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Local Headlines Archives for 2016-01

Conn. Senators back calls for lifting ban on gun violence research at CDC

Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy joined state health officials and gun control advocates this week to explain why they want Congress to lift the ban on federal research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Murphy says the CDC researches other topics and should be allowed to look into this.  Murphy says other potential funding sources are being sent a message that they shouldn't bother if the government doesn't.


A 1996 Republican appropriations rider prohibits federal funds from being used to advocate or promote gun control, which some have misconstrued as a ban on funding scientific research into the causes of gun violence. The author of the original rider, former Representative Jay Dickey now supports funding CDC gun-violence research and has stated that the rider should not stand in the way.


Blumenthal says purposeful ignorance about this ongoing public health crisis is inexplicable and inexcusable. Sound science is necessary for evidence-based programs to save lives – not the hear no evil, see no evil approach currently compelled by the ban.

WCSU, Bethel Historical Society to receive state bond money

Several Greater Danbury area groups are receiving state bond money.  The Bond Commission met yesterday and approved $2 million to help Naugatuck Valley Community College outfit their expanded building in Danbury, which is set to open in the fall.  $189,000 was also approved for Danbury-based Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism. 


$5 million in state bond money was also approved to finance various alterations and improvements to buildings on the Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern Connecticut State University campuses.  Alterations and improvements include restoration of academic facilities, upgrading safety systems and other ground improvements.


Grants in aid have been approved by the state Bond Commission for non-profits sponsoring cultural and historic sites.  A pool of about $2 million is being shared by several organizations across the state for capital investments to transform the visitor experience.  Bethel Historical Society is receiving little more than $69,000 to install an elevator at the 1842 Second Meeting House.  Gunn Memorial Museum in the Town of Washington is receiving $100,000 to renovate the second floor into an exhibit space.  The program requires a 25-percent cash match by the recipient.


State bond money was approved for the design, engineering and construction of a new rail yard on the Metro North Danbury Branch line.  The rail yard will be in Norwalk.  $17.5 million was approved to make upgrades and to modernize the Danbury branch line where it connects with the main New Haven Line.  The project will also provide additional electrified trackage for the New Haven Line.

State bond money approved for Metro North 'Danbury Branch Dock Yard Project'

State bond money was approved today for the design, engineering and construction of a new rail yard on the Metro North Danbury Branch line.  The rail yard will be in Norwalk.  $17.5 million was approved to make upgrades and to modernize the Danbury branch line where it connects with the main New Haven Line. 


This will also accommodate the replacement of the 119-year old Walk Bridge.  Those improvements include adding track sidings, signal work and electrification to make room for train storage and passing of trains during the replacement project. 


Governor Dannel Malloy says the long term Danbury Branch Dock Yard Project will also provide additional electrified trackage for the New Haven Line.

Congressional delegation calls for ban on open carry in grocery stores

Local lawmakers are calling on the Connecticut Food Association to ban openly carried firearms in stores.  The request from 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and Senators Blumenthal and Murphy follows advocacy by the group Moms Demand Action.  That group is calling for Target, Panera, Starbucks, Whole Foods and elsewhere to ban open carry in their stores.  Esty, Blumenthal and Murphy say this is for the safety of customers and employees.  Current Connecticut law allows anyone with a permit to openly carry a handgun, but private businesses can prohibit open carry in their stores.

Local lawmaker to propose bills aimed at combating opiate abuse

Bills aimed at combating opiate abuse are being proposed by Kent state Representative Roberta Willis.  She is asking the leaders of three legislative committees to raise bills to combat what she calls an epidemic of drug overdose deaths in Connecticut.  The ideas were originally proposed by the Litchfield County Opiate Task Force, founded in 2013.


One proposal is to have interstate monitoring of those with multiple opiate prescriptions.


Willis is also proposing a bill limiting the supply of pills in an opiate prescription to 30 days and a bill allowing for medicaid reimbursement for Narcan, which can counter the effects of an overdose.

Danbury Police Chief to retire

Danbury Police Chief Al Baker will be retiring later this year.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says Baker has led the department through some challenging times in the past decade or so of service.  Baker will be staying on as Chief through the beginning of June. 


Danbury has put out a search notice for the next Chief of Police.  The applicants must possess a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university in the field of Criminal Justice, Public Administration, Criminology or a related discipline.  At least ten years of progressive, responsible experience in law enforcement with five-plus years in a Leadership/Management role are also desired. Strong preference will be given for a Master’s Degree. 


The Chief of Police is required to become a resident of Danbury within six months of hire and maintain residency for the duration of the appointment.


The salary for the position is listed at $120,000 to $130, 000 annually, commensurate with experience.  The application deadline is March 3rd.

Candlewood Lake drawdown begins

FirstLight Power Resources has started their biennial shallow drawdown of Candlewood Lake.  The owner and operator of the Rocky River Hydroelectric Power Station in New Milford got off to a late start on the shallow drawdown because of a mechanical malfunction of one the pumps used to refill the lake at the Rocky River Power Station. 


FirstLight delayed the drawdown so that repairs could be made to the pump.  Without it there was a possibility that First Light would be unable to refill Candlewood Lake in time for the recreational season. The second pump used for refilling the lake has been out for major rework.  Repairs were completed on Saturday.


They immediately began drawing the lake level downward.  It takes about three weeks or so, depending upon several factors to reach the desired water level.

Local lawmaker to proposed bill increasing trancparency at UConn

A local lawmaker is looking to increase transparency from the state's flagship university.


A hearing officer with the state Freedom of Information Commission has found that University of Connecticut trustees violated the law when they met in private last year to review the school's $1.3 billion proposed budget, and had an obligation to discuss the taxpayer-financed budget in public before its approval. 


Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan plans to introduce legislation requiring UConn to perform its budget deliberations in public.  He says major decisions made in private is a prime example of why taxpayers distrust government. 


McLachlan will also submit a bill to forbid the UConn Foundation from awarding speaking fees or any monetary payments to declared political candidates.

Danbury set to break ground on pocket park soon

The design phase for Danbury's new pocket park is in the finishing stages. The park is next to the police station and will be designed to commemorate police officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty serving the City.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the pocket park would be a nice green space for the neighborhood while revitalizing that part of Main Street.


Boughton called a restful place for people to visit. He's been asked why there is no parking planned for the site, and says that's because it is intended as a destination that people can walk to.


Boughton expects shovels in the ground by late March or early April.  The construction is expected to take about three months to complete.  


A water feature will be visible as drivers come down Main Street.  Boughton says that will serve as a gateway to City Center.

MCCA, Naugatuck Valley Community College to receive state bond money

The State Bond Commission is expected to approve grants-in-aid to Naugatuck Valley Community College and to Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism at their meeting today.  Naugatuck Valley Community College will receive $2,000,000 for new instruction, research and laboratory equipment at the new downtown Danbury location.


Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey says this comes as the college prepares to move into their new space on Main and West Streets, currently under renovation.


Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism, Inc. is poised to receive an $189,000 grant. The group is among other non-profit community-based providers of mental health and addiction treatment centers who will undergo various alterations, repairs and improvements with these funds.

Sherman First Selectman announces Congressional candidacy

Sherman Republican First Selectman Clay Cope has announced his candidacy for the 5th Congressional District seat.  The 53-year old says he loves his job, and that it was not an easy decision to run.  Cope said the district is ill-served the current Representative in Congress, Democrat Elizabeth Esty.  He called Esty a "Washington elitist" who is out of touch with the realities of families in the district.


He wants to bring security to families in the 5th District with a lower tax burden and balanced budget.


Cope called for meaningful immigration reform and effective border security.  Cope referenced his partner Andres Sanchez in saying that he has the joy of living with someone who is an immigrant who came to this country through the system legally.  He says the system needs to be respected, but those who weren't as fortunate need to be taken care of as well.


New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman works closely with Cope as the neighboring town's leader.  She called him a dear friend who she's worked with for many years.  She says Cope is dedicated, hard working and compassionate--qualities she thinks he'll bring to Washington.


Southbury State Representative Arthur O'Neill endorsed Cope, saying that he is something Washington needs.  He says that's someone who has lived life in a small town community, and deals with the problems of people in a community.  O'Neill called Cope someone with an outsider's understanding, and a knowledge of how local government operates.  He says that's the combination needed in DC.


Former 5th District candidate Mark Greenberg also spoke in support of Cope.  He recalled a moment with Cope that happened after a Sherman Republican Town Committee meeting five years ago.  Cope was trying to round up three dogs who were reported missing by their owner.  After an hour they were successful.  Greenberg said that showed him Cope was a real person, not a phony politician and someone who is persistent. 


Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says Cope is a candidate who understands the issues facing the working men and women of the district, and understands the challenges facing the country over the next two years.  He said everyone on hand for the announcement was honored to be supporting Cope.  Through storms and everything that faces towns, Boughton says Cope has gone above and beyond for Sherman.  Boughton says more people with experience running small towns and cities need to run for higher office.

WCSU reopens admission to Master of Health Administration program

Admission to the West Conn Master of Health Administration program has been reopened.  Western Connecticut State University says with the health field in continuous change, the program designed to create leaders who will find opportunity in that upheaval.  The Master of Health Administration program has been offered at West Conn for more than three decades, but admission was suspended two years ago to re-examine the courses to make sure they still apply to today's health care system.   The program is run through the Ancell School of Business and offers a course on negotiation.  Students also earn credits for residencies.

Brookfield Board of Finance to meet on town Controller position

A special meeting of the Brookfield Board of Finance is being held tonight.  The agenda calls for a private executive session to be held with First Selectman Steve Dunn on an employee matter.  The Board of Selectmen made appointments and reappointments at their meeting on Monday.  Among those not given backing was Brookfield Controller Bill Leverence, who has held the post since 2012.  The meeting tonight is 7pm at Brookfield town hall.

Brookfield, New Milford affordable housing projects to receive state bond loans

Nearly 78 million dollars in state bond funding is being proposed across the state to help towns and cities with affordable housing projects.  When the state Bond Commission meets on Friday, the group is being asked to approve a $4.5 million loan to Brookfield Village, LLC. 


A 48 unit affordable housing mixed-use project is in development in Brookfield.  The loan will be provided at one percent for forty-two years with payments deferred for thirty years. 


A nearly $2 million loan to New Milford Affordable Housing, Incorporated is also on the agenda.  Construction of 12 affordable housing units with supportive services at Brookside Commons is proposed. 


The loan will be provided at zero percent for thirty years with payment due at maturity.

Sherman First Selectman announces Congressional candidacy

Sherman Republican First Selectman Clay Cope has announced his candidacy for the 5th Congressional District seat.  If successful in his challenge of Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty, Cope could be the first openly gay Republican in Congress. 


The 53-year old was elected First Selectman in 2011, having previously served as vice president and marketing director of a QVC fashion label.


Several Greater Danbury area officials were on hand for today's announcement in Danbury and are backing Cope.  They included Mayor Mark Boughton, New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman, Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, State Representatives Richard Smith, Jan Giegler, Arthur O'Neill, and Steve Harding, former state Senator David Cappiello and former 5th District Republican candidate Mark Greenberg. 


When Cope first expressed interest in running, Connecticut GOP party chairman JR Romano said in a statement that the Republicans have a variety of candidates including minorities and women. He continued by saying that the Democrats like to play identity politics, appealing to interest groups rather than leading.


Brookfield resident John Pistone is running for the third time for the seat.  Republican Matt Maxwell of Sandy Hook, a small business owner, has also expressed an interest in the position.  Disability advocate Joe Stango said in a statement this week that while he's been considering a run for the GOP nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat, he believes Cope would be an ideal candidate and is throwing his support behind the Sherman Republican.


The Connecticut Democratic Party issued a statement about Cope's announcement.  Connecticut Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby said Elizabeth Esty is a dedicated public servant.  He cited her time on the Cheshire Town Council to her tenure in Congress, as working tirelessly for seniors, veterans, and small businesses.   Appleby added that Esty has been a true champion for common-sense gun safety.  He concluded by saying that they are confident that "the people of the 5th district understand that Elizabeth Esty is the only option if we want to keep our economy moving forward."

Danbury to hold public hearing on easement for Algonquin pipeline work

The Danbury City Council is set to take up a lease of some city land to Algonquin Natural Gas for a pipeline replacement project.  The Access Northeast Project includes replacement of existing 26-inch-diameter pipeline with 42-inch-diameter pipeline in Putnam and Fairfield Counties.  The replacement is being done between the Southeast Compressor station in New York and on just east of Clapboard Ridge Road in Danbury.


An easement is being sought by Algonquin for temporary workspace.  The license agreement would be for two years.  Spectra Energy is offering Danbury $5,000.  Algonquin and Spectra are looking to clear trees from one-tenth of an acre off Driftway Point Road.  The company wants to build a small road for storage of construction machinery to get to the trench site. 


A committee of the City Council determined that there should be a public hearing before authorizing this easement.  A date has yet to be determined.


Algonquin Right-of-way Supervisor Martin McCarthy says the company is giving compensation to other land owners for trees that have to be cut, driveways that have to be cut up will be repaved at a cost to the company and stone walls that have to be disrupted will be put back.


One of the conditions that the Danbury Public Works Department has for this license agreement is that the property be restored to its original condition as much as possible.



A 4.5 mile-long replacement segment would begin at the Southeast Compressor Station and extend into Danbury.  Algonquin would install the new 42-inch-diameter pipeline beneath Interstate 84, the Still River, a railroad line, and Mill Plain Road.  The replacement segment would end at Algonquin’s existing MLV- 19 site located east of Clapboard Ridge Road.


The Project would cross the Hudson River in New York and the Still River in Connecticut using the horizontal directional drill method.




Spectra Energy says the project is needed to bring additional natural gas to the region, as the New England states look to expand supply and usage.


Algonquin’s proposed construction work areas would be located within 50 feet of 337 residential structures and 95 non-residential structure.

Danbury man appointed Conn. Department of Veterans' Affairs Chief of Staff

Danbury City Councilman Thomas Saadi has been promoted to Chief of Staff and General Counsel for Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  He joined the Department last May as General Counsel and Legislative Director.  As Chief of Staff, Saadi will oversee day to day operations of the Department in addition to all legal and legislative matters.


Saadi is also a Major in the Army Reserve serving with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion in Danbury.  He previously served 15 years as an Assistant Attorney General and Special Prosecutor with the Office of the Connecticut Attorney General. 


Saadi says he has the utmost respect for Commissioner Connolly's vision of serving those who have served and being a champion for veterans.


Commissioner Sean Connolly said that Saadi has been an exceptional legal advisor and valued member of the leadership team.  The Department serves more than 200,000 Veterans.

Students in the Danbury Early College Opportunity program meet with mentors

For the second time since the program began this fall, 100 students enrolled in the Danbury Early College Opportunity at Danbury High School met with their mentors to learn about the business world, how to work in teams and how to foster creativity. 


The students met with mentors from Pitney Bowes and NewOak on the Westside campus of Western Connecticut State University on Thursday to complete the marketing campaigns they started at their first formal meeting in October. The topics focused on technological and digital citizenship issues, such as cyberbullying and texting while driving. 


Five students and one or two mentors made up each of the working groups. 


The degree program is a partnership Naugatuck Valley Community College in which high school students incorporate college-level courses. They can expect to complete the Associate Degree in four, five or six years.

Brookfield lawmaker wants to repeal 8-30(g) affordable housing law

A local lawmaker has held a coffee hour to meet with constituents.  Brookfield State Representative Steve Harding, who is serving his first term in the legislature, says he is looking forward to getting back to the state capital to help residents.  Harding was elected during a special election after last year's legislative session began. 


He says he will introduce a bill to remove the 8-30 g affordable housing law.


The Renaissance project calls for six-story apartment buildings, some with affordable housing units, and the Brookfield Zoning Commission hearing on that continues next month.  Earlier this month, the Commission denied a project called The Enclave.  That is a proposed 181-unit project in three-story buildings, some of which would be considered affordable under the state's 8-30g housing laws.


Among the concerns is that the all-volunteer fire department would need new training on high rise response, would need new equipment and could have to be supplemented by a career fire department.

Local lawmaker suggests DMV look to Metro North for example of future hiring

IT and management experience are two of the top requirements that a local lawmaker wants to make sure the next DMV Commissioner has.  Andres Ayala resigned last week amid a year of troubles at the state agency. 


Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says there is precedent in the search for the next DMV Commissioner.  Metro North is being considered the role model of the type of hiring that should be done.  Boucher says when the previous Metro North President resigned under duress, someone with expertise was hired and is doing a much better job.


Boucher says the amount of time that Connecticut residents have to take in order to fix the problems at the DMV is troubling.  Those issues ranged from extensive wait times at branch offices to people's registrations being wrongfully suspended.  Fallout from the software change will continue to be felt when new tax bills go out later this year as some bills are currently going out for cars not registered in those towns.


When looking at the vendor for this software, one state was so unhappy with the out come the vendor was fired.  Boucher is calling for more oversight of the program implementation.

Greater Danbury prepares for winter storm

Danbury has declared a Level 1 Snow Emergency.  That means there is a parking ban in effect on City Street.  It takes effect at 8am.  There is free parking at the Patriot Garage during the storm. 


If a decision is made to increase to a Level 2 snow emergency, there could also be a recommendation to avoid travel.  The most severe declaration, Level 3, would limit travel to emergency vehicles, four-wheel drive cars and emergency personnel.


In Danbury, anyone with a sidewalk in front of their home or business is supposed to shovel within four hours of daylight after the storm stops. 


Newtown officials say the public works crews are fully ready and will be clearing roads as soon as possible and appropriate.  If the storm magnifies, drivers will be asked to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.  Newtown officials says any hazardous conditions, such as downed utility poles or power lines should be reported to public safety dispatch. 


Area fire departments are asking that if people have a fire hydrant on their property or near by, that they make sure there is a clear path to the equipment in case of emergency.


Any utility disruptions should be reported directly to the utility company providing the service.


Congressman Himes hosts Wilton Town Hall meeting

With a lot of talk about Congressional inaction, 4th District Congressman Jim Himes shared some different news with constituents at a town hall meeting in Wilton last night.  He touted a reform bill for the No Child Left Behind education act, a cyber security bill to make networks more resilient against attack, and a budget deal approved without the threat of government shut down.  Himes also took questions from constituents.  This was the second town hall style meeting Himes held this week, one previously being held in Monroe.  Himes has cancelled weekend get togethers over safety concerns with the snow.

Praxair, Volunteer Center participate in MLK Day of Service

A Day of Service was held by the Volunteer Center of the United Way of Western Connecticut on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr Day.  They partnered with Danbury-based Praxair for the in-house volunteer event.  Praxair employees put together 130 literacy kits to benefit first graders at Park Avenue School in Danbury.  The kits included an age-appropriate MLK book and activities to focus on Black History Month.  The United Way identified Park Avenue School for its Strong Start Neighborhood kindergarten readiness initiative , which is meant to prepare students for success in school and to engage parents in the school community.

Danbury opens application period for 'Citizen Police Academy'

The Danbury Police Department is organizing the 23rd session of its Citizen’s Police Academy.  The 11 week program is open to Danbury residents, business owners and people who work in Danbury.  The course is intended to inform people about the operations of the police department and of police procedures.  The program is not intended to make citizens into police officers, but rather to develop a working partnership between police and the community they serve. 


The interactive instruction covers a variety of topics. 


Each applicant will be subject to a criminal background investigation.  The academy will be limited to 25 participants on a first come/ first serve basis.  Applications for the Citizen Police Academy can be picked up at the Police station on Main Street.


The sessions will begin on Tuesday evening March 8th, 2016, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm and continue every Tuesday evening thereafter from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm until May 17th, 2016.  


Contact Lt. Vincent Daniello at 203-797-4577 or Officer Robert Perun at 203-797-4673 with any questions.

Senator, Sandy Hook man defend Presidential executive actions on guns at hearing

During a U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Senator Chris Murphy defended President Obama’s executive actions on gun violence and called on his colleagues to provide the resources necessary to ensure timely and effective implementation. Wednesday was the first congressional hearing on the President's recently announced executive actions to reduce gun violence.


Murphy said the heart of the debate is a disagreement about what the executive action actually says.  He was critical of a perceived intention of what the Administration is planning to do, and called for any objections to be based on the actual text of the executive order.  Murphy says agreement should be simple--enforce existing law, require people engaged in the business of selling guns to get licenses wherever they do so, and exclude anyone who is just selling firearms occasionally from their personal collection.


Murphy urged his colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to provide sufficient funding to effectively enforce current law and the new executive actions.


Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, testified at the hearing. Barden’s 7-year-old son Daniel was among the children killed on 12/14.


At the hearing, Attorney General Loretta Lynch laid out budget requests for Fiscal Year 2017, including $35 million to sustain the National Instant Criminal Background Check System expansion, $35.6 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for 200 additional Special Agents and Industry Operations Investigators, and increased resources to help process federal firearms license applications.

Danbury Planning Commission approves controversial Cotswold development

A decision about a housing development proposal dating back to 2014 has come to a conclusion in Danbury.  Cotswold of Danbury applied for a cluster development near Danbury High School and gained unanimous approval from the Planning Commission Wednesday night on an out of court settlement.  37 homes would be built on the 74 acre property. 


Most of the parcel would remain as wetlands open space.  About 20 acres of the property in the wooded area north of the school would be developed under the stipulation of settlement of an administrative appeal.  The settlement reduces the number of units and imposes several conditions.


Nearby residents have long objected to the proposed development over concerns about traffic and flooding problems. 


The Planning Commission denied a 41-unit cluster development in 2014.  That proposal was estimated to bring 400 car trips per day to the neighborhood.  A 114 lot subdivision was approved for the property in the 1970s.  In 2007, there was a proposal for 29 homes to be built.

Lawmakers react to DMV Commissioner resignation

Local lawmakers say it's bad timing from the Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner to resign, but that it could help correct the problems the agency is having.  Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says it's a sad day for the beleaguered DMV, the employees and the customers who have endured so many problems over the past year.


Boucher says the Commissioner tried, but he was new to the whole area of government.  She added that she was not sure Ayala had any expertise in the area.  Boucher says this is an opportunity for the Governor to conduct a search for someone with technical expertise who can more effectively run the DMV.  She says someone with a background in IT or in managing a large agency should be hired to replace Ayala.


Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski says he hopes a change in leadership will bring solutions to the troubles.


The DMV has been plagued by problems since a major computer upgrade in August.  Among the issues are lengthy wait times, cars being unregistered due to tax communication problems and registrations wrongly suspended because of an insurance reporting glitch and delays in scheduling drivers tests.

New housing proposal in Brookfield rejected by Zoning Commission

A second proposed housing development project proposed for Federal Road in Brookfield is causing controversy. 


Last week, the Commission denied a project called The Enclave.  That is a 181-unit project in three story buildings, some of which would be considered affordable under the state's 8-30g housing laws.  One building would be above a parking garage, another above retail space.  The concerns are about fire safety and the potential need for new training and equipment.


The Renaissance project calls for six story apartment buildings, some with affordable housing units, and the Zoning Commission hearing on that continues later this month.

Low flying helicopter belongs to Eversource Energy

Eversource Energy is again taking aerial photos of power lines in the region and residents may see a low flying helicopter over the next few days.  The surveillance work is being done in Bethel, Brookfield, New Milford, Weston and Wilton among other municipalities.  Weather permitting, the helicopter will be used between 7am and dusk.  Police in those towns have been informed that a black helicopter with red lettering will be flying lower to the ground than is usual.

Danbury preparing for potential big snow storm

With the first big storm of the season in the forecast, some Danbury officials have questions about the new material being used to treat the roads.  Danbury is not using the same treatment system as the state, which is a liquid pre-treatment brine.  But the Public Works Department does try to get out before the road gets covered.


Director Antonio Iadarola says the last storm was small, but it was a complicated ice storm.  The product worked well overall.  There was a lot of training, and a mock test was done with everyone sent out on their routes.  Iadarola says that paid off.


The Department is making some adjustments to the sand trucks.  Iadarola says they'll have to wait until this next storm to see how those work. 


Meteorologists say tens of millions of Americans from Washington to Boston and the Ohio Valley could be walloped by an end-of-the-week snowstorm.  Although it's still early, computer forecast models are forecasting a windy, strong storm. The big questions are where and how much.


National Weather Service forecaster Rich Otto said an upper-level disturbance in the air will join with other unstable air and become a nor'easter Friday evening over the Mid Atlantic, moving up the coast on Saturday.

Review of Senior Tax Relief Program underway in Newtown

The Newtown Legislative Council has taken up a review of the Senior Tax Relief Program to make sure the community is being served appropriately, or if there is a segment of town that's being excluded and shouldn't be.  It is now in the hands of the Ordinance Committee.


The program was reviewed two years ago to have four different income groups.  Language was also added allowing the Legislative Council the flexibility for amending levels.  Residents can't have a home over the median assessed value of $468,000 and can't have net asset value over $250,000.


First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Legislative Council that the next time there's a reval, that median assessed value will have to be recalibrated.  The next reval is scheduled for 2017 so any change would be applicable in the 2018 Grand List.


In 2014-2015, $1.65 million dollars in credits were authorized for 725 residents.  The town is looking at 50 new applications from people who have recently turned 65.  Some people who applied not qualify, about 5 applicants in the last round.  If all of the money is not used in one fiscal year, it is carried over to the next.  If the requests for relief go above the budgeted amount, the benefit is reduced according to a scale in the ordinance.


Llodra says as the town's demographic changes, more people are going to qualify just based on age.  She wants to make sure the budgeted resource for the program is sufficient.  But Llodra says it will be hard to look forward until they get a handle on the demographic shift.


In an effort to increase outreach about the program, information about it is included with tax bills.

Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team grant funding runs out in March

$100,000 in grant money has been pledged to Newtown to help the Social Services Department.  The Legislative Council has approved budget transfers to fill in the $80,000 gap for the support services.  Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Council that there will be incremental moves to have the program fully funded by the town.


A Department of Justice Grant, which funds the Recovery and Resiliency Team, ends March 31st.  The team has served 470 people.  13-percent of those individuals were not in need of services as a result of the events of 12/14.  Through mid-October, the Team has logged 780 case files, and each month brings an average of 25 new cases.


Llodra told the Legislative Council that the town has long been in need of a social worker, not just the ones serving the schools.  Two positions will be added beginning March 1st, to help with transition and to prevent a lapse in service.  The new grant will cover the positions of clinical social worker and care navigator.


Funding to continue the services will come from the Praxair Foundation and the Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation.  The remaining support will come from the budget.  Praxair previously provided grant funding to Newtown for this purpose. 


Llodra plans to create a board of directors or advisory board to oversee the Social Services Department.  The current Department has two staff members, a director and administrative assistant.  The department also now has the six member Recovery and Resiliency Team.  They serve as a bridge between those in need and the aid programs available.  Llodra says the range of needs in the last few years has shown the need for a professional social work position.

Area lawmakers see holes in transportation funding constitution lockbox

Increased taxes and new fees were the main sources of money proposed by the Governor's Transportation Funding Panel to pay for infrastructure improvements.  Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says the panel failed to recognize that if tolls are put back on the roads, the federal government is going to stop sending money to the state each year.


Another issue with tolling according to McLachlan is that it takes a substantial amount of money to buy the equipment, get it up and running and for ongoing operations.  He noted that it's at least two years from the time a decision is made to implement tolls, until they are in place.


McLachlan says a plan released by the Republican caucus last year would preserve current Special Tax Obligation bonds dedicated to transportation and reserve a set amount of General Obligation Bonds to be used solely for transportation priorities.


Governor Dannel Malloy says a constitutional amendment creating a lock box for transportation funds needs to be approved by the legislature and the voters before any financing plan is implemented.


McLachlan called for the legislature to stop robbing the Special Transportation Fund of about $75 million each year.  When the state borrows money to fix roads and bridges, he says that money could instead pay for the debt service.  McLachlan says the so-called lock box must not be able to be picked.  He thinks it should restrict all spending to capital improvements, not salaries and not the DMV.


Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolisnky voted against the transportation funding lock box proposal during a vote on a mid-year budget-trimming plan saying that the legislation creating the program came with a $35 million raid of special transportation fund dollars.

Rep. Esty visits Danbury Railway Museum

A local lawmaker has paid a visit to one of Danbury's museums.  On Thursday, 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty stopped at the Danbury Railway Museum, located at the City's old rail station.  The station was built in 1903 and closed 90 years later.  It has since operated as a museum, visited by thousands of people each year.


Esty is a member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, and has advocated for funding and improving railway infrastructure in Connecticut.  She is a self-termed train enthusiast who took the opportunity to drive a train while visiting.  She also toured vintage trains which used to run down to Grand Central Terminal.


(Photo: Rep. Esty, Instagram)


They also talked about possible grant opportunities so that the museum can be kept up to date.  The museum is looking to replace some of the building and refurbish some of the engines and cars.


Esty learned a bit of history during her visit.  The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, while it still served as an active train station, and is home to the last working railway turntable in the state.  She said more than 100 trains stopped at the Danbury Railway Station a day during its heyday. 


The curved platform also served as a film set for Alfred Hitchcock when scenes for "Strangers on a Train" were filmed. 

20th annual MLK Day celebration in Ridgefield to feature Luke Wade of 'The Voice'

The Town of Ridgefield is holding their 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration with a special performance by The Voice’s Luke Wade. 


The annual Spirit of Dr. King Award will also be presented.  This year's honorees are Elaine and Kevin Cox.  Kevin and Elaine Cox, longtime residents of Ridgefield, were selected for their dedication to philanthropy in Ridgefield and Fairfield County.  The couple is involved with Ability Beyond Disability, The Women’s Center, The Hord Foundation, The Ridgefield Playhouse, Sphere and many other organizations.


Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says there aren't many organizations in Ridgefield that they haven't touched.  He added that the couple exemplifies all of the traits that Dr. King stood for, including generosity, empathy, kindness and altruism.


Having recently performed for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Selma with Patti Labelle, Luke Wade says he was honored when asked to return to The Ridgefield Playhouse to perform in at the Dr. King celebration.  He performed in New York City last night.  Luke danced at his mother's studio for 10 years, until an accident left him blind in one eye. After his accident, Luke turned to music, joining a band and writing his own songs.


Known for his rendition of “Holding Back the Years,” “Have a Little Faith in Me,” and most recently “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which he did as a duet with another Voice alum Mia Z for Breast Cancer, Luke will be singing some special surprises with the Ridgefield Chorale backing him.


This event is free to the community and also features performances by The Ridgefield Chorale, Deborah Katchko-Gray and the TSI Singers, Kimberly Wilson and members of A Better Chance Ridgefield.  The event is at 3pm at the Ridgefield Playhouse.

GOP Straw Poll has Trump leading in Connecticut

A Straw Poll was held last night by the Connecticut Republican Party to get a feel for who state GOP voters would elect in the Presidential Primary.  Brookfield was chosen as one of six locations to host the event.  This was not an official vote for a candidate, but rather a chance for people to learn about the various Presidential hopefuls. 


Across the six locations, hundreds of people participated.  Donald Trump was the winner with 35-percent support. 


He was followed by Marco Rubio at 18-percent, Ted Cruz at 17-percent, Chris Christie at 10-percent and John Kasich rounding out the top 5 with 6-percent support.  Carly Fiorina received 4-percent of the ballots, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson each had 3-percent support and Rand Paul was the lowest straw poll vote getter at 2-percent.


Speakers included Brookfield State Representative Steve Harding, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, and Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope.  Cope is seeking the GOP nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat.  August Wolf, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate also spoke at the Brookfield event.

Local lawmakers weigh in on Transportation Funding Panel's recommendations

The recommendations by the Governor's Transportation Finance Panel are receiving mixed reviews from legislative leaders.  Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan says the GOP put out proposals this summer which weren't considered.


He says it doesn't make sense, adding that these recommendations would only chase more people out of Connecticut.


House Speaker Brendan Sharkey says legislature and voters must approve a constitutional lockbox before there can be a debate on how to pay for the Governor's $100 billion, 30 year transportation plan.  But with no vote on tolls and higher taxes until after this year's election, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano says the Democrats don't want to go into the November election with another tax increase.


Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle weighed in on tolls and higher taxes.  She says she is not willing to say that once there's a lockbox people in her district would support tolls and increased gas taxes.  Lavielle says her constituents won't be supportive of the revenue options because it adds to their personal financial burden.  She says people ve been subjected to very substantial increases ni taxes and fees lately and don't want more.


A voluntary pilot "vehicle miles traveled" program using federal funds for user-based fees that could replace the gasoline tax if it becomes obsolete is also among the recommendations.

Sendak Foundation takes pass on Philip Johnson building, explores other Ridgefield sites for museum

A Maurice Sendak Museum will not be coming to the Ridgefield-owned Schlumberger site.  The famed children's author and illustrator lived in Ridgefield until his death in 2012.  Town officials and the Sendak Foundation had been in discussions to possibly turn the Philip Johnson building into a museum. 


But the Foundation decided that the building wouldn't fit their needs and could be too costly for a museum. 


The organization says that Ridgefield would be its first choice to locate a museum and are still looking at other options in town.

Ridgefield Selectmen tour rail trail site

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen held their latest meeting outdoors.  The group took a tour yesterday of the more than two mile rail trail.  The plan is to make the trail safe for bicyclists, walkers and runners.  The larger goal is to connect the area to other trails around the Parks and Rec property.  Among the expected work that's needed is barriers that would protect people who lose control from going down embankments.  But the land is owned by Eversource Energy and there is an environmental cap on the property and they have yet to say whether bicycles will be allowed on the trail.

Brookfield to host GOP Straw Poll event

The Connecticut Republican Party has chosen Brookfield as one of six locations to host the Connecticut Republicans Straw Poll in advance of the 2016 Presidential Primaries.  Republicans from around Connecticut are gathering at the six locations tonight to learn about the various Presidential hopefuls, and cast an unofficial ballot for their favorite.  


Western Connecticut’s straw poll location will be at Golf Quest Family Sports Center on Sand Cut Road in Brookfield.  The Straw Poll is from 7pm to 10pm.


Brookfield Republican Town Committee chairman Matt Grimes encouraged Republicans in Western Connecticut to attend and help support the Connecticut Republicans federal account by purchasing a ballot.  It's free to attend, but $15 for a ballot. 


Speakers tonight include Brookfield Selectman Marty Flynn, State Senator Mike McLachlan, State Representative Steve Harding, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, and Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope--who is seeking the GOP nomination for the 5th Congressional District seat.


Flynn says the Republican Town Committee is honored Brookfield has been chosen by GOP State Central to host the straw poll in this area.

Esty visits cutting-edge medical technology company in Danbury

A medical technology company in Danbury has been toured by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.  On Thursday, she visited Spectra 254, which specializes in manufacturing UV-C medical technology.  The company launched in 2013.  The company manufactures high-efficiency, high-output UV-C light capable of eradicating harmful bacteria and viruses such as Ebola, MRSA, staph, HIV, and so-called superbugs.


Esty is a member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  She met with Spectra 254 leaders to learn how federal policy impacts their company and highlight some of the company’s successes.


(Photo: Rep. Esty, Instagram)


The company has experienced significant growth and their technology is being deployed by hospitals fighting Hospital-Acquired Infections. 


She called the company a cutting-edge success story.

Local lawmaker says GE leaving Conn. because of lack of young people

A local lawmaker says General Electric left Connecticut for a reason, but not because of the takes.  Danbury Democratic state Representative Bob Godfrey says the corporation's marginal tax rate was something like minus-9 percent, getting more from the government than it pays in taxes.  He says GE wanted to go where there are a lot of young people, which is not true in Connecticut.


Godfrey says there is no silver bullet to make Connecticutmore attractive to young people.  But he says the state needs to have more affordable house, more starter jobs and better retention rates. 


When it comes to the tax burden on business, Godfrey says 23 percent of all state revenue came from businesses in 1988 but now it's down to 5.3 percent.

Danbury Board of Ed approves study abroad trips

The Danbury Board of Education has voted to allow students to go on two school-sponsored study abroad trips, despite the risk from recent terrorist attacks abroad.  One of the student trips is to Paris and Spain.  Students will be traveling to Germany and Switzerland in a second trip.  The United States has extended its travel alert to Europe through February, and curfews remain in effect in Paris.  Some students have prepaid $3,000 for the trip, while others have put down a $500 deposit.

Brookfield Zoning hearing on 'Renaissance' project postponed

A public hearing in Brookfield has been postponed.  A public hearing was scheduled in Brookfield for a proposed 6-story apartment building on Federal Road.  The meeting was supposed to be tonight, but will instead take place on the 28th.  The Zoning Commission is awaiting some more reports from consultants. 


The so-called Renaissance project has been controversial.  It's a 156-unit apartment complex and could bypass local zoning rules because of the state's 8-30g affordable housing law. 


Brookfield Volunteer firefighters and others previously expressed concerns about not having the right equipment to be able to respond to a 6-story building and the need for a career fire department. 


The public hearing has been rescheduled to the 28th at 7:30pm at Brookfield Town Hall.

UPDATED: GE set to move HQ from Fairfield to Boston

General Electric is moving the company's headquarters from Fairfield to Boston. Company executives called Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh with the news this morning.  


GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement:


"Working with GE, Massachusetts and the City of Boston structured a package of incentives that provides benefits to the State and City, while also helping offset the costs of the relocation to GE. GE will sell its offices in Fairfield and at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City to further offset the cost of the move."


GE criticized business tax increases enacted this year by the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Dannel  Malloy. Some of the taxes were scaled back.  Immelt said in November that the conglomerate will always have a big presence in Connecticut, though a new headquarters site would be likely. 


GE officials said today that while they considered a move for the past three years, this summer 40 potential locations were examined.


"The content of GE’s headquarters will also change, with more emphasis on innovation.  In Boston, GE will have roughly 800 people; 200 from corporate staff and 600 digital industrial product managers, designers and developers split between GE Digital, Current, robotics and Life Sciences. A GE Digital Foundry will be created for co-creation, incubation and product development with customers, startups and partners. The remainder of administration will be placed in shared service operations throughout the Company."


Wilton state Senator Toni Boucher says she was not surprised that GE decided to go through with a move, but is deeply disappointed.  Boucher says it was only a matter of time because of the state's anti-business climate.  She called the presentation that Connecticut made to GE officials "weak".   It used pictures of competitors engines, not GE engines.  She cited that as a reason to question the kind of levels of research and effort made by Connecticut officials to persuade GE to stay in Fairfield.


Boucher says many of the changes made to the budget in response to GE's criticism were cosmetic.  She says structural changes are needed to keep Connecticut from operating in "deficit mode". 


She is concerned that others might follow.


The company employs about 5,700 people in Connecticut, including 800 at the Fairfield operation that has been its headquarters for four decades.


The new headquarters will be located in the Seaport District of Boston. Employees will move to a temporary location in Boston starting in the summer of 2016, with a full move completed in several steps by 2018.

Controversial pipeline project subject of open house in Danbury

Algonquin Gas Transmission Company is hosting a series of Open House meetings about their proposed Access Northeast Project. The proposed project plans include replacement of existing pipelines and construction of new pipelines in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  


The Open House meetings are being held to provide landowners, public officials and other stakeholders with additional information about the project, based on the activities conducted to date.


Algonquin plans to replace a 26-inch-diameter mainline pipeline segment with 42-inch-diameter pipeline located in Putnam and Fairfield Counties. This 4.5 mile-long replacement segment would begin at the Southeast Compressor Station and extend into Danbury.  The replacement segment would end at Algonquin’s existing site located east of Clapboard Ridge Road.


Project representatives as well as representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be available at the Open House in Danbury tonight to respond to questions.  The gathering is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Old Ridgebury Road.

Area lawmaker wants more help for families on the brink of homelessness

A local lawmaker is pledging to fight for legislation that will make housing, education and health care more affordable as he hears about more residents living paycheck to paycheck, and literally a step from being forced onto the street.   Danbury State Representative Dan Carter says this happened to a friend and her 10 year old daughter a few weeks ago.  While he was working to help her, Carter said he was shocked to learn how few resources are available to keep people in their homes when faced with difficult times.


Carter says there are many people who become homeless because they made just enough money to keep them from qualifying for help.


Carter wants to eliminate the possibility of falling into homelessness in the first place.  He doesn't want anyone on the verge of losing their home to be told that there is no help for them until they are in a homeless shelter.


He says the state does not have sufficient temporary and transitional homes, shelters or services available to meet the high demands and needs of communities.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Connecticut has the 25th largest homeless population in its emergency and transitional shelters than any other state in the country.  According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, as of February 2015, more than 4,000 people in Connecticut were homeless.  Of that number, more than 200 of which were veterans, and about 3,000 under the age of 25.  This is only a nine percent decrease in homelessness from last year, and a ten percent decrease since 2007.

Easton First Selectman mulls run for state House seat

With Redding state Representative John Shaban looking to run for Congress, a municipal official is considering making a bid for Shaban's House seat.  The district also includes Easton and Weston. First Selectman Adam Dunsby told the Easton Courier that he is thinking about running for the 135th District seat.  Dunsby and Shaban are both Republicans.  Shaban is looking to be the nominee to run in the 4th Congressional District, a position currently held by Democrat Jim Himes.  Dunsby was just reelected to a second term, and was unopposed in November.

Esty to sit with former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords at State of the Union Address

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has announced that she will be sitting with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at the State of the Union Address tonight.  Giffords said that both she and Esty know all too well the impact of gun tragedies, sharing a bond that no elected representative wants to share.  Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent event in 2011, and Esty had only just been elected when the shootings at Sandy Hook School happened.  Esty is the Vice Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Nearly $1 million needed to buy property easements for tree cutting by Danbury Airport

Nearly $1 million is needed to purchase easements from six property owners in Danbury so that trees on the approach to a Danbury Airport runway can be cut down.  The Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards Division for the New England Region is requiring Danbury Municipal Airport to cut additional trees on the approach to runway 8. 


The height of the trees affecting the approach have been reviewed.  Six easements from property owners in Danbury are needed.  The easements from the property owners on Briar Ridge Road, Cel Bret DRive and Miry Brook Road would cost $951,000.  The easements need to be in hand before a grant from the FAA will be issued.  The FAA will pay 90-percent of the total cost.  The state will pick up three-quarters of the balance of the project cost, with the remaining balance falling to the City. 


Airport Administrator Paul Estefan says the FAA reviewed their electronics, and are making the approach to the airport wider.  The geometry was also changed by the FAA.  Estefan notes that the FAA is not giving Danbury a lot of time to comply to the changes.


Assuming the property owners agree, and no litigation or eminent domain is needed, it could take three to eight months to obtain all of the easements.


Estefan says there are some anxious operators because of this issue.  Councilman Paul Rotello questioned on if these trees have had tangible effects on the airport.  Reliant Aircraft does charter work out of Danbury Municipal Airport, and has had to relocate aircraft to other aircraft.  During nighttime flying in inclement weather, the planes have to be rerouted. 


In a 30 day, on average, it has cost Reliant $53,000 to reroute the planes, get the people on board to Danbury, park the aircraft and get the pilots home.

Final Survey created about Ridgefield-owned Schlumberger land uses

Another survey has been created about the future of the former Schlumberger property in Ridgefield.  After a survey in September about the future of the Ridgefield-owned property garnered 1,400 responded, the Schlumberger Citizens Committee held a charrette, attended by nearly 100 people. 


Based on the input they received, the Committee has narrowed the options for the future of the property to three basic concepts. 


A final survey has been created and will be open until the 27th.  The answers will be used to help formulate the recommendations to the Board of Selectmen in late spring.  There are about 30 acres of land remaining in town control.

Conn. Senators call for research funding on gun violence prevention

Connecticut's two U.S. Senators have signed onto a letter calling for a hearing on funding gun violence prevention research. 


Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with 16 of their colleagues, released a new letter to Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Appropriations Chairman, and the Senate Appropriations Chairman formally urging a hearing be scheduled on appropriating funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence in the United States.  


Currently, a Republican appropriations rider from 1996 prohibits funding for such research at the CDC.  The original rider’s author has since announced his opposition to it.  Former Republican Jay Dickey says the rider’s intention was to prevent the CDC from lobbying for gun control, not from conducting gun-violence research.

MCAA awarded grants to help with opiate treatment in New Milford

Danbury-based MCCA was recently awarded three grants totaling to help the agency meet the growing need for opiate treatment in their New Milford outpatient clinic.  The grants awarded to MCCA total $22,500. 


Officials say the heroin epidemic has been sweeping across the state and New Milford has been hit particularly hard.  In Connecticut, heroin-related deaths skyrocketed from 174 in 2012, to 325 in 2014.  Those figures come from a report by the state medical examiner. 


MCCA says about 80% of their clients in Intensive Outpatient groups at the New Milford clinic are opiate dependent, and 45% of overall clients are being treated for opiates.  MCCA is one of the largest providers of substance abuse treatment in Connecticut. 


MCCA has co-sponsored two Narcan trainings in the past four months.  Narcan can immediately reverse an opiate overdose and save a life.

Trial over Connecticut school funding set to begin

A landmark lawsuit is headed to trial over whether Connecticut's method of funding public schools is unconstitutional because it fails to provide equal opportunities to students in low-income areas.

A coalition of municipalities, school boards and education groups sued the state in 2005, alleging Connecticut wasn't providing full funding to cities and towns under the state's Education Cost Sharing program. The coalition says vast differences in test results, graduation rates and other factors between rich and poor towns show the funding system isn't fair.

A trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Hartford Superior Court.

The state attorney general's office says Connecticut is meeting its constitutional responsibilities for school funding, and disagrees with the plaintiffs that the state needs to spend an extra $2 billion a year on schools.


The Danbury Board of Education, City Council, state lawmakers and others held a public information session in October about what they say is the district being underfunded by some $30 million.  Pascarella said  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. 


Pascarella says Danbury has the 7th lowest per student spending in Connecticut at $12,684, relying heavily on local funding.  Danbury contributes $9,061 dollars per student, or 70 percent.  Pascarella says the taxpayers need relief, and the state needs to help make sure every child is reaching his or her fullest potential.


A one-time Education Cost Sharing grant from the state could be requested to alleviate inequitable funding, or to call on the state to come up with a new way to fund the schools all together.

Open space conservation concerns over likely site for Sandy Hook memorial

The Newtown Board of Selectmen formally designated the High Meadows at Fairfield Hills as Open Space a couple of years ago.  First Selectman Pat Llodra says that action was prompted by the U.S. Army decision to build a reserve training center at the High Meadows.  The facility was eventually built in Danbury on the Lee Farm property. 


Llodra said they moved to preserve and protect that parcel of land for passive recreation before the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission looked at it as a possible location for a memorial honoring the lives of the 20 children and six educators killed on 12/14.


Whatever design is proposed, it will have to go before the Selectmen as a specific item to be voted on.


The Conservation Commission signed off, in principle, last month on the location being used as the site of a memorial.  They want to make sure however, that appropriate sensitivity to the ecological value of the land be taken into consideration during design and development of a memorial. 


The selection of the High Meadows has prompted some concern from residents who say that approval should not have been given yet because a design has not been chosen.  Resident Ann Astarita was quoted in the Newtown Bee as saying that there's a state statute requiring municipalities to provide comparable replacement land if designated open space is developed.

Bulletproof vest donated to Connecticut State Police K9 Asher

Another Connecticut State Police Dog has received a bullet and stab protective vest.  The K9 named Asher has been outfitted with a vest Asher has been assigned to First Class Jessica Colburn for two years and is currently working at Troop A in Southbury. 


A charitable donation was made by Wagging Tails Pet Sitting & Mobile Grooming through the non-profit Vested Interest in K9s Incorporated for the vest.  Delivery is expected within eight to ten weeks. 


The three-year-year-old German Shepard  is trained in all patrol functions including tracking, building searches, evidence recovery, apprehension, obstacles and obedience.  Asher is also a Human Remains Detection Dog on the Search and Rescue Team.

New York State Police warn of telephone scam involving 'ObamaCare'

New York State Police are warning of a telephone scam being reported in Putnam County and elsewhere nearby.  Police say the caller is claiming to work for a local branch of the ObamaCare Services, and has options to discuss in order for the recipient to avoid tax concerns. 


Recipients of this type of call are reminded not to give out social security number, banking information or other personal and financial information over the phone.  Banks do not call for this data, and note that the Affordable Care Act would not be referred to as ObamaCare. 


New York State Police say victims report losing money to telephone scams every year, and are urged to remain vigilant.


Citizens should be cautious of solicitors who:
1. Do not provide a legitimate business address or phone number;
2. Demand immediate payment or payment in cash, wire transfer or money card;
3. Seem vague as to the circumstances;
4. Say that money has to be sent in to collect a prize;
5. Appear angry or impatient when asked reasonable questions about the organization they represent or the reasons for which money will be used.  The caller may have threatened with arrest if a “fine” isn’t paid.


Low flying helicopter belongs to Eversource Energy

Greater Danbury area residents may see a low flying helicopter in the region over the next few days.  Eversource Energy is taking aerial photos of power lines in Bethel, Danbury, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield.  Police in those towns have been informed that a black helicopter with red lettering will be flying lower to the ground than is usual.

Groundbreaking held for new hotel on Danbury's west side

A ground breaking ceremony has been held in Danbury for a new hotel.  Construction is currently underway for Hotel Zero Degrees in Danbury.  This is the company's third location.  The hotel is being built on Milestone Road, on Danbury's west side.  The 114 room property, with 27 extended stay suites, is being touted as a modern lodge with rugged architecture and contemporary furnishings so that it fits into the surrounding wooded landscape. 



The facility will also feature a restaurant, meeting room space and patios and gardens for outdoor events.  RMS Companies CEO Randy Salvatore says their main clientele during the week is corporate guests.


Hotel Zero Degrees Danbury is expected to be completed later this year.  The hotel will employ about 25 people.  Some 30 to 40 employees will be hired to work in the restaurant.


RMS recently completed the nearby apartment complex on Danbury's west side known as Mayfair Square, near Belimo's new headquarters.  RMS is also behind the housing complex on Stony Hill Road in Bethel called Copper Square.


Danbury, Firefighters Union agree on contract extension, with raise

A collective bargaining agreement between Danbury and the fire union will give members raises, retroactive to July 1st.  The City Council approved the extension of the agreement between the City and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 801.  The agreement is for terms and conditions of employment for members of the union from July 1st 2015 through June 30th 2017.


There is a general wage increase of 2.75 percent in each of the two years of the agreement.  It also includes adjustments to the cost share for the retiree health plan. 


Mayor Mark Boughton said that the agreement will save the City significant expense in the next two fiscal years and eliminate the need for contract negotiations until 2017.  The City built the 2.75 percent raise into the budget approved by the City Council last spring.  The next fiscal year's budget will also include funding for the 2.75 percent wage hike included in the second year of the agreement.


The union ratified the contract on an approximate vote of 63 to 3.

Conn. U.S. Senators announce guests for State of the Union Address

Connecticut lawmakers are announcing who they will bring to Washington as guests for the upcoming State of the Union address. 


Senator Chris Murphy has invited Mark Barden to be his guest for the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Mark Barden is the co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise.  Murphy said Barden's resolve and resilience after his 7-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School inspires him every day.  He added that Barden turned crushing grief into empowerment in finding sensible solutions to prevent gun violence. 


At President Obama’s final State of the Union, Murphy said he hopes the President will challenge each member of Congress to stand up to the gun lobby and take action on the issue of gun violence.


Michael Zacchea of Brookfield will be a guest of Senator Richard Blumenthal.  The retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He currently serves as the Program Manager for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities at the UConn School of Business.  The program supports veterans in establishing and growing businesses. 


Blumenthal says Zacchea served and sacrificed for this country, and has continued to give back after medically retiring from the Marine Corps.

4,500 bear sightings in Conn. in 2015

As the winter hibernation period finally sets in for black bears, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports that there were nearly 4,500 bear sightings in Connecticut last year.  Wildlife Biologist Paul Rego says Litchfield County and the western part of Hartford County had the highest sightings.


These are the number of sightings in the Greater Danbury area:

Bethel: 3

Brookfield: 15

Danbury: 27

Monroe: 38

Newtown: 83

New Fairfield: 19

New Milford: 127

Redding: 41

Ridgefield: 17

Southbury: 135

Blumenthal tours Danbury-based Sperry Rail Service

A Danbury company was visited by Senator Richard Blumenthal Wednesday.  Blumenthal took a tour of Sperry Rail Service on Shelter Rock Road to highlight new increases in funding for rail safety technology that will support the work of companies like Sperry.  He also held a town hall with employees. 


Sperry Rail Service was founded in 1928. 


The company produces the first non-destructive method of detecting flaws in rail.  Blumenthal says the technology reduces potentially catastrophic derailments through improved inspection practices.  He says their product could have helped to prevent the Bridgeport derailment in 2013, which injured more than 70 people.


Blumenthal says he looks forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure more robust rail safety measures and improved technology.


Blumenthal--a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation--praised Congress for passing the FAST Act last month.  It's a long-term surface transportation bill that he says provides funding certainty and increases investments in infrastructure.  The funding includes $3.5 billion for Connecticut’s roads and rails, along with safety reforms and new initiatives to rebuild aging rail throughout New England and the Northeast region.

Local lawmaker calls for legislation to fix prospective repeal of death penalty

A member of the legislature's Judiciary Committee is asking the group's leaders to propose legislation to fix the prospective repeal of the state's death penalty.  Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan, who voted against repeal of the death penalty in 2012, says the legislature and the Governor had no intention of sparing the lives of those already on death row. 


The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled recently that the death penalty was unconstitutional.  Prosecutors are expected to argue against the August decision Thursday, when the High Court hears the appeal of Russel Peeler Jr, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of a woman and her 8-year old son.


McLachlan says the Court indicated a legislative fix could address the problem.

Newtown school officials update State Board of Ed on recovery, safety efforts

The State Board of Education heard today from Newtown School officials about an update on teaching and learning, and safety and security in the years since the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  Superintendent Dr Joseph Erardi says Newtown hasn't completely recovered from 12/14, it's a continuing journey.  He noted that Newtown has courage and extraordinary resilience in the direction the schools have gone.


Newtown Public Schools Director of Security Mark Pompano told the Board that as a result of lessons learned from the tragedy, one of the main components of the emergency operations plan was the proactive risk assessment.  These are procedures about how and when to initiate a threat investigation into a threat or potential threat being made against a school, student or staff member.


Pompano said school safety is constantly changing.  He described the district's guiding principle to keep students and staff safe.  He gave the mantra is "quality through continuous improvement". 


Newtown Federation of Teachers President Thomas Kuroski says it's a continuing journey.  He says this is just the beginning of the long, uncharted road to recovery.  He added that there is no map to use guiding recovery efforts or decision making.


Kuroski says Newtown will continue to need help in the long term because the tragedy was unique given the age of the victims.


Kuroski says each year brings new challenges.  Next year for instance, the first graders who survived 12/14 will be entering a new school.  The children who were preschoolers that day, will be entering the new Sandy Hook School as 3rd and 4th graders.  Kuroski says that will bring social and emotional challenges never faced by a group before.

Southbury Training School supporters suggest expansion

SOUTHBURY, Conn. (AP) -- Advocates for people living at Southbury Training School say the facility for people with severe developmental disabilities should be expanded to help people on a state waiting list, not closed as some groups suggest.


The recommendation was included in a 12-page submission to the Department of Developmental Services from the Home and School Association of Southbury Training School. It was provided Tuesday to The Associated Press.


DDS commissioner Morna Murray has asked for input about the future of Southbury. She's expected to provide recommendations to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by April. Meanwhile, Murray's agency has been instructed by the General Assembly to come up with a closure plan by Dec. 31.


Southbury supporters disagree that closing the facility will save significant money and contend its' role should be updated and renewed.

Obama moves to require background checks for more gun sales

President Obama formally announced his executive order today requiring all gun sellers to register as dealers. 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, was at the White House announcement. 


After meeting with the President yesterday, Esty said background checks save lives.  She said today's action is a necessary, responsible next step to update an exceptionally vague definition in the current background check system that some bad actors exploit in order to sell a high volume of guns without ever conducting a background check. 


Today, Jimmy Greene and Mark Barden stood with the President during his announcement.  Ana Grace Marquez-Greene and Daniel Barden were among the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook School.


Mannkind announces termination of partnership involving Afrezza

Stocks for MannKind have plummeted under an announcement by the Danbury-based company this morning that Sanofi has terminated its license agreement to develop and sell the inhaled insulin treatment Afrezza.  Mannkind said in a news release that it's reviewing its strategic options for Afrezza as a result of the termination. reports that the company is short on cash, deeply in debt and has no established infrastructure to sell Afrezza.  The financial website says the most likely end game for MannKind is bankruptcy.

DEEP awards recycling program grants to Bridgewater, Ridgefield

Two Greater Danbury area towns have been awarded grants to help with local waste reduction, reuse, and recycling programs. Bridgewater and Ridgefield were among seven towns sharing $60,000 in grant funding from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  


Bridgewater will use nearly $4,000 in funding for a guard shed at the Town’s Recycling Facility, which will allow for staff to provide recycling and reuse education and to monitor incoming loads and minimize contamination.  They will also be improving their town public space recycling with new recycling bins. 


Ridgefield is launching a residential organics drop-off program at the municipal recycling center.  $13,000 is being used for kitchen collection containers, rental of a dumpster to keep food scraps separated and educational materials.

Billionaire philanthropist Ted Stanley dies at age 85

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) A billionaire businessman and philanthropist who made one of the largest private donations for scientific research has died in Connecticut. Ted Stanley was 85.

Son Jonathan Stanley said Monday he died overnight at his home in New Canaan but didn't say the cause.

In 2014, Ted Stanley committed $650 million to the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the study of psychiatric disorders.

Stanley became involved in the cause in the 1980s, when his son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while in college.

Stanley made a fortune selling collectibles, beginning with a series of medals commemorating the moon landing in 1969. His Norwalk-based company, MBI, specializes in marketing consumer products.

Connecticut lawmakers meet with Obama on gun law changes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Several members of Connecticut's congressional delegation are among a group of federal lawmakers to meet with President Barack Obama about his executive actions tightening the nation's gun laws.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty met with the president at the White House on Monday afternoon. All three have actively pursued gun control legislation following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Obama's package is expected to include proposals aimed at cracking down on unregulated gun sales, including expanded background checks.

Blumenthal said he planned to encourage Obama ``to move forward and take responsible steps'' to broaden the list of purchasers and sellers subject to the background check law. Blumenthal said he hopes it will encourage the Congress to ultimately pass stronger legislation.

City Council considers leasing former WIC building to Friends of Danbury Library

A committee of the Danbury City Council is looking into a lease agreement with the Friends of the Danbury Library. 


The group wants to use the first floor of a building on Main Street for their services and operations.  13 Main Street used to house the WIC program.  The group wants to use the building to do book collections and small book sales.  It would be a 10-year agreement, with the Friends of the Danbury Library paying the City $1.  Two five years option extensions would be offered at $1 each.


The Friends say this use will save the charity a significant amount of money, would will be used for the Library's benefit in the future. 


They would be responsible for utility costs including water, sewer, electricity, internet, cable, hot water, heat, air conditioning, telephone and alarm services.  They would also be responsible for carpet repairs and replacement and for garbage removal.  The agreement requires that the building be cleaned at least three times a weekA

AP Interview: Retiring Newtown police chief reflects

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Michael Kehoe doesn't want his 37-year career with Connecticut's Newtown Police Department defined by one event, but that's difficult when your sleepy suburban town of 28,000 people was the site of one of the country's deadliest school shootings.


The 60-year-old police chief reflected on his decades of service recently with The Associated Press as he prepared for his retirement on Wednesday.


"One small period of time, one criminal act is what it is," Kehoe said about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. "Although the magnitude of Sandy Hook is quite important, I would say there were also many other important events and days in my career."


He rattled off accomplishments that could be on any police officer's list: busting criminals, teaching children to avoid drugs, fostering interest in law enforcement through the police explorers program and working to prevent crime.


Kehoe, however, will be most remembered for leading the response to the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators and subsequently calling for bans on semi-automatic assault weapons, like the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used by gunman Adam Lanza.


Kehoe, a married father of two children now in their 30s, was among the first officers to enter the school. The Hartford native, who was hired by Newtown police in 1978 and became chief in 2001, speaks only in vague terms about what he saw in the classrooms where the students and teachers were killed.

"It's hard. It's really hard. It's unimaginable is the best way to term it," he said. Responding to the school that day was "surreal," he said.


He would later talk to people close to him about what happened and said he didn't develop long-lasting stress problems as some officers did.


Lanza, 20, who had a history of mental health problems, killed his mother at their Newtown home before shooting his way into the locked school. The chaos ended when he killed himself.


There was an overwhelming amount of work to be done after the shooting, Kehoe said. He and his 45-officer force worked long hours keeping watch over the shaken town and trying to restore a sense of security with the help of officers from other towns. Authorities needed to secure several sites including the Sandy Hook school, all other local schools, the Lanza house and the victims' funerals.


"You can imagine a community feels very unsafe after an event like that," he said. "We wanted to rebuild the safeness of the community afterward."


Kehoe helped coordinate an outpouring of aid that flooded the community, including flags from overseas military bases that were given to the town and flown at the police station. Officers also spent months doing paperwork for the investigation, which state police and prosecutors took over.


Kehoe said he first began thinking of retiring in 2011. He has no immediate plans for how he'll spend his time but is considering consulting work. He'll be succeeded by James Viadero, a Newtown resident and police chief in nearby Middlebury.


Kehoe believes the town has rebounded well after the shooting.


"It doesn't define us at all," he said. "In many ways we're still the same community we were before, probably closer-knit and more compassionate. We know that time heals. It may not completely heal. But it does heal."

Malloy: Closure of Southbury facility more complicated

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says closing Southbury Training School for people with severe intellectual disabilities is a more complicated budget-savings proposition than he first thought.


While Southbury's residential population has declined over the years to 270 as of Thursday - due to death, people moving into community-based settings and the end to new admissions - Malloy said there remains a group of people who still need "exceptional care" costing a lot of money.


"I think the legislature needs to understand that most of the people at Southbury really are extraordinary cases and no matter where they are, they're going to be more expensive to care for," Malloy said in an interview with The Associated Press.


Malloy, who previously voiced support for possibly closing Southbury, said he has visited the facility and since learned more about the unique care that's being provided, acknowledging he was "caught up in a one-size-fits-all" way of thinking earlier.


"We have elderly people who require a much higher level of treatment and it happens to be there. And because it's got a name and because it's got a history, people just kind of group it together," he said of the sprawling campus, which dates back to the late 1930s and has been the subject of various lawsuits.


"Not that I'm saying that Southbury as it once existed, even necessarily as it currently exists, should exist forever. Just that it's a more complicated issue," Malloy said.


The Democrat's comments come shortly after the General Assembly passed a budget-cutting bill that included language requiring the Office of Policy and Management Secretary and the Department of Developmental Disabilities commissioner to provide a plan by Dec. 31 to close Southbury and several regional centers.


The Developmental Disabilities commissioner already has begun soliciting public input about the future of Southbury, requesting submissions in October. Commissioner Morna Murray said she hopes to provide recommendations to Malloy by April 30.


Opinions are strong about the Southbury's future.


A coalition of disability rights groups, led by the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, has called for closing the facility by 2020. The group contends any savings realized should be spent reducing the lengthy waiting list for state services for people with disabilities, including supportive housing in the community. Meanwhile, a caucus of state legislators has also announced support for closing six state-run institutions, including Southbury, by 2020.


"There is definite movement now to talk about how the plan is going to go forward," said Molly Cole, director of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities. "It's just very sad to me that we're having, in this day and age, a conversation about whether to close a place that in today's world would never be opened because it's illegal."


The Home and School Association of the Southbury Training School is an advocacy group that includes relatives of the remaining residents who believe their loved ones are thriving at Southbury. The association argues that closure of Southbury and the other regional sites will cost Connecticut a significant amount of money over many years and exacerbate the current waiting list for services.


"In addition, the residents of these facilities have the legal right to remain there," the group states on its website, "and we intend to defend that right."

Transportation advocate weighs in on needed improvements in 2016

Transportation advocates are waiting with baited breath to hear what the Governor's Transportation Funding Task Force is going to recommend on how to pay for his 30 year improvement plan.  Commuter Action Group Founder Jim Cameron says the report was expected around Labor Day, but has been delayed.  He expects it to include tolls, higher gas and sales taxes and maybe some real estate taxes as well.


Cameron says there's no free lunch in this world, and someone has to pay for the $100 billion in proposed projects. 


The big question remains how to pay for the work.


Cameron says people who live in Danbury and other border towns are right in opposing what he called "the ridiculous idea of border tolls".  He thinks the Task Force will recommend tolling across the state.  He says tolls make a lot of sense as a user fee.  He thinks it will improve traffic conditions because they will discourage drivers that don't have to be on the highway from being there.


He notes that the actual construction will be inconveniencing drivers for a decade before it's done. 


Cameron says it's not just the people in the lower part of the state that will feel the pain of the improvements actually being done.  When it comes to Interstate 84, he says the projects in downtown Hartford and the Mix Master will take years.


Mass transit improvements are also being recommended.


Cameron says the Danbury and Waterbury branches have been struggling for years.  There are locomotive propelled trains running at slower speeds, on one track railroads with poor signaling.  He says Metro North overall will be able to start dragging itself out of the pit of safety issues its been fighting for the past few years in 2016. 


Ridership is up, but more cars have not been added since the order was placed 10 years ago.  He says that makes for crowded rides, even standing room only.

Conn. Senators praise executive action on gun show loophole closure

Connecticut's two U.S. Senators are touting President Obama for using his executive authority to close the so-called gun show loophole and expand background checks to those who buy firearms at gun shows. 


Senator Chris Murphy says for three years Congress has failed the families of the children and educators killed at Sandy Hook School, and the victims of gun violence across the country.  Murphy was among the members of Congress who wrote to President Obama to close the loophole.  He said Washington turned a blind eye to the murder and mayhem in the communities they serve. 


Murphy spend New Years Eve writing more than 300 tweets about incidents of gun violence.  His first tweet said that his "2015 year in review" would be to list every injury and every death in every mass shooting this past year.


Senator Richard Blumenthal praised Obama's action.  He says it's regrettably essential due to Congressional inaction in the face of continuing gun violence.  Almost three years after the shootings at Sandy Hook School, Blumenthal says the Presidential initiative will help stem a public health crisis. 


Blumenthal joined Murphy and 24 of their colleagues in sending a letter to the President last month, urging him to eliminate the loophole that allows individuals without a federal license to conduct high volumes of gun sales at gun shows, over the internet, and elsewhere, all without conducting background checks.

Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission looks ahead to next steps

The next phase for the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission will be to put together requirements for a Request for Proposals when it comes to designs for a memorial honoring the 26 children and educators killed on 12-14.  Commission chairman Kyle Lyddy gave an update to the Newtown Board of Selectmen at their final meeting of the year. 


The Commission has met with other government agencies in Newtown to ask if there are any glaring concerns with the High Meadows at Fairfield Hills.  Police mentioned having ample security at the site.  The Newtown Police Commission also asked for 24 hour security cameras, and to make sure that the entrance has enough room for emergency access.


Lyddy says when they put out requests for proposals for a memorial, applicants should provide sight line barriers between a popular nearby walking trail and the memorial. 


Working with the Newtown Parks and Rec Department, Lyddy says they want to make sure the memorial and the agency's Phase III trail upgrades will work together, not against each other.  He says that's layout, parking, and access ways.


Lyddy says there is money earmarked for this project.


$165,000 is committed to the project, including $130,000 from contributions that came into Newtown after 12-14 and were earmarked for a memorial.  $10,000 is from the Glen Atkinson Memorial Fund and $25,000 comes from the Newtown Memorial Fund.


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