Local Headlines Archives for 2016-04

Annual Town Meeting on budget in Ridgefield Monday

The Annual Town Meeting in Ridgefield is being held Monday night at the Ridgefield Playhouse.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi will make a budget presentation, followed by information from the Boards of Education and Finance.  A vote on capital items under $100,000 will also be held.  The Annual Town Meeting is set for 7:30pm Monday. 

 

Some of the capital items include guard rail replacements, equipment such as a plow with sander and rotary mowers, Wellness Center improvements and work on the golf course. 

 

 

A Public Hearing and Special Town Meeting are being held in Ridgefield Wednesday night.  At 7:30, changes to the Ridgefield Code of Ordinances about Citations and Open Space Use will be discussed.  There will also be a public hearing about A System Site Lease Agreement for Farmingville Elementary School Solar Panels.

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Bill allowing medical marijuana for kids clears Senate

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A bill that that would allow minors with certain debilitating conditions to use Connecticut's medical marijuana program has cleared its final legislative hurdle.

 

The Senate late Friday voted 23-11 in favor of the bill, which already passed in the House of Representatives. It now moves to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's desk.

 

Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican from Wilton and a chief opponent, spoke at length against the bill, voicing concerns about children using "mind-damaging substances," saying the harm could be worse than their underlying conditions.

 

But proponents say they heard from many anguished parents about their children's suffering from conditions such as extreme seizures being eased by the drug.

 

Under the bill, medical marijuana dispensaries could not provide qualified children any marijuana product that is smoked, vaporized or inhaled.

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Esty touts White House push for 'smart gun technology'

The White House has released a report outlining a research and development strategy to expedite real-world deployment of smart gun technology.  The report was ordered by President Obama in a January memorandum as part of the administration’s executive actions to curb gun violence.

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty said the release also aims to improve the quality of mental health records input into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  She says the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database has incomplete data, allowing felons, people convicted of domestic abuse, and other dangerous individuals to illegally buy firearms.

 

Esty says smart-gun technology shows great promise to stop guns from falling into the wrong hands and reduce gun accidents that kill and injure thousands of Americans every year.  She says using federal purchasing power is similar to incentivizing life-saving safety advancements in automobiles.

 

But she says the President's steps alone are not a substitute for Congressional action.

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Local lawmaker laments revenue volatility

It's looking like state lawmakers will be called into special session after their mandated adjournment passes on Wednesday.  The General Assembly has yet to come up with a budget plan, negotiated with the Governor, to erase the nearly billion dollar deficit.  Deputy House Speaker Bob Godfrey of Danbury says they are tired of trying to wrestle with factors out of their control.

 

Godfrey says no one has been able to predict what revenues are going to be in a very long time.

 

Democrats balked at a revised budget offered by the governor, opposing his cuts to hospitals, social services, education funding and property tax relief efforts. Malloy's administration is also continuing to issue hundreds of state employee layoff notices.

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New Milford Town Councilwoman seeks state office

A New Milford woman is seeking a state House seat in November. Democratic  Town Councilwoman Mary Jane Lundgren, who has served on the board for 14 years, has announced her candidacy for the 67th District position.  The seat is currently held by Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor who previously announced that she would not be seeking a third term. 

 

The 68-year old Lundgren recently retired from 45 years of nursing service.  She most recently served in the intensive care unit at New Milford Hospital. 

 

Lundgren is also a member of the New Milford Substance Abuse Prevention Council, the Aging Commission, Housing Partnership and the Northville Residents Association.  She says public health related topics would be a focus for her.  She would also like to see the New Milford Bike Trail completed and bring development to the riverfront.

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Newtown GOP delegation backs Cope in 5th District bid

The 10 member Republican state convention delegation from Newtown is backing Sherman First Selectman Clay Cope in his bid for the 5th Congressional District.  Cope announced in an email this week that the group considered several other candidates, two of who are from Newtown, but decided that Cope's principles most closely aligns with theirs. 

 

At the end of serious deliberations on the merits of all of the candidates, the Newtown GOP delegation decided unanimously to stand with Cope.  The delegation said that Cope has a proven track record of campaigning, winning elections and serving his constituents.

 

Among those seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty, are Matt Maxwell and Bill Stevens of Newtown.  John Pistone of Brookfield is also looking for the GOP nomination for the 5th Congressional District. 

 

The Connecticut Republican Party will hold its State Convention on May 9th.

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Eversource to host open house about proposed electrical line through Bethel, Danbury, Brookfield

A new electrical line has been proposed by Eversource Energy.  A public open house will be held in Bethel so that area residents can learn more about the idea.  Eversource says this new line would help them to deliver reliable power to southwestern Connecticut, and would be a long-term solution to energy demands in the region. 

 

Eversource officials say the proposed 3.4 mile Southwest Connecticut Reliability Project addresses the crucial need to improve system reliability in the region, particularly in light of recent storms that left customers in the dark for several days at a time. 

 

The proposed project route is on an existing right-of-way through Bethel, Danbury and Brookfield. 

 

The meeting Wednesday at the Bethel Municipal Center is from 6 to 8pm.

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Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.  It's aimed at providing a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. 

 

The Drug Enforcement Administration says this gives the public another opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.  The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. 

 

Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse.  Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.  In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

 

Local law enforcement agencies and the DEA will continue to hold prescription drug take-back events every few months.

 

Greater Danbury area drop box locations open Saturday from 10am to 2pm include:

 

Danbury Police Department

 

New Fairfield Resident State Trooper Office

 

Newtown Police Department

 

Ridgefield Police Department

 

Sherman Resident State Trooper Office

 

Southbury Resident State Trooper Office

 

Weston Police Department

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OBIT: Ervie 'Bud' Hawley dies at 89

A prominent Danbury resident has passed away.  Ervie "Bud" Hawley owned the Hawley Companies and was known for his philanthropy, particularly to Danbury Hospital.  Hawley was 89.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says Hawley was one of the kindest, most gentle people he's ever met and has contributed a lot to building Danbury.  He says Hawley's philanthropy work around Danbury is long storied, but he was also always there with an idea, a word of encouragement or with resources. 

 

Hawley has been donating to Danbury Hospital since 1965.  In August, the Hawleys made a $1 million gift to establish an endowment for spinal surgery, the seventh for Western Connecticut Health Network and the fifth at Danbury Hospital.

 

Hawley has served as director of the YMCA, was a former chairman of the Danbury Housing Partnership, a previous director of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce, and former honorary chairman of the Ann Olsen Foundation Golf Tournament among other roles.

 

Some of the more notable works of Hawley Construction include the Danbury Police Station and Berkshire Shopping Center off Newtown Road.  Hawley also completed several religious facility projects.

 

Since 1994, the firm has completed multiple construction assignments at both Western Connecticut State University’s Westside and the Midtown Campuses.  Hawley has renovated the main entrance at the Midtown Campus, completed a $1.8 million Ella Grasso Dormitory rejuvenation at the Westside Campus, dormitory renovations at Litchfield Hall, and the new Athletic Pavilion at the Westside Campus.

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Danbury community activist seeks run for 24th state Senate district

Community activist Ken Gucker is seeking the Democratic Town Committee's nomination to run for the 24th state Senate District. 

 

The seat is currently held by Republican Michael McLachlan.  The area includes Danbury, Sherman, New Fairfield and the Stony Hill section of Bethel. 

 

Gucker is Vice Chairman of the Danbury Democratic Town Committee.  He has lived in Danbury for 28 years, having moved to the City from New Fairfield.  He is a small business owner who has been active in land use and environmental issues in Danbury. 

 

Among the issues he cited are the effort to preserve the McLean House on Main Street and to thwart an effort to allow variances for a new business use in a two-acre residential zone in the scenic Long Ridge neighborhood.  He also fought against the Cotswold development off Clapboard Ridge Road to try to limit density and protect the environment and adjacent water sources.  The plan calls for 37 houses on steep wooded land.

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New Fairfield Board of Ed to move meeting to larger space

The New Fairfield Board of Education is meeting next Thursday, and they will be gathering at the Meeting House Hill School cafeteria to accommodate a large number of public participants. 

 

At their meeting earlier this week, parents were joined by several teachers.  Parents have been attending the meetings to express their frustration with the Board and Superintendent Alicia Roy.

 

According to video minutes of the meeting, the head of the New Fairfield Education Association said teachers no longer feel they have a voice after being asked to implement a new standards-based grading system, contradictory to the training they took part in this school year. 

 

A State Trooper was reportedly at the meeting as a precaution.

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Esty urges more federal funds for drinking water protection

5th District Congresswoamn Elizabeth Esty is urging federal officials to provide more financial resources to help states protect public drinking water.

Esty said in a letter released Wednesday that Connecticut's Department of Public Health needs more money to support technical staff in its drinking water division, where staffing has been reduced from 50 to 38 employees.

She also supports the agency's request for more funding to pay for the state's certified operator program. There's one person who certifies operators of 2,500 water systems in Connecticut.

Esty called for the federal financial assistance after a recent Associated Press analysis determined dozens of water systems across the state exceeded federal lead levels at least once since January 2013.  Among the systems were Hawthorne Terrace Association in Danbury and Cedarhurst Association in Newtown.

 

The Democrat says "immediate action" is needed to ensure access to safe drinking water.

 

Lead levels of over 15 parts per billion (ppb) exceed federal thresholds and require immediate attention. According to an Associated Press analysis, tests on water drawn from Newtown found lead levels of 17 ppb. Three separate tests in Brookfield, one of which was conducted in a K-8 school, found the water to have lead levels of 17 ppb, 19 ppb, and 20 ppb.  The Connecticut Department of Public Health alerted all residents who are exposed to the water. However, if the residents choose to purchase clean water from another source, they are still expected to pay their water bills.

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General Assembly approves creating fund for firefighters who contract cancer

The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that will set up a special fund for firefighters who contract work-related cancers.   The program will provide cancer stricken firefighters with wage replacement funds while they undergo treatment.  It will be funded by 1-cent of an existing small surcharge on phone bills for the state's 911 emergency system. 

 

Southbury Senator Rob Kane objects to tapping that money.  He says it could be against federal rules and if it comes back that grants are lost, a new funding source will needed.

 

Other lawmakers concede the funding mechanism is in doubt, but passed the bill anyone.  Leaders say if it's ruled improper, they'll find a new source next year.

 

Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, supports the bill.  He says there's nothing more important that protecting the men and women who protect their communities.

 

The House previously approved the bill unanimously.

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Danbury City Council backs $3 million in bonding for capital items

The Danbury City Council has discussed $3 million in bonding for the coming fiscal year.  There are a variety of projects which would be completed in the capital budget proposal.  The largest appropriation is $750,000 for the school roof replacement program. 

 

$500,000 is being allocated for the Still River project, including for the removal of vegetation, dredging and river wall repair.  $450,000 for paving, drainage and road improvements along with $100,000 for sidewalk and street improvements was discussed. 

 

Other projects include HVAC replacement at the schools and various city buildings, money toward property revaluation and replacing highway department equipment. 

 

The committee recommended approval at the Council's May meeting.

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Funding for Octagon House rehabilitation considered in Danbury

The Capital Budget in Danbury for the coming fiscal year includes money to rehabilitate the Octagon House.  $250,000 for rehabilitation of Octagon House will be voted on by the City Council next week.  The City purchased the blighted building on Spring Street several months ago from the bank holding the title to the foreclosed property. 

 

The city hopes to provide stability to the neighborhood.  Plans call for housing the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team and a police substation on the property.  The bike patrol and other related officers would likely operate out of the substation.  A community room and a community garden, monitored by a non-profit, are also in the plans. 

 

It's one of only a handful of 8-sided houses left in the country and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Fire hydrant flushing continues in Danbury

Danbury is continuing a fire hydrant flushing project.  The work started in late March and was estimated to take 9 weeks to complete.  The annual hydrant flushing is done to provide better water quality and fire protection.  The work being done this week is in the Newtown Road and Commerce Drive area, as well as some part of Main Street.  Residents may experience fluctuations in pressure or water discoloration during this time.  If the water is discolored, City officials recommend running the cold tap until it turns clear, and to hold off on washing clothes and using hot water until the cold water clears.

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Ridgefield Board of Ed trims proposed budget

The Ridgefield Board of Education has trimmed their proposed budget for the coming fiscal year on a recommendation from the Board of Finance that the plan be $625,000 lower.  The Board of Ed originally proposed a $91 million budget.  The largest part of the cut is being made by eliminating three contingency teaching positions, in case of a late enrollment spike bringing class size above district guidelines.  Two science paraprofessional positions will also be eliminated.  Some money for books, supplies and materials was also trimmed off the proposed budget.  The Board of Finance is hoping to hold the proposed tax increase to 2.6 percent.

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Clinton, Trump win primaries in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Connecticut, claiming a narrow victory Tuesday over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in a state where she campaigned on pledges to address gun violence.

 

The former U.S. secretary of state had the support of top elected Democrats, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. She evoked the 2012 Newtown school shootings in appearances and television ads, including one featuring an endorsement by a daughter of the slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal.

 

Donald Trump easily won the GOP primary in a state where he drew thousands of enthusiastic voters to three boisterous rallies, in Hartford, Waterbury and Bridgeport.

 

On the gun issue, about 3 out of 5 voters favored Clinton, according to preliminary exit poll results. Clinton has proposed comprehensive federal background check requirements, including for gun show and Internet sales, and repealing certain immunity protections for the gun industry, among other provisions.

 

Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were vying for 25 of the state's 28 delegates, which will be distributed proportionally. The remaining three votes will be cast by J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, and the state GOP's national committeeman and national committeewoman.

 

TOWN

CANDIDATE VOTES
Bethel Bernie Sanders (D) 837
(50% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 737
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 9
  Ted Cruz (R) 171
  John Kasich (R) 372
  Donald Trump (R) 1,025
  Ben Carson (R) 23
     
Brookfield Bernie Sanders (D) 620
(51% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 598
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 2
  Ted Cruz (R) 204
  John Kasich (R) 497
  Donald Trump (R) 1,090
  Ben Carson (R) 19
     
Danbury Bernie Sanders (D) 1,907
(40% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 2,319
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 15
  Ted Cruz (R) 388
  John Kasich (R) 651
  Donald Trump (R) 2,096
  Ben Carson (R) 30
     
Easton Bernie Sanders (D) 313
(50.96% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 394
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 3
  Ted Cruz (R) 70
  John Kasich (R) 288
  Donald Trump (R) 497
  Ben Carson (R) 3
     
Kent Bernie Sanders (D) 279
(60.6% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 264
  Ted Cruz (R) 33
  John Kasich (R) 93
  Donald Trump (R) 126
  Ben Carson (R) 0
     
Monroe Bernie Sanders (D) 668
(50% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 643
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 3
  Ted Cruz (R) 192
  John Kasich (R) 466
  Donald Trump (R) 1,110
  Ben Carson (R) 8
     
New Fairfield Bernie Sanders (D) 475
  Hillary Clinton (D) 425
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 2
  Ted Cruz (R) 144
  John Kasich (R) 287
  Donald Trump (R) 865
  Ben Carson (R) 9
     
New Milford Bernie Sanders (D) 1,186
(49% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 882
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 5
  Ted Cruz (R) 265
  John Kasich (R) 466
  Donald Trump (R) 1,334
  Ben Carson (R) 23
     
Newtown Bernie Sanders (D) 1,177
(54.2% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 1,362
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 8
  Ted Cruz (R) 372
  John Kasich (R) 828
  Donald Trump (R) 1,654
  Ben Carson (R) 27
     
Redding Bernie Sanders (D) 502
  Hillary Clinton (D) 678
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 3
  Ted Cruz (R) 120
  John Kasich (R) 344
  Donald Trump (R) 509
  Ben Carson (R) 9
     
Ridgefield Bernie Sanders (D) 1,039
  Hillary Clinton (D) 1,566
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 6
  Ted Cruz (R) 283
  John Kasich (R) 962
  Donald Trump (R) 1,360
  Ben Carson (R) 16
     
Weston Bernie Sanders (D) 398
(56% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 940
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 0
  Ted Cruz (R) 94
  John Kasich (R) 413
  Donald Trump (R) 454
  Ben Carson (R) 5
     
Wilton Bernie Sanders (D) 626
(50% turnout) Hillary Clinton (D) 1,216
  Roque De La Fuente (D) 2
  Ted Cruz (R) 184
  John Kasich (R) 930
  Donald Trump (R) 957

 

Ben Carson (R) 7

All numbers are unofficial results from the Secretary of the State's Office

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Newtown residents approve budget plan

Newtown residents have approved municipal and school budget plans.  Overall there is a 1.6 percent spending increase.  The municipal budget of $40.5 million was approved 2,765 to 2,288.  The school portion of the budget is $73.66 million, and was approved 2,730 to 2,320.

 

Voter turnout was about 29%.  The budget vote was held in one location while residents were also voting in usual polling places in the presidential primary.

 

The municipal budget was reduced by an overall $519,000 by Finance and Legislative Council.  The Board of Education's portion was also reduced by $100,000.

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Legislative Council at their meeting earlier this month that there are many initiatives they are hoping will make an impact in the next fiscal year. Items like the Hawleyville sewers, a shared services initiative and municipal spaces needs study are designed to capture operational savings and generate new revenue streams.

 

Llodra says town leaders are very cognizant of the need to reduce spending.  But she says there are several things they can't control, including the revenue stream from the state.

 

Residents can vote on the budget at the middle school until 8pm.  Primary voting takes place at regular polling locations.

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Ridgefield School Board looking for money to fix eroded sewer pipe

The Ridgefield Board of Education is looking to see if there will be money left in this fiscal year's budget to replace a failing sewer line at the High School.  The Ridgefield Press reports that $125,000 is needed for the planned re-sleeving project of the sewer pipe so it could start in June, rather than waiting for the money that was slated to be in the upcoming fiscal year's budget. 

 

If the money is found, the project can start as soon as classes are out for the summer. 

 

The published report says that over the past several years the cast iron pipe has eroded, but that it's been visually inspected via video camera.  An inspection in October showed that it's dangerously close to a major collapse.

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Registered Democrats and Republicans voting in Presidential primaries

It's Presidential Primary Day in Connecticut.  Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says of the 90,000 new voters who registered since last election day, over 45,000 are under the age of 30.  New registrations are running high toward the Democratic side.  Overall, registration in Connecticut is about 2 to 1 Democrat to Republican.

 

Only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican Primary today and registered Democrats vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary.  Some 800,000 unaffiliated voters in Connecticut are not taking part in the primaries today because of the closed voting system.  In Connecticut, there is a group called the Independent party.  If people don't want to chose either Republican or Democrat, they have to mark "unaffiliated" when registering. 

 

There is no same-day registration for primaries.  Merrill wants to save people a trip to the polls if they're unsure about their voter registration status.  She urged people to go to myvote.ct.gov to find registration status and polling location.

 

If you don't have a driver's license, you can use any thing that has your name and address to identify yourself to a poll worker.

 

Connecticut is fairly late on the primary calendar, but relevant for the first time in years.  The candidates need a certain total of delegate in order to secure their party's nomination, and the front runners still haven't reached those targets.  55 Democratic and 28 Republican delegates are up for grabs in the Connecticut Presidential Primary today.  Merrill says there was a national agreement that if states put their primaries later in the year, they would be rewarded with more delegates.

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Newtown budget referendum being held today

Newtown residents are voting on a budget today.  Overall there is a 1.6 percent spending increase.  The municipal budget proposal is $40.5million.  The proposed school portion of the budget is $73.66 million.  The advisory questions ask if the proposed Board of Selectmen or Board of Education budgets are too low. 

 

The municipal budget proposal was reduced by an overall $519,000 by Finance and Legislative Council.  The Board of Education's proposal was also reduced by $100,000.

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Legislative Council at their meeting earlier this month that there are many initiatives they are hoping will make an impact in the next fiscal year. Items like the Hawleyville sewers, a shared services initiative and municipal spaces needs study are designed to capture operational savings and generate new revenue streams.

 

Llodra says town leaders are very cognizant of the need to reduce spending.  But she says there are several things they can't control, including the revenue stream from the state.

 

Residents can vote on the budget at the middle school until 8pm.  Primary voting takes place at regular polling locations.

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Annual Town Meeting on budget in Easton tonight

The Annual Town Meeting in Easton is being held tonight to go over the budget.  The proposed tax and spending plan for the coming fiscal year is $43.7 million.  A Capital Project Plan is also up for discussion.  Easton residents can decide to lower the budget amount, but can not increase the proposal from the Board of Finance.  Easton, like many other Fairfield and Litchfield County towns could lose Education Cost Sharing dollars from the state if Governor Malloy's budget proposal is approved as is by the legislature.  The outcome of tonight's Annual Town Meeting will lead to a referendum on the budget set for May 3rd.  The General Assembly is slated to adjourn the following day.  Tonight's meeting is at 7:30 at Staples Elementary School.

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DOT: Delay ins reopening Silver Bridge to Tuesday

Silver Bridge in Newtown was supposed to reopen this morning, but the state Department of Transportation says that's been delayed by at least a day.  The span over Lake Zoar was closed for about a week.  It connects Sandy Hook to Southbury.  The bridge is expected to reopen at 3pm tomorrow with alternating one-way traffic.  The entire renovation project is expected to be complete by the end of the summer.  The renovation project is about $4.47 million.  The project consists of the rehabilitation of the full length of the structure including replacement of the concrete deck, structural steel repairs to the truss and floor beams and a complete repainting of the bridge.

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Changes to certain child support mandates approved by state House

The state House has narrowly approved a bill to expedite the support order modification process for incarcerated people who owe money under IV-d child support cases.  An Act Expediting Child Support Modification Orders for Incarcerated or Institutionalized Obligators now awaits action in the state Senate.

 

The government administered Child Support Enforcement Program is for a family that has received public assistance benefits or if an application for services was filed with either the Department of Social Services or the Support Enforcement Unit.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban says the state should not make automatic reductions by removing procedures in these cases because they're in place to protect children.  Mortgages, taxes a car loan and the like don't get waived, but child support would.  He questioned how that could be the intent of the bill.

 

Shaban says if the state is going to flip procedures on their head in order to make it easier to get federal grant money, while taking away money meant for children's well being , that's something he can't support.

 

The bill would eliminate service of process costs and replace it with certified mail costs, resulting in a net savings of approximately $96,000 annually. There are approximately 3,500 incarcerated people who owe child support and the cost of both notifications is approximately $44,000.  Additionally there will be savings of approximately $140,000 associated with eliminating the service of process requirement.

 

The bill was approved on a mostly party-line vote of 80 to 61.

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Local lawmaker discusses budget projections

There's just one and a half weeks left in the state General Assembly session and no budget plan in place for the coming fiscal year.  Deputy House Speaker Bob Godfrey of Danbury explains why the Democratic caucus wanted to wait until after taxes were due to come up with a proposal.

 

He says they've always waited to get the real numbers, instead of crafting budgets based on guesstimates.  Godfrey added that trends would be more fleshed out for this fiscal year and for the next one.

 

Connecticut still has a $141 million deficit in the current fiscal year's general fund account, less than a month after Democrats and Republicans passed a bipartisan plan to fix the problem. Next year is projected to have a $922 million deficit.

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State House approves medical marijuana for children

Children under age 18 with specific debilitating conditions are one step closer to being allowed access to certain forms of medical marijuana .  The state House of Representatives voted 129 to 13 this week to allow minors access to non-smokeable marijuana if they have approval from two physicians. 

 

The conditions in the bill include terminal illness, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, uncontrolled intractable seizure disorders, or irreversible spinal cord injury with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity.

 

Medical marijuana was legalized in Connecticut in 2012.  There are several dispensaries in the state, including one in Bethel.  Statewide, there are more than 9,400 registered patients in the program.

 

Proponents argued that while this bill will only help a handful of people, it has the potential to be life altering.  Opponents said doctors are being put in a bad position because they would have to violate federal law by prescribing an illegal substance. 

 

Redding Representative John Shaban, New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith and Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski voted against the bill.

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Make Way for Ducklings! Brookfield Police make storm drain rescue

There was a different kind of rescue in Brookfield Friday morning.  Members of the Brookfield Police and Public Works Departments rescued a brood of ducklings that had fallen into a storm drain on Route 133 in front of St. Josephs School. 

 

All 11 ducklings were successfully rescued and reunited with their mother.

 

Brookfield Police were alerted by a passing motorist who saw what she thought was an injured female duck, atop a grate for a storm drain.  It turned out to be the mother duck standing guard over the ducklings some 8 feet below.  Police Officers and Public Works personnel removed grates from atop the storm drains and Brookfield Police Officer Chris Campbell and Public Works Driver Andy Lyle were each able to rescue the ducklings.

 

(Photo: Brookfield Police, Facebook)

 

The rescued ducklings were released on the lawn next to the school playground.  The mother duck was leading her brood across the driveway and safely into the woods bordering the school within minutes.

 

(Photo: Brookfield Police, Facebook)

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Tearful Rep. presses for increased fine for failing to yield to pedestrians

A bill which would increase the fines for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk to $500 was overwhelmingly approved by the state House of Representatives Thursday.  An amendment was initially proposed to reduce the fine to $300, but it was withdrawn after New Milford Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor shared a personal story with her colleagues. 

 

Buck-Taylor tearfully revealed that her mother was struck and killed by a car while she was in a New York City crosswalk in March.  She said there isn't possibly a penalty too high to tell people to be safe, to look out and follow the law.

 

Buck-Taylor said that they shouldn't worry about the penalty being too high because failure to do this can kill somebody.

 

There was one lone vote in opposition.  Representative Whit Betts called for an incredibly onerous fine to catch people's attention.

 

Currently, the fine is $181.

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Late Danbury resident to be featured on $5 bill

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the plans for designs of the new $5, $10 and $20 notes on Wednesday. The $5 bill will feature the late Danbury resident, Marian Anderson, who was widely regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished opera singers and a significant pioneer for civil rights.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says Danbury could not be more honored to see Marian Anderson nationally recognized for her accomplishments.  He said her story has influenced so many across the nation, and the City is so proud that she was and always will be a Danburian.

 

During her time in Danbury, she held a concert at Danbury High School and performed during the Christmas lighting ceremony at Danbury City Hall.  She supported the Charles Ives Center for the Arts, served on the board of directors at the Danbury Music Center, and contributed to the Danbury chapter of the N.A.A.C.P.

 

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian to perform at their Constitution Hall in order to keep the concert hall segregated.  In protest, many members of the DAR resigned including the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  The Roosevelts showed great support to Marian by assisting in the arrangement of her historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial. On Easter Sunday, with 75,000 present and millions tuning into the radio broadcast, Marian Anderson sang her way into history.

 

Just one year after the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, Marian moved to a 50-acre farm in the Mill Plain area, a residence she would reside in for over fifty years.

 

The new $5 bill will now feature not just the Lincoln Memorial, but images of the historic events that took place on its steps, including Marian’s performance.  The final design is set to be released in 2020.

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More progress seen at site of new Sandy Hook School

New photos show progress on the construction of the new Sandy Hook School in Newtown. 

 

The facility is slated to open in time for the start of the new school year in the fall.  As of March, the construction company said floor installation in the classroom portion of Wings B and C were completed.  Ceiling tiles were installed in the same areas, painting was also completed.  Acoustical panels were put up in the gym and cafeteria. 

 

 

The lobby curtain wall glass installation was done and sidewalks are starting to go in.

 

 

 

The building will have one long so-called main street corridor. There will be three wings off of it for different grade level classrooms.  Consigli Construction broke ground in October for the new 87,000 square-foot Sandy Hook School.

 

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Local lawmakers tout bill expanding coverage for firefighters

Newtown lawmakers are touting a bill that made it through the state House which will expand coverage for firefighters who suffer from cancer caused directly by their job.  Representatives JP Sredzinski and Mitch Bolinsky say a new “Firefighters Cancer Relief Account” will be created and run by the Connecticut State Firefighters Association which will be used to provide wage replacement benefits for eligible firefighter cancer victims and to pay associated administrative costs. 

 

The bill will now be sent to the state Senate where it awaits further action. The legislative session adjourns at midnight on May 4th.

 

The account will be funded by diverting $.01 from the current e911 fee on phone bills into the fund. Beginning July 1, 2019, firefighters who have been working for at least five years and can show through medical screenings that they have contracted cancer through their professional environment, will be eligible for up to two years of benefits.

 

"It is imperative that we care for those who have time and time again risked their lives for us,” said Rep. Sredzinski. “As a public safety dispatch supervisor, I work directly with many emergency personnel, including firefighters, and have seen the toll that cancer has taken on these men and women. We have an obligation to give back to these heroes and provide for their well-being when they have been harmed in the line of duty.”

 

"This measure provides the reassurance of job-related cancer coverage for those brave Connecticut first responders who save lives in our communities by boldly running INTO burning buildings,” said Rep. Bolinsky. “It also represents a couple years of meaningful collaboration to create an independent, self-administered system that does not impose itself as a municipal mandate.  It's a real win-win and totally the right thing to do in the right way!"

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Easton Police warn about IRS phone scam

The Easton Police Department has received reports that a new round of phone scams has just begun in this area. Scammers claim to be authentic IRS Representatives and are making threats of arrest by local authorities and demand a call back to them.  Easton Police say these scammers use a valid phone number and will make further threats if that number is called back.  Residents who receive these calls are reminded not to give out ANY personal information over the phone because the IRS will never call and request any information over the phone.

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Clinton: Connecticut's gun violence efforts should be model

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Hillary Clinton says the bipartisan gun control legislation passed in Connecticut after the Newtown school shooting massacre should be a model for the nation.

 

The Democratic presidential candidate said Thursday that she understands it was challenging for the state to pass legislation expanding an assault weapons ban and barring large-capacity ammunition magazines, among other changes.

 

She acknowledged she wasn't in Connecticut to make promises that she can't keep. But she vowed to make sure the gun issue cannot be ignored.

 

Clinton was joined by family members of gun violence victims, including the daughter of the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School who died along with 20 first-graders and five other educators in 2012.

 

Erica Smegielski says mass shootings are the minority and focus is needed on the everyday gun violence.

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Danbury to interview candidates for Police Chief post

Danbury has eight candidates interested in the job of Police Chief.  There are five internal candidates and three from outside the Danbury Police Department.  Chief Al Baker's retirement was announced at the end of January.

 

There will be an assessment process in May for all of the candidates, they will be scored and then presented to Mayor Mark Boughton for interviews before the final selection.  Boughton says it's a rigorous process, but he feels there is definitely a new Chief among the eight applicants.  Boughton added that the process is moving at a good clip and a new Police Chief will be on the City Council's June agenda for ratification.

 

Chief Baker planned to leave June 10th, but has agreed to make himself available to help with the transition.  If an external candidate is selected, Boughton says he has asked Chief Baker to two week beyond mid-June.  If an internal candidate is selected, there will be very little in the way of transition.

 

The Chief is required to be or become a Danbury resident, living in the City for the duration of their term as Chief. 

 

The salary for the position is listed at $120,000 to $130,000 annually, depending on experience.  The job notice says that a strong candidate will possess the ability to effectively drive change, be  responsible for the Department's budget planning and regulate Department budgetary needs and have a strong background in labor relations and negotiations. 

 

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.

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DMV fails to send emissions test notices, collects late fees

The computer outage at the DMV this week may be the tipping point for state lawmakers. 

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says the new leadership must ultimately be judged by the tangible improvements it provides for its beleaguered customers, who have encountered unacceptable wait times, and even more of the bureaucratic problems that the new computer system was meant to avoid.  She says this is just one more black eye for the agency.

 

Boucher says cries for privatization will start to increase a problems continue.

 

It was disclosed over the weekend that due to data issues, many car owners where never notified that their vehicle emissions tests were due or that a late fee was assessed and will now face fines. The DMV is expecting to collect $4 million because of this error.

 

Other problems included some property tax bills being sent to towns where a person's car wasn't registered and registrations mistakenly suspended for lack of insurance--when people did in fact have insurance.

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Sen. Murphy releases 'Fed Up' report about transportation infrastructure

After hearing directly from more than a thousand Connecticut commuters about why they’re 'Fed Up' with the dire state of Connecticut’s roads and rail lines, Senator Chris Murphy has released the first in a series of reports to identify the specific trouble areas for Connecticut commuters and to propose a set of policies that will improve traffic and congestion throughout the state.  Each report will combine the voices of real commuters with data to analyze what can be fixed.

 

Murphy collected feedback from residents across the state at various town hall events and via an online survey. 

 

Murphy also called on U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to collaborate with him and Connecticut’s commuters to secure federal investments in Connecticut’s failing transportation infrastructure.  Just a few months later, Congress passed – for the first time in a decade – a long-term $305 billion transportation bill that preserves critical funding sources for Connecticut and authorizes more than $1.4 billion of investments in Amtrak and rail safety along the Northeast Corridor.

 

The Metro North New Haven line carries over 125,000 passengers daily and is one of the country's busiest commuter rail lines.  The Danbury Branch Line stop, Merritt 7, is programmed for station improvements.  The recently completed Danbury Branch Line communications system has increased reliability and convenience.  Several trains provide a something called a "one-seat ride", a ride that doesn't require passengers to change trains between the branch line and the New Haven Line.

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Garage blaze, brush fire reported in Danbury, Brookfield

A garage fire in Danbury spread to a near by wooded area this afternoon.  Firefighters responded to Long Ridge Road around 2:45 this afternoon and found the home owner extinguishing the garage fire with a garden hose.  Fire crews extinguished the related grass and brush fire.  Deputy Fire Marshall's were on scene to investigate the apparent accidental fire.  There was minor damage to the garage.  The Danbury Fire Department cleared the scene within an hour.

 

 

(Photos courtesy: Danbury Fire Department)

 

There was also a brush fire in Brookfield Wednesday afternoon.  It was reported near the Route 7 junction.  Brookfield officials say the response closed Federal Road south of that area in both directions.  The brush fire was brought under control and extinguished in less than an hour.

 

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DMV officials warn residents of potential delays at branches

After computer outages caused delays at Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles branches statewide, the agency has urged residents to postpone their Wednesday visits.

DMV officials say Tuesday's delays were caused by intermittent outages of computer processing and severe slowdowns of processes that occurred during customer transactions. The delays then trickled down and negatively impacted wait times.

Connecticut residents needing to renew driver's licenses or identification cards have been advised to visit AAA instead of going to the DMV. Customers with expiring credentials have been given a grace period to renew through Thursday.

 

The wait times at the Danbury branch as of noon on Wednesday were about an hour for registration services.  Lice and ID card renewal wait times were slightly less.

DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra says the agency is aware of the inconvenience and work is being conducted "around the clock" to resolve the issue.

Computer problems have plagued the DMV since it switched to a new system last year.

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Bethel Town Hall to close early Thursday for maintenance

Bethel Town Hall will be closing early on Thursday.  The Municipal Center will close at 3pm on Thursday in order to power down electrical systems for maintenance and upgrades. All town hall evening activities are cancelled Thursday.  The work will be performed over night and is expected to be completed by 5am Friday.  Barring any unexpected complications, the municipal center will reopen at 8:30am Friday.

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Sandy Hook lawsuit makes slow progress through justice system

The lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook School is on the slow road through the justice system.  After a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled last week that the suit can move forward, both sides were in Court Tuesday.  They agreed on a future court date of two years from now on April 3rd, 2018. 

 

The discovery process, where plaintiffs seek information from defendants, is expected to take some time.  A motion was filed yesterday by the defendants to delay disclosure while motions are prepared to toss out part or all of the case.  A hearing on the motion is set for June 20th.

 

The judge ruled last week that a federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.

 

A lawyer for the families had argued there is an exception in federal law that allows litigation against companies that know, or should know, that their weapons are likely to be used in a way that risks injury to others.

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Public hearing in Danbury tonight about budget proposal

There is a public hearing tonight in Danbury.  Residents are being called on to attend and voice their thoughts on the proposed budget and sewer and water rates.  The $244 million budget proposal for the coming fiscal year is asking for a slightly larger contribution from taxpayers.  The 1-percent tax increase will amount to about $60 more a year for the average homeowner. 

 

Danbury Finance Director David St. Hilaire says the largest increase is due to health care costs.

 

Three years ago, Danbury moved from a fully-insured to a self-insured basis.  Being self-insured should help the City minimize the potentially large spikes in annual health care premium renewals.  Officials say that has resulted in some significant savings.

 

St. Hilaire says the City won't have swings in premiums, and the last few years have seen minimal increases needed. 

 

The public hearing is at 7pm at City Hall.

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Ecuadorian Civic Center of Greater Danbury to host benefit for earthquake relief

Danbury area residents are stepping up to help out after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck coastal Ecuador causing severe damage to the Manabí Province.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton issued the following statement:

 

“We are saddened by the terrible loss of life that this earthquake has caused. On behalf of the City of Danbury, I would like to extend deepest sympathy and prayers to all of those affected by this devastating tragedy.  When one member or part of our community suffers a loss, the entire city shares in the loss.  I know all of our residents have the people of Ecuador in their hearts.”

 

The Ecuadorian Civic Center of Greater Danbury is hosting a fundraiser to benefit the places most affected. The center is located at 20 West Street.  The benefit on Sunday is from 8:00am-8:00pm. Contact the center at (203) 790-1818 for more information.

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Red Flag Warning, brush fire danger

Several Greater Danbury fire departments have been busy battling brush fire in the last few days.  On Sunday, five acres in Danbury burned.  The Bethel Fire Department says a small brush fire in that town was quickly extinguished.  The forest fire danger level today is HIGH and the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for all of Connecticut.  That means open burn permits are suspended.  With high wind gusts forecast throughout the day, officials say it will be difficult to control brush fires.  The lack of rain and the low humidity also make fires more likely.  State residents are also urged to be cautions with outdoor cooking fires.

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Saw Mill Road closure in effect through Friday

A major road in Danbury will be closed today through possibly the end of the week.  Algonquin Gas Transmission is replacing a natural gas transmission pipeline, and due to the nature of the work, a closure has been deemed necessary for traffic safety.  Work is scheduled on Saw Mill Road from this morning through the end of the week.  The 24-hour, multi-day detour is expected to be complete by close of business on Friday. Signage will be in place for the duration of the detour.

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Aquarion to conduct water main cleaning in Bethel

Aquarion Water Company is doing water main cleaning today in the Chimney Heights area of Bethel.  The work is expected to last through Thursday, and will take place between 8am and 5pm. 

 

During that time, Aquarion says residents may notice some discoloration in the water, which is a result of a temporary disturbance of the water flow.  The work stirs up naturally occurring minerals that settle in the water mains.  If water is discolored, Aquarion recommends delaying washing clothes until it's clear. 

 

Hydrants will not be affected by the cleaning.

 

The following streets will be affected by water main cleaning:

Adams Dr
Apple Tree Rd.
Benedict Rd.
Brookview Ct.
Budd Dr.
Buff Ln.
Cedar Dr.
Chimney Dr.
Colonial Dr.
Far Horizons Dr.
Fox Den Rd.
Green Pasture Rd.
Hearthstone Dr.
Hillcrest Rd.
Hilldale Ln.
Hollyberry Dr.
Meckauer Cir.
North Hearthstone Dr.
Oak Ridge Rd.
Old Field Dr.
Old Hawleyville Rd.
Partridge Dr.
Payne Rd.
Pondview Dr.
Pound Sweet Hill
Quaker Ridge Rd.
Ridgedale Rd.
Rockwell Rd.
Sand Hill Rd.
Shelter Rock Rd.
Sky Edge Ln.
Stony Hill Rd./Rte 6
Terrace Dr.
Walnut Hill Rd.
Westview Dr.
Wine Sap Run
Woodlawn Dr.

 

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Sunday brush fire burns 5 acres in Danbury

A multi-acre brush fire was extinguished in Danbury yesterday.  Assistant Fire Chief Mark Omasta says firefighters responded to the brush fire near Richter Park and Bogg's Pond around 9:30pm.  Fire crews accessed the fire from a dirt road off of Rockwell Lane.  Approximately five acres burned near the top of the mountainous terrain.  20 firefighters responded and used 4 wheel drive brush trucks from Volunteer Engines to access the site.  Tankers from volunteer departments supplied the brush trucks with water.  Crews finished wetting down hot spots around 12:30am this morning.

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Danbury joins regional digital mapping initiative

A digital mapping tool which can be used by municipalities for everything from zoning and permitting to determining the assessment of a home is currently used in Danbury.  Now, the City is joining other municipalities in the Western Connecticut Council of Governments to secure funding for and implementing a regional GIS data program. 

 

A Geographic Information System is basically a digital map with various data ranging from transportation to the environment.

 

The shared services data acquisition program was proposed by WCCOG and the state Office of Policy and Management.  The regional planning group would submit the grant proposal, which puts multiple municipalities on the same update cycle for this data collection and will result in cost savings.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton says the former Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials didn't have the capability, so a lot of the resources for this that are already in place have come from the former South Western Regional Planning Agency.  The two organizations merged in 2014 when the state mandated that planning agencies be consolidated from 14 to eight.

 

WCCOG GIS Manger Carl Zimmerman says Danbury joining the other municipalities would mean that there is a complete data set for the entire 18-town region.  The web mapping information will be accessible to the public.

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Public hearing on proposed Renaissance project closes in Brookfield

The Brookfield Zoning Commission has closed the public hearing about the proposed Renaissance apartment building project on Federal Road.  The developer initially submitted a 6-story building, with no retail space.  Public safety and other concerns were raised so a new plan was submitted. 

 

The developer's Attorney, Chris Smith, says the amended application is no longer affordable or incentive housing because there are fewer units being proposed.  The alternative has 5% workforce housing based on 80% median income.   

 

If the Zoning Commission rejects the alternative plan and the original proposal, Smith says his client will appeal for the 156 units to gain approval.  Since that was an 8-30g application, it could trump local zoning decisions.  If the alternative, which also includes ground floor retail space, Smith says that applicant will be satisfied and there will be no appeal.

 

The Zoning Commission has 65 days to issue a decision.

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Local lawmaker leery of colleagues abilities to make difficult budget decisions

With little less than three weeks before the end of the legislative session, state lawmakers are scrambling to put together a budget for the coming fiscal year which erases a projected $922 million deficit. 

 

State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says the General Assembly needs to address long term structural change to how the state taxes and spends.  But Hwang says he's leery that with an election looming in November, lawmakers will push off those difficult decisions until after the election.  He called that a mistake, saying it would be a disservice to the people of Connecticut.

 

Redding Representative John Shaban calls the deficit crisis a mess derived form years of fiscal mismanagement, not from some “new economic reality.”  He adds that the way to dig out of this current financial crisis is through fiscal discipline in the years ahead. 

 

Shaban says talk is cheap, but funding schools, infrastructure and needed programs is not.  With the right policies he says the state may recover from the current self-inflicted crisis.

 

Hwang says bad fiscal policy dramatically and adversely impacts legislative policy.  He says all of the good things they've been working on when it comes to school safety, veterans affairs issues and education, have all taken a back seat to fixing the fiscal crisis.

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Documentary explores healing journeys after Newtown shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The role the arts have played in helping Newtown residents on their journeys through grief and toward healing is explored in a "Midsummer in Newtown," a documentary debuting this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

The film follows the staging of "A Rockin' Midsummer Night's Dream," a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's play, which was put on in Newtown by Broadway professionals during the summer of 2014 using children from the community.

It focuses on two of the young local actors, Tain Gregory and Sammy Vertucci, who find the play's themes of love helping to restore order from chaos reflected in their own lives.

A separate track follows Jimmy Greene as he creates his album "Beautiful Life," to honor his daughter Ana Grace who was killed in the shooting.

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State, federal officials react to Judge's ruling on Sandy Hook lawsuit

Members of Connecticut's Congressional delation are among those reacting to yesterday's ruling by a Connecticut Superior Court judge that a lawsuit can go forward against the maker of the rifle used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

 

Governor Dannel Malloy called the ruling a victory for the families and a victory for those who stand for commonsense gun laws.  He said Connecticut passed the toughest gun laws in the nation for a reason.  He added that the gun industry should not have protections that no other industry in America sees. 

 

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy issued a joint statement with 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty saying that the judge opening the courthouse door to allow these families to continue to plead their case is a good step forward, not only for the Sandy Hook families, but for all Americans who have agonized with the Newtown community since 12-14. 

 

The manufacturer argued that the suit should be barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a federal statute that has given the gun industry immunity from a wide variety of civil suits.  They said that for far too many families, that law has been a complete barrier to justice. They pledged to keep fighting until this the law is repealed. 

The Judge ruled that a federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the families from arguing that the AR-15 is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.

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Congressman stands with Danbury healthcare worker calling for better protections

One member of Connecticut's Congressional delegation is citing an incident in Danbury as a reason for his push to better protect healthcare professionals from workplace violence.  Congressman Joe Courtney was joined by psychiatric nurse Helene Andrews yesterday to discuss his work. 

 

In 2009, while Andrews was handing a male patient his pain medication, he punched her in the jaw, knocking her to the floor with such force that her pelvis was broken. She was unable to return to work for six and a half months and had to go through rehabilitation and physical therapy.

 

In 2014, Courtney called for a study of how to better protect healthcare workers. With the study now complete, Courtney plans to work with OSHA and other agencies to implement the recommendations.

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Danbury residents respond favorably to idea of low cost, high speed internet service

A six question survey sent out to Danbury residents Wednesday to gauge interest in $15 a month fiber-optic internet service resulted in a 12-percent response rate, higher participation than some recent votes held in the City.  Mayor Mark Boughton proposed the idea during his State of the City address in December as a way to bridge the digital divide and help close the achievement gap. 

 

76-percent of Danbury residents who answered the survey from were on board with the idea.  8-percent of respondents said they wouldn't be interested and 15-percent had no opinion on the subject.  Danbury Director of Project Excellence Stephen Nocera says sometimes if people feel they don't have enough information about something they'll respond in the negative, but there was no option to give a reason for a particular answer.

 

Residents would have to pay $15 a month for five years, $5 a month for the next five years and after that the rate should be zero.  Boughton says that would be possible through new enrollees sustaining the the cost of infrastructure maintenance.

 

The plan would have to be presented to a company, like Frontier Communications, which would build and maintain the fiber optic network. 

 

Nocera says the next steps include figuring out how to create the critical mass of residents that providers would need.  The City also has to come up with options for people to engage or disengage from the project.  He says they want to give flexibility and not mandate something that people don't want or need.

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Judge rules Newtown lawsuit against gun maker can go forward

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A Connecticut Superior Court judge has ruled that the lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used in the 2012 shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School can go forward.

 

Judge Barbara Bellis ruled Thursday that a federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.

 

A lawyer for the families had argued there is an exception in federal law that allows litigation against companies that know, or should know, that their weapons are likely to be used in a way that risks injury to others.

 

The sides are due back in court Tuesday

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New statewide initiative cracking down on narcotics dealers

United States Attorney Deirdre Daly and the Drug Enforcement Administration have unveiled a statewide initiative targeting narcotics dealers who distribute heroin, opioids or fentanyl--a substance which can be over 50 times more potent than heroin--that cause death or serious injury to users.

 

Beginning in January, approximately 20 heroin and opioid overdoses that have occurred in Connecticut have been investigated by the DEA’s New Haven Tactical Diversion Squad, which includes participants from the Wilton Police Department.  Most of the overdoses have resulted in death.  Currently, there are ongoing investigations of overdoses that occurred in Danbury, Derby, Enfield, Greenwich, Middletown, Newtown, New Haven, Norwalk, Norwich, Shelton, Stamford, Vernon, Weston, Willimantic and Woodbridge.

 

Daly says last year there were 444 overdose deaths.  In just the first two months of the year, there have been 90 overdoses.

 

As part of this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA have developed a protocol for police that respond to heroin and opioid overdose deaths.  The protocol calls for local law enforcement to perform time-sensitive investigative techniques and preserve all evidence at the scene of an overdose death.  Police also are asked to contact DEA at the early stages of an investigation, and ensure that an autopsy of the decedent is performed.  The DEA and local police will then jointly investigate to determine the events leading up to the death, the source of the drug involved, and the composition of the drug.  Individuals responsible for distributing drugs causing overdose deaths will be prosecuted.

 

Daly says a tragic opioid epidemic is plaguing Connecticut and much of the country.  She hopes this statewide initiative will enable law enforcement to quickly determine if a highly toxic drug is on the street and take steps to identify the source of the drug in order to keep it out of the hands of vulnerable users.  Their goal is to prevent additional deaths and to hold accountable those who distribute these deadly drugs.

 

The DEA and U.S. Attorney’s Office received funding from two sources for heroin and opioid overdose investigations.  The DEA received Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force funding in an investigation focused on large-scale sources of heroin being distributed in Connecticut.  The DEA also received funding under the National Heroin Strategic Initiative to pay overtime, purchase equipment, fund training, and assist in the investigation of seized cellular telephones.

 

The initiative has resulted in federal charges against several people in connection to fatal and non-fatal heroin overdoses.  Two Hamden men were charged in connection with the oxycodone overdose of a 22-year-old man in Weston.

 

Ryan Budd of Bethel, was charged in connection with two non-fatal heroin overdose of a 25-year-old woman in Danbury.One of the overdoses occurred in a Mobil gas station bathroom on White Street in March.  Danbury Police responded to check the well being of a woman and found her in medical distress.  The woman wasn't breathing on her own and was hospitalized for a time.  Officers found two syringes and three "folds" of suspected heroin.  Budd was charged with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of a controlled substance.

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Municipal leaders react to potential elimination of state education funding

Municipal leaders are reacting to Governor Malloy's new budget proposal, which includes eliminating Education Cost Sharing grant money to several Greater Danbury area towns.  State Senator Toni Boucher left a message for the leaders of the towns in her district.  She said that it wasn't fair to those communities to have to come up with money for a multi-million dollar shortfall, and that the legislature would reassess everything and take another shot at it. 

 

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi doesn't see doom and gloom at this point because several more approvals would be needed for the proposal to take effect.

 

As a Democrat, Marconi says he hopes his fellow Democrats work with Republicans to come up with something both sides can agree to.  He notes that Connecticut elects everyone to go to Hartford to do the job for the people, not for the party.

 

State budget deficits have been plaguing the state for many years.  The next fiscal year is projected to have a more than $922 million deficit.  Marconi says municipalities addressed shrinking revenue streams in 2010 by right sizing budgets, but the state never did that.  He says that's why it's snowballed into a major issue.

 

Marconi says the Appropriations Committee rejected the Governor's proposal and will be reconvening to begin another round of negotiations to erase nearly a billion dollars of red ink.  The General Assembly is set to adjourn May 4th.

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Greater Danbury area towns to lose education funding from state due to deficit

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities will be working to make sure cuts in state aid to cities and towns don't become a reality.  The cities and towns advocacy organization is especially disturbed by the proposal to cut a new municipal revenue fund and to take $50 million from Education Cost Sharing grants. 

 

Spokesman Kevin Maloney says 28 towns are not getting any ECS grant money.   He called it mind boggling.

 

Danbury will be fully funded at $31.69 million, but district officials have said that because of how the formula is structured, that amount is far below what it should be to begin with.

 

Bethel is facing a 4.6% reduction, Brookfield is down 9.2%, New Fairfield could have a 5.4% reduction, New Milford is proposed at 3.9% lower than is statutorily required and Newtown stands to lose 14.7%.

 

The Fairfield and Litchfield Counties municipalities who have had their ECS grants eliminated under Malloy's proposals are:

 

Bridgewater

Cornwall

Darien

Easton

Fairfield

Goshen

Greenwich

Kent

New Canaan

Norfolk

Redding

Ridgefield

Roxbury

Salisbury

Sharon

Sherman

Warren

Washington

Weston

Westport

Wilton

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Local lawmaker critical of state fund raids to erase deficits

A proposed $22 million reduction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort to curb harmful emission while investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy products, is being criticized.  A coalition of energy, environmental, labor and public health groups are denouncing the budget package approved by legislative committee. 

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says they were in the dark about these cuts.  She called the package a series of broken promises with raids also made of the Tobacco Fund and the Special Transportation Fund.

 

Boucher says the proposal is very disappointing.

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Danbury Mayor critical of Governor's new budget proposal

Governor Dannel  Malloy is calling on non-union state employees and elected officials to pay 20 percent of their health care benefits as part of his revised plan to cover next fiscal year's entire deficit, which has grown to as much as $933 million.  They currently pay an average of 12 percent.

He also proposed scaling back plans to divert some sales tax revenues to reduce property taxes.  The plan also scraps a proposed sales tax sharing initiative with municipalities.  Communities with property tax rates above 32 mills would have received sales tax dollars to make up the difference.

 

Malloy's proposal eliminates $775,000 in funding for community health centers, which is used to secure matching federal funding.

The Democrat on Tuesday released a revised $19.7 billion plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He said it contains no tax increases.  His previous budget released in February was based on a projected $570 million deficit, which later worsened.

 

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton called the proposals disappointing.

 

He says the state hasn't managed its finances properly and that means every municipality will have to pay for that, which really means that taxpayers in every city and town will have to pay for it.

 

Boughton says the insanity continues at the capital.  While the state has cut municipal aid, he says the municipalities have been required to provide more benefits for employees and services to residents in the form of unfunded mandates.

 

He says the Governor and legislature should be ashamed that they've let this go on for years and haven't addressed it.  He says the chickens have now come home to roost.  Boughton added that May 4th, the day the General Assembly session adjourns, can't come soon enough.

 

Boughton, known for his comical Twitter account, tweeted asking if Danbury should give back state aid, secede from Connecticut and form its own state.

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Danbury to send out robocall survey about $15/month internet service

Danbury officials will be sending out a message via the 311 info telephone system today.  It's a call with a six question survey about low cost, high speed internet service.  Mayor Mark Boughton proposed an idea during his State of the City address in December for $15 a month fiber-optic internet service for every household in the City.  When he made the announcement, Boughton said this would have bridge the digital divide and help close the achievement gap. 

 

Officials say as good as the idea sounds, they want to make sure residents are on board with it and would take advantage of the service, if provided.  The City is hoping at least half of respondents provide favorable answers to the survey. 

 

The plan would then be presented to a company like Frontier Communications, which would build and maintain the fiber optic network. 

 

Boughton says eventually Danbury residents could get internet service for free.  Residents would have to pay $15 a month for five years, $5 a month for the next five years and after that the rate should be zero.  He says that would be possible through new enrollees sustaining the the cost of infrastructure maintenance.

 

Danbury Director of Project Excellence Stephen Nocera says the deal could be negotiated fairly quickly, in about six to eight months.  But he says the project itself will take time because there is construction needed to set up the fiber optic infrastructure.  It could be a quicker timeline depending on the service provider because some companies already have fiber optic networks partially set up in Danbury.

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Bill clears House that would allow estate liquor auctions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A deceased person's wine and liquor collection could soon be up for auction.

The Connecticut House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that allows alcoholic liquor from an estate to be sold at an auction. The legislation now needs Senate approval.

Democratic Rep. David Kiner of Enfield said there is currently no legal way to legally resell liquor from estates in Connecticut, such as wine collections. He said some larger Connecticut estates have held auctions in neighboring New York.

Republican Rep. Dan Carter of Bethel voiced support for the bill, saying it doesn't make much sense having to cross the state border to get rid of wine.

The bill requires the probate court with jurisdiction over the estate and the consumer protection commissioner to approve of the transition.

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Bethel residents approve budget in referendum

A budget has been approved by Bethel residents.  The municipal budget of $27.63 million, which includes debt service of $3.87 million, was approved on a vote of 1,504 to 719.  The school's building maintenance account of $489,000 is also included in the municipal side of the budget.  The Board of Education budget of $43.6 million was approved on a vote of 1,466 to 749. 

 

There was a 19% voter turnout.

 

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says between town government and the Board of Ed union negotiations, Bethel has been able to save almost a million dollars in health insurance costs.

 

$1.438 million for capital items was also approved.  Those items include replacing the Codfish Road culvert, drainage improvements on Maple Avenue, lighting for Whittlesey Drive and Greenwood Avenue Walkway repairs. Funding to replace seating at the high school auditorium, a highway garage roof and carbon monoxide system are included.

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One-time GOP Senate candidate says he's running again

DARIEN, Conn. (AP) Jack Orchulli, a former fashion industry executive who unsuccessfully challenged former Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd in 2004, says he's planning to run again for the U.S. Senate.

The Republican from Darien launched the ``Jack Orchulli for U.S. Senate'' Facebook page Tuesday. He announced plans to seek his party's nomination, saying he's ``the only candidate with the experience and resources to beat the liberal Senator Richard Blumenthal.''

Orchulli is the former chief executive officer of the Michael Kors clothing label. He retired and sold his share of the company shortly before his 2004 campaign. At the time, he said he was fulfilling a lifelong goal of pursuing a political office.

This month, Bethel Rep. Dan Carter announced he's seeking the GOP nomination, joining former Olympian and businessman August Wolf of Stamford.

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Newtown Legislative Council approves budget proposal

The Newtown Legislative Council has approved a budget to send to a referendum later this month.  Newtown residents will vote on the proposed $114 million plan the same day as the Presidential Primary, April 26th.  The budget represents a 1.62 percent spending increase. 

 

The municipal budget is about $40.5 million, a more than $400,000 reduction from what was proposed by the Board of Selectmen.  The education budget is proposed at $73.6 million, $100,000 less than presented by the schools.

 

Absentee ballots are available at the Town Clerk's Office.

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Redding residents approve projects during Special Town Meeting

Redding residents have approved several projects during a Special Town Meeting last night. 

 

Up to $99,000 was approved unanimously to repair Umpawaug Schoolhouse and the Town Hall Annex.  The next revaluation process, which happens every three years, will be paid for with $60,000 in each of the next three budget years from the capital nonrecurring fund. 

 

Residents also unanimously approved accepting a state grant to purchase open space land.  The 30 acres at the intersection of Routes 53 and 107 will also be purchased with funding from The Redding Land Trust and Aquarion Water Company. 

 

A town-wide health code will be implemented, putting into writing what the town's health department currently does.

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Hispanic Center sees spike in clients asking about citizenship in order to vote

There's been a spike in clients coming into the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury. 

 

About 10 people a week have been looking for citizenship applications, and more have been calling asking about the process.  Interim Director Andrea Contreras says they've been experiencing the increase of immigrants with permanent legal status wanting to become citizens since at least January, mainly so they can vote in November.

 

Contreras says the Center has immigration lawyers on retention and staff members who've been through training about citizenship applications.  The citizenship process takes three to six months on average.  She says some clients started the process in early January, and are now U.S. citizens.

 

There's been a nationwide trend of Latinos registering to vote.  Some have pointed to the contentious comments from GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump.  The Republican front runner has pledged to build a wall on the country's southern border, and have Mexico pay for the wall.

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Bethel residents voting in budget referendum

A budget proposal is being voted on in Bethel today.  The municipal budget is proposed at $27.63 million, which includes debt service of $3.87 million.  The school's building maintenance account of $489,000 is also included in the municipal side of the budget.  The proposed Board of Education budget is $43.6 million. 

 

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says between town government and the Board of Ed union negotiations, Bethel has been able to save almost a million dollars in health insurance costs.

 

The Bethel Board of Finance is recommending $1.438 million for capital items.  Those items include replacing the Codfish Road culvert, drainage improvements on Maple Avenue, lighting for Whittlesey Drive and Greenwood Avenue Walkway repairs. Funding to replace seating at the high school auditorium, a highway garage roof and carbon monoxide system are included.

 

Polls are open until 8pm.

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Judge rules against releasing Newtown shooter's belongings

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut judge has ruled that state police do not have to release personal materials belonging to Adam Lanza that were seized from his home after he killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Judge Carl Schuman overturned a decision by the state Freedom of Information Commission, which ordered state police to turn over the documents to The Hartford Courant under a public records request. The ruling on Friday was first reported by the Republican-American.

The requested materials included a spreadsheet ranking mass murders and a notebook including a story about a character who shoots people and another who likes hurting children.

The judge ruled that state law shields from public disclosure all seized property not used in criminal prosecutions.

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Danbury considers reopening bid process for new cafe adjacent to Library

Danbury will likely reopen the bid process for the concession area at the Library and Innovation Center.  The City sought a cafe-type business for the approximate 640 square feet, but Mayor Mark Boughton says they didn't really get the response that the City wanted.  The City is now looking at how best to utilize the space.

 

Danbury is looking for a vendor to offer a menu that is reasonably priced and competitive in the downtown environment, and have at least the same hours as the library.  There is no grill in the space, so only food requiring warming or cooling such as salads, sandwiches and soups best suit the facility.  The cafe operator would be responsible for providing furnishings and related equipment as well as custodial and refuse services. 

 

A dishwasher, tables and chairs as well as plumbing and electrical infrastructure are already in place.  Utilities such as water, sewer, electric and heat will be the responsibility of the City.

 

Boughton says they are possibly considering the potential for a project for some of the people at the homeless shelter to coincide with his new Clean Start initiative.  During his State of the City address in December, Boughton announced the program aimed at helping the homeless.  The idea is to have some people perform litter control downtown. 

 

Working with a local nonprofit, the City will have the teams work with specialized equipment donated by Winters Brothers.  At the end of each day, upon verification by staff, the participants will receive a gift card.

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Rt 37/North Street lane closures to last through summer

The traffic tie ups Danbury drivers have been experiencing on North Street, Route 37 and the I-84 exit 6 westbound off ramp will continue for a while.  The State Department of Transportation started a couple of construction projects last April, which are now in full swing.  Transportation Supervising Engineer Matthew Cleary says the lane changes and closures on local roads are here to stay, at least through the summer.

 

There will be some relief for people exiting the highway and having to stop in the right lane because of the back ups.  There have been safety concerns with one lane of the exit ramp being closed.

 

Cleary says they will bring in extra crews and material to get the lane reopened within a month.

 

Route 37 is being widened to have two through lanes in each direction with various exclusive turning lanes. Two retaining walls are being built along the North Street Shopping Center.  The traffic signals will be re-timed. 

 

The $15 million project is scheduled to be completed in summer 2017.

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Sherman man granted early prison release following bribery conviction

A Sherman man has been granted early release from prison, where he's been serving time on a bribery charge.  The Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles says 79-year old Dominic Badaracco will be released from prison in October.  He was sentenced in 2013 to 7 years in prison for trying to bribe a judge to influence an investigation into his missing wife. 

 

Mary Badaracco disappeared in 1984 and the case was reclassified as a homicide in 1990.  Dominic has long been a suspect, but has never been charged with her murder. 

 

A secret grand jury was empaneled in 2010 and when Badaracco learned of that, he called his former attorney, Judge Robert Burnetti and offered him $100,000.  Court records show that more than $120,000 was withdrawn from a retirement account at that time. 

 

Badaracco denied allegations of the bribery but was convicted.  He lost an appeal in the case last April.

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Danbury Mayor critical of state deficits

A status quo spending package for the coming fiscal year is being considered by the Danbury City Council.  The $244 million general fund spending plan includes a slight tax increase.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the state is going to make municipalities think differently about how to deliver services.

 

He notes that the General Assembly is not putting in any incentives for municipal government to combine departments in the form of grants, but rather saying that municipalities could lose current state funding if they don't streamline services.

 

As the state grapples with massive deficits over the next 24 months, Boughton says the effects will bleed down into cities and towns.

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Rally held to send off Team 26 on 4 day Sandy Hook Ride on Washington

Team 26 and local gun violence prevention advocates will be joined by lawmakers today to kick off the 2016 Sandy Hook Ride on Washington.  Team 26 is a group of cyclists from Newtown and beyond inspired by those lost and those who survived the shootings at Sandy Hook School on 12-14.

 

The team will embark on its fourth ride from Sandy Hook to the U.S. Capitol from April 9 through April 12 to raise awareness of the gun violence epidemic.

 

Team 26 will depart from Edmond Town Hall at 8am. Their ride will take them through communities throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and conclude at the U.S. Capitol, where they will urge Congress to pass commonsense legislation to reduce gun violence.

 

In Washington, the team will present Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty with petitions signed by more than 36,000 Americans in support of legislation to improve safety at colleges and universities by making it more difficult for people to carry concealed weapons onto campus.  Blumenthal and Murphy will bring a petition to the floor of the Senate, and Esty will bring a petition to the floor of the House of Representatives.

 

Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra and Team 26 founder Monte Frank will be joined by the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and Connecticut Against Gun Violence.  Nelba Marquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene, parents of 6-year old Ana Marquez-Green will also be at the Newtown rally.

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Connecticut panel passes plan with fees on fantasy sports

Connecticut lawmakers have passed a proposed tax package that expects to raise about $9.5 million from fantasy sports to help balance the state's deficit-plagued budget.  It would impose an 8.75 percent surcharge on total entry fees fantasy sports operators collect.


A Democratic tax package cleared the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee 30-to-21.  The bill, which needs approval from the full legislature, also requires the state to adopt regulations for fantasy sports.

Like the spending package approved Wednesday, this bill is based on January revenue estimates when Connecticut's deficit was $570 million. It's now at least $900 million.

The bill repeals sales taxes on coin-operated car washes, baby diapers and feminine hygiene products while reducing taxes on luxury goods, boats and ambulatory surgical centers over time.

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says the package includes broken promises.  She says one of those promises is not to have tax increases.  But she says this plan includes a municipal filing fee increase of 10 times, bringing the fee from $2 to $20.  She says there is also 50-percent fee increases on other things.

 

A new fee would be imposed on businesses that collect sales taxes.  Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan is concerned with that proposal.  He says that's like another nail in the coffin and people will be up in arms.

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Area lawmaker critical of state budget plans

A local lawmaker is critical of his colleagues when it comes to a plan to balance the state's books.  A $19.9 billion spending plan has cleared the Connecticut legislature's budget-writing committee, despite being based on January revenue estimates when Connecticut's deficit was $570 million. It's now at least $900 million. 

 

Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says they have to stop kicking the can down the road.  The problem is on the table, and he says they should fix it all now. 

 

McLachlan says Connecticut must live within its means, a lesson learned in middle school.  He says somehow those lessons are forgotten when they become elected officials.

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New Milford Board of Finance adds money back into budget proposal

The New Milford Board of Finance has added money back into the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  The $100.3 million plan represents a slight tax increase.  The Board of Finance added back $413,000 for material and supplies, and an additional $35,000 for personnel for the public works department.  New Milford Mayor David Gronbach previously said that the cuts were made because of the mild winter making for large sand and salt stockpiles.  The Town Council will not get another crack at the proposal, the budget is headed for a referendum.

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Newtown Legislative Council discusses budget proposal

The Newtown Legislative Council has restored money to the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year for two armed school security officers.  The recommendation would have reduced the number of SSOs at the high school and the new Sandy Hook School, but it was decided that each school would continue to have two SSOs each. 

 

The Legislative Council held a budget session last night about recommendations for next fiscal year. 

 

The Newtown Board of Finance has proposed a $73.86 million education budget, a little more than 3-percent increase.  The municipal budget is proposed at $41 million, a 2.23 percent increase.

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Connecticut Senate urges action on high court nominee

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The Connecticut state Senate is officially urging the U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearings on President Barack Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

The Democratic-controlled Senate on Wednesday voted 19-15 in favor of a resolution that calls on senators to act on Merrick Garland's nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff says Connecticut's resolution sends a message to Washington that obstructionism must end and senators should do their jobs. Minority Republicans in the Connecticut Senate criticized the resolution as partisan and unnecessary.

Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan says it's not the job of the Connecticut Senate to tell the U.S. Senate what to do.  McLachlan says the Connecticut ignores federal law time and again, but now wants to tell them how to interpret the Constitution.  He said Connecticut ignores federal drug laws and immigration laws.

 

McLachlan says if the voters don't agree with the Senators decision not to hold hearings, they can let them know on Election Day.

 

McLachlan said he could only imagine the reaction of constituents when they hear about the legislature taking time out of their short session for this measure.  He thinks they're going to say that the legislature is out of its mind.  He says the appropriate thing to be talking about the federal government balancing their books.  If they don't have the money, he says they just print more.

 

He and other GOP senators say the legislature should instead focus on the state's budget deficit woes.

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Clinton supporters in Conn. critical of Sanders' comment on Sandy Hook gun lawsuit

In a conference call organized by Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign, Senator Chris Murphy criticized Democratic rival Senator Bernie Sanders over comments he made in a New York Daily News interview on the gun control issue.  Sanders said he doesn't think victims of gun crimes should be able to sue gun makers. 

 

Murphy said he is less sure than ever whether Sanders is willing to battle the gun lobby.

 

Murphy said that Sanders' continued focus on shielding the firearms industry from responsibility for the gun violence epidemic is hard to understand. He continued by saying that Sanders' comments were disturbingly clear that he does not support the ability of Sandy Hook parents to sue the gun manufacturers, in order to be made whole for the murder of their children.

 

A spokesman for Sanders said the Vermont Senator believes in common sense gun safety laws.  He said efforts to portray Sanders as friendly with the gun industry are "false and misleading".

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Danbury City Council adopts changes to noise ordinance

The Danbury City Council has approved two changes strengthening the City's noise ordinance.  The requirement for a noise reader has been ditched, and the City has adopted a standard called "plainly audible".   Part of the change targets noise from vehicles--whether it's the exhaust system or amplifiers.  The Neighborhood Preservation Zone is aimed at cracking down on habitual offenders who host large parties.  An outdoor group activity of 10 or more people creating a specific violation are outlined in the new Neighborhood Preservation Zone.  Offenses carry a $250.

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Congresswoman Esty to host town hall meeting in Danbury

A town hall meeting is being held Thursday in Danbury by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.  She says the event will provide residents of the greater Danbury area the opportunity to talk about issues that are important to them and their families.  She says the Presidential race has highlighted the work being done in Washington.

 

Esty will make brief opening remarks before spending the majority of the time taking audience questions.  It's the 2nd in a series of forums she is hosting to talk with residents about various issues.

 

She also wants to highlight legislation she introduced, which has been approved.  Those bills include a STEM education Act and the Gold Star Father's Act. 

 

The event at Rogers Park School is from 6:30 to 8pm.

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Democrats pass budget plan that Malloy says is incomplete

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A $19.9 billion spending plan offered by Democrats has cleared the Connecticut legislature's budget-writing committee, despite criticisms from Republicans and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that it doesn't fully cover next year's projected deficit.

The Democratic-controlled Appropriations Committee passed the bill with a vote of 33-24 on Wednesday.

A Malloy spokesman says the proposal is ``incomplete'' and the governor will unveil a revised budget next week that covers the full deficit, estimated by the Office of Fiscal Analysis to be at least $930 million.

Republican Senator Rob Kane, whose district includes Bridgewater and Roxbury, questioned why the committee's budget only covers $569 million of the shortfall when ``everybody in this building'' knew the figure was higher.

Democratic Sen. Beth Bye says there's still work to be done and this budget bill is just the first step.

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Greater Danbury area police step up enforcement of distracted driving laws

The Danbury City Council approved allocating some funding for a distracted driving law enforcement effort.  Danbury Police are participating in the state wide visibility program and are receiving a grant to pay for part of the effort.  Police are looking to crackdown on drivers using a cell phone while behind the wheel.  The $49,000 grant from the state will pay for about 75-percent of the cost, with the City allocating $16,000 for the effort.  The money will pay for four officers per day this month and in August to be on dedicate patrols looking for distracted drivers.

 

The Monroe Police Department and the Connecticut Highway Safety Office are teaming up to kick off the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  In 2014, an estimated 3,000 people were killed and 431,000 injured in accidents involving distracted drivers.  Monroe police say their goal is to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road in an effort to prevent needless crashes. 

 

Fines for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel will cost $150 for the first offense, a second $300, and a third and subsequent offense $500.

 

The Ridgefield Police Department is also participating in the “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” campaign.  During the month of April the Ridgefield Police Department will have extra patrols on certain days specifically looking for cell phone and texting violations. 

 

The Ridgefield Police Department, through the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office, received funds to pay for this enforcement initiative.

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Hearing set for Saturday in Sherman on proposed budget

A rescheduled public hearing in Sherman will be held Saturday.  The proposed budget was to be discussed tonight, but the hearing will instead be on Saturday morning at 10:30am in the meeting room of Mallory Town Hall. 

 

The budget has been proposed at $14.5 million.  It's a .86 percent increase in spending over the current year, and represents a flat tax rate from the current year.  The Board of Education budget is about $9.4 million, a nearly 9-percent increase.  The $5.14 million budget covers a 2-percent salary increase. 

 

Prior to the 10:30 budget hearing, there is a 10am Town Meeting on Saturday in Sherman about $10,000 for beach sand, ball field clay, playground mulch, and stone dust for track.  $18,500 is also up for discussion for equipment to maintain the Town beach and the ball fields.

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Newtown residents approve community center funding, plan

Newtown residents have approved funding for a community center.  The vote was 1,628 in favor of the plan for the Fairfield Hills campus, with a 1,205 count of No votes.  Turnout was about 16-percent. 

 

A proposal must now be drawn up to send the project out to bid.  The proposal calls for a programmable space of approximately 13,000 square foot.  The aquatics center would have a zero-entry pool and an 8-lane, 50 meter pool. 

 

$10 million donated by GE coupled with $5 million in bond money will build the center.  An additional $5 million from GE will be used to run the facility for at least five years.

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Proposed budget in Danbury includes slight tax increase

A status quo spending package has been proposed in Danbury for the coming fiscal year.  Mayor Mark Boughton presented the package to the City Council last night.  Spending is up about 2-percent to cover contractual obligations for salaries and wages.  Boughton says the plan was crafted in a way that keeps taxes low, the increase is about 1-percent.  There are no layoffs planned and there will not be a cut in services.  But he noted, there will be no new services added.

 

Boughton says the tax increase will amount to about $60 more a year for the average homeowner.  He called it an austere budget.

 

The spending plan totals $244.1 million, an increase of $6.4 million, or 2.69 percent in general fund spending.  The education budget was increased by $2.2 million over the current fiscal year, to $126 million.  That's an approximate 2.5-percent increase in education spending.

 

When it comes to municipal aide from the state, Boughton says this budget took into account possible cuts.  He says the City is preparing for what they feel is coming from the state in order to provide enough of a buffer to weather some of the rough economic waters expected from the state.  Connecticut is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit next fiscal year.

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War Memorial Director appointed as head of Danbury Veteran Affairs

Danbury is making some changes to the Office of Veterans Affairs.  The director's position was left vacant with the passing of Patrick Waldron in October 2014.  The Danbury Veterans Affairs Committee has now been formed, and the City Council approved the appointment of Danny Hayes as the Veterans Services Officer at their meeting Tuesday night.

 

The Danbury War Memorial is being asked to provide veterans services that the City used to provide through the Veterans Affairs Department.  Money has been included in the budget proposed for the coming fiscal year to provide the services.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton said that Waldron was a loyal employee who served at the City's Director of Veterans Affairs for almost 30 years.  He was a Korean War Veteran.

 

Hayes served in the Army from 1988-1992, and spend six months in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.  He received the Bronze Star for his actions overseas.  He was honorably discharged as a Specialist from Danbury's 411th Civil Affairs Company in 1996.  He has received several other awards from the U.S. Army, various community organizations and the City of Danbury's Fire and Police Departments' Civilian Award.

 

Hayes joined the War Memorial Board of Directors in 1999 and served six years, including two years as President.  Hayes then managed the War Memorial, and became Executive Director in 2010. 

 

Boughton also noted that since Waldron's passing, Danbury gained another point of contact for veterans services.  The VA runs an office off North Main Street in The Atrium Building.

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Newtown residents voting on community center proposal

A proposal for a community center is being voted on by Newtown voters today.  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. 

 

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.

 

The referendum Tuesday at Newtown Middle School is from 6am to 8pm. 

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Bethel residents presented with proposed budget

A budget proposal was unveiled in Bethel last night during the annual town meeting.  The municipal budget is proposed at $27.63 million, which includes debt service of $3.87 million.  The school's building maintenance account of $489,000 is also included in the municipal side of the budget.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the proposed Board of Education budget is $43.6 million. 

 

Knickerbocker says between town government and the Board of Ed union negotiations, Bethel has been able to save almost a million dollars in health insurance costs.

 

The Bethel Board of Finance is recommending $1.438 million for capital items.  Those items include replacing the Codfish Road culvert, drainage improvements on Maple Avenue, lighting for Whittlesey Drive and Greenwood Avenue Walkway repairs. Funding to replace seating at the high school auditorium, a highway garage roof and carbon monoxide system are included.

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Connecticut lawmaker running for Blumenthal's US Senate seat

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A Republican Connecticut lawmaker is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Bethel State Representative Dan Carter made the announcement on the steps of the Connecticut capitol today, where he was joined by leaders of the state Republican Party.

The only other person to declare their candidacy for the GOP nomination in the race is August Wolf, a businessman and former Olympic athlete from Stamford.

Carter is an Air Force veteran who has spent six years in the state legislature.

Blumenthal was elected to the Senate in 2010 and is the state's former attorney general. He hasn't officially announced his 2016 campaign but has been raising money.

Carter says Blumenthal has accomplished little in his first term and didn't do enough to help the economy.

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Brookfield police crack down on drivers using cell phones

The Brookfield Police Department is participating in National Distracted Driving Awareness Month to crack down on drivers who choose to ignore Connecticut’s mobile phone laws.  Police say while some people may have gotten the message to put down the phone, officers still see people every day who put themselves and others at risk. 

 

The enforcement effort runs through the end of the month and will ramp up again in August. 

 

Fines for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel are $150 for a first offense and doubled for a second instance.  Any offense after than results in a $500 fine.

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Bethel High School students practice EMT skills

On Saturday, students of Bethel High School's "Emergency Medical Technician" class participated in a vehicle extrication training exercise with members of the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department.  

 

Students spent part of the day in the classroom learning the basic concepts and fundamentals, and later got to experience the practical application of the various tools used, while also learning first hand the perspective of the trapped "victim" when all these procedures are taking place around them. 

 

At the same time, Bethel Firefighter's were evaluating the newest in cordless extrication tools on loan from a local fire equipment dealer.

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Brookfield residents called on to attend budget public hearing Tuesday

A public hearing is being held in Brookfield Tuesday night about the proposed budget.  The Brookfield Board of Finance approved a $63.2 million budget last month.  The proposal is a 2.45 percent increase in taxes. 

 

The Board of Education portion of the budget is $40.4 million, a little more than 2-percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year.  A new math program, elimination of pay-to-play and a filling several teaching and administrative positions left vacant since the recession would be covered by the increase.

 

There is a slight increase in the $22.8 million municipal budget proposal.  Some of that increase is for a community development specialist and for a purchasing agent, portable classrooms for Huckleberry Hill Elementary School and for an overhaul of the town's zoning laws. 

 

The public hearing Tuesday is at 7pm in Brookfield Town Hall Room 133.

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New reserved parking spaces unveiled in Danbury for wounded veterans

New Combat Wounded parking spaces have been installed in the back parking lot of the Danbury War Memorial to honor wounded war veterans.  The signs at the two spaces read: “Reserved – Combat Wounded”, are purple in color and are illustrated with a Purple Heart.

 

Danbury resident Lee Teicholz, who pioneered the project, said the reserved parking spaces are just a small token of appreciation to those men and women who carry the burden of injuries received while participating in direct combat and who deserve our recognition for the extra mile they have had to walk while serving this nation.

 

The signs were provided free of charge by the non-profit Omaha, Nebraska based group, Wounded Warriors Family Support.

 

Other locations are being scouted out in the city to install the signs, and eventually the spaces themselves will be painted purple to further enhance their visibility.  He also hopes to have a dedication ceremony for the parking spaces in the near future.

 

There are an estimated 1.8 million Purple Heart recipients, combat wounded service members who have transitioned back into civilian life.

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