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Local Headlines Archives for 2016-03

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.  The building at 13 Main Street used to house the WIC program.  Friends co-president Karen Chambrovich said during the committee meeting earlier this month that the main use would be for book collections for their annual book sale. 


It would be a 10-year agreement, with the Friends of the Danbury Library paying the City $1.  Two 5 years option extensions would be offered at $1 each. 


The ad hoc committee delayed making a decision until they have more information from the Public Buildings Department about the annual utility costs.  They also want to wait for a decision on whether the City will pay for utilities or if the Friends group will be paying.

Danbury fire truck to be refurbished to save on cost of purchasing new ladder truck

The Danbury Fire Department has three ladder trucks.  A 2000 engine known as Truck 2, a 2004 truck which is the main apparatus, and a 2014 ladder truck.  Truck 2 is the back up to the main truck and will be refurbished in an effort to save the City money from having to buy a completely new fire truck.  The '04 got the bulk of the use and is now beyond it's wear point and needs to be replaced.  The 2014 truck is running full time and the '04 will be back up. 


Cavo says Danbury residents will not notice a difference in fire coverage while the 2000 is out being refurbished.  It will be seven to nine months before the refurbished truck is put back in service.


Once the truck comes back to Danbury, the '04 will be listed as surplus equipment and sold.  Cavo says they do have some value at the end of the City's use.  Other departments will take pieces from the truck while others might completely refurbish the truck for three-quarters of the price of a new truck


Apparatus Supervisor Joe Cavo says the equipment bought in 2014 cost $1.2 million, but due to inflation a 2016 ladder truck costs $1.4 million.  The option to refurbish the 2000 ladder truck will cost a fraction of that at $350,000.


The $350,000 will be covered by funding in the current fiscal year's budget which was earmarked for this use, coupled with some money from the coming fiscal year's budget.

League of Women Voters reorganizes in northern Fairfield County

The League of Women Voters has reorganized in the Greater Danbury area and the chapter is now known as Northern Fairfield County. 


The League will be hosting an informal meet and greet on Wednesday night at the Danbury Museum and Historical Society on Main Street.  The group would like to attract a more diverse membership.  The League of Women Voters of Northern Fairfield County is open to residents from Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield and Sherman. 


A local candidates guide and debate in the fall are planned for the state and federal elections.  They will be hosting a presentation in May by local lawmakers about the current General Assembly session. 


The informal gathering is Wednesday from 5:30 to 7pm.

State approval sought for Danbury's beefed up noise ordinance

Danbury's new, enhanced noise ordinance will have to be signed off on by the state, because the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has some cross-over regulations.  Danbury Corporation Counsel Les Pinter told the City Council at their meeting that the state may question the automobile part, because they regulate certain loud noises from cars. 


State statute is silent on non-muffler and other non-vehicle noises like music eminating from a car. 


Pinter state the state may want more detail about the so-called "plainly audible standard" for enforcement.  The standard is objective, specific and easily understandable--and carried out by a trained official police or noise control officer.


Police Chief Al Baker told the City Council that the entire Police Department would be trained on "plainly audible standards".  The Department, working with the City's attorney will come up with a curriculum and they will do the training in house, during a roll call type of situation.

Monroe woman testifies in support of music, art therapy bill

A bill co-sponsored by Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky has made it through the committee process and awaits action by the General Assembly.  An Act Concerning Music and Art Therapy defines both music an art therapy, as well as music and art therapists. 


Bolinsky says this came to his attention by several constituents who are Licensed Creative Arts Therapists, an as yet unrecognized practice in Connecticut. Bolinsky said by licensing these professions, it will open up new possibilities for a population of people that can't be reached in traditional ways.  There is a fee associated with obtaining a license.


Connecticut Music Therapy Task Force chair Jennifer Sokira, of Monroe, testified in support of the bill.  She also is a staff music therapist for the Resiliency Center of Newtown.  The Center is working with many children and families impacted by 12-14.


Sokira says music therapy grew as a profession when music was found helpful after WWII for veterans returning home with shell shock, now known as PTSD.  She noted that music therapy programs this month were expanded at Walter Reed Medical Center.


She says this form of therapy can help people's brain health and assist with developmental, medical or behavioral needs.


Sokira says licensing will add a layer of consumer protection for clients.


There are 90 practicing board certified music therapists in Connecticut, and 130 board certified art therapists.

Bethel man seeks GOP nomination for 2nd District House seat

A Bethel man has announced his candidacy for a state House seat.  Will Duff, past chairman of the Bethel Republican Town Committee, is seeking the GOP nomination in the 2nd District.  Incumbent Dan Carter announced this week that he will not be seeking reelection to the General Assembly, instead looking to take on Richard Blumenthal in the U-S Senate race.  Duff is a former Bethel Selectman and Board of Education member.  The 2nd District includes two thirds of Bethel, nearly two fifths of Redding, and small portions of Danbury and Newtown.

Local lawmaker discusses 'UConn Transparency' Bill

A compromise bill has been sent to the state Senate which would increase transparency at the UConn Foundation, the nonprofit that serves as the university's fundraising arm.  Kent state Representative Roberta Willis says the foundation's records would still not be subject to Freedom of Information laws, but a new report would be provided to the legislature.


The annual report would have to include an audited financial statement and details about the number and average size of disbursements to the university. 


The bill would phase out the university's financial backing of the foundation as the endowment grows.


The foundation’s records would still not be subject to state Freedom of Information laws.  University and foundation officials conceded to releasing the salaries of all employees at the foundation by their positions, as well as the names of the donors who do not opt out of being included in the report.

Danbury City Council receives update on oil contracts

The winter heating season seems to be in the past, and the price at the gas pump for drivers is still low compared to previous years.  As municipalities and the state deal with crafting budgets for the coming fiscal year, there are questions about energy savings.


City Councilman Duane Perkins asked about the CIty's ability to negotiate or enter into new contracts to secure competitive pricing for oil and natural gas.  Danbury already holds several contracts for the fiscal year starting in July.  Danbury locked in last fall for next fiscal year in the range of $1.70 for unleaded and diesel.  Officials said when times are good, the City reaps the benefits, and when times are bad, it's bad.  But they note, that's the risk a municipality takes when they lock in for the next year's budget.


Finance Director David St. Hilaire says when it comes to natural gas, Danbury follows the state.  The City has a "buy as you go" policy and doesn't lock in a price on natural gas.  He says he watches the oil market carefully for several weeks to try to catch the dip in the market, but no one anticipated the bottom falling out like it did.


Perkins asked if oil would get to a price point where it would be compelling enough to enter into a longer contract.  St. Hilaire said if it does, it would be a blended rate.


Crude oil futures prices ended lower on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The near-month contract for the benchmark grade fell 33 cents -- closing at $39.46 a barrel.

Metro North to make slight schedule changes

Certain morning and evening rush hour trains on the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson Lines will be adjusted beginning April 3rd.  These minor adjustments will decrease train dwell time at stations, relieve congestion, increase train speed, help prevent the cascading impact of minor delays and improve on-time performance.


Eight morning rush hour trains on the Harlem Line will be adjusted by 2–4 minutes.


Twelve morning peak hour trains on the New Haven Line will be adjusted by 1-4 minutes.  Five evening peak trains on the New Haven Line will be adjusted by 1-3 minutes.


More quiet cars are coming to Metro-North.  The last two cars on all weekday trains heading for Grand Central Terminal and the first two on trains out of New York City will be designated quiet cars, starting on April 4th.  Currently, rush-hour trains have one quiet car.


Riders are expected to keep their phones and other electronic devices muted and talk in subdued tones and keep headphones on low volume.


The MTA says the extra quiet cars are in response to customer suggestions.

Brookfield Zoning Commission continues hearing on 'Renaissance' proposal

The Brookfield Zoning Commission continued the public hearing Thursday night on the proposed Renaissance Project.  Their next meeting is mid-April.  The applicant submitted an alternate plan this week reducing the number of floors in the building from six to three.  First Selectman Steve Dunn reviewed the plans and said that the alternate is a better fit along that stretch of Federal Road.
The original plan has not been withdrawn, and is still pending.  Attorney Christopher Smith says the alternate application is no longer an 8-30g affordable housing proposal since they have reduced the number of units in the project.
The original plan does not contain commercial space, the fire department cited safety concerns and other officials said the applicant didn’t take into account what the town has been trying to do for decades in the Four Corners area.   
The alternate plan calls for two three-story buildings instead of one six-story building, with commercial space on the ground level.  A pedestrian bridge would connect the two buildings.  Smith says that was done in order for residents in the second, smaller building to have access to the amenities located in the larger building.

Former New Milford Police Chief passes away in Fl. at 72

A former New Milford Police Chief has passed away at the age of 72.  Gerald Olmsted died Monday at his home in Florida after a lengthy illness.  He served as New Milford Police Chief from 1984 through 1989.  Olmsted was involved with the Boy Scouts of America, attended UConn School of Law and served in the United States Marine Corps.  He also served as Police Chief in East Windsor, Connecticut and Media, Pennsylvania.

Brookfield, Bethel Republican Town Committees elect new chairmen

The Brookfield Republican Town Committee has selected a new chairman.  A primary was held earlier this month after 49 candidates were seeking the 25 positions.  The caucus-endorsed slate came out with a slight lead resulting in a 13-12 split with the opposition. 


Four Corners Project manager and former Inland Wetlands Commission member Greg Dembowski was selected as Chairman of the Brookfield GOP.  He was one of the members to organize a meeting between the two sides after the caucus to try to find a way to move forward.  John Mangold, who was part of the opposition, was selected as vice chairman. 


The Bethel Republican Town Committee has elected a new chairman.  Bill Hillman was selected last night for the leadership role after Will Duff decided not to seek re-election to the post.  Hillman is a member of the Energy Conservation Commission.  Richard Merritt was selected as vice chairman.

Putnam County Sheriff's Department to increase counter-terrorism patrols

The Putnam County Sheriff's Department is stepping up patrols this Easter weekend.  Periodic security checks of religious facilities, train stations, commuter parking lots, shopping malls and other places will be done.  The public may notice more uniformed police officers on patrol as part of the department's counter-terrorism strategy of continued vigilance.  With recent events, Sheriff Donald Smith says it's more important than ever to be aware of what's going on around you and not to become complacent.  Smith reminds residents of the old saying that "if you see something, say something."

Danbury Police warn of IRS phone scam

The Danbury Police Department has seen an increase of victims reporting phone calls from the “IRS”. The callers say that the “IRS” has a warrant for their arrest and that if the victim pays the “IRS”, it will remove the warrant.  Danbury Police are reminding residents that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill.  The IRS will also never require a specific payment method.  Danbury Police say the IRS would also never threaten to bring law enforcement to have victims arrested for not paying.

Danbury students compete in Invention Convention

Westside Middle School students in Danbury are participating in a district wide Invention Convention.  100 6th graders and 30 7th graders set up their projects yesterday in advance of district wide judging at Western Connecticut State University tomorrow.  Elementary school students are competing today for a chance to move on to the state competition.  Winners will participate in the 33rd annual Connecticut Invention Convention in April at UConn.  The Danbury students will face children from more than 130 Connecticut schools.  Students have been working for weeks to come up with ideas on how to solve problems, put them into motion and tweak them to perfection.

Hiring freeze imposed for Connecticut state college system

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The leader of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system has imposed a hiring freeze across all its 17 campuses.

CSCU President Mark Ojakian said Tuesday that the step is necessary because of a projected budget shortfall and other financial pressures.

Ojakian says the freeze will remain in effect for at least the remainder of the fiscal year. He says it is intended as only a short-term measure.

The system oversees four state universities, not including the University of Connecticut, as well as 12 community colleges.

The state government's budget is at least $220 million in deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Danbury officials get an update on high school renovations

A Danbury City Council member sought an update this month from the Public Works Director about the addition at Danbury High School.  Councilman Irving Fox, a former Board of Education member, acknowledged that the heavy part of construction would start when the school year is over, but he wanted to know about the timeline to determine usability of the area around the school.  He cited the track, the stadium and playing fields. 


Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola said there's been some discussion already about what part of the grounds will be completely off limits, but they are working to pinpoint which athletic fields and what part of the facility will be useable during construction. 


There is a significant amount of work planned at DHS, most notably is the Freshman Academy addition.  Two architects were selected for the work and contracts have been signed.  A Construction Manager has been interviewed.  Schematic design has started various parts of the building.  Danbury has gone out to bid for Phase 1, the roof replacement. 


The biggest priority is public safety, and balancing that safety with still allowing sport and other activities to occur.  Iadarola says the decision will be made collectively with the Board of Education.

Legislative committee advances art, music therapy bill

An Act Concerning Music and Art Therapy has been forwarded by a state legislative committee for further consideration by the General Assembly. 


The bill defines both music an art therapy, as well as music and art therapists.  There are licensing provisions outlined in the bill, which was approved unanimously by the Public Health Committee on Monday.  The application fee would be $315.  The fee for a temporary permit will be $50. 


The measure was co-sponsored by Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky.  92 people submitted written testimony about the bill.  Dozens of people attended the public hearing in Hartford on March 7th.


Bolinsky says this came to his attention by several constituents who are Licensed Creative Arts Therapists, an as yet unrecognized practice in Connecticut.  One constituent is an art therapist who practices in Putnam County, where LCATs are approved and recognized.


He says this holistic approach to mental health is a recognized profession in many other states.  Bolinsky said by licensing these professions, it will open up new possibilities for a population of people that can't be reached in traditional ways.

Danbury beefs up noise ordinance

Danbury is taking several steps in an effort to reduce noise complaints in the City by making current laws more enforceable and adding new laws.  The noise ordinance is being overhauled.  The proposed changes are targeting noise eminating from vehicles whether it's the exhaust system or amplifiers.  Police or a noise control officer will be able to cite people using a so-called "plainly audible standard". 


The original ordinance adopted in 1987, now some 30 years later is getting an update.


The plainly audible standard is objective, specific and easily understandable--and carried out by a trained official police or noise control officer.


City Attorney Les Pinter took on the misconception that playing music at any volume is Free Speech.  He says there's nothing in the Constitution that allows people to play music really loud noting that it's free speech when it's at a reasonable level.


Noise violations carry a $75 fine.  The amount hasn't been changed since the ordinance was created.  State statute allows for fines of up to $250.


If there are multiple violations in one day, it could be escalated to a criminal violation such as a charge of breach of peace.  The first remedy would be an infraction, but if someone keeps violating the law it would move to a criminal offense resulting in arrest.


Councilman Tom Saadi says he's heard from some people that these proposals are an unreasonable, excessive government intrusion into people's private lives.  But he says the problem is the City has to address unreasonable excessive conduct that interferes with other people's enjoyment of their property.  Saadi says there are unwritten rules everyone must conduct themselves by and when they don't, they violate that social compact and government has to step in.


The proposed Neighborhood Preservation Zone ordinance includes the definition of outdoor group activity and five violations which would prompted a $250 fine.


The ordinance allows the City to assess back, to the violator, the cost of the enforcement.  Pinter said that doesn't appear in many laws, but because this type of enforcement is costly.  It doesn't mean that the City will use this provision, but that it could in cases where it's warranted.

Local state lawmaker to seek U.S. Senate GOP nomination

A local lawmaker is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate.  Bethel State Representative Dan Carter plans to withdraw paperwork this week from the State Elections Enforcement Commission for his 2nd District campaign.


The 2nd House District includes parts of Bethel, Danbury and Newtown.  Carter was seeking a 4th term.  He is the Ranking Member of the legislature's General Law Committee and a member of the Education and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees.


An official announcement about his potential run for higher office is expected in the coming weeks.

Sen. Blumenthal gets Narcan training in Danbury

One of Connecticut's two U.S. Senators received training in Danbury Monday through the AIDS Project Greater Danbury overdose prevention program.  Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was impressed with how simple and straight forward the training was.  The Center provides a syringe exchange program, which is coupled with education about how to use the overdose prevention drug naloxone.


Earlier this month, the Senate passed a bill co-sponsored by Blumenthal which is aimed at combating drug abuse by expanding access to prescription drug monitoring programs.  The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act increases the tools advocates need to prevent overdoses.


Blumenthal says the training he received Monday should be expanded beyond emergency responders to ordinary citizens.  He says Narcan should be made more widely available, including over the counter at pharmacies.

Parents of Sandy Hook victim write op-ed critical of Bernie Sanders

The parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook School has written an op-ed in the Washington Post critical of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  Mark and Jackie Barden said they were motivated by Sander's comments during a recent debate about their lawsuit against the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 in order to hold Remington accountable for making the military-grade weapon available to civilians. 


"Remington and the other defendants’ choices allowed an elementary school to be transformed into a battlefield. Our case seeks nothing more than fair accountability for those choices."


Mark and Jackie Barden said in the op-ed that the suit is not simply about the manufacturing of the gun, but about them marketing it to the public. 


"The last thing our sweet little Daniel would have seen in his short, beautiful life was the long barrel of a ferocious rifle designed to kill the enemy in war. The last thing Daniel’s tender little body would have felt were bullets expelled from that AR-15 traveling at greater than 3,000 feet per second — a speed designed to pierce body armor in the war zones of Fallujah."


The couple wrote that Sanders has advocated for greater corporate responsibility, which is why they were surprised by his remarks.


"Sanders has spent decades tirelessly advocating for greater corporate responsibility, which is why we cannot fathom his support of companies that recklessly market and profit from the sale of combat weapons to civilians and then shrug their shoulders when the next tragedy occurs, leaving ordinary families and communities to pick up the pieces."

New Milford schools consider candidate for Superintendent

The New Milford Board of Education is considering the contract for the district's next Superintendent of Schools.  Joshua Smith has served as the interim Superintendent since the end of January, having been moved to the position from Deputy Superintendent when Jean Ann Paddyfote retired. 


Smith was a teacher at Schaghticoke Middle School for a few years before becoming director of information in the Ridgefield School District and rejoining New Milford schools in 2012. 


Consideration of Smith's appointment comes as he presents a budget to town officials for the coming fiscal year.  The New Milford school budget has a proposed 2.3 percent increase over the current year, at $62.5 million.

Public Hearing scheduled in Danbury on noise ordinance changes

The Danbury City Council will hold a public hearing Modnay night on two ordinances aimed at protecting quality of life. 


A so-called "plainly audible standard" is being considered in Danbury when it comes to overhauling the City's noise ordinance.  The biggest change gets rid of the requirement for a noise reader.  The target is excessive noise from cars including amplifiers and exhaust systems.  Penalties increase for each violation. 


The Neighborhood Preservation Zone is aimed at cracking down on habitual offenders who host large parties and the like.  The proposed ordinance includes the definition of outdoor group activity and five violations which would prompted a $250 fine. 


The public hearing in City Hall will be at 7pm.

Public Hearing to be held in Bethel on proposed budget

The Bethel Board of Finance will hold a public hearing tonight on the recommended budget.  The Bethel Board of Finance approved a $71.27 million recommended budget at their meeting March 1st. 


The municipal portion of the budget for the coming fiscal year is recommended at $27.66 million while the Board of Education recommended budget is $43. 6 million.  It works out to 1.3 percent higher than the current year.  There is also $1.4 million recommended for capital items.  The capital budget includes $50,000 for the 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development, $400,000 for lighting on Whittlesey Drive and to replace seating in the high school auditorium, and $115,000 for walkway repairs along Greenwood Avenue.


Officials say if the budget is approved, and revenues come in as expected, the tax rate would decrease by .03 percent. 


Tonight's public hearing is at 7:30pm at the Bethel High School auditorium.


Transportation funding lockbox bill advances through legislature

A Transportation Funding Lockbox bill made it out of the Transportation Committee this week.  But Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says it came with conditions. One condition is to have the language be made stronger indicating exactly which revenue would be protect and what purposes they could be spent on.  Another condition is that language be added with an assurance that having a lockbox would not automatically lead to tolls or other taxes.


Connecticut residents would be presented with the Constitutional amendment proposal on the November ballot, if it gains three-quarters support in both the House and Senate.  Governor Dannel Malloy called on lawmakers to approve the measure in order to secure funding needed to pay for his 30-year, $100 billion infrastructure improvement plan. 


During discussions Monday, lawmakers agreed that the state's transportation system has been underfunded for years, and that the transportation funding has been raided time and again to erase red ink in the General Fund.


A lockbox proposal passed in the Senate last year, but failed in the House.

Proposal to privatize DMV services receives public hearing

Car dealers could take on more DMV services for customers. 


A proposal to privatize some DMV services has received a public hearing last week.  Monroe state Representative JP Sredzinski co-sponsored the bill and was among the lawmakers who signed a petition to force a hearing on the bill after the Transportation Committee's Democratic leaders refused to raise the bill for a public hearing. 


Complaints about the DMV spiked after the agency installed new computer software this summer in order to reduce wait times, but many problems led to longer wait times.


Danbury Representative Jan Giegler asked if car dealers, who already do a partial registration, could fully register the vehicles they sell.  Sredzinski responded that it shouldn't be forced on the businesses if they don't have the capability to do so.  But he said if there was a dealership that wanted the opportunity to, that would be warranted.


18 other states already have at least some of their DMV services provided by outside contractors.

Connecticut casino study fails to clear legislative panel

Connecticut lawmakers are not going to pursue a state study of a proposed third casino.  A motion to refer the bill from the Commerce Committee to the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee failed Thursday by a vote of 11-7. That vote means the study will not move forward. 


Kent-based Schagticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky supported the bill.


He says it's ironic that part of the state's effort to shut his tribe out of federal recognition was claiming the state didn't want a third casino.  Now Connecticut is poised to approve its first commercial casino, but he says only to the exclusion of any other interested parties.

Leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes had urged lawmakers to defeat the bill, predicting it could delay their plans to open a casino in northern Connecticut to compete with a planned $950 million casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. The tribes are still reviewing potential sites.

Newtown man, head of Conn. Bar Association, calls for SCOTUS nominee hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee is being called on by leaders of the state's legal community to begin Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearings on Judge Merrick Garland.  Connecticut Bar Association President-elect Monte Frank of Newtown says the confirmation hearings should be held.


Frank says the Supreme Court needs a full complement of Justices because any 4-to-4 decisions will not establish precedent.  While the Court will continue to function, he says tied decisions will leave open questions on issues that are vital to the lives of every day people of Connecticut and the nation.


Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the committee, says Garland has impeccable credentials and certainly merits consideration.  He called on his colleagues to do their job.

Newtown families tout progress of federal mental health bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Some family members of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims are cheering the recent committee passage of a bipartisan, federal mental health bill that's moving through Congress.

Much of the legislation, known as the Mental Health Reform Act, updates grants for various mental health-related initiatives. That includes grants for early childhood mental health intervention and treatment programs, telehealth child psychiatry efforts and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and initiatives.

The Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee advanced the bill this week. The panel does not have jurisdiction over funding the bill.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said he hopes money will be found for the legislation, based partly on input from Connecticut patients and advocates.

Murphy appeared Friday in Hartford with the Newtown families.

Region 9 Board of Ed clarifies drug policies

The Region 9 Board of Education this week took up the matter of drug use at Joel Barlow High School.  Minutes from the meeting said that changes to the drug policies were reviewed to include alternate and additional language. 


The group unanimously approved the changes Tuesday to add vaporized delivery devices such as e-cigarettes to the list of banned products.  Any tobacco or nicotine-related products were already disallowed at Barlow, but this now spells it out specifically. 


The use or possession of medical marijuana was also voted on and are now on the prohibited list.  Patients under 21 are not legally allowed to possess medical marijuana under state law.

Lawmakers propose increased fine for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk

A piece of legislation increasing the fines for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and failure to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or cyclist is being considered by the General Assembly.  The Judiciary Committee forwarded the bill this week for further action. 


The legislation would require that the money from the fine be sent to the municipality in which the violation occurred.  The bill increases the fine to $500. 


Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky is one of the co-sponsors of the measure.


Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan spoke during a public hearing on the bill about an accident involving a person being struck and killed by a car at the crosswalk on White Street in Danbury by the midtown campus of Western Connecticut State University.  The City, State and University worked together to come up with ways to reduce pedestrian-car accidents. 


One of the ideas was to install flashing orange lights when someone pushes the crosswalk button.  McLachlan says that was approved by the state Department of Transportation and seems to be the most progressive way to deal with safety.  He would like to see the technology installed at every crosswalk, but acknowledged that it is cost prohibitive.


New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith also spoke during the earlier public hearing.  He noted there's one crosswalk in town from a parking lot to town hall, which he uses frequently.  Smith says he naturally waits, but has found that most cars don't stop and go by pretty fast.


Smith says most drivers disregard the fact that they need to stop at a crosswalk when there is a pedestrian waiting, and no traffic signal.

Carmel Police, Sheriff Deputies to conduct DWI patrols this St. Patrick's Day

There will be more police on the road today than usual.  The Putnam County Sheriff's Office and Carmel Police Department are increasing patrols for drunk drivers along area roads this St Patrick's Day holiday.  The announcement is aimed at deterring intoxicated or impaired driving. 


It's part of the New York statewide STOP DWI Crackdown effort.  There will also be some sobriety checkpoints set up.


Police said historically, holiday festivities give rise to increased incidents of impaired driving and drinking related crashes.  Research shows that high-visibility enforcement can reduce drunk driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent.


Sheriff Donald Smith says they want to let people know in advance as a deterrent to drunk driving, and to remind people that they must drink responsibly or make appropriate plans now to either have a designated driver or use a taxi.

'Walmart Bill' imposing fee on large businesses with low paid workers clears first hurdle

The legislature's Human Services Committee this week advanced the so-called "Walmart Bill".  Companies with 500 or more employees, which pay workers less than $15 an hour, would be required to pay a fee to the state.  The official name of the bill is An Act Concerning the Recoupment of State Costs Attributable to Low Wage Employers.


During debate, New Milford Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor was among the lawmakers who raised concerns about what they see as the real intent of the bill.  She says the smoke and mirrors should be cleared, and people should just come out and say they want to raise the minimum wage.


Buck Taylor said it's just playing with words. 


The bill passed the committee on a 10-to-8 vote. A similar bill failed in the legislature last year.

BI AmeriCares Free Clinic in Danbury launches new 'Health Coach' program

Boehringer Ingelheim Cares Foundation and AmeriCares Free Clinics have launched a new AmeriCares Health Coach Program at the BI AmeriCares Free Clinic in Danbury. 


BI Cares Foundation President Lilly Ackley says their goal is to help support uninsured patients with chronic disease. The bilingual registered nurses who will serve as the AmeriCares health coaches will be available for all weekday clinic sessions to work one-on-one with patients, equipping them with the knowledge to better manage chronic conditions, including diabetes and hypertension, and reach their health goals.


Ackley says the Health Coach position is not new in the medical field, but it is newer to the non-profit space.


Health coaching emerged to fill an information gap, following research that shows half of patients leave medical visits without understanding their provider’s advice.  Officials say lack of adherence to medical advice is a significant problem in the U.S. and results in poor health outcomes for patients and significant burden on the healthcare system—as much as $300 billion annually from medication nonadherence alone.


The Health Coaches are fluent in both English and Spanish.


BI Cares Foundation has contributed $75,000 to the program to date and anticipates a total contribution of $150,000 for 2016.


Beyond providing financial support, the BI Cares Foundation wants to measure the clinical outcomes of having Health Coaches and overall clinic productivity.  They will also be looking at patient and staff satisfaction.  Ackley hopes to be able to then provide insight to other organizations working to improve health on the effectiveness of Health Coaches.

Absentee ballots available soon for Newtown Community Center referendum

Absentee ballots will be available soon for the upcoming Newtown Community Center referendum.  The Newtown Town Clerk's office has announced that absentee ballots will be available beginning on Thursday.  The referendum on the Newtown Community Center is set for April 5th. 


The proposal is for a flexible space of approximately 13,000 square feet, coupled with an aquatics center featuring a zero entry pool and an 8-lane, 50 meter pool.  The $15 million donation from GE paired with $5 million in bonding in the town's Capital Improvement Plan is up for the vote. 


The Newtown Town Clerk's office will have special absentee voting hours on Saturday April 2nd from 9am to 12pm.  The referendum will be that following Tuesday from 6am to 8pm in the Newtown Middle School gym.

Lawmakers keep link between unpaid taxes, car registrations

A Connecticut legislative committee is keeping the ban on issuing motor vehicle registrations to owners with delinquent property taxes.

Members of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee on Monday voted to keep the ban after hearing from cities and towns that they could lose five percent of their car tax revenues if it were removed.

Governor Dannel Malloy had proposed ending the policy to reduce wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles. He argued that customers often make multiple visits to the DMV because they can't get a registration until their local taxes are paid off.

The bill would still allow the DMV to use private entities such as AAA to provide more services.

Independent contractors would be allowed to to issue duplicate licenses and identity cards pursuant to section 14-50a, renew licenses, renew identity cards issued pursuant to section 1-1h and conduct registration transactions at its office facilities.


Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says there is already language in state law allowing the DMV to outsource any service they currently have.  She says this part of the bill might not be necessary because of the existing statute.  She did acknowledge that it makes the next part, about increasing, fees possible.


The bill also increases the convenience fee contractors would be able to charge from $3 to up to $5, to each applicant for a license or identity card renewal or duplication, or for a registration transaction.


The legislation now moves to the House.

NY State Trooper helps delivers baby on I-84 in Brewster

A New York State Police Trooper delivered a baby on the side of the highway.  Trooper Christopher Liebler was patrolling Interstate 84 on Friday when he saw a Honda Accord exit the highway on the Brewster-Danbury border and enter the emergency vehicle u-turn just before exit 1 in Connecticut.  The trooper followed the car in order to conduct a welfare check and learned that the passenger was in labor.  The Trooper requested EMS, but prior to Kent Volunteer Ambulance arriving on scene, the trooper helped the Hopewell Junction woman deliver a healthy baby girl.  The baby, named Emma, was transported with her mother to Danbury Hospital.

Greater Danbury area students set to compete in Poetry Out Loud state finals

Five finalists from Fairfield County will be among the students competing in the Connecticut state Finals of the 11th annual Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest this week.  A record 43 Connecticut high schools participated in the program this year.  The event encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. 


The Connecticut State Champion advances to the National Finals, which will take place in May in Washington, DC. 


The finalists from Fairfield County are: Nastasja Haughton from Stamford’s Westhill High School; Trevor Lilly from Wilton High School; Vivian Altopp from Ridgefield High School; Nicole Kearney from Joel Barlow High School in Redding; and Shami Khoshabo from Bethel High School.


Ridgefield Police Officers recognized with Unit Citations

During the Ridgefield Police Commission meeting on Thursday, several officers were awarded the Department's Unit Citation Award.  The recognition was for an incident that happened earlier this year.  On January 3rd, a reckless driver stole a car and caused multiple accidents in the downtown area.  The six officers were recognized for their teamwork and judgement during a rapidly evolving situation. 


As a result of their actions, no one was injured and the suspect was arrested.  22-year old Mark Bogdanov Johnson remains held on $20,000 bond on several charges.  His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.


(Photo Courtesy: Ridgefield Police, Facebook)

Back row (L-R) Officer Dan Gjodesen, Officer Dave Samoskevich and Officer Brian Shimko.

Front row (L-R) Officer Jorge Romero, Officer Lou Caba and Lieutenant Shawn Platt.

Newtown officials review recovery grant funding

The status of post 12-14 grants have been reviewed by Newtown officials to see what funds remain and can be applied to recovery efforts. 


First Selectman Pat Llodra said in a news release that March 31st is the end of a Department of Justice funded Recovery & Resiliency initiative.  The team of six professionals have been helping Newtown with community outreach and support as the town learns how grief impacts individuals and families.  The team has helped the community to navigate insurance and treatment options, among other services.  Llodra said the need for support continues and the town is committed to an ongoing recovery program. 


Two positions will be paid for, in part, through grant funding from Praxair and the Newtown Sandy Hook Community Foundation.  A care navigator and a director of social work-mental health programming will be hired.  Llodra says the new personnel will work with current staff members on the transition to ensure there are no gaps in service to the community.


On the school side, the federal School Emergency Response to Violence grant will run out by next March.  The funding has been bolstered by grants from Newtown Youth & Family Services and Education Connection.  The SERV grant was used to hire personnel and some of those positions will transition out of Sandy Hook School with the students moving up to Reed Intermediate School.  One grant to the schools, which expires at the end of this fiscal year, has not been spent down.  The district will be allowed though to use that money in the next fiscal year.


Llodra says this coming budget year is the first year that Newtown will fully carry the cost of School Security Officers.  Up to this year, the SSOs were partially funded by a Department of Justice grant, but it's been completely exhausted.

Danbury Department of Elderly Services applying for grant from Buck Foundation

The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation has made funds available to various organizations to enhance quality of life in communities and Danbury's Department of Elderly Services is once again applying for funding.  The grant money, if approved, would be used for services at Elmwood Hall Senior Center to benefit the City's elderly clients by providing additional staff and to expand programing. 


The money would go toward a part-time coordinator to be the Activities Scheduler and to oversee outreach and referrals.  Equipment supplies would also be covered.  The remaining funding will be used to foot a health program, inter-generational programs and a new wellness-based, leisure time or life-long learning program. 


The funding request is up to $60,000.  There is no City match required. 


The Foundation has approved approximately $17,500 remaining from this fiscal year's grant money to be added to any new funding awarded to the Department.

Union contract approved for some Danbury, New Milford Hospital workers

Medical technicians and clinicians at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals yesterday voted overwhelmingly to ratify a first-ever contract following more than a year of negotiations with their employer. The union of approximately 260 surgical and radiologic technologists, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists cast ballots 10 to one in favor of the tentative agreement reached with management. 


Beth Thomsen, who has served as co-president of the negotiating committee for the Danbury and New Milford Federation of Healthcare Technical Employees says the contract is the product of sitting down with management and working together to make the hospitals better places to receive vital acute care service.


Their new contract begins to close gaps in economic inequality and workplace rights that were key factors for the technical professionals exercising their free choice to form their own union.


The gains the technical professionals won through negotiations, include general wage increases of two percent for each year of their collective bargaining agreement. The contract also includes a mechanism for monthly labor-management meetings that include staffing as a standing issue as well as seniority rights and due process protections.

Schagticoke Chief testifies about two bills under consideration in Conn.

The leader of the Kent-based Schagticoke Tribal Nation was busy this week, testifying before state legislative committees on two bills and also filing a lawsuit against the state.  Chief Richard Velky is joining MGM in filing a suit claiming the bill allowing a 3rd casino in Connecticut, run by the federally recognized Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots, is unconstitutional.


A bill being considered by a state legislative committee this week calls for a new study about the expansion of casino gaming in Connecticut.  The two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut, The Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots, would be allowed to build the casino together.


An MGM official said the bill denies them and the Schagticokes a fair opportunity to compete for Connecticut 1sty commercial casino not on tribal land.  They says the process should be open to any interested bidders and also called for public participation, including local referendum.


Velky testified that they are willing and able to participate in that development process.  He says the result of the study could lead to his tribe's participation in this economic development opportunity, which could be life-changing for many members and create thousands of jobs.


Velky also testified before the Public Safety Committee about Act Concerning Gaming.  He says tribal gaming is about creating an economic opportunity for an impoverished people.  He says the tribe would use that opportunity to create jobs for members and for surrounding communities.

Bill considered to expand Workers' Comp for police

The legislature's Insurance Committee Thursday heard support for a bill which would expand Workers' Compensation coverage to police who suffer mental or emotional impairment due to witnessing the death or maiming of a person caused by another person.


Connecticut is one of 15 states which does not allow workers comp for mental injuries alone.  Senate President Martin Looney says current requirements are arbitrary that compensation for a mental injury has to be accompanied by a physical component.


Union official Eric Brown, who represented Newtown Police Officers on the day of the shootings at Sandy Hook School, says many of the officers only had 15 days of sick time available to them and didn't have any way of getting paid while they took time to rehabilitate themselves.


He says it really matters in these situations because many of the officers were not prepared or ready to go back to work right after 12-14.  He noted that they needed time to get treatment and get their minds straight.

Connecticut committee advances retooled gun permit bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are retooling a bill that would compel individuals to produce their permit to carry a firearm at the request of police.

The legislature's Public Safety and Security Committee on Thursday forwarded the updated bill to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Under the new proposal, a pistol permit holder must produce their permit upon request of a police officer, so long as that officer personally observes the person carrying a gun in the open. The original bill required permit-holders to produce the document if the officer had ``reason to believe'' they were carrying a pistol or revolver.

Republican Sen. Tony Guglielmo, likened the legislation to "hitting a flea with a sledgehammer.'' He said only a few "provocateurs'' have refused to provide police with their permits.


Litchfield Representative Craig Miner, who is seeking the 30th Senate District which includes New Milford, opposed the measure.  He thinks the bill goes too far.  Miner said it's about the 4th amendment and people's right to peaceably conduct themselves in a law abiding way.  Miner said until Connecticut enacts a law saying people don't have a right to carry openly, they have that right and can't be stopped and ask them for their permit for no reason.

6-story 'Renaissance' developer to submit changes to Brookfield proposal

The proposed six-story apartment building in Brookfield could be redesigned.


The Renaissance developer asked the Zoning Commission last night for a brief continuance of the public hearing in order to submit an alternate plan.  Thursday was supposed to be the final night of public hearings by state statute.  Attorney Christopher Smith says they expect to have a proposal submitted to the Brookfield Zoning Commission by March 21. 


The Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for March 24.  Some members asked if the applicant would be willing to keep the public hearing period open through April 14, which is the following scheduled meeting. 


The developer is proposing to reduce the number of stories in the building and offset some of the unit losses by adding up a smaller building where the existing day care center stands.  Smith says they appreciate everything Brookfield is trying to do in the 4 Corners, but the applicant has every intention of staying at the site.


Officials noted that there weren’t many traffic issues with the original proposal so they don’t anticipate a long review period for the alternate plans.  The big issue was public safety and the ability of the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department to respond to an emergency.  They will be asked to weigh in on the plans.

Schagticoke Tribal Nation Chief testifies on casino-related bills

The process of approving a third casino to compete with a planned MGM casino in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts could be slowed by a bill being considered by the legislature's Commerce Committee.  The leaders of the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots say there's no need for a new study as called for by the bill.  But  Kent-based Schagticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky wants the study.  Velky also testified before the Public Safety Committee about Act Concerning Gaming.  He says tribal gaming is about creating an economic opportunity for an impoverished people.  He says the tribe would use that opportunity to create jobs for members and for surrounding communities.

Dorothy Day House to appeal cease and desist order

Dorothy Day Hospitality House is appealing a cease and desist order from the City of Danbury.  The City received that notice earlier this week. 


The appeal is to the agency that decides whether or not the order was issued incorrectly or there was an error in doing that.  The Zoning Board of Appeals was to acknowledge the appeal notice last night, but the meeting was canceled.  Their next meeting is scheduled for the 24th.  A Public hearing date on the appeal has yet to be determined.


Dorothy Day had a permit back in 1983 for temporary use on an annual basis.  It was renewed for one year, and it was never renewed again.  Over the summer, questions were raised about the appropriateness of the facility in a residential neighborhood, and the permit issue was uncovered.


This winter, Dorothy Day submitted a request to the Planning Commission to renew the permit from 1984, but the Planning Commission doesn't have jurisdiction to do that.  The Zoning Enforcement Officer asked the operator to submit an application to be granted a special exception use for the shelter in order to come into compliance with zoning regulations.  When that didn't happen, a cease and desist order was issued in an effort to bring the homeless shelter into compliance.


Danbury Planning Director Sharon Calitro says this is no different than when something like this is discovered.  She says their hands were tied.  The letter accompanying the cease and desist order said that the City's intent is not to close the shelter immediately, just to have them come into compliance.  There is a use allowed in the zone, but there is a process for approval and the City asked that they initiate that process.

Danbury City Council confirms appointment of Buildings Superintendent

The Danbury City Council has approved the appointment of a new Superintendent of Buildings.  The position was vacated by Rick Palanzo, who recently retired.  Sean Hanley, who has served as Acting Superintendent of Buildings since October was promoted last week. 


Hanley was hired by the City in 2001 as a Maintenance Mechanic.  He was promoted to Head Mechanic a few years later and eventually to Foreman.  Hanley has a background in the plumbing and HVAC industry, primarily in commercial facility maintenance.  He is certified in Confined Space Entry, National Incident Management Safety and Hazard Communications. 


Hanley is a licensed contractor and certified building operator.

'Neighborhood Business Zone' considered in Ridgefield

A new zoning regulation has been approved in Ridgefield.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Neighborhood Business Zone would allow for a mix of business and residential uses in the town's Gateway Zone.  The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a hearing at their meeting later this month for the specific area affected by the change--the area where Routes 35 and 7 meet.  The plan would allow for small retail businesses with apartments above them and brining all existing businesses into compliance.

1 to 2 acres burn in Wednesday brush fire in Bethel

Ground conditions in Bethel Wednesday were muddy, wet, and on fire.  Stony Hill firefighters found that grass in the wetlands does burn.  About 1 to 2 acres of rough terrain off Limekiln Road caught fire around 1:30pm. 


The Bethel Fire Department along with mutual aid from Redding, West Redding, Dodgingtown, Hawleyville, Sandy Hook, Brookfield, and Danbury volunteers responded. Multiple brush trucks, tankers, and all terrain vehicles got the job done in about two hours. 


No injuries were reported.  Bethel Ambulance had been called to the scene as a precaution.


(Photo: Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Facebook)

Weston municipal budget to cover cost of School Resource Officer salary

The Weston Board of Finance this week proposed that the School Resource Officer be paid for through the municipal budget, rather than splitting the cost between the town and school budgets. 


The SRO would be assigned to Weston High School, and during the summer be on patrol with the Weston Police Department.  The salary of little more than $83,000 will pay for a senior officer currently on the Weston Police force.  The Police Department is then asking for funding to fill the patrol position with a new hire. 


A public hearing will be held March 30th on the budget request with the annual town meeting on the budget scheduled for April 20th.

Danbury officials to host forum about state underfunding of school district

A City-wide PTO meeting is being held in Danbury tonight featuring the Board of Education, City Council members, state legislators and community leaders.  The Connecticut School Finance Project will help lead the meeting about Danbury being underfunded by the state.  The agency is funded by grants from non-profit foundations and helps schools find solutions to funding flaws.  


Tonight's meeting is in the Broadview Middle School cafeteria at 6:30pm.


As area school districts face declining enrollment, Danbury continues to grow annually.  An October meeting on this issue noted that student population increases on average by 120 students per year. There are 285 more students this year than in the 2014-15 school year.


School officials say Danbury remains 50-percent underfunded by the state, with City taxpayers picking up 70-percent of the cost to educate each student.  School officials say the figure is nearly twice that of a similar district.  Data released by the schools shows that more affluent towns like Greenwich are overfunded by as much as 63 percent.  The district is looking to the state to release the $30 million of annual funding that was cut from last year’s budget. 


According to the Connecticut Finance Project, the Education Cost Sharing formula treats Danbury as a wealthy community, despite the fact that student poverty has doubled in the district over the past 10 years.  Because the state no longer adheres to the ECS formula, funding to school districts is now given out in “block grants,” or lump sums, some of which have been deemed inequitable because of how the grants are calculated.


Some districts that receive more funding have greater tax rolls or a higher mill rate creating a larger tax base. Other districts have fewer expenditures for English Language Learners or students with special needs, but receive more funding based on other statistics and not necessarily need.


In order to accommodate increased enrollment, Danbury added a new middle school and increased the size of several elementary schools. Danbury High School will soon add an addition.  The District has increased its course offerings and programs at all levels, including an Early College Opportunity Program at the high school.

Newtown officials set referendum date on community center proposal

A proposal for a community center will be going to Newtown voters next month.  The Boards of Selectmen and Finance along with the Legislative Council have all weighed in on the proposal for an approximately 13,000 square foot flexible programmable space and an aquatics center.  The Newtown Community Center Commission has proposed the development adjacent to the municipal center and NYA Sports & Fitness Facility on the Fairfield Hills campus. 


The referendum will be held on April 5th at Newtown Middle School from 6am to 8pm.  Residents are being asked to accept or reject the $15 million gift from GE along with $5 million in bonding in the town's Capital Improvement Plan. 


The aquatics center would have a zero entry pool and an 8-lane, 50 meter pool.  The plan calls for a small dedicated space for legacy foundations created in memory of the 20 children and six educators who were killed on 12-14.  In terms of the programming in the flexible space, Newtown officials would seek input from the Commissions on Aging and the Arts and the Parks & Recreation Department.  Officials are hoping that bids come in allowing for a larger flexible space of 18,000 square feet.


Revenue would come from memberships, events and day passes for pool use.  Memberships would give people priority access to sign up for programming and events, and discounts on events.  The expense estimates include a director salary, custodial staff, part timers for programming, utilities and supplies.


All common areas of the center would be open to residents for socializing at no cost.

Brookfield, Southbury receive 'America the Beautiful' grants

Two area towns are receiving grant funds from the state.  The 2016 America the Beautiful urban forest grants from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have been awarded to 13 municipalities and four non-profits. 


The grants are designed to advance urban forestry in Connecticut and planning for the future. 


Brookfield has been awarded nearly $3,500 for the Still River Greenway Enhancement Project.  Southbury is receiving $8,500 for Community Park Trees along Route 67. 


Communities are encouraged to undertake projects that improve the health and condition of the urban forest, through tree plantings, tree maintenance projects or invasive species removal, and also lead to greater awareness of the importance that trees play in lives of the state’s citizens.

Newtown man announces candidacy for State House of Representatives

A Newtown man has declared his candidacy for the state House of Representatives.  Kyle Lyddy is seeking the 106th District seat currently held by Mitch Bolinsky.  Lyddy's brother, Chris, previously served two terms in the position.  Kyle Lyddy works at Amplitude Marketing Group and is chairman of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission.  Lyddy says some of his goals would be to attract more businesses to Newtown, support laws to protect people from gun violence and speak up for grants and resources to help Newtown continue on a path of recovery.

Redding Police raise $10k in childhood cancer research fundraiser

More than $10,000 was raised by the Redding Police Department for the St Baldrick's Foundation.  Their effort to raise awareness of the lack of funding for childhood cancer research is more than just helping an extremely underfunded cause. 


One of their Officer's has a son who is battling cancer. 


Members of the Easton Police Department raised more than $1,250 for the cause.  The two departments came together at Joel Barlow High School yesterday where students raised over $20,000.


(Photo: Redding Police, Twitter)

Buck Foundation grant to help Danbury homeless shelter operations

A Danbury philanthropist is providing funding to the City's homeless shelter.  The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation grant of $20,000 will go toward the Day and Evening Homeless Shelter Operations and programs. 


The state is requiring all applicants to try to find local sources of funds due to the pending flat or reduced funding during the next application cycle and the ever-increasing pressure on budgets.  Danbury Health and Human Services Director Scott LeRoy says this grant will help the City with future applications to the State for continuation of funding for the Evening Shelter Program. 


LeRoy says this grant will help keep existing programs in operation in order to help local clients who rely on the City's Shelter programs. 


There are no matching funds required from the City.

Tribe, MGM join forces to fight Connecticut casino plan

A tribe in Kent, Connecticut has joined forces with MGM to fight a state law that allows only two federally recognized tribes to pursue a new casino in the state.

A federal lawsuit announced Monday by the leader of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation says the state law is unconstitutional.  Chief Richard Velky says MGM, which has filed its own lawsuit against the state, is providing financial assistance for the Schaghticoke suit.

The law created a multi-step process for the tribes that own the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun to build a third casino together.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe say they want to compete with the planned MGM Resorts casino across the state line in Springfield, Massachusetts.

MGM also has challenged the state law, arguing it can compete to build a casino in Connecticut but was excluded by the law.


A spokesman for MMCT Venture, the company formed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes said Velky's operation being bankrolled by MGM is a startling revelation.  MMCT says this should raise a red flag for anyone who is concerned about MGM's plan to steal jobs from Connecticut residents.

Two Democrats announce campaigns for 30th state Senate District seat

There is going to be an open seat in the Connecticut Senate district which includes New Milford.  Current state Senator Clark Chapin announced in November that he would not seek another term in office. 


Shortly after the Republican's announcement, Litchfield GOP Representative Craig Miner declared his intention to seek the 30th Senate position. 


Two Democrats are also vying for the post.  New Milford Board of Education chairman David Lawson has the town party's backing in his campaign.   He is serving his 5th term on the Board of Ed.  Another Democrat, attorney Bill Riskka is looking to take the open seat.  He ran twice against Chapin.  The Democratic caucus will be held in May.

Local veteran touts bill aimed at helping vet-owned small businesses

Legislation has been introduced by State Senate Democrats to help veterans who want to open small businesses in the state.  Connecticut Veterans Chamber of Commerce founder Michael Zacchea of Brookfield says the more than 42,000 veteran owned businesses in the state produce about $20 billion worth of state gross product.


The bill would give veteran owned firms additional bidding preferences under state contracting laws and waive payment for the first year's business entity tax for veteran owned start ups.


“The Chamber was founded on the principle of helping military veterans coming out of service to start their own businesses,” said Zacchea, Lt. Col. USMC (ret.).


“We wanted to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life, and one way to do so is by lowering barriers to entry for new businesses. A preference for veteran-owned micro-businesses and a waiver of the business entity tax for newly-registered veteran-owned businesses in Connecticut would go a long way toward helping veterans. Additionally, we believe it would help stimulate the economy, recognize the importance of the veteran workforce, and provide a return on the state’s investment in hard-working, entrepreneurial veterans.”

Danbury officials updated on drinking water quality

With concerns around the country over the quality of municipal water, a Danbury City Council member asked for an update on the quality of Danbury's water supply.  Councilman Warren Levy asked not only how it's maintained, but also whether the new winter road treatment material used has an effect on water quality.  Danbury changed winter road treatment practices this season.


Public Utilities Superintendent David Day said Danbury doesn't have any compliance issues.  He notes that corrosion control is optimized, so the City is operating fine.  Day says the supply meets all federal and state drinking water standards requirements and regulations.


The Michigan town which switched its water source in 2014 while under state financial management to save money, is under a state of emergency.  Lead from aging pipes leached into drinking water, and a Legionnaires' disease outbreak potentially linked to the Flint River caused nine deaths.  Tests have shown high lead levels in some Flint children.


If consumed, lead can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities.


The Environmental Protection Agency sent letters Monday asking all states to determine within 30 days that they are using correct procedures for treating and sampling water. Of special concern is treatment to prevent corrosion that would enable lead and copper to leach into tap water, which is what occurred in Flint.


Michigan officials did not require Flint to add anti-corrosive chemicals when the city began drawing water from the Flint River after switching from Detroit's water system.


The EPA also wants states to make sampling results and other information public to restore confidence in the nation's drinking water.

Congress considers bill to address opioid epidemic

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has introduced the Prevent Drug Addiction Act of 2016 in response to the opioid and heroin epidemic gripping communities throughout Connecticut and the nation.


The Senate is voting this week on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill cosponsored by Esty that addresses drug addiction by providing badly needed resources for treatment and recovery programs. 


The Prevent Act complements that effort by focusing resources on addiction prevention strategies including a consumer education campaign, training for medical practitioners on best practices when prescribing opioids, and a new management program specifically for Medicare beneficiaries who are at risk of prescription-drug addiction.

Esty serves in Congress on the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.


She says confronting opioid addiction means ensuring families have access to the treatment services they need to recover and move forward. But Esty says treating this epidemic isn’t enough, prevention from becoming addicted in the first place needs to be addressed.


Specifically, the Prevent Act would:


Help states and non-profits conduct culturally sensitive consumer education about opioid addiction, with priority given to communities with high incidence of addiction and addiction-related deaths;


Strengthen training requirements for medical practitioners eligible to prescribe opioids or participate in opioid treatment programs to include additional training on pain management treatment guidelines, early detection of opioid addiction, and the treatment of opioid-dependent patients;


Require opioid treatment programs to make acceptable arrangements for patients to receive needed medications on days when the program is closed for business to reduce the risk of relapse for patients in recovery;


Strengthen opioid overdose and mortality reporting requirements and create a National Opioid Death Registry housed in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);


Require HHS to establish and disseminate prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment quality measures for all relevant health care provider settings; and


Create a new drug management program under the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to prevent high-risk Medicare beneficiaries from becoming addicted to prescription drugs.

Brookfield Republican Town Committee primary results stand

The top 25 Republicans elected in a primary for the Brookfield Town Committee won their positions even after a recount.  The votes were tallied again Friday morning and there were just small differences between the counts from Tuesday. 


There were little more than a thousand ballots cast with 31-percent of Brookfield Republicans voting. 


The primary was prompted by a petition following a January caucus.  There were 49 candidates seeking 25 positions on the Brookfield Republican Town Committee.  The caucus endorsed slate holds a small lead, winning 13 seats and the opposition taking 12.


Unofficial RTC Primary Vote Totals from Tuesday:

Robert Belden - 555

Kevin McCaffrey - 545

Andrew Ellis - 539

Greg Dembowski - 535

Ryan Murphy - 535

Martin Flynn - 531

Gerard Friedrich - 530

Steve O’Reilly - 530

Christy Petriccione - 528

Fred Ball - 526

Mark Ferry - 521

Scott McCarthy - 521

Jerome Murphy - 518

Catherine Malek - 515

Rose DeMarco - 513

Harold Shaker - 509

Steven Cioffi - 509

Mike McManus - 508

Christopher Lynch - 503

John Mangold - 500

Paul Checco - 497

Geoffrey Hunton - 496

Amy D’Alessandro - 496

Jim Diezemann - 496

Paul Sedor - 496


Christine Visconti - 495

Matthew Grimes - 494

Nelson Malwitz - 493

Carmine Rositano - 492

Thomas Murphy - 492

Marie Sturdevant - 491

Melissa Marici - 489

George Blass - 487

Edward Bossio - 487

Linda Taylor - 487

Steve Villodas - 485

Renee Santiago - 484

Loretta Donovan - 483

Thomas Shevlin - 483

George Walker - 482

James Vulcano - 481

Matthew Moscatilli - 479

Victor Katz - 476

Daniel Sturm - 475

Austin Samuelson - 474

Clara Willey - 469

Daniel Devorsetz - 467

Lawrence Miller - 466

Jeff Willey - 457

Danbury Board of Ed member plans State House campaign

A Danbury Board of Education member is seeking the Republican nomination for a state House seat.  Michael Ferguson announced Friday night that he is launching his candidacy in the 138th District. 


The position is currently held by Republican Jan Giegler, who announced last month that she would not be seeking another term in office.  Giegler has held the position for more than a dozen years and was elected in November as Danbury Town Clerk. 


Ferguson holds Bachelor and Master Degrees from Western Connecticut State University.  He's served on the Danbury Board of Ed for the past two years.  He is an adjunct professor at Naugatuck Valley Community College and works at Danbury Hospital.


Ferguson said in his campaign announcement that he wants to help chart a new course for the state to stop Connecticut from a path of higher taxes, more debt and irresponsible spending.

Scaghticoke Chief plans lawsuit against state over plans for 3rd Conn. casino

The Chief of the Kent-based Schaghticoke Tribal Nation plans to file a lawsuit Monday against the State Of Connecticut over plans for a third casino in the state.  Chief Richard Velky says a bill allowing for a commercial casino on non-Indian property, exclusive to the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans, violates the 14th Amendment. 


Velky said in a statement Friday that without any competitive bidding or gaming study, Connecticut shut out the Schaghticokes from the  ability to develop a highly-valuable commercial enterprise.  He continued by saying that his Tribal Nation should have the same right to pursue this economic opportunity under the Equal Protection clauses of both the federal and state Constitutions.


The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans are the only two federally recognized Indian Tribes in Connecticut. 


But Velky said the state has a long history of discriminating against the Schaghticokes as they try to gain federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  He noted that one member of the state's Congressional delegation submitted legislation against the easing of requirements for recognition, supposedly because they didn't want another casino in Connecticut.

Danbury receives 4 bids for lobbying services

Danbury has received four bids from lobbyists to represent the City at the state capital.  The Danbury Board of Education approved allocating $25,000 toward the effort before the City Council voted on their half of the cost this week. 


There was a question on why the City issued a Request For Proposals before all of the funding was approved.  Mayor Mark Boughton said they can issue an RFP, but can't award a bid until the funding is approved.  A bid has not yet been awarded.


Boughton says the process was done this way to give the City a leg up, and not spend several more weeks waiting for responses.  The high bid was $50,000, the lowest was for $30,000 and two proposals came in at $40,000.


The contract is for all of 2016, including special sessions.  The current General Assembly Session ends in May.  Boughton reminded Council members that a lot of work is done when lawmakers are not in session.


There must be mutual agreement for extension beyond 2016.  If Danbury officials decide that having a lobbyist on staff is worth the expense, Boughton will have to bring the extension option back to the City Council for approval because more money would be required. 


Council Minority Leader Tom Saadi said the bipartisan delegation represents the city well enough and he's not sold this is the right approach to trying to get more state funding back for the City.  He says he may be proved wrong in the end, but was one of thee council members to vote against the item.  Joining him in opposition were Councilmen Fred Visconti and Ben Chianese.

Danbury City Council agrees to spend $25k for lobbyist in Hartford

The Danbury City Council has approved allocating $25,000 for lobbying services in Hartford.  The Council took up the item during their meeting Tuesday night, but several residents spoke out against it.  The Board of Education has already appropriated $25,000 for the services.


The Council voted 18-3 in favor of the contract.


This idea came out of a meeting with the Board of Education where they explained their difficulties in receiving adequate funds even though the student population grew by 2-percent this year.


New Britain, the eight largest City in the state, has a lobbyist.  They get $75 million in the Education Cost Sharing formula.  Danbury, which has a bigger school district, gets $30 million in ECS funding.  Mayor Mark Boughton says some of the strategies they're using are working so Danbury should make moves to change the dynamic. 

Bridgeport has three lobbyists.


Some Council members said the state is not likely to increase funding when cuts are being made elsewhere due to projected budget deficits.  But Boughton says sometimes it's about cost avoidance and possibly not getting a cut the City thinks it might have to take.


One of the main arguments against the spending was that Danbury has elected effective lawmakers to lobby on the City's behalf.


Boughton says this is not to say that current legislators from Danbury aren't doing their job, it's just that they're busy and have a huge agenda.  He compared having a lobbyist to having a quarterback so the City, the Board of Education and the lawmakers are all working on the same page.


Councilman Warren Levy says standing still doing nothing will get the City nothing.  At the end of the contract, if the City doesn't receive back the $25,000 investment they don't have to renew the agreement.

State lawmakers consider expanding medical marijuana program to children

A bill which would expand the state's medical marijuana program to children with certain medical conditions received mixed reviews during a public hearing before the legislature's Public Health Committee this week. 


Lawmakers heard emotional testimony from parents of children suffering from various debilitating conditions, saying the drug can stop violent seizures.


Wilton Senator Toni Boucher is against the bill.  She says her main opposition is that children, whose bodies are still developing, would be exposed to a substance which has been linked to numerous health complications even in adults.  Boucher says marijuana use has been linked to heart problems in young adults, suppression of the immune system and an even to increased instances of stroke in young users.


She says there are many experts that note the lack of rigorous scientific study on the safety and effectiveness of marijuana as medicine.


The state Department of Consumer Protection is requiring some language in the bill to protect the agency from legal penalties, maybe anticipating some problems in the future.

Danbury appoints new principal for Broadview Middle School

A new principal has been appointed to Broadview Middle School in Danbury.  Edie Thomas, the principal of Pembroke School will start in her new position July 1st.  She will replace Edward Robbs, who is retiring after 18 years as principal at Broadview. 


Thomas has been principal of Pembroke since 2006 and previously served as an assistant principal at Broadview.  Thomas began her teaching career in Danbury in the Broadview Middle School music department. 


Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says Thomas's middle school teaching and a decade of helping young students build strong foundations in literacy and math, make her uniquely qualified to lead middle school students toward a successful high school experience.


Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Connecticut State University, a master’s degree in special education from the College of New Rochelle, and a sixth-year professional degree from Southern Connecticut State University. She is currently completing her doctorate in education, curriculum, teaching and leadership at Northeastern University.

Local lawmaker weighs in on tougher penalties for school threats

The Zero Tolerance Safe School Environment Act was up for a public hearing Wednesday before the legislature's Judiciary Committee.  The bill would increase the penalties for making threats against schools. 


Committee co-chair Representative William Tong says anything perceived as a threat to schools causes panic in the community and is a huge waste of resources.  Tong says threats against schools must be punished more severely because of what he called the post-Newtown environment. 


The current Class D crime is punishable by 5 years in prison, but the bill would change the crime to Class C, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 


New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith was among the committee members who asked questions about this bill.  He wondered if the bill would have an effect on youths if they don't know the difference between the classifications.  Stamford Superintendent James Connelly responded the big incidents are mostly cases of swatting.  He says it's not teenage pranksters, it's cyber terrorists.


Smith says the bill should differentiate between a some third party actor and a student.


Smith says he understands the devastating effect these threats have on the community and the school system, so for an outside person the high penalties are certainly justified.  For a student, Smith says maybe they're not aware of how much damage their actions cause.


Smith also called for education throughout the schools to make kids aware that this is no longer a prank and can be characterized as terror and has serious ramifications.

UPDATED: Brookfield Republican Town Committee primary a close call

A recount will be held this week in Brookfield.  Many of the final vote tallies for seats on the Brookfield Republican Town Committee were too close to officially decide the winners.  Less than a half percent separated 18 of the 49 candidates seeking the 25 positions so a recount was automatically triggered.  The recount will take place at 8am on Friday.  There were little more than a thousand ballots cast.  If there is a tie for any of the final seats, a second primary will have to be held.


Initial counts put the results at a 13-12 split between the two slates, with the caucus endorsed group slightly ahead. 


Current chairman Matt Grimes, Vice chairman George Walker and one of the opposition leaders, Larry Miller were defeated. 


The candidates who appeared to have won are: Fred Ball, Bob Belden, Paul Checco, Steven Cioffi, Amy D’Alessandro, Rose DeMarco, Greg Dembowski, Jim Diezemann, Andrew Ellis, Mark Ferry, Martin Flynn, Gerard Friedrich, Geoffrey Hunton, Christopher Lynch, John Mangold, Catherine Malek, Kevin McCaffrey, Scott McCarthy, Mike McManus, Jerome Murphy, Ryan Murphy, Steve O’Reilly, Christy Petriccione, Paul Sedor, and Harold Shaker.

Danbury Democratic Town Committee leader loses bid for committee seat

Danbury Democrats from three wards turned out at the polls yesterday to select members to the Danbury Democratic Town Committee.  Chairman Joe Walkovich lost his bid to retain a seat on the committee.  Former Mayor Gene Eriquez, who ran in the same ward, was successful.  If there are more than four people in any ward seeking a seat on the committee, a primary is held. 


In the 1st ward, the winners were Joan Bielizna, Linda DaSilva, John Goncalves and Dennis Perkins. 


In the 2nd ward, the winners were Helene Abrantes, Bernie Gallo, Ken Gucker and Jean Leitz.


In the 5th ward, the winners were Joe DaSilva Jr., Gene Eriquez, Andrea Gartner and Martha Rhodes.

Danbury Democratic Town Commitee Primary Results

A Primary for the Danbury Democratic Town Committee was held last night. A New Chairman for the Democratic Town Committee will be selected next week along with other officials.


Winners in the 1st ward , Joan Beilizna, John Goncalves , Dennis Perkins , Linda DaSilva . In Ward 2, Winners are Helena Abrantes , Bernie Gallo, Ken Gucker and Jean Leitz. In Ward 5 , Joe Dasilva jr. , former Danbury Mayor Gene Eriquez , Andrea Gartner, and Martha Rhodes.

Redding Police Chief to shave head in childhood cancer research fundraiser

Some members of the Redding Police Department are shaving their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research.  Children's cancers are different from adult cancers, and research for the diseases is extremely underfunded.  The Redding Police Department has a team of five participating in the St. Baldricks Foundation fundraiser.  Every dollar makes a difference for the thousands of infants, children, teens, and young adults fighting childhood cancers. 


But this hits especially close to home.  One of their Officer's has a son who is battling cancer.  Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs says her son has been fighting the fight with a positive attitude and they wanted to do this in his honor to support him.


The team's goal was $1,000 but in the 72 hours that the fundraiser has been underway that was doubled.  As of Tuesday afternoon, the team was on the brink of raising $3,000.  He says raising cash and raising awareness is just part of this effort, for the Redding Police Department, it's about supporting one of their own.


Fuchs and others will be shaving their heads on Monday between 9:15am and 12:30pm at Joel Barlow High School.

Danbury Mayor lobbies state lawmakers on behalf of CCM

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities annual "Day on the Hill" has been held by CCM members as they lobbied lawmakers at the state capital with their concerns.  CCM President Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says they're willing to help achieve fiscal stability, but that the state shouldn't cut municipal aid.  He says the "do no harm" attitude should be employed.


Some lawmakers have criticized cities and towns as not doing enough to achieve efficiencies in the cost of government.  Boughton said to be lectured by the state about being held accountable is absurd.


Some legislative leaders have also suggested state aide be tied to performance by towns in cutting local costs.  Boughton said the state should get their own house in order, because municipalities don't run deficits in their budgets.  He added that municipalities are still able to deliver critical core services and a quality of life that residents can be proud of.


Boughton says when the state levies new mandates, new funding doesn't follow.  He stressed that every new idea creates unintended consequences for cities and towns.

Cease and desist order sent to Dorothy Day Hospitality House

Danbury has issued a cease and desist order to Dorothy Day Hospitality House.  City officials are hoping to persuade the Spring Street homeless shelter and soup kitchen to apply for special permission to operate the volunteer run facility in a residential neighborhood.  Dorothy Day's attorney wrote a letter to City officials asking for renewal of a permit which hasn't been valid in more than 30 years. 


It was discovered over the summer that they didn't have a valid permit.  Back in 1983 the Commission gave Dorothy Day permission to operate for one year, and only granted a one year extension. 


Attorneys for the City made the recommendation to the Planning Commission last month that they operate within the limits of current zoning regulations.  The recommendation is that the Commission take no action. 


Three reasons were given, one is that they don't have jurisdiction to approve Zoning Permits.  Another is that there is no valid permit in place for the use, and lastly because Zoning regulations don't provide for a one-year renewable approval.

Danbury Democrats, Brookfield Republicans voting in Town Committee primaries

There are two primaries being held in the region today, one by the Danbury Democratic Town Committee.  They choose members by direct primary if there are more than four people in any ward seeking a seat on the committee. 


Danbury Democrats in the 1st, 2nd and 5th wards are being urged to vote today at the High School, Pembroke School and the War Memorial respectively. 


The Brookfield Republican Town Committee is also holding a primary today.  25 members are being elected out of 49 candidates.  A caucus in January nearly led to incumbent leadership losing their positions and the opposition group petitioned for a primary. 


There are about 3,500 registered Republicans in Brookfield. 


Polls are open until 8pm.

NY official requests halt on natural gas pipeline

Nearly a dozen people were arrested for protesting at one of the sites in New York where work is being done to expand the Algonquin Pipeline.  A new pipe, doubled in diameter from the current infrastructure, is being installed from Pennsylvania through New England.  The pipeline runs between compressor stations in Southeast and in Danbury.  New York State Police arrested 11 people early yesterday morning for blocking two separate entrances.  They were charged with disorderly conduct after refusing to leave. 


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked by New York officials to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline near the nuclear power station.  State health, environmental, utility and security agencies say they are launching an analysis of the safety risks from Spectra Energy's Algonquin pipeline. 


This month, Entergy revealed that radioactive water was found in three of 40 monitoring wells on site, the result of contamination from a radioactive isotope.  The Greater Danbury area is within a 50 mile radius of Indian Point.


Meanwhile, in Danbury, Spectra Energy has withdrawn its request to lease a small parcel of City land off Driftway Point Road for workspace where the expansion is happening.  Spectra would only say that they no longer need the property.


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