Part of Judd Road in Monroe is expected to be closed through at least tomorrow because of a fuel oil spill that happened yesterday. Monroe Police say a fuel truck struck a tree around 9:30am, closing Judd between Hattertown Road and the Easton town line.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is cleaning the spill, which happened both on the road and off into the adjacent woods. The accident caused the trucks' 2,500 gallon oil tank to rupture. Approximately 380 gallons was recovered from the cargo tank, meaning about 1,770 gallons made its way to the ground. Lights and other equipment were brought in to allow work to continue overnight as crews remove contaminated soils.
DEEP officials say it doesn't appear that fuel spilled into the Pootatuck River, but crews will dig a ditch to protect the surface water from oil. Several homes in the area rely on private wells for drinking water. If a determination is made that the release of heating oil could impact those wells, DEEP officials say water quality tests will be conducted.
The trench has so far prevented fuel oil from reaching the river. In addition, fuel oil is being recaptured in a recovery well that was created.
Residents and emergency vehicles will have access to the residences in the area. The Easton Board of Education is working with the Dattco Bus Company to continue uninterrupted student pick up and drop off at stops.
Two local lawmakers are looking to help lake authorities in their efforts to fight invasive plants and animals.
The Environment Committee will consider Bill 5503 this week, An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species. Arconti, Brookfield Representative Stephen Harding and New Milford Senator Craig Miner want state law amended to divert a portion of the funds in the community investment account to fund lake authorities in their efforts to combat invasive plant and animal species.
The Candlewood Lake Authority has been battling Eurasian Water Milfoil, even with the introduction of sterile grass carp a few years ago. Now zebra mussels are becoming a threat to the lake's ecosystem. Arconti notes that municipalities are cash strapped so it's hard for them to increase their funding. He says this would be another route to get money to the CLA, without creating a new program.
Brookfield Police Department Sgt. Jeff Osuch has been working with K9 Argo for about six months. Brookfield Police thanked Albert Tarrab of Future Subnets, Inc., based in Ridgefield, and Brianna Ruocco for their donation of a Garmin GPS enabled training/tracking collar.
(Photos: Brookfield Police Department)
This collar will allow Sgt. Osuch to take Argo's training to the next level, since this GPS feature tracks Argo's exact location in real time. Osuch says this tracking is beneficial not only in the event that he and Argo become separated, but it can be used to record Argo's tracks as evidence in criminal cases he is used on.
Osuch says this collar will be beneficial for Argo's safety. It sends a signal to a handheld device with his exact locations.
There have been several cases, even in Connecticut, where the dogs gotten away from their handlers. He gave the common example of a dog searching on their own in the woods. Specifically in Connecticut, a Police K9 got hurt and it took officers a couple of hours to find him. In New York, a dog was lost for a couple of days when he chased a deer into the woods.
From a training aspect, Osuch says this GPS device will also be helpful. He could give the handheld to another officer, who would watch Osuch track Argo. If Osuch goes way off course the other officer could call his cell phone to correct course. Osuch would then be able to download the data and see where Argo's track went and where he went.
When tracking a criminal and they find evidence along the way, Osuch can mark the location on Argo's collar. He can then print out report to attach to a case file for court.
Osuch worked as a handler for 8.5 years with K9 Bruno, before the Department got Argo in June. Argo is a 2 year old Belgian Malinois that was born in the U.S. with European blood lines. Together Osuch and Argo hold Connecticut Police Work Dog Association & North American Police Work Dog Association certifications in tracking, suspect apprehension, evidence recovery and narcotic detection.
The legislature's Transportation Committee met yesterday for a public hearing about dozens of bills introduced this session, including one requiring new school buses to have seat belts. Wilton Senator Toni Boucher was concerned about young children not being able to unbuckle themselves if there was an emergency. She notes that that would require more help or staff time.
There is also disparity in the size of children using the same school buses.
Boucher was concerned about the unfunded mandate of requiring school buses model year 2019 or newer to be equipped with three-point lap and shoulder seat safety belts. The question she raised is how to convince school districts and busing companies about the need for this safety measure, weighed against other competing financial concerns.
The bill would also require passengers of a school bus to wear seat safety belts, if the vehicle is equipped with them.
A local lawmaker has submitted bills for consideration this General Assembly session. Danbury state Representative David Arconti says he spoke with CityCenter Director PJ Prunty about a concept that could help draw patrons downtown.
The General Law Committee today will consider bill 5730, An Act Concerning Self-Serve Alcoholic Liquor Machines.
Arconti wants general statutes amended to allow a permittee already authorized to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption to use an automated machine by an employee to dispense beer, wine and spirits upon activation of a payment card by the permittee. Someone 21 years or older must be recorded by the permittee in an electronic database and must be electronically linked to the payment card before they would be able to dispense alcoholic beverages from the automated machine. The automated machine could not dispense more than 32-ounces of beer, 10-ounces of wine or 3-ounces of spirits before the payment card must be reactivated.
He wants to talk with members of the Commerce Committee about bills geared toward job creation for younger people.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty called President Trump's refugee ban a stain on the nation's history. She also said the ban only offers an illusion of safety. Esty says the immigration ban is disastrous and a grave threat to national security because it will embolden ISIS's recruiting efforts, put our troops in danger, and weaken our standing in the world.
Esty called on her colleagues in Congress to work together to respond accordingly. She says she stands ready to provide assistance to any family in the 5th District endangered by these executive orders or is seeking additional information.
4th District Congressman Jim Himes called President Trump's executive order temporary ban of refugees and immigrants inhumane. Himes says this undermines the United States' national security and the country's moral authority while causing even more suffering for those fleeing war-torn regions or oppressive regimes.
Himes added that this action has brought the dark dreams of anti-Muslim hate rhetoric to life. He says he will do all he can to stop this action, including making sure the voices of all his constituents are heard, examining legal actions, and organizing his colleagues in Congress to do the same.
The attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia are issuing a joint statement condemning as unconstitutional President Donald Trump's ban. The attorneys general, including George Jepson of Connecticut, say that religious liberty has been a bedrock principle of the country and no president can change that truth. The attorneys general say they expect Trump's executive order to be struck down, but in the meantime they'll work to make sure as few as possible suffer as a result of the order.
Nationally, there is a trend of school enrollment decreases because of changing demographics including a falling birth rate. Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the town has a level enrollment, if not slightly up.
Over the next 10 to 20 years, school enrollment in Bethel is not expected to go down. While the town won't see a big change in enrollment, Knickerbocker says Bethel won't experience the decrease happening in surrounding towns.
The Board of Education studied the enrollment numbers carefully, and updated them several times in anticipation of school renovation projects. The Board of Selectmen recently signed off on a plan to have the Board of Ed continue working with an architect to draw up renovation plans for Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools.
Johnson School was built in 1980 to house grades 4 and 5. Rockwell School, which was built in 1971, was renovated in 1977. Rockwell is one of two schools in Bethel to teach kindergarten through third graders.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says she's been learning more about the future of Transportation in the briefings she gets as a member of the Transportation Committee. She says the technological transformation is going to be staggering. Esty says the so-called "uberization" and driverless vehicles could be transformative in how vehicles are moving. Maybe not over the next 5 years, but over 30 years Esty says this will be highly disruptive.
Esty wants to focus on what that means for smart investments now that will still make sense decades from now. She questioned whether it makes sense to do massive infrastructure investment if the road beds will have to include sensors that allow for the safe movement of driverless vehicles.
She also gave the example of if trucks are driven remotely, that could be detrimental to the three million truck drivers currently employed. But she says it could lead to the roads being used more effectively. Esty says there are a lot of pluses and minuses in this new world.
Getting into the world of science fiction, Esty says some ideas may not be that far off. She talked about something called a hyper-loop. She's been meeting with people from California about the concept similar to the pneumatic tubes that used to be used in banks. Instead of putting papers in a tube, it would be people in these pods. Esty called it mind blowing, but there are people now working on this.
Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle, who attended the discussion, joked that it's like The Jetsons. Esty said she wouldn't want to be the first one to volunteer to go into the pod and go at the speed of sound, but that the concept is amazing.
Danbury area lawmakers are identifying priorities for improving train service in the region. Brookfield state Representative Steve Harding says connecting the Danbury branch of Metro North to the Harlem line would help move cars off the road. He notes that a lot of people in his district cross the state border to use the Southeast train station.
He also wants to find a way to electrify the Danbury branch line.
The last time there was a cost estimate for electrification was five or six years ago. The cost estimate at that time was $360 million. Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle says she would think it's north of $400 million now. The line was de-electrified in the 1950s or 1960s. She says there is the potential to extend the branch line further north once its electrified again.
Lavielle noted that this region is an economic driver for the state, but that property values are going down because you can't get here from there. For her constituents, many of them must take the train for their commute and are a captive audience. Because the branch line is not electrified, Lavielle says it's less dependable and less frequent.
Another problem she sees is how much passengers pay for train tickets, and how much is not subsidized by the state. That cost can fluctuate without giving commuters additional services. The cost structure is also unstable and not clear in the state's contract with Metro North.
There's been some discussion in the last few weeks about freedom of speech, even if you disagree with what is being expressed. There's also been calls for transparency from elected officials. The Congress though has adopted rules that would sanction members for using electronic recording devices on the House floor.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says there was talk last year of potential sanctions against members who participated in the sit-in to protest refusal to take up gun safety legislation. Esty says they knew they were not permitted to use electronic recording devices, but wanted to get their message out to constituents. The sit-in was led by civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis and Connecticut Congressman John Larson.
Esty says it's worth considering new ways for government to be as transparent as possible, especially as technology makes that possible. Esty notes that technology is changing and people expect more candid interaction with their elected representative. She says younger constituents, students specifically, have come to rely on Facebook Live, Periscope and other video streaming services to keep up with events.
The fine taken out of a member's paycheck is $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for the second offense of using an electronic recording device on the House floor.
The foreclosure process has started for the Matrix Corporate Center. The 1.2 million square foot office building on Danbury's west side was the subject of court documents filed in Danbury this week. The Newstimes reports that the owner of the building defaulted on an $85 million loan and the mortgage holder is seeking payment on the outstanding amount.
The building could be sold to a third party, or Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas could take ownership.
The Matrix Group real estate investment firm bought the building in 2009, but the firm's principal owner died in a car accident at the end of 2015. The published report says that all parties are looking for an amicable resolution to ensure current tenants will receive uninterrupted services.
The building's largest tenant, Praxair, moved out last year. The facility is on the former Union Carbide property.
Monroe residents have approved spending $3.8 million for five new fire trucks for the Monroe, Stepney and Stevenson Volunteer Fire departments. Monroe Volunteer Fire Department officials says these new trucks, including a tower-ladder, engine-rescue, engine-tanker, engine, and tanker continue on the significant progress the Town made in 2009 when six new fire trucks were purchased.
They says the five trucks will replace six older trucks that have served the town well over the last two to three decades. The Departments thanked the volunteer truck planning committees, the Town Council, Board of Finance and town residents.
Fire department officials said increasing maintenance and repair costs along with technological advancements in firefighting equipment and techniques called for change. Stepney will be replacing two engines, one 18 years old, one 17 years old, and a 23 year old rescue. An engine-tanker and an engine-rescue truck will replace all three and officials say will better protect the residents.
The new fire trucks should be in Monroe sometime next year.
New Milford Mayor David Gronbach has written an open letter to the Board of Education about tax relief and the sale of the East Street building. He said in light of a 174-thousand dollar loss in state funding, he expects more state cuts in the coming months affecting the municipal and local school budgets.
But Gronbach says there is an opportunity to offset the anticipated reduction in state funding.
He says moving the Board of Ed offices to the former Pettibone School and selling the East Street building would bring in money to the capital account. He called for the Board of Ed to use money currently in their capital account for the move to Pettibone so that they could outfit the building in ways they see fit.
Gronbach recognized that there are some who want to stay in the East Street building, but pointed to ADA violations and work needed to rehabilitate the facility.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Immigrant students without legal status in the United States are again urging Connecticut lawmakers to make them eligible for institutional financial assistance at state-run colleges and universities.
It marks the fourth year lawmakers will consider legislation making immigrant students eligible for different forms of financial aid funded by tuition payments from all students. Democratic New London Rep. Chris Soto says it's ``unfair and egregious'' that immigrant students can't apply for the funds.
23-year-old Julie Lee of Danbury recently graduated from SUNY Purchase College in New York. Lee learned she did not have legal status when she was a senior in high school, making her ineligible for financial assistance.
She says the tuition assistance would help her parents, who are now struggling financially to pay her sister's tuition.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty met with state lawmakers and the head of a regional planning group Thursday in Danbury to talk about improving roads and rail. She says there are places for agreement between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and areas to work together with President Trump.
She has a new leadership role on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Esty is now a Vice Chair, a new position created this term.
While in Danbury, Esty discussed the Northeast Corridor rail area. She says the estimates are $3 trillion to move the country's infrastructure into the 21st century. Esty also talked about the benefits of and the challenges for bringing high speed rail through the 5th District. She notes that the current path is along the shoreline, but the shoreline lawmakers don't want it there. The coast is complicated for high speed rail because of the curves and expensive real estate.
Even if the Danbury Line of Metro North was electrified again, officials from the Danbury Railway Museum said the ride to connect with the New Haven Line in South Norwalk would only be 6 minutes faster.
WestCOG Executive Director Francis Pickering says infrastructure projects have been delayed so long, that reviving them has led to soaring inflation costs. He notes that Governor Malloy's "Let's Go CT" plan is laudable, but with the state's economic problems, it doesn't seem feasible. While the Interstate 84 Waterbury expansion project is nearing completion, and the I-84 Danbury project is in the pipeline, that just moves the traffic chokepoint into New York. Pickering called for working with New York lawmakers to also make improvements.
As for the Danbury branch line, Pickering says it would be great to improve it, but then the main line won't be able to handle the increase.
Wilton state Representative Gail Lavielle and Brookfield Representative Steve Harding were also on hand for the event.
The 3rd annual Hat City Ball is being held tonight in Danbury. This coincides with the 75th year of the Danbury Museum and Historical Society. Danbury Museum Executive Director Brigid Guertin says this year is a celebration of the past, and a look to the future. Most of the work the museum does is about preserving past, but also about educating the community about the City's history.
The Friends of the Danbury Museum group is honoring Mayor Mark Boughton for his preservation and restoration efforts and his work on behalf of the community to keep Danbury's history alive. Guertin says purchasing the Octagon House and adapt it's use for City purposes is a great example.
The money raised at the Hat City Ball goes to the year long public programming offered at little to no expense to the community. Most of that is school programming from 3rd grade through high schoolers.
Another feature of the black-tie optional event is that people wear hats from different time periods to honor Danbury's hat manufacturing history.
Members of Connecticut's Congressional delegation are weighing in on immigration issues.
4th District Congressman Jim Himes is speaking out about President Trump’s executive orders related to immigration, border control and sanctuary cities. Himes called the border wall an extreme idea that won’t provide more security,. Himes says extreme enforcement will likely lead to raids in cities and families being torn apart, returning people back to dangerous countries with no protection. Himes says the executive orders, coupled with one expected today to turn away refugees, are antithetical to our core values as Americans.
When it comes to so-called sanctuary cities, 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty says stripping funds from cities whose local police don’t waste their own money locking up law-abiding immigrant families will make communities throughout Connecticut less safe. She says the border wall won’t actually help border security and called it a political gimmick.
Esty says the President is trying to initiate one of the worst crackdowns on immigrant families in American history – going even beyond dark chapters in the past when political leaders punished immigrants for their own failure to find solutions to our country’s challenges.
The General Assembly committees are making their way through bills to pass on to the full legislature. Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says he will continue to fight proposals to install tolls in Connecticut. He says he has heard his constituents loud and clear that they don't want this money grab targeted at residents and workers on the state's borders.
He says it's no surprise that the legislators proposing tolls want to put them in someone else's backyard. McLachlan says it's always easier to make someone else pay the bill and face the congestion on local roads from people trying to avoid tolls.
He also cited a 2015 study about the impact of tolls in Connecticut submitted to the Department of Transportation in 2015 that found that there was a significant capital cost associated with deploying all-electronic tolling.
The legislature's Regulation Review Committee unanimously rejected a proposal to ban walk-ins at state parks. Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey said this would be unfairly applied to all parks, preventing people who live within walking distance from entering on foot. The parks cited were Wooster Mountain State Park, Silver Sands and Sherwood Island.
But New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman says the ban would have only been after state parks reach their capacity limit. She says stopping walk ins after parks have closed to cars is about keeping parks safe once they reach capacity.
Chapman is hoping the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can write a new regulations for parks where there has been a specific safety issue to see how a ban works.
Squantz Pond routinely closes early on weekends in the summer because of a car limit put in place several years ago in response to a spate of drownings. Visitors looking to use the park after the 250 car capacity is reached park around town and walk along the curved and busy road.
The approved regulations adds three parks to the list of places where alcohol is banned, advances the date when leashed dogs are permitted on park beaches from Nov. 1 to Oct. 1 and formalizes the understanding between the state and the three towns surrounding Lake Waramaug about the size of boats allowed on lake waters, as well as ensuring the boats don‘t have invasive plants on them before entering the water.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities has released a set of recommendations for the General Assembly to consider as the state works to close a $1.4 billion projected deficit in the next two fiscal years. CCM, headed by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, is calling for lowering the state sales tax, but adding a local sales tax. The recommendations also include having municipalities charge utility companies for use of public-right of ways, eliminate the health insurance premium tax on municipalities and give municipalities the option to tack on a 1-percent local sales tax on restaurant bills.
The state Department of Administrative Services is asking a legislative committee to remove the Region 12 School District proposed Agriscience STEM Academy project from the Priority List, to allow more time to explore the possibility of regional alternatives. Commissioner Melody Currey said in a letter to the School Construction Committee that the projected enrollment numbers cannot be validated. The General Assembly will decide in the coming months about funding 80-percent of the project as various committees vote on a school construction bill. The Region 12 Board of Education was slated to vote this week on approving more funding to make the project shovel ready, but the meeting was cancelled due to weather conditions.
Wilton Police are encouraging people to sign up for a presentation being held next month entitled "Don't be Prey, Be Empowered". February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force is partnering with Team PeaceWorks, the Wilton High School PTA, Wilton Public Library Association, and The Wilton Youth Counsel for this program, for grades 9 and up.
The program will include an abbreviated viewing of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary film about the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States. The viewing will be followed by a panel discussion with local experts on consent, reporting and resources.
Information pamphlets will be made available at the event, which will be held February 15th from 7 to 8pm at Wilton Library. Registration is required for the free event.
New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman was at the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon for a hearing about a proposal to ban walk-ins at State Parks. She has fought for the proposal from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, citing safety concerns at Squantz Pond State Park. The ban would be statewide, if approved.
Chapman said on Twitter that Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey fought against the ban.
The entrance to Squantz Pond is along a curved and busy roadway. Squantz Pond routinely closes early on weekends in the summer because they've reached the car limit put in place several years ago in response to a spate of drownings. Visitors looking to use the park after the 250 car capacity is reached are also parking around town and walking along the road.
Chapman has been calling for a ban on walk-ins since a new Park Ranger took charge of the park. The former Park Ranger would routinely turn people away, even though walk ins weren't expressly forbidden.
Concerns have also been raised by officials in municipalities hosting Scantic River State Park and Rocky Neck State Park.
The proposed regulations also adds three parks to the list of places where alcohol is banned, advances the date when leashed dogs are permitted on park beaches from Nov. 1 to Oct. 1 and formalizes the understanding between the state and the three towns surrounding Lake Waramaug about the size of boats allowed on lake waters, as well as ensuring the boats don‘t have invasive plants on them before entering the water.
New Milford Mayor David Gronbach is providing an update on asbestos testing done at the former John Pettibone School. He says based on the preliminary testing, no asbestos was found in the sheetrock or ceiling tiles.
The old Board of Education decommissioned Pettibone as a school in 2015, taking materials deemed valuable to the respective schools where teachers were re-assigned. Some wall-mounted fixtures were also removed, leaving holes in the walls.
Cosmetic work has been done to spackle holes, but Gronbach says the contractor halted work to make sure they were not disturbing asbestos. He expects work to resume soon to repair the damage.
Gronbach says this means the town can also move forward with plans for Town Offices and Community Center to move into the former school building.
New York State Police have released this week's Cold Case Tuesday file. The featured case is a nearly five decade old homicide of a Pawling man. New York State Police say 49-year old Emile Zaniboni was killed at his family-owned Cattle Car Restaurant in early January, 1971.
His wife and daughter discovered him murdered inside after they went to the eatery after he failed to return home.
The restaurant appeared to be in disarray; bar stools had been turned over and coin boxes had been removed from the juke box and cigarette machines. Zaniboni died of multiple gun shot wounds.
His death continues to be actively investigated by New York State Police. Numerous leads have been followed over the years, but the homicide has never been solved. Anyone with information is asked to contact the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Dover by calling (845) 677-7300 or (845)877-3660. Please refer to SJS # 3025018. All calls may be kept confidential.
A committee of the Danbury City Council is considering a lease with Benny's Cafe for a trial period of 6 months to operate the cafe next to Danbury Library. During their meeting last week, Mr. and Mrs. Benitez said their son, Brendan, would own the business. The couple, who owns a Nardelli's location on Newtown Road, would be the managing entity.
Brendan Benitez was not at the meeting, citing a scheduling conflict.
Committee Chair Councilman Vinny DeGillio raised questions about how that business arrangement would work. The committee also wanted more information how how this business would work, in conjunction with their franchise agreement.
The cafe has been vacant since February when the previous operator left to pursue other opportunities. The new proposal calls for the half a year trial period to start on day 1 of opening to get a fair assessment of the cafe's success. The owner is proposing to then pay $500 a month in rent, which would include utilities.
The menu would include bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches and soups.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Some Connecticut lawmakers are working to stiffen the penalties for assaulting and threatening police officers and judges.
Rep. J.P. Sredzinski is proposing a bill that would make it a hate crime to assault or "verbally attack" police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians because of their occupations. The Monroe Republican says the legislature needs to send a message that Connecticut condemns attacks on first responders.
Several other bills would increase the penalties for assaulting "reasonably identifiable" off-duty police officers and correctional officers. Another would increase the penalty for threatening state judges.
State law already makes it a felony to assault police officers and other first responders. The crime carries one to 10 years in prison.
WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A children's triathlon program created by the Connecticut family of a Sandy Hook shooting victim is expanding.
A ceremony is scheduled Thursday in Waterbury to sign a formal agreement that will allow for 20 Race4Chase Youth triathlon programs in Connecticut, Rhode Island and South Carolina next summer.
The parents of 7-year-old Chase Kowalski founded the program. The boy had competed in his first youth triathlon - a 20-yard swim, half-mile bike ride and third-of-a-mile run - just months before he was killed along with 25 others at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December 2012.
The free day camps expanded to eight sites in 2015 and 14 last year, including one in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Counselors teach the campers how to swim, ride a bike and the basics of running.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, 4th District Congressman Jim Himes and 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty participated in the Women's March on Washington Saturday. Senator Chris Murphy opened his home to marchers. There were several buses that left from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. and to a sister event in New York City. Esty says she stood strong with people who are concerned that their rights not be taken away and that progress toward greater equality is made. She said it was also important to show support for the same access to health care that everyone has.
Connecticut Students for a Dream had a contingency of undocumented women attending the Women's March in Washington. 80 buses from Stamford, Danbury, Hartford, UConn Storrs, Norwalk, and New Haven descended on the capital with a message of unity. The groups stood together to protect the rights of women, people of color and for economic justice. Angelica Idrovo of Danbury said she marched to honor a heritage of fearless women.
Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill joined the Women's March in New York City,. She says wether it's Connecticut, New York and Washington, it's time to be heard about the issues that define this country. Merrill said we must be forceful in defense of women, immigrants, education, the healthcare of all Americans. The Eleanor’s Legacy organization invited her to join the march. Merrill said as much as the inauguration is a pivotal historical event, the right to dissent is equally relevant at this moment in history.
Governor Dannel Malloy and Comptroller Kevin Lembo participated in the Women’s March on Hartford. The local event was a sister rally of the national Women’s March on Washington – a peaceful demonstration in support of the protection of the rights, safety, and health of people and families across the country. Lembo said that Connecticut knows how to rally for rights, and noted that he joined with thousands of others called to action.
Families may have noticed changes in an elderly loved one over the holidays that raise questions about his or her ability to live independently. Every January, Assisted Living Services co-founder Ron D’Aquila says they see a jump in phone calls inquiring about in-home care.
He says there is a way for loved ones to care for the family member as a credentialed provider. There is a relatively new “CT Adult Family Living /Foster Caregiver Program” providing financial compensation. The Department of Social Services added the Caregiver program as a new service under the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders and the Personal Care Assistance Waiver Program in 2013.
Under the program, the caregiver can receive a tax-free stipend of up to $500 per week/$26,288 per year.
In order to qualify, applicants must be a Connecticut resident, 65 years or older, who meets financial eligibility criteria. The applicant must be at risk of nursing home placement needing assistance with critical personal care such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medications, toileting.
D’Aquila says the state has recognized the unique contribution family caregivers provide to prevent people from needing institutional care. Assisted Living Services provides oversight to caregivers--including orientation, education, training, and on-going support. D’Aquila notes that most people prefer to remain in their own home. He says this program not only reduces the State’s budget strain by reducing the number of residents in an institutional care facility, it gives a family the financial freedom to care for their loved-ones themselves.
Bethel officials have been working with an architect to draw up renovation plans for Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools. Schools officials asked the Board of Selectmen last week to hire Connecticut-based Perkins Eastman for the next phase of the design for the projects and help make application to the state for partial reimbursement.
A study about possible renovations was conducted in 2010 and found that $50 million to $60 million worth of work was needed at the two schools. A special town meeting will be held soon, asking residents to approve $150,000 for initial design work.
Johnson School was built in 1980 to house grades 4 and 5. Rockwell School, which was built in 1971, was renovated in 1977. Rockwell is one of two schools in Bethel to teach kindergarten through third graders.
Among the areas in need of upgrade are the electrical systems, heating systems and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the bathrooms. Possible asbestos also needs to be addressed. School officials are aiming for a referendum on the full project next fall.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is striking an optimistic tone in her thoughts this Inauguration Day. Esty says this is so much good and important work that the American people are counting on all their elected officials to do together, and it's time to put country first.
She called it an awe inspiring and solemn occasion, and found the sight very inspiring.
Esty says it was nice to not have it be as cold as it has been in the past, but noted that it did start to rain as soon as President Trump started speaking. She was sitting with a Democratic colleague, in front some Republicans she entered Congress with. There was some good natured joking about the rain, with some saying that it represented crying. Others said it was tears of joy. Esty says how you view it, depends on what you bring to the table. But she says at the end of the day, everyone hopes for the best for this country.
Esty says her mission is to find solutions to the problems families in northwestern Connecticut are facing. When fulfilling that mission means working with President Trump, Esty says she will work with him. When fulfilling that mission means opposing President Trump, she says she will be as loud and forceful as she needs to be.
She offered some advice for the new President, calling for today to be the day that President Trump swears off Twitter feuds and personal attacks and starts reaching out to Americans from all walks of life in search of common ground. She also called on him to follow through on his pledge to work together to revitalize infrastructure, improve care for veterans, and promote American manufacturing.
The Women's Center has been presented with a $3,500 donation from The Ridgefield Chorale. The Chorale raised the money at their annual “Holiday Pops Concert”, held at the Ridgefield Playhouse in December. Each year, the Chorale chooses an area nonprofit as the beneficiary of their show. Women’s Center officials said they are grateful to have been graciously chosen to receive this year’s proceeds.
The Ridgefield Chorale is a contemporary music singing group whose more than 70 members hail from Fairfield County Connecticut and Westchester County New York. They perform two major concerts a year and a holiday concert.
The Women’s Center provides free and confidential services to prevent or lessen the trauma associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and other major life transitions to thousands of women, children and men annually. The programs serve Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Sherman, and Washington.
Ridgefield state Representative John Frey is in Washington, D.C. for the Presidential Inauguration, ending a visit to the capital for a meeting of the Republican National Committee. Frey also attended one of President George W Bush's inauguration.
He told the Ridgefield Press that he attended yesterday afternoon's concert, today's swearing in, the parade and will attend the Freedom Ball, one of three official balls this weekend. Frey said the campaign is over and now Connecticut's all Democratic Congressional delegation put politics aside for the day by attending.
Senator Richard Blumenthal attended this afternoon's Presidential inauguration ceremony. He released a statement shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Blumenthal says the peaceful transition of power today is the hallmark of this country's democracy. He said that a dedication to such core Constitutional principles commits him to continue to fight for what is right and necessary in the days ahead.
Blumenthal will attend the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow.
The new Northern Fairfield County Probate Court Judge is holding a question and answer session for residents. The court serves about 80,000 people in Bethel, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield. Former Bethel Probate Court Judge Daniel O'Grady won election in November to the post. The court deals with wills and administration of estates, appointing guardians for persons of intellectual disability, and other matters. The session on Wednesday will be held at 7pm at the Bethel Municipal Center.
Some Greater Danbury area residents are in Washington D.C. Among them are Danbury City attorney Bob Yamin and his wife, Probate Court Judge Dianne Yamin. This is the 3rd inauguration they have attended. Bob Yamin was a delegate to the GOP convention. The couple attended the concert on the National Mall by the Lincoln Memorial. They will be among the crowds this afternoon attending the swearing in ceremony and the inaugural parade. The Yamins have been invited to the Freedom Ball, one of two official dances tonight. Dianne Yamin says as they've been walking around this week, seeing a lot of American Flags. She says there's a positive and upbeat mood, noting that it feels very patriotic and jubilant. Yamin added that there's a lot of visible security.
Brookfield is making radon testing kits available to residents during this, National Radon Awareness month. Radon gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless. It can seep into a home through cracks in the foundation, loose fitting vents and pipes which penetrate the foundation and through gaps between basement walls and floors.
In cooperation with the Radon Program of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Brookfield Health Department is making free Home Testing kits available, for use by Brookfield residents in their homes. They are being offered on a first-come first-serve basis at the Health Department office in Brookfield Town Hall.
Radon gas is a leading cause of Lung Cancer in the United States, second only to smoking and second-hand smoke. It accounts for approximately 20% of lung cancers detected annually.
The Monroe Police K9 is retiring. K-9 Gunner signed off for the last time at 11pm Wednesday. Gunner was with the Monroe Police Department for five and a half years. He has been with his handler, Officer Jeffrey Loomis, since June 15th, 2011 and he's worked on many noteworthy cases. Last year Gunner was rushed to the veterinary hospital with a life threatening illness and he was able to return to work just weeks later. Monroe Police say Gunner will be sorely missed by the men and women of the department and they wished him a happy and long retirement.
The nation's chief railroad regulator is using technology to make rail crossings safer as she prepares to leave office. Sarah Feinberg says technology companies are beginning to add crossing warnings to their GPS devices and mapping applications.
Feinberg has spent her two years in office pressing the railroad industry to hasten the installation of automatic speed controls and recently urged railroads to test engineers for sleep apnea.
Her tenure ends Friday.
She had been on the job for just three weeks when a Metro North train slammed into an SUV stopped on tracks in Valhalla, killing six people. The train was headed from Grand Central Terminal to the Brewster area. One of the passengers killed in the crash was 41-year old Aditya Tomar, of Danbury.
It was not the first deadly crash at the site: A truck driver died after a Metro-North train struck the vehicle at the same Commerce Street crossing in 1984, according to Federal Railroad Administration records. The driver didn't stop before the collision.
The February 2015 crash highlighted a problem that has plagued the railroad industry since the invention of the automobile: the potential for danger wherever tracks and roads meet.
Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Tuesday questioned President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Among the questions that Murphy asked during his five minute allotment of time was whether she supports President-elect Trump’s pledge to ban gun-free zones in schools.
DeVos responded: "I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies."
Murphy said he was dumbfounded to hear her support Trump’s rollback of gun-free zones in schools and fail to say anything at all about the danger of having guns in classrooms. He said that he was shaken to the core by her answer, and so should every American parent. Murphy later said it's not enough to think school shootings are sad, because everyone thinks that.
This part of his line of questioning was picked up by the late night shows, including The Daily Show. Host Trevor Noah said that he called the school she referenced. They responded that they have a fence and bear spray, and that works fine.
The next step in a property assessment appeal process starts tomorrow in Brookfield. Last November, Brookfield property owners received a notice of their new property assessment. At that time, anyone with questions concerning the revaluation process or the data collected on their property had an opportunity to discuss their property value with the Town's revaluation contractor, Vision Government Solutions.
The informal hearings which took place in late November and during December were the first step in the appeal process if a property owner felt their assessment was inaccurate. A follow-up notice was mailed in late December to those owners, showing any change to the assessment.
The October revaluation was done to equalize property values throughout Brookfield. Current assessments represent 70% of October 1, 2016 Fair Market Value. All assessment appeals information must be supported by 2016 market data. That data is available on lists at the Assessor's Office in Town Hall.
The next round of appeals, to the Board of Assessment Appeals, is a formal process undertaken annually by state statute. The Board will meet during March to hear formal appeals on the revalued Grand List. Appeal forms will be available at the Assessor's Office in Brookfield Town Hall starting January 20. All appeal forms must be received by the Assessor's Office by the close of business on February 17th. Petitioners will be notified of the time and date of their hearing by the Assessor's Office.
4th District Congressman Jim Himes says despite some grave concerns he has about the coming Trump administration, he will attend Friday's inauguration ceremony. Himes says he will not be there to celebrate a "cynical new President", but to witness a peaceful transfer of power.
He says he will also be there as visible evidence that power is shared in America, and that President Trump will be checked and balanced by hundreds of people on that inaugural stage. Himes, who has been outspoken against President-elect Trump, says Trump has not shown the temperament, integrity or wisdom necessary to run a small town.
He then went on to quote President John F. Kennedy, who said on his inauguration 55 years ago: "only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink responsibility. I welcome it."
Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek has decided not to seek re-election in November.
He said in a written statement that for 28 years his family has been by his side during a marvelous era in their lives. Before becoming First Selectman, Vavrek served as a member of the Parks and Rec Commission , the Town Council, Board of Finance, the Republican Town Committee and various community organizations. Vavrek says much has changed in the town, region, state, country and world over the last three decades and fresh ideas must be developed and listened to.
Monroe Town Council member Ken Kellogg has announced his intention to run for First Selectman.
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) The mother of a child killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and a Connecticut State Police trooper who investigated the incident are leading a safety training session for school workers in Frederick.
The daylong event Wednesday is the second of three regional meetings that the Maryland Center for School Safety is sponsoring this week around the state. The first was held Tuesday in Cambridge, and the third is scheduled Thursday in Annapolis.
The sessions feature Michele Gay, whose daughter Josephine was among 20 children and six educators killed by a gunman at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Gay is co-founder of an organization dedicated to improving school safety.
Connecticut Trooper First Class Dan Jewiss is offering a law-enforcement perspective on lessons learned from the tragedy.
The Brookfield Commission on Aging is looking for volunteers. The Brookfield Commission on Aging proposes and evaluates programs and services for older citizens in an effort to enhance the lives of present and future generations of the town's seniors. The commission helps Brookfield officials in the development, initiation, coordination and implementation of those programs and services. The Commission is specifically looking for a volunteer to help schedule FISH rides. The program provides rides for ambulatory seniors to medical appointments. The scheduler listens to voice mail messages received by email and matches volunteer drivers with requests. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Van Transportation Program, offering rides to the senior center in Danbury, is expanding. Danbury recently purchased a new service van for the Senior Center’s Van Transportation Program. City officials will hold a brief dedication ceremony at Elmwood Hall Thursday afternoon for the van. Director of Elderly Services Susan Tomanio says the new service bus for Elmwood Hall enables them to provide more rides than in the past, as the capacity to transport has been increased. The current service van holds 8 seats, while the new van has the capacity for 10. Schedules are given out to riders created to optimize use and allow each senior to attend the events of their choosing at the center. The senior center made 5,624 one-way trips with their service van last year.
Ahead of Friday's inauguration of President-elect Trump a member of the Connecticut Congressional delegation is looking for common ground with the country's next leader. 4th District Democratic Congressman Jim Himes is hoping that because Donald Trump is a builder, he will follow through on his interest in making a commitment to upgrading the nation's infrastructure. Himes says anyone who lives in Southwest Connecticut knows how important it is to upgrade the bridges, highways, railways and the airports in New York and Hartford. Himes says even though Trump is a Republican, if he moves forward with that work, they will be able to find common ground to work with him.
Some rule changes could be coming to the Candlewood Lake Authority asking that member towns pay their contributions to the budget by a certain date. This proposal comes as New Fairfield has an outstanding balance. In order to preserve services and programs, the CLA will ask Danbury for an advance of their quarterly dues if New Fairfield doesn't pay their share.
The Newstimes reports that the amendment, which could be voted on next month, would stop delegates from towns in bad standing from participating in the meetings. The published report quoted New Fairfield delegate John Hodge in saying that it would be illegal to restrict members from speaking at public meetings.
New Fairfield officials say the town has made monthly payments and intends to pay the full amount, but that they want more information on budget discrepancies and about contributions to the educational fund.
In the past couple of years, New Fairfield officials have called for changes and transparency from the CLA in their budgeting because of alleged mismanagement. Donations are now separated from other revenue.
LAS VEGAS (AP) The gun industry's leading lobbying group and a foundation devoted to preventing suicide are partnering to try to reduce suicides over the next decade.
The Newtown-based National Sports Shooting Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention launched four pilot-programs last summer and are now rolling out the initiative nationally. Two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicide.
The goal of the partnership is to reduce the number of suicides by 10,000 in the next decade. The groups have created brochures that will educate gun dealers and ranges on ways first to recognize warning signs and then to prevent the person from accessing a firearm until they are able to recover from their illness.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Monroe state Rep. J.P. Sredzinski, a public safety dispatch supervisor, knows firsthand the challenges of fielding misdirected 911 emergency calls from cellphone users.
While some calls are easily rerouted to the correct dispatch center, others become tricky when the person isn't sure where he or she is located and the call has been routed through the nearest cellphone tower that may be in another community.
"They don't know where they are. You don't know where they are," said Sredzinski, who works in Stratford. He said calls have to be transferred to another emergency call center numerous times each day.
"Dispatchers do spend valuable time on the phone," said the Republican lawmaker.
Recently named the new top House Republican on the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee, Sredzinski has submitted legislation that requires 911 calls to be routed to the nearest "public safety answering point," a 24-hour emergency call center. Sredzinski acknowledged he's unsure whether such legislation is absolutely necessary or possible, given the technological challenges, but said he wants to bring the issue to light.
"It's something that needs to be addressed," he said, expressing frustration that "we live in in a society where, with a phone app, Domino's knows exactly where you are" but not a 911 dispatcher. He noted that California lawmakers last year passed legislation requiring a comprehensive statewide review of that state's 911 routing decision-making process.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, an estimated 70 percent of 911 calls are placed from wireless phones. The FCC notes how the phones are mobile and therefore not associated with a fixed location like a landline phone, when the caller's number and address automatically appears on the 911 operator's screen.
"While the location of the cell site closest to the 911 caller may provide a general indication of the caller's location, that information is not always specific enough for rescue personnel to deliver assistance to the caller quickly," the FCC notes on its website.
Of the nearly 2.2 million emergency calls made in Connecticut last year, state records show 332,287 were made using a traditional phone line, 119,66 using an internet-based phone service and more than 1.7 million using a wireless device.
Monroe Police Chief John Salvatore, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said his department has had a few instances in which it was difficult to determine where a 911 caller was located. He said he welcomes the legislation if there is something that can be done.
"We spend a little bit of time trying to identify the location of a caller and that has delayed our response, but thankfully it's not a life-threatening thing," he said. "But how many times can you roll the dice?"
The FCC has been working on the issue of transitioning 911 services from landline only to wireless and cellular technologies since 1996. According to an April 2015 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the first phase focused on allowing emergency dispatchers to view a wireless caller's number and identify the cell tower nearest to the caller's phone. The second phase is supposed to increase the accuracy of the caller's location by providing their longitude and latitude.
This comes amid efforts to also expand the number of public safety answering points that can accept 911 calls via text messaging, an initiative known as Next Generation 911. Connecticut is among the states pursuing such an upgrade.
Bethel officials haven't heard much, but area aware that some residents are hearing what sound like loud explosions or firecrackers. Police were dispatched once or twice, but they have been unable to locate any evidence. Bethel officials haven't found a reason for these sounds.
There was a report Thursday night. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the investigating officer did hear another boom of some kind a distance away and saw a flash on the horizon behind the trees. The officer went seeking out a cause, but couldn't find anything.
Knickerbocker says it could be a transformer exploding, but that usually that results in a power outage. That hasn't been the case after these incidents. He is speculating that it could be someone with left over fireworks.
Most of the comments about these sounds have been made on Facebook, and Knickerbocker says it's not widespread. But he added that people are curious to find out what it is because it sometimes frightens pets. The booms are not a figment of people's imagination, but they haven't identified a cause.
The exit 6 westbound off ramp in Danbury will eventually be aligned with Padanaram Avenue, where the new Starbucks building is located. When construction work is finished, the whole intersection will be realigned for a better flow of traffic.
State Department of Transportation Project Manager Charles Murad says crews have been out there at least twice in the last month to repaint the lines on the road. But he says they can't get the paint to adhere and dry in these weather conditions, it just flakes off quicker in winter.
It will still be months before the Route 37/North Street/Exit 6 widening project in Danbury is completed. Murad says utility relocation took longer than anticipated. They are hoping to finish by this winter. But he notes that it does depend on weather conditions and if crews come across any thing that unforseen in the original contract drawings.
He has heard the complaints about traffic. The traffic light signals are timed now to clear the exit 6 westbound off ramp first. If cars back up onto the highway, that creates a big safety problem. Murad says drivers can help by taking alternate routes, alleviating some of the congestion.
During the winter shut down period, the DOT plans to work on the concrete retaining wall in the North Street Shopping Center parking lot.
There will be a traffic shift in Ridgefield because of a bridge construction project. Ridgefield Police say travel lanes on Route 35, Danbury Road, will go into a new construction configuration beginning Monday. Northbound traffic will be directed over the temporary bridge while southbound traffic will be directed onto a shifted southbound lane. The southern Fox Hill driveway will be used as an entrance only.
Special elections have been announced to fill three vacancies in the General Assembly. On February 28th residents who live in the 32nd Senate District will have to vote on a new state Senator. The District consists entirely of Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Oxford, Roxbury, Southbury, Washington, Watertown, and Woodbury, and portions of Middlebury and Seymour. Republican Rob Kane won reelection in November, but chose not to be sworn into office and vacancies were declared. Kane is applying to be a Republican state auditor.
New Milford's Mayor is answering questions about free sand that used to be available to residents in the winter at the Public Works Department. David Gronbach says Public Works decided this witner to discontinue the free sand pile, because $12,000 to $20,000 worth of sand was being lost.
Public Works officials described the situation to him. They said that sand was made available on an honor system in recognition that sidewalks need to be maintained by residents and business owners. But the department says in recent years, use of the sand was put toward private property not benefitting the public at large. Some people were reportedly seen loading pick up trucks with the sand.
Gronbach says people can request a 70-pound bag from Public Works, and it will be provided to them. He called it a reasonable compromise.
Danbury Public Schools have appointed a new Director of Student Services. Kelly Truchsess has been named the district’s director of Student Services. As director, she will oversee the district’s special education programming, in addition to the provision of related services by school psychologists, social workers, counselors, and occupational and physical therapists.
Truchsess received both a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education and master’s degree in special education from UConn, and she earned an administrator’s certificate from Sacred Heart University.
She joined the Danbury School District in 2005 as an elementary special education teacher. In 2012, Truchsess assumed the role of supervisor of secondary special education, overseeing the provision of student services specifically in the middle schools, Danbury High School and the Alternative Center for Excellence.
Two bills authored jointly by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty have passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Both bills aim to help women launch careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields where they are under represented and encourage women to start their own STEM-focused small businesses.
Both H.R. 255, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, and H.R. 321, the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act, passed the House by unanimous voice vote. The bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
Esty says the passage of these bills will help build a stronger, more inclusive economy and help women break into fields where they are under represented.
The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act expands the mission of the National Science Foundation to include supporting entrepreneurial programs for women that extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.
The INSPIRE Women Act calls on NASA to encourage girls and young women to pursue careers in aerospace. Esty says NASA can do that through three existing programs: NASA Girls, Aspire to Inspire, and the Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research.
Esty is a member of the House Science and Technology Committee. Two years ago, she convened a Connecticut STEM Advisory Board comprised of educators, workers, and industry leaders to identify strategies for strengthening the state’s high-tech workforce and connect more students with career opportunities in the STEM fields. In 2015, Esty worked to pass the STEM Education Act, which supports training for STEM teachers and includes computer science for the first time as a focus of STEM education initiatives. President Obama signed the STEM Education Act into law.
Wilton's Police Chief will be retiring this year. Chief Robert Crosby has been the chief since September 2015, but began his career with the Wilton Police Department in 1983. His retirement will take effect in April. Crosby said in a written statement that it's been an honor and privilege to serve the Town of Wilton and its Police Department for over 33 years. The Police Commission will form a committee to make a recommendation about who will be the next Chief to the Commission, who will in turn make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell is expressing concerns with the closing of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in neighboring Westchester. She says union workers and their families will be particularly affected as they are employed by Entergy. Adding to potential unemployment, Odell says the County currently sources a portion of its power from Indian Point’s nuclear generators. She says it remains unclear how Putnam County will replace this power and at what cost to the taxpayers. The aging plant will close in 2021 under a deal with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
A 90 acre solar project in New Milford has moved one step closer to happening. The Town Council voted at their meeting Monday night to authorize a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement with Ameresco and the owner of the Candlewood Mountain property. The PILOT agreement is conditional to approval by the Connecticut Siting Council.
There were some concerns about and objection to the project. New Milford Mayor David Gronbach says ways to mitigate those concerns were worked into the agreement, including landscaping to hide the project from neighbor views, hiring local employees and to gain approval of a Storm Water Management Plan.
The applicant agreed to post a bond to ensure appropriate landscaping and trees are maintained as a buffer and to bond for damage to any roads as a result of the construction process. The Agreement also contains a provision to hire local people and companies for work performed at the site.
The Agreement establishes the tax liability for the property over the next 20 years and was necessary because while solar projects are encouraged, they are not profitable without some subsidies.
The current taxes paid on the undeveloped property are estimated at $389,958 over the next 20 years. As part of the agreement, the Developer offered to pay $2.1 million over 20 years. Gronbach says his team negotiated that number up to $2,747,979.
This property was formerly planned as an over 55 community and Gronbach argued that if the solar farm was rejected, the next proposal could have had greater impacts.
Officials have been in talks about developing a bigger parking lot area at the Southeast Train Station. There is a significant portion of land that the MTA owns, next to property owed by Putnam County. County Deputy Executive Bruce Walker says there is extensive shopping capability near the train station, and they want to capitalize on that. Walker says they also want to try to alleviate some of the traffic on Interstate-84 and the corridor off exit 19. He says one possibility is to allow Connecticut traffic to come into the train station from one side and New York traffic from the other. Putnam County officials meet on a quarterly basis with the presidents of Metro North and the MTA.
Brookfield officials are in talks with the state about improvements to two intersections in town. The intersection of Route 133 and Obtuse Roads North and South has experienced many accidents in the past. First Selectman Steve Dunn says they are meeting with the State to push them to make necessary changes to make this intersection safe.
Dunn also met with the state Department of Transportation Commission about installing left turn signals on Federal Road to allow northbound traffic to turn left into the Chick-Fil-A lot at the same time that southbound traffic is allowed to make a turn into the ShopRite complex.
Dunn says the DOT has assigned a project number, which is the first step in getting the project off the ground.
The Brookfield Housing Authority is a five-member authority and is in need of two members. Brooks Quarry is under the supervision of the Housing Authority. It's an affordable, elderly, independent living complex of 35 housing units located on 16 acres near the Four Corners.
The Brookfield Housing Authority recently completed a sewer upgrade with a $650,000 Critical Needs Grant from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. The Brookfield Housing Authority is now seeking a $2.3 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Housing to refurbish and modernize Brooks Quarry.
Brookfield residents interested in volunteering, must be able to attend the Housing Authority meetings on the third Tuesday evening of every month and assist with the upcoming project.
A group created in part by a Danbury woman is speaking out against the President-elect's Attorney General nominee. Connecticut Students for a Dream have urged Judiciary Committee member Senator Richard Blumenthal to question Senator Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing. The organization's Policy Coordinator, Camila Bortolleto says Sessions is a staunch foe to immigrant rights. The DREAM Act, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility. Bortolleto says she is a beneficiary of the DREAM Act and says Sessions epitomizes what the immigrant community fears in the upcoming Trump administration.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission has received quarterly reports from Republicans who are seeking statewide office in 2018.
Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj raised $105,795 in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who has formed an exploratory committee, raised $26,360 since late November. Boughton held no fundraisers in the fourth quarter and the money came in through donations to his website.
State Representative Prasad Srinivasan of Glastonbury formed a gubernatorial campaign committee in December and reported $12,786.
Fairfield State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, formed an exploratory committee in 2015 and raised $1,175 in the fourth quarter.
A Danbury heroine was the subject of a question on Jeopardy this week. On Monday night, one of the categories was 'Women and the American Revolution". The $1,000 question was "In April of 1777 Sybil Ludington pulled a Paul Revere-style all-night ride to tell of a British attack on Danbury in this state". The answer, of course, was Connecticut.
Danbury was tapped as a supply depot in 1777 by the Continental forces. That came to the attention of the British holding New York City, and they decided to raid Danbury and destroy the supply depot. Colonial militia galvanized in NY to come to the aid of Danbury.
Sybil Ludington, at the direction of her father, helped raise his militia units and rode through the night alerting the men that Danbury was being raided. They were told to gather at Ludington Farm the next day to march to Danbury and repel the British.
Danbury Museum and Historical Society Executive Director Brigid Guertin says Sybil was about 15 years old and considered a local heroine for her actions that night. Her father's men arrived in Danbury to find the British in retreat through Ridgebury down to the coast. They helped chased the British away.
There is a poem about Sybil's efforts, similar to the poem about Paul Revere's ride. Guertin says it does have some fictional elements too it, but Sybil was a real person who did real work during the Revolutionary War.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy has met privately with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and opposes the nomination. Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says they had a substantive, frank conversation in which he was up front about the numerous concerns he has about Tillerson's nomination. Murphy says he is looking for a leader who will be an advocate for growing diplomacy, and who doesn’t shy away from confronting countries like Russia over increased aggression. Murphy said he also wants a Secretary of State who will be a voice for protecting international human rights, and who can lead progress on climate change. He came away from the meeting unconvinced that Tillerson is a nominee that meets those standards.
A multiphase Transit Oriented Development project designed to revitalize the Village of Brewster is being outlined. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, the Brewster Mayor and others have announced details on the implementation of Phase 1. The initial construction phase is supported in part by a recently awarded $2 million Empire State Development Grant.
Odell says revitalizing downtown Brewster has been a priority economic growth initiative that will spur population growth and vitality in the community by attracting millennials, which will in turn attract businesses and jobs, ultimately bringing Brewster back to its 19th century distinction as the hub of the Harlem Valley.
The funding will offset the costs for acquisition, demolition and to begin construction in Phase 1 of reconstruction along Brewster's Main Street corridor. The Transit Oriented Development area would be bounded by Main Street, Railroad Avenue, Marvin Avenue and the Southeast Museum.
Construction, which is expected to begin in late 2018, would create a subsurface parking structure for up to 550 cars, with mixed-use buildings above and built around a central open space plaza. The buildings will provide approximately 290 apartments and 32,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.
The development is currently funded through grants and or private sources, with no outlay of funds by the Village of Brewster.
The final drawings are completed for the proposed changes to the new Bethel Police Station. They are preparing to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission this month. A public hearing will be scheduled in early February. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says he is expecting no problems getting through the approval process because the contractor and Building Committee are working closely with the town's Land Use Department. He says the project will be ready for a March ground breaking. He gave his compliments to members of the Police Department working on this project.
The estimates for the new building came in $1.5 million over budget so they had to go back to the drawing board. Residents approved spending $13.5 million during a referendum last year. The current police station was constructed in 1974. Bethel Police officials say it's too small for the current size of the force and floods.
The driveway for the new facility would be on Judd Avenue with an emergency entrance on Route 302.
Construction of a new building, more than double the size of the current police station on Plumtrees Road, will include a bigger lobby, a shooting range, a community room, and a training room. The two story building plans also call for locker rooms, a physical therapy room, six holding cells and rooms for processing arrestees. The main floor could include the dispatch center, records department, a classroom and offices.
A Connecticut caregiver was among those who participated at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration public meeting in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The meeting was about preventing violence in hospitals and healthcare settings.
Helene Andrews, a registered nurse from Danbury Hospital, joined other healthcare advocates to call for a federal workplace violence standard to protect caregivers and their patients.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and social service workers are twice as likely to be assaulted at work as those in other occupations. A coalition of labor unions petitioned the secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor in July, 2016 to issue a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard.
Andrews was assaulted and injured on the job in 2009.
Andrews handed a 25-year-old psychiatric patient at Danbury Hospital his medication and a cup of water, but without warning, the patient became viciously violent. He punched her with his full strength in the jaw, knocking her to the floor. The impact shattered her left leg at the hip.
She was cleared to go back to work after weeks of intensive rehabilitation and six months of physical therapy. Andrews says staff was not consistently alerted to patients with violent histories. Danbury Hospital was cited by OSHA in 2010, and took steps to prevent a similar assault from happening. Connecticut also enacted laws to prevent workplace violence.
The state Department of Transportation has heard the complaints from drivers in Danbury who get stuck in traffic on North Street because of the widening project. Unfortunately there's little to be done to alleviate the situation.
During the winter shut down period, the DOT plans to continue some work on the Route 37/North Street/Exit 6 project in Danbury. Project Manager Charles Murad says they will be actively working on the concrete retaining wall in the North Street Shopping Center parking lot. That part of the project includes relocating water service for a bank there, excavating for sewer installations and installing manholes and sewer pipe. Electric crews will also be working on traffic signal equipment on the off ramp.
Murad says they know people are frustrated with the traffic flow, but noted that it is a high volume traffic area. He lives in the area. He says whenever they start work and there are delays, people mostly know that when construction is done the traffic will move smoother.
The traffic light signals are timed now to clear the exit 6 westbound off ramp first. If cars back up onto the highway, that creates a big safety problem. All of the intersection signals are coordinated so the off-ramp is a priority. Murad says the more time dedicated to the off-ramp, the fewer cars that can move through the Hayestown Avenue and at Padanaram Avenue intersections. He says drivers can help by taking alternate routes, alleviating some of the congestion.
The DOT is conscious of the businesses, hospital and ambulance services, and bus routes in the direct area. The project coordinators are in contact with police and ambulance dispatchers about traffic flow.
Danbury State Representative David Arconti has been tapped to serve in a new leadership capacity. He began serving his third legislative term last week and has been named Deputy Majority Leader. He will also serve on the General Law, Public Safety, Environment and the Energy & Technology committees. Arconti says he is eager to get to work and looks forward to a productive legislative session.
He will be assigned to other committees in the role of screening the bills to make sure they're ready to go to the floor of the House. Arconti says the bills are sometimes still works in progress so he will also have to continue negotiations on those pieces of legislation.
He says he is looking forward to gaining more experience by working on bills outside of his four committee assignments. Most legislators are assigned to three committees, but leadership asked if he could sit in on a fourth, and Arconti says he jumped at the opportunity.
Senate Republicans plan to move forward with legislation soon to repeal the Affordable Care Act, before a replacement plan is crafted.
Advocates and people who benefit from Obamacare joined with Senator Blumenthal and 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty Monday morning to share their stories. The lawmakers say the repeal will allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions once again, and raise health care costs among other consequences.
One of the people joining Blumenthal and Esty was Linda Yannone of Sherman.
Yannone moved to Sherman in 1982 and lives on Squantz Pont. She worked as a gardner and farmer and called it a struggle to own a small business and be able to afford health care insurance. The now-56 years old was diagnosed with cancer in 1987. She didn't have insurance at that time and needed treatment. After that, she couldn't get insurance because of the preexisting condition. 10 years later, she was diagnosed with Lymphoma.
Yannone is a faith leader in the United Church of Christ, the Congregational Church. She says thankfully, she had a community to support her. She says an organizer came to speak about the importance of having health care and then became an advocate for health care reform. She became an Assistor to enroll people in Access Health CT, the state's marketplace exchange under the Affordable Care Act.
Yannone is now a substitute teacher. She is a medicaid recipient, which she says has enabled her to continue that work. Yannone noted that many municipalities don't provide health care plans for substitute teachers.
A Newtown man has been named an Assistant Republican Leader in the General Assembly. State Representative Mitch Bolinsky was appointed last week to the legislature's Aging, Appropriations, and Education Committees. He called it an honor to serve the residents of Newtown and Sandy Hook. Bolinsky says he wants to reverse the poor economic trends, which have been compounded by poor budgeting policies. He will encourage his colleagues to explore options that will close the ever growing deficit and create the necessary financial stability for businesses and towns.
A local lawmaker has been tapped to serve as the Ranking Member of the General Law Committee. New Fairfield state Representative Richard Smith, who was sworn in for his fourth term last week, will help oversee all matters relating to the Department of Consumer Protection, fair trade and sales practices, consumer protection, mobile homes and occupational licensing; and all matters relating to alcoholic beverages. Smith is the top House Republican on the General Law Committee. Smith says voters in the last election could not have made their point more clearly: they are dissatisfied with state government and demand legislators work together to restore confidence in Connecticut’s economy.
Some upset people took to Twitter over the weekend to call on Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton to explain why their cars were towed. Danbury declared a Level 1 snow emergency, which meant a street parking ban. People have up to one hour after the start of the storm to move cars off the street so plows can go out without any obstructions and clear the roads.
Some 70 cars were towed.
Boughton got into a back and forth with some residents on Twitter over why cars weren't towed during the storm a few weeks back. He said that they were out towing cars, just in a different area. In order to stem off another surprise for people who are fined for not clearing sidewalks, Boughton reminds residents that that's not the City's responsibility.
When the City goes to a Level 2 snow emergency, Patriot Garage is opened for free parking. Boughton says they can't do it for every storm because there's a cost there with staffing, but they try to during severe storms.
Boughton reminded people to sign up for robo calls from the City to be alert directly when there is a snow emergency and parking ban declared.
With a tie in the state Senate, a new agreement between Republicans and Democrats to cooperatively manage the State Senate has gone into effect. Wilton state Senator Toni Boucher now holds the title of Chief Deputy Senate Republican Majority Leader, which brings her more authority and greater responsibilities.
Boucher says she looks forward to the challenges a leadership position brings. She will now be a Co-Chairman on the Education and Transportation committees. She will also serve as Vice-Chairman on the Banking Committee, and as a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Boucher called for structural changes to state government, the state budget, and state funding to reduce burdensome taxes, shore up infrastructure, and create sufficient, sustainable funding for schools and municipalities. She says making cuts to municipal aid is the wrong thing to do right now, noting that many towns only get one penny for every dollar they send to Hartford. Boucher says municipalities are also burdened with 380 regulations and mandates.
Boucher wants legislation approved to ban overtime and mileage reimbursements from any pension calculation for any category of state employee including all legislators. She also called for the inheritance tax to be phased out and the elimination of state income tax on social security benefits. She also supports setting a minimum number of social workers for each high school at one for every 400-500 students to address mental health and special education issues.
A Bethel man was among 20 freshman House Republican legislators sworn into office as the Connecticut General Assembly opened a new term. Will Duff is the new state Representative for the 2nd District covering Bethel, Danbury, Redding and Newtown.
Duff will serve on the legislature's Energy & Technology Committee, the Higher Education & Employments Advancement Committee and Banks Committee.
Duff is in the process of planning in-district events such as constituent office hours and district business tours. He says he is honored by the faith the voters placed in his abilities to make an impact in Hartford.
A freshman lawmaker is putting his professional background to use in the General Assembly. Danbury Representative Michael Ferguson will serve on the Education Committee, which will be the center of debate over ECS funding, and concerns all matters relating to the Department of Education; local and regional boards of education and the substantive law of collective bargaining covering teachers and professional employees of such boards; vocational rehabilitation; and the Commission on the Arts.
He was also appointed to the Transportation Committee and the Internship Committee, a statutorily created Committee whose principal responsibility is the development and administration of Connecticut General Assembly interns.
Ferguson says as a member of the Danbury Board of Education, he has first hand knowledge of how the state’s education policies and budget allotments directly affect students’ growth and development. He wants to fix the Education Cost Sharing formula so that all municipalities have all the resources they need.
The 2017 legislative session runs until June 7th.
5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty opposes a move announced by House Speaker Paul Ryan to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. Esty says the federal funds Planned Parenthood receives make vital health services including lifesaving breast exams and ovarian cancer screenings affordable and accessible for women throughout the country. As the largest provider of health care services to women in this country, Esty says Planned Parenthood plays a vital role in ensuring the health of Americans. She says federal law already prohibits federal dollars from being used for abortion services.
Senator Chris Murphy released a statement about the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Murphy says his heart goes out to the victims and their families, with gratitude to local law enforcement and airport officials for their quick response. But he says Americans shouldn't fear going to the airport, movie theater, church, or school as Congress does nothing to close loopholes in gun laws. Murphy says Friday's shooting should serve as a stark reminder to members of Congress that their inaction is a choice that makes them complicit in gun violence.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The aging Indian Point nuclear power plant in suburban New York will close in 2021 under a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A person familiar with the agreement but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the agreement on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press on Friday.
Under the arrangement owner Entergy will shutter both reactors at the Westchester County plant by April 2021.
The Democratic governor has long called for the plant's closure, saying its operation is too hazardous so close to New York City. More than 17 million people live within 50 miles of the plant, which sits along the lower Hudson River. The plant is about 30 miles from Ridgefield, 40 miles from Danbury.
Cuomo's spokesman pushed back against reports of a deal, saying no agreement has been finalized. A spokeswoman for New Orleans-based Entergy has declined to comment
A non-profit that sends care packages to troops serving overseas will be shipping comfort packages to 500 men and women from residents of Putnam County. Defend the Holidays, was the initiative of County Executive MaryEllen Odell, in partnership with the Putnam County Sheriff's Department. She says during the season of giving it was important to remember the gift of freedom.
United For The Troops was started by Mahopac residents Jim and Pat Rathschmidt in 2007 when their son was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army in Iraq. Odell says the group found that while the military provides soldiers with the essentials for day- to-day life, many of them miss the extra amenities that they enjoy while at home. The organization’s purpose is to make the soldiers’ lives a little better while serving overseas by sending items such as cookies, DVDs, CDs, snacks and t-shirts.
The comfort packages are made up of donated items, but it costs about $15 to ship a care package overseas. Through the Defend the Holidays Program, the organization is able to pay the shipping for 500 gift boxes.
Many county employees contributed toward the giving campaign, but Putnam County Sheriff Deputy Corinne Pitt collected donations totaling $350 for the Defend the Holidays initiative. Pitt is a school resource officer at Putnam Valley High School and collected from the school staff to support the program. The campaign alo received $610 from the N.Y.C Firefighters Hudson Valley East and $500 from the Putnam County PBA.
United For The Troops has sent over 16,000 comfort packages to the troops since its inception.
The Region 12 school system is holding a Community Forum next week about the AgSTEM school proposal. The forum will be held Tuesday from 6 to 8pm in the Shepaug Valley School auditorium. Officials have scaled back enrollment projections. Voters have approved $39.5 million in a referendum for the project. State bonding would cover a majority of the cost. The plans need state approval. The AgSTEM program is still several years off from accepting students.
Ridgefield State Representative John Frey has been sworn in for a 10th term. Frey has been appointed as Senior Republican Whip. He is also a Ranking Member on the Transportation Bonding Sub-Committee, and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding; Banking; and Legislative Management committees. Frey says making badly needed improvement to the state’s infrastructure is made much more complicated by the ongoing state of fiscal crisis. He says having a seat at the table where transportation dollars are allocated is important – especially to Fairfield County.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says the City will have to be flexible and nimble to get through next budget year given the uncertainty about state aid to municipalities.
Council President Joe Cavo asked on Tuesday night about the education funding cut announced last week. Danbury was capped at a loss of $250,000 because the City is one of the Alliance School Districts. Boughton says he is thankful for cap, but noted that the Education Cost Sharing funding goes directly to the school board. He told the Council that the City is not going to make a further appropriation and that the Board of Education knows they have to absorb that cut from the state.
Even if Danbury had the money to appropriate, Boughton said he wouldn't do that because then the baseline spending for schools would go up for next year. It would be the baseline from fiscal year 2016-17, plus $250,000. Schools can't receive less than they did the year before.
Boughton mentioned that the education funding fairness case, which is being appealed. A judge ruled that there are certain municipalities that are underfunded. Boughton called Danbury the poster child for not receiving its fair share. While there will likely not be any more money in the Education Cost Sharing pool, Boughton says it will likely be appropriated differently and Danbury could get a higher percentage.
He cautioned that the state will get municipalities one way or another and could reduce or eliminate LOCIP funding. That's money for Local Capital Improvement Projects.
The first day of the legislative session was a busy one for state lawmakers. The day started Wednesday with points of personal privilege where members shared personal news and introduced people they brought with them for the swearing in ceremony.
They then met in joint session to hear remarks from Governor Dannel Malloy. The House and Senate then resumed their separate sessions in order to receive committee assignments and start to introduce bills for consideration.
Wilton Republican state Senator Toni Boucher used her time on the floor to welcome Bethel Registrar of Voters Tim Beeble. She says he has not only worked for the municipality, but also donated his time and been a great supporter and friend.
Boucher also mentioned the new members of the Senate, including Craig Miner. She call him her friend from the House, where she previously served. Miner was elected in November to the 30th Senate District, which includes Brookfield and New Milford. Boucher told her colleagues they are lucky to have Miner's wisdom and talent.
Boucher also told Senate President Martin Looney that everyone was rooting for his good health. The Democrat received a kidney transplant two weeks ago. Boucher said even though they differ greatly on big issues, but there's no question about the respect and regard she has for him.
A Yale study finds that gun violence is a ‘contagious’ social epidemic. Gun violence is sometimes described as a public health concern, due to its alarmingly high levels in certain populations.
The Yale study, published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has established a model to predict how “contagious” the epidemic is.
The researchers studied the probability of an individual becoming the victim of gun violence by analyzing a social network of people arrested together on the same offense during an 8-year period in Chicago. Researchers found that more than 60% of all gun violence during this time period happened in “cascades”, or connected chains, through these particular social networks.
A former Easton Police Commissioner has been granted a delay in his trial on a drug trafficking charge. Raymond Martin was one of 12 people arrested as part of an investigation dubbed Operation Juice Box. Martin was charged in July 2015 with conspiracy to possess oxycodone with intent to distribute.
A judge recently granted the postponement of jury selection to March 14th.
Martin pleaded not guilty in March 2016.
The investigation centered around former Newtown Police Sgt Steven Santucci, who received shipments of steroid ingredients from China and manufactured and distributed wholesale quantities to others. Santucci and seven others have pleaded guilty and were sentenced. Two other people charged as part of the investigation await sentencing.
Danbury state Senator Mike McLachlan was sworn in for 5th term yesterday. The Republican says opening day saw moments of optimism, even during Democratic Governor Malloy's address. McLachlan says it will be a busy session for all legislators because of close vote is in the House and the tie in the Senate. He noted that it will impact the outcome of votes if a lawmaker misses a meeting. McLachlan says every vote counts now.
The state Senate lost two members right before the Oath of Office was to be administered.
Rob Kane is applying to be a Republican state auditor while Democrat Eric Coleman is seeking appointment as a judge. The each resigned because a sitting legislator is not allowed to move into a state job while holding an elected position. This still leaves a tie in the state Senate, with 17 Republicans and 17 Democrats.
The vacancies would be filled through special elections.
Kane's 32nd state Senate District includes Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Oxford, Roxbury, Seymour, Southbury, Washington, and Watertown and Woodbury.
Danbury is looking for bids on some surplus materials. The City switched to all salt to treat the roads in winter, and is looking to get rid of the sand-salt mixture it used in the past. Several surrounding communities, including Bethel and New Fairfield, still use a mixture to treat the roads pre-winter storms. Mayor Mark Boughton says they have had several interested municipalities contact Public Works so the surplus material will have to be sold off to the highest bidder. Boughton says the salt-only treatment means less street sweeping and less material collecting in the storm drains.
Southbury State Senator Rob Kane did not take the oath of office today. He is an applicant for the job of Republican state auditor. Democratic Senator Eric Coleman didn't take the oath of office today either, seeking appointment as a judge. This leaves a tie in the state Senate, with 17 Republicans and 17 Democrats in the chamber. The vacancies would be filled through special elections. Kane's 32nd state Senate District includes Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Oxford, Roxbury, Seymour, Southbury, Washington, and Watertown and Woodbury.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday called for a new way to calculate state education aid to Connecticut cities and towns while also warning state lawmakers they're not finished making difficult budget-cutting decisions given the state's continued spate of projected budget deficits.
Appearing on opening day of the 2017 legislative session before a General Assembly that includes the most Republicans in recent memory, the Democrat said additional proposed spending cuts and further modernization of state agencies will be part of the two-year budget he'll unveil next month. In the meantime, his administration is meeting privately with state employee labor leaders on ways to reduce labor costs through another round of concessions.
"Like families across Connecticut, just because we responsibly managed our budget in recent years doesn't mean we can take a year off," Malloy said. "We must continue to live within our means, spending only as much revenue as we have, and no more."
The state's main spending account, the general fund, is predicted to have a $1.3 billion shortfall beginning July 1. The account is roughly $18 billion. A sizeable deficit also is projected in the second year of the two-year budget.
Malloy said his budget plan also will call for a "more equitable system for providing town aid," noting how Connecticut spends one-fifth of its state budget, $5.1 billion, on municipal assistance. It's the state's largest single expense.
Of the $5.1 billion, $4.1 billion includes local educational funding. That does not, however, include state spending on school construction financing, which accounts for about a quarter of the state's debt.
Malloy said his education funding formula, which would replace the complicated Educational Cost Sharing Grant, would be based on a community's local property tax burden, student need and current student enrollment.
"Connecticut needs a new way to calculate educational aid - one that guarantees equal access to a quality education regardless of ZIP code," he said.
Malloy said the formula needs to appropriately measure a community's burden. Last week, when his budget office issued mid-year education aid reductions, many wealthier communities received the biggest cuts.
Malloy's education funding proposal comes nearly three months after the Connecticut Supreme Court declared the state's education funding system unconstitutional and called for major reforms. State officials have appealed that ruling.
Tonight's Bethel Board of Selectmen meeting has been cancelled. A special meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night at 7:30pm. Among the agenda items is considering the creation of a new committee on elderly tax abatement. The Board will also take up appointments to the Western Connecticut Council of Governments and Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority. Bethel officials will also look at disbanding obsolete boards and commissions.
The 115th Congress has been gaveled into session. A big question for one local lawmaker about a new President being in control is a simple one: what will that be like?
4th District Democratic Congressman Jim Himes says Congress got a taste on opening day Tuesday. House Republicans dropped plans to gut the independent ethics office that oversees the activities of lawmakers after widespread criticism. Himes notes that President-elect Trump tweeted his displeasure with the plan, and the reversal isn't something he's seen before. Himes said there is some uncertainty about what the political future will look like as everyone adjusts over the next couple of months.
With all of the political fights that are likely to be tough, Himes wondered why this would be the first thing Congress does. If nothing else, he says it looks bad.
Himes called it a good decision to reverse course, adding that it looks like it's going to be an interesting couple of months.
Himes says it's nice to get a fresh start.
A local lawmaker is urging residents to protect themselves from the flu. Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan is urging residents who have not been vaccinated to get a flu shot. This comes in response to a report from the state Department of Public Health about a high number of influenza cases, particularly in Fairfield County. While the flu may not be serious for most people, for the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems, the flu can be deadly. McLachlan says Connecticut has already reported four flu-related deaths this winter.
Longer than usual wait times were expected at Department of Motor Vehicles offices today since the offices had been closed since noon on Friday. But there was an added burden in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.
AAA members who go to the Danbury branch office to renew their license will instead find a sign saying that the AAA no longer offers licensing services.
The Department of Motor Vehicles was unable to reach an agreement with the regional automobile club and the contract expired at the end of last month. AAA Northeast decided in October it would only provide licensing and ID card renewal services to its members and not the general public, prompting the governor to threaten legal action. A compromise was never reached so no one will be able to use licensing and ID card renewal services at AAA offices in Fairfield and New Haven counties.
In Danbury ... Mill Ridge Primaray School will be closed Monday after a broken water fitting flooded eight classrooms in the building during the long weekend. Joe Martino, the director of finance for the school district, said a fitting on a toilet broke during the holiday weekend in a bathroom that was located inside a classroom at the school,which includes Kindergarten through the third grade.
Because the school was closed during the holiday and no one was in the building, the leak wasn’t discovered until this morning when staff began entering the building. Eight classrooms had severe flooding due to the leak. Martino said they are bringing in large dehumidifiers and will be chemically cleaning the carpets. He added that school is expected to resume tomorrow.
The Newtown Board of Selectmen will do more research before making a recommendation about a land donation from the former St. John's Episcopal Church. The facility was recently closed by Episcopal Church officials and will be sold as a commercial structure.
St. John's wants to donate a small portion of land, four-tenths of an acre, to the town containing the "Rock of Angels" memorial. It was gifted to Newtown and installed in Sandy Hook Center in August 2013 as a memorial to the children and educators killed on 12-14.
The parcel abuts the Sandy Hook School property.
First Selectman Pat Llodra says she wants to consult with the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission, and the Bishop of Connecticut, about the Rock of Angels.
The Commission is looking to locate a memorial, of a design yet to be decided, about a mile away at SAC field.
A recommendation needs to be made by the Board of Selectmen to the Legislative Council about the land donation. The Board decided to table the matter until their next meeting.
There is a new proposal for a business top operate the cafe next to Danbury Library. A committee of the Council is now considering a lease with Benny's Cafe for a trial period of six months. The cafe has been vacant since February when the previous operator left to pursue other opportunities.
The Danbury City Council then approved a lease for Bagelman to operate, temporarily, at the Library Cafe rent free. The City agreed to pay the utilities during a six month trial period, but the company opted not to go forward with the project.
The new proposal calls for the half a year trial period to start on Day 1 of operating to get a fair assessment of the cafe's success. The owner's of Benny's, who also own Nardellis on Newtown Road, are proposing to then pay $500 a month in rent, which would include utilities.
The menu would include bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches and soups.
A few state lawmakers won't be returning to the capital tomorrow, including Redding state Representative John Shaban. Shaban called it an honor to have served Easton, Redding and Weston these last six years, and looks forward to continuing his service elsewhere in the near future. Shaban thanked Adam Dunsby for his willingness to serve and following him as being the State Representative for the 135th District.
He remains optimistic about Connecticut's future, noting the change in the mix of the legislature. Shaban says if balance is restored, the fiscal sanity needed to return promise and prosperity to Connecticut will be restored as well.
As his term winds down, Shaban says he is again saddened to see yet another example of how poor fiscal policies continue to result in bad public policies. He's referring to Friday's announcement from the Governor's Budget Office that the state's largest education grant and aid to municipalities were being cut because of a deficit problem.
Despite record tax receipts last year, he says the state was forced to cut funding from schools, hospitals, opioid clinics, domestic violence shelters and environmental programs to fill budget holes. Shaban says the flight of population and employers can no longer be denied.
He cautioned that this pain will continue into this year and beyond unless the General Assembly shrinks the size and burn rate of state government.
The New Milford Police Department is investigating a commercial burglary at the Feed Barn that occurred early Friday. Police are asking the public’s helping in identifying the suspect, who has a unique style back-pack and reinforced fingertips on gloves. The burglary occurred shortly before 1 am Friday. Anyone with information is asked call New Milford Police at 860-355-3133.
Water Witch Hose Co. #2 in New Milford responded to 603 calls to service during 2016. The all volunteer department was called for everything from structure fires, to car accidents, to technical rescues and a wildfire.
Department officials say volunteers also spent hundreds of hours of training, made community appearances, taught fire prevention, and held fundraisers during the year. Water Witch was able to purchase new and innovative equipment to keep members up to date with the best life saving tools available.
In a Facebook message, Water Witch Hose Company said they stand at the ready for New Milford, and will be there if the community needs them.
Drug trafficking doesn't stop at state line. That's why Danbury and Putnam County are looking to share resources. During a recent meeting between Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, the pair talked about how kids might be coming into Danbury to buy here or vice versa.
The Putnam County Health Director approached Boughton about opioid crisis and things Putnam County is doing, that Danbury just doesn't have the budget to do.
Danbury and Putnam County have similar population counts. But Boughton says Danbury's Health Director doesn't have the resources to match their marketing dollars and the speakers they are able to bring in. Odell says they are lucky to have a strong group of non-profits and government individuals working together on this issue.
Drug overdose deaths have increased by 33 percent in the past five years across the country, with some states seeing jumps of nearly 200 percent.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 states saw increases in overdose deaths resulting from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. Connecticut had the death rate jump by over 100 percent.
Last year, more than 52,000 people died from drug overdoses, with almost two-thirds involving prescription or illegal opioids. Sixteen states saw a jump in deaths from synthetic opioids including illicit fentanyl, with New York (135.7 percent) and Connecticut (125.9 percent) the hardest hit.
Some new laws are now in effect in Connecticut, including one about home contractors. More types of home contractors will now have to register with the state Department of Consumer Protection as home improvement contractors.
Until now, residential restoration companies have been unregulated in Connecticut. Under the new law, anyone performing water, fire or storm restoration or mold remediation on a private residence or residential rental property will now have to register as a contractor and pay the department $220 annually. Of that $220, $100 is deposited in a state fund that reimburses customers - up to $15,000 per claim - who are unable to recover losses they suffered from a registered contractor who failed to fulfill a contract valued at more than $200.
Connecticut's State Building Code will now refer to an updated symbol of access for people with disabilities, which shows a dynamic figure leaning forward with a sense of movement. Under the new law, the new symbol must be used in all applicable buildings constructed, substantially renovated or expanded after January 1st. The legislation also replaces the word "handicapped" with "reserved" on parking signs, which currently read "handicapped parking permit required" and "violators will be fined."
Another part of the Act Concerning Opioids and Access to Overdose Reversal Drugs is now in effect.
The overall law puts a seven-day cap on prescriptions for opioid drugs. The bill also requires municipalities to train all first responders on the use of Narcan, a drug that may reverse an opioid overdose.
The portion of the law that took effect Sunday prohibits certain health insurance policies that provide prescription drug coverage for Narcan from requiring prior authorization for these drugs. It applies to individual and group health insurance policies delivered, issued, renewed, amended, or continued in Connecticut that cover either basic hospital expenses; basic medical-surgical expenses; major medical expenses; hospital or medical services, including those provided under an HMO plan; or single ancillary services such as prescription drugs.