman Ben Chianese questioned if this allocation qualifies for money from that account.  He thought it was for land acquisition, not to be used for a house.  Corporation Counsel Bob Yamin says analysis of the language of the bond shows that this request is qualified. 


City Finance Director David St. Hilaire says he did consult with the City's attorneys.  The language is broad enough to cover the historical preservation of a historical site.  Funding for engineering plans, bid documents and the actual rehabilitation work will be requested later. 


Additional Historic Preservation Technical Assistance Grant funds would be available for those parts of the project.

33rd Annual Columbus Day Observance Parade in Bethel set for Monday

The 33rd Annual Columbus Day Observance Parade will proceed down Bethel roads Monday morning.  The annual event features local residents dressed as Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella and George Washington with Billy Michael leading a quartet in the “Tarantella". 


Longtime organizer Geri Mills says the parade starts at Caraluzzi’s parking lot at 8:45 am.  The parade moves down South Street, Depot Place and onto Greenwood Avenue where it ends at about 9am with speeches at P.T. Barnum Square.  The  Italian flag will be raised at P.T. Barnum Square following the parade. 


The half-hour event will celebrate the contributions and history of Italian immigrants and their descendants to the town and the country.

Danbury orders new flag pole to comply with federal Flag Code

An Italian Flag Raising Ceremony has been held this morning at Danbury City Hall.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the ceremony honors members of the Italian American community in Danbury.  Danbury has done hundreds of flag raisings over the years and another one is taking place this morning. 


But Boughton says it's been pointed out to City officials several times that the Federal Flag Code states the flag of two countries can't be flown on the same pole, one underneath the other.  The entry way to City Hall is being redone, and a second flag pole has been ordered so that Danbury can be fully compliant during flag raising ceremonies. 


But he notes that it won't be here in time for this weekend's ceremony.

Danbury Mayor gives update to Council on heroin abuse prevention task force

A Drug Crisis Task Force is being created by the regional planning group which spans from Sherman down to Stamford.  The Western Connecticut Council of Governments was called on by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and other chief elected officials in the area to address the heroin and opiate addiction which has risen to epidemic levels. 


There were 257 heroin-related deaths in Connecticut in 2013 according to a report from the state medical examiner's office.  The report said that was an increase of nearly double from the previous year.  The task force would better leverage the resources in Western Connecticut to respond to the crisis, and raise awareness about the issue.  Those resources include law enforcement, addition specialists and medical professionals.


At the City Council meeting this week, Boughton said that a unified comprehensive approach to tackling the substance abuse issue will allow all towns in the region to send the same message.  The task force will likely only have nine members.  The state, substance abuse counselors and related nonprofits will be part of the discussion.  The task each of the police chiefs from the 25 town region as well as the Fairfield County Association of Chiefs of Police.


Creation of the task force will likely by on the WCCOG's October meeting agenda for final ratification.  Boughton says the great thing about WCCOG being in charge of this is that the organization has the support staff and resources which individual towns don't have.

Girl Scouts earn Silver Award through First Responder Garden creation

A First Responders Garden has been created by a group of Girl Scouts in New York.  A recognition ceremony was held Thursday for the three Girl Scout Cadettes from Carmel Troop 2655 who built  First Responders Garden on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel as a thank you to the law enforcement, fire department and emergency service workers in Putnam County. 


The First Responders Garden was a project so Alexandra Baranowski, Ashley Leftwich and Gianna Nardini could earn their Silver Award, the second highest award that a Girl Scout can receive.  The Girl Scouts planned, designed and constructed the garden together. 


Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the County has committed maintaining the garden, which is on county property, for a least a year.

Gov: Adding highway lanes will generate billions in economic benefits for CT

Governor Dannel Malloy is touting a new analysis of his transportation improvement plan which says the state's economy will benefit dramatically from widening Interstate 84 in Danbury and elsewhere.  Malloy says the assessment by the state Department of Transportation shows that by adding travel lanes on various roadways, the economy will see nearly $40 billion in benefits. 


He notes that's about four times the cost of the projects. 


Malloy says the economic benefits of the I-84 widening project between Danbury and Waterbury will produce $4.4 billion in new business sales, add $2.6 billion to Connecticut's gross state product and add $1.8 billion in new wage income to workers. 


The total cost of that project is $1.5 billion and will support 4,000 construction jobs.

New Sandy Hook School progressing toward 2016 opening

The new Sandy Hook School is on track to open at the start of the next school year. 


The contractor building the new Sandy Hook Elementary School says work is progressing at the Newtown site. 


Work scheduled to take place this month includes beginning to install the windows, ceilings and soffits at Wing A.  Utility installation at Wing B along with closure of the interior walls there is set to get underway.  Interior wall framing at Wings C and D will be done.  Stone veneer at the front wall of the building will be started.  Curbing and road work at Dickinson Drive and Riverside Road will continue this month.


B and C wing exterior wall progress


C wing treehouse progress

(Photos courtesy:

Rt 35 bridge replacement causes traffic, upsets neighbors

The state Department of Transportation project to replace a bridge on Route 35 in Ridgefield is causing a lot of traffic tie ups in the area of Fox Hill condos because of alternating one-way traffic.  The Ridgefield Press reports that First Selectman Rudy Marconi has called for a public information meeting at the request of area residents about the state project. 


The $2.5 million replacement project is expected to take more than a year to complete.  A temporary bridge is being constructed next to the structure that will be replaced to allow for minimal traffic disruptions.


The information meeting about the project is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7 o'clock in the lower level conference room of town hall. 

Candlewood Lake Authority touts public safety grants from FirstLight

The Candlewood Lake Authority has issued a summer wrap up newsletter touting grants it received for public safety operations.  First Light Power Resources, the Lake owner, issued a $10,000 grant, matched by a private foundation.  It allows the CLA to upgrade the radio system on the Marine Patrol boats.  CLA Executive Director Larry Marsicano says communications between dispatch, the state EnCon Police and the Marine Patrol ensures the safety of the boating public.


Marsicano says an upgrade was needed after the state moved to a new high-frequency system.  The previously used low frequency radios on board the boats couldn't receive any communications from the new system the state was migrating to. 


First Light also issued a grant to replace some 80 aging hazard marker buoys.  The grant was for nearly $10,800.

Danbury Police Officer sworn in as City's first female Sergeant

Two Danbury Police Officers have been promoted to the position of Sergeant.


Officer Amity LaFantano made history when she was sworn in at Danbury City Hall Wednesday morning, becoming the department’s first female sergeant. Sergeant Lafantano joined the Danbury Police Department in 2007, having previously served as a Police Officer in Newtown. LaFantano has served as a Field Training Officer since 2012; a Part Time Evidence Technician since 2011 and a Recruitment Team Member since 2014. LaFantano has several letters of appreciation and commendations including Unit Citations in 2011 and 2012.


(Photo credit: Danbury Police)


Officer Robert Conrad also was sworn in as a Sergeant. Conrad began his career with the Danbury Police Department in 1988.  He was as a member of the ESU Swat team from 1998 to 2010 and served as an Assistant Court Officer since July 2005.  Conrad has received numerous letters of appreciation and commendations including an Exceptional Police Service Award in 1991.


Two firefighters were also promoted Wednesday morning to the position of Fire Lieutenant.


Firefighter Ted Mourges began with the Danbury Fire Department in 2006.  He previously served as a fire fighter/driver for the Newtown Hook and Ladder Department from 1985 through 1993.  Mourges has a number of certifications including, but not limited to, Fire Officer; Rescue Technician; Hazardous Materials Technician; State Tele-communicator; Heavy Vehicle Extrication; Pump Operator and Confined Space Technician.



(Photos Courtesy: Danbury Fire Department)


Firefighter Richard Krekorian was also promoted.  He started at the Danbury Fire Department in 1993.  Krekorian has a number of certifications including, but not limited to, Fire Instructor; CORE Rescue; Trench Rescue; Aircraft Rescue; Incident safety Officer and Pump Operator.  He has received an EMS Award and Unit Citations.

Local lawmaker calls on UConn Foundation to disclose more information

A local lawmaker is again calling for the UConn Foundation to provide more information about their operations.  Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says he was disappointed the UConn Foundation would not provide him a list of employees, their salaries and their duties.  The President of the UConn Foundation said in a letter to McLachlan that they are a private non-profit and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  McLachlan says he will try again this Spring, for the 4th time, to make the foundation subject to the law because it's the state's flagship university's fundraising arm.  The UConn Foundation says it already provides more information than other non-profits in the state.

K9 event benefits Newtown Kennel Club, Second Company Governor's Horse Guard

The 2015 Western Connecticut Police K-9 Challenge was held over the weekend as a benefit for the Newtown Kennel Club and the Friends of Second Company Governor's Horse Guard.  More than 30 teams of handler and active duty police and military K-9's from area towns, along with the MTA K-9 unit in New York City and the 928th Military Police Army National Guard participated at the event. 


K-9 Czar apprehending his "suspect," Newtown Police Officer Matt Hayes

(Photo credit: David S. Woo)


Based on cumulative points earned in the individual events of obstacle course, article find, obedience, and suspect apprehension, the Norwalk Police Department K9 Czar won first place overall.  Czar is trained on narcotics and patrol.  Second place overall went to Ridgefield Police K9 Loki, who is trained in patrol.  The 3rd place award went to Naugatuck Police K9 Vane, who is patrol certified. 


Ridgefield Police OfficerShawn Murray, K9 Loki (Photo credit: Ridgefield Police)


Loki also  placed 1st in the obstacle event and 3rd for best K9.


K-9 Saint Michael (with Officer Felicia Figol from the Newtown PD) shows off his skills in an Obedience demonstration (Photo credit: David S. Woo)

Monroe awarded STEAP grant for new EMS building

Monroe is among the municipalities being awarded state funding in the next round of Small Town Economic Assistance Program.  Monroe will receive $500,000 STEAP grant to build a headquarters for the volunteer emergency medical services. 


The EMS is housed within the Fire Department complex and has grown to need a dedicated space.  Officials say the current situation has structural and operational deficiencies including a leaky roof, cracks in the walls and water damage inside the building. 


The new headquarters will include garages for emergency vehicles, storage for equipment, training facilities and sleeping quarters.


Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski says these funds will go a long way to pay for a new facility for these public safety volunteers.  State Senator Kevin Kelly says when taxpayer dollars are invested, they should be for projects improving key functions of government, such as public safety.

Bethel Primary polling location selected at random for audit by state

A Bethel polling location has been randomly selected for an audit of the primary vote.  Secretary of the State Denise Merrill randomly chose 15 voting precincts from the September 16th primary to have their machine totals audited.  There were also five alternate precincts chosen in case the chosen precincts cannot be audited for any reason. 


State law mandates that 10% of all voting precincts have their machine totals audited following any election or primary.  There were a total of 143 voting precincts where primaries were held. 


The machine at Stony Hill Fire House was selected for audit.  The first alternate polling precinct chosen was the Berry Elementary School machine. 


Bethel Republicans voted that Will Duff would be the First Selectman candidate to challenge Democratic incumbent Matt Knickerbocker in November.  


Duff, the GOP candidate two years ago, defeated Planning and Zoning Commission chair Pat Rist by 39 votes.  In the Stony Hill District 2, the vote was 61 for Duff and 83 for Rist.  At the Berry polling location, the tally was 116 for Duff and 92 for Rist.

Ridgefield residents weigh in on future uses of Schlumberger site

The Schlumberger Citizens Committee has released a summary of survey findings, and set up a date for an interactive planning workshop about the future of the town-owned site.  Vision for 30 acres planning charrette will take place on October 21st with an open house at 6:30pm and a workshop at 7pm at the Ridgefield Recreation Center. 


More than 1,400 people responded to the online survey.  More than half were aged 35 to 55. 


A majority of respondents said they want to keep the property as open space or to increase cultural offerings.  Of those aged 55 and older who responded to the survey, increasing the diversity of Ridgefield's housing stock was identified as an important objective.  That age group preferred more commercial development, while those under age 55 want the town to pursue more retail and restaurant development. 


The survey then came up with specific uses within general topics.  When asked about Active Open Space, athletic fields was tops.  Walking trails garnered the highest response for Passive Open Space while an outdoor stage was the preferred Civic and Cultural use.  If there were to be commercial development, nearly half said it should be niche retail.  Single family housing earned the highest support if the property would be developed for housing. 


Responses to 'other suggested uses' included a bowling alley, community pool, biking trails, open space, community/teen center and corporate headquarters. 


Concerns for the site included traffic.  Many of the comments suggested the housing is not a desirable use for the site.

Local lawmaker presented with 'Children's Champion Award'

A local lawmaker has received the Children's Champion Award from the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.  The presentation was made Monday to Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher during a visit to the YMCA Children's Center in Bethel.  The Alliance is a statewide advocacy group that works toward improving outcomes for children from birth to age 8 in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security. 


YMCA President and CEO Marie Miszewski says Boucher is an important member of the Bethel community and has always fought for the needs of children in Connecticut.


This is Boucher's fifth time receiving the honor.  In accepting the award, Boucher said children and educational quality and access have always been top priorities in her public service work.


Among the legislation passed, a bill that gives early childhood educators additional time to obtain their degrees, a bill that addresses safe sleeping practices for infants, a bill that implements a comprehensive mental, emotional and behavioral health plan; a bill that expands School Readiness seat eligibility by allowing programs to serve children who don’t live in the district; and a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to inform child care centers in emergency conditions.

Bethel, Wilton Historical Societies to receive state funding

20 non-profits are sharing in state funding for cultural and historic sites.  The Department of Economic and Community Development is doling out nearly $2 million from the Good to Great Program. 


Among those sharing in the funding is the Bethel Historical Society.  The group is receiving little more than $69,000 in state funding.  The Wilton Historical Society will receive $125,000. 


Department Comissioner Catherine Smith says 46 applicants submitted projects that demonstrate a clear vision of how individual sites can improve the customer experience and promote more visitors.  They also demonstrated how they tie together local, regional or statewide cultural assets.

New Sandy Hook School progressing toward 2016 opening

The new Sandy Hook School is on track to open at the start of the next school year. 


The contractor building the new Sandy Hook Elementary School says work is progressing at the Newtown site.  The mid-September update shows work has started to close interior walls of Wing A, the membrane roof of Wing B was completed and started on Wing C.  Interior wall framing in those sections continue.  The exterior wall framing of Wings C and D was completed.  A retaining wall has also been installed. 




(Photos courtesy:


Site Work began in October 2014.   


The new school building is a different shape and size than the former school and will not be located in the exact same area of the school site, but has the same address on Dickinson Drive.

Local lawmaker calls for reforms to the mental health care system

One of Connecticut's two U.S. Senators is calling on Congress to act on a bill that overhauls the nation's mental health care system. 


Senator Chris Murphy introduced a bill that would strengthen and reform the mental health care system earlier this year.  He says the measure would make critical changes to address a lack of resources, enhance coordination and develop meaningful solutions to improve outcomes for families dealing with mental illness. 


Murphy says while there's no inherent link between mental illness and gun violence, increasing the capacity of the mental health care delivery system will make it more likely for intervention to happen before someone makes the decision to turn violent. 


The Cassidy-Murphy Mental Health Reform Act will do the following:


Integrate Physical and Mental Health

·         Encourages states to break down walls between physical and mental health care systems by requiring states to identify barriers to integration. States would be eligible for grants of up to $2 million for five years, prioritizing those states that have already taken action. States taking part are eligible with additional federal funds to treat low-income individuals who have chronic conditions or serious and persistent mental illness.


Designate an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use

·         Elevates the issue of mental health by establishing an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who will be responsible for overseeing grants and promoting best practices in early diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. The Assistant Secretary will work with other federal agencies and key stakeholders to coordinate mental health services across the federal system and help them to identify and implement effective and promising models of care.


Establish New Grant Programs for Early Intervention

·         Establishes a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for children as young as 3 years of age who demonstrate significant risk factors recognized as related to mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. A second grant program supports pediatrician consultation with mental health teams, which has seen great success in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut.


Establish Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee

·         Establishes a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Coordination Committee under the Assistant Secretary to ensure documentation and promotion of research and treatment related to SMI and evaluate efficiency of government programs for individuals.


Establish New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory

·         New entity will fund innovation grants that identify new and effective models of care and demonstration grants to bring effective models to scale for adults and children.


Reauthorize Successful Research & Grant Programs

·         Reauthorizes key programs like the Community Mental Health Block Grants and state-based data collection. The bill also increases funding for critical biomedical research on mental health.


Strengthen Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity

·         Requires the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to conduct audits on Mental Health Parity implementation and issue guidance on how determinations are made regarding comparability mental health services and physical health services.


Improve Mental Health Services within Medicare/Medicaid

·         Makes critical reforms to allow for patients to use mental health services and primary care services at the same location, on the same day. Repeals the current Medicaid exclusion on inpatient care for individuals between the ages of 22 and 64 if the CMS actuary certifies that it would not lead to a net increase of federal spending.

Danbury wants state to reform education funding system

Danbury officials have gathered to call on the state to fulfill their financial obligation to the schools.  The Danbury Board of Education, City Council, state lawmakers and others held a public information session Monday night about the district being underfunded by some $30 million. 


Information provided by the schools says that funding to districts is being given out in lump sums now with the state having suspended the Education Cost Sharing Formula in 2013.  School officials say the grants are calculated in a way that higher mill rate towns get more money, and districts with lower costs for special need students or English Language Learners also receiving more funding. 


School officials say new funding proposed under the ECS formula, to be reinstated in 2016, cuts what Danbury is entitled to by 50 percent, or $30 million.


The state is being called on by Danbury officials to come up with a more fail-safe funding method for school districts based on students' learning needs.


The School District says Danbury has the 7th lowest per student spending in Connecticut at $12,684, relying heavily on local funding.  Danbury contributes $9,061 per student, or 70 percent.  The schools say that's nearly twice that of a similar district.  Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says the taxpayers need relief, and the state needs to help make sure every child is reaching his or her fullest potential.

Ordinances proposed in Bethel up for public information session

Five ordinances have been proposed by Bethel officials and are the subject of a public information session being held on Tuesday.  They were going to be discussed in a public hearing, but First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the information session is a lot less formal, allows for more give and take, and gives the Selectmen more time to make any changes based on feedback from residents.


The Board of Selectmen meeting is at 7:30pm.


A Snow and Ice Removal ordinance is being proposed, and is based on state statute.  The proposals says the the town will not be liable to any person injured on property caused by the presence of ice or snow on a public sidewalk, unless the Town is the owner in control of the land or abutting sidewalk .  It also requires property owners to clear their sidewalks or be liable if someone is injured.  Any effort to recover damages for injury must be made within two years.


A change has been proposed to the Exemption for Veterans.  State statute now allows an additional exemption from property tax.  100-percent disabled veterans would be entitled to a property tax exemption equal to three times the amount of the exemption provided for in state statutes.  There are some income restrictions listed in the proposal. 


An ordinance about overnight parking on town property is being proposed.  No cars would be allowed in public parking lots owned by the town between 3am and 6am including the Old Bethel Railroad Station at 5 Depot Place, the Library, the Municipal Center and the Board of Education parking areas.  The exception would be in permitted lots.  Overnight parking permits are granted for exceptional reasons at the discretion of the Police Chief or the First Selectman.  The permits are limited to one 24-hour period. 


Vehicles parked in restricted areas without permit for 24 to 48 hours will receive a written warning.  A $10 per day fine would be issued for cars parked more than 48 hours but less than 7 days.  Vehicles parked in restricted areas for longer than 7 days will be towed at the owner's expense.


A Hazards to Public Roadways ordinance defines some terms and discusses enforcement.  Hazards such as snow, leaves and other debris is allowed to be moved into a public right-of-way.  If someone received a written warning for violation by the Bethel Public Works Director to remove the hazard and it's not done within 15 days, a $100 fine could be issued.  Each subsequent written warning is a new violation and subject to additional fine.


A Noise Ordinance is proposed to deal with excessive noise and disturbances in town.  It's also been proposed to protect the safety, health and general welfare of Bethel residents.  The law would regulate commercial construction, demolition, excavation and building operation so that it can't take place before 7am during the week, before 8am on Saturdays and before 10am on Sundays.  It can't take place after 8pm on any day.  Excessive honking and sound amplifying devices in cars emitting excess noise are also not permitted.


Lawn care equipment is allowed to operate between 7am and 9pm without violating the noise ordinance.


Enforcement would be in the hands of the Bethel Police Department.  Anyone violating the ordinance could be fined $50 for the first offense, $75 for a second violation happening within 30 days of the first, and $100 for any subsequent violation happening withing 30 days of the second offense.


There are several exceptions including bells or chimes from buildings, permitted recreational or celebratory activities like parades, concerts or fireworks.

Healing Hearts is featured charity of Stew Leonard's Wishing Well

The Healing Hearts Center for Grief & Loss is the featured charity for Stew Leonard's Wishing Well, until October 22.  The spare penny or two tossed into the Wishing Well at the front of Stew Leonard's stores adds up with more than 400,000 customers entering the stores each week.


Healing Hearts Center for Grief & Loss is the only program of its kind to service Western Connecticut and nearby New York and is solely funded by donations.  Healing Hearts has provided support to thousands of families for 20 years.  Their mission is to bring hope and meaning back to families lives.  Healing Hearts program manager Joanna DeNicola says through education, support groups and workshops, children and families have a safe place to begin healing.  She says they begin to understand their feelings as they face the challenge of rebuilding their lives with meaning and hope.


DeNicola says they have different groups for adults based on the type of loss they've suffered.  The groups include the loss of spouse, an infant, a child of any age, and then a general loss group for those grieving a parent, sibling or someone else close to them.  A survivors of suicide group is also offered.


The Wishing Well is located in all four Stew Leonard's locations, and each store features a local charity that changes on a weekly or monthly basis. Customers and their children are invited to toss in their spare change as they exit the store.

Transportation infrastructure upgrade forum to be held at WCSU featuring DOT Commissioner

A forum on the future of Connecticut’s highway and rail system sponsored by the West Conn and the League of Women Voters of Greater Danbury will be held Wednesday night.   State Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker is the keynote speaker.  The forum, from 5:30 to 7 pm in Warner Hall on the Midtown campus, will also feature Thomas Maziarz, chief of the Department of Transportation Bureau of Policy and Planning, and Oz Griebel, a member of the Governor’s Transportation Finance panel.


The state Legislature this year approved a $2.8 billion bonding package to improve Connecticut transportation, the first part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s long-term plan to transform the state’s highways and rail system.


Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk, and Republican Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton, a ranking member of the legislature's Transportation Committee, will discuss legislative perspectives on the plan.


Redeker says “It is essential that we continue to improve transportation options and service in Connecticut. Improving our transportation system also makes Connecticut a more competitive, sustainable and livable state.”


League member-at-large coordinator Judy Greensman says the forum will give residents an opportunity to ask questions of government officials and political leaders on this crucial topic.

Conn. Congressional delegation call for closure of background check loophole

Legislation is going to be introduced next week by Connecticut's two U.S. Senators that would bar gun sales until background checks are completed.  The current practice is that sales go through if background checks are pending beyond 72 hours. 


A similar bill was already introduced in the U.S. House by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.  She called the loophole the "yellow light theory".  Esty says it's like seeing the yellow light turn to red "so quick give them a gun now because we can't sort out if they're a felon or not".  She called it a dumb and crazy system.  Esty says Congress can and should fix it.


Senator Richard Blumenthal said it's a tragic and sad coincidence that this press conference fell the day after another mass shooting at a school, but that it had been scheduled days ago.  Blumenthal says there have been 142 shootings in schools since Sandy Hook.  He says this press conference could have been scheduled any week and the day before there could have been a shooting.


Their bill would close a loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Act. 


Blumenthal says the time for expressions of regret is over, it's time for action.  He says this country has responded to other public health crises whether it's a disease epidemic or carnage on the roads that led to seatbelt requirements or drunk driving prohibitions.  He notes that this country knows how to deal with public health emergencies, and must deal with this one.


Senator Chris Murphy says the silence by Congress condones these murders.  He says those whose minds are beginning to come unhinged think they have been given an endorsement to go forward with their plans.  He was critical of his colleagues who were all talk and no action.


"I don't care how many members of Congress send out tweets saying they're sorry, or they extend their sympathies.  You aren't sorry, you aren't truly sympathetic if you're not willing to act."


Murphy responded to claims that a good guy with a gun is the way to take down a bad guy with a gun.  He says there are thousands of other gun free zones where there aren't mass shootings, so the fact that a shooting happened in one , doesn't mean that gun free zones aren't effective.  Murphy says to suggests laws and rules don't work all the time is an invitation for anarchy.


The Congressional delegation members say this isn't a tragedy like an earthquake which couldn't be predicted or stopped.  They called gun violence a man-made tragedy which could likely be prevented.

Fire Safety Day being held in Danbury today

Danbury's Annual Fire Safety Day is being held today in Danbury.  The event in the Home Depot parking lot off Federal Road takes place from 9am to 1pm.


A home sprinkler demonstration is being held.  Two simulated bedrooms were constructed and furnished. These two structures are being set on fire.  The Fire Marshal's Office says they hope to show families that the one equipped with a sprinkler receives very little damage, while the non-sprinklered one is gutted.


Organizers say this is a great time to meet the local firefighters and first responders.  The volunteer firefighters will be doing an extrication demonstration. 


The Fire Marshal's office will be be handing out some fire prevention information about safe cooking, space heater usage and the importance of smoke alarms in residential buildings.  More than 3,400 people across U.S. die from not having smoke alarms.  Deputy Fire Marshal Gary Bruce says there is a slogan they like to use when it comes to smoke detectors: "hear the beep where you sleep".

Redding residents get update on Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill site

A meeting has been held in Redding about the former Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill property.  The Redding Pilot reports that at the presentation Wednesday, First Selectman Julia Pemberton said that the MTA has made a committment to opening a Georgetown rail station. 


The future of the transit-oriented development is unclear due to the debt problems connected to the site.  Before the recession, plans were in the works to develop the area but that has long since stalled and new developers have been hesitant to make a committment to the area. 


Redding recently entered into foreclosure proceedings against the owners of the site over the debt owed by six parties totalling more than $20 million.

WCSU steps up police presence in response to OR community college shooting

The President of Western Connecticut State University has sent out a letter to students and staff letting them know that there will be a greater police presence on the two campuses in response to yesterday's shooting at a community college in Oregon.  West Conn spokesman Paul Steinmetz says the university community is being asked that if something suspicious is seen, police are called.


The university Police Department is communicating with police and other protective agencies in the region to make sure the two campuses are secure and safe.  West Conn President Dr John Clark says more information will be communicated as warranted.


Some WCSU officers from the overnight shift continued to work through the morning.  Steinmetz says they wanted to make sure that there were enough officers available to talk to anyone who might have questions or concerns.

Danbury official expects to close on 'Octagon House' by the end of the month

A community improvement and neighborhood restoration project is moving forward in Danbury.  The City has completed negotiations with the bank that holds the title to the blighted Octagon House on Spring Street.  Mayor Mark Boughton says they did come in at a number approved by the City Council.


The listing price is about $195,000, but Boughton says that's above what the property value is worth given its condition.  He did not elaborate on the deal that was reached.  The vacant and decaying house was in foreclosure.  It has attracted vandalism, squatting and general blight in recent years. 


Attorneys are putting together closing documents, and Boughton expects to close in the next week or two.


Boughton says the City owning this property would provide stability to the neighborhood in response to resident's complaints and concerns.  The area has become a magnet for drug dealers and prostitutes. 


Danbury officials have identified several grants that will help renovate the house.  Permission to apply for an historic grant will be presented to the City Council.


Boughton wants to house the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team and a police substation on the property.  There are more officers on the streets now that the City has civilian dispatching, and more officers are coming out of the academy.  He says the bike patrol and other related officers would likely operate out of the substation.  He wants to convert the upstairs into a community room for residents to use.  The backyard would become community garden monitored by a non-profit.


Boughton says the building needs $200,000 to $300,000 worth of work because it's fallen into disrepair.  The yard also needs some upkeep, and the parking would have to be reconfigured.


It's one of only a handful of 8-sided houses left in the country and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was built in 1852 by John Earle, an innovator in the hatting industry and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  The house was converted to apartments, but abandoned by its owner in 2008.

Smith-Esty STEM Education Act gains final legislative approval

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is touting final passage of the Smith-Esty STEM Education Act. 


Esty says the bipartisan bill strengthens ongoing science, technology, engineering, and math education efforts at federal science agencies and ensures computer science is included in these efforts as a subject that builds on the traditional STEM subjects.  Esty says this bill also supports competitive merit-reviewed grants for informal STEM education, which is learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers, and afterschool programs.


No new or additional spending is authorized in this bill.  The bill now awaits the President's signature.


Esty says more and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills, and this bill will help children thrive and be competitive in a global economy.  She notes that manufacturers and others are finding it tough to find workers with the necessary technical and critical problem-solving skills to fill jobs in demand.

Renewed calls by Blumenthal for closing loophole in background check law

Newtown's Police Chief will be among those attending a press conference this morning in Connecticut about background checks for guns. 


Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy plan to announce new legislation that would bar gun sales until background checks are complete.  The practice now is that sales go through if checks are pending beyond 72 hours.  The Senators say the killings of nine innocent people in a South Carolina church in June was possible because the alleged gunman was able to buy a gun due to a loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Act. 


Connecticut prohibits such sales, and Walmart is among the firearms dealers not allowing the default sales nationwide.  But Blumenthal and Murphy say with guns easily passing across state borders, Connecticut remains vulnerable in the absence of strong federal action.

140 Congress members call for action against gun violence

This week along there was a shooting at a South Carolina mall, a high school in South Dakota and a community college in Oregon.  Some members of Congress are calling for action.  On Thursday morning, more than 140 members of Congress sent a letter to the Speaker of the House urging gun violence prevention legislation be brought to the House floor. 


4th District Congressman Jim Himes was among those who signed on to the letter which said that gun violence affects every District and every community in America. 


The letter specifically mentions Sandy Hook, and that many elected officials vowed to never let something like that happen again, but notes that there have been at least 50 mass shootings since then.  The letter says it's long past time that Congress addresses the national epidemic of gun violence.

Ridgefield considers allowing medical marijuana facility moratorium to expire

The moratorium on medical marijuana facilities in Ridgefield is set to expire next month.  The moratorium was adopted in 2013, extended last fall and ends on November 7th. 


12 municipalities in the state have moratoriums. 


The state Department of Consumer Protection will be issuing three new licenses for dispensaries in New Haven or Fairfield Counties due to the number of patients registered for the medical marijuana program in the region.  There are six dispensaries in the state including in Bethel.  19 applications were submitted to the state for new facilities. 


At their meeting Tuesday, the Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission members decided to look at the possibility of letting the moratorium end.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the town received three calls of vendors interested in locating a facility in Ridgefield.

Milling, repaving work started on Route 107 in Redding

Redding officials are warning that roadwork being done on major throughway will cause delays.  The milling and repaving of Route 107 in Redding from Route 58 to Route 53 began this week.  The work is being done between 7am and 5pm. 


The project is expected to wrap up by the 23rd. 


Drivers are being cautioned to expect delays.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says her office is in contact with the state Department of Transportation and the School District about traffic impacts. 


Residents who live within the workzone will be able to access their property while the work is in progress.

Esty touts bill to reduce impact of hurricanes, tornadoes through preparedness

A local lawmaker is touting a bill signed into law by the President.  5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says the legislation reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, which is a disaster recovery program that helps develop and encourage cost effective mitigation efforts to reduce the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes.  Esty's amendment ensures the mitigation will include a focus on infrastructure, such as roadways, cell towers and electrical towers.  The amendment added and defined the term "lifelines".

Greater Danbury area towns urge residents to take precautions in case of hurricane

State officials up and down the East Coast are warning residents to prepare for drenching storms, whatever the path that Hurricane Joaquin ultimately takes. 


Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says a lot of the maps are pointing at it going out to sea, but things could change and it could turn back inland.  The City continues to watch the forecast.


Boughton says all families should have a plan in case of a catastrophic event.


He says the City will likely notify residents by Sunday afternoon about what steps they should be taking.


The Ridgefield Community Emergency Response Team is reminding residents that it's not too late to put together a so-called "Grab and Go" bag.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says there's a lot of talk about how to prepare to shelter in place, but not about needing to evacuate in a hurry.   Grab and Go Bag has important papers, medications and survival essentials such as a first aid kit, electronics charges and bottled water.

Newtown families' suit against gun maker sent to state court

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A lawsuit filed against gun maker Remington by families of some Newtown school massacre victims has been sent back to Connecticut state court, where legal experts say it has a better chance of succeeding.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny returned the case to state court on Wednesday.

The families of nine children and adults killed in the shooting and one survivor filed the wrongful death lawsuit in state court in January, saying Remington's Bushmaster AR-15 rifle is too deadly to sell to civilians. Remington disputes the allegations.

A Bushmaster AR-15 was used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Remington moved the case to federal court. Legal experts say federal courts have consistently dismissed wrongful death lawsuits against gun makers.


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